Monday, October 27, 2014

"The Flaming Skull" Chapter 10 of the Lost Mine of Elder Flinch

This week, Aline and Valerius recruit new party members in Flinch before returning to the mine to seek vengeance for the death of Braxton and Cyral.  Later, they learn the hard way that flaming skulls regenerate, and that wraiths aren't as tough as all that.

Spoiler Warning! This is a florid retelling of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure included with the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set.

The party:
Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan parentage (Level 4 Half-Elf Wizard)
Note, I have been informed by the players that they now picture Aline wearing pince nez spectacles, and that I have been instructed to depict her with such going forward.  
Thaddeus, Under-City Scout from Swallow (Level 4 Human Ranger) 
Ser Valerius, Errant Armiger, Executor of Justicia (Level 4 Human Paladin)

and introducing...
Winterfrost, Silver Elf , Warrior Mystic from Iron-Shard Hold (Level 4 High Elf Eldritch Knight)
Flinch
Aline arrived, alone, at the gates of Flinch around noon. Red cloaked bodyguards ran to alert their employer and de-facto town boss, Harra Thorntooth, of her arrival. Aline immediately sought out Valerius, the executor of justice, to inform him of the tragic events of the morning. She found him at the office of Sildar Halwinter, agent of the Archon of Thither. There she told him of the death of their comrades, Braxton Hicks and Cyral, and of her intention to return to the mine to seek bloody vengeance against the ghouls that took Braxton.

While in the village, Nundro Rockseeker thanked Aline and Valerius for escorting him safely back to town. He announced his plan to return to the mine to reinforce his claim as sole heir of the Rockseeker brothers. He expressed his condolences on the loss of their friends, then asked the party for their help in clearing the mine of the remaining dangers in exchange for ten percent of the profits and any valuables they find within. Valerius and Aline did not feel that his claim had merit and felt that instead they had a stronger claim. Nundro, offended, stormed off in a huff.

The pair decided to recruit additional help. They entered the Auld Dunn Inn and took a look around. Valerius immediately recognized Thaddeus, wearing rags, looking thin, and with a bearing of a man who had been surviving in the mountains. The two exchanged greetings.

Thaddeus then related to Valerius the tale of how he came to his current state. Two months ago, while escorting Princess Murti through the Defile of Castragon, the party was ambushed by a Cyclops who could fly and turn invisible! They were captured and taken to a mountain fortress. There Thaddeus and the rest of the party were held in a dungeon. Princess Murti is still held there along with Babu, Jalani, and Knott. He only recently escaped the dungeon of the cyclops and managed to survive in the mountains long enough to make it to Flinch. He would like help in rescuing the princess and later helping her to reach Horek.

Valerius pledged his help, however he asked Thaddeus for his assistance first. He must avenge his fallen comrades Cyral the Sylvan and Braxton Hicks of the hill folk.

Winterfrost, a silver elf warrior-mystic with blue hair, overheard the story of the death of Cyral and interrputed to inquire of his remains. She asked if she could join the party so that she may recover the fallen elf and return his soul to the Celestial Tree. The party agreed and welcomed her help.

Back to the Mine
The next morning, having rested and resupplied, the party hiked back up the slope of Mount Zinnober to the cave entrance of Wyvern Tor. They retraced their steps to the hidden niche containing the entrance to the lost mine.

They descended into the sinkhole by rope and proceeded directly to the ancient guard room where Braxton met his demise. Thaddeus listened at the door to verify occupation within before Valerius kicked it in. The full party, suitably equipped and prepared, eliminated the five ghouls with swift and righteous vengeance! 

The Flaming Skull
After defeating the ghouls, the party scooped up what they could of Braxton's remains and put them into jars. They then went to the other guardroom and recovered Cyral's body, which the ghouls would not touch, and placed it in a large sack.

After their grim work, they moved cautiously into the chamber of the blast furnace. The room was dominated by a huge blast furnace and a deep dry channel cut into the floor. A flaming skull stood sentinel above the furnace and the long dead remains of dwarven and orcine warriors littered the floor.

Once more prepared for the coming encounter, they first tried to talk with the flaming skull. The skull replied only with hissing shrieks and the words "None may enter this place!". Satisfied that the guardian was mindless in its endeavor, they entered the room. The flaming skull attacked with a fireball spell, catching Winterfrost in its full effect and Valerius and Thaddeus in its periphery. The party entered into futile battle with the magical construct. Their arrows had little effect and the flying skull was a whizzing blur, difficult to target and immune to all of Aline's magic.

Then the zombies rose. The remains, animated by the necromantic magic that suffused the place, stood and began attacking the members of the party. 

It was a pitched battle. Eventually, Valerius demanded the skull face him or suffer his divine righteousness. The skull obliged. Meanwhile, Thaddeus climbed atop the long dry water-wheel. Eventually, the flaming skull was defeated. The zombies, however, continued to fight but were eventually destroyed.

The group took a much-needed rest after the difficult battle.

After an hour, to the shock and horror of everyone in the room, the flaming skull re-formed and launched another fireball, once more catching Winterfrost in the explosion. The party decided to exit the room in a hurry.

Mormesk the Bitter
The party then entered the starry cavern and approached the house of Mormesk the wraith. 

Entering the demolished apartment, they attempted to parley. Mormesk materialized and conversed with the party via threats, insults, and braggadocio. The disembodied spirit took credit for the flaming skull, claiming that it was far superior to any fucking useless Spectator. He reiterated his low opinion of the wizard Noh-Nah-Meh and that wizard's choice of guardian. When asked what they could do to help Mormesk, Mormesk answered that he would grant access to his library in exchange for Valerius' magic sword or Thaddeus' magic mace. Thaddeus responded by attacking Mormesk. Valerius followed suit and the wraith was destroyed before it could react.

In one of Mormesk's books, the party found a passage that revealed that flameskulls could only be banished with holy water, dispel magic, or restoration.

A Long Rest
The party was by now low on magic and exhausted. They spent the rest of the day and a night of slumber in the starry cavern and the forge of spells, counting their coins, reading books, and learning to use new magical items. 

Return to the Flaming Skull
After their rest, they prepared themselves for an assault against the flaming skull. Thaddeus and Valerius rushed into the room and spread out while Aline and Winterfrost kept a safe distance in the hall. Eventually, Winterfrost ran into the cavern and she and Valerius was caught in the blast of a fireball spell, again! Aline, meanwhile, used her wand of magic missiles to force the flaming skull to deplete its magic shielding spells, eventually rendering the skull defenseless so that Thaddeus could destroy it with the mace Lightbringer.

So destroyed, Valerius sprinkled the remains with holy water. After waiting an hour to verify its demise, the party performed a final sweep of the mine. Satisfied that it was now empty, they returned to Flinch with the remains of their comrades.

Winterfrost
Back in Flinch
Once back in the village, Winterfrost took the remains of Cyral into the forest to perform the ritual to return his soul to the Celestial Tree. The rest of the party met with Nundro Rockseeker, the sole surviving member of the Rockseeker clan, to take him up on his offer of ten percent of the mine's profits in exchange for clearing the mine of danger. Since the party had previously declined the offer, Nundro argued that he owed them nothing, and thanked them for clearing it for free. The party told Nundro that his claim to the mine was tenuous and reminded him that were it not for them, he would still be held captive and the mine would be full of monsters. Aline insinuated that she could restore the flameskull as guardian of the blast furnace. Nundro acquiesced and agreed to pay the party ten percent of the profits from the mine per his original offer. Harra Thorntooth, in her role as town banker, agreed to write up the contract and make all the arrangements. She even waived her usual fees and surcharges as a goodwill gesture to Valerius. Valerius smiled, politely but with as much implied menace as he could convey.
Harra Thorntooth, aka "Snaggletooth"

Thus Concludes the Lost Mine of Elder Flinch
On November 7th, the party begins a new quest: the rescue of Princess Murti from the magic cyclops of the Defile of Castragon.