Age of Worms.
Chapter #1: Heroes are Made, not Born.
With their quest given to them by the mayour of Diamond Lake, the potential heroes hook up a wagon to an ox and depart the town, heading north into the barrow hills. They pass the mines that support the town and soon pass through a region of ancient burial mounds and tombs from a bygone and forgotten age. Although the party has no tracker, it's easy to follow the passage of the ogre even after a couple days.
The trampled grass and wagon tracks leads them deep into the hills to the site of a vast mound, which fate and the environment seem to have eroded into the form of an immense skull. Where the mouth of the "skull" would be is a worn passage leading into the dark interior. T'Lak scouts ahead and checks the entrance. With his enhanced senses the thri'kreen can detect an opening a short ways in and a musty animal smell mixed with something unpleasent. The others meanwhile hear the bleating of sheep down the side of the mound. When T'Lak returns with news of the interior, the party decides to split up and see what lies behind the mound. Urkhan and Atmos go down the right, while the others head down the left side. Towards the end of the mound which is immense, they encounter a handful of sheep grazing on the side of the hill and the open ground behind it. T'Lak is the most observant and see's what could be a hunched or seated figure wearing a helm sat atop the mound. Sneaking closer, the chinking of their armour gives them away and the figure leaps to its feet and starts running back towards the entrance via the top of the mound. Urkhan and T'Lak clamber up the mound to give chase, while the others run back at ground level towards the entrance. The figure, a hobgoblin, reaches the entrance first, jumping down from the mound and vanishing into the darkness. The others stop for a moment to light a torch, while Merkane holds, before giving chase.
They ignore two side passages as they give chase through the dark after the hobgoblin. They catch up with it just as it frees a mangy-looking wolf from it's chains. Urkhan blocks the hobgoblin's escape down another passage while the others deal with the wolf. The wolf fails to bite through their armours, before falling to sword and spell. The hobgoblin, Gurt, surrenders before they turn on him. During questioning Gurt points them down the passage to where his master the ogre, Blogg, lives. Gurt, however, knows nothing of any captured townsfolk. While the others question the hobgoblin, Atmos and Merkane return back to check out the two passages they missed. The one nearest the entrance is a pen for the sheep and the other is Gurt's room. At first they find nothing of interest in here until Atmos digs around in the dirt and muck of Gurt's mushroom farm, and finds a small pouch of coins and a mushroom shaped chunk of amber.
Back with the interrogation, the party are convinced that Gurt hasn't lied to them, and debate what to do with him. T'Lak offers gurt a job back in Diamond Lake, which he cautiously agrees. The thri-kreen then pays him a gold coin to round up the sheep near the wagon out front. Gurt pockets the coin and departs. There is some talk about whether they can trust him, but the current quest is more important so they continue down the passage.
The tunnel they find themselves in forks ahead, and they see some light from round the right. Jalista slowly moves ahead to see if she can peer round the corner, but hits over a tripwire connected to a hidden trap! A section of wall falls free and releases several spiked logs which tumble down crushing the party. Most duck and cover, but T'Lak is badly hurt, and Merkane is driven unconcious. As the dust and noise clears they pause, but the noise does not seem to have alerted the ogre or anything else. Atmos reluctantly calls upon his dark master to heal the sorcerer, restoring Merkane to conciousness. There is sharp words exchanged and T'Lak starts to check for traps ahead of the others.
To the right the insectoid rogue finds a large room lit by torches, and spies the ogre face down in a bowl of stew, obviously drunk and sedated. He waves the others up and they spread out around the room in case the ogre should awake. Atmos is the one to strike the killing blow. He moves up behind the ogre and with a solid swing, severs the ogres head from its body. He collects the gravy soaked head as proof for the townsfolk of the giant's demise. They then search the room, find a hidden area with the various crates of food and ale that the ogre had swiped. T'lak also finds a secret door in the wall of the chamber, which he thinks sees a fair amount of use but which is too small for the ogre to have used. They open it up and find a tight passage leading away and down. Urkhan suggests that they check the other room first before investigating, if they even need to.
The other room is another store room for food and ale.A search reveals yet another secret door but this one shows no sign of use in years, so they ignore it for now.
The party heads outside to check on Gurt. The hobgoblin has rounded up the sheep and waits patiently for them. T'Lak and Merkane, decide to return to town to collect some healing scrolls from the temple of Heironeous there, while the other three wait behind and rest.
They return shortly before sunset bearing a half dozen cure light wounds scrolls for use later in the dungeon. One of these is used immediately to restore Merkane to full health. T'Lak tells Gurt to wait outside by the wagon but the hobgoblin refuses, saying that things leave the tombs in these hills and walk abroad by night, so they agree that he can stay in his old room.
The party returns to the secret door in the ogres room and enter the passage beyond. It does not run far and ends at a hole in the ground with a rickerty ladder leading down into it. They descend into a laboratory of sorts, which merkane identifies as being an alchemical lab. A search of the papers and journals finds a diary, which tells of wizards attempts to locate a fabled tome known as the Codex Ilyum, and to summon a demon named Frogroth to assist him. One of the most recent entries indicates that the mage is preparing to lay out a summoning circle to bring the demon to the mortal world from the Abyss!
Taking one of the passages out of the laboratory the party locate the two missing townsfolk locked inside a pair of cages. Urkhan, suspecting a trap, detects them for evil but finds none. T'Lak picks the locks and releases them. Since they now want to deal with this wizard before he summons a demon, they light up a fresh torch and give it to the townsfolk, directing them to head up and wait with the hobgoblin. With the townsfolk out of the way, they return to the laboratory to check out another exit.
The second passage leads them to a bedchamber, where they search for any treasure he may have. In order to claim the gems and diary, they have to fight past several animated books which leap into flight and attack the party, giving several nasty paper cuts before being destroyed. Atmos makes several bad puns about the situation but is met with unimpressed stares. The diary they locate speaks of another mage from twenty years ago who also attempted to summon the demon Frogroth in search of the fabled Codex Ilyum. The entries just end however, giving no clue as to the fate of the mage nor the book.
The last passage from the lab leads them down a lengthy corridor towards a set of mighty stone doors, from which they can hear a single male voice chanting. As they sneak down they fail to notice an alcove which contains a Shrieker fungus. The giant mushroom lets out an ear-splitting shriek before they cut it down. The chanting has stopped so they have been detected. Rainsing weapon and spell, they party push the two doors open and stride into the inner sanctum. A mage stands prepared to face them standing over a partially completed silver pentagram. The battle is short with the mage being torn apart by T'lak. A search finds a deep hole in the ground and a backpack containg spellbooks. They take some potions from the mage's, and an unusual ring which bears a symbol that they find disturbing.
With the mage dead, his plans for demon summoning thwarted, the party returns to the upper level of the dungeon with the intent of checking where the other secret passage goes. It opens into another lengthy passage that leads into the interior of the "skull" mound. After a fair walk they reach a wide cavern chamber where they fight off an attack by giant fire beetles. Merkane collects their eyes which glow in the dark, and could be used if they should lose the torches.
Two passages lead from here, and the first takes them to a room filled with small purple fungi. They not bones of bats and other vermin amongst the field of fungi. Across the room is a ledge, and possibly another passage. T'Lak leaps over the fungus patch and lands on the ledge. The passage is small and tight but he can just fit. At the end he finds a small chamber which contains the body of a dead, almost mummified half-elf. Using his grappling hook to snag the body, he pulls it out to him. Searching the body releases a pair of monstrous centipedes which climb out of the corpse's mouth. The thri-kreen leaps back with the body, dislodging the vermin in to the fungus patch. In the corpse's hands they find a silver holy symbol of Drendari, goddess of shadow. Also on it's remains they find a potion labeled Bull's Strength
The last passage out of the main cave has a hint of fresh air, leading them to believe that there is another exit from this place. Along the way they find a stone door of obvious dwarven design, but the runes have been disfaced and replaced with others. They are archaic Northland and identify the door as leading to the tomb of "Lord Tulwar." None of the party members know of the name. T'Lak opens the door and they find a stone tomb and a pair of weapons flanking it. Urkhan detects evil and senses something weak inside the tomb. They others are not sure what to do. If it's evil, perhaps they should leave it alone. Eventually however, Urkhan convinces them that it needs to be destroyed.
Together, T'Lak and Urkhan start to push on the stone lid of the tomb.
To be continued...