Beyond Bale Keep

Episodes 11-12: Yours, Mine(s) and Ours

**A Clan is Put to Sleep**

Episode #11: Orst-while Companions
In short order, Xant, Set (who evidently cannot be killed [thus explaining his reckless nature]) and Warren make their way toward the mines. A vision from the Goddess Mestamilsa brings new life to the Captain, while the rescue of Starrisen has brought a renewed sense of friendship to the cynical Set. The three wend their way through a shortcut and catch up to Quincy and Gromm on the road to the Gimli mines. The heroes of Bale unite once more, their sights set on the mines, and the unnatural disaster that lay therein. The front entrance destroyed beyond repair, the group heads to a side entrance, faintly familiar to Gromm. Faced with a heavy portcullis, and beyond that, a heavy door, the group is ambushed by massive Orst giants. A fierce battle ensues, during which the stalwart (and somewhat maniacal) Gromm is nearly killed. Yet, the fates smile down once again on the hardy heroes. A burst of magical power results in a cocoon of one of the Orst. The other is brought down by a combination of spells and steel. The party triumphs despite long odds, and makes its way to the relative safety of the mines.

Episode #12: More Depths, More Darkness
After an interlude involving a trap and a swim with vermin-crayfish, the party discovers the last survivor of the dwarven guardpost. Someone has summoned a Mandragora beast, a mystical creature whose keen puts dwarves to sleep. Having devoured most of the guard, the beast is content to sleep in its hardened sheet of ooze above the elevator down, the one way into the mines the adventurers know of. Light on magic, but strong on confidence (due to Kanen Set’s nimble rescue of dwarven warrior Ludwig von D’runkin), the party decides to rest awhile. They hole up in the dwarven barracks, contemplating their next move while Warren and Quincy recoup their spells. Of course, during this rest period, the Mandragora beast sets to foraging, heading to the larder across from the barracks. The party stays stealthily hidden while it searches for a feast.

The group are now veterans of many trials, some of which are wrought by their own hand. The ensuing battle with the Mandragora beast is no exception. Bored with waiting, the chaotic Kanen and Quincy draw the beast into the adjoining chamber, where it charges out, intent on dealing its sleep-song. Warren lets loose a tremendous salvo from his staff, bending, but not breaking the beast. It prepares to sing its song of sleep (and to dwarves, possible death). But fickle Croitia blesses Quincy’s magic with special effect. Her lightning bolt charms the creature, after which the steel-wielding members of the party set the creature down…in itty, bitty pieces. The feared adversary is easily dispatched. Once again, the party triumphs. Truly they are blessed by the heavens.

Armed with supreme confidence, the warriors of Ermlinger’s Creek make use of the dwarven elevator. Down, down, down they descend, through swirling bats, combating the effects of fatigue. At last they come to rest on the floor of a deep chamber. They have entered the mines proper. The smell of death and decay wafts through the corridor, assaulting their nostrils. The adventurers gird themselves, and head inside.
Once again, the host of dwarven guards who should be there, watching over the entrance, is gone. In their place, horrid visions of what they were. A small cadre of foul-smelling Chaarans, hovering in that semi-life of undeath, assaults the party on descecrated ground. Cleric Quincy calls on Croitia to turn them aside. The God answers, though the desecration is so great, the effect is only temporary. Once again, the stalwarts of steel, Gromm, Xant and Kanen, leap into action, dispatching the zombies Quincy was unable to effect. The battle rages on, as several of Gromm’s former brothers-in-arms fall, their spirits released.

Yet a few remain, their pestilent forms a grim reminder of what has happened here. As the party cleaves its way through the powerful enchantments warding these creatures and this place, they must be wondering, what has happened here? A feeling of deep forbidding falls over Xant, as he recalls the vision granted him by the Goddess – a dark form on a promontory, looking down on his compatriots, slaying them. Is this what lurks below, this dark vision?

But such thoughts must now wait. There are yet more undead violations to destroy. A signs of yet another great Mandragora beast lurking somewhere within.

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