We only had 4 this session, and I think we may see the result of that midway through the day. We had:
Lucan, Half Elf Fighter 3, played by Colin who was also DMing
Arlarond, Human Wizard 3 played Dan
Halma, Human Rogue 3 played by Jesse
Therryk, Dragonborn Paladin/Warlord 3 played by me
Notice something? No leader you say? I had 3 heals per day as a multiclassed leader and a paladin, and that is just not enough.
We picked up directly after we left off last week. The crew was directing the ship towards the island, still a few hour's journey across the lake. Long enough for the party to get a good rest in and recharge from the treacherous battle with the dragon. Therryk and Arlarond attempted to calm the crew by telling them that the dragon likely eliminated all serious dangers in the area as the largest predator around. Possible monetary benefits and other social benefits from having slain a dragon were mentioned, too. In a hushed conference, however, we discussed the possibility of an even larger dragon, perhaps the parent of this one, and moved the carcass below decks and administered clerical blessings on it to prevent it's decomposition.
As the island came into view we noticed some odd things about it. First, there was no significant vegetation. Second, it was composed of an odd mineral or other formation that gave it a distinct almost crystalline appearance. We found the remnants of what might have been an old road or similar convention, a flat path that lead from the shore deeper into the island. Several members of the party were still recuperating from the poison used by the dragon and were unable to make the journey. Four of us left the ship to scout the temple. A short distance inland we found an abandoned campsite. After a short search of the area we determined that it was a dwarven expedition. We found a fine cast iron vessel with a stamp reading "Sogol Expeditions". Sogol is the name of the dwarven leader imprisoned in Hammerfast. We conjectured that he had found the temple and needed to gather additional manpower, hopefully because there was so much treasure to haul out.
We continued inland, constantly climbing higher, and encountered what we thought must be the temple we sought. Unimpressive from the outside, it looked like a large, featureless mound. The only clues to it's importance were two pillars flanking an opening. We entered cautiously into a large chamber. Pillars marched towards the opposite wall on a giant scale. A sole spot of sun illuminated a bas-relief depicting a triumphant warrior standing over a chasm in the earth. With artificial light provided by Arlarond we discovered this was only one of many such carvings arranged in an analemma calendar, depicting an epic battle near a huge chasm. The temple was built on top of the chasm.
The next room was long and descended towards a large hole in the floor. Flanking the hole were large control mechanisms with chains disappearing into the darkness. We guessed that this was an elevator. In front of this was an altar, too large to see the top of without climbing up, and fully 15 feet long. Close examination of the altar revealed little of the meaning behind the religious iconography in the temple. There was a central depression and four in the corners. Another mystery to ponder as we made plans to descend into the darkness.
The platform was in the down position, and we discovered as we prepared to descend that it was shattered and useless. In order to descend we would have to climb. Halma and Lucan were fine and would have little difficulty descending. Therryk would be okay if he was unencumbered by his heavy armor. Arlarond would need some help, however.
The time aboard the boat learning a sailor's profession came in handy. Halma was able to fashion a harness for Arlarond and this allowed him to be lowered down by Therryk and Lucan. Halma climbed down, and once Arlarond was on the ground the other two started down.
A ghoul attacked. Half of the party was still 100 feet in the air when a ghoul came from the darkness and tackled Arlarond to the ground. His claw immobilizes him.
- Therryk and Lucan clamber down the chains as fast as they can.
- Arlarond casts from his prone position and Halma moves to try and flank the ghoul.
- When Therryk is near enough to the ground that he thinks the fall won't kill him, he lets go of the chain and with a battle cry lands. . .next to the ghoul. A spectacular failure.
- Lucan hops down and immediately joins the fight. It is the turning point.
- A host of nude dwarven zombies shuffle out of the darkness towards us. Our minion sweeper blasts them all with ice and fire, leaving the rest of us to deal with the ghoul.
- Lucan drives his trident into the ghoul a final time, rendering it lifeless again.
This certainly explains why the dwarven expedition failed and Sogol felt a need to return with greater strength. We rested and Therryk donned his armor. Not long after we began traveling we came to a fork in the way. Following Halma's advice we began going left, but were immediately set upon by more undead.
- The initial rush immobilized some of the party, making a strategic retreat unlikely. It would be a constant annoyance throughout the fight.
- Early on Arlarond shrouded himself in flames, killing the zombies. That left three ghouls.
- The constant assault of the ghouls took its toll. Therryk used all his daily healing abilities propping up Halma. The ghouls would stun with their claws, then attempt large bites with did devastating damage.
- Lucan was bit by a zombie, paralyzing him. Arlarond stepped into the fray attempting to make himself a target by scorching two of the ghouls. It worked.
- Arlarond gets clawed, then bitten, and falls dead to the ground. Strange light from the hole in his head briefly illuminates the fight, then is gone.
- Immediately after the Lucan falls, and things are grim for the two standing members of the Heroes of Fallcrest
- Luck and divine providence prevail and Therryk and Halma emerge victorious, and are able to revive Lucan. Arlarond, however, is gone.
As we carry our friend's body to the surface the sounds of screaming, and of combat, grow louder. As we enter the chamber with the ruined elevator we see a man being attacked by two zombies. They fall to a burst of arcane power, and we are introduced to Sylus, the Human Warlock (Infernal pact). He was part of Sogol's expedition and has spent the past few weeks surviving and eliminating the undead members of his former party. He is glad to see us, and we readily agree to join forces and avenge our dead teammates. Sylus' goddess also despises the undead, so for him it is perhaps an even greater motivation.
We bear Arlarond's body back to the boat, and there hold council and determine to keep going with our exploration of the temple. According to Sylus there is a room underneath the temple with a large chasm, this room is where his party turned to zombies. Finding this room and it's secrets would go a long way towards avenging our friend. Plus, treasure.
The search is long and arduous. Halma leads, turning left whenever we are presented with a choice. We find dead ends, one of them piled with chewed bones. We find several catacombs filled with the bodies of giants in strange robes. After over five hours of wandering we find the room Sylus told us about.
The floor is made from a strange material. Not metal, but smooth and sheer. The room is large and strange, bisected by a 50 foot wide chasm of indeterminable depth. The chasm extends beyond the confines of the room, continuing under the walls and on beyond our ability to recon. We are stumped. The interior of the pit is lit by regularly spaced lights that do not flicker like torches, and appear to be magical. We also discover tunnels that open into the chasm, and we climb 30 feet down and into the nearest one.
Similar in construction or origin to the chasm, the tunnel provides no clues as to it's purpose. Regularly spaced along the wall are more of the magic lights. Even removing one was no help, as it ceased functioning as soon as it was chiseled out of the wall. All the time we had been in the tunnels the ambient noise had been increasing, until we noticed a dull thrumming throughout. Without warning a blast of steam burst from the depth, shooting down the tunnel and catching us unawares, painfully so for some of us.
We hurriedly moved down the corridor, now with a more immediate purpose to our search. It ends with a T, and predictably we go left. After a short walk we come to another choice, to go left again or to continue going straight. Some exploration reveals that every left option will take us back to the chasm. We kept going and were getting nervous, as the rumble was getting louder again.
Sharp eyes saved us. We spied a seam in the right wall, and after some quick examinations were able to push the catch and open the door. It moved back and sunk into a slot in the ground, and if anything the room beyond it left us even more confused.
It felt as if we were looking at the back of an enormous clock. Gears, springs, and mechanical devices went almost floor to ceiling on the far wall. And it was a large wall, with us on a walkway 30 feet from the ground. We closed to the door behind us to protect against any more steam bursts and began to explore the room.
Aside from doors on the other two walls in the room, we discovered little. According to plan, we took the left, and entered another similar, only more bizarre. In this room the clockwork was horizontal, and we could not see below it to the ground below. A series of gears covered the floor, ticking away, and the walkway to the opposite side was destroyed. On the other side of the room was a set of double doors. After much deliberation it was decided that we were woefully understaffed and unprepared for any serious engagement this far from backup, and we elected to return to the surface, and the boat, and gather what help we could for whatever awaited us on the other side of the door.
Arlarond dies. Which sucks, as his player had one of the few complete backstories. The ghoul fight was brutal for a few reasons. Number one, for a party with two clerics it is pretty ironic that when we encounter some undead neither one is present. Which also means healing is . . .not really there. Number two is ghouls are pretty rad. Their claw immobilizes and does 1d6+, and if you are immobilized they bite and you are stunned and take 3d6+. Colin rolled 18 for damage when he hit Arlarond, for a total of 22 damage. He dropped to negative bloodied and died. Lucklily Dan had a Warlock ready and we were able to get back to 4 PC's again. I think we would have had to call it a day with only the 3 of us remaining.
My star moment was going to be this awesome attack in the first fight. I spent my action point to spend another move climbing down. When I was 30 feet down I let go of the chain and tried to fall on the ghoul. I got a freaking 9. That hits. .. nothing. So instead I bellyflopped onto the stone floor and had to fight the ghoul unarmored with a 13 AC. Less than heroic.
We spent a lot of time at the tail end of the session exploring the complex. It is bizarre, as Colin is bizarre, and it will be interesting to see where this goes.
Next week Dan is DM'ing a different campaign set in the same world. Level 4 characters, with a few monstrous races. I am bringing a Half Elf Star Pact Warlock that rides a giant riding lizard. Should be good times.