3/17/2018 - Session 14
O.Y. 1946, Feast of Unmaking 4 - Ruined Outpost - Darkenfold Forest, on the shores of the Silt Bay, Town of Hemelsville
[Cast of Characters Updated]
"Fall back to a more defensible position," shouts Juden, "back towards the stairs!" He and the party begin a strategic withdraw as the zombies begin to shamble out of the cells.
"Make a line of battle, Cob get behind us, Bunny you too, you are to heavily injured," Warhawk wipes the sweat from his brow as he briefly rests his great sword on his shoulder.
"No, I am not going to cower behind, my honor would be shattered," Bunny looks at the Paladin to her left as she says this, amazingly lucid for the girl. "I mean, gosh, what would they say?" she asks as she tosses her hair over her shoulder.
As they form up with Endrill drawing her bow, and Cob reaching for his holy symbol, the zombie press forward. They form in a mass and Judin calls out, "Use the oil, we can burn them." As he says this he reaches into a side pocket on his backpack and pulls out a vial of oil, he swings his arm back to throw it forwards, but the seal on the flask must not have been good, oil had leaked onto the outside of the ceramic and it slides out of his hand, shattering on the floor behind him.
With this Cob calls on his deity, Firthnach, he puts forth his holy symbol which seems to glow with a faint light, and all but one of the zombies stop and begin to shamble away from the cleric. Holding the symbol boldly before him, he stands with his friends, hoping he can keep them far enough at bay to either escape or devise some new plan.
Bunny and Warhawk both swing their blades at the remaining zombie, the pair gouging huge chunks of rotted meat from the creature. Juden again calls out, "If we can pin them back against the wall, it will make it all that much easier to douse them with the oil. We need to improvise some fire arrows, Endrill get some out of your quiver and tear off a few strips of your cloak."
"Warhawk, liek, lets keep moving on them, Cob come with us," the knight says in her usual bubbly tone.
Cob, in a stern voice, "Don't strike at them yet!" Still holding his holy symbol before him, he says a quick prayer and lays his hands on Bunny, filling her with renewed vigor as some of her minor wounds close and vanish.
Warhawk slows his approach, and reaches for a flask of oil, "I know, we want to get them lit up, I only hope that their souls can be released from the torment of this unnatural life!"
Juden takes the strips of cloth as Endrill tears them from her cloak and covers over the arrow heads, tying the cloth off and dousing them with oil, handing them back to Endrill.
Two flasks of oil are thrown at the zombies, impacting the wall and shattering causing the oil to splatter over the zombies and pool on the ground. "NOW!" shouts the monk at Endrill as he brings his torch in front of him. The ranger lights the arrow she had knocked and lets it fly, the force of the shot begins to tear at the flaming cloth, but it holds long enough to hit the oil pool and create an inferno with the zombies at it's heart.
With the light of the fire, only six zombie can be seen. "Weren't there more?" asks Bunny.
"The last doorway," Cob exclaims, "I can just see one in that room!" With that, Warhawk moves, the pool of oil leaving him just enough space to reach the doorway and with one zombie in range, he cleaves with his great sword. The blow strikes home and eviscerates the undead, the gasses that had built up in the thing's stomach exploding into the air, nearly causing the paladin to retch before they quickly ignite and burn out in a flash.
The zombie in the oil burn, the flesh peeling from their skin, this also releases the gasses pent up in them as they turn seeking escape. For them the only escape is true death as the oil flames flicker and die out with a final few flashes of blue light. The reek of burnt flesh and oil smoke fills the chamber, and a haze of smoke reduces visibility. Above, the ceiling is hidden from view with the oily smoke rolling along it. Warhawk and Bunny quickly enter the far south room and are able to slay the remaining zombies before they can cause any damage to the pair.
Cob begins to wonder and looks in each of the rooms for the mechanism that would have opened the doors. "Surely these mindless creatures would not have opened the doors on there own. Did anyone see or feeling anything as you trod in? Perhaps there was some sort of pressure plate? I can't see anything that would have opened the doors, no ropes or chains, or anything like that, maybe some sort of gearing mechanism in the hinges?" He looks perplexed, "Or perhaps it was magic of some sort, I have heard of such things, though how one would invoke that is beyond me."
"I didn't feel anything, but then with these boots, I doubt I would," Warhawk raises one leg, tapping the soul of his boot with his massive blade.
"Me niether," Bunny says as she looks in disgust at the torture equipment in the room to the east.
Juden also looks on in distaste, especially after spying a pit in the northern part of the room filled with refuse and the bones of past victims. "I didn't see anything either that would have been a trigger."
Cob begins walking the perimeters of the rooms, searching the walls for any signs of sliding panels or hidden doors, "I sure would like to know what it was. We should take some time to try and find out how it happened, maybe it will give us some clue to what we can expect in the rest of this place."
Endrill looks at him, "Are you sure that is wise? Do we have the time to spare? We are already behind the time the note said that Chulto was expecting Ned. I think we should press on to see if we can find the murderer."
A brief discussion ensues and Cob relents, "Ok, ok, perhaps you are right. Lets press onward then." He looks towards the door in the northern corner of the aisle. "I didn't find any hidden doors here anyhow, so it looks like we go that way."
The door opens into an area that was once a storeroom, it is now filled with litter and refuse, a door stands in the eastern wall. "Hey did you notice that?" Cob asks. "The door, it made little sound, and look," he hold the door partially open, "the hinges, they are well greased. There is someone down here!"
Warhawk looks thoughtful, "You know, I don't think I heard and screeching from those cell doors either!"
"I wonder if someone was watching us and triggered those doors! It would explain how they opened," the cleric states as he pushes the door fully open.
The monk moves into the room, "Don't get paranoid, that will lead you to a path of despair."
Bunny and Warhawk move towards the door, and Bunny is looking all over the door. "What are you doing?" asks the paladin.
"Well, we have opened some doors that were trapped before, I thought I would look to see if I can see anything, I mean like I'd hate to have another one hit us, you know what I mean?" Bunny says in a rapid pace that makes it hard to understand what she is saying. This causes the paladin too look up and roll his eyes so the lady can't see him doing so. "But I don't see any traps, I mean I'm no expert, but I think it is safe, we should open the door, right? Lets open it."
The door opens, and beyond is a large chamber with five columns, along the eastern wall is a large chest, and in the north is a large pile of cloth and furs, standing and looking at the door is a very large brutish looking humanoid, to the south there is a door, with a large bar holding it shut. "Ogre!" calls out the ranger, "he will be incredibly strong, and that hammer will hurt."
The ogre is wielding a maul with a rather large head of granite. "Who you?" it questions in rough common, "you no look like master men!"
"No, no, we are, the master sent us here," begins Cob.
"You not wear his... his... thing, you not master men, Luras kill you!" It hefts the maul and charges the door.
A battle ensues with the ogre's first blow just missing the paladin and smashing into the wall, sending chips of the stone flying, but leaving no mark upon his weapon. Bunny is hit grievously in the melee which prompts Endrill to risk shooting into the combat. Blows are struck by both sides, while the ranger looses her arrows, taking careful aim to inflict as much punishment on the beast as possible. Finally it falls to a massive blow with the paladin's great sword.
Juden, seeing the badly injured knight, pulls out a vial of yellowish liquid, "Bunny, take this you need it." The knight shakes her head, but the monk grabs her hand and places the vial within it. "Yes, you are always on the front line, we need you healthy, now take it!" He turns away from her so she cannot push the vial back at him.
With a resigned, yet grateful look she opens the flask and swallows the liquid. Instantly most of her wounds heal, and she feels refreshed, "Thank you my friend, I will not forget this."
The paladin and ranger walk over to the chest and open it. Most of it's contents appear worthless, glass baubles, worthless candlesticks and the like. There is a small sack of poorly tanned leather, it holds a bunch of coins. Searching the chest over, the paladin spies a secret panel that opens to show a vial of reddish colored liquid. The pair turn to the rest of the party to show what they have found. As they turn, they notice on the eastern wall in the southern corner of room, there is the outline of a poorly disguised door.
Cob wants to head through the door to the east, to which Bunny concurs, however, Juden, Endril, and Warhawk want to find out what is behind the bared door. "What if they are some sort of captives?" Endrill asks, "We have to find out!" With that they decide to knock on the door, to which they get a returned frantic pounding.
Bunny moves to try to hold the door shut if there is something hostile behind it as Juden removes the bar. They open the door a bit to reveal two humans dressed in what once would have been fine clothes, and a gnome that has been badly beaten. "Help, help us please!" the older of the two humans shouts. "We have to get out of here!"
The monks holds up a hand, "Peace old one, tell us who you are and how you came to be here. We will surely aid you in flight from this place." He nods at the knight who backs off as they open the door fully.
"I... I am Bren, and this is my friend Halag, we are merchants from Aleas. We were in a caravan traveling The Southern Way when we were attacked. Most of us died, but many survived and were taken prisoner by the goblins. Of those that survived, the majority were sold to a group of men, and we have been passed around to a few of their number before finally ending up here. The gnome is, well I don't want to try to say his full name, we have been calling him Isilgiv," he points at the gnome. He was caught in the ruins above and brought here a few weeks ago. They made him work elsewhere but he caused some sort of trouble and they through him in here. The others that were here, it always followed the same pattern, the ogre would come in and beat them badly, then the next day, or the day after they would be taken out and never come back."
"Ah, we have seen an area of torture, and many undead, I fear this is the fate of your compatriots," relates the monk, his expression of great sadness.
Bren looks at him dumbfounded, "No... I don't think you understand, the ogre, he..." he covers his face in anguish, "he eats them. Isilgiv looks to be next."
A look of horror on the face of the monk, "Then it is well that the beast is dead, he will eat flesh no more!"
The gnome looks up, "Yes, but that is not all there is to worry about in this place. There are many guards about, I have seen bugbear, humans, and gnolls to go along with that foul ogre."
"What can you tell us of these bandits?"
"Not much, I know I heard them speak of their leader Orran, he wields some sort of magic I am afraid to say. And I know their numbers can fluctuate, there is another I have them speak of, it sounded to me like it was someone that Orran reports to, but I have not heard his or her name. After I was beaten, while I was being dragged here yesterday, I remember hearing someone grumbling about not getting paid what they were told. They didn't sound very happy about it." The gnome winces as he stands up, "I'm not in good shape, but would join with you if you are going to move against Orran and his lackeys. I just ask for a short sword or dagger if you have one. My skill lie more in stealth that force of arms, but I relish the thought of getting revenge on these fiends."
The party discusses this and the disposition of the two men, and in the end it is decided that the men will remain in this holding cell, the door will be shut but not barred. If no one returns within two to three hours, they should exit and make their way up the stairs, they are left with a few rations. The men are afraid that they don't know where they are, but Endrill tells them that they should head south, it will be maybe 6 or 7 miles before they make the cliffs overlooking the Silt Bay. From there they should turn to the east, that will be their left, and after a couple of days walk they should reach Hemelsville. With this the party leaves the men behind, Cob gives the gnome one of his light war hammers. Isilgiv is not trained in it's use, but thanks the half-elf none the less.
Heading back into the room of the ogre, the door to the east is opened, this leads to a large empty closet. "Ah, I have been through here before, no it isn't a closet," the gnome looks as Warhawk, "pardon me friend." He moves towards the eastern wall, "See this little indentation here," he motions towards his foot, "you stick the toe of your boot in and, well," he stands there for a moment before there is a barely audible click and the entire wall panel slides to the left. "Ah, it is a bit tricky, but you need to move the toe of your boot up and to the left." Smiling he looks at the party. Endrill gives him a bit of a wary look, and after this tries to keep an eye on the gnome. Beyond the panel is a short flight of stairs, descending less than 10 feet, "I think they might have expanded on some natural fissures for part of this place. This stair seems to serve no other purpose..."
As they reach the landing at the bottom of the stairs, the passageway turns to the south, and there is a branch leading east. They continue on to the south, coming to a large, well lit, room with some crates in it. To the west a corridor leads into what might be another room, while to the south, there are three nooks that end in the doors, the one furthest east, the door stands open. There is a slight scent of fur, and snuffling and growling sounds come from the western passage. Halting with only Warhawk and Bunny in the rooms entrance, they call Isilgiv forward and ask him to see if he can find out what is making the noise.
The gnome moves forward, the party is a bit surprised at just how quietly he can move, he approaches the passage and just barely enters it before stopping. He stands there for a bit are then returns to the two warriors. "That is gnollish they are speaking. They are griping and grumbling about Orran not living up to his promise. These must be the ones that I had heard before. They are talking of leaving."
Juden looks at the knight and paladin, "Before you say anything, let me finish. This could be good for us, we might be able to get these gnolls to help us. If they are... no Warhawk, let me finish... If they are so disgruntled, perhaps we can pay them to join us against Orran. We don't know how many guards he might have, and we could be walking into a trap." He looks at Cob, "You said they might have been watching us, and that is what triggered the doors to open right?" Not waiting for a response, "Well, then we should take this opportunity to get some temporary allies."
"I have not encountered their ilk before, but I have heard of the great evil these 'hyena-men' have wrought, I will not permit this," the paladin firmly states.
"Yes, but isn't there evil in even mankind?" Cobasks. "If so, then what if these are not evil themselves? And even if they are, you have said that you follow Corthain, and I admit few know much of your sect, but I do know your god is bent on justice. What cause is more just than seeking a murderer?"
The paladin's soul is torn and he thinks upon this, "If they are found to be evil, I cannot allow this!" As he is saying this the gnolls begin coming down the passage from the room to the west. He stares at them, concentrating on detecting for any evil impressions. The very walls of this place radiate feelings of irritation and anger, why had he not noticed this before. The waves of these feelings are intense, and he staggers, "What... is this place?" The others look at him quizzically before he stands again, concentrating on the creatures coming towards him, still the aura of the dungeon overwhelms his senses. He does sense some feeling of irritation from the creatures, but nothing he would consider to be overt. Placing one hand on the wall to steady himself, he rubs his head and waves at Cob.
With the gnome interpreting, the party negotiates with the gnoll leader. There is a sticking point that the gnoll wants to get first pick of the treasures, thinking back to the debacle with tNelag, they are hesitant, but in the end strike a bargain with the pack, they will pay them each two gold now, and split any treasure found with them getting the first pick. The paladin looks a bit sickened, but reluctantly agrees with the party and the deal is made. The gnoll leader, Grrash, says he knows where Orran most likely is, and that he will lead the party there. They form up with gnolls both in front of, and behind the party as they move quickly through the halls. Reaching a dead end passageway, they watch as the gnolls open a secret door, and then another in the passage beyond that. The hall beyond this door has human guards within it, and a great battle ensues. The gnoll leader calls for the party to come with him charging down the hallway as the gnolls swarm the human guards. At one point only Grrash, Juden and Warhawk can move forward as the melee fills the corridor, blocking passage. Grrash charges through a door in the eastern wall of the chamber they come to ans Warhawk charges forward to engage a human in splint mail armor. Blows are struck back and forth, each drawing blood from the other, as Juden is able to break free from the melee, he rushes the room where Grrash is fighting another human in this one in chain mail, there is a man behind a desk in the room in a black robe that looks to be over some sort of armor, a red eye intricate stitched on the front of the robe. Another human in studded armor stands ready to move in. Juden springs into the room and strikes the man in the weaker armor, causing a great welt to form under one eye. Isilgiv begins to move forward and is climbing the wall, hoping to move in and behind Orran.
Outside in the hall and barracks chambers the fight continues to rage, finally a path opens for Endrill, Bunny and Cob to move forward, ignoring the others they head into the chamber of the master of this place. Warhawk was being attacked by both the man in splint, obviously the leader of these bandits, and another in chain, but a couple of gnolls came to help fight that man. With the casting of a spell, Grrash continues his assault while Juden suddenly feels all of his muscles lock up tight, he slumps over against the wall held by some magical means. Mighty blows are struck by the gnoll, and he takes some in return. The little gnome is able to get down off the wall, he thinks he was not noticed by the master of the place and prepares to attack him.
Humans and gnolls strike blows, slaying some of each of their opponents as Bunny and Cob reach the battle with Orran. Cob calls on his illusory abilities and unleashes a spray of scintillating colors, muttering as he does so, sorry Juden but it doesn't look like you are in the fight for now anyhow. The monk and the aide to the bandit captain are hit with the full force of the spell. The aide falls unconscious, while the monk, now not only held, but blinded. While the colors wash over the captain and Orran, neither is affected by the spell. Orran casts a spell again, this time there is no visible effect, but when Isilgiv goes to strike a blow at the cleric, something compels him not to. The gnoll moves in deeper to attack the cleric, and he feels the same compulsion, but is able to fight it off and gets a terrible blow on the cleric. Bunny moves in to strike as Endrill decides to shoot into the melee, between the two they are able to dispatch the captain, having been near death already. Outside, the gnoll fighting the sergeant dies, but another takes its place and is able to bring the man low. Warhawk strikes with his great sword, driving the bandit leader to a knee, this causes the man to beg for quarter, which the paladin accepts.
The cleric casts yet another spell, this time some of his wound heal as he touches himself. The thief is able to shake off the feeling to leave the cleric alone and strikes him in the back with the war hammer, the loud clang of the metal head striking metal armor can be heard, but so to the sickening crunch of breaking bone. The gnoll slashes down with his halberd, tearing the robe off of the cleric, exposing his armor which is emblazoned with the crest of Chulto's family.
The next blow from the Gnoll slays the cleric, while out in the barracks chambers, the last of the humans are dispatched. Of the twelve gnolls that started the battle, 5 remain. The aide comes to from the color spray and quickly surrenders. Juden also revives from the hold that was placed upon him. The party interrogates the prisoners, they know the man that was here was a superior of Orran, but knew nothing of him. These men were all followers of Orran, and sat under his teaching of the elder god. The red eye is the symbol of this deity, they know nothing of the crest on the armor, and were surprised to see it there. The man that met with Orran, met in private with him, and used their masters chamber while he was here. He had left just hours earlier. "We could have had him!" the paladin exclaims, before recovering his calm.
Looking around the area there is little in the way of treasure, a fine silver dinner setting, a small alabaster box with some sort of ungent in it, and there is a golden necklace inset with diamond chips. Upon seeing this, the gnoll chieftain exclaims, "That is what I want, you keep the rest!"
Looking at each of the party members Cob nods and hands the necklace to the gnoll. "Take this, and gladly, we appreciate your help." The gnome interprets this with a bit of difficulty, but the gnoll bobs his head up and down, and calls for his mates and leaves the room, heading to the south.
The party learns that the passageway they entered before turning north is actually a bolt hole, when they ask if there are any horses or wagons, they are told yes to horses, but no wagons, at least not now. Of course, if that is the way the gnolls went, the horses probably would no longer be there, and... they are not. Using his detect magic spell, Cob finds only the armor of the cleric, and the black staff he wielded, that caused a grievous wound to Bunny shed any magical aura. Though when they strip the cleric of his armor, they find a leather strap tied to his arm with a small pouch, this also shows to be magical. The pouch has some writing on it, but it is in a tongue none of the party can understand. Taking the dinner ware, one of the cups is found to hold a small string of five fire opals, then checking the books on the shelf nothing appears to be of any great value. Finally they search around on the desk, and under one of the books they find a note -
Note found on desk wrote:Ned,
I don't know what has taken so long, this is frustrating my friend. I fear I must leave this place now, my guards tell me of a strong party that is nosing around above. They aren't you normal hunters or we would deal with them quickly. To protect our plans, I am going to leave Orran in place here to hold, and I will return, you know where, I doubt that word of Mailina will have reached there yet. The old man will take me in, and I will tarry there a few days, but must away by the 3rd of Falkhyn.
If word has reached there, I will gather what I can quickly, and meet with Sigurd either on the island, or in the pits.
"I bet he is talking of returning to Kandus, and the old man is the sage he was supposedly learning from. I'll bet he is a part of this as well!" Judin states. "But this will have to wait, we must get these two to Veril, and bring the merchants with us as well. We should make all haste back to Hemelsville then see about getting mounts and remounts to let us move as quickly as possible."
With little additional discussion, the company returns for Bren and Halag. Exiting through the bolt hole, the travel a couple of miles when Isilgiv stops, "Here is where I will leave you my friends, I will head off to my home." Approaching Endril, "Lady, please accept this," he reaches in to a hidden pocket of his ruined armor. "This ring will show you to be a friend of the gnomes, any of my homeland will know your for a friend if you show this to them." It is with a bit of sadness that the gnome leaves, for he has great gratitude for these brave souls, and even they are a bit sorry to see him leave, for he did prove to be a true companion.
Rushing as best they could, the company, the prisoners and the rescued merchants make it back to Hemelsville in good time. It is now mid-day on the 6th day of the Feast of Unmaking. They enter town with the prisoners in tow, rumors first had it that they had caught Chulto, but that was quickly shown to be false. Still they are one step closer to bringing the murderer to justice, Veril though needs to speak with them urgently...