Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Eselda, Eladrin Templar
Josh as DM
The party’s expressions turned grim as Stokely explained the situation. “Baerik was a simple armorsmith, but about a month ago he returned from a mining expedition and began sowing dissent among the clan. Within two weeks, half of the clan was splitting to follow him, shunning my leadership and moving to the other side of the valley. Given enough time, perhaps we could have sorted this out, but around the same time the zombies started showing up…”
“Zombies?” Hogar and Eselda perked up. "Yes, " continued Stokely “they began attacking mining parties, and we would find what was left of the expeditions, but soon the very miners appeared as zombies and were attacking us too! Many of my comrades suspect some sort of plague, but I have never heard of a disease that could zombify a dwarf.. I suspect a necromancer lurks somewhere in the tunnels.”
Incendius and Fib quickly explained about the black ice which seemed to be affecting the minds of the guards. “We must destroy it all!” insisted Incendius, flames rising in his eyes. Stokely nodded, “That does match the odd behavior.. none of those here still loyal had taken any of the trinkets after Baerik returned from the expedition. But these are our brothers and sisters! We must reunite the clan!”
The party requested a quick recess to check on the guards they had taken prisoner after destroying their black ice weapons, to see if they were recovering. They awakened them in their cells and tried to bluff a drunken night, but the dwarves would not have it and where very hostile, demanding their weapons be returned. After some fruitless discussion, Incendius became bored and reached into one of their minds – he was surprised to find that something seemed twisted, wrong, as if the scars from the black ice ran deeper than he thought. “These dwarves will recover in time.. but if they had been affected much more the effect might be permanent!”
Returning to Stokely, the apprised him of the situation, and agreed to help with either issue (assuming reasonable payment of course). Hogar was insistent that the issue with Baerik seemed too much like a complex matter of internal affairs – he much preferred to split some zombie skulls. But Stokely insisted that he cared more for the safety of his dispossessed brothers and sisters who might still be saved, and pointed out that a united clan might be able to deal with the zombies. So the party agreed to enter the Halls of Black Ice and try to talk down Baerik (“Although,” pointed out Kintama “some of their minds might be too far gone… there could be casualties.” Stokely sighed and nodded, resigned). A miner was summoned who knew a back way into the Halls through an old mining tunnel, and the party set out.
Reaching the secret tunnel, Kintama scouted ahead and found that it led into a large, empty kitchen which seemed recently used and was adjacent to a meeting chamber where some discussion was ongoing. Getting closer, he identified a dwarven council including a leader who matched the description of Baerik, who seemed to be in tense negotation with.. a human? He was confused at first, but based on the conversation gleaned that she might be an emissary from Vaelish Gant, seeking to consolidate his power and acquire the magic of the black ice.
Kintama returned to the party with this information, and they discussed in the tunnel about the best approach.. should they barge in and try to cut off the snake’s head by killing Baerik, then deal with the rest as best they could, hoping for disorganization and passivity? Should they take a more directly diplomatic approach and circle around to the front gate, where they might talk sense into Baerik? What poisonous influence would Gant’s courier have, and how much time until Baerik and his inner council were completely insane and beyond reason? Where had Etain gone?
Wait… where had Etain gone? Down the passage, they heard him talking to a gruff, dwarf-sounding person.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the new chef.”
“The one Thorfin hired?”
“The dwarf with the beard? Yeah, him.”
“Ah. I like drow cooking, and things have been terrible down here the last few days. Get to work on some soup and appetizers for the break in negotiations.”
A few moments later, Etain’s head popped around the corner. “Well, that went better than I expected – anyone want to help me chop up some cave mushrooms?” Hogar, excited at the prospect of chopping, followed readily, and several others came to help as well, uncertain what else to do.
After a while, they heard several of the dwarves leave as things wound down, and Kintama helped Etain serve the soup while the rest hid out of sight in the kitchen. Seeing an opportunity, Kintama suddenly drew his blade and stabbed the emissary, hoping to take her down before she could cause any trouble or escape to warn Gant! She drew a garrote and tried to twist around to strangle him, but he dodged and was able to finish her off with a final swing before retreating into a side room to hide, as the others charged into view and Baerik yelled “What is the meaning of this??”
Unsure how to negotiate at this point, the group took to subduing the other dwarves. Fib took on one, while Hogar and Alasaurus held a line against Baerik and two others, protecting Bud and the spellcasters who unleashed everything they had. Meanwhile, Kintama evaded the final guard and joined the fray. Eselda and Etain were able to keep everyone up until Baerik was subdued, and several of the guards were killed.
They dragged Baerik around to a back room, but he was raving about the Black Ice and the one who gave it to him, a mage named Akar Kessell. Incendius swore he has heard this name before, about something that happened a long time ago. Seeing no chance to negotiate and getting nothing valuable from Baerik, they knock him out. Meanwhile, Bud and Kintama have been scouting outside, and determine that this is another large settlement with at least 50 dwarves. Their odds of subduing them all and destroying the black ice seems slim, so they grab Baerik and return to Battlehammer Hold to consult with Stokely.
He is glad to see Baerik and hear what has happened, and offers the adventurers gold and dwarven weapons and armor. They discuss briefly and agree on a bold plan – the adventurers will seek out the necromancer and put a stop to the zombies, so that Stokely can rally his remaining forces to enter and subdue the Halls, destroying the remaining Black Ice and attempting to bring sanity back to the clan while things are in disarray with Baerik’s capture.
As Stokely begins planning his invasion, the heroes get directions to the last zombie attack, and set out deeper into the mine…