Monthly Archives: July 2015

3-06. Collapsing Roads

6. Collapsing Roads – 17th April 2015

Back in town, the group left the majority of their unsold loot in the secure storage at the Halfmoon Inn and after some discussion about the route to take, they headed out towards the Horned Hold after Corvar had gathered them together and done the ritual Traveller’s Camouflage upon them to aid in the ability to travel unnoticed.

Once on their way, things did not go to plan, for an unstable part of the road quickly gave way, landing them, thankfully unharmed, in a darkened chamber beneath the road. It was not, what you might call, an auspicious start to the journey.

Both Corvar and Ulrik could hear some strange sounds from the adjoining room, almost like sails flapping in the wind, as unlikely as that was deep within the mountain. So instead of trying to climb back out of the hole and back onto the road, they intended on going to see the source of the noise. Like before Corvar attempted to open the door stealthily, however despite doing so, once more there were also those looking at the door when he did so.

map1What lay before them was a room with four large pedestals, and upon those appeared to be four humanesque gargoyle-like statues. However both Ulrik and himself swiftly understood that these were no statues, but undead zombies with wings; the source of the flapping noises. They wasted no time in starting to leap down from their perches and moving menacingly towards the group.

It soon became apparent that while the winged zombies were rather clumsy, they were not a weak foe that could be dismissed quickly, despite sharing the weakness of many undead to the radiant touch of Gods. Their use of velocity to charge foes did massive damage, leaving the group reeling while the necromancer shouted at them. I cannot say precisely what the necromancer was shouting, it seemed filled with spittle and a good amount of ego though. The rest of the group seemed to be equally as unimpressed by it, or perhaps they merely had their hands full dealing with the fluttering zombies.

Despite there being only five foes against our battle-hardened group, it was by no means an easy fight, especially since Ulrik was soon rendered blinded and then petrified by wicked spells from the necromancer. I watched warilly as even the paladin was rendered into a compromised state by the rotting ichor left by struggling with the zombies. Ayanna was likewise grabbed, but in a deft movement managed to extricate herself from the grip in such a way that the zombie died instantly.

Buoyed by this victory, and one less enemy to contend with, Corvar attempts to figure out how to get the spell off Ulrik while his dire wolf continued to attack the necromancer. While he could see that this was not a spell of petrification as such, but one that encased the dwarf in stone, he was too distracted to manage to break the stone, or merely unsuited to doing so. Changing tactics, he commanded Brannoch to attack one of the more damaged of the rotwing zombies and the wolf was so vicious in its attack that it ripped the entire ribcage of the zombie out, before tearing a leg off for good measure.

Such carnage of the enemy might have been more victorious to witness had the necromancer not used his skills to then resurrect the previously felled rotwing zombie to his command. However the necromancer was not yet finished, for he tore off his face, skin peeling away to reveal the horror beneath, and cast a large spell that hit the majority of the group, and was able to move them around the area (much to Ulrik’s unheard outrage), putting them tactically into a more compromised position.

Ulrik meanwhile had not managed to escape his stony prison, but the shifting of such a heavy object had overbalanced him, knocking him into a wall and the stone around his face cracked, falling away even as his stoney body landed on the floor. He was able to summon Land Shark to try and get him out, but this fails. Likewise he tried to struggle more to get himself free but only managed to turn himself, face-down on the ground. Only muffled curses can be heard from him.

Across the room the struggle between the group and the undead continued. The necromancer, having taken quite some damage from both Titan and Corvar’s dire wolf Brannoch, reached out and touched Titan and seemed the better for it, unfortunately.

Ulrik at last managed to break himself out, and the group had managed to take out most of the rotwing zombies, and although the necromancer attempted to start the ritual to resurrect yet another of them, he never got the chance.

After considerable damage from both Corvar and his pet, the necromancer surrenders, trying to buy his life with bribery. They learned that the large door at the end of the room was to the Court of Bones, an inauspicious title to be sure, and that it could only be opened with two keys, one of which the necromancer had, and the other he could tell them where it was located. When further questioned about the slave trade, he had little useful information other than the fact that he had purchased slaves for reagents in the past. This was of note for the group since it was clear that a necromancer had freely been able to visit and purchase from the Seven-Pillared Hall in the past.

Unfortunately for the necromancer, Titan was unwilling to negotiate with an undead creature and did a coup-de-grace upon him without any agreement from the rest of the group. I wasn’t sure whether I was the only one that noticed the way Corvar’s gaze upon him became distrustful and unfriendly. He said nothing, but for the journey onwards it would likely have been noted that Brannoch picked up on his mood and would often growl at the paladin if he came too close.

mapThere was little loot to be gained from the necromancer and his minions, other than the solitary key and the part-peeled off face that emanated dark magic. It was decided that Titan should carry the face, since he was the only one that would be unaffected by the item.

Ulrik looked around for anything of interest, especially considering the necromancer could not have got in where they did, while Corvar carefully extracted two intact zombie wings, perhaps hoping to sell them to Gendar or someone else later. If the others were surprised by this, they didn’t say. Meanwhile Ulrik had noticed a slight unevenness in the floor at either side of the room and quickly found that when pressing a button, one side raised in an elevator.

Ayanna and Corvar, with Brannoch and Hendrix in tow, decided to follow Ulrik, while Titan went to explore the other side which also seemed to have such a device. It was thankful perhaps that the elevator on that side got stuck, for they could hear the screams of the Underdark and Titan quickly returned to the group and followed them up and out into what appeared to be a side passage of the Labyrinth.

Upon exiting the chamber, Titan tries to encourage the group to head back to the Seven-Pillared Hall in order that they can deal with the necromantic face skin that he picked up, however it was unanimously voted to continue. Whether this was truly only an interest in keeping to their original plan of assaulting the Horned Hold, or a reaction against the unseemly coup-de-grace of an unarmed and begging foe was anyone’s guess.

The group set out in the direction they hope is towards the Horned Hold. Whether through luck or skill, Ulrik seems to get a good sense of where they are going, and the group follow him south and soon find themselves in a shadowed passageway that leads to the Horned Hold. The dwarf’s sense of the stone having appeared to aid them well. As yet unseen, they take in the view of the two massive watchtowers that guard the way to the main Keep, the place that so many of their targets seem to reside.

Continue to Chapter 7

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3-05. Chamber of Eyes continued

5. Chamber of Eyes continued – 10th April 2015

The battle continued, Orag stepping into Titan’s position, surrounding himself with hobgoblins. It didn’t initially start well, for when trying to intimidate one of them he instead caught sight of himself in the reflection of his axe. The sight of such a fearsome visage seems to have overwhelmed him, and instead of affecting the hobgoblin, he did indeed intimidate himself. One can only wonder at such an action. Indeed, your scribe was astounded that such a thing was even possible.

Despite this initial setback, the battle did indeed improve. Ayanna managed to regain enough health to continue to fight, while the slavers started to run away. The group seemed to take heart from the fleeing opponents and seemed set on continuing to deny them exit. Corvar’s dire wolf ran after the hobgoblins and in a swift motion, directed by Corvar’s shout, blocked the exit. However, despite the fact that they now had nowhere to run, they continued to flee further into the building, all cohesion amongst them seeming to have dissipated.
Chamber_map
I watched with interest as both groups split up, one side chasing down the hobgoblins, while the hobgoblins themselves merely continued to attempt to flee until they were attacked. In the past, such situations would have brought our group low, for their strength has always been in their aiding each other, however now it seemed they each were holding their own independently.

One goblin did attempt to free the captives, however so unconvincing he was that neither of them would even let the goblin close to their chains. In frustration shortly thereafter, the goblin attempted to hit Corvar, and instead of wounding or killing the Kenku, the arrow ricochets off one of the nearby chains and doubled back on itself, lodging itself in the goblin’s eye socket, killing him outright. If the captives had had any lingering hope for freedom outwith the directions of the group, I expect it was wiped out with the unhappy corpse of the goblin at their feet.

As Orag continued to chase down the hobgoblins, I was reminded of his athletic feats in the goblin caves on the way to the temple of Pelor where he had nimbly vaulted over traps and to a tiny ledge not once, but twice. Here again, with such skill as to be almost breathtaking, the goliath who had only recently managed to intimidate himself to a standstill, now leaped from wall to wall in the corridor, up and over a hobgoblin who had a higher and better position, and landed a fine blow. Such a thing of grace it was, that the hobgoblins seemed astounded and fell quickly to his axe while another fled into the blades of Ayanna who, despite her bloodied state managed to fell the opponent that must have been at least double her size.

The Chamber of Eyes now silent but for the uneasy shifting of the two captives, the group went about systematically looting the corpses and searching the place for any additional treasure as well as any lingering evidence of where the slaves might have been taken. The main treasure chest was locked quite well, as Corvar found out when he had tried numerous times to open it out of sight from the others, but eventually everything was collected. There was a letter alone that spoke of the slaves, showing an order sheet but no record of where they had been delivered to.

So it was that the group turned its attention to the captives, who by this point were in terrible fear for their lives. It was an unpleasant conversation, though the group did not touch the two, both ended up sobbing in abject fear for their lives. It seems that the slaves were picked up by some Duregar, as they tended to do but once a month. Neither of the would-be slavers knew who was ordering them nor where they had been taken, and nothing more could be got from them. In a gesture far more befitting heroes than had been previously done to surrendered captives, the group let the two go. One was so thankful for the retention of his life that he gave up the location of a stash of goods half way back to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Alone once more, Ayanna went to the calming room with the water to rest up, with Orag standing guard. Meanwhile Corvar went about the grizzly business of dealing with his wolf who was, by all accounts, in great need for food.

Living with the slavers had not been good to the dire wolf, and its body was a mess of old and new scars, as well as vastly undernourished. It was with brutal efficiency that the kenku helped divest some of the fallen hobgoblins of their armour, and twenty minutes later they were ready to set off, the Chamber of Eyes holding far fewer full fleshed corpses than before.

They did stop off at the small treasure cache, and found it to have been surrounded by a pack of hyenas. However the sight of the well armoured group along with the dire wolf proved to be too much of a gamble for them, and they fled before a shot was even fired.

Thus fortified with more treasure after a successful clearing of the Chamber of Eyes, the group returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Returning to the Seven-Pillared Hall

The Hall seemed busier than when they left it, with far more people clustered around the rituals at the base of the minotaur statue. It was with a greater amount of wariness that the residents viewed our group upon their return, due mostly to the fact that a huge dire wolf traveled with them. The people here knew well the reputation of such animals and were rightfully worried.

Upon seeing the looks, Corvar seemed to grasp the difficulty in living in such a town, for while the dire wolf was indeed extremely useful when out hunting, it did not make for easy relationships with those in an area of greater civilization. Worried that trying to talk to people, or indeed even listen unheeded in a taven was going to be made far more difficult with the dire wolf around, he went to speak to Rendil about leaving the dire wolf in their room. Unfortunately the halfling was just as wary of his newest pet than everyone else was, something that showed in the fact that he would only allow him to have the dire wolf in the tavern when they were in their room for sleep, nowhere else. He worried, and rightfully so, that the presence of such a beast would only make the customers uneasy, and indeed perhaps even unwilling to enter their establishment. He does intimate that perhaps Bersk the Wainwright might have a place in his stables for such a creature, where he might be left safely.

So it was that Corvar met up with the group headed up to the northwestern corner of the Hall to speak with a rather large and muscular man whose job it was to build and repair wagons. It seemed to that the man, although skilled in the art of wagons, was not what you might call sharp of eye, for when Corvar opened discussions on the stabling of his pet, the Wainwright seemed to think it a rather large and hairy horse. After some negotiation, Bersk agreed to stable and feed the dire wolf when it was needed for the duration of time he was stationed in the Seven-Pillared Hall, and for only 10 gold pieces. Corvar thought this a great deal, and agreed, borrowing 5 gold from Ayanna to pay the difference until they sold the loot and the coin was distributed.

Thus with the diplomatic problem dealt with, the group headed back to Rendil at the Halfmoon Inn to ask more about possible locations for Duregar places of operation in the Labyrinth. They had, after all, remembered him mentioning the trading post that the Duregar kept in the Hall and figured he might know more if asked. Seven_P_HallRendil was most glad to see Ayanna, whom he had had a close bond with from his rescue from the Bloodreavers, but it was with shock and sadness that he learned of her memory loss during their last outing. He spoke with her consolingly, comforting her in her befuddlement and it was clear that although she didn’t remember him, she was none-the-less comforted by his words. Clearly worried for her safety, he spent some time with her outside, showing her some tricks to aid in her future survival in the labyrinth and she seemed in much better spirits afterwards.

Upon their return to the Inn, Corvar inquired if Rendil might have more information on where the local Duregar might have taken or kept slaves, after they had found their involvement in the Bloodreaver’s lair as buyers. Unfortunately Rendil didn’t have much more information on them than he had already offered, though did mention that the trading post was very well guarded. He did think they had a stronghold somewhere in the Labyrinth, but didn’t know where it might be, although did give the group a map of the Labyrinth that would likely help them navigate it on their search.

Upon seeing the sleeping form of an ogre across the room, Corvar asked about this presence. Apparently the great giant of a man was one of the enforcers of the Mages of Saruun and Rendil thought it best to leave the ogre well alone. The group had no other chance to ask questions, for when speaking of the mages, Rendil had spat on the floor in what might be a show of contempt or disgust, however his mother was not taken with such an action and her shrill voice called the group’s halfling friend away to more fully reprimand him.

Corvar stayed in the inn a while longer with the group, doing what it seems was the norm for him; listening. There were mutters of discontent about obligatory donations or tithes they had to give to the Temple of Hidden Light, comments on the poor state of Ulthand who had appeared not to have eaten since the disappearance of his boar, and general fear over the mages of Saruun, likely helped by the presence of the sleeping enforcer, but nothing more of note.

The Deepgem Company

Concerned that the potential income-generating quest to find the boar might be for nothing if Ulthand died prematurely from lack of sustenance, the group went to the Deepgem company within the Seven-Pillared Hall, where Ulthand was said to work.

When they saw the man, he was indeed looking worse for wear, but despite seeming entirely uninterested in things around him when they entered, even discontent at being disturbed, he quickly became engaged with the conversation when the group told him they might be looking into finding his pet boar (whom they found out was named The Mighty Bobby) since they were going to be hunting in the Labyrinth anyway.

Unfortunately there was little that he could tell them about the possible location of the Duregar, though he did mention that he thought that it might be gnolls that currently held the boar, rather than Duregar, although he didn’t know where such a place might be.

Still concerned for the state of the man, Ayanna tried to entice him to take better care of himself while they were seeking the boar, however he didn’t take it well and promptly threw them out. The dwarf in the store front gave them a long-suffering shrug at the behaviour, though did mention that as a cleric of Moradin Ulfhand would not die of hunger, merely lose some of his health.

Information in hand, and reassured that Ulfhand wasn’t about to die on them, they made their way to the last port-of-call for information, the one who would undoubtedly have it, and yet there might be a price to be paid. Gendar.

Gendar’s Curios and Relics

Gendar was much as he had been the last time they had encountered him, very much a savvy businessman. Despite their worry over what he might charge for the information, it turned out that he was happy to tell them that the Duregar hired gnolls, and told the group that the strongold was along the Road of Shadows in The Horned Hold, marking the location on their map. It seemed that the Duregar held court there.Labyrinth-MapThe group were indeed surprised, much as I was, that this information had been given freely and without price, until Gendar mentioned the fact that while he usually sold such information, it was in his own best interests to direct the group there, since the item he was wishing them to find for him was located there anyway.

He did mention other information he might sell to them, however they decided that, for the moment, they would forgo that for now. After haggling with Corvar over some potatoes he had picked up in the Chamber of Eyes, the group left, heading back to the Halfmoon in to sleep and rest before whatever the next day would bring.

Continue to Chapter 6

3-04. Chamber of Eyes

4. Chamber of Eyes – 3rd April 2015

Chamber_map02The morning after, the group made their way back to the Chamber of Eyes, determined to make a better job of clearing out the Bloodreavers than they had the previous day. Moving back into the building, it was clear that the areas they had cleared before had been left as such, perhaps not even noticed despite the time.

Heading left into the room that had been used as sleeping accommodation, and into the hall past it, Corvar stealthily opens the door into the next room. Although there had been no sound, luck was not with him, for both of the Duregar guards there had been facing that way and saw the group, instantly springing into action.

The fight was a protracted one, for the guards, much like those they had met the previous day did not merely fight to the death unaided, but were quick to bellow for some help from those further in the building. The leader of the Bloodreavers, Krand, soon showed himself along with some other guards, intent on putting the interlopers to their operation out of business.

So many, in such a crowded room did not make an easy fight, and what was more, Krand seemed able to push and pull different members of both his own side, and that of our group. What Krand had not counted on however was the vast swell of rage from our shamanic dwarf at being moved or knocked over. Such a great rage there was from him that it seems all tactical caution was thrown to the wind and he ran at the enemies, his beard bristling with rage. Such a fierce opponent seemed too much, for one of the Duregar tried to run, but Ulrik was having none of it, swinging his force hammer with such velocity that it actually disemboweled him. The second Duregar guard seemed almost overcome by this, his eyes glassy as he looked down at the very dead corpse of what might have been his closest friend or lover. His plight was not long in the coming either, for Heskan’s attack had him falling. I was possibly the only one that noticed the pain-filled look of grief and heartbreak in the Duregar’s eyes as he looked at his fallen comrade in those fleeting moments before he to breathed his last.

Krand, sensing the tide of battle turning against him, called for more reinforcements. However one of the first to make it into the narrow corridor was a dire wolf, whose bodily proportions seemed too large to easily fit, thus blocking further enemies from entering. Its attempts to squeeze down the corridor while being pelted by arrows was pitiful to behold. Slowed to the point of almost inaction, the dire wolf, fierce though it was, didn’t get into the room before Krand fell in battle. This had an instant effect on the wolf, for it let out a howl of grief and turned tail, as much as it could in such a narrow corridor, and fled back to where it had come from.

I found this on the internet.  Click to view the artist's work :)It was this action of grief that seemed to change something for Corvar, whose attention seemed to focus souly on the dire wolf now. While the Kenku would usually appear at the very back of the room, cautious and fleet of foot, he was now the one that led the way down the corridor after the dire wolf, the rest of the group soon following. In his forceful movement, he manages to bluff one of the goblins that it has no chance and gets it to flee out the way, allowing him a more direct and unimpeded course towards the wolf. It might have seemed on the surface to be a full-hardy maneuver, but there was something almost fanatical in those glittering black eyes.

Heedless to the rest of the violence in the place, or indeed the fights between other of the group and the enemies that were in the large central room, Corvar’s attention was purely focused on the dire wolf. It was such a massive creature, and had been so cruelly treated by the Bloodreavers that I was personally surprised when those skills that Corvar put to use, one would assume as having been learned in the forest, made the grief-stricken and confused wolf actually became attentive and tamed to Corvar’s hand. Corvar helped to heal the injured wolf and the two seemed to bond.

This was not what the goblins were wanting. For all the time that Corvar had spent bringing the loyalty of the dire wolf over to their side, the results more than spoke for themselves, for the massive wolf, emancipated and ragged, immediately went to attack the goblins who had treated him so harshly. Goblin cries of ‘bad wolf!’ were heard amidst the crunching of teeth into flesh and bone.

Meanwhile, Titan was fighting a rather rotund hobgoblin, and his demeanor was so intimidating that instead of surrendering, as I expect was wanted, the hobgoblin decided that running away was the best option and no amount of bellowing from Titan was going to stop it. The goblin disappeared into a side room and Titan soon was after it, coming face to face with several large hobgoblin warrior types. Retreating, he stood ready for their inevitable attack.

The battle between Titan and the hobgoblins was fierce, even as in the other room more enemies appeared out of a second entrance to try and deal with Ulrik, Corvar and Ayanna. Unfortunately for Ayanna, a human bandit managed to overbalance her, and she fell onto the floor from the upper area to the lower, getting knocked unconscious. Even when she regained consciousness, it was clear something was not right in the way she stared around vacantly.

Titan lured the hobgoblins he was fighting back towards the main room so they could concert their efforts as a group once more, and this seemed to work, although Ayanna was too far gone to have anything more than some stabilizing her condition done to her. Two of the enemies surrendered and were moved to be questioned later, and Corvar sent his wolf after the hobgoblins that were fighting Titan, and this seemed, along with a lucky bite on its part, to be enough for them to decide that living was better than fighting, and they started to make a run for freedom.

The fight seemed to be going their way, and yet would the hobgoblins manage to escape? Only time would tell.

Continue to Chapter 5

3-03. Entering the Chamber of Eyes

3. Entering the Chamber of Eyes – 13th March 2015

Upon waking the next day, Corvar sought out the dwarf Ulrik in the hopes that he could discern the dwarven rune writing on the slips of paper that he had pocketed. With Ulrik’s knowledge of the dwarven language coupled with their ruminations on the papers they were able to figure out that these were gambling strips, and one of them appeared to be marked as a winning one. Thanking Ulrik, he stashed the papers away once more before heading downstairs to meet up with the others.

gambling slipIt seems likely that he intends to cash in that gambling slip, but it remains to be seen whether an establishment that seemed happy to deal with such a degenerate as the dwarf from whom the papers were taken would so easily give up the cash, nor whether anyone trying to claim it could successfully extricate themselves from such a situation with their lives and the cash in hand.

On exiting the Inn, our group was pleased to find that the shops in the area seemed once more to be open for business, but it also became clear that one of their number was now missing. The wizard Quelanna, it seemed, had taken off during the night. However fate was smiling on them, for upon leaving the Inn they were approached by one of the Warforged, who was looking for purpose in the dark halls of the Labyrinth. The group, seeing as how they were now down a wizard, and had been in dire need of a heavily armoured group member, did readily agree to the paladin joining them. Ulrik however seemed to agree mainly through remaining silent. No one seemed to take notice of his abject fear of the towering newcomer.

Gendar’s Curios and Relics

Thus with their group numbers fortified, they headed over to Gendar’s store of Curios and Relics, hoping to sell some of the basic armour they had accumulated before arriving.

It was the Kenku that led the group into the shop, hoping to offload some of the basic armour that the group had picked up from the initial confrontation outside the Seven-Pillared Hall. Upon entering, they were accosted not only by a rather shady looking Drow, but also a shop that was literally filled with all manner of items, so much so that it was difficult to perceive what might actually be worthwhile to purchase or not.

The most prominent of items in the shop however was the humble potato, whom the shop owner, Gendar, told them with some pride that he was the only supplier of in the Hall. This, the group were lead to believe, made this merchant a canny businessman, since potatoes, it seemed, were the primary food-source in the mountain.

Despite the chaos in the store, Corvar seemed to put his perception skills to good use (the rumours that birds such as crows did indeed have an eye for such shiny things), and picked out a number of items that caught his eye while the rest of the group merely watched, perhaps with some amusement at the interaction. After some discussion and a little haggling, Corvar sold some of the group’s extraneous loot and purchased a ritual scroll from Gendar’s collection, one he hoped would aid them in their journey into the labyrinth, for it had become clear that their trusty loot-carrying mule Hendrix was under threat where they would go, and the ritual would adequately hide her, and the rest of the group while not in combat.

Just as they were about to leave, Gendar, having noted a certain gleam of interest in the eye of Corvar at one of the items, a rather shabby looking hat (personally I saw nothing interesting about it, but both Gendar and Corvar seemed to be of a different opinion). Gendar proposed that should the group retrieve a sceptre for him that had been stolen in transit, he would cut the price of the hat down by 1000gp. Interested, but non-committal, the Corvar said he would consider it.

Ulrik seeks divine insight

Upon leaving the store, Ulrik made it known that he was still uneasy about the loss of connection between himself and Land Shark. Corvar did attempt to comfort the dwarf, however the kenku had never been good when talking with people and only proceeded to make Ulrik feel worse. However it was, perhaps surprisingly, words from the titan that held the most consolation, strange as that might seem coming from a being Ulrik was clearly fairly terrified of. Filled with renewed hope, and after asking around for directions, sought some enlightenment in the Hall’s temple, The Temple of Hidden Light.

Seven_P_Hall
Although Ulrik seemed to find the Temple a relaxing place to sit in, he didn’t appear to be any closer to finding out how to reconnect to Land Shark. Making a donation to the temple anyway, he left with only some more peaceful thoughts and a spell for some poor travel rations that the temple had offered him upon leaving.

Strange rituals

temple iconUpon leaving the temple, intending to go to the Chamber of Eyes to follow up on the trail of the Bloodreavers, the dwarf’s attention is drawn to a gathering of people at the base of a massive minotaur statue. How the group had remained oblivious to this edifice until now is beyond comprehension, but it seemed to be the truth. Ulrik’s eyes widened as he looked up at the 30 foot-tall statue, not, as one might imagine due to the size, but because of the likeness it held to his once-companion Gwenn, whom had disappeared just before their journey to Thunderspire Mountain.

Personally I cannot tell one minotaur from another, but apparently to Ulrik, this statue was the spitting image of his troubled friend. What was more, the humans who deigned to talk to him intimated that he was sure that the statue hadn’t looked quite like that in the past. With the unspecified ritual taking place at the base of the statue, and the possible changing of the statue’s visage Urik became more and more insensed with worry, and not without cause. Gwenn had been volatile at the best of times, with her temper and blood-lust well known. Ulrik became worried, and tried to get the group to be as concerned as he was about the fact, seeming to believe that she was now in the Labyrinth and would hunt them down if they didn’t do so to her first.

At first, such dire professions fell on deaf ears, but it was the unlikely target of the titan who proved the most amenable to the idea, perhaps hoping for a more worthwhile hunt on the horizon. The group, although none-too-convinced, still deemed it something they could potentially look into once they had dealt with the Bloodreavers.

So it was, with such thoughts that the group once more turned towards the path that lead to the Chamber of Eyes, hoping to have the situation dealt with quickly to collect the reward. Such things however rarely go to plan.

Into the Chamber of Eyes

Stepping onto the path that they had been led to believe led to the Chamber of Eyes, they made the mistake of setting out without a proper map of the route or guide, and very quickly became lost. Thankfully, whether through fate, luck or providence, they re-found their route and ended up outside the Chamber. Relieved that they had not been attacked or become lost forever in the maze, they set their mind on the task in front of them: to deal with the Bloodreavers.

Initially cautious, they entered the first room of the Chamber only to find that it was empty, of guards or otherwise. There was a locked door with the image of the evil God Torog on it flanked by two statues, and a raised platform at the end of the room. Deciding to look around, they decided sneaking up onto the raised platform to see whether it led anywhere was a good plan. Unfortunately, Ayanna, who was almost at the top of the climb, slipped, crashing to the ground. There were shouts from beyond the locked door, the group having alerted the guards to their presence.

With quick thinking on Corvar’s part, he engaged the guards in conversation, and convinced them that he was a potato seller (having found out from Gendar earlier that potatoes were the primary food source in the Mountain). Amazingly this seemed to work, and the guards unlocked the door, not to attack, but expecting a merchant. Chamber_map_01

Chamber_map_01They were disappointed.

Although the fight started well, things swiftly became overwhelming for our intrepid group, for the foes that now faced them had a greater strength and skill than they had yet faced.

The one bright light in an otherwise poor situation was that, despite the damaged connection between Ulrik and his companion, he did manage to summon Land Shark during the battle. In this shared battle, the connection between the two seemed to once more reassert itself, much to the visible relief of them both.

The fight on the way to the Seven-Pillared Hall had been difficult for the group, and this fight seemed to further challenge them. The enemies they faced seemed far better organized as a group and were far more eager to call for backup than others had in the past. One enemy in particular, a bugbear, they had never come across before, posed a challenge to them that nearly proved too much.

However, despite the fact that the odds seemed set against the group in battle, they did in fact succeed, however limped their way back to the Seven-Pillared Hall to rest and recuperate, tending to their numerous wounds before they would even consider going back to the Chamber of Eyes to deal with whatever other foes still waited for them there.

Continue to Chapter 4

3-02. Entry to the Seven-Pillared Hall

2. Entry to the Seven-Pillared Hall – 27th February 2015

Guided by the halfling Rendil, the group found their weary way to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Along the Road of Lanterns that led to the Hall, they encountered a short scruffy Kobold, who, unlike others in the past, did not automatically attack the group. Indeed he seemed to be alone. From the size of the kobold, which was unusually small, and from the manner of his attire, which was shabby at best, one could only imagine that it was some manner of rogue or thief from the city.

Despite this, it was not thievery that brought the kobold to them, but the offer of selling a map to the travellers, whom the kobold had witnessed were new to the area. However, despite this seeming disreputable creature offering legitimate purchase, Lady Knuch decided that she would try to blatantly steal one of the many maps from the undernourished kobold. Her attempt failed, which didn’t seem to surprise any of the group, and the kobold ran off, taking all his maps with him.

The group continued onwards.

Seven-Pillared-Hall-MAP2

The heart of Thunderspire’s upper level was the Seven-Pillared Hall. Dozens of lanterns hang from the walls and thick pillars of this great chamber. The chamber walls were fashioned into building facades, so the Hall appears more like a city square than an underground cavern. Merchants conduct business in the Hall, at the behest and with the permission of the Mages of Saruun we are told by Rendil. It was once the market square and meeting place of the ancient under-mountain city of Saruum Khel. In some ways, it still serves as a market and meeting place of sort, but for a different kind of inhabitant. Today, the Mages of Saruun provide order and safety within the Hall, chiefly so they can trade with the intelligent monster races that live within the Labyrinth and the Underdark beyond.

I don't really think Rendil's parents would have used this sign, but I made it up because it amused me. ;)

I don’t really think Rendil’s parents would have used this sign, but I made it up because it amused me. 😉

The group goes directly to the Halfmoon Inn, where upon seeing Rendil, the owners embraced their wayward son heartily, very much gratified for having had him return in one piece. So grateful were they to the group that they immediately offered permanent room and board and use of their stables for free during their stay here. The family seemed very close-knit, something that had been heartily missing from this group of heroes for some time now.

Rendil then gives them a quick tour of some of the buildings in the Hall, pointing out the Waterfall and its corresponding lake and river on the way, which Lady Knuck decided to investigate by jumping in, though thankfully with a rope attached. The waterfall and corresponding river, it is said, had taken many dwarves into the airless caverns below, never to be seen again due to the swift-flowing current.

Randil also pointed out the Custom House, which is currently the headquarters of the enforcers employed by the Mages of Sarrun. Even the exterior was guarded.

The only other building that was pointed out, other than the Halfmoon Inn, was Gendar’s Curios and Relics, which Rendil thought might hold some books or rituals that Corvar asked about. Unfortunately this shop, as well as all the others were temporarily closed due to a stocktaking and administration meeting by the Mages of Sarrun, so the group were unable to offload or purchase any goods.

Finding nothing else to do really, they headed back to the Halfmoon in where Lady Knuck tried to get more information on the mages of Saruun from those in the tavern room, however her attempts only seemed to cause those that had been mumbling about the mages to promptly shut up, giving nervous glances around. It seems that the mages power within the Seven-Pillared Hall is not to be underestimated.

Corvar also had seated himself in the tavern area in order to hear rumors, though did not approach anyone. His skills in perception, learned from hard life in the forest seemed to do him credit, for he took note of a lost Dire Boar that Ulthand would be very much pleased to have returned to him alive.

Exhausted after their long trip, and subsequent fight earlier to free Rendil, the group retired for the evening to the Halfmoon Inn’s sleeping quarters.

The next day found them wandering around the Seven-Pillared Hall, exploring and yet finding little of interest at first since all the shops were closed and most of the people inhabiting the area seemed to have hidden themselves away, potentially due to the current close scrutiny of the mages of Saruun.

It was during this time that the group heard some voices shouting from down one of the many passageways leading from the Hall. Going to investigate, they soon found themselves at odds with a dwarf called Thain Cardanas, who appeared to be in dubious receipt of his faculties, and several of his burly lackeys who seemed likewise about to froth at the mouth.

In truth I did not really catch what went so catastrophically wrong with the conversation. I think the dwarf took offense at the group not knowing who he was, before ranting about his quest to regain his place in the family line. The details escaped me in a fit of astonishment that someone so clearly bereft of sanity could be still wandering around, and not only that, but seeming to hold onto a group of men, brigands or not. Perhaps it was fear that kept them with him, or coin, for surely it could not have been his masterful leadership.

As I said, the situation degenerated quickly and soon the dwarf’s bandits were attacking our group and battle ensued.

It was with some trepidation that I watched the battle, for the previous one they had fought only the night before had not gone well, and they were now up against opponents that appeared to be maddened, and thus far less likely to be predictable in their attacks. My skepticism was thankfully, mostly, unfounded. Although those burly warriors did hit devastatingly hard, the group did manage to overcome them. It was however the mad dwarf, Thain Cardanas that gave them the most trouble for he had such a way with words that he managed to intimidate and demean three of the party members.

Lady Knuck found herself on the ill-end of his vicious tongue, his comments about her cracked visage seeming to strike deep.

Likewise Corvar found himself the victim of the dwarf’s harsh words, the threat of being made into a pot pie made him tremble, but ultimately only seemed to focus his determination to take down the threat to his person once he had sufficiently recovered.

Heskan was however the worst off of the group, for when Cardanas demeaned the size of his flaming dragon balls it caused him to retaliate. However the comments seemed to have struck so deep into him that he failed catastrophically and ended up getting his balls cleaved critically, so much so that he ended up in desperate need of aid.

land shark unhappyEven Ulrik was not immune to the effects of the battle, for when his spirit companion Land Shark got damaged in battle he was overcome with grief, unusually so. In an attempt to shake off this sudden and somewhat debilitating condition in the middle of battle, he attempted to bluff himself into believing the companion meant nothing to him. Fortunately or unfortunately he succeeded, but at what cost? Hopefully with time and rest he will be able to reassert the bond between himself and the spirit, which had been, up until now, one of the most enduring connections in the group.

Despite all this, the group did manage to overcome the enemies. Cardanas, seeing himself overwhelmed, made an attempt to flee, but both Corvar and Quelanna took him out before he was able to do so. There was only one enemy left, a last berserker mercenary, which, seeing all his companions dead, succumbed to the demands that he surrender. He knelt to show his acceptance of his position, however what happened next I could barely believe to watch, for Quelanna, who had thus far been fairly quiet in the group went around him and stabbed him in the back. The action prompted a ripple of shock through some members of the group, and not in others. How far had the group fallen that they would do such a henious act against an unarmed and surrendered man?

While the most horrible act was taking place, Corvar had gone over to the corpse of the dwarf that had threatened him, perhaps ensuring his death. He, unnoticed by the rest of the group, picked up some scraps of paper with dwarven runes on them that had been stuffed in the dwarf’s pockets to be inspected later. Picking up the only other useful item there, the dwarf’s fancy crossbow, he headed back to the rest of the group with it in hand.

The group, silent after the fight, headed back to the Halfmoon to spend the rest of the day in quiet contemplation of the day and what they had witnessed. The day passed and the night as well, dawning the next day, such as it was in the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Continue to Chapter 3

3-01. Path to Thunderspire

1. Path to Thunderspire – 20th February 2015

The group, having successfully extracted themselves from the kobold ruin they had fallen into on their return journey from aiding the haunted hamlet, made their weary way back to Winterhaven to rest up, sell their various scavenged gains, and purchase supplies.

It was while in the town getting these supplies, that the shopkeeper told Heskan about a deal he had wished to make to deliver some goods to a merchant in the seven pillared hall in Thunderspire Mountain. Although the deal seemed a little suspect, Heskan agreed though between him and others who had appeared from the party, there was some discussion as to the length of time needed to get there, and what recompense there might be. The shopkeeper was less than specific, but they took the deal none-the-less.

During this time, Corvar negotiated for the purchase of the shopkeeper’s mule, named Hendrix, hoping perhaps to have less to carry on such a long journey. The trade was indeed made, and through some show of skill the seeker managed to bluff the man into buying back the useless saddle that came with the mule, and gain 10 days worth of food for the mule as well.

When leaving the store, they come across Lord Padraig who, it seemed was looking for the group. Although many of the group had changed since the last time the leader of the town had seen them, he seemed desperate enough not to mention this, or care. It seemed there had been an intercepted letter that told of a trade with the late Kalorel and a group of slave traders by the name of the Bloodreavers who were threatening not only the people of Winterhaven, but also of Thunderspire Mountain where it is thought they originated. The lord wished the group to look into the situation for him for the good of the people.

AKrand letter 01h, it is with a heavy heart that I now write that the adventurers did put the question of payment to Lord Padraig so harshly and persistently that he was forced to concede some monetary reward if they took care of the situation, despite the fact that they would likely be paid by those of Thunderspire. This group had already almost bankrupted the town through the payments required for dealing with Kalorel and further disturbances, and Lord Padraig had no other money by which to pay them except that of his own personal savings which he had set aside for the education of his beloved daughter, that he would pay on the resolution of the threat.

It shames me to write this, but only then did the group agree to travel to Thunderspire (where they had already agreed to go for the merchant) and look into this threat. Long gone are the days when such a group might be called upon to help those in need without such mercenary tactics.

Their business with Lord Padraig concluded, they made their way to the tavern, where the group still had use of a free room, long before gifted to the group when their actions had rid the world of the necromancer. However all did not go well, for the woman (whose profession she readily called assassin) decided to roughly manhandle the tavern barmaid. The woman was so insulted by this action that Ayanna got bodily thrown out of the tavern and refused both entry and room for the night, and had to make do with sneaking into the stable for rest while the others did so in the comfort of their rooms.

The next day did not go very well either, and I had reason to wonder at the relative sanity of the dragonborn, who took it upon himself to attempt to peer into the rear entrance of Corvar’s mule, though for what reason is unclear. This seemed to irritate the mule, unsurprisingly, and he got kicked for his trouble.

With this inauspicious start to the day, the group headed for Thunderspire Mountain and what troubles and riches the journey might bring.

It was four days after leaving Winterhaven that the group reached Thunderspire Mountain. The sky was dark and filled with swirling thunderhead of black clouds, rumbling thunder and bright flashes of lighting that obscured the peak of the mountain ahead of them. It is said that Thunderspire Mountain is the largest of all of the Old Hills that cover the northeast portion of Nentir Vale.

They head up the cobbled path that leads from the Trade Road to the Minotaur Gate at the side of the mountain, the primary path to reach the Seven-Pillared Hall. However when they enter the mountain passage beyond it soon becomes clear that not everything is as calm as the rest of the journey has been.

Thunderspire_bloodreavers mapAlong the rocky passage, an partially opened doorway was seen, and from within there came the raucus laughter of hobgoblins tormenting a captive. After ascertaining the situation in which fate had placed a group of Bloodreavers in easy reach, they decided to relieve the hobgoblin slavers of their captive.

The fight however did not start well, for as Ayanna attempted to open the door quietly seemed to be struck with the same ham-handed issues she had had in Winterhaven, and the door was flung wide, crashing against the wall and alerting all the enemies as to their presence.

The group, which had before relied upon both the adept healing of Ulrik (who had not yet caught up to the group) and one of the barbarian or heavily armoured to hold off the enemies (who were likewise absent at the time), were found to be under-prepared without either.

The halfling assassin who had so alerted the hobgoblins to their presence quickly scrambled atop some huge storage barrels near the door, hoping perhaps to get a better position for advantage over the enemy. However the creatures were far better armoured and defended than they had been used to fighting, and the group quickly became overwhelmed. While most of the group retreated out the door to better limit the attacks of the enemy, the assassin, Ayanna was left trapped on the barrels fending off several hobgoblins.

At first she seemed to be doing quite well, managing to take down one of the more stupid of the lot, while another fell to its death trying to get to her on the barrel. However the remaining were not so obliging, and she was soon beaten to a semi- unconscious state and left for dead while the hobgoblins turned their attention to the rest of the group.

The rest of the fight was a struggle for survival on both sides, both taking casualties. Hobgoblin soldiers fell, but so to did Heskan and Quellana was knocked down and seemed unable to get up as the enemy bore down upon her.

Ultimately it was a showdown between the seeker Corvar and the Hobgoblin Warmaster, both of whom were so close to death as to be barely standing.

Fortunately for our group, a well aimed shot took down the leader of the hobgoblins and, beaten and bloodied but still alive, the seeker helped restore the rest of the party to consciousness along with the aid of the captive halfling they had rescued.

Talking to the halfling afterwards, they found out that he had been captured by the Bloodreavers after he had been following them after they had been lingering suspiciously outside his family’s inn. He told them that the Bloodreavers stayed in a place called the Chamber of Eyes further in the mountain and gives them directions should they wish to get there to settle a score with them.

The group decide, considering their somewhat battered state, that a night in the inn would better serve them first before deciding whether or not to do so. And so, after gathering what loot they could from the Hobgoblin corpses, they followed Rendil, heading towards the Halfmoon Inn within the Seven-Pillared Hall to partake of the drink he had promised them in exchange for them saving his life.

Continue to Chapter 2

3-00. Foreword from the Scribe

ghost-scholarForeword from the Scribe

Let me introduce myself. I am Kenar Hevathar, former apprentice to the great Valthren of Winterhaven.

I first met the group of heroes at the completion of their great adventure to slay the notorious necromancer Kalarel. I had been drawn from the slumbers of death by residual necromantic magic and decided that now was not my time to rest, and that I would document the travels and adventures of these heroes as they did other great and beneficial acts across the land.

So it was that I traveled, largely unseen, with the group, documenting their exploits, however life for the group was not as I had imagined. Even as the group itself changed and shifted, some members moving off to other places, while new members joined, it also became clear to me that the life of the heroes was not so glorious as I had once believed.

Indeed, as time moved on, I had to admit to myself that the group, at least as it was now, were not heroes as I would have written them, but mercenaries. Although the group did indeed vanquish much evil in the land, it was not out of the goodness of their hearts, but of necessity, survival and coin that they did so. There have even been times lately when, I am ashamed to say, they have behaved less than chivalrously and kindly towards others.

Of those of the group that I had first joined, now only the goliath Orag and the dwarf shaman Ulrik remains. It is doubtful whether any of those of the group remember I travel with them. It is, perhaps, better this way.

And so it is that I write this, with a heavy heart for having to dismiss my naive hopes of heroism in this group, and with an almost morbid fascination that I now watch the group turn further towards violence and greed while still attempting on the surface to aid others. Perhaps there is some good to be found in them, and perhaps this journey they now undertake will prove them better than they started out. I hope, for their sake, that this is the case.

I am set to recall the words of the High Priestess of the temple of Pelor, when she said that people who fight evil are themselves in danger of becoming that evil if they do not take care of their souls and their actions. I wonder whether this is what has happened with this group, or whether merely the circumstances of previous adventures did not so clearly show the degeneration of morals. Perhaps it may also be true that I, in my hopes, gave them more heroic credit than was deserved.

Only time shall tell.

Continue to Chapter 1