On a cold morning in early spring, a titanic black vault burst into existence in the middle of a dismal swamp. A faint octarine glow was visible for miles around. Scrying mirrors cracked. Spellbooks flung themselves from lecterns. Owls fell dead from trees; ponds boiled and cast up fishes.
Luckily, the region was sparsely inhabited. Dawn's light found the servants of the Baron Almaric de Lusignan peering down at the swamp.
They found only one survivor. Jericho, a pale and emaciated wizard in filthy rags and a tattered cap, hid under a sickly tree, weeping inconsolably. On his left, tied with rope, lay a mysterious door in a doorframe. On his right, the corpse of a deerling.
"We should take this, err, wizard back to the Baron," Ebin the Envious said, "and bury his friend in the swamp."
He paused, then whispered to his friend Linnaea. "Don't bury her too deeply. The Baron may want a meal. And chop off her head and bring it to me. You never know..."
For this unwholesome group clustered around the poor sun-baffled Jericho was not a congregation of saints. Indeed, they - and the baron they served - were a collection of ambitious rogues and outcasts.
-Ebin the Envious, human "apothecary" to the Baron, was an amateur necromancer. With his pet raven, sinister black cloak, and crooked staff, he doled out dubious cures and took payment in both gold and flesh.
-Vulwin Sarphine, elf wizard, was an exiled diplomat seeking refuge in a region unlikely to be visited by her cousins.
-Wardablorg, frogling summoner and cultist, gave spiritual advice to the Baron while dabbling in all manner of schemes.
-Linnaea, batling thief and general dogsbody to the plots of her lord.
-Sash, fishling thief and failed wizard apprentice. Dogsbody number two.
Their patron, Baron Almaric de Lusignan, owlling ghoul and noble, was rarely seen outside his crumbling manor. The few villagers who owed him homage avoided the shadowed keep wherever possible.
After briefly interrogating Jericho regarding his mysterious origins, vast wealth (carefully hidden but inadvertently referenced), and potent wizard powers, the Baron decided on a course of action. His followers would travel to Bosola, that turbulent but wealthy peninsula, and claim territory for their lord. He would migrate to richer and more populous lands when the time was right.
|Branca branca branca!|
They were ambushed by roving penniless knights. Jericho impressed all with his potent wizard powers, collapsing the earth and burying several attackers. Sash climbed a tree and threw flaming pinecones at his attackers while shouting "fireball! Ok, this next one really will be a fireball!" Ebin the Envious learned to cast mundane missile; a rock thrown at someone's head. "Mundane missile sometimes misses," he'd cry.
The group decided they needed a knight of their own and elected Wardablorg. The summoner was dressed in badly fitting and very dented scraps of plate armour, placed on a horse, draped in colourful fabric, and appointed group figurehead.
They paused briefly in St. Menthon to buy supplies. On the road, they found a necromancer's tower and cult. Burning and looting commenced, followed by a trip to Bovem. In that partially ruined town, they found work visiting a village in the mountains. A travelling trader hadn't heard from the village since the snows melted.
The adventure ended poorly for Sash, who was killed by a goblin ambush on a rocky hillside. The rest of the party, wounded and tired, found a gnome barbarian guide named Big Hamish MacFeegle and hired him... very briefly. The next day, another goblin ambush (and rather obvious pit trap) killed the gnome and Wardablorg's horse (borrowed from Jericho).
The village turned out to have the plague. The PCs looted the church's meagre hoard of gold and fled into the night. A third goblin ambush, on the return journey, killed a hireling but finally resulted in the extermination of the goblin tribe, partially thanks to Wardablorg's fighting prowess, but mostly due to Vulwin's bow. The goblin warlord's helmet of +2 Intelligence and obedient chain whip were looted.The next day, the party hired Crazy Harry, his cannon, and his crew. They set off on a new mission. A foreign diplomat had been kidnapped by bandits. They were holding him in an isolated castle near Ardeno. The Company of the Red Banner wanted the diplomat back, but didn't want to pay the ransom. The PCs took on the job.
They had a cunning plan to reduce the bandit's strength. They purchased a large barrel of wine, poisoned it, then allowed the bandits to capture it. They then attacked the tower by night, surprising the guards, killing some of the inhabitants, shooting people with their new cannon, and generally wreaking havoc. Linnaea the batling lost a leg and elected to retire.
After interrogating their captives via vague and implausible threats, the party discovered the diplomat had vanished from his cell in the small dungeon below the castle. The bandits were baffled; the cell had only one entrance and it was still locked. Though they did insist the dungeon was cursed somehow.
The "curse" took the form of a bell. Anyone who rang it summoned a secret stone button that followed them around, appearing on any finished stone wall and migrating as they moved. Pressing the button temporarily opened a passage to a secret, magically concealed crypt.
Note: I thought the idea of a cursed secret door was intriguing. How do you get rid of a door that follows you around, constantly tempting you to open it?
The dungeon itself, not the secret crypt, contained a system for lowering prisoners into a subterranean lake of ghost-infused water. Prisoners would be raised up, possessed and angry, and interrogated by pious monks hoping to drive the lost pagan souls to one afterlife or another. As a side effect, living creatures possessed by the ghosts turned blue and began to float. Even chickens. This becomes important later.
Exploring further, the party discovered the source of the ghost water; a reality-warping whale-sized slug-creature with tree-like hands, clusters of ruby eyes, and dozens of blubber-lipped mouths. They decided to leave it alone, and instead looted the rest of the tomb. A battle with some skeleton guardians very nearly went wrong, but Crazy Harry's cannon saved the day at the cost of the party's collective hearing and equilibrium. Wardablorg was revived with a dubious discount healing potion, which inflicted avianthropy on the poor knight. The light of the full moon would turn into a... seagull. Ebin the Envious used untested necromancy on Vulwin the elf, more or less tethering her soul to her body by the equivalent of a few scraps of magic thread. The necromancer only survived by using a cursed amulet acquired from Jericho; the same flesh-stealing amulet that had caused so much trouble in the underground wizard's previous adventures. While it healed one person, it stole life and chunks of flesh from anyone nearby.
Having retrieved the brain-damaged and memory-drained ambassador from the digestion pool near the whale-creature, the party elected to leave immediately and spend their ill-gotten wealth in a proper city. They traveled to Charron, entered the mercenary camp of the Company of the Red Banner, dropped off the diplomat, and relaxed. Wardablorg spent all their money on chickens, carts, chicken-handlers, chicken-cages, and canvas. If ghost-possessed chickens floated, the knight reasoned, they could be used to make a flying machine. Soaring through the air on a cloud of ghosts didn't appeal to the rest of the party, but the knight was insistent.
After a week-long binge, the group acquired a new knight. This one had actual title. Sir Reko Pizelle, a preening hawkling, decided to assist the group on a new mission for the Company of the Red Banner. A wizard's tower on the company's line of march occasionally vaporized passing scouts. They wanted the tower cleared.
At Sir Pizelle's suggestion, the party decided to explore the minotaur's labyrinth-lair. They avoided a an idol trapped by green slime, but, a few moments later, in a 10' wide corridor, ran into a stegocentipede.
Cackling with glee, Crazy Harry fired his cannon past Sir Pizelle at the front of the group, badly wounding the monstrous chitin-plated beast. From the back of the party, Vulwin the elf decided to test her looted spell orb.
Obtained in the mysterious dungeon where they'd rescued the ambassador, the spell orb contained 2 spells and 4 charges. The first spell was, testing showed, magic missile. The wizards had never bothered testing or identifying the second.
It was cone of flame.
Vulwin could only watch in horror as the roaring torrent of fire rebounded from the walls of the corridor, engulfing the entire party. Jericho tried to deflect the fire using magic; he botched it, acquired his first Doom, dropped to 0 HP, and was badly burned.
And then the Cannoneer's gunpowder charges went off. All seven of them, plus two bombs.
The resulting explosion demolished the party, the stegocentipede, and some of the walls.
Ebin's flesh-healing cursed amulet tried to stitch his body back together, but his soul had departed for its appointed afterlife. The resulting flesh amalgam (elf, human, hawkling, stegocentipede, looted skeleton parts, etc.) shambles the corridors of the labyrinth to this day. Embedded in its back is Jericho's door of holding, and inside the door is a king's ransom: 4,700gp in gold the wizard never got to spend.
And thus ends the tragic tale of the servants of Baron Almaric de Lusignan. Wardablorg, self-styled "Sir Gucci de Lusignan", survived by being elsewhere. Perhaps in some future tale, a chicken-ghost airship will drift overhead. Perhaps not.
In any case, what a way to go.