Recap: Seamus returned home to the Stonehelm Clan, early on the 27th of Trical. His father -- Yarbus Stonehelm, Chief of the Stonehelms, Anvil of Galgiran, and Duke of Rakore -- was overjoyed to have Seamus back. Even if it meant he had 'brought a zoo home with him'. The Stonehelms treated the rest of the party well enough, and after a night spent at the holy forges of Galgiran, even the half-orc Chimera was accepted. Kurrold, Seamus' uncle, and High Priest of the Stonehelms, helped the party to fit in with the Stonehelms, as did Seamus' mother, Grinella. All told, they were warmly enough welcomed, and the party enjoyed the chance to rest a bit.
Xzax, however, needed the open air. He found the cloying tunnels of the dwarves beneath the mountains dank, and nearly a week of being underground was fraying him to the nerves. The half-dragon, N'Kara, and Aust were guided to the surface by Tanit, a ranger-dwarf familiar with the outside. The three members of the party awoke in the midst of the clear, starry night to the wingbeats of rocs ferrying orcs over the mountain passes -- and with that information, they wound their way quickly back down to the Stonehelms.
Chief Yarbus, for his part, acknowledged the information. The Stonehelms could stop an army -- but they could not stop the occasional skirmishers from crossing the mountains. In fact, the orcs had been caught smuggling humans into Rakore, from across the Choranil. It made no sense to the party, but rarely does anything about the orcs make sense.
Chimera was taken through the Hall of Horrors, where she shattered her sword in an attempt to attack what she thought was an orc. The orc statue, along with all the rest of the hall's statues, depicted grisly scenes from the collected memories of the Stonehelms. The statues of the dwarves realistically depicted the dying, and the ograns that had killed them had themselves been killed, and their skins used to cover the statues -- making for a horrid, grisly hall that reminded all the Stonehelms of what they stood against. Chimera's response to the Hall of Horrors completed her acceptance by the Stonehelms, and she spent much of that night in Kurrold's holy forge, aided by him in repairing the blade.
Midway through the day, a kobold's yipping was heard throughout the undercaverns. Kyipyirip, a kobold ranger of Seamus' acquaintance, was apparently trying to talk with him well outside the Stonehelm's under-mountain fortresses. Seamus and the party followed, trying to track the kobold down. Xzax and Maui tracked two sets of coyote prints deeper into the natural caverns, always behind the kobold's yipping language. Sensing a trap, the party turned back when N'Kara smelled orcs.
Kyip was actually back at the dwarven tavern, awaiting the party's return. The other kobold -- obviously an ogran scout, and not the ranger -- had been searching for the party for days. Kyip explained that there was a new, local Doom among the ograns. The Doom -- equivalent to a duke -- was cautious, stealthy, and probing. He was also -- so said the ranger -- on the look out for the party. This news disturbed them somewhat, but not as much as what they had encountered deep below the dwarven fortresses. They had engaged and fought back dozens of animated dwarven skeletons, apparently released from their tombs by the ogran scouts.
The Grimbeards had been an ancient clan that disappeared millennia ago, though their carvings and underground fortresses still existed in places. A Grimbeard facility had been discovered in the newer mines, and the Stonehelms had hoped to explore it once the quarantine was lifted. The ograns explored it for them, releasing countless undead that besieged the city -- the first wave of which the party had seen far, far below.
A grim battle began in the Stonehelm's fortresses. Against armies, they could hold indeffinately -- but against the undead, they had little real power. Kurrold was the only priest of any real power, and all were needed to protect the entrances to the four main facilities of the dwarves. Chief Yarbus enlisted the party to help defend an entrance to the tombs, which were already being corrupted by the undead released from the Grimbeard regions. A long night ensued, with the party holding their narrow corridor against skeletons, allips, spectres, and even fearsome bodak.
After a long, long time had seemed to pass, and the party was exhausted from battling the undead back, Kurrold came to aid them. Using the powers of Galgiran, he stone shaped the corridor sealed, and let them retire to safety, comfort, and rest. Barely two days had passed, and far above their heads, the sun was shining after the Freeze -- on the 1st of Sad.
XP Awarded: 2,200 (total to date is 16,750)
DM's Notes: Both Macs had imbibed a bit of alcohol by the time I'd arrived, and Fred joined in the festivities along with Brandy. We met again at Brandy and Phili-Mac's, but the kids were already abed by the late hour. We had a good time, and the jokes and puns were very, very good. Fred cracks us up every time, and the man could probably find work as a stand-up comedian.
Once upon a time, when I was a player, our group was in the Forgotten Realms, heading on horseback towards some dark city or another. Our DM had crafted a wonderous night's adventure for us, complete with NPC villains, unique items, and a grand adventure. Unfortunately for the DM, we were all in character when we took one look at the town along the way, and said, "Skip it -- we go around it." Though all his work was wasted, the DM understood -- you can't anticipate the players. Since that time, I've learned that no matter how I might build and prepare for the players, they can bypass me at any time. I should never restrict the players, and force them to do something against their nature, or against their role-play. I see many DM's make this mistake, but it's a mistake of the DM: if you aren't flexible enough to adapt to the 'reality' of your players, then you need to learn how to bend like a reed in the wind.
After all, we don't play DnD so that we can read a book scripted by the Dungeon Master... We play to have a good time -- and that, we did.