We just had to grit our teeth about it. We decided to follow this shifty pack of Orchid thugs to Fallcrest. Worse, we agreed to be magically blinded by an unfamiliar ritual once we got there, to keep us guessing at their secrets. It would be a juicy bit of info to have… I’ll have to keep my nose flared for opportunities.
Anyway, a pathetic, blind parade of helpless fools we are. And our naive trust repayed us our trouble: we’re ambushed by the blood-chilling owner of a haunted wail and a scent that was less of odors, and more like breathing in the icy needles of a winter morning.
As the panic and confusion among us turned to resolve, we heard our Orchid escorts join the melee. The dwarf, the dragonborn and I also rushed the screeching menace to throw in our crippled efforts. Dangerous and stupid, in retrospect. We mobbed the creature. It used its wealth of targets to pounce Grit with netherworldly force. He would not arise from this.
His sacrifice bought us the opportunity to overwhelm the creature. The heavy thwips of fleet arrows loosed from Mattigan’s bow shredded the banshee’s essence and left it whistling with pain. My ears will ring well into the evening. A burst of buzzing divine energies summoned by the cleric’s solemn supplicating chants struck the netherbeast. The Orchid footmen’s attacks to the assailant banished its unwelcome presence back to the Nine Hells.
We made detour to a shrine of Bahamut. I am certain the paladin’s spirit shone nobly from the stars that night. I respected his dedication to the draconic god. I asked Sehanine also to lend her guidance to Grit as he journeyed the spirit realms.
After donating the paladin’s share of our treasure to the monks, the dwarf made use of the paladin’s sacred armor. Reworked it to fit his compressed and meaty dwarven torso. His craftsmanship was superb and he had no trouble adapting the scales and leather joints that once protected the fierce Dragonborn warrior.
The Orchid’s captain grew impatient. He insisted we submit again to blinding so we might return to our goal: The enigmatic Dugon, last heir of the House of the Orchid. The Orchid henchman were tight lipped. They would not let slip a single detail about this man.
Our face to face meeting of the mysterious heir revealed plenty of its own details, however. Foremost among them that Dugon bears the ill effect of generations of inbreeding. The familial blood is weak and sickly. The man cannot stand upright. He hunches with the crest of his back higher than his skull. A sight common among Gnoll elderly, but this is supposed to be a powerful man!
His power lay in knowledge and study, as it turned out. He knows much and filled us in greatly about the workings of the Sun Kingdom. He also told us plainly that he is responsible for the murder of Parlé Cranewing. He expressed seemingly genuine regrets about the incident, although his choice of words was too clever for my liking. I suspect he was trying to hide some weakness in his chain of command over the Orchid faithful. He didn’t offer us any justifications, either. Nothing sits right with me about these Sun people.
After deflecting our accusations and pointed questions, Dugon got to the point: He needs help. The stories tell of a group of Arbiters that decide the fate of the Sun Kingdom, by way of retrieving an ancient artifact. This artifact rests in the Core of the Sun, and is likely linked to the antediluvian Sun God. Whichever house gains control of it is said to be virtually guaranteed dominance over the kingdom.
This artifact, Dugon repeatedly assured us, must come back to the House of the Orchid. The House of the Crane cannot be trusted. They are known for their skulduggery and associations with the Abyssal Hells. Dugon, and his council of ghostly ancestors agree that the House of the Crane will lay waste to the land and certainly spell the doom of the small, isolated bergs of the Nentir Vale.
The House of the Orchid alone can be trusted to restore a powerful unity to the small points of light in the land. And so on. Suffice it to say, we don’t really believe him.
Regardless, he offered to teleport us to the entrance of this Core. We deliberated over our choices for a good couple of hours (soaking up the tea and biscuits offered to us all the while!) The elves of Harkenwold might have an instructive perspective on the Kingdom of the Sun. Jomon of the House of the Crane would likely enjoy a chance to weigh in on this Core of the Sun. Or perhaps even his missing siblings, if we chose to go back and search for them. All of these choices will wait.
We decide to take Dugon’s magically created portal to a remote and uncharted desert outside of the Nentir Vale. Right in front of us, an unassuming mound rose and yawned into a descending tunnel. With the scorching emptiness of desert in every other direction, we headed down into the darkness.
A heavy stone door girded in metal, roughly thirty feet down, was found unlocked at the bottom. Lax security due to remote location? Met with equally lax vigilance on my part…
The opened threshold revealed a massive wall of mustard colored ooze mounded midway through a circular room, to our left, and blocking progress to the next door. After staring in disbelief for a few seconds, we snapped into action when we witnessed the jelly start to proceed toward us. I leapt in first, being far more nimble than my meaty comrades. This was a mistake.
A classic trap. Blades upon a spinning cog, hidden by trick slots in the stonework. Whose job was it to find and neutralize these dangers? I payed for my irresponsible tactics in blood. I was gashed heavily up the leg and chest.
At least the spectacle of my mishap allowed my comrades to avoid the trap. As they joined the pummeling of the jelly, it was able to splash me with acid. I am not bringing my tribe very much honor in front of these people. One day my skills will be sharp and my vigilance untiring, I swear it!
The dwarf and the elf must have knowledge of such an enemy, because they beat it to pieces (four split pieces, to be exact.) But these prove even less effective against us and we made short work of them.
With the battle decided, Mattigan and I turn to the traps. We searched the room, and Mattigan alerted us to a panel on the wall opposite the ooze. I marked the locations of four more blade emplacements. There is one in front of our panel.
We set to work trying to defeat the offending blade without putting our bodies in the way of its deadly arc. I was able to hold down the mechanism and turn it away with my own blade. I tried to hold it down with my feet, but this proved dangerous. It forced me off balance and I narrowly avoided being cut again! I enlisted the assistance of our musclebound dwarf. Gorn was easily able to engage the trap with the shaft of his hammer, and hold it down while I worked with the panel.
It was fidly, but the interlocking switches inside made sense with a little experimentation. After a few minutes, I was finally able to show my worth and disengage all the deadly blades in the chamber.
Now, to see what is behind that door…