Play began shortly after eating some rapidly cooked turkey/chicken. It was a wholesome meal flavored with tendons and crunchy rice. The dwarves picked up scouting in the large chamber where they had retired the lives of six legates. The most interesting thing found amongst the red and black robbed emissaries of The Shadow, was a rather plain looking wooden beaded necklace. It was highly unusual for a legate to be adorned in such a way. Hrothgolm decided to take posession of the trinket.
The only logical next step was to examine the far side of the chamber where dim light spilled from above. Before the dwarves made much progress in that direction, the ground beneath their feet rumbled. A bit of time was spent trying to ascertain the direction and depth of the noise. As the source changed position, there was some confusion, but eventually the hearty dwarves assumed a spread out battle position with several readied actions set. It was seconds later that the ground gave way close to Hrothgolm. A huge chitinous creature, very much insect like, but mammoth in size, burst from the ground and momentarily gazed upon the keeper of the necklace. It made eye contact, and then lowered its head and turned away, assuming a defensive posture protecting Hrothgolm. From his friends!
The burrowing behemoth failed to realize that Hrothgolm was not intent on leveling his entomology skills. In fact, Hrothgolm, stout guardsman from Hearth Scintili would make no new friends that day. While the bug had its back to him, Hrothgolm scored a critical and did serious damage to the beast. The rest of the dwarves made short work of this encounter, with their readied actions and heroic feats. Donuts were gladly consumed, and thoughts eventually turned to more challenging matters.
The light at chambers end came from a nearly vertical and cylindrical shaft of several feet in diameter. It looked like a huge climb to the top. After some logistics talk, the group spilled all their collective pitons out onto the floor. It was decided that there should be enough to make some decent foot holds allowing everyone to climb in relative safety. Indeed, it was a rather safe and uneventful climb, interrupted only by the pounding of pitons and the checking of ropes.
Until, that is, the group was about 150 feet into its climb. From above, a great flapping of many wings caught the attention of everyone. Bix Ringhorn, dwarvish bard, let loose a spell of exploding fire nearly 80 feet above the group. The range was calculated to explode in the greatest concentration of these leathery winged scourges. The fireball was perfect, yet there were dozens more of the beasts and what was most alarming, at least to the bard, was that these creatures seemed intent on taking him out. At their own peril, the flying parasites ignored other party members and went straight for Bix. A few of them landed and immediately found soft spots in Bix’s armor, draining him of blood, strength, and spells!
That first round did not go well, and Bix was brought near death as bite after draining bite sapped Bix of his life force and the party of its only source of magic. Bix was on the brink.
The party was not inactive. As the creatures flew downward and past them, each took deadly aim and thinned the enemy’s numbers. At this point it was a matter of numbers, and it looked like Bix was going to get swarmed again. Shifty Leghard took the initiative and performed a maneuver that will be sung about, if ever there are more chances to sing and drink. Despite knowledge that this was a difficult trick with dire consequences should he fail, Shifty willingly flipped of his piton perch and tumbled downwards, passing Hrothgolm, grabbing two scourge mid air away from the next dwarf, Bix, and tumbling to safety just below the bard.
Now the numbers were in the dwarves favor, and the winged foe was unable to land any more attacks on Bix. Strange that he was the only target.
What none of the party members realized was that peering from the top of the shaft, was a face shrouded in a black cloak. It stole a few glances, judging the height of the dwarves and the progress they had been making.
When the party, again in single file, began to exit the top of the vertical shaft, they were picked off nearly one by one by another group of legates. Honestly it didn’t look good as one by one the party members climbing to the surface were paralyzed by clerical spells channeling the terrible power of Izrador. To make matters worse, those held in the legates’ mental grasp, and all other near the surface, were blasted by necrotic damage.
What the legates didn’t count on, was Bix, still making his way out of the column. Hearing his comrades distress, the resourceful bard belt forth with a vocal tune of such quality that it snapped most of his friends to in a matter of moments. It is with good reason that the Shadow hates magic and greatly fears foes that can wield it.
Without the party held fast, the legates could not stand amongst the trained meat grinders that this dwarvish patrol had been trained to become. Rocks, knives, hammers, axes. In a matter of seconds the dwarves stood victorious between two peaks on a saddle ridge with a clear line of sight back to their besieged hearth gates and hundreds of orcs encamped below.
The last thing accomplished, and most shocking discovery of the campaign, was that one of the legates had an interesting sketch of a flame creature, but disturbingly on the reverse of the parchment was the personal sigil of Gnok Copperfist. Why?! Why would the newly elected leader of Hearth Scintili’s symbol be in the possession of legates?
In the next, and final chapter of Dwarvish Midnight our party will decide what to do.