Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Chapter Twenty-Eight: The End...

I'd always hoped the campaign would end like these fantastic pieces of art by Leo Hao

The sky above them had turned red, fireballs were arcing through the firmament, and the roar of demonic monsters rent the air. The glacier had turned to water, leaving the Stellarium of The Vinteralf isolated on an outcropping of rock, flanked by torrents of boiling water.

Cobblethwaite's Companions decided to take a moment to explore the underground complex, beneath the stellarium, that they had found previously but hadn't really looked around propely.

Their explorations unearthed a strange, alien, complex of indescribable machinery, bizarre globes, metallic statues, and dismantled "golems" - all of which reminded them of their expedition to the "storehouse of the gods" out in the Badlands.

They were drawn into a scrappy fight with some small, feral, grey humanoids, where Marigold used the last charge of her Wand Of The Marrow Squid to pull the skeleton out of one; a sight that still sickened some of her comrades, even though they had seen her use this power before.

Then, as the roof was shaking and rubble falling down around their ears, they heard a booming demonic voice calling Kirchin by name.

It was Yuzaru The Barbed Devil that Kirchin has disrespected during the party's trip to Avernus Ridge. He had tracked Kirchin down and wanted his pound of flesh.

The battle against the heroes was brutal, with the devil's animated spikes causing damage whenever our heroes struck the monster, but eventually - although a lot of blood was spilled on both sides - the devil was slain.

Emerging back in the main dome room of the stellarium, where the enormous brass orrery bisected the room, they discovered more of the roof had been torn off and both the colossal Yellow King - his cape now sweeping the peaks of The Gargoyle Mountains and holding the dead corpse of the yellow dragon in one hand - and the terrasaque, a force of nature moving over the mountains towards the stellarium, were visible.

Enormous demonic creatures were swarming the sides of the building, and winged monkey creatures were swooping in and around the brass armatures of the clockwork orrery.

Inspired by the engraved wooden book they had found, which appeared to show the fate of the wielder of The Gauntlet Of Angelus, Harry headed for the ladder up to the mechanical structure, feeling that he needed to be elevated to activate the artefact... although still not 100 per cent sure what it did.

One of the flying monkeys went for Harry, jabbing with his trident, while the others attacked the rest of the party - some jabbing with tridents while others hovered further away and peppered our heroes (Kirchin in particular) with arrows.

[It was kind of at this moment that had this been a film Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings would have swelled up, and the action would have gone into slo-mo, cluing the audience in to what was coming next.]

Harry, singing a final rousing tune to bring a tear to the eye of his heroic comrades, valiantly thrust his gauntleted hand into the air. He could feel the flames engulf him, but still he sung on as a pillar of light erupted from the gauntlet, fuelled by the fire of his body, and tearing a hole in the fabric of reality.

Harry's singing momentarily transformed into screams, then his angelic voice was silenced forever.

Davian, fallen to one knee, found his final thoughts were memories of his beloved dog (Spot) and he hoped they would soon be reunited.

There was a clatter from the gantry where the Gauntlet of Angelus had dropped to the ground, next to the pile of ashes that had been The Chosen One, Harry Cobblethwaite.

The hole in space and time opened into a white tunnel of light. Rather unexpectedly in the light was a red haired woman, gesturing to them to follow. It was Imogen! And Marigold realised that this was also what Imogen herself had seen in The Nexus Of All Realities, inside the hut of The Witch Of The Woods, some kind of 'future echo' of herself!

[Davian's player, Kevin, played his Plot Twist: Flashbacks card, acquired a looooong time ago (possibly more than two years ago in 'real time') from an encounter with the "memory mist", which served to accelerate the opening of the portal and signal the return of Imogen]

Marigold, battered and blooded, had evaded the flying monkeys and ran towards the tunnel of light as it sank towards the floor of the room.

Davian had died in a heroic final stand with two of the trident-wielding flying creatures.

The brothers Kirchin and Dirkin both ran for the tunnel of light but were cruelly cut down by arrow fire, dropping dead mere feet away from salvation.

Only Marigold made it into the light.

The portal closed behind her.

And Cidri was no more.



  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold (Clare)
  • Dirkin (Erica)
  • Imogen - special 'ghostly' guest appearance

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Hundred-And-One Uses For A Frozen Corpse...

As Cobblethwaite's Companions looked down upon the Stellarium of The Vinteralf and came up with various plans to gain egress to the ancient building, there was a flash of yellow-orange light in the sky followed by an almighty earthquake. Which triggered an avalanche!

The entire party was buried in the snow, but luckily Harry and Marigold managed to dig their way out and start finding the others and rescuing them. Unfortunately, they found Holly too late and the young sage had frozen to death!

[From beginning to end, this was all dice rolls and skill checks in the hands of the players, from the strength of the avalanche through to the numerous survival rolls. It was very tense, and we could see Holly's life trickling away, but the dice were against her and we're surprisingly strict in our 'let the dice fall where they may' attitude to gaming. And eventually Holly's endurance and strength just ran out... quite a time before they found her body].

The adverse conditions, and looming end-of-the-world made the party quite unsentimental. They looted their colleague's body then left her in the snow for wild animals to dine on.

Dark gallows humour took over and for the rest of the day they were positing random uses for her frozen corpse (from sledge to doorstop, to frozen meal or canoe).

Scaling the side of the stellarium, Harry peeked in through the massive hole and saw a giant - but damaged - orrery above a concave bowl filled with rotten books, paper, gold, silver, gems etc and something large and almost invisible curled on top of it.

The party then opted to scale down the front of the glacier and gain access through a tunnel there. The ice tunnel led to a complex of exotic stonework that mystified their resident dwarf.

Lengthy exploration unearthed a number of rooms across several levels; the deeper one being particularly peculiar and only Harry managed to gain access to that level.

They also accidentally woke up a party of "walrus-men" (actually Vinteralf), ogre-sized creatures with walrus-heads.

Having 'robbed' the walrus-men while they slept (in our heroes' defence, they thought the creatures were dead) of a folding wooden picture book, the party saw a series of wood carvings demonstrating the use of the Gauntlet Of Angelus... and the (fatal) cost it appears to exact on its user.

By returning the book to the leader of the Vinteralf, Prince Thravir, Marigold discovered they both shared a knowledge of the Sorcerer's Tongue and haltingly managed to convince Thravir that Harry was the "chosen one", selected to wear the Gauntlet to face the two-pronged apocalypse of the tarrasque and The Yellow King.

The Vinteralf were also very impressed by Harry's willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good [due to the language barrier, I'm not entirely sure that Harry fully grasps what is being asked of him].

Thravir conducted the required "passing of the torch" ceremony and handed the Gauntlet to Harry. Kirchin produced the starstone which they slotted into the metal glove, which was then slid onto Harry's hand. There was a click and the halfling realised the Gauntlet wasn't coming off.

Our heroes then made to leave via the route they had come in by, but another smaller earthquake, bright yellow/orange lights in the sky, the melting/collapsing glacier, and the sounds of hordes of demons and sundry other unknown critters coming from both sides of the valley suggested that they might be making a final stand at the Stellarium.

  • Davian (Pete)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold (Clare)
  • Dirkin (Erica)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Chapter Twenty-Six: A Brush With Death...

Revoreesh holds back the tide of evil sweeping across Elyntia... but how long can he last?

On the road to the Bright River Fort, Holly and Marigold were amazed to see a giant magical wall spanning as far as the eye could see in either direction, holding back the advance of The Yellow King's domain.

Braced before the wall, and clearly weakening from the energy he was channelling into it to maintain the sorcerous construct, was Revoreesh - last surviving member of the Wizard's Conclave.

Struggling with his words, he told the women they must find Peter Entwhistle's map to The Stellarium Of The Vinteralf, as there they would find the one artefact powerful enough to defeat The Yellow King: the Gauntlet Of Angelus.

Returning to Bendwyn, Marigold and Holly told their colleagues what was occurring down the road, then went to Betty Entwhistle for assistance in finding the map.

She helped them dig through her late husband Peter's stacks of books and scrolls, eventually unearthing a journal belonging to his father, Oblidah (a member of Jerrol's illustrious Most Excellent Brethren).

In it they found a map showing the route in The Gargoyle Mountains that would lead them to the Stellarium.

Betty also found an old etching, in another book, of the Gauntlet Of Angelus, a halfling-sized metallic glove with an oval indentation in the back, to hold a mystical 'star stone'.

After a lot of cajoling, the party helped stir Kirchin's "memory"/dream of the location of the "star stone", the sight of which Viktor Volkov had taken as a sign to found Bendwyn.

With the aid of Father Caleb they lifted the top of the chapel's altar and discovered the "star stone" resting there.

When Kirchin picked it up, Viktor Volkov momentarily spoke through him, confirming that this was the key to defeating The Yellow King.

Redmond, the village drayman, loaned the party horses for their trip to the mountains and they set off.

After a stopover in Littlehill, where Harry met some of his cousins, it took The Companions just over four days to reach the foothills, where they left the horses tied up, and made their way along the narrow path that led around the edge of the mountain.

Several hundred feet up, on a narrow ledge (but thankfully roped together), the party were surprised by a brace of harpies, whose hypnotic song mesmerised all save Davian.

Kirchin, having already proven susceptible to mind-control, stepped off the ledge, and became the prime target for one of the bird-women.

The fight went from bad to worse until, eventually, all except for Davian had fallen over the cliff, and the dwarf was bracing himself against the mountain, holding on to the rope that was keeping everyone from plunging to their doom, while fending off the harpy attacks.

Soon a third - the mother harpy - joined the fray and things were looking pretty grim; Kirchin, in particular, was being torn into easily digestible shreds at the bottom of the rope, and Marigold and Dirkin had suffered some vicious attacks themselves.

However, eventually, Davian managed to snap Harry out of the spell and as the fight continued the rest of the party - except for Kirchin - shook off the enchantment and, one by one, were dragged back onto the ledge.

The two younger harpies were slain and the elder flew away to her nest, to lick her wounds.

The bruised, battered, and bleeding adventurers pulled themselves along the narrow path to a cave, which turned out to contain the nest of the younger harpies.

They set up camp for the night, patching up their severe wounds, nursing battered limbs and bruised egos; thanking the Gods for letting them live another day and realising just how close they had gotten to all perishing.

Late in the morning the next day they headed further up the mountain, into the snow, and came to a pass the map told them would lead them to the Stellarium.

In the distance Davian spotted, circling, the same yellow dragon they had seen months earlier - flying overhead - when they had dared to cross The Bright River into the realm of Tanander.

Unnerved by the sight of the dragon, especially in the wake of their near-fatal clash with the harpies, the Companions made their way slowly through the snow-carpeted mountain pass, until they caught their first glimpse of the mythical Stellarium in a valley below them.

As they made plans for their "assault" on the building, Marigold pointed out the, more recent, large hole in the roof of the ancient structure...

The Stellarium Of The Vinteralf

  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold/Dirkin (Clare)

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Prelude To Chapter Twenty-Six...

Captain Dexter Hammerhand - Tending To The Refugees Has Brought Him Out Of His Depressed Stupor...

Morning came, after a night of dreams on the back on the back of a lethal pub brawl, and Kirchin knew the first thing he needed to do was call a town meeting. He tasked Harry with letting everyone know, and Harry - in turn - delegated this to his two new followers, Salli and Pham.

After the fight the night before, Davian had returned to his smithy and was pleasantly surprised to find it relatively untouched. The lock had been forced and a couple of swords taken, but otherwise everything appeared to be in working order.

He quickly found the two quarterstaffs he was working on, fired up his forge and set to work making metallic caps for them both, while trying to figure out how he could make a spy glass akin to the one Imogen had run off with.

Unfortunately, he quickly realised while he could craft the telescoping casing, he had no idea how to grind the lenses that 'magically' made distant objects appear closer to the user.

There were a lot of guilty faces in the crowd of townsfolk that gathered in The Golden Axe that morning for Kirchin's town meeting, a lot of hand shaking, and apologies for not trusting the old council.

Kirchin addressed the crowd, explaining - in broad strokes (and not apportioning any blame) - what they had witnessed on their expedition and what they had been up to. He then let the townfolk fill him in on how Skarg had whipped them all up into a frenzy about everything that had been happening since the old council left, and how the townsfolk had gone along with Skarg because they were scared.

Meanwhile Marigold and Holly had set out for Bright River Fort, to check on the refugees, and to see how Captain Hammerhand was coping with his new charges.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Flashback: When Skarg Took Control Of Bendwyn...

Skarg and a couple of his gang in The Golden Axe...

Soon after Gunther Treszhnak, proprietor of The Golden Axe, left town (muttering about 'seeing his family before the world ends'), Skarg The Half-Orc relocated his base of operations to tavern.

Ever since the orcs had threatened to invade across The Bright River, Skarg had been agitating for a new town council and with the true council now being away for weeks, and no clue as to when they would return, he promptly called a meeting to whip up the residents of Bendwyn some more.

As well as the usual selection of low-lifes and ne'er-do-wells from his former hostelry, quite a large percentage of the town's population showed up to hear what the charismatic half-orc had to say (there was a general undercurrent of discontent with the town council, given their penchant for disappearing off on "adventures" without so much as a 'by your leave').

"We're sick and tired of having to pay a ransom to those villains on the other side of the Bright," he declared to muted cheers, "So let's not pay them. Let's keep them away from our side of the river. Let's build a barricade! A fence! And let's make THEM pay for it!

"We can use that money to improve the town, tear down that old healing house and build something decent. Hire a proper healer for the town, not someone who disappears all the time, doing Jen-knows what!"

The cheers got louder as more people were swept up in the moment and chanted: "Build a wall! Build a wall!"

"Build a wall! Build a wall!"
Skarg continued: "And whose fault is all this? Who's to blame for bringing down these troubles on our town? That so-called healer and his hangers-on, that's who. The council. They're supposed to protect you, but they're as corrupt as those orcs over there. Criminals and cultists, every one of them. What do we do with scum like that?"

"Lock them up!" someone shouted and soon the cry was taken up by others and the rafters of The Golden Axe were ringing with demands to "lock up" the old council.

And thus, the next day, even as distant earthquakes shook the ground and strange lights appeared in the skies to the west, Skarg was declared the new town mayor by the majority of the population.

Just days later, Skarg and his men were rounding up the relatives of the old town council, detaining them on charges of collusion, aiding and abetting traitors.

Little did the half-orc know his days were numbered...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Interlude II: Harry's Dream...

Sick & Tired Of Sleeping Outdoors, Harry Was Looking Forward To A Proper Bed Again...

Harry was both surprised and delighted to discover that his old room in The Golden Axe hadn't been ransacked by Skarg's men.

He really needed a rest and his "acolytes" - Salli and Pham - were only too willing to make up his bed.

Harry was enjoying his new-found status as "The Chosen One", but was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow...
He found himself walking through a strange, featureless, dark building, drawn towards a single lit candle that stood beside an oddly illuminated bed. As he drew closer he saw in the bed, an old man. Walking away from the bed, down another corridor, his back to Harry, was a figure that the halfling was sure was Kirchin.

But then didn't the old man look a bit like Kirchin as well? Surely that wasn't possible?

The elderly Kirchin turned his head to look at the hobbit and began to speak: "Harry, it's good to see you again, my old friend. The time is coming, is it not? You must choose. You must choose wisely. You have the voice of an angel, but it is your aim that will win the day and save us all. I know where the key is... make me remember..."
And Harry woke with a start. The two young women, previously curled up on the floor, came to his side, Pham still limping from her broken leg, asking if anything was wrong?

"I know where the key is..."

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Interlude: Kirchin's Dream...

Meeting Himself In A Dream...

Delighted to finally be back at the Temple Of The Lady of Healing in Bendwyn, the first order of business for Kirchin - having settled Kahl safely in his own bed - was to get some rest.

His whole body ached from the endless walking and fighting, especially the party's most recent tussle with Skarg's henchmen at The Golden Axe.

The healer was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow...
He found himself walking through a strange, featureless, dark building, drawn towards a single lit candle that stood beside an oddly illuminated bed. As he drew closer he saw in the bed, an old man. A strangely familiar old man.

Surely that wasn't possible? It was him. He was seeing himself as an old man.

The elderly Kirchin turned his head to look at his younger self and uttered a single word: "Remember..."
And Kirchin awoke.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Chapter 25: A Dish Served Cold...

Religious Fervour: Wild Dancing And Prayers Granted Salli A "Message From The Gods"

The refugee caravan made slow and steady progress towards Bendwyn, with the earthquakes and strange light show behind them turning the sky yellow and orange, even through the night.

The new arrivals, Salli and Pham, led the scared and huddled peasants in wild, evangelical religious ceremonies each evening. And one night Salli started speaking in tongues, proclaiming Harry as the "chosen one" and that "the stone is the key".

She had no recollection of this afterwards, but was adamant that the gods had spoken through her. From then on, Salli and Pham became Harry's handmaidens - much to his delight - tending to his every need.

Finally nearing their home town, the heroes and the refugees came to Bright River Fort and were shocked to see it almost unmanned, its doors hanging open.

Captain Hammerhand
Captain Dexter Hammerhand, wild with madness and drunkenness, proclaimed the end times, telling Cobblethwaite's Companions that most of his men had deserted to be with their families in the final hours of the world.

He also recounted reports he had received of a rampaging tarrasque heading south through Elyntia, ransacking the capitol, then tearing through Dranning.

When Marigold asked about the Wizard's Conclave, the captain told her they had gone to fight the "world-breaker" and not been heard from since.

The heroes then made their way, at last, down the hill to Bendwyn, only to be met at the bridge by the town guards - and a mob of thugs, fronted by the villainous half-orc Skarg, holding Kirchin's apprentice, Kahl, as a hostage.

Sgt Max Beerfoam
The guard-sergeant, Max Beerfoam, reluctantly told Cobblethwaite's Companions that the refugees weren't welcome in the village and that they - the former town council - were required to surrender, so they could be tried for treason and dereliction of duty, having left the town "in its hour of need".

Unsurprisingly, the adventurers refused to surrender and escorted the refugees back to the fort. Once the homeless peasants were settled in, Kirchin led the group of heroes back to Bendwyn in the eerie half-light, where they hatched a cunning plan to liberate the town.

There was some distracting of the guard on patrol, Cedric (who was eventually magically webbed by Marigold for his own well-being), Skarg's old tavern (now abandoned) was set alight, and Holly swam across the river Wyn and back a couple of times, enlisting the help of a family of friendly farmers.

Harry found Max and persuaded him to come over to their side, then the heroes sent Max into Skarg's new headquarters - The Golden Axe (the former base of operations for Cobblethwaite's Companions) - with news that his old tavern was on fire.

Unfortunately, Skarg had suspected a ruse along these lines, although he hadn't foreseen Max's betrayal. He put a crossbow bolt in Max, and the sound of Max's body hitting the ground caused the Companions to storm the building.

Skarg had rigged up a mechanism above the bar, pulleys and ropes that led to nooses secured around the necks of all the hostages on the bar: Kahl, Holly's aunt Gwendolyn, and Marigold's parents.

The rope then led back to Skarg's arm, and he was pulling it taught even as the heroes burst in.

The half-orc had also surrounded himself with a dozen tooled-up ruffians (including the juvenile delinquent Cooper)

To the accompaniment of a rousing battle song from Harry, a brutal fight erupted that saw Davian, Kirchin and Holly cutting people down left right and centre; Marigold used her magical webbing to gum up the mechanism holding the hostages, then cut loose with her "viper staff "; Dirkin turned a couple of thugs into pin cushions with his bow, before the crush got too much and he found himself facing Cooper.

Cooper had already taken on Holly, but she got pulled away to fight other scum, breaking her fencing sword in the process.

Dirkin ran Cooper through, and then Skarg, bloodied from an earlier strike, found himself surrounded by the dead bodies of his men, facing his bitterest enemies: Cobblethwaite's Companions.

Davian attacked first, then Holly - having snatched up a random discarded sword from the floor - cut down the half-orc gangster who had held the town in fear for the last few weeks.

Checking on Max, Kirchin discovered, by some miracle, that he wasn't as badly wounded as they first thought and would make a quick recovery.

The hostages were freed and the town of Bendwyn was liberated.

And All The Time The Yellow King Draws Nearer...

  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold/Dirkin (Clare)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Chapter Twenty-Four: In The Kingdom Of The Blind...

Salli - In Better Times
It was a dark and stormy night. The refugee caravan had crossed over into the Duchy of Kel as it continued east towards Bendwyn.

Picking up a few locals along the way, Cobblethwaite's Companions learned that the duchess, the elderly Lady Zadell, had recently died and now several families were feuding to take control of the theocracy.

This might have contributed to the absence of any military presence as the refugee train entered the duchy.

The caravan had pitched camp for the night and as the Companions were sitting round a fire, enjoying a basic supper, a bedraggled woman, battered and bruised, staggered into the camp, requesting their assistance.

She explained that her name was Salli, an acolyte from a local church, and that she and four of her friends had been ambushed while looking for rare flowers (to decorate their church, in memory of Lady Zadell).

They had been attacked by a pair of ugly wildmen, who'd dragged them through the woods to a hut by a small lake. Overlooking the lake was a carved cyclops head, water pouring from its one eye into the lake.

Salli told the adventurers that she had managed to slip her bonds while the rest of her friends were taken away - she knew not where - and she escaped.

Besides being able to direct the party back to the lake, the only useful information she could share was that the three or four people she had seen were all missing an eye!

Harry, Holly, and Marigold agreed to lead a rescue mission, while Davian stayed guarding the caravan and Kirchin and Dirkin recuperated from their run-in with the ogres.

The trio made their way slowly through the woods, in the dark and the rain.

At one point, about an hour into their journey, Marigold stumbled over a plank upon which was crudely carved "KNGDOM OF TH BLND".

Some time after that, they came upon the clearing around the lake, which abutted a steep hillock, and the hut.

As they watched, they saw a hulking great man with a bow slung over his shoulder wandered through the clearing, take a small coracal out of the trees near the lake, paddle behind the waterfall, and disappear.

They recognised him, from Salli's description, as one of the men who'd ambushed the church group.

After spying on the hut for a while, and learning that there were two people in there, the three adventurers staged an ambush of their own: attacking an elderly crone and a ditzy teenage girl.

Scrapegrace - the daughter
Harry, for the first time in a physical fight, quickly realised he wasn't cut out for this, and ducked past the crone into the hut.

There he found a crude altar surmounted by the decapitated head of one of the youngsters they were supposed to be rescuing. The poor boy had had one of his eyes removed.

Holly and Marigold eventually slew the women they were facing, hid the bodies in the hut and then retreated back to the treeline, to allow Marigold to recover the strength she had spent casting her magic.

While there, a spindly man wildman, dragging an enormous axe (the other original ambusher) came back and was horrified to come upon the corpses of his mother and sister.

Enraged he rushed out of the hut, swinging his mighty axe round his head.

From the trees, Marigold tried to 'zap' him with her wand of the marrow squid. Unfortunately it failed to work on Truffle, instead alerting him to our heroes' presence.

He charged, but Marigold was able to entangle him in magical webbing, allowing Holly to step in and stab him repeatedly with her fencing foil, even as he broke free.

With another of the one-eyed woodsfolk felled, the adventurers slipped back into the shadows and discussed their plans to get behind the waterfall and see what was there.

Having found a small pile of crude coracals at the lake's edge, Holly led Marigold and Harry as they paddled behind the waterfall, to find a small landing dock in the "mouth" of the carved head.

Poppa One-Eye
Before she could even land, though, out of the shadows of the tunnel complex within, Hunter opened fire, grazing the young scholar.

It was soon after this that Marigold cast a magical enchantment on Holly that accelerated her natural speed and turned her into a blur of a killing machine.

Even when they were confronted by the father of this inbred family, a hedge wizard named Poppa One-Eye, Holly's speed and deftness with her fencing blade (inspired, also, by Harry's trademark rousing songs), soon made short work of him - even if Marigold finished him off with a ranged magical punch.

Charity - the mother
The final member of the family, who'd been chasing Harry through the halls of this underground complex, was soon dispatched as well, then the adventurers' turned their thoughts back to rescue.

Unfortunately, before they got much further, Harry trod in a pool of acidic, sentient, slime that was eating away at his hairy hobbit foot before Marigold poured one of her vials of precious "joy juice" (from Jerol of Jirrey's haunted manse) over it, shocking the creature enough for Harry to pull free.

Previously, Harry had heard a faint voice calling out from a deep well, down which the party saw a small pile of bodies, one of which was missing a head.

Pham - in better times
Shouting down, the adventurers established communication with the lone survivor of the ambushed church group, a girl called Pham, who'd broken her leg when the crazed cultists threw her (and her fellows) down the well.

The adventurers convinced her to crawl to the bottom of the well (it opened into a large cave, which they - possibly wisely - opted not to investigate) and tie a rope round her they had lowered into the pit.

Holly, Harry, and Marigold pulled Pham up, loaded her onto one of the coracals, took her across the lake, then dragged the coracal back through the woods, with the wounded girl on top, eventually reuniting her with her friend, Salli, back at the refugee camp.

Dawn had broken and the two survivors, despite their wounds and the loss of their friends, were delighted to be alive.

  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Marigold (Clare)

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Chapter Twenty-Three: Ogres Against Humanity...

Kent: the well-spoken male ogre

Dirkin had not returned from one of his usual hunting trips and so his brother Kirchin - and Kirchin's apprentice, Holly - left the refugee caravan to try and find him.

Having retraced his steps to where Dirkin left the main road, Kirchin managed to track his brother through the woods and eventually came to a large clearing, by a stream, where Dirkin was bound to a rock.

The rock formed part of a small henge, near a shepherd's cottage and a herd of sheep. The shepherd - now deceased - was secured next to Dirkin.

Dirkin had been captured by a family of very well-spoken ogres intent on sacrificing him - and the shepherd - to their sheep deity!

Kirchin and Holly fought, and killed, the male ogre and were then searching the area when the female attacked. Kirchin took a meaty blow to the head and Holly snapped her rapier in the ensuing conflict, but the second ogre was soon overpowered as well.

Kirchin, Holly, and Dirkin then followed the trail of the female ogre back into the forest, where they found the ogre's den, a cave with two young mewling ogre-babies.

After much soul-searching, Kirchin and Holly dispatched the younglings.

Having searched the area round the henge, and found an old military monument and a rusty broach, Kirchin and Holly snared a couple of the sheep (who they named Flossy and Dolly), and then - along with Dirkin - headed back to the main road to Bendwyn, and rejoined the caravan.

A rough map of where the encounter took place...

  • Dirkin - GMPC
  • Holly - Erica
  • Kirchin - Pete

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chapter Twenty-Two: Strange Times At Avernus Ridge...

Avernus Ridge

Fleeing the earthquake zone, Cobblethwaite's Companions and Tristriam's family headed towards the village of Bowes.

This took a couple of days and they arrived to find the small community in the grip of a terrifying "chattering disease", which eventually - after several days of uncontrollable teeth chattering and spouting nonsense - caused its victims' heads to explode.

The village priest, Martin, unable to leave his flock, told Kirchin and the others about a wise woman called Halal, who lived a day or so outside the village, just over the Avernus Ridge. Martin believed she was in possession of a magical periapt that could cure all diseases.

He pleaded with the adventurers to petition the wise woman for the use of her magical talisman to drive away the illness.

However, once the party reached the ridge, they realised something "wasn't quite right".

A row of crucifixes lined the brow of the ridge, decorated with old human remains, and as the party camped that night, at the foot of the ridge, their sleep was troubled by inhuman wailing from beyond.

Time was also acting strangely, moving too fast, up near the ridge, but thanks to Harry singing them to sleep, they all managed to get a decent night's rest anyway.

Unfortunately, by this stage, it was clear that Kirchin was showing the first signs of the chattering disease.

Cresting the ridge the next day, the heroes were met with the hellish sight of small, globular creatures (which Holly identified as "lemures" - souls being processed for their transit to Hell) throwing body parts into a lake, under the supervision of a huge, barbed devil (again, Holly identified him for what he was).

The devil - whose name they later learned was Yuzaru - called them forth, knowing them by name, and staring down Davian who was, at least at first, itching for a fight.

Halal emerged from a nearby cottage, but wasn't the wise woman they were expecting, instead Holly recognised her a kind of " demonic night hag".

The crone told the adventurers she would loan them her periapt for a day if they would get Martin to resurrect a moneylender - Sebastian Crow - who had died in the village a week before the disease began, and then bring Crow back to her (unharmed).

She gave them a scroll, the necessary spell tattooed on a roll of fresh human skin.

Returning to Bowes, Martin was reluctant at first to agree to raise Crow from the dead, and couldn't believe that this revolting scroll - or the wicked demand - was from the Halal he knew (she certainly didn't match the description he would later share with Holly).

But he realised that time was of the essence and cast the spell over Crow's grave.

The zombie moneylender clawed his way out of the ground and started to head to the village, shaking off the restraints of Marigold's magical web, but was eventually hog-tied by Davian and the aching Kirchin.

Sebastian Crow
Crow was returned to Halal, who kept her end of the bargain and loaned the periapt to The Companions.

They first used it to cure Kirchin, before racing back to the village, curing the sick and hurrying the amulet back to Halal.

Kirchin, riding his noble steed, Gryphon, returned the periapt to Hala, but couldn't resist trading insults with Yuzaru, who - thankfully - seemed unable, or unwilling at this time - to cross the line of crucifixes.

But the devil indicated that he "knew Kirchin's name" and there would be a reckoning.

That evening the villagers of Bowes threw their saviours an almighty celebration. Unfortunately, in the early hours of the morning this was interrupted by another violent earthquake.

Come morning, a new mountain range was visible to the west, and when The Companions went to investigate not only did they spy plumes of yellow gas bursting from fissures in the ground (the scent of which reminded Marigold of the brief time she had spent being dead), but Davian realised that some of these new "peaks" looked more like buildings with strange-shaped windows and portals in them.

As they drew closer, they realised their way was barred by an enormous canyon, stretching as far as the eye could see north and south, that had swallowed up the land where the Welcome Back Inn had once stood.


Holly once again demonstrated her depth of knowledge by realising that the strange mountains resembled old images she had seen in rare religious tomes, depicting the demi-plane of Purgatory known as Croatoa... the home of The Yellow King!

Peculiar shadows and unidentifiable flying creatures were noted in this new mountain range, and the adventurers decided it was probably a good time to head back towards civilization.

Marigold was quite vocal about this and strongly suggested that they needed to call upon Peter Entwhistle's old compadres in the Wizards' Conclave for assistance.

By the time they returned to Bowes, the villagers had decided they wanted to leave, and so our heroes organised them into a rag-tag caravan to head east with them to Bendwyn.

[It's worth pointing out that the party correctly deduced that Halal (or whoever the creature really was) had released the chattering disease on the village herself, to blackmail the villagers into returning Sebastian Crow to her... for her own twisted ends]

  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold/Dirkin (Clare)

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Epilogue To Chapter Twenty-One...

With Holly recovering from the wounds she picked up during the siege, the Companions decided to stay a bit longer at the Welcome Back Inn before continuing on down the road towards Bendwyn.

As Kirchin was changing the dressing on her wounds the next morning, Holly suggested they leave some of the gold they had recently acquired with Tristram and his wife, Annabelle, as compensation for all their troubles.

Kirchin could see the wisdom in this and shared the idea with the rest of the group who were taking breakfast downstairs in the main room of the inn.

Dirkin and Harry, who'd been figuring out how long it would take them to get to Bowes - the next village on their journey - without the cart to ferry their loot, nodded their agreement as they spooned down the tasty warm soup Annabelle had served them.

Davian growled his half-hearted objection, muttering into his beard about "swearing them to secrecy" (he didn't want it getting out that he had given gold away) and "suppose they did help with the birthin'", as he trudged off to scowl into his flagon of breakfast beer.

Meanwhile, Marigold - considerably weakened by her experience and emotionally undone - was taking care of Sasha, the daughter of the innkeeper (whose mind had been broken by the arrival of The Yellow King), in a back bedroom.

A dark mood had settled on the young enchantress, she was furious at the way she had been used by the Witch Of The Forest and The Yellow King, and while she had no great desire to return to Bendwyn (there was nothing for her there, now her mentor was dead), she wanted to enlist Peter Entwhistle's fellow sorcerers from the Wizards Conclave to take the fight to The Yellow King.

It was about this time that the Earth shook. The building creaked and groaned, cracks opened up in its walls.

"Earthquake!" shouted Davian, the only person present with experience of such events. As the timbers of the Welcome Back Inn moaned and complained, the dwarf hurried everyone outside.

On the horizon, to the west, the adventurers saw gigantic pillars of earth thrusting themselves violently towards the sky, the sky which had taken on an unnatural, and indescribable, hue - shot through with strands of yellow smoke.

The Badlands, which only days before they had been travelling across, was reshaping itself before their eyes. This was clearly not a natural occurrence, but a frightening demonstration of the mightiest of magics.

"That's it," declared Kirchin, as terrifying fissures opened across the ground like spiders' webs between the inn and the horizon, and the ground continued to shake. "None of us are staying here. Tristram, you, Annabelle and Sasha are coming with us to Bowes."

The landlord didn't need to be asked twice. In no time at all, everyone had bagged up what supplies they could - spending as little time as required within the crumbling walls of the inn - and began their journey east.

They were only a few minutes down the road when the sound of the Welcome Back Inn finally succumbing to the tremors made them stop and look back. Annabelle wept.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Chapter Twenty-One: Siege Of The Welcome Back Inn...

The light of the blood moon presaged the blood that would be spilled during the siege of The Welcome Back Inn

For as long as Cidri continues to revolve, the bards will sing of the heroic defence of The Welcome Back Inn by the adventuring group known as Cobblethwaite's Companions.

After two weeks of travel through the Badlands, the party had rolled up at the inn, just over the border in their homeland of Elyntia. It was the night before Halloween, the night of the blood moon, and young Marigold seemed to be about to give birth, frightening early (although the latter stages of her pregnancy had been supernaturally accelerated).

They were greeted enthusiastically by landlord Tristiam Weed.

Marigold was rushed to a bedroom upstairs, accompanied by Holly and Tristiam's wife Annabelle, while the menfolk remained in the bar, chatting with the tavern owner, swapping yarns and quaffing a few ales. Sasha, Tristriam and Annabelle's daughter, was sent upstairs with drinks for the 'midwives'.

There was a knock at the front door of the inn and Tristriam asked Davian to answer it. Peering out the dwarf immediately realised the "small child" on the doorstep was a goblin in a very flimsy disguise, who lunged at him with a knife, screaming: "For The Queen Mother!"

More worryingly, as he stove her head in, the dwarf noticed a wall of goblins approaching the isolated tavern from across the neighbouring pumpkin patch.

The adventurers immediately went into action, with Davian dragging a bench across the front door to block it, and Kirchin - unslinging his bow - racing up to the birthing room, where he started to take potshots at the charging goblins, while his brother, Dirkin, went to the opposite corner of the inn's first floor and set himself up to open fire with his own bow.

Harry's job - and it would prove crucial - was to boost morale with his incredible singing voice.

Tristriam was too slow getting to the back door, and ended up being knocked off his feet and down into the cellar by a contingent of goblins that got in that way.

As the battle raged all around, goblin bodies started to pile up (a couple were even felled by the primitive explosive weapon they'd planned to use to blow a hole in the inn wall).

Having screamed a tirade of abuse out the window at the gathering goblins below, Marigold found herself increasingly incapacitated by the contractions of her unnatural birth (at one point, she appeared to be ejecting smoke from her nether regions, before the pain got too much for her).

Despite the rain of arrows from the brothers Dirkin and Kirchin, a few goblins got into the inn.

While the near-indestructible Davian vented his goblin-hating bloodlust on pulverising as many as he could, Holly bravely took others on with her lightning fast rapier. Boosted by the tunes of the team's bard, every sword thrust found its mark - but unfortunately quite a number of goblin sword strikes also found their mark on her.

Nearing death, Holly was able to pull herself back up the stairs, where Annabelle did what she could to bind Holly's wounds (as the unnatural nature of Marigold's birthing process was putting the fear of the gods in her).

The last goblins died to the last arrows from Kirchin and Dirkin, who had moved onto the balcony over the main hall and had been picking off the greenskins that had gotten inside.

Had any more goblins decided to attack, the brothers would have been forced to engage them in hand-to-hand combat, alongside their comrades, as they were out of arrows for the moment.

However, the feared next wave of goblins never came, giving the adventurers time to regroup.

Davian found Tristriam alive, but bloodied, in the cellar, next to the corpse of the goblin he had killed, as Dirkin went round the corpses inside the inn retrieving any unbroken arrows.

[This was the end of Tuesday night's game session, the rest now is 'colour']

Sasha screamed even louder than Marigold as the twisted, tentacled creature was birthed into the world.

Instinctively she picked it up, cradling it, but simultaneously she was shaking with fear at the distorted and disfigured face and the tentacles that served as its legs.

Marigold had passed out, but even the battle-hardened Kirchin was repulsed by the creature. And all he could think was: "It's still growing!"

Holly and Annabelle cowered in the corner of the room (Harry stuck his head in, then immediately retreated in fear back out onto the balcony where he had been singing his rousing tunes, his mind racing back to the time they had all been 'cast adrift' in the strange hut of the Witch Of The Woods and their estranged companion Imogen had come upon a baby's crib. She had looked inside and fainted, never able to articulate what she had seen, but Harry now suspected he knew).

Before anyone else could get to the room, the Eldritch creature was already about five or six feet tall, and with an inhuman hiss, and snake-like movements, it propelled itself out of the window, scuttling down the wall and disappearing out across the fields towards the waiting goblin army.

Even as it slid/strode through the pumpkin patch it continued to grow in stature, while wisps of mist solidified around it into flowing yellow capes and a featureless mask that settled over its face.

Eventually, with the goblins around its legs/tentacles, The Yellow King disappeared over the horizon and - for the moment - was gone.

An eerie silence fell upon the inn, broken only by the sobbing of Sasha, whose mind had splintered at the sight - and touch - of the accursed, Cyclopean creature.

Eventually dawn arrived and the strange, discoloured light of the night before dissipated, leaving death and madness in its wake.


  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold/Dirkin (Clare)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Interlude: Kirchin's Dream...

A day out from the prospect of a half-decent bed at the Welcome Back Inn on the borders of Elyntia, the party had stopped to make camp as the sun set.

Having dined on the meagre wildlife Dirkin had been able to forage, Kirchin lay down for a few hours sleep before it was his turn to stand watch.

Before he realised it he was dreaming. Walking through woods, following a shooting star, but somehow he wasn't looking through his own eyes.

The star had landed in a clearing ahead of him. Looking into the crater, he saw a small rock, the size of a slingshot, that looked oddly like a skull. He took this as a sign from Jen The All-Father that this was the place he had been searching for.

He made the holy sign to the sky - but they were not his hands.

Time accelerated, people appeared, showing great deference to Kirchin, and following his instructions, the clearing was enlarged as trees were cut down. They were building a community, a village, at Kirchin's behest.

He recognised it as Bendwyn, but not the Bendwyn he knew now.

Kirchin watched as a team of labourers carried an enormous rock plinth into the chapel at the heart of the village, then he followed them in, said a prayer to the Mnoren gods, placed the small, skull-shaped fallen star into an indentation in the centre of the stone base, then stepped back and watched the labourers lower a flat stone atop the plinth to form an altar.

The dreamer stood in front of the altar, raised his arms, and all the workmen, and other villagers who had gathered in the chapel, knelt before him...

Kirchin woke with a start. Harry was shaking him, reminding him it was his turn to watch over the camp as everyone slept.

For a moment, Kirchin thought he had something important to tell Harry, but it slipped his mind as the halfling wandered off to find somewhere to sleep that wasn't too close to the elephantine snoring of Davian Battlebeard.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

What The Party Know About The Yellow King...

Having found the word "Croatoan" carved on a tree near to a forgotten vault they were exploring, the adventuring group known as Cobblethwaite's Companions learned from Gunther Treszhnak, dwarven landlord of The Golden Axe in Bendwyn, that:
Croatoa was the name of an ancient land in a long-forgotten children's nursery rhyme about a supernatural entity known as The Yellow King who would steal the dreams of naughty children and replace them with wasps.
The Sign
Later, while investigating the appearance of some stolen coins, the party ran into the ghost of Mardrid The Gentleman Bandit, who cursed Marigold, to help him exact some convoluted revenge scheme from his prison in Purgatory within 101 days or she was doomed to become his 'ghost bride'.

As a sign of the curse, the ghost branded Marigold with the sign of The Yellow King (much to the horror of Betty Entwhistle, wife of Marigold's wandering mentor Peter Entwhistle).

Instead of carrying out the ghost's demands, the party headed across The Bright River to the Huldre Forest to seek out the legendary Witch Of The Forest, who Marigold believed was willing to teach magic to a "virtuous woman".

While the rest of the party wandered the surreal, mind-messing, rooms of the Witch's magical hut, Marigold was given a potion to drink, which removed the brand, and - she was assured - the curse.

Returning to Bendwyn, the party met up with the long-absent Peter Entwhistle, who had been attending a Wizards' Conclave where the gathering had pored over the prophecies of Ja'rodidymus that suggested The Yellow King would be "rising" soon.

Peter explained:
The Yellow King was believed to be a dark avatar of Sateb  (the god of the afterlife who judges a soul's worthiness), that ancient, near-forgotten, legends said was imprisoned in a shadow of Purgatory called Croatoa.

The legends stated that the impossibly strong magical forces restraining The Yellow King prevented him from setting foot on Cidri, and so [I] wasn't particularly bothered by the prophecies of his return... except for one detail.

A single quatrain in Ja'rodidymus's text spoke of a "conjoined maiden, hag and mother creating a vessel" that would carry The Yellow King from the shores of Croatoa to the realm of men.
Sometime after this, Marigold realised she was pregnant and she has just had her worst fears confirmed - from the skinless lips of The Flayed King - that the child she is carrying is The Yellow King.

She is the conjoined maiden (because she was a virgin), hag (because she skilled in the ways of magic), and mother (because she was with child), as foretold.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Chapter Twenty: Knowing Is More Than Half The Battle...

Frustrated that they hadn't found any "real" treasure yet - despite Dirkin's assertion that there "had to be" something down in the strange, copper-lined corridors of the Treasure House Of The Gods, Cobblethwaite's Companions debated their next course of action.

Eventually they decided to revisit the room with the rippling mirror, and Holly's magical doorknob revealed this to be concealed door into a chamber with a couple of chests that could be opened with metal rods they had found elsewhere.

From the chests, they retrieved two pairs of gloves. One pair of a leathery substance proved to be resistant to the lightning sparks that came out of the walls, the other pair - by trial and error - Kirchin discovered, by clapping them together, caused a random person in the vicinity to fall into a death-like sleep (that they could be easily woken from) .

When Marigold first collapsed there was a great deal of panic, but as the experiments went on they realised there was no great danger from the gloves.

Dirkin suggested they were revisit the room with the owl lanterns, but on the way they passed through the room at the bottom of the well shaft and noticed that under the rubble was a wooden board. Moving this they found a second well shaft, going down 100ft into a natural cave with more of the glowing water.

After sending Harry down on a rope they decided (once he was back up and told them of the corridor leading off from the cave) to just check the room with the owl lanterns again.

And they were surprised to discover that the lettering on some of the scraps of paper had changed into words they could read.

Marigold pieced the bits of paper together to reveal an ominous prophecy about the "Yellow King sailing from Kroatoa in a Virtuous Vessel", bringing death and destruction in his wake etc etc

As she thought about it, Marigold began to get increasing panicky, eventually wondering if she was the "vessel" and the child growing growing inside her was something to do with the Yellow King or something equally demonic.

Eventually, with everyone abseiling down into the newly discovered well, Davian the dwarf saw that the stonework beyond the cave was much older than that in the rooms above.

Exploring the small collection of rooms, the party battled a giant skeleton that nearly felled Kirchin (not helped that by the fact that their main fighter, Davian, had been blinded by a trap they'd set off and as the battle had unfolded, the dwarf has crashed into Kirchin accidentally knocking him out of the way).

While the bulk of the group recovered from the battle, Holly - fired up with enthusiasm after taking a magical ring from the giant - wandered into the room of utter horror!

The sight of a skinless man - his skin was pinned to the floor before him - shackled to the wall, made her scream loudly, attracting the attention of the others.

Having recovered her wits and combing the depths of her knowledge, Holly recalled the legend of the Flayed King (an arrogant king who'd sought to steal the knowledge of the Mnoren Gods and was twice cursed for his trouble, given all their knowledge and immortality, but chained forever in this place to answer one question from any brave enough to approach him).

While Kirchin and Dirkin were off searching another room (containing a replica sailing ship with a hold full of miniature gold bars), there was a lot of bickering over "what question" to ask The Flayed King.

Holly explained that, as she understood the myth, once the King had answered a question he deemed worthy, he would fall silent for a year, and anyone who tried to rescue him would be cursed to suffer the same fate.

At one point, Marigold made a break for it, determined to run into the room and ask the King about her pregnancy. Unfortunately when she got in there, the sight of him made her so tongue-tied giving Holly, Harry and Davian time to get to her and bundle her back out of the room before she could say anything.

Having dismantled the boat and taken the gold, the group put their heads together and eventually agreed that Marigold should be allowed to ask the King about her pregnancy.

The fleshless head spoke, telling her she was, indeed, carrying the 'Yellow King' and she was his method for escaping from Croatoa (the Mnoren religion's equivalent of Purgatory).

Deciding they had probably explored this 'dungeon' thoroughly, the party made their way back to the surface, to their wagon, and headed back towards Elyntia.

It was a three-week journey. The first two weeks - to the border - they saw no other living creatures. However, they did realse that Marigold's "bump" was growing at a noticeable rate - again freaking everyone out a bit (Marigold described the experience as being akin to "swallowing a bag of eels").

Crossing the bridge of the River Dart, that marked the boundary between the Known Lands of Elyntia and the Western Badlands, they arrived at the doors of the Welcome Back Inn on the night of the blood moon, with the night sky turning a peculiar mix of orange, red and blue.

To Be Continued...


  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold (Clare)

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Chapter Nineteen: Outhouse Of The Gods...

The "man of light" was not pleased that the adventurers were messing around with the switches

Continuing their exploration of the strange underground system that Kirchin's brother Dirkin had assured them was a "storehouse of the gods", Cobblethwaite's Companions stumbled on with a mix of caution and curiosity.

Wandering the copper-lined hallways, they found a pair of rooms with large switches - one white and one black - that they discovered could turn on and off the soft glow of the floors and ceilings, as well as  'extinguish' the dangerous sparks that danced over the walls and some of the doors (the metal ones).

After an extended period of experimentation with the switches, a humanoid made of sparks and light appeared, angrily gesturing for them to leave.

They'd hoped that with the "power off" they might be able to access a particularly inviting metal corridor they had found earlier, but by the time they returned there the 'light creature' had turned the power back on.

Holly's "magical doorknob' came in handy on a number of occasions, opening a small treasure chest - that contained four valuable porcelain lion figurines - and sets of large double doors (unfortunately each time Holly opened the doors she got 'zapped' quite painfully).

They found a sunken bath full of warm oil, a room full of metal statue parts, a room decorated with strange carvings depicting the transformation of man into angel, as well as a room with large copper sphere (that had a door at its rear to allow Holly and Marigold to get inside), and battled an odd bull-like creature, that crackled with lightning, then used its carcass as a meat-bridge to get across a room that had spikes instead of a floor.

At one point the party turned on Dirkin, demanding to know why they had come here in the first place, and he reminded them that he believed there were great treasures hidden somewhere within the catacombs.

"There have to be," he said. "I was told this was an outpost of the gods."

"Outhouse, more like," his brother growled back. "And they forgot to flush it out!"

To be continued...

  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold (Clare)
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