Sunday, August 9, 2009

Session 28 - Sodden Hold

Ash, Bolero, and Snuffy took the unconscious doppelganger into the alley beside the inn. They intended to give the shapechanger over to the watch, but not before questioning it. searching it, they discovered some items of magic (his shortsword and studded leather being two of them) and a key with the symbol of a kraken pulling a ship beneath the waves. After waking it up, they began their interrogation.

The doppelganger revealed that it had been hired to implicate them in the attempted murder of the innkeeper and have them locked up. It also revealed that Olis had been his cover long enough to get close to them. The Shadow Guard rogue was being held in a warehouse on the docks called Sodden Hold. The shapechanger seemed resigned to his fate to be turned over to the city watch, asking only that he be allowed to change back into the merchant to keep from causing a panic inside.

Meanwhile, inside the inn, Ardynn went upstairs to check on Rowdy. Skink was sitting on the bed watching him when Arydnn entered. The wolf-dog was better, but whatever the poison had been left him a little shaky, and his nose was swollen and angry. A commotion in the taproom announced the arrival of the Watch. Ardynn shut the door to the room, not wanting to answer any questions. A few moments later there was a knock. Arydnn told Skink to keep quiet and turned into a wolf, lying down beside Rowdy. Skink answered the door.

A thin man with a hawkish nose and a well-tended beard, Inspector Innovar, was at the door. The strange site of the prepubescent and the wolves gave him pause, but he recovered quickly, telling Skink to go down to the taproom. He had been informed of the druid by Tanquin, and quickly sorted out the odd scene, telling Ardynn to drop her disguise and join them downstairs.

When the rest of the party entered, Robert was well on his way to explaining things, speaking of Bolero in exaggerated terms, but more or less conveying the truth. Bolero led the doppelganger in. Tanquin vouched for the group, but the patrons did not seem pleased to see them at all. The inspector began to grill them concerning the facts. The party repeated what had happened, even telling the inspector of the key, but refused to hand it over, telling the Watch that their friend Olis was in dire straights and they needed the key to help him.

Talia Raynee, another member of the Watch, had entered during the questioning and confirmed what she had overheard of the group's interrogation in the alley. The doppelganger actually confessed to being hired to implicate the party. The tension was high as the inspector demanded the key, and it was close to coming to a confrontation, but finally Ash relinquished the key. The inspector sent Talia ahead with the key to Sodden Hold.

The Watch escorted both the party and the shapeshifter out of the Crooked House. Innvar was not hesitant with his opinions of the group and their activities. He did not care for adventurers in general, siting them as troublemakers. He informed the group that the proper measures would be taken to find their friend, and he was not going to let them run off and burn down the docks looking for him. His men could handle it. Nonetheless, he split the watchmen and headed in the direction of the river.

Rowdy was well enough to move around, though his nose was still in no shape to be used, and the dog seemed disoriented and distracted.

Sodden Hold was aptly named, a stone warehouse covered in moss and in direpair, its full length stretching out over the river. It looked long abandoned.

There was no sign of Talia, so the inspector checked the door. It was locked, but had been tampered with recently. Retrieving a set of tools from a leather case on his belt, the inspector went to work on the lock. His guards blocked the door in to keep the party from entering while Innvar investigated.

Skink wandered around the far corner of the warehouse. As Ash went to investigate where she had gone, the young orphan ran back around the corner, screaming, "fire!" The warehouse next door had indeed caught fire. With a growl, Inspector Innvar called for his patrol to follow him quickly, leaving two behind with orders not to let the adventurers out of their site.

Skink gave Ash a small wink, revealing that she had started the fire to distract the watch. As an extra surprise, she gave the monk the key she had lifted from the female watchman. Ash decided to keep it to himself.

The watchmen left to guard protested uselessly as the party went into the warehouse, splitting up to search for clues. During the search, one of the watchmen called out. A crate in the corner had animated and bashed the man's head in. Two more mimics revealed themselves as they attacked the intruders, but they quickly fell to the party's counterattack, though it took some effort to remove Ardynn from being stuck fast to a mimic corpse. The remaining watchman was scared and upset, realizing he was in over his head and just thankful to be alive.

Snuffy's summoned fire elemental inadvertently discovered a trap, falling into a spiked pit with a final hiss as it tried to burn down a false door. Searching the other two doors, they found a room with a rickety ladder and another filled with old papers detailing the activities of the warehouse a decade ago. Amongst the papers, Ardynn found a magic ring to aid in swimming.

With no idea how to get deeper into the warehouse, Snuffy used his magic to teleport Bolero and himself through the wall. The pair appeared in a cell, one of six in the room, standing on the back of an apparent corpse. They were greeted by a pair of men claiming to be guards. A striking elven woman was in another cell, but any attempts to talk to her were met with disdain. The corpse turned out to be not a corpse at all, but a gravely injured man. When Snuffy healed him, the man screamed as if under attack before running into the back wall of the cell, bruising his head and falling, then simply laying on the ground and weeping. The two men claimed he was touched in the head, his mind shattered from torture, no doubt.

On the other side of the wall, the remaining members of the group discovered a hidden door after climbing a stack of crates to get to the catwalk. There were stairs behind it leading down to a door and a small area under the stairs filled with chests. Searching them, they found a bag of holding filled with gold, some standard watchmen gear, an ornate cloak, and an amulet. They continued through the door and into the room with the cells.

Regrouped, they continued asking questions. The two men, Martel and Regim, claimed to be members of the city watch, taken a week past. They told of painful torture and mental and physical intrusions, even severing and reattaching of limbs. The elf, Ilya, refused to partake in what she claimed to be just another mind game being played by her captors. Snuffy, misunderstanding her reaction as aloofness, verbally berated her for being a fool. Ardynn stopped him from his rant and Ash gave her the cloak he had found. Snuffy's complete lack of charm, Robert's over-the-top enthusiasm, and the entrance of a huge half-wolf completely loyal to a woman wearing the symbol of Ehlonna seemed to convince the elf, and she broke down at the possibility she might truly be rescued.

The group was cautious, telling the prisoners their concern that they could be doppelgangers. Robert made the observation that any one of them could be. Inspector Innvar arrived, covered in soot from firefighting. He recognized the crazed man as a city tax collector he had seen as recent as yesterday, despite the fact that the man had been in here longer than anyone. The two watchmen prisoners requested to remain behind to help guard the entrance to Sodden Hold, to payback the adventurers for rescuing them. The inspector took Ilya and the deranged tax collector into his custody. He told the group he would see them to some place safe. Then he would deal with their impersonators. Sodden Hold he left to the group, for now.

The elf, Illya Starmane, the daughter of a noble family here in Greyhawk. She gave the party a token, the amulet that had been inside the magic bag, and told them to show it to the guards outside the Starmantle villa once their business here was done.

Innvar offered to take Skink and Robert with him, and Ash and Bolero agreed, though Robert had to be given orders to keep a sharp eye out before he would willingly leave his leader's side.

With everyone gone, the group turned to the next set of doors. This section of the warehouse hung out over the river, but when they finally opened the doors, they saw that most of the room's floor had given way, revealing a stagnate pool of water, choked with discarded spears and other weapons, as well as the occasional bloated corpse. The remaining supports stood out of the water at floor level, and planks had been laid between to connect them, creating a narrow maze of walkways across the dangerous waters below. Snuffy, using a spell of detect magic, discovered a discarded wand of spiritual hammer.

As they crossed, the air itself seemed to attack them. Snuffy, a collector of stories from other adventurers, had heard a tale of such things and identified them as invisible stalkers, monster of elemental air that remained hidden to all but the most powerful of seeing magics. Ash battled against one, the spirit of mighty Drakenflagrion bent to his will and giving him power, against the only other exit while a second knocked anyone trying to come to the monk's aid from the boards and down into the spearheads and sword blades waiting in the water below. Bolero was the first, and took many serious cuts as he was forced to swim his way through them, using his rope of climbing to lasso his way free. Ardynn tried to cross, but the narrow footing proved precarious, and she, too, fell. Throwing a rope for Rowdy to "fetch", she was able to coax her mighty dog to pull her back out again. Having studied the language of the creatures of air after their experiences in the Whispering Cairn, Ardynn could understand the stalkers' whispery words, realizing they were guarding that attacked anyone who failed to give the proper pass-phrase. Snuffy used summoning magic to call a creature of elemental air of his own despite the invisible stalker's best efforts to disrupt his spell. Again calling upon the power of Traveler, he took his elemental with him through the wall and into the next chamber. He found a empty room, save for a hole in the floor, and oddly out of place stone well, and the door that Ash fought with his back to. The dwarf went to the door just in time for Ash to deal the final blow to the invisible elemental.

The other stalker had returned to Bolero, trying to finish the isolated paladin off, while Arydnn pepper it with fire from her hands. Ash leapt as if gravity was of minor inconvenience, clearing several of the boards to land and the small section of remaining floor where Bolero was making his stand. The stalker, taking advantage of the monk's reckless leap, made to deliver a massive uppercut, but got its mighty fist caught in the floor's supports, taking out several. The entire section of floor groaned and gave way beneath Bolero and Ash's feet, falling atop the elemental as all three went falling to the water below. Both the paladin and monk landed on the flooring, slamming the pinned elemental into the spears below. The displacement it made in the water allowed Ardynn to fling another ball of fire into the stalker as Bolero and Ash used their weight to keep it pinned and deliver the finishing blows.

Using the summoned air elemental to aid them, they made their way to the room beyond. Rowdy remained behind, his massive frame too much for the elemental to carry. Taking a moment to catch their breath, they examined the well.

The well went down thirty feet before ending in water. A large barrel floated in the center, with a thick rope connecting it to the ceiling above. The monk and paladin pulled the heavy barrel up and out of the well. The water covering the barrel was salty, which was odd considering their was no ocean anywhere close. While they were pulling the barrel, Skink popped up, apparently having slipped away from the inspector. Ash shook his head helplessly, no knowing what else to do.

The group needed to heal, but Snuffy's magic could not reach Rowdy. Tired of all the climbing, jumping, falling, and swimming, a frustrated Bolero called flames to his axe and just busted down the wall next to where the dog was, allowing him to simply walk through.

A dropped lightrod revealed that the well continued underwater for another forty feet, which did not match the water level in the previous room, and it appeared a tunnel existed at the bottom. Ash, being unarmored and a healthy swimmer, dropped to the water below to scout.

The tunnel continued for forty feet before opening into a larger chamber. Ash dropped his sunrod and swam back to fill them in. While he was talking, the light from his sunrod slowly dimmed then vanished.

Something was alive in the chamber beyond.

Bolero, wearing the dolphin ring, jumped in and sank like a stone in his plate armor. Ardynn had a bit more of a challenge trying to coax Rowdy to jump into the well, and even more so to get him to swim under the water.

Bolero and Ash swam (or walked) down the tunnel and into the chamber, dropping sunrods as they went. They emerged in a large square chamber, the surface of the water forty feet up. Thanks to the magic ring, Bolero was able to follow Ash to a stone platform in the room's center that's top stood ten feet above the level of the water, accessed by a metal ladder bolted to its side. As they moved closer, something large moved under the water. They had just climbed up when a tentacle lashed out the water and wrapped around the paladin. Bolero called out to Pelor for strength, and he was granted him the power to make his body a weapon and surrounding him in a glowing nimbus as he was pulled beneath the water. A octopus of giant proportion water beneath the surface, but found the armored forehead of the young Shadowguard less than appealing. Ash, who had managed to dodge the attacks again him, leapt in after, and the two quickly pummeling the beast until it let go for good.

Ardynn and Snuffy, trailing Rowdy and Skink arrived to late to help, but Arydnn took a moment to gather potential ingredients from the animal, including ink and tentacles.

A pedestal with a level was placed in the center of the platform, and above it was a stone walkway jutting out into air beyond their reach. Once everyone was on the pedestal, Ash turned the level, which cause water to flow into the room from hidden grates, raising the water level, and the platform, to be even with the walkway.

After picking the lock, they moved into a hallway. Unlike the warehouse above, the hall was immaculately kept, with no dust or trash to be seen anywhere. A pattern was carved into the walls of the hall, a flowing pattern that never seemed to repeat, and it was lit by eerie blue everburning torches, casting everything in an azure light. There were several doors along one side of the hall, one on their side in addition to the entrance, and a pair of double doors at each end. The door across the hall and to the right revealed a bed chamber, and the hairs on Ash's neck stood up as he sensed an ambush. Bolero stepped in and bathed the room in light from his weapon, revealing two doppelgangers in their true forms. From several other doors poured four more of the shapechangers. They group had known there had to be at least three shapeshifters in the gang, but they were surprised to find they were facing six now, that had to be in addition to those active in the city.

During the fight, Bolero, unable to find room to fight, jumped up on Rowdy's back. The dog did not seem to care for it, and bucked the paladin into a fleeing doppelganger. Skink did not get involved in the battle, simply staying out of the way.