Monthly Archives November 2017

Down among the dead men

My companions were feeling somewhat fragile after the fight, so we decided to have a rest soon.  Resting in the chamber with the well seemed ill-advised though, as people might come down wanting some water, so we decided to look and see if we could find somewhere off the beaten track.  We threw the bodies down the well and I performed mighty feats of magic to get rid of the most egregious blood stains.  Obviously anyone coming in might be confused by the lack of the normal denizens of the chamber, but hopefully our intrusion would not be the obvious first explanation that would come to their minds.

Looking for a place to rest, we listened at and then opened the northern door.  Beyond was a short corridor with a crossroads, ending in a bronze door (no signs of rot).  We advanced to the cross-roads, and seeing nothing of interest down either branch, decided to have a short breather here.  After our rest, we advanced to the bronze door and entered the chamber beyond.  This proved to be a vast crypt, with decaying bodies propped in niches around the wall and a huge tomb at the eastern end.  As we entered the room, six of the corpses shuffled forward and attacked us, but were swiftly dispatched.  Having finished them off, we advanced on the tomb and were surprised to read the inscription on it, which announced that this was the tomb of Samular Caradoon.  We had always just assumed that he would be buried at Summit Hall.  Close investigation showed us that the lid had been recently moved, so we decided to open it up ourselves, heedless of the obvious possibilities that opening long-sealed tombs hold.  Obviously this one wasn’t long sealed, given it had been recently opened, but possibly that just increases the risks.  Anyway, heedless, as I said, of the obvious risks, and trusting in our own valour, we opened the tomb to find, not some undead monstrosity, or even the ancient corpse of Samular, but instead a much more recently dead knight of the Order of Samular.  This sparked a recollection in my mind, and I remembered that the delegation that we were trying to find had been escorting the body of a knight of the Order of Samular – obviously this was the self-same corpse.

We, however, had no wish to encumber ourselves with a corpse for the exploration of the rest of the monastery, so opted to leave him there while we continued to explore.  There was another bronze door on the south door, but this proved as impossible to open as the one on the floor above, and a brief fiddling with the maps showed that indeed they seemed to be in line with each other – possibly they opened into a staircase that connected one with the other.  I was still unwilling to risk one of the Knock spells from the scroll we had been given, since there was a good chance it it might fail and I wanted to retain at least one of them to transcribe into by spellbook at some time in the future.  For that reason we instead left through the door on the western wall.  This opened into another shortish corridor, which ended in an iron door.  We listened at this, and heard something beyond, so cautiously opened the door.

The chamber beyond was a large cavern with a floor partially of red earth.  The western end was barred off as a cell, with a stout iron door giving access through the bars, and a door on the far side.  Within the cage, fortunately, there was a hideous monster looking like a cross between an ape and a beetle, and with four eyes, one pair of which had been gouged out.  This creature started howling and crashing at the bars as it tried to get to us.  It was making a lot of noise, so we decided not to linger.  Before we left though, I sent Blinky up the broad set of steps to the south.  She reported that these led up into a large temple.

After this, we went back through the crypt and wandered through a maze of corridors which led around the original room with the well.  There were many branches and dead-ends – most of which showed evidence of recent working – it looked like the earth cultists were excavating the basement actively.  Finally we found three rooms that were filled with prisoners, who told us that they had been captured by the earth cult and set to work excavating for the earth cultists.  Among their number (seventeen it turned out) was a dwarf who introduced himself as Bruldenthar.  I remembered this name as being that of one of the emissaries from the north – a dwarven sage.  He confirmed that he was and proceeded to tell us much of the fate of the delegation (which I had initially failed to recall due to the many adventures I had partaken in recently, but then recalled as he mentioned them) – they were attacked by earth cultists and most guards were killed.  Some river pirates ferried them over the Dessarin river and were paid with his books. Later, the air cult attacked and stole away one of the prisoners.  He was put to work in the mines, and his other two companions had been taken down below to the ancient dwarven city of Tyar-Besil.  He also warned us that there were grey dwarves around who helped the cultists. He was relieved when I told him that we had recovered his books for him, and indeed had mercilessly slaughtered the river pirates and the air cult..

Having liberated the prisoners, we took them through the well-room and into the crypt, thinking of this as being the safest room in the complex, despite its macabre inhabitants (and although the earth cultists had obviously been there in order to place the dead knight).  At this point, it seemed likely to us that behind the unopenable doors probably lurked Samular’s brother Renwick Caradoon, who we had been told had transformed himself into a lich rather than die.  It would seem likely that he had retreated to the most decrepit part of the monastery and sealed himself in with Arcane Locks.  I used one of the Knock spells on the scroll to open the door, which it did.  We advanced up the stairs beyond.  Sat in a large laboratory at the top of the stairs was an ancient and desiccated corpse, whose eyes glowed with a keen blue light.  The sight was eerie and terrifying, but foreknowledge and expectation allowed us to master our fear.  Renwick was initially brusque and ordered us out, but I begged him to forgive our intrusion and mentioned our visit to the Knights of Samular at Summit Hall. This reminded him of his love for his brother and he forgot about compelling us to leave.  I established that he disliked the earth cultists occupying his monastery and had created a border with them that they did not dare cross, but would also be happy if they were removed.  He offered us a few ‘magical trinkets’, as he put it, if we would remove them, and also revealed that there was a stairway down to Tyar-Besil in the north-west corner of the basement – it seemed likely that this might be behind the door behind the monstrosity in the earth chamber. He did warn us that we might find the Earth Temple to be something of a challenge… With that he dismissed us and we promised to not disturb him again.  Relieved to have survived the encounter with so mighty and terrifying an interlocutor, we returned to the crypt to plan our next moves.

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We didn’t do that well

The next morning the elves arrived, late as usual.  We regaled them with more tales of our heroics the night before, and then departed on Cult Air back to Red Larch.  At Red Larch, Thorg toddled off to see if his new armour was finished, while the three elfesses drifted off to go and receive the accolades of the Emerald Enclave and Order of the Gauntlet.  I stayed in the bar of the Swinging Sword with Blinky, quaffing (and by Helm that owl can drink) and flirting with the barmaid.  The last laugh was on me though, as the three witches sashayed in thirty minutes later having received effusive but inedible thanks and a scroll with some spells on it that none of them could use (I’m guessing that no one in the Enclave or Order could use them either which is why it got palmed off on Huey, Dewey and Louie).  I had a quick look at it and instantly saw that it contained two castings of the Knock incantation, which isn’t one that I have in my spellbook yet, so offered to swap it for Reszur, the dagger of silence that we found in the catacombs under Red Larch a couple of weeks ago.  Arielle accepted on their behalf and pocketed the knife – I reckon I could probably have got it for less, but, hey, I’m feeling generous at the moment.  Soon after, a loud clanking noise heralded the appearance of Thorg.  He certainly looks better protected now, just not very quiet.

After a hard evening bringing the locals up to date with all our latest heroics, we rose relatively early and departed, initially for Womford where we picked up Therel and Theodorm.  The plan was that we would land some distance from the Sacred Stone Monastery and leave the hippogriffs hidden somewhere (maybe in a copse or cave) under their care.  We flew back to the Sumber Hills and put the first part of the plan, landing, into place.

The Sacred Stone Monastery turned out to be at the end of a long narrow defile in the hills, which opened into a natural amphitheatre ringed with cliffs.  The monastery stood in the centre, squat and ancient.  We circled round in the shadows at the base of the cliffs.  There was a garden at the rear, and one wing, next to it, looked dilapidated.  We decided that this was an obvious point of entry into the complex, as we would be less likely to be heard if it was deserted.  We snuck up to the garden gate and looked through the bars – the garden beyond looked overgown, and contained seven very lifelike statues, some caught in positions of fear and terror.  It seemed an unlikely subject for fine art, and a cult dedicated to stone seemed like the sort of people who might keep a basilisk for fun, so we decided not to investigate further.

Fortunately for us, there was another door to the east wing, on the far (southern) side from the garden.  It was not overlooked, so we were able to creep up to it unobserved as far as we were aware.  The door was locked, but I rapidly opened it.  The corridor beyond was dusty and unused, turning to the left thirty feet ahead.  A door to our immediate left revealed the sound of chanting when we listened at it, so we ignored it.  A door on the far wall of the corridor where it turned proved to be locked or barred, and with no keyhole on this side, so we ignored it.  Beyond the corner, the corridor entered an open area where four corridors joined.  Another door on our left also revealed the sound of chanting, so was also ignored.  A door to our right was unlocked, and opened carefully, to reveal a large room with several stills being warmed by large fires.  Two cultists were tending the fires, and did not see us open the door, so we closed it quietly and moved on.  The next door we chose was locked, and we were unable to open it.  The one next to it showed some stairs descending, which we took.  A landing ten feet down had some water buckets on it.  The stairs turned back on themselves and continued down, ending in a door.  We listened and heard some guttural grunting, but opened it anyway.

The room beyond contained a well, presumably the water supply for the monastery.  Several other doors opened into it, and in the centre, around the well, stood three orogs and an ogre.  One of the orogs asked for the pass sign.  None of us knew it, so Thorg, never one for complex negotiations, just charged in.  They proved to be tough and doughty opponents, and we were definitely rusty in the fighting department after several nights on the town, but Thorg was mighty with his (well, Thurl’s) greatsword, dispatching the ogre with a flurry of mighty blows, and I was dealing firebolts left, right and centre.  Before long, we stood victorious, if slightly bloody, on the field of battle — this is as much of this rubbish as I can take.  Blinky here, just to provide some objectivity in this account.  I have been summoned from the feywild by some pretty sad specimens in the past, but this lot take the biscuit.  Erky fired off about six firebolts and hit once I think.  I’ve met cuttlefish with more magical aptitude than he has.  And Thorg was lucky not to take Sorrel’s head off, some of his swings were so wild.  And the elves weren’t much better.  I’ve seen pixies that were more effective in combat.  Feyabelle might as well have been firing her arrows backwards for all the effect some of them had.  That said, when they did hit, they were pretty nasty.  And why is Sorrel fighting with a cricket stump?  Surely a battleaxe would fit the barbarian stereotype much better?  A truely sad, sad displa…  — right, that’s got that feather duster of an owl back in her cage.  As I was saying, I was truly heroic in the fight, and before long they all lay dead at our feet.  A rest is called for though, to lick our wounds, once we have checked what lies behind the doors.

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a Short-Chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre miracle

Our rest after the first attack was brief, but allowed us to tend to the wounded and get them into the farm house to rest.  Two of the three steaders with bows in Feyabelle’s group on the roof of the barn were wounded, so we moved one of the steaders on the roof of the forge across to help her out.

The next wave attacked in a similar manner, but with six orcs in each of the four groups.  This time, we started shooting at long range, and this time the two groups attacking from the west side didn’t even make it to javelin range before taking enough casualties to break off their attack and flee.  We switched our concentration of fire to the two groups attacking from the direction of the ridge.  Having concentrated on the other two, these groups did make it into javelin range, and a javelin killed one of the homesteaders on the roof of the barn – our first casualty of the encounter.  Another round of shooting, aided by some potent firebolts from me, broke the morale of both groups though, and they ran for the ridge.  We continued our fire as they fled though, and only one of the twelve in those two groups made it back to the ridge.

The two large orcs were still visible on the ridge and so, when another attack was not forthcoming, we had a short rest and sent Blinky to have a look and see what they were doing.  She reported that some of the orcs were resting, while others were piling branches, twigs and grass into heaps along the ridgeline under the direction of the two large orcs.  One of the large orcs only had one eye, which identified him as a devotee of Gruumsh, the orcish war god.  That might make him a potent opponent.  Blinky could only see around eleven orcs in addition to the two large ones though, which was good news.

We guessed that they might be going to use the piles as bonfires to generate a smoke screen, as the wind was blowing from that direction, and we were proved right about an hour and a half later.   The sun was setting in the west behind us, and this made it difficult for us to see far in the smoke that started filling our position, while probably silhouetting us against the sunset.  As the smoke closed down our vision, I leapt on my hippogriff and flew over towards the ridge.  It was unoccupied, so the attack had obviously started.  I landed and started to try and kick apart the fires and put them out with a combination of stamping and prestidigitation, while keeping a ear open for sounds of fighting from the farmstead.  For this reason, for the account of the fighting at the farmstead, I only have the testimony of my companions to rely on, which is obviously less reliable than my own keen memory.

Over at the farmstead, shapes suddenly loomed out of the smoke at close range.  Our shooting was sporadic and ineffectual in the smoke.  On the left flank, a great orc strode forward and brandished his fist in the direction of Thorg and the farmsteaders holding that rampart.  A spectral ram leapt from his fist and tore a great gap in the rampart.  Six of his orcish minions leapt forward past him for the gap, but Sorrel used her nature magic to cause thorns to erupt from the ground in a circle around the great orc.  Four of the orcs died as the great thorns torn their legs apart, and only two reached the remains of the palisade, where one was killed by Thorg.  The orc brandished his fist again and another spectral ram battered Thorg, flinging him backwards.  As he clambered to his feet and prepared to charge the orc, Sorrel outlined the great orc in a halo of light and a final volley of arrows from the scouts on the roof of the house (who had been sniping at him during the fight so far through the smoke) felled him where he stood.  The orc on that flank was swiftly dispatched by the spear-armed farmsteaders manning the barricade.

On the other flank, five orcs rushed the barricade.  Drina the druidess used her nature magic to cause entwining tendrils to erupt from the ground in front of the barricade, but only one of the orcs was restrained by them.  In their initial attack, the orcs killed all three of the farmsteaders manning the barricade, leaving only Erned and Allyria to hold that flank.  They dispatched two of the orcs in return however.  The one-eyed orc was also on that flank but did not advance, instead flinging some kind of spell at Feyabelle. It failed to affect her, and she shot him with an arrow in return.  The two dwarves manning the western barricade rushed across to help Erned, leaping over the barricade in their enthusiasm to get to grips with the orcs.  Between them, and Allyria and Erned, they killed the remaining orcs.  The Eye of Gruumsh however attacked Feyabelle with a huge spirit-axe, but despite the damage from that, she was able to fell him with a final volley of arrows.

Thus ended the seige of Dellmon Ranch.  We found a magical ring on each of the great orcs – one a Ring of the Ram (the effects of which we had already observed), and the other a Ring of Protection.  The farmsteaders offered us 25 gold pieces each for defending them, but having seen the devastation wrought on their homes and lives (and indeed the lives lost, although we had kept that to only four of them, which was not a bad exchange for forty-two orcs slain) we refused their money and suggested that they needed it more than we did to rebuild their lives.

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Feeling under attack

Having spent the night at Summit Hall, we departed on wing early in the morning, taking a packed breakfast with us.  After a couple of hours of flight, but too soon to have reached Dellmon Ranch by my reckoning, we saw a column of smoke rising from behind the next ridge.  Cautiously, I sent Blinky forward to have a look.  He returned and said that a farmstead was on fire up ahead, but with no signs of any raiders.  We moved up and landed a distance away as the hippogriffs were somewhat spooked by the flames.  Thorg barged through the open door of the burning stead itself, and found an unconscious half-elf with a head wound.  He carried him out, and as he did so, the half-elf stirred and muttered something about his wife.  Thorg did a rapid search of the blazing stead and the outbuildings and I sent Blinky to check the nearby area, but we found no other people of any race.  By now the victim had recovered somewhat, and told us that his name was Selwyn and that orcs had attacked the stead and seized his wife and two farmhands.  Blinky confirmed that there were obvious tracks of a wagon of some sort leading away to the north-east – in the direction of Dellmon Ranch.  Feyabelle rapidly set to following the tracks on foot, while we took to our steeds again and proceeded on wing, but flying low and well behind Feyabelle.  I sent Blinky out to scout well ahead, with orders to return if he saw anything.  He soon returned and reported that there was a wagon up ahead by a stand of trees, with two humans slumped against it and four orcs resting nearby.  I used a messaging incantation to relay this information to Feyabelle, and she snuck into a firing position over looking them.  We coordinated our attack so that as she let loose with her first volley, we swooped in and attacked at the same time.  The firefight was brief – Feyabelle’s arrows and my firebolts rapidly finishing them off.  We landed and released the captives, and then proceeded towards Dellmon Ranch at Selwyn’s request, as that was where all the local population were gathering having heard news that orcs were raiding nearby.  Thorg bared his shoulders and pulled the wagon alone the last couple of miles to Dellmon Ranch, making it look like he was just carrying a picnic basket.

Arriving at Dellmon, we saw much hustle and bustle as they prepared for the expected attack.  They had built earthen ramparts to connect the three buildings, and archery platforms on the roofs of the buildings.  Here we also found Ermon from Summit Hall, organising the defenders, who welcomed our arrival and asked us to help directing the defense.  Feyabelle confirmed that she could smell that there were many orcs nearby to the north-east, and closing rapidly, so we quickly prepared to be attacked.  I ascended to the firing platform on the main house, with four scouts armed with long-bows.  Feyabelle took the firing platform on the barn, with three commoners armed with shortbows.  Three more commoners with shortbows took the firing platform on top of the forge.  In the centre, Thorg and Ermon took the northern rampart, supported by Sorrel and [someone] (a fellow druidess), Arielle, and six commoners armed with spears, who made up in courage for what they lacked in skill.  The western rampart was taken by [Father] with four of his hearthguard, while the southern rampart was taken by [son] with the remaining three hearthguard.

The orc attack when it came was sudden and fast, but small.  There were only twenty of them, in four groups of five, and they attacked from all four directions at the same time.  We concentrated our fire from the roofs on the western and southern groups, and felled almost all of them.  Sorrel, Thorg and Ermon killed a few of the northern and eastern groups, and we wounded more as they withdrew.  They never closed to hand to hand combat, but rather just threw a single volley of javelins at us.  Several of us were wounded, but none severely or killed.  In contrast, fully eleven of the twenty lay dead when they pulled back, and they others had many wounds.  But they pulled back rather than fled – Feyabelle confirmed that there were many more, and we saw two much larger orcs on the ridge observing the attack – it was obvious that they were just probing our defenses and seeing how strong or weak we were, or whether we had any weak points.  I am sure that we have not seen the last of them by any means, but at the moment we are catching our breath and binding our wounds.

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All aboard

We descended through the tower, heading for Thurl’s apartment in order to rifle through his possessions with more thoroughness.  We were disappointed, and to an extent bemused, to find that Sorrel the rat had indeed successfully extracted all the interesting items from his correspondence.  There was an amount of treasure there that we thoughtfully pocketed, but no additional magical items beyond his greatsword (already pocketed, if that is the word, by Thorg).

Continuing down the tower, we headed for the bunkroom where we had espied the emaciated men who we had now been informed were members of the Howling Hatred.  It was unaccountably empty, although possibly we should have expected that at mid-morning.  Refusing to be derailed from our purpose, we tried the kitchen and found five them sampling the steam once again.  We called upon them to surrender, but they eschewed our offer and hurled themselves upon us with, well, howling hatred.  I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised by that.  We made pretty short work of them, but as we were checking the area for more loot, a previously unnoticed door from the solarium was opened.  A figure appeared, and the next thing I knew I was bowled from my feet and severely injured by a wall of sound and fury.  Fortunately, some of the others were more fortunate, being protected from the brunt of the blast by kitchenware and were able to keep their feet.  Thorg leapt forward with his battlecry of ‘I am Thorg’ and with the aid of Arielle and Feyabelle, was able to rapidly dispatch the sorcerer.

A check of the rest of the level showed that we were now alone, so we continued down into the stables.  Here we were able once again to persuade the hippogriffs to accept up by donning the black-feathered cloaks.  Theodorm and Therel looked askance at the mounts, and offered to return on foot to Womford and keep the River Maid once again safe for us against any future need of it we might have.  We therefore paid them a handsome bonus for their trouble in having been kidnapped, and some weeks salary in advance, and then saddled up with our two captives and the rescued shepherd and returned to Red Larch.

We landed in Red Larch to some consternation and also considerable excitement.  Enderath pointed out to me that wearing air cultist cloaks and riding air cultist mounts might in some way lead people to jump to the conclusion that we were air cultists, and suggested that we should exercise some level of discretion in the future.  I agreed that it was a point that we should take under consideration.  Enderath was pleased with the recovery of the books from the River Maid, and paid me a good sum for them.  Indeed I now have so much gold that I can scarce spend it in a village like Red Larch, although the hippogriffs are costing a goodly sum to feed each day, a sum which I am only able to partially offset by the charging of a few coppers for locals and travellers to see them.  It is tempting, having made my fortune, to return to Waterdeep, but I suspect my patrons in the Harpers might view such a return askance and make life harder for me than I would like.  Also, it would please Feyabelle immensely I think to see me departed, and it pleases me most to not please Feyabelle.  Therefore I have made a further study of the arcane books that I have found and have decided that I shall follow the inclination of my race and delve into the magics of Illusion, as they come most easily to me, and I have no desire to make things unnecessarily hard for myself.

Speaking of my companions, and unnecessary hardship, it seems that they have their own agents in the town, for they have returned with tales of woe and inequity that must be remedied.  Arielle has found the location of the Sacred Stone monastery, and also information that it is linked in some manner with the Knights of Samular who reside at Summit Hall, and who apparently are worthy of trust in all matters.  Thorg was apparently at the same meeting but was characteristically un-forthcoming as to what was discussed.  Sorrell and Feyabelle have returned with tales of an ancient dwarven city under the Sumber Hills called Tyar-Besil (Thorg nodded taciturnly at this point), and also the suggestion that having found cults of air, earth and water, we should expect one of fire somewhere.  They also returned with news of a more urgent errand; a delegation of wood elves who are besiged by orcs at a place called Dellmon Ranch, and require rescue.  I would comment that I am not a boy to be sent on errands, but I have an affinity with the wood elves from my youth and so am always willing to help them (I think the only reason I tolerate Feyabelle).

Given that Summit Hall is on the way to Dellmon Rach, we fly there initially.  There we meet Lady Ushienne Stormlianner, who commands the Order of Samullar, an order of knights dedicated to Tyr.  It seems, in the course of a long exposition, that the Sacred Stone Monastery was founded by his brother Renwick, who, despite being a good paladin of Tyr, ended up descending to lichedom in order to save himself from death on the battlefield.  The Sacred Stone Monastery is no longer in the hands of those loyal to Renwick or the Order of Samullar, and they therefore charge us to determine that his tomb remains undefiled.  They have a more immediate need for us however, for one of their number, Erned Stoutblade, but recently departed for Dellmon Ranch in order to investigate reports of marauding orcs, and now finds himself besieged there by the self same orcs.  I recognise a direction from the gods as well as the next gnome, and resign myself that Dellmon is our next destination (Sorrell and Feyabelle had left me in little doubt of that anyway).

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