Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Sunless Citadel #6: Belak, at Last

Our heroes for The Sunless Citadel include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 3 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 3 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 3 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (player-run NPC), male hill dwarf paladin 3 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 2 (life domain, acolyte)

(Warning: Spoilers for The Sunless Citadel follow.) 

Last time, our heroes descended to the lower level of the Sunless Citadel, and fought the goblinoids, skeletons, and twig blights that guarded the druid Belak's workshops and underground gardens. After a fight with a shadow, they retreated to rest and heal before exploring further.

On their return trip to the dragon shrine, the party investigated one other door they had previously passed by, and found some goblins collecting fungi. Apart from Raven taking an arrow in the first round, the party handily finished off the four goblins.

The door out of the dragon shrine led to a library that had been trashed and burned. Xuri wept at the loss of so many books, but after some searching, she and her companions found a couple of spell scrolls, and a tome of dragon lore.

Beyond the library, the party found a long tunnel that passed underneath the nearest fungi garden room before turning south. At the end were two doors on the left. They listened at the first door, and heard nothing. When Kalitni listened at the second door, she heard goblins talking: they were wondering what had attacked the others in the workshop, and whether it was coming back. Unfortunately, she made too much noise when she moved back to report to the party, so the four goblins were not surprised when the heroes kicked in the door. Kalitni went first, killing one goblin with a critical hit, but then the others flanked her and she took a hit herself. Raven moved in to flank and sneak attack, while Xuri employed chill touch, and the other goblins soon fell. (Dain cursed his failure to connect with his hammer throughout both this fight and the last one.)

This room's south wall had collapsed, opening into a huge rough cavern filled with pale briars and lit a dim violet color by phosphorescent fungi. The party decided to investigate the room next door first, and Raven easily picked the lock. Inside was a study with a library in much better condition than the last one. The party found many notes on weather, harvests, and similar data for the surrounding area, going back several years, all in the same handwriting. Kalitni also found a tome labelled Treasures of the Fire Lords in Draconic. Xuri insisted on seeing it, so was right next to Kalitni when the ranger read the glyph of warding trap inside. A blast of cold filled half the room, sparing only Erky and Raven, who were near the far wall. Xuri and Daikitsu fell unconscious, and Kalitni was reduced to 1 hp. Dain and Erky tended to their fallen comrades, reviving them. The ranger apologized for her mistake, and the party locked themselves in the room for a short rest to recover. While they did so, they searched the room more thoroughly, and found a couple more spell scrolls, a book of druid lore about the cycle of life and death, and a stash of coins and gems in the study's desk.

When the party was ready, then entered the cavern to the south. They could see some ruined walls here and there, and the top of a huge blackened tree to the south and west, past some of these walls. They had to move very slowly to avoid the briars filling this area. (Erky, a gnome, was small enough to move at full speed here--but rarely did, as he dislikes being in the front rank.) Some of the party could occasionally see twig blights moving through the briars in the distance. When one of the plant monsters attacked, Dain cast shield of faith on Raven, and Xuri used a scroll of expeditious retreat to allow herself to move around more easily. As the party approached the tree, more twig blights attacked, slowing their progress further.

The party reaches the grove of the Gulthias Tree
Raven was the first to reach the walls surrounding the tree. She saw three humans standing beneath it: a woman in noble robes; a man in chainmail with a sword and shield; and a second, bearded man with a staff and sickle. The first two had rough, gray skin resembling bark, and black eyes. With them were three more twig blights. The bearded man accosted the rogue, asking the party to hold off attacking for a moment so they could talk. This was Belak, the druid they sought. He claimed that he didn't want to fight them; instead, he asked for their surrender. They would be allowed to live and serve him. The heroes wanted no part of that, and moved closer in order in preparation for battle. As they did so, Raven asked what the tree was, and was told it was the Gulthias Tree, which had grown from a stake used to slay a vampire. The rogue also spotted Belak's giant frog hiding in the tree, and warned the others.

Belak ordered his minions to attack, and cast barkskin on himself. The woman, a wizard, and the man, a knight, took up positions guarding the evil druid as the twig blights engaged the party, and others slowly moved in from elsewhere in the cavern. (One or more joined the fight each round.) Xuri entered the partially walled grove from another angle, and cast thunderwave upon the druids and his human minions; the knight was knocked away, and the Gulthias Tree itself took damage from her spell. Kalitni shot the druid, who cast his own thunderwave at Xuri. Raven and Dain slowly worked their way forward through the twig blights, trying to get to Belak. As they did so, the giant frog leaped down out of the tree to join the fray.

Belak and his minions
Xuri used her draconic breath weapon to blast the frog, wizard, druid, and tree with lightning. Raven landed a sneak attack on the frog, killing it, and then taunted Belak about her deed. Dain reached the knight, who tried to strike the dwarf's hammer with his sword, but missed. The paladin hit the knight with a divine smite (using inspiration), felling him--but not killing him, because he and the woman were almost certainly the last two missing adventurers the party sought. Xuri drew on all her reserves (tides of chaos, metamagic, and inspiration) to direct a twinned witchbolt at Belak and the wizard. Both bolts hit and took down their targets. The sorcerer spared the life of the wizard, but maintained the spell on Belak an extra turn just to make certain the druid was dead.

Kalitni's wolf and Erky took out the last couple twig blights while Raven and Dain moved forward to attack the Gulthias Tree. Xuri finished off this magical plant with another witchbolt. The rogue then spotted a red fruit emerging from the trunk of the tree, which had somehow been spared from the sorcerer's spells. She climbed up and retrieved it, but was disturbed by how it grew out of the tree like a cyst rather than ripening like normal fruit. She gave it to Erky, the party healer, for safekeeping.

[I had not determined the time of year before the adventure, so rolled a d20. A 1 would mean that the poisonous winter fruit was emerging; a 20 (which I rolled) would mean the health-restoring summer fruit was. I then rolled high for a saving throw for the fruit to avoid being accidentally destroyed by Xuri's spells.]

The party tied up the unconscious wizard and knight, and searched them and the druid. Belak had some potions of healing and antitoxin on his person, and a wand. The wizard bore a gold ring with the Hucrele family crest, which confirmed that she was Sharwyn Hucrele. She and the knight still had weird gray skin; Xuri intuited that they were connected to the Gulthias Tree somehow, but it worried her that they had not been restored when it was destroyed.

The party took the two unconscious adventurers with them out of the twilight grove. They stopped to collect everything from Belak's study in order to study his notes later. They then went back to burn the Gulthias Tree--Xuri wanted to make sure there was no chance of the vampire that had been staked here ever rising again--then fled the area quickly before the smoke spread. At the room with the shaft to the upper level, Xuri suggested that they could rig up some sort of pulley system to make it easier to lift their bound prisoners. Raven was able to do so, with the others' help. They retreated all the way back to the secret room that they had found just inside the first room of the Citadel. Once there, they took a long rest to recover from their ordeal.

Towards the end of this rest, the wizard and knight woke up, and the latter asked if the tree was destroyed. Xuri assured him that it was. The man, Sir Braford, explained that Belak had bound the two of them to the tree, which had absorbed them. They later emerged looking like this, and under the druid's control. Braford wanted to return Sharwyn to her family, and inform them of her dead brother Talgen's fate. After being assured that Braford and Sharwyn would not attack them, the party freed the two. Dain's retainers, who had been waiting outside the dungeon, helped the party carry their loot and the body of Talgen back to Oakhurst.

The party claimed their reward for returning Sharwyn alive, and Talgen's remains and ring. However, within hours, it became apparent that Sharwyn and Braford were dying; they were too closely connected to the Gulthias Tree to survive long after its destruction. Before his death, Sir Braford offered his magic longsword, Shatterspike, to the party in thanks for redeeming his honor as a paladin. Dain, a knight and paladin himself, accepted the sword but mourned the loss of its previous owner.

Sharwyn Hucrele (wizard), Belak the Outcast (evil druid), Sir Braford (knight),
Belak's giant frog, and twig blights.


This concludes The Sunless Citadel, and our kids' first real dungeon delve. Erky has reached 3rd level, but the rest of the party still has quite a way to go until 4th level. We will continue Tales from the Yawning Portal at some point, with The Forge of Fury, but first we will try some out some adventures with Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE system.

The Sunless Citadel: Past Columns

#1: Down into the Ground
#2: Lost Dragon
#3: Through the Dragon Door
#4: Goblin Boss Battle
#5: Through Pallid Gardens
Campaign Update

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