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Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 9, Part 1

October 14, 2016

La Brea Tar PitsThe rulers of Caerelia suddenly appeared at the outskirts of the Nomen centaur camp with an audible pop! The arrival of the four humans, who were covered in gore, blood, and ash, was a bit of a shock to the nearby centaurs, to say the least. But their identities were soon ascertained, and they were then led into the camp to clean off before meeting with Aecora Silverfire, the Daughter of the Moon and leader of the tribe. As they walked through the camp, they saw that it was quite busy as the horsefolk made ready for war.

When the humans were finally ushered into Aecora’s tent, the priestess asked about the missing centaurs: her daughter Xamanthe and Kerezar the Watcher, as well as the scouts that had accompanied the group south. But the adventurers didn’t have much to report – they had parted ways with the scouts before finding Aecora’s daughter or her daughter’s lover. They did have some news of what lay beyond the Valley of the Dead, however. The Daughter of the Moon was not pleased to hear that the taboo against entering the Valley had been broken, but the group’s experiences seemed to confirm that some ancient evil had awoken there.

The Daughter of the Moon congratulated the group on defeating the zombie horde, and offered her condolences that, despite past hostilities, the inhabitants of Varnhold could not be saved. Indeed, she feared that the Varnholder’s fate would be shared by her people next! She was asked by her guests if the Nomen knew if Vordakai was a cyclops, or something else – the PCs were wondering if the zombie cyclops they encountered was a fluke or not – and she replied that the legends did not say. But the pieces fit, noted Mestinous the elven wizard. The cyclopes ruled much of Golarion in times long past, so it made sense that an age-old warlord and his armies could have come from that civilization.

The Caerelians wanted the Nomen to march on the Valley immediately, but Aecora refused, for her people were still making preparations and gathering their nummbers. Once the harras was at full strength, she replied, it would gallop down to the Valley of the Dead. “And then go into the Valley?” Remesio the cleric wanted to know. Aecora was non-committal. “We shall see,” she said. The centaurs were accustomed to fighting on open terrain; if Vordakai was indeed within the stone island that the party found, the centaurs’ strength and numbers would not be very useful inside. “Well… do you have any individual bad-asses you could send with us, then?” The centaur leader shook her head. Their “bad-asses” were also built for fighting in the open. If or when Vordakai emerged from the island, they would attack, and probably not before.

With the meeting concluded, the PCs had a few days to kill before Iofur the druid arrived. Satampra the swashbuckler made himself useful to the centaurs by helping out wherever he could, while Orseen the warpriest started evangelizing to the centaur children and got banned from the camp.

Boy, Are My Arms Tired!

Once Iofur made it to camp, he had to turn around and fly straight back! Remesio teleported himself, Satampra, Orseen, and Mestinous back to the plateau above the Valley, where they camped out for a few days while they once more waited for the druid. During that time, an aerial search for the wyvern lair turned up its cave and some loot: coins, gems, a set of Ustalavic silverware, and a greatsword +3 that bore the crest of a northern Brevoy house. Orseen gladly claimed the blade. The rest of the treasure went into the party’s bag of holding.

The group also traveled down into the Valley and its thousands of tall, weather-scoured stone markers. The cleric said a prayer of comprehend languages and read what markings were still legible on the stelas. They were, as the explorers had previously assumed, gravestones. The party tried digging up one of the graves so that they could use speak with dead, but they only found remnants of objects that suggested a body might have once been interred there. The body itself had long turned to dust [fun fact: human bone only last for about 300 years!].

After Iofur finally made it back from his pointless round trip, he ferried the others up to the landing on the island, where he had previously spotted a large stone door hidden behind a curtain of vines. The ledge was about 60 feet above the water, and roomy enough for all five adventurers. The vines were cleared, and Satampra the sorta-rogue searched for traps. Nothing. So they tried to open the door, but could not get it to budge. Iofur invoked the spirits within the stone to shape a hole in the door that they could all fit through.

The humans were immediately assaulted by the stench of sulfur. They held their noses and climbed through the opening, where they found a giant-sized downward-sloping passage cut into the limestone. Unfortunately, the air didn’t just smell bad, it was toxic as well! As they strode down the passage, they were seized by moments of coughing, gagging, and retching, none moreso than Satampra, who lost a couple of points of Constitution. The hall led to some stairs going down, and at the bottom was a sizable chamber that had no exit.

This is the (Tar) Pits

Well, that’s obviously secret door territory, right? And indeed it was! Satampra retreated back outside to get some fresh air while the others searched for the door’s trigger. A section of wall swung inward, towards the PCs, revealing a large natural cave beyond; so big, in fact, that their light did not reach the far wall. The ceiling was covered with stalactites, while the ground was actually a sea of foul bubbling tar. A couple of rock ledges extended out from the walls, the closest of which was still about 30 feet from where the adventurers stood. It was hot, and stinky, and the air quality was actually worse than it had been in the hall.

The group ran back outside so that they could breathe and debated how to proceed. Most of the party could fly or teleport across, and Satampra could jump. Orseen was SOL on his own, but could tag along with someone else. They were very wary about getting over to one of the ledges, though, and not being able to get back to the secret door, so they discussed ways to string up ropes – one to stand on, one to hold – to facilitate a mundane crossing. But they still didn’t know what else was in the room.

varnhold-vanishing-session-9-map-1So the druid wildshaped back into a dire bat, thus gaining blindsight, and flew down the hall and into the chamber. He was able to sense the far wall, along with another ledge and some posts that rose out of the muck at regular intervals; they might have once supported a bridge over the tar. On the previously unseen ledge stood a humanoid figure, who suddenly began chanting! The druid-bat turned tail and flew away.

The group relocated from the ledge to their folding boat in order to rest, for the divine casters had discovered that they could cast air bubble, which would remove any danger from the toxic air. You can always depend on there being a spell to solve any problem that adventurers might have in D&D land… The druid and the cleric settled on a plan for covering the whole party with bubbles, and then waited for morning to arrive.

When the explorers went back down the hall the next day, they found the secret door closed but otherwise unchanged. This was a big missed opportunity on my part – I should have arcane locked the door and maybe put a magic trap on it, now that the tomb was alerted to the intrusion. C’est la vie. The door was re-opened and Satampra, carrying a continual light torch, did a running leap over the tar to reach the closest ledge. Iofur followed in dire bat form.

Before the others could make it across, however, a fireball came hurtling out of the darkness and exploded just in front of the doorway, catching the entire party! While the rest of the group fell back, Satampra and Iofur raced forward and ducked down a side passage to escape the arcane spellcaster. They hurried down the natural tunnel, which turned away from the tar cave and then ended in a stone door.

Never Split the Party!

varnhold-vanishing-session-9-map-2Well, now what? Run back past the spellcaster to rejoin the party, or go forward? The least-wise and most-wise characters in the party met in the middle and decided to open the door that stood before them.

On the other side of the portal was a large crypt, where the walls contained numerous empty burial niches. There was no sound, no light, no sign that anything was in the room at all. Dust covered everything and floated lazily in the stale air as the pair advanced into the room. Large doors were set in both the left and right walls, on the far side of the chamber. Having found neither danger nor treasure, the human and the bat figured they might as well go further, and headed for the left door.

And thus they were taken by surprise when two souleaters dropped from the ceiling and cut away at their very essence!

Next: souleater 3, a slug for thee!

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9 Comments
  1. Ooooh, it’s getting exciting, neh?

  2. Pinkius permalink

    Ah the old zombie wizard across a tarpit trap. He was actually a pain in the but for us decision-wise. Then we black tentacled him and shot him full of arrows. he flew over the tar and fell in.

  3. WaitaSecond! Appeared with an audible pop?
    They have Teleportation now?

    • Yeah, Remesio the cleric is 9th level and has the Travel domain. This was their first real use of it, as I recall.

      • Shiney!
        Though I’m a bit surprised (if) Mestonius doesn’t have it.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Travel domain is pretty good stuff, has he used dimensional hop?

      • In true Remesio fashion, he only recently discovered that he can do that. He uses it for the first time in the next session, I think.

        Mestinous decided not to learn teleport since the cleric could already cast it.

      • That’s fair enough I suppose.

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  1. Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 8, Part 2 | Daddy DM

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