Up the Mountain
Led by Karl Ironspine, the party began it’s trek up the treacherous passes of the Hammer Mountains. Temperate forest gave way to snowy meadows. The party encountered more than one denizen of the wilderness, but more often than not, the combined forest-cunning of Bertram and Yvanet ensured that no permanent damage was done. The deadliest foe was the shrieking wind and the biting cold.
The Door in the Mountainside
As the party made it’s way deeper into the mountains, snowy slopes of pine forest gave way to icy cliffs of sheer rock. and set into one of those sheer cliff faces was a door of plain burnished wood. After discussing with Karl whether the door could be of dwarven make (it couldn’t) and after much deliberation amongst themselves, the party decided to investigate.
The first room they entered was a homely enough entrance chamber. The party took no chances, though – Clock was sent in to scout for traps, and scout she did. Sure enough, she found a pressure plate cunningly concealed in the floor. Warning her companions to avoid it, she invited the others inside, where the other party members pointed out something Clock had missed – a trail of blood-spatters running out the door, coming from the large oaken double doors directly ahead.
Behind them was a grand hall, hung with fearsome tapestries, and a huge locked iron door at the far end. Two staircases of wrought iron within, one going up, one going down. After ascertaining that downstairs was a small chamber with a door and a mechanism with three levers, the party decided to venture upstairs.
They arrived in a library, and a quick search revealed a wealth of booty – a chest of magical scrolls and wands, a rare tome, and more. The next room, however, was not so generous. The next room, in fact, was a charnel pit, a ritual chamber of the wizard who had once lived in this house, a man named Gormengast. The party found several of Gormengast’s notes and letters, indicating he was a demonologist in the employ of one M-
——, and that he had been conducting experiments on several ‘subjects’.
The players found Gormengast himself (or what was left of him) in his bedchamber – facedown, with a smoking crater in his back. Bloody footprints marked the path the killer had taken – right through the library. And not too long ago, by the state of the corpse. Searching the bedchamber, Perin found a spellbook chock full of blasphemous secrets – worth quite a lot to the right person, presumably. And Bertram found a set of keys – including one to the huge iron door found in the staircase chamber.
Behind that iron door, the players found Gormengast’s laboratory, and learned from his correspondance, that his employer was a dark sorcerer named Mordigaunt, and that this Mordigaunt was likely the same shadowy figure who had taunted the players at [[Lily-End]]. When one of the players, searching the room, pressed a button underneath the wizard’s desk, it opened a silver-lined chamber in the wall to reveal an imp, a demon of the lower realms!
The little devil made quick it’s attempted escape – turning invisible and attempting to flee the room. The party floundered about aimlessly, and only Yvanet’s quick thinking allowed her to shut the door and prevent the creature’s escape. Thwarted, the devil used it’s fiendish powers to invade Karl’s mind and set him against his allies. Using his divine powers, Perin managed to locate the fiend long enough for the party to attack it. Meanwhile, Karl came to his senses – but only after cutting a swath through the party that left them severely injured. Filled with shame and rage, he made short work of the imp, who revealed that it had been held prisoner and experimented on by Gormengast, who kept his prisoners in a gaol on the lower level, and that the dark Wizard Mordigaunt was the only being on our plane of existence that had ever caused it fear – until the party, that is.
Sending the little imp to oblivion, the party decided that they were best to recover from their wounds before proceeding any further. They barricaded themselves inside Gormengast’s laboratory, and bedded down for the night. During their rest, Celandine and karl bonded over a flask of vile dwarven liquor, and Celandine told Karl over and over again that it was okay that he had killed her that time – she’d gotten over it.
The Belly of the Beasts
The next morning, the adventurers descended into Gormengast’s menagerie. Within, they found an assortment of fiends, from lowly dretches to fearsome fiendish lions. But Gormengast’s prize subject was Subject IX, a bearded devil, shock-trooper of Hell itself. Perin, unwilling to let such abominations survive on the material plane, convinced his fellows that the beasts must be disposed of. Meanwhile, the bearded devil could only cackle. The party made their preparations, and flung wide the door to the devil’s cell – only to have it vanish before their eyes! The beast was a teleporter! It used it’s power to free the other fiends, and then rejoined the fray.
Our heroes had a pitched battle on their hands, and Karl was soon overwhelmed by a pair of dire lions. Lucky for our heroes, the dretches took the opportunity to flee, leaving the barbazu alone to combat the fully prepared party – and even then, our heroes were hard pressed. The cramped conditions worked to the beast’s advantage, allowing him to fend off the stalwart Perin at the front lines with it’s saw-toothed glaive. It was only when Bertram hauled his beleaguered ally off the front lines that the devil made a fatal miscalculation.
“I know you, Bertram of the Woodland Blade. I know your wife. Your sons, your daughters. Their screams are quite the delicacy where I’m from.” Enraged by the news that his family had no peace even in death, Bertram took up the magical sword the party had found in an empty cell, parried aside the monstrous ranseur, and slew the devil with a single mighty blow.
Rallying around their comrade, the party managed to slay the deadly lions and revive the reckless and embarrassed Karl. After a short rest to investigate the cells and recover some valuable emergency supplies, the party set of in pursuit of the fleeing dretches.
They soon caught up to the loathsome little beasts, and though the demons used their fear power to best advantage, they were soon over-run and slain.
The Winged Terror
The party traveled on through the mountains, armed with a little more knowledge of the mastermind behind their recent woes. But their peaceful journey was not to last, for they, in a mountain pass, were ambushed by a fearsome white dragon. She launched herself into the fray, using her icy breath to soften the party up. At last, Karl was given a chance to prove his worth, and he lustily engaged the beast in combat. Soon finding herself surrounded and overwhelmed by a hail of vicious blows from rapier, sword, and sling, the proud dragon fled to the safety of the cliffs above.
The party took the opportunity to raid the dragon’s lair before she returned, finding a wealth of coin and a cunningly concealed trunk full of valuables. Somewhat wealthier, they resumed their journey to the other side of the Mountains.
Partings and Meetings
The slopes of the Calenhad Pass came soon enough, and Karl took his leave of the party, promising a warm welcome should they ever cross his path again. Shouldering their packs and taking stock, our heroes set out on the well-traveled road to Castle Blackfyre.
When they arrived at the gates, they were escorted to Lord Balon Blackfyre’s personal audience chamber. There the party regaled him with all that they had learned. He replied by telling the party that he and his men had encountered this Mordigaunt’s agents before. Mordigaunt, he said, was a cunning and charismatic foe, and he was no doubt gathering an army in the Scarr, preparing to assault the lands of Blackfyre, and then the whole Kingdom of Light. While Blackfyre prepared his defenses for the coming assault, the party elected to make haste for Fialus to warn the king of the impending danger, both from without the kingdom, and perhaps from within.