Chapter 9: Imtarumbar


I don't know about you folks, but it is hot where I am (all things relative of course). Sure isn't conducive to sitting down at the computer and writing.

I will be starting another campaign based on a series of linked chronicles using the White Wolf Storyteller rules. I will run these chronicles slightly differently than I'm running the Middle-Earth/Core campaigns. It will be more one on one, like a series of linked solo adventures where characters may or may not run into other during their stories. The chronicles will be for Vampires, Garou, Magi, Wraiths, Mortals, and Immortals. I will allow players from my current campaigns to play in one of these chronicles if they wish, but I still will not allow current players to play in both Rolemaster and Spacemaster settings. Regrettably, I must require that prospective players already have or have permanent access to the rules for the chronicle they are interested in, though they don't have to be overly proficient with the system. If you're interested, let me know and I'll send you a flyer for your perusal once the campaign is ready. It should be about a month.

Experience: I have mailed out all of your current x.p. statuses. If you haven't received one, let me know. Most of you have either crossed an x.p. threshold or are about to cross one. So let's talk about what happens now.

Skill justification: You must justify skills gained. This is done by my having to have rolled for your character either one successful or three unsuccessful attempts in a skill for each box of a skill you wish to justify. I'm waiving this requirement for 0-2 skill boxes so you can have time to get used to this system, but I want you to mail me a mailer with your new skills (so I can update your character sheets) and so I can tell you which skills I would and would not have allowed you normally. Only mail me your new skills when you've actually received them.

At the 2500 x.p. point, you may take an advance of three skill boxes in each of three different skills.

At the 5000 x.p. point, you receive the balance of your 0-2 skills (all of them since I'm waiving the justification requirement for this level). You must also make stat gain rolls and choose new skill to be learned for 1st level. Choose wisely, for these skills will have to be justified.

How do I reward experience?

1. There is a base award for each move made. This is sometimes adjusted down for especially terse moves. A NO MOVE gets no base award. Base moves for these campaigns are only 250 x.p. per move, which is one-fourth of the base award I give for an evenings live play. It is one of the downfalls of an e-mail campaign that not as much can be done in a given period of e-mail chatter as can be done in live play. The base award reflects this.

2. Idea points. I make much more use of awarding experience for ideas/actions in the e-mail campaigns than I do for live play sessions. If you thought of a good idea, you got x.p. for it. So far, idea x.p. awards have run anywhere from 30-400 x.p.

3. Maneuver points. You receive standard awards for successful maneuvers based on difficulty. General Perception is a good skill to have. Much of your possible maneuver x.p. will come from having just noticed something.

4. Other. Standard awards will be in effect for combat, hits taken/received, and power point/spell/psion expenditures. However, much of this aspect has not come into play. I have done this purposely as these adventures have been designed for low level characters. Face it, you're all wimps, but you will face increasingly greater challenges in time and you experience point awards will be much much higher once you've reached 1st level.

I understand that some of you must be frustrated with your current lack of ability regarding your characters. But, given the time that I hope these campaigns will continue, I want you to have a sense of having achieved something as your characters progress in level. Even gaining 1st level in one of my campaigns is considered an achievement. I've done it this way for many years, in both the Rolemaster genre and D&D, and one thing I've noticed, is that for those who stick with one of my games, the players usually develop a great camaraderie having to overcome a dearth of ability with wit and wile. I remember some of my AD&D players commenting at say, XIIth level, something to the effect of "Say, remember when we were all 0 level and how long it took us to get to 1st and how wimpy we were. It's hard to believe." And the characters of these players, those that survived, became very tough and some even had reputation of great renown. I hope it is the same with your characters.

And on to adventure,

Upon entering the Courtyard and looking around, Fred suddenly motioned for everyone to be quiet. "Shhhhhh...I think I hear the sound of horses. Can anyone else hear that?" He was then silent again, listening intently.
After a few more moments silence, Fred turned to the party and said, pointing to indicate a place beyond the ruined gates of the courtyard "It sounds like they are coming from over there. And they sound like they are approaching!"
Eoras asked him, "Does it sound like they're approaching from inside the house or from the outside? Perhaps it's Lord Tarma and some riders. Or more foul goblins, though I've never heard of them riding horses."
Fred motioned for them to be quiet and listened some more. "I can't be sure if they are inside or out, although I guess they are coming from outside." Fred seemed to think for a moment and then continued, "I think it odd that goblins or their like would ride horses. Wolves are more their paceand from Eoras and Taurvantar's story about their encounter with Lord Tarma's henchman, I doubt any aid will be coming from that quarter soon."
Eoras turned to Fred, "I hear no horses, Fred. Do any of you others hear horses? Perhaps the cold is simply getting to Fred."
Fred pointed back to Eoras, "Maybe you have lost your hearing." Then he chuckled and said, pointing beyond the ruined gates of the courtyard, "They are coming from that direction. Don't blame me when it is too late."
Daern stepped forward, readying his bow. "I don't hear anything, but I'll take Fred's word that someone else is approaching. We seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place." Saying this, Daern turned to face the unknown, the cold wind of the storm throwing fluries at his face and masking his body with a white blanket so that he could only be seen, though he was no more than three feet from the door.
Ordain also stepped forward, saying, "I hear nothing but people saying 'I don't hear them.'" However, he recorked the vial he had unstoppered, and, putting the blue liquid into his pocked, strung up his bow and prepared an arrow, standing by Daern's side.
Kal, still holding the baby, retreated, saying, "Argh! I don't know if we have the time for a fight! I hope we won't have to do it!"
Fred pushed his way between the legs of the taller folk. "I think I'll go back inside and checkout the last room we went through. There could be something around one of the statues." Though Taurvantar called after him to be careful and stay nearby, Fred quickly disappeared into the long hallway with the pond, intent upon exploring amidst the statuary and such that he had seen.
Kal scratched his nose, pondering, and then said, "Hmmm, I think we should check the room with all those huge casks. If I were to build a secret access, I would do it in a common room; and all that stuff would be nice to hide a secret door or something similar. Yet I would check the fountain too, just for a matter of scruples." Seeing that Fred had already decided to act on checking the room with the pond and the fountain, Kal took a rope and cloak from his backpack and carefully wrapped the baby into the cloak, tying the child to the front of his chest.
"As it looks to perhaps become dangerous here," he told the others, "I will explore that other room. So saying, he went down the hallway and opened the door that led to the room filled with casks. Eoras quietly followed him, acting as a guard lest Kal and child meet up with any potential harm.
Taurvantar shook his head. "This splitting up is foolishness," he muttered.

Facing the way Fred had pointed, Daern and Ordain held their bows ready while Tirion and Taurvantar stood behind them, also ready for any hostile appearance. They stood that way for several long minutes when Taurvantar was about to suggest that Fred had been mistaken after all.
Just then, a horrible screetch was heard and three horsed figures jumped the courtyard wall, though it must have been sixteen feet high, and vaulted into the courtyard. Each was an armoured warriour and each was mounted on a warlike horse, caparisoned for battle. Each warriour was helmed and held a spear and shield while a short sword could be seen to strapped to the horse's side. And each of them was semi-transparent.
"Ghosts!" Ordain gasped, the hair on the back of his neck standing fully erect.
Tirion let an arrow fly but though true to its mark, it simply passed through one of the riders. Ordain and Daern each loosed their arrow, but something of the unearthly and damned appearance of these spectral riders chilled their muscles and both shots went wide. Taurvantar was no better and he could only be heard stammering, though what he said was unintelligible.
One of the horsemen spurred his mount and like a rider of the storm, almost flew forward, hurling his spear. It was Tirion who was struck, as the barbed spear head tore a grazing gash in his thigh (18DP). The barbed metal tipped spear, seemed tangible enough once it had been thrown and Tirion was bleeding heavily (3 hits/round). Already, his face appeared white as if he might collapse any minute.
Daern, though stiff with fear, used his strong body to push Ordain and the others back into the hallway. Slamming the door shut, Daern blocked it with his body. Ordain lurched into the kitchen, and calling Taurvantar to help him, the two managed to bring out a bench to block the door. Just as they had set this, the door was rocked by three loud banging thuds, as if a horse were kicking it. However, after the three knocks, a deep booming voice roared through the hallway.
After this, only silence could be heard, or perhaps it was that their ears had been blasted to deafness. But as they all heard Tirion's painful gasp as he fell unconscious to the floor, they knew that, at least, they were not deaf.

Fred opened the door of the hallway and walked inside. It was bitter cold, as was the rest of the house. The frozen dampness of the room draped icicles along the rails of the upper story, where a walkway mirroured the one beneath it, giving a vantage from the second story to the entire pond below it. Large bronze shells bordered the pond, one on each of the short sides, while bronze statues cast as fishlike Maiar and beasts of the deep frolicked in frozen animation, in poses that suggested that water once played about them in streams and fountains when the house had been alive. Had been alive? Fred thought. However, looking carefully about, nowhere could Fred make out any sign of a stairway or ladder leading above.
Walking underneath the walkway, Fred travelled down the right-hand side of the long frozen pond, looking right and left, always ready to dart behind a statue or pedestal should danger present itself.
On the right hand side, Fred examined an elegant statue of a nymph or naked maiden, caught in marble as if from life, just at the moment of surprise at being observed in a bath. However, the once lovely form of the statue was marred as gashing parallel gouges were obvious on the statue's face and breasts. Fred shuddered to think what kind of claw could make it's lecherous impression in innocent marble. He prayed that he would not find out.
Stepping forward to better observe the statue and check for secret openings, Fred was startled as a light appeared above both the statue and him. Jumping back, his heart thumping in panic, Fred looked everywhere around him, like a cornered rabbit. Lights had appeared in each alcove, over each statue, but no one else appeared and no explanation for the light was apparent. Once he had mastered himself, Fred stepped back into the alcove and looked up. Light poured down from several glowing white stones set into the tile that made up the alcove. Fred could find no explanation for it save that some forgotten craft of the Numenoreans who built this house lived past the lives of its makers. Legends spoke of the arcane knowledge of the sea bourne Edain. Looking up through the glass roof far overhead, Fred could see that the day was waning fast. Darkness would descend outside and Fred found some small comfort in the Numenorean magic.
Continuing his quest, Fred continued down the hallway, checking alcoves and doors as he came to them. Forty feet into his journey, Fred came up to a door on his right and, checking it for traps and to see if it was locked, it wasn't, he carefully opened it. Inside was the ruins of a bedroom, once richly adorned, now lying in rot and ruin. Seeing the remains of a bed, Fred crept closer, the prospect of discovery overcoming his normally guarded caution. The light from the open doorway didn't properly illuminate the room so Fred had a hard time seeing what the lumpy thing propped onto the shredded bed was, until it moved. A rotten hand attached to a rotten arm, more grey than white, reached out to touch him. Shrieking he ran toward the door to get out of the room but the door slammed shut in his face. Now cast in darkness, Fred could hear something getting out of its bed. Next, he could hear pitiless shuffling feet sliding on the wooden floor as the something approached the door.

Kal opened the door that he had unlocked with his magic, and Eoras stepped through, his torch blazing through the cobwebs that cluttered the other side. Kal, clutching the sleeping son of Lord Tarma, followed, his jostling body lulling the baby to sleep while leading on his rope, the goblin, Pric, who walked quietly, save for chattering teeth. Together, Eoras and Kal surveyed the room, as far as their torchlight would illuminate and then, together, they walked forward, as much as to keep warm as to explore. Great flagstones made up the flooring, set with white mortar so expertly applied that neither man nor half-elf could detect anything except a total smoothness. It was obvious though that the room sloped downward at a gentle angle. Ahead of them was only darkness and more casks as the room seemed to carry them on forever.
Eoras had stopped by one of the smaller casks, thumping gently on its side. "You know," he said turning to Kal, "I think there's something inside here still. It would be wondrous, would it not, if grog or spirits could be found to warm our bones tonight."
Kal doubtfully nodded. "It would be a welcome surprise. It would bring us better morale, but would you trust anything from this house?"
Eoras shrugged. "We could but sample it and see. I remember the bard's journal speaking of one of his party drinking some of the spirits here."
Stepping back, Eoras gave one of the smaller barrels a broad taste of his sword. The blade had little effect on the stout oak, so Eoras swung again, and again, and again until chips of wood fell to the floor and Eoras found that he had made enough of a dent to use his sword to pry some of the faceboards loose. Thick red liquid poured from the barrel, but its pungent odor told Eoras that it was not wine that he had released.
"Blood!" Kal grimaced, trying not to think of how it had made its way into a barrel he had hoped was destined for wine.
Both were so shocked at their discovery that neither noticed that Pric had bent down and was lapping at the pooling liquid as it poured out onto the floor.
"Get away from there!" Eoras gave Pric a disgusted kick and sent the goblin scurrying as far as Kal's rope would allow, whining and holding onto his injured side. Both Kal and Eoras, noting that the blood had pooled along their feet before running down the slope of the floor, leaving a vast reeking red trail.
Eoras, still grasping his sword, and Kal followed the trail of blood as the room gently led them downward. To either side could be seen huge casks, stoppered with wax at their bottoms. Eoras would not even entertain the idea of examining Their contents. Walking onward until Kal had counted more than seventy paces, they finally neared the end of the room. When they stopped walking they noticed that as they had gone deeper, so had the cold. Near the end, great blocks of ice lay strewn about. Suspended on hooks above the blocks were the naked bits of human corpses, sundered apart and hanging as if ready to be brought down when needed to prepare a ghastly meal. Revealed thus in the torch light, Kal could not control himself and heaved his last meal onto the ice.
"By Eru!" Eoras gasped, looking at the evidence of carnage above him.
Pric looked also, smacking his lips. Eoras, hearing the goblin, ran at Pric, intent upon taking his rage out on the one foe he could bring his sword to bite upon.
Kal, wiping his mouth, interceded and pushing on Eoras' chest, said, "Look!"
With a sense of horror, Eoras turned around, his torch illuminating the rendered bodies. Except now, arms attached to nothing flexed dead muscles and their hands clutched at the air, while legs kicked and torsos writhed in visceral agony.
"It must be getting dark," Kal realized aloud.
As if this were not enough, to their left they could hear a scrapping sound and the loud creak of unoiled metal sliding over the same. Casting their torchlight over to that side, Eoras and Kal watched and listened. Heavy footfalls could be heard thumping as if on wood, as if from inside one of the great casks. Then the feet trod on stone. Walking brazenly into their torchlight came an armoured giant. Eoras held his sword ready, until he realized it was Ranciryon.

Ranciryon peered into the darkness past the grated opening in the door, but aside from a vague odor that suggested dark half said things to his mind, he could make nothing out. Something in the utter silence of that room repelled him. It was not a natural silence, but rather a pregnant silence, as of things unseen, but still there just the same. Knowing somehow that nothing living awaited in that room, Ranciryon made his way down the hall until it dead ended in a stout door. Trying it, he found it unlocked and opening it, he thrust his torch inside. The air inside was still and dead, as if undisturbed for decades at least. Heavy dust lay everywhere but the thing that struck Ranciryon most about the empty room was its shape. It's walls curved upward, meeting above him as if he were inside a vast cylinder, that was capped at the end by a circle made of horizontal boards which, with the wall through which Ranciryon had entered, gave the room its only flat sides. It was like he was inside of a huge, hollow log, made of boards. However, to his left were several short thick boards set into the wall in a horizontal fashion, spaced a few inches above each other running from the height of Ranciryon's head to almost the floor. The knight thought that they were perhaps rungs in a ladder, but to where? Also, that idea did not pan out as the angle of the boards did not allow easy purchase for their pitch was downward such that only strong hands could have grasped them. Nonetheless, as the only things inside this strange room, they caught Ranciryon's attention and he examined them carefully. It was then that he noticed hinges at the bottom of the boards, and a seam outlining the jutting boards as if they marked a doorway. Ranciryon pushed outward and the boards gave way slightly with a squeal of swollen wood not recently moved. Dust dropped down onto his head from above. Using more of his strength, Ranciryon pushed until the door gave way and the top dropped down before him, the unoiled hinges at the bottom squeaking all the way. Walking down the steps, Ranciryon entered a room of bitter coldness but instead of darkness, he could see to his side the glare of two torches. Drawing his sword, he advanced, his eyes trying to adjust to the light. As he stepped off the ladder, it swung up back behind him, disappearing into the side of a huge oaken cask. He was in a cellar of some sort.

"Who goes there! Answer unless you wish to taste Numenorean steel!" Ranciryon yelled aloud.
"Hold there!" Eoras yelled back. "How do we know you're not dead!"
"Eoras!" Ranciryon yelled back, delighted. "What do you mean Dead!? Of all the things that I have encountered in this place, I am the last that fits that description!"
"Well, stand forth and be recognized," Eoras warily yelled back.
Ranciryon stepped forth into the torchlight. He saw only Eoras and the half-elf Kal, holding onto the babe and the tethered goblin, Pric. The others in the party were nowhere to be seen. Were they all dead? he wondered.
"Well, he looks alive," Kal remarked.
Eoras laughed and suddenly he and Ranciryon each stepped forward, clapping each other on the back. Kal also stepped forward, dragging the goblin, and greeted the knight.
"I am glad to see you, Ranciryon," he told the Numenorean. "When I last saw you, I feared the worst."
Ranciryon didn't answer him, but instead his eyes turned to the end of the room, where above great blocks of ice hung various rendered parts of human bodies, displayed as if in a meat locker. As if that weren't horrible enough, each part was impossibly animated and each squirmed on its hook, seeking release or what, Ranciryon could not tell.
Seeing where his eyes led, Kal reluctantly looked also, commenting, "It is growing dark. The vile evil of this place awakens."
Realizing that Eoras and Kal were all that were evident of the party, Ranciryon turned back to them, his eyes wide with alarm. "Tell me that that human wreckage which tortuously moves is not what is left of our other companions!"
Eoras and Kal each turned to the other. Who would answer?

x.p. award -

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