Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Westmist Session #48 - We're Going Back to Where?

Halfway through the night, Kern’s watch was interrupted when Darnorth stumbled into camp with a wild tale to tell. When they placed Morg's body on the throne, Darnorth, Gurruk and Riley found themselves teleported to a room occupied by a huge gibbering mouther. The creature telepathically "spoke" to them in a squeaky voice and said that it was once an enemy of the might wizard who built this dungeon. He had betrayed the wizard and for his punishment had to spend eternity in this room. For as long as he was in this room he could not die but nor can it leave the room; there was no magical or mundane way to get out. Except one. To pass the centuries, the creature collected jokes. In order to win their freedom they had to tell it a joke it had never heard. For several hours the three offered every joke they can wrack their brains for but to no avail. Until Darnorth finally cracked a dry one, and the dwarf found himself standing again in the stone circle. The other two, apparently, were still making their attempts at humor.  While of course concerned for their still missing comrades, the trio decided there was nothing much they could do for them at this point. They would appear whenever able. As the new day arrived, they discussed plans for what to do next. Darnorth was torn between trying on the ring (or not), and going back to Westmist to check out the portal in the cellar. Erijay thought a visit to Zoloren to ask about the ring might be in order, but on further reflection decided they probably wouldn’t be that welcome. In the end, however, they agree with Kern’s original plan. To head back to the ruins of Mor to see what had happened since their last ‘visit’ and search for clues to the Baron’s behavior.

After a little back and forth from the mound to the river crossing (due to a shortage of rope), they headed west towards the foothills overlooking Mor. An uneventful day and a half ride brought them back to the ridge from which they observed the city months ago. Although a misty rain obscured their view of the city, little difference could be seen. Using his spyglass, Kern could still see figures on the walls of Fort Gainsay, and the smoke of cooking fires still rose from throughout the ruins. One difference, however, was the encampment of the 12th Hobgoblin Cohort outside the walls. It appeared to be deserted. Since little could be gleaned from this distance, the party headed down slope towards the city. As they came out onto level ground, a party of hobgoblins and orkin appeared to the east, headed in their direction. This group halted and moved to battle formation. But instead of attacking, one hobgoblin stepped out of the ranks and announced he was Phaz’ral, a former sergeant of the 12th Cohort, and demanded to know the party’s business.  Since Phaz’ral spoke hobgoblin, Erijay was elected to represent the party, as she was the only one who could respond in that language. But only after Kern applied some of his rouge of liking to the generally aloof elf to make her a little more personable.  In the discussion that followed, they learned that after the death of “He Who Walks in Metal”, most of the hobgoblins in Mor had abandoned the city and campaign. They headed west, back to the hobgoblin homeland.  Except for the 12th Cohort, who had been chaffing under the incompetent hand of their commander. The hobgoblins mutinied and slew the commander and his staff, then broke into small bands that now fought for control of Mor. The bands had also started recruiting orkin to flesh out their ranks.
Assuming Phaz’ral was telling the truth, his story confirmed there was no massive invasion coming from this quarter. But the party immediately saw an opportunity to recover some of the weird technologies they had to leave behind when they fled the city. Phaz’rel’s band was set up in the ruins by the breech in the city wall; another larger band had taken over Fort Gainsay. The party made an offer; they would lead Phaz’rel’s hobgoblins into the fortress through the secret entrance they used before. In return, the party would be free to loot the items they wanted from the tower.  After some back and forth negotiation, the deal was struck. The party would lead the hobgoblins into the fortress and get their loot. But Erijay, Darnorth and Kern would march in the vanguard; Phaz’rel didn’t trust the party that much.  Agreement made, they all crossed into the city by raft, landing at the breech (their horses were left in the care of some well paid orkin from the patrol). The party convinced the hobgoblins to wait a few days while they prepared (i.e. rested and healed). Reluctantly, Phaz’rel gave them 2 days. Then when night fell, the trio headed out at the front of a band of 50 bloodthirsty hobgoblins. Darnorth led the way, and fortunately the dwarf recalled enough of their last march through the ruins to get them right back to the sewer entrance they used before. Down into the sewer the band crept, and after a few hours in the dank dark, they found themselves standing below the grate into the basement of Fort Gainsay.  It had been covered again with flagstones, and when Erijay and Darnorth tried to lift it, it would not budge. The elf tried to knock it open, but to no avail. This resulted in a minor panic, since Phaz’rel was now thinking he had been led into a trap. After some quick thinking and quick talking, Kern elected to head back down the sewer to find a way above ground, then sneak into the fortress using his skill and ring of invisibility. Hopefully he would be able to find a way to open the grate. Meanwhile, Erijay and Darnoth would stall the hobgoblins. The dwarf broke out his dwarven gaming tablets and started a little gambling operation to keep them busy (and made sure he didn’t win).

Kern headed back to sewer a distance, and found another grate leading into the ruins above. He found himself about a thousand feet west of the fortress. Hobgoblin sentries could be seen atop the gatehouse, so Kern slipped on his ring and looped around to the north, looking for an unguarded wall.  Finding one, he silently climbed up with rope and grappling hook.  Peering into the fortress, he could see a small hobgoblin patrol in the courtyard in addition to the sentries on the gatehouse. Below him was a building, with a gap between it and the wall. Kern lowered himself down into the gap, and then sneaked silently and invisibly across the courtyard to the main tower. Up the ramp to the massive double doors, he said a quick prayer to Belix , pulled the doors open a crack and slipped in. Once past a second set of doors, he found himself back in familiar spaces and quickly made his way to the basement. Here he saw their problem; a massive stone block had been placed over the floor grate. Looking for a way to move it, he found a collection of ropes and slings in one corner of the basement. He also noted a covered hole in the ceiling above. When he went back upstairs to check it out, he found the hole was covered by a large stone lid, and a block and tackle hung from the ceiling above it. And so he conceived a plan. Using the sling/block and tackle, he moved the stone lid. Then he hitched the sling to the stone block over the grate and tied the free end of the rope to a massive wooden throne on the upper level. And then shoved the throne to the edge of the hole, pushed it over the edge, and jumped in the seat. With Kern and the throne as a counterweight, the stone block lifted enough for Erijay, Darnorth and the hobgoblins to get into the tower. And not moment too soon; Phaz’rel was about to turn his restless troops on the elf and the dwarf.
While everyone stayed in the basement for now, Kern scouted the upper floors. The tower seemed empty, and signs of their previous running battle were everywhere (old hobgoblin bodies on the stairs, blood stains, scorch marks, etc). So they would have to bring the fight into the open fortress. The plan was for Kern to sneak back to the wall, and catch fire to one of the buildings in the courtyard. In the ensuring chaos, Darnorth, Erijay and the hobgoblins would rush into the courtyard and attack.  And all went according to plan. As the building started to burn, the doors opened and a group of orkin rushed out. Then as the sentries on the gatehouse raised an alarm, hobgoblins began emerging from another tower. As the orkin and hobgoblins formed a bucket brigade to fight the fire, Erijay and Darnorth led their force into the courtyard and a fight ensued.  They had the upper hand as the fortress hobgoblins were not armed or armored for combat. As hobgoblin slew hobgoblin, the orkin fled towards the gates to escape. On the gatehouse, the sentries turned three ballista on the attackers. Erijay cast sleep to neutralize a few, but then she and Darnorth were stuck in the thick of the fight. In the meantime, Kern worked his way along the wall to the gatehouse and made his way to the top. There, he found half of the sentries asleep from Erijays spell, while the rest tried the wake them. The merchant dove into their midst, sword swinging.  He cut down one hobgoblin, which was enough to frighten the rest into surrendering. Kern questioned them about the fortress, mainly interested in why the main tower was abandoned. He was told that a few weeks after the characters had killed “He Who Walks in Metal”, a mysterious wizard showed up in a flying head. He entered the tower, gathered up some items from inside, and then left again. After that the hobgoblins were too freaked out to go into tower; besides, they had lots of room elsewhere in the fortress.
Kern let the hobgoblins escape over the wall, and then joined his comrades in the courtyard. Phaz’rel’s hobgoblin had moved the battle into one of the other towers, while other hobgoblins were at work finishing off the wounded in the courtyard. Kern informed Erijay and Darnorth that the weird technologies they had come for was likely gone. But to be sure, the trio left the mopping up to the hobgoblins and reentered the main tower. Climbing to the top floor, they found that the green glowing cylinder was gone. As were all the automaton parts, and the body of “He Who Walk in Metal”. Disappointed, they did search around some more. Apart from abandoned rooms and junk, they found a room with an awful stench; it contained the decomposing corpses of 4 troglodytes. They also discovered a secret compartment in a bed headboard that contained two heavy gold and platinum chains. But the greatest find was by Erijay; a secret room behind one fireplace. In it they found a vast collection of art objects. Paintings, statues, crystal, china, silverware, etc. All old and covered in a thick layer of dust, and likely hidden here by the original inhabitants of the fortress hundreds of years before.  Hearing footsteps on the stairs, they scooped up as much silverware as they could find, and each grabbed a painting before sealing the secret door again. Confronted by Phaz’rel and some of his troops, they announced they had found what they had come for. Phaz’rel looked at the paintings, muttered something in hobgoblin about how easy it would have been to conquer such fools. And then proceeded to order the party out of ‘his fortress’, and warned them never to return. Which was all the encouragement they needed.   Escorted back to the wall breech, they crossed to the mainland once more. Recovering their horses, the trio prepared to head back to Westmist to see what had happened in their absence.

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