The last laugh


Characters: Remo[4], Meth[4], Ailon[4], Bram[4], Luna[4], Vincent[4], Teve[4], Na'tan[4]

The party digs for several hours before anyone can get outside. They find the weather is much cooler now. With folks working on both sides of the blockage, they are able to free the wagon by sundown. Again, the party is exhausted so they decide to spend the evening outside near the cave.

The next day, the party begins their trek into the mountains. As they travel, they will begin to notice many dead and rotting animals as well as withered plants. It looks like the heat wave has had its effect on the wildlife and remaining plants in the area. Making good time, by mid afternoon, they reach a road.

Na'tan informs them that this road is the only road that leads across the Gap of Kalhryn. K'tala's fortress is located at the gap. Due to the mountain terrain, the party must take the road from here on out.

Noticing that the weather is turning colder and that they will be heading high into the mountains, the party decides to make a side trip into a nearby town to get more cold weather gear. Only Na'tan, Teve, and Ailon make the trip. They return with extra blankets, fur coats, food, grain, hoods and firewood. Food prices were twice normal due to the recent disasters. Teve is able to replace his melted candles with some half price misshapen candles the merchant was trying to unload. The fur coats are nothing to look at, being made of a variety of different animal furs stitched together, but they were cheep (16SP each) and warm.

The next morning, the party wakes and the sky is overcast. A cool breeze comes off the mountains ahead. The travel is hard, even being on a road, since the road is quite steep with many switchbacks. As evening falls, the wind picks up and the first snow flakes fall. The party will have to dig for their cold weather gear. There is wood around for a fire but no covered shelters in the area.

The snow continues to fall, piling in drifts across the road. The howling wind echoes across the mountains. The little fire provides some comfort in the growing cold and the party manages to fall to sleep. As the evening passes, the howling seems to grow louder. Around 4:00 in the morning, Vincent gets very nervous and decides to wake the party. The howling now seems to be more than just the wind.

The first things that folks see are the glowing eyes of nearly 50 wolves. As they huddle with their backs to the fire, the eyes advance. Wave after wave of wolves leap toward the party from both up and down the road. The fighting is intense and lasts for over ten minutes. When the battle ends, Vincent, Meth, Ailon, and Luna have taken hits but none are too severe. Teve notices that all the wolves are scrawny and some of the wolves look diseased. Remo and Na'tan begin to watch for signs of disease.

The next morning, snow continues but the wind lets up. Travel on the road becomes treacherous so they stop to put on crampons they bought in town. Even with these, Na'tan slips and falls off the road. She falls back to the next lower switchback but only bruised. After this incident, the party members tie themselves together.

Evening brings another night in the cold with more snow. Since there is little wood in the area, they decide to burn the firewood they bought. The wind is calm but the night is very cold. Vincent begins to act strangely on his watch. He complains about being too warm and takes his coat and hat off. Teve and Na'tan are worried he may be coming down with something from the wolf bites. Teve make him sit near the fire while Na'tan wakes Remo and they both examine Vincent. They sense he is suffering from hypothermia so Remo casts a Resist Cold spell. Suddenly, Vincent returns to normal and realizes what has happened to him. He has seen this once before while mountain climbing and warns that other may be becoming too cold. Teve has already put more wood on the fire so Vincent instructs everyone to be moved closer to the fire and to share blankets.

The next day, the sun comes out and it feels much warmer. Late that afternoon, the party reaches the gap and gets their first sight of the fortress and the garrison. Situated on a spire watching the gap is an old fortress. Na'tan tells that it once guarded the gap from western invaders. Since the great desolation, there are few travelers from the west so the fortress is no longer needed for its original purpose. Now, only a small garrison of troops watches the gap from a stone guardhouse at the border. K'tala has taken the fortress as his own and few dare go there.

They send Teve up to investigate the guardhouse. He learns that there are at least 8 guards at the guardhouse. They don't seem to be too alert. The guardhouse seems ill kept and nobody is watching the road. However, the party will have to get through the guardhouse to get to the fortress. At the other side of the guardhouse is a long winding stairs (100') carved into the living rock which leads up toward the fortress.

Teve reports what he has learned and they decide to wait till just before dawn to attack. The will send Teve and Vincent through to block access to the stairs, then Bram will use a color spray spell to disable the guards. They set their watches and get some sleep.

When Vincent is roused for his watch, he complains about not feeling well and his bite looks enflamed. Na'tan and Remo again examine him and are shocked to learn that he has the plague! They wake Meth and inform here that Vincent is very ill and ask her to cure his disease. She prays to Dwalin for Vincent's health, lays her hand on him and a warm glow radiates from her hands. Vincent's color returns and he thanks Meth profusely. "Dwalin be praised," Meth gently counters as she helps Vincent to his feet. Only then does Meth notice that her own head is aching and her joints are sore. She fears that she too may be getting sick. Na'tan and Remo confirm her suspicion but there is little to do about it now. She cannot beseech Dwalin for this kind of healing for another week.

In her morning prayers, Na'tan casts a idea spell to gain guidance for today's mission. Instead of inspiration on how best to storm the castle, she sees hare cousin B'jan going about his morning prayers. B'jan is mayor of Ragnar, a town south of where they purchased supplies a few days back. She had forgotten that B'jan was so close but is a little annoyed that her prayer was not answered. Perhaps she had been neglecting here duties and was being given a gentle reminder. She asks for forgiveness and completes are prayers.

About an hour before sunup, the party, blessed by Na'tan, approaches the guardhouse. Teve and Vincent walk casually through guardhouse. The first third is sleeping areas where nobody is awake. About half way through, they pass the kitchen area where someone is filling a wood fired oven with wood. He does not hear them pass. They pass the back area where a guard sitting on his bunk putting on a boot. He nods as they pass and then starts looking for the other boot. Once past, Teve cuts a rope leading out of the building and up the stairs and then motions for the party to come through.

The party makes more noise as they move down the hallway. As the pass through the kitchen, the cook says, "They'll be done in a minute," without looking. In the next area they pass the guard who has found his other boot. He shakes his head and says something about recruits as they pass but he does not try to stop them. They reach the other side were Teve and Vincent wait and begin climbing the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, they cut the other end of the rope that leads to a large bell to prevent the guard from sounding an alarm. The drawbridge is up and there is a 20' gap they must cross to get to the fortress. The manage to get a grappling hook over the top of the drawbridge and can pull it down. With several members holding the bridge down, Teve crosses the bridge and locks it in the down position. Most of the fortress looks deserted and is in disrepair. Only the north tower seems to be in use. Luna begins walking toward the tower so the party follows. When Teve is unable to pick the lock to the door, Luna knocks the lock though the door with her hammer.

They meet a servant coming toward the door and Remo tries to disable him with a command spell. Either he does not understand common or is hard of hearing since it has no effect. Na'tan tries again speaking the command in Caliban. This time the servant falls to the ground. They tie him up and Luna heads for a stairways. Up they climb till they reach a heavily reinforced door. Luna hits the door with her hammer and it flies open. There, standing across the room, in front of the anvil, is K'tala.

As the party enters the laboratory, K'tala turns and laughs in triumph. He stands his ground as Luna is driven into a berserk rage. She runs across the room raising her now glowing hammer as she advances. As the hammer falls toward K'tala and the anvil, the glow becomes blinding and the shock of contact throws everyone and everything away from the anvil.

The room is destroyed, papers are everywhere, glassware has been shattered, and only the anvil stands where it was. K'tala is nowhere to be seen. Luna seems to be back to normal and unharmed by the blast. The blast has caused a small fire to break out which is quickly growing on the spilt chemicals. Luna grabs the anvil and the party quickly departs back down the stairs. They are met by several servants coming up the stairs but the servants give way when they see the party. The party leaves the fortress and heads down the stairs toward the garrison.

The party yells "fire" as they pass through the guardhouse. This causes panic among the troops causing the cook to spill the biscuits he just finished removing from the oven. The party heads back down the road toward the wagon. As they run, Meth faints and falls to the ground. She has to be carried back to the wagon where she shivers from her now high fever.

Na'tan suddenly understand why she thought about her cousin B'jan and asks Savankala for forgiveness for lack of faith. B'jan is also a priest of Savankala and is much higher level than Na'tan is. She informs the party that they must get Meth to B'jan if she is to have any chance of survival. It will take the party several days to make the journey and she urges them to hurry. They travel as quickly as is prudent on the twisty road, stopping only when the forced to by fatigue. They make the journey in just over two full days.

As they near the town of Ragnar, Meth takes a turn for the worse. They are not even sure she is still breathing, her eyes are unmoving and pupils are wide, and she no longer shivers. They rush Meth in to see B'jan who quickly calls for assistants and takes her off to a private healing room. After several hours, he emerges and informs the party that Meth was so far gone that she might as well have been dead. He was able to pull her back, but it will take her a week before she will be able to get about. She is in a deep sleep but should make a full recovery.

After a week of resting, Meth is well enough to get up and have lunch outside with the party. They tell her all they have learned about the disasters that have befallen this area. As they sit and eat, a bird lands on Bram's shoulder. It is the same carrier pigeon that Darmek had sent before. Again there is a note on the birds leg. Fearing the worst, Bram opens the note and reads:

Do not return to Alban, Duke Rudrik is dead.
Duke Koral has taken over Alban and Azul
and now rules a united Geldall. I think that's
why you were sent away.


I see from the stars that the curse has been lifted.
I hope Meth survived the curse. Head west over
the mountains to Jasper and I will try to meet up
with you there. Good luck.


-Darmek

The curse has been lifted, Luna is back to normal, the anvil has been recovered, and Alban and Azul have been reunited. Most of the party's goals have been met but there is little celebrating. Both their old and new homelands have been ravaged by a dragon and war and now their hopes for a freer Geldall have been dashed. Even if they could, the thought of going back to an Azul like government is unacceptable.

They can't stay in Caliban knowing the destruction they have brought on the people here. Na'tan has already convinced them that the Caliban government is not much better. It looks like they are once again outcasts.

But the worst hurt is K'tala. What was he up to? Where has he gone? Has this all been part of some grand plan with the party only pawns doing his bidding? Only time will tell who gets the last laugh.

 

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