2nd Quintilis (contd.)
Hrothgar leads the way down the stairs. The “gleaming belt” wrapped round the waist of the rusty iron statue turns out to be an iron cobra which attacks the gnoll with poison the mind, dazing him, while two longtooth shifters fire arrows from below. Ulthar kills the construct with a critical hit and everyone piles in on the two shifters – Hrothgar delivers the killing blow to the first one, then immediately charges and kills the second.
The battle over, the PCs head into the catacombs beneath the fortress. The first room they come to is a prison block containing four cells – birdsong can be heard coming from one of them. Ulthar runs past Hrothgar and opens the cell holding an old man dressed in peasant clothes and accompanied by seven chirping canaries. He offers the old man first water and then food which he smilingly accepts but he remains silent, despite the warlord’s charismatic questioning. The other PCs think the old fellow is a bit simple and let him pass to go upstairs.
Next, the party search two old, dusty storerooms. Gil finds hunk of rock containing a thin vein of silver – is this evidence of the Karak Lode? Little else of value is discovered.
Finally, the PCs enter the crypts where the dwarves of Clan Ironfell have been interred. As Hrothgar rounds the corner into the hallway, lined on both sides with vaults, one of the many doors springs open and a berbalang appears, immediately summoning two duplicates of itself. The monster is frustrating to fight as it deflects damage on to its duplicates (including a critical from Hrothgar), absorbs one of the them to heal itself, and then blows one up in an explosion of psychic gore which catches Juma, Sora and the gnoll. In the tight confines of the corridor, Gil’s flaming sphere is also something of a hindrance, burning the other PCs nearly as much as the berbalang. Eventually, though, the creature is cornered at the far end of the corridor and slain.
With nowhere obvious to go, the PCs spend an hour or so searching for secret doors in the dungeons without success before heading back upstairs. The sandstorm has arrived and waiting it out seems to be the only option so the PCs head for the ore storage room to rest. Yellow feathers and footprints in the sand seem to indicate that the “bird-man” headed out into the storm.
Returning to the courtyard in the centre of the fortress to see if the sandstorm is over, the PCs are ambushed by a group of chokers, led by a troglodyte curse chanter. Sora is grabbed by a choker and strangled – when Juma swings at her assailant, the blow strikes the dragonborn instead! The troglodyte puts a nasty cavern curse on Hrothgar who has also been grabbed. Ulthar kills the first choker, then moves up to attack the reptilian priest who is shooting weakening poison rays at the party’s warriors. Hrothgar has now disposed of his assailant and charges the chanter, leaving Sora, Juma and Gil finish off the last two aberrations with help from Ulthar. The paladin moves in on the curse chanter and delivers a near-fatal blow – the flames from Gil’s sphere finish the trog off. Victorious, the PCs retrieve a signet ring of Clan Ironfell from the body of the troglodyte.
Yellow canary feathers lead out of the room. When followed, these take the party downstairs to the cells where the bird-man was locked up. In one of the cells a large round hole has appeared in the floor. Beneath is a platform operated by a pulley system. Hrothgar and Juma go down, followed by the others.
The chamber below is clearly the entrance to a mine – the PCs have at last found the Karak Lode! Ahead is a portcullis and beyond are two troglodytes. Hrothgar and Juma move forward, only to be shot at by a poisoned dart trap. Sora tries to lift the portcullis but fails; fortunately Ulthar succeeds and the PCs are able to move up and attack the guards. More troglodytes arrive from a side chamber and others can be seen in the strangely-glowing cavern at the end of the corridor. Gil’s fireball softens up the enemy and the brave wizard follows this up moving in and casting fire shroud. Even Juma’s “dwarf wall of fire” proves effective and it doesn’t take long before the foul-smelling humanoids lie dead.
Studying the glowing dark red veins twisting through the otherwise grey walls, Gil thinks energy from the Elemental Chaos has somehow leached into the mines…..