Hammer Faster

They just want to set the world on fire
If you can't take the heat, get out of the cavern

After a short rest to regain their breath and take care of their wounds, the party finds several keys on the corpse of the necromancer, as well as a healing potion and some coin. Hemlock announces that he had accomplished what he’d set out to do, dissolved into a swarm of lizards, and disappeared into the cracks and darkness. Graven recognizes a rune embroidered on the back of the throne the necromancer had been occupying, identifying it as something that indicates a hidden passage of some sort. After some investigation, the group finds a button on the throne and eventually uses it to uncover a spiral staircase reaching down further. Runes lined the stairs, which Graven and Lyaevel identified as meaning “portal” as well as the rune meaning “rune magic”.

Despite the heat and the darkness, the party continued down, traveling through a cavern and seeing another large room with an orange glow up ahead. Lyaevel scouted up ahead and discovered a number of fire beetles, but stealthily retreated before the insects could discover him. The group moves up, but the insects still failed to notice their presence. The beetles disappear into the glow, which appeared to be lava of all things, and the party advances onward. Despite the heat coming off the lava, Jarveth and Graven pushed onward towards the center of the room, bearing the discomfort surprisingly well. Lyaevel and Xune initially held back near the entrance of the room, waiting before finally moving forward to keep pace with the other two.

Graven notices that the object on the far side appeared to be an altar-shaped thing made of brass and indicates that he’s going to investigate. Graven realizes the writing on the object as a “recipe” for the Rune of the Enlightened Flame and manages to copy it, understanding that inscribing the rune on weapons would grant magical power of flame and heat to the attacks made with it and that tracing it on armor would protect the bearer from heat and flame. However, the skittering of the beetles returned before the party could escape. Lyaevel called out a warning and battle was joined.

Lyaevel charges in, hacking brutally at the closest beetle as he swears an oath to destroy the creature. Xune’s arcane powers finish the beetle off and it falls back over the cliff and into the lava. One of the remaining beetles sprays fire at Lyaevel, but the elf dances out of the way easily. The other beetle had better luck and sends a torrent of flame at Xune, inflicting great damage despite the tiefling’s natural resistance to fire. Jarveth and Graven rush up forward, only to be greeted with a flock of fire bats which swoop down and set several of the party on fire.

Lyaevel calls upon divine power and with a slash of his sword, hurtles a remaining beetle through space before following himself. The beetle scrambles up to avoid falling into the lava, but Xune calls upon arcane forces to blast the wounded beetle apart and severely injure the last remaining insect. The last beetle scurries after Xune, but she dodges out of the way of the attack. Graven calls forth flames of such intensity that even one of the fire bats crumpled and died. Jarveth crushes two more with a single sweep of his weapon, sending their bodies falling into the lava down below.

The bats again dove on the party and set more alight, but Lyaevel and Xune combined together to slay the last beetle before it could contribute to the damage. Graven smashes another bat to paste, as does Jarveth, leaving just a single bat remaining. The bat again swoops down on Lyaevel, but he dodges nimbly out of the way and bisects it with his fullblade.

The party returns upstairs and prepares to make a defensible camp in the necromancer’s throneroom. The party was badly in need of a long rest to recover and tend to their wounds. Lyaevel, taking the keys found on the necromancer’s corpse earlier, snuck back a short way through the monastery rooms and opened two doors that the party had skipped before. In one was clearly the necromancer’s sleeping chambers and study and the other was a storage closet of some sort. After using some rusty skeletons swords to bar the doors, Lyaevel came back to the rest of the party and passed on what he’d seen.

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Corporeal Undead Busters
Cleaning temples, one re-dead undead at a time

The party spent a few moments searching the room after having destroyed the legion of undead being raised by the wight. On the wight’s body was found a scroll case, which contained an astounding 18 copies of the animate undead ritual, as identified by Graven. Lyaevel recommended holding on to them so they could be given to the priests of Moradin back in Hammerfast. Moving south out of the room, the party ran into a series of doors. The first was locked, but the second was not and the party followed the hallway downward.

Opening the closed doors at the end of that hallway, the party came across another group of undead, but of more interest was a seemingly alive person on a skull of thrones. The room was large and well lit, with two fireplaces to each side of the room and two more braziers to either side of the throne.

The living man demanded to know what the party was doing there and upon receiving an flippant answer from Hemlock, ordered the undead horde to destroy the adventurers. The skeletons moved to defensive positions as Lyaevel called again the power of Bahamut to rain fire on the necromancer and zombies guarding him. The necromancer retaliated as Graven charged into the room and blasted Lyaevel and Jarveth with dark energies. Jarveth ran into the room and smashed one zombie and damaged another, but neither fell. Hemlock returned fire at the necromancer with a spell of his own, calling forth primal energies to damage them all. Xune blasts one zombie into a spray of decaying parts and vile fluids. The zombies attempt to counterattack, but the lingering primal energies from Hemlock’s attack knocks one to the ground as the another breaks its teeth on Jarveth’s armor. But the final zombie slams Jarveth with a rotting fist while the dwarf was distracted.

The skeletons advanced on the party, three swinging at Graven and two connecting solidly with their rusty longswords. Jarveth’s armor proved sufficient versus one skeletal attacker, but the other found the gaps in it. Lyaevel dodged one attack from a skeleton and his counterattack utterly devastated one, shattering it into a dozen pieces with his fullblade. Graven, surrounded by several skeletons, moved, before calling forth arcane energies to heal Lyaevel and Jarveth. Satisfied that his allies are better, he sent a blast of power forth with a mighty swing of his hammer, shaking two of the remaining skeletons, but not destroying them. Fearing the power of the Elven Avenger, the necromancer blasts him with a ray of enfeeblement and suddenly the fullblade was almost too much weight to hold.

Jarveth swings his hammer and further damages the zombies, but they still refused to fall. Hemlock, again in his lizard swarm form, unleashed a swarm of locusts at the skeletons, further eroding their decayed bones. Xune’s eldritch blast rocks one skeleton, but despite the damage, it somehow remained animated and dangerous. The skeletons pushed forward, slashing Graven again. Graven further damages one with his hammer, but Lyaevel’s radiant blast went awry. Jarveth then felt the sting of the ray of enfeeblement from the necromancer, but manages to inflict some damage on the zombies anyway.

Another plague of locusts erupts from Hemlock, battering the increasingly ragged skeletons and finally shaking one apart into a pile of bones. Teleporting away from the entrance, Hemlock moves to find a better position for his next attack. Another is obliterated with arcane energy from Xune. The zombies continued their assault on Jarveth, but are unable to get past the dwarf’s defense, but two of the skeletons are much more skilled and slice deeply into Jarveth’s body. Lyaevel takes a grazing blow, but lunges across the room to destroy another skeleton, leaving only two of the original six remaining. Graven slams one of the remaining skeletons, unable to finish it off, but his runic energy heals some of the necrotic burns Lyaevel suffered earlier and bolstered the attacks of the rest of his nearby comrades.

The necromancer turned his attention to the suddenly close swarm of druidic lizards and unleashes his beam of dark energy on the swarm, scattering it and leaving it magically weakened. Jarveth’s swing goes wide and he pulls back as Hemlock moves up to again vomit forth magical locusts which burrow deeply into one of the remaining zombies, which is immediately drilled through with an eldritch bolt from Xune. Despite the catastrophic damage, the zombie remains upright and lurches after the swarm of lizards, but is unable to grab even one of the druidic creatures. The other zombie again smashes Jarveth and this time the dwarf goes down with a clatter, which evoked a cackle from the necromancer.

The skeletons continued their attack, but were unable to inflict much harm on either Graven or Hemlock. Lyaevel called out to Bahamut and abjured one of the remaining skeletons, burning it with holy light and compelling it to stagger over towards Lyaevel away from Hemlock and the fallen Jarveth. Graven spends a turn to gather his strength as well as send more runic healing into Jarveth, allowing him to get back into the fight.

But the necromancer again unleashes a necrotic explosion, hitting the whole party aside from Lyaevel and once again knocking Jarveth unconscious. The necromancer gloats that nobody can withstand the might of Jorran Deathkeeper. But Jarveth is not finished yet and manages to claw himself back awake somehow. Hemlock unleashes more primal fury, obliterating one zombie and dropping Jorran into a bloody heap on the floor. Xune blows a smoking hole in the armor of one of the remaining skeletons but against all odds, it stays up. The last zombie tries to enact vengeance on the druid for destroying its master, but does little damage. Lyaevel crushes one of the last skeletons with a powerful overhand sweep and moves towards one of the last foes.

Graven smashes the ground with his hammer, sending flames leaping up to dance along the remaining zombie. Hemlock tears into the last zombie and is unable to bring it down, but Xune’s fire chars the creature to the bone and it collapses in a smoking heap. The skeleton and Jarveth trade ineffectual blows as Lyaevel comes around behind and cleaves the undead creature in half, ending the battle.

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Zombies and Fire and Puzzles
Undead? No Problem. Puzzles? Bigger Problem.

Lyaevel opens the combat against the gnoll zombies with a scathing blast of radiant energy as he channels Bahamut’s divine power into the closest foe. Hemlock continues the assault with a conjured torrent, blasting the already damaged zombie and hindering yet another. Damage done, Hemlock’s form burst into a mass of lizards and he teleported away from a nearby gnoll. Jarveth hits another gnoll solidly, but can’t manage to inflict much real damage to it and Graven misses in his own attack against the same enemy. Xune runs into the rune, spitting her curse at one of the zombies before unleashing an eldritch blast against the creature, ripping through necrotic flesh and bone.

The zombie counterattack saw several of Hemlock’s lizards grabbed by one of the zombies and several others crushed beneath a furry dead paw, but the situation was not as dire as it could have been. Going again on the offensive, Lyaevel dodges a clumsy attack and skirts the battlefield before slamming his blade into one of the gnolls attacking Hemlock. Hemlock blasts his tormentors, but is unable to wriggle free of the grab. Jarveth slams the nearest gnoll again and does some more damage even as Graven calls forth flame from the ground and sends a different foe crashing to the ground in ruins. Xune sends another blast against the zombie gnoll targeted by Jarveth, sending it stumbling backwards and making its own attack miss. The gnoll grabbing Hemlock tried to cram some of the lizards into it’s mouth, but a sudden wind conjured by the Wilden blew the zombie backwards and forced him to drop the druid swarm.

Lyaevel gouges a chunk out of the windswept zombie and Hemlock continued assault, but still the creature remained standing. On the other side of the room, Jarveth smashed his foe to the ground with a powerful swing of his hammer and returned it to unmoving death. Graven runs over and destroys the last zombie, ending the threat for the time being.

Battle over, Lyaevel steps to each zombie and says a prayer to Bahamut to keep evil spirits from again reanimating the bodies. Hemlock searches through the bodies and finds some small trinkets worth some money. The party finds that the exit to the north is blocked by a collapsed room or passage beyond, so they returned to the south and found another corridor. Exploring further, they found a large room with a very large stone pedastal with carvings of flames and words in Deep Speech. Xune began to translate the text into come.

ENVY is the sin of SHADOW for it hides the PRAISE that LIGHT sheds upon us.
FEAR is the POWER of SHADOW for its DARKNESS cloaks THE true path
DEATH is the DESTINY of SHADOW for the FLAME will always BURN bright.”

Hemlock and Lyaevel notice pedestal seems to be made of interlocking rings and each ring could probably could probably be moved. Lyaevel announces that he’s going to align the words LIGHT, THE, and FLAME. This proves to be a mistake as the flame carvings shoot out real flame and torch everybody but Lyaevel. After rethinking it (and apologizing), Lyaevel tries again and lines up PRAISE, THE, and FLAME. The pedestal settles a few inches, a dull thunk is heard, and the large set of doors to the south open up.

The corridor was, somewhat strangely, lit by several torches along the walls. The group skirted some suspicious looking old bloodstains on the floor and Graven picked the lock on one of the doors at the far end of the hall. The hall before bends and was also well lit, leading to another set of open doors and a room beyond.

The room beyond was filled with a horde of undead, a dozen zombies, two skeletons, and one more unidentifiable undead creature. Besides the undead legion, the room contained five red-glowing mystic symbols etched into the floor, a bubbling cauldron, and a large pile of skulls. The zombies fail to notice the party as they appear into the doorway, but the skeletons did and combat began.

Lyaevel steps into the doorway and once again utters a prayer to Bahamut to call forth holy flames to rain upon the undead abominations. The flames send 2 crashing to the floor in ruins and severely scorch others. The undead reacts and the wight blasts Lyaevel in return, immobilizing him with necrotic energy, but the holy flame claims another zombie victim regardless. The zombies attempt to swarm Jarveth, landing a serious blow, but another zombie crumples under the still raining holy flames. Jarveth counterattacks, smashing a singed zombie to the ground and crushing another one with the follow through from his swing. Hemlock sends a swarm of locusts buzzing out to obliterate yet another undead before teleporting and sending his scattered lizards to ravage another zombie and further damage the two skeletons.

One skeleton tries to smash Hemlock in retaliation, but is unable to hit the druid. However, the other is able to land a light blow. Graven moves up to support Jarveth and, with a blast of radiant energy, destroys three of the last four zombies. Tracing a Rune in the air, Graven mends Lyaevel’s wounds before marching through the holy fire towards the wight near the cauldron. Xune curses the last zombie and hits it with an eldritch blast, melting it into a bubbling and smoking heap of dead flesh.

Lyaevel shatters one of the remaining skeletons as his shouted abjuration in the name of Bahamut summons a radiant cascade upon it. Graven is forced back as the wight slashes with its necrotic claw. Jarveth crushes the last skeleton with a mighty blow of his hammer that left little more than dust. Hemlock charged the fleeing wight and slowed its retreat long enough for Graven to catch up with it, and burning with radiant flame, seriously injure the undead. Xune’s attack against the wight, however, is dodged. Lyaevel, trying to keep the creature from escaping, charges across the room and hacks it down with two well placed blows of his blade, ending the battle.

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To the Temple of the Fire Opal
Allies gained and old companions lost.

With little trouble, the party made it to the ruins that they suspected represented the dungeon of the Fire Opal. They were wary of the numerous slim statues outside in the clearing, but they didn’t react at all. Through some crumbled and broken walls, they looked into the building and saw more statues of common and everyday day people. Lyaevel notices someone walking around and sneaks in through one of the openings and notices a figure with horns and a tail walking around. Lyaevel calls out for them to identify themselves, which they do as Xune. She says that she is looking for a hag and she’d been sent there by someone she trusted. She asked the same of Lyaevel and he explained that they were investigating rumors that cultists of Orcus were there.

Hearing a scream, everybody inside rushes out to find that Hellion had been grabbed by three of the now-animated statues and turned to stone himself. The statues then turned their attention to the party members coming out of the temple and attacked. In the middle of a fight a swarm of lizards abruptly appeared and began to fight alongside the party, tearing apart one of the statues. Xune blasts a statue to pieces and then Lyaevel calls forth argent rain of Bahamut and melts several more. Graven attempts to blast several more apart, but his attack failed to make a sufficient impact to destroy the statues he was aiming for. The statues clumsily tried to strike back and grab Jarveth, but the party steadily destroyed statue after statue with little difficulty.

Battle completed, they examine the statue of Hellion and determine that only magical intervention will restore him to normal. The swarm of lizards, reassembled into a Wilden named Hemlock, suggested that he might be able to perform a ritual that could serve that purpose. He and Lyaevel went off into the surrounding woods to gather materials as Graven, Jarveth, and Xune returned inside to investigate the ruins further.

Xune notices that the statues inside, all seeming to be monks of some sort, can swivel at the base. With some experimentation, they turn two of the statues around and eventually reveal a secret passage, a dark pit in the center of the temple. The air smells stale and old and a ladder leads down into the pit. Those remaining at the temple decide to wait for Lyaevel and Hemlock, who are still searching for the herbs, leaves, and other materials Hemlock is searching for.

Hemlock creates his salve and applies it to Hellion, returning him back to normal. Shocked and shaken by the experience of being a living statue, able to see and hear around him but unable to move, Hellion flees the scene and leaves the party to their fate. The party presses onward, descending into the secret passage and finding an antechamber with two doors, one each to the east and west. Upon opening the eastern door, they found several corpses. To their surprise they were gnoll corpses and Graven determined that they were at least several weeks old. At which point the gnolls stirred themselves and moved to the attack…

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Into the Woods
Why Did It Have to Be Spiders?

The party decides to first go to the market to get a hammer that Graven had seen before seeing if they can get directions to the dungeon of the Fire Opal that they’d heard rumors about. They find a human merchant and with the aid of a couple of silvers, get some general directions and information about the dungeon. Graven remembers that the place used to be inhabited by a group of monks called the Order of the Enlightened Flame, but they were wiped out by gnolls about 50 years previous. They head to the Grand Library to search for more information and they found information about the gnoll attack. The gnolls were attacking searching for a fire opal rumored to hold the essence of an efriti lord. The group also learned that there were rumors of secret tunnels and passages below the monastery, possibly before the monks moved to the area.

Seeing no other reason to delay, the party heads off to see if they can find the dungeon. Lyaevel takes the lead, scouting stealthily along the trail leading to the monastery, wary of the possibility of gnolls or cultists ahead. Lyaevel sees a copse of trees that have some sort of unusual mist or smoke. After investigating further, it seems to be masses of spider webs. The party quickly passes through the area and continues onward, not in any hurry to tangle with the spiders.

Twenty or thirty minutes later they hear some chittering and then some voices in goblin, the party supposing that the goblins are swearing about their ambush being spoiled by the spiders. Goblins and spider-riding goblins pour out of the woods to attack the party.

The encounter goes poorly for the party at first, with goblin arrows and javelins finding their marks as well as the spiders poisonous fangs. But things don’t go all the goblins way as Lyaevel strikes down one goblin and Graven blasts others with his prayers to Moradin. Hellion calls upon the power of shadows and obliterates a goblin archer and sends a spider and its rider reeling. The tide of battle turns against the goblins and spiders as they fell, one by one, cut down by weapon, spell, and claw. One goblin archer fled and the party declined to pursue, not knowing what traps or ambushes the goblin might lead them into.

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Bankers, Cultists, and Bar Flies
Questions and answers around Hammerfast

Galwick offers to put up the party for the night at a place called Rondall’s Inn. Galwick offers Rondall a few coins and the party then decides to go to the Trade Bank of Hammerfast to discuss the remains of their employees, zombified and attacking people on the roads. Rondall gives the party directions to go to the north to the trade ward and ask around from there.

The party finds the bank and talks to one of the managers, an older dwarf. The party explains that they came across the zombified remains of some of their employees. The dwarf explains that the employees were bringing back a loan repayment from the city of Fallcrest. The party discusses offering to investigate what happened to the shipment, with Lyaevel and Hellion more interested in the possible Orcus connection.

The dwarf manager, Ranklo, is the uncle of Galwick. Ranklo provides the manifest of their lost shipment to the party. The party decides to go to the temple of Moradin to ask if they’ve heard anything about cultists of Orcus in the nearby areas.

A young dwarf greets the party at the temple and listens to the party describe the fight along the road. The dwarf priest says that they’ve heard of similar things happening, cultists waylaying travelers on the roads, concentrating on the more affluent appearing caravans and travelers, but they don’t know where they might be operating out of, aside from the fact that they seem to be coming from the north. Lyaevel thanks the priest, as Graven and Jarveth stop to make a brief prayer and tithe to Moradin.

The party comes back to the inn, but hears shouting from the area before it comes in sight. It seems there’s a bar brawl as a couple of humans come tumbling out of a door. Graven approaches the loser of the fight and offers his assistance. The place is called the Foundation Stone and the fight’s loser brings the party in to show them around. The place looks like a big tavern, with people throwing daggers at target dummies and a pit for a game called Giant’s Feet.

On buying the human a drink, the party notices that the bar is a giant block of stone, covered in maps of all sorts. Lyaevel asks the human (named Buck) if he’s heard of any bandits on the roads or the like. The human suggests that the party talk to Ilara, an Eladrin throwing daggers nearby who has apparently run into the cultists of Orcus before.

Ilara says that she might have heard that they could have taken up residence in a keep called the dungeon of the Fire Opal. Ilara challenges the party to throw daggers. If the party wins, she’ll help the party learn more about the cultists. Hellion takes up Lyaevel’s dagger and they trade throws, ending up tied after five throws, but on the first sudden death throw Ilara wins out.

Jarveth plays a round of Giant’s Feet with Buck and wins handily before the party heads back to the inn to rest.

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Caravans and Dead Men
The risen dead plague commerce

The group begins at the Five League house and overhears talk from some caravan employees about how some caravans have gone missing on the road to Hammerfast, They don’t know what’s caused it. Graven speaks up, suggesting that caravans don’t just go missing. Hellion speaks up and asks if they’d be interested in having the group help escort this caravan to Hammerfast. One of the human teamsters goes to collect the caravan master, who is more than happy to have some extra guards along. They set out immediately.

The first day passes without incident, the dwarven caravan master telling the group that he’s got a cargo of hydra blood bound for Hammerfast that will likely be used for healing potions.

On the second day, the group comes across the broken remains of two other wagons with several bodies around. Lyaevel and Jarveth moved forward to investigate further when they were attacked as the bodies rose from the ground. Lurking in the treeline to either side of the road were skeletons.

Lyaevel strikes down a skeleton and Jarveth mows down two zombies, but two more drag themselves from the pile of bodies and prepare to attack. Hellion charges the remaining skeleton in the treeline, but in the undead versus undead battle, Hellion fails to obliterate the dead archer. Jarveth smashes another zombie into the dirt and climbs onto into the ruins of one of the wagons to engage another. Two living men appear out of the underbrush and with hurled daggers, draw blood from both Jarveth and Hellion. Lyavel rushes to the wagons and obliterates another zombie with a crushing sweep of his fullblade, sending the adjacent zombie staggering backwards.

Graven destroys one more zombie and, in a flash of runes, sends healing energy towards the bloodied and battered Hellion. Hellion then drains the animating energy from the remaining skeleton and, unusually, one of the living men seems to order the last zombie to refrain from attacking. Jarveth rushes away from the ruined wagons to flank one of the humans with Hellion, smashing him to the ground but unable to kill him.

The human bandits tried to retaliate, but missed with their attacks. Lyaevel leapt over the wagon and brought a crushing blow on one of the humans. The last remaining zombie threw itself between the blade and the human, but Lyaevel nearly killed the human anyway in addition to destroying the zombie utterly. Graven rushed forward and finished the human off with a mighty sweep of his spear. Hellion gravely wounded the last enemy, as did Jarveth, but he didn’t go down just yet.

The human whispered to Hellion, entreating the vampire to join him. When Hellion rejected the offer, the human attacked but was unable to strike. Lyaevel sprinted across the battlefield, ducking under a clumsy attack of opportunity from the lone enemy before striking him down with an almost casual backhanded sweep of his blade.

Upon searching the bodies, the group finds that both humans were wearing holy symbols of Orcus as well as a map of the area and a note. The note described the caravan master Galwick, who professed to know no reason why they would be after him. It was pointed out that the hydra’s blood might be a good enough reason to go after him, given Galwick’s statement that it was worth a fair penny. The tattered remains of the zombies’ clothing showed symbols of The Trade Bank of Hammerfast, probably the biggest bank or lender in Hammerfast.

After a short rest the party and the caravan continued onwards, skirting the destroyed wagons, but the remainder of the trip was uneventful. Upon entering the city, Galwick paid the group 200gp, happy to have had their service for the trip.

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