Empires Shadows

Under the Darkness

18th Day of Harvest 513

• Metagame note: Erak joined the party today but without a suitable place to slot him into the campaign he simply joins and we gloss over how he got there… He’s the last remaining mercenary who was guarding the caravan that Foostus and Hadar, the Hungry were traveling with and he decided to come with the party to get revenge. Also I’m very late with posting these and have lost my notes so I’m keeping it pretty vague.

• The party head back north, slightly shaken by their encounter with the gelatinous cube, to investigate the area they had left unexplored. They came to a narrow corridor with a raised portcullis leading into a wide, brightly lit room in which a old, scarred table sat adorned with mugs, plates and maps.

• The party proceeded cautiously, scouting for danger but not finding anything to worry about. Alzir was not convinced and told Garthius to search for traps. Garthius’ keen senses and experienced eye noted that one of the stones before the portcullis was slightly raised at one corner. He took a closer look and discovered a pressure plate underneath. Unsure as to what mechanism it was connected to he advised the mercenaries to keep away from it, though he thought it might be something to do with the portcullis.

• The party sent Erak and Foostus forwards to scout ahead. As they entered the room the doors to the south and to the east and a band of toughened, battle scarred veteran Hobgoblins poured out, led from the front by a huge specimen with steel armour, and small, cunning eyes, springing a trap. The party rushed in to meet battle, Hadar hanging back on the wings slinging curses and fire about the room; Alzir standing amongst them, joining battle with his morning-star and Garthius leaping onto the table, kicking maps and cups of goblin ale across the room and dueling with the Hobgoblin Warchief.

• Hadar backed out of the room, stamping on the pressure plate as he did. The mechanism released the portcullis sealing him out of the room where he could fire his spells into the room in relative safety. Foostus and Erak worked together to out flank enemies and dispatch them.

• Foostus moved up to help Garthius engage the warchief, swinging his leaden hammer and stove the Hobgoblins head in. The adventurers cleared up the rest of the Hobgoblins and Kildrak cut the head from the Warchiefs shoulders, hanging it on his belt next to Balgaron the Fat’s head, tyeing it there with its hair.

• The mercenaries went south next, passing by the room that housed the Gelatinous cube and through a set of double doors into a room that was dominated by a huge stone statue of an armoured Knight of Agatia wielding a sword. In the north eastern and south easten corners are two much smaller statues of dragons, sitting with their tails curled around their feet, mouths gaping. At the rooms far end a corridor with four statues of cherubs carrying vases sat flanking another double door.

• Hadar looked around and stated, flatly, “This is a fucking trap.” Erak remembered a story from anchient history and shared it with the adventurers, that in ages long past the arificers, wizards and engineers of the Agatian Empire had possessed great magical knowledge which has since passed from the tomes and minds of men. They created a new race of goloms to fight in their wars of settlement, a race known as the Warforged, living statues made of steel and stone and wood. They shared this imformation with the dwarves, who still possess it. The story also tells that they created a line of Sentinels, statues which are not alive like the Warforged but enchanted to move and tasked to guard an area against all who did not bear the sigil of Agatia. These statues are now rare, as the Empire could not replace them without the knowledge they once held. A great many were purged during the rebellion following the Night of the Blades.

• The party agreed and proceeded cautiously, and spent a great deal of time surveying the room before they even moved. Garthius thought he knew what this trap was. He explained that he’d come across one once before and that these were not statues but arcane constructs of stone powered to guard and area. He estimated that the giant statues sword reach was about ten feet and advised the party the keep well out of its range.

• They skirted the western wall and came to the entrance to the corridor two of the cherubs flanked the entrance while the other two flanked the doors at the other end. Alzir held his hand out and murmured a prayer to Avandra for her guidance. “There is magic here but it is not divine,” he informed the party.

• Hadar attempted to use his arcane senses to find the source of the magic but failed. Foostus grew impatient. “What will happen if we climb on them?” he asked.

• “Why would you do that?” asked Kildrak, taking a nervous step back from the minotaur. “To see whats in the vases?” replied Foostus. “I don’t think thats a good idea,” cautioned Alzir but Foostus was in the mood for throwing caution to the wind.

• Foostus leaped up onto the statue and began to climb. The party waited with baited breath to see what would happen. Nothing did. A second played out then two and three. Foostus made it to the top, grunted with satisfaction. Then there was an almost imperceptible grinding noise and the cherub moved, the stone shifting beneath him as the angelic figure of innocence tilted his vase and began to pour the water. Foostus lost his balance and fell with a crash of armour. In the same instance a magical barrier solidified, an arcane partition separating the party from Foostus, locking him in and them out.

• The other cherubs shifted with the same grinding noise and began to pour. The water quickly reached the boundaries of the small corridor, sloshing up against the magical barrier and the water level began to rise. Foostus dragged himself up and the party yelled at him to open the doors opposite them and let the water run away. He stumbled across to them, water dripping from his soaking fur and tried to open them but couldn’t. “Locked!” he called back.

• The rest of the party began checking the surrounding area for release mechanisms but couldn’t find one. Kildrak decided to check out the statue to see if the release mechanism was hidden in there. He hurtled towards the statue hoping to outrun its blade but the automaton moved with unnatural speed, the great heavy stone blade smashing into kildrak’s ribs and knocking him prone. Garthius began to try and push against the barrier but it would not give.

• Erak sprang nimbly past the statues guard, up onto the dais it was constructed on and climbed up its back. He pried open a panel of stone set into the back plate to reveal a small ring held in place. The automaton tried to shake him off but failed and Erak hooked it out with the crosspiece on his sword. The ring fell to the floor and the statue freezes in position but the water keeps falling and the barrier remains up. Erak picks up the ring and places it in his pouch.

• The barrier is not weakened nor does the water cease to pour from the jugs, which have spilled more onto the floor than they could possibly have held and continue pouring at a steady rate. The water is three feet deep now and reaches up to Foostus’ knee. He climbs up onto another of the statues. Hadar, having exhausted all other options summons up hellfire and blasts the vase closest to him with it. The magical fire penetrates the barrier that is repelling Garthius’ physical force and punches a hole through the vase.

• Alzir yells to Foostus, “Smash the vases!” and the minotaur swings his warhammer and knocked a chunk from the vase he is standing precariously on. The cherub beneath him shifts with that grinding noise as its face changes from a beam of innocence to a frown of annoyance and bucks the soaking minotaur off of his shoulders. Garthius redoubles his efforts to push through the barrier, as does Alzir and they are joined by Erak and Kildrak.

• Hadar smashes the cherub and vase to pieces with his warlocks fire. As he does the barrier weakens slightly and the heroes redouble their efforts to break through. Foostus tried to stand but the water is weighing heavily in his armour. Its level it at Foostus’ neck line. Kildrak bellows across to him, “Shed your armour, laddie,” but either Foostus does not hear him or chooses not to. A small whirlpool appears in the middle of the pool of water and Foostus is dragged around in its weft. He catches one of the statues a glancing blow as he is swept around.

• Kildrak shed his armour as Hadar blew another statue and its vase to flinders, shrapnel ricocheting off of the walls and the magical barrier, sizzling white hot as they skimed over and under the water. The barrier weakened again and Kildrak charged at it with a dwarvish warcry. The barrier first stretched like a sheet of cloth, held taught that someone has walked into then enveloped him, snapping back into place behind him. The dwarf, naked save for his fathers axe, strapped to his back and his filthy linen trousers swam to the top and spat water and a dwarvish curse.

• Garthius, Erak and Alzir continued to try and push through while Hadar worked his magic on the vases, blowing another chunk out of a third, already damaged statue. Foostus was dragged under by the weight of his armour and was held under for a few moments before he broke free and crested the water like a horned leviathan. Kildrak was swept up by the whirlpools currents but as he was dragged past one of the statues his hand shot out and he grabbed hold of it. He drew his axe and swung at it, smashing another chunk from it.

• As Hadar destroyed yet another vase the barrier was weakened so much that water began to seep from it. With a mighty effort Garthius and Alzir managed to break through. They swam with all their strength to the last statue and began to hammer away at it with all their strength, chipping pieces from it but not destroying it. Foostus was dragged under again but his flailing limbs had no strength to drag himself back to the surface.

• Hadar cried out, “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” and launched another curse at the statue and vase. Alzir, Kildrak and Garthius flung themselves under the water and the spell hit and detonated the statue. The barrier gave away depositing more than 40 cubic feet of water on Hadar and Erak, slamming them back and washing them and the rest of the heroes into the room.

• They began to slowly pick themselves up, Foostus and Garthius coughing out lungs of water. Kildrak sat on his backside wringing water from his beard like it was a piece of cloth. Alzir stared over at Foostus and proclaimed deadpan, “A fucking Sea-Cow,” which elicited some nervy laughter from the rest of the party. Kildrak grumbled about Foostus almost killing himself.

• They picked themselves up; Kildrak re-donned his armour and Alzir set Garthius to picking the lock while they had a short rest and Hadar shared out some of the salted pork he had taken.

• Before long they reconveaned at the door. Garthius opened the door. Beyond it was pitch black, no light at all illuminating the path before them. The air felt frigid and dank and they could hear groaning, shuffling coming from inside. Kildrak knelt, unslung his pack and dug his hand inside, pulling out a Sunrod, a stick of dull metal that had been enchanted to give light for a limited time. He pressed it to his lips and murmured, “Enlighten me.” The rod flared into life, white light sparking off of the cool metal, searing his lips slightly as he pulled it away. Next to him Garthius did the same, holding the rod above his head with his left hand. Kildrak threw it into the darkness, watching it tumble end over end until it landed in a shallow puddle, the magical light reflected off of the water in beautiful shimmering patterns. It illuminated a scene of horror and decay.

• The room opened out before them, the walls crumbling, the floors to shattered and worn that bare earth showed in places instead of the neat flagstone. In the rooms center a thick pillar held up the ceiling. The room was full of zombies, standing motionless to the left of the pillar, on the eastern side of the room.. The undead turned to stare at the adventurers with sightless eyes. One uttered a load moan. Alzir held his mace above his head and used his shield to shove his way to the front with a gleeful shout of, “This looks like a job for me.”

• Alzir shouldered his way into the midst of the zombies. They scratched and shoved at him but he ploughed onwards until he was at their center. He raised his shield to push back at the press of bodies before him, thrust his mace up to the sky and roared a prayer of Avandra. The Lady of Luck shone on Alzir, bathing him in light. As it fell on the Zombies they squealed, a blood curdling sound that made Garthius’ neck hairs stand on end, and the undead blistered and burned, many of them disintegrating into hot ash that whirled through the moist air, sticking in Alzirs gullet and leaving a fetid taste. Only two still stood, one at his front and another at his back, both badly burned.

• As Alzir was invoking Avandra’s name Kildrak surged forward, axes in hands and Hadar drew another sun rod and whispered it into life revealing more undead hurrying from around the western side of the pillar. He shouted a warning to Alzir and Kildrak. Kildrak span around and met the crush as it rolled over and around him, enveloping the Cleric and the Fighter, cutting them off from the rest of the party.

• Foostus and Erak stepped forward, Foostus flanking with Kildrak while Erak pinned another between him and Alzir. They began hacking away at the undead between them in a deadly pincer. Hadar hurled a gout of green, brimstone scented flame at a few stranglers still ambling around the corner. Garthius used the cover of fighting to slip around and get behind Alzir, holding his sunrod aloft, illuminating the scene in the now garish seeming white light.

• Ahead of him the light showed him a steep staircase to the left, descending into a tunnel of darkness. It reflected off of two bright, hungry eyes and the pale, elongated limbs and distorted features of a ghoul. Behind it a creature fluttered, a being made of mismatched pieces of dead flesh, fused together with a deep blood-red clay and fluttering on a pair of over sized birds wings. Garthius looked it over. It hand one, long clawed limb, ending in a great paw from some sort of big cat and another stubby, muscular that he could not recognise as it had been hacked off at the knee joint and replaced with a blade of the same crimson clay that held it together. A goats head sat atop the human, legless torso. It bleated merrily at him and Garthius felt a stab of blinding pain in the center of his brain, completely imobolising him. His whole world turned white and he stumbled.

• The ghoul lurched forward, crabwise towards the helpless Garthius, overcame his feeble defense with a growl and bit into his arm, the ghouls teeth sinking into the flesh and drawing blood which ran thickly down his forearm, glistening black in the sunrods light. Alzir smote another undead with his mace and Kildrak charged through the unoccupied space to strike the ghoul back with his axe. Hadar continued to provide ranged support with his eldritch blasts while Foostus and Erak shifted around the battlefield to flank opponents and catch them in a pincer.

• Kildrak finished off his opponent and charged the winged, clay scout, his fathers axe chipping clay from the joins and slitting flesh from its bones. The clay scout let out a bleat and Kildrak felt the same crippling pain in the center of his head. Foostus charged the ghoul and blindsided him, knocking him off of Garthius and back a pace. Garthius dropped his short sword and drew one of the alchemist’s fire bombs from belt and threw it down into a square between the Clay scout and the Ghoul. Liquid fire splashed onto both creatures, coating them in fast burning flames that quickly burnt themselves out but damaged them both. Erak and Alzir finished up the last zombies.

• The ghoul leaped at Foostus who caught it and held it back with his shield. He then let out a bellow of rage and slammed his warhammer into the creatures ribs with a sickening, dull thud and several muffled cracks. The ghoul fell back and rolled up again, a visible dent in his torso where the hammer had snapped its ribs like dry trigs but seemingly no worse for ware because of it. Kildrak recovered and swung his axe at the clay scout, but was dazed by the mental assault and missed. Erak enlightened another sunrod and tossed it into the shadows behind the ghoul so that it could not escape into the darkness. Then he charged at it. Alzir strode forward, holding up his holy symbol, the Rock of Avandra which was glowing with a pale blue light and murmuring prayers of exorcism towards the ghoul which began blistering and screaming. The clay scout began to beat its wings more furiously and swooped past the party, down the staircase and toward the door at its end. Garthius gave a shout, calling the party to kill it before it escaped as he fumbled with another bottle of alchemists fire and threw it. This time it smashed against the clay scouts back, dousing it in the liquid flame and it fluttered, like a moth burned by a candle then crashed to the floor, the goats head bleating with pain, twitching its arms and wings.

• Alzir stood over the Ghoul, his prayers rising in volume as he neared the end of them. He finished in a crescendo and swung the mace down, splattering the ghouls head across the broken flagstones.

• The group took a moment to gather themselves and search the area. The floor was almost covered in bones in places and the group ascertained that the zombies must have taken on some of the behavioral traits of their more powerful ghoul ally. Kildrak also discovered on the western wall a small tunnel carved into the rock. As a dwarf he was the only one small enough to enter it and so he shed his armour once again and began a painstaking hand over hand crawl along the passage. At the end of it he found a small room. The floor was covered with humanoid remains, so much so that Kildrak couldn’t put his foot down without snapping one.

• Erak called down to him, asking what he had found. Kildrak replied, telling them what he had found and opinionated that the ghoul had used this bolt hole to hide his choice loot. Kildrak searched through the debris, finding little of value apart from a bag of holding containing 176 gold pieces. Kildrak returned along the corridor and strapped his armour back on. The adventurers turned toward the door.

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