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The Rod of Seven Partsby Rick Aucoin
Journal from Father Sorgia of the Church of Karameikos, from my current campaign "The Rod of Seven Parts". (Not based on the AD&D boxed campaign, this one is home-brewed). For your entertainment!
Report #1 from Father Sorgia to Vicar-General Alister Paulin of the Order of the Griffin
15 Felmont, 999AC
We received our mission and set out from the Griffons Aerie. While resting in the woods on our way to Specularum, we ran afoul of owl bears in the night. Two of these creatures attacked initially upon the party and we thought we could handle it well until a misplaced spell dropped all of us save the two mages. While we were unconscious the mages Alexandria and Alexander were forced to fight two more approaching owl bears alone. They did well to hold them off, though Aria lost her hand in the battle. Eventually the rest of the party recovered from the effects of the colour spray and we thwarted the evil beasts. The next day we continued on to Specularum with Aria's hand in hopes of healing her and finishing the first part of our mission which was to return Father Bram to the library there. Upon reaching Specularum we managed to convince Father Oderbry of our cause and how devoted Aria was, so soon she was whole again. With information from Father Bram, we were to find the elven sage Fanuidol in Alfheim town, we soon set out after a days rest.
Setting out we spent a night at Baron Desmonds hospitality in Kelvin and then pushed onwards into the eve the next day, bypassing civilisation in hopes of pressing further towards the border that night. We made the border and spoke with Captain Lucius of the Goblin Crushers the next day and spent some time speaking with him about the nearby country and the journey ahead to the elven forest. He suggested we take the road to Wrasseldown as it would save us some time and energy. We thanked him and set off. During our travels as night was deepening, we heard a yell for aid and spotted a female running towards us fleeing giant wolves. Quickly we dismounted to aid her. The wolves were soon defeated but during the battle the female changed into a wolfen type human and also attacked us. Once the wolves were defeated she fled off into the darkness.
Leaving the mountain passes and travelling the great highway of Darokin we quickly made it to Wrasseldown. We met many patrols on the way, Darokin being very well protected and its highway simply rife with caravan stopping stations, hence the travel was quick and well enjoyed. At Wrasseldown we enjoyed an inn for the night, resting up our mounts and learned that there was indeed a way to travel north towards the forest rather than west first as we'd earlier planned as a route.
The next day, refreshed from our stay at the inn, we pushed on to Alfheim town. Upon entering the woods we were stopped by a group of elves led by one named Gruina, wishing to know our reason for travel. We explained ourselves politely and were allowed to pass. The elves seemingly melted back into the woods from which they'd come. When we arrived near Alfheim town we again were stopped, our reason for travel confirmed, and we were escorted by Captain Gilron to meet with Fanuidol.
Initially it seemed as though he were not at home and we were about to be escorted off to guest quarters when a shattering noise was heard from within his home. Quickly Captain Gilron let us in and we searched the small home. Upstairs we found an elven lass tied and gagged. The window to this study was broken in escape and the whole house looked as though it had been searched extensively. Quickly the elf was ungagged and she blurted that Fanuidol had been abducted by "shadow elves". This was all we needed to hear. Captain Gilron rushed from the home and we followed as he organised search parties. Our group, along with an elven guide, rushed off to search the woods as well. During our search we were lucky enough to hear a muffled shout and could see up ahead the shadow elves dragging someone with them. We dashed off after them only to end up in a clearing with no sign of them. Searching the area we found a tunnel leading into the roots of an old tree. Dare we follow? Preparing ourselves for the worst we entered.
Report #2 from Father Sorgia to Vicar-General Alister Culen of the Order of the Griffin
19 Felmont, 999AC
Travelling down into the hole we soon found that this was no animal burrow, the tunnel becoming more worked and smooth as we ventured further, with stone steps beneath our feet leading downward on a 45 degree angle. We were descending, into what we were unsure. Eventually after much travel the tunnel opened up into a great cavern who's limits we could not discern from our vantage point. Large indeed was this realm we had discovered. Venturing out into the cavern we came upon a well maintained road that seemed to traverse the cavern from one end to the other, leading off towards points unknown. God led us down the road to the right. Is there a reason that the elves have told nothing of the organised nature that the shadow elves seem to maintain? Will the elves of the surface be wary of our findings down here and try to silence us? Heedless of our dangers, we pressed on down the road in hopes of catching up with Fanuidol's abductors.
The road carried on for quite some time and it was quickly giving us a taste of its vastness. Up ahead we spied what seemed to be a wagon under attack by a chitinous, mandibled beast, which stood a good eleven feet tall. Quickly accessing the situation, I allowed our scout to loose an arrow to test the beasts mettle before I moved the others closer, using the merchants wagon for cover from the beasts sight. The wagon was being pulled by a giant slug which seemed tame enough and soon to be lunch for the great hulking attacking if we were not to intrude. A shadow elf had been trying to fend off the attack on his wagon and had been knocked wide of his vehicle as we approached. Ilyana charged the beast immediately. Taking the mages around the side, I ensured the shadow elf still lived and his wounds tended before leaving him in the care of the mages. I then went to aid Ilyana. Our scout was now moving in for a better angle on the beast as well. The battle went well, though all who participated were injured afterwards. A commendation may be in order for Ilyana for her stalwart charge to ensure the safety of the foreign civilian. Aria identified the monster as an umber hulk. After all had calmed down we found the merchants name to be Fernalin and he was more than eager to have guards to escort him the rest of the way on his journey to Noran, the largest town in the vicinity. We agreed we would escort him, but that he should rest up for an evening, as we needed a break as well and should look into any possible lair that this beast may have had. What we found did amaze us, after a good search our mage, more skilled in magical beasts ways, found its lair and we had quite a welcome surprise awaiting. An archaic suit of armour, a green gem tipped mace, a fancy long sword, gauntlets, a ring with a shield image impression, a beautiful red cape, a box of 14 gems and a chest filled with what appeared to be platinum and gold coins. Thousands of coins. A Kings ransom. Gladly we set about hauling the gains from the beasts lair and rested up for our travel the next day. (?)
Our journey to Noran, a town of two to three thousand, so Fernalin said, was uneventful passing through what he called star point forest, filled with giant mushrooms that loomed far above a man along the way and the arrival was spectacular. Noran had walls fifteen feet high, guards resplendent in fine chain and equally fine weapons walking about with a regal air. A strong hold among men easily. Fernalin casually remarked that it was necessary given their underworld attackers such as orcs, goblins and stray monsters such as the umber hulk we had fought. The guards gave us no grief entering and Fernalin dropped us and our treasure off at the closest inn. Along the way we noticed many slaves, humans, halflings, etc and Fernalin explained they were captives of the state, arrested as spies and attackers of their realm. Tired from our journey we enjoyed a meal and made preparations for rooms. It seemed these elves, along with Fernalin spoke none of our tongue. Alexi was able to communicate with them through an Elven dialect he knew and a bit of Darokinian. Without his language prowess we would have been in a sorry state. A recommendation for his service is definitely in order. During our meal I blessed the inn with a few words and the shadow elves not understanding our tongue looked at us strangely and then each of them seemed to weave a magic about themselves. Obviously these shadow elves were quite a magical peoples. We were not long finished our meal when three important elves entered the inn, two carrying staves, the other seeming to be a commander of sorts. They ordered us to relinquish our weapons and surrender to them for arrest. Apparently we had broken the law somehow and even though we had gone to great lengths to ensure this would not happen by consulting with Fernalin on our journey, it seemed to have been for naught. I was enraged that we were being so rudely abducted, without even an explanation of what we had done wrong or a warning of any sorts, but decided that the law is the law and that we would need to obey. God would see us through. After we surrendered our weapons, our treasure was confiscated and the elf, who introduced himself as Captain Harlok, led us unshackled to a tower, escorted by a troop of twelve shadow Elven warriors. Here we were imprisoned separately as we awaited to speak with the magistrate he had promised us.
We languished for an undetermined amount of time. An eerie glow permeated everything in this underworld and there was never any dark. Everything was lit, almost like it were a gloomy day. Soon we were brought out of our cells and brought together in a hall. Here we were introduced to a man by the name of Shilete. Again Alexi acted as our translator. Here we were informed that Noran was part of a territory called Saulia, which was ruled by Lord Madonna from his Citadel of Saulia down the Delnidor flow river. He avidly wished to meet with us, apparently knew we were coming and had sent this man to fetch us. Released into the care of Shilet, we were given back all our possessions except for our treasure, which the Captain conveniently misplaced, but promised it would be awaiting us when we returned.
Securing travel for us down the Delnidor river, Shilet soon had us under way. He explained that his lord had expected our arrival and was looking forward to meeting us. The travel was long and we got to see more of the vastness of this underground realm. Strongholds, forts and other fortifications were passed on our way down the river and I'm sure that waging war down here against these obvious veterans would be a hell in itself. When we arrived at the Citadel of Saulia we were pleasantly greeted and escorted to meet Lord Madonna. Upon meeting his lordship, Fanuidol was also found. It seemed that the elven sage was a 'guest' of his lordships. Lord Madonna let us know that he had abducted the Sage Fanuidol in hopes of luring down a group that would stand a chance of completing a quest that needed completion. Within the desert of lost souls in his lands there was an artifact known as the Crown of Corruption that lured his people to madness. He wished to have the crown retrieved and handed over to his priests of Rafiel to be dealt with. His people were unable to accomplish the task, as it would drive them insane. If we were able to bring it to him, he would hand Fanuidol over to us and allow us to go home. We conversed with ourselves and Lord Madonna allowed Fanuidol to confirm that what his lordship said of the artifact was true. After speaking among ourselves we decided to ask for slaves to be released as well and his lordship agreed to let us each take one to freedom with us. During the whole exchange is was found that Shilet was a mage of sorts, as he had cast a spell allowing him to understand our words in Thyatian. Having little choice but to agree we were given rooms to rest in for our upcoming journey to the desert of lost souls.
Heading down river again we passed more fortifications and strongholds, our hopes of fighting our way out was soon quelled. Eventually we arrived at a fishing community and disembarked from our boat. Past the village was the Elmglow forest and we were escorted that way by locales that had been arranged for us. Shilet left us here and gave us a 'calling crystal' which he said we could use to get the boat to return to pick us up. All we had to do was hold the crystal and concentrate on him. Easily understanding and realising that these were a magical people, we followed our guides off into the woods. We reached the edge of the desert of lost souls and our guides turned around and headed home, wanting to have nothing to do with this area.
Moving forward to investigate the wastelands we soon saw a group of what appeared to be zombies approaching. We awaited their approach, I secure in the fact that our lord God has never allowed such beasts near my person. When they approached close enough I called and there was no answer from God, my call having been muted by the evils of this land. Forced to fight the beasts hand to hand we soon had them defeated, slightly injured but victorious. Binding our wounds and not expecting more trouble immediately, shadowy forms rose up from the zombies bodies and began to encircle us where we stood. Again I called on the name of the Lord and he realised our plight. The shadowy forms shrieked and fled from the light of our Lord God but we were wiser this time and pulled back to the forest edge to recuperate and think out how we would approach. The desert of lost souls awaited ahead of us and within it the crown of corruption.
Report from Father Sorgia to Vicar-General Alister Paulin of the Order of the Griffin
I apologise for the lack of reports, the field being an unruly place to record events from, no paper nor pen on hand I must recall the journey as best I can.
Let me begin with a write up about the main creature that we encountered over and over again within this Desert of Lost Souls. It is a form of zombie that travels in packs of around six. Although much like a zombie in composition it seems to fight with more ferocity and sending one to its final peace only brings on more evil. (Alexander the Mage dubbed them "Desert Zombies") Once these beings are slain another form of undead rises up from the deceased's bones. I believe Aria called it a wraith. These are much more difficult to deal with and it almost cost our party our lives. In future interactions with these beings we found that when felled the beasts would take a good few minutes before their new incarnation rose from their bones, so we'd make haste to leave any combat scenes after our victory and soon we simply avoided conflict at all. The zombies being slow were easy to out manoeuvre in the gloomy environment of the underground cavern desert wasteland.
Not meaning to digress, I'll let you know that we travelled for some time, far more than we should have most likely, and all were heavy hearted. Finally I decided, even though the rituals granted to me by God should have been enough, to call on Gods directional aid to show us to our journeys end. God saw our cause righteous and gave our guide a vision of where we needed to be going. Our hearts bolstered by the news from Alexi we pressed on with great haste, only resting once on our new bearing. Our tenacity paid off, soon upon the horizon we saw Bleak Hill. This was the place that Alexi told us held the accursed item. God had led us to our quarry..
The entrance to the hill was blocked by five of the zombie like beings but Alexi volunteering soon distracted them away and the rest of the party entered. Alexi soon joined us having outrun the evil beasts. Within was evilly dark, unlike the outside which was illuminated by an eternal glow that seemed to come from the very air itself. The place stank of death. We moved forward slowly with our light gems that I had provided and were soon set upon by a wight. It caught us by surprise and was all over our lead members before we could react. We held it off as best as possible and organised ourselves as fast as we could, but not before Ilyana was struck a terrible blow by the evil creature, she later reported that its touch was as cold as the grave and seemed to draw her life-force from her body. Within these walls I could not call on Gods aid to vanquish the foul beast, so we set about bludgeoning it back to the hells that spawned it. Eventually we found there were two but we sent them both quickly off to join their evil brethren. Within the wights lair we found nothing of use, only a yellow topaz which I've sent to you, Vicar-General, as a memento of our conflict here.
Moving onward we proceeded deeper into the hill and encountered a deathly cold originating ahead. Alexi went forward to bravely investigate and came back blue in the face with frost rimming his brows. Quickly I tended him and he reported that there was odd moss growing on stalagmites in the next room and they seemed to emanate the cold. Aria informed us that they were brown moulds and that they could not harm us if we kept our distance from them. Her brother had merely crept too close. We would avoid the moulds and move through the cavern safely enough and Alexi plotted us a course. Moving through this area we found two scimitars, one initially and another on our way out leaving the hill. Alexi, our scout, took the first scimitar and marvelled at its speed and fluidness. He claimed to never have felt such a fine blade in his hands.
Entering what seemed to be the final chamber in the hill, there seemed to be little in here but rubble and debris fallen from the roof. Searching carefully we found that there indeed was nothing to be found in this chamber and moved back down the corridors to see what we had missed. Alexi soon found some symbols on a wall that he warned us not to look at, it seemed they held properties of harming and they also guarded a secret entrance that we soon had open. Alexi moved forward quietly to scout out what was ahead and came back telling us that he felt, after consulting with his sister and describing what he saw, that a Lich was awaiting within with some zombie minions. This was grave news indeed. We were at a loss. Aria started to recite all the deadly abilities at the disposal of such a foe but I stopped her. It did not matter what it could do. We needed to defeat it. Alexi volunteered to try to lure as many out of the area and back into the cold room as possible while we waited in the rubble room to move in behind them. That plan didn't work. The undead ignored Alexi completely, but the Lich did not and Alexi soon fled when he saw it moving towards him. It seemed we would face them all at once. Pooling what resources we had and formulating our strategy we all moved into the small space to vanquish the evil.
During the combat the only odd thing that happened was Ilyana rushing forward, against my orders and seemingly trying to distract some of the zombie minions away from the whole of the group, but it mattered little. I managed to take her place facing the supposed Lich head on and had little difficulty caving its skull in. The others covered my flank from being torn apart by the more ferocious zombie minions. Aria used her colour spray to put down some of the beasts while Alexander moved in to use his sturdy staff on some others. Alexi, having risked himself over and over again, was taking an easier role in the rear this time watching our backs for any surprise attacks. In quick time my mace crushed the skull of the Lich, which later Aria would inform me was a skeletal warrior, and toppled the crown of corruption from its brow. I quickly grabbed it up and kept it close to me to ensure no evils would befall the group. Other than the crown we found some other interesting items. A magical two handed sword, which has been added to the Orders armoury, a chest of platinum, a box of jewellery and a good amount of the shadow elves currency called Kalafi. We had victory and the remaining zombies had crumbled to dust. There was also what seemed to be the remains of an actual Lich within the room. The mages said it looked like a mighty Shadowelf warrior had defeated it, but then had fallen to the temptations of the crown and donned it rather than carrying it to its destruction. Not all can be as righteous as the followers of God I would suppose.
We soon found ourselves back within the safety of the Elmglow forest, calling the shadow elves with the gem they had supplied us with, only a mere two day journey back where as we had languished in there for what seemed over a week. The shadow elves welcomed us, almost with disbelief and were kind enough to cloth us and allow us to clean up as we awaited the ship to come pick us up to take us back to Lord Merdanial to deliver the crown. I could smell treachery in the air and it only got worse as we awaited but perhaps the crown affected even my judgements somewhat while in my possession.
The ship arrived and carried us as quickly upstream as it had gone down stream, we could only surmise that it was more of their magics at work. An odd race of beings indeed. We were escorted off the boat at the Citadel of Saulia and led to meet with the Lord. He briskly asked for us to hand over the crown to his priests but I was distressed to hear that the Sage Fanuidol was not present to advise me from here. He had apparently been sent ahead to Noran in case of treachery on our part. I was shocked and unsure whether these persons could be entrusted with this evil artifact and had been hoping that Fanuidol would counsel me on whether it was wise at this point. Unfortunately with him not present and my inability to speak their language, Alexi being unwilling to translate my distrust of them as they had spoken to me, there seemed to be little I could do but hand over the item and trust that God would not allow us to have the item if we weren't supposed to hand it over. Their priests of Rafael, some heathen god, took it away securely boxed up thankfully. The burden of carrying it had weighed on my conscience the whole trip and I was actually relieved to have it gone from me.
The shadow elves made good with their promises thankfully and took us up to Noran where Fanuidol and the slaves we had asked to have freed were awaiting. Shilet was also there to bid us farewell and thanked us for our bravery. He among the whole lot of those I'd met amongst these people seemed the only one sincere in his words and I felt that I'd actually miss this shadow elf who's manners were so very elegantly alien. Taken back to the entrance down into their world, the shadow elves who had escorted us informed us that the tunnel would be caved in quite quickly and that we should hurry our way upwards. We consented and rushed to the surface and the awaiting sun.
The slaves that we had managed to barter to freedom were Jasper and Fornod both Thyatians, Eorl Harladson a hearty northman, Bendo Hornblower and Poril both elderly halflings and they seemed very happy for their freedom. Though from speaking with them it seemed that each of them had deserved the fate of slave for a time. Nonetheless wishing to give them a new chance in life we supplied them with some coin and sent them on their way home.
The elves of the surface soon found us wandering towards Alfheim and rejoiced at our tale of bravery and the underworld. We were treated as heroes at Fanuidol's return and were soon in the lap of luxury soaking away the aches of long hard travels. Fanuidol explained what he knew about the Rod of seven parts and of the land in which the battles had been fought which was now buried beneath the seas. He stated that he had been witness to the battle and the sundering of the Rod and that he had in his possession one of the pieces and that he would give it over to us because of our bravery but that he felt his peoples were no longer one with law as they were in the olden days. We thanked him for his kindness and he set off to recover the Rod which he explained would take him a couple weeks to get but he would be quite safe on his journey and that we should rest. This we did and he soon returned with the seventh part of the Rod the smallest and bottom most part of that great relic that we sought in order to thwart the Queen of Chaos and keep Mishka imprisoned forever.
This is where I leave off, my hand shaking, I am so very tired. I look forward to the weeks of rest ahead. Even the travel home will seem a luxury after our hardships.
Thus ends the first part of the Quest of the Rod, The Alfheim Fragment.