We found a sack of gold, two potions and an amulet beneath the altar. The last I have taken as Kiriel tells me that it will protect me and heal me in times of dire need. There seemed to be no obvious ways out of the temple so we searched the chamber for hidden doors. We found one in the south west corner that opened onto a stairway and then a passage but it led us back to the cell chamber where we had faught the spined devils. The chamber was still empty so we turned back to search the temple again. Finally, Ferzth found a hidden door in the north wall of the raised part of the chamber from which a passageway led on into the darkness of the mountain.
The hidden passageway led to a wide cavern in which the air was cold and smelt musty. Thick carpets of pallid fungus grew around the stalagmites that covered the floor of the cave and razor-sharp stalactites hung from the ceiling above. The cave’s floor had three tiers, each rising five feet above the one before it while the ceiling sloped upward to the north as well, never reaching a height of more than twenty feet or so. To the far north, a fifteen-foot wide passageway continued north and to the south, a massive, irregular pit yawned into darkness.
Arianrhod moved forward into the cave with a torch in one hand, casting the light around and almost immediately, she cried out in alarm.
“Dragon!” she shouted and we all rushed forward after her.
Kiriel and Ferzth made their way forward to the first ledge, the githzerai starting to try and clamber up the rough stone but as they did, the dragon came forth. It appeared from the right and was a sinuous, serpentine creature with a long, thin head and scales of deep purple. The creature stalked like a cat out along the middle tier of the cavern and then with a roar, let forth a cloud of purplish vapour that engulfed us. Pain stabbed through my mind as the vapour washed over me and I fell back in a daze, unsure what to do next.
Somehow, I mustered the will to charge at the dragon but I lashed out my blade with little strength and the creature’s scales deflected the steel. I saw movement to my right then and there, in mid-air, appeared a leaping panther wreathed in tendrils of shadow that seemed to cling to its ebony fur. Its claws slammed into my chest and sent me reeling backwards but then Thaddeus charged forward and lashed his blade into the beast’s flank while shouting at me to draw back. I did as he bade but then a blade slashed out behind me and I was forced to leap aside as Ferzth, apparently enspelled by the dragon, leapt toward me with anger in his eyes. The dragon breathed again then, throwing me back with more pain in my head and I wondered how we could defeat this enemy that turned our own against us.
Dismissing such thoughts, I chanted a prayer to restore my strength while lashing out at the dragon and this time, my blade drove through the scales of one of its forelegs, forcing it to rear back and away from me. It roared as it came down to its forelegs and lashed out with one and then the other, both smashing into my chest and spinning me back across the cavern floor. I lashed out at the dragon wildly with a prayer on my lips but the creature was beyond my reach and simply roared and lunged at me again.
Ferzth saved me by chanting some incantation of his people that I had not heard before. Lightning wreathed his body and threw the dragon back across the cavern while new strength seemed to infuse his body. I drank down a healing potion quickly and then hurled ribbons of light from my sword to sear the dragon on the tier above me. It reeled back in a daze and it was then that I noticed that the panther lay dead before Thaddeus, slain by him and Arianrhod together. Together, the two of them clambered up onto the ledge and slashed their blades into the dragon’s flank but then it turned on them, unleashing its breath in a roiling cloud that engulfed me again. As the pain in my head took hold again and I staggered backward, I saw the wyrm fix its gaze on Thaddeus and realised that it was enchanting him as it had Ferzth.
Sure enough, he turned on Arianrhod, driving his blade into her side to send her staggering back and away from him. She reeled and then collapsed to her knees, dropping her blades and reaching up to hold her head as pain engulfed her. Finally, she fell to the floor, blood oozing slowly from her ears. The dragon breathed again, this time engulfing Ferzth, Kiriel and I in the terrible cloud but as I reeled, Thaddeus regained his senses and began urging Ferzth and I forward. We did as he bade us, surrounding the dragon and attacking it from different sides in turn. Kiriel fell to the next blast of the drago0n’s breath weapon while Ferzth and I were sent reeling away from the creature. The wyrm lunged forward and seized my sword arm in its jaws, dragging me back toward it but somehow, I yanked my limb free, tearing my flesh as I did so. I lashed my sword across the creature’s snout drawing a spray of blood from it but then the pain in my head reasserted itself and I reeled away, moving dangerously close to the yawning pit at the southern end of the room.
I managed to recover my senses before I reached the pit and rushed to the far end of the chamber to recover my strength before charging again at the dragon. I uttered a prayer of shielding to protect Arianrhod and tried to clamber up to the second tier of the chamber without success. Finally, I clambered atop the rocky slope and circled around the dragon while drinking down another healing draught. With a vengeful roar, I spun on the spot and lashed my blade across the nearest of the wyrm’s forelegs. Arianrhod darted in and stabbed both her blades into the creature’s chest while the wyrm swung its long neck back forth seeking its next target. Finally it settled on me, lunging forward and snapping its jaws down onto my shoulder. Pain lanced through my head as well as the wound then and I staggered while the dragon turned back toward Ferzth to snap at him.
We all darted forward at the dragon then, lashing and stabbing with our blades until it seemed as if it would fall at any moment. Still, rage kept it standing and at the last, it lashed a claw toward me and slammed me back into the cavern wall. Bright light burst across my eyes and then blackness took me.
1 Young Purple Dragon (Level 6 Solo Controller) 1250xp
1 Umbral Panther (Level 6 Lurker) 250xp
Total 1500xp = Level 7
7 Coldeven 579
When I woke, the dragon was dead and my companions were tending to my wounds as well as their own. They had also found the dragon's hoard at the back of the cave but as the wyrm was young it offered us only a few hundred gold coins and no magic. We decided to make camp in one of the shadowy recesses of the cave so that we could rest and regain our strength. As usual, we set watches but once again, to my surprise, we were undisturbed while we slept and ate.
We made our way onward today, taking the northern passage which led to a circular chamber, dominated by a three-tiered circular platform. Five sinuous stone dragon necks arced up from around the second tier, their heads turned upward to aim open maws at a pulsating hemisphere set in the ceiling above. Within each of the dragon’s jaws glowed a brilliant sphere of rapidly pulsating light, shifting from white to red to green to black. The ceiling in the area rose to a thirty-foot high dome while an alcove to the north housed a ten-foot wide shaft leading up through the ceiling. Atop the central dais stood a hobgoblin shaman while two more flanked the tall structure. Two other large flail-wielding hobgoblins stood in front of the shamans and behind them all, two insubstantial wraiths flitted back and forth.
With a roar, Ferzth charged at the nearest flail-wielding warrior and lashed his blade into its belly sending it staggering back a step. A wraith came forward to attack the githzerai and with a great shout, the hobgoblin warrior lashed the spiked ball of its flail into the side of Ferzth’s head, slamming him into the wall of the chamber. Thaddeus rushed to aid Ferzth while from my right came a bolt of lightning that lashed around my sword arm and dragged me unceremoniously toward the shaman that had cast the spell. The spiked ball of a flail smashed into my side as a hobgoblin warrior came forward to join the battle and I reeled to my right before stabbing at the warrior to force it back a step.
I parried the stave of the shaman to my right and raised my shield above my head to deflect the descending shield of the warrior as it threatened to split my skull. From somewhere to my left I heard Thaddeus roaring fiercely but I could not spare a glance toward my step father as the two hobgoblins pressed their attacks again, forcing me to parry with sword and shield. Another shaman appeared to my left, stabbing a lightning wreathed staff into my side and sending arcs of pain across my body that I thought would stop my heart. They did not but still I slammed into the wall to my right and almost fell. With a shouted prayer, I spun away from the wall, lashing out with my blade at all three of my enemies as I spun to draw blood from each. I parried a staff from my right but then the flail of the big warrior before me came up between my legs and slammed into my belly, winding me and driving me back.
The shaman to my left came at me again, lightning again wreathing its staff but I parried its attack with my shield before lashing out wildly at the flail-wielding warrior. It parried my sword and I drew back further before parrying another stave that slashed in from my right. I turned back to the warrior just as it brought its flail down with a loud crack onto my shoulder, breaking my collar bone with a burst of searing pain. A staff stabbed into my left side, driving my armour painfully against my ribs and I reeled back, somehow keeping hold of my sword despite the broken bone in my shoulder. Another staff slammed into my right leg and I staggered while parrying a blow from the warrior’s flail with my shield. I knew I could not last much longer and hoped against hope that my companions fared better than I did.
The answer came a moment later as Arianrhod rushed into battle beside me, plunging both of her swords into the body of the shaman to my left. Black lightning flashed past the creature next and with a wild swing of its stave that I ducked under, the shaman retreated back onto the dais. I backed up toward the ranger and lashed my sword into the side of the retreating shaman, sending it reeling away from me. I parried a blow from the warrior’s flail with my sword, jolts of pain shooting through my shoulder as I did while lightning flashed from the other shaman’s stave toward Arianrhod. Black lightning struck the shaman on the dais and it turned to flee but I refused to let it escape. As it turned, I plunged my sword into its side and it collapsed atop the raised platform, dead.
From behind me I heard Thaddeus cry out and knew that he had fallen so I lashed out at the hobgoblin warrior and then began to retreat toward my step father. As I struck, I chanted a prayer of shielding to protect Arianrhod, hoping that she could hold the warrior at bay while I healed Thaddeus but I had no chance of ever getting close enough to him. One of the shamans rushed at me, lightning crackling from its stave and stabbed the butt of its weapon into my breastplate. The lightning coursed through my body and in blinding pain, I collapsed into blackness.
I woke with Ferzth leaning over me forcing a healing potion down my throat and with a quick look around I saw that we were in desperate straits. Thaddeus and Arianrhod lay on the chamber floor bleeding while Ferzth and Kiriel both were wounded. The githzerai rose and then leapt back as a lightning wreathed staff lashed out at him from the direction of the southern passageway. We were surrounded and outnumbered but I refused to give up. Instead, I uttered a healing prayer and reached out to touch Arianrhod’s arm before leaping to my feet and lashing out with my blade at the shaman that blocked our escape route.
“We have to flee!” I called out to the others, knowing that it would likely mean leaving my step father behind.
Before I could take a step toward the southern passageway, a hobgoblin warrior appeared to my right and lashed out at me with its flail. I parried the weapon with my sword and then twisted my blade free of the flail’s dangerous chain before it could ensnare my only means of attacking.
Flames burst around the other hobgoblins to my left as Kiriel appeared on the dais and unleashed one of her most powerful spells. I prayed fervently, to call down a blessing upon my blade and then uttered a command word to call on the amulet I wore to grant me a reservoir of additional strength. Suitably fortified, I leapt toward the shaman blocking our way out and lashed my blade into its belly, driving it back a step. A flail lashed in from my left and I parried it with my shield while the shaman in front of me lashed out with its stave to send a blast of lightning through Ferzth.
As Kiriel appeared beside me, teleporting out of danger again, I lashed my sword down through the shaman’s shoulder and dropped it to the floor, mortally wounded. With a glance back toward where Thaddeus lay, I leapt into the middle of the wide passageway and turned to face our enemies while Ferzth darted past me and escaped down the tunnel. Arianrhod and Kiriel followed and then, with a silent farewell to my step father, I fled after them.
We fled back to the dragon’s cavern and waited for a little while until we were sure we weren’t being pursued before settling down to tend our wounds. Strangely, I felt numbness rather than grief at this new loss for after all I had already suffered, my emotions seemed to have been largely exhausted.
“Why do we linger here?” asked Kiriel then with some ferocity. “The horde is beaten and this place has brought us nothing but more death. Let Azarr Kul rot here inside this dark-hearted mountain!”
None of us had the strength or the will to argue with her. The elf maid had travelled with us out of friendship for Forwen and I and doubtless felt my sister’s loss at the entrance as keenly as I did. The horde had taken much from us and now, I decided, it was time to return to our true purpose in Sterich. I wondered if Thaddeus lived after the battle in the circular chamber but even if he did, he would soon be dead and there was little we could do to save him. I amazed myself with the coldness of this analysis but seemingly, a bleak acceptance of death is a part of me now.
We made our way to the entrance and cautiously opened the doors, drawing our weapons before stepping out onto the ledge. I was ready for the dragons that would surely come and prepared to die fighting them as my sister had but none swept down upon us. We hurried across the ledge to the mountain path and as we reached it, I heard a shout from above. Looking up, I saw Forwen leaning out of the cave, looking down at us and thanked Pholtus for what surely was a miracle. She clambered down the neck of the stone dragon with amazing agility and rushed over to us, embracing first me and then Kiriel. She asked about Thaddeus and at my grim shake of the head, she merely nodded, seeming to numbly accept his death as I had.
“You will tell us how you escaped,” I said with sudden joy in my heart. “But first, we must get as far away from here as we can.”
The post above marks the end of the Red Hand of Doom adventure and, due to the death of Thaddeus and some Mythic rolls it is very different to how I expected it to be.
Azarr Kul survives but his minions are decimated and the horde itself has scattered to the four winds. Forwen survived but Thaddeus did not and as he fell deep within the Fane of Tiamat, his return seems unlikely.
The adventures of Aalas and his company will continue, though, as his mother remains missing and darker things than goblins are stirring again in Sterich. Happy to post a sequel thread here if any are still following Aalas's travels although I cannot promise updates as regularly as the posts are largely caught up to current play now and I am contemplating several other solo efforts including something around an insignificant little village called Hommlet involving a returned temple or something like that.
Ah! The things you miss when you don't have internet access!
I'm glad that Forwen survived, as the loss of Trellara was sufficient for Aalas. I feared you would make him a "tragic" hero and I, personally, have had enough of those.
You do paint a grim picture of Pholtus, though its "true" to his portfolio. I leave his service to you and the Theocrat!
And I do look forward to your continuing saga of Aalas -- at a future date.
Glad you are back, Mystic Scholar and are now all caught up. Have begun a new adventure with Aalas's band which picks up the story where this leaves off.
Think I will start a new thread for that soon, though as I said updates may be less regular as the story is mostly caught up. Trellara's body remains missing so she could still return though at the moment Aalas has other things to worry about.....
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