Icehammer Dwarves: Session 6

Elongated tongues dropped from the mouths of the rasping dwarven zombies as they dropped their bones and turned their attention toward us. We charged at them.

The undead raked their claws into us, but we quickly put them both down with a few axe and hammer blows.

Searching the room with three other doors and a set of double doors, Berreck found a crumpled parchment that he determined was a diagram of the pulleys and other machinery used for the portcullis and ballistae and gave it to me.

Exploring the adjacent rooms, we found an empty armory, a barracks with dozens of cots, privies, a storage room filled with tools, and a cold smithy.

In the barracks, I found a glass eye on one of the meager cots.

Berreck swatted down two stirges that flew out of the fireplace in the smithy.

Passing through the double doors, we entered a great hall with matching double doors on the three other walls, and a forty-foot-high ceiling supported by four thick stone pillars. A thick layer of dust covered the flagstone floor. Arrow slits were set high up in the north and south walls, and a small stone balcony protruded from the wall above the east exit, twenty feet above the floor. A luminous, wispy form clad in spectral rags floated through the balcony's double doors and disappeared.

I followed Bereck as he dashed through the double doors opposite us, under the balcony. The stench of death hung heavy in the air as we entered a debris-strewn hall beyond. The far side appeared to have collapsed by an earthquake.

We rushed through the rooms and rubble-filled passages beyond, Berreck intent on catching the apparition from the balcony.

Following the stench of death and decay, we heard hisses and snarls ahead as we passed over a smashed door strewn across the floor. Three dwarven zombies leapt up, dropping the ones they had been gnawing on, and darted at us, one of them clawing Berreck with its blackened nails. Berreck went into a rage, and we quickly had two of them down, when the third dug its nails into him, causing his massive muscles to briefly freeze up before he shook it off and we put the last one down.

The eastern section of the room was collapsed, filling the area with rubble. The gnawed bones scattered among the debris were the remains of a number of dwarves. Wall carvings depicting dwarves carrying censers and observing religious rites indicated that the chamber was once a shrine.

Searching through the rubble, I found a thin but sturdy gold chain, with a platinum amulet engraved with the hammer and anvil symbol of Moradin. Berreck found a steel coffer containing a vial of thick, glittering red liquid.

The only exit to the room was a narrow staircase, which we took to the wide halls of the upper level.

Turning a corner, we saw the luminous, wispy form of a female elf floating in the dusty hallway before us, its face wreathed in a tangle of gossamer hair, its body clad in spectral rags that flutter around it. The apparition's face becomes a mask of rage as it screams, "Get out of my house!"
We were both too frightened to approach the horrifying apparition. "Who are you?" Berreck asked, tentatively.

I shook off my fear and cast toll the dead to no effect.

Still frightened, Berreck gripped a javelin and asked, "Why are you in the dwarven fortress?"

It floated towards us with a wail that pierced our souls.

Berreck tossed a javelin through its ghastly form.

I hit with my spiritual weapon and a sacred flame, and it fled through a nearby door in the hallway.

With Berreck close behind, I chased it into a dust covered and cobwebbed bedroom, narrowly avoiding its touch. We hit it a few more times until it wailed it disappeared.

Despite the decaying furniture, we decided this would be a good place to rest for the night. After searching the room, Berreck spread twigs and dried leaves on both sides of the door and in the fireplace.

It was still early in the night when we heard scratching and banging at the door. The door burst open as more of the dwarven ghouls flooded into the room.
Berreck swung his axe at the first and went into a rage. Unarmored, I swung my hammer at it and finished it with a spiritual weapon.

Another clawed at Berreck, briefly seizing his muscles. As I donned my shield, one of the ghouls dug its black nails into me, and I was helplessly paralyzed as two others clawed into me.

As Berreck dropped another with his axe, I dropped a third with my spiritual weapon and finally freed myself, only to fall as the last one dug its claws into me.

The next thing I knew, Berreck was feeding me his healing potion, and I felt a bit of life return to me. All the ghouls were motionless on the floor.

Berreck cleared the corpses from the room and we slept until morning.

***

Continuing our search the next morning, we found a bath room with a carved stone tub filled with gnawed dwarven bones, as well as another privy chamber.

We also found another bedchamber, dust and cobwebs covering the stone-framed bed and moldy mattress. On the room's soot-stained fireplace, I noticed dwarven handprints in the soot on the back wall. As Berreck examined it, he was startled by two stirges that flew out of the chimney, one stabbing its proboscis into Berreck's neck. Before it could drain too much blood, he crushed them both in his hands.

Aggravated, Berreck slammed the butt of his axe into the rear wall of the fireplace, causing it to swing open on hidden stone hinges, revealing a small hidden room beyond.

Against the south wall of the otherwise empty room was a large iron chest with clawed feet. Frustrated that the chest was locked, Berreck was about to smash his axe into it when I calmed him down, explaining that the tiny circular indentation on the chest appeared to be a lock. Upon closer inspection, we could see that within the indentation was a tiny symbol of a handaxe clutched in a gauntlet.

We pressed it and tried the magic key we found in the Shrine of Savras, but it did not open.

Hoping that we would find a key, I convinced Berreck to leave the chest until we had completed searching the entire fortress.

Having searched the entire upper level, we took a wide flight of stairs down into a dusty, pillared hall, with a dark, soot-stained fireplace at the east end. The stench of death hung heavy in the air, emanating from the west. A deep alcove in the south wall contained a dais, atop which rested a limestone throne flanked by granite statues of dwarf warriors.

While Berreck searched the fireplace, I examined the throne, which seemed to be the source of the stench.

With a shriek, a stout and bearded ghoul in finer garb lurched out from behind the throne.

I hit it with my hammer as it clawed at me. When Berreck eventually realized what was happening, he ran over. Together we brought the creature down.

Suspecting this was the fortress's castellan, we found on it a gold signet ring bearing the Axeholm crest: a handaxe clutched in a dwarven gauntlet.

Finding nothing else of interest in the hall, we eagerly returned to the hidden chamber to try the ring on the chest.

This symbol on the ring was a mirror image of the one on the chest. Placing the signet ring in the indentation, the chest unlocked with a click. Opening it, we found a well made dwarven warhammer, bearing the symbol of axeholm, and an iron ring.

Taking some time to detect magic, I detected an enchantment on the hammer and abjuration on the ring. We took a short rest and focused on the newly found treasure.

Berreck donned the ring and I armed myself with the new warhammer, placing my old one in my pack just in case. Exploring the fortress further, we returned to the lower level and entered the rooms beyond the hall.

We found a dining room with a long, carved stone dining table flanked by a pair of equally long wooden benches. Above the table hung two iron chandeliers, their candles long since melted away. North of the seating area was a sooty fireplace and an alcove containing a rough-hewn pit that descended farther than we could see.

Adjacent to the dining room, was a dusty dwarven kitchen, including metal dishware, utensils, and drinking mugs.

Returning to the pit, we found abundant handholds and footholds allowing us to climb down to the bottom of the pit, sixty feet below. Casting light we saw the floor filled with moldy animal bones. Among the refuse, Berreck found a piece of parchment. Berreck thought it was a recipe of sorts, but I thought it must be instructions for a potion.

After searching the remaining guard posts, where Berreck found a vial filled with deep red, opaque liquid in one, and in another I found a thin silver chain and an elaborately engraved fox skull with cut green gems in the eye sockets, we determined that we had explored the entire fortress.

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