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.
What 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.
There 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.