The next morning our two adventurers found the trail by the graves unspoiled and fortunate that the snow didn’t fall overnight to conceal it. Dead-Eye (played Cris) began tracking with Bers (played by Jenn) following close behind. The tracks were leading straight into the Granfor and appeared to be that of 3 individuals, the first indelibly human the other 2 were of an indeterminate species. As they met the edge of the verd about to disappear from view of the camp Olf appeared and began to follow them at a leisurely pace. They traveled for a few hours through the skeletal woods and found themselves at what appeared to be the mouth of the primeval Granfor forest. The snow was piled high among the comparatively smaller trees of the Light Wood but caught in the canopy of the ancient trees of the Granfor forming what appeared in many places along the border a series of gaping caves. The forest floor of the Granfor is always dark due to the high canopy and the litter caught like the canopy of a tropical rainforest causing it to be dark even during the middle of the day leaving the black soil to the twisting massive roots of the trees, giant varieties of fungi, carnivorous plants and other such things.
Dead-Eye didn’t like it but decided to along with Bers to follow the trail to its end. They climbed into the cold, dank darkness of the Granfor after lighting a torch and Bers her lantern. The going was slow among the water carved ravines and the snaking black roots of the trees. Here and there were softly glowing mushrooms and other fungus as well as slime molds. The pair traveled for most of the day stumbling throw what amounted to a cold soft rain, the melting snow caught in the forest roof dripping down to the floor creating puddles of icy water and areas of slippery grey mud. They were getting soaked and were thoroughly miserable. They were about to turn back when they spotted an area lit by narrow beams of sunlight ahead of them.
The lit area was atop a small hummock where sat a large moss-capped boulder. Dead-Eye spotted some movement as if a pair of slight figures had ducked behind the rock. Dead-Eye climbed up first lowering a rope behind him and helped to pull Bers, a notoriously bad climber despite her great strength, to the top. They crept carefully to the boulder and were preparing to move around each side in order to try to catch whoever it was on the other side between them when a cold wave which caused their bones to ache swept down from the top of the boulder where Dead-Eye caught the arcane-whisperings of a mage carried by the cursed air. Fortunately they both made their saving throws and were unaffected by the spell whatever it was and charged around the boulder encountering two human skeletons baring rusted battle axes. Bers cleaved through both in a single mighty swing rendering them to splinters. Dead-Eye immediately shot an arrow at a hunched figure he spotted seated on the boulder and was immediately greeted by, “I surrender don’t kill me please!”
What was on the boulder was an elderly human male in tattered rags which used to be robes with a strange neck manacle fastened about his boney neck. He blubbered a bit and they took pity on him especially since he had only one arm which he said his master had “chewed off” the only time he was ever disobedient. The old mage introduced himself as Zancor an errant Hyvalian outcast whom was forced by his master an ice troll to excavate the corpses of their comrades probably for the food stores. The neck manacle was apparently magic and both crudely and well made at the same time lending to Dead-Eye’s conclusion that it was indeed trollcraft. Besides they both were pretty sure the old man was telling the truth. He offered to point the way to his master’s cave which wasn’t far from the boulder and being the crafty one Dead-Eye got the old man to give him a little more very useful information despite the troll-collar by playing the right-left/no game (played by asking right or left first assuming a fork then waiting for an answer of no or silence to indicate the way they should go; which I should’ve taken into account but oh well). They made their way quickly to the mouth of the cave. Zancor said his “niche” was not far inside but he would go back out where he was supposed to be gathering mushrooms and spices for the troll and well, just in case they failed…
They easily wended their way in along the winding caverns which sloped ever downward avoiding a room just off of the entrance which was lit by a single large diamond (yeah, I know, not very subtle). The trio encountered two latter generation trolls which appeared as the typical bestial troll but with blue-white skin, Bers hacked through them fairly easily neither of the adventurers taking as much as a scratch. After dousing the corpses with some acid vials they tramped on taking the correct fork every time the passage split thanks to one-armed Zancor’s information until they came to a single large fire-lit chamber. Within it along with a terrible smell of carrion and infectious animal filth lay a cave bear with a collar around its neck similar to that of Zancor showing signs of savage abuse on its matted and mangy hide. Both heroes felt sorry for the bear and Dead-Eye put it out of its misery with a single well-placed shot. Through a crudely hewn archway beyond they found another rectangular chamber with masoned walls and a flagstone floor dimly lit by a single candle sconce; a moist breeze wafting into the freezing chamber from an adjoining chamber where a well was to be found. They found the far wall of the chamber solid but strangely of an agreeable temperature to the rest of the room not warm or cold. Bers struck at the wall and her rang off the well-cut stone with shivers flying off everywhere onto the floor but with no visible damage to the blocks.
It was then that Cris (Dead-Eye’s player) shouted, “Ah-ha! I disbelieve the wall!” Dead-Eye rolled a Natural 20 on his disbelief and saw the wall melt away revealing it to be an illusion. Olf easily disbelieved as well but it took Bers a few tries even after she saw her other two companions walk straight through it.
The three found themselves in a dim chamber with large archways to the North and East. In the West wall a large hearth gaped within which a strange blue flame burned casting the room in an eerie pale blue light and which seemed to radiate an icy chill rather than warmth. A large table with a single large chair sat at the center of the room with a stool in the far corner. In the northwest a large leather sack hung from a peg in the wall. It was Olf who noticed that the walls were lined with flayed human hides most covered in tribal tattoos. Out of the North archway lumbered a troll wearing a filthy dark-crimson robe with pale blue skin and a single curving white horn growing from his forehead. In his right hand he brandished a long-sword with a serpentine blade glowing blue with malignant magic. The troll was about ten feet tall and had a narrow build unlike those that they had previously encountered. He proved just as strong though when Bers closed with him and took the first blow finding that the troll-blade also dealt 1D6 in additional frost damage when it struck. Dead-Eye pulled his parried weapons, a long-sword and a bowie knife and came around to try to flank the troll being forced to dodge to avoid a powerful sword blow. In the middle of this another creature with leathery skin waddled from the second archway howling and waving a large meat-cleaver in the air. The troll’s wife had joined the battle. The battle raged for two melee rounds the troll not being worse for the wear as he was protected by a mage-armor spell and the heroes had to hack through it first in order to deal damage to him and just when they thought they had his armor down Bers collapsed wounded into unconsciousness by the blows of both the troll and his wife. Olf ran to her side in order to ply his trade hopefully getting her battle ready by next round as Dead-Eye tried to beat the trolls back from his comrades chopping down the wife by the time Bers was able to rejoin the battle, Olf waited it out underneath the table. In all the battle lasted for 5 rounds and all had taken some battle damage but were determined to clear the lair first before resting.
They first inspected the chamber to the East and found it a kitchen. The chamber stank of blood and poorly preserved meats the flags of the floor stained black with a sticky sediment. On a rack on the far wall there hung a two-handed meat cleaver and ax with notched blades and a dull, gory saw. They also found a barrel of fine ale and a barrel of pickled organs which they left well enough alone. On meat hooks on the South wall hung large bits of stinking meat and a cabinet on the North wall which was filled with bottles of spices some of which smelled wonderfully others which smelled absolutely foul. Satisfied they moved back into the central hearth-chamber and then into the North bed chamber. A filthy pile of what were once fine silks lay in the North-West corner serving as the bed with a weapons rack next to it with a spiked great club on it meant for a large-sized wielder and next to that was a chest of shining adamantine bearing a diamond-eyed countenance of the ice troll on its face (pun intended). They immediately fell upon the chest and found that though it had no locks its lid held fast and then were taken aback when the face began cursing at them and refusing to open as its only loyalty was to its master/creator. Bers whipped out her dagger and began to dig at one of the diamond eyes and it started crying, “Not the eyes! PLEASE, not the eyes!” The lid promptly popped open.
They inspected the last room before deciding to divvy up the treasure within the troll-chest but finding the a pile of soiled rags and a bucket in a the last foul smelling room where sat a crud rimmed pit at its center they went back to the loot dragging the chest back to the hearth chamber where the blue flames had been extinguished along with the ice troll’s life. They began stripping the chest of its contents and inspected them after Dead-Eye lit a fire in the hearth forcing the troll-faced chest to identify the filched gear.
They found: 1 Vial of Oil of Brighten Blade, 1 Vial of Oil of Witch-Fire, 2 Bottles of Potion of Healing, 1 Spellbook, a superior quality Quartz Sphere, a titanium great axe with mother of pearl inlay and head and butt spikes which was a level 8 +4 Dancing Weapon once per day, a blue steel short spear which was a level 4 +2 foe weapon versus dragon, an alchemical gold ring with a large single emerald which was a level 6 magic ring with the ability to cast Aid Allies once a day (Olf took this), and an open helm of frost protection level 4 with a large opal on the brow.
After they inspected the gear and made their claims they began trying to work out the logistics as they were not going to leave the chest there (it was worth 816,000 gp). It was then that Dead-Eye remembered the large sack hanging on the peg in the room and decided to see if they could use that and found it was a bag of holding which could hold up to about 40 cubic feet of stuff and still appear empty. The chest protested and began crying that it would suffocate in the bag. They all breathed a sigh of relief when Dead-Eye pulled the bags mouth shut and tied off the cord. They laid down to sleep since the illusory wall was still there and assumed nothing would come prowling around a troll’s lair determined to make their way back to camp in the morning.
To Be Continued…