The Price of Immortality

A Rite of Passage
Or to fetch the Eternal Flame

A New Dawn

The town of Kassen was founded 174 years ago. Each year, at the 4th of Neth it is celebrated that Kassen defeated his enemy. To lead the town through the winter, a delegation is traditionally sent to the crypt of Kassen to obtain fire from the Eternal Flame.

The subjects of our interest, three youngsters, are in for an interesting time. They differ in many things, but all have grown up in the small provincial town of Kassen that is starting to feel too small. Jonathan, the human ranger, spends most of his time out in the woods outside Kassen already. Lini, the gnome cleric, is usually found in the temple of Erastil, and aches for new experiences to break the daily pattern of the temple. Preen, a half-elf rogue, meanwhile lingers at the Seven Silvers tavern where his mother works as a waitress – hoping that the new day brings more interesting guests, and failing that interesting trouble to get into.

History may be about to deal them an interesting hand for a change. As Preen and Lini know, Johark Uptal, mayor of Kassen, intends to send a number of young people to the crypt this year, as a rite of passage. It doesn’t hurt that this may serve to boost his popularity in the upcoming elections. Preen, Jonathan and Lini have been personally asked by the mayor to take part in this mission. It normally is a journey of two days to the crypt and then back, to their knowledge the yearly delegation is always back within a week. The three youngsters are asked to assemble with travel gear at noon of the 4th of Neth in the town square.

That morning, Preen is packing his gear, preparing for the trip. Also Lini has packed her stuff and is taking her time for a prayer to Gozreh. When she takes her leave of the priest, he seems to be downcast and says farewell with a heavy heart. When Lini asks what is the matter, he says there is a dangerous journey ahead.

A dangerous journey? We’ll be back in a week time! But I would be glad to get some adventure, to test my skills.

Jonathan and Preen take their leave from somber parents. When Preen leaves the inn, his halfling friend, Jimes “Short Change”, gives him a quick grin, before he too solemnly says farewell. Preen wonders, and asks if Jimes knows why his mother is so glum, earning only a quick wink in response from the halfling.

More or less at the same time, all three arrive on the completely deserted town square, each from a different side. Although they have not witnessed this ceremony before, as it is for adults only, they were led to believe the square would be full with people to send them on their way, and not so unusually quiet. They look a bit at each other, and join together in the middle of the square, discussing the strangeness of this all.

At noon the bells in the temple ring out, and suddenly the town square fills with people clad in black. The mayor leads a pony with a cart, loaded with some gear. He gives a speech, and a circle opens up around him. Preen, Jonathan and Lini go toward the mayor. He holds a lantern, and looks somberly at them. He thrusts the lantern towards Lini, and says that this lantern is to be used to fetch a light from the Eternal Flame. Also three bags have been prepared with provisions for their travel. The three youngsters each take a bag from the pony cart.

Off Into the Unknown

In a totally downcast atmosphere, as if they were led to their graves, the townsfolk set them on their way south, towards the crypt.

“I’m impressed, they’re putting a real effort into it. But I’m sure all the doom and gloom is just a charade for our benefit. Lini and Jonathan seem te be falling for it, though…..

When they are well outside the town and out of sight of the watch tower, they open the three bags, to see what is in them. One lumpy bag holds 50ft of rope, a grappling hook and three torches. As both Lini and Preen have 50ft of silk rope already, they only take the torches. The second bag, which feels soft, contains three winter blankets and a small shelter. Also two small bottles of brandy and a potion bottle to cure light wounds. They take the shelter, but leave the blankets, as they already have their own blankets. The last bag contains rations for three persons for five days, a full waterskin and a box with tinder and tinderwick. This they will take all. They distribute the new loads and hide the surplus gear behind a tree. The last bag also contained a piece of parchment, which shows the road to the crypt.

The forest around them is lively. Jonathan goes in front to scout the road, while Preen and Lini follow at a slower pace. Just when Jonathan has waited for the others to catch up, and they set out again, they reach a blockade on the road, an three humanoids (orcs) jump forward, armed and with ill intent.

Preen quickly jumps into a tree and shoots one of the orcs with his bow, straight through the eye and killing him instantly. Lini dashes forward all on her own and sets off a lightning arc, injuring one orc but failing to slay the foul creature.

“What’s the gnome doing?! Has she gone insane??? She’ll be cut down for sure!” “Wow, look at that lightning!”

Then the two orcs rush the lone gnome cleric, covering the distance much faster than Lini anticipated and with two mighty blows strike her down. Dropping to the floor, lini is left unconscious and bleeding. (-11 HP)

Jonathan kills the wounded orc with a well aimed arrow shot in his throat, and hits the second orc with another arrow. Preen takes another shot at the remaining orc, but misses him. Then the orc charges Jonathan, and wounds him. Jonathan hits the orc with his sword, only slightly injuring him.

Rushing up behind the orc, Preen thrusts his rapier through the orc, mortally injuring his foe and almost hitting Jonathan in the process. Only then does Preen realize he felt no resistance when his blade slid into the orc.

With the last orc fallen, all three orcs vanish and it is af they have never been there. There is no blood on Preens sword, Jonathan has no wound, and Lini gets up off the ground, completely unhurt and with undamaged armour albeit a bit dazed as she really felt she had died. When they look around, Lini notices a faint air of pipe smoke and sees a bird in the sky. No signs of magic are felt, but they all realize the town’s wizard is known to smoke a pipe.

“I almost fell for it. Even when I knew they were making a big show of it, I almost thought the orcs were real. Don’t want to spoil it for the others though, and let them think we’re on a real mission of sorts. Lini in particular seems to think it’s a big deal and all.”

After they each expressed their amazement at this adventure, they continue on their way. Even though they realize it was all an illusion of sorts, the close run affair has given them food for thought and discussion on how to better cooperate in case they run across a real foe next time. Preen meanwhile is on the lookout for any further staged surprises, but does not spy any.

The evening falls after they have walked for some time without any disturbances. They find a place to set up their camp, put up their shelters and light a fire. When finished, Preen takes out his flute and starts to play a tune. Jonathan strongly discourages him to continue playing, as you never know what may be drawn towards them by this sound. Grudgingly Preen puts the flute away again. In the distance some wolves are howling.

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The Crypt of Kassen
Or how to ignore things you know

Camp, and a Hungry Wolf

While Preen, Jonathan and Lini are sitting around their campfire, enjoying their evening meal, a wolf appears at the edge of the clearing. It is clear to see he is very skinny, and Jonathan deduces with his nature skill that it is scouting. Preen jumps up, his rapier in hand, expecting the wild animal to attack. Knowing that wolves hunt in packs, he turns to face any other wolves in the darkness. Lini casts speak with animals and learns by means of a brief conversation that the wolf is very hungry. Lini tells him that they are not prey for him, and that he should look for his meal somewhere else. If he or his pack attacks, they may well pay with their lives for that folly. The wolf backs away, staring at the gnome cleric. He understands what she says. Then he turns around and runs off into the forest.

Sitting back down around the fire to finish their meal, the adventurers continue their conversation about the wolf and their mission. When they decide to go to sleep, Jonathan volunteers to take first watch. Preen is surprised, he had not counted on having to stay awake for a watch, but then again, this is the forest, and not the village. Lini will take second watch and Preen surrenders and says: “I guess I’ll have third watch then…” Nothing untoward happens during the night, and when dawn breaks, Lini and Jonathan wake, partially from habit, partially from the light. After breakfast they continue their trek. Unseen to the others, Preen leaves some meat at the campsite for the hungry wolf.

That wolf sure looked hungry. Not even dangerous, really. Just down on his luck and then some. With all the food we’ve been given and brought, I’m pretty sure we won’t miss some of this jerky, and that wolf needs it a lot more. If he’s even around still….

The Serpent of the Lake

On their way to the crypt they pass a broad stretch of the river, almost a lake. At the shore of the lake-like section of the river they see a dark shape. Upon closer inspection this appears to be a humanoid creature, human sized, clearly dead. Jonathan sees that his torso has multiple bite marks, in the shape of a big circle – approximately 70 cm in diameter. He figures out quickly what has been the cause of this demise, and says to the others: “Stay away from the water, it is dangerous!” He then explains to the others that the man was killed by a giant snake, that lives in the water. When they cautiously walk a bit closer, the bite marks become also visible to Preen and Lini. The man appears to have been dead for months already. Despite the apprehension of the danger in the water, they all fill their waterskins and continue in a brisk walk (at least Lini is walking very fast). After about three hours walking, they reach a gorge. It starts to rain.

The Serpent’s Gorge

They have reached the Serpent Gorge, and they know that the crypt is at the bottom of this gorge. They are looking for an easy way down, but failing to find anything other than a rather steep and slippery path, they are still considering the route down when Preen grins broadly and calls out “Last one down buys drinks when we get back!” and sets off down the slippery slope – accepting that he will slip, he nimbly skis down the slope without a tumble or a fall.

We’re going to have to make our way all the way down there anyway. May as well have some fun and do it in style!

Lini follows, but with less secure footing she slips and crashes headfirst into a tree (4 non-lethal damage). After recovering from this impact, she continues more cautiously and has more success this way. Jonathan goes last, and while this initially goes well, he also loses his footing and meets a tree on his way down (4 non-lethal damage). Annoyed by this blunder, he gets back on his feet, grabs a piece of loose wood, uses that as a board and whooshes down the remainder of the path, passing Lini, and impressing Preen, who silently wonders why he had not thought about that method, and gives the performance a big applause. The rain is pelting down right now, and they quickly set on their way toward the crypt, expecting it to be at least dry inside.

When they make the final bend and reach the entrance of the crypt, they see a horrible scene in front of them. Two horses and three ponies lie dead in a pool of blood. They appear to have been killed by crude blades and claws, and appear to have been dead for about two days. The door of the crypt is slightly ajar. Underneath one of the horses lies the remains of a human – a skeleton with no meat remaining. When they come closer, they see that the horses still have their saddle bags. Preen looks into the bags, and sees that a lot is missing, but still finds rations for two days, two big pillows, a quiver with 10 blunt arrows and two pints of lamp oil. Lini casts a spell, detect undead, and finds the presence of undead creatures. After some time she feels a faint aura of six undead creatures coming from behind the crypt doors (about 60 feet distance). She ends the spell and informs the others of the presence of the undead creatures. They mentally prepare themselves for fighting undead creatures, likely skeletons, judging the skeleton under the horse.

Into the Crypt

Preen opens the crypt door, and Lini lights a torch. By the light of the torch they see that in the room behind the doors there has been some fighting. Two dead bodies lie on the floor, surrounded by a number of inanimate skeletons. Preen sneaks inside and circles the room. Lini and Jonathan follow, but initially stay close to the entrance. Preen reaches a door to the side, from behind which a soft moaning can be heard.

Then Lini and Jonathan also move forward towards the two bodies. Reaching the bodies, they have just passed some of the inanimate skeletons when they hear a groaning, rattling sound and the skeletons start to rise all around them. Even knowing to expect six undead creatures in the crypt, they have let themselves be surprised and surrounded – surely an awkward position for a fight. Because a fight is what follows.

Preen however appears out of nowhere behind one of the skeletons to stab it in the back with both rapier and dagger. Neither attack however makes an impression. The skeletons appear to have been blessed by some unholy might, as they keep striking true with Lini in particular taking a lot of damage. She has to channel the might of Gozreh multiple times to heal herself and her friends before the skeletons seem to have lost their accuracy and Lini has some breath to spare to turn the same energy against the skeletons, harming them. But again the skeletons seem oddly protected, as not even two attempts end the skeletons existance.

Jonathan meanwhile had more effects with his mace and has put two skeletons down. Preen, shouting out his frustration at the lack of effect of his rapier and dagger, throws down his weapons and leaps at the two skeletons still facing him and Lini. Suddenly – seen only by Lini – his hands have spawned claws as he lashes out, unfortunately to no more effect than his earlier attacks. The skeletons however strike Preen, knocking him unconscious and leaving him on the ground bleeding. In a final effort, Lini calls on Gozreh again and manages to channel her deities energy to the effect she had been hoping for, robbing the skeletons of the foulness animating them and leaving them as a pile of bones on the floor. Lini and Jonathen then rush over to Preen, who awakens after Lini’s healing spell restores him (+9 HP) .

With a little bit more forethought, they would have been able to deal with those skeletons a lot easier. Of course my unending string of 20’s did not help much.

After taking stock of the situation, Preen goes towards the two bodies, and recognizes them as Garrel and Varg, two men from Kassen and friends of the Mayor. In the bags next to them he finds again a big pillow, two quivers of blunt arrows, rations and some smoke sticks. “Looks to me like they came here intending to pull a prank on us – and found more than they bargained for…”, he states, finally realizing that they have good reason to be cautious on this journey after all.

“Did that really happen? Did I really just… grow claws like that? What’s going on with me? After the things I discovered I could do, now this? Oh… Did Lini notice? I don’t think Jonathan could’ve seen, but Lini?”

From behind a closed door they again hear the soft moaning sounds. Their emotions tell them to rush forward to rescue whoever it is that they hear moaning. But with the damage already sustained and their powers nearly exhausted, that would seem foolhardy. Thus, they contemplate leaving the crypt for the night and coming back in the morrow.

“Should I ask Preen? About those claws? Or should I keep an eye on him instead? What’s going on with him??”

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Searching the Crypt

After the fight with the skeletons, the three adventurers decide to leave the crypt and come back the next day. They do not know what is waiting for them, and especially Lini could use some healing. When they go outside, the pelting rain has subsided to a drizzle. After a brief discussion whether it makes sense or not to bury the dead horses under a pile of rocks – Jonathan convincing Preen that it is better to leave the bodies to the carrion birds, and if larger meat eating animals are near, it is better they eat the easy horse meat than them. Preen is looking towards the east, thinking that he has found the best spot possible to camp, which is not a very good one, when Jonathan points out a nice high spot towards the west. After they made camp, Lini uses her last channel energy spell of the day to heal everyone for 5 HP. She is then the only one still seriously wounded, and she casts the cure light wounds spell on herself, healing another 5 HP.
With the experience of the day that fighting skeletons with rapier or dagger has no effect, Preen is looking for something that can be used as a mace or a club. Lini offers him her morningstar, which to him is a light weapon. She herself will use her magic when fighting skeletons. Then she retreats a bit to make her daily prayers to Gozreh. The night is spent in similar fashion as the night before, Jonathan takes first watch, Lini second and Preen has the last watch. Nothing untowards happens during the night.

In the morning Lini prepares some spells that may come in handy: detect undead, hide from undead and magic weapon. Then they prepare for their quest into the crypt, to see if the soft moaning sound is still present and if so, find its source. Lini and Jonathan light hooded lanterns, and then they go inside the crypt. They stay close to the wall, until they reach the door from behind which still soft moaning sounds are to be heard. Preen uses a spell to open the door, but nothing comes out at them. Behind the door is a big room with pillars. They see three saddle bags and a few brooms next to one pillar. They enter slowly and cautiously. Apart from their lantern lights, it is very dark. Then, when Lini steps towards Preen, going the long way around a pillar, she falls down into a pit of about 10 feet depth. Her fall is broken by a pillow, but she feels the spikes that are present underneath. Apart from a few bruises and a fright, she is OK (4 non-lethal damage). Preen takes a rope out of his bag and uses this to help Lini out of the pit.
The area apparently is booby trapped, so Preen puts his skills to use, to detect other traps. This makes for slow going, but eventually he can mark most flagstones as being safe, and puts a big cross on the ones that are a trap. Some he even manages to disable. When Preen returns to the others, who have been waiting in front of a door towards another part of the crypt, he crosses a presumed safe flagstone, and falls also in a pit, landing on a pillow, and also takes some superficial damage (4 non-lethal damage). He laughs a bit at his own failure, but aims to make up for it by a demonstration of his acrobatics: he starts to jump out of the pit. Unfortunately, his footing was not very good, and he destroys the pillow and slips further down, between the spikes. Jonathan moves forward to reach down to pull him out. Preen looks a bit abashed, but quickly his confidence returns when he walks to the door. The door is locked. Several attempts to pick the lock fail, and then they recall the different levers they have seen in the room – maybe one of them will open the door? Preen walks towards the first and nearest lever, pulls it down, and Lini then tries to open the door. While they hear a lot of sounds coming both from the door as well as the lever, the door remains locked. This is repeated with the other two levers, the last of which is at the other side of the room. Neither opens the door. “What if we push the levers down two or three at a time?” Lini asks. The others quickly agree, having the same thought. They all go to a lever, and at a signal from Preen they push their levers down. There is a loud ‘click’ coming from the door. As each lever slowly goes back up after it is pushed, Preen and Jonathan, who were at the levers furthest away, rush back to the door. LIni was quite near to the door, and manages to open the door well before the others are there. In his haste to reach the door, Preen miscalculates or does not remember exactly which flagstones were trapped and which not, and he again ends up at the bottom of a pit. He notices that a small bag with some coins (3 platinum) is lying there, as well as a piece of parchment. He puts all of this in his pocket and then gracefully jumps out of the pit, and rejoins the others at the now opened door.

Lini still holds the door, which appears to close on its own accord. Not wanting to be trapped in the other room, she initially wants to keep the door open while the others move forward, but a quick inspection of the door on the other side shows a handle, which can be used to open the door from that side. This room again has a number of pillars, and from a door in the far corner the moaning can be heard, more clearly now. To be on the safe side, Lini casts her spell detect undead. She finds no undead creatures within a 60 ft radius. Then the moaning sound suddenly stops, and Preen and Lini hear the sounds of a crossbow being loaded coming from behind the door. Lini calls out that they are good people, and will do no harm. “Who is behind the door?” The response is a silence…
Preen whispers to the rest: “I will open the door, then we can all rush inside and surprise the person in there” Jonathan is nearest to the door, and he pushes the door open. Due to something blocking the door from the other side, the door opens only a slight amount. But enough for the crossbowman to risk a shot – the bolt ends up in one of the barrels he is hiding behind. Preen then puhes the door slightly farther open, just enough for Lini to go through, which she does. Crouched behind some barrels she sees a man, who has a wild look about him and mutters: “Angry bones…. angry bones!!” Lini talks to the man, tells him the skeletons are defeated, he has nothing to fear. The man softens a bit, but then says: “It’s a trap!! Angry bones!!” and he aims his crossbow at the door, where Jonathan is in view. He misses his shot completely. Jonathan tries to open the door all the way, but it will not budge. Then Preen says: “Close your eyes!” which Lini and Jonathan do. There is a flash of light, and when they open their eyes again, they find the man dazed and blinded. Lini takes the crossbow from the stunned man. With joint effort, Preen and Jonathan open the door so they can enter the room. Preen recognizes the man to be Roldare, a man from Kassen. The others also know him from sight. Lini talks again to him, calling him by name. He calms noticeably, but remains unhinged.
Preen takes out the parchment from his pocket, and reads what is written: some information about that it takes the cooperation of three to open the door. He crumbles the parchment and throws it away – the information being a bit moot now. A quick search of the room yields some bedrolls, lanterns and oil, two healing potions and 5 rations. Preen takes one of the healing potions and gives the other to Jonathan – you never know when they are needed.

Roldare comes out of his daze, and Lini wants to ask him some questions, least of all: what happened? Roldare seems to lose his focus, his eyes staring at a point just above Jonathan, but then the whole story spills out of him, in a staccato way. Six of them have arrived here in the crypt, planning a surprise for the youngsters set to get the Eternal Flame. They were disabling the traps by putting pillows on the spikes, but then suddenly they were attacked by skeletons. All are dead now, only his sister and himself still survive. His sister was taken away by the leader of the skeletons. When asked where he saw his sister last, a somewhat incoherent reply follows, possibly she is taken ‘down’ somewhere. He then clearly states that the others should find his sister, but he will stay here, where it is safe. “You will need keys, a shield and swim gear!”
As nothing more is to be learned from the man, and he is very persistent about staying where he is, Preen, Jonathan and Lini leave him be, and intend to go look for the missing sister. In the adjoining room, Preen has seen another door, and he goes toward it, and opens it. Behind the door there is a small room where a giant beetle is feeding on the brains of a dead person. Preen enters the room, and the beetle starts to move in a menacing way. Jonathan says: “Get back Preen, then we can close the door!!” and he moves back to give room. But Preen turns a deaf ear toward him, and casts his spell color spray , and the beetle is stunned. After a brief period of indecision, Lini comes forward and sticks her trident in the beetle, hurting it. Then Jonathan, sighing a bit, joins in the fray, but his sword bounces of the beetle’s armour. Also Preen and Lini do not manage to hit the beetle anymore. The beetle then has regained enough sense to send a spray of acid in the direction of Lini, hurting her badly (10 HP damage). Jonathan then finds an opening and sticks his sword into the beetle, and using this opening, Preen finishes the beetle with a sneak attack. The beetle bursts open, numerous small eggs come out of the body. All jump aside when the remains of the beetle crash to the floor. Lini takes some time to heal herself (cure light wounds – 4HP recovered)
They decide to burn the remains and the eggs of the giant beetle; first they brush everything together in a corner, and with the aid of some lamp oil, soon a merry fire is burning, with regular popping sounds. When they take a closer look at the body of the villager, they cannot put a name to him, as his head was eaten away by the beetle.

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