Campaign Journal Book Five
Table of Contents
Chapter One-- Uniting the North
Chapter Two-- The Hold of the Lich Lord
Chapter Three-- The Valley of Light and the Pits of Gloom
Chapter Four-- A Tale of Two Evil Cities
Chapter Five-- The Secret Weapon
Chapter Six-- Unexpected Assaults and Surprising Secrets
Primary Characters-- the Lords of the West
Lord Payn Ack-Arthur, a weathered outdoorsman. The strong, silent type, Payn's conscience will not let him rest if his sword is inactive while danger threatens his homeland; Payn was recently named a Lord of Dragonspur, and he commands his own regiment.
Former War Jarl Malcall Grimson, another powerful barbarian. Malcall is a ravager and a berserker who dismays people by his manners and appearance. Originally his goal was only to fight and collect "souvenirs"; lately, he has come to care for the fate of the Liberated Kingdoms. He recently became War Jarl of his people, then renounced it.
Lord Valanduil of House Cirana, a noble elf and Lord of Gloralion who has a shaky friendship with Bartarius. His life's doom was to seek the Elven artifact called the Stone of Silence, which he recently recovered then lost. He now fights to regain it from those he took to be his allies.
Marshall Ada of the Church of Heshtail, a comely but serious young woman. A cleric of Heshtail, Ada believes that she is on a mission from her god to help Kelerak and her church by aiding the Lords of the West. She has single-mindedly trained for nine years to complete this mission and she would lay down her life to do so.
Captain Galadwen of House Arduval, a lovely Elven women and an accomplished operative and ranking Shadow Walker. Her Lord Leanorfin has commanded her to lend her considerable archery and stealth skills to the Lords of the West as they try to defeat Afej.
Lord Bartarius of Dragonspur, a powerful Northman from Outelion and one of the new Lords of the Spur. Plagued by inner demons, Bartarius always attempts to forward the cause of Good, but often gives himself over to bloodlust. Bartarius currently leads the Spurite army on behalf of General Elmore and Lord Naglor.
Tharivol of House Meliane, an aloof Elven cleric. Charged by the Elvenking with helping his friend Valanduil in his quest for the Stone of Silence, Tharivol awaits the day when he can return to Elven lands.
Fundin Northammer, a cautious Dwarven cleric who is no longer with the group. He aided them greatly, however, when the Lord of Envy attacked Dragonspur by bringing a force of dwarves to help, and he continues to aid Dragonspur.
Rolindor Ack-Turpin, a battle mage and experienced tactician. Fleeing from the Ranulph Barony, which Afej recently conquered, Rolindor hoped to use the group to free his homeland. He currently serves as head of the Dragonspur battlemage college under Lord Yedus.
Dralin Ironshield, a powerful and greedy Dwarven cleric who is currently seeking the legendary Dwarf-hold Liferock in order to restore the Dwarves to their former glory. His whereabouts are unknown.
Tili Deepdelver, a powerful Dwarven warrior, fell defending the heroes during their attack on the Winged One. He lies in a hallowed cairn deep beneath the Hilly Crags.
Belshrum Stoneaxe, a berserk and freakish Dwarven warrior, Belshrum's fondest wish was to die in battle. His wish was granted when he fell during the group's exploration of Karn Keller.
Ragnor Ack-Rohan, a half-elven cleric/mage. Ragnor was a no-nonsense, pragmatic type who got the job done. He seemed closer in heritage to his human rather than his Elven ancestors in this respect. Ragnor heroically fell trying to keep secrets about the Stone of Silence from falling into enemy hands.
Gilbert Ack-Keler, a devastatingly powerful professional soldier, was the quintessential warrior. Gilbert aided the group out of loyalty to his city, East-of-Sky, and to Baron Oliver, whom he viewed as a grandfather. He returned to East-of-Sky when it was attacked by Afej and there fell in mortal combat defending his beloved city.
Chapter One-- Uniting the North
Leanorfin summons Valanduil from his project of investing in the Mage's College and organizing the library of Naglor and tells him he has decided what material help he will give the group to defeat Afej the Black: he will lend them the services of Captain Galadwen of House Arduval, a high ranking Shadow Walker and accomplished operative. Valanduil gratefully accepts. Soon the date that Ada's holy ranking ceremony is to take place has arrived. The Lords of the West all attend, as well as many clerics and Lords of the City. Ada gives a very well received acceptance speech, and is officially named Marshall by High Potentate Burcan the White. It is a day of honor for her. After the ceremony, Malcall broaches to the group an idea he has long been considering-to attempt to use his fame and the sword of Wodene to once again unite the three barbarian Northmen tribes under Malcall's leadership. His plan is to use the army to assault Dessingrove, so that two goals can be accomplished in one: the military might of Afej will be crushed forever, and during the assault the heroes will use the distraction to infiltrate Carn Marrot and kill Afej himself.
|28th of Cabbos, 8171 F.R.|
After much debate, and after Payn discusses the issue with Naglor, the heroes decide to go ahead with Malcall's plan. The debate is difficult, however; the different allegiances of the group have begun to show. But once it is decided, the group goes ahead with the plan without hesitation. They head North, and find during the journey that the land is remarkably free of threats-their work to eliminate the evil in Kelerak has been paying off. But they do encounter a group of strange, deformed giants that have closed off the Anar trail, and after a few touch-and-go moments, they end this threat as well. Malcall seizes upon the giants as a tool to impress the Northmen further of his might, and he takes a giant's head as a trophy. Continuing the journey north, the party encounters outlying villages, and Malcall surprisingly impresses the villagers greatly, as he claims to be the new War Jarl of all the Northmen-indeed as he claims to be heir to the position of Wodene himself. Malcall clothes himself in the ornamented garb of a Northern Lord and begins to attract fighting men from the villages he passes through. He soon comes to Hildolf, the capital of the Wolf Clan, and there he demands that the city recognize him as the new War Jarl-the days of Brand Frodeson's rule are over, he claims. He manages even to get one of Brand's earls to call a ting (a council meeting) on Malcall's behalf. The next day the ting meets, and Malcall steps forward and-wonder of wonder-gives a grand and impressive speech, which awes the ting. They agree that Malcall is indeed a Jarl, and they name the other Lords of the West his Earls. But Brand has a chance to answer Malcall's speech, and he declares that although Malcall has spoken well, he must prove his claim in a holmgang, a duel. But to earn the right to fight him, Malcall's earls have to defeat Brand's earls. And as the one challenged, Brand has the right to name the terms of the duel, and they are that there is to be no magic and no armor in the duel-only a single normal weapon of choice, and a shield. The companions agree, and soon they meet the earls in battle. The battle is fairly easy, and Galadwen manages to distinguish herself as a deadly archer who is especially good at taking advantage of her foes' weak spots. Having won, Malcall faces Brand in single combat. The battle begins poorly for Malcall when Brand skillfully disarms him, but Malcall disdains to pick up his weapon and fights the armed brand with his fists! He heroically knocks the Jarl down but spares Brand's life. He turns to the council, his fist raised in triumph, and the elders of the Wolf Clan unanimously declare him the new War Jarl of the Hildolfar peoples. Now that Malcall rules the Wolf Clan, he sets his sites on the Elk and Cave Bear clans, vowing that he will rule them as well, and turn the might of the raging barbarians on the forces of Afej.
With the advice of Valanduil, Malcall then sends messengers to the Elk and Cave Bear Clans, riders who carry rich rings as gifts and who bear the messenger that there is a new ring-giver and that there are many more rings to be had if the Jarls of these clans will come in peace. The idea works, and soon the War Jarls from both clans arrive in Hildolf. Malcall fights another difficult holmgang against Yngvar, War Jarl of the Cave Bear Clan, but he beats him and the Jarl swears his allegiance. Seeing this display of might, the Jarls of the Elk clan also agree to follow Malcall. He has successfully united the clans under the Sword of Wodene, a feat which has not be accomplished for a thousand years, since Wodene the Great himself. Malcall and the Lords of the West then gather the barbarian army and begin the 250-mile trek towards Dessingrove. The Lords of the West are concerned that the barbarians will loot innocent human towns along the way, but Malcall promises to do his best to avoid as many towns as he can.
After days and days of travel, the army comes to the first unavoidable town, the town of Wilfred at a strategic crossing. The barbarian army takes it handily, but begins killing, looting, and pillaging the inhabitants. Believing that Malcall is not doing enough to stop this, the Lords of the West are extremely upset, especially Valanduil and Ada, and they decide that at the next town they will ride ahead and warn the inhabitants. Soon the army has traveled to the next strategic town, Waleron. Riding ahead, the heroes see, however, that a warning beacon has been lit and the town is empty. Afej certainly knows of their approach. They cut north to avoid approaching Dessingrove via the road, which is sure to be defended.
Soon they sight Dessingrove, and the fortress of Carn Marrot, placed on a defensible hill overlooking the town. Afej's army of orcs, undead, and humans are arrayed before them, and his army is led by two huge undead monstrosities! Malcall sounds the charge, and the two great armies clash with unparalleled ferocity. The balance of battle shifts back and forth for several hours, until it seems that the barbarians are beginning to push Afej's forces back. The Lords of the West take this opportunity to implement their real plan: infiltration of Carn Marrot and the assassination of Afej the Black.
Chapter Two-- The Hold of the Lich Lord
|11th of Belos, 8171 F.R.|
The heroes run to the Carn Hill and climb with some difficulty to the top. They proceed to the back door, which is locked; Galadwen warns the party that Elven intelligence indicates the castle is heavily trapped. Valanduil uses his magic to climb the wall like a spider. He descends to the backdoor and opens it for the heroes, but triggers a powerful trap-an illusion of his worst fear-that nearly kills him. Entering, the heroes find themselves in the great hall of the keep. Horribly, Payn happens to glance into an enchanted mirror that hangs on the wall, and a hideous undead double of himself steps forth to attack the party. At the same moment three vampires leap from the shadows and assail the group. The touch of the vampires severely weakens both Malcall and Valanduil, but the party manages to dispatch all of the enemies and break the mirror. They pause for a moment to contemplate how best to proceed in this heavily trapped and obviously deadly place.
They first decide to investigate one of the side towers, screened by a tapestry depicting a scene of souls burning in fire. But when Payn touches the curtain, he disappears with a flash and appears, writhing, in the tapestry! Frantically the heroes search for a way to get him out and find a coded note. By deciphering the code, they manage to save their friend, but not before he has been burned with real fire. They continue their exploration of the keep and find that it is crawling with undead. With each fight, the heroes feel some more of their life force being siphoned away by the chilling, death-touch of the living dead. Malcall is especially hard hit, and grows very weak. The companions, in their methodical search of the castle, also discover many traps, and although the intrepid Galadwen is able to disarm many of them, they also trigger several others. Yet they press on. They find a magical portal that seems to lead to a plane of darkness and death, and the group reasons that perhaps the extraordinarily powerful undead in the castle are gaining their might from it. They buttress their spirits with thoughts of the good that will come if they slay Afej, and set out to seek also for a means of closing the portal. The group is shaken, however, by an apparition of the elf Tharivol, Valanduil's friend. the ghost tells them that he has been killed by Afej and been cursed with undeath. He does, however, tell them he wants to help them, and he gives them directions to a room that, he says, contains Afej's phylactery, his soul container. Valanduil and the others suspect something is amiss, however, and they do not heed his advice. They continue their search for Afej.
Then they have some luck. They stumble upon a secret room which proves to be an invaluable find, for it houses all of the spellbooks of Afej. Knowing that the lich will not flee without these books, even if his troops are defeated, the heroes continue to search for the lich. Soon, though, the search comes to an unfortunate halt, at least temporarily, when the heroes, after dispatching a host of evil wights, trigger a poison gas trap: one of their number, perhaps the physically strongest of all the Lords of the West, is slain. Malcall, already weakened by the soul-sapping touch of the undead, is unable to resist the gas, and the brave Northman dies.
Knowing that they cannot hope to slay the lich without the might of Malcall, they quickly carry the body of their friend from the castle, seeking to hide away from the town while Ada waits to regain the strength to cast a spell that will spirit them back to Dragonspur. They know they must be careful not to let the barbarian army that Malcall has brought to Dessingrove to see that Malcall is dead, lest their morale crumble and the attack fail. But it seems that the Afej has some means of spying on them, for he sends a note to the captains of the barbarians that tells them that Malcall has fallen and where his body can be found. Soon a party of barbarians finds the hide-out of the companions and asks to speak with Malcall. But through the disguise skills of Galadwen, the mettle of Payn, and the diplomacy of Galadwen, the heroes manage-- barely-- to convince the barbarians that Valanduil is Malcall and that Valanduil himself has fallen. With this major crisis averted the heroes return to Dragonspur, after dispatching a party of undead sent to kill them.
In the Spur, the heroes have Malcall returned from the dead through the power of the church of Heshtail, and, with their wounds healed and their strength restored, they magically return to Dessingrove, where they find that the barbarian army has pushed the defeated forces of Afej back behind the iron gates of the Undercarn. Formulating a quick plan, Valanduil uses his magic to open the Iron Gates of the Undercarn and the barbarian army rushes in. Taking advantage of the distraction, they quickly reenter the castle and proceed to the room where they believe Afej to be. After Galadwen takes care of a trap she finds on the door, they hear from behind it a great many voices and feel a powerful and cold sense of evil. They cast many protective and enhancement spells on themselves and reach for the handle of the door, but it is thrown open before they have a chance, and in the room they behold Immediately in front of them a large troll in a chain shirt, its huge claws reaching hungrily for their necks. Behind the beast is a room from a nightmare. It seems that it is some sort of vivisection room. Various creatures are on tables throughout the room in various stages of dissection. Some of the creatures indeed seem still to be alive, writhing in pain and moaning monotonously. Nearby is a table with a silver holy-symbol of Grlarssh prominently displayed on it. Potions, beakers, books, and vials also litter the tables. In the far corner of the room, barely visible in the gloom, but clearly visible to the eyes of the elves, is a skeletal figure clad in ragged dark robes, clutching a staff decorated with ornate flames. The figure is wreathed in a cold blue flame from head to toe and is blurry. His withered skin, and indeed his exposed bones, have a grayish tint, like stone. He is surrounded by a band of withered, emaciated figures, reminiscent of ghouls that the heroes have fought before. The figures are arrayed in a flanking pattern, blocking all access to the skeletal figure, which is obviously the object of their quest-- Afej. He laughs hollowly at the sight of the heroes. Behind the figure is a ball of crystal on a pedestal, pulsing with an eerie green light. This crystal ball is apparently the method by which Afej has kept tabs on the them.
The heroes launch an attack on the ghouls and Afej, after their blades and arrows dispatch the troll, and Valanduil opens it with a fireball which destroys the ghouls. Yet the danger is not over yet, for although Afej now stands alone, he is indeed the most powerful foe the Lords of the West have faced to date. Every attempt to hurt him is thwarted by his magically stony skin, and the cold blue fire that engulfs him freezes anyone who attempts to touch him with a weapon. He hurls spell after horrible spell against the heroes, targeting Ada specifically. To make matters worse, the lich has set a trap for the cleric-- he compels her to don the holy symbol of the evil god Grlarssh, robbing her of any certainty of casting her magic, for her god is offended. Yet the wise cleric has fortified herself with many spells that protect her from Afej's sorcery, and the companions take advantage of this to press the attack. The fight is long and dangerous, and each hero comes close to death several times. Soon, however, it seems that the companions might indeed defeat the lich, for they have battered their way through his protective spells, when he suddenly slays both the cleric and the hapless elf Valanduil with his evil necromantic magic. The lich also enspells Malcall and commands him to attack Payn, which he does. It seems that all is lost, but at the last moment, Galadwen and Payn manage to fell the lich with blows from their weapons. They know,. however, that his spirit has merely fled to his phylactery, which they must find and destroy. The battle still rages in the caverns below the castle, and Valanduil and Ada are dead. The remaining three heroes, battered and wounded, cannot take the time to mourn, for their task is not over yet.
After a brief discussion, and after scattering some uruks that seem to be looking for Afej, the heroes decide to send Galadwen back to the Spur to get Ada raised. The heroes prepare to return to the barbarian camp, but they see that the barbarians are trapped in the Undercarn, with half of the orcish army at their back. They perilously skirt the enemy lines and make it back to the outpost, where they fashion a stretcher and place Ada's body on it. Galadwen carries the body into the shadow world, where she arduously drags it back to Dragonspur, using her shadow walking ability. In the spur, she explains the situation to Burcan the White, who sorrowfully raises Ada. Ada uses her magic to transport both women back to Dessingrove.
Meanwhile, Malcall gathers Payn and several wounded barbarians (the only ones left in the camp) and makes a daring assault on the rear guard of the orcish army that is hemming in the barbarians in the Undercarn. The wounded barbarians dump burning oil down on the orcs, and then Malcall leaps down from the hill above the gate into the midst of the fire and attacks ferociously while Payn peppers the orcs from above. Taken aback, the orcs clear a path for Malcall and his party to enter the Undercarn and rejoin his forces. Malcall rallies the cramped army, and they begin to drive the orcs back, when the remaining deathbringer lumbers into the cavern and attacks. Malcall and Payn are the only ones with the courage to face the hulking undead beast, and they manage to dispatch the foul thing after a pitched battle. With their general dead, the orcish army is routed.
Soon Ada and Galadwen arrive back in the camp as the victorious barbarian army celebrates in the town, and Ada raises Valanduil. As soon as he regains his strength, the party ventures once more into Carn Marrot to seek the lich's phylactery and kill him once and for all. After seeking carefully and dispatching several undead that have been imbued with the ability to cast spells, the heroes discover a secret room that contains three rings in an enruned box. The companions solve a riddle and figure out that the box is actually the phylactery. At long last, the Lords of the West have dispatched one of the gravest threats to freedom in the West, and a thorn in their own sides. Afej is dead forever! They return to the camp. Payn, however, receives bad news, for Malcall tells him that the barbarian army is not leaving Dessingrove. Payn knows that this will not be received well by his king Naglor. Tension between Malcall and Payn develops as the group prepares to leave for the Spur.
Chapter Three-- The Valley of Light and the Pits of Gloom
|16th of Belos, 8171 F.R.|
The companions hold a meeting wherein they discuss options. Malcall says he refuses to tell the barbarians to leave, and he does not wish to fight the Kelerites. He tells them that Brand and his earls have suggested naming him king of all the Northmen. Valanduil suggests that Malcall swear allegiance to Naglor and perhaps become a baron of Western Kelerak. Malcall balks at this. He does say that he may do this if it is the only thing that can be agreed upon. The heroes then use Ada's magic to travel to the Spur. Arriving in the capital city, the heroes have a conference with King Naglor. He is aghast at the news that the barbarians will not leave what he sees as his land, and he makes it clear to Malcall that he needs to remove them or swear allegiance to him. He grows even more apoplectic when Valanduil lets slip that the barbarians wish to make Malcall king. He informs the mighty Northman that this would be almost an act of war. Malcall says that he needs to visit his people to discuss the options.
Ada takes Malcall back to Dessingrove, where he meets with Brand Frodeson and his earls. His earls make it clear that they would see capitulating to Naglor as a weakness and that they want Malcall as their king. They pressure Malcall to be unrelenting in his policy towards Naglor. Malcall is stuck with a very difficult decision. He takes a third option: he names Brand Frodeson, his chief earl, as the new War Jarl of the united Northmen, and he passes on his beloved sword Angrim, formerly the weapon of Wodene, thereby giving Brand the right to command the tribes. He states that he shall be beholden to no man and shall remain just Malcall. He and Ada return to the Spur to tell the party. The party, especially Valanduil, do not take it well. They see Malcall as having created a huge problem. Valanduil, especially, is angry, because he believes that this will mean he will not get the Stone of Silence back. Meanwhile, Galadwen urges Valanduil to demand the Stone from Naglor immediately because the elves have word that there may be an impending Drow invasion of the Belendale. The group breaks into argument without coming to an agreement. Valanduil, despairing, uses his magic to travel to the Summervale and consult with his Elvenking. The king, Baranwe, tells Valanduil wait and bide his time in the face of this new development. He says that if Valanduil cannot protect the elves by returning the Stone of Silence, he may be able to do its work and protect the elves. He says that if Valanduil will venture into the Underdark, the caverns that riddle Farland's core, on a fact-finding mission, and if he will take the Lords of the West with them, the elves may be able to put off recovering the Stone for some time. Valanduil, beleaguered as he is, jumps at this chance, even though it takes him into deadly danger. Thanking his king, he returns to Dragonspur and proposes this new mission to the party, inviting them into the Summervale. They all agree to this quest and begin to prepare for this new mission which will thankfully remove them from the city of the angry King Naglor.
After a period of rest wherein their equipment is repaired and several of their items are ensorcelled, the heroes depart for the Summervale using magic. They arrive in Galadwen's family's house, where they are treated very hospitably. They marvel over the workmanship of the items in the house, as well as the architecture itself-- although it is stone, it is light, airy, and open. Venturing into the street, they see that the entire city is built from the same white stone; so are the streets. The city is nestled among a well-tended forest, although few buildings are built into the trees. Towering cliffs enclose it on all sides, down which beautiful waterfalls plash and chime, seeming to sing. Faerie lights glimmer through the boughs of the trees as night falls, adding to the enchanted air of the scene. Galadwen gives the companions a tour of the magical place, and they are completely enraptured with it. Indeed this rapture lasts, making the days blend together and causing them to loose track of time. Before they know it, several weeks have passed and they are summoned to an audience with the Elvenking Baranwe. The tall elf tells them that they have been fated to be a great force for good in Farland, and he tells them never to allow outside forces to split them up. He elegantly makes their role in the world clear, and it is an important one. Next, Lord Leanorfin, captain of the Shadow Walkers, informs them of their next perilous mission: the Elven spies have learned that the Drow, the dark elves who live deep beneath Farland, are planning an invasion of the Belendale. Since Valanduil was unable to recover the Stone of Silence, he must seek out the Drow in their dangerous cavern homes, find out why they contemplate such a seemingly foolish invasion, why now, and why they think such an invasion could succeed. Finally, they must do whatever damage they can to the dark elves in hope of neutralizing the threat. The party agrees and prepares to set out right away. Before they leave, Valanduil gifts each member of the party with a silver broach set with a topaz gem signifying the rising sun, intending this to be the new emblem of the Lords of the West, or as Baranwe has dubbed them, the Lords of Light. He attempts to get each member of the party to swear an oath always to remain faithful to the group above all things, but the other members, while stating their loyalty, resist swearing a formal oath. Valanduil is disappointed but continues preparation.
Soon the heroes use teleportation dweomers to transport themselves into the Drow tunnels, using maps that Leanorfin gave them. Continuing to follow the map, they encounter several dark elf guards, as well as a foul undead thing. The elves are terrible and wily fighters, but they are no match for the heroes who make short work of them. The party pauses to catch its breath, preparing to descend further into the tunnels of gloom.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, they proceed forward into a large cavern, half of which drops into a swiftly-flowing underground river. Galadwen scouts ahead and warns them of an ambush by a party of drow geared for battle. The heroes attempt to charge the drow, but Malcall himself is charged by a large dark elf warriorress and nearly pushed into the river, Besides this minor set-back, the heroes slay the party of drow. They then trace their tracks to a drow village called Szith Zorcoon, where the companions make short work of several enchanted suits of armor set as guardians. This drow community is a strange place, with giant-toadstool like houses with green witch-lights glimmering in their windows. While exploring the town, they are beset by a large groups of drow and a party of slave-fighters, including three stone giants. This battle is more difficult, but the heroes manage, through dint of spell, sword, and arrow, ultimately to prevail. They then stop to assess their options.
Knowing that some Drow from the village escaped and are likely on their way to fetch reinforcements, the companions push further back into the cavern complex, hoping to find information and a place to hole up. The enter a huge cavern used as a slave pen, and there they encounter the sole remaining occupant-- a goblin slave named Gulk. Valanduil befriends the goblin and extracts information from him, including the fact that Szith Zorcoon is simply a trading outpost for the large Drow city of Z'delik. When questioned about any dangers and about the way to get to the city, Gulk tells Valanduil that the main road to the city is blocked by a magical door, and the door is guarded by a formidable guard post, which the goblin calls the inverted tower. Armed with this new information, the heroes are led by Gulk to a secret ravine where they use the elf's rope trick spell to rest. Although they do hear some scouting Drow, the heroes' rest is uninterrupted, and they head towards the tower and guarded door. Arriving at the guard post, which is only a quarter mile away, the heroes find they are expected. They are nearly ambushed by three large ogres and six Drow warriors who wield magic. The battle is fairly easy for the heroes, but inexplicably monsters keep appearing from nowhere, apparently summoned from inside the tower. The Lords of the West finish the battle and advance into the tower, which is really a hollow chamber in the rock shaped like the inside of a tower. Several Drow spellcasters from a higher level harry the party and attempt to dump flaming oil on them. The heroes avoid this threat, and, using Galadwen's shadow jump ability, take cover on a higher level of the tower. They contemplate how to take the rest of the guarded tower.
Suddenly the heroes are attacked by several giant serpents that seem to be made of pure shadow. In the confusion, the Drow priestess who heads the tower tries to escape, but Ada's spells strike her down. The heroes finish off the snakes and search the rest of the tower. They find the password to the door that the tower guards. They also find the Undercleric, the second in command of the tower. Finally, they find a Drow prisoner, who tells them that he used to be one of the Arcane Guards of the tower, but he has been imprisoned for political reasons. He informs them that he comes from the Drow city of Z'delik and that he belongs to a noble house called Sezru. The inverted Tower Priestess belongs to House Alevax, which recently became the most powerful house in the city. Alevax then turned on Sezru. Thus the Drow, Dw'Morzan, was imprisoned to await sacrifice to the demon goddess. The companions question both of their prisoners, and decide to spare Dw'Morzan's life and take him with them as a guide, after he swears allegiance to them and promises to take them to the matron of his house, whom he swears will be able to answer all their questions about the invasion. They lock the Undercleric in the tower with food and water and head off towards Z'delik.
Chapter Four-- A Tale of Two Evil Cities
|23rd of Vornos, 8171 F.R.|
Arriving outside the city after a journey of 30 miles through dark tunnels, they take cover in a side cavern and send Galadwen, in her capacity as Shadow Walker spy, into the city, disguised as a Drow and fortified with some knowledge of the city provided by Dw'Morzan. She uses her skills at stealth and gathering information to sneak into the city. There she visits a Drow pub, where she talks to several dark elves. She manages to obtain some general information about the city as well as a map of the city. She then is able to escape the city and return to the heroes with her newfound information.
Armed with the new knowledge of the city, Galadwen goes back in the next day in the company of Dw'Morzan and Valanduil to see the Matron of House Sezru. She leaves Valanduil to wait for her in the slums of the city and makes it into house Sezru with little trouble. There she meets the Lady of the house, Jas'lana. Galadwen seeks to make a deal with this morbidly obese Drow woman, seeking information about the invasion and the secret weapon. The Drow explains that she has a great deal of information about these topics, but she refuses to share it until Galadwen agrees to help her. Jas'lana explains that Sezru had been ordered by the Theocrats of the city to sponsor a trade caravan to an outlying settlement; the caravan was carrying a holy relic called the Arc of the Demon Pits. Inexplicably, the caravan was ambushed by strange squid-headed abominations, who stole the artifact. Lady Jas'lana tells Captain Galadwen that if she and her group will agree to recover the artifact from the Squid-headed abominations, she will tell her all she knows. Galadwen reluctantly agrees.
Meanwhile, Payn, Ada, and Malcall are confronted by a terrifying sight: monstrous half-Drow, half-serpent creatures that call themselves the Outcasts. At first the three prepare for combat, but it soon becomes apparent that the abominations wish to speak with them. Bravely, Payn approaches the Drasp leader Bel'zos; the foul creature tells him that he and his "people" (the other Drasp) wish for nothing more than to regain their Drow form. They tell Payn that if he will get an artifact for them, the Demonfang Mantle, they will do him a favor that he names. They tell Payn that the artifact is a mantle worn by a minor theocrat who is a priestess at the Temple of the Serpent's Scale on the main street of Z'Delik; the Mantle will allow them to regain their Drow forms. Payn confers with the group, as well as Valanduil and Galadwen who have returned (Valanduil had to fight off some Orcs while he waited for the elf maid), and together they decide to accept the Drasps' quest ; in return they ask Bel'zos and his most powerful cleric Iztovir to help them invade the city of the squid-headed abominations. The Drasp agree. Asking about the temple, they learn from the beasts that the cleric usually has several temple guards, as well as two devils, attending on her, and that she herself is powerful. Valanduil pressures Galadwen to scout the temple, and she eventually agrees reluctantly to do so, even though her spy's instincts tell her not to go. And her instincts indeed prove true, for when she goes to scout, she is spotted by the devils and is paralyzed by their magic. She is captured by the Theocrats, interrogated with magic, and tortured, but miraculously she manages to resist telling them any important information. The Drow priestesses decide to Sacrifice her to Salystra, their Demon Queen of Serpents. As Galadwen lies scantily clad on the Drow altar with their bloody knife poised over her throat, the rest of the Lords of the West burst into the temple and in a pitched battle manage to dispatch those present, free Galadwen, and recover the Demonfang Mantle. A few more minutes and they would have been too late. They recover most of Galadwen's equipment from the dungeon of the temple and use Ada's magic to return to their cave hideout, where they prepare to give the mantle over to the Drasp.
Meeting up with the aberrations, the heroes give the Mantle to the cleric Iztovir. He uses it to return himself and his companions back to their original Drow forms. He and Bel'zos then uphold their end of the bargain and agree to accompany the heroes to the evil city of the Squid-headed abominations to recover the Arc of the Demon Pits. First, however, the companions intercept a caravan trying to journey past the Inverted Tower. They destroy it in order to keep their presence as secret as possible; in doing so they rack up quite a store of valuables. Then they set off.
Soon they arrive at the location where their directions indicates the abominations' community should be. They see a large stone watchtower guarding entrance into a natural cavern. The tower is manned by some strange gray-skinned beings with no eyes, which the heroes recognize as grimlocks. Payn, using his knowledge of tactics, recommends that they attack the tower and catch the warders by surprise. This plan works quite well, and soon the Lords of the West have taken the tower. As they stop to take stock of their situation, however, they hear a large force approaching out of the darkness. They discover that it is more than 100 grimlocks. Simultaneously they all hear a hideously emotionless and alien voice in their heads. The voice identifies itself as Despator, one of the squid-headed creatures. This being makes it clear that it can read the thoughts of the companions, as it knows their numbers and something of their plans. Despator tells them that he considers them no more than thralls-to-be, and that he looks forward to feasting on their brains.
Valanduil, however, brilliantly decides to communicate with the creature, telling Despator that he seeks the Arc and that his group is willing to strike a deal to recover it. The creature demands 50,000 silvers for the relic. Using his knowledge of magic, Valanduil reasons correctly that the Demonfang Mantle is worth more than the Arc, and he offers to trade it. Despator agrees but demands 1000 silvers as well. Valanduil, in a masterful piece of diplomacy, then negotiates with the two former Drasp and strikes a deal to trade them 25,000 silvers worth of items, food, and goods for the Mantle. With the deal done, Ada then bravely goes and makes the exchange. Feeling very relieved, the heroes take the newly acquired Arc and attempt to depart-but they are not able to get away so easily. A short distance from the community the party is attacked by ten of the squid-headed beasts who are attempting to ambush them, double-cross them, and take the Arc back. The creatures incapacitate most of the party with a mental attack that causes them to have terrible, blinding headaches. The abominations, however, have not counted on the pure ferocity of Malcall, who resists their mental attacks and cuts some of them down before they can react. Ada has also cast magic upon herself that allows her to resist the creatures' attack. The former Drasps and Valanduil also contribute to rebuffing the ambush, and only a few of the alien creatures escape.
The companions then return to Z'Delik, where Galadwen bravely (after her last experience) enters the city in disguise, with Valanduil in tow disguised as her Drow slave. She returns to Lady Jas'lana of House Sezru and exchanges the Arc for the promised intelligence. The fat Drow Matron tells the surface Elves that House Alevax's secret weapon is a black Dragon called Onyx the Defiler. She explains that an ancient hermit Drow named Yaz'ston had long ago found the Dragon and raised it from the egg; they are thus fast friends. The rub is that Yaz'ston is the cousin of the Matron of House Alevax and therefore has agreed to persuade the Dragon to participate in the assault on the Belendale. The two Elves ask why House Alevax has decided to attack now. Jas'lana explains that about one year ago a mysterious figure, an Orc Lord from the Far East, appeared in the city. He became a guest of House Alevax. Jas'lana speculates that this mystery Orc has convinced House Alevax to persuade the Theocrats to order an assault on the surface Elves. She has no idea why. Shocked at both of these major pieces of information, Galadwen and Valanduil hand over the Arc and return to their companions to relay the revelations and discuss what to do about the Dragon.
Chapter Five-- The Secret Weapon
|3rd of Holiday, 8171 F.R.|
They decide to return to Dragonspur City to identify the items they've found and research black dragons. But first they decide to hazard the dangerous tunnels to get to the north of the Drow City. Traveling to these paths, they set off down them, with mists billowing around their feet. They feel the ominous atmosphere of the tunnels like a chill on their skin, and they think they hear faint voices, yet no one is there when they look. They fear meeting the spirits of disembodied drow. And soon enough their fears are realized as the ghost of an ancient drow matron-a queen of the former ruling house Zemedra, now defunct-appears. Upon noticing the two surface elves, she attacks without mercy, summoning her minions. She manages to possess both Valanduil and Payn, draining their life. Yet the magic of Ada and the intelligence of the wise Valanduil make short work of the spirits and allow them to escape any permanent harm. They finish their passage through the secret tunnels and come out on the north road, which they know leads to the Dragon's lair. Noting this spot, Ada uses her magic to return the heroes to the Spur.
Upon arriving in the famous Kelerite city, the companions spend two weeks visiting with those they care about, taking care of their obligations, identifying and increasing the power of their magic items, and learning about black dragons. Having rested and prepared, they use Ada's magic to return to the Underdark. There they journey to the dragon's lair, their hearts getting heavier with every step. They prepare to meet the acid-breathing wyrm by casting magic spells. Soon the Lords of the West come to a huge cavern. The floor of the cave seems to have been scoured, and shallow pits have been dug in it. These holes bubble and fizz with acid, and noxious fumes hang in the air. Attempting to cross the lair, the heroes are assaulted by numerous lizard folk, and they notice a strange hermit-like dark elf attempting to flee into the shadows of the northern section of the cavern. They intercept the Drow and kill the lizards, but suddenly they are overcome with a powerful fear, although they can't see its source. The heroes shake off the effects but are hit with a huge stream of acid breathed from an unseen throat. Their magic defenses serve them well in resisting the acid, but the invisible dragon follows up its breath with deadly strikes from its claws, fangs, wings, and tail. They attempt to return the attack but the thick scales of the beast and its spell of invisibility severely hamper their effectiveness. Taking a new tact, some of the companions turn their attacks on the dark elf, knowing that the dragon looks on him as his adopted father, and soon they fell the Drow. The wyrm breaks off his attack to attempt to remove the Drow from the battle and heal him, but Galadwen finishes off the dark elf with an arrow. The dragon lets out a terrible, tortured roar and leaps, bringing his entire bulk right down on the Shadow Walker. She is being smothered beneath the dragon as the beast sits on her and turns its attacks against the other heroes. However, his spell of invisibility wears off, and the remaining Lords of the West redouble their attacks on the beast, taking advantage of its reckless rage. The swords of Malcall and Payn spark as they strike through the wyrm's scales, and the magic of Ada and Valanduil visits horrendous damage on the beast. Heavily wounded, it finally retreats, leaving the crushed Galadwen near death. Ada's holy dweomers heal the elf-maid as the dragon dives deep into a large pool of acid in the north of the chamber. Relying on the magical defenses the spell-casters have imbued him with, Malcall holds his breath and bravely dives right into the pool of acid, taking the fight to the shocked dragon. Before it can use its magic to escape, the Northman drives his sword right into the heart of Onyx the Defiler, ending the wyrm's long life. Quickly hacking the dragon's huge head from its body, Malcall exits the pool and washes the stinging acid from him. The heroes search through the dragon's treasure, reveling in their success and marveling at how powerful they've become. They've destroyed the secret weapon that gives the Drow their only hope at successfully invading the realm of the surface Elves. Valanduil reminds them that their mission in the dangerous Underdeeps is nearly complete. All that remains is to find the mysterious orc that has prompted the Drow invasion to learn who he is and why he did it. Their path must lead them to house Alevax.
Chapter Six-- Unexpected Assaults and Surprising Secrets
|3rd of Kalt, 8172 F.R.|
The Lords of the West camp for two days until they are fully healed, and then they journey all the way back through the long tunnels to the cavern of the former Drasp, south east of Z'Delik. From that staging point, Galadwen and Valanduil again venture into the city, meeting Lady Jas'lana's representative in the appointed Inn. Brought before the Matron of House Sezru, the two surface elves present the shocked Leader with the tip of the dragon's tail, proving that they have indeed slain the wyrm. Valanduil presses her for information about the mysterious Orc and suggests that House Sezru rise up. The astute Drow matron sees that this is indeed the best opportunity for House Sezru to regain power, but tells Valanduil that open warfare in the city is forbidden by the Theocrats. She tells Valanduil that Sezru dare not undertake it lest the wrath of the theocrats come down on them. A quick assault on the semi-isolated House Alevax, however, is possible, if the heroes go in alone and do it it quickly without direct help from Sezru. While in the house, the party can capture the orc and possibly find out other valuable information that they seek. Jas'lana does tell the party that she can get them to House Alevax, which is located in the Undercity. She explains that the gate to this lower level, where the Theocrats' Fane is located, is heavily guarded by powerful beings, including a floating eye abomination. Jaslana suggests that Sezru's minions disguise the heroes like orcs and transport them as slaves into the Undercity. They will have to remove all their items and equipment and have it shipped below separately. She also warns them that the lower city is suffused with wild magic, making teleportation magics very dangerous. Conferring, the elves communicate telepathically with their companions. The group is very nervous, potentially being at the mercy of the Drow, but Valanduil reasons that Jas'lana has too much to gain from the fall of Alevax to betray them. He gets Jas'lana to agree to a Geas specifying that she will make sure they get their equipment back when they get below, and then he agrees to the plan.
The heroes are smuggled in supply wagons into the upper city by Dw'Morzan and others from House Sezru, and from there into House Sezru itself. They stay for several days in the Drow House, getting disguised and prepared, and then they set off, being whipped through the city as slaves. They have a tense moment at the gate, when a terrible floating eye abomination eyes them suspiciously, but they make it through the heavy steel gate and descend hundreds of feet down a wide stair, to the Undercity. From there they travel to a Sezru safe house. Dw'Morzan leads them to the side tunnel which heads to House Alevax, all the while casting mooning glances at Galadwen. He tells them that he must leave them here, but that House Sezru will block the end of the tunnel, not permitting any Alevax Drow to enter or escape. He tells them that if Alevax does manage to raise an alarm, they will have between 10 and 20 minutes before the Theocrat guards arrive. Thanking Dw'Morzan, the Lords of the West set off down the tunnel and soon arrive at House Alevax, a large twisted and blackened structure, with stylized blood carved from stone dripping down the facade. They make an assault on the front door and dispatch two huge stone golems carved to look like female Drow. Upon entering the house, the heroes face a force of about 20 Drow fighters, but they prove to be little threat to the party, more of a distraction to buy time. In any case, the party makes short work of them. Heading directly to the back doors, Payn discovers one open and evidence that several creatures have traveled this way very recently. It seems the Theocrats may have been alerted. Hearing a noise, the heroes investigate one of the side halls, where they discover a large force prepared for them, including three Drow archers that imbue their arrows with magic, the mysterious orc lord, a huge snake with a man's head (called a naga), and the Matron of House Alevax, a nearly-skeletal dark elf with a fire burning behind her eyes. The Alevax force attacks the party, and the battle is fierce. The Matron proves to be a strong mage, and the attacks of the naga and archers are dangerous, but eventually the heroes are able to defeat them all. Towards the end of the battle, the Orc tries to flee, but Ada's holy words strike him down, accidentally killing him. The Matron is also rendered unconscious. Surveying the battle field, the heroes bind the wounded Matron and take the head of the dead orc. Valanduil urges that they flee immediately, while Galadwen suggests that they find a way to search the house in case they cannot gain information through magic from the Orc's corpse. Ada suggests that she could possibly seal the cavern by conjuring an earthquake through the might of Heshtail. They hesitate for a moment to decide their course.
Valanduil insists that the group return to the safe house immediately, against the wishes of Galadwen. When they get back to the safe house, Dw'Morzan tells them that if there is any information in house Alevax, it will soon fall into the hands of the Theocrats, and it will be incredibly difficult to retrieve. Reasoning that not searching the house may have been a mistake, the group hurries back to the dark mansion. They find, however, that a vanguard force of the Theocrats has arrived to secure the scene and hold it until the main force arrives. The Lords of the West assault the vanguard force, and Valanduil dramatically reveals that he has become much more powerful when he conjures up a fog of acid that helps the heroes quickly neutralize their opponents. From there, Ada uses the might of Heshtail to bring down the main entrance to the cavern, sealing the group in (except for the back door, which the group reasons is unknown to the Theocrats). They proceed to thoroughly search the house, and the decision pays off: they find valuable information. The first piece they find reveals troop numbers; it seems that without the dragon, an invasion of the Belendale by the Drow has little chance of succeeding. Hence they have successfully defended the Belendale. The second thing they find reveals that the Orc, Lord Gorguth of Orc-Haven, has promised Lady Haelra, matron of House Alevax, the use of the Lord of Anger's personal Crimson Lion Guard and ten monks from the Way of the Claw to employ in a bid to overthrow the Theocrats. This same piece reveals that the Orc promises to reveal to Haelra the location of a famous Drow artifact, the Amulet of Evernight, so that she can promise this information to the Theocrats if they will order the Drow invasion. The heroes have thus learned what has motivated the Drow to attack, and they are astounded at the depth of Drow intrigue and fascinated by this information about the amulet. The last bit of intelligence they find, however, is shocking. It reveals the two reasons the Orc lord came to foment the invasion to begin with. It states that the Lord of Wrath is planning a two pronged invasion of Kelerak to crush the Rebellion of Light once and for all. The Deadly Lord knows, however, that if the Stone of Silence is still in Kelerak hands, the invasion has no chance. Thus the second reason for the Orc's attempt to cause the invasion: to draw the Lords of the West down to the Drow Caverns so that the Stone will be relatively undefended and the Eye can make an attempt to steal it! Stunned by this information and realizing the grave danger that the Stone is in now that they have been lured away, the heroes risk the chaotic magics of the Underdark and teleport back to Dragonspur City, taking the captured Matron Haelra with them.
When they arrive in the city, they turn Haelra over to Naglor and hurry to Yedus' mansion to warn him of the grave danger; Malcall, with his great speed, runs ahead. When he arrives at the manor of the wizard, however, he finds the Eye has preceded him and are hacking their way into the mansion. It seems the Eye has replenished their ranks: besides its core members of Khadufel, Bolg-Gatha, and Bauglar the Snout, they have recruited a kobold cleric, a goblin monk from the Way of the Claw, and a mysterious fighter in night-black full plate mail. Malcall blows his horn and bravely attacks the evil adventuring party. Hearing the horn, Valanduil's teleportation magic brings the party to the scene quickly. They fear that the fight will be deadly, but the full on assault of the Lords of the West catches the Eye by surprise. Although they are damaged, the heroes manage to slay the monk, the cleric, and even the dangerous Bauglar. Just then Yedus emerges from the mansion. Apparently unable to distinguish friend from foe because of the effects of the Stone, he unleashes a lightning bolt that strikes Valanduil. Payn tries to neutralize Yedus without killing him, while the other heroes continue to battle the Eye. Soon Khadufel, heavily injured, teleports away, and the black-armored figure surrenders. Bolg-Gatha escapes into the house, looking for the Stone. Then a surprise development: the mysterious figure removes his helmet and calls to Ada. He claims to be Walter Ack-Roger, her long-lost brother! Ada is thunderstruck and engages in deep conversation with him. Meanwhile, the rest of the companions enter the house. Inside, they weather a dangerous attack from Bolg-Gatha and finally manage to slay the famous assassin once and for all. They find Yedus and convince the erratic wizard that they are his friends; they narrowly manage to persuade him to return with them to the Spur Fortress where the Stone can be protected. They have accomplished much: they have crushed the Eye once and for all, although Khadufel the Southerner yet lives, and they have thwarted potential invasions of both the Belendale and Kelerak. Payn and Valanduil begin to discuss ways to convince Naglor through a treaty to remove the Stone from the unstable Yedus and return it to the elves in return for promises of Elven aid while Ada seeks to learn more from the alleged Walter. It seems the companions once again have a breathing space, thanks to their bravery and heroism. Their work of bringing good back to the land, however, is not yet finished.