The Black Spire

07-22-2016 Tomb of Madlak the Witch King
Dead in the Shadows

We left off last time with Tomas the Barbarian standing in the doorway facing a grinning corpse. Before reactions could be taken, the creature charged at Tomas, and a fight ensued. In the melee that followed, the creature was vanquished.

The party explored the room in which they found the strange creature, and used the table in the room to brace one of the doors so that they could sleep and rest. In the middle of the night, Merric found a secret door. After some time, he woke Friar Fringle and they checked the door to see if it could open. They found an illusory rock wall, behind which a door resided.

After the rest of the party was awakened, Merric opened the door and explored to find a ladder reaching down into unknown depths. He climbed the ladder and found what appeared to be a vast underground lake. He climbed back up and the party decided to head another direction.

The party removed the table from the door against which it was braced, and entered the room beyond. The room was unusually clean, and part of the floor sloped off to water that emitted a disgusting odor. As the party explored the room, skeletons began climbing out of the water, up the steep embankment towards the party.

Acting quickly, the party exited the room and braced the door again from the outside just as scratching and thumps emanated from within.

The party retraced their steps, and took a different branch of an earlier tunnel to find the ceiling had at least partially collapsed in that area. The party again retraced their steps back to the large statue room to enter the tunnels on the other side, only to find the bodies of the guards that they defeated earlier were beginning to rise again. Only now, their eyes glow green, and their movements are less coordinated and more sluggish than before. None of their wounds are healed.

Exercising some quick judgment, the party runs across the way to the adjoining tunnel and finds a steep set of winding stairs. As the party takes the stairs down, all light is suddenly extinguished. Merrill draws the sword he recently acquired, and uses it to cast light in the darkness.

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The Story So Far
A blog for your campaign

The Black Spire is a campaign based around the world of Erd. Erd is a flat disk of land that rings around a massive spire. In reality, instead of a globe, this world is shaped like a very long, very thin spire of rock. The world of Erd exists on a terrace on that spire. The characters are only aware of Erd itself, and in general, knowledge of other lands and peoples of the Black Spire is very limited primarily due to the great distance between terraces.

The people of Erd are only aware of a handful of sentient races: the dominant culture of the Halflings, whose tendency towards agriculture, familial bonds and patient, hard work has lead them to prosperity; the Bullywugs, who primarily live in the swamps of the Red Marsh and the Murkwild; the Kenku, who eke out an existence on the fringes of society, existing as thieves and scavengers, going where others are loathe to venture; lastly, the Kobolds, who are at war against the Halflings of the North.

The campaign starts in the Southwest, though, in a region known as the Green Coast. The major locations in the area are the Fenwood, the Murkwild, Riverton, Nuggin’s Landing, and the Red Marsh.

Nuggin’s Landing is a small, poor village across the Auld Syr river from Riverton, a much more prosperous town. The local trade is primarily in Swampstools, a protein-rich type of mushroom found in the Fenwood swamp. The mushrooms are dried out and preserved, then shipped all across the world as a shelf-stable source of protein. In particular, the Kingdom of the North uses the mushrooms to supply its troops in the Great Kobold War that has been raging for decades at the foot of the Khundar Mountains.

The trade in swampstools is controlled by the Mycological College, a collection of merchant houses that have banded together to create a cartel that dominates the market for the dried mushrooms. The Mycological College is based in Riverton and hires the poor residents of Nuggin’s Landing to go into the swamp and collect the mushrooms.

Swampstool collectors work in large teams that are managed by employees of the different houses of the college. The fungus is brought to house-owned collection houses where the mushrooms are dried and preserved.

Different houses treat their employees with different levels of dignity. The pay for collection of mushrooms varies from house to house, though even the houses paying a better wage barely pay enough for their workers to rise out of poverty.

The campaign begins when several mushroom collectors go missing over the course of several weeks. The PCs all assemble for their own reasons to help find the missing collectors.
Their search leads them into the Red Marsh, a foul, blighted place marked by the bright red water and bright red foliage of the area. Deep within the Red Marsh, the characters find a bullywug temple where a mad bullywug shaman is sacrificing captured halflings to the god Bulubbgubb.

Defeating the mad shaman, the PCs free the remaining prisoners and begin to make their way back to the surface. Where Norris Burkle, an operative of House Gryndllwine, is waiting with a troop of guards. Gryndllwine is revealed to have been in league with the bullywugs, providing them with sacrifices consisting of troublesome workers who are agitating for better wages, better working conditions, or other demands that cut into the Mycological College’s profits and control of the mushroom trade.

The party defeats the force from House Gryndllwine and begins marching the captured Burkle across the swamp back to Nuggin’s Landing. On their way back to town, the party is waylaid by bandits in the swamp.

The bandits turn out to be people taken out into the swamp by the Mycological College to die. Those who survived have banded together to steal from the college in order to survive. They offer the bullywug victims a place to stay instead of going back to Nuggin’s Landing where they would be targeted for further harassment.

While in the bandit camp, the leader of the bandits, Barth Rockfoot, puts Norris Burkle on trial for the crimes of the Mycological College in general and House Gryndllwine in particular. When Norris is executed, he begins shaking and laughing. His skin turns chalk white, and his mouth gets wider and wider until it seems like his skull will split in half. Once he is dead, what appears to be a small glowing bug flits out of his mouth and up into the morning sky.

The party leaves the bandit camp and makes their way back to Nuggin’s Landing, where town Sheriff Boutin warns the party off to avoid capture at the hands of the Mycological College. He tells the party of a missing person in the small town of Zake’s Ford, about a three day walk away. If the party is willing to go look into the disappearance of an old man, then Bouftin will spend the time they are away trying to smooth things over so they can return.

The party agrees and heads off to the small town of Zake’s Ford. Once there, they connect with Lottie Zake, whose uncle Adnar Zake is missing. He has a tendency to wander off, but normally returns after a few days. The party tracks him north to a small keep built into a cliff face.

It turns out the keep was the headquarters of a band of adventurers called the Red Hand. Uncle Adnar is sitting in a large room in the keep muttering to himself, holding an old brass key in his hand. The party takes him back to Zake’s Ford, where they find a group of Gryndllwine soldiers waiting for them.

The soldiers are members of a hit squad called the Butcher Company. they are sent out to do House Gryndllwine’s dirty work. The party finds that the Butchers have corralled the townsfolk of Zake’s Ford into the local temple, and have set up camp in a local bank and a the constabulary.

The party decides to free the townspeople by raiding the temple. The Butchers chase the party upstairs and set the temple on fire, locking the party inside. The party manages to escape by finding a secret door leading down to some catacombs beneath the village.

While in the catacombs, the party finds traces that suggest that Lotho Mudheel, the leader of the Butcher Company, is in the catacombs already, heading deeper underground. The party pursues, hoping to catch up to him and put an end to this entire situation.

As the party delves deeper into the dungeon, they find clues that lead them to believe that this is the resting place of Madlak the witch king, and that for some reason Lotho is heading for Medlar’s tomb at the bottom of the catacombs.

A ghost confronts the party and warns them against going any deeper into the tomb, though he seems confused for some reason. He eventually relents and allows the party to proceed deeper into the dungeon.

The party finds more members of the Butcher Company in the lower parts of the dungeon, but they seem to be suffering from some kind of disease. The party manages to defeat several Butchers before heading deeper into the dungeon where they find a gaunt figure sitting at a table, intently sharpening a sword. As they enter the room, the figure smiles, revealing a mouth full of sharp teeth, and says, “Welcome to the last place you will ever see.”

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