Catch it, Kill it, Bin it...uselss when facing a Plague Daemon. Enjoy!
All but Schnecke are able to ignore the bite of the pervasive cold. The Barbarian (normally inured to even the deadly cold of Cryaria), weakened by the infection raging in his body, begins to feel the cold sapping his strength and will. Luckily Grigori spots his increased sleepiness and moves to warm him up, staving off the dire effects of burgeoning hypothermia.
Whilst this is happening Emmiven examines the armour found amidst the guano, and uncovers an ornate stone key, inscribed with Dundorin runes, stuck to the inside by the filth of its previous owners decomposition.
18:51 – 19:05 - Another tunnel, flooded with ice cold water, is the only exit from the Stirge chamber. The group move through this with ease however, guided by the confident movements of Varracuda, and emerge in a small chamber.
This chamber is mostly natural; another cavern of mineral streaked stone, dripping with rust-smelling water. However, the northern wall is artificial; a sturdy wall of Dundorin stonework, beautifully carved with runic designs. A single, stout door of solid stone, set with yet more rune work and rolling bands of intertwined symbols, built flush with the surface of the wall, appears to be the only way through.
Amidst the designs on the door a keyhole is found. Further examination of this by Jaeger and Aramyn reveals that it could well harbour a trap, and the Dundorin recalls that his kin often build trap rooms between disused areas and active areas, in order to dissuade exactly the kind of entry that the group are making.
Aramyn asks to see the key and after a few moments examining it gives a deep chuckle, mutters something in his native tongue, and presses two minute studs built into the Bow of the key, causing two of the bits to extend, and a subtle shifting in the collar.
“Try it now lad, the key will disarm whatever lies beyond.”
The key is turned in the lock and a staccato of clunks and clicks boom and chitter through the stonework before them. Then the door opens.
Beyond is a 15' x 15' chamber of unadorned fitted stone. In the eastern wall a secret door has popped open with the use of the key, and in each corner rises a beautifully engraved column of stone, carved with more runic inscriptions, stylized images of Dundorin warriors and the key and scroll symbol of the Dundorin God of Death.
19:05 – 01:30 (3/4/1472) With the trap disabled, the group deign this place as good as any for an extended rest. A quick check of the area beyond the Eastern door reveals that a short flight of steps leads to a grille, beyond which are open, well maintained tunnels carved by picks and explosives – the Karrag Durzal Silver Mines.
The barabarian begins to show symptoms of the infected bite he received from the Murk Rats, and Grigori attempts to stave off the worse of the diseases effects with his skills as an anatomist, and some of the chemicals and tinctures he carries.
A small fire is built from small scraps of debris found in the tunnels above, keeping the killing cold at bay, and slowly, the group allow themselves to relax a little.
The rest is much needed, though by the end of it all are feeling their wounds from the previous days' battles, and are still numb with the cold.
3/4/1472 (bright and cold with light snow in the evening)
01:30 - Shnecke's fever breaks and he manages – with the help of Grigori's ministrations – to shake off the filth fever. The group head up into the mines.
01:30 – 03:20 – The group move through the orderly tunnels of the mines, finding their way with ease thanks to the luminous signs carved onto plates of metal bolted to the walls. Seren considers trying to mine some of the silver ore from the walls, but is talked out of it, whilst Gorthias is insulted after mistaking Iron Pyrite for gold.
Aramyn seems disturbed by the lack of activity in the mines, commenting that the tunnels should be thick with sweating Dundorin hacking the silver free of the rock, and patrols of guards keeping an eye out for trouble. In truth, the lack of difficulty moving through the tunnels is the most disturbing thing for him.
03:21 – From up ahead deep coughing is heard, as well as Dundorin voices; first one then several in unison. The voices sound downcast and sorrowful, and Aramyn and Jaeger (the assassin helping the Dundorin to move quietly in his heavy armour), creep ahead of the main party to see who the voices belong to.
03:23 – The tunnel ends in a large area. At the far end of the area can be seen the cage and operating panel of a mine lift, and numerous other tunnels appear to converge here. Empty mine carts and crates of equipment are piled up everywhere.
“This is the mine head” whispers Aramyn, “The Karrag proper lies beyond that lift”.
All but a few of the tunnels leading from here – tunnels that should just be part of the mining network – are sealed by simple slabs of cut stone, apparently welded by magic to the surrounding rock. On each of these, picked out with pale blue-white magical fire, is the symbol of Argorthraine, Dundorin God of change, death, funerals and hidden knowledge; a stylized scroll and key.
The voices are coming from a small group of sallow skinned, sorrowful Dundorin, who are gathered around an open tunnel. All but one wear plate armour, and carry a variety of weapons typical for their kind – axes, hammers, heavy crossbows and brutal looking pistols. The other Dundorin is dressed in dirty robes which seem to have been plated with thin slices of stone. His beard and plaited hair is grimy with dust and dirt, and he holds a dimly shining orb of polished granite. Either side of the tunnel door stand two iron braziers within which burn piles of strong smelling bitter incense, and a faint, foul aroma – the smell of decomposing flesh – briefly reaches the two adventurers on an errant breeze.
All the Dundorin look ill, and many cough thickly and seem to be wheezing.
The robed Dundorin is intoning some kind of ritual to the others, and they in turn seem to be responding at certain points. Aramyn immediately removes his helm and lowers his head, for he recognizes it as part of a funeral litany; a common Dundorin burial ritual.
03:23 – 03:35 – The two adventurers watch the funeral wind up. After a short while the praying stops and a pre-cut slab like those covering the other tunnels is brought up an laid against the entrance to the tunnel flanked by the braziers. The robed Dundorin begins a solemn chant and raises the orb of granite, which flares with a dim grey-green radiance. As the pair watch, the rock around the edge of the tunnel seems to turn fluid, and the stone slab is pressed in, only to be held fast as the magic user stops chanting and the liquid stone solidifies.
The funeral is over. Time to make a move!
03:35 – 03:40 – Aramyn hails the group in Dundorin, and steps forwards. Initially the Karrag Durzal Dundorin are shocked and furious at his arrival. However, as the rest of the group arrive, each being careful not to appear hostile in any way, they talk (through Aramyn as translator) to them, and allay their fears..
The Dundorin explain that a curse has fallen upon the citizens of the citadel, and that “almost all have fallen ill or have died”.
When asked to give a description of the plague that has slain so many, the Dundorin describe the same sickness that recently swept through Greenford, that the group were supposed to find a cure for. This is relayed to the Dundorin, though they are initially unconvinced. However, they still agree to allow the group an audience with Thane Arunduas Durzal; the Leader of Clan Durzal.
The robed Dundorin introduces himself as a Rockmage named Ásbjorn Durzal, and explains that since all the priests have perished, he is currently conducting the burial rites. He also warns the group that their Thane has fallen into a deep and black mood, and that he is convinced that the curse has been caused by rival clansmen – namely the Geldorag'Drudge Dundorin, located in Karrag Drudge some fifty miles to the northeast.
03:40 – 04:10 - Before the group can be brought to meet the Thane clearance must be obtained, and the group are escorted (by more frightened and pale soldiers, many of whom cough thickly and breathe noisily) from the mines, down vast decorated hallways, into a huge stone chamber; every inch of which has been carved with runic designs, holy symbols and the stylised images of Dundorin men and women feasting and boasting. A huge fireplace with a greasy spit above dominates one end, though it has clearly not been lit for a long time, and dusty plates, daggers and tankards sit unused on a long stone table.
Aramyn will be openly upset, and though he will gruffly do his absolute best to appear unmoved, he will be struggling to control himself.
“This place should be alive with activity” he growls. “Winters End feast should be soon. The good ale should be out, and this place should be filled with drinkin', dancin' and boastin'”
He looks around with glassy eyes.
“This place echoes with loss an' sadness”.
He then remains quiet.
05:30 - The group hear the approach of armoured feet and wet coughing from the hallway outside, and four Dundorin soldiers arrive, accompanied by a pale skinned, emaciated looking Dundorin with watery eyes and a straw like beard, who bears a runic seal in Gothniir about his neck, and drips jewellery. As soon as Aramyn sees him he drops to his knees and formally greets the individual – Urgenhaad Durzal; youngest and only surviving heir to the hereditary Thanedom of Clan Durzal.
Urgenhaad will regard the group for a moment, and then with a nasal voice will invite them to the great audience chamber, “Where father awaits you”.
05:30 – 05:45 – Under a heavy guard (though all look half dead and many exhibit the same hacking, bubbling cough as those in the mines) Urgenhaad leads the group along fabulously constructed corridors thick with Dundorin art and magnificent architecture, towards the great throne room of his father. Aramyn once more reflects on the emptiness of what should be a bustling Karrag, and even Emmiven can feel the despair echoing through the vast, mostly empty place.
As they walk, both Grigori and Jaeger try to size up Urgenhaad. Both conclude that he is not infected with the plague, and Grigori senses a vague undercurrent of madness within him, though he is unable to say if this is the product of so much horror, or something darker.
Eventually the group meet the pillared magnificence of the throne room where Thane Arundunas Durzal sits on a throne of carved stone, engraved with prayers of strength and wisdom.
Thane Arunduas Durzal is the epitome of the broken Dundorin leader. Still in shock from the events of the Aelweyn Wars, he lost a great many of his clansmen during the battles, and now faces extinction thanks to “the curse”.
He is a grizzled and ancient Dundorin, almost 600 years old. His face is deeply lined and his grey hair and beard have the colour and consistency of ashes. Both eyes are milky and rheumy, and as the group approach, he gives several thick, wracking coughs, before spitting into a jewelled spittoon held by an equally sick looking attendant. He wears ancient plate armour of breathtaking beauty, and a great Gothniir and Adamantine Greataxe, struck with brightly shining runes of power sits on his lap. A simple band of platinum, unadorned, holds back his hair – the symbol of his Thanedom.
The throne sits atop a dais of rune inscribed rock, raised from the floor of the chamber and the mountains own flesh. Armoured attendants stand guard around him, managing to stifle their own wracking coughs.
Urgenhaad stops before the raised stone throne upon which Arudunas sits, and falls to his knees, bowing his head.
“Father Thane. The strangers caught trespassing in the upper mines.”
05:46 - Arundunas is already staring hard at the group. He begins to speak, but his voice immediately trails off into more horrible, heaving coughing. It takes him a long time to catch his breath, and when he does, he brings up a mass of bloody phlegm.
Then, in a reedy voice, he states in perfectly spoken Tradespeak.
“You are not welcome here. We tried to drive you all away so the curse died with us. Now you are here, and here you must stay”.
05:46 – 06:00 – A complicated discussion ensues, with the group working hard to persuade the Thane that his clan is not cursed, but infected with a disease that can be cured. At first the Thane is very suspicious. However, with the group carefully countering every argument he has, he begins to come around to their way of thinking.
At one point Urgenhaad seems to whisper something to his father which turns him briefly against the party. However, even this minor bump is smoothly overcome, and eventually the Thane agrees to allow the group to send word to Greenford of the affliction here, so that some arrangement can be made, and so they can be off and on their way to Peregrine.
However, no sooner have these words left his mouth than a horrible keening scream suddenly fills the air, filling all who hear it with withering dread, so unnatural and foul is its pitch and feel.
The sound coming is from Urgenhaad, his mouth wide open, his eyes turning black as they weep tears of bloody pus over his distorted cheeks. As the long, drawn out, keening scream, more animal than humanoid issues from the fetid Dundorin, a palpable wave of raw supernatural hatred pulses from him, stealing the air from the chamber.
Then he charges the group, and none of the Dundorin seem to know what to do.
Several of the weak looking soldiers that are in the chamber are struck by rancid tendrils of foxfire that flicker from Urgenhaad as the traitor charges, and they immediately transform with a horrified sigh into Zombies, who lurch to do their masters bidding.
Thane Arundunas seems about to spring up and attack the thing that was his son, but a word of blasphemous power, spat like phlegm from the dark ones mouth fills him with tortured coughing and a look of panic crosses his grizzled face as he fights for breath against the animated foulness that now clogs his lungs.
06:00 – 06:01 – Despite the zombies at his bidding (which are systematically destroyed by the arcane fire of Seren and Varracuda, the prayers of Grigori and the axe of Schnecke), Urgenhaad does not last long against the party.
He spits a foul globule of sizzling black phlegm at the barbarian which burns him like acid and leaves him briefly exposed to necrotic damage, and his morningstar – a warped thing of blistered, mottled metal – inflicts some fine blows (which crawl with infection) against the party.
Each blow against him reveals the secret corruption of his body by some foul power. Tentacles whip madly within his eye socket as the barbarian bursts one of his yolk like eyes, and his blood is clotted and foul when it splatters from his wounds. As he fights sores form and blossom across his rapidly rotting form, and the stench of advanced decay – both physical and moral – hangs around him like a shroud.
Radiant energy summoned by the sorceress and the priest inflict particularly effective ruin on the daemoniac and Urgenhaad soon begins to weaken, the air buzzing around him with carrion insects (though where these have come from is a mystery), and a growing sense of malevolence gathering like a crushing cloud in the room.
Then Schnecke strikes a killing blow, splitting the disintegrating Dundorin apart in a spray of corrosive slime and decomposing filth...
...However, as the killing blow falls the air thickens with daemonic evil, and a foul stench – both psychic and physical – suddenly billows from him. A horrible presence, ancient and malevolent swells in the air of the chamber, and with a nightmarish sound, Urgenhaad begins to rot and bloat before the group.
Some fall into a frenzy of attack, but find that at this point they have no effect as Urgenhaad's body is undergoing complete metamorphosis and simply heals any damage immediately. In truth most party members are temporarily hypnotised by the obscene, blasphemous change effecting the former Dundorin as a malevolent spirit, a Plague Daemon, enters him and changes him into something utterly different.
Urgenhaad swells like a rotting fruit. His flesh bubbles with pustules that burst and spew rancid slicks of pus over his quivering, veiny flesh. His voice becomes rotted and thick with corruption, until it croaks in a foul splattered bass, and he bursts open revealing snaking, bloated guts which writhe and grasp like snakes. His head pops but the flesh holds, and his features becomes grotesquely deformed, his flesh now the colour of bruises and adipocere. Tentacles of dripping, veiny corruption lash from within his growing mass, and an aura of choking stench, unbearable and distracting cloaks him. As his internal organs rupture, flies and maggots spill forth; manifestations of the utter corruption of his body. His lega vanish beneath the putrid folds of his inflated belly, but his arms become long and almost skeletal, cloaked in dripping flesh and oozing pus. As a final mark of his ascension to daemonhood, a great thorn like horn bursts from the left side of his deformed head, dripping with filth, and ripping his mouth wide to reveal the rows of shattered, blood and pus smeared fangs that nestle there, oozing blood and mucus. Then the daemon – Urgenhaad Ascended – attacks.
06:01- 06:06 – Choking in their horror and on the foul miasma that the daemonic enitity sweats, the group engage the energumen. Seren blasts if with a Chromatic Orb, glassy rainbow fires blasting a chunk out of it, whilst Jaeger sows seeds of shadowy power within it, unleashing them to rip at the spirit within with his strikes. Schnecke hacks it, and the swordmage unleashes sizzling lines of green fire at the thing and bursts of darting swordplay. Grigori invokes a seal of power on the monster, weakening it, whilst the Warlord directs his comrades, granting them constant advantages against the monster. Gorthias calls upon the spirits of the mountain to smite the beast, and the chamber ignites with unleashed power and deadly, slashing attacks.
However, the daemon is powerful. Its aura sickens all who breathe it, and its attacks are laden with a supernatural plague. Tendrils of decaying energy flash from it and drain vitality from those it hits, whilst its physical blows seethe with corrosive decomposition, leaving sloughing, rotting wounds on those they touch. The group are hard pressed, and things only become more difficult when the monster, wounded seriously, summons a foul totem of putrefaction; a horrific icon of pustules and dripping mouths which breathes an unspeakable aura of rot and disease – an aura which weakens and disorients the entire party, and slows their movement as foul alien fungi grow with unnatural speed within its cloak.
The battle in the throne room is one of the toughest the group has faced so far, but by a miracle they eventually manage to inflict enough harm on the thing that the daemon cannot maintain its physical form and is banished back to its dark world.
06:07 – 09:00 – In the blur of activity after the destruction of the monster the group are asked to wait for the Thane (who, with the death of the daemon is in control of his body again, though he is clearly physically and mentally weakened almost to the point of collapse). During this time two of the party – Gorthias and Varracuda – begin to exhibit the symptoms of some kind of foul disease, their skin becoming sensitised and uncomfortable “to be in”, their temperature rising whilst their glands swell. Both find swallowing hard, and their sweat takes on a sickly sweet, death-like aroma.
09:00 – Thane Arundunas meets with the group and thanks them for their help. He offers them any item they wish from his armouries, and tells them that he has sent word to the merchants outside that the Dundorin of Karrag Durzal would like help with their plague. Grigori thanks him and advises him to learn from this experience, and not to jump to conclusions of attack so quickly in future. Clearly unwell and grieving, the Thane thanks him, and trundles off, leaving the party to rest up, and to make contact with the other party of Dundorin that entered the mines yesterday.
09:00 – 20:00 – The group rest. Grigori helps Varracuda shake off the plague, though poor Gorthias remains infected. They are given food and allowed to choose an item each. A patrol is sent to recover the Dundorin who entered via another route yesterday, and they are invited into the keep to talk.
Then, at 20:00 Ásbjorn finds the group, clearly upset.
The Thane has passed away.
In the absence of an heir to his throne Ásbjorn is voted to take over temporarily as the clans Thane – until a proper heir can be located through the ancient family lines and brought here, and he invites the group to attend his funeral (in two days time).
The group decline, eager to be on their way to Peregrine.
4/4/1472 (Clear but cold)
07:00 – The group prepare to leave the Karrag. However they are stopped by a clearly panicked Ásbjorn who begs them to wait a moment. Sighing the group turn to regard him, hoping that there are no problems with the contact with Greenford.
“The old Thane, may Thoridane and Danaduin bless him, did a terrible thing in his paranoia, and its repercussions may destroy our clan utterly” gasps the rock mage, leaving the group stunned a moment.
He then goes on to explain that Arundunas, thinking “the curse” was an attack by the Geldorag'Drudge clan sent an assassin to slay their Thane – Ruden Geldorag'Drusge. The assassin failed, and it seems told the Geldorag'Drudge who sent him (no doubt after some mighty torture), triggering a wave of rightful fury and raising a mighty grudge between Clan Durzal and Clan Geldorag'Drudge.
Word has arrived this morning that the red bearded Thane Geldorag'Grudge has dispatched a force of Grudge Bearers to strike at the Durzal Dundorin and bring their Karrag to its knees.
“We are too few, and they shall be here before five days have passed” he growls “and this conflict is based on a misunderstanding. Please, can you help?”.
At first the group are reluctant to accept...but this soon changes when they are offered 5,000 gold to stay and help defend the Karrag – be it through diplomacy or strength of arms...