It is a sunny autumn day, when Mally Notion invites Brega, Aelfric and Alvi to step in to her office in Wibblesham. Standing before the large desk, behind which, upon a tall stool, she sits she begins brightly with a “Good Morning to you deputies.”
Before they realise it, the small party have been sworn in as full time deputy Sherriffs of the Southfarthing and have been given the task of investigating a breech of the peace in the nearby village of Longbottom. Local hobbit settlers are complaining of damage to crops. Whereas, the more established Eriadorians are complaining of a loss of foraging rights. The task of the deputies is to discover who is doing what and making sure that everything remains peaceful.
The small posse of Sherriffs set off and pass through Axbridge, noticing that here to there appears to be some ill feeling between men and hobbits. Not really pausing to investigate they arrive at Longbottom and following the advice spend some time in cognito at the villages only inn the Grey Mare. It is here that they overhear many rumours from the mannish community that indicate that the “recent” arrival of the hobbits has not been well received by all the community.
At Brega’s suggestion, they take a little time to undertake a little bit more undercover investigation; noting a gang of youths who are hanging out on the green not far from the Grey Mare and using the cover of buying goods for a cook out to discover the vehement dislike of Hobbits of the local grocer, Ælfnoð Ewart. However, it soon becomes clear that this line of investigation may prove expensive and perhaps reveal no more about local knowledge than an official approach. The deputies don their blue feathers of office and begin to make inquiries led by the ever charming Alvi. Brega begins to compile the information and during most exchanges Aelfric provides a solid sense of policing authority whilst keeping an eye on the comings and goings outside.
A number of things become clear. First, that the Durkins are the main family of Longbottom and the connections are very complicated. Second, that Baylee and Shelby are a pair of young trouble makers who seem to be a the centre of the incidents with hobbits. Third, the young trouble makers may be up to no good tonight at the Hornblower farmstead. Finally, the Stormbreaker clan and the Durkins are probably smuggling something and a run might also be happening tonight.
Making their way through the Belfine farmsteads to the south and east of Longbottom proper, they party discover more about the infringements of the Durkins and the Rivermen. A telling discovery comes at the Hornblower farmstead where Camdyn tells them of Thane Darby Durkin’s insistence upon his foraging rights to gather Kingsfoil. This confuses Camdyn as he points out he only has Westmansweed growing on the land and that’s a weed not a crop. Besides he believes the rights apply not to his land but to the wild woods beyond.
Knowing that there is likely to be something happening at the Hornblower residence, the group, with Camdyn Hornblowers knowledge, stake out the farm. Sure enough, before midnight, the group spot a pair of hulking figures making their way destructively through a crop of wheat to the market garden. Here they set about uprooting vegetables. Alvi and Aelfric move stealthly to intercept, but Brega decides that her presence may give away the pair and remains in hiding. A closer inspection reveals that the pair of miscreants are indeed Baylee and Shelby and with a lyric lullaby Alvi puts them both to sleep for Aelfric to arrest.
With both of the boys tied up and secured in one of the Hornblower barns, the deputies consider the other information they have gathered. Realising that time is short they decide to leave the hooligans where they are and travel to the Faery Creek in the South Woods. Camdyn warns them that the South woods are not safe at night warning of strange sightings deep within that no mortal should see.
Intrigued by the stairs leading down from the Roc ledge, the party descend to explore what may lie below. The steps wind down and along for some distance and it takes over an hour of cautious travel to arrive at a dead end. Of course, the adventurers recognise the location of a secret door immediately and set about discovering its location and mechanism of opening for, as the dwarves point out, this is almost certainly a passage to what was once a look out point.
Within minutes the secret door is open and the adventurers stare into a large room occupied by a coffin in the centre. However, what once occupied the coffin is now floating around the room. A ghostly, knight: a wight guardian whose very presence causes Pick and Denig to quiver in fear. Dagaard, Fulton and Aerandir push past the quaking dwarf and leave equally fearful stone man at the back to engage the undead paladin.
The first blow from the wight breaks Dagaard’s ribs, but he fights on with might blows from his war hammer. Fulton attacks from the side seeking to split the ghostly knight’s attack or gain additional advantage. His cutlass thrusts bite home with little apparent effect. Meanwhile, Aerandir releases arrows into the melee skilfully avoiding hitting his allies. With one mighty blow that shatters the last war hammer, Dagaard dispatches the undead creature.
Finally, freed of their fear Pick and Denig enter the crypt as Dagaard loots the remains of the wight replacing his war hammer with a high steel two handed sword. There are five doors to explore from and choosing one at random the party set out to explore with Denig at point. Soon they discover a magical herbarium and a locked door. While, Fulton and Pick attend to the the lock on the door, Denig spends sometime looking through the plants and foraging for herbs.
The locked door leads into a study, which upon entering fills the ears of the adventurers with whispers of dispair and of imprisonment. Fulton searches the papers on the desk and discovers some rune papers. He determines that two summon what is calls Umaiar and the third Denig determines is for controlling them, but he is unable to use the spell.
At the back of the study is another door which after assessment turns out to be magically locked. Fulton attempts to release the magical lock but internalises his spell and becomes deaf and blind. The party eventually retreat the herbarium to eat, assess Fulton’s condition and recover.
From the herbarium, the party decide to explore more of the underground complex before returning to the magic door. They discover a room full of stuffed chimeras of impossible animals. Unable to determine if these are real or manufactured they press on exploring doorways off the room that they feel do not lead back to rooms they have come from.
The room beyond one of the doors contains a winged statue with an iron bowl. The bowl contains a mix of coins. On one wall between two doors is a glass window behind which sits a pan balance with a slot for coins above. A third door leads on to a hall of portraits in which chanting can be heard. The party decide to investigate the pan balance and its coins. Fulton uses his assessment abilities to determine weights of coins but in the end overbalances the pan agains the coins that have fallen on the over pan. The room fills with a mildewy dust but the adventurers suffer no ill effects. Tired and frustrated they decide to return to the ledge and eat some roast Roc chick leg with spices provided by Aerandir followed by resting until the next day.
Slightly chilled from sleeping on the hard rock the heroes return to the magical door. This time Fulton’s release of the magical lock is successful. Beyond the door, they see a golden-haired figure dressed in a thin shift slumped on the floor inside what appears to be a magical circle. Her beauty is apparent even as she looks up with tear-streaked cheeks and pleads with them to break the circle and release her. However, no sound comes through the circle and the elf-maiden’s words are lost. After much debate the are undecided about releasing her. Aerandir’s past experiences lead him to mistrust anything that appears fair. The dwarves are not overly impressed, unlike Fulton and Denig who feel such a fair maiden should be released.
Attempting to communicate that they will return later the adventurers decide to try some of the unexplored doors. They start with a door leading off the crypt. Unusually, Pick decides to take point and carefully checking for traps goes down the corridor. His ineptitude, (a common theme in his adventuring career), costs him his life as he is slammed into the ceiling by a floor block rapidly rising into the ceiling. Denig immediately implores Cloch to keep Pick’s soul from departing; but unable to release the block to heal Pick’s injuries the party instead mourn his passing and the lack of loot available from his body. Dagaard explains that as a dwarf he would have wanted to be interred underground and not, as Denig thinks, be cremated; it appears that this is the closest he will get to a full dwarven burial.
The balance of opinion now being more balanced, the unhappy band return to the magic circle and release the beautiful elf maiden trapped inside. She thanks the heroes in Quenya and so it is left to Aerandir to translate for the rest. Her name is Vanwa and she was imprisoned by an evil sorcerer within a magical circle until she agreed to marry him. The years have passed and her loneliness as multiplied with each one. She is most grateful to the heroes for releasing her from her prison.
The winter months pass and Denig debates with himself the wisdom of showing the heart-shaped gem, which he thinks is clearly powerful, to a local magician. Pick and Dagaard are convinced of its magical properties and feel that although a local wizard, if one could be found, might provide information but the temptation to acquire it from the party might be too much. Pick and Fulton feel that such an item of power should be in the hands of someone like the Alabaster Lady who will know what to do once the item’s powers are revealed. So it is with glad hears and a new crew member that the Ulmo’s Beard sets sail for home.
Captain Reiss has finally had the chance to complete his crew that was rendered short-handed by the ship’s sudden departure from Cara Celairnen. Aerandir is a dark-haired half elf who has been marooned ashore for many years in the deserts of Far Harad and upon reaching Duslan has been seeking a ship North.
The day had started with a clear sky. The ocean had sparkled like a sheet of diamonds under the yellow sun at midday. The light winds had pushed the ship at an easy pace across the wavelets; making good time towards the long awaited destination.
Mid-afternoon, one white cloud. Rapidly, it was followed by more that piled up on upon the other. Soon the mass of clouds were dark and brooding. Crack went the mast pennant in the increasing wind as crew scrabbled to reef in sails and batten down hatches against the coming storm.
Soon the storm engulfs the ship. Winds howl and lash the rigging with piercing screams. Waves roll the the vessel from side to side. Pitching from a high mountain of water into the depths of deep valleys shadowed by green walls of death. Sailors cling to safe rigging points, tied to the ship by safety lines. At the helm the captain roars his defiance as the storm.
A sudden crack, the main mast is felled like a tall tree: its weight threatens to drag the whole ship into the watery depths. Sailors leap to free the vessel from the death grip of the sea. Hatchets rise and fall and soon the mast floats free. With prayers and imprecations the crew wait for the storm to claim its next victim.
Miraculously, the Ulmo’s Beard, battered and bedraggled, is reprieved. The remaining sails are jury rigged and Captain Reiss sets a heading that he hopes will make landfall. For days the ship limps on. Food and water supplies are depleted. The horizon remains an empty line between two shades of blue.
The Captain’s concern is palpable. Without landfall soon even of quarter rations the ships company won’t survive. However, Ulmo’s fortune favours them when all hope seems lost. A lone cloud on the horizon. Hope is restored. Could it be an island?
The island is surrounded by a rocky coast but the presence of trees offers some hope of water and food. Ulmo’s fortune seems to favour the ship’s company more as there is a small anchorage that will allow the gig to land with relative safety. Captain Reiss sets about organising the shore parties. One under the Bosun and Carpenter to select a tree for a replacement mainmast. Two others to forage for food and water to replenish the supplies.
Pick, Denig and Dagaard are assigned to the foraging party for the west of the island along with crew mates Fulton, Aerandir and Chad Sweete. The west coast is covered to the shoreline with a dense scrubby wood that is difficult to traverse. Denig reasons that any game that may have established itself on the island will probably be near the margins. So the party set out following the edge of the wood and head inland. A few hours into their exploration they hear an inhuman screech and take cover in the woods but see no sign of the source of the sound.
The sun is beginning to reach the height of its wandering across the blank blue sky when the party begin to notice signs of cultivation and herding. Small flocks of goats wander the hillsides of the interior. Stands of wild wheat and vines that have been crudely cultivated grow. Soon the party come across an enormous cave. The hard packed dirt around the cave shows signs of regular traffic. The mouth of the cave is wide and over 15 feet high stretching back beyond visible sight.
With caution the party investigate the cave, Denig and Aerandir remaining outside to cover the party with their bows and Fulton acting as a message relay. The inside of the cave is simply furnished with a pen for goats, a simple bed, a stool, and a firepit; best of all at the rear of the cave are supplies of grain and bread; barrels of wine and a supply of water. However, everything is of enormous proportions and this is a concern to Pick and Dagaard.
Fulton enters the cave ahead of a flock of goats to warn the explorers of the return of the owner of the cave. Abandoning any thought of filching food or water the four adventurers hide at the back of the cave as the goats mill around. Soon a giant presence blocks the light from the cave entrance. The sound of a huge stone being rolled across it is a death knell for any light. In the darkness the dwarves can make out a giant figure. He seems disturb by something in the cave but unable to locate its source continues with his chores. “Here we are my lovelies,” he croons to the goats, placing straw in their pen. “Shadim will sing to you soon. The hot eye in the sky will pass and you will have fresh grass to eat in the cool of the day.”
Meanwhile outside the cave, Aerandir and Denig, having hidden from the giant as it returned home, are at a loss as to how to rescue the rest of the party. Denig has noticed that this giant has a hideously scarred head and has been blinded by the wounds he as received. The arms of the giant are also scarred in a similar way. They decide to try and attract the blind giant’s attention by throwing rocks at the stone door. Denig takes up a position to cover Aerandir and the half-elf plans a retreat to a safe distance if their plan works.
The inexorable passage of time in the darkness drags. Shifting his position behind the well, Fulton although it could be Chad shift some loose stones. A splash. A moment of silence. “Ooose there?” mutters Shadim. Of course only Fulton has understood any of Shadim’s words as they are in a dialect of Apsyaic. Opting for boldness Fulton reveals himself to the blind giant and weaves a tale of guile introducing his companions one by one so as not to alarm the giant and making them out to be great heroes. In return, Shadim tells his own tale of how he has always lived on the island and has no memory beyond it. He reveals, that once a man lived here and gave him the name Shadim, which means laughter and song. The man went away and now a great bird came. It steals goats from his flock; its great talons blinded poor Shadim and now he is powerless to even try to protect his lovelies.
Moved by the story and the promise of supplies for the ship if they can rid the gentle giant of the giant bird, they party set out for the site of the nest armed with the knowledge of a mountain trail that will lead them to the peak above the nest. The trail is at the end of a valley covered with quartz containing rocks that sparkle like diamonds. Dazzled by the sunlight or distracted by the thought of diamonds, it is not clear which, the party are surprised by the giant bird, a Roc. Chad is carried aloft screaming in agony, a talon piercing his shoulder. Aerandir looses and arrow in an attempt to save his crew mate but the bird is too fast. Unfortunately, the Roc’s grip on Chad is not secure and the poor sailor is dropped and plummets to his death on the rocks below.
The Dwarves stand back to back scanning the skies, along with Aerandir. Simultaneously, Denig races to save the life of Chad and Fulton runs for the cover of some nearby ruins. The Roc swoops out of the sun, and again blinded by the difficult light, Aerandir misses with his bow. Fulton is snatched and carried aloft screaming. Within moments his pleas for help are lost. Meanwhile, looking at the broken body of Chad, Denig decides to use the arrow of time and firing it into the leg of the sailor transports him back to before he was snatched. A puzzled Chad appears with an arrow shaft in his leg. Fearing for Fulton, Denig prays for swift feet and sets off up the mountain track to the Roc nest. His companions, pausing briefly to settle Chad, follow at their best pace.
Even with the blessing of Cloch it takes over an hour to reach the peak above the Roc’s nest. Denig uses what cover is available and is able to overlook the nest. Inside it are two huge chicks but no Fulton. Taking advantage of the situation he shoots one of the chicks severely wounding it. This proves to be a disastrous action as the chick cries out and its companion screeches in alarm. Racing out of the sky the Roc barely gives time for Denig to raise his bow; his shot goes wide. Denig is badly wounded and knocked down by the vicious bird’s cruel talons. In a matter of moments, he is unconscious and bleeding from a leg wound. The combat is over and if not for the grace of Cloch he would have died on the mountain top. Healed and recovering, Denig takes stock of his near death experience, thanking Cloch for his favour, while waiting for his companions to join him at the mountain top.
When the party catches up with Denig a plan is soon hatched. They will wait for the Roc to return to the nest and attempt to down the bird using the two archers. The Dwarves will act as ground support for if or when the Roc attacks the party on the peak.
It is not long before the Roc returns carrying one of Shadim’s goats. She drops it by the injured chick showing her motherly concern. Both Denig and Aerandir shoot at the Roc their arrows embedding deeply in the bird. It is not enough though and she launches skyward causing the party scuttle back to the partial safety of the rocks on the peak. The battle breaks into sporadic episodes of the party trying to locate the Roc and firing at it as it rushes into attack. The sharp-eyed Aerandir is more successful at spotting the beast earlier than Denig but neither finds it easy to hit the Roc as she dives from on high. Occasionally, Dagaard leaps out for a swing as the bird passes with some success but not without injury being raked by sharp talons. However, Pick spends the time disorientated and unable to contribute to the battle. Eventually, the archers shots begin to tell and the Roc flies away nursing the wounds and abandoning her chicks.
The chicks dispatched by the archers, the party is surprisingly reunited with Fulton who tells a daring tale of how he escaped becoming dinner for two Roc chicks and taking refuge in a cave. He goes on to tell everyone that at the back of the cave is a man-made staircase. The party agree that this should be investigated before returning to give the good news to Shadim.
Heaving decided that night fall is not the time to open mysterious sarcophagi, the party retire to the more comfortable surrounds of the bedroom below. Denig determines that the dried herb they found in the room is a restorative and the party spend time exploring the delights of smoking using a hookah.
Refreshed after a night’s rest, the heroes set about investigating the sarcophagi. The gold leaf decorated funerary boxes have faces that and figures that are more suggestive of elves than men. Denig prays for wisdom about the nature of what lies within and has the sense of evil from two and nothing from the third. In response, the party decide to open the third. The moment that the lid is begun to be pulled open Dagaard, who has been watching the remaining two tombs, warns of that two mummies have emerged.
Battle is quickly joined in the small confines of the tower dome. Fulton is hard-pressed by a mummy brandishing a falchion and Denig comes quickly to his aid wielding a glowing Holy broadsword. The dwarves take on the second mummy holding a flail. It is the dwarves and whose blows make the most difference, although it has to be said Dagaard does most of the damage. Soon the flail bearing mummy is a pile of bandages and bones.
The second set of combatants are not fairing so well. Fulton receives a thrust to his side from the mummy’s first strike and is forced to withdraw to the level below bleeding. Denig becoming the next target suffers broken ribs before the dwarves can come to his aid. Unfortunately, Pick is knockdown and Denig’s inept blow causes his sword to shatter in burst of eldritch energies. Only Dagaard is able to press the mummy and fortunately, his hammer blows are victorious again.
Holding his broken ribs, Denig follows Fulton’s blood trail down the stairs to find the sailor unconscious. Having healed the sailor, he sets about imploring the spirit of the rock to heal himself and his companions. Restored the final sarcophagus remains to be searched.
Cautiously, they draw back the lid and the tower room is flooded in a sea blue light. Within the casket is a heart-shaped stone that glows with the essence of the sea. It is bounded by crimson setting of some sort of crystal that pulse in a counter balance to the main heart of the stone. After checking for traps, Denig reaches in a removes the stone from the casket. The room begins to shake.
Stonework crashes. The room begins to sway. The heroes make for the stairs as the ceiling gives way. They race down the stairs. Falling masonry causes injuries. The pell mell flight is halted when they arrive at the floating floor. As the tower collapses around them, they debate how to bridge the gap to the floor below. There is no anchor point for the rope. There appears to be no escape without a perilous leap. Denig, as a stone man, volunteers to hold the rope while the others climb to safety. He feel’s his 400lb body won’t be held by the others.
Grateful for his sacrifice, his companions climb down to continue their escape. Without stopping to check if he follows they continue to race down stairs. Suddenly, a massive fall of masonry knock Fulton unconscious. The dwarves , drag the inert form of Fulton. More debris batters them. Pick’s arm is broken and Dagaard is badly bruised. In the hall of genies they notice that shapes holding up the columns are fading and becoming more of a fluid elemental form as the Maia are released from the enchantment that bound them. Finally, breathing heavily, they escape out of the door as the tower collapses downwards and sideways in a hail of stones, dust and sand.
As the dust begins to settle, a dark shadow falls on the heavily breathing dwarves lying in the sand. They look up to see Denig’s stone form floating down through the swirls of dust. Amazed, there is an exchange as to how this has come to be. It appears, that at the last moment, Denig had remembered a rune scroll from the Dwarven ruins that allowed him to fly.
Having spent some time being healed of wounds, the adventurers spend half an hour searching the ruins for any obvious items that could be salvaged, finding none they begin the journey back to the village.
At the village, there is a great celebration when the news of the death of the Ogre and the fall of the tower is relayed by Fulton. The heroes are rewarded with 4 doses of Lestagii foraged by the villagers in thanks.
The journey home is uneventful but for the dwarves first experience of oliphants. Having safely returned to Duslan the party spend the winter months in the port as Captain Reiss will not put out to sea with the winter winds against him.
Previously the party had arrived at the break in the shattered tower created by a powerful explosion in the laboratory below. Above them, impossibly suspended, hung the remains of the upper level of the tower. Around them the floor appears to be held in check by good luck and magic. Denig, is very disconcerted and hangs back. The rest are relatively unaffected and start to seek a way to the next floor which can be seen above. Luckily, they remember a potion recovered in one of the lower rooms that said float in Sothron. Eventually, after much boasting over climbing skill and agility it is decided that Dagaard should drink the potion.
Gently, Dagaard rises up to the next level with a rope fastened round his waist. He ascends into a room with a shattered floor and a jet black door leading into the tower. There is room for three more and he is soon joined by Fulton and Pick. The party deem it wise to leave the quivering Denig below because of his apparent anxiety of the nature of the tower, the bulk of his stone skinned body and the lack of space.
Having assessed the door, Fulton enters the chamber beyond. Soft blue light, as if filtered through the surface of the sea, surrounds him and he can see the stairs beyond. However, both he and the nearby Pick are uncertain as to the nature of this room and decide that roping together would be wise in case of any magical effects. As Fulton enters, a water elemental (an enslaved Maia) attacks. Pick enters quickly to support Fulton, Dagaard on the other-side of the door is forced to hurriedly pick his way across the shattered floor to the door to avoid being pulled off his feet. Battle with the water elemental is swift and successful, with Fulton only receiving a mild dousing with water.
With the room secured, Denig’s stone bulk is hauled up and the room quickly examined. Apart from three book cases with stones and some iridescent hide covered books, there appears to be nothing of immediate interest. The party also appear to have decided as one that the main priority is to climb the tower to find the lair of the Fell beast and destroy it before it can pick them off on the way back to the village. Accordingly, any detailed searches can be done on the way down and the same for looting. They press on up the stairs.
Above, they enter a hall with jet black floor and four pillars that contain genies of earth, air, fire and water apparently carved into the pillar in stone representing each of the elements. Each of the trapped maia is chained and because these appear to be carvings the party pay them no mind. Denig and Pick cross the floor to a door across the room and the manner of the statues causes them a moment disquiet as if they statues are alive and watching but they pay them no heed still. The doorway opens out onto an open platform with an orb in the centre. The floor of the platform is covered in silver marks but neither has the experience or wisdom to understand their meaning so they return to the stairs and the party ascends.
The level above appears to be a curved corridor with stairs up to the next level. Apart from a careful examination of the corridor for traps, the party do not linger and press on to the level above.
The stairs up shift from the coral marble of the tower to a dark granite. The party enter a dimly lit room that is reminiscent of an underground cave. The dwarves are immediately at home in the room. The centre of the room is dominated by a statue of an earth genie but lacks stairs to ascend to the level above. On one side of the room appears to be a veil of light, blinding to look at and impossible to see beyond. Despite its brightness, none of its light spreads into the darkened chamber. Cautiously, the party pass through the veil and into the space beyond.
They find themselves floating in air. Quickly, the realise that this is but an illusion, although Pick remains a little concerned about the illusion and the possibility that somewhere it may not be or that it may become reality and he will fall. There are seven mirrors in this room, a set of stairs leading down and a doorway. Denig opens the door to discover a small platform with white flowered plants which he spends a few minutes exploring. The party then descend the stairs.
Below they discover, two rooms, a lounge and a bedchamber. The exploration is rather cursory as they plan to return after defeating the Fell beast at the top of the tower. Soon they have returned to the room of air and are considering the lack of stairs and the seven mirrors. Eventually, they notice that the stone genie’s hands will hold one mirror from the room and so the hidden stairs are revealed. The adventurers continue to climb the tower.
The stairs emerge into a shadowed open area, the walls are four feet high and the floor is covered in grit and sand. Above them, the bulk of the tower sits suspended on the curved buttresses that sweep out of the tower at this point. The floor above appears to be unreachable. In the centre of the space is a coral pink marble plinth with form rhomboid shaped depressions each marking a compass point. This causes much debate about the need to find the objects that might control travel to the next level.
The explorers also notice a small alcove to one side that fits one person. This they discover links to a similar alcove in the room of air and there appears to be a hole of a similar shape and size in the floor above. A re-examination of the room below reveals the words up and down in an ancient form of Haradaic. Fulton tries out these instructions in the alcove and finds himself lifted into the tower’s upper levels; where the room is filled with strange hybrids of animals all stuffed and mounted on plinths. Upon returning to his companions, he spends an entertaining few minutes teaching them the words to control travel and the party eventually ascend to the dimly lit Menagerie of taxidermy.
The door from the Menagerie exits out on to an open aired platform with two nearby doors. The first appears to be a library and the second a laboratory. It is while opening the second that the Fell beast descends from the dusk sky and assails the party. Denig immediately runs through the open door into the laboratory to escape the winged monster. With a savage war cry Dagaard Dragonhelm launches a ferocious assault on the beast but in delivering his blow his war hammer shatters. Fulton avoids being raked by the monsters claws by forgoing any meaningful attack for full on defence. Pick launches his own assault with modest success.
Realising that none of his companions have sought safety, Denig returns to the fray his broadsword strikes with the flat of the blade but somehow mystical energies are transferred and the beast writhes as sparks of energy scours its body. The brief respite allows for a change of position and weapons. Dagaard takes Pick’s hammer and Pick switches to the great battle axe he has carried with him from the Dwarven citadel of Jorvulla. The four companions surround the beast. Denig’s sword play suddenly looks less effective without the magical energies delivered before but the dwarves deliver telling blows until Fulton drifting to the rear of the winged creature is able to drive home his advantage and deliver the final fatal blow.
The companions explore this level but without any real conviction. They discover a number of strange items in the laboratory. A jade sickle taken by Fulton as weapon; a skull lantern lit by some form or eternal flame and some sandalwood bracelets by Denig for decoration among them. Denig and Fulton are convinced that there must be a hidden door somewhere in the centre of the tower but are only prepared to spend ten minutes searching. If it hadn’t been for the dwarves’ more dogged efforts in library an entrance to the stairwell may never have been found.
The level above is a reading room lit by four glowing skulls; one of which, a long dead sorcerer’s reanimated skull, attacks the party. Somehow the party defeat the ghostly floating head with only minor frost bite. The room itself appears to lead nowhere until they locate two keyholes which take two silver keys found on the level below. Crystal stairs rise magically to the level above.
The brave heroes emerged into the dark dome of the tower. Three sarcophogi were lit by the ethereal glow of the flame skull brought up from the laboratory below. Will they open the sarcophogi now or wait for morning?
The party set about discovering the location of the Coral Tower and securing rations for the journey. Initially, they want to hire themselves out as caravan guards for part of the ten day journey but soon realise that the caravan already has its own guards and do not need extra for the five days the party plan to travel alongside. Fulton negotiates a price with the caravan owner and they all set out along the river road towards the Forsaken Hills.
The wisdom of joining a caravan and having a guide for the strange terrain proves its worth as a flash flood is avoided. The rest of the journey is uneventful. The caravan soon turns South and the fellowship continue up the river valley until they arrive at small village near the start of the Forsaken Hills. The headman of the village welcomes them and, with Fulton acting as interpreter, explains how his poor village has been blighted by the Ogre who dwells in the shattered Coral Tower to the North.
After a night spent in the village enjoying the simple hospitality it could offer they set out to the Coral Tower with a young boy who guides them part of the way. The coral green tower rises out of the desert hill, an improbable object, shattered with the top half appearing to float above its ruined base. Around the tower flocks of goats graze unconcerned until a disquieting screech is heard from the tower. The goats mill around nervously and the heroes shudder at the inhuman sound.
The fellowship continue on towards the tower appearing unconcerned by the hideous cry or the knowledge that it is occupied by an ogre who keeps wolves as pets. So it is of no surprise when the occupants of the tower immediately confront them. The Ogre is most upset that they are upsetting his goats and sets his “dogs” on them and reinforces the point with his club. The dwarves engage the onrushing wolves as Denig requests that Cloch calms them. Perhaps they were calm and non-aggressive when they rushed to greet the dwarves but they didn’t take any chances. With Fulton hanging back this also meant that Denig faced the Ogre alone.
The usually reliable dwarves seem to be unable to land a telling blow on the agile wolves and Denig is hard pressed by the Ogre, despite landing a few telling blows. Fulton leaps into the battle and fumbles his first attack forcing him to retreat back. Eventually though, Dagaard lands a blow that forces one wolf to retreat and is able to aid his fellow dwarf on the second wolf. Soon both wolves are limping from battle but the ogre is enraged and redoubles is blows attempting shoulder Denig aside. Dagaard leaps to Denig’s aid and lands a telling blow ripping the ogre’s side open. The monster is now berserk with pain so Denig presses the advantage and soon the monster collapses blood staining the sand black.
From the tower, the fell screech issues again. Within moments the party are forced to retreat into the tower for safety as a leathery-winged fell beast swoops down to feast on the carrion that was once the Ogre.
Within the tower, the entrance hall is cursorily explored, the only treasure a rusty longsword under some uncured goat hides. The double doors beyond are flanked by two statues of rose marble of fire Djinn, live flames flicker from the statues head. Given the last experience with stone statues Denig and the dwarves are understandable cautious. Determining that there is magic involved but unclear what it is they decide to risk opening the door and going through. Beyond is a large hall highly decorated with more statues similar to the one at the doors and a single one of an Elven sorcerer and a grand staircase sweeping upwards.
Entering the hall without mishap, it becomes clear that this is where the Ogre lived. Piles of goat skins for a bed, a large cooking pot and roasting spit. The fellowship barely pause before dismissing the room as unworthy of closer inspection and press on up the stairs.
The stairs lead up to a tower spanning hall containing walls that show scenes of a frozen waste, a ebon city and a jungle temple. Pick feels that the mountains in the frozen waste picture are of Ered Luin viewed from the north. Since the views appear to be no more than decoration the party move upwards.
Exploring the next floor is more fruitful. The company discover where the wolves slept and two rooms untouched with divans and cushions. They spend sometime searching these rooms and recover a forgotten potion with a label that says float in Southron and a sapphire ring that acts as a +2 channeling adder. For some time, Pick is convinced that there is a hidden door they have missed but eventually they give up and return to the stairs.
The third level reveals, beyond a closed door, an area where the walls have been blasted outwards. The space is filled with a dark-leafed vines that seem to have taken advantage of the additional light to grow unchecked in the ruined room. The remains of laboratory equipment can be seen shattered across the floor. Denig and Pick enter to discover the extent of the room which becomes clear links to the door on the other side of the stairs. As the pair return, Denig suddenly decides to sit on the floor in a euphoric state. Soon vines are beginning to creep round his limbs. Fulton tries to talk him out of the room but eventually dwarves race in and haul the grinning stone Dunlending from the room. After many minutes, Denig recovers and the party decide to abandon exploring this level.
The next level up opens out onto the open section of the tower. Above the fellowship the upper part of the tower hangs heedless of gravity. The walls have gone and a large part of the floor is missing giving clear views into the blasted laboratory below and the sand of the desert beyond that. Perhaps, it is the years scrambling the rigging but Fulton is unphased by this, whereas the rest feel unsettled or in Denig’s case close to abject terror by the dangerous conditions. Above a section of the ceiling provides an entrance to the floor above but how to reach is a challenge.
The three healthy adventurers set out from the Captain’s Daughter to seek helping with healing Billwise the hobbit. Denig, keen on a more human healer, set out for the hospital of the Sisters of Nienna that Dagaard had described. Unfortunately, his stone skin and size made him over conspicuous in the bustling town and he soon retreated back to the inn rather than draw additional unwanted attention. Dagaard returns with a Dwarven healer of the Mirnethron (Jewel healer). The wise healer has had dealing with Dagaard who has created and shaped jewels for him. Despite his knowledge of healing dwarves the Mirnethron healer is unable to do more than suggest rest and a treatment of around 100 gold pieces to boost the rate at which this happens.
Meanwhile, Pick has gone to see the Alabaster Lady. Her advice is that the hobbit will need the amber crystal produced by the Fire Ants of Far Harad. She has none in Caras Celairnen but a message clipper is anchored in the river. She would loan them passage if they went south and secured some for her and Billwise. With the late autumn storms approaching rapidly the need to leave soon is empressed on Pick as a matter of urgency.
The Shaman and Dwarven warriors debate the course of action. Denig and Pick are concerned by the scraps of information they have discovered about the white crystals. Should they go and seek more information from some dwarven scholars in the Blue Mountains or Khazad-dum? What is the purpose of Mithparvandir in collecting the stones? Is there a dragon trapped in the crystals? The picture is not clear, but faced with a long journey into the North with winter approaching and going South to save their companion they opt for the latter.
They board the coastal clipper, Ulmo’s Beard and are soon befriended by a sailor. Fenton Baines a handsome and charming Eriadorian, motivates the crew and immediately welcomes the passengers on board. During the journey, the dwarves spend most of their time avoiding being anywhere near the sea. The journey passes without much incident beyond a storm that forces them to anchor off Suduri in the mouth of the Gwathlo; a pod of whales; a day becalmed; and a day of being shadowed by a Corsair ship off Umbar.
With Fenton Baines acting as interpreter and with the dwarves kissing the blessed rock, the party set about trying to acquire some Lestagii as the locals name the mysterious amber. Unfortunately, there is none to be found in all of the markets of Dursuur. All the merchants explain that the supply has stopped because an Ogre has taken up residence in the Coral tower that sits in the middle of the region where the Fire Ants live. No one has been able to collect Lestagii for some time.
As night falls Fenton stops as a story teller in the market begins the tale of Namaan Al-Raman and the Coral Tower. As a story teller himself, Fenton is keen to learn a new tale. As the tale unfolds he retells it to the rest of the party as the darkness falls on the desert, the city walls and bazaar.
After ensuring that Billwise will not immediately die, Denig prays for further insight as to the cause of his patient’s ashen faced repose. He is already aware that there has been a loss of health and vitality and communing with his god it becomes clear that it is neither poison, disease or curse that afflicts the Hobbit. The awareness that they will need to return to the surface begins to dawn on the adventurers. However, they decide to explore the library before leaving. Denig places his ring of sustenance on Billwise’s finger, thus ensuring that the Hobbit will remain nourished while in his coma.
The library itself is daunting in the sheer number of books available. A cursory examination reveals that many books do not bear handling before crumbling to dust. The subject matter is unreadable to Denig and of little immediate interest to the dwarves. Realising that to gain useful information will take more time than they are prepared to allow the trio set about exploring the doors off the library.
The first door leads to the apartment of the Librarian, within which they discover the white crystal they seek secured in a candelabra. With some effort and a moment of worry as it clatters onto the floor this is recovered. A diary by a bedside also tells of the decision of the Librarian to remain when the citadel was destroyed by the reshaping of Arda.
A second door in the library swirls with mithril runes that defy the observers attempt to read them. Deciding that such a magical door is beyond their abilities to pass they explore the two remaining doors. Both lead into reading rooms. In the first is an open hidden panel where a mount for the crystal is found. In the second a rune key is discovered but no lock is immediately clear.
Reasoning that it will still take days to reach the surface they explorers spend time searching for hidden doorways around the library. They discover one leading to a corridor of agate tiles that reflect the light of the lanterns as grass moves in the wind. A hall beyond leads to a stairway leading up and a dead-end corridor. Reasoning, correctly, that no corridor should lead to nothing they search carefully for secret doors.
Finding three secret doors they explore carefully. Traps are avoided with all due care. The first room appears to have been a storage space for potions. Time has not been kind and only the crystallised dregs of potions are left in the bottles on the shelf. However, on a table a rosewood box contains three potions that provide a range of healing properties.
The second secret room is full of shelves with locked doors. Behind these doors are a small number of tomes with titles that imply that they are about dwarven mining secrets. These are left for recovery later as the adventurers move onto the final room. This room appears more promising as it contains six chests or various materials.
Starting with the golden chest, obviously, the dwarves take over lock picking duties from the incapacitated Hobbit. The gold chest yeilds a rod (2xPP mentalism) and a number of spells on rune paper. They move onto the next chest, made of steel. The lock defeats both dwarves and after 3 hours they decide to give up and find somewhere to rest before returning to the surface.
Choosing the Librarian’s rooms because it has only one entrance and furniture they head back to the library. Upon entering the reception hall they notice that the lights of their lanterns dim and again the cold hand of fear squeezes their hearts. The entire party breaks and runs. Pick the quickest is soon running up the stairs from the secret room. The rest follow, Dagaard hindered by carrying the inert form of Billwise. Eventually, calmer and lantern light returning they stop at the top of the stairs in a small square room.
Four stairways lead off this room, but it is the contents that prove most significant. The desiccated bodies of three dwarves lie with their equipment on the floor. Apart from replacing his lost shield, both Pick and Dagaard both improve their armour and weapons from the fallen warriors. More importantly, they find a journal belonging to a Dwarf called Dfur that reveals that the white crystal is part of a map and should not fall into the hands of darkness or a great evil from the First Age will be released. Pondering upon this news, the heroes explore the stairwells only to discover that these loop back to the room. The party rest a night away in the small square space.
The plan is simple, knowing that the undead librarian could attack at anytime and from the journey from anywhere, move as quickly as possible through the library hoping to escape into the labyrinth. Abandon the treasure chests and hope to return when recovered. On the way out stop at the treasure room with a portcullis to recover the gold there. Some reward for their efforts feels necessary.
It works, somehow they make it to the treasure room without incident. The portcullis proves tricky but the dwarves manage to lift it enough for Denig to roll underneath. As soon as he does a door of stone drops and cuts off his escape. Fortunately, the door is the only problem and leaves Denig free to cautiously discover that the contents of the chest is Fool’s gold. Thankfully, Pick remembers there was a room with levers nearby and this proves to contain the release on the door.
The party continue out of the labyrinth and up the levels guided by chalk marks left on the way in. Apart from a roost of Cavern wings that they had forgotten about they are unmolested. In the great hall, thanks to the greater reach of the lanterns, they discover two additional doorways. They decide to explore these before leaving. The first, reveals that details of the journal of Dfur are correct. The second leads to a stairwell down to which Denig decries “No way!” and they return to the underdeeps.
In the underdeeps, the underground explorers feel a heavy tremor that shakes loose stones. The continue upwards and a day later are crawling from Hrothgar’s cellar into the Captain’s daughter. The three debate what course to take with Billwise. Pick believes he may be able to achieve something if he approaches the Alabaster Lady who he and Limolas reunited with he lost love. Dagaard believes that the Mirnethryn in the Dwarven Envoy could help, he has produced jewels for them in the past. Denig is more keen on human help and wonders if there are any in the town. Dagaard thinks there might be a hospice down near the Causeway gate. They agree to seek help where they can and each decide to follow their own line of enquiry.
Following a brief repast by the bridge, the explorers descend the stairs to next level. The steps show less sign of wear compared with previous levels and lead into a series of corridors. Pick at the front of the line triggers a chute trap that dumps him at the bottom of a bit. Fortunately, he is only lightly injured and the rest are able to haul him out. This cautionary warning about speed of progress is taken. Fearing that this may be some trap infested labyrinth the party switch order. Reasoning that Billwise is more agile; the smallest and lightest of the party, he is placed at the front. Denig as the heaviest and also the healer is placed at the rear.
Following a rule of right first, the party push deeper into the maze encountering a number of traps some of which are only narrowly avoided. After a few hours, Billwise becomes aware of a giant spider in a lair. Denig and Billwise strike early with a volley of arrows and withdraw to a corridor section where the dwarves wait in ambush. The spider is quickly dispatched by a flurry of blows from the dwarves’ warhammers supported by the constant harry of Denig’s arrows. The spider’s lair is filled with the remains of adventurers who were less fortunate and a small rune inscribed tablet.
Further cautious exploration leads the party to a room with a number of randomly distributed dwarven number runes. Suspecting a trap and a sequence that they are unwilling to risk, the party backtrack to explore other avenues including returning to the room at a second door.
Finally, their searching is rewarded with a treasure room but the chests are behind a heavy dwarven steel portcullis. Unfortunately, there appears to be no mechanism to open the portcullis. Further along the corridor, the party discover another room. This has a slot of a similar size to the tablet discovered earlier. Billwise is dispatched to recover it. When inserted in the slot nothing happens. The party decide that pulling the levers may open the portcullis and after entering the room to attach rope to the large levers, try various combinations with no discernible effect. They decide the treasure is not going anywhere and move on, leaving the portcullis for later.
An hour of slow and careful exploring passes and the explorers arrive at a locked steel door. Billwise sets about the task with gusto and despite the difficulty of the lock rapidly has the door open. A small ante-room lies beyond and beyond the wooden door an entrance to an ancient library guarded by two impressive statues of Dwarven warriors.
Billwise cautiously enters the library only for the statues to grind into life and turn to repel the uninvited guests to the library. This leaves Billwise separated from the rest of the party and facing one of the stone statues alone. Denig implores Cloch for a barrier to protect his companion and a wall of wood fills the gap between one of the statues and Billwise, trapping the hobbit in the library but granting him immediate safety. The rest of the party fall back into the ante-room to tackle the statue nearest them.
The doughty Dwarves and Dunlending face the implacable foe. Blow after blow strikes the statue knocking stone chips from its surface. The second statue hammers at the wooden wall determined to remove the intruder from the library.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the wooden wall, the Billwise looks for avenues of escape into the library. It is at this point a cold dread begins to seep into his soul. The light from his lantern withdraws until there is only a small circle surrounding him. Out of the darkness a hideous, robed, undead, dwarf moves towards him. Its cold dead eyes strike fear into the hobbit’s heart and broken, Billwise flees. Trapped in the library, with nowhere to flee to Billwise crawls into a corner and stares in horror as the undead librarian approaches. Its touch chills his bones and soon Billwise loses consciousness.
Unaware of the peril, the rest of the party continue to deconstruct the statues until defaced both lie in broken to rubble on the floor. They then set about the remains of the wooden wall to meet up with Billwise. They are met by the sight of the barely corporeal dwarven librarian leaning over the recumbent hobbit. The light from lanterns shrinks and they too feel the cold touch of fear on their hearts. They flee.
Stumbling into the dark labyrinth, barely avoiding untriggered traps only be virtue of the clear markers on the floor, Dwarves and Dunlending run on. It takes half a minute before Denig is able to master his fear but the dwarves run on, heedless of his rallying call. He stands alone in the dark gathering his wits and summoning the dark depths of Cloch’s blessing. He pulls a torch from his pack and lights it. He stands alone but resolved to return to aid the hobbit sets off in what he believes is the correct direction. His memory proves false and is forced to retrace his steps. Soon he catches up with the Dwarves who also have recovered the wits (Pick is the most shaken and appears only to be returning by Dagaard’s force of will) and are making their way back to aid Billwise.
At the library, Pick is unmanned again an unable to enter the room. Dagaard and Denig battle the Lich Librarian. Denig is badly injured and calls for aid to restore his health. Dagaard continues to strike at the foul undead creature. Blow after blow is met with howling assaults on the minds of both of the heroes. Dagaard shrugs off this mental and spiritual assault and finally the Lich Librarian falls inert to the ground. Light from the lanterns return and the adventurers breathe a sigh of relief.
Denig immediately sets to assessing the state of Billwise. The hobbit is an a terrible state, ashen grey with breath barely entering his body. Denig begins to seek the wisdom of Cloch, praying for the soul and body of his companion.
The night passes with discussion of shares of treasure between Denig and Billwise; the Dwarves talk of what other wonders of Dwarven skill they will see. The relative safety of the door and the roomy confines of the office mean they are undisturbed and are refreshed as they make their way back down to the wide avenue found the day before.
The wide avenue has several side passages that appear to lead into larger spaces. Excited Pick walks down the avenue to its end and discovers a giant water wheel in a great hall. He marvels at the wonders he is seeing. Rather chaotically the rest of the party follow. Denig struggles to keep up with the haphazard wanderings and because he is the only one without a personal light source is frequently left at the edges of darkness.
At the waterwheel hall, they adventurers notice many different directions they could take. They decide to go back an explore the first of the three passages they walked past from the stairs. Lantern light reveals a huge hall dominated by a giant water powered machine occupying one wall. Furnaces squat like eyeless frogs on the opposite wall. Crucibles and other items of smelting lie abandoned around the hall. At the back of the hall Iron doors prevent access to small chutes that lead up. Billwise investigates these and discovers chambers behind with unclimbable passages up to steel doors in the level above. The party move onto the next passage back.
This passage leads into a similar hall, however, they disturb a Giant Cave Worm which attacks aggressively. Denig mumbles prayers as the Dwarves close with the monster hauls itself towards them. Meanwhile, Billwise waits for an opportunity to skirt round to the rear. Hammer blows fall and a short sword darts in and out. “No!” cries Denig, “I can deal with this, trust me.” as he steps up to the great beast. It immediately attempts to eat the Dunlending Shaman, who barely escapes its grasp. Needing no encouragement the rest of the party rain down blows and the poor beast never really has a chance to defend itself before dying from the accumulated blows.
“Why must you go round killing everything you meet?” bewails Denig. The rest of the party look blankly at him. Didn’t the worm attempt to eat him? They move on to the last of the three missed passages and find a hall similar to the first two. Here two Giant Cave Salamanders are disturbed by the lantern lights and immediately rush to defend their territory. Denig implores the rest to not harm the albino monsters. Unconvinced, the dwarves form a defensive wall in front of the stone man. This time it seems Cloch the God of Rock hears is prayers and both beasts become passive and calm. Amazed, but unsure of their safety, the party leave the room and return to the wide avenue.
In the avenue, the party debate what should be their next course of action. Denig is most vocal of all the party. He dismisses the area as an industrial complex and not worth exploring. Instead, he wants to push on across the bridge that leads from the avenue across the chasm. His overriding concern is to find treasure and that means finding where the kings of the dwarves live and not the normal people. The Dwarves mumble about workshops but agree to crossing the bridge rather than exploring further beyond the great water wheel.
After travelling nearly three quarters of a mile in the inky blackness, the lanterns pick up the wall of the far side and an entrance. Unfortunately, the bridge has given way. A fifteen foot section has crumbled and although the remaining dwarven workmanship is sound, it looks like it will be too far for the shorter members of the party to leap in safety.
Seeking the wisdom of Cloch’s guidance Denig steps out onto the gentle breeze that flows down the chasm and through the gap in the bridge. He is granted the ability to walk on the wind and is able to carry the party and their equipment across the abyss. None of the party are particularly happy about the mode of travel and are extremely grateful to feel solid rock beneath their feet.
Beyond the entrance, a dark hall with benches for resting and chatting is discovered. Lantern light is reflected by the remains of what once were great crystal chandeliers, the remains of which lie scattered across the floor. Ignoring the stairs to the left, the explorers push on up the wide avenue ahead. Iron doors punctuate the rock face and Billwise sets about examining these. Pick pushes on and discovers a small plaza with a fountain shaped like a strange giant fish only the tail is facing sideways. Beyond and to both sides are further avenues with doors set in the wall. He returns when Billwise picks the lock of the first door.
Beyond the door the room contains a table upended over the fire place and a cabinet with a door beyond. Searching the room they find scratch marks that suggest the cabinet was regularly swung away from the wall but can find no secret door. The Dwarves find runes scratched on the bottom of the table as Denig continues to examine the walls. The runes say “beware of the soul eater” and the party puzzle over this for some time. Beyond the door they find a bedroom and a bathroom.
The party investigate the door on the other side of the avenue. Billwise cautiously checking the door before picking the lock with ease. A similar layout of rooms is discovered beyond and they move on. After the third dwelling it becomes clear that this is a village and Denig is keen to push on quickly. The party hurry their investigations, Billwise picks locks generally without checking and Pick or Dagaard check the rooms to confirm their purpose. It is during one such sweep that Pick discovers a cupboard. He notices some faint rune marks but ignores them. Opening the doors he triggers the wards and is assaulted by flame which destroys his shield and removes the hair from the left side of his face.
Despite, this timely reminder of the need for caution the party continue to explore at pace and while laughing at the saucy scenes in a bar/brothel are attacked by a Giant Spider that emerges from an open doorway that had not been investigated. Pick who is standing outside notices it and is able to retreat inside the bar. The Dwarves flank the doorway war hammers ready. Once again, Denig implores Cloch to calm the monster but the spider lunges aggressively and knocks the Dunlending backwards. The dwarves attack. Billwise dives beneath the beast and clambers out behind it. Denig joins battle hurriedly drawing his sword. Rapidly, the spider is dispatched; Billwise left standing having taken no other action but his heroic dive, is relieved he did not stop to attack from below.
Again, heedless of the danger, the party confirm the last metal doors guard dwellings and do find a communal bath, before retiring to the hall by the bridge to rest, eat and prepare to descend the stairs to the level below.