APoF 16: Rocky Rematch
Following Theris' close encounter with death, thanks to his own stupidity, the party decides that perhaps the most prudent course of action is to take a moment to rest, knowing that the Rockwurm is within their grasp. While they catch their breath, the matter of Mezmin and the request that the Grolm-folk made of the party to secure their passage through the fungal forest is brought up. Some of the party members, Dr. Roth in particular, have concerns about the idea of destroying the red-skins that the Grolm-folk appear to despise.
While the notion of turning their back on the contract is floated to the rest of the group, Ailos asserts that this is not an option. He makes it clear that he will not violate a contract that he has made, to which Dr. Roth says that they signed no such thing, which Ailos rebuts by saying that a verbal contract is just as valid. Before they can discuss their options any further, however, the group of four tretâllë scouts that they sent ahead make an appearance, which Mezmin points out to the group.
The four appear to be somewhat worse for wear, but one in particular appears heavily injured. They claim to have had a run-in with a pack of rabid dryads, and have only just managed to survive. They join the party in taking a brief rest, tending to their own injuries. During this time, the party decides to forge on ahead toward the rockwurm, and as they're leaving, the Dominion soldiers following close behind them, Dr. Roth notices one of the tretâllë give a strange blue draught to the most injured of their number and watched with great wonder as his injuries appeared to be magically restored.
He inquires as to the nature of the medicine that was given, knowing that the fluid inside the vial was elfin blood. The person who administered the potion looks at Dr. Roth sternly and tells him that it is meant to be a last resort, a tincture capable of restoring energy and healing wounds, but at a price as it is blood magic. Dr. Roth asks for one, and after a brief discussion, the tretâllë hand him one vial, just in case.
To The Palace
The group heads out from the banquet hall into the lower bailey of the palace and they send Mezmin ahead to scout for them. Mezmin, who is used to sneaking around in the darkness, performs his duty admirably and returns a few minutes later to inform the party that there are things in the darkness ahead of them. According to Mezmin's description, they recognize that the creatures are Ubosh-Egon and Ghaolem. For some time, the group puzzles over how they will get past this obstacle before, finally, Zeph throws all caution to the wind and rushes forward to engage the enemies.
The group does battle but ultimately prevails over the creatures. However, the ruckus of their fight has attracted unwanted attention from elsewhere in the lower bailey and as they make their way up to the palace, the group has no choice but to engage another group of enemies that catches up to them. They fight and prevail before making a final dash for the palace. The group arrives at the palace, which has miraculously been restored to its former glory, compared to the ruined husk that it had become as a result of the rockwurm's first destructive rampage through the city.
Once there, Thurkear briefly speaks a prayer of healing for the party, to mend the wounds that had been sustained as a result of the previous encounters. The party gathers its courage and proceeds onward after their brief respite. They find their way to a throne room, and find a throne made of gold and encrusted with jewels, much too big for any dwarf. As they examine the throne, Dr. Roth sits on the plush seat cushion and inadvertently triggers a trap, causing two of the emeralds that are set into the back of the chair to melt into acid that burns him on the way down. The party tries to figure out how best to use this to their advantage but ultimately decide that there is no point in wasting their energy here.
Settling the Score
The group, recalling that the last time they were here, when there was a pit that led to the depths where the Rockwurm had found its soothestone, search the back of the room for the entrance to the staircase that they saw the remains of during their first journey. The journey into the depths of the palace is a treacherous one and the group has to navigate a gauntlet of traps that stand in their way as they descend the staircase and make their way through the tunnel leading to the chamber of the rockwurm.
Once there, the party joins battle against the rockwurm. The eldritch energies of the Shardscape have warped it, its form reinforced by silvery steel threads. When it exhales its poisonous breaths, the torrent of toxic gases is filled with sharp, glimmering shards of mirrored glass that cut and tear the flesh of those unfortunate enough to stand in the lingering clouds.
The battle is long and arduous. The party drifts close to the ultimate peril in a few occasions but in the end Thurkear is able to strike the final blow on the creature. Unfortunately, when the dust settles, the party discovers that Theris had quietly fallen some distance away from the front lines of battle, from where he'd been offering long-ranged support for the group. They arrive to help him too late. Theris' body is cold and lifeless, resting at the foot of the pillar that he had fallen from as a result of the rockwurm's earth-shaking movements.