D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 7
- TIlly – elven ranger
- Liam – dwarf paladin
- Vipin – half-orc rogue
Refreshed from their resting the heroes descended into the vault under the ruins, pleasantly surprised by the beautifully carved walls and statue-lights. Reaching the end of the stairs the dwarf estimated they were some 50-foot below ground, and stepped into the chamber. They barely marvelled at the fountain in the roof before the rogue headed off into one of the two corridors leading further into the complex.
This was also carved with the continuing pattern of vines and leaves and led into a chamber with half a dozen alcoves facing in towards a central pedestal on which sat a number of crystals. Five were blackened and cracked but one still flickered dimly with a green glow. The rogue moved to pick it up, as his hand touched it one of the alcoves sparked to life – showing a woodland scene that was most definitely not local. Before they could investigate it however the crystals glow failed and the alcove returned to normal. The rogue pocketed all of the crystals in case they had some worth. With no other exits to be found they returned to the fountain chamber and headed down the other corridor.
The next chamber held several ancient wooden writing desks and the paladin gingerly touched one, causing it to crumble into pieces. A number of storage bins lined the wall and although most contained nothing but rotting and ruined papers one had remained sealed and intact. The ranger and rogue tried to open it as carefully and slowly as possible but as they finally broke the seal the sudden in-rush of air rewarded them with a face of dust as the ancient contents crumbled.
The exit from the room led into another chamber, this one also had a small fountain, along with a ring of statues in the centre of various elven women and was lit by a representation of the night sky on the ceiling. A large marble door appeared to lead further into the vault though no visible lock was evident. The dwarf examined the statues determining that their arms which held bowls were somehow articulated. He poured some water from his waterskin into one of the bowls and it just soaked straight into the stone. The rogue fetched the silver ewer from beside the fountain, filled it from his own waterskin and then poured it into the bowl – but once again the stone just absorbed it. This time they filled the ewer from the fountain and when they filled the bowl of the statue of the young girl the liquid stayed and the arms lowered. They did this to all of the statues and once the last one was filled all of them tipped their bowls forward spilling the contents free and returning their arms to their original position. The dwarf realised that as the arms lowered he had heard a click and so they repeated the process, stopping once each arm clicked. This resulted in the arms all being at different levels and as the final one clicked into position the heroes waited with bated breath – and the bowls once again emptied!
During this time the elven ranger had been examining the statues and the scene on the ceiling and realised what they represented from teachings in her childhood. using that knowledge they worked out the order in which to fill the bowls to the correct level and as they finished the last one the marble door slid aside and they moved into the new tunnel. They had barely passed the door when it slid back into place. A quick attempt revealed they couldn’t force it open but they discovered an indentation on the face of the door which seemed reminiscent of the Staff of Chomylla and recalled Imani’s comment of the staff being the key to entering the vault – obviously the old sage was closer to the mark than he realised.
With no way back they pressed onward coming into another large chamber, the roof supported by pillars that appeared to be covered in writhing stone dragons, while a walkway encircled the room edged with an ornate railing and accessed by a stairway at the opposite side of the room. Beyond the stairway another darkened tunnel led further on but between the heroes and the stairway was a large open pit with a large crystal suspended above it from a chain. The crystal was broken and blackened and several of its shards could be seen at the pits bottom. There was also a large statue of some sort of tree-like being before the stairway.
The paladin called upon Moradin to detect magic and discovered that the writhing dragons were illusionary and that the crystal had once held magic but was now lifeless. There was also something about the statue but he needed to get closer to discern more. Accompanied by the rogue he moved up to the statue and determined that there wa definitely something magical about it, and then he looked up in awe as the statues head moved to stare down and regard him. The heroes felt, rather than heard, a voice in their heads which they assumed was coming from the statue “Violators of the Vault of Song prepare to meet your fate” as the statue swung wicked claws with surprising speed at the dwarf.
The rogue tried to run around the guardian and up the stairs, as he reached the top he found a pair of Zhentarim soldiers wrapped in their black cloaks with prepared crossbows in the tunnel entrance. The guardian noticed the sneaky the rogue and caught him a glancing blow as he ran past. The quick thinking half-orc had been given the glamoured studded leather armour during the rest and had engaged its magic to look like a Zhentarim officer, and so he tried to convince the soldiers to either stand down or join them in attacking the guardian. The soldiers declined, saying that Phoedele had ordered them not to interfere with the guardian. One of them was happy to lower his weapon but the other took a shot at the ranger.
Dodging the Zhents bolt the ranger leapt up over the pit and onto the hanging crystal, hooking her arm around the chain and lining her bow up to return fire at the Zhent.
The paladin and rogue continued to trade blows with the guardian, the paladin twice conjuring a magical representation of Moradins hammer to smite the beast and although they managed to disable one of its wicked claws, leaving it hanging limply at its side, the other claw continued to slash at them and they were both bleeding profusely from their wounds.
The rogue quaffed a healing potion and leapt from the railings in an attempt to blind the guardian with a sack over the head, unfortunately mis-timing his jump and ending up on the floor beside the monster. The paladin prayed to Moradin for healing before closing once more, searching for a weak point in the creature, believing he had found one he swung his warhammer and took a huge chunk of stone out of its leg – but the beast raged on.
The Zhent soldier continued to ignore the rogues instruction as well as his companions urgings to stand down, and kept firing at the ranger though his shots found their mark less often than hers and he soon fell from a fatal arrow, his companion simply looked at him and said “he told you to stand down, silly bugger!”.
The rogue followed the dwarf’s lead and struck at the leg, dodging under the swinging claw. This time the blow stopped the monstrosity in its tracks as it regarded the half-orc for a moment before literally falling apart, threatening to bury the rogue in its rubble. Luckily the nimble half-orc dodged to the side.
The ranger as about the jump clear of her perch when she noticed a slight gleam from the pit floor, lowering herself down she discovered a bone ring carved to represent feathers. Putting it on she had a moment of feeling weightless, then feeling normal once again and realising she had found a ring of feather-falling.
As the heroes regrouped at the top of the stairs the rogue used his silver-tongue once more to convince the remaining Zhent to inform Phoedele that reinforcements had arrived to warn her that Barcero was hot on her heels. The Zhent eagerly ran off down the tunnel while the heroes took the chance to tend to their wounds before facing Phoedele themselves…..
As with previous sessions (and seasons) there had been much discussion on the DM forums about this session and one DM had suggested combining the suggested 3 dragons into a single larger monster, he intended to use a gargantuan black dragon mini, while I didn’t have a similar mini I looked through my collection and came across a Blackroot Treant that I’d never used since getting it and with the elven decor being woodland-ish I thought I’d reskin the Uvaeran Dragons to the Guardian. As e were down to 3 players I reduced the Zhents to 2 also.
The players definitely felt threatened and until they used their healing potions and spells I was worried they were going to fall, but they pulled through. The whole session took our 2-hour slot with the party reaching the combat encounter after the first hour. I’m very happy that the players feel comfortable enough to try out-of the-ordinary tactics (such as leaping onto the hanging crystal, blinding the monster with a sack, impersonating Zhent officers) and think that had we been running under 4e with the multitude of powers to choose from they may not have done so.