Chapter 07: Bug Down, then Bug Out

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Session Number: 50
Date: Sunday 23 May 2010
Venue: Alain's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr6 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal7 (Craig) (kills: 1 huge spider - "Big'un")
Shalélu (DM) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz7 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: enough for 8th level, after much pleading!

Arrian lies on the ground, his muscles having failed him.

Arrian will have to make a Concentration check to speak intelligibly.

Two more arrows streak from Shalélu's bow, both finding their mark. While still strong, the spider is definitely weakening. The many blows are taking their toll.

Rowaine bangs her waraxe against her shield and lets out a warcry, hoping to fix the spider's attention on herself and not the others. The spider's myriad eyes line up on the paladin.

Rowaine finds it quite a different experience using her charisma to intimidate. It's not something she has had much need for.

Rowaine arcs her blade horizontally, forcing the spider to retreat a step to avoid the blow. Its legs slide in its own bodily fluids and its abdomen bumps into the door. Rowaine aims her return stroke at one of the spider's vulnerable knee joints but her timing is slightly off and the blade glances harmlessly off chitinous exoskeleton.

The spider's rear legs find purchase where wall meets floor and it launches itself at Rowaine, but a combination of imithrium armour and a last-minute duck foils the beast's bite.

Troll steps and shoots Acid. His higher positioning saves the shot and more acid quickly eats away at the spider's armoured abdomen. The creature's tough exterior is all but ruined and its legs buckle.

The dogs in the adjacent room stop their barking. Troll asks Shalélu to check in the other room, warning her to be prepared.

Rowaine sings the opening verse from a dwarven death-battle chant - it is either her death or the spider's! The spider's body is near enough to the ground for Rowaine's first strike to bite deep into its abdomen, and its body sags to the floor. Her second stroke misses. The spider is still alive, but not moving.

"Press the advantage!" yells Rowaine. "It's down!"

Troll ignores Rowaine, casts Invisibility on himself and moves quietly to the other room. He hears a rhythmic banging on the closed barn door. The dogs are quiet, their heads and tails held low.

"Be not, creature that knoweth not love!" screams Rowaine as she slams her four kilogram axe into the spider's motionless face. Its head splits open and ichor spills out, forming an ever-widening pool of vile liquid. Rowaine hears three sighs of relief from behind.

"Lady, get us out of here!" one of the captives says.

"Just a minute…"

Rowaine pauses to listen, then checks Arrian. The elf seems to be alive; his wounds are far from mortal, yet he does not move. Rowaine presses her palms onto Arrian's shoulders and prays to Moradin, healing some of Arrian's wounds.

Troll sees the top of a ladder hitting the upper doorframe at the far end of the barn. The ladder bounces around a little. He casts Tenser's Greater Floating Disc, leaving it beside him.

Rowaine tries to remember whether the house was oversized in any way, but is not sure. A voice drags her attention back inside the barn.

"Lady, help us! We are rangers, we are Black Arrows…"

Rowaine looks up at the prisoners. "The door - how does this thing open?"

"I think they have a key on the other side."

"They?"

"The Grolls. They come in here once a day carrying a key, take one of us out and never bring him back."

"Hold on a minute, I'll be back." Rowaine checks Arrian again. "Troll, sitrep!" She is met with silence. She spots a ladder leading up to the mezzanine level near the acid-melted door. She climbs up and peeks through, seeing Shalélu pointing her bow towards the upper double doors. The doors downstairs are closed and barred by a large timber beam. She too sees the top of a ladder moving, as if someone is climbing it. She moves near Shalélu. "The spider's dead," she whispers. "Good work!" is Shalélu's reply. They both see an oversized head appear at the top of the ladder - a Groll. Shalélu fires two arrows. One flies high while the other grazes the side of the Groll's head. The Groll ducks back down out of view, protesting in an unknown language.

Troll quietly moves closer to the upper door and then scales the wall, invisible. His Disc sits nearby, ready for him to leap onto if necessary.

Rowaine looks for a way down, spotting the ladders and the Groll bodies on the floor below. "Shalélu, cover me - I'm going downstairs." "OK."

The mezzanine walkways are ten feet higher than floor level. Rowaine climbs down the nearest ladder and sees at least twenty subdued dogs sitting in their thankfully closed kennels. The dead Grolls lie at either end of this area, two at the entrance and one at the partition. Rowaine moves towards the body that lies at the partitioning wall. The hair on her neck prickles in warning and she senses a presence behind her. She whirls around and sees the back of a small humanoid creature, snuffling, wheezing and walking slowly away from her. Its hairless body is leathery. Its overlong arms end in clawed hands that drag on the floor, leaving trails in the dirt floor that hiss and smoke. Rowaine smells sulphur. It definitely wasn't there five seconds ago, Rowaine walked through that very spot!

[Denz] It's going to unbar the door!

Rowaine Detects Evil and her ability confirms what she suspects. The dogs cringe as far away from the creature as they can as it walks towards the outer door. It either has not noticed Rowaine, or is not interested. Rowaine's guess is that this creature does not belong here; rather that its home is the abyss. She doesn't believe that it is an entity that is important enough to bear a name, but thinks that her nonmagical weapons may not affect it completely.

grolls_near_barn.jpg

Troll moves along the wall to the edge of the door and looks out. He sees three largish, shambling, obviously dead zombie Groll things waiting at the door below him. A smaller Groll with blood oozing down one side of its face stands about halfway up the ladder. Another large Groll stands on the ground behind, and floating fifteen feet above him is an immensely fat female Groll, looking quite unhappy. Her demeanour suggests she is the matriarch of the group.

Rowaine checks the double doors. They are barred on this side by a timber beam. There is a hook screwed into the left doorframe, upon which hangs an iron ring with a single key. "Troll, whaddaya got?" barks Rowaine. Silence.

Troll maintains his position in the doorway, ready to splatter acid upon anything coming up the ladder. Shalélu shoots at the matriarch, both of her missiles flying wide. Very wide.

"We've got to leave!" yells Rowaine as she grabs the keys, removes the timber plank and opens the door. "We might need you, Troll! We might need an exit!" She then runs to the cage. Arrian's face lies in a shallow pool of spider goo.

Troll sees the strange little creature thing walk to the lower and remove the timber plank that holds the door fast. The female screams orders. Zombies begin to push open the external door. "Run, Shalélu!" Troll says. "Run to the back of the barn!" He then does the same, passing back into the spiders lair. He sees Rowaine working at the lock, Arrian lying on his side nearby, and smoke wafting upwards from the burning wall opposite.

Rowaine opens the cage. "Quick," she says in an urgent whisper. "We've got trouble. Can you move?"

"Yes," replies one. He and another assist the worst-off prisoner. They see Shalélu running towards the barn's back wall. "Where's Troll?" asks Rowaine.

"Here, somewhere near me!" she replies.

"Where is… Invisible?"

"Yes"

"Ah." Rowaine begins directing the captives out of the cage, but a snuffling, sulphurous being interrupts her. She sees it approaching the centre wall, thankfully in no great hurry. "Make a hole, Troll, if you're here!" she says. "I'll hold it back!" Rowaine runs to door, but remembers that the timber beam and brackets are used on the other side of the door. As she pushes the doors to, she sees a Groll peering at her, his eyes widening. She throws her weight against the inward-opening doors. "I'm not gonna be able to hold this for long, he's a lot bigger than me!"

If only we had a celestial dire badger to dig a way out (scritch scritch scritch)

Troll Spider Climbs around and down, stopping fifteen feet shy of the rear wall.

Rowaine throws the key at the foot of the cage door. Troll climbs through the open cage door and Acids the rear wall and bars. Rowaine grabs a sunrod and strikes it, dropping it at door, hoping the glow will make her enemies pause.

The cage bars melt under the acid onslaught. The tall, dark-skinned ranger pulls one loose and holds it like a club. Troll sees Arrian, reminds Shalélu that they are leaving, then yells at the rangers to grab Arrian. They look around in confusion, but obey.

Rowaine braces the door closed, praying for Moradin's strength. She feels pressure on the door but is able to hold it closed.

Troll jets more Acidic Splatter at the rear bars and timber. The bars give way, the wood hisses and smokes. There is now a hole big enough for someone to crouch through.

Rowaine clearly hears snuffling from the little creature on the other side of the door. She sees handles on either door at least 3 ft apart, but there is no time to get out rope to tie them, or hammer and pitons to spike the doors closed. What to do? Her sunrods are too short, her axe too valuable, her belt too inaccessible. What about her bow? Rowaine slings it off her shoulder. "Put the key in the lock, I'm gonna have to make a quick exit!" Shalélu puts Arrian down in the cage and hunts for the key. Rowaine directs her to it and Shalélu puts it into the lock.

Rowaine feels the door being pushed against, but still manages to keep it shut. Rowaine puts her bow through the handles. She is facing the fiery corner but is frequently looking behind. On one of these glances she sees a fleeting shadow on the rear wall. She turns and sees a Groll with a javelin step through the ruined mezzanine door.

"Company up above!" she shouts.

Quick quick, give me your javelin!

Troll is not satisfied with the hole and looses yet more acid. The hole widens to a point where 3-4 can pass through in a round. He and Shalélu help the prisoners through, then Shalélu hoists Arrian over her shoulder, armour and all. "Are we done?" asks Rowaine. "Don't worry," bellows Troll, "Watch out - I'm gonna fireball that top level!"

Rowaine fights off another push against the door. The Groll above hears Troll's yell but cannot see its source. It sees figures in the cage and hurls its javelin. The missile bounces off Troll's Shield. The Groll backs off.

Troll moves his Disc outside and tells Shalélu to leave. He stays to lock the door behind Rowaine. Shalélu carries Arrian out through the hole and places him on the Disc.

"Are you ready?" yells Rowaine. "Go," says Troll, "I'm at the door!" Rowaine leaves her bow thrust through the door handles then runs inside the cage. "Lock it!" she cries and then ducks through the hole. Troll locks the door and follows her. The rangers have started moving into forest. Shalélu stands near the Disc, bow ready.

"Evacuation plan?" Rowaine asks.

The rangers are weak and slow from abuse and wounds, one has to be carried. Rowaine jumps on the Disc while Troll and Shalélu catch up to the rangers. Rowaine leaps off and heals the stricken man, who thanks her. The badly wounded one is a youngish half-elf.

Troll casts a second Disc and directs the rangers to pile on. Arrian and Rowaine climb aboard the Greater Disc. Troll asks for a clear area such as a stream, suitable for low-altitude flying. The rangers guide him. They also talk of a cavern about three hours distant.

"What about Fort Rannick?" asks Rowaine.

"Right now," Troll replies, "I need a clear space, not a three hour journey."

Ten minutes later the party hear barking. They find a stream and Troll Summons a celestial hippogriff. Troll and Shalélu climb on the beast while Arrian and Rowaine balance upon the Greater Disc. The three rangers do likewise on the normal Disc. Together they fly mere feet above the water for the better part of a minute, putting as much distance between them and the Groll dwelling as possible. They hear the barking fade away.

The hippogriff alights at the water's edge and disappears. Troll casts another Disc and they all move away on the circular invocations of force. The party and the rangers introduce themselves. The older human is Jakardros, he wears an eyepatch. Vale is the large, dark-skinned human. The worst off of the three is a half-elf by the name of Kaven.

Jakardros speaks. "We might have to discuss Fort Rannick. The Kreegs hold the fort now, our brothers there are all dead. We are the only survivors, the last of the Black Arrows."

"There are three Black Arrows left?" asks Rowaine.

"As far as I can tell."

"Do you know someone called Enok? He came to Fort Rannick at the beginning of last winter."

"Yes"

"Where is he?"

"He was at the fort. My guess is that he is dead. Hopefully he died fast. If you want, we should stop and discuss."

"No," says Rowaine. "We need to get away from here."

"We were on a long patrol," continues Jakardros. "When we returned, the fort was under attack. We tried to intervene but the Kreegs had already taken the wall. Eight of us fled but were captured by the Grolls not long after. They imprisoned us in the barn with that spider and slowly killed us one at a time. From the little I could see at Fort Rannick when we tried to storm the wall, the fight looked to be over. I didn't see anyone alive. The Kreegs are not the kind of creatures to keep somebody alive except for torturing. I'm sorry."

Rowaine's lips are a tight line. "We've got to get to Fort Rannick."

"We could do with some rest," says Troll.

Rowaine looks at Jakardros. "When did this happen?"

"I'm not sure - maybe a week ago? Time passed weirdly. They came to take one of us from time to time, five taken, one a day…"

"Is there any chance they are still alive?" Rowaine asks with timid hope. "Maybe held in the house?"

"Maybe, maybe no. I would be surprised if they were alive, it is not the Groll's way."

Rowaine thinks. "Do any of you have a bear companion?"

"Jared had one, they took him yesterday. Did you find one?"

"One led us here."

"Its name is Kilb. If you go to Fort Rannick, we will help you."

"If eight rangers could do nothing," ponders Rowaine, "we may have to try another approach. You know the fort, its strengths and weaknesses… Are there any other ways in?"

"There are caverns underneath that are known only by us, but the Kreegs are there now so they might have discovered them. It's not the first attack the Kreegs have tried and we have always bloodied them before… It is unthinkable that they broke through just by storming the walls… They must have done something to surprise the fort."

"Maybe a giant spider," Troll says. "Or a dead ranger, reanimated and questioned. The Kreegs have a spellcaster…"

Troll casts his thought over his encounter with the fat Groll matriarch. He thinks that she is a necromancer and probably as powerful as he is, maybe more - she has the ability to fly, summon creatures from the abyss… In comparison, he believes he has the upper hand in sheer assault capability, but she probably has a different assortment of spells, can summon things to attack. He remembers reading the tomes of necromancy at Elondel, how that school of magic steals life and abilities, paralyses, blinds…

Rowaine wonders aloud. "What is the objective now - Fort Rannick? Enok may still be there, but there may still be rangers alive at the Groll's house of hell."

"From what I know," Jakardros offers, "if you feel you could not win against the remnant of the Groll family, don't even think to go to Fort Rannick. The Kreegs might have just raided, but they might still be there. When we attacked there were at least fifteen of them on the walls."

After an hour of travel Arrian raises his head off the Disc and mutters words weakly.

Rowaine felt definite evil from the little creature in the Groll's barn, but thinking back there was something more than that, some background evil that pervaded the place.

Here ends our 50th session in the Kharag Monastery campaign!

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