The Dragonslayers II Pt. 5: Into the Gauntlet

After burying the bard Jesae our intrepid group of slayers carried on their quest to recover their buried treasure, buried atop a plateau on Hirok. They decided to make their way to the mouth of Sawback’s lair to see if the trolls were occupying it and if their treasure had been found. Vorwulf guided the group following the foot of Hirok to the cave mouth by late morning. The cave was intact and seemingly deserted the sound of water flowing from the cave met their ears as did the stench of troll mixed with the sharp scent of a reptilian origin. They sighted dozens possibly hundreds of small smooth stones akin to water smoothed river-stones scattered about most collecting on the shores of the creek each deeply engraved with a spiral pattern.

Vorwulf: “Well there’s definitely troll here.”

Grom: “What’re those stones? Are they magic?” He picked up a stone and his magic sense told him they were mundane.

Vorwulf: “Aw, probably some bored trolls sittin’ around carvin’ on ‘em.”

Since they appeared to be alone and were intent on charging into the cave the shaman performed the war-paint ritual and painted the faces of each of the adventurers in preparation. As the shaman finished up the ritual, all faces now painted, the others sighted shambling humanoid shapes stumbling towards them from the other side of the creek approximately 60 ft. away. Bers pulled the cowl of her Cloak of Invisibility over her head disappearing from sight. The others attempted to hide in an effort to avoid a fight as they could clearly see these were undead creatures with a mage leading them. The mage had an Acton bearing the white star being gripped in a black gauntlet against a purple field. The shaman stumbled through a bush making quite a racket while trying to hide (he rolled a Natural 1). Needless to say the creatures and their mage saw him. They began moving towards the creek in an agonized attempt to cross its chest-deep waters. The slayers could see that the enemy group consisted of the mage whom they could see now was wearing a black hood over his head with a red skull painted on the face, an undead warrior wearing a rusted great helm and a bronze pectoral plate over a suit of scalemail bearing a bearded axe in his hands shreds of shriveled blue flesh still clinging to his yellow bones, four half-faun zombies bearing sledgehammers wearing rusted helms and rotted studded leather armor, and five skeletons bearing battle axes and carrying medium wood shields with the same arms as the mage painted on them.

Grom and Kyr emerged to do battle as Vorwulf stayed back in the bushes with a ready bow and Bers still invisible began moving forward. The undead warrior with the bearded axe began to levitate and float forward over the running water while the skeletons easily crossed running straight through the creek. Bers engaged a skeleton easily smashing it down while the shaman called down lightning onto the rest their bones dropping into the current. The levitating creature moved towards Bers and caught her in its gaze, her eyes went white and she dropped to the grass apparently dead. The shaman was able to reach her used his Mithral Helm to cast Heal on her bringing her back from the brink of death (she made the luck roll not to be just dead but only caught a glimpse with her left eye which is now permanently discolored). Vorwulf shot the mage and stuck him good. Kyrahma charged forward to Bers’ and the shaman’s sides. The lich warrior, they now knew what it was due to its Death Gaze, reached down to touch the shaman whom dodged. The mage attempted to cast a spell on Vorwulf whom saw cold grey mists begin to surround him but he was able to shake off its hold and remained unaffected. The zombies reached the water and the skeletons re-emerged from the water onto the bank with Bers, Kyr and Grom the shaman. The mage was slain by a second arrow which nearly passed directly through him and Vorwulf emerged from his cover. At the start of the second round Kyr battled the skeletons and the zombies forded the creek. Grom pulled his magic mace gaining the benefits of the Supernatural Power spell from it (his spells for the day were nearly exhausted) and swung at the lich. The lich successfully touched Bers and she froze in place unable to move a rigid muscle. At the end of the round only two of the skeletons had been permanently smashed into dust as the group found that these keep putting themselves back together after being beat down and getting back up and the lich was struck down after a couple of massive blows from the empowered shaman the corpse crumbling to dust leaving behind the wretched armor and gear. It took two more rounds to dispose of the zombies and the skeletons. After the battle and the adventurers took account they found themselves exhausted and badly wounded. Bers however was still as stiff as a statue.

As they persisted in looting the remains of the undead and the shaman used his Clairvoyance (a cantrip for shamans) in order to try to find the warrior lich’s phylactery but got nothing but the definite sense that he had just given their position and identities away to something particularly nasty (rolled a Natural 1, again). They could all hear the sounds of metal armor, multiple voices and weapons being drawn from within the cave. The shaman then turned his attentions towards Bers and casting the Mystic Diagnosis spell on her he found that the paralysis was permanent. They briefly debated on whether or not to use the Potion of Arch-Cure that the shaman carried but in the end decided to save the potion. Vorwulf dug around in her gear remembering that she was carrying a dragon-metal Ring of Freedom of Movement from when he and the shaman had taken inventory of the group’s gear before this little venture and slipped it on her finger which allowed her to move suppressing the lich’s uncanny paralysis. The shaman got around to healing the wounds of Vor and Kyr. Vorwulf took down a healing potion in addition to that. Four 12 ft. tall trolls in full plate armor and bearing large two-handed serpentine bladed swords emerged from the cave mouth and charged the hapless, exhausted adventurers.

Behind the four armored trolls a human in full plate armor with a visor resembling the face of a roaring demon and a creature resembling the unholy union of a troll and a dragon in half-plate armor and a wolfskin mantle followed them. The human locked eyes with Vorwulf whom immediately recognized him as the merc commander from the battlements at Merdna (see Dragonslayers II Pt. 2). The commander pointed at him hissing, “You”, before he lowered his demonic visor. A troll attacked Bers and avoiding the blow she hit it with a power attack cutting it down. The armor split and burst open as the body within turned to stone. The other tow trolls charged and engaged Bers and Kyr. Kyr power attacked wounding one and the shaman cast Mass Bull’s Strength increasing the slayers’ physical strength. Vorwulf used a magic ability on his weapon to warp the sword of the troll that had yet to charge. The group fought the three remaining trolls as the commander and the half-dragon troll readied to join the battle. During the first round of the fight a troll was knocked back by the blast from Kyr’s armor when it struck her causing it to fall on Vorwulf who became trapped underneath the immense bulk of steel and troll-flesh. When it came to the second round the commander in the demonic armor and the half-dragon troll joined the fight. The felled troll rose off of Vorwulf whom appeared dead to him and attacked Kyr again striking at her helm who after parrying the blow struck at him with a counter-strike. The commander engaged Vor who landed a power attack on him causing the demonic-armor to glow red-hot. Vorwulf was forced into a recovery check to reduce the damage of a nasty blow from the commander’s claymore. Grom and Bers fought on as the half-dragon unleashed a blast of steam-breath with little effect and met the shaman in battle. By the end of the round two more trolls fell, their armor bursting unleashing gouts of foul blood as they fell into pieces of stone and twisted metal. By the third round the group was fighting the remaining pair of enemies. Vorwulf, the shaman and Kyr were on the merc commander and Bers was fighting the half-dragon. With every blow he had suffered the commander’s armor glowed brighter and flames had begun to wreath his glowing form with flames forming around his weapon. The half-dragon was dropped with a single blow from Bers and her magic axe and when struck the deathblow by Kyr the commander exploded with a burst of flame which burnt them all and reduced the Hill-Lander’s corpse to dust leaving the demonic armor empty and still standing.

Blood and sweat pooled in gauntlets and boots of the adventurers and their sweltering helms dripped. The group realized that they were “really beat down” and decided they had to get out of there far away from the cave especially since they could hear more troops mustering within. Grom and Vorwulf were again badly injured; Bers and Kyr were mildly hurt. Grom found that he had cast all the spells he could for that day and thus was “out of magic”. Kyr admired the commander’s armor and inspected it closely but without touching it.

Isis (Kyr’s player): “Man, I really want that armor! Its frickin’ cool!”

Cris (Vor’s player): “You don’t want that f@$#in’ armor. It’s probably evil anyway.”

The group began deciding whether to travel either to Ekit’s Watch or to Robber’s Roost. Robber’s Roost where they had really gotten under the craw of the Crossed-Staffs gang unintentionally (see Dragonslayers Pt.26) lay half a day even going at full speed on their mounts to the southwest. They had no news about or knowledge of the place since returning to Hirok-Nor. Ekit’s Watch lay almost half a day to the northwest and which housed the wizard which Bers, Vorwulf and Grom had bartered with over a year ago before they went on to slay Old Sawback (see Dragonslayers Pt. 26 & 31). Bers, as senior member, decided that they would go to Ekit’s Watch.

To Be Continued…

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