Chapter 09: Following the Ant Trail

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Session Number: 110
Date: Sunday 2 October 2011
Venue: Craig's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr9 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog10 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal10 (Craig) (kills: 1 desiccated undead, 1 mummy)
Tomen Rgr9/Drd1 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz10 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The others watch as Rowaine and the creature square off. Tomen glances down the doorway. Feren continues to play with the wooden disc, trying to slide or lever it open. He discovers that there is a narrower disc beneath the top that sits snugly in a hole in the stone floor. The timbers bear signs of wear that suggests movement.

The creature's clawed hands rake at Rowaine; one scores a hit. Rowaine retaliates with a powerful smite-chop combination. The two blows are heavy, driving the creature back, but causing less injury than Rowaine expects. Troll climbs along the ceiling, closing the gap. The wand in his right hand delivers a Scorching Ray that marks the creature slightly. Arrian presents his symbol of Corellon Larethian, putting the fear of his god in the creature. Tomen sees the creature's resolve falter and prepares to strike. Harley romps in and snaps at the creature but its hide is as tough as petrified wood.

Feren finishes his examination of the wooden discs and runs over to the breach in the wall, next to Tomen. The creature breaks away from Rowaine and Harley, making for the breach with a stiff gait. Rowaine charges after it but this time her axe ricochets harmlessly off the creature's torso. Troll looses another Scorching Ray but his aim is off; the ray passes over its head and blasts into loose stonework at the top of the breach, sending a large brick tumbling to the floor beside Tomen and Feren. They both glare at Troll.

"What?" Troll says, upside down.

Arrian lets the creature go, walking backwards towards the ruined door. Tomen steps closer to the creature, his two swords whirling. He trips on loose rubble, ruining the manoeuvre.

"Go fetch!" Rowaine says to Harley in dwarven.

She wouldn't dare say it in terran!

Harley guesses the meaning of the words and leaps at the retreating creature. Her fangs sink into its hamstring.

Feren dives under the creature, rolling to his feet next to the huge wolf. His surprise stab barely nicks its preternaturally tough skin. The panicked undead dives out the break - not before Tomen chops his long sword at its neck, but his attack also fails to make an impression. The creature makes good its escape, scrambling head first down the outer stonework.

"Feren!" Rowaine yells. "Help Arrian!" She then jogs over to the break and looks out. The humanoid thing continues to scuttle downwards, having righted itself. Even with the darkvision her ring bestows, Rowaine cannot see the bottom, although she notices that it does not continue upwards much higher than the breach. The space continues outwards beyond what she can see. Ro briefly takes off the Darkvision ring. It is pitch black out there. The light emanating from the breached wall is a beacon in the darkness.

"Harley, to me!" Rowaine yells, making a decision. The stone flyer bounds to Rowaine's side. Rowaine jumps on and urges Harley out through the break.

Feren checks one of the other discs, finding much the same. Troll looks through the shattered door. A staircase to the left leads down beyond his vision.

Harley spirals down for nearly a minute in a wide arc, keeping pace with the creature's slow descent. She sees another humanoid creature come into view below, climbing up the wall towards the breach. After about a minute the first creature reverses direction and starts climbing back up. "Its fear has subsided," Rowaine surmises. She leads her mount back towards the breach.

Troll climbs to the floor and moves over to the breach where Tomen stands. "She went that way," Tomen says. They both look through the hole. The outer wall is worked stone that extends thirty feet upwards and stops. There is no ceiling. Tomen hears a scrabbling noise below, and the sound of large wingbeats approaching. He pulls Troll away from the opening just before Harley and Rowaine burst through.

"It's coming back," Rowaine says to the others. "I have a plan. We wait until it gets here, then kick it off. It's a long way down."

"That's a very intricate plan." Feren says wryly.

"I have a better plan," Troll says. He picks up a piece of wall rubble and carries it to the breach. He eyes the creature slowly make its way up the wall, takes aim and drops the rock. It bounces off the wall about two thirds of the way down, ricocheting away harmlessly into darkness.

"The wall must have a bit of a lean to it," Troll says. "Someone get me some more rubble!" Tomen passes him another rock, of a size similar to the first. Troll again drops the missile towards the unsuspecting undead, this time giving it a slight nudge away from the wall. A hit! The rock strikes the creature's shoulder, breaking that arm's grip on the rock face, but the creature stubbornly clings to the wall and resumes climbing.

"Bigger rocks," Troll says, looking around. Their supply is limited; the breach is not that large. Perhaps he could use the Pigments to draw something? It would take too much time; the creature would be upon them before he completed even one drawing. Rowaine approaches the gap; Troll backs away to let her in. The paladin grabs the largest rock she can find - twenty odd pounds, she thinks - and throws it down. Smack! The rock hits the creature squarely in the head, causing massive injury and dislodging it from the wall. The creature below continues its ascent. Rowaine picks up another rock.

"Ah, Rowaine," Troll says. "This is not a very efficient way of saving the prince…"

Rowaine hesitates. "You're right," she says, dropping the rock. "Where is Elathon likely to have gone?" she asks aloud. "Tomen, is there any sign of him climbing out the break?"

Tomen investigates. "No, but many things have climbed in," he says.

"The stairs, then," Rowaine says. The party follow the stairs down, Tomen in front, Rowaine and Harley at the rear. The stairs double back and keep going down. After some time Tomen motions for everyone to stop. He listens as everyone quietens.

"Footsteps ahead," he whispers. "Its feet are dragging."

The party ready weapons. Rowaine and Harley move to the front, leaving Feren guarding the rear. After a minute the stairs double back again. Rowaine and Harley round the corner and see a ragged figure ahead, walking slowly down the next flight of stairs.

"It's evil," Rowaine whispers, stowing her axe and readying her bow. She lets loose an arrow that lodges between the creature's shoulderblades. It appears not to notice. Troll rounds the corner and harasses the creature with a bolt from his Acid Arrow wand. The missile flies true and explodes against the creature's back, but does no visible damage. The creature continues unperturbed, rounding a corner ahead and disappearing from sight.

"Is this the time for a fireball?" Rowaine asks Troll.

"I have a couple, but…" he shrugs in reply.

"Moot if we can't see it," Rowaine says, urging Harley onwards. They round the corner. The creature still walks down the stairs, unconcerned. Cautious of disease, Rowaine dismounts and tells Harley to stay. She paces forward, thinking on a dwarven battle cry and preparing to break into a run. Troll moves with her, triggering his Scorching Ray wand. The red beam lances out past Harley and strikes the creature's back, burning away ancient burial wrappings. It groans and turns around.

Tomen is next to round the corner. He considers an arrow shot, but decides against it - allies are in the firing line.

"Crush you between hammer and anvil!" Rowaine yells, charging. She throws her weight behind the blow. The huge axe enters the creature at waist height and severs its spine. It falls to the ground in a heap. Rowaine chops it again, confirming that it is vanquished.

"Stay clear!" Rowaine says. "It could harbour disease."

"Move away, Rowaine," Troll says, pointing at the heap of desiccated skin and rags. "I'll see to that." Once Rowaine is clear, Troll blasts the corpse with wave after wave of Fiery Bursts until the remains are incinerated.

"Could you heal me, Arrian?" Rowaine asks. "That monstrosity up there landed a few good hits on me." Arrian heals all injury with one powerful cure spell. The party assume their previous marching order and continue descending the stairs. Rowaine keeps an eye on their rear.

The party negotiate three more flights of stairs without incident. Again, Tomen stops the party, telling them that there are sounds of many shuffling feet ahead. In the ensuing quiet all hear the sound of steel on steel - the sound of battle. "Let's go!" Rowaine says.

The stairs end in an archway that opens into a large chamber. Fifty yards away are a large number of shambling, bipedal undead of various sizes, moving away from the archway and funnelling onto a forty foot wide land bridge. They are silhouetted by a handful of torches beyond, in the hands of a small number of elves that hold a makeshift barricade. The far side of the cavern is not visible.


"Elathon!" Rowaine yells. There is no response. Rowaine spurs Harley to the party's front line. "I'm going to have a look," she says to the others.

"I'll come," Feren says. "If they are Roielle or Kanafel, I may recognise them."

"Agreed," Rowaine says.

"Give us a signal if they are friendly," Troll says. "I can then get the others over to support them."

"I'll yell," Rowaine says. "Friendly or not, I will return."

Harley, Feren and Rowaine fly straight overhead, around twenty feet above the floor. They see four elves on the bridge, holding the barricade against something like four times that number of undead. An elven casualty lies on the ground, amongst many slain undead. The drop on either side is many hundreds of feet.

"They are my brother's personal guard!" Feren says. "Hang on…" he ponders. "I had some sort of spell on me that attracted demons… Might Elathon have the same thing, attracting undead?"

Rowaine thinks as they circle on the far side of the barricade. "You could be right," she says.

"Drop me off down there!" Feren says. "They need help."

"I will help too," Rowaine says, guiding Harley down with her knees and readying her axe and shield. "I will send Harley alone for the others. They land behind the barricade. The elves cast worried glances over their shoulders. Rowaine gives an age-old gesture indicating that backup has arrived. Is it too late? It doesn't look like the elves will manage to hold the barricade for much longer…

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