The Lost Mines of Karak, Finale
Yea, the Queen is dead
demons, spiders, gruesome, gore
the brigade lives on
The Lost Mines
Examining the ancient hoist
it shows clear signs of repair and recent use. The circular platform is just
wide enough to carry the brigade tightly as a group on one trip. Taking the
center position on the platform Bhenedict takes hold of the control line, a
thick burly line securing it in his grip as one-by-one, the others, Bairdyn,
Quill, Bingus, James, and finally Eoffram join him on the platform, each in
turn adding their weight to the pull on the line. Trusting the dwarven construction,
Bhenedict begins releasing the line and together Brindol’s Brigade descends
into the mines through a shaft worn smooth by use, sinking an uncertain
distance, but less than 100 feet by best estimate, arriving in a finished stone
chamber piled high with ore carts, storage bins, shoring timbers, and spare
parts for the hoist system; a chamber entrenched with the sour stench of
The chamber is so crowded with
gear that the platform takes up all of the available space, so by necessity the
party spreads out as they step off of the platform branching out to the point the
chamber bends to the north in a 10 foot wide hall. Taking point, Bairdyn peers
down the passage seeing that it is blocked by a portcullis and behind the gate
a pair of troglodytes stand guard staring towards the entry chamber, no doubt
warned by the sound of the party’s arrival. From behind the guarding troglodytes
Bairdyn hears the raspy sounds of additional reptilian voices.
Moving forward cautiously, Bhenedict advances towards
Bairdyn wanting to get a better look. Bairdyn holds up his hand in warning, but
too late as the clangor of Bhenedict’s armor gives the dwarf away and the
troglodytes respond by barking out an alarm. Before any member of the brigade
can react an explosion fills the party’s chamber with a rancid cloud that
immediately hurls the party into visceral fits of heaving as the contents of
their stomach involuntarily seek release leaving a horrible stench. Weakness
replaces strength, leaving sheer determination, enough to bring James forward stabbing
ahead through the bars with the point of his long spear even while Bhenedict
moves in a mad rush towards the gate thinking this might be his opportunity to
test the Ironfell signet ring. As the Clevenger jabs at the lead-most
troglodyte through the bars it expels a stench so thick that it literally
blinds Bhenedict, James and Bairdyn. Staggering but undeterred Bhenedict blindly
moves forward amid the jabs of troglodyte spears. Bhenedict reaches outward
with the ring never seeing the trigger-wire at his feet as he sets off a trap set
in front of the gate. Immediately deadly darts begin firing from the walls at
all the members of the party–the darts firing from all sides. Then as the ring
touches the downed portcullis immediately the gate rises and full battle breaks
out at the raised gate as the troglodyte’s number doubles as others join them
from the deeper passages beyond and a room off the main passage just behind the
gate, there a door opens to reveal a massive troglodyte champion.
Finding the tight confines of the
entry chamber now to be a deadly trap, the member of party move rapid towards
the gate as the hail of darts continues. Bhenedict’s vision begins to clear
enough for the dwarf to bullrush the nearest troglodyte, swinging wildly with
his hammer to clear space for the party. The darts rain down taking a toll on
the brigade as it becomes plainly obvious they must escape or die. Quill drops
prone to make himself a smaller target and stops walking to avoid triggering
additional darts, yelling out warning, “Kneel and take cover!” encouraging the
others to follow suite…then taking aim with his crossbow he fires a magical
‘Bolt of Transit’ into one of the troglodytes, Quill magically disappearing as the
bolt pierces trog flesh only to reappear behind the creature he hit in the hall
beyond the gate. Seeing the wisdom of Quill’s warning, Bingus curls into a small
tight ball in a corner and hide beneath one of the ore carts but Eoffram rushes
forward using magic of his own to teleport out of range of the darts. Towards
the front of the melee, near the raised gate, his sight returned, James moves
beyond the gate beyond the range of the darts, joining Bhenedict in the melee at
the far side of the gate.
In the moments that follow the
battle rages the epicenter the battle taking place between Bhenedict and the
Troglodyte champion, neither yielding anything until eventually bloodied and
worn Bhenedict stands shouting a victory cry over the dead monster, “Is that the
best you’ve got?!”
Looking about them, with all the
troglodytes dead, Bairdyn disables the dart trap and finally Bingus comes out
from underneath the cart pieced by several of the darts, bleeding but alive.
Taking measure of their surroundings the party recovers
using a combination of potions, prayers, and spells. Drawn by soft glow, Bhenedict
examines the tunnel wall where deep within the damp gray stone he sees a faint
light pulsing. On closer examination, he realizes the light is shed from dark
red veins twisting through the stone of the walls and ceiling and wherever it is
embedded the stone glows with the same dull light. Joining Bhenedict, Bingus
examines the phenomena offering a suggestion, “These veins are the stuff
of raw elemental energy. It shouldn’t be here; but, here it is somehow leaking into
the natural world.”
Moving deeper they see signs,
recent tracks along the main passageway leading deeper into the mines
eventually entering a large central cavern. As they travel they pass several
smaller competing tunnels, all showing evidence of recent mining on a small
scale but certainly nothing on the scale of the dwarves’ operations of old.
Here and there, dwarf skeletons
decorate the passage strewn across the rocky ground, ancient rusted weapons
lying nearby. Most disturbing many of them appearing to have slain each other
and oddly whether in battle or not and in all cases they are missing their
Pausing briefly at one of the
alternate tunnels, Bhenedict listens, staring with his deep sight into the
darkness…for a moment he imagines the heavy, harsh breathing of some unseen foe.
“I say we stay to the main caverns, t’would be the best way to solve this
Moving on a vast gallery opens up
where the dwarves of Ironfell once worked, their long-rotted, headless bodies
now scattered before the Brigade along with the rickety remains of ancient
ladders and carts spread across the cavern floor. One prominent vein of the
strange, red-glowing stone crosses the chamber’s floor before climbing up one
of the walls near the entrance to the cavern, its cold light pulsing brightly.
Leading the way James and
Bhenedict enter the cavern as Bingus shouts out a warning, “Avoid the red
chaos stone…it maybe the source of the dwarves’ madness.”
Then in the distance at the far
end of the cavern from around the corner of an outcropping, James spies the
shaggy head of a huge beast turning to the sound of Bingus’s warning; while Bhenedict’s
attention is pulled to an unnerving skittering sound from beneath a big pile of
broken rocks, the soft menacing sound echoing lightly announcing some yet unseen
Suddenly, involuntarily clenching, Bhenedict’s grip
tightens on his hammer as he stares at the pile of rock, unknowingly creeping
forward over the blood-red stone which sends an ill-chill straight through his
boots to a place deep within his bones; still the true trigger to his nerves is
the bald horror caused by a cloud of dark spiders emerging from the pile of stones.
Immediately, spiders are all Bhenedict can see, terror biting to his core as
they leap and fall about him all but gluing him to the floor in webs.
So distracted is Bhenedict that he
fails to heed the Clevenger’s warning as a new rustling in a rubble pile just
ahead of Bhenedict begins with a tumbling a rock when a gray-skinned hand
thrust from the ground grasping at the dwarf’s ankle. Soon following the hand
the bearded-face of a long-dead dwarf is exposed as the dead thing crawls from
the cold earth lurching to its feet, grinning through blackened teeth as only a
corpse can … a chilling mist bellowing out of the horror’s mouth as it attacks
in concert with the spiders.
Fearing for Bhenedict and as horrible as these monsters are the terror that grips the Clevenger’s soul is the huge shaggy-head monster, now bounding from atop its hidden shelf and bouncing off the far wall as it charges the Brigand while beating on both the ground and its own chest.
Without a second of hesitation James steps in front of
Bhenedict setting the butt of his spear into the crook formed where cavern floor
and wall, kneeling low he braces catching the hulking beast on the point of his
weapon halting a charge that would have surely killed the dwarf; the monster’s
hot blood races down the length of the spear as the monster growls loud and
long showering the young warrior in a shower of foul spittle. The beast’s
savage howl overwhelming the will of the monsters whipping them intoa frenzy as
the demonic ape beats down upon the Clevenger with its heavy fists.
From the back of the party Bingus
fires off a cloud of daggers upon the swarming spiders, the daggers swirling in
the air chopping down at the spiders and their webs while at the same time
Quill responds to their attack with his crossbow firing bolts that exploded
poisoning the ground beneath the spiders.
Racing around the melee to get a
clear line of attack, Eoffram carefully leaps over the red chaos vein seeking
cover behind one of the natural stone columns halting only when he is surprised
by more horrors from the hall beyond, twin worms of doom! Momentarily
disregarding his personal safety Eoffram tightens the muscles of his forearms
making claws of his hands as he focuses the arcane energies swimming within his
soul into a black freezing shade then straining he pushes the darkness outward
from the tips of fingers forging an cloud of blinding darkness which he hurls
at the howling ape. Enveloped, blinded the monster’s attacks to miss wildly as
the clinging darkness plagues him and leaves him vulnerable to attack. Abruptly,
Eoffram feels a numbing, burn dancing through his body as the tentacles of the
first worm embrace him, a precursor to a sharp, needle-toothed bite from the
second. Blood runs freely from Eoffram’s wounds as the crocodile-sized worm
gnaws at his shoulder. Struggling to run Eoffram turns to flee only to find the
worms poison has filled his legs with sand, each step, a thing of molasses and
glue. Undone a silent scream rises unbidden to his lips.
Maneuvering behind the blinded ape, Bairdyn leaps arms held
high, gripping his vengeful dagger with both hands before plunging the blade
hilt deep into the monster’s back ending the ape’s struggles once and for all.
Freed from the webs by his friends, standing amid a pile of dead spiders,
Bhenedict turns his attention to the undead dwarf trading with it
blow-for-blow. Fearing for Eoffram, Quill shouts encouragement, “Fight on man,
we are yet with you!” as he and Bingus attack the worms with bolts and spells
in combination turning one of the worms aside. Then all of a sudden James
appears at Eoffram’s side spearing the other worm. And then it occurs to them,
the entire brigand, in a quick moment of astonishment that they were there in
the cavern standing triumphant over their foes all of which were destroyed or
dead at their feet.
“That was good, dirty fun. Oh the tales I will pen about
this…you all are simply amazing.” says Quill. “There is certain to be
treasures a plenty down here. Let’s say we have a quick search. Bairdyn, that’s
your name right? What say I give you a boost up on to the ape’s shelf? I have a
nose for these things…if I do say myself.”
Quill’s lead Bairdyn climbs, (without help), onto the cave shelf there spotting
a strange figurine, a clockwork, hodgepodge of gears, wood, and fine metal…the work of a craftsman of incredible skill and imagination, the piece, smaller
than a gnome’s fist. Carefully picking up the item Bairdyn hands it to Quill.
“Ah, this I believe is the infamous, Ebony Fly…an item of
wondrous power to be sure and while our agreement clearly stated I would
entitled to the next magical trinket we might find, I believe this might be
better suited to our gnome wizard…are we agreed?”
Looking about suddenly Bhenedict notices that Bingus has
gone missing, “Where has our gnome gone?” he asks.
Fearing the worst the party fans out calling out to Bingus
until Eoffram halts pointing to the gnome who he finds hunched over a green
pile of glistening, moist-looking globes at the end of the passage furthest
north and east in the large cavern. Looking up at the others Bingus asks, “Do
you suppose these are the Behir eggs?” pointing the scores of apricot-sized
“No, they are too small…and too green.” replies Eoffram, “No, I think these belong to the crawlers that attacked me.”
“Ah, I suppose your right but I think I’ll take some just in
case,” says Bingus.
“In case of what?” inquires James.
“In case we get hungry,” asserts Bhenedict. “And I better
not catch you wandering off again. It’ll be a dark day for you if I have to
save your butt again…you’d probably be better off eaten!”
Repeating his offer regarding the Ebony Fly, Quill asks
Bingus, “So is it deal then? I only ask that I retain first choice of treasures
and this way you get the fly?”
“Well first, I think I would like to know what it does,”
“Certainly then, I will be happy to explain. All you need
do is concentrate, focusing all your energy into the fly to give it a temporary
life of its own. It will grow large enough to carry you aloft. Focus on it yet
again and it will disappear replaced with the small figure I hold now.”
“Oh, fantastic…that sounds exciting. Can I really keep it?”
Bingus asks the party looking at each member in turn while comically struggling
not to drop any of the dozen or so slimy eggs he still carries.
When they agree, Bingus grins in a half-moon smile leaping
in the air amid a hail of splatting eggs. Bending over the mess, Bingus looks
for survivors amongst the eggs and notices that those landing on the red stone had
already shriveled and withered like a dried grape, now lying cold and completely
devoid of life. “This is not a good sign…not good at all I’m afraid. I fear this
red stone is ‘blood-rock.’ No doubt it is the reason the dwarves killed each
other. When it is refined it becomes a thing called ‘blood-chaos,’ the melted
down essence of raw elemental power. No good could come of this! It is probably
what that fellow Sarshan was using in his forge.”
Distracted and thinking aloud Bhenedict says, “Hmmm, the
passage beyond the shelf glows brightly, brighter than any other and look at
these finishing timbers supporting the ceiling. I know our resources are near
their end but I won’t feel safe until we check it out. Are you with me?”
And one-by-one all throw in their hands, James, Bairdyn,
Eoffram, Quill, and finally the slimy, green-pawed Bingus who in adding the
filth to the mix sets off a cacophony of complaints and threats of retribution.
The Queen’s Retinue
The passage, obviously carved of natural
stone runs due north ending in a circular cavern which shows signs of new
excavation on its far side. However, the way is blocked by a wide crevice that
pulses brightly with a lurid red glow. In the shadow of that light stand two
red-skinned demons, slash at the air with three-clawed hands and pitchforks.
Behind them, piled high there is a mound formed of hundreds of dwarven skulls,
a gruesome bier on which coils a serpentine creature with a humanlike face.
Curiosity getting the better of them, Quill the Lion and
Bingus stare, slack-jawed, into the cavern leaning in too far. Spotting them
the naga hisses sending bolts of lightning leaping from her glowing
orange-yellow eyes, the lightning streaks at onlookers catching them in an
explosion thunder and light, dazing the entire party and all but killing Bingus
James staggers grabbing Quill pulling him into a covered
position of relative safety as Bairdyn does the same for Bingus. Seeing the
grim condition of Bingus, James uses the last of his curing spells upon the
gnome. Steeling his will Bhenedict charges into the cavern only to be met by
the three-pronged pitch fork of one of the insect-like demons that stabs him
from the far side of the crevice, skewering the dwarf on the weapon’s tines.
Then joining the fray the second demon expels a foul poison cloud of breath
smelling of death and disease.
Bairdyn seeking the cover of the shadows travels along the
left wall hugging the shadows eventually hiding within a nook in the wall while
he searches for a way to help his friend Bhenedict leaving Quill behind to tend
to his own injuries. And in a fit of exceptional bravery Eoffram cursing at the
demon unleashes a barrage of spells freeing Bhenedict at the same time racing
into the cavern, leaping over the crevice without pause intent to take the
fight to the naga. The first demon is so distracted by Eoffram’s antics that it
turns following the counselor’s movement, inadvertently making an easy target
of its back which is soon pierced by the halfling’s dagger. Encouraged by his
success Bairdyn advances getting a running start and he too leaps over the
crevice awash in the heat of nether materials flowing in the crevice below
joining Eoffram on the far side of the chamber.
Unimpressed the naga hisses forbidden words in a primordial
dialect sending fresh waves of pain through Bairdyn as she dismissively ignores
Back in the entry passage both Bingus and Quill having
recovered move to join the battle Bingus stares at the ebony fly concentrating
as hard as he can muster given the confusion of the combat; Quill seeking to
assist Bhenedict calls on James to charge while he provides cover fire with his
crossbow. Immediately the fly grows, large, big as a cat and then a large dog,
finally stopping when it approaches the size of a small mule … its wing flexing
and closing in a low hum. Tentatively Bingus mounts the strange construct
surprised to find its back comfortable as he sudden filled with a sense of
security … then without warning, the wing buzz loud and Bingus involuntarily
gripping hard realizes the thing has taken flight lifting carrying him high into
the large cavern inches from the ceiling.
At the end of his charge James spears the lead demon, diving
forward with all his strength as Quill uses a near invisible surprise bolt on
the mezzodemon stacking the odds of success in his favor, both attacks score hits
felling the fiend freeing Bhenedict to take the battle to the second demon.
Turning her rage upon Eoffram, the naga spits a torrent of poison upon the
warlock forcing his retreat before calling out in the primordial language to
the blood chaos within the crevice. As if in answer a thing of flame erupts
from the crevice, dancing through the air and racing towards the brigade!
Chasing after the brigade at great speed the firelasher
circles the cavern traveling over and through first Eoffram then Bingus and
finally Bairdyn engulfing them all in flames in a devastating attack. Nearly done,
the wings of his fly splintering in a match for the blisters on his flesh,
Bingus orders the fly low enough for him to jump, then heedless of his loss he sends
the construct after the fire-creature in a mad attack grabbing enough of the
elemental’s attention to halt if just before in can engulf Quill. Stopping long
enough to attack the construct, the firelasher ignites the fly blowing it to
pieces, utter destroying the fly but giving the gnome time enough to trap the
dull-witted elemental within a magical whirlwind.
Trapped in Bingus’s pinioning vortex, the lasher howls stretching
its substance to lashing out at seeker Quill who responds by blurring his form in
defense and firing back with bolts tainted by an icy elemental’s breath, a form
of magic long mastered by the seeker. James also turns to attack the trapped
elemental and together Quill and Bingus overcoming the elemental.
Elsewhere in the cavern, Eoffram keeps the naga at bay by
summoning dire radiance while content to keep the fight at distance she replies
getting the better of the exchange with another word of pain this time
attacking the half-elf with the fell magic. Desperate, Eoffram runs taking
cover behind another stone column as the battle between Bhenedict and the
second demon rages allowing Bairdyn to gain a flanking position and together
the friend slaughter the demon with well placed attacks.
With the demise of the firelasher and the second demon the
balance of the party carefully crosses the crevice surrounding the naga.
Shephatiah shouts out in common tongue, “Bow before your Queen!” Grimacing
James lowers his holy symbol, the upward raised sword of Magnus hurling the
monstrous naga from her throne with a bolt of holy force, and there dethroned,
faced with the combine might of the brigade she falls.
Exhausted, resources gone, potions spent the brigade
languishes in sudden victory breathless. After a time, they turn to searching
the chamber where they uncover treasures of gold and magic; Genasi Soul Armor
for Bairdyn, a Salve of Power for Quill and upon the tail of the dead Queen a
Primordial Ring which kept by Benedict. And there among the treasures, a leather
bound journal kept in the Abyssal language of demons detailing the true depths
of Bram Ironfell’s treachery.
The journal reveals how Bram had used his standing within
the Elsir Consortium to aid Sarshan’s operations supplying the arms-dealer with
warehouses and acting as the Shadar-kai’s chief contact within Overlook. The
papers go on to detail that it was Bram who originally discovered the maps
to the mines in a cache of his family’s records, a year before and how he had
used the maps to buy his way into his partnership with the Sarshan. The journal
also reveals that it was the naga rather than the dryad that was in fact, Queen
Shephatiah explaining how the naga had traveled to the natural world through
Elemental Chaos through a portal contained within the pool of blood chaos in
the base of the crevice, the same pool that had originally brought madness into
the mines. And there are other hints of clues scattered in the pages … mention
of financers that go unnamed in the journal…talk of masters that laid claim to
the wealth of the mines gathering their treasure by means of the elemental rift
and finally discussion of a plan to ramp up production.
On their way out of the mines the brigade stops in the stables where Quill had stabled his mount. But upon arriving, not surprisingly, the stables were empty.
“Gee, I wonder why there isn’t a horse here?” asked Bhenedict sarcastically as he winked at the rest of the party.
Bingus added, “Quill, someone has stolen your horse. I’m so sorry.”
Quill seemed to ignore the fun that was being poked at him as he began to search through the mouldy remains of the stables. “I’m sure it is here somewhere. I know I left it here. It does sometimes have a habit of being a bit difficult.”
In the spirit of good fun everyone else decided to help look for the missing horse. Within a few minutes James suddenly cried out, “Hey, what’s this now. Is this your mount?” He pointed to a finely crafted figurine that was almost hidden under some sand.
“Yes, that it is.” Quill ran over and picked up the figurine. Concentrating for a moment he willed the horse to appear. But, nothing happened. “Stubborn beast,” he mumbled under his breath. The rest of the party came closer to take a look at the figurine.
At first glance, it appeared to be an adamantine plate-banded warhorse of particularly powerful build, but further inspection reveals that the entire horse is made of metal and is powered by gears and hidden arcane devices. The quality of its craftsmanship is obvious.
Quill placed the horse at his feet and again concentrated and still nothing happened. He turned his back and crossed his arms, “Fine, be that way. I didn’t want to ride you anyway.” Glancing over his shoulder discreetly he looked to see if anything was happening. Still nothing.
James reached out, “Can I take a look at it?” Quill shrugged as if he didn’t care.
As James fingers brushed the figurine it suddenly grew to the size of a huge warhorse. The horse demonstrated it’s nobility and grace as it moved about the stable finally coming back to stand before James. It snorted and used its nose to lift James’ hand as if to encourage him to stroke the creature’s mane. James was amazed to find that the filigree of the mane, though made of metal, was still somehow soft and comforting under his hand.
Quill laughed and started to approach the horse, “I knew you were faking. I told you the horse can be stubborn at times. Come here you rascally beast.” But as he approached the horse backed away slightly. Quill paused and then began again. Every time Quill moved towards the horse it deftly moved away. It didn’t appear to be running away from him so much as staying just out of reach.
Quill scolded, “Now listen here you metalic monstrosity. I brought you here and you’d best behave. I’ve half a mind to return you to your maker.”
The horse snorted, shook its head and moved to stand next to James.
Quill threw his hand up in the air, “What!? You’re trading me for the Cleavenger? I’m hurt, injured to my very core. How can you do this?”
The horse made a noise that sounded almost like laughter and then looked at James. There was something about the horse that James found both familiar and strange.
Quill chided the horse, “You are a fickle filigree filly! I hope you are happy with your decision. I’ll not ride you again if my life depended on it. And you’ll not find any more oats from my bag filling your belly.” His frown turned to a smile as he clearly was not really upset with the horse and couldn’t keep his own mirth from sneaking out.
To James Quill added, “She’s actually a wonderful companion. Clearly however she has tired of my heroics and decided that you will make a better champion. She, probably rightly, feels that you will be better than I at upholding the ideals to which she was constructed to follow.”