Journal Entry: War of the Lance
Entry Date: 9/22/2002
Day 21 - November 30, 351AC
Third watch roused the party. In the darkness it was impossible to say what time it was. They headed back to the turn-off they had passed the night before. This tunnel again branched and they went left. Traveling further, the tunnel branched again, this time offering them three choices. Tanis and Tas checked out a left passage which seemed to turn back the way they had come. It went the wrong way, but Tanis feared some monster which might attack them from behind if they left the way unexplored. Traveling until the party was out of site, it wound back and forth, continuing away from the fortress. They turned back.
The next passage they tried went directly left. Again, Tanis and Tas scouted ahead. This passage turned to the right, toward the fortress, if their sense of direction and the crude map they had made was sound. The rest of the party joined them and Tas took point at the edge of the light cast by Raistlin's staff. The passage went quite a distance before turning right again. Here, Tas felt the ground shift. A section of stone ten feet square descended under him. He quickly jumped back, but the stone continued to drop, a foot in all. Soon the rest of the party joined him.
They puzzled over this for some time. Nothing seemed to have happened. Flint and Tas examined the "trigger" in great detail, but could not determine what it had done. Tanis, concerned it may have sounded an alarm somewhere urged the party to press on, and so they did.
The passage turned right again, now headed back the direction they had come. Gilthanas stopped at a wall. It appeared to his elven site to be not solid, maybe a large door. Riverwind agreed as he spotted tracks entering the tunnel from the hidden passage. Tanis crouched for a closer look and was startled to discover that they belonged to the party. They referred to Flint's map, trying to puzzle out where they might be. After a moments debate, they knew what the trigger had been. They were sealed in.
A search for a release proved fruitless. Riverwind heaved on the door to no avail. Even the added strength of Caramon, Sturm, Tanis and Flint, with pry bars failed to budge the solid door. Riverwind through himself into the berserker rage that some plainsmen use in war, throwing his fury driven strength against the wall. Still it would not move. Gilthanas and Flint planted their pry bars into the seam and the warriors pushed with all their might. After several minutes of forcing the door inch by inch, they finally forced an opening wide enough to escape through.
They traveled back to the junction and took the last route open to them.
This way soon led to a dead end, but again, a secret passage was evident. Tas soon determined how to open it and the door swung in to reveal a plain stone chamber. Two corpses lay on biers flanking the door of the twenty foot square room. To the surprise of the party, they rose slowly, turning towards the intruders. While the warriors charged and arrows flew, Goldmoon steps forward and displayed her medallion of faith. She demanded that the undead begone and they were destroyed by her holy power.
A quick search of the room revealed nothing. Tas reached for the door, but it opened on its own. Dozens more of the undead creatures stood outside. With a flurry of swords, the warriors forced a path into the creatures. Goldmoon's power came to bear again and eight more were destroyed. Caramon and Flint were badly outnumbered by the fearless horde, but they pushed out into the hall, soon followed by Tanis, Sturm, Eben Riverwind, and even Tika and Laurana. All the while, Goldmoon's holy power destroyed the evil creatures.
Finally, all were destroyed with only minor injuries to the party. A search of the area revealed 20 cells, all identical to the first. The guard of Kith-Kanan, somehow perverted into these unholy things. Two exits led from the room. A set of double doors in the direction they were headed, and a crack in the wall opposite. Eben pushed the doors open to reveal a hall flanked with pillars. Passing down this hall, it widened and soon entered a large chamber. Gilthanas searched the walls and discovered two doors leading further towards the fortress.
The first they checked ran 60 feet to a wall, but it was soon discovered that this was a sham, another secret way leading to a long hall beyond. Behind the other door was a short hall leading to a door. Flint tried the door, falling into the trap that lay before it, a twenty foot pit. They soon discovered this door was a sham and would not open. Flint was rescued and they all went through the first door.
The hall turned left, finally coming to a door. By this time everyone was getting a little nervous about doors, but it was opened and they passed into the chain room. A great chain stretched up from the floor and out of sight. Gilthanas climbed it. In the meantime, Laurana discovered a secret door. It was opened to reveal a vast treasure of worthless gold. Even so, the party took a few bricks. Flint intended to use it to craft a setting for the gem Laurana had found earlier.
Gilthanas returned, reporting that the chain climbed a hundred feet to an opening that might accommodate a child. All eyes turned to Tas. Tas eagerly pulled out his rope of climbing and began the long climb up. After hundreds of feet, he finally entered a long room. The chain continued the length of the room and out the other side. Though the links were six feet long and the entire chain hundreds of tons, it was held taught, supporting unimaginable weight. Tas' attention was drawn to a crack in the wall though, where he saw light and heard voices.
He crept to the crack and peered through. Far below was the throne of Verminaard. He was ripping Fewmaster Toede a new one for allowing the heroes' escape. Toede laid the blame on a gully dwarf, of course, saying it was not his fault. Verminaard was not pleased by this explanation and promised Toede that he would die in their stead if Toede failed to capture them before the end of the day. Before Toede left, Verminaard said something which made Tas shiver, he spoke of a traitor planted in the party. Toede retreated and Verminaard sat back to survey his new throne room. Tas beat a hasty retreat before he was spotted.
Forgetting all about the chain or anything else, Tas climbed back down to the chain room. He asked to speak to Tanis alone, Flint came along as well. Tas told them of his adventure, fighting a huge Ghast during his climb and seeing Verminaard and finally of the traitor. Tanis and Flint took this threat very seriously, and suspicion fell immediately on Eben. Eben soon fled their minds though as they realized that their were four new members of the party. Laurana's sudden appearance was suspicious, no one liked Gilthanas very much, even Tika, though Tanis rejected that idea. Even worse, they realized that one of their party could be enchanted. Flint even suggested that Raistlin might be a traitor. They soon agreed that they could not trust anyone and that behavior was no guide as the traitor would try to behave as if all were normal. Tanis sent Tas to get Raistlin.
As Tas left earshot, Tanis suggested to Flint that even Tas could be the traitor. He could have been enchanted while away from the party and this story a rouse to throw off suspicion. Tas soon came back with Raistlin, Gilthanas and Eben following behind. Tanis immediately told the two of them to get out, that this was a private conversation.
Gilthanas took issue with this. He objected to secrets being held from the party and demanded he be told what was going on. Tanis insisted that this council was needed and that he would tell the party as soon as this was done. Eben accepted this and went back to the others, but Gilthanas would have none of it and stood his ground. A heated argument ensued, Gilthanas trying to exert his authority as leader of the expedition, but Tanis rejected this as they were through the Sla Mori now and he knew no more about what lay ahead than anyone else. Tanis was retaking full command and Gilthanas would just have to live with that.Gilthanas, stubborn as ever, held his ground and Tanis finally gave in, saying that Tas would tell the whole party his tale.
As the others filed out, Tanis pulled Raistlin aside and confided in him about the traitor. He asked the wizard if he had any magic that might reveal the traitor. Raistlin had only the ability to detect magic, but that would reveal if anyone was under an enchantment. He did this but found nothing.
Tas told his tail, how he climbed a thousand feet and slew a giant Ghast in the passage. He emerged into a long chamber where he was attacked by a vampire, but he bested the monster, finding the crack in the wall. He heard Verminaard talking to Toede. Before Tas could mention the traitor, Tanis cut him off.
He explained that these monsters were worse than he expected and that he feared for the party. He wanted to make sure everyone was ready for what lay ahead. Gilthanas was livid, if this was what all the secrecy was about... He and Tanis began arguing again.
Eben decided it was time to move out. Most of the party followed save the elves. Tanis and Gilthanas continued to argue until Laurana interrupted in a loud voice, "Excuse me!!" They stopped to look at her.
"As the dragonarmies are less than a day from Qualinesti, the rest of us thought we'd go rescue the slaves and see if we could convince Verminaard to recall his army and save our people. Feel free to join us when you're done here." With that she followed the rest of the party. Gilthanas and Tanis glared at each other and followed.
Chapter 10: The Tharkadan Towers
They all passed into a rubble filled chamber. Tunnels had been cleared through the debris and these led to a storage area of sorts. A search found many articles of clothing, blackest, coats, pots and pans, etc, all loot from the towns of Gateway and Solace. Tika claimed a heavy skillet for herself, stowing it in her pack. Eben went to the exit from the room and opened the door to find himself looking at four draconians who were looking back. A woman was also in the room and they were dragging his off someplace.
The heroes charged into the room. The draconians were quickly overwhelmed and slain.
The woman was Maritta and she told the heroes what the status of things were. The women were held to ensure the men behaved. The children were held to guarantee the behavior of the women. The heroes marveled at the effectiveness and simplicity of the plan, growing respect for their enemy, Verminaard. It was decided right then and there they would go get the children, but Maritta was quick to advise against rash action and told them of the dragon guarding the children, Flamestrike.
"Kill the dragon," was the response, but Maritta told them of the pitiful state of the dragon and how she was as much a prisoner as the rest of them. Old, frail, and senile, and she truly loved the children. A new plan formed. They would release the dragon, have her take the children out. Surely she would protect the children, even from Verminaard. They asked how to get to the children and for a more complete picture of the prisoners.
Maritta told them of the women here, the children upstairs, the women in the other tower, and the men in the mines. She told them how the women went up each day to take care of the children's needs, another plan was hatched to disguise themselves as women to get to the children. Flint was first to object saying there was no way he was shaving.
While the party debated plans, Gilthanas pulled Maritta aside and asked her what she knew about a mechanism that legend said would block the gates, making them impassible. She knew nothing of it, but recommended a search of Verminaard's chambers. Gilthanas agreed and secretly passed this request on to Tasslehoff, with instructions to keep it secret. Tas went straight to Tanis with the plan, as he was suspicious of Gilthanas after hearing word of a traitor.
Tanis, whether really concerned about Tas or just because he didn't trust Gilthanas, refused to allow the mission, saying it was too dangerous for the kender to go alone. Gilthanas offered to go with him, but tanis would not consider it and rejected all options save possibly going himself.
The party moved on to the women's prison. Here they found Elistan, a leader amongst the slaves and brought here to die after being caught in a cave-in. He recognized the heroes from the slave caravon and his face brightened as he saw Goldmoon. She healed him and he spoke openly of his foolishness in seeking new gods when the old ones had been there all along.
As the party began making preparations for their plan, the argument of what to do about the mechanism broke out again. Tanis and Gilthanas both agreed that the great chain was probably connected to it somehow. Finally Tanis went to ask Tasslehoff whether he thought he could do it, but the kender was gone. All of this talk of secret mechanisms and the chance to maybe see where a dragon highlord lived was too much for him, and he had taken the decision on himself to investigate where the chain went and whether it might be what they were searching for.
It was decided that five would go with the women, Tika, Goldmoon, and Laurana as they were already women and would be easy to disguise. Eben and Gilthanas both offered to go, but Tanis again objected. Unsure of both of them, he was not going to leave the women in their care. He took Gilthanas' place in the group. Gilthanas offered Tanis Wyrmslayer as he might be forced to fight a dragon. The rest of the party then retreated back to the chain room, both hoping to find Tas and avoid being spotted by any patrols. Eben and Tanis were shaved and dressed as women.
Tas eventually did come climbing back down the chain. He told the others that the chain held huge blocks of stone and it would fall if released. A mechanism at the end of the chain held the whole thing. If released, the whole thing would come down. He had tried to release it, but could not budge the turnstile.
Gilthanas sent him back up, asking him to find a way up for the rest of the party.
The draconians came for the women, taking ten of them (including five disguised heroes) up to the children's playroom. They opened the door and left the women there. Maritta explained that the tunnel in the far wall led through the dragon's room and to the children. They began getting ready to dress the children for the cold weather and finally went into the tunnel. The two men took the rear of the group, both to guard against attack and to stay as far from the dragon as possible. Laurana was placed at the front to try and explain to the dragon what they wanted her to do.
Soon the massive beast came into view. She dwarfed the dragon Onyx that they had fought before, though she was clearly old and far past her prime. As they drew nearer, Tanis started to note a low buzzing sound. As he drew closer to the dragon, it grew louder and soon others could hear it. The dragon stirred, disturbed by the noise. Suddenly Tanis realized what it was, the sword. He backed quickly out of the room, but the dragon was awake and looking about with bleary eyes. She asked what the noise was. Everyone moved out of the way as she rose and moved toward the tunnel. Tanis continued to retreat as the dragon slithered through the tunnel and came into the playroom. Tanis had fled through the doors, cursing Gilthanas, and ran away from the great beast. Once he was far enough away and the sword was silent, he hid it behind a tapestry that decorated the wall and went back in.
Tanis returned to the playroom, now crowded with dragon. She questioned him, and he claimed to have heard nothing. Hearing the other women calling to her. Flamestrike slithered back through the tunnel. Laurana approached her and suggested taking the children outside. The dragon was a little dubious as she was not allowed outside. The heroes explained the children were in danger and that she must get them away and protect them. They would open the doors for her and they would all escape together.
Maritta went to Tanis and asked him about getting the women out of the two prisons at this point. She was worried about the children, dragon or no dragon, outside waiting for the women to escape. Tanis had not thought of this. He sent Goldmoon to get the women from downstairs and to get Gilthanas to arrange a rescue of the women in the other tower.
Goldmoon headed downstairs and soon arrived at the women's prison. She was unable to enter as the door was locked. She went and found the other heroes in the chain room about the same as Tasslehoff came back down the chain.
Goldmoon told Gilthanas about Tanis' request and he agreed to bring the women up and then mount a rescue in the other tower. He questioned Tas about what he'd found and Tas told of a secret door in the upper levels of the tower that would lead to the mechanism. After Tas unlocked the women's prisons, he and Caramon, hidden in Riverwind's cloak of invisibility, set out to find the other side of that door. Gilthanas' instructions were that he would be signaled as to when they were to trigger the mechanism. When asked what the signal would be "You'll know."
Gilthanas went about organizing the prisoners while Caramon and Tas headed upstairs. They followed the main hall, searching for a stairway leading up. They soon came to a guarded double door. They killed the guards and Tas went to check on what was behind. Caramon stopped him, asking what he was doing. He explained that the stairs might be behind there someplace. Peaking inside, they caught sight of a woman in black, velvet robes, lounging on Verminaard's throne. Her hair was fiery red. Though Caramon questioned the wisdom of this, Tasslehoff walked into the room, up to the woman and introduced himself. Carmon, still invisible slipped in behind him, staying near the doors.
She ignored him. Tas tried again, asking how she was and if she knew where to find the stairs. This time she told him to go away. Confident he was making progress, Tas put on his most winning smile and tried to make small talk. The woman rose from the throne, and telling the kender that she had had enough of his bothering her, she suddenly changed into a massive red dragon and charged at him. The dragon fear took both Caramon and Tasslehoff and they fled from the room screaming. Caramon fled right, Tas left. Satisfied, Ember lay back down and snoozed. Caramon ran as fast as he could, the dragon's roars echoing behind him. Spotting a stairway to his right, he fled up to a landing, finally stopping to catch his breath. No pursuit came, so he relaxed, the dragon fear ebbing away.
Tasslehoff, thrilled by this new sensation, ran screaming "DRAGON!!!!" down the hall. Tanis heard his voice beyond the doors and peaked out. By this time Tas was flying down the stairs straight into Gilthanas' arms. Gilthanas caught him and stopped his flight. The frightened kender told him in a wave of words about a woman turning into a dragon. He bragged to Tika about the new and marvelous experience. Never before had he felt fear. He was anxious to try again.
Gilthanas crept up the stairs, but no sign of pursuit came, so he led the women into the room. It was now getting quite crowded and many of the women were sent back into the dragon's lair. Tanis told Gilthanas where his sword was, so Gilthanas retrieved it.
Tanis and the dragon were talking when he reentered the room and the sword came alive, buzzing and humming. The dragon's eyes bore into him. She accused him of killing her children. As she advanced on the elf prince, people fled out of the way. Gilthanas burst back out of the doors and down the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him. The dragon crashed through and tried to follow, but the narrow stairway could not accommodate her girth. Gilthanas felt a wave of intense heat wash over him, curling hair and singing clothes. As he leapt from the stairs and around the corner, he realized his cloak was on fire and cast it aside. Above, Flamestrike bellowed at him about being the murderer of her children.
In the meantime, Caramon had found the secret door at the top of the stairs. He was proceeding down the length of the room when he heard the roars of Flamestrike far below and the tower shook with her rage. Taking this to be the signal, he cursed himself for being late and ran to the mechanism. He tried to turn it, but it wouldn't budge. Even using a pry bar, he couldn't trigger it. He continued to strain against it for some time before finally giving up. He sat down to wait, hopeful that help would come.
At this point, Sturm decided that now was a good time to rescue the other hostages. He called for any who would to follow him. He was joined by Laurana, Eben, Flint, and Riverwind. They headed out of hiding passed into the great hall through the wall, little suspecting that Caramon far above was trying desperately to drop several thousand tons of stone on them.
Flamestrike kept watch at the stairs until the menacing voice of Verminaard came to her, demanding to know what she thought she was doing. She looked taken aback, almost scared. She called back that it was nothing and retreated back into the children's playroom.
Sturm's party soon reached the other tower and entered. So far the party had been lucky and found no guards. Most of the fortress' garrison was north, reaching the edges of Qualinesti. As they took a set of double doors to their right, this changed. Hobgoblins and draconians looked up at them and charged. They slammed the doors and backed off. Soon, the hobgoblins charge through into the swing swords of the heroes, but they were only canon fodder as the draconians charged out behind them. The battle was short and one sided, the heroes made short work of the monsters.
They passed through this room to a large store house. No sign of the prisoners was here. Rather than going further, they turning back and tried a stout iron door they had seen before. Eben popped the lock like a pro and opened the door. Hobgoblens charged. Again, the heroes quickly overcame the monsters, though Flint took some light wounds.
A door to the left led to a huge prison room filled with women. Explaining quickly that a rescue was in progress, the heroes led them to the storeroom where they took all they could carry and then led them back to the play room.
Eben told the others he wanted to check upstairs and see if he could get to the mechanism from here. He found empty barracks, but no way onto the wall from this side. He went back after the others. Raistlin and Goldmoon spoke privately about the traitor in there midst. When Eben returned, Goldmoon took him aside, casting Zone of Truth. She demanded to know where he had gone after he left the other's Eben told the truth. He had gone in search of the mechanism. He had not found a way to reach it and had not spoken to anyone.
Now over 500 people were within. Gilthanas and Tas went to find the mechanism. As soon as they triggered it. The women and children, escorted by a somewhat confused dragon, would move out of the fortress. Tanis and Elistan would go to the mines and call for rebellion.
Tas and Gilthans soon found the stairs and the secret door. They followed Caramon's tracks through the dust and exited the room onto the top of the wall where he waited, The three of them together were finally able to turn the mechanism. The chain let go and crack that deafened them sounded below. The entire fortress shook with the roar of falling stone. Thundered echoed through the mountains for miles around. Men working in the mines looked up and wondered at the vast cloud of dust mounting about the fortress. Inside, Tanis got the hostages moving. Leaving the others to lead them, he, Elistan and Maritta ran to the mines, calling on the slaves to rise up.
Gilthanas, Tas, and Caramon ran across the wall, through the secret room, down the stairs, through the main hall and into the playroom, where the last of the hostages were following Flamestrike out. The slaves had overcome their guards with ease and were rushing into the valley to find their families. All was in chaos as men searched for wives and children. The party tried to get people to move, but it was no good. 800 freed slaves, desperate to find their families, would not be herded along.
Flamestrike became alarmed, her confusion growing. She realized that these men were going to take the children from her. She reared up crying with rage and shrieking about how she would not let them take the children. The dragon fear swept over the slaves and a panicked stampede away from the dragon began.
At this moment, Verminaard flew into view on the back of Ember. He bellowed to the crowd of frightened slaves that this was the last insult. He would kill them all, their women, their children. Ember swooped towards the fleeing mass. Flamestrike made a decision. She would not let Verminaard kill her children. Better the humans should take them. She breathed fire at Ember and launched herself into the sky to grapple with him. The two dragons battled fiercely, the battle carrying them away and out of sight. The dragons gone, everyone fled south.
To the south, mountains rose menacingly. Somewhere, the hidden city of Thorbardin lay, and beyond that, the great ships of Tarsis, which would carry them all to safety. The dark evening was coming quickly in these cloudy, late autumn days and the first flakes of snow from a threatening storm began to swirl about them.
Thus ends Part 2 of the great DragonLance Saga. We resume with DL3: Dragons of Hope on April 21, 2002.
Day 21 - November 30, 351AC
It had been three desperate hours since the heroes had fled Pax Tharkas. Three hours since the two dragons had locked in mortal combat and 800 refugees had stampeded in terror. The heroes had become scattered, trying to guide the refugees in the right direction, picking up stragglers, and generally being too busy to pay much attention to what anyone else was doing. To make matter worse, a snowstorm had rolled in. While it covered their retreat from possible attack, it also made gathering together that much more difficult.
Finally, just behind the retreating refugees, Gilthanas, Goldmoon, Caramon, Sturm, Tika, and Eben came together in a small group. Screams from behind brought out swords, and a half dozen elite shock troops of the dragonarmies attacked. Goldmoon cast a spell, calming them, and the fighters rushed in. The battle was short, and soon six baaz statues stood in the snow, but the sounds of the refugees were now gone. As the party moved on, still more baaz attacked, and again more. Finally, after slaying 15 of the creatures, they caught up to the rear of the refugee caravan and found a worried Tanis watching for them.
Tika lashed at Tanis, wanting to know where he had been and why he wasn't there to help fight the baaz. All were startled by this attack. Caramon and Eben more calmly reported dealing with the draconians and Tanis thanked them all for the good work, remarking that it would have been a tragedy if the baaz had reached the refugees.
Gilthanas immediately asked where his sister was, eyeing the half-elf suspiciously. Tanis directed him to find Elistan as the two had been talking the last time he'd seen them. Tanis also let Caramon know his brother had collapsed trying to struggle through the snow. He was in one of the wagons. Caramon rushed to find him. Goldmoon asked what Tanis would like her to do, and he asked her to help him watch for stragglers.
The column continued for about another hour before the dark and storm forced a halt only five miles from the looming fortress. Seeing the danger, Caramon and Sturm went about organizing the men into a fighting force. They found they had about 100 men capable of fighting, and perhaps 50 armed. They began a crash course on soldiering and tried to scrounge any weapon they could, clubs, sticks, etc.
Eben noticed a sort of meeting going on between small groups of refugees. Huddled around fires, they discussed the futures of their people. Charming his way into these groups, he found that the political machine of the north was still well intact here. The refugees were selecting leaders and organizing camps. Representing the heroes who had rescued the slaves and offering their continued services for a voice, several of the new leaders took a liking to Eben. As the "Council of Freedom" formed, Eben was asked to join, and was given control over one of the five camps.
Finally, the party was asked to attend a meeting. Elistan greeted them and introduced them to the Council; himself for the believers, Locar for those still loyal to the Seekers, Briar for the Plainsmen, Brookland for woods people, elves and half-elves mostly, and finally Eben, representing the remaining unaligned refugees and the heroes' voice on the Council. The remaining heroes were invited to play an advisory role.
The party, especially Tanis and Gilthanas were a little surprised to see their leadership roles so quickly taken away, only a few hours out of Pax Tharkas, but they listened patiently while Elistan laid out what the Council felt were the needs of the refugees: shelter from the winter, food, and a path south. The priority of these things then came into debate.
Tas had a map, dated to before the Cataclysm. It showed Pax Tharkas, Thorbardin, and their eventual destination, the port of Tarsis. Unfortunately, the map gave few details, just an indication of a road to the gates. And with the Cataclysm, the land had changed and few if any of the landmarks on the map remained.
Gilthanas was for finding the gates directly. Heading the refugees down the road while the heroes hurried ahead and found the gates. They would enter the dwarven kingdom and leave the dragonarmies behind.
Elistan feared this plan was rash. The map showed a valley which would take days to cross in open country. They had little food and no shelter. Gilthanas' plan, he feared would lead to the deaths of many.
Locar, surprisingly enough, sided with Elistan, but his stance was more firm. He would not support any plan which did not see directly to the needs of the people. As he saw it, they needed food and shelter, and they needed it now. This mythical dwarven city, which may not even exist, could wait.
After some debate, Gilthanas relented and proposed a different plan. A small group would depart immediately to search for food and shelter. They would return in the morning and report back. The refugees could then move on this information. Only then would the party set out in search of the gates.
A vote was taken. Locar was the only dissenting vote, wanting the party dedicated to getting the refugees to a place of safety. The rest agreed this was a good plan. Gilthanas and Flint headed out immediately, Flint volunteering because this was "dwarf country."
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