Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Endurance in the Horned Hold

“What a piece of junk”, I thought to myself. Having spent so much time with my heavily weaponed patrons, my impulse had been to purchase a fine dagger, yet this shiny new toy seemed to have no utility. I gave it another toss at the tree, but the dully jeweled hilt just bounced off the trunk with a thud. At least this time I hit the tree. I cursed myself for giving in to the lust for this thing and spending what now seemed far too much. Still, the fantasy was there and I picked up the dagger and resumed my duel with the tree. Cut to the left, cut to the right, I feigned a stagger backwards for a throw to finish off my foe, but when my arm came forward nothing flew from my hand. Where had it gone?

Erik tapped me on my shoulder, balancing the dagger upon a finger of his left hand. Then with a motion too fast for my eyes, that hand moved to snatch the dagger from the air and flung it at the tree. A bull’s-eye, no less, had there been a mark. He had nearly startled me out of my boots, arriving at our meeting in such fashion, but Erik could also see my amazement and I could almost see a smile in his eyes. He then sat upon the bare earth, leaving a flat rock for me. He had come to tell me more of the tale of the Horned Hold, a fortress deep within the bowels of Thunderspire Mountain. It seems that this place was more of a mystery than just a stronghold for the Grimmerzul.

The five adventurers had traveled far through the minotaur’s labyrinth, passing mindless horrors within its tunnels. Upon reaching the great chasm, they found the Horned Hold and had battled to get within its walls. Having felled several mighty duegar in the first bastion, they moved to the second, crossing the bottomless chasm upon a narrow bridge. Within the second bastion a series of battles took place. Alas, there was no rest for the weary warriors. Upon defeating the ettin, a two-headed giant, they paused only to be interrupted by an alarm from Rift, the wizard. Luckily she had thought to look out across the second bridge to spy four duergar sneaking up…

“Duergar!”, shouted Rift, “One large, two with red cloaks and a standard!”

She then carefully moved the double doors’ bars into place. Would the doors hold against stout dwarven battering? The others moved into position. Erik drew his bow. The paladin and fighter moved up closer, just in case the doors could not hold and the worst would happen. Z’alden stayed back, guarding the rear for possible attack.

Bash! Bash! The creaking doors shook violently upon the frightening duergar blows, yet they held. The five’s spirits lifted. They had endured that long series of battles without a rest and were desperate for recovery. But there was no time to recover. Rift and Erik fired back at the duergar through the arrow slits, each attack dealing crucial damage. If they were going to come through the door, they would first have to pay a toll.

Bash! Bash! Again the duergar slammed upon the now nearly splintering doors. But they held. The five thought that they might actually get a chance to rejoice. More magic and arrows from Rift and Erik stung the duergar. Defeated, the foes ran back across the bridge to safer ground. If only the chasm had been able to claim them to depths unknown.

Perchance to rest? Felsmon and Barrick now joined Erik and Rift. So too Z’alden, ever watchful for the well being of his comrades. After helping Barrick as best as he could Z’alden then moved out to watch the narrow bridge. Erik remained to watch the wide bridge while the others fanned out. Searching then resting.

Half-way through the rest, Rift spied a creature from the rear – bad news since it lay between the five and their best escape. She tried to blast it, but it ducked away. Finally, though, a rest. A time to regain powers lost. A time to renew hope.

The pressure to keep moving was still ever present. Surely the duergar were forming hunting parties. They would never give up so easily. So the five moved on through the hold past a balcony which gave a view out across the chasm to the first bastion. Out of the corner of his eye, Erik thought he could see something up high, either on or over the roof top. No matter, time to move forward, past a door, into the blackness.

Now off the balcony and into the inky black chamber, Rift’s sunrod illuminated what appeared to be a chapel to the demon-god minotaur Baphalmat. The once ornate sanctuary for the minotaur now lay broken, with rubble and oppressive dankness. The adventurers ventured further in.

Out of the blackness stumbled a hideous wraith – a disgusting sight whose boney form loosely held together rotten flesh. As un-sturdy looking as it was, it could still deal out serious damage, with Z’alden feeling it first. Sharp claws bit into him, giving him shivers to the core and weakening his ability to heal.

“Awe, but just one!”, thought Barrick only to reconsider as another wraith teetered forth across the rubble. The ensuing battle quickly saw Barrick surrounded. Draining blows of necrotic damage eliminated his ability to heal. Felsmon, the proud dragonborn paladin, strode into the fray, his mighty sword cleaving into the foul flesh of the wraith. Just as the battle reached a plateau, Z’alden turned the tide. With silver and purple light emanating from him, the cleric disintegrated two of the wraith outright. The others noticeably shriveled in the light. Quick blows from Barrick and Felsmon finished the rest. The battle had been won, but at a cost that was only to be revealed later.

The best way out of the cursed chapel was forward, deeper into the now more mysterious Horned Hold. Rift’s deft lock picking abilities were laid upon the exit, only to not budge the rusted door. With violent yank, Felsmon rectified the situation, nearly tearing the door from its hinges. Beyond was a minotaur burial chamber. Grizzly corpses lay resting within shallow niches in the wall. From nearby, Erik could hear sounds… sadistic taunting… of prisoners? Could the team’s quest be just behind a single iron door?

Now Rift’s thievery skills ever so softly charmed the iron door. Peeking through, a large chamber could be seen, with pits, a pool, prisoners and unholy creatures. Two red spiny devils and three duergar. Five on five – a fair fight! With that, the adventurers burst in, taking evil by surprise. Flank left. Flank right. Erik down the middle engages the first of three duergar with spiny red devils much farther away.

Oh to have the first blow and not to be the recipient! Erik was struck by the duergar war hammer. Rift silenced the far side of the room to prevent the fight to become unfair. Rays of frost. Flaming spines shooting from the red devils. Burrowing. Poisoning. The chaos. The confusion. The battle was not turning to the favor of the adventurers! The duergar spell caster stood tall for someone so diminutive, dealing blindness, slowness and still more poison.

Soon the adventurers began to feel as the the five-on-five fight was not so fair. As if by some curse from above, after holding on for so long on the brink, Barrick was felled. His ability to heal had been robbed by the wraith. He lay unconscious. Meanwhile, the paladin raged on, giving something back to the wicked. One red devil would surely not forget one particularly fierce blow of Felsmon! And so the battle continued – the adventurers reeling from the blindness and poison, unable to shake the spellcaster’s evil magic. Every bit of healing was immediately taken away. There was not much left, yet inspired by healing from Felsmon, Barrick stood once again!

Back and forth the battle drew on. The adventurers walked on the very edge of defeat yet endured, trading blow for blow. Was the end near? Powerful waves of despair from that spell casting duegar seemed to continually shout, “Yes!” With poison coursing through their veins and blindness filling their eyes, the adventurers refused to hear that answer. Now and never.

From the depths of his remaining powers, the pillar of the team’s hope, Z’alden spent his final healing force. Aiding his friends in both body and spirit, Z’alden laid the first of the duergar to a watery grave. Its slow-motion soft splash into the pool was noticed only momentarily for the battle was still being fiercely waged even as it gently sank, muscles now relaxed.


Barrick was still gravely wounded and at the limits of his endurance. Surely he would soon succumb, but there was more to come from the humble priest, who then laid a second duergar to a final, restful repose. Cleared of surrounding duegar, Erik was now able to draw his bow and he employed it upon the spell caster. Still no luck as the spellcaster blinded Erik and the hapless Barrick. Felsmon now turned his javelin’s attention upon the spell caster – the devils floating out of reach over a pit and the pool.

Flaming rocks of brimstone hail rained down on Z’alden and Erik. It would be one of his last successes, for Felsmon, Erik and even Barrick laid into him with javelin, bow and axe. Felsmon’s throw killed the spellcasting duergar. Erik’s arrow killed a red devil but the other devil had no mercy, attacking Barrick from behind to take him beyond his endurance. In truth, a last gasp from the evil as Erik’s final shot ended the battle once and for all. Alas, too late for poor Barrick.

With the battle over, the adventurers stood silently within the prison chamber. Cries of help from the captives rose up from the pits but the adventurers might have well still been blind to the caterwauling. They knew that this was a defining moment. They knew that even with all their energies depleted, their endurance must somehow continue.

Barrick was soon stabilized and returned to something of akin to the walking dead. In all, ten inhabitants of the Harkenwold were pulled from the pits along with four adventurers and, curiously, one goblin.


Current state of exploration of the Horned Hold:

Prisoners have been found! Although of the 12 Harkenwold prisoners you set off to rescue you have only found 10. You took 15 prisoners from the slave pits and made it safely back to the abandoned chapel. Currently in your charge are 10 Harkenwoldians (8 male, 2 female), 4 human prospectors, and one goblin, named Splig.

One man from the Harkenwold, Sosario, seems to be the natural leader of the set. Knowing that time is short, he quickly gives you a synopsis of their plight: 12 farmers, including 3 wives, were abducted from the fields during broad daylight many days ago. They were blindfolded, bound, thrown onto a cart, covered with blankets, and told to keep quiet or die. Many hours later they were taken out of the cart at the entrance to an underground keep, shackled in a line, and herded across a bridge and into those pits. Already in the pits were 7 humans and the goblin. They devils standing guard did not allow them to talk out loud, so any communication they could do were furtive. Frequently an especially evil female duergar, referred to as Murkelmor, would stop by to taunt the prisoners, telling them that they all faced a fate worse than death and that if they begged hard enough she would kill them now, saving them the fate to come. Then laughing she would leave, only to return later.

About 1 or 2 days ago, it is hard to tell without a time frame of reference, some gnolls entered the room with Murkelmor. They spoke in a language that the farmers could not understand, but that two of the prospectors could slightly comprehend. Five prisoners, three prospectors and two Harkenwoldians, including Sosario’s wife Nadia, were hauled ruthlessly out of the pits, shackled together and dragged away. Sosario’s eyes tear up whilst describing the last time he saw his wife, crying, in chains. One of the prospectors steps forward, “I am Heath, my friends and I foolishly came here seeking the gold we heard was lying about for the taking. Ha! We were in the labyrinth for no more than 6 hours before the gray dwarves ambushed us. Now I fear I will never see my friends again. I understand a little of the abyssal dialect the gnolls were using when they took our companions. The best I can tell, the gnolls are working on a ritual to bring their evil god to life. They need 5 bodies to sacrifice at various stages of the ritual, to be used as gifts for their god, to be abused in hell forever. If they succeed their god will be loosed upon the land.”

Hearing this Sosario bursts into full-blown sobbing. Falling to his knees he again pleads with you to rescue his wife and kill the beasts responsible for this evil. “Do not let her die, not in this way. If you have to, I beg of you, kill her quickly. Please!”

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Turning to Sosario and Heath, Z’alden says, “I am saddened to hear this tale. Indeed, my sadness will only be met by the pain and righteous retribution that the duergar and gnolls will feel at their misdeeds. Sosario and Harkwoldenians, know this, your first captors, the Bloodreavers, have already felt our wrath and are defeated. These dung-heaps of un-dwarves, the duergar, will feel the same, as will the knolls. First, we must see to your immediate care.”

Z’alden speaks to his comrades, quietly. “First, we must feed this wretches. Felsmon and I have some rations. If each of us foregoes one day’s worth of rations, we can feed the whole bunch, even the goblin. I would that we speak to him softly at first and see what kindness can bring before trying other methods.”

OOC: Will everyone share a day’s worth of rations? Felsmon has already said yes.

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OOC: Have we already had a 5-minute rest?

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DM: That depends. I assumed you had taken the prisoners and hightailed it to the chapel, but have assumed nothing else. Is that correct? Or have you been doing other things, e.g., preparing rituals, barricading the doors, feeding the prisoners, going back to search the slave pit room, ...?

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Aye, I too will give up a day’s ration to help these poor souls. We must also immediately turn toward fortifying our position.

OOC: Erik then proposes blockading the doors with rubble from the chapel, just as they did with the chapel’s east double doors. DM, which way do the doors open – the ones either side of the corridor that lead immediately to the pit room and the one on the west side of the chapel?

We must also thoroughly search the chapel… it seems that there used to be some rooms in this place. The one behind the statue looks interesting. I’d like to check out the burial chamber some more too, but after some rest. Perhaps the scepter needs some more examination, as does the iron chest we found.

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DM: Both sets of chapel doors open into the chapel. Both single doors heading north from the slave pit room open northward. The double doors on the other side of the balcony open southward. The statue in the chapel is firmly attached to the base, it would take more than mere pushing to move it.

At Z’alden’s mention of the Bloodreavers, Splig snorts and lets out a small chuckle.

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OOC: Actually, we definitely did have the 5 minute rest, already in the chapel, as this is how Z’alden used a healing word on Barrick to restore him to 1 hp, since he has no healing surges. So far, nothing else but the short conversation with freed prisoners.

Z’alden notes the chuckle, but ignores it, instead looking to Erik and Felsmon. He asks each for 1 days worth of rations and, depending on Rift and Barrick’s decision, will put in 3 if necessary.

Erik, “Instead of barricading ourselves in, I suggest that we and the group, once fed, transport rubble to the top of the stairs, to make it appear that there has been a cave in. Top the rubble with some slams of my mace and Barrick’s axe from the ceiling. This could dissuade the duergar that we have come this way.”

OOC: DM, could the statue at the west end be useful to add to the barricade on the east door?

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Rift nods her head. “Of course I’ll offer up some rations. I have to keep my figure trim somehow… All this loafing around in labyrinths doesn’t do any good.” She gives a wry smile… Rift uses prestidigitation to warm up the rations, so they aren’t quite so gross.

Then, Rift will cast a Silence ritual on the entire chapel.

Next, she turns to Splig – “So, what’s your story? How did you end up here?”

“Finally, I’d like another crack at that chest, if no one minds?”

DM, did we thoroughly search the crypt area for secret doors? How about the south/southeast walls of the chapel? Also, we carefully search the statue.

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“Heath, well met. Glad we could be of assistance. Here, have some nice toasty rations.”

Once he’s had a few nourishing bites, Rift continues in a low voice so only he can hear – “Heath, we know the labyrinth on the other side of the chasm quite well, but we are wondering whether you or your companions know of a shortcut out of here from this side of the chasm? We want to ensure the safety of you and your companions, and anything you can tell us would be helpful.”

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While Rift talks to Heath, Erik talks to Splig, “So how did you wind up here?”

After some friendly chit-chat with Splig, Erik offers him a tasty morsel of rations and continues more direct questioning…

“Splig, can you tell us anything about Murkelmor? What kind of powers does she have? Does she have top lieutenants? How many duegar reside in each of the bastions? Is there anything you can think of that might help keep you and me alive longer? Sorry for all the questions, but if we get out of this alive, I’ll get you the finest bottle of Goblin ale this side of Fallcrest.”

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OOC: DM, after the 5 minute rest, Z’alden used 1 Healing Word on Barrick to restore him to 1 hp. If Z’alden rests for 5 more minutes, does he get that encounter power back?

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OOC: DM, is the east double door in the prisoner room able to be barred?

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could the statue at the west end be useful to add to the barricade on the east door?

No; like the statue in the chapel, it is massive and attached.

did we thoroughly search the crypt area for secret doors? How about the south/southeast walls of the chapel? Also, we carefully search the statue.

A cursory search noticed nothing secret or magical on the walls or statue.

If Z’alden rests for 5 more minutes, does he get that encounter power back?

No. Encounter powers require an encounter, not simply 5 minutes. Otherwise, for example, Felsmon could use Invigorating Smite every 5 minutes to heal everyone up to above their bloodied value, for free, when the party had an hour or so to kill. Z’alden does not get to use Healing Word again until either after an extended rest, or after a 5 minute rest following another encounter.

is the east double door in the prisoner room able to be barred?

No; only the doors leading to the outside, the labyrinth or the bridges, have bars.

Heath looks at Rift somewhat sheepishly, “I can’t really say much about anything here. It’s like this: In a pub in Fallcrest we got in a game of mumblety peg with some dwarfs. The dwarfs lost, but in exchange for the silver they were supposed to pay, the gave us information about a cave supposedly filled with gold. This cave. We turned left into a fissure after the 6th minotaur statue, as they told us, and tried to follow their instructions, but after a few hours we were quite lost, and with empty purses to boot. As my papa always said, ‘There is no such thing as free gold.’” He sighed, then continued, “And then, when we were wondering what to do, a group of these gray dwarfs attacked us and knocked us cold. We awoke in the pit and 12 hours later or so the farmers here were thrown in on top of us. As much as I would love to say we are hardy adventurers, all we really are are gullible wanna-be’s who now need rescuing.”

Splig looks around at the members of the party, pausing on Z’alden. Then turning to Erik he asks trepidaciously, “Did you kill all the Bloodreavers? What would you do if you found anyone else that was part of them? Kill them too?”

After a pause, and another large mouthful of the donated trail rations, Splig takes a deep breath, then answers Erik’s questions. “Murkelmor is one nasty lando. She promises little and pays even less. An she aint afraid of anyting. I’d have never seen her use any powers but I heard tell that she likes to drink fire and of her being able to sprout up like another few feet or so. Even Rundarr is afraid of her, and they say he is one of the bestest fighters around. Every time I seen her she has two thick skulled brutes with her, but for protection for pleasure I have nope idea. There might be 10-20 duergars in each batchon, counting never being my best sport though. If you get me out of here I can show you the quickest way to wherever you need go in the labyrinth I can.”

DM: Based on everything the party has said it has done, it has now been approximately 25 minutes since the prisoner room battle ended.

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“Splig,” answers Erik, “no, we did not kill all the Bloodreavers. Do you remember Bawb? He’s now free and hopefully on the right path. We understand that you’re mercenaries – we’re only interested in freeing Murkelmor’s prisoners, which includes you. It seems to us that there are two ways out of here… the northeast side and southwest. Splig, could you find our way back to the Seven Pillared Hall from the southwest side?”

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Splig responds to Erik with a scoff, “Of course I can find my way back.” pause “Um, which side is southwest? Directions was never my best sport.” Splig listens as Erik explains the difference between the “front” and “rear” entrance to the Horned Hold. “Oh, that side. Can’t be done, any fool baird knows that. The old minatours made good sure of that. They destroyed the other chasm bridge and caved in all the passageways that lead around this here hold. All traffic in out of the labyrinth from this side now has to go through here.” pause “Well, I aint sayin it can’t be done, only that if there are still secret ways they must really be secret, even from your good friend Splig here.” Splig straightens quickly and hurriedly adds, “But I can scout real well I can. Find traps better than no one, no matters which way you go.”

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Rift gets up and stretches. “Well, I say it’s time we got out of here! Let’s not waste any more time searching, eating, or healing.”

“Splig, you seem like a trustworthy goblin. If you help us get out of the labyrinth, we’ll see that you are unharmed, and paid well.”

“And when I say ‘well’, we’re talking gold pieces, not copper.”

She then turns to the prisoners. “We’ve gotten you out of your chains. Now we need to get you to safety. To do that, you need to help us. We need you to follow orders, and don’t make any noise unless we tell you to. First, can any of you handle a weapon?”

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Barrick, his head not right, moans that he is not sure whether he can handle a weapon. He nibbles at the rations, but can’t keep much down. He lies back on the rocks, nodding off every few minutes, his head pounding like an enchanted war hammer.

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Z’alden goes over to Barrick. “Old friend, you have lost much blood. But, I have no doubt that your axe is as sharp is ever. Soon, you will be resting back at the Half-Moon Inn and be in fine shape after a good sleep.”

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Heath answers Rift first, “We, the four of us, trained with swords before entering this cavern, but I fear we have never been tested in actual combat, the ambushing happening as quickly as it did.” Heath’s companion look a little perturbed that Heath put down their combat skills, but knowing that he speaks truly they say nothing.

Sosario steps forward, “We farmers have never had use of weapons, but so help me, if you arm me I will die fighting the beasts that have my beloved Nadia!” He grabs a old rotten stick from off the ground and swings it like a weapon. You can tell not only by the way he is holding the stick, but also by the way he narrowly misses cracking himself in the head, that in a fight Sosario might not really be counted as an asset. The other farmers do not look as sure as Sosario does, and the two wives cling more tightly to their husbands.

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Z’alden looks carefully at Heath and tries to discern if he would even be a level 1 fighter with a 12 strength. He then looks at the other 3 with the same idea in mind.

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Walking over to the pile of rubble before the double doors of the chapel, Z’alden says to the former captives with his best Diplomacy, “Harkwoldenians, adventurers, Goblin Splig, before we can hope for safety, first this rubble blocking the door must be cleared. Master Paladin, would you lead our group to pile it in the northeast corner, here? While you do that, I will be searching for alternate routes.” Felsmon nods and begins to move the rock. His look to the former captives is clear that he expects them to be helping as the Cleric asked. Quickly.

During the rubble clearing, Z’alden wants to search for hidden and secret doors, starting in the Southeast corner of the room. He wants to search as long and thoroughly as possible but will stop if necessary.

DM: Does Z’alden find anything?

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Z’alden motions to Erik, “maybe you can find something here that I am missing. Will you search, too?”

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Erik joins Z’alden in searching the SE and SW corners of the chapel along with the remnants of the room that was behind the statue. He spends no more time than it would take to clear the rubble by the double doors.

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The searching reveals nothing interesting; just lots of rubble. The only thing odd about the area is that the rubble is obviously more than what has fallen from the walls or ceiling.

Of the 4 adventurers, they all appear to be level 1 and mostly like either fighters, rangers or rogues. As for the 12 strength, only 1 of the 4, Weston, appears to be stronger than average.

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Z’alden, frustrated by the lack of results and confused by the amount of rubble, shakes his head and walks over to Rift. Quietly he says, “Rift, do you think you could give the sword you carry to Weston? He may be of some use if we have to fight our way out. I do not know of any other weapons we can give to our new comrades. Do you?”

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OOC: My notes from the last encounter mention that we distributed hammers to the prisoners, but it doesn’t say how many. Probably three.

As the search of the chapel winds down fruitlessly, Erik asks Z’alden, “Does your oil burn cleanly or can we use it for a smoke screen? Cursed labyrinth has no trees – no leaves to burn. Perhaps Rift has magic that can help distract or confuse the hunters. Oh how I long for the smell of sunshine and fresh air!”

As soon as the rubble is cleared from the chapel’s double doors, Erik asks for light sources to be covered and then once his eyes adjust to the darkness he peeks out very slowly, very carefully onto the balcony and narrow bridge. He pays extra attention to the rooftop of bastion #1. Looking. Listening. Smelling for duegar, knolls, orcs and other foul creatures that one would wish to only inhabit heroic fantasies.

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DM: I assume that a flask of oil would burn smoky? Would it provide cover or concealment in any way?

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Erik peers out very carefully. All the doors he can see, on both sides of the chasm are shut. Watching for several moments Erik tries to spy anything that would give away the location of the enemy. Seeing nothing Erik sighs, but then just as he begins to close the door, there, on the wider of the two bridges, about 1/3 of the way out from the Eastern end, something, a dark shadow, maybe less, briefly rises above the railing, to quickly fall back behind. Erik watches for another few tense moments, but no further movement does he detect. Erik emits another silent sigh as he shuts the door.

DM: The flasks of oil are made to burn in lanterns and, as such, are sold to be as clean burning as the local refining allows. A little smoke is released, but not enough to provide any cover.

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Z’alden looks at the former prisoners, particularly at the adventurers. He say, “We are now fed. Let our mettle be strong. Soon, we will be telling this tale over a pint. Now, who has the warhammers? Weston, Heath? Who has the third? Be brave, let Bahamut’s spirit guide you, and we will fly out of here as though the Blessed Dragon’s wings did carry us.”

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Heath, Weston and Lynwood have the warhammers. Unless Rift gives her sword to one, in which case either Heath (the most dextrous) or Weston (the strongest) will want to have it and Anton will take up the extra warhammer.

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Erik tells everyone of the vague shadow he saw. “They’re waiting for us,” he says solemnly concludes.

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Rift will gladly hand her sword to Heath or Weston (whichever one seems to be most proficient). “Guard this blade well. It has served me well, and before me, Erik. Use it to strike our enemies!”

“Barrick, you have excellent dungeoneering knowledge. Do you know why there would be so much rubble in this room? Was it just leftover from clearing out some other rooms? Or is there perhaps a secret passage that we haven’t located?”

Is there a draft coming from anywhere?

DM, Does Barrick have any answers to these questions?

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Barrick runs his thick fingers down the wall, the picks up a handful of rubble and rubs it between his fingers, letting the larger cobbles fall, until only fine dust remains. “The rubble is not from the room originally, although it is similar, it did not come from afar.” He looks the walls up and down, pausing to sniff the air once or twice, “I sense nothing hidden behind these walls.”

Weston takes the sword from Rift, “Thank you. I will do what I can to help us all escape this foul underdark.” He slides one finger along the flat of the blade, “Is this blade magical?”

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Z’alden walks over to the blade. He tries to detect magic, probably shortly after Rift does.

DM: Does he sense anything?

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DM: The party has owned the blade for quite some time; you do not detect anything that you have not detected before. Weston is asking Rift for an answer.

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“Nay, Weston, it is not magical. But it is a good blade.”

DM, Do we detect any sort of malice or deviousness from Weston or Heath? Any hint that they were lying about their capture?

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Rift turns back to Splig. “Splig, my good goblin, do you know anything about where these gnolls might be found? Any hints during your travels through the labyrinth?”

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DM: As best as your senses tell you, Weston, Heath and the other two prospectors seem to be just as they claim, novice adventurers who are in over their heads.

Splig eyes widen a little, “You want to go to the gnolls? Is you insane? They worship demons in a place propritely called The Well of Demons. I’d’ve never been there but have not heard of anyone been there either. I heard it is in the labyrinth, some old minitor testing area. No one wants to go there. If they did I’d be able to get there I would.”

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“Ah, Splig, well, we were just curious about the gnolls.” She leans close to the smelly little creature. “I’ve heard that the gnolls have heaps of gold and gems. But of course we wouldn’t be interested in such baubles.”

“So, just out of curiosity, if one did want to get to the gnolls, to see if the rumors of vast treasure are true, would one want to go back to the other side of the chasm, or stay on this side?”

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“Gnolls having treasure?” Splig asks incredulously. “I ain’t heard of such, I heard they want power, evil power. No, my good mistriss, waste no time on gnoll gold.”

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“Okay, okay. Just joking. So, seriously, which side of the chasm?”

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“You really gonna go find them?” Splig shakes his little green head. “You’s is on your own, I not lead you that way. The Well of Demons is in the labyrinth, what I heard. That means the other side. I thinks you can get there from the Hall. This side arent no longer part of the labyrinth, it go off into the underdark.”

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Frowning, Z’alden says, “Splig, Harkwoldians, prospectors, how often would Murkelmor come to taunt you? How long has it been since her last visit? How often did the guards in your prison room rotate or change? How long has it been since the last change? We must know the expectations and plans of these foul dung-hards.”

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Sosario speaks first, “I could detect no pattern on Murkelmor’s torments. Sometimes we would not see her for what seemed like hours, other times it felt like she was back in mere minutes.” Looking around at his fellow post-captives Sosario sees nods confirming his statement and continues. “The guards seem to have to work long shifts. One or another would occasionally leave for a bit, but I think they only changed completely 4 or 5 times since we were tossed into the pits.”

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Erik listens again at the chapel’s east double doors and then slips out into the blackness. Crawling up against and below the balcony railing, he moves toward the double doors that lead into bastion #2. At the doors he stops and listens…

[DM: If Erik does not sense anything behind the double doors, he will peek through.]

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Rift and the other brave adventurers are prepared for the worst. Either to slam the door if Erik runs in, or to start following Erik out.

Marching order is TDB

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Z’alden pulls out his crossbow and loads a bolt. He motions to the prospectors, Harkwoldenians, and Splig. “Be silent and prepare to crawl along the balcony.”

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Erik opens one of the double doors just enough to be able to slink through. He moves out onto the balcony, the glow from the chasm below providing deep shadows below the top of the railing. Crawling along, without peering over the railing, Erik reaches the next set of doors. Listening he hears nothing. He pulls one door open about 4 inches, just enough to glance inside. The room appears as he last remembers it. Fairly dark, rubble strewn, and unused. The door to the bedroom is slightly ajar, a thin beam of light escapes from the bedroom to fall on some of the nearby rubble, but nothing else does Erik detect.

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Thinking back to the invisible duegar they had encountered before, Erik focuses more intently on the door to the bedroom. Perhaps there is a sentry? Perhaps fireplace light shining through a translucent duegar casts differently upon a wall, adversely affected by its menacing heart.

[DM: Is the light coming from the bedroom flickering and otherwise behaving like normal fireplace light?]

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The thin beam of light flickers and behaving as fireplace light might behave.

Wait! that last flicker, was it darker than a normal flicker? But then, who among us can tell the wandering flickers of the fire?

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Rift straightens up. “Okay. We’re going. Here’s the plan. Erik and Felsmon (he’s the big guy folks) will lead the way. 10 feet behind we’ll have Lynwood and Anton, followed by me. Right behind us we’ll have 5 of you Harkwoldians. Then in the middle Barrick, followed by 5 more Harkwoldians, including Sosario. After them, Splig, followed by Z’alden, then Heath and Weston.”

Single file order looks like EF..ppRhhhhhBhhhhhgZpp, where p=prospector and h=harkwoldian. Two abreast is just everyone doubled up with a partner.

“Gang, we’re going across the bridge. We need to be very quiet. No talking, no crying. And we’re going to crawl, to stay below the level of the wall. Once we’re across, we just need to sneak through a few empty rooms, then out the gate, and we’ve escaped!”

“Don’t worry about the guards. We’ve got our best trained fighters up front, our stout dwarf in the middle, and the helpful healing word of Bahamut bringing up the rear, along with our new-found brave friends.”

“Any questions? No? Good. Let’s go!”

Assuming that nothing has changed on Erik’s end, Felsmon crouches down, sneaks out of the chapel, and down the stairs to join Erik. Rift crouches down, and follows Felsmon just far enough so she can see both of them, and still be seen from the chapel doorway. If everything looks good, Erik and Felsmon will stealthily enter the dark rubble room. Felsmon will stand in the middle of the room, so he can still be seen by Rift. Erik will use his cat-like agility to pad over to the single-bridge exit, and carefully listen at the door.

Rift raises an eyebrow and stares at Felsmon. Felsmon catches her eye and then looks quizzically over at Erik. Are we good to go? Erik responds…

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Z’alden looks over his shoulder trying perceive if any foul enemy or loathsome creature is trying to sneak up on the rag-tag band.

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Erik crawls over the pile of darkened rubble without loosing so much as a single cobble. He reaches the door to the bridge and opens it without a sound. Looking out Erik scans the area for any movement; focusing on the places he has seen movement before. Nothing. Without looking back Erik signals to Felsmon, who in turn signals silently to Rift. Rift takes a deep breath, looks back at the huddling masses still in the chapel, and motions for the party to move out.

A few muffled gasps come from the Harkenwoldians, and many faces change from that of bravado to terror; but no one balks at what they know might be their only chance at ever seeing blue skies again. Rift motions for Lynwood and Anton to move forward, then also drops to her belly and crawls out onto the balcony.

Erik waits until Rift and a few of the Harkenwold enter the rubble room before opening the door to the bridge. Erik and Felsmon drop down and crawl their way across the bridge, not daring to peer up over the railing’s edge. Erik eyes flicker back and forth between the door on the other end of the bridge and the top of the bastion, but no movement does he see. “I hope this is not a trap,” Erik thinks as he slinks. Reaching the door to the first bastion Erik listens for sounds, but only briefly, as time is extremely short. Hearing nothing Erik pushes the door open and enters the room; it is much the way he left it, black soot on the ceiling and walls, a cold dead pile of wood in the forge. Erik signals back, relieved, yet at the same time wondering if things are going a little too easily.

Rift enters the first bastion just after Barrick crawls onto the bridge. Barrick has to nudge the farmer in front of him to keep moving, but so far no one has panicked, cried, or made any more noise than could be expected. As Splig steps onto the bridge Z’alden reaches the door, only Heath and Weston behind him. A few more seconds and they would at least be out of the current bastion with the door closed behind them.

A loud sound from behind dashes Z’alden’s hopes, “So there you are!” A loud voice booms as a strong sturdy duergar strides into the rubble room, a warhammer held menacingly. Turning his head slightly he calls out, “Go tell Murkelmor I found them.” “I am sure I can keep them occupied until she arrives,” he adds with an evil smile.

Current positions: Z’alden, Heath and Weston are in the rubble room. Splig, Barrick and six Harkenwoldians are prone on the bridge, and the rest are standing in the forge room of the first bastion.

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Erik stands with cover at the door to the bridge, bow in hand, to provide cover fire for those on the bridge. He motions for the Harkwoldians to get weapons off of the weapon racks in the forge room. Erik’s eyes are focused on the bridge, but his ears are trained on the double doors that lead to bastion #3.

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Z’alden’s thoughts race. We only need a scant few seconds for Barrick and the Harkenwoldians to finish crawling across the bridge. Z’alden says to Heath and Weston, “Get behind me, but stay close, block the door and merely protect yourselves.” He tilts his head hoping they realize he means to be ready to run. He stares firmly at the duergar, levels his crossbow directly at the vile un-dwarf and says with diplomacy, “Son of Fire and Stone, we have already slain half your clan, more than 15 have fallen in a vain attempt to keep captive the freedom-loving people of my land. They shall be captives no more. By Great Bahamut’s Claws, take not one more step, or the power of the Great Dragon will make sure that you sleep with your ancestors tonight! Do you doubt my claims? Muster your clan and count them in front of Murkelmor. Then weep for your fallen. You need not be amongst them today. I have no wish to slay you. It is your choice.”

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Erik’s wait for Z’alden to appear from the bastion across the bridge seems like an eternity. He focuses all attention on that doorway and beyond. Does he sense anything going on with Z’alden, Heath or Weston?

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Having given his best sermon ever, seemingly only slightly louder than his own beating heart,Z’alden shouts, “Hey, Barrick, I’ve got a repentant convert! I’ll attend to this Grimmerzhul’s spiritual need, you attend to your physical speed!” Z’alden will turn, start across the bridge, and double move run across the bridge at his first opportunity. He prays to Bahamut that Weston and Heath have the good sense to do the same.

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OOC: DM, does Z’alden get off this free action, too?

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Erik hears something from Z’alden. It’s muffled, but Erik instantly knows that’s something is not right. He shouts to those on the bridge, “Run! Stand up and run for your lives! Follow Rift and me!”

[DM: If actions permit, Erik will move forward just enough to see the entire double-wide bridge. His bow is still readied to cover Z’alden, Heath and Weston should they too run from bastion #2.]

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DM: I will assume that instead of a full sermon, Z’alden actually says something to the same effect but that can fit into a few seconds of free action space. Likewise with the shouting.

The duergar listens seemingly calmly to Z’alden’s little sermon, then responds, “Be better if you wanted to slay me. Would make a better fight.” He raises his warhammer as he steps forward, the chuul-eating grin lost from his face.

Z’alden shouts something about religion and using the word “Grimmerzhul”, it is enough for the duergar to pause, if only for part of a second. But it is enough for Erik to shout in return. The duergar does not quite understand Erik’s words, but the intent is clear enough, especially when, in a flurry of feet, Z’alden flies out the door, the two weaker humans struggling to keep up.

The duergar hesitates, plucks out a couple quills from his stiff beard, and throws them at Weston, with deadly accuracy. Weston grimaces as the quills stick into his arm, unaware that deadly poison now courses through his veins.

The duergar then moves to chase the party, but his speed is not as fast as the top-siders. A few seconds later the entire party is inside bastion #1 whilst the duergar is still on the bridge, a few feet from the door, the look on his face having changed again from amusement to anger.

DM: The entire party is now inside bastion #1. Is your plan to continue to run? Out the way you entered? Any other actions you hope to perform on the way?

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OOC: Excellent assumption!

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OOC: Yes, keep running.

Z’alden stops just past the door, lets Weston and Heath by, and closes the door. Z’alden says loud enough so that everyone can hear, “the Grimmerzhul know of our rescue. We must be off! Barrick, I would like you closer to me,” the cleric says. The party runs on in the order


Z’alden watches the injured Weston carefully. If he drops, Z’alden will use the Healing Word on him as a minor action. Otherwise, it is double moves and minor actions to close doors behind him. When not using a minor action to close a door, he will actively try to perceive invisible duergar.

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Erik takes off (double) running out of the Horned Hold and back into the labyrinth, opening doors as needed. Knowing that some are slower and some are injured, he frequently looks back to see how the group is doing behind and doesn’t get more than two or three staff lengths ahead.

[OOC: Erik still has one healing potion that he’ll give back to Z’alden (or whoever needs it) at the group’s earliest convenience.]

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Barrick shuffles along with the others like a zombie. He is out of immediate danger from his worst wounds now. But, after having been knocked senseless three times within an hour or two, he is unable to regain mental focus. He is passive, and even seems a llittle fearful. The others no doubt believe that some action will snap him out of it.

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Rift jogs along, her staff thumping on the ground every now and then. She encourages the hapless villagers, helping them if they falter.

“Come on now, just a little while longer until we’re safe! We know the best inn, where we can relax and gain our strength back. And, they have good beer. Just a little bit further!”

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DM: Backing up:

Z’alden shuts the door to the bridge just as a heavy mass slams against the other side. “We must be off!” he yells and without hesitation the entire party tries to flee the forge room. Panicked, the party splits up, some leaving into the hallway and some pouring into the pool room. The paths quickly converge upon and the party is one again.

Erik and Felsmon throw open the double doors into the guard room, barely breaking stride. Z’alden yells again, “He’s through!” Erik and Felsmon vaguely hear the shout, all thoughts having focused on the long spears leveled at them from ahead.

Standing at the closed portcullis, baring their way to freedom, stand two orcs and one duergar, readied for battle. All three look injured and weary. These might be the ones that escaped from the earlier battles, but given the circumstances, neither Erik nor Felsmon take the time to search their memories of orc descriptions.

Current locations: At the portcullis stand two orcs with longspears and one duergar with a warhammer. Erik and Felsmon are just inside the guard room. ppRhhhhhhhhB are packed in the hallway with the propectors nearest to the guard room doors. hhg are in the pool room, and ppZ are in the forge room, just inside the double doors. The duergar from the rubble room is also in the forge room, near the level of the forge.

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Erik lets out a series of expletives that would make a one-eyed, peg-legged, seafaring scoundrel of a goblin blush.

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” Ah what do we have hear a small earthling top-sider and a few goblins not one of them is even strong enough to lift their weapon,hah , let’s take ‘em!” Yells Felsmon.

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“On seconed thought these scoundrels aren’t worth the effort. GET OUT OF OUR WAY NOW!!” Felsmon uses intimidate with a +11

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Would erik please aid felsmon?

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Can Z’alden hear Felsmon’s intimidating roar?

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Erik joins Felsmon’s attempt to intimidate. His bow is drawn, aimed by glaring eyes, focused upon the prey.

[OOC: Erik’s intimidate skill is +1; DM to roll.]

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Barrick is himself momentarily intimidated, and slinks, if dwarves can be said to slink, behind a couple of the released prisoners. Coming to his senses, he pulls out his bag of gems and gold, worth about 250 gold, ready to try that if the intimidation doesn’t work.

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OOC: Barrick don’t forget about the bag of silver (100+) that you are holding onto, found in Urwol’s room, maybe? We decided not put it in the bag of holding to start a better distribution of assets.

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DM: Intimidation is a standard action. As the orcs/duergar are not surprised and are ready to attack, initiative must be rolled before things can continue. I could potentially play out one round or two, doing all the rolling, to see if all three guards are intimidated, and what happens in the forge room, but anything beyond that should be done face to face.

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DM: It has been a while; I just want to make sure we are all on the same page come Friday evening.

You are in tow of 15 ex Duergar prisoners; 10 Harkenwoldians, 4 prospectors and 1 goblin (Splig). Five more prisoners were sold to gnolls; 2 Harkenwoldians, including Nadia, Sosario’s wife, and 3 prospectors. You have learned that the gnolls are working on a ritual to bring their evil god to life. They need 5 bodies to sacrifice at various stages of the ritual, to be used as gifts for their god, to be abused in hell forever. If they succeed their god will be loosed upon this plane of existence.

Current state of affairs:

One of the prospectors, Weston, standing in the room next to Z’alden, currently is poisoned by a Duergar beard quill.

The Duergar near the now cold forge is the large angry one. The 2 orcs and the Duergar near the portcullis are all bloodied and wounded.

h – Harkenwoldian
p – prospector
s – Splig
O – orc
D – Duergar

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OOC: Does the Duergar have cover from a ranged attack by Z’alden in their present positions? I think he does not, as lines drawn from the lower left corner of Z’alden’s square to all corners of D do not intersect the wall, but I wanted to double-check.

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OOC: DM, it appears to me that the positions of prospectors behind Z’alden, Rift, Harkwoldenians, and Barrick are the reverse of the posting on May 21, 2009 at 01:14 PM. While Z’alden would love to have Rift in her present location, I fear that she is actually closer to the guard room door, unless positions got muddled in the confusing flight.

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DM: The Duergar does not have cover from Z’alden. The positions were indeed reversed. Sorry about that, it has been corrected above.

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OOC: DM, I assume that the insane angry duergar is headed towards Z’alden and the double doors. If I recall, those double doors opened outwards (i.e. towards Barrick). Is there any way to bar those doors?

Another question: Do we know of any time frame for the sacrifices? Is it a matter of a day or two, or a week? Any hints from the prisoners would be helpful…

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OOC: I don’t know about the double doors, but my recollection is that the door by Splig opens into the pool room. Can that one be barred too?

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DM: The double doors open toward Barrick. The pool room door opens toward the pool. There are no barring mechanisms on the doors and the handles are simple “squeeze the lever” types, not leaving much room for a bar of any strength.

The angry Duergar is indeed heading toward Z’alden’s location.

None of the prisoners have any idea about the time frame for the evil god ritual and the sacrifices. They do not know if the sacrifices are all at once, one a time, or some other combination.

Endurance in the Horned Hold
rplayer SirEdward

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