Thursday, November 25, 2010

Session 22: Back to Stonehell

[Note: Some of the early events of this session report -- up until the party reaches the box canyon housing the entrance to Stonehell -- actually took place at the end of the previous session, but for reasons of dramatic effect and narrative coherence, I saved them for this session report.]

The party awakened in Fortinbras early on the 47th day of their adventures together, ready to head up the slopes of Greystone Mountain and re-enter Stonehell in an attempt to rescue the dwarf Gark and his party, presumed lost or otherwise detained somewhere within the megadungeon's depths.  For this purpose the party -- Hazel (Ftr.-3 / MU-3), Innominus (Clr.-5), Uncle Junkal (Rodian Bard-3), Dak (Dwarf-3), Yor (Dwarf-4), and NPCs Gorgo (Dwarf-3), Darvey (Dwarf-1) and Garvey (Dwarf-1) -- hired a couple new NPCs -- Marko Halfdagger (Thief-5) and Rolfe the Barbarian (Ftr.-3) -- to aid them in their noble task.

However, before they could even leave town, Brother Albert, one of the Clerics of the Temple of Carcoon, sought them out at the Drunken Yeti in order to inquire as to the whereabouts of Brother Camus.  The latter had not been seen since the night before, when the party accompanied him to Bandit's Knoll to sell off Uncle Junkal's accursed mirror.  The party had last seen Camus leaving the Drunken Yeti, presumably headed for the Temple.   This they reported to Brother Albert, who asked what exactly they had been doing that night, which they also told him.  It turns out that nobody at the Temple of Carcoon (including the high priest) possessed any knowledge of Camus' side dealings in necromantic artifacts, and upon hearing the PC's report, they grew rather alarmed.  Suspecting that perhaps Brother Camus had staged the mirror exchange with the mysterious rodian in order to secretly procure it for himself, Innominus suggested that the Healers of Carcoon begin investigating recent withdrawals from their own treasury.  The Carcoonian treasurer, Brother Norbert, said it would be a couple of days before he could definitively determine whether or not the missing cleric had illicitly withdrawn any funds; the party, having nothing further to contribute, left town in their recently acquired wagon, reaching Greystone Mountain in a day and a half.

Late in the afternoon of their 49th day of Arandish adventuring, the PCs re-approached the box canyon high on Greystone Mountain, to see dark smoke billowing up from somewhere on the south ridge, and to hear the nearby marching of multiple, heavily booted feet.  They set Marko to investigate the sounds; he came back minutes later and said it was a patrol of 14 Hobgoblin warriors, marching in two columns down the mountain -- in broad daylight.  This was alarming news since Arandish Hobgoblins are typically severely debilitated by exposure to direct sunlight, whereas these ones showed none of the expected signs of skin-burning or fatigue.

Pressing on without confronting the daylight-impervious hobgoblin patrol, the party reached the mouth of the box canyon at dusk.  There they observed that the hobgoblin encampment atop the southern canyon wall was even bigger than it was when the PC last saw it seven days before; said camp also seemed to be source of the column of thick, black smoke billowing into the sky.  The PCs entered the canyon as stealthily as they were able.

However, they must have been spotted, for a crossbow bolt whizzed out of the darkness from somewhere on the southern canyon wall and struck Garvey the dwarf.  The party instantly ran for the nearest cover: a cave entrance in the south wall of the canyon.

They found themselves in the middlemost of three interconnected, dark chambers.  Innominus investigated the chamber to the west, finding within six undead skeletons, which he promptly turned.  Meanwhile, Dak and Uncle Junkal searched the eastern chamber, while Hazel turned herself invisible and headed sneakily back out into the twilit canyon.  Yor and the NPCs stood guard at the cave entrance.

Out in the canyon, Hazel saw a troupe of heavily armed hobgoblins descending the canyonside toward the PC's cave; she rushed back inside to warn her companions.

In the eastern chamber, Dak and Uncle Junkal found a central hemispherical cenotaph inscribed with chaotic etchings; the bard studied these writings while the dwarf searched the eastern room's wall mosaics for some sign of secret doors.  A couple of turns later, Dak found a hidden door-latch on the south wall, and Uncle Junkal had deciphered a portion of the cenotaph text that described a "colossus" that "lies beyond the dark ocean."  Meanwhile, Hazel had reentered the complex and warned the party that a hobgoblin patrol was on its way.  Deciding to open the secret door and hope that they could evade the hobgoblins by plunging into whatever chambers lay behind it, Dak pulled the latch.  There was a flash of blue light and Dak took some shock damage, but the door opened and the party fled en masse into a roughly-hewn tunnel beyond.  They closed the secret door behind them.

They soon came to a door, spiked closed from their own side.  They un-spiked it and opened it; three rock trolls bared their fangs at them from the other side.  The party gained initiative; Innominus Held one of them, Uncle Junkal charmed a second, and in the split-second that bought them, Yor slammed the door closed again.  The party re-spiked it and continued further down the rough tunnel.

Reaching a small chamber with a spiral staircase leading up, Hazel -- still invisible -- climbed up, to find herself standing in the middle of a 20' wide underground road, which headed off to the east and the west-southwest.  At the top of the spiral staircase was a a spike driven into the floor with a human skull on top, identical to the one the party saw inside Stonehell during session 18.  Etched into the skull were some words in hobgoblin, which Hazel could now read with the help of her read languages spell: "Area Patrolled by the Skullface Occupational Army.  Stay Out!"  Hazel called for her companions to come on up, then Yor used his +1 Crowbar to pry the Skullface sign out of the rock; in its place the PCs left their own sign, depicting a hobgoblin being sodomized by a kobold.

Heading west-southwest along the road in an effort to locate some alternative entrance to Stonehell proper, the party soon emerged from the underground tunnel.  The road from here westward was cut into the side of a towering cliff; an almost 90-degree cliff wall loomed above them to the north, and a similar cliff plummeted to unseen distances below to the south.  The party was soon approached from the west by a 9-hobgoblin patrol; after a bold and daring skirmish, the party triumphed.  Looting the bodies, they found vials of black oil on almost every hobgoblin; the hobgoblin's breath smelled of it, too. Uncle Junkal found that the oil burned slightly less well than standard lamp oil, and had a more pungent sulfurous smell.  Dak drank a small sip of the oil and reported that his infravision seemed ever so slightly sharper. . . .

To Be Continued. . .

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