Thursday, February 23, 2023

Company of the White Oak Campaign - Sessions 63-64

 [This was the first of three sessions guest-DMed by Kevin Barrett, who also wrote the write-up for session 63 (the only session of the entire campaign I had no involvement in).]

On this day something felt amiss in the region of Greyhawk, as the company gathered in their meeting room at the Sword & Spear Inn to find a note at the table place that was used by Reed Underbough. As the note was picked up and read aloud it said, “Fellow members of The Company of the White Oak. I need to take a temporary leave from adventuring and being a leading member of the company. I have serious wounds from the Apes in Gaxmoor and in addition have become the temporary head of my guild. Between that and the inn I cannot adventure right now. My hirelings are also taking on larger roles in their guilds as well and are not available. I wish you all safe journeys and you are always welcome to use the Inn as a base of gathering for the Company. While you consider what to do, I am offering an open tab at the pub for the Company this evening. Yours, Reed”

The company members moved to the pub portion of the Inn and enjoyed Reed’s hospitality that evening. Songs were sung, ale and wine were consumed, there was evening a challenge of strength between Leif, Niall and Old Man Herv. The next morning as Percy was praying and tending to his morning duties at the church Prospero appeared to him. 

“Lawful Percy, I come to you this morning with some important and disturbing news. The dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, the Temple of the Latter-Day Elder Gods, Temple of Elemental Evil, Standing Stones in the Menhir Hills, in fact, all the dungeons the Company have explored are sealed and I do not yet know if it is the work of the Adversary or some other evil. I implore you to continue leading the company in the absence of the half-ling Reed. As you know you must be prepared as the Company of the White Oak is the key to defeating the Adversary when that day comes.”

There was no discussion to be as Prospero vanished once he finished talking, leaving Percy to consider the impact of the news he was given.

Later that day Percy arrived at the Sword & Spear and saw some strangers from other lands. Old Man Herv approached him and said, “Percy, this stranger arrived at the Inn today and all he has been asking me is where they can find the Company of the White Oak. When I brought it to Reed’s attention, he said all company business is going to you in his absence”. The stranger approached Percy and asked for a moment to speak. Percy led him to a small dining and the two men sat at the table. 

“I am Bishop Bendix Moontrack of the city Libemen in the Kingdom of Ferrond. I have arrived in Greyhawk from Libemen as word has spread through the Kingdom of Ferrond about the tales of the Company of the White Oak”. My high Priest needs adventures of your skill and experience as we have an urgent matter that cannot be handled by the law. I request an audience with your membership, if possible, to present our case for why the Company should come to Libemen to help us. After which please discuss it amongst yourselves, and we will honor your decision”.

That evening the members of the Company of the White Oak gathered in their meeting room at the Inn. In attendance were Niall Brightflame, Runeflinger & Leif Thunderbeard with his henchman Gremlar Blackstone. Percy relayed to the group that there was a visitor from a neighboring country there to present the Company with an offer. "I will bring him in one to present their offer if there nothing further."

Into the room waleds an average height human male in religious apparel that was unfamiliar to anyone in the room. “As I mentioned to Percy earlier today my name is Bishop Bendix Moontrack of the Church of Heironeous in Libeman in the Kingdom of Ferrond. His Holiness Bardle Shanksworth the High Priest & Patriarch of our Church has sent me as there is a task that only can be accomplished by The Company of the White Oak. One week ago, one of our most sacred texts, the Book of Pentinence, disappeared from our Church. That day, alarms sounded when orcs began to move against the city. As we moved to defend the church a hobgoblin snuck in and killed Vicar Ferrante who was guarding the library’s sacred texts, with what we believe to be a magical blade, based on the wound to the Vicar. We know the orcs left the city in a northeast direction, however our country’s leadership and military does not want to risk open war with the land now controlled by the Horned Society there, outside our borders.  This is a text we must get back. His Holiness has tasked me recovering it and I am bringing this to your Company and the offer of 2000 gold pieces -- half if the job is accepted and the other half should the Book be returned unharmed.” 

After digesting the bishop’s words Niall added that this seemed a noble cause, while Runeflinger and Leif were somewhat sold hearing the hiring fee of 1000 gold. When Percy informed them of Prospero’s message the Company accepted the bishop’s offer.

On the following day as the Company gathered at the Inn, each with their new mount to make the trip faster, to meet the bishop and begin the trek to Libemen. There was Percy with an elf they had not met seated on a light horse. Percy turned to him and said please introduce yourself to the Company. Speaking in Elvish he said, “Greetings Company of the White Oak, my name is Zardoz. My acquaintance, Muelara Wynna, has said you may be looking for an elf to take her place in the company for the time being. Percy has told me you are heading on a quest, and I would very much like to accompany you.” Runeflinger and Niall were not going to argue adding another Elf to their ranks as Leif and Gremlar grumbled about being outnumbered by the Elves. Percy was to stay behind to tend to Church matters but knows where to meet the company or send other company members if needed.

The company ascended their new mounts and departed Greyhawk City on the Menhir Road heading for Libemen. With riding the horses it would shorten the trip to three days. The company took the route previous members travelled when they journeyed to Verbobonc and soon found themselves at the Zagyg’s bridge. As each member crossed the bridge only Runeflinger and the dwarves encountered anything on the other side. Runeflinger enjoyed some of the best fruit and wine he could ever remember tasting. Leif and Gremlar found two mugs of ale which they did not hesitate to drink. After consumption they felt a rumbling in their stomachs followed by the loudest farts the Elves and Bishop have ever heard. Leif and Gremlar had a roaring laugh about it.

That night the Company set up camp between the village of Harrowstone and Zagyg’s Bridge. As they looked for a suitable campsite, they saw the edge of the Gnarly Forest to the southwest and hills with caves in a wooded area to the northeast. Niall advised the party to move to the southwest as he did not get a good feeling about the caves in the distance. Later that night, during Niall’s watch he noticed a campfire in the distance which was a campsite for a party of brigands. Two of the brigands began stumbling toward the Company’s campsite prompting Niall to attempt distracting them by throwing a stick into the distance. When they signaled to the rest of their party that there was something out here Niall woke Runeflinger. As the brigands gathered closer to the Elves they were dropped with a sleep spell from Runeflinger. Niall advanced to their campsite to find 90GP as Runeflinger was tying the brigands to a tree and binding their hands. In the morning they woke to find themselves 90GP poorer and asking the company to be set free. Once they convinced the Company they were of no harm Niall let them loose and they quickly moved in the opposite direction of the Company.

Over the next two days travel proceeded without incident when the destination of the City of Libemen was reached. As the Bishop guided them to the Church grounds they encountered a figure with his back turned. The Bishop proclaimed, “Brother, I have succeeded and present the Company of the White Oak”. The brother turned and said, “I don’t recognize any of these as the Company of the White Oak. Who are they?” The brother revealed himself as Brother Ulrich the Maimed, former member of the White Oak. Niall was able to explain that the members he knew had either stepped away for a time, Percy, Niv & Reed or had perished at the hand of a Necromancer, John, Langdon, & Vask. Hearing how the company was able to subdue the wraths of the most powerful members on the company during Ulrich’s time made him change his opinion quickly. Brother Ulrich took the opportunity to provide the company with intelligence about where the Book was being kept, how to get there and what their scouts had noticed. The dwarves just wanted to be pointed in the direction of the fight and Zardoz while quiet was very observant of his new surroundings, always wanting to learn as much as he can.

The course was set for Fort Bogmuck with Runeflinger, who was ecstatic that everyone in the party could understand his Elvish, suggesting an approach at daytime as Orcs would not be above ground at that time. As the party reached the Fort, Runeflinger cast invisibility while the other four members hid in a nearby tree line. The invisible elf then scouted around the perimeter of the Fort looking for entrances or weaknesses in the wall. As he came around the southeast corner, he began getting a sensation there was a secret door nearby. Runeflinger could not find the exact location, so he marked the general area with oil and returned to the party. Once he revealed his findings the entire party moved to the marked area but even three Elves could not locate the secret door. They marked a tree in the area and proceeded back to the gate. They were able to enter the fort without alerting anyone and Runeflinger scouted the guard towers on either side of the gate. In the east tower he found two sleeping bandit guards.

Runeflinger signaled to Niall and took the guards weapons. Niall was able to gain surprise and easily dispatch of the guards.

As the company moved clockwise around the path of the fort they noticed three statues in the middle of the Fort, an Orc, Bandit and Hobgoblin. They arrived at the first building and Leif had no issue opening the door. Nothing of consequence was in this building except for an opening in the floor that led to a sloping passageway under the Fort. The company followed this passage, with Runeflinger still scouting ahead, to find an Underground Pub. The pub was occupied by three bandits and four orcs but as they drank their respective drinks Zardoz cast a sleep spell from just outside the room and all seven adversaries were asleep. Niall checked the door on the other side of the room as Leif took the coins from the box on the bar. After the enemies were dispatched, the company arrived at an octagon shaped room with an octagon shaped pit in the center. As Runeflinger scouted counterclockwise to the eastern side of the room he triggered a trap door that dropped him into the pit. Niall dove in after him and Lief joined him while Gremlar spiked the trap door open. As Runeflinger entered the pit two gates began to open and nine giant rats entered from one gate and four giant snakes from the other.

Runeflinger cast sleep losing his invisibility but dropping most of the giant animals. At that point it was no issue for Niall and Leif to do away with the remaining snakes.

The company then moved to the east door finding another hallway that they began to explore. As they proceeded down the hallway Zardoz sensed a secret door nearby and was able to find it by pushing a discolored stone revealing a north-south hallway with three levers on the east wall. Zardoz and Leif worked together to find a secret door that was at the north end of the hallway opened by one of the levers, but which one? The rest of the company proceeded back into the main hall while Leif pulled the leftmost lever triggering a beam that swung down from the ceiling. Good thing Leif is a dwarf as the beam swung right over his head bringing him no harm. He then pulled the middle lever and the secret door opened onto a room with an ornately carved wooden casket in the center and nothing else. The Elves seemed cautious as they thought any number of different undead could be resting in it, but Zardoz disagreed. He had noticed it looked very similar, if not the same, as a casket he observed at the church before they left. Niall and the Dwarves backed up with silver arrows at the ready while Runeflinger began to cautiously open the casket. When he did, he found…nothing. Just satin lining and a satin pillow were inside the casket, no undead to combat this time. Thinking there was value in the casket but not wanting to carry it around they moved it back to the entrance of the tunnel and proceeded back into the stronghold.

Niall was skeptical of the direction they were taking and suggested trying the south door of the arena instead of continuing east. Once again Leif had no issue opening the doors of the arena and south hallway leading to a foyer. After checking the two other doors in the foyer they had Leif open the west door to find a study occupied by the Orc Commander and Bandit Chief, coincidently matching two of the statues in the courtyard above. Gremlar fired an arrow striking the Bandit Chief and Leif stabbed him with his spear before he could even attack. The Bandit Chief barely swung his axe before Gremlar landed the fatal blow with his gifted Magic Battle-axe from Leif. Niall was holding his own with the Orc Commander before Runeflinger was seriously wounded from the Orcs flaming sword. With that Niall struck again with his sickle when Leif saw an opening and caved in the Orc Commanders side with a rather vicious punch causing him to drop like jelly. As the company searched the room Leif noticed something odd about the swords mounted on the south wall of the study. He was able to deduce one was the mechanism to open a door leading to a secret room of the study. In this room was the very book the company had been hired to return, the Book of Penitence. Considering the health of Runeflinger and no cleric in the party to heal him, the company left with their treasure and returned to Libemen.

Once they arrived at the church Brother Ulrich was impressed with the “new” company members and shocked to see they retrieved one of the Caskets of Ferrond. Ulrich explained how a recently deceased body could be put in the casket and Blessed by a cleric and then brought back to life if a resurrection spell was cast within 9 days of death. The company accepted the church’s offer of 10,000GP for return of the casket. Niall was able to see the Orc Commander’s sword had no ill effect to him and claimed it. The party rested knowing there was still the matter of the Hobgoblin thief/assassin to deal with.

Sunnsebb 4, 612 CY
The Kingdom of Ferrond
The City of Libeman

The others were content to enjoy the spoils from their last expedition in the cities of Ferrond, but Niall Brightflame and Runeflinger wanted the rewards promised for the prisoners supposedly held in Fort Bogmuck. Two elves alone did not stand much of a chance…but three? Eirenden arrived in Libeman, having heard of the company’s mission there, and wanted in.

They were going to try something new; stealth instead of brute force. They would not need a cleric if they avoided combat. But there was one thing they were lacking: a thief. Reed Underbough had taught them that thieves were lucky. But where to find a thief, without returning to Greyhawk? 

The opportunity presented itself when a grubby-looking thief tried to pick Niall’s pocket. The thief was dragged off for an interrogation. The thief was named Muggby and, while he acted strangely, this was surely a trick to make the elves underestimate him. When Mugby learned of their interest in Fort Bogmuck he claimed to have useful information about the place, which clinched his membership. 

The elves already knew of the entrance to the tunnel under the fort from last time, so Mugby was not needed much as they followed the sloping tunnel north and then northeast. They came to a door, and behind it was a small room that served as a sentry outpost with four orc guards. This was no challenge; Niall or Eirenden alone could have dispatched them. One orc was left alive and interrogated, from whom they learned that the prisoners they sought were to the north. 

Luckily, a corridor ran north from that room. There were side doors to the west that Niall wanted to explore, but Mugby said his flea, Aloysius, told him they should keep going north, and the others agreed. There were two side corridors to the west after that, and the second was lined with doors, as if it held cells. But because they had been told to go north they decided to keep going and see how far north led. It seemed like the corridor soon after the last side passage, but they found a secret door and could continue north even more!

They ignored another side door to the west, but when the corridor finally turned west they took the first door to the north. Here was a torture chamber with a human and an orc waiting for victims. What they got instead was, in the orc’s case, dead, and in the human’s case, charmed. Their new best friend told them that the duke’s son had been moved to Shugub’s Lair, somewhere to the north, but they were on the right track to find any remaining prisoners to the west. Only, there were a lot of hobgoblins between them and the prisoners. The torturer was not kidding - the very next room was wall-to-wall hobgoblins! Sleep spells evened the odds to the point where the fighting elves could easily mop up the rest, and both the charmed torturer joined in the fight to protect his new friend, and Mugby jumped in to help just as the last hobgoblins, including their cutpurse leader that had tried to backstab one of them, were making their final stand. The leader had a pouch of gold and a very nice-looking dagger, either valuable or magical..

The four companions (and their charmed slave) continued west, coming to a T-intersection where they had to choose north or south. Heading north, they found an empty room, and then a chamber with a single statue in it. They spent a lot of time examining the statue, but could find nothing valuable - or dangerous - about it. 

Continuing west from there, they inexplicably skipped a door to the north and continued on to a hexagonal chamber with a pit at its center. A dead end passage headed north from it, and to the south were offices, where they found gems, and a map showing the route to Shugub's lair and the duke’s son!

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Company of the White Oak Campaign - Sessions 61-62

Patchwall 13-16, 622 CY
Castle Greyhawk

The plan had been to wait at least four days, until Percy had healed everyone back to normal, and then head straight back to dungeon level 3 and try to retrieve the Azure Enchantress’ spellbooks before the Greyhawk Construction Company found them. 

That plan was not working for Runeflinger and Niall Brightflame. Despite the fact that the Chapel of Boccob had four floors, and nice suites on the upper levels, being cooped up there for four days was too much for them. Wanderlust overtook them and they left the castle. Nor did they leave alone; the Company’s newest recruit, Aerik Fenn, had his first serious brush with death and did not like it. He would return to the city and think hard about if the risks were worth this path to power. 

On the plus side, this made healing everyone take less time. 

During the days of convalescence, they observed many times the giant wasps that had been breeding undisturbed on the upper level of the neighboring abandoned shrine. They could even hear the wasps digging through the neighboring wall!

They also received five visitors. One was Eirenden, who had heard the Company had left for Castle Greyhawk and finally caught up to them. The other four arrived separately as their own group. They were novice adventurers, come to test their mettle against the infamous Castle Greyhawk, One of them, Mialea, was an exotic half-elf magic-user, who made Eirenden’s heart race, despite her naivete, planning to head into the dungeon wearing a revealing elven dress. 

The three adventurers, Reed, Percy, and Eirenden, had a private discussion about what to do about these novices. Reed wanted to recruit them to serve as meat shields. Eirenden wanted to lead them to somewhere in the dungeon they could prove useful, or at least be profitable for them. Percy saw this as a chance for them to prove themselves and advocated for leaving them alone. Percy won out and the four descended into the dungeon. 

Later that same day, three of them - minus Mialea - came running out of the dungeon, all badly injured, and raving like lunatics about the giant weasels. “Giant weasels everywhere!” They fled the castle. 

The Companions also had a prisoner all this time, the thaumaturgist who was going to trade the spellbooks for his freedom. The man’s, whose name turned out to be Wefler, would be brought down with them, hands tied behind his back, and led with Reed’s sword pointing at his back.

Patchwall 17, 622 CY
Castle Greyhawk

The three party members, Reed, Percy, and Eirenden, were accompanied by their henchmen, Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio, Arlin Fadagoria, and Patroneous, so while their numbers were lower than normal, it was still a formidable force. They crossed to the entrance to the tall tower adjoining the keep and took the stairs that descended into the dungeon. This put them close to the Grand Central Staircase that was always guarded by elves. Sure enough, there were five elf sentries here this time. Reed saw them as a source of information about the dungeon and asked about the giant weasels. The weasels had broke out of their rooms and been running amok in the dungeon corridors in small groups, but the elves were not overly concerned about them.

Eirenden saw the elves as the source of more important information. Though he engaged them in small talk for about 20 minutes, he steered the conversation towards what motive the elves had for staying down here. The elves - Eirenden learned all their names (Aindon, Aradhel, Eldadan, Gardorus, and Nesnna) - claimed to have altruistic motives; they remembered when the still-human Zagig was lord of this castle and they wanted to keep it safe and secure in case he someday chose to return (the first anyone had heard of this theory!). Eirenden also wanted to know why these elves were able to see in the dark, and he could not. They were elves from the north, who lived underground, and so were accustomed to darkness. 

Having kept the Company waiting long enough, Eirenden resumed his place in the marching order and, guided by Percy’s Continual Light spell, they descended down…down…until they reached the third floor landing and stopped. 

Reed unfurled his map, which was wider than he was. He showed everyone how, if they went south, then east, and then back north, that would be the quickest route back to the Enchantress’ lair. Wefler confirmed this to be true. Reed’s concern, though, was that this route passed through the heavily-trapped checkerboard chamber. No new traps got them this time, though, and they made their way back north through familiar rooms to the door of the Enchantress’ lair. 

Muelara’s Helm of Telepathy detected sentient thoughts inside, though she did not think there were very many. Reed and Percy knew the Enchantress had orcs working for her and they wanted to know from Wefler how many she had left. It sounded like there couldn’t be more than 20 orcs left, all of which could have fit into the next room. Ambrosio listened at the door and heard orcs arguing. 

It seemed they were having a debate over whether they should wait for the Enchantress to return, or appoint one of the orcs as leader. The orc who wanted to be leader was being challenged, though, for not possessing the “Well-Traveled Man.” The Companions quickly figured out this was the doll they had taken from the Enchantress. 

Despite having been present for the deaths of two dragons, Reed was curiously hesitant to go in and face up to 20 orcs, but Percy got impatient and pushed Eirenden into opening the door. Muelara started casting Sleep at the same time. Inside, the summoning circle on the floor was gone. There were rugs and pallets on the floor, and the room seemed to now be the barracks for 11 orcs. One Sleep spell later, there were no awake orcs. After much throat slitting, there were no live orcs. They had little treasure other than the armor on their backs, which all seemed to be new and human quality. One shield in particular appeared better made than normal and might go for 20 gold pieces. It was no great haul, but stripping all the armor off and wrapping it in the rugs would make it more moveable back to the surface. The real treasure would be if the spellbooks were still here. Wefler stood on the spot where the secret door was, or at least used to be.

It was still there. It opened onto a small niche with just three books in it - each a spell book. 

Muelara detected thoughts from the door to the south. Reed, spurred by their rapid success against the first batch of orcs, wanted to continue wiping them out. Percy, whose back was giving him trouble, wanted to get this treasure back to civilization so he could sleep in his own bed again. There were only three votes to determine what to do next, but with Eirenden indecisive, this turned into a power struggle between the two senior-most members of the Company. Percy was reminded of his recent conversations with the lammasu. It would fall to him to strengthen the presence of Law in the Company and cull out all Chaos from it. Was this an occasion for him to lay down the Law? The struggle became moot when Eirenden finally sided with Percy, and they started heading south, to reach the black dragon lair. 

En route, some creatures were in the giant rat lair, and ran when they saw Percy’s light. The thieves snuck closer and hid down a side corridor, while everyone else backed off, and Percy called out to them to lure them back. And it worked -- it was four lizard men, armed with javelins. No one was worried, because they had fought lizard men before and had little trouble -- but these lizard men were great shots and hit Percy with two javelins (now he hurt in front and back)! The Companions could give better than they got, though, and they dropped two lizard men very quickly. The two remaining ones fled south. The thieves gave chase, with only Reed having a chance at catching up thanks to his magic leaping boots. The lizard men turned west, hiding behind the old ogre’s chapel, but Reed held back and waited for everyone else to catch up to him. 

Once reunited, they quickly decided to let the lizard men go and get out of there. They backtracked, picked up their rug-wrapped loot, and went in past the dwarves in the dwarven break room and bothered five of them loitering there. Past that, they had no difficulty exiting the dungeon. In fact, they just kept right on going and headed all the way back to Hawfair Green.

Patchwall 18, 622 CY
City of Greyhawk

Percy was taking the spellbooks back to Greyhawk City for safekeeping, and to have his magical necklace of prayer beads examined.

Reed and Eirenden, as well as the rest of their entourage, had come back to Greyhawk with him but within hours were already bored and looking for a fresh new adventure. But where? Should they go back to the Lost City of Gaxmoor? 

They looked into the matter, checking with Eirenden’s clan to see what they knew of the missing elf, Elysande. Since they last checked on her, she had sent a letter from Gaxmoor, explaining that humans and elves, working in tandem, were slowly taking back the city. The letter had few helpful details and they would have to go back to Gaxmoor themselves to learn more.

Eirenden was also curious about the Ruins of Lord Robilar’s Castle, but Reed had no interest in going back and fighting orcs. 

Lastly, there were some locations that were easy to reach at Castle Greyhawk that remained unexplored. One was the fourth floor of the abandoned chapel, the one overrun with giant wasps. The other was the tower adjoining the keep, that had never been explored above the ground floor. Castle Greyhawk won..

Patchwall 19, 622 CY
Castle Greyhawk

Reed and Eirenden went with just their party of henchmen back to Castle Greyhawk, having re-hired Brother Vincent to cover for their lack of clerical aid without Percy. Several giant wasps were flitting in and out of the upper windows of the abandoned shrine, as if trying to lure them in. The tiny Company went up floor by floor, finding it unchanged all these months since Reed was last here. Like before, the stairs to the fourth floor had completely crumbled, leaving nothing but holes in the ceiling to allow access to the giant wasp floor above. This was an easy climb for the two thieves, Reed and Ambrosio. Soon they were surrounded by giant wasps. Muelara had to drop two Sleep spells up there to thin out the wasps, but there were still some left to kill. The thieves were getting stung a lot, particularly Reed, but they were sturdy hobbits and were able to resist all that poison. Soon the last giant wasp was dead. Eirenden had been ready to shoot any with his bow from below, but the opportunity had not presented itself. 

With the floor cleared, the thieves lowered rope and everyone came up to explore. There was not much to explore, and not many places to walk safely, but the thieves were able to climb the walls to reach a half-buried chest. It was neither trapped nor locked, and contained 200 electrum pieces - small rewards for such seasoned adventurers.

Down below on the third floor was a door that led out onto the top of the wall that bridged the distance between the chapel and the tower. This processional led straight across to a blank wall in the side of the tower - but secret doors were a minor inconvenience to a Company with more than one elf in it. Indeed, they spent longer debating why one would build a secret door in such an obvious place than they had spent looking for it. 

Inside was a bedroom that was inhabited by four elves. The elves were not overly surprised by the intrusion; indeed, one of them was Garadlius, an elf they had encountered before at the Grand Central Staircase. The elves explained that they held the first three levels of the tower, but the upper levels were still dangerous, and gargoyles controlled the observatory. Reed and Eirenden were happy to take on gargoyles, but wanted a little insurance, so Reed suggested teaming up with the elves. The elves were fine with this, but wanted equal shares of any treasure. All parties agreed. Eirenden wanted additional information, though. He had not been satisfied with the elves’ answers in the dungeon. Why were they really here? Who did they work for? These elves responded differently - that Eneever Zig had tasked them with holding the tower. Reed explained, for Eirenden’s benefit, that Zig was a dangerous wizard, but had helped them once too.

Up the tower’s spiral stairs they went, skipping the fourth floor entirely, and exiting onto the fifth floor. Here was a mostly empty room with a fireplace, but through a west door was a study that contained a skeletal snake that attacked them, but was easily defeated. There was a shelf of valuable-looking books, all with a religious bent, and a velvet-lined divan that appeared like it might be valuable. All of these were coming with them, on the way back down. The elves warned them of a trapped door to the south that created a magical burst of bright light upon being opened, but since everyone was warned, no one was blinded by it.

Moving up the stairs again, they found the stairs topped out at the observatory, and sure enough there were four gargoyles just sleeping on a giant astrolabe and sextant, both made of brass. Muelara let loose a Lightning Bolt, that rebounded through two gargoyles, roasting them on the spot - and slagging the astrolabe in the process. A third gargoyle was felled with missile weapons. The last one tried desperately to fly up the chimney and escape, but Eirenden crushed it into the fireplace wall with his magic shield and broke its neck. The gargoyles had no treasure, so they explored more of the sixth and final floor. 

The next room to the east looked like some kind of lounge. When they entered, a quill started writing in a book at a table. On the page read “The Master of the Tower is not home. Who is visiting?” Eirenden wanted to know who the Master of the Tower was, it was bothering him that the Master’s name was nowhere in the Tower. Garadlus pointed out that this tower was a Chapel to Celestian, god of the stars, and that “Master of the Tower” might be a title bestowed to rotating high priests of that deity. 

They decided to ignore this room and moved on to a door to the south. Behind it was a bedroom with a big stained glass window (though the tower had no windows visible from outside). Raiding a high priest’s bedroom didn’t seem like a good idea to anyone, even Reed - so they decided to leave with the treasure they had. The books turned out to be the most valuable prize of this expedition.

Ready’reat 11, 622 CY
City of Greyhawk

After a lengthy absence, Norfolk had returned. The medium had heard that the Company of the White Oak was looking to form a second group of adventurers who did not require experience to explore the rest of the first level of the Castle Greyhawk dungeons, and had come back with his own small party, consisting of himself, Zena, a human female veteran, Slim Pickens, a hobbit male apprentice thief, and Minimus, a hobbit male veteran.

Minimus, however, had his own history with the Company, for he had learned to fight beside Maximus, the warrior who had died with so many others at the hands of the Necromancer on level 3 of the dungeon. Minimus wished to push deeper in the dungeon and try to find Maximus’ remains. The senior members of the Company were impressed by this pluckiness, and impulsively offered full membership to all three of them on the spot.

The senior members present that day were Reed Underbough, Percy, Eirenden, Runeflinger, and Lief Thunderbeard. But as impressed as they were with pluckiness, Castle Greyhawk itself was not much on their mind. An expedition to return to the Lost City of the Elders, now known to be Gaxmoor, was in the planning. There was the missing elf Elysande to be found, and her last letter to her clan had expressed that men and elves had retaken part of the city. Did that mean the rest would be easy pickings? They were anxious to find out. It also seemed like a safer expedition to take fresh blood on than a deeper foray into the castle dungeons. And so it was decided - they would all journey to Gaxmoor.

Ready’reat 12, 622 CY
Cairn Hills

The now nine-member strong Company headed out, accompanied by their henchmen, Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio, Arlin Fadagoria, and Gremlar Blackstone.

This was the second unseasonably cold Ready’reat in a row, with the temperature below freezing, and snow began to fall soon after they set out. Only their determination to make this journey before the weather turned even worse kept them going. On the plus side, this made the journey safer, for neither animal nor monster seemed to wish to be out in this weather, and they encountered nothing but birds all day. This was only disappointing for Eirenden, who had wished once more to see the gigantic, red-scaled lizard he had once observed in these very hills. 

The snow presented an extra challenge to navigation, for landmarks were crucial for staying on the path to Gaxmoor and as snow and ice caked onto everything it tended to change their appearance. The hobbits found themselves tasked quite often with scurrying up trees and looking ahead (though Minimus, not as good a climber as the thieves, demurred).  Eventually they found their way to the lost city and its hidden entrance.

The new people were astonished by the sight of the place, particularly the oliphant skulls mounted on the courtyard pillars. There was discussion about if they were valuable and the senior members realized they had never even tried going up there and see if the tusks were real ivory. The thieves were soon atop the pillars, but at the same time the Companions started splitting up, with some of them moving to recover magic berries from the bushes by the stream. To their horror, there did not seem to be any berries on the bushes to recover, but while they searched, they heard a loud splash in the stream. 

Expecting trouble, the thieves were summoned to join them and everyone watched the water for the inevitable attack -- which came, but it was when the troll jumped out of the tree at them. A long time ago, a lone troll was a threat that sent the Company of the White Oak running scared, but now a troll did not last too long, and the senior members knew how to permanently kill a troll from fighting one a few months’ back under Castle Greyhawk.

Now smoke could be seen coming from the ruins on the southwest corner of the courtyard, so the Companions investigated there next. Elven sentries stood outside one building that was well on its way to being restored.  It was being made into an inn -- and its proprietor was the missing Elysande! 

The reunion with Elysande went well, for the maiden had much news for them since they were last here. The humans of Gaxmoor had made large gains in taking back the north side of the Outer City from the giant’s monsters, and the elves had arrived as their first new trade partners. Why armed sentries were needed outside was underscored by the sentries spotting giant beetles approaching in the nearby ruins, and the Companions rushed out to dispatch them (the beetles, not the elven sentries).

What other threats were there for the elves? Elysande reported problems with undead sneaking out of the nearby graveyard. Now, the Company had never explored south of the courtyard, so they did not even know there was a graveyard that way until being told. This was discussed and the consensus was that they had little to fear from undead with Percy there, but mausoleums could hold lots of treasure. So they went there next to check it out.

The first mausoleum they decided to check out was the most unusual looking one. Indeed, it was crazy unusual, designed to look like a giant ape’s head, with the entrance in its mouth. The Companions’ confidence began to waver after the entrance turned out to be trapped - the upper fangs were part of a portcullis that came crashing down on one of the Companions - and they had not even thought to check it for traps. Inside was a room lined with eight statues of large apes -- which animated and attacked the intruders. The living ape statues proved to be extremely dangerous; one of them tore into Slim Pickens and bit his head off. For the first time since the red dragon, the Company had to run, leaving Slim’s body behind. 

They returned to the inn to rest and talked to Elysande about what they saw and she theorized they were some kind of magical tomb guardians.  The experience was demoralizing; the Company wanted nothing else to do with the graveyard, but they were not done with the lost city. They had better luck in the past raiding abandoned manor houses in the city proper, so they headed inside to find another. 

Inside the Outer City, they disturbed a nest of giant rats and exterminated them. Then they found a manor house crawling with over 30 goblins, with an ogre leader. After a protracted battle, the Companions came out victorious. The manor yielded an assortment of coinage, including platinum pieces, some gems, and the ogre’s two-handed sword was modestly valuable 

The Companions pulled back, unsure if it was worth continuing to explore the city.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Company of the White Oak Campaign - Sessions 59-60

Harvester 26, 622 CY
Castle Greyhawk

Reed Underbough, Percy, Niall Brightflame, Runeflinger, Bowie Laughingbottle, and their henchmen Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio, Halfdan, and Phodelo, were back for another delve into the Castle Greyhawk dungeons. They had come, as they had on so many visits, with a cart and mules, though the cart was new. They had left last time with so many coins they had not had enough sacks for it all, so they came this time with extra sacks and the cart to toss the bags into. Surely there were still plenty of spoils to be found on the third dungeon level…

The fastest route in was through the black dragon’s lair. Not wanting to leave the cart outside, they brought it in with them. The cart rattled noisily along the uneven tunnel floor, alerting the eight orcs who were camping in the dragon’s old lair - the eight orcs who would have posed little threat to the Company of the White Oak even without the Sleep spell that dramatically cut their numbers to three. One minute of combat reduced them to one seriously injured orc, begging for its life - but being an orc, it received no mercy…

Once they were in the dungeon proper, they made their way quickly through the dwarven break room, where five dwarves were engaged in song (something about dungeons deep and caverns old). They ignored the Companions until Reed tipped them five gold pieces, and then one asked where “that dwarf” (taken as a reference to Lief) was. Since Leif was not coming, the dwarf lost interest in talking to Reed and went back to harmonizing with the others.

Everyone knew their next destination, for they knew of a magically held door that they were unable to open last time, but this time they had two fresh Knock spells prepared. Runeflinger cast the first one and…the door opened onto what appeared to be a small, empty shrine to Boccob, with a statue of Boccob at the back. There was general agreement that this was disappointing, particularly for those who had been waiting two weeks to see the contents of this room. There was also some agreement that Father Langdon would have liked this room…but it held little value for the Companions here now. So they could get back into it again later if they had to, they spiked the door open. The noise attracted no monsters. 

They headed north from there after hearing a door slam from that direction. Reed assumed it was coming from the 10’ x 10’ interconnected rooms, due to the sheer number of doors there, but while having Muelara scan those cubicles telepathically, she turned up the monster hiding from them in the lone cubicle west of them. The Companions spent so long uncertain of what to do about it that the creature - whatever it was, fled through a door to the south and got away from them. 

Leaving that area, they cut through rooms already explored last time until they reached the room of bones and dead gnolls south of the troll lair. Muelara had picked up animal thoughts behind the door to the east last time, and her Helm of Telepathy picked up the same thoughts again. When Reed pressed his ear to the door, he heard scratching and squeaking. The source of this was guessed at, but confirmed when the door was bashed open, revealing a ruined hall where the wreckage of old furniture was thrown into a heap and covered in offal and waste down the center of the room. Climbing on the wreckage, as well as shelves on the walls, were over 20 rats, varying in size from slightly larger than normal to 14 giant ones. A second Sleep spell took out all the smaller ones, leaving a good number of giant rats still able to attack. In the melee that followed, Reed and Percy were both scratched up a bit, but in short order there were only four giant rats left, scurrying to the far corners of the room, where they were easily picked off at a distance with missile fire. Percy thought there might be treasure hidden in the wreckage, but he wasn’t sinking his hands into fresh rat feces to find it and no one else was volunteering.

From here they explored north, and two rooms later found themselves in a mostly-empty room with a red dragon head mounted in the northeast corner, almost facing the door in the north wall. This just screamed trap to them, so they sent Reed over to check it out. Sure enough, the head was fake, but so realistic that you had to get up close to tell, and the tongue was hinged so that any motion would move it like a trigger. After consulting with Percy, Reed tied the tongue to the lower jaw of the open mouth so the tongue would not move as he was cutting the head away from the wall. What they found was that they were pulling a big mask off of a steel framework, with some kind of nozzle concealed in the wall behind it. Bagging the mask as treasure, they moved on…

…around the corner to a smaller room with three levers. Reed detected no traps on the levers, but they still went to a lot of trouble pounding spikes into the walls so they could pull the levers down with rope from a distance (still nothing responded to all the racket; was this dungeon empty?). After lowering all three, they were disappointed when nothing happened, but when they went to try the north and west doors and found they could not be opened, they quickly put together that the levers had locked them. They still had not solved what the middle lever did, though…

Throwing the matching lever back up, they were able to open the north door and found it opened onto a large chamber with four statues and a natural cave ceiling. Shining their light up at the stalactites, they saw bat-like things flying about. When Reed moved into the chamber to examine the nearest statue, some of the flying things swooped down to attack him. Yet another Sleep spell sent them - plus more higher up - crashing to the floor, where they were quickly disposed of. There were still five more of these things, half-bird, half-bat, with long proboscises, but missile fire ended their threat, if they ever were one. 

A second door in the south wall of the chamber opened, seemingly on its own, until someone there unseen let out an expletive. Whoever it was seemed not to wish to stay, so Bowie started playing on his harp and charmed him into staying. This man, Ayers, was invisibly exploring the dungeon alone and looking for treasure. He had left and re-prepared new spells just to deal with these flying things so he could examine the statues, having came to the same conclusion Runeflinger had that they must be magical (since they were free of guano, unlike the floor). From Ayers they learned that the chamber to the south is the one that had the magically-trapped checkerboard floor. Reed was pleased his map matched up again. Runeflinger, painfully aware that this expedition had been exceedingly cash-poor so far, asked Ayers if he knew of any good treasure to recover from this level. Ayers said he knew of a lizard man and an orc lair to the north, and the orcs were said to be guarding good treasure, but he did not know how to get there from here.

The statues appeared to be of a cleric, a magic-user, a fighter, and a thief, in different corners of the chamber When touching the cleric, it recited a strange riddle in an unknown language. When touching the magic-user, it animated and pointed to the northwest corner, where the thief statue was. When Reed touched the thief, it animated and pointed at him. When they touched the fighter, it did nothing. It was all a riddle they could not solve, even with Ayers’ help. So they moved on again, this time with Ayers coming with them…

To the east and north was a long hall guarded by five zombies and a floating ball of light. Bishop Percy blasted the zombies into ash, but the mysterious ball of light had them perplexed. Phodelo reasoned it might be a will-o-wisp, said to be mischievous balls of light that lured people towards danger. Since it was neither attacking them, nor luring them anywhere, they all avoided it and moved to the next room…

Where there were four more zombies, and lots of normal-sized rats. One blast of holy radiance later, the Companions stepped over the zombie ash and the rats scattered. Reed spent a lot of time here fixing his map and trying to get it just right.

Next they followed a long corridor west and came to a room where a man in armor was kneeling before a chest as in prayer. The man said he was Bogomir the Adept, and his style of dress identified him as a Cuhberite. Ayers recognized Bogomir and Bogomir recognized Ayers’ voice. Bogomir had been trying to pray for this chest to open, since it would not open for him and he was intensely curious about its contents. If it was treasure, Ayers demanded an equal share, since he had joined their party. Percy grew impatient for how cautious the others were all being around this chest and he tried to fling it open, but the lid would not budge for him. It opened for Runeflinger, and he found 2,000 electrum pieces inside. Since other Companions now grumbled about Ayers getting a share, Bowie gave up his share for Ayers. The room was searched for secret doors, particularly in the ceiling, as the room had two ladders that seemed to lead up to nothing, but no secret doors (or secret trap doors) were found. Bogomir was invited to come with them, but he insisted it was his task, appointed by Cuthert himself, to wait to be found in the dungeon (in which he could no longer recall how long he had been), in case brave adventurers should need healing from him. 

The Companions were in the process of backtracking when, in the first zombie hall, Arlin spotted a secret door they had all missed before. This door led into a room with three brass, beautifully carved sarcoghagi, which were guarded by three zombies - but not for long, thanks to Percy. There was, true to form, much delay and indecision before opening the sarcophagi, but not this time for fear of traps. At first they feared stronger undead lurked inside, but Muelara detected no thoughts and intelligent undead projected thoughts - indeed, starkly powerful thoughts. Then they hesitated because grave robbing felt like a new low, until Bowie rationalized it for everyone by citing how they were told the items they need to stop the Adversary were hidden under Castle Greyhawk, and these could be where they were hidden. Niall pushed open the lids and they found well-dressed corpses, two wearing gold and amethyst amulets, and the third with a fancy quiver on his chest. Bowie recognized the sarcophagi as the work of a famous craftsman whose sarcophagi were so beautiful that the dead would not leave them to become undead. Phodelo recognized the quiver from the legend of a Quiver of Holding. The quiver had 12 arrows in it, but seemed like it could somehow hold many more. The quiver and the amulets were taken. Bowie put on one of the amulets and, while it made him look quite austentatious, it did nothing else. 

A door to the south appeared to connect up to a north-south passage the Company had passed many times just outside the dwarf break room. A door to the north led up a long corridor straight north, then west, to a door that resisted opening. A man and a woman were arguing loudly on the other side of the door. When Bowie tried to charm them with his harp music through the door, it failed and the man inside shouted for them to go away. But they did not go away, because Runeflinger still had his Knock spell ready. 

The room inside was a conjuration room with a silver summoning circle on the black basalt floor and a gargoyle belching opium smoke into the room. The man and the woman were accompanied by a bat-winged creature that looked like a short, ugly hobbit. The man and the woman were not arguing anymore, they were casting spells. A crossbow bolt from Reed disrupted the man’s spell. The woman was casting Charm Person, but Percy resisted it. Percy was casting Hold Person at the same time and neither the man nor the woman were able to resist his spell. The creature managed to bite Reed, but it was killed by a javelin throw from Arlin. 

A door to the south was open and two waves of orcs tried to come in and save the spellcasters, but the first wave was dropped by the Companions’ last Sleep spell, and the second wave tried and failed to get past the Sticks to Snakes spell Percy cast to block the doorway. The Companions were initially torn on whether to move in and wipe out the orcs, but they had expected to have enough treasure from this encounter to have made the expedition worthwhile. 

Runeflinger had, true to form, turned invisible first thing. Ayers and Runeflinger bonded over their shared favorite strategy. 

The man had been wearing nothing that appeared valuable. The woman was, and the creature’s dagger looked valuable. These things were taken - as were the man and the woman, who had already been tied up and were their prisoners. 

The Companions decided it was time to head back to the surface. En route south, they came across a wandering group of six human brigands - who fled at the sight of the Companions. When they passed through the dwarf break room there were only two dwarves left. The very dwarves who had acted not impressed when the Companions killed a dragon were surprised at their prisoners. “That’s the Azure Enchantress and Weerd the Warlock!” one of them exclaimed. “They’ve been down here for years!”

Patchwall 12, 622 CY 
City of Greyhawk

At long last, they seemed to be making progress. Two strange and unusual items - a chest of colored dust and a strange doll - shared a special destiny that seemed to have something to do with the special destiny of the Company of the White Oak. They had both been found on level 3 of Castle Greyhawk’s dungeons. Would they find more if they went back? It would not be right away that morning, for it was pouring rain outside in sheets - the most rain they had ever seen on a morning when they planned to launch an expedition. It was an ill omen that made them delay until the rain let up by afternoon. By then, they only had time to make the journey to the Village of Hawfair Green and camp out there. Patchwall 13, 622 CY 

Castle Greyhawk

Once more, the Companions Reed Underbough, Percy, Niall Brightflame, Runeflinger, and Aerik Fenn, along with their henchmen Muelara Wynna, Ambrosio (who left his dire wolf mount at home), Arlin Fadagoria, and Halfdan, and two mules (pulling a cart) circled around Castle Greyhawk and came around to the black dragon’s entrance. Its lair was unoccupied again, allowing them fast travel into the dungeon proper (though the cart had to be left behind in the entry tunnel). They made straight for the dwarven breakroom and found four dwarves here today. Reed paid them a toll, as he tried to win them over through positive reinforcement, but they remained unimpressed and disappointed that the fellow dwarf Leif Thunderbeard was not with them this time. They headed north up a corridor they had not explored before and found it led to a new room, a coffin maker’s workshop, that was south of the giant rats’ abandoned workshop. Then they filled in a gap in their map north of the troll lair and found a locked door. Reed wanted to know if the mystery lever in the lever room unlocked this door, but when it was checked, it did not. Reed’s lockpicks easily did the trick anyway, and they found a small furnished bedroom on the other side. Runeflinger went to explore the bed and, moving the blanket - found it animated and leapt for his head! It was not a living thing, but a magic blanket that clung to his face as if glued there, suffocating him. Everyone rushed to his aid, first trying to pull it free from his head - which did not work - and then cutting at the blanket, including Runeflinger himself, slashing at the blanket. Runeflinger was harmed as much as the blanket was, but eventually they managed to cut away enough that he could see, smell, and talk through holes, while the blanket just hung from his head. Embarrassed, but alive, Runeflinger said he was ready to continue adventuring like that. They went west and then south, seeing the Enigma of Greyhawk again. From there they doubled back north, planning on cutting through the east end of the checkerboard trap chamber to new territory - unaware that the east end of that room was lined with pit traps. Niall, Arlin, Ambrosio, and Muelara took 20-foot tumbles, with the elves landing with cat-like grace, but Ambrosio landing wrong and getting hurt pretty bad. Rather than try to go over the pit trap and leave the mules behind, Reed routed them around to another door in the east wall. Inside, they started to go around the pit trap to join the others - when they triggered a second pit trap neighboring the first trap and everyone else (minus the mules) fell into that one. Eventually, they got everyone out of the pit traps (some easier than others), and were approaching the north door of the chamber, when it opened - and a Fireball was hurled into the chamber with them. In tight formation, everyone was engulfed in fire. Most everyone was burning and dying, except for Reed and Percy, badly burnt, but still conscious. The door was now wide open, and they saw three humans who looked like spellcasters. Two of them were casting follow-up spells. They did not affect Reed and Percy, who shrugged off the effects, and Percy was able to finish casting a Sticks to Snakes spell and launched four huge snakes into the midst. While distracted by the snakes, Reed poured potions of healing down the throats of his dying henchmen, carefully enough not to drown them, and they were roused from near-death and able to act. Muelara, now a thaumaturgist herself, cast a Lightning Bolt that fried two of the evil thaumaturgists (and some of the snakes), leaving just one alive, who surrendered. Now it was a race against time to save Niall, Runeflinger, Aerik, Arlin, and Halfdan. They had two more healing potions left in the Company and that went to saving Runeflinger and Niall. But they also knew the good cleric Bogomir the Adept had been last time they were here. If only he was, by chance, still in the same place… Some of them raced to go find out, and indeed Bogomir was in the same room, praying. Cuthbert had told him to be here to aid them, he said. He raced back and cured Aerik, saving him. He also had a healing spell on a scroll that he used to save one henchman, and that went to Arlin out of seniority. They were now entirely spent on magical healing, and Niall’s henchman Halfdan still lay there dying. They could do nothing but watch as the man expired before their eyes, apologizing to Niall with his last breath for some unknown failure. Past death, the damage to the Company had been extensive. Runeflinger had taken the brunt of it, losing his traveling spellbook of first-level spells in the fire, and Niall had both his henchman and most of his non-magical gear. Meanwhile, their prisoner had been bitten by one of the huge venomous snakes and had surrendered on condition of being saved. Percy, being honorable, used one of his Neutralize Poison scrolls to save the man’s life. Now the man revealed that he and his cousins had been exploring the dungeon for he didn’t know how long, trying to hold onto territory, and had thrown in with the Azure Enchantress and her orcs, as most of the spellcasters on this level had. In fact, their spellbooks had been secured under the floor in the Azure Enchantress’ lair, where the Company had just been weeks ago! Further, the man knew that the Greyhawk Construction Company had already gone through and redesigned that room since the Enchantress’ death, but perhaps they had missed the spellbooks…? The thaumaturgists had nearly been their deaths, but they were also their only source of treasure on this expedition. They had carried 30 pp between them, and each carried a gem also (a large violet garnet was particularly valuable). They recovered a small traveling spellbook and several other items that seemed to be magical because of how little the Lightning Bolt had damaged them. They were unusual items for magic-users to be carrying - a sling, a magic necklace of prayer beads, and a magic potion. The necklace went to Percy, the potion and spellbook to Runeflinger (as compensation for his lost book; Aerik’s was fine because he had been furthest from the center of the fireball), and Reed held onto the sling, announcing how he planned to give it to Ambrosio. But while everyone was still alive, they were all weak, low on magic, and completely out of healing. Heading deeper into the dungeon to check on the Enchantress’ lair seemed too dangerous. But going back the way they had come seemed dangerous too. Luckily, they were now closer to the Grand Central Staircase. They convinced Bogomir to accompany them and see them safely to the surface. The sunlight was painful to Bogomir’s eyes and he was eager to return to the dungeon. The Chapel of Boccob in the Upper Works was occupied - but only by a sole acolyte of Boccob, with no spells to his name. He was eager for the company, as he did not feel remotely safe in the castle. The Company decided to stay holed up in the chapel for the next four days, until they were strong enough to go back down and look for those spellbooks… TO BE CONTINUED IN SESSION 61

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Company of the White Oak - Sessions 57-58

 Session 57

Goodmonth 25, 622 CY

City of Greyhawk

Old City

“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.

However -

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.

Session 58

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
Castle Greyhawk

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
Castle Greyhawk

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.