Monday, November 17, 2014

The Third Party: Session 9 (GMs notes)

In which the party learns why there were not many people living near the old library...

23 Marpenoth

After returning from Bugbear-hunting, the party finds Kryptgarten in a state of disarray. A large crowd of orcs, xvarts, and other unsavory creatures are massed outside of the skeleton of what should one day be Melastasya's tavern. The peasants, had, naturally holed themselves up in the keep. Mel took control, handing out drinks in exchange for the wooden tokens she had distributed, and recruiting ash and Grimnir to start making more mead.

Ash and Grimnir had more success than might have been imagined in making their booze. Mixing Grimnir's blood and saliva with the honey to be fermented, Ash managed to produce a passable batch of Kvas, the Mead of Poetry. Soon all of the rowdy orcs crowding around the makeshift building began spouting poetry with the best of them. For the sake of our poor listeners ears, we will not make record of orcish poetry, other than to say it usually involves yelling "Eba!" often and loudly.

Over the next few weeks, the weather got quickly colder, dropping to the 30's and staying there. As the people of Kryptgarten brought in the last, late harvest and made preparations for the winter, and the construction of the tavern/festhaus/casino finished, Melastasya and Grimnir began setting up a stock exchange, mostly to cover their illegal gambling activities with the veneer of legitimate business investment. For now, at least, all bets and prices are recorded in chalk on the back-wall of the tavern's common roomand heavily guarded.

Mel and Ash then made some time to head to the Public Training Hall.

Queue training montage!

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9 Uktar

After a couple of weeks of studying and shadow-boxing, Ash approached the party and requested that they aid him in an "academic expotition" ("Expedition, silly old Bear. It's got an 'x' in it"), asking them to aid him in investigating the old Library in the ruined section of town. Mel, suspecting from the Council proclamations requesting any and all documents about Phlan's history that any items taken out of the Library might be contraband (in addition to some conspiracy theories about Markos collecting all such documents in order to control the narrative about the city), said they should leave immediately and pre-arranged for three identical (well-guarded) carriages to pick them up early the next day outside the library (for reasons lost to most sensible people).

So, Melastasya, Ash, Grimnir, Traith, and Kevorkian (a Kryptgarten Cultist who had recently been elevated from the ranks) headed for the ruins post-haste. Between their recent victories over the bugbears, kobolds, and hobgoblins, as well as Mel's odd form of diplomacy (handing out free booze and encouraging the monsters to make wagers about how long the city will stay standing), they encountered no resistance as they made their way through the slums and into the Old City.

The Library of Mendor was a huge, square, brick structure, a few blocks west of Kuto's Well. Being aware of the catacombs linking the city's wells that were so often used by the various criminal organizations in town, and that Kuto's Well in particular was used by the bandits that had attacked the keep, Melastasya insisted that they should check the well out—on a hunch that there might be a secret, subterranean way into the library.

Grimnir tied a rope to Mel and tossed her down the well, not too gently, where she found a slightly-ajar, not-so-secret door. The other climbed down the ladder after her. They found that the catacombs had been recently and quite thoroughly ransacked. They poked at some dead giant lizards, a dead old, orc-lady, and a few previously-sprung traps, then gave up. But not before Melastasya managed to poison herselfwhether from examining the contents of the lizard's stomachs or from tasting a week-old pot of cold tea is not clear.

Climbing back out of the well, they headed for the Library. Mel managed to pick the ancient lock on the front doors, which looked like it had not been used in a century, and Traith hauled the big doors open. Inside they found an open-air atrium with an old, overgrown scholar's garden, complete with an algae covered pond. Mel, of course, stuck her hand in the pond and ended up with her arm covered in green slime.

Traith reacted quickly, as the slime began eating away at her flesh and muscles, cutting off the offending limb with his greatsword. Grimnir summoned hellfire to heat up a spare blade he was carrying and carefully scraped the flesh-eating slime from the severed limb. Kevorkian took the limb, now just a mass of scarred tissuefree of all flesh and much of the muscle, and magically re-attached the arm. Luckily the nerve tissue in the arm was severely damaged and cauterized, and thus Mel did not feel much pain coming from her useless and necrotic limb.

That folly over with, they headed into the library proper, going first into the binders and illuminator's carrels. Ash's sword, "Blackflame", flared up, warning them of undead present. They collected a few sheets of gold leaf, noted that the exterior wall had been breached at one point (and showed the muddy tracks of some large reptilian creature having entered the library recently), and then turned to the nearest door.

They opened the door into a old store-room, filled with dry inkpots, long-molded paper, crumbling tools, brittle quills, split-handled brushes, and five very emaciated-looking kobolds. The little creatures cowered in fear from the well-armed party, chattering in their own high-pitched language. Mel tossed them a pack of trail rations, which they tore into with gusto. Grimnir tried talking to them in draconic and several other tongues, to no avail, then shouted 'Bree-Yark', which sent them charging out of the room and out the open hole in the wall.

The party shrugged and headed towards the Scribe's Hall. Here, they found a wild-eyed, gray-haired man hiding in a corner, curled in a fetal position and howling obscenities. Grimnir attempted to calm the man, only to have the man start screaming nonsense such as: “He is wrapped in fire and so cruel!" or “The big one, the evil one in the castle of flowers—he is coming, it is coming!,” or "Don’t go there! Don’t go on the hill!” and “He is not human, I tell you, not at all.”

Melastasya offered the man some meat, which caused him to leap at her, attempting to chew on the roasted and exposed muscles of her left arm. Mel punched him with her good hand, sending him sprawling to the ground where he returned to his former obscenity-screaming fetal state.

Traith left the man to his ravings and opened the door into the old Master Scribe's apartments. Traith found an interesting looking "Exercise Manual", which he pocketed. They proceeded on, past a trio of reading rooms, in one of which they found a still readable scroll containing a hundred-year-old recipe for "Leek Soup".

Then they turned a corner into the stacks. A long, wide room, with 8 twenty-foot-long bookcases protruding from the walls out into the center, four to a side. The first two were labeled 'Philosophy', the next 'Rhetoric', the third 'Mathematics', and finally 'History'. Kevorkian ran excitedly towards the 'Rhetoric' section, then froze as soon as he looked down the isle between the bookcases. He stood as still as a stone statueas that was in fact what he had become.

Traith pointed to the muddy, reptilian footprints, which lead from the hole in the wall to hear and shouted the warning, "Basilisk!" Calling forth his magical greatsword.

Grimnir carefully reached around the corner and placed a mirror in Kevorkian's outstretched and petrified hand, using it to sight the massive brown-scaled beast. He just barely avoided it's reflected gaze, and blasted it with a witch bolt, a swarm of soul-eating crows flying around the corner between Grimnir and the beast.

Mel blindfolded herself and charged around the corner, following the sounds of its angry bellows and kicking blindly at the thing. The basilisk caught her calf in its jaws, swung the girl sideways into a bookcase, then to the ground, then pinned the one-armed pugilist beneath its bulk, continuing to gnaw on the trapped leg.

Grimnir continued his magical assault and Traith rushed in, eyes averted, and swung at the beast, but failed to connect. It was at this time that Ash and Traith noticed a strange red-haired woman also standing in the stacks, nonchalantly perusing the Mathematics section. The woman, hereafter referred to as 'Ginger', nodded to the adventurers, grabbed a very large, heavy oaken staff and smacked the basilisk over the head. Ash, pulled off his cloak and teleported over the creatures head, partly obscuring the things eyes with his cloak as he fell.

Taking the brief respite offered by the coordinated attack, Mel, still pinned beneath the creature, worked her good arm free and lashed out as best she could at the things midsection, punching it several times near what she imagined were the thing's kidneys. Enraged, the basilisk rolled over, attempting to crush the annoying gypsy-girl, much as a crocodile would. The thing rolled and rolled, Mel clinging tightly to its underside and rolling with it, finally crashing into a bookcase, sending a rain of dust and moldering old books down on top of it, then ceased moving.

Grimnir and Traith took a few more swings at the basilisk for good measure. Ash then reached under the cloak and carefully cut the eyes out, shoving them in a pouch for future study.

A quick detect magic found a pair of scrolls bearing prayers of Greater Restoration buried in the stacks. Ginger was kind enough to use one of them to restore Kevorkian. Kevorkian patched everyone up as best he could with his remaining magic, then they all set to work, spending 8 hours collecting all the intact books they could find.

These scrolls were written into the original 2nd-edition adventure. Interestingly though, Restoration spells did not cure Petrification in that edition. The party's ability to save the cleric in this instance was a convenient (and slightly surprising) side effect of the edition change.

Traith and Kevorkian, opened the last door at the end of the stacks, into the Master Librarian's chambers. The room contained rotting furniture, including a desk and chair in which sat the skeletal remains of the librarian, hunched over a single, green leather tome. Kevorkian stabbed the skeleton, causing it to collapse into a pile of dust, and went to retrieve the book. On glancing at it though, he was immediately struck blind, his eyes sublimating in their sockets. Grimnir gingerly reached in and snapped the book closed before anyone else could look, handing it off to Ash, who stuffed it in his pack.

They backtracked to main entrance, the one-armed Melastasya leading the blind Kevorkian. Just as they were opening the door to leave, a spirit, looking like a ghostly maiden made from scraps of parchment, appeared before them, blocking their egress. The mere sight of the thing turned Melastasya's hair white, literally. Mel, Grimnir, and Ginger were instantly aged 40 yearsjumping the teenager strait to menopause and turning the demonic lordling into a wizened old man.

Interpreting the thing's appearance and aging of his friends as hostile, Traith blasted the thing with a thunderous orb of power. Ash followed up with a bolt of lightning, and Mel tossed the Wicked Sisters at it. All of which seemed to do nothing to the apparitionthough the lightning bolt did succeeding in blasting open the doors.

Kevorkian asked what they had done to offend the 'Ghost', to which it replied that they had not checked out the books. Grimnir and Traith conjured illusory library cards, which only served to elicit a banshee-like wail from the undead librarian, and the sudden tearing of Ginger's pack, out of which tumbled a book titled She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled, which fell open and produced a pair of real wolves from its pages.

Grimnir dove, nearly breaking a hip, and unleashed a repelling blast up towards the apparition, launching it up through the ceiling. The party then made a dash for it, running out the doors, pursued by wolves, to where the carriages were waiting. All six of them jumped into the second carriage (Mel reminding them several times that the other two were decoys) and road into New Phaln by a highly circuitous route.

They made their way to the Temple of Tyr, where they were informed that only the Bishop was likely to be able to perform the necessary miracles to restore Mel's arm, Kevorkian's eyes, or everyone to their proper ages. Grimnir began drafting a formal request to Bishop Braccio, while Ash took the Testament of Jade to one of the temple law scribes (hoping that someone of confirmed lawful goodness would be able to read it without danger) asking for the scribe to peruse and summarize the tome for him.