[This is recounting of the May 14th, Martha’s Vineyard, Birthday Session. I did not record the audio of this session, not having the appropriate tools–there were a few technical issues. So this is all based on memory still green and my attempts to reconstruct things from Roll20’s chat log. There is also a lot of wholesale invention and putting words into player character’s mouths.
Anyway, we had folks from Chiang Mai, Seattle, Silverton and Martha’s Vineyard. More than full attendance with Toby, Ian, Ralph, Mike, both Johns, Demo and Erol.]
It was the 27th of Rain, just after two days of regrouping from prior forays into Nightfang Spire. In response to Hinkwe’s request for more help, the Postmen are introduced to two other agents: Hit Phar and Chingara Slashgood.
Hit Phar was of their original number, from their early days nearly three years ago. Around that time, for reasons still unclear but perhaps having to do with his suddenly acquired literacy, he left field work and took a job in the DLO.
The Dead Letter Office was a largely unnoticed arm of the Postal Ministry but it was one that Ellen I insisted on when she instituted the Royal Postal Authority nearly 10 years ago. For the last eight years the DLO has been under the command of a strange undead creature, named Thanator. Anyway, about 7 months into his new job, which generated Siberian Cabin in the Dead of Winter levels of boredom, Hit Phar vanished without trace and had been missing until just yesterday.
Sir Chingara Slashgood, was only known to Sir Stirge. A knight of the Circus, the elf ranger–yet another one!–was one of a handful elite archers in all of Udra; Hinkwe and Lingerhol being the other two. Since the Circus left active service over five years ago, Slashgood had been pouring all his stipend into supporting a highly respected martial arts school in the city of Lanth. Between this school and his care for the Circus’ pet elephant, Whirlwind, Sir Chin had very little time or interest in anything else.
But when Lady Hilda, the Baroness of Jars and Postmistress General, gave a command, the rest of the Circus, retired or not, jumped. And so did Chin. That was why the Postmen greeted Chin and Hit on the early morning of the 27th, in the stuffy, book filled office of Lady Hilda.
“I got you the help you wanted for removing Nightfang Spire from the Queen’s Map, Agent Dolsalkhdie. Agent Phar and First Agent Slashgood should be sufficient. I believe you all know each other so, it should be easy for you all to work together,” Lady Hilda said crisply, clearly preoccupied with other matters, “Now, if there is nothing else, I’ll leave you all to catch up and plan your next sally.” and she turned on the ball of her foot and left her office before Hinkwe had any chance to object or say anything.
“Big Hit! It’s been years! Where’ve you been, man?!” Maceo shouted enthusiastically.
“What? So were we, on the manhunt for Chebo the Drowned. They sent you to Nyambe too?”
Phar held up a hand, “It wasn’t Nyambe. It was called Yin-Sloth. I think was helping another postman.”
Maceo, who had become an excellent historian and geographer, never heard of Yin-Sloth but didn’t follow up and, Phar was unwilling or unable to explain further. The reunion between Stirge and Chin was even more laconic, just a handshake and a knowing grin.
Hinkwe tried his best to brief the new agents on what they faced: a colony of magic destroying spiders, evidently in cahoots with a vampire cult bent of restoring a prehistoric god. But Hit and Chin really only seemed interested in knowing if the enemies could be struck by weapons; which they could. Despite this, and despite wondering if Hit Phar’s skill had actually improved over the last 3 years, Hinkwe had heard many stories of Chin’s exploits for the RPA and felt reassured, “Fair enough. Let’s go to the mess hall, partake of Crondussa’s Feast and then teleport to the Nightspire crypts. Postmen, it’s time to get to work!”
It was in the mess that Bussell Hedgerow joined them. The halfling sorcerer, always with some side-project during down time, had spent the last two days magically providing fine food and beautiful shelter for Waylon’s vagrants and indigent. Bussell had several reasons for doing this–to help those in need, to improve his reputation but mostly to try out various interior decorating ideas. He partook of Crondussa’s feast and was ready to do battle with Nightfang’s monsters.
An idea had been turning around in Hinkwhe’s brain for several weeks: how was it possible for the spellgaunts to elude his elfin senses and ambush the Postmen repeatedly? Maceo had given him a possible answer: invisibility. The spiders had used potions or cast spells to make themselves invisible and then compounded that by hiding with the perfect stillness of highly intelligent, supernatural arachnids. Hinkwe had kept missing them simply due to overconfidence. His eyes and ears were so good, he never considered using the magical ability to see invisible things. Maceo, who often stayed in the squad’s rearguard, never saw the creatures until it was too late.
But not this time around! Before teleportation, Hinkwhe and Maceo exchanged magical headgear. The gnome’s headband granted the ability of true sight; this also included the ability to see invisibly hidden creatures. With that headband Hinkwhe, always in the van, would hopefully spot waiting spellguant ambushes.
This would later prove to be a pivotal decision.
Frickalind, Maceo and Bussell cast various defensive magic on the squad. Augmenting potions were drunk. Spells were cast. The Postman folded space right back to the antechamber just outside the double doors Frickalind had sent her five elementals through two days before.
The doors had been burned away and, in the room beyond them there were spider footprints, burnt patches and clear signs of battle everywhere. Hinkwe walked into the room and, with his headband, saw deeply down a twisting tunnel, some 90 feet to his east at least 4 spellgaunts clutching the ceiling, hidden in invisible ambush. He took a few steps further and looked into the twisting cave to his south and saw another spider, as motionless as a corpse, invisibly waiting in the passageway.
Knowing the locations of two ambushes, and knowing the there were probably more spiders hidden behind cover, Hinkwhe returned to the others and called out some code words, hidden in boasts and banter. At last, the element of surprise finally belonged to the Queen’s Post!
The plan was to have the archers and spell casters stand in the fork of the east and south tunnels to cover both passages, cast invisibility purge then have Stirge and Hit fly into battlelust and engage the enemy in shock.
Hinkwe, Lingerhol, Chingara and Betty walked back into the cave. Hink stopped and bent to pretend he was looking at some debris and, with an excellent feint and elfin speed, unleashed a volley of three arrows into the spider to his south, wounding it seriously. The remainder of his arrows he shot into the four spiders to his east, one arrow each.
Frickalind, some ten or fifteen feet behind Hinkwe, cast the invisibility purge, which rendered all the spiders visible, if still hidden–less so now that many had arrows sticking out of them. From a position just fore of Hinkwe, Lingerhol cut loose with a full salvo of arrows into the wounded spellgaunt to the south. This killed it. Chingara pushed out in front of all the other archers and shot a fullisade at a newly revealed, unharmed spider to the south.
Maceo, sang an ode of Hit Phar’s early exploits against the whooshes at sea and magically augmented the half-orc Postman with confidence, skill and durability. The gnome, knowing his defensive and augmentative magic was critical to success, elected to hang back behind Frickalind as the rest of the Postmen advanced.
Stirge, greatly relieved that he’d see some action now that surprise was on their side, went joyously berserk, ran east, down the tunnel, into the group of four spellgaunts Hinkwe’s arrows pointed out. He drove a mighty swing of his axe, viciously splitting the abdomen of his opponent. He didn’t kill it in one stroke but, it was a good start!
Hit Phar, not at all willing to be out-orked by Stirge, also went mad with battlelust, charged down the same tunnel as Stirge and struck one of the four spellguants with a brutal swing of another two-handed axe. It wasn’t a fatal blow but, again, it was a good start.
Betty drew up behind Hink and Linger and shot her arrows into the spider Stirge had tried to divide but it still did not drop.
Bussell boldly flew down the tunnel Stirge and Hit were in, saw that they were flanked by two more spellgauts hitherto hidden in a niche to the north. The halfling sorcerer decided to even those odds by polymorphing the surrounding rock of their niche into mud. The spiders were crushed and wounded badly by several tons of mud, muck and rubble. They were also buried several feet deep into the mud below their feet. It would take them a while to crawl out of that.
This all happened in mere seconds before the spiders realized their ruse had been seen through. The Postmen kept the initiative as the spiders confusedly tried to regroup and the battle went quickly after that.
Between the axes of Hit and Stirge the four spellgaunts in the east tunnel quickly fell before even having a chance to bite, disjoin or rend. Bussell simply polymorphed the mud and rubble he’d created back into stone, killing the two spiders in the northern niche instantly. Betty, Chin, Hink and Linger made quick work of the remaining spider to the south.
It was true, the element of surprise could turn a battle.
Orcs in the Driver’s Seat!
But the battle was over too quickly for Stirge, whose brain was still aswim in bloodlust. Remembering a northern door they’d bypassed, Stirge roared incoherently, ran back and kicked it in. Finding himself in a corridor running north with four doors, two on each side, the former pirate frantically stove in each in his insane drive for more things to fight!
Each doorway only revealed a empty, looted crypt–boring! But the northwestern door lead to an empty crypt that at least had another door in it! Stirge wasted no time; he kicked it in to find another corridor with another door at the end of it, which he stove in and–and so on and so on. Hit Phar, also psychotic with rage, dimly thought that Stirge was on to something and, being the only one in the party fast enough to keep up, sprinted after his fellow wildman.
This lead the Postmen on a mad chase, after the two psychotic half-orcs, through a good eight or so doors, and as many rooms, corridors, and possible loot, before Stirge finally exhausted himself at the ninth door and still not finding a worthy opponent.
The next room briefly brought the orcish rampage up short. The chamber was covered in elaborate black and white parquet tiles, many of which were cracked or broken. The tiles which were whole, detailed tiny reliefs of stylized faces aflame with mouths open, burning in agony. Hanging from the ceiling was pitted iron sculpture of an unrecognizable species of dragon with a five foot wingspread. Below the dragon sculpture, was an alter of red veined white marble. The alter was inscribed with thinly incised, subtle Draconic runes.
He leaped towards the northeastern door to the next room, only to trigger a trap! A huge block of stone fell, Hit Phar and several others narrowly dodged its impact. After the stone fell, it blocked the next door so, Hit, cursing at the tuckered out Stirge to help him and grabbing an pry bar offered by Hinkwe–who by this point knew far better than to argue with an battle-mad half-orc pastoralist!–began to yank at the huge block to move it out of the way. Hit and Stirge both had supernatural strength but, even still, it took a few minutes for them to move the block aside.
During that time, Bussell, who could read Draconic, read the inscription, mentally broadcasting it to everyone by way of the message spell:
“What surpasses Ashardalon,
Is more despicable than the Great Wyrm;
The poor have it,
The rich need it,
If eaten, death follows?”
Upon Bussell reading this question to the entire squad, an overwhelming mental command descended over all of them, even Stirge and Hit. They all felt compelled to answer it.
Luckily, the answer was a bit obvious: “Nothing.” So all of the Postmen either said, “nothing” or decided not to vocalize at all. It never occurred to any of them to give any other kind of answer. Frickalind, who suspected a trap and who certainly didn’t want to pledge herself to any prehistoric death cult of demonstrated evil, didn’t speak but, apparently not saying anything still counted as a correct answer.
After the right answer was given, or abstained from, pale, bone yellow beams of energy flashed out from the altar to strike each of the Postmen. These beams were staggeringly painful and wounded them all without leaving a mark. The squad grunted, howled or wailed as one; each was surprised the beams didn’t kill them instantly. Crondussa’s Feast helped them greatly on that score.
But Hit could not be diverted! With the prybar he finally jerked the block of stone aside, breaking it. If the halfling wasn’t still recovering from the beam’s effects, Bussell would have smirked at this as he had considered disintegrating the block only a minute ago, before the altar’s description took his attention.
Wasting no time, Hit kicked the door in!
The next room contained a single sarcophagus in the center with dust, dirt and debris were scattered around the room. But there were no opponents so, Hit immediately ran to the northeast of two doors to kick it in.
This revealed another single crypt of similar design to the one Hit just ran through. But this time there was an enemy! Bursting clumsily from the sarcophagus, was another one of those golems with spikes, spindles, steel and flesh. Aside from Hit and Chin, the Postmen had seen creatures like this one weeks before as they cleared the tower above the crypts. Thanks to Crondussa’s Feast, and the strength of the Postmen, Ashardlon’s wounding beams had only weakened them slightly so, a clash ensued.
The creature blew out a huge cloud of paralysis gas, which everyone managed to shrug off. Knowing that these automatons were especially vulnerable to sound, Betty decided to hold her arrows until after Frickalind cast her sound burst. Frickalind did this and slowed the golem enormously.
As the Postmen still had the benefits of Maceo’s haste, they all proceeded to wail on the creature in the hopes to destroy it.
[And that’s where we left off, in the middle of combat]