Elana Goodright pulled her long, flowing hair back into a ponytail for practical reasons. It would stay out of her eyes and her ears, both of which she would need to have at their sharpest if she where to avoid the master’s stern hand. Sensing temperature upon her youthful cheeks was not a concern, for he seemingly gave off no warmth, no heat. And so it was with soft shoes that she dared to observe once more. The orb was her link to an oft more exciting world of adventure.
Elena’s interest in the sorceress was particularly strong since in her she saw a gorgeous and sophisticated young woman, yet with fiery red hair, a strong will and a penchant for making mayhem. The wizard was not all too different at first glance, but one could quickly tell that her manner was often that of a precocious child whose impulses would also result in in a maelstrom, though by accident rather than intent. The young Goodright saw the others as a supporting crew: a lithe, yet strong ranger, a stocky dwarf fighter, a handsome rogue and now a dragonborn paladin. This last one interested her least, for righteousness was not on her teenage mind.
In the strongest terms, her master had told her not to ever again peer into the orb, yet exciting recollections of past viewings created a need for more and more. Just how could she not follow the thieves on their latest adventure? She must know. So it was that Elena Goodright tip toed her way into the master’s chamber. He would be gone for several more hours, and what was the harm anyway?
The room had few signs of his personal belongings. So odd that this man would choose a storage room for his place to bed. Surely he would choose one of the finer rooms of her father’s lavish estate, for each day he would sit at the head of the dining chamber’s long oak table, drink the house’s finest wine and feast upon the pheasants and game that the cooks would prepare. Yet no. Upon the cold, stone floor lay a bed roll and a dirty sack used as a pillow. Carefully maneuvering a foot over the bed roll so as to not disturb even a single wrinkle, Elena crept up to the pillow sack and tried to memorize it’s folds so as to be able to correctly restore it. Her heart was pounding and her senses were extra keen with the flow of excitement. She could sense changes in the currents of air. She could hear the stable boys mistreating the horses. With senses so heightened, she thought she could even perceive through the walls.
Just as her hands oh so carefully moved toward the sack’s drawcords, she heard footsteps. It didn’t matter whose they were, for the danger of them being her master’s would be too great to chance. For a moment she hesitated as she glanced around the room. Luckily the storage boxes were stacked just right to give her a place to hide. Now the heart really raced and the breathing had to be suppressed. From behind her concealing boxes should could feel the presence of the man. She did not need to look. White hair. Long yellow teeth. Stooped and sinewy. That long scar that ran from the inside corner of his left eye down his cheek like a tear like an echo of a scarred soul. It was all vivid enough in Elena’s mind.
Reaching for his sack, the man paused as if to think. Did he know? He then straightened himself to close the door and then returned to the sack. After loosening the drawcords he withdrew an impossibly large, fine wooden box and placed it upon the floor. This sound of the wood coming to rest upon the stone was familiar to Elena for it was the sound of the box that contained the orb. She wanted to look so badly! Trapped and yet not wanting to escape. Then all went dark as her master extinguished the candles. For Elena, seconds felt like minutes, but soon enough the glow of the orb filled the room with flickering light. Soft shadows danced upon the walls and Elena ever so carefully moved into position for a view. Breath ever so light. Now she could see a figure forming in the orb. A tall female. An elf. A wizard’s chamber. A knowing smile upon the elf’s face. Quickly the master ran his hand over the orb, dispelling the scrying. Minutes passed as the master and Elena sat in the darkness. His breath grew slower and deeper.
After a seeming eternity, the orb flickered to life once again. This time Elena could see something more familiar – the dwarven blacksmith working on a dagger. After a final pounding, the dagger was handed back to none other than the the beautiful sorceress with the flaming red hair. Elena was giddy with excitement, her mind still half focused on her dangerous predicament but also upon getting a chance to observer her sorceress, wizard and motley crew of thieves.
Staring intently into the orb, the man watched as the adventurers made their way through the Hold of the Hammerfell. Their manners interested him the most, for they did not stride normally, but rather skulked from crypt to crypt and wall to wall. Then, to Elena’s shock and horror, the master spoke.
Alas, his voice was not directed at her. Her heart picked up the beat where it left off.
Uncle: The ranger, he moves well.
Behind the ranger lay a strung out line of the other adventurers. Making their way through the cavern, they crept up into positions to attack the evil dracoman known as Lacertil. Though the master did not know the name, he knew of these creatures and their reputation for extreme acts of evil, both physical and in manipulation. As he watched, the wizard and sorceress crept up upon the roof of one tomb from which they would make their surprise attack. The dwarven brute and dragonborn warrior lay in wait around a corner while the ranger and rogue move into position for range attacks. The rogue was first to release his attack. The bolt missed.
The man chuckled. The ranger then let loose a rapid volley of two arrows – both striking – one biting deeply into the dracoman’s thigh.
Uncle: Okay, okay, not bad.
The game was under way. As the man panned the view back a bit, Elena could see little figures of the fighter and paladin move into combat. The dracoman could be seen turning his attention to them with a breath of poison. Then something very odd happened. The dwarven fighter attacked the paladin!
Uncle: Psychic puppet master attack. Nice. Lights out?
Sure enough, the dracoman pointed an arm and waved it across the full reach of the cavern, seemingly pulling a magical cloak down upon all and extinguishing light. However, as if the adventurers had heard the man’s commentary, they had a sunrod at the ready and as its light spilled forth, they pressed the attack. Bigby’s icy hand grasped the dracoman, crushing him with terrible force. But all was not lost for the dragoman. Three of his troglodyte warriors rushed into the fray, taking on the fighter and the paladin. The melee grew more confusing. Bolts from the sorceress flew forth. Arrows leapt from the ranger’s bow. The rogue’s crossbow sprang more bolts. The dracoman squirmed and struggled against the wizard’s icy grasp, and began to break free!
Uncle: Fighter, do your thing…
As if on cue, the stout dwarf’s axe slammed into the dracoman, ending the escape attempt. Yet the dracoman got in a poisonous bite upon the dwarf. From her perch some distance away on the roof, the wizard then surprised the observers. From the tips of fingers shot a thin yet strong line of fire, reaching the ground upon which a troglodyte stood. Using her finger to aim, she traced out a path of flames that encompassed not only the remaining two troglodytes and the dracoman, but her fighter and paladin companions as well! The wall of flames shot high into the cavern, scorching all who stood within the wall and even burning those adjacent.
Uncle: How unexpected. Ruthless. Excellent.
Elena could see that the master was entertained by this turn of events. She too marveled at the action the wizard had taken. Her companions were indeed fearsome and tough, but within the fire, could they outlast the dracoman and the troglodytes? The observers watched as the sorceress cast a thundering blast at the troglodytes. The ground shook and the cavern’s ceiling began to crumble! Rocks began to rain down upon the battlefield.
Uncle: Oops! (laughing)
The master was actually chuckling, like Elena had never seen before. His normally serious demeanor was gone as he sat cross-legged on the floor. Quite entertained, he was. The dracoman struggled and squirmed from the icy grasp, within the fire and rain of rocks. Finally, he broke free, but that freedom did not last long. The paladin warrior gave chase and cut Lacertil to the ground. Blood of his black heart lay spilled upon the ground and the dragonborn gave a mighty victory roar. The tide of battle had turned. The master looked a bit sad now that the battle would no longer be so interesting. It was not so easily finished as the troglodytes fought on with renewed rage. Elena could almost see the master’s eyes follow each draw of the bow, each thrust of the sword and swing of the axe. Following his lead, Elena too studied the melee, taking in what she could.
With the battle over, the man zoomed the vision of the orb onto the dragonborn paladin as he searched the dracoman’s remains. Though the view was a bit fuzzy, the master could make out a gem, shaped like the eye of a crocodile. As her desire for that gem spiked, Elena looked for a glimmer of lust in the man’s eyes, but there was none. Elena thought to herself that the thick-fingered, rough hands of the dragonborn were too clumsy to palm the stone. What kind of thieves were these? Also taken from the dracoman were a symbol of Zehir and a one foot long onyx key, carve in the likeness of a crocodile. If Elena had been able to read the man’s mind, then she would have know that these “lesser” items had great power, just like the gem. The master suspected that the symbol of Zehir might be able to be used to protect wielders from traps.
As the man and Elena watched, the adventurers left the large cavern through dirty red curtains. With the ranger in the lead, the party came to a large room with strange symbols all around its edges. A large crack split the middle of the room.
Uncle: Three… two… one! (laugh)
With that, skeletons appeared as did wights. Another battle was underway. Elena had never seen such fearsome creatures, and the skeletons especially excited her. On some of them bits of rotten flesh and clothing hung loosely, while others had long been picked clean by maggots, save for their blood stained chins. Visions of those skeletons sinking their broken and jagged teeth chin deep into the jugulars of their victims flashed through Elena’s mind. The ferocious horror of the scene both terrified and thrilled her. The wights gave her less interest, but to the master’s eye they were more interesting.
The wizard’s magic shattered the first skeleton and shards flew in all directions, one of which pierced the fighter’s forearm. Black, spidery veins began to creep from the site of the wound, but the dwarf’s incredible constitution quickly dispelled them to nothing. Should the others be so lucky. The rogue was not, for he took a terrible blow and a black pall was set upon him. Yet still he was able to return a devastating blow, as did his companions, with their magic and their armaments. The ranger let loose another pair of biting arrows, a move which the uncle now recognized.
The stricken wight reeled back from the arrows as if its incorporeal form could feel the pain of those more tangible. And then there was a surprised look upon the man’s face – a sight he had never seen before sprang forth from the dwarven fighter’s hand. Held high in the air (for a dwarf) the Key of Bonderstrong lit up the room with radiant energy. Like fireworks, magical axes burst forth and rained down upon the wights and skeletons, killing one outright. Still, the fearsome clutch of the wights was felt. The largest of the wights momentarily grasped the dragonborn paladin, sapping him of his life force. So too did the dwarf feel the draining powers.
The melee continued and the observers watched as the the wights and skeletons were whittled down. The wizard set fire to one of the remaining wights as the skeletons were smashed to even more bones. Shards flew. Arrows flew. Blades cut and crushed. Psychic attacks from the sorcerers removed the last remaining thoughts from the skeleton’s vacuous skulls.
All the while, poisonous gas seeped out from that crack in the middle of the room. The vapors spread slowly but in time would fill the room. The skeleton’s exploding ribs and the wight’s sharp nails took their toll on the rogue and fighter. The dwarf was able to heal, but the elven rogue grew only weaker. Odd how the the battle was surely in the favor of the adventurers, yet the damage they suffered was mounting. Through the orb, Elena saw the ranger move away from the poison to the far corner of the room and then in into a hallway. The last remaining wight followed, but so too did the paladin, to aid his friend and finish this nasty apparition once and for all. Yet it was the wizard’s hand that sent the wight to whatever doom lay in store for such creatures. A ray of cold it could not take. And so the battle was over, but the poisonous gas continued to spread. The adventurers coughed and choked on the noxious fumes.
The master’s hands maneuvered over the orb, spinning and panning to the point of view of the ranger. The corridor the ranger looked through was slanted and slippery looking. At its end lay:
- Two zombies standing on ice.
- A symbol of Zehir.
- Two flaming skeletons.
- Two orbs of fire rapidly approaching the ranger.
One of the orbs hit the ranger in the back as he turned to shield himself. The last vision Elena could see was of the ranger, on fire, sprinting, with puffed cheeks of held breath through the poison, and arms flailing at the others to flee back to the cavern.
Rift conjures a three-legged stool out of thin air, and takes a seat. “Ah, it’s good to rest the legs.”
“So, does anyone recall why we’re here?”
She looks around expectantly. “Anyone? Anyone?”
Barrick observes that nothing is coming around the corner immediately, and leans on his axe. “Uh, we came down here to, uh, rescue the, uh, to kill the, uh, wait a minute, I was following you!”
“Barrick”, implores Erik, “let’s get started on rounding out some of these larger boulders from the collapsed ceiling. With your excellent masonry skills and Felsmon’s and my strong hands, we should be able to make a couple of these in short order. Maybe the power of Bonderstrong, in this very chamber, will make it possible. Or perhaps Warbella can help. We can then roll and slide the rocks down upon the skeletons. May their bones splinter and shatter.”
“My friends would you please tell me who it is we are fighting?”
“After we took leave of your father Feldegar and departed Kengistan, a wicked snowstorm, that your parent’s adviser Normandol did not predict I might add, forced us to take shelter in a magnificent inn, the Hammerhold Inn. There, we uncovered an artifact of the ancient Dwarven chief Bonderstong Ironfell, the large key that Barrick now wields.”
“Feldegar had directed us to find out more about a growing shadow in the Dawnforge. He directed us to Fort Dolor to learn more from Captain Revince, who, while a Nerrakin, has always been fair and considered trustworthy by the Kengi. Revince, unfortunately, was under the grip of a wicked Succubus Xeriope. The Fort itself had fallen under the grip of a Lieutant Stymers, who appeared to be getting himself rich while the Captain was out of sorts. After felling this witch with wings, and breaking her spell on Revince, we decided to leave the Fort while we waited for reinforcements.”
“In our possession were two maps that the Xeriope had. One was label “To F Lair” and one was labeled “To the hag.” The Hag map was in the same direction to the south of the fort that we could also investigate a rumor of red Ogre. Xeriope also had a devil’s communication sphere with some sort of speaking message from a chain devil in a language we could not understand.”
“The Ogre Monroe, we found, was extremely intelligent and served a dwarven wizard Berune Voltar. Voltar translate the message, which seemed to tie together diabolical plans for invasion of Kengistan and Nerrakis by devils following the chain devil Ichyrot with some sort of plot related to the Hag Trilleste who had worked with Xeriope.”
“At the Hag’s, we learned that she was involved in some sort of cult to Zehir the serpent god and had a twin brother Lacertil. Both are, or rather were, dracomen, the twisted form of dragonborn like yourself Felsmon.”
“No, you are not twisted. The dracomen are. Or were, since we slew Trilleste and you are recently acquainted with now deceased Lacertil. Lacertil showed up at his sister’s hut with more of the Troglogoons you just wiped off your blade, while we were making ourselves comfortable there.”
“Lacertil ran and we tracked him to this temple. On the temple grounds, we ran into your old gold dragon friend Aurumendor, who is actually just outside in a lake that renders one unconscious when you touch it. The gold dragon of the Kengi is magically chained. He became conscious long enough to tell us that the Yuan-ti is gone and Slitheral has the key. Presumably the key the unlocks the massive collar binding him, or is it her?”
“Now, funny thing is that Ichyrot’s message to Xeriope had also mentioned a Slitheral and Lacertil, and one other guy, Lorvas. Berune Voltar also knew a Lorvas, a former pupil of his who had turned to necromancy and developed an unholy interest in Zehir. Voltar told his he kicked Lorvas out.”
“Lorvas and Lacertil were supposed to be seeking the Ring of Nemeia, a devil-loving Tielfling empress. We ransacked her husband Laarn’s tomb shortly before finding you. Her tomb looked like Lorvas and Lacertil beat us to it, but we found the Ring, which was the little trinket that Tira tossed into that enchanted lava in the dwarven spirit’s cave and whose crafting into a new dagger for Tira roasted you and the rest of us so much.”
“So, with Lacertil down, and Lorvas down that hallway, in all likelihood, we are still no closer to finding this Slitheral and the key that unlocks the collar around Aurumendor. Nor, do we know why Ichyrot seemed to imply in his message to Xeriope that all three were really chumps.”
“Here is the whole message as translated by the wizard. Since it mentions Arkhosia, it’s probably a good idea for you to know about it.”
The text of message of Ichyrot to the Succubus Xeriope:
Dearest beloved you have done well. Frystiomagythant’s loss is our gain. And Lorvas is a boon to manipulate. Encourage Slitheral and Lorvas to search for the ring and rod. Get them as many humanoids as they need for their sacrifices. Keep the Fort soldiers away from us and away from their temple.
Tell the Zehir fools you also had heard of stories that Arkhosian magicians were able to stop the power of the ring and rod to turn dragonborn hatchlings into dracomen. You know that without those magicians to stop them, when combined, the rod and ring will have their power and make an army of dracomen to serve Zehir. I planted these stories in manuscripts attributed to Nemeia soon after the fall of the Tiefling empire. It appears Lorvas has read my work. Continue to preen Lorvas on his great knowledge. He must find the ring wherever Nemeia hid it in her tomb.
I will be glad to have her ring and summon more of my servants to the front lines so that our battalions can decimate these Nerrakins and turn them into the slaves they were born to be. I tire of slowly getting our people through this portal. Soon, those of Zehir will either serve us or die. Then we will turn north and destroy the spawn of Arkhosia. I need more humans to keep the portal open. Send three soldiers on a mission quickly.
Know that Ichyrot loves you.
“So, let’s get on with it”, says Erik. “Let’s construct two large boulders that span perhaps one staff length each. We’ll round out the edges where needed so that they roll well enough. Oh, if there’s a fallen pillar, we can use that as a giant cylinder to roll at them!”
[DM: The party will endeavor to make two spheres or cylinders from the available rubble (such as from any crumbling tombs or the ceiling cave-ins). They’ll round them out just enough so that the can roll them to the top of the slope. The plan is that the slipperiness of the slope will help with a quick descent. Hopefully the skeletons will be smashed/crushed. Maybe the boulders will ricochet or shatter, injuring them further. While the most skilled three or four stone workers go at the task, the others will pay careful watch at the curtain and surroundings.]
The adventurers are able to carve out two boulders from the bone-crushing ceiling collapses. Erik surmises that rolled from about 6 staff lengths away, something in the boulder’s path would have to make an effort to escape injury.
Erik looks at Barrick the dwarf and admires their handiwork. “We’ll all be millers for a short time”, muses Erik as he envisions the boulders crushing and grinding over the skeleton’s broken bones. He’s tempted to say, “May they rest in pieces”, but the last time he used that line he only received perfunctory laughs.