Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Session 14 - The Caverns of Erythnul

Godsday, Readying 18th, 595 CY (cont.)

The five members of the group rummaged through the belongings of the grimlocks. On the krenshar keeper, they found a high quality greataxe and a bow with a strong pull. Bolero, the only person both trained and strong enough to use it, kept the bow for himself. As a group they approached the drop off at the cavern’s end. The light from their magic torches just reached the cavern’s floor nearly sixty feet below, casting shadowy illuminations on the stalagmites that jutting like jagged teeth from the darkness. A series of crude iron spikes had been driven into the wall of the drop on their side. Across the twenty feet of empty air was the opposite wall of the cavern, featureless with the exception of a small ledge fifteen feet down from where they stood, it’s surface, like everything else, a forest of stony spikes.

Taking a running start, Ashbourn leapt his way across the gap to the small ledge, but was surprised when a tanglefoot bag flew from behind one of the stalagmites nearby, bursting over him in a green slime before quickly hardening. A pair of grimlock archers had been hiding on the ledge waiting for intruders to make the climb down the cliff, but the unexpected arrival of the monk had forced them to reveal themselves. Outnumbered and entangled, Ash dropped off the ledge, his ring of feather fall carrying him gently to the ground below.

Across the way, the group drew forth their ranged weapons and began exchanging volleys with the grimlock archers. Safely on the floor below, Ash discovered two tunnels, one at the bottom with him and another roughly twenty feet up and below the ledge he had just left. Iron spikes led from this higher tunnel up to the ledge itself, allowing the archers a means of coming and going. Ash decided to climb the twenty feet to the tunnel above.

When he had almost reached the mouth of the tunnel, two creatures, chokers, lashed out at him, having apparently been stalking him since he had been below. Another grimlock, a powerfully built female armed with paired daggers, lashed out at his face from the mouth of the tunnel. Ash threw himself into the tunnel and onto the grimlock, locking her into a grapple.

Above, arrows and bolts continued to fly across the gap. Bolero’s new powerful bow was used to good effect, but the grimlocks were touch and were stinging the paladin with arrows, as well. Filge, seeming annoyed that the battle was dragging on, cursed and summoned a hand of spectral energy, sending it across the way armed with a spell that left one paralyzed and the other retching from the smell that leaked from the wound inflicted on his partner.

The smell reached Ash and his foe. The grimlock female was a barbarian, and flew into a powerful rage, but the smell had an effect on her, and she was unable to focus. Ash used this too his advantage and threw her from the mouth of the tunnel and down the twenty feet to the ground below. Cursing in her own tongue, the female barbarian fled through the bottom tunnel, obviously injured. Hissing, the pair of chokers followed her.

Ash made the climb to the ledge. The sickened archer had taken cover from the other group’s arrows, trying to quaff a healing potion, but Ash arrived in time to punch him in the face and take the potion from him. Suspecting Filge’s spell of paralyzation would not last forever, Ash lifted the helpless grimlock over his head. Ardynn whispered, “Someone should say something…” Filge agreed, screaming, “Do it!” Bolero remained quiet as Ash threw the grimlock from the ledge into the stalagmites below, ending his life. The other grimlock bled out from the wound inflicted by Filge’s necromancy.

After looting the remains of the archers, claiming their remaining heal potions and tanglefoot bags, the group made their way down and back up to the tunnel below the ledge. It was narrow and twisting, forcing them to travel single file. The tunnel opened out into the middle of another cliff wall. Three ropes formed a “v” that crossed the open space to a ledge thirty-five feet away, forming a bridge.

Bolero made to cross first, but an ambush was waiting for them on the far side, hurling javelins at the suspended paladin, causing him to lose his balance and plummet to the ground thirty feet below. The others, after seeing that Bolero had survived the fall with little more than some bruises, began fighting the three grimlocks. Snuffy sent one fleeing in fear from a spell, Ash moved along the rope bridge with ease, luring one of the grimlocks out onto the span with him. It wasn’t long before the two remaining grimlocks had been defeated.

Filge went to help Bolero, and found the paladin battling one of the chokers. The two had little trouble dispatching the creature. Filge collected some potential components from the choker, and discovered a cold iron longsword and a gem-studded necklace in the rocks at the bottom of the cave. He gave Bolero the longsword, who took it graciously, which seemed to please the necromancer.

It took the group some time to transport Rowdy across the terrain, but there was no sign of any grimlocks, so they took their time, in no hurry to rush headlong into another encounter.

A long, twisting tunnel, much like those they entered through, finally opened into a huge, three-tiered chamber, each level ten feet higher than the previous, with the group entering at the lowest layer. They had heard chanting in Undercommon to Eyrthnuul, but it had fallen into a deep and unbroken silence some time before. There was no sign of the remaining grimlocks, but the group knew they were there. The mottled and rock-like skin of the grimlocks was the perfect camouflage for hiding in the dark caves.

As Bolero made to climb onto the next level of the cavern, the grimlocks sprung their trap, as eleven of the beast-men came rushing to the drop, armed with longspears. They formed into ranks two deep and attacked with superior reach, forcing the group to retreat back to the tunnel they had entered from. A large grimlock oversaw the assault from the chamber’s third level, and next to him stood the female barbarian, her eyeless visage nonetheless conveying the glare she was sending Ashbourn’s way. The chieftain called out to the God of Slaughter, offering the group up as a sacrifice. Bolero called out a challenge to the grimlocks, trying to coax them down from the ledge, but none spoke the common tongue except the chief and the female, who both threw furious taunts back but refused to advance. With no means of climbing to the second tier of the chamber without getting decimated, it seemed the group was going to be have to retreat.

Until Ardynn threw out a flaming sphere.

The ball of fire ran through the ranks of the surprised grimlocks, burning several as it rolled around between their legs. Using a spell to enlarge Rowdy, Ardynn sent him forward to attack. Unfortunately, the area before the rise was tightly packed, and the now giant dog could not force his way onto the upper ledge. Bolero, however, took the opportunity to swing up on Rowdy’s back and jump into the midst of the grimlocks on the ledge. Stil furious at the paladin for his earlier challenges, the chief flew into a rage and charged. The female followed him.

The battle was brutal. The chieftain’s greataxe seemed to connect with unnatural accuracy, despite his almost wild swings, but Bolero stood his ground, keeping the furious warrior’s attention on him alone. Ash quickly joined the melee, locking into combat with the still wounded female barbarian. Snuffy made his way to the second level using his magic, and Ardynn switched his place behind the grimlock line with Rowdy, using a spell of benign transposition. Rowdy flew into the grimlocks, killing several. Snuffy focused on keeping Bolero alive from the chieftain’s mighty blows while Ardynn’s fire continued to cut through the ranks of grimlocks. Spears flew in at Bolero, but his defense was nearly seemly and he turned aside blow after blow. Focusing his spirit energy, Ash delivered lightning-fast blows that finally sent the female toppling to the ground, never to rise again, as Rowdy killed another of the spear-wielders. Both joined in with Bolero against the raging chieftain, along with Flige, who had sent a ray of enfeeblement into the powerful grimlock, taking some of the edge from his axe swings. Finally, through their combined effort, the horrible barbarian toppled. The remaining grimlock hesitated, causing their rages to fail and fatigue to overcome them. Bolero offered them once chance to flee, but they fought on and died shortly after.

A single grimlock seemed to have it in for Ardynn after the devastation her spell had visited, so she placed him under a charm person. The grimlock lowered his weapon to his side, seeming uncertain of what to do. The battle was over.

The group questioned the charmed grimlock, Snuffy translating for everyone from Undercommon to Common and back again. The group discovered from him that the spiritual leader of the grimlocks, Grallek Kur, was farther ahead in a chamber only he and his personal guard were allowed into. He refused to lead them there, even Ardynn, as it was forbidden. Grullak Kur was the prophet mentioned in Thedrick’s journal and the one they had come seeking. Subterfuge and guile seemed to have little effect on the prisoner, who had become somewhat resigned with his fate.

Again, the question of what to do with a prisoner had come up. Not doubting the random wickedness of the grimlock follower of Erythnuul, Bolero requested Ardynn release him from her charm and allow him to end it. Ardynn refused, considering it little different from murder. Bolero argued his reason, Ash supporting him, but the druid-wizard refused to relent. She did remove the charm with a slap to the grimlock’s face, but instead set Rowdy to guarding him, taking her captive’s life as her responsibility. The matter would not be resolved with words, so the others relented, leaving the chaotic and dangerous creature in her care.

The group searched the fallen. The armor of the female was leather, studded with small polished stones and tinted to enhance the wearer’s ability to hide in rocky or underground terrain. Ardynn took the armor. The chief work under his leathers a shining shirt of mithral chain, further enhanced with magic, and on his wrists he wore heavy warbracers of masterwork quality. Snuffy decided the ease of movement would be a boon, and exchanged the shirt and bracers for his magical chainmail.

They quickly gathered the more useful valuables, healed themselves as best they could, and prepared for a battle with the spiritual leader of the grimlock clan: Grallak Kur.