Original date of this Journal: 07/28/09
This original posts has been written by our DM: Madfox11
[DM Note: All players were present this time.]
With the defeat of the Hell-Caller, the hunters had the freedom to investigate the room. Behind the statue they found a small room with stairs leading down into the big statue room. In the past it probably was used by the leaders of the stronghold to prepare their speeches, now it is the sleeping room for the Hell-Caller and leader of the demon-dwarves. Besides treasure though there is no information on the demon-dwarves or the reasons for their presence in the stronghold. The hunters also find two more doors behind the steel curtains that cover the walls, one leads to the sleeping quarters of the demon-dwarves (there are 40 beds) and the other leads down to an area filled with the sounds of digging. The hunters suspect it is the entrance to the tomb who they had explored the previous day and decide to give those prospectors a visit before turning their attention to those at the gates of the stronghold.
[DM Note: Obviously, deciding on what path to take took a lot more time then the above words suggest. At times my group can spend an unusual amount of time discussing what to do next or to change directions midway.]
Once down, the hunters' suspicions are confirmed when they spot the large circular slab in the middle of the room and the dozen or so demon-dwarves trying to dig their way through the slab. Most of the dwarves appear to be simple miners, but two battleragers and a priest appear out of side corridors soon after the hunters reveal their presence. A large arcane mark on the slab forms a warning, which is confirmed when the demon-dwarves avoid stepping on the slab during the fight that follows. Suspecting some kind of trap, Nuryam uses thunderwave early to push one of the dwarves on the slab and immediately regrets the action. The slab is indeed trapped, but the arcane explosion of frost covers most of the room, hurting the demon-dwarves in equal ways if not less as the hunters. The ice freezes most to the floor, and since one of the demon-dwarf priests' aura inhibits healing powers it nearly costs the life of Barsjt and Jokul. Luckily the remaining hunters have the ability to teleport one way or another which allows Snorri to drag Jokul out of the aura, and a potion of healing puts the Rjurik priest on his feet again. Barsjt is less lucky, but Snorri and Sherabb finally manage to put the demon-dwarf priest down just as that priest starts calling down a rain of hellfire in the room. The hellfire would most certainly have killed the unconscious Barsjt. With the priest down, the fight is quickly finished.
[DM Note: Fun fight. The glyph was a simple glyph of warding, and the players enjoyed the surprise when it was triggered.]
After recovering their breath, the hunters start exploring the area in earnest. The room with the stone slab hold little interest. They know what they will find on the other side. One of the side corridors has collapsed ages ago, but a third corridor leads to a large circular room dominated by a teleportation circle and the ancient structures that allowed the builders to guard the circle at all times. These niches contain supplies as well as several straw-filled (but otherwise empty) crates. The Hunters quickly reason the demon-dwarves entered the complex through this teleportation circle. They also find a once well-hidden door that leads down to what was once a large library. If any books had survived the ages, the demon dwarves had looted it some time earlier and all the Hunters find is a small book with steel pages in an unknown language. With the aid of a Comprehend Language ritual Nuryam deciphers the book as some kind of introduction book on elemental summoning and binding even containing an interesting reference to binding elementals to once own body in way similar to how the Khinasi infuse their own bodies to become genasi. It is generally assumed that the magic is unique to the Khinasi, but apparently dwarf elementalists thought up the procedure long before humans even came to this continent. Of more interest to the Hunters probably were the rituals allowing the caster to open a portal to the Shadow World on spots with a weak barrier as well as the Magic Circle ritual. While Nuryam and Sherabb study the book, the rest sets up camp in the library, blocking a few doors to prevent being surprised.
The next twelve hours are uneventful, disturbed once by digging sounds further on in the complex, which the Hunters quickly conclude is by the demon dwarves trying to get past one of the blocked doors. These dwarves never enter the library though, and when the remainder of the complex is explored it becomes clear those remaining demon dwarves left through the teleportation circle. With their leader dead, and most of the complex looted, they apparently had little reason to remain. With no remaining opposition, the rest of the stronghold is quickly explored, although a part remains unknown because it is blocked off by collapses. Happy with the results, the Hunters leave the complex, inform the spider about the defeat of the demon-dwarves and join Splug and the Azuth at the canyon's entrance to await the return of their Sidhe employer - a wait that ended after two uneventful days.
The Sidhe listens to the report by the Hunters with great interest, while I nervously await his report on the findings on Sliebheinn and Niobhe*. The Sidhe notes that the two elves drew the attention of Sidhe society when they left Lluabraight after having helped some humans or Anuireans, Shadow Hunters according to the rumors (probably a reference to Staal's meeting with the two). Later a second scandal was caused when Sliebheinn died, and Niobhe was accused of his murder. According to the Sidhe the details on the trial are fuzzy, as if somebody covered it up (likely their mother, but you know more about the situation then I do). In the end Niobhe was found innocent, but she was banished for helping humans. Last information has Niobhe helping the humans of Wierrech against the Gorgon during the Bleak Winter. According to some of those stories, she conjured some very powerful spells and the Sidhe expressed his suspicion that the Fae** and Niobhe are one and the same (it does make sense). Funnily enough, none of the Hunters wonder why the actions of two ordinary Sidhe would cause a scandal, or how the Sidhe concluded that one has a bloodline powerful and pure enough to allow one to become an ersheighlien. Mortals keep surprising me. At times they show great insight and curiosity, while at other times they accept things at face value. In any event, the news is interesting, and I wonder how the Hunters are going to contact the Fae and what her side of the story will be. For now we have nothing to worry about.
[* See post #5 for info on these two names and why the PCs were interested in these two. I gave them xp for solving a minor quest, first time I did that, but it is a nice way to reward players for remembering minor things from previous sessions and making some headway in personal side quests.
** The Fae is a powerful ersheighlien sorceress that prowls the mountains in the neighboring nation and seems to be opposing the Gorgon. Ersheighlien are the creatures with a very powerful bloodline who allow those powers to shape their own bodies. It grants them additional powers at the cost of their humanity, but unlike awnsheighlien (who have the bloodline of the evil deity Azrai) it is a conscious choice. It is as a result also much rarer since few people with a strong enough bloodline are willing to make that sacrifice.]
With the task finished, and the price paid, the Sidhe guides the Hunters and Azuth back to Khurin-Azur. It is here that the Hunters finally get some much deserved rest. After a couple of days, they buy supplies, and join a trade caravan on its way to Aulbrunn. Finally, they have decided to start their investigations of the fire of the chapterhouse in Aulbrunn, now almost 2 months after having been asked to do so.