Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #60: White Plume Mountain Part Two

Our heroes had just suffered a horrible tragedy, followed by a tremendous triumph.  Their bard, Talis Makolin, had just disappeared into a chasm of boiling hot mud, but the famed dwarf Norm Dingleberry had somehow managed the same dangerous crossing, killed the vampire guardian Ctenmiir, and obtained the legendary battleaxe Overwhelm, the first of three weapons they needed to find inside this volcano.

Rested, it was time to move on to find the second weapon.  Hopefully no one else would be lost in this endeavor.

Our party:
Mellandria, a scholarly magic-user who barely escaped from the Magistocracy of Emron with her life (and an owl familiar, Horatio).
Sterling Riverbend, a huge quarter-ogre with a disposition slimier than his skin.
Kane, a eastern mystic with elemental control of water.  He had discarded the adventuring life, but upon learning of the new quests, he dug out his old plate mail and was ready to jump right back into it.
Ozark, a crotchety old half-orc cleric on loan for the quest from the halfling village of Elmshire.
Sir Norm Dingleberry, General of the Eastern Army, scourge of the Skyforge dwarves, and secretly an ally to the resistance against the Dread Lord.   Possessor of the battleaxe Overwhelm.

25 SepDec 1072 - White Plume Mountain
Getting a bit of extra rest, the party moved on to a new area of this strange volcanic catacomb.  The heat from the boiling mud dissipated but the moisture in the air seemed to rise.  Puddles could be found in low lying corners of the cave.

Ultimately, the cavern opened up to a room filled with a large pool.  Ancient water-soaked planks traversed this body of water to the other side.  The group moved across, but half-way through their walk, three beautiful women emerged from the far corner and started singing.  While Mellandria could only hear caterwauling, and Ozark's deafness protected him, the song seemed to lure the men towards the wet ladies, ignoring the planks and trudging through the water to their prize.  Mellandria was a bit flat-footed to a proper response, but Ozark knew that only men of morally sound character could complete the quest at hand.

He hobbled over the planks and gave Kane and Sterling a stern thrashing on their heads with his cane, all the while repeating, "You stay away from those hussies.  You fellers ain't married for those type of shenanigans!" 

Sterling was unaffected by the moral pontificating, and soon he was ensnared in some very overactive kelp.  Kane came to his senses, and held Norm back with one hand, while trying to manipulate the water around the women with other.  A quick rap on Norm's head by Ozark and he too recovered from the apparent charm.   With Overwhelm in hand, Norm thrashed the living seaweed Kane had exposed, and Mellandria finally found some offensive magic to dispatch the strange sirens.

Everyone regained their senses, suffered another five minutes of Ozark ranting about saving oneself for marriage, and uncovered some treasure, including a beautifully ornate set of Chain Mail

To hear the stories of the survivors, the further they ventured into this lair, the stranger the rooms became, with spinning flashing tunnels, shock eels, streams magically floating through thin air.  Some things wore the party down, others were simply no more than confidence destroyers.

Finally, they reached a vast chamber near what had to be the center of the volcano.  There was no steam, no lava, no heat, just another voluminous lake, with angry spear-laden humanoids coming out en masse.  They too whittled some spirit from the party, so when a fifty-foot wide giant crab emerged from the waters, our heroes were in no position to effectively fight it.

Even with Norm discovering that Overwhelm could be tossed and returned with some effectiveness, the giant crab dominated the party. With only Norm holding his own from a distance, Ozark rushing at it with his cane, and the most of the other unconscious, face-down at the edge of the water, the crab moved forward to assert his guardianship of the hall, when all of a sudden, a giant flash of lightning filled the vast cavern, blinding everyone.

As Norm regained his senses, he could see his friends finally stirring from the water.  Looking further on, he saw the giant crab laying motionless in the water, quite dead.  Atop the monster was a lone figure on one knee, plunging a spear deep through the beast's shell.  He pulled out the spear from the dead beast and tumbled to the shore of the underground lake.

It wasn't a spear the shirtless man was holding... it was a trident.

And it wasn't any ordinary man... it was... Echelon?

When Norm reached his friend, Echelon was barely coherent, but a quick scan of his weapon made him assume that not only was Echelon was alive, but he was in possession of the second legendary weapon, Wave.

It was also discovered that Ozark the cleric was dead, his body lying in the water with nary a scratch on it.

They stumbled to an area they had staked out as safe, performed what little healing they had left, and only covered two pertinentconversations.

First was Echelon's miraculous recovery.  After his brain was eaten in the dream state while they adventured in Emron, Echelon's soul floated around in nothingness for a long time.  Ultimately, the half-man, half-hawk construct of his god, Tshang Kai Shing met with him.  He walked with him across the oceans of this world and others, soaking up his wisdom.  In the midst of a lesson, his god looked at him, said "Save your friends, save the world" and he tumbled out through the water and stabbed the crab with this trident, which hadn't been in his possession more than ten seconds before.

The second conversation was more dire, even heretical to the group's standards.  They had already lost Ozark and Talis to this volcano lair.  Echelon had returned, but had no equipment, and couldn't commune with his god for spells.  Everyone else was quite battered, some even close to death.  And worst of all, despite the knowledge that the Blood-Brand was probably an equal  if not more powerful artifact to the two they already possessed, none of the heroes here or back at the Chateau, were proficient in swordplay.

Low on magic, low on healing, they made the call to forgo the final weapon and return to Eding to prepare for the impending Apocalypse.

26 SepDec 1072 -  White Plume Mountain
After a full bout of healing, the party did not change their votes to leave sans Blood-Brand, and emerged from White Plume Mountain.

DM Notes: With the loss of two characters, and the sudden appearance of an old favorite back from the dead, the party had had enough.  It was better to fight the Apocalypse with two legendary weapons than have their dead bodies line the caverns of White Plume Mountain.  

I've written elsewhere that the return of Echelon was less a dramatic return of the only player who was proficient in trident, but rather a fear of what Steve would create with a third character if I killed Ozark. 

For a party of mid-level characters, single-handily slaying a vampire or coming back from the dead were good enough stories to rally the populace for the impending doom they faced.  

But did they really need all three weapons????  Time will tell.

For a usually low-powered campaign, the haul was quite impressive:
Norm: Dingleberry: The BattleAxe Overwhelm
Echelon:  The Trident Wave (and his life)
Mellandria:  A Wand of Frost
Kane:  Chain Mail +3, which finally made him ditch his old banged-up Plate Mail. 

RIP:  Ozark

Next:  #61 Returning From White Plume Mountain

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