Machinations of the Slave Lords!

Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 5
Enter the Scorpikis

The heroes journey back across the river to escape the sight of the green dragon, whose miasma still surrounds the region. During the night, they are attacked by a band of orcs and dirdraug, who they manage to defeat even being woken and unarmored.

The next day they mount up again and head once more back to town, continuing their excursion to the South. This time they find themselves facing all-new horrors. After battling a few ghasts and several giant scorpions inhabiting the ruins, they are beset by terrors that appear as a new twist on the driders that Gurtak has encountered in the underdark, though instead of being drow combined with spiders, these appear to be drow combined with scorpions!

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These creatures prove to be quite formidable, but the heroes once more manage to defeat them, making their way to a cottage that is largely intact and well-maintained. Within they find the body of an old hermit, dead for only a few weeks, and deduce that this was his house and that he was killed by the invaders. Deciding this is a safe place to take a brief respite, they settle in for a short rest before continuing further.

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Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 4
The Manse of the Dead

The next morning, the heroes return, refreshed, skirting around the town to the Necromancer’s cottage, hoping that they are ready for what awaits them. As is their normal tactic, Faervel approaches the cottage in stealth to get a feel for the situation. The Necromancer is still in his study, the skeletal serpent still in the other room. However, Faervel is shocked to discover a gigantic, grotesque, rotting mass of flesh, tentacles and eyes floating towards him, along with several other shambling monstrosities:

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He retreats back to the group to report on his findings. They regroup and begin their assault, taking on the rotting eye-beast and the skeletons accompanying it, while taking shots at the necromancer through the window in a surprise attack. He returns fire, seriously wounding members of the party in retort, and the battle is joined.

The fight is fierce and draining to the party, but just as they appear to be approaching victory, a new horror joins the fray: the banshee Agatha, flying in to defend her lover:

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In the end, the banshee appears to be destroyed along with Harmun’s undead minions, but Harmun himself, anguished at the loss of Agatha, affects an escape using an identical means as the dread blackguard: twisting something on his finger and vanishing from sight.

Once more the group retreats to rest before making further excursions into the town and completing their mission of clearing out the ruin…

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Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 3
Drow and Scorpions??

Drow and Scorpions?

Winded and weakened after their encounter with the blackguard and drow, our heroes take refuge in the now-empty barracks formerly occupied by the dark elves. As they take a brief rest to catch their breath and get the lay of the land, Nav’ron heads to the roof along with Gurtak and Punty. They note to the west what appears to be a tower attached to an old cottage which, aside from the roof being partially collapsed, seems to be in good shape. However, dragged along the path at either side of the door, they see two bloated bodies of dead giant scorpions, which look to have been sliced and torn up.

To the south they notice a few mostly-destroyed homes. The greenish miasma that has settled upon the town hides everything else. After discussion, they opt to go south before facing whatever is in the tower (which they assume will be a major threat).

Heading south, they go first to the decayed homes, where they are attacked by horrific monstrosities which appear to be partially humanoid, partially scorpion. Sten notes from his readings that they are similar to creatures known as chitines and choldriths, but that those creatures are spider-monsters, not scorpions. Nav’ron and Gurtak note that spider creatures would be in line with what they know about drow, but scorpions are something new altogether, and the group wonders what it is they’re facing, though they assume it has something to do with the influence of this Elder Elemental Eye cult.

Defeating the monsters, the heroes briefly explore the immediate vicinity, where they find bodies scattered. Some appear to be townsfolk from Phandalin. others appear to be adventurers who met their doom here. Inside the ruined hovel, they find the treasure cache the monsters were guarding—thousands of copper and hundreds of gold and platinum, plus a number of gems, a scroll, a few healing potions and a short sword that turns out to be a luck blade, though without any remaining wish charges.

They gather what treasure they can carry, then continue south, staying off the road and in the overgrown parts of the town until they come to a larger cottage at the far southeastern corner. Sneaking up, Punty gets a look in the window and notes an horrific creature that looks like the skeleton of a gigantic cobra:

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…which appears to be having a conversation with an all-too-familiar face:

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Punty also notices flashes and shades of movement in the corners of the place, but can’t put his finger on exactly what is moving or where it is. The group decides to stage a battle between the dead drow and the scorpion-things, while withdrawing from the town entirely to take their rest and come back better prepared.

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Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 2
The Rising Darkness

The Rising Darkness

Our heroes make it home to Phandalin, only to find the place looks alien to their eyes. Stout stone walls (of hasty dwarven construction, Gurtak notes) have been raised around the town, and guards man the parapets. A few dwarves can be seen working on the construction, shoring up weak spots and generally polishing the job. Gurtak hails them and they explain that about two weeks ago a force of drow fell upon the mines. They were repulsed, but to keep the mines and spell forge safe, the Rockseekers sealed the mines. They’ve been using secret entrances and exits to lend aid to the people of the town since then, and will re-open the mines if the situation improves.

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As the PCs approach the walls, they are hailed by the guards, who demand to know their names and business. They identify themselves and ask for Sildar. A few minutes later, they are admitted to town with apologies, and welcomed home, albeit under dark circumstances. A 13-year-old runner guides them through Phandalin, whose people are living under a cloud of weighty depression and fear, to the town hall.

Sildar looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks. He’s haggard and beaten down, but welcomes the PCs home. He first lets them know that their manor is intact, that he has spared a garrison of troops to watch over the place, and that Mirna and the staff refuse to leave. He is introduced to Nav’ron, and told about Gah’Ri; he promises the group that their deceased friend will receive a burial with honors, and welcomes the dragonborn to town.

The town itself has been assaulted by drow and undead almost every night for the past several weeks. People are occasionally carried away. The group turn over the letter they recovered from the drow on the road, and report on the ritual they interrupted.

Sildar looks concerned at the letter; the indications that their enemies have a political foothold in Naerie are disturbing, especially as he has sent runners to ask the city for help. His scouts have managed, at the cost of their lives, to determine that the stronghold of these villains, led by the Necromancer, the banshee, a green-armored warrior and a “dark warlord,” is in the ruins of Thundertree, about 70 miles north. The information about the “dark warlord” especially concerns him as it rings familiar somehow.

He asks the PCs to head to Thundertree to investigate and, if possible, cut the head off of this serpent.

They spend the remainder of the day tending to personal matters: Gurtak helps to get the bedraggled town guard in shape as much as possible; most are too old or too young to bear arms, but all have served with integrity and been forged in fire. Punty visits the gnomes and collects his improved sword-whip, and the group stop at the Stonehill Inn where Punty spends time with Elsa St. John before the group visits home, where they are doted upon by Mirna and her children, who are fascinated with Nav’ron.

The next morning, they set out, heading north to the now-collapsed ruins of Cragmaw castle where they intend to take the river towards Thundertree. En route, they encounter a battle scene with more dead centaurs, and a site that rocks Gurtak to the core: several dead creatures that appear to be a magical fusion of an orc and a giant worg, much as a centaur is a fusion of a horse and man. Gurtak identifies them as “Dirdraug,” mythical boogeymen that are used to admonish dwarf children to behave.

The scene was apparently a stop on part of a running battle. The group debate tracking the fight, but decide that their immediate mission is more important, and head on towards Thundertree. En route they camp for a night on the far side of the river, which doesn’t feel as heavy or oppressive as their local area.

When they finally make landfall, they note that a thick, acrid fog has moved in across the entire area. The trees grow closely together and are covered with an emerald moss. The light that filters through the heavy canopy is also emerald-hued and very dim; they are forced to navigate their way through heavy thickets and briar patches. Fortunately, Gurtak proves a skilled outdoorsman and is able to pick the group’s way through with relative ease.

Nav’ron and Sten are disturbed; everything they’re seeing is a sign of a green dragon lair somewhere within five miles of their location. The report of a “green-armored warrior” comes to mind and they steel themselves against this inevitability. They also realize that the dim light will negate any advantage they might have of taking on the drow during the day.

At length, they find a pathway to approach Thundertree from a high ground in the north—a vantage which allows them to get a general layout of the town. As they watch, they see a massive, armored warrior conferring with several robed humans, who eventually move off. They decide to sneak up and try to take out this warrior alone.

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The ruse partially works; unfortunately, Gurtak stumbles and draws attention to himself. He recovers and strides forward, intending to serve as bait. The dark warrior steps forth and challenges the dwarf, at which point the remaining companions unleash a surprise attack. warduke_by_deankotz.jpg

The battle is fierce; the warlord summons aid from 8 drow warriors and brings to bear mighty spells in connection with his combat prowess—Punty identifies him as a fallen Paladin, or a blackguard. The halfling very nearly sacrifices his life for the cause, but Sten is able to heal the diminutive paladin. Unfortunately, their victory is a bitter one, as the blackguard steps back into the building from which he emerged and triggers a ring of teleportation to vanish…

TO BE CONTINUED

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Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 1
Ill Met Near Phandalin

Shadows of Thundertree

Ill Met Near Phandalin

Our heroes make their way home from Phandalin, with the body of Gah Ri in tow. Each day, Sten performs clerical magic to maintain the body, lest it rot on the two-week journey home. After nearly two months away, the group are road-weary and looking forward to a break.

By the third day on the road, however, they all begin to feel uneasy. The forest is too quiet, seems somehow darker than usual, and the air feels heavy and oppressive. Sten becomes convinced that someone—or something—is tracking them in the night, but it never shows its face. The feeling gets stronger as they go, and everyone is on edge.

By day six, the PCs have begun a forced march to cover more ground, not stopping to make camp until well into the night. As they prepare to step off the road to make camp, they hear the sounds of battle somewhere in the near distance, followed by a booming thunderclap. Minutes later, a dragonborn dressed in traveler’s clothes comes staggering into the road, covered in gashes and cuts, a couple of small crossbow bolts sticking out of him.

“Drow,” he says. “We should run.”

At that moment, his drow pursuers emerge into the road and the battle is joined. Our heroes emerge victorious, with Faervel pursuing the lone survivor into the woods, while Gurtak leaps to his aid, neatly beheading the drow.

Searching the bodies, the heroes discover two things upon the body of the lead drow. First, he wears the symbol of Tharizdun, the Elder Elemental Eye :

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Second, he bears a scroll case. Punty tears it open, suffering a lightning shock from the magical traps securing the message, before the group reads the contents. Upon realizing that Harmun Kost and Agatha are villains that the group encountered on their first adventure together, and let live, Punty mutters, “what a douche,” and the group vows to discover what’s going on and put an end to this nasty bit of unfinished business.

After healing their new friend and making introductions, the group camps for the night and the next day continue their trip. As they will be approaching Phandalin from the south and passing within a few hours of it, the group decide to stop in and check on the Rockseeker clan at the Mines of Phandelver. Upon hearing that the Lost Mines and the Forge of Spells are no longer lost, Nav’ron is eager to see the sight for himself.

So the heroes continue on. The closer they get to Phandalin, the more their sense of doom and foreboding grows, as if something intangible but dark and evil is spreading across the Menowood.

Three days out from the mines, just as the sky is fading from the blue-black of midnight to the gray of pre-dawn, the air is split by a horrific scream of agony, followed by a quiet chanting in the distance. Sten, who was sitting watch, arouses his companions and they send Faervel ahead to scout while they make their way behind them.

The first thing the group comes across are the bodies of three dead centaurs, each of which has been torn to shreds by what looks like a combination of weapons and the claws of great beasts. Gurtak notes what appear to be warg tracks on the ground, but far larger than any warg he’s ever seen, and marked with vicious claws that aren’t normally seen with these creatures.

The chanting, however, still goes on ahead and the group continues on.

Faervel makes his way to a clearing where he sees six cultists chanting around six dead and mutilated victims, arranged around a bonfire. He pulls his bow, takes aim and sticks one of the two priests leading the ritual. Unfortunately, the priest does not fall, and while Faervel is exceptionally stealthy, his shot gives his position away to his victim, who points and shouts an incantation, freezing the rogue where he stands.

The cultists close in…

The heroes arrive on the scene just in time to save their roguish companion from a fairly grisly demise, making short work of the cultists. Their sorrow and rage builds as they realize that they know every one of the six victims—two men, two women and two children—as townsfolk of Phandalin. Nav’ron and Sten recognize the ritual as one to gather power, though for what dark purpose they cannot discern.

Gathering their wits about them, the group press on, determined to reach home as soon as possible. The rest of their journey goes without challenge, but when they reach the Mines, they are shocked to find them closed, the doorway concealed so that none can find it.

Gurtak assures the group that the dwarves would never simply abandon Phandalin, and that there would be secret ways into and out of the mine. The group turns north, pressing on to get home and discover what horrors have occurred in their absence due to the machinations of this dark mage and his undead lover…

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episodes 6-7
The Warlock's Last Gambit

The group, determined to root out their enemies, employs outstanding strategy to tear their way through Level 1 of the mines. They discover a group of miners who have no idea that evil is going on and who, upon being presented evidence of the slaver machinations, promptly walk off the job and join the slaves and Kwon below; these are sent under Kwon’s guardianship to sneak out through the lower level and make their way back to town.

No, seriously, it was a total slaughter. Punty gave the bad guys every chance to surrender, but facing death at the hands of a halfling paladin, or death by hanging, they chose to the last, death by halfling paladin.

After clearing out the top level, the group discovers the “main entrance” to the caves—a massive, open quarry pit at the far end of which stands the keep in which their enemies presumably reside. Sick to the point of recklessness of the sneaking around and subtlety, Punty and Zym begin to openly stride across the quarry pit, while rest of the party slinks around the edges.

Halfway across the floor, Punty and Zym begin to take heavy arrow fire from the sentries atop the castle. The rest of the group makes it to the bottom door, which is locked, and Faervel works feverishly to pick the lock to allow them entry.

Realizing that Punty and Zym may not make it across to the castle under the current circumstances, Gah-Ri uses “Misty Step” to transport himself to the top of the parapets, directly in the midst of the archers. He manages to dispatch the archers, buying Punty and Zym the time they need to get to the castle, but then finds himself alone on top of the castle, and facing another group of guards, plus the half-orc, half-dwarf Brubgrok and his lieutenant Glythriel, who finally appear on the scene.

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Original Picture Source

The fight is wildly one-sided, and Gah-Ri meets a heroic end as the group enters the basement of the keep, just in time to see the guards hurl Gah-Ri’s body from the parapets. Enraged, the group quickly dispatches the two guards in the basement and makes their way straight to the roof, ignoring the rest of the encampment, where Punty strides into the main courtyard and calls out Brubgrok.

The fight is epic, the group facing two dozen human and goblin guards, five bugbear lieutenants, Glythriel and Brubgrock themselves. Twice, Punty and Zym fall under the blades of their adversaries, only to be brought back to their feet by Sten Karn, and the group tears through the mass of foes until, in the end, it is Faervel who puts an end to Glythriel with a sword through her back, as Zym and Punty together fell the leader of the slavers in this castle. The group is unsurprised when they discover Glythriel wearing a magical ring, which when removed, reveals her as a drow. Faervel takes the ring, which he discovers has the power to alter the appearance of anyone who wears it into what they would look like were they a high elf.

Wounded, tired and victorious, the crew clears out the rest of the castle, most of whose inhabitants run for the hills when they realize their leader has been dispatched, and return to Darkshelf, where they are hailed as heroes and allowed to rest up for several days before they return to Phandalin, where their next adventure awaits…

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 5
Plan, What Plan?

Again we find our heroes searching through the the remainder or the second level of this cavern, er, quarry. Much discussion is had as to what to do with the slaves found being guarded by the Bugbears in the prior episode. Eventually the decision is made to explore the remainder of this level and decide their fate later. Faervel Galadthor and Gah Ri aka Gary scout ahead and find a small group of goblins working away, actually mining near the ramp to the next level up. Much discussion about the pros and cons of attacking them are discussed to the point that Gurtak simply marches over and starts the battle. That occurs quietly off screen to no great effect. Other than dead goblins.

From there the group decides to explore the last sets of passages visible to them on this level. Again, Gah Ri aka Gary and Faervel Galadthor scout ahead and find a large temple room with an obelisk inscribed with the symbol of a single eye. This marks these as the priests opposed to the priest of Lolth whom the group had encountered before.

After regrouping, the heroes discuss options. The group moves in and in a series of events that are not well known or understood to at least one dwarf (Gurtak), the murder hobos go for the kill (Looking at you Faervel Galadthor). As it turns out there are two priest, a number of the electrocuting eel/fish from earlier, and eventually a whole pack of Goblins. In a stunning turn of events, no one gets particularly beaten up. Sten Karn has a bit of bad luck with hitting things as does Gah Ri aka Gary. Otherwise, everyone performs admirably and the slaughter is total, well almost.

Belatedly a lone Goblin makes the incredibly foolish mistake of showing up late to the fight. When given a moment to surrender the poor over matched creature does in a heartbeat. After questioning it becomes obvious that the Goblin doesn’t know much, but he does confirm much of what the party already knows. There are no dwarves running this mine and in fact the whole operation if run by a Hobgoblin and two sets of fighting priests. When given the opportunity to flee, the offer isn’t even spoken before the Goblin disappears.

More loot is found and the last of the obvious nooks an crannies explored on this level. Next time….. The First Floor!!!!

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 4
Goblins, and Bugbears, and Kwon - Oh My!

With a… night…? of rest, the party left the water chamber to explore the upward bound corridor that would hopefully lead to more revelations about the mysterious disappearances on the surface.

All things being normal, Faervel Galadthor sneaked off into the darkness to scout. However, cosmic scales finally tipped the other way, and Faervel snuck effectively, coming back to report on a cavern occupied by goblins, many of whom were asleep. The plan came down to Faervel murdering as many as possible, and the party charging in once he needed to squawk for help. He murdered an admirable number of greenskins before needing aid, but with “Punty”, Gurtak, and Sten Karn off killing the goblin archers that tried to rush in as back up and rush out as cowards with springing axe swipes and sacred fires, Faevel used his time to find PHAT LOOTZ in the firepit.

He was startled when the party caught him. The party was not startled that Faevel had found treasure and wanted to keep it secret.

Exploring further, Faervel reported on a barred gate with a bugbear guard in a recessed alcove further on. The group also found another locked door in a chamber above the middens hole encountered below. Deciding to explore open passageways before monkeying with locked, guarded chamber, the group pressed on, but shortly realized they were being tailed.

With delicate subtlety, “Punty” whirled around, shone his bullseye lantern on the sneak, and blurted (he liked to think of it as ‘challenged’), “Who’s there?!”

Fortunately, it turned out to be Kwon, the monk initially hired by Lord Nestor of Darkshelf to investigate the goings on. He filled in several blanks for the party: the area behind the barred gate was a slave pen, guarded by a pair of bugbears; the so-called dwarf quarry master Basili Erak is actually an ork called Brubgrak, with a female elven lieutenant named Glitherial; and the locked door in the middens chamber is a rear entrance to the slave pens.

He tells us that he has been gone long enough that he must be getting back – the bugbears are surprisingly vigilant in their monitoring of the slaves. The party agrees that if the bugbears are dead, they can’t check on Kwon’s presence, and backtrack to the locked door to make it so.

The plan is to lure out the bugbear with some noise so that Sten can use a hold spell upon it, leaving Faervel and company free to puncture its organs with impunity and then act similarly upon its companion. However, the bugbear is smart enough to wait to investigate until joined by its compatriot. When “Punty” steps out to taunt them into attacking, they instead demand he come to them, with which he is happy to comply. He knows that Faervel, Gurtak, and Sten are there to back him up. Between some mighty smiting and some persistent paralysis spells, the two bugbears fall.

The party spends a few moments catching their breaths, and then considers the slaves and corridors yet to be explored, and we fade to black before the next plan is made.

To be continued…!

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 3
The search for more rest

After some recuperating from the fight with the ghouls, the party decided to find a place to rest and take stock before continuing to explore the mines. Someone, likely Sten, mentioned that there were actual closed doors closer to where the group entered the caves. Taking a longer route back, the ghouls that had been turned previously were discovered and dispatched (with horrible icky slurping noises and preternatural darkness).

We then had to tackle the inscrutable and unknowable puzzle….. of doorlocks. (OOC I actually missed the resolution of this, but it involved using the iron key found on the dead priest and figuring out which keyhole was the right one).

Inside the room was a pool of water, and a watery tentacle that was almost impossible to see prior to it reaching out and grabbing “Punty”? or maybe Faervel Galadthor. Either a combat of waiting for the monster to strike so it was visible ensued. Once it attacked Gurtak did his Ginsu routine and took down the monster.

Then we rested. Sweet, sweet, restorative, spell memorizing sleep. Also the entrance to the level above was located off this room, requiring some precautions to protect the resting group.

We then decided to explore the rest of this level prior to moving up to the higher one. We then encountered troglodytes, which are remarkably more difficult to fight than advertised. We managed to put down the group without any serious damage to the group.

We then continued on to finish the exploration and encountered a group of zombies in another midden area. Sten Karn managed to turn a fair number of the zombies, turning them to dust. The rest were quickly killed, more permanently, by the group.

A magical item was found in the midden, etched with the symbol of a darker religion – Tharzidun, the Elder Elemental Eye. After a quick casting of identify it was determined that the artifact attracted undead and controlled them slightly. After some debate, and “Punty”’s fairly strenuous argument to destroy the object, we very carefully and deliberately smashed it to little bits with a warhammer. Gah Ri aka Gary was not pleased.

We will continue in this backwards dungeon crawl next time…

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