Rappan Athuk

Temple of Orcus
Live to fight another day?

After a near death encounter with a water trap for 3 of the heroes, the party were pleased to find the tomb of the elven demigoddess Laurefea, as a haven of light in this dark place. Although resting near a beautiful naked female form proved distracting!
The heroes then descended to the first Temple of Orcus and rashly entered unprepared. A savage fight ensued, with the end result of undignified flight, and the death of Alain. Chastened, the group must rethink their encounters with the lurking powers of Rappan Athuk.

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Blonde on blonde

Although well-appointed with furnishings and bed, the cave was still a cave and offered nowhere to run. All the beautiful young blonde woman could do was press herself back against the wall as her tormenter entered. It was like looking into a mirror; golden hair, blue eyes and a face of innocent beauty smiled back at the captive. " You are so beautiful, my sweet one", the newcomer spoke softly.
“Leave me alone,” the girl whispered, " you can hurt me physically but you won’t see me cry again!"
“Hurt you?”, the other laughed, " why would I hurt you? I love you deeply bi merely thought you might like to know about the sex games I’ve been having with Lucius. In case you ever escape, you’ll need to know how to please him". This time her laugh was cruel, as she watched her double flush red in embarrassment and shame.
“Demon whore”, some defiance returned to the captive girl," say what lies you will!"
Briefly, the blonde’s eyes flashed with a scarlet anger and she grasped the other girl by the hair, twisting it and gaining a whimper of pain. The dominant girl forced a kiss from her captive, who struggled helplessly against her superior strength. She then released her captive, pushing her down on the bed.
The stronger girl smiled again. " I’ve brought you a gift my love". Returning to the drape she dragged in a young girl, no more than 14 years of age. The young girl’s eyes darted in fear, though her body was clearly dominated by the crueller Kryssana, who gently drew a cruel knife and held it to the girls throat.
“Neryssa! No, please don’t!”, Kryssana screamed out of fear for the young kitchen girl, “please, please….I’ll do what you want”, sobbed the young paladin, her resistance broken.
" I thought you weren’t going to cry", laughed the other Kryssana wickedly," now do as I wish. You know how much more I enjoy you when you do it from your own free will"
Sobbing, Kryssana removed her dress as her beautiful tormenter, also Kryssana, slipped from her own clothes and moved sensuously to the bed. " of all of them, you are the sweetest", murmured the hedonistic fiend as she slipped her arms around the human girl and tasted the first of many kisses.

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Tigers, Worms and Talking Skulls

Initially evading the purple worm, the party encountered the horror of Scramge, rakshasa illusionist, and slew their own compatriot Valahesh, believing her to be a vrock; and Scramge to be Valahesh! It was only the intervention of Triana, using their most puissant scroll, that the truth was revealed and the beast dispatched, and even then Triana nearly paid with her own life.
It was a somewhat disconsolate, if victorious group that limped back into Falconberg. Luscious to the grateful arms of his beautiful young fiancé, Kryssana, and the others to persuade Mother Altidea to resurrect their fallen companion. This the ageing priestess did, happy to help the young tiefling she cared for fondly, even though such magics draw an increasing toll on her ageing frame.
Leaving Falconberg after a period of rest, they sought the help of Drusilla, though it transpired the Mwangi exile had problems of her own, feeling the loneliness of her own exile from the world. Seeing an opportunity to unite two lonely people, Triana and Valahesh promised to matchmake Drusilla with Minetta, hoping the gentle bard would be happier with the druidess than as the (unspoken to Lucius) sex slave to Lady Kryssana.
However, Rappan Athuk’s call was strong, and this time their planned attack on the purple worm was successful, if not without pain!
It also guarded great treasure; the spear of Sectorius, a Desnan mantle and Hellflame for Valahesh’ sword. And this did not include the release of the faerie dragon, Snagletooth!
Finally they questioned the Oracle; Triana’s sister lived still, but is held in the lesser temple of Orcus. Worse though was the tale that the true Kryssana lies a prisoner in the lair of Turane, and her place in Falconberg is held by Sinshefra, daughter of Malcanthet, Queen of Succubi! If true, then Lucius has lain with a princess of the Abyss!!!

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Valahesh's journal4

There is trouble in Falconberg, of that we are certain, but as yet we lack the tools to root out this rot for ourselves or expose it to the lord and his fellows. They seem almost willful in their ignorance, though the blunt manners of Lady Triana have not helped our case. Her purpose is true, but she is perhaps too eager in its execution. Much goodwill has been lost and any chance to surprise the creature that takes the shape of the old lords daughter seems long gone (if it ever existed).

With these troubles heavy on our shoulders it is almost a relief to return to the dungeon. More rooms have been mapped and more foes destroyed, although there are still many that are beyond our power. There are warnings however,against such foes, for those with the humility to heed them…

Devils Kiss feels good in my hand-the hilt and blade have begun to take on a warmth, and the strange red runes glow more brightly with each foe dispatched. Who was the mercenary that left me behind all those years ago at the keep? Left me behind with nothing but questions and the blade. I have memories of a battle-of flame and blood-of the blade dancing through body after body, cutting and hewing, incinerating all in a dance of death.

I continue my lessons with the Prince. He studies from the tattered book of spells he took from the slave masters horde-with a sly grin more often than not that sends a chill down my spine. Perhaps luckily he is a poor scholar, lacking the attention span required to grapple with the arcane arts. Indeed, it was quite a task to make him read the magic tome we found in the ruins. At the end of it he seemed more canny-the madness that gleamed behind his eyes was diminished some-or perhaps he has merely been made more adept at hiding it.

No matter. Many more foes await, and my blade has a thirst now that can only be quenched with blood and battle!

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Displaced Anxiety

Displacer beast 2

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Letters to the Tower III

Mistress Carradine,

It has been several weeks now since I received a response. I trust that these letters are being received. If I do not receive a reply by the next full moon I will attempt magical means to verify this.

Nevertheless, my reports continue. We completed the second level despite heavy opposition from both a powerful fallen undead knight and a corrupted survivor of the Fire Blades. We captures the barbarian alive and returned to Falconberg narrowly avoiding a further shakedown by the Hobgoblin mercenaries. I fear that conditions are no better at the citadel, I remain deeply suspicious of the Baron’s granddaughter and her relationship with Lucius.

Returning to the ruins we descended through the ogre’s hewn passageway we were able to descend to the third level. It is a maxim of our order that every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit. If this is true then we must be in store for truly great benefits. Upon entering the great cavern at the entrance to level 3 we were set upon by a immense purple worm. I always believed these were found in the deep reaches of the earth, perhaps some power has cultivated it as a guardian. A crystal stair lay in the center of its lair – perhaps the ‘benefit’ we can expect lies beyond?

After receiving a sound thrashing by this monstrosity we fled and were able to sneak past after a short period. The warren of caverns beyond were filled with a variety of foul creatures, undead wraiths, displacer beasts, some skeletons cunningly disguised as the powerful ‘black’ skeletons, and a cavern full of opportunistic stirges that drank their fill of us before they were destroyed. At the last we found a cavern filled by a palpable sense of evil. We decided to return to the surface and rest in our redoubt in the wood. We saw off the waiting bandit scouts and made our way clear of the ruins in good time.

One thing to reflect upon… It appears that the area of tunnels we had just explored was located beneath ‘the Well’ a famous Rappan Athuk landmark. It appears the urban myth ’don’t go down the well’ proved to be over cautious as we seem to have explored a goodly part that said, there are a number of places to explore further. Firstly the area of evil, where we fought the wraiths; secondly a series of magical doors; thirdly the base of the displacer beast’s cliff and lastly the cavern of the purple worm. With practice and rest, it may be that the last route maybe the most practical.

She shall discuss and set off on the morrow. Expect a further report in three days time.

Yours
Triana

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Letter

Daarog,
The time draws near. Bring your forces to the fort. We may need all our strength if her plan does not proceed without flaw. I would rather be ready in case her confidence in her plans is not as perfect as her beauty. Falconberg is still a formidable foe, and the recent group of adventurers may prove more dangerous than expected. The Sectorius boy may be malleable, and hasn’t found the spear. The goblin will be as treacherous as any of his kind, but the tiefling bitch and the self righteous whore are a concern. I will be happy when they are bound and broken; you can enjoy one, and I the other. Make a change from our current captive, who she keeps for her own enjoyment whenever she returns!
The hour draws close…. With Falconberg in our grasp, the dwellers in Rappan Athuk will make cause with us, and grant us what we seek.
Turane

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Journal of Vlahesh3

We made it through the first level of the dungeon without too much trouble, despite falling victim to a variety of the parasites that surround it. A group of Hobgoblins lead by a half orc warrior (the brother of the honorable captain of the guard back at Falconberg) who shook us down for loot as well as a vampire who demanded tribute in the form of blood. Both these foes were beyond us, so we have bowed to their demands for now-much as it sickens me to fund a criminal raider.

We were also contacted by the impish agent of some hags from one of the islands. It seems there are many eyes upon us as we undertake this venture…

Back at town we were able to rest and re-equip. I used this time to collect my thoughts and make some minor adjustments and repairs to my gear. The Prince was out most the night with the others on some sort of investigation. They have uncovered something unwholesome within the walls of the keep-despite the protection of the old lord and his allies. I never thought anyone could get something past such august and seasoned warriors. It makes me worry and also strive all the harder to excel-that I may repay the favor of guardianship to the old lord and to my home.

Traveling out again we made for the deep woods, hoping to find the Druidess , and perhaps succor closer to the dungeon. Here we met a small band of the hobgoblins that had robbed us before. Although they addressed us with a certain degree of cheek, they were not hostile. I was reluctant to draw steel on a creature that offers no threat, but Triana was adamant that we should attack. Certainly the wisest option but perhaps not the right one. What good is honor if it is simply cast off when it becomes an inconvenience?

No matter-the humanoids fled from us, shouting warnings about a Bugbear tribe. It seems they have no desire to slay the golden goose that brings treasures to them from the dark depths of Rappan Athuk.
That night we camped once more at night and with a fire. This seemed unwise to me, although the Bugbears would no doubt have found us either way. Being un-armoured I could not stand against the onslaught for long, and was soon stricken down by a knot of warriors and the chieftain of this savage band.
Despite hitting hard and discharging lighting into a warrior he did not fall-though I think the wound I had dealt him was a mortal one, which was of some comfort as I fell. My vision grew dark as I lay on my side, with Lucius standing above me, surrounded by enemies, whilst the others also struggled on-all seemed lost, and then I knew no more.

When I awoke it was with the grim face of Alain above me-bringing me back with his healing powers. It seems that the battle had been interrupted by the flight of a great wyrm! A sight I am sorry to have missed (and perhaps a little relieved). We moved camp (fearing that the bugbears might return) and set off again at first light. I am beginning to see that there are many foes outside the dungeon that are just as deadly as whatever horrors await us within.

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Letters to the Tower II
Second Report

Dear Mistress Carradine,

I beg your pardon for not reporting until now. Our previous rest at the keep proved almost as troubling as the Dungeon of Graves in its own way and only now have I been able to formulate a plan. We have gained much information on the enemies movements and my suspicions are crystallising as I write.

I concluded with our altercation with the ghouls just after entering the dungeon proper. The map given to us by Minetta proved invaluable as Alain was able to scout the area to the south that held the slime beast – a huge mimic like ooze he judged beyond our capabilities at present. It did not pursue us beyond its lair so we were content to turn our attentions to the wererats marked as residing to the north.

When we arrived we were confronted by a young girl beset by rats the size of dogs, tearing at her flesh. The party bravely charged to her rescue, only to realise our mistake. The girls cuts closed and she sprouted fur and whiskers, her face stretching grotesquely into a pointed snout. Three more wererats revealed themselves from atop the barricade, firing crossbows. My colour spray temporarily subdued the rats, while Alain grew to ogreish proportions and tackled the ambushers atop the barricade. The others dispatched the remaining rats and tackled the deceitful damsel in distress. She will lure no more adventurers with her tricks. After the goblin Rathashek snuffled around the wererat tunnels he returned with several pieces of treasure – though the goddess only knows how many items he secreted about his person first. His uncouth nature must be tolerated for now, for he is most skilled at trap finding and lock picking. I see something in his eyes that disturbs me, I will mark him down for ‘education’ at a more appropriate time.

The stream heading east seemed a potential thoroughfare and unwilling to leave it unexplored we followed it for some time down stream. To my chagrin it led to a much deeper cave, perhaps around level six or seven. The pack of unusually large displacer beasts that we disturbed were well beyond us though so we quickly backtracked. Mercifully the aberrant felines seemed unwilling to enter the water unnecessarily.

The first level clear – accepting the slime beast – we descended to the second level. Ignoring a door half split by an axe, Alain discovered a secret leading to a pentagram shaped room. There we were beset by a veritable horde of ghouls, several of which proved to be a more potent variety, ghasts. Both myself, Alain and Vashanesh were paralysed at least once. Lucius bravely pulling Alain back out of harms way. We almost fell, but we shook off the paralysis and eventually our efforts reduced their numbers to the point we could hold them off. A close thing, I must consider ways of better combating undead foes.

Seriously wounded and with a small amount of loot, we decided to return to Castle Falconberg. Though on the way out we were accosted by hobgoblins led by a particularly foul half orc – the brother of the castle’s captain of the guard. Not wishing to risk further death for the sake of money, we surrendered half our loot in exchange for free passage. Such resources will be missed on our next foray and we will need to think of a permanent solution to this racketeering. Strangely I saw that the gargoyles atop the mausoleum were reconstituting themselves. This could be a problem when we come to return.

Traveling south Lucius appeared to recover from whatever had sapped his spirit so grievously, walking taller with more of a bounce in his step. I must commend him for his actions against the ghouls, if Alain had been lost I don’t know how I would go on.

Returning to the castle, a feast was held – almost as if surviving was as great an achievement as defeating the evil within. How wrong these people are. Lucius kept making moon eyes at Lord Reynar’s daughter – clearly something was afoot there. We slept and upon awaking met for breakfast, Lucius drinking even at this early our. His ‘education’ may have to begin even before Rathashek’s. To my dismay the draining of his soul had begun again… where had he been… who was he with? With more rest needed we resolved to uncover this mystery. Waiting until that evening. Alain followed the young fighter to his rooms. Lucius seemed suspicious and secretive and refused to allow Alain entry… to his room. Instead we waited and sure enough the fighter snuck out, not twenty minutes later. Unfortunately Alain’s stealth failed him and an even more suspicious Lucius forced us to back away. Using my invisibility we were able to track him to Lady Kryssana’s quarters where the unmistakable sounds of coitus came from within. Could she be involved in Lucius’ strange malaise? Alain hid invisible behind the door and I knocked loudly. Confronting her, we bandied words and i revealed that I knew of Lucius’ condition, himself clearly hidden beneath the bed. A risk perhaps that she might turn out to be other than the coddled young girl she appeared to be. We left the room in search of Lord Greymantle who was not amused at being awoken. Meanwhile that gave Alain the opportunity to confront Lucius as he left to return to his quarters. When Lucius denied the events of the night despite being caught in the act as it were, Alain became suspicious and his magic revealed that Alain had been dominated at some point – clearly forbidden from talking about who or what had drained him. Eventually Rathashek and Vashanesh joined us. I woke the old wizard of the keep who agreed to give me a powerful dispel scroll – a spell beyond my ability to cast. Unfortunately even it could not break the spell. Rathashek shocked us all with tales of debauchery between Minetta and Kryssana even as we attempted to heal her other lover. Either Kryssana is far less innocent that we have been led to believe, or she is under some malign influence, or that creature is not Kryssana at all! The whole castle is at risk until we can reach the bottom of this. Before we could investigate further the captain of the guard sent us back to our rooms. Nevertheless, the next morning I resolved to act.

Along the way I was able to begin the process of recruiting a new set of eyes and ears in the castle. A serving girl was subtly brought into the fold. She seems quite taken with Lucius…

At breakfast Lord Reynar took issue with our investigations, becoming affronted when I pointed out the evil enchantment on our friend Lucius. I was banished from the keep – a suspicious act in and of itself – is Lord Reynar involved as well, or is he just too blind and arrogant to see what occurs under his own nose. I suspect he would not take the news of his granddaughter’s ways well.

Confronting Minetta with the ‘evidence’ uncovered by Rathashek – implements used in previous evenings debauchery – she confessed to her love of Krysanna. This explained why she had not traveled with the Fire hawks on their last fateful journey into Rappan Athuk. She seemed incredulous when it was suggested that Lucius had also been with Krysanna. The girl is in love – unfortunately the question remains – in love with what?

Luckily Altidea, the aged priestess of the castle was able to help us further, and after separating Lucius from his sweetheart we were able to get her to break both the domination and the draining. Confused with no memory of what had caused this Lucius agreed to be more helpful, and Altidea promised to resolve things with Lord Falconberg. Deciding to set a test for the Lady Krysanna, Lucius invited her to go for a ride alone – the perfect opportunity for her to renew her domination and the draining. Either the girl was cleverer than we thought or not the culprit as he returned unaffected. We resolved to return to RA, temporarily stymied. Lord Reynar gave what can only be described as a weak apology and he promised to increase the security for visitors to the castle – but not his own family! … yes either blind or complicit – either way dangerous.

Setting off to Rappan Athuk again, we resolved to find a safe place to stay closer to the dungeon. There may come a time when Falconberg is not safe for us. A druid said to watch the forest seemed the most likely ally. We came across a smaller band of hobgoblins, clearly part of the same band that shook us down outside the dungeon. Not wishing to bring the lot of them down on us we passed on by, but not before they warned us of bugbear bandits in the woods.

That evening we found the bugbears… I tried to slow them down with magical webs but they ambushed us from another direction. They were stronger than any bugbears I have heard of, and they appeared to be in some sort of rage, easily shaking off my magic. The fight was going ill for us, particularly as Vashanesh fell to the leader. Only the passing flight of a great red dragon interrupting the melee meant we survived as everybody including the bugbears scattered.

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Journal of Valahesh II

We traveled out to the dungeon as a party or warriors, although my childhood friend Lucius seemed somewhat the worse for ware. Too much drink perhaps. I felt a certain sense of trepidation as we set off. Although the castle was a safe place to grow up, my childhood had been spent in the shadow of this dungeon. So many stories of past heroes and treasure hunters that never returned, and now I set out. Now my turn has come.

I try to put on a brave face and remember my training. I have journeyed far since leaving Falconberg, and experienced much, and yet there is something unsettling about this dungeon. The others seem unconcerned. Do they feel the same as I? Are they just pretending this is another orc lair or bandit gang to be hunted? I sometimes feel like a child playing at hero when I think of where we are going…

If they share my fear they show no sign of it. The Sorceress Triana and her man Alain are the consummate professionals-seasoned and trained to perfection. Will I be worthy to stand by them, with my self taught skills and parlour tricks? We shall see. The Prince is his usual foul mouthed self and Lucius is in good spirits as ever. A mixture of bravado and stubborn tenacity despite his apparent illness.

We engaged in several minor skirmishes on the way to the dungeon. I was glad of these-as the thrill of combat let me shake off some of my nerves. ‘Devils Kiss’ felt good in my hands and I was at least able to be of some use to my friends.

The fire in my heart was soon dampened somewhat however , by the sight of that dismal place-and the discovery of our own graves, freshly dug. Lucius spat into his-much to he and Ratharshek’s amusement. I would not dare anger the gods in such a way (good or otherwise) but I was secretly glad of this act of levity. Lucius may be full of himself, but his acts of defiance hearten me in some strange way. Maybe we can win where so many others have failed?

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