Dragons of Blackminster

Shar Gazoth 11 - The Citadel of the Orcs

Stilgar the gnome leaves them in a dead-end side chamber close to the bottom of the Great Stair. Before he goes, he asks Mulan to deliver a message to the Gnome King, “The gnomes of Gnarlheart are still alive and still loyal, please send word inviting them back to the Tanglewood”. He hopes that Mulan will be sent to deliver the invitation and gives her an enchanted ruby that pulls directly towards Stilgar.

At the urging of Davidian, they sensibly decide to watch for 24 hours to get a feel for the security of the place.

Peering out from their tiny side chamber into the vastness of the cavern, they see for the first time exactly what they have got themselves into. The Wizard Agraven never saw this view of the Citadel from outside as Agraven’s Journal told of descending a vast chasm and crawling along the bottom of it to break out inside the Citadel itself, near to the domed cathedral of the Mirror.

They were in a vast flattened hemisphere, approximately 3 miles across and with a roof maybe half a mile high at the centre. At noon the sun shone down through a central shaft that must lead up to the volcano’s caldera. The golden beam cast light on the city itself but only dimly lit the outer walls of the cave.

citadel_map.png

The Citadel was a large town, encircling the lower part of the volcanic shaft. As the sunlight faded the red glow from the lava tube provided a dim twilight and glittered off sections of quartz embedded in the ceiling like stars.

The ground between the cavern’s perimiter (where they were) and the outer city walls was mostly flat, with clusters of boulders that must have fallen long ago from the ceiling and shattered. A wide paved road snaked across from the Great Stair to the Outer City Gate. The outer walls rose about 25 feet. As they were about 400 feet up the sloping cavern wall, they could see down into the city and to the inner wall, at least 30 feet high.

Between the outer an inner walls, looked mostly deserted ruins except for two sections – by the Gate, a sector including barracks and stables and to the western quarter, a large graveyard dotted with many crypts and rows of graves.

As they spied on the Citadel, they saw…

An encampment of Driders and Drow near the Gate – perhaps 4 Drow and two Driders and a few Goblin slaves?

Three Wyverns, roosting in the Castle on the far side of the City, every 5 hours, one of the three went on a long circling flight, spiralling out to the cave edge and back.

There were regular patrols along the inner City Wall, but none along the outer. The sentries appeared to be orcs, some were carrying long metal poles with bright blue flames.

The City itself was illuminated by streetlights of blue flame that were lit after the noonday sun had passed.

At sunset (as best they could judge) a procession of priests came into the Graveyard (again carrying the blue flame poles) and did a circuit.

They saw a War Party of White Orcs and Dire Wolves passing from the Great Stair into the City. These stopped to talk briefly with the Drow, before passing on through the Gate.

The City consisted of distinctive sectors (clockwise from the Gate)…

The Outer GATE Sector, Barracks, Stables and Trade, the inner sector there was similar, perhaps wealthier and more important.

Outer Ruins, occupied by packs of savage-looking dire wolves, the inner sector was Trade and barracks and residential.

The Graveyard, hundreds of crypts and thousands of graves, the inner wall from the Graveyard holds the largets of the temple Buildings, the carvings show it was once dedicated to Torkas the Storm God (worshipped by the Red Orcs) but now over-painted with white, dedicated to the White Orcs’ goddess – Lillith. The inner sector was all templates and wealthy houses. At the far side of the inner sector, just into the Castle sector stands the Dome of the Mirror.

At the “back” of the Citadel, furthest away from their hide out, more Outer Ruins, the inner sector there holds a Park and a Lake and the Castle (and the Dome of the Mirror).
Opposite the Templates and Graves stood many rows of chimneys, belching black smoke – an Industrial section. From this, a train track led straight out through the outer-wall, to massive Iron Doors in the cavern’s outer wall.

A huge fan in the upper shaft makes a constant clanking and droning noise, but at least it draws away the smoke.

They reviewed what they knew of the Orcs…

Red Orcs (now a minority faction – “Hobgoblins” – organised, military, with high technology) not happy with being ruled by White Orcs (who are much more numerous and bestial). Red Orcs built this place originally and worship Torkas the Storm God. White Orcs follow Lillith the Winter Queen.

Torkas is probably the “least evil” of the Five Dark Gods of Jade – he is god of Storms and the Sea and often sailors and pirates of all races make sacrifices to him in secret. He is usually depicted as a Storm Giant on a huge flying ship – flying through space, hunting Star Whales! It is widely known that it was his ship that crashlanded on Jade millenia ago and the other Dark Gods were his passengers, all fleeing from something. He had been trapped on Jade (or in the space near Jade) ever since but 25 years ago, it is rumoured that he escaped back into the Multiverse.

Lillith is one of the most evil and hated of the Dark Gods – 2000 yrs ago she almost conquered the entire northern continent, overwhelming it with the Fimbulwinter. Only the emergence of the True Gods, teaching men and dwarves the power of Divine magic, turned the tide and forced her troops back north over the white mountains. She dwells in the Tower of Glass, far to the North, and occupies the bodies of a succession of beautiful young women, often kidnapped for the purpose every 10 years or so.

Lord Stagmork is her representative and rules Shar Gazoth. He is probably a Death Knight – some sort of fallen Paladin who may or may not be undead.

Red Orcs do have the same spontaneous Undeath as humans and dwarves in Jade. However, in their religion, rising as undead is seen as a natural stage and they just keep the bodies locked-up until they decay to spirits and eventually pass on (Approx 100 years?)

Sneaking into the Graveyard…

They decided to try sneaking to the Graveyard and over the wall there.
Using Clayton’s “pass without trace” spell, they got most of the way, but attracted the attention of one of the Driders. He must have heard the clanking of Gaston’s plate armour! Davidian saw the drider start moving towards them to investigate. He shimmered and went invisible. They all hid and waited, hearing the creature pass close by but it drifted away and returned to its camp.

At the wall of the Graveyard, Mulan climbed over using “spiderclimb” and timed her trip to miss the patrols. She then held a rope in place both sides for the others to clamber over, again carefully timing it to avoid the patrols. Rabid dire wolves in the nearby ruined sector began howling but eventually grew bored and wandered away. They were down in the graveyard with a couple of hours to go before sunset and the likely arrival of the procession.
All the crypts in this part of the graveyard were similar and all had rusty old padlocks.

Davidian specifically looked for a smaller – unique crypt! [GM: Remember that, I offered you lots of non-descript crypts, but Tom insisted on one that was different!] It would certainly hold fewer corpses – some of them may have held dozens of warriors. This was smaller and more ornate and had ancient Storm God carvings with Valkyries all over it.

Davidian used Mending to fix the rotten/rusted padlock, so Mulan picked the lock fairly easily. Unfortunately, the gleaming new lock would be fairly obvious if the Procession was to catch sight of it. Abraham the Inquisitor suggested that checking all the dead were safely locked away was the probable purpose of the Procession!

Into the Crypt…

Gaston opened the door and stepped in, which triggered the magical defence – a SYMBOL of DEATH!!! Mulan was knocked out immediately, her familiar, Mooshoo, evaporated instantly from the massive damage. Davidian and Abraham were almost dropped [GM exactly 50hp of damage and they both had 51 hp!] Gaston and Clayton were badly wounded too. Only Jock saved and took half damage.

The Symbol glows brightly in a 60ft radius for 10 minutes and repeats its damage each round against anyone who stays in the area. They could easily have ALL died in the next round, but Davidian managed to turn it off with a desperate Dispel Magic.

The light had only glowed for 1 rd and they were lucky, it was a time when the nearest patrols were out of sight.

They hastily did some magical healing before Mulan sealed them all in the crypt and hid outside – intending to cast minor illusion on the lock to make it look rusted again when the Procession of Red Priests comes out. [GM: That bit was worthy of Inspiration]

The rest of them continued into the Crypt without the help of their professional thief! Inside, the carvings were ornate – a very rich Torkas worshipper must be buried here, The tomb was a couple of hundred years old. Davidian used “detect magic” and saw that the carved whalers with harpoons, either side of the corridor ahead, were magical (likely to animate). Gaston decided to risk running through [worthy of Inspiration]. The harpoons struck him, both hitting for big damage but he managed to pull himself off their hooks (avoiding on-going damage) and ran on.

He ran too far ahead and fell down a pit trap that snapped shut above him and dropped him 20 feet into a narrow chamber that slowly filled with alchemist fire.

The others tried to break him out but the trap was too cunning and tough. They had to call Mulan who had to unlock the tomb and then managed to disable the trap only moments before the hidden match that would have lit the flammable oil.

They dragged Gaston out just in time. Clayton filled a waterskin with alchemist’s fire (equivalent of 4 doses)

Mulan went back outside, locked them in again and they continue further into the Tomb.
Assuming they survive, there must be significant treasure in such a heavily-guarded place. Also they can probably stay hidden in a Tomb for days while scouting out a way to get to the Domed Cathedral where the Mirror is thought to be housed.

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MickH666

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