Mind Over Matter

Epilogue 4

            Cerelea looks at Nikita with a look of remembrance, “I feel there is no amount of bath that will cleanse the filth from my body, and spirit, though I mean to try. I can’t let the feeling elude me that this was just the beginning of horrors unimaginable. My spirit is scarred, and a scar will not be forgiven. The fight will continue, and quite soon, I suspect. I will not proclaim that I seek glory in battle, but know that my aid is yours when the time comes. I am in need of new clothing as these should be burnt.” She looks down at her bloodstained clothing again remembering the dwarven slaughter in the pool.

            Nikita quickly responds, “Milady, new clothing can be procured as you wish. For those that prefer laundering, that also can be arranged once you decide to slumber.”

            Sten looks into the distance, “I am no stranger to death. The taste of Victory often fuels my desire for the next battle. …Yet not today. My heart weighs heavy and my nostrils still fill with the stench of slaughtered Dwarfs. I need hearty ale and the scent of beautiful women to cleanse my palate and ease my mind.”

            Myst scurries onto the balcony and tugs Gavel’s cloak, “What lies next for us?”  the halfling asks in wondrous bemusement, all the while keeping a wary eye on Rune.

            Gavel pats the halfling on the head, “I agree with Sten but would prefer the ale to be closer to my bed. I am in no mood to share our story yet and surely those within the city will likely be wanting a tale.”

            Nikita warns, “ It would be difficult for most of you to find any solace from the citizens of Kinbrace as the rescue of the Grigor has spread already. For those that wish a strong drink before they sleep, I can arrange a private room near the kitchens.”

            Egan heads for the inside and adds, “So it sounds as if Gavel, Sten and Myst are for a drink. I shall join you and toast success thus far in honor of Tempus.”

            As the group files from the balcony, only Throg remains on the balcony uncaring of the cold. Nikita turns toward the half-orc, “Master tracker, will you join us inside?”

            Without turning his head, Throg responds, “You can return once the others have been settled and show me the quarters already prepared. I wish time alone in the elements for now.”

The young Damaran simply closes the doors leaving the half-orc on the balcony before heading across the room, “I can show everyone their room as it is on the way to the kitchens. For those that choose to prepare for sleep such as Lady Cerelea, I will have bathes drawn and brought to your quarters. Any clothing can be gathered for laundering as well.”

            Nikita leads the group through the estate to a long hallway with a dozen doors. Nikita reminds all that he will collect any written accords for the Duke in the morning and that all should return to the meeting hall at midday as the duke requested. He gestures to each door as he passes and assigns rooms. Cerelea, Griffon, and Rune enter their rooms awaiting the services of a bath, laundry, and eventual sleep. Nikita leads the remaining party members to the kitchens and identifies a small room nearby with a fireplace burning full. A few minutes later, an older gentlemen brings a tray with four tankards and then returns with a small keg of dark ale with a robust nutty scent. As Nikita departs, he adds, “Please find time for sleep and again we thank you for rescuing Sir Grigor and the others.”

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Epilogue 3

Egan steps forward still wearing his blood encrusted armor, "My only request is to be informed of the next foray into the dark dwarf Infested halls. I will avenge the dwarves and place another layer of duegar blood upon this armor, by Tempus!"  The duke nods his approval at Egan. “Your reputation precedes you Blade of Tempus and I am certain you will get your chance to bring wrath to the duergar and their giant allies.”

            Griffon clearly speaks, "Milord, Ilmater's wisdom guided us through these trials and aided our mission to rescue your son and our Dwarven allies. I seek no wealth, lands or title. I wish only to further serve the people of Soravia in their time of need and avenge those that fell by the hands of the Duergar and that tentacled abomination.  Consider me at your disposal if you deem me worthy of defending your Duchy." The monk bends on one knee and bows his head. “Please rise Brother Griffon,” the duke replies. “You stand among friends, among allies, and I am grateful for each of you and your service to Soravia, Damara, and our dwarven friends.”

            Before gavel or Rune can comment on their request, a young Damaran enters in robes and draws the duke’s attention. The young man merely nods and places his hand upon his temple then his mouth. The duke turns to your group and continues, “Please excuse me as I must receive a message from Falstrag. I would ask you to rest a few days and enjoy the hospitality of my manor and Kinbrace if you wish to see our city. I would like to meet you all again on the morrow at midday to present you tokens of our appreciation and inform you of what we have learned of the duergar leader and the tentacle beast.” He turns to Gavel, “Fine paladin of Tempus, I imagine your request would be as modest as your companions here.” He turns to Rune, “I am never sure what a wizard desires, so please provide a written accord of such to young Nikita here. He will also secure the written accord of Throg’s request and it may be sealed if the request is for my eyes only.” The duke looks at the lad and continues, “Show them where they are and provide for their needs Nikita.” He then exits with Commander Petrov in tow.

            The yound lad smiles at the group, “I am Nikita and am very pleased to meet you. I recognize many of you from the tales I have heard. Please come see.” The young robed man moves to a large door along the wall and opens it as a cold gust of wind enters the room from beyond. He steps through and motions for you to follow. The door leads to a wide circular balcony some four stories above the cobbled inner courtyard below. You quickly view the landscape about you to see three other castles connected by a stout stone wall that encompass a small city and evidently connect to the castle where you stand. Nikita points to a winding river that runs along the distant wall. “That is the Galena Snake River coming from the north and going southward to join with the Icelace River. Beyond it to the west lies the lands of the Barony of Morov. The city before you is the capital of Soravia, Kinbrace. Some 4,000 souls call this their home and almost all would be pleased to meet heroes such as you.” The young man pulls his robes against his body to lessen the chill, “I can show you to your rooms, the kitchens, the commons, or the infirmary.”

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Epilogue 2

Throg quickly takes a step forward  and grumbles, "I have no use for your money!  And you can keep your land and fancy titles. But I could use your help finding someone I seek." Commander Petrov scowls at the half-orcs tone and takes a step forward, but the duke holds his hand upward to stop the man and then answers. “Master tracker, you will have what knowledge and aid Soravia provide to the fullest. I would ask you to write your request with as much detail to ensure we are able to find what you seek.”

            Myst steps beside Throg  and grins widely, "My services are always at your disposal and I'll graciously accept any trinkets or titles you throw my way. But I work best in the shadows, and any way you can assist with that would be beneficial for us both.” The halfling exaggerates his hand motions to reiterate both by one being placed on his chest and the other extending to the Duke. “Either way, our current contract is fulfilled."

            Sten walks before the duke, “Here is the Warhammer of the Duergar Chieftain. May this hammer always remind us of his defeat, and may it symbolize the forging alliance between our houses.” Sten kneels before the duke and raises the hammer above his head. The Duke takes the warhammer and hands it o Commander Petrov. Sten stands and takes a step backward before he continues, “Yet, I am not a diplomat. I am a warrior. I hear Soravian steal is legendary in quality and to wield such a shield or blade is a great honor. I offer my steal and my strength to protect Soravia until the Duergar are defeated and the Dwarfs of Skywatch are avenged.”  The duke smiles and responds, “I am honored to call House Dormythyrr an ally and have always approved of the strength and sincerity of the people of Brandiar. My eldest son has spoke fondly of you and I accept your gift. I will find something of value to bestow upon you my noble friend to reciprocate such an alliance.”

            From beyond the group Cerelea walks just before Throg and speaks, “I feel I could further serve Soravia and Damara as a whole if I could have just a minor title bestowed upon me. I need no lands, or wealth, just something that allows me to serve the current lords and ladies of Damara in a more official capacity.”   The duke raises an eyebrow as if his curiosity is peaked and then strokes his beard a few seconds before replying. “Mistress Cerelea, many tales surround the court of your beauty and influence. Most titles require either land ownership or fealty to a patron or lord. If I bestow a title upon you, it would bind you to Soravia and to Damara as you suggest. I believe I could find a suitable position for your talents but will allow you to think upon it to ensure you contemplate its bonds. I would grant you the title of Lady Cerelea, Emissary of Soravia for the Damaran Court and Foreign Affairs. This position would require you to gather intelligence and carefully wield influence to benefit both Soravia and the peoples of Damara.”

            The duke looks at the remaining heroes for their requests. Eyes turn toward Gavel, Egan, Rune, and Griffon.

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Epilogue 1

As you enter the teleportations circle, a slight disorientation sweeps across you and then you stand in a large stone room. A ring of hardy fighters dressed in furs and dark dyed leather armor with metal studs surround you. Their crossbows are raised at the ready and the sight on you. A voice booms, “Hold!” You look to the voice to see the Damaran that accompanied Duke Sergei Shemov at the Towering Pine. He nods politely to your party and upon seeing Grigor, motions his men to collect the Duke’s son. “Worry not adventurers, those you sent first are in the infirmary and we have healers prepared for Lord Grigor and you if needed. Come, and we shall see your wounds bound in preparation to relay your tale to the Duke.”

            The large Damaran realizes the two dwarven corpses and Toogrod Silverhelm among your circle. “Good dwarf, please accept the aid of Soravia and our sorrow for the loss of Skywatch and your brethren. We will honor your dead and prepare them for what rights you wish. Your kin sent before you are receiving the best care available.” He scowls as he sees the dead duergar and the strange tentacled rubbery skinned creature in your midst.

            The large man looks at your bloodied and battle weary party before continuing, “I am Gennady Petrov, Commander of the Snowguard and War Counselor to the Duke. My men will secure those bodies for later investigation. Please follow me to the infirmary and then we will speak more.” He turns to lead your party from the room as his men carefully secure the corpses of the Goldmantles while others simply drag the duergar and the strange creature by the heels from the room. You wind through some corridors and ascend a flight of stairs to the infirmary where you see those you rescued being tended. Toogrod quickly runs to the dwarven female, Orra Ironhand, and begins speaking to her rapidly in dwarven. She begins to cry. Gavel speaks lowly to the group, “He has told her of the death of Kibik and Lodrik Goldmantle.”

            Commander Petrov turns to you, “Please allow our healers to bind your wounds with clean bandages. I will inform the Duke of your success and prepare a room for you to share your findings within an hour. If you choose to rest and bathe before, you will have the chance.” The commander turns and leaves the room.

            Shortly after an hour, each of you are summoned and led to a grand hall. The Duke of Soravia stands as you approach and walks toward you. He takes the time to personally clasp each of you by the hand and thank you for returning his son. He then asks you to be seated and share your tale since last you met. Over the next hour, Duke Shemov and Commander Petrov listen to your tale and ask many questions about the adversary now occupying Skywatch. They show particular interest in your belief that the giants are being controlled somehow by the duergar using the collars and crowns you describe. The duke relays that he has researchers attempting to identify the tentacled creature as it sounds like this creature was directly supporting the duergar general. After the discussion about Skywatch and your successful mission to extract his son and the other survivors, the duke changes the subject. “You will forever have my gratitude and I will share your heroism and duty across Damara.  I would also ask you to enjoy the comfort of my estate while we wait for Falstrag to return or report. Meanwhile, I would ask you to consider a reward for you valor and deeds. I have access to wealth, knowledge, and land. I am prepared to honor you with what you choose.”

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The Great Hall

Beyond the heavy iron doors lies the Great Hall. The massive room spans nearly 100ft long 60ft wide and some 60ft high. Raised balconies to the left and right would allow an additional audience to view the throne at the distant end. Four large pillars centrally spanned support the carved stone roof honoring the dwarven pantheon. Upon the throne sits a long-bearded duergar cloaked in heavy furs with a warhammer across his lap. To each side, a nearly 20ft tall giant with dark skin and red hair suggesting a fire giant lineage stands in plate armor and grips a heavy blade. Each wears a thick dark iron collar and watches you with malice. A shackled man with long brown hair is prone before the throne. He appears to be stripped of any clothing and severely bruised. A naked male dwarf hangs upside down from each pillar closest to the throne. between you and then enemies beyond are another two stone giants and six duergar stone guards. The duergar speaks in a low growling voice, “So the Duke prefers to send more of his kind to their doom! I accept your sacrifice and will send him a rug made from your heroic skins.”

The battle is savage and some of the party fall unconscious dying only to be saved just before succumbing to death. Throg is dominated by an unseen enemy and causes significant damage to the party. He shakes the domination just in time to turn the battle, joined by Rune's giant ape form, and a reinvigorated party.

The dwarven body hangs immobile and a small pool of blood lies beneath. Strangely, a series of holes is noticeable throughout the dwarve’s scalp.

The unseen foe is revealed as a female duergar using mind magics. Somehow, Throg and the giant ape resist the creatures mind blasts and Myst crazily disembowels the tentacled creaure.

The party defeats the collected foes and find Sir Grigor barely alive but unconscious beneath the throne. They bar the door against the approaching intruders and make their escape through the last teleportation circle.

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The Long Hall

The long hall before you has stone pillars carved into the deeds of dwarven heroes spaced at 15ft intervals along its 90 ft length. The pillars are 15ft from the walls allowing a large 20ft central approach to the massive iron doors at the halls far end. It is obvious that a large battle took place here, but the remains of the fallen have been removed. The pillars have been marred by the intruders leaving small chunks of rubble strewn about. Most pillars have a magical flame burning within a sconce on the pillar’s inner facing 15ft above the floor; illuminating the long hall and its arched 30ft ceiling. A troop of armored duergars and two stone giants stand vigilant guard before the iron doors.

The party rushes the iron doors of the Great Hall to defeat six Duergar Stone Guards, two Stone Giants, and two Duergar Darkhafts (the suspected controllers of the giants). They then siege the large doors to the Great Hall and were able to muscle their way into the Hall.

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Captors and Captives

The mangled dwarf leads you to a set of large double doors and begins shaking his head and lifting his arms to give warning that danger is beyond. After everyone stops moving, you can clearly hear a muffled ruckus through the thick doors as if many creatures are on the other side.

Peering into the room reveals a huge dining hall with several long tables and two large hearths ablaze with an iron cauldron hung in each. At least a dozen goblins are at the center of the room jeering and arguing in their guttural tongue while two hulking ogres sit along the right wall near one of the hearths watching the commotion. An additional set of double doors is along the left wall near you and a smaller door is across the room flanked by what can only be two stone giants with granite grey skin and gaunt features.

The party ambushes the mess hall full of enemy and realize that the giants wear large iron collars with an inset gem within (at the base of their neck) and that the duergar wear iron crowns inset with a different gems (upon their forehead).  The group quickly find the captives to reveal that sir Grigor and two noble dwarves, Kibik and Lodrik Goldmantle, were taken to the Great Hall by the duergar.

The party discovered the following captives. A total of 16 dwarves and 4 humans, all shackled in what once was a large pantry.

 

(9) dwarven females (minor injuries) [Daglarul, Keshra, Unla, Belba, Yari, Yurna, Ranala, Frita, Nola]

(2) dwarven females (unconscious due to beating) [Gani, Uada]

(1) Tirras Thunderblade – female warrior (broken right leg and left eye burnt out]

(1) Orra Ironhand – female warrior (amputated right hand, badly beaten)

(2) dwarven males (unconscious due to beatings and brandings) [Garin, Grongus]

(1) Banthic Steelbeard – male smith (both eyes burnt out, vocal chords injured, must whisper]

 

(2) human fighters (hands mangled, smashed by hammers, beaten badly) [Gustav, Harald]

(1) Kaare Kampen – male archer (numerous broken ribs, broken right ankle, three fingers missing on left hand)

(1) Jobban the Young – male knight (a 1 inch hole burnt through each palm, beaten badly)

 

Rune uses one of the teleportation circle scrolls to evacuate the survivors. However, Toogrod remained to guide the party to the Great Hall.

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Defiled Sanctuary

As you surface in the pool, an unbearable stench assaults you as the blood-thickened water clings to you like a thick gel. Dim light from high above barely pierces the darkness, but you can’t help but notice the carnage that surrounds you. The remnants of dwarven bodies are strewn about this 30ft chamber of smooth stone and float about you in the 10ft wide pool of butchery. It is impossible to determine how many dwarven corpses are actually here as their remains are spread throughout the chamber. A narrow natural stair ascends the wall to a ledge some 20ft above the pool. As you reach the ledge, it opens into a long room 20ft wide and 40ft in length. The carnage below is mirrored here as the floor is bathed in congealed blood and viscera. A distal door of heavy wood and iron bands is visible on the distant wall flanked by two low burning braziers.

Beyond the heavy door lies a circular chamber with a door in each cardinal direction. Obviously converted for use as a prison and torture chamber, several manacled dwarves are connected by heavy chains hung from large pitons driven into the stone walls at a height of 10ft. Many are limbless and all are covered in dried blood with obvious scarring from deep burns. A low burning brazier is in the center of the room and has several brands resting in the embers. The stench of blood, burnt flesh and sweat fill the room.

The group find a dwarf barely clinging to life and are able to heal him enough to gain his aid. They discover that the dwarf is Toogrod Silverhelm, a minor priest of Moradin, who has had his tongue, his thumbs, and his forefingers removed. Toogrod communicates through writing and leads the party to a small sanctuary to reveal what he knows about the intruders composed of duergar, stone giants, goblins, and ogres.

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Into the Wild-2
The Dark Spire

After exiting the golden grasslands of the Glade of Sighs, the keystone pulses with verdant green light and pulls at the bearer’s consciousness. The path lies ahead through a forest of thick twisted trees with enormous roots that break the surface of the ground. The spires visible upon the glade are now hidden beyond the canopy of warped limbs and heavy moss. Time passes slowly as you wind through the limbs and trunks. A damp musty odor fills the forest floor and shadows deepen in the recesses of the large trees. The keystone leads you to the base of a huge earthen spire covered with tangle vines and twisted brambles. It appears to rise at least 80ft above you and is equally as wide.

The party recognizes the threat of decaying vegetation near water-soaked areas. They scale the spire using various methods to avoid the tainted regions near the lip.

Cresting the spire reveals a circular plateau surrounded by a series of decaying trees and diseased vines. A dark pool stretching 15ft across is centered in the plateau and rivulets of sluggish water spread to the plateau’s edges.  As you move closer to the pool, two large moss-covered hillocks near it shudder to life and twist about. Earth and water tumble to the ground as the hillock stands and unveils a giant humanoid with a cruel and twisted form. The closest tightens its grip on a thickened tree trunk and yells a guttural warning. A slender figure rises from the pool, its features hidden by a tattered dark green cowl and strands of withered cloth. The sickened plants surrounding the pool recoil and wither further at the figure’s mere presence.

A battle ensues as the group faces two fomorians able to misshape their opponents and a dark fey nymph with blinding beauty, a defiling touch, and druidic spells of significant power. The party eventually slays the pools guardians, but realizes that the pool has been corrupted by her presence.

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Into the Wild-1
The Summer Court

The forest gives way to rolling grasslands where a perpetual breeze ripples across the tops of the waist high golden grass. Bright purple and yellow flowers dot the thick fields ahead and dark distant pillars can be seen when cresting the hills.  You notice small fairies buzzing about the grasslands beyond your reach. They appear curious at your presence and watch you while chittering in their high-pitched voices. Their speech rises and falls but they continue to pace you across the fields.

The group discovered a change in the glade.

The fairies appear to have vanished, yet the grass continues to rustle in the breeze. A fair voice breaks the solitude, “You trespass within the Glade of Sighs. This land is well known to be protected by the Summer Court."

The group finds themselves surrounded by strange wood elves and stranger feline creatures. Through diplomacy, guile, and some luck; the party is able to negotiate passage across the glade with the druidic elf leader.

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