Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thunderspire III: The Road of Shadows (part 2)

After a while the Collective follows the map (roughly) to a large, nature chasm, about 30 feet across. They see the Horned Hold at the other side, but now must find a way across to the only entrance. There is a drawbridge raised from the other side with an active guard post, and on the party's side, there are ruins of another post that was not kept in the same state of repair. The two buildings were once connected with signalling bells attached by a thick chain, but the chain has long rusted over. They formulate a quick plan to get across without raising the suspicion of the guards on the other side: Zil'dejin will swing across on the rusty chain, scale the cliff and lower the bridge. Lucan and Cecil use rope provided by Stahlstrauss to secure Zil'dejin to their side as a sort of failsafe, and Stahlstrauss and Zil'dejin ready themselves. Eshunu tries to use his scarabs as physical obstructions to silence the bells, but they fall off the chain and plummet. Stahlstrauss cuts the chain anyway with one great cleave, and gives no warning. Zil'dejin nearly misses this, and grabs the chain at the last possible second.

Stahlstrauss stows his axe. "Well... he was alright," he says to nobody in particular.

 Meanwhile, Zil'dejin has not realized that Luucan unwittingly tied himself to Zil'dejin in a failed attempt to secure him, and the two both swing into the ravine. Zil'dejin is able to roll with the impact, but Lucan is injured and slightly dazed. Zil'dejin grabs him with one hand and scales the cliff face, unties himself, and lowers the drawbridge quietly. The party crosses, and Eshunu takes some time to stare down the chasm and silently mourn his lost scarabs. They still must sneak past the outpost to get the Horned Hold unharmed, and a single set of footsteps are approaching from within.

Eshunu turns to a swarm of scarabs and attempts to hide among the rocks, but the insects are too large for his ambush plan to work properly. Lucan and Cecil go to hide behind some rocks, just out of sight. Stahlstrauss attempts to raise the drawbridge again so their pursuers can't follow them, but uses too much strength and breaks the ancient stop on the mechanism, leaving the bridge permanently lowered. Zil'dejin hides on cliff face, hanging from the severed chain. As the duergar guard approaches to investigate, he shakes the chain, ringing the bells and drawing the guard to him. The guard peers over the cliff, and Zil'dejin thrusts his halberd into the duergar's eye, who is in shock and unable to scream. He then pulls the weapon back hard, and sends the dark dwarf over the cliff and into the chasm below. He then climbs back up, and Cecil congratulates him.

"Not much discretion - but very good."

Zil'dejin then provides a brief reflection, and refers to Lucan as having been "unconscious through the whole thing," and Lucan takes deep offense, claiming he was never unconscious at all. Zil'dejin is challenged to a "Duel of Elation," something certainly made up by Lucan, where the victor will make the most people happy in a certain period of time. Zil'dejin scoffs, but on his honour, accepts anyway. Lucan simply pours his overflowing emotions into Cecil, and Zil'dejin responds by recounting a story he believes to be inspiring. It is not; it is instead the story of his escape from Cabor's Chains, and is actually very depressing. Lucan wins the Duel of Elation... surprisingly.

They arrive, finally, at the Horned Hold, and sneak up to the portcullis that serves as the only gate to get inside the keep. There are five orcs inside, who begin attacking with spears and crossbows as soon as the party arrives in sight. Cecil observes that they are not of the strongest demeanor, and at least one might flee if they can only intimidate them. Stahlstrauss repeatedly attempts to tear open the portcullis, but even with Zil'dejin's assistance, he cannot. He resorts to throwing axes - only one of which actually hits its target. Meanwhile, Lucan follows up on Cecil's observation, and allows his intense euphoria to spill out, laughing maniacally and licking the blade of his axe in clear view of the orcs (his tongue is healed by his powers, but the orcs cannot see this). Stahlstrauss then leans in through the portcullis at the one looking most terrified, and stares it in the eyes.

"You know, there's enough space up here for an orc skull, too." He then grabs wildly for the orc's face, who falls backwards and then flees in terror.

The rest of the battle continues with Cecil's dark powers being revealed for the first time, and Eshunu turns himself into scarabs to pass through the portcullis, lift a key from a guard's corpse and unlock the portcullis. The party proceeds inside and the door is relocked. Once in the Horned Hold, Eshunu's prophetic vision is fulfilled as a burning, divine creature with wings appears, accompanied by an escort of small lizard-like beings. They look at the portcullis for a time, which has been barricaded, and then at the Eclipse Collective. Eventually, they simply turn and leave.

 ¹ vv Actual dialogue from this conversation is after the jump vv

======In-character Dialogue======

Zil'dejin: "How dare you offend us like this?"
Stahlstrauss: "Dragon. Lythanis has left."
Cecil: "Lythanis? Who is Lythanis?"
Stahlstrauss: "He was a frail girl!"
Even at the end Lythanis wasn't all that popular, apparently. 
 Cecil: "You mean that he couldn't handle the pressure? My men died for me."
(Eshunu looks agressive, stamps his feet, etc.)
Zil'dejin: "Damn it, Eshunu! I wish you could actually speak!"
Cecil: "Listen, don't take me for a useless companion that will just burden you. I have... powerful allies, let's say."
Stahlstrauss: "Allies? Like who? You're the only one here."
Cecil: "I have great magical abilities, that allow me to strike with great power."
Zil'dejin (thoughtfully): "Hmm. Your lack of sanity will be an excellent asset to us."
Cecil: "And you expect me to be sound of mind, after what's happened to my comrades?"
Zil'dejin: "No. I mean that I think you will fit in well with us."
Talbot: "I am sorry to interrupt, but, what will you do now?"
Cecil: "I will look for my party."
Zil'dejin: "And do what? They're dead."
Cecil: "I will bury them."
Zil'dejin (snorts): "Bury them?"
Stahlstrauss: "You won't be burying much in the Labyrinth."
Cecil: "A shallow grave will be fine."

(talk about loot distribution for a while, not much of note)

Talbot: "Then, have you any leads on where to go now?"
Zil'dejin: "We have only this map."
Lucan (leans in towards Cecil): "You know... we've killed many people."
Cecil: "What? I don't want any part in murder."
Lucan: "No, no. Look. We took them, and we ended their lives. But it wasn't murder."
Cecil: "... who did you kill? And why? Was it you that was behind the deaths of the duergar merchants?"
Zil'dejin: "Might have been."
Talbot: "I'm sorry, but even I have not yet heard of this."
Cecil: "Word travels quickly."
Talbot: "Let us set this matter aside for now and plan."

(everybody looks at map, talks about plan for a bit)

Cecil: "What are you looking for now?"
Zil'dejin: "We're looking for slaves."
Cecil: "Slaves? Why?"
Zil'dejin: "We're looking for somebody precious to the Mages. Also, the Rod. As were you."
Cecil: "Very well then, let us carry on."

(more planning)

Cecil: "So... Zil'dejin. You seem to give straight answers. You truly killed all the duergar merchants?"
Zil'dejin: "We did. They offended us."
Stahlstrass: "They marked up my poison!"
Cecil: "How... immoral. I hope to bring some balance to this group."
Talbot: "I hope you do, too."

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