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    Prisoner of Darkness
    Posted on Sun, June 26, 2005 by Dongul
    kirt writes "The party’s quest to save Prince Thrommel takes them into the prisons of Dorakaa itself, There, they confront priests of Iuz, shadow magic, undead, demons, orcs, a giant, a bulette, and magical wards in a high-powered dungeon crawl. This is Part VII of the The Abduction of Thrommel.

    WARNING: This episode contains SPOILERS from
    WGR6 The City of Skulls (1), and dungeon masters planning to run this adventure may find this episode particularly useful as an example of play.

    Prisoner of Darkness
    By: kirt
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    24 Wealsun 573 CY

    Kris listens at the manhole cover for some time, but hears nothing from the street above, and feels no vibration through the thick stone. She alone is unable to lift it, but she and Carnail together, both with their girdles, can. The party quickly exits the manhole and Carnail and Kris replace the top.

    They are standing in a small cobblestone side street in Dorakaa. Stone buildings line either side of the street. It is late morning. They hear distant city noises, but this street is currently deserted. The building to their left has narrow windows set high on its walls, but the one to the right has none. That seems more likely a prison, so they approach its sole entrance.

    The doors are brass-clad and have grinning skulls embossed on them. There is a great symbol of a skull with an entwining snake etched across the division of the doors. It is similar to the one worn by the robed man who the great orc called “priest”. The knocker is a solid brass skull projecting from a brass spinal column.

    The party takes a minute to remove Carnail’s weapons and bind her hands behind her. She wears no armor (2), so through the seeming she looks the most like a hobgoblin prisoner. With her giant strength it will be easy for her to break the real bonds they have made for her. And she is best able to fight bare handed if she does not recover her weapons (3). The disguise accomplished, the party uses the skull knocker to bang on the prison door. When response is not forthcoming, they bang again. Eventually a muffled voice shouts, in orcish, “What?”

    Roweena shouts back as loud as she can, in Orcish, “Prisoner to enter!”

    The voice replies, “The Gaoler’s away! Come back later!” Roweena figures that a fight inside is preferable to being stuck outside - they do not want to force the door or use magic in the street. She knows that hobgoblins pride themselves on fighting in the broad daylight avoided by other goblinoid races.

    “Open the damn door, you miserable hole dweller!” she shouts. “Are you so scared of the light we can’t wait inside for the Gaoler? You stink so bad I’m sure he won’t notice if you soiled (4) yourself just ‘cause you saw the sun!”

    There are noises of two heavy metal bars being drawn back from the door, and then the door opens inwards. A narrow corridor leads inwards, but it is blocked by six orcs, all with weapons drawn. To their rear is a great orc, standing at least a foot over them. “Who dares to speak to the Urzun like that?” he demands.

    Roweena whispers “the big one” to Carlenna, and then to give her time, says, “I do, maggot-breath!” Carlenna fires off a surreptitious charm person spell.

    The great orc looks momentarily confused, and then lets out a huge guffaw. “Well then, come on in”, he chortles. “I never met a hobnobber with guts of iron before (4)! Boys, put down your weapons.”

    The orcs reluctantly sheathe their swords, and then fall into single file against the wall to allow the party to pass them. They close and bar the door behind them. The great orc leads the party into the prison, past two cell doors, and to an intersection where the corridor splits three ways. Torches gutter at rare intervals and the whole place is quite dark. The walls are stone and cries of pain and despair echo faintly down the halls. There is a strong stench of sweat and bodily wastes. The party can see five doors on different walls, and the great orc points at one of them. “That’s the Gaoler’s room, and that’s where he records the entry of prisoners. When he gets here, you can take your prisoner there. In the meantime, he is out in the city and we have to wait here.” The orcs proceed to squat or lean against the walls.

    Roweena whispers to Carlenna what the great orc has said, since the illusionist does not know Orcish. Carlenna speaks back in pretend hogoblinish and they both hope that the orcs don’t know the real tongue. “My captain says we will wait here alone; he doesn’t want to interrupt your important patrols or other duties,” says Roweena in orcish.

    The great orc looks confused again, but then orders his men to accompany him. They march off down one of the passages and the party is left alone (5). Quickly they go to the Gaolor’s door and find it unlocked. They all enter the room and close the door behind them, then remove Carnail’s restraints and return her weapons.

    The room is large and mostly empty. A chair sits in front of a small table with a large, leather-bound book on it. An unlit oil lamp is on the table; even lit, its light would not reach the dark corners of the room, or the heavy drapes in the back. Several iron rings are set into the floor in front of the table, presumably for securing chains and manacles. The fighters (Carnail and Roweena) explore the room while the spell-casters examine the book.

    The volume is written in Common, and is titled Prison Log. It contains a listing of prisoners brought in, with the their name, date of incarceration and offense. Occasionally, a name and offense are not listed, just a brief description of the prisoner and two symbols: a down arrow and a letter “G” inside a circle.

    The party reads all entries from the day the Prince disappeared until today, two weeks later. A few days after the assault on the barge, one entry reads: “Unconscious human male” and has the down arrow, the circled G symbol, and the letters LBB.

    Nothing else of use is found in the room. With no sign of the orc guards, the party decides to explore a bit. Across the hall they find a large, mostly empty room with a huge, misshapen giant asleep on an equally huge bed. Kris spots a set of keys hanging on a wall peg over the bed. Carnail ties herself about the waist with a rope, then uses her boots of levitation and slowly, nearly silently, moves hand-over hand along the wall until she gets to the keys. The ugly giant is snoring heavily, his putrid breath wafting up to Carnail. She eases the keys off their perch, and then holds them tightly to keep them from clinking. Her return is swift, as the rest of the party hauls her back through the air with the rope.

    The party closes the door on the giant and retreats down the hall. Between the book and the keys, they assume that they have enough to proceed. Kendrel casts find the path, naming as its target the lowest or most heavily warded prison cell. He then leads them down a hallway, thankfully not the one the orcs took to leave. It ends in a locked, metal-bound door. Kendrel, concentrating on his spell, says dreamily, “The keys”.

    The keys are tried at random and one easily opens the lock. The party passes into a large hall-chamber at right angles to the one from which they came. It continues out of sight in both directions. The walls have occasional murals of demons and grinning skulls. Kendrel leads them to another metal-bound door, this one with two locks. The keys open this as well; there is a downward spiral staircase in the chamber beyond. “These keys won’t help us on the next level down,” says Kendrel, in a voice that is distant but sure.

    “We should put them back; it might save us some time before we are noticed,” suggests Lerrell. Carnail decides to return the keys by herself to go quicker and perhaps escape notice. She meets no one on her way to the giant’s room, where she finds the brute snoring so loudly she decides to simply walk across the floor, using her boots only at the last instant to reach the elevated wall peg. On her return she notes that she cannot lock the metal door behind her, but there is nothing to be done about that (6).

    After the first turn of the spiral stair, the stairwell is completely sealed off by a white wall. Approaching, the party finds that it is made of bones - thousands of interwoven, dried, skeletal remains. It shifts slightly with a creaking sound as they approach, seeming to strain forward. Kendrel, now in front with Roweena, pauses to evaluate it with his find the path.

    “We have to go through it,” he announces. “But I don’t think it would be healthy to get too close.” He steps back and lets Carlenna come forward. As she moves up, the seeming spell finally wears off - it has been a dozen hours since their arrival from the ether. The party now stands revealed in their natural forms. Carlenna the svelte human female, not Carlenna the scrawny male hobgoblin, casts dispel magic on the wall of bones. It crumbles and then disappears (7).

    The flight of stairs goes down several complete turns, and ends in another wall of bones. Carlenna dispels that as well, revealing a landing and double doors. “How many more of those dispels do you have?” asks Kendrel.

    “A few,” Carlenna responds. “Some in spells, some in scrolls.”

    “I have a feeling we are going to use all of them. Roweena, could you open the doors?” (8)

    The next room is a long hallway ending in double doors like those through which the party entered. There is a single door along each of the sidewalls. The hallway is completely bare of furniture or decoration. There is a single occupant: a human-like demonic creature. It is hairless, with grayish-brown skin, a tall pointed head, and misshapen limbs. It is about five feet tall, but otherwise looks like some horrid accident of birth. As soon as the door opens, it moves to the party with an awkward, shambling gait and attacks with its long claws.

    The entire party has not yet entered the room when it attacks. It must be some sort of least demon, even less powerful than a vrock.

    Kendrel says that the way down lies through the doors at the far end of the room, but the party has only gotten halfway there when they are attacked again. Four demons, of the same kind as the previous one, appear: two in front of the party and two behind. Despite their surprise appearance, they are easily slain as well (9). The party makes haste to the far doors.

    Kendrel examines the doors. “They are wizard locked,” he says.

    Carlenna traces her finger over a nearly invisible intricate pattern covering the lock mechanism. “They are indeed, and by a caster of at least name level. I am not skilled enough to open them with the standard counter-spell.”

    “Will you have to use another dispel?”

    “No, a simple knock should suffice, though it will be temporary and the wizard lock will eventually reset.” After the illusionist has cast her knock, she pushes down on the door handle, but the doors do not open. She covers herself with her cloak and peers at the crack between the doors to see the light coming through. “They are barred on the other side. I’ll have to use another knock.”

    The second spell ends with a double clunking sound, as the two bars holding fast the doors slide out of their brackets. The doors are opened and the party moves on.

    The next room is another long hallway. It is bare and unadorned, and goes further than the party can see by the light of the guttering wall torches. There are two sets of double doors visible: one on the far wall, one on the near wall, to the party’s right. Immediately inside the door, on the wall at chest level, is a single large carved hand print. Kendrel glances at it. “Some sort of transportation magic,” he decides. “Don’t touch it.” Then he leads the party off to the doors on the right. These, too, are both barred and wizard locked, but the bars are on the same side of the doors as the party, and are easily removed. Only one knock spell is needed to open the doors.

    The third room of this level continues as a broad corridor, and then turns a corner and narrows. The second corridor runs forward and ends in a door, but there is a side door before that. Kendrel is leading the party to the side door when Kris, who is guarding the rear, holds up her hand for silence. Then she crouches in a fighting stance and motions for Carnail to move back and join her. A second later six skeletons and four zombies round the corner and charge the party. The undead are followed by five men in black robes with skull-symbols who begin casting spells (10).

    This combat challenges the party, but only briefly. Once the undead are dispatched, the fighters quickly bring down the priests (11). Two disturbing thoughts linger, though. First, the zombies moved faster than any others the party has seen before, even the special Strahd zombies Kris and Carnail remember from Castle Ravenloft. Perhaps Iuz has found a way to make zombies faster. Second, the robed men were definitely priests of Iuz, capable of casting priestly spells. Iuz claims to be a god, although that is dismissed by Furyondy and considered blasphemy in Veluna. If the Old One can grant spells to priests, though, there may be some truth to his claim.

    One of the priests was not slain in the combat - he was charmed by Lerrell the Druid-Mage. He babbles on and on about how she has to surrender, how he doesn’t want to see the Dark Master destroy her. Finally Lerrell silences him. “Look, moron. You think we don’t work for the Dark Master? You think anything happens in Dorakaa that the Dark Master doesn’t know about? He is very unhappy with the ruler of the lowest level of this jail, and he sent us to persuade him to play ball. Now, you can help us, or you can become a footstool for the next demon we find.” After that, the priest becomes more cooperative, although he claims he has never been here before and doesn’t know anything about the prison below the first level.

    Kendrel opens the long-awaited side door. A short, narrow corridor ends in another door, with a further side door on the wall. Kendrel leads the party down the hall. Midway down, he flattens himself against the wall and sidles along. “There’s something in the middle of the hall we don’t want to touch,” he explains, “though I don’t know what.”

    The party follows suit, and Lerrell asks Kris to help her watch the priest to make sure he doesn’t try anything.

    The party passes through the far door and enters a large, square room. There are no apparent exits. The room itself is bare. Kendrel walks to the center of the room, then slowly turns in a circle. The others watch him quizzically. “I don’t know,” he says. “The find the path is still running, but it is not telling me where to go.”

    Kirshar raises an eyebrow. Then he casts a detect magic and examines the room. He says, “This whole room is magical. Some sort of animatory magic, with a keyed activation. We have to do something, then it will take us where we want to go.”

    While the mages study the room and the fighters watch the door, Lerrell interrogates the priest. “Who sent you after us? Are you from the prison?”

    “No, we are a normal civil order patrol. Some upset orog flagged us down in the street and told us to come to the prison. The Gaolor is a priest named Kerlenzen. He told us he was doing some errands in the city, and when he came back here he found one of his orogs charmed, and some doors unlocked. He sent us down here looking for hobgoblins while he sent for more help.”

    “More help?”

    “Yes. Probably to the Blood Bailiff - that would be his superior. I expect a better squad than ours will show up here within the hour.”

    Lerrell frowns. “You don’t know anything about the next level?”

    “This is the first time I’ve been in the prison.”

    “Why didn’t the Gaolor and his guards come with you?”

    “He seemed scared. He didn’t tell us anything about this level. I don’t think he has ever been down here either”.

    “All right. You go back to the Gaolor and tell him that we are all dead, and that everyone else in your party is dead. You are the sole survivor. Then you suggest to him that he can tell the next squad that he doesn’t need them, or at least that they should wait. You offer to lead him to our bodies if he comes alone, and tell him you will split our magic stuff fifty-fifty with him.”

    “Uh...ok.” The priest returns down the corridor, back from where he came (12).

    Kendrel has used Kirshar’s information about the keyed activation of the room to focus his exploration. “No, it’s not what we have to’s what we have to say. There is a verbal password that will activate the room. But, it seems to be protected from my find the path. We should start guessing.”

    Everyone in the party begins trying different command words in all the languages they know. Kris decides to try variants of “Iuz down” and “Iuz going down”. When she gets to “Iuz going down” in Orcish, the room lurches, and then begins to descend. The party can see solid rock passing by the open doorway. Roweena tells her later that what she actually said was “Iuz descending”, but Kris doesn’t care to quibble over the finer points of Orcish grammar.

    As the room lowers, it darkens. There are no torches in the room itself, so the only light had come in from those in the hallway. The room glides to a halt and the party is momentarily in darkness until Kris takes out her glowstick and gives it to Kendrel. In its light they can see an unlit corridor beyond the doorway (13).

    Kendrel’s find the path spell now resumes functioning. The priest leads the party into the short hallway, but then stops them. “There is a magical effect in the middle of the hall. We can’t go around it, but it would be bad to go through it.” Carlenna can’t see it, but casts her dispel magic on the area indicated by Kendrel and is successful. She says she has three dispels left. The priest then leads them to the next door (14).

    Roweena opens the door and the light from the glowstick falls on a large, bare room. Five misshapen demons, like those fought before, are startled by the appearance of the light. Roweena charges them, while Kendrel flattens himself against the wall to allow more fighters to rush in.

    Three of the demons move forward to engage the party, while two turn as if to run but then disappear. There are no visible exits from the room, but Kris avoids the combat and searches with her keen elven eyes. In the far corner she sees the nearly imperceptible outline of a secret door. Without hesitation she sprints for it, leaving her companions to fight the remaining demons. Kirshar is two steps behind her, having seen the door as well. They open it together, and then dash down the dark hall. It twists and turns in maze-like fashion, but ahead of them they can hear the clumsy steps of the retreating demons. The sounds of combat fade behind them, and Kris hopes that they are not being led into an ambush. Then the passage ends, and the demons turn to face them. They are quickly slain, as are the three left fighting the remainder of the party. When her companions later arrive at Kris’ location, their light reveals to her a second secret door, just beyond the fallen bodies of the demons (15).

    The door opens on a long, dark hallway that passes both left and right. The stonewalls are filled with a monstrous array of snarling fiend and gargoyle faces, sculpted for its entire visible length in both directions. As the party enters the hall, many of them are hit with a wave of depression, lethargy and despair. Carnail is unaffected, probably because of her mind blank helmet, and the rest fight off the feelings as best they can.

    Kendrel says that his find the path indicates that the way to the jail cells on this level is to the right, but that the spell does not work well in the hall, which seems to be blanketed in obfuscation magic. He drops back into the center of the party and allows Roweena to take the lead. Twenty feet down the hall, she faces a sphere of black gas completely blocking the passage. “Two left,” says Carlenna after she dispels it.

    After another fifty feet, Roweena pauses. On the right wall is an arched portal. It is filled with a blue-green haze that blocks vision. “No,” says Kris firmly. “No mist-filled archways, thank you” (16).

    Roweena advances but has only gone a few steps when sudden movement from the wall prompts her to dive forward. She lands prone on the floor, and a ten-foot wide web sails over her and sticks to the opposite wall. Carnail crosses the floor next, ready to dive, but it seems that the trap only functions once.

    Roweena’s face is only feet from a billowing green gas cloud that completely blocks the hall. “One left,” says Carlenna grimly, as she dispatches the cloud. As the last vapors clear, the party can see the end of the hall. A pair of simple wooden doors with brass handles allows exit.

    Roweena pulls one of the door handles, but it doesn’t move. Then Carnail pulls with her, and the doors creak but still don’t budge. “It’s probably barred on the inside,” says Roweena. Carlenna has no knock spells left, but Lerrell offers one. At the completion of the spell, the doors slowly open inward and there is a great booming sound that fills the room beyond and echoes up and down the hall.

    Beyond the doors is a huge room, fully fifty feet square. The ceiling is some thirty feet high and vaulted. An open archway exits to the right, a single door to the left. At the far end of the room is a mighty throne, made of iron, bone, ebony, and malachite. The base of the throne is on a high dais, twelve feet over the floor level. On the throne sits a green, toad-like demon. Kris recalls its form instantly: this is a “hezrou”, or Type III demon, like the one that held her under the ice in the key room of the Demonweb Pits (17).

    The demon stands, and gestures to its servants to attack. They advance on the party. On the left are four zombies, moving entirely too fast. On the right is a huge bulette (land shark).

    Kris drops back from the group to drink a potion of speed. She has left her easily recognizable boots of speed behind as a way of furthering her disguise. Roweena, Kirshar, and Kendrel advance on the zombies in a wedge formation, protecting Carlenna and Lerrel who follow in the second rank. Carnail runs full speed at the lumbering bulette. Just as it opens its huge maw to engulf her, she leaps in the air. Turning a somersault while airborne, she lands lightly on its back (18). The confused beast seems not to notice her weight, but simply turns its head from side to side, searching for its vanished prey. Another leap takes her to the floor, whereupon she charges at the dais of the demon. Bounding up the stairs, she draws her sword and strikes at him furiously. He falls under the onslaught of her blows. A few cinders in the air and the dying gurgles of an incomplete command word are all that materialize of the flame strike he was calling down on her (19 and 20).

    The door to the left opens, and a black demon strides in. It is unlike the demonlings the party has previously slain. It looks like a seven-foot tall skeleton, encased in a form-fitting black leather skin that drips with red ichor. Its head and hands are disproportionately large, and its long fingers end in wicked claws. A single large hook or horn erupts from the back of its skull and curves up and forward.

    Her potion downed, Kris easily sprints across the room to confront the black demon before it can flank Carnail. She lands several blows, but the creature seems unusually tough. Carnail descends the dais and decides that her priority is helping the main party. The zombies have surrounded them and they are taking damage, including on the spell-casters. Carnail dashes back to them, but this time the bulette is prepared, and opens a nasty gash in her leg as she passes.

    While Kris continues to fight the demon, the party slowly finishes off the zombies and then turns on the bulette. After a few moments the combat is over, though many in the party are wounded.

    On closer inspection, Kris sees a small sphere hovering at one side of the demon’s throne and what appears to be a bottomless well on the other. The sphere is roughly the size of a crystal ball, and Kris immediately takes off her cloak to cover it. She doesn’t want anyone watching them through it.

    The open doorway on the right of the room leads to a smaller chamber filled with a blueish haze. A large pentacle has been carved into the floor, and the carving pulses with a red light. In the center of the pentacle is a deep darkness. Kendrel wagers that the whole thing is a gate to the abyss, and the room is left unexplored.

    The party passes through the door from which the black demon emerged. It leads to a cellblock with many cells. At first elated, the party quickly finds that all of the cells are empty, even when invisibility has been detected for.

    They return the throne room to discuss what to do next. Before they have a chance, they are charged by four great orcs from the main doorway they originally entered. The orcs are followed by three priests, including one who tosses fireballs from a necklace of missiles (21). Some mass damage spells and more combat later and the party is again alone.

    Then they are interrupted by the figure of a solitary mage, who walks through the open doors and immediately begins tossing spells at them. He is assaulted in return by sword and spell, but all attacks seem to pass completely through him. His attacks on the party, however, are real enough and they are taking quite a bit of damage (22). Finally Carlenna says “It must be a projected image. That’s a short-range spell. The real mage must be nearby.”

    With the image following them and continuing to attack, the party spills out into the hall. After a search, they discover a secret door across from the one that they entered. The image looks concerned and begins to pelt them with spells indiscriminately. Beyond the door is a short, cornered hallway and then a bedchamber. There the real mage stands, still casting. The fighters make quick work of him and then the party ransacks the room, looking for anything that might indicate the location of the prince. They find a personal diary, and skim the entries for the last two weeks.

    The diary is quite revealing. It describes how a prisoner arrived in the prison the same day the Gaelor’s records had shown someone was sent below. The illusionist describes the prisoner as pale and unconscious, but light-skinned and obviously healthy. No names are mentioned. The diary further describes how a team of mages arrived soon after that. The man received special treatment; a complex enchantment program ordered by the Old One himself. The illusionist was called upon to create and fix a permanent illusion on the man, so that he would appear as one dead, or even as a vampire, indefinitely. The mages were required to put the man/vampire in some sort of permanent hibernation or stasis, so that he would not hunger, thirst, or awake for quite some time. This they did, and then kept the form in a cell for several days to verify that the magics were functioning properly. At last, servants of Iuz showed up to retrieve the “body”. According to the diary, it was removed several days before the party arrived in Dorakaa (23).

    This information prompts a curt discussion among the party. Kirshar immediately concludes that the Prince is gone and that they should leave; they are on a fool’s errand here. Roweena, eyes red and voice shaking, says that the book has been planted to throw them off, and that the Prince must still be here. She recommends staying, disposing of Iuz’s servants one group at a time until they work up to someone who knows where the Prince is. Most of the party fall somewhere in between, and favor a bit more search. Carnail points out that while there is plenty of evidence that some male human was here; they still have no hard evidence that it was the Prince.

    Passing out into the main hall, the group is attacked by another bulette. This one seems less substantial, and Carlenna wagers that the dead illusionist had summoned it. After that they search the hall thoroughly, and find two secret doors, each leading to large cellblocks. However, all of the cells that they find are empty. By the time they finish searching the second block, the magical effects guarding the hall have begun to return; the black and green clouds are reforming. This prompts the majority of the party to decide that the chance of finding the Prince is growing slim compared to the danger of staying. The group retreats to the elevator room. Roweena does not volunteer her knowledge of orcish, but Kris tries many variations on “Iuz ascending” and “Iuz up”. However, the room does not move. The party grows worried that they are stuck on this level, and Roweena seems grimly satisfied. Kendrel begins to estimate how many passwalls he would need to reach the surface. Carnail reminds them of the gate in the other room and that they still have three plane shift scrolls.

    Carlenna has been ignoring the conversation and reading the illusionist’s diary. When she mumbles some words, Kris recognizes them as badly pronounced orcish for “Iuz triumphant.” Kris says the phrase herself, with correct pronunciation, and the room begins to rise.

    “Where did you get that?” Kris asks her. “I didn’t think you spoke orcish.”

    “I don’t,” replies Carlenna. “But there are some phrases written here in the diary and one of them looked like the password we used to come down. I figured the next one was the one for the way up.” She makes little effort to hide the smug satisfaction in her voice.

    The party prepares for their arrival at the next level, but that hallway passes by the open door and the room continues to rise. “We’re going all the way up,” says Carnail.

    “Better,” says Carlenna. “I don’t have any knock left and I bet those wizard locks have reset.”

    The room glides to a halt and the party peers into the dark corridor beyond the open doorway.

    They advance carefully into the hall (24). It is recognizably the first level, but they have not been to this part. Torches on the walls allow them to see that the corridor ends to their right but continues forward and around a corner to the left. There are several doors along the walls at various locations.

    They continue forward until they round the corner. There is the hallway they recognize, the one leading to the spiral staircase down. They proceed quickly to the door they entered from, but find that it has been re-locked. Lerrel uses a knock spell to open it. They expect an ambush, but no one blocks their exit to the main door. If the Gaoler is lurking about, he has limited himself to sending squads after them, and is not interested in personal confrontation.

    They pull back the bars on the main door and peer out. The street that was deserted just hours before now has significant human traffic. Shabbily dressed porters haul bundles, soldiers swagger about, a single ox-pulled cart creaks and jerks its way along the cobbles of the street. The party has sufficient dust of disappearance to disguise their exit, but it is doubtful that they could reach the manhole cover without bumping into several people on the crowded street, and the moving cover would obviously attract attention. They decide to mount a diversion.

    Kirshar waits until the wagon has advanced significantly passed the manhole, then launches a fireball from the shadow of the doorway. The fireball detonates in the wagon, setting the wood cart and its goods on fire. The driver is blown out of his seat by the blast and lands heavily in the street. The terrified ox bellows and runs, careening down the street in a vain attempt to free itself from the burning cart. All eyes are on the fiery destruction in its wake, and no one notices the party dash across the street, enter the sewers, and replace the cover.

    The party retraces their way through the sewers, making all haste possible on the slick, treacherous surface. A third of the way into their journey they hear pursuit: splashing and scurrying in the darkness behind them (25). Carlenna blocks the passage with a thick ice plug from a wall of ice and they continue.

    Half an hour later they pass the opening of an intersecting pipe. Shortly thereafter they hear the noises of pursuit again (26). This time Carlenna fills the passage with a cylindrical wall of stone. This serves to cover their escape until Kris sights the outlet ahead. It is early afternoon and broad daylight outside. The circular light of the outflow burns like a sun, set against the darkness of the sewer pipe. Kris stops the party fifty feet from the outlet, where she can hear the cries of the gulls outside.

    This time there will be no sneaking through the wharf town. It is mid-day and more than likely the place has been alerted. The climb up from the pipe to the shore would be difficult under the best of conditions, and Kris warrants that they will be doing it under a hail of orcish arrows.

    All the party members have their potions of fly, intact and unused. It is agreed that they will drink them now, fly out of the pipe, and continue as fast as they can away from Dorakaa. Carnail suggests that they fly straight out over the water to hinder pursuit. Carlenna and Kendrel confer. Kendrel wants to get at least fifteen miles from Dorakaa before attempting the plane shift, and he would prefer twenty. Carlenna doesn’t think the potions will last long enough to get them that far, at least not all of them. Each potion will have a different duration, and they will be limited by the shortest one. It is agreed that they will head due west overland as far as the potions allow, then continue on foot.

    They leave the pipe in pairs, shooting out a short distance over the water to build up speed before turning and heading back over the wharf town. First are Roweena and Kirshar. No hail of arrows meets them. In fact, the town looks deserted. As the second pair of Carlenna and Carnail passes over the town, there is a horrid screech. A vrock emerges from behind one of the buildings. It flaps its wings furiously, desperately straining to raise its ponderous bulk into the air. From behind it shoot forth four of the misshapen demonlings now familiar to the party, although these are the first ones that they have seen flying (27).

    The vrock slowly gains on Carlenna and Carnail; the demonlings more rapidly so. From behind them comes the third pair of heroes, Lerrel and Kendrel, followed closely by Kris. Lerrel slows to a hover and Kris moves to cover her. Then the druid-mage unleashes a fireball on the cluster of demonlings, scattering them through the air. Blackened and singed, they close on her, but peel off when they find her defended by Kris and Kendrel.

    The lone Vrock continues to advance on Carlenna and Carnail. “I have no damage spells left,” the illusionist confides. “What do we do?”

    “It’s a vulture-demon,” shrugs Carnail, “so we give it the bird.” She holds her middle finger high in defiance of the demon as her other hand draws its sword. The vrock slows, reconsiders, and then retreats to the town with the smoldering demonlings in tow.

    The party continues its flight unopposed until the end of the potions’ durations. They land in an open, grassy field. Roweena takes off running without comment and the rest follow. No longer sneaking, their path clear in the broad daylight of a northern summer afternoon, they run at full tilt. All have gained an appreciation for the potions of vitality. They have been twenty hours without food, drink, or rest, are running at full speed, and feel just as fresh as at the start of a morning workout.

    Roweena keeps a hundred yards in front, scouting the way. As she crests a small rise, they see her drop suddenly from sight, as if she has fallen into a pit. A few seconds later she appears, hunching down and taking care to be shielded by the hill from whatever is on the other side. She wordlessly motions the party to take cover and for Kris to join her.

    The two rangers worm their way to the ridge crest and stare down into the valley below. A full orc warband in marching formation is spread out beneath them, perhaps two or three hundred orcs, including fifty of the great orcs. Scattered scouts encircle the column, although the rangers don’t see any close to their position. The orcs look as though they are making for Dorakaa, though at a typical marching speed.

    “Think we could take them?” Roweena asks Kris. “I mean, just the two of us, while the rest of the party gets away?”

    Kris estimates that the two of them together could slay ten of the regular orcs in a minute and the bulk of the warband in twenty-five minutes or so (28). By then, Kris would probably be wounded enough that she would have to retreat and use missile fire against the great orcs. There would be plenty of natural cover to protect her, though, and Roweena would still be viable.

    “Yes,” Kris replies soberly. “I think we could take them. But it shouldn’t be necessary. And it would be too great a risk to the party while we were away. Better to avoid them.”

    “I know,” Roweena says ruefully. “But one can always hope they find our trail.” The two rangers return to the group and carefully lead them in a wide arc around the rear of the orc column.

    An hour later the party is nearing the twenty-mile “jump line”, at least as far as the rangers can estimate. Behind them, from the direction of Dorakaa, is rising a huge plume of dust, catching the rays of the falling sun. Soon a large cavalry force, at least a hundred men on horses, is seen as the source of the cloud. There are a few flyers among them, guiding the others in the direction of the party, who they have clearly spotted. As they get closer it can be seen that they are human heavy cavalry; well armed and armored and mounted on heavy warhorses. This is a force not even Roweena wishes to face. Kendrel urges the party on, running as fast as they can to maintain distance between the groups. The cavalry steadily gains on the party and it is clear that they will reach them soon. Kendrel is hoping to get far enough from Dorakaa to use the scroll before that happens. Failing that, at least to delay combat until dark.

    Finally the cavalry is less than one hundred yards away. Trial arrows begin whizzing toward the party. They will have to stop for Krendel to read the scroll, and he prepares them, shouting as they run. “Alright, form up! Fighters in the rear, toward the enemy! When I stop, we all stop and hold hands hard! We have three options: Furyondy, lost in the Ether, or dragged to the Abyss. Wherever we go, I want us all together!”

    The priest stops suddenly, ripping the scroll from its tube and casting the tube aside. The others form a double line, holding hands with the fighters in the back and spell-casters in the front. By the time Kendrel finishes the scroll, a dozen arrows have bounced off the armor of the fighters and two score more have pierced the ground around them. Then the priest grabs the hands of the two nearest people and they all feel the dizzying jolt of a planar shift. As before, the world goes gray and they are pulled into the sky. The plain beneath them churns with the gray forms of translucent horses and horsemen, many lit up with glowing lights. Kendrel later tells them that the lights penetrating the ether were a sign of magic items on the prime - this force was very well equipped.

    They pass a silent, ethereal journey together to Chendyl. Kendrel doesn’t know the city and has no desire to negotiate the featureless ether-projections of buildings, so he lands them in an open field outside the city. It is midnight or thereabouts and the moons are high overhead. They don’t talk - the long journal through grey mist has turned the rush of a successful escape into the melancholy of a failed mission for them all. Kris kneels and faces the smaller moon. Lerrel fills her hands with soil and chants. Roweena hides a small trail of tears on one cheek.

    After several uncomfortable moments, Roweena, who knows the city best, leads them to the city gates and eventually to the palace.

    Warning: If you are a player in my campaign, you are not allowed to read these notes.

    1. The City of Skulls details the attempted rescue of an important prisoner from a prison in Dorakaa. I used it nearly intact, aside from setting it much earlier (in 573 CY) and making the identity of the prisoner that of Prince Thrommel. My quotes from the module are not intended to challenge copyright.

    2. Carnail started out as a traditional “tank” fighter, but after performing a service for a monastery of Xan Yae devotees, she has been increasingly interested in adopting an unarmed style. At this point in her career, she wore a displacer beast jumpsuit (equivalent to displacer cloak), bracers of AC3, and ring of protection +5, for a base AC -4. She has a Dex. of 11 and gets no bonus for that. When she needs more protection, she can use her sword +4, defender and Tumbling NWP to achieve an AC of -10.

    3. As befitting her monk style, Carnail has taken a WP in Pummeling, and gets 9/2 attacks per round when attacking bare-handed (at 13th level). Combined with the damage bonus of +7 from her girdle of hill giant strength, against lightly armored opponents she can often do more damage unarmed than she does with her sword.

    4. Euphemism considerably lightened for use on Canonfire! The dialog is stronger in my (adult) campaign.

    5. No notoriety gain for the encounter, yet. Later, when the deception and charm are discovered, it will be one point. At this point the party is still at Notoriety Score seven.

    6. Again, no Notoriety gain yet, but it will get one point when eventually discovered.

    7. Breaching the wall earns a Notoriety point. The party is at eight.

    8. Entering the second level requires a Notoriety check. At this point I assumed that the Gaoler had returned and discovered the charmed orog and the unlocked doors. The party’s base Noteriety Score is now ten, plus 1d10 for the check took them over fifteen and so resulted in the dispatch of the Priest Squad, the first hit squad. It will catch up with them just before they enter the third level.

    9. The party left the slain demons in the hall. They gain a point; base Notoriety Score now eleven.

    10. This is the Priest Squad.

    11. The bodies of the Priest Squad were also left in the hallway. Base Notoriety Score now twelve.

    12. This was a good story, but when the priest got back to the Gaoler, he was immediately detected as being charmed. Only one point gained instead of a more usual two for an escaped witness, as the priest’s memory of the party was confused by the charm. Base Notoriety Score now thirteen.

    13. Leaving the second level requires a Notoriety check. Their base thirteen plus 1d10 was more than fifteen, though less than twenty. However, since the Notoriety fifteen squad had already been sent, the Notoriety twenty squad was dispatched. This is the Priest/Orog squad, and it would arrive just after the climactic battle.

    14. Entering the third level gains two points; base Notoriety Score now fifteen.

    15. This level is seldom visited. No Notoriety increases for killing anyone but the level’s ruler, even if the bodies are left out.

    16. While Kris has not actually been to the Tomb of Horrors, she has dreamed about it twice...and twice died in her dreams.

    17. Kris and Carnail have completed the GDQ series.

    18. Carnail has both Jumping and Tumbling NWP, and boots of levitation. I allow her more acrobatic heroics than other characters are permitted.

    19. This is typical for a pre-3rd Edition “climactic” encounter - the powerful bad guy doesn’t last long. In this case, one lone character killed the main bad guy in the first round. Carnail beat initiative on the Hezrou on all three of her sword attacks (13th level fighter with specialization in longsword is five attacks every two rounds). Carnail had girdle of hill giant strength, sword +4, defender, and longsword specialization for a +13 damage bonus altogether. The hezrou is size large, so it would take d12+13 per hit, or 3d12+39 for three hits. It had 58 hp.

    20. Killing the hezrou gives the party three Notoriety points, for a base score of eighteen.

    21. This was the arrival of the Notoriety twenty Priest/Orog hit squad, dispatched in Footnote 13, above.

    22. This is an optional encounter. After the anti-climactic fight with the hezrou, I decided the party needed another challenge. Non-player character spell-casters with projected image are powerful adversaries.

    23. Carnail and Kris had a real chance of recovering Thrommel after his capture in the circus. Since then, the scenarios have been rigged against them. The encounter on the barge was very unlikely to go in their favor, and I decided before running this module that by the time they got to Dorakaa, the Prince would already be gone, if he was ever there. I placed the diary to tip them off to the fact that it was time to leave, and to give them a clue that will eventually lead them to the Temple of Elemental Evil, when I decide it is time for the Prince to be found.

    24. Returning to the first level of the prison warrants a notoriety check, and the party scores over twenty (18+d10). Since they have already killed the Notoriety twenty squad, the Notoriety twenty-five Priest/Mage/Orog squad is sent after them.

    25. This was the squad sent in Footnote 24, above. None of them had dispel magic. The mage melted through the wall of ice with his wall of fire, but by then the party was long gone.

    26. This was a programmed pursuit encounter of priests, mages, and orogs. None of them had dispel magic.

    27. I replaced the programmed wharf-fiends encounter with the Notoriety Fiend hit squad because in my campaign, Iuz does not yet have the services of many alu-demons.

    28. At 12th and 13th levels, specialized with longsword, Kris and Roweena get two attacks per round each. I use “heroic fray” option of double attacks plus one when surrounded and outnumbered by creatures whose HD are ten less than character level. This would give the rangers five attacks per round each. Any hit (roll of two or better) would be a kill, with ranger damage bonus (+12, +13) alone, irrespective of strength and sword bonus.

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    Re: Prisoner of Darkness (Score: 1)
    by Mystic-Scholar on Thu, October 01, 2009
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    I couldn't tell if this was a short story, a module, or both. It reads like both and has a Rose Este's feel; Wizard Lock, Find the Path, Type III demon. None of these descriptions has any place in a short story or novel.

    It needs some reworking if its strictly a short story. But it would also need reworking to be a true module also.

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