Dwarf on Back

Fifteenth Adventure (by George)

Episode 1

The party left the docks and headed toward Ormpetarr. They knew that the city was founded shortly after the infamous Spellplague of a century ago. Its goal was to give the spellscarred a safe haven where people understand their needs, and to create a center for understanding the effects of the Spellplague – thus its location on the border of the Plaguewrought Lands.

The adventurers headed for Finara’s, a very popular local tavern. On their way, they passed a heavily-guarded cart stacked high with crates bearing the symbol of the Order of the Blue Fire. One of the crates fell off of the cart, breaking open and spilling vials everywhere. The party recognized these as the very same vials which were being distributed in Shadowdale.

This was a very important discovery. As such, the party immediately started investigating. The Order’s guards were polite but firm, and wouldn’t allow the party near the cart in order to assist with cleaning up.

As the guards cleaned up, the party was able to magically ascertain that the contents of the vials don’t settle on their own – they appeared to writhe as the guards utilized magical spells in order to clean up the spilled contents. The substance inside was unmistakably identical to the oils used in the tinctures distributed by Apothecary Johan.

Yellga browsed local stores in order to see where the Order of the Blue Fire had visited. One of them had a crate which came as a delivery from the Order’s recent shipment. Inside were hand-crafted statuettes of Falis, the ancient elven goddess of fertility. The party purchased one.

Neil sized up the guards and spotted one who didn’t seem to have such an adverse reaction to the party. Nicolae sauntered up and introduced himself, fooling the guard into thinking that Nicolae is one of the inner members of the Order of the Blue fire. The guard referred to the source of the shipment as “the wood,” but became suspicious at further questioning.

Several party members spoke with townsfolk. They discovered that the shipments come through frequently (about once a week), and always arrive out of the east. Furthermore, the only thing to the east is an elven encampment. Ormpetarrians believe that the elves only maintain the encampment in order to provide an outlet of trade, and actually live deep in the woods. Still, the entrance to their encampment is heavily guarded, and the elves will occasionally turn some traders back for seemingly unfathomable reasons.

The party also performed some research in the local library. They discovered that there are some ancient legends which tell of a keep in the middle of the depths of the Chondalwood which was in ruins even before the time of the Spellplague. The stories speak of disembodied terrors guarding its grounds, driving away any who would plumb its depths. There’s little else to know about it – the elves declare blood feud on any who would enter the heart of the wood.

One of the local townsfolk was watching the party’s investigation over the days with interest, but seemed hesitant to approach the party. Applying a little verbal force to the man caused him to reveal that he’d heard some travelers who head east to trade with the elves don’t seem to return. Why the man was hesitant to speak with the party remained a mystery.

Lethe realized that elves generally don’t export glass – so it was a mystery where such large shipments would come from. She also noticed a piece of parchment sticking out of the pocket of one of the guards’ pants. Yellga was able to slip up to the guard and grab the parchment, revealing most of a map to the center of the Chondalwood. It detailed how to avoid most of the inhabitants, but seemed to rely on the reader having a certain amount of knowledge already.

These revelations took a few days to gather. After consolidating this information, the party decided to strike out for the elven encampment. Upon arrival, they were accosted by guards, who demanded to know the party’s reason for travelling to the encampment. Thinking quickly, Belgarath charmed the pants off of the elf who addressed the party, and pressed him for information about the clues which the party had gathered over the last few days. Sadly, the guard had little useful information – but he did invite the adventurers to enter the camp.

The encampment featured stalls such as one might find in a market – and little else. The elves were selling quality crafted armaments and curios. The party was surprised to recognize one of the elves – Neera. She greeted the party in surprise, and asked what brought them there.

Yellga(?) offered a truthful explanation for the party’s presence. Neera, face graven, pulled the party to the side and said that the party was asking about territory which was sacred to the elves of the Chondalwood. They don’t allow outsiders to travel there – but this has to do with ancient history, when loggers were a problem to the surrounding woods. Elves are a long-lived race, and their traditions change slowly.

That said, Neera is much better-traveled and isn’t beholden to all of the beliefs of her people. She was happy to mark the location on the party’s map. Destination in hand, the adventurers struck back out along the path to the heart of the Chondalwood, intent on discovering its mysterious secrets.

Episode 2

The party set forth, striking a path deep into the Chondalwood. Even with the help of the map Yellga snatched from the Order of the Blue Fire’s guard, the nature of the Chondalwood coupled with the influences of the Spellplague made traversing the forest a difficult task – almost too difficult for our intrepid heroes, but slowly and surely they made their way forward.

Along the path, the adventurers stumbled across one of the forest’s guardians – a spellplagued treant. While the noble treeman was itself unaffected by the Spellplague, its actions reflected the nature of the changed forest – as such, it was more unfriendly than what the party may have expected, and attacked with no provocation.

The treant summoned mighty fungoid warriors and a disgusting, shambling mass of rotten flora, all of which proceeded to harangue and blast the party with poisons and dangerous spores. Eredon navigated the battlefield, smiting about him in a zealous frenzy. More than once, he barely escaped the clutches of the shambling mound. Belgarath attempted to entrap the treant and his allies in a powerful field of magic intended to topple and immobilize foes, but the treant’s roots proved too hardy, and its affinity with nature allowed it to teleport out of the danger zone.

The battle was fierce, but the adventurers came out the victors in the end. Exhausted, they made camp and rested for the remainder of the day.

Episode 3

The Chondalwood is a place of great mystery and hidden secrets. Perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that the adventurers should stumble upon one.

As the party rested following its battle against the dangers of the forest, a lone figure stole into camp and began rifling through pouches, satchels and whatever other containers were nearby. He was eventually detected and, following a brief series of introductions between he and a party of adventurers so jaded as to experience no surprise as this turn of events, joined the party. Finally, through Garth the half-orc monk, the formidable power of martial arts was at the party’s command!

Everyone went back to resting. The next morning, the party discovered that Yellga was gone!

Tracks nearby to Yellga’s resting site led to nearby trees, about which hung strands of webbing. It was clear that the culprits were arachnid in nature. Lethe quickly blazed a trail and led the party right into… a trap! Yellga was webbed to a tree, and called out gaily to the party upon spotting them. Several spiders dropped down from the dense overhead canopy, grabbed Nicolae, Eredon, Lethe and Belgarath, and hauled them upward and into the trees.

Another terrible battle broke out, but this time the party was divided. Both battles were desperate, as each group was working without the resources which other members provided, but sheer determination won the day. As the last spider’s legs curled inward in its death throes, the party took a short rest and carried on.

Presently, they came to the heart of the Chondalwood – ruins known as Magedoom. Little was known about this place other than the ancient legends alluded to in the library of Ormpetarr, and what the elves said – strange lights were coming from this area, and among the ruins stalk disembodied horrors who would defy any who wish to plumb the ruins’ depths. Most striking, though, was an intact structure rising above the rest – a tower in the shape of a hand.

Sensing that this was their destination, the party made their way toward the massive, stone limb. They passed by many a ruin denoting areas which would have been marketplaces, standard and upper-class housing. They performed a few searches through the ruins, discovering nothing of value.

As they got nearer the hand, they walked through what was left of a hanging garden. Rusted chains attached to fallen, crumbled stone basins were strewn about the area. One or two statues still stood atop stone plinths.

As the party passed through, one of the statues turned to regard them. It climbed down off of its pedestal, faced the party, opened its jaws impossibly wide – releasing an unearthly sound – and said to them, “Who are you to be foolish enough to come here accompanied by a wielder of the arcane who is not bound in chains?”

Episode 4

The cherub waited for an answer. Our heroes tried their best to intimidate, bluff and diplomacize it into believing that their presence was valid, but to no avail. The cherub opened a portal, trapping half of the party in a room. Four of the garden’s crumbled statues teleported to spots around the portal and began emitting noxious fumes into it.

The members inside the portal were in a 30-foot-by-30-foot room. Rectangles were delineated in the floor tiles, along with mysterious symbols: 7+, 30x, and other such mysterious markings. A pile of thirty-six blocks stood in the corner, numbered in six sets of one through six. Noxious gas began leaking into the room at a quick rate, and before too long the trapped adventurers began to feel the deleterious effects of the fumes.

Outside of the portal, the party jumped into combat. Eredon valiantly rose to the occasion, directing the party to attack the statues emitting the gases and attracting as much of the constructs’ ire as he could. Titanius and Morlak took turns swinging wildly at the horrors with varying degrees of success.

The trapped adventurers unlocked the secret of the puzzle, causing an exit to unlock and a spiral staircase to open, revealing a path back to the battlefield. With all members present and accounted for, the tide of the battle was quickly turned and the party defeated the constructs with great ease.

Episode 5

After the mighty battle against the sinister cherub and its cohorts, the party took an extensive rest and began searching the ruins for an entrance to the giant hand. Some members perceptively identified that the Hand may not have an entrance of its own – rather, perhaps it meshed with some of the local ruins upon its appearance, which would have created an entryway. After some searching, the party found a passageway through an old sewer entrance.

The path to the top of the hand was long and winding. At the top was a large fane, predictably furnished with (among other things) an altar. A cultist of Vecna stood over it, channeling divine and arcane energies into the cauldron.

When a party member attempted to sneak up behind the cultist, he cackled and invited the rest of the adventurers to “come out and play.” They did so, and the cultist continued what he was doing. When provoked, he turned and announced that he needs some “volunteers”; Lethe, Yellga and Nicolae did so, and were subjected to a fragment of Vecna’s mind. Meanwhile, the cultist summoned nefarious allies and attempted to overwhelm the remainder of the party.

A lengthy battle took place. Things looked dire for the adventurers until those trapped by Vecna’s mind broke free. The tides were quickly turned and the battle was won – but not before the lead cultist caused a chain reaction in the cauldron, causing the hand to tremble. The structure was collapsing!

Quickly, the adventurers dodged rubble and flew down the stairs, back toward safety. The sewer tunnels began collapsing, but the party pulled through just before the hand collapsed.

As the party collected themselves, Lethe felt the cold eyes of the forest staring at her. Clearly, the adventurers had the Chondalwood’s full attention.

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Acharidel

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