Our cast of characters…
Dracon, human initiate of Obad Hai & Beastmaster of the Wegwier;
Kalik, halfling initiate of Avoreen;
Kendradell, female half-elf bard & initiate of Lydia;
Marcus, half-elf initiate of Heironeous;
Milik, halfling sorcerer;
Murray, human wizard;
Naazi, chenxa (centaur) warrior of Tenh;
Nikolai, Suloise human initiate of Lendor;
Tarqualan, high elf mystic (Vesve Forest).
[13th of Readying, 578]
When last they had met, our intrepid band had split up to spend the winter months either studying, visiting relatives, or having their injuries repaired. Once reunited, Marcus told the others of the quest that the Olven Court of the Vesve had lain upon him, that he should journey to the ruined castle Delvenbrass and put to rest whatever continued to haunt that ancient site. After pausing a few days to learn more about the place, the party set forth to explore the ruin for themselves.
As they traveled, they pooled their knowledge, which amounted to the following. The castle had been built nearly 800 years before, by a Bakluni sorcerer named Vendrake bel’Adiin, who was supposedly a member of a mystical society known only as the Court of Stone. Some ancient texts mentioned that the fortress was built in remarkable time by servants who seemed to be made of the very earth itself, thus speeding the process immensely. Sometime over the next 200 or so years, his slaves carved miles of tunnels beneath the castle, and finally uncovered a source of powerful conjuration magic that was buried there… but the item discovered somehow overwhelmed the sorcerer and his allies, slaying them all and leaving none behind to tell of what had truly happened.
They arrived in the vicinity of the ruin almost a week later, but their approach to the castle was interrupted by a flight of tremendous bats overhead, that seemed to arc out over their position and then return to the castle. Before they entered the grounds themselves, Dracon stalked one of the deer native to the region and laid his will upon it, and with his magic asked it what it knew about the castle. The deer replied that the ivy that grew upon the walls of the castle tasted bad, and that many small two-legs, armed with “sticks that bite” could be found there.
A quick survey of the upper works of the ruin found it to be bounded by a square ruined wall, and a triangular shaped keep within.
The outer walls of the castle were in a state of advanced decay, though the brass-roofed towers at each comer were still mostly intact. The inner grounds held a ruined stable and abandoned smithy, as well as a roofless well near the back. Not trusting the stable to contain their horses (and suspecting that leaving them there merely shortened the flight path for their becoming bat-food) the party scouted the woods surrounding the ruin for a good place to hobble the horses.
While searching for such a place, they came upon the carcasses of four other horses, all of which were a week or more dead. Nearby the horses they found a pile of saddles, saddlebags, and packs, and in one of the packs they managed to recover an inlaid wooden box that contained a variety of letters written in a script that none but Kendradell (thanks to a necklace she owned) could decipher. While the name of the intended recipient was never mentioned, the writer called himself Barzail, and outlined the preparedness of the various olven settlements within the Vesve for assault. By consensus the group decided that the letters were most likely intended for Iuz, though the Hierarchs could not be ruled out, either.
Soon thereafter, a place was found for the horses, and the party returned to the ruin to explore the triangular keep itself. The first room they explored proved to be ceiling-less, brought down by the massive piles of guano from above. Several keen eyed members of the group noted that one of the piles of guano was oddly misshapen, and when Marcus drew back on his bow to send an arrow into it, a small humanoid form broke and ran towards the back wall, but was captured by Nikolai’s pet spirit and frozen in Time before it could escape. It was brought outside, cleaned up a bit, and recognized as a xvart.
The captured xvart gave his name as Qat, and claimed that “thousands” of his brethren dwelled below, and that they would soon rise up out of the ground to slay the party. After awhile, he began (through an interpreter, mind you) to hail Naazi as his leader, and congratulate him on the clever ruse by which so many hated over-worlders could be brought to the cook pot. The party soon grew tired of his obvious lies and knocked him unconscious, and left him tied to one of the poles that remained supporting what once was the roof of the stable.
A search of the other rooms off of the main corridor revealed only a variety of decay and broken ceilings, though the last room on the left seemed oddly shaped. The final chamber at the end of the hall proved to be a grand reception hall, with two sets of stairs leading down and one up; Nikolai’s keen eyesight spotted a door set along the wall where the stairs led up to the second floor, but when Marcus pried it open he was knocked off the stairs and to the ground by a giant bat lunging at him.
As the bat emerged from the door, a xvart could plainly be seen riding upon it’s back, but a quick burst of magic missiles from Murray sent the bat crashing to the floor near Marcus. Though dazed, the xvart quickly rose from the body of it’s steed but was quickly squashed by the party.
A survey of the small chamber beyond the hidden door revealed a small platform and two ladders, one leading upwards and the other down. It was quickly realized that Naazi would find it impossible to traverse either ladder, so Tarqualan transformed him into a large python and he began gliding down through the hole in the floor. Eventually, there came a point where there was more hole than snake, and Naazi began trying to signal his dilemma to the group. Thinking that they could hold his tail and lower him down some more, Marcus tried lifting the tip of the tail… Naazi, feeling this, thrashed to free himself, and in the process wound up dropping down the hole in an uncontrolled fall.
As the stars cleared themselves from his eyes, Naazi saw three more xvarts fleeing from the room he had just fallen into, and soon the heard of a clattering alarm could be heard in the corridors outside the room. Nothing happened until the entire group was assembled, however, and Naazi, returned to his proper form, opened the door the xvarts had fled down. Naazi nimbly leaped aside as the ballista at the end of the corridor let fly, but Dracon, several meters behind Naazi and unaware of any impending danger was not so lucky. A massive bolt pinned him to the wall with a crippling injury to his right leg.
While Kalik and Naazi (?!) scouted the hall where the ballista bolt had come from, Tarqualan tried to use his magic to heal Dracon’s wound, but managed to injure his companion far more than even the trap had done. Seeing that her companion was so close to death, Kendradell sang her most powerful healing song over him, restoring him to complete health.
As Kalik advanced down the right branch of the hall, he heard a strange sound coming from another intersection ahead and saw a veritable carpet of rats bearing down on him. He turned back towards the safety of the group, but as Naazi rose into the air in flight decided that it would be easier to climb aboard. The rats quickly passed beneath them, and Murray cast a flaming sphere within the doorway to the hall which killed nearly all the rats that tried to run through it.
While the bulk of the party either clung to the rungs of the ladder that led upwards or scurried about squashing those rats that made it into the room, Naazi and Kalik took the left branch of the tunnel before them, but soon ran afoul of a small band of xvart archers, who could see them far better than they could be seen. Once the tide of rats behind them was finally quenched, Murray sent the flaming sphere down that corridor, scattering the archers.
Further exploration of the winding tunnels brought them before a door where chanting could be heard; wasting no time, Marcus bashed in the door and quickly slew the xvart shaman, but apparently not before the spirit it had summoned had received it’s commands. As Kalik and Tarqualan made short work of the shaman’s assistants, the spirit in the summoning circle attacked Marcus, weakening him slightly. Nikolai soon struck the spirit a killing blow with his enchanted silver sword, killing it before it could possess Marcus.
The door at the end of the hallway they stood in proved to bear a symbol Kendradell recognized as belonging to one of Nerull‘s many sub cults. Again, Marcus opened the door to reveal a skeletal figure dressed in robes and holding a golden scepter. Calling upon the powers granted to him by Heironeous, Marcus’s axe shattered the skeletal form in one telling blow. The broken form on the floor showed little sign of reanimating, so the rest of the party joined Marcus in examining the other contents of the room.
Further exploration of the chamber revealed that one of the doors bore silver glyphs invoking a curse upon any who passed: “Those who pass this portal shall have their souls ripped from their bodies and consigned to the Lowest Reaches of Nerull’s Halls”. Opening the door showed naught but darkness, which proved to be magical to Tarqualan’s sight and which detected as evil to Marcus. The decision was made to ignore that door for the moment and to concentrate on the other, which proved to lead to a larger room full of xvarts that had been transformed into ghouls. As we ended for the evening, it was mutually agreed that the ghouls were eliminated handily, leaving the party free to explore what lay beyond the door at the far end of this room
[20th of Readying, 578]