Thursday, 13 September 2012

March into Darkness - the final session

Session 5: The Keep in the Storm Clouds (12th September 2012)

The cast of heroes

Arken (Half-Elf Cleric) – leader of the party
Bardan (Human Fighter) – the muscle
Knil (Elf Ranger) – the tracker
Korum Proudfoot (Halfling Thief) – the scout
Rioja Hyrule (Human Mage) – the wizard
Kima (Black Domestic Cat) – his familiar

Attack on the Plains - a drawing by Craig, the DM, coloured by me. I have used a mixture of styles to create the image - apologies to Craig if my experimental Photoshopping turned his picture into a bit of a mess.

The party face down the mounted hordes of the Dark Master.

Escape and Rescue (Year 2 Day 64)

Knowing that the locks just needed a little greasing, Korum asked Arken to conjure up some food and drink for him. Arken, knowing the Halfling was always hungry obliged, passing him the food through the bars. Korum ate his fill of the drier foods but used the oils and fats to create a loosening agent for the locks.

The guard changed as usual after their evening meal, so Korum set to work on getting the party out of their predicament. With the aid of the worked in grease he had prepared earlier, the small bones he had salvaged from the gruel allowed him to pop the cell door lock easily. The greased hinges made no noise as they swung open, allowing the Halfling to get to work on a few of the other doors. These he accomplished with ease, setting free first Bardan, and then Arken, but the bone tools snapped upon application to the lock on Knil’s cell door. Bardan, Arken and Korum took up positions awaiting the return of the guards.

Suddenly there came the sound of a massive explosion and then screams of pain rent the air. The distinct smell of fire and smoke wafted to the party from beneath the door to their holding block. They waited for a few more minutes before realising that the guards may not be coming back. Bardan and Arken moved towards Knil’s cell in the hope that their combined strength may force the door, but just as they moved, the door to their cell block swung open. Just as the warriors were about to strike the person entering the room they realised that it was their comrade Rioja come to rescue them.

Korum grabbed a few hat and brooch pins from the mage and easily popped open the lock on Knil’s cell door. Reunited and wondering what to do next, Knil reiterated the conversation he had heard between the guards a few days previous. The party decided to try to reclaim their belongings before they did anything else.

Retracing the steps that Rioja had taken, they saw the devastation that his fireball had done to the guards within the enclosed space of their guard room. Passing further along the corridor they came to the armoury wherein they found their equipment. They quickly donned their armour and weapons and explored the rest of the basement level. They found the second room of cells, quickly dispatched the guards and set free the three inhabitants; two women and a young man from one of the surrounding villages. Korum opened the main door and let them go.

The Ground and First floors of the Tower


Korum found a set of stairs leading upwards out of the basement. He climbed them deliberately, and poked his head out at the top of them. He could see two large ornate staircases in a seriously bad state of repair leading up to another level, a staircase similar to the one he had just climbed was set into the wall opposite him and a few doors were set into what seemed like walled off areas. Below the stairs opposite were two sleeping guards. The rest of the party quietly approached them, the guards awakening just as they drew near. Frightened by the sudden appearance of heavily armed opponents, the guards quickly surrendered. Bardan offered one of them his life if he would give the party the information that they were after. One of the guards, quicker than the other, drew his dagger and plunged it into his fellow’s heart. He did not have much to tell, so the party silenced him permanently too.

Meanwhile, Korum had checked the rest of the doors. They all revealed utility rooms that are the mainstay of every castle, but in one of the reception rooms he was able to steal himself a few bottles of fine spirits before locking all the doors behind him.

Advancing up the next flight of stairs (the party decided not to try the rickety grand staircases), Korum motioned for the party to halt as he could make out that there were four more guards posted in the room above them. Arken and Bardan crept past Korum and ran at the guards. Two were cut down instantaneously but the other two were able to get a few sword thrusts off, injuring Bardan before being cut down themselves. They gathered the corpses together and brought up some from below for Arken to use as zombies in case they required any arrow fodder later on. The floor was totally open plan with only another staircase in the wall opposite where they came up (directly above the other staircase on the floor below). Korum swiftly ran to the bottom of the stairs and glanced upwards, only to see a constant stream of water running down the steps from above. He took care ascending the stairs and quickly glanced around when he got to the top. In the position where the other staircase was below, Korum espied a spiral staircase leading upwards, around the bottom of which two large snakes slithered and curled. He signalled his findings to the party who decided they would hole up in a room below to gather their strength, prepare new spells and make ready to attack the snakes, the like of which they had encountered in the path under the mountain.

The Upper Reaches of the Dark Master’s Keep

After a short time, whilst the party made ready, Korum decided to investigate what might be above the level with the snakes. If the party could avoid them, it would be all the better for continuing on. He attached a rope around his waist and climbed out of a window and up onto the roof of the tower, where he found that it was hammering down with rain; thus the constant stream of water running down the stairs. There was not a lot up there except for a very dilapidated roof with holes all over it and the four large corner towers (which he couldn’t get to anyway as the central keep was separated from them and the curtain wall by about a fifteen foot gap). He could just about make out the top of the spiral staircase where the snakes were coiled below. Finding nothing of interest, he was about to make his way back to the party when he noticed a lever hidden in a niche within the floor of the flat roof top. He decided against caution and pulled it. There was a grinding sound and a drawbridge extended from the keep across the gap to the tower in the south east corner. The sound of the bridge extending attracted the attention of the snakes below and they rapidly ascended the spiral staircase to face Korum on the roof. He quickly ran and leapt over the side of the building, his Ring of Feather Falling saved him from slamming against the side of the keep at the end of the rope attached to his waist. He climbed back in through the window of the room that the party were in and told them of his findings.

Rioja turned himself invisible using his arcane arts, and Arken prepared a new spell. Knil and Bardan charged the reptiles to distract their attention away from the spell casters. Korum headed onto the roof again to investigate further. A Fireball from the wizard and several arrows from Knil’s bow found their mark, causing the snakes to hesitate. Arken called upon mighty Din and reversing a spell he knew, turned one of the Snakes to Sticks. The mighty reptile slowly came to a halt and turned to wood before everyone’s eyes. Angered at seeing its mate so affected the second snake reared up, sucked in a deep breath, and with a huge hiss let forth a lightning bolt that staggered the cleric. The electricity from the bolt also impacted upon the water at the party’s feet and they all suffered a shock as a jolt of raw power surged up through their boots.

The large snake attempted to then bite Bardan, but he easily avoided its strike and returned one of his own. Rioja let forth a second Fireball, igniting the wooden snake, making sure that it would never be able to resort back to flesh again. Enraged, the remaining snake struck the cleric again but multiple blows from the fighter and cleric, and several arrows from Knil meant it would not rise again.

The Towers

Whilst all of this was happening, Korum had made his way across the drawbridge and had investigated the door in the tower. There were no traps on either, so he popped the door open. On the opposite side of the room, three large chests sat upon the floor. His eyes grew larger to take in the vision of potential treasure. He then scouted the edge of the floor of the tower towards the chests. He had got about half way around the curve of the wall when the door suddenly slammed shut and proceeded to move rapidly upwards towards the ceiling. The door stopped twenty feet up the wall, well out of his reach. Sighing at his predicament but not wanting to miss out on any treasure, he carried on towards the chests. As he lightly touched the first chest, it shimmered and disappeared. He did the same with the second before realising that he had been duped. He touched the third for good luck (it also promptly disappeared) and quickly thought how he would get out of there. He grabbed one of his crossbow bolts with rope attached and fired it at the door. It struck true and held fast. He began to climb the rope when suddenly he heard a knock on the door. Puzzled, he carried on climbing and took a peek through the key hole. He could see Knil on the other side. He shouted to Knil to open the door, which he did do, but the opening of the door caused Korum to swing wildly on the end of his rope. Once it had stopped swinging, he shimmied up the rope and clambered out of the trap.

Now that one of the towers had been explored, the party decided to see how they could get to the others. No other levers had been found, so they were stumped. On a whim, Knil pulled the existing lever. The drawbridge to the south east tower receded rapidly. He pulled it again and the party saw a similar drawbridge extend to the south west tower. Korum scouted ahead again with a rope attached to his middle, testing the bridge and door for traps. He found none, so opened the door and took a peek inside. He could see a solitary wooden crate in the middle of the floor. Fearing a similar trap and requesting that Bardan pull him back quickly if the floor or door began to move he tentatively stepped into the room. The floor started to grumble and stones started to collapse from the floor to the levels below. He risked all in a mad dash across the floor of the tower, stones dropped away with each step. He grabbed the crate and had almost made it to safety when the floor of the tower completely collapsed. He jumped into mid-air and the rope tied around his waist swung him to the central keep, where Bardan pulled him up the rest of the way. They opened the crate to find six vials within. Recognising them as potions of health, each of the party members drank one (gaining an addition to one of their basic stats). The left over vial was diced for and won by Bardan.

Knil pulled the lever again and noticed the drawbridge again receded. Another pull and the third drawbridge extended to the north western tower. Again, Korum scouted ahead. He opened the door a fraction to find four very heavily armed and armoured guards within. He quickly jumped back and then kicked the door open with his mighty Giant Strength whilst Bardan threw in one of his flammable oil bombs. The combination of being hit by a flying door and an incendiary device rendered two of the guards concussed. The other two advanced upon the party in tight formation. Arken called to his goddess and she threw down a Pillar of Fire that hit the two guards still within the room. Korum had spotted that the first two guards were advancing rapidly across the drawbridge, so he pulled the lever again, and sent them plunging to the courtyard below. A second Pillar of Fire was launched at the tower, incinerating the remaining guards within and causing the tower to crack, tremble and finally collapse into the sea.

The Dark Master

Only the north east tower had not been explored now. Knil pulled the lever again to get the drawbridge to extend and it did not disappoint. Korum carefully made his way across the drawbridge and checked the door for traps but there were none. He eased the door open only to be greeted with a booming voice that said “One must enter and face me before you can find the Dark Master”. Arken, losing patience now, realised his Pillar of Fire was very destructive, so he cast it against the final tower. The crenulations at the top of the tower were blown to pieces under the onslaught of divine power. The voice returned, saying “Send in your champion”. Without warning the door of the tower was smashed off of its hinges and a seven foot warrior, dressed in full plate armour and wielding a mighty two-handed sword strode onto the drawbridge. Korum pulled the lever again and the warrior plunged to the cobbles beneath. The fall did not kill the warrior, but a few more incendiaries from Bardan did the trick.

Arken had now expended most of his magical energy, so the party stood watch whilst he regained his strength. Knil and Korum happened to be looking at the top of the tower when they both espied a cowled figure staring down at them. The figure ducked back out of sight and a few moments later a large raven flew from the top of the tower. Arrows from Knil’s bow struck truly and the bird plunged towards the cobbles below. Korum, thinking quickly, leapt across the divide and caught the falling bird. He adjusted his grip and placed a Frost Giant’s strength upon its neck. He was hauled back onto the roof of the keep just as the bird started to change shape. Korum asked whether they should question the Dark Master but all replied kill him, which he did with a deft stroke of his razor sharp short sword. At that moment, the heavens erupted and storm clouds crashed against one another. The rain got heavier and lightning started to crash all around them.

Arken still needed to regain some of his strength, so Korum and Bardan decided to try to see if they could further investigate the last tower now that it was cleared of the warrior guard and its master. He gathered up Knil’s Bag of Holding, tied a rope around his middle and made his way over the drawbridge and up into the tower. It started to shake violently after being struck by several bolts of lightning and great hunks of stone flew off of the tower and into the sea below. Korum tied the rope more firmly around his middle just as a great tremor knocked half of the tower down and the rest started to lean towards the ocean. It was then he espied the great mound of treasure. He leapt across the divide and opened the Bag of Holding beneath the flow of coins, trinkets and silver ware that were now heading over the edge of the tower and into the sea below. He managed to catch most of it before the tower became too unsafe. Arken spotted this and flung one of his quick grow spiders across the divide with the Command to make a web below Korum in case he fell. Indeed, just a few scant moments later, Korum’s rope snapped and he plunged headlong towards the water below. Grasping thin air and cart wheeling through the void, he managed to become snagged on one of the sticky strands from the spider’s web. Bardan dropped him the end of their spare rope and he clambered up to safety.

The End of the Adventure (Year 2, Day 100)

The storm clouds above the mountains had finally cleared and the sun came out. Rioja, however, took advantage of all the water still flowing from the rain clouds to help magically ease the rest of the keep into the waters below. Arken animated a few of the corpses to go into the depths to retrieve as much of the Dark Master’s treasure as possible and then burned them with the rest of the bodies. They loaded the treasure onto many of the Dark Master’s cavalry horses and formed a baggage train to get it home. They picked up their dead men-at-arms from the battlefield, burned the rest of the corpses there and then returned via the village they had left their wagon. As it had not been touched, they rewarded the villagers with much food and drink. The few days that it took the party to get to the village had also seen growth return to the land – the people would be able to grow crops again. Knil spoke to his elders on the way back and told them of their deeds.

The party returned to their village after a slow and relatively uneventful journey home. Bardan returned to his barracks, Knil to his tree, Arken made plans for a new temple and Korum wondered what to do with all his new found wealth. Rioja retired to his tower to read a good book over a nice cup of tea. He was later visited by Laerus who gave him back the orb. Laerus had found out that the Dark Master would have gained untold power from capturing the orb, so it was a good job they had left it in his safe keeping whilst they were adventuring.


Here ends the tale of the final millennial fight against the darkness. The heroes had to undertake two quests; one against Nephyros and his three manifestations, and then a second against the Dark Master, a seeker after power in the aftermath of the fight between the two dragons of light and darkness.
Next week we will all be starting in new games. I am not sure which road this will take me down, but I will be writing up the adventures with my new playing companions no matter what I get involved with.

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