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Mar 31 2011

Chronicles of Netheril – March 18th, 2011

The Road to Loudwater

We had set off on the trip back to Loudwater a few hours ago. The road conditions were excellent, the weather was perfect and there were no signs of danger on the horizon. Things should have been looking up, but we just couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that there was something suspicious about the seeker accompanying us that Sister Cherra had asked us to look out for. We had been deliberately kept in the dark, and we didn’t like it one bit. That and the fact that his anxiety and nervous behaviour was affecting the morale of the caravan, forced our hand.

We decided to interrogate him, and our unusual approach proved quite successful. Or it might simply have been that he was so terrified that he jumped at the first opportunity to get help. We started by having one of our group approach him and start up a casual conversation about inconsequential things. The small talk was a welcome distraction for him; allowing him to forget about his troubles, start relaxing, and then opened up a bit. At first it was nothing of critical importance. But little by little he opened up more; and whenever he seemed to stall another one of us joined the conversation and added to the pressure. Eventually he told us the whole story.

  • His name was Dernan
  • He was a priest of Selûne; specifically a Silver Star of Selûne
  • He had come to Spellgard to ask lady Saharel where he could find the LAST GRASP OF SHADOWBANE
  • She answered that it was hidden in the Well of Dragons
  • The LAST GRASP OF SHADOWBANE was a legendary weapon that had been forged millennia ago during the Dragon Wars.
    • Its purpose was to slay shadow dragons
  • He doesn’t know what kind of weapon it is; but he hopes to use it to use it to slay the Shades of Netheril
  • His research on the Well of Dragons revealed the following information:

The Well of Dragons

In the canyonlands near the Sunset Mountains, north of the River Reaching, is an extinct volcano known as the Well of Dragons. Legend holds that this was a dragon graveyard – a place where old dragons go to die. That story is true.

A group known as the Cult of the Dragon found the Well of Dragons. The Cult believes that undead dragons should (and will) one day rule the world and, when they found the well, the cult unleashed its ancient guardian: an undead shadow dragon.

The cult built a fortress on the site, and dragons who want to live on in a state of “undeath” now visit the well to bargain for immortality. Deep within the well lies the Chamber of Ascension – the dread place where members of the cult perform the ritual to transform a dragon into a dracolich.

Rumour has it that the well is heavily guarded, and that the lord of the well is a human death knight known as Naergoth Bladelord. In charge of the ritual is a lich called Vargo the Faceless. It is said that when he was human, Vargo used a ritual to infuse himself with black dragon blood. This allows him a good deal of control over black dragons in particular, and he uses them as his scouts and spies all over the world.

The Swamplands

What had started as a beautiful day didn’t take long to turn into a total disaster. The road conditions started to steadily deteriorate and the cloud cover grew thicker and thicker until it was an ominous dark smoky grey. Not long after that, the road became a small trail that lead us directly into a swamp. If that wasn’t bad enough, a light fog rolled in; reducing visibility in every direction.

We eventually reached a point where the trail had been completely destroyed. We were completely lost.

We scouted around hoping to find the trail again. Instead we found three Greenscale Lizardfolk lying dead at the bottom of an incline. When we went down to investigate we discovered that one of them was still alive, although just barely. We brought him back to Voulge who was able to heal him. Tu’Masz, as he was called, told us he and his friends had been attacked by a black dragon. To thank us for saving him, he would show us the way back to the trail.

But before we could move on, we had to find Dernan. He disappeared at some point during our talk with Tu’Masz. We found him hiding in a bush not far from the caravan. He was crying like a baby. Honestly, I’ve seen jellyfish with more spine than this guy.

Tu’Masz showed us the way back to the trail and went on his way. Things didn’t get better though. The trail was so narrow that the whole caravan had to travel single file. Our party split in two, half at the front of the caravan, and half at the rear. The fog had thickened considerably and those at one end of the caravan couldn’t see the people at the other end.

The Swamplands – The Bridge

We eventually made it back to solid land, but the fog was so thick we couldn’t see very far ahead of us. We hadn’t noticed we’d reached a cliff until we were practically over the edge. The cliff was at least 50 feet tall and the river at the bottom was filled with dire crocodiles. (Apparently a difference in air pressure prevented the fog from entering the ravine)

Not far off, we found a rope and plank bridge that crossed the ravine. It was a rickety old thing and probably couldn’t hold more than the weight of 2 people at a time. We weren’t even sure if it could hold the weight of one of the caravan’s horses and its dwarf handler. Also, since we couldn’t see to the other side of the ravine, before the caravan could start the crossing we would have to scout ahead to make sure it was safe.

Garnik volunteered because he was both the lightest of our group and also one of the stealthiest. He tied a rope around his waist and had Ilikan hold the other end. If all went well he would rig the rope on the other side and come back for more. We could try and rig all our ropes in a way that would solidify the bridge. Worst case scenario, if the bridge collapses, Garnik can try and grab the side attached to the other end of the ravine. If he manages to hold on, he can climb up, rig the rope to one of the support posts and get back to our side. In this situation we would have to abandon the horses, but at least we would be able to make it to the other side of the ravine.

The moment Garnik stepped on to the bridge, three darts came flying right at him. There was someone waiting for us on the other side of the bridge; but we couldn’t see who because of all the fog. At that point Ash decided to start crossing the bridge. He wanted to take some of the heat off of Garnik. Plus since they were the two fastest members of the party, they could get to the other side of the bridge quickly and keep the enemy forces busy while the rest of the team crossed the bridge.

Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be that easy. The moment they reached the middle of the bridge they were stopped dead in their tracks by a maniacal laughter followed by the sound of someone sawing wood. Whoever they were, they were going to collapse the bridge and trap us in the swamplands.

Ash made a mad dash to the other side to intercept whoever was cutting down the bridge. Along the way he cast a beam of holy light in the direction of the laughter {radiant vengeance}. To allow as many people as possible to cross the bridge and back up Ash, Garnik jumped off, but not before he readied an arrow. In that instant when gravity and inertia are in perfect opposition, where you’re floating in the air for fraction of a second, he let his arrow fly in the direction of the laughter. Aided by the light from Ash’s attack, he was able to hit the silhouette of the bridge cutter. He then fell, and in a great display of acrobatics {and excellent dice rolls} he landed gracefully against the cliff face.

The bridge now clear, Eramus and Dirty Pig made their way across as quickly as possible. There, the two of them and Ash took on the three greenscale lizardfolk and their blackscale leader, defeating them and saving the bridge. While this was going on, Ilikan pulled Garnik out of the ravine. Rather than join the rest of the party on the other side of the bridge; Voulge, Garnik and Ilikan stayed to keep watch over the caravan. It turned out to be a good idea, because some swamp dwelling creatures decided to use the distraction provided by the fight as an occasion to do some “aggressive” scavenging. They were shown the error of their ways.  ;) ;)

Once the lizardfolk were killed, the advance party surveyed their surroundings and discovered a path back to the caravan that bypassed the ravine entirely. With the two groups reunited the caravan continued on its way, using the newly discovered path to cross the ravine.

The Swamplands

It didn’t take long for the solid land to turn back into swampland and for the caravan to get lost again.

Soon, an argument broke out between the dwarves and Dernan. They were very superstitious and thought he was the cause of all this misfortune; so they wanted him to leave and go his own way.

The argument was cut short when a large black silhouette swooped in high above us and a loud booming voice announced itself as “Terror” Terrizmoraskar, Scourge of The Smear. “Terror”, a large black dragon, said she was after Dernan. She pointed the way out of the swamp to us and said that if we gave Dernan up, she would let us leave the swamp unharmed.

The dwarves jumped at the idea, but it was unacceptable to us because we had given our word that we would protect Dernan. There was actually a more logical solution. The caravan had emptied its cargo at Spellgard, and was returning to Loudwater to refill on supplies. It had nothing of value for a dragon. So we suggested that they go in the direction indicated by “Terror”, and when they were far enough away we would call out to the dragon. When she showed up to claim Dernan, we would gang up on her and kill her. It’s not like we didn’t have experience slaying dragons. We would then catch up to the caravan(they were slower than us) and continue in the direction pointed to us by “Terror”. Even if she lied, we were lost, so one direction was as good as another.

But the dwarves were intransigent and wouldn’t listen to reason. Either, we all went or we all stayed. The only reason they allowed Dernan to stay was because they needed us to protect them. We finally decided to ignore “Terror’s” ultimatum and set off in the direction she indicated. Whether we fought her here or further on, really didn’t make much of a difference.

The Swamplands – Mab’s Island

After walking in the swamp for a few more hours we came upon a small island of solid land. It was inhabited by a bog hag named Mab. Usually, bog hags are quite unpleasant; but this one was actually nice to us. When we explained our situation to her, she offered to help. If we helped her gather the ingredients she needed to make her various potions and elixirs, she would point out the direction that would get us out of the swamp as soon as possible. {skill challenge}

From the way she spoke and the things she said we got the distinct impression that she had significant self-esteem issues. If we could get her to feel better about herself she might be more cooperative. Someone would have to flirt with her, and possibly even seduce her. Since she was uglier than a warthog the task fell to Dirty Pig. He did quite well, and he and the hag even had a romantic little dinner. He was so good in fact, that we couldn’t tell whether he was just pretending or if he really did like her.

The gambit paid off, because in addition to showing us the quickest way out, she also warned us about the various dangers ahead.

Just as we were leaving, Bruunac, one of the dwarves was pulled under the surface of the water by an unseen force. We searched for him, but eventually had to give up because we simply couldn’t see anything in the murky water.

We set off in the direction Mab had showed us, hoping we wouldn’t lose anyone else.

The Swamplands – Inferno Vapours

After continuing in the swamp for some time, we reached an area of unusual stillness. There were no signs or sounds of animal life anywhere, and the vegetation was also somehow different from the rest of the swamp. The water irritated our skin, and the air caused a slight burning sensation in our lungs and noses.

We must have reached the Inferno Vapours; an area of the swamp that Mab had said was full of acid geysers. The slightest disturbance could set them off. We would have to use all of our abilities to spot the geysers and avoid them. Otherwise it wouldn’t take long before all that was left of us was a few piles of goo. {skill challenge}

We managed to get through the Inferno Vapours relatively unscathed; but just as we set off back into the swamp, Dernan was pulled under the surface.

Crap!!!

The Swamplands

It looked as if we had failed in our mission; but we remembered something Dernan had said during his ‘interrogation’. He said that although Lady Saharel had not told him what the LAST GRASP OF SHADOWBANE looked like, he would recognize it for what it was instantly upon seeing it; implying that he would live to see it. This gave us hope that he had not been killed, but merely captured by “Terror”.

We had no choice but to keep going. At the very least, we still had to protect the caravan. And, if we were lucky, we might find “Terror’s” lair and hopefully Dernan and Bruunac alive and well.

It was now getting dark and the risk of getting lost again increased significantly. We had to slow our pace down or else we might accidently go off in the wrong direction and waist the whole night running around in circles. {skill challenge}

Just when it seemed like we did indeed get lost, we spotted some specks of elevated land in the distance. If we could get to it and climb on top we’d have a much better view of our surroundings.

But before we could do anything “Terror” swooped in and attacked us. It was quite difficult fighting her in swamp land while at the same time protecting the caravan. With her mobility and resilience, she had a major advantage if this fight dragged out into a long haul. Despite this, halfway through the fight she turned tail and fled.

I guess “Terror” should change her name to: “Wimpy” Terrizmoraskar, Coward of The Smear.

We made good use of the reprieve by getting to the small specks of land as quickly as possible. They weren’t big enough to accommodate everyone, so the caravan stayed in the swamp while our party climbed onto the islets and surveyed our surroundings.

About 100 feet further on we could see what, in the darkness, appeared to be a large rock face. In the centre of there was an opening that probably led to a small cave.

It would have made an excellent shelter to spend the night in were it not for the fact that it was the dragon’s lair. We saw “Terror” emerge from the cave and fly straight towards us for a rematch. To top it off, 2 obviously powerful zombies came shambling into view on either side of us.

Despite being surrounded on three sides by such imposing foes, we won the battle surprisingly easily. Apparently having the high ground really does give you an advantage.

With “Terror” dead, we headed straight for her lair. It had been an incredibly gruelling day and we needed to rest. When we ventured inside, we were delighted to find Dernan and Bruunac. They had been captured by “Terror”. With the whole group reunited, we set everything up to spend night.