This was the end of the adventure for the party, but not necessarily the end that had been expected. They had lost one of their members and failed to find the treasure room of Sir Dargan. Also the key that would facilitate the finding and opening of the treasure vault was missing, lost with the gypsy thief.
As a DM you don't want to change things around to either support the party (as it makes them feel more like spectators than players) or the monsters (as it makes them feel put upon unfairly). Escpae from the mausoleum was going to be under their own skill, thoughts, and abilities - and the monsters on the other side were going to behave accordingly for the situation at hand.
One of my experienced players (Zoltan the thief incidentally) commented that this group has a habit of getting ourselves cornered (the great privy battle in Fulgore Keep and the pitched combat against the Castellan in the same place) and that as we go against bigger and stronger foes, we should take better care not to leave ourselves in places where there is no way out.
So they fought their way free, lost Amal the orcish fighter in the process, almost lost Smokey the bear, and could not find out what happened to Zoltan.
But they are alive (those that are left) and have a much better idea what awaits them in the dark places of the earth. And that is going to give them what edge they need when they reequip themsleves and come back.
Write up follows:
The party rested as well as they could, silent and pensive in the dim light provided by their dwindling oil supplies and torches. Their food stores grew weaker while Detheron and Karis tended to the wounded amongst the group. Two full days passed and we waited quietly. Waited and waited. No one came, no one entered…and Zoltan never came back.
During that time they discussed many plans on escape, and discarded them just as swiftly. We had no idea what was outside that door, but if it was a return of the gnolls and their shocker lizard mounts, we would be facing some sort of pitched battle.
We broke our goals down into small pieces and agreed on them. We would open the door. Run as fast as we could if possible for the nearest bridge and over it. Then if time allowed, detour to the Temple of Odin to see if Zoltan was there. If no time allowed, run across the entirety of Wodenvarelse and for the stairs up to and eventually the surface.
After Detheron gave his ok that Smokey and himself were no longer suffering any ill effects from their near death experiences we geared up ourselves and decided on tactics. Coruth’tae would make an illusion of the door being closed, allowing Karis to open the door and peek out and not alert anyone in the hall. Gwyn would be placed square on with the exit, a blessed bolt of Odin loaded and ready in our last available crossbow. Amal would take the other door. Detheron, Smoky and Fodder would be ready to support or run as the situation called for.
The spell was cast and Karis tried to open the door – but it was CHAINED shut from the other side! He couldn’t get it open enough for us to see out there. Coruth’tae used a knock spell to open the lock from the other side of the door and Karis shook the doors enough until the chains loosened and he could “hear” and see through the illusion.
And there were gnolls. Lots of them. At least 8, most likely twice that number.
Karis would not be able to open the door alone. Amal would have to help him, so the plan was altered. Also, the templar told Gwyn to hold his shot until the half-ogre could entice enough of the gnolls to group up into a line so the Blessed Bolt could be most effective.
Karis and Amal shook and bashed and banged and wrenched and tugged on the doors, their combined monstrous strength enough to make the lock and chains stretch enough off the handles so that the weakest links broke free and the doors boomed open.
And in the intervening time that had passed, the gnolls had drawn themselves up ready; a fan two deep of 9 mounted gnolls armed with ranseurs but holding windlass cranked crossbows at the ready, two more in reserves beyond them, and a 4 count unmounted and guarding the area near the bridge. Karis roared in front of them at the double door entrance, shouting “Sakath! You yellow bow-legged bastard! Come out and fight us!”
And the gnolls fired at the half ogre in response. He threw himself aside, struggling to avoid being hit, using the doors as a shield and getting shot at least twice by the heavy bolts. He screamed at Gwyn to “FIRE! FIRE THE DAMNED BOLT!” The dwarf squeezed the trigger and there was a rising power behind him, swarmed down his frame, into the crossbow, blowing it apart as the bolt shot free and became a sonic blast of black energy screeching like a thousand ravens. It tore through two of the mounted gnolls, killing them instantly, blasting their mounts to ruined red meat, and then continued on until it shredded one of the standing gnolls further back – the thunderous echo deafening everyone briefly.
Coruth’tae cast a spell and turned himself invisible. Amal sucked down one of his potion bottles and charged out the door, his shield held in front of him, battered his way into one of the mounted gnolls and bullrushed him off. The two of them rolled about the ground with axes flashing and fists pumping. Karis took up front position at the doorway, called on Tyr for a “Blessing in this time of need!” and half of the gnolls hung back, reloading their crossbows. Some of them ran forward and engaged the half ogre – the shocker lizards blasting small bolts of lightning at the half ogre and Amal. Karis was hurt from the bolts, but Amal was unscathed! The potion he had drunk was Tempestskin, and would make him immune to smaller electrical damage for a time.
Smoky was ordered forward and the bear and Karis plied sword and claw against the lead gnolls. Fodder was held back and Coruth’tae, invisible and hopefully quiet, snuck out of the room and hugged the wall to the right on the way to the bridge. Gwyn drew “Blaze”, the battleaxe flaring to life, and joined the battle.
The reek of lizards was strong and Karis chanced to drink his own Tempestskin potion, the party hoping to carve a way through the fight and press of gnolls. Amal rose to his feet and ignoring more shocks, cried for the party to “Run for the bridge!” as he charged on. One of the gnolls misfired his crossbow and shot his own mount in the back of the head, maddening it and causing the lizard to dump him off as it ran away. More bolts were shot and the templar blocked them with his shield where able to.
There was butchery work to be done and the group did their fair share, but gnolls are not goblins and they did not go down without a struggle, a fight, or dishing out their own damage as well. Two of the gnolls attempted to block Amal, but the orc was able to take one of them down, howling in bloodlust at the other as it attempted to skewer him. The mage hung to the side, walking slow and hoping to avoid being spotted.
The lizards near Karis were enticed to bite the half-ogre after the gnolls realized their shocking blasts were ineffective. He plied the area around him with sword and shield, taking on two gnolls if possible. A knot of three gnolls stayed back and kept up a steady stream of crossbow firing. Detheron pointed at them and called out to Frey, summoning an animal to aid him – and a 14’ crocodile materialized out of nowhere, attacking one of the gnolls who was VERY surprised!
A wildly lucky hit with a ranseur struck Karis in the underside of his right arm, slicing through the gap in the chainmail and slamming through his bicep hard enough to cause a critical wound. His blows weakened and his strength hurt, he grimaced his teeth and returned what attacks he could.
Amal gave the last standing orc a terrific kick and shouted “the bridge is clear” as he tried to race across it. The last mounted gnoll in reserve kicked his mount into motion, charged across the open area, and struck the orcish fighter on the side. The blow was heavy and Amal tried to roll with it, but he was too close to the edge of the bridge and he slipped near the side, wobbling and hanging onto the ranseur inside his gut like a lifeline. The gnoll originally kicked to get past rose to its feet and whipped its morning star at the orc, striking him and Amal fell over the bridge and down the Chasm.
1,100 feet down.
Coruth’tae looked over the side of the Chasm until Amal was lost to sight and hunkered low, invisible and hoping that no one would see him this close to the bridge. One of the gnolls raised an alarm gong, ready to strike it, when the elven mage decided he couldn’t let that happen. He withdrew his shadowwand and activated it – a blast of dark light tearing into the gnoll and stopping him from striking the alarm. But he was no longer invisible. And he had one hurt and one healthy gnoll near him and angry. Very angry.
The party redoubled their efforts. Detheron swung Heimdall’s Bulwark at Karis, healing the ogre of some of his wounds, but he was taking more every step. Fodder ran to help the crocodile in polishing off the gnolls on the left flank. Smoky was taking some hurts. But the gnolls and their lizard mounts were dying. The party was about ready to break free.
Then there was a “whoosh” and a dark skinned bald dwarf, floating 30’ in the air appeared and he held his hands out shouting, “IN VAS FLAM GRAV POR!!” And a ball of fire streaked away and detonated right under the party’s feet. Gwyn and Smoky took the brunt of the blast, Karis and Detheron not as much. The bear and the dwarf were very hurt and wobbling about in pain.
Gwyn struck out with Blaze again and again until the gnoll on the right flank finally died. Then his chest heaving and his hit points in the single digits, he withdrew his only potion of “extra-healing” and drank it down – the cool blue liquid returning some of his strength. Bolstered once more, he took his axe and started running for the bridge and the beleaguered illusionist.
Karis whirled about, trying to take down the gnoll nearby, an unridden shocker lizard gnawing on his leg. Smokey staggered and swung and tore and ripped and roared, but the great bear was bleeding badly. Coruth’tae managed to shout out a quick spell before the gnolls hit him, a scintillating “shield” spell coalescing in front of him just in time.
The flying dwarf called out another spell and a blast of energy washed out – hitting Karis’s sword – shattering the weapon! Karis screamed in frustration and dropped his hilt, tugging Kysoth’s Bludgeon from his belt. The elven illusionist was hit hard, even through the spell, a morning star slamming into his face and dropping him IMMEDIATELY to 1 hit point! Gwyn arrived in time and took on the two gnolls from behind as the elf blasted the shadowwand at the wounded one again, killing it.
Smokey was struck and the great bear fell over groaning and unable to fight. Karis told Detheron to go! Run! Get out of here! But the druid refused to abandon his friend or his animal companion. He healed Karis once more and then tried to make his way to the fallen bear.
The flying dwarf pointed at Gwyn who was battleaxing the last gnoll and a forceful “push” spell struck him, shoving him near the edge of the Chasm! Gwyn dug in his feet and turned and twisted and strained and did NOT go over the edge, instead spinning the gnoll he was fighting to the side and sending it down the deep ravine! Coruth’tae and Gwyn then began to run and run hard and fast.
Detheron called out to Frey and shrunk Smokey down to half size and 1/4th weight, allowing Karis to lift the badly wounded ursine. And they had to because from the darkness behind them, was the call and shout and screams of gnolls. Lots of gnolls.
They were running out of time and they had to go. But when they turned towards the bridge and attempted to run for it, the dark dwarf pointed to the area in front of them and screamed out a spell – and a wall of fire appeared, 10’ high and 80’ long! Trapped!
The druid was furious. He slammed his hand into the ground and fired off a powerful “Quench” spell and the center portion of the ensorcelled wall wavered, flickered, and died in a gap 20’ wide. Fodder, Deth, Karis and Smokey charged through and ran on while the flying dwarf cursed them and shouted. He tried to “push” Karis off the bridge but the mighty half ogre was too strong and ran on.
The pursuing gnolls were behind, close behind. The party paused long enough for Detheron to get a quick healing into Smokey to stabilize the dying bear, but then they were off – some hundred feet or so separating them from their pursuers. Gwyn and Coruth’tae were far ahead and they ran on until they hit the stairs out of the great hall and ran up them, hearts hammering and chests pounding.
For a brief moment Karis mused about going to the Temple of Odin and seeing if Zoltan was there but it was discarded and he ran instead, thrown missile weapons clattering around behind him.
The party ran on, up the stairs, onward and onward. Eventually the sound of the gnoll pursuers faded and was left behind. At the top of the stairs we threw the last lever and dropped the bars and then wearily picked our way out of the Folly and to the surface above. We shut the door, the Lyreth Ward re-enacting and the party rested. Long and deep.
We waited a day and a half – Speaking with Goloriana, discussing what we had seen, and talking about Zoltan and his still not emergence. Finally we could wait no longer. We loaded up the wagons and on Earthmonth the 29th and began the long ride back. It was 3 days to Ponyboro and then we headed towards Orihalcus – another day and a half – making the gates to the copper mining city on Spiritmonth the 3rd, 1:00 in the afternoon – 17 days after we had left.
The guards let us pass, giving Karis a hard look but inquiring on the missing party members. They were saddened to hear that Zoltan had been lost in the Folly and hoped for his eventual return. It was with bitter ruminations that we made our way at long last to our home. The key that we had did not work and the lock had been changed. The kobold women were within and were enticed to let us in.
We learned that a week ago or so, someone had gotten a copy of the house key and attempted to sneak in, but the 3 kobold women used knives, claws, and teeth to drive them away. Sheriff Phozarn had the lock changed and the guards were rotated.
We unloaded all our belongings, Gwyn took the steeds and wagons to the stables. Karis went to see Sir Walter, eventually getting audience with him and Adeptus Bjorn. He talked about our journey and missing companions (Zoltan and Amal), learned about the attempted thievery at the party’s home, there had also been an attempted break in at Sir Walter’s Manor house and the culprit, a dwarven thief from the southern barony, had been tried and hung, and finally that Kalt Slaine had left Orihalcus and was back with his father in Principia.
Karis mentioned that he would be bringing the party’s 10% share for the guild here tomorrow and Adeptus Bjorn brought up Fengarth’s Tower again and the troll T’Nagrath there.