Campaign of the Month: August 2013

Dragons of Autumn

The Cellars of Pax Tharkas

The group successfully traverse the Sla-Mori and begin infiltrating the fortress of Pax Tharkas

The secret door slides shut blocking out the oncoming horde of walking corpses. The group huddles in the new hallway exhausted from the days activities. Almaia explores the length of the hallway and sets a trip alarm as an early warning while the group rests. The evening watches are uneventful and Gilthanas wakes them all the following morning. As Gilthanas kneels to waken Almaia, the dwarven beauty rolls over and snuggles elf nobleman. Gilthanas blushes and begins sputtering bashfully as he backs away in embarrassment. The sight is the first bit of levity encountered since they entered the dangerous corridors of the Sla-Mori.
The group continues down the corridor after licking their wounds from the previous day. Mora and Gilthanas allow the group to go on ahead and have a quick discussion in Hammertalk. Mora is concerned about Eben’s recent behavior. Gilthanas shares her distrust and recommends keeping an eye on the human.
The tunnels end in another set of large brass doors. There is a large transfer of air from the gap under the doors suggesting the next room is very large. Almaia takes a moment to search it for traps before silently opening a bit to look into the next room.
The room is indeed very large and from what Almaia can see there is a large column in the center of the room, but it leans at an impossible angle. Donegin casts light on a rock Mora had in her pocket. She throws the lighted rock into the room and it lands at the base of the column. The light reveals that the column is actually a large chain. Each link is one foot thick and six feet long. As the group enters, they realize the chain reaches from its anchor in the center of the room up at an angle.
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Kip notices another set of brass doors on the far side of the room and investigates. Kip checks the door for traps and finds one! Almaia offers to assist Kip disable the trap. Upon investigation, Almaia discovers what Kip thought was a trap is actually just the hinge to the door.
The rest of the group spreads out to search the large chamber. The group decides to discover what lies at the top of the chain. Almaia decides to climb the chain relying on her ring of featherfall to protect her. She easily climbs the large chain, but discovers that the ceiling closes around the chain. Almaia reaches a point where she can no longer climb without difficulty. She could have continued, but decided to gently float back down to the group.
Suddenly, Gilthanas alerts the group to a section of wall that seems out of place. The dust on the floor here seems lighter than everywhere else and black streaks of soot line out from the base of the wall. Almaia examines the spot and determines that there is a secret door here. The door was once trapped, but the blast streaks at the base suggest that the trap has already been sprung. She locates the hidden latch and opens the secret door.
The door opens to reveal a hidden vault for untold amount of precious treasure; however, the shelves lay bare and all that remains is an ancient skeleton. Almaia surmises that the skeleton must be the remains of the person who set off the blast trap. As the group examines the body, black smoke begins to emanate from the remains. The swirling fog coalesces into the form of a disheveled elven woman – her moans inform the group that this spirit is in fact a banshee!
The frightful presence of this spirit washes over the group, but the heroes stand fast. Although the undead are frightening, this particular ghost pales in comparison to the black dragon Khisanth. The group quickly attacks the apparition as it begins its horrific moans. Yelfis attempts to turn the spirit away with the power of Reorx. Unfortunately, Yelfis lacks the level of faith necessary to turn this type of undead creature. As his attempt fails, the frightful bale of her moans fills his head. Yelfis drops his shield and hammer before high-tailing out of the chain room and down the hallway. As the dwarven cleric makes his flight from the area, the spirit succumbs to the onslaught from the large group of heroes. The spirit loses cohesion and evaporates; however, Gilthanas warns the group that this creature is not truly destroyed and will eventually return to haunt the area where she died.
The group quickly searches the room, but finds that it was completely cleared of all valuables long ago. Kip was more interested in searching the remains – he was curious what a person who turns into a Banshee might have carried. As he begins rifling through the remains, Donegin shoos the Kender away by pointing out a shiny object in the far corner. Kip did not see the shiny object, but he investigated to be sure. Donegin activates a detect magic spell and completes the search on the remains and discovers: masterwork leather armor, masterwork elven short sword, boots of elvenkind, cloak of elvenkind, gloves of dexterity +2, and 55 steel pieces. Meanwhile, Kip returns from the corner. Although his search was fruitless, the Kender fiddles and looms over a small object in his hands. Donegin looks over at the Kender with her detect magic spell still active and realizes the item is highly magical. She asks to examine to bauble which is a simple charm on a leather strand carved into the form of a fox. Gilthanas recognizes the item as a Charm of Animal Transformation. In another age, elves would use these charms to transform into animals as a means of hiding their presence from other creatures – this particular charm appears to change the user into a fox. The elves stopped using these items because the magic involved was unstable and dangerous. Some elves who used the charms would find their transformation to be permanent. Gilthanas admits the charm is valuable despite its danger and advices against using the charm. The elven prince also mentions that an elf would never rob a tomb and suggests that these remains were likely rogues pilfering ruins – suggesting a close proximity to Pax Tharkas. He cautions the group to proceed stealthily from here on to avoid detection during their infiltration of the occupied fortress.
The group exits and reseals the secret room and proceeds to the set of bronze doors Kip thought was trapped. The door opens to reveal another hallway, but after 80 feet it dead-ends. Almaia, having encountered and unlocked several secret doors in the Sla-Mori, checks the wall and finds a secret latch in a similar location as the others. The door slides open and the group is blasted with air as the pressure between the Sla-Mori and Pax Tharkas equalizes.
The secret door leads into a dank cellar (although not as dank as the Sla-Mori) containing a massive storehouse of supplies. The group seals the door behind them and searches the supply room. The supplies are all general store items including hundreds of pounds in trail rations and a fresh water well. As the group reequips, they determine the storehouse is likely a cache the dragonarmy looted from the surrounding towns of Gateway, Haven, Solace, and New Ports.
The group discovers a door on the far side of the storehouse. Almaia approaches the door and clearly hears draconian voices and the voice of human, possibly elven, woman. She quietly pulls the door open to reveal a savage-looking dragonman hauling a young woman by the arm. The brute hurls the girl toward a door on the far side of the room, growling, " My lord Verminaard requires your presence! Who are you to refuse his noble calling? " The monster advances menacingly toward the girl, while three other draconians watch, their faces twisted in hideous grins. Two other draconians stand on the opposite end of the room pawing over a rack of spears. Suddenly, the prisoner tosses her hair over her shoulder, revealing the face of the elven princess Laurana!
The group pulls back into the storehouse to formulate a plan. Mora suggests using the Charm of Animal Transformation to change one of them into a fox so they can run through the room and distract the draconians. The group decides the risk is too great for using the magic item and instead chooses to have Almaia sneak into the room and attack one of the draconians as a distraction while Gilthanas rushes to aid his sister and block the other door. The rest of the group quickly pick out targets as Almaia quietly opens the door.
As Almaia is about to cross the threshold, she scrapes her boot along some loose gravel. The noise seems like an explosion to someone trying to move silently, but between the draconian pounding on Laurana and the laughing and cajoling from his three cohorts the sound goes mostly unnoticed. One of the draconians perusing the spear rack turns to look at the entryway, but his low-light vision does not detect the motionless Almaia and he shortly returns to his inventory.
Almaia takes a breath and proceeds into the room. She silently makes her way behind the closest draconian, a Kapak, and attacks. Her halberd cleaves into the creatures back deep enough to strike its heart – the body immediately dissolves into a pool of acid. The acid rolls over the feet of Almaia and another Kapak who alerts his brethren to the attack.
Gilthanas sprints across the room to his sister, stopping the blows from her Kapak attacker, and blocks the door. With the door blocked, Gilthanas prevents any of the Kapak from alerting the fortress to their presence.
Meanwhile, Almaia holds off four Kapak while the rest of the heroes charge into the room. Everyone finds a target except for Eben who stands in the corner alerting the group to the dangerous acid pools. Three more Kapak fall when their leader signals their retreat. The two remaining Kapak rush Gilthanas, but Mora stands ready to defend them. As Mora dispatches one of the Kapak, Eben finally joins the melee and dispatches the final Kapak.
The group recovers shortly as the acid pools dissolve. A very relieved Laurana embraces her brother and thanks the group for coming to her rescue. She informs them that there are three prison cells on this level: one contains 34 women who tend to the children, the second holds 60 women between the ages of 18 and 50, and the third holds 45 maidens (unmarried and without children) between the ages of 12 and 30. The group discovers a ring of keys in the equipment of one of the Kapak and heads out of the room to free the women in the three cells.
Yelfis cautions the women to be as quiet as possible as he unlocks their cells. He then stands as look-out at the steps leading to the level above. The women flutter at sign of rescue, but the heroes notice that they are still without hope because their children are still imprisoned. The group explains that they are here to free the women and children so the men can revolt against the skeleton forces still occupying Pax Tharkas.
The spokesperson for the women steps forward; she is a seamstress named Maritta. Her trade skills and business acumen are more than most of these women possess. Maritta explains that all of the captured children are being held on the floor above. Each night, a group of women are permitted to visit and feed the children; they wrap themselves in bundles of clothing to ward of the autumn chill that permeates the fortress walls. The children are guarded by a red dragon, but the “poor thing” is old and sleeps most of the time – she only stirs if one of the children screams out in pain or fear. Unfortunately, even if the group freed the children, there are still a group of women held in the west tower. These women were not as “marketable,” but they perform a similar nightly service where they provide food for the men who work the mines outside the fortress. The men sleep in caverns adjacent to the mines when they are allowed to sleep.
Donegin suggests that the group disguise themselves as women on a feeding mission. Maritta agrees that this would work, but only if their movement and actions could conceivably be part of one the feeding missions.
A groan from the back of one of the cells attracts the groups attention. Lying on the floor is the Seeker Highpriest from the slave caravan, Elistan! Donegin examines the elderly man and discovers that he is near death. Maritta explains that he fell in the mines, but because of his esteem amongst the people, the Dragon Highlord permitted him to be cared for by the women instead of leaving him to die where he fell as most men seem to do in the mines. Mora uses her healing belt to revive the old cleric.
Elistan opens his eyes and realizes the divinity involved with his revival. He is amazed as he was when he first witnessed the healing of the man who had his arm cut off attempting to liberate the slave caravan. The amazement quickly turns to humility and shame as the Seeker discovers that his lifelong pursuit of new gods was pointless when the true power lay with the true gods of old. Yelfis and Almaia comfort Elistan and explain their situation. Elistan shakes his malaise and offers his allegiance and support for the heroes in liberating the slaves of Pax Tharkas. He also promises to use his authority to unite and lead the people after their liberation.
Until then, the group decides that Elistan would provide the best support by watching over the women and leading them to safety when everything is clear. Mora provides Elistan with her communication crystal so the group can signal him to move out of the area.
Elistan begins escorting the women into the storage supply room and equipping them with weapons from the fallen Kapak draconians and the spear rack along the wall.
The group shows Elistan and the other women the secret door leading to the Sla-Mori. They explain the dangers of the Sla-Mori and recommend only using it as hiding place of last resort should they fall under attack.
After speaking with Elistan and watching him with the women, Almaia remembers the words spoken by the statue of Mishakal in Xak Tsaroth: " …you must leave here and search for a true Leader of the People. " Almaia gathers her group and Gilthanas to discuss the possibility that Elistan is the prophesied " Leader of the People " and whether they should entrust him with the Disks. Mora questions why the Disks should be entrusted to this stranger when the group wanted to learn the secrets for themselves first, " Why is everyone willing to give the Disks to this man and not with the elves? Wouldn’t the Disks have been safer with the elves? "
Gilthanas humbly rejects the notion of leaving the artifact with the elves. He admits that his people are highly xenophobic and care very little for the humans who make up 90% of the population in Krynn. Instead of leading the people, the elves would simply squirrel the Disks away for safe-keeping. However, Gilthanas agrees that Elistan should not receive the Disks until he proves that he is a " TRUE Leader of the People. "
After praying on the situation, Yelfis concurs with Almaia and agrees that Elistan’s experience as a religious leader, natural rapport, regional fame, and his good heart make him an excellent candidate as a true leader of the people.
Eventually, the group decides that it would be more dangerous and fool-hardy to venture deeper into enemy territory carrying the Disks than it would to leave them with Elistan. As for the interests of group members in reading the Disks, the group realizes that they would still be able to study the artifact once the prisoners are free and safe.
Yelfis approaches the old cleric and explains their adventure into Xak Tsaroth, the discovery of the Disks of Mishakal, and the type of knowledge they contain. The dwarven cleric offers the Disks to Elistan and promises absolution for his heresy as a Seeker in exchange for his faith in the true gods. A teary-eyed Elistan accepts the gift and immediately begins studying the holy works.
The heroes leave the storeroom and begin investigating the final two doors in the cellar. The first door is locked, but Almaia pulls out the key ring and swiftly unlocks the door. After silently opening the door, Almaia discovers another storeroom filled with looted supplies! This room contains barrels of lamp oil, crates of nails, boxes of salt, several thousand board feet of lumber, and a box of carpentry tools.
The group leaves the second storeroom and approaches the final door. About 10 feet from the door, the group hears a loud crash! Everyone freezes in place and few moment later they hear a dull " thud. " The second noise is immediately followed by uproarious laughter that continues for two minutes. As the laughter dies, again they hear a loud crash, followed moments later by a dull " thud, " and then two minutes of uproarious laughter. The group is not sure if they should investigate further, but Almaia decides that they should at least take a peek.
Almaia silently opens the door and peeks in and discovers a long timber balanced on a boulder in the center of the room. At each end of the timber is a wide, dish-shaped container. Set on the ground by these containers is a pile of large stones and a tall wooden box. Huge mattresses of straw have been spread on the floor beyond either end of the timber. A dozen short, stocky creatures scurry frantically around the timber, shouting and cursing each other. They wear oversized tin helmets, and several wear swords in their belts. Because these swords are several inches longer than their legs, those creatures who wear them often get them tangled between their feet, sprawling headlong onto the floor.Dwarfs
Shortly a pattern emerges. One of these creatures (who by now are recognizable as gully dwarves) climbs into the dish at one end of the timber, dropping that end to the ground like a large see-saw. Three other Aghar climb onto the wooden box at the other end of the timber, where their comrades have already raised three of the large stones. The Aghar on the boxes drop the stones together into the dish below them, dropping that end to the ground and catapulting the dwarf at the other end high into the air and down onto the mattress of straw.
After each of these stunts, all the gully dwarves laugh uproariously, and then run around crazily for a while until the process is ready to start again.
Almaia reports her discovery and the group is relieved. Remembering their experiences with the loveable Highbulp Phudge in Xak Tsaroth, the group quickly decides to enter a meet the gully dwarves. Yelfis enters first and after a few moments is noticed by the gully dwarves. The gully dwarves screech in terror and begin hiding amongst the rabble they consider homes. Unfettered, Yelfis climbs into the launching cup of the giant see-saw. Almaia and Mora proceed to the far end of the contraption and attempt to launch Yelfis by jumping into the other cup. Yelfis is airborne for only a foot before falling back into the cup. The group begins resetting the contraption, but becomes aware of several tin helmets peeking around corners at them. Eventually, one of the sword-bearing gully dwarves approaches. His face is hidden behind a bushy beard, and his tin helmet shadows his eyes. In fact, he can see very little; as he nears the party, he trips over his sword and falls
headlong, his helmet rolling to the feet of the heroes. The dwarf rushes to snatch his helmet back, blustering about trespassers and uninvited guests.
The gully dwarf introduces himself as Highklahd Drooth, thane of the gully dwarves in Pax Tharkas. He demands an explanation from the party for their intrusion.
Yelfis simply states that they wanted to use the contraption. Highklahd Drooth pauses a moment and determines this to be a reasonable excuse for barging in uninvited. He calls for two gully dwarves and the three of them begin setting up the contraption. Yelfis gets back into the launching cup and a moment later is sent flying into the air. The gully dwarves come out to watch. Yelfis lands softly in the pile of improvised mattresses and the room erupts in laughter from the gully dwarves who stop hiding and return to using the contraption.
The thane jumps off the wooden box and returns to speak with the group. He explains that this room in the cellar is the only place for his people to live since the dragonarmy moved into their fortress. The only Aghar permitted to freely move about the fortress now are the slaves used in the kitchens and for amusing the troops. The Highklahd is sorrowful at the change in events, but concludes that it is the way of the world.
Yelfis asks the Highklahd if he and his people would be willing to watch over and protect the human women, but the Highklahd responds, “ Why should ah? What’s in it fer us? “
Almaia approaches Drooth and offers him a handful of coins. He glances back and forth from the coins to Almaia’s face with an incredulous leer.
“ What good is dat? What’s it do? “ he asks.
“ It’s shiny. Don’t you like it? “ responds Almaia.
“ If it don’t do nothin’, then we has no needs fer it… D’ya have anything we can make stuff with? It took more’n two days to get the wood for this contraption. “
A wave of relief washes over the group as they remember the second storage room. Almaia asks the Highklahd to follow her. He complies, but his demeanor changes outside of the gully dwarf lair. He hunches over and frantically peers over his shoulders in fright. Yelfis nudges him and reminds the dwarf that he is a thane and should act like one. The Highklahd straightens and swells with a little courage, but his gaze still monitors the room frantically.
Almaia opens the door to the storage room containing the construction supplies. The Highklahd’s mouth drops at the bounty. Almaia offers the contents of the storage room in exchange for the protection of the human women in the other storage room. Almaia leads the Highklahd to the first storage room where the women cower behind an improvised barrier of food supplies. The women drop their spears at the sight of the heroes.
The Highklahd thinks over the proposal and asks, “ We get some food too? “ Almaia agrees to the terms and the Highklahd assures the group that the Klahd Clan will protect the humans.
As the group returns to the gully dwarf lair, the Highklahd asks the group, “ Since we becomin’ friendly. You should probably know dat one a mah cousins is bein’ held prisoner by the dragonmen upstairs. It seems dat he helped some slaves escape the dragonmen. “
Donegin interrupts, “ Sestun? Is your cousin’s name, Sestun? “
“ How you know him? “ asks the Highklahd in surprise. “ Wait! You da slaves? “
The group explains that how the brave Sestun rescued them after standing up to the captain of the dragonmen.
“ Well, it seems to me that one gully dwarf is the same as another to these people. If you happen to come across Sestun, would ya send him back down? I only mention it ‘cause his Momma would never forgive me if I didn’t ask. “
The group agrees and believes that doing this favor would win the loyalty of the Klahd Clan.

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