Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess
Part One - Chapter Fifteen: The Horrors Below
It was on the night of Godsday, the 25th day of Harvester, in the Common Year of 580, when the Company of the Green Dragon, along with several members of the Champions of Valor, defeated the nefarious gang known as the Shapechangers. Aware that the Champions of Valor were about to summon the City Watch to the warehouse where the three criminals had been killed, and having no desire to be around when the guards arrived, the band hastily departed the area and returned to the pawnshop, not realizing that making such a quick exit might actually work to their disadvantage. Once back at the pawnshop, the band discussed, for a while, their future plans with their henchmen. Following this the henchmen took their leave and returned to whatever inns they were currently staying at, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully – that is, at least, for the Company of the Green Dragon. On the following day, Waterday, the 26th, the band began making preparations for their return to the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. Some of their equipment needed to be mended or replaced, particularly in the case of Corvyn who had been blasted by a lightning bolt on the previous day. Tadwin also wanted to buy a few spells at the Wizard’s Guild. So that afternoon he paid a visit to the guild and while there he ran into Elstar of the Champions of Valor. Elstar filled him in on what took place after the band left the warehouse on the night before. According to Elstar, when the City Watch showed up, Valen and Caleb told them that it was the Champions of Valor who had defeated the Shapechangers, never even mentioning the Company of the Green Dragon and implying that they had hunted down the criminals on their own. Elstar, whose quiet demeanor was easily dominated by the boisterous braggadocio of Valen and Caleb, had little choice but to go along with his band mates. Then, accompanied by the City Watch, Valen, Caleb and Elstar paid a visit to Halric’s Exotic Pet store where Halric himself was taken in for questioning and all the pets that exhibited an enchantment of any kind were confiscated. The next morning, all the enchantments on the pets were dispelled and they all turned out to have been polymorphed adventurers. Two of them were the Champions’ missing members, Riordan and Rimian. After some questioning of the victims it appeared that the Shapechangers had targeted adventurers who had some experience, though not a great deal, because by doing so the Shapechangers could also acquire what wealth and magic items they might have as well. Some of the victims had been ambushed after a night of drinking at an inn such as the Green Dragon, while others had been attacked following a night of carousing in the High Quarter or the Garden Quarter. All of them however, had recently come into some wealth through either adventuring, or gambling, or both. Clearly, the Shapechangers had done some casing before deciding on their next victim. But most intriguing of all was that some of the victims, Riordan and Rimian in particular, were quite certain that the Shapechangers included a mysterious fourth member that was never apprehended. This fourth member was described as being fairly small and having whispered in a soft voice, possibly indicating a female. Then there is the fact that much of the wealth and many of the victim’s magic items were never recovered, some of which might still have been stashed away in the lair of this mysterious fourth member, or in the lair of the drow, Clannair Blackshadow, which still had yet to be located. After hearing all of this, and completing his business at the Wizard’s Guild, Tadwin went and reported the news to the other members of the band and they considered whether or not they wanted to continue their investigation into the Shapechangers. By now the band had already let two other enemies escape, the rogue known as Jan who was a member of the outlaw band that had attacked them at the pawnshop, and Heironymous Spune, the evil cleric of Wastri the Frog God. The last thing they wanted to do now was add to the list of unvanquished foes – though for all they knew, Jan could have been the mysterious fourth member of the Shapechangers. Still, there were many other possibilities for the identity of this fourth member, which, of course, included any number of people that the band had never met before. Nevertheless, one name familiar to them did come up – and that was Imogen, the barmaid at the Green Dragon Inn. Zeke was the one who suggested that Tadwin cast a mind reading spell on her because of her connection to the disappearance of Riordan. To Tadwin, the idea of Imogen, who looked to be in her early twenties at most, being a member of the Shapechangers sounded pretty far-fetched and he was very skeptical about it. But, despite this, he agreed to give it a try. So the band made plans to visit the Green Dragon Inn that night at around 8 o’clock. When the band arrived at the Green Dragon Inn that night, there was the usual crowd of patrons and Rohnam, the locally famous bard, was again providing the nightly entertainment. Also in attendance were the Champions of Valor, all five members who were undoubtedly celebrating the return of their two lost members. It had been suggested by Brom, before the band’s arrival at the inn, that tonight they might actually follow through with the proposal made by Manhorr on their last visit to the inn, and buy a round of drinks for everyone in attendance in an effort to encourage some support from the crowd. But the band did not get the chance to do so before something occurred that would change their minds. Soon after the band had settled down at one of the tables, Rohnam finished one of his tunes and immediately made an announcement to the crowd, telling everyone to give the Champions of Valor a big round of applause for bringing down the criminal gang known as the Shapechangers, which had been responsible for the abduction of several adventurers, some of which were frequent customers at the inn. As encouraged by Rohnam, the crowd gave a big cheer for the Champions of Valor and it seemed fairly obvious that Valen Rowendale had taken all the credit for something that the Company of the Green Dragon had largely done on their own. Elstar happened to glance over at the band at this point and it was clear that he was personally embarrassed and ashamed for what his band mates had done. This, of course, angered the band and made them question whether or not Rowendale was actually a paladin as he so often liked to appear. But disputing Rowendale’s claims at this time would have looked shallow and resentful and likely would have done nothing towards gaining the favor of the crowd. Even buying everyone a drink at this time seemed inappropriate, not to mention distasteful to the Company of the Green Dragon. So as much as it pained them, Brom in particular, the band decided to let the Champions of Valor have their day in the sun. For they knew that in time, they too would get theirs and the next time the Champions of Valor found themselves in a difficult situation, the band would think twice about offering any assistance. As for the other reason for the band’s visit to the Green Dragon Inn, Tadwin eventually got around to casting a mind reading spell and attempted to read the mind of Imogen. Unfortunately, while he was able to detect the presence of thoughts in her, he was unable to read anything clearly. This didn’t necessarily mean anything, other than the fact that Imogen was able to resist the spell, and most likely unwittingly. But it did impress Tadwin somewhat and made him like her even more than before. On the other hand, Tadwin did pass on a few details about the ruins of Castle Greyhawk to Ricard Damaris, the innkeeper, in exchange for some other new rumors about the ruins, which suggested that Zagig, now a demigod, observed all that occurred within the Power Tower. Another rumor claimed that a great black obelisk of unlimited magical ability rested deep within the ruins, which would grant wishes to any who asked. The later rumor, though somewhat intriguing, sounded rather dubious to the band. The remainder of the night was uneventful. And so, on the following morning, that of Earthday, 27th day of Harvester, the Company of the Green Dragon, accompanied by their henchmen, including Taylif, the fiancé of Ashba, made their third journey to the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. Three and half hours after leaving the city, during which time the band came across no opposition, they arrived at the ruins at about a quarter to eleven. It took a bit longer than usual to get everyone across the fear-inducing bridge to the Tower of Zagig. But from this point, at the request of Tadwin and his ever-present curiosity, instead of heading towards the War Tower, they went instead to the Power Tower across yet another scary bridge. At the Power Tower, which resembled the War Tower in many ways except that it had two pyramids built next to it with no visible entrances. And instead of dwarves, there was a band of elves guarding the entrance to the tower. Tadwin spoke to one of the elves, who stood upon a platform over the entrance, along with several other elves armed with bows and manning a pair of ballistae. Tadwin asked him about magic items for sale and the elf, who never gave the band a name, asked in return a few questions about their identities and any references they might have within the city. Tadwin told him who they were and, as a reference, offered the name of the librarian at the Wizard’s Guild, Jawal Severnain, who coincidentally happened to be a dark elf. Tadwin was then told that there were a number of priests of Boccob who resided in the lowest parts of the dungeon and that it was they who sold the magic items. But because they did not have an appointment to see them, and because it was the band’s first visit to the Power Tower, they would need to return in twenty-four hours. So the band told the elves they would be back and afterwards made their way over to the Tower of War. Once again, the band made their agreement to Stillguar and the dwarves for their tax on the gold. But unlike the two previous visits, thanks to the presence of their henchmen, they did not need the assistance of the dwarves to open the doors. Upon entering the tower, the band found it to be much as they had left it, with no reanimated undead to deal with. It wasn’t until they reached the second underground level that they began to notice some changes since their last visit, as some of the bodies of the ogre-kin that had previously been killed were now missing, presumably used as food for whatever remained in the dungeon. And those bodies that were still in place, which amounted to quite a lot, were now decomposing and filling the dungeons with the smell of rot and death. Picking up where they had left off, the band looked in the southern most room of the second underground level where the first of the lifts were found, and saw no occupants there. So they returned to the feast hall where most of the ogre-kin had been slain. Here the smell of rotting corpses was almost overpowering. And so the band assigned their henchmen the very grim task of dragging the bodies into a nearby chamber with a relatively high ceiling and to begin burning the bodies. The band, meanwhile, investigated the chamber that lay just beyond the feast hall, which had three more lifts in it, all designed to lift troops as opposed to cargo, as well as a set of stairs leading down. Making use of a recently acquired ring of invisibility, taken from one of the Shapechangers, and a darkvision spell, Brom scouted ahead. About thirty-five feet down, he came to the bottom of the lift chamber and found a wide set of stairs that gradually descended towards the southwest. Here, the band saw the first signs of the horrible monster unleashed by Vaprak, as the walls were gouged with huge claw marks and portions of the walls and ceilings had collapsed. Soon they came upon another set of stairs leading down, but it was completely blocked off with debris. So the band followed a narrow corridor and came to a side room that had once been a chapel dedicated to Nerull, the God of Death. Here again, a corner of the room had collapsed. But the only other passageway was likewise caved in and the band’s only option was to dig past it or head back upstairs and take the other lifts going down. They opted to dig and so spent the next four hours clearing out the passageway enough for them to get through. Finally, at about a half past four in the afternoon, the band was able to crawl through the debris. Again, Brom scouted ahead and came to a side room that appeared to have once been a dining hall for the clergy of Nerull. When Kelgor touched a rust colored altar at the far end of the room, food and water suddenly appeared on the altar. After some inspection, the food and water was found to be edible and it was believed that the altar could create the food and water several times a day. So, naturally, the band stopped to eat. A short while later, Brom crawled through the rubble again and found that the passageway ended in a T-intersection. At the intersection he found an owlbear chained to a wall and almost starved to death. Going on a hunch, he fed the owlbear and soon discovered that the owlbear began to perceive him as a master. So Kelgor healed it up and they continued to feed it, hoping they could keep it tame and make it into a pet. By this time, the band had reported back to their henchmen who had completed their task of burning the ogre-kin corpses. So the henchmen were then brought downstairs and given the task of clearing away some of the rubble. Meanwhile, the band explored three rooms that had once been the quarters of the priests of Nerull. These priests had since been transformed into wights, which the band had to fight. Fortunately, none of the band members were struck by the wights and so none were drained of any life force. Afterwards, a diary was discovered which detailed the last remaining days of the priests and described the attack of the monster which was said to be “a great wraithlike monster that looked like the drawings of Vaprak”. From here, the band headed down the opposite corridor. At this point, they came across another blocked passageway, and it took them another hour to clear out the debris. It was about seven o’clock when they finished. On the other side of the debris, the passageway went on for about 30 or 40 feet and came to an end at a shoddily constructed stone wall. Just prior to the stone wall a short side passage ended at a door. When Brom opened the door he found the remains of a dead dwarf that was impaled on spikes on the opposite side of the door and a steep passageway leading up. It appeared as if the dwarf had fallen victim to a trap while attempting to escape. It was at about this point that Brom’s darkvision spell wore off, and since the band was running low on spells, they decided to rest. So they retreated back into the dining hall, which would have been easily defended from any attackers and had an apparent endless supply of food. There they spent the next nine hours or so resting and regaining spells. It was about five in the morning, on Godsday the 18th, when the band was ready to resume their explorations. With Brom leading the way once again, they returned to the door where the dwarf had been impaled on spikes, and with the aid of a rope, climbed up the inclined passageway, which had apparently been a trapped stairwell with stairs that shifted to form a steep ramp. At the top of the trapped stairwell, they found a torture chamber that was lined on most sides with prison cells. The corpse of an ogrillon was found there with a poisoned knife in its belly and the group surmised that it had been killed by the dwarf who was attempting to escape only to die moments later in the stairwell. Finding no other access into the other parts of the level, the band then returned to the shoddily constructed stone wall and began dismantling it. Their henchmen, meanwhile, worked on clearing the passageway out behind them in order to free the owlbear. An hour or so later, the band was able to move beyond the stone wall and here again, using the same precautions as before, Brom scouted ahead. Immediately he came to a natural passageway that sloped down into a large cavern. Cautiously he peered around and spotted several large creatures hanging by their hooked claws upon the walls and ceiling, apparently waiting there to ambush the band. Fortunately, due to his invisibility and stealth, the creatures did not detect Brom. So he was able to double back and warn his companions. The band then devised a plan and made a few preparations. Then Brom quietly crept through the cave to an opening in the other side, again without being detected, and there he waited. When the rest of the band felt they were ready, they moved to the edge of the cavern and Tadwin quickly cast a fireball into the room, striking about half a dozen of the creatures. But to the bands great surprise, the fireball did little to slow the creatures down as they suddenly dropped from the walls and ceiling and attacked. Corvyn and Kelgor, who stood on the front line, got a couple of good swings in on the strange looking creatures, which unknown to the band at the time, where called hook horrors. But the band soon discovered just how fittingly named these creatures were as the hook horrors then struck with their gigantic hooked claws and their savage beaks. Both Corvyn and Kelgor were immediately grappled by the huge beasts which began tearing at their flesh with incredible ferocity. Corvyn managed to tear himself away from the creature that grabbed him, though already he was severely wounded. But Kelgor found himself in a situation even more dire than Corvyn’s as he was unable to break free and was on the verge of being ripped apart. Certain he was about to die, he only had time to whisper a quick prayer to his deity, Marthammor Duin. Somehow, unbelievably, his prayer was then answered as Tadwin came up with a very clever and fortuitous solution to the dilemma and quickly cast a grease spell on Kelgor’s armor. It proved to be just enough for Kelgor to slip from the hook horror’s grasp. Immediately, the band began to make a fighting withdrawal, realizing they stood no chance against the hook horrors without a better plan. Tadwin continued to launch fireballs at the monsters, but onward they came. Kelgor was knocked unconscious and had to be carried or dragged back through the mound of rubble that still partially blocked the passageway behind them. Eventually, all but Brom managed to retreat behind the pile of rubble, which thankfully served as an effective barrier between the band and the hook horrors. Brom, meanwhile, stayed hidden from the monsters, separated as he was from the rest of the band. In a nearby cave he found a dozen animated skeletons and a dozen animated zombies which he tried unsuccessfully to lure into the battle. He then sent his tumor familiar, Twig, to sneak past the hook horrors and deliver a message to his companions directing Tadwin to launch another fireball, which then allowed Brom to sneak past the hook horrors. By the time everyone was safely behind the rubble barrier, they had only managed to kill only a couple of the dozen or so hook horrors that had attacked them. Obviously in need of a better plan, not to mention more spells, the band was left with little choice but to rest again even though it had not been long since their last rest. So again they retreated to the apparent safety of the dining hall and spent another eight hours resting. Then, because part of their new plan was to make use of Kelgor’s incense of meditation, which requires eight hours of prayer and meditation, they had to spend another eight hours in the dining hall. While Kelgor was busy with this, Tadwin, Zeke and Brom used the time to work on learning other spells or formulas. Finally, at about a half past eleven o’clock that same night, the band was ready to resume their battle against the hook horrors. Going with the assumption that they were going to use everything they had in their fight against the hook horror’s, they devised a fairly radical plan of having Corvyn do most of the fighting, while Zeke and Kelgor stayed behind him and healed him up as the battle progressed. Tadwin, meanwhile, would continue to launch all his offensive spells at the monsters while Brom would do what he could to take advantage of opportunities. As before, Brom snuck into the cavern only to find about half as many hook horrors guarding it, although these were fully healed. Again he moved to the opening on the far side where he found another chamber with hook horrors in it. These he managed to draw away to another chamber before the battle began. Then as planned, the rest of the band began the attack. This time, things went much better than before. Corvyn was able, for the most part to keep the hook horrors at a distance, making it more difficult for them to grapple him, while Zeke and Kelgor stayed behind him to assist him. Tadwin meanwhile launched as many fireballs and other offensive spells as he could and gradually the band wore them down. When the fighting came to an end, at least temporarily, the band had managed to kill twenty-three of the huge monsters – a pretty impressive feat. Though no more hook horrors chose to enter the battle at this time, it was obvious to the band that there were still more to defeat and at this point the band was again low on spells.