Tellurian Tales (vol 10): The Glitterhame

When we last left our heroes, they had recently reunited at the dwarven delve of Mor Golen. They were joined by Rorik's old friend, Boren, at great cost to himself. The party of six adventurers headed north to reclaim Mor Dunehaim.

01 Mar - 04 May

Though small bands of orcs rove the Haran Pass, the party manages to avoid any major conflict. The orc raiders travel in small groups, and the surprise of stumbling upon a single group of two dwarves, two humans, an elf, and a hobgoblin--all well-armored--usually proves enough to discourage attack. When it doesn't, a sudden barrage of arrows from Invellios usually scares them off.

Boren spends the journey in prayer. He no longer feels Moradin in his heart. Yet in his appeals to Mya--dwarven goddess of hearth and family, wife of Moradin--he feels a faint answering glow. There is hope then that he may succeed in this quest and atone himself in the eyes of his pantheon.

05 May

Circling far around the entrance, the party approaches Mor Dunehaim from the back slopes. Rorik leads them to the tiny opening hidden in the undergrowth where ladder-like steps carved into the side of a narrow chimney lead down into darkness. They unload the supplies from Gretel--10 days of extra food--and lower it down with ropes. Then, with heavy hearts, they shoo the pony away into the wilderness. With luck, they will be able to track her down again, should both she and they survive the surrounding orcs. Strohm does his best to conceal the sign of their passage. The party descends.

The humans and elf uncover their glowstones. They find themselves in a large, natural series of caves, carved from the rock by the dark flow of an underground river. The party follows the river upstream.

As Rorik pauses to wonder at a new stalagmite near the edge of the river, Invellios calls a warning as he sees an eye open in the center of the stone pillar. Tendrils shoot out from the stony beast, and its maw opens wide with a chuckle: "Ah, a warm dinner!" A tendril wraps around Rorik and drags him to the water's edge. Boren calls on the beast for peace. It pauses, considering. In broken Common, it says, "I eat one. Rest shall pass." The party springs to Rorik's defense.

Tendrils fill the air, each coated with a tacky, strength-sapping goo. Though the warriors are soon entangled and dragged toward the roper, they continue to attack the beast, axes and swords flashing and sparking against the stone-like carapace of the beast. Luceo and Sarah rain magic through the air above them, but most of it proves ineffective. But finally the scorched and cracked roper shivers and dies. Rorik hacks the corpse to pieces, revealing a few bones and gems in its gut. Invellios and Sarah can barely stand, so weakened are they by the roper's poison.

Around the next corner stands the backdoor of Mor Dunehaim--a great pivoting stone door, reinforced with iron. And it is closed, barred from the inside! Rorik describes the mechanism to Invellios, who spends the next hour working on leveraging the bolt back, working through the crack between the door and the wall.

The door finally opens, revealing a number of storerooms carved into the rock. One is flooded; others are filled with decaying foodstuff. And one contains a odd puddle that Strohm and Invellios are observant enough to spot as something more than water. It moves, slurping towards them across the floor. They are able to dispatch the ooze without serious incident. Then they pile a few broken crates on the remains and burn it away.

The cavern at the center of the storerooms is still natural stone, perhaps carved out of the rock by the small waterfall falling from above. Near the waterfall, a flight of stairs rises up to a great cavern, very dimly lit by phosphorescent moss on the ceiling. Rorik sighs, "The Glitterhame. This whole area includes the gardens, the mines, the clanless holds, and the Crypt of Kings Past."

The party passes under the open portcullis and into the Glitterhame. As they enter the cavern, tentacles reach from the rockfall to their right, clawing at Boren. The party scrambles, hacking at two gricks only to find that most of their weapons bounce off the rubbery hides. Four skeletons shamble out of the darkness, though Luceo binds them to his will. Through a combination of magic and persistence, the gricks soon lay dead. After a very brief scout of the surrounding area, the party decides to withdraw to the storerooms to recover until morning. They bar the portcullis behind them, leaving the dominated skeletons in the Glitterhame as guardians.

The party bars the great door to the river, and then scours the storerooms to be sure no surprises await them. Rorik and Boren spend a couple hours wading through a flooded, stagnant room trying to find the drain with their feet. They manage to clear the drain, and the water slowly begins to empty from the room.

06 May

Late in the night, Boren begins to shiver. By dawn, his convulsions are tapering off into a trembling paralysis. Sarah identifies the disease as "the shakes", probably caught from the stagnant water; she is able to magically cure it, though Boren is still stiff. Invellios and Sarah are still weak from their encounter with the roper.

The party passes through the various fungi and tuberous shrubs of the Glitterhame gardens without incident. They find the clanless holds populated by a number of skeletons and zombies--the restless fallen bodies of both dwarves and orcs, which rise from the floor and amble out of corridors. The battle proves easy, thanks to Sarah and Boren's powers of turning. In the thick of battle, two wights dash out of a corridor, but they vanish a burst of light and ash from Sarah's greater turning.

The next chamber--another small waterfall cavern--is guarded by four stationary skeletons. However, they are wreathed in blue flames! Luceo manages to subject two of them to his will. During the battle, a few blood-sucking, bat-like stirges fly down to attack Rorik, but he slaps them off his body before they can insert their proboscises. This chamber is very cold, rimed in a strange frost. Luceo identifies it as "grave rime"--produced by high levels of negative energy, associated with desecration, evil, and undead.

Following the downward course of the small stream from the waterfall, the party enters the mines. While they dispatch a couple lone zombies at the entrance, more and more walking bodies shamble out of the mines. Soon, the party is surrounded by over twenty zombies. Sarah and Boren work to turn the undead, but it is slow going as the grave rime seems to absorb their positive energy. Strohm, Rorik, and Luceo's commanded fiery skeletons cleave through the cowering zombies.

The battle reveals further surprises. Some of the zombies are nearly unkillable, so full are they with negative energy that their wounds close over nearly as fast as our heroes can inflict them. Other zombies seem to have an unnatural craving for flesh, two of them managing to throw themselves on Rorik and bite him repeatedly. It's harrowing, grueling work, but eventually the bodies of the orcs and dwarves lie dismembered--dead again. Strohm wades across the stream to dismember a lone zombie on the far side.

In exploring the mines, a great segmented creature with eight long tentacles dashes down the wall from the ceiling, paralyzing Strohm. Rorik and Invellios manage to dispatch the carrion crawler before it can paralyze anyone else. Strohm recovers a few tense minutes later.

Returning from the mines, Luceo ascends a stairway part way to determine if the grave rime is likely to be stronger on the next level. Luckily, he notices a large nest of stirges. However, while drawing forth a scroll of color spray, they notice him too! Luceo manages to knock out four of the foul blood-suckers, but the two remaining drop down and latch onto him, sucking his blood. Rorik slices one of them open, soaking Luceo in his own blood as the bloated creature bursts. Luceo finally manages to pull the other one free and crush it. The party dispatches the unconscious stirges before continuing their patrol of the Glitterhame.

Our heroes carefully search the Glitterhame, including the area they already covered. Oddly, they encounter no undead among the sepulchers of the old dwarf kings. It seems they have laid all the pests and undead to rest. Luceo counts the fallen, decaying bodies, marking each with his stick of chalk. The grave rime seems strongest near the stairs up to the clanholds. Luceo fears that even darker undead will await them there. The party returns to the storerooms to recover and nurse their wounds, planning to continue their assault the next morning.

The layout and some of the encounters of Mor Dunehaim come from Richard Baker's Forge of Fury adventure scenario (played backwards).

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