In the darkness of the forests north of The Line, Ssussun was not having a pleasant time of things. The orcs had retreated, but had sent trolls in to keep the Alliance from advancing. Even Ssussun’s elite scout team was having difficulty making any tactically significant hidden strikes, as the damned things kept regenerating any wound not caused by fire… and it was hard to hide a flame’s light. The moon was a mere sliver of its former self, providing enough darkness for a perfect raid… if only he could find a vulnerable target. Suddenly, in a flash of pure radiance, a being of fire and elegance stood before him, a symbol of pure white light blazing on its forehead. Before it had fully formed, Ssussun had his weapon out.
“Be still, warrior of light,” said the creature in a celestine tongue that any would understand. “I mean you no harm, but bring a message from the Lord of Morning, who dwells with Pelor in splendor.” As it spoke, Ssussun heard a distant call of trumpets echoing from a far-off realm.
Though its arrival had destroyed any hope of a surprise attack from this location, the drow felt an inherent trust of the angel before him. He sheathed his sword and knelt before the trumpet archon. “Speak your words, messenger. I will hear and obey.”
“When Lathander’s light reaches your home, it will see an orcish attack on your nation, and a specific strike against your family. The perpetrator is one of your victims, returned with Gruumsh’s blessing to destroy your land. But you will need to face a larger foe while he is dealt with. Go now if you hope to stop them.”
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Sikel slept uneasily in the cheap tavern next to the City of the Dead. It wasn’t the many bodies nearby… no, those often gave him comfort. Nor was it the rituals he would help perform on the grave of Mirt the Moneylender after the burial… there were more than enough death priests in the city to handle that task without him. It was something else… a nagging in the back of his head that something was not right… that something needed his specific kind of repair. Unable to determine what it was, he allowed himself to drift off to the land of dreams.
In his dreams, Sikel saw a dark elf racing through the darkness, rushing south towards Waterdeep with more haste than seemed possible. Sikel recognized the Drow… he fulfilled a similar role to Sikel’s, but for the Church of Pelor. Ssussun was his name, and he and Sikel had worked to destroy a cell of Kargatane assassins about a year earlier.
Sikel’s vision jumped, and he saw a sign welcoming visitors to Dambrath. He saw a guard house near a graveyard by the border. Then he saw what was in the graveyard, and what was manifesting in that graveyard. The shock of what he saw woke Sikel in a panicked cold sweat.
Moments later, he was outside the door to the inn in the pre-dawn light, speaking to one of the Raven Queen’s altar boys, an elf known for his speed. Sikel handed him a small figure of black stone in the shape of a horse, the twin to one in his other hand. “You must go to the north gate with all haste, and then continue northward. You will pass a Drow rushing south, a soldier of the Sun. You are to give him this, tell him it is from me, and tell him that I will hold it off as long as I can. Tell him to hurry.”
With that, Sikel used the remaining figure to conjure a steed of smoke and magic, and began racing south, hoping that he’d reach Dambrath in time.
[NOTE: Due to several factors, Mike/Karath, Micah/Nicolai, and Casey/Nulath were not present for this game. As Micah & Casey’s absence was unplanned and last-minute, we had their characters “in the background” for this session, and used simplified versions of them for the combat. Mike’s character, as you’ll see below, wasn’t around for long, but that was a planned absence, so I had a story reason set up to remove him.]
The devil “Lee” sat casually with Akara/Valarie and Karath, chatting pleasantly while the rest of the party was off in the Elemental Chaos (see previous session). Lee was very inquisitive about Akara’s Deva nature, as he’d had little chance to actually speak with deva in casual conversation. He also mentioned that if she ever got tired of reincarnating, she could sign a deal with him which would guarantee her soul went elsewhere. He also spoke of the ritual he’d traded to The Unknown Soldier, claiming that it was a more advanced necromantic spell that didn’t just raise random undead, but allowed the caster to call forth specific dead souls of creatures whose names he knew. Since it looked like the Unknown Soldier had been some kind of general in the orcish army, this did not bode well for the people of Dambrath, who might soon be overrun with undead orcish hordes.
While Akara tried to be noncommittal in conversation, Karath outright rude, holding tomes in front of his face as he pointedly ignored the devil (the D&D equivalent of rustling a newspaper & doing the crossword puzzle while someone is speaking). When Karath finished fake-reading the first tome, he reached for the next, not realizing until it was out that it was the Vecnal tome they’d taken off the necromancer… the tome that had somehow turned the Warforged Mecha Unit Delta comatose back in Cormyr.
Lee noticed the book before Karath could put it back, though, and seemed very surprised and started asking questions, saying that it was quite a dangerous item. Karath casually said that there was nothing on the pages now, opening the book to show the blank pages. Unfortunately, THE PAGES WEREN’T BLANK, and after looking down at them, the words swirled and Karath’s body went limp. Lee was fascinated, in a clinical way, to see the item working. He said it looked like a rare Vecnal magic item known as a “Book of Ultimate Amnesia”, a tome said to be so full of powerful secrecy magic that it could make a body forget the soul that was in it. Of course, Lee said, that rumor also hid another secret… that in fact what the tomes did was transport souls elsewhere. Lee had no way to track the souls, as he said his people didn’t really deal much with safely transporting souls to non-Hell areas.
As Lee & Akara spoke about the item and the likely location/condition of Karath’s soul, a rift in the dimensional fabric appeared, with a haggard-looking Eladrin ghost family holding the rift open. They asked Lee if he’d been able to save Serenity (see “The Elf-Slaying Storm” on the Bard’s Tale page), and he casually shrugged and said “Sorry friends, it just didn’t work out that way.” Utterly defeated, their spirits dissipated.
The rest of the party emerged just after that, and quick updates were given. Lee was very happy with the progress the party had made and with all the contracts they’d managed to copy, and he rewarded them with a bonus: 5,000 GP and a bag of holding (lvl 5). He further offered a magic item to keep Karath’s body healthy until the unlikely event of his soul’s return, a Belt of Sustenance (lvl 7). He then went on his way north towards Waterdeep, whistling as he left [OOC note: the tune was “Time is on My Side” by the Rolling Stones].
The party set about trying to make wheelbarrows or other carrying devices for the now three unambulatory forms they had to carry (Kyone in her crystal, the warforged M.U.D., and the comatose Karath). As they tried to scrounge wood from the rotted stables and nearby forest, Scout/Johny heard hoofbeats coming from the north. While the rest of the party hid, Scout stood in the middle of the road, waving his arms. Soon a huge (2 lanes wide, 2 stories tall) carriage pulled by 8 Clydesdale horses met him in the road. The carriage was manned by 10 very attractive elven & half-elven men & women. The double doors to the carriage opened with flair, and a very flashy elven pirate captain named Blackheart Deathclaw emerged from the carriage.
Of course, Akara remembered the “elven” pirate from the Murder Machine audience, and knew that he was actually a Rakshasha named Kalarel. Kalarel offered the party a ride, including cargo space for their bodies (which he seemed to think they’d use for some nefarious purpose), in exchange for two things: 1) a conversation with his old business partner, Arkara-el (Akara), and 2) a statement that his carriage was part of Akara’s retinue, protected under the Church of the Raven Queen, so that Kalarel could avoid lying in an oath of loyalty to Pelor at the border of Dambrath. After an intra-party pow-wow, it was decided that they needed the lift to get the 10 miles south to Dambrath to stop The Unknown Soldier, so they agreed.
Kalarel told Akara about the joys of being a Rakshasha, how it gave him access to all his memories, and allowed him to enjoy the fullness of life and power, unfettered by morality. He also told a few stories about Akara’s past. According to Kalarel, he and Akara used to be angels of Lusemnee, the chief assassin goddess and daughter of Zehir, god of snakes & assassins. He said they had been on many murder missions together, but that Akara had disappeared just before “things got strange with mother”, that is, when Lusemnee rebelled against her father and began becoming a goddess of redemption. Kalarel said that when Zehir killed mother, they all “fell” and became Deva. His words, however, failed to strike up any memories with Akara, and she stayed silent through the narrative.
Soon, the servants (each of whom appeared to have an illusion-based romance with Kalarel’s pirate alter-ego) told Kalarel that there was a problem up ahead, and it became clear that someone had killed the guards at the border station to Dambrath (right next to the radiantly glowing sign letters “Dambrath welcomes all under the Sun”. Cresting the hill that the guard houses were on, they could see down to the village of Verdant Fields, and the graveyard next to the village, which appeared to have some activity going on inside it. Kalarel offered to hold onto the bodies while the party dealt with these “local politics”, claiming he’d not touch them “as a professional courtesy to an old working partner”, but the party instead took their unmoving friends from him and stashed them in the guardhouse (which they locked) before rushing down to the cemetery.
The fight in the cemetery was rough, to say the least. Slain orc spirits would sometimes attack the party, and sometimes sink into the ground to animate a body there as a Slain Orc Ghoul (which could immobilize with its touch, then eat you alive). Also, there was a ghostly Eye of Gruumsh shaman who began a ritual in orcish that involved storms and the word “Broxigar”. To make things worse, there were two portals through the veil of death open on the battlefield, and each round they spit out more slian orc spirits or shaman ghosts. The party got pretty bogged down by the ghouls and spirits, and never managed to get close enough to the portals to disable them, nor did they get close enough to the summoning ritual to cast a counter ritual. As a result, the ghost of Broxigar, a famous Exarch of Gruumsh (from the Elf-Slaying story), appeared on the battlefield, with the party still fighting lesser undead and uncertain of ever escaping. Broxigar held up his axe as every dark stormcloud poured lightning into it, and the death of our heroes seemed fairly certain.
Fortunately, at the last moment, Avengers assembled to help the party. One was Sikel, the half-elf/half-shadarkai Avenger of Death the party had met in Waterdeep. The other was Ssussun Beluth, the drow Solar Avenger the party had met at the Many Flagons. Ssussun had an extra tie to this adventure, since the party had determined it was likely he who murdered TUS’s family of orcs way back when, and TUS had likely come to this town, Ssussun’s home, to slaughter his friends & family and desecrate the body of his brother (which was among the dead bodies in the caravan) in a vengeful rage. Ssussun marked everyone on the battlefield as an enemy of the Sun, altering his declaration slightly when Sikel told him that the party were allies. The two Avengers then started to hold off the forces in the graveyard, telling the party to rush to Ssussun’s house on the eastern edge of town to find the caster, because if they didn’t stop him, he could do this to every cemetery in Dambrath.
The session ended with the party racing off to a second battle.
The next game will start with a new combat encounter. Mechanically, your encounter powers will have reset, but you’ll have no chance to heal in-between fights. Due to the simplified way we handled the characters, to make things easier Nulath & Nikolai will start the fight at their bloodied value for hit points, but all encounter powers will still be recharged. Any daily powers spent in the Elemental Chaos or during the cemetery fight are still spent. If you were present for both the Elemental Chaos adventure (3 encounters) and the cemetery fight, you’ll start next session with one more action point.
We’ll email about timing for the next game.
Stay tuned for episode 18: “Old Friends”
Experience: to be determined after the next fight
- 5,000 GP
- Bag of Holding (lvl 5)
- Belt of Nourishment (lvl 7) – Karath