Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Descent Into the Depths" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 28


Brim Coppervein fed both of the riding lizards while his friend Griswalla Stonehammer, absently petting her own reptilian steed, stared upwards at the cavern ceiling.

"Do you think the sun is rising?" Griswalla asked.

Coppervein gave each of the beasts a scoop of dry grain, filling a bag worn over their snout. "What's this yer on about?" muttered the gruff dwarf.

Griswalla sighed. "I miss the sun. We've travelled below ground for.. what.. weeks? MONTHS? It's impossible to know! We travel, we eat and rest, we sleep, we get up and travel again. These caves go on forever! The closest thing we've seen to a tree were those giant mushrooms back in Mantol-Derith. The only time we see the sun is when Ser Valerius draws his sword or Mister Ront holds aloft that globe he carries. I miss the sun. I miss the sky. I miss the sunsets and birds and trees."

Coppervein glared at her, "I don't want ye referring to that... ERK... as 'mister' again. Don't ferget he's an erk! He may be our commandin' officer, and I'll follow 'is orders because mistress Malkin told us to, but ye'll never be seein' me payin' 'im any respect!"

Griswalla shook her head, "MISTER Ront is not like other orcs. He's trying to better himself. He's learning the ways of nature. He's very interested in the Emerald Enclave and what we represent."

Coppervein set about tightening the buckles and straps of the saddles. He spat on the ground. "'E's an erk!"

"He's also our best chance at surviving down here. Despite his savage ancestry, he's very concerned about our welfare and he's been a fair commander. He's just inexperienced. He's learning. In fact, he's learning surprisingly quickly. I'm sure that if you'd only ASKED him, he'd have purchased a new riding lizard for you back at Mantol-Derith. You have to let him know!"

"I'll never ask that green-skinned monster for anything!"

Griswalla sighed again, "You're letting your pride get in the way of your duty. You are a mounted scout of the Emerald Enclave. Ser Valerius has finally realized the value of our advanced reconnaissance. We're being assigned to rove ahead this shift."

Coppervein slapped the saddles with a sneer.

"Brim, you're being wasted back here! You need a mount! I'm sorry that tentacle-monster ate yours. Just ask for new one. Miss Virtue purchased two pack lizards for the black cloaks. If you just told Mister Ront..."

Coppervein shouldered his pack and began walking back towards the center of the train, "I'll be walkin' with the Anzar the Brazen of the Lords' Alliance. He's the only dwarf left of that group. I like 'im. 'E doesn't talk so much!"

Griswalla called after him, "Don't get yourself killed, Coppervein!"

The stubborn dwarf raised his pike over his head, "NOBODY KILLS A COPPERVEIN!"



OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 28
"DESCENT INTO THE DEPTHS"

Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
and are roaming free in the
subterranean land known as the Underdark.

Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
into the depths of the Earth.

They are on the way to Gravenhollow,
the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
where it is said all secrets are known.

On the way, they decided to help 
the Deep Gnome named Gabble Lickskillet
deliver a box of gems to Blingdenstone
only to discover that Gabble 
was not all that she seemed...


THE LEADERS OF THE EXPEDITION
  • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
  • Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
  • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
  • Willow - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
  • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
  • The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
  • Ront - (PC) orc barbarian of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.

ADVENTURERS OF THE ORDER OF THE GAUNTLET
Under the command of Ser Valerius
  • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior





SCOUTS OF THE EMERALD ENCLAVE
Under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout









GUARDS AND AGENTS OF THE LORDS' ALLIANCE
Under the command of Pain
  • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior
  • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
  • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)





THE BLACK CLOAKS OF THE ZHENTARIM
Under the command of Virtue
  • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
  • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)

OTHER HANGER'S-ON
  • Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.
THE DEAD-END
During the fifth shift of travel out of Mantol-Derith, Gabble led the expedition into a large caven. The cavern was filled with a dense fog that restricted visibility to a few feet. Not even the glowing brilliance of Dawnbringer could pierce the milky white haze. Gabble instructed everyone to follow the wall to the left.

The expedition carefully made their way around the chamber when the thunderous roar of a ceiling collapse echoed through the dark. There was a moment of concern as everyone reported in.

Gabble began laughing, giggling at first then cackling maniacally. Her voice changed, becoming deeper and more menacing. The fog was sucked down a deep shaft in the center of the chamber as Gabble began to change her shape. No longer was she the diminutive deep gnome covered in jewels. She was now a tall voluptuous humanoid female with purple skin, horns, great leathery wings, and a long tail.

The two box carriers likewise transformed into gruesome humanoids resembling sad-looking goblins with the bodies of orangutans. 

The center of the room fell away into a deep pit. The ceiling was a tall shaft. Through the hole in the ceiling poured a black swarm of horse flies and two gigantic demonic insect-creatures like massive mosquitoes crossed with flies. Their infernal buzzing was deafening.

"Ha ha ha! You fool! You fell right into my trap! Now, Virtue, for having me banished from Gracklstugh, I will have my revenge!"

THE AMBUSH
The room was filled with swarms of black flies, each as big as a beetle. The swarms immediately surrounded and began biting the expedition. Two massive fly-like demons with long mosquito proboscises hovered over the shaft. Their wings beat a maddening hum. Several members of the expedition, including Virtue and Willow and the two pack lizards, immediately fell unconscious to the ground. 

Valerius rushed the two simian demons and slew them both in one motion.

The winged she-demon took flight. She pointed at Ser Valerius, gave him a wink, and blew him a kiss. Ser Valerius changed demeanor from that of a man of action to a love-struck simpleton. She pointed at the expedition and shouted, "You! I want you to kill all of these other people." 
Ser Valerius dumbly nodded and turned to attack the warriors of the Gauntlet under his command. The warriors fought valiantly, defending themselves against both Ser Valerius' attacks as well as the swarms of biting flies that beset them. 
The she-demon faded from view, disappearing into ethereal nothingness to await the outcome of the battle.

Pain ran past Virtue and Willow, slapping them as hard as he could and waking them from their torpor. Behind him, Feral Killmander and Anzar the Brazen opened fire at the large insect-demons with their crossbows.

Virtue stood up and stared off into space, lost in her own world. Pain screamed at her to remove the curse placed upon her. Virtue shook her head and said, "What?"

The insect demons moved in on Pain. Ront rushed up to aid his diminutive teammate. The insect demons ganged up on Ront, using their proboscises to drain the orc of his precious life fluids. Ront began to stagger under the demonic attack but his own blows were relentless. While Willow attacked the demons with magical spheres of acid, Ront and Pain finally defeated the two giant demons.

Having defeated the giant insect demon, Ront ran widdershins around chasm towards Ser Valerius while Pain took the opposite direction. By the time they reached the paladin, Valerius had taken damage and freed himself of the she-demon's mind control.

The she-demon became visible, hovering in the center of the room. She grimaced at the loss of Valerius then smiled at Pain, "Well, hello there. You look like a deadly fellow." Pain's eyes grew wide but he managed to look away in time.

Virtue cast a spell upon herself and she and Santaka flew out over the pit and engaged the she-demon in mid-air hand-to-hand combat. Willow launched spheres of acid at the demon before turning her attention to the giant insect monsters.

Ser Valerius stood tall and pointed Dawnbringer at the she-demon. He challenged her to a holy duel, an act that compelled the adversary to comply. The she-demon, wounded and facing a holy warrior, called out, "You have defeated me, Overworlders! But I will return and I will have my revenge!"


She faded from view and did not return.

TRAPPED
Once the battle was over, the expedition took stock. There were some injuries but no fatalities. Virtue flew up the shaft hoping to find an exit to the surface. She disappeared for over an hour. When she returned she had no memory of where she had been or what she was doing. She had distracted herself, dreaming of flying through clear blue skies over a range of mountains.

Pain finally convinced her to remove her own madness.

Searching through the box carried by the simian demons, the group found a dress made of gold coins.

The expedition rested and slept. The next shift, the dwarves began clearing away the rubble from the collapsed tunnel.

BRIM COPPERVEIN
After escaping the ambush the expedition realized it was effectively lost. It decided to follow the ring pointing them to Gravenhollow.

The expedition reconfigured itself. Ser Valerius moved the mounted scouts out ahead. This new arrangement proved very useful as several dangerous situations were spotted early and avoided.

Brim Coppervein, a scout that lost his mount during the initial descent into the Underdark, traveled next to Anzar the Brazen, the only surviving dwarf from the city guards of the Lords' Alliance.

The expedition traveled through rough terrain, navigating tunnels and rifts and caverns and voids in the earth, resting wherever they stopped. They journeyed incessantly, stopping to rest over a dozen times.

After one rest, Anzar woke to find Coppervein gone. His equipment and weapons lay on the ground. It was simply as if Brim Coppervein had disappeared in his sleep.

DM Note- The loss of Brim Coppervein
I rolled a "random NPC mysteriously disappears" result. I then rolled randomly to see which NPC, rolling a d8 to determine which general area, 1 for the front, 8 for the rear, 4-5 for the center. I rolled the area with the two dwarves.

I had developed a soft spot for Brim Coppervein after he survived the Rocktopus ambush. One of the players shouted, "NOBODY KILLS A COPPERVEIN!"

So I grabbed the mini for who I thought was Anzar.

The players shouted, "Oh no! Not Coppervein!"

I said, "Oops, wrong one."

I was called out.

"No way  man! You picked Coppervein. No favorites! He's gone."

They were right. I picked him fair and square. I took him off the board. Coppervein was gone. And I was kind of bummed about it.

DEMON ON THE LOOSE
Having traveled for fifteen rests, the expedition was rattled by an eerie howl. The howl became a maddening screech that tested the grit and sanity of everyone in the expedition.

The scouts came back. They reported the approach of a large red frog-demon covered in spikes charging . The expedition moved out of their way and allowed them to move to the rear. Ront, Ser Valerius, Pain, and Virtue  stood ready at the front to receive the oncoming demonic charge.

The huge screeching creature ran out of the darkness. It charged Valerius but was quickly and efficiently cut down by Dawnbringer.

A PLEA FOR HELP
Later in their journey, the scouts reported coming across a small animal - a lone fire beetle. The fire beetle came up to them, wiggled its body, and turned as if trying to lead them somewhere. They brought the fire beetle to Ser Valerius and the other expedition leaders. They deduced that the fire beetle was a trained pet and that its owner was in trouble. It bore a collar with a tag that read "Amarith Coppervein". 

Intrigued, they followed the plucky fire beetle. It led them to a passage with stairs cut into the stone.c There was a sign outside made of wood - ACTUAL WOOD. The sign read "Amarith Coppervein's Menagerie. Admission 5 Silver".

They heard a cry for help from the passage and the sound of roaring creatures. They drew their weapons and charged.

...TO BE CONTINUED

Here's a picture I took of our group at play.