Annals of Aldamere

Return to Mount Bubi
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta

Returning once more to the base of Mount Bubi driven by Ser Marcel‘s and Gabriel’s zeal to rescue the children come what may, and against the wise council of Thorne, the party once more began the trek back to the dread Chogma Temple.

Upon returning to the mount, the first indication of something strange was that the troll’s body expected to have been thrown to the base was no where to be found. Once back into the complex of worked tunnels, a transformed Chogma priest attacked the party and was quickly put down by the righteousness of Ser Marcel’s quest. Regaining entrance to the Temple itself met no resistance, and it appeared some huge insect had been rampaging about and slaying many giant ants.

Descending the shaft the party was lead to by Azholt‘s final interrogation with the aid of Olis’s climbing prowess, the party found the way directly to the heart of the Chogma ritual chamber guarded only by a monstrous yellow spider. Their ritual had been begun with only the five missing children, having used some work of blasphemous magic to warp the three remaining ratmen into some grotesque simulacrum of human children.

With the timely aid of St Luljeta, and the martial prowess of Ser Marcel’s men, four of the children were freed and fled before the final step of the ritual was complete. Sadly one village child was sacrificed along with two of the transformed ratfolk. With the escape path blocked by the great gold spider, Ser Marcel’s men were forced to fight a pitch battle with little hope of escape. The fell powers of Byakulose easily shook off Gretta‘s and Thorne’s attempt to subdue her will, and the ritual was still successful in opening a portal to some hell-spawn plane.

As providence would have it, the ritual was not done properly and the efforts of Ser Marcel’s men had done it’s damage. Instead of bringing Black Chogga to the aid of the Chomga, the enraged god merely crushed the gold spider and the high priestess of the Chogma before withdrawing back through the portal.

The weary but victorious company escorted the four rescued children back to Winnownog after determining the portal was likely to fade in time, and recovering what remained of the defeated Chogma’s belongings.

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The expeditious expedition
Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta, Wiertof

While taking a brief rest after the encounter with the Chogma raiding party as Gretta tended to Thorne’s wounds, the scout Wiertof caught the sounds of a horse somewhere in the distance in the direction of the retreating Chogma. Gabriel and Wiertof approached with caution and discovered a Knight of Ser Marcel’s order with her tracker examining the foot-prints of our quarry.

Regrouping with the rest of the party, the Knight Sgt Pardo squire to Ser Avery turned out to be part of a larger force returning from an expedition to the East in the service of Archess Phaedra. They had captured the ratman Azholt, who told them stories of the Chogma which Ser Marcel’s men were able to corroborate with the body of a slain warrior. The expedition continued on to Winnownog for the night.

Even the spiritual leader of the expedition, Canon Ryth, however, proved to have little interest in helping the villagers of Winnownog in their plight. Despite having lost a number of their children and many of their able-bodied men to the Chogma, Ser Avery and the Canon were disinclined to commit any time to the task at hand. Their quartermaster was able to secure some additional equipment, and Sister Radica presided over a night of prayer and fasting for Ser Marcel, Gabriel, and even Thorne in preparation, but none of the martial forces of the expedition were going to come to the rescue. Ser Marcel was merely given their blessing as they continued on their way home.

The ratman Azholt provided some additional intelligence, and then was summarily executed upon the Canon’s order. Thankfully Geytha was able to sneak away from the expedition with Thorne’s aid before arriving in Winnownog.

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Farewell to Mount Bubi
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta

Having rested in the relative safety of the troll’s cave, Ser Marcel‘s men regrouped and began to explore a bit more around Mt. Bubi hoping to find some alternative way to enter the Chogma Temple. Travelling further into the eerily cold cave, another villager’s body was discovered, killed by the intense cold which emanated from a bizarre and dangerous fungus.

The unexplored cavern at the top of the path was another worked cavern which was filled with large—but not bipedal—spiders and their webs. After some effort to clear away the spiders and the webs, the three tunnels leading off revealed to be dead ends or cave-ins, with one containing the hanging remains of the last missing member of the would-be rescue party who had been overwhelmed by the monstrous spiders.

Having exhausted the upper caves, the party moved back down to explore a bit further another tunnel, only to find it too ended in a solid rock face. Continuing down the mountain, Gabriel noticed the recent tracks of group of spider-folk having emerged and headed down to the ground below. Ser Marcel decided to give chase, with Olis and Thorne heartily agreeing.

After many hours of tracking and scouting, the party caught up with the spider-folk raiding party. They turned back to attack and the party positioned up on a ridge to receive them. The battle was fierce, but without the aid of close-quarters, the engagement proved more even than those in the Temple. Three of their warriors were killed, while 2 other warriors and their priest retreated. Thorne was grievously injured, but not fatally.

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Now I lay me down to sleep...
Olis, Marcel, Thorne, Gabriel, Gretta, Martek

As Thorne‘s screams faded into sobbing, the sounds of distant bells brought Ser Marcel’s men to alert as creatures were approaching the Chogma Temple’s entrance foyer where the company had settled down for a few fitful hours rest. Quickly taking defensive positions, no other sounds could be heard save some soft scratching against stone.

Suddenly, the doors burst open to reveal four of the Chogma warriors moving with unnerving speed. A well-placed arrow from Gabriel‘s bow and a lucky toss of Martek’s knife knocked two of the creatures out of position, leaving Ser Marcel and Olis facing two ranks of warriors without an immediate threat from upper ground. Gretta‘s lullaby left one of the warriors distracted, but the presence of two of the white “priest” Chogma made for a difficult fight. Thorne was able to turn one of the warriors against it’s kin, although their own magical defenses proved robust as well. The priests retreated along with two of the warriors, one fell to Thorne’s will and jumped to it’s demise from bridge over the chasm in front of the temple, and one lay slain driven through with arrows, knife wounds, sword blows, and deep clefts from an axe.

Rather than give chase, Thorne’s condition merited a few moments to learn what had befell him in the night, and the answer was at once both disturbing and unclear of it’s relevance to the task at hand. The rat-demon shaman had worked some magic upon him, but also revealed that a clue lay within a tome the Chogma library. After some heated discussion, it was decided to search the storehouse and the library in the hopes of finding some advantage that could help with rescuing the missing children. While a number of texts were recovered, and the rat-demons clue lead to a tome of importance, the immediate relevance was not clear as time would be required to study them in detail. Martek felt that the ‘spider rations’ in the storeroom would somehow prove valuable as well.

After another engagement with strangely oversized insects, the party retreated from the temple to search for a more secure place to recover their spirits and to throw off the lingering effects of poison that had hindered Olis since the engagement with the trapdoor spider.

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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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