Episode 11 : Taking Caer Of Business
 

We step from the stairs into darkness. There is a chamber here, three additional passages lead off. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt looks about, he spots a particular area on a wall near the bottom of the staircase in which the lichen looks to be tended in place. Behind this lichen is a lever. Wilhelm Schults pulls the lever down. A clang, clang, clang comes from the staircase above. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Wilhelm Schults investigate the blade above. By jolting the log, the crack formed in it causes a break and the log splits in two. The blade slides into the wall. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt steps upon the half step before the blade, there is a click, and what would appear to be blade motion but it is held in check. The blade does not descend. They return to us downstairs. Our trackers reveal that the right passage is unused, the central has signs of many clawed feet, and the left passage has few tracks and those are of booted feet. We decide to take the tunnel leading off to our left. Thirty feet on we spy an arrow trap, designed to catch the unwary. We are about to disarm the device when we hear footsteps in the darkness before us, approaching us. We return to the main chamber and wait.

We hear the men stop before the arrow trap, that is our queue. Werner Faßenberg cast sudden light and illuminates the passage. Heinz Meier and Hanz Josephson are sped and send a barrage of sling slugs into the five figures illuminated in the light. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt does likewise with his composite bow. Three men fall dead that instant, the other two are wounded and drop. We subdue them. The fourth dies from his wounds. The fifth has Werner Faßenberg cast charm kind upon him and now Werner Faßenberg is his very good friend. The whites of the eyes of the men are all blue. The man reveals that they have vials containing a liquid which the liquid is dropped into the eyes it will allow them to see in utter darkness.

The man is Luthor and he is a dark ranger working in cooperation with Levinya, the beast mistress, one of the three witches, and a Mage of the highest order. "No doubt, second or even third level!", chuckles Heinz Meier looking at Werner Faßenberg and Weldon Greenears. This is the dark ranger's base of operations and they protect the witches southern flank and their back passage. There are two groups of five rangers here. One group is currently out and is due back in a day or two. We ask where the passages lead. The left leads to their quarters. In here we find basic beds, supplies and a cache of 800 gold. We also find some vials containing a black liquid gunk, a blade venom, which if contacted turns the touched black and into a quivering mass of flesh withering minutes. We note that the archer in their party had such a flask and that he did have an arrow tipped with the liquid. The archer's bow we discover is enchanted. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt takes the bow.

The centre passage leads directly to Levinya, some 500 feet beyond. Down here Luthor tells of how a group of some 200 skeletons left but a day before, up the staircase and into the woods. He is expecting another group soon. He is also expecting to receive another pouch containing vials of the blue liquid. These are delivered by Levinya's agents. We hear the rattle of bones coming from the entrance chamber. Luthor tells how they have one man there always on guard. Heinz Meier grabs a cloak and broadsword, puts them on and enters the chamber. Before him is a possession of skeletons, marching up the staircase, two by two. They have an assortment of weapons, but mostly none. He notices that one has the feathered hat of a ranger.

Lastly two figures in black robes come out of the central passage, one goes up the staircase, the second stands in the center of the room, flicking a small pouch from his right hand into the palm of his left repeatedly. The first robed figure returns shortly accompanied by four skeletons who are placed facing inwards at the base of the staircase, this robed figure then returns up the stairs. The second robed figure turns to Heinz Meier and approaches. Heinz Meier sees a face crawling with maggots. It speaks to him. Heinz Meier nods. It speaks again, Heinz Meier nods and holds out his hand. The robed figure places the pouch into the awaiting hand and smiles and speaks again. Heinz Meier nods. The figure turns and heads back down the central corridor. Heinz Meier examines the pouch and finds it contains 12 vials filled with a blue liquid. Luthor indicates his surprise to see the skeletons at the base of the staircase.

We ask of the third passage. Luthor indicates that he has been told never to go down there. He has not been down there and neither have anyone he knows. We skirt the skeletons at the staircase and proceed down the unused right passage. Luthor is leading and after no more than fifty feet he steps upon a trap. From both above and below massive bursts of flame spurt forth. He is engulfed and sent spinning across to the other side of the ten foot wall of flame. His lower legs are but cinders and he screams in pain. Hanz Josephson sends help in the form of a sling slug, which ends his pain, and his cries too. We use the magic spell leaping to leap the distance of the trap and are now on the other side and heading down the straight passage, carefully looking ahead for any more grated sections. These we do not find. What we do notice is a drop in temperature and a dampness in the air and a soft glow of light down the end of this passage.

Stefan cast intuition and sprints the remaining distance down the corridor, he comes to a sloping tunnel. The floor is ice, he slips and slides down into a cavern having a frozen lake. He skates across the surface ice and flies into the water of the lake itself. He gasps for breath as the coldness hits him. His breath drops as icicles, his feet and hands go numb, he sinks below the surface and the cold saps all the heat from his body. Stefan breaks the spell. We hear from behind us now the marching of skeletal feet into the chamber, but not up the staircase. We hear the sound of them milling in the entrance chamber. We decide to go forward.

Werner Faßenberg cast earthwall at the bottom of the slide and using ropes, we lower ourselves into the ice cavern below. Before us is the ice cavern, a sheet of ice covers the cavern floor, this is only broken in the center so forming an ice lake. About the edges of the ice lake the ice sheet is intake and can hold our weight. Stefan again cast intuition and has himself moving around the wall and around the edge of the ice to try and reach the other side. Shortly after he starts to walk, there is movement in the water and quickly from beneath the surface black octopus tentacle rise and wrap themselves about him. He is dragged to the water's edge as he breaks the spell.

Again Stefan cast intuition, this time Werner Faßenberg cast leaving and sends him across the lake and up into the area of stalagmites beyond the ice lake. From his vantage point Stefan sees a second ice lake beyond, and behind this a wall of ice. This wall of ice has something beyond it which is glowing and illuminates the entire wall as well as the depths of the second lake. Stefan notices motion from this lake and also the first lake, the waves break and he sees two different sets of tentacles break the surface and come for him. He breaks the spell. We decide to climb back to where we were. A fortuitous move as when the last man reaches the top of the sloping passage, two black tentacles lift the earthwall from its position and cast it aside. The tentacles grope up the corridor, searching for us.

Our missile wielders send their deadly cargo into the tentacles. We hear behind us the woomph of the firetrap going off. The mass of skeletons is in the corridor and marching towards us, only to have the first rank vaporized by the firetrap. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt goes berserk and hacks into the tentacles. Heinz Meier does likewise and sees that the tentacles are attached to a black mass in the centre of the lake and he sees an eye staring up at him. Werner Faßenberg cast earthwall just after the firetrap. A second woomph sounds and again another row of skeletons is turned to dust. There is a third woomph but no more. A tentacle wraps about Hanz Josephson and snaps the bones in both arms and an ankle, and pins him in its grip. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt slashes into this tentacle and it withers. Hanz Josephson drops unconscious to the ground. Stefan drags him from the reach of another probing tentacle.

A tentacle strikes Gunther Sturmritter and wraps itself about his leg. Heinz Meier slings at the eye but misses, Werner Faßenberg cast sudden light at the eye but does not affect it. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt hacks more tentacles, Heinz Meier and Wilhelm Schults sling the eye both striking it. A groan fills the cavern. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, cast a sudden light, the Kraken is momentarily stunned. He lands on Werner Faßenberg's shoulder, "That's how you do it.". Werner Faßenberg takes a deep breath and turning blows the Pysk from his shoulder and starts preparation for a spell twice his level. The battle rages on. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt cuts and withers another tentacle. A tentacle slashes into Gunther Sturmritter's legs and wraps about them. Heinz Meier again slings the eye and Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt cuts the tentacle off Gunther Sturmritter. Werner Faßenberg successfully cast a firebolt and sends this speeding into the eye, the Kraken groans in pain.

A tentacle darts up the corridor and wraps around Wilhelm Schults and with a quick muscle spasm completely crushes his hips. Wilhelm Schults gasps his dying breaths. Werner Faßenberg steps back and begins spell preparation again. Weldon Greenear's next sudden light fails. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt and Gunther Sturmritter hack at the tentacles and Heinz Meier sends sling slugs into the eye. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt hacks the tentacle off Wilhelm Schults who is just conscious. Stefan puts the Dice of Chaos into his palm. Wilhelm Schults mutters, "I want to live.", and the dice clatter from his palm onto the ice, stop and then vanish. A soft blue glow forms about Wilhelm Schults, he raises into the air is now fully healed and with a pop vanishes from sight.

A tentacle whips up the corridor and slashes across Heinz Meier's face, ripping his nose off. Werner Faßenberg steps forward again, and again successfully cast a firebolt straight into the eye of the Kraken. It groans and ceases to move, the tentacles go limp, and the whole thing starts to slide into the lake. Stefan draws his bow and sends an arrow into the eye, blood pours forth as it sinks below the surface. Stefan attends to our wounded. A silence descends, then we hear a distant voice inside the ice cavern cry, "Help.". Wilhelm Schults is in need of our assistance as he makes his way across the ice towards us.

The earthwall behind us starts to crumble and the first of the skeletons emerges. We have a choice of the ice cavern in front or the hundreds of skeletal warriors behind. We head into the ice cavern. Werner Faßenberg and Weldon Greenears cast leaving on our group and we send them into the ice cavern near Wilhelm Schults, much to his relief. Stefan tends to the wounded, he cast flowstop on Gunther Sturmritter which temporarily clots his bleeding wound. The only problem is that he now cannot be moved for an hour else the wound will reopen. We during this pause assess our position. We are situated right on the middle of the ice cavern between the two ice lakes and stand upon snow and ice covered stalagmites. These stalagmites separate each ice lake such that the Krakens cannot pass between both, thankfully. We find a small trench in the snow, here we take refuge and build up the walls in front and behind with the loose snow. Here we duck and wait, Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, flaps silently and invisibly above us and gives us a running commentary of what he sees taking place.

Weldon Greenears reports that he sees three skeletons descend down the icy slope. Each skeleton has a headband, a bow, a quiver and some arrows. They each in turn draw their bows and Weldon Greenears sees their arrows arcing towards the snow covered stalagmites. One is coming close to us. He sees that at the tip of each arrow there is a black sphere. The arrow hits the snow and a cold ball erupts. Our entire group is in the sphere of effect, even though under cover. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, takes the full force of the blast and an icicle covered Pysk drops to the ground unconscious. Similarly the other mage of the highest order sinks into unconsciousness. The cold balls rain down all along the stalagmite dividing range, then the firing ceases.

Wilhelm Schults stalks off down to the central area of the dividing range and peeks a look. He sees two sets of three skeletons moving across both walkways at the sides of the ice sheet. Wilhelm Schults sees the three skeletal archers at their original position just down from the ice slide and standing before the edge of the ice lake. One skeletal archer also sees Wilhelm Schults, its skeletal head snapping towards him. It draws and fires an arrow at him. An arrow who's tip is a black sphere. Wilhelm Schults turns and dives back down the slope, the exploding cold ball propelling him into the air and sends him further on his path.

Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt goes to help Wilhelm Schults. Stefan pours a potion of frost cure down Werner Faßenberg's throat, as Heinz Meier does also for Weldon Greenears. Both mages of the highest order groggily sit up and assess their situation. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt sees a black tentacle grope at where Wilhelm Schults was but moments before. He sends a arrow deep into the eye of the Kraken. The Kraken lurches from the ice lake, propelling its body forward and allowing its forward portion to rest upon the ice sheet. Half its tentacles work to stabilize itself and the other half are allowed to grope further for our party.

Stefan gives Hanz Josephson our potion of immense healing in the hope that his broken arms and ankle will mend. Wilhelm Schults turns and slings a sling slug into the Kraken's eye. It moans and whips a tentacle at Wilhelm Schults's leg and opens a nasty bleeding wound with its razor sharp claw. It then tries to wrap the tentacle about the leg but fails to grip. Werner Faßenberg having prepared an earthwall, he now waits to cast and moves to the edge of our snow embankment to see more. The embankment slides away from him. Werner Faßenberg stands completely exposed, his mouth a gasp. Three skeletal archer heads simultaneously snap to look at him, each skeletal archer draw forth a black bulb tipped arrow, they nock their bows, draw. Werner Faßenberg cast earthwall, not where he had intended but now just in front of the skeletal archers, just before they were to fire their volley. The ice sheet on which the earthwall rests collapses under the weight, sending the earthwall and two skeletal archers to the bottom of the ice lake. Only one is able to jump back in time. Werner Faßenberg drinks a potion of invisibility and vanishes from sight only his breath now hangs like icicles in the air.

Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, has better results with his earthwall, placing it before the skeletons advancing to our left. Again the earthwall causes the ice sheet to break and this time three skeletal warriors descend into the black icy waters below. Two about face and the last is left on an ice outcropping still attached to the wall. Werner Faßenberg cast leaping to leap towards the middle of the cavern. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, cast leaping on Wilhelm Schults and he leaps away from the searching tentacles to the relative safety of the left side wall. Werner Faßenberg takes a potion of diminution and shrinks to Pysk size, still in his invisible form, takes up a hidden position and begins spell preparation again.

Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt draws forth his sword and drives it deep into the body mass of the Kraken, stunning the Kraken. Again and again he strikes. At the position where Werner Faßenberg stood but moments before the last skeletal archer sends a cold ball arrow. Even those hidden under the snow feel its icy fingers upon their form. The Kraken starts to roll itself in place and slowly brings its good eye to bear witness upon the scene of Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt hacking into it and its tentacles. Stefan and Heinz Meier crawl from their position in the trench, just before another cold ball strikes. Wilhelm Schults has now crawled to the left wall and rests against it, a large blood trail marking his passage. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt is berserk and hacks at the Kraken regardless of personal safety. Boom, again another cold ball strikes the same spot where the party is. Again sending its freezing fingers down to caress those now buried beneath.

The skeletons are now but meters from the solid wall of stalagmites. Heinz Meier slings at the Krakens good eye, it blinks and the sling slug bounces off into the ice lake. Tentacles directed with malice lash out at Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt trying to grapple him. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt uses all his skill to drive them off, such that they can not make any grip upon him. Heinz Meier again slings the Kraken, as Stefan tells him to hold still while he tries to set a bandage in place on Heinz Meier's wounded leg. Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, cast earthwall, sets it behind the advancing skeletons and collapses the right side of the ice sheet passage. Only the six skeletal warriors that are now with us will be able to get across. Werner Faßenberg follows suit and cast earthwall too, he places his wall just behind the leading two skeletons, and just on the ice sheet. The ice sheet breaks and four skeletons descend into the depths of the lake. The first one steps up onto the stalagmites and advances towards the trench, the second begins manoeuvring about the ice pool just before it.

Gunther Sturmritter looks up from the trench and the skeletal archer sends an arrow against the side of his helmet, it bounces off into the snow. Hanz Josephson drinks his potion of frost cure and is healed. Wilhelm Schults mumbles to Stefan, "I think I'm going to pass out.", and promptly loses consciousness from the blood loss. Heinz Meier sends a sling slug into the Kraken's eye, it moans. Both mages of the highest order are down to their last few spell castings. Werner Faßenberg draws forth the Wand of Ice Bolts and takes aim at the skeletal archer but waits as the first skeletal warrior walks past him. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt in a blaze of berserk fury sends his sword, to the hilt, deep into the kraken's eye and into its brain. He draws forth his weapon as the body mass of the kraken quivers and starts to sink into the ice lake.

The first skeletal warrior appears over the crest of the stalagmites and is greeted by Heinz Meier who sends a sling slug into it. The creatures neck bone shatters and the skull falls into the snow, the body stands there, failing madly at the air trying to grapple anything. Werner Faßenberg sees another skeletal figure appear next to the skeletal archer, this is a skeleton master in his black robes. Gabriel Von Hendlebrodt takes aim at the headless skeletal warrior and delivers a blow that breaks its hip. Heinz Meier follows up his first sling slug with a second that causes the chest to collapse. The skeletal warrior is now nothing more than bones.

Weldon Greenears, the Pysk, cast cracks call on the ice roof above the skeletal archer and the skeleton master. The ice descends in huge chunks onto them. The skeletal archer is swept into the ice lake. The skeleton master brushes from himself the piles of snow formed on his head and shoulders. Werner Faßenberg using the wand sends an ice bolt into him, he shudders and turns about to face the mages. Hanz Josephson cast facades and appears as a skeletal warrior and crawls from the trench, sling in hand. The skeleton master raises its arms and cast a cold ball at both mages of the highest order. The mages are struck down by the blast and lie in a collapsed heap, both leaking blood onto the snow. The second skeletal warrior walks over the ridge and confronts Gunther Sturmritter who forces it on the defensive. Heinz Meier delivering the killing blow with his sling again.

Heinz Meier moves up and throws a sling slug at the skeleton master, it plops into the middle of the ice lake. Hanz Josephson fairs better. His magical sling slug strikes the skeleton masters upheld arm and shatters the shoulder. Its arm falls to the ground, it looks down and collapses. A quiet hush falls on the ice cavern the only sound to break the silence being that of our group, the shifting snow and the occasional falling of icicles. Stefan attends to those in our group who are wounded. We hear after an hour or so, the sound of sliding rock on rock, hammering and chiselling. The skeletal warriors must believe that this will be our icy tomb and they have sealed us in forever. We rest, regain our spell points. Stefan heals us fully.

Werner Faßenberg cast heat solid and heats up the surrounding stalagmites and our shields to fend off the bitter cold. High above us Hanz Josephson notices a small hole in the ice sheet at the back of the cavern, right at the top. From this hole he spies the head of a bat watching us for a few moments before it disappears. Werner Faßenberg uses leaving goes to the other side of the ice cavern and retrieves the body of the skeleton master. He uses leaving to send it across to the party before following himself in similar fashion. The skeleton master has upon its person a robe, a belt, a headband with a red gem, and gloves. Stefan tries casting intuition and discovers that the headband and gloves caused his demise. But he did have a vision of a ladies face, with a wicked smile, look upon him when he wore the headband. He found out that the robe provides protection, this he puts on, the clasp at the neck immediately locks and a curse comes into effect. He is also able to tell us that any who touch the ice sheet are subjected to a massive cold critical, freezing the portion of the body that was unfortunate enough to touch the ice sheet.

The bat appears again, but quickly vanishes when Hanz Josephson sends a sling slug at it. We test the ice wall. Werner Faßenberg cast heat solid and sees some steam rise momentarily but then no more. We decide to cast portal to see what lies beyond. Both mages of the highest order are needed to generate a hole long enough for us to go through the ten foot thickness of the ice sheet. Stefan cast intuition to see what we will find on the other side. He does this and leaps through the hole. He passes thorough a waterfall and into midair, he falls fifteen feet down onto a bridge running along the ice sheet. The bridge is fifteen feet wide at this point. Before Stefan is a rock face, growing on the face are ferns and plants. Up above there is the rocky cavern top, with stalactites hanging down. Below a vast chasm yearns, the earth appearing to rise and fall, Stefan is on the verge of panic and grips the bridge for dear life. He sees movement amongst the ferns. The spell ends, Stefan is drenched with sweat. "Well fellas lets go back and fight the skeletal warriors, there are only a couple of hundred of them.". After some time he calms and provides a brief description of what he saw.

We decide to go forward. Werner Faßenberg is instructed to burn our way through. Werner Faßenberg casts above his level and cast wall of fire at the ice sheet. One foot thick of ice, melts and the water flows onto the ice lake, where it instantly freezes. Six more times Werner Faßenberg casts his spell, and each time a foot thickness of ice is melted. Werner Faßenberg has exhausted his spell points and must rest to gain them back. During the next eight hours the party notices movement beyond the wall, three times they see something fly by on the other side. There is no reward for Stefan. Werner Faßenberg awakens and cast wall of fire three more times. The ice is melted, the way is open, only a light waterfall beyond the opening obscures our vision. We are set to pass into the cavern beyond.

 

 
(c) 1999 Hammerstein Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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