- Drusus the Historian, 4th level human Magic-User
- Drolhaf Haffnarskørung, 6th level
- Lafadriel Hundertwasser, 4th level
- Armand the Scumbag, 4th level human
- Phil the Terror of Turkeys, 5th
level hobbit Thief/Archer
forest was dead. The birds were silent, and the branches were like the hands of
the dead, bearing funereal veils of moss and lichen. They walked in silence
until Armand – who has looking in the undergrowth for something he could find
useful – bid the company stop.
sounds were human moans mixed with odd, bubbling noises. Creeping forward, they
spied a clearing dominated by a massive old tree, black and rotten. Around the
trunk, naked, pale humans crawled in the mud like beasts, their eyes vacant and
dull. They wore chains binding them to the tree, and were absorbed in fighting or
sitting and wailing. Drolhaf
Haffnarskørung quietly motioned for the others to keep walking, and put a
distance between them and the strange vision, until they were out of the dead
zone. It was growing dark by the time they reached the lower slopes of the
mountains. Phil found a cave which looked abandoned and didn’t smell of wild
animals, and here they rested a night.
The forests receded and were replaced by moraines
and giant boulders. The snowy summits loomed high above them, and they were
buffeted by freezing winds. There was no sign of life in this wasteland. It was
Armand who discovered the road, winding around the mountainside and
disappearing in a gap between two peaks. It was irregular and seemingly built
of enormous stones too large to be moved by men, but it was a road all right.
It lead upwards and to the east, until the two sides of a narrow gorge rose up
around it. The company passed through the gloomy silence, and after a few hours,
reached a branch. The main road continued eastwards, while a more narrow way,
built of the same massive stones, went north, before disappearing between an
enormous arch formed of two massive, fallen stones.
They passed under the stones, hurled against each
other by the mighty forces of nature, and emerged on a slope overlooking a
small valley dominated by the green of lush trees, and a central meadow
bisected by a crystal-clear stream. The way lead down into the tiny forest,
while right across them, looming high, rose the tallest peak of the mountains,
snow-covered and quiet. Up high, a serpentine road seemed to climb up to a cave
entrance; above, three massive arched openings, closed off by metal grilles,
yawned in the sheer cliff face. On top of the peak, they could make out the
snowy ruins of a tower or small keep, barely more than a collection of walls
and debris piles.
“Whatever this is, we have found what we were
looking for,” said Phil.
The road melted into a forest trail surrounded by
gnarled old trees. Soon, the path forked before a comfortable-looking stone
bench, holding a pitcher of clear water. To the left, the path curved, crossing
a stream flowing southwest. Lafadriel heard a distant sound like geese honking,
while Armand studied a tree that looked a bit like its knots formed a human
face... or was it just a random pattern? Phil climbed up on another tree, and
sunk his hand into a bird’s nest, retrieving two eggs made of solid gold.
|The Garden in the Mountains|
They crossed the stream, and soon emerged in the
meadow at the centre of the valley. The grass was green and wholesome, and
clusters of colourful wildflowers were everywhere. Across the meadow, a gaggle
of eight white swans were hunting for snails. In the middle of the clear area,
a statue stood on a pedestal with some kind of writing on the base. It was a
full-scale rendition of a moustached nomad standing triumphantly, raising a
scimitar above his head, next to his companion, a rearing griffin. There was a
living figure next to the statue: a lady in fine clothes, standing silently and
looking the other way.
“Let’s approach her” suggested Drolhaf, and
they crossed the meadow, following the stream.
“Something is wrong” Phil hissed.
They were not any closer to the statue, but in the
meadow’s north-eastern corner. The eight swans were peacefully grazing to their
south, and as they looked back to the centre, they saw the statue, but the lady
“We are in the opposite corner, but the statue is
still looking our way!” whispered Phil.
Drusus cast detect magic, confirming the
valley – all around them – was magical. Lafadriel, who had stopped to collect
some of the wildflowers, saw that they were like no flowers he had ever seen;
their blossoms and leaves were conjoined in a blooming tangle.
“Let’s try retracing our steps to the southwest.”
Following Drolhaf’s suggestion, they made their way
back to their starting point. The eight swans were peacefully plucking
something from the grass to the northwest, and the statue was looking back in
Drolhaf spoke to no one in particular: “I have
come with good intentions – I give the gift of flowers to the flowers.”
He retrieved a vial filled with a rainbow liquid
from his knapsack (once found by Franz Who Wasn’t
Even There during a previous adventure), and poured it on the ground, burning a path through the grass towards
the statue. This time, they emerged at the base of the monument. Looking
around, Armand saw three swans hunting to their southwest, but no trace of the
“Wait, three swans?” asked Lafadriel.
“I try to disbelieve the illusion” said
Drolhaf, but nothing changed. “Hm. Let’s try reading the inscription – these
are some really tiny letters.”
The letters below the statue read: “THE SWANS ARE
CLOSER THAN THEY SEEM”
The swans were right there next to them! They struck
furiously with their bills, and Drusus almost fell to a grievous wound, while
Armand and Lafadriel got smaller bites. Once he could react, Drusus recovered
enough of his wits to cast burning hands, scorching the swans, while the
others fought in vain to hit them. Suddenly, the angered waterfowl were gone.
They were alone next to the statue, and a group of six swans were grazing
peacefully in the meadow’s NW corner.
“The wounds are real” said Drusus,
“Maybe it really is an illusion” said
“Or some sort of spatial distortion” added
Phil the Terror of Turkeys. “Could be the pollen” he continued as he
masked his face with a piece of cloth, followed by Armand the Scumbag.
“The place we are looking for is to the north.
Looking that way, you can see two paths starting from the NE corner. Let’s
start with the northern one.”
Following the suggestion, they approached the
semi-circular narrow garden path. Halfway, there was a snow-white marble pillar
with a vase on the top, both bisected by a single long crack.
Drusus had an idea. “Let’s try something
different.” He cast a spell, and began to levitate upwards, rising above
the valley. He saw the trees below them, and a mountain path to his northeast,
starting from the east of the valley. He levitated back down, and told the
others of his discovery.
“Let’s just see the western part first before we
go east” said Drolhaf.
Back at the meadow’s NW corner, they spotted the
western path starting from the SW corner. Some way into the lush woods, they
found themselves next to a marble pavilion. A circle of columns stood on a
half-sunken foundation overgrown with grass, and a broken white marble dome
rose over the columns. Approaching the structure, Drolhaf Haffnarskørung
noticed something shimmering between the columns, surrounding the interior – a
slight distortion or refraction, barely visible. Inside, something seemed to
stir, but it was just a hint of movement – or perhaps another trick of the
light. Testing the shimmering with a rock, then a stick, it proved to be some
kind of force repelling all intrusion. Meanwhile, Lafadriel, who was watching
the forest, made another unpleasant discovery.
“There are no snails and insects here. This place
is completely barren. And those trees – look! They are identical.”
Looking more closely, the ruse was obvious. The
trees were completely like each other, and their green leaves were perfect
imitations of a single uniform shape.
“It is like someone created this place,”
murmured Phil “but he was too careless or lazy to pay attention to the
“That’d explain the wildflowers I saw” nodded
Proceeding further west, then back northeast, they
saw a comfortable-looking stone bench, holding a pitcher of clear water.
Drolhaf was now sure: “Yes, we have seen it before.”
Back at the NW corner of the clearing, they saw a
flock of five geese playing in the stream to the southeast. An elegant lady
stood next to the statue in the middle with her back to them. The exit of the
northern path they had emerged from a little time ago was nowhere to be seen.
There was a way to the east from the NE corner, and
they took this path through the perfect, alien forest. Halfway along the path,
there was a snow-white marble pillar with a vase on the top, both bisected by a
single long crack. But there was also something else: a stone path passed below
an arch of two massive rocks, going steeply upwards and turning north in a
Lafadriel was sceptical: “This could just be the
way we came in.”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“Yes, go back to the road and leave this place.”
“No way. We have to get to that tower.”
“How much time has passed since we got here?”
asked Armand, and looked up at the sun, which was still right above them. “It
is noon. Just like when we got here. It could always be noon here.”
The trail was steep and unpleasant to climb, the
stairs too high for their legs and seemingly endless. After a while, they
emerged somewhere above the green valley, on a ledge buffeted by cold winds.
Four great stone faces in the cliff wall stared at them with empty eyes and
“Are these representations of Keora? No... the
goddess is female, and these are male heads” mused Drolhaf.
“They resemble the giants of the old eras”
spoke Drusus the Historian.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE REALM OF THE
MOUNTAINS’ MYSTERY?” A booming sound came from one of the heads.
“We have come looking for… uh… this place, oh
“HE HAD STRUCK WOUNDS INTO THE STONE” the
Another head joined in: “HE HAD BUILT A HEAP FROM
THE BONES OF THE CLIFFS.”
The third spoke: “HE HAD BRIDGED DEPTH AND
And the fourth rumbled: “HE HAD ENSLAVED THE
“We are on our way!” Drolhaf responded, and
was quick on his feet to get as far away from the ledge as possible.
They climbed further up, and after what seemed like
a very long time, were at the base of the final summit, snow-covered and quiet.
The path ended in a vaulted entrance leading into the mountain; to either side
stood two statues of the nomad warrior from the meadow down below, one headless
and one with his upraised blade broken off and lost. Stepping inside, there was
an abandoned watch station to the left, and a set of stairs leading upwards.
|The Mountain Tower|
The steps lead into a vast hall lit by three
enormous archways cut into the side of the mountain, but closed off by enormous
brass grilles. Giant winches to be operated by multiple men stood next to them.
The hall itself consisted of three “piers” with 10’ deep “bays” between them,
filled with heaps of blackened, leathery bodies and bones, the remnants of some
ancient massacre. Peering down, they saw broken weapons, and something else –
the bodies were entangled in rotten harnesses. There was a large archway
leading deeper into the mountain, and wide stairs climbing up, flanked by the
bas-reliefs of rearing griffins.
“What were the bays for? Enormous swans?”
“This could be related to the island’s giants in
“Remember the legend of the griffin rider of this
isle?” said Drusus. “This could be the same man. He was reputed to save
people from peril.”
“Wasn’t that man a pegasus rider?”
“He had bridged depth…” said Drolhaf.
“Maybe this was not the man of the legends”
countered Phil the Terror of Turkeys. “Maybe you’d call for his help and
he’d just appear and kill you.”
was some kind of movement from the stairs above. A group of glowing, spectral
warriors appeared, coming down their way, nomads with pointed helmets and
glinting phantasmal spears. Drolhaf Haffnarskørung
raised his hand in a gesture of peace: “Respect for the brave! We have come
with the permission of the giants!”
The figures attacked wordlessly, striking wound
after wound, but fortunately, they eventually fell to the company’s weapons.
Climbing further up the wide stairs, they emerged in
an octagonal, vaulted chamber. There were spiral stairs further up, four doors
in the diagonal corners, and passages to the east and west. Drusus was the
first to investigate, opening the door to the northeast. The room was filled
with a heap of discarded, mouldering clothes and rags, of all makes and sizes.
Drusus rifled through them to see if they had any valuables, but suddenly, he
felt something dragging him inside the pile. The rags fell on him to cover his
face and suffocate him, and he was almost gone under the heaving mass, but at
last the others could drag him away. Bitterly, he spoke the words of a flaming
sphere, burning through the old remains and producing an oily smoke. The
other rooms were also filled with similar cast-offs; there was nothing of
The passage to the east was flanked from the sides
by several barred doors opening into small cells. Chains clinked and dragged
themselves inside them, and Drusus was careful to watch them out of the corner
of his eye, while also looking at a set of stairs descending downwards. At the end of the passage, a reinforced wooden door
opened into a domed room filled with an unruly heap of pointy spears,
resembling a large hedgehog. Tattered remains of uniforms hang on the spear
shafts, punctured by numerous stab wounds. Across the room, there seemed to be
spiral stairs going down, but looking at the spears, they decided to withdraw
back to the octagonal room.
Drusus was the first to speak: “I am starting to
believe this wasn’t the place Tomurgen was speaking of.”
“Nevertheless... if we are already here, we
should see what the place has in store for us” argued Drolhaf.
Armand looked testy: “Maybe it just wants to kill
going with Drolhaf’s suggestion, they checked the western passage, which had
doors to the side and at the end. The first door opened into a rectangular
storeroom. Around the walls, there were disembodied, spectral things that
looked like piles of something; colourful mists swirled on rotting wooden
shelves. Drolhaf entered carefully, probing the clouds with the butt of his
spear, experiencing something solid. Touching with his hand, he felt something
smooth and rectangular, yet slowly pulsating. A handle. He pulled, and was in
possession of a wooden drawer filled with old silverware.
is like things are sliding between reality and unreality?” guessed Phil.
opened another door, where a row of six misty globes stood in a row at chest
height, dripping with red condensation. Then, checking the door at the end of
the hallway, he entered a hexagonal room, where three larger, brighter clouds –
blue, yellow and red – were pulsing at different rates, glowing with an inner
light. Drolhaf reached for them, finding the yellow hot to the touch with a
rapid pulse, the red warm and languid, and the blue cool and almost inert. He
took the yellow globe and held it firmly…
leave the room” declared Armand the Scumbag.
leave the room” declared Lafadriel Hundertwasser.
am already outside the room” declared Phil the Terror of Turkeys.
have never even been inside the room” declared Drusus the Historian.
reached, seizing the globe…
felt incredible pain exploding through his body as he was enveloped in
super-bright flames and a volcanic heat. The pain was incredible, and Drolhaf
suddenly realised the flasks of oil on his body weren’t helping…
late, as he burned, crying “Fire, walk with me!” in a desperate bid to
bring it under control. “The flames are mine!” he bellowed, and
collapsed naked, weak as an infant, yet somehow also stronger after surviving
the incredible ordeal (+2 Strength).
could use a little healing here” he croaked, before he lost
red one was really something” Drolhaf heard the voice of Phil the Terror of
Turkeys. He was resting in one of the side rooms, meticulously cleared of the
old clothes that had filled it. “He is awake, and looks better. Well, time
to get going!”
the spiral stairs up, they found themselves in a round columned hall. Grey
daylight streamed in through small windows set around the hall’s perimeter. In
the centre, suspended from the domed ceiling by a thick chain, was a large iron
cage holding a desiccated corpse. The features of the man were nomadic with a
cruel sneer; he had been stabbed through by several spears still lodged in the
mummified body. A stone scimitar lay below the cage.
looks like something for the broken statue at the entrance!” guessed
Drolhaf, and carefully crawled under the cage to retrieve the item.
was not convinced about their safety: “He seems to be looking at us. Is the
cage solid enough?”
for exits, Armand the Scumbag found a great, securely barred gate made of wood,
and two hallways leading off from the domed chamber. Choosing the way to the
east, they entered a long hall with its ceiling lost in darkness. A row of
empty pedestals stretched all the way to the end, where they could see the
triumphant statue of the griffin rider, letters inscribed on the base. Spiral
stairs lead upwards, and a grand staircase started behind the statue.
something attack if we read the inscription? Any swans around?”
pedestals are empty.”
they?” Phil pointed at faint, barely visible shapes on the twenty-six
plinths. “Looks like glass or crystal... could be like the phantoms we
fought, and there are 26 of them.”
if I sent a flaming sphere along the row?” asked Drusus the
Historian. Then he shrugged and walked up to the rider, reading aloud the sign:
GAVE THE MOUNTAINS WHAT IS OF THE MOUNTAINS
GAVE THE WOODLANDS WHAT IS OF THE WOODLANDS
GAVE THE SEAS WHAT IS OF THE SEAS
AIRS ABOVE WHAT IS OF THE AIRS
THEM TRIUMPHANT, THE POWER IN MY HANDS...”
here. I will scout ahead and see if there is anything dangerous.” Drusus
walked up the winding grand stairs, eventually winding up on a circular gallery
over a dark abyss. Cold winds wailed through empty windows, but the cold seemed
to radiate from something else: a large golden heart that would fill a knapsack,
suspended by a rope. He tried to grab it, and managed to dislocate the heavy
metal piece, but could barely hold onto it as it seemed to freeze the marrow in
his bones. He put it down on the gallery floor. Back in the hall of the statues,
he told the tale and Drolhaf offered to make a try with the heart.
power of fire will still protect me.”
what of the crystal statues? This feels like a classic trap. If we bring it
here, the statues will probably animate.”
to the heart, they all studied the heavy object which seemed immensely
must be the heart of the mountains from Tomurgen’s poem. ‘Mountains’
heart, forest-hidden light / Two stone peaks and a third will show its proper
site / It lies in the dreamer’s lap, secret hiding place / A deceitful flame
marks it, bygone mirage lays.’”
didn’t believe it. “It was suspiciously easy to just find it laying here.”
something has cursed the nomads living here. Are we sure it isn’t this heart?”
is magical... actually, the rope is also magical.”
down the abyss below them, Drolhaf noted a pile of leathery corpses covered by
snow carried in by the wind. “It all looks risky. Something will
happen if we take it.”
to leave the heart be for a while and investigate further, they pressed
forward, into another tall, round gallery, this one dark save for narrow beams
of light coming through small windows high above them. Six golden cages hang
from the walls, filled with chirping, bouncing wisps of coloured light. At the
far end of the gallery, Phil also spotted something more ominous – a heavy,
lumbering shape seen from the corner of the eye, disappearing with a growl
through an archway.
am more and more sure this place is half real and half unreal” suggested
beast we just saw doesn’t look too scary if it is fleeing from us” said
don’t corner it; you may find it’ll take your head off.”
they decided to open the cages and take them for the gold value. The colourful
balls scattered, twittering above their heads.
have we unleashed on the world?!”
|The Coastal Map|
of pursuing the beastly apparition, they took the spiral stairs from the statue
hall, arriving in a hexagonal room with two arched exits, one barred by a heavy
door. In the middle of the room, an antique table held a hexagonal map with
tower in the middle of the mountains is where we are now. And look – you
can see the coastal areas.”
this be the distant past?” ventured Lafadriel Hundertwasser. “We don’t know
of this place marked ‘Bonifaces’, or ‘Catscliff’, and what is now the town of
Sleepy Haven is called ‘Thanes’.”
the Northman thanes had founded the original settlement. We should remove this
parchment from the table surface; seems like there are some interesting places
passage without the door lead to the bottom of the gallery where the heart had
been suspended, and they took great care to avoid the browned corpses under the
pile of accumulated snow. The octagonal room behind the barred door – which was
locked but easy to open – seemed empty on a first look, permeated by clear
white light. After a fruitless search for secret doors, they were ready to
leave, when Drusus saw something out of the corner of his eyes.
a moment! There is something there!”
could see it, too, from the odd angle: heaps of brocades embroidered with
lions, rich tapestries and pearl chains on mounds of gold. The centrepiece was
a marble pedestal with a winged helmet resting on a velvet cushion, decorated
with the emblem of the griffin rider.
Phil exclaimed. “Is this the same helmet we found in the hall in Haghill
Gadur Yir had opened?”
be damned! It is the exact same thing... no, wait. That one had a pegasus rider.”
you sure it was a pegasus rider?”
it was in ‘The Chamber of the Griffin’.”
next place they chose to visit was the tower’s west wing, reached through the
other passage from the central chamber. Fighting a group of five phantom
nomads, they emerged in a side room with a looming dark ceiling above
dark-curtained windows, and roaring flames in a decorative fireplace. Drusus took
a long look at the fire, and his gaze was drawn to what looked like human faces
in the glowing embers, forming and disappearing in slow succession. There was a
low murmur, and as he saw face after face, he finally saw one that caught his
attention. It was the face of an unremarkable, indolent young man, but somehow
he knew this man carried a great secret truth, and that he was a lost prisoner
somewhere in a faraway underground place. Drusus studied the face and memorised
its features before the apparition was gone.
stairs lead up, now to an empty room with further exits upwards and to the
east. Choosing the latter way, the company was assaulted by a barrage of senses:
the touch of fabrics and silks, the prickly sensation of horsehair blankets, the
neighing of horses and the caress of soft arms. The eastern room was a narrow
closet holding a collection of clothes. What they at first thought to be an
illusion proved to be some princely gear: Drusus the Historian tried on the
coolest pair of green dragonskin boots in existence, and topped it off with a
golden diadem that seemed to fit him perfectly. Armand the Scumbag was
satisfied with an outfit of fur coat that made him look like a wealthy lord.
in the previous room, they had to defeat a group of phantom nomads, but they
seemed to fall easily. The stairs up lead to a semi-circular gallery lit by
several tall windows. It was cold and empty save for a pedestal to the side,
holding a red cap with a golden tassel on top of a stone head. Forward, stairs
lead further up towards the top of the tower.
head looks like it belongs to that statue next to the entrance” said
Drolhaf. He started for the pedestal, but was stopped in his tracks as his
transparent mirror image appeared out of the thin air. Drolhaf held up his hand
in a gesture of peace, but the apparition was going for his weapon, and as
others joined Drolhaf, they were also confronted by their phantom reflections. They
chose it wiser to make a strategic retreat and discuss their options. Eventually,
shielded with a protection from evil spell, Drolhaf chose to enter the
room again, and snatch the cap and the head while dodging the blows raining
down on him.
shall we proceed further?”
think we have overstayed our welcome. We can come back another time, but we are
exhausted and wounded. That large beast is still lurking out there, and if
these passages connect, I’d rather not face it.”
remaining task was to retrieve the golden heart. Warmed within a fur coat, it
was suspended from a spear haft and carefully carried down the grand stairs,
but despite all expectations, no statues animated, and no forces of the weird
tower would muster to thwart their progress, although a growling sound from the
western wing seemed to warn of something large and ominous. They descended
below the tower level, and down many stairs until they reached the exit with
the two statues. Putting the scimitar in its place, a metal sword fell from the
hand of one statue, clattering on the stones, and snatched up by the eager Phil
the Terror of Turkeys:
will make a nice weapon for me. Looks sharp!”
the head on the other statue’s neck, it emitted a bellowing battle cry that
echoed through the silent mountains, filling the company with sureness and
purpose (+3 to max Hp).
may have to come back for the rest” pondered Drolhaf, but looking back on
the mountain door, he saw only a bare stone surface, as if no entrance had ever
been there. Looking up on the summit, where they had explored a great tower,
were only the degraded remains of snow-covered walls. “Or maybe it will all
stay there forever.”
walked down the serpentine path, towards the valley garden and the eastern road
in the direction of Sleepy Haven.
date 7 October 2017).
Lafadriel Hundertwasser: “This is a seriously
Drolhaf to Lafadriel (after Drusus tried on the
expensive boots and the golden diadem): “Is your god also Robespierre?”
Referee’s notes: This expedition
into a strange place resulted in more magical gear than actual clues: only one
or two secrets of the tower were found, and from the GM’s side of the screen,
it felt a bit like scratching the surface. However, the party was also severely
wounded and running on luck and perseverance after the initial encounters, so they
were also playing careful. There was a beautiful bit of lateral thinking
involved with burning a path to the statue in the centre of the meadow –
nothing had been written on this possibility, but it all made complete sense
when it happened. But yes, the tower had kept some of its most important