Summary #3: Death Fires a Flaming Crossbow
Balinor, 9th level fighter, 86 hp, played by Joel
Albee, 7th level monk, 42 hp, NPC
Anselm, 6th level cleric, 30 hp, NPC
Bodkin Goldsummit, 1st level dwarf fighter, 12 hp, played by Katherine
Morhion, 1st level cleric, 10 hp, henchman, played by Joel
In an effort to relieve his debt, Balinor organized a party for a hopefully profitable expedition to the overly dramatically named Skull Mountain.
This is a skull shaped trio of caves set into a rock face about two days north of Barnacus on Lendore Isle. The top of the skull connects to the back of a large descending hill. Adventurers going to this location have been closemouthed--some have come out with considerable treasure, some have come back empty, and some have not come back.
In an effort to design a slightly more balanced party, Balinor tried to interest some Nevronian help in the expedition. He came up with a fairly strong party...
Albee was at least a moderate friend of Balinor's during his tenure with the Defenders, who helped catapult him to name-level as a monk. Still, Albee was disappointed as he felt that the party was not directed strongly at eradicating evil foes of Nevron. He wields a magic Extend-o-Spear to good effect, and is extremely durable for a monk.
Anselm was the highest level available adventuring cleric from the church of Nevron in Barnacus, run by Archbishop Aware. Anselm is fairly fragile, but quite good at avoiding damage, and a powerful cleric. He and Albee are promised 50% of the treasure from the mission (after salvage tax).
Bodkin Goldsummit is a neophyte dwarven spear specialist who heard about Balinor's great fighting prowess and sought the warrior out. He hums absently whenever the party stops to rest or search, and seems fairly paranoid, an excellent survival trait for any green adventurer who hooks up with Balinor. He is an avid and experienced gambler AND teamster (a good-natured Jimmy Hoffa?).
Morhion is Balinor's henchman cleric of Nevron, also a Northerner. He has accompanied Balinor and survived a mission, and took advantage of Balinor's long training time to acquire extra experience as a caravan guard prior to the rainy season of 2190-1.
Balinor is a name level fighter who specializes in twin hammers. He is a dour and uncharismatic sort, and looks faintly like an armadillo. Surprisingly, he isn't much uglier than anyone else in the party, as only Morhion possesses a reasonable chance of delivering a favorable first impression.
The party (for which I may yet designate a name, if it stays together for any period of time) set out in mid-January, 2191. We began the trek, fraught with encounters, to Skull Mountain. I may not remember all of them...
Almost immediately we were attacked by a burrow worm. We killed it handily, with Bodkin and Albee striking behind Balinor from the second row while Balinor attempted to take all the damage. Having killed the creature, we noted that it had emerged from tunnels, and Balinor recalled that sometimes they have a lair, and resolved to find it. We charged down into the hole, and began walking through it--and quickly came upon another one. It was slain handily, and we mapped out an elaborate collection of tunnels and passages. Ultimately, we found the lair and killed two more worms, and found no treasure except a dozen eggs, which we sold for 600 gp. To Wilbar's Fish and Critters. Argh.
We continued onward, and were surprised by a bandit group. They took one look at the party and fled into the bushes before we could react.
Later in the day, an enormous cloud appeared on the far part of the plain, and began soaring toward us at tremendous speed. Balinor squinted, and realized we were being attacked by a roc!
It swept down toward the party. Bodkin shot it repeatedly, and Balinor struck it a powerful blow with his hammers, which it probably didn't even notice, since it was about eighty feet across.
It swept down toward the hapless Anselm, but somehow it got tangled up in itself and only managed to land one powerful claw, knocking the cleric over but fortunately NOT dragging him into the air!
The giant bird decided not to come around for a second pass for such small morsels.
We proceeded on to Skull Mountain. We walked into the mouth, and found that there were a very large number of crawlspaces, some barely even large enough to fit a halfling through. Nothing was magical.
Checking out the nose cave, we nearly stumbled on over forty stirges. The party backed out quickly before the light could wake them.
In the left eye was a pack of vultures that had lived there for over 20 years. Apparently no one went in or out of that area, so we didn't bother them further.
In the right eye was a pair of giant spiders! We killed the wimpy one handily, but then the queen webbed Balinor and Bodkin! Caught inside, they could not retaliate as they were both nearly poisoned. Fortunately Albee was able to damage the thing quite heavily, and finally Balinor and Bodkin broke free and finished the creature off, saved from poison by a handy healing check from Albee.
We found some dead adventurers there, including a dwarf--who oddly enough was in possession of 6 platinum pieces with the emblem of Felix the Dwarven King on them!
This was strange. Did this mean that the Burrower was involved with this place? Balinor and Albee had encountered this evil deity's dark dwarf minions before when they were part of a raid on a shrine of the Burrower that ended with Felix's brief reign as the dwarven king.
Finally, we decided to wait till evening and check out the top of the hill for additional entrances. We noted that two of the smallest crawlspaces appeared to be sucking in air, and two others were releasing it. A snake reported that the air coming from the tubes was bad air. It was later noted that there were two more holes on the hillside (one in, one out).
As the party crested the top of the hill, a man with a crossbow appeared at the top (it was dark, and we were glowing with Continual Light). Balinor yelled up that we weren't bandits and were just checking out the hill. The man said something to the effect of, "Yeah, right."
Balinor replied, "I'm a deputy of Restenford!"
The man then immediately yelled for them to kill us. Balinor started trundling up the side, but disaster struck.
A rockslide descending on the party, and no one managed to successfully evade it except for Albee. Morhion was nearly crushed under a rock, bleeding to death, and Anselm was hit hard, but the remainder of the group escaped relatively unscathed. Balinor shouted darkly that they'd really pay for that and continued up, while Anselm dropped a Death's Door on Morhion and began Curing himself.
Balinor reached the top where he was attacked by a pair of spearmen and shot at by several men with crossbows. Both missed and Balinor turned one into paste. The other one tried to bowl him back over the edge, but before he could even react, Balinor left his head a ruined pulp.
Cautiously Bodkin crested the hilltop and took down another bandit, but the others turned to flee. Albee was able to snag one and two others were Held by Anselm, but the rest got away.
Now we had prisoners. Balinor and Bodkin made very dark and loud comments about how we should kill them, but they wouldn't say much that was helpful about Skull Mountain or their boss, Phil.
Balinor owed Phil a favor. Unfortunately, he also had to deal with these three. We asked them what they would do if we let them go, so we didn't have to march back to Barnacus, and they asked for a few gold pieces and their gear so they could start a new life.
In the end, we couldn't bring ourselves to release these idiots, and so we trudged all the way back to Barnacus, killing another burrow worm on the way. It turns out there was a 50 gp reward for Phil.
We headed back to the Skull Mountain. Deciding that perhaps there was an alternate entrance, we searched nearby, and discovered a camp on the next hill. Hoping to exact revenge upon Phil, we waited in the bushes until nightfall.
When an ogre came wandering up. He spotted us in the bushes and attacked... and Balinor yelled out that we meant it no harm. Yes, we could have killed the pitiful thing, but it worked out much better this way, as we learned that Phil had moved off down the plains after the ogre had chased him off. I'm not sure if the ogre realized that attacking us was a death sentence, but ultimately the thing was fairly helpful, so we let live. We heard a tale from him of a cave adventurers had wandered into from which a shadowy beast had come out. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction to be connected to Skull Mountain, most likely (over half a mile away). Furthermore, the ogre stated that Skull Mountain was haunted.
With few ideas, we camped out for a few nights in the cave.
This produced no visible effect.
The last idea was to plug up the air holes and see if anything came out to check it out. For sheer danger level, we camped inside the cave after doing this (the mouth).
We were sitting in the cave, when a rain of crossbow bolts came down on us. At the same time, Morhion and Anselm froze in place. Balinor and Bodkin resisted a similar Hold effect.
Bodkin ran outside, and was shot in the back by a flaming crossbow bolt. He did manage to spot a half dozen ACTIVE infravision eyes in the darkness, but had to pull back into the cave. Balinor emerged, and tried to chase after the crossbowmen. Unfortunately, they could see him with his glowing light source, and he was going blindly. Shots came firing in at him, most missing, but a few clipping him, doing circumstantial damage. Suddenly, a dagger flashed behind him, clanking off the back of his platemail.
Balinor turned to face a dwarf in studded leather armor. He gave the dwarf a double pounding with the hammers, and the enemy took off like a shot into the darkness.
Balinor tried to hunt him down with Albee skirting the edges of the light, but all that accomplished was drawing flaming crossbow bolt shots (presumably from the dwarf) and a half dozen shots from the other assailants.
This left Bodkin to guard Morhion and Anselm, who were still frozen. As Balinor staggered around outside, over a dozen bolts protruding from his armor, Albee realized that he was helpless to stop this.
A number of shots rained down on Anselm and Morhion, but fortunately they didn't fall. Balinor started to head back, flaming bolts whistling past him.
Then six dwarves flooded into the cave, some in banded armor, one in plate. They barreled in on poor Bodkin, who stood alone against the rush. Bodkin screamed that he surrendered, and wanted to help his fellow dwarves (fully realizing that these active infravision dwarves could hardly be allies). The dwarves demanded that he prove his loyalty by killing the humans. He said he came with them.
They declared that he was then certainly a traitor, and to kill him first.
Bodkin stood his ground bravely, but it was going to be his last stand, clearly, as six trained fighters swooped down on him. He stabbed and held one back with massive damage, but two others poked him from the sides, and bolts fired at him. Somehow he was still standing.
But he had held just long enough. Although Balinor was still minutes away, the forgotten Albee had zipped back to the caves at the first sign of trouble. The wire ball crashed onto the plate mail dwarf, engulfing him! Albee sprinted forward and brought down a second dwarf with an open hand/spear routine.
The dwarves fighting Bodkin finally dropped him, but at that moment the Hold collapsed, and Anselm and Morhion came free. Anselm dropped a Cure on Bodkin, while Morhion jumped forward to cover. He paid for this, being dropped on the ground, but Bodkin came back up to defend just in time. Albee finished off a third creature, and Bodkin faced off against the fourth. Anselm brought Morhion back up, and Bodkin and Albee finished the dwarves off just as Balinor finally arrived back in the cave, hurt but still a fighting force.
We waited for the final dwarf. Albee took a hidden position on the roof that would shield him from infravision while Balinor presented a tempting target at the cave entrance. We waited, but nothing happened. The dwarf was gone.
The party fled back to Barnacus.
The dwarves were turned over to Duke Haermond, and we still await the results of the interrogation. Servants of the Burrower, with a hidden fortress under Skull Mountain? Will Bodkin reach 2nd level? Will Morhion ever be standing at the end of a combat? Will Balinor be outfought by Bodkin?
More next time!