Adventure 4

Quest for the Heartstone

After a bit of a break from me DMing, The Borderlanders are back, ready to go on their next adventure. I was going to run the 'Desert Nomads' series, but one of the players wanted to do a solo adventure (more about this later) first. Rather than wait until this was finished, the other player (yes, there are a total of three in our group, which is why we run multiple characters) wanted to do a side adventure as well with the rest of the party. I showed them what modules I had that were suitable for their characters' levels, and they picked this one. Good choice? We'll have to wait and see.

The Party

Mazaramus - Chaotic 8th level Magic-user

His desire for greater knowledge, power and wealth knows no bounds, Whether he would sacrifice his companions in favour of such still remains to be seen,  Recently, he became cursed with glowing red eyes, making him instantly recognisable and a fearful sight to behold.

Morgan Bernhardt - Neutral 8th level Fighter

Equally as adept in tactics as he is in the martial skills of swordsmanship, Morgan fears no foe. His bravery and fighting prowess are an inspiration to any who would follow him.

Sneaky - Neutral 9th level Thief

Despite having a number of close scrapes due to her escapades, Sneaky has proven to be a survivor. Her recent successes, especially the slaying of KalnaKaa, could be more attributed to her intelligent rapier which has a tendency to take control and determine her motivations for her.

Klaus - Lawful 8th level Cleric

Klaus goes where his deity guides him. It would seem that he has been guided to be the moral compass for the adventuring group, and on more than one occasion has prevented them from following a dark path, a difficult undertaking in the least.

Gandi - Chaotic 8th level Dwarf

There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness. Gandi lost sight of this line a long time ago. Fortunately, he has yet to meet a foe that can stand against his wrath.

Session One - Thyatis

After helping Rollo Bargmann by rooting out and destroying the evil that was waylaying merchant vessels to the south of Thyatis, the party are given the luxury of being allowed to recuperate in rooms provided for them in the Merchants Guildhall. It would be several weeks before Gandi completes his weapon training.


Thinking ahead to their next adventure, it was apparent, that even with two bags of holding, and with the haul they had found in their last adventure, they would need a better means of transporting all of their treasure. After all, the next time they might not have the luxury of a sailing ship in which to carry it all.

To this end, Mazaramus set out to acquire some draft horses. Rather than spend a single gold piece, he chose instead to buy some giant rats for a few silver pieces from a local vendor who had been selling them as trained pets. The vendor was somewhat unnerved by Mazaramus' appearance. The glowing red eyes were wholly unnatural, and the vendor was a superstitious fellow. Rather than haggle, he told the wizard to take his rats and leave. Mazaramus refused to leave straight away, and seemed to enjoy scaring the poor man. When the vendor spied some of the city guard, he rushed from his shop towards them,complaining that the strange wizard was harassing him. Mazaramus took this opportunity to steal a small ferret in a cage (which later escaped anyway). Mazaramus then used polymorph other spells to turn them first into giant shrews and then into horses.

DM's note: Some readers might be aware that I cocked this up a bit. I missed the rule in the spell that says that the new form can have no more than twice the HD of the original, and will still have the hit points of the original creature. What happened in game that Mazaramus was casting a polymorph other spell each day on some mice that he bought at a cheap price to turn them into draft horses. He also forgot that since levelling up he could cast two fourth level spells per day, but I wasn't going to point this out to him.

Later on, Mazaramus realised that they wouldn't be able to take the horses with them for a variety of reasons, not least of which was the fact that they would be travelling by sea for the first leg of the journey to their next adventure, and their would be no room on the sailing ship that they would be travelling by. He therefore chose to sell them to an unwitting (and somewhat desperate) horse trader for a considerable mark-up.

             The war machine

Mazaramus and Lithanor perused the spell books that they had found on the previous adventure. After scribing all of the spells that they could into their own spell books, they still had several duplicates, that Mazaramus kept as scrolls.

For some time the pair had been discussing the fabrication of a war machine, a sturdy wheeled contraption made of either wood or steel,inside which several crew men could fire out from using either their own weapons or a ballista pointing of the front of it. Neither of them had any engineering knowledge, so the mechanics of building or even moving it, was beyond their current knowledge. The idea of having horses inside the machine on treadmills was problematic at best, and making constructs such as golems to move it was also beyond their current abilities. Rollo Bargmann saw their idea and suggested that they employ an engineer to help them develop it.

Mazaramus was venturing out into the city and beyond, into the wilderness, in the hopes of finding some raw materials that he could convert using his runic powers into something usable for fabrication of this war machine. Rumours of unsavoury creatures in the wilds beyond the city walls deterred him somewhat, especially as he didn't have the rest of the party to support him.

            Sneaky visits the Thieves' Guild

Sneaky, meanwhile, had completed her training in the use of the rapier, which appeased the blade and freed her from its control, at least for the time being.

One day, whilst wandering along the streets of Thyatis, she encountered a shadowy figure in one of the alleys, who simply beckoned her to follow. She was led, eventually, to a complex of rooms in an apparently rundown area of the city. The main room was fairly lavish for such a ramshackle vicinity, and was filled with all manner of rogues and other low-lifes. Sat on a cushioned seat, laid out to appear more like a throne, was a magnanimous figure clad in leather.

He introduced himself as the Guildmaster of Thyatis, and offered Sneaky a proposal. Her escapades had reached his ears - the Pilferer of the Caves of Chaos, the Looter of Other Worlds, Slayer of the Devil Swine - and would be interested in offering her a Thieves' Guild of her own in one of the neighbouring towns to take control of, on the proviso that a percentage of her profits go the Guildmaster.

Sneaky declined. She had no interest as yet of 'settling down' to such a lifestyle, preferring the adventuring life, despite all its hazards. The Guildmaster was openly disappointed, but accepted her reason. He then asked if she would be interested in a little side job. A wizard had been seen leaving the city from a building in the Merchants Quarter on a magical flying broom. He had always left the window open, leaving an opportunity for his quarters to be looted. When Sneaky realised that this was Mazaramus, she again declined. Who says there is no honour among thieves?

            The portable wall

Mazaramus had come to the conclusion that the war machine idea would take a lot of work, and decided to work on something simpler, a 9' square steel plate, half an inch thick, supported by wheels and with a round hole at head height for peering through. This would also have two hinged poles attached to the top corners so that it could be set down and propped up at a slight angle. In essence, a steel dungeon mantlet.

The idea of this was that it could be pushed along ahead of the party through a dungeon to act as a large, virtually impenetrable shield. He was sitting and thinking on this idea in the main guildhall one day when, without realising that he had been talking out loud to himself, a gnome sat at another table piped up after overhearing him that some dwarves in Rockhome had once used a similar idea...very tragic!

Mazaramus questioned the gnome on this matter. It turned out that the dwarves had been oblivious to an underground cliff edge due to the mantlet obscuring their view, and several of the dwarves had plummeted to their deaths.

It was whilst talking to this gnome that a strange feeling came over the gnome, and moments later Mazaramus. Putting it down to mental fatigue, Mazaramus went off to get a good night's sleep. The following day, he procured a substantial amount of steel and set about making the steel mantlet using his Runes of Matter (see GAZ 3: The Principalities of Glantri -  The Secret Crafts of Glantri) ability. Three days later he had the mantlet more or less ready, though he managed to cause a storm that raged the city for several hours when one of his attempts backfired.

His efforts still needed a little tweaking and fine tuning. Mazaramus found Rollo Bargmann, who seemed strangely vacant. All he could say was that he had found an engineer that could help Mazaramus with his work.

            Mazaramus gets stitched up

A few days later, three men turned up at the guildhouse to speak to Mazaramus. Two of them were dressed fairly richly, the third was wearing plate mail, and seemed to be a high-ranking member of the Thyatian military. They invited Mazaramus to a table to discuss his idea of a war machine. At this point, Mazaramus was getting a little worried. How did they know about his idea? And why did they need what was obviously a highly trained and highly ranked military officer as a bodyguard?

Mazaramus tried to excuse himself so that he could make a swift exit on his broom of flying after casting invisibilty on himself. One of the well dressed men was also a wizard, and simply dispelled his invisisbility and brought him crashing to the ground before he could get more than a few feet into the air. He insisted that Mazaramus stay and discuss his idea.

The second man turned out to be an engineer, and seemed to be delighted with Mazaramus' idea. It seemed that he had no agenda other than a pure scientific interest in the development of his idea. He even helped Mazaramus complete his mantlet.

The armoured figure on the other hand, took Mazaramus to one side and made HIS proposal very clear. Mazaramus had been seen making trouble in the city, namely upsetting the vendor and defrauding a certain horse trader. If he wanted to, he could make life very difficult for Mazaramus. The vendor alone had certain contacts who only needed the incentive of a few drinks to be incited to go on a witch-hunt for the red-eyed wizard. The officer stated that this could go one of two ways. Either the lynch mobs were left to their own devices, or he could arrange for them to forget the matter (how was his concern). This just depended on whether or not Mazaramus gave exclusive rights for the development of the war machine to the Weapons Development division of the Thyatian military. Should he choose the latter, Mazaramus was welcome to suggest any further improvements to the device and would be recompensed accordingly.

Mazaramus realised that he had been played. Although they were still waiting for Gandi to complete his training and rejoin the party, they were eager now to look for more adventures. Mazaramus was now especially keen to leave Thyatis, the sooner the better, and as far away as possible. Fortunately, a few days earlier they had spotted a notice on the back page of the strange scrolls that the gnome had been reading. The notice indicated that someone was calling for adventurers, preferably of levels 5-10, to journey to Ierendi to undertake a quest.

            Lithanor departs

Matters were suddenly complicated when Lithanor rather suddenly and hurriedly left the party. Mazaramus had found him getting his horse ready. When he found that he was leaving Lithanor simply told them that he had had a dream warning him of danger to his fellow elves in Karameikos, and that he had to leave immediately. All attempts to dissuade him from leaving and to wait for the party to be ready to come along with him were unheeded. Mazaramus asked where they would be able to find him. He answered simply "Kelvin" and then sped out of the city.

DM's note: Lithanor was going off to do a solo adventure, namely 02 Blade of Vengeance, but that is a tale to be told on another day.

            Onwards to adventure

Gandi finally completed his weapons training at the gladiator pits and rejoined the party. They had decided to follow the lead they had found indicating that someone in Ierendi was looking for adventurers. Before they departed, Morgan and Sneaky decided to recruit some hirelings. The reason for this was threefold. Firstly, they wanted to boost their fighting strength since Lithanor, Bhakragh, Merick, Talanius and Maerie had left the party. Secondly, the hirelings could help with carrying treasure, and thirdly they needed some sturdy fellows to hold up Mazaramus' steel mantlet while they journeyed through the dungeons. They ended up recruiting seven hirelings, six fighters and a thief. They then travelled by ship to Ierendi.

Some twelve days later, they arrived in Ierendi, and had no problem finding the patron who had posted the notice. Arriving at a fancy mansion, they found that their patron was none other than the legendary Strongheart the Paladin. He told the adventurers that a good friend of his, a certain Queen Leahra, was in need of help. Strongheart himself was unable to go to her aid. He currently had troubles of his own to deal with, but he was sure that the party would be able to deal with it on his behalf. He also told them that they would be richly rewarded by Queen Leahra if they helped her.

The party had never heard of Queen Leahra. Strongheart told them that she ruled the Kingdom of Ghyr, far to the north. Showing them a map, the Kingdom of Ghyr was several hundred miles north of the Principalites of Glantri. Wondering how they would make such a journey given the apparent urgency, Strongheart told them not to worry. He had a Mirror of Teleportation that would take them straight to Castle Ghyr.

The party agreed to help Strongheart and stepped through the mirror.

Session Two - Into the Northern Marsh

The party found themselves before the gates of a majestic palace. The air was bitterly cold, a total contrast to the almost tropical climate of Ierendi. Two soldiers wearing strangely liveried uniforms underneath their furs and carrying halberds beckoned the party forwards. It was evident that the Queen had summoned adventurers to her aid, and that the party were expected.

They were escorted into the main hall where Queen Leahra sat on her throne and a number of other nobles, courtiers and guards were assembled. The Queen bade them welcome and asked if they had come in answer to her call. Once it was affirmed that Strongheart had sent them, she told the party that her father and former ruler of Ghyr, King Qasmar had died recently. The Queen had no consort, and this did not sit well with a certain neighbouring kingdom, whose ruler may see this as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to take over the realm.

A powerful magical item, known as the Heartstone was stolen some 50 years ago by a master thief known as Dahnakriss. Apparently, this Heartstone had the power to see into the hearts of men, and would help her to find someone suitable to rule at her side as the King of Ghyr. Her patriach had discovered, by means of a commune spell, that the Heartstone was located in the Mountains of Ice, to the north of the Northern Marsh. If  the party accepted the Quest for the Heartstone, they would be rewarded with 10,000 gold pieces each, as well as being able to keep any treasure found on their quest, with the exception of the Heartstone itself. The retainers would also be suitably rewarded.

The party accepted to go on the quest. Before they departed, the patriarch gave them two scrolls. One was a clerical spell scroll with two remove curse spells and two raise dead spells. The other was a magical scroll with two stone to flesh spells on it. They also provided the party with warm wolf furs to protect them from the harsh northern environment.

DM's note: I have made numerous alterations to the module, some of which might already be evident to anyone who is reading this and also has the module XL1 - Quest for the Heartstone. I was going to take out all the minor magic items like shields +1 and such like, but when the players decided to hire some retainers, I thought I'd keep them in.

Talking of retainers, in between sessions, I took the liberty of making up names for them, and even rolled their ability scores. I used the 4d6 keep the best three method (AD&D players will be familiar with this one). By the Gods, did I roll some good stats. All of them are above average, and one or two in particular are stats that you'd want for a heroic character.

There was no hurry for the party to depart immediately so they spent a couple of days preparing. They stocked up on supplies, and Klaus purchased four draft horses and two wagons. Mazaramus had the retainers heave the steel mantlet onto the roof of one of the wagons. He also began making the party members invisible. They estimated that it would take about ten days to reach the Mountains of Ice.

Once they were ready to leave, they departed northwards. An old road led into a forested area. By the end of the first day they had almost reached the northern outskirts of the forest, and could see the vast Northern Marsh on the other side. They made camp for the night and lit a fire. Mazaramus pulled off a large branch and tried to make some arrows using his runic powers. Unfortunately, Mazaramus knew nothing about fletching, and managed to make some sharp sticks, barely even usable as arrows. Klaus cast speak with plants and talked to the trees. The trees asked him to stop the wizard from breaking live branches off. They also warned that the wizard risked incurring the wrath of the Protector of the Forests.

The following day the party entered the marshes. The road continued on through the marshes, following a winding path. It turned eastwards not long after they left the forest, and after a few hours they reached a stone bridge crossing a stream that wound through the marshes. Gandi examined the bridge and was surprised at how sturdy it was given that it was built in a swamp. It seemed curious why there would be a road and bridges in a swamp. One theory was that this was not always swampland, and the road had somehow survived and remained in a usable state to this day.

They crossed the bridge and continued on along the road, which now wound northwards. After a while, they spotted something strange a short distance to the east in the swamp. It looked like the rotting remains of a giant leech, and two hunched figures were tearing away at it. Mazaramus used invisibility 10' radius to hide the horses and wagons and then flew towards the creatures on his broom of flying. As he approached, he saw that they were ghouls. They were now sniffing the air, and after a few moments went towards a low mound in the swamp.

Mazaramus returned to the party and warned them about the ghouls. Several more could now be seen coming from the mound. Klaus cast silence 15' radius to mask the sound of the horses and the creaking wheels of the wagons. Mazaramus, seeing that about a dozen ghouls were approaching, cast a wall of fire spell between themselves and the ghouls. Unfortunately, the wall of fire would only last as long as he concentrated on maintaining it. He waited until the party and the wagons travelled further along the road before dropping the spell.

Klaus, in the rear wagon, felt a sharp jerk on the reins. Gandi was seated in the front wagon and felt a jolt that almost threw him from the wagon. Mazaramus ended the wall of fire went to catch up with the party, wherever they were, The main party, meanwhile, had cancelled the invisibility on the horses and wagons. The yoke of the wagon was turned side-wards and caught on the side of the front wagon. The horses were tangled up and in a distressed state, The ghouls were also closing in fast.

They dismounted and took up positions between the wagons and the ghouls. Sneaky waded into the swamp towards the ghouls, taking advantage of still being invisible. Mazaramus took to his broom again and flew to the mound that the ghouls had emerged from.

The mound was found to have a small opening in it, from which came a horrific stench. The wizard alighted and crawled into the hole, Inside were rotten, half-eaten carcasses. Mazaramus was able to keep his stomach under control and avoided redecorating the small cave with his innards. Searching the carcasses, he found numerous coins and small bits of jewelry, as well as a shield and a small yellow heart-shaped gem. He began scooping this little hoard into his bag of holding.

Meanwhile, the ghouls were virtually upon the party. The ghouls slinked past Sneaky, apparently unaware of her presence despite the holes in the water made by her invisible feet. They seemed more intent on the main party and the horses that they could smell on the road. Morgan and three of the retainers, the mighty Herack and the brothers Kastor and Pollax, formed a cordon in front of the wagons, with Astarian and Calias ready to support with their halberds.

The other two retainers, Oraphius and the thief Acastrius, climbed atop the first wagon to give firing support with their bows. Gandi bellowed "Charge!" and waded into the swamp-water to meet the advancing ghouls, blue sparks dancing about the water as he went.

The archers wounded two of the ghouls. Klaus stepped boldly forward, brandishing his holy symbol and obliterated three of the creatures. Sneaky struck with her daggers, slicing another of the undead fiends. Two more were felled by Gandi and Morgan. Of the retainers, only Pollax found his mark, barely wounding one.

The ghouls struck back at the now visible adventurers. Two that were lingering at the rear closed in to attack Sneaky. She was struck by two claws. As the numbing paralysis spread through her, she reached for her rapier, dropping her dagger in the process, before falling face first into the swamp. Kastor and Herack also succumbed to the paralysing attacks of the ghouls.

The two ghouls that had paralysed Sneaky began ripping and tearing at her as she lay drowning in the swamp. Gandi saw her plight and fought frantically to fight his way through to her, felling another ghoul as he went. Oraphius and Acastrius attempted to clear the way for him but failed to find their marks now that they were closing on the wagons. Morgan and the remaining three warriors felled two more ghouls, and Klaus vanquished the remaining three with his turning, including the two that were feasting on Sneaky.

Gandi reached Sneaky and lifted her out of the water. Luckily, he saw the glint of her dagger that she had dropped and quickly retrieved this as well. They got her back to the bank, just as they saw the rather large ripples of some swamp creatures closing in on them. They suspected that these were giant leeches or some other unsavoury swamp creatures. Luckily, as soon as they got out of the swamp, the creatures turned and meandered away. With the aid of Klaus' healing they were able to revive Sneaky, who had taken some grievous wounds from the undead beasts. The paralysed members were put into the wagons until the paralysis wore off.

While they were waiting for Mazaramus to return, Klaus went to calm the horses. He cast a speak with animals spell. The draft horses told Klaus that they were scared and wanted to go home. The fire was scary. The swamp beasts were scary. Not being able to see or hear the wheel boxes was scary. Klaus calmed them down and assured them that they wouldn't make them unseeable any more.

When Mazaramus returned, he revealed his find to the party. The jewelry was worth about 750 gp. The stash of coins was just copper, about 3,000 copper pieces all told. The yellow Heartstone was a mystery, though it evidently held some magical power, as revealed by Morgan's claymore's detect magic ability. The shield was also magical, though no more spectacular than the magic shields they already had, so they gave it to Herack.

Eager to press on, the road soon turned westwards again. They had been travelling for most of the day and darkness was closing in fast. They sighted another stone bridge some way in the distance. Making for this, they set up camp for the night.

Session Three - A Failed Plan

Most of the night passed uneventfully. It was almost dawn and Sneaky was on watch. Suddenly, the foulness of the swamp air became stronger and the horses were beginning to panic. Several lizard-like humanoid figures with spiky ridges running from their crown and down their spines, leapt onto the bridge from the swamp, with more coming around the wagon that they had left on the western end of the bridge. Sneaky roused the party and they quickly leapt to their feet, with the exceptions of Klaus and Mazaramus who had given instructions not to be disturbed so they could relearn their spells in the morning.

The foul stench now became overwhelming, and some of the party were gagging to the extent that they could barely fight. The lizard-like creatures leaped at the party, rending them with their claws and reptilian maws. Several of the party were wounded, and Pollax was struck down by one of the creatures before he could react. These creatures had scales of the same colour as the reedy swamp, but in the glow of the continual light stones that they had about the makeshift camp, they seemed to be taking on a more stony colour, similar to that of the stone bridge that they were on. Gandi and Morgan led the fight back, and between them and the retainers, they were able to defeat the creatures. They then tended to the wounded Pollax.

Klaus and Mazaramus awoke, having had strange dreams where a green nauseous mist was surrounding them amidst sounds of hissing and snarling mixed with shouts and sounds of blades ripping into leathery flesh. Both of them looked rather pale, having succumbed to the nauseating effects of the creatures. I didn't tell the players at the time, but these creatures were troglodytes.

Now that it was daylight, they could see that the road that continued on seemed more sunken. In places it disappeared entirely, being submerged between the muck, reeds and water of the swamp, and then re-emerged some distance further on. After a mile or two, the road, now barely a trail in the mud, come to a four-way intersection. The trail that led northwards was marked by the skull of a goblin mounted on a stake. The south-western trail was similarly marked, but with the skull of a troll. The main trail leading roughly westwards was blocked after a short distance by spikes planted in the muddy trail.

Mazaramus cast an invisibility spell on Sneaky so that she could scout ahead. After travelling along each path for about a hundred yards or so, when the party was out of sight due to the misty fog, she gave up and returned to the party. Mazaramus then made himself invisible and flew off, following the northern trail. Meanwhile, Morgan and the fighters pulled the stakes out that were blocking the central trail.

Mazaramus found evidence of some kind of primitive camp or small village, and even saw a few of the lizard-like creatures that they had fought earlier that morning. Similar camps were found some distance along both of the other trails. Surmising that the central trail would be easier for their wagons and horses they decided that they would take this one. First, Mazaramus had the idea of flying over the village to fire ball it, and would then polymorph into a hydra to finish off any survivors. This was a good idea, and would have almost certainly have worked.

Instead, Mazaramus decided that he had a better idea. They would use the iron mantlet to advance through the swamp and take out the troglodytes as they advance with spells and missile fire. Better still, he would summon a fire elemental to move ahead of the party, The strongest fighters proceeded to get the mantlet down from the top of the wagon, while Mazaramus started to summon the elemental. A horrific metallic screeching echoed through the misty swamp as they pulled it down. They had just gotten it down, with Astarian and Calias supporting it, when a number of troglodytes that had heard the screeching leaped out of the swamps, taking the party completely by surprise.

Astarian and Calias were unable to move. They hadn't had chance to put the braces in place, and if they let go, it would either topple onto the wagon and cause it to fall over into the swamp, or even worse come crashing down on the party.

Oraphius was felled by a troglodyte before the party even realised that they were under attack, and most of the rest of the party received some wounding slashes from the troglodytes claws. Once they had gathered their wits about them, Kastor and Pollax moved to protect Astarian and Calias who were supporting the huge metal shield. Mazaramus completed his summoning, and a fire elemental appeared from the flames of the brazier,

A troglodyte was slain by the flaming fists of the elemental. Klaus trapped another within the coils of his snake staff after he had given it a hefty whack. Gandi, Morgan and Sneaky wounded three more of the troglodytes, The retainers had all succumbed to the nauseating stench given off by the troglodytes, and were unable to land a single hit. Astarian and Calias were now in a very uncomfortable position, gagging from the stench while at the same time trying to prevent the heavy sheet of metal from falling on the party. What's worse, Pollax was felled by a troglodyte, meaning that the two could now be attacked, which would be disastrous for the party.

Between Morgan, Castor, Herack and the elemental, three of the troglodytes were slain. Gandi was fighting two of the creatures and holding them back. Sneaky rushed out of combat to plug the gap left by the two fallen warriors, taking a slash from a troglodyte as she fled, but Klaus was there to intercede and prevented it from following her. Morgan, Kastor and Herack were also now free to assist.

Finally, the troglodytes were beaten back. One particularly brave troglodyte faced the elemental, even though it was unable to harm it at all. The last two troglodytes turned to flee, but were hacked down before they could escape.

Klaus went over to administer aid to Oraphius (who was on -8 hit points) and Pollax. Mazaramus wanted to make the task of taking the mantlet down from the top of the wagon easier, and attempted to use his Runes of Wood ability to make the side edge of the wagon roof more rounded. His attempt failed. He then heard the sound of roaring flames approaching from behind him, and realised with horror that he had forgotten to dismiss the elemental.

Without even pausing to look round, he jumped on his broom of flying and sped off. Morgan attempted to block the elemental, giving it a hefty slash with his claymore. Morgan was knocked flying aside as the fiery creature pursued the wizard across the marsh, leaving a trail of burning reeds in its wake.

Mazaramus could easily outpace the elemental, and he led it to the northern troglodyte encampment. He was hoping that the elemental would slay all the troglodytes there. The elemental was focused entirely on catching the wizard. The troglodytes fled from the encampment, out of the way of the elemental, and into the surrounding swamps. After some time of this cat-and-mouse chase, Mazaramus realised that he couldn't remain flying indefinitely out of the fire elemental's reach. The elemental, on the other hand, could pursue him tirelessly. He led the elemental back to the party. Morgan gave instructions to the retainers that they were not to engage the elemental, as none of their weapons could harm it. Morgan, Gandi and Klaus stood ready to fight it while Mazaramus hovered out of reach, drawing it toward the party, The three were able to quickly defeat the creature when it arrived, forcing it to dissipate and return to its elemental plane.

Having recovered from their ordeal, they proceeded along the trail and soon after found the troglodyte camp. It was deserted, and a quick search of the reed and mud huts found a small amount of treasure. The northern encampment was also deserted. The troglodytes were loath to return after the elemental had blazed its way through their village. Again, only a small amount of treasure was found in one of the huts, but they also found what appeared to be a crude map, etched with some kind of paint on what they guessed was a scrap of leathery hide or skin. Some strange symbols were also marked on this map. Sneaky was unable to interpret this writing, but it was evident that the map showed the trails through the area of swamp inhabited by the troglodytes.

They decided to press on westwards before any surviving troglodytes regained their nerve and attacked again. They reached the western end of the troglodyte swamp near the end of the day and sighted another stone bridge. The trail seemed to rise again, with the stony road now no longer covered by mud and swamp-water. Beyond, in the distance, a large lake could just be made out, with the road seeming to skirt along the southern side of it. The immediate area seemed quiet, almost desolate. They hoped that this meant they might be able to spend the night without any disturbances this time, though they weren't going to take any chances.

Session Four - The Thing in the Water

Pressing on westwards, the trail slowly wound its way round the large lake and could be seen to eventually lead north-eastwards. After a couple of miles, the trail was very close to the lake, a matter of mere yards away. A strange noise was heard from across the water to the north, a cacophony of various creatures shrieking almost as one, and a flying creature could be seen headed in their direction. Without the elf's sight to aid them, they had to wait until it got closer before they could see what it was. A large bat-winged beast with a leonine body and serpentine tail was approaching. The thing had three heads, those of a goat, a lion and a dragon. A chimera!

The party were preparing to face the creature, swords drawn and spells readied, when suddenly the water erupted and several creatures burst out from the depths of the lake. Two huge, strange lizard-like creatures emerged close to the shore and lunged at the party. A third lizard-like creature, this one very similar to a
crocodile, snatched the chimera and pulled it straight down into the water. Further from the shore, a weird round appendage with several tentacles ending in eyes floated above the water. The most curious thing about each of these forms was that none of them seemed like real creatures, but composed of the very water that they had emerged from.

Acastrius and Oraphius let loose with bowfire at the creatures, neither of them finding their mark. Mazaramus took flight and headed towards the spherical creature, somehow reasoning that this was controlling the creatures. Gandi, realising that one of the lizards was lunging at him, charged his plate mail.

The creatures, or should I say creature, as the party had rightly surmised that this was a singular creature composed of several heads, proved very difficult to hit. Only Morgan managed to land a wounding blow, doing a heft amount of damage to a reptilian head. The creatures struck back, wounding Gandi and one of the mercenaries. An electrical jolt sparked through the creature as it struck Gandi, the sparks arcing into the water and about the other heads of the beast. All of the creatures' heads gave a watery shriek, before sinking back into the depths of the lake.

The party hurriedly pressed on, covering a good distance before having to set camp for the night. Fortunately, the trail had now veered some distance away from the lake. A short way off to the north-west, some rocky foothills rose out of the swamp, Earlier that morning, Mazaramus had decided to learn massmorph so that he could disguise the party when it came time to set up camp. The effect was to make the party members and the horses look like stunted swamp trees. Unfortunately, the spell didn't disguise the wagons, so they did there best to hide them by standing around the wagons. Even with Mazaramus' spell disguising the party, they still kept a watch.

In the early hours of the morning, a group of hobgoblins stumbled into the small copse. None of the party could understand what they were saying to each other. Only Lithanor spoke hobgoblin. If they could understand them, this is what they might have heard.

"'Ere! I don't remember dese trees bein' 'ere"

"Never mind dat. Let's gaver sum firewood off 'em"

"I fink dat tree just moved"

One of the hobgoblins tried to break off a branch, not knowing that it was actually Morgan's arm. The branch, actually Morgan's sword, whipped round and took the hobgoblin's head off. Another tree transformed, the branches becoming large snake-like heads with glowing red eyes. Several of the hobgoblins were quickly slain by the strange snakes. Another tree advanced on one of the few remaining hobgoblins. A branch extended toward the bewildered hobgoblin, and before he could react, a snake had emerged from the branch and coiled about the hapless creature, holding him completely immobilised. The last couple of hobgoblins attempted to flee in terror, but were cut down as they fled.

The following morning, the party attempted to interrogate the captive hobgoblin. They were unable to understand his terror-induced gibbering, so they decided knock him out and leave him on the trail.

The trail led away from the swampland and into the rocky foothills. Mazaramus scouted ahead on his broom of flying, with the party following behind, within shouting distance. He soon discovered a clearing in the rocks, with the trail leading through it. Several crude wooden structures, some kind of huts or small tents, were assembled in this clearing, and a large group of some twenty or so hobgoblins were milling about. It was apparent that the hobgoblins were rather poorly armed, having only crude clubs. Mazaramus gambled that they didn't have any missile weapons either, so he flew above them in plain sight to taunt them.

All of the hobgoblins had by now emerged from their tents, and the majority were milled about in the centre of the encampment, shouting up at the mage and waving their clubs wildly in the air. Two of their number began moving towards a smaller trail, leading off through a narrow ravine in the rocks. Mazaramus launched a fire ball at the hobgoblins, incinerating the lot. Only the two that had moved towards the ravine escaped the carnage.

The rest of the party following behind heard a huge explosion from up ahead, and then saw clouds of smoke rising from the rocks. Morgan, on his warhorse, sped on, having come to the conclusion that Mazaramus was in some kind of trouble.

The two surviving hobgoblins now starting running towards the narrow trail. One was brought down by two magic missiles, with a third wounding the other hobgoblin. It was at this point that Morgan came riding into the clearing. Seeing the remaining hobgoblin, he rode towards it. He was hoping to have his war horse knock it out with its hooves, but instead a hefty hoof to the head snapped the hobgoblin's neck.

The rest of the party arrived at the now charred clearing. Mazaramus, Sneaky, Klaus and Gandi followed the narrow trail in the ravine to see where it might lead. Morgan stayed in the clearing with the mercenaries and the horses.

The ravine was found to end at an apparent dead end, nothing but sheer rock walls. Sneaky discovered that a cleverly shaped rock was hiding a tunnel that led into the rock. Gandi and Klaus lifted this aside. After Mazaramus had cast an invisibility spell on Sneaky, they ventured into the tunnel. After about twenty feet, the tunnel opened up into a large cave. A large hobgoblin, this one wearing chain mail and brandishing a sword, was standing ready in the cavern, having heard the commotion from the main camp. With him were four hunched creatures resembling some kind of feral, almost ghoul-like, hobgoblins, that snarled as the party approached.

Mazaramus launched a full volley of three magic missiles at the large hobgoblin, doing a hefty amount of damage, and a well aimed dagger from Sneaky hit the hobgoblin squarely between the eyes, felling him. Undeterred, the feral hobgoblins advanced. Gandi met one with a flurry of axes which would have slain any normal hobgoblin, while Klaus engaged another of his creatures, hitting it soundly with his mace. Another of the creatures also moved in on Gandi, whilst the fourth scurried past the dwarf and the cleric and went after Sneaky.

Sneaky made a swipe at her assailant with her rapier, but then made the mistake of turning to run. It slashed at her with its claws, and Sneaky fell to the ground, paralysed by its venom. To make matters worse, the creatures wounds began to close up again.

Mazaramus slew the creature that had paralysed Sneaky with his last magic missile spell before it could inflict any more damage. Gandi and Klaus eventually slew the other three, largely thanks to the protection afforded to them by their plate mail, and Klaus' displacer cloak, that prevented most of their blows from getting through (although one thoul did get a lucky blow through, paralysing the cleric).

The creatures that they had been fighting were, in fact, thouls, being some sort of magical combination of trolls, hobgoblins and ghouls, having the regeneration ability of the former, the paralyzing attacks of the latter and appearing almost like hobgoblins.

Mazaramus went to check on Sneaky. He noticed that the yellow heartstone that he had found in the ghoul lair seemed to be glowing more brightly than it had been. He touched it to Sneaky, and the paralysing effect of the thoul's attack was removed, He then used the heartstone to remove Klaus' paralysis.

They searched the cave and discovered small stash of treasure, including a chest hidden under the hobgoblin king's bed. The chest was trapped with a poison needle trap, but Sneaky was able to disarm it. A subsequent use of detect magic from Morgan's sword revealed that the hobgoblin king's sword was magical, as were the five potions and the scroll that they found with the stash. Four of the potions were potions of healing. The scroll was a scroll of protection from elementals, which Mazaramus decided to keep (in the event of him forgetting to dispel a summoned elemental in the future). Gandi tried the fifth potion. He had a vision of skulls and spirits floating about, and they guessed that this was a potion of undead control. The hobgoblin king's sword+1 they gave to Kastor.

Continuing on along the main trail, it led back out of the rocky area, heading in an easterly direction, and back into the swamplands. They took rest before venturing out once again into the swamp. Mazaramus once again used his massmorph spell to hide the party. The following day was largely uneventful, apart from being attacked by some large white dragonfly creatures. Mazaramus used his wand of paralyzation to deal with them, and the two that were not caught in the blue paralyzing ray were easily slain.

The party could just about hear, above the sounds of the chittering creatures of the swamp, some distance off to the north, the crashing sound of a waterfall. Some time early in the second day after leaving the hobgoblin encampment they spotted another bridge up ahead. As they were nearing the bridge, several thouls, eight in all, burst from the swamp on either side of the party. Before they could react, a number of the hired mercenaries had been struck down by the paralyzing attacks of the thouls.

Reacting to the attacks, Morgan, Gandi, Klaus and those of the mercenaries still able to fight struck back. Mazaramus relied on his magic missile spells to help fight them off, unable to risk any more devastating spells now that they were at close quarters, Sneaky hid amongst the wagons until an opportunity to make a backstab attack presented itself. Klaus managed to hold two of them off for some time, being struck twice by thoul attacks. He managed to resist the effects of the paralysis at first but succumbed after the second one struck home. After a particularly tough fight, they finally managed to eventually defeat all of them.

Mazaramus once again used the yellow heartstone to negate the effects of the paralysis. It had just enough power left to restore the entire party, after which its glow faded and became just a yellow heart-shaped gemstone, its magic completely drained.

Session Five - The Mazaramus Project

After crossing the bridge, the trail eventually began to turn northwards again. The following day, they began to smell something that cows tend to leave in fields, only considerably stronger and somewhat overpowering. There must be an awful lot of cows up ahead, As they progressed, the smell became even stronger, and soon they found themselves travelling through an area of bubbling marsh. Most of the bubbles were small, but every now and then, a particular large bubble, up to three feet across, would rise to the surface and pop, releasing its noisome odour.

They were a short way into the bubbling marsh when three large green creatures with rubbery flesh burst from the swamp around the party. Trolls!

Morgan was wounded by a claw swipe from one of the trolls. The wound merely incited him into a battle rage as he began to hear the Highland Call once again as his claymore came to his hand. Gandi leapt from the rear wagon at a troll that had gouged at one of the horses, yelling his battle-cry as blue sparks danced about his plate mail.

Mazaramus, who was ahead of the party on his broom of flying, contemplated launching a fire ball, but thought better of it when he realised that he couldn't hit the trolls without hitting the party and the wagons as well. Instead, he used a polymorph self spell to turn himself into a hydra. Meanwhile, Sneaky and Acastrius, snuck out of the back of the rear wagon to come in behind the troll that Gandi was fighting. Gandi landed a series of axe blows on the troll. It struck back, slicing the dwarf with its claw. Electrical sparks danced from his armour and about the troll, and it literally exploded, limbs flying in all directions.

Gandi rushed to the front to help Morgan, Klaus and Mazaramus, who were fighting the other two trolls. Sneaky saw that the arms and legs of the troll were instinctively trying to claw their way back to the torso of the troll that was lying on the ground, so he got out his tinder box in an attempt to start a fire with which to burn it. The tinder proved a little difficult to light in the damp air, but when it did light, flames shot up from the tinder. Sneaky dropped it and jumped back. The troll, including its limbs which had almost reattached to the body, burst into flames. At the same time, several spouts of flame erupted from the marsh nearby. Fortunately, they quickly burnt themselves out, though they could have just as easily caused a chain reaction which would have ignited the entire swamp.

The remaining two trolls were soon slain, being no match for two battle-hardened warriors and an eight-headed hydra, though Mazaramus was significantly wounded. Mazaramus, having seen the flames near the rear of the caravan realised now what the swamp gas was and why it smelt so much of cow dung. It was methane. Had he launched a fire ball, the entire party would have been incinerated by the exploding gases. This posed another problem. They couldn't burn the remaining two trolls. The were lucky the first time, and any further attempts would almost certainly set off a cascade reaction.

The mercenaries were tasked with hacking at the remains of the trolls and keeping their limbs apart so that they did not regenerate. Meanwhile, Mazaramus had spotted what seemed to be the trolls' lair, a low hillock, on which hobgoblin skulls mounted on stakes surrounded a cave mouth. He ventured into the cave. Fortunately there were no more trolls. Therein he found the trolls' treasure, a stash of gold coins and a few gems. Thrust into the pile was a longsword, and a suit of leather armour, still in good condition, was draped over it. The most interesting thing that he found was a small lead box. This he would take back and have Sneaky take a look at before deciding to open it.

Returning to the party, who had been slowly making their way northwards, he took the treasure into the rear wagon. Only Sneaky, Gandi, Acastrius and Oraphius were in the rear wagon. Suspecting that the longsword and leather armour were magical, he gave these to Oraphius and Acastrius respectively. The lead box he had Sneaky check for traps. He asked Morgan, who was at the front of the caravan to use his detect magic to confirm that they were in fact magical. He then shuttered the front of the wagon while he investigated the contents of the lead box. Inside was a small glowing blue heartstone. Mazaramus, still being wounded from the troll attack, felt the pain from his wounds ease. Judging the heartstone to have healing or regenerative power, he chose not to touch it, in case it had a limited number of uses like the yellow heartstone had.

Morgan was curious as to what was going on in the rear wagon. With the red glow of Mazaramus' eyes, the green glow from his detect magic, and the blue glow of the heartstone, strange eerie lights were seen protruding from the slats of the wooden doors and sides of the wagon, looking all the stranger in the misty swamp air.

After a few miles of travelling, night was beginning to fall again, though they seemed to be through the worst of the gas-filled marsh. The ground was even starting to rise slightly. They pressed on until they were confident that they were clear of the bubbling marsh.

Rather than burn the trolls, Mazaramus wanted to keep them alive. After his attempts at getting free horses by polymorphing rats had its short-comings, he wanted to try something that might prove to be more successful. If he could polymorph the trolls into draft horses, they should prove quite resilient, though lacking the trolls' regeneration ability. However, this meant keeping the trolls from regenerating until the morning, when he could memorise some polymorph other spells.

At first, Mazaramus tried to trap the trolls by casting a web spell inside one of the wagons whilst the disembodied trolls were in there. Even in their severed state, the limbs of the trolls proved to be quite strong, and ripped through the web in a matter of minutes. They would have to do it the hard way.

The party set a double watch that night, watching out for any attacking monsters whilst at the same time preventing the trolls from regenerating by continually hacking at them. Sneaky even laid down some caltrops where the trolls torsos, heads and limbs were, the idea being that the damage caused by them would offset their regeneration. The night was restless and exhausting, though luckily no monsters disturbed them.

Once he had memorised his spells, Mazaramus took the parts of the trolls some distance away from the caravan. Finding out which limbs belonged to which troll wasn't too difficult. Simply watch which torso they tried to crawl towards. This allowed him to arrange the limbs so that the two trolls wouldn't reassemble at the same time, thus allowing him time to have two attempts at polymorphing them. Reasoning that the trolls, although disembodied, were still alive given that they were trying to reform, and polymorph other would only work on a living creature, he needn't wait for the trolls to reform before casting his spell.

Whilst he was preparing his little experiment, the rest of the party unhooked the iron mantlet (which was now being towed rather than kept on the roof of a wagon) and stood behind it, ready to rush to Mazaramus' assistance if anything went wrong.

Peering through the whole in the mantlet, they saw Mazaramus fly up on his broom and cast his spell. The first troll was successfully polymorphed into a draft horse! What Mazaramus had overlooked was that although trolls can still survive even when their limbs are separated from their bodies, draft horses do not have that ability. For an instant, there was the carcass of a draft horse with the poor beast's legs lying nearby. The death of the draft horse caused it to return to its natural state, back into a troll.

The second troll was now beginning to reform and come fully to life. This time he waited until it was whole before casting his second polymorph other spell at it. I rolled an 18 for its saving throw! Seeing that his experiment had been a total failure, he fire balled both trolls, completely immolating them.

With the experiment finally over, they carried on northwards along the trail. With the mists of the swamp clearing, they could see that they were nearing some foothills, and beyond these they could now clearly see the aptly named Mountains of Ice. At first glance they appeared to be snow-capped mountains, though somewhat larger and more jagged than the familiar Altan Tepes of Karameikos. In places, however, the icy sheen of glaciers could be seen.

Leaving the swamp behind them, they carried on into the foothills. After a few miles, the trail split. One part of the trail led north-westwards and toward the sound of the waterfall that they had first heard days earlier. The other led south-east into a rockier area of the foothills.

Before they could investigate either of the branches, they heard an eagle-like screech in the cloudy skies above them. This was answered by a number of similar shrieks, and several dark shapes could be seen at first spiralling above them and then diving towards the party.

Mazaramus flew closer to see what they were. There were twelve of them. As they got closer he saw that although they looked like giant eagles from the front they had the hindquarters and hind legs of lions. These were griffons, and it was obvious that they weren't friendly.

Thinking fast, Mazaramus drew his wand of paralyzation and fired it at the nearest group as soon as they got close enough, before turning tail and heading back to the party. His ray caught five of the griffons, and three of them plummeted down to their deaths.

On the ground, the party let off a volley of missile fire before drawing their weapons for close combat. Just as they were closing in, Mazaramus used his wand again. Two more griffons were paralyzed, but by now they were close enough to the ground to survive the fall. To his dismay, the wand glowed with the same bluish light given off by the paralysis ray. When it faded, the wand was gone, having expended its last charge,

The remaining griffons were more intent on trying to grab horses than attacking the characters. Mazaramus' riding horse took a nasty gouge and a bite from one of the griffons, before Calias could bravely intercede, trying to ward it off with his halberd. Incensed, Mazaramus proceeded to target the griffon with repeated volleys of magic missiles, eventually slaying it, but not before it impaled the brave Calias with its beak.

Morgan and Herack had both been grabbed by griffons, and were being carried away. Morgan managed to slay the griffon carrying him and came crashing to the ground. Klaus attempted to jump up and grab the griffon that had grabbed Herack, a futile move when wearing plate mail. As Herack hacked at the beast, Klaus tried to lob a potion of gaseous form to Herack, in the hope that he could use it to escape the griffon's clutches/ By now, they were some 30' off the ground. Klaus' throw was almost perfect, but Herack's attempt to grab it was clumsy. As the potion fell back down, Klaus deftly caught it before it could smash on the ground.

Most of the griffons were slain, though the party and some of the horses had taken some nasty wounds, and Calias lay dead after defending Mazaramus' horse. Besides the one carrying Herack, one other remaining griffon gave up the fight and took to the skies. It didn't get very far, being brought down by bow fire from Acastrius and Oraphius, determined to avenge their fallen comrade.

Mazaramus gave chase after the griffon carrying Herack. He had exhausted most of his spells and resorted to using his staff of striking. The griffon was slowed down by carrying Herack, and Mazaramus quickly caught up with it. The griffon was not going to give up its prize, continuing to fly off, until Mazaramus gave it a hefty whack, slaying it. By now they were about 200' up in the air, and Herack went plummeting to earth. Mazaramus flew after him, attempting to grab him before he hit the ground. He barely made it, and Herack clambered onto the back of the broom of flying mere yards from the ground.

Klaus went to the lifeless body of Calias and drew out the scroll given to him by the patriarch. Reading from it and putting his hands over him, Calias gave a gasp as life was returned to him. However, the power of the raise dead spell was limited, and it would require at least two weeks of full rest before he was in any shape to be of any use to the party. Furthermore, someone would have to stay with him and return to the city of Ghyr with him.

It was at this point that Mazaramus revealed the blue heartstone. Taking it from the lead box, he touched it to Calias. The heartstone glowed even brighter, healing all of Calias wounds and returning him to full strength.

Mazaramus was curious as to where the griffons had come from. Maybe he thought their roost might hide some treasure, or perhaps he was hoping to capture a young griffon to train and use as a flying mount. After making himself invisible, he flew towards the Mountains of Ice, in the direction that he guessed the griffons had come from. The mountains seemed to be teeming with large flying creatures, some quite distant, though closer to hand were more griffons. His efforts at finding an eyrie, however, were fruitless. Besides, the air was bitterly cold,and his wolfskin cloak was barely sufficient to warm him. A curious griffon must have sensed his presence and flew towards him. As it passed, it almost knocked him off his broom. The wizard gave up his search and returned to the party.

Session Six - The Icewater Falls

Morgan concluded that the obvious route now was to follow the trail north-westwards, and towards the sound of the waterfall. Mazaramus had other ideas, and ventured off to the north-east. This was found to lead into rockier hills, and after a couple of miles the trail was found to be blocked by an avalanche. Although the party could possibly scale it with some difficulty, there was no way they would be able to get their wagons through, so Mazaramus turned round to catch up with the rest of the party.

By the time it was beginning to get dark, they saw up ahead a log cabin by the side of the trail. It seemed unoccupied and deserted, so Morgan and Mazaramus ventured in. It was in a delapidated state and seemed to have been unlived in for a very long time. Mazaramus went over to the fireplace to see if he could get a fire lit. Just as he was about to do so, two giant crab spiders leaped at them from the beams above them. The two adventurers reacted very quickly. Almost instinctively, Mazaramus launched a volley of magic missiles at one of them, and Morgan cleaved the other with his claymore, slaying both of them.

After searching the rest of the cabin thoroughly, they found that there were neither any more spiders or other nasties, nor anything of value. Mazaramus lit a fire in the fireplace, and they deemed this to be a relatively safe place to spend the night, though Mazaramus still disguised the party with his massmorph spell. Most of the furniture was in a state of disrepair, though Mazaramus did manage to repair two stools with his Runes of Wood ability. He even decided to keep one, later storing it in his bag of holding, should he want to have a sit down while they were adventuring. Mazararus used his remaining invisibility spell on Sneaky before they set watch for the night.

Obviously, the horses couldn't be taken inside the cabin, though they were still disguised by the massmorph spell. Had anyone ventured upon the cabin that night they would have seen a strange sight. Trees had sprung up around the cabin, and some were going to and fro into and out of the cabin at various intervals. Even stranger would have been all the trees that were inside the small cabin.

The night passed uneventfully, and after learning their spells for the day, they continued along the trail towards the sound of the waterfall. The trail was now going downhill and leading into a bank of fog. Seeing no other choice, they continued on. The fog was not as thick as they had at first thought, and soon began to clear somewhat. They found themselves near the base of a huge cliff. The trail gave way to a wide ledge that meandered back and forth along the cliff face. Several cave mouths of varying sizes could be seen all about the cliff face, though the uppermost ones were inaccessible from the ledge that they were on. Just beyond the cliff face could be seen the icy waterfall, cascading down, with cold mists billowing out from its base.

Of all of the cave entrances that could be seen, only three seemed both accessible and wide enough to get the wagons inside. One was fairly close by, and the second was a little further up the cliff-face where the ledge wound back. Both were at least 20' wide and high. The third was near the base of the cliff, near to where the waters from the Icewater Falls fed the swamp that was to the south of the cliffs. This one, however, seemed barely wide enough to squeeze the wagons and horses through.

The wizard flew over to investigate the closest of the wide cave mouths. A wide tunnel led inwards. On the walls were drawn various pictures showing blue skinned, yellow haired giants that were throwing meat at various large winged creatures. Another drawing showed some earth creature carving out a tunnel in the side of a mountain, with a chimera hovering above the cave entrance. The tunnel ended at a huge set of double doors, with huge pull-rings about 8' above the floor.

Mazaramus suspected that the doors led into a frost giant lair, based on the paintings, and flew back to warn the party. While the rest of the party were waiting for the wizard to return, half a dozen large wolves, ahving smelt the scent of the horses emerged from the nearest cave and ran along the ledge towards the party, snarling as they ran. Mazaramus saw the dire wolves running towards the party and hurtled a fire ball at them. Five of the wolves were instantly fried. The sixth that barely survived was run through by a charge from Morgan. Mazaramus landed to tell the party what he found. As he did, several plates and shards of ice came crashing to the ledge about them. At first they feared that this could be the start of an avalanche, but the falling ice soon abated.

Mazaramus then flew off to check out the other two cave entrances. The first one he went to was the one at the base of the cliff. Several muddy tracks led from the cave and into the marsh. There was evidence of recent use, as several large clawed footprints were evident in the mud. The cave entrance itself was about 10' wide, barely wide enough for the wagons and horses, and a foul fetid odour came from within. After conveying what he had found to the party, he flew on to the second of the wide cave entrances. Reaching this one with the wagons would require carefully negotiating a sharp bend on the ledge.

Mazaramus entered the wide cave. The air inside was even colder than that outside, and ice covered the walls, floor and ceiling. Some way in, a frozen pool covered the floor from wall to wall. The tunnel bent round to the left, and around this corner, was what at first appeared to be a huge mound of ice. The mound began to move, and Mazaramus could see that it was actually made of large white scales. A reptilian head on a long, snake-like head rose up out of the mound.

Realising he was out of his depth, the wizard spoke to the white dragon. He introduced himself and asked the dragon what her name was. The dragon was for a moment taken aback by the wizard's politeness. She warned Mazaramus that it would be in his best interests to leave and not disturb her any more. Asleayna, as she was called, had little tolerance for humans who might try to steal her treasure. Mazaramus backed off, but persisted in asking her questions, such as whether she knew what was in the other caves. Asleayna said that such knowledge would not be free, and then started making strange hissing sounds. All of
Mazaramus' magic items glowed. The dragon was a spell-caster, and the price for any information would be some of his magic items. Mazaramus told Asleayna that he would consider this, then left and returned to the party.

They had three choices. Take the wagons into the wide tunnel which led to the frost giants, deal with the white dragon (one way or another), or try to get the caravan through the bottom tunnel, which was barely wide enough. Mazaramus seemed intent on fighting the white dragon, more because he deemed it as a threat than anything else. He was ignoring the fact that even if they slew the dragon, the ice cave would be no good for the horses. He had already seen the ice-covered pool, and this would simply collapse under the weight of the wagons.

For some reason, Mazaramus was loathe to take on the frost giants. Morgan, on the other hand, was eager for battle, or rather his claymore was, and was ready to take on either the dragon or the giants. While they were discussing this, Sneaky, who was still invisible, went down to investigate the lower tunnel herself.

The tunnel curved round to the right before coming to a four way intersection. To the left, a tunnel curved round to the right, and a similar tunnel on the right curved round to the left. Ahead, the skulls of a five-headed hydra hung mysteriously in the air. Sneaky didn't like the look of the hydra skulls, so she ventured along the tunnel to the left. She had gone about 20' or so down this tunnel, when she suddenly felt disorientated. The air shimmered, and she found herself in a cave. The cave was about 20' wide and 40' deep. In the cave were two large, bat-winged, lion-like creatures with sharp-fanged men's faces. Their tails ended in numerous spikes. She recognised these as manticores.

The manticores seemed unaware of her presence. Looking behind her, she saw only an alcove. She wasn't in the tunnel anymore. Other than the manticores, there was a bed of dry marsh grass near the left wall, and a tunnel leading from the cave, just beyond the manticores, on the right. She snuck past the manticores and along the tunnel, having to climb down a ledge some 8' high where the tunnel exited the cave. The tunnel continued at a slight but noticeable downwards angle for some distance.

The rest of the party by now had become concerned that Sneaky had not returned, so they took the caravan down to the lower cave entrance. Sneaky exited the tunnel from the manticore cave and found herself on the cliff face, only she found herself some way up the cliff. Near the base of the cliff, she could make out the party travelling towards the bottom cave. She didn't want to call out to the party, in case she attracted the attention of the manticores or other creatures that might be inhabiting the caves, or worse, caused an avalanche. Sneaky descended the cliff quite swiftly, and at one point tried waving at the party to get their attention, then remembered that she was still invisible,

The party had almost reached the bottom cave. Gandi saw footprints appearing in the thin covering of snow on the trail, approaching fast, as though some invisible creature was running towards them. Gandi remembered the invisible stalker that had attacked him back in Castle Amber, and drew his axes. Sneaky called out, and Gandi breathed a sigh of relief.

With some difficulty, the party managed to get their wagons and horses into the narrow corridor. It didn't help that the tunnel was curving round to the right either. Leaving five of the mercenaries to stay with the horses, the five heroes, along with Herack and Pollax, went ahead to the intersection that Sneaky had come across earlier. They were still apprehensive about the hydra skulls, so they took the corridor on the right, the opposite one to which Sneaky had already explored. They guessed that this would also lead to a teleporter. Morgan suggested that Sneaky should go first, while they watched to see if she disappeared. Rather a clever idea considering that she was still invisible.

They proceeded down the curving corridor anyway, and were indeed teleported. They found themselves in an irregularly shaped cavern, about 20' by 40'. Off to their left was a frozen over pool of water. The cavern itself was occupied by two chimerae. The party had guessed that, since the other teleporter led to a manticore cave, this one would also be occupied by monsters, so they were expecting a fight. Gandi and Morgan each charged at a chimera, and Herack and Pollax rushed in to assist. Klaus cast a striking spell at Pollax to aid him in combat. Mazaramus unleashed one of his magic missile spells.

The chimerae struck back, both dragon heads unleashing a gout of flame each, hitting Morgan, Gandi, Mazaramus and Klaus. The cleric was right in the crossfire of both blasts, taking considerable damage. Sneaky was spared any attacks, having snuck around to deliver a backstab, ending her invisibility. Gandi and Morgan were also struck by claw attacks or goat head butts. One attack that hit Gandi triggered his electrical discharge attack from his plate mail, but even this failed to slay the beast, and his charge for the day was spent.

They finally managed to slay the two beasts, taking more wounds in the process. Only Sneaky was unscathed. They turned their attention to the ice covered pool. A glint of treasure could be seen at the bottom. They smashed the ice on the surface, but in the bitter cold they could hear the ice crackling as it began to freeze over again. Mazaramus thought of using his bag of holding to scoop the water out, but soon realised that this was futile. Even with the capacity of the bag of holding, it would take considerable time and several scoops to empty the pool. Furthermore, the level of the pool didn't seem to be reducing, as if it was being fed by a source emptying into the cave,

Morgan tired off watching the wizard's fruitless efforts, so he stripped his armour off and dived into the icy cold pool. Swimming to the bottom, he scooped the treasure at the bottom into his own bag of holding. Morgan climbed out of the pool, none the worse for being in the cold water. If anything, he felt invigorated and refreshed.

The small stash of treasure comprised a mixture of silver, gold and platinum coins, as well as a sword, a shield, and two potions. Morgan used his detect magic revealing the items to be indeed magical. The shield Morgan took, giving his old shield to the mercenaries. The sword seemed fairly powerful and they gave this to Pollax. Gandi tested the potions. His dwarven resilience proved fortuitous, preventing him from being harmed by their poisonous effects. These poisons seemed to have a soporific or numbing effect. Sneaky determined with her knowledge of poisons that these could be used to coat weapons so she kept them, adding them to her current supply.

Just as with the manticore cave, a tunnel led from the cave and out onto a ledge on the cliff-face. This time they were higher up. Mazaramus determined that they were almost directly above the white dragon cave. They returned to the bottom of the cliff, as quickly and as quietly as they could. The climb down required them to pass another as yet unexplored cave and to climb down some vines at one point to reach the lower ledge. Mazaramus helped to expedite matters by ferrying them down using his broom of flying.

They were soon back with the rest of the party. Whatever foulness there was in the tunnels ahead was unsettling the horses, and the mercenaries were working hard to calm them. Nevertheless, Mazaramus was insistent that they should deal with the manticores next. This time, he had a plan. Gandi, Morgan, Sneaky, Klaus, Herack and Pollax were to take the tunnel leading to the teleporter, while Mazaramus flew to the cave entrance to launch a fire ball at the manticores. To coordinate the timing of their attack, Morgan and Mazaramus were to keep a mental count.

Mazaramus reached the cave entrance leading to the manticore lair. As per Sneaky's description, a long tunnel led at a slight upwards angle for some distance. Sneaky wasn't entirely sure, but she guessed it was somewhere in the region of 80' to 100' long before reaching the cave itself. Mazaramus ventured into the tunnel about 20', then lobbed a continual light stone up the tunnel. Their was still no sign of the cave. Mazaramus returned to the end of the tunnel and decided he would have to take his best guess with aiming his fire ball. He cast the spell, sending it forward to the limit of its range, unless it hit a rock wall first. The fire ball exploded some distance ahead, and flames billowed toward him, ending a mere 20' from where he stood.

Moments later, Morgan led his squad through the teleporter to charge the manticores. To their horror, they were barely scorched by the fire ball. Still, they managed to fell the beasts fairly swiflty, taking only a few minor wounds in the process. Pollax seemed especially eager to test out his new sword in the fight, The mound of dry grass that Sneaky had spotted earlier turned out to be concealing a small amount of treasure, including two potions of healing.

Klaus took this opportunity to administer some much needed healing to the party. The adventurers seemed to be facing something of a dilemma. Dare they risk the lower caves and face whatever was beyond the hydra skulls? Should they take on the frost giants and hopefully find somewhere safer for the horses, or should they face Asleayna the white dragon?

Session Seven - The Tunnels of Death

The party agreed to investigate the lower tunnels further. The horses weren't too happy about being in the claustrophobic tunnels, but there seemed to be little other choice. Klaus even used a speak with animals spell and tried to reassure the horses. The draft horses were practically scared out of their wits, and were begging to go back outside. Klaus tried to convince them that they were safer in the tunnel. He then spoke to Morgan's war horse. The war horse was somewhat braver than the other horses. He said that he'd "tough it out" and agreed to do his best to keep the other horses quiet and prevent them from panicking.

With Sneaky in front, and invisible once again. They proceeded along the central tunnel where the hydra heads were suspended in mid-air. Suddenly, the ground opened up, they heard Sneaky scream, and the ground closed up again. Realising that there was a pit trap in front of them, they tried opening it by prodding the floor with 10' poles, but to no avail. It was evident that the pit trap required a significant amount of weight to trigger it. Mazaramus flew over the pit, stood on it just long enough for it to open, then flew down before the pit trap closed again.

The wizard hovered below the pit trap door, held out a continual light stone and slowly hovered down. Some 40' below the pit entrance he could see Sneaky lying on the floor.

Morgan was determined to get through the pit trap himself. He tied a rope to himself and, handing the other end to the rest of the party to hold onto, stood on the pit trap. He feel through, but when the pit doors closed again, they severed the rope.

At the bottom of the shaft, Sneaky was shaking herself. She saw a light descending, and saw that this was Mazaramus coming down to help her. She then saw a large form come hurtling down, narrowly missing the wizard, she scrambled to the side, just as Morgan came crashing to the ground.

Mazaramus reached the bottom of the shaft and they looked around. They were at the end of a rough-hewn tunnel that wound its way roughly eastwards. After Mazaramus scolded Morgan for his stupidity, they decided to follow the tunnel rather than wait for the rest of the party to find a way of rescuing them.

Meanwhile, up above, Gandi and Klaus had noticed that the pit trap didn't cover the entire floor. There was 1' to either side that they could walk on without triggering the trap. They crossed over by keeping to the left and right sides of the tunnel. They were all almost across, but Kastor, who was at the rear, stumbled and fell onto the pit trap.

Sneaky, Morgan and Mazaramus had proceeded about 100' along the winding tunnel, when they heard a scream followed by a thud behind them. Mazaramus flew back. Kastor was pulling himself up from the floor, groaning in pain. They rejoined Morgan and Sneaky and carried on along the tunnel.

The tunnel soon opened up into a cave, almost 40' wide and 30' deep, with a ceiling 30' high. Nearby, on the east wall, it looked as though rocks and rubble had fallen where an exit tunnel might be. The cave itself was filled with statues, some were of human warriors, but the others were statues of large vulture-headed creatures. All of the statues were facing to the west, where another opening could be seen leading into another cave.

Mazaramus and Morgan started clearing the rocks on the northern wall. Kastor kept a look out. Sneaky decided to examine the statues. They were quite life-like, but probably not of any value, and to her disappointment, didn't have gems set into their eyes. She caught a glint of gold coming from the cave to the south, and moved over to take a closer look. She saw two large, eight legged lizards, and realised that she had seen these creatures before. The heads resembled those of the Thing In The Water that had attacked them as they passed the lake on their journey to the Mountains of Ice. However, those were only watery imitations, and didn't have legs. These were basilisks. Sneaky instinctively looked away and backed off, avoiding their petrifying gaze. The lizards seemed to have sensed her, and slowly moved towards the cave entrance, their tongues flicking out in an effort to follow her scent.

Sneaky went to where Morgan and Mazaramus were clearing the rocks, and told them about the basilisks. Morgan drew his sword and moved towards the basilisks, but kept his head bowed so as to avoid meeting their gaze. Kastor looked past the statues to see what was approaching. He caught a glimpse of their hides and just looked away in time as one looked in his direction.

Morgan was about halfway across the cavern when Mazaramus cast a darkness spell towards the basilisks. A sphere of blackness covered the opening, and they could hear the basilisks withdrawing. Morgan breathed a sigh of relief, but then heard the sound of crunching stone. The statues in the vae were coming to life! At least half of them were anyway. A statue of a warrior lifted his arms towards Morgan, and fiery magma shot out from its hands towards him. Morgan avoided one of the blasts, but was hit squarely by the other. Only his magical plate mail saved him from being roasted alive. He took a swing at the statue, knocking a chunk out of it and yelled "Run!"

Kastor and Morgan fled from the cave. Some of the statues started to follow, but then started closing in on Mazaramus. The wizard flew up on his broom to the top of the cave, though one of the statues managed to hit him with a blast of flame as he flew up. He shouted down to Sneaky to get out if she was still there. Once he was confident that Morgan, Sneaky and Kastor were clear, he moved to the northern end of the cavern, still keeping out of reach of the statues, and cast his last fire ball, targeting it at the opposite end of the cavern.

There followed the sharp cracking of splitting stone, as well as the shrieks of the basilisks that were also caught in the blast. When the smoke cleared, all of the vulture headed statues were reduced to rubble. The six living rock statues, though looking somewhat charred, with dark red lava now visible through their stony exterior, were still standing. Mazaramus drew his whip and lashed at the statues with it. He was able to shatter four of the statues as he whipped them. Unfortunately, his whip caught around the arm of one of the statues and was pulled from his grasp. The statue tried to blast the wizard with its magma attack, and instead incinerated his whip.

Mazaramus figured that the last two statues shouldn't be too hard to kill if he could avoid their magma attacks. He cast a mirror image spell on himself and descended to attack with his staff of striking. He managed to destroy the last two statues as his mirror images ran out, but took more wounds from the flaming attacks just as he smited the last one. He had slain all of the living statues, but was severely wounded, so he took out the blue heartstone and used it to heal himself back to full strength.

Before he returned to the party, he decided to have a final go at the rubble on the north wall. He guessed that they were almost through, so he gave it a good kick. The remaining rubble crashed down to reveal another cavern beyond, though this seemed empty except for a tunnel leading off at the far side of the cavern.

Gandi and Klaus, after crossing the pit, had found a side tunnel ending at a door. The main tunnel carried on a little further before it split, with rough tunnels veering off to the north-east and south-east. Gandi went ahead to open the door. He noticed strange gouges running down the door, starting at about 5' above the floor and stretching down to the bottom of the door. He moved up to open the door. The floor opened up beneath him. He tried to lunge for the door, barely getting his fingers to hit as he rapidly descended through the pit opening, which closed again behind him.

Morgan, Kastor and Sneaky had fled some way back up the tunnel. It seemed as though the living statues weren't following them, and they had seen the bright glare from the fire ball as it lit up the tunnel walls. They were waiting for Mazaramus to catch them up when Gandi came tumbling down and hit the floor mere yards up the tunnel from them. Eventually Mazaramus returned, having defeated the statues. He flew Sneaky up first to see if she could open the pit trap using her thief skills. The first pit trap she had fallen through, she determined to be triggered by an intricate counter-weight mechanism that was embedded deep in the rock. She successfully disabled the mechanism so that the pit would remain closed.

The second one, the one that Gandi had fallen through, was built in a similar manner. She managed to trip it open from beneath and disabled the trap so that it stayed open. Checking the tunnel further, she found a third shaft. Although this was also a pit trap, she was unable to fathom its workings, and couldn't disable it. They returned to Klaus and the rest of the party who were waiting above. Klaus had decided not to do any further exploring, in case they ran afoul of any more traps, and waited for Morgan, Sneaky, Mazaramus and Kastor to return.

Now that they were all back in the upper tunnels, Gandi resumed exploring the tunnels that they had seen earlier to the east. There were patches of oil in both tunnels, and Gandi could hear strange clicking noises coming from the south-east tunnel. He could see movement coming from two caves, and every now and then saw some large vulture-headed creature. They decided to use these oil patches to their advantage. Gandi lit a fire-brand ready to drop on the oil, then ventured forward so that he could be seen by these strange creatures. As soon as they saw him they came charging at him. Gandi backed off to the other side of the oil patch. Just as the creatures reached Gandi, he dropped the fire-brand, igniting the oil and engulfing the vulture-headed creatures in flames. Most of them turned and fled, and one was hacked down by Gandi and Klaus as it burned. The closest one forced its way forward and lashed at Klaus with its claws that ended in a single long talon, but this one too was quickly brought down.

The remaining creatures, hook horrors, were afraid of the fire and were reluctant to attack the party again. Gandi crossed the area where they had lit the fire, which had by now burnt out, and bellowed at the hook horrors. They backed off even further into the caves.

Morgan suggested that they take advantage of this, seeing that the hook horrors were in two separate caves. If they brought up the iron mantlet, they could close off one group while they launched a coordinated attack on the other, then finish off the remaining group. Gandi held the tunnel, with Klaus and a few mercenaries close by to support him. Morgan returned to the horses, and with the help of the two mercenaries who had stayed behind to look after them, started wheeling the mantlet up the corridor.

Mazaramus, meanwhile, had been investigating the door on the other side of the pit. He hook a rope and grappling hook and tried to pull the door open. Eventually, and with the help of a couple of the mercenaries, he pulled the door open, which came away from the wall and went crashing to the floor of the pit. Beyond the door was nothing but solid wall.

Morgan was still bringing up the mantlet, but Gandi was growing impatient. Mazaramus, who had by now finished playing with the false door and had returned to the main group, cast a darkness spell on Gandi. He had hoped that this would give him an advantage, as the dwarf could see through the magical darkness with his infravision. What he had failed to realise was that most subterranean creatures also have infravision.

Gandi charged into one of the caves to take on a group of hook horrors. By now, Morgan was just arriving with the mantlet, and with the help of the mercenaries, put it into position to block off the other group of hook horrors. Acastrius and Oraphius fired at them with their bows through the hole in the mantlet.

Gandi hacked at one of the hook horrors. This time they didn't run away. All five of them leapt to attack him. Gandi slew one, but even with his magical armour and using his axes to fend off their blows, he took a nasty slash from one of them, and was mauled ferociously by their beaks. He gave the command word to charge up his armour, then realised that he already used its power that day against the chimerae.

Mazaramus saw that Gandi was in trouble. He cast polymorph self and transmuted into his favourite form, an eight-headed hydra. The spell only imbues the natural abilities of the creature polymorphed into. We agreed that infravision was a natural ability.

Morgan stayed to support the archers, in case the hook horrors broke through the mantlet. Klaus also stayed to support. He would be of little use supporting the dwarf due to the darkness spell.

Mazaramus the hydra stomped in to help Gandi fight off the hook horrors. The dwarf had felled another, and there were only three left. Two of the hook horrors turned to attack this large foe. The hydra heads lashed at the hook horrors, managing to land a few wounding bites, but the hook horrors attacks were deadly. Even in hydra form, Mazaramus didn't have the armoured protection of his dwarven friend. Gandi fought furiously but the hook horrors slashed and bit at the hydra, and Mazaramus fell, his slain body reverting back to his human form.

Klaus heard a bellow of rage from Gandi and knew something was wrong. Braving the darkness, he waded in to blindly attack the creatures. Although he couldn't see them to effectively make an attack, he did manage to draw off their attacks. Between Gandi and Klaus, they slew the remaining hook horrors, with Klaus managing to finish the last one off with a lucky blind strike.

Gandi backed off to allow Klaus to see where the slain wizard lay. He resisted the urge to go to the aid of the fighters taking on the other group of hook horrors, knowing that the darkness would only hamper their efforts,. Besides, he was grievously wounded himself.

The hook horrors tough hide seemed almost impenetrable, but Oraphius managed to find his mark, putting an
arrow into one of the beasts. It bellowed in rage and then charged at the warriors hiding behind the mantlet, and the remaining hook horrors followed its example. Morgan moved in from where he had been standing to one side of the mantlet and hacked at the creature. He left a nasty gouge, but the hook horror continued, grabbing the top of the mantlet and trying to pull it over. Kastor and Pollax struggled to hold the mantlet in place, but the beast was too strong. They let go, and the heavy mantlet toppled over, crushing the hook horror.

Klaus drew out the scroll given to him by the patriarch, and cast the remaining raise dead spell to bring Mazaramus back to life. He left Gandi to tend to him and ran to support the fighters in the other cave.

Morgan led a charge into the remaining four hook horrors, while Oraphius and Acastrius supported them with missile fire. One hook horror broke through and charged at the archers, further trampling its fallen comrade as it clambered over the toppled mantlet. Just as it climbed over, Klaus interceded and drove it back with a hefty blow from his mace.

Between Morgan, Kastor and Pollax, they managed to fell another of the beasts. Morgan had taken a few slashes and bites from the creatures. Pollax was swinging wildly with his newly acquired magical sword that he had found the the chimera cave. He gave a great cheer of victory, convinced that he was making telling blows, yet to any onlooker, his sword blows were going wildly astray. A hook horror lashed at Kastor, but then screeched in agony as a rapier slashed at it from behind. It turned on its new assailant, and Sneaky, now visible, began to doubt the wisdom of her bravery. The hook horror slashed and chomped at her, but she nimbly dodged every strike.

Morgan fought his way to Sneaky's aid, felling the hook horror that he was fighting. Sneaky and Morgan brought down the hook horror between them. The only one left had taken a series of blows form Klaus and Kastor and Oraphius slew it with a well-aimed arrow shot into its skull.

They had defeated the hook horrors, but were in severely bad shape. Klaus administered what healing he could. Having noticed Pollax's strange sword play, he suspected that he was in possession of a cursed sword. He called Pollax over and cast a remove curse spell on him. The sword that he had gotten from the chimera cave crumbled into dust. A sudden realisation came over Pollax. How could he have thought that such a rubbish sword was so good? He thanked Klaus, and asked them to make sure that they give him a better sword next time.

It was then that Pollax saw the wounded wizard sitting on the floor of the cave, and saw a strange purple glow. He pointed this out and the wizard looked up. As he did so, the purple glow changed to blue. He looked back to what Pollax was pointing at, the blue heartsone, which looked to glow purple under Mazaramus' gaze. The wizard said "Oh! I'd forgotten about that". He lifted up the stone and it glowed even brighter. Mazaramus felt his strength return and stood up, fully healed after his recent resurrection. However, the heartstone dimmed and the glow faded entirely, becoming nothing more than a heart-shaped blue crystal.

Klaus had used up all of his healing spells for the day, and the party were still in quite a bad shape. They still had numerous healing potions, and Klaus may even have to expend valuable charges from his staff of healing to get the party fighting fit again.

Both caves had another tunnel leading from them, though they seemed to converge on the same area. From these tunnels came the clacking noises of more hook horrors....

Session Eight - Gandi Goes Gaseous

Licking their wounds, the party backed off from the hook horror caverns back towards the entrance. The party were badly in need of rest, but before they could do that, they needed to clear the area of monsters. They set up the iron mantlet next to the first pit trap, on the side opposite from where the hook horrors could come from. Sneaky reactivated the trap (in the previous session I rolled 01 for her disarm traps roll, and ruled that she had fully fathomed its working), and Mazaramus summoned a fire elemental using his brazier of commanding fire elementals.

Mazaramus sent the fire elemental towards the hook horror caves, following close behind. In the final cave, he found five more hook horrors, all somewhat larger than the ones they had already fought, perched on ledges around the cavern. The cavern was accessible from both of the previous hook horror caves by two separate entrances, and it was Mazaramus' intention to drive the hook horrors out of the second entrance toward where the rest of the party were waiting.

His idea partially worked. Three of the hook horrors fled through the other exit. The other two cowered in a corner. Mazaramus sent the elemental towards these two, igniting a pool of oil near the side of the cavern in the process, and the two remaining hook horrors finally fled after their comrades.

The first of the hook horrors reached the rest of the party. For some reason they were loathe to go down an as yet unexplored side tunnel, which was still soaked with patches of oil (and Sneaky had determined the third pit trap was likely to be). The first hook horror went plummeting down the pit trap, making a futile attempt to grab the mantlet with its hooks, a metallic screeching echoing through the tunnels as its claws raked the iron shield. Morgan started firing crossbow bolts at the other two. This was having little effect at first, but then Morgan managed to pierce the iron hide of one of the creatures and they turned to flee.

They ran into the remaining two hook horrors running the other way, hotly pursued by the fire elemental. In a panic, they tried to run in all directions. One ran back to the mantlet but stopped short of the pit. Another fled down the side passage leading to where the false door used to be, and the open pit, which it plunged down in its haste to escape the elemental. The remaining two turned to fight the elemental.

The fire elemental found it difficult to make any telling blows on the hook horrors, which in return were actually managing to disrupt it with a frenzy of clawing attacks. Mazaramus, seeing that the elemental was in danger of being completely disrupted, had his summoned creature grab both of the hook horrors, carry them over to the pit and drop them on it. The third hook horror, seeing the elemental approaching, leapt across the pit trap and actually managed to pierce the mantlet with one of its hooks and keep a hold. Morgan and the mercenaries struggled to hold the mantlet in place, but Morgan's claymore had other ideas. He thrust at the hook horror through the firing hole in the mantlet. With a screech, the hook horror lost its hold and plunged down the pit.

Satisfied that the hook horrors wouldn't be bothering them for some time, assuming they survived the fall, the party went to explore the hook horror cavern. Where Mazaramus' elemental had ignited a patch of oil, which by now had burnt out (though the stony floor was still quite warm, with wisps of vapour rising from it), they found an alcove on the other side, in which was a small cache of treasure. Besides a few coins, they found two potion bottles and a silver-headed hammer.

Just in case any of them were poison, Gandi tested the potions, relying on his dwarven resilience. The first he found refreshing, and being severely wounded, had a compulsion to down the thing in one go, immediately feeling some of his wounds heal. He tested the second one. He felt different for a few moments, but exactly what effect it had had on him he had no idea. It was only then that he realised that he had sat down to drink the potions, with his other hand resting on the what should have been warm, if not hot, ground where the oil had ignited. Given that the hot stone wasn't bothering him in the slightest, he determined that it was a potion of fire resistance.

Morgan and Gandi argued for some time over the distribution of magic items. Gandi thought he should have the potions seeing as he had tested them, and Morgan can have the hammer. Morgan refused to take the hammer. He was still under the influence of his empathic claymore, and wasn't going to share its wielder with such a pretentious object. Gandi told Morgan he should use his detect magic ability on his word to see if the hammer was magical, but Morgan refused. Sneaky had already evaluated the hammer as being merely ornamental, though quite valuable, and she wasn't going to have it either. It didn't suit her rapier.

The hook horror caves seemed remote and defensible enough to be a safe place to hole up in. The problem was that the horses could still be attacked if there was anything particularly nasty further on in the tunnels that might venture toward the entrance. The party were still quite wounded as well. They had a hefty number of healing potions, but were loathe to use them up, begrudgingly consuming a couple of them, and if needs be, Klaus could expend charges from his staff of healing to use cure serious wounds on the wounded party members, though he chose not to, not wishing to 'unnecessarily' waste its charges,

Klaus volunteered to go on a scouting mission, using one of his potions of gaseous form. Gandi said it would be a better idea if he went, given that he had infravision and could see in the tunnels, whereas Klaus would be flying blind. Klaus agreed, and Gandi went off in gaseous form to explore.

Gandi managed to cover most of the tunnels. He found that several tunnels led towards a huge cavern filled with an underground lake, some 40' below the level of the ledges leading to it. A wide causeway spanned the lake, and water poured into the lake at several points in the far wall and emptied again through another tunnel. Returning to the narrower tunnels, he discovered an area at a nexus of passageways where the walls seemed warmer to his infravision than the surrounding rock. One of the passageways led to a tunnel sloping downwards before arriving at a larger cavern. At the far end of the cavern was an opening in the rock wall. Some stones were scattered about this opening, most of them on the floor on the nearside of the opening. Venturing through this opening, he found himself in another cavern. The walls and floor were blackened. The floor was covered with shattered rocks. Nearby was the statue of a hook horror. Further on into the cave, another statue of a hook horror looked to be fighting something, its arm raised to slash down at some creature, and just beyond this statue was a large eight-legged lizard staring in his direction, a basilisk!

Gandi swiftly averted his gaseous gaze from the basilisk. Had he not looked away in time, there would have been a curious rock formation of a stony cloud! Knowing now that he was in the very cave he had been earlier with Mazaramus and Morgan, he swiftly departed.

Back at the strange nexus where the walls weren't cold, he followed another tunnel. This one was quite long, with oil patches at various intervals. Some way along he found green slime clinging to the walls. He hurriedly flew past this, not sure of whether his gaseous form would protect him from the green slime attack. Beyond this, he found one end of the causeway that led across the huge lake cavern. He couldn't quite see the far end of the causeway, and decided that he would explore this later. Still following the tunnels, he found another curious cave with some strange stalagmite, about 7' tall, in the centre, and loose rocks and stones littered about the northern wall. After this, a single tunnel led onwards. He followed this for some way, but guessing that he had been exploring for some time and the effects of the potion could run out soon, he decided to return to the party. Besides, he had no desire to run naked across a patch of green slime.

Gandi barely got back with about ten minutes to spare before the potion ran out. In his absence, the rest of the party had decided to check the cavern walls to see if there were any secret openings. Sneaky even went to deactivate the third trap. She had located it beneath a patch of oil and realised that disarming it would be tricky. The oil was extremely slippery, and just setting foot on it would cause her to go sliding onto the pit and falling through it. Using some rope and pitons from her set of thieves' tools, she carefully slid towards the edge of the pit and deactivated the trap.

The whole time, Mazaramus had been concentrating intensely on maintaining control of the elemental. Even the slightest lapse in concentration and the elemental would turn on him. He didin't even have the luxury of engaging in discourse with the rest of the party, and was only dimly aware of anything that was said.

Gandi described what he had discovered, including the green slime and the basilisks. Two of the hook horrors that they had fought earlier had now been accounted for, and they guessed that the other three could still be roaming the tunnels beneath the pit traps. If they could deal with these, they could safely make camp and get some much needed healing.

Mazaramus went ahead, with the elemental in front of him. They were reaching the strange nexus where, according to Gandi, the walls were the wrong temperature. Gandi was just behind the wizard, and now saw that the walls were rippling strangely. Mazaramus sent the fire elemental forwards. The walls seemed to come alive as an amorphous black shape moved down the wall. It was a black pudding! The fire elemental sent a fiery blow from its flaming arm into the pudding. It moved away, but as it did so, a black tendril lashed back at the elemental. The elemental continued its flaming attacks, but the black pudding was just too large. The pudding continued to lash back. The magical energy binding the elemental to the prime plane was finally broken, and Mazaramus' fiery ally was vanquished, dispersing in a final flash of flame.

The black pudding had been severely wounded, but was still alive. Without the elemental to hold it at bay, it sensed the party and hungrily oozed towards them. Morgan had some of the mercenaries bring up flasks of oil, which they quickly poured about the tunnel floor. The pudding was now mere yards away. They frantically tried to light flaming brands from their tinder boxes to ignite the flames. It was almost in range, ready to lash out with its strange black pseudopod, when they dropped their flame brands and ignited the oil. The pudding lashed frantically as it burned, giving out an unearthly wail, but its hunger continued to drive it forward. The party backed off. The black pudding oozed through the flaming oil.

They were able to out-distance the creature. Someway back down the tunnel they dropped more oil and prepared to ignite it. Again, they lit their fire brands just in time. The flames flared up, catching the black pudding in it, and this time the monstrosity flailed madly as the flames consumed it utterly.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the party resumed their advance down the tunnels. Mazaramus had hoped to use the fire elemental to deal with the green slime. They decided that they would have to deal with the slime later, suspecting that if it did move at all, it would be very slowly. Instead, they ventured down towards the basilisk cave,

Rather than risk multiple party members being petrified by taking them on en masse, they chose instead to have Gandi and Morgan go ahead to fight the lizards. Gandi blindfolded himself, relying on his combat instincts (and taking a -4 penalty on 'to hit' rolls). Morgan decided to take them on Perseus-style, polishing up his shield and using it as a mirror while he fought with his back to the creatures.

The pair of warriors ventured into the cave. Almost immediately, they heard the growls of the creatures as they lunged at them with vicious bites. They luckily avoided the jaws of the creatures and lashed back. Gandi sank his axes into one of the beasts, slaying it. Morgan also made a telling blow, slicing the other creature. It roared in pain and bit back, sinking its jaws into Morgan's leg, and within moments, the brave warrior stiffened and turned to stone. It turned on Gandi, but found the dwarf's axe sink into its neck, slaying it.

Gandi took out the elixir of stone to flesh that the party had had since encountering the medusa way back in the Caves of Chaos, and left it beside the statue of Morgan, then went to investigate the pile of treasure on the opposite side of the cavern. Sneaky administered the elixir (having some sympathy having once been a statue herself), and Morgan soon returned to normal.

Gandi found a large pile of gold coins, along with a shield, a quiver of arrows, and a glowing green heartstone. Having no interest in the other items (except for the gold), he grabbed the heartstone. Instantly, all of his wounds were healed. Morgan used his detect magic, confirming that the shield and arrows were magical. These they gave to Oraphius and Acastrius. They barely had time to explore further, as the remaining three hook horrors that they had fought earlier were heard approaching down the side tunnel leading to bottom of the pits. The hook horrors were severely wounded. Morgan and Gandi were able to quickly slay the first two, and Sneaky, unnoticed in the shadows, took out the third with a dagger strike into its back.

Morgan determined that this cave and the hook horror cave would be relatively safe places to rest up. Klaus was still concerned about the green slime and went off to deal with it. Most of the oil patches had been burnt away, but one still remained between the party and the green slime. Had Klaus taken Sneaky or at least one of the mercenaries equipped with some rope, he might have had an easier time getting to the green slime. Instead, he crossed the oil patch the hard way, trying to hold on to the wall and slipping to the floor before finally rolling to the other side. When at last he did reach the green slime, he drew forth his staff of healing and used a charge to cast a cure disease spell on the green slime. The staff glared with a white light as he touched it to the slime, which withered and shrunk, turning brown as it did so and dropping off the walls before finally dissolving away.

Klaus repeated the difficult crossing of the oil patch and returned to the party. Although confident that they had sufficiently cleared the tunnels, they still set a watch and made camp for the night in the basilisk cave.

Session Nine - The Great Hydra Battle

The night passed with little incident, though Herack and Pollax, who had been watching the horses near the tunnel entrance, said that they had heard noises outside, almost like a small avalanche, seeming to come from somewhere on the cliffs above the cave entrance in the early hours of the morning.

Klaus administered healing to the party, bringing them almost up to full fighting strength. Mazaramus replenished his spells, choosing a more diverse range than the usual heavy fire-power spells like fire ball and magic missile. The first thing he did after learning his spells was to make Sneaky invisible so that she could scout ahead.

Gandi had given the party a good description of the layout of the tunnels ahead. Even though he hadn't seen any more monsters past the green slime, they weren't going to let their guard down. They soon came to the section of the tunnel where Klaus had dealt with the green slime. There were still three patches of the slippery oil along this long tunnel. They simply ignited them and waited for the flames to die out.

As Sneaky was crossing where the third of the oil patches had been, she heard a faint twang and felt across her ankles a tight cord, obviously flame-proof, that stretched across the tunnel from wall to wall. This was followed by a faint click, as if a small stone had dropped on the floor nearby. She looked around, and saw a small hole in the tunnel wall, a few inches above the floor, from which a clear liquid trickled.

She stepped back, and warned the party that she had just triggered some kind of trap. Indicating the section of tunnel where the cord was, Mazaramus came to a realisation. He called upon his runic power to transmute stone and caused the wall where the liquid had poured out to open up, forming a hollow in the wall. There, one end of the cord was attached to a cork stopper, and suspended near it was an upturned bottle. The last of the liquid was still dripping from its neck. Mazaramus took an oil flask and poured a small amount onto the liquid. As soon as the oil hit the liquid it flared up in flame. Whoever had set the trap hadn't anticipated anyone burning the oil patches before proceeding through them.

They proceeded on, and came to a small cavern. Other than the tunnel they had come down, three cavernous tunnels led off, one they could see shortly came to a ledge above the huge underground lake. To the south, the cavern opened up, and they could see that they were at one end of the 20' wide carved out corridor that Gandi had discovered that led to a bridge crossing the two halves of the large lake. They decided to leave this for now and see where the other tunnels led. They knew that they both eventually joined up, one being just a long tunnel, and the other going through a cavern with some large stalagmite in its centre.

Morgan had two of the mercenaries remain at the junction, blocking off the long tunnel using the dungeon mantlet. The remainder proceeded toward the stalagmite cavern, with Sneaky scouting ahead. Sneaky ignored the stalagmite, being more interested in searching the rocks and stones strewn along the base of the walls. Her investigations proved fruitful, as she spied the glint of coins amongst the rocks.

The rest of the party followed up, and Gandi went up to investigate the stalagmite. As soon as he neared it, it came to life as a large eye opened up in the rocky pillar, and several stony tendrils lashed out. Morgan, Klaus and Pollax rushed in to help the dwarf fight this strange stony fiend. Even Mazaramus was feeling particularly brave and waded in swinging his staff of striking. Oraphius and Acastrius, the only remaining mercenaries (the others were either manning the mantlet or looking after the horses) let off a volley of arrow fire before the group closed, but their arrows just bounced off the creature's stony hide.

Gandi hacked furiously, but his swings failed to make a telling mark as its tentacles lashed madly at the heroes. Morgan managed to thrust his claymore into the beast, which bellowed as he struck, and it lashed all the more madly, grabbing Klaus and Pollax. Both felt a numbing weakness overcome them. Struggling futilely, Pollax was drawn towards the creature's maw and stony jaws bit into him as its teeth ripped through his armour and into his flesh.

Morgan swung again, this time severing the tentacle that held Pollax, who fell to the floor, still screaming in agony, Sneaky abandoned her interest in the coins and came to the assistance of her comrades. Her strike with her rapier was turned aside by a tentacle, but she struck home with her dagger, dodging back again as a tentacle came swinging back, narrowly missing her. This allowed Mazaramus to find an opening, landing a heft blow with his staff, but then he too was grabbed.

Following Morgan's lead, they decided to change their tactics, and began hacking at the tentacles. Klaus and Mazaramus were soon freed. The creature continued to lash at them with the remaining tentacles. Soon, even these had been hacked off. The beast lunged desperately, trying to grab Morgan in its mouth. Morgan plunged his sword deep into the creature, black ooze-like blood seeping from the wound. It slumped forward and gave a strange gurgle before finally becoming lifeless.

Sneaky resumed searching the rocks, finding a handful of coins, including some platinum, and a black heart-shaped stone. She marvelled at what mystic power this one would possess. Her keen appraisal skills put the value of this rare stone at somewhere in the region of 50,000 gold pieces.

Klaus tended to the wounded Pollax. The power from his staff of healing coursed through the warrior. His pain eased as he felt the grievous wound from the roper's bite rapidly closing and healing. Mazaramus took him back to the horses, carrying him on his broom of flying. He swapped places with his brother to take a turn at looking after the horses. By the time Mazaramus returned to the party with Kastor, those that had been grabbed by the tentacles felt their strength returning as the strange numbing sensation subsided.

They continued on, exploring the tunnels beyond the roper cave. A sharp turn in the tunnel would prove difficult to get the mantlet through, so they took the longer tunnel that bypassed the cave. They reached the point where the two tunnels joined up again and continued on, soon reaching the point where Gandi had turned back before his Potion of Gaseous Form expired. The tunnel meandered on for a short way, and then ended at what seemed to be a some kind of door. The door and the stone frame of the door were immaculately carved, with perfectly straight edges. Barely a hair-line crack could be seen between the frame and the door itself.

Close by, on the right hand wall, what looked to be a rectangular protrusion, almost like a box, carved to the same precision as the door. On the front of the protrusion were three small gems, set in a straight line. From left to right they were red, white and blue.

When it became evident that the door would not open by pushing on it, or even using brute strength to try to force it open, they turned their attention to the box. Morgan pressed the red button. A gurgling, slushing sound was heard coming from the rocks around them. After a few moments, the sound stopped. Morgan pressed the white button, more slushing sounds, as though water was flowing inside the rocks. Still the door did not open. Morgan pressed the blue button. Nothing happened.

Sneaky decided to have a go. She pressed the red button. As expected, the sound of water beyond the rocks was heard, which stopped after a few seconds. She pressed it again. The same thing happened. She pressed it a third time. Nothing happened. Aha! The door must be ready to open. She pressed the blue button. Nothing happened.

Determined to figure this out, Mazaramus flew to the nearest ledge overlooking the large lake and observed the small waterfalls filling the lake and the outflow tunnel that could be seen on the far side. Sneaky listened at the door while Morgan went back to pressing the buttons. Having not picked up on the fact that the red button had worked twice in a row, but doing nothing the third time, he kept repeating the pattern of pressing red, white, blue. At one point he even pressed the blue gem repeatedly to see if this did anything. Mazaramus saw no change in the rate at which the water was flowing into or out of the lake, he even went to the basilisk cave to see if there was any change in the pool there. Sneaky did notice that the sound of the water sounded slightly different when the red gem was pressed to when the white gem was pressed. However, they never pressed any other gem more than once in succession, always pressing red followed by white (and sometimes blue).

Mazaramus returned. If the gems wouldn't open the door, he would try to reshape the stone using his runic power. He only had two attempts left, having used one already at the oil trap. Unfortunately, his knowledge of runes was lacking somewhat, and he failed at both attempts.

DM's note: For anyone wondering who hasn't read the previous adventures, the runic power is one of the Secret Crafts of Glantri, in this case Cryptomancy. Mazaramus is still a 1st Circle Initiate, can use his powers three times a day, and only has a 34% chance of successfully using the power with each attempt. For more details about the Secret Crafts of Glantri, see GAZ 3: The Principalities of Glantri.

They eventually gave up on trying to open the door and returned to the cave leading to the 20' wide carved tunnel leading over the underground lake. What actually happened when they pressed the gems I shall reveal later (in case any of the players read this blog, not that they ever do!)

They proceeded along the tunnel, keeping in 10' wide formation and walking to the centre of the tunnel. They had only gone a short way, when the ground collapsed underneath Morgan and Astarian, who were at the front and on the right hand side. They slid down an oily chute and plunged into the underground lake.

Mazaramus flew down after them. Astarian had presumably sunk beneath the water in his heavy chainmail. Morgan was managing to keep afloat. His magical armour was significantly lighter and did not weigh him down. A five-headed hydra was moving towards them through the water, and on the far side of the cavern, a second hydra could be seen moving down the cavern wall to the water. Inside a cave mouth, 40' above the surface of the lake, several more reptilian heads could be seen.

The rest of the party had gone back to a short tunnel overlooking the lake. Sneaky had activated her Find Traps ability on her rapier and was scanning the rest of the tunnel. She got to the bridge where the tunnel crossed the two halves of the lake. Here, the sides of the tunnel on the bridge itself were trapped, though there was a safe zone along the centre of this section. She swiftly returned to the rest of the party.

Though somewhat hampered by being in the water, Morgan managed to swing at the approaching hydra, leaving a nasty gouge in the creatures hide. The hydra went after Astarian beneath the water, catching Morgan as it went, leaving a gash in his leg. Astarian struggled to fight off the beast with his cumbersome halberd, desperately holding as his breath as his armour pulled him further down. Blood filled the lake about him as the hydra tore into him.

Up above, Mazaramus had also returned to the party. He cast a haste spell, and Klaus blessed the party. Sneaky, Oraphius and Acastrius were firing down at the hydrae moving in on the two warriors. Sneaky used her blowgun to fire a poisoned dart into the third hydra that was emerging from the cave. It struck home. The creature seemed unaffected at first, but then its movements became lethargic and it slumped on the edge of the cave, blocking it. Beyond, yet more reptilian heads could still be seen. How many of these things were there?

Morgan, caring nought for his own life, dove down to fight of the hydra attacking Astarian. He drove his claymore into it. The hydra rose to the surface, dragging Morgan back with him as the second one closed in.

Mazaramus cast a polymorph self spell on himself. He had the idea of transforming into a great white shark and have Klaus cast growth of animals on him. He thought better of this when he saw that the hydrae were having no difficulty fighting in the water, so he chose the form of an eight-headed hydra instead. Before he transformed, he cast a mirror image spell on himself.

Morgan was now battling two hydrae. The heads of one of them began waving about erratically and moments later it began to sink beneath the water. Another poisoned dart from Sneaky had found its mark to good effect. As he fought the second hydra, three more hydrae rose up out of the water. These were larger, having eight heads each, each with glowing red eyes. They lunged with lightning speed at the hydra that Morgan was fighting, which roared in pain as the fangs sank deep into its hide. Morgan took the opportunity to swim down to save Astarian.

The hydra was swiftly slain. Morgan and Astarian scrambled to the rocks at the edge of the lake while Sneaky and the others lowered a rope for them to climb up.

Now that they were out of the water, the remaining hydrae that they had seen in the cave seemed to lose interest, especially given that the cave entrance was blocked by their sedated comrade. With Mazaramus in hydra form and most of the party still under the effects of the haste and bless spells, they decided that they would take on the remaining hydrae in their cave. Mazaramus first cast a shield spell to give himself further protection. He then transformed back into human form and ferried Morgan, Gandi, Klaus and Sneaky across to the cave. Mazaramus transformed back into hydra form and pulled the paralysed hydra out that was blocking the entrance.

Three more hydrae were in the cave. They advanced on them. The hydrae, even though seemingly faced with three strange looking hydrae, had little choice but to fight back, being cornered in the cave. The cave was filled with reptilian heads as the two groups fought. The party made sure that they only attacked hydrae that didn't have glowing red eyes. With blazing speed (except for Morgan, who was out of range of the haste spell when it was cast), they tore into the hydrae. Mazaramus quickly brought one down. He lost his images in the process, but they had done their job, proving quite effective in protecting him. Gandi and Morgan hacked away, and even saw a bit of the action, slashing at one of the hydrae with a sneak attack from the rear. Soon, the remaining two fell, Klaus delivering the killing blow on the last one with a mighty swing of his mace.

The battle over. They investigated the cave. There was little to be found, certainly no treasure, and Mazaramus was disappointed, hoping to find a few hydra eggs. They returned to the mercenaries waiting for them. After healing Astarian and taking him back to the horses, they continued on along the wide tunnel, making sure to avoid the traps that Sneaky had found earlier. The tunnel ended at a stout-looking wooden door.

Mazaramus had already raced ahead on his broom of flying. Finding the door to be locked, he polymorphed into a gray ooze and slid under it. He found himself in a curious square room, some 40' across. An area of the floor was occupied by a sunken area filled with water, and at one point around its edge a ramp descended into the water. Nearby a spiral staircase led upwards and carried on upwards through a hole in the ceiling. On the left hand wall were two metal doors. He tried to ooze under these, but was blocked from passing through. Evidently they were wizard locked. He returned to human form and flew up the spiral staircase. It emerged into a rough tunnel, some 15' wide leading off eastwards.

The rest of the party had reached the door, and Sneaky attempted to pick the lock. Not only did she fail to pick it, she broke the locking mechanism, permanently locking it. Morgan, Gandi and the mercenaries decided instead to use brute force and begin hacking away at it.

Mazaramus followed the tunnel, which wound gradually round to the right and at a slight upwards gradient. He heard a rushing, roaring sound coming from up ahead, quickly growing louder as it approached. He carried on. Moments later, he saw a wall of water rushing towards him. He polymorphed into a great white shark just as the wave hit. Even in shark form, the current was too string for him, and he was slowly pulled backwards. Fortunately, he felt the current slow and he began moving forward again. The water wave passed, and he was left floundering on the wet tunnel floor for a moment before he returned to his human form again and resumed his journey along the tunnel.

Down below, the fighters were making some progress of hacking through the door. A sizeable crack had been made, and they had broken off some of the larger splinters of wood. A rushing sound was heard echoing from the room beyond before a torrent of water came crashing into the room beyond. The door they had been hacking at was suddenly broken apart as the water came crashing through it. The group were swept along and over the sides of the nearby bridge and into the underground lake, broken stones and the iron mantlet crashing down the rocky cliff and into the water with them.

Luckily, they were close enough to the cliff to be able to scramble towards it. Morgan, Klaus and Gandi were not encumbered by their magical armour, and with Sneaky, Oraphius and Acastrius helping they managed to prevent the other three more heavily armoured fighters from sinking. The mantlet, however was lost in the murky depths of the lake.

By the time they had climbed back up onto the bridge, Mazaramus had returned. He had reached the end of the tunnel, which had a closed metal valve on the wall at the end. He had opened this to find that it was a chamber that was slowly filling back up with water, presumably the source of the wave that had hit them.

Mazaramus was somewhat annoyed that his precious mantlet had been lost. He flew into the water, polymorphing into hydra form, but could find no sign of it. He returned to the surface and cast a locate object spell from a scroll. Changing to hydra form again, he swam down, and with the aid of the spell found that the mantlet had been wedged in an underwater outflow tunnel, and it was quite dented, bent and battered. His efforts to pull it free, though successful, only mangled it even more. Nevertheless, he brought it back up to where the drenched party were waiting and deposited the oddly warped piece of iron on the ground. The wheels were missing, as were the metal support poles that had been used to position and manoeuvre it. Despite now being just a useless piece of metal, Mazaramus was insistent on keeping it in the hope of repairing it with his runic powers.

They were at a loss. Whatever lay beyond the two metal doors in the drainage room was inaccessible. The tunnel at the top of the staircase seemed to lead nowhere, except for the reservoir chamber on the other side of the valve, and Mazaramus had already investigated this for signs of any other exits. The door at the other end of the tunnels next to the panel with the gems was a mystery to them.

They had considered facing the frost giants, but even gave up on this idea when they discovered that the huge double doors leading to their lair were barred from the other side. Even more disturbing was that a part of the ledge before and around the cave of the white dragon was covered by a foot depth of frost and snow. It had not been snowing heavily recently and the fact that this was localised to a relatively small part of the ledge inclined them to think that the strange noise that had been heard outside the previous night must have been a small avalanche. They decided therefore, that they would investigate the remaining caves higher up the cliff-face, using the teleporters to gain quicker access to them.

Session Ten - Sneaky the Brave

Only three caves hadn't yet been explored (though they were still loathe to face the dragon or the frost giants). Using the teleporter, they gained swift access to the nearest unexplored cave without having to climb up to the higher ledge, being otherwise accessible by climbing the vines and other foliage growing from the rock face.

The tunnel leading into the cave was quite wide, some 15' or so. Sneaky scouted ahead and found that the tunnel soon came to an intersection. She had neglected to take a light source with her, so she waited for the rest of the party to catch up. She did hear the growls of some large beasties further on down the right-hand tunnel. Sneaky had been as quiet as a mouse, but the rest of the party were making quite a bit of noise, clanking along in their armour.

The growling noises were heard to be coming closer, and Sneaky slunk off into the shadows again, heading towards the approaching creatures. Gandi bellowed a charge and rushed forward to take on whatever was coming down the tunnel.

Sneaky soon saw a large dragon-like creature moving down the tunnel. It had golden scales, but the most unusual thing about it was that it had the head of a lion. She kept tight to the wall as the beast passed. Moments later, a second of these strange dragon creatures was seen moving down the tunnel.

Gandi charged at the lead creature, bellowing his war-cry as he did so. Morgan, Klaus, and those of the mercenaries that had bows let off a volley of missile fire at the creature. The beast bellowed back, and its roar shook the cavern. Mazaramus and all of the mercenaries fled in fear, the wizard all the more swiftly, who had been hovering on his broom. Only Morgan, Klaus, Gandi and Sneaky were left to fight the beasts, and all but Sneaky had been deafened by the roar.

Sneaky, who was now behind both of the creatures, had coated her blade in paralyzing poison, and sliced at the second creature. The rapier struck home, but the beast resisted the effects of the poison. The creatures, which I will now reveal to be dragonnes, were now blocking Sneaky's escape from the tunnel. Morgan, Klaus and Gandi fought furiously to fell the first of them so that they could assist Sneaky. The second dragonne had some difficulty turning around in the tunnel, allowing the thief to land another blow. This fortune was short lived, and Sneaky was raked and bitten several times by the fearsome beast. She fought on bravely, having little other choice. By the time Morgan and Gandi reached her, Sneaky, now battered and bloody, desperately struck out again with her rapier, plunging it deep into the creature's throat and killing it.

Klaus went to administer healing to the severely wounded thief. She was saying something to him, but the dragonne's roar was still ringing in his ears. He guessed that she was asking for some healing. After using several charges from his staff of healing, her nods of approval indicated that this was what she had been saying.

Meanwhile, outside the wizard and the mercenaries had fled in several directions. Mazaramus had just flown directly away from the cliffs. Oraphius and Kastor had run back towards the chimerae cave where they had previously teleported up to. Herack, Calias and Acastrius had run in the other direction, up a quite steep path towards the as yet unexplored caves.

The terrifying effect of the roar lasted only a short time, and the fleeing adventurers soon recovered their nerve. Mazaramus flew straight back to the cave, paying little heed to the mercenaries who were making their way back along the ledge on foot. He failed to notice that, as he neared the cave, the mercenaries started running along the ledge almost frantically.

Gandi and Morgan had discovered that the tunnel where they had fought the dragonnes soon led to a large cave, about forty or fifty foot across, though there seemed to be no other exit from the cave. Mazaramus flew into the cave to join them, and was soon followed by the mercenaries, who came sprinting rapidly through the tunnel. Kastor was shouting frantically, though only Sneaky could hear what he was saying.



Sneaky intervened and did the best she could to convey what Kastor was trying to say. The moved into the dragonne cave, hoping that the white dragon would not be able to fit through the tunnels. After a few minutes, their hearing returned and they were able to converse normally. Meanwhile, Sneaky examined the cave.

At the back of the cave she found two small holes in the wall, each about six inches across. One was in the wall opposite, about four feet above the floor, the other near the far left corner and slightly higher up. Shining a light inside revealed that the holes went into the rock at a slight upwards angle for a few feet them twisted upwards. She even put her arm inside to feel if there was anything unusual inside them. Coming to the conclusion that they were just holes in the rock, she decided to leave them for now.

There seemed to be nothing else of interest in the cave, so the party returned to the intersection to explore along the other tunnel. This wound along for about 100' before opening up into a strange cave. Most of the cave was a pool of oil. A mound of earth formed a pathway that wound its way across the cavern to where another tunnel exited on the far side.

Having finally found another way into the complex inside the mountain, Mazaramus decided that the best course of action was to ignite the oil. The cavern soon became a mass of blazing flames. Acrid black smoke began to fill the tunnel that the characters were in, and they had to back off down the tunnel before they became asphyxiated.

They were back at the intersection again. Fortunately, the nearby cave entrance provided an adequate amount of ventilation. Back up the tunnel, a fierce orange glow could be seen. Venturing outside meant the possibility of being spotted by the dragon. They hung around near the cave entrance, keeping a sharp look out for the dragon, while they discussed their next move.

Morgan, still being under the influence of his magical, intelligent claymore found himself thinking that it would be useful if he could communicate with the highland blade more effectively than listening to bagpipes. Unwittingly, he found himself communicating with it using his now innate ESP ability that he had gained in Castle Amber.

Although normally only able to communicate empathically, the intentions of the sword came to his mind in the form of words, albeit with a very thick Scottish accent.

"It's aboot time ye started talking to me. When are we gonna slay some real beasties then?"

Morgan communicated telepathically with the claymore for some time, but was unable to get any useful information from it. Basically, the claymore was itching for a fight, giants or dragons would do, and that Morgan needed to show a bit more bravery rather than avoiding tough fights. He tried to convey that Mazaramus had been influencing a lot of the party's decisions. His last thought was "I know you might think that the wizard's an idiot", not realising that he had said the last four words out loud.

Sneaky inquired as to what had happened. She had the same ESP ability as Morgan so she tried it herself on her intelligent rapier. To her surprise, the rapiers 'thoughts' came across as a female French accent. It was evident that the rapier had a certain animosity towards spell-casters. She tried to convince it that the red-eyed wizard was an ally, which the rapier reluctantly accepted as long as the wizard didn't prove to be any trouble.

It seemed that the dragon had disappeared, presumably flown back into her cave, so the party agreed to continue exploring the higher up caves. They left the dragonne cave and continued on up the ledge, ascending the particularly steep bit that the mercenaries had earlier scrambled up in their mad panic. They came to a small cave at the top of the sharp ascent, at a point where the ledge wound back on itself and continued on further along the cliff face. Sneaky had Mazaramus cast invisibility on her, and she crept inside to investigate. It was dark inside, but this time she was carrying a continual light pebble that she threw ahead of her into the tunnel. It revealed a small cave a short way in, and after a few seconds, a large multi-legged insect-like creature moved towards the pebble. Several tentacles around its mouth flickered about the pebble,

She returned to the party to tell them what she had discovered. Mazaramus and Morgan had heard about carrion crawlers, and rightly guessed that this was what Sneaky had seen. Not wanting to take any chances that there might be more of them in the cave, Mazaramus began stoking up his brazier of commanding fire elementals. Klaus protested, arguing that the wizard's continuous use of fire could likely melt so much of the ice on the mountain that it could end up having disastrous effects, causing an avalanche or even worse. Mazaramus was by now entirely focused on activating the brazier, an act that required total concentration.

Soon, the magic of the brazier was ready, and Mazaramus uttered the final incantation that would summon the elemental. A ribbon of flame leapt out of the dragonne cave and streamed its way up the cliff face towards them and into the brazier. Flames erupted and the elemental appeared. Mazaramus sent it into the cave. Within moments, high-pitched shrieking noises could be heard. Soon this stopped, and only the gentle roaring of the flames could be heard.

They advanced into the cave, giving the elemental as wide a berth as possible in the confined space. In the centre of the small cave was what remained of the carrion crawler, now blackened and smoking. If there had been any more of the creatures, they had either fled down numerous cracks in the walls or had been totally incinerated, with nothing remaining. Morgan decided to slice the carcass of the carrion crawler open in case it had eaten any treasure. A nauseating stench exuded, and all manner of vile and putrid organs spilled out, but no treasure. A quick search of the cave did reveal a small amount of treasure, some gold and a few small gems littered about near the back of the cave, but nothing more.

They moved on to the last cave further on along the ledge. Mazaramus was still controlling the elemental and he sent this on ahead and into the cave, having to move along cautiously himself in order to maintain his control. Once they arrived at the cave, they found that the elemental was fighting several flying creatures that were swarming about it. Scintillating colours of light flashed in the cave and about the elemental. Various odours came from the cave, the smell of ozone mixed with other quite pungent, irritating and acidic smells, almost like what you might expect from a wizard's laboratory.

With the exception of Mazaramus, who was concentrating on maintaining his control over the elemental, and Sneaky, who didn't want to push her luck after her earlier brave battle, the party advanced into the cave to assist the elemental in its fight against whatever flying horrors were in there.

They found that the elemental was battling about a dozen giant dragonflies. They had seen these before in the marshes, but those had been white. These were all manner of colours; red, green, black, blue and white. They hovered and flitted about the fire elemental, breathing small clouds or streams of frost, acid, green gas, fire and lightning at it. The fire breath attacks of the red dragonflies were totally ineffective, but the relentless assault from the other dragonflies was telling, and the elemental was soon vanquished.

Now finding themselves in battle with the dragonflies without the help of Mazaramus' conjuration, a long and hard battle ensued. As well as being numerous, the giant insects proved quite difficult to slay, having hardened carapaces. They found themselves being hit by small lightning bolts, tiny blasts of frost, small clouds of fire and chlorine or short streams of acid, as well as occasionally being bitten by the insects whenever they found a gap in the armour.

At one point, Mazaramus decided to join the fray once a few of them had been slain, being intent on capturing a red dragonfly. He actually managed to successfully grab one, pull it to the ground and pin it.

The last few dragonflies finally lost their nerve and fled from the cave. Mazaramus realised that he had no way of containing his new captive and reluctantly let it go. It fled out of the cave along with the others that had escaped.

A search of the cave revealed the remains of some previous adventurers that had fallen afoul of the dragonflies. All that remained of value on them was a few coins and a gold ring. Gandi took the ring and put it on. As soon as he did so, he began moving and speaking very slowly. He tried to take it off but couldn't remove it. Klaus cast a remove curse on Gandi, and the ring crumbled to dust. It was only after this that Klaus and Mazaramus recalled that a green glow had been coming from Gandi's pack where he had stowed the green heartstone. Mazaramus guess was that the heartstone, in addition to its healing properties, had the power to remove curses.

They had now investigated all of the caves. The only options now seemed to be to either return to the tunnel near the dragonne cave where they had ignited the oil, or risk taking on either the dragon or the giants.

Session Eleven - The Dragon and the Giants

Mazaramus was concerned that his spells were becoming depleted. There were still a few hours left in the day, but the wizard wanted to rest and replenish his spells before they went any further, especially if they were to face the dragon.

Klaus administered healing to the party, having to once again expend charges from his staff of healing. Morgan was eager for action, and proposed taking on the dragon as soon as possible. There was another option available to them, and that was across the oil-filled cavern that they had discovered near the dragonne cave. For all they knew, the fire that they had started was still raging, and they dismissed this option out of hand.

Even Mazaramus eventually came to the conclusion that it would be better to deal with the dragon sooner rather than later. The possibility that she could pick them off at any time while they were on the cliff ledges didn't appeal to him, and she may also decide to go after the horses in the lower cave. His spells weren't as depleted as he had been making out, either. Something he did learn was that when the mercenaries saw the dragon, Oraphius descibed a 'strange feeling coming over him', that swiftly passed. Mazaramus guessed that Asleayna had attempted to cast a charm person at Oraphius, but he had resisted it's effects.

Of one mind that they would face the dragon, they descended the cliff towards her cave. The mercenaries remained at the rear, spaced out as much as was safely possible, ready to provide cover with missile fire if necessary. As they got close enough to her cave, they prepared by casting a good many preparatory spells. Mazaramus cast polymorph self on himself, ready to assume hydra form. This was followed by a haste spell on the group, and both mirror image and shield on himself. Klaus cast a silence 15' radius spell on Sneaky. Finally, Sneaky quaffed a dose of potion of invisibility and coated both her rapier and her dagger in paralyzing poison, and Mazaramus downed a potion of speed so that he was now moving at quadruple speed.

Sneaky crept into the dragons cave, her footprints silently appearing in the mound of snow that Asleayna had heaped around the entrance to her cave. Mazaramus, now in hydra form, prepared to block the cave entrance should she attempt to fly out of her cave.

Sneaky found the icy patch that Mazaramus had described, and around the corner could see the dragon. She snuck towards the rear of the dragon, but as she did so, the dragons eyes opened, awakened by the sudden silence. She looked around suspiciously, her head snaking from side to side trying to detect the intruder. She could still hear the movement of the party and the hydra outside the cave and prepared to take flight. Sneaky reacted swiftly, slashing at her with both weapons. The dragon continued on, nearing the cave entrance where the eight-headed, red-eyed hydra waited, but she slumped to the ground yards in front of the transformed wizard, the poison from Sneaky's blades finally taking effect.

Sneaky went to guard her trophy. Her rapier seemed especially pleased with itself as she held it to the dragons throat. Most of the party advanced into the cave to loot the dragon's hoard. Mazaramus was disappointed that he had not been able to take full advantage of his preparations, and he and Morgan flew off to the frost giant's cave on the broom of flying.

Gandi and Klaus ventured into the dragons cave, followed by the mercenaries. A side chamber led off from where Asleayna normally slumbered, and this too was covered by an ice sheet. A strange glow came from beneath the ice. Before they could investigate further, the ice splintered and cracked and a large white lizard-like creature burst forth. A numbing chill filled the veins of the dwarf and the cleric. They instantly recognised it as a frost salamander, having fought one before.

The mercenaries hung back, out of range of the cold aura given off by the creature, though Kastor bravely rushed forward to assist in fighting the beast. Oraphius and Acastrius loosed arrows at the salamander. Both of their shots hit true, but to their horror failed to cause even the slightest damage to the beast.

With Morgan and Mazaramus off on their jaunt to take on the frost giants and Sneaky waiting for the effects of the paralysis poison to wear off on the dragon, their numbers were somewhat depleted. However, Gandi and Klaus were undeterred and stood their ground against the monstrosity. Gandi managed to give the creature a slight jolt from his armour when it bit at him, which helped, even if just a little. Oraphius and Acastrius had resorted to using the magical arrows that they had found earlier, and between them they managed to slay the creature, though the battle had taken a toll, more from the freezing effect of its cold aura than its claws and ferocious bite.

Morgan and Mazaramus had reached the doors to the frost giants lair. Mazaramus polymorphed into a fly, flew through the keyhole, and once on the other side changed back into a hydra and ripped the bar off of the doors, allowing Morgan to enter. They were in a large hallway, illuminated by glowing gems set into two of the walls. Giant-sized cloaks were hung on one wall, and nearby were giant-sized weapons, two clubs and a hammer.

One the opposite side of the wide hallway were two doors. The sound of heavy rushing footsteps was heard, and moments later three 14' tall frost giants came charging into the room from the leftmost door. As soon as they saw they hydra and the warrior, one of them bellowed to one of his comrades to get the weapons while they took on the intruders. Mazaramus moved with lightning speed to intercept the giant that was running for the weapons. A flurry of snake-like heads darted and bit at the frost giant, tearing him limb from limb.

Morgan fought what seemed to be the leader, giving him a couple of whacks with his claymore before the giant gave him a hefty whack with his fist and sending the warrior flying across the room. Morgan got swiftly back to his feet and rushed at the giant again.

Mazaramus,still in hydra form, had already taken care of the second frost giant by the time Morgan re-entered the fray. Morgan made it clear that he wanted to take on the frost giant leader in single combat - very honourable given that the giant didn't have a weapon!

With the three giants slain, Mazaramus was keen to quickly explore the rest of the lair whilst his spells were still in effect. The shield spell had already expired, having lasted the duration of the battle, and the haste would run soon run out too.

The rooms across from the hallway turned out to be the giant's common room and an adjoining kitchen. These seemed to be deserted, so Mazaramus moved on to searching the doors leading off from these.

The first door he went through led into some kind of food storage room, and across from this another door led into a cave filled with large cobwebs. He decided not to explore this further and returned to the common room. The next door led into a small hallway with two doors leading off from it. He was about to open the nearest door when he heard a series of loud clicks and ker-chunks, and six ballista bolts hurtled down the hallway towards him. Miraculously (and perhaps aided by his potion of speed which was still in effect) he managed to dodge every single bolt!

Opening the door, he found that this led into the giant's bedroom. Four huge beds covered in animal pelts stood along the walls. Sat on one of the beds was another frost giant, apparently oblivious to the presence of the intruders until they entered the room. This one had a huge iron-headed axe close to hand, but was still no match for Morgan and a magically-protected hydra.

Still not wishing to pause to search for treasure until they had cleared the frost giant's lair, they proceeded through the final door leading from the small hallway. This led into what seemed to be the giant's bathroom. A huge semi-circular pool, some 30' across, dominated the room. Above this, a carving of a giant's face spewed fresh, icy water into the pool. In addition to this, they found some cylinders containing what was evidently soap, and bottles containing a cleaning solution. Morgan explored a small adjoining side room which contained a 5' wide and high platform with two round holes in the top. He was considering exploring these by descending down into them (if he had some rope on him) until Mazaramus pointed out the purpose of this structure.

Back at the other cave, Klaus and Gandi were investigating the pool that the salamander had erupted from. There was some treasure at the bottom, and something was causing the water to glow brightly. Klaus had swam down and attempted to scoop up some of the treasure, but had to return to the surface and abandon this effort as the pool was intensely cold. He did retrieve the source of the light, a gem that had a continual light spell cast on it.

Outside the cave, the dragon had roused from her paralytic slumber. She found Sneaky holding her rapier to her throat. At first, she attempted to cast a spell, but gave up on this attempt when the thief pressed the blade a little harder against her throat. Asleayna knew when she was beaten and yielded, congratulating the thief on her prowess.

Sneaky and Asleayna conversed after this for some time, having reached an accord. She agreed to let the party have the frost salamander's treasure at the bottom of the pool (and even volunteered to scoop it out for them, being immune to the icy coldness of the pool). Her own treasure was in a cave on the far side of the pool. The coins she wanted to keep, and once they discovered that the bulk of this was some 800,000 copper pieces, they were vastly relieved. Once she heard of the party's quest to retrieve the heartstone, she told them that they could take any magic items from her hoard, and ONLY magic items. The problem here was that the pile of treasure included several wands, staves and weapons, so they would have to wait for Morgan to return so that they could detect for magic.

Morgan and Mazaramus, content that they had cleared the frost giant lair, conducted a quick search for treasure. Morgan used a detect magic from his claymore while they quickly scoured the rooms. The only magic items they found were scrolls. One was a scroll of protection from magic which was on the body of the frost giant leader. The others that were found Mazaramus perused. One was obviously a clerical spell scroll and of no use to him. Two contained magic-user spells but he would have to wait until he had learnt a read magic spell to discover what spells they contained. The last one turned out to be a cursed scroll which transformed Mazaramus into a pixie!

They would have to come back and search the frost giant's lair and the webbed cave more thoroughly later. For now, Morgan and Mazaramus the pixie returned to the rest of the party in the hope that Klaus (or Gandi with the green heartstone) could remove the curse and turn Mazaramus back to his normal self.

Session Twelve - Discoveries

A remove curse spell from Klaus restored Mazaramus back to his normal(ish) self. Klaus had now used up the scroll given to him by the Patriarch of Ghyr. In return, he now had the clerical scroll that Morgan and Mazaramus had found in the frost giant's lair. This had the spells raise dead, resist firespeak with the dead and sticks to snakes.

Morgan used his claymore to detect magic on the dragon's treasure. As suspected, most of the weapons, wands and staves were either mundane or fake, but they did find a magical wand, a magical staff, a long sword and a few potions. The long sword they gave to Calias, who was glad to have something better and more wieldy than his cumbersome halberd. Mazaramus took the wand. What exactly it did he would have to discover later through experimentation. His words were "I'll try this out in combat sometime". Three of the potions were potions of healing, the fourth Sneaky identified as black widow venom, useful for one coating of her rapier, or four of her dagger (though at reduced effectiveness).

Klaus took the staff. Just as happened in Castle Amber, his staff of healing and the one he had discovered glowed with a bright white light as his own staff absorbed the powers of the other.

The chain mail and ring that they had retrieved from the frost salamander's treasure were also magical. Evidently, the ring was a ring of protection, which Mazaramus decided to use (augmenting the protection granted by his amulet). The chain mail went to one of the mercenaries.

There was still time in the day to conduct a more thorough search of the frost giant's lair. Klaus and Morgan were going to remain behind while the rest of the group explored, but Asleayna wasn't going to have them loitering about her cave.

After bringing up the horses and wagons from the lower cave to the less cramped tunnels of the frost giant lair, they conducted a more thorough search. The mercenaries proceeded to pry out the continual light gems in the entrance hallway, having to break away the stone that was holding them in place.

The kitchen was found to have nothing of value. Gandi was surprised to find that the meat storage locker was full of rotting meat. These frost giants either had very low standards when it comes to cuisine or cast-iron stomachs (or both). It is unusual that frost giants would allow their food to rot like this, especially when they have access to more than adequate means of refrigeration.

In the common room, Klaus wanted to see if he could break up the overturned tree stumps that the giants had been using as chairs to make some sticks for his sticks to snakes spell. These were found to be hollow, and underneath one they found a piece of paper. It depicted three gems - red, white and blue - with writing next to each in the giant tongue. This seemed to be instructions on the use of the box inset with gems that they had found next to the sealed door that they had been unable to open in the lower level.

Sneaky deciphered the giant runes. They read 'up', 'down' and 'alarm', respectively. Upon revealing this, the party looked at each other rather sheepishly, wondering just how many times they had pressed the blue gem!

Also of interest in the common room were the drawings on the walls. There were crude pictures of what they recognised as the white dragon, chimerae, manticores, griffons and so forth, all creatures that they had already encountered. Evidently, the frost giants had no fear of these creatures, perhaps even considering them as sport (which would explain why they had no fear when they fought Mazaramus in his hydra form).

Another picture seemed to show a robed figure bring the creatures to the Icewater Falls and lowering them in cages to the various caves dotted about the cliff-face. It seemed unlikely that these caves were actually populated in this manner by a wizard, given that they could all freely fly in and out of the caves anyway, and they fancied that this was a depiction of some fanciful tale made up by the frost giants.

Further investigation of the giants' bedroom revealed a large heavy trunk underneath one of the beds that required several of the party to pull out. This was found to contain 5,000 gold pieces, but it turned out that it was merely iron coins painted over with gold and of no value. Underneath another bed were two large vats. These contained some strange greyish substance and a black tar like substance respectively. As soon as they were opened, the 'contents' began oozing up the side of the vat. Rightly surmising that the vats contained gray oozes and a black pudding respectively, Mazaramus quickly put the lids back on. Deeming that these could come in handy for magical research, experiments or a variety of other purposes, Mazaramus earmarked these for collection later to be taken back with him to civilisation.

Mazaramus was also interested in the firing mechanism for the ballista trap that he had activated earlier. With Sneaky's help, he had managed to open the access panel that allowed the ballistas to be reloaded. Unfortunately, the ballistas themselves were considerably bigger than the panel opening, and seemed to be fixed in place somehow. He decided that he would return tomorrow when he would be able to try to open up the rock wall using his runic powers, thereby gaining better access to them.

Gandi had decided to investigate the storage room from which a door led into the webbed cave. Discovering that several vats in the room contained ale, he set down to drinking it. By the time the rest of the party had finished investigating the rest of the lair, the dwarf was quite inebriated.With the lair almost fully explored, they turned their attention to the webbed cave, They set light to the webs. As they burned away, three giant black widow spiders.dropped down and attacked. The warriors in the front were swift to respond, slaying two of them. The third sank its mandibles into Sneaky. Luckily, she slew the spider, causing it to release its grip before it could inject any of its venom into her.

In the centre of the cave was a pile of boulders. As they went to investigate, the webs had fully burnt away, revealing a side tunnel from which came the sound of numerous familiar chirping, shrieking sounds and the flittering of several small winged creatures - stirges!.

With the webs now burnt away, the stirges swarmed in and swooped at the party. Gandi had heard the sounds of fighting and had drunkenly staggered in, wildly swinging his axes. A chaotic battle ensued. Gandi had flattened one of the stirges against the cavern wall with an axe. Several of the party had been impaled by the little creatures. Most of them were sliced off with swords before they could drain any more blood. Eventually the party slew them all, though Sneaky had lost a fair amount of blood from two stirges had attached to her.

Having now fully explored the giants' lair and the adjoining caves, they returned to the cave of their dragon ally to rest up for the night. Klaus returned the party to full strength with his healing (and healed Asleayna too). Mazaramus took a dispel magic as part of his spell repertoire, hoping to remove the wizard lock on the doors in the drainage room.

Before they did anything else, Mazaramus reshaped the rock wall so that he could get to the ballistas, and Sneaky was able to remove the pinning bolts holding them in place. Mazaramus was curious to know what was behind the doors in the drainage room, though Morgan pointed out that they did have another course of action, namely the oil-filled cavern that they had burnt out the previous day. Mazaramus ignored this option and insisted that they go to the drainage room.

Mazaramus cast his dispel magic spell. The magic holding the doors shut was evidently cast by a mage of considerable power. Mazaramus struggled to overcome the powerful magic. His perseverance paid off, and after some exertion, felt the power holding them closed finally dissipate. They opened the doors to find a small room from which came the overwhelming stench of decay.

Inside, they found the body of a long dead thief. His possessions were of little use, except for a pouch containing some gems, and what was evidently some kind of journal or diary that the thief had been writing in. Mazaramus read the diary.

The diary told of how the thief became a member of Dahnakriss' thieves guild, and later tried to discover the location of Dahnakriss' secret hideout. Apparently this was something no other member of the guild had achieved, and this thief was determined to be the first to do so. The descriptions given of the tunnels corresponded to what the party had already discovered, with the exception of a secret tunnel that led to the drainage room via a series of stairways. The thief had ultimately hidden in the room he was in, but had become trapped inside when a wizard who was in league with Dahnakriss put a wizard lock on the doors.

They had overlooked the possibility of secret passages. Now that they knew that a secret door led into the drainage room, they carried out a search along the walls, Gandi soon discovered a secret door, beyond which a curved stairway led upwards and to the right. They followed this and soon came to a landing. From this a straight stairway led downwards to the left, apparently ending on the other side of one of the teleporting tunnels. To the right, another stairway led upwards for some distance. Taking the stairway leading upwards, they came to a long corridor that eventually came to a dead end. On the wall on the right hand side was another of the curious small box-like outcroppings, set with the same sequence of gems.

Now that they knew what the buttons did, the tested this out by pressing only the red and white gems. The sounds of flushing water could be heard, though it was fainter than when they had heard it in the lower level. Guessing that it controlled some kind of elevator, they pressed the white gem continuously until it was obvious that the elevator had reached the bottom, and they returned through the tunnels to where they had found the first box. Lo and Behold! The door was open!

The door led into a circular room, some 30' across. On one wall was another 'control panel'. They pressed a red gem. The door closed, and they felt dizzy, as if they were moving upwards. A few seconds later, they stopped moving.

There were no doors, only an opening in the southern wall a few feet above the floor, but large enough to easily crawl through. Sneaky put her head through the hole and found herself looking into a large room with a semi-circular pool of water a few feet below her. It was the giant's bathroom.

Sneaky pulled her head out of the hole and revealed what she had seen. They pressed the red gem again. Once again, they felt themselves moving upwards before coming to a halt again. Three doors led from the room, one in the centre of each of the west, south, and east walls. They found that only one door at a time could be opened, so they checked them in order from east to west.

The east door led into a short corridor with another door at the far end. Nearby on the north wall was another control panel. The south door opened up into a corridor that went as far as they could see with their light sources, with at least two side passages leading from it. The west door opened up onto a cavernous tunnel leading roughly westwards as far as they could see.

Numerous options were now available to them, and they felt that they were drawing ever closer to their objective of finding the heartstone. Only, which path to take...?

Session Thirteen - Golem Bashing Time

The southern door led into what seemed to be a network of corridors, so the party decided to explore this way in preference to the other two doors. Mazaramus cast an invisibility spell on Sneaky so that she could scout ahead. Meanwhile, the party waited inside the circular elevator room.

She discovered a large room off to the left which appeared to be empty. Ignoring this for the time being, she continued to explore the rest of the corridor. Another corridor branched off from the one she was walking down. Both corridors ended at a door. Someway down the branching corridor was a door in the south side, and an opening further down on the north side. Evidently, the opening led to the large empty room that she had already seen, and she could see another door leading from this room on it northern side.

Sneaky was somewhat suspicious that such a large room would be empty. Returning to the opening nearer the elevator and the rest of the party, she ventured in, checking for traps as she went. As soon as she did so, she heard ferocious, yet almost mechanical roars closeby. A huge lion-like creature appeared right in front of her, rending her with its claws and delivering a ferocious bite. Sneaky staggered back, then turned and bolted from the creature, astounded that the creature could even detect her.

Her comrades came rushing out of the elevator room to assist her. The thief was still invisible, but her location was apparent from the blood dripping about her from her wounds/ She hurriedly told them that their were several large cat-like creatures in the nearby room, and most of them were invisible. Gandi waded in ahead of the party, uttering the command word to electrify his plate armour as he did so. Morgan and the mercenaries formed a cordon just inside the room to screen the mage while he cast his spells. Sneaky also remained at the rear. She tried to use her rapier's ability to detect invisible, but the range was limited, and the creatures were as yet too far back into the large room.

Gandi leapt at the one visible creature, which had returned to the centre of the room, momentarily motionless until the party entered. Mazaramus noticed that the large cat-like creature was not actually an animal. Its movements were a little stiff and jerky, almost mechanical, and seemed to be composed of animal fur covering a soft metallic body. He now realised what the creature was, an amber golem! He drew the wand that he had recovered from the dragon's treasure, aimed it at the golem and activated it. He felt the wand hum with magic, but other than that, nothing happened.

Gandi's axes sank deep into the lead golem. The mechanical beast struck back. A claw caught the dwarf, resulting in electrical sparks dancing from his plate mail and about the golem. Gandi struck again and the golem was felled.

The other three golems, now visible, had been engaged by Morgan, Calias and Kastor, the latter two being the only mercenaries equipped with magical weapons and able to harm the beasts. The three fought furiously, though took grievous wounds in the process. Klaus used his staff of healing to keep the warriors from falling in battle, but they were taking wounds faster than he could heal them, so instead he waded forward to take the brunt of the attacks himself.

The golems were eventually slain, but Calias lay mortally wounded. Klaus once again used the staff to prevent him from slipping into death. He was in no fit state to continue fighting, so Herack and Pollax took him back to where Acastrius and Oraphius were mucking out the horses.

Unaware that their every move was now being watched, the group awaited the return of Herack and Pollax, with Oraphius replacing Calias. They then turned their attention to the door on the opposite side of the room. Sneaky came forward, now having received some healing from Klaus, who checked the door for traps. The door seemed safe so she opened it. Beyond was what was obviously a wizard's workshop.

This time Sneaky used her rapier to detect for traps. The entire floor glowed. Using an extendable stick from her kit of thieves' tools, she probed the floor immediately in front of the door. The entire contents of the room, including the floor, vanished. Some distance below her she could see the huge underground lake. Had they not uncovered the illusion, they would have plummeted into the lake as soon as they entered the room. Sneaky pulled back from the doorway, breathing a huge sigh of relief.

A door on an adjacent wall led from the formerly illusory room, now a 30' square shaft. Mazaramus was the only one that could reach it easily, using his broom of flying. He opened the door. It led into another large room. On the far side he could make out another door, and he judged this to open onto the short corridor that led back to the elevator. In the room where six golems. The closest three were crudely constructed
from tree trunks and branches. Behind them were three bone golems, each wielding four wicked looking swords. As soon as they door opened they animated and advanced towards him.

Mazaramus backed up so that he was out of the reach of the golems and launched a fire ball into the room. The three wood golems were completely immolated, now just charred, burning stumps. The bone golems, however, were completely untouched, evidently immune to fire-based attacks. They continued to advance, but stopped at the doorway. Mazaramus flew back to the party waiting at the other doorway, and the bone golems returned to their positions in the large room.

Mazaramus told the rest of the party that they needn't concern themselves with the bone golems. They had been ordered to attack anyone entering the room, but would not leave the room or pursue beyond it. Klaus doubted the wisdom of this. Evidently they were in the lair of a wizard, and as long as they were still 'alive' (though as constructs one could not consider them as truly alive) they were still a danger.

They left the room via the southern opening. Standing there at the end of the passageway in front of the door, and a mere 10' away from the passageway stood a robed man. He looked angrily at the party, then told them to leave immediately. They had already incurred his wrath by destroying his golems and would not hesitate to kill them if they didn't leave immediately. He then drew out some spell components; an amber rod and a piece of fur, and began chanting. Mazaramus recognised the components as those necessary to cast a lightning bolt spell, and advised the party to do as he says and leave quickly.

They returned to the amber golem room and began making their way towards the elevator, all, that is, except for Morgan. He backed off slowly and drew out a silver mirror in the hope that it would reflect the lightning bolt. No such luck. Lightning arced from the wizards hands and struck the fighter square in the chest, hurtling him several feet down the corridor.

Morgan got shakily back to his feet, still smoking from being hit by the bolt. He raised his sword and charged at the wizard (who was amazed that the warrior had even survived). Back in the amber golem room, Mazaramus paused and turned to cast a charm monster spell at the wizard. The spell had no effect. Morgan ran his sword through the wizard, who promptly vanished.

With the image of the wizard gone, the party turned their attention to the door that the wizard had been standing in front of. Opening it, they found that it led into a large bedroom. At the opposite end of the room, what looked like a fire giant stood against the wall, holding in one hand a staff with a large gem set into the top of it. The giant didn't react to the party's entrance. Morgan (now healed after Klaus had expended quite a number of charges from his staff of healing) and Mazaramus approached the giant. Morgan took the precaution of consuming a potion of fire resistance as he went forward. It simply lowered its head as the two approached, a metallic screeching resounding through the room as it did so. Mazaramus flew up to the giants head. The giant continued to follow its movements, though it also bent its head to see what Morgan was doing, who was moving to the side of it in an attempt to distract it.

Mazaramus guessed (rightly) that this was another golem. Close examination discerned that it was actually made of bronze, hence the screeching as it moved. The fact that it hadn't attacked probably meant that it was under orders either not to attack or only to do so under certain circumstances. He pulled out a rope, intending to wrap it around the golem's head in an attempt to blind it. This was a bad move, as the golem regarded this as a form of attack. It punched Mazaramus squarely in the chest and sent him hurtling through the air.

Morgan drew his claymore and began hacking at the bronze golem. Gandi, not wanting to miss out on the action, also charged forward. Only the fact that they had enchanted weapons allowed them to even pierce the golem. Each time they did, however, fiery blood spewed from the wounds. They were able to dodge most of the blood. Morgan was hit on the arm, but fortunately the effects of his potion minimised the damage.

The golem came crashing down. Mazaramus eagerly rushed forward to seize the prize, the staff that it had been holding. He could feel the power coursing through it. Inscribed along it were fives small runes. Three of them he could discern - fire, lightning, and light. The third and fifth runes were a mystery.

The rest of the party had meanwhile been searching the rest of the room. Their was little of value or interest, except for a strange hole in the southern wall, about six inches across. Peering through it revealed little, just a fissure that wound into the rock, twisting and turning at various points. Mazaramus used his runic power of stone shaping to move aside the rock, but this merely revealed that the fissure continued winding on through the rock.

Klaus suggested using his last potion of gaseous form to find out where the fissure led, and suggested that Gandi use it as he had infravision. Gandi agreed and drank the potion. Travelling down the fissure, he soon came to a familiar cave. It was the cave that the dragonnes had laired in. He remembered now the two holes that Sneaky had found earlier leading from this cave.

Gandi travelled along the second hole. This one soon turned sharply upwards, and eventually led to a small dark room. No exits led from the room, but he could see several boxes stored here. He seeped inside them to try to find out what they contained. It was difficult to make out what objects were inside, having to rely solely on infravision and being up close and in a confined space. He could make out some bottles or flasks, a rope, some bladed weapons, and a lump of something he realised with some disgust (given that he had been wrapped about it in gaseous form) as mouldy bread.

He returned along the fissures to the party. Another door led from the bedroom, adjacent to the one they had entered by. The party had been reluctant to venture further, at least until the dwarf returned. Gandi ignored the door for the time being, instead returning up the corridor to see what lay beyond the other doors. One was evidently a false door, as he found only stone on the other side of it. The second led into a room identical to the illusory one they had come across earlier. The only difference was that the wizard was standing in the corner.

The wizard spoke. "So, you think that being gaseous will protect you from my magic, do you?" Gandi floated toward the wizard, attempting to engulf him in the hopes of suffocating him. He found he was unable to approach closer than an inch away from the wizard. Some form of magical protection was holding the gaseous dwarf at bay. Gandi decided to leave through another door on the opposite side of the room before the wizard made good on his threat. A short corridor on the other side of the door soon led back to the bedroom where the party was still waiting. Gandi's potion was just about running out anyway.

Once the dwarf had coalesced back into solid form and gotten back into his armour, they retreated back to the amber golem room to discuss their next move. The wizard was evidently dangerous, though seemed more intent on driving the party out than thwarting them in their Quest for the Heartstone. Morgan and Gandi were all for rushing the magic-user and taking him out quickly. Mazaramus was more intent on unlocking the powers of his new staff. He aimed the staff at a corner of the large room and activated the third rune. Shards of ice and hail rained down over the area.

Mazaramus smiled. It made sense now. Fire, lightning and ice, all destructive powers. He looked at the fifth rune. It was a strange glyph in the form of six circles in a hexagonal arrangement, with a seventh circle in the centre. He activated the rune.

The gem at the tip of the staff glowed with a pale white light interlaced with grey strands. The floor and walls seemed to vibrate, slowly growing in intensity. He felt a sharp pain in his temple. Evidently, the power required some kind of concentration or mind focus, but on what? Sneaky and Morgan also began feeling the sharp pain. Mazaramus had been holding the staff with his thumb over the rune. He took his thumb away. The pain stopped, and the room stopped shaking. Mazaramus came to the conclusion that this power was somehow connected with the psychic abilities of Morgan and Sneaky.

Mazaramus gave up with experimenting with the staff for the time being. They returned to discussing their plan of whether they should deal with the wizard and how they would accomplish this. Taking their chances and rushing the wizard hoping to catch him unprepared seemed the general consensus. They began preparing their spells and weapons. As they did so, they heard a door open and close in the adjacent corridor. They ran to the door leading to the wizard's workshop. Their was no sign of anyone in the corridor. Guessing that the wizard had headed towards the elevator, and they hastened there themselves in the hopes of catching him.

Entering the elevator, the door closed as soon as they entered. Moments later, the eastern door opened. The bone golems could be seen moving along the short corridor towards them. The first golem was already in the doorway before they could close it. They tried activating the elevator by pressing the buttons on the control box, but the buttons seemed jammed. Morgan, Gandi and Klaus were at the doorway, and hacked at the golems as they came through. This was an effective tactic. The golems could only enter one at a time, and the three hacked their foes down as soon as they entered.

Fighting the golems had given the wizard time to escape. At first they feared that he had gone after the horses. They tried the control box again. The controls were no longer jammed, so they descended to the frost giant's level and hastened to where the horses were being kept. Acastrius and Calius were bemused to see the party returning. Seeing the urgent looks on their faces they assumed something was awry. Morgan explained the situation, and urged them to be on their guard in case the wizard came this way. It seemed apparent now that the wizard had been aware of their comings and goings (especially since they had alerted him several times by continually pressing the alarm button). Gandi even recalled seeing a crystal orb in the wizard's workshop, a detail he had not felt important at the time.

The wizard had most likely escaped, unless he was bold enough to double back and return to the workshop. They decided to abandon their fruitless pursuit of the wizard, something that Sneaky (once again under the control of her rapier) was not too happy about.

They returned to the elevator. Klaus decided now to take matters into his own hands. He regarded retrieving the Heartstone to be the highest priority now, and pressed the 'up' button on the elevator controls until they were at the top level, one level above the wizard's rooms.

A single door led from the elevator at the top level. It opened up onto a short corridor about 30' long, with a door at the far end. They marched boldly up to the door, Gandi and Morgan leading the way. They were almost at the door when they realised that they had walked right onto a gray ooze.

Session Fourteen - The Gauntlet

Gandi saw the stone beneath his feet moving strangely and pulled Morgan back before the gray ooze could eat through their armoured boots. Having encountered them more times than could remember, they knew that gray oozes were vulnerable to conventional weapons. The two warriors hacked and sliced the gray ooze to pieces before it could do any harm to them. The creature had been laying in a depression in the stone floor, about an inch deep, so that the floor had appeared perfectly level. It was obvious that the gray ooze had been put here by whoever had created this dungeon.

Morgan and Gandi opened the door. It was found to lead into a long corridor running east to west and perpendicular to the corridor leading from the elevator. To the left, the corridor soon ended, and there waited a bronze golem, standing in a niche perfectly carved to its shape. To the right, the corridor stretched on as far as their light would reveal. The walls and ceiling of the corridor were riddled with 1" holes.

The two warriors advanced into the corridor. The golem did not move. It seemed to be holding its hands in front of it, palms outward. Was this a gesture of some kind of warning? Was it preparing to push some invisible object?

Mazaramus joined the two to make estimates on corridor dimensions when he realised he had lost his mapping sheets. He spent some time going through his scroll cases and hunting through his bag of holding. He mus have dropped the maps somewhere in the lower levels, so he redrew the maps from memory.

Whilst this was going on, Sneaky began protesting that they should be hunting for the wizard on the lower level. Morgan concurred, and Mazaramus also piped in (whilst still trying to remember the map details), saying that a wizard of that power still running around was dangerous. He could appear at any time to deal devastating damage to the party. They already knew that he could cast lightning bolts, and the long corridor that they were in was ideal for such a spell. Also, they suspected that the golem could be animated at his command. Klaus insisted that they should press on. Their goal was the Heartstone, and he strongly believed that this was the right path.

Mazaramus finally completed his map. With some help from Gandi (who had scouted a fair amount of the area in gaseous form), he was able to correlate the location of the dragonne cave in relation to the wizard's sanctum. Slapping his own forehead, he realised that they had made things harder for themselves by avoiding the oil-filled cavern, as this seemed to lead directly into the wizard's sanctum via the back door.

They proceeded into the long corridor. Morgan suggested leaving a couple of the mercenaries behind to guard the elevator. Mazaramus insisted that this was unnecessary, and would only divide the party. Sneaky ventured ahead, searching for traps as she went. The rest of the party filed behind. As soon as they were all in the corridor, the door leading to the elevator slammed shut. Trying the door, it refused to open. It was apparent that the door could only be opened from the other side. Morgan glared angrily at Mazaramus. "THAT is why we should have left someone to guard the elevator!"

Sneaky had advanced some 40' down the corridor. Either she forgot about her rapier being able to detect traps, or she wanted to hone her own trap finding abilities. She failed to find the first trap until it was too late. A pit trap opened up underneath her. She plummeted into icy cold water and the pit trap closed again. Morgan ran to the pit trap. He sat in the floor and tried pounding it open with his feet, but to no avail. Like the pit traps they had found on the lower levels, this one required the full wait of someone standing on it to cause it to open.

They came up with an ingenious idea. The pit trap was only 9' across, so they balanced Mazaramus's 9'9"pole across it. Morgan held the pole steady at one end. Mazaramus carried Gandi on his broom of flying, and the dwarf lowered himself carefully to the floor, grabbing hold of the pole. His weight opened the pit trap, and he hung there, clutching the pole. Beneath him, the pit descended a short way into rushing water. Sneaky had obviously been carried off by the subterranean current.

Great! They were in a long corridor that was evidently riddled with traps and they had already lost their thief!

Mazaramus gingerly tested the ground on the opposite side of the pit. It didn't seem to be trapped, so he ferried the party across the pit using his broom. Further on down the corridor, a series of doors on both sides of the walls could be seen. Mazaramus tried to open the nearest door on the left. It didn't open. Instead, darts fired out of the walls and ceiling where the rest of the party were standing. Gandi and Morgan somehow managed to avoid being hit, reflexively raising their shields, but Klaus and the mercenaries were all wounded. Fortunately, the darts weren't poisoned.

At this rate, the party would be in very bad shape by the time they got out of the corridor, if they got out at all. Mazaramus guessed that the traps were all in the floor so he chanced flying to the end. Near the end of the corridor was a single door on the right hand side, and at the end was another bronze golem, in a niche just the same as the one at the other end. In font of the golem was a huge cylindrical block of stone laid sideways as if it could roll along the corridor. The stone was 10' tall and wide, and the golem could just be seen over the top of it. Had he not wasted his runic powers earlier, he could have attempted to transform the stone so that it couldn't roll along.

Cursing, the wizard returned to the party. He had an idea. Morgan could detect for traps using his claymore while he flew him along on the broom of flying. The corridor was riddled with traps. Even the doors were trapped, except for one, the single door near the end of the corridor. It was at this point that Gandi suggested that they abandon their attempts to get to the far end, try to hack through the door that they had first entered the corridor, and either try to find Sneaky or hunt down the wizard. One suggestion that came up was jumping into the pit which had washed Sneaky away, but this idea didn't go down too well. Sneaky could be dead for all they knew.

The door they had entered by was thick oak reinforced with steel bands. Nevertheless, Gandi began hacking away at it with his axes. He was making slow progress. After some twenty minutes or so of hacking away, the door began to open. Someone was on the other side. Gandi backed up, axes ready and prepared to charge whoever was on the other side.

A bedraggled, dripping wet, shivering and quite angry looking Sneaky glared at him. She had been swept along the underground river and into the huge lake. It had taken her some time to climb out, find her way back to the elevator and return to the party. She had even considered stopping at the wizard's level and hunting the mage down, but common sense won over in the end.

Gandi brought her up to speed on what had been happening, including pointing out that Mazaramus had found a huge stone roller that could crush the entire party flat if it began rolling down the corridor. Sneaky returned to the party. Gandi had quite forgotten about he door, and it slammed shut again. Gandi groaned in disbelief.

With the thief back with the party, Mazaramus suggested that she systematically try to disarm the traps, or at least try to figure out how they were activated. She discovered that the majority of the doors were actually false doors, except for the two untrapped ones. Mazaramus flew her to what he thought to be a safe spot in between two trapped areas. As they were about to land, another gray ooze lashed upwards, catching Sneaky on the leg and leaving a horrific acid burn. Sneaky screamed in agony. Mazaramus flew back up out of reach of the gray ooze. He dropped a flask of oil onto the creature and ignited it. By the time the flames had died down, they saw that the gray ooze was completely unharmed. Sneaky, who now had a grudge against these things, dropped a dagger (not one of her magical ones) onto it, purely out of spite. The dagger was completely dissolved by the ooze, but not before it had hurt the creature.

Bypassing the gray ooze for the time being, Sneaky was able to ascertain that all of the doors were false doors, except for one near the centre of the corridor and the one at the far end. She asked why they hadn't tried the untrapped door near the end of the corridor. Mazaramus flew her to the end door. She gave it another check, just to make sure it wasn't trapped, and noticed that it was locked. She expertly picked the lock and the door swung open. Beyond, a short corridor, 30' long, led to another door. Mazaramus thought that it looked too much like the corridor from the elevator, and for a moment suspected that there was some teleporter trap that took them back to the beginning. The absence of a control box, however, indicated that this was not the case.

Mazaramus began transporting the party up to the door so that they could get out of this corridor of death with all haste, Sneaky, however, had already gone through the other door. They went to follow, but the mercenaries found themselves unable to reach the door. Some strange magic was holding them back. Klaus, Morgan, Mazaramus and Gandi on the other hand, felt drawn forwards into the room beyond.

They found themselves in a large room. On a dais directly across from them, a sculpted hand atop an obelisk held a large red glowing heart-shaped gem. The glow from this gem bathed the room in its red light. Flanking the pillar were a pair of bronze golems. Nearby, Sneaky stood frozen, engulfed in a red glow. As the rays from the gem bathed the party in its light, they felt a welcoming warmth as they were fully healed by the glow.

Moments later, a thin, muscular figure with a short beard and mustache, appeared from behind the obelisk. From the description given to them by Queen Leahra, this must be Dahnakriss. Yet he appeared to be in his thirties, and Dahnakriss had stolen the Heartstone over 50 years ago! He placed his hand on the Heartstone, and rays of light struck out, hitting each of the characters. The Heartstone hummed, and a piercing, high-pitched noise emanated from it. Dark red forms began to coalesce before the dais. There were five of them. The party were transfixed as the red forms began to take shape. They knew that what was forming was the most abhorrent thing that they had ever seen, and must be destroyed at all costs.

The red glows faded,and standing there before them were - themselves. Only they were different. Klaus faced his opposite, his evil self, adorned in black plate mail and bearing an unholy symbol of Thanatos, God of Death. Gandi found himself staring at a sober version of himself, wearing armour decorated in the trappings of the Rockhome military, and adorned with symbols of rank. Unlike Gandi, he wielded a single axe, preferring a shield on his other arm.

Morgan's opposite at first seemed not dissimilar to himself, but then noticed that he did not wield the Scottish claymore that he had acquired from Castle Amber. He also noticed the reddish weals on his wrists, as if he had worn manacles for quite a long time.

Mazaramus was looking at a strict and stern version of himself, one that brooked no foolery. His opposite had normal eyes, so had not succumbed to the same curse that had given him red, glowing eyes.

Sneaky saw a scarred version of herself. The burn wounds she had incurred from burning off a green slime were still there, as well as numerous other scars. These seemed to mock her, as though her double was proud of her 'battle trophies'.

The party were only vaguely aware of their comrades, as if each was in a separate, almost surreal, reality. Even the attempts of Dahnakriss trying to pry the Heartstone loose from its mounting went unheeded. There only concern was to destroy their opposite.

Moragn's initial charge caught his opponent off balance, and he was able to land a telling blow. After this, his guard was up, and the two fought and duelled, even complementing each other on their prowess, though neither could gain any advantage over the other as they continually parried each others blows.

Gandi's two weapons were of little advantage over his shielded opponent. They gradually wore each other down little by little. Who would win this dual was anyone's guess.

Sneaky initially made a series of telling strikes on her opponent, having had time to prepare her blades with poison. Unfortunately, she soon tired. Evil Sneaky was also tiring but managed to dodge and avoid the killing blow, while at the same time whittling her down with the occasional dagger thrust.

Mazaramus had had the foresight to cast a mirror image spell on himself before the Heartstone had been activated. He launched a fire ball at his opposite, breaking the lawful Mazaramus' concentration and disrupting his spell. The fire ball seemed contained to his own particular battle, causing no harm whatsoever to any of the other combatants or even Dahnakriss, who could dimly be heard cursing before abandoning his attempt at retrieving the Heartstone..

Mazaramus's opposite retaliated by drawing his own staff and hit him with an ice storm. In desparation, Mazaramus drew the wand that he had found in the dragon's treasure, aimed it at lawful Mazaramus, and activated it. The secret door through which Dahnakriss had by now fled glowed. This mistake allowed his opposite to swing his staff at him, dispelling one of his images.

Klaus realised that he had little time to bother with spells, and a straight on dual with maces would have an uncertain outcome. He drew forth his snake staff and swung at his foe. He scored a telling hit, and commanded the snake to coil about the evil cleric, but he evaded its grasp. Recalling the snake, he swung again. This strike missed, being too preoccupied with avoiding the mace blows from his foe. Fortunately, his opponent lacked the protection of a displacer cloak, evidently the lawful lupins who had gifted him with it saw his alter-ego as unworthy of such a prize. Klaus stuck again, this time he made contact and the snake coiled about his foe, holding him helpless. The cleric of Thanatos glowed with a red light, faded, and disappeared.

Klaus now saw his friends, each bathed in red light, battling some unseen foe. He turned his attention to the Heartstone. Reaching up, he took hold of the Heartstone. It came free of the obelisk. He could now see not only his companions, but their foes too, and instinctively knew which were his friends and which were the other-worldly copies. Gandi was closest, and seemed to be struggling against the militaristic Gandi, so he rushed to his assistance.

Mazaramus was in an intense magical dual with his opposite. He raised his staff and activated the mysterious fifth rune. The orb on top of the staff glowed and pulsed with a pale white light, striated by grey streaks. The air throbbed and hummed. The lawful Mazaramus felt himself being pushed back, and he exerted every inch of his will to hold his ground.

The other-world mage raised his staff and said "So be it! A battle of wills". Both activated the rune of power. The room seemed to shake and the air between them rippled. Both Morgan's and both Sneaky's felt the effects. Somehow, their extra-sensory powers had been enhanced, and both pairs of duellists seemed to anticipate their opponent's every move.

Mazaramus resisted the effects of his double's powers but the lawful Mazaramus found himself flung through the air. His staff clattered to the ground. He reached for it, but it glowed red and vanished. Frustrated he stood and drew his staff of striking. The red eyed Mazaramus advanced on him, hitting him with a bolt of lightning at point-blank range. Lawful Mazaramus shrieked and fell before he too vanished in a red haze.

Meanwhile, Klaus had managed to land a lucky blow on the Gandi-copy and entangled him in the coils of the snake staff. Only Morgan and Sneaky were now fighting their opposites. Gandi could only see the originals, so he tried touching the Heartstone which Klaus held. He could now see the doubles as well, just as Klaus could. They rushed to assist their comrades. Klaus was going to help Mazaramus, but the mage had just about won his battle. Gandi tried to reach Sneaky, who was severely wounded, but the duelling Morgans made crossing to her difficult. He fough his way past them, landing an axe blow on the 'unreal' Morgan as he passed. He finally came to Sneaky's assistance, but it was not necessary. Sneaky felled her evil twin with a feint of her rapier followed by a dagger thrust into her chest. The evil Sneaky looked at her in disbelief before fading in a red light.

Morgan was still duelling with himself. Klaus, Gandi and Mazaramus crowded round to help put an end to this stalemate. Sneaky kept a safe distance, being too weak to help in the fight. Evil Morgan proved an accomplished adversary. Even though he could not parry the blows of all four of them, they found it difficult to penetrate his defenses. Finally though, battling all four proved too much, and Morgan was able to finish off his counterpart.

Much relieved, they had all managed to defeat their opposite selves, which had indeed proved to be the hardest battle they had ever fought. Furthermore, they had retrieved the Heartstone, which was now safely in Klaus's possession. But Dahnakriss, the master thief, had escaped.

Session Fifteen - Returning the Heartstone

With their alter-egos vanquished, the Heartstone gave out another pulse and bathed the party in its red light, once again healing them completely. The mercenaries who had been held in stasis outside the room were now free and could enter the room, were also healed. Being exposed to the Heartstone had affected the heroes in one way or another. Mazaramus red-eye vision had been intensified, and he now had permanent infravision. In fact, he had to exert some concentration in order to be able to see normally.. Sneaky and Morgan's ESP abilities were enhanced. Now they could use the ability once per day, rather than once per week. They had already noticed that they were both sensitive to other psionic-like powers, such as when Mazaramus had activated the telekinesis rune on his staff. Gandi didn't seem to have been physically or mentally affected in any way, other than having his blood stream purged of all alcohol by the healing rays of the Heartstone, something he was quite annoyed about and would have to rectify at the earliest opportunity. His axes now had new runes of power on their blades, boosting their magical properties. Klaus got the benefit of increased clerical powers (i.e. he got his xp's early and levelled up), including the instant bestowal of any new spells he was entitled to due to his increased ability. Klaus seemed to be otherwise unaffected. Whether this is because he was the one who retrieved the Heartstone, or his diligence to his faith made him incorruptible, is unclear.

Mazaramus' inadvertent use of the Wand of Secret Door Detection had given them a lead as to where the master thief had fled to. They made for the secret door on the opposite wall, but the two bronze golems that had been standing on either side of the obelisk animated and moved to block their way.

Another tough fight ensued. Morgan and Gandi confronted a golem each, while the rest of the party assisted with harrying attacks, leaving the fighters to take the brunt of the battle. Each time they struck, fiery blood spurted from the golems wounds. The constructs were eventually brought down, but they had bought even more precious time for the fleeing Dahnakriss.

Finally proceeding through the secret door, they found it led into the master thief's rather lavish and richly decorated bedroom. They also noticed a lever on the far wall in the 'up'' position. They had no time to stop and loot the treasures nor to experiment with the lever if they were to have any chance of catching Dahnakriss. There seemed to be no other exits from the room, so Mazaramus used another charge from the Wand of Secret Door Detection. There was indeed another secret door leading from the back of the room.

This second secret door led into a small dark room, barely 10' by 20'. Several boxes filled the room. They were open and some of the contents had been left hurriedly draped over the sides of the boxes or dumped on the floor. The room looked oddly familiar to Gandi, with good reason. He had already visited the room in gaseous form. What was left in the boxes was of little value, and Gandi recognised with disgust the piece of mouldy bread that he had floated through. Another secret door led from this room. Opening this, they found that they were at what seemed to be the top end of a winding cavernous tunnel sloping gradually downwards. Nearby was a circular metal hatch in the wall. Again, Mazaramus cursed, for this was the same tunnel he had travelled up and caused the cascade of water to wash the party into the underground lake. He had literally been at the back door to the master thief's hideout without even realising it.

Mazaramus considered flying down the tunnel on his broom of flying in the hope of catching up with Dahnakriss. Doubts entered their minds as they considered whether Dahnakriss would simply run down the corridor, when for all they knew he could have invisibly snuck back around the party. There was still all the treasures in his bedroom to be looted, and the wizard could still be lurking about on the level below.

They could have returned to the wizards level by means of following the long tunnel and the stairwell down to the drainage room and making their way to the elevator. Mazaramus thought it would be quicker if they flew back along the gauntlet, quite forgetting that the door into the gauntlet from the elevator was a one-way door. Besides, there was one door that wasn't a false door and he wanted to check this out. He ferried Gandi and Klaus to the door. As soon as he tried to open the door, glowing words appeared on the door as well as a circular plate with a small metal arrow pointing to the left. The words read  "Tern the dile".

Sneaky had remained at the master thief's bedroom to "carry out in inventory" of the treasures in the room and their value. Morgan and the mercenaries remained with Sneaky to make sure she didn't overlook anything or accidentally misplace anything valuable about her person. Most of the valuables were large tapestries, expensive carpets and the like. She did find in a chest a pouch containing a number of finely cut gems. She was about to store this for safekeeping and later evaluation when Mazaramus returned to the room saying that he needed her help to translate some strange writing.

Mazaramus flew Sneaky to the strange door. She translated the words as meaning "Turn the dial". It was simply bad spelling, not some obscure language. Mazaramus turned the arrow to the right. There was a click. He pushed on the door and it opened. Beyond was a 30' square room. It was somewhat damp and the walls, floor and ceiling were covered with moss and fungi. The only other things of interest that could be seen where a metal grate in the floor near the right hand wall, and a trapdoor in the ceiling near the opposite wall.

After determining that the fungi was just harmless fungi and not some dangerous mold, ooze or pudding, he entered the room to investigate further. The door swung closed and the room began filling up with water that was streaming in from various small holes that were hidden by the fungi. He tried opening the door but it was stuck fast.

Mazaramus flew up to the trapdoor and pulled it open, hoping to be able to climb through it and avoid drowning when the room filled up. A huge crocodile tumbled clumsily through the trapdoor and landed in the water below. It rose its head up. The reptile stared with lifeless white eyes towards Mazaramus. He quickly clambered into the hollow space above the trapdoor before the rotting lizard lunged up at him. He barely pulled his feet out of the way as the creatures jaws snapped at the air above the opening. The wizard cautiously looked through the trapdoor. The crocodile was back in the water, circling and readying itself to lunge at him again. The room was rapidly filling up with water. Soon the creature would be easily able to climb up through the trapdoor. Mazaramus pointed his staff at the water around the crocodile and activated the lightning rune on his staff of power. Electrical arcs danced across the water and over the zombie crocodile, and parts of it even caught fire. Still the thing continued to move and lunged again at the wizard.

Outside the room, Gandi had tried reopening the door, but to no avail. Sneaky decided it would be better if she went to fetch Morgan (she was actually more concerned with looting the treasure). Without Mazaramus to ferry her across the traps, she used her thief ability to climb the walls.

DMs note: Sneaky had a 95% chance to successfully climb walls. I rolled 97! Given that she was 80' from the door to the thief's chambers, I rolled a d8 to see which square she fell in. Random chance picked the 10' section with the gray ooze that she had been attacked by earlier and wounded with her dagger.

Sneaky lost her grip but managed to barely keep her footing on a 6" wide ledge that ran along the sides of the corridor. The gray ooze lunged at her. Sneaky said "Not this time you don't!" and swung her rapier, slicing the ooze to ribbons (or whatever mess a slain gray ooze makes).

Gandi was now vainly hacking away at the door, having had strange sounds coming from the other side and seen strange sparks arcing about its metal hinges and trappings. It sounded like water was filling up in the room on the other side so he took out an iron spike and began driving it in. When it was all the way in, he pulled it out again. Water spewed forth from the hole he had made. Gandi started making another hole with the spike.

Their was now barely a few feet between the water and the ceiling of the room. Mazaramus launched another lightning bolt at the crocodile as it lunged towards him. The undead reptile was covered in arcs of blue light. Its eyes and mouth burst into flame. Finally the monstrosity dropped back lifelessly into the water.

A few moments later, water stopped flowing into the room. Slowly the water level descended again, through the grate in the floor that he had spotted earlier. Mazaramus went to examine this and judged that the water flowing along some feet below the grate was the same underground stream that Sneaky had been swept along earlier. He tried the door again. This time it opened. On the other side Gandi was in the process of hammering an iron spike into the door. Mazaramus quickly left the room before the door closed again.

Before returning to the master thief's bedroom, Mazaramus was determined to activate the stone roller trap. His reasons were twofold; firstly, sheer curiosity as he wanted to test that flying over the roller would work, and secondly, he believed that once the trap was sprung it would then be safe as the roller would be at the other end of the corridor.

Once Gandi and Klaus had been ferried to safety, he tested the false doors. Some simply activated more dart traps, either in front of or behind where he was standing. One did indeed activate the stone roller. The golem at the far end gave it a hefty push and it began rolling down the corridor towards him. He easily and safely flew over the top of it and eventually it reached the far end of the corridor. For a moment he thought that he had deactivated the trap, but then he heard the roller moving slowly back up the corridor. A few moments later, he saw it approaching, being pushed along by the other bronze golem. Mazaramus quickly returned to the rest of the party.

Sneaky had discovered a hidden compartment in the chest where she had found the bag of gems. In it were a pair of boots and a black cloak made of some satin-like material. She tried to grab the cloak and missed. Obviously a displacer cloak. Morgan used his claymore to detect for magic. Both items glowed, and a glow came from somewhere inside the bag of gems. Fumbling around, she found two rings mixed in with the gems. One was unadorned, being made of some strange bluish-black metal. Inscribed on the flattened circular top of the band was the same rune of seven circles that Mazaramus had discovered on his staff of power. The wizard, suspecting it to be a ring of telekinesis attempted to take the ring, but found himself, or rather his staff, repelled by it, so he let Morgan take the ring. The other ring had a small round flat diamond set into it. Sneaky put it on (taking a magical ring off first) and held it up to see how it looked on her finger. Her hand was a skeletal hand! She looked over towards Morgan, and began blushing and quickly averted her gaze. It was a ring of x-ray vision. Morgan also took the boots (these had been overlooked by the other party members for some reason). He found he could now move very swiftly, and if he wanted to, he could keep pace with a riding horse. These were boots of speed.

Content that they had looted as much as they could from Dahnakriss' lair, they made their way to the wizard's sanctum by means of the tunnel leading to the lower levels and from there using the elevator. They split up into two groups to enter the wizard's workshop from both doors leading into it. Mazaramus, Sneaky, Gandi and Klaus took the side door from the short corridor leading out from the wizard's bedroom, while Morgan and the hired swords waited to enter from the door from the main corridor.

Gandi and Klaus burst into the wizard's workshop, expecting to find the wizard still waiting for them. Other than all the magical research equipment and paraphernalia, along with a crystal ball atop one workbench, the room was empty., no wizard. Sneaky entered. Suspecting that the wizard might be hiding under cover of an invisibility spell, she used her rapier's ability to detect invisible. Something invisible was in the room. However, even with the sword's power she could only see a wispy outline of a roughly humanoid figure standing near the crystal ball, and it certainly didn't seem to be the wizard. She walked around the figure. It seemed to turn to watch her movement. She thrust at it with her rapier. It responded by lashing at her with an airy wisp-like arm. It was an invisible stalker, apparently placed here as a guard by the wizard. Gandi realised after a moment what it was that Sneaky was fighting and rushed in to help, and Klaus followed suit.

Morgan and the fighters had heard the fighting in the wizard's room but they had found their door to be locked. Morgan figured it would be quicker to run round to the other door than to try to break this one down. By the time they got there, the fighting was over and the invisible stalker had been vanquished.

Mazaramus rooted through the equipment. He was hoping to find the wizard's spellbook, but their was no sign of it. However, the research materials and equipment in the room would be quite valuable, and he could learn a lot about golem creation from them. He even discovered the name of the wizard - Tharadodus.

He turned his attention to the crystal ball. It did not even occur to him as to why the wizard would leave such a valuable magic item behind. As he approached it, Morgan had a vision. He saw Tharadodus attempt to retrieve the crystal ball, but ended up staggering backwards. He then looked about and swiftly left the room. Mazaramus picked up the crystal ball. Whatever had prevented Tharadodus from taking it had not affected Mazaramus. Having a little experience in using scrying devices (from when he had possession of the Viper-circled Mirror), he focused on the orb, willing it to reveal what he wanted to see.

First, he tried to find Tharadodus' spell book. All he saw was blackness. Presumably the spell book was in a very dark place. He then focused on the wizard. All he got was static. Finally, he tried to get an image of Dahnakriss. He saw the thief flying along above the clouds on a flying carpet.

Somewhat disappointed that both the wizard and the master thief had escaped. They resumed looting the as yet unexplored parts of the complex. The only place they hadn't been yet was the cavernous tunnel leading off from the elevator on this level. This soon lead to a dead end, but ehy found a secret door there that opened up into a strange cave. A tapered mound, like a small volcano, rose up from the floor in the centre of the cavern. Off to the sides, the walls and floor were scorched and burnt. Mazaramus flew to the top of the mound. There he saw in the hollow at the top a chest. He opened this up (not even bothering to have Sneaky check it for traps first) and found inside a gold crown and sceptre, both quite valuable, but not magical.

On the other side of the mound, another short tunnel led from the cave. This led to the oil-filled cavern with the mound snaking across it, now also blackened and burnt, confirming his earlier suspicion that this route led back to the dragonne's cave. Again, they had missed a back door into the complex that could have saved themselves a lot of problems.

They were content that they had now explored the dungeon thoroughly, and had gained everything that they could from the place. After resting up for the night in the wizard's bedroom, they began hauling all of the valuables down to the wagons, including the golem creation equipment and the vats containing gray oozes and a black pudding. Sneaky went to Asleayna's cave. The dragon was just returning as she got there, having been flying off somewhere to the west. Asleayna told Sneaky that she had seen Dahnakriss fleeing from the mountain on his flying carpet. She had given chase, but the thief was just too fast for her to catch and she lost him. Sneaky didn't want to leave her new-found friend behind, so she asked if the dragon would come with them back to Ghyr. Asleayna agreed.

The journey back to Ghyr was nowhere near as eventful as their outward trip to the Ice Mountains. They had already dealt with most of the foes lurking about in the wilderness, and besides, if they did run into any trouble this time they had a dragon with them. The large lake with the strange water elemental they circled around without delay, but the creature did not reappear. What troglodytes remained in the swamp stayed in hiding lest the red-eyed wizard summon another fire creature to harass them.

Finally, they reached Ghyr and received a hero's welcome. At the sight of the dragon, the city watch were somewhat unnerved, but Sneaky reassured them that she meant no harm, and special permission was granted for her to enter the city. Queen Leahra rewarded them as promised with 10,000 gold pieces each once Klaus presented the Heartstone to her. A three-day festival was arranged in honour of the heroes.

Queen Leahra said she could use the power of the Heartstone to transport the party back to Castle Strongheart in Ierendi when they were ready to leave, to save them from a long and arduous journey. The companions were in no hurry to leave, despite the cold climate. Sneaky didn't want to leave Asleayna behind, but the warmer climate of the southern continent would not really be suitable for her, especially the tropical Ierendi islands. However, she knew of the mountains in Glantri and the Altan Tepe mountains around Karameikos,.and could always make a home for herself there if needs be.

As for the mercenaries, they took up Queen Leahra's offer and she transported them to Ierendi once the festival was over. They were getting a bit fed up of performing stable boy duties, and were eager to visit the famed Fletcher Island, where the wizard known as Mr Coarke was able to bring almost any fantasy or desire to life for the amusement of his guests.

As for the heroes, they have a brief respite from adventuring. Some would be honing their weapon skills. Mazaramus has plenty of research to carry out for his various projects, and has yet to fully glean the secrets of the 1st Circle of Cryptomancy. Such heroes never rest easy for long, however, and soon the call to adventure will beckon to them again...

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