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Carrying on the assault, the party quickly scans the inside of the manor house and the surroundings, looking for the presumed occupant of the guarded room. A secret door is found and it is surmised that the occupant has used it to flee. Malchor, Bababobo and Kormier move towards the barracks and catch a glimpse of motion as one of the shuttered windows is pulled shut. While the bemused druid watches from a rooftop, a nightmare bursts forth from the stable and becomes airborne within seconds.
As he decides what to do about it and is busy watching the creature’s flight path, the wounded mountain giant crawls out from the stable building. He hurls a dead horse at the cleric and strikes him, causing him to tumble to the ground. When the ranger goes to shoot his shortbow, he wrenches his knee and tumbles to the ground as well. Between arrows and fireballs, the giant is slain as he flees through the ruined gate. It is at this instant that the barracks occupants choose to launch an attack and attempt to rush to the gates. The last is slain as he tries to climb over the giant’s cooling corpse. The secret corridor in the manor house is further explored and the whole place is investigated as fully as possible. the escape route ends beyond the walls and a second track runs to the stables, Within the stables, a trio of devilish looking folk lie dead, slain by the cleric’s cloudkill spell.

Leaving the castle behind, the group skirts the forest and heads towards the city of Eastwatch and then Uthmere. Along the way, the intercept a column of ungern, giants and some spellcasters headed towards the region. Fearing this is the first thrust of the Rotting Man’s forces towards sealing the region off from Impiltur, the group sets about disrupting the forward progress. Malchor uses his invisibility and flight to good effect, casting fireballs and the like from the air. He draws fire, but there is little the hapless foe can do, as the spellcasters are slain in the first assault. Once the giants are slain, the rest of the force breaks up into foraging bands and begins to move westwards, though not in any organized force.

Assuming that they have bought some time, the group hastens to Eastwatch and alerts the townsfolk. From there they journey to Uthmere and deliver the news to the town council. The group prepares for the next step…whatever that may be is not entirely clear.

Deciding that fooling with ghosts is a bad idea, the group takes off on a new tangent. They travel to the southeast to try and make contact with the druid in exile. Along the way, Goldpiece frets over the possibility that the group is carrying an extra traveling companion in the guise of a party member, but is in actuality the ghost. The ghost denies this most vigorously of course and the party things the elf is a ‘bit teched in tha haid’.

While they do not make it to the druid himheritsself, they do meet with druidical followers, rangers and the like. They get further information on the depredations of the Rotting Man and the general attempt to seal off the old forest from interlopers. A keep near the forest’s edge has been seized, retaken, abandoned and then left alone by forces from both parties – at least so said the last intelligence report. More recent scouting has yielded a deficit of returning scouts.

The party goes to investigate and decides to traverse the forest from east to west, just to see what can be seen. While druid and magic user provide aerial scouting the rest of the group keep eyes and ears open to see what may be seen. Not much at first, then an attack by a zombie bear. Within a few days there is an encounter with a group – search party? patrol? picnickers? – composed of ogres with dogs, a mountain giant, an ungern troop and a small zombie horde. The group ambushes them and destroys the undead, ogres and dogs, but the rest melt into the forest.

The group pursues over the course of the next few days, tracking by air and by ranger (who identifies a possible 7 legged spider companion) and realizes that the giant and ungern are headed towards the keep in question, but that the spider is not in sight. The paranoid wizard scouts the group’s backtrail and spies a party of drider and a grell trailing them as they trail the giant. The wizard returns and shares the news that the group is too far away to see them directly but seems awfully well aware of the party’s disposition and general direction. Maybe there is a spy in the camp. ‘The ghost!’ exclaims Goldpiece. Maybe, or maybe a scrying device, invisible doo hicky or ethereal whatchamhoozit. However, after the magic user returns to the sky, no trace of the trailers can be found, Paranoia levels rise until the cleric suggests bold action. Retake the keep and at least not be trapped between keep and trailers.

Scouting is undertaken, precautions are discussed and a general plan is put forth. At the break of dawn, while mage and druid wing their way to high ground, the group steals round the side to the ruined gates. They sprint through – setting off several alarms – and are well on their way to the manor house before the guards have a real chance to respond. The cleric, clad in plate mail and unable to sprint, hangs back in the rubble near the gates and keeps watch on the party rear, guarding the only escape route. While the barracks troops spring into action the lead party member knocks the door off the hinges and they assault the manor house. When the guards form into a square and move to block their retreat, Malchor drops an ice storm that crushes them and the few survivors scatter in dismay. While the group continues its assault on the few guards inside the house, the cleric sees a small group of ungern forming up near the stables, A cloudkill spell from his staff does them in and it looks like the immediate threat is neutralized.

Inside the manor house, the group gains access to the room under guards, but finds only an empty bedroom, not used in some time – no sign of any recent occupation. Why guard an empty room? The group regroups and prepares to sally forth to meet the cleric.

Returning to Uthmere, the group gets the lay of the land and decides to do some preliminary investigation of the surrounding areas. Various plans are put forth and dismissed and finally, the druid is dispatched to scout the edge of the region known as the great barrow – a vast accumulation of cairns, tombs, graves and the like. The group ventures further in and finds a gravesite complete with a magical sword. They loot, and the banshee that lives within takes offense. A few moments later, Lad is fleeing the scene in abject terror and the limp bodies of Bababobo and his druid pal adorn the turf. The rest of the group brings the unruly spirit to heel and they unearth the bodies of a pair of elves. When they attempt to strip them of their wealth, the Lad is turned into a ferret. The change is temporary as a Dispel Magic sets things right and the rest of the loot is looted. Some time is taken to rest and recover and then the investigation begins anew.
More investigation leads to a pair of crypts and a trio of burial mounds that seem interesting. Crypt One is not worth much time and effort. Crypt Two is laced with portals that need magical opening and so they spend a few days dealing with that and along the way, decide to open one of the burial mounds, This one seems to be inhabited by a ghost, who takes control of one party member after another and sets them to battling each other. Eventually he tires of the game and the group retreats to plan anew.

As the tentacles burst forth into the coffin world, the coffins start to crumble where it touches them. Billowing ash accompanies its entrance to this cheery place and the group responds with a hearty ‘haveatchoo’. However, when the Gal charge into the maelstrom of tentacles, her armor becomes pitted and cracked and the magic blade shows signs it is not immune from the ashy acid storm. So, a hasty retreat is beat. The beast signals displeasure by hurling an exploding tentacle that coats the party in an acid mist.

Since the beast seems intent on passing through the portal, it seems like a good idea to hurl it back. A few volleys of missiles from the oathbow and the like give the creature some pause and it decides to go elsewhere, pulling the portal shut behind it and perhaps trapping the group in this hellish nether realm.

Well, first things first – looting is undertaken. If you’re gonna die, mizewell die rich. Happily, one of the minions that stayed behind to fight was packing an escape route and the group plane shifts back to the courtyard of the Temple of Torm back in Impiltur.

A few tendays are spent identifying items, paying taxes and liquidating items for the party treasury. Contact is made with a druid from the hinterlands, warning the temple about the rise of a lich named ‘The Rotting Man’. Bababobo recognizes the name as the reason that he left the area a few years back. This may be something to keep thinking about. Hrm. From there the group retraces a now-familiar path. Sarshel to the docks to the boat across the narrow sea to the fortified town of Grazul. Grazul is curiously devoid of orcs, ungern and the like. Perhaps a major offensive is planned. Hrm.

On to Botkinburg for a chat with the court wizard. He is out and not expected soon. Malchor is saddened, for he sought magic from the mage. Hrm. On to Ludensheim, where Duke Miles is pleased to see them. His court wizard is at home and trading is undertaken.

Next, a trip up the Causeway, in hopes of finding the ranger’s stone horse. Alas, the terrain of the jungle land is no more, and apparently the horse has left along with it. The ranger is much saddened. The rest of the group looks to see who bet long in the pool of horse demise. The rest of the journey is largely uneventful, aside from a huge swarm of ravens and carrion crows headed ominously overhead and the attack of a bunch of trolls. Ho hum.

To the icy realm of the Frostlord and his Earthlord brother. Together they reforge the Horn for the group. Some information about the Vessel of Souls is learned – it is a she, she was part of the Horned One’s empire building and she is now loose and unmasked. The pearl mask that the group now bears is the only thing that can stop her soul-draining proclivities. Holy crap. Hrm.

So, on the one hand, the Vessel of Souls is loose and aided by very powerful people if one counts the corpses of various high priests, mages and high level fighters that the party just encountered in the alternate plane. On the other, the forest near the edge of Impiltur is threatened by this ‘Rotting Man’ and so the group decides to give themselves some time to think as they seek to investigate the truth of the rumors. The ride reveals little, but there is a widening zone of depopulation forming along Impiltur’s eastern edge as people flee the area.

Hrm.

Passing through the portal in the skeletal remain of the prehistoric eel-thingy, the group steps into a vast expanse of sand under a sunless sky – though it is bright and well lit nonetheless. After some wandering, the sound of surf is heard. Eventually, the group reaches an encampment of sorts, where the tattered remains of a tent and the mangled remains of a guard are found. Scraps of paper indicate that others were here and have sailed on the sea. The gem of seeing reveals an emerald mist stretched across the water, far away.
The group deploys the boats and is off into the surf. After several hours of rowing and paddling, they reach the mist and pass through to reveal a large island jutting out of the sea. Exploration of island leads to a discussion with a witchy figure who points out a path up the side of the mountain, Assorted jungle vines try to strangle the party, but they win through and arrive at a tomb of an ancient warrior. While most of the party is transfixed by the tragic tale of the warrior that guards the Vessel of Souls, the spectral form of the warrior rises through the coffin lid and tries to drain the life out of them,. Luckily, Goldpiece is standing by with the Mace of Disruption and blasts it out of existence with a single blow. With this, the statue of the insanely beautiful woman at the rear of the tomb crumbles and reveals an opening that stinks of corruption.
Entering the tombwomb, the group descends and twists and turns and eventually lands upon a landing that stretches out over a vast vista of tortured souls, tormented by flying demonythings. A floating bridge that shifts in the wails of the damned is their only path forward, so forward they go. Eventually, the path angles upwards and climbs along a giant pile of coffins – filled with trapped souls, it would seem.
At the top of the hill, a ceremony is taking place. Ungern, priests, guards, wizards and a beautiful – stunning – enthralling woman stand atop the coffin mountain. The group charges and a short but pitched battle seems them win through the ranks of the guards, in time to see the beautiful woman remove a mask from here face that covered her mouth and jaw. She and a wizardly sort step through a portal from which pours a yellow mist.
As they prepare to give chase,a slew of tentacles push through to portal and the fight is one again!

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