DM When last we left our heroes, they had pulled back to allow Shael’s charm to undermine the dastardly soulforger Snurrevin. Now, we join them to see the results. Will the duergar become their ally? Or their mortal foe? Read on and find out!
Snurrevin “Yes…that’s it! You fool, you’ve given everything away!” Snurrevin begins incanting, but Shael cannot pinpoint the location. The entire forge begins to buzz and hum with vile green energy. Smoke pours forth from all of the forges, flames shoot up to the ceiling, and then…nothing. He can feel nothing. The other heroes feel their mindlink break.
Kryss “Gentlemen?” Kryss asks through the smoke as he enters the room.
DM The smoke slowly fades. All that is left is the fabulous wealth of the dwarven lords.
Julian Julian rushes in to see what has happened, Lightbringer at the ready.
Kryss Kryss looks around for Shael.
DM Snurrevin is gone. So too is Shael, although that is nothing to be alarmed about at this point.
Julian “Huh. I guess… they’re gone.” Julian states the obvious. He inspects the fabulous wealth of the dwarven lords for consolation.
Kryss Kryss joins him in looking through the forging supplies
DM Besides specialty tools and blacksmithing equipment lying about, there appears to also be a stock of handbooks and journals, perhaps detailing smithing secrets lost to the surface world hundreds of years ago. Rare ores in raw form ripped from the deepest depths of the earth are also piled in various stocks throughout the foundary.
Julian “Wow…” Julian eagerly pages through. “Do you think the ancient dwarven lords knew about making war wagons?”
Kryss Kryss is happy to collect anything of note to review with Fapas. “We’ll have to get all this back to town right away.” he says. He test swings the hammers, holds the ores up to the light inspecting them. Even the tongs get a few test squeezes. It is obvious the dragon has found something exciting here.
Julian “I’m sure they knew all about them. If only I could read Dwarven…” Julian concludes sadly.
Kryss “Perhaps Shael will be able to translate or Rollo?”
Julian “Yeah. Ooh…” Julian’s attention is quickly captured by other riches.
Kryss “I think this is black iron. Green? Ive never heard of it!”
Julian “I bet Rollo would know all about it. Is that… is that mithril? I didn’t even think that was real!”
Kryss “Mithril! Adamantine!” Kryss is growing more and more excited as he identifies the ores. “This is a major find. Wait… whats this?” Kryss asks, holding up the soulsteel.
Julian “Kryss, we’re going to be armed like kings. Is that what the… Durgeddin’s people were talking about? Maybe we should ask them about it.”
DM Within the soulsteel’s gleam, a face appears momentarily, then vanishes, most likely simply a trick of the light.
Kryss “It must be. When I tough it I can almost feel…” he stops and drops the steel billet on the floor.
DM The agony and suffering were probably similar tricks.
DM That crazy light.
Kryss “I dunno. Crazy light playing tricks on me. I wont know anything for sure about any of this until we get back to town.” he arranges a few pieces of the mithril in a rough daisy pattern on a table. “We should find Shael and get moving.” he suggests
Julian Julian nods and starts setting things in order.
Kryss Kryss sketches the design of one of the forges, paying special attention to the way the baffles pull air while Julian makes arrangements.
Julian Once everything is as ready to go as Julian can get it, the paladin waits for Kryss to be done sketching. He tries out the throne in the great hall for size while he’s at it, looking around half guiltily before he flops down.
DM The chair is perfectly sized for him.
Kryss “Ok, lets go find out friend.” Kryss says at legnth, satisfied. "Lets poke around over here a little more
Julian “Yeah, I’m up for a little more poking around.” Julian doesn’t get up. “Pretty good view from here.” he admits.
Kryss “Im sure but I expect Shael will be right over here.” Kryss walks to the east. Following the stream.
DM The stream running through the old dwarven bladeworks meanders into a natural cavern and finally tumbles into a great chasm, easily 100 feet long and 50 feet wide. You can see nothing but darkness below, although you think you hear the roar of distant waters over the shrill sound of the waterfall beside you. Across the chasm, a second small ledge is partially hidden by a spur of rock.
Julian Julian regretfully levers himself up and follows. “Huh. A whole nother level.”
Kryss “Xi?” Kryss asks aloud, “Do you think you could look around over there?”
Xi “Sure, a glorified scout and punching bag, that’s what I am.”
Kryss “A trusted advisor.”
Xi “Are there any orcs waiting to feather me with arrows this time, you dunderheaded buffoon?”
Kryss “I… Im not sure. If there are then feel free to shout a warning.” Kryss closes his eyes, attuning with the dragon.
Xi “Or perhaps an ogre waiting to devour me. I’m sure passing through its bowels would be preferable to living out this disgrace.” Xi begins winging across the chasm. “There’s a chain ladder on this side,” Xi calls back. “Just the sort of thing to slip and fall to your death from.”
Kryss Kryss sighs to himself. “Anything at the top? Is there a way to get to the ladder from where we are?”
Xi “You’d need to go around. No doubt one of these cramped dwarven halls leads over to that side. I can see the worked stone from here.”
Julian “Well, sounds like we need to clear out this level first, then, before we go down. Best that way anyway – make sure we leave nothing that could hit us from behind.”
Kryss Kryss turns to Julian. “Theres a ladder leading down that we can access but Im pretty sure Shael wouldnt go investigating a mysterious hole in the ground without us.”
Julian “Yeah. Honestly, Kryss, I’m pretty sure he’s using a spell to follow us around invisibly. Then he’ll jump out when he’s most needed. Isn’t that right, Shael?”
DM Shael does not jump out.
Kryss “Agreed then. Xi? Please stay close to me and keep your eyes open for anything interesting or dangerous.”
Julian “Bah.” Julian starts heading around to the unexplored rooms.
Kryss Kryss follows, his familiar berating him along the way.
Xi “Please? Danger? A dragon craves not these things.”
Julian Julian tries the first door on the south.
DM Surprisingly, this room has not been looted. These were once the personal quarters of an important dwarf, decorated with tapestries and furnished comfortably, although age has taken its toll on the room’s contents. A beautiful rug easily 20 feet across covers the floor in the center of the room, and a simple bed and writing desk stand in the southwest corner of the chamber.
Julian “Wow, nice rug.”
Kryss Kryss keeps a guard while Julain investigates. “It would last mere moments at the forge.” he replies.
Julian Julian moves over to go through the desk.
DM The rug suddenly twists and attempts to smother Julian. The paladin fights it off.
Kryss Kryss panics as the rug wraps around his companion. Shatterspike comes down upon it.
DM It opens a savage tear in the fabric. And just like that, the rug is in tatters. Two beautiful unanimated tatters.
Julian Julian flails at it with Lightbringer. “Gah! What the hell?” He stops as Kryss makes short work of the thing.
Kryss “Are you ok?” Kryss unwraps Julian.
Julian “Yeah… thanks. Wonder what it was doing here…”
DM (True Believers, the rug was animated by the high priest of Moradin in life and ordered to kill any non-dwarf who set foot upon it.)
Kryss He lifts a half of the rug, “I suppose you could put it in your house if you like…”
DM Beneath the bed lies a small wooden chest containing silver and copper coins, and a square of silk in which are folded a star sapphire and a pair of matched blue topaz stones.
Kryss “Lets check next door.” Kryss suggests.
Julian Julian nods after taking stock of the coin. He moves on to the next door on the south.
DM This looted room has lain untouched for centuries. It contains several stripped orc skeletons.
Kryss “Why would looters have skipped the last door?” Kryss ponders as Julian looks around.
Julian Julian makes sure that these skeletons aren’t the animate type, then moves on. “Maybe the rug killed them. Didn’t see any bodies… I wonder if it ate people…”
Kryss Kryss’ puny human arms grow goosebumps at the idea.
Julian He tries the third southern door.
Kryss “What the…?! Something is happening to my skin!” Kryss sounds alarmed.
Xi “It typically precedes the loss of your male reproductive organs,” Xi offers.
Julian “Huh… poison?” Julian wrinkles his brow.
DM Rows of empty weapon racks and a dozen or more stands for missing suits of armor indicate that this room was once an armory. Some debris litters the floor—wrecked stands and hacked arming dummies, but nothing of value is readily apparent.
Kryss “I certainly hope not!” Kryss replies, rubbing his arms.
Xi “Humans who have no use for them typically shed them after their skin prickles like that.”
Julian “Well, I’ve got healing ready if you need. Let me know if you start feeling ill.” Julian investigates to find the no doubt vast heaps of treasure not readily apparent.
Kryss He waits again while Julian looks around.
DM An arming dummy animates and attempts to spar with Julian…lethally. It pops him solidly on the jaw. “Keep your guard up,” it growls in Dwarven.
Julian Julian does just that with Lightbringer.
DM His blow rings off the arming dummy. His followthrough though, nearly shears its arms off.
Dummy “Good shot. Stand your ground.”
Kryss Kryss moves in smoothly, assessing the dummies balance before swinging low and then high.
Dummy His low blow knocks it off its feet and the high one smacks down hard. “That’s enough training for today,” it grumbles in Dwarven before tumbling over.
Julian “Huh… that’s the second one like that. Maybe there’s more.”
Julian “Thanks again.” Julian continues his interrupted investigation.
Kryss “Perhaps they would be good training aids for the town guard.” Kryss wonders aloud.
DM The investigation turns up nothing of value. Any useful weapons have been long removed from this armory.
Julian On to the northern door just across.
DM This looted room has lain untouched for centuries. It contains smashed furniture that appeared to be of high quality before its ruin.
Kryss “Another bedroom?” Kryss asks.
Julian Julian nods, moving west now and trying the other doors in turn.
Julian He’ll investigate them all once they know that all four are clear.
DM Dwarven corpses, smashed furniture, nothing of value…all the rooms have this in common. His careful investigation turns up only a confirmation of this.
Kryss “Nothing eh?”
Julian “Just ruins. There’s more down here, though…”
Kryss “Each room is another door closer to finding Shael.”
Julian Julian moves into the room at the end of the hall.
DM The hallway itself led to a second open chamber about 30 feet deep and 40 wide. Three doors open into this room, and another dark pool waits in a low stone basin in the center of the chamber. This room is littered with the remains of old warriors. No less than seven dwarven corpses lie where they fell a hundred years ago, surrounded by at least a dozen orc warriors. Someone went to the trouble to strip the dead of their arms and armor, leaving behind a handful of broken weapons and shattered shields.
DM As for the rooms at the eastern end of the hall…orc bodies, stripped like the dwarven ones.
Kryss Kryss is careful not to step on any of the bodies as he walks across them.
DM Nothing of value.
Kryss “What about this door to the south?” Kryss asks as he opens it.
Julian “If I have my bearings right, it’ll probably take us towards that pit again…This time from the ladder side.”
Kryss “Xi mentioned the hallways circle this way.” Kryss confirms
DM This room was once the library or study of a scholar. Bookshelves stand against the walls. Several piles of books rest on reading table in the middle of the room, and the room reeks of moldy paper. Two doors exit to the east and the south. A slender woman of medium height and long, blonde hair sits in a chair at the table, looking extremely sad. Her clothing looks well worn, though it does little to detract from the beauty of her appearance.
Idalla “Have you come to save me?” she asks.
Julian “Hey! Who are you?”
Kryss “Do you require saving?” Kryss asks.
Idalla “My name is Idalla, and I’m bound by a thick enchantment.”
Kryss “Tell me more Idalla, and we may be able to free you.”
Idalla “The sorceress below has ensnared me in mystic bonds. I need heroes to break the enchantment.”
Julian “A sorceress?!”
Kryss Kryss takes a few steps forward, “Then fortune favors you. We have come to break the curses on this land.”
Idalla “You will let me leave with you?”
Kryss “Where do you wish to go?”
Idalla She looks intently at Julian as she asks. “The sorceress who bound me swore to unleash a horror from the deep upon this region.”
Kryss “Why?” Kryss asks.
Julian “Tell us more,” Julian urges, “what and why? And I’m sure you can come with us, but what about that enchantment?”
Kryss “How can we help you? Are you from Blasingdell? Do you know the Constable there?”
Idalla “I am not from Blasingdell, but from a settlement some distance away. The enchantment keeps me from leaving on my own, one of you simply has to carry me out to free me.”
Kryss “Then stand aside and allow us to continue our search. We will return and take you with us once we have found our companion. Do you need food or water? Wine?” Kryss suggests as an afterthought.
Julian “We c…” Julian shrugs as Kryss determines their course. “All right, that works. I suppose that way we can escort you out and see no harm befalls you.”
Idalla “I’ve been eating rats and drinking the water that flows through here. I’d love real food.”
Kryss Kryss digs in a pack and pulls out some fruits that have only been in there a week. He offers her this and his wineskin.
Julian Julian grabs some food and sets it out, adding to what Kryss did. “I’m pretty hungry too. Hope you don’t mind if I share the meal.”
Kryss “Are you injured? Sick? What can we do to make you comfortable until our return?”
Idalla “I’ve been in here for who knows how many weeks…if you could carry me free to the grand hall, I’d at least be free…” She shakes her head when Kryss asks if she’s sick or injured. “Unless I’ve caught something from eating raw meat,” she grimaces.
Kryss Kryss looks back to Julian. “Should I carry her back to the hall?”
Julian “How did you get here? And do you know anything about what lies beyond? What about this sorceress, tell us more?” Julian plies her with questions throughout the meal. “I don’t see why not.” he replies to Kryss. “Soon as we’re done eating. No need to wait till we get back, and this way, if something happens to us…”
Idalla “No, him,” she points at Julian. “He has to carry me. I…I understand a little bit about magic and…something’s off about you, brave stranger. I do not think you can break the curse.”
Kryss Kryss glowers. “I assure you that I am plenty strong enough to carry you.”
Idalla “I believe you, and I don’t mean to offend. Let me tell you about the sorceress.” Idalla begins telling them about the raven haired sorceress who ensnared her. She could weave magical prisons, illusions and had incredible control over water. Idalla tries to beat around the fact, but it seems that the sorceress’s ‘enchantments’ weren’t purely of the magical kind.
Julian Julian doesn’t press that point. A woman’s love has never been highest on his list of priorities. “Does she have any weaknesses?”
Idalla “I don’t know…she mentioned she was working for someone named Andor Kralik…he sounded terrifying.”
Julian “Huh. Never heard of him. Was she connected to dragons at all? Or dwarves?”
Idalla “A dragon supposedly lairs far below here, she did say that. I don’t know if she was telling the truth.”
Julian “Last question… is there anyone else? Either on her side… or did you come with anyone?”
Idalla “I came for her, so if there’s anyone else, I don’t know about it. A dwarven ghost floats around here sometimes, I don’t know if you saw him. He’s from the old days of this fortress…he used to be a priest.”
Julian Julian nods. “Second-last question.” he amends belatedly. “What’s her name?”
Kryss Kryss finishes the meal as Julian finishes interrogating her.
Julian “Huh. Another new one.”
Kryss “What will happen to Julian when he carries you into the main hall?”
Julian “All right, well,” Julian wraps up the leftovers, “let’s get you out of here. I…” He pauses, brow furrowed, as Kryss asks his question.
Idalla “I assume he’ll feel like a big strong hero, which I suspect you get to do all the time.”
Kryss “She seems to be on the level,” Kryss shrugs and holds the door for Julain.
Julian “Hey, easy now. Kryss is a big strong hero.” Julian laughs and stands, offering his hand.
Idalla She takes his hand, smiling.
Julian Julian picks her up easily and heads for the door.
DM As soon as he moves her through the door, invisible chains shimmer into view and shatter.
Idalla “Free!” she gasps. “Oh thank you so much!”
Kryss “If you care to wait, we will escort you to Blasingdell shortly.”
Idalla “Honestly, I don’t care to wait, but seriously, thank you so very very much.”
Kryss “Out of curiosity, why wouldnt the magic have not worked for me?”
Idalla “Probably because you’re a dragon,” she remarks casually. “And not that pure of heart.” Her voice has taken on a harder edge, she no longer appears to be anything like a damsel in distress.
Kryss “Ah yes. That would explain it.” Kryss answers.
Julian “You know your way out? We’ve cleared out most of them, but there might be a few bands of orcs in the countryside. I’d hate to send you out alo…” Julian trails off as her demeanor changes.
Kryss “Off you go then, miss.” Kryss slaps her rump as he turns to return to the library.
Idalla She puts one hand on her hip, and despite Julian’s lack of interest in women, it’s hard to avoid noticing. Kryss notices, because when he went to slap that hip, he somehow tripped and fell at her feet. “I can take care of myself now that you boys were nice enough to free me.”
Kryss He stands and dusts himself off. “Good to know. Safe journeys then.”
Julian “Well, ah…” he smiles, helping Kryss up distractedly, “safe travels to you…” Julian fights to keep his eyes where a paladin’s should be.
Shael Shael observes the maiden curiously, his gaze taking in any magical auras despite his laconic blinking. “Who’s this, then?” he wonders aloud.
Kryss Kryss’ eyes linger despite himself. His human hormones rage through him. “Actually, perhaps we should get to know one another.”
Kryss He steps closer to her again. “We could get to know one another really well…”
Idalla “Sounds fun. Look me up if you’re ever in Istancian.”
Kryss “Why wait? Say, do you like rugs?”
Julian Julian frowns as Kryss moves in.
Kryss His voice takes on a roughness, “We found a room earlier with a really nice rug. We should go look at it. Together.”
Kryss He looks around the room. “Just us…”
Idalla “You wouldn’t have as much fun as you think. And it wouldn’t be very nice to pay you back with anything less than a fun time.”
Shael “Where is that? Istancian?” Shael asks suddenly.
Kryss Kryss’ face turns red as she puts him off.
Julian “Huh?” Julian is jolted out of his thoughts. “Uh… Istancian?”
Idalla “In the Scarlet Sea, off the Reckless Coast.”
Julian “Don’t think I’ve ever heard of it. Not around here, that’s for sure…”
Kryss He grows quiet as he fights away the urge to get all Red Dragon-ish on her.
Shael “The Scarlet Sea? The Reckless Coast?” Shael inquires, “Stilll not familiar names.”
DM “It’s not. I came from pretty far away. Still, you guys were nice enough to help me out. Keep these, and maybe someday you’ll visit the Cage.” She tosses them jade coins.
Julian “I haven’t heard of any of that either. Come on, Kryss, we can’t press on a lady.” Julian mutters uncomfortably, his attention quickly returning to the other two.
Kryss “Where have you been anyways?!” Krys asks Shael.
Idalla “Just be careful, Cutie,” she winks at Julian. “Not everyone is what they appear.” Her eyes grow red and she slowly fades out of focus for all of them.
Kryss Kryss scowls. “I dont think she was what she appeared to be.” he says.
Shael Shael observes the jade coin curiously. He looks up at the woman again and asks, “How will you return?” his head tilted to the side he gazes into her labrinthine gaze as she slowly fades away.
Julian “Whoa. That’s for sure.” Julian looks down at his coin uncertainly.
Julian “Is she… gone?” This to Shael.
Kryss Kryss stuffs the coin in his pocket. “We found a library. Come look.”
Shael “The Ethereal again…” Shael mutters before pocketing his coin. He glances at Julian and nods absently, “Yes… Oh?” he becomes animated as he follows Kryss.
Kryss “She was standing over there.” Kryss says as he leads the party back into the library.
Julian Julian lingers, turning his coin over in his hands. “I’ll catch up…” he mutters vaguely.
Kryss Kryss keeps a watchful eye while Shael looks around the room.
Kryss “She said she was eating rats.”
Shael “What part of them…?” Shael wonders curiously to himself as he pours through the room carefully.
Kryss “I usually eat them whole after a good roasting.”
Shael “There are parts of an animal you cannot roast.” Shael minds.
DM The tomes are of dwarven history. Fairly extensive and detailed dwarven history.
Kryss “None that Ive ever found.”
Shael “History, very extensive and… even fairly precice.” he murmers. Looking up he wonders, “What’s through those doors?”
DM The old bedchamber reeks of mold and rot. It is clear that it hasn’t been opened, Idalla certainly wasn’t in there.
Kryss “I expect the south door leads to the large chasm we found east of the foundry.” Kryss replies. “She said she was here for weeks and she never used any room other than the library.”
Kryss “What do you think she tasted like?” Kryss says, still trying to shake off his urge to own the woman.
Shael “Weeks.” he wonders aloud and intends to remind himself to ask Ghara about her later.
Kryss “Lets try this door. Hopefully Julian will be along shortly.” He chuckles to himself at the pun. He opens the south door.
Shael “Hmm? Oh… pitted iron, I’d imagine.” he answers and follows along to the southern door.
Julian “Huh…” Julian tucks the coin away. This might end up being another thing he’ll have to not show the Lady Inquisitor, he thinks, as he rejoins the party. He investigates dutifully while the others mess around with doors.
DM It becomes rather clear that the chambers Idalla was in do not in fact, lead to a southern passage to the ladder that Xi spoke of.
Julian “A secret door?” Julian wonders. He investigates fruitlessly for some time.
DM The back room is simply piles and piles of books, more dwarven histories, some irrepairably damaged, lying in ruin on the floor.
Kryss “The chasm is on the other side of this wall. Im certain of it.”
Xi “Perhaps you better tug one out before you go blathering about any certainties on your end, you oaf,” Xi mutters.
Julian “Maybe there’s a secret door in the moldy room.” Julian braves the mold to look for it.
Xi “Never been so disgusted with an empathic link in my life…”
Kryss “You dont mean that.” Kryss replies.
DM Julian does not find a secret door, but the former occupant of the moldy room does have treasure squirreled away. Six fire rubies are buried in a small iron chest beneath his bed.
Julian “Hey, look at these!” The secret door is momentarily forgotten as Julian emerges bearing the treasure chest stuffed with gems.
Shael Shael is picking up the ruined books, salvaging what he can as he sorts them into the library room.
Kryss “Thats not a secret door,” Kryss says with disappointment.
DM “You’re at least twenty feet east of where I saw the ladder, you oaf,” Xi growls.
Kryss “Then where is the passage to the ladder?” he asks.
Julian “Huh. So… we missed it further west?”
Julian Julian retraces his steps.
DM “Does that fleshy human brain not have any room in it for vectors?”
Julian He investigates some more.
Kryss “This fleshy human brain has little room in it for anything. In fact, right now its full of ways I could prepare you for consumption.”
Xi “It wouldn’t be the first time, you incompetant turd.”
Kryss “Just figure out how to get us to the ladder, Xi?” Kryss pleads.
Shael “It’s back through the forge.” Shael murmers, still absorbed by trying to repair the books.
Kryss “The passage was blocked from that direction.” Kryss says.
DM Julian locates the secret door while the dragons argue.
Julian “FOUND IT!” he calls.
Shael Shael looks up, surprised. “Oh. I feel like I was just there…”
Kryss “Hang on!” Kryss calls back. “I think Xi is about to find the secret door!”
Julian “Hey Shael, does Ghara want to come?” He eagerly opens the door, short on patience after so much searching.
Xi “I’ll find your secret door, you boob. Course there’s nothing secret about that back entrance, disgraceful pissant that you are…”
DM The door leads to a passage that leads south, and forks off to the east.
Julian He explores the junction that leads back towards the dwarven halls while he waits for his friends to catch up. The dwarves must have used the door for something.
Julian Something like stashing bags of gold?
DM Er, West. Not the east. Shit.
Julian West it is!
DM It seems the passages were not in fact, used to stash gold, but they did not appear to be found by the duergar during their squatting tenure.
Shael “She’s gone.” he tells Julian; oh. Julian is gone. The struggle to leave the books behind is obviously visible on Shael’s expression.
Julian Nothing here, then. Back east Julian goes, and then south.
DM “Hope this isn’t an ugly ladder, because you’re bound to slip and hit every rung on the way down,” Xi continues.
Kryss “We can come back,” Kryss suggests.
Julian His now far off companions hear a muffled “Come on!” faintly audible from somewhere.
Shael Shael frowns and sighs loudly as he follows Kryss.
Kryss “Were coming!” Kryss answers as he stuffs Master Xi uncerimoniously back into the hood of his cloak.
Julian Julian meanwhile eagerly uncovers the mysteries of the southern hallway.
DM His empathic link detects the strains of the familiar to pass his bowels in the hood, although the effort surpasses his ability.
Kryss “I have it on good authority that Master Xi is here to assist me.” Kryss mentions to Shael as they walk.
Shael Shael nods, “Yes, I suppose that is true. It is one way of looking at it, at least.” he agrees.
DM The southern hallway leads to a door. The door leads to a ledge. The ledge has a ladder. It leads down…and down.
Julian Julian tests the ladder, ready for it to crumble under his weight.
Kryss “Should I send ‘You Know Who’ ahead of us?” Kryss asks, motioning to his hood.
Shael “Out of curiousity, what do we expect to find down there?” he wonders, also examining his companions to see if any of the legendary dwarven forged steel is hanging from halberd or anything.
DM It is dwarven forged of iron, and bears his weight easily. However, the spray from the waterfall does make it slick.
Julian “Sure. Idalla told us there’s an evil sorceress. And a dragon.”
Kryss Kryss mentally instructs Xi to take a look below them and report back.
Julian “Why,” he pauses with his foot on the first rung, “do you think we should explore somewhere else first? There’s those caves back on the other side of the iron door… Don’t know whether they lead anywhere.”
Shael Shael frowns, “What does that have to do with us?” he shrugs, “We’ve already found the treasure we were searching for… below, that is a whole new land, I think. I’m not saying we shouldn’t explore it… just that, perhaps, we could take some time to consolodate our gains.”
Julian “Hm. Well, we’ll see what Xi finds.” Julian settles in to wait.
DM Xi heads on down, muttering the entire way. Eventually he fades from sight.
Julian He sits on the rim of the pit, dangling his legs, absentmindedly kicking.
DM An hour passes. Then another.
Julian “Do you suppose the dragon… the other dragon ate him?”
Kryss Kryss settles back against a wall and attempts to see through Xi’s eyes. “No!” Kryss answers.
Julian “Just curious.” Kick. Kick. Julian flicks a pebble down into the pit.
Shael Shael is napping, a book he brought with from the library open in front of his closed eyes.
Kryss “Hey you should start translating these journals if you have time to kill.” Kryss kicks him and drops the smithing journals into his lap.
DM Kryss sees stone, waterfalls, nothing of interest as Xi slowly wheels down the tunnel.
Shael “Ack!” He asserts. He grumpily eyes the smithing journals and scans through them after invoking a ritual of comprehension.
DM The cascade feels fresh on Kryss’s face as he senses Xi playing in the water on the way down.
Julian Julian rubs his brow, removing his circlet with its burning star to run his hands through his hair. “Well, okay then. It sounds like whatever’s down there is a long trip, at least.” Julian says after yet more time has passed. “Let’s get a rest. And sure, Shael, we can look at the other place first. Afterwards.”
Julian The party settles down for a long rest.
Xi Xi returns after three hours. Naturally, after he passed over a hundred feet from Kryss, the dragons lost telepathic contact. “It’s a dragon’s lair,” the tiny dragon spirit informs them. “I’d bet his life on it.”
Kryss “Did you see any dragons?” Kryss asks.
Xi “Nope. Smelled it.”
Kryss “Who was it?…So who was it?!” Kryss asks again, growing irritated.
Julian “What kind of dragon?” Julian wonders.
Xi “A kid. Nothing impressive enough to deserve me knowing their name. Can barely keep their lair clean. Back when I was a juvenile dragon, we had respect.”
Julian “Another white one?”
Xi “None of this shit laying all over the place.”
Shael “It’s a different age.” he reminds Xi.
Kryss “Male or female? This body is stupid. I should have smelled them from the main road.” Kryss curses.
Xi “Probably a girl. Had a sketching of Bruticus up on one of the walls.”
Kryss “Could you tell what color she was?”
Xi “Stupid fangirls. But maybe it was a gay male. I didn’t see the dragon, because I wasn’t dumb enough to go flitting around in this useless form all over their lair. Kid or not, still quick enough to eat me.”
Kryss “You could have talked to him. You are the living embodiment of a powerful draconic bloodline. Besides, Id have just summoned you back.” He turns to his companions. “Im going to have to go down there.” he says matter of factly.
Shael Shael sniffs the air, “Probably black.” he murmers. He takes to the ladder and begins descending. “Give me a bit of a headstart.” he reminds them.
Julian “All right. Let’s go.” Julian gives Shael a bit of a head start, then descends.
Kryss Kryss waits a moment and follows the group. Might be best to lay low and test how sensitive this dragon is before he reveals himself.
DM The descent is long, and their arms are aching by the time they descend…a mile? Half? Into the depths of the mountain. A thundering spray of water fills this small chamber, pooling and flowing out to join a larger river to the north. The air is damp and the roaring of the waterfall is deafening. A broad ledge heads north toward the river and then turns out of sight to the east. The muddy banks of the pool look like footprints or tracks of some kind might have disturbed them.
Kryss “We should have rested down here,” Kryss rolls his shoulders. Swinging hammers and climbing ropes are two different animals. Kryss looks to Xi. "So? Sniff him out! Is he alone?
Shael Shael moves to take a closer look at the footprints/tracks.
Kryss Kryss looks in his hood, Xi is nowhere to be found. He pats his pockets and checks his bags. “Xi?!” he looks above them. “I forgot to tell Xi to follow me down.” he says sheepishly.
DM A massive bipedal lobster, hulking eight feet in height, blasts up from the waters, snapping at them with its huge claws.
Kryss “Xi!” Kryss calls, his back to the beast. “I know you can hear me Xi!”
Julian “Look out! That’s no dragon!” Julian states the obvious and rushes in with Lightbringer.
Kryss “Youre darn right he’s not a dragon!” Kryss shouts back, hoping to be overheard. “He’s a worm! Come down here!”
DM Lightbringer cuts savagely across the strange creature’s chest.
Julian “Aargh!” Julian agrees.
DM The creature retorts with a massve pincer to Julian’s waist.
Kryss “You hear how much you’re embarrassing me right now!?” Kryss calls up the tunnel.
Shael Shael compares the prints to the creature’s legs and grunts. “Kryss, attencion.” a second invocation begins roasting the sea-foo.. ahem.. creature.
Xi “If I could aim my defecation…” comes Xi’s growl as Shael’s flame roasts the creature in its shell.
Homarid It still struggles to crush Julian.
Julian Julian, it seems, is not easily crushed. The paladin hews at the pincer with Lightbringer.
Kryss Kryss finally turns. “Oh! What?!”
DM The struggle is over quickly. Lightbringer cracks open the claws, revealing the tender softly roasted flesh inside.
Kryss “Where did he come from?” Kryss asks.
Shael “I made dinner.” Shael asserts, helping himself to the meaty flesh.
Julian “That DOES smell good…”
Kryss “I apologize, I was distracted.”
Xi Xi sniffs around again.
Julian “No problem. Hey, try some roast crab.”
Kryss “Smells good,” Kryss says, not forgetting the other dragon nearby.
DM A fast-moving underground river roars under an old dwarven bridge, moving from east to west. On the south bank a rusted old chain ladder leads up into darkness, while on the other side of the bridge, the ledge continues to the east. ‘’A second bridge seems to cross the river again about 40 or 50 feet to the east, but you’d first have to cross the river here to reach it,’’ Xi reports.
Shael After having his fill, Shael joins Xi in checking out the surrounding area. “Well, let’s get along then.”
Julian Julian nods and heads for the bridge.
Kryss “Indeed, which way is the dragon, Xi?” Kryss asks
DM Xi glares at the loudmouthed giant. “East,” he whispers.
Kryss “Any idea whats up the ladder?”
Julian “Want to bet that it’s under the water as well?” Julian mutters quietly. He picks his way across the dwarven bridge, following Shael east.
Shael Shael continues eastward, undaunted.
DM As Kryss crosses the bridge, it begins to sway, and crumbles, dumping him uncerimoniously into the water. He expertly leaps from falling rock to falling rock, avoiding the fall and springing to the other side as the rocks clatter and clash.
Kryss “I hope theres another way back around.”
DM Disturbed by the rubble, two of the lobster creatures emerge from the water.
Kryss “Behind you!” Kryss shouts.
DM The dilapidated bridge leads to another ledge that winds southeast alongside a very large lake, the source of the underground river. The cavern is quite large; the lake’s far shore is lost in shadow, and the echoes of water seem to indicate a very sizable cave. The lobster creatures lurk below them.
Shael Looks back and down from Kryss’s feat of dexterity. He considers whether they are a danger, but doesn’t seem to be convinced.
DM One of the creatures moves north, away from the heroes.
Shael Shael hops along further into the cavern, letting the creatures mill about. He casts a spell on himself to ensure the surety of his leaping.
DM While the party is looking at the lobster men, they hear a small splash and catch a glimpse of a small green light moving in the darkness. Then the water erupts in spray as a black-scaled dragon the size of a small horse bursts out of the water!
Nattskalla She hisses, spitting acid on Kryss.
Homarid The lobster man swims around angrily.
Kryss Partially blinded, Kryss falls back to recover. He quickly quaffs a potion from his pack.
Julian Julian covers him, a blast of magic sending waves rippling from a detonation point just between the dragon and lobsterman.
DM The dragon hisses and ducks lower in the water. The other lobster creature swims nearer to shore. A mass of mosquitos buzzes up from a spawning pool and begins swarming over the heroes.
Shael Waving the mosquitos out of his face, Shael spits out a spell of expiditious advance and leaps across the lake like some kind of super man. Standing on the islet, he turns to face the dragon – “I am Shael the Protector, who is it that stands against me?”
DM The dragon merely snarls at him.
Shael “The clouds came alive and dove to the earth! Hooves flashed among the dark army, who fled before the spectacle of fury.” Shael incants and a flash of bright light closes the distance between the two, slashing at the dragon.
DM It cuts the dragon across her face, and she hisses in rage again.
Shael “Reveal yourself to me.” Shael demands, “I will not offer succor to an unknown beast.”
DM “Nattskalla, foolish meat. I will be your doom.”
Shael “You will not be the first…” Shael mutters as he prepares to meet the dragon’s advance.
DM Contrary to her words, she dives into the water and swims away.
Shael He stands upright and murmers, “Uh…” peering into the depths of the water.
DM The lobsters make a beeline for the shore where Shael is.
Kryss Kryss tactically retreats having surveyed the battlefield. Now is the time to plan.
Julian “Shael, we’re falling back, away from the water. We can’t fight her on her ground.” Julian calls to warn the mage of their plans. “If we can draw her out, maybe… at least we could fight her on even terms away from the lake.”
Shael “Oh, sure!” He shouts back, still peering into the water. “I’ll catch up!” he notices the lobster-fellows closing in on him and devises a plan for them.
Julian Julian falls back with Kryss, shielding his face as he pushes through the mosquito swarm. They make for the ladder and quickly ascend.
DM The heroes retreat, the dragon is entrenched, defended, and able to carry the fight at will. Shael leaps in front of Kryss to suffer a blast of acid that would have melted the slower warrior, while Julian calls on Tal for help. They retreat up the ladder, away from the almost certain death below.
Julian Julian all but collapses at the top. Climbing, it turns out, is much more tiring than descending. Still, with shaking hands he tries to heal his friends’ wounds.
Shael Shael smiles and calls on his own mysterious patrons healing magic as well, “Thanks.” he murmers. “Toldja, might wanna consolodate first.” he reminds his friend with a chuckle. “Still, I think I could have taken her. Nattskalla… I’m glad she’ll live. The world needs her magic.”
Julian Julian raises an eyebrow, examining Kryss’s freshly healed acid wounds with concern. “You’re a strange one, Shael, anyone ever tell you that?”
Shael “Every night.” he agrees, “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?” he wonders.
Julian “Well, come on. Let’s bar the doors. I don’t think she can get up this way, but I’m not about to test it.” Julian spends some time ensuring that the portals leading to the shaft leading to the great subterranean lake are thoroughly barred.
Shael “I wonder what happened to the sorceress.” Shael asks as they bar the way up from the lake.
Julian “Maybe it ate her.” People getting eaten certainly seems to have been on Julian’s mind ever since that rug…
Shael “Did the woman say there ‘was’ a sorceress down there or there ‘is’ one?”
Julian “Hm. It was all in the past tense, now that you mention it. But wait…”
DM Come to think of it, Idalla said that the sorceress’s name was…Nattskalla…
Julian “She said the sorcerer’s name was… Nattskalla!”
Shael Shael smiles, obviously pleased. “Oh, good.” he pats the barrier lovingly. “Come along, then. She’ll be fine.” he reassures the paladin.
Julian Julian scowls, glancing around uneasily. “Not everyone is what they appear, I guess. To put it mildly!”
Shael He chuckles merrily, “Aren’t they? A thing is always the thing itself, however it appears to you is your own mind deceiving you… not the thing.”
Julian “Uh… OK.” Julian allows Shael to draw him along, returning to the dwarves’ company. Come to think of it, they might be this place’s strongest bulwark if the dragon DOES try to cause trouble.
Shael Shael finds the room that Alaegnus is guarding and stops outside the door, waiting politely for the spirit’s attention.
DM The priest and the rest of the guard ring Durgeddin’s tomb.
Shael Shael clears his throat to gain their attention, “Ahem.”
Alaegnus Alaegnus looks in his direction. “Defenders of Durgeddin.”
Shael “Alaegnus.” he replies. “We will be leaving soon, though we will return once again before we take our final leave…” he pauses at length, “…unless… I have a concern, and an opportunity…” he trails off uncertainly.
Shael “Snurrevin is gone – but, certain that he has found the key to soulforging. I… can only hope he found the truth in my words I wished to share with him.” he pauses at length and glances at the other warriors, “I know the secrets of his race… and yours in their making. For that reason, I have some sympathy for them…”
Alaegnus Alaegnus’ brows furrow.
Shael “…but, they are still dangerous. Regardless of my sympathy, regardless of the truths, I know that. I want for them to prosper, but not at the expense of the true dwarves… I will not cajole, but I want you to know there is an opportunity for you to guard more than just one hero. Soulforging is an abomination… but, it is an abomination because it steals the will of those unable to protest. The willing, those who would sacrifice themselves, cannot become corrupted… but, nor could the just ever ask for that sacrifice…” he trails off and looks away, troubled.
Alaegnus Alaegnus looks away at the same time, his countenance troubled as well. They look back at each other in the same moment. “Perhaps…perhaps you are right. Durgeddin’s finest masterpiece was lost in the looting. It lies…somewhere below here, I can sense. Return it to us and we shall attempt…this sacrifice.”
Shael Shael nods, “It may be in the lair of Nattskalla — it will take some preperation, but I will make it so.” he agrees. Shael withdraws quietly, contemplativly, and rejoins Julian.
Julian Julian has been talking with Rollo about the future of the halls.
Shael “What is your greatest ambition, Rollo?” Shael wonders, unintentionally interupting.
DM The dwarf intends to return to his clan and migrate back to reclaim the fortress, sometime in the next twenty years.
Shael Shael smiles, “Yes, that will do nicely. Want to help us subdue a dragon before that?”
Rollo Rollo considers. “My kin need to be told. When did you intend to root out this dragon?”
Julian “There’s one way down in the depths. A strong one, too. I’m in no hurry to test it again.”
Shael “Soonish.” he glances at Julian as they speak together. “Maybe a month?” he asks the paladin.
Julian Julian frowns. “Maaaaaybe. Kryss came about a hair’s breadth from dying, Shael.”
Rollo “A dragon is nothing to fool with,” Rollo frowns. “Not idly.”
Shael Shael shrugs vaguely. “She’s the treasure we came for. Durgeddin’s masterpiece and more.”
DM “She’s as in ‘has’ or ‘is’?” Rollo asks.
Shael “Has. When you leave to gather your clan, I mean for you to take that masterpiece with you… find it’s rightful wielder.”
Julian "Has. But she “is” dangerous, Shael, and she “will be” our bane if we venture back down there without new tricks in our pockets. That trick she has, hiding under the water, hit and run… we’ll have to find a way to fight that. Anyway. I think right now our path leads back to town."
Shael “Sure… but, we didn’t actually do any of ‘our’ tricks, eh? We just let her do hers.” he nods, “Exactly.” With a nod, Shael agrees.
Julian There’s much loot to gather, and a bear to make friends with with magical aid. Julian does both.
Shael Shael gathers up the books.
Julian Before long the party sets out for town, much burdened down by enormous quantities of loot. Not before Julian has enjoyed some more time on Durgeddin’s throne, though. It certainly is an attractive seat…
DM And so they head to Blasingdell, where they make plans to head out to the festival at Brindinford. Sir Miles Berrick sends a representative to them with a message inviting them to his house for an elaborate dinner party. There they are greeted by Sir Miles himself, who invites them to mingle for a while. Local bards and musicians are playing music for dancing, and the wine is flowing freely. At midnight, Sir Miles stands up, raising his glass of wine and smiling broadly. “Beside me sit some fine adventurers! Their courage in the face of the orc threat allows us to continue enjoying a life free of the shadow of tyranny and fear! Let their bravery be an example to us all!”
Shael Shael loiters near-center of the outskirts allowing well-wishers to approach, he shakes hands and makes small-talk with any who seek his attention.
DM The townsfolk are extremely pleased with the heroes who drove off the orcish menace led by Great Ulfe. A few grizzled greybeards do wonder aloud what might happen if the next ogre band has more ogres and less orcs.
Shael “We’ll have to come back, I suppose.” suggests Shael with an easy grin. “But, there’s plenty of heroes among you, too.” He targets several of the guests near him and reminds them of ‘heroic’ deeds they accomplished themselves while he’s been in town. Helping their neighbors, defending the dignity of their friends, loving and being loved – each a task difficult even in the best of times.
Julian Julian is all smiles, and he mingles freely at the party, giving his time to the noble and the common alike. He keeps an eye out to see whether any of the church people are present.
DM Melantha is present, scowling and dressed in what is probably her finest outfit. Brother Culver is there as well. Elmo and Alonsa are not, no doubt at the temple.
Julian Julian makes some time to talk to her aside from the others. An Inquisitor is something to be wary of… but at the same time, they are on the same side. Sort of. It’s complicated.
Julian “We slew several Forsaken that were roaming about the old halls.” he warns her.
DM Melantha is in the middle of explaining why corporal punishment should be employed on children, teens and young adults who are caught in compromising situations when Julian approaches and takes her aside.
Melantha She looks pleased, or at least less pissed off, when Julian tells her the news. “I thought you were a soft living good for nothing when we first met,” she offers him as a compliment. “It seems I’ll need to revisit that judgement.”
Julian Julian smiles. “Well, there’s worse ways to win a better name than by slaying Forsaken.” The smile quickly fades. “There was one we didn’t slay, though. I’d say he got away, but… the truth is, we couldn’t have beaten him if he stayed. The leader, I think. If they have leaders.”
Melantha Melantha frowns, well, frowns further. “The leader of the Forsaken?”
Julian “Of all of them, I don’t know. But of these, at least, that’s my guess.” He describes the Rag Man.
Melantha Melantha’s face drains of color as Julian brings up the Rag Man. “I…I thought he was just a myth. A boogyman, to scare weak limp wristed pansies from doing their duty to Tal.”
Julian “No myth!” Julian speaks forcefully. “After we fought, I was left standing before him, and I dealt him a two-handed blow, right on his brow, that could have split an ogre down to his belly.” he tells her. “And I know, for I did just that to one. But he… the blade rang and turned aside, and there he was, barely a wound.”
Julian “Then he spoke a word that split my ears and struck straight to my heart. I’d lie there still, where I fell at that one word, if Grendar hadn’t dragged me to safety.”
Melantha Melantha sets her jaw. “This news must be taken to the Primata, so that all the centers of the faith can be warned. The Rag Man walks among us.”
Julian Julian nods gravely. “Other than those who were with me then, I’ve told no one but you. I don’t want to sow fear among the people. But I hope that you can spread the warning to those that need to hear.”
Melantha Melantha purses her lips. “If you pass through Alsoor, seek out the temple and give your message to the Primata. I ride for the Sunless Citadel on the morrow, when I finish there I shall head to Alsoor.”
Julian Julian nods. “I will. God speed, Lady Inquisitor.” With a troubled look he takes his leave.
Shael In time, Shael finds himself breifly alone with Sir Miles. “Have you decided what to do about the pregnancies?”
Miles “The women will be given support…no matter what their decision,” Sir Miles offers. “They’ve been through enough, we need not make their ordeal extend longer.”
Shael Shael smiles vaugley. “Support? And what of the children?” he wonders.
Miles Sir Miles shrugs. “That will be up to their mothers.” His thoughts are grim…he believes few half orcs and fewer half ogres will be quality citizens, but he is committed to giving them the chance to prove him right before he enacts justice upon them.
Shael With a sigh Shael gently minds Sir Miles, “Love is the answer.” he gathers the ruler’s gaze, “People are people. You are people, orgs and ogres are people. If you love people, they will love you… if you hate them then they will hate you.”
Shael He shrugs and looks away, “You wanted an answer, I thought you all might find it on your own.” he apologizes. “A thing is a thing, it does not matter how you see it… the thing is still itself… but, if you help shape the thing, what is it then?”
Shael “When you are uncertain, remember that your mind will deceive you… ask the thing what it is and believe it.”
Miles Sir Miles sighs himself. “Your optimism is encouraging, but I have a people to answer to. To defend. Love and hope did not protect farmers in the night from Great Ulfe. Faith in one hand, and my blade in the other.”
Shael “Do you love your people, Sir Miles?” he asks, stonefaced and unyielding.
Miles “No. I rule them. I defend them. Not because I love them but because it is what is right, and it is what is demanded of me.”
Shael “Then you will fail.” Shael mourns, “I am sorry, but I will still love you and your people. Failure is not enough to dim my hope.” he smiles sadly.
Julian Julian passes by, catching the last of this. “You’re talking of the women, I am sure.” he asks, despite missing most of the conversation. Evidently he has been thinking of it as well. “If you’ll hear my own thoughts on it, Sir Miles, I’d not have anyone strongarmed against their will one way or another. To keep or to give up.”
Shael Shael sniffs Julian’s thoughts to divine his intent and nods, “You wondered for my answer but I was not here.”
Julian “But no matter which they choose, I’d like to leave something to help them in their choice.” Julian is thinking about all the silver he took from Ulfe’s son. “And maybe to mollify those families who would strongarm them just because they are already at the edge of their resources.” Most of the silver likely came from these people anyway, Julian is thinking.
Shael Shael subtly nods his agreement.
Julian “Can I entrust you with a fund to support them? I know you would administer it wisely and not allow it to be frittered away, but see that it were invested for their benefit.”
Miles “A true warrior of Tal,” Miles pronouces. “I had intended my own coffers support the…situation, but I will add to that with this.”
Julian “Thank you, Sir Miles.” There is a brief discussion of amounts and details, and then Julian nods and looks back over the gathering. He catches sight of the Lady Inquisitor again.
DM She looks over, catching his gaze.
Julian He says nothing, mouth tight. Well, you got her attention now, he is thinking. For better or for worse. I don’t think she has any reason to suspect me…. yet. But I can’t hide forever.
Shael Shael smiles, “The better.” he murmers so only Julian can hear, still by his side. He raises his glass to the inquisitor, “She is a fine woman, I’ve seldom met better… if ever.”
DM Perhaps the frown is for the Rag Man. Perhaps it is simply her face perpetually relaxed in that form. But maybe…just maybe…he has not hidden from her at all.
Julian Julian nods gravely to his fellow warrior and now confidante. He glances sidelong at Shael at the latter’s words, but does not reply. Sooner or later, he is thinking. She’ll find me out.
Shael “You’ll do well together. You’ll change the world.” Shael replies before vanishing into the crowd to pursue his own agenda.
DM And so our time in Blasingdell comes to a close, True Believers! We will return here before too long, but for now, we look to the west, where a festival promises to provide our heroes with their first true attempt at a war wagon. What dangers and intrigues await us in Brindinford? Find out next week!