Chapter 10: Darkness in the Mountains: Lord Scrond's Doom

Ambyrmont 14th 1014

Journey Into The Mountains: Battle for the Food Stores

The following day the companions breached the double doors leading into the food stores. Almost immediately they were attacked by stirges and zombies including wolves that may have been part of Verlis' pack that had invested the first of the large high ceilinged rooms of the stores. Reluctant to use fire because of the thatched roof and the valuable food stores the companions made hard work of defeating the creatures. Moving further in through a stuck door in the west wall they encountered a clutch of ghouls. Some of the hideous undead gave off a sickly green glow that stretched out some twenty feet. Although this illuminated parts of the cavernous store it weakened some of those that entered the sphere of light. Worse, Chang was paralysed by the claws of one of these creatures and was dragged off towards the west. The others fought bravely but were slowed by a number of the creatures blocking the door to the eastern store, a tactic that seemed at odds with the normally mindless nature of undead. Eventually they broke through and chased down the fleeing creature with Chang. Victor barged through the stuck west door and knocked one of the ghouls into a ten foot deep pit that lay just the other side of the door. Luckily he managed to keep his footing on the icy surface of the cold store as lurking in the pot was a slug like, tentacled beast.


The others charged in and started to fight the ghouls that infested this room while Chang was dragged off towards the north where the ghoul dropped him in order to yank of a large rusty lever. Victor and the others were occupied by the other ghouls as they tried to reach the paralysed monk but in his hurry to help Zan slipped and fell into the pit where the beast within paralysed him and started to chomp on his limp body. Jedon in an attempt to help summoned an earth elemental that resembled a dragon.


Descending into the pit they opened a hatch and after a detour to explore an ancient soak-away they found a shaft leading still further underground. At the bottom of the shaft they entered a long obviously unnatural corridor. They were surprised to be met by a pair of rat-like humans armed with crossbows. The leader, who gave his name as Nathrak, escorted them to a chamber decorated with the flags of orc tribes and evil immortals. Here they were asked to await the arrival of Lord Scron, the rat-man's leader. Meanwhile they were treated to a discussion of why the rat-man, and Lord Scrond, had taken over the food stores. Apparently the villagers had not been prepared to pay the price for the last shipment of goods; their weak and the young. At this D'mond cracked and fired her crossbow. At the same time three huge dire boars crashed into the room. After a long fight in which D'mond was seriously wounded, all the rat-men and dire boars were killed but no sign of Lord Scrond was to be found.

Continuing deeper into the darkness that pervaded the lair the companions found a room with a shallow fire pit and beyond it a mess hall. The latter was guarded by a single rat-man who was able to wound Chang before being taken down by a combination of arcane and divine magics.

After almost falling into a deep pit trap by a door leading to the north west Chang retreated and let D'mond search for a safe route through. However Dohrum had found a well hidden door in the east wall that led, via a long corridor to a cell block. the cell block comprised several iron barred cells all of which were empty apart from a few scraps. D'mond's sharp eyes however managed to make out the following message scratched into the wall; "The treasure lies south east of the swine's lair. Beauty is danger. Avoid short cuts, the Flayed king is coming; don't let him get under your skin".
Victor had remained behind in the mess hall guarding the party's rear and was ready for a group of four rat-men who emerged from the trapped doorway - having found a way to disarm the trap! He called for support while using the tables in the mess hall as cover as he edged towards the attackers. Chang arrived swiftly and they, along with the assistance of Thanduil's magic managed to kill three of the rat-men and capture the fourth, blinded by Thanduil's colour spray.
Leaving D'mond to guard the door north out of the cell block the others questioned the rat-man who revealed that his name was Skreezulz.
"I am Skreezulz, of the brood of Quarsh, all working for Lord Scrond." he squeaked as he struggled with the ropes Chang had tied him with.
"Are there any prisoners still alive?" Asked Chang.
"Not alive, but not dead either. Scrond has them working."
Thanduil then started to question the rat-man. "How many of you did you say there were? Nine more?" he intentionally recites an incorrect number in an attempt to question the veracity of the Ratman. "Where are the prisoners. I want to see this 'not alive' state. Who or what is Lord Scrond. If there were only nine of you, and all are mud, then he isn't one of you. How many others are they apart from your brothers?"
"Eight of us! Eight. Many brood brothers." Skreezulz snapped. "Prisoners are working, making skins for Lord Scrond. Beyond the cells." He answered meekly at Chang's threat, but then smiles, "Great Lord Scrond and the twins will do for you. Make banners of you he will, hang them from pikes as he joins Moreldrak's army as he marches on your cities and grinds elves and humans and dwarves and halflings and gnomes under foot. Especially nasty gnomes with their funny voices."
"So Lord Scrond is not a rat-man then? What is he Skreezulz?" asked Chang. "These twins you mention - what are they and how are they dressed - do they wear armour? Describe where they are, I want the layout."
Thanduil pressed on with his questioning as well. "What does Lord Scrond look like. I would like to recognise him when I meet him. I don't want to accidentally blind him like I did with you, Skreezulz."
Skreezulz looked around at the assembled party, "Looks most like you" he said nodding towards Chang, "Fat and angry. The twins, very different to Lord Scrond, very pretty, man and woman, wear very little. Very little. Why you want to meet him? He is strong, will rule when Moreldrak comes, twins are very wise, very powerful friends. Join them. Get great wealth, great power. Go see him, say Skreezulz loyal servant, say Skreezulz fought bravely. Go through door with trap door floor, through barracks, empty of my brood brothers now, west through next room and you're there. Be nice to Lord Scrond or twins will be angry."

Meanwhile Dohrum had returned to the cell block to back up D'mond who can hear the sound of shuffling feet and occasional louder splashing sounds from beyond the north door. The shuffling feet do not appear to be approaching the door however. D'mond told Dohrum of the sounds behind the door and sent the dwarf back to warn the others. While he was gone a fantastically attractive elf appeared from the shadows and approached D'mond who raised her crossbow and pointed it at him. The elf threw up his hands and wiggled his delicate fingers. "Now why would you want to shoot me? I've been perfectly civil." His face was a picture of hurt, "I am Aktom, remember the name, you'll be screaming it later." He blew a kiss and vanished into the darkness as the others returned, with Chang carrying the rat-man across his shoulder. When Skreezulz heard D'mond describer her encounter his eyes went wide. "Aktom. Yes Aktom is a very pretty human. He is one of the twins. Always says nice things does Aktom. His sister too, very pretty. But not elves no, not elves. Why elf lady say Aktom is an elf?"

They opened the door and proceeded along a short passage to the end where the door at the end was wedged open and a ruddy light spread out from the room beyond. This large, long room stank and made their eyes water. Large circular pits had been dug in the floor and were filled with a foul smelling liquid in which lumps of fat and other detritus floated. Fires burned below them, heating the liquid and sending foul fumes and vapours into the air. Large stretching racks were nailed to the wall while pulleys, chains, hooks and greasy ropes hung from the ceiling above the pits. Animal, human and demi-human skins were stretched upon the racks. The areas between the pits were slick with the stinking fluid that driped from the ropes and stretched out skins. Blank faced, muscular zombies shuffled around the room ignoring the companions as they dragged skins from the pits and wrung them out before attaching them to the racks, hooks and ropes.
Dohrum raised his holy symbol and destroyed four of the zombies while the fighters killed the rest with less holy methods.

The companions regrouped at the door at the far end of the tannery, Skreezulz with some mounting excitement answered when asked what was beyond the door, "Lord Scrond of course! He is all powerful now, The Flayed King watches over him, guides him, empowers him. In return he creates workers to build his image. He will come soon. Almost ready! Your skins are the last he'll need." Spittle flicks from the ratman's thin black lips as his excitement grew.

Passing through the door the companions took a moment to study what they found. A wooden mannequin, three times the size of a human stood in a niche set into the middle of the north wall of this high ceilinged thirty foot by fifty foot chamber. The figure had its arms outstretched at shoulder level and with a face stretched into a screaming mask. Most of the wooden structure was covered with the skins of beasts, humans and demi-humans crudely stitched together with sinews. The face, hands and part of the chest were however still bare wood. Torches were set in the wall and rank tallow candles burned in tall wooden candlesticks around the hideous figure. Large flies buzzed around the figure and the floor around the effigy was a wriggling mass of maggots.
When Jedon suggested burning it Skreezulz squealed and pleaded "No don't burn it! Much work, much power spent to create it. Almost ready, Lord Scrond and the twins ready for the summoning. Just need the final pieces of the jigsaw. Say they are just waiting for the one, the first and final piece. I don't know what they mean but must be almost ready. The Flayed King will rule us all."

Journey Into The Mountains: Lord Scrond and the Twins

As the heroes deliberated a door opened and a trio of figures walked in. A grossly fat man in stained purple and gold robes, Lord Scrond, was flanked by a pair of stunningly attractive figures, one a man in flimsy crimson finery, the other a woman in equally fine blue silk.

"What do you think you are doing!" demanded the fat man spraying spit and flecks of meat as he blustered, the flakes of meat probably came from the fat turkey leg he held in his ham like hand, "Burn the Flayed King! How dare you." He waved the drumstick at the effigy, "It is not yet finished, but it soon will be. Oh yes. Aktom, Utiel, show our uninvited guests the errors of their ways, my supper is getting cold. I was going to be generous to you. Positions of power, land, gold, whatever you wanted. But you have to go and spoil things." He gave a petulant pout and waved you away.
D'mond fired her crossbow twice at Aktom. The first shot went well wide and Aktom laughed a cruel harsh laugh that contrasted sharply with his suave, attractive appearance. The second bolt sunk deep into his left thigh which stopped his laughter in an instant, his face changed to a snarling mouth of anger. "You'll pay for that fairy bitch." He growled.
Aleanor stepped forward and launched two of her shafts towards the bloated Lord Scrond. "These are for the villagers!" Both arrows hit home the second in the man's right arm causing the greasy turkey leg to fly out of his hand. "I hadn't finished that you know." He said casually as blood flowed from his wounds.

Thanduil completed his arcane utterances and a blossom of golden fire engulfed the trio as well. Chang, Victor and Aleanor were caught in the edge of the blast but avoided the worst of the damage, Chang seemingly managed to sway between the blooming tongues of flame. As the flame dispersed Lord Scrond was blackened and badly injured but Aktom and Utiel had been barely been touched by the flames. The effigy of the flayed king had started to burn, the flesh crackling and melting.
Zan stepped back, drew his flute and started to play an inspiring tune.

Jedon menaced the rat-man who lay quivering on the floor after witnessing the power of Thanduil's arcane might. "My robes! My king!" wailed the fire blackened Lord Scrond. "Deal with the infidels, dispose of them!" He shouted at the twins through cracked and blackened lips. "With pleasure!" Aktom licked his lips as his and Utiel's bodies changed. They grew taller, and hideous bat like wings sprouted from their shoulders. The smiles grew wider, unnaturally so and the eyes which were once so beautiful became like coals glowing in the lower planes of hell. "Now my dear" he continued in a voice as harsh as stone dragged on stone, "Shall we dance?" The two demons raised their delicate clawed hands and pointed, Aktom at D'mond, Utiel at Thanduil. Dohrum cast his spell of shared protection upon Chang and stepped cautiously behind the others hoping that Chang would not move out of range of the spell.

D'mond, the victim of who knew what spell that the daemon had cast upn her. dropped the crossbow from her shaking hands and strode forward to engage with Aktom, but her wild thrust was easily turned aside.
"At last my dear, we get to dance!" the daemon taunted with an evil smile.
Victor moved into a position behind Aktom but the demon's wings deflected his clumsy strike. Aktom's smile is cut short however as two more shafts from Aleanor's long bow thud into his taut belly. "How do you like that chuckles!" she cried drawing back the bow for further strikes.

Thanduil grabs the cowering rat-man by the scruff of its neck and started to drag it off towards the exit. Zan kept playing on his flute and tapping his foot in a lively rhythm. With improved courage and confidence Jedon stepped forward and sliced into Aktom's unprotected side wounding him deeply. Chang moved nimbly between friend and foe to reach the fleeing Lord Scrond. Sliding along the dusty floor he swept the running man's legs from under him and followed this up with a flurry of blows so swift that it was hardly possible to see his fists, elbows, head and knees move. Utiel raised her hands and started to cast another spell, while Victor and D'mond tried to distract her with attacks but failed. A cold, cloying cloud of greasy darkness filled the northern half of the room before dispersing, as it rolled away D'mond dropped to the floor and stopped moving.

Jedon, green of face and obviously sickened saw Aktom preparing another spell and attacked opportunistically. His blade slashed across the daemon's throat, killing it causing Utiel to scream in terror, dismay and anguish as she saw her twin fall to the ground. Dohrum his helmet glowing an eerie red strode forward and attacked Utiel striking hard with his warhammer. Victor steped back from the fray and you see a golden light suffuse his body briefly before he prepares himself to strike again. Aleanor fired two more shafts at the winged daemon but missed. Gagging and whimpering in fear Thanduil dragged the manically laughing ratman into the corridor. Zan drew his sword and advanced on Utiel. "I will not watch any more friends die. This is for Arrik, Andrinor, Crystala, Landor and Landrick!" He swung his sword down but missed, his eyes misty with tears that streaked his soot blackened cheeks. Jedon attacked again but sickened by the daemon's spell his blows lacked any sort of power, while Chang pummelled the supine Scrond until the man slipped into unconsciousness.

Utiel lifted her head and cackled, "So weak you are, and the First is relying on you to save him! Oh yes I know your thoughts, you can hide nothing from me. Not even you Zanzibar!" She raised her hands above her head and called upon a spell to split open the planes and deliver her an ally. Jedon struck as she started to utter the words of the spell bringing his sword down on her right arm shattering it and spoiling the spell as she screamed in agony. Dohrum crept close to D'mond and cast a healing spell upon her. D'mond's wounds swiftly healed, and she spasmed as life returned to her body.
Victor stepped forward and struck hard at the daemon, hitting twice with his sword almost bringing the hellish creature to her knees with the force of his blows. The recovered but weakened D'mond stepped forward and thrust with her blade but it was turned aside by the daemon's tough hide. Aleanor fired two more arrows, the shafts striking home in the creature's torso. Thanduil struggled with the door; fear and mental weakness wracking his body. Zan swung his blade again but Utiel caught it in her hand and pulled it from his grasp.
"You threaten me again, whelp?" She cried joyously.

Jedon attacked again but Utiel defended herself with Zan's blade, parrying the first two strikes but failing to spot the third which struck between her pendulous breasts. Black blood gushed out and she slipped forward onto the floor. The burning effigy blazed brightly for a moment, filling the space with light, heat and a mighty roar, before the structure collapsed into a tumbling pile of embers.

Zan took back his blade and cleaned it on the daemon's robes before sheathing it.
"Chang, is 'Lord' Scrond secure?" Aleanor asked as she retrieved her arrows.
Zan walked over to Thanduil and put his arm around the elf wizard' shoulders. "There is no shame in what you did, Thanduil. Creatures such as this from the lower planes can turn the bowels of the strongest of us to water."
Aleanor checked on D'mond, "Are you all-right now, you took a mighty blow, but the way you came back is an inspiration to us all." She then stepped over to where Chang stood over Lord Scrond who was groaning and starting to come around.
The ratman squealed, pinned by the glares of Jedon and Thanduil and Chang's ominous presence. "You powerful, more powerful than the flayed king! You now my masters. Me show you treasures. Yes? Treasure what you came for. Yes?"

With Scrond knocked out and bound Chang threatened Skreezulz and demanded to know where the treasure he had spoken of earlier lay. "Lord Scrond hid his treasures, never saw them, just spoke of them. One of my nest brothers told me that he saw Lord Scrond taking chests into the throne room." He nodded towards the passage that Scrond appeared from and which Victor was looking at, "But chests not there now. No more guards. All dead now. No more traps, no more guards, just Skreelkus."

The rat-man led you through the door from which Scrond had appeared, into the next chamber, Chang followed behind dragging the heavy weight of the unconscious Lord Scrond behind him. The air of this long and narrow room was thick and heavy with the scent of incense and smoke roiled up from a series of iron braziers and golden thuribles, the former lined both sides of the room, the latter hung from the ceiling by long golden chains. Torches burned in cressets adding to the smoky atmosphere while adding a little illumination to the room. At the far end of the chamber, glimpsed through the heavy clouds of scented smoke, a gilded throne stood amidst a sea of brightly coloured and embroidered silken cushions. In each of the four corners stood identical, life sized, statues of the First in regal garb; a scroll in one hand, the other outstretched with his mouth open as if about to speak.
The companions explored the room, examining the statues carefully. Jedonfound a price tag on the leg of one, and more interestingly scratches on the floor beneath the plinth.

D'mond recognised the image, "I've seen one like this in the market in Safeharbour, these are but cheap copies."
"Hmm," mused Jedon as he examined the statue in the south-east of the room. "This statue bears a label saying, 'Maxwell Scrond, Antiques and Artefacts. 58gp'" He gestured toward the floor. "And it's all scratched and scraped around statue's base. Anything here we should now about Skreelkuz?"

Dohrum paused from where he was examining the walls of the throne room "So, 'Lord' Scrond was an antique dealer from Safeharbour?Looks like he brought his wares here. Which might explain the chests of loot that Skreelkuz saw being brought in. Might explain how he came across whatever convinced him to set up this den of evil. Someone who deals in artefacts is bound to run across something with unexpected effects sooner or later." Dohrum returned to checking the walls for any sign of where Scrond's treasure might be.

Victor kept a grip on his sword and shield, remembering what happened last time they encountered carved figures in hostile territory. "I can only hope that cheap copies don't take enchantments well," he mutters. He approached one statue and examined it more closely, looking for additions that wouldn't have been there originally. He followed this up with gentle tapping of the pommel of his sword over the statue, listening for hollow spots.

Having exhausted the examination of the statues, Thanduil joins Dohrum in examining the walls and then the throne for any sign of the 'treasure'. "Where is this fabled treasure then?" He asked the rat-man.
"I see nothing." Skreelkus wailed, "Not allowed in here when master alone with twins."
Jedon braced himself and put his shoulder to the statue of the First. With a grunt he pushed the statue away from the wall. It moved easily at first before sticking slightly teetered on the edge of its plinth then toppled over, shattering into several pieces as it hit the ground. D'mond, concentrating on searching the throne, winced as the statue shattered and brushed a few fragments of stone from her hair. Dohrum and Thanduil studied the walls, the dwarf concentrating on the area where Jedon had pushed away the statue while Victor examined the remaining statues tapping each one but none sounded hollow.
While Thanduil suggested torturing Lord Scrond D'mond knelt down and examined the throne quickly spotting a hidden chest cunningly disguised as the base of the throne while Dohrum found a hidden door in the space behind the statue that Jedon had pushed over.

D'mond picked the lock of the chest but failed to spot the trap hidden in the hinges. She avoided the worst effects of the gas that billowed from the chest and looked in to see what she had found. Four polished turquoise beads, three polished chunks of brownish-red sard and one large piece of pale golden amber. The bottom of the chest was lined with copper coins, at least a thousand of them and over a thousand gold coins amongst them. While wrapped in a silken cloth was an ivory and gold rod, studded with semi-precious stones.

The treasure was carefully stowed away in packs before the heroes continued to explore the hidden door behind the statues, dragging the semi-conscious Scrond behind. When they reached a junction of passages Chang spoke threaten to the erstwhile merchant as he removed the gag.
"What? Is there a trap ahead? Answer this and the questions you have already been asked by my friend. I am probably the most patient of my companions, but even I am reaching the end of my tether. So unless you want your end to come while tethered here, let your tongue do some moving!!"
Jedon added his own threats, "Well Scrond, speak up. You're defeated and the way things are right now the best you can hope for is a clean death."
Victor spoke up while adding a little pressure on the blade pressed into Scrond's back. Nothing injury causing - yet - but something to remind their captive just how tenuous his situation was."He obviously seeks to delay us. We have achieved what we sought here, let's dispense with him and continue on our way."
"Thank you." he said sarcastically, "Am I pleading to be let free, no. Are any of us free? No we all have our own cages and our own chains; some are just more comfortable than others. Your clerics here are bound by their oaths and scriptures. Chubby here, is governed by the strictures of his order and by the desires of the flesh. Young aster Blackarrow is ensnared by not being his father. Tiras, you are a caged beast a mirror of the one you hunt and the one that hunts you. Can you smell its foetid breath on your nape?"
He looks around and smiles, more of a stretching of the lips and a narrowing of the eyes rather than a true expression of humour or joy.

"My daemons? They were not my daemons, our goals just aligned for a period. Where did I get them? They were already here; I heard their song and followed it here where they were waiting for me as my masters told me. And are they dead, can you truly kill a daemon? They have served their purpose, as I suppose I have served mine. The door is trapped and there is a secret door at the end of passage that turns to the right as you so cleverly deduced. The stone brother should be able to find it with ease and the trap on the wooden door should not be beyond the wiles of your street-smart woodland sister, unless you want me to spoil the fun by telling you the secrets, but if I did would you trust me. If I said the trap could be disarmed by depressing the stone above the top hinge before opening the door would you then depress the one below the bottom hinge instead. Perhaps there is no trap on the wooden door; perhaps the trap is on the secret door at the end of the other passage. Perhaps there is no door at all. Perhaps there is no way out at all. Perhaps we are already dead and the world has fallen into perpetual night?"
He looks at each of you for a moment before continuing.

"Whether you believe me or not; beyond both or either of the doors there is a vault containing the treasures with which my masters bought me. Those of course may also be trapped, but that is a question for later."


He pauses again for a moment to unkink his neck and wipes his nose with his bound hands.
"No master Blackarrow, the best I can hope for is rescue by my masters and to watch you skinned and stretched upon the frame of the Flayed God. It is unlikely to happen, but it is the best I can hope for. I have succeeded in my mission, have you?"
"Anyway that's enough chat, outside the sun has set and the darkness is rising…"
Scrond changed into a hideous bloated hog like creature and attacked the party. Aleanor took a nasty blow to the face but the rest survived the assault unscathed.

After searching the body and the rest of Scrond's underground lair, finding several rings, a wand, several thousand gold coins and a strange chunk of green stone. One chest was trapped and floated eerily to the ceiling where, after a wager from Zan, Jedon shot the lock with his bow and caused thousands of copper coins to tumble out.
Taking what could easily be carried and leaving the rest for the villagers the heroes returned to the surface where Verlis was waiting, guarding the entrance to the stores.

The villagers were pleased to see the companions return from the stores but were desperate when they found out that the stores had been spoiled and destroyed by Scrond and his minions. The elders spoke for a while and concluded that it would make sense, if the companions were willing, to travel on to the next village Fairmyr where they might have supplies to spare.

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