Drow Wars: Episode 8 Corruption in Caldraza

Cast of Characters

From the journal of Gelnix

We are a day away from Beacon city, capital of Caldraza, which is built on the slopes of a volcano. Rumours say the drow are in the palace. We plan to avoid the city at all costs! Being wary we place the knife in another cart going towards the city, just in case it is being tracked. Travelling all day until, as evening draws in, the glittering spires of the city come into view. Deciding to avoid the city we make our way to a hamlet and spend the night there. Next day we set off along the rough trail. After about three hours disaster strikes as an axle breaks. So we decide to spend the day there until Brottor can learn the appropriate spell to repair the axle. Gelnix and Lorenna learn spells.

Next morning we repair the wagon and set off again. Next night we stay in a proper inn with real beds. The night passes apparently uneventfully. However, when we go to breakfast in the morning there is a bit of commotion. Apparently one of our draft horses died in the night. On inspection it looks like a large spider bite. Gorram host. We hitch up the light horse alongside the other draft horse and carry on.

During the journey we pass lots of soldiers marching towards the frontier. They seem very disorganised, mostly raw conscripts. Next night we stay at another inn, this time surrounded by soldiers. We sleep in the stables to try and catch our pursuer, but nothing happens. Another day, another inn, another uneventful night. The density of the soldiers on the road is getting denser as we near the frontier. In the evening an impressive Elven citadel comes into view, the fort of Pengellen. Soldiers are drilling outside. There is a solitary inn for travellers.

Alfric starts his poking around and asking dumb questions as usual. He is as efficient as usual and he quickly finds out:

- Princess Romilly left the fort 2 days ago on military business.

- The curent second in command is lt Bustard, but locally this is often mispronounced.

We check into the inn and start socialising.

- Two weeks a go a comet passed directly overhead, seen "clearly" by a guard. "It was like a round root vegetable bulging at the rear with twining hair like tails". Also a large floating island was seen on the horizon about a week ago.

Next morning we go to the fort and ask for an audience with Lt Bustard. It does not go well as we are kept waiting for hours and then given the brush off by an adjutant. Who would have thought Lorenna would get so stroppy. We are escorted from the premises by a guard.

We inquire some more about princess Romilly's trip. She apparently left in the night and went into the forest with three trusted companions: Jerry van Dorn, Jackson Meredith, and Sharp-eye Shawn. We decide to follow into the woods. Lacking a ranger Lorenna will transform into a Dire Badger and be our guide. We head into the forest for about a mile and start to notice damaged tree-tops. Something has crashed into the trees. from above. Following the trail of devastion for another mile or so we spot something. Wow, it's huge!

My comrades rush to engage, such fearlessnes. I hit it with two maximised scorching rays to no serious effect. Brottor is hanging out of its mouth, what is he doing? I cast a haste spell and the party finish it off in seconds. Eww, Brottor and Harmony have some strange grey fungus on them.

Pressing on we come across a clearing and some human remains apparently torn about by some huge creature, but not eaten. Nearby is the insignia of a Caldrazan military officer. He shows no sign of the fungus. As we investigate another of the large creatures comes out of the forest towards us. Oh frack, here we go again. Again we finish it in seconds. Eww, Akim now has grey fungus on him too.

We press on for another couple of miles and then we spot a figure hidden amongst the trees, watching us. He looks like his flesh has been eaten away with exposed bone and an empty eye socket. He stands up and comes towards us and points down the trail. Then gestures for us to kill him. Akim stands above him sword raised, sun glistening off the blade. He strikes and cuts him in two with one stroke.

We continue down the trail another half a mile. Hearing a loud roaring off to one side of the trail we investigate and come across a large green dragon! Luckily it is encased in a force cage. We talk to it and make a deal. Its name is Sethanus. If we free it then it will not harm us and help us find the source of the grey mould. I touch it and Dimension Door forty feet away. The dragon flexes it wings and says "follow me". Well this is a first.

We come across a crater, apparently formed as if by immense heat. There is an immense potato like tuber sat in the crater with holes in its surface and a possible closed doorway. Its pinkish surface moves nausously and protuberances keep apperaring and disappearing. Sethanus approaches and breathes on it, to no apparent effect. Tentacles flex out from the tuber and push Sethanus back. He wrestles with a tentacle and rips it off with great effort. A yellowish vapor begins to emanate from the tuber.

Brottor checks out Sethanus' mouth and finds no evidence of mould. I take time out to learn knock before approaching. We approach and hear strange unidentifiable sounds. Tentacles try to push us away but Sethanus steps in and rips them off. I knock the door and the indentation opens. A twenty foot round hole appears.

From the journal of Gelnix

There is some concern about standing in front of the dragon, but we quickly compromise on the tactically efficient formation of dragon on the second rank as it can reach over the front rank. Tentatively making our way in, there is a long passage running the length of the tuber with four openings on each side. As we ponder our move two creatures emerge from one of the openings. Skeletal slimy shapes, both carrying wands! Gah. We don't wait to find out if they are good guys.

Harmony and Terri rush in. Terri's blow hits home but his staff is sizzling oddly. Gah. A ray hits Brottor and a wand lands at his feet. Some of us hold our actions and others continue for a round of heavy combat. Brottor picks up the wand and fires it at one of the creatures and asks them to speak quickly. They speak to Brottor in a high pitched squeaky language. Brottor apparently understands them and stands down. The dragon however has other plans, ranting "they caged me, they destroyed the forest, they must die" he tears into them. Rash youth!

Making short work of one of the creatures the other one spits into the dragons eyes and the dragon roars in pain. It withdraws from the passageway and backs outside. We run for cover in case it breathes. After a minute or so the creature talks to us about how they came in peace and the damage is caused by spores inadvertently carried on the outside of this ship. They will clean up the spores in the forest if we protect them from the creatures. As we are discussing this the dragon returns and starts pounding upon the door. "I will have my revenge, stand aside". We plan to ambush it, but I have my doubts.

We take our positions as the dragon bursts through the door. Lorenna's spell fizzles as Gelnix's huge fireball engulfs it. Brottor's spiritual hammer beats on it. It breathes. Gah. That looked nasty. We wear it down, but not fast enough. It picks on Ter'ri and he takes lots of damage. Ick, we aren't hurting it fast enough. Next it picks on Brottor. Is it toying with us? It breathes again. Gah. Again we grind it down, but not fast enough. Out of damage spells Gelnix transforms into an Umber Hulk and prepares to enter the fray just as Lorenna finishes it off with a minor flame spell. Ter'ri, Alfric, Akim and Harmony all fell in combat and prove to be beyond healing. Gah. Reminder to team: Dragon's are BAD.

Searching the tuber we find disected human corpses, a control room of some kind, human sized seed pods, other rooms reveal all sorts of equipment. We search for cures for the spore infection and play with the controls. Hey, we are feeling down and wonder what's the worse that can happen. Death isn't looking so unappealing right now. And from the awful sounds it is now making that might not be so far away. What the? Hmm, I suspect we aren't in Chillhame anymore! The forest is very different.

Mangroves and Pine trees abound. Maybe this isn't such a bad place to end up. Scanning the forest a huge white Hart comes into view. It looks a magnificent beast. Lorenna tries to communciate with it but it moves off. Bickering profusely amongst ourselves we follow. The sun seems static in the sky as we proceed.

An arrow thunks into a tree behind us. A centaur steps out and tells us to beat it or the next arrow pins us to a tree. Lorenna convinces him to lower his bow, and then sets to explaining our predicament. He says he can help us and asks us to bring the bodies. He gestures us to follow. We enter a glade and a number of huts mark the centaur village. A female shaman steps forward and introduces herself. She says she can raise our fallen comrades.

From the journal of Ter'Ri

Chestnut is the name of the shaman. Alfric and Ter'Ri are raised, but Akim doesn't seem to be resurrected. One of the centaurs brings in a stranger who looks confused, an elf Ossius. He joins our party. Next morning, some of us (except Ter'Ri and Brottor) start to take on some animal appearances.

The centaur gives us a magic scroll and we head off to some standing stones which we think, with the scroll, will enable us to transfer back to our original plane. Suddenly Ossius takes damage from something and appears to be being attacked by a big tree. He is grappled by some vines. Lorrena throws a lightning bolt at the vines of which one releases Ossius. Various other attacks are made, whilst Ossius seems to be suffering damage. Ter'Ri helps Ossius and is then grappled by the tree. Fortunately with some spells he is quickly released and suddenly the tree disappears.

At the end of the day we reach the end of the forest. There is a large plane in front of us with lots of animals on. We rest up for the night. Nothing happens. We head of the next day across the plane. We come across a river and get across by flying and dimensional door spells.

Whilst we can see the stones in the distance a hunter's call can be heard in the distance. We can see the hunter that tracks creatures in this area its accompanying 5 barguest creatures and is heading for us. They charge for us. Gelnex fires a fireball and one barghest is taken out. Suddenly all of the remaining barghests apprear in front of us and we're straight into melee. Ter'Ri completely misses. Gelnix sends another fireball at the hunter who continues to charge. Ter'Ri takes out one and Alfric another then Brottor. Alfric takes another out. The hunter charges in and Ter'Ri is hit by a javelin. Ter'Ri charges in and tries to hit the horse, but misses. Brottor hits the horse after Lorenna as a bird swoops down and attacks the hunter. the horse goes down. The hunter goes into attack Brottor and deals some damage. With a scorching ray he goes down. We take his magical items (swords, ring and amulet etc).

After the combat we go to the standing stones. We decide to rest up for the day and recover spells etc. It's time to read the scroll and head back to our plane. We make it. The potato item has gone , but the fungus remains.

We pick up the trail of the princess. In the woods we come a cross a human female lying unconcious. We heal her up a bit and give her some water, but she remains weak from lack of food and water. We quiz the princess about her father and head back to the castle (Pengallan). She agrees to head back with us to the city to see her father.

From the journal of Ter'Ri

We reach the castle and wait a couple of days formulating plans and learning new spells from scrolls. We want to say to the king that the Gale are prepared to give up the guilty party to enable a peace treaty. We head off after a couple of days on horse back. The princess comes with us. After a day's travel we reach an inn. Ossius decides to sleep outside on his own. Nothing much happens and we continue on.

During one night Lorenna discovers fire. She quickly wakes everyone up. Lorenna and Ter'Ri fly or slow fall through the window. Alfric climbs down. Btottor is helped by Gelnix but manages to take some damage from the jump through the window. We get stuck in to trying to help put the fire out. Suddenly Gelnix receives a knife in the back and falls over dead. At this time Brottor starts to use bottle of endless water to put the fire out. We finally notice that Gelnix has fallen and check him out - he is completely dead. We form a protective circle around Brottor whilst he aims the bottle at the fire. Eventually the fire goes out.

We interegate the staff and people from the inn trying to identify the assassin, using spells to try and establish the truth. No one owns up to it even with zone of truth.

We persuade the princess to help us find the nodes in the city. So we head to the city but have a couple of days to travel. On the first evening after this we camp in the woods. During the night Lorrena spots something in the distance, 2 huge spiders. Lorenna summons a dire wolf which attacks one spider. Ossius gets hit. Then another dire wolf is summoned. Ter'Ri comes into combat, but before he can do anything, both spiders are slain. When the light comes we look for any tracks and can find a point of origin for the spiders and some human tracks. We follow these, the human tracks disappear and only spider tracks remain.

We follow on our way and eventually reach the city. We pay the toll to get into the city through the gate watch. We ride through the crowded city streets using the ord to try and locate the node. At the far side of the city it seems that it is located from the cathedral of the Marian faith. The princess doesn't think she can get us into the cathedral. We scout round it and the orb suggests that the node is somewhere below the cathedral.

To get in we decide to try and enter through a sewer during the night. The princess decides after much debate to come with us. We get into the sewers rather quickly as a watch is coming and it seems to have spotted us. Brottor casts silence so we can continue quietly with Brottor leading the way, as he uses his dark vision. We think we manage to lose the watch.

We need to loosen some bricks in the sewer wall to get through, Lorenna turns into a dire badger to turn into burrow through the soil and there is another wall, which we manage to make a hole into. There can be seen a small chamber with a sealed door at the end. It is impassable. We decide to stay here a day so that Brottor can learn some appropriate spells. Brottor stone shapes the door. Outside there is a passageway, which we head down. Eventually we find the node and put Gelnix in. Gelnix returns. We head back through the sewers to our rooms.

From the journal of Gelnix

No good deed goes unpunished. After helping out my comrades and helping fight the fire at the inn, I find myself ressurrected in a strange city and smelling of sewage. I make a firm resolution: No more Mr nice guy!

Next morning we plan to enter the palace secretly with Romilly and she leads the way to an ordinary looking shop. The shopkeeper appears to be a cleric of Firinna and wants us to swear an oath that we will never attack a woman unless she attacks us. Fat chance. I consider the lie just to balance the previous good but decide discretion is the wiser course. Ossius and I refuse to go, though most of the others swear or are let in.

I scry on the signature weapons as they are led through a hidden temple and out the other side into a natural passageway. It is warm and smells of sulphur. When the priest leaves them Ossius and I dimension door in. The passageway winds down to a rusting iron gate. Lorenna casts silent portal on it and Ter'ri heaves it open. There is a huge cavern beyond it and the temperature is now uncomfortably warm. Rowenna informs us there is a river of lava up ahead. Our nerves are on edge.

Continuing through the cavern and down another passage we come to a natural stone bridge over a lava river. Brottor inspects it and declares it safe. Ossius boldly steps out and strides onto the bridge. As he reaches the middle multiple snake like heads rise out of the lava and two breathe flame at him and one at Brottor. He dashes for the side of the bridge, four heads strike at him and he falls down apparently dead!

We all back away as Lorenna casts a cold spell on it and Brottor protects us with fire resistance just before it lashes out at him. Romilly fires an arrow at the hydra and it immediately drops dead. We are in awe. My herione. She suddenly looks very attractive

Recovering ourselves we carry Ossius's body with us to try and place him somewhere cooler. However we soon hear voices ahead so put him down and send Alfric ahead. He returns and tells us there are around a 100 drow warriors camped in the chamber. Lacking our mega offensive spells we decide to take an alternative route. Romilly leads the way to a narrow ledge that runs along the edge of the lava river. Ha Ha Ha.

Lorenna takes the body to the top of the stairs and finds the temple door open. Damn, assassin! Lorenna rushes back and we quickly try to come up with another plan. We decide to fly across. Brottor strips out of his armor while I fly the others across. Terri who is too heavy has to risk the ledge but we are all successful.

Proceeding along the passageway we come across a door that was bricked up but has obviously been recently broken open. It is obviously old with dusty thrones. It feels noticably colder. Romilly looks lost in thought for a moment and then says that this is the legendary hall of blood. It is rumoured to be haunted. The ghosts of previous kings are rumoured to be here.

Lorenna steps into the room. Dim grey figures begin to full the thrones. They appear to be dead kings, including the current one! They speak. There is a puppet on the throne. Young prince Caspar is the true heir, he must be defended. Now is the time for Romilly to step forward. The throne must be defended or Culdraza will become the strongest principality of the dark. If we do not help they will come for us in the night. Gelnix offers Romilly a shoulder to cry on.

We decide to kill the imposter. Romilly leads the way. As we approach the throne room we sense the presence of host. Carrying on we approach the door of the audience chamber and the guards just open the doors for us. We hestitate briefly and then step in. The room is covered in gold with glass ceilings. Sat on the throne is a young drow woman smiling. The body of the king lies at her feet. She asks us to congratulate her on her marriage holding the tembling hand of a pale boy standing beside her. Around her are a dozen drow warriors. The end is nigh.

From the journal of Brottor

Pessimistic Wizard, finally we meet the host again for another battle with the darkness.

The drow sits smugly on her throne awaiting our words, Lorenna opens the fight with a cloud of fog that conceals the throne and blinds those around it. Gelnix is next, unleashing the largest ball of flame he can muster, we all watch the fog glow bright yellow for an instant, then the Terror dispels it. We see that several of her guards have fallen, more have been badly injured, but Prince Caspian also perished in the blast.

The Terror screams “Guards, guards! They've killed the king! Summon the guards!” Alfric and Ter'Ri charge into the flanks to engage the drow foot soldiers.

The doors burst open and the 2 guards from outside charge in, seeing the dead king they immediately attack the closet party members to them: Romilly and I. Their great swords may be ceremonial but they are good at swinging them and I am quickly forced onto the defensive. In order to delay more reinforcements I raise a wall of fire across the doorway.

Lorenna and the Terror each summon animals to attack each other – Lorenna calls forth a dire wolf whilst the Terror summons a hellhound. Gelnix unleashes an explosive cascade amongst the drow but most seem unaffected by it. It does identify him as our wizard though and 2 of them charge at him. Ter'Ri, Alfric, Romilly and I keep battling our respective enemies. The guard battling Romilly clearly doesn't have his heart in attacking the princess, she is easily dodging and defecting his strikes, the one on me has no such inhibitions and I am being driven back.

Lorenna brings down one of the drow attacking Gelnix with a scorching ray even with the hellhound attacking her whilst Gelnix himself goes invisible. Alfric, Ter'Ri and Romilly seem to be slowly getting the upper hand but I am being forced heal whilst dodging my opponents sword strikes – if only the king had thought to station guards inside his audience chamber, we would have been well served to have these men as allies.

Lorenna is struck by a spiritual weapon from the Terror and disengages the hellhound to start closing the chamber doors. Whilst I am stuck in combat the strength of my wall of flame will whittle away and we can hear the guards on the other side trying to push through.

Gelnix unleashes Evards Black Tentacles on the Terror and the drow warriors who remain near her and Lorenna manages to get both doors closed whilst the rest of us remain locked in mortal combat with our enemies.

The Terror flees like a coward, teleporting away to the other side of the door and my wall of flame; we can hear her muffled voice trying to rouse more guards. Now we have the advantage and we press hard. Ter'Ri strikes down his foe as the black tentacles claim a drow and Gelnix brings down the guard who was attacking Romilly with a scorching ray.

The battle is ours now and the Starborn seize the victory, Alfric slays his enemy as Ter'Ri claims the guard who was attacking me. I charge forward and crush the last free drow who was attacking Romilly with my hammer. All that remain are 3 drow caught in the tentacles who quickly fall to Ter'Ri, Romilly and the tentacles themselves take the last.

Its over, panting and bloodied we are the only things still living within this chamber. We can hear the guards and the Terror from beyond the door – my firewall is nearly spent. To delay them I call upon the floor of marble itself: having the stone rise up in front of the door to barricade them further shut. Gelnix meanwhile dismisses the tentacles and casts locate secret doors whilst Lorenna and Alfric search. They find nothing! Whoever heard of a king who builds an audience chamber with no back exit!

As the guards start hammering on the door Romilly walks up to the throne, pausing for a moment at the body of her father and the burnt husk of her brother she takes the crown from where it had landed on the floor and ascends to the throne. A true warrior Queen, steeping over the bodies of her murdered relatives and taking the throne still bloodied from the battle to avenge them. The Starborn array ourselves in front of the throne as the door begins to crack, we will defend the Queen in the name of the light until our dieing breath.

The doors crash down and the palace's elite guard swarm into the room, the Terror behind the, egging them on. Romilly stands, “I stand before you as your Queen and your kinsman in opposition to the Drow.” Silence descends as we brace ourselves for a glorious death in battle, but her words ring true, the guards stop uncertain.

The Terror screams “arrest the traitors.” Romilly in comparison is calm, “the slayer of my brother has fled, Drow.”

Ter'Ri and Lorenna let their weapons clatter to the marble and walk forward unarmed appealing to the guards. Alfric and I remain to guard the throne, Gelnix his here somewhere but invisible.

“They killed my husband.” Scream the terror.

“You murdered my father” retorts Romilly and we can see that it is her that the guards are listening to, not some dark elf that they barely know.

We all add our voices to Romilly's – would the guards stand with the princess they knew, who fought beside them, who served the country in its most far flung and dangerous border fort or would they choose a dark mysterious race whom had arrived shortly before their King began to act erratically and then marries a boy not even a man to secure the throne just before the king died. The Terror can see that she has lost, the guards believe Romilly, they want to believe Romilly for in their hearts they know that her words are true and that she is their rightful leader, not an impostor of the dark.

Again the drow flees like a coward, teleporting beyond our range to sense her, affectively admitting her guilt it makes it easy for Romilly to consolidate herself with the guards and send out an emergency party to clear out the underground chambers.

It takes several days for Romilly to fully consolidate power, the Military follows the warrior queen without hesitation but there is strong opposition from merchants and nobles. Violent clashes run in the streets of the city whilst we resurrect Ossius at the shrine. When the clashes are over Romilly is securely in control and the nobles are left praying to their impotent god that she will marry as quickly as possible. The population is eager to see her wed and the royal line strengthened, but at the current time Romilly is busy calling a halt to the war on Gale, recalling the armies and getting the cities of Caldraza fortified against the coming drow. Still we can't help but notice that she has been paying a lot of attention to Gelnix recently….

We are all knighted. Sir Brottor of Vendyss has a nice ring to it. It means that, as a nobleman, Gelnix is a suitable husband for her now… makes a dwarf think….

We find plans within the drows quarters of the palace – they were going to sow descent in Caldraza and fortify the cities with drow whilst the army was away fighting Gale – taking the kingdom with a minimum of loss and turning it into the bastion of the dark for the coming war.

Their main plan however is the dwarf city of Underdell, a mining community on the edge of Caldraza it is unusual for the dwarven town in that it is not tunnels and chambers but a series of neatly arranged houses in the base of a massive stone cavern. The cavern is supported by a single stone pillar that takes the entire weight of the mountain above. To stop the pillar buckling under such immense weight and the cavern collapsing the dwarves have reinforced it with massive iron girders known as Mangellians Girders after the engineer that created them.

Though it was not without cost: the King, Prince Caspian, Akim, we have won a great victory for the light in Caldraza. Now we shall head north and battle them in the caverns of my people, I find myself looking forward to it.