Meanwhile, back above, Mars, Korlack, and the rest began to plan how to extradite their compatriots from the shaft. From the faintness of their voices, it seemed as if the unlucky adventurers had tumbled hundreds of feet and the boys upstairs had a mere 50’ or so of cord amongst them. They decided that they needed to cross the 20’ wide chute mouth and reach the hobgoblin storeroom they had discovered earlier. At least 700’ of stout hemp rope awaited them there.
The upstairs group managed to string a line across the open chute mouth and started crossing over. Mars, Fisk, Cleopos, and Cullen had reached the far side when a trio of bugbears appeared from out of the gloom and charged down the corridor. Fisk and Mars did their best to defeat the hulky brutes, but Mars was knocked to the ground and wounds began to accumulate. Rather than perish, Mars dove into the chute, followed swiftly by the other three, leaving just Korlack and Gareth in the hallway—but on the far side of the cute from the bugbear menaces.
While this pitched combat was taking place, the boys down below had managed to get a torch going and started to examine the chamber in more detail. Their search was interrupted by two pale, wild-eyed madmen who charged into the room from one of its many doors and attacked the newcomers, jabbering gibberish and frothing spittle. The fight was brief, but painful for the party who found themselves nursing new wounds on top of their recent bruises.
The downstairs group proceeded to examine all the doors, opening each in turn to see what lay beyond them. Each stretched off into darkness: long twisting tunnels that vanished into the gloom without a clue of where they may lead. Grumble and Kejair took the chance at venturing down one to scout ahead and discovered it eventually lead to a large cave; one that their infravision determined was occupied by at least three dog-sized heat sources. They retreated back to the octagonal chamber just in time to witness Mars Markus, Fisk, Cleopos, and Cullen come crashing down the chute to join them.
Upstairs, Korlack and Gareth watched as the bugbears slinked away into the gloom and were forced to decide whether to join their companions or continue with the rescue effort. This debate was interrupted by the sound of large, running feet that herald the charge of the largest of the bugbears attempting the leap the chute and slay the two remaining interlopers. The hulking beast launched itself into the air, broadsword held high to chop down its first victim—only to miss the far end of the chute’s open mouth by three feet. Tumbling, ass over teakettle, the bugbear disappeared out of sight down the slide. Fearing this to be the first of such assaults, Korlack and Gareth sighed, pulled out the mage’s bedroll and proceeded to use it as a sled as they too entered the chute to rejoin their companions.
The party below was busy watching the doors for danger when one dropped right into their midst. The bugbear surprised all of them, but was too stunned to take advantage of his literal drop on them. Getting to its feet, it was quickly engaged by the rest of the band, dying under their blows as Korlack and Gareth came sliding into the room to reunite the party once again.
Battered, lost, and uncertain of their next step, the party chose to drink wine and bind their wounds as they planned. This rest was unfortunately interrupted by two more subterranean madmen charging into the room via the door closest to Fisk, making the much wounded hired sword their first target. Their hacking attacks were more than enough to slay the injured fighter and the party suffered their first death beneath Hob’s Hill. It would not be their last.
The party was able to defeat the two madmen in the moments afterward, but they had lost a valuable ally and were still horribly injured, tired, and desperate so they again chose to take time to bind their wounds and recoup. THIS rest was interrupted by the tramp of heavy boot steps and yet another door opened to reveal TWO ogres!
Marlowe stepped to forefront and engaged the ogres in conversation using their own tongue, an effort the giants appreciated. They revealed that they had fallen down the very same chute some time ago and were currently working for King Don III, the lord of the Underworld. They were in fact on their way to report to him right then and the party could follow them if they wished. Suspicious, but with no better options, the party joined the ogres.
Through another door and down a new tunnel, the party was brought into the audience chamber of King Don III, a pale and obviously insane potentate who sat upon a stone chair and wrapped himself in an unraveling purple rug. The party tried to gain assistance from the so-called king, but they were unable to decipher his twisted thought process and treaded very close to outright treason to the king’s thinking. He offered to allow them to rest in the octagonal chamber with the ogres as watchmen and told the party to go back to that place and await the return of the two hulking brutes. King Don III had to speak with the ogres first…
Suspecting their doom was being plotted, the party returned to the octagonal room and departed immediately after leaving Fisk’s body in the center of the room and an “N” inscribed on the northernmost door. In the hours ahead, the party would wind their way through several corridors, finding nothing but empty caves, bugbears who were willing to fight them to the death over the ownership of their pants, and a dead-end cave where ghouls were dining on the (later revealed) corpse of Fisk. All these passages eventually lead back to the octagonal room!
A side note: Jack, the player who runs Mars Markus and Anwar, loves to map out any and every subterranean space the party explores, sometime to the point of distraction. One of the reasons I decided to run Horror on the Hill (which is the basis of this part of the campaign) was because this part of it is a twisting labyrinth designed to make mappers crazy. All my directions and descriptions were vague and rapid-fire, leaving poor Jack to try and keep up with my narration of the labyrinth. At one point the rest of the group was in hysterics at Jack’s frantic effort to draw my verbal account of the dungeon. Some swear steam was actually seen rising from his ears.
The party’s exploratory efforts were finally rewarded when they discovered a dead-end tunnel, one that appeared a little too dead-end if you catch my drift. Sure enough, Grumble’s inspection of the stone revealed a false wall and the almost empty cave beyond it. In this obviously undisturbed grotto lay a long-dead wizard clutching a spellbook and bag. A page of the spellbook contained his last message to the world:
6th Day of The Blaze, 1098 GCR
To think that it ends this way: Prydaree Kuhlth, Master of Wands and Agent of the Cerulean Flame, perishes in a gods’ forsaken cave beneath the site of his greatest victory. Should anyone find my missive, please let it be known that I was successful in my task and bury me where I shall not be found and my grave remain unriled.
Four days ago, I was summoned into the presence of His Exalted Supremacy,Draz Stephan Hastane and tasked with a great service to the empire: the recovery of the Hypnopsychomachina. This device, a creation of His Supremacy’s debased but genius sister, Isodore, had fallen into the possession of the Whelps of Tsathoggua and was spirited away to their noxious fane in the hinterlands of the Empire. With the Retreat to occur in less than three faces, it was imperative that the device be recovered before the Hastane dynastic line vacated this mortal realm for good. As the most trusted agent of the Imperial Secret Watch, it fell to me to recover it.
The journey northeast into the Howling Wilderness took but hours with the Modi Goats and I located the profane temple in short order. With no time or desire for subtlety, lightning was my harbinger and the lower initiates of the Great Sloth-Bat fell twitching before my assault. Their faith was no match for my spells and I hewed them down like wheat before the whirlwind.
Locating the High Foulness’ inner sanctum was no more difficult, but I nearly underestimated my opponent. Our battle—my spells against his prayers—was fierce and I nearly perished in the combat. Nevertheless, I prevailed, albeit injured, and took possession of the Hypnopsychomachina. I prepared to return back to His Supremacy in triumph.
In my hubris, I failed to detect a simple trap that sent me tumbling in this subterranean hell. My abrupt descent was arrested by a collision with the rocky floor that shattered my left arm and right leg. Drained of spells and lacking healing draughts, I crawled about in the darkness for a seeming eternity before finding this small refuge. There are other things down here with me and it is only a matter of time before I’m found or I die from my wounds. Even if I could rest and replenish my spells, my injuries make it impossible for me to make the intricate gestures needed to perform all by the slightest of magics.
I’ve produced one final spell, a simple illumination cantrip by which I might pen this final message on a blank page within my traveling spellbook. I hope the light lasts long enough for me to finish my work.
If another practitioner of the Ineffable Path finds this, my work is given unto you free of geas or curse. Use what you may with my blessings and I regret I leave but a minor tome to you rather than my master workbook of spells. Oh what mysteries I have in those pages! It is likely that the Retreat will have passed before this is found. If such be the case, I also entrust the Hypnopsychomachina to whomever finds my remains. Its power is ingenious if subtle. When used correctly, the device
It is likely that the Retreat will have passed before this is found. If such be the case, I also entrust the Hypnopsychomachina to whomever finds my remains. Its power is ingenious if subtle. When used correctly, the device
It appeared that poor Prydaree’s light spell did indeed expire before he could complete his missive.
While this was being deciphered, Marlowe opened the bag to find an iron skull, one the size of a nine year-old child’s. Ten indentations where arranged around the skull, five to a side, and the object has black glass-like lenses for eye. Placing his fingers in the indentations and staring into the eyes, the world fell away from Marlowe…
The next thing he knew, he was standing along a roadside with various other highway men, awaiting a fat priest and his load of church gold. Robbing the cleric, the freebooter’s vision shifted to a dingy bar tavern where a fight erupted over a stolen pouch. Next he experienced a knife in that back at the hands of an “ally” and died in a pool of blood, only to find himself again plundering a chest from aboard a burning merchant ship. These visions were indistinguishable from reality and the freebooter seemed to pass several days of his life engaged in his chosen career. Then, without warning, Marlowe found himself back in the cave with the skull in hand. Less than a second had passed, but Marlowe was now a more experienced freebooter, having been trained to second level. From the skull came an indistinct voice that said “fourteen.”
The rest of the party was suspicious about Marlowe following this, but didn’t press the issue and the freebooter took full possession of the skull. The party rested, confident (and correct) that they’d be undisturbed in the cave, allowing them to heal and regain spells for the first time in seemingly forever. The next morning, Grumble discovered another false wall in the cave that led to a hidden treasure trove of coins, jewels, objects d’art, magical plate mail, sword, a ring of fire resistance, and potions of healing.
Rest, armed, and feeling confident, the party left the cave and returned to the octagonal room. They were running out of doors and tunnels and so decided to proceed down the path that Grumble and Kejair had explored much earlier. This led to back to the cave and they learned that the heat-producing forms were in truth giant killer shrews that proved to be more dangerous than they initially seemed. Baragkus took several mean wounds in the fight, but the three vicious beasts were overcome…which unfortunately meant the party had orphaned the naked, pink offspring they discovered immediately afterwards in the shrews’ nest. Despite an attempt on Mars’ part to adopt and raise the newborns, some poison was dispensed and a quiet murder in the dark settled the issue in time for the session to come to a close.