Original date of this Journal: 05/11/09
This original posts has been written by our DM: Madfox11
[DM Note: The player of Barsjt was not present, and hence neither Barsjt.]
After the discussion with the elf, the hunters gather their gear and walk onto the single ledge leading into the gorge. The path is small, at parts partially collapsed, covered with debris and overgrown. Tracks make it clear the dwarves of that night's fight did indeed come from this direction and it surprising those heavily armed soldiers managed to do so silently. The path itself slowly rises, winding its way higher and higher above the raging river. The exertion stops any conversation, until after about 500 yards Nuryam and Jakul spot a small cavern opening about 30 feet above the path. The dog sized spider at its entrance though is what worries them. It is clear that the spider has spotted the hunters, but it makes no move. It just stares in their direction, waiting, but as far as Jakul can guess it is not preparing for an attack. Sherabb and Nuryam recognize the spider as a feyborn deathjump spider, dangerous in this kind of environment, and the presence of webbing suggest there are other spiders present as well, which is weird as well.
After debating their options for a few minutes, Sherabb finally steps forward greeting the spider politely, more out of jest then because the Khinsai believes the spider can talk. Surprisingly, the spider answers in Sidhelien, addressing Nuryam with an alien clicking voice. Apparently the spider seems to think that the humans are Nuryam's larder, mentioning it is hungry and wondering whether he can take a bite since Nuryam has food enough anyway. Nuryam mentions that the humans are unfortunately necessary, but that he has a goblin available. Mentioning Splug gets the more diplomatic hunters involved, although Adamar keeps his distance, apparently greatly fearing spiders. The conversation drifts towards how appetizing goblins are (or more precisely how small a bite they are) and finally the strange dwarves, who apparently lack vital body fluids* and smell too much of sulfur to be considered food. What is worse, their presence is corrupting the lay lines and they are chasing away all food. It is clear the spider and its brood is very hungry, and only Nuryam's presence has stopped the spider from attacking. So after some discussion, the hunters decide to offer two of their ponies as food for save passage and the spider agrees.
[DM Notes: Skill challenge, failure would have resulted in a fight, with some very good Diplomacy, Insight, and Bluff rolls as well as some fun roleplaying. It would have been a hard fight mostly due to the environment, a spider that can jump across the gorge and then lure characters over the edge can be real nasty. * Dwarves in Birthright are much more stonelike then in a standard setting, hence not very appetizing to spiders ]
Leaving the disturbing feeding habits of the spiders behind, the hunters proceed deeper into the gorge. Soon the roaring sound of a waterfall echoes through the canyon walls and a few paces further the hunters spot the dark entrance, unnaturally dark. At that moment crossbow bolts appear out of nowhere, when two grey-skinned dwarves seem to step out of shadow and wall. Realizing the danger, Sherabb immediately rushes forward, hoping to face the dwarves in a more beneficial environment. It is then that two shadow hounds step out of the cavern, while the two dwarves step back merging with the shadows. The fight that follows is short, and brutal. The hounds' teleporting power makes it difficult for Sherabb to keep them away from Jakul and Adamar and the bolters uncanny ability to merge with shadow and stone makes stopping them hard as well. When the final hound goes down, the dwarves can finally be cornered. It is then that they show a surprising ability to shoot poisonous quills from their beard, but the hardy hunters are mostly unaffected and without the shadows to hide in the two dwarves go down quickly.
[DM Notes: 2 shadow hounds and 2 duegar scouts, fun fight, not too lethal and luckily the players did not let it become a standoff (narrow path covered by the archers could easily have resulted in such). Strangely enough Adamar never used his sliding encounter power which would have been lethal here. The PCs themselves were smart enough not to stand 1 bull rush away from the side, besides the opponents sucked at bull rushing.]
Recovering from the fight, the hunters fling the corpses into the river below and decide to explore the hidden cave opening behind the waterfall, hoping it is some kind of back entrance. Being skilled climbers Sherabb and Snorri go down first to scout out the entrance. At closer inspection the entrance looks a bit look like a dwarf face with its wide open mouth being the actual entrance, although, most of the statue has been worn smooth by the water. After some acrobatics the two enter the cave, following it to a large cavern about 60 feet into the earth. There are signs water rushed through the corridor recently. The cavern behind is mostly filled by clear water pool, but several 10 feet tall statues with glittering crystal eyes draw the most attention. Sherabb recognizes Moradin, Anduiras, Basaia, Masela and Azrai and suspects there is a sixth statue around the corner that of Reynir. Before these gods died at Deismaar these would be the gods of earth, wind, fire, water, spirit and body. There is also a corridor leading up, although, it is closed by sturdy looking steel bars. The two return without entering the cavern, and it is decided the cavern warrants some more exploration with the whole group and soon the rest is climbing down and entering the cavern as well.
[DMs note: Getting into the cavern was a short skill challenge. The PCs used Athletics, Acrobatics, ropes and teleporting powers to get down and into the cavern. I let them come up with a plan first, and then let them roll a few checks. Never mentioning the PCs are in a skill challenge, does wonders against the "quickly lets all throw dice"-syndrome I have seen happen so often in LFR. Snorri and Sherabb did most of the rolling since they were doing most of the risky climbing. After all, there is no need to force all PCs to participate. No PC failed, so nobody ended up in the raging river ]
Once everybody is inside, the hunters begin to explore the shrine-like cavern in earnest. The pool is deep, and cold except for a narrow shallower part along the edges of the cavern. Sherabb and Snorri take the lead, with Jakul traversing the other side of the pool. Around the corner the hunters note the expected sixth statue as well as the end of the cavern. At the ceiling of the cavern they can see the opening of a large shaft, which apparently was the origin of the recent flooding. Curios, the hunter proceed towards the shaft. When they get about halfway, suddenly the crystal eyes start to glow and the central part of the pool starts to whirl. Two armored watery humanoid shapes armed with long harpoons rise from the pool. The hunters try to talk, but these critters, recognized as water archons, seem to be furious and beyond reason. The fight that ensues is really challenging, especially since the archons are able to pull victims into the pool, seriously hindering our landbound hunters' ability to fight, but at least only those that can swim end up in the deep. The two hit hard, although their accuracy suffers due to their rage and when the last one dissipates under Sherabb's blade leaves the hunter completely drained and Snorri and Adamar on the brink of death.
[DMs note: The fight was brutal on the defender due the setup, but it certainly made the swordmage shine since he could actually teleport with his aegis instead of slowly moving through the water. Of course, there was also fear of being knocked unconscious while in the deeper parts of the water. It seemed to be a fun challenging fight, but I was glad I had reduced the damage of these two brutes beyond the usual for level reduction. At the end of the fight, some of us had to run to catch the last train, hence the rather abrupt end.]