Saturday, March 5, 2016

After Garan Fest: Garan’s Tomb

Amidst the revelry at the conclusion of Garan Fest-- in between questions to Vlad from well-wishers and hangers-on about how it felt to be the new champion and what it was going to do next—Vlad gathered his companions around him to discuss: what are we going to do next?

Among various competing priorities (Circe and Mark had heard about a wizard who was looking for students, Sir Henry feared that something was amiss in the land of Whitkey, the druids had called Chrono to seek his help in finding that special-prophecy boy Valu) the scent of low-hanging gold pieces beckoned.  Garan’s tomb looked like it could be broken into and according to the tanner’s book, Garan had been buried with his treasure.

So as the party continued, the adventurers pushed aside their ale mugs to cleared their minds (or perhaps drowned any rational fears with a last drought of liquid courage) and set off into the night. 

They hiked back to the tomb under torchlight, singing and arguing to distract each other from the weird shadows in the canyon.  Mark the Magicuser read the magic runes above the tomb: “Mother Night Welcomes Garan Lord of Battle and Conquest.”  Again, not exactly “Good words, honorable deeds.”

Vlad expressed some misgivings about the mantle draped round his shoulders, and his new association with this ancient warrior of ambiguous character.  It felt good to feel like a conqueror, but it also felt a little strange.  Chrono, sensitive to Vlad’s ambivalence tried to assist Vlad in removing the mantle—and for his trouble received an unequivocal punch in the face.  Ok, that settled it.

Sir Henry, meanwhile discovered that the door to the tomb—to no one’s great surprise, open with only a slight push.  There was a spiral staircase carved in the rock, spiraling down (and deosil—“clockwise, for those familiar with newfangled timekeeping devices”.)

At the bottom of the stairs they passed through rooms painted with murals celebrating Garan’s many bloody conquests.  He wore the same mantle now worn by Vlad except for one detail.  While the mantle worn by Vlad bore the embroidered insignia of the “Golden Helm of Garan,” the mantle worn by Garan in the murals showed a black skull on a white shield.

The party passed into a circular room dominated by a stone statue of Garan in the center of the room and with six stone knights standing in alcoves spaced around the wall.  As the party entered the room, the eyes of Garan’s statue glowed red and statues came to life.  Vlad felt emboldened and in another way uncomfortable, it was something about his mantle or the insignia on his mantle, he picked at the gold thread.

And then the sis stone knights came to life and attacked.  Three of the statues charged at Vlad.  Vlad readied his shield and Sir Henry sprung into action, striking one of the statues with his sword, shattering its arm.  Chrono readied his quarter staff and engaged one of the other statues.  Another statue bore down on Thoric.  Circe retreated, hiding under a shroud of magical darkness.  Mark stayed behind the well-armored warriors and when the moment was right, cast a magic missile at one of the statues attacking Vlad, reducing it to a pile of rubble.

Thanks to his plate mail and the assistance of his companions, Vlad sustained a rain of blows from stone swords, with little injury.  Sir Henry noticed that the insignia of Vlad’s mantle was emitting smoke, seemingly more and more as the statues were destroyed.  When Thoric received a grievous blow from a stone sword, McDowell and Sir Henry crowded in front of the statue and covered his retreat.  Then there was a burst of flame in which Vlad’s face glowed red. The Golden Helm was gone—the black skull of Garan was revealed underneath. Vlad yelled a battle cry and the remaining statue kneeled before him.

Chrono tended to Thoric’s wounds while the rest of the party searched the room.  McDowell found a secret door and another spiral staircase leading down.  As the party regathered, so did the statues—the chunks of stone, quivered and rolled together, reassembling into six stone knights, all kneeling before their master, Vlad.

The party descended the staircase.  The statues did not follow Vlad, but once he was out of sight they rose their feet, drew their swords approached the other members of the party—not in a good way.  The rest of the party crowded down the stairs.   The statues did not pursue.

At the bottom of the stairs, they found Garan’s burial chamber.  There was a sarcophagus—open—and soon a horrific undead thing rose out of it—seemingly Garan himself by the black skull painted on his plate mail.  The wight’s scabbard was empty and it charged at Vlad—“Give it to me!”  Vlad pulled out his sword and landed a blow that would have decapitated a mortal creature—and remembered all of his grandfather’s lessons about how to fight the living dead.

Sir Henry knew, The Sword of Whitkey leapt into his hand and he charged forward to go toe-toe with dead Garan.  Chrono joining him, swinging his shillelagh.  This gave Vlad the opportunity to back away, cast his sword aside and ready a silver bolt in his crossbow.  Mark and Circe threw magic missiles at the evil spirit as it charged after Vlad.  A silvered bolt from Vlad’s crossbow hit it in the face. Howling in anger or pain it pressed forward.  The Sword of Whitkey, glowing in Sir Henry’s capable hands bit through the Garan’s armor.  Vlad stumbled backwards, still holding his crossbow.  As the monster pounced on him, Vlad put another crossbow bolt through Garan’s plate mail, granting he creature a second death.

Thoric and McDowell pried the silver, gold, and jewels out of Garan’s sarcophagus.  Sir Henry devised a way to distribute the treasure and after satisfying themselves that there was no other way out of the burial chamber, the party returned to the surface.  The stone knights kneeled before Vlad and allowed them to pass freely.  Back in Garanton, the party got a few strange looks from straggling revelrs, but no one quite found words to question them.

At dawn, the party left for Hommlet.  As they had heard, there was a wizard there, one Burne, who had learned of certain magical pools in the caverns under a ruined Moathouse outside the village.  He wanted to share the power of the pools with apprentices, but the guards he had stationed at the moathouse said that things were getting weird—purple-back spiders, eerie noise, green slime on the walls and ceiling that dissolved metal-- and they refused to patrol the lower levels.  Burne hoped some ambitious young magicians and their associated might see the advantage of helping him secure access to the pools.