Ancient Blood

Vraxen Follows

9142, Month 7, Day 9; Vraxen had been following, trying to catch up to the group after doing some scouting in the local towns. The locals are hostile to him and it was slow going. He found out very little for all his efforts, nearly getting into several fights with the locals. Too late he discovered the group would provoke the wrath to such a degree by where they were going. He managed to discover some of the locales were preparing a ‘welcome’ for his friends who they knew were adventurers that would stir up trouble, and eventually wandered in at the last second, to watch the Suffering Tread’s effect of bending space and pulling the hunters in ambush and the rest of the group into its effect. Terrified, but fearing for his companions, he examines the area where he last saw them. Hearing the Tread return, he simply waited and hoped that he would rejoin his companions.

Gritting his teeth he grips the round as vertigo descends and his pulse pounds in his ears. Just when he thinks he will scream, the bottom drops out from under him and he falls into a cold darkness.

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Exploring Rom's Mount

9142, Month 7, Day 6; We travel to Terrovere, a small village east of Gnedfort. The locals all get silent when we enter the only inn. We stay a night, keeping our ears open, but we learn nothing new. We tell the locals we are on out way to Malby. We try and scout to make sure we are not followed, and Beeddel hides our trails when we go off the road. We find a place to picket the horse in the rolling grasslands without being seen. We slowly approach Rom’s Mount. During our approach we are all subjected the The Suffering Tread – a manifestation of The Deeping where it seems as if a giant is about to tread on us. Wind sucked out of our lungs, panic in our throats, and a great weight descends. A few of us are unable or unwilling to back down, and though the ground drops in front of us, and vertigo makes us swoon, the 2 caught in the effect muster the will to resist. It leaves us with a sense of vertigo for a moment, and leaves no physical evidence of any kind.

As we approach, cold winds start blowing over us, and we hear the sounds of riots, screaming, horse hooves and the smell of death. Something horrible, in addition to the river flooding and killing thousands, went on here. All of us are on edge, our sanity is beginning to fray, but we manage to circle the mount to be out of sight, and come round to the earth temple. Deciding that the earth temple is the easiest way, we make our way up the rubble pile inside. Our best climbers are assailed by cold blasts, treacherous footing, fetid scents, and sink holes that tried to pull us under. Beedel made his way up to Cairn Top and scouted a bent iron we saw growing from the undergrowth – a family tomb entrance. The rest of the party made it up, with Ace’s escort for us all in case we fell. We bent back the bars enough for the average size characters to squeeze in and began to explore. There were traps enough for the unwary, including a collapsing ceiling, flooded chamber, and 2 armored, skeletal guards. The whole system consisted of a entry, a receiving chamber, columbarium, crypt proper, chapel, supply area, reliquary, and a whole set of flooded chambers over 120 feet deep that we surmised may be drained by some operation in the earth temple. The crypt of family Crithomyssis remained an enigma until we finally discovered the concealed door and lured away the armored skeletons. The stone tablets of genealogy we were seeking were found in the reliquary they guarded. We took our rubbings and got out, though one of them struck at Belim as he crawled out, a deep gash into his leg. Grumwell examined them and declared that he remembered a text he had read in the Oighnan family records in Tadeus – we had the proof we needed.

We endured the trip back down the hill While Beeddel scouted from above – spotting a pair of men making their way to our mounts picket line. He hurried back, suffering the horrific visions, smells and dangerous conditions as best we could. Many times we felt pursued by some unknown force, and could not shake the sightings at the edges of our vision. Beeddel and Ace went ahead and captured the 2 men, who claimed to have long ago sent word to town. We discussed what to do, but before long our decision was made for us by the sound of an angry mob – the locals were not taking kindly to our trek into the dead city. Apparently some hunter from the village saw us go into the ruins and found our picket. We began to saddle up and prepare to move out when that giant’s tread sound came out of nowhere, rushing in and scattering our mounts and us alike. Belim and Beddel managed to avoid its affect, and when the rest of us, including our captives, were pulled into the effect they tried to pull us out as the ground vanished beneath our feet – succeeding only in securing themselves to us to join us as we feel. Feel is perhaps the wrong word, sunk into the earth and through it, without touching anything is what happened. After a great feeling of sickness and nausea we were deposited unceremoniously in some vast cavern, in the dark. A horrendous sense of vertigo could only mean we had been pulled into The Deeping – the dark mother’s veins. Some of us retched, and the 2 hunters began to scream – attracting the attention of whatever may dwell in the caverns. In the dark, we spoke in whispers, contemplating what to do next.

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Tadeus - Sir Stuart and Rom's Mount

9142, Month 6, Day 16; We make our way to Tadeus, There we make contact with the Darrow Brothers Crofters and Pekki’s agents. We tell them everything so far and get a night of rest. The next day we find quarters at the Goats Blood Inn, inside a section of the city called Rams Gate. The old city was never finished, and the dilapidated keep reflects this. We get another night of rest while learning the lay of the land. We then try and talk to the Oighnan family – the rulers of the fief of Belmain. We are told that without an appointment, it will be 2 days before Sir Stuart will see us. We bathe and heal, learning more about the city. Sir Stuart believes our story of searching for a relative married into nobility ages ago. He tells us of the sorrowful times the Riverdans have come on. He does indicate we are in luck though,as full genealogy records exist – but these are all from memory and copies. However, in the ancient family crypts of the old capital of Gnedfort City, the noble families would bury their people with stone tablets citing ancestry. The families often intermingled, so any family tomb could be a wealth of information – rubbings can verify some key points of the genealogy copies, so it should be enough to legally serve as evidence. However, Gendfort is a city of the dead and the locals, who have made peace with their dead ancestors, will not appreciate us stirring up trouble. Because Grumwell is of the ‘dans and noble, Sir Stuart says that he trusts him. As long as no desecration is done, a few rubbings of bloodline tablets is not something Sir Stuart would worry over. He mentions Rom’s Mount as the place to search for the ancient crypts.

9142, Month 7, Day 4; Deciding that wounded is no way to go into this, we decide to hire a healer and spend 2 weeks healing up. We live well, Beeddel trains with a local hunter to improve his survival and Ace learns more of the city while Belim gets us a crude map of the region. All together we discover a lot of information. We have to leave Vraxen Pax in the care of the Darrow Brothers for the time we are in the city – he seems to have gone into some sort of comma (so the healer says). What we find out is very interesting. Gnedfort was THE shinning gem of the Riverdans. It was the largest of the cities in all the ‘dans, supporting a population of 40,000. It had three hills, one of which was dug out at one end for the Temple of The Earth – A holy place to the followers of Darupet. On Rom’s Mount was a tin mine and a small quarry. Haldor’s Hall was a craggy mount, entered through a tunnel going beneath the hill, and held the houses of many rich and on top of which stood the Fire of Pexmuth – a small keep, built by Pexmuth Oihgnan as a watch tower with its ever-burning fire which was a symbol of protection to the people. The ancient city was devastated by the river course change. Some of the ancient buildings on the rises and hills survived, and for a time levies and dams channeled the river… but ultimately it was ruined. When the levies broke, many were drowned. It is now a city of spirits, and it is said the dead walk there. Few who venture into its environs come out again. Annually at the spring festival, the clergy of Ezrilus holds a vigil to keep that which is dead barred from the fields and homes of the living in the areas around it. The locals do not appreciate anyone disturbing the peace they have made with their dead ancestors.

Rom’s Mount was named after Erwilla Rom, the first priestess of Darupet and the family priest of the founders. The great Temple of The Earth had its foundation laid in her time, mostly due to her efforts. The mount is a rock hill which had its south side washed away – it was mostly earthen. The family burial crypts were all carved into the mount. It is said the under the mount was an entrance to The Deeping. For many years these crypts stood locked and watched, opened only at times for burial. The mount was also a place where public processions were guided over – into its shadow for mourning or onto its plateau into the sun for celebrations. The tunnels flooded and crypts were ruined by the river, though damage was minimal compared to the rest of the city. A few crypts are visible from a distance – boulders of a different color marking their sealed entrances. It is said though that there are other crypts and pitfalls into the caverns that are merely covered by overgrowth. The is where most of the treasure-seekers go.

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Steed the Hunter and Pete's Lair

We take a few moments, move off the trail, bind our wounds and discuss what to do next. Steed offers information of value to us and to lead us to the groups hideout. He says he is a hunter and only fell in when times got rough. We discovered that we had killed Steel Eyed Pete – a local ruffian and highwayman. We agree to the deal with Steed, and he tells us we can collect a bounty for Pete, and that he got the sword recently and has been acquiring the armor and weapons over a period of time – some before Steed joined. The marks on the blades all indicated they were made in the Merchant Cities – north of Dunstrand. Steed leads us to the cave, about 4 hours away. Beedel and Bill stay with the animals while the rest and Steed (who we force to go first) go into the cave. Apparently Pete did not tell Steed everything, as the trap and collapse kills Steed and seals the rest of the party in for three days. However, we do manage to get hundreds of silvers in goods and treasure. Belim, Ace and Grumwell found a keg of brandy and managed to drink it during the three days – who knows how much that was worth.

Also found were 3 good daggers, 1 vase (50), mixed coins totaling 200 silver, boots + clothes, 3 old poultices (3 pt) and bandages, 2 spears, 2 bedrolls, old bear pelt (50 silvers) a good set of boots and clothes, broad sword, purse with 50 silvers and 3 rings worth 30 each. Some old food, salted meats and sundry items are scattered about as well.

Looking over it all, this is WAY MORE than some hold out for a bandits. Better organized than any the group has seen, and rich enough to have good clothes and a treasure trove planned in case they have to disappear! Something is amiss – bandits armed with real weapons, all with markings from the same place in the north, even their normal equipment is good and new to boot; coordinated with ‘peddlers’ that just happen to be waiting for the party? *No way its coincidence. *

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Ambushed by Steele Eyed Pete

After we travel for about 30 minutes and a large wolf-dog darts out from the underbrush and spooks the mounts, snarling and barking. Belim is not able to get his buckler in time, and Grumwell’s mount makes of with his crossbow. A group of 5 men rush us as we try and prepare for attack and Belim fires his crossbow while Beeddel snaps off a shot with his long bow – our foes cover the distance quick and we find ourselves in combat. For bandits, they are well organized. One, the leader, faces off against Belim with a broadsword, another 2 have short baldes and the last 2 turn out of be the peddlers Jim and Jack. Ace and Beeddel each fight 2 foes, one of them armored on each of them. Bill is stuck trying to control his mount while the wolf dog attacks the horse he on. During the course of combat, Grumwell enshrouds the half wolf in flames, causing it to run away, and allows Bill to unmount and enter the fight. Both Beeddel and Ace manage to hold their own, but things are not going well – three of our foes have leather armor and good weapons – hardly bandits in the normal sense. Belim and the leader with the sword square off in a match of blade on blade. A dizzying exchange is made with neither gaining the upper hand. Nearly a minute of full combat passes before our first foe is fallen. Grumwell climbs atop the rocks that held our foes from view and surveys the scene. An arrow flies from the distance as the hunter Steed attempts to take out our wizard. Grumwell decides that its too risky to be the only target out of combat, and with no skill launches himself upon the man fighting Belim, catching him by surprise and drives a dagger strait into his skull. They both tumble down in a heap. Over the next 30 seconds, Belim rushes the archer while Bill enters combat, turning the tide and the foes are whittled away. Though Belim shouts for captive, in the heat of battle and without coordination all our foes are downed – except Steed the hunter whom we take captive.

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The Coming of Horace

9142, Month 6, Day 16; The traveler turned out to be a man named Horace, called ‘Ace’, from Dunstrand City. He had been sent by Pekki to aid us. Apparently Pekki took care of his family while he was away, and he had returned to the city and Pekki sent him to help. He makes no mention of Grak, Bill suspects him of not telling the whole truth, and by the looks of the rest of the party, they all agree. Oh well, we all have something to hide. Ace claims to be an information man and scout… he’s a ‘city scoundrel’ says Bill. Beeddel says thats alright, since he’s preferring the air outdoors to the life in the city, perhaps we can use someone who is more skilled in an urban environment. He also brings word to avoid Applebottom Farm – a bit late. At first most of the party is upset, then we all have a laugh. At least we know he’s not with the peddlers. All is well and we set out for a 2 hour trip to the city.

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Rest and Onward to Tadeus

[Beeddel] I’m not sure about the rest of the gang, but I’m fairly beat up. I’m not so comfortable hanging around this place at night, though, either. How far away is town?

[Belim] Tadeus city is about 4 hours away in the dark – obviously a safer/faster journey if it was daylight – and we run the risk of getting lost without a good outdoors man.

[Bill] I would agree, i’m in pretty bad shape – a glancing dagger can kill me at this point, and i would rather wait for light where i can see foes coming and use range weapons where my thrown spear is my best weapon…

[Grumwell] yea, daylight and at range is best. I’m not hit hardly at all, but i have little mana to spare… morning would be better. I can get off 2 ‘Darts’ as it stands now and a lame-ass crossbow shot. Also daylight with range and human combatants could mean they are more susceptible to fear. Maybe i can ‘Mist’ up a couple of you if we know we are going to get shot at; that would give incoming missiles a severe disadvantage.

[Belim] Trying to make the whole run to the city in the dark, and beat up, seems like a bad idea; however, we are not staying right here. We seem to have been spat out the back door of a very bad place, and I am not going to stand around waiting for those snake people (or any of the other uglies in there) to figure out how to follow us out. So I say we put about a mile between us and this place and find a good lie-up point where we can see back (and around) as much as possible. A low hilltop or something would be great. Do we have any moonlight? (I’m not in too bad condition right now – some healing cuts and bruises, but nothing debilitating.)

[Grumwell] sounds like a good plan. I’m in.

[Bill] With full moonlight, lets send Beedell out to see if we can find a copse of trees or something. We have nobody with any outdoor skills…

[Beeddel] You know, i’ve been watching and thinking on a lot of this stuff, and i think i can figure out our direction…. at least keep us out of the effect. I’ve been paying close attention to which way we were going and i think i’m beginning to get the hang of orienting us.

Beeddel leads the group out of the gullies on the far side of the hill between us and Applebottom farm. At the very least, he does not allow us to get back into the effect zone, and finds an obvious copse of trees to picket the animals and set up watch against… No fires, though you do make a bunch of noise as you are hurt and tired, but no one jumps you or tries to attack you during the night.

[Grumwell] I have a few more 1 point poultices that can be used for healing checks for those that are down.

[Bill] I’m willing to burn through any mundane healing we got, as any brigand weapon can drop me with an average hit. This does obviously point to the need for even some leather armor possibly when we get to Tadeus… but i am not sure i can hold my shield and wear armor without being slowed down. I’ve been really trying to focus on being a better defender – i’m just not a warrior like some of you, but I can be a shield-man. Some day i’m gonna retire from this life and get my own farm. Animals and plants, farming and markets… i gotta stay focused on learning that too. Maybe i even want to be an animal doctor. I gotta get some sort of really light armor too – for when the blows that i can’t defend come through. Something that won’t drag me down…

We all discussed it and agreed to wait until light to move. Vraxen complained of a soreness in his back, and we all thought nothing of it until morning, when we found immobile. Bill checked him and we found a tiny needle where his soreness started – a minute dart with a serpent design carved on it. Perhaps the serpent people had gotten to us after all. Beeddel scouted the path back to the road. In the distance, coming from the east was a solitary traveler. We decided to seek what news we could and travel in larger numbers… we were not sure that the peddlers Jim and Jack, and their possible ally ‘Pete’ may not be waiting for us out there.

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Free from Applebottom

9142, Month 6, Day 15; The moonlight faded from view behind us. We felt that the caverns we were in had not been tread in an ancient long time. Beeddel kept his wits about him, and guided us through the caverns, following the directions of the goat-people shaman. Just as we began to hear pursuit in the caverns behind us, we came out into fresh air; in a gully, under the midnight stars, quiet, alone and without threat. The moonlight makes the fading gate to The Deeping glitter… the ‘moon’ door slowly fades, and you can make out snake-like faces on the other side in the fading darkness…

After catching his breath, Grumwell says he remembers some half forgotten legend about the snake folk… he thought they were myth – along with the Drunnad (the goat folk)... it bears studying the matter – but old powers are at work here, and have made you all part of the ancient struggle… Beeddel’s connection to Dunstrand is likely what gave you the way out – again, these matters bear much more study! Belim (being the military man he is) says that while that may be true – you have to stay focused on the job at hand. As Bill gathers wood for the fire, both Belim and Beeddel stay his hand – ‘best not to tip off those who may be waiting’ says Beeddel…

Bill mentions that Grumwell needs to share as much as he can about these things, but Grumwell complains he knows nothing more than myths and whispered rumors from duty books. All agree it is a terrifying thought that an entire world exists just out of sight, so different from our own. Perhaps, says Grumwell, Beeddel should seek out a druid or at least a priest of the Wyld faith to learn more about his connection with Dunstrand.

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Applebottom Farm

9142, Month 6, Day 11; We meet the peddlers Jim and Jack and decide to travel with them. They move too slow – trying to sell their wares, so we decide to split off. They tell us about Applebottom Farm – a place to hole up before reaching the city so we do not have to travel at night.

9142, Month 6, Day 13; An ancient legend of a curse and pride; The nightmare effect; psychic maelstrom and spirits, cannot get out. Spend several nights under attack from spirits and undead. Beddel manages to find some strange goat like people and get them to guide us away, into the earth and through the lands of their enemies.

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Arrival of Vraxen Pax

9142, Month 6, Day 10; Abani Yorton meets the group on the road out of town. He brings with him a large man named Vraxen Pax. Vraxen and him seem to know each other – though the half orc speaks of Vraxen as if he just hired a new mercenary. Vraxen is a troubleshooter type, served in the Dukes Guards and protecting his interests. He desires to get out of Dusntrand City and is seeking a new adventure independent of a specific lords interest. He strongly hints that it would be in the party’s best interest to take him on as a partner in the research endeavor. The party briefly confers and decides that another warrior could not hurt…

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