Wednesday, April 23, 2014

K28 - Interview with a tombstone

We left our intrepid heroes all panting after a dash up a 80 yds high ladder while taking fire from above. By the time that we hit the pause button, many goblins were freshly slained, and Thordar's blood was making a mess on the floor.

The toe-hold on the fourth level

After severing the left foot of a fleeing goblin archer, Gror roared down a flight of stairs. He was preceded by said archer, tumbling down said stairs to land by the feet of two goblins taking on a retreat.

Lathmelen ran to Thordar and dispensed as much of her healing magic as she could muster, leaving her out of breath and barely capable of running. The gash in Thordar's leg sealed, he nodded and ran after the pursuing dwarves. Lathmelen, on the edge of losing consciousness, reached for her bow and followed. She met with Gesdrek, Loremaster, and a group of 7 battle-guard dwarves arriving late to the party.

Khazek took to his feet to follow the other archers leaving through the second passage. One of them demonstrated that these goblins were well capable to walk and walls and ceilings as they fled down another set of stairs.

Gror charged with utmost vigor down into a larger hall where about 10 goblins were scurrying through an open door. The door shut, leaving a small number of them on the wrong side. The beleaguered goblins turned back to fight and slowed the progress of Gror, Bain and Thordar towards the door. Thordar got a four-limb grapple by a goblin which placed him in an awkward positions as the other goblins were dealt with.  The Viceroy pinned one of the demoralized goblin against the door with his shield as Khazek and the other cleaned up what was left. 

Journey to the Arvin's crypt

The goblin pinned against the door was named Mik, or at least this is what Bain heard through the whimpers and decided to stick with it. Once that Mik figured out that he was NOT to be killed, his hopes rose and he became very eager to please the dwarves. There appeared to be very little love lost between Mik and whoever shut him up on the wrong side of the gate.

Gror ordered that two more battle-guards be hauled up to the 4th level while Lathmelen and Thordar tried to recover from their wound/shock/exhaustion. Mik kept on bleating nonsense, but a little usable information could be parsed from him. The hunters were regularly raiding the Snagaii kingdom for food. The King of Snagaiis was located on the level below. The dwarves also learned that goblins were terrified of the crypts to the north since the "great rousal" of the dead dwarves a few years ago. Finally, Mik revealed a hard to find passage to get around the stockades protecting them from the hunters and leading into the crypts.

Once the warriors from the Bronze attack arrived (The Silver-Attack was relieved as they started to go loopy on Gror), they ordered 14 of them to keep the hall while 7 would follow the royal party into the crypts. 

Interview with a tombstone

Gesdrek explained that Arvin's tomb should be about 2 hours' travel due North from their position. Mik walked them through a few side passages to get around the blockades and the party ventured deep into the Crypt level of Khazad-dum. The place was noticeably more luxurious than the first and second levels. As they proceeded deeper into the complex, they encountered little evidence of recent passage. The artwork on the walls became more intricate, the place darker and colder.

Poorly defined shapes seemed to be wandering aimlessly through walls, ignoring the advancing party. By early evening, the dwarves had made it to the far corner of the crypts where Arvin was buried. Arvin was once Durin's butler; a very influential dwarf of his day. His tomb was unusually ornate. They entered the crypt and proceeded through a hall covered in engraved and inlaid scenes. In the far end, a phosphorescent glow could be seen coming from a well in the ground. To their left, there was a chapel, to the right, more crypts of what would have been family or close servants.

Gesdrek prompted all to assist him with the ritual. The dwarves chanted while the battle-guard escort keep watch at the crypt's entrance. Mik refused to go in his own way and told the dwarves that he prefered to stay with them until they'd return to the gates of the Snagaii Kingdom. Something spooked him out of the adjoining crypts and he spend the next few hours tormented by the warriors in the central hallway.

The chanting lasted 4 hours until Gesdrek began a silent interview with the opened sarcophagus. He conversed with moans for about 10 minutes; the room fell silent. Gesdrek explained that the Sarcophagus had been defiled by canine-looking creatures which came to free Arvin's body from its final repose. Arvin, however, was now trapped in the crypt as a wraith. He couldn't really see nor hear the living and therefore was not a threat to the others. Gesdrek also got from the tomb that a dark shadow had crawled into the corpse, suggesting that the spirit of the Balrog indeed was the power that moved the ancestors. "I fear that smashing through them may be freeing the Balrog from its current predicament.", concluded the loremaster. They made a mental note to stop slaying ancestors from then on.

Because it was now rather late, and that they were quite tired from the last day. They decided to sleep in the crypt before setting back to the 4th level's entry point in the morning.

Arvin's crypt

The dreamwalker

When Bain fell asleep, he felt his soul split from his body almost right away. Strangely, he felt safe and secure as he realize that his soul was floating in a sea of dwarf wraiths lingering in the area. The eye of Irmo, the jewel given to him by Queen Ngaii, was glowing faintly around his neck. He wandered around, he could see the dreams of his companions, but walked away towards the chapel where the wraith of an imposing dwarf was praying at the altar. The dwarf didn't respond to Bain's calls. However, a cry in the distance caught the Viceroy's ear. 

Bain proceeded west through walls in the search of this call for help. He approached another crypt, ten times more majestic and ornate as Arvin's. At its centre, there was a sarcophagus what didn't get defiled by the infernals. In it, the most beautiful dwarf female was lying and stirring uncomfortably. 

Bain approached the sarcophagus. He could hear the moans, and other sounds that he couldn't fathom. He peered into the stone altar, held the Eye of Irmo in his hands and tried to pry into the beautiful woman's dream. Unfortunately, he got winded and started to lose control as his soul got aspirated back to his body. 

Bain stirred for a long time before falling asleep again. 

In the morning, Bain told of his journey. Gesdrek told him that he probably had encountered the bride of Durin which, upon realizing that Durin wouldn't incarnate during her lifetime, had the dwarves of Khazad-dum put her in stasis until the right day would come. Gesdrek didn't know any more than this about this legend, but felt confident that this bride must have been the long lost maternal side of the line of Durin.  More importantly, the bride appeared to be still unspoiled by the infernals. 

The decided to seek a path to the West to find the Bride's repose before returning back to their lines. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

K27 - Stairway to Heaven

In the previous session, the viceroy's retinue cleared the Rising Hall which had been reported haunted by the scouts. It was, and infested by black panthers which looked like they were feasting on a regular diet of small orcs. 

Orc on a Hook (play-by-post)

Lathmelen, Khazek and Bain are contemplating the chasm below. They can hear the growls of the ancestors some 150 ft below, out of sight. The chasm here is not as wide. Lathmelen established that the vines spanning across the chasm are strong enough to hold one individual at the time.

Khazek, as usual, is the first one to cross. He is followed by Lathmelen. Bain remains behind, surrounded by the axedwarves while Thordar is catching his breath outside.

On the other side. Khazek looks on the ground for signs. He sees that the panthers are commonly passing by and heading West into the hall. He finds evidence of blood, as if wounded bodies are dragged by the animals. Some of these tracks are recent.

While Khazek is looking for clues, Lathmelen advance into the hall and finds a rustic barricade. The barricade seems to be designed to be protecting from threat from their side of the barrier. She inspects the stockade and finds a squeeze near the top. Khazek can trace the paws of the panthers all the way to this squeeze.

“This is where the panther are coming and going.”, the ranger whispers.

There appears to be be no other ways other than forward. The place is deadly quiet, but the two companions can hear a lone snore beyond the barricade. The smell of orcs is also competing with the musk of the giant cats.

Khazek 20140309 - Khazek studies the barricade, trying to get an idea of how long it’s been there. He keeps an eye out for any dangerous looking areas or traps as well. He then carefully and quietly begins to climb up toward the narrow opening, trying to get a look at what lies beyond.

Bain 20140309 - Bain looks at his axedwarves.  “Well?  Don’t just stand there, get moving!”  He grabs the last Dwarf in the line.  “Go back and tell Gror we went on a scouting mission.  Then come back here with another lot and secure this area.”  After the axedwarves finish crossing, Bain will follow.

Lathmelen 20140309 - Lathmelen approaches the barrier and attempts to cast Find Weakness (M116) on it. This is in order to investigate the material and determine if there is a way to create an opening without disturbing it excessively and causing too much sound. She spends two seconds to cast the spell, performs the appropriate ritual most likely involving hand movement, and rolls a 7 which is a success. She will report to the others, enigmatic as usual, the results of her investigation.

The reinforcements

Bain sends out an axedwarf to contact with the Silver to the North. He estimates that if everyone rushes, a lot could be here as soon as in about 20 minutes. Bain can barely make up what is going on across the chasm other than something glittery has snaked up the barricade from the ground to the ceiling...

The barricade

Time T - Khazek approaches the barricade and notices that this is used as a passage for the felines. He looks very carefully amongst the coarse woodwork and sees no treachery. Bain is showing signs of impatience somewhere in the rear. Lathmelen utters are few words in old Sindarin and light a sequence of boards and stakes with the faint glow of a glittering light.  Lathmelen feels a little weak from drawing so much upon the valar in the recent past.

“This is the weak spot in the structure”, she whispers. Khazek plans his climb to the squeeze of the barricade against the upper right corner of the hallway. He identifies a path to climb up. Unfortunately, the shoddy structure gives way and Khazek causes the structure to creak as his footing shifts by a few inches.

The squeaky voice of a goblin comes from over the barricade. It is both raspy, and high-pitched as if he had inhaled helium the moment before.

“Come over! Demon, feast on this orc’s flesh.”, the voices calls out. Khazek can hear the difficult breathing of a lone orc over the edge. There are no audible footsteps, maybe the rattle of something wooden dragged on the ground.

Khazek 20140310 - Khazek stops short when he hears the voice call out. He does not reply just yet, but looks back questioningly at Lathmelen. He pauses for but a moment until curiosity overtakes him and he continues forward, trying to get a look at what is going on up ahead. “But I’ve just recently eaten, thanks though. They call me Rock Walker, and who might you be?”

Lathmelen 20140310 - Lathmelen readies her blade and attempts to find a spot nearby that could serve as a hiding spot and from which she could strike at someone coming out from the barricade. Moving there, if one is found, she then looks to Khazek to gauge his reaction, raising her eyebrow at him and mouthing, “Demon?”

Bain 20140309 - Bain slaps his forehead at Khazek’s impudent reply.  “No!  Demon was the voice’s pet, probably one of the panthers” he thinks, but holds his tongue. That stone had fallen, time to see the nature of the avalanche.

Khazek gains footing to peer through the squeeze. The weak flicker of his torch suggest the shape of a lying orc of a small size.  His left leg appears to be impaled by a large barbed hook that is chained to the ground. He lies on the ground, breathing laboriously, staring up to the ceiling. Beyond, the hallway expands into a hall which the weak torchlight can’t light all the way through. The room is cluttered, but quiet, and cool.

Khazek can squeeze through and slide to the other side. It implies an awkward moment, but poses no real challenge. The area still looks to rustic and simply laid out to be dangerous. Lathmelen is a yard behind, unable to see inside the hall.

“These tricksters talks.”, the goblin whispers in a gargle. “Do your bidding, make it quick, Ghost walker!”, he yelps. The sound echoes back from the far end of the hall. The only noise to be heard is the crackling of the torch and the goblin’s plight.

Khazek can’t help but to slip through and belly slide a few feet before getting on his feet. The goblin still lies there, his eyes appear to have been gouged out. He is waiting for something really bad to happen to him, teeth clenched.

Khazek passes the squeeze and make his way on the other side. The goblin is a sad sight to see. His wounds are not recent: he must have been lying there for a few days. The goblin is conscious, but not particularly aware of its surroundings.  As Lathmelen crawls in, he run his sight along the hall’s wall to scan for danger. There is a door at the far end of the hall, maybe 20 yards away. There are also a set of spiral stairs on the left and right walls.

Khazek 20140311 - Khazek tries not to make a sound. He continues to scan the area looking for signs of danger or escape. Very slowly, Khazek moves very slowly to make room for Lathmelen, keeping his weapon at the ready.

Lathmelen 20140311 - Lathmelen, as amused but frightened as she is of the scenario, moves to action and follows Khazek through the barricade, spending two turns to crawl through. She tries to hold her sword while crawling through, but with sheath it if this proves to be difficult. Speaking carefully, once she acquires her bearings on the other side of the barrier, she asks the goblin “The demons in this place are countless. But I am not quite sure we are those who you should be frightened of. Maybe you are willing to accept our help?” Her eyes immediately go to Khazek in question, hoping he understands her reason for her abysmal attempt at diplomacy. They might learn something from this one.

The goblin seems to hear Lathmelen but doesn’t respond. His grin has faded, his fists are no longer clenched. It is unclear whether he even understood the elf but certainly isn’t inclined to start a chat with the unseen visitor. As far as you can tell, he may not even be aware of Khazek’s presence.

“Me no talky”, he squeaks with half a voice.

Lathmelen 20140312a - Lathmelen shakes her head at Khazek and dismisses the idea of questioning the goblin. She quickly walks over further into the room, to where the left stairs are, and glimpses around the corner, investigating where it leads.

Khazek and Lathmelen look around the hall. There has been a lot of fighting in this place a long time ago: there are broken arrows, the remains of a warg, a panther. The hall was once a gathering place and probably part of the Rising Hall. The tracks on the ground suggest that goblins come in numbers, maybe 10, regularly and drag a goblin to the meat hook. There is little evidence of traffic up and down the stairs.

The door at the far end is shut. The goblin on the hook is moaning quietly.

Lathmelen 20140312b - Lathmelen looks to Khazek for direction, “There is a stairway up and down, but they look hardly travelled. This is a rather dragging scenario. What do you suggest, prince?”. She looks at him amusedly.

Khazek 20140312 - “Well, if the Goblins can move in through here freely, then we need to figure something out, find out where they’re going, figure out what this is,” indicating the hooked Goblin. Khazek moves toward the Goblin slowly, taking his canteen out from his pack. “You, Goblin, you want water? Why are you here? What did you do?”

The goblin is at first ignoring the offer and avert his eyes, as if he still had his eyes that is. The offer for water is too much for him and he opens his mouth. Khazek let a thin strand of water dribble down to its mouth.

“You give me water. You speak different. Here I am, an offering to keep the peace with the demon across the chasm. I bet you are not a demon.”, he turns his face towards Khazek. “I broke my arm, that’s why I’m now as good as meat. Maybe us Snagaiis are only good for this in the end...”

The hall and the boiler room.

The thousand-year old boiler (live play from here on)

Khazek and Lathmelen shake their shoulders and summon the Viceroy to come forward. Bain steps over the chasm and squeeze over the stockade. Khazek explaines the situation and leaves Bain the task of interrogating the delirious goblin. 

While Bain is talking sweet with the goblin, Khazek and Lathmelen inspect the door leading to the city and find it locked. They rig some pieces of wood to secure it from opening from the other side. They decided to look at the spiral staircase to the right. 

They find the stair unused for many long years. It leads to a large and warm room some 20yds high above. The room if filled with refuse and a large boiler powered by a magma pipe. The construction is dwarven, and miraculously still functional. 

Lathmelen returns to the lower level while Khazek inspects the rubbish. The temptation is too strong, and he engages the mechanism. This sends water into the boiler and starts to push steam into a pipe heading towards the cliff. 

Downstairs, Thordar has joined the Viceroy. He explained to him that he spotted a subtle plume of smoke on the 4th level, suggesting that the end of the ladders up the cliff are guarded. Bain, in turn exasperated, begs Thordar to make the goblin talk. Thordar, now a pro at it, uses the tip of his smallsword to prod into the goblin's eye socket. The goblin breaks down and begin to cry. 

The goblin explains that he is a tribute sent to feed the demons from the outside. He points at the locked gate and confide that the Snagaii kingdom lies beyond. The dwarves, disgusted by the sight of a grown goblin crying all over the floor, puts its miserable life to an end. 

Bain turns to the gate: "A Kingdom of Snagaiis, hey."

Five little dwarves climbing up a ladder

Thordar lead the others to the terrace outside the Rising room. They were met by Gror, announcing that he had decided to rotate out the dwarves from the Silver-Attack with fresh troop from Bronze.  "They are hard to keep in check, Father, the curse... I guess.", he explains to Bain.

Once outside, they marvel at the sight of Dimrill Dale down below. Lathmelen uses her elven sight to inspect up above. She sees that the two ladders are climbing to trap doors underneath the terrace on the 4th level.  She spots the plume of smoke, and more seriously the wavy air around the steel ladders as if they were very hot. Khazek figures out that the boiler was probably connected to the ladder system as he had seen such mechanism in Erebor. He quietly returns to the boiler room and turns off the mechanism. 

They decide to climb up the 80 yds by daylight after the ladder cools down. About halfway to the terrace, arrows begins to fly down to the climbers. Thordar is shot on the hand and brush off the pain while the crew accelerate their ascent. As they get closer to the trapdoor, the volume of arrow fire increases. Many arrows would have caused mortal wound had the dwarves not be protected by sturdy dwarven armors. 

The dwarves sprint up the ladder to enter firm ground, as falling off 400ft down to the foot of the cliff isn't an attractive prospect.  

The Eastern eyes of level four

Thordar is the first dwarf to enter the towers. He dodges a few arrows and skewers an archer. Khazek enters next and dispatch another archer with his stick. Lathmelen comes next and attempts to create an illusory panther, but fails to summon the dreadful sight. While Gror slips in and chase a fleeing archer, Thordar lunges recklessly into the goblins, dispatch another with his smallsword and ends with a goblin's arrow deeply embedded into his thigh (Funny bone critical). Khazek fell the goblin's NCO in a dramatic knife throwing one-shot death. This opens the way for Thordar to roll back toward his friends while Lathmelen meets him to deliver some elven healing. 

Thordar is reeling and in terrible pain, Lathmelen is on the brink of collapse. The goblin archers recoiled away but are not defeated. Bain climbs up into the tower to catch sight of his son severing the foot of a fleeing goblin. 

Are things going well or not? Well, they are at least on the fourth level. If they can make it passed the Snagaiis, Gesdrek should be able to lead them to the crypts to interrogate them about the rise of the ancestors. 

Final scene as seen by Bain.