the Goblin King and the Lord of Werewolves have renewed their ancient alliance beneath the Howling Tower;
and the secret treasury of the ancient Bronding Kings is said to lie somewhere behind the Brokenbrand Falls, haunted by enchanting naiads ...
Aethulfwulf (fighter 1)
Kord (half-orc fighter 1/cleric 1)
with Dog 1 (a mastiff)
Little Bob (traveling-man 1)
with Marlo (a cur), Panzer (orc-mastiff), and Orion II (lion dog)
Rendorsheeg (Elf 2)
plus, a party of Elf tourists led by Elrohir and including the other Elves Cymbria, Hylen, and Alanora, further followed by a couple of charmed humans and a group of six goblin slaves packing the Elves' things for them
While Aethulwulf's player put his character together, Kord looked around town for local work and managed to get a gig laboring with the construction at the new Shrine of St. Ursula the Bear. He made 6 gold (must have been doing some heavy lifting!), bit his chaotic tongue at the lawful imagery, and put his wages toward his debt with the thieves' guild.
At that point I still only had the two players; I gave them "the pitch" (orcs in the glimmervaults, etc), but added that a party of Elves had come into town a week ago and were loitering around, looking for people willing to escort them into the Glimmervaults. They were on a pilgrimage to look upon the Ancient Stars that glimmer beneath the earth, but having heard of the troubles with the orcs, they wanted some extra muscle in their party.
Kord enthusiastically agreed to join the Elves, hoping for 60 gold for the job; the Elves responded, no, we were thinking something more along the lines of 50 gold per person. That sold the rest of the party, which now included Little Bob. Before setting out, Little Bob and Kord bought the three dogs for sale, which included an orc mastiff, a huge blue-black beast of a dog trained to murder orcs.
Thus outfitted, the party accompanied the Elves through the wilderness toward the caverns of the Glimmervaults. Fortunately, because the Elves were excellent woodsmen and passed quietly through the world, they needed roll no wilderness encounters; so they arrived at the entrances to the Glimmervaults on the north slope of a spur of the Greyhame Mountain. To the east is a worked entrance surrounded by heads impaled on spikes (including humans, Elves, and many orcs); to the west, a stone grotto that descends deeper into the slope before becoming a cold cavemouth into the underworld.
The Elves led the party to the grotto and into the caverns beyond. They then basically led the party on a long walk/tour ever to the southeast through a series of natural caverns, passing through a large number of chambers, but almost always in the same direction, south east, south east, etc. Along the way, they pointed out some interesting features, or stopped to sing or make obeisance to their own idols.
First, pointing to a formation of flowstone in one of the first few chambers, the Elves remarked on how the Galad tribe used to rule the surrounding lands as loyal vassals of the Bronding Kings, and how their dead are buried in the stone there behind; the last time Elrohir and his companions came through, the Galad tribe were not yet at their end, for the Bronding Kingdom had not yet fallen apart.
|An example of flowstone|
Six orcs and six wolves came down the corridors from the northwest, back whence the party had come; they were armed and ready for combat, and gave a warshout as they charged into melee. What followed was a short combat in which the dogs showed their value by mauling the orcs, while the party stayed behind throwing and shooting missiles at the orcs. Two wolves and an orc went down in the first round; in the second, the party got initiative and took out two more orcs. At that point, the orcs and wolves failed morale and turned to flee, and two more orcs went down, pulled down by the vicious dogs.
Searching the bodies produced a mere 16 gp, but Kord managed to find and claim for himself a golden torc on the biggest orc before anyone else could get it.
Continuing on from there, the party went south-east, and ultimately ended up (in the second "level" of the Glimmervaults) in a vast room with two stalactite-stalagmite columns, the larger of which was carved to represent the World-Tree; and its stone "branches" above seemed not to meet the stone ceiling, but to spread into the night sky, as some kind of magic made the ceiling seem in fact to be open to the stars (strangely, for the party had entered the caves during the day). Moreover, there were two sets of double doors, one to east, one to the north, both of which were set with heavy metal bars. These doors were both marked, "These halls are polluted with the miasma of death; Galad has sealed these doors," or some such. Elrohir remarked that behind them lay an ancient shrine dedicated to Astora, Goddess-Queen of Elves, but that the halls were polluted with death in ancient times, and abandoned by the deathless Elves who do not care to look upon death.
|Like this, except the tree is a flowing stalagmite, and in its|
roots are carved images of Elves and other animals
The party searched ineffectually while the Elves sang their star-songs, and then everyone continued south-east. In the next chamber, they surprised a pair of many-legged insectoid horrors with tentacle-faces, both engrossed in a feast of two dead orcs; on these the party sicced their dogs, and also cast missiles at them, and rather quickly dispatched them, with Aethulfwulf pretty well killing one with a strong cast of a javelin.
Further yet, the Elves led the party into yet another large chamber, this one opening onto a large underground lake, preternaturally still in the windless deeps. The glassy water reflected the ceiling perfectly, and because of this, it seemed as if they had walked to the edge of the world and looked into a field of stars, as the ceiling, again, seemed to be filled with the stars of the night sky. The Elves began to sing a weird and ancient song in memory of the stars, and into this eerie serenity, Rendorsheeg flicked a rock into the lake, and the ripples destroyed the symmetry of the lake's mirror. The Elves gave him reproving glances, but continued their song.
|Not colored like this, but the reflection on the water is a good|
example of the glassy mirror of the lake reflecting the stars
Rendorsheeg, ever the one for foolhardy antics, then decided to throw poor Orion II into the water. He picked the dog up and kind of tossed him into the water, causing quite a splash and a bunch of thrashing and whining as the dog landed in the cold water; then Orion II disappeared beneath the surface, pulled down by something pale beneath the water. The Elves gave Rendorsheeg the evil eye, and as Little Bob fumed at his companion, Rendorsheeg sheepishly gave the traveling-man 50 gold in recompense.
There was another "shoreline" on the north side of the lake, on which was banked a black boat; the party briefly considered a scheme to haul it across, but when they heard that the Elves were done with their song and moving on, they followed them instead.
The Elves then led the party mostly south (through the third "level" of the Glimmervaults). They went quickly and without wandering monsters, and ultimately stepped out into sunlight once again, on the southern slope of the spur off the Greyhame Mountain. Elrohir and his companions intended to return west and north, back to town, and offered to pay the characters the second half of their fee, to which the party agreed. Then, as the Elves continued on their way, the party returned back through the caves they had just traversed to the large cavern with the World Tree and the sealed doors.
Inspecting the eastern of the doors, they determined that they could spend a turn to pry off the iron bar that sealed the door; Kord did this, and opened the door onto an east-leading corridor that further opened onto a long pillared hall. On the floor of that hall lay three desiccated corpses, which had clearly lain among the pillars for a long time. Rendorsheeg tossed a torch at one, afraid of evil fungus and spores, but nothing happened--until they stepped into the room, of course, at which point the corpses arose, and the air in the room became noticeably colder.
These corpses reached to their waists as if drawing swords, but drew only blades of shadow, and then advanced across the hall. Kord attempted to turn them, but as he held up his holy symbol and said a prayer to the good gods, the corpses only continued advancing, implacably and silently. Seeing this, the party turned tail and fled back into the hall beyond; and then decided to call it a day, and returned to town.
I don't want to deal with any more of that supernatural shit! Little Bob declared, already in a foul temper after losing a dog to the things in the water, and mindful of the terrible keening spirit in the Howling Tower.
On the way back they suffered a brief skirmish with orcs that broke one shield, a spear, expended 12 ammunition, and in the confusion left behind a backpack with one week's rations (a wilderness attrition encounter).
Back in town, Kord discovered that the torc he had grabbed was worth 400 gold, and refusing to share it with the party, he used the reward to pay off his debt to the thieves' guild in full.
Meanwhile, Rendorsheeg drank himself to full wine-madness while regaling the guests of the Black Dragon's Meed with tales of the adventure, and ultimately got himself into some trouble with the law. He doesn't remember what happened, but he is now jailed in the dungeon of Oakridge Castle (the castle of local lord Morholt), with a debt of 4000 gold, which must be paid before he is released. One gets the impression that he might have said some unwise things to an already touchy son of Morholt ...
Remembrance for the Fallen
Orion II (lion dog), Bacon (boar hound), Tore (half-orc fighter 1/cleric 1), Jimmy the Snitch (dog), Orion (lion dog), Harambe (man-ape 1)