Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Story So Far III

The Story Continues…
6th day, Silvangate the 20th, 1845

Our heroes and Tursan found a place to make camp less than a mile distant from the structure of black stone. They set a watch so as not to be surprised by enemies. The night passed peacefully and those that were wounded benefited from Fionnula’s healing skills. The sound of the wind whistling through the rocks of the Broken Lands was all that the adventurers heard that night. The party woke late the next day (the 20th) and had some time to rest and eat as Fionnula and Svarnos acquired their spells for the day. Fionnula used Cure Light Wounds to heal Martijn of his wounds from the previous nights battle.

As they were studying their map of the dungeon and deciding their next move they noticed the wizard’s familiar cat all puffed up and staring at something outside their circle. They turned to see a tall man with long brown hair and a beard wearing a green cloak and brown leather armor watching them. The stranger’s sword was in his hand but he seemed to relax as they turned to him and he said that he was happy to see someone besides hobgoblins. The party questioned him and discovered that he was a ranger from Wychton named Eldan. He was sent by the guards of Wychton to discover what happened to the adventurers that went off into the Broken Lands. He followed their trail the previous night but was hindered by hobgoblins roaming the area. Eldan spent most of the night sneaking around the roving monsters and trying to keep to his quarries trail. He told them that the guards from Wychton had made a camp where the adventures had taken off from the road and that he would be willing to lead them there. The party had a small debate about whether to trust Eldan but Gjord had a good feeling about the ranger so they dropped the subject. They told Eldan all that had happened in their adventure and that they intended to go back and finish what they started. Eldan was asked to join them and did so willingly.

The group made its way back to the building of black stone. All was quiet and smoke still rose from the rents in the roof of the structure. They searched around the structure to find if there was another way in as they were afraid of being ambushed coming in the way they came before. They found nothing, so they sent Lono (the party’s perpetual scout) to the entrance to look in. Lono saw that the structure was empty of living goblins but the bonfire they saw before was now heaped with the bodies of dead ones! These were obviously the corpses of the monsters slain by our heroes. Lono reported what he saw and the group entered the structure and made their way to the trapdoor entrance. As they did Fionnula felt yet again that strange feeling of unease.

Lono began to open the door when they heard a loud metallic scraping sound echoing up the stairway. The hobgoblins had set a crude but effective alarm! They had nailed the end of a rope to the door so when it was opened the rope would drag an old battered mail shirt across the stone floor of the room below. The party knew that the hobgoblins were aware of them now. They slammed the door shut and retreated to the entrance of the building to surprise attack anything that emerged. They waited but no one came out, all was still. So our bold adventurers decided ambush or no ambush to storm in and leave it to luck and their skill in battle. They opened the trapdoor again, hauled up the mail shirt, and Lono threw a bottle of flaming oil down the steps to shatter on the floor of the room below. Gjord led the way as the party charged down the narrow stairs and through the flames of the burning oil.

The adventurers’ worst fears were realized as they were met with a formidable ambush. From a doorway to the left a small black robed goblin with skin as red as scorched flesh uttered an incantation — a Sleep spell! It swept over all the lead fighters and Martijn, Eldan, and Tursan all succumbed to its power. The sturdy dwarven fighter was unaffected however and met the hobgoblins that were coming from the right hand doorway. Fionnula ran to the door to the left to attack the spellcaster but the dastardly creature stepped back to let a hobgoblin warrior face her. In all there were seven hobgoblins and the goblin spellcaster (three at the right doorway and five on the left), one of them being a large ugly brute that seemed to be their leader. Svarnos yelled at Lono to begin slapping the sleeping warriors to awaken them. The confrontation was both heroic and vicious. Gjord took down all three hobgoblins on the right in a show of pure fighting skill. Fionnula held her own against her foes and killed the hobgoblin warrior until Martijn (awakened by Lono) got into the battle and single handedly felled the bestial hobgoblin captain. Svarnos shot a staggering Magic Missile at the goblin wizard but the angry goblin retaliated and knocked Svarnos out with a Magic Missile of his own. Fionnula moved back to revive the fallen Svarnos. The hobgoblins’ ambush had failed. Seeing their captain killed the black robed goblin fled and then the remaining two warriors took to their heels.

Lono, Gjord, and Eldan gave chase. Fionnula called for them to stop as she thought it unwise to chase them deeper into their lair but her words were unheeded. Martijn, agreed with her and Tursan held back as well. They followed the creatures and discovered that they had escaped out of the dungeon through a secret door in what appeared to be a kitchen. The secret door opened on a stairway that led to another secret trapdoor in the structure above. There was no sign of their enemies as they had fled into the Broken Lands.

The party regrouped in the entrance chamber and Fionnula was distraught and thought that they should leave the dungeon to rest after the horrific attack. She felt they were too weak to explore the dungeon anymore and scolded the ones who had chased the fleeing goblins for being foolish. She cursed fate for dealing them such a ruthless hand (on some planes of existence this “fate” is known as the Dungeon Master). Martijn was torn because he agreed with her yet his knightly nature was also urging him to go on. The cat watched this deliberation knowing that her masters fate hung in the balance. Gjord told her that he thought the ambush was the final effort of the hobgoblins and that they wouldn’t encounter anymore. Anyway, there was probably still a wizard trapped somewhere in the foul place. In a peculiar turn of events it was Lono that actually ended the debate. When asked what his opinion was he stated, “Look, I just want to explore.” And explore they did.

They searched the bodies of the fallen hobgoblins and found two keys tied to a leather string around the neck of the captain. They decided to start investigating the area through the right hand doorway as they had explored all of it before. Afterwards they would go through the left doorway into areas they did not venture into. They determined to leave the large iron doors with the stone blocking it alone. Everywhere they went, where they had been before, it was dark and silent.

In an unexplored area they found a room where the ceiling had collapsed long ago. On the back wall of this room was a bas-relief of the face of Adramelech. Searching, they found an old silver and copper cup and a half disintegrated old book amongst the rubble. When Lono tried to pick up the book it practically turned to dust in his hand except one page that stayed intact. It appeared to be the final page of an old diary, eighty years old to be exact. It was grim reading. Apparently it belonged to a worshipper of Adramelech and it related how he and his fellow clerics attempted to conduct a dark ritual to transform themselves into the most fearsome of undead creatures — liches. It told of how they brewed a foul potion of undeath and had to sacrifice an virginal elven maiden of noble blood to their demonic god on the night a the full moon during the Cycle of the Blood Moon. It seemed all was going according to plan when it was discovered that the elf maiden that they had captured was not of noble blood. The acolytes they sent to abduct her were driven out of the Silverwood, the forest home of the elves, by the ancient magic that protects it. In fear of returning empty handed they instead kidnapped a common elf-girl, daughter of a jeweler in Sulthe. They cut out her tongue so she could not reveal their lie and they brought her back as the “noble” elf maiden for sacrifice. So, the diary ended with the evil cleric lamenting the fact that they would be punished for having an unworthy sacrifice and the ritual would fail. They would not become liches but something else. The finding of this piece of parchment led to a lot of speculation amongst the party. Especially about what could lie beyond the iron doors.

The party went back to the small locked wood door that they did not enter on their previous foray in the dungeon. Lono easily picked the lock and inside they found what looked like a small bedchamber furnished with a straw pallet, brazier, a table and chair, and a small chest. Lono opened the locked chest and inside found two scroll cases (one of polished steel and one of bone), two books (Svarnos identified them as spellbooks; one had a grimy cover of improperly cured hide and the other had a fine leather cover), 2 potions (marked with parchment tags that said “healing” in goblin), a spell component pouch, three ink bottles and a quill, ten sheets of parchment, and a small pouch containing a small ruby, 120 gold pieces, and 108 silver pieces. The party took the treasure and continued exploring.

Around the corner and down a hall from the bedchamber there was a large set of wooden double doors that the party had not yet ventured into. The doors proved to be unlocked and the adventurers proceeded inside. Beyond the doors was an octagonal throne room with a crude stone throne set at the opposite side of the room. There was a large cold fireplace, old and torn tapestries, and two large tables on which it looked as if a gruesome feast had been held. Then the party caught sight of a wooden door propped up against the right wall with a man in tattered robes bound by his wrists to the top of it. The man appeared to be dead or unconscious and there were daggers stuck into the wood of the door around him. It appeared as if the foul goblins had been heartlessly torturing the man. The almost forgotten cat familiar that had been following the group all this time suddenly let out a loud meow and ran up to the bound figure. The adventurers approached and found the man to be still alive and he even began to stir when Gjord said the name “Vanen”. They had found the wizard! He had sandy blonde hair and a short beard and was wearing tattered blue robes. Gjord and Martijn lowered the door to the floor and cut the ropes binding the wizard. When Vanen saw his familiar he sighed and said her name “Mara”. The cat seemed overjoyed to have found her master again.

While Fionnula used her healing skills on Vanen the rest of the party explored the throne room. Behind one tapestry they found a door and Lono looking behind another tapestry effortlessly found a secret door in the wall behind it. They investigated the secret door and found a narrow rough tunnel behind it. This led to a blank stone wall with an obvious secret door built into it as well. Going through this they found that it led to the bedchamber they had entered earlier so they made their way back to the throne room.

They proceeded to the other door that they found and it was locked. Lono was about to pick it when Gjord remembered that they had keys that they took from the hobgoblin captain. One of the keys worked and past the door was a narrow passage that led to another bedchamber. This bedchamber appeared to be the leaders room as there were furs (once fine, now moldy and dirty) in a heap as a bed, a brazier, and a large chest. Before they attempted opening the chest Lono searched it for traps and found one. It appeared to be a poisoned needle trap that would shoot out into the hand of anyone attempting to pick or open the lock without knowing the way around the trap. They decided to try the other key. Gjord had an clever plan to turn the key using two pieces of cloth so no ones hand would be near the lock when the trap went off. It worked brilliantly, the lock turned and a long five-inch needle with a green viscous fluid on it thrust out from the lock. With the chest opened this is what they found; a fine masterwork bastard sword and scabbard with a gold hilt and a sapphire in its pommel, a large black iron key, six bottles of fine elven wine (Martijn recognized this as the wine that Garam the innkeeper in Wychton spoke of), a whetstone and weapon oil, a carnelian gem, 190 gold pieces, and 705 silver pieces.

Returning to the throne room they saw that Fionnula had revived Vanen and that he was now completely conscious. He was very grateful to the party and said that he thought that Mara the cat would never succeed in finding help. He apologized to Tursan for everything that had happened and Tursan only looked cheerless thinking about the friends he had lost.

After laying out all the treasure they found Fionnula cast Detect Magic upon it. They found only the potions and the polished metal scroll case to be magical. The scroll case proved to have a strong magic aura and the potions a moderate aura. Vanen said that the metal scroll case was the reason he was traveling to Berengel and that the leather bound spellbook they found was his as well. He said he did not know what was in the scroll case as he was only instructed by his mistress in Berengel to retrieve it from Vegraine the Wizard’s Isle (site of a mysterious school of wizardry). Svarnos cast Read Magic to read the spells in the hide book and Vanen’s book; he also read the scroll in the bone case and found it to be the 2nd level magic-user spell Pyrotechnics. They gave Vanen his spellbook and the metal case. Martijn insisted that Vanen take any of the treasure that they found that was his, Vanen refused saying that what they found was theirs he only would take a few rations to get to Berengel. Svarnos, in an uncommon act of altruism, told him that they would see that he got to Berengel safely. Vanen said if they could they would share their spellbooks when they got the chance.

And so, our intrepid heroes decided to leave the dungeon again and take Vanen back to the safety of the camp of the guards from Wychton. Mara walked proudly beside her master as she led them back to the camp. There were six guards there now including the nervous young man-at-arms that was left watching Martijn’s warhorse (which was very well taken care of). The guards greeted them warmly, glad to see them all alive, and knowing that they would get an interesting tale around the fire that day. Yet, in the back of the adventurer’s minds, there was an image of locked doors of black iron deep in the darkness they had left behind. And they carried a black iron key with them.

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