A Stampede Works Everytime
Kord’s Deliverance emerged from the knife several hours later, and swiftly moved down the hall. Gwydion and Asha had been mulling over the chamber where they encountered the pseudo-lich and bodaks; the tower with the rune circle was very old, but the creatures were not. An invading force had taken up in Thunderspire Mountain, but for what purpose? They were determined to find out.
The next large chamber contained many oxen, a fair number of cultists, and one big ass purple hole in the ground. From an exit on the far side of the chamber, a line of cultists pushed in wheelbarrows, full of dirt and rock, which were then dumped into the pulsating purple hole. Each load disappeared without a sound.
Slyron slipped into the room for a better look; remarkably, he was spotted. The alarm was raised, but not before Kord’s Deliverance came roaring into the room. Hordes of cultists turned and fled; those that stayed soon wished they hadn’t. The two yuan-ti leaders proved more difficult to overcome. Their powers of dominance forced slyron, morgan and asha to head towards the hole and its purple, disintegrating energy. After a few very tense rounds where the three heroes took turns trying to dive into the rift, gwydion and ghesh were able to disrupt the first yuan-ti controller, allowing their companions to dash back into the battle (and as far from the hole as they could get).
Afterwards, they questioned the remaining workers, who could tell them little of what was in the passageway beyond, other than “big, purple bosses.”
“Useless,” growled Morgan.
“Maybe not…” said Slyron, eying the herd of oxen in the pen, chewing their cuds contentedly.
And so the plan was this. They would rest up, recharge, and regroup; in the morning, gwydion would use a ritual to make all of them look like cultists. Then, they would force the oxen down the passageway in a stampede, followed by the worker cultists, who would try to convince the ‘big, purple bosses’ that Kord’s Deliverance had caused the rift to begin expanding. Or something like that.
“A stampede!” Morgan laughed. “Sure. Works every time.”
“Something about this plan…I don’t know…” Gwydion, his brow furrowed, looked unconvinced.
“What? What’s your problem with it, namby pamby?” Morgan retorted
Gwydion rolled his eyes. “Oh nothing. Sounds perfect, of course.” Morgan grinned triumphantly. Asha, however, caught Gwydion’s eye with a questioning look; he replied with only a shrug.
Iron golems interrupted their rest, but not for long. KD whooped their asses real good.
So. Stampede. It worked perfectly. Except for one small problem.
“Truesight!” Gwydion yelled suddenly as they approached the open doors into a large, hotly glowing room. They were following the rear of the charging group, able to prod any reluctant participants back into action. Up ahead, over the thundering noise of hooves and boots, screams of pain could be heard, as well as the clash of steel.
“What?!” Ghesh yelled back.
“Fomorians all have truesight! Aha! I knew there was something.”
The eladrin wizard’s smug grin lasted only a few seconds. The same realization the others had already made suddenly hit home.
“Our disguises…” he said weakly.
“…are useless,” finished Asha. The illusion of a thin, scaly cultist disappeared, and was replaced by the deva, ready, sword out, a determined glint in her eye.
“Ah, fuck it,” snarled Morgan.
Kord’s Deliverance followed their bellowing dragonborn paladin as Gheshkan crashed into the sweltering room. Inside, the three fomorian soldiers were blocking the way across a lava river, and were slaughtering the trapped worker cultists. Several oxen carcasses also lay strewn about, with the rest huddled off to the side, as far from the bridge as they could get.
Despite the soldiers size, it was easy to see two more huge forms behind them. One, a tall female glaring fervently at the heroes; the second, a hunched, robed giant, his attention focused intensely on the glowing runes of a—
“Teleportation circle!” yelled Gwydion. “It’s trying to activate it!”
Not for long. Two of the soldiers, while packing a serious punch, had no defense for slyron’s whistling dagger and Gwydion’s magic missiles. One of the massive bodies tumbled into the lava river, sending up huge waves of searing magma in all directions. The female fomorian proved more difficult to get past, as did the remaining soldier, who, inexplicably, managed to avoid, deflect, or flat out resist every attack sent his way by every single member of Kord’s Deliverance. However, Morgan (or Ghesh?) was able to pull the fomorian arcanist away from the circle for a round, and then Asha splintered the formation of the two leader fomorians, teleporting the mage several steps away into the midst of melee, right beside Ghesh. The mage didn’t last long.
Nor did the final fomorian, despite her ability to dominate their minds. Kord’s Deliverance was able to avoid any of its members taking an unwanted dip in the lava river.
After the battle, Kord’s Deliverance quickly inspected the two arcane oddities they found. The most captivating oddity was in an adjoining chamber: a huge shimmering portal stretched between two ancient jade pillars. The portal threw off a flickering green light, and reflected on its surface was the image of a mountainous forest.
Gwydion quickly scanned the etching on the jade pillars, and sucked in a breath.
“This,” he said, “was how the cultist army hoped to enter the valley. A massive teleportation gate! So ancient! It is at least as old as the pulpit that pseudo-lich stood upon up above.”
“Whoa, wait. You sayin’ that cultist army could waltz through here any minute now?”
“No, no, Morgan, the ritual to link the two posts has not been completed yet. And won’t be for some time either. At least two weeks.”
“I’m thinking not at all, myself,” Gheshkan spoke.
“Well, yes of course. I just meant—“
“Ya ya. We get it.” Morgan ignored Gwydion’s glare. “What about that other one? Looks a lot like those teleportation circles we keep comin’ across.”
Kord’s Deliverance walked over and regarded the circle carved into the floor. It still thrummed with energy.
“You sure we kept that shaman from finishing the, what did you call it, summoning ritual?” Slyron stared at the floor suspiciously.
“Yes. And no.”
The others looked at Gwydion in alarm.
“Wait. Whaddaya mean ‘yes and no’?”
“I mean, ‘yes’ we stopped his summoning ritual.”
Kord’s Deliverance stared at one another as a bright glow began to emanate from the circle.
“But no…?” Morgan prompted the mage irritably.
“No, we didn’t stop someone else from coming here on their own…”
As King Thrumbolg stepped through the portal, he was very satisfied to see the look of shock on the features of these pesky mortals . He’d been watching them from the other side for number of minutes—it was a feature of some portals to allow the traveler to witness their destination before they arrived—and he was eager to crush these meddling fools.
“Well, well!” He taunted as he sauntered further into the room. “Just the pack of soon—to—be dead fools I was hoping to find. When I crush your—” His taunt was cut short by an angry howl. His own.
Morgan growled as he yanked has axe out from the fomorian king’s kneecap, and a massive gush of blood began squirting.
“Stop talkin’, and start dyin’, Thrumbolg.”
And so, he did.