I had to refamiliarize myself with Dargan's Folley as the adventure had not been run to what course I had originally expected the party to get to the first time around, and 4 months in game had passed.
Most of the window dressings remained the same, but the underlying movers and shakers on the 2nd level I had tweaked accordingly from the original way I had written it out mostly because the party had made it down there, made their presence known, attracted the attention of Sakath the gnoll lord, made a nuisance of themselves to what Duergar (dark dwarves) do commerce here, and both acquired one of the important keys to get the treasure and lost said key of the treasure!
It was nice to force speed through the party through the shop/train/equip/travel stage and under normal circumstances I don't do that - I would hate it as a player to be railroaded so obviously - however the consensus around the table was that they wanted to get back to adventuring and to make it happen it required a hand and some time dilation.
There wasn't much left of Level 1 to explore, two small sections. One was spider heavy with a weaker phaze spider as the boss and the other just had some goofy stuff in it I wanted to make them think about (some of it is red herrings, others are odd beasties, others are just strange junk).
During this meeting they blew through over half of what they hadn't explored and even though the leader Karis was not happy about it, the other 3-4 party members were enjoying it. And that's what matters.
Write up follows:
During the remainder of the winter the party took care of what odds and ends were necessary. Selling off treasures to wanting vendors and buying new equipment, getting our existing gear repaired. There were small visits to friends and family and most importantly a longing look at deeds long undone and places under the ground for us to return to.
We discussed hiring people to come with us and went through our needs and whatnot. Some names were brought up and others discarded. But we settled at long last on two more to come with us: Flarg and Asgirda from the Drywood Clan of bugbears that we had befriended. Both were tough and resilient fighters, capable of handling their own needs and we had journeyed with them before. The usual deal of 25 crowns up front, 1 full share each, and 25 crowns for funerary rites should the unthinkable happen.
As it came closer to the days for us to leave we found ourselves summoned to sit with Sir Walter Slaine. Originally the 3 remaining founding members of the Sundered Chains were requested for (Karis, Gwynwyhver, and Detheron) but the other two were called for at longer length for discussion purposes. The year and a day long bondsmanship was coming to an end and Sir Walter wanted to keep the Sundered Chains at and near Orihalcus. He offered to make them vassals for revolving 1 year contracts, the cost eventually settled on would be: room and rent (at our existing locale), stablery/feed/shoding of our steeds and mounts, 50 crowns every month (for food).
There was a matter of how to alert the party that they are needed should they be out on an adventure and Sir Walter had an answer for that. Adeptus Bjorn had procured signet rings for the party and would give them to the Sundered Chains to wear – each ring enspelled with a single beacon style spell. If Sir Walter needed the party, the rings would impart a one time message to them upon his enacting of the enchantment, alerting them of their need.
The party agreed to this last piece but only on a 100 crown per man fee on the assumption that being if they are not at Orihalcus, then they are on an adventure and would have to depart in the midst of it. All parties accepted this matter and on Plantmonth the 5th, 175 of the 30th age, the Sundered Chains accepted vassalage to Sir Walter and had their former bondsmanship pact ended.
We geared up that night and said our goodbyes to town the following day – our new wagon, 4 horse team, and mounts already waiting for us. Upon arrival at Ponyboro a trip to Vermyzier’s had the bulk of our adventuring gear already prepared for us and we set off toward Deep Lake and then southwest for 2 days to the monolith. We camped at its base and then traveled west for a single day until we came to the former grove of the Circle of Thorns.
It wasn’t until we were attempting to scale the great hill to Caer Dargan that we realized something was amiss. A number of small tents, campfires, and a wagon and half a dozen mounts were up there! As we rode closer a bear of a man with unruly orange hair and a maul across his shoulders stepped forward and asked, “Are you the Sundered Chains? I am Roulix of the Red Clouds. We’ve been anxious to speak with you!”
Turns out there were 5 members of a 7 person adventuring group here, identified as the Red Clouds and they wanted to see us and get our measure. They were doing research on Dargan’s Folley and were even looking for books to purchase, knowing enough about it to identify Mulholland (the man who sold us the 3rd volume in Cymbarton) and wanted to know if we had the books and would be willing to sell it to them. Karis told them that the site was STILL ours and Roulix informed us that it was true – but only for another 39 days – and then no one owned it.
Karis then threatened the other leader and words were exchanged but no blows were delivered and we went on to the Caer itself, giving them a backwards glance.
Goloriana was happy to see us and told us we were late. We apologized and learned that this group had been here for a week, and 2 of the members had left some time ago. One of them was a druid. Lovely. There was ANOTHER group that had visited here before this group, 4 of them and swarthy. Goloriana had to engage them and chase them off.
She agreed to watch our wagon and mounts and assured us that nothing would happen to it while she was here.
It was about 4:15 on Plantmonth the 10th at this point and decided to go on in and visit. We broke out the gear and split up what we could on everyone (Asgirda and Flarg taking their own burdens as well) before taking a trip down into the Stronghold level. Coruth’tae placed an illusion over the entrance area so that if the druid was nearby, it couldn’t see us use the Lyreth medallions to open the ward. Fabambus used a scroll of Run on himself and Gwyn, giving the gnome and dwarf a much needed boost in speed for a number of hours should they need it.
And then down we went. Lantern was lit and we reentered the long gone entrance hall. From here we discussed our options and the party put it to a vote – to finish clearing out the Stronghold level before going down to the 2nd level and the dwarven city. We went back towards where the map room was on the Southwest portion of the level and from here drew weapons and readied ourselves. We went down the hall further and further, passing a set of stairs on the left, until we came to a door.
The reek of vermin and filth was strong, cloying on the back of our throats. The floor was in horrible shape and coated heavily with droppings and the sounds of squealing rats was getting louder. Karis snuck up and using his infravision looked in, spying several hundred rats as well as a 3 count of the over-sized hairless osquips. We talked when he returned and we came to the conclusion that we did NOT have to go in there and could give this place a bye for now.
We went instead to the side corridor and set of stairs and went down slowly, Fabambus and Coruth’tae looking around carefully – the two of them discovering a secret door near the base of the stairs where the corridor “T”’ed. Karis opened it and out spilled bones. Lots of them. Enough for almost 30 humans. Who put them in there and why?
Detheron looked them over with more care, the druid realizing that most of them had torturous damage to their joints – and that every one was here for decades. Vanir and the ritual? Or was it Dargan? We filed it away and cleaned the hall, eventually deciding on going to the right.
Corridor meandered for a bit and then ended up down a set of stairs to a door that was torn and eaten along the bottom. A quick look and listened revealed the place was clear but Detheron called on Frey to help him find any animals nearby, specifically spiders, and got a 4 count of pings some distance away but not in the next chamber. We entered and found what was once a dwarven barracks.
Most of what was still in here was useless but there were a couple of items that we did take, a weaponsmith’s kit and a thin vial of Keenedge Oil. Beyond here was another door and a larger amount of spider webbings barring our way. We picked past and went on, Karis and Flarg leading the pack, the bugbear brawler lighting what webs were ahead of us. We came to another chamber, this one time a set of cells but most of them rusted away to nothing. 4 large spiders the size of dogs skittered forward.
Karis went to engage them head on but his blows were too slow for the speedy arachnids and two of them leapt upon him, one on his chest, the other on his head and shoulders. Detheron dropped a Flaming Sphere on Karis’ front, burning the one on his chest free and another too close. Gwyn and Flarg smacked the one on Karis’ helm aside. The large spiders were made short work of and we cleaned our weapons and checked out the room, finding nothing of interest.
With nowhere else to go we back tracked to the closet area with the skeletal figures and went left this time, Gwyn advising us that the strange fungus was in there in the coal bin and it was very active with fire. Fabambus informed us it was most likely brown mold and any heat source would set it to growing and engulfing its food – ie, us. We went in and doused the lantern, making our way beyond the coal bin to the other side of the forge room and looked at our options.
We could take a corridor right or there was a door on the left, the party opted for the open corridor. It was long, some 30 paces, and there were odd smeary black patches here and there. It lead to a door and after checking it for traps and deciding it was clear, Karis pushed it open. Whatever the room was used for at one time was unclear but something had been using it not too long ago. Old blankets, simple tin buckets, smears that might have been food, goblin markings here and there.
The half ogre entered and slipped a bit on something slimy in the door frame, he ignored it until the gnome was telling him to check his boots. He looked and sure enough, the leather soles were smoking! He shucked out of them fast and dropped them and the boots were slowly dissolved into a thin puddle of green slime. Using flame we burned the slime and then carefully looked over the room while Karis made impromptu footwear out of old sacks and thongs.
The blankets revealed nothing and what furnishings were in here were also nondescript. There was a single door out of here and it led to a short 10 pace hall with another doorway. Gwyn went forward to check it out but stepped on a hidden plate and the ground opened beneath him, dropping him 20’ straight down and by BLIND luck not landing on any of the spikes sticking out of the pit’s bottom!
Asgirda and Karis used the climbing harness to get Gwyn out of the pit while Detheron used Spider climb to get around the pit and check out the door – finding it to be a closet with a lever to lock the pit open of closed – he left it opened.
We back tracked to the forge room and went down the door there. A set of stairs went down and then the corridor detoured to the left and wandered a bit. Coruth’tae informed us that we were coming to a dead end area according to the map he was making. Eventually the corridor “T’ed” left and right, left went nine paces to a door, right went 5 paces to a blank wall.
The party had misgivings about it but Karis went toward the door, mentioning that Fabambus should follow him to check out the door but he never got there as he stepped on a pressure plate and the party watched the door carefully. But the trap came from the BLANK wall behind as 6 slots opened up and spears were hurled down the corridor. Every one of them hit Karis dead on. One of them blew through his armor plate and pierced his lung!
The knight went down in agony, too filled with pain to summon up even a simple spell. He ground his teeth and enacted his healing ring, but he could still feel his life force ebbing away. Detheron dropped low and crawled up to Karis, struggling to stabilize him but with the shaft of wood and iron in his lung, there was nothing he could do. Gwyn came forward and using his scimitar hacked off the back of the spear from Karis’ chest as Detheron pulled the other end through. The half ogre blacked out briefly. Now able to see the wound, he poured the power of Frey into his healing and the deadly wound was closed.
Fabambus went to the door to verify it was a trap, and in there he found a lever to neutralize the danger. Once it was done the party pulled Karis back into the hall and stayed with him till he woke us. Meanwhile the 6 holes in the wall closed and we could hear shifting wood and metal – it was reset.
Coruth’tae went back to the closet, avoiding the pressure plate area, and removed the trap’s safety, coming back to the group.
Once all were better we were getting hungry and tired, but wanted to move on to one more chamber. We pressed on after back tracking a bit, until we arrived at another barracks long abandoned. It had signs that it had once been used by goblins or kobolds but not too recently. We ate and decided that we would go on for a bit longer.
The door from here led to a short corridor and then to the left and right, the left opening to a small closet like room with a 3’ wide, 1’ tall @ 4’ mark clear stone window looking beyond (former dwarven bolt hole), the right going a short while to a set of stair leading down and a plethora of spider webbings.
We opted to go to the spider webs and Flarg was on burn the web duty. Beyond it was a door and a room that a pair of long ancient tables, a basin, and hundreds of squirming spiders and larger dog style sized ones. The group decided to seriously assault the arachnids and taking most of the 8-legged menaces on the first assault with sleep spells and direct damage. It was over fast and beyond here was another corridor that lead to a room with a door torn off its hinges.
Detheron called on Frey and got a number of feelings of spiders beyond that doorway and one REALLY large return.
We ended it here, debating on the merits of assaulting the “queen” spider and its minions or just leaving it behind and going somewhere else.