May 8, 2008

A Different Keep on the Borderlands - Part 4

After freeing the last of the slave/miners from the Brightstone Keep (see part 3), the party went to explore the mines for more information on the mysterious things going on here, and maybe find more clues regarding Bergan's missing friend, Catriona.

The entrance to the mine was sealed, but the lock was picked with only a little bit of effort. Slowly everyone entered...

* Theo - the kender, handy at unlocking locked locks
* Hunter - the half-elven ranger who's precision with the bow is often fatal to his opponents
* Greybear - the druid, able to access the divine power of nature itself
* Arti - a mage wielding powerful arcane forces
* Jessriel - a former prisoner with hand to hand combat skills as effective as any blade or club.
* Bergin - a minotaur and cleric of Kiri-Jolith

As they entered, the party found a crudely carved path way leading to forked intersection.
Opting to head left, they encounter a pair of zombies milling about. Bergan is able to call upon the power of Kiri-Jolith and keep the zombies at bay. After a few well placed arrows, Hunter destroys these two creatures granting them eternal rest. The rest of the area was empty, except for the unmined stones still in the walls.
Heading forward, they entered a huge open cavern. In one corner was a small pool of fresh water from an underground stream... but more immediately of concern was the zombie rising from the floor to attack the party! And second only to the attacking zombie was the animated skeleton that was also advancing on the group!!

Once again, the divine power of Kiri-Jolith aided this party through his faithful servant Bergan and sent the zombie cowering in a corner. Meanwhile others rushed in to deal with the skeleton.
Afterward, the party moved into the back half of the cavern. As Greybear bent down to retrieve a fresh torch from his pack, an arrow flew past where his head had been a mere moment ago. Down a side hallway, the draconian archer was retreating into the shadows.
The party gave chase down the hallway, and around the corner, only to find the draconian poised for a second shot. With less accuracy than the first arrow, this one flew wide and missed it's intended target. As the party now moved in to melee combat with the draconian, zombie and skeletal warriors blocked their path.

After a few minutes of fighting, the party defeated the undead and knocked the draconian unconscious. That last part was due to a very effective uppercut from the kender!

When the draconian awoke, he found himself bound and surrounded by the party. With complete disdain for his captors, the draconian revealed some information about what had been going on here at the keep, and particularly in the caves. He described a chosen one that was the leader of all the faction in the keep; that this leader was following a dark power and that all the followers had undergone a Ceremony of Blood ritual. The ritual did not sound like the practice of any one particular god, and in fact seemed more like a loyalty pact from one of the "Fallen".
In my version of the Dragonlance setting, the devils and demons of D&D are called the Fallen (devils) and Forsaken (demons) and have a history dating back to before the formation of Krynn. Also, I allow for the concept that some very powerful beings, such as demon lords can grant some small amount of clerical power to a limited number of followers. Luckily, the devils and demons can never gather enough followers to rival the gods in divine power, or can they...
As the draconian revealed more information, it was clear that he was only a low level member in this Cult of the Shrouded Fist. As the party continued to try to get information from the draconian, a pair of goblin guards rounded the corner and immediately armed themselves against the party.

Greybear, thinking fast, spun around and shouted at the goblins, "Do not disrupt the Ceremony of Blood!" The goblins immediately prostrated themselves before what they thought were other members of the cult. With another command from the druid, the goblins were leading the party and the bound draconian (who the goblins were told was a disloyal cultist) through the caves and straight to the Chosen One.
As the party rounded the turn, the saw into a chamber a little smaller than the main area. At the far end of the chamber, behind a alter of black granite was a hobgoblin clad in robes studying over an open book. As the party entered, with the bound draconian in tow, Greybear tried once again to bluff the cult leader, but made a fatal mistake of saying that he was part of the cult in Flotsam, which the cleric knew to be false. In his gutteral voice, the hobgoblin ordered everyone to attack the intruders.

As the fight broke out, the two goblins who had lead the party into this room attacked along with a pair of undead also in the chamber. Bergin and Hunter were busy dealing with the undead, while Jes and Arti dealt with the goblins, including a nasty goblin rogue who had been hiding in one of the rooms off the back of this ceremony chamber. Only Greybear was initially in close combat with the cleric. At first the hobgoblin tried using a death touch ability on the druid, but Greybear resisted the powerful arcane magic. Meanwhile the bound draconian used the fog of battle to make a quick escape out of the mine. Bergin gave quick chase and caught up with the escapee outside and knocked him unconscious.

Back in the caves, Arti tried using his spells to magically transport the hobgoblin into the center of combat (where he would be surrounded by attackers), but the magic was not strong enough to affect the cleric. While the cleric was able to avoid that effect, he had still taken significant damage from other attacks, even after using his wand to heal himself. While trying to flee, Greybear and Theo's final attacks killed the cleric.

As the cleric died... a strange blue light filled the room. The light seemed to be "leaking" out of the black granite alter. After a moment the alter crumbled and embedded within was a mummified claw.

At the same time, Arti's pack split open and it's contents spilled onto the floor. The dragon claw he had been carrying around (since the end of "A Dungeon and a Dragon (Part 3)") also glowed the same eerie light as the one in the rock.

Both pieces flew into the center of the chamber and a square arcane barrier flared up as mist coalesced into the ghostly form of a black dragon. The ghost announced that it was the Black Scourge and once all 9 mummified pieces were returned to this chamber it would be free to once again unleash "waves of blood" on the cities and towns of Krynn.

As the ghost dragon spoke, the same mist vapors that formed it's image were also filling up the room and turning noxious. The party made a quick retreat from the caves out into the fresh air where they were safe... for now.

The trip back to Flotsam was uneventful with the party starting to plan their next moves, including looking for more clues to where Catronia might be and what could possibly be done to defeat or dispel the Black Scourge!