Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 20

This adventure was Friday August 28, 2015. K.D., A.T., E.G. and C.H. were present.

Gnome Rogue-Ranger Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann and Human Paladin Raygar Brightblade sit on the slope of a grassy hill. Pann watches the clouds while Brightblade occasionally deals with any zombies that wander too close. Wee Jack and Xorn have been gone a curiously long time; it’s probably time to check up on them.

Pann and Brightblade follow Xorn’s path to the forest and up to the edge of the clearing beside the tower. Spot checks call attention to the note on the door and the arrows prickling the bare ground. The two adventurers are drawn to the parchment. The Rogue-Ranger finds its message delightfully idiotic; the Paladin just shakes his head.

A Listen check hints at commotion in the upper part of the keep. That might be Xorn and Wee Jack in need of help. Rogue Noomfoodle makes a Spot check and knows the door has not been opened in quite a while. He checks the handle and finds it unlocked. Not caring to Search for traps or otherwise take caution, he swings the door wide open.

Three heavy-crossbows, mounted on the far wall and triggered by the door, fire and hit their targets. Flat-footed against the keenly accurate trap, Paladin Brightblade is hit twice and Rogue Pann is punctured by a bolt, halting them before they can even cross the threshold.

Raygar curses and patches up his wounds. Noomfoodle makes a Spot check though the dim light. He sees a fourth heavy crossbow on the far wall, unfired and pointed at the doorway. Believing it a defective trap, and still disinterested in Searching for any Devices he as a Rogue could easily Disable, Pann suggests his Paladin friend take point.

When Raygar steps through the doorway, he breaks a tripwire that fires the last crossbow. The shot hits the Paladin and badly wounds him. Brightblade must tap himself with Lay On Hands to regain health lost by his Rogue friend’s carelessness.

They take in the shadowy main floor. A stone staircase curves up on the left. Over on the right, a wooden hatch is open to a cellar. In the middle, a stinking mess of bedrolls, Small-sized clothes and gear, and heaps of garbage. Two or three dozen goblins have nested in here for an extended period of time. It is disorganized even by goblin standards; it appears that many of them recently gathered possessions in haste and fled.

Suddenly, a goblin comes rushing down the stairs, evidently in a panic. The creature notices the Gnome and the Paladin in passing, but could care less – it dashes for the hatch and disappears into the cellar. A Listen check by Brightblade and Pann – the clash of fighting comes from upstairs again. Something is definitely going on up there.

*     *     *

Ranger Xorn and Barbarian Wee Jack stand amid the remains of dead goblins, the top floor’s unwelcoming party. A lot of goblins in heavy armor are coming up the stairs. Probably too many for the adventurers to fight at the moment. Wee Jack is up the ladder in a flash and on the roof. Xorn pauses to grab the least gruesome of the dead goblins on the ground before he follows.

Standing back of the hatch, the two adventurers hear goblin shock-troops flood the top floor. None come up the ladder. A dialogue opens, in Goblesh, between Xorn and the goblins’ captain. Both sides insist that the other come up, or down, and visit. A goblin with a creepy voice interjects and politely urges the invaders to come down and be ritualistically slain, as is Nerull’s wish. Xorn declines.

The impatient goblin captain orders one of his corporals up the ladder. Wee Jack readies himself. When the goblin’s helmeted head appears in the hatchway, the Gnome bashes it with his masterwork greatclub. With a grunt and a shriek, the goblin falls to the hard floor. Insult added to injury, Xorn drops his dead goblin down the hatch onto the stunned corporal. The crushed goblin cries out in protest. His cohorts howl with indignation.

Xorn hears a new voice, in Goblesh, informing the captain of intruders on the lower floors, and that many goblins have already fled. The goblin captain details some of his forces to go down and engage the enemy.

The half-Orc translates for the Gnome. Wee Jack is immediately worried; he is not sure who of their party has entered the tower, but knows they risk being overwhelmed if the goblin captain sends more warriors after the first.

A weapon in each hand, Xorn peers down the ladder and sees the corporal struggling to get out from under the dead goblin, with help from an ally. To Wee Jack’s slack-jaw’d amazement, Xorn jumps into the hole.

*     *     *

Catching a second wind, Paladin Brightblade hustles up the staircase, with Rogue Pann close behind. At the top of the stairs, the adventurers see a squad of goblins descending a staircase on the far wall, coming down to fight them.

Raygar casts Protection From Evil on himself. He advances to the middle of the room, which is less of a disaster area than the main floor and doesn’t inhibit movement. There is a Cleric of Nerull among the five goblins that the captain sent downstairs; this acolyte sizes up a hated Gnome and a strong Human Paladin, and targets the latter with a Blindness spell. Raygar Brightblade fails the Will save, and is permanently blinded. Stunned by this sudden affliction, the Paladin reverts to a Total Defense posture.

The Gnome has it no better. Noomfoodle has his hands full with a trio of goblin fighters in close quarters, and has been tagged with Deific Vengeance and Curse of Ill Fortune by the goblin cleric. Even despite a huge penalty to his fighting prowess and all skills, Pann heroically defends the sightless Paladin. Raygar’s only recourse is to serve as a wall of steel to distract the goblins.

Valiant Rogue-Ranger Pann ignores the odds and kills three of the four goblins harassing them. The fourth warrior just gives up and makes a break for the lower floors. Alone now on the stairs, the acolyte cleric retreats back up the way he came.

Brightblade and Pann are horribly wounded, but they have to keep going. They heal up as best they can with what little supplies they have, and start the climb to the next floor.

*     *     *

Xorn’s landing is cushioned by the dead goblin, and the now-dead goblin under it. Some of his momentum the Ranger transfers into weapon-strikes against the goblin attempting to help its ally. That goblin goes from fresh to almost dead.

Barbarian Wee Jack slides down the ladder and takes position at Xorn’s back, and the two adventurers face the encircling horde – the goblin captain, two of his lieutenants, a high priest of Nerull and assistant, and three living goblin soldiers.

The fight is frantic and bloody. Wee Jack and Xorn slay the lesser warriors but the senior officers prove a tough challenge. Xorn is dropped by his injuries, to the verge of unconsciousness but thankfully not comatose. His Gnome ally tangles with the captain after slaying a lieutenant but finds the leader too formidable to face toe-to-toe. Wee Jack wisely climbs the walls to the ceiling, getting himself out of melee range.

The goblin captain, heavily armored and shielded and bolstered by the high-priest’s Bull’s Strength spell, grins with malicious confidence. Most of his forces have run away or been killed, but he senses victory is close at hand. He orders the high priest, lesser cleric, and remaining warriors to go down and help finish off the other intruders. One jittery goblin he sends up to guard the roof. The captain is sure he has this hated Gnome beat.

The four surviving goblins rush downstairs. Wee Jack knows he must deal with the captain and get down to aid his friends, who may or may not have defeated the first platoon sent down to fight. Ignored by the captain as dead, Xorn cautiously sneaks a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds from his belt and drinks it, restoring his vitality and mobility.

Swift to his feet, Xorn attempts to Disarm the goblin captain of his shield. Caught unawares, the captain’s shield is expertly cut from his grasp. The goblin’s hope for victory evaporates. Wee Jack scampers down and flanks the snarling goblin, and helps the Ranger slay their enemy.

Goblin warriors and a deadly cleric are headed downstairs. Wee Jack and Xorn drink healing potions as they make for the stairs, rushing to catch up.

*     *     *

All sides collide on the second floor above ground level. Rogue Pann and Paladin Brightblade are ascending to that level following the cleric that blinded Raygar, as the high-priest of Nerull, his associate cleric, and two warriors reach the top of those stairs to come down. Close behind the high-priest and his dwindling war-band, are Xorn and Wee Jack.

The high-priest of Nerull carries a deadly weapon – a magic Gnome-Bane scythe. The first hit lands on Paladin Raygar Brightblade, already weakened by the crossbow trap and the fight on the lower floor. The Gnome-Bane has no effect, but the critical damage is enough to kill Raygar outright. The noble Paladin crashes to the stone stairs, never to rise again.

The associate cleric tries casting spells but they have no effect. Wee Jack kills him. The other cleric protects himself with Sanctuary. The Gnome Barbarian fails the Will save and cannot attack him, but Xorn’s willpower is stronger and no such compulsion holds him back.

Gnome Rogue-Ranger Pann defeats a goblin warrior. Noomfoodle has been hit once already by the high-priest and is in a bad way, so he withdraws to the lower floor. The high-priest, knowing the fight is lost once the last goblin warrior is cut down, also flees downstairs. Passing by Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann, the high-priest gives up an Attack of Opportunity but lands a devastating hit against the Rogue-Ranger, killing Pann instantly.

Wee Jack, in pursuit and fully enraged, leaps from the staircase at the high-priest. A brief scuffle ensues, and the Cleric of Nerull is killed. In a blind fury, Wee Jack snaps the magic Gnome-Bane scythe and chops its halves into fragments.

Xorn and Wee Jack are the only ones left alive in the tower. As the rush of the fight ebbs, they come to realize that their friends Noomfoodle and Raygar are dead. The living party members move their dead to a clear space near the front entrance on the main floor. Then they collect up mundane daggers and short swords left by the goblins, and use these to nail shut the hatch down to the cellar. There isn’t time left today to investigate down there.

Then, starting at the roof, the Ranger and Barbarian search out the tower, floor by floor. The goblin soldier detailed to guard the roof probably fled the minute he got up there – a length of rope tied around a merlon trails down the side of the tower to the ground. The goblin captain and his lieutenants, even some sergeants, carried quality gear, though it is all Small-sized.

In the captain’s tunic pocket, Xorn finds a folded letter. The letter is written in Gobleshi, though not written by a native speaker; and it is signed with a stylized Dwarven letter “D”. The message instructs the goblin captain and his minions to locate and spy on a city located in a direction from the forest’s edge. That would seem to mean Riddley’s Crown, but clever Xorn knows that Dwarves orientate maps differently than other races – and the wrong Gobleshi word was used for the particular direction. The goblins were mistakenly spying on something south of the forest edge, instead of north, inside the woods, as their patron intended.

What that means is a new mystery to be considered later. It will a long hike back to Riddley’s Crown, taking with them the magical and masterwork items looted from the goblins, and the bodies of their deceased friends Noomfoodle and Raygar. The burden is as much emotional as it is physical.

It is now late afternoon on the 27th day of March, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 20)




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D&D player.
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One Response to Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 20

  1. Pingback: Crown of the Dead [D&D 3.5] – Afterword. | d20horizons

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