Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 16-17

091415_1105_Princesofth1.jpgIt was now time for the adventurers to return to Feathergale Spire and deal with the cultists there. They were welcomed warmly, once again, and given rooms for the night. However, by now the cultists were well aware of what their true plans were, and they did two things: first, they tried to lure Thumbalina away to make her join the cult properly and betray her fellows, and to kill the rest of the adventurers.

It could have gone better for the cultists.

The attack on the party during the night was particularly unsuccessful. It turns out that knights who fight mainly from griffon- or vulture-back aren’t so good on the ground, and the adventurers were rather wary that night. The battle of the bedrooms went entirely in the adventurers’ favour, and then they went up to the roof to see what Thumbalina was up to with Thurl, leader of the Knights. They found Thurl pleading with the dwarf – I’m sorry, giant – barbarian for her support, but she’d gone entirely cold to the idea. In the pitched battle that followed, she threw Thurl off the roof, while the rest of the Knights were slain by the adventurers.

Running to the side of the tower, the group were not particularly surprised to discover that Thurl was wearing a device that allow him to fall from great distances without being hurt. It did not, however, protect him against fire, a lack that Zed pointed out to him in the most direct means possible: a fireball spell. Thurl discovered that not only was he not proof against the spell, but neither was his device. At least the remainder of his life was short before it came to an end with a thump at the bottom of the canyon.

The adventurers then did what adventurers do best – looted the tower – although they were disappointed to find little of true worth but a few handfuls of coin.

More interesting proved the nearby canyon, where a hidden entrance led to a great stair that led down – and down – and down – to a great ruined dwarven city. Standing on the stair and overlooking the great cavern in which it lay, they could see a great step pyramid in its heart, but first they would have to make their way through the gatehouse into the city proper.

Getting through the gatehouse was difficult. To begin with, the adventurers were assaulted by screams of people in torment, coming from the walls on either side of the entrance. Then they discovered that snipers were lying in wait, opening fire through concealed arrows slits on the party. The adventurers ran through as quickly as they could, the tormented screams following as they did. Then more doors opened and kenku, bird-men, boiled out, throwing themselves on the adventurers with sharp swords. Thumbalina and Krovis were in the front rank, laying waste to the kenku, until finally none remained.

At this point, it was quiet, except for the noise of flutes from the old dwarven building to the north.

Investigating revealed a flute ensemble, various humans dressed in odd clothing being conducted by a grumpy cultist, who grew grumpier by the second at the lack of musical abilities possessed by his group. He brightened up when the adventurers arrived, obviously mistaking them for fellow souls, and inquired if any of them were flautists. Indeed, two were, and he dismissed his old ensemble and attempted to recruit the adventurers.

They discovered his name was Windharrow and promised to return later for practice; Windharrow gave them flutes and robes so they’d be properly equipped. The adventurers thanked him and moved off, changing into the robes to infiltrate the outpost better

The group then discovered a large chamber where various humans were chained to great wheels and were pushing them around under the direction of a couple of priests. The party abandoned their disguises to gleefully kill the priests and rescue the prisoners, only to find that the prisoners were, themselves, cultists – and attacked the party along with the priests! After they were all dealt with, the group pushed around the wheels a bit – they’d rotate one way for one turn, or back the way they came, but no further. They were heavy things, and Thumbalina was required to do most of the pushing. Eventually they left and looked for more areas of interest.

Not that they found them immediately; the next set of houses that the adventurers entered were abandoned with only the detritus of the long-ago dwarves littering the floor. An odd feather or two hinted at who had been there before – and had looted the place most thoroughly.

However, not all the buildings were empty. The adventurers finally discovered an old shrine to Moradin where kenku were guarding a number of human prisoners. The kenku were defeated and the prisoners freed. Four were travellers kidnapped from nearby roads, the fifth was Bero Gladham, a local farmer. He told them that his wife Nerise had been taken below – although he didn’t know exactly where.

The adventurers then escorted the party above, to Feathergale Spire – only to discover that cultists were waiting for them! The adventurers had not healed fully after their previous fights, with the result that – by the end of the combat – two of them had been slain! The adventurers who remained knew contacts who would be able to perform the necessary magic to raise them, but the funds were a little lacking. Gimble arranged a loan from the Zhentarim, but they wanted a favour in exchange…

DM Notes

Still in catch-up mode with these reports (I’m a long way behind). This one is about two sessions worth, although the split isn’t exact. I may need to go back and renumber them at some point…

With these sessions, we moved finally into Chapter 4 and the exploration of the temples beneath the Haunted Keeps. Although – as you can see from the end of the report – it wasn’t going to be that easy! Running a reprisal at the end rather surprised my group. I was rather surprised to discover they weren’t all healed after their last encounters… one of the PCs went in on one hit point.

This battle was really, really close: it ended with two players conscious, and one of those only because he’d rolled a natural 20 on his death save. It was very close to a TPK, and – though I knew it was going to be tough – I really didn’t expect it to work that way. Here’s a tip for all you players out there: when you hit 5th level, it’s a very bad idea to stand together once combat begins. It makes it really easy to hit you all with fireball spells. And if you’re hit with a fireball, staying together later? Yes, you’re asking for it!

The play of the Air Temple was not quite as dynamic as it should have been; I think I could have done a lot more with the temple reacting to the players’ movements around it. We’ll see if I can improve that going forward!

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