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In Progress CYOA - Mysterious Caves part 2

ERYFKRAD

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
B) ancient fortress and ask him about Cael. Why would he want to guide people around when there's already a guide?
 

ERYFKRAD

Barbarian
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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth

HeroMarine

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B) ancient fortress and ask him about Cael. Why would he want to guide people around when there's already a guide?
Cael died in the first part of the CYOA (trigger warning: violent, murderous rage): https://rpgcodex.net/forums/threads/cyoa-mysterious-caves.143909/page-2#post-8073605
Well yeah. Why wasn't he rolling with Dignugget, things could have gone very differently for him.
Very well. The adventurer will ask the gnome what's up with that about Cael.
 

hello friend

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Let's ask the gnome where he's from, how long he's been here, if he ever leaves etc. Some questions.

Also ask him what he knows of the ancient fortress and its history, current inhabitants, and what's generally up.

For the name let's call him Zerubbabel. Good, strong, biblical name.

B
 

HeroMarine

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After briefly consulting among themselves, they all decide that this Ancient Fortress seems to be the most interesting in terms of prospective loot.

They communicate that to the gnome Dignugget, who concurs. "Be advised that this path is the most dangerous that I know of, so prepare yourselves and take this seriously, if you value your life." he says. The gnome sets the Crystal Orb to glow with a powerful, almost blinding light.

oCr9NJD.jpg


"Just hold on a moment, please, Dignugget, err.... sir." You begin. "You mentioned my late guide Cael being guided by you..." You pause, feeling embarrassed. "Before we use the Crystal Orb to show us the path, could you tell us a bit more about him?"

Dignugget sips some tea and says. "Oh, yes, my dear friend. I am sure you would like to know more about your guide who died in combat. I will tell you as much as I remember. He was very intelligent, brave, passionate, and skilled at scouting. However, he was clearly lacking in some areas, including patience, diplomacy and leadership skills. Yes, I knew him well, we talked about many things. He was a bit of a loner, you see, but he was a nice lad to have a conversation with. He hated the undead, so he didn't mind working with me. He had an interest in history, and he believed that there were ruins to explore for ancient artifacts in the hills of the Cradle Valley, one of the reasons he ended up here."

You continue. "Did you know he was bringing explorers to this cave as a guide for money? Without mentioning you at all?"

The gnome patiently answers. "I am sure Cael was doing it because he wanted to earn a bit more prestige, and glory, like so many others who go adventuring. I mean, he was a man of means and he did not need any more gold. Like I said, he was a good lad, a bit too eager and impulsive at times, but he was an honest and trustworthy fellow. I don't mind that he did not mention me, I don't hold it against him. But he liked talking about history and religion, and he knew this region well since he was born nearby. He seemed to be genuinely interested in the history of the caves, and the myths surrounding them. He asked many questions, and he seemed to have a genuine interest in learning more about these places. We talked about it often. Of course, he wanted to find loot, but he always seemed to care more about finding things that would help him learn more about the past."

You go back to your point of interest. "Why would he want to guide people around when there's already a guide? Why wasn't he teamed up with you?"

Dignugget again answers. "One time, he asked me if we could team up and travel together. We talked about it for a while and I agreed to help him in the caves. I didn't have, and still don't have, the desire to face the perils and extenuation of exploring the caverns myself, being an old gnome, self-satisfied with my lot in life. My youngish greed being mostly sated. So I could only help him by pointing some useful paths within that could lead to treasure in these mysterious caves. Gold, gems, artifacts. Oh, there are many things inside these caves, really!"

You continue. "But you said you showed him paths inside these caves? How did that come about? Don't you present yourself as a guide?"

Dignugget answers one more time. "He was one of the many scouts that I made a pact with to help me with my exploration of the caves. He was actually looking for more adventurers. I met him several times since he came explore these Mysterious Caves a couple months ago, with many other adventurers who have since departed or perished within this earth. He was part of their expedition who I greeted and pointed some paths to explore inside the caves using the magic Crystal Orb. Cael was passionate and wanted to learn more about the history of the Cradle Valley and its inhabitants, so he came to me later, often asking questions. Ahh, well, young Cael, I believe he had an interest in exploration and history. He knew quite a lot about the history of the human kingdoms, witches, and the goblins. His greed got him killed... or rather, it was one of his own rash decisions that caused his demise. Yes, I was guiding him, but he was the one who decided to ambush and attack the other group of adventurers who came here a few weeks ago. His arrogance led to his death."

He pauses for a moment, thinking, then continues.

"Doesn't matter, he's dead now, the fool. He was easily distracted by small things. I tried to train him to be more patient, but he never took my advice seriously. He was the youngest of his kin, and he was very eager to prove himself. I tried to teach him many things, but he never listened. . It was a shame that he did not learn the lesson. I feel responsible for his death. I thought he was a better fighter than that." Dignugget's voice becomes solemn. "It was an honor to know such a great soul as Cael, he was a fine companion in the short time we spent together. He was a true servant of the old gods and Dagda, and it is tragic to lose such a man so early. It is not my place to judge him. Let the gods judge him, if they ever do. They are better suited to judge and decide upon the fate of Cael."

After a short pause when everyone keeps quiet to honor the memory of Cael, you say. "And it seems like you've been in the service of the old gods for quite a long time, judging by the story you tell us. What were you doing before you started helping people with their adventures?"

The gnome laughs. "Oh, I am just an ordinary gnome living in the Cradle Valley. I used to live in a certain valley that should remain hidden from outsiders, particularly curious men."

Fridiger explains: "The Lost Valley of the Elder Gnomes!"

"Yes, indeed," says Dignugget. "That is where me and my family lived for a thousand years before I left and moved to the Cradle Valley seven hundreds years ago. But don't worry, I won't take you there anyway."

"What? Why not?" asks Alphius.

Dignugget answers with a smile. "No man has visited it for ages, but even when people did visit it, they disappeared without leaving any traces of their passage. My father and grandfather told me stories of those who came there and never returned, even gods and demigods. And that was long ago, when the Elder Gnomes still lived there."

All these stories sound like fairy tale and you think you are ready for what lies ahead and move confidently deeper into the cave. There is still the issue of this Ancient Fortress, though. The gnome says it's dangerous, so you might as well ask him more details about it?

"I have been around many places and saw creatures and beasts from various realms," says Dignugget. "But none were more terrible than the Ancient Fortress. It had an army of undead and other evil spirits, all of which could be found in one place. Its walls and towers have stood through the centuries, and when it was in use, I never dared come near."

"Sounds like a dangerous place," says Alphius.

"Oh, I'm sure we can handle anything that comes from inside now. The adventurers that pass by tell me of a human army full of soldiers, wizards, and clerics of your God of Light that has cleared the place from the necromancers inside."

Your beloved cousin Erdebred chimes in. "That's the regiment of Duke Riso, on its way to meet the main army of King Adelfonse the Great in the war against the barbaric kingdoms of the south. They cleared this region of an infestation of cultists and demons a couple months ago. I was supposed to have come with them, but detached of the force to join my friends in adventuring instead."

You agree that the tale is interesting. "But, I want to learn more about the current state of Ancient Fortress. Is there a way into it from here?"

Dignugget explains: "There are two entrances to the Ancient Fortress. The first, a narrow passage leading from the forest outside to the interior, it is near to the hill where the Ancient Fortress stands. It's called The Path of Shadows. It leads into the heart of the stronghold and its inner towers. If you take it, I warn you not to take any detours, the forest might still be enchanted and cursed. You might find monsters in that part of the forest."

"Alright, that's one entrance. What about the other?" You ask.

"What if I told you," adds Dignugget, "that there was a portal from the cave system underground to the entrance of the fortress? It can be used by the most experienced of adventurers."

Fridiger is curious. "You mean there's an portal that would let us walk through from the caves to the ancient fortress?"

Dignugget nods. "Yes, indeed. There's one more thing about the Ancient Fortress that I should mention. A long time ago, wizards found out about this strange connection and had it made into a gate between worlds. In reality, it's not much more than a hole in which a small pathway to the underworld is trapped. And it's the key to the dark magic coming. As you might have guessed, I've had a working eye on these things for many years."

You ponder over the story and ask, "So, through this portal from down the caves I'll get inside the Ancient Fortress?"

Dignugget smiles and answers: "If you dare go that far."

Alphius adds: "Aye, there might be two ways in, but I fear we would still need to enter through some tunnel full of dangerous traps. It's dark and dangerous."

"Let's not do anything rash," says Erdebred. "I don't think we are ready yet."

"The rewards, my dear friends!" The gnome insist. "Who knows what you might find in there and on the way... Gold, gems, ancient artifacts, magic items."

The adventurers now have to decide if they will follow A) the path from the forest or B) the path from inside the caves to reach the Ancient Fortress. There's also C) don't go to the Ancient Fortress yet, after all, and do something else instead.

As usual, feel free to send your suggestions for the adventure.
 

hello friend

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A)

The path from the caves is tempting, but the gnome's wording about the 'most experienced of adventurers' has a foreboding ring to it. Honestly, the smart thing is probably to turn back. I suddenly remembered some things about this place, but we won't get rich by pussying out either.
 

HeroMarine

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Men, what a shame. It looks like our DM got banned, and I was just going to read the newest entry and write an answer. Things like this are not nice.
Fortuitously my ban was temporary, so go ahead and read the entry and give your opinion.
I'm going to keep the CYOA going even if banned again (which I don't expect to happen, but who knows), in other forums if that is necessary.
I'm already preparing the next post, so let's decide how the adventure goes. So far we have two different picks, and comments by hello friend and I'm eagerly waiting for more to get to work on this.
The story must go on!
 

HeroMarine

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The options of paths to the Ancient Fortress, presented by the gnome, left the adventurers full of ideas of their own.

Fridiger, your mighty and friendly companion from years, speaks: "My dear friend Erdebred is not right this time. We shouldn't wait for a few more years to pass. I want to see the treasures first."

Alphius nods. "Agreed, I can't wait forever. Let's go indeed exploring this Ancient Fortress."

Dignugget looks at you. "You're really going to explore the Ancient Fortress, aren't you? Well, I'm with you, but in spirit alone. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine here. I'll be able to keep watch on the place and report to you after the party returns."

You nod. "Very well, we will leave the gnome behind and continue our journey. Now, which path should we take? Which path will lead us to the ancient fortress?"

"Let's take the underground system portal," says Fridiger. "It will be the fastest." He finishes his tea and stands up.

"That's the way to go," says Alphius in a excited voice.

You and Erdebred look at each other and knowingly understand the other's thoughts. "That's not the most prudent way, great Fridiger. The underground cave system might be a maze of tunnels and caverns, and we could get lost in there. You heard the gnome say that it's to be used by the most experienced. I don't want to sell us short, but we should be humble about our abilities at this crucial moment." You say.

The two other adventurers exchange glances and smile. "You're right, dear friend," he says. "We should be humble and be careful."

"I'm with you," says Alphius, consenting.

"So let's take this Path of Shadows through the forest that the gnome mentioned, and get ourselves inside the Ancient Fortress without much fuss. Once there, we can make ourselves at home." You joke.

Fridiger raises an eyebrow. "And we might even find a good spot to set up shop. I'm convinced. Let's go."

With all your companions in agreement, you decide to take a trip to explore the Ancient Fortress using the Path of Shadows.

"I'm sure there are a thousand treasures waiting for you," says Dignugget. "Do not forget my magic amulet and the power gems! It would be a shame if something happened to you and your friends while exploring."

Dignugget then uses his magic to activate the Crystal Orb, which glows brightly.

BDvtkLo.jpg


The Orb projects its light on a wall in the chamber, showing you images of the Path of Shadows. The path takes the form of a narrow passage from the caves to the forest surrounding the fortress. You reach it by using a secret passage localized from the main cave tunnel, which is right one level lower than the Crystal Orb chamber where you are now. Once in the forest, a quick track in the cursed woods leads to another secret passage to the inside of the fortress. The images from the Crystal Orb are very clear, making it easy for everyone in the party - veteran warriors all - to use them to navigate by themselves, even alone if needed.

After thanking the gnome, you get yourselves ready to exit the Crystal Orb chamber and follow towards the interior of the mysterious caves, taking a downward spiral path deep beneath the earth. After some minutes of walking carefully downwards, accompanied sometimes by the peculiar necromantic rats of the gnome, you finally see the first signs of the main cave tunnel ahead. From that direction, you suddenly hear two voices, echoing from the wide tunnel, which you recognize as two men of young age. You stop and tell your friends to stop too, and listen to their conversation.

When you can finally clearly hear them, the first voice says, "You can't be serious, my dear brother. How can we trust the old man? What is he hiding? What does he know about us?"

The second voice replies, "I don't know, but the old gnome is harmless, and he can help us get inside the Ancient Fortress. The rewards are huge! There are rumors of magic items and other valuables hidden there, and we could get rich!"

"What do you mean 'rumors'?" asks the first voice. "We've heard it straight from the mouth of the old gnome, himself! That's why you believe him! You're way too greedy, this leads you to be a little to gullible, dear brother."

"But we're not going to be able to get inside the fortress without him! He showed us the way with the Orb, we might still need his help again." Counterpoints the second voice.

"Damn that. We could get rid of the old gnome and continue our exploration!"

"You don't understand," replies the first voice. "We can't just betray him here and continue our exploration. He has too many little spies, those magic rats."

"We're not going to be able to get rid of him," concurs the second voice. "I fear you're correct. Might as well follow his instructions, I guess."

"We have to help the gnome," says the first voice. "He's a good fellow, I trust him. He might be able to help us get inside the ancient fortress and help us get rich, and him with us. Why else would an old gnome want to help us? He's not getting any younger and wants to be rewarded for his knowledge!"

"Perhaps the gnome wants to betray us and use us as bait for the traps or monsters in those caves," replies the second voice. "He wants to turn us into bait so that we can't warn others about what's going on."

"There's no such thing as monsters in those ancient ruins," says the first adventurer. "They must have been abandoned ages ago and are full of treasure. If they are dangerous, then the gnome would have warned us!"

"How do we know that?" asks the second voice. "We're not stupid and can take care of ourselves. If it's dangerous, let's leave it to the professional men-at-arms and go on our merry way back to the city and get some grub and booze."

"Are you crazy? We're supposed to be experienced adventurers! Besides, what if they really are dangerous? Then we can go back to town and come back later." Concludes the first voice.

You hear more sounds from the main tunnel, they seem to be have stopped arguing and are now moving. You take a look at your fellow adventurers, feeling like he should start exploring as soon as possible before anyone else arrives. As you quietly move out of the narrow passage you're in and into the main passage, you see the figures of the two men in the distance to your left and into the deep, the light and shadows from their torches obscuring a good view. You jump forward with the intention of pursuing them, even if from a distance, just to see what happens to them. Your three companions, Fridiger, Erdebred and Alphius come quickly behind you. This makes a lot of noise. Suddenly, a grave voice from the other way of the main tunnel passage sounds loudly: "Stop right there, by the Word of God!"

All four adventurers freeze and fall silent as if compelled by their own bodies. The voice, less deep now, addresses you again: "Turn around and let's meet, strangers, I see you're well armed and must be another group of explorers to these caves."

It seems that the voices belong to two large men, and you recognize them even in the dark, especially in front of each other. It's the two men you saw The adventurers slowly turn around and face the speaker. The figure is a tall middle aged man, in his late 40s or early 50s, wearing a hooded robe with chain mail armor underneath, with a spiked mace at his waist and a round shield with a cross in his left hand. The man is bearded, but he's clean shaven under his chin and neck. He also has short silver hair. His big crucifix necklace makes you understand he must be some kind of priest of the God of Light. Far behind him, a shorter but wide shouldered man in iron chain dress almost to his knees with a cuirass breastplate and plated brassard and gauntlets, holding a torch up high and a longsword in his other hand. He is wearing an open helm and seems to be in his 30s. The light of the torch paints his iron armor with a reddish tinge.

"Oh, I recognize you, by the Blessed Savior, you are the gnome's sorcerer ally, who killed those men in the entrance of the cave." The commanding priest says to you.

You are surprised, but answer calmly, after regaining your initiative.

"Yes, that's me. And these are my friends. Fear not, we aren't sorcerers or evil-doers of any kind. The fight in the cave entrance was a fair one, I did not start it. Damn the devils, I even lost my guide against those strangers, although he was the one who started it, the poor fella." You are about to explain the role Cael had in the incident as this priest seems to be upset with it.

"But who truly are you?" the priests asks back, "*Gasp* I see you're wearing one of these pagan magic amulets. This calls for divine help at once. I will conjure an angel to bring light into this." And he starts singing some kind of religious hymn, so quickly and loud that you are frozen in place before he finishes it.

Suddenly, a flash of light opens like a circle on the middle of the distance between you two, and an angel with feathered wings and gold armor comes forth in front of you, his light almost blinding your eyes.

f6iZHM6.png


"Oh, priest that conjured my service in the name of the Physician of Men, rest yourself at ease. These men who you have before you mean no harm. They are merely looking for adventure, as usual guided by mortal greed. However, they are not of dark heart. In fact, the Lord sees them in good eyes." The angel answers the call, talking to the priest then turning its head to look at you with bright golden eyes.

The priest is astonished and feels ashamed as the angel speaks to him as if it were a superior chastising an inferior.

"So, if they mean no harm, they'll be spared and allowed to pass," replies the priest, visibly upset. "As long as they don't try to interfere with our work, which is to guard this place from intruders and defilers."

"And why is that?" you ask, trying to hide the anger in your tone from the sudden interruption and the bizarre summoning of a celestial being that could complicate things to your party.

"Because," the priest replies, "we have a mission to carry out here. A mission given to us by the Holy Church of the Arandian Kingdom."

The angel interrupts the back and forth.

"It is said in the scriptures that the world was created because the Creator saw it was good. That is why this priest has been assigned this duty, to protect this land from defiler and despoilers. In fact, as messenger of the Physician of Men, I must inform you that your mission has now been extended, priest. Within the next forty days you must complete the church you are building inside the caves, and you must minister within for forty years. That is your assignment by the Almighty. You have now been told that no enemy of the Holy and Saintly should ever be allowed to come close to the sacred caves, where the Lord dwells in secret." The angel decrees.

"But how can we do that, the construction I am planning would take all the way to summer." cries the priest.

"That is for you to solve, follower of the sacred Word. The Lord is counting on you. Do not fail." orders the angel, again he turns to you. "You have hereby received a mission from the Almighty as well. You are expected to build a church in the north of Cradle Valley, up the mountains, and have this church become the center of a new city of followers of the Light. You have seven times seven weeks to complete your mission, if you wish to be in the Lord's good eyes. You shall now be named Zerababbel, the seed of Babylon. This name will be fully yours if you successfully complete your divine mission." The angel shines a strong light at your direction that forces you to close your yes. He turns to the priest. "I have cleansed his magical amulet of the gnome's profane taint, as well as his companions' magic gems."

The priest is shocked again: "M-magic gems?"

You look at your companions behind, they are all protecting their eyes from the magical light beams of the angel.
Now you have to decide

1)...how will react to the angel:

A) Tell the angel you accept the mission
B) Tell the angel you reject the mission
C) Argue/Bargain with the angel
D) Stay silent

2) about the priest and his armed companion, how will you deal with him:

A) Hostile
B) Cautious
C) Neutral
D) Friendly
E) Bargain

3) about the other explorers who went deep into the tunnels, and the exploration of the Ancient Fortress:

A) Follow the explorers and try to catch them
B) Follow the explorers and stay behind them as they explore until they find something
C) Ignore their fate and head to the Path of Shadows to go explore the Ancient Fortress
D) Pause the exploration and go back to gnome Dignugget to talk about this incident with the priest and the angel
E) Abandon the exploration for today and go back to the Royal Road Inn and plan your next move


As usual, feel free to send any of your suggestions for the adventure.
 
Last edited:

HeroMarine

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UHLIo4e.jpg


"Yes, the gnome had provided them with magical stones that give them magical power. Not to worry, I have removed the evil embedded in the gems and they can be safely used now for good," the angel decrees.

"By the God of Light..." exclaims the priest. "How did you know that those gems were evil?"

The angel frowns: "The answer lies with the gnome, o faithful servant of the Lord and Physician of Man."

"We shall start immediately with our plans to build a church inside the caves within the new time frame. There are many obstacles to transpose as it is." the old cleric says, with a notable panicky urgency in his voice.

Turning to you again, the angel explains further. "You will need to use these enchanted stones to summon magic to destroy the undead and devils you'll find there," he says. "Do not forget to bring the other men in the area to the Church of the Light and help you in your quest to construct the city as promised by the God of Light to the people of this nation, I have arranged for them to meet you here in these caves or outside."

You stay silent, not wishing to say something wrong to this divine being in this perturbing situation.

"Very well, then," the angel continues. "Good luck to you, Zerababbel."

You try to say something to the angel to change the subject before he makes even more demands at your pour soul. You are also too curious about his knowledge about the elder gnome to let him go before you can pick some information from his words.

"Umm..." You begin. "I'm sorry, but I am really curious about your knowledge about the gnome Dignugget. Is it true that gnomes are thieves and mischievous pranksters?" You ask hesitantly, not wanting to offend the angel in any way.

The angel looks down on you. "You may ask anything you desire, o faithful servant of the Lord and Physician of Man. The gnomes have been living in the Cradle Valley for generations. They are gentle beings who love peace and with great great affinity for nature and all its wonders, and are very intelligent and skilled in magic. They are not, however, Law-abiding. The gnomes are very close to the land, so they tend to live in the woods or mountains, away from towns and cities. They do not follow the Church of the Light and are likewise without the protection of the Physician of Man and his angels. Their magic is often used for chaotic intents, and they have sinful desires in this physical world."

"But..." You continue. "Is it true then that they're mischievous? Is Dignugget a liar and is he tricking us? Has his profane taint affected or cursed us somehow?" You ask.

"Yes," the angel answers. "They are mischievous and sinful, but that does not mean that they are all liars. I do not know this gnome in particular, but worry not. These magical items you carry were tainted with profane energy but I have thusly cleansed them, your souls are clean."

"Oh..." You reply. "Thank you for answering my question."

"It is good that you asked me," the angel replies. "Now, if you'll excuse me, as the cleric who summoned me has been answered, I must return to my duties." The angel then vanishes in a flash of light, without another word.

With a sigh, you take a seat at a nearby rock and think over what you just heard. The angel's words are troubling, but he seems to be sincere.

The cleric of the God of Light and his armored companion were exchanging a few words and take this moment of quietness and confusion in your party to come to you slowly.

n1uy0Pm.jpg


"It seems we started with the wrong foot. I apologize for my behavior earlier. Why don't we all exchange names?" the cleric suggests. "I am a cleric of the Church of the Light, Father Agus." He points to the man-at-arms. "This is my paladin, Sir Alvaris of Meilán, a veteran from Duke Riso's army." The seasoned warrior that accompanies him greets you with a polite head bow. "The peace of the Lord."

You stand up and greet them respectfully as, introducing yourself cautiously at first while trying to get on their good side. "I am now Zerababbel, who has been given a quest by the angel of the God of Light," Then to lighten the mood you let your wit do the work when introducing your companions. "This is Fridiger, my giant and barbarian friend, the other one is Erdebred, my beloved cousin and the smaller one is Alphius, a mischievous dwarf." Fridiger and Alphius scoff at your jokes. You think the cleric is buying so you make up a backstory on the spot. "We're adventurers who are completing a quest for the Church of the Light."

Father Agus nods. "Well, Zerababbel, I would like to hear more about your recent mission," he says. "And how you ended up here in Cradle Valley. But that will have to wait until our next encounter. For now, let me take a closer look at the items you carry." He reaches out to his paladin, Sir Alvaris, to help him. You tell your friends to let them since you have nothing to worry about. Fridiger and Erdebred are reluctant but relent, your party isn't really carrying anything special and the cleric already knows about the magic gems. The paladin takes possession of the bag with your gear and weapons and examines them.

ky9nF8X.jpg


"This is a magical amulet," Father Agus says looking at your necklace. "The protection that flows through it was once profane and is now divine, along with the blessed power of the Lord, should protect you against many evils." You go along with the priest and his little sermon to be friendly.

Alphius comes up beside the cleric, "You can examine us too. We're not bandits or thieves." The cleric glances at Alphius. "You are right, young men. Sit around, let me tell you my story."

Everyone tries to get themselves as comfortable as possible in the low light tunnel, sitting or leaning on flatter rocks and walls. The cleric, Agus, explains all the events to you and your friends as he finishes examining their gear. "I live as a deacon of the Church of the Light in the capital of the nearby province of Gallagli, Ludania, under the protection of Duke Riso. With the war efforts against the southern barbarians increasing since last year, we came with the Duke's rearguard regiment in his military campaign to join with the King's army in the southern provinces. Passing on the road to Stonebridge, capital of the Cradle Valley county, we learned about the siege to the haunted Ancient Fortress that ended in total victory over the demonic and undead hordes, with the cleansing thereof being mostly concluded two months. During the confrontation, I used all my divine powers to summon a messenger angel, this one you just saw and gave us our missions. He first instructed me to build a church inside these caves by the coming summer and protect the people around it. I have been working on that and have been taking care of sources of evil herein. This is how I met you gentlemen, me and Sir Alvaris do morning patrols to try and control what happens in this cursed place." He finally stops talking to catch his breath.

You take the opportunity to restate eloquently your backstory and objectives in a manner that you imagine is more to the liking of this overeager and zealous cleric. "Well met then, Father Agus, we are all from different provinces in the Kingdom but we somehow we all ended up living in the province of Galligli a good portion of our adult lives, always serving the King, the Duke and his military in a myriad of ways. We were not part of the current war campaign because the Church had entrusted us with a different quest. Come to the Cradle Valley and protect its good people from the wicked. That's how we ended up in these caves, guided by the Lord, and we are on our way to the Ancient Fortress to finish cleansing it of ungodly idols and icons. We are at the Church's service, our contact with the profane gnome was very limited by no means should it be construed as an association."

The cleric and his paladin seem very content with all your words, they say words of blessing and well-wishing. Then, Father Agus concludes. "As a matter of fact, I am in need of adventurers like you four. The duke of Gallagli has sent a small detachment to reinforce the garrison in the town of Stonebridge. He needs more than just soldiers though. His sister-in-law is in the castle and she has requested aid from the clergy to find her elite bodyguards to protect her and the Duke's nephews and nieces and maybe run errands for the noble house."

Your party nods. "Sounds good to me," you say. "If we are done with our pressing quests and you are still in need of us, we will seek you at your cave church."

The cleric smiles, his face brightens up and his eyes shine. "Of course! We have much work ahead. Now let's get back to our duties. The angel changed the deadline for my church to be opened from summer to 40 days, this is not what I wanted but the Lord must have a reason. The only way I can do that with my is to ask the local bishop of Arbedwag, a town I was hoping to avoid."

You want to end the encounter by now, before you get involved in even more commitments. "I think the best thing would be to meet at the church, Father Agus. Maybe we can provide some assistance in getting things going then."

"A good idea," the cleric answers. "You are my first contact after the angel, Zerbabbel, so if you come to the church with some good news, it will give me strength to complete my tasks. Come to my church in these caves when you're able, it's the first turn to the left coming from the entrance of the cave where you fought those strangers. I will leave now. Beware of the dark, the divine light provided by the angel apparition will not last forever, and disgusting creatures will crawl out of their hiding holes." With that, the Father Agus and Sir Alvaris head back to the other side of the tunnel, on the way to their church to be.

As you hear the sound of their steps lingering until they disappear, everyone sighs in relief. With the duo gone, your companions finally open their mouths to express their opinions without concern.

"That cleric is a powerful fanatic! Summoning an angel on the spot like that..." Fridiger exclaims. "I'll be damned." He continues. "He will do anything against non-believers. We were lucky the angel unexpectedly cleared our reputation. Otherwise I have no doubt they would call for guards or do something hostile." You nod, knowing Fridiger has had many problems with authorities of the Church of the Light before.

Erdebred comments. "I didn't mind the cleric as much as that angel, how terrible and demanding. Doesn't know the difference between religion and politics. How does he expect a church to be built in 40 days? And why is there such a hurry anyway? Why in the hells did he name you Zerababbel and impose a quest to found a new city? Cousin, this angel has no idea who you are." He smiles.

Fridiger agrees. "He knows nothing of any us. Some angel this is. What makes he think we could ever accomplish any task set forth by the Physician of Man? Hah!"

Alphius adds. "We've all heard stories of priests and clerics of the light trying to force others to convert, and their angels using threats and violence to coerce. That's how this church grew so powerful in our Kingdom. It doesn't surprise me at all that he calls you 'Zerababbel.' There's probably many others 'Zerababbels' somewhere else, who might already have been given the same mission assigned by the angel. Don't ask me how I know..." Alphius looks at each of you. "Anyway, we should get going. Let's explore the rest of these caverns, find the ruins of that damned fortress and what riches they hold and then return to where we belong." Everyone nods agreement and starts getting ready to walking again.

"However," Alphius suddenly begins. "We need to know if Dignugut is evil and if he is playing with us. He could be sending us to a trap with this Path of Shadows bit."

"I was thinking of visiting the gnome again and asking him about this cleric and what he thinks about the angel intervention." Fridiger says, inclined to return to the gnome's chamber.

"I really don't care about the gnome anymore, I'd rather just explore the Ancient Fortress soon, we wasted a good part of the morning already with all this talk." Erdebred ponders.

You feel like you should give your vote here on where to go or what to do.
 

hello friend

Arcane
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I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
This is an interesting crossroads. Dagda or the Lord of Light. On the one hand the chance to be a part of something big, and gain a valuable contact in a high level cleric. Additionally, knowing someone high up in that Church might make it possible to repair Fridiger's reputation with them. On the other hand, he (and the angel) is being very presumptive. If we stick with the gnome we can use this event to cement our good working relationship with it, he hasn't done us wrong so far. Quite the contrary, in fact. He could be putting one over on us but if he isn't he's a total bro.

We don't need to decide straight away. Either way, nothing has changed. We were on our way to the ancient fortress and fame and riches; it would be silly to turn back now. We can head back to the gnome and chat after.
 

ERYFKRAD

Barbarian
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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
This is an interesting crossroads. Dagda or the Lord of Light. On the one hand the chance to be a part of something big, and gain a valuable contact in a high level cleric. Additionally, knowing someone high up in that Church might make it possible to repair Fridiger's reputation with them. On the other hand, he (and the angel) is being very presumptive. If we stick with the gnome we can use this event to cement our good working relationship with it, he hasn't done us wrong so far. Quite the contrary, in fact. He could be putting one over on us but if he isn't he's a total bro.

We don't need to decide straight away. Either way, nothing has changed. We were on our way to the ancient fortress and fame and riches; it would be silly to turn back now. We can head back to the gnome and chat after.
Yeah agreed. I don't know if the cleric and angel were meant to rub us(me) the wrong way but dammit, they do.
 

baud

Arcane
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Septentrion
RPG Wokedex Strap Yourselves In Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I helped put crap in Monomyth
I agree, let's do the fortress first.

we'll decide on which patron to choose afterward
 

HeroMarine

Irenaeus
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After a quick reflection on your current situation and your desire to go ahead and explore already, you decide to visit the gnome later. You tell your companions: "Hah, my dear cousin is right." You give a strong one arm embrace around Erdebred's shoulders. "Let's continue our exploration plan and decide what to do afterwards."

You continue deeper into the tunnels of the ancient fortress. The air inside the cavern is cold, but the dampness from near the entrances has diminished greatly. The tunnel continues ahead, wide enough for you four comfortable abreast and the ceiling tall enough for Fridiger, the tallest of you by a full head, only reaching random stalactites by jumping from a boulder. The walls are made of stone both natural or grossly excavated by force, the floor is of rocky with stalagmites, uneven but easily walkable.

After some time of walking, the tunnel opens up into a wider, circular room with an unnatural faint purple glow. The ceiling is a bit higher and there are a few openings in the rock wall, with narrow tunnels leading elsewhere. The room appears to be a natural cave formation, with the ceiling having collapsed in places, leaving the ground full of loose boulders, rocks, and pebbles of all sizes. The floor is covered with weird mosses and lichens, which grow thicker in places, creating an unnatural carpet of mysterious vegetation. You suspect these aren't natural, but live off some dreadful energy. The room itself is completely empty and dark.

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Your party explore it a bit with their torches, looking for anything hidden under the rocks or in crevices on the walls, but find nothing or hear anything out of the ordinary. Out of one of the smaller tunnels, the one almost straight ahead of the one which you came seems to be the only one with a faint wind blowing in that direction, but according to the directions of the orb that's not the correct path, You pass the tip of your sword through the unnatural mosses and lichens with the tip of the sword but the only really small quantities of liquid come out of the cuts, merely droplets. As you look around, you notice that the place has become very quiet. All sounds have stopped except for your own footsteps, not even the necromantic rats that the gnome apparently had sent to follow you are around anymore. This silence keeps you somewhat on your toes. Your companions seem unaffected by it, continuing their exploration.

After finally deciding there is nothing of interest in this room, your party decides to move forward to the following tunnel towards the next destination, according to the path lay out by the Crystal Orb. A feeling of doom is your companion. A pale gray light the end of this tunnel sinks your heart further.

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When you reach the end, however, there is a sudden commotion among the adventurers. A group of silent undead soldiers seem to be waiting across the next room before them. Three erect bodies of clearly dead men, with corpse very white skin and wearing only ragged clothing dripped in dry old blood are carrying sharp swords with their twisted hands.

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Their faces are pale with black eyes. Each has a dark gemstone embedded in its forehead, similar to the magic gems you received earlier in the gnomish chamber. The leader of this band stands back behind the two warriors, in front of the passway to the other exit of the room.

"What in the gods' names...?" Fridiger asks nervously. "Are those zombies? Did we stumble onto a zombie nest?"

"They're definitely dead, I don't see breath coming from their mouths," Erdebred replies.

"How curious…" Alphius murmurs. "It looks like they've been here for quite some time… I wonder if these are the remains of the men who were slain by the necromancers."

"So, what do we do now?" asks Fridiger, worried.

"Well, let's keep going ahead anyway," Alphius says calmly. "I want to know more about these necromancers, and perhaps learn more about the crystals on their heads..."

"Agreed!" You say. "Let's just keep our wits and deal with these zombies in a practical manner. I assume they are blocking the path and will attack us like the undead kid I decapitated before the gnome's chamber."

Your three comrades nod in agreement. So far, none of them have shown any signs of fear. A moment later, a wave of necromantic energy passes over the area and all of your companions feel suddenly exhausted.

"Ouch! What happened!?" You exclaim while rubbing your eyes. "My vision went blurry and I felt dizzy for a second!"

"Can anyone see anything?" Fridiger calls out.

"No, not me," Erdebred answers. "I think I might be hallucinating."

"Me too," Alphius adds. "Everything around me seems to be moving slowly."

You look around in confusion. Everything seems to be normal except for the undead warriors standing motionless in the center of the room. One of them seems to be looking straight at you. The others are staring in various directions, as if they cannot focus on something specific. It's as if they're under some kind of spell or compulsion.

"I'm going to try something…" Fridiger suggests, approaching them. It's hard to say for sure without a better look, though. Better to try something than nothing, right? Fridiger takes his sword from its sheath.

"Wait, let's plan this." You shout, your vision returning to normality. You pull your companions just outside the room and talk to them as they regain their sight as well, your strength returning after that magic shockwave. "Is everyone alright? Good! We'll take teams attacking each of them, each one at a time. We should keep our distance from the leader, I'll cover for Fridiger attacking the one on the left with his might and Erdebred covers Alphius precise strikes on the one on the right. If we can get them both down, then we could probably finish off the leader easier. Let's go!"

With your companions in agreement, you four enter the room and leave your torches on the floor as you prepare for attack. You approach the nearest of the undead warriors. The creature is taller than you and has a muscular build. It's holding a longsword in its hand, but it doesn't appear to be able to wield it properly. You recognize him as the large man you killed in a fight in your first visit.

You balk. "Wait a minute... I recognize them, two of them are the strangers that fought me in the cavern entrance two days ago! That means—" Your voice trails off suddenly as you realize something else important. The third figure, the leader, is familiar as well—you know his face from your memories. It's your old guide Cael, when your eyes meet his black eyes, his expression changes to a disturbing smile. "Oh no..." You say. "Cael!"

His mouth moves while the rest of his body does not, and husky voice that did not belong to your old guide comes out. Its voice sounding hollow and distorted. "I have his soul, this Cael. It is in good hands, don't you worry, Zerababbel. Your soul will meet him in soon enough. Your guardian angel cannot protect you anymore."

"What?!" You scream out loud, shocked by this being the fate of the men who died in that fight, to be turned into tools of... you don't know exactly. "By the gods..." Regardless of who they were, they seem to be something else entirely right now. Even so, you and your friends better get rid of these zombies before more necromantic spells are cast, whatever their source.

"We need to do something about these monsters!" Alphius shouts. "They're using magic against us!"

"That's right," Fridiger agrees. "Attack!"

Erdebred steps forward, he feints an attack with his sword coming down on the undead warrior on the left, who finally moves to defend. As nimble and with an unnatural muscle coordination, the zombie lifts his sword to parry the blow, but Erdebred's blade stops short in the air. Alphius quickly moves towards the center of the center of the room and rolls, flanking the undead warrior by its left, who is still trying to block Erdebred's strike.

hSulrgW.jpg


The zombie swings its longsword in a wide arc but Alphius is already gone, leaving only a trail of dust in his wake. It turns to follow Alphius, but the acrobatic and close combat master, having managed to dodge the attack now slashes his short sword and his dagger one after another at the undead warrior's leg from its back.

Meanwhile, Fridiger was slowly drawing his longsword and getting ready to attack the other zombie, the one on the left. You take advantage of the distraction from Alphius and Erdebred's fight to your right and use your magic necklace to cast the spell that turns your skin into thick tree bark. You've done it a few times by now but it still feels strange. You ready your sword in a defensive stance and quickly step forward unto position against the large undead warrior who is joltedly holding his sword above his head. He seemed to be preparing something, and here it comes. He lunges forward towards you using the unnatural muscle spams of his dark energy; the pale corpse barely illuminated by the torches on the floor, his dead eyes and no facial expressions actually scare you as you parry to powerful strike. It's too strong to hold with your stance alone, so you have to relent and fall back awkwardly out of position, his longsword's blade managing to push down your arms and the tip of it lightly cutting your outer leather armor. Fridiger does not hesitate and strikes at the same time, his blade swinging first up then down on the undead warrior's arms, ripping the left one off and cutting through the right one.

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The dead upper limb collapses onto the ground, while the longsword spins on the air and clings on the wall before falling on the ground as well. The zombie barely manages to use its perverse powers to keep its balance and stand, it eventually has to rest one knee on the floor. As quick as his first strike, Fridiger now swings his sword left to right aiming for the animated corpse's neck, decapitating the disgusting thing. As the head falls to the floor and a spurt of thick dark red blood oozes from the cuts, the body immediately crumbles.

You reposition yourself again, standing next to the fallen body of the undead warrior. "Did we finally kill it?" You ask, impressed by how easily Fridiger handled the situation.

Before Fridiger can answer, you see the ongoing fight of Alphius, the first undead and Erdebred. Once the zombie's legs were cut deeply, it struggled to stand, spinning towards the center of the room, before falling frontwards and using its wrists to brace the impact. Your cousin Erdebred wastes no time and jumps after it to deliver the coup de grace, the true and tried decapitation. While he was attempting this move, you see the undead formed with Cael's body holding a sword high, in the opposite side of the room. You can swear the blade of the sword is dark green like the undead kid's blade, but now it seems to have black clouds gathering nervously over it.

FoHLfKh.jpg


What a bad omen! It flashes jarringly to the center of the room with the undead limbs swinging around very unnaturally. As Erdebred finished his mercy coup and cut off the head of the prone undead on the floor, Zombie Cael attacks your cousin with this green blade, just a blur in your eyes. Alphius and Fridiger quickly run towards them, and as fast as he came the undead monster dashes away to the exit of the room. Too fast for your friends to catch it. "We'll kill you, undead!" Fridiger shouts.

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You would follow them but you are attracted to your cousin falling on the floor instead. His back has a deep cut from the evil blade, and he's bleeding profusely. You drop everything and look for bandages to stop the gush of blood first and foremost.

"I'm sorry," you tell him. "But I need to tend to the wound."

Erdebred and Alphius do not seem to notice anything amiss, as they continue to chase after the fleeing zombie leader. The creature is already halfway through the door leading outside when they arrive at the opening, but they don't give up. They rush after it, leaving you alone to tend to your injured cousin.

tkGhrZu.jpg


Your cousin is conscious but he is too stunned to speak, which is not surprising considering the damage. His face is pale and his breathing is shallow. You place him on his back on a nearby smoother rock and try to clean the wound on his torso. It's deep and wide enough to require that you need to close it immediately and hope you can to prevent infection or worse. You quickly gather some healing herbs from your small pouch and prepare a poultice for the injury, while keeping a watchful eye over your cousin. The wound will probably leave a scar, but what you hope is that it didn't reach any vital organ. If it did, the consequences could be fatal.

A few moments later, Alphius and Fridiger return from the chase of the leader of the zombies. Alphius is panting heavily and covered in sweat, but Fridiger looks calmer and more collected. "Did you get it?" You asks Alphius, who nods negatively, clearly exhausted. Fridiger explains. "He reached a steep rocky stairway and quickly made to the top. We were tired from running already and decided to give up on the pursue for now and come back to see you two." They both sit to rest on rocks. "Then let's go." You say. "How is he?" the giant man asks, worried about your cousin's condition. Alphius raises his eyebrow, catching his breath. "Where do you have in mind, dear friend?"

You shall tell your companions what you have already decided to do.
 

hello friend

Arcane
Joined
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Messages
7,847
Location
I'm on an actual spaceship. No joke.
Let's retreat for now, to the gnome or to the priest - whichever's closer. Presumably they have some useful magics. Let's also pry out the gems from the zombies' foreheads, perhaps they can be purified as well or otherwise useful.
 

HeroMarine

Irenaeus
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Messages
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Rio de Janeiro, 1936
You tell your buddies to get ready to help you lift Erdebred back to the room with the purple mosses about one hundred steps back to let him rest there, then send for help from both the gnome and the priest. Alphius says he can seek the cleric of the Church of the God of Light based on the directions he gave, while Fridiger says he'd rather seek the gnome Dignugget instead. And away they go.

You examine the wound again, checking the blood loss and the extent of the damage. It's deep, but not as deep as you feared. It's still a serious wound, though. With the right treatment and care, he might survive. But he'll be lucky if he doesn't die from blood poisoning or sepsis.

Some time passes and your cousin Erdebred drifts in and out of consciousness, occasionally calling out for someone called Frida, but otherwise mostly sleeping. You're glad to see that the wound hasn't grown worse, but you have to act soon or he might lose the fight. The cave room is completely empty other than those weird bright purple mosses and lichens, you do hear rats squealing

Alphius suddenly arrives with Father Agus, his paladin Sir Alvaris and two assistants in tow. They're carrying a large chest with them, which they unload and place beside your cousin. "What are we looking at?" The cleric is eager to get started as soon as possible. He notices the wound immediately. "The wound is quite bad," says the priest. "But it looks like it could be healed fairly easily if I get to it within the next few days, with the grace of the Physician of Man." The knight nods. "Let's get things going right away then." Alphius tells them.

After making sure the area is completely cleaned of any infection, the healers prepare themselves to tend the wound and prevent further infection, then instructs the helpers to hold your cousin down. Your cousin screams in agony and pleads for mercy. You watch in disgust as they clear the wound, and you take watch in the tunnels to distract yourself. You see nothing but the flickering yellow and red light from your torch's fire, and you hear nothing but the occasional faint wind gust and the squeaking of the ubiquitous rats, who might be magical themselves.

The assistants of Father Agus return to you a short while later and inform you that they've completed the healing and that it's time for your cousin to be taken back to their church inside the caves. They will carry him on a board as a makeshift litter. The cleric blesses your cousin, then starts to leave with him.

Then, Fridiger arrives. He's different, he's larger and his skin almost shinning in a golden tint. His booming voice says: "Zerababbel, hear me out. I went to ask for help from the gnome Dignugget and he showed me that some of my ancestors come from the divine place called "Vanheim", the realm of our old gods. Using the Crystal Orb, we found out that I have blood from before this kingdom and even older kingdoms of men." You are impressed by the story, as you have only heard of tales about the land of the gods of the ancient times from your hometown shamans. Even the heroes and the most pious followers of the old golds in the Arandian Kingdom have never been to the place, only in legends.

Father Agus, accepting it with some difficulty, says: "Very well… Let's just hope it works for you, young man. Don't forget that you are still a subject of King Adelfonse."

"Yes, Father Agus," Fridiger replies, surprisingly diplomatic, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disrespect the King's authority." He sits next to your cousin, which only emphasizes his increased size. Even seated, he's clearly taller and more massive than before. You note his leather armor is broken in parts such as his shoulders, chest and arms to accommodate for enlarged size. He places his hand on your cousin's forehead and tells him he will be alright.

The priest seems content with that and says: "For now, I'll have my staff take care of your wounded cousin. Take some time and rest there, if you want." Alphius seems dubious about Fridiger's magical transformation and asks for further explanation, but the adventurer does not care. "Good to have proper guides along!" He says. The next thing Fridiger suggests doing is looting the bodies of the enemies he and Erdebred destroyed, the undead from the other room. "Let's go collect their gear," he says.

What will you do?
a) Return to the path to the Ancient Fortress
b) Seek the gnome Dignugget
c) Follow the cleric and your wounded cousin back to his cave church
 

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