Chapter 12: Atop Skull's Crossing

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Session Number: 65
Date: Sunday 5 September 2010
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr7 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Emily Ftr3/Rog5 (Tammi) (kills: none)
Feren Rog8 (Densial) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal8 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz8 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: enough for 9th level

Happy Father's Day! Craigo got new dice… We had a perfect storm of junk food and Densial was strangely distracted by his cigarette-lighter torch, leading to the alternative titles for tonight's chapter: "Too Much Sugar" / "That Really Lights My Lamington"


The party regroup above the dam, in the relentless wet.

"Could you scout out the rest of the dam?" Arrian asks Rowaine. The paladin looks behind her and seeks Emily's consent. Emily nods.

"Done," says Rowaine. She digs her heels into Harley's sides and the stone flyer takes off, tracking the dam's walkway. They very quickly disappear.

The rain stings Emily's eyes; she clings tightly to Rowaine. A strangely bulging building emerges ahead, sitting on the dam's top. Its roof is carved to appears like many colossal skulls - or are they in fact real? Two double doors are in the near wall, left and right.

"Shall we close?" asks Emily.

Rowaine shakes her head. "Not yet. I think we should go right to the end first."

The scouts bypass the building to the south and continue. The dam ends at the ravine wall some 120 yards later. Three quarters of the way along, water gushes over a portion of breached dam. The waterfall on the northern side cascades over a huge skull motif on the dam's sloped wall. They loop around and head back. The building looks much the same from the other side, including two sets of double doors. Rowaine flies overhead the building then spurs Harley towards their companions. Harley's massive wings displace air as she accelerates back towards the muddy bluff.

After they land Rowaine reports their findings. "I couldn't sense any evil within the building," she adds.

"We need to relieve the pressure behind this dam," states Arrian. "Let's go to the building. I think that's where the floodgates are controlled from."

Rowaine retrieves her rope, ties it to one of trees and throws the other end down the slippery bank. She then loops the rope around her waist and starts climbing down. Troll casts Tenser's Greater Floating Disc. He and Shalélu climb on and float down. Arrian follows after Rowaine. The last few feet of rope dangles over a cave mouth, its end sitting soggily on the dam's muddy flagstones. Rowaine has her axe out, peering into the darkness inside. All descend to the dam's top. Troll lights the cave for a split second by means of a Fiery Burst. Boof! The blast doesn't go as far as Troll intended; it hits a ceiling sloping down and veering left, briefly illuminating a descending stairway. Troll and Shalélu float inside, stopping where Troll's spell impacted. He looses another Fiery Burst as far as he can, anticipating the passageway's curvature. Boom! The Burst detonates, illuminating a huge humanoid creature with two heads. The giant grimaces in pain then hurls its javelin at Troll!

The javelin lodges in the dirt before Troll's Disc. "Blargh!" the creature roars in frustration and menace. Troll panics, sending the Disc towards the light.

Thump.. thump.. Thump! The creature takes a handful of steps and sees his quarry surrounded by more intruders. He throws another javelin, targetting Arrian. The huge shaft misses. The creature's right head says in broken common "You no bribe me! I smash you for skulltakers!" Troll points his Ray of Enfeeblement wand at the creature. The translucent black beam hits and engulfs the giant, visibly sapping its strength. Troll moves the Disc backwards, telling Shalélu to keep a lookout behind. Jakardros calmly bends his bow once, then again. Both arrows penetrate the giant's torso and its eyes widen in shock. Arrian appraises the giant. It is flagging, having trouble pulling its massive morning star off its belt. Arrian moves and casts Bull's Strength on Vale. Emily moves back and aims her bow, but holds her fire for fear of hitting one of her allies. Feren eyes the giant in the cave mouth. His two arrows also strike home. Both of the giant's heads scream in pain and defiance. Rowaine moves to the side of the cave, waraxe at the ready. Vale moves past her, toe-to-toe with the giant. His giant lore tells him where to hit to make it hurt, but his aim is off and his axe blade fails to breach the giant's hide.

The giant wrenches its morning star free, tearing it from its belt loop. The right head glares at Vale and smashes him with the weapon. The left head pulls another morning star free and smashes Vale again, who gives a step of ground. "Haaarr!!" the giant yells. Troll burns another charge from his Enfeeblement wand and again the ray does its necrotic work. Jakardros fires two more arrows, taking care not to hit his fellow Black Arrow. Too much care, they both fly high and the giant easily dodges them. Arrian moves behind Vale and calls for Corellon Larethian's healing power. Some of Vale's wounds close over. Emily paces left, then right, looking for a clear shot. Finding none, she looks behind along the top of the dam. "Blink, go have a look over there," she says in her mind. "Find some windows and have a look inside." Blink launches off her shoulder, Emily winces as his needle-sharp claws briefly dig in. Feren shoots a single arrow at the giant which lodges in the haft of its morning star. The giant looks at it curiously. Feren's second shot flies very wide - not even entering the cave mouth. Rowaine sees no way in. "Get out of there, Vale!" she yells, hoping that the warrior heeds her command and that the giant follows. She tightens her grip on her heavy axe. Shalélu sits on the Disc facing away from the action, on guard. Every now and then she reverses her gaze, taking in the combat and keeping an eye on the ridge above. Bolstered by Arrian's healing, Vale chops at the giant. The heavy wedge of imithrium-enhanced steel cleaves a deep gash in the giant's side and it gasps. Vale steps backwards, waiting for its reaction. The giant drops its left morning star and holds its wounded side, then turns and runs into the winding darkness. Vale is just out of reach to respond.

Do the party give chase into the cave, or proceed along the dam to the building? Feren points out that he would rather not be surrounded, a tactical point that Rowaine agrees with. With that in mind, Emily, Troll and Shalélu agree to remain and guard while the others proceed to the skull-covered building. Emily hands Rowaine her supply of rope, then climbs up the bluff using Rowaine's rope while Troll and Shalélu hover nearby. Emily pulls the rope half way up the bank then nocks an arrow to her bow. Blink is still away on his mission. The rest start walking along the dam.

Less than a minute later, Emily hears a familiar fluttering of membranous wings and Blink alights on her shoulder. "Big creatures in there," Blink says telepathically. "Big big creatures. LOTS of big creatures." Rowaine and the others are out of sight. Emily sends Blink back out again, telling him to get Rowaine's attention and get them all to come back. Blink shoots off.

Rowaine hears a strange voice in her head for the first time, then sees the cat-sized reptile shoot across her path. She holds her hand up. "Blinks wants us to stop."

"Why?" asks Arrian.

"Because there are 'lots of big monsters in there,'" Rowaine says verbatim. Blink flits towards the bluff, circling back, waiting for them to follow. They do so. Emily spots them approaching and climbs down the rope. Troll and Shalélu have not seen any activity from the cave mouth. The party review their plan, considering stationing archers on top of the building, blocking the doors with pigment-drawn barriers (impossible in the rain), spiking the outward-opening doors…


"Perhaps I could be dropped off on the roof and see what I can see?" says Emily.

"Harley might be able to sense what's in the building," adds Arrian. Rowaine agrees to the plan. She and Emily mount up and Harley takes them to the building, landing on its roof.

Emily stealthily creeps around. The roof is about twenty feet high. The circular windows are arranged to appear as the eye sockets of the skulls. The top of the window is five feet below the roofline. Harley growls words in terran; she feels movement from several sources below. Most of them are on the upstream, southern half of the floorplan. Emily decides to peek in through the west windows. She wraps rope around her waist, handing the other end to Rowaine. She takes a deep breath. "Hang on. Really tight," she says.

Rowaine braces herself and lowers Emily over the edge. Emily flips upside-down and looks in the eyesocket window. The window is partially curtained by lengths of green, ropey fungus. The room beyond extends about twenty five feet. Its walls, ceilings and floors are also covered with the fungus. Piles of it lie in the corners, as if ripped down and made into crude nests. Emily cannot see any creatures inside. Blood rushes to Emily's head, she motions for Rowaine to pull her back up.

"What'd you see? Rowaine asks.

"Green ropey viney things mostly. No ogres."

"Try another one?"


Rowaine moves the rope to the southeastern corner of the roof and dangles Emily off the southern corner. The first thing Emily sees is something moving inside; she quickly ducks to one side. A few seconds later she chances a second look. She sees one, two, three gaunt humanoid creatures, easily nine feet tall, with green-grey ropey skin. Piles of rubble, flesh, broken weapons, splashes of blood and dead bodies lie all over the floor. The vinelike green fungus is all over the walls. Emily has no idea what the creature is. Rowaine pulls Emily back up. Emily tells Rowaine what she saw, adding that she doesn't think she was spotted.

The pair repeat the process above the east windows. Emily sees a similar room to the one opposite. Emily gingerly walks to the northern side of the roof. She immediately notices that the northwest corner has collapsed. She ignores it for the mean time and gets Rowaine to lower her towards the northeast window. Emily tries not to look at the three hundred foot stony drop below her, instead focussing on the window. It provides a view of a small room, heavily covered in vines. They don't appear to be moving. It reeks of damp and mold.

Rowaine dangles Emily over the centre of the north wall. The walls of the room beyond bear the same ropey fungus. Emily sees a large double door in the south wall, a message in an unknown language scrawled over its surface in dried blood. There are doors either side, and doors in the flanking walls. Rowaine pulls Emily back up again, stretching out her tired muscles. "What about over there?" she asks, indicating the broken roof. She quietly walks over and peeks through. The floor below is saturated and Rowaine sees the vines Emily has been describing.

"Let's go tell the others, Rowaine," Emily whispers. After they rejoin the group, Emily describes what they saw, especially the tall humanoids.

"Could be a troll," Vale says. "Or a treant. Maybe some other sylvan creature. It could be similar to the thing we found in the Groll household… It definitely had a mouth and a face?"

"Yes," Emily affirms.

"My guess is it's a troll. It makes sense, they are supposed to live in this region."

"There were these really weird vines inside," adds Emily.

"Vines?" repeats Arrian. He turns to Vale. "Do trolls and vines go together?"

"Not to my knowledge," Vale says. "I can't say for sure. You could take me there…"

"If those things were trolls and it's damp," Feren says, "fire might not work so well. Troll, you had better use acid."

Troll looks thoughtful. "Did any of the creatures look like ogres?" he asks Emily.

"No," she replies.

"Then they won't be breaking the dam."

"There were a lot of large dead bodies in the same room… They could have been ogres."

"Then they definitely won't be breaking the dam. I reckon the dam is safe at this stage."

"I wouldn't say this dam is safe," Vale adds. "Not in this rain."

"If there are floodgates," Arrian says, "it would be great to open them, just in case."

"Oh, there was a message written in blood on a set of doors," Emily adds. "I couldn't read it."

"Could you take me there?" asks Jakardros.

"I can," offers Troll. "Hop on." Emily describes where to go and they depart on Troll's Disc. A little while they return.

"It's written in giant," Jakardros says. "It says 'Below dwells wet papa grazuul. All hail wet papa grazuul.' I don't recognise the name."

"So at this stage, there is still plenty going on here," Troll says. "Notwithstanding the ogres."

"That last one, that wasn't an ogre," Jakardros points out. "That was an ettin. I don't know them to associate with ogres. Ettins are normally loners."

"So an ogre ran into that cave with an ettin," Feren thinks aloud, "and presumably ran out again…"

"Ettins would pose a problem to most ogres," Jakardros says. "One-on-one, an ettin would rip the arm off an ogre."

"I do think we need to get into this building," Arrian says. "It'll either be where the floodgate controls are, or it'll be how to get to them. I say we put the fighters in front, with archers and Troll behind to finish them off. The only thing I'm a bit worried about are these vines…"

"Trolls are nasty creatures," Jakardros says grimly. "Very strong. Absolutely fearless."

"How do they stack up against ogres?" asks Troll.

"Trolls are tougher, even discounting their regeneration. Chances are, if the ogres have never fought trolls before, they will underestimate them. They may even take one of them out, but then the troll will just get back up and rip the ogre's head off."

"Rowaine," asks Troll, "you wanna jump on Harley for a cruise? It might be a good idea to have a closer look at the innards of this dam.

Rowaine departs on Harley, returning three minutes later.

"Interesting," she says. "Beneath the building, a stairway zigzags down a very long way."

"…to about the depth of the skulls?" Arrian finishes.

Rowaine confers with Harley. "Yes. The stairs end in a chamber."

"Is there an entrance to it from the cave?" asks Emily.

"No, nothing Harley could find. But there is something beneath the chamber which is a little odd. A big water-filled recess, about twenty feet high… Almost as if they forgot to put some blocks in."

"Like a floodgate?" asks Arrian.

"I've no idea what a floodgate looks like," Rowaine admits. "But there's some sort of machinery beneath it."


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