The Black Obelisk of Klar Napoca
This week’s session saw the party, barely recovered from their run-in with the Gnarls, ordered to investigate reports of suspicious activity in the ruins of Klar Napoca, an ancient fortress that used to guard the border road into the old Urgench Dominion.
The entire northern province is off limits to settlers, travelers , trappers and tradesmen, and its ancient ruined cities are specifically forbidden.
There were three Obelisk Fortresses guarding the border. Two were destroyed during the war with the Amroth Empire. The third, Klar Napoca, fell after the Urgench capitol city was razed. The fortress was eventually taken but its obelisk was never destroyed.
Our heroes elected to approach the main gate area at three points. Some quick scouting revealed there were indeed fresh tracks coming and going through the entrance and there was a smell of campfire smoke on the wind.
The group advanced through the tree line. Unfortunately, they were too intent on the ruins to notice the spiders.
The Dwarf Cleric and the former Witch Hunter were both attacked on the right, while the Goblin at the far end of the line quickly dispatched the creepy crawlies that dropped on his head. A Crit Fail saw the witch hunter’s cross bow string break, so he ended up having to jab and stab at them with one of his bolts. The Dwarf suffered from a spasm of arachnophobia and flailed away ineffectively with his hammer, shrieking like a little girl. Eventually though, the spiders were all stomped to paste.
Meanwhile, the Sergeant and the Alchemist were focused on the towering rune-etched pillar beyond the main gate. They passed through the woods untouched and didn’t notice what was happening to their comrades behind them.
Four of the party passed through the enormous, shattered entrance, fanning out as they crossed the open area before the obelisk.
The Goblin and the Woodsman however were determined to scale the wall. (Why? Who knows? The open entrance was maybe 30 feet away, but no… they wnated to climb the wall)
The nimble Goblin hopped up. The Woodsman handed him his axe so he wouldn’t drop it or cut himself as he climbed. Having mastered the rock wall at the local gym, the Woodsman was supremely confident he would handle a mere twelve foot, crumbling ancient rock wall, so he told the Goblin to go on without him – which he did.
Well, four turns failing a Quick roll, (agility) including one Crit Fail, saw the Woodsman hopping up and down outside the fortress with a bruised thigh and bleeding shins, trying to recover his ax, which sat just out of reach on top of the wall.
Meanwhile, the Goblin spied what looked like some kind of ruined statue or shrine in the building immediately in front of him. He rushed in, only to disturb four Dregs (feral, ghoul-like humans) who had been pawing at the dirt at the foot of the statue. A howl went up and the fight was on.
Alarm raised, another pack of Dregs surged out of the ruins on the other side of the clearing and went straight for the Sergeant and the Alchemist. The Witch Hunter and the Dwarf hung back by the gate, the former trying to repair his cross bow string while the latter was collecting himself after his traumatic experience in the woods.
The Goblin pulled a tactical retreat and wedged himself between a rock pile and a wall, forcing the frenzied Dregs to funnel in at him one at a time. The Woodsman finally got a leg up, grabbed his axe, and came to help.
Things were not going so well on the other side of the clearing. The (I’m a lover, not a fighter) Alchemist was badly wounded trying to go toe-to-toe with the Dregs. The Sergent did his best to help, but outnumbered two to one, it was a desperate battle.
The Witch Hunter tried to help them, loosing cross bolts in support. (They were less powerful due to the makeshift repair) Most missed, and to add insult to injury, he Crit Failed a ranged attack and shot the Sergeant in the back. (Gah! WTF?)
Seeing the Sergeant drop to his knees, the Alchemist bolted to join his two comrades at the gate. However a pair of blood-crazed Dregs pursued. They caught up with the already injured character and mauled him to death right in front of his friends.
Hearing the Alchemist’s death-cry, the Goblin looked over his shoulder. Hey, he owes me money, he thought.
The fight eventually ended. Though sorely injured himself, the Sergeant managed to kill the Dregs attacking him. The Dwarf and the Witch Hunter took care of the two who had killed their friend, and huge sweeps of the Woodsman’s axe mowed down the Dregs near the statue.
Battered and bleeding, our heroes climbed the stairs to the Obelisk and found fresh evidence of dark magic and foul sorcery. It seems someone was performing some sort of arcane ritual in front of the Obelisk. Were they tapping its power? Trying to activate it? Was this a one-time incident by crazed dabblers? Or a small part of a larger, insidious conspiracy?
The answers to such questions were beyond our heroes’ reach. For now, all they knew was that night was approaching. So they bandaged their wounds, salvaged what they could, and bundled up the body of their friend. It was a long walk back to their barracks at Ochi Vanat, the silence as heavy as the swiftly approaching darkness in the eastern sky.
PS: Right before they left the fort, the Goblin and the Woodsman inspected the area in front of the statue. They discovered the Dregs had been digging, and clearing away a little more soil, discovered the gleam of metal. Something was buried at the statue’s feet.
After several attempts, they pulled a massive, black metal warhammer from the dark earth. Brutal, ugly, heavy as death, the head of the weapon is forged from dark, Damascus steel. There are strange runes deep-carved and inlaid with gold on each face of the hammer.
No one had ever seen anything like it. But two things are for certain: the hammer is old as the hills themselves, and it’s probably really useful for smashing things.
I suspect they’ll find out soon.
To be continued…