Breaking The Chains

Danger at Darkshelf - 1

Introductions and Investigations

The Overlord of the small village of Darkshelf has become increasingly agitated by the rumors circulating amongst the miners that fill the Orc’s Head tavern.; all is clearly not “right” at the local quarry. Though granite extraction has increased under the relatively (three months) new overseer (Bazili Erak), the miners mutter into their ale about “strange moanin’ sounds from below” and what they fear are the sounds of chains being rattled. Bazili is clearly quite hard on his dwarven clan-brothers who work the deeper shafts during the night-shift.

Neistor was hoping that a recent (two weeks ago) raid on a small slaver’s camp (led by Bazili) would do much to the villager’s general unease and fear but sadly, a spate of strange attacks along the nearby eastern bank of the river has made even the tough miners fearful. The last attack was barely a few hours from the village; a young village girl, “Ringe”, was killed and badly mauled when she went out to catch the small crabs that make their homes in the rock pools.

Summoned to meet the Overlord in his small office, the companions are asked to investigate the unhealthy rumors that are festering in the mines and perhaps investigate the strange deaths as well. Neistor sent one of his men into the mines a week ago to investigate but after some promising initial reports of a secret jetty, “”/characters/kwon-chi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kwon-chi" has been silent. Bazili announced that a small vein of gold (in addition to a quartz strike) had been discovered and Neistor suspects that the mine overseer is using the hidden dock to smuggle gold out.

The party agree a fee for their services (600 gold pieces) and head into the village to gather as much background information as they can. Talking to the patrons of the Orc’s Head tavern, they learn little more but the pair of miners that they gently interrogate (“Otis” and “Veran”) confirm Neistor’s tale of strange sounds and shadowy figures at night.

The village’s apothecary is unable to add much more information about the mine but he does know a little more about the people killed by the strange beast that has been striking around the village. The creature is clearly large and all of the attacks (six in total) have occurred near the river or the coastal bay that Darkshelf perches on. A number of the bodies have been subject to a massive electrical charge; some of their jewellery had become magnetized. He tells Oseanor that the most recent victim was a 6-year old girl called “Ringe”.

Father Owein at the village church is persuaded by Osson to sell the party a potion of healing at a reduced cost (150 gold pieces) and he allows them to view the body of poor little “Ringe”. An investigation of the site where the girl was killed suggests that the creature is very large and probably some form of reptile or amphibian: four large webbed feet, large 3-inch long talons and what could be a 3 or 4 foot tail.

The Mission Starts …

Wary of a direct approach on the quarry and its formidable three-storey guard block, the party decide to investigate the river and the link with the strange deaths and perhaps discover the hidden jetty that “”/characters/kwon-chi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kwon-chi" reported. Hiring a boat from the village, the investigators head up the wide Pelyra River and begin to nose their way down one meandering tributary after another.

By mid-afternoon, they finally discover a swiftly flowing passage that heads into a low roofed cavern that is so close to the quarry that it surely must connect. The cavern is eerily quiet but the wooden jetty and the presence of a small rowboat betrays its use. A quick search of the boat tethered to the jetty reveals a pair of rusted manacles – substance to the rumours that Bazili is a harsh foreman?

Beaching their own barge, the party head down a narrow passageway that leads into a small cavern. There are obvious exits in all four cardinal directions but a door to the south is the most promising. The air to the north is particularly foul with a strong scent of ammonia or something like it. Listening carefully, the party can hear the distant sounds of steel on steel and steel on rock.

Approaching the door, Halvar is caught in a trap that whisks the unfortunate rogue up into the air, tightly noosed around his ankles by a hidden wire. Alert to the danger that loud noises underground pose, the companions wait quietly in the shadows until Halvar finally manages to break the wire and drop, cat-like, to the ground before the inviting doorway.

Listening carefully, the party can make out distant sounds of chanting – some form of prayer or ceremony perhaps. They can also hear a fountain or what sounds like one. The door has an intricate three-lock mechanism and selecting one at random, Halvar attempts to pick the lock. The alarm that is triggered seems to have no effect; no guards emerge from the other three passages, no far off torches spring into life … the cavern and its passages remain unsettlingly quiet. Only the distant sounds of steel on rock can be heard and as the door is eventually opened, the alarm bell mutes.

The cavern on the other side of the door has an exit to the south that seems to lead to the upper mines and a locked door to the east. The chamber is dominated by a large pool of restless water that swirls around the rocky floor as if there was a fountain or pump present.
As Halvar investigates the door, a large serpent-like shape emerges from the water and tacks. Immune to most of the adventurer’s weapons, the creature eventually succumbs to the flaming torches wielded by Jim and Osson. The arcane balls of energy thrown by Elbereth also see capable of harming this strange beast. Olmdor and Einar are unable to harm the creature but they escape relatively unscathed.

Halvar carefully searches the lock mechanisms when the fight is over and this time, he selects the correct lock of the three arrayed in front of him to pick … the door clicks open to reveal another narrow passage ….

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Danger at Darkshelf - 2
The caverns

Exploring The Lower Caverns

The passage on the other side of the door leads into a large chamber that is dominated by a large pool. Troglodytes emerge from the shadows and attack the party as soon as their lanterns disturb the darkness. A huge reptile emerges from the pool and when it engages Slim Jim, the source of the strange deaths along the Pelyra and around Darkshelf becomes clear. Emitting a burst of powerful electricity, the snarling beast is armed with vicious teeth and horribly long talons. The battle is prolonged by more troglodytes attracted by the sound of battle and a robed figure bearing a mace and wearing an odd symbol in the form of a copper disc.

Searching a small cave just to the west, Halvar finds an ornate camphor box that contains two vials of a strange blue fluid that fluoresces faintly when shaken. Papers on a crude desk seem to be some form of ledger, though what is being tallied is unclear.

Though the party have discovered a route upwards into the mines, they decide to explore the rest of the caverns and uncover a number of refuse pits connected to narrow shafts that rise up to the mines. Zombies and ghouls prowl these areas but they are no match for the warriors, and Osson and Oseanor are adamant that these unnatural creations must be destroyed. Olmdor and Einar are only too happy to oblige!

There is little of any value and the party wisely decide against searching to extensively for treasure. They are aware that it is only a matter of time before their presence is discovered and though they have taken the precaution of hiding the bodies of the creatures they have defeated, the absence of the robed man must surely be noticed at some point. Besides, one of the refuse pits had been colonized by some decidedly unhealthy looking fungi and the air is ripe with noxious smells; disease is a real threat. However, they have found an odd black metal pyramid. Small, a few inches in size, the object has clearly been used in unholy rites and Oseanor grimly sanctifies the object before passing it to Ossun to look after. There are no markings on the object to indicate who it belongs to or exactly what it was used for.

One of the last caverns that the group discover is home to a large thermal pool that is inhabited by huge frogs. Each one is the size of a small dog and there are many of them. The party decide that since the creatures offer no threat, they should perhaps be left alone and they retreat back to an area where they can rest before venturing up into the mines. As Elbereth settles herself quietly in a corner to study her rune-covered bones, Olmdor organizes the watch …

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Danger at Darkshelf - 3
The Mines - lower level

The Mines

Halvar and Osson lead the way up the ramp into the heart of the mining complex but quickly pause as they realise there are goblins ahead and quite a large number. The party decide to retreat down the ramp and attempt to lure some of the guards down below. Dealing with a large warband piecemeal is clearly going to be safer. Halvar manages to successfully call out and attract a pair of the humanoids but in the fight that ensues, an alarm is raised when the goblins shriek for help.

Rushing up the ramp and into what could be a barrack chamber, the goblins put up a fight but even though they are joined by more of their kind who have clearly been employed as miners, the creatures are defeated. Elbereth hypnotises a number allowing Osson and Einar the opportunity to advance past the hapless soldiers to engage the miners and cut off retreat. Slim Jim and Oseanor, aided by Olmdor tidy up the stragglers. Within minutes, the fight is over and the party head north westwards towards the faint smell of incense.

Pyramid_Obelisk.jpg Halvar again leads the way, slipping silently through the tunnels. Ahead, the party discover a large chamber dominated by an odd pyramid-shaped obelisk. The shape is somewhat similar to the odd “icon” they recovered from below and clearly this is a place of unholy worship.

Osson has no hesitation and perhaps before Halvar and the others are fully ready, battle is joined! Two of the dangerous reptiles emerge from the shadows as the fight begins and discharging powerful bursts of electricity, Oseanor is soon rendered unconscious. Goblins pour in to the fight to join the priest found kneeling in prayer in front of the obelisk and the fight begins to look quite grim. A second cult priest joins the fight andOsson and Einar form a shield wall to protect their fallen comrade and allow Slim Jim, Olmdor andHalvar the opportunity to deal with the few goblins that managed to break into the large chamber. The priests are armed with heavy maces and dangerous spells that spread fear and and render Einar temporarily helpless.

Elbereth, depleted of manna, helps as best she can by hurling daggers at the dangerous cult priest and his minions. As Oseanor regains consciousness and the first of the priests is finally cut down, the battle turns.

Searching the tunnels nearby, the party discover a locked chest in some rather well-appointed quarters (presumably for the cult priests). This has a number of healing potions and more of the oddly coloured vials that were discovered below.

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Danger at Darkshelf - 4
The Mines - upper level

The Mines and The Guardhouse

After resting for a few hours to bind their wounds, the party complete their exploration of the quarry’s lower mines. A stout iron-barred door blocks their way into the eastern mine workings. Guarded by a pair of bugbears, the door is locked and Einar has to use his considerable strength to force the door open while the spear-wielding guards are distracted and kept back by a barrage of arrows and sling bullets fromSlim Jim and Oseanor.

With the guards defeated, the company finally discover the whereabouts ofKwon-chi and uncover the source of the “moans” and “rattling chains” reported by the concerned miners of Darkshelf. A large number of slaves have been kept in filthy conditions, the victims of a series of well-coordinated raids by small groups of highly trained slavers. Many of the grateful people rescued come from surrounding farmsteads, hamlets and villages. They all tell the same sad story of being snatched by goblin or human sell-swords and bought at night to this place. The quarry is clearly something of a “hub” and serves as a collection and holding area before the slaves are shipped out in large groups via small coastal sloops.

Bazili’s “rescue mission” of a few weeks ago was nothing more than a cover story to eliminate an unproductive group of slavers; whoever Bazili works for, is ruthless beyond description and clearly very dangerous.

Osson is clearly incensed by the cruelty meted out on the helpless captives and is adamant that the party make the best use possible of their unexpected invasion. He counsels that the party must strike at the heart of this evil operation and clear the rest of the mines above in an attempt to surprise the slavers as a shift-change takes place. Reluctantly, the clearly tired Elbereth and Oseanor agree but they warn that they will be of little help if the expected battle ahead becomes difficult. Olmdor leads the slaves to safety and the party grimly head up the ramp they discovered earlier and into the upper workings of the mine.

Halvar leads the way up the ramp and alerts the party to the presence of a dozen goblin miners heading their way. The miners are clearly unaware of the party and merely seek to hide below as their human replacements begin to filter into the mines totally unaware of what is really going on. The hapless goblins are mercilessly cut down in heartbeats as a well-coordinated ambush is carried out.

The incoming human miners halt in surprise when they see the goblin bodies and clutch their shovels, pick-axes and wicked looking mauls in white-knuckled hands confused momentarily by the presence of the party and goblins. Innocent of the true goings-on, they are persuaded to surround the sell-swords that Bazili has employed and the guards are prevented from escaping. These evil humans are in Bazili’s pay and know full-well of the real purpose of the quarry. They too are dispatched and the party decide again to press on and storm the guard house where Bazili must surely have barricaded himself.

An impressive three-storey building, the guardhouse is clearly going to be difficult to breach and the lower level double doors have been barred from the inside; Bazili is ready! Halvar’s mastery of the guttural goblin language is sufficient to fool the creatures inside into removing the bar on one of the doors and the party storm into what appear to be stables.

The few goblins and human mercenaries inside are no match and though they are lead by a towering bugbear overseer and a hulking half-orc smith the fight is over in minutes. However, the series of successful encounters has not left the party unscathed. Their potions exhausted, the party tiring but feel that they must press on. Unfortunately, the lower level of the guard house seems isolated from the two upper floors. The single chamber discovered consists of an underground pool of water but does not contain a ladder or stairs up.

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Danger at Darkshelf - 5
The Guardhouse

The Guardhouse

Battered and tired, the companions decide that with the lower stables and smithy secured, they should probably press home their attack while the slavers are still struggling to coordinate their defences. However, they pause long enough to allow Hallvar andEinar a chance to race to the village to try and secure more healing potions using what little resources they have looted so far. While the pair are gone,Oseanor discovers a secret door that connects to what turns out to be another goblin barracks.

With Einar and Halvar’s return, the party enter this part of the guardhouse and defeat another score of goblin soldiers and two worgs. A set of spiral stairs allows the party to avoid a difficult assault on the main door and after eliminating what at first glance is the armourer, the party decide to head up another flight of stairs and clear the parapet level of any guards.

The stairs lead to a large hallway with four sets of single doors and double doors that lead to private quarters and the outer parapet respectively. The first chamber they explore belongs to a female elven slaver. Clearly a figure of some authority she immediately draws her sword and casts a spell that places Einar into a deep sleep. Within seconds, other doors are flung open and a host of human soldiers, two bugbear taskmasters and Bazili himself join the battle.

Faced with what appear to be overwhelming odds, the companions staunchly face the onslaught and soon a number of them are gravely injured but with the judicious use of the healing potions, the companions prevail with even Elbereth and Oseanor forced into hand-to-hand combat. Slim Jim, Einar and Osson are able to cut down a number of guards and dispatch the two bugbears, rescuing some keys as they do so.

When Bazili, the evil quarrymaster, is finally defeated, the party are able to release another dozen or more slaves who are able to report that Bazili was working for people based in Highport and served a group known as “The Slavelords”.

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