The Coffers of Kundarak

First Session

The following game session, the first in this story, began on the evening of March 6th, 2011, and concluded in the morning of March 7th.

*Three characters were created: A half-elf rogue named D’artagnan, a human bard named Cher Chang Gu, and S. Danger, human ranger.

*A banker from House Kundarak approached them in a tavern with a job offer: go investigate the vault of a guardian who had stopped checking in and retrieve the item that he was charged with guarding, a treasure chest that belonged to the House that, reportedly, contained nothing. The banker seemed to be telling the truth about that, but hiding something else.

*S. Danger, Human Ranger, managed to roll well enough to cut 4.5 miles off of the 5 mile trek out of town to the area with the cave by rolling a natural 20 on a survival check. He just happened to know a magical shortcut through a tree.

*The cave entrance was filled with a huge amount of stalagmites and stalactices that acted as narrow pillars that obsctructed both movement and vision. However, it didn’t keep the kobold thief hiding behind them from being spotted. Diplomacy was attempted, but the kobold fired an arrow, prompting dual-rapier wielding D’artagnan to leap down the cave mouth, brachiating through the stalactites and -mites with ease thanks to a nat. 20 tumble check (effectively turning the difficult terrain into quite easy terrain), and felled the kobold with a single blow.

*Deeper in, the cave turned into more worked stone instead of rough cave stone, and the stalactices and stalagmites were gradually replaced with pillars. Oddly photosensitive plants bordered the walkway which lead up to the [[:Door of Dials | vault’s gate]]. A combination of wordplay, device disarming, logic, and brute-force-mathematics led to the gate being opened very easily.

*The chamber beyond the gate was a very relaxed room topped with a massive Sunstone Crystal that illuminated it with a perpetual Daylight spell. The room also contained a tree with three types of plum-like fruit: the green made the eater sick, the red made the eater feel healthier, and the violet was just normal, tasty fruit (possibly a generic plum? Who can say for sure?) No one knows. Two passages left this room: the passage to the right was ignored entirely, while the passage to the left was explored.

*The passage led to a workroom or laboratory of sorts with a massive table, a bookshelf, chalk drawings on several surfaces, lots of broken or useless looking equipment, a few scattered books not on the shelf, and other various tools of the trade. The only things of note were the ersatzdragon that woke up from a nap on the table (basically a pseudodragon but black colored and with an angrier, more evil disposition), and a gibbet hanging from the ceiling that contained a skeleton. After the ersatzdragon attacked the intruders (though it was pretty much immediately fascinated, sneak attacked and killed) the skeleton in the gibbet spoke to the party. When the party provided proof that they were there because House Kundarak had sent them, the skeleton told them that it saw a small gang of kobold cultists, led by a sorcerer named Varn, storm the Vault and kill its Guardian while searching for the artifact rumored to be there (a treasure chest). The skeleton had lied motionless without revealing itself to the cultists as he “had a function to fill” which (after some haggling) was revealed to be the fact that only he could make the treasure chest findable, which he agreed to do when the security issue of the kobolds was handled, effectively requiring proof of the death of Varn. He helpfully told the party that beyond the doorway would be a lengthy stretch of halls leading to the Marble Hall where Varn and his cultists kept working on finding a divination ritual that might lead them to the coffer. According to the skeleton, beyond the door would be a massive swarm of bees that the kobolds already knew the secret to passing (he gestured to a [[:The Secret Arts | book]] that revealed a ritual for causing bees to return to their hive if you threw sand at them and said an ancient phrase. He also warned of a “living spell” called The Sleeping Sickness haunting a portion of the halls, but apart from that he couldn’t be much help.

*Sand being readily available in the mostly useless collection of spent spell components in the lab, the door was opened, the wall of bees revealed, and the bees flew back to their hive (located in a series of holes and cracks in the wall.)

*The Sleeping Sickness was easily avoided as it moved slowly. It had been waiting around the corner for them and tried to hit it with a slam attack as they moved by, but it wasn’t a challenge. It occupied a square-shaped tunnel, so the adventurers merely ran down the hall that it wasn’t in every time they had to.

*Still running from the (probably pursuing) Sleeping Sickness, they ran down the 40-foot long corridor, only to have D’artagnan accidentally hit a tripwire at the halls’ end. This started some rumbling machinery which convinced the Sleeping Sickness to leave that hall, and a series of spears began piercing downwards from the ceiling into the hall. With only some light injuries on D’artagnan’s part, Cher Chang Gu used mage hand to snap off one of the spears as it started retracting back into the ceiling, thus providing a safe place for the party to huddle while the trap eventually rumbled to a halt (after four turns of operation.) After this, the lock on the door proved easy enough to disable.

*The chamber beyond was a large marble hallway filled with pillars and statues of basilisks made out of an orange variety of jade (similar to the House Kundarak coat of arms.) The three remaining kobold cultists (including their leader, the sorcerer Varn) were chanting around a fire, trying to uncover a divination ritual that might lead them to the artifact that they had heard rumors about. Moving quickly, the party hid long enough for D’artagnan to move into prime position for a sneak attack and managed to kill all three cultists with a single surprise round. As Cher Chang Gu said, with Varn’s head they went galumphing back (a line that earned Cher fifty bonus experience points.)

*Seeing the deceased Varn, the skeleton in the gibbet’s eye sockets flashed blue, and he informed them of a variation of the Maze spell that he had just activated in a certain book on the bookshelf. He told them not to solve it instantly, and after the maze settled down it would allow them to find the treasure chest. He also requested that when they had it and left, they tell someone at House Kundarak to come and retrieve him.

*The Maze spell in the book took the party to an Escherian location at first, but by not trying to solve the maze it gradually morphed into a more simple looking maze of roughly worked stone. There was also a map lying on the floor, as well as a glowing manifestation of the book that they used to reach it. They discovered that the map of the maze had unconnected passages, and writing on the back of it. By folding the maze, they made passages connect to new places, leading them to eventually find a “Happy Mask” a “Less Happy Mask” and a “Honey Bee Hive”, all ethereal spirit creatures that had recently taken up residence in the space that the maze-spell linked to (which made them significant enough to appear on the map, for some reason.) Eventually by employing some less expected topography, a stable connection to The Chest was found on the map, which appeared to be a small, glowing image of a treasure chest. When touched, it teleported the party to the large marble hallway where they killed Varn. This time, however, there was an average-sized treasure chest sitting on one wall, conveniently on an easily moveable wagon for the sake of transference.

*After taking pains to unlock the chest and discovering that it was empty, Cher Chang Gu recalled some whispered rumors about a sequence of seven treasure chests called “The Coffers of Kundarak” developed by House Kundarak that, when opened in sequence, could teleport you to (roughly) the location of the next chest but if opened out of sequence did nothing. They decided that this chest was probably one of those seven coffers. While they did not know any rumors about what the last chest held, the temptation to pursue the other six chests was great indeed.

*The night ended with the party debating whether or not to conclude their contract with the banker or to go in search of the other chests, or some combination of the two.

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Flaming Moes

In the second installment of “The Coffers of Kundarak” the trio of adventurers still weren’t certain about whether or not to continue seeking the employment of the Kundarak Dwarf that sought them out. A plan was hatched to use the banking service to break into the central depository in the Mror Holds to try and get the first chest in the sequence which logic dictates would be at the Mror Holds for ease of access.

The adventurers returned to the town of Quarterstaff and made arrangements with a local House Orien representative to quickly leave and head to the city to the north where more banking arrangements could be made. As they were preparing to leave town, a hushed whisper drew them into a side alley.

In this alley, they encountered Gemdust, a living construct designed to be a fortune telling machine. Gemdust was seeking aid for the reclamation of an item of hers: a certain deck of cards that she needed for her more advanced fortune telling. It was apparently stolen a few years earlier by a thief named Malloroy who eventually left town and went to the city to the north. It had taken a while for Gemdust to manipulate the circus she travelled with to return to this area to find help, and she would be leaving again soon.

She provided two services as a down-payment to the adventurers, first agreeing to give them a free “50 silver” reading, telling the three in turn to invest in a parachute, a full-lung potion and a deep-breath potion. The second service was eating up their time because, as she revealed, their employer was currently under attack at the inn and that the inn was also being set on fire. Whether or not they wanted to keep working for Kundarak, saving the life of one of their representatives might help to stay out of their bad graces. Moments later townspeople began shouting about a fire, prompting the adventurers to run to the inn as Gemdust mentioned that their employer was either in the cellar or his room.

At the tavern, smoke filling the air made it harder to breathe and harder to see than normal. D’artagnan searched the second floor and found a halfling in need of rescuing. S. Danger, human ranger, was lugging the first treasure chest around and not letting it out of his sight, but still managed to slowly search the top floor where he found an elderly orc and an elf before he gave up and went to the cellar, just as D’artagnan moved to the top floor. By now the fire was severely spreading: D’artagnan encountered a backdraft of fire which he narrowly avoided, and S. Danger was caught in the explosion of a keg in the cellar. S. Danger moved up to the kitchen to find some salt as soon as this happened, just as D’artagnan found their employer, apparently paralyzed in a chair. Both D’artagnan and S. Danger encountered an odd variety of Magmin at that time, elemental creatures that were apparently causing the fires to spread. After some initial combat and realizing that the Magmin were incredibly dangerous for lone adventurers to fight, D’artagnan ran with the dwarf’s body, and S. Danger ran with the treasure chest, both meeting up at the main room. Cher Chang Gu revealed much of what she knew about Magmin and the party prepared to flee just as a large section of the ceiling, due to structural fire damage, caved in. The adventurers dove to safety in time, but the two pursuing Magmin did not. As the adventurers left the tavern to find medical help for their paralyzed employer, S. Danger noticed a shadowy figure on a rooftop who tried to shoot an arrow at them, though he left when his arrow inexplicably snapped in two.

Afterwards, the city of Quarterstaff awarded the adventurers for their heroism in the face of danger, especially when the truth about the Magmin was revealed, and the dwarf gave the heroes the job of carrying this treasure chest to the Kundarak Vault to the north for him since he was still recovering from the poison. Apparently, whoever summoned the Magmin had wanted his death to look like a fiery accident. With this in mind, the heroes accepted his offer and went to find the House Orien representative for their trip away from Quarterstaff.

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Fall of the House of Cards

We see the town of Rubyvale and are introduced to The Dude and Blök, a Paladin and a Cleric to Obad-Hai, who are a bit out of place in a city where most of the population worships Wee Jas, a goddess of death. Still, a city official is glad for their presence as a large number of people have recently gone missing in the city’s sewer systems. He offers 500 gold to each of them for finding whatever is causing this problem. A lantern is obtained, the sewers are searched (and an underground casino named Malloroy’s House of Cards is noted.) Eventually, the heroes almost walk straight into the source of the problem without noticing it: a gelatinous cube is oozing its way through some of these tunnels, apparently attacking anything that it can find. The cube is incapable of easily harming the adventurers, and while it did succeed in engulfing the two of them, the heroes (with the aid of a quickly summoned fire beetle) managed to reduce the cube to a rapidly dissolving puddle of non-threatening goo. They claimed their reward from the city official, delivered what remains of victims they found within the ooze, made a quick trip to a bank to finalize their reward and went back to the casino to celebrate.

Meanwhile, Cher Chang Gu, D’artagnan and S. Danger, human ranger, were approaching Rubyvale from Quarterstaff on the horses that the local House Orien representative conjured for them. The horses made it almost all the way to the city, and they finished the rest of the journey on foot without incident.

After making a few purchases in magic shops, the trio went searching for the deck of cards that Gemdust had asked them to claim from a thief named Malloroy. After asking some questions to determine that it was located underground, S. Danger was able to track the flow of traffic far enough to find Malloroy’s House of Cards. Half of a Dvati bouncer watched them enter (Dvati being a single mind and soul that occupies two bodies). A few modest games of chance were available for playing, a Troll was acting as a bartender, the colorful Nac Mac Feegle were busying themselves with a drink, and it seemed like Malloroy was sequestered away in the V.I.P. room, normally reserved for High Rollers. While the other half of the Dvati guard behind the door of the V.I.P. room was originally insistent that only high rollers could enter, Cher Chang Gu offered to provide music for the V.I.P. room. After a quick conversation, the now-united five adventurers were allowed to go into the back.

The V.I.P. room itself was apparently modeled after a legendary site known as the Court of Thieves, complete with its own throne of lucky charms. Only a gargoyle and a gonnagle for the trible of Nac Mac Feegle were currently playing, the game of the night being Three Dragon Ante. Malloroy seemed willing to lend a modest amount of aid if the adventurers would either play the house’s Three Dragon Ante game or go into the sewers to find the Grell that had been pestering his patrons, but The Dude chose to detect evil at that time. When he saw that Malloroy was, in fact, an evil person, he ran him through with his long sword.

The Dvati quickly came to the aid of its dying employer by attacking The Dude with arrows and swords, while the Nac Mac Feegle from the main room, sensing a bar fight, swarmed into the V.I.P. chamber to complicate matters (though The Dude did manage to distract them by dropping his 500 coin reward on the ground.) D’artagnan and S. Danger (who chose to attack the Gonnagle), through a combination of intimidation, bluffing and diplomacy convinced a now thoroughly angry, confused and terrified Malloroy to hand over the cards in exchange for his life, and Malloroy moved to his desk to get the cards. Malloroy handed them to Cher, and The Dude, not one to make deals with evil folk, ran over to him and severely wounded the casino’s owner before being similarly knocked out by the Dvati.

Some quick looting occurred, removing all of Malloroy’s possessions and taking the safe from his desk (and The Dude was healed by Blök to ensure that he wouldn’t die and could walk of his own volition) before the five adventurers were chased out of the casino by the Dvati. With Gemdust’s deck of cards in their possession, the adventurers are free to turn their attention to the bank that brought them to Rubyvale in the first place…

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Break In On Floor 13

In the city of Rubyvale the heroes had just taken a side-trip to an underground casino…not an illegal one so much as an unwanted one. Blok and The Dude went on their own to their own adventures. Cher Chang Gu, D’artagnan and S. Danger (human ranger) had a very particular task in mind: breaking into the bank of House Kundarak, the most secure banking facility in the known world! After burying the coffer that they had already found, they proceeded to pull off their heist.

It was known that the individual branches of the Kundarak Bank were connected to the central branch by means of a teleportation system: anything put into a safety deposit box would find itself in a vault in Kundarak’s primary citadel in the Mror Holds. It was simplicity to purchase a chest large enough for the three of them to hide within (naturally, one coated with lead to block any scanning for life signs by pesky magical security systems.) A hireling was hired, as is the nature of hirelings, to deposit the chest at the bank on their behalf.

When they crawled out of the chest, they found themselves in a dark vault containing knickknacks, trinkets, and other items of low value. While the vault door was one of the most advanced that D’artagnan had ever seen, the fact that he was picking it from the inside helped him enough (along with some inspirational music from Cher) to get the lock open. Sneaking into the hallway, the adventurers avoided the patrolling guards (two dwarves and a warforged) and discovered an elevator.

The elevator had twelve buttons, each indicating a different floor. Where a thirteenth button might have been there was, instead, a keyhole. Coming to the realization that security would have to be engaged, the patrolling guards were attacked: the warforged and senior dwarf (who held a key and a book) were killed, while the junior dwarf (on his first week as a guard) was merely knocked out (he had a scrap of paper with a sequence of numbers upon it.)

When the purloined key was used in the key hole, the numbers on the buttons of the elevator began to flash. Thinking quickly, the adventurers pressed the buttons in the sequence that they found in the possession of the junior guard. The elevator began to descend, but before long an ethereal voice identifying itself as Kundarak Security spoke to the elevator’s occupants and demanded that they identify themselves. Unable to provide a satisfactory answer, the voice informed them that they would be stopped. The voice went silent then and the elevator continued its descent to the 13th Floor.

Upon exiting the elevator, the bank robbing heroes(?) found themselves in a massive hallway lit by torches with monstrous looking vault doors on either side that made the ones on the first floor look childish. After taking a few steps more, they were halted by a very professional imp who informed them that they were trespassers and would be put to death (but if they had any questions or complaints regarding this policy, Kundarak had customer service branches available in many versions of the afterlife.) They battled the imp, and seemed to do well until the imp declared that it “was also a client” and zipped to one of the vaults, pulling a key ring from its vest pocket that had three keys. Opening a vault that was presumably his, the imp activated an artifact that Cher identified as a “Zombie Cauldron”, which continually generated more and more zombies, dumping them onto the ground for the heroes to fight. S. Danger handily kept the zombies at bay while D’artagnan did what he could to disable the Zombie Cauldron and prevent it from dumping anymore zombies (though this left him open to the imps frequent attacks.) Cher proved to be the deciding factor when she managed to charm the imp with her bardic abilities, and convinced it to become a temporary ally. The now-friendly (though still lawful) imp handed his key ring over, explained what the rest of the hallway would contain, and made them promise to not steal anything before using the coffer to escape.

The adventurers walked down the hallway and found (just as the imp had told them about) a chasm in their way. A pedestal with a keyhole was available, and the heroes removed the proper key from the imp’s key ring, and used it to activate the pedestal which generated a magical bridge across the chasm (the key needed to be left behind to keep the bridge.) Just as the adventurers could begin to make out the far side of the chasm where the hallway appeared to resume, a cloud of smoke issued from one of the mouths of the basilisk-statues that lined the bridge, quickly coalescing into a genie. Cher entranced the genie (a janni, to be specific) before any fighting could begin, and the adventurers ran past.

As they reached the opposite end of the bridge, the heroes witnessed three massive vaults (the imp said to pick the middle one) sitting behind an adamantium statue of a dragon (which the imp claimed was a powerful golem.) Rushing as fast as they could, the heroes weren’t stopped by the chief of security who then fell from an air vent in the ceiling above, just narrowly missing them. The Ironwyrm Golem activated the moment that the heroes put the key into the lock of the second vault. Not wishing to fight the chief of security and the massive fire-breathing golem, the heroes quickly locked themselves into the vault which contained the first Coffer of Kundarak, a massive treasure chest that would comfortably accommodate three horses when closed. Inspired by a quick tune from Cher, D’artagnan picked the lock of the chest in the nick of time, for the Ironwyrm Golem had started breathing fire at the vault door, turning it into a gigantic oven. When the chest opened, a strange map (of sorts) fell from the lid of the chest into the waiting hands of the adventurers who then leaped into the glowing vortex of light within the chest, vanishing from Kundarak Bank and being sent elsewhere…

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The Worrying Well

When D’artagnan and S. Danger, Human Ranger found after leaping into the first Coffer was a seemingly endless expanse of Ocean, though Cher Chang Gu was nowhere to be found. Luck was on their side, however, as they spotted a ship with a lovely red sail. They managed to attract the attention of the crew, were pulled aboard, and were then introduced to Captain Meara Quickblade and her sorcerial first mate. A tiny amount of investigation revealed that Meara was an adventuring privateer who spends most of her time retrieving treasures (which often seem to include cursed items that send giant sea monsters after her ship.) Her current mission was to voyage to a moderately obscure island to plunder the shipwreck that allegedly claimed the life of her old employer, Captain Razorbeard (a pirate named for the majestic beard that he filled with dozens of scabbards for swords and daggers, ensuring that he would always be well armed as long as his beard was nearby.) In time D’artagnan and S. Danger (human ranger) told Meara most of the pertinent details of their quest, and while she was technically running a job on the side for Kundarak she would certainly be willing to give what aid was convenient. She also looked over the “map” that had fallen out of the lid of the first chest, and recognized the writing as being that of the Ixitxichitl, a race of monstrous aberrational fish that resembled Manta Rays (and were, in fact, occasionally called Devil Rays by those who did not know their true name.) She hypothesized that the large word on the map, “Ixichitoporox”, was likely the name of an underground city (as pictured in the rough drawing of coral on the map), though she also said it was rare for Ixitxichitl to ever stay in one place long enough to find it worth their time to name their cities.

When the ship landed, the natives turned out to be friendly (ships docked here frequently and brought enough amusing and exotic items from other lands that they had set up a modest economy to make the smugglers, pirates and sailors feel welcome.) Meara took her first mate and the other two adventurers to locate the shipwreck. Three monstrous crabs later and the treasure within, vast and ill-described as it was, was theirs for the taking.

With time to explore the village, they discovered that there was an odd House Kundarak “outpost” (really just a fishing shack) that was occupied by a dwarf who loved to spend his time fishing. Periodically, he would swim (or row, though he’d found that less enjoyable lately) out from the beach where the shack was and, after some time, return. The villagers who had witnessed this had never been able to keep up with his swimming or his magical self-rowing boat, though they had found a red buoy in the ocean in the direction he swam to, anchored by a chain that descended into the depths below the waves.

Hearing from the natives some stories about missionaries sent by St. Cuthbert every so often who would suddenly decide to leave without a reason, D’Artagnan and S. Danger, human ranger, the two adventurers went to the missionary compound deep in the forest. The compound was largely abandoned, with nearly all of the supplies taken years earlier. There was a journal left behind by the previous leader of the expedition talking about increased nightmares, strange dreams, and a building sense of dread in all of the missionaries. He also seemed to think that the well in the courtyard of the compound was particularly terrifying, and that those who drew the water seemed more likely to have the nightmares and horrifying visions.

Intrigued, S. Danger went to listen to the well, and it did sound eerie. He listened more closely, and almost thought he could imagine whispering words in the odd, echoing noises come up from the well. Listening a third time, and he almost felt like he had lost some of his senses. Using the bucket to lower themselves, the two adventurers slowly descended into the well. Rather than being a tube all the way down, the two found that the well opened up into a dome-shaped room before hitting the water below. The walls of the cave had tiny holes and odd carvings in them (though no passages to other areas, at least not above the water.) The holes were allowing wind to enter the cave, and the odd carvings interrupted the blowing wind in just such a precise way as to create eerie noises that could resemble moaning or whispering. Suspicious of the well’s cave, but not quite willing to dive deeper to explore the mystery further, the two adventurers rose back to the compound and went to sleep (taking shifts, naturally).

Near midnight, the chief of security that almost stopped the adventurers in the 13th Floor of the bank, arrived. He attempted to battle the two, but was overcome due to their flanking maneuvers. He was knocked out, tied up, and relieved of his weapons and armor before a quick interrogation session could be held.

It was revealed that he was hunting them for their crime of breaking into House Kundarak’s vaults, killing two members of the security staff who were not senior enough to gain Resuscitation Benefits, and conspiring to continue to search for the other Coffers of Kundarak. He also revealed that he did qualify for the Resuscitation Benefits and as such death held no terror for him (and, in fact, torture would cause him to be paid a hefty bonus.) Deciding that his life as a slave might win them some favor with the local Ixitxichitl, and thinking that the well might be related to their schemes, they left the dwarf tied up by the well and left the compound to return to the village.

With the village surprisingly awake and lively (a late-night luau was being held for the visiting ships), the two adventurers contacted Meara and, with the knowledge that House Kundarak was actively scrying for them, asked if they could sail out to the buoy to inspect it to see if it marked the position of the next coffer. Meara agreed, and said that they could leave at dawn.

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City of the Devil Rays

After a brief night’s sleep in the somewhat safer company of pirates, Meara Quickblade’s crew launched at dawn, setting sail for the buoy that was reportedly the destination of the House Kundarak representative’s daily swimming excursions. At the buoy, D’artagnan drank the Deep Breath potion that Gemdust suggested he acquire and dove beneath the surface of the waves. The buoy was held in place by a long, thick chain that stretched to the ocean bed (fortunately, they were still near enough to the island that D’artagnan avoided most major pressure-related dangers from the crushing weight of the water.) D’artagnan expected to find one of the Coffers of Kundarak tethering the buoy to the sea bed. What he found instead, however, was a gigantic boulder in its place. After a few moments, however, he thought he saw the strange lights of a city in the distance…

Meanwhile, at the surface, S. Danger (human ranger), Meara Quickblade and the rest of her crew watched as the house Kundarak guardian approached on his magically enhanced rowboat (rather than swimming out.) He was, understandably, angry at the boat that had parked right next to “House Kundarak Property.” Unable to convince anyone to come down to his little rowboat to talk about it, he quickly climbed the side of Meara’s boat and angrily threw S. Danger, human ranger, over the side. When S. Danger, human ranger, looked up next, the Kundarak representative was leaping down towards him, morphing into an Ixitxichitl on the way down. It bit S. Danger, the ranger who is notably human, and revealed itself to have some measure of command over negative energy. Angry at the deception and at the attack, S. Danger cleft the Devil Ray in twain with a single mighty blow.

The party rejoined quickly and came to the conclusion that the Ixitxichitl must have located the treasure chest and decided to take it for themselves. Meara’s first mate cast a water-breathing spell to allow all of them to survive the ocean depths, and they swam down and found a massive city of coral and glass, filled with the Devil Rays and containing walkways and air tubes for their humanoid slaves. Entering the city of Ixichitoporox was fairly simple. Navigating a bit (and finding two Anguillian guards who were easily dispatched), they eventually found a gate that was protected by a barrier of negative energy that Meara’s first mate identified as a “Blackgate.” D’artagnan was able to translate the runes on the gate enough to sound out the words (even though the meanings were lost.) S. Danger, human ranger, then spoke the words and found himself unable to stop speaking them. More and more phrases in some alien tongue came unwilling from his voice, but eventually they stopped and the field of shadowy energy dissipated and allowed them to enter.

The heroes found themselves in a monstrous temple dedicated to the Demon Lord known as Dagon, a monstrous, primordial entity from before the Blood War. A Vampiric Ixitxichitl began a ceremony when he discovered the adventurers there, and the massive statue to Dagon began singing a song not unlike whale-song, but very clearly malevolent and with a keen intelligence backing it up. All of the humanoid slaves in the immediate area began walking into the water towards the statue of Dagon, heedless of the drowning danger. Meara, her first mate, and S. Danger (human ranger) all began walking towards the statue of Dagon as well, but physical violence on the part of D’artagnan, sustained for a minute, kept the other three adventurers from walking under the water. At the end of the song, the trance ended for the adventurers, though the slaves stayed where they were (many drowning). One slave had walked up a ramp leading out of the water, reaching the top of a rocky outcropping. The statue seemed to come to life, and its head snapped forward, devouring the entranced slave in a single bite.

After this horrifying scene had passed, the Vampiric Ixitxichitl taunted the adventurers, but was persuaded through some carefully worded diplomatic pleas to let them use the Coffer of Kundarak that they had stolen. This was agreed upon providing that the heroes agree to give the knowledge of the contents of the final chest to Dagon, since Dagon is the master of the secrets beneath the waves, and Kundarak had unknowingly kept a secret from him by hiding the chest on the ocean floor (which was why the Kundarak representative at the island had to be killed and replaced by a shape-shifting cleric to Dagon.)

The adventurers all agreed. Since the coffer would not work for her or her first mate (since they hadn’t gone through the first one), Meara decided to steal the chest from the Ixitxichitl (reasoning that their promise had been made to Dagon, not his minions.) D’artagnan carefully spent his time picking the lock on the coffer in preparation for the battle to come. A quick scuffle with the Vampiric Ixitxichitl that had been running the show and a rapid looting of much of the treasure in Dagon’s hold prompted the quick getaway through the glowing aura within the chest as Meara and her first mate, being left behind, prepared to levitate the second Coffer of Kundarak and fight their way out of the city and back to their ship with it. As for D’artagnan and S. Danger, Human Ranger, their fate would resolve elsewhere…

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Welcome to Miel

When D’artagnan and S. Danger, human ranger, stepped into the second Coffer in Ixichitoporox, they appeared in a thinly populated forest. S. Danger (the human ranger)’s keen sense of geography and knowledge of local flora let him know that they were probably back on the continent where they started, only a few hundred miles from Rubyvale. Some quick looking around led them to find a small city, Miel.

From the opposite direction came two new travelers. One, a human conjurer and tobacconist, was named Charles Cavandish. The other, a half-elf bard (who as luck would have it was the half-sister of Cher Chang Gu was named Krishna.

Approaching from different directions, the two groups noticed that all of the buildings in Miel had horseshoes nailed above their doors, and a careful glance told them that the horse shoes were made of Cold Iron. When Charles Cavandish and S. Danger, human ranger, easily moved into a tavern, but Krishna and D’Artagnan found an invisible force blocking their path accompanied by the mysterious red-glowing and hot sizzling of the horse shoe over the tavern door, the theory was devised that the horse shoes were meant to keep fey creatures away. Thanks to the fact that elves are only distantly related to the fey (and half-elves even less so), the two eventually managed to push past the force and enter the tavern.

Their, they encountered a bartender and a city official who was enjoying a drink while going over some light paperwork. The bartender explained that the horse shoes were because of The Harvest Lord, a powerful fey creature who, while welcome, seemed to attract other less savory sorts that the horse shoes kept out. They also learned that there was a standing bounty on eliminating a flying leonine figure to the south of town. Finally, they heard that there was a small Keep to the northeast of town that the locals were worried would become a home for monsters, sitting unoccupied as it was. Anyone who went, cleared it out, and was willing to maintain it would legally become the owner of the Keep and the mine that it sat upon.

With three mysteries to consider, the party began to consider what they would do in this new town.

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One Last Riddle

After considering their options in the hamlet of Miel, the party (consisting of Charles Cavandish, D’artagnan, Krishna and S. Danger, Human Ranger ) decided to investigate the strange, glowing leonine presence that had been haunting the night sky south of town. At dusk, they made their way to the hill where most of the sightings had occurred. D’artagnan saw something odd out of the corner of his eye and stared at a patch of stars that were just becoming visible. Soon, he saw among the stars a constellation that gradually became a man’s face staring at him. The image moved forward and was no longer lost in the background: a large, ghostly sphinx with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the face of a man. The sphinx addressed the adventurers and growled:

What is half of dragon, but has not a wyrmling’s strength?
What is half of canine, but has not a mongrel’s length?
What is it that is of two halves, but has but half to stand on?

Charles Cavandish, being a learned student of the arcane and a fine tobacconist as well, instantly responded that the answer was Kobold. After a brief explanation of the answer to his fellows, the Sphinx nodded and introduced itself as Ujaset. Ujaset said that by answering the riddle, the adventurers had proven themselves clever enough to hunt down the tribe of kobolds that (it was shamed to say) managed to overpower it. In exchange for their aid, Ujaset would be willing to let the party have the treasure that it had collected in life. When the heroes agreed, Ujaset told them how to find his former lair.

Though the trek to Ujaset’s lair is a brief one, it was not brief enough for the party to avoid catching the attention of a hunting Wyvern. A combination of guile and skill allowed the team to bind the Wyvern and entrance it. Wondering if it might have some treasure stashed in its lair (since Wyverns are related to dragons), they released it while it was spellbound, allowing S. Danger to get a rough idea of where it might be nesting when they saw it leave. It wasn’t long before they found the Wyvern (who wasn’t at home when they came). While there wasn’t a pile of loot, they did find a small trinket among the bones, a silver brooch that S. Danger began to wear (which he would later learn gave him protection against the Magic Missile spell.)

They soon found Ujaset’s cave, which looked as if it had been expertly tiled and carved by talented artisans. There were many footprints going into and out of the cave, and the cave itself was empty…empty, that is, except for a single kobold named Jaalask who had been left behind by his former friends in the Blackspear Tribe, the very tribe that had murdered Ujaset. With a little convincing, Ujaset was willing to join the party and let them know where his former friends had camped.

The party slowly followed Ujaset’s directions (aided by S. Danger (human ranger)‘s tracking skills, and the vast number of footprints) to a small encampment of kobolds who were celebrating their recent victory around a fire. Krishna used her magical music to cast a lullaby at the camp, causing most of the kobolds to become very drowsy and distracted (though the kobolds seemed to have two dire weasels as pets who were also not affected.) Of note, however, is the fact that the Kobold Sergeant and War Leader were also affected. This allowed D’artagnan to quietly sneak into the group and backstab one kobold at a time without attracting the attention of the others. However, after a few of the kobolds dropped, the Dire Weasels noticed and began to rush at the intruder.

Charles Cavandish took the opportunity to intervene by conjuring a Bison, which charged the two weasels and took out a couple of the kobolds as well before vanishing, and S. Danger, human ranger, joined the fight as well. D’artagnan decided to stop focusing on underlings and moved to attack the Sergeant, who was not felled in a single blow as the other kobolds had been, though he did fall quickly. While Krishna continued to play the entrancing lullaby, Cavandish summoned yet another bison to charge the war leader (the bison in question being ridden by an enthusiastic Jaalask.) The sergeant fell to D’artagnan at this time, and S. Danger’s arrows began reducing the war leader’s resolve (though he did notably stand up to a charging bison and took the damage from it, seemingly without flinching.) Soon, however, he threw down his weapons and surrendered when it was clear that he would not win the fight.

The war leader revealed that their tribe’s spiritual (and, in some ways, true) leader was a sorcerer named Oppol, and that Oppol organized the plan to strike as a way of removing a potential enemy from the area and as a means of gathering finances to increase the clan’s might. He said that Oppol was not around, and that he had returned to Miel. Though tempted to spare the remaining kobolds, the heroes remembered that Ujaset had demanded revenge against those who had killed him, and the battle was, briefly, rejoined with predictable results (especially since the war leader no longer had his primary weapon.)

A quick trip back to Miel and some questions around town gave the heroes two names of people who might know something: Caramip was a gnomish merchant who was knowledgeable about the town’s not-quite-human population, and the town’s blacksmith, Potter Holm, dealt with everybody and saw much. Potter Holm wasn’t much help, however, saying that he hadn’t seen any kobold sorcerers recently that he was aware of, possibly due to how busy he was with a sudden rush for masterwork weaponry that he had received. Caramip was slightly more helpful, however, pointing out that a kobold sorcerer might not look like a kobold thanks to well-timed magic. She said that there was one gnome who rented a building in town, but the gnome never seemed to have problems moving through the doors with the horseshoes on them, like other gnomes did. She was glad to give the heroes this gnome’s address (he had been unusually cold and unfriendly for a gnome).

Charles Cavandish and Krishna had to replenish their gear at the blacksmith’s, but two new people came to town at about that time: Izuma the halfling ninja and Philosopher Bronze the human factotum. The four went to the building and knocked on the door repeatedly, but no answer was given. Philosopher Bronze then tried knocking on the window, with the same results. D’artagnan pulled out his thieve’s tools and began to pick the lock on the door, when Philosopher Bronze decided to noisily break the window, step in, and open the door from the inside.

The bottom floor of the small house only had two empty rooms and a staircase. The staircase was searched carefully, but as soon as the party stepped on it, a magical trap was sprung, hitting the entire party with a Cold Blast, leaving them weaker and wounded. The good news, however, is that D’artagnan knew that Kurtulmak, the favored deity of the kobolds, was a god of trap making, and a trap in a residential building indicated that they were probably on the right track.

The top floor was slightly smaller, but more interesting. One room was a study, a study containing books, maps and treatises on war, military strategy and conquest. The other room seemed to be a living quarters of some sort, though no one was there…or so it seemed. Oppol, having heard the sound of the breaking window and the trap discharging, had taken the precautions of casting mage armor, expeditious retreat and invisibility on himself, meaning that the party didn’t see him until he chose to reveal his presence by attacking with a spell. The Cone of Cold swept over the party, rendering Izuma unconscious and the rest of the party nearly the same.

Oppol’s next move was to create a thick webbing to ensnare the party, though the only person so entrapped was D’artagnan, who was easily able to escape (even Izuma seemed to be able to dodge the web, despite being prone on the ground). S. Danger, human ranger, began to attack, as did Philosopher Bronze. Distressed, Oppol might have considered leaping through the window of the room, but instead chose to attempt to summon a viscious beast. The lengthy spell was his undoing, however, as it not only provoked attacks from the adventurers, but took too long to cast, giving the heroes more time to work against him. As such, Oppol died and the dretch that he summoned was weak and easily dispatched.

Leaving Oppol’s house, the party discovered Potter Holm arriving with the masterwork weapons he had been working on, apparently intent to give them all to Oppol (who had used the Sphinx’s treasure to finance the creation of the many weapons.) They claimed Oppol’s weapons as part of their payment from Ujaset for dealing vengeance.

Krishna and Cavandish rejoined the team at this point, and as they traveled towards the exit of the town, they heard a familiar Pssst from an ally. Looking in, they found Gemdust, the fortune telling construct that had sent them to search Malloroy’s casino for her deck of spells. Sensing that they were once again near her, Gemdust requested that the cards be given to her in exchange for a fortune reading with, as she revealed, a Deck of Many Things. Many of the adventurers accepted the cards, though Izuma did not. Both Philosopher Bronze and S. Danger were fated to meet a Dread Wraith in single combat, though they also gained some helpful bonuses to their personal skills and insights to give them edges. Charles Cavandish benefited from increased intelligence, and D’artagnan discovered two knights who wished to offer their services to him (though he also lost all of his personal possessions and property.) It was a bittersweet meeting with the fates, as all such meetings are.

The party continued heading out of the town to report their successes to a pleased Ujaset, who tossed in an extra bonus: his lair contained a secret panel, behind which was an elvish chain shirt. The question was raised, though, about whether or not Ujaset knew anything about The Harvest Lord, to which Ujaset merely smiled and recited another riddle:

What has Cities, but no People
Beaches, but no Sand
Forests, but no Wood
Mountains, but no Land?

D’artagnan thought for a moment and responded that the answer was a Map, and Ujaset nodded. A map appeared in D’artagnan’s possession then, one that would reveal the location of the current entrance to The Harvest Lord’s domain in the nearby corn fields (his domain had an ever-shifting entrance that required a time table and chart to keep track of, apparently.) With that, Ujaset faded back into the stars and allowed the heroes to go back to their normal business.

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Dinner and a Show

After helping the ghost of Ujaset and befriending the kobold known as Jaalask, the party of adventurers returned to Miel to consider their options in the continuing search for the Coffers of Kundarak. Apart from the fact that there was a Keep for sale to anyone willing to make sure that it was empty since there had been a few reports of activity in that region, the only point of interest seemed to be the one known as The Harvest Lord. After making use of the town blacksmith to pick up some gear made from Cold Iron, a material known to be extra effective on the inherrant magic of the fey, D’artagnan used the map given to him by Ujaset for solving his last riddle to determine where and when the best entrance to the Harvest Lord’s domain would be appearing.

The adventurers went to a corn field which, at the appointed time, seemed to open, revealing a lengthy passageway that twisted out of sight. Soon, they came to a fork in the road and were greeted by an animated Scarecrow, that informed them that to speak to the Harvest Lord they would need to head to the left. They did so, and the twisting passage eventually opened up into a wide clearing.

In this clearing, a long banquet table had been set up, and dozens of humans, elves, gnomes and a few odd dwarves, hobbits and orcs were enjoying a feast made from delicious fruits and grains, exotic animals and rare wines. Beyond those eating the food and playing simple party games, the Harvest Lord sat at the head of the table.

The Harvest Lord was taller and leaner than most elves or humans and seemed to glow with a faint light. He was dressed in the clothes of a wealthy merchant, lightly soiled with the finest of farm dust, and his hair was adorned with sticks and twigs that resembled the horns of an elk. He greeted the adventurers warmly, and asked them to sit at his table and partake of his meal, an offer which all but Charles Cavandish accepted. The Harvest Lord gave a bit of friendly advice: never accept an invitation to sit or eat while in the land of fairies, otherwise the local lords might hold them captive forever…not that he would be doing that, of course.

The Harvest Lord also revealed that he was aware of their quest for the Coffers of Kundarak and that he had no intention of allowing them to get to the treasure chest that House Kundarak had put into his guardianship.

A spirited session of haggling and diplomacy then began as the party continued around them. While the Harvest Lord was adamant about not allowing any of the adventurers to use hit Coffer of Kundarak (and yes, he knew that they wouldn’t want to take it, just borrow it), he was eventually persuaded to help them by promising to grant future companions a safe and immediate passage to the first Coffer of Kundarak (which, with a proper bit of preparation, meant easy access to becoming attuned to both the first and the second chest very quickly.) However, in exchange for this task, he demanded a service, and some entertainment.

For his service, he revealed that the Keep that was currently available “for free” to anyone willing to clear it out had significantly more creatures in it than most had guessed. A Wee Jas worshiping orcish necromancer named Kurjan Sawtooth had invaded it, and was collecting slaves from the local townspeople, forcing them to work in the ancient dwarven mine beneath the keep. He had a small army of orcs guarding the tower, along with some other monstrous friends, all of which were merely safeguards for the day that he had built up an army of undead creatures powerful enough to attack the town of Miel directly. While The Harvest Lord had nothing against death and undeath in principle, Kurjan’s build-up of deathly magic without a balancing force of life was one that could, in the future, make his life difficult. As such, The Harvest Lord demanded that he and his minions be stopped.

For his entertainment, he brought much of the food on the table to life. THe zombified remains of wild boars and the skeletal carcasses of chickens attacked the heroes relentlessly, aided by the (mostly immobile) head of a boar on a plate and, eventually, the zombified Roast Crocodile from further down the table. The adventurers were surprised by the sudden attack of their dinner, but were easily able to fend off the already partially-consumed former meals.

The Harvest Lord was well pleased with these antics, laughing uproariously and drinking merrily as the fight worked to its conclusion with the same number of casualties that it started with. He granted them his blessing, and bid the adventurers on their way to deal with Kurjan Sawtooth.

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Brightstone Keep

With both the favor of The Harvest Lord and the people of Miel up for grabs, the heroes set out to assault Kurjan Sawtooth in Brightstone Keep. Aware of the orcish necromancer’s plans to raise an army of undead to attack Miel, they stopped at the town first to gather supplies.

Fortuitously, an old friend named Blok appeared with a friend of his own. Having travelled for a while on missions of his own, the cleric of Obad-Hai was glad for the chance to aid the people that he had last seen in Rubyvale.

The party ventured to the Keep, managing to sneak up the mountain pass under the cover of daylight when the orcs, dazzled by the sun, were less likely to see them approaching. The heroes reached an entry gate to one of the Keep’s three defensive towers, picked the lock through D’artagnan’s expertise, and entered.

The tower was well staffed by a large group of orcs though, unfortunately for the orcs, they weren’t well trained. Charles Cavandish wiped out most of the orcs with a well timed casting of what would thenceforth be known as Plan Bison. Two more towers remained, guarded in similar fashions with only one orc out of the scores encountered being much of a challenge. The orcs not beaten by the rampaging bison were easily dispatched by the other adventurers.

The courtyard beyond was mostly empty, though a well near the far end featured a ravenous Winter Wolf, imprisoned with a mighty chain. While the gigantic wolf might have been a powerful foe, the knowledge of S. Danger that this creature was intelligent, and Charles Cavandish’s ability to speak to it in the language of the Giants (though it was soon revealed that it could speak in Common as well), along with an offering of food convinced the Winter Wolf that the party would leave it alone if it left them alone. In exchange for being released from its chains, the Winter Wolf agreed to not alert the two trolls inside about their presence. Once freed, the wolf bolted for the entrance to the keep, and into the cold, wintry mountains beyond.

Two lengthy barracks joined in the middle at the far end of the courtyard, shielding the entrance to the mine that gave Brightstone Keep its name. The use of a spell to disguise an adventurer as one of the recently slain orcish lieutenants in the towers revealed the knowledge that the barracks housed scores of kidnapped people from Miel, and that each building employed a troll bearing powerful magical items that compensated for their weaknesses to fire. One at a time the two trolls were tricked from their posts into going outside, where they were ambushed and killed before their regenerative properties could do them any good. All of the villagers were freed (to the modest disapproval of some of the party.)

With all of Kurjan’s lieutenants dispatched, the party approached the entrance to the mine. Blok entered first, and was instantly seen by Kurjan and a number of skeletons and zombies, the first minions of Sawtooth’s impending army. Blok retreated, and was followed by the necromancer and his undead minions, only to walk into a powerful turning attack courtesy of Blok’s clerical powers.

Weakened (and, in some cases, outright destroyed), the other undead followers of Kurjan Sawtooth fell quickly, and the orcish wizard soon followed. Through the terms of the agreement with the town of Miel, this made the adventurers the rightful new owners of Brightstone Keep (and, more significantly, the mine beneath it.) Kurjan had apprently become recently aware of just how lucrative the mine still was, as a treasure chest was found near his personal belongings that contained a variety of gemstones that helped to supplement the heroes needs for the immediate future.

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