Ah Summer...many times over the last 27 years I have had campaigns begin to go lack-luster in the latter spring and then by the summer it is a chore to get people together. We took many weeks off for trips, 4th of July, and the like - but this was our first meeting back and I was unlucky to have only 2 players at the table this time.
I was not going to cancel. No more, not again. From now on, we play no matter how few show up.
So we did! It meant I had to handle every NPC as well as 4 PC's (the two normal and the 2 alternates), but it was well worth it and I was not disappointed in the two players (Detheron/Thad and Coruth'tae/Arnog) and their devotion.
The Red Clouds as an adventuring group averages around 9th level and are the "big cheese" as far as adventuring groups are concerned in area. They have had it good for so long, that they sort of expect everyone else to roll over and play dead for them.
I like the idea of adventuring groups in competition with one another. Honestly, an adventuring party is a bunch of sword swinging toughs and hooligans that band together out of greed and personal survival and go plundering tombs and halls and caves - killing whatever is in their path and steal what they can find.
Frankly being a professional adventurer is not a career to be proud of!
So it takes a certain amount of moral fortitude to be better than just a ruffian and rake and keep your word and be a better person than the scum around you.
I think the group has been doing just that and doing it well.
Write up follows:
The party (Detheron, Gwyn, Arnog, and Dargis) all rested in the old dwarven barracks on the upper level of Dargan’s Folley, replenishing much needed spells in Detheron’s case, and some welcome rest for the other party members. After an uneventful night, we awoke much better off and decided to see what we could do about opening the door to the surface.
The door was closed, the locking wheel turned fast. All attempts to open it resulted in just the wheel turning slightly and resisting any other attempts. Frustrated and not wanting to resort to spells, Arnog rapped on the thick iron door with the hilt of his sword. After some time, the same cadence of knocking was repeated from the other side! He tried it again, using a different pattern, and it was returned.
It was then that something was dragged across the door from the other side, metallic sounding and rasping, and then the wheel was turned and bright sunlight filtered down and a voice called out, “Hello down there! Come on up into the light!”
Arnog emerged first, finding himself at the bottom of the 15’ pit that housed the metal door, looking at the upper lip where 7 members of the Red Clouds were perched, weapons out and ready, Roxarn looking down with some surprise. He bid Arnog welcome and was thankful for the fighter’s safe emergence (sounded very depreciating). Then as the other members emerged there was some surprises and concern, and what was Detheron and co doing here? Where was Karis? Gwyn had poisoned two bolts with Type D poison and the party knew they were at a disadvantage but when Roxarn was getting angered, the party reacted and bolts went flying from both sides. Gwyn was struck three times but he managed to plant one swiftly into Roxarn (who ripped it out before the poison had a chance to affect him.
Then one of the members swung a covered cloak around and the party all beheld the severed head of a medusa and time stopped – frozen – turned to stone.
Detheron was awakened first, in a bit 4’ deep and turning to flesh slowly, a rope of entangling around his form and Maulis (the Red Cloud’s mage) using a charm to change him back. Roxarn watched and kept up a banter. Wanted the charms that Detheron and Gwyn had and as the druid turned normal, had Maulis pull it off his neck. The mage and Roxarn did not see eye to eye but the weaker man did defer to the leader. Was going to leave Detheron and Gwyn here until they could ascertain where Karis was and then make a decision on how to proceed. As for Arnog and Dargis, was going to get what info he could from them and either let them go or kill them – hadn’t decided.
One of the red cloud members came over with a large bladed shovel and excavated a larger extension on the pit Detheron was lying in, and one by one – the other party members were returned to flesh. Gwyn and Detheron had their medallions taken, Gwyn’s was placed outside the pit somewhere (along with his crossbow), and Maulis kept the druid’s. When the opportunity arose, Maulis was willing to “hold his actions” should the party attempt to escape, assuming Detheron would lead him to a place with “magical books and tomes” since that was what the mage was looking for (most likely Fengarth’s Tower). As the party was left behind, Maulis conveniently let his Lyreth medallion fall by Detheron.
There were no horses here, closest civilization was 4 days away mounted, and there were 7 members of the Red Clouds and 12 porters/hirelings – outside our skill. Plus they had the medusa head and we were unsure of our ability to even get near it or take it away. Dargis worked his way out of the entangling rope first and climbed up the pit side to look out. We were some spear throw from the corner of the Caer Dargan and opposite of that was the guard with the shovel and a bow, candle light illuminating him. Gwyn’s crossbow (and assuming the medallion) was on a pile of gear about 6 feet away.
We all were freed from the ropes after a time and a plan was hatched. Detheron cast Longstrider on himself and Strength on Arnog. Then a badger was summoned and the beast assaulted the guard from the opposite direction of the party. The fighter leapt out of the pit and ran as fast as he could to tackle the guard full on, grappling him with his arms around his throat. Dargis and Gwyn followed, slower but doggedly running.
The struggle was short and brutal but the guard could not free Arnog’s stronger grip and was bent lower and lower. And then the two shorted members arrived and with daggers and scimitar flashing slammed into the Red Cloud man, drawing blood and causing him to frantically squirm and struggle – Arnog was relentless. Meanwhile Detheron grabbed the other medallion, Gwyn’s crossbow, and the 5 large bundles of adventuring gear the Red Clouds had amassed, holding them all waveringly and then trying to make his way back towards the Folley.
The guard was slain and the party ran toward the Folley (after Dargis took the shovel, they stole his arrows, and slit his sword belt free!), Arnog taking the lion’s share of the gear from the staggering druid. We ran as fast as we could for the Folley Entrance when a sentry spotted us and shouted and alarm. Detheron pressed onward while Arnog detoured and taking arrows shot in his direction tackled the guard, broadsword leading the way. The blows were fast and furious and the sentry went down with a scream and wail. Turning swiftly, he rejoined the party at the Folley Entrance, Detheron already used both of the Lyreth medallions to break the wards and allow us entrance.
Once inside the door was yanked shut and using the taken sword we snatched of the guard, it was jammed into the wheel of the door and bent, forcing it closed. Then Dargis and Arnog used the enchanted shovel and collapsed some of the ceiling to slow the Red Clouds down. From there we relaxed briefly and went through what we had found – lots of gear, foods, and adventuring equipment. We split it up as well as some magical earring and a bracelet we had taken without knowing and then decided we would go back to the 2nd level and try to find another way out from there.
We passed through the shrine to Thor, where we knew that Maulin was able to teleport people into. So we trashed the chamber, moving furnishings around, dragging in more crud from other rooms, and even toppling the statue – anything to potentially ruin a teleport into there. From here we went to the stairs down and began the long walk – closing the gates behind us as we went.
Once at the bottom (verifying our rope was still there), Detheron warded both Dargis and himself against lightning, while Gwyn and Arnog took the glyph’s blasts and scampered down the ropes – the doughty fighters hurt but not slain. Once safely at the bottom we went to the Temple of Odin, shut and spiked the doors, and dropped off to much needed rest.
Meanwhile, the other group consisting of Karis, Coruth’tae, Spax, and Thad walked down the sloping corridor for some while until they arrived at the tremendous underground vast cavern that was Byfortvile. The description was:
You can feel the vastness of the cavern ahead of you a dozen steps before you emerge from the tunnel’s widening mouth. A lightening to the air, an easing to the atmosphere, a sense of echoing and vast spaces beyond your steps.
The cave you’ve been walking through has widened here to over 50’ in length and the roof has peeled back to a bit past 20’, but the expanse of this opening is nothing compared to the glorious sight that you behold this far under the open sky.
The cavern bursts open and wide to a tremendous hollow miles upon miles in width and depth, with the glittering roof hanging dome-like close to a thousand feet over head. There is an island of rock that slopes gently away with a leaning city upon it until its borders end at a tremendous underground sea. The water is fed from an opening in the ceiling where a cascade thunders down like a river to the churning black surface.
An arching stone bridge reaches across the waters to an even larger city beyond. Sitting on an outcropping of stone over a mile deep and wide, it sports strangely carved structures of gargantuan size and dotted with tall spires of colossal stalagmites. Four hundred dizzying feet above the tallest of the buildings is a 90’ diameter ball of yellow and purple writhing flames like some otherworldly sun; steaming and hissing as tendrils of purple arcana corresculate from the iron spikes of the tower below to the burning sphere of illuminating gas.
Dimly beyond the city and the underground sea you can see large colorful plains of stone and towering fungi leading up to hills on one side, a smoking red glowing fumaroles, venting vapors and a ragged iron gray shelf of jagged vertical cliffs on the other.
It is a wondrous sight to behold above ground, but over 2 miles below the surface of the world, it borders tenuously on fantastic.
We entered carefully and a few duergar mounted of 12’ spiders rode up, nonplussed at our presence. Some conversation followed about keeping ourselves off the Outsider’s island until we’ve been given a marking from some vault and that if we wanted to wander off of Byfortvile, we would need a boat ride. It was suggested we go and bid our respects to King Yikzarch, king of the goblins, who had some sort of palace to the right down an area referred to as Goblin Row.
We opted to keep ourselves out of trouble and wandered there. We saw goblins, duergar, gnolls, gnomes, ogres, a couple of humans, what might have been a hobgoblin, and a smattering of drow. The goblin section of the city was dirty but still a city and when Coruth’tae made the mistake of buying a tray of salted fish, every other goblin merchant crowded forward to sell us anything/everything else they could.
We picked our way through the press and went ot King Yikzarch’s palace. A number of goblins were on guard and once we presented ourselves we were asked to wait while one of them ran in to announce us. Once inside we went to Yikzarch’s chamber which was fairly cramped, the king sporting a score of guards, a half dozen visitors, a ten count of servants wandering about, and a single very dangerous greenskinned goblin standing at Yikzarch’s back half in the shadows.
We tried to bluff our reasons for being down here and somehow it was mentioned we were surfacers looking to sell pastries to the citizens of Byfortvile. Yikzarch wanted one. We didn’t have any, they were in the wagon. Then go get me one. It’s very far and will be stale when it gets here. Then make me one. We don’t have the tools to do it. Then go to my kitchen now and make one for me!
We followed the guards and the shadowy goblin who identified himself as Gangrene – the King’s personal “problem solver”. We were taken to the kitchen and were told that if we didn’t make Yikzarch a pastry, there would be no escape for us from this building. It was then that Thad turned to Coruth’tae and asked, “So, do you know how to cook?” We ended it here.