The Sword of Bothh

Game 4

Whispers of the Dead

—The group made camp inside the tower at the end of the dam’s walkway. They lit a fire that crackled warmly against the cold stone. Outside a rainstorm squalled against the tower, the sound of water slapping hard against it echoing about the circular room.
—Thorax stationed two guards on watch duty of the five members of his clan that were left with him.
—As the party sat around the fire, they began discussing what they would do once they reached Cliffden.
—Blackmane’s outlook seemed bleak in light of the battle they just fought. He told them that though his resolve was no weaker than before, he was beginning to doubt that they would make it to the sword alive.
—The others seemed to agree that if they faced a similar or stronger resistance to the one they met earlier that day, then their chances of progressing were grim indeed.
—They thought for a time about devising a strategy, but without even knowing the layout of Cliffden, they didn’t even know where to start.
—Moran asked Gurshh to tell them all he knew about their location, but he did not know much beyond the fact that the place they were looking for was called The Vault of the Tempest, and that it was situated somewhere in the ruined city.
—With that, the group turned in for the night, resting their wounds.
—Their sleep proved to be fretful and uncomfortable, for they could still feel that nagging feeling that they were being watched by unseen eyes.
—It was only an hour or two before Moran and Red Eagle were awakened by this feeling of watchfulness intensifying drastically.
—The rain had stopped, and the air was whipping with cold wind. Moran decided to climb to the top of the tower to survey the surroundings, while Red Eagle stayed below, keeping watch over the others.
—Moran stood with the White Wasp who was on watch, who had evidently seen and felt nothing out of the ordinary.
—As they stood, Moran noticed a strange, blue-white mist begin to appear down the path, near the bodies of the dead Hobgoblin army.
—The mist moved rapidly, engulfing the gatehouse, and creeping steadily toward the tower – against the wind. As they watched, footsteps could be hard, like steel clanging onto stone as the mist crept ever closer.
—Moran tore down the steps to rejoin the others just as Red Eagle was waking the others. They spotted something moving toward them through the broken doorway, and down the dam’s walkway.
—One hundred Hobgoblin spectres in full battle regalia marched their way forward, blue-white against the stone. The ghostly apparitions moved with the determination of their living counterparts, and swiftly moved into the tower in perfect formation to surround them all.
—The Orcs were frozen by this sudden appearance of the dead amongst them, not daring to say a word.
—Then, the Hobgoblins moved aside, parting the way for an impressive, statuesque Hobgoblin with a black-dragon helm to glide his way forward through the ranks toward the Orcs.
—He stopped in front of them, drew his greatsword from his back, and lifted it with two hands above his spectral head.
—He plunged the sword down into the stone, and took a knee. With a ghostly voice, he expressed his gratitude to the Orcs for having freed them from their tether to the material plane.
—The other Hobgoblins plunged their swords into the dam as well, kneeling in respect like their leader.
—The leader introduced himself as General Bastikhal, and explained that the army had died fighting the undead which guarded the dam. Due to the nature of their gruesome deaths, they were not able to cross over to the land of the dead until their deaths had been avenged.
—He went on to say that the Orcs had destroyed the undead that killed them, and thus they were freed from the material plane.
—As thanks, Bastikhal offered to provide the last of their power to assist the Orcs in gaining access to Cliffden.
—The Hobgoblin general raised his hands, and the Hobgoblins were absorbed into balls of light, cradled by the spectral leader’s fingers.
—Bastikhal then pressed his hands together, compressing the light into a large pearl, glowing with blue-white light.
—He offered the pearl, saying that it would allow them to join the dead for a short time, allowing them to get by the defences of Cliffden.
—The Orcs seemed very nervous about this, particularly Moran who looked positively mortified at the idea.
—However, Gurshh accepted that the group might have dire need of this gift, and agreed to take it.
—None of the Orcs seemed keen on taking the item from the supernatural being, and so Red Eagle suggested that Thurtog go and take it for them.
—Thurtog agreed, and the general greeted him by name, thanking him for his service and duty. He handed Thurtog the pearl, and he stowed it in a sack for safekeeping.
—With that, the general said that he had given them what little power the Hobgoblins had left. Before he departed for the outer planes, he considered aloud that were the circumstances slightly different, the Orcs and Hobgoblins could have formed an alliance that day.
—He faded into the night, leaving his ghastly sword in its place where he thrust it into the dam. The other spectral swords remained as well, one hundred of them plunged in different spots along the walkway.
—The party took some time to absorb what they had learned. They then considered their fight in the morning, and attempted to rest once again.
—Luckily, the eerie feeling of being watched had passed, leaving behind only a sense of peace behind. The Orcs slept more soundly that night than they had ever before.
—The next morning, they packed to leave. They decided to leave the boars behind, as they would have difficulty trying to get them into the city.
—Gurshh had no idea what to expect once they reached the gates, and said that the strategy would have to be stealth this time. He openly hoped that whatever the gift that the general had given them did, it would facilitate their needs covertly.
—The group made for the pass, and continued toward their goal.
—It was hours of travelling along the winding cliffside road before they spotted their destination.
—Before them the city of Cliffden stood, its towers clinging to the mountainside.
—The Orcs took note that the city was no longer in ruins. The undead had erected scaffolding, and seemed to be repairing the damage slowly.
—What’s more, the walls crawled with soldiers holding torches. In front of the portcullis of a massive gatehouse, a fire giant skeleton plodded back and forth, guarding. Two more sat nearby, staring off into nothingness.
—The group hunkered down behind a nearby cliff, keeping just out of sight. They assessed the situation, and concluded that they had no choice but to use the pearl, and see what effects it would bring.
—Moran made it clear his trepidation at using the item to enter the land of the dead. Culturally, he feared it would interfere with his connection to his ancestors.
—Despite his reluctance, he knew that they did not have any other way to get through, and so he braced himself for what came next.
—Thurtog lifted the pearl, and threw it to the ground. Immediately, blue-white smoke erupted from the orb, floating in midair for a few moments before rushing into the mouths and eyes of the Orcs surrounding it.
—Each of the Orcs expressed that they felt cold, but did not feel much different beyond that.
—Just when they were starting to think that the pearl hadn’t worked, they noticed that their skin had become transparent. Within moments, the sin had faded away, revealing only a skeleton. What was more, when they looked around, the Orcs saw that they had all assumed the form of Stormcaller skeletons, in perfect battle gear resembling their foes.
—They looked at each other, and decided to waste no more time, knowing that they would only have a short duration before the spell wore off.
—They turned the corner, and marched toward the gatehouse of Cliffden.
—As they approached, the guards eyed them. However, the undead seemed fooled by their appearance, and immediately raised the portcullis, granting them entry into the dead city.
—The Orcs made good use of their time, making their way into the city itself. They had no idea where they would find the Vault, or even how they would recognize it when they saw it.
—They passed by a few doors, and encountered skeletal guards stationed at various points within the city. Every now and then, the group would spot a landmark that seemed to lead them ahead.
—Red Eagle laid bear traps down whenever he spotted a guard. Luckily the undead took no notice of this, convinced that the Orcs were their own kind.
—The group took so much time, however, that they reverted back to their true forms before reaching the Vault. They became less cautious, hoping now to reach their destination quickly, before being seen.
—At last, they rounded a corner and came upon a pair of reinforced, wooden double-doors, barred with steel. The doors were flanked by a pillar on each side, with sconces that held torches.
—Thorax and Gurshh kept watch with the Wasps at the exits, ensuring that their backs were protected as Moran and red Eagle set to work inspecting the doors.
—Moran discovered that the bars parted down the middle, suggesting that they could be moved by some mechanism. He inspected his surroundings further, and noticed a large mosaic set into the ground beneath them. The tiles depicted a large, swirling circular storm, with a white eye in the centre.
—Upon inspecting the fist-sized black pupil of this eye, Moran saw that it was some sort of keyhole. He traced his finger along a groove running from this eye all the way to the pillars on each side.
—He thought about this for a moment before lifting his arms to strike the pillar. He paused, and received confirmation from Gurshh that he should indeed try this. However, Gurshh warned them all that the sound of breaking brick would surely heard by the Stormcallers.
—Understanding this, Moran plunged his fists into the pillar, ripping the bricks out to reveal a hollow. Inside the hollow was a weighted mechanism, controlled by chains.
—In the distance, the group herd the sound of a battle horn being blown – The Stormcallers were coming.
—With haste, Moran attacked the chain holding the largest weight. The mechanism broke, and the bar holding the door was released.
—Before he could reach the other pillar, Moran and the others turned and saw their enemy approaching. A large group of Stormcaller soldiers marched toward them, swords drawn.
—The Wasps began firing their arrows, led by Thorax. Nearby, Gurshh steadied his sword for combat.
—Moran lunged toward the other pillar, and landed a devastating blow, shattering the brick, revealing the mechanism inside.
—The skeletons started advancing, closing the distance quickly to the Wasps. As the Red Eagle watched, one of the Wasps fell, killed by a longsword strike to the chest.
—The Red Eagle began tossing some explosive bottles of oil to into the crowd of undead swarming toward them. Though effective in striking their targets, the bombs did little to hinder the mass of creatures pushing forward.
—Moran made short work of the other door’s mechanism, and watched as the other bar clattered to the ground. He quickly ran for the doors, and pulled them open, revealing a dark passage inside.
—Red Eagle and Thurtog ran inside quickly, sparing no time. Before going in himself, Moran turned to Blackmane, motioning for him to go inside.
—However, Gurshh stood his ground, telling him that once they were inside, there would be nothing to stop the undead from following them. He urged Thorax, Red Eagle, Thurtog and Moran to go in alone.
—Moran was aghast at Blackmane’s stance, and told him how foolish he thought he was being. He knew that there would be no stopping the undead from following, whether or not Blackmane laid down his life for the others.
—Moran turned to Thorax, telling him to run in as well. Thorax held fast as well, knocking the slaying arrow in his bow, shaking his head. Evidently he wanted to stay with his men. Under the circumstances, Moran seemed to understand.
—Red Eagle did not.
—Moran turned his attention to Gurshh once again,saying that all they would have to do to secure their safety would be to block the entrance after they ran inside.
—Thorax asked if Gurshh could do anything about that once the others had gotten inside, and he told them that he could do his best.
—Moran did not accept this as an answer.
—He mustered a mighty leap, telling Gurshh to run inside. He landed atop a massive statue, weathered and cracking from years of disrepair.
—Moran thrust his hands into the base of it, intensifying the cracks. The statue did not break. Below, another of the White Wasps died under the might of the undead army. On the other side, a huge fire giant skeleton emerged from behind a corner, threatening one of the other Wasps.
—Moran mustered all his strength for another blow, and thrust his hands into one of the cracks. The statue gave way at its base, high above the doorway below. The statue began to fall forwards, and Moran dove downward, running along its length, landing on the ground before it. He pushed Gurshh inside, leaving Thorax outside.
—As the statue plummeted toward him, Thorax readied to fire the arrow at the giant skeleton.
—However, Red Eagle was not about to let his friend die. He threw his grappling hook, landing a hit on Thorax’s armour. The teeth of the hook gripped the back of his chestpiece, and Red Eagle gave a mighty yank.
—As he was pulled backward, Thorax fired his slaying arrow. It hit its mark, landing square between the eyes of the fire giant skeleton, killing it instantly.
—Thorax flew bodily backwards, landing inside the mouth of the dungeon just as the statue smashed to the ground.
—Silence immediately fell over them all, the passage blocked, the threat nullified.
—They all stood for a few moments, not saying a word, letting the silence wash over them along with the smell of decay from the passage beyond.
—Suddenly, Red Eagle let out a shout of triumph, laughing hard, his voice echoing along the stone walls of the chamber.
—Gurshh joined in, letting out a hearty belly-laugh and then a lion-like roar of victory.
—Moran removed his mask for the first time in memory, wiping the sweat from his brow.
—Thurtog smiled and told the group that he had a feeling that he now understood why their superiors had sent them to complete such a mission.
—They all settled down before noticing Thorax. He stood with his hands on the stone blockage, not saying a word. He waited a few moments before pushing off of it, and striding briskly down the corridor, down some dark steps, and out of sight.
—The others knew this must be due to the fact that he had lost all of his men. They were a little ore solemn as they followed him down the steps.
—To provide light, Red Eagle lit his swords aflame, and led the way forward on Gurshh’s command.
—They found Thorax in a chamber down several flights of stairs, and determined that this spot might be a good place to make camp. They reasoned that they could likely fall back to this position, and arrange for some defences to barricade entry.
—Gurshh and the others seemed to like this plan, so Moran set to work, breaking off a few rocks from the walls, and assembling them nearby the opening for later use.
—The group then decided to plunge further into the dungeon, their work just beginning.
—They went down another flight of stairs, and Red Eagle lit a torch sitting in a sconce on a nearby wall.
—Instantly, torches in identical sconces all along the chamber lit up, illuminating the place with flickering light.
—The room was large and square. It appeared that they had walked into a cell block with an atrium situated in the centre of the chamber. Hanging from the ceiling and into this atrium was a massive pillar, suspended by giant, thick chains. These chains ran from four points on the pillar’s circumference into structures situated in the four corners of the room.
—The atrium was deep, the floor the group now stood upon was little more than a wide, stone walkway that ran along each of the four walls. One could look over the railing of this walkway, and look down into the black expanse below. It seemed that the atrium was a sort of pit, whose depth could not yet be determined due to poor lighting.
—Red Eagle was concerned that they could not clearly see what was in the high ceilings, 20 feet above them. He asked Moran to begin playing his drum to intensify the light. Moran obliged, and the corners of the ceiling were illuminated at last.
—The group set to work without much ado. Moran went to inspect the terminals which ran from where the chains met the walls in the corners of the room down to the floor.
—He found that these terminals required a key to operate.
—Red Eagle went to inspect an opening on the north side of the chamber. A row of steps led up to an iron gate, through which a darkened room could be seen. In the torchlight, Red Eagle could just barely make out a set of steps in the centre of the room.
—He also spotted a terminal on the side wall, likely a keyhole to open or close the gate.
—Thurtog stayed by Red Eagle, and was given a torch to hold to provide light. Thorax stood idly, not saying or doing anything in particular.
—Gurshh reported that he had looked through one of the doors, and found what lay beyond to be a sort of processing room for prisoners, noting nothing else of interest.
—Moran decided to press forward, and found a wooden door between a few cells that seemed to lead out of the chamber.
—He found it to be locked, and broke the door down with his fists. The door splintered, revealing another dark passage. He went inside without hesitation, and felt his way along the adjacent wall, having no light of his own to bring with him.
—Meanwhile, Gurshh decided to inspect one of the other doors, readying his sword to break into it.
—Moran continued to feel his way down the chamber, until suddenly he felt his feet give way. He tumbled down half a flight of stairs before righting himself, letting out a mighty yell in the process.
—Gurshh and the others heard this racket, and their heads snapped around curious as to where their companion could have gone.
—Red Eagle told Thurtog to go and see what had happened to Moran, and he went, somewhat grudgingly down into the dark expanse of the stairwell, torch in hand.
—Thurtog caught up with Moran, and they stood surveying the bottom of the stairs in front of them. They seemed to have entered another cell block, and the atrium was visible through the bars of the cells on one side.
—Red Eagle followed down shortly afterwards, hearing Gurshh attempt to break through the door upstairs as he found them.
—The three went down the corridor to the east, and found that it was blocked by a cave-in. They moved down the southern path instead, cells on either side of them.
—Moran strode forward, ignoring Red Eagle’s protests at him going ahead alone without light.
—Moran found himself in the centre of a junction of sorts – a corner that had paths down four sides.
—As Moran stood, marvelling at the dark surroundings, Red Eagle told him to at least stop so that he could lay down a bear trap or two for anything that might approached
—Moran just said “a bear trap? What for?” when his question was suddenly answered.
—Thurtog’s eyes widened as a pair of red eyes gleamed from the nearby passage which led into southeastern end of the cell block.
—A creature stepped from the shadows revealing an eight-foot beast, half bear, half owl.
—The Owlbear shrieked loudly, and another of its kind stepped from the adjacent path.
—The two beasts screamed their cries at the fresh meat in front of them, and combat began.
—Moran wasted no time at all, and lunged forward towards the mouth of the southeastern path.
—The Owlbear ventured a strike, but Moran was ready, hitting the beast hard with a solid punch.
—The claws of the Owlbear still found their target, hitting Moran soundly in the chest.
—Moran then fired another punch at the beast, driving his fist into the creature. The Owlbear screeched in pain, it’s high-pitched shriek transforming into a roar.
—Nearby, Thurtog fired an arrow at the Owlbear emerging from a doorway to the south. The arrow clattered against the back wall, harmlessly falling to the stone floor.
—The Owlbear let out a cry, and ran forward, blood spurting from its eyes in rage. It struck Thurtog with its claws, scooping him up into a firm hold.
—Red Eagle moved forward, and cut the Owlbear to shreds, slicing off the arm that held Thurtog, pinning its other arm and a leg to the stone with his short swords, then drew his greatsword and cut its body in half, spilling guts everywhere.
—Moran was not finished with the Owlbear he faced on the other side of the junction. Moran looked around him quickly, and spotted chains hanging from the walls on either side of the archway leading into the southeastern passage. He grabbed the chain on each side, and was struck in the face by the Owlbear for his trouble.
—Shrugging off the hit, Moran got to his feet, and pulled on the chains. The stone on the right-hand side refused to budge, but the stones supporting the archway on the left gave way to his pull, and the arch partially collapsed, pinning the Owlbear down.
—Thurtog stood nearby, and asked Moran if he still wanted the kill. Moran shrugged and gestured allowing Thurtog to pass.
—Thurtog silenced the screeching Owlbear with his longsword, spilling blood on the cold, hard stone.
—Just as the final blow was struck, Gurshh came running into the junction, his sword drawn. He remarked at how quickly they took the Owlbears down, and grinned in spite of himself.
—Thorax walked slowly from the shadows, following Grushh, saying nothing.
—The group began carving the Owlbears up for meat, admitting that each of them had eater worse, and decided to head back to their fortified position in order to eat and rest for the night.
—As they walked, Thorax took Red Eagle aside. He told him that he forgave him for what he had done.
—Red Eagle was offended, saying that he had saved Thorax from his death. Thorax lamented that he could not die with his men, but said that he had new friends to die beside, which was at least a small comfort.
—The two parted, and moments later, Thorax sought to speak with Moran as well. Thorax told Moran that he had been thinking about the fact that the Wasps do not have death rituals, and said he had discovered why.
—The White Wasps die together. In battle, if the Wasps die, none remain for such ceremonies.
—Moran, Thorax, Thurtog, The Red Eagle and Blackmane made their way back to their camp in silence.

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