The Friday Knights
Session 25- Into the Horned Hold.
This week in play we have-
Cathal, Human Fighter Level 6
Eruan, Eladrin Wizard Level 4
Lucan, Elven Rogue Level 5
Rock, Dwarven Fighter Level 5
[DM Interlude- Zoran will be with us when he's done with work; and Bob, who plays Eruan, will not be with us at all- he's on holiday, but because we have missed the Mage so much we've decided to 'bot' him- besides three PCs is not enough.]
Terrlen leads the Knights on, another five hours on- they're getting tired, although...
“Moradin preserve us...” Farkill exclaims.
“Wheeeoooow!” Rock whistles.
“Dwarven craftsmanship.” Farkill beams.
“Grey Dwarves!” Cathal spits and sneers.
The Horned Hold, sounds like a blast!
“Lucan!” Cathal orders, the Elven Rogue tuts a little and mooches forward, disappearing completely into the shadows.
The path winds on to a portcullised guard chamber, no way in, save through the portcullis- which is quite definitely guarded, large orcs- solid black in colour laugh and tell bawdy tales, in Orcish. Lucan creeps closer for a better look, the portcullis is locked on the inside, however the lock is accessible, sort of... He returns to the Knights to deliver his report.
A plan is hatched- a new plan, it resembles the old plan- Rock's Postman routine but has a little twist, several moments later...
Rock rattles the gate, which causes the Orcs, there's four of the lumbering brutes within, to grab for their weapons and present themselves front and centre.
“Watcha wan'?” The first Orc growls.
“I've come to see Murkelmore.” Rock snaps and looks testy.
“I've come to tell him that my sister's pregnant, and he's the father- he needs to do the right thing by her.” Rock looks googly-eyed, like 'no' is not an option, lets this new information hang in the air.
The Orcs have nowhere to go with this, they blankly look from one to another, finally one grunts and whispers something in Orcish.
“Get Murkelmore”, Rock snaps off and rattles the gate hard.
An Orc scurries off, the Orcs watch on- not getting too close to the gate, Rock looks to be less than pleased with the Duergar Chief, and he's armed and looking very dangerous.
Throughout this charade Lucan, concealed to the side of the gate, has been examining and then with the use of some specialist lock picks, doing his best to fathom the lock on the gate, so far he's been lucky- none of the Orcs, who have eyes only for the angry Dwarf, have spotted him.
A Grey Dwarf arrives.
“Vot is goink on mit du?” The Grey Dwarf barks.
At which point Cathal, concealed on the other side of the portcullis, kicks the now unlocked gate open and slices and cuts the Duergar Scout open.
The rest of the Knights rush in, but not before Eruan has planted a Scorching Blast amidst the defenders.
“Play time...” Cathal growls.
Murkelmore is going to be a daddy!
The Duergar Scout disappears, that is goes invisible, which is a new twist on the Knights, meanwhile Rock and Cathal have already reduced two of the Blackhand Orcs to mush, the last three are fighting hard but are being backed into a corner.
Eruan continues to offer artillery support- making it very difficult for the Orcs to get away.
A pair of well made double doors on the opposite side of the guard chamber open, seemingly of their own accord, Lucan guesses right and spins out a dagger- it connects and the Duergar Scout reappears clutching at his side, very bloodied.
The Grey Dwarf's scream is cut short as he's hit by a Magic Missile and Lucan's dagger again- dead. The Orcs don't last long, save the one who is knocked unconscious, the chamber is taken, and by the sound of things the fortress has not been alerted. The Knights search the chamber and the inhabitants- find a few coins on the Duergar, the Orcs have nothing- and look to have been treated roughly- clearly they are not on an equal footing with the Duergar, a piece of information the Knights file away for later use.
Cathal arrives uninvited.
[DM Interlude Encounter #87 [1500 XP = Level 8] Orc Berserker x5 (Level 5 Brutes) & Duergar Scout (Level 5 Lurker).]
The captured Orc proves his worth, alas none of the Knights speak the Orc tongue, and he has only broken Common. Via charades the Knights come to understand that the Orcs are really not that keen on the Duergar- they're slaves, of a sort, to the Grey Dwarves.
The Knights have an ally, it seems there are more Orcs present- it bodes well for the Knights. The Knights also notice that the Blackhand Orcs do not actually have black hands- that is to say while their skin colour is a dull ebony colour their hands, where the pigmentation has worn away, are actually quite pale- odd, but not remarked upon at this juncture.
[DM Interlude- except by the DM who is foreshadowing something, wink!]
The Knights, lead by a stealthy Lucan, head on in.
A number of chambers are cursorily investigated including- an armoury, two barracks- one for Orcs the second for Duergar and a chamber with a well in it.
Of note however is the racket coming from a chamber to the west, the Orc mimes a forge- actually on the third guess the Knights get what the Orc is miming, first guess, from Rock, is a pizza parlour.
A plan is formulated.
[DM Interlude- with only three players in game, and me not reducing the difficulty of the encounters the players present are doing a lot more in the way of planning ahead of the encounters, forced to be resourceful they have come up trumps.]
Eventually the Blackhand Orc plays his part- slams into the chamber beyond and calls for the two Orc Berserkers within to follow him, the Duergar within grumble but do nothing to prevent the pair from leaving. Nonplussed, the wary Orc Berserkers step outside- and meet the Knights, the revolution of the Blackhand Orcs begins here.
The Knights explain their situation, the toothy Orcs, after a few dicey moments, come round to the Knights' way of thinking.
The Knights, with Orcish reinforcements, take positions and then drift into the chamber- a workshop in which a Duergar Scout aids a heavily muscled Duergar Master Smith at his forge.
“Put down your weapons- you are our prisoners.” Cathal states.
Urwol, the Duergar Master Smith, is having none of it- he knocks into the Duergar Scout- waking him from his stupor, the Scout turns invisible, and retreats. En route he takes a dagger to the back courtesy of a previously hidden Lucan.
Urwol begins screaming in Orcish- it doesn't sound pleasant, whatever it is he says it has the desired effect, the two new recruits to the Blackhand revolution switch sides and begin laying into the Knights. The Knights original Orc captive ducks out of the chamber, not supporting either side for now- content to see how things stand in a few bloody moments.
A fiery light bathes Rock, Lucan and Cathal- their weapons glow red hot and burn their hands, Urwol's Fire of the Forge power leaves them struggling to connect, and still burning, and yet the three grip tight to their blades.
The Scout reappears ideally placed to plant his hammer in Rock's back- which he does- the Dwarven Fighter spins round and engages the new foe, delivers a devastating Crushing Blow which is made worse when Lucan slips his dagger in to the Duergar's back- the Scout is dead, and moments later Cathal with a little help from Eruan takes care of the first turncoat Blackhand Orc- the other fights on.
Rock and Lucan, the pair now moving towards Urwol, are caught in a blast of Vile Fumes- Lucan left blinded, gagging and retching while Rock, unharmed, rushes in to smash the Smith.
Moments later reinforcements arrive as the final turncoat Blackhand Orc is dealt with- it's suddenly five onto one, the first Blackhand Orc to join the Knights gets in on the act, siding with the Knights.
Urwol attempts to flee, alas he has to get through the Knights to get to anywhere worth fleeing to.
He doesn't make it.
The workshop returns to silence, save the crackle and the hiss of the fire in the forge.
Mr. Smith takes a beating.
[DM Interlude Encounter #88 [850 XP = Level 5] Orc Berserker x2 (Level 5 Brutes); Duergar Scout (Level 5 Lurker) & Urwol, Duergar Master Smith (Level 6 Controller).]
The first tower within the Horned Hold is taken, a thorough search is undertaken, with their new found Blackhand Orc friend leading the way.
Tower #1, now Knight territory.
The Knights, well mostly Lucan, locate some cash, and on the wall in what looks to be Urwol, the Duergar Master Smith's, bedroom an ugly looked Skull-topped Rod, which rings a bell. The Blackhand Orc looks suitably impressed with the device- actually he bows down before it.
The Knights have located the ceremonial rod that Gendar (the Drow) spoke of- their Orc companion vows (in mime) to serve the Knights in their holy crusade to kill the Duergar, he also mimes some more about there being other Blackhand Orcs in the largest of the fortresses three redoubts to the north.
A seemingly unkempt, and therefore unused, stone bridge leads from the tower to the redoubt to the north, the Knights take no chances and barricade the door their side- preventing the Grey Dwarves from attacking them from the rear.
[DM Interlude- and then Farkill, that is Zoran, arrives from work; let's pretend he's been here all along, but in an advisory capacity only, yeah- that'll work.]
And so (ahem) this week in play we have-
Cathal, Human Fighter Level 6
Eruan, Eladrin Wizard Level 4
Farkill, Dwarven Priest of Moradin Level 5
Lucan, Elven Rogue Level 5
Rock, Dwarven Fighter Level 5
Another wide passage leads on to the second Tower within the fortress, the Knights head down it, once again Lucan ahead scouting the way.
The Knights wait up a while, allowing Lucan to do his thing.
[DM Interlude- Lucan, that is Jack, hates scouting, at least it sounds like he's not that keen, then again Jack does laconic like it's going out of fashion. Lucan's rules of scouting are as follows- 1. Find enemies; 2. Find unguarded treasure before the rest of the Knights arrive. He divides his time 20/80 on these two pursuits.]
The Elven Rogue heads in and discovers- an empty Hall which ends in a double door which obviously leads into a guard chamber, Lucan can hear Duergar quietly chatting within. A storeroom which contains absolutely no treasure, Lucan takes ten minutes to check it over- thoroughly, he's very disappointed. Another set of double doors that leads into some kind of mess hall, more Duergar within. Lastly a rough looking bed chamber, once again with no treasure, with a door that seems to lead into a very warm and occupied room- Lucan spies within, it's a kitchen.
Disappointed he reports back,
Once again a plan is formulated, Lucan and Farkill are to take out the guardroom; while Rock, Cathal and Eruan storm the mess hall- the Knights split their forces. Eruan however will be on call should things go awry for either group.
Initially the plan goes well.
Rock and Cathal swarm into the mess hall- there are only two Duergar present, Eruan provides Magic Missile support and the defenders connect with some good hits. Unaware that the Duergar they're now trading blows with is Rundarr, the Duergar Champion. A door crashes open and a third Duergar, another Guard crashes into the chamber- that makes the odds even, three onto three.
Meanwhile Lucan and Farkill get the drop on the two Duergar Scouts in the guard room, concentrate fire on one of them and bloody the Grey Dwarf, a moment later the Duergar pair disappear from sight.
The Pincer Movement, favoured by crabs.
“I forgot they did that.” Farkill states swatting everything, and nothing, before him.
“Me too.” Lucan adds with a grin.
A moment later- when the fighting has completely stalled, the Scouts have not reappeared, the pair share a long look then in unison scream.
Meanwhile in the mess hall a servant, one of the Human Slaves the Knights are looking for, steps out of the kitchen bearing a tray full of steaming plates of food; he takes in the situation.
“I'll come back when you're less busy.”
And scampers back inside the kitchen and cowers.
The first Duergar Guard has fallen, the second is engaged with Cathal, Rock is trading blows with Rundarr, the pair are wearing each other down, although if it continues this way Rock will be the first to fall.
Seconds later they're both bloodied.
“Har-har. Veel zee about zis.” Rundarr proclaims, and suddenly gets much bigger.
Rundarr is engorged!
The fight is evenly matched, perhaps even a little lopsided, in favour of the Duergar- a nail biting finish to follow.
Or at least you'd think so.
The much large Rundarr smashes his hammer into Rock- hard.
[DM Interlude- critical hit for 19 damage, Rock is on 6 Hit Points.]
Rundarr attacks again, Rock is done for- or so it seems - the Duergar Champion is winning the fight, not even with Cathal's help can the Knights expect to win through. Particularly as Eruan is now being menaced by the remaining Duergar Guard, and Farkill and Lucan are still alone in the dark, as it were, with no enemies in sight.
[DM Interlude- from here to the end of the fight is a further eight rounds of action, Rundarr attacks twice per round with his hammer, and has an Action Point to spend- which he does, on another two attacks. He needs a 10 to hit Cathal, an 11 to hit Rock. He misses every time- he dies on the seventh round, that's 16 rolls of nine or below, actually there's one roll of '10' in there but he was attacking Rock that round. Remember this takes over thirty minutes to play out- I'm not laughing. Rock survives the battle on 6 Hit Points- still.]
[DM Interlude- I'm not describing the rest of the action for this fight, it still irks me to this day.]
The Knights are victorious.
Have a biscuit!
[DM Interlude Encounter #89 [1400 XP = Level 6] Duergar Guard x2 (Level 5 Soldiers); Duergar Scout x2 (Level 5 Lurkers) & Rundarr, Duergar Champion (Level 7 Elite Brute). Like I care.]
[DM Interlude- Lucan now has enough XP to gain Level 6, after an extended rest of course, the smart arse.]
The Knights eventually get into the kitchen, and discover the first of the slaves they have been sent to rescue. There's much rejoicing, particularly by the now former slaves, they get a little too excited and have to be calmed down.
The second tower is thoroughly searched, as are the former inhabitants, a heap of coin and a set of magical Dwarven Greaves, formerly belonging to Rundarr, Cathal takes these.
Tower #2, the Knights expand their holdings.
The Knights take lunch, it tastes like chicken whatever it is- the Underdark KFC is open for business.
“Mmmm. Chicken!” Farkill tucks in.
“How many legs does a chicken have?” Cathal asks.
“Two.” Farkill repies, after a little thinking time, then looks at the platter before them, the segmented body has maybe three-dozen legs, is perhaps four feet long, and thin- not at all like a chicken, it also lacks wings.
“I'm full...” Farkill states and pushes his half-finished dinner away from him.
The slaves meanwhile have a story to tell- about Framath, the terrible Duergar Chief Theurge and the Slave Pits to the north in the third tower- where the rest of the captives from the Nentir Vale reside. Then on to Murkelmore, the Duergar Chief of the Grimmerzhul, who also resides to the north, and lastly that one of the bridges across the chasm to the north is never used, the chambers abandoned.- said to be haunted.
Which gives the Knights an idea.
After dinner both of the bridges are observed for a while- nothing stirs, eventually a decision is made and the the Knights re-open the unused bridge.
Lucan crouches below the low parapet of the bridge and crawls over- unobserved seemingly.
A bridge too far.
Lucan breaks in to the long abandoned chamber, the door was locked, but now... it swings open, it's a real mess within.
The Elven Rogue searches through the broken rubble, listens at a door and hears voices beyond, clearly another Duergar guard chamber- locates another door heading in the same direction, hears nothing from within and so opens it to see what's beyond.
And comes face to face with a Duergar Theurge, who's not that pleased to see him.
“Mailman?” Lucan mumbles.
“Vot!” The Duergar Theurge replies and then screams at the top of his lungs- other doors begin to open and more Duergar appear.
Lucan screams like a little girl, throws his dagger and slows down a Duergar Guard before legging it back to the bridge, and out- he meets the Knights in full tilt heading in the opposite direction, waits till he's at the back of the queue, and then follows them back in, after first waiting a few seconds.
The Knights smash into the chamber, en masse, save Lucan of course, and are caught in the Theurge's Hail of Brimstone, which leaves Cathal and Eruan on their donkey, and singed.
Rock charges into the guard room proper and finds himself facing two Duergar Guards, both uninjured, and two animate Arbalesters which...
Fire huge metal-tipped arrows-cum-spears into him- he's bloodied in an instant, nevertheless he fights on, with Cathal arriving a little while later in an attempt to even up the fight.
Meanwhile Lucan, Eruan- who is in combat (?) and Farkill have a third Duergar Guard surrounded, not one of them heads for the Duergar Theurge, who unchallenged blasts away at the trio.
What's worse they make hard work of the lone Duergar Guard, and before the three-on-one fight is over it's two-on-one, Eruan clutches the rubble floor unconscious.
[DM Interlude- Bob, who plays Eruan, has been with us one session, he's not even here this week, and it seems he could be the first Knight to die in action. The players take it in turns to make the Eladrin's death saving throws. He fails two in a row, of course.]
At last Rock and Cathal have the two guards down but not before both are bloodied and sporting horrendous wounds courtesy of the animated Arbalesters.
They press on and smash into the strange devices, the steroid-abusing crossbows are no match for the pair in melee- and are soon reduced to flinders.
Meanwhile Farkill and Lucan kill the third Duergar Guard and make it over to the Duergar Theurge, who in trying to escape merely runs into Rock and Cathal- it's quickly over.
At which point Farkill remembers that he's a Cleric and goes and heals Eruan.
[DM Interlude- that's what happens when the players are so wrapped up in their own characters actions that they forget that the 'botted' PC is still lying on the floor dying.]
Oh look Crossbows on wheels- that's a good i... THWONG!
[DM Interlude Encounter #90 [1250 XP = Level 6] Arbalester x2 (Level 5 Artillery); Duergar Guard x3 (Level 5 Soldier) & Duergar Theurge (Level 6 Controller).]
The Knights conduct a thorough search of the Duergar and their quarters, more coins and number of low value gems, all the same...
After a short rest the Knights press on.
The final redoubt- the easy bit done.
A set of reinforced metal doors ahead- Lucan hears... the sound of Orcs. The Knights' new Blackhand Orc friend is brought forward, Rock rehearses his lines and grasps the Blackhand Orc skull-topped Rod in his hand- and marches in.
“Go free you Blackhand Orcs- the Friday Knights are here to save the day”, Rock declares, and waves the Rod about a bit for good measure.
Which leads to silence.
Eventually the Knights' Orc friend jabbers away in his guttural tongue, seemingly very excited- which leads to smiles all round, at least from the Orcs, the Ogre present is not so sure- where does he fit in?
Fat Reggie worries where his next pay packet is coming from.
“Wat abart Reggie?” Reggie the Ogre enquires, and flexes his muscles.
The Knights stand about- a little crestfallen, the Blackhand Orcs stop jabbering, waiting to see how this is all going to turn out.
“I'll hire you.” Farkill states, the other Knights gawp.
“You'll be my bodyguard here in the Horned Hold.” Farkill declares, fishes out a bag of gold coins, and then folds his arms.
Reggie capers and giggles, then gets his axe.
Cathal is not so happy.
The Blackhand Orcs however are free to go, the Duergar have no right to hold them, their duty is done. Before leaving the Orcs tell tall tales- about how the Duergar decimated their tribe, chased their women and children through the Labyrinth, slew them in order to convince the Warriors of the tribe to serve them. The threat of further killings enough to keep the tribe loyal.
The Blackhand depart, in search of the remains of their tribe, set to wander the Labyrinth in their quest.
Fat Reggie is keen to get on with things, he tells the Knights what lies ahead- Murkelmore next, and then Framuth and the slaves, the Knights ready themselves for further fighting.
Then kick the door down and head on in- “Murkelmore, you're next”, Cathal barks.
Murkelmore awaits the Knights.
And then the 25th session of play draws to a close, the Knights have clocked up 14,962 XP between them this session.
Next week... Hammer time.