The Withered Fortress

Session 4

A bloody battle (or two?)

QUOTE OF THE SESSION:

Jim: “Looking back (hindsight is 20/20), Edvar’s wisdom of 17 should have told him that drinking blood off the floor was a bad idea.”

The group began by reviewing the previous session’s activities and planning their next move. Wendyl hade made a careful map, which was most useful. Though previously the group had been leaning toward revisiting some areas they passed over then continuing onward through the necropolis, this was not quite what ensued…

The group was standing in a hallway tracked with blood. They decided they’d try and just finish exploring this area a little bit…. just a bit…. then turn back.

Morrykin and Falyn began scouting down the hallway, being careful to avoid the blood, which became increasingly voluminous. The group began to speculate that no single living being could produce so much blood naturally, short of a young Tarrasque. There was also some trepidation about this blood doing something nasty to them all, so Edvar performed a test: he threw an apple into the blood on the floor. Relieved to see that the apple did not burst into flames, Morrykin carefully retrieved it from the blood with an arrow. Upon examining the apple, he found it to be quite fresh! In fact, inviting even. Falyn, noting this, touched the blood. His hand felt warm and invigorated. On a whim, he then touched a little to his tongue. His tongue felt warm and invigorated, too!

What followed is hard to describe. Falyn found that by imbibing larger amounts of the blood, he was healed of his injuries. Soon most of the party was gulping it up, dumping out skins and bottles to fill with the blood, and even wallowing in the blood (in Falyn’s case). During this orgy of…. what would you call it, I dunno… the DM was mentally rubbing his hands together and cackling evilly. [Note: Falyn only “wallowed” in the blood as part of his effort to hide from the wightlets so he could sneak up behind them, allowing he and Morrykin to both gain the benefits of flanking. However, he did drink the “blood” but he does have a wisdom of 8, you know. It is also fair to note that Morrykin did not partake until Falyn remarked that not only had his wounds healed, but the curse he had been afflicted with also seemed to have been canceled.]

Valen the druid was clearly disturbed by what was going on, shaking his head in muted disgust. He began to eye his companions suspiciously, stating, “I’m keeping my eye on them…. watching for when they turn into the evil undead.” Or something like that. Wendyl appeared to waflle on the blood, never partaking in the end.

After drinking their fill, the party noted that the hallway yet continued. They resumed careful progress forward. The blood was now such that they had to slosh through it to proceed. Eventually they rounded a corner and came upon a room containing an ornate marble fountain. The fountain was the source of the blood—it welled up and spilled out onto the floor continually. Also, reclining in the fountain were two wight-looking things!

Falyn reacted before these creatures, and turned an ran out of the room. He sped past his surprised companions, jabbering something about, “here they come” as he exited the hallway and jumped into an empty stone coffin. [Note: Falyn also jabbered “Don’t fight in the blood!” assuming that since the wightlets were treating the blood like a warm and comfy sauna bath, that they would be healed by the blood if they took injury there.] The creatures followed. Morrykin engaged them, stabbing one solildly. He was pleased to see that for once his attack had full effect. He was not pleased when the creature slammed him with his arm, draining his life blood and a point of constitution! This happened once more before the party was able to retreat out of the hallway, back to the room with Falyn. Everyone made ready for battle in this room, but the creatures did not follow.

The group discussed how to handle this, deciding to try to draw the creatures away from the fountain at least, to do battle. They would try to trap them in the hallway.

Heading back to the fountain ready to fight, the group progressed until they found the creatures again. Things went basically according to their plan. They defeated the creatures without much trouble, drawing them into the hallway and cutting off their retreat. In a brilliant move, Morrykin indicated they should move the bodies out of the blood, and stash them in a stone coffin. The DM was visibly disappointed by this. Hehe (yes, they were going to revive otherwise).

This episode was not sufficiently final yet, so the group continued exploring a little bit. They paused to fill up on more blood from the fountain, then passed out into another hallway. The hallway ended in a stone door. Going carefully through, the party found two more doors. From their map, they could tell it was extremely likely the one of the doors must open into a small room. They decided to check that door, then head back as originally planned.

Beyond the wooden door, as suspected, was a smallish room. It was lined with shackles, and skeletons dangled in some of them. There was also a floor plate in the center of the room, which was not concealed. Rather, it seemed it was meant to be obvious to anyone who cared to look. Morrykin investigated this floor plate, and decided it was worth activating. The rest of the group stood back as he performed some gymnastics, hitting the floor plate and tumbling out of the room. As the plate activated, blades sliced from the walls, cleaving the skeletons hanging from shackles there. They clattered to the floor, but nothing else was observed. Afterward, the group decided to head back now, search the tower once more for Mephyrion, and then revisit some areas they may have missed previosuly.

They made their way back up to the first level of the Necropolis. At the top of the stairs, near where they had encountered a nasty beetle swarm, they paused. They heard suspicious noises coming from the huge bone chamber. They moved stealthily into the bone chamber and spotted two skeletons pacing. The DM threw down a challenge—bonus XP if they could kill the skeletons before the skeletons could even act. The group then launched a sneak-attack! They crept up on and dispatched the skeletons with ease, before completing a full round. The bonus XP was claimed!

The gnomes Wendyl and Falyn then made their way up to the tower to search in vain once more for Mephyrion. They scrawled a message for him (in Draconic) in case the little pseudodraon should return. There was some debate over the content of the message, but the final version was straightforward and omitted any derogatory insinuations. Heh.

There was more debate about what to do next. Eventually it was decided that they’d go ahead and camp in the tower. Everyone made their way back up the rickety stairs. There was some drama over whether Edvar would cause the stairs to collapse, but in the end all arrived safely.

There was some more drama over Falyn’s work, hunkered over his armor in a corner, and the wings that could be seen poking out from his back. I will leave Falyn to update his character page if he wishes to go into detail on this subject. The real fun for the night was yet to come…

Valen had the first watch. As he sat alert, two of the party who had gone to sleep (Edvar and Morrykin) woke up, moaning in agony from intense cramps. Additionally, Edvar noticed that his wineskins were no longer filled with yummy-healy-blood, but with nasty-smelly-pus! Ewwwwww! He dumped it out the window, whilst curled up in nauseous agony. To their dismay, Morrykin and Edvar also found that their wounds had returned, at 200% of their original seriousness. Falyn noted this, though he had not yet gone to bed himself. He also recalled that his wounds prior to drinking had been pretty bad. If the same happened to him he could die…

Valen, feeling vindicated about his suspicions, did not act smug. Instead, he did his best to help out the ailing party members. He woke Wendyl (sleeping peacefully) and instructed him that he would probably need to administer some care to Falyn when he attempted to sleep. Sure enough, partway through Wendyl’s watch Falyn awoke, moaning terribly. Then he twitched and collapsed, hovering at -10 hit points. Wendyl was prepared for this, having a magic ring that could cast “Close Wounds.” He quickly applied the spell, which can save characters who’ve dropped as low as -14 hp, under the right circumstances. Falyn survived, though he did not become conscious. This was probably better for him, as he was spared some of the agony that Morrykin and Edvar were enjoying.

Eventually Edvar and Morrykin began to feel better, and they took steps to heal. Edvar also sacrificed a huge amount of his own health to revive Falyn. At this point, it became apparent that Falyn’s 1/2 healing affliction (he receives only half from healing effects) would be a difficulty. The group is really really really lucky that no roving groups of ghouls assailed them during this time :) Imagine if they had chosen to camp in say, the bone chamber, instead? Dodged a bullet there.

The group extended their rest, so that they could be at least partly functional. They also decided that they’d better head back to town afterall, for a recharge.

Carefully, they descended from the Necropolis’ tower and returned to the ruins outside. They proceeded through the old amphitheater and garden, stopping to root through the dire vulture’s nest. Though they did not see any sign of the vulture, some of the group continued to scan the skies uneasily. Some items were retrieved from amongst the ruins of a horse and armor, and the group moved on. They stopped to investigate the ruins of an ancient library, finding no books, but discovering a secret alcove stashed with scrollcases. These were gleefully looted. The group pressed on.

They were somewhat silent in their progress, as there were occasional (loud) failures in move silently checks. This proved not to cause too much trouble, as the one goblin sentry they encountered was passed out drunk.

The group continued out of the ruins, somewhat silently, and descended to the plains below the mesa.

They came upon a deserted goblin guard post, shrugged, and headed back to Grey Mesa. During the trip they spotted heavy wagon tracks and other numerous tracks, leading to and from the ruins and Grey Mesa. In the distance, smoke could be seen rising. As they drew nearer to the town, the sounds of battle could be heard. Valen wanted to help immediately, and the group consented. They did not rush immediately to the battle, however.

They entered the town, seeing at first only gutted and destroyed buildings. They continued moving toward’s Belisande’s tower, wondering if the battle was there. They found scorched corpses piled at the base of her tower, but no battle. It was further East, at the town’s warehouse, that a battle was in progress.

The men of the town were putting up a last stand against an array of goblins, hobgoblins, an ogre and a bugbear. It appeared that they were badly outmatched.

Much to the DM’s disappointment, the party did not discard all caution and charge into the fray. They concocted a careful strategy that included different strategic goals for each member of the party. It went something like this:

The group split and came at the goblin front from behind, hitting at various points in their line. Edvar used his powers to grow to a large size, then engaged the ogre in grapple. He managed to hang on to the ogre the whole fight, which proved to be very important. If the ogre had been landing blows with its huge club, there would surely have been a big price to pay. Falyn had borrowed some spells, using his abilities as a spell thief, to assault the goblin army. Wendyl (and Falyn) cast volleys of color spray onto two tactical goups of goblins—the archers and the captain / caster group. This almost entirely neutralized them. Valen summoned a giant dire bat. The bat suffered from some poor dice rolls, yet made its presence felt on the battlefield nevertheless. Morrykin attacked the goblin archers, making the first kill, then moved to assist Edvar near the ogre. His assistance prevented Edvar from being overwhelmed by other goblins, inclding the bugbear, while he was grappling with the ogre.

If not for the party’s intervention, the town would surely have been wiped out.

In the aftermath of battle the townspeople were grateful, though distraught. They clung to the partymembers, looking for guidance and salvation. The men had been fighting day and night and were exhausted. Many townspeople had been killed, and some carried off captive. The surviving women and children were huddled in the warehouse waiting for the end to come. They told of a small dragonlike thing flitting about during the sacking of the town, and of the attacker’s curious arrival almost within moments of the party’s departure.

The partymembers convinced the townspeople to pack up and leave. Meanwhile, several attempts were made to communicate with Belisande.

It was curious to some that Belisande, who clearly had no trouble defending her tower, did not assist at the warehouse. Eventually, contact was made with Belisande by three different characters (the DM was probably being too generous for that to be possible) ;) (Something is going on with that one, I’m convinced of it.)

Unfortunately, Falyn and Morrykin did not get along with Belisande, and their conversations were short and unpleasant. Wendyl, taking a different tack, had more luck. He extracted some information and engaged in a short bargaining session with her. In the end, little seemed accomplished, though. No trade was made and the party left Belisande to her tower.

The party spent the night watching over the warehouse, but no further attacks were forthcoming. In the morning they traveled to a nearby lake to wash, refresh, and restock. Clearly everyone felt better now after the unpleasantness of the tower. Even Morrykin’s attribute damage and Wendyl’s ghoul fever seemed washed away.

The group headed back to the mesa to fight once more. High, up in the sky, the druid spotted something circling suspiciously.

On top of the mesa once again, the group moved somewhat silently to the manhole cover they had twice passed by without entering. After some discussion, it was decided that it was better to leave the nearby goblin camp undestroyed, for the sake of secrecy. We ended the session here.

DM NOTE: You did not reach the critter this session that had me worried over its sure-to-kill-somebody-ness. That means you’ve got another month to refine your replacement characters!!

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