SC4.02: Axeholm and Vyldara

The level four Silvers for this session

In order of advance

Richlen, high elf paladin, equipped with duelist sword and shield;
Garth, mountain dwarf fighter, equipped with Ungart’s hammer and shield;
Lincas, human wizard, with his familiar Puff the Owl;
Dakeyras, wood elf rogue, equipped with longbow

The Silvers begin 74xp below level 5 and end on 55, and with Inspiration

The Silvers travel by night south from Phandalin and dawn finds them below the bulking bastion of ancient Axeholm, staring down a rubble-strewn killing zone, lined with arrow-slits, towards twin massive inner doors.

“I was busy researching your costu…<cough> my spells and summoning Rudolph, so I’m not too sure just why we are doing this?” Linc asks. His comrades explain:

  • Akaros offered them the mission, and there could be some good loot;
  • Vyldara the Banshee has her lair here, and should be able to say how to lift the curse on Talon, the Tresendar sword;
  • With luck, Vyldara’s own curse might be lifted and the fortress made safe…

“Ah I see, and those orcs were attacked by ghoul-like creatures? So it sounds as though I could should might lay some extra layers of protection on,” Linc says, casting Mage Armor as the others work out who will lead.

With dawn’s wan light leaching into the north-facing passage Rich has no trouble picking his way down the center. From his angle he can see rusted ballista beaks leaning down, back behind those slits. They are wide enough for an agile ghoul or elf to slither through… there’s a screech of warning from beyond a left-hand slit, and something skitters away, and up above…

Oof! It’s from above that a ghoul drops! Rich uses shield and sword as best he can, and Garth succeeds in an Athletics check to rush over the loose rubble where the portcullis once was, to support! The two of them struggle at first, fearing to hit one another. Dak fares the same, his shaft rattling away harmlessly into the dark. As for Linc, he is still becoming accustomed to his posh-accented new Puff and wastes some time investigating empty sconces and attempting to support from too far back.

As more ghouls drop, the adventurers become more focused (or desperate). Rich and Garth defend mutually with shields, and their sturdy armor makes mock of most ghoul claws. Garth easily shakes off the odd claw-poisoning.

Oil splashes down onto the area just in front of the inner doors, but the ghoul drop-attacks seem near-random, as though the ghouls are hastily rushing up from distant chambers to pitch in. This allows breathing space to chop several down, until morale breaks and the last is cut down as it flees.

XP: lvl5-71

“Puff tells me there’s a long left hand chamber, and one of the slits in it leads through to behind those doors,” Linc updates them.

“So these are ghouls huh,” Rich verifies, toeing one of the pile of stinking corpses. “I heard they were stringy.”

“Maybe these are special dwarf-ghouls,” Garth mutters darkly, and rubbing his beard, “cursed by some fate that befell them around the fall of Phandalin.”

“Who cares, just throw them on the oil like mops,” Dak suggests helpfully. His body language assures the front line that he has no intention of doing any heavy lifting.

“Hey fellows, I can… uhh… squeeze through…” Linc tells them while suiting actions to words. Not the sturdiest among his year in the academy, his slender build is now an asset.

“Uh, ya wanna go after him Dak?”

“Mmmm….. OK.”

Dak needs an Acrobatics check, since he actually has a chest, but he too squeezes through on the left. They find the expected long chamber. And both can hear something or somethings descending the stair nearby!

XP: lvl5-68

Hastily throwing up an illusory wall, Linc uses Puff to guide him south to the last slit. Sure enough he can clamber past the ballista, and be in a large chamber beyond the entry doors! Dak has wasted no time casting a spell – he sprints past Linc and squeezes out ahead of the wizard! Even as Linc prepares to clamber, a great many-legged creature races along the ceiling and closes in!

“Love to spin this out but…” Linc sneers and waves ‘bye-bye, Misty Escaping to beside Dak!

Infuriated, the spider reaches long hunting-legs out, stabbing at the pair as they laboriously heave off the bar. It clatters to the floor, Garth charges through with a leap over the oil and a grab at Linc’s hand. Rich flamboyantly uses the oil as a makeshift slide, beginning with a pose and ending sending up sparks from his armored arse as he skids through. Garth laughs loud and long!

“Oh well if it had worked, I would have got so many points for cool,” Rich shrugs good-naturedly.

XP: lvl5-65

The Spider (which rolled a nat 1 on snagging) retreats hastily, but Dak at least can hear more noise above. The great hall is deserted. But none of the other double doors – south, west and east – are fully shut, and moreover a balcony above the eastern set offers access to the upper level.

Dak shifts to where he can get a bead, sending a shaft cracking off the balustrade by two ghouls, which are cautiously preparing to drop.

As Linc and Rich begin persuading Garth that, obviously and because the DM says so, you are the best bait for dwarf-ghouls so stand right in the middle, the pair of ghouls flee! Coldness grips the party heart, a sense of dread that grows as a pale ghostly figure with eyes of death takes the balcony imperiously.

Vyldara challenges them in Dwarven!

Really good CHA SV all round except for Dak; Linc shows a willingness to listen, so Vyldara (a) explains her history and (b) switches to Common

The brief version of Vyldara’s history is that long ago, at the same era as Phandalin’s sack, she headed an embassy to the dwarves here. Things went badly. As she died she cursed the dwarves. Now she longs to be free.

The thing that will free her is the restoration of the token of friendship between her elves and these dwarves to its rightful place by the throne, south of this hall.

“Why, you don’t mean… this figurine?” Linc asks, holding it up. Vyldara’s eyes change from death-black to elf-blue!

It seems that one theory, that the figurine may date back as far as Netheril, is either false or has significance only in that it makes the figurine a priceless gift from elves to dwarves.

XP: lvl5-60 including both diplomacy here and the completion below

The party readjusts its order and barges through no opposition at all to to the king of ghouls in the throne room. Though still vaguely dwarven in dimension this undead has no eyes, a remora-like mouth, a reek of foulest death, and a prehensile tongue! It clambers atop its throne, fumbling with a silvery chain about its neck and preparing to leap; and screams a gut-churning screech that stops Linc in his tracks, still outside the chamber.

Dak shifts right so is able to keep the south-east stair in his field of vision as the two heavy types charge, leap up the dais at full pace and hammer away at the stinking Ghast. Rich up-chucks into his helm and bevor, but keeps cutting!

nat 20s fall like rain, eight from the party to one from the DM!

Two ghoul reinforcements arrive and slice at backs. The ghast seems to draw necrotic energy as it strikes deep into Garth’s chest, but arrow by arrow, hammer-blow by blow, sword-thrust by thrust, it weakens. It grapples Garth’s shield with its tongue, but he replies by ramming the shield-edge down onto the throne, near-severing its tongue! Rich keeps himself and Garth in the fight with his holy healing powers, and finally the ghast king falls!

Linc has overcome the fear and by this time is doing his best. He brings Puff in as Help and stabs feebly with his dagger at the back of the most-wounded ghoul. It falls!

“Fellows! I… I… stabbed it! It died!”

“Hurray! Well done!” Rich shouts, but is too busy with his Compelled Duel on the other to pay more attention. As he and Garth slay that one, the remaining two ghoul reinforcements, that arrived too late to help their king, flee back up the stair.

XP: lvl5-57

And as Linc places the figurine on a suitable niche on a statue-column beside the throne, Vyldara explains what to do with Talon, and departs this world.

Inspiration is restored all round

“We better fort up and rest up,” Rich suggests.

“I’m fine, but if that’s what you front-line needs I’ll stand watch,” Dak says.

“That’s fine with me, I can recover a slot,” Linc agrees.

“Yep, I’m feelin’ a mite beat,” Garth admits. “You know,” he continues as they loot the necklace and assay what else the throne room may conceal, “I don’t like the idea of just handing this Dwarf Hold on to Akaros. It’s not as though we said outright, yes, we’ll win it for you.”

Flashback: Phandalin shortly before departure

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me,” Harbin Wester wattles. “Rumor has it that you mean to head south to Axeholm, the ancient holding.”

“I don’t know where you could have heard that but yes.”

“Oh, just from what you have packed and prepared – there are few secrets in a small town.”

And speaking of few secrets, the Silvers themselves have heard that Harbin has moved out of his boarded-up house, to the safety(?) of the Miners Exchange and Halia’s protection…

“Well OK, anyway, what is it you want?”

“In the nature of a quest. Since the Lords Alliance” – he harrumphs – “will do nothing about the dragon Cryovain, Axeholm would be a fortress of last resort, should we need to evacuate Phandalin. If you clear the fortress and give me you word that it is safe, the town council will pay 250 gold coin.”

“Coin that in fact the Lords Alliance just handed over for exactly this purpose?”

“Harrumph!”

Present time

“The point of Harbin’s quest is to secure this place as a temporary shelter,” Rich points out, “not as territory. If it’s presented that way I’m sure the orcs will permit them.”

“I’m not so sure,” Linc muses. “As usual in places like Phandalin there’s a lot of ‘my great-great-gran’pappy was killed by orcs so I done got me some orc-killin’ to do,’ and whether the two sides can get along…”

“Some folks are good at harping on old grievances…” Rich says with a side-eye at Garth, then finishes, “but folks on the frontier have to join together against real dangers.”

“By the way Garth, look, after long research I can create an illusion of you…”

“Linc, what is that costume it’s got on?”

XP: lvl5-55

The Silvers (draft name, subject to change!) wish to clear the whole dungeon as per both missions, so we continue with Axeholm next session! Stay tuned!

DM Notes

This is Axeholm watered down and realigned to the triple curse arc. My prep was using a d50 to redistribute ghouls so they could respond in a more random fashion. It felt “more right” than presuming that the characters bash the inner doors open and have 15 ghouls just assemble in the main chamber. Obviously the big challenge reduction is having banshees that can be reasoned with, but I’ve kinda already done a standard banshee elsewhere and I just liked the idea of a built in curse that can be progressively lifted, leading to good things in a later arc.

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