Having dealt with one of the vampiric crew, we head straight to the main keep and begin exploring. We find an obsidian tunnel leading into the extinct volcano that the keep is built into the side of, and lacking any better options for sneaking in (kicking in the front door seems like a Very Bad Idea), we make our way into it. The Barbarian makes an appearance here as well; it seems that she feels that the vampiric courtesans are worthy of an attempt at redemption / curing of their vampirism, and that they're essentially innocent in these goings-on (they don't actively kill anyone; they're just making the best of a pretty poor situation), so she's going to try and save the two she disappeared with. Fair enough; that's an example that I think I can follow.
The going is quite rough in this tunnel; lava-flow tunnels are filled with exceptionally sharp spines of rock. By the time we got to the end of it, we were all bleeding in various places from cuts; even my scales couldn't fully prevent the spines from digging in and breaking off. Incredibly unpleasant for all involved.
Finally reaching the end of the tunnel, we find a narrow stone chimney that raises a considerable distance before ending abruptly in what appears to be a solid wooden door laid horizontally across the top of the chimney, complete with a very ornate lock and handle. It's wide enough that if we could levitate, two of us would be able to travel directly upward side by side. The walls are very smooth, with no handholds available even for the most adept among us at climbing (and that certainly isn't me!), so we begin discussions on exactly how we're going to do this. Even if we use the Rope of Climbing
in our possession, it's still too far up to reach the rope if it anchors itself to the door, which I have no doubt will also be trapped in some manner.
After some back and forth of ideas within the group, I come up with a plan: I can use my Transmutation skills to create some iron pitons out of the stone that is readily available around me! By the time the magic wears off and they revert to stone, we will be long-gone and no longer need them. Humming a working tune to myself, the others sit by and chat while I create a high-quality set of pitons. Using these, our resident Rogue uses them and the Rope to easily climb up the shaft and start examing the door; he's able to balance on a set of pitons while he works, making the trap examination a LOT easier. He calls down to us "Definitely trapped! Looks like it's set to go off when the door is opened", and he sets to work disarming it. It seems to take a long time; there's a prolonged sound of tinkering, clicks, mutterings from the Rogue, and mechanical adjustments. Once he's finished, he calls down that the trap has been disarmed and flings the door open with a crash; we all begin climbing up the rope and pitons to the now-open door. While we had no doubt that our movements were known anyway (the vampire lord is able to use rats, bats and other small creatures as countless spies in his domain), the echoing BOOM of the door crashing open would be as good as a personal retinue of horn-blowing heralds. Upon reaching the top and looking at the door, we can see that the rogue simply removed the entire locking mechanism. A bit difficult for a magical trap to spring if the mechanism it's monitoring doesn't exist as part of the door anymore!
We find ourselves in a hallway with a plain stone door at either end. Along the walls of the section leading east, there seem to be a lot of small holes in the walls, which are also lined with portraits. The eyes in these portraits are of the art style where they seem to follow your every move; very creepy. Covering the hall from one side to the other is a gridwork of very fine wires - Obviously a trap, but very easy to walk straight into (and get pincushioned by crossbow bolts for your efforts!) if you're not paying close attention. Aside from the tripwires, there's also a pressure plate in the floor. Once again our trusty Rogue does some tinkering and disables the traps; I try to Detect Magic, and the portraits show up as having some sort of magic inherent to them. Traps within traps!
Walking past one, a Wraith materialises out of it and attacks us! Unfortunately for it, we're more than capable of taking down one Wraith; it gets thoroughly trounced without even landing a single blow. Grinning evilly, I say "I've got an idea!" and use a Firebolt cantrip on the next portrait along. Naturally, another Wraith materialises from it, and gets trounced just as easily. Laughing and delighted by the idea of applying FIRE to a problem, I continue to Firebolt every remaining portrait one at a time while my comrades lay the smack down on everything that emerges. The party's Paladin then sanctifies the skeletal remains secreted into the alcoves behind each now-ruined painting, and we approach the door at the end of the hall. The Rogue checks for traps... And the stone door itself seems to be trapped (of course it is); the trap is magical in nature. I examine the trap to see if I can tell anything about it, and all I can tell is that the entire door has an aura of transmutation magic.
With no obvious leads, we decide that we're not going to let a simple stone door stand in our way! I toss a Firebolt at it to see if it triggers the trap, and the Firebolt splashes harmlessly across the stone and dissipates; no reaction from the trap. The Barbarian decides to "axe it a question", strikes the door to start destroying it... And the door grows a pair of stone hands that immediately grab the axe and start crushing it! The axe is having none of that though; it's destined for greater things than being mangled by a silly pair of stone hands. They crush an impressive set of dents into its edge, turning it from a smooth edge into a serrated one, before the Barbarian wrenches it free. Mighty offended, she attacks the door in a rage, and every strike gets her grappled by another set of hands; her last strike is with the very hefty ironshod boots she's wearing, which just so happen to deal massive extra damage to construction work and the like... Such as this door! She's temporarily held by three separate sets of hands, but gets free, smashes the door some more, and turns it to dust. In short order, the door is defeated, the axe looks even more badass, and we can proceed... Into another hallway (this time just a plain hallway) with another door of the same kind at the other end of it.
Since noone feels like fighting another door, we consider ways around it. I could use a Stoneshape spell to create a tunnel directly around the door through the wall... Or I could just transmute the stone that the hinges attach to and turn it into thin, flimsy, low-grade copper... Done! The door immediately tears free of its moorings since the copper absolutely can't handle the weight, and it falls forward and onto the floor with an echoing BOOM. We carefully make our way around it and through the doorway... And find ourselves facing a handsome, black-eyed individual wearing a tarnished golden crown. I know from my visions who this is, and it's not the Dread Captain; it's one of his underlings. After some of our usual pre-battle banter, we get right down to it and start smashing him. During the battle, he points a finger at the Rogue and utters some complex trigger words; the crown on his head glows, and a twisted iron crown appears on the Rogue's head. I recognise this; I yell "Crown of Madness
, guys!!" as the Rogue suddenly grins evilly, turns to the Paladin, and SHANKS him.
[OOC: He rolled near-max damage for this, and it's perfectly in-character for him to strongly dislike the Paladin anyway so hey, opportunity to settle an old grudge... And how!]
The Paladin is one-shot by this Sneak Attack out of nowhere and goes down in a heap. Thankfully the Rogue is able to break the spell before he's inclined to do any further damage (the iron crown on his head shatters and vanishes), and I give the Paladin one of my few remaining Potions of Healing. He's back up and in the fight, heals himself, and the fight is properly on! After getting absolutely wrecked, Crown Head goes down and stays down, and his appearance changes to that of a tiger-man... It turns out that he's a Rakshasa
! That crown he's got is thoroughly
cursed; anyone who isn't a Fiend puts it on, they're gonna have a bad time as it sends them permanently mad unless removed with a Remove Curse spell. Nasty!
Another door, another stone-to-copper transmutation, and we enter the next room through its eastern door. We are suddenly faced with THREE enemies. A female vampire with a big, heavy leatherbound tome, wearing fancy robes (known from my divinations as "The Librarian"); a platemail-clad warrior vampire with a massive Greatsword slung across his back (henceforth nicknamed "Tin Man"); and the Big Bad himself, a Vampire Lord, the Dread Captain: Ivan Dawntide! Tall, handsome, dressed in a Cloak of Shadows, he's a truly imposing figure. Our Barbarian attempts to strike up a conversation with the two underlings, telling them that we're only here for Big Ugly there and we have no beef with them personally. The Librarian informs us that we can go thoroughly and directly to Hell, but Tin Man remains impassive (which is interesting); he doesn't say anything, doesn't even unsling his greatsword, he just stands back and observes. We begin our battle with the Librarian as I dump a Lightningball on her head for her insolence, being sure to include Ivan in the blast radius (but not Tin Man!), and it's on for young and old. The Librarian is taking heavy damage, and her spells aren't really doing as much damage to us as she'd like, myself and my companions have been taking obvious care to not hit Tin Man with any attacks, spells or splash damage (we'll continue to leave him alone unless he takes obviously hostile actions), and Tin Man himself just stands back and watches. After a few rounds of battle, Tin Man decides to act. He unslings his greatsword, moves slowly and deliberately into the combat...
And shanks The Librarian with the greatsword, shoving it right through her.
My mouth simply falls open at this point as she turns to him with a hissing shriek and spouts an impressive stream of insults and vitriol, before turning and fleeing directly up the wall (vampires inherently have Spider Climb
at all times). He simply follows her up the wall and shanks her again (that's GOTTA hurt), while my comrades turn their attention to Ivan himself since The Librarian is now out of reach. I get another Great Idea, and carefully consider the implications of bouncing a Lightning Bolt through the Librarian, onto the ceiling, and using the reflection angle to have it come back down and hit Ivan as well - Two bats with one bolt! [OOC: The DM loves this idea and has me roll an Arcana Check to see if I can actually pull off the correct angle. With a base roll of 18 even before any of my bonuses, it's a definite "Yes".] The successful execution of this idea fills me with Inspiration! That will be sure to come in handy later, either for myself or to assist one of my comrades should the need arise. [OOC: The DM awarded Torgos "Inspiration
" for this, because it was "a truly inspired idea".] It's at this point that Ivan decides to activate the suits of armor, which suddenly animate and come at us.
Seeing that things are going thoroughly south, the Librarian drops to the floor and runs through the southern doorway, with Tin Man following close behind, the stone door slamming shut behind them (no doubt it's of the same nature as the others); I can only wonder precisely what happened between those two for him to take such an aggressive stance against her (assisting us in the process). Ivan rolls his eyes in a manner that practically yells "Ugh, not AGAIN", tells us that he'll deal with us idiotic interlopers later, turns into Swarm of Bats Form and vanishes into the ceiling and out through one of the many boltholes in it, doubtless going after his spawn to slap some Lordly Sense into them. With his departure, the animated armors stop as suddenly as they started.
Suddenly finding ourselves without enemies, the group collectively shrugs and decides to go exploring. We could theoretically go after them, but just finding them may be difficult, and it seems that Tin Man will take care of the Librarian for us. At the western end of the room, another doorway beckons, this one appearing to lead to a library...