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The Mouth of the Sleeper
A High Standard

…continues from Book #01, Chapter #10, Scene #14

Synopsis

2nd Day of Tarsakh in the Year of the Sudden Journey
Battling at the summit of the white face adorned hill in the Coilwood, the heroes manage to overcome a force of orcs and the reappearance of strange black creatures. Exploring the domed chambers within they force open a secret door, and are besieged by a statue. Dusting themselves down they continue to explore further below and stumble upon a bloody figure. The eyeless figure seems to have more than thoughts in its head, spewing forth more black abominations but the heroes managed to overthrow them. Deciding to venture south, rather than risk the blade bridges they find to the east, the encounter a sprung trap, but the corpses of past victims appear to rise against them. After dispatching the hung victims and discovering parchment upon parchment, they return to the bridges and spring a trap, eventually overcoming a giant orb of a zombie with a missing eye. Navigating an eyeball contraption and descending further they arrive in what appears to be a ritual chamber, but with dead bodies strewn around. Examination of a strange bloodied cloth on a stone reveals more than what Khalin hopes for. As black abominations descend from a portal above the party battles valiantly, finally warding them off and destroying the portal.

For a chapter summary please see Chapter #10 Summary.

For an appendix detailing the locations of “The Mouth of the Sleeper” and a full map, please see Chapter #10 Appendix.

Cast List

Khalin Grundokri

8th Level Male Dwarven Marshal (Warlord)

Kireth Majere

8th Level Male Half-Elven Arcanist (Wizard)

Tradden Aversward

8th Level Male Human Weaponmaster (Fighter)

Zero Uhlit

8th Level Male Human Scoundrel (Rogue)

Beltak Ancaron

Scribe of Pelor (NPC)

Scene Length

This scene starts on Tuesday 13th February 2017 and is expected to be completed by the end of Thursday 28th February 2017.

Players are expected to be able to post at least once a day.

Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Tradden slowly and gingerly sheathed his swords on his back-holster, and surveyed the scene.

‘What a mess…’ he mumbled to no-one in particular, as he finally took in the chamber in more detail. There were bodies almost everywhere. At least none of them were theirs’ — but it had been a close thing.

As each of the group finally had a moment to register that the fight was over, a strange quiet came over them. Stood, deep underground, in amongst the twisted corpses of humans, hobgoblins and of course the more bizarre, there really wasn’t a lot to say.

Beltak had sunk to the ground, exhausted. Zero was staring at the mirror he had just smashed. Kireth was staring into nothingness, deep in thought. Khalin was still cleaning off his warhammer, staring at the smouldering black corpse.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Khalin sighed with relief as the ghastly abomination smouldered and died before turning first to Beltak behind him. Putting a hand up on the kneeling scribe’s shoulder he thanked him properly for his help.

‘Well done, everyone,’ he continued, raising his voice to carry across the chamber. ‘Let’s hope that’s the last of these things.’

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

No one really moved however. Exhausted.

There was something still bothering Tradden. It had been bothering him for a while. They kept coming across it, and it was the darnest thing…

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Khalin moved across to regard the tattered flag, still proudly standing aloft on its makeshift staff. His next order came almost as an afterthought as he stood transfixed. ‘Let’s search this chamber quickly, before that foul smoke fills the room.’

He moved across to examine the standard more closely: ‘If anyone finds a door to a tavern, that would be splendid,’ he finished.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Avandra’s Forgelight,’ the young fighter said.

‘Hmm? What’s that, lad?’ queried Khalin, absentmindedly, as he circled the standard, peering at the bloody cloth atop the spear.

‘Avandra’s Forgelight,’ Tradden repeated, calmly. ‘The tobacco. Have you ever smoked it?’ He turned on the rogue.‘Or, you, Zero?’ And to the mage. ‘Kireth?’

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘I can’t say I have,’ replied the dwarf. ‘Is that what this smells like?’ he continued, gesturing towards the burning mess.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

The horrible black thing was destroyed, but it still plagued Zero with its smell and ugly sight. There was something about that smoke, though.

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+12: 28] - success!

In an enclosed chamber Zero thought that they would all be coughing and spluttering with the effects of the smoke by now. However, he could see that the smoke was getting out; spiralling up and out through the nose and the mouth of the carving on the ceiling. Small holes in the mouth — perhaps where the blood had dripped from — seemed to be sucking up the smoke.

‘At least the smell might not last long,’ offered the rogue, pointing out the smoke trail.

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Investigative Rest
The Mouth of the Sleeper

With the threat of being trapped within a smoke-filled chamber receeding as the thin wisps spiralled up and into the face of the carved relief in the ceiling above, the party took to investigating the remaining bodies and detritus within the room.

[Khalin Perception Check: Take 20: 24] - success!

[Kireth Perception Check: Take 20: 24] - success!

[Tradden Perception Check: Take 20: 26] - success!

[Zero Perception Check: Take 20: 32] - success!

[Beltak Perception Check: Take 20: 28] - success!

Tradden strode over quickly to the abomination, and began poking its melting remains with the point of his longsword. The thing was decomposing quickly and it would not be long before it was just a pool of tar on the stone floor, much like the ones in the room they had previously come from. The aroma emanating from the black remains along with the smoke did indeed smell like “Avandra’s Forgelight” as far as he was concerned. Other than that, though, the abomination held no other mysteries — apart from where it had come from, how it floated and how it was connected to the portal that had been above — that he could discern.

Khalin and Beltak took to examining the other corpses that littered the room. It was foul work — at one stage it was likely that the larger bodies had been real flesh and blood, albeit some of them were hobgoblin in nature. Whatever the black abomination was, it had partners that could either assume the form of other creatures, or take over their form. There had been half a dozen or so humans in the group down here, with another slightly larger one seemingly their leader. He had been flanked by the hobgoblins, that Khalin had stolen a spear from to rise his standard. The only items that appeared to be interesting were on the remains of the leader — his battleaxe and breastplate — which Khalin noted for Kireth to take a look at later.

Zero skirted the edge of the room, looking for any other exits or secret compartments. The walls, however, were seamless, the mortar barely discernable between the blocks of stone. The floor, too, appeared to hold no secrets, the rogue tapping the remaining spear from one of the hobgoblins along its length but to no avail. He stayed away from the central area of the room, fearful of the black stone face above him that still dripped blood from its eye from time to time.

Kireth simply stood still, concentrating.

[Kireth Arcana Check: 1d20+14: 29] - success!

After a few moments all he offered the room was a mildy raised eyebrow.

[Party has spent 3 hours 15 minutes]

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

With an unnerving smirk of superiority on his face Kireth broke the brief moment of silence as the companions gathered themselves together.

‘I’m sure you are all aware of the great power that this room possessed.’ He looked up at the black face. ‘That above had incredible power, but is now fading fast; as is the power from that,’ he continued, nodding at the smashed mirror. ‘A great shame you decided to smash it, Zero.’

[Kireth Arcana Check: 1d20+14: 27] - success!

Ignoring Zero’s dropped jaw and look of dismay, the mage paced the room. ‘That shortsword has power of some sort, but we can wait upon that,’ he advised Tradden, tapping the weapon with his staff as he went past.

[Kireth Arcana Check: 1d20+14: 32] - success!

‘But this,’ he mused, arriving next to Khalin and staring up at the rags atop the spear that the dwarf was now calling a “standard”, ‘this has great power. Great power indeed. Try not to misuse it Khalin, that would be most unfortunate.’

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Kireth’s unnervingly upbeat summaries still ringing in their ears, slowly but surely, the group began packing their things ready for another long march.

The casual onlooker would have noted differing emotions. At one end of the scale stood Khalin, Tradden and Kireth.

The dwarven warlord was positively beaming. A standard found  — he had kept muttering about “find the standard” — and an apparently terrible evil smashed. He extolled the wider virtues of the good the group was doing as he carefully folded the cloth and placed it within a oiled sack within his pack, strapping the pole to the side of the worn leather.

The young fighter lashed the new sword to his own backpack — perhaps a new toy to play with should it pass later examinations and tests by those who knew better. It was hard to get the vision of a well armoured, elven metalsmith out of his mind.

The half-elven mage had no obvious reason to be happy and indeed there was no outward look of emotion on his face. However, his eyes burned with an additional fire that the others had seen before. He was as jolly as he damn well got, but the others were by now resigned to the fact that they would probably not ever know why. Kireth’s preparations seemed minimal, as though he had always been ready to leave.

At the other end of the spectrum were Beltak and Zero. Both had suffered in different ways through the expedition into the underground network.

The scribe, never a buzzing hive of cheerful energy at the best of times, seemed glum despite Pelor’s will presumably having been well served. Perhaps it was the drain of the frequent communions with his deity, perhaps it was just the cracked ribs. He looked with obvious distaste at the remains of the room; from the hollow husk of the corpses to the many pools of tar and then finally to the slowly dissolving remnants of the large abomination, still softly smoking.

The portly rogue cut the most forlorn figure. All that effort. All that… unpleasantness. Zombies. Dusty Zombies for crying out loud! And for what? No trove of treasure, no jewellery that could be presented to a lady fair as a gift to show true love and lifetime dedication. Well, at least for that evening. One day at a time and all that, my dear.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

After a moment’s pause Khalin decided that his pack was fastened and secure and turned to the group. ‘Let’s go,’ he began. ‘I’ve had quite enough of this place. But at least we don’t leave empty-handed,’ he finished, patting the spear pole at the side of the pack.

With that he heaved his luggage onto his back and headed towards the central stairs. ‘I think everything is safe now,’ he declared, ‘but let’s just be careful on the way back up, eh?’

The others adjusted their own packs and fell into line: Zero following Khalin quickly, hoping to get back to fresh air; Kireth in the middle of the group enshrouded in his black robes; Beltak still looking troubled came next; and Tradden brought up the rear, his usual happy-go-lucky smile returning to his face.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

They followed the claustrophobic corridor under the chamber of the portal, winding its way about and around. The radiant black stone seemed to be confusing and befuddling them but, after several bouts of hesitation and confusion, they finally found themselves at the bottom of the shaft upwards and they climbed back up the iron rungs into the chamber with the huge eyeball on a crane.

‘It is starting to make a little more sense now,’ Kireth mused as they gave the human corpse near the levers a wide berth. ‘Skauril must be alive. He sent this courier,’ he pointed at the dead body, ‘to ensure that they didn’t open the portal below until he could “find a way to contain and sway those within”. Skauril now knows about these black things, and he obviously knows how to open these portals.’

‘But he went ahead and opened that portal under the ruined keep,’ protested Khalin.

Kireth rubbed his chin. ‘Yes, but I don’t think he knew about them, or the consequences of opening the portal, at that point,’ the mage surmised. ‘Perhaps he learnt of them as he was pulled into the portal under the keep, or soon after? The letters we found in the chambers above would suggest that he was all set for opening this portal to begin with. Something must have changed his mind to send the courier.’

The dwarf nodded. ‘You are probably right,’ he agreed. ‘All the more reason for us to quickly meet up with the Talons and get into the Nentir Vale. Perhaps we can find someone to help us understand all of this there? I want to know that these things actually are for one.’

With that the warlord headed through the western door.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Picking their way across the broken blade bridges was not easy. Kireth’s magic had severely damaged the structures and both sharp metal and rough stone were constant obstacles to the group.

Khalin, Beltak and Zero grumbled as they climbed and balanced their way across the chamber. Tradden took the obstacles on as a challenge. Even though he was weary, he managed to vault, swing, and leap his way across to the other side. Kireth merely smiled at his handiwork and the growing strengths of his power as he picked his way across slowly.

From there the group headed back towards the spiral steps leading up, not venturing into the southern room with the potted eyeballs, cloaks and letters, and the eyeball-carved floor.

‘Hmm, so at least two groups have been settled here I think,’ stated Kireth before they climbed up the stairs. ‘Skauril’s group — largely humans and orcs by the looks of things upstairs — would appear to have arrived relatively recently and taken the place over, possibly from that mad sage and any followers. The sage was either here alone, the last of a group dedicated to a “Chained God” — whomsever that might be — or Skauril’s agents removed the rest of them. There were those parchments in the room over there,’ he pointed to the south. ‘What did you say they said, Zero?’

The rogue groaned, he intensely disliked repeating the words, but they seemed to be etched in his mind. ‘“Light must be snuffed, perfection decayed, order dissolved, and minds fragmented. The very threads of existence must be torn asunder, then burned, then the ashes scattered, until all is nothing and no one exists to remember existence.”

The words came out in a chant, almost without him having to think.

“Channel power to the Chained God, so he can break his chains. Retrieve lost relics and shrines to the Chained God. Pursue the obliteration of the world, in anticipation of the Chained God’s liberation,”’ he finished, with a bitter taste in his mouth.

‘Yes. Indeed. A second group,’ the mage reiterated. ‘I wonder…’

‘Three,’ Khalin interjected. ‘There must have been another group, or at the very least another stage in the first group’s development.’

‘And what evidence do you have for that?’ sneered the mage, turning upon the dwarf.

‘The stone, the carvings. I thought it was a bit odd when we came into this place. The reliefs around the top of the dome were exquisitely carved out of that strange black stone. I’ve never seen anything in stone worked that well. However, the last panel was pretty rough, as though an amateur had done it. Then there’s the face on the top of the hill — it was quite cheap limestone, not at all in the same style as the rest of this place. All these eyeballs and statues and the like are more recent and not as well made. I’d suggest that this eyeball group, these “Chained God” followers, plundered this place from someone before them. So, three.’

It took Kireth a few moments, the words breaking in his throat. ‘Maybe. Maybe you are right,’ he offered at last, quietly, before motioning the others to climb the stairs.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Khalin led them onwards, up the stairs and through the storeroom with the abandoned ballistae. Heading out through the double doors they came to the bottom of the dome. To their surprise the floor was covered in a thick blanket of snow and a chill pervaded the room. Huge flakes cascaded down from the opening way above and the roar of a wind and storm echoed around.

Near the centre of the chamber, amidst the spikes that had done for at least one orc at the hands of Zero, there was a little circle not affected by the snow; wisps of smoke spiralling upwards, melting the snow around it.

Zero, who had seen the orc fall onto the spikes, let out a disgusted sigh.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Beltak.

‘The spikes,’ Zero coughed. ‘The blood.’ The rogue looked as though he was going to be ill. ‘That’s where the blood was coming from, dripping down into the portal chamber below through that face. The opening in the dome and the spikes below. I bet they used to toss people down there onto the spikes and then their blood ran into the ritual chamber. It’s disgusting. You can see that the smoke is from the big, black thing; there must be holes for the blood to drip down, and the smoke is coming up through them.’

The rogue shivered, and not only just with the cold, before Khalin placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘C’mon, lad, let’s keep moving,’ he offered and headed towards the southern corridor and the way up to the dome’s balcony.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

As one the Krakens headed towards the stone spiral stairs, but as they got to the fork in the corridor, Tradden insisted they stop for a moment. He bounded off to the west, taking a good look at the rubble that littered the corridor.

[Tradden Dungeoneering Check: 1d20+6: 16] - success!

It was a sorry conclusion. The young fighter guessed that once there had been an easier way into the complex — why else would there be stables down here — but the way through was long sealed off thanks to the collapsed rock. Whether this was deliberate or by design was not clear even to Khalin’s trained eye, so to Zero’s sigh of dismay they committed to having to climb up the way they came: by rope.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

The group plodded up the stairs and through the chamber where they had encountered the statue with the blades. Not much remained of it — Kireth’s shock of force and Tradden’s blades seemed to have done for it quite well.

Picking their way across the debris and festering corpses of the remains of the ghouls they headed towards the balcony. The door was open as they had left it and the cold air was chilling them even before they reached the threshold.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Watching the snow flood into the chamber through the mouth of the dome was mesmerising. Khalin’s and Tradden’s torches lent an orange tint to the flakes against the fading light from above. Every once in a while the winds across the Stonemarch were caught in the mouth above, whirling the flakes around violently in spirals and causing the flames of their torches to sway this way and that. The moans from the wind, caught in the aperture of the Mouth, were like an old man groaning his final throes on his death bed.

‘It’s starting to get dark out there,’ murmured Zero. ‘And bloody cold, too.’

‘Those ropes look frigid,’ said Tradden. ‘Are you sure they’ll hold your weight without snapping, Khalin?’ he jested, bending down a little and elbowing the dwarf in his ribs.

The warlord did not seem amused, concentrating his glare on the spiral star formation depicted in the dome’s southern roof. The flecked golden stones were just visible through the snow, but the constellation seemed to mock the dwarf, so small and insignificant beneath its majesty.

Khalin shook his head and broke out of his reverie. ‘Right,’ he gruffed. ‘What do we do about getting up and out of here? Are we all prepared to march through the night in this lot?’

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Tradden was already tugging a couple of the ropes, testing their strength and seeing if they were still climbable in the freezing cold.

‘You’re not serious, surely?’ pleaded Zero, blowing on his hands in an attempt to accentuate the chill, regardless of the fact he wore warm, leather gloves. ‘If it is cold down here, it’ll be bloody freezing up there and getting colder by the minute.’

‘We’ve spent enough time down here already,’ Khalin replied. ‘We need to get moving if we are going to meet up with the Talons in time. I do not particularly want to march out in the snow, but we have no idea when it will stop. We will have to go at some point and now may be better than later. The downfall might give us some cover from watching eyes from the sky until nightfall.’

There was a shudder from the rogue’s shoulders at the mention of eyes from the sky, followed by a resigned slump. Zero began fastening the straps on his pack in silence.

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘You may be happy to wander off into a snowstorm and commit all of us having our frozen corpses being found by rats in a few days, but I am not,’ firmly stated the mage.

‘Kireth…’ Khalin began before he was firmly cut off.

‘Fortunately for you all I may be able to assist,’ the mage continued without a glance towards the dwarf. ‘Whilst the rest of you slumber, and snore,’ Kireth pointedly looked at Khalin this time, ‘I have been translating and researching many of the journals we have found and have ways and means of protecting us from the ravages of temperatures and of precipitation.’

Zero looked up from his pack, confusion on his face.

‘I can make you warm whilst the weather is still cold,’ Kireth sneered.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Well, let’s get on with it,’ scowled Khalin. ‘Let’s get a league or two away from here, and then take stock. If Kireth can protect us from the cold we should be able to get to the foothills to the east by dawn. We can take a rest then, before we move north towards the meeting point. How long do you need to prepare, Kireth?’

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Kireth looked over to Khalin, a slight smirk on his face. ‘Oh, not long at all, but I do need something valuable to consume within the ritual.’ The half-elf’s eyes wandered to the spear-pole at the side of the warlord’s pack with a glint in his eye.

‘How valuable?’ asked Tradden, thinking of the scarce amount of coins he had in his purse.

‘Something of precious metal, preferably,’ the mage replied. ‘Perhaps worth a score of gold?’

All eyes turned to the rogue, who was doing his best to look small. ‘Why is it always me?’ Zero asked.

‘Because you’re the one that takes the shiny things,’ said Tradden, moving over to the rogue and his pack with glee. ‘What have we got in here?’

‘Get out!’ scowled the rogue, waving his arms and ushering the young fighter to move away. A graceful hand snaked into the pack and withdrew one of the gold chains found in the chamber of the eyes below. Zero held it up before his face, the gold sparkling in the torchlight, counting the links in the chain.

‘Here,’ he shouted, tossing the chain to Kireth. ‘This should do it.’

‘How many of those have you got?’ asked Tradden curiously.

‘Never you mind,’ Zero replied, tightly fastening the last buckle on his pack.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Stay fairly close,’ Kireth asked the group, ‘for ten minutes or so. And keep quiet, I need to concentrate.’

The mage closed his eyes, certain the others would do as they were told, and began to focus his mind on the golden chain within his hands, feeling the soft metal warming in his fingers.

[Ritual: Endure Elements]

[Suffer no ill effects from extreme temperatures for 24 hours]

The party remained hushed, everyone seeing to their packs and equipment, tightening the straps on their armour and cloaks.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Beltak was the first to sense any difference. ‘It’s getting warmer in here,’ he said, looking up to the darkening sky and falling snow.

‘Not warmer,’ replied Kireth. ‘You just won’t feel the effects for a while.’

‘How long have we got before the spell wears off?’ asked Khalin.

‘We have all night, and perhaps much of the day tomorrow,’ said the mage. ‘I will attempt to send a message to the Talons whilst you work out how best to get us up and out of here,’ he continued, ushering the dwarf towards the ropes.

‘I thought that scrying and stuff didn’t work?’ Tradden offered, pulling at one of the snow-covered ropes for strength.

‘My powers are growing stronger. Perhaps I can see a way through this snow and get a message through,’ Kireth replied. ‘It is worth the little time it will take.’

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

Tradden needed no further encouragement to be the first to scurry up one of the ropes. His mix of agility and strength made it look easy, pulling himself up and over the edge of the “Mouth”. It wasn’t long before he had brought another of the ropes around, then another, until there were enough to allow the lifting of packs and people up and out of the “Mouth”.

Meanwhile, Kireth had been stood with his eyes closed, his hands against his temples and his thoughts on the Talons.

[Ritual: Sending]

[Arcana Check: 1d20+14: 24] - success!

[Radius of Sending can be up to 500 miles]

‘No luck?’ Khalin asked, noticing the snarl on Kireth’s lips.

‘They must not be listening,’ Kireth simply replied.

‘It was worth the try,’ the warlord replied, handing the mage a pair of ropes with small loops for footholds. ‘Your turn.’

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Storyline
The Mouth of the Sleeper

At the top of the “Mouth” Tradden and Beltak heaved the mage up. The young fighter had fashioned enough of a method out of the thick, woven lines to pull others up and the scribe had lent his strength to the effort. As Kireth clambered over the lip and freed himself from the loops, the ropes went down once last time for the dwarf.

Zero had to offer his strength to the pair to bring the dwarf up, Tradden jeering at Khalin about too many ales and not enough exercise until all of the Krakens were up and out.

Atop the “Mouth of the Sleeper” the air was very welcome. Fresh and clean it was as refreshing as sleep and everyone took in lungfuls to cleanse their body of the death and decay, and the lingering stench of tobacco, from below.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Packs were hoisted and attention turned to Khalin. ‘Fairly simple,’ the dwarf stated, looking out into the sky. ‘We take it easy through the trees here and then we head east as fast as we dare over the Stonemarch. From the maps of Sorrow’s that we looked at, it might take a few hours. We can rest when we get to the foothills. Watch your footing, especially crossing the bits of ice in this wood.’

With that, and barely a glance back at the gaping hole atop the hill, the dwarf marched out, heading down towards the twisted trees to the east and to the Stonemarch beyond.

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Storyline
The Coilwood

Passing through the Coilwood was tricky. The gnarled and twisted branches of the short trees clawed at their cloaks and packs as they passed, attempting to pull them back. The ice in the channels between the trees was slippy, and they all anxiously looked down in case they spied something trapped in the ice, trying to claw its way out. The shallow descent made it moderately easier than they way up, however, and they soon cleared the treeline, greeted by the endless rocks and scree of the Stonemarch.

Dusk had finally passed and the night had crept in, dark clouds above them blocking the moonlight. However, to the east it was possible to spot stars — the anvil and hammer of Moradin’s constellation bright and welcoming.

‘Looks like we’re heading away from the snow,’ said Khalin with some relish. ‘C’mon, let’s see if we can clear these clouds and damn wind.’

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Storyline
The Stonemarch

The trudge eastwards across the Stonemarch was slow. The uneven terrain and sharp bluffs were tiresome to navigate. A ridge rose at one point and forced them in a southeasterly direction, channeling them away from their direct route. Khalin grumbled and often tried to get back onto track, but had no choice but to follow the seam of the land. After a couple of leagues and a steady four hours of marching the group had no choice but to rest.

As they gulped water they noticed the snow had finally stopped and the clouds above them were clearing. Tradden called back from further down the trail, having gone further as was his usual practice.

‘It turns back northeast up here,’ he called. ‘Perhaps back the way we want.’

‘We’ve got to keep moving,’ Khalin urged. ‘C’mon, we are back on track, let’s go.’

Moans from Zero echoed softly around, but they all rose and headed out once more.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

It was another toil across three more leagues of ridges and scree before eventually the ground began to even out and bits of scrub and grass covered the floor rather than sharp and brittle stone. By the time the moon was hiding itself in the oncoming dawn they were well and truly in the foothills of the Cairngorms, the peaks towering in front of them, glinting shyly with the sunrise behind them.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

‘Perhaps we should take a breather,’ Khalin offered when they found a small depression in amongst the hills and scrub. ‘This place looks good to stop for a while.’

The dwarf’s eyes darted up to the top of the mountain range, the peaks glowing purple in the shade from the dawn, their caps glinting like fire as the sun rose beyond them. ‘For surely it is a marvellous place to rest,’ he espoused, transfixed upon the sight.

Tradden, trotting up behind nodded in agreement and enthusiastically started to find some firewood. Kireth, looking none the worse for his travels, simply found a corner to sit and contemplate. Beltak looked exhausted, white-faced and puffing a little, but nodded to Tradden and began to help. Zero looked much the worse for wear — red-faced, sweating, with his cheeks blowing and a complaint never too far from his lips. The rogue threw down his pack and collapsed upon it.

‘The worst of the hike is over, Zero,’ Khalin offered kindly. ‘Across these foothills and north will be easy in comparison.’

‘Rest,’ was all the rogue could muster.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

‘How far remains?’ asked Tradden dropping a bundle of branches near Khalin’s feet.

‘A full day, maybe two, north,’ replied the warlord. ‘Better ground though, so we may make haste.’

‘We should rest here and recuperate,’ said Kireth. ‘Looks like one of us,’ he continued, nodding at Zero, ‘has skipped first watch.’

The rogue was already fast asleep, straddling his pack.

‘I’ll get him into a tent or something,’ sighed Tradden and started unpacking his belongings.

‘Let’s get a fire going,’ suggested Khalin. ‘Get some warm food in our bellies. We’ll need a good meal if we’re going to march northwards at dusk.’

The dwarf took one longing look at the peaks of the mountains rearing up in front of them and then turned and started to arrange a firepit.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

It wasn’t long before the group had a small fire going and had set up a reasonable camp. As the sun rose above the peaks the chill in the air slowly receded and for the first time in a while they basked in the warmth and light of their natural surroundings. The wind had dropped in the shelter of the mountains to the usual Tarsakh bluster and it almost felt as though Spring had finally arrived, albeit a tenday or two late.

Tradden and Beltak saw to the erection of the tents whilst Khalin had gotten the fire started. Kireth was already off to one side, searching through the letters they had found and the books he carried within his pack. Zero simply snored.

‘First watch is yours, Kireth,’ Khalin suggested to the half-elf. ‘Will give you time to study your books. Rouse me in a couple of hours and I’ll take over. Then you, Tradden, I think, followed by you, Beltak,’ he continued, turning to the others. Finally he looked towards the tent where the snoring emanated from. ‘We’ll get him up for the last shift, and to cook us a hearty breakfast, even though it will likely be dusk by then.’

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

Khalin and Beltak took themselves off to their respective bedrolls where sleep took them quickly, exhaustion catching up with them. Tradden took a moment to ask Kireth about the shortsword they had found with the body in the chamber with the huge eyeball blocking the tunnel to the final room in the “Mouth of the Sleeper”.

“It is a fine item,’ Kireth said, with almost genuine interest. ‘It may ward off blows like a shield in some cases and is certainly imbued with properties of quickness and sharpness. Far superior to that penny stick you normally wield,’ he continued, nodding at Tradden’s current secondary weapon.

[Party have found a Rhythm Blade]

Rhythm Blade +2 (Level 8 Common)

With a few exploratory swishes of the blade, and the death of several long blades of grass, the young fighter thanked the mage and headed to his own small tent.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

The rest of the day passed largely uneventfully. Everyone took their turn at watch without complaint and the warmth, sun, and fresh, sweet air refresh everybody considerably, culminating in a hunger for “breakfast” that Zero served at dusk that was wolfed down with gusto.

3rd Day of Tarsakh | Dusk | Clear, Cold, Gentle Easterly Breeze | go to latest… | back to top…

Extended Rest
Completed

ER

Healing Surges and Hit Points

Healing Surges and Hit Points are regained.

[Khalin has 7 healing surges and is now on 61/61 hit points]

[Kireth has 8 healing surges and is now on 52/52 hit points]

[Tradden has 10 healing surges and is now on 70/70 hit points]

[Zero has 7 healing surges and is now on 60/60 hit points]

[Beltak has 7 healing surges and is now on 58/58 hit points]

Encounter and Daily Powers

All encounter and daily powers are recharged.

Milestones

Action Points reset to 1.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

The wind had died down to a whisper by dusk, making the air feel warmer and the packing away of camp so much easier.

‘If the weather stays as it is we may make good time tonight,’ Khalin suggested. ‘Ten leagues or so, I would think. If we can get half a dozen or more under our belts tonight then we will be in good shape.’

Zero was already groaning.

‘We still need to keep out an eye for orcs or goblins, though,’ the warlord continued. ‘If they are bolstering this pass we are looking for with troops from Kiris Dahn, or just bringing prisoners up this way in those carts, we need to be careful.’

‘And keep an eye on the skies,’ Kireth added. ‘Especially you, Zero.’

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

With the rogue still shuddering the group set off to the north, weaving around the mounds and hillocks of the foothills, trying to keep a reasonable amount of cover from any prying eyes.

Their route took them northerly, often moving in towards the peaks. As darkness fell the stars appeared, the constellation of Pelor with its outstretched beam pointing their way as they marched, the waning gibbous moon faint in the sky.

They stopped often and for longer periods than they had across the Stonemarch, much to Zero’s relief and ran into nothing more than the creatures of the scrub. Tradden speared a brace of hares with a few shots from his crossbow and Beltak enthusiastically collected herbs and plants along the way. By the time Khalin called a halt to the march just before dawn they were all eager to taste a freshly cooked, hot meal rather than just warming their dried rations.

4th Day of Tarsakh | Night’s End | Clear, Waning Gibbous Moon, Cold, Light Easterly Breeze | go to latest… | back to top…

Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

Finding another suitable hollow the group set up camp and before long the smell of roasting hare had them all sat around the campfire with the most cheer they had felt for some time.

‘We have made good progress,’ Khalin enthused. ‘Two or three leagues more at the most and we are far ahead of schedule. We might even make the meeting place before the Talons get there. We do need to be more cautious on our path, now, though. If we are getting closer and closer to this pass and gate, then I would think scouts and other troops may be about. I don’t want to run into them without knowing about them.’

‘What do you suggest?’ asked Beltak.

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Storyline
Cairngorm Foothills

‘Maybe we could get further north and take a peak at this Stonefang Pass,’ Tradden suggested. ‘Get some intelligence on it, so we can plan.’ The young fighter seemed pretty pleased with his military tactics.

‘We haven’t yet reached the rendezvous point,’ Khalin retorted. ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The main mission now is to get to that meeting place, while being wary of potential enemies and ambushes.’

‘Khalin is right,’ agreed Kireth, somewhat surprising the warlord. ‘That tattooed dwarf, Borik, had mentioned how the western gate of this pass was taken by orcs. If they are there and they are at Kiris Dahn to the south of these peaks then I would suggest that there is traffic between them. We need to be careful in our movements.’

The mage turned to the young fighter. ‘If you want to go off gallivanting into the countryside then I suggest you look for whatever trail or road the orcs and goblins are using, as that might give us some information.’

Tradden’s face brightened at the thought of a special mission.

‘Do not get seen,’ Khalin stressed. ‘It will be dawn soon. Be back before the sun tops the peaks.’

4th Day of Tarsakh | Night’s End | Clear, Waning Gibbous Moon, Cold, Light Easterly Breeze | go to latest… | back to top…