Safely back in Phlan the party ponders what to do next. After some debate they decide to follow up on the orcish map they found. To do this they must navigate through the ruins to a black rock noted on the map. Uthal guides the group through this overgrown section of what might once have been a park area and finds the black rock. Jovanni speaks the words that will open a secret door (again according to the map) and Kordan's Sunblade provides maximum illumination as they explore.
- Althea, 5th level eladrin thunderwaving wizard
- Mikal, 5th level human infernal pact cursing warlock
- Kordan, 5th level human sunsword-and-board fighter
- Jovanni, 5th level half-elven good-looking bard
- Uthal, 5th level goliath great-spear-wielding barbarian
Inside they find stairs cut out of the stone descending into the earth. they gradually smooth out into a long sloping passageway. Eventually they emerge in a natural cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites though a path has been cleared through them leading to an exit on the other side. Jovanni starts to enter but Kordan throws an arm across his path - "Wait."
By the light of the sunblade a carrion crawler is revealed in the center of the room, curled up near a rocky outcropping. As it stirs, sensing the light, the group begins shooting and blasting the creature before it can attack, dispatching the innocent worm in short order (and seemingly annoying the DM by doing so).
But the universe (and the DM) will have their revenge! As the party begins to cross the cavern Althea is grabbed by unseen hands! As she struggles in the grip, several smallish humanoid creatures are spotted lurking around the edges of the room, attacking with unnaturally long arms and an incredible grip. As the chokers strike a serious combat opens up with various members of the party being grabbed and choked in turn as other members free them only to be grabbed in turn. After a vicious fight, the heroes emerged intact, a little battered but otherwise OK. After taking a few minutes to recover they continue on down the passage.
Descending ever-deeper into the earth the group realizes that they are far beneath the city, below even the sewers and ruins that create a dark underworld that most creatures avoid. The air is cool and it is very quiet save for the noises the party itself makes in travel. The group discusses what the priests of Torm might have been sensing when they felt a portal to the Shadowfell open, and how it might be tied to the legend of the ogre king.
Time passes and they see light ahead. Approaching they see a rectangular room of worked stone covered in colorful painted murals and illuminated by everburning lamps built into the walls. Inside the room are 3 big ogre skeletons and some orc skeletons. All appear to be propped against the walls of the room, and one of the big ones is propped in front of a set of bronze doors opposite the entrance. Suspicious, someone fires an arrow at the bony doorstop and it lurches into action - this must be the place!
The big ogre skeleton strides forth and slams into Kordan. A swirling melee develops around the entrance to the room where the orc skeletons form a front rank while the ogre skeletons fight over them using their long reach. Althea fireballs the group while Mikal adds his own flaming conflagration to the fight and Uthal starts stabbing skeletons. Another Thunderwave from the wizard pushes the fight back into the room, allowing the party to wedge their way in and Kordan slashes into the bone guardians using his radiant sunblade, death to the undead. Soon enough the sentinels are shattered bone fragments littering the floor and the heroes begin examining the room and the door.
The room is frescoed with all manner of scenes from the Ogre King's reign. Scenes of massed orcs and ogres fighting against giants and other tribes of creatures lead to scenes of their leaders kneeling before the king. Scenes of building and fortification lead to scenes of prosperity and wealth. Another wall however shows the king's armies in battle once again, this time against strange tentacled creatures. In successive scenes the tentacled ones grow in numbers as the king's armies are driven back,a and these scenes flow towards the great bronze doors in the room. The relief on these doors show the gates to the king's city. What lies beyond?
The team opens the doors and beyond they see another room decorated with red and black stripes and hieroglyphics, apparently an ancient form of giantish. There is a crack in the floor though with a cold wind coming out of it, and strange voices can be heard whispering almost-words in it, but it's not a language anyone can identify. The party avoids it, not sure what it is.
Moving around the room several of the heroes begin reading the glyphs, discovering that the ogre king turned to another god or power for aid in his fight. The outsiders were too powerful for the ogre god so he needed the help of another power and performed a great ceremony to make his people safe, sacrificing himself in the process.
Some other party members begin examining the door they find across the room, checking for traps. That's when several ogres and orcs in ancient styled armor begin fading into view within the room. They suddenly take on solid form,look around, spot the party and shout "Achuka!" - giantish for "attack!"
DM Notes: I really got into the background of this little delve adventure and expanded it way beyond what it originally was. I've also added quite a bit more background to tie it into the world and the region and to hopefully set up some things for later in the players' minds.
Structurally between deciding what to do next and getting back on track after the side adventure and with just a slower exploratory pace we only got through two encounters this session. I'd like to get that up to 3 but it's challenging. One of the good things about 4E is that every fight has the potential to be interesting, with lots of maneuvering and group tactics, but that comes at the cost of time. It also means there are few quick skirmishes. Here the first fight took 8 rounds, but some of that was the party shooting at the poor crawler as it tried to engage, so it went fairly quickly. The skeleton fight was only 4 rounds but it was just as dramatic with mighty blows exchanged and spells going off right from round one. I'd like to get through that 3rd encounter but we will have to see how things flow.