Goodmonth 25, 622 CY
City of Greyhawk
“Aye, I’ve been there…” Torsten said. The man looked to be 30, though Niall Brightflame understood this human was even younger. It was with a trembling hand that Torsten picked up his leather flask for another drink. “The Temple of the Latter Day Elder Gods. We believed it was ripe pickings, since everyone’s attention had been on Castle Greyhawk these past two years.
“Our first clue that this would not be easy was just upon mounting the steps to the temple. Day suddenly became night. My companions, all inexperienced, broke ranks and fled just as I was reaching the top of the steps. I called back to them and tried to rally them, but that was when I noticed the …things in the sky. They had wings, but they had little shape to them and were shaped like no bird or other animal I can name. Instead of following the others, I retreated indoors, through the temple doors. The room inside seemed impossibly big, but had no exits. I had no choice but to retreat back out into the starry night…with those …things swooping down after me…”
No sum of money could convince him to guide Niall and the Company of the White Oak to the Temple. But he did give good directions…
Goodmonth 26, 622 CY
The Village of Nameless
Nameless was a minor fiefdom on the north side of the private hunting grounds of the Oligarchs. It was four miles south of the Temple of the Latter Day Elder Gods, the closest civilization came to the old ruins. Only five Companions - Reed Underbough, Percy, Niall Brightflame, Bowie Laughingbottle, and Leif Thunderbeard - and their henchpeople, Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio, Arlin Fadagoria, Halfdan, and Gremlar Blackstone - and two mules left Nameless bound for the Temple.
There was barely a discernable trail leading to the Temple, and the vegetation grew tall and lush so close to the Temple’s walls that they might have missed it had they not been looking for it. The Temple was a step pyramid, only three tiers, each twenty feet tall, with one ramp of steps leading up the west side to a pair of large, heavy double doors on the top tier. The stone was very old and worn smooth.
First they circled wide around the Temple, as Torsten had never seen the east side of the Temple, but they found no other entrances that way, even when the elves moved around the walls slowly, hoping to detect a secret door.
They formed up into ranks and started ascending the steps. As they did, the sun began quickly moving through the sky, setting just as the front rank reached the top tier. As they stepped up to the double doors, the sun set. Everyone paused to watch the sky for monsters, but none appeared.
The doors were hard to open - Lief and Niall, their two strongest members, had to work together to pull them open. Inside was a room that seemed the exact size of the entire top tier - which should have been impossible, because it appeared to have thick walls, but they had expected this too, thanks to Torsten. The room was empty except for three brass pillars that ran from floor to ceiling, spaced out between the north and south walls. Since the pillars were 8’ wide, there were only gaps in between to reach the other side.
Cautiously, the thieves Reed and Ambrosio went in to search the room. As Reed touched the first pillar, a brass door appeared in the side of it. One by one, they made a door appear in each. These doors opened easily onto hollow tubes going down, with only ladders bolted to the north wall of each tube. The ladders seemed to have been made piecemeal out of various metals, but looked sturdy. To be cautious, only one tube was chanced, and to be extra careful, everyone descending the tube did so with rope tied around them. This turned out to be a good thing because about half of the Companions had trouble with reaching the too-distant ladder and would have fallen 30’ to the floor below. The mules were left behind and unguarded.
As some were still descending the ladder, the front ranks checked out the room below. All three brass pipes descended into this room, with doors in their south sides. In the northeast and southeast corners were piles of old, dusty tools. Three doors led elsewhere in the middle tier of the Temple. Since they were here to find Vask’s undead form and lay it to rest - and retrieve his two powerful magic weapons at the same time - Muelara cast ESP and Locate Object to help them find their objectives. Neither spell initially gave them any clues, so they started with east.
To the east was a long north-south corridor and a side passage east, but they went south, turned a corner west, and another corner south, and went through a door through which Muelara detected animal thoughts. Here were six giant wasps buzzing around a large brass cage, huge dead beetle carcasses, and what appeared to be a stone birdbath. One Sleep spell later, there were no giant wasps flying around, and they were all promptly killed - save one, which Reed wanted badly to extract its poison sac from. Not being an expert on giant wasp anatomy, Reed almost poisoned himself and gave up on the idea. Luckily, poison sacs were not the only treasure in the room. Inside the locked cage (and locked cages were no obstacle to a thief of Reed’s experience) were a couple thousand loose coins of gold and silver, a pair of gems, a jeweled torc, and an old ceramic flask holding liquid. The sweet-smelling goo in the “birdbath” was left alone.
There were sentient thoughts coming from behind the northeast door, and a heard sound like something scraping across stone, so the Companions barged in an old, ruined bedroom with nothing left but three beds in it. Peeking under one of the dust ruffles, they saw glowing red eyes staring back at them. Then the beds were cast aside as three wights rose up to attack. Percy quickly turned them and chased them into the corner. He explained that everyone would get a chance to hurl a missile weapon at the cornered wights, but that would break the turn and they could then fight back. The missile attacks were devastatingly effective, though, leaving little to mop up when the wights retaliated. Under each bed was a gold mask that the wights must have once worn.
Heading south, Leif was about to bust down the next door when he heard a voice in his head that said “Run! Run away!” Leif was freaked out, but convinced to ignore this as a trick. They found behind the door a nearly identical room with another three wights hiding under beds. They tried the same tactic, but this time one of the wights, wearing a ceremonial helmet, was able to take a lot of damage and nearly drained somebody before it was destroyed. Further, under one of the beds was a trapdoor that led down. Opening it, they found what looked like a large empty pit. They considered going down to search it for secret doors, but decided to explore the rest of this level first.
Around the corner to the east was a short dead end passage with a silver statue there. The statue was of a macabre being - semi-humanoid, and yet only part-crow, part-rat, and part-vulture. Leif was strong enough to pivot the statue alone, and Leif and Niall working in tandem were able to scoot it over to the side, but they found nothing concealed behind or beneath it.
Leaving it alone, they went back north, then east, and then found themselves in another long north-south passage. Through an archway to the south they saw a small empty room with a door opposite the archway. As Leif opened the false door - a balista bolt flew down the corridor from the north and stabbed Leif’s own brand-new hench-dwarf Gremlar in the back - and Gremlar fell down, dying.
Gremlar was moved into the empty room while Percy began invoking a cure spell. While everyone was waiting for the spell to take effect, a monster appeared in the corridor that looked just like the silver statue (only black now instead of silver). Muelara bravely moved up to the archway and blocked it with a Protection from Evil spell cast on herself, and the spell repulsed the monster as it charged her. Then missile fire repulsed the monster and it turned around the corner from which it, and the Company, had come. Once the cure spell had Gremlar recovering, Reed snuck out past Muelara and sneaked quietly past the monster. Niall was now hearing a voice in his head telling him not to try anything, for he would surely fail. Niall tried to talk to the voice in his head, but it did not work. Ignoring it, he joined the other fighters charge more noisily out towards it. The monster was meleed from both sides and backstabbed by Reed, ending its existence.
With the Company recovered, they headed north, found a secret panel with a concealed balista mounted in it (which they disabled), and then backtracked to a west side passage - indeed, the very passage they had seen from the opposite direction after coming out of the first room. There were two side doors down this passage. Behind one of them was a ruined bedroom where everything was so rotted that it fell apart when prodded by Leif’s spear. Behind the other one was another ruined bedroom, but in this case the bed was crushed under a 4’ wide statue of a toad made of riveted steel plates. It could be seen through its open mouth that it appeared to be hollow, but it also animated and attacked. It withstood six hits from the Companions, and bit Reed for a light wound, before it was destroyed and fell into pieces. Niall took the pieces with the toad’s eyes to go on his shield.
Heading west and then north of the first room, they came to the end of the corridor to the north, where there were three pewter urns, and a door nearby to the east. Searching the urns, they found one held sand and the other two were empty. They carefully poured out all the sand, but found no treasure concealed within. Behind the door they found a small room holding nothing but three more identical urns, but these were all full of green, slimy algae. The voices harassing Leif and Niall were now, instead of urging them to run away or to give up, were trying to convince them to investigate these urns. They did not fall for it, and everyone left them undisturbed.
Backtracking to a side passage west, they found a door to the north through which Muelara sensed lonely thoughts (casting Protection from Evil had disrupted her Locate Object spell, but her ESP spell was still going). Since the thoughts did not appear hostile, they decided to take a different tact and knocked on the door. A woman’s voice urged them to come in. Curious, they found the door opened onto a small room that held a tree -- what appeared to be a living tree, growing into the walls and ceiling of the room, and growing out of loose charcoal, sulfur, and salt -- all quite impossible. Out of a hollow space in the tree stepped a beautiful woman who had called to them through the door. She told them how she and her sisters were bound to this room to help achieve balance in this temple. They seemed aware that monsters of chaos were running rampant through the temple, but she speculated there might be some champion of law down here for balance as well. The Company was ready to push on, but the woman tried to use some magic to make Bowie stay with her, and a second woman emerged from the hollow to try and bewitch Percy, but they both resisted and everyone left.
Percy cast his own Locate Object spell to replace Muelara’s lost one.
Moving further west, they found a large storeroom with nothing of value left in it, though they were careful to check through the sacks of rotten food.
Taking winding passages south, past the first room, they found a door that led to stairs going down. This more clearly led to the bottom tier than the trapdoor had, but they still resisted going down. Their map showed a little space to the east, and they even knew of a door that likely led into a room there. They were right, but all they found was a moldering bedroom, this time with a dead bugbear inside. The bugbear’s sack held some modest treasure.
Niall checked his map and found this level was twice the size as it had appeared to be outside.
And then they backtracked to the stairs and went down. Everyone felt some unease down here, but none moreso than Halfdan and Gremlar, who were going berserk. They became so obsessed with leaving the temple by any means necessary that they were willing to fight their way past the others, and had to be incapacitated with Percy’s Hold Person spell.
Just east of the bottom of the stairs were double doors in the north wall. When Reed listened at the doors he heard many voices chanting. Some debate followed about what to do here. If it was a large room, perhaps they would not risk the encounter.
It was a large room, the largest yet. Inside were 15 men, kneeling prostrate while chanting, in front of one man facing them, cross-legged. A Sleep spell was cast into the room - and did absolutely nothing. The man spotted them, called out to them, and welcomed them. Niall was willing to interact with the man, but only from the safety of the entrance. He let the stranger in the room know they were looking for a particular undead and described what he looked like in life. The stranger said he had seen who they were looking for and would lead them to it, but only after they had finished their ceremony. When asked about the purpose of the ceremony, it was to achieve balance. When invited again to wait inside, the Companions balked and said they would wait outside, with the doors closed. Not trusting a word they had just heard, they barred the double doors and tried to slip away back upstairs.
The stranger from the room appeared behind them in the hallway and began casting a spell. While everyone else was freaked out and continued fleeing up the stairs, Reed stayed behind and disrupted the spell’s casting with a lucky crossbow shot. The stranger reacted by turning into a large bat and flying straight at Reed. Reed joined in the retreat, but even with his magic leaping boots the bat outpaced him and bit him. Though drained of some energy, Reed was able to produce his bag of garlic and herbs and used it to fend off the vampire long enough to leap up the stairs and join the others as they fled back to the ladders. Now Niall protected their rears, swabbing the doorways with garlic to try to ward the vampire off from following them up.
When Gremlar and Halfdan came out of Percy’s spell, they were humbly apologetic and had no idea what had come over them. Climbing the ladders, they found their mules were still waiting for them. Exiting the temple, they found it was the middle of the night, but they fled down the steps before they could encounter any flying things.
Harvester 10, 622 CY
City of Greyhawk
Tower of the Striped Mage
The Mage had agreed to meet with Percy and Runeflinger and a servant brought them to his study, where the Mage (Rodrigo, the former Striped Mage’s chief apprentice) sat with his crystal ball.
“You want me to check for the location of your lost friend again,” the Mage said. “You brought the gold?”
A sack of 300 gold was sat in front of him. The servant began counting it. “Let us begin…” the Mage said, and he peered into his crystal ball.
“No wonder you have not been able to find him…this man Vask, or the man you once knew as Vask…his undead form has left the Temple of the Latter Day Elder Gods. It has been changed by the temple…it is now a wraith, no longer a wight. It now wanders the ruins outside Castle Greyhawk.”
“Can you be more specific?” Runeflinger asked.
The Striped Mage gave him a hard stare. “It’s a crystal ball, not an encyclopedia. This audience is ended.”
Harvester 11, 622 CY
Reed Underbough, Percy, Runeflinger, Bowie Laughingbottle, and Leif Thunderbeard returned to their old stomping grounds with their henchmen, Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio, Arlin Fadagoria, Guardia, and Gremlar Blackstone in tow. Actually, while everyone else walked, the hobbits Reed and Ambrosio were riding armored dire wolves, an extravagant purchase Reed had made since they all last adventured together.
Very little of the terrain surrounding the castle had ever been explored. The closest ruins to the castle were the two outposts at the foot of the drawbridge - two small, squat towers that had housed orcs long ago and been abandoned ever since. Vask was not to be found there.
The drawbridge of the castle was up and Reed spoke the magic command word to lower it. The courtyard looked deserted, as usual. Of course, they were not expecting to find Vask inside, so they stayed out.
They had previously spent some time north of the castle, following the creek through the woods, and that was where they had found the wraith that had been Father Langdon. Was there some property to the creek that drew their old teammates to it? Runeflinger thought it was worth investigating. They spent a few hours searching the woods, but turned up no ruins in that direction.
Returning to the castle, Reed decided to hop up onto the curtain wall and circle its perimeter, for a better view. Everyone else followed on the far side of the moat, with Reed calling down to them if he saw anything. As they went counter-clockwise around the castle, Reed heard some rocks falling somewhere inside the castle grounds as he was crossing the west side of the curtain wall. Although wary, he continued.
At the castle’s southwest corner, Reed spotted something about a mile to the southwest that no one in the Company had ever seen before - what looked like an old ruined fort on top of a hill. Could that be where Vask was? It was decided that a mile away was not a ruin near the castle, so they moved on.
Continuing east along the south side of the castle, they spotted something else of which most of them were unaware - there were the ruins of what looked like a village at the foot of the castle’s hill, almost touching its southeast corner (Haruspex Niv had talked several times about a well at this location that supposedly led deep into the dungeons, but few still-living members of the Company had ever been there with him). Most of the village was nothing more than stone foundations spread out for a half-mile, but there were some intact walls and a few mostly intact structures (only the ones made of stone; the wood-timbered structures were all rotted away). And it was now that Muelara’s already-cast Locate Object spell detected Vask’s magic javelin. Now they were able to head straight towards him, where Vask appeared to be lurking in the shade of a half-intact roof. But then Vask rose up from under some rocks near Runeflinger and attacked with surprise! Only Runeflinger’s magic armor spared him from harm. And despite the benefit of a surprise attack, Vask did not last any longer against the Company than their other undead fallen teammates had. Vask, though, came with quite a windfall - as the wraith disintegrated into a handful of dust, Vask’s magic battle axe, javelin, helmet, and two potions fell to the ground.
That afternoon they spent back in the Village of Hawfair Green, burying Vask’s ashes next to the others and singing his praises. That evening, they were dividing up his magic items, with Leif getting the axe, Arlin the javelin, and Runeflinger the helmet.
Harvester 12, 622 CY
Having had a little taste of the castle again, the Company was ready to go back today. The third dungeon level beckoned. More specifically, the unopenable doors on the third level beckoned, and a Knock spell or two might reveal hidden treasure.
The easiest route to the third dungeon level remained the black dragon’s lair, which had remained empty. The first area in the dungeon proper was the gnoll lair, the one that had an unopenable cell door, behind which they saw an ivory box the size of a small crate. Some of them had been excited about this since the last expedition down here when it was discovered, and Bowie reminded everyone of the “box prophecy” they were told involved the White Oak Company. Runeflinger reminded everyone that if it was a magical door, the spell would only open one door, but if it was mechanically locked, the spell would open many in this area.
Mechanisms within this vault-like cell door slid back and it opened, as did the other three doors in the room. All of the others led to places they had already been, so they focused on just going behind the cell door and approaching the ivory box. Just not too closely. Reed and Ambrosio checked it for traps and found none. Just to be extra careful, they took the time to tie rope to the lid, pound an iron spike into the wall, loop the rope over the spike, and then pull down to raise the lid up from a distance (Percy was consulted, always being good at this kind of engineering). It worked and…nothing happened. Cautiously approaching the open box, Reed found - dust. It was full of dust. Though, not just any dust, but colored dust, some of it sparkly. There were, in fact, four different colors of dust in the box.
Some debate followed about what to do. Did they dare carry the box with them? What would happen if magical dust mixed? It was decided to carefully remove all the sand from each color and place them in four separate sacks. And then Leif still had to carry the empty box in front of him.
They headed south from there to another pair of doors they had decided to skip going through last time. Then, Muelara had sensed thoughts that seemed to be coming from intelligent undead behind the double doors. This time they felt confident they could handle them. Leif sat down the box and pushed open the stuck doors. It turned out to be an unusually large room, considering the only decoration was a chest chained to the back wall of the room. But guarding it were three wraiths!
Percy was quick with the turning and wraiths were no challenge for a bishop to turn. Once they were in the corner of the room, Reed and Percy decided to combine two previously successful techniques. Percy would hold them at bay while everyone softened them up with missile fire and then, when that ended the turning, Muelara would cast Protection from Evil on herself in the doorway so none of them could get past her, and all the missile-flingers would rush to get behind her in the corridor. Runeflinger cast Invisibility on himself (his previously successful technique). The missile fire, fired from nearly everyone standing in a half-circle behind them, weakened all the wraiths, but did not destroy any of them. Everyone fled back past Muelara as she started casting the spell - but there was one problem with this plan: the wraiths moved faster! So they also wound up on the hallway side of the Protection from Evil, and continued attacking the Company. Although initially terrified, the Company quickly realized they could run back into the room, now trapping the wraiths in the hallway, the opposite of how they originally planned it. But this revision of the plan did not come without penalties -- Reed was energy drained, and Guardia and Reed’s dire wolf mount were killed outright by the wraiths.
Once safely ensconced in the room, missile fire recommenced at the wraiths and finished them off, but not before Muelara received a nasty arrow in the back, accidentally, from Leif.
Now they could finally address the chained chest in the room, but Reed found it was trapped. Working together, the Companions figured out how to circumvent triggering the trap and got the lid open and found - the chest was completely empty.
Disappointed, but ready to move on, they went back out into the long north-south hallway and took the side door west that led to the dwarves’ break room on this floor. It was once more full of dwarves, helping themselves to what looked like ale from a barrel, and they impatiently tolerated the Company cutting through their room.
To the west, Reed led them to a small chapel they had skipped before that had an ogre and two bugbears trying to worship a statue of Erythnul, god of monsters. One Sleep spell later, the Companions were picking up gold pieces off of each of them, plus a few gems.
Moving further west again, Reed led them to the pair of unopenable doors and the remaining Knock spell was cast. The spell not only opened both doors, but ten doors linking eight 10’ x 10’ empty rooms. The Companions moved through each room, looking for secret doors, but found nothing.
Around the corner to the south, Reed knew of another door that had previously resisted opening - but this door was still not open, despite having been in spell range. They marked this as something to come back to next time.
Further south and around another corner to the east was the last long east-west hall Reed had mapped last time. They had tried no doors at the far end last time. Would they be open now? No…but then it turned out they had already strayed out of range. Muelara, using her Helm of Telepathy now instead of ESP spells, detected monster thoughts from behind the south door, but the Company’s interest turned to the north door when, from outside it, they all heard a loud, mocking laugh, followed by a man’s voice booming “I know a secret…!” in the Common Tongue. Intrigued, everyone urged Leif to bash open the door.
Behind it was a short parallel corridor that turned south up ahead, but only after passing under a series of murder holes in the ceiling. There were glimpses of movement above the murder holes. Charm Person was cast up through the holes, trying to target what was moving, but it did not work when their hiding opponent was ordered to come down. Reed watched the holes, entranced, noticing that whatever was up there was repeating the same movements.
The solution seemed obvious to Reed - the monsters above were serving as a distraction so the monsters to the south could sneak attack them, or were being reinforced now by the monsters above. So he turned everybody around and they headed through the door to the south - where gnolls were waiting to ambush them with halberd and battle axes. But there were only four gnolls and the Company made short work of them. The gnolls had some gold, but not a lot, and this whole expedition into the dungeon was turning out to be rather cash-pour, other than the ivory box.
Pressing on (and giving up on the monsters above the murder holes), the Company returned north and continued north, finding themselves at a large chamber almost entirely filled with a pool of water. The pool could be seen to continue into a chamber to the south through a large archway (with no dry path through). Floating in the middle of the pool was a giant sculpture, seemingly made of yellow rubber, and abstractly depicting a chicken or duck.
Runeflinger, still invisible, advised everyone leave, convinced this was a giant’s bathtub. Reed reminded Ambrosio that he had the Ring of Water Walking Reed had given his hench-hobbit. Ambrosio took off the ring and asked if anyone wanted to borrow it. Leif volunteered; he walked out onto the water while wearing the ring and disappeared through the archway.
Leif saw that the chamber was more of a natural cavern with dry shore to the west and southeast. On the southeast beach was a chest surrounded by three dead bodies. Wary, Leif fired an arrow into one and then all three of them silently clambered to their feet. He could see their ashen features and glowing red eyes from here. They stepped into the water and disappeared from view.
When Leif ran back to the others, Percy recognized the description as wights and he calmly borrowed the ring next. He went into the chamber to the south and was ready to turn the wights, but he saw no sign of them - until he spotted them floating up to attack him from underneath! He turned them in time, but since he was directly above them, all he could do was make them turn downwards and try to scratch their way through the cavern floor 15’ underwater. He shouted back to the others that he was basically at an impasse with the wights and, with both sides shouting back and forth to each other, they came up with a plan. It would not involve the floating statue -- Reed wanted nothing else to do with statues, remembering the amber golem! Reed and Ambrosio climbed the walls of the chamber and cavern until they reached the unprotected shore. They found no traps on the chest, and found it was full of gold! They emptied the contents into every sack they had left, carried them across to the rest of the Company, and then went back and refilled the sacks with the rest of the gold. By the time they returned, Percy joined them, gave the ring back, and they all fled with their loot before the turning would expire.
But they had not fled back the way they came. They went north, and Reed was overjoyed when they found the green dragon's lair -- the map fragments now matched up! Then they went further east. They came across a room full of bones and the reek of death, with dead gnolls pinned to the walls with big spikes. Muelara detected animals behind the east door and a monster behind the north door. They went for the monster - and found their first troll (the first troll any of these adventurers had seen -- Haruspex Niv and some others of the old guard had ran from a troll a long, long time ago)! The troll was not hard to beat, but it was hard to keep down. While they were searching its mound of coins (all silver pieces!), the troll they thought they had killed already started to get up and Percy had to smash it back down. Then, disturbed by how it wouldn’t stay dead, they lucked onto the idea of burning its remains.
Now, weighted down with considerable treasure, they finally backtracked the way they had come. The dwarves were in better spirits now in their break room, having thoroughly enjoyed the spirits they’d been drinking. They invited Lief to stay with them, but he went back with the Company instead.