The Scales of War

The Heart of the Conspiracy

After questioning the recently deceased Priestess Haelyn, the party discovered that she was killed by Grovald after she confronted her fellow priests about their recent change in personalities. The priests had laughed her off and soon after, she was attacked and killed by Grovald. The heroes performed a proper burial on Haelyn and returned to the Mountain’s Hearth for some much needed rest.
Before they left the shrine of Erathis, Dunedin performed his Speak With Dead ritual on Grovald with the hopes of learning more about the conspiracy that has taken root in Overlook. With the ritual complete, the party was able to persuade Grovald to answer just a few of their questions. They learned that Grovald is ultimately working for a mysterious humanoid named General Zithiruun, who is clad in strange armor comprised of iron joints and leather straps. Recently, however, Grovald has been taking his orders from High Priest Durkik. They also learned that Durkik spends his days locked away in the Stone Anvil, however, at night he often disappears into the city. The heroes made plans to stake out the Stone Anvil the next night and see if they trail and question Durkik.
The next morning, as they made their way through the city in preparation for the nights activities, the caught a brief glimpse of movement from nearby alley just before the shadows erupted in violence. Ambushers sprang from every alley and rooftop and tore into the heroes. The battle was fierce but relatively quick as Dunedin and Samhain made short work of the rooftop attackers with powerful spells, while Boreas, Kort and Sink took care of the remaining attackers. Unfortunately, just as one of the attackers was about to surrender, Boreas tore him in two, leaving no one left to question – no one, except corpses. As with the night before, Dunedin prepared the expensive ritual that would allow him to speak with the dead. When the ritual was finished, they questioned the doppelganger assassin that was part of the ambush and learned that they had been hired by Dwarf who was a member of the city guard! The man described to the party was none other than Captain Aerun! It would appear that all of the cities religious and political leaders have been corrupted or worse! The heroes did not know who they could trust.
With preparations made, the group set of at nightfall for the Stone Anvil. Gothe and Samhain secreted themselves in the shadows outside the Stone Anvil while the rest of the party waited in an alley a few blocks away – the heroes waited. Late into the evening, they finally caught sight of their target. Durkik walked down the steps of the Stone Anvil and into the cool night air. He walked only a block or two before he turned into an alley. Only moments later, a different, taller Dwarf exited the alley. While the Dwarf was physically different, his clothing and gait were identical. Had the group not been watching so closely, they surely would have been fooled by this ruse.
Using all of their skills, the heroes did their best to tail the Dwarf through the twisting streets of Overlook without being seen. As they neared the outskirts of the Forgeworks District, their pray caught sight of them and was able to lose them in the maze of warehouses and alley ways. Knowing the general location where they lost the Dwarf, the heroes spread out and after several hours of investigation, were able to ascertain which warehouse the Dwarf had entered. It was a nondescript warehouse with a large rolling door on one side and rickety staircase that head up to a second story door.
Samhain and Dunedin followed Gothe up the stairs to the second story door and after making sure it was clear of traps, opened the door. Inside they saw a small office with a single desk and chair. Another door led out of this room into the warehouse. Sam carefully crept into the room only to have the door slam shut behind him. Spinning on his heels, Sam saw Captain Aerun standing behind the door wielding a massive long sword. His eyes flared with malevolence and Samhain quickly found himself unable to move – as if a massive, invisible hand where holding him in place. Slashing with his sword, Aerun inflicted a serious wound on Sam. Gothe and the others rushed in to the room and the battle spilled out in to the warehouse where numerous assassin and thugs waited in ambush. The battle was a harrowing affair, spanning catwalks and the piles of crates that littered the warehouse. In the end, the heroes suffered terrible wounds but won the day. Some of the thugs, seeing their comrades be brutally cut down by the heroes blades, surrendered and offered to give tell them all that they know in exchange for their lives. The heroes agree (after a whole lot of arguing) and discovered that a doppelganger has taken the place of the real High Priest Durkik who is alive and being held captive in a cell under the warehouse. He tells the heroes he is working for someone called General Zithiruun. Like Grovald, he hasn’t seen Zithiruun’s face, but recognizes him by his hooded cloak and his strange leather-and-steel harness. He knows that Zithiruun wants them to hold the Stone Anvil, and to question Durkik about the security and magic of another temple, called “Mountainroot.” The false Durkik assigned most of the priests of Moradin to rebuilding the old temple as a means of keeping them occupied and out of the Stone Anvil. He does not know why Zithiruun is interested in this “Mountainroot Temple.” He knows only that Zithiruun has grown more and more frustrated with Durkik’s failure to answer their questions; a few days ago, he stormed off insisting that he was going to “find out for himself,” though he ordered them to keep trying in his absence, and record what they learned. The heroes let the thug flee with his life before making their way to the secret entrance that led to the cell where Durkik was being held.

After descending a ladder, the heroes found themselves in a dark, dingy hallway with a single steel door at the end. The door contains a small window, through which, the party can make out a very badly battered Dwarf chained to the opposite wall of a small cell. A dwarf, his flesh bruised and beaten, his hair and beard matted with blood, stood chained to the far wall of a stench-ridden, claustrophobic cell. It took the heroes a moment to recognize him as none other than High Priest Durkik Forgeheart!
Slowly, as though even so minor a move pained him, he looked up to meet their gaze through the bars, his eyes widened slightly as he recognized them. “Be careful,” he rasped in a hoarse voice. “The door’s trapped.” He gestured with a finger, the chain clinking, to indicate a series of tubes that protrude from the walls of the cell, pointed in his direction. “And not to kill you, either,” he added impassively. “They don’t want me escaping.”

The heroes surveyed the situation and set about disabling the trap that was intended to kill Durkik. While Boreas wrenched some of the tubes from the wall, Dunedin teleported into the room and used his own body to protect Durkik in the event the trap was spring. In the end, they were able to free the High Priest without setting off the trap.

Durkik limped slowly from the cell – clearly in a great deal of pain. “Thank you,” he said simply. “You’re the answer to every prayer I’ve offered Moradin. But I fear, as grateful as I am to be out and alive, that I’ve little good news for you.”

He told the heroes that a humanoid that goes by the moniker General Zithiruun has taken over the Stone Anvil and has possessed Aerun and some the priests of Overlook in some sort of dark ritual. He explains that he was not exposed to this ritual because Zithiruun needs information from him about the magical security of the Mountainroot Temple. When asked about the Mountainroot Temple he tells them the following tale:

A subterranean structure built by the same order that would later go on to construct the Monastery of the Sundered Chain, the Mountainroot Temple stands deep beneath the Stonehome Mountains. Built when the dwarves were still celebrating their freedom from the giants, it was not a dwarven structure, but a temple built for anyone who wanted to pay tribute to Moradin, of any race. It held great reliquaries of holy icons, enormous cathedrals where hundreds could worship at once, and even a doorway to the Astral Plane whence angels and exarchs of Moradin would appear to discourse with the god’s most favored priests and champions. To facilitate a grand community of Moradin worshipers, the Mountainroot Temple had, in addition to its astral doors and its main entryway into the mountains, four mystical doorways constructed. Each linked to another temple of Moradin elsewhere in the world, so the faithful could come and go with ease.

And for decades, even centuries, the temple thrived. Slowly, however, relations between Moradin’s faithful grew strained. Priests assigned to other, “lesser” temples grew envious of those at Mountainroot. Many of the dwarf faithful grew haughty, considering themselves Moradin’s “true”
children, and sought to oust all others, or at least put them in lesser places, denying them access to the temple’s wonders.

Was it Moradin’s wrath? A curse brought upon them by the giants they’d so long ago escaped? Or simply a natural catastrophe without greater meaning? None can say. Whatever the case, some centuries ago, the mountain was struck by an earthquake. Portions of the inner tunnels collapsed, damaging several chambers of the Mountainroot Temple, destroying others entirely. Panicked, the priests and the faithful grabbed up their treasures and holy icons—at least most of them—and fled using the surviving magical portals.

Once they’d settled elsewhere, the bulk of Moradin’s priests decided that this way was better. By scattering from the temple, they would allow the dwarves to build their own shrines, without feeling constrained by the other races, and the jealousy that marred the priesthood would fade. Although they mourned the loss of the great cathedral, and those few treasures they’d been unable to save, they declared the quake to have been Moradin’s will and left the temple abandoned. In time, most faithful, even most priests save those most thoroughly learned in their history, forgot it had ever been.

Most, but not all. After a few decades, a small group of Moradin worshipers—mostly dwarves, but with members of other races as well—returned to the Mountainroot Temple. They cleaned it up as best they could and vowed to maintain it until it should someday become important once again. The most powerful of their number took on the title of Caretaker and lived within the temple, in a small structure built inside the larger reliquary. The Caretaker carefully attuned himself to the temple’s surviving magic, allowing him to control the constructs and divine defenses and traps that protected the structure from outside invasion.

“As you’ve doubtless guessed,” he says to you, his voice still weak, “the Stone Anvil contains one of those portals to the Mountainroot Temple. I don’t know why this General Zithiruun wants the temple, but it’s clearly what he’s after.

“It’s funny, he’s had me tortured for days to make me describe the Mountainroot’s mystical defenses, but the truth is, I don’t know much about them. I know about the temple only because, as High Priest, I was told of it by my predecessor. I can tell you that the defenses are psychically linked to the Caretaker, allowing him to control them, but beyond that, I know little. But even had I told them that much, I doubt they’d have believed me.” Durkik coughed twice before continuing.

“I don’t know why he wants the temple,” he repeats, “but I know it cannot be good for us. I know not who else in this city might have been compromised—who can be trusted. That leaves only you.”

“The entrance from the Stone Anvil is carefully hidden within an old sepulcher. The chamber is hidden behind a secret door; I can escort you to it, but no farther. What I cannot do is tell you how to access the portal, for I don’t know, and I am oathbound never to enter the sepulcher. But my hope is that, once you find it, you can figure out how to use it.”

“I must ask you one thing more,” he adds swiftly. “When the Mountainroot Temple was abandoned, the priesthood took most of our ancient religious relics with them. Most, but not all. Somewhere within the temple lies a tome entitled, when translated into Common, the Incunabulum Primeval. It is a book of great power for those who know how to use it. If you can find it and return it to us, I can promise you a reward of no less than 3,600 gp from the temple treasury, as well as legal right to any other treasure you find in, and can carry out of, the Mountainroot.” Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the heroes and Durkik set off immediately for the Stone Anvil.

Durkik led the heroes through a twisting series of hallways and staircases that led deep into the Stone Anvil. Eventually, they found themselves in a dusty room with bookshelves lining the walls. Durkik approached one of the shelves and reached behind some of the books and scrolls. After fumbling around for a moment, a loud click could be heard followed by the sound of stone grating on stone as a secret door opened. “This is it,” he told them. “The sepulcher. I cannot go any further.” The heroes checked their equipment before entering into the vast chamber before them.

The sepulcher lit up as they walked down its central walkway towards the far wall which was covered in an ornate silver filigree depicting Moradin working at an anvil. Behind the filigree they could make out the outline of a door. As they approached the filigree the image suddenly bended is the face of Moradin turned toward the heroes and spoke in a voice of rending metal.

“Who would step through the portal to the heart of Moradin’s worship must first prove he understands Moradin in his own heart.”
“Think you carefully on Moradin’s precepts, his teachings, his actions, and his favored disciples. Then speak unto me a parable, a tale of Moradin, not that you have learned from his texts, but that you have created yourself. Let it show your understanding of his words and his ways, and you may pass.”

Using their vast knowledge of religion, history and lore, the heroes were able to create a fantastic tale of sacrifice and growth in the face of adversity. Satisfied with the parable told to him, the filigree opened itself and allowed the heroes access to the door beyond it.

Opening the door and stepping through the portal, the heroes felt no magic – no tingling or shimmering. One moment they are in the sepulcher and the next they are standing in a great stone walled chamber. Numerous doorways—many of which are contained within deep stone arches, almost like artificial caves—provide egress. A platform with multiple stairs stands near the chamber’s center, presumably for a ceremonial purpose long since forgotten. The eastern portion of the room appears to have been largely damaged in an ancient cave-in, marring one of two great reliefs that adorn the far wall.
Perched on one of the archways and atop the undamaged relief, a pair of foul females with ragged hair and the claws and wings of vultures turn piercing eyes in your direction, letting loose with a terrible, predatory cry. Only a few yards from you, what appears to be a scruffy, abnormally short dwarf peers at you between slitted lids. The beasts attacked!

The battle was not a difficult one as the seasoned heroes leapt from the archway they stood in and tore into their foes. Suffering little more than a few scratches, they finished the fight and plotted their next move. Exiting the room was a small hallway that ended in a single door and a large set of double doors set into the center of the wall opposite the archways. Gothe explored the hallway and found that the room beyond the double door was a small kitchen like area with two other exits from it. Not sure what else was beyond those doors, they decided to try the large double doors.

The double doors led to a short hallway that ended in another set of double doors. They opened the final set of doors and found themselves in a massive room. Nearly 100ft across and 80ft tall, this oval shaped room boasted three levels that were connected by ramps and stairs. The heroes found themselves on the lowest of the three levels. They were also not alone in this room. Perched on the rubble of the collapsed eastern part of this room where vile, insectoid-featured humanoids. Several of the beastial looking dwarves from the previous battle sulked in the shadows while twisted gray Halfling like creatures hid in the many shadows of the room. At once, the battle was on.

Unlike the previous battle, this one was a terrible affair. The Dwarves hammered away at the heroes while the halflings sprang in and out of battle, inflicting massive damage before skirting away from danger. All the while, the insectoids peppered the combatants with barrages of spikes fired from blowguns.

The battle had raged on for only a few moments when a great BOOM rattled the pair of double doors set into the north wall of the chamber. The doors were blasted off of their hinges as a trio of trolls, with a fire drake pet, charged into the room. The heroes dread was slightly lifted when the trolls tore into the fey creatures they were currently fighting. The fey fought back and the heroes quickly found themselves in a three way battle for their lives.

Their luck was short lived, however. Badly damaged by the initial attack, the fey quickly fell and the heavily wounded heroes found themselves facing the fresh trolls on their own. Things went from bad to worse when a blast from the fire drake let loose with an inferno that scorched the skin from Samhain and Gothe – both fell to the floor dead. With renewed intensity, the remaining heroes tore into their foes and eventually won the day but they had suffered a great loss in the process. Bloodied, the heroes stood in this vast cathedral looking over the torn and charred remains of their close friends.

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ryansommer

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