This session took place on Thursday, August 18 and included PCs Innominus (Clr 6), Hazel (Ftr 4 / MU 4), Yor (Dwf 5), and Vivuli (Assassin 5 / MU 2).
We picked up right where the previous session left off, in the King Hargon Inn, the dwarven dining and drinking establishment in Fortinbras, on the morning of Day 149 of the party's Arandish adventures.*
Last session, the party decided that their over-arching plan would be to venture back to Farn Junction and attempt to purchase the "haunted" (and currently shut down) Frigglestone Brothers' mine. However, since Farn Junction lies a couple days' travel north of Fortinbras, the party started out this session talking over their immediate next move, and decided to head out east of town to Prince Arkus' country manor house (formerly the late Baron Kaminster's country manor house).
No sooner had they decided upon a course of action and headed eastward out of town than it began to snow rather heavily.** By the time they reached the stone-walled country manor of Prince Arkus, acting Baron of Rogaland, visibility was limited by snowfall and the PCs drove their wagon up to the Manor Gate through four inches of fairly dense snow. Just before the group reached the area of the Manor proper, Hazel turned herself invisible, a state in which she would stay for the remainder of the session.
Baronet LeForge, a local aristocrat and soldier, met the party at the Manor's heavy iron gate and asked their purpose for being there. Yor stated that he was there to see the Prince on behalf of the most prominent local Dwarven families (e.g., the Grimmbricks, the Frigglestones, and his own), to which the Baronet replied that Prince Arkus was ill and could not receive visitors. Innominus then stepped forward and offered his services as a Divine healer, here to help the Prince. After sending a runner into the house to make an inquiry, Baronet LeForge ordered the Gate be opened and waved the group into the circular inner courtyard.
Arkus' servants took their wagon and horses around to the stables, and the party was shown into the Manor. Entering the front hall, Hazel immediately noticed, at the top of a stairwell to the second floor, a robed man she felt sure matched the description of the wizard who had followed her on the town streets the night before. Vivuli also scanned the whole area with his X-ray vision ring as he passed through the foyer; he spotted a secret door hidden in the wall to the left of the stairwell. That secret door led to yet another stairwell leading down, underground, underneath the Manor.
While the rest of the party were shown into a parlor [marked with "X" on Map 1], Hazel, still invisible, sneaked up the stairs and followed the familiar-seeming robed man left down a hallway. Beastarr, Innominus' bobcat familiar, lingered back and distracted the foyer guards so they would not hear Hazel's invisible passing and ascent.
The robed fellow entered a door on the left side of the hallway and sat down at a table therein, picking up a book. Hazel cast ESP in anticipation of invading his thoughts. Once she arrived at the door, cracked it open, and scanned his mind, she found that he was thinking about what he was reading: a turgid romance adventure novel about an aristocrat who goes around in a mask, fighting sea pirates and sea monsters and having steamy sexual encounters with all manner of ladies he encounters. Nonplussed, Hazel retreated back down the hall, looking across the second-floor landing to the other side: an ornate archway leading to the plushly carpeted Regal Apartments, flanked by two heavily armed Royal Guards. Hazel sneaked back down the stairs.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party was joined in the downstairs parlor by Grand Vizier Krock, Prince Arkus' closest adviser and also, incidentally, one of the world's most enthusiastic Uncle Junkal fans (see Session 35). And while the much-beloved rodian bard was not actually present this session, Krock nevertheless recalled Innominus, Yor & Co. from their prior heroics in Farn Junction. So he was just thrilled to see the PCs, and asked how he could be of service.
Yor and Innominus convinced Krock that they should be allowed to see the sick Prince and try to help him, even if (as Krock tried to explain) Father Azamondius of the Kaladarian Temple of the Brothers of Carcoon was on his way to Fortinbras for the same purpose, expected to arrive that very afternoon. Innominus, insisting that there was no time to waste, persuaded Krock to let he and Yor upstairs into the Royal Chambers. They went, accompanied by the Vizier.
Vivuli, meanwhile, asked one of the guardsmen where the crapper was, and was told it lay just off the kitchen and banquet hall, just across the foyer [see room marked "WC" on Map 1]. Vivuli went into the "chamber pot closet" and then cast Conjure Familiar, attracting a small monkey (an Emperor Tamarin to be exact) named "Fu Man" to be his new animalistic compadre. Accompanied by Fu Man, Vivuli sneaked silently out of the toilet, approached the area of the secret door under the stairs, and investigated, inspecting the latch mechanism etc. It appeared free from traps, just hidden.
Upstairs, Innominus cast detect magic in the chamber where Prince Arkus lay bedridden. A plain-looking ring on Arkus' bedside table glowed, as did all the weapons and armor used by the four Royal Guards posted in the room.
Next the cleric of Endra cast detect evil, and the only thing in the whole room that glowed were the small black pockmarks all over the Prince's neck and face -- they radiated very strong evil indeed.
Downstairs, an invisible Hazel joined Vivuli at the secret door, and, after the assassin / magic-user popped the door open, stumbling clumsily against the wall to make it appear accidental, the fighter / magic-user and the monkey slipped through the secret door and onto the unlit stairwell below. Hazel closed the door behind them and they quietly descended as Vivuli continued his stumble, concealing their passage from the guards.
At the bottom of the flight of stairs was a three-way intersection, with passages headed left (south), straight ahead (west), and right (north).
Hazel stood still at the intersection a moment and listened. From the south passage came the faint sound of someone playing a clarinet, practicing the same five-note progression over and over. From the west, a faint but steady dripping noise. And most ominously, from the north, the dull, irregular sound of someone being choked or strangled.
UPSTAIRS, while Innominus of Endra prepared to work his healing magic on the inert Prince, Yor pulled Grand Vizier Krock aside and raised a delicate but pertinent matter: "The Prince is a very sick man. Who would succeed him as Lord of Minoch should he not survive?" The Vizier replied: "Since Prince Arkus has no blood successors, the Right of Succession passes to the highest ranking nobleman in the land, which at present would be Count Dooku."
Innominus, not having direct access to the cure disease spell, prayed a divine prayer to Endra, his diety, beseeching the demigod for the power to heal Prince Arkus. Due to the power and conviction of his prayer, his wish was granted, and Innominus cast cure disease upon the fallen prince.
The black spots on Arkus' face and neck began to congeal together under his skin, oozing up toward his mouth, then spraying out of his mouth like animated black vomit. The black vomit-thing protruding from the prince's gob took on, for a split-second, the visage of a horrible, fiery demon, then vanished completely. The bedridden prince regained some color to his previously ashen cheeks, and everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief. Innominus had saved Prince Arkus' life. The Vizier rejoiced and offered the 10,000gp Honorarium originally intended for Father Azamondius of Carcoon to Innominus and the Temple of Endra instead.
Meanwhile, UNDERGROUND, Hazel approached a door down the north passageway, from whence the strangling sound came. By the time she silently opened the door to peek in, the sound seemed to have changed to a horrible chewing or crunching. Indeed, inside a dark chamber beyond were two gargoyle-like demons, winged and black with four arms each and faintly glowing red eyes. They were hunched over the carcass of a Royal Guardsman, eating lustily. One of the demons glanced up when Hazel cracked the door open, but she was invisible and the gargoyle-demon seemed not to care.
Hazel closed the door, retreated to the intersection, and pointed her wand of trap detection down the north hall. There was indeed a trapped door down there, which Hazel declined to investigate further. She instead went upstairs to report her findings to her compatriots.
Innominus warned Grand Vizier Krock that he had a serious problem on his hands here, and advised him to allow the party to explore the whole house and "purge it of demons." The Vizier consented, and the group descended into the underground level and returned to the door behind which Hazel had seen the black gargoyle-demons.
Innominus kicked the door open, holding up his amulet of continual light. Vivuli held a vial of Holy Water on high, while Yor readied his deadly New Steel dwarven axe. Hazel kept an eye on their flank, flame tongue at the ready.
Combat ensued immediately, with the demons viciously clawing at Yor and Innominus as Viv chucked flasks, Innominus cast prayer, and Yor hacked and slashed at the demons to his heart's content. After a few rounds of bloody battle, one demon was dead and the second was attempting to escape the chamber via a gate it had summoned. Acting swiftly, Innominus cast dispel magic upon the demon's gate; the gate collapsed, spitting the demon back out onto the floor. Then Yor hacked it to death.
The Vizier, who had pissed and shat himself in terror upon the appearance of the demons, climbed out of the pool of excrement in which he had been cowering and thanked the party profusely.
There, more or less, the session ended.
"I have no problem chucking a guard up front to take the first blow."
Fun session! And our first with four separate online (Skype) video chat participants (that's me at the bottom of the screen).
Viv Summons his Familiar in the Crapper
What an inventive piece of business. I had to let him do this, so here is the "back story" of Fu Man the Emperor Tamarin: He was traveling with a troupe of vaudevillians, whom he did not particularly like, and the group passed through Fortinbras on its way to Farn Junction. Fu Man escaped the caravan and then got caught out in the snow, and headed in the Manor window for warmth. There he met Viv in the crapper and became his new familiar.
Random Manor Generation
The reason the above maps are so hastily drawn is because no specific maps of the Manor interior existed until the PCs showed up there this session. Of course, I knew a few facts about its general layout, and obviously I knew the broad strokes of what was going on there, but I mapped it on the fly and even used the Dungeon Alphabet p. 32 "Random Original Purpose of Rooms" to determine what was where once Hazel started prowling around upstairs. Along this line, I also generated a couple of the sounds Hazel heard in the downstairs corridor intersection using the "Random Sounds" table on p. 148 of the AEC.
* With one (rather gratuitous) continuity error: as we started this session, the players and I both forgot that they were holding a wizard captive in a rented room at the King Hargon Inn. We have since ruled that the PCs simply left their gagged captive at the King Hargon, under the supervision of some reliable dwarves.
** I have decided to deploy a d12-based "snow check" for every day of the Arandish / Minochian winter. High numbers (10, 11, 12) indicate heavy snow, midrange numbers (5-9) mean light snow, and low numbers (1-4) mean no precipitation. This session I rolled a "12."