Thursday, November 10, 2016

"The Bridge of Doom" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 31


The Zhentarim black cloaks engaged the air elementals in combat, distracting them while Virtue snuck away. If she was successful, they would return to the expedition. 

She approached the ancient chamber. It was flanked by heavy stone pillars. The seal was unbroken.

She turned the complicated mechanism and opened the door. The seal cracked and broke away. A gust of wind rushed out.

Inside, a genie was bound within magic circle, trapped. The genie was surrounded by a whirlwind. The chamber opened onto a vast rift deep underground. The wind from the chamber blew a constant maelstrom into the rift, creating strong winds deep underground. 

She carefully rotated the four seals placed around the magic circle. The whirlwind stopped. The genie was a spinning mass of cloud and fog. 

"Genie."

The cloud and fog resolved itself into the ethereal shape of a humanoid torso with blue skin. The genie examined Virtue with cold malice.

"Genie. I have been sent to free you from this prison. But before I do, I must obtain your guarrantee that no harm will come to me."

"That is beyond my power. I can only promise you that I will never harm you."

"Close enough." Virtue freed the genie.

The great entity, freed from its bonds, said, "Thank you. In gratitude for your actions, I will return you to your friends."

"What? Wait a minute, I don't have any... friiieeeenn..." Her voice tailed off as winds carried her through the caverns of the Underdark to she knew not where.

OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 31
"THE BRIDGE OF DOOM"

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.

Their travel was interrupted
by a toll bridge manned by ogres.
After it was discovered that the alternative route
was a trap set by gargoyles
the expedition returned to deal with the ogres
guarding the bridge...

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 (missing)
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout (decased)









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 (missing)
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (missing)





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 (missing)
  • 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.
  • Amarith Coppervein - (NPC) dwarven veteran, formerly owner and operator of a menagerie of demon-possessed creatures. 
  • Pok-Pok - (NPC) winged kobold, Amarith's assistant.
  • Sparky - (NPC) fire-beetle, Amarith's trained pet. 
VIRTUE'S RETURN
The expedition followed the path along the ledge overlooking a deep water-filled chasm. They found a wide landing around the corner. A perfectly flat stone bridge extended from the landing across the chasm. The bridge looked to be an extension of the stone and did not appear to be caved or made of blocks. On the far side of the bridge stood a contingent of guards consisting of four duergar, three ogres, and a crazed derro. They had obviously heard the sound of the alarm horn blown from the earlier checkpoint and had made ready. Thargus Forkbeard was separated from his riding lizard. He had not yet been taken prisoner but his hands were raised and the guards' weapons were drawn. The Derro watched him for any sudden moves.

On the near landing lay Virtue and Santaka. They had been blown through the chasm by the genie and unceremoniously deposited on the landing next to the expedition. She stood up and brushed herself off. Santaka shook like a dog. "Hey, what's going on? Where's Willow?"

Pain explained the situation and explained that Willow was staying behind at the checkpoint.

One of the three ogres on the far side of the bridge called out, "Don't come any furder! De horn says you didn't pay da toll! Nobody crosses da bridge widdout payin' da toll!"

Pain feigned deafness due to the high winds blowing through the chasm, "What? I can't... WHAT???" He slowly approached onto the bridge. Valerius accompanied him astride his celestial lion.

"Don't come any furder! Stop dere!"

Pain continued his ruse as they inched closer.

Suddenly a human voice called out in perfect Common from a hidden ledge overlooking the near side of the bridge, "You can hear them just fine! You will not cross my bridge! You have killed my guards and you have no intention of paying my toll. Leave now or be destroyed!"

Virtue cast a glance at Ront, Pain, and Valerius. Valerius and Pain understood her meaning. Virtue locked eyes with her red dragon Santaka. The dragon wiggled its tail and haunch in anticipation. Virtue nodded.

Virtue cast a spell of flight upon herself. She and her dragon took to the air.

In response, the unseen figure from the ledge above and behind them threw a hastily cast fireball spell. The spell exploded in the midst of expedition. Pok-Pok and Sparky were killed instantly. The rest miraculously survived! Valerius, Ront, and Pain, separated from the group, were not caught within the blast. They immediately rushed the bridge to engage its defenders on the far side.

The mysterious drow merchant, accompanied by her two hobgoblin guards, retreated from the group. To everyone's no one's surprise, she began scuttling up the cliff like a spider. She pointed a hand at the burning survivors of the expedition and produced a spray of thick sticky webbing. She covered the expedition and continued climbing towards the ledge.

Virtue and Santaka landed on the ledge in front of a human male. He was missing a leg and supported himself using an ornate staff topped with a large uncut emerald cyrstal. He staggered back.

Virtue cast a fireball spell of her own while Santaka breathed fire. The wizard swiped his free hand and dispelled the fireball but was caught in the blast of the dragon's fire breath.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, the four duergar grew to gigantic proportions and met Ront head-on. Ront cleaved through the giants, cutting them down in short order and advancing. Valerius charged astride his mighty lion while Pain moved underneath cutting hamstrings and stabbing upwards from underfoot.

The hobgoblin guards attacked the expedition while they were immobilized by webbing but the warriors of the Gauntlet held their own.

Virtue continued her confrontation with the wizard Mistle. Injured from the dragon-fire, Mistle disappeared into a puff of silvery mist. Another puff could be heard from a small tunnel behind the ledge. He could not be seen.

The drow climbed over the ledge, only she was no longer a drow. She revealed her true form, that of a large spider with a humanoid head. An unusual hump grew from the top of the spider's abdomen.

"Do not worry, Tiefling. It is I, Kaul'Riah. I am an ally, if you wish it. Let me help you kill Mistle. I only ask that I am able to take possession of this bridge upon his death."

Virtue appraised the hideous spider-thing. "We'll, uh, talk later," she said before darting off down the passage after Mistle.

The battle continued to rage on the bridge as Valerius, Pain, and Ront continued their onslaught on the ogres.

After managing to free themselves of the webbing and dispatch the hobgolbins, the crossbowmen of the expedition fired volleys at the ogres and at the derro. Thargus broke away from the derro and fired his own crossbow, killing the crazed humanoid, before turning his own attacks upon the ogres.

Facing overwhelming numbers and superior firepower, the defenders of the bridge were soon defeated.

THE WIZARD'S CHAMBERS
Virtue came into a lit chamber with a table, a desk, and a storage cabinet. Another passage exited the chamber and two stone doors were set into niches in the wall to the right. One door had four handles arranged vertically. Chained to one wall by a collar was a svirfneblin slave. The slave was hooded and stared blankly at the wall.

Virtue couldn't tell where the wizard went. She removed the hood from the slave and asked, but he simply sighed and shrugged without even looking away from the wall.

Virtue returned to the ledge. The spider-thing approached to speak. Without acknowledging the spider-thing or even so much as breaking her stride, Virtue gave a curt nod at Santaka and the dragon breathed flame upon Kaul'Riah, consuming the spider-thing in flame and killing it instantly.

The battle on the bridge was over and Virtue flew down to check on everyone. Valerius had managed to reviviy the recently deceased Pok-Pok and Sparky and was tending to the wounds of the others.

Virtue described the wizard's chambers and the group planned their next action.

Pain, Ront, and Valerius climbed the wall and joined Virtue and Santaka a the top of the ledge. They explored the chamber carefully.

Pain set to the door, examining it from traps but finding none. He carefully turned the first knob.

The ceiling opened up and rocks fell. He managed to jump out of the way to avoid harm. The rocks fell into a trap door in the floor and the sound of mechanisms and gears could be heard moving the rocks back in position above the door.

He tried the third doorknob. The same thing happened. Rocks spilled, he jumped out of the way, the trap reset.

He nervously tried the second handle. The door opened easily.

"Screw this. I have to know." He closed the door and tried the fourth handle. The door's hinges fell off the the heavy stone door lurched forward, threatening to crush the halfling street urchin. Pain cowered but the door caught itself on the wall, creating a void underneath but trapping Pain.

"A little help?" cried the halfling.

Ront stretched and moved the heavy door with ease.

They found the wizard's bedchambers within. There was another hooded svirfneblin slave chained to the wall within but the wizard was nowhere to be seen. The room looked hastily ransacked as if the wizard came here, grabbed a few essentials, and fled in a hurry.

When asked, the svirfneblin slave said the wizard came here, grabbed a few things, then cast a spell and disappeared.

After searching the room, Ront found a ring on a severed hand at the bottom of a small amount of brine in a large stone jar. A secret niche was found but it was empty.

Searching the rest of the complex, they found another chamber where additional duergar guarded the tolls collected and manned the alarm horn. The duergar and the treasure apparently turned invisible and fled after the attack on the checkpoint.

They also found a stairway that descended to a boat landing at the bottom of the chasm. The boat was gone.

MOVING AHEAD
The expedition rested here before preparing to resume their journey to Gravenhollow. They raided Mistle's storeroom and replenished their supplies before they embarked. They soon met the black cloaks of the Zhentarim on the other side of the bridge.

The rest of the journey to Gravenhollow was long and perilous. Over the course of over forty cycles of travel and rest they encountered shadow demons, rock falls, and mysterious disappearances. At one point the entire expedition was reduced to the leadership and one or two warriors of the Gauntlet. Even Santaka and Ferryl Killmander had disappeared! However, during one leg of travel they found four of the missing members of the expedition wandering aimlessly and lost with no memory of where they had been. Santaka, Ferryl, and two others were reunited with the group.

DM Note- Yeah, we summed up the rest of the journy. I just went down the list of all the random encounters. We rolled randomly to see who disappeared. Then one encounter called for four random commoners. I replaced that with finding four of the missing NPCs. We rolled randomly to see who came back. I rolled a d30, with 27-30 indicating GM's choice. First result was 27 so I picked Ferryl because I like him. The second result was Santaka. I don't even remember the other two.

The expedition continued their quest to find Gravenhollow, following the magic ring, resting, then continuing their journey. Eventually they came across a strange fat eight-legged reptile sitting upon a rock. The reptile kept its gaze averted from them. It was a basilisk! The leaders of the expedition prepared to fight.

The basilisk spoke, "Well, it's about time you lot showed up! You were expected to arrive eight days ago! Follow me. My name is Veldyskar and I am to guide you to the gates of Gravenhollow."

TO BE CONTINUED...