D&D Encounters Quest, Scourge of the Sword Coast, part 13

So I’ve been combating the cold from hell as of late, for almost two weeks now. It’s strange in that for the most part I feel much better, but the cough simply won’t go away. I’m on antibiotics right now, and living off cough drops. I feel like I’ve sampled every cough drop on the market, and my favorites right now are Ricola Natural Honey-Herb. If Ricola were a publicly traded company, I should buy stock in them right now. I hate being sick; it’s really annoying, but c’est la vie I suppose.

Anyways, our big damn heroes for the week (prepare for a huge list) include:

  • Szenden , a Half-Elf Fighter
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Valantis, an Elven Monk, of the Wood Elf variety
  • Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter
  • Javert, a Paladin, formerly a Drow but is now a Human for some inexplicable reason
  • Malice, a Tiefling Paladin
  • Mave, a Human Rogue, and the only female in the party
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety
  • Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn Ranger, and newcomer to the party. And yes, his name is a meta joke, assuming you’ve played the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Rook Trillcook, a Halfing Rogue, and another newcomer to the party. A welcome addition, as Mave is typically late due to the player having real-world issues making it at the appointed time

Yes, our party is huge and unwieldy. If this were a home campaign, I’m sure our dungeonmaster / gamemaster / judge / whatever you want to call him would normally scale encounters up as appropriate. I’m unsure if our DM is doing that though, because the issues with doing that with encounters is:

  1. the long battles will be made even longer, stifling progress even further, and
  2. As this is a casual play program, people come and go as they please.

It’s actually surprising that we’ve had a fairly consistent turn-out. When I started, the size of the party continually fluctuated with every session, but now we can count on at least seven player’s turning up. Still, this can change at any time, and that unpredictability is difficult to plan / adjust for.

But I digress…

So apparently I was mistaken for awhile, and we were actually in the ruins of Harpshield Castle last week; I had thought it was a different ruin site, but no harm, no foul. We had obtained the Dwarven bloke stolen from the Duke of Daggerford. Also, apparently a lot of the major bosses have been dying in a similar fashion: their skin would crack and break before exploding in flame, presumably of the magical variety. Clearly, dark magics are afoot…I think in an earlier entry we had found evidence of magic of the Red Wizards of Thay, or something like that…blasted feeble memory!

So we return to Daggerford and immediately go to the Duke to return the bloke. He was appreciative…well, not really. He thanked us and that was it. Some of the more mercenary types among us expected some type of monetary award, so there was a bit of disappointment in the air. We also share our latest findings, including the map we found, with the militia head Sherlyn as well as Sir Isteval. After some consultation, we agree that our next venture should be to Firehammer Hold, a dwarven fortress where we believe the villagers of Julkoun were taken to be enslaved. Also, a dwarf named Jek whom we met when we first arrived in Daggerford and his company of dwarves went to Firehammer Hold, but have not returned, nor has a message been sent. I ask Sir Isteval if he could try to talk to the local Daggerford mage Delfin asking for assistance, as Gavan is a low-level mage and with foul sorcery at work, he could probably be useful in saving Daggerford from the strange goings-on.

Fearing the worst for Jek and his crew, we head out the next morning. Having consulted the map, and realizing we would have to climb treacherous, hilly paths upward, most of us buy mules to help us on our journey. Before we leave the town gates however, we’re instantly summoned by the Duke to the marketplace. Natasha, the former escort / current murder suspect (by the party, not the town) / and currently betrothed to the Duke, is present. I actually try to cast Detect Magic to see if I can learn anything of what’s going on; there’s a mystery surrounding her, but apparently, the crowd is poking and prodding us so much with adoration, that I’m unable to concentrate. I’m somewhat annoyed at this predicament, but I like to think of it as the citizens jostling for position to ask for Gavan’s autograph, which he naturally signs with the ‘mage hand’ spell. Anyways, the Duke basically addresses everyone (and I paraphrase): “These brave adventurer’s defeated many monsters to return the Delimbiyr bloke. We recognize them as Heroes of Daggerford, and award them the key to the city. They’ll take care of your lodgings and board. I understand you’re here to defeat monsters. Let’s see them off!”

So imagine a parade held in our honor, and most of us are riding mules through the marketplace streets. Horses or carriages probably would have been more appropriate, but as we’ve already established, the Duke is amazingly cheap.

We travel the main road (called the ‘Iron Road,’ for whatever reason) for several days before making it to a gravel path that would take us to Firehammer Hold. When we reach about 900 feet up from the road, we notice a lot of birds, ravens and buzzards, flying around in circles. We eventually reach an intersection, where a ten foot statue of a dwarf, pointing up the hill with its right hand, and holding a coin (as part of the stonework; it’s not an actual coin) in the left hand. Some of us recognize this statue to be Vergadain, the laughing dwarf, one of the dwarven pantheon of gods. There is also a basin at the bottom of the statue, and nailed to the chest with an iron spike is a shield with a red symbol painted on it. This is the holy symbol of Laduguer, an evil god worshipped by the Duergar (pronounced Dur-EH-gahr.)  We remove the shield and bury it; when we do so, we hear laughter and the basin suddenly fills with what appears to be water. Some of us bravely drink some of this water, though nothing appears to happen.

The left side path leads up to an empty encampment with small wooden huts; the path continues to loop back to the main path, but near the encampment is a large hold in the ground, where we see a half, dozen corpses, some of them shriveled, human bodies. Shriveled in the sense as if their bodily fluids were removed. We take the time to cover the hole, and get back on the main path, and eventually arrive at Firehammer hold.

To our surprise, there’s no welcoming committee; no guards stationed anywhere outside. There are three notable entrances, with a varying number of footprints at each entrance. We settle on entering the entrance with the medium number of tracks to find…nothing. Well, not nothing, but not opposition. A search of the room we entered as well as nearby rooms reveal several empty chests, but we then discover something interesting: a wooden bookcase hiding a hidden door.

Entering the hidden door, we walk down a corridor before finding ourselves at a stairway at the midpoint; where we can proceed north / up or south / down. Gavan casts ‘invisibility’ on our new halfling rogue as well as ‘light’ on a copper coin to use as a light source. Since it’s a coin, he could easily keep it in his pocket (and thus it’d become invisible), pulling it out incrementally as need be. upstairs, there is a room with water channels; perhaps a temple or a bath? While there are no people present, there are iron doors, barred from the inside, which we surmise is to keep something out. Downstairs, there is a room with a lit fireplace, empty weaponracks, a table with a few stools, and an archway that leads further south. There are two Duergar / Gray Dwarves sitting on the stools, with spears and picks on their person.

With the scouting report in mind, we decide to collectively go south and with extreme numbers on our side, simply decide to charge in, with the intention of capturing one of the Duergar for questioning. We actually do succeed in doing so, though one of the Duergar manages to flee. Tying the unconscious Duergar to the mule Dovahkiin decided to bring into the hold, we proceed to follow the escapee. Two short hallways later, and we find ourselves in a large room with an entrance to an adjoining smaller room. The large room is naturally trapped, with geysers that spit fire across the room at times. In the adjoining room, we’re ambushed of course, by 2 Duergar that emerge from a small area hidden by a large banner, and six more from another part of the room. One things that was unclear is where these six enemies came from: where they invisible? Or did they perhaps teleport in?

After dispatching with our foes, in the previous larger room that was trapped, more enemies emerge from a secret door, but having run out of time, that’s an encounter that we’ll either fight next week, or we’ll have fast forwarded a bit to having defeated it, due to us making slow progress with our massive party chugging along as teenage mutant ninja turtle-ish speed.

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