Friday, 24 February 2012

Dark Sun Marauders - Episode 17

The group moved on down the secret tunnel that led beneath the sand drake's lair, the goliaths having to duck as they wandered down. It went for some distance before ending abruptly, Kuroar!'s head finding itself against a trap door in the roof, which openend out into a corridor that ran East/West. The consensus was to head East and after examining the winding corridors, they came upon a door, which opened easily,. It revealed a room, the walls and roof painted again to resemble the open deserts of Athas, the sandy floor dotted with sizeable boulders emerging from the sands. Behind several of the boulders lurked a clutch of Thri-kreen, their leader a big warrior whose prowess gave the group pause, yet they did not attack.

Kulo, entered the room and began to edge past the wary kreen towards a second door to the north whilst engaging the leader in some sort of conversation. The absence of Tak-tha and his kreen ways was felt as in halting common the group learned of the plight of this clutch. Captured by Kalak's agents and imprisoned here, the kreen have been kept alive. Gretchan's arcane knowledge was able to locate a powerful ward placed on the exits to the room that seemed keyed to the kreen themselves as the companions seemed unaffected by it. Due to their predicament the kreen were unable to provide any further information about the ziggurat, though they did mention seeing Kalak perhaps 10 days or so ago briefly.

With the hope that the kreen may somehow be freed, the group continued on through the other door, winding their way cautiously along the passages until they stepped out into a silty waste of a room as the deafening sound of a twisting spiral of dust increased in intensity as they entered. The silt cyclone came at them as tendrils snaked out from the centre to trip up some and buffet others about the room. As the group saw more of the room a deep hole in the northern section of the room hid a fall to unknown depths. The swirling winds pushed Kuroar!, Kulo,, and Garidias close to the edge. The goliath's size prevented them toppling into the hole, but the slender eladrin was blown back and over the edge, crashing into a  substantial section of branches some 30ft below. The impact jarring the breath from his body and a hit on the head sent him into unconsciousness.

Meanwhile the remaining companions redoubled their efforts to disperse the cyclonic storm with Beren holding firm and shrugging off the effects of the silt and sand & Gretchan doing a good job of adding support from the safety of the doorway and corridor behind. Finally one of Kuroar!'s powerful charges was enough to discorporate the cyclone and the silt and dust settled all around the room, coating all with it.

Moving quickly Gretchan's mastery of travel through the dimensions allowed Garidias to be brought back up to the room and she was able to bring the eladrin back to consciousness. Not wishing to leave a stone unturned, the group explored the corridors to the west of where they emerged from the hidden passage and came across only another of the portcullis conundrums that this time crisped the hairs on Kuroar! before being successfully negotiated.

The group then lowered themselves down into the trees that Garidias had found and they were transported from the deserts of Athas to the woods of the Forest Ridge. The real location west of Tyr was known to be the haunt of savage tribes of halflings and even rumours of a few goliaths who had descended into the forest from the mountains. The trees seemed eerily quiet with no breeze rustling the leaves and no sound of birds. The group was able to pick up a set of human footprints after heading through the trees for a while, which they duly followed until they abruptly ended. A quick search of the surrounding area could find no continuing footprints, though they did find another set of smaller footprints, these fainter and harder to spot.

With more trekking, the northern and then western walls were located. This level of the ziggurat was not a series of rooms like the other, but appeared to be one enormous room. Further to the south and west a set of several smaller footprints were found, clearly an area with more traffic. Cautiously heading eastwards now, Gretchan spies ahead a small hut, hidden up in the branches of a large tree. Not a large house, but not the size of a child's play house. The companions moved slowly towards it, wondering what it may house.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dark Sun Marauders - Episode 16

The group descended the stairs underneath the grisly room above. The floor gradually changed from stairs to a gentle slope that began to be buried under sand. The corridor brought them to a largish room, sand covering the floor in a recreation of the deserts of Athas. In addition to the sand, the walls had been painted with desert scenes, all in exquisite detail so that the sand floor blends with the painting to give the impression of being back out among the dunes. The bright sky adorned the roof of the room as well. Even the temperature in the room had risen to high levels. Tufts of grass stuck up from various parts of the room and 2 grooves that matched with someone being dragged were visible in the sand leading towards a cunningly designed door in the north wall. There was a smaller door that was spotted to the south.

The companions headed into the room, following the tracks, when a large creature burrowed through the sand from one corner and eruped, snapping huge jaws. It was a silt shark! Everyone quickly mobilised, and landed several blows on the creature, but it disappeared beneath the sands out of the reach of blades and spells. At one point Kulo, had stumbled near a patch of the grass, which closed around his leg like a set of plant jaws, holding him tight. The shark erupted once more, going after an isolated Gretchan, wounding her badly, but they were ready and Kuroar!'s blade and Garidias spear bit deep, opening nasty wounds on the beast.

This caused it to burrow away once more, but Kulo, was able to corral it with his chain and with Beren's help, finish it off. Taking a short breather, the group followed the dragging marks through the door into the next room.

They were greated with a similarly painted room, yet this time in the centre was a silty oasis area, surrounded by trees and cactus. Hanging from one of the trees was a humanoid figure. His scaled skin and build marked him as a Dray or Dragonborn, dressed in leather armour and he appeared quite dead. Kuroar! and Garidias went to inspect more closely and confirmed the deceased nature. Not seeing any further footprints, they concluded this was the victim who had been dragged from above.

The calm didn't last long as firstly the tree adjacent suddenly lashed out at the inspection pair, but was poorly aimed. This could not be said for Kuroar! who proved to be an expert at deforestation, his blade carving limbs off here and there and driving it deep into the wood, causing the tree creature to shriek in extreme pain! From there it was on the back foot, or root, as the group pressend the advantage and had the creature crashing down quickly, but by then a new threat had emerged!

A large fruit-bearing cactus began to lumber slowly from from the far edge of the silt, but it did not batter the party with its spikes, but it reached out and affected their minds. Psychic attacks ignored armour and physical strength and sapped the wills of the group. At one point, Garidias, Kuroar! and Kulo, had all fallen under its power as the cactus itself commanded them to turn on each other! Fortunately, there seemed to be a deep-rooted sense of a bond between them and their attacks on each other were often mis-aimed, or lacking in power.

Finally shaking free from the mental thrall, they all set about bringing a physical pain to the rampaging plant, if it could feel such things. The cactus was tougher than it looked and took a huge amount of punishment before succumbing to the bloodied and battered fellowship. Gretchan stepped in and took a fruit from the plant, examining it and found that should anyone eat the fruit, they would see their own fellows as enemies.

Taking a moment to clean their wounds after a nasty fight, they all took the north door out of the oasis room and found themselves in a series of corridors painted to resemble natural caverns and tunnels. Along one stretch of tunnel, they encountered a portcullis blocking the passage and three levers. Kuroar! examind them and pulled down the first as the rest of the group nervously backed away.

The only effect was that it brought down a second portcullis, several feet down the passage they had just walked down and just in front of where Kulo, had backed up to. Shrugging and pulling the second lever resulted in Kuroar! taking on a crispy-fried appearance as the whole area between the portcullis was engulfed in flame, validating the groups' earlier nervousness. The final lever opened the portcullis in front of Kuroar! and he gratefully stepped through, but the rest were still trapped back down the corridor. A final flick of the first lever opened that one and they all continued on exploring.

The caverns and tunnels would around for some distance, one of the branches leading back to a concealed door that led back to the oasis room. The only way forward led to a bigger cavern which had two painted doors leading east.

The doors opened into an enormous cavern, some 100ft long and almost as wide. Sand still covered the floor and several outcroppings of rock jutting up from the sand could be seen around the cavern. From the darker, far end of the cavern came a terrible creature that resembled the description of the Dragon of Tyr, but somehow seemed much smaller and lacked wings, but its reptilian body was well suited to living in a sandy wasteland.

The drake was a formidable opponent, its powerful exhalation of breath throwing up an enormous cloud of stinging sand that blinded and stung those that remained in the area. As the warriors approached, it met them with claws and teeth that could cause serious wounds. Also similar to the shark, it was able to burrow through the loose sand to cause more troubles for the heroes, but in the face of it all, they stayed firm. Garidias' commanding voice helping Kuroar! and Kulo, positioning themselves well and to best effect.

Wounds were grave, with the drake taking down members of the group, some almost losing consciousness from the bleeding of their wounds, but finally the great beast was defeated and crashed to the ground in a cloud of sand.

The group took time to search the cavern once all were roused from their efforts and Gretchan found a small hidden door in the side of one of the rocky outcroppings. Stone stairs led down into it, leading to a small open area and then continuing on into blackness.

This seemed to be one of only two ways of moving on, with the south door of the first room on this level, still remaining unexplored...