Chapter Sixteen –"Tenpast versus the Volcano"

Approaching from all sides, we start to close in on the Orc Lady, with Chunk trying to get round the broken rubble of a small outhouse while the brave Trixie and her noble steed (that would be me) take a more direct approach. Hoping that Trixie has a better plan than my current one of ‘ride at her and hope that the others catch up and help’ I notice movement from the shoreline and stopping to see what new dangers approach, spy a large body of humanoids, all armed with bows, run to a stop at the shoreline across from us.

With no time to find cover, I don’t even get a chance to call out before they have pulled back on their bows and released their deadly barrage. Within moments everyone is aware of this new presence as the twanging of many bows and the sound of the air being cut by many arrows is heard. I doubt I am the only one to brace for impact, but it seems the intended target is actually the Orc lady, and she is brought down in a hail or arrows that obscure her from our view.

Once the brief moment passes in which we wait for the next volley to wipe us out and doesn’t, we quickly ride over to confirm that Drugella is dead and strip her of goods as we settle and wait for the unexpected help to arrive on our side of the shoreline.

It seems that Patriarch Mentzer had sent a troop of Elves to get us for a task of utmost importance and arrived to see us running round attacking the giant Orc lady, so lent us a hand to get rid of our little problem. After discussing things with the man at arms in charge, he allows us time to retrieve our items from within the broken castle, especially as we explain that they are of great importance and can only aid us with the Patriarchs request. Oh and also to stop Trixie from grabbing the Sergeants leg and crying about the loss of her spell-book.

We quickly move back to Drugella’s quarters with no problems, and are soon in her room and rooting through her stuff with gay abandon. Chunk opens the chest he finds with the smaller of two keys found on her body, and finds some trinkets which are duly stuffed in our bag to divide later, but nothing more of our original gear is found.

Leaving her room, we move to the next unexplored door, the large stone door in the corridor outside. This unlocks with another of the keys found on Drugella, and opens into a passage that has the floor covered in sand and smells strongly of death. Stumpy confirms this by saying something undead is living in here, and deciding that we will leave this section until later; we close and lock the door once more.

In another room that looks like a lab of sorts, we find a dissected lizard which I bundle into a sack for later experiments and also take some detailed parchments, indicating surgical notes and revealing that the creature is a Troglodyte. Playing the ‘I am old and weak and cannot see’ card, I manage to persuade McFlurry to carry it for me, although I suspect this is only because he knows that I will put it to mischief as I was looking at Chunk with a glint in my eye. We continue to travel onwards into more unexplored areas, and climb some stairs which lead to a round storage room that contains a well and lots of barrels. The barrels contain food and water which are still fresh, and so a few apples are stolen for later, but nothing of value is found.

Running out of ideas on where to go next, we remember that we did not go past the point in which we fought the Orc’s last, and so start to head back down the windy rocky thin corridors. We check the side passages we missed the previous time as well to complete our rough map, and head into a right hand passage where my eagle eyes spot a patch of green grassy stuff that looks very suspicious and makes us turn away, especially as it looks like the passage goes nowhere behind it.

Taking the left fork, Idjit and I take the lead and soon find that the other corridors are empty, so finally begin making our way towards the location of our last encounter. Once more into the breach dear friends we go and we are soon stepping over the broken rubble that made up the bottom of the collapsed tower.

Broken and dirty mosaics on the walls seem to depict a story about Cloud Giants and Orc’s building the Castle White Rock, before moving on to detailing an attack on a city that looks like Cillamar. Other than a ladder leading upwards to a large metal trapdoor, the rest of this open area is empty.

Once through the trapdoor and on to the platform above we find another winding staircase which Idjit and I go up first, until I start to get a touch of vertigo and wobbly at the knees and have to stop. Idjit is far more stable, but still slips back a step for each two he moves forward, so the sticky McFlurry and the sure footed Chunk take our place and continue onwards instead.

Chunk’s attitude to the slippery, unstable and vertigo inducing steps caused by a titled and broken tower is to simply take it in his stride and almost ignores his terrain. He marches confidently onwards, in contrast to the more tactical approach of McFlurry, who has scrabbled up the walls and along the undersides of the switchback of the staircase above him as he moves upwards, spider like in the shadows.

Chunk has pressed on ahead of the Monk and soon reaches another trapdoor above a more stable section of the stairway. Cautiously he pokes his head into the room and can see a huge skeleton standing still, next to a long shape that looks like it could be an altar covered in cloth.

Chunk motions to us that he is going in to take a look, and climbs the short few steps of the ladder into the room. Immediately the skeleton animates and comes for him, and he calls out to warn us. Idjit and McFlurry are just a little too far away due to the treacherous and narrow ramp leading to Chunks newly found room, meaning that they are more likely to die from a very large drop than be able to aid the Barbarian. Calling out to let him know their predicament, Chunk wisely retreats, especially as he was being hit far harder than he was hitting it for.

After some discussion, Chunk is healed with spells and then he starts to ferry people around the tricky stairway until we are all crowded at the base of the ladder leading into the room. Trixie goes in first, followed by me, and then the others pile in. The skeleton is so large that we all surround it, and as it turns on Chunk to hit him with another punishing strike once more, he smashes it to pieces.

A quick look around the place quickly reveals the last of our possessions in the chest and Trixie is tearfully reunited with her spell book and a few other bits and pieces as well. With our business now concluded, we quickly leave the castle and ride in style all the way home, escorted by the Patriarchs troops.

As soon as we get back into town we are escorted to the citadel to see Patriarch Mentzer, without even time to go to the Sleeping Drake and make Idjit buy us beer. We are led past training grounds, a Smithy, and a large Guard House which can be seen through portcullis and courtyards, as well as a Chapel of Helm set in large grounds before into the citadel itself.

A man introduces himself as Jor and takes us to the Patriarch, and on the way explains that our names had been put forward to help the keepers of the city with a problem they are facing. Added to this Lady Shontessa has apparently vouched for our previous exploits in rescuing the children and also our current ‘quest’ on her behalf, which all meant that we were basically the only candidates for the job. Because we are Heroes.
We reach a large antechamber, and after a very brief wait, are ushered into a large suite of rooms where we meet Patriarch Mentzer, the protector of Cillamar, a large black haired powerful looking man wearing robes of office. He quickly gets to the point, and tells us that there is an inactive volcano on the very edge of his realm, some 200 leagues away, that seems to have become strangely active, and more worryingly that the people of nearby villages have gone missing and that he wishes to send us to find out what has happened to his vassals.

He also adds that many years ago, the Volcano was used as a laboratory by quite a formidable Wizard called Soranna, an Elf, but she has not been seen in many years. The volcano then dimmed and became more or less inactive and slowly the area became populated.

Lastly, and this is the bit that robs us of any ‘we are the best’ feelings, they have no spare men as they are all tied up fighting a large Giant force that is attacking from the North, meaning we are the only candidates for the job.

Despite the urgency of it all, we are allowed the precious days required for us to train and get ourselves prepared, but otherwise to return to here as quickly as possible, where one of the court Magicians will Teleport us directly to the settlement.

After the reward was discussed, we headed back to Lady Shontessa’s Inn, and soon were taking a well-earned bath and a pint. Getting things done as quickly as possible, we root through the trinkets picked up along the way, pass them across Trixie’s expert eye and then plan to go shopping for the group later.

This is not before some important questions are asked regarding the various and wide spread training methods we have to go through. Chunk is pushed into a room full of wasps, angry bears and alligators armed with a spoon, McFlurry has some Zen thingy that involves pushing a pebble up a waterfall without using his left arm and his right leg, and I wander off into the woods, abuse people and then have to buy expensive gifts and sulk until I am forgiven.

So, Trixie’s training in the magical arts was quite the topic of discussion and all anyone wanted to hear about – would she have to bend the elements to her will, or command beings not of this realm to do unspeakable things? We move closer and listen as Trixie approaches Lady Shontessa, and asks “Do the Red Wizards of Thay hang about near the docks like prostitutes?”

Ah. Maybe not then.

The training montage is quickly over, as most of us now glow from rigorous health and newly acquired special and of course deadly skills. I myself have now reached a new pinnacle of Druidhood as I have progressed in the way of understanding that exceeds many shapeshifters, brimming with the knowledge of how to Wildshape into Humanoid form, and adding the species of the Harssaf to my growing menagerie.

Our journey back to the Citadel is quick and within moments of meeting with the Patriarch, we are escorted to the Court Magician’s quarters. With a few brief instructions, ie ‘the Volcano is the big smokey mountain thing’ we are Teleported into a deserted and very quiet village.

We move out of the middle of the village and take cover behind a building, while keeping a watchful eye out for bandits, but nothing stirs. Idjit motions to us that he is going to track, and soon returns indicating that he has spotted tracks that head out of the village and directly towards the volcano. We spend the next hour or so searching the village, but find nothing – there is no livestock about, and plenty of discarded items to indicate that people have just fled - or been abducted in a very short time span.  We no other clue to follow up on, we head out of the village and on our way towards the volcano.

The village is a few hours travel from the Volcano, and as we make our way across the sparse landscape, we see nothing of any villagers. A few animals are around, but not as many as one would think travelling this area. Soon we are at the base of the Volcano, which looms ominously above us, and Idjit’s tracking skills point us to a cleft in the rock which hides a doorway into the side of the volcano. We move in, and I am using the excellent vision of the Duegar to look as far as possible into the twisty passage ahead of us.

As soon as we stepped into the passages we could sense a shift in the temperature, and as we move further in, the air becomes very close and starts to become denser. Within moments, the passageways are illuminated in a hazy red fog. Myself and Stumpy have protected the party with multiple Endure Element spells which it seems is a prerequisite as the warm tunnels begin to become uncomfortably hot.

Without warning, two large chitinus creatures step out from within the wall and surprise the two in the front rank. McFlurry, reacting the quickest, tumbles and pushes past the two large creatures before standing upright and attacking from the rear.

The creatures have strange tendrils in their claws which attempt to jab into people as they bring their claws and pincer hands to bear, but thankfully no one is struck by this probing, and a few short sharp chops later, Chunk has cut the two down.

We continue down the corridor which leads to a body of water that ends in a ledge. Just to make sure that nothing is hidden from our viewing angle, McFlurry Spider climbs across the wall. At the last moment, I spot a stalagmite just as a tongue lashes out and tries to get the wall crawling Monk, but like a limpet, the Monk is stuck fast to the ceiling and moves nowhere.

Idjit starts to fire his bow and another stalagmite creature suddenly reveals itself to try and ‘tongue’ Idjit. The Ranger calmly stands his ground as the tongue flails at him as he shoots the first one dead, while McFlurry, like a mollusk, has missed with all attacks. Idjit simply shifts his aim to the new addition and with the rest of the party watching McFlurry as he crawls his way towards the other Stalagmite creature, the Ranger shoots it in its beady little eye.

This angers the pointy rock beast, and with some wicked tongue action, Idjit is dragged upwards towards the ceiling like a certain bespectacled Black Messa scientist, although sadly without a crowbar handy. Trixie then lets off a barrage of Magic Missiles which kills it, and we watch as Idjit plummets into the water.

More of the spiney things that we have come to expect living in any body of water – I have even checked the bath in the Inn once, are here in these warm climates as well, and although he gets shot in the bottom a few times, Idjit reaches us with no ill effects and we pull him out.

McFlurry gets to the other side of the wall, and while we break out the sandwiches, he searches the walls, until he declares proudly “I have found a secret!”  

 

Played 17th January 2010.

 

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