The Darkness Under Mount Norad

The Darkness Under Mount Norad:
The 5th Day of Alfather,in the year 112 AC
Croaker Cavern: Home of the Dragon Frog

Our tale begins in the sequestered mountain town of Shrike’s Perch. She has grown from the seed of an armed refugee camp, and blossomed from the ashes of the Great Convergence into the only known bastion of civilization for seven races native to the newly colided worlds… Hidden away in a mountain pasture fortified by sharp cliffs, rivers, and waterfalls; it’s people are the last hope for the survival of civilization as we know it.
It is the Sixth of Alfather, in the year 112 AC or After Convergence. The festival of Alfather’s triumph over The Scourge ended three days ago, but the townsfolk have left up the decorations to bring bright cheer to the otherwise dull and depressing shades of winter. The Nightly Snowfall has left the town resembling a white, hilly meadow; with tiny flashes of Silver and Red where festival decorations can be seen upon doors and windows.
Within the confines of the town hall, whose hill-like facade belies the bunker-like security of the structure within, sits the Community Hall. This ampitheatre-like meeting place is empty but for Nine Elders and (# of PCs) youths. The Old have called upon the young to act on thir township’s behalf, as has happened so many times in so many stories, to push back the boundaries of ignorance and fear; and to protect what they both hold dear

I. The Explorers.
A. We need a new Crew!
1. Team.
a. Crusius: Human, Fighter 1.
b. Educe and The Warlord: Hobgoblin, Summoner 1.
c. Sonya: Alfar, Sorceress 1.
d. Hector: Human, Mimic Bard 1.
e. Author: Hauflin, Cavalier 1.
f. Khous: Snow Leopard Clan, Oracle 1.
B. Reasons.

This team has been organized to replace the previous exploration team that failed to return before the passes closed in the winter time. They are to be trained and ready by the time the passes clear in the spring. Hector, Author and Educe have been included because they are both considered troublemakers, and worse: Talented troublemakers by Thomas Ebers, the town’s lead lawman. Additionally Hector’s older brother Hamish was the leader of the old team. Author is a fully trained Cavalier, and one of Thomas’s best pupils before he turned from the order… Educe was reccomended for the team due to his ’master’s’ love of violence and fighting. Usefull in a wilderness explorer, but a liability around town. Crusius was not originally slated to be on the team, but his interest in the saftey of his adopted brother Hector, and his missing Brother Hamish, have led this capable warrior to successfully petition for a place on the team. Sonya, despite her youth, was selected by her mentors, The Arcanist Vryflagan and the Swordsmith Nymar, because of her skills at appraisal and her quick mastery of the destructive element of fire. Khous, an oracle from another township, has recieved training from Oracle Amitri. He has lost his township, and the exploration team is his only chance to find his way home.

C. Amitri HalfAlfar is the leader of the council of Nine, and the town has relied on her power and guidance since the moment she could walk at the age of three years. Though now in her 82nd year of life, she appears no more than a healthy fifty, but for her eyes; milky to the point of seeming without iris or pupil. She has a kind, if weather-worn face. Her long, dark hair is straked with white, and bound in a loose wind-braid that keeps it free from her face. She wears furred white robes, that allow her to blend in with the snow outside, and has an unadorned Elven longknife, a dagger to humans, bound to her side with silken cord. While the rest of the council prepares to leave, she attends to you.

II. Missing Hunters.

A. A Search and Rescue Mission: Durin Boron (Dvergar), and Jake Whitcomb (Human) were sent out sever days ago to hunt Huemul, also called the Mountain Snow Deer by Humans. They were to return before nightfall the same day that they left. Though Durin is unwed, his parents Tarquin and Kula Boron, are very worried about him. Jake has a wife, Sidney, and a son by the name of Cody. They have come to stay at the shrine for the last couple of days, and have spent their time in prayer and fasting. You are to discover their fate. While the town’s Wardens could accomplish this task, it is left to you as a training mission.

1. Author, Sonya, and Hector sought supplies and a new Banner to be supplied to them by the council. (Perhaps including a Badger in it’s Hereldry) Oracle Amitri agreed to petition for a Banner, but stated that equipping them would have to wait for the spring thaw.

B. Searching Around Town: The team began it’s mission with a trip to The Hunter’s Mark, a Hunter’s lodge and outfitter shop owned by the town’s chief Nature Warden: Singham Ramstalker. Singham related that he had checked Durin and Jake’s equipment before they left on their fateful trip on the morning of the 3rd of Alfather. Durin had been carrying an axe that had the rune of the Boron Clan engraved on it’s head; while Jake had been carrying a signature Light Crossbow that his family had passed down for several generations. Each generation had engraved a woodcarving into the weapon’s Stock. (Though Singham was not questioned as to the exact Feeling unprepared for the wilderness, Hector requisitioned a waterskin and a couple of days worth of trail rations from Singham. Before moving on with the investigation the Explorers visited Durwin Paestor at the Hospital, to borrow a pair of stretchers for Jake and Durin. These were entrusted to The Warlord for the trip.

The Team then traveled to the Foundry at Shrike’s Falls to seek out the parents of Durin Boron. They were met at the door by the Dvergar Watchman Reedy Magnus. Author loudly declared them the “Second Great Exploration Party”, whilst mysterious lights played about him as if to hereld his greatness. Cowed by the mighty declaration, Reedy quickly saw them into the Dvergar Warrens below the Foundry, and to the den of Tarquin and Kula Boron. Over warmed mead they exchanged what information they could, and drew an example of the Boron Clan rune: A Dvergar rune meaning “The Clensing Stone”. They revealed that Durin and Jake had been friends for a short twenty years, but he seemed like a good kid; and that Durin enjoyed going on hunting trails that took them near the high passes of Mount Norad, where the town’s Dvergar population had originated. many times he had returned with a small knicknack or artifact dropped by the Dvergar Refugees during that time. Author requested an object with Boron’s scent on it so that Sunny, his riding badger, could follow it; and was rewarded with a smelly, used shirt. While the couple strove to show as little emotion as possible for thir son, they agreed to go see the grief-sticken Sidney Whitcomb at the Shrine of the Guardians upon the next day.

Leaving the Borons, the team moved on to the Temple of the Guardians to question Mrs. Whitcomb themselves. They found Oracle Amitri meditating in the ampitheatre. (as the Shrine served as both town hall and as the center of Religious worship) Sonya ran up to her, and loudly demended to know the location of Mrs. Whitcomb. Perhaps because of Sonya’s childlike nature, or perhaps because they were both HalfAlfar that had been chosen to serve the town at a young age, Amitri took no offense to the girl’s insolence, and smilingly directed them to the Shrine to Lady Fate. Upon entry, the group found Mrs. Whitcomb and her boy asleep before the altar; and being tended by it’s priest: Jeremiah Fane. They learned that Jake had been training to take Jeremiah’s place as the local representitive of Lady Fate, as each Priest of the Balance had to serve one year as a citizen for every year that he spent as a priest; dividing his life evenly between the Mortal and the Divine Worlds. Sidney Whitcomb and her son, Cody confirmed that Jake and Durin were good friends and had gone hunting together many times before. Nothing odd had passed between them, and the trip was actually quite routine for them as Jake couldn’t farm in the winter time. Again Author requested an object with their quarry’s scent, and was given a pillowcase that Sidney had brought with her from home as a comfort. Before leaving, Sidney begged the Explorers to find her husband, and Jeremiah blessed them in the name of Lady Fate. He asked that she grant them the power to bring equilibrium to this troubled family.

Satisfied that they had leaned all that they could from the families, the Team returned to The Hunter’s mark to Discuss the Details with Warden Ramstalker; and agreed to meet at the Stone Circle at sunrise, before parting for the night.

B. On the Hunt: The team convened the next moring as planned, and headed out of town along the River Azata’s Run. before they go more than a few paces out, they were met by Crucius, Hector’s adopted brother. Crucius insisted that because he had already lost one brother, he would not risk the loss of another, and petitioned to join the expedition. Seeing no reason to deny him, the group welcomed him to the hunt.

As they prepared to continue their journey two Alfar hunters (Wearing Ghille Suits, and carrying Longbows) by the names of Nailo Menel and Gaius Ner met them, and professed to know Jake and Durin. They discussed the difficulties of hunting wild Huemel, and noted the common hunting practice of annointing themselves with Huemel urine to disguise their scent. They agreed to travel with the Explorers u and show them the beginning of Durin’s favored hunting trail. Once at the trail Author took time to convince Sunny, his Riding Badger, to follow the Scents on the Pillowcase and Shirt. Sunny seemed to catch them, and began to blaze a trail through the snow.

After about twenty minutes, the Explorers found an area of disturbed snow; and a quick search revealed frozen red blood-droplets. Crucius seemed to thing that a fight had taken place here, and a discovered a trail to the north that held partial boot-prints and further blood droplets. The Trail led to…

C. Description of the end of the trail to the Players:

Ahead of you is a dark and twisted pine, standing 20’ at it’s highest branches. Deep, thick, blue-green Needles covered in snow hide the inner branches and alcoves within. The Blood Trail, as well as faint remains of booted tracks, lead into an opening between bent and twisted branches.

III. Mongo’s Lair.
A. We Missed the Party!

As the Explorers appraoched the Pine, Hector thought he heard a faint, “Help Me!” in a soft, high voice; almost like a bird mocking human speech. Sadly he could not pinpoint the source. Thinking that someone might be in there, little Sonya shouted, “Is anybody in there!?” at the top of her voice, but no one answered. After a brief discussion Author, Sunny, and Khous moved forward to investigate; while the rest of the Explorers kept watch. Author made a snowball, and khous cast a light spell upon it, before they tossed it into the dark under the pine. Not seeing anything amis, the trio stalked inwards with weapons at the ready to find the abandoned nest of some enormous bird-creature, and signs of a struggle. Feathers and blood were everywhere, as were drag marks leaving the tree in two directions: One Northwards away from town, framed by huge frog-like footprints, and another set going south-east towards the River Shrike’s Intent and from there to the town! before they could explore this further…

B. Something Scary! (Discription to Players)

The bizarre beast sits perched in the rotting branches of a once-mighty pine. It resembles a great Toad the size of a man; whose back and legs are studded with bloodshot, glaring eyes in great wart-like sockets that constantly drip slimy yellow pus. Their original eye-sockets have been mutated into tiny, fanged maws that constantly taste the air in the manner of a serpent. Twin tongues allowing them to taste their approaching prey at a distance. The wide, lipless mouth opens to reveal twin rows of needle-like fangs curved inwards to secure their prey while a second set of jaws set at the back of their throat snaps off bleeding chunks. A long, veiny, tongue drips sticky greenish mucus as it snaps almost three times the creature’s length; promising a horrifying fight against the inevitable…

…Said tongue lashed downwards and slammed into Author before drawing his flailing form upwards towards it’s glistening jaws. Sunny leapt into a battle-frenzy at his Master’s sudden peril and bit at the creature savagely, while Khous smashed it with his crowbar. Neither the Warlord, Hector, or Sonja could get a clear shot! Just before it’s savage teeth could close around the hauflin’s head, Crucius cut it’s tongue, and Author fell into a heap below it. In this moment a lucky shot from Educe’s Crossbow pierced it’s brain, and it fell from it’s perch onto Author’s sling-lance. Though dead before it’s impalement, Author quickly took credit for the kill, and claimed that he had defeated many of these “Dragon Frogs” in the past!

GM’s NOTE: I purposely left this creature unnamed to see what my players would do with it, and a large number of names were suggested as the game went on: Frog Dragon, Dragon Toad, and Croaker. Dragon Frog was simply the first…

III. Wilderness Tracking and Exploring the Fissure:

The Explorers followed the track going South-east to the banks of Shrike’s Intent, but found that the boot-prints here blended in with the prints of ther returning hunters. They assumed that this meant that one of their quarry had perhaps made it home safe. Seeing this as a dead-end, they backtracked to the Pine, and followed the tracks northwards.
The trail led them to a fissure in a broad rock-face leading upwards towward the summit of Mt. Norad. Steam rose from the darkness within, and many more “Dragon Frog” tracks led both in and out of the opening. After a quick discussion about how best to light their way: light was cast on Author’s Sling-Lance, a rock that was suspended by a fishing rod from Educe’s back by the Warlord; and Crucius lit a torch…
Leading the way with his Torch held high, Crucius found his way through the twisted rock wall, and into a metal-sheathed hallway stained with rust, slime, and molds. The air smelled of death, decay, and darker corruptions, while the floor made nauseating squishing sounds as the Explorers moved about. With a wider space to work with Author, mounted on Sunny, moved to Crucius’ side; while Hector and The Warlord brought up the rear.

Heading left they quickly came to a metal fire-door with a circular glass port set high. Looking within they spied a smooth stone-walled room carved from the living rock of the mountain, with two other metal doors, and a pair of curious stalagtites on the ceiling. Even as Sonya warned that the Stalagtites were out of place, Author pushed open the door only to have them drop and fly towards him with great speed. One punctured his shoulder-guard with impressive force and wounded the Cavalier. The other missed completely and embedded itself in the stony wall nearest the door. A frantic battle ensued that ended when one of the creatures was blown apart by Hector’s Shotgun, and the other ripped from Author’s armor by the Warlord, who crushed the hapless beast in his clawed gauntlets!

The Explorers then proceeded down the east passage, following more anphibian footprints. The floor was covered in three inches of icy, murky water that splashed an echoed each movement. The passage led to a left turn, and ended in a closed fire-door. Behind the door, the room beyond could be seen to be flooded to head level. Seeking another way, Sonya led the search for an alternate way through; but it was Hector who found the loose grate hidden behind slime mold in the wall opposite the door. It was also hector that nearly lost his face to the angry Dragon Frog that lurked there… A quick skirmish ensued that started with Crucius’ bastard sword, and ended by Hector’s shotgun. The Warlord refused to be demeaned by entering the filthy crawlspace, and was unsummoned by Educe. Author took point alongside Sunny, for unlike his companions the Hauflin could walk upright through the tunnel. They took the right-hand passage at the T-intersection, following a moaning sound and ignoring the humming from the left for now. They came to another Grate, and as they pushed it aside they saw…

A. The Fate of Jake Whitcomb…

(Description to Players) Growing from the very rock itself is a fleshy, pulpy… thing. It’s sickly mottled purple flesh is reminicent of a quivering, pulsating mass of exposed muscle fibers and sinew. Rough crusts, like weeping scabs, dot the creature’s slick, rubbery form. From these dark masses stare exposed, lidless yellow eye balls with diamond-shaped irises of constantly shifting, scintilating colors. Slits of various size and maddeningly non-symetrical shapes reveal the same fanged twin maws of the froglike creatures you encountered before. In fact the shape of several of those horrors appear to be slowly budding away from the body of the bloated horror before you. Many tongues, eyes, and slithering tongues wave and drip at your approach, and in the half-light you think you see the still-breathing remains of one that was one human or alfar that have become one with the mass of flesh to the point where you cannot tell where one ends, and the other begins. His eyes focus on you, revealing recognition, and despair. he begins to wail, and as he does, the creature’s many fanged mouths echo and mock him…

Assuming that the hapless humanoid was none other than Jake Whitcomb, the team sprung into action. Hector and Sonya acted first, dropping from the grate and hurling fireblasts at the creatures. As the first bolts hit home, a fully-formed Dragon Frog tore free from one of them and hissed it’s rage, before tentecles lashed from the wall-beasts and began to draw the hapless sonya and Hector towards their waiting mouths. Crucius swept forward and cut Sonya free, and Educe called forth a Grey Hobgoblin warrior to engage the new Dragon Frog. Author set himself to charge the vicious beasts, and Khous struck the nearest beast with a crowbar. Fierce fighting ensued, and the beast engulfing poor Jake was blown open by hector’s shotgun, revealing all manner of mutated organs and corruption. As the beast screamed it’s death throes, so did Jake! Khous and Hector moved to attend him, and were joined by little Sonya. The leapard-man attempted to surgically cut the dying Jake from the creature’s dead flesh, as hector cauterized the wounds, and Sonya worked healing charms to try to stabilize him. While half of their team worked feversihly to save Jake, the other half continued the fight.

Though embattled by tenticles, and clashing jaws Author, Crucius, Educe, and his Grey henchman fought feversihly. The grey was crushed in the Dragon Frog’s jaws, and dissapeared with a cry of anguish; while the Cavalier and the Fighter rained blows upon the Wall-Creature. Educe re-summoned the Grey, only to have it meet it’s fate a second time… This gained valuable seconds for Author to slay the wall-beast and use his tactical acumen to set up Crucius for the kill on the Dragon Frog. Educe summoned the hapless Grey Warrior a third time, only to have it beg to be sent back, at least until it realized that it’s assailant was dead…

Though their efforts to save him had been nothing short of heroic, poor Jake succumbed to the shock of his partial transformation and the damage incurred by the frantic surgery. Hector comforted a discouraged Khous, as Sonya looked away; perhaps to hide tears, or maybe to spare herself the sight of Jake’s twitching, horribly mutated corpse.

B. The Darkness below Mount Norad…

While searching the room, they watched in amazement as the bodies of the wall-beasts began to disintegrate. Within their rapidly decaying bowels were 170 Iron Pieces, a plain golden ring, and a second ring adorned with a ruby! They claimed these as war gelt.
The collapsing bodies of the Wall-beasts revealed fetid passages through the walls that led to a dark, organic-looking cavern. Chittering, and peeping noises could be heard from the darkness. Crucius prodded the wall with his dagger, causing it to bleed a clear, caustic slime. This, they decided, was enough!

C. Dungeon Crawl…

After removing the corpse of Jake and one of the Dragon Frogs outside the crawlspace, the Warlord was recalled and asked to prepare them for travel on the stretchers. While this was going on, Author checked on the source of the mysterious humming from the west passage of the crawlspace. This was revealed to be a set of four great fanblades that were inducting air into the area from parts unknown. The team thought it best to explore this further after they had a chance to replenish themselves. They sealed all of the other fire-doors that they passed to contain any future incursions by the beasts.
They did however decide to check on the rest of the passage near the entry fissure before they left. They came to a T-intersection where two more Dragon Frogs lurked, and leapt to the attack. Though the Dragon Frogs were quickly dispatched, illuminating the are revealed another Wall-Creature stuck at the top of a shaft. Fortuately, there was another fire-door that could block it off. Unfortunately the creature had Crucius and hector in it’s grasp before it could be closed. The Warlord strode forward, and ripped Crucius free from his foe, and the rest of the group formed a human chain to free Hector. As the creature produced more tenticles to renew it’s attack, the Warlord grabbed the door, and was pulled back by the prone Crucius, giving Educe a chance to run forward an seal the door, locking the beast within!

D. Return to Shrike’s Perch.

Feeling that they had contained any future threat as best they could, the team moved quickly to return to the saftey of the town before sundown. They travelled past the darkened Pine, and on to Shrike’s Intent, finally arriving back at the North Wall. They hurried within and reported their findings to Warden Singham Ramstalker, who agreed to gather the council for a full report after dinner. Hector used this opportunity to return the supplies he had borrowed from the Warden.

IV. Epilogue.

The Council of Nine listened intently to the group’s tale. Young Sonya made accusations of negligence to it’s Dvergar members, asking what they had done to help the town against such horrors. The Alchemist, Kurin Norad, replied that they had supplied the town with arms, armor, tools, and had made their homes into virtual bunkers; beyond that they had thought these creatures sealed into the mountain decades ago. What more did she want?
The Stone Mason, Brim Norad, pointed out that even though they had thought these creatures sealed away; they were here now, and would have to be dealth with. He asked that continued exploration of the outpost revealed by the fissure be made a top priority of the Explorers. He also agreed to find out what facility it was, and attempt to locate a map. He thought it might have been a weather station. The Explorers dubbed it “Croaker Cavern: The Home of the Dragon Frog”.
The Oracle agreed to break the news to both the Whitcombs and the Borons. As the town’s spiritual leader it was her responsibility. She asked that she be allowed to hold a day of mourning for the two hunters, as wll as a state funeral, and asked the Explorers to attend. Though the fate of Durin Boron was unclear, he would be declared dead and “laid to rest” beside his friend. Meanwhile her priests would see to the team’s wounds. The Arcanist Vryflaggan stated that he would analyze the bodies to try to locate any weaknesses in these creatures’ physiology, and asked to engage the aid of as many capable experts as would make themselves available.

Vital Statistics:
XP from Defeating Monsters/Challenges: 3600
XP From Treasure: 606
XP From Role-Play: 600
XP by Player: 801/each.
170 Cold Iron Pieces
Golden Ring = 100 dragons
Bejewled Golden Ring = 500 dragons
Net Party Allignment Shift:
Towards: Chaotic Good…

The Darkness Under Mount Norad

From the Ashes of The Great Convergence GedofParagon