08:46 – 08:55 – The group run to the wall, and move through the small, cluttered courtyard beyond, noting again that graffiti covers the badly mauled statues of aelwyn warriors that stand in rows along the main path from the gates.
A crude alarm has been set in the doorway that leads under the stairs which the group are able to avoid with ease, and soon they are moving down a cold and dark flight of stone spiral stairs. About halfway down they see some freshly etched graffiti, and although the tradespeak used is strangely composed, it clearly reads “Adrielle's Eight were here”, an answer scrawled beneath in a different hand adding “And we only did half a job!”
The stairs end at the entrance to a low-roofed, pillared chamber, filled with the crumbling remains of more ex-animate undead. Across the chamber another doorway leads to more descending stairs.
08:46 – 08:50 – As the group move towards the stairs, a man suddenly appears there, haggard, wild eyed and filthy. He could be anywhere between 20 and 40 year age, and has wild dirty hair, a tangled beard and wears battered, filth smeared hide armour. He wields a slender aelwyn longsword, who's delicate feather thin blade is limned with ice, trails of frigid mist dripping from it.
“Get back!” He screams in an oddly accented, slightly warped tradespeak, “Get back!”
The Warforged raises his weapon, flame surging over its blade, and the Vyrleen prepares to leap, but Ormid tells them to be still. “Who are you?” he asks, “What are you doing here?”
The man seems to be fighting conflicting desires and drives, but he lowers his weapon and with a sob, invites the group to follow him.
08:50 – 09:30 – The man is one Gorthias Norden (yes, that Gorthias Norden). He brings the group down into a deeper crypt, where about eighteen terrified women, children and other assorted refugees huddle around small fires.
Gorthias explains that these people are all that remain of the folks of Greenford, a once peaceful forest town that was attacked by a large force of undead who sought a dread artefact recovered by his former companions from this very chamber. He explains how the first assault was barely held off by his group, another band of local adventurers and the town's poorly trained militia, and of how his group took the thing the undead craved to the city of Peregrine in the hopes that the Unified Order would be able to deal with it.
At this point, Ormid stops him, and asks who the Unified Order are. Gorthias is stunned. He explains about them, their philosophy and their recent rise in the eyes of the world as conquering heroes – the powerful organisation that somehow, when the future looked bleakest, managed to turn back the aelwyn and win the day.
This of course leads to more questions from the group; “War with the aelwyn?” “Why would they do that?” “What happened?” However, before he answers their questions, Gorthias, confused as to how on earth the group cannot know these things, demands to know what's going on.
The group tell him. He looks vaguely troubled but seems to accept their explanation. He then gives them a potted history of the aelwyn wars, the numerous catastrophes that ensued during its three and a half years of pain, and of the currently raging War of Retribution in Vaesuur. The group are horrified, and Ardwaine is grief stricken when she hears about the destruction of Brunduin, or as she knew it, the Barrier Fort, but they are heartened when Gorthias, seeing their faces, informs them that not all the world is the desolate collage of destruction and death that they have seen so far.
Gorthias then returns to his tale. He tells the party that he and his companions arrived at Peregrine after a few detours, but that he left them to return to Greenford, as he was concerned that the town, suddenly stripped of all its most potent defenders (Adrielle and the remnants of her company had accompanied his troupe to take a cursed sword to the city for examination) would be vulnerable.
He was right.
Not long after he returned, the undead attacked again in greater numbers than before. Worse, this time they were lead by an undead master of terrifying power – a lich. The unholy horror tore the town apart, using its dark magic to interrogate the dead.
It sought the relic.
It slew all in its path.
Gorthias, realising that he could not last a second against the lich got as many people together as he could, and lead them to this place, and they have hidden here ever since.
The group ask him what his plans are, and Gorthias seems to deflate. He quietly tells the group that he hopes to re-enter Greenford, so he can try to find the cache of monies that he knows were secreted beneath the mayor's offices. He states he wants to use the money to buy the refugees places in the Dundorin stronghold of Karrag'Durzal, but confesses that he has not had the courage, and would not have the strength to return to the village.
Strangely moved by the warden's selfless desires, the group decide instantly to help. Gorthias is overjoyed, and tells them that he thinks there are a few magical trinkets in the cache, and that they are welcome to them.
After a bite to eat, the group head back out into the misted forest, and head back to the ruins of Greenford.
09:35 – 10:15 – The group move back through the forest, which echoes with birdsong, and soon find themselves back at Greenford.
10:16 – 10:25 – The party carefully move through the burned and blasted streets of the village, the stench of rotting flesh and burned wood thick on the air. Nothing stirs other than the wisps of smoke writhing from the destroyed homes, and the ever present crows.
The group locate the mayor's home, and find it a blasted ruin. However, one room stands solid, a substantial door of reinforced steel built into its side.
10:26 – 10:28 – Llewellyn picks his way forwards and casts a professional eye over the door, searching for any sign of a trap. He sees nothing.
10:29 – Veteran and Ardwaine throw themselves at the door to try and smash it down, and at once, agony tears through them all. A glyph of icy magic blazes with a pale, algid light, and all the party throw themselves back in shock as a 15' long cone of cold energy erupts from it. The vicious cone misses them all apart from Ferrous, who is immediately glazed in glowing frost; several plates of his metallic hide shattering under the assualt.
The group glare at Llewellyn, who manages to look uncomfortable for at least a moment or two.
10:30 – 10:35 – The door is bashed down, and within are found three seemingly identical keys made from iron. No traps are found, and no other hidden ways from the sturdy chamber, so the keys are taken.
10:36 – 10:50 – Puzzled, the group search the ruin for anywhere where the keys could go, and after a while, the sharp eyes of the party find, buried beneath blood spattered rubble, a finely crafted hidden trapdoor set into the floor of what was once the main reception. Further examination reveals a secret keyhole in its upper left corner, though there is no clue as to which of the three keys fit it.
10:50 – 10:55 – Llewellyn examines the keys more closely, and then examines the lock, assisted by Ormid. The two adventurers quickly deduce which of the keys will open the lock. They also find evidence that another potent magical trap wards the lock, primed to trigger if the wrong key is used, or if force is used to try and open the trapdoor.
After the cold glyph, everyone is a little paranoid, so they prepare to take evasive actions should the trap be activated. However, the artificer and rogue are correct, and the key simply causes the trapdoor to quietly glide into the frame, revealing a sturdy flight of carved stone steps, descending into darkness.
10:56 – 10:58 – Cautiously, the group climb down the stairs, which reach some 20' into a large, sturdy chamber of dressed stone. The first thing they all focus on are the two hulking humanoid statues that stand across from the bottom of the stairs, either side of a wide stone door set in the wall. Each is carved with spiral runes, and Ormid immediately identifies them as Clay Golems. The artificer also sense potent magic behind the door they guard, as well as the dozing power thrumming through the constructs.
10:59 – 11:10 - The door is quickly assessed to be a lifelike mural, though the border of arcane glyphs that surrounds it is found by Ormid to be part of a quiescent spell tied to the golems and to the door. He concludes that the golems may be an integral part of the door opening mechanism.
11:11 – 11:26 – A search of the chamber is undertaken, and though the initial search reveals nothing, Ardwaine discovers two keyholes beautifully hidden in the face of the bottom step of the entry stairs.
11:27 – 11:28 - Expecting the worst, the keys are placed in the locks and turned...
...At once, the golems animate. Pale light gleams from the runes carved into their surfaces, and each places a hand on the border of the door mural. At once, the light flows from them and illuminates the glyphs of the border. A moment later, the mural takes on a substantial, real aspect, and with a low drone, the two halves slide back into the wall revealing the chamber beyond.
11:29 – 11:30 – The group cautiously move towards the opening, keeping an eye on the constructs that flank it. Beyond is a small chamber. A large ornate chest, reinforced with bars of steel and sculpted stone sits at the far side, surrounded by an impressive circle of potent looking runes. Immediately above the entrance, the sharp eyed Vyrleen spots a crude but undeniably effective stone block trap.
11:30 – 11:33 – Llewellyn quickly disables the block trap, and then skips a small piece of rubble (grabbed from above) across the boundary of the rune circle. There is a flicker of light and a few brief sparks, but nothing else.
11:34 – The Vyrleen slowly creeps towards the circle, hoping to get a better view.
11:35 – 11:37 – The chest suddenly animates with a whir of cogs and gleaming artifice. Sharp fangs of engraved steel pop down from its lips, and curved blades spring from its sides. It gives a mechanical roar, and with a hollow internal boom of expanding portals begins to create a powerful cone of suction which grabs the Vyrleen, and pulls him inside the constructs body. The lid slams shut and from within can be heard Llewellyn's muffled screams of agony.
As he is pulled over its boundary, the rogue realises that the circle is a gaudy fake – the
Surprised at the chests' sudden transformation, the party are momentarily stunned. Then they snap out of it and attack!
Llewellyn slips free of the thing, and the group unleash hell at it. It is a solidly built machine, and it takes a lot of effort to destroy it. The warforged quickly learns to shift his axes blade into pure sculpted fire after seeing its metal edge turned aside by the chest's armoured exterior, and Llewellyn's adamantium mace crunches into it with satisfying reliability. Ferrous finds his fangs are fairly ineffective against it, but Ardwaine and Ormid manage to land a few blows on it before it comes apart in a shower of splinters, screaming cogs and ripping springs.
11:38 – 11:50 – This room is searched, and a secret chamber discovered next to it. In this room waits the Greenford cache.
11:51 – 12:00 – The group gather the money and items together and after catching their breaths head back to the surface.
12:03 – Something is very, very wrong. The light that shines from above is wrong somehow; suffused with a darkness that was not there before. Menace thrills the air, and the group become aware of a gathering foulness coming from the ruins...
...And then they hear the sound – a dismal, draining, sickening keening that seems to draw all hope and life from them; a horrifying atonal scream – a moaning, weeping, wailing that crushes hope and drains the soul of light and life – which grows louder, accompanied by a terrible sense of impending evil that thrums the air. They stumble forth, an alien energy, foul and stinking, a psychic soot that clots the mind and burns where it settles, filling the air, and the group are confronted by a trio of potent beings straight out of their deepest nightmare.
It's the Lich, flanked by two mummified horrors bound in mouldy strips of leather, their eyes pierced by rusted nails; a foul toxic elixir flowing like blistering tears from their ruined eyes.
It's the Lich, and as the air begins to burn with suffocating shadows, it raises its rot wreathed hands and moves to attack.