SC5.07: Storm’s heart

The level five Silvers for this session

Dakeyras, wood elf rogue/Assassin, wielding Whisper his longbow;
Garth, mountain dwarf fighter/Battle Master, wielding the Ungart Hammer;
Richlen, high elf paladin, wielding Alagondar his longsword;
Vernon, human wizard, rocking a Hat of Wizardry

The Silvers begin 28xp from level 6 and end on 8

The story so far

Six months ago Dak and Garth were able to find common cause with powerful orc chief Akaros. Akaros leads a tiny remnant of orcs, seeking refuge from Cryovain. The two founder members turn over occupation of the ruined Dwarf temple of Abbathor. Since then the Silvers, as they came to be known, have been aided or given aid a number of times to the orcs. Now, Akaros and his lead scout Lok lead the Silvers against their long-time foe Holg.

Holg is a powerful hunk wielding a great-club: he also wields warlock powers! He is a follower of Talos, god of tempests and shipwrecks. The Silvers have killed his bandit minions before, but Holg has always escaped.

The allies march on the Tower of Storms, a lighthouse just off the coast west of the Triboar Trail. The causeway is nearly under water: and they are halted by Miraal, a siren of some sort, who asks them to retrieve a Pearl of Great Price from beneath the waves.

Bargain struck! Plumb the deep!

“All agreed? I’ll stay here an’ keep an eye on her ladyship,” Garth offers.

“And Vern Dak and I will deal with the shark,” Rich agrees. He’s helped off with his heavy plate armor and fastens Alagondar secure once more. Akaros, looking relieved to not be ‘volunteered’ to join the undersea effort, retires east and back up the steps a little, with Lok beside him.

Athletics check: Vern makes a poor effort, Dak and Rich are fine

Splash! Splash! Spmat! The sound of two athletic types and a wizard, entering the sea. Behind them the sound of Miraal singing her enchantment to the sharks changes: mysteriously, they can hear her song clearly now. Rich lands with feet spread wide, adjusting to being able to breathe and speak under water. Dak gracefully lands beside him. Looking around they see two legs kicking upside down, and Vern looking confused, his large brain anchoring the rest of him to the sea floor.

Vern is soon set to rights and in a close, belt-holding chain they push west through a giant kelp forest, over strange rocks and humps, the surge and suck of the tide buffeting them. One narrow channel in particular, between two great rock walls, challenges even Rich. But after two minutes walk alongside the rock of the causeway, they glimpse the encrusted wooden strakes that mark the nearest wreck.

Two further Athletics checks required from Rich which annoys me but I need to gauge how quickly the trio get to Old Daggermaw. I’ve given Exhaustion a 20 minute count, based on the cold and effort required to move. Rich does just fine.

DM

Nosing through the giant kelp within 30 feet, bulls Old Daggermaw! But Rich is (uncharacteristically) ready with Alagondar and, though his first swing is baffled by the physics of water, the second swing cuts deep. Daggermaw crunches down on Rich’s shield, rag-dolling the powerful paladin. Then Vern pushes a great globule of Poisonous Chromatic Orb at the beast, and it writhes in agony: finally Dak leaps up gracefully and descends, driving his shortsword deep. Dark shark blood spreads as Rich re-settles his shield and the trio moves on to the wreck.

Rich’s init roll changes so dramatically for the better he now believes he is part sea-elf

DM

Storm’s a-coming! Tide’s a-rising!

Garth meanwhile has picked up an odd counter-point to the deep boom of high tide on the lighthouse rock: a percussive sort of snap and bang.

“Say lady, uh, Miraal, has anyone been this way before us?”

Miraal breaks off from her singing: “Yes, there are many. The last was a red-robed man. He wished to pass, and I told him of my curse. He smiled, and went another way. He wore a false face and bore a glass staff.”

As she returns to her song, Akaros and Lok hasten up through the surf on the causeway and into shelter up with Garth. “Tide is rising,” Lok points out worriedly. Indeed they are past their shins in sea-surge, and Garth can see the same on the west side.

He explains about Hamun Kost and undead control. Akaros nods thoughtfully.

Just as Garth is becoming concerned enough about the off-sounds and tide that he creeping down to the surf west of his cavern, Vern surfaces, and half-boosted, half-clambering, makes it up to the causeway. Akaros advances and gestures: “take my hand, come up quick!”

Next is Dak and finally under his own steam, Rich. They are waist-deep and it’s with difficulty that the light-built wood elf makes it to safety.

As Rich is restored to his steel layers, Vern briefly recounts the shark and wreck. “I judged the captain’s quarters the most likely place and sure enough, here it is, a fist-size pearl!

“Will you give it to me?” Miraal asks. There’s a pause.

“Uh sure, here you are.”

Miraal clasps it and sighs. Her form changes, becoming a blue-skinned bipedal creature with webbed hands and feet. “Now I have only one more curse to overcome,” she says. To their mild surprise – for there have been a number of betrayals of late – she slips between them and saying “I am sure we shall meet in the future my friends,” dives into the waves.

Miraal, an investment for the future

Why wait? Rush the lighthouse!

Garth explains his concerns. “And tide is rising,” Lok reminds him. “And storm – look Dak – west, coming in.”

“Maybe we should just wait it out if there are rivals going at it,” Rich suggests.

“Nah, time’s a-wasting,” Dak exclaims. “Let’s get up there!”

Garth pays out a rope and passes the end he’s not attached to, to Rich and Akaros. “Be sure to drag me in if I’m swept off” he says, surging shoulder-deep to the rock column that gives way to the main causeway. Immediately, he realizes that he does not have enough rope. The far side is a good seventy feet away.

“OK change of plans,” he improvises like any good adventurer, refastening a simple hitch around his hammer-hand. “We’ll need a chain.”

“Vern, you want to go next?”

“Yes, right behind the meat, uh, Garth will be fine.”

The term meat-shield is used several times this session though to be fair Garth does use it too!

DM

The order is Garth:Vern:Rich:Dak:Akaros:Lok

Far above, reached only by a steep-twisting path, a kind of plateau bears the lighthouse. Nor is it some squat beacon: attesting to its ancient and perhaps mystic origin, it rises eighty feet above the plateau! Flashes of light can be glimpsed from its north end where juts a kind of promontory like the foredeck of a monstrous ship. Beyond, out west and rolling in swiftly, a towering lightning-bearing thunderhead eclipses the sky!

DM Note

“Stuff is happening” is as good as I hoped to convey. This is one step better. Speaking to Miraal (barely opted for) has alerted the party to a confrontation between cultists and cultists. Though I’ve skipped over it, Dak and Garth are up on the two cults involved: Dragon represented by Hamun Kost, and Talos represented by Holg. One strategy proposed is to wait to see who wins. Dak’s proposal wins out, which (just my personality) I would have gone with myself. The visuals of ‘storm is coming the Talos cult will just get stronger’ gives the party the feel of a countdown, which is ideal.

Repelling Blast! The enemy is above!

Just as the lead trio push up through the surge and onto safer ground, a pair of orange blasts rocket down from above. One slams Garth right off his footing and he swings perilously over the ocean before clamping onto the barnacled rock; the other knocks Vern around Rich’s secure grasp: he swings back up below Rich. Holg, menacing and in the ‘I have the high ground’ pose, stands aloft, above the final turn of the path!

Holg, pirate and warlock

“We have to get up there!” Dak yells and looses a well-directed shaft at his enemy. Holg pays for his temerity as the shaft slams right through his shoulder! He retreats to safety, but is replaced by a robed Talos cultist: as the party works its way up the first stretch of the path, a vicious Lightning Bolt tears through most of them!

Akaros is up for a Very Bad Day, this is the first of his miseries. The others make their DX SV (and Dak uses UDodge to reduce it further) and take 15 lightning damage but Akaros takes the full 31

DM

Fortunately the acolyte retires to cover and with a “they’re breaking through! Everyone retire on the tower!” the unseen cultists fail to prevent the party from scrambling up.

DM Note

I prepped by randomizing some damage and spell use by the four Anchorites of Talos, and Holg. As a warlock Holg can Blast all day (he has both Repelling and Hadar’s) but right now he’s taking a potion and retreating. The other Anchorites of Talos only have Lightning Bolt once a day. Only two begin with those remaining! Between them they have seven Thunderwaves though, so getting up close will be risky!

DM

Akaros is a bad climber and skeletons don’t care

Gaining the plateau at last Garth glares around: straight ahead his enemy appears to have retreated behind heavy double doors into a great squarebuilt tower. Off right, a swathe of dead and bones carpet the plateau and some skeletons, most crusted with sea-growth, bear decayed swords and shields and stumble forward. He heads that way, yelling for Rich to head to the doors.

Below, Akaros spots skeleton remnants on the rock slope and decides to cut around. How hard can it be? Lucky for him he has Lok with him, or he would be learning to breathe under water! It’s a treacherous route and takes him several times as long as the others.

Meanwhile Dak supports Garth, but despite the excellence of Whisper, the skeletons barely notice having a few ribs knocked away. Vern joins in but he too finds his pet Firebolt has little effect on bone. Once they close on Garth through, the doughty mountain dwarf finds them easy. They are unable to make any impression on his wall-like shield and chainmail while the Ungart Hammer shatters each with a single blow.

Chanting comes from within the tower.

Holg at bay! And, what do you mean ‘interrogate?’

Rich examines the massy doors. They are set well into the stonework, affording cover to the north. Dak snugs into that cover:

“I heard a bar slam down across them, Rich. I’d say the wood is old though, you might be able to rip the hinges with your strength.”

Dak is providing the Help action, a very good choice. And Rich has both Ogre-Power Gauntlets, and a divine option for athletic blessings.

Dak lowers his shield and javelins to the ground and returns Alagondar to its scabbard. Flexes his powerful fingers and reaches down, curling them under the door. Heave! The door gives a little.

Away on the plateau Garth smashes the final skeleton and Akaros, looking much the worse for his effort, is hauled up onto level ground by faithful Lok.

Akaros has a level of Exhaustion

“Never again…” – Akaros

“I was wondering, but, where you go, I go” – Lok

The orc scout peers west and north. The storm is closing in. A dense sea-mist is rolling before it. She is hill-wise, so that means nothing to her, except for bad weather coming. Maybe her crush Dak will know? She heads over.

Garth retires onto Rich’s position and he too wrenches at the door, to little effect. Rich bends his back to it, calling forth his Peerless Athlete ability. With a second heave the door rips clear, flipping 90 degrees and bouncing away from them.

Peerless Athlete lasts for 10 minutes so is a great help as Rich navigates the obstacles of the lighthouse.

Dak, who has readied Whisper, peers in: just below two robed figures, Holg is a few stairs up an open counter-clockwise stair! Before the half-orc can react Dak sends an arrow through his brain!

Holg falls, dropping off the stair to the open circle below.

Rich grabs shield and javelins and races after the two retreating robed acolytes. Garth swings in:

“Shall I deal with Holg?”

“We need to interrogate him!” – Rich

“Nah finish him Garth” – Dak

“We really need to know what’s going on!” – Rich

“Garth, he stole your gold!” – Dak, mendaciously

“Stole mah gold! That does it!” – Garth, stomping across to Holg and smashing his head in. Blood spreads across the circle.

I do not require a Deception check. I think the character rp is spot on

DM

Physics and gravity and all that stuff

Sighing, Rich pursues, as the robed figures retreat (taking the Disengage action). He reaches a high door – the stair continues up – and can see his prey through it: just as he’s about to pounce a Thunderwave blasts him off the stair.

BHWANGGG! Rich lands heavily below, blood (Holg’s) spraying those nearby.

Dak skitters up, gaining a line of sight. Whisper snicks a heavy longbow shaft through the narrow gap between door and jamb, and a robed figure reels back.

Whisper provides Sharpshooter feat while wielded, among other Tier 2 benefits

Garth races up, intent on preventing whatever ceremony is taking place. Ominously the chanting has stopped. He reaches the doorway:

BHWANGGG! Rich rolls aside in time to avoid being crushed by falling Garth.

Dak looses once more as the other two pass him and Rich reaches the door, and an acolyte falls dead.

Thunderwave! This time they are more ready for it and Rich and Garth merely jolt back painfully into the stonework. But it still hurts all three.

Pretty near minimum Thunderwave damage, sad to say

DM

With a deft hack of Ungart Hammer Garth crushes some stone, then accurately smashes another acolyte down. Rich leaps in and finishes the third with Dak’s help.

The way is clear to a kind of fighting platform or lookout deck, but there seems no further opposition.

“Head up the stairs! I definitely heard the boss yelling from up there!” Dak rasps, and Garth does so.

“Say, did that guy Holg really steal any gold from me?” – Garth, beginning to think Dak may not have been completely honest

Rich heads out to check what the acolytes were guarding. Nothing, so far as he can see. Merely a lightning rod off south. The parapet is not crenellated: an ornamental style of balustrade merely prevents promenaders from being swept off.

The Ominous Lightning Rod Altar – and whattapong

What of Vern? To say nothing of allies Lok and Akaros? Well, the lowest chamber has a small door to the south. Rich had named the symbols on it as Talos’ own. Dak has already checked and noted an altar and wall decorations, and declares it clear.

Now Vern eases through the door. The altar is near the opposite wall and he spots another door beyond it, rather close to the altar. The altar itself has a strange lightning rod running upward from it in two bars, uniting to end in the roof. Vern clutches and wiggles the thing, but it is solid-set. Akaros follows him in, curious: Lok guards the door.

Lighting flashes above: it is the second direct hit since they arrived. The altar glows.

Vern heads over and tries the other door: it gives a little, but seems to be blocked beyond. A deep stench as though of 100 years of zombie remains comes to his nose and chokes his throat.

“Can you try this, Akaros?”

“Right, move back…”

The orc chief’s weight forces the door some inches open. He snorts at the foul stench and lets Vern have a peek. Settling the Goggles of Night firmly down, Vern peers in, seeing five nest-shapes among a disgusting mound of ordure bones and other remains.

“Sheesh! OK I’m done,” he concludes, heading back out, pushing past Akaros.

As Akaros moves to let him by, a third lightning strike. The orc chief briefly backs against something: he is knocked across the room, part-electrocuted.

“Chief!” – Lok

“You OK?” – Vern

Akaros rises shakily to his feet: his eyes are glowing.

The Beating Heart, and, the shape in the storm

Garth races up: the last acolyte stands at bay! A blinding greenish light, coming from the gap he stands in, bathes his back, making it hard to see him.

“Ha hahhh! You cannot kill me, dwarf! I shall live forever! Hah hah hahhhh!”

Garth smashes Ungart Hammer at the open laughing mouth, Action Surges and smashes twice more. The half-orc, spraying teeth, falls back dead.

“WHAT???” – Garth

He eases cautiously round the last curved interior wall. Focused out west, a blazing greenish light. It emanates from a mighty, larger-than-life beating heart!

Garth’s gaze follows its beam:

There, caught by the eldritch beam and flashes of lightning, he sees a giant skeleton, shadowed by some vast shape. It hangs high over the water.

And as he watches, eyes goggling with disbelief, he sees tiny bone figures, human in scale, writhing up over the great skeleton. Lightning strobes again: the great shape behind comes into focus: it is a vast warship, canted over!

“What… the… hell…” – Garth

And the session ends.

Loot: to be looted

XP: lvl6-8

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