Between the last session and this one, the party had spent a nice chunk of money on buying and rebuilding an old villa just outside Shalish, their base of operations. After hosting a major party for their patrons, associates, and families, they were out and about in the marketplace and ran into Sadine Salar (the extraordinary), a merchant who had treated them quite well in the very first session. Sadine had fallen on hard times, having been boarded by 'pirates' in the war zone up north. The party invites him back to the villa to see if they can help get him back on his feet, and eventually Sadine reveals his last treasure, a map leading to a Lost Kingdoms tomb. He suggests a joint venture to visit the tomb and 'recover' whatever wealth is there. The party, being good little murderhobos, agrees. On then to the game...
|Sadine's Tablet Map|
The first few days of the journey were uneventful, an easy trek to Goba, marked only by the sound of lions in the distance. Quite a few lions actually. Goba itself was depressing, brown walls surrounded by dry, half-dead fields, beggars everywhere, the main market half-empty and showing abandoned store-fronts, the goods on display poor at best. Rather than spend the night in town, the party elected to travel on, and camped in a disused field a half-day's march beyond the walls. That's when they noticed the lights. A fire or fires in the distance. Someone was following them.
They decided to travel on, keeping an eye on their tail, but not doing anything about them, at least not yet. They caught glimpses of the other group from time to time, a knot of mounted men, a dozen perhaps, following, but none too close. This state of affairs continued for several days, so Orca decided to scout the following group's camp. He didn't get too close however. They were alert and ready, with sentries in place. Rather than risking a solo confrontation Orca returned to camp. There was still time to deal with the others, assuming they continued to follow the party into the Twisted Lands.
The next night proved disastrous. Near dawn the party's watch was ambushed by a pack of lions, who had crept close without alerting anyone to their presence. The roused party fought desperately to fend off the attack, but these beasts were huge, dangerous spotted lions lead by a massive black brute. The battle was bloody and swift. Though the party managed to slay the beasts, the victory was costly. The cousins, Dunatra and Tripur, were both slain, along with Torin's warhorse.
Saddened by their loss, but still resolute, the party buried their dead, harvested the lion hides, and then traveled on. Their pursuers weighing heavily on their minds. The party decided to evade the following group, setting a false camps, traveling at night, and changing course several times over the course of three days. It worked, or at least appeared to work, and the party returned to the proper course to reach their intended destination.
Then they found the graveyard.
It was kind of strange, a shallow valley with a flagstone platform or open courtyard in the center. Three tables, one fallen, stood amidst scattered mounds of field stone. Here and there, bones jutted out of the ground or from between the rocks. Leaving Sadine on the edge of the vale, the party advanced to the central platform, where they found several jeweled items on the table. As they moved forward to investigate a misty form rose from a crevice beneath the fallen table. It had a head and some limbs, but was disturbingly vague and partially transparent. Faint whispering sounds filled the party's ears and animals strained to escape Sadine's control.
The party struck with blade and bow, focusing their efforts on the misty shape. Too late they realized the scattered bones they'd passed were gathering and rising, forming hideous humanoid forms with distorted, dog-like skull-heads and yard-long razor-sharp claws. The mist thing fell quickly [curse you DPS], but the bone-creatures were another matter. They left great, gaping wounds when they struck, and moved from target to target in great leaps. Things looked dire for the party, and Sadine rode forward with the horses to prepare for escape, when the tide began to turn. One by one the creatures began to disintegrate and collapse, falling to pieces before the party's eyes. Between this and the party's own efforts, the creatures were defeated. Sula suggested the mist-thing may have summoned / created the skeletons, and when it fell, the creating magic slowly dissipated, destroying the beasts.
With the site secured, the party investigated the crevice beneath the table. It led to a twisty maze of little passages, all alike, but eventually the party found a cache of treasure, including a bunch of assorted coins, some jewelry, and a nondescript but magical sword.
After a night's rest (beyond the graveyard, no one wanted to sleep there), the party continued their journey, and the rest of the trip passed without incident. They spent several days exploring the environs near Vishka, and eventually found a cross and circle symbol carved in a huge natural stone slab. This mark corresponded to the symbol on Sadine's tablet, so they took it as a sign they were close. They were. A day later they found a heavy stone door that lead into the side of a hill. After a brief effort showed the door was sealed by some magical means, and likely impervious to their tools, they began scouting the area. Eventually they found a pool that drained into some sort of underground passage. A way in!
|Strange Markings on the Walls|
After sorting, categorizing, counting, and packing the loot, the party headed for home. The trip back was arduous and long, but uneventful. They skirted Goba, and returned to their villa outside Shalish, saddened by their loss, but cheered by their loot. It was Lister who finally realized the potential flaw in their actions. "I've been thinking," he said. "If the people that built that tomb could make that lock-puzzle, and build the lightshow room, why didn't they just destroy the skull themselves?"
And with that last, uncomfortable thought, the session ended.