With a new group of Dwarves to chat with the party had questions.

“There’s an infinite seeming number of ghouls, We have cleared out quite a number of them.”

“So, you are saying that it is a big warren. Was there a ghoul king or some kind of lord ghoul?”

“There’s a queen. A queen ghoul.”

“That’s not so good.”

We slayed that one.”

“That’s fairly good. How long ago?”

“Yesterday. So, about a day ago. Oh, It feels like a month ago.”

“Because she has like, I don’t know, call it pheromones or something that basically keeps the other ghouls away from her and also forced to obey her and after she dies it fade aways within a day.”

“We got to get down there quickly then.”

“And yeah, I mean we only saw some bigger ghouls here but, I mean yeah if our guys are down there somewhere then if they’re near her body instead of keeping ghouls away it’ll start attracting ghouls.”

“So, we should go right now and get out of here.”

With the group somewhat rested, they rusted back down the rest of the stairs and through the larger hallways of the underground to get to the rest of the Dwarves.  Once again, all the bodies of the dead ghouls had been moved somewhere else.  Concerned about the presence of the ravening ghouls, the party sped up.  As they crossed through the larder room of the ghouls Yllanys was easily able to notice that almost all the bodies that had been piled up in the middle of the room had been moved to the edges of the room, as if to make room for something.  

Concerned about the other Dwarves the party and accompanying Dwarves ran into the ghoul queen’s chamber. They found the second fingerless Dwarves exhausted and their sanctuary, the cage they had been imprisoned within surrounded by piles of dead ravening ghouls.  Whatever had been keeping the ghouls away was no longer affected and the little toothy ghouls had found a new source of food, the Dwarves hidden within. The cage. The defenders had managed to kill more than twice their number using nothing, but the daggers strapped to their fingerless arms.

Clearing the bodies out of the way, Yllanys looked forlorn at his missed opportunity with the ghoul queen, but he like the rest needed to move on. Vladimir was still interested in possibly using the ruined Moathouse as a base, but the Dwarves were not at all interested.  It was in the middle of a horrible swamp, there were overly large monsters running around it, and there was still most of a huge ghoul warren below. When the party was wondering why there were so many larger creatures, the Dwarves postulated that some large catastrophic event covered the entire killing all the small creatures.  Something like freezing temperatures over several days.

“All right is there any history? Do y’all know any history to this place or, is it just as much of history to y’all?”

“We were hoping something would be here. I mean there’s some I mean we don’t even know the name of it. I mean it’s like four or five hundred years old. So, there’s just an old form. There are old fortresses all over the valley. Dwarven and other ones.”

“To finish my sentence, an old fortress with a seemingly endless supply of corpses underneath.”

“Well, ghouls can replicate from more than just corpses.

“What?”

“They can set up incubation things where they basically get women, and they hold them hostage while they pump them full of the kind of ghoul stuff, not quite killing them off. They can then pump out babies. They usually make these horrible teethy things first and then they eventually grow up into the older larger ones. So, I mean, if you didn’t come across a birthing chamber, that must mean it’s somewhere in the warren. You can suppress the numbers for a while, but eventually the birthing chambers will build up the numbers within another week or two. Since you killed the Queen they might go another direction who knows unless another  Lord Ghoul comes out and takes over The warrens lead all the way to the Underdark Many of these warrens go down all the way particularly if they’re large warrens You can get small warrens with small groups,  that break off and you can find five ten or maybe fifty of them in a place but,  if you encounter more than 50 or 60 then then you have a big warren. Once you have a very big warren. there’s definitely a birthing room somewhere.”

There was a very short discussion about seeking out the birthing chamber, but when warned that it would be guarded by from ghoul lords, and that there might even be a ghoul king nearby, the party thought it best that they brought the Dwarves back to Red Larch since that should be there priority. With that decision in place, the group moved quickly to the exit tunnel hoping to avoid any additional ghouls.  Toward the end of the 500-foot tunnel, they could hear the sounds of a couple of large creatures moving around, and apparently dragging something large. With dawn only an hour away, they could dimly see a pair of huge ghouls.  In fact, they were clearly ghoul ogres and they had been dragging a lizard larger than they were back to the warren.

With many of the party members almost out of ammo, they tried to keep the giant ghouls out of range, but the ghoul ogres were hardy and were able to close.  The combat while short was brutal with Ace once again being knocked unconscious for probably the 20th time since they went into the ruined Moathouse.  With the ghouls dispatch, they knew they should not stay too close to the tunnel exit, especially with such a large dead reptile nearby.  Moving a little deeper into the swamp, the party and Dwarves set up camp and tried to get some much-needed rest.

It was during Dancer’s rest that something made the fur on the back of his neck stand up.  Something malicious was watching them, but he was not able to determine from what direction.  The rest of the watches were made more tense because of Dancer’s warning. The morning, while everyone was able to get a full rest, there was an air of nervousness surrounding them.  Once the camp was put away, their fears were realized as a shadowy ghostly figure flew out from the swamp and attacked.

Shadowy Figure

This creature proved to be one of the most difficult battles they have had.  Even with the 14 Dwarves and bulldog assisting, the mental attacks wreaked havoc on this party.  It seemed to be able to frighten people, force them to attack others, with its intangibility it could pass through people and cause damage, and finally it had a frightening scream containing some sort of knowledge that would cause your ears to bleed.  The worst attacks were when it hit with one of its spectral arms which seemed to suck away at the wisdom of anyone hit. Each time it touched anyone, some sort of insidious whispers went into the mind of the one touched causing pain and confusion.  Some of the whispers were as follows:

“The key to unraveling the universe lies hidden in the chaos of the mind. Search within your madness; there you will find the answers you dread. The lock awaits, will you turn the key?”

“The void calls to you, a deep, resonant drone that vibrates within your soul. It is not a sound but a presence, enveloping, consuming, inevitable. Why resist what you cannot escape?”

“In the heart of the void, where light dies and chaos reigns, true power lies hidden. It calls to you, a siren song of ancient might. Will you heed its call?”

“The chains that bind are not forged of iron but of stars and shadows. They wrap around the cosmos, holding it tight in an endless embrace. Feel their weight upon you, heavy with ancient secrets.”

“Every secret told feeds the void, every truth uncovered strengthens the chains. Are you a keeper of secrets or their unwitting pawn?”

“Do you hear the eternal scream echoing from the void between stars? It resonates through the silent cosmos, a lullaby for the damned. Listen, and its despair will fill your heart.”

“Shadows gather where light fears to tread, and in those shadows, he waits. His patience is infinite, his scheme inscrutable. Do you feel the darkness deepen?”

They were finally able to kill it and the Dwarves proved to be the most effective with their heavy crossbows and a few of the fingerless ones stabbing with daggers attached to their arms. Not wanting to attract any additional attention the party rushed to the edge of the swamp.  Even though this was Dancer’s first time in the swamp, he seemed to be a natural in being able to find the shortest path to the exit. With night already upon then they moved about an hour outside of the swamp and set up camp once again.  This provided some more time to ask the Dwarves questions that the party had been seeking answers to.

“I think we’ve asked this to some other dwarves before, but maybe you might have more insight. Does Koganusân have a library?”

“Aye, the lord there has a library.”

“Would you happen to know if it’s primarily dwarven history?”

“We wouldn’t know that. We’re in the fortified keep inside. Koganusân’s inside the hills. It’s a fortified town, basically, in the hills themselves. It was a refuge from one of the last wars. Basically, it got formed a couple hundred years ago from basically all of the remnants, of everywhere else from the wars four or five hundred years ago.”

“What wars do you speak of?”

“The last wars. There’s been orcs and ogres and trolls coming through this valley for the last thousand years. I’m not a historian so it’s not something that I’m educated for. I’m educated for someone who points a finger in a direction and that’s the direction I go. If something is in my way I step on it. There had been a sage that came through a while back. You know you might be able to find out more if you could find him.”

“Do you think that would be the sage that you guys were traveling with?”

“Could be.”

“What was that sage’s name?”

“It seems like it was months ago that I… I love that guy. He was… I’m sure he was really nice, and I learned a lot from him, including his name.”

It proved to be a completely uneventful evening and morning arrived safely.

Knowing that traveling by road was faster than the wilderness, they moved northeast to meet up with the Cairn road and started their trek to Red Larch.  Marching a bit faster than they would normally they were able to make to their town as dusk was upon them. With Dancer heading to the bakery for a refill of bear claws and then to the Blackbutter Inn to acquire rooms for the party, while all the rest went to see Banmin.  The guards seeing the party and the Dwarves with them were quick to bring Banmin up to the quarry where everyone was waiting. He was very happy to see the Dwarves and gave one of them a big hug welcoming him back. Seeing the condition of the half the Dwarves he seemed saddened but declared that he would have them all fixed up in the next week. He had the guards take them down to the barracks leaving him alone with the party.

Banmin

“Now, we appreciate what you’ve done for us. You had mentioned before that you wanted to borrow some of the dwarves and some of the cultist things that you said you’ve encountered. Is that still the case?”

“It would certainly be helpful if we could potentially have some assistance. On our way here, through some of the encounters that we had, those dwarves were quite handy.”

“They are soldiers. With the unit pretty much decimated, they don’t really have anything else to do. I can have them assigned here off an attachment and then you can borrow them, but it’ll take a 10 day for them to rest and get healed, so if you want, to come back in a 10 day. You can march them off, you can use them for different, things, I’d just tell you not to kill them off. “

“Our main priority is, of course, them getting rehabilitated and back up to full health.”

“Well, like I said, that’ll take about a week. Is there something you’d like from us as a reward?”

“We did this out of… Responsibility? Responsibility. We felt bad that we had lured your men to the boathouse that had not been fully cleared. They went there on our word and found only death and chaos. So, for that we are sorry and we’re glad that we were able to bring some of them back.”

“We appreciate that. I’ll get more of their story later as well. I’m sure they’ve got some adventure stories to tell, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to be wanting to hit the Helm later and drinking their fill as much as possible.”

“I offered them to fight them in the first round. Because it is four, almost five o’clock.”

“Well, I can get one started on the healing tonight and then they’ll probably be there within, actually probably tonight. They’ll probably hang out in the barracks here with the other dwarven soldier. We’ve got some guarding the tomb, and all of them are old friends. Tomorrow is probably the best time to see them at the Helm.”

They proceeded to tell Banmin about the things they had encountered, especially the scary spectral figure in the swamp. He also told them about his great-nephew that had moved to town as the new Dwarven blacksmith, Craig Ironjaw.  Who had brought his entire family as well as several apprentices. With the drop off concluded the group made their way to the Blackbutter Inn and broken into groups heading to their rooms except Yllanys, who felt he still had enough energy to Flirt with Gwendolyn, but not enough charisma to carry the conversation very far.

Gwendolyn

He was able to learn about the new Dwarven smithy, a new Dwarven ale-maker, and that the replacement priest had arrived to relieve Imdarr. With his flirting not having gotten the response he was hoping for, he too headed off to bed and a bath much like how the rest of the party had already been into their winding down mode now that they were once again in a safe place. And without an exception, they all headed to bed for a good night’s sleep.

3rd of Flamerule of the year 1492

Morning arrived, and this is where the session ended.