Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thunderspire IV: The Horned Hold (part 1)

Far, Barrakas 13, 998 YK (Day 27)

The Collective proceeds into the Horned Hold from the portcullis room. They come across two doors: one set of double doors straight ahead, and a smaller door to the left, which opens from within and includes no handle. It is apparently locked, so they attempt to bash it down, and, in time, succeed. Inside, they discover what appears to be the duergar armory, which is filled with mundane weapons and armour. After briefly discussing a plan involving using the armour to disguise themselves (unlikely to succeed given that they are still not duergar in that case), they leave, and proceed to the double doors. They hear the hammering of iron and the barking of commands from behind them - it is a smithy.

Inside, a duergar master smith commands a small number of assistants and some orc guards. He turns as the party enters, and seems very familiar to Zil'dejin. Before long, it becomes clear just why this is the case: the master smith under the duergar's employ is in fact Thair Coalstriker.

He's back, baby.

His reasons for being in the Horned Hold are vague, at best. His release from Padraig's prison in Winterhaven led to exile from the town about one month following his arrest, with that incident providing the final push after Thair's history of short temper and hostility. After recognizing Zil'dejin, he claims he has followed the party's trail from Winterhaven to the Thunderspire Labyrinth, but this claim is dubious. His presence is more likely a coincidence.

As Zil'dejin realizes the connection, he panics and moves slightly closer to the back of the party. The rest of his group remains confused. He briefly explains his reasons for his reservations, though it becomes clear in a few moments anyway; Thair grabs a weapon from the forge fire and smashes it on the floor, spilling blazing hot coals across the floor in front of the doorway.

A battle then begins between Thair and his underlings and the Eclipse Collective. The reluctant duergar assistants and orc hirelings are forced into combat by the dwarf, even against the burning coals on the ground and the fact that they are outnumbered. One of the orcs flees, and the duergar assistants perish quickly. Cecil unleashes a more potent display of his power than he had shown before:

"By the fires, be purged! I summon the flames of Phlegethos!"

Infernal streams of liquid fire course out from Cecil's fingertips and coat Thair, burning away sections of his clothing, melting his armor, and searing his flesh. Thair insists he will deal with Cecil shortly, but disregards him for the present to focus on Zil'dejin, who is the last member of the Eclipse Collective that he is still able to recognize. Zil'dejin takes a rather savage beating, but as he just about to fall, Stahlstrauss jumps in front of him and pushes him out of the way, withstanding the hit instead.

It is towards the end of the battle with Thair Coalstriker that the troglodytes and their angel break into the Horned Hold and attack the party from behind. The angel states in clear terms (though not in Common, the tongue is recognizable by any who hear it anyway) that Eshunu cannot be afforded to remain in the Labyrinth. He says that he will let the party be, if they surrender the druid to them.

Zil'dejin responds to this with a heavy-handed charge towards the newcomers. He engages the troglodytes in combat with the others for a while, as Stahlstrauss holds off Thair Coalstriker. While the rest of the party focuses on the troglodytes, Lucan decides to attack their angel accompaniment. As his greataxe connects, there is an enormous flash of light and a resounding burst of sound; when it subsides, nothing remains of the angel. Their main arm gone, the troglodytes flee the area.

Now alone, Thair Coalstriker is finished off quickly. The party takes him captive, but he is reluctant to cooperate. The party aggressively insists upon information and cooperation - Cecil in particular - and eventually, disgraced, Thair throws himself off of one of the bridges connecting the Horned Hold keeps and into the ravine below. Stahlstrauss looks over the railing. "...maybe he's alright."

Zil'dejin casts an angry glance at Cecil. "You nagged him to death!"

"Good riddance," Cecil says, though even he seems somewhat unconvinced.

The party enters into a hallway that splits in two. One door has noises of activity emerging from behind it, and another seems to lead to a dimly-lit area. The party heads that way, and arrives in what appears to be the ruins of a chapel, at the center of which is large, crumbling statue of a minotaur. As the party enters, long-dead humanoid wights rise and attack. The Collective fights them off for a time, but as Stahlstrauss accidentally hits the statue, the wights shriek. Figuring this to be what is binding them, Stahlstrauss breaks apart the statue while the others fight off the wights, and they collapse, lifeless.

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