Annals of Aldamere

Judge not, that ye be not judged
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta, Martek

Exploring the remainder of the complex was time-consuming, but with the aid of Martek‘s “tailoring” to open locked doors, all the rooms on the upper level of the Chogma Temple revealed no real sign of the missing village children. There wasn’t even much sign of these Chogma creatures, only ants. There was much of interest to Thorne and Gretta, but Ser Marcel, Olis, and Gabriel were increasingly frustrated at being unsure how to effectively get to wherever the prisoners were being held. A ritual chamber was found, but had apparently been used only for sacrifice of ratfolk and not the villagers. Even the secrets of the strange combination doors was finally discovered.

After many hours of searching, Gretta’s arcane experiment with some strange Chogma Chamber of Judgement did provide a brief if terrifying glimpse of what we sought—a dark ritual chamber with 8 altars, a number of Chogma, and a great golden spider—, but no closer to a path to take.

Frustrated and weary, Ser Marcel and his men retreated to the entrance to rest and pray for some path forward to reveal itself. Martek’s noisy “tailor’s chimes” would hopefully provide some warning should any of the Chogma try to leave the temple through the entrance where the party first entered.

After an uneasy and short time, Thorne awoke screaming then sobbing and babbling about some book in the Chogma Library. At that moment, the alarms tripped by approaching creatures sounded the alert…

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Like Rat in a Cage
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta

While the blessing of Saint Luljeta rejuvenated the party, Ser Marcel decided not to press back into the insect-filled hallway to explore for an alternative route that might lead to the missing children. Beyond the ratfolk’s nest was some sort of larder with cabinets containing foul silk-wrapped packages. In the center was a pit and large ants were moving around having broke through a crack in the wall.

To the north we discovered a prison cell that contained a ratfolk shaman, Zakakyrzig, who claimed to be a captive of the Chogma. After some tense discussion, Gabriel let the creature free in exchange for the reason behind the abduction: a Chogma ritual to open a Gate to another world to be performed by the Chogma priestess, Byakulose. The ritual requires eight—a number of power for the Chogma—but they only had about 5. Before leaving the ratfolk shaman mentioned that the Chogma had a huge guard spider, and pointed to a secret door. Trying the same combination that worked previously opened up a trapdoor and dropped both Thorne and Gabriel into the pit below. Gabriel was able to catch himself but Thorne fell the whole way, After some effort, both were recovered.

Beyond the secret door laid more tunnels and a ‘library’ full of heretical works in some spiderfolk script. Exploring tunnels leading below leads to a maze of twisty, narrow passages. Rather than trying to stumble through them in the hopes of finding the missing village children, the party returned to the original chamber where the fight with the Chogma took place to find that instead it was full of the large ants which were put down quickly with the aid of Olis’ axe, and Gretta’s staff.

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Gretta's Field Notes; middle of nowhere near the Mountain of Horrors
(at camp)

Try to remember not to let the Thorns cook when it’s their turn.

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The Best Laid Plans of Rats and Spiders
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel

The leader of the ratfolk—Azholt—, left Geytha, a woman of the ratfolk clan, as our hostage saying he would return to his people to negotiate in good faith with Thorne. Naturally it was a lie, but the parley did result in a basic layout of the immediate area and some sense of what the Chogma, the name the ratfolk use for the spider creatures, were doing. Githa said they had hired the ratfolk to kidnap the village children, but what they wanted them for was only a guess. The Chogma were angry at having been driven from their temple many years ago, and so it seemed revenge was their motivation.

The company retraced the path taken by the ratfolk leader to their den, a strange blue room which they had quickly tossed and headed back to the Chogma’s main area—at least as far as Githa understood the layout. Ser Marcel, fearing that a lack of immediate and swift justice would lead to the demise of the children, pressed the party to advanced despite fearing of an ambush in waiting. With some trepidation, Gabriel scouted the path and readied the party as best as could be done.

In the next chamber which proved to be some kind of ritual chamber, the Chogma fighters and priest, along with several ratmen with bows, lay in wait. The battle was intense, but while many of their number were injured and the leader driven off, few were killed. Borz was grievously injured protecting Ser Marcel, and Gabriel braved the front line to pull him back to safety. Olis and Ser Marcel stood firm, but the battle turned sour and the party retreated back down the corridor having at least seen the enemy eye-to-eye-to-eye-to-eye…

Githa had retreated back to their den, but was waiting there when the party pushed their way back through the secret door, closing it against a great wave of insects filling the tunnel. Catching their breath, the company debated what to do next. Retreating from the temple seemed the only real option, but likely spelled the doom of any village children still alive somewhere in the complex as it would be difficult to regain what ground had been earned…

It was then that Gabriel feel to his knees and began to entreat the aid of St Lulejta, beseeching the long suffering Lady to heal Olis and Ser Marcel of their wounds, and bring to them renewed vigor so that we may press on for the sake of the innocent. His earnest prayer did not go unheeded as the room burst into heavenly light, filling all with awe and renewed strength to continue on with the mission.

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Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm
Ser Marcel, Olis, Gretta, Thorne, Gabriel, Martek

Push away the boulder in the troll cave did not reveal the lost search party. Instead Ser Marcel and company found a cache of valuables including nine amazingly opulent goblets, 5 gold-plated plates embossed with some Ketarnin seal, a number of lead and silver coins, and a locked chest. Despite some effort, the tailor Martek was unable to open the chest with finesse, leaving Gretta to pound it to bits with the hammer Gabriel had previously found in the troll’s bedchamber.

The chest itself contained an odd assortment of items including a gaudy belt made from beetle carapaces, a spider head amulet necklace, a strange multi-color chime, and a glass vial. All these items were of great interest to Thorne and Gretta. As night had already fallen before the troll emerged from his lair, it was well past sunset. Given the fetid smells of the troll’s dwelling, the party descended to a lower cave rather than try to camp in the frigid cave above. Some exploring of a long tunnel leading off the lower cave did not discover any signs of the missing search party or the children, but Gretta did spot a bundle which turned out to be an excellent climbing rope.

On the morn, the party climbed up to a previously unknown cave which was found to be worked, along with clear tracks of the search party in and among others. The worked area lead off in three directions: one was a dead end, in a second was found the remains of a villager killed by poison, and the final lead to an apparent dead end with a TDSOUS (Trap Door Spider of Unusual Size). After playing a game of peek-a-boo with the larger than man-sized critter, Olis knock his door open and it was dispatched after a poisoned graze across his leg. In the spider’s lair the remains of two more of the search party were found.

Thanks to Gretta’s unhealthy interest in the purpose of the unpleasant, atonal chime, the secret passage at the end of the tunnel was opened which revealed the tracks of the last two missing members of the search party. Beyond was a bridge over a wide, dark chasm and on the other side was the entrance to a disturbingly ornate temple to some spider demongod. As the company had crossed the majority of the length of the bridge, rat folk began to attack. After a close call at the door, Olis was able to throw off and reverse his attacker’s attempt to throw him into the void, and he and the rest of the party pressed the attack into the temple’s foyer.

After some fierce fighting, the remaining ratfolk requested a parley, as Thorne was able to recognize their dialect of Dolmne…

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Thorne's field notes - 3/4 - 3/11

Forgoing the fancy formatting because it’s an ass-pain.

Thorne
Chezza

In the forest on the way to Winnonorg, or Windownurg or lets just go with Wino-burg. We encountered, finally, some of the fair folk. I can scarce contain my excitement at finally seeing them in the flesh. We have long postulated that something happened at some point, who knows how long ago that disturbed the balance of things. Going solely by folk-lore and stories from the past, we should practically be tripping over the things. We have long wondered if they were somehow extinct or cut off from the waking world. Perhaps they were and are just now returning. The world was once a stranger place. Perhaps it’s the church’s doing? We have dedicated our lives to seeking out the strange, hopefully if we continue down this path, clarity will emerge. If ever a pixie ring reveals itself to us, we’re going to be hard pressed not to enter, come what may, and trip off to the trackless reaches of deep faerie.

Apparent Fae:
3 foot tall, vaguely hominid creatures with avian wings. Skin tone ranging from cerulean to stark white – evocative of winter. Generally elfen features: acicular chins, high, prominent zygomatic bones, elongated ears. Displayed mischievous, mercurial natures. 2 males and a female: Droos, Matri and Ogna. Matri appeared to be in charge. They were playing a pranking game with us. This entailed throwing snowballs at us and laughing impishly. Olis won the game with ingenuity and superior firepower. This seemed to impress Motri greatly, who made a great show of snubbing his cohorts, who complained vocally, before offering a boon to Olis. The creatures claimed to hail from the “Winterwood” which, appropriately enough, is the court of the winter fae. After the boon was offered and accepted, the creatures vanished into the forest once more. As time permits, will have to return to this location and attempt further study.

At the northernmost terminus of the hills, in the Anton gap, we find the “quaint” village of Winoburg. There’s a real spider motif going on here, really a-typical for a small town. We made our way through town to the Brakenweb tavern. We are told by villagers that 5 of their precious young people have gone missing by yet another variety of beast men. What stands out here is that nobody actually witnessed the kids being taken. Apparently, W-town has had trouble of late from Ratmen. However, historically, they are THE TOWN THAT SURVIVED THE SPIDERFOLK!. Exciting! Chezza picked the brain of one of the surviving veterans of the Spiderfolk wars, a one-armed crone called Acronea.
Overly enthusiastic old woman: we suspect dependence on one or more substances. Claims children taken by ‘Spiderfolk’ up mount Bubbi – entirely too enthusiastic about this. Described them as possessing 8 appendages inherent to Arachnids as well as a capacity for making webs and poison. Her description was addled and inarticulate, but she intimated an upper body that had humanoid qualities and suggested them capable of higher speech. Unclear if bodies are a amalgamation of chitinous portions and flesh or all one or the other. Also relayed their worshiping a deity called Black Chogga, god of spiders. Claims that if children have been taken by spiders, most likely for food. Her presentation casts doubt on whether they exist at all save the curious naming conventions of the town and surrounding terrain features “Broken web,” “Spiderwood,” etc.

The children were all been taken over the span of a week. During this time Ratmen have been seen around town “robbing and pillaging,” especially during the recent storm. They have left no ransom or word of any kind about the children. All villagers seem to agree that they would be “up mount Bubbi.” Marcel opts to head off to rescue them – this guy loves to be sidetracked. I’m beginning to suspect he isn’t keen on this robber baron job. That’s fine with us, nothing particularly interesting about Robbers or barons. Anyway, off to mount Bubbi, which actually looks like a boy hugging himself and crying.

Troll sign encountered on road to Mt. B. Gabriel excellent at finding this, must continue to utilize his talent. Should let him know what we’re looking for? I’m pretty sure he knows Probably… Definitely. Mountain appears to have many cave openings and trails leading from one to the next. Cave contents as follows:

1. Small pool inside, 4 passages leading from it. Wiertof – strange Gabriel-replacement-hallucinatory-person – recommends not exploring any of them because no children tracks found. Everyone listens. Why? Do they not know the importance of our work? No possible scenarios where beastmen are capable of obscuring their tracks?

2. Small opening, too small for a troll. We enter and stalactite falls and nearly kills us. Upon impact: splits open to reveal organic structures within – similar to Mollusks on cursory examination. Cannot get closer because ceiling covered by them. The impact seemed to cause it to expire. Is this usual means of procuring prey? Curious.

3. Man sized Bird/Lizard hybrid. Powerful jaws reminiscent of various large, predatory lizards, lower body covered in feathers but no wings. Tiny, almost useless seeming arms extend from thorax. Erasmus has taken to calling it “El Pollo Diablo.” Highly aggressive, attacked us and was slain. Powerful bite. Many bones collected in it’s lair. Some human. Amongst them: ring with translucent green stone, “DarunDara” emblazoned upon it. Will ‘read’ later – too many spirits present here.

4. Enormous Bio-luminescent Beetles. Group of 3 beetles attacked – were quickly dispatched. Dissected most intact specimen: Glow comes from specialized organ located in their abdomen and can be seen from both above and below the beetle. Was able to remove the organs from all 3 beetles quite easily – makes for a portable, heatless light source. Curious on how long light will last. Two passages lead from cavern. One beetle sized, one large enough for humans. We explore neither – for reasons, see above, except Wirtof is now curiously absent. No one else seems to notice, but his influence seems to be affecting their minds. We suspect some manor of trickster figure, fey, demigod? If he appears again, shall study further. Addendum: Ogres and ratmen use “buglights” frequently.

5. Troll Cave – Large Boulder blocking left passage, sleeping troll in right passage under filthy furs. This specimen much larger than hill troll cousins, seems smarter as well. Sees through our attempts to lure it outside during the day – fears or detests daylight. Comes out on it’s own after dark. We fight it on the slope leading up to the cave above and in entrance-way to cave. Very hardy, much more difficult to slay. After death we move bolder in left side passage. Many treasures including a belt made from perfectly preserved, interlocked beetle carapaces – not the “fire beetles” from below, smaller. Inside the belt – odd symbols, must research. Also golden spider on chain, resembles religious icon, inside: amethyst. Also Square metal rode with cylindrical hollow inside. Attached is a small baton for striking. Each side a different color: Red, Blue, Green and Yellow: magical, keyed to opening doors and wards. Addendum: Gretta used to open magically sealed passage later.

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Trolling for Troll
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta

Having arrived at Winnownog,, Ser Marcel was greeted warmly as the village was in great need. Over the prior few weeks, a number of the local children had disappeared and the villagers were desperate to find the culprit and rescue them. A search party of local militia had left a few days prior, and had not returned. After resupplying and pressing the locals for whatever information they might possess—which largely consisted of stories of spiderfolk, ratfolk, and perhaps other beastkin—the party set off with Wiertof following the trail of the search party through the Spiderwood to the foot of Mount Bubi.

With no further sign of passage, Ser Marcel and Olis set the party to scaling the mount and searching the system of caves along the route. The caves were home to an assortment of subterranean creatures, all of which hostilely protected their territory and captured intense interest from Thorne. In addition to deadly rocks, El Pollo Diablo, and strange glowing beetles, the switchback path showed this also to be the domain of a fearsome Mountain Troll.

Thankfully the troll slept during the day, leaving the group free to reconnoiter before coping with such a powerful threat. Scouting out the den of the troll, Gabriel discovered a blocked passage that could well be trapping the missing children or militia men, so it was decided to assault the creature while it slept and then bait it into the open. Gabriel was also able to recover a strange, rune-engraved hammer from the troll’s bedchamber.

The first attempt did not go as planned with the troll’s dislike of the sun overriding its rage at being so rudely awakened. When it finally emerged from its lair after sunset, it was pelted with missile fire and a particularly well landed boulder pushed by Gretta. While it was a fierce fight, luck was with Ser Marcel’s men and not with the troll, and it was smote upon the mountain side.

With the troll having fell down into the darkness of night, the party set to work at moving the impressive boulder that blocked the leftmost passage within the troll’s dwelling, while Thorne reminded the party of what he/she felt was the most intriguing discovery of a deep, twisty passage that was unusually cold digging deep into the mountain …

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Gretta's Field Notes
A mountain full of Cave Troll

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