The West Wing
The East Wing
The ghostly characters were restored to corporeal form by the amber globe. The characters who were apparently dead were only in a comatose state, and were revived after a short while. Whilst in this state, they had vivid dreams of being in a strange land (Averoigne), and they awoke once the dream reached its conclusion. I actually used stories from Clark Ashton Smith for the dreams, though none of them relate to the encounters set in Averoigne later in the module. Lithanor’s dream was from The Maker of Gargoyles, Klaus dream was taken from The Disinterment of Venus and Mazaramus had a dream inspired by Mother of Toads. Klaus got enough experience to advance to 5th level.
The party was now aware of the other changes that had occurred to them after eating the various meals in the strange feast, the ESP ability and the bonus to saves vs poison, as well as the attribute shuffle caused by eating the tossed salad. They asked if the powers gained were permanent, to which I answered ‘until further notice’. In other words, these abilities will last only for the duration of the adventure (not permanently as stated in the module), but given that seven of the party would otherwise be dead or permanently ghost-like, I think this is a fair trade. As to the ability score shuffle, they didn’t fair too badly. The most notable changes were that Gandi the dwarf had his dexterity increased to 18, while Lithanor had his constitution increased to 18, and at this point actually has 3 hit points less than the dwarf! Oh, and these ability score changes are permanent.
At full strength and ready to venture on again, the party headed through the door at the eastern end of the mirrored hallway and entered…The Indoor Forest.
One thing I find slightly amusing about this module is that in the introduction section it breaks down the various sections of the mansion into distinct parts. Most of the sections are categorised as dungeon adventures, while the section set in Averoigne is a wilderness adventure. The Indoor Forest is categorised as a wilderness adventure, though to my mind technically it is still a dungeon, just in a big room with a lot of trees and a path.
Anyway, the party decided to heed the warning given to them by the rakasta and stay on the path. After about a hundred feet or so, they came across the ominous killer trees. Sneaky was invisible again (Mazaramus had cast it on her before resting to rememorize his spells) and snuck past the trees without any problem. The rest of the party were a bit apprehensive, and decided to slowly advance along the path between the trees. This was actually a good move, because it limited the number of trees that could attack the party. Nonetheless, Morgan and Bhakragh were grabbed by killer trees and pulled towards them. Gandi charged the tree that had grabbed Bhakragh, while most of the rest of the party used missile fire to whittle down the trees. Morgan hacked off the branch that had grabbed him, though Bhakragh was pulled to the mouth of the killer tree that had grabbed him, causing automatic damage. The tree was slain before it could inflict any more damage, with Gandi causing massive amounts of damage with his double hand axe attacks. The fighters in the party decided to switch to melee attacks and take on the trees at close quarters and risk the branch attacks. The trees were managing to grab party members but, more often than not, were slain before they could pull them towards their mouths for a bite attack. Within a few rounds, the party had slain all the killer trees on the side of the path, and though four party members had themselves been grabbed and bitten, the damage was relatively slight.
Sneaky (who had stayed out of the fighting and was still invisible) and Lithanor, noticed about a dozen more killer trees further off the path on either side. However, they were not advancing, and the party decided that it would be foolish to try and take them on.
Lithanor considered taking them out with missile fire, seeing as he had plenty of arrows and could just stay out of their reach. Yes, Lithanor has at this point 340 arrows in his quiver, believe it or not. In Basic/Expert, it has a footnote on the equipment tables that says that encumbrance of arrows and bolts are included in the encumbrance of the respective weapon, with no mention of how many arrows or bolts can reasonably be carried. One of the flaws of oversimplification in Basic/Expert compared to AD&D, but hey. I actually calculated that Lithanor would use, on average, 192 arrows to slay all of the other killer trees. I also pointed out that he wouldn’t get any XP for this. Turkey-shooting killer trees that can’t attack back is hardly a learning experience.
After using the staff of healing to heal the wounded characters, the party continued along the path. After a short while, the party saw shadowy forms some distance into the forest that seemed to be following them. The party continued on, choosing to deal with these forms if and when they revealed themselves, which they didn’t.
Shortly afterwards, the path split, with one path continuing eastwards while another wider path went south to a set of double doors on the edge of the indoor forest. Asleep in the middle of the path were a unicorn and a maiden with amber flesh, golden hair and yellow robes. Sneaky, who was still invisible, resisted the temptation to steal the chest that one of the maiden’s arms was draped over, and woke her up. The maiden was a bit bemused at first. She knew someone was there but couldn’t see who was speaking to her, and so concluded that the speaker was invisible. When the rest of the party caught up she was more willing to converse with the party properly.
The maiden introduced herself as Aurena. The party asked what she was doing in the middle of the path, to which she replied “sleeping, of course”. The party learnt from Aurena that they are not in France as they previously thought, but that the mansion was somehow suspended between their own world and the one in which this France place was located, in some kind of nether dimension. They mentioned the dreams that some of the party members had had whilst they were in a catatonic state. Aurena replied “Ooh! Dreams! Can I have a look at one?” Now it was the party’s turn to be bemused (“Look at our dreams?!”). Sneaky volunteered to share her dream and Aurena cast an ESP spell to view the memory of her dream. (Sneaky wasn’t one of the characters that had become catatonic, but had become ghost-like during the feast. When the amber bubble had descended, prior to reverting back to corporeal form, the ghostly characters had had a vision of being in some strange forest by a lake with the ruins of a castle nearby). Aurena told the party that the place she saw in the vision looked like somewhere in the province of Averoigne in France. It also turned out that Aurena was from Glantri, not Averoigne, but was a friend of Stephen d’Amberville and had been to Averoigne.
The party showed Aurena the mysterious key that the rakasta had given them. Aurena told the party that a similar key had been lost in the fountain at the centre of the indoor forest.
The party said farewell to Aurena and went south to investigate the double doors to the south. Opening the doors, the party could barely see a pillared balcony, similar to the one near the foyer where they entered the mansion, through the gray mist. Closing the double doors, they returned north, said farewell to Aurena (again) and headed eastwards along the forest path.
The path wound back around and the party found themselves at the eastern end of a bridge crossing a stream that meandered through the forest. On the bridge was a goat-headed creature who was conversing with a troll that was hiding underneath the bridge. The goat-headed creature told the troll that his brothers would be along any minute and they were larger than he was and would make a better meal, so the troll let him cross.
Sneaky decided to venture underneath the bridge from the nearest end (still invisible) but gave up on the idea when she saw a crocodile lurking in the stream nearby. Meanwhile, the troll challenged the party, and Mazaramus stepped up, saying that there was a caravan behind them that would make a far tastier meal than they would (nice try!). The troll then said “Nah! I’ve had enough of waiting. I’m going to eat you first, then this other lot for afters”. Sneaky had run across the bridge after returning to the path and got into position behind the troll, who had now climbed onto the bridge. The party charged the troll and did some considerable damage to it, though Sneaky whiffed her backstab. Morgan took a bit of damage from the trolls’ claw and bite attacks before the party finished it off. Rightly suspecting that trolls regenerated, they poured oil over the troll’s body and decapitated head and set light to it.
Continuing across the bridge and along the path, the party arrived at a fountain in the centre of the forest. Three gargoyles in the centre sprayed water from their mouths into the fountain. At the base of the gargoyles was a padlocked metal chest. The party kept their missile weapons trained on the gargoyles in case they animated (although most of their missile weapons were non-magical). After looking in the water itself and seeing that it apparently only contained mud, wet leaves and a few copper coins, Sneaky entered the fountain to examine the chest. As soon as she entered the fountain, the mud at the bottom of the water rose up and attacked her. Having taken some damage, Sneaky quickly got out of the fountain again, and the rest of the party rushed forward to attack what was now a giant transparent glob emerging from the water, made visible only by the patches of mud that were still clinging to it. One of the men-at-arms took a whack from the amorphous creature before Lithanor finally thrust his sword through what appeared to be its nucleus, slaying it. Mazaramus, who had an interest in fungi and therefore had some knowledge of more basic forms of biological life, was able to determine that the creature was a giant amoeba.
Sneaky once again went to examine the chest, remembering this time to check for traps (there weren’t any) before trying to pick the lock and failing. Gandi and Morgan helped Sneaky carry the heavy chest back to the path encircling the fountain, and Lithanor opened it with a knock spell. Inside the chest they found 3,000 gold pieces and another ornate silver key, this one embossed with the letter ‘A’. Sneaky tried to take the key, but found that she was unable to move her hand any closer than about six inches to it. Lithanor picked up the key without any problem. Sneaky asked for the key, but was still unable to grasp it. Then she remembered that she had the other key. It was apparent that the keys had to be carried separately. They even tried dangling the keys by a piece of rope and found that they repelled each other.
The party returned to Aurena to tell her that they had successfully recovered the key from the fountain. Aurena said that she was happy for them, but didn’t quite understand why the party returned to tell her of this. She agreed to look after their heavy chest of gold while they continued exploring the rest of the mansion.
Venturing on again, the party returned to the fountain and followed the path leading northwards from it. After a short while, the path
headed westwards then began to curl around to the east. At this point, the adventurers saw some amber-furred squirrels in the forest to their right. They were gathering acorns,which turned gold as soon as the squirrels touched them. Although, Sneaky was tempted to try to take some golden acorns, the rest of the party advised her not to. Aurena had previously warned the party that the normal animals in the forest were protected by Andre-David d’Amberville, and that it would not be a good idea to incur his wrath. In the end, Sneaky took a normal acorn and tried to tempt a squirrel to take it. The squirrel just gave her an angry look until she threw the acorn down. Only then did the squirrel take the acorn.
The party decided to carry on along the path, shortly afterwards reaching another intersection. The forest path continued eastwards, and a wider path led a short way north to some double doors. The party went to the double doors and, upon opening them, found that they led into what appeared to be a large chapel, barely illuminated by what little sunlight managed to permeate the fog and come in through the windows. They had just ventured inside when the amber bubble once again appeared around the party.
The party adventure continues in the next session - The Chapel.
The party adventure continues in the next session - The Chapel.