On Monday, December 15th, having received intelligence from Dargos indicating that the Ar-A-Mach are active in Troighean Uaine (probably seeking a key to one of the seals on the tomb of Luath Draoidh na Roinn), the Citadel House adventurers (including some new comers) set out for gnomish lands:
- Randall (HuS): Level 5/6 Human Druid
- Osiris (CoB): Level 5 Elf Magic-user (Healing and Death)
- Rovert (TrS): Level 4 Human Magic-user (Death and Mental Harm)
- Drej, Level 3 Pseudodragon Familiar
- Dohasan, Level 0 Centaur Herbalist
- Ogre Skeleton
- Svetlana (LaB): Level 1 Human Brawler
- Earl “the Lash” Nigell: Level 1 Human Fighter and Tinker
By allowing the ogre (carrying most of their food) to fall behind during the day and catch up at night, they make good time, encamping outside Rathad Oidhche Tuesday night. In the morning, a guide sent by Dargos joins them and they head into the gnomish heartlands.
With a gnome traveling with them, they are slowed enough for the ogre to keep up. They try to avoid notice, camping outside towns and not visiting inns, and by Friday night make camp in a wind break between fields outside the capitol, Stalla Airgid. The next day, as they continue through Stalla Airgid and out the Northeast pass, they see that three gnomes are following them out of the city.
After an elaborate ambush, they learn that the gnomes are only interested in purchasing Rovert’s ogre skeleton for study. He regretfully informs them of the maintenance cost and they return toward Stalla Airgid, disappointed. The way to Troighean Uaine is short and down hill. By late afternoon they arrive in the city, where they see a number of unusual magical occurrences and, thanks to Randall’s perception, a fey that they learn is an ambassador from the Fairy Council to the gnomes. She knows little of the Ar-A-Mach, but when asked about Sithich’s seal, she points them to Zelnai, Sithich’s grandmother who lives in a cabin in the woods outside the city’s fields.
Following her directions, they come to Zelnai’s cabin, finding her to be vaguely gnomish in appearance, but clearly not like the other gnomes they have met. They learn she is a demi-fey, over 2000 years old, and near death. They treat her kindly and she entrusts them with the information about the puzzle guarding Sithich’s vault. She also tells them that disrespectful gnomes arrived a week before and asked about Sithich’s vault. She sent them to it, where she believes they must have been killed or discouraged.
The party is concerned that the Ar-A-Mach might be able to brute force their way through the puzzle, even without the full puzzle. They also believe they might return to get more information from Zelnai, so they camp the night outside her home. On Svetlana’s watch, she is attacked and rushes into battle before the others get up. The attackers are a handful of gnomes who nearly sever Svetlana’s hand under the protection of silence powder that prevents the others reaching the battle. When Randall and Rovert do get there, they quickly triumph. They heal Svetlana, who retires to bed while they interrogate the gnome Randall captured. During the interrogation (Osiris using magic to torture even when he is cooperating) they learn that the Ar-A-Mach are still stopped by the puzzle and were coming back for more information. They distract Randall so Rovert can murder the captive, simplifying the matter of dealing with him in the gnomish legal code.
In the morning, Sunday, they leave Dohasan and the ogre skeleton to protect Zelnai and head to Sithich’s Vault. Outside, they get the drop on the Ar-A-Mach gnomes puzzling over their map, killing most of them with powerful death spells and the last with Randall Orangutan dropping from 60 feet.
The gnomish map indicates doors they have verified are not correct, some of which they find with gnomish bodies before them when they enter the maze. Frustrated by the puzzles, Rovert (accompanied by Osiris and Svetlana) begins animating dead gnomes to try the doors, but when he opens one that releases gelatinous cubes, he and Osiris expend all their spell points defeating one before they are forced to escape.
Meanwhile, Randall uses judicious Rapid Growth and fertilizer to grow a copse of trees concealing the entrance while the Lash weaves a camouflaging net to hang over the door. Needing time to recover spell points, they retire for the night just outside the cave, Svetlana and Rovert staying up late into the night to study the puzzles encountered in the maze.
(At this point, we were out of time, what follows was a continuation of the adventure in a new session a week later. We managed to gather all the same players to finish the story. Since we play Jazz Band, I generally try to avoid two session adventures.)
By morning, now Monday, they think they are starting to understand some of the puzzles, but they wait until noon for Osiris and Rovert to recover more of their spell points, their recovery being slower than expected, especially Osiris’. By noon, however, they feel they know the way to the correct door and so enter again, only to find that the first puzzle has changed! Though frustrated, they apply the patterns learned in the original puzzles to find their way through this new configuration, arriving at the Vault of Sithich!
Inside, they find an altar with a finely glazed pot on it. The gnomish reads “apply this salve to my seal to break its bond on Luath Droaidh.” After some debate, they decide to preserve the jar and salve in Citadel, in case of need, rather than destroy it. In case the Ar-A-Mach somehow arrive at the vault in the future, they leave a decoy pot made by the Lash filled with an inert alchemical mixture Randall produced from some of the products found on the Ar-A-Mach warlocks.
With the vault again sealed and the door to the puzzles reasonably well hidden, they return to Zelnai where they learn that Dohasan and the ogre were attacked by a couple gnomes who quickly fled. After camping there one more night, they set out for their second mission: freeing the fey and other intelligent creatures in the gnomish menagerie.
Rovert leads the way there, and by Wednesday night (the 24th) they camp with the village outside the menagerie in sight. Not wanting to be seen by the villagers, in the early morning they creep to the menagerie door and wait to knock until its laborers get established. They are noticed by one of the keepers as he enters the secret office door and eagerly invited in.
Soon, they have incapacitated all of the menagerie keepers in the break room. They pass through, releasing all the creatures that agree to go out together in the first wave and making a note of creatures they cannot communicate with but deem worthy of release during the second pass, including a dragon. The plan goes without much hitch (except for the receptionist, who they forgot, being startled by the fey and other creatures bursting through the lobby) and they soon regroup in the break room where Rovert uses a spell he is starting to favor heavily to erase the day’s events from their memories.
They leave the menagerie amid the confusion, hoping that the village will not suffer much damage and that they will not be noticed by the villagers. Eager to be back in the Vale before the customary blizzard of the new year strikes, they set out again through gnomish lands toward home. The blizzard catches them North of Rathad Oidhche, but with good roads and dedicated effort, they arrive in Citadel on New Years Day, only two days later than hoped.
The decision to free the menagerie creatures was entirely their own. Originally, the plan was to make them forget the menagerie ever existed, which would have led to an interesting mission listing: caves full of monsters found near a gnomish village. Now they will only get a listing about an unusual escape and memory wipe that needs to be investigated.