Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Down the Kraken Hole

The Dark Side Beckons

Some would suppose that descending into the dark, pitiless depths of the airless sea, to the crushing limits of a dented, leaky vessel, led by a frothing madman to face an enormous creature renowned for its cunning and murderous intensity – the Kraken, no less! – would give pause to 5 mortals even if they were not to be fully dependent on twisted hoses for their life-giving air, while the beast would be at home in its very lair. But our band had frankly faced poor odds many times, and by now we had the confidence of immortals. We just shrugged our shoulders and went forwards as usual.

The Captain was mad all right, obsessed as he was with Wizard Island, and with the great sea beast that frequented the waters nearby. He swore – and as a sailor, he knew well how to swear! – that the kraken must shelter in an underwater cave near the cliff side of the island, probably more than 100 feet deep, since he and his men had already searched every crevice shallower than that. So we set out, the first voyage in a submersible for each of us, and we gazed in wonder at the inventiveness and audacity of the ship, since it seemed mostly engineered, not brought into existence through a spell.

After evading a storm, which only disturbed the surface of the water, we arrived at the cliffs, which we of course premembered. (Long story, told elsewhere) The crazy old salt started descending past his previous limit of 100 feet even before we had been given the breathing helmets and puny spearguns with which he imagined we would fell our giant quarry. Everybody held their breath, for if the ship were to break apart, it would take us with it, nowhere but down.

At 130 feet the ship began to creak.
At 150 feet the portholes showed debris floating by, which we swore were bones, but who knows what sea life looks like down here?
At 180 feet the first rivet popped, and ricocheted past our heads.
At 190 feet we feared the worst.
At 200 feet watery hell broke loose as water began to pour in through multiple openings!

The Captain blew out ballast to stop the descent, Barrick dwarfed the pumps, and Z’alden and Rift cast spells at the ship, until soon we had steadied the craft.

Luckily we had no need to descend further. A cave loomed nearby in the murk, and the Captain, sensing the creature that he had hunted for so long, bade us don the breathing helmets and investigate. Varis, who seemed as at home in the water as he did everywhere, which is to say proficient and efficient but somehow distant, swam a line to the cave and connected it so that the rest of us could pull ourselves over.

This cave was actually a tunnel-like entrance, and after a short distance, down a little then up again, we came to a much larger cave, and there we saw it, lazing in the center of the cave, the hideous Kraken, pulsing red under a blue-green light, all ten arms wiggling, two much thicker and longer than the others.

With grim faces under our helmets, we lost no time attacking, and for a while it seemed like no contest. A wallop of a punch from Varis, a lightning blast from Barrick’s new axe, a weakening spell from Z’alden, a poisonous spell from Tira, lightning bolts from Rift, and soon the goliath was thrashing in its inky pain. It grabbed everyone within reach, but we all know ways to escape from the clutches of monsters: a spell here; an axe strike there; teleporting as a last resort.

The Kraken’s attacks had little effect on our hardy band, until it realized that our tethers were important to us. It pulled out Z’alden’s and Barrick’s air hoses, and had it been able to do the same for all of us, our bones would have joined those floating about outside. Yet clever as this denizen of the deep was, Rift was more clever, and she cast a spell to stop time for everyone but her, so that she could float over and reattach the hoses. Then, she displayed her signature power by banishing the beast briefly to a parallel universe, giving us time to gather ourselves for a last flurry of attacks.

No sooner had the Kraken reappeared in the cave, but each of us attacked it with full determination, Z’alden and Tira with particular viciousness, and the beast expired!


After the mighty Kraken had been put down, Varis showed the others that the light coming from above actually led to a grotto. We left behind our helmets, sure that the Captain would give up on us eventually, and leave us for dead. Above, we found enough air, but also four Kobolds with clown faces. These attacked us immediately, then disappeared! Following corridors, we encountered them again and again, taking damage but dealing out more of it, killing them one by one – until two more popped up! Tiring of this painful game, Varis dispensed quickly with these last two. We were left in a hall than contained 6 rows of three consecutively numbered floorstones in what felt like a second trap, after the Kobolds, which had certainly been enchanted.

A trap it turned out to be; step on the wrong stones, and an attack would be triggered. Varis tried teleporting past, but was dealt a colossal blow for his efforts. Tara took multiple hits and was left stunned in the middle of the grid.

Each of us being tough enough to survive these attacks, we experimented in turn until we had a safe path going through numbers 2-5-7-11. But, the attacks were gaining in intensity with each new row, and two rows were left. Z’alden healed us as only he can, but who knew whether the last row would deal a fatal blow?

Luckily Barrick remembered the sequence of numbers from his days learning dwarven building traditions. Every young dwarf memorizes the first 10 “Dwarven Friends” in the number sequence 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29, as handed down from the great dwarven builders of old. The dwarves believe that, when using repetition in a building project, only these numbers should be used, and each of them should be used for no more than one purpose in a structure. If you repeat an archway five stones wide somewhere in a building, it is OK to then repeat an archway on a higher level seven stones wide, but never four, or six, or 12.

Barrick always thought this to be an ancient superstition, but seeing the same pattern playing out now, he wondered whether there could be some reason behind the sequence. See how 2 was the only number in the sequence that described the world of dwarves, with their two hands and two eyes and two feet? And 3 was the only one that described the number of options a dwarf always had (stay here, go forwards, or go backwards). And 5 was the only one that counted the number of fingers on a hand or foot. No other number in the sequence (and Barrick, who had worked on large buildings, actually knew more than the 10 taught to every dwarf) counted the number of fingers on any number of hands! In fact, no number in the sequence counted the number of any other number in the sequence, no matter how many! There was something there all right – but what it was, Barrick couldn’t quite grasp.

“Thirteen” he announced, though his insight did not come before he had stepped on #14, and suffered 3 poison darts. Sure enough, the adventurers got out on 13, followed by 17. Salving their wounds and gritting their teeth for the next trap, they came to a door saying “Home Sweet Home”. They knocked … and a voice said simply, “Come In”.

To be continued …

Comments

The wizard of “Wizard Island”, teleports the adventurers from his sanctuary to the castle. Ur Feyn is indeed powerful, and perhaps an ally that the adventurers can benefit from. Still, he is a lich, and trust is very thin with them. Any quests he requests of them will surely be part of some elaborate scheme he has planned, and has hidden well.

But there is not time pondering all that! The castle has been overrun by all sorts of despicable creatures would surely loot its great treasures, if only they could find the treasure room. The adventures lived in this castle for over a year, so they know it well. The quickly move to clear out an odd band of drow, who for some reason must have been strongly drawn to this place so far out in the water. Beneath the castle, the trolls, roper and couple of gelatinous cubes are dispatched. So are the bugs and slaads.

With the castle returned to the forces of good (or at the control of Ur Feyn?), the storm clouds dissipate and the waters become calm. This allows Captain Mirakas of the Sea Dragon to be able to send Umero and three other sailors to the island. The adventurers talk with Umero for quite a while, relaying their encounter with the kraken and the killer kobold clowns. (At this point, they choose not to tell Umero (and thereby the Captain) about Ur Feyn.) Umero indicates that the Sea Dragon needs a few repairs after the deep dive, but will return in a week’s time.

Finally, once Umero departs, the adventurers inspect the castle’s treasure rooms. Will there be as much as the first time?

Adventurers, congratulations on diving deep to defeat the kraken – at least one of them. More certainly lurk in the dark depths of Lake Nen. You have also defeated the killer kobold clowns and even recovered one of their vorpal daggers. Finally, you have skillfully negotiated with a powerful lich to gain his secrets in exchange for performing the occasional quest.

For all this you each receive 23,692 experience points, bringing you to a total of 311,705 experience points. Welcome to 24th level!

There is much loot (see pending e-mail),

Down the Kraken Hole
 

Z’alden dutifully tallies up the treasure hoard. He looks around at his comrades. “My friends, when last we were here, doesn’t that sound strange, in the room with the Troll there was a chest with thousands of platinum. I don’t wonder if, over the 20 years, the Troll moved it around some and we missed it.”

Z’alden searches again diligently for the chest he expects containing 7,000 platinum. He misses his Ranger friend Erik greatly in the search. But, with his own enhanced perceptive senses, he realizes that the party overlooked a large lump of dirt. Digging, he finds the chest. Perhaps that Troll himself would not have discovered it until many years later. Tallying up the sum, he finds it contains the amount expected from their future treasure. As before, he takes 10% of 1/5 as a tithe for those in need of Bahamut’s help and protection.

Then, he makes several trips back and forth to Nenlast. First, he makes an offering at the local temple of 140 platinum pieces to be used to help those in need of protection and healing and to obtain the sacred pieces needed to re-consecrate the castle’s chapel to Bahamut. He puts the small statue of the Dragon God that he has carried with him since the adventure of the Keep on the Shadowfell, so long ago, and perhaps still to come, on the altar, and thanks the Great Dragon for all of their fortune and success. In the previous chapel, he had made a spot for each of the gods. As Chosen of Bahamut, he consecrates the temple to Bahamut and to each of the gods that his comrades worship. Then, he mediates for a day and a night, looking for guidance and direction – how to destroy the demon princes of Orcus and Jarraxis that plague the universe?

After seeking divine direction, he further scours the castle. In their previous year there, the party had so fixated on repairing the Astral Falcon, they had poorly searched the place for magic ensconced in the castle itself. He has long since hoped the “wizard” had placed the means to travel to other planes. A trip to the City of Brass would certainly be in order to replenish and improve several items needed to carry out the important work of the Great Dragon.

The cleric recalls their last trip to that might City. He wonders if their comrade Erik will find the party at the castle and be ready to make the voyage, should such a trip be possible.

Is Z’alden able to find a portal to the City of Brass or to any other planes? Does Erik return?

Down the Kraken Hole
 

Erik has been on a solo trek through some of the darkest places. In the darkness, he traveled to the very depths of his soul. Now stronger. Now wiser. Different than before.

With luck or skill, he caught the tracks of his friends and followed them to Coradra Gap and the dwarf villa, and through a pine forest full of kobolds and spider webs. Once in Nenlast, Erik’s attention was captured by the sight of a warrior rhinoceros, and soon after Lars. Of course, Erik recognized Lars, but Lars did not recognize him.

Now, Erik relaxes in the village, sitting outside at a table, watching the people go by as he sips his herbal tea. Very Nenlast. He guesses that someday soon, he will see his friends. Lo, is that Z’alden?

Down the Kraken Hole
 

“My friend, greeting! Let us have an ale and exchange tales. Then, to the old Wizard’s castle, which we once again possess.” The cleric is greatly warmed to see his old ranger comrade looking stronger, but somehow different.

Z’alden updates Erik on all of the tales, including the troubling but powerful deal with Ur Feyn. “It will help the cause of Bahamut to get access to demons,” the cleric intones earnestly.

Now, let us be off to consecrate the Castle’s chapel and restore the glory of our abode.

Down the Kraken Hole
 

Rift strolls along the pebbly beaches of her new (and old) home. Her companions have not yet risen, and even the sun has barely begun its ascent. Her mind begins to wander as she breathes in the cool air of Lake Nen. She once again ponders her current predicament: she and her companions are in an unfamiliar time, and the possibilities of reality in this time are far from known. Perhaps there is a younger Rift wandering the world, perhaps not. Breathing deeply, she looks high into the sky observing the scattered clouds and fading stars. Far nearer, she observes a lone crow winging its way toward the castle. A smile flickers across her face. Even the birds are returning to the isle.
Only a few minutes later the twilight-feathered bird lands only a few staff lengths away. The creature stares at Rift and cocks its head, as though it was in deep consideration. Suddenly, she feels arcane energy pulse through the air. A cloud of mist surrounds the crow. Out of the mist steps an ancient elf leaning on a staff of ebony, a carved amulet of a crow adorns the elf’s breast, and his garb is simple; clean robes of cloth. This is Tassadar.
Tassadar, the mage who the party returned from a place only a step from death, the mage who bathed in the waters from whence magic itself was said to have come, spoke: “Rift, gather your companions. The hour is late, and I must not linger in this place.”

Down the Kraken Hole
rplayer gorthmog

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