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August 07, 2003

Defenders Reunion: The Return of the King, and the Sliming of the King

Felix, 8th level half-orc fighter, 75 hp, played by Alex
Rathbane, 5th level dwarven fighter/cleric of Clangeddin, 45 hp, played by Katherine
Donald Collins, 8th level human mage, 43 hp, NPC
Gates, 6th level dwarven cleric of Moradin, 39 hp, played by Aaron
Hendel, 7th level dwarven thief, 38 hp, played by Joel
Nakumanu, 5th level orc fighter, 32 hp, henchman of Felix


The detailed origins of this reunion go significantly back into the pages of the Restenford Defenders, an adventuring party founded upon and dragged through the trials of Lendore Isle.

One of the three fighters this party featured was a strong and charismatic half-orc of unknown parentage named Felix, from “Mork and Gork know where.” Felix joined the party within a few months of its founding in 2172 and rapidly rose in power and skill. In 2177, during the Defenders’ expedition to the “Orcipelago,” Felix acquired a former prisoner blue-skinned orc as a henchman, the falchion-wielding Nakumanu.

In 2179, an adamantium shortsword was created, among the most powerful weapons in Telvar. This intelligent sword, a lawful diplomatic weapon we dubbed Peacemaker, adopted Felix and became part of his persona. The sword enjoys fishing and collects shields.

In 2182, the Defenders unknowingly entered a holy testing ground for the ancient dwarven kingdom on Lendore, thinking it to be a local ruin called “The Sentry.” Inside Felix passed a test of a riddle and a battle, unexpectedly becoming the first king of the dwarves of Lendore Isle in several thousand years, and receiving two important items—a hammer, and a crown.

Unfortunately, Felix and the Defenders knew little of the history and the significance of Felix’s new position. As Felix left for the mainland to train, dwarven emissaries from the White Mountain dwarves and the Shabrundian dwarves followed him, hoping to barter for the crown and hammer. There was a third faction representing the hidden dwarves of Lendore Isle, who now worship an evil god known as the Burrower (actual name Beranar, I think). They disguised themselves as the White Mountain dwarf emissary to discover that Felix was in Teft, and bargained with him, offering money. When Felix hesitated, the dwarves struck.

The psionic powers of these evil dwarves allowed them to capture Felix and hold him long enough to perform a ceremony that theoretically forced him to abdicate his throne, although the enhancements he had received (such as 6 hitpoints) remained. They left a false magical aura-ed hammer and claimed that money would appear. Angered, Felix and the Defenders tried to follow the dwarves, who had flooded the local bards with mail and taken all the horses for easy travel. The crown and hammer had been shipped to the School of Wizardry in Dunador for identification by Zalk, and the evil dwarves intended to get it back. The Defenders hurried to Poseidonus and got the wizard Wicker to transport the party to the School ahead of the dwarves. There was a brief battle and several dwarves escaped, but the items were held.

Eventually the crown and hammer were given to the dwarves of Shabrund in exchange for Balinor’s magical hammer, Wrath, and some other magical items.

In 2183, Felix entered a magical portal in an ancient (dark elven?) ruin in the Orcipelago. There he was asked what god he swore fealty to, and he said none. He was judged unworthy but selected by Clangeddin. He gained a baseball-sized diamond (!), and was cursed with a weakness to stone (in the form of extra damage to him from impacts). But from then on, Felix began to realize that he was at his soul, a follower of Clangeddin. Having given up one chance to become a dwarf (from the crown), he sought another, in the form of holy quests to Clangeddin.

In early 2185, in the mountains of Shabrund, the Defenders traveled to the Horn of Iguilve, a mountain cave full of treasure and traps. In between their two expeditions, Felix decided to become a Defender of Clangeddin, passing a test and defeating a hill giant without his weapon.

In March 2185, the Defenders split up. Felix, Donald, and Nakumanu remained in Shabrund while the rest continued on to a final celebration that would officially end the party in Barnacus, in June 2185. Some of their further adventures have been documented (Balinor, Cassian, and Bogomel joined a party called the Wreckers, Chiaro went off to do some mysterious training, Quentin became the Druid of Lendore Isle, Albee rejoined the Nevronian Church in Barnacus ).

Of note is something that takes place in the distant future of this adventure, but may clarify a few things. In 2191, Balinor and Albee led a party called the Killer B’s into a cave north of Barnacus called Skull Mountain. There they fought a number of dwarves who referred to the party dwarf, Bodkin, as a “traitor.” We slew several, and found amongst the bodies coins bearing the head of King Felix! Balinor immediately sent out a letter to Felix. Who was minting coins of Felix so quickly? He had only been “king” for a few months. What was going on here?

The Present Day

In March 2185, Felix traveled Shabrund to reach the capital city of King Gergon III. Shabrund used to consist of two major cities and three smaller outposts. One large city (the ancient capital), and one outpost have been lost. It is believed that the outpost is occupied by derro dwarves, the darkest kind. There is a racial pride amongst dwarves; they are reluctant to confront another dwarf in combat. They feel a kinship that prevents this kind of war, especially given the decline of the dwarven empires since their height as the Kraken fell ten thousand years ago.

There are currently three kingdoms of mountain dwarves in this part of the world. The Shabrund and White Mountain dwarves vie with each other for trade with their neighbors in the Realm (Wunca) and Cromwell, Drake, and Latt. The White Mountain dwarves carry on a healthy maritime trade and are highly skilled architects; the Shabrundian dwarves are great miners and rely on the Lattlander population for much of their food supply.

The third kingdom is the Lendore Isle kingdom. Once a strong and loyal group of dwarves, the Burrower’s people eventually managed to gain sway over the government, forcing a clan of refugees (known as the Hardaway clan) to Shabrund, where they live as exiled nobility. The remaining dwarves haven’t been seen in about a hundred years. Although they are evil, they are considered a pitiable group by other dwarves, who are saddened that they have sunk so low.

The other kind of dwarves are the derro, or dark dwarves. When the dwarven empire was at its height, there was a great debate between technology and magic as the developing force of power. The savants favored magic, while the mainstream favored technology. A massive civil war sprang up, and broke the empire for good, scattering the dwarves into the smaller groups we see today. The savants fled and are universally reviled by all dwarves, to be killed on sight. They have strange innate magical powers and are thoroughly evil. They are rumored to be in control of the old Shabrundian outpost.

The Shabrundian capital is also lost, but it is no longer clear who controls it. About 50 years earlier, a group of dwarves marched to the ruined capital and encountered two groups of dwarves, one moderately xenophobic (Thewar) and the other very xenophobic (Kagu), each claiming ownership of the city. They also battled a patrol of derro dwarves, and believe them to be nearby as well. There are reports of many bugbears and lizardmen, as well as minotaurs in the deeper areas.

The Hardaway clan is the one group that acknowledges Felix’s kingship, or at least former kingship. Nobody is exactly sure whether he is still king or not. The telling moment came when Felix arrived in Shabrund in May, and the gates glowed and opened themselves at Felix’s approach.

The Hardaways are led by a Duke who for the moment Felix will not challenge. Felix hopes to become a dwarf, to better serve Clangeddin. A Commune spell revealed that there were once three Girdles of Dwarvenkind in kingdom of Shabrund that have been lost, but at least one remains. There was nothing more specific than that, but a likely place to search seems to be the old capital. A girdle of dwarvenkind bestows the characteristics of a dwarf, and if worn continuously for long enough, will transform the wearer into a dwarf.

The representatives of the Hardaway clan sent several people to join Felix on his mission, including Hendel, representative of the people for the Hardaway clan, and Gates, representative of the clergy for the Hardaways, and a cleric of Moradin, the head dwarven deity. Felix also acquired a friend and supporter in Rathbane, a female dwarven fighter/cleric of Clangeddin who follows Felix and supports his campaign for dwarfhood.

That is a mouthful of history, but it is important to understand what is at stake as Felix sets out on his quest. There are whispers in Shabrund about the mysterious half-orc, and Felix is eager to integrate himself into the society. Donald was also intrigued by the possibilities of ancient magic, as he also seeks life-extending magic. Nakumanu hopes to settle down to become a scholar, but he is indebted to Felix and will follow him until released. There are hopes that Chiaro will return from his mysterious training and join the band in the future.

And thus the party set out, and where history ended, a very battle-oriented trip began.

Travel to the Ruined City

The party set out into the tunnels, and only 45 minutes from the outer town, encountered a group of fire beetles (blind beetles that can’t see Continual Lights, and thus have a tendency to blunder past wary parties).

We slaughtered our way past the beetles, before running into trouble. A group of troglodytes melted out from the cavern walls and set upon the party. Felix and the other fighters went to work, initially killing several trogs in the opening moments. There was a spellcaster who revealed himself early, but the party couldn’t reach him easily. Hendel snuck out to backstab him, but missed, and the spellcaster dropped a Hold onto Felix, freezing our most devastating weapon in place!

Hendel continued to miss the caster and was rapidly being surrounded, but Donald saved the day, blasting several trogs with magic missiles before finally dropping a Wall of Ice that killed over half of the force, on our back. In addition the remaining trogs were Held by Gates and Rathbane, who battled to keep Felix from getting his throat slit while keeping the enemies off themselves.

The battle was winding down and the spellcaster knew it, and he broke and ran. Hendel’s final chase and swipe missed, and the caster vanished down the passage, camouflaging as he went.

After recovering from this battle, we advanced forward. Pausing to camp for the evening, we continued on the next day. We heard a distant rumbling and backed off into a side passage, when a huge gray worm came roaring down the corridor and turned on us!

Felix, Nakumanu, Gates, and Hendel engaged, swinging madly and hoping no one would be eaten by the devouring maw. Gates turned the ground to mud, which slowed the worm’s advance, but eventually it brought its poisonous tail into play, and it stung Felix! It also stung Nakumanu, but he resisted the effects. Moments later, Felix collapsed, nearly dead instantly, but was saved by a Slow Poison, and we finally beat the worm back, slaying it (over 400 points of damage dealt).

Unfortunately, since we couldn’t neutralize the poison in Felix, we had to retreat back to town. On our way back, the troglodytes attacked again, near the same spot. This time they showered Donald with missiles, but we were able to cover him long enough for him to slaughter another 10 trogs with a Wall of Ice. The troglodytes backed off and ran as their comrades perished.

This left us suspicious. We advanced back to town, and came to what seemed a natural ambush sight. Hendel checked it out and discovered a huge net on the ceiling ready to drop on us! He climbed the wall and tried to cut down the net, and heard scrambling noises from above. But nothing emerged, and the net was dropped and destroyed.

We stumbled back into town and bought some antitoxin.

We turned around and marched back down the passageway, dodging more fire beetles, before we eventually bumped into a black slime. The blob of amorphous fluid dribbled up the hallway after us, but we ran and left it a considerable distance behind us, while we considered ways of killing it.

We decided to hide in passageway that circled around and simply end up going around the slime and leading it away from us, figuring it was stupid. The plan would have worked swimmingly, maybe, except for…

The yellow mold in the passageway we picked. As we backed away from the slime, Felix was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of sporelike things, and they stuck all over his body and got inside his throat. He wheezed, and collapsed on the ground, dying—but was temporarily saved by a Slow Poison/Cure combination. This left him somewhat stabilized but useless to us, and the black slime was bearing down on us. So we had to battle it—Donald hurled fireballs, while we went at the thing with our single torch (yeah, we hadn’t planned this too well). The creature was defeated just before our fighter (was it Rathbane?) went down.

We hid in the passage, and Felix slowly recovered over hours. Thankfully, nothing attacked us.

We continued onward. Next, we were nearly mangled by a rust monster. But we continued the party modus operandi of running away, screaming.

Finally, we reached a section of the main passage that seemed completely blocked off by deep rubble. So we chose the nearest side passage and started exploring, following our usual “always go right” strategy inherited from other adventuring groups. (Left is right, and right is wrong, so always go right?)

We set up camp one evening, and during the first watch we discovered that a dozen bugbears were watching us. They began picking up the continual light stones we had scattered about to help us avoid surprise ambushes.

They looked at us, said something. We shrugged. They picked up more lightstones. We didn’t move. The situation seemed tense—and then the bugbears just left.

The next day, we were traveling along the passage, when Hendel noticed a pile of gold coins sitting in the passageway. He checked it for some kind of trap, but couldn’t see one. Then his hand was stuck to the outside of the bag!

The bag morphed and tried to suction onto his leg… and stayed there. Hendel poked it and it started to hurt him, so he stopped. We waited.

Eventually it dropped off him, and morphed into something else.

Rathbane was fascinated. She picked it up and played with it, testing its limits. The creature was apparently a mimic, but it didn’t seem particularly intelligent. We dropped some food, and it sucked it up. Then it began following Rathbane around like a very bizarre shapechanging puppy.

The next morning, we noticed a bastard sword lying on the ground after we’d packed everything up. Rathbane ordered the sword to change back, and it didn’t respond. He moved closer, and poked it. The sword clanged. Suspicious, Rathbane reached for her weapon… and her hand stuck to it.

Outwitted by a sack of gold pieces. Go team.

Over the next few days, she tried to train it to be a backpack. This met with only some success, as the thing couldn’t replicated very thin surfaces very easily. Furthermore, we couldn’t help but notice that it was getting bigger and heavier. Still, it seemed to like her, at least, even though Hendel eyed it very skeptically.

We continued on, and eventually managed to reenter the main tunnel. We passed by a carved tunnel of some kind that was full of spider webs. Realizing our inability to cure poison was problematic, we avoided it.

A few days later, the passageway began to ramp downward, and become more smooth, and then, about a month after we’d initially set out, we reached the edges of the ruined city, the ancient capital of Shabrund…