Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shadowfell Keep, 2nd Floor (I)

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

Zil'dejin, Morgue, Typhus, Mikhal, Lythanis and Valthrun awake in the crypts after what was probably a fairly unpleasant sleep. The corpses of the zombies have vanished mysteriously, but Splug continues to decay foully in the corner. Now confident that they have seen most of what lies on the upper levels of the keep, they decide to move down the stairs to the next level, which Valthrun assures them is the purported location of the rift to Mabar. Morgue decides to perform one last sweep of the upper level, and heads back up the stairs from the twisting hallways while his companions descend.

They are met immediately at the bottom of the stairs by a set of fairly well-armed hobgoblin guards. In the middle of the large chamber, a large pit drops into a well, and at the far end, a dark room with what appears to be a cage is present, though the contents of the cage are, at this time, obscured. They are prompted with a challenge phrase by the front-most guard: "Shadow seeks shadow!"

Thinking back, the note (currently carried by Morgue) the party found on the hag's body contained a phrase for such an occasion. Zil'dejin offers the response, "From the ground, some magic was found."

This, however, was not the correct response phrase. One of the guards flees the room, while the others prepare for combat. The four respond in kind.

Zil'dejin and Mikhal descend first, attempting to knock the guards into the well, but failing at first. Lythanis is able to pull one into the well, but becomes a target for the guards shortly thereafter. Typhus moves down to offer support as well, but also becomes exposed in doing so.

Meanwhile, the two guards who were more towards the back of the room when the fight began have moved into the dark room with the cage, and eventually are able to lift the bars. When they do so, a spider emerges, which they are able to identify as a Deathjump Spider, though can tell little more about it other than the common name for it.

The spider moves very quickly, lunging on Lythanis and knocking him cold. The hobgoblins see this opportunity to swarm the intruders, and many more emerge from adjacent rooms to assist in the assault.

Mikhal struggles to defend his allies, but is overwhelmed after a time. He falls to the ground covered in wounds, and succumbs to them, passing away. Typhus is able to protect himself with blasts of fire and his color spray spell, but the oncoming hordes are too much, and soon he too is overwhelmed. Zil'dejin falls back and is able to help Lythanis to his feet, but there is still a great deal of enemies. The two petition the cowering Valthrun for help, and eventually he comes down the stairs to launch, at great length, a rather weak casting of magic missile. Meanwhile, one of the nearby hobgoblins grabs Typhus' unconscious body and attempts to flee with it.

Despite the low-grade effort that exhausts Valthrun completely, it manages to kill one of the hobgoblins, which provides the window of opportunity Zil'dejin and Lythanis have been looking for. They begin clearing the room of hobgoblins and make some genuine progress, despite the odds. When the last of the hobgoblins fall, Zil'dejin and Lythanis pursue the fleeing hobgoblin and Typhus.

However, the rough handling of his battered body is too much for Typhus. He, too, is forced to give in to his wounds, and his life slips away from him as he is being abducted. This is perhaps somewhat fortunate, as Zil'dejin's attempt to recover him would consist of a very hard tackle into the back of the fleeing guard, causing Typhus' body to hit the back wall so hard one of his horns becomes cracked.

Lythanis and Zil'dejin finish off the last hobgoblin, and examine the situation. Mikhal and Typhus have both perished in the narrowly-escaped struggle. Valthrun is exhausted, but half-heartedly offers to raise them both for an extravagant fee; the remaining two are forced to refuse. They drop the two bodies into the wells in some kind of pseudo-burial (that most would probably consider actually very disrespectful, but nobody was around to see it anyway).

Finally, Morgue comes back down the stairs from his run through the upper level. The news is broken to him, and the three mourn for some time before proceeding onwards out of sheer necessity, and at the insisting of Valthrun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Crypts

Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8).

The party, having finished clearing the maze-like system of corridors and sonic runes, decides to press further into the dungeon. It currently consists of Zil'dejin, Morgue, Typhus, Mikhal, and Lythanis, accompanied by Valthrun, the aged wizard of Winterhaven, and Splug, the cowardly goblin companion of Typhus. While Lythanis remains in the twisting corridors to study the runes further, the others choose to head east from their current location; this is the exit to which they were drawn when the runes caused them to flee earlier.

They enter into a room with much better lighting. It is cross-shaped, with three stone sarcophagi along either wall leading towards the intersection further into the room. Valthrun accompanies them to the doorway, but then turns to assist Lythanis with his studies. Splug, as always, remains faithful to Typhus, and the remaining five enter further into the room.

After passing between the two pillars in the center of the cross-shaped hall, they begin to feel somewhat uneasy. Before long, the doors on the sarcophagi open, and hordes of the undead begin to emerge, and close in on them from all sides.

As they begin to fight the zombies off, the four quickly realize that there is simply no end to the zombies - more than should be physically capable of emerging from the relatively small sarcophagi. Still, faced with no other option, they continue to fight. Meanwhile, Splug - trapped further down the hall amongst other zombies - struggles against the odds, but is finally beaten to death by some stronger, more muscular zombies than those faced by the rest of the group.

Typhus seems more or less unfazed by this turn of events, and is more concerned with the overwhelming force of zombies around him, which - combined with those who have felled Splug - are now concentrated upon him. Without any route of escape, he is beaten down to the ground by the horde.

The zombies move onto the more pressing matter of Mikhal, Zil'dejin and Morgue, who are attempting to knock over the sarcophagi, essentially hoping to seal the lids on them and prevent more zombies from emerging. While they are distracted from devouring him, Typhus eventually regains his footing, and stands up to unleash a color spray spell upon the zombies, thinning out some of their numbers and allowing his companions access to the sarcophagi further in.

With this, the party topples the remaining sarcophagi, sealing the zombies in, and moves to the door at the end of the chamber.

It leads into another, smaller chamber, containing only one sarcophagus, this one more ornately decorated than the last. Morgue attempts to open it, and moves forward to do so, but as he tries it opens widely, and a skeletal figure emerges. They prepare to fight it, but then it speaks.

It identifies itself as Sir Keegan, who was once lord of Shadowfell Keep. But he murdered his friends and family due to temporary madness instilled upon him by a "dark priest, serving demons." To atone for his crimes, he locked himself in the crypts to watch over the rift to Mabar.

He begins testing the four to see if they are worthy of helping him in this task. He deems that they are after questioning Morgue's craftiness, Typhus' knowledge, and Zil'dejin's imposing presence. He then tells them that, in his current state, he can do little to prevent the ritual that is about to take place; however, he offers his sword, Aecris, a holy blade which is taken by Mikhal, and tells the party to seek the blessings of the dragons outside. He then sends them on their way.

The party finds that the altars outside do, indeed, carry in secret compartments a number of small images in the shape of dragons, carved apparently out of platinum (as identified by Morgue).

They choose to take some time to dwell on this, and after bringing Lythanis and Valthrun in with them choose to take a rest in the room, waking in shifts to keep watch (seriously, what is it with these guys and sleeping in crypts?).

Truly, we mourned Splug most of all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to the Keep

Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8).

The party is beset by the gravehounds still standing after they have cleared the skeletons.

Tam'elanath maintains a safe distance, assisting the group by firing arrows at the undead dogs beside Lythanis, who in a similar tactic, offers telekinetic support. Meanwhile, Zil'dejin and Mikhal work to hold them off, absorbing their attacks and dealing out direct damage while Morgue struggles for his life, no longer threatened by the gravehounds who have had to turn their attention elsewhere.

However, among the frenzy of the hounds, the party has forgotten about the hag, who becomes significant again in the battle by taking down Mikhal. The gravehounds leap at the opportunity to devour the fallen paladin, but they are too weakened and now, too diverted; the party is able to at last finish them off, and turn their attentions at long last to the hag.

Lythanis ignites the air around her with telekinetic force, severely burning her as Zil'dejin moves in to strike her down once and for all. Ninaran hits the ground, and the party searches her, finding little of significance except for a small sheet of vellum, with a rather sinister message:

I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their interference. Mix the blood of ten individuals with the elixir my messenger will bring you. Then, trace the following pattern on the ground, and pour the liquid into the lines. This will supply you with a force to help thwart them. I'm very close to completion; I leave it to you to see that I am not interrupted. As you already know, if you do come to the second level of the keep, the pass phrase is, "From the ground, some magic was found."
 - Kalarel

With this, the party returns to Winterhaven, where the townspeople are still lined atop the walls. Zil'dejin informs the townspeople of the situation, and they are let back within the town's walls. Morgue attempts to ask Lord Padraig for a reward of some sort, but is offered none. Padraig also mentions that Valthrun has been seeking the group, and so they head for the aged wizard's tower.

Valthrun tells them that, at last, he has determined the significance of the Third Sinister Rib. He informs the party that this item is integral to a ritual designed to break the seal on Orcus in Khyber when they are at their weakest - during the Winterhaunt. He says that the ritual can proceed without it, but that the rib could be equally useful (if not more so) in stopping the ritual. He pleads with the group to escort him to the second basement level of the Shadowfell Keep so he can stop the horrors before they truly begin.

The party, however, is still generally suspicious of Valthrun and his motives. Lythanis and Morgue are very much opposed to his joining, while Zil'dejin and Mikhal are essentially in favor of his coming with them. Ultimately, it is agreed they will escort him. Zil'dejin, Morgue, Mikhal and Lythanis set out for the keep once more, while Tam'elanath stays behind to protect Winterhaven should another incident occur like the one that was just avoided.

* * *

The party arrives at the keep to find Typhus standing outside, Splug still faithfully at his side. When questioned about his whereabouts for the past two days, Typhus is surreptitiously evasive, and eventually just insists they proceed. The group, knowing better than to question his bizarre motives further, proceed back into the keep.

They enter into a dark, maze-like room. As soon as they get fully inside, they are attacked by hordes of zombies. Valthrun and Splug are instructed to stay on the outside of the room while the party tries to fend them off.

The undead, however, are shown to be quite fragile, and the group has little difficulty keeping them at bay. They run into a brief snag with some faintly growing runes etched into the ground, which when stepped upon unleash a horrible noise that magically instills panic in those who hear it, causing them to flee and alerting more zombies. Despite these pitfalls, however, the party is ultimately triumphant without too much difficulty, and is able to proceed further.