Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday Recap: Storming the Castle

Hey guys, did this place always look so... evil?
Another month, another game of Dragonborn Quest! We're finally hitting the final moments of the campaign. I don't think the rest of the story will take less than 1 in-game day! Yet, there are still quite a few plot threads to wrap up.

Perhaps some of these plots will be left as mysteries... After all, every good story has to leave some questions unanswered! Or I could just cop out and write an epilogue.

This story is part 9 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Previous Campaign | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 |

Dragonborn Quest: Storming the Castle

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Will: Daardendrian Kreev, Red Dragonborn Bard, former prince, back to set things right
Megan: Daardendrian Zovira, Red Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's aunt, champion of the clan
Bria: Druuga Faelynn, Silver Dragonborn Bard, avenged her sister, now to fix the isle...
Michelle: Nerithya Finzerwin, Half-Drow Rogue, ex-cultist looking for a new purpose to her life
Matt: Myastan Faerbor, White Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's friend and owner of the legendary Axe of the Elders, currently going through the Trial of Humility
NPC: Oddmund, Nerithya's Shield Guardian, has a smiling face painted on his head

When we last left our heroes, they had obtained the third and final portal key they needed to enter the Entrance Hall of Castle Z'ildroth as quickly as possible. After resting up and ensuring they were at full fighting power, they entered the elemental portal and appeared in the halls of Z'ildroth Salothzar.

The group decided to go for a stealthy approach, with Faelynn and Zovira becoming invisible and Nerithya hiding behind Oddmund, who was wearing a cloak. Meanwhile, Kreev donned his Hat of Disguise, and Faerbor took the lead. They marched into the throne room, hoping to quickly find their targets: Kreev's mother and Z'ildroth Salothzar. One, they would save, the other had to die.

They entered the grand hall and throne room, a massive chamber decorated with red carpeting and black dragon motifs on the walls. Kreev noticed that the chandeliers that once hung here had been removed, and the reason why became abundantly clear. At the far end of the chamber, sitting on the edge of the dais holding the throne, was Z'ildroth Salothzar.

The last time they had seen him, he had been the size of an ogre. Now, he was as tall as a giant, 18 feet tall and easily able to look into the second-floor balconies in the chamber. His head nearly reached the ceiling, and his wings could no longer fully open in the space. The power he had been gaining had affected him strangely - likely the work of the mysterious Sun Amulet he had recovered from his travels.

Supersize me!
Fortunately, the monstrous monarch was distracted with one of his generals, the Blackwing Ravager Zraghull. They were discussing something just out of earshot, while a Blackwing Elite stationed in the hall approached the heroes.

After a quick conversation, Kreev and Faerbor had convinced him that they were here to work for the king. The Elite was convinced, and lead them upstairs to a guest room. After embarrassedly peeking inside, he motioned the group to enter.

Inside, a nearly-naked green Dragonborn was cleaning a long, sharp blade, while a dozen others were laid out on the bed before her. The group wasn't too shocked by her appearance, though, as they had seen her before - she had accompanied the Death Knight Favnir to the western swamps in pursuit of them. This was Norixius Somelia, the head of clan Norixius and the most skilled killer on the island.

Kreev made an attempt to slyly gauge the green assassin's reactions and why she was here, but she remained enigmatic, deflecting conversation at each turn. However, it seemed clear that she was only loyal to money, not to Salothzar, and the group decided to reveal themselves to try to buy her loyalty.

She seemed surprised, but wasn't convinced that they could out-bid Salothzar, or even defeat him. She said she would be willing to offer a favor in return for the appropriate compensation, with the caveat that they wouldn't tell Salothzar of her involvement. They agreed, and decided to figure out how she could help them later.

The group checked the hallway to ensure it was clear, and then decided to start sneaking around the castle. Nerithya peeked into the first doorway they came across, and discovered a barracks full of Blackwing Elite in various states of undress. In the back of the room, three Red Dragonborn children were cleaning up the bunks.

The heroes decided that leaving the children wasn't an option, and Kreev dutifully strode into the chamber. An Elite stood and greeted him (as he was still disguised as a Black Dragonborn), and asked if he was looking for something. The others burst in, and Zovira closed the door. The group launched a volley of attacks at the surprised Blackwings, and the battle began!

Not exactly accurate, but could easily be Faelynn, Kreev, and Faerbor
Faelynn rushed forward and unleashed her ice breath on a pair of Blackwings that weren't wearing armor, coating them in frost. Kreev unleashed his bardic magic, causing an illusory fear to fill the mind of the Blackwing closest to the Red Dragonborn slaves. Finally, Zovira, Faerbor, and Nerithya all drew their weapons and attacked.

The Blackwings, literally caught with their pants down, scrambled to gather weapons and strike back. One, unable to get to the weapon rack, started using his fists to try and beat up Kreev. The only one that happened to be wearing armor was subjected to a Heat Metal spell by Faelynn. The heroes had an overwhelming advantage, and the Blackwings began to fall to blades, arrows, and magic.

However, as the tide of battle turned, the Elite soldiers unleashed a new tactic: Thunderous Smite. Realizing they were in a losing fight, they opted to use their magical attacks to cause as much noise as possible, hoping to draw reinforcements. The group was able to finish off the last few soldiers, but not before three thunderous blasts had shaken the walls of the castle.

As Kreev and Faelynn healed the group's minor injuries, Zovira went to comfort the young Red Dragonborn slaves. They were all grateful for their rescue, though one of the boys seemed to harbor some resentment towards Kreev. He had, after all, left his home for a life of adventuring, which had lead to the clan's downfall. Kreev didn't try to change the boy's mind, as saving the island and the clan would probably prove his intentions better than any words could.

He's a nice guy, we promise!
The group decided to leave the children in the room for now, using Faerbor's Arcane Lock spell to seal the door behind them. When they left, however, they heard a commotion downstairs. Faelynn decided to invisibly observe their enemies, while the others snuck back into the guest room and waited.

Faelynn watched as dozens of Blackwing soldiers marched through the throne room and into the hall directly below the guest room. However, they didn't ascend to see what was wrong, which was unusual. Instead, they seemed to be headed towards the area containing the King's Chambers, the Castle's Church, and stairs leading down to the basement living quarters. It was difficult to tell what their plans were, but Saolthzar and Zraghull seemed to be involved.

Then, Faelynn saw an unexpected but familiar face. A Blackwing Elite was leading the Cleric of Bahamut Tofras the Smiter, an ally of theirs that had left the group under mysterious and possibly treacherous circumstances. She brought this information back to the group, and they were quite confused. Zovira, in particular, wanted to teach Tofras a lesson for kidnapping their young ward, the Gold Dragonborn Torrin.

However, now was not the time for fighting a legion of Blackwings. Nerithya wanted to check out the room that Kreev had mentioned was the treasury. Wanting to explore more of the castle and make sure they weren't going to be ambushed, the group agreed.

They stealthily crossed the upper balconies of the main hall, and discovered the treasury had been converted into more barracks for Blackwing soldiers. Fortunately, the rooms were empty of Dragonborn, leaving only the bunks in the barracks and the equipment in the armory next to it.

Faerbor noticed a strange iron mirror frame in the corner of the armory, out of the way but unusual to keep in such a place. The edge of the frame was carved with jagged runes, which Kreev activated his Comprehend Languages spell to read. They said, in Infernal: "Speak Enter and Pass Through."

Nerithya remembered just enough Infernal from her days in the Cult of Kam to piece together the right word, and as she spoke the frame filled with a silvery mirror. As it formed, it began to show the reflection of a different room: a stone chamber lit by red light, with no other doors or furniture. Nerithya touched the surface of the mirror, and found her hand passed through into the strange chamber.

Zovira stood guard while the rest of the heroes entered the mirror/portal. The chamber seemed to be part of a larger fortress, and had thin windows which overlooked other parts of the building and the landscape beyond. A red desert stretched into the distance, overshadowed by rolling red storm clouds laced with lightning. Nerithya recognized from her past that this must be Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells, and certainly a place they shouldn't be.

Hello there
As if on cue, a crack of sulfur split the air, and a 10-foot-tall red figure appeared in the chamber with them. He sported huge horns, wings, and dark robes, clearly a denizen of the plane. However, he seemed more intrigued at the group's presence than hostile.

Kreev took the lead, asking who this creature was and what he was doing here. The devil said his name was Tor'Galluth, a servant of the Nine Hells and broker of deals among some of the denizens of the Z'ildroth clan. Kreev noticed that Tor'Galluth was wearing a sigil of Tiamat, but decided not to ask the devil about it directly. Rather, he focused on what sort of deals were being made with Z'ildroth.

Tor'Galluth claimed that it was by his contract that the soul of Favnir was being kept alive, brought back continuously as a Death Knight to terrorize the island. he even produced a crystal containing the soul itself. He also claimed to have a few other contracts out there, though he declined to mention who. The group seemed crestfallen. There was a distinct possibility that killing Salothzar wouldn't stop Favnir from returning, and an even scarier possibility that Salothzar himself had taken a pact of immortal undeath.

Tor'Galluth offered the group a solution, however: he would end the contract if three new, particularly powerful souls were offered to him. Kreev said they'd think about it, and the group left the chamber through the mirror portal.

After a brief discussion, the heroes decided the best solution would be to trap Tor'Galluth in the chamber and kill him, hopefully ending the contract and obtaining the souls of Favnir and any others he had collected. Faerbor in particular was eager to kill the devil, as his axe had designated the creature as one that could end the curse placed upon him if he was to slay it.

The entire group traveled back into the mirror/portal, and prepared to attack the devil the moment he appeared. Kreev called out that they were here to reconsider the offer, and sure enough, Tor'Galluth appeared. Kreev quickly cast Forcecage, trapping the Devil and the party in a translucent barrier that the fiend wouldn't be able to teleport out of.

Tor'Galluth roared in fury, but he was quickly assaulted on all sides by the terrifying strength of the heroes. Faerbor and Zovira cut into him with their magic weapons, Kreev and Nerithya stabbed with their rapiers, and Oddmund pounded away with his fists. All the while, Faelynn struck up a jaunty jig on her bagpipes, so powerfully compelling that Tor'Galluth began to dance to the music instead of attacking.

The group kept up their assault, tearing through the Devil's stamina as he simply danced around. By the time Tor'Galluth finally broke free of Faelynn's magic, he was bleeding and bruised, coated in frost and black-tinged slashes from the party's powerful attacks. He lashed out, striking some of the heroes with his mace, tail, and claws, but the party was unfazed. Nerithya finished him off with a leaping stab through the neck when his back was turned.

This is literally the only Dragonborn Bard with bagpipes art I could find, so just pretend it's Faelynn
As they were in the Nine Hells, the Devil wasn't able to resurrect himself, and collapsed to the chamber floor. The group searched for the soul-crystal he showed them earlier, but it seemed he hadn't brought it with him. The group was frustrated, but could only hope that the contract had been nullified by the death of Tor'Galluth.

As they left the chamber and returned to the castle, Faerbor began to notice his skin getting colder, and his body covering in ice. By the time he was standing in the main chamber, he was barely able to move, and was quickly enveloped in an icy tomb. The others began to panic, as they had expected the curse to end after he had proven himself to the axe. They began formulating plans to get Faerbor out of the ice and save him.

Meanwhile, Faerbor found himself in an icy tundra, with nothing but blank white snow stretching to a horizon rimming an endless blue sky. He looked around and noticed a figure marching through the snow towards him. It was his cousin, Faergrax, the previous clan champion and former owner of the axe.

Faergrax told Faerbor that he was now champion, and as expected, the axe had claimed the former champion's soul. Faergrax was gone. Faerbor thanked him for his service to the clan, and promised to pass along the axe to a worthy successor to the title of champion. They embraced, and Faerbor's vision went completely white.

He awoke back in the armory, a pool of water having just melted from his body. His friends were relieved to see him alive, and he suggested they take a quick rest here before moving on. They heartily agreed.

Faerbor noticed that although the Axe of the Elders still retained its magic, it was no longer such an effective weapon. This was another part of the tradition: the current clan champion never held the Axe themselves. Faerbor now realized this was because the axe's powerful ice magic no longer worked in their hands.

During their rest, Zovira received a telepathic message. It was from Dalyassa, Kreev's half-sister and the leader of the Kobold revolution in Gravengong. She told Zovira that she still wasn't speaking to Kreev, but she had rejoined the Kobolds and was staging an assault on Castle Z'ildroth to free Clan Daardendrian. She said the attack would start in an hour, and hoped her aunt could meet her there.

After the group had recuperated, they pressed onward, continuing to explore this wing of the castle. They burst in on the Royal Advisor's chamber, only to find a familiar face: Turnoroth Zofrixis, a former council member in Dovuaka. They immediately took him hostage and demanded to know what he was doing here, as his clan was usually unaligned with Z'ildroth.

Zofrixis whimpered under the point of Kreev's rapier, and told them he had been promised a high-ranking position in the new order in exchange for helping Z'ildroth take over Dovuaka. Disgusted, Kreev knocked him out and bound him.

As if on cue, the group began to shake slightly. It had been an hour, and the Kobold assault had begun. The final moments of Clan Z'ildroth were upon them.

Hopefully they'll be more useful than last time...
We stopped there for the session. I'm really happy with how this one went, as the players had a lot of freedom but ended up making their own story arc over the course of the game. It's all leading up to the final battle quite nicely, which makes me really excited for that big moment.

Also, I'm very happy with my prep setup for this game. Using my Excel magic, I made a full map of the castle, with section maps that pop up when you are in a specific area, timed events that happen over the course of the game, and a combat tracker with full monster stats and automatic initiative tracking.

Someday, I will use Roll20 and totally negate all of this. But for now, let me have my fun!

Thanks for reading!

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