Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 21

This adventure was Friday September 4, 2015.  K.D., T.F., E.G. and C.H. were present. A.T.’s new character is not yet ready.

A horn-blast from the gate coincides with Gnome Barbarian Wee Jack and half-Orc Ranger Xorn’s return to Riddley’s Crown. The two adventurers stagger into the enclave and offload their weighty cargo – a haul of magical and masterwork weapons and armor, and the bodies of their deceased friends Raygar Brightblade and Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann.

Sister Janus is sympathetic to their loss, but firm in her refusal to bring the late Paladin and Rogue-Ranger back from the Beyond. On close examination of the Paladin’s body, Sister Janus tells Wee Jack that the blessing of Heironeous is upon the Paladin’s remains. She is certain that no power on this earth, not even the greatest Lich, could turn Brightblade’s body Undead. Janus assures Xorn and the Gnome they may bury the Paladin outside of Riddley’s Crown, and his gravesite will never be disturbed.

As to the late Gnome Pann… Sister Janus is moved by his death, until she realizes that her favorite Gnome still lives. To Wee Jack she gives a vial of thick, clear liquid. They should take the Rogue-Ranger’s body onto the plains, pour this liquid over his corpse, and stand well back. It is an alchemical fluid that will burn vigorously after delayed contact with air, and will render their friend to ash.

There is just under an hour to sunset, and now seems best to lay their friends to rest. Away from the enclave walls, Xorn and Wee Jack quickly dig a suitably-deep grave for their Paladin. They inter him with his weapons and armor.

Noomfoodle they lay on the wet grass, gently relieving the Gnome of all possessions except the bag of ‘Gnome Gold’ worn around his neck. Though Wee Jack eschews the civilized ways of his race, that one thing he honors.

The small vial actually contains enough to coat Pann’s body from head to toe. They stand back and count a few seconds. Xorn and Wee Jack are startled by the brilliant white flames that erupt from the liquid and consume Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann’s body.

The walk back to the enclave is in silence. The gate-guard admits them as the last of the evening, and locks the gate for the night.

At their storefront cabin, Xorn and Wee Jack stow the treasure collected from the tower, and convince Jere Collado to come with them for a quick dinner. The mood in the main hall is subdued. The Corinthians brood in a corner by the fire, thoughts deep in their cups.

Ranger Carson Readey is seated with only Carol and Barry of the Redmond Brigade; they look terrible. Wee Jack learns that today’s raid on an abandoned village went wrong. Carol’s brother Jim, and their friends Summer and Steve, were slain by zombies. The surviving Redmonds are at a crossroad in their purpose here. Wee Jack does not try to influence their debate on whether to try for the “big score” that Readey keeps mentioning…or to pack up and go home, counting their blessings for what they have collected so far.

Xorn’s group stays only long enough to dine on overpriced meals, recount the day’s events to Collado, and drink to their lost friends. Then they trudge off to their bedrolls.

Morning comes. The weather is chilly but the sky will not rain. Xorn stops by the office of Administrator Lumberg. The Ranger asks Lumberg if he has any maps of the region in the stacks of documents crowding the tiny room. The Administrator will look to see what he has, suggesting Xorn return later.

Outside the gate, the party encounters a traveler just arriving at Riddley’s Crown. JOSEPH McMICKELSON (new character played by K.D.) is a Cleric of Pelor, and actually very good friends with Cleric of Pelor Jacob Light-Bringer, from years ago. As it happens, Jacob is busy on watch. Collado invites the new Cleric to join them on their trek northeast.

McMickelson would like that. His journey here was, for the most part, quite dull. Joseph makes anecdotal mention of how strange it was to see lizardfolk building that bridge in the bog. This catches everyone’s attention. After considerations for time, the group decides they’ll detour to verify the story.

Not far along the path in the bog leading south to the trade route, the party encounters the team of lizardfolk builders McMickelson mentioned. This was the bridge where Wee Jack saved Pfriem Darkstrong from drowning almost two weeks ago. Now, it looks completely different. The old, rickety boards and questionable handrail are gone. A new, wide, sturdy wooden bridge is nearly finished in its place.

Of course, with their own interests in mind, the builders have included a hazardously open balcony at mid-span. From this sloped and slippery vantage, the lizardfolk expect the occasional careless traveler to fall in, dragging down their gear and weapons as a donation to them. The foreman nonchalantly boasts this feature to be included on the other two bridges, whose replacement will be next.

Xorn intends to ask Administrator Lumberg about the lizardfolk and the bridge-replacement contract when he stops by for the maps. The party hikes out of the bog and navigates the hostile plains toward the northeast. Clusters of mundane zombies are easy to avoid, or to cut down with minimal effort, along the way. Newcomer Joseph hangs back and lets his new associates take lead on those encounters.

To Wee Jack’s relief, no goblins have returned to the tower. Jere Collado looks over the sprung crossbow traps. McMickelson is fascinated by the place. The group unseals the hatch to the cellar, strikes up torches, and proceeds down with the utmost caution.

The underground floor of the tower is, in many ways, worse than the main floor. Water seepage and the reek of decay maintains a distasteful atmosphere. There are supplies down here, probably for the soldiers originally stationed at this site. Rope, basic weapons, bows and arrows, crates, barrels, bundles of provisions – long since rotted of any value.

The rough curved wall has an opening. A hidden door is open, giving up a small storage chamber that was looted and left a mess. A crude tunnel in the back wall of this alcove leads to the vertical shaft Wee Jack and Xorn found in the forest yesterday. This was the goblins’ way in and out.

In the main cellar chamber, Jere Collado notices marks on the wall. They are nicks and gouges from mining pickaxes. The goblins chipped at the stones, looking for something. Xorn suspects the goblins were seeking another hidden room like the one they’d unintentionally tunneled into.

The party makes a detailed Search of the walls, taking close to an hour to be really thorough. On the wall section directly across the cellar from the alcove, Wee Jack finds a hidden lever. Its activation causes a section of wall to slide away.

Everyone jumps clear of the dark doorway. Nothing happens. Light is thrust into the new alcove. Within the little room are three sets of wood shelves, and a wooden chest on the floor. Dustfall suggests this store-room has not been opened since before the undead plague. The shelves hold cloth bags, bottles, and a couple weapons.

Carefully opening the bags, the party finds a cache of gold, silver, and copper coins, all Imperial currency. As the tower is abandoned, this is legitimately theirs to keep. So too are the bottles; a dozen Imperial Navy rum and a dozen red wine, most of good quality, a few of exceptional quality. And silver weapons – a dagger and a short sword. These have Imperial markings on their hilts.

The wooden chest grows more interesting on close examination. Collado would suggest someone pick the lock, but the lid is cemented shut. The cement is a Dwarven mix, but not applied by Dwarves – the workmanship on the mortaring is poor. And the chest is cemented to the stone floor. The word ‘INSOLENT’ is crudely carved onto the lid of the chest.

The party shelters outside the alcove as Wee Jack brings his Barbarian fury to bear on smashing open the chest. The lid shatters after only two hits. The chest is not trapped, as Wee Jack realizes only after he remembers to care.

Inside the chest is an object bundled in fine cloth. Xorn risks unwrapping and handling the object. It is a short-sword, adamantine and sheathed. Its hilt bears an Imperial symbol, but one quite different than the silver weapons. The word ‘SOLACE’ is etched on its cross-guard. When drawn, the blade shimmers with a purple glow. McMickelson is impressed; very few magic weapons have an innate glow, so this is a rare find. Xorn slides the blade back into its scabbard and fixes the weapon to his own belt.

The coins, bottles, and silver weapons they take. Nothing else of value is to be found. The party climbs out of the reeking cellar and leaves the tower. Listen checks hear irregular movement in the trees beyond the clearing. Three zombies lurch out of the woods, two of which Wee Jack remembers as the barbarian zombies he drew away from Xorn when the pair went exploring towards the church last week.

Turns out the third zombie is actually a Wight, to Wee Jack’s exceptional dismay. The Gnome Barbarian feels he has suffered altogether too many Negative Level injuries this month. Joseph McMickelson taps Xorn with Bull’s Strength, then blasts away with a Searing Light. Collado chooses Light of Mercuria, which proves of marginal effectiveness. The Ranger and Barbarian simply attack.

Despite the Undead having the initiative, Collado’s party prevails after a minute of combat. The zombies and wight carried nothing of real value.

The Ranger is wary of the cover provided any re-enforcements by the dense, dark forest. The party quits the woods, Riddley’s Crown their destination. As they walk, the mysterious letter found on the goblin captain’s body comes to mind. Xorn and Wee Jack wonder what secret may be hiding in the forest. Perhaps Lumberg’s maps will tell them.

It is now early afternoon on the 28th day of March, by the local calendar.

 

(end of Part 21)

 

 

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About d20horizons

D&D player.
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