The party returned Nora to her family and, satisfied that Fintan Walsh probably had nothing to do with the abduction, returned to The Anvil to try to rescue little William.
Striking the door with Geeta Bonebreaker’s hammer, the group gained entrance to the entryway, and discovered a small group of kobolds ordering slaves to collect shards of obsidian. The party engaged and quickly defeated the kobolds. There were two slaves: a gnome who went by the name of Bob, and a dwarf that had been shaved and seemed quite deranged. The dwarf fled, but Bob agreed to help the party, warning them of the “ghost” within the “maze.” The hard part, Bob told them, wasn’t getting through the maze, it was avoiding the ghost.
The party went into the next chamber, which contained an open pool of what appeared to be magma. There was a large treasure chest, and, oh, wait, that’s not a chest, it’s a mimic. Ginnvar became stuck to the mimic, and someone used mage hand to throw a handful of lava onto the back of Cocidius’ neck.
The party entered the maze, and soon found the “ghost:” a floating set of armor with a glimmering sword. A portcullis dropped behind the group, trapping them in a single-file line. Cadoc rushed forward to engage and got a surprise, being engulfed by a gelatinous cube. The party managed to defeat the cube and recovered a mithril shirt and an enchanted blade that sheds light.
Traveling further, the group found the sleeping chambers, infested with stirges. Cocidius set off a trap, and shard of obsidian shot across the room.
The stirges having been defeated, the party entered the next chamber, a domed chamber containing a huge obelisk which had been altered to replace references to Moradin with some obscure deity of toil. The chamber was trapped, and the central spire was magnetized – when the trap was triggered, another door in the chamber was yanked open, releasing two vargouilles. These hideous beasts rushed to attack, one infecting Arthur with the vile disease that spawns them. Gunnvar crushed the first; when the second was killed Cocidius was covered in vargouille goo.
The party traveled deeper into the monastery, and found the chambers of the abbot. A large anvil was placed in the center of the room, with a huge hammer above it. On the anvil were the skeletal remains of a dwarf, fragments of whose shattered skull littered the room. The party located the journal of the abbot and discovered that this was his body. The group learned that the dwarves dug too deep, as usual, and this time they located a bell. One of the brothers rang the bell; those who heard the peal either converted to the worship of Droskar (an evil deity of toil and labor) or were turned to stone.
Traveling into a natural cavern that appeared to be the excavation site, the party triggered a number of traps, and found a room that contained a large bell, surrounded by a number of what appeared to be statues of dwarves. A ritual seemed to be underway in the next room, and the party came under fire from the kobolds protecting their chief and shaman. Dispatching the kobolds, the party freed young William from the cage he was in. Recalling the story of Sigurd becoming impenetrable after bathing in dragon blood, Arthur quickly bathed himself in the blood of the “dragon king,’ and his natural armor increased. Arthur also searched the room and discovered a secret compartment in the floor. In this area, a shield was hidden. The shield was painted white, and bore a red cross that looked like it might have been smeared blood. The shield sounded remarkably like the shield of King Evelach.
The threat finally abated, the party examined the bell and determined that the bell could be destroyed by getting it wet. Arthur created water, and the bell was destroyed. The monks present were restored to flesh. The senior brother noted that while the faith of Droskar required “purification,’ and that those who had fallen under his spell felt that they had failed to purify themselves (leading to their own destruction), it was the party who had purified the Anvil. Brother Snorri dubbed the party “The Nine Hammers who Purified the Anvil.” Snorri and the surviving brothers feasted the group, healed them, and removed all curses.
The party returned home to Carrickmines and headed to the inn. A loud commotion quickly got their attention. The castle was under attack, from within the walls. The party arrived to see Sir Brendan had fallen, and just as they cleared the castle gate, Rahim fell. The attackers were fully covered, head to toe, in black leather. The party engaged and defeated the attackers (noticing that many of them had been defeated by Brendan and Rahim). The last of the attackers, to prevent capture, committed suicide, and upon his death, a green pulse could be seen about the head and neck of each of the 20 or so fallen bodies, making sure there were no survivors. Rushing to heal Rahim, it was discovered that he was actually a woman in disguise. She revealed that she and Brendan had fallen in love in the Holy Land, but that since their love was forbidden, she had been living and traveling under disguise. She swore the group to secrecy. Turing their attention to the bodies of the fallen, the party learned that they had been attacked by drow.
The group was able to determine that the attack had come through the oubliette, and down they went. They soon found themselves in a very large cave, partially lit by bioluminescent fungus. It must have been hundreds of feet across. Searching, the team found a small group of tents and engaged another group of drow. In the ensuing battle, one of the drow blew a horn, and an umber hulk joined the fray. They managed to charm one of these attackers, and learned that this group had been searching the castle because word had spread of the object of the King of Shadows’ search. They did not seem to know exactly what they were looking for, but had been willing to die to find it.
The group decided to do a quick reconnoiter to try to determine where the drow had come from, and the noticed a group of grey dwarves with a pair of ox-drawn wagons traveling through the cavern. Closer inspection showed that the wagons were carrying humanoids in cages. The party engaged the slavers in conversation. Since two of the duergar were speaking to one another in an unknown language, Cadoc tried to use magic to understand them. They took the casting as an act of aggression, and combat ensued, with the entire party taking a fireball to the face. The group managed to bring down most of the duergar, but seeing that they were about to be destroyed, four of the duergar used a scroll to teleport away (with a fairly large chest of loot). As the duergar poofed out, they promised to see the group “at their castle.”
The group freed the slaves:
A married pair of human butchers named Skella and Atha (who suggested butchering the oxen);
A human boy of around 16 named Matias, who seemed to be in shock;
A human woman named Margaret;
A dwarf named Ingun, who is a jeweler by trade;
A pair of non-evil drow, followers of Eilistraee. A female (Cytheria, who is a weaver) and a male named Eleathar.
The next morning, word arrived from Dublin. Sir Cyrus Greenshield, known to Sir Brendan, arrived with a dozen soldiers to reinforce the Castle. Cyrus said that Trim Castle hadn’t given its orders yet, but as it stood, Sir Brendan was in command. Cyrus had orders for the group. They were to OBTAIN A BOAT and SAIL DOWNRIVER. A group of Norse longboats had sailed up the Dargle, right past Dublin, and disappeared into the Wyldewode. The group was to go in the other way and see if they could determine what these Norsemen were up to. Naturally, the group decided to go by horseback. So as they traveled down the south bank of the river, they saw the boats ashore on the north bank. A trio of Norns stood on a rise, watching. There was a heavy fog in the area, and it was unnaturally quiet. The air seemed almost to devour sound. Grimple pointed out the body of an enormous, naked, fallen Norse warrior – possibly a berserker with giant blood (and other giant things).
The party managed to cross the river without killing themselves, and found four empty longboats next to a pair of ancient standing stones carved in Oghma script. The path ahead led to the tomb of Aoife Strongbow, and an ancient pact guaranteed that the path was stable. The group headed down the oath, and soon found the tomb. They went inside and found it was empty. It seemed that something had tried to open the door from the outside, but the door had been blown open from within.
Puzzled, the group set out to return. But as they stepped into the mist again, they noticed that they could taste copper. The mist was gaining a reddish tint, as if filled with blood. And ancient, withered and blacked fey creature stepped up on top of the tomb and began to whirl a bullroar around. Several Norse bodies suddenly stood up, but the flesh sloughed off the bones. The skeletons attacked.
When the party defeated the fey creature, a strange thing happened. There was a shock wave that knocked everyone prone, and the ancient energy that was released seemed to awaken something within each member of the party. It was the moment of ascension, when the party members gained their first Mythic Tier.