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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My little Old World: the Shrine in the Forest #1

Dangerous dreams and buckets of blood
So, with the 'festive' season out of the way, we finally got back to WFRP Sunday last. The party had returned to Middenheim the last session we played before Christmas. They proceeded to get themselves jobs: Alane got herself a job as an assistant researcher at the Guild of Wizards and Alchemists; Berthold became a scribe at the Temple of Sigmar; and Grundi, Mordrin and Siegfried signed up for a 6-month stint with the city watch.

Our intrepid bunch had barely settled in though before they received a call to visit Father Ranulf at the Temple of Ulric. There they met Ranulf and a blind old priest named Father Odo. Odo, it turned out, was possessed with terrible dreams of a servant of the Chaos god Khorne, and of a powerful icon of Khorne which had been laid to rest with this blood-soaked figure. Ranulf explained to the party that this icon had to be retrieved so that it could be made safe, and that they were just the people for the job.

With cries of horror and barely concealed reluctance, the party agreed. Leaves of absence were obtained. Preparations for the journey were made. Portents of doom were shared. And that was where we left things at the end of last year.

When the time came to depart for the journey into the Drakwald with the blind Father Odo as a guide Alane was strangely absent [her player couldn't make it]. Undaunted, the party set off. Their journey began by retracing the road to Delberz they'd taken only weeks before. Turning east at Sotturm, they eventually left the road at the village of Fintel.

Without even a path to follow, the party made slow going through the thick forest. The dull journey was enlivened only by the ravings of Father Odo, who was gripped by terrible dreams each night, and who was little better than a babbling loon during the day. At least the PC's had reason to be thankful to the Graf Todbringer, whose efforts to hunt down the beastmen and other hideous survivors of the siege of Middenheim were surely responsible for there being no dangerous incidents on the journey.

During the 10th night in the Drakwald Father Odo's dreams were more vivid and frightening than ever. He awoke with the news that they were almost upon the evil site that was their destination. Those were the last sensible words he said that day, as he went on to babble more constantly than ever.

The party marched on. Early in the afternoon they noticed the forest thinning around them. Recent adventures having taught them the wisdom of caution, the PC's decided not to march blindly forward: Siegfried went ahead to scout out the area. He found the great stone atop its mound that Father Odo had described from his nightmares. There were no signs of life.

Mordrin being the only PC without a missile weapon, it was decided that he would go forward to investigate while the others covered him from the edge of the clearing. Approaching the mound, Mordrin found the cold remains of campfires, and what looked like a large cooking pit filled with human and other bones left over from a meal that someone- or something- appeared to have enjoyed. Perched atop a mound of skulls and bones and covered in evil scribblings, the great stone towered over the mound, several times the height of a man.

The young dwarf made a cautious circuit of the mound and found nothing. So he started to kick about among the bones. Seeing no signs of immediate danger, the rest of the party were by this time moving to join him. They arrived just in time to witness Mordrin finding the entrance to the mound's interior by the simple expedient of falling half into it. Leaving Grundi on guard with his blunderbuss, Berthold, Mordrin and Seigfried set to work to clear the entranceway so that they could find a way inside.

The skulls and bones cleared away, the party found themselves staring at a great stone door decorated with a carving of the Blood God on his brass throne atop a mountain of skulls. No doubt some of the PC's wished they could be somewhere else at that moment- anywhere, doing anything other than trying to find a way into this evil site. There was nothing for it though, so the dwarfs and Berthold set to levering the huge lump of stone open. It took them quite some time, but they managed it eventually.

Inside they saw a passage sloping gently downwards into the darkness. Before entering the burial mound, the party had to decide what to do with Father Odo, whose babbling verged on hysteria as he was led towards the entrance, and who showed extreme reluctance to go inside. Afraid that the deranged old priest might wander off into the forest all alone, the PC's discussed the possibility of tying the man up. More humane voices prevailed though, and he was left sitting beside Grundi's horse at the edge of the clearing.

Making their way cautiously down the entrance passage the party found themselves surrounded by carvings of gruesome battle scenes and of the Blood God. Evil images leered at them from all sides as the light of their lantern flickered along the walls. Fortunately the passage was short, so that they didn't have much time to brood on their surroundings.

Finding themselves at a T-junction, they went left first. There was nothing to see there, so they went right. Grundi was leading the way because no one wanted to get in front of his blunderbuss. And so it was that he heard a creak from his left just in time to hit the deck as several spears sprang out from the wall at just the height where his head had been moments before. As a thief, Siegfried knew the form here. He began to peer closely at the walls. Sure enough, he soon found a hollow skull among the carvings on the wall. A quick push, and a concealed door slid open.

Beyond, the corridor sloped inwards to a 5-way junction. Leading the way as ever, Grundi turned left and advanced to investigate the new corridor. He had hardly gone a few yards before he heard a strange slurping shuffling. Looking up he saw a humanoid figure advancing towards him, leaving disturbing misty vapours behind its strangely shimmering body as it shambled forward. Grundi promptly turned round and retreated, only to discover that there was another one of these mysterious creatures moving up the opposite corridor.

Again, the PC's showed that they had learned the lessons of bitter experience. Looking around they soon noticed that the junction behind them gave room for 3 to stand in line abreast. They eagerly siezed at the opportunity for the advantage of bringing superior numbers to bear, and moved into position. Berthold too was delighted with the manoeuvre, since it left him standing behind the line holding the lantern.

All eyes were on Grundi as he stood ready with his blunderbuss, waiting for the foes to appear at the junction. He was in luck, and both the creatures arrived at the same moment. BOOM! The blunderbuss' shrapnel tore into the monsters, cutting huge holes right through their blood red mockeries of the human form. The party watched aghast as tendrils formed and the wounds knitted themselves together again, although they took comfort from the fact that the creatures looked more ragged than they had all the same.

Battle was joined. The PC's were relieved to discover that the monsters were no more immune to their weapons than they had been to Grundi's blunderbuss. Grundi though was horrified to see one of the dripping red tendrils with which the blood creatures attacked pass right through his attempted parry, and mortified to feel its cold, soul-sucking touch.

As the combatants traded blows Siegfried had a plan. Shouting at Berthold to cover him, he pulled out of the line and rummaged in his pack for a flask of oil and a bandage. Meanwhile Berthold moved forward. Then everything happened all at once. Siegfried splashed the oil on one of the bloody tomb-guardians. The other monster was finally destroyed by the others, exploding in a fountain of blood that drenched everyone nearby. Seigfried lit his bandage and lashed out at his target. Fortune was with him, and flames engulfed the monster's shoulder. The party had barely had time to savour their glee before the flames roared across the creature's chest, and it imploded to land on the floor in a loud splash.

Savouring their victory, the PC's paused to reorganise before investigating the chamber ahead: a large triangular room with a fountain in its centre, pouring blood into a pool from the mouths of 4 skulls.

Grundi led the way as ever. No sooner had he set foot in the chamber but he heard the sound of stone scraping on stone. He stepped smartly backwards out of the room. As the party watched they saw the top of the fountain start to rotate, and it was soon spraying blood around the room. Not keen on marching into this, the PC's stood and watched for a long few minutes before the spinning skulls wounds down and the fountain returned to its normal gory gushing into the pool.

The PC's stood looking at each other wondering what to do. They noticed that the blood in the chamber was running away from them, towards the far wall. After a few minutes it was clear that it was draining away too. Mordrin took matters into his own hands. Holding his shield above his head to offer a measure of protection from another shower of blood, he ran into the room and crouched beside the pool at the base of the fountain. This turned out to be the eye of the storm when the spinning fountain began to fill the room a 2nd time.

A quick circuit of the pool convinced Mordrin that there was nothing of particular interest there. Nothing ventured he decided. Again using his shield for protection, he made a circuit of the room checking the walls for a secret door, to no avail. In the process he was liberally splashed despite his best efforts with his shield. He felt his flesh sear, a sensation echoed in the recesses of his mind.

All his best efforts foiled the young dwarf battled with rising frustration. In the end he surrendered to his emotions, and laid about the fountain with his axe. This oldest of solutions proved adequate to the task. Soon enough the fountain was smashed to bits and the blood in the pool was spilling out across the floor. Dripping with blood, Mordrin flashed a triumphant grin and a manically gleaming eye at his companions.

Related@RD/KA!
The Shrine in the Forest
- #2 Undead, dead and living dread
- The GM's reflections
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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