Here's my Age of Worms campaign log. My campaign is non-conventional in two ways.
First, I'm rolling my party in from another adventure (Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil), so I'm starting them at the Prince of Redhand. To catch them up I had Manzorian do what essentially amounted to a data dump to start the campaign. Plot wise, I made it so that Manzorian, concerned about the recently fulfilled prophesies, decided to follow Belekarde's footsteps and travel to Kuluh-Mar. There, Manzorian wrote down the visions and drew the images he saw. Then, when Manzorian hired the party (where my log starts), he gave them this handout and sent them directly to Alhaster.
For the insanely curious you can read about my party's entire adventures so far here, on Monte Cook's site:
For the still insanely curious but not quite so insanely curious you can just jump to the last session write up the epilogue, and probably make total sense of things.
For the above average curious (you'd need to be at least mildly curious to read my boring group's stories), reading the paragraph above probably sufficies.
Second, I will run the campaign in the Forgotten Realms. That means I converted Manzorian to Malchor Harpell. On top of that, Malchor Harpell is one of my player's (Rhelyx) dad's uncle. Malchor Harpell's also another one of my player's (Max) mom's uncle. That makes Rhelyx and Max second cousins. Max is played by a new player, who didn't participate at all in my Temple of Elemental Evil campaign.
Here's the first session, The Prince of Redhand...
… One year later, and 18 months from the start of the campaign.
Rannyn looked over her bunch. Agretha, Valon and Phiery, all well rested from a yearlong break, and well-fed from yesterday’s giant banquet, stood idly on the quiet outskirts of Silverymoon. Rannyn had spent the year training fresh recruits for the Ardent Legion, including a good number of orc recruits recently, and this helped her maintain her physical condition. Phiery of course stood ready to follow Rannyn into the heat of battle. Valon, fresh from battling for sport in Hillsfar, also looked battle-ready. Agretha, bored with a year of quiet, and frustrated with Rerrid Hammersong, seemed ready for a change too. Agretha’s badger, Lulu, who loyally followed the druid everywhere, looked a little plumper from the year off, and she seemed ready to hit the road and work off a few pounds. Oban remained in his goliath village on the other side of the Silver Marches. No one knew where Rhelyx’s whereabouts.
Alustriel tasked the group to reach Malchor Harpell in Longsaddle, about 100 miles to the west. Despite Lulu’s eagerness for some physical activity, the party settled on speed, and decided to simply plunk down 900 gp for a Silverymoon wizard to teleport the party to Longsaddle. A few seconds and some unpleasant teleport-nausea later, the group arrived in the whimsical large town of Longsaddle.
The town sat just east of the Neverwinter Woods, and bustled with chaotic summer activity. The green of the forest seemed to spill over into the town itself, only partially reigned in by farms and agriculture, making it hard to tell settled areas from unsettled. Rannyn asked a man selling lollipops and other candy from a roadside cart for assistance finding Malchor Harpell, and the helpful citizen pointed to the large manor that dominated the center of the town. Phiery bought a red lollipop for himself, which quickly melted in his mouth, and Agretha picked one up for Lulu, who devoured the treat in one crunch. Two lollis later, the group knocked on the manor’s door.
When Valon entered the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, as he sensed the manor’s arcane energy rippling throughout. Inside he found Rhelyx sitting in the foyer. Although the party didn’t expect Rhelyx and greeted him kindly, Rhelyx didn’t seem particularly surprised or excited to see them. He offered few details about why he had come to Longsaddle. The group shrugged and made an appointment to meet with Malchor Harpell the next day and got a room in a cozy Longsaddle Inn, spending the rest of the day wandering through the pleasantly eccentric town, and dodging the occasional errant cantrip.
The next day the party returned to the manor, and followed a robed clerk who led them to Malchor’s study. The clerk attempted to impress the group by opening the doors needlessly with his mage hand spell, but the clerk’s arcane might did not impress the group. The group entered and found 3 individuals. One, an older, lean man who wore a symbol of a silver harp could only be the arch-mage Malchor Harpell. The party also easily recognized the second individual, Rhelyx. The Marauders did not recognize or expect the third, a black-cloaked, handsome wizard-type.
Malchor Harpell spoke, “I trust you know Reginald Harpell,” he stated while gesturing at Rhelyx, “although I presume you know him as Rhelyx, my brother’s grandson.” Rhelyx didn’t even look up. “This other gentleman is Maximilian Spielkube-Harpell, of the Spielkube-Harpells obviously, my other brother’s grandson.”
Maximilian smiled a handsomely rugged smile, and offered the group some fresh iced tea. Malchor scowled about the delay, and Rhelyx simply scowled.
“Getting back to business,” Malchor confidently continued, not waiting for Max to get the tea ready, “I asked Alustriel to send you to assist me for two specific reasons, but first let me explain the situation. For over two-thousand years, prophesies regarding something known as the Age of Worms predict a horrible time with undead swarming Toril, worms writhing up from graves, and the return of the evil god Kyuss.”
Malchor went on to explain that the prophecies hold great credibility for two reasons. “First, they have not changed over the intervening two millennia. Second, many of the prophecies have come true, and some seem to have come true very recently. My old friend, Belakarde, always ahead of the game, had been obsessed with the Age of Worms. Ten years ago he went to a city deep within the jungles of Chult known as Kuluth-Mar to investigate Kyuss and something known as the Ebon Triad – a group he felt held a connection to the Ebon Triad. He returned more convinced of the threat’s credibility than ever, so fanatically I almost thought him mad with jungle fever. Based on what he found, he went to Alhaster, a city in the pirate isles in the Sea of Swords, to seek help from an individual – Lashonna. I know Lashonna to be a powerful, well-liked, beautiful elven sorceress, but have never actually met her. I think this makes Lashonna the best person to see to track down Belakarde”
“I didn’t have the time to follow-up on anything at the time, and I guess Belakarde’s mission slipped my mind over the past decade. Your victory over the cult of elemental evil last summer jogged my memory regarding the prophecies Belakarde found, and I reread them. Based on the notes Belakarde left with me before heading to Alhaster, I suspected many of the prophesies had recently come true, so I investigated Kuluth-Mar myself, and made my own notes of what I found there,” Malchor said as he turned to a bookshelf, filled with many arcane and lore-filled tomes and selected a few loosely bound sheets of parchment. Agretha noted how the sheets were somewhat faded but not frayed, probably due to exposure to high humidity. “I wrote down and drew what I found there, and you may find it useful,” he said while handing over the sheets.
Malchor gravely continued, “for example, the prophecies speak of a hero of silver stopping a god. Or of the return of the artifact, The Shattered Scepter of Calim, and you just discovered a piece of this artifact. Because of these prophesies I’m convinced we need to follow-up and investigate Belakarde’s hunches. For reasons I don’t understand, you already seem to be in the middle of this, and I would like you to go to Alhaster and follow-up on the Ebon Triad and, most importantly, seek out Lashonna to try to uncover Belakarde’s cold trail.”
“I’d like you to take Rhelyx as well, even though I know he can sometimes prove a liability and always difficult to work with” Malchor added. “Because of your recent efforts to stop a god you seem uniquely qualified for this task. Because of your role in the prophecies, I feel it is your destiny, and I don’t want to break up your group’s karma. It is unfortunate the paladin could not make it here. In his place, Max will assist you. This task has been appointed to you,” Malchor said with great weight, leaning in closer “if you cannot complete it, I fear there is no one else.”
The Marauders asked Malchor a few questions, and learned that the Ebon Triad consists of an ancient, strange cult that seeks to unite Bane, Bhaal and Myrkul. When the three gods died during the Time of Troubles 18 years ago it seemed like the cult would dissolve. With the return of Bane, although still a long shot, the cult’s goals seem more attainable and the cult’s activity has likewise increased. When the party asked how to get to Alhaster Malchor indicated the choice is up to them, but the island sits 1,300 miles to the south of Longsaddle as the crow flies. If the party can teleport, he welcomes them to study his magical painting of Alhaster dock, which will help them teleport correctly. Rhelyx grunted that he could do it. Max also stated he can teleport the distance. Rhelyx muttered something to the effect of “-with error” but no one seems to indicate that they heard him.
Malchor assumed the role of teacher, and advised Max to consider he might miss and land in the ocean, so he should prepare accordingly. Max, still at least partially under Malchor’s tutelage, listened to the advice, nodding, and took the necessary precautions.
With the conversation winding down, the clerk again knocked on the door. The clerk apologized for interrupting Malchor’s important business but said something urgent called for his attention. One of the Harpell had gotten into the pig contest and cast a few grease spells.
Malchor arose, “As you can see my family keeps me busy, busier than they ought to. If you have further questions I will entertain them, but otherwise I will need to intervene in yet another Harpell-induced crisis.”
The party said they had no more questions; Rhelyx and Max studied the painting, and the group teleported to Alhaster without incident.
The Marauders arrived on the Alhaster docks a few seconds later, to taste the salty air. The mid-day sun beat down ferociously, but periodic ocean breezes ameliorated the heat. Looking around the dock, the group saw multiple ships, some openly bearing pirate flags, unloading goods of dubious origin. Most pirates on the sea of swords dreamed of Alhaster as a cockaigne. Amidst all of the swag, hobgoblin guards hustled around, documenting arrivals and departures. After the teleports, a hobgoblin guard approached the group, seemingly unsurprised by the magic, and grunted that he needed to know the group’s name and purpose of business in Alhaster. The teleport also got the attention of an attractive female creature with smooth skin and black wings. Valon noticed her red eyes observing the group with side-long glances as they spoke to the hobgoblin. The Marauders stated their name and business of finding Lashonna. The guard notified The Marauders of a 100-gp tax (which they promptly paid), and the hobgoblin quickly scurried the money into his change belt. The guard also offered some “friendly” advice. He cautioned the group about traipsing through the town with a dire badger if they wanted respect from the civilized people of Alhaster, or openly displaying a holy symbol of Selune. Although neither is illegal, under the latitudinarian eyes of Prince Zeech, both could raise eyebrows.
The Marauders asked the guard about the nearest inn, and he directed them to the Alhaster Shipping Concern. They walked into the bar to find a true hive of scum and villainy. When the unfamiliar adventurers simply walked in, the music stopped, everyone nearly dropped their grog and kept one eye on the suspicious adventurers. In the case of patch-eyed pirates, those kept their only eye on the suspicious adventurers. Mudmouth, the hobgoblin bartender, spat out that he “don’t serve your kind here,” further explaining that they had mistakenly walked into a pirate bar, and were clearly not pirates. The adventurers tried to talk tough, and tried to explain that they had done some robbing and looting. Mudmouth corrected them saying what they’d done was briganding, or land-based looting, and only pillaging on the seas (preferably the high seas, unless you’re a fairy pirate from the Sea of Fallen Stars, although Mudmouth supposed that would at least count for getting into the bar) counted as piracy. The other pirates remained unimpressed.
Finally, clearly not pirates, Valon challenged Mudmouth to a duel. Mudmouth promptly accepted and pulled a saber out from under the bar. The two battled in the street in front of the bar, while the other adventurers and pirates looked on. After a series of wicked cuts from Valon’s daggers, Mudmouth yielded, saying that Valon, although not a pirate, was obviously tough enough that Mudmouth wouldn’t stop him from drinking at the shipping concern.
Just after the fight, one of the sexy, leather-clad, winged, clearly evil, and probably extra-dimensional guards teleported in. Many of the pirates slunk away into the shadows, clearly fearful and muttering about how one of the “blessed angels are here.” The Blessed Angel demanded, in a somehow simultaneously deep and raspy voice, to know who was responsible for disturbing the peace. When The Marauders didn’t say anything Mudmouth spoke up, saying there wasn’t any trouble, that he and Valon were just practicing together, and everyone was about to head back into the bar peacefully for some good, clean drinking and singing patriotic songs about Alhaster and Prince Zeech. The angel looked at Valon, who nodded and agreed with Mudmouth. Satisfied, the Angel teleported away.
Valon ordered drinks for the party and, among other things, asked where he could find Lashonna. Mudmouth directed them to Mistwall manor in northwest Alhaster. He said they wouldn’t miss it, since it was large and right next to the palace. Valon thanked Mudmouth, and gulped down his remaining grog.
Following Mudmouth’s directions, The Marauders headed over to Lashonna’s. Along the way, the party passed through the Alhaster market. A wooden stage, erected in the center of the market, attracted everyone’s attention where three people, nooses tied around their necks, stood. The masked man declared loudly that the three were members of the Ebon Triad, and said Zeech showed mercy by only hanging them. The executioner made it clear that, although he didn’t dare question Zeech’s wisdom, in his limited understanding he felt torture would provide more condign punishment to the Ebon Triad. The executioner proceeded to pull a lever and the floor dropped from under the three. They jerked momentarily and then went stiff. Valon wondered if he just saw swift justice, or if Alhaster was simply a potemkin village. He decided the judge and jury were still out on that question, although the executioner had seemed to weigh in.
The group finished crossing Alhaster and reached Mistwall Manor. They approached the well-maintained iron gate leading into the impressive home, and a well-dressed, friendly guard hailed them. When the party indicated they would like to speak to Lashonna the guard frowned, letting the group know Lashonna was “indisposed,” but happily made them an appointment for August 28. Max spoke up, saying the matter concerned the Ebon Triad, and Lashonna would find it of great urgency. The guard told the group that Prince Zeech would hold an important holiday in a week for the whole city. He said that on that day Zeech would also hold an exclusive feast at the palace. “If you can secure invitations to that feast somehow, I’m certain you will find Lashonna there.” The party thanked the guard, who waved goodbye to the group.
The adventurers then made the short trip south to Zeech’s palace, which sat almost next to Lashonna’s manor, to set up a meeting with Zeech. Along the way, in the southwest corner of the town, the party saw an immense grey stone tower, many stories tall, under construction. Hobgoblin guards led the construction on the site, driving and whipping all types of creatures working to construct the tower.
They found the palace itself surrounded by a decorative iron fence, similar to Lashonna’s fence, but with statues of an older, handsome, somewhat effeminate man, presumably Zeech, on every fence post. Inside the fence they could see a well-maintained garden and a fabulous palace. The gate clerk saw them approach. He asked the party for names and purposes of business with the government of fabulous Redhand. The party said they would like to speak to Zeech. The clerk agreed to put in a request for a meeting, and that the party should return the next day to find out when they could meet with the Prince. He began dutifully writing in a large ledger, when Rhelyx chimed in that they would like to speak with Zeech about the Ebon Triad. The guard said he would be sure to note that next to the request (the party never actually returned to learn about their appointment). The group then asked the clerk for directions to the nicest inn in town, and the clerk sent them to the The Deluxery.
The adventurers headed over to the nearby The Deluxery. Along the way they passed a huge, impressive, well-maintained marble temple devoted to Bane. Inside the The Deluxery, the adventures found a feast for all senses. Extremely attractive, often exotic, more often minimally dressed male and female servants moved calmly but quickly through the place serving drinks and rare foods. A half-nymph harpist played a soothing melody. The air smelled thickly of spiced meats and exotic tobacco.
Arhmin Loratio, a fat man and proprietor of the The Deluxery, hustled over to the group. “Greetings and welcome to The Deluxery. What do you need, for I seek to provide you with heaven on earth?”
Loratio commented that the group looked like they had arrived from a long trip, and offered them something to drink and massages. The party accepted the drinks, and asked for the nicest room, a two-bedroom suite. Loratio added “very good sirs and ladies! I pray I do not disappoint such discerning guests.” The party then asked Loratio if he knew anything about the feast next week. He said that he did, and explained it, along with a lovely parade and festival for the commoners, would honor Prince Zeech’s twenty-years of peaceful rule over Redhand. Rhelyx asked if Loratio knew how to secure an invite to the exclusive feast. Loratio said he happened to have a few spare invites, but, according to Zeech’s instructions, could only distribute them to proper heroes. He asked each of The Marauders to privately explain why Zeech might think them feast-worthy, quickly adding that “of course, my friends, you’re all feast-worthy in Loratio’s eyes!”
Each member of the group told their tale, and since all except Max came from a similar background, with considerable overlap. After the brief meetings Loratio called Valon back into his private office. He said he would distribute enough invites for the whole group, but frankly, Zeech would probably only find him, a sporting champion popular in multiple nations, feast-worthy, and that Loratio would consider Valon responsible for his companion’s actions.
The group spent the remainder of the day enjoying the The Deluxery, despite (or because of?) how the excesses of the inn frequently bordered on offensive and sometimes crossed that border. Agretha, uncomfortable enough in Alhaster, decided she had had enough, and traveled through the earth into the countryside outside Alhaster, finding some welcome peace and quiet.
Once the party realized the room they booked would run them 1,000 gp/night, Valon decided to try to win back some of the losses with gambling, the smartest thing you can do – if you’re good at it. He won enough at poker to cover the incidental (and often outlandish) expenses for the group’s food and drink while at the The Deluxery. He also made a small dent in the bill for the room, by winning at poker against Shag Solomon, a quaggoth hunter. Shag claimed to have recently arrived from the jungles of Chult. He said “that while many considered man to be the most dangerous prey, those who said that often overlooked another vicious predator - dinosaur.” Valon couldn’t argue with Shag’s logic. Valon easily won at poker against the quaggoth, who slipped into an opium-induced stupor as the game progressed.
At one point when one of the servers asked Rhelyx if he would “like a massage…or anything more?” as she began rubbing Rhelyx’s back and, getting up on a stool, pressed her knees gently into his thighs. Rhelyx declined. The server promised to make it interesting. When the server persisted Rhelyx said he would only find it interesting if he could eat the server afterwards. The server promptly left Rhelyx alone. Loratio overheard this, and discreetly reminded Valon he would hold Valon responsible for the group’s actions at the feast.
Rhelyx woke up early the next day to head to the church of Bane. He waited for morning services to end, admiring the tall stained glass windows, each one displaying a different martial weapon, and a large golden scepter above the altar at the head of the church. After asking around, an impressively armored alcolyte directed him to Vierias Spatlepate, “leader of the cathedral.” Rhelyx found the man a bit wimpy for a high priest of Bane. Vierias, totally bald, slouched during the conversation and spent most of the time starring at his own feet, seemingly to apologetic to dare look Rheylx in the eye. Rhelyx asked Vierias about the church’s policy on other religions. Vierias explained that this church of Bane tolerated most other religions (even Tyr and Ilmater to some extent), although he proudly added they did not tolerate the Ebon Triad. In addition the altogether unimpressive high priest, this also surprised Rhelyx, since he had learned that the Church of Bane was infamous for their intolerance. Rhelyx asked how long Vierias had been in his position, and Vierias told Rhelyx he got the job a few years ago when Prince Zeech appointed him. Rhelyx thanked him for his time. For Rhelyx, the rabbit hole just went deeper.
While Rhelyx went to the Bane Cathedral, Valon and the rest of the Marauders explored the streets of Alhaster. While on the town, Valon heard a gravely voice call from behind “You The Marauders?”
Valon turned to see a large, well armed hobgoblin with a bird on his shoulder. Just behind this hobgoblin stood another creepy looking hobgoblin. The large hobgoblin asked Valon how he secured the invite, not bothering to clarify further. When Valon explained the group’s accomplishments landed them the invite, and what those accomplishments were, the hobgolblin made it clear that while he was certain he was in the presence of mighty heroes, he sure hadn’t heard of any of the group’s supposedly great deeds. The large hobgoblin then introduced himself as B’Kruss, leader of the Knights of Redhand, and his creepy associate as “V’juss, my creepy associate.” He explained to The Marauders that the people of Alhaster considered him and his band the local heroes. Valon calmly retorted, “I understand, local heroes.”
Quickly, B’Kruss became angry with the adventurers and challenged them. B’Kruss explained that a duel was impossible, with the Blessed Angels lurking, and Valon, remembering his fight with Mudmouth, agreed. B’Kruss said they could compete at heroic feats and challenged any of the Marauders to a riding contest, around the city. When they declined he challenged any of them to a jumping contest, leaping from one building to another. When they declined that he challenged them to a wrestling contest. When the group refuses the third challenge, B’Kruss walked away, seemingly unimpressed. Valon then called back that he will fight, with weapons, right now, Blessed Angels, be damned. B’Kruss didn’t even turn around. Both B’Kruss and Valon considered themselves the argument’s victor.
Rhelyx rejoined The Marauders. The group decided to try to find out what they could by speaking to the 3 recently executed Ebon Triad members. Max asked around and learned that the bodies of the executed go to Traitor’s Graves; a series of small islands a short way up the river. The group made plans to head to that island tomorrow, and decided to stay in the far more reasonably priced Angry Rifter Tavern for the night.
The next day the party headed out to Traitor’s Graves. They met with Gohtur, an old hobgoblin river man, who offered to ferry the adventurer’s the short distance to Traitor’s Graves for 2 sp each. The party agreed.
Gohtur set up his boat, and poled The Marauders up the river. Almost an hour later, the party reached the mosquito-infested island. Although still early, the insects buzzed and the day grew hot and humid. Gohtur got as close as he could to the swampy island, but the party needed to walk the final few hundred feet through the shallow swamp to reach the island.
On the island The Marauders, legs caked with mud, found bodies, thick with flies, staked to inverted Y-Shaped palisades. After briefly looking around for the freshest body, Rhelyx cast a spell to speak with the dead. From this corpse he learned that Zeech had the individual executed because he had snooped around the abandoned church of Helm on the island. Rhelyx concluded his questioning and, realizing he had found the wrong person, looked for the next newest body. But before he cast the spell he examined the decomposing body, and, as best he could tell, considering the warm and wet island, all of the bodies before him must have been executed more than two days ago. Agretha looked for newer bodies.
While searching, the group spotted what first looked like the heads of four black-skinned alligators swimming towards them while they searched the beach. However, once the creatures approached the shore and rose out of the water, The Marauders realized they faced four medium-sized black dragons. As the dragons approached, The Marauders picked up the distinct scent of sulfur, strong enough to momentarily overpower the general swamp smell. The dragons did not attack, and instead surprised The Marauders with a business proposition. The dragons implored the adventurers to enter their mother’s lair to reclaim her treasure, and in return the dragons would reward the group with a share of that treasure. The dragons attempted to assuage the party’s fears by assuring them they would not run into the mother dragon in the lair, since she had died recently. The suspicious and busy party did not immediately accept, saying they would consider it at a later date. After going back and forth for a few minutes, the insistent dragons became agitated and attacked. The party killed the dragons, with only minor injuries thanks to Rhelyx’s mass resist acid spell.
Rhelyx then cast the powerful divination spell to learn of the dragon’s mother’s lair. The spell pointed The Marauders northeast. Rheylx gathered the group to begin the arduous journey to the lair, ready to do exactly what the dragons had asked only moments ago. Three seconds later, the spell directed the party to the lair, a pile of loose boulders only a short 10 feet away, jutting upwards from the muddy island. Agretha peered through the earth, and found a metal sheet buried under the rocks and mud a few feet below. The party spent a while moving the boulders, with some difficulty, but could not easily move the mud. Agretha traveled through the earth, around the side of the metal sheet, and found a cave under the metal sheet, which now clearly seemed like a trap door. She reported this to the others, and the group decided to bypass the door entirely, using Agretha’s coordinates to simply dimension door right into the room. Max and Rhelyx simultaneously dimension-doored everyone into the room, while Agretha earth-glided in a moment later.
Immediately, everyone started chocking on the sulfurous, sour, foul air. On the other side of the room sat a green monster with a long neck and multiple heads on the end of its single neck. Everyone did his or her best to ignore the foul-air, and look lively for combat. The creature descended, ghost-like, into the floor. The adventurers maintained their guard, and eventually the creature rose again from behind the party, hitting the soft, caster-rich, underbelly of The Marauders. Thankfully, everyone still enjoyed Rhelyx’s acid resistance. Although the creature attacked forcefully, most of the damage it dealt came from its acidic tendrils and, thanks to Rhelyx’s spell, eventually The Marauders killed the Acidwraith.
Despite the unpleasant ambiance, Valon searched the room. At the bottom of a pool of pure acid he found 3 adamantine vials, which Max’s magical investigation would later reveal to be potent, permanent ability enhancers. Although the acid damaged most of the treasure, Valon also found a few pieces of valuable jewelry that luckily avoided the acid.
The haggard party returned to Alhaster for some drinks, some gumbo, and an easy afternoon at the Angry Rifter Tavern. Max learned that the group might need to dress up a bit more for the feast than they would on a normal day of adventuring. The group decided the dragon jewelry would help them prink nicely.
The party spent the next few days quietly resting, and trying to enjoy themselves while adhering to a strict budget until the feast. On feast day the party awoke early to the sound of every bell in the city loudly ringing, and every horn sounding. A seemingly joyous parade, with brightly colored peasants singing and marching patriotically, went through Alhaster. However, earlier that week The Marauders had heard many of the commoners complaining about the required costume’s expense, which for some consumed an entire month’s salary and for which Redhand provided no assistance.
Around mid-afternoon, during the peak of the festivities in the street, an incredibly gaudy carriage, plated in gold and driven by a team of deformed (or extra-deformed) trolls arrived to pick up The Marauders at The Angry Rifter Tavern. The unusual site of a royal carriage drew a crowd in the eastern, poorer, part of town. The party tried to board discreetly, and settled in to find the carriage’s plush seats quite comfortable, and no one on Faerun could complain about the quality of food and drink stocked by the carriage bar.
The party arrived at Zeech’s palace and found other guests milling about the capacious courtyard awaiting Zeech, but no sign of anyone meeting Lashonna’s description. Miszen, an outgoing halfling businesswoman struck up a conversation with Max. Max, glad to palaver with someone, confirmed that Lashonna had not arrived. The party also recognized B’Kruss and Shag Solomon among the attendees.
During Max’s conversation, Valon observed that the other quests carried obvious wrapped and unwrapped gifts. Soon after Prince Zeech arrived, with his fool, a spriggan known as The Ominous Fabler, in tow. Even though everyone looked at Zeech, The Fabler needlessly sounded a horn and announced Prince Zeech. All the guests lined up to present their gifts to Zeech. The party, giftless, considered a few elaborate schemes, including swiping B’Kruss’s gift and presenting it as their own. Eventually, after much internal debate, The Marauders found that all the other guests had already given their gift to Zeech, and the Prince waited patiently only for the unfamiliar adventurers to present him something wonderful. Rhelyx presented a 500 gp portion of the dragon’s baubles to Zeech, making sure to emphasize they came from a dragon hoard. Prince Zeech graciously thanked Rhelyx, but obviously seemed unimpressed.
The Ominous Fabler put on a play – something the invitation had referred to as Harlequined Mortifico. During the play, skeletons performed many humorous actions (like drinking wine, only for the wine to spill through their ribs), and acted out many violent scenes, during which one of the skeletons would die under highly suspicious circumstances.
During the play, Lord Malevern Kilraven, a noble from a Redhand barony on the opposite shore of Alhaster, broached conversation with Rannyn, seated next to him. Although he didn’t elaborate, he seemed favorably surprised to learn that Rannyn had served on the Ardent Legion. Rannyn, in turn, looked surprised he had even heard of the Ardent Legion. During their conversation, drawn out in whispers throughout the lulls of the one-hour play, Kilraven clapped politely at the appropriate times, but confided to Rannyn that he found the whole play in poor taste, and a waste of taxpayer money. Rannyn agreed. Kilraven seemed pleased, and hinted a renascent feeling regarding Redhand grew within his barony.
After the play, the party moved to a balcony overlooking the Cliff of Expectorance, on the west side of the house, for a “Handsome Slaughter of Curious Avians.” On the balcony the Fabler explained the rules to a straightforward shooting contest, where guests could take turns shooting down corrolaxes, just released from a cage with high-quality repeating crossbows. Zeech impatiently grabbed a particularly wonderful crossbow and shot first and hit 6 corrolaxes before the avians could take shelter by diving down the cliff side over the ocean – quite a feat. Each guest then took a turn with a separate cage, and though none could match Zeech’s impressive record, both Valon and Captain Vulras tied for second with 5 kills. After the contest Vulras, a swarthy, tough-looking fellow, spoke to Valon, quickly explaining that he served as a ranger on the northern part of the island. His work there, although often brutal, had decreased orc attacks substantially. The laconic ranger also let Valon know that he could always use a crack shot, and that Valon should consider joining Vulras’s ranger band a standing offer.
After target practice, the partygoers headed to the palace’s basement, where Zeech had a small, private arena for some “lively sport and baiting.” The Fabler cryptically described the game, and Max, not entirely certain what he volunteered for, agreed to try it. Max and Zeech each donned a ring, and each took control of a cockatrice on the arena floor, surrounded by alley cats. The two then tried to convert the cats to stone statues, racing one another to make the most statues. Max won. Next, the two cockatrices started pecking at one another in a long, drawn out duel to the death – which turned into a difficult to watch tedious and bloody affair. In the end, Zeech’s cockatrice prevailed, and Max failed to win the game.
During the cockfight, Hoff, an enormously fat dwarf, sidled up to Rhelyx, and expounded on how much he liked this party. He challenged Rhelyx to an arm wrestling contest and Rhelyx countered by offering a drinking contest instead, and Hoff agreed. During the long cockfight, Rhelyx and Hoff each took 3 quick chugs of a potent brew, and then tried to quickly walk in a straight line “just like what you need to do so’s the Blessed Angels don’t lock you up for the night after you’re caught racing your chariot” Hoff explained. Hoff, experienced with DUI charges, beat Rhelyx at the contest. This only seemed to make Hoff, already enjoying a great day, happier.
Hoff then specifically explained how only a ready woman could make this day, already filled with drunkenness and gustatory pleasure, any better. Rhelyx promptly pointed to Agretha, and made it clear to Hoff she didn’t have a boyfriend. Hoff slapped Rhelyx on the back, smiled appreciatively, and got up to go sit next to the dwarf druid, leaving behind a sweat stain on the arena’s wooden bleachers. Despite his girth, Hoff moved with a surprising and unconventional sort of grace and quickness. He sat down in the open space on the bleachers next to Agretha, and chatted her up. Agretha broke out her rock collection, and started explaining the geology in detail. Hoff at least feigned interest.
The Ominous Fabler led the partygoers back outside for the next event: Bowling of the Devious Heads. The game basically amounted to Bocce ball, but used the skulls of former prisoners. First, Zeech threw a black skull about eighty feet across the garden. B’Kruss threw next and made an excellent throw, which landed near the black victory skull. None of the other partygoers who threw before The Marauders could match B’Kruss’s effort. However, Valon made the first throw for the Marauders and Valon’s skull knocked into B’Kruss’s skull – sending B’Kruss’s skull careening several feet away and left Valon’s skull adjacent to the victory skull – almost touching it. Valon seemed a sure thing to win but Rannyn made the final throw of the game and her throw landed softly, stopping even closer to the victory skull and actually leaned against the black skull. Rannyn won the game and a prize. Zeech presented Rannyn with a valuable necklace.
Mariss Quemp, a handsome half-orc, intrigued by Rannyn’s skills, congratulated her on her victory and, leaning in close, “how well you give good head.”
When Mariss put an arm around Rannyn, Phiery’s fiery temper flared, and he stormed over to Rannyn and Mariss to make it clear that Rannyn was his wife, forcing himself between Mariss and Rannyn. Mariss remained calm, and even invited both of them over after the party. Rannyn became uncomfortable.
Before the conversation could become anymore uncomfortable, the Ominous Fabler again got everyone’s attention, announcing the evening’s feast would now commence in earnest (although each game had included apropos hors d’eurves). The Fool led everyone into a room with a fantastic ceiling painted with angels, although on closer inspection Valon noticed something sinister about each of the angels. In addition, numerous paintings of Zeech also adorned the walls, although one painting depicted a beautiful elven woman. Everyone found their name on a card directing them to their seat. During the chaos as everyone searched for their seat, Valon also noticed Hoff discreetly switching some seat cards around when he didn’t think anyone was looking. Hoff now sat next to Agretha. Possibly because of her victory in bocce ball, the card placed Rannyn’s seat next to Zeech.
Just after all the guests took their seats, Lashonna, the beautiful elven woman entered. She wore a red dress, with her long hair held back by a black diamond tiara. She smiled at everyone and gracefully took the open seat across from Prince Zeech.
For the first course, the help served The Feast of Worms. The Fabler told a tale of how the first settler of Alhaster, a half-starved shipwrecked refuge, needed to eat a worm to live. The settler thanked the gods for the gift of this life-sustaining worm. To honor this settler, all proper feasts in Alhaster should begin with a worm. As the Fool explained, the help placed a silver goblet in front of each guest, and, as each guest lifted the delicate silver lid of the goblet, each found a glutinous, living, writhing, fat, green worm. Each guest reluctantly cut up and ate the worm, and found it surprisingly tasty.
To eat the worm, and the remaining courses, the guests faced a true armamentarium of cutlery, and, of The Marauders, only Max and Phiery knew the correct way to negotiate the treacherous cutlery maze. Still, the other members of The Marauders, were wise enough, and took the lead from Max and Phiery, with the exception of Rannyn! Tipsy from all the drink, Rannyn blundered through – lucky not to use a fork to eat the soup at one point - forgetting all that she had learned from Silverymoon finishing schools, forgetting to even look to her husband seated next to her for assistance. At one point Phiery tried to correct Rannyn by nudging her under the table, and the oblivious swashbuckler just loudly turned to Phiery saying, “why are you kicking me?” Zeech, sitting right next to her, either didn’t notice or politely pretended not to notice. Somewhere Rannyn’s parents must have been regretting all that wasted money spent on Silverymoon finishing schools.
As the guests enjoyed their worm, The Fool told a story about a noble and a dryad. Max also told a joke about eating mule dick. Everyone laughed at Max’s joke, especially Mariss Quemp. Zeech, although slightly bemused, told Max that it wasn’t joke time yet. Shag, sitting next to Max, commented that he’d eaten worse than mule dick, “tyrannosaur’ dick” and told Max a story about how, after his ship took damage during a storm off of Chult, his crew and him were reduced to this form of sustenance. His worm finished and hunting story told, Shag then sat back and resumed smoking opium.
For the second course, mutilated manticores brought forward a large platter with an enormous pie. The pie, measuring almost three feet in diameter and probably close to 100 pounds, was obscenely excessive for the twenty-or-so guests in attendance. As the help cut open the pie, blackbirds flew skyward – which the seasoned adventurers spotted clearly as an illusion. The pie tasted delicious, and the dessert wine served as a perfect complement. Complementing the food and drink, The Fool also performed a haunting song, which met with sincere applause.
For the third course, Zeech arose from his chair, to personally present his creation – Tojbassarrirge! Zeech explained the concoction, which consisted of an entire tojanida, stuffed with an entire boned stirge (with 3 olives impaled on its proboscis), in turn stuffed with arrowhawk breasts, in turn stuffed with numerous gritty basilisk steaks. The help presented the dish on a tojanida half-shell. Zeech beamed proudly at the group as the Help began slicing his creation. However, after tasting it none of the guests could hide their disgust. Even Zeech, after one bite, clearly realized the thing tasted horrible, and quickly clapped his hands ordering the course complete and that the help should take it away. Shag whispered to Valon that he felt without the basilisk steaks it might have tasted decent, but with the steaks it tasted worse than “tyrannosaur’ jewels.”
The help then brought forth the fourth course: Purple Worm Aspic. The Fabler explained that a correctly prepared purple worm served as a delectable dish. However, an incorrectly prepared worm could prove deadly. He then asked if anyone would put himself or herself at risk for the sake of Zeech, before he tried the dish, risking his life for the sake of their delicious pleasure? Agretha volunteered, ate a generous bite, and found it harmlessly delicious. She also enjoyed the potent iced C’rosch, a strong, sugary spirit made from blackberries and exotic spices. Ironically, Agretha suffered more from the drink than the purple worm, and became quite drunk. Hoff looked better to her.
After Agretha’s bravery, Kilraven told a tale of how he once battled orcs who ambushed him from an unusual hiding place, a purple worm carcass. Not to be outdone, B’Kruss then told a story of when pygmies attacked him, using poison far more potent than a purple worm’s. The tale telling escalated, with Hoff, Marat, Miszen, Mariss and Vulras also contributing tales of their ability to survive dangerous situations. The Marauders even got into the act. After The Marauders finished, B’Kruss, his choler rising with each word of The Marauders tale, finally reached his breaking point and challenged any one of The Marauders to a duel to the death! Zeech frowned at B’Kruss, clearly angry that B’Kruss would disrupt his peaceful celebration with such poor manners. Valon said he would accept the duel, but looked to Zeech for advice, not wanting to displease his host. Zeech said it was Valon’s right to accept if he wished, but he would lose no esteem in Zeech’s eyes for refusing to duel B’Kruss at a “simple dinner party.” Valon accepted B’Kruss’s offer, and Zeech dispatched a page to go to town and retrieve the two combatants’ weapons. Prince Zeech then returned to the affairs at hand, and said he found Kilraven’s initial story best, and everyone reluctantly agreed.
While awaiting the duel, Zeech saw no reason to interrupt his feast, and ordered the next course, Sweet Conclusion, begin. The help hoisted an enormous cake shaped like the ziggurat under construction in town onto the table. On top of the cake stood a marzipan Zeech. During the hoisting the large cake became unmanageable. Despite the frantic efforts of the help, the cake cracked, the marzipan Zeech fell onto the table, and the head broke off. The head, now free to roll, rolled right into Rhelyx’s lap. Some of the partygoers snickered at the undeniable symbolism, but most just looked uncomfortable and avoided Zeech’s gaze. The Ominous Fabler then told a joke, and everyone laughed, although Zeech, somewhat placated, said nothing.
After the cake, the page returned with Valon and B’Kruss’s weapons. Everyone moved out to the lawn for the battle. B’Kruss and Valon went toe-to-toe, and although both landed strong blows, Valon killed B’Kruss in less than twenty seconds. Rhelyx spoke to Zeech, offering to raise B’Kruss. Zeech said “No. He knew the risks.” Zeech then told Valon to take what he wanted from B’Kruss’s corpse, and then ordered B’Kruss’s body unceremoniously dumped over the cliff and into the sea.
The event concluded with dancing. Hoff urgently sought out Agretha and secured a date for 7 o’clock the following evening at the Angry Rifter Tavern.
During the dance Max met with Lashonna. As they danced Lashonna, who had heard of the Harpells, seemed excited to meet Max, one of the famed Harpell wizards. When Max corrected her, mentioning that he was a sorcerer, she beamed, “me too!” As the conversation went on Max also talked about his companions, and it seemed Lashonna had at least heard of the triumphs of Rannyn and her band. When Max asked for a meeting with Lashonna regarding Belakarde, she agreed to meet with him the following night at midnight saying, “There are too many ears here, if you know what I mean.”
About twenty minutes after the dance began, Zeech, who did not partake in the dancing, stormed off. The rest of the partygoers applauded him as he exited. Soon afterwards the party ended. The Marauders returned to the Angry Rifter tavern to get some sleep. Rhelyx had a rough night, awakening to vomit in the middle of then night, but ultimately made it through.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf - Druid/9, Earth Dreamer/5 - NG
Leonidas - celestial dire lion - 8 HD – Agretha’s animal companion
Rannyn Nightfall – Elf – Swashbuckler 3/Fighter 2/Wizard 1/Bladesinger 8 - NG
Phiery – Phoelarch – CG – Rannyn’s cohort
Rhelyx the Bloodener (aka Reginald Harpell)-Human- Cleric level 5, Combat Medic level 5, Divine Disciple level 4-NG
Oban La'Phroig Goliath 1/ Paladin 5/ Fighter 2/ Divine Crusader 6.
Valon'dir Nevrr'doell- Elf - Swashbuckler 3/Ninja 2/Rogue 2/Wizard 1/Invisible Blade 5 – CG
Maximilian Spielkube-Harpell of the Spielkube-Harpells - Human - Sorcerer 13 – NG
|Peruhain of Brithondy|
In the backdrop of my campaign is a vast world war on the mainland between most of Faerun and the Githyanki, because I plan to roll this campaign, after Kyuss into the adventure from Dungeon issue 100. I decided to take some of the Githyanki action to my PCs before they set off to Tilagos....
Campaign Session 27
Age of Worms Session 2
The Isle of Last Resort Session 1
The Marauders requested to delay the meeting with Lashonna for three days, while they went out of town. Lashonna agreed, and The Marauders spent the next three days in Silverymoon, identifying, selling, and buying magic items.
The Marauders met with Lashonna, while Agretha took the evening off for her date with the dwarf Hoff, who she had met at Zeech’s party. Late in the evening, Lashonna sent a carriage to The Angry Rifter Tavern, to escort the party to her home, Mistwall Manor. The driver, Kelgorn, a quiet half-orc, dutifully drove his carriage to the manor, and led the adventurers to Lashonna’s study.
Lashonna, dressed in the latest fashions, smiled when the party entered. She told Kelgorn that she would not need him for the rest of the evening, certain she would be “well attended to by these famous adventurers who saved The Silver Marches!” After extolling upon The Marauders’ skills, she then arose from her desk, and kissed each Marauder, even Rhelyx, on both cheeks, and told the group they honored her with their visit. She had previously arranged seats around her desk for each Marauder, and they took them. One seat sat curiously empty, standing testament to Agretha’s shirked responsibilities.
Lashonna offered everyone some red wine and a late-night snack, before getting down to business. She explained how Belakarde had visited her over ten years ago. He seemed quite obsessed, almost to the point of madness, with the Age of Worms. Belakarde held particular interest in information about Dragotha – the ancient undead dragon bound to the services of Kyuss, after Tiamat defeated Dragotha and Kyuss subsequently returned Dragotha life, of a sort. He also knew that, after over millennia of dormancy, the dragon stirred once again from his lair in Wormcrawl Fissure. What Belakarde didn’t know was why now, and this consumed him. Against Lashonna’s recommendation, Belakarde rushed to the fissure to confront the wyrm regarding the Age of Worms. He never returned. He never returned, but Lashonna retained a few fragments of his journal which she shared with The Marauders.
The Marauders impressive skills notwithstanding, Lashonna recommended against following in Belakarde’s footsteps and confronting Dragotha before securing the dracolich’s phylactery. Due to the nature of lichs and phylacteries, such a confrontation risked much for The Marauders and comparatively little for the dracolich. Killing Dragotha could actually reunite him with his phylactery!
To this end, with her curiosity piqued by Belakarde’s intensity, Lashonna researched the matter further during the past decade. She explained how she had always been a curious student of history and a dealer in secrets. She learned of a group of druids, The Order of the Storm, who had assisted in the original battle against Kyuss by stealing Dragotha’s phylactery, which caused the powerful dracolich to flee the battlefield. The departure of the pusillanimous dracolich and his accompanying forces helped prevent Kyuss’s return and prevent the Age of Worms. After this critical victory, Kyuss’s followers purportedly sought revenge and wiped out the Order. However, she also learned that this may not tell the full story, and the last remnants of The Order of the Storm might have designed this popular notion to mislead the curious. She suspects that the Order actually retreated to the island of Tilagos, which appears on few maps. Complicating matters further, a violent storm permanently enshrouds the mysterious island and no sailor caught by the storm has ever returned. During her research she managed to secure a rare map, which she shares with the party, showing the approximate location of the island - 100-200 miles northwest of Alhaster, deep in the Sea of Swords.
“Unfortunately,” Lashonna continued, “one of my associates, Heskins, betrayed me to Darl Quethos, a cleric of Myrkul.” The normally irrepressible woman could not conceal her contemn for Heskins. Lashonna then retrieved a lock of hair from below her neckline. “He copied my map and brought it to Darl. Would you like to see what he’s up to now?” a wicked smile momentarily played across her lips.
The Marauders agreed and Lashonna cast a spell. A viewing portal opened over her desk. Through the portal the Marauders saw a fellow, presumably Heskins, the quondam agent of Lashonna, in dire straits. Someone had lashed him to the mast of a ship and all around him a powerful hurricane raged. The spell also treated The Marauders to a view of some of the sailors. Along with orcs, the party saw a pair of horned humanoids drop to Heskins’s sides, and a larger creature of fire. The rain hissed to steam as it struck the fire creature’s skin. Finally, the party saw Darl Quethos, wearing a robe embroidered with eyes that seemed to move on their own accord. Darl, in the midst of threatening Heskins, noticed the scrying sensor, which prompted him to kill the prisoner. He used a skeletal replacement of his hand, touching Heskins’s brow and leaving him dead. The scrying view immediately disappeared.
Lashonna, after seeing the skeletal hand, which Valon recognized as the powerful artifact, The Hand of Myrkul, looked a bit shaken.
Lashonna recovered, and she then propounded upon her idea that the group go to Tilagos, to find the location of Dragotha’s hidden phylactery. The Marauders agreed with the plan, but Rhelyx asked for help. Lashonna frowned, thinking for a moment, before explaining, “I don’t have any allies suitable for the challenges you will face.” Lashonna apologetically offered that, “I hope my information will at least somewhat help.” She brightened up though, adding that “Oh, yes! The Marauder paladin … Oban I believe,” she added his name uncertainly, “arrived in Alhaster just a few hours ago. He took the room between the two rooms you rented! Serendipity? Destiny? I’m sure I don’t know. But with your ka-tet complete, you should improve your odds.”
The Marauders thanked Lashonna, and returned to the Angry Rifter tavern to greet Oban. Oban awoke from bed to the sound of knocking, surprised to find Rhelyx.
Oban answered the door, groggily, “Rhelyx?”
Rhelyx said, “We’ve got a new mission. I’m going back to bed,” before leaving Oban standing there stupefied.
Oban spoke with the rest of The Marauders who explained what had happened over the past couple of weeks, including Prince Zeech’s party. Oban explained how he had uncovered a plot by the Zhentarim to enslave goliaths and sell them on the slave market. He shut down that operation, but not until the Zhentarim had sent a few shipments to Alhaster. He tracked down those shipments and intercepted them shortly before the boats reached Alhaster, freeing the goliath slaves.
Everyone still seemed surprised by the unlikely reunion, but during a momentary pause in the conversation, the sounds of battle on the city streets, screams of terror, and the smell of burning wood filled the inn. The Marauders raced to the window, which faced west, and saw terrified people fleeing to the west, terrified when they looked skywards toward the east. From inside the building, The Marauders could not see what had caused them to flee. The Marauders raced outside to get a better look. A large metal ship FLEW through the night sky over Alhaster. A swarm of red dragons surrounded the ship. Locked in combat with the ship and dragons, a small platoon of the Blessed Angels opposed the airships advance. The Blessed Angels traded arrow fire with dragon breath and ship-mounted ballista.
Away from this main group, two huge dragons, bigger than the dragons swarming around the ship, one red like the others in the sky, and one black and bearing a rider, terrorized the townspeople. The red dragon set the buildings ablaze, while the black one caught unlucky peasants in its acid breath. The Marauders, standing on the open street, began casting preparatory spells. This caught the attention of both dragons, which seemed eager for some real sport, and charged in for battle. With Oban rejoining the group, for the first time in well over a year the full complement of Marauders faced an enemy together in battle.
The red dragon raced in to draw first blood, striking Oban. The black dragon kept some distance, and caught several adventurers in its acid breath, while the rider chained lightning through the group. Rhelyx raced to prepare the group’s energy defenses, while the rest of the party counter-attacked. Max launched several errant, disintegrating bolts; he could not land a solid blow. Rannyn, Valon and Oban could barely dent the red dragon’s thick scales, and the dragon strode confidently through the normally fearsome adventures. This unprecedented event worried and confused the team. Phiery did score hits with his scorching rays on the black dragon.
Fortunately, the red dragon found it almost as difficult to land solid blows against the well-armored paladin, and, coupled with the increasing diversity of energy resistance protecting the party (fire, acid, electric and cold by the battle’s end) it seemed the fight could drag on. However, simultaneously and independently both sides changed tactics.
Although both the black dragon and sorcerer began the battle ready to attack anyone, the red dragon, which had focused on the paladin, changed tactics and started attacking anyone other than Oban. Likewise, rather than focusing on the red dragon, The Marauders realized they could more consistently hit the black dragon, who dealt about as much damage as his red cousin. The group quickly chopped up the black dragon. Oban placed the final blow, severing the dragon’s neck with his powerful greatsword, and sending the head rolling several feet up the cobblestone streets, leaving a slick trail of sulfurous dragon blood upon the stones. This deposited the vulnerable rider on the ground, and the battle seemed to turn in the good-guy’s and Rhelyx’s favor.
During this time, although all groups (dragons, raiders, and Blessed Angels) in the sky above took casualties, the woefully outnumbered Blessed Angels managed to establish a rough parity with the invaders, since every few seconds a new Angel joined the battle.
Then, a handful of the githyanki raiders who piloted the ship above dimension door’d down to the street and assisted the red dragon in battle against The Marauders. Simultaneously, a githyanki emerged from a hiding place behind one of the buildings and shot Phiery in the back of the neck. The bolt traveled through Phiery’s spine, severing it and killing him.
The Marauders made short work of the dragon-riding sorcerer. Oban squared off against what seemed like the githyanki leader, while Rannyn and Valon each battled a few of the regular githyanki soldiers. Valon also squared off against the hidden githyanki who had slain Phiery, and, as each of his blades expertly found the githyanki’s vulnerable points, killed him almost as quickly as the gith had slain Phiery.
Meanwhile, above, the Blessed Angels gathered in force, and defeated the dragons and the githyanki. This sent the raider crashing into the ground.
The red dragon, realizing the githyanki reinforcements made little difference, scooped up the hidden githyanki’s dead body, and took off over the ocean with it.
One of the Blessed Angels sexily dimension door’d over to The Marauders, her eyes glowing red. She told The Marauders that, “Law-abiding citizens, as you must know, with the recent war raging across the continent, the noble, latitudinarian Prince Zeech reluctantly added ‘Githyanki’ to his short list of groups he will not tolerate. As such, he encourages every citizen to report githyanki, and individuals cooperating with the githyanki, to the town guard. When possible, zealous citizens are permitted to kill githyanki and their co-conspirators on sight and seize all githyanki property. Due to this rule, he issued a precautionary decree discouraging non-githyanki spell-casters from assuming the form of githyanki, such as with a change self spell.”
“As such, Alhaster and Prince Zeech thank you for your services rendered this night, and you may take whatever spoils you wish from our hated enemy,” she finished before teleporting off, not waiting for any questions.
The Marauders did as the Blessed Angel recommended, and returned to bed in the Angry Rifter tavern, eagerly considering the possibility of sailing to Tilagos in a githyanki planar raider. Eventually, Agretha returned from her date with Hoff.
Over the next few days Rhelyx returned Phiery to life, and The Marauders worked on two plans. Oban secured tentative passage with a crack crew of sailors, led by Captain Razwell, who sailed the warship Second Chance. The crew charged high prices, and made it clear they worked for the money, and not any love of danger, when they insisted on upfront advances. Simultaneously, Rhelyx worked with Lashonna, trying to get an appointment with Zeech to learn if The Marauders could “borrow” Zeech’s new flying ship. Rhelyx also let Lashonna know she could also speak directly to Zeech on the adventurer’s behalf. After three days Lashonna made it clear that her efforts to beseech Zeech would not likely work, because the prince would not part with his new flying toy. Moreover, the issue held little relevance, since, thus far, Alhaster’s best engineers had made little progress repairing the craft or learning how to operate it. With that, The Marauders settled on a proper emolument with Razwell’s crew, and decided to sail on the aptly named Second Chance.
Guided by Lashonna’s maps, Razwell navigated through clear summer skies, heading northwest of Alhaster and deeper into the Sea of Swords. Temperatures soared well into the 90s each day, but The Marauders, who had spent over two weeks in Alhaster, had added a deep tan to their many defenses. The ocean breeze and sea spray made the high temperatures almost pleasant. Although none of The Marauders had studied sailing, to the best of their ability, they felt the crew knew what they were doing. Certainly the crew tacked the boat seamlessly into the wind and the boat made good time.
Like the first two days of sailing, the third began clear and bright. However, around midday, the call came down from the crow’s nest that a small but tremendously powerful maelstrom loomed on the horizon. The crew began battening down the hatches and securing loose items, including their chest of collected fees. At least the storm reassured everyone they had likely charted the correct course. Rheylx, prepared for the moment, cast one of his most powerful spells, reluctantly calling on Selune to control the storm and see the ship through safely. The spell failed. Ever resourceful, Rhelyx cast the same spell again, and this time shouted more reverently into the raging winds, and this time Selune answered the call. His spell did not dismiss the supernatural storm, but it abated the storm enough immediately around Second Chance for the crew to safely guide the ship to the eerily calm eye of the storm, where The Marauders found an island.
The crew docked the boat as close to the beach as reasonably possible, mindful of the risks of running aground. The party then climbed down a rope ladder off the starboard side, into the water, and headed for the shore. Oban, weighed down by his stiff armor and even more massive shield, could not negotiate the slippery, algae-covered rocks. In the end, Rhelyx had to dimension door the lumbering giant to the beach.
On the beach Valon and Rannyn found a maze to the north, and spotted a group of orcs a few hundred feet to the east, repairing a boat. As The Marauders approached, Valon noticed markings on the ship that matched what he had seen in Lashonna’s scrying portal. The Marauders saw no sign of Darl. When the orcs spotted the approaching heavily armed adventurers, the orcs fanned out, and one of the orcs, who wielded a vicious-looking bow, called out a warning in orcish to stay back. Rannyn tried to calm the orcs, but eventually the nervous, trigger-happy orc fired, and combat ensued.
Gromgriss, the orc bowmen, shot at Rannyn, since Rannyn presented a tempting target in the front. She took numerous hits. The rest of the orcs drew their axes and fanned out, while The Marauders counter-attacked. Valon moved to engage on Rannyn’s right, along the beach. Oban moved to Rannyn’s left, further inland. Rannyn held the center. Max fired lightning bolts at the orcs, catching Rannyn in the blast. Phiery fired off scorching rays at available targets. Rhelyx lazed in the back, claiming it was too hot today for him to bother with mere orcs.
Gromgriss’s second volley struck Rannyn. The final powerful arrow drove right through her enchanted mithral chain and into the elf’s heart, leaving her dead. Rhelyx, surprised by the ferocity and battle-prowess of the orc sailors, decided to take action, shouting “this has gone on just long enough!” but could not reach Rannyn in time. Meanwhile, Oban and Valon concentrated on taking out the orc axmen, while Max focused on Gromgriss who stood near the back and fired his bow while tactically retreating. In the end The Marauders won the day and took an orc prisoner, Foc. The group returned to the boat, Phiery and Valon bearing Rannyn’s body, while Oban dimension door’d ahead with Rhelyx to reach the ship’s deck.
The Marauders chose to take the rest of the day off, both to properly question their prisoner, and so Rhelyx could return Rannyn to life. During the interrogation, the orc explained how Darl Quethos had hired his crew to bring him to this island. At first it seemed that, although dangerous, it would make for a nice high-paying job. However, Darl and his band took charge of the ship once underway and intimidated the orcs into compliance, rather than form a mutually beneficial partnership, respectful of the orcs seamanship. Foc admitted that he feared the cleric of Myrkul, particularly the scary item he wore on his hand, and, that, in retrospect, it now seemed silly to have trusted the death priest. Foc also described the rest of Darl’s band. He described 1) two horned, and highly agile men, 2) a large fiery creature, 3) a silent, small dirty bird creature, 4) a bulky creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, and 5) another creature that wielded a spiked chain but looked a lot like a black dragon-man. Adding credibility to his story, several of the creatures he described matched what the party had seen in Lashonna’s scry spell. For the last creature Foc added that not even Darl’s band, which worked together surprisingly well, seemed to fully trust the creature. Foc also explained how Darl’s band had headed into the maze, leaving the orcs to figure out what to do with the ship. The orcs had tried to follow Darl into the maze, but a large colony of ropers had chased them out. The orcs had settled on a desperate plan of trying to get a broken ship seaworthy using only available driftwood, so they could sail out of the hurricane and across the ocean before running out of food, with or without Darl Quethos.
His story complete, Rhelyx advocated killing the cooperative prisoner. In deference to the prisoner’s cooperativeness he said The Marauders should make the kill as quickly and painlessly as possible, although upon reconsideration, relented, and advocated The Marauders need only make it somewhat less painful than as painful as possible. Razwell, present for the interrogation since it occurred on his ship, agreed with killing Foc, although he suggested they do it quickly. Oban strongly disagreed with Rhelyx and Razwell. He pointed out how Razwell, considering his chose profession, could find himself in a situation just like Foc’s one day. He suggested hobbling the orc and keeping him prisoner aboard the ship. Razwell countered that he doubted he’d be in that situation, since, unlike the orcs, he checked the references of anyone who wanted to hire his crew, and he would never carry someone like Darl Quethos on Second Chance. However, Razwell offered a compromise saying he could keep the orc here if he hobbled the orc in an inescapable manner, such as by breaking his legs. He also insisted on a 50 gp/day increase in his fees, since he would now need to post two guards at all times at the prisoner’s door. Oban found this torture too extreme. Razwell and Rhelyx both found it eminently practical. Razwell even pointed out that Rhelyx could fix the orc’s legs, no problem, once they docked safely back in Alhaster. Oban insisted the cooperative orc should not be harmed. Rhelyx, disappointed by the lack of bloodshed, and Razwell, disappointed by what he felt was an impractical decision and needless risk, reluctantly agreed, although, Razwell, to no one in particular, reiterated the new fee structure.
The Marauders then rested the rest of the day, so Rhelyx could regain his spells. He regained his spells at moonrise and returned Rannyn to life that evening. However the group decided to wait until the next day, to explore the island with daylight, give Rannyn some recovery time, and give both Max and Agretha an opportunity to regain their spells at dawn as well.
Rhelyx dimension door’d Oban to the beach, and the rest of The Marauders also returned to the mazy island. Agretha scouted the island, from just under the sandy ground. Most of the island received a steady bombardment of wind and rain, so the druid restricted her scouting to the dry portion of the island, which permanently sat under the storm’s eye. She mentally mapped out most of the maze and found a few points of interest. She found a strange circular glyph on the north side of the maze. She discovered a pool of still water, thickly choked by plants. She also found what at first seemed like an unassuming pile of rocks, typical to the maze, but her keen perception pierced through an illusion and she recognized the rocks as a magically disguised, spartan camp. Finally, true to Foc’s word, she found a colony of ropers.
Like so many times before, Agretha returned to The Marauders and issued her scouting report. The adventurers decided to tackle the ropers first. Agretha led them near the camp. The Marauders prepared for battle, and charged the ropers. Agretha surprised the ropers, opening with an old favorite, a vortex of teeth. Agretha used magic to divide the creatures and forced many of them to take a circuitous route, which prevented the numerous ropers from overwhelming the party all at once. Rannyn, Oban, Valon and Phiery charged to attack the ropers down a couple of paths through the maze. Max launched his spells at the creatures.
The ropers struck the adventurers with their tentacles numerous times, in an attempt to drag the victim into the roper’s mouth. One of the ropers even succeeded in draining some of Oban’s strength. Although many of the tentacles hit, the ropers had trouble pulling the victim into their mouths before the ferocious Marauders killed the offending roper. In the midst of the battle with the ropers, a crossbow bolt appeared from nowhere, and struck Rhelyx in the neck, expertly running between the small slit between his plate mail chest piece and helmet. The bolt killed the reluctant cleric.
Valon and Oban focused their attention on this new, unseen attacker, while Rannyn and Phiery continued to drive the battle deeper into roper country. Using his magical powers, Valon spotted the assassin, a kenku who wielded a repeating crossbow. Even with his enhanced vision that allowed him to pierce the kenku’s magical invisibility, and Valon’s keep elven eyes, Valon almost missed the kenku. When Valon and Oban circled close to Krekie, the kenku, the avian must have sensed her own detection and sought quick egress. She quickly dimension door’d away. With the ropers still threatening, Valon and Oban could not pursue the bird, and returned their attention to the ropers. Other than Rhelyx’s assassination, The Marauders won the day against the ropers.
The adventurers returned to Second Chance once again, to discuss how to resurrect the cleric.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf – Druid 9/Earth Dreamer/5 - NG
Leonidas - celestial dire lion - 8 HD – Agretha’s animal companion
Rannyn Nightfall – Elf – Swashbuckler 3/Fighter 2/Wizard 1/Bladesinger 8 - NG
Phiery – Phoelarch – CG – Rannyn’s cohort
Rhelyx the Bloodener (aka Reginald Harpell)-Human- Cleric level 5, Combat Medic level 5/Divine Disciple level 4 - NG
Oban La'Phroig Goliath 1/ Paladin 5/ Fighter 2/ Divine Crusader 6 - CG
Valon'dir Nevrr'doell- Elf - Swashbuckler 3/Ninja 2/Rogue 2/Wizard 1/Invisible Blade 5 – CG
Maximilian Spielkube-Harpell of the Spielkube-Harpells - Human - Sorcerer 13 – NG
Isle of Last Resort 2
The Marauders returned to the ship with Rhelyx’s body in tow. They laid it on the ships deck and considered how to proceed without the eminently useful cleric. Max decided he would teleport Rhelyx’s body back to Waterdeep, where a cleric of Selune could resurrect him. Valon requested a ride, since he would like to go to Waterdeep to sell The Marauders’ considerable loot, and buy new items. Rannyn asked for a ride so she could go to Silverymoon, to pad her spellbook. Agretha requested a ride so she could investigate the possibility of improving her figurine’s connection to Leonidus, the enigmatic lion that no one else had seen yet. The four available teleport slots taken, Max cast the spell, and dropped off the “kids,” while Oban waited aboard the ship. Agretha remained in Silverymoon to investigate her figurine. Rannyn bought her spell, and Valon paid for a resurrection at Selune’s Smile. Max completed the trip with a teleport back to Second Chance, ultimately dropping off Agretha and picking up a now-living Rhelyx.
Rhelyx, still injured from his brush with death, rested and healed himself. Agretha had scouted the island earlier, and had left a rough sketch with the group before she decided to stay in Silverymoon. The Marauders, sans Agretha, headed back to Tilagos. The sketch guided the adventurers to the pool Agretha had found. The group saw the pool chocked with thick vines, and, despite a paucity of natural skills, immediately went on high alert. During the debate about how to approach this photosynthetic challenge, Rannyn spied a spy. Using her see invisibility power, she saw a very short, tough-looking old man with leathery skin, iron boots, and a bright red hat hiding behind one of the blocks in the maze. He held a scythe that looked too large for him, and boasted a wicked grin lined with sharp teeth. Rannyn fired her bow at the man, and struck him in the arm.
He screamed in pain and shouted, “Stop shooting you dumb b@%&+!”
Rannyn asked him to explain himself.
He replied, “I’m here for Rhelyx.”
Most of the group made their way over to the diminutive old man, but Oban and Max kept a wary eye on the vines. Without the chthonic druid to advise, Max “tested the waters” by shooting a lightning bolt at the plant. The vines twisted, and avoided the worst of the bolt, confirming the widely suspected opinion that the plants would prove dangerous. The plant apparently realized it would not succeed by deception and acted. Although unable to lure the morsel-sized adventurers into the pool, the creeper lumbered forth by dragging its eight vines across the ground. The octopus tree would not win any races, but it moved with single-minded determination and reached Oban.
Oban counter-attacked, wounding the botanical monstrosity. The octopus tree then lashed at Oban with all eight tentacles. Three of them struck home and two of those three clung to the Goliath’s legs. The rest of The Marauders revised their priorities. They decided to ignore the interesting little man, and prepared to attack the slinking vinery.
Bantham, the angry old man, swore, “I will drink your sap!” and charged the octopus tree. The tree cut his charge short. Two tentacles struck and in a fraction of a second the octopus tree ripped Bantham’s little body in half. Poor Bantham would not get an opportunity to dip his diadem into the tree’s sap. Disdainful of such a tiny snack, the tree dropped the little man before Bantham even reached the tree’s maw. Rhelyx, horrified at the death of his new hero, Bantham, moved forward. Valon closed on the plant as well. He dealt some damage, but found battle with a tree did not suit his skill set well. Rannyn cast spells and prepared to charge. Max continued to pound the tree with powerful magic. The tree pulled Oban to its mouth, bit once and swallowed the still living paladin.
Making a difficult matter worse, in the midst of the battle, Krekie ambushed The Marauders. Unseen, she slunk next to Phiery, and with a single well-placed blow, killed him. Max finished off the octopus tree, completely disintegrating several tons of cellulose. Krekie realized she stood alone, although only Valon seemed to see her. Valon moved to Krekie and attacked. The bird retreated, and dimension doored away.
Valon searched the octopus tree’s pool. The rogue recovered the magical equipment of previous adventurers who unsuccessfully challenged the creeper, and he found two handfuls of large red crystals.
The party next headed to the northernmost portion of the maze, which Agretha had labeled as “glyph.” There the group found a circular disc hewn from obsidian on the ground, with a rim decorated with strange runes. At three points around the disc’s circumference, stylized eyes peered out, each with a shallow hollow carved within to represent the pupil. With some brief experimentation The Marauders discovered that the red crystal fit well into the pupil, and that inserting one, two, or three red crystals created no obvious affect.
The Marauders headed over to Agretha’s next region of interest, labeled as “broken statues.” There lay what once may have been a collection of four impressive statues of marble and basalt, but the statues had been reduced to a pile of shattered rubble. Fragments of the statues lay in heaps throughout the area. After a quick reconnoiter, Valon discovered a blue light from under one of the broken statues, and called Oban over. Oban easily lifted the heavy stone with one hand, and reached underneath to claim a handful of blue crystals, all shattered. Oban handed the small fragments over to Valon, who looked at them closely and decided a make whole spell should fix the broken crystals.
With a more detailed investigation of the area, Valon also somehow noticed faint traces of blood sheltered under some rocks, and called Rhelyx over. Rhelyx, highly knowledgeable in bloodening, thought the smudge must be at least a week old, but the warm and wet climate made any more precision impossible.
Based on the three-eyed glyph, The Marauders concluded the island would likely yield a third type of crystals, and retraced their steps to Foc’s boat and the clearing where they had battled the ropers. In the roper’s clearing, Valon found some green crystals.
The adventurers decided to head back to Second Chance. That evening, at moonrise, Rheylx mended the crystal with his make whole spell. The Marauders decided to wait until the following morning to head over to the portal and try the three crystals.
Late that night, Oban awoke to shouting and confusion. He heard, “Who’s in there!” followed by a door being forced open and then, “The prisoner’s been killed!” [You never said if Rhelyx healed Bantham]
Rather than charging off to the scene of the crime, he went straight to Rhelyx’s room. He forced the door open, and Rhelyx looked at him in apparent shock, “how dare you barge in here!” the cleric shouted.
Oban ignored the challenge and, upon finding Rhelyx alone, accused, “Where is he?” Rheylx innocently asked “whom?” and Oban said, “You know who.” The two finally settled on Bantham. Oban warned Rhelyx that any further actions by the little psycho-killer would necessitate a response from Oban.
Rhelyx, still denying any actions had even occurred, threatened to withhold healing if “any such counter actions should occur.”
Oban insinuated that Selune would frown upon such a policy, and may revoke her generosity in such a case, leaving Rhelyx dead and doomed for all eternity. Rhelyx assured Oban that “the policy only requires that I do not hurt things, not that I have to help you.”
The paladin stormed off with a vague, “we’ll see,” dangling between them.
That morning Rhelyx magically mended one of the blue crystals. The Marauders headed to the Portal of Storms, and placed a red, blue and green crystal into the awaiting slots. As the crystals melted, the portal swirled to life and the colors blended first to a rainbow and finally to white. The shimmering light blocked Max and Phiery from entering the portal and drove the two away. With most of The Marauders unwilling to proceed without them, Rhelyx reluctantly watched as the light faded, and after a minute the portal returned to dormancy. The party searched the island for Phiery and Max, and found the two huddled aboard Second Chance. Rhelyx planned to break the enchantment at moonrise when he prayed again to Selune, but the adventurers lacked anymore whole blue crystals, which forced them to spend another warm, slow day aboard the gently rocking Second Chance.
Bored with the delay, Oban proposed the group scry Krekie and hunt down the deadly assassin. Rhelyx realized he didn’t have the necessary equipment for scrying, and teleported to Waterdeep to buy a font. Rhelyx cast the spell, which seemed to reveal an empty portion of the maze. All of The Marauders loomed over Rhelyx’s shoulder examining the narrow field revealed by Rhelyx’s spell. It reminded everyone for searching for the camouflaged lizard in a cage when a traveling zoo came to town. Eventually, Valon spotted the hidden bird. Even with the field restricted to the few dozen feet or so visible in the scrying sensor, the keen-eyed elf had trouble spotting the kenku. None of the other Maruaders spotted her until Valon specifically pointed her out.
The spot looked much like any other spot in the maze, and really only revealed she camped on Tilagos. Oban proposed they sweep the island with his detect evil ability. The Marauders slowly crawled through the maze, with Oban constantly searching for evil.
Eventually Oban’s evil detector gave him a signal and his face lit up eagerly. Before Oban could even alert the group, he heard the sounds of spellcasting – in Oban’s own voice. Valon identified the spell as dimension door, and realized the bird probably used her mimicry ability to sound like Oban. Was she just f!+*ing with the party now? Either way, the group wondered how many times she could cast that spell and decided to give up the search.
That evening Rhelyx prayed to Selune for spells that would allow him to mend more blue crystals and remove the enchantments on Phiery and Max. Both those tasks accomplished, The Marauders headed to the Portal of Storms a third time, and placed the three crystals into the eyeholes. This time the magical lights drove off Bantham and Phiery, but the remaining Marauders decided to enter anyway, since the portal would only remain open for one minute.
The sudden shift in environment shocked and overwhelmed the adventurers, for a moment. The sound of the omnipresent, raging tempest that surrounded Tilagos disappeared, replaced by a gentle wind carrying birdsongs and the drone of buzzing insects. Although overcast, the twilight sky above did not seem ready to storm. The edge of a sprawling black forest, dense and overgrown, filled the view in one direction. Tall trees sagged with branches heavy with moss, their dark eaves dropped to the ground in some places. From within came a cacophony of insects and signing birds. Now and then, a ghostly green glow appeared within, only to fade moments later, as if whatever creature generated the light feared discovery. In the other direction, grassy hills rose. Opposite the forest, these hills eventually became a range of rocky, barren mountains. A flash of brilliant lightning ignited the sky above the mountains for a moment, and the distant peal of muted thunder echoed down the slopes a few moments later.
A moment passed, then a set of four tall gallant figures emerged from the forest. The quartet stood bedecked in glimmering gossamer armor, with a cloak of vicious nettles draped across their shoulders. A halo of churning insects swirled about their heads. Each wielded a wicked barbed spear in both hands, and four poles fanned out from plates of armor across each figures upper back. Attached at the end of each pole flew a banner, one fiery red fringed with crimson flames, another translucent white leaving a trail of cloud in its wake as it dances on the wind, a third deep brown and cracked like parched earth, and the last blue as the ocean on a cloudless day and frothing with bubbles.
The first of the four began with an introduction, “I am Tylanthros, guardian of this realm. We are the Last Resort, as surely as the trees and stones and sea and air around you. We protect the secrets of this island from all trespassers. You have mastered the portal of the storms, and therefore must be brave, but it remains to be seen if you belong here at all. Why have you come to Last Resort?”
Rhelyx answered that the group came to stop the Age of Worms.
Tylanthros gave a hint of a smile before continuing, “You seek the Fountain, although you do not yet realize it. The Fountain of Dreams is linked to all things in Last Resort. The earth, the dark trees of the Doomshroud, the clouds above, and my life and that of my brothers are a part of it. If the waters are consumed, the Order of the Storm’s rite is undone. The secrets kept from the world will be released, and the great creatures of legend imprisoned here on this isle shall be unleashed upon the Material Plane once more. You say you are heroes? This remains to be seen. Accomplish four tasks and prove yourselves to be the heroes of old returned. The Fountain shall not be despoiled lightly.”
The strange creature looks at his three brothers, then back to you. ‘The Fountain of Dreams shall know those destined for its gifts in but one way. It will know them by the Trials of Tilagos. Survive these trials, and you may slake your thirst on what you seek. Fail, and last Resort shall be your grave. The first trial is the Claiming of Krathanos’s Golden Belt.”
A second of the quartet of creatures speaks up next. “I am Beskawahn, and the second trial is the Silence of the Mournful Song.”
The third speaks. “I am Thadimar, and the third trial is the Death of the Thorn Vale Nightmare.”
Finally, the last creature speaks. “I am Sayren-Lei, and the final trial is the Harvest of the Living Feather of the Roc King.”
Tylanthros concluded, “These trials complete, return here and we shall show you the Fountain of Dreams. Until then, we shall watch. And wait.”
As the Wild Watchers turned to go, Oban called out, “wait, just one question!”
Tylanthros and the others paused momentarily, turning around before striding back through the trees.
Oban asked, “Has anyone else come through recently?”
Tylanthros replied, “You speak of the Hand of the Lich-Lord. He has come to Tilagos with his flock, seeking knowledge as you do. Even as you linger, they seek to complete the tasks we have named. If they outspeed you, then the secrets of the Fountain are theirs. Who claims the secrets of the Fountain matters little to us, for once these secrets are claimed our role in Last Resort has come to an end.”
After implying Tilagos may not be sempiternal, the Wild Watchers left. The brief conversation left many questions and The Marauders puzzled over how to proceed. The band decided to begin exploring the island by heading into the nearby woods to the south, planning to hunt down the Thorn Vale Nightmare. The woods presented a lonesome and alien landscape. Black monolithic trees appeared to shift unnaturally without the aid of the wind, and the canopy above allied with the overcast sky to block out any of the starlight, leaving the forest very dark.
Rhelyx cast a spell on the eagle-eyed Valon, and the ninja flew above the forest canopy. He took advantage of the few minutes of flight afforded by the spell to take in the forest and found it spanned many miles. The flight also treated him to a view of the mountains to the north, including the impressive peak that towered over Last Resort. He did not find anything that seemed like a “Thorn Vale Nightmare,” and did spy any obvious destination in the woods.
The survey complete, Valon returned to the party. With no obvious target Rhelyx cast find the path and tried to locate the Thorn Vale Nightmare, but the spell failed. Max proposed that the creature might literally haunt dreams, so the adventurers agreed to spend the night in the woods. Unfortunately, everyone slept soundly. Oban did need to get up and piss in the woods at one point, but this proceeded without incident.
Morning came, and although the woods remained as dark as night due to the thick canopy, the following day the party traipsed about the woods in search of the Thorn Vale Nightmare. After an unsuccessful peregrination, Rhelyx prayed for new spells, and transformed the whole party into clouds with his windwalk spell. While in cloud form, the party rose above the forest, and raced through the night sky towards the towering peak. Rannyn loved the exhilarating feeling of flying as a cloud at speeds no horse could hope to match.
At the peak, The Marauders found a colossal nest and a sad sight. Within the nest, a magnificent bird with wings over 100 feet long lay dead in a shallow lake of its own blood. The group spent a half-minute turning from cloud form to solid. The Marauders blamed Darl Quethos and thanked Grumbar Agretha’s busy schedule spared the druid this view. At first the party considered tearing a feather from the dead feather but Rhelyx recalled that the Wild Watcher really emphasized the “living” aspect of the feather. The Marauders considered scrying on Darl Quethos, but Max proposed an alternate plan; he suggested raising the bird and then taking a feather.
Oban, Valon and Rannyn stood far apart and each grabbed a feather. Rhelyx raised the bird. Despite Oban’s best efforts to soothe the bird, the weak and frightened animal took off. Both Oban and Rannyn failed to yank a feather loose. Valon hacked one off quickly; using his blades so fast they were practically invisible. The fearful and wounded Roc King took off and disappeared.
The Marauders spent the next few hours sweeping over the plains to the north of the mountains in cloud form. Around midnight, the group gave up their search of the planes and Rhelyx again cast Find the Path, this time seeking the Vale of Thorns. This time Selune treated him to a signal.
The party followed the signal back into the highlands. After about 20 minutes the party flew over a valley nestled between two dark peaks. The valley teamed with underbrush bedecked with vicious irony thorns growing as long as six inches each. Rhelyx followed the signal to the ground, and each of The Marauders solidified, carefully, on the ground among the thorns. The ground didn’t strike them as unusual in anyway, and the wicked thorns forced each Marauder to remain still in a contortionist’s pose. Rannyn and Valon realized the spot gave them a full view of the surrounding valley, and, through the night sky, the two elves saw a cave mouth about thirty feet above the top of the thorns. Everyone returned to cloud form and landed on the cliff just outside the cave opening.
Thick steam hissed out of the cave. Facing the cave felt like looking into a pot of boiling mutton without the smell of food. Rhelyx magically protected the adventurers from the heat, and the party discussed entering. Everyone suspected a dragon lived in the cave, and looked instinctively to Valon. Examining the clues, the cagey rogue could neither confirm nor deny this possibility. Oban proposed leaving a rear guard, recommending any of the three rat familiars in the party, but the trio of arcanists, Max, Rannyn and Valon, all rejected the notion. The group spread wide and entered the cave. Oban took center, Rannyn left, and Valon right. Max and Rhelyx came up shortly behind the trio.
As the heroes advanced the steam grew thicker, until it blocked all vision beyond a few feet. The heroes advanced a short distance further, until Rannyn came to the edge of a cliff. She couldn’t see the others, but she found a cliff and called for a “halt.” Valon and Oban similarly met with the edge of a crevasse. Due to the thick steam spewing up from the cliff, no one could guess the depth or width of the crevasse. Everyone spent a short while reverting to cloud form, advanced over the 10-20 foot wide cliff, and re-solidified. The group only remained solid only a short while, since just a few seconds later the steam again thickened and the adventurers again encountered another crevasse.
Everyone flew over once again, and when the steam cleared, found Harrowdroth, The Thorn Vale Nightmare, lying in wait at the back of the cave. The beast stood at least 20 feet tall on its four legs. Each of its digits ended in a 3-foot long claw. Foot-long teeth filled its jaws, which were flanked by curved tusks the size of cavalry lances. Harrowdroth’s thick, tough, dark grey hide with dark blue splotches and patches of bony material looked ready to deflect blows. Its red eyes, each the size of a man’s head, narrowed.
Before Rannyn, Valon or Oban could shout a warning, Rhelyx and Max also emerged from the steam. The Marauders instinctively tried to back away, but clouds don’t lend themselves to rapid changes in direction and each adventure could only veer to the side. Valon, Oban and Rhelyx went to the right, while Rannyn and Max headed left. Everyone tried to maximize the distance between themselves and Harrowdroth. Harrowdroth stood still, and instead of charging created an incendiary cloud over Max and Rannyn’s cloudy forms. The incendiary cloud wounded the elf and human clouds. Unable to communicate easily some of the group considered a retreat, while others began to solidify in Harrowdroth’s rear chamber to kill the nightmare. Harrowdroth, not similarly confused, sat back and tried to disintegrate Max, while he reverted to solid form. Despite being only semi-solid to begin with, Max resisted the disintegration.
Valon shook his semi-solidified head and wondered, “How can something like that be a caster?” When Harrowdroth tried to disintegrate him, he accepted the truth that he was a caster. Harrowdroth also dropped a fireball on the party, and summoned a fiendish dire wolverine before a single Marauder could even stand on firm ground, let alone retaliate.
Once solidified, the battle entered a second phase, as The Marauders did what they do best -retaliate. Valon and Oban moved to quickly close ground on the deceptive spellcaster. Rannyn approached more slowly, twanging off bowshots as she closed to melee range. An indignant Max tried an unsuccessful disintegrate of his own.
Early in the second phase, despite the intense battle before him Valon heard very faint guttural voices coming from behind. He could not identify any particular words. He guessed the words came as faint whispers, not because the speaker whispered, but because of the distance and steam vents between himself and the speaker. He alerted the rest of The Marauders. Oban suspected Darl Quethos might have chosen his moment to make a move. He praised Tempus for the opportunity to test his skills, and cursed himself for not insisting more strongly upon a rear sentry. Rannyn and Rhelyx assumed the worst, and began casting preparatory magic.
Valon and Oban reached Harrowdroth, and combined their efforts with Max’s. After taking tremendous damage, for the first time in eons, Harrowdroth wished the Wild Watchers hadn’t sent a group of adventurers against him, and feared for his life.
Moments later Darl Quethos. The efreeti Malhazar, The Exiled Flame, rode his Cauchemar into Harrowdroth’s chamber. From his trajectory, The Marauders guessed the horse had leaped over the cliff. Riding just behind Malhazar sat Darl Quethos, The Lich-Lord, who immediately dismounted. Flanking Darl, on opposite sides of the room, came the Sinfire twins – Jalagar Sinfire and Sabir Sinfire, both monks. Jalagar emerged from the steam on the left, next to Max. Sabir emerged on the right, closest to Rannyn. Finally, a Horned Devil flew into the room. The large creature wielded a spiked-chain and looked something like a black dragon-man. The band matched the descriptions Foc, rest his soul, had given to The Marauders before he mysteriously died. The Marauders also recognized Darl, Malhazar, and the Sinfire twins from Lashonna’s scry spell. The battle entered phase three.
Jalagar got into Max’s face, cornering him and leaving the sorcerer stunned. Rheylx raced to cast additional magical defenses. It saved Rheylx’s life as Darl cast a powerful spell, implosion, and leveled his finger at Rhelyx. Rhelyx just resisted Darl’s magic. Sabir and the Horned Devil surrounded Rannyn, and the swashbuckler did her best to defend herself by attacking the monk. Valon and Oban focused on Harrowdroth, and true to Harrowdroth’s fears, killed him. When Harrowdroth died, Darl, mindful of the Wild Watchers challenges, whispered a curse. Valon’s sensitive ears heard the curse and he turned around. Between the invisible blade and the cleric of Myrkul loomed the imposing Malhazar. Valon’s eyes met the efreet’s and the efreet cocked his head back slightly and said in a deep whisper that somehow carried across the chamber, “come get some.”
Rheylx tried to reach Max, but couldn’t, and Jalagar Sinfire pummeled the sorcerer until Max dropped in a bloody heap. Sabir Sinfire and the Horned Devil pinned down Rannyn. The swashbuckler, already weakened by Harrowdroth’s magical onslaught, fell when the Devil’s spiked chain decapitated her. Very quickly what started as contest among 6 vs. 5 vs. 1 became a contest between 6 vs. 3.
Due to Darl’s magic, Valon could not approach the cleric of Myrkul. As an alternative, he moved to engage the efreet Malhazar, leaving Oban to engage Darl. Rhelyx attempted to dispel Darl’s magical enhancements, but instead Darl’s defenses reflected Rhelyx’s dispel right back to Rhelyx. After Rhelyx’s spell backfired, Valon acted. Upon seeing Valon approach the Efreet Lord, Darl backed away from Oban, and snickered as he confidently directed his implosion towards the rogue. However, Oban extended his reach beyond Darl’s expectation and struck him just as Darl most needed to concentrate. The blow from Oban’s holy sword disrupted the spell. Momentarily spared, Valon then began his well-practiced needling of Malhazar with his vicious blades.
Oban closed the small gap Darl had opened, and resumed his pressure on the cleric, swatting at Darl with his sword. Darl’s magical defenses deflected the worst of the blow, but not all, and the cautious cleric backed far away from the paladin. Darl then healed himself as well as the two Sinfire twins – closing all wounds. With his dispel attempt spoiled, Rhelyx once again called upon Selune, and this time succeeded. Rhelyx again tried to dispel Darl’s magical defenses, and this time succeeded in removing a portion of those defenses. He also paralyzed the Horned Devil. The brave cleric paid a dear price though. The two Sinfire twins surrounded Rhelyx, and retaliated by killing the cleric and sending him to Selune for final judgment. Meanwhile, Malhazar saw his opportunity, and focused on Oban. Despite Oban’s ample defenses, Malhazar still wounded the paladin significantly. Now it stood as just Oban and Valon against Darl, Jalagar, Sabir, Malhazar on his nightmare, and the Horned Devil. At least Rhelyx had paralyzed the devil.
Oban and Valon did not let the enemies’ healing magic or overwhelming numbers lower morale, and instead the powerful duo focused on Malhazar. Malhazar, caught between the stalwart paladin and lethal ninja, went down fast and went down hard as Oban helped set up Valon’s attacks. Once the Efreet lord died Oban approached and attacked the paralyzed horned devil and finished off Malhazar’s mount. Although normally quite fearsome, the devil died as Oban easily drove his holy sword into the helpless fiend. Suddenly 2 vs. 5 became a more manageable 2 vs. 3. However, the Sinfire twins and Darl still seemed confident.
The Sinfire twins failed to get through Oban’s combined metal, sacred, and magical defenses. So the clever monks tried a new trick. Jalagar swiped Oban’s sword and laughed in the paladin’s face. Oban retaliated by grabbing the weapon back and, in concert with Valon, killing Jalagar. Sabir grabbed Oban’s sword and immediately ran into the steaming crevasse, and dropped the precious holy sword down the vent. Even Valon couldn’t hear it land.
Valon retaliated by killing Sabir, but the monk had already dealt The Marauders a powerful blow by disarming Oban. It stood as 2 Marauders vs. just Darl Quethos. But Oban lacked a weapon, and Valon could not approach the cleric. Darl seemed less limited.
Unarmed, Oban charged Darl Quethos and tried to start a wrestling match with the cleric. The wily cleric made Oban pay, as Darl gave Oban a painful bump to the noggin. Meanwhile, Valon still subject to Darl’s repulsion spell, moved towards Rannyn’s body. He hoped to throw the dead swashbucklers holy rapier to Oban.
Oban tried a second time to wrestle Darl, and this time succeeded in getting a hold. The desperate lich-lord then touched the Hand of Myrkul to Oban and activated the vile artifact. The hand instantly paralyzed Oban leaving him helplessin Darl’s clutches.
Valon unable to close on Darl, or present a significant ranged threat faced a Hobson’s Choice. He leaped over the two crevasses and retreated out of the cave. He activated his slippers of spider climbing and climbed the mountain to rest just above the cave’s 30-foot high entrance. He waited, like a tick, to drop on an unsuspecting Darl Quethos. He waited, and waited, and waited some more.
Agretha Deepseer – Dream Dwarf – Druid 11/Earth Dreamer 5 - NG
Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 8 HD (Agretha’s Animal Companion)
Valon – Elf - Swashbuckler 3/ Rogue 4/ Ninja 3/ Mage 1/ Invisable Blade 5 - CG
The party ran into some trouble with Darl. He killed 4/6 PCs. The only one who truelly surivived was Valon. Agretha also survived, but that's because Agretha's player didn't make the session. On top of that I only had 3 players for this session - Agretha, Dennis Slaughter, and Phiery. So I ran a side-trek. Dennis and Phiery are not new characters for my game. Dennis was used by the same player in the first half of the campaign (Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil) when the player retired him because he felt he was overpowered (!). Phiery was the cohort of Ranny, a character who died at the hands of Darl. The side-trek I ran was a free download from Wizard's of the Coast called Moagim's Clone. I modified it to fit my game in the Forgotten Realms.
Isle of Last Resort 3
Agretha waited patiently at Dr. Sparnum’s Magic Academy in Silverymoon on the morning of August 21. Beside her crouched Leonidas, a large celestial dire lion, regal even in his position of repose. After learning of the danger of their last mission in Redhand, Agretha had parted with her faithful companion Lulu, fearing for the dire badger’s safety.
The day before Agretha had received a sending from Phiery’s sister, notifying her of her companions’ deaths. She was concerned for Phiery as she suspected his beloved Rannyn was among the lost.
Suddenly Leonidas stood and perked his ears forward; listening, Agretha became aware of some sort of commotion outside the building. She walked to the door and stepped out into the street, only to be confronted with citizens of Silverymoon fleeing from some bizarre creatures (hags), which had cornered a man on the street. Agretha immediately noticed Phiery - as he attacked the monsters, and around the corner charged another familiar face, Lieutenant Dennis Slaughter. Dennis, Phiery, and another man unknown to Agretha quickly put an end to the disturbance and Agretha walked towards the man they had rescued.
After offering her condolences to Phiery, and a brusque reintroduction to the Lieutenant, who immediately informed Agretha of his promotion to Major, Agretha was brusquely introduced to Slaughter’s companion, Captain Judel Maccabeus. The four began questioning the man they had rescued, who identified himself as a messenger sent with dire tidings to Alustriel and to beseech her assistance. Intrigued, the group agreed to accompany the messenger to his interview with Alustriel.
Along the way Phiery related what had happened to him over the past couple of months. It seemed to Phiery that most of the Marauders had traveled through a portal, but powerful magic had blocked Phiery.
Phiery waited aboard Second Chance for the rest of the Marauders to return, but as he waited he received a sending from his sister, Syvas. Syvas teleported to the boat Second Chance while it sat off the coast of Tilagos, and brought bad news to Phiery. Phiery and Syvas’s mom had died during a githyanki raid on Calimport. Phiery left word with Razwell that he would need to return to his people for a while. Razwell agreed to pass that on to Rannyn and the other Marauders when they returned to the ship. Razwell didn’t even ask for any payment to pass on the word, demonstrating the captain’s boundless compassion. Syvas teleported Phiery back to their Phoelarch community of Mechbia in Calimshan.
Phiery mourned his lost mother. After a few weeks, with his personal mourning complete, Phiery wished to rejoin Rannyn and the other Marauders, and contacted his sister to scry for Rannyn. Syvas’ attempts to scry for Rannyn and Rhelyx failed, although she did succeed in finding Razwell in Alhaster. Worried, Phiery visited a temple of Kossuth in Mechbia, and, with a commune spell, learned Rannyn, Rhelyx, Oban, Max, and even the despicable Redcap Bantham had died. He also learned that Valon and Agretha lived. With his search criteria refined, yesterday Syvas scried Agretha in Silverymoon, but could not magically locate Valon. Syvas sent Agretha a sending to meet Phiery the following day, today.
Slaughter explained how he had spent the past few months coordinating the eastern divisions of the Ardent Legion, currently stationed in Harrowdale. He led the Silver Marches confederate forces in cooperation with the native Daleland troops and soldiers from the monarchy of Cormyr. The combined alliance prepared for an anticipated invasion from the Githyanki on the other side of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Judel served as Slaughter’s lieutenant as the alliance entrenched themselves. Slaughter had been in Silverymoon serendipitously that morning, to give a speech at Dr. Sparnum’s magic academy and hopefully recruit more acolytes into the Spellguard of Silverymoon or the Ardent Legion.
Slaughter finished his story just as the group reached Alustriel’s palace, and the queen promptly met with the messenger. After meeting with the messenger Alustriel explained the situation to the party.
“I thank you for coming. As you may have noticed, I am greatly concerned for the welfare of the Marches, and the realms – and I know you four share this concern. Gareth Dragonsbane serves as king of the Bloodstone Lands, Damara and Vaasa. Gareth Dragonsbane’s chief advisor, Emlyn the Grey, a hero from the war of Bloodstone Pass, has died . . .”
Lady Alustriel grew silent for a moment as she decided how best to continue. “Emlyn departed on a mission without Gareth’s consent. Years ago, Emlyn defeated an archlich, The Witch King Zhengyi. You may be familiar with the lich, since he backed the forces of the Elemental Eye when Dr. Sparnum and his party destroyed the forces of the Temple of Elemental Evil almost twenty years ago.”
“Emlyn would not speak of his duel save to say that Zhengyi had been imprisoned with the most powerful sorceries. Gareth believed—or, perhaps, chose to believe—that the Witch King’s threat was forever erased from the world.”
“We now know the folly of that hope. This messenger from the Bloodstone lands teleported here only hours after Emlyn died. Zhengyi has a clone. Doubtless you know about this powerful type of magic, and this knowledge concerned Gareth. The clone, Gareth instructed me, must be destroyed. If Zhengyi returns it could distract Gareth, and force him to turn inward as he deals with this renewed internal threat to Vaasa and Damara. We have only hours to spare before the Witch King’s soul enters his corporeal vessel. The Silver Marches already owes you so much, but I again ask you to help. You must stop it, so Gareth remains our stalwart ally in the Northeast as we forge a defensive line against the Githyanki.”
Agreeing to provide what assistance they could, Alustriel informed the party of the clone’s location in an abandoned quarry in Vassa. She also told them a password needed to enter the area. With teleportation assistance provided by one of the court mages, Robert Jones, Agretha and Leonidas set off with Phiery, Slaughter, and Judel to destroy the clone body before it could be inhabited.
Upon arriving Agretha transformed into a vulture, the only birds present in the area, and flew over the quarry and surroundings. Returning to the party she informed them of a ramp encircling the quarry that gradually led down, with a flight of stairs descending into a fetid lake at the center. The party entered through a small building, encountering a pair of dire wolves which they dispatched quickly but not before one was able to send out a loud howl. After passing through the building, a group of satyrs arrived at the top of an elevator platform and began shooting arrows. The satyrs went down quickly and the party took the elevator down into a modest stand of hemlock and pine skirts along the western rim of the second tier. Entering the trees, a perpetual twilight shrouded the area beneath their boughs. Underbrush was sparse and consisted primarily of fern beds sprinkled atop a layer of pine needles. Inside a small building they encountered a dire bear, some satyrs, and, surprisingly, a dream dwarf. With the deadline drawing nearer the party chose to kill first and ask questions later.
Moving into the center of the quarry the party paused at the top of a rickety flight of wooden stairs that led downward before disappearing beneath a pool of stagnant, algae-slicked water. The face of a massive stone building jutted outward from the northern wall of the lowest tier. A pair of bas-relief horned statues flanked a central door made of the same stone as the structure itself. A horrid smell of rot and filth wafted upward from the water. Agretha vanished into the ground and located the entrance to another building beneath the lake.
Moving through the earth and stone she saw a bulky humanoid creature composed of rough stone slabs. Returning to the group, Agretha cast water breathing and they descended towards the entrance below the lake’s surface. Upon opening the door, water from the lake rushed into the room, knocking most of the party prone. With her stolid dwarven nature Agretha cast transmute rock to mud to weaken the creature (which Slaughter identified as a tombstone golem), and created a giant mudslide within the room. The golem defeated, the party slowly waded across the muddy chamber to reach a flight of stairs and a door at the far end. Inside the next room the party saw hundreds of burning candles illuminate a huge, oval-shaped chamber. Each of the brands flickered from recesses carved into the stone walls. The walls leaned inward before meeting at a circular apex high above the center of the room. A massive chain hung from the apex. The inverted corpse of a giant, demonic creature dangled from the end of the chain. Its arms stretched outward to form an upside-down T, the body slowly rotated in a macabre manner. Beyond the corpse a stone staircase swept upwards to an open doorway set within the north wall. The smell of death and decay was palpable and sickening. As the party entered, a batlike creature, a Nightwing, formed of shadow swooped towards them along with a dread wraith. Agretha shot a sunbeam to destroy the wraith, as Phiery and Slaughter destroyed the Nightwing.
Moving forward hastily, Phiery attempted to open the door to the next room and was immediately attacked by two swarms of metal shards and bits of armor that cast lightning bolts. Slaughter, always knowledgeable in golemology, ascertained that the swarms were made from the adamantine-like material from the area with the petrified corpse. Dispatching the swarms, Agretha saw a secret passage leading down to a room with a 5-foot-wide circle of amber-colored runes iinscribed on the natural stone floor. A detect magic spell revealed transportation magic and the party was forced to teleport one at a time to an underground cavern with large pools of lava scattered throughout.
Agretha entered the room first, to be greeted by a large, scaled humanoid with leathery wings. “Greetings, so glad you could join us! I was just remarking to our friend Dutch here how bored I was becoming with no one new to entertain me!” Peering across the room Agretha noticed an opulently dressed male human, presumably Dutch, tied up against the wall, along with what appeared to be a dragon standing behind the devil. Agretha disappeared into the floor, and Slaughter appeared where Agretha had recently stood. “Ah more visitors! What an eventful day we’re having!” exalted the devil. Ultimately the Marauders (Agretha and Major Phiery) and their allies (Major Slaughter and Lieutenant Judel) joined forces with the imprisoned man (Dutch) who conveniently shed his bonds mid-fight. The Marauders swiftly defeated the horned devil Efizance and his ally, the spined devil Xerfilstyx, and Efizance’s pet imp and abyssal drake.
The Marauders then pushed on, and found a room with a stone sarcophagus inscribed with dozens of runes resting within the center of a domed room. A single, flickering candle sat atop the sarcophagus’s lid. A number of odd metals and glass instruments and vials cluttered the corner of the room. The Marauder’s opened the sarcophagus and saw a skeletal body of palpable evil that could only be Zhengyi’s clone. The Marauder destroyed the body. Destruction of the body prevented Zhengi’s clone from returning and ensured Gareth Dragonsbane could continue to support Alustriel’s alliance against the Githyanki. Mission accomplished and a hard half-day’s work complete, the Marauders headed back to Robert Jones, and teleported everyone, including Dutch, back to Silverymoon.
Agretha, Lieutenant Phiery, Major Slaughter, and Lieutenant Judel returned from Vaasa victorious. The group prevented the return of Zhengyi, the Witch King. Had he returned, it very likely would have weakened the alliance, an alliance that stood ready to defend northwestern Faerun from githyanki encroachment. The Marauders also returned with their new companion, Dutch.
Agretha, Phiery, Slaughter and Judel headed to the Ardent Legion headquarters. There they found Janpour the Paladin, who led the Ardent Legion, waiting for them. Lady Alustriel was waiting for them as well. Alustriel led the Silver Marches confederacy, and was fast assuming a larger role. Most nations of northwestern Faerun seemed to lack a clear plan for how to deal with the ongoing Githyanki invasion, and Alustriel provided them with a plan.
After the Marauders reported on their success, Alustriel expressed her appreciation for their service. She told the Marauders they had not just helped Silverymoon, had not just helped the Silver Marches, but had very likely helped all of Faerun. Janpour looked over Phiery, and for his bravery, promoted the noble scion to the rank of Major.
She then reassigned Major Slaughter from the front in the Dalelands, to Malchor Harpell’s mission with Phiery. Phiery’s mission involved following the clues left by Malchor’s missing friend, Belkarde. Alustriel still needed to fulfill her debt she owed Malchor, and with Rannyn dead (and possibly two of Malchor’s direct kin, Rhelyx and Max) the mission needed to continue.
Slaughter wanted to serve on the anticipated front line in the Dales, and did not appreciate this reassignment. Alustriel explained that she trusted Harpell’s judgment and if the archmage felt it was important to follow up on Belkarde’s leads then she felt it was important to follow up on Belkarde’s leads. Moreover, Alustriel told Slaughter his efforts would help the war effort as a whole. Malchor held a great deal of sway in Waterdeep, and she wanted his support when she asked the critical city to lend troops to the war effort against the githyanki. Alustriel explained that other urgent matters required her attention. The leader excused herself, after telling Slaughter to listen to Phiery while the phoelarch brought him up to speed.
Meanwhile, Dutch, the monk, called his honey, Glamorous, to his side. The eyrine swiftly teleported to Silverymoon, to meet with her sugar daddy. When the devil appeared, the citizens of Silverymoon fled in terror. Dutch felt stupid, and smacked his palm against his forehead. He discreetly took a room at an inn and advised Glamorous to wait there. Glamorous, all hot from watching the citizens flee in terror, tugged Dutch’s arm and tried to coax the robust monk to stay in the room a few minutes. Dutch smiled, “baby, baby, later,” and went out to buy the eyrine a hat of disguise.
Meanwhile, back at Ardent Legion HQ, Agretha, Slaughter and Phiery discussed the situation. They each brought a different perspective from the past couple of months, but together the trio determined that they needed to head back to littoral Tilagos to complete their quest, rescue Valon, and recover the bodies of the other Marauders. Phiery, the once happy-go-lucky phoelarch, in particular grimly insisted they recover his wife’s corpse. Slaughter tried to assert his leadership over the group, but Phiery, dark and angry, seemed disinterested in Slaughter’s meaningless power games. Judel vigorously supported the war mage’s efforts to take charge.
The group realized that they couldn’t teleport directly to Tilagos, an uncharted isle. Slaughter, the only member of the Marauders who could teleport had never been to Alhaster, and neither Phiery nor Agretha could actually teleport. The group sought out Dutch, hoping to teleport to Alhaster, the closest reasonable location. The Marauders had rescued the monk in Zhengyi’s quarry, and in conversation the monk had mentioned he was from Alhaster. Where would they find the otiose monk? Taking a guess, they headed to the nicest inn in Silverymoon – Moonsilver Inn.
The Marauders found the monk with a rubicund glow, no doubt deep in his cups. He sat with a gorgeous, although slightly sinister looking woman. When Dutch saw the group walk in, he introduced Glamorous as his girlfriend, and then corrected, “one of my girlfriends.” Glamorous laughed and didn’t seem bothered by this description. Dutch then called the waitress over, and threw down two shiny blue coins, electrum moons, the local coinage of Silverymoon. The officious monk then invited everyone to join him, his treat.
Slaughter, slightly surprised at Dutch’s obvious success in the girlfriend department, regained his composure quickly. He addressed “Citizen Dutch,” and explained he and his subordinates needed to travel to Alhaster and would like any help he could provide. The monk agreed to help get everyone to Alhaster. Slaughter was about to recommend the group leave immediately for the city, when Judel interrupted him. Judel whispered to Slaughter that he could tell something just wasn’t right with Glamorous. In response, the Marauders looked closer with true seeing, and saw Dutch’s “girlfriend” as an eyrine.
Slaughter raised an eyebrow and interrogated. “Citizen Dutch, why do you travel with a demon?” he asked.
Dutch responded she was not a demon, but a “devil,” and the people of Alhaster tolerated this sort of thing.
Slaughter appropriately adjusted his expectations of Alhaster, and didn’t press the monk any further. The war mage thought “if this monk can get me to Alhaster quicker, then he can get me through this mission quicker and back to the front lines. Front lines that need my leadership, for I, Major Slaughter, have trained all of my life for this war…a war that will, undoubtedly, be the greatest war of my generation and possibly in all the history of Toril…a war that will ensure my place in history as the greatest general.”
Judel nudged his commanding officer, and Slaughter returned from his daydream to find everyone looking at him. He looked around and barked, “Well, can you get us to Alhaster, Citizen Dutch?”
Dutch agreed he could, and Slaughter said the squad should have departed yesterday, but he’d settle for immediately. Phiery nodded eager to go. Slaughter noted it as the first thing the phoelarch had looked eager to do since they had run into one another that morning near Dr. Sparnum’s magic academy. The chthonic druid, however, wanted to get Leonidus magically enchanted. Slaughter rolled his eyes, thinking “there’s always something!” This sparked some debate between the druid and the war mage. It escalated, and Slaughter ended up wagging his finger at Agretha, yelling and gesticulating so vigorously his panache scraped the druid’s face.
Dutch listened in, and when he felt things had gone on just long enough he spoke, “hey, hey, calm down. I can get you to Alhaster, but I don’t want to go right now.”
Slaughter looked frustrated, and Dutch winked at Agretha, saying, “Take as long as you need, hottie.”
Agretha required a powerful wizard to help make her enchantment permanent, and she only knew Dr. Sparnum. The gnome wizard didn’t have the spell ready. In addition, Agretha needed Leonidus, and he would need some time before he could return from his celestial home. So although the Marauders did get to Alhaster, via Dutch’s word of recall, they didn’t go until August 24.
The Marauders asked Dutch if he could recommend a captain to get them to Tilagos and he recommended Razwell. It seemed like a reasonable suggestion, Razwell had already taken Agretha, Phiery and the rest of The Marauders to Tilagos once. That same day Agretha, Phiery, Slaughter and Judel booked passage on Razwell’s boat, Second Change. Dutch, who had heard the party would go to an exclusive tropical island, also booked passage on the ship, separately, for himself and his girlfriend. Dutch hoped to scope out Tilagos, considering it might do better than the quarry for his upcoming birthday party. He wanted to impress the Alhaster elites and decided the quarry wasn’t up to his exacting standards. Honestly, what was he thinking…a quarry? Of course Razwell seemed more than happy to collect two fees and accommodated Dutch and Glamorous.
After a few days of clear sailing under warm summer skies, The Marauders heard a call from the crow’s nest, “Hurricane Island ahead.” Razwell, glad he again found the island, gritted his teeth and steeled his crew to once again pass through the hurricane. He needed to get his ship to the eye, where Tilagos perpetually sat, shrouded by the storm. Agretha, after her long peregrination to Alhaster, Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Vaasa, Silverymoon a second time, and Alhaster a second time, focused on the storm. She determined she would overcome this maelstrom for all the friends she had lost, or nearly lost, to Tilagos. Agretha cast a powerful druidic spell to calm the storm, and succeeded in abating it. Normally the spell can easily calm any storm. Due to the magical nature of the weather, the spell did not completely stop the storm but abated it enough so the crew could anchor successfully.
On the island The Marauders followed Phiery’s instructions and gathered up the red and blue gems. The Marauders also mended the green stones and activated the portal. Judel had prepared everyone to face the magics of the portal, although Phiery still felt the magic block him. Dutch called upon his god to help Phiery, and after two tries, the phoelarch overcame the antipathy.
The whole team headed through the portal to find overcast skies and tall grass. About 100 feet away everyone spotted a titanic baboon. The ape beat his chest and seemed eager for combat.
The crowd roared as Valon dodged the great axe's enormous head. The nimble elf waited until the blade was less than a hair's thickness away from his shoulder to quickly shift his weight to his back foot and drop out of reach. The minotaur thought he had finally caught his evasive foe but was disappointed he didn't feel the axe impact anything substantial. He was even more disappointed when he did feel the elf's curved kukris enter and exit his body numerous times. Valon tumbled away from the bloody mess avoiding the red liquid entirely. The site of so much blood took Valon back to that faithful night still too ripe in his mind. That scene now growing realer by the minute. Valon knew it couldn't be real but the memories of that night were now becoming palpable. Out of the shadows came a bony pointing hand. Had Valon lost something more than his friends that fateful night. His senses were not as keen as they once were. Valon was once always aware of his surroundings and could not be caught off guard. But it was real Darl Quethos had returned and was once again upon Valon and he froze with indecision. At that moment he knew that he too was destined to the same fate as his comrades. Just as he closed his eyes to accept his end the bony hand blurred and the colors of his outdoor surroundings came into focus.
It had been at least three tendays since Valon had any contact. He thought it was like being in a dungeon, he was all alone with his thoughts, and these days his thoughts were not good company.
Valon's daily routine brought him back to a platform that he knew would take him back to his home plain. Valon's grey eyes would stare, unblinking, just waiting for something. Agretha was still out there somewhere; she has to show up here sooner or later, doesn't she?
His stomach rumbled. He had only been able to hunt and kill two gazelles in the 30 or 40 some days since the incident. His slight frame had become much skinnier. Grass, roots and boiled water was the usual dinner and ere the key components in his current diet. Valon had made two new holes in his belt with one of his kukris.
When the titanic baboon battered its way into the grove next to the platform, Valon's attention was ripped from the teleport platform to his next possible meal.
Valon stalked the great beast and hardly noticed when his blades sank into its flesh that he was no longer alone. A ball of lightning exploded over the huge monkey's head injuring it and distracting it while a dexterous unarmored man leaped into the air spun around and drove his heal into the doomed beast's knee cap, shattering it. The ape tried to limp away but three arrows scorched through the air catching the baboon in the shoulder, kidney and hamstring. Phiery, the phoelarch, admired his work. The monstrous ape kept moving, Valon now uncontrollably licking his chops, sensing the kill, pursued. Just before he could attack, a ball of lightning exploded over the baboon's upper-body partially cooking its flesh, making Valon's mouth water even more. With a thunderous crash the smoking carcass hit the ground.
Agretha, a druid who chose not to participate in the battle against one of nature's children, was so totally shocked by the sudden appearance of Valon...or what was left of Valon. He looked like one of the skeletons she had battled in the temple of elemental evil. He had mounted the great beast and was slicing into it with one of his curved blades. She ran as fast as her little legs could take her straight at them. The elf's senses were so dulled by his frenzy to satiate his hunger, he didn't even realize she was there until she was right next to him.
The first emotion that showed on his sunken face was rage, at the postponement of his meal, the second, was a contemplative processing dull stare, the third was pure elation, his friend from what felt like a another lifetime had returned to rescue him from his imprisonment on this god forsaken island, finally, the fourth, as Valon laid his grey eyes on Phiery, was purest guilt. Valon had seen Phiery's wife Rannyn slain by a Devil. The image of the slender elven maiden getting ripped to shreds by the spiked chain forced its way back into his mind's eye, as viciously as a hunter's trap crunching through a deer's calf and shin. It brought the unstable elf to his knees and he began to weep. Phiery's head cocked sideways, he had prepared himself for this outcome but nothing could really ready his thoughts for the loss of his beloved Rannyn.
The monk, Dutch, didn't let Valon eat the baboon, he had something a little better planned. Dutch produced a Hero's feast and his devilish lady served the group. Valon couldn't wait to be served; he attacked the feast as ferociously as he had attacked any foe with which he had ever crossed blades. Agretha could see Valon's health return to him as he devoured chicken leg after pork loin. It seemed like with each bite the skinny elf added more muscle and girth to his slight frame. Even the thinned hair on his head was growing back in. This conjured feast wasn't just mere food there was a magic about it. Agretha herself felt healthier. Phiery sat silently and ate little, still processing his loss.
During the hero's feast Valon told his new party of the 4 trials. The death of the nightmare and doomshire, the retrieval of the roc's feather and Kranthos's belt. Valon explained what happened with the roc king, how they revived the giant bird and cut a feather loose. Then he explained what happened at the nightmare's cave and of the attack by Darl Quethos. Valon didn't get into the details for Phiery and Agretha's sake.
The group thought about their options and decided to head to the southern beach. With some of Agretha's druidic magic the party transformed into cloud-like versions of themselves and took flight to the South.
From the high vantage point the party spotted a large structure covered in gargoyles. When the party approached the palace (that's what it was) some of the gargoyles came to life and descended upon the group. Valon grabbed his kukris, ready to fight but the gargoyles didn't attack. They pulled up from their dive short and glided to the ground slowly. The gargoyles, larger and stronger then the average were also surprisingly intelligent. "Greetings and welcome Kranthos's Palace won’t you come in and join our master for dinner? He would love the company.
The booming voice of the Titan was almost enough to rattle the group. He stood over 20' tall and midway up the otherworldly thing was the prize: an enormous golden belt.
"Thank you, gracious host, for allowing us entry into your dwelling," said Dutch the monk, his voice wavering only slightly to his credit. Valon's eyes never left the golden belt.
"It is so difficult to find good company. Just a few tendays prior a minotaur came in inquiring about my belt." He reached behind his gargantuan throne and produced a bullhead. "Although you might think this belonged to a beast that added to my fine steaks." His laughter shook the very ground, the belt on his titantic waist rising with each bellow. "But enough talk, let’s have some sport!" He finished his sentence by extending his monstrous arms and both Valon and Dutch jumped to the side just before an arc of lightning tore through the air and into the good captain but it didn't stop there, the arc then split and traveled to Agretha and Judel, capt. slaughter's marshal, causing them to convulse uncontrollably. The Gargoyles joined the fray then launching large arrows into the party. Valon and Dutch jumped at the Titan and each landed heavy blows with fist and kukri alike. Phiery returned fire to the gargoyles firing arrows rapidly taking down two and still managed to put an arrow in the Titan's huge neck. Capt. Slaughter not to be outdone, even by a titan, blanketed the area with a lighting storm destroying all but one of the gargoyles. Agretha saw it, and as soon as the gargoyle realized he wasn't dead a line of cold hit it in the chest freezing it where it stood. The Titan loosed another chain lightning, and this one brought down Slaughter, Agretha and Judel. Dutch dove in and ripped the Titan's Achilles’ tendon out with his weapon-like hands and arms. It had a similar girth to one of Dutch's thighs. With this the Titan fell to one knee and brought his wounded neck within Valon's range. The rogue leaped into the air and used the pommel of his kukri to drive Phirey's lodged arrow deep into the spinal column separating vertebrae and severing the connection between head and body. The effect was deadly. The titan fell and it seemed like the whole plane shook.
Valon unclasped the golden belt and it fell to the ground with a solid thud. The slender elf could barely lift it. Dutch seemed to have more of a sense of urgency. "Valon, help me gather their bodies, we are leaving now!"
"What’s the rush?" asked Valon eyeing the chest behind the enormous throne.
As if to answer his question the sound of heavy hooves pounding the ground outside the temple. They were close. Glamorous, stronger than she looks, picked up Agretha with one arm and scooped up Slaughter with her other. Phiery managed to grab Judel and get closer to Dutch.
Valon had the Titan's belt strung over his shoulder and was trying to pick the lock on the large chest next to the throne. He heard the nightmare's footfalls very clearly now, with one more look to the chest he pulled away and leaped toward the monk. The survivors began transforming back into clouds, but just before they took flight Valon saw the skeletal hand of Darl Quethos push the entrance doors open.
They were flying for 10 minutes when the cloud spell began to fade. They slowly glided down then. They had put enough distance between themselves and Darl Quethos. Dutch prepared the bodies for the ritual of the resurrection. He brought Slaughter, Agretha, and Judel back one by one.
With the group whole again they decided to complete the final trial.
"The Doomshire" said Phiery ominously. "Let's kill it and end this."
"I saw a clearing while we were flying over the forest, it was a dark place and it left an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach" the druidic dwarf, Agretha stated. "I'm sure it was no natural place."
"Well that sounds like a doomshire if I’ve ever heard one" Dutch added.
"Well let’s go and be done with this," said Phiery not hiding his urge to leave the plane where his love had passed.
Agretha cast the cloud spell again and slowly everyone became less corporeal and took flight. Agretha led her friends to the doomshire and in the middle of the dark grove was a black tree that instilled fear in the heart of Valon. It long branches had six inch claws at their tips and Valon could imagine them digging into his flesh and ripping him apart. He squeezed his eyes shut tight and shook his head. The tree was forcing its will into his mind and it was winning. Luckily the tree had a distraction in the form of an arc of lightning tearing through the air and exploding a chunk of its mass into dust. Slaughter looked pleased with his work. Agretha, not to be out-done, called a pillar of flame and divine power down from the heavens and into the evil plant creature. Phiery fired arrows and Dutch approached carefully. The monk called on his spells and swung his fists standing twenty feet away from the dark thing. Valon noticed the force of each fist pushed through the air and impacted on the bark leaving fist sized indentations. Phiery‘s endless stream of arrows kept hitting and were actually starting to break off large branches themselves. The wave of fear faded from Valon's mind and he snapped out of his daze as one of Phiery's arrows struck the central core of the tree killing the demonic presence.
Suddenly, the sky turned black. Thunderous lighting ripped across the dark sky and with a bright flash the four Druids who seemed to rule this place appeared.
"Congratulations! You have completed our trials and have deemed yourselves worthy." Tylanthros roared with his voice that seemed to command worship from all who heard. But in this case his powerful voice was cut off.
You have proved nothing, slaughtering beasts. Worse, you allowed the Roc King to perish! The trial asked specifically for his living feather, yet he was nonetheless killed! You are no heroes and I declare that none of you shall taste the waters of the Fountain of Dreams. I contest your doubtful accomplishment, and demand trial by blood. Only if you pathetic mortals can defeat me shall I consider you worthy of the final secrets of the Order of the Storm!
Sayren-Lei objected. Her voice was more of a screech. Valon's keen eyes were ringing from her outburst. And soon after his elven eyes were tested as well when the agile maiden launched into action. She moved as fast as anything Valon had ever seen, she came up from a tumble and lashed up with her staff very quickly, too quickly for Valon to fully dodge and it caught him on the side of the head. Dutch was there in an instant with his devilish cohort. Glamorous flicked her wrist and wrapped her whip around Sayren-lei's staff and ripped it from her grip. Glamorous laughed playfully as she cast the staff far off away from the fight. Sayren-Lei smiled back and flicked her own wrist and produced another staff or the same staff as noted by Valon who glanced back in the direction of the staff that was cast away and couldn't spot it. Agretha blasted forth a flame strike but Sayren-lei seemed to resist most of it. Phirey fired three arrows in rapid succession, but his nimble target dodged the first two. The third arrow caught her in the shoulder but left only a small line of blood. Valon saw an opening. He dashed forward and went into a tumble to gain position on his opponent, a move he had done numerous times in battle, but this opponent proved more difficult. With her uncanny quickness Sayren-Lei cut Valon off and landed another heavy blow with her staff: this one to his hip. Slaughter fired a bolt of powerful lightning but Sayren-lei again dodged the brunt of it. Dutch took advantage of this because as Sayren-Lei was dodging the lightning bolt Dutch swung his fist and timed it perfectly connecting solidly with her jaw. The punch knocked Sayren-Lei from her feet and right next to Valon. The knife-fighter didn't look the gift horse in the mouth, he quickly plunged his kukris into her neck and back, when he withdrew the blades the Storm maiden fell lifeless to the ground.
Tylanthros then moved forward with and produced a font of water. “This is the fountain of dreams and you have conquered our trials and defeated Sayren-Lei. And so you have earned the right to return the lore of the Order of Storms to the world. The Age of Worms is upon us, and what the powers of old began so long ago now falls to you to complete. Drink deep and remember. Dream the dreams of the ages."
They each took turns dipping silver bowls into the fountain of dreams. As the water poured into Valon's mouth he instantly felt it intoxicating his senses. His head slumped down and he found he didn't have the strength to lift it. His sharp eyes felt cloudy but he focused on boots. They were enchanted to give him great speed, and he could see the many runes that covered them and every crease and rut that had formed from his use of them, he could see every minute detail. His eyes weren't failing him but yet he could barely see the ground he stood on. The lush grass just looked like green fog. He noticed it wasn't just his sight that was changing the sounds of the forest wild life had faded from his ears. The sound of battle was all he could hear. The ground had become more substantial now, it was bare earth. The strength returned to his neck, he lifted his head and saw he was no longer in the forest. A vast mountain range dominated the view. A man who resembled Tylanthros stood right where Tylanthros had been, but he looked more mundane, certainly not a wild watcher.
“The heroes of prophecy. Your timing is perfect. We can hold them no longer, but we have been successful in our task.” The man indicated the dozen or so druids who stand behind him. These druids clustered around a large package, a strange container with its sides carved in the shapes of leering demonic and draconic faces. “Dragotha’s phylactery is ours, yet at a great price. His minions even now come for us to reclaim it, and soon he himself shall learn of its theft. We must hide it forever from his reach, for I fear its destruction would only drive him to an unstoppable frenzy. But if we can take it from this land, he will sense its loss. He will abandon the army of Kyuss and they will be lost, without leadership. You must hold off the spawn that even now scramble at the edges of the cliffs around us. Our trusted ally will stall his aerial forces while you must hold off the rest of his spawn long enough for us to transport the phylactery.”
As the druid mentions an ally, a familiar figure steps forward, a young and vivacious woman dressed in ornate silver armor who can be none other than Lashonna, her eyes bright and burning with determination. She speaks to you, but there is no sense of recognition in her eyes. “I shall engage Dragotha and his children myself, but I cannot defend against his Swords. They come too, scrambling up to our location even now, along with – something else. Something most unnatural – an abomination. You must hold them off, for all is lost if you fail.”
With that final pronouncement, Lashonna spreads wide her arms and transformed into a magnificent silver dragon. With a single tremendous beat of her wings, she launched into the air and soared off toward the distant dracolich. As she winged away, Tylanthros spoke again. “We go now, to hide the phylactery within its cradle in Kongen-Thulnir. Save us from the Swords of Kyuss, or the Age of Worms shall doom us all.”
Then waves of the undead knights crested the hilltop. They grasped dull blades but there was another less obvious weapon they possessed. As the monsters came into view they unleashed some of the dark, necromantic force in the form of shadowy blasts of power. Valon and Dutch were able to evade the wave of these blasts but the others were less fortunate. The dark blasts exploded on Agretha, Phiery Judel and Slaughter. They kept coming, wave after wave of negative energy tearing into their flesh.
Slaughter knew he had to do something, he reached deep into his innate magical ability and produced a barrier of whirling blades, the undead caught within the barrier were shredded in seconds. Agretha followed suit by dropping a large swath of muddy earth on the battle field crushing the foot soldiers. There was a thin opening between blade barrier and the mudslide that the creatures squeezed through but as they got through Phiery met them with arrows but he couldn't drop them all, there we just too many of them. Valon looked past the hordes and saw something large approaching quickly. The abomination was a large snakelike thing with a demonic face, it was 20' long and too wide to fit through the opening. It crashed into the blade barrier knocking blades aside. It appeared to take some damage but it didn't seem to notice. Valon leaped at the monster trying to kill it before it could do any real damage to the party. Valon landed two hard slashes across the thing's ugly face, and again it seemed not to notice. The abomination struck fast, too fast for the nimble elf to dodge, and landed its toothy maw over Valon's rib cage crunching hard. Valon screamed, he could feel his shattered ribs stabbing into his lungs and intestine. The strength left his body; the jaw retracted and was on its way down for a second bite when Dutch flew in with a jumping kick that landed on the things face driving its mouth and teeth away from the wounded elf. The monk jumped again and spun in air connecting again but this time with his heel, crushing the abomination's neck.
Valon hit the ground. The impact brought him back to his senses. He snapped up and instantly wished he hadn't, his broken ribs throbbed. Another abomination broke through but Slaughter destroyed it with blast of lightning. Agretha moved to Valon, cast a healing spell, and touched Valon's stomach. Instantly his wounds closed but he could feel his bones were still broken.
A loud shriek froze them where they stood. Dragotha removed his skeletal claw from Lashona's neck. Scales broke free and gallons of blood flooded from the dragon. She fell down to earth and made an impact that reminded Valon of Kranthos's death. Valon then turned his gaze over the back of his shoulder and saw the druids were getting close. More knights came through the magic defenses and blasted forth with necromatic power. Valon barley managed to evade this last barrage. Phiery did not move in time. The dark swirls of power hit the phoelarch with such force his right arm blew off still holding an arrow. His fiery body exploded leaving only an egg. Slaughter gritted his teeth and answered back with a summoning of tentacles that sprang from the ground at the feet of the knights, crushing their bodies and ripping them apart.
Another abomination came in over the tentacles, heading straight for the wounded Valon. Valon knew he was doomed. He raised his kukris knowing he couldn't defend against the creature, he felt the teeth begin to dig into the top of his head when suddenly there was nothing. The druids had reached their goal and ended this "dream" or "nightmare" rather, as Valon had come to think of it.
They were all suddenly on a small island. Phiery's egg was lying on the sand, it began to grow and change shape. The hard shell appeared to transform into feathers and within seconds, Phiery was standing looking at his right hand and arm, apparently without a scratch on him.
A few silent minutes went by with the companions not knowing what to make of their current situation. "What now?" Valon asked, when he heard faint pop about 50 feet behind where he and his group were standing.
"Ahh, so we meet again. This time there will be no survivors!" Darl Quethos was standing there with his skeletal hand out stretched and pointing.
Phiery looked around to get his bearings, dizzy from traveling through some sort of void. He found himself on a small barren island surrounded by his companions. The salty air told him the island likely sat in the middle of the ocean. Surprisingly, aside from his companions, he stood face-to-face with Darl Quethos and his crew of reprobates, and the threat they posed prevented Phiery from closely considering his littoral surroundings. Darl had slain Phiery’s wife Rannyn, and, along with his crew, were the last group to hand the Marauders a defeat. Fortunately, Darl seemed to look as surprised to see the Marauders as the Marauders were to see him.
Still, Darl gained his bearings quickest, and cast a powerful implosion spell on Agretha, which the solid druid resisted. Malhazar, the exiled Efreeti lord, who had charged into the previous battle aboard a fearsome nightmare, rode a fresh horse. The Efreeti lamented, wishing, “Darl had begun casting Hellish Horde ten minutes ago.” Instantly, a handful of devils joined the ranks of Darl’s band.
Surprised at the powerful magics, Dutch, who had only heard about Darl Quethos, looked to the rest of the Marauders. The rest of the group didn’t seem to appreciate the powerful magic they had just witnessed. The Marauders considered simply fleeing from the cleric and his band of ne’er do’ wells, but letting Darl and his band escape would forever be a blot on the escutcheon of the Marauders. Plus, Darl had claimed Kranthos’ treasure – other than the titan’s resplendent belt - a guerdon that rightfully belonged to the Marauders. The Marauders counter-attacked and everyone embraced the donnybrook.
Like Dutch, Major Dennis Slaughter had also never met Darl Quethos. During the Marauders first engagement, the warmage had been serving on the eastern front. There he prepared for the war against the githyanki. However, Valon had spoken ceaselessly about the cleric every evening as he sharpened his blades. Because of this, Dennis recognized the Myrkul cleric and the danger the cleric presented immediately. Slaughter wasted no time and released an electric storm, which injured Darl’s entire band and killed many of the devils just summoned by the Hellish Horde spell.
Phiery, angry with Darl Quethos, the man he correctly blamed for murdering his wife, took aim. With tunnel vision he buried three arrows in the cleric.
Valon, who had a chip on his shoulder the size of the Spine of the World when it came to Darl, tumbled past Darl’s minions and attacked the retreating cleric. The invisible blade sliced open Darl’s throat, finishing off the evil cleric.
Kayla Spearblossom, the newest member of Darl’s band, cast a fireball on the Marauders, which dealt some minor damage. Krekie, the kenku assasin with a handful of confirmed Marauder kills, moved to slink to the edge of the battlefield and do his usual underhanded work. Agretha, low on spells from the hard day’s work before, countered with a spell. She surprised herself by succeeding in taking control of the kenku’s mind, and forced the avian into a mindless hunger where he sought to eat the nearest creature.
Dutch charged forward to protect the Marauders, and battled the remaining devils summoned by Darl’s magic.
Malhazar, ever the conversationalist and dreamer, wished that “Darl had spent the last minute casting preparatory spells on me.” Instantly the efreet bristled with magic. He moved toward the Marauders flank.
The Marauders then began cleaning up the mess. Valon moved towards Kayla and made sure she regretted signing on with Darl, as he drove one of his daggers with blinding speed into the arcanist’s lungs.
Malhazar charged forward and struck Agretha five times with his falchion, slicing her into ribbons. The druid would have died many times over, had Dutch not gotten off a delay death spell mid-strike. Still, it looked grim for the mangled druid.
The rest of the Marauders moved to counter the efreet lord, and found he posed quite a challenge. The efreet hit hard and hit often. During the battle, as the Marauders worked to take down Malhazar, Dutch worked to restore the druid to life, before his delay death spell expired, by casting multiple heal spells. Ultimately, the Marauders saved Agretha and forced the efreet to flee with a third wish spell. The group succeeded in killing the rest of Darl’s band, including Krekie.
The Marauders searched the island. Phiery located the corpses of the Marauders who died in the first battle with Darl Quethos. He recognized and recovered Rannyn’s slender skeleton. She had died a month-and-a-half ago, and by now had mostly decomposed.
Among the loot, Valon discovered Rannyn’s wedding ring on Darl’s person. He returned it to Phiery, who placed it back on his wife’s dead finger.
Valon cast detect magic and set about looting Darl and his crew. The Marauders found a tremendous amount of magical gear. The group decided to teleport to Silverymoon, the de facto home of most of the adventurers, to identify and divide the treasure. Everyone picked up what they could carry. When Agretha, already loaded with treasure, struggled to pick up another sack of coins, Dutch told the druid to, “just throw that s&+& on the ground.” Horrified to now see all of their treasure scattered about, Dutch turned to his woman and shouted “Glamorous, pick this s~&% up!”
Glamorous, using her teleport without error ability, ran a few trips back and forth between the island formerly-known-as-Tilagos and Silverymoon. The group also took the body of Darl, still attached to the evil artifact, to Silverymoon. After identifying all of the items, and determining a fair division, the Marauders’ pockets jingled with hundreds of thousands of gold pieces worth of new stuff. The party decided to conduct its business in the city, providing an economic stimulus package for Silverymoon.
While Valon organized the buying and selling, Phiery took Rannyn’s body to the temple of Selune to seek a resurrection for her. He provided the required offering, and the clerics began casting the spell. The clerics seemed eager to return Rannyn, a local hero, but something went wrong. The embarrassed cleric mumbled to Phiery that Selune requested twice the offering. Phiery, scion of Infernus, Prince of the Phoelarchs, reached deeper into his royal pockets, and obliged; the spell succeeded. It turned out Rannyn was pregnant. The bladesinger, still weak, looked at her husband happily. The couple took the news to Rannyn’s parents in Silverymoon and spent time with them.
Major Slaughter also returned the body of Rhelyx the Bloodener to the church of Silverymoon. At the same time, the warmage dropped off the body of Darl Quethos at the church so the clergy could deal with the Hand of Myrkul - still attached to Darl’s corpse. The clerics did not seem eager to take the artifact, but agreed to do their best to sequester it.
Slaughter took initiative and sought out a sage, looking for information on Kongen Thulnir. The warmage decided to pursue this quest to stop the Age of Worms in earnest, and to sustain his motivation he viewed it as part of the war effort. The war effort required allies to stand with the Silver Marches against the Githyanki…Waterdeep represented a key ally in this war….Malchor Harpell held great influence in Waterdeep….Malchor Harpell worried about the Age of Worms…Alustriel could win Harpell’s favor by helping him address his concerns about the Age of Worms…Alustriel sent the best warmage in the North (Slaughter, obviously) to help Harpell out and win his favor. Plus Slaughter knew the quicker he could solve this problem the quicker he could get back to the real war effort in the east.
Slaughter wasn’t stupid either; he could read the prophecies as well as anyone else. Although the prophecies seemed cryptic, he could not deny that recent events seemed to fulfill these omens. But he also knew the difference between a theoretical crisis like the Age of Worms and a definitive crisis – like a huge army of extraplanar invaders attacking your world for no apparent reason aside from mass genocide. If you had to persuade Slaughter to worry about something like global climate change, it would be a tough sell.
Slaughter used his government contacts to get immediate help at the Silverymoon library for his urgent mission. The Silverymoon sage, Gorion, knew the location of Kongen-Thulnir – explaining how the city sat in the central portion of Skull Gorge – known as Rift Canyon. Since Slaughter did not know where to find Skull Gorge, the sage brought out a map and showed the Major Skull Gorge, just north of the Sunset Mountains in the Western Heartlands of Faerun. The Marauders thanked the bookish-fellow and prepared to leave. Gorion, still reading, held his hand up, “now hold on a second.” The Marauders stopped and waited. “It says here, under history, that this city of stone giants formed from an alliance with a druidic order, the Order of the Storm, over a thousand years ago. I feel like I’ve read this section of this book before, but I don’t remember anything about an ‘Order of the Storm,’ I just remember the giants. I must be getting sloppy in my old age.”
Slaughter then teleported to Longsaddle to speak with Malchor Harpell. He had bad news to deliver and knew, as a soldier, that he could do it best. He had delivered news like this many times before, although it never got any easier. Slaughter reported to Malchor Harpell that two of Harpell’s younger kin – Maxwell and Rhelyx - had given their lives on this quest. Slaughter told the archmage that both had died honorably in battle against an evil cleric of Myrkul, Darl Quethos, and that the surviving Marauders had already avenged their death’s and killed Darl Quethos.
After giving the archmage a moment, Slaughter and Malchor returned to the mission. Malchor felt the most appropriate valediction for Rhelyx and Maxwell would be to succeed in this quest. First, since Myrkul had died during the time of troubles, Malchor found it strange that the group even faced a cleric of this god. Second, Malchor wanted to know how much progress the Marauders had made tracking down his old friend Belekarde. Slaughter said the Marauders had met with Lashonna, and Lashonna told them that Belekarde had charged off to Skull Gorge to attack Dragotha about 10 years ago. The elven sorceress had not heard from Belekarde since then, and suspected he died at the hands of the dracolich. Lashonna recommended that if the Marauders meant to pursue Belekarde earnestly, they might want to deal with Dragotha’s phylactery first. To find the phylactery she had recommended the Marauders head to the island of Tilagos.
Slaughter, suspicious of the elf sorceress, asked Malchor how much he knew about Lashonna. Malchor confessed that he knew very little beyond her station as a noble from Alhaster favored by Prince Zeech, and her substantial talents as a sorcerer. Slaughter described the trip, or vision, he had taken on Tilagos, where he suspected he saw the last stand of the druids against Dragotha. There he saw an elven woman who looked just like Lashonna transform into a Silver Dragon and courageously launch herself into the air to fend off Dragotha. At the conclusion of the Marauder’s battle he had seen Dragotha place a killing blow on the Silver Dragon. Because of this, Slaughter feared Lashonna might also be an undead now. Further corroborating his suspicions, the island the Marauders had traveled to forbid the entry of undead – which could be exactly why Lashonna needed to send someone else – namely the Marauders – to the island to do what she could not.
Malchor considered the evidence. Adding credence to Dennis’s suspicions, it seemed like even a long-lived race like the elves should look older after 1,500 years, and Dennis said Lashonna looked the same. Still, the archmage decided he could not reach a definitive conclusion and cautioned the Marauders to consider their own opinion of her carefully before performing a volte-face on Lashonna. Her apparent death at the hands’ of Dragotha looked suspicious, but Slaughter’s explanation - that Lashonna returned to life as undead - did not represent the only explanation – or even necessarily the most likely one. In addition, while she may have sent proxies to Tilagos because the island ‘blocked’ her as an alleged undead, it also seemed reasonable she simply helped out the Marauders. After all, the Marauders had sought her help and advice, not the other way around. On top of that, this was all based on a “mystical” vision from a trip through time Slaughter may have, or may not have, taken. Did Slaughter trust mystical visions now? Malchor advised Slaughter to remain wary and trust his instincts.
Ultimately, the Marauders decided not to pursue Lashonna further and instead seek out Kongen-Thulnir. Some of the Marauders wanted to upgrade existing equipment and Valon made the necessary arrangements. This gave everyone a much needed forced month-long break.
September 2-September 29
Valon, after a spartan month by himself on Tilagos, spent the month with Dutch and Glamorous alternating between lucullan feasts by day, and party hopping at night to celebrate the victory over Quethos. Valon saw the appeal of traveling with a nabob like Dutch, and Dutch turned the ninja into quite an epicure. By night Valon spent his evenings giving over to his amatory urges with Glamorous’s friends. However, by the month’s end Valon considered the wine and looked at his large belly, baggy eyes, and rubicund cheeks. What use was a fat ninja? He felt ready return to his normally strict lifestyle and physical condition, and to pursue more serious tasks.
Phiery spent the month supporting his pregnant and demanding wife. Agretha spent the month by herself, doing whatever the strange druid does.
Slaughter returned to the front line after a two-week break. He found some cause for optimism, and more cause for concern. The alliance between the Dales, Cormyr, and the Silver Marches grew stronger. Caladnei, who reported directly to Regent Alusair Obarskyr of Cormyr, and who currently served as commander of the famous War Wizards of Cormyr, more-or-less brought together the diverse multi-nation band under a common goal. Although the feisty and opinionated Caladnei could have easily clashed with Slaughter, Slaughter could not help but respect Caladnei’s tireless devotion to the cause. It probably didn’t hurt that Caladnei held Slaughter in the highest esteem, closely heeding his council and respecting his superior arcane skills. In addition, Sembia, a land to the south of the Dales that had not formally joined the alliance, prepared its own defenses and seemed to take the githyanki threat very seriously. Furthermore, in no small part due to the work of Major Slaughter, Gareth Dragonsbane remained a stalwart ally, and the Bloodstone Lands looked ready to defend themselves as well. Major Slaughter, Phiery, and Agretha had prevented the return of the Witch King Zhengyi, which could have forced Gareth to turn the attention of his military internally. Instead, Gareth’s forces prepared for an anticipated Githyanki onslaught. Even the cities of the Moonsea, traditional enemies of the Dalelands, seemed ready to set aside their differences and join a common defense. It looked like when the Githyanki and Thayan armies crossed the Sea of Fallen Stars into northwestern Faerun they would face a people, if not unified, at least ready to defend themselves and not actively hurt one another.
In contrast, bad news came in from other regions. The Githyanki had appeared in Amn, and allied with that nation against both Tethyr and Calimshan. The alliance had quickly disintegrated, but it seemed the githyanki now held the upper hand on all three human nations. Furthermore, none of those three nations banded together in common defenses, and with Amn in shambles, and lying between Tethyr and Calimshan, it seemed doubtful they could ever recover.
Finally a third group of githyanki had invaded Faerun. It seemed this group had invaded around the same time as the other two, however, due to the great distance from Silverymoon, word only now reached Slaughter’s ears. Rumor held that the githyanki had attacked the dwarves of Thunder Rift far to the southeast. The dwarves had made a heroic stand, and seemed ready to outlast the invaders. However, eventually the githyanki somehow gained the ability to gate directly into the dwarven complex. After that, the dwarves’ defenses collapsed quickly. Slaughter wondered what would happen if the details of this battle became common knowledge in the Silver Marches. The dwarves and orcs already resisted the idea of placing troops out of the Silver Marches for just this type of reason – where the enemy would teleport behind a well formed line of defense.
Worse yet, rumors of a fearsome new type of githyanki, a Duthka’gith, supposedly first sighted in Thunder Rift, spread among the troops. The Duthka’gith, if rumors proved correct, shared traits of the githyanki and dragons.
Slaughter had requested to coordinate the defenses of Harrowdale, and Caladnei had agreed. Slaughter had requested it because he felt the githyanki would view the Dales, in general, as one of the easier targets as they first try to cross the Sea of Fallen Stars. Harrowdale sat on the shore of a very narrow portion of this sea. Slaughter thought the githyanki would view Harrowdale as the easiest spot to strike first; Slaughter intended to transform the small town so it could serve as the bulwark of the entire Dale defense.
Consequently, he had been involved in a power struggle with the local mayor of Harrowdale, Stug Piddle. This past summer when the Harrowdale people started uncovering githyanki spies in their midst (which corroborated Slaughter’s suspicions about the githyanki attack plans), the people became fearful and naturally gravitated to Slaughter, a powerful and inspiring figure. After his trip to the Bloodstone lands and Tilagos had caused an absence, Slaughter had to spend some time reasserting his authority. He felt he took two steps forward and one step back, but, despite continued resistance from Stug Piddle, he eventually reasserted control of the forces. Major Dennis Slaughter and Lieutenant Judel Maccabeus spent the month preparing the shoreline for the githyanki incursion.
After about one month, the artisans of Silverymoon completed upgrading all of the Marauders’ magical items. Due to the taxes on magic item sales in Silverymoon, and the tremendous amount of money the Marauders spent on equipment, the group had once again assisted the war effort – although this time indirectly. After the month ended, Slaughter picked up his friends using a few teleport spells, and all of the Marauders went to Longsaddle to continue their quest.
September 30-October 1
The Marauders returned to Longsaddle, and one of the Harpells teleported the group to a temple of Deneir, known as The Spirit Soaring. Cadderly Bonaduce, high priest of Deneir, operated the temple. This temple sat just a week’s walk from Rift Canyon. The group wasted no time and headed to the canyon. Along the way, despite traveling through unsettled lands, the group encountered no threats capable of challenging them.
The Marauder’s arrived at Rift Canyon at midday. An arid wasteland, broken only by the occasional rock formation or copse of scrub oaks, stretched to the horizon in all directions save one. In this direction, the land dropped away into the immense gulf of the Rift Canyon. It stretched as far as the Marauders could see to the east and west, a boggling gash in the face of Toril. The wind blowing over the strange rock formations perched on the canyon's lips made a hollow moaning sound.
One hundred feet below the top of the cliff, an immense ruined city of stone lay nestled in a wide, open cavern. Hundreds of multi-leveled buildings and towers rose inside this cavern, creating a vertical cityscape of spires, battlements, and stone bridges. Spires of rock protruding precariously from the cliff's lower face rose up before the cityscape. Some of these spires were barren, capped only by the bush or rock formation, but two supported large castles of their own, and connected to the main city via slender bridges of stone.
Smoke rose from several parts of the ruined city, and many of the buildings were damaged or destroyed. The source of this damage was readily apparent, for the city of Kongen-Thulnir was under siege by dragons.
Inventorying the dragons proved difficult, as they darted in and out of view - flying behind buildings, or deep into the cavern out of sight - and only a keen-eyed individual knowledgeable in dragons stood a chance of telling two similar dragons apart. Valon’s keen eyes, fast wits, and rudimentary knowledge of dragons left him in the best position to quantify the threat. He counted about one dozen young adult black dragons, one half-score adult green dragons, and one half-dozen mature adult blue dragons. He also saw dragon bodies here and there in the ruins and on the streets of the city, and certainly many more dragon bodies lay hidden hundreds of feet below in the misty depths of Rift Canyon. Valon also spotted three particularly powerful dragons, and pointed them out to Dennis. Dragon lore was the warmage’s bailiwick, and Slaughter identified the first of these three as Brazzemal the Burning, who once plagued the southern reaches of Chessenta and Unther from his lair in the Smoking Mountains. He had allied with the church of Tiamat against Gilgeam and the nation of Unther, but was slain during the Time of Troubles. To Dennis’s knowledge he had not been heard from for over a dozen years. The warmage identified the second as Vermirox, who supposedly laired in an immense cavern beneath the ruined city of Holloway. Valon also directed Slaughter’s attention to a gargantuan black dragon, but Slaughter did not recognize this dragon.
In addition to the dragons, plainly visible to all among the ruins were the bodies of dead giants, ogres, bugbears and troglodytes, which lay mangled or burned on the city streets. The Marauders also spotted a smattering of giant soldiers – some of whom manned various siege engines, and others who ran for cover.
Kongen-Thulnir presented one obvious entrance, a thirty-foot wide, winding stair consisting of giant-sized steps chiseled into the rock. Agretha scouted down the pass, from within the stone. She needed to periodically emerge from the cliff, and this drew the attention of some of the dragons. Agretha, not wanting to get into combat so far from her allies, returned to the Marauders. The party decided to simply walk into the city.
Valon took the point, in advance of his companions. He heard faint whispers that at first he mistook as the wind blowing across the cavern. However, at the last moment he identified it as spellcasting, and the hairs on the back of his neck rose. He looked up and saw nothing, but nonetheless, he called out an alert to the party. He knew the spellcaster possessed a deep, articulate, and faintly sibilant voice, he knew the group approached a city besieged by dragons, and he knew the voice came from the air above the party – implying the creature could fly. He struggled to identify what the caster could be.
Then, moments before the green dragon exhaled her horrible breath weapon, Valon spotted her. She came into the range of his magical vision; magical vision that was conferred upon him by Darl’s powerful robe. He saw the dragon descending almost straight down on the middle of the party behind Valon. Her acidic breath burned all of the Marauders except for Valon, who, since he took point, stood in front of the acidic geyser. The dragon got lucky with her attack placement; likely Valon would have dodged the caustic breath regardless. She then wheeled and turned from her dive towards the rear of the party. She released another acidic breath attack with blinding speed, and bit Agretha as she flew past the whole party.
Although taken largely by surprise, the Marauders did what they do best - sprang into action. Phiery shot at her but found it almost impossible to penetrate the dragon’s thick hide. Knowing Phiery to be a crack shot, Agretha correctly surmised that the dragon might have enacted some magical defenses. She dispelled a portion of those defenses. Judel hustled back and forth in the party, shouting order, and generally haranguing those who needed haranguing – all for their own good. Slaughter recognized the dragon as Necrozyte, a green dragon who served as a guardian of Tiamat's hoards. After a sly adventuring party had stolen a book of infinite spells from the hoard, Tiamat exiled Necrozyte, and she now maintained a low profile. Although Necrozyte’s story was interesting, Slaughter focused on the task at hand. Slaughter did not have a wide array of options, and simply began to shell the dragon with powerful arcane magics. Some wizards dismissed him as a one-trick pony, but he found it to be a frequently useful trick.
The lumbering dragon somehow wheeled about in midair, and made a second run at the Marauders. She again bit, this time Valon, and then flew beyond the party’s melee range. Once the lumbering dragon got going in a relatively straight line she flew at speeds the Marauders simply could not match. The Major continued shelling the dragon. The dragon had taken a slight downward trajectory as she flew past, and Valon seized the opportunity his height on the cliffside imparted. He whistled for Glamorous. Glamorous, with surprising strength, picked up the rogue and leaped into the air, beating her powerful wings. She deposited Valon on the dragon’s back, and Valon balanced easily on the flying creature. He sliced at Necrozyte’s back with blades that moved so fast they bordered on imperceptible. However, like Phiery, Valon also could not penetrate the dragon’s armor, leaving the dragon with scratch marks in her scales so shallow they were almost as imperceptible as Valon’s speedy blades. Realizing the futility, Valon leaped off at the first opportunity.
By now Necrozyte had lost a lot of altitude and flew near the base of the cliff. Dutch, with moves honed on the finest dance floors in all of Faerun, made his own heroic leap, and like a figure skater landed almost within punching range of the dragon. The dragon responded. She snapped out at Dutch, wounding him slightly, but she continued past and largely ignored the monk while eyeing the warmage. Necrozyte turned and began to gain altitude, hoping to reach the warmage who still stood atop the cliff.
Dutch cast a spell, down draft, to force Necrozyte back to the earth. Meanwhile Slaughter continued to shell the dragon with powerful arcane magics. Most enemies would have buckled long ago in the face of Slaughter’s fearsome electrical attacks. Although injured for sure, Necrozyte still seemed okay. She leaped into the air once again to gain altitude. When Slaughter pelted her with additional powerful magics she seemed to think better of wheeling about and making another strafing run. Instead she accelerated to full speed, diving out-of-sight into Rift Canyon’s misty depths. Slaughter briefly considered requesting a lift from Glamorous and giving chase, but decided he didn’t want to fly into a cloud of dragons without his allies.
After sending the dragon running, the Marauders continued down the large steps and arrived at a gate that controlled access to the city. The gate stood forty-feet tall and was made of bronzewood poles bound with heavy chains. Adjacent to the gate sat a sixty-foot tower with a battlement roof and many loopholes to watch over the area. In this tower, a large group of giants stood wearily. The giants hurled javelins at the party. The javelins, clearly warning shots, fell well short of the mark but succeeded in making the giant’s intentions clear. Despite the javelins, Judel tried to befriend the giants, only intimating the threat the giant’s faced if they didn’t give in. After that tactic failed, Slaughter tried to intimidate them more directly. When both semi-friendly and totally unfriendly diplomacy failed, Slaughter resorted to his primary response, and shelled the giants. Phiery added his support, by peppering the giants with arrows. All of the giants died.
The Marauders scaled to the top of the tower and found a trap door leading downwards. The group could hear additional giants below. Glamorous lifted the door, and both Valon and Dutch dropped down to the main floor. The Marauders pummeled most of the remaining giants, and the sole survivor, Gok, surrendered.
Slaughter spoke with the giant in the giant’s own tongue, and in return for his life Gok offered information. He identified three giant tribes who lived within Kongen-Thulnir. The first, the Riftlords (Khargakhan), were led by the King of the Rift, Achaime Silvereye, an old cloud giant. Gok personally followed King Achaime Silvereye. The second, the Riftcrawlers (Khargak-dwergun), were led by Charlgar the hill giant. The third, Hunter’s of Tiamat’s Children (Tiamikal Nul-Shada), were led by the fire giant Kagro Thundersmiter. Gok also reported that the dragons had just arrived a couple days ago. Just before the dragon’s arrival, the three tribes stopped getting along well and had even resorted to open war. Only the dragon attack had forced the war into a stalemate by pinning down the respective giant tribes.
At the Marauders request, Gok began to lead the adventurers south, to King Achaime’s palace. The Marauders promised to protect Gok during the trip.
Gok led the Marauders through the gate and into the main city. Details not obvious from the top of the cliff became obvious within the city. The Marauders found a ruined city that looked as if it had already seen its share of combat, and not all of the damage looked dragon-wrought. An expert in war, Slaughter thought this hinted at the skirmishes between the Khargakkhan and Khargak-dwergun Gok had alluded to. The remaining buildings, stacked one atop the other, rose almost to the cavern's 100-foot ceiling at the rear wall. The Marauders clearly saw hill giants and bugbears looking at them, cowering in their homes. The Marauders also saw catapults and ballista pointing outwards over the canyon. Above the Marauders saw thick metal chains, guylines, painted brown. The adventurers had not noticed them from atop the cliff – from that perspective the chains blended into the earth - but from below the brown chains stood out starkly against the blue sky. Clearly this city had been built to withstand a siege by flying creatures. A siege by dragons.
Gok guided the band south through the city. He pointed out the ladder, carved into the stone, which led to the undercity of Kongen-Thulnir. As the Marauders moved south, deeper into the city, they passed a well. Water gurgled up into a cistern cut in the rock, where an aqueduct funneled it under a bridge and over the cliff's edge. The Marauders crossed a 5-foot deep “river” that flowed with a slow current from the cistern. As they crossed the water, four brash young adult black dragons attacked. Gok immediately fled behind some ruins, while the Marauders made short work of the wyrms. Slaughter scowled at Gok’s lack of courage.
As the Marauders continued south, a vaguely familiar voice hailed Valon, Phiery and Agretha. The Marauders turned and were surprised to see Prince Zeech’s herald, The Ominous Fabler. The Fabler seemed equally surprised to find the Marauders. The Fabler asked the Marauders why they had come to Kongen-Thulnir, and the Marauders gave evasive answers. Unperturbed, the slightly creepy Fabler offered his true name, Gazzilfek. He reported that his true lord was not Zeech but the stone giant thane Kolvant Granitebones. Kolvant had had a terrible vision of Kyuss' return. To investigate this vision Granitebones had sent Gazzilfek into the world. The Fabler’s investigations led him to Alhaster and Lashonna, who had dismissed his help saying she already had all the assistance she required. The Fabler said he had decided that destroying Dragotha's phylactery would help stop the Age of Worms. For this reason, he arrived in the city attempting to do just that.
When the party responded that they’re also interested in the phylactery, Gazzilfek asked the Marauder’s if they would like to join forces. The Marauders reluctantly agreed to accept the officious herald. Gazzilfek then mumbled that he is a spriggan, and wants to be upfront about this to avoid messy surprises later. The Marauders, unwilling to admit they didn’t know what a spriggan was, didn’t seem to mind. Slaughter then interrogated the spriggan about what skills he can bring to combat. Gazzilfek identified himself as a bard. Slaughter rolled his eyes, but didn’t offer any opposition to Gazzilfek joining the group.
As the Marauders continued south, now with Gok and Gazzilfek in tow, they came upon a heavily fortified tower, which rose to a height of 60 feet. Two ballistae outfitted the tower, along with one light catapult. The bunker appeared to have been targeted a few times by dragons, but the strong tower remained mostly undamaged. Most importantly, seven well-equipped hill giants defended the tower.
Upon seeing Gok, the giants gave an angry swear, angrily shouting “Khargakhan!” and pointing Gok’s way. Gok promptly scooted out of sight and took cover, while the giants hurled rocks. One of the giants’ boulders hit Phiery, and exploded – clearly identifying it as no normal boulder – since normal boulders do not explode! This left Phiery covered in foul smelling greenish goo. However the Phoelarch’s natural immunity to poison left him unconcerned and he responded with three reports from his bow.
Although these giants fought with greater bravery then Gok’s band, they could not long resist the Marauders. Those few that didn’t die in Slaughters initial electrical storm, died from headshots dealt by Phiery’s bow, heartshots from Valon’s knives, or ‘neck-snappins’ from Dutch’s powerful fists. The Marauders took one giant, stunned by Dutch, prisoner.
After the giant recovered, Slaughter questioned the giant, who identified himself as Kog - a member of the Riftcrawlers. Slaughter balanced his conversation delicately. He didn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with Gok who belonged to a rival tribe. He learned from Kog that the Riftcrawlers and Riftlords battled because the Riftlord King had betrayed the giant’s ancient tradition and stolen one of the sacred keys. Kog’s leader, Charlgar, would not stand for this and had gone to war with the Riftlords. In this effort, Charlgar had nearly succeeded in securing the support of the third tribe, Tiamkul Nul Shada but then the dragons had attacked and everyone fell onto the defensive. Upon further questioning, Kog explained that although all the giants in Kongen-Thulnir hated dragons, (with the possible recent exception of the no-good traitors – the Riftlords), Tiamkul Nul Shada detested dragons with a monomania that exceeded the other two tribes, and probably amounted to lunacy. Kog also explained that the sacred keys opened the sacred room (logically), and the sacred room was in the citadel, which he pointed towards. The citadel sat atop its own spire in the southwest portion of Kongen-Thulnir, and a bridge connected the citadel to the main city. With that Slaughter dismissed Kog with instructions to notify Charlgar that the Marauders were here to help.
Kog departed. With the Marauders depleted of their most powerful magic, the adventurers, along with Gok and Gazzilfek, decided to rest in the round house.
Major Dennis Slaughter: level 12 warmage, level 5 stormcaster, LG
Judell Macabeus: level 15 marshall LN
valon ne'erdo'ell - moon elf - CG - Rogue 4/Ninja 3/Swashbuckler3/ Invisable Blade 5/ Mage1 / Bad ass 1 million.
Dutch: Human LN Monk 2 Cleric 4 Sacred Fist 10
Glamorous: Eyrenes (EL 14, HD 8)
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 2
The Marauders had seized the roundhouse from the Riftcrawlers around noon. The Marauders, along with Gok and Gazzilfek, decided to follow the typical adventure schedule and rest the remainder of the day. Adventurers have the toughest mornings and the easiest afternoons. Cognizant of the dragon siege that surrounded them, the group set watches. Dutch took the first watch while the rest of the team chatted quietly. He needed to stand on a box to peer over even the lowest spaces between the roundhouse’s crenels. However, once he boosted himself he found the roundhouse, true to its name, provided 360 degrees of view. He saw the dragons continue the battle throughout the city. One wave of dragons attacked the spire Gok had called the Citadel of the Dragon, and a second wave swarmed a defensive structure attached by a bridge to the Undercity. While he watched Dutch received a sending.
“My name is Xavior, and Shag Solomon hired me. Alhaster faces an attack by githyanki. The Deluxery is threatened. Shag urgently requests your immediate assistance.”
The sending panicked Dutch. What would happen to the girls who worked at the Deluxery? What would happen to his stuff in the Deluxery? He called Glamorous to his side, and told the Marauders he would need to depart to Alhaster. With that the monkish cleric cast word of recall to return to his room, while Glamorous cast teleport without error. The rest of the Marauders merely shrugged at Dutch’s ill-timed departure. Valon assumed watch.
While the Marauders whiled away the sunny afternoon, Gazzilfek slipped out of the roundhouse briefly, before returning. This raised Judel’s suspicions further, and he spoke with Gazzilfek. Judel, a shrewd judge of character, found some holes in Gazzilfek’s story. He also felt Gazzilfek behaved strangely, as if someone had cast a magical compulsion on the spriggan. Judel discreetly relayed this information to Slaughter, confirming the jaded warmage’s own suspicions. Slaughter took the situation into his own hands.
”Listen, spriggan,” the warmage began. “Judel thinks you’re under some sort of magical compulsion, and Judel’s an excellent judge of character. If you want to continue traveling with us, you need to let me cast dispel magic on you.”
Gazzilfek agreed, but Judel noticed his beady eyes darting around the room as he searched for an escape. The spriggan reached quickly towards his helmet. Before he could touch it, some of the Marauders reacted. However, none succeeded in stopping the spriggan from activating his helmet, and after activating the helmet he disappeared.
No further excitement happened the rest of the night.
After resting the night, the Marauders continued towards King Achaime’s palace. Just south of the roundhouse the Marauders traversed a relatively narrow stretch of ledge. Gok, in his capacity as tour guide, pointed to the houses along this stretch.
“This where most Kongen-Thulnir craftsman dwell,” Gok explained, while walking backwards just in front of the Marauders so he could address the group. The giant seemed proud to show off the sites of his city. “When war start between my tribe and Riftcrawlers people here get stuck in middle. Many of slave creatures gather stuff and move.”
While Gok described the area, Valon assessed the area. He saw a single, still functional ballista on a nearby ledge, and its hill giant crew lying dead nearby, victims of green dragon breath. The ballista still had seven bolts remaining and three harpoon loads. One harpoon sat cradled in the ballista’s tiller. Valon also looked up to see guylines strung between the cliff 50 feet above the ledge. Worse, just behind Gok, Valon saw a gargantuan black dragon. The dragon flapped its wings silently, as it just crested the lip of the cliff with a sinister grin. Worse still, Valon realized he only saw the dragon because of Darl’s robe, and that likely none of the other Marauders, least of all Gok, realized the danger.
Valon and the dragon sprung into action first. Valon called out an alert and slipped into a nearby alleyway. The dragon largely ignored the lowly hill giant, and attacked Phiery. The dragon bit Phiery in the shoulder and Phiery felt the dragon’s unnatural teeth try to wretch some of his life force from him. The healthy phoelarch resisted.
Phiery quickly activated the patch he had received from a pirate trader in Calimshan. The patch brought the invisible dragon into view. The phoelarch backed away and tried to retaliate, firing (phiring?) his bow, but his arrows could not pierce the dragon’s thick scales. Valon circled behind the dragon and similarly could not penetrate the dragon’s scales.
Slaughter activated his own mask and realized that, despite the black scales, the dragon could not be a black dragon because the horns did not follow the distinct black dragon shape. He didn’t know what type of dragon it precisely was, but he knew it wasn’t black. Regardless, the warmage launched an attack spell against the dragon and then tried to back up quietly. The spell normally dealt at least some damage, but the dragon somehow managed to evade all of the injury. The unflappable warmage thought, “Hmmm….this will require a tactical adjustment.” Agretha slipped underground., while Judel barked orders. Leonidus fled north; Gok fled south.
Phiery’s bow rang continuously, but most of the arrows skimmed harmlessly off the dragon’s thick hide. Valon tried a new tactic and slunk over to the loaded ballista. He rotated the huge crossbow and saw the dragon through the site. He fired, but, much like Phiery’s arrows, the huge harpoon did not bite into the dragon’s hide.
The dragon pounced on Judel, and with a flurry of claw and wing and tail, killed the marshal. Angry after seeing his faithful soldier die, Slaughter launched another magical attack. This second attack got the dragon’s attention. Slaughter, thanks to his mask, saw the dragon’s angry red eyes peer right at him. In a deep gravely voice the dragon growled, “I’ve heard about you,” and then leaped on the warmage to bite him. Just before the bite landed, the Major activated an item. The dragon’s bite took a chunk out of Slaughter’s shoulder, but some dragon blood also appeared on the dragon’s own shoulder. Still, it seemed that the dragon, as the larger and tougher creature, could afford that trade. Before the dragon could unleash his full, Judel-killing claw and wing furry, Slaughter chose the better part of valor. He cast dimension door, and went straight up, hundreds of feet above Kongen-Thulnir.
In retaliation, the dragon moved to attack Valon, growling, “If you want to run mage, then I’m happy to kill your friends until you decide to come back.”
Dennis activated his boots, and descended slightly. His mask only worked over a limited range, and the warmage had opened a vast distance between himself and the dragon. Slaughter could no longer see the dragon. He took a guess about where the dragon would move, and raised a firestorm. The spell did not require precision, as Dennis blanketed half of the battlefield in fire. The phoelarch found the fires invigorating, and Valon impossibly evaded the inferno. Valon saw the dragon suffer a minor scorching. Although the pair continued attacking, neither Valon nor Phiery could reliably land a blow on the dragon.
The dragon’s evasion, combined with its invisibility, forced Slaughter to return to the ground where he could see the dragon. The warmage again cast dimension door, this time to come back down. The dragon, confident his threat against the warmage’s companions had succeeded, launched himself into the air, and landed almost on top of Dennis. This time the dragon took a bite from Dennis’s other shoulder. The warmage had seen better days, but Agretha moved through the earth under Slaughter and healed him. The warmage retaliated against the dragon by launching a powerful orb of arcane energy. The orb slammed into the dragon’s hip, and exploded. No evading that.
Simultaneously, Phiery managed to land at least a few lucky shots in the dragon’s back. Valon coated an arrow in poison and shot it at the dragon. Although the arrow didn’t stick into the dragon’s scales, it left a streak of poison across the dragon’s back. However, the dragon did not seem bothered by the poison. Without Judel around to encourage him, Valon began to lose heart.
Agretha still could not see the dragon. She tried to track all of the arrows fired to make an educated guess as she prepared a faerie fire spell. However, all of Phiery and Valon’s missed shots made guessing a challenge and Agretha guessed wrong. She failed to place the faerie fire on the dragon.
Slaughter responded with another powerful orb spell and the dragon flew over the cliff. In no time the speedy dragon was out of the range of even Valon’s ability to see invisible enemies. The Marauders seemed uncertain, and hoped the battled had ended. When they heard spellcasting from mid-air over the canyon they knew they were not so lucky. The Marauders defensively gathered in one of the nearby craftsmen houses. The Marauders possessed great magical durability, and this durability combined with the tactical retreat meant the dragon’s spells had little affect on the strong adventurers.
Likewise, most of the Marauders could not see the dragon. Once in a while, Valon, standing on the house’s windowsill, detected some unnatural motion in the swirling clouds of the canyon and fired at the dragon. His perceptive skills were truly unearthly, but he couldn’t fire his bow with enough power to actually pierce the dragon’s natural armor. Unable to see the dragon, Slaughter could not fire his long-range precision attacks at the dragon. Although he could cover huge areas with his more explosive spells, he could not cover much compared to the vastness of the space above the canyon. On top of that, the dragon very likely would evade these attacks. Eventually, the dragon, which likely had grown bored, departed.
Slaughter cursed as he looked at his friend Judel’s body. He knew the dragons had gotten one of his, and, just like Necrozyte, he had failed to get one of the dragons’ officers. Leonidus and Gok returned after the battle.
Gok, hoisted Judel’s body, and led the Marauders further south. The adventurers passed under a forty-foot tower that stood alongside a twenty-foot high set of heavy wooden gates built into a stone gatehouse. Gok identified the tower as “King’s Gate Tower. This tower normally cut noble giants south and common folk north.” The tower stood ruined and empty. Valon noticed telltale signs of dragon attack here, and thought the battle fought between the dragons and giants must have been fierce.
Slaughter asked Gok, “are you giant nobility?”
Gok blushed timidly. “No, no. I just soldier of nobles,” responded the embarrassed giant.
Continuing deeper into the southern section, the Marauders passed a wide area split into terraces and 10-foot deep fighting positions. Guylines were thick in the air above these buildings. Slaughter realized how the ingenious design would help the giants gain cover, higher ground, flanking positions, and every other possible advantage against attackers. Despite these advantages, the bodies of giants littered the ground, alongside a few dragon corpses. Gok, seeing the bodies of other giants, some of whom he probably recognized, remained quiet.
Finally, the Marauders arrived at an imposing edifice. Although the façade was heavily damaged, it appeared the interior remained sound. Gok turned to the party, “This Riftlord Palace. King Achaime Silvereye live here. See Gok bring you just like promise.”
The Marauders strode right into the palace, but a group of dour looking hill giants, bristling with weapons, stopped Gok and the Marauders in the entranceway. Slaughter sized up the defenders and thought his group could handle the threat, but it wasn’t the fight they wanted. Gok explained that he needed to lead these adventurers to the King. Slaughter, who understood giant, heard how the guards didn’t want to let anyone in to see the sick king, let alone strangers. However, Gok pleaded bravely with the giants who clearly out ranked him, explaining how the Marauders may represent the only hope the giants have of winning the siege. In the end, Gok succeeded in winning the Marauders an audience, largely by succeeding in giving the giant guards cause for hope.
The guards ushered everyone deep into the palace. Along the way the Marauders passed many hill giants, fire giants and bugbears. The group went through an impressive stone throne room built hundreds of feet into the cliff face. The King did not sit on his throne, and instead the group continued onwards to the King’s bedchambers. The guards knocked quietly on the door, and this time spoke to the guards in the King’s bedchamber. Once again the guards did not want anyone to enter, and once again Gok pleaded his case. Gok succeeded again, and the group received their audience with King Achaime Silvereye.
The Marauders found the cloud giant king lying in bed, with his retinue huddled nearby. The King did his best to rise to greet the party, but eventually fell back to the bed and began to cough in obvious distress. Slaughter offered to help. The king replied, “you’re welcome to try, but I don’t think you can cure what ails me, too many seasons.”
Gok explained that the Marauders were powerful killers who had slain or driven off many dragons. The giant deftly omitted any mention of the two dozen or so giants that had also fallen to the Marauders might. When the king looked expectantly to the Marauders Slaughter explained the purpose of the visit. The Marauders sought the keys to the secret chamber, and had heard they were missing.
The king agreed, saying that one of the keys apparently had gone missing. He also admitted that many in the Riftcrawlers believed he had stolen it. This had caused the war between the Riftcrawlers and the Riftlords. Furthermore, the Riftcrawlers had seemed to sway the third tribe of giants, the Hunter’s of Tiamat’s Children, to their side. Then the dragons had attacked and it made the intra-giant war secondary. The King, gesturing towards his bedridden frame, dismissed the accusation that he had stolen the key as nonsense – but added that he did not know who or what was actually behind the theft. The king seemed convincing, but only Judel could reliably spot liars, and he was dead.
The Marauders thanked the king for the audience and decided to head to the Undercity to try to find Charlgar, leader of the Riftcrawlers. Slaughter insisted that Gok continue to accompany the adventurers and carry Judel’s dead body.
Along the way to Undercity, as the group again crossed the craftsmens’ ledge, three green dragons raced towards the party from the north. Two of the aggressive dragons haplessly flew into the guylines, which tore deep gashes into the dragons’ wings. Thanks to Phiery’s bow, Valon’s knives and Slaughter’s magic, the Marauders defeated the dragons. The group killed the two dragons that fell victim to the guylines, and drove off the third.
Gok led the group to handholds cut into the cliff face, and then a long stone column, which served as a giant-sized ladder that descended 120 feet to the lower portion of Kongen-Thulnir. Valon peered over the long drop and saw a blue dragon dead at the base of the ladder. The keen-eyed elf saw that looters had claimed the dragon’s teeth, horns, and claws as trophies. Gok referred to the ladder as the Steps of the Ancients.
The adventurers traveled down the ladder. Agretha traveled within the natural stone column. Slaughter levitated down next to the ladder. Valon used his spider climbing slippers to stick to the column and walked down next to the ladder. Phiery wrapped his arms around Gok’s thick neck, and the strong giant easily began to descend the ladder with Judel’s body and Phiery.
While the vulnerable group descended, the dragons attacked. Three more green dragons flew towards the party, this time from the south. Valon leaped off the wall, fell the remaining distance to the streets of Undercity, and landed, cat-like, on his feet and barely injured. One of the greens broke off from the other two and dove down towards Valon, biting the elf in the thigh. The other two continued on their course towards the heart of the Marauders, including Slaughter, still in the middle of the ladder. The two dragons bit the warmage. Worse, as the dragons closed Valon looked up at his companions and realized, thanks to Darl’s robe, that two additional blue dragons had also closed on the party. Slaughter currently levitated within striking distance of four dragons, and likely only saw two. Valon called out a warning to his friend, while slicing into the vitals of the green dragon that had bit him.
Slaughter trusted Valon’s warning, and cast dimension door once again, this time to travel all the way to the southern edge of Undercity. Agretha raced down through the stone as quick as possible. When she reached the base, her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to pray to Grumbar.
The always careful Gok had been sure to keep three points on the ladder at all times while slowly descending. Because of his slow speed, he still clung near the top of the ladder when Valon sighted the dragons. Not eager to climb down through the dragons he instead climbed back up, and deposited Phiery on the upper ledge of Kongen-Thulnir.
Valon spied one of the invisible dragons fly up to take on Gok and Phiery, and Valon shouted a warning to the phoelarch. Phiery didn’t need the warning, however, as the dragon shot a bolt of lightning burning Phiery and Gok. Gok ran. However, Phiery realized that Valon still found himself in a nasty predicament, as the green dragon below prepared to rear up and thoroughly tear Valon a new one. Phiery ignored the threat of the invisible blue dragon he knew stood next to him and instead sighted the dragon down below locked in combat with Valon below. He imagined a bull’s eye on the top of the dragon’s neck, just behind the dragon’s skull, and fired four shots. Phiery saw the arrows strike near the imaginary bull’s eye and finish off the dragon just as the blue dragon standing behind Phiery unleashed his full furry and similarly finished off the phoelarch resulting in a Phiery explosion that wounded the dragon.
Meanwhile, the two green dragons and one blue dragon that had Slaughter surrounded moments ago reacted. One of the green dragons dove down towards Valon at the base of the ladder. The dragon extended its neck to the limit and bit the ninja-rogue-swashbuckler-invisible blade. The dragon’s superior reach forced Valon to reconsider his primary goal - closing the gap; instead the rogue backed around the column and hid.
The remaining blue dragon flew towards Slaughter and bit a chunk out of the warmage, while continuing past. The green dragon also eagerly pursued the Major and hovered next to him, biting as well.
Agretha succeeded in establishing a connection with one of Grumbar’s direct servants, a powerful monolith made of earth. Her prayer’s answered; the dream-dwarf opened her eyes and saw the trouble Slaughter faced. She pointed towards the warmage and a great, moving heap of earth and rock the size of a small tower rose from the stone streets of the city on crude, stumplike legs. The face was a blunt, featureless mass of earth. Agretha concentrated and urged the monolith to attack a dragon. The monolith reached out with clublike arms studded with jagged stone and smashed into the green dragon battling Slaughter - killing it.
Slaughter unloaded an attack of his own on the remaining blue dragon near him. Then, far from his companions, the warmage activated a magic item and again cast dimension door. This time he landed near the northern-half of Undercity far from the dragons.
One of the remaining blue dragons and the remaining green dragon decided they had enough and fled. Both dragons flew out over the cliff’s edge and plunged into the thick mist of the canyon.
The only remaining dragon, the blue dragon that had killed Phiery above, then landed on the streets of Undercity in the middle of the Marauders, biting the druid. Slaughter attacked and Valon tumbled forward, knives drawn. The dragon saw the Marauders. The dragon glanced nervously at the charging monolith, which shook the entire city. The dragon saw his dead companions. The dragon decided to flee.
After the battle, Gok climbed down the steps with Phiery and Judels’ bodies. The surviving Marauders decided to teleport back to Silverymoon, since they had seen enough death for one day. When Gok realized he would not be included in Slaughter’s teleport he pleaded with the warmage to take him with him. Foreword thinking Slaughter said no, preferring to leave Gok here. Slaughter’s spell could carry the giant to Silverymoon, but on the return trip he would need to teleport Phiery and Judel (and not just their bodies), both of whom would end up taking Gok’s teleport spots. Regardless, Gok begged the Major to bring him with him. Gok did not want to stay behind, alone, among an enemy giant tribe. If he walked back to his tribe, he feared he would die to dragon breath. “Gok want take chance, and stay in human city!” he pleaded. Gok’s logic struck Slaughter as sound, and surprisingly he agreed to bring the giant to Silverymoon. The Marauders realized he could stay in Rannyn’s parents’ house. Since Phiery, dead, could not dissent, everyone agreed with the plan.
As planned, the Marauders teleported to Silverymoon and paid to get Judel and Phiery resurrected. Although they marched through the city with a hill giant, most people in Silverymoon knew the heroes, particularly Slaughter, and simply gave the giant a wide berth. After all, an evil giant isn’t anything like marching though a city with a powerful eyrine. The group stayed overnight in Rannyn’s parents’ house, which gave Phiery an opportunity to spend a night with his pregnant wife.
The next day the adventurers left Gok with Rannyn, confident that even while pregnant she could handle the less-than-courageous giant. Slaughter teleported everyone else back to Undercity.
Filth covered the frowzy bowels of the city and a horrible reek assaulted the heroes. The buildings formed a hive of overlapping walls, zigzagging alleys, and claustrophobic tenements. Peering from the dwellings, the group saw orc, bugbear, and troglodyte slaves, along with some giants. The ceiling of the cavern loomed only 60-feet above, and the roofs of many of the buildings along the back wall scraped against it. This part of the city showed few signs of dragon attack.
Slaughter stood in the center of the deserted streets and called out that he sought Charlgar, and promised to spare any who helped him.
A giant Rudgar, emerged from one building. He said he knew of Slaugher and his group from Kog, but didn’t know where to find Charlgar. The Riftcrawler presumed Charlgar had died in the dragon attack. At this point a brave orc stepped timidly forward. The orc had seen Charlgar fight the dragons with two other giants. During the battle Charlgar had fled into the carrion pit, which the orc pointed towards, leaving his two giant allies to die. Slaughter thanked the orc and the group headed for the carrion pit.
The Marauders headed to the far recesses of the Undercity. Tucked far in the back, the group found a winding stair that climbed amid a tumble of ramshackle buildings to a fifteen-foot tall iron door, covered in a patina of crumbling reddish rust. The stairs had three-foot risers, which hinted at the stairs frequent gigantic users, but the group found a welcome set of smaller steps chiseled alongside the main stair. As the Marauders climbed the steep, narrow steps, Valon noticed a dark stain of unknown origin on the stench. Everyone noticed how the general stench of the Undercity seemed to intensify in this area.
Agretha melded with the stone and went just under the door before reemerging on the other side. She found a medium sized room with two archways. The first led to a hallway that disappeared around a bend. From this hallway came the acrid stench of an open cesspool. A heavy stone door sealed the second arch to Agretha’s right. Agretha used her ability to peer through stone and saw a room packed tightly with troglodytes. Agretha also noticed small holes in the ceiling, which outlined the room on the three sides with doors. A rusty iron bar held the red door closed from the inside, and Agretha lifted the heavy bar so her allies could open the door.
Valon noticed the holes as well, and Slaughter dismissed the holes as mere murder holes – and as the name implies, clearly no cause for concern. Agretha moved towards the door to the troglodyte room when the so-called-murder holes function became clear. Three adamantine portcullises, previously concealed in the holes, slammed down locking the room closed. Soon after, hidden showerheads emerged from the ceiling releasing a foul smelling poison. Agretha, immune to poison, still did not love the scent. To escape the bars, she simply melded into the stone and reemerged outside on the Undercity street. A few seconds later, the door to the troglodyte room opened where they eagerly waited to skewer the trap’s victims with their long spears. They found none, and looked dumbly at the Marauders who stood comfortably outside.
Slaughter barked for surrender. Although the mage stood cautiously behind his companions, his tone broke no argument and the troglodytes agreed to surrender. The troglodytes confirmed for the Marauders that they would find Charlgar inside, and in exchange the Marauders let the troglodytes live.
The group moved deeper into the carrion pit and found a room full of great stone boxes and wooden casks spaced along the walls of this chamber, along with several large, lumpy burlap bundles that seemed to be leaking some viscous fluid. Several long poles wrapped in heavy canvas leaned against the south wall. If anything, the smell here was worse than elsewhere in these chambers. Valon investigated the room and found it served as a storehouse for the carrion crawler head “boulders” the giants had occasionally hurled the Marauders way. The Marauders left the room alone and moved on.
At the end of a short hallway the group reached another door. Agretha entered the wall and peered into the room. She found what might have once been a fairly well organized living chamber that had been crudely redecorated; all of the furniture had been swept aside and piled in one corner of the room. A huge mound of furs that appeared to have been used as bedding lay heaped in the opposite corner, and the remains of several vile meals lay strewn about the place.
Inside she also saw a well-equipped hill giant just around a bend. The giant wore a bed sheet over his mouth to mask the scent, and held a carrion crawler “boulder” in his right hand. He stood ready to toss the “boulder” at the door. Agretha went back to the party and informed them of her findings. Without opening the door, Slaughter shouted, “put the boulder down, surrender, and we’ll let you live.” The giant looked around, surprised, but held the “boulder” regardless, rejecting Slaughter’s generous offer. The group prepared themselves for battle.
Phiery opened the door, rolled inside and buried an arrow in the giant’s thick thigh, which sounded like an arrow hitting a thick tree trunk. The giant responded by hurling his “boulder” at the archer, smashing the phoelarch in the hands. The explosion of the crawler’s head stung, but the phoelarch ignored the poison. Agretha emerged from the wall and cast a freeze spell on the giant, but the giant resisted it. Valon slunk into the room and secretly moved behind the giant. Slaughter and Judel lingered in the back, far down the hallway. Phiery fired again, this time sinking multiple arrows into the giant, and forcing the giant to stagger. The giant launched a second boulder, but this time, Bush-like, Phiery dodged the missile. Valon then leaped onto the giants back and sliced through the giant’s neck arteries, dropping it to the ground. Agretha immediately ran forward and stabilized the dying giant.
The vulnerable giant confessed to the Marauders in exchange for his life. He confirmed his identity as Charlgar, and sheepishly explained how he got one of the sacred keys from Vercinabex Tor, a frost giant from Tiamkul-Nul Shada. He concocted the plan in hopes of framing Achaime, because after death Achaime planned to pass on his kingship to the hill giant Bragg over Charlgar. Charlgar hoped he could take advantage of a civil war and his position in the Riftcrawlers to assume his rightful place as leader of Kongen-Thulnir. However, just as his brilliant plan seemed about to work and Tiamkul-Nul Shada seemed ready to oppose the Riftlords, the dragons attacked. In desperation, Charlgar cached the key in the bottom of the carrion pit, by feeding it to a colossal carrion crawler.
Charlgar also called off his ally, a dwarf hidden on the floor above this room. The dwarf agreed to not attack, saying he had already started clearing out his lab and wanted no trouble with the dangerous group of adventurers. Charlgar appeared to wonder if the dwarf would have ever helped him. The Marauders passed no judgment on Charlgar and had no interest in giant politics. The group allowed Charlgar to live, but claimed his magic items.
Just behind Charlgar, the Marauders found a startling vista and a gagging stench. Extending outward into a large cavern was a great cage composed of an iron grillwork that arched to a height of thirty feet. The grillwork made for uneven footing and through the gaps in the floor only darkness was visible – the cage was suspended against the side of a massive cavern, secured to the western wall by iron support struts below and heavy anchoring chains above. A bundle of small tree trunks strapped together, wedged into the southeast corner of the cage, served as a massive torch. The exact dimensions of the huge cavern were not discernable in the torchlight, but it descended some ways down into the darkness below. A five-foot wide opening in the wall above led to an upper balcony overlooking the inside of the cage. The most startling aspect of this strange tableau was the seething hordes of writhing green worms. These fat, tentacled monsters swarmed all over the cavern walls as well as the cage exterior, filling the cavern with a nauseating slithering.
Charlgar explained how the dwarf used the cage to safely capture, kill, and dissect the heads of carrion crawlers. He then supplied the military with the prepared heads. Everyone found the design quite ingenious. Regardless, a thoroughly disgusted Major Dennis Slaughter blasted the worms off the cage. The whole place gave him the willies. The group entered the cage and tied a rope around the floor bars. Slaughter placed a fireball below the cage, killing or scaring away the worms directly beneath. Next, they opened the cage and Slaughter levitated down while everyone else climbed down the rope. Slaughter put up two walls of fire, which created a crawler free hallway that led to a passage that exited the worm room.
The passage led a long way down, and continually wound to the right. The Marauders must have swept through several large circles before finding a massive cavern of sloping floors and several colossal stalagmites at the bottom. Swaths of phosphorescent fungus clinging to the walls and ceiling lit the massive cavern. Mats of rancid decaying fungus bubbled and seethed in a thick carpet on the cavern floor, filling the air with a hazy green taint of spores and stink. Here and there, huge mounds of fungus rose like hills, and scattered throughout were the bones and skulls of long dead giants.
The Marauders stood on a ledge overlooking this room, and Slaughter attempted to rouse the worm by hitting a pair of the choicest mounds of fungus with fireballs. The attempt failed. Valon and Phiery reluctantly descended into the room to cross the fungi hills and find the mother worm. Valon found the mold-filled air made him feel a bit light-headed, but he resisted any harmful effects.
Near the back of the chamber, Valon saw the worm an instant before the colossal beast reared up to attack. Phiery and Valon beat a hasty retreat, and Dennis Slaughter placed two prismatic walls to cover the pair’s escape. Agretha reestablished her sacred connection to Grumbar’s direct servants and called another earth monolith to battle the worm. Agretha concentrated and instructed the monolith to attack the maggot. Slaughter fired a handful of arcane orbs into the back of the worm, and Agretha mentally urged the monolith on. The other two Marauders largely watched as the two demi-gods, the mother worm and the earth monolith, traded blows. Although nearly indestructible, the mother worm destroyed the monolith in less than twenty seconds. Still, the monolith dealt its fair share of damage to the worm before its destruction. The worm then moved to the wall and began to climb! It looked as if it planned to climb up the wall and over the prismatic walls by clinging to the ceiling. Its caterpillar legs left small six-inch cone shaped indentations in the hard stone, and the cave wall itself groaned under the tremendous weight of the mother worm. As it climbed up, Slaughter continued to hurl arcane orbs, and the colossal worm presented as an easy target. Just as the creature crested the prismatic wall, but long before it could reach the heroes atop the ledge, Slaughter placed the killing blow, and the worm fell back to the ground. The cave shook.
Slaughter brought the party next to the worm, so Valon could search the worm. It took a few minutes to sift through the green goo, but the Marauders persevered despite the hallucinogenic spores in the air. The group claimed the key, which matched Achaime’s description. Next, the group teleported to Silverymoon.
Agretha Deepseer – Dream Dwarf – Druid 12/Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 10 HD (Agretha’s Animal Companion)
Major Dennis Slaughter – Human – Warmage 13/Stormcaster 5 - LN
Lieutenant Judel Macabaeus – Marshal 15/Favored Soul 1 – LN (Slaughter’s Cohort)
Phiery of Mechbia – Phoelarch – Phoelarch (12)/Ranger 4/Paladin 2 – CG
Valon – Elf – Rogue 4/Swashbuckler 4/Ninja 4/Mage 1/ Invisible Blade 5 - CG
Dutch – Human – Cleric 6/Monk 2/Sacred Fist 10 – LN
Glamorous – Eyrines –ECL 16 – LE (Dutch’s Cohort)
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 3
Shortly after recovering the key from the Mother Worm, and while mulling over their options, Major Slaughter received a sending from Xavior. Xavior served as Dutch’s hired wizard friend, to fill the monk’s arcane needs. “Howdy Slaughter. I cleaned up the mess in Alhaster again, and I am ready to rejoin your party train. Where can we meet up?”
The highhanded Major responded with just four words – why use twenty-five just because you had twenty five? “The Deluxery. Ten minutes.” Slaughter then teleported his platoon back to Alhaster.
The group reunited in The Deluxery, and immediately headed back to the palace in Kongen-Thulnir.
Slaughter teleported The Marauders back to Kongen-Thulnir, just outside King Achaime’s palace. The adventurers sought, and quickly received, an audience with the ailing king. After the group explained how they had found the missing key and the treason of Vercinabex Tor, the King urged them to return it to Tiamkul-Nul Shada, who would know best how to handle it. The King also urged the group that if they really felt they stood on the giants side, to show restraint in any encounters at the Citadel of the Weeping Dragon. Slaughter promised to try to try. King Achaime provided quarters to The Marauders in his troops’ barracks.
The Citadel of the Weeping Dragon stood atop a huge pinnacle which rose through the clouds from the cavern floor below. Leading to the citadel, The Marauders found an arch of blood-red stone. The unsupported natural stone bridge spanned over 200 feet and arched sixty feet up at its highest point in the middle. The 10 foot wide and 10 foot thick bridge looked as if it could fall into the windy canyon at any moment. On the Kongen-Thulnir side, Slaughter found the bridge inscribed in giant with warnings and praise for valor in combat. He also spotted the character for worm quite a few times, although in giant this character can also mean dragon.
Rather than risk crossing the bridge, the group decided to use dimension door to reach the opposite side. However, with the bridge arching upwards, the group could not see the opposite side, only the top of the bridge. So the group moved a few hundred feet north of the bridge and Slaughter cast a dimension door spell to move diagonally to the base of the bridge on the citadel side.
When they arrived, a giant manning a ballistae fired at them. Valon heard two additional giants hustling towards them from around a bend in the path ahead as well. Worst of all, a gargantuan blue dragon, who must have expertly hid underneath the bridge, flew behind the adventurers and shot a cone of electricity, engulfing many of the Marauders and some of the giants. The giants and the Marauders recognized the common threat, and together fought the dragon. Due to some astute planning, The Marauders benefited from some magical protection against electricity prepared that morning, and avoided a portion of the dragon’s breath.
Slaughter recognized the dragon as Vermirox, a gargantuan blue dragon who laired in an immense cavern beneath the ruined city of Holloway. Cognizant of previous dragon battles, Slaughter opened with a dispel magic, expecting the dragon had prepared some magical defenses before attacking. The war mage guessed correctly, and succeeded in defeating a portion of the dragon’s defenses.
Valon slunk over the cliff’s edge, and clung to the side with his magical slippers. He inched closer to the dragon, preparing to choose his shot carefully. The dragon had flown over Glamorous, and ignored her when he had attacked with his breath weapon. The eyrine moved away from the dragon and closer to her man, Dutch.
Slaughter, having advocated for the electricity resistance and having just guessed correctly that the dragon had prepared magical defenses, felt confident as he prepared his polar ray spell. His expertise and long hours spent studying dragons was paying huge dividends. Knowing he could command the element of electricity with slightly more proficiency than the element of cold, he converted the polar ray into an electric ray on the fly. The fearsome electric ray struck home, and did no damage to the electricity-breathing dragon. Vermirox seemed too surprised to even laugh or mock the novice warmage.
The dragon responded by flying towards the warmage, and taking a bite of the Major. Valon succeeded in firing off his wand of acid arrow, and he shot it right into Vermirox’s eye. The ballistae-using giant reloaded, while the other two giants dropped their swords and fired their bows at Vermirox. Agretha began summoning. Dutch hustled to heal victims of the dragon’s breath.
Slaughter fired a polar ray at Vermirox, and this time elected to leave the cold intact. The unnaturally wily dragon raised one of his resilient magical defenses and reflected the ray back at Slaughter! What would have merely wounded the dragon, left the warmage nearly dead. The dragon took a swipe at Phiery, and continued his single-minded pursuit of the warmage, and flew right over him and the rest of the Marauders. Drops of the dragon’s eager saliva splattered on the group.
Phiery responded by firing his bow. He succeeded in wounding Vermirox with a few lucky shots, but it seemed that some of the dragon’s magical defenses continued to block most of Phiery’s shots. Valon unleashed his wand again but missed. The giants’ bows hummed, and the giants from Tiamkul-Nul Shada proved they could also wound the gargantuan blue.
Then Agretha completed her spell. The ancient citadel, fashioned over a thousand years ago during an age when Vermirox must have been a mere hatchling, rumbled. Rising up from the very stone that formed the ancient millennia and a half year old citadel, came a monolith of purest earth. The monolith prepared to stand toe-to-toe with Vermirox, and looked as if it could hold his own against the ancient dragon.
Slaughter opportunistically fled behind the ancient monolith, placing the monolith between himself and the dragon, before unleashing another spell. Dutch followed the wounded warmage behind the monolith as well, and closed Dennis’ wounds.
The dragon eyed the monolith with an appraising eye, and seemed unhappy when he considered the full fury those fists could unleash on him. He prepared an escape. First, he unleashed an impossibly fast breath attack on the group. Then he grabbed Judel, and took off, flying faster than the monolith, or any of the Marauders, could possibly pursue. With the Lieutenant in his clutches, Vermirox rounded the bend around the citadel out of sight.
Although none of the Marauders could match the dragon’s speed with foot or wing, Slaughter bravely pursued alone. He was angry about the fate of his man Judel, and angry about how yet another dragon from this accursed rift would bring him close to death and then escape. The hidebound warmage dimension doored into the sky, high above and behind the citadel. He arrived just in time to see Vermirox rip Judel’s body in half and drop it. The two halves of Judel plummeted, end over end, into the clouds below. Slaughter cursed again and unleashed another magical attack. Vermirox, missing scales and dripping blood from his own show down with the Marauders, cast dimension door himself, and disappeared. The warmage zealously pursued the dragon into the cloud blanks below, even though the dragon’s blindsight would place Slaughter at a distinct disadvantage. Slaughter could not find the dragon, and eventually he gave up and settled for simply retrieving the normally fastidious marshal’s belongings and the marshal’s broken corpse from the canyon floor a thousand feet below.
Meanwhile, Phiery approached the 20 foot high stone doors to the Citadel of the Weeping dragon. He hoped to find a window on the backside of the Citadel so he could lend his bow to Slaughter’s cause. The ancient craftsmen adorned the doors with bas-relief carvings of dragons falling from the sky, slain by great arrows and rock, and broken dragon bodies lay in heaps on the ground below. Five faint dragon heads carved into this door faced the scene and looked on in anguish. Surprisingly, Phiery found the giant-sized doors defending the citadel opened easily. Behind the doors the phoelarch found a short 15-foot wide hallway leading to another pair of doors. The phoelarch entered the citadel, when he stepped on a plate in the floor. A gargantuan gelatinous cube fell from the ceiling, and Phiery dove for cover at the last second. Phiery and the rest of the Marauders succeeded in killing the ooze.
Shortly after the battle, as Dutch helped mend Phiery’s wounds from the acidic ooze, the hallway doors opened. An impressive fire giant, bearing a giant-sized greataxe stormed through. He shouted, “Murderers! Thieves! Scavengers! You come too soon for we still live to defend this citadel!”
Dutch tried to reason with the giant, but the giant would have none of it. The giant noticed his men still lived and this seemed to be the only thing stopping him from turning his axe on Dutch and the Marauders. Phiery stepped forward and pleaded that his group meant no harm toward the giants and that they had come to fight the dragons. He further asserted that his band had just assisted the giant’s own troops in driving off an ancient blue dragon. The fire giants nodded in agreement as Phiery recounted the battle.
Talk of dragon fighting, and a certain camaraderie the fire giant must have felt for the fiery phoelarch Phiery, succeeded in diffusing the giant’s rage. “Well, my men support your story, and you seem trust worthy phoelarch. Anyone who fights dragons is a friend of Kagro Thundersmiter,” boomed the giant.
Valon looked more closely at Kagro and found he wore a necklace adorned with dragon canine fangs, and a belt adorned with dragon claws. His gauntlets bristled with dragon incisors, and he sported earrings made of a smaller dragons claws. While one might conclude that Kagro is less likely to hurt dragons than a guy whose supply of dragon teeth is low, Valon didn’t get the impression Kagro would ever be satisfied with dragon killing until there were no more dragons.
In conversation, Valon presented the stolen sacred key to Kagro Thundersmiter. Upon seeing the key and hearing of Vercinabex Tor’s alleged treason, Kagro again became enraged. He turned around and hustled deeper into the citadel. He bid The Marauders to follow, as well as his own troops, while he shouted, “Vercinabex!” in anger.
The mob found the frost giant in a large chamber that served as combination bedroom and study. A haphazard nest of furs and cushions stood against one wall. The frost giant, apparently Vercinabex Tor, sat at his desk reading. When Thundersmiter knocked on the door, his powerful fist inadvertently slammed the door open, and the whole Citadel groaned. Kagro charged the frost giant with great temerity. Vercinabex looked up from his book and reacted quickly and cast a spell, disappearing.
Kagro looked around angrily, his blood boiling, without even a tiny dragon hatchling nearby to kill and sate his rage. “What happened?” he demanded.
Dutch, impressed by the frost giant’s clever tactics, explained how Vercinabex had cast a maze spell on himself. However, Dutch assured Kagro that Vercinabex would return in 10 minutes or less to the exact same spot.
This seemed to calm Kagro, and he, his soldiers, and The Marauders, assumed attack positions and waited. While waiting, the Marauders asked Kagro about the keys and the sacred door. Kagro confessed he had no idea what lay behind the sacred door. It didn’t matter though because he has sworn to defend it with his life. He also explained the three lairs of defenses that guard the door. First, Kagro and the giants of Tiamkul-Nul Shada have sworn to protect the door. Second, only the two sacred keys can open the door. While Vercinabex Tor may have treasonously surrendered his key, Kagro held the other, and he had no intention of ever surrendering his key. At that time Kagro opened his robe and revealed the second key on a three foot diameter key ring. The key ring ran straight through the middle of Kagro’s liver! Finally, even if someone somehow succeeded in prying the two keys from the cold dead hands of him and his men, it would mean very little. In addition to the keys, the doors will not open without the sacred ritual – and no one alive remembers the sacred ritual. Kagro doesn’t even know if anyone ever knew this ritual.
As the conversation wound down, nearly 10 minutes had passed. Dutch informed everyone Vercinabex would return soon, and both Dutch and Phiery prepared some short-term magical defenses. In anticipation, Kagro became angry at Vercinabex all over again, at first boasting how he hated the frost giant as much as he hated an ancient white dragon. The fire giant backed down though, saying he hated Vercinabex almost as much as an ancient white dragon.
True to Dutch’s prediction, the frost giant returned to the exact spot Dutch predicted. Before Vercinabex could even raise his hands in defense, before even Kagro could react, Valon, Phiery and Dutch dispatched Vercinabex. In a split second the barely recognizable giant crumbled to the floor, as his ice blue blood spilled.
Kagro seemed pleased. Since the Marauders kept company with the magnanimous phoelarch Phiery, had helped his men drive off Vermirox, had helped him kill the traitor Vercinabex, and had even returned the sacred key, Kagro offered to at least let The Marauders see the sacred doors in the basement of the citadel. At that time Slaughter returned with Judel’s body.
After winding through a few hallways, the group descended some stairs into an oddly-shaped room with a ceiling vaulting forty feet overhead. Great stone double doors exited to the northeast. A strange golden shimmering seemed to dance at times over the doors, and set into each one was a single small keyhole. Bas-relief carvings of a human figure trapped in a trapezohedral shape adorned the door. Dutch recognized the depiction as Kyuss’ imprisonment within the black monolith deep in Wormcrawl Fissure.
Valon inspected the doors closer. The yegg knew these doors easily presented his greatest challenge. He found the door on the left depicted a scene with hundreds of stone giants locked in mortal combat with horrific worm-covered undead of all shapes and sizes. The stone giants appeared to be taking the worst of it. Overshadowing all was a massive monolith upon which stood a huge figure of grotesque proportions with writing worms all over its body – Kyuss himself. A circle of a dozen small figures stood before the monolith enacting some ritual. The right-hand door focused on the ritual of the small human figures, members of the Order of the Storm. The Order had gathered in a circle on a ledge overlooking a cliff, protecting something in their midst. Crawling and clambering up over this ledge were dozens of skeletal undead, and rearing up in the background was an immense bony worm-like creature. Between these undead and the druids stood a brave group of heroes, single-handedly holding off the advancing undead. The heroes in the carving had an uncanny resemblance to The Marauders. Even Kagro raised an eyebrow at the striking similarity.
Shortly after Valon began his inspection, the ghostly form of a humanoid figure rose up out of the door and floated into the air above. The ghost had a strange look on his face – a combination of fear and excitement. His head lolled loosely on his broken neck, and even in his ghostly form his two eyes appeared obvious black-and-blue. His fingers trailed long tendrils of ectoplasm, almost like claws. The Marauders recognize the ghost as Maxmilian Spielkube-Harpell, of the Spielkube-Harpells. The ghost spoke.
“Well met, friends. Long have our journeys been since our last meeting. You have come far in your quest to stop the abomination that rises even as we speak, and I have been down long roads in other worlds learning who and what I am. And now, here at this juncture, our paths cross again.”
Max explains some of the history of the ancient Order of the Storm, and how djinni from Calimshan, through a mixture of training and mating had made the order powerful. This help from the djinnis had even made the order powerful enough to oppose Kyuss 15 centuries ago. Although the Order had since died out, Max believes the blood of these djinni still runs thinly in his veins and yours.
Max looked directly at Phiery. “I can smell the mark of the djinni within you, heroes. You may be the last of a long line, the only surviving heirs to the djinni legacy. As such I have come to advise you one more time.”
Max continued. “Kyuss’ strength lies in his prison. When he became a god, he became trapped in the focus of his divine apotheosis – a massive monolith of stone affixed to the peak of the Spire of Long Shadows. Dragotha stole this monolith long ago and brought it to his lair in nearby Rift Canyon. Over the centuries, the presence of Kyuss’ monolith transformed this portion of the canyon into what is known today as Wormcrawl Fissure. Once, after Dragotha was murdered, and returned to unlife by the Wormgod, Kyuss managed to escape his prison. With Dragotha as general of his undead armies, the Wormgod rose from the Rift and attempted to begin the Age of Worms, but the Order of the Storm was ready.
You know of this battle. And you know that in the room beyond lies Dragotha’s phylactery. Yet to reach it, you must look into your memories, your souls. Find the ritual of opening, and use the vault keys. Yet know also that once these doors open, the phylactery vault will be open to all. Dragotha and his minions will smell his phylactery and they shall come to claim it. You must be quick. If you destroy the phylactery, Dragotha can be truly slain, but as his lifeforce escapes, he may be able to reclaim some of it from the beyond – destroying the phylactery may make him more dangerous than ever before. Yet I see little choice.
I must go now. You shall not see me again, I think, until you join me on the other side. Good luck, my friends, and farewell…”
After speaking, Max smiled, and he faded away. During his speech two Raams, massive giants with iron gray skin that looks as dry and weathered as a desert peak, rose from the floor on either side of the door. Kagro looked contemplative and uncertain, but interrupts his thoughts long enough to assure the party the Raams will only attack those who invade the vault.
After all he has seen Kagro agrees to let the group attempt to enter the vault unopposed. He even agreed to help. The Marauders once again mulled their options, and decided to wait one more day to open the ancient vault.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf - Druid 13 / Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
> Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 10 HD (Agretha's Animal Companion)
Major Dennis Slaughter – Human – Warmage 13/Stormcaster 5 - LN
> Lieutenant Judel Macabaeus – Marshal 15/Favored Soul 1 – LN (Slaughter's Cohort)
Phiery of Mechbia – Phoelarch – Phoelarch (12)/Ranger 4/Paladin 2 – CG
Valon - Elf- rogue 4/ swashbuckler 3/ ninja 4 / Mage 1/ Invisible blade 5/ Occult slayer 1 - CG
Dutch – Human – Cleric 6/Monk 2/Sacred Fist 10 – LN
> Glamorous – Eyrines –ECL 16 – LE (Dutch's Cohort)
The Marauders decided to teleport to Silverymoon to raise Judel, and buy numerous scrolls to prepare for the opening of the vault. Then the group teleported back to the Citadel of the Weeping Dragon and slept in the Citadel with Kagro’s giants.
The Marauders awoke early in the morning and approached the door. Phiery, Slaughter, Dutch, Agretha, Valon, Judel and Glamorous could all instinctively hear the chant in their heads when standing near the vault door, and all instinctively knew they could join the chant at any time. Slaughter and Agretha worked to cast numerous preparatory magical spells on The Marauders before the fight.
Three of the fire giants of Tiamkul-Nul Shada gianted ballistaes that overlooked the canyon. Dutch and Glamorous joined two other giants of Tiamkul-Nul Shada to defend the main entrance to the Citadel. Brom Cleftshank, second in command, would fight alongside Dutch, along with another giant soldier and his pet 12-headed pyrohydra. Dutch offered to guard the main door because with his speed, and Glamorous’ flight, the duo expected they would serve best out in the open. Before Dutch headed to his post he joined the chant. Phiery, Slaughter, Agretha, Valon, and Judel chanted at the door.
Kagro could not hear the chant in his mind, but stood with the group as patiently as possible. The giant put up a stoic face, but no doubt felt some regret that the door he had sworn to protect would now open. He probably wondered what he would do after this, if he even survived the coming confrontation. Kagro no doubt also felt some curiosity to see what the vault contained, and a certain sense that today he would fulfill his destiny. Leonidus waited eagerly at Agretha’s side, sensing something monumental would soon unfold. The two Raams stood silent as always, an ominous presence in the room.
Over an hour-and-a-half passed between when the chanting began and when the chanting completed. By that time most of the preparatory spells the Marauders had activated expired. At the conclusion of the chant, Valon heard a lock tumble open inside the impressive vault doors, and could also sense that the magic that helped keep the vault closed ceased. The Marauders opened the door to the hermetic vault.
Inside they found a vaulted chamber with a ceiling lost in shadow above. Flanking stairs rose ten feet to a platform across the room. Atop it stood the statue of a rampant dragon, wings spread wide, its chest open, revealing its rib cage, wherein floated a ruby-red box. The box’s faces had been carved with leering dragons. Dark striations of rock traveled vertically through the walls, creating the illusion of pulsing blood veins in the light given off by the glowing red box.
A closer examination of the room’s walls revealed rock of two slightly different colors. Most of the walls appeared dark and ancient, but a few appeared light and newer, as if paint had just chipped off of the walls in some places. The freshly exposed surfaces presented arcane lettering. Valon deduced that the esoteric letters represented magical wards that would have assaulted any intruder with numerous magics to dimensionally anchor the intruder, dispel any fire protection, and bombard the intruder with positive energy. Had the intruder survived that assault, which seems doubtful, the intruder would then have found himself trapped in a Citadel populated by half-crazed fire giants fixated and hell-bent on destroying the intruder. When the Marauders entered, all of the wards seemed recently dispelled.
A susurrus echoed through the chamber like dark secrets long hidden. As the doors swung wide, the flickering light pulsed once and then faded.
After a momentary pause, Judel barked move out and the Marauders sprung into action, double-time. Many of the Marauders moved into position to destroy the phylactery (assumed to be the ruby red box). Agretha ineffectively fired a sunbeam at the vile box. Phiery succeeded in burying a volley of holy arrows into the box with great effect.
Before the Marauders could destroy the phylactery, the hard rock of the west wall of the vault turned to mud and slid away into the canyon below. Through the gaping hole in the wall that now looked out at the sky came the gargantuan green dragon Necrozyte – the same dragon the Marauders had succeeded in driving off the first day they had arrived in Kongen-Thulnir.
The two experienced soldiers of the Ardent Legion, Slaughter and Phiery, held their steady focus on the primary mission –destroying the phylactery. Slaughter unleashed a sonic based magic assault on the phylactery, while Phiery continued to bury holy arrows in the box. The two succeeded in shattering Dragotha’s phylactery. At the same time Necrozyte arrived through the new hole in the wall, and dumped a cone of acidic breath on the heroes, leaving the group much worse for wear.
Valon, Kagro Thundersmiter, Leonidus, and the two Raams moved to attack Necrozyte. Agretha began calling to Grumbar for aid while backing out of the vault room and into the chanting chamber. Judel, seriously injured by the acidic breath attack, kept shouting words of encouragement to his allies, but also backed cautiously out of the vault.
Without warning, the east wall of the vault along with a few feet of floor also turned to mud, leaving a second gaping hole in the vault. Slaughter had the misfortune of standing on the area that fell into the cliff, and did not react in time to grab hold. He fell two hundred feet to the canyon floor before he could activate his levitation boots to halt his lethal descent.
Slaughter looked up to see the gargantuan red dragon, Brazzemal the Burning, fly through the new gaping hole in the vault above him. He recognized Brazzemal as a dragon from the southern reaches of Chessenta and Unther, who had plagued those lands from his lair in the Smoking Mountains. Last Slaughter had heard, Brazzemal had been slain during the Time of Troubles, and had not been heard of for over a dozen years.
Clearly Brazzemal had come back. He touched down on the east side of the vault, sandwiching most of the Marauders between himself and the gargantuan green dragon Necrozyte. Brazzemal unleashed a frightful inferno from his mouth with impossible speed. The flames had little effect on the Marauders, who, at Slaugther’s urging, had diligently prepared for fire attacks. The attack even healed Phiery somewhat. A tempest of wind accompanied the breath-attack, but the winds failed to drive back any of the Marauders. However, Brazzemal’s breath attack nearly destroyed the Raams.
Valon, Kagro, Leonidus and the Raams focused on Necrozyte, and flanked her. However, the dragon’s thick hide and magical armor protected it just enough, leaving everyone with the sour taste of numerous near-hits. Meanwhile the dragon lashed out at Valon, and nearly killed the elf. Valon tumbled away from Necrozyte, jumping out the hole in the west wall, and clinging to the side of the citadel facing the sky. Phiery sustained his driving rain of arrows at Necrozyte, but few found purchase in the dragon’s hide.
Then, in between the two dragons appeared another of Agretha’s fearsome earth monoliths. The monolith pounded Necrozyte, and not even her durable scales could protect her from the powerful rain of blows.
With speed that belied their prodigous size, Brazzemal and Necrozyte became a flurry of blows. With claws, teeth, wings, and tail the duo quickly destroyed both Raams and the Earth Monolith. However, before the pair could kill the monolith the elemental succeeded in two more powerful uppercuts to Necrozyte, and Slaughter fired a polar ray straight up at the soft underbelly of Brazzemal’s soft underbelly. It seemed like the red dragon had some magical resistance to the cold attack, but the magic could not block all of the cold ray, and what got through seemed extra effective against the fire-loving dragon.
Valon, realized that the monolith, before crumbling to dust, had nearly succeeded in taking Necrozyte down for the count. The moon elf opportunistically sprung back up from over the cliffs edge, and darted between Necrozyte’s claws. He climbed up the dragons back and buried his blade into the bloody dragon’s brain stem, killing her. As the dragon collapsed to the floor, Valon gracefully slid back down her back and tail.
Kagro picked his way among the dead bodies of the Raams, monolith, and Necrozyte, to close on Brazzemal. He buried his axe to good effect in the dragon’s haunch. Slaughter, master of electricity, fired again, this time with an electric ray. He wounded the red dragon.
Agretha, who had released the froward monolith from her control even before the dragons had destroyed it, had reluctantly turned her attention skyward. She called to the heavens, and brought down comets one after another, through the open hole in the vault. The comets slammed – crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch – into Brazzemal’s back. The comets left Brazzemal stunned, while Slaughter finished off the dragon. Each of the Marauders, impressed by the comets, made a mental note to never upset Agretha under open skies.
The Marauders looted the dead dragons, and received a small handful of choice prizes. Kagro also presented a sun blade to the group, in honor of their service. Dutch returned from guarding the front door. He had defended the door against a handful of blues. During the battle, the erstwhile bard known as the Ominous Fabler had also reappeared. Glamorous had killed the toady.
The Marauders entrusted the fragments of Dragotha’s talisman to Kagro Thundersmiter’s competent protection. After all of the dragons, the Marauders’ inanition led them to Silverymoon for some well-earned rest.
October 12-November 28
The Marauders took some time to upgrade their equipment, particularly Phiery’s bow. Ever optimistic, Phiery hoped that with his improved bow he would find greater success penetrating the scales of future dragons that might dare to stand in his way. Phiery now carried into battle an impressive +4 holy sonic bow, outfitted to take full advantage of his hill giant-esque strength. Plus, each arrow he drew came from a quiver that granted a shock charge to the arrow.
Phiery remained in Silverymoon with Rannyn. No one really knew what would happen when she delivered a half-elf, half-phoelarch baby, or how long the gestation would take, but it seemed like the woman would deliver any day now. While Phiery left his bow in the shop, Agretha returned to Mithral Hall for the first time in almost two years. Dutch and Valon returned to Alhaster.
Slaughter headed east to the front line and quickly seized command back from the nocuous Stug Piddle in Harrowdale. The githyanki had begun launching waves of raiders, not just spies, across the Dragon Reach both north and south of Harrowdale. Harrowdale had not seen any raiders, but the alliance soldiers around Harrowdale had caught numerous githyanki spies in the Dale’s environs. Slaughter and Judel considered the ramifications of this each evening in Harrowdale’s town hall, which now served as the alliance’s headquarters in the town. Because Harrowdale had not seen any raiders, while other regions had, Caladnei pressured the warmage to surrender a portion of his troops to assist the beleaguered areas, which faced raids. The tetchy warmage refused. He and Judel concluded the only logical reason the githyanki proceeded as they did was because they specifically planned to take advantage of the narrow width of the straight near Harrowdale, and strike there with their main force. Slaughter felt the githyanki spies that seethed all around Harrowdale waited patiently for when Slaughter would send troops away to attack. Doing what Caladnei urged would play right into the hands of the enemy. Although Caladnei faced tremendous pressure from the other Major’s in the alliance forces stationed all along the Dragon Reach, Caladnei agreed with Slaughter’s reasoning and let him hold onto his troops.
Gorion the sage also proposed two non-exclusive reasons explaining why the githyanki may have begun this war. First, on the githyanki’s natural home, the astral plane, time does not pass and creatures do not age. The githyanki need to breed their children on other planes, so those children can grow to adulthood. The githyanki may seek to convert Faerun into a breeding colony. Second, githyanki myth holds that they will one day find their ancestral homeworld – the world they lived on before illithids enslaved them and before the githyanki and githzerai races divided and the two groups existed as one people – the gith. The githyanki may believe that Faerun is that world.
Meanwhile, terrible news rocked the alliance. A band of githyanki assasins had infiltrated the palace in Silverymoon and killed Alustriel, the second of the seven sisters the githyanki had killed. Worse, after completing the deed, the group had enacted foul magics to prevent anyone from returning Alustriel to life despite the best efforts of Dr. Sparnum the wizard and leader of the magic academy, Gorion the sage, or Shanathera Moonsoul, High Priestess at the Temple of Silver Stars.
The people of Silverymoon mourned the loss of their beloved leader. Even those people who had opposed her controversial decision to send troops to the Dalelands - and the orcs, who only one year ago had fought a war against Silverymoon and the rest of the Silver Marches - yearned for her leadership in these difficult times. In her place, Janpour, former head of the Ardent Legion, ascended to lead the entire confederacy.
Janpour supported the policies of Alustriel, including the controversial policy of placing the bulk of the Ardent Legion’s troops to the east to assist the Dales. This policy stood in great jeopardy. The githyanki’s assassination of Alustriel demonstrated their ability to infiltrate the Silver Marches, which supported the chief argument of those opposed to sending the Ardent Legion to foreign soil – namely that the Silver Marches needed those forces at home in these tough times. In addition, Janpour, although well regarded in some circles, lacked the popular support of the people of Silverymoon, by far the largest city in the Silver Marches. This less than enthusiastic support made it more difficult for him to sustain unpopular policies than it had been for Alustriel.
Janpour shrewdly promoted Major Dennis Slaughter, who had served as the leader of the Ardent Legion forces to the East, to Commander Dennis Slaughter. Slaughter now assumed leadership of the entire Ardent Legion.
The military forces of the Silver Marches comprised two separate groups. Each city-state maintained its own guard. The second group, the Ardent Legion, did not hold loyalty to any individual city-state, but to the Silver Marches as a whole. The leader of the Silver Marches confederacy – not the leaders of the individual city state - deployed the Ardent Legion. Each local city-state maintained control only of its own guard. The sum total forces of the individual city-states dwarfed the forces of the Ardent Legion. Slaughter quickly issued a military draft to increase the ranks of the Ardent Legion. All drafted soldiers joined the Ardent Legion – not the forces of the individual city-states. Soon afterwards the Ardent Legion, with its ranks swollen, became the largest, if not the best trained, force in the Silver Marches. Secondly, Commander Slaughter publicly supported Janpour’s policy of maintaining forces to the east. He knew that the Silver Marches alone stood no chance against the githyanki, and if the people of western Faerun didn’t stand together, then they would die alone. Slaughter made this clear to everyone who would listen to him, and made a special point of telling it to those who would not listen to him. Although many had opposed the deployment of foreign troops, the vast majority of people in the Silver Marches respected Slaughter as a military genius. Public criticism of Janpour’s policy ceased.
Slaughter spent a month organizing the training of the new recruits in Silverymoon, and appointed other Ardent Legion leaders to provide the training in the other city-states. After the month of training ended, he ordered the forces to march Southeast to Cormyr where boats could carry the troops to the Dales. The warmage knew it would take some time for these new recruits to reach the Dales. In addition, Phiery’s bow was completed. Commander Slaughter and Major Phiery took advantage of the break to gather the remaining Marauders, hoping wanderlust ran high among the group, and resume Malchor Harpell’s quest. Slaughter hoped the wizard appreciated his efforts enough that he would persuade Waterdeep, the sleeping giant with a population of 1.3 million, it would need to get on the “team” before there was no team left to get on.
The Marauders teleported back to Kongen-Thulnir and learned that King Achaime Silvereye had passed and Kagro Thundersmiter, former leader of the Tiamkul Nul Shada clan, now commanded all of the giants of Kongen-Thulnir. The Marauders asked Kagro how long it would take for them to reach Wormcrawl Fissure. The giant reported he reckoned the fissure, a deep gash in the face of Abeir-Toril, sat about 200 miles to the west.
This left the Marauders uncertain about how to proceed. The group considered teleporting to the fissure, but without having seen it, the teleport would prove impossible. The group considered scrying on someone in the fissure, so they could subsequently teleport there, but did not know anyone or anything in the fissure other than Dragotha, and Slaughter feared that scrying on Dragotha would not succeed. So the group decided to seek advice from Lashonna, and scryed on Lashonna, be she elven sorceress, silver dragon, Dragotha himself, or something else entirely (and the Marauders seriously entertained all possibilities).
The scrying attempt met with apparent utter failure. Agretha tried to scry and instead received a vision of Kyuss himself, a towering figure made of worms and dressed in a ragged cloak. Slaughter felt himself nearly lose his mind at the sight of Kyuss as he peered over the druid’s shoulder into Agretha’s scrying pool, and he quickly looked away. The headstrong druid watched further, as the figure moved towards a bookshelf, remove a book and walk to a desk. Finally, Agretha decided she could not take the vision any longer either, and looked away.
The scrying attempt certainly raised the group’s suspicions about Lashonna. The Marauders teleported to Alhaster to check in with her. The group learned from Lashonna’s servant Kelgorn that Lashonna could not meet with the Marauders. However, Kelgorn produced a note for the Marauders, which read:
Unfortunately, urgent business calls me away from quaint Alhaster. I have learned of potentially critical additional information related to our quest, and I must travel to confirm it. If true, it will make our mission even direr, as if such a thing were possible.
I hold your personal judgment in high esteem, but if you came to Mistwall Manor seeking a course of action then stay focused on the task of destroying Dragotha. To do this in any meaningful way you must first learn the location of his phylactery, and then secure that phylactery - before engaging the dracolich. He represents the lynchpin of Kyuss’ army, and his defeat can only weaken the worm god.
How should you do these tasks? I advise you to be brave, and to be resourceful - in short, to be yourselves.
The Marauders thanked the servant for the kind note. Valon remained unsatisfied and came back that night to break into Mistwall Manor. He climbed the manor’s fence, entered the manor’s florid courtyard, and scaled the side of the building to the second floor. Phiery climbed a tree across the street from the manor, ready to provide cover fire for his friend. Valon’s first attempt to break in failed, however, because he could not get through the arcane locks on the windows, and, fearing the noise, did not want to shatter the windows. The second day Valon purchased a scroll of silenced knock from a local store. Considering the suspect nature of the purchase, he paid cash. That night Valon returned with the scroll, used the scroll to suppress the arcane lock for 10 minutes, and picked the window’s mundane lock easily.
Valon first entered Lashonna’s office. He had been in the room on July 1, five months ago, when Lashonna directed the Marauders to Tilagos. Now he searched the empty room. During his search a trio of undead shadows surprised him. One reached, with an incorporeal hand, into Valon’s heart and sapped the elf’s strength. Valon, greatly weakened, retaliated. He knew he could not survive another attack, but he struck back with his deadly skills and defeated the three shadows quickly. Due to his skills at silent fighting, and the shadows’ inherently silent nature, the battle made very little noise. Valon found two files of note. One was a file labeled Dragotha, which naturally drew his attention. The second was a file labeled “Prisoners,” which drew his attention because he noticed a faint bloody fingerprint on the folder, as if a delicate hand covered in blood had held the folder weeks ago.
Valon searched the rest of the upper floor of the manor. He battled a spectre and searched Lashonna’s bedroom but did not find any more evidence. He fled the scene.
Valon perused the Dragotha folder from the safety of The Deluxery, but everything he found simply confirmed what Lashonna had already told him. The prisoner folder contained a list of prisoners sentenced to death by Prince Zeech over the past two years, and which cell they would occupy the two weeks before execution. The entries went back almost two years, although the most recent entry was from over a month ago. None of the Marauders had a clear idea of what to make of this folder.
The Marauders decided to teleport to the Spirit Soaring, to speak to Cadderly about how to reach the fissure. Cadderly provided little magical assistance to The Marauders. He seemed to think a powerful group of adventurers that really wants to do some good should probably focus on the githyanki. He did caution the adventurers that given enough time a lich would probably fashion a new phylactery, and he availed the Marauders of his map collection. Using the maps the Marauders realized that Kagro overestimated the distance to Wormcrawl Fissure. The fissure sat just 30 miles west of Kongen-Thulnir. The Marauders teleported to Kongen-Thulnir and rested one more day.
The morning of December second Agretha summoned several magical bottles of smoke. The druid poured the libation onto the ground, and the smoke formed into horses. The Marauders saddled up for the ride west, although 3 days had already past since the artisans of Silverymoon had completed Phiery’s bow. The Marauders raced their smokey horses west, and arrived at the fissure.
Wormcrawl Fissure, a particularly deep canyon extending from the westernmost reaches of Skull Gorge, proved unmistakable to the heroes. Slaughter and Valon both had heard the tales of the fissure – one of the most mysterious and dangerous regions on Faerun. Very few had braved its depths, which sat shrouded in thick mist that blocked the cleansing light of the sun, although the cartographers who had created Cadderly’s map documented the perimeter of the canyon well. The fissure extended several miles west of Skull Gorge. The Marauders could not guess as to the fissure’s depths, since about 1,000 feet below the top of the canyon lay a uniform blanket of clouds that obscured vision.
Slaughter dimension doored the Marauders to the base of Skull Gorge, adjacent to where the canyon bifurcated, with skull gorge continuing South-by-Southwest, and the fissure extending straight west.
The Marauders proceeded into the fissure on foot. As the adventurers traveled west into the fissure the ground sloped steeply downward. The ground and cliff walls seemed to change, Valon noticed the walls became encrusted with a strange fungus, and everyone noticed the ground felt spongy. The Marauders also passed skeletons tied to wooden frames and wrapped with fake worms made of leather or wood. Phiery and Judel searched for tracks, and found a mix of goblinoid tracks and skeleton tracks going in every direction except for out of the fissure.
The Marauders pressed on, and quickly descended below the cloud lair, which greatly reduced visibility. With the clouds obscuring vision The Marauders decided to follow the northern wall of the canyon to avoid getting lost. After a few hours walk, The Marauders reached a lake on the canyon floor, fed by a waterfall. The waterfall cascaded down, emerging from the middle of the canyon wall. The heroes concluded an underground river must feed the lake. Agretha assessed the group was now about 2,000 feet below the lip of the canyon, and the water was potable. Phiery found a high concentration of goblin tracks, some fresh. The Marauders elected not to pursue the tracks. The lake blocked the Marauders from following the northern canyon wall, so the group instead traveled south along the lake’s shore.
The lake eventually gave way to a swift flowing river, approximately 200 feet wide, with the current flowing south. The Marauders followed the river south. As the Marauders traveled south Phiery noticed the goblin tracks diminished, while Agretha noticed the water became increasingly foul. Eventually the river opened once again to a second southern lake. Agretha cautioned everyone that although the lake’s waters looked placid and still, no one should even touch the foul water in the mirror calm lake. The Marauders headed back north, and Slaughter dimension doored the group across the river.
The Marauders once again resumed following the wall, this time the southern wall of the fissure. Phiery noted the tracks changed on this side of the river. Goblin tracks diminished, and skeleton tracks remained constant. More interestingly, Phiery found new sets of tracks. He spotted the tracks of large snakes, and the tracks of large many-legged insects. Although the heroes could not see the sun or stars through the cloud layer to mark time, the group grew tired. Despite the ominous tracks all around them, and Agretha’s assessment of the group’s depth at minus 3,000 feet, they decided to camp that night in the fissure.
Early in the evening an undead wyvern covered in worms attacked. Slaughter killed the wyvern, but not before the wyvern deposited a worm on Phiery and Slaugher’s skin. Phiery’s natural heat killed the fragile worm. When Slaughter noticed that, he cast fire shield on himself, just before the worm could burrow into his flesh.
The group continued to follow the south wall of the cavern the next day. After following the wall down two dead-end box canyons, the canyon’s south wall wound around to the right to become the west wall, forcing the group to turn north. As the group walked north, a rush of visions assaulted Phiery. First, the phoelarch saw a mist-shrouded gorge, the floor a maze of rifts and pits, filled with immense vermin. Next, he saw a towering worm, its head consisting of a tangle of eyes and its pale body shrouded in a haze of writing filaments. The immense worm lunged forth to consume Phiery, when suddenly, a third vision replaced it. Phiery saw a stately-looking man dressed in an explorer’s outfit. He sported a distinctive high beard and moustache. As Phiery looked, the man’s expression suddenly changed to abject horror, as his flesh rotted away and a storm of green worms consumed him from within. The visions left Phiery shaken and mute.
Agretha magically fixed Phiery, and Phiery reported he felt a strange tugging, drawing him north. The Marauders decided to follow the tugging. After several more hours of walking the group reached a cave descending into the earth and mulled their options.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf - Druid 13/Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
> Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 10 HD (Agretha's Animal Companion)
Commander Dennis Slaughter – Human - Warmage 14/Stormcaster 5 - LG
> Lieutenant Judel Macabaeus - Human - Marshall 15/Favored Soul 2 LN (Slaughter’s cohort)
Phiery of Mechbia – Phoelarch – Phoelarch (12)/Ranger 4/Paladin 2 – CG
Dutch – Human – Cleric 6/Monk 2/Sacred Fist 10 – LN
> Glamorous – Eyrines –ECL 16 – LE (Dutch's Cohort)
Valon – Moon Elf- Rogue 4/Swashbuckler 3/Ninja 4/Mage 1/Invisible Blade 5/ Occult Slayer 2 - CG
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 2
Phiery guided the Marauders by instinct to the Apostle Caves. The phoelarch could feel a clear tug, drawing him into the cave’s depths. The group stopped a hundred feet-or-so before the entrance and Agretha scouted. The druid entered the walls of the cave and moved through the earth, scanning the cave just east of the entrance. She found a nest with a half-dozen gargantuan centipedes. The centipedes, each 35-feet long with pale green and white armor, scuttled sinuously throughout their barren nest. Tiny green worms dripped from each centipede’s mouth. Agretha could sense that these centipedes tainted the earth they walked upon – and even if she couldn’t sense it, the nasty, tumor-like growths of pale fungus that filled the centipedes’ nest made it plainly obvious.
Agretha returned and issued her report. She then proceeded to scout the west side of the entrance. However, while crossing in front of the cave’s mouth she fell into a 100-foot deep pit. Somehow, a druid with an exceptional connection to the earth committed the contretemps of missing a giant hole in the ground. The druid cried out in surprise and alarm as she tumbled down, which alerted the centipedes and set the bugs into motion. The earth cancer centipedes scurried out of their quarters and charged along the ceiling and the walls straight towards the Marauders, before burrowing under the earth just outside the cave. The Marauders could plainly see that the centipedes approached them underground – because even though the heroes couldn’t see the centipedes, the heroes could see the fast approaching gray and tainted earth that surrounded the centipedes.
Slaughter thought better of standing on tainted earth and levitated upwards. The warmage saw a powerful construct emerge from around the bend and charge towards him and the centipedes. “Hmmm, friend of me or friend of centipede? Tough to tell,” Slaughter thought. Phiery wasted no time leveling his bow and shooting at the oncoming bugs. Valon advanced forward to close the gap, bravely crossing the diseased earth and mindful of the gargantuan bugs’ superior reach.
Meanwhile, in the pit below, Agretha stood up and dusted herself off. She looked up and saw one of the centipedes screaming towards her down the wall of the pit. She ran towards the wall, preparing to escape into the earth.
The centipedes exploded from the earth, and the tumult began in earnest when the centipedes starting snapping at the Marauders. Slaughter, Valon, Leonidus, Judel and Phiery each faced off against a centipede. Judel felt the centipede’s poison course through his veins and felt sluggish. Slaughter exploded with a magical assault on the collected bugs. The construct drew a greatsword and swung – simultaneously tearing deep gashes into the chitinous armor of one of the arthropods, and solving the mystery of “who’s side is this guy on?” for Slaughter. Phiery, surrounded by centipedes, planted his feet and fired his bow. Drawing back on his bow left him open to centipede retaliation, and the ‘pedes retaliated forcefully. Bleeding, Phiery rolled for cover. Judel unleashed a flamestrike, using the cloak gifted to him by the wild watchers. Leonidus, already wounded, stood his ground. A new opponent scuttled across the ceiling of the cave towards the Marauders, a twenty-foot long, nasty, black scorpion of sorts. Hooked spikes decorated the scorpion’s armor, and ichor leaked from cracks in its hard shell. The scorpion also sported three tails, to clearly drive its point home.
Meanwhile, Agretha slipped into the wall – a tactic that had reliably saved her countless other times. Unfortunately, against a burrowing centipede Agretha’s quiddity could not help her. The centipede burrowed into the earth with its ferocious teeth and found Agretha’s flesh, tearing greedily and gravely wounding the druid. The centipede plunged in after the fleeing druid, and finished the job. The druid hadn’t died since the rest of the Marauders had fled a battle against D’gran in the Earth Temple, leaving her behind. Moreover, none of the current Marauders had even been a part of the team at that time. Now the druid’s body lay dead and buried deep within the earth.
Topside, two of the centipedes focused on the phoelarch, and finished him as well. The phoelarch exploded, wounding the nearby centipedes, and, as the Marauders had grown to anticipate, an egg lay on the ground where Phiery had died. Unlike Agretha, it hadn’t been nearly as long since Phiery’s last death. The phoelarch had last died in Kongen-Thulnir during a battle with dragons.
The remaining centipedes traded blows with the rest of the Marauders.
The scorpion moved to attack the construct. Although the stinger could not penetrate the construct’s thick plating, simply standing in close proximity to the arachnid seemed to drain mental skills from the Marauder’s new ally.
Slaughter dropped additional spells, wounding whole groups of centipedes and finishing off a few. The construct killed another centipede, and Valon exploded into a flurry of blades. Judel kept everyone motivated. The centipede that had killed Agretha burrowed through the earth and rejoined the topside fight.
Ultimately, urged on by Phiery’s death, the Marauders defeated the scorpion and all of the centipedes. However, just as the group had gotten the centipedes on the ropes, another scorpion scuttled out of the cave, and something much worse. A nauseating creature flew from the cave towards the adventures. It looked like a gargantuan pale-yellow maggot with a head studded by dozens of human eyes and a tooth filled maw. As it flew, mucus that smelled like a mixture of rotting flowers and sour milk dripped from its body.
The enormous maggot cast quickened haste on itself and the scorpion, and horrid wilting on the Marauders. The construct converted his greatsword into a bow, lickety-split, and fired 3 reports from that bow. The holy arrows bit deep into the grub’s flesh. Slaughter retaliated against the horrid wilting with his own magic. Judel harangued the party to close the gap on the spellcasting bug, and Valon double-timed it. He then used one of his magical treasures to dimension door to the ceiling just above the maggot, and his magical slippers to stick to that ceiling.
The speedy scorpion closed on the construct and tried stinging to no avail. The construct retrofit his bow back into a sword and killed the scorpion.
The maggot tried to magically escape from Valon, but the persistent moon elf, poised just above the grub, attacked and disrupted the maggot’s spell. The gargantuan grub settled for merely flying back into the cave. Slaughter dimension doored after the grub, and killed the wounded creature with a magic missile.
The grub’s dead body vomited forth a menagerie of skeletons, but most of those skeletons fell into the pit. The grandiloquent warmage smugly blasted all of the skeletons to smithereens.
Once things had quieted down, the warmage observed the new construct closely. He recognized it as an Armored Battle Elite unit, common in Halruua. Slaughter spoke to the construct and introduced himself. The construct introduced himself as Abel. Abel explained that Malchor Harpell had sent him here years ago to follow the trail of a second wizard, Belekarde. Slaughter didn’t even raise an eyebrow when Abel mentioned he was here because of Malchor Harpell; Slaughter thought he should have known right away that no one in their right mind would bother with this wasteland if not at the behest of that particular stormy petrel Abel had followed Belekarde to this spot, but could advance no further, cautious of the fearsome enemies in the caves. When the Marauders had attacked, he seized the opportunity, and had come out to join forces with the heroes.
It struck Slaughter that Abel genuinely wanted to complete his mission. Could this be one of those living constructs he had only heard rumors of? Perhaps. Regardless, Abel had proven he was capable of swinging a sword and firing a bow with the best of them. Because of the striking propinquity of the Marauders’ and Abel’s missions, Dennis invited Abel to join the group and Abel accepted.
The adventurers secured Phiery’s egg. Judel “tracked” the burrowed out trail of the centipede that had killed Agretha. Slaughter followed the trail and recovered the body using a series of disintegrate spells. The group headed back to Silverymoon. The group considered treating the Ardent Legion as an eleemosynary institution, but Commander Slaughter would have none of it – the Marauders would pay for their divine magic needs. However, Slaughter wasn’t above spending on credit to return Agretha and Phiery to life until the Marauders had more liquid assets. The Marauders then teleported back to the crepuscular fissure, and spent the night.
The Marauders awoke in the fissure, five days since they had first teleported back to Kongen-Thulnir after destroying the phylactery. Phiery had taken stock of the track density before the team set up camp and had anticipated an attack during the night from some etiolated denizen of the fissure. Instead the Marauders slept soundly in the haunted canyon.
Agretha ultimately scouted the west side of the canyon and found three treasures. To bypass the pit, the Marauders passed through the earth using Agretha’s magic, in hot pursuit of treasure. Along the way Valon set off a trap but his deathward protection defended him from the magic. The group recovered a good supply of magical items and conventional treasure.
Most importantly, while looting, Valon came into contact with a scholarly out of body entity that bound to his soul. Although initially alarming, the entity seemed to increase Valon’s insight. Furthermore, Phiery no longer felt the need to be here; instead he felt a force drawing him southwest. The Marauders went that-a-way.
Phiery felt the force drawing him towards a cliff, and when he reached the cliff’s base he felt an urge to ascend. Valon climbed the cliff with his magic slippers, Agretha ascended within the stone itself. Abel climbed the cliff with his great strength and Phiery rode aboard the construct. Judel gaily ascended the cliff in Slaughter’s arms – the warmage using his levitation boots to get to the top.
The cliff face ascended upwards, back into the cloud layer that loomed above. The Marauders found the top of the mesa about 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, and still far below the top of the treacherously deep Wormcrawl Fissure. Atop the mesa sat a squat, stone fortress.
Valon scouted the fortress, ascending the roof. Inside he spied a pair of huge, 4-legged, pincer-tailed, 35-foot long monsters. The beasts had red scales and a darker orange underbelly. Each looked vaguely draconic, except in place of a head each had an enormous central maw ringed with 8 snake-like heads. Valon returned and issued his report. The Marauders cast preparatory spells, Slaughter turned invisible and levitated upwards, and everyone else moved forward to attack.
Slaughter launched the opening salvo from above, as the duo of beasts stood unaware in the fortress’ courtyard. The two beasts, angered, charged the Marauders, knocking down the fortress’ rusty gate.
Just as the battle began in full, a skeletal man, wearing a crown sculpted to look like snakes, entered the fortress’ courtyard. The man shouted for everyone to stop fighting, and demanded to know the cause of the disturbance. Judel began to parlay with the skeletal man. However, Slaughter, high-above and bristling with short-lived magical enhancements, didn’t pause at all. He recognized the man as Thessalar, a lich rumored to have created a variety of creatures. Slaughter didn’t believe any of the unsubstantiated rumors, and he didn’t feel much like talking. The last thing he wanted was a drawn out imbroglio while his magics expired one-by-one. He simply redirected his attacks from the beasts to the skeletal man mid Judel/Thessalar conversation, and much to Thessalar’s surprise. The remaining Marauders took their cue from the warmage, and resumed the battle. Agretha buried the skeletal man under an avalanche of rocks. Phiery, Valon, and Abel finished off the beasts.
Although the battle seemed over, Valon could still hear spellcasting from inside the fortress. Moreover, the caster’s voice exactly matched the voice he had heard from the lich. Valon surmised the Marauders had likely only succeeded in destroying an illusion, or possibly something even more arcane, like a simulacrum. Valon recognized the spells being cast as the enhancement spells true seeing and fly.
The heroes advanced, trying to minimize any time that would allow Thessalar to further solidify his defenses.
Inside a room adjacent to the fortress’ courtyard Valon spotted the lich. He stood behind a vat filled with blood, flesh, eyes, mouths, and other, less identifiable organs. The liquid churned with an organic color.
Valon knew the others probably could not see the lich through the liquid. The liquid was somewhat akin to a very muddy river. If people draw up a small bit of water from the river, the water looks clear. Yet most people can’t see a fish in a muddy river deeper than a foot or two, on account of all of the silt. Where most people couldn’t see more than a foot or two, Valon had noticed he could see 10 or 20 feet deep. That explains why Valon could see the lich through the vat – a very difficult but not impossible feat achievable by anyone with a little bit of luck and borderline supernatural vision.
With the Marauders coming upon him fast, the lich cast one of his most powerful spells, time stop, and doubtlessly took advantage of the opportunity to complete his magical aegis. Valon had identified the time stop spell, but the instant the spell fired, he could no longer see the lich behind the vat.
The vat sat in a separate room from the courtyard, and rusty iron bars, operated by a rusty iron lever, sealed shut the doorways between the vat room and the courtyard. Valon couldn’t budge the lever, so Slaughter opened a hole in the vat room’s ceiling with a disintegrate spell. Abel and Valon went on the roof, and Valon dropped through the new hole right into the vat room.
The instant he dropped down, Thesselar shot a maximized disintegrate at Valon, and followed with a quickened wall of force. Abel tried to follow Valon, but an invisible barrier prevented Abel from dropping through the hole to help Valon, Slaughter realized the cagey lich had laid the wall right on top of his hole. Slaughter fired a disintegrate spell at the invisible force field, countering it.
Abel and Valon moved to corner the lich, and the lich unleashed a wail of the banshee. The spell would have slain Valon, if Agretha hadn’t warded him. Judel heard the anguished cry and died instantly. Slaughter saw the marshal die and sighed, knowing he would once again need to raise his increasingly feckless lieutenant. Thesselar launched a quickened ray of enfeeblement at Abel, slipped under the hole in the ceiling, and flew upwards. Along the way he cast maze on Agretha, however, the lucky druid found the exit in no time. For good measure, Thesselar shot a quickened fireball at Slaughter. Abel and Phiery fired their bows at the lich, but the lich’s bone structure seemed to ignore most of the damage. Slaughter struck the lich with magic, only to learn of Thessalar’s immunity to electricity.
Thessalar fired another quickened fireball Slaughter’s way and then, frustrated by how Agretha had made mince-meat of his maze spell, descended next to the druid and tried to place her in temporal stasis. When that spell failed, Thessalar realized his miscalculation left him dangerously close to the druid. Agretha retaliated with a heal spell, which left the undead lich heavily wounded. Slaughter finished the job with a flamestrike spell, knowing he could at least bank on the holy damage.
Upon death, Thessalar dissipated into gas, but his magical treasures clanged to the ground. The Marauders recovered these prizes. A search of the rest of the fortress found little of interest other than the vat. Slaughter realized a cylindrical wall of force held the vat’s contents. Slaughter didn’t know what thaumaturgy Thessalar had concocted in the vat, but he reasoned that stopping it would probably do more good than harm. He disintegrated the wall, and the liquid rushed everywhere. The liquid quickly formed into another one of Thessalar’s beasts, which the Marauders put down quickly. Slaughter placed the killing blow, and felt an entity bind with his amulet. The entity filled him with a drive to slay evil (really it just enhanced Slaughter’s existing urge).
Phiery no longer felt the need to remain in the fortress. He felt a tug to the south.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf - Druid 13/Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
> Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 10 HD (Agretha's Animal Companion) Commander Dennis Slaughter - Human - Warmage 14/Stormcaster 5 - LG
> Lieutenant Judell Macabaes - Human - Marshall 15/Favored Soul 2 – LN (Slaughter’s cohort)
Phiery of Mechbia – Phoelarch – Phoelarch 12/Ranger 5/Paladin 2 – CG
Valon – Moon Elf – Rogue4/Ninja4/ Swashbuckler3/ Invisible Blade5/Mage 1/Occult Slayer 2 - CG
Dutch – Human - Cleric 6/Monk 2/ Sacred Fist 10 - LN
> Glamorous Eyrenes 16 LE (Dutch’s cohort)
Abel - Warforged - Fighter 18 - CG
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 3
After battling Thessalar, the Marauders returned to Silverymoon to rest and sell treasure. Valon chose to remain behind in Silverymoon, taking the time to pursue only the best deals for the group’s substantial loot.
Agretha, Leonidus, Commander Slaughter, Major Maccabaeus, Major Phiery, and Abel teleported back to Thessalar’s squat fortress. Phiery once again felt a mysterious pull, and the party moved south in the pull’s direction. This path drew the Marauders up two cliffs to the top of a high mesa overlooking a clear lake. Atop the mesa sat a tower.
Outwardly, the tower looked exotic and artistic, with a large dome and a gracefully hooked spire rising above the dome. It was obvious to the Marauders that the balcony halfway up the tower must afford a breathtaking view of the lake. The dome and the tower consisted of polished obsidian, and appeared to have been carved from a single immense stone. Uncertain how to proceed, the Marauders elected to knock on something that appeared at least door-like. A minute later a women with the upper body of human female, the torso of a multi-colored serpent, and the wings of a bird of paradise, emerged onto the balcony and called down to the group. She seemed surprised to see anyone.
During a short conversation, Judel complimented her tower’s architecture, and politely asked to come in. The woman, who introduced herself as Zulshyn, agreed. Phiery used his ability to sense evil and sensed none.
Inside, the Marauders found the temperature quite stifling. Zulshyn decorated her home with thick carpet and numerous works of art, while pleasant music softly filled the entranceway. In the corners of the main room four golems stood. The golem’s bodies consisted primarily of stained glass fashioned to look like undead soldiers mounted atop terrifying demonic horses. Each golem matched the theme of death, pestilence, war, or famine. The Marauders continued to show interest in Zulshyn’s artwork, and she proudly gave the Marauders a tour of her works. Phiery asked if he could touch some of the pieces. Zulshyn happily agreed, stating she intended her art to serve as a feast for all the senses.
As Phiery carefully inspected each piece, Zulshyn conversed amiably with the Marauders and seemed drawn to Dennis Slaughter’s power. Dennis asked her if she knew much about Dragotha or the Age or Worms. She confessed she knew little about Dragotha, other than that the powerful undead dragon lived nearby. She said Dragotha largely kept to himself. She admitted she knew even less of the Age of Worms, although she had heard of it. When Slaughter said he intended to kill Dragotha, Zulshyn warned him to be careful. Slaughter assured Zulshyn he took on these sorts of great challenges regularly, and she need not worry. Slaughter also pried Zulshyn about her nature, and she said she was a lilend. Slaughter further inquired if she was typical of her kind or exceptional, and she admitted to being exceptional in much the same way Slaughter no doubt represented an exceptional example of the human race. Zulshyn swooned at the attention from the warmage. Slaughter noticed that during the conversation she had started sculpting something of clay. Judel felt everything she had said seemed truthful, although the lilend seemed to avoid topics about her past.
As Phiery inspected the outré art he found two common themes. First, even a novice like himself could recognize the exquisite quality of each piece, and, second, everything adhered to a generally creepy and morbid look. Phiery picked up an eight-inch tall porphyry statuette of a wizard, and soon after felt a connection to the pull that had guided him here in the first place. He asked Zulshyn for more information. Zulshyn became guarded, but admitted she had created the statuette 16 years ago when sudden inspiration had struck her, and it had become her favorite piece. The Marauders respected that, and asked the lilend if she had a price for her prized piece. Zulshyn considered.
She offered the Marauders four options. The lich Thessalar had hounded Zulshyn first with entireties for romance, then engaged in a chimerical relationship with her, and finally his intentions toward the lilend had turned murderous and foul. If the heroes would kill the lich, she would turn over the statue. Or, if the Marauders could present her with some exceptional artwork to take the place of the statue, or an item of great magical power, she would also make a trade. Finally, she explained, while subtly eyeing Slaughter, that if one of the Marauders would stay for a year as a servant she would also consent to the trade. The Marauders decided they needed time to deliberate in private, and went outside.
Outside, Slaughter advocated killing the lilend. He felt he could not trust anyone who voluntarily chose to live in this fissure, and her art and creepy golem collection certainly seemed incriminating. He also knew the lilend’s art collection would command tremendous prices in Silverymoon, Waterdeep, and Alhaster. All of the other Marauders objected to Slaughter’s proposed depredation of the lilend. She had done the group no wrong, and she had thus far proven herself trustworthy. Furthermore, Phiery had not detected the taint of evil upon her. Slaughter thought that just meant the lilend had the foresight to mask her evil scent, but acquiesced. Until the rest of the Marauders had proof of her foul intent, Slaughter would not harm her.
The group decided the obvious trade was to offer to kill Thessalar in exchange for the statue, since they had conveniently already done just that. Everyone went back inside to negotiate with Zulshyn. Zulshyn accepted the offer, and the Marauders trekked back out to create the ruse of killing the lich. Before they left, the party asked the lilend what proof she would require. The trusting lilend said she would only require the Marauders’ word.
The Marauders headed back down the first mesa, spent about two hours sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce, and headed back up to Zulshyn’s tower, none the worse for wear. When the group told her they had killed Thessalar, she held up her end of the bargain and agreed to trade the statue. After a lot of discussion, Phiery accepted the gift. She also presented Slaughter with a small clay statue of himself, the one she had begun crafting during the conversation.
Phiery asked her if she would also give the group one of her golems to help against Dragotha, but the lilend balked. Slaughter offered a trade for one of the statues. She reluctantly agreed that if the group fulfilled any of the three remaining tasks she had offered the group in exchange for the statues, she would entrust one of her statues to the group. The group traded the lilend an evil robe of the archmagi for a golem, and the lilend found the evil robe positively delightful. Sharde, the stained glass Apocalypse Golem of War joined the burgeoning ranks of the Marauders. The lilend asked that if the Marauders ever reached a time when they no longer required Sharde’s services, they return it.
Soon afterwards, Valon teleported from Silverymoon to rejoin the group and give an update on his bartering progress. With the three soul fragments, Valon’s bag, Slaughter’s gloves, and Phiery’s statue, in close proximity, a sudden strange stillness settled over the area. Sounds grew muted, colors dulled, and the air itself felt thick and cold. Everyone felt a sense of dread, and Valon, Slaughter, and Phiery felt an urge to touch the three objects together- and so they did.
Upon contact, a brilliant flash of light heralded the conjunction of Belekarde’s divided soul. The oppressive menace and muted reality dissipated, and the ghostly figure of a man floating serenely in the air with an expression of pure joy appeared among the adventurers.
The ghost introduced himself as Belekarde, and telepathically thanked the Marauders for rejoining his soul. Finally, Abel had completed the quest given to him by Malchor Harpell ten years ago, to learn what had happened to Belekarde. Even the stolid construct seemed pleased. The Marauders asked the ghost how he had died. Belekarde explained he had died in a battle against Dragotha. Upon mentioning the undead dragon his odium became obvious. The warmage explained Dragotha had killed Belekarde’s sister Maralee, and Belekarde had sworn revenge. Years after his sister’s death he had pursued that revenge and visited a woman in Alhaster, Lashonna, who had directed him to Dragotha’s lair in Wormcrawl Fissure. The woman had cautioned him to destroy the undead dragon’s phylactery first, but in his rage Belekarde has foolishly pursued the dragon directly, teleporting into his lair beneath the Tabernacle of Worms.
Slaughter interrupted and said the group currently sought to kill Dragotha.
To make sure the Marauders did not repeat his mistake, Belekarde instructed the Marauders to first destroy Dragotha’s phylactery. The Marauders assured the warmage they already had. This pleased the ghost, although when he learned how much time had passed since the phylactery’s destruction, he realized the exigency. He warned the adventurers they may only have a couple of days before Dragotha completes a new phylactery!
Belekarde resumed, explaining how Dragotha defeated Belekarde in battle, and ultimately Belekarde’s sister, herself converted into a Knight of Kyuss, had killed the warmage. Dragotha had then performed a vile ritual to sever Belekarde’s soul, preventing resurrection and divination. Belekarde offered to help the Marauders in any way he could against Dragotha.
Slaughter questioned Belekarde about specific advice on how to handle Dragotha. Belekarde said that personally Dragotha was a rare individual – a caitiff dragon with a big ego. Belekarde warned the Marauders that the dragon seemed to command a strange admixture of divine and arcane magics. Also, before conversion, Dragotha was a red dragon, but in the battle against Belekarde he was savvy enough to resist many energy types. Belekarde didn’t know if Dragotha possessed this power from magical spells, magical items, or his innate nature as an undead dragon.
The Marauders also asked Belekarde for more information on the Age of Worms. Belekarde knew nothing of the events of the past sixteen years, during which his soul had been shattered. However, Belekarde explained the Age of Worms would mark an unprecedented age of darkness and despair when the evil god Kyuss, currently imprisoned in a stone monolith, would gain freedom and walk upon Toril once again. The Ebon Triad and the Cult of Kyuss worked to bring about this age, and numerous prophesies foretelling of the Age had already been fulfilled when Belekarde died, and even more had probably come true during the intervening sixteen years.
Belekarde’s diligent investigation into the Age of Worm had also revealed details he thought were hidden from even the gods and plotters of the Age. The Marauders sat down and Belekarde pontificated about how, with a combination of research and deduction, he thought it had all began.
“Jergal, Lord of the Dead, was an ancient greater god. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, three powerful mortals, challenged Jergal for his portfolio. Most scholars believe Jergal, bored of his role as Lord of the Dead, voluntarily divided his powers among the three mortals. In fact, Jergal only surrendered his power as part of a sinister plan.
The Overgod, Ao, had placed strictures on the gods, including Jergal, which prevented any individual god from growing in power beyond the status of a greater god. This prevented any one god from forcing the other gods to bow down before his throne. Thus Jergal, as a greater god, faced a cap on his powers and could never gain any new powers to advance his status. For Jergal, the glass ceiling loomed above, quite opaque.
Undeterred, Jergal, also sometimes known as the Lord of the End of Everything, concocted a plan to avoid Ao’s strictures. First, Jergal set in motion a series of prophecies that would mark the beginning of the Age of Worms. This plan included inscribing a set of bronze disks by which an ambitious mortal could ascend to godhood as the God of Worms. Ultimately, long after Jergal inscribed the disks, 1,600 years ago, Kyuss would discover these discs and perform this ritual. Kyuss succeeded in ascending to godhood, but due to errors committed during the ritual became immured in the monolith that served as the divine focus of his worshippers almost immediately after ascension.
Second, Jergal embedded three compulsions in his mind: give away his portfolios to three gods and profess to be bored with his role.
Finally, Jergal would return and consume the three gods who held his former portfolio, and consume the ascended mortal who had followed the process outlined on the bronze disks. By consuming these four gods in rapid succession, Jergal hoped to skirt Ao’s notice.
Finally, Jergal extracted all knowledge of the plan from his own mind, other than the latent compulsions, and placed the plan within the first green worm. Over time, the extracted knowledge thereby split among all the worms created by Kyuss. This last step was critical – it permitted the Lord of the End of Everything to avoid Ao’s oversight, as Jergal himself did not even know his own plan. Even if Ao suspected treason, not even magically compelling Jergal would reveal the plan, since Jergal himself no longer even knows the details.”
Belekarde explained that fortunately he didn’t think Jergal’s plan could come to fruition. During the time of troubles Cyric had killed Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, and taken control of the three god’s powers, and Jergal had become Cyric’s servant. So whether Belekarde’s initial deductions had been off track, or the Time of Troubles had inadvertently foiled Jergal’s plan, with the three gods dead the Age of Worms would not also mark the ascension of the Lord of the End of Everything. Regardless though, the Age of Worms would still mark the release of a chaotic evil god directly upon the surface of Faerun, and the Marauders needed to stop this disaster.
With Belekarde’s story told, he confessed that remaining manifest gave him a headache. If the Marauder’s had no more questions he would return his soul to the three relics. The Marauders had no more questions, but appreciated Belekarde’s help elucidating these mysteries. Belekarde promised that he would be with them in spirit in their battle against Dragotha.
The adventurers took their leave of Zulshyn as well. Agretha cast find the path, and the group headed west through the fissure. The spell guided the Marauders to Kyuss’ Maw, the deepest point in Wormcrawl Fissure, and the gateway to Kyuss’ greatest temple – the Tabernacle of Worms. At this mist-shrouded point, over a mile beneath the sunlit world, the Marauders found a vast cave entrance to a fungus-lined tunnel that coiled deep into the bowels of the earth. At the entrance the Marauders faced an attack from four huge Kyuss chimeras. Using a combination of bow and spell, The Marauders defeated the chimeras easily. Most of the flying chimeras died as, or before, they reached the adventurers. Agretha even succeeded in crashing one from the sky back to the earth.
Agretha scouted the tunnel ahead of the Marauders. The tunnel ultimately wound about a mile, plunging even deeper into the earth. Near the end Agretha found a grizzly green glow ahead, and a haunting strange hiss from a cavern ahead. The druid peeked in.
The passageway opened onto a relatively narrow ledge that overlooked an immense circular cavern lit by a nauseating green glow. The cavern seemed roughly ovoid in shape. The walls, ceiling, and floor shimmered here and there with phosphorescent fungi, but the predominant source of light emerged from the sloshing lake of thick green slime at the far end of the cave. Several turgid waterfalls of the stuff drooled from openings high up on the far wall of the cave, and occasionally thick shapes of things that dwelled within the slime lake rippled against its surface. The lake’s beaches consisted of a horrific mix of dried, crusty slime and millions of writhing worms that feasted on the stuff. Agretha found the sound of their rasping mouths working in unison filled the cavern with a strangely soothing hiss.
On the closest shore of the nightmare lake, yet still nearly a half-mile from the ledge, loomed an immense pile of stalagmites and upthrust pillars of green rock that formed a natural castle. A huge central pillar of stone rose up from the fortress to merge with the roof above. Six smaller stalagmite-like towers rose around the structure’s perimeter. Six immense green worms, with twitching fanged heads that looked lazily to and fro like sentinels, coiled around these stalagmites. A moat of green sludge surrounded the structure, and a single crooked bridge arched up over it to a pair of massive stone doors.
The Marauders prepared some of their longest lasting magical spells, and simply marched as a group across the bridge while listening to the worms bombinate. Once Slaughter had reached the midpoint of the bridge, and found himself in range for an electric storm spell, he launched it, capturing two of the gargantuan green worms. The worms responded by melding into the stone of the castle. Slaughter harrumphed, and said, “well, it’s a good bet the empire knows we’re here.” The entire group started to double-time it over the remaining quarter mile of bridge to reach the stone doors.
As they ran across the bridge, the worms reemerged at the base of the castle, and started to crawl through the stone bridge toward the Marauders. The worms’ bulk dwarfed the bridge. Simultaneously, a derro riding a wyvern, emerged from around a pillar on the west side of the castle, and flew towards the party.
The Marauders succeeded in killing the wyvern and the derro. The rider crashed into the lake of slime, but with heroic speed Slaughter even managed to recover some of the derro’s choicest possessions before the green slime could claim them all. The Marauders also killed the two Overworms and reached the doors.
Two massive stone doors set into the side of the fortress blocked further progress. Each door seemed to be made of dark stone, yet each rippled like shivering flesh as countless green worms burrowed through it.
Agretha sighed. It seemed inadvisable to travel through doors made of Kyuss worms, and the worms blocked her ability to see through stone. The Tabernacle had denied the Marauders their most reliable scouting tool. Sharde tried to simply cut into the unctuous doors, but this released a spray of worms that pelted and pitted the golem’s glass flesh. Slaughter and Agretha followed up Sharde’s swings with their own magical attacks and destroyed the door.
Inside the Marauders found an immense hall with a vaulted ceiling that rose to a height of nearly eighty feet and a polished stone floor. To the east, a flight of stairs led up to a passageway, while a single writing door of worms sat in the west wall. Numerous alcoves lined the room, each with a golden light that contained some sort of free standing portal. A bank of stone pillars supported the vaulted ceiling in the eastern portion, while to the west the room opened up. On the west side, a fifteen-foot wide fountain of green liquid churned and sloshed. A ten-foot-tall humanoid figure dressed in tattered robes stood atop the fountain’s center. The figure’s hands and face, both visible, appeared to be made of hundreds of worms. Inside the room stood six attractive women, who did not seem surprised someone had just battered down their front door.
The women appeared ready to converse, but instead Slaughter filled the entire room with a meteor swarm. Phiery followed up the meteor swarm, with several precise shots into one of the women, finishing her off. Upon death, the attractive woman reverted into the form of a hideous multi-legged worm creature with numerous tentacles and appendages, and a three lipped mouth ringed with fangs. Abel wanted to charge in but Slaughter cautioned him to stay back, so instead the warforged also fired his bow into the room. Slaughter then released a second meteor swarm with his standard warmage fillip. Not even a third Overworm, which appeared on the bridge in the middle of the battle could stop the Marauders. The heroes cleaned up the mess. None of the women/worms escaped.
The Maruaders tried heading up the stairs to the east. There they found a hallway with shimmering green walls, floor and ceiling. Sharde started to cross the hallway, and Phiery spotted tiny green worms trying to crawl up the golem’s leg and burrow through its glass casing. Although none the worse for wear, Slaughter called him back. Slaughter knew the rest of the team would have trouble following the golem. The Marauders decided to simply shoot their way through the door to the west. The combined efforts of Phiery and Abel blasted open the door.
The Marauders found themselves in a fight with three more of the attractive women. The battle with these women eventually spilled into a chamber to the north, which attracted a huge wormdrake into the fight, and this wormdrake summoned three gargantuan purple worms. Abel spent most of the battle separated from the group in a short cul-de-sac to the northwest, firing his bow at the vicious wormdrake. The rest of the heroes could track him from the corner of their eye as their torch light coruscated off the fighter’s armor. Agretha summoned an earth monolith that boldly faced down the purple worms and the wormdrake. Phiery flitted back and forth in the hallway; first he focused on the women, then the purple worms, and finally the wormdrake. One of the women harried the Marauders, but remained elusive, diving behind worm doors, dimension dooring around the party, and dropping invisible walls of force to keep the group on their toes. Phiery recognized this woman as Mahuudril, a woman present at Zeech’s banquet. Slaughter spent most of the battle trying to stay one step ahead of this canny woman, and kill her.
Ultimately, the combined efforts of the Marauders killed two of the women. The group only succeeded in driving off Mahuudril, forcing her to dimension door away. Mahuudril clearly possessed powers that outstripped the other two women. The group killed all three summoned purple worms, but only drove off the wormdrake, who teleported away. The Marauders investigated a few more rooms, and investigated the wormdrake’s tremendous treasure hoard. With time short, the group sought only the choicest magical items. Before the group found any though, Mahuudril returned. Although the Marauders drove her off once again, the adventurers teleported back to Silverymoon to rendezvous with Valon, since the day had depleted all of their most powerful magics.
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 4
After teleporting to Silverymoon the group rejoined Valon in Silverymoon and rested.
The Marauders teleported back to gloaming Wormcrawl Fissure and retraced their steps through the tunnel leading down to the Tabernacle of the Worms. Once again the Marauders crossed the narrow bridge that led over the lake of green slime. As Slaughter drew close to the fortress, he unleashed an electric storm upon the Overworm sentries that had wrapped themselves around the Tabernacle’s spires. In response, the worms receded into the Tabernacle. The Marauders double-timed it across the bridge. Before the group could completely cross the bridge a pair of Overworms emerged from the castle gate. The heroes destroyed the two worms, although during the melee Abel became infected with Kyuss worms. Agretha healed him. Moments later the second pair of Overworms emerged, and the Marauders destroyed that pair as well.
The Marauders headed back to the room where they had fought the wormdrake and Mahuudril the day before. Valon snuck ahead and spotted the wormdrake, but became overwhelmed by dragon-fear and fled back down the hallway. As the nimble assassin negotiated the hallway he fought a tide of Marauders pressing forward to attack the dragon. As expected, the Marauders found the wormdrake and an avolokia. This time the avolokia did not bother with the pretense of assuming a human form, and it also fled immediately, by casting dimension door. The Marauders beat down the wormdrake. Just before the beast would have teleported away, Major Dennis Slaughter unleashed an horrific display of arcane power, destroying the beast utterly. Ultimately Judel succeeded in casting resurgence on Valon to prevent him from fleeing clear out of the Tabernacle. Valon sifted through a substantial pile of wormdrake loot.
In the wormdrake’s room the Marauders found a chute that led both upwards and downwards. Before exploring it further, the Marauders proceeded to explore the entire main floor of the Tabernacle. In the process they found and killed two more avolokia, who had been trying to keep a low profile. They also discovered more of the rooms with mini-shafts in the ceiling. Phiery levitated up one of the shafts, simply by willing himself upwards. At the top he found a pair of dangling worms, but explored the mini-shaft no further. The Marauders returned to further investigate the main chute.
They found a 20’-wide shaft that extended up through the ceiling and down into the depths of the earth. Dozens, if not hundreds of alcoves lined the walls of the shaft. Some of the alcoves sat empty, but just as many contained the desiccated remains of a strange tentacled worm-like creature, presumably an avolokia. The shaft itself faded into darkness above and below, and a thick rain of green fluid cascaded down the center of the shaft, filling the air with an oily haze and coating the walls with moisture.
Phiery bravely investigated the cursed rain, and it felt cold, but his divine grace resisted the worst of the effects. Slaughter concluded he would ultimately need to investigate the shaft himself, so he would need to learn what it could do to someone not protected by the divine. He thrust his arm into the unholy rain. He immediately felt cold and sick. He pulled his hand back, surprised at the power of the cursed rain. After much discussion, the Marauders devised and executed a plan. Both Agretha and Phiery suspected the correct route could be upwards, but orotund Slaughter would have none of it. He insisted worms crawled in the ground and the correct route was downward.
Agretha turned into an eagle and flew to Abel, who gently cupped her in his mechanical hands. Slaughter placed two walls of fire in the shaft above the main landing, hoping to burn away and dissipate the rain. Warmage then embraced warforged, and, along with the dwarf, the trio jumped down the shaft. The group dove as fast as they could, hoping to stay more than one step ahead of the cursed rain. As the group fell they saw the two walls of fire wink out above them, and knew the rain would soon resume.
After falling nearly 2,000 feet the shaft opened into an immense cavern filled with millions of Kyuss worms ranging from microscopic to colossal. Slaughter activated his levitation boots to halt the trio’s descent safely above the worm sea. Agretha then explored the chamber in eagle form, but did not find an exit. As Agretha explored the cavern, the rain resumed, although by then Slaughter and Abel had sidled safely to the side, hovering. The trio then returned to the rest of the party, using a pair of Slaughter’s dimension door spells. Along the way Abel lost a smattering of his own health, while both Agretha and Slaughter lost a fair amount. The heroes concluded the correct route was up.
Curiously, while in the shaft, Abel had felt that if he concentrated he could levitate himself upwards. Because of this, Phiery, highly confident in his divine magical defenses, volunteered to pioneer the upward route alone. None disagreed. Slaughter placed a wall of fire as far up the shaft as possible, to reduce the rain.
Indeed Phiery was able to concentrate and teleport himself upwards with decent speed. As Phiery approached the wall of fire (which posed no threat to the heliophile) Slaughter let the wall of fire dissipate, forgetting the phoelarch’s fiery nature. Phiery was hit with one good dousing of rain before cresting above the top.
There the phoelarch paladin found a circular tube that wound through the rock, with glassy-smooth walls. The walls looked as if they had been burned with great heat or acidic force. Swarms of writhing green worms clung to the walls and ceiling in horrific defiance of gravity, although now and then clumps of the green menaces dropped down like chunks of snow falling from the boughs of a tree. A river of thick green fluid rushed down the tube to the west, and the nearly freezing air smelled thick with corruption.
Phiery produced flame with his hand. The rest of the Marauders, still waiting 300’ below, touched Slaughter who dimension doored everyone up to Phiery’s beacon. The team hovered in mid-air at the top of the shaft just above the worm river. Slaughter did not have sufficient levitation power to keep everyone aloft. Everyone dove somehow for the nearby shore; some dove more gracefully than others. Valon espied a secret door just south of the shaft and scouted it himself.
The ninja found a cavern that looked as if it had once held a personal shrine to Kyuss, but now all that remained was a sickening statue of the wormgod, a wretched mess that seemed to have been built by stitching thousands of dead and preserved worms together into a roughly humanoid shape. Fearful of the statue, Valon summoned his allies, although his search of the room uncovered nothing else of note. He scouted on.
He found a cavern that showed signs of once having been exquisitely decorated, yet all that remained was a few fragments of furniture piled in the corners of the room. Valon explored further and found a similarly empty cavern. However, here his careful search was rewarded with a few tarnished silver scales in the corners of the room. This find further raised suspicions Lashonna had a larger role in this story as an eminence grise. Valon found a second secret door, and the Marauders reemerged on the main trail with the green river. An unpleasant chill greeted the Marauders, which reminded Phiery, Slaughter, Judel and Agretha distinctly of another encounter in distant Vaasa.
The adventurers rounded the bend and came face to face with three gargantuan creatures. Each creature looked like an immense worm covered with plates of dead-black chitinous armor. Each worm possessed a toothy maw that was wider than a human was tall, and its teeth and gullet were black too. No one could precisely identify the powerful creatures, but everyone suspected undead.
In the battle Slaughter and Agretha battered the worms with rapid-fire Sunbeams. Phiery unleashed arrow after arrow from his holy bow. Of course the creatures retaliated with traditional bite and stinger. But the trio also attacked with a surprising repertoire of magic, which included haste spells, cones of cold, dispel magic, and hold person. In addition, each of the creatures summoned a handful of dread wraiths. Judel’s familiar leitmotif, an incessant barking that drove the Marauders onward, ensured everyone was best motivated to deal with whatever magical onslaught the worms concocted. Abel and Valon teamed up to keep the dread wraith epidemic from becoming a pandemic.
In the end the Marauders succeeded in destroying the three undead worms. However, the worms and other challenges of the day had begun to take their toll. The Marauders decided to just scout one more room. Everyone but Slaughter and Valon went back down the chute and waited on the main floor. Slaughter left instructions that if Valon and he did not return in 10 minutes, the team should leave the tabernacle without them. Slaughter then remained at the site of the worm battle while Valon skulked ahead alone.
In short order Valon spotted a gargantuan undead dragon. The dragon looked as if its body had been cremated and all that remained were the singed bones. As with the wormdrake Valon became fearful, this time even more terrified. However he felt the spirit of Belekarde manifest and bestow courage upon him. He did not run.
Valon didn’t think the dragon could see him or hear him, but nevertheless the dragon spoke. “I smell you Valon,” it boomed in a deep voice. The dragon, who could only be Dragotha lay atop a ziggurat on the opposite end of a room. A trio of 7 foot-tall automatons crafted from a matte black metal that seemed to absorb light circled Dragotha. Valon knew enough of constructs to recognize the creatures as constructs, but he knew nothing of the properties of these specific golems.
Dragotha laughed and continued, “Come closer lapdog. Lapdog of the very evil you seek to stop.”
Valon didn’t pause to hear any more of what Dragotha had to say, nor did he come any closer despite the undead dragon’s beckoning. He backed away quickly and quietly, and returned to Slaughter. When he reached the warmage the two double-timed it back to the chute and dimension doored back to the Marauders. The whole team then walked out of the Tabernacle, fearful of the consequences of teleporting though the astral walls of the complex. After walking out, the team teleported to Silverymoon to begin planning. The Marauders had first found the location of Dragotha’s phylactery, then destroyed that phylactery, and finally tracked down Dragotha. Tomorrow their sedulous efforts would likely either result in the destruction of the original undead dragon, or their own demise.
Agretha Deepseer - Dream Dwarf - Druid 15/Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
> Leonidas – Celestial Dire Lion – 10 HD (Agretha's Animal Companion)
Commander Dennis Slaughter - Human - Warmage 15/Stormcaster 5 - LG
> Lieutenant Judell Macabaes - Human - Marshall 15/Favored Soul 2 – LN (Slaughter’s cohort)
Lieutenant Phiery of Mechbia – Phoelarch – Phoelarch 12/Ranger 5/Paladin 2 – CG
Valon – Moon Elf – Rogue4/Ninja4/ Swashbuckler3/ Invisible Blade5/Mage 1/Occult Slayer 2 - CG
Dutch – Human - Cleric 7/Monk 2/ Sacred Fist 10 - LN
> Glamorous Eyrenes 17 LE (Dutch’s cohort)
Abel - Warforged - Fighter 19/Barbarian 1 - CG
After Valon had spotted Dragotha and then withdrew, the Marauders returned to Silverymoon. Commander Dennis Slaughter knew that tomorrow his highly skilled platoon would face its greatest threat yet, and he aimed to prepare his crew for battle. He sent Valon into the city with a list of scrolls for purchase. Valon’s eyes widened when he glanced at the list. He didn’t need an exact figure to know that Slaughter’s list would cost a princely sum.
The warmage read the ninja’s reaction, and assured him, “every copper well spent. Dragotha’s hoard should exceed that amount several times over. Not to mention the priceless value of actually surviving the fight.” Valon nodded in agreement, and, silent as ever, headed into the city.
Next, Slaughter sent Lieutenant Judel Maccabeus to the University of Silverymoon to locate a competent wizard. There Judel found Dr. Sparnum, who agreed to cast sending, to deliver a message to Dutch in Alhaster. The context of the message got to the point: get here to Silverymoon at the Ardent Legion HQ, we need you.
Dutch received the sending and sighed. The city of Alhaster had fallen into ruin. Undead wandered the streets. Large bands of refugees huddled any place the undead had not completely overrun. Strange clouds of green mist had also appeared around the city. Dutch didn’t know anyone who had ventured into the mist voluntarily, but he suspected it wouldn’t do that person any good. Finally, Zeech had completed his monolith in the southwest corner of the city. The sending caught the sacred fist at a bad time - he did not want to abandon his city, where he held great avoirdupois in every way. The sybarite had defended the Deluxery against several waves of undead with his friend Salvador Marino over the past couple of days. But he had not heard from Slaughter in a few months, and he knew the warmage’s quest likely related to the terrors that had befallen Alhaster.
Dutch cosseted Glamorous, and persuaded her to head to Silverymoon alone first. So moments after Dr. Sparnum had cast the sending at the University, Glamorous appeared at Ardent Legion headquarters. The eyrines spent a few minutes recovering from her teleport nausea and then asked the powerful Ardent Legion commander why he had called for her baby. Slaughter rolled his eyes at having to deal with the slutty devil pet of Dutch, but told her to tell Dutch that the Marauders prepared to face Dragotha on the ‘morrow, and could use his assistance in the coming battle. Glamorous agreed to carry the message and teleported back.
Dutch heard Glamorous’ news, and Dutch and Salvador sussed up a wizard who could teleport them to Silverymoon, and headed to the Gem of the North. Dutch suspected the quest against Dragotha related to the problems that had befallen Alhaster, and thought striking against the enemy might present a better strategy than waiting to run out of spells and die in a Deluxery overrun by undead.
Almost an hour after Dr. Sparnum had cast the sending, Dutch strolled into the Ardent Legion headquarters with his friend Salvador. Dutch found Commander Dennis Slaughter pouring over various compendia that described druidic, clerical, and wizardly magic. The warmage, in his métier, seemed to relish the battle planning. Dennis looked up and nodded gruffly when he saw Dutch. No doubt Slaughter didn’t approve of whatever dalliance he believed had delayed the sacred fist, but Dutch could tell his arrival nevertheless pleased the warmage.
“Dutch, we need your mighty fists and spells. Tomorrow we go to face the undead dragon Dragotha in his lair. Will you assist the Marauders?”
Dutch clarified if battling Dragotha would help Alhaster, which faced a massive undead infestation. Without hesitation Slaughter assured the Sacred Fist that it would. The warmage’s absolute certainty gave Dutch pause, but after a moment he agreed to help.
The warmage didn’t recognize Salvador, and Salvador introduced himself as a gypsy king. When Slaughter inquired about his skills more precisely, Salvador elaborated on his spellcasting powers. Slaughter proudly introduced Dutch to his two new loyal soldiers, Abel, the sui generis warforged fighter, and Sharde, the stained glass golem. Phiery introduced the rest of the Marauders to Salvador with his customary brio. At that moment Agretha strolled in.
Dennis Slaughter, Salvador Marino, Dutch, and Agretha sat down to discuss the groups’ magical battle preparations. Based on the conversation, Dennis added still more spells to his long list. Ninety minutes into the conversation, Valon returned dumping a sack on the table. The sack tipped over, and scrolls spilled everywhere. Dennis immediately handed Valon a second list, and Valon turned right back around. After six hours of planning, four separate trips by Valon, two dry run rehearsals, and over 100,000 gold pieces, the Marauders completed their battle preparations. That night they slept atop a pile of expensive scrolls, knowing tomorrow they would face down their greatest threat to date – the original undead dragon – Dragotha.
The Marauders awoke on a day that would live in infamy, teleported just outside the Tabernacle of the Worms, and prepared all of their magical enhancements with durations of greater than one hour. Phiery, Slaughter, Sharde, and Salvador teamed up to destroy the worm doors, each member using only renewable resources. The team destroyed each door in a few seconds, and proceeded directly to the shaft with the cold green liquid. Along the way, the team encountered no resistance.
Salvador and Slaughter each cast dimension door, and each carried one-half of the Marauders to the top of the shaft. Slaughter dropped his team on the north side of the cold green river, and Salvador deployed his team on the south side. Almost immediately, two gargantuan earth cancer centipedes attacked the adventurers with great celerity, although the Marauders destroyed the pair with barely a scrape. Commander Slaughter ordered the team to then cast every magical enhancement with durations of at least ten minutes.
The Marauders moved forward to a bend in the tunnel. The exact path of the tunnel seemed somewhat different than yesterday, possibly because of its living nature. The heroes faced off against a second pair of earthcancer centipedes, again defeating the pair easily. Nevertheless, the party advanced to what Valon estimated represented the last bend in the tunnel before Dragotha’s lair. Commander Slaughter ordered the heroes to enact every single propitious magical spell available before the battle. Bearing the lineament of massive magical enhancement, the Marauders – warforged fighter Abel; stained glass golem Sharde; Sacred Fist Dutch; the phoelarch Prince of Mechbia, ranger Lieutenant Phiery; elven rogue champion gladiator Valon; dream dwarf druid Agretha Deepseer of the Saltheart clan; gypsy king Salvador, the wizard druid; Commander Dennis Slaughter, warmage leader of the Ardent Legion and apparent successor to the leadership of the Confederacy of the Silver Marches; Lieutenant Judel Maccabeus, marshal of the Ardent Legion; and former member of the Blessed Angels, the eyrines Glamorous – rounded the bend. The team had trained for this moment all their lives, and the heroes paused a moment to remember the travails of this quest thus far. The teams sedulous efforts had led them first to Lashonna, then to the Isle of Last Resort, and then to Kulgen-Thulnir. The group also remembered those this quest had taken: Oban, Max, and even Rhelyx.
A short way down the hall, the Marauders saw their chief opponent in his lair. The tube-like tunnel opened into a vast cavern lit by the undulant green glow of a huge ziggurat built of worm-infested stone. It appeared that a small structure once stood atop the ziggurat, but now nothing remained but a great jagged hole. One could only guess what object had filled that hole for the tutelary Dragotha. The green liquid that ran down the passageway to the west gushed from this wound, cascading down the front stairs of the ziggurat in a chain of miniature waterfalls.
Two ledges overlooked this cavern. The one to the north was only fifteen feet high, while the southern one was nearly thirty feet off the ground and in the southwest corner of this ledge lay heaped an amazing mound of treasure. Atop this heap of treasure sat a box nearly matching the look of the phylactery the Marauders had destroyed in the vault beneath the Citadel of the Weeping Dragon. Although unfinished, this box appeared nearly complete. The ceiling rose to a dizzying vaulted height of nearly a hundred feet.
Dragotha’s retinue also accompanied him. Three large shadesteel golems hovered near their undead dragon overlord, and a pair of iron golems flanked the entrance. In one corner nested Mahuudril, in her avolokia form. In the other corner, the fang dragon Xyzanth, still smarting from his defeat in the giant city, licked his poisonous lips. Only Valon and Dennis, their see invisibility powers active, could see Mahuudril and Xyzanth. The rest of the Marauders relied on true seeing, which did not have the same range. In the two remaining corners, and momentarily out of sight, loomed a shadow truly horrid umber hulk, and a death giant. The umber hulk had long served as Dragotha’s faithful servant. Dragotha had recently recruited the death giant to his retinue, a sign of respect the heroes posed to the undead dragon. When Valon had rounded the bend yesterday, Dragotha had spoken to the rogue – taunting him about how his quest actually served agents of the very cause he sought to stop. Today the original undead dragon spared no words, not even to mock the Marauders.
Both groups knew any discussion would only lead to battle, and so wasted no words.
Slaughter modified a firestorm spell, converting it into electricity. The storm filled most of Dragotha’s lair. Slaughter saw that the spell left Dragotha almost completely unhurt, and cursed as Xyzanth dodged the effect entirely. The warmage remembered Xyzanth had pulled the same trick in Kongen-Thulnir. However, the warmage had cut his chops building golems for Silverymoon, and he knew the storm would slow the pair of iron golems.
Glamorous, having finally reached the pinnacle of her powers, attempted to summon additional assistance from hell, but none heeded her call.
Salvador had worked late into the night yesterday to plan his opening salvo. He began with a greater dispel magic which he cast with impossible speed. However, Dragotha’ ring flashed momentarily and the spell fizzled. Salvador paused only a moment to reassess, and cast a second greater dispel magic. This time Dragotha’s other ring flashed, and the spell reflected back on poor Sal. However, Salvador’s own greater ring of counterspells then flashed, and the spell fizzled harmlessly. Touché. Salvador planned for a long fight.
Then Dragotha eagerly opened the scroll he held in his gargantuan claw, and read to the heroes. He cast a disjunction spell on the Marauders, although only unlucky Phiery succumbed to the effect. In addition to losing his ample preparatory magics, the phoelarch also permanently lost his magical bracers.
From there the room exploded into a fury of motion, beyond even the ken of the great undead dragon to track.
The umber hulk burrowed into the tabernacles gooey walls and lashed out at Phiery, trying to pull the phoelarch into the wall, but the umber hulk failed to latch on to his victim.
Agretha worked as quickly as possible to enact the powerful enchantments necessary to call one of her god’s most powerful servants – an earth monolith – to the battle. Dragotha had warned his team the druid would likely try such a tactic. Despite the warning, the druid’s tremendous magical defenses prevented the Kyuss followers from interrupting the casting. The monolith arrived and the narrow tunnel could hardly accommodate it, but the creature dutifully appeared behind the Marauders. The bulk of the monolith entered the walls, where it challenged the umber hulk. Immediately Kyuss worms infested the monolith burrowing through the earth creature. An earth cancer centipede joined the fray on the side of the umber hulk, and for some time the trio – earth monolith, shadows truly horrid umber hulk, and earthcancer centipede – engaged in a titanic struggle inside the tabernacle’s walls, almost completely unseen.
The death giant teleported right into the midst of the Marauders, eager to add fresh victims to his billowy soul cloak. He took a few overhead swings with his mighty axe, but could not find purchase in any of the Marauders magically protected flesh.
Salvador placed a prismatic wall in the entrance to Dragotha’s chambers, sealing the giant on the Marauders’ side of the wall. Plus, if any of the golems chose to pursue the heroes, they would need to suffer the effects of the wall.
The Marauders teamed up against the giant. Phiery unloaded his holy shock bow into the giant’s back right flank and destroyed the soulless creature, dooming it to oblivion. Phiery nodded with satisfaction. The once insouciant phoelarch had become grim and focused since his he had nearly lost his wife and unborn child because of this mission. He now fought for the future of gravid Rannyn. Following Phiery’s shots, the umber hulk seized the opportunity to bite into something juicier than the earth sandwich known as the earth monolith, and finally bit through the wall into the nearby phoelarch.
Agretha struggled to control Grumbar’s mighty servant, and concentrated fully on the earth monolith. She kept a low profile towards the rear, but suddenly another earth cancer centipede burst through the wall behind the Marauders, and pulled the druid into the wall. Agretha swatted at the bug, to no effect because she held her tremendous concentration primarily on the powerful monolith. Despite the bugs mandibles and legs crawling all over her, and despite her predicament of sitting within a sea of Kyuss worms which now infested her body, she succeeded in holding her concentration.
Salvador recognized the plight of Phiery and Agretha, and came to the rescue. He healed the phoelarch, and then moved to where the centipede had pulled Agretha into the wall. With lightning speed he discharged a quickened disintegrate, which destroyed the wall and revealed Agretha, still in the centipedes clutches. Next, Sal activated his magical belt to act even faster, touched Agretha, and greater dimension doored her to safety away from the centipede.
The monolith continued its struggle in the wall with the umber hulk and the centipede, but almost no noise from this struggle reached the adventurers. With the giant destroyed, and the wall separating the two groups, the battle took on an eerie calm and a momentary pause. Quickly, Salvador deduced that Dragotha’s band had no intention of plunging through his prismatic wall. With Dragotha’s second phylactery nearly complete, and with the clock ticking on the enhancement spells of the Marauders, Salvador decided time was not on his side and he dispelled his own wall.
The battle resumed.
Slaughter commanded Sharde the stained glass golem to march forward, and the heavy creature thundered into Dragotha’s lair. The two iron golems intercepted Sharde. Sharde held the advantage of moving at full speed, and the ability to regenerate. The slowed iron golems also held a pair of advantages: numbers, and superior armor casing. The stained glass golem and iron golems locked in combat with one another, construct v. constructs, tempered glass v. magic iron.
The sly avolokia, Mahuudril, had slunk forward while the prismatic wall separated the battle lines. She placed a wall of force in the middle of the Marauders, leaving Dutch and Sharde on Dragotha’s side, and the remainder of the Marauders cut-off. Dennis Slaughter reacted almost immediately, by disintegrating the wall of force. He also reprioritized the threat Mahuudril posed to the operation, and made her the heroes’ primary target. Salvador placed a personal antimagic field on Mahuudril, stultifying her, and Valon stepped forward to ultimately slice the avolokia to ribbons.
Up to now Dragotha had suffered a smattering of blows from Abel’s bow and a few other magical effects. These attacks presented only a moderate threat to the undead dragon. Moreover, his coven of shadesteel golems released intermittent negative energy bursts to keep their master hale, if an undead creature could be described as such.
However, Dragotha had seen two of his favored minions die, and decided to take the battle to the enemy. He flew from his perch and positioned himself carefully. He got within one claw’s length of Valon, who had just killed Mahuudril, but kept himself out of the range of Dutch’s full flurry. Dragotha struck Valon with his claw and paralyzed the rogue.
Dragotha’s maneuver prompted three Marauders to respond: Abel, Judel and Dutch. Abel marched forward, carrying Balakarde’s slayer fragment into the proximity of Valon, which freed Valon from the paralysis. Judel, seeing the chance to mount a major counter offensive, barked and yelled at the Marauders to double-time it in his customary hortatory speech. Dutch, motivated by the ebullient marshal’s voice, advanced on Dragotha. In his new position he unloaded his full fury on the undead dragon. However, Dragotha’s tremendous armor succeeded in blocking most of the attacks.
Judel’s words had also motivated Valon, who slunk past Dragotha and attacked the undead dragon from behind. Still, most of Valon’s dagger strikes also did not penetrate Dragotha’s tremendous armor.
Valon’s brave advance left him in a precarious place, surrounded by Dragotha, Xyzanth, and two shadesteel golems. Dragotha cut down Valon in a rapid series of bite and claw attacks. This triggered Valon’s fortunate fate spell, and Dragotha dealt nearly enough damage with his wings and tail to fell the rogue a second time.
Following his daring rescue of Agretha, Sal saw Valon’s distress and yet another opportunity for a second daring rescue. Sal created a forcecube floating in mid-air in Dragotha’s chamber. He then went to Valon, and greater dimension doored Valon into this sanctuary. There Sal tended the rogue.
Just then a new threat burst forth from the walls of the tabernacle. A gargantuan lucent worm emerged from the north side of the hallway. Plump Dutch presented the nearest morsel, and the worm tried to gulp down the sacred fist. However, Dutch’s agility and armor prevented the worm from landing any successful attacks.
The Marauders continued to strike at Dragotha, while his remaining shadesteel golems fatigued from the negative energy bursts. The canny undead dragon appraised the threats and found that Phiery, an earlier victim of the disjunction affect, no longer carried a death ward. Dragotha reared up and unloaded his breath weapon upon Phiery. However, instead of releasing gouts of flame, or a cone of acid, Dragotha unleashed a death wind. The normally spry phoelarch took the ineluctable wind full in the face. Moreover, Dragotha made certain to catch his own flank, where Abel had shot a few ribs, in the wind. The wind nearly killed Phiery, while mending most of Dragotha’s wounds.
Sal had patched up the worst of Valon’s wounds, so he used dimension door to travel out of the forcecage sanctuary, heal the phoelarch and a few nearby allies with a mass cure critical wounds, and place Phiery in the sanctuary. Phiery still faced grave danger, because the death wind clung to his flesh. Even Valon activated his minor healing wands in hopes it would sustain the phoelarch, but the clinging wind continued to claw at his life. Meanwhile, out of the forcecage sanctuary, the clinging breath continued its magic and Dragotha’s wounds continued to close. Just as Phiery nearly slipped into unconsciousness, the negative energy breath expired – Sal and Valon had saved the phoelarch. As an added bonus the phoelarch did not explode in a fiery burst within the confines of the forcecage.
By now the monolith battle, through a series of 5-foot steps by the combatants, had moved into the hallway proper, so that working from west to east: 1) the monolith dueled the umber hulk and two earthcancer centipedes, 2) the bulk of the marauders huddled together unloading attacks, and 3) Dragotha and his remaining allies unloaded their own attacks. Then two more earthcancer centipedes arrived, pitting the monolith against four centipedes and the umber hulk. The monolith appeared to be taking more than he gave, but it seemed to still have plenty more it could give.
Xyzanth had been harrying Agretha. She would fly away from the fang dragon, only to have the speedy dragon fly after her and attack again. Agretha heard Slaughter call for an all out-assault on Dragotha, now that most of the Marauders flew or stood in close proximity to the undead dragon. Agretha ignored Xyzanth, broke her concentration on the monolith, and heeded the warmage’s instruction, hoping this final push would destroy the undead dragon.
Agretha cast a retributive heal on Dragotha, dealing damage to him while healing herself. Salvador and Dutch followed up Agretha’s heal spell with their own retributive healing. Abel closed to sword range and converted his bow into a sword and prepared to really dig in. The combined attacks, particularly Abel’s, left Dragotha smarting, but not dead, as the Marauders had hoped. Still, tasting victory, Sal placed a dimensional anchor on Dragotha, in case the undead dragon entertained ideas of escape.
The push against Dragotha had not stopped Xyzanth from harrying Agretha, and despite the retributive heal, the druid had begun to show signs of serious injury. Slaughter flew to Agretha, and used his greater dimension door to get his oldest ally to safety.
Frustrated by the shadesteel golems’ constant healing of Dragotha, Glamorous teleported behind enemy lines. She whipped the shadesteel golems with her barbed whip. In addition, by now Sharde had destroyed the iron golems, and moved to join Glamorous against the golems. Even Valon, back to operating condition, if not full health, joined the fray against the golems. Together, the trio of Marauders killed the trio of golems, and cut off Dragotha’s main source of healing.
Although the spellcasters had unloaded their best attack against Dragotha earlier, Abel’s arm never tired. Dragotha had stayed within range of the warforged’s greatsword. Abel had a strong sword, ample magic enhancement, and the slayer fragment of Belekarde’s soul. His creators had built him with a strong arm as well, and he swung, and swung, and swung, and swung again into the undead dragon’s scales. Almost every time his attacks hit home, and hit home hard.
For the first time in a long time, since before even the elf Valon was a babe, Dragotha encountered an individual he did not particularly want to test his luck against in a toe-to-toe fight. Dragotha turned his back on Abel and flew away, earning himself one more swat on the back. Dragotha then tried a different tactic, and cast greater dispel magic on Valon. However, Valon’s training as an occult slayer protected him, and the dispel magic reflected back on the undead dragon, destroying about half of Dragotha’s magical protections. Sal double-checked Dragotha – the dimensional anchor remained, and Salvador felt confident.
Frustrated at his lack of kills, Dragotha flew to Judel. He snapped his jaws shut with such tremendous force right on Judel’s head. The single blow would surely have left the marshal dead, except the blow missed. Judel’s head remained comfortably atop Judel’s neck, a few feet from where Dragotha had seen it. Dragotha cursed that he no longer had true seeing, and now relied on inferior blindsense. Judel nodded thanks to Slaughter, who had devised the plan to place a displacement spell on the whole platoon.
Valon, frustrated by his inability to hit Dragotha, tried a new tactic and flew after Xyzanth. The rogue normally relied on feints and trickery to expertly place his knife strikes. However, Xyzanth saw through the rogue’s tricks, and prevented Valon’s knives from hitting his vitals. Still, Xyzanth showed numerous wounds from the combat, and even Valon’s inexpert knife strikes succeeded in killing the gargantuan fang dragon.
Dragotha cursed. His four earth cancer centipedes, the lucent worm, and the umber hulk remained to him. But he had lost three of his key allies: Mahuurdil, Xyzanth, and the death giant, not to mention his five golems. In addition, he hadn’t succeeded in knocking any of the Marauders out of the battle. His odds of victory appeared slim.
Dragotha cast a targeted greater dispel magic on himself and succeeded in shedding Sal’s dimensional anchor. Free from the anchor, Dragotha activated his belt, that let him act quickly, and teleported away. It took Sal a second to realize what had happened, but once he put it together he could only shrug and kick a lose stone across the floor.
With Dragotha gone, the Marauders succeeded in destroying their remaining enemies easily. Next, the heroes destroyed Dragotha’s phylactery. Dutch estimated Dragotha could have completed the new phylactery that very day. Finally, the Marauders feasted their eyes on the nimiety of riches in the corner of Dragotha’s chamber. Because of Dragotha’s escape the victory had seemed hollow, but the treasure lessened the let down substantially.
This pile of treasure posed its own challenge to the Marauders. How to get it out of the tabernacle? As the group considered this they received a sending from Malchor, requesting an audience.
Agretha - Dream Dwarf - Druid 15/ Earth Dreamer 5 – NG
Leonidas - Celestial Dire Lion - 12 HD
Commander Dennis Slaughter - Human - Warmage 16/Stormcaster 5 – LG
Lieutenant Judel Maccabaeus - Human -Marshal 15/Favored Soul 2 – LN
Valon Neverdo'ell - Moon elf - Rogue 4/Ninja 4/Swashbuckler 3/Wizard 2/Invisible Blade 5/Occult Slayer 2 – CG
Prince Phiery of Mechbia - Phoelarch - Phoelarch 12/Ranger 5/Paladin 2 – CG
Dutch - Human - Cleric 8/Monk 2/Sacred Fist 10 – LN
Glamorous - Eyrenes ECL 17 – LE
Abel - Warforged - Fighter 19/ Barbarian 1 – CG
Salvador "Sal" Marino - Human - Druid 3/Wizard 3/Mystic Theurge 10/Arcane Hierophant 4 – NG
Gustav "Gusty" - Air Elemental - N
The Marauders had just begun to pick through Dragotha’s pile of treasure, when Commander Dennis Slaughter, leader of the Ardent Legion, received a sending from Malchor Harpell.
“Slaughter, please report to Longsaddle immediately. Urgent news from Alhaster. Kyuss may emerge there, in as little as two days. Bring the team.”
Dennis left most of Dragotha’s treasure behind, and teleported as much of the party as he could to Longsaddle. Agretha of Mithral Hall and descendent of Queen Tulian Saltheart, and Phiery, phoelarch prince of Mechbia, went to Silverymoon, using Agretha’s word of recall.
The Marauders arrived in Malchor’s long airy chamber, which looked unchanged from their visit in early summer. Dennis recounted the Marauders campaign against Dragotha, including the recent battle where the heroes drove the undead dragon off, but failed to kill it. Malchor congratulated the adventurers on at least defeating the undead dragon – no small feat.
Malchor then explained that Alhaster has fallen under siege by undead. “Evil green mist clots the city’s streets, and Prince Zeech completed his tower in south-western Alhaster with amazing speed.”
Salvador Marino, the gypsy king, and Dutch, world renowned gadabout, both of whom had seen Alhaster just yesterday, confirmed Malchor Harpell’s information. Dutch added, “Above the tower a vortex churns in a cloudy sky.” Moreover, Dutch only noticed the monolith capstone atop the tower within the past few days. So it was either a very recent addition, or he had somehow missed it before.
Malchor explained that his divination spells predicted that Kyuss would return in two to three days, and once he returned the Age of Worms would begin. “Morever, a colossal worm-ridden beast formed from the dust of Myrkul’s disintegrated corpse may have attacked Waterdeep yesterday. In addition, near Baldur’s Gate, a green water elemental emerged from the river where Bhaal had died during the time of troubles. The prophesies of Kyuss’ faithful seem to fortell that two events like this would occur within days of Kyuss’ return.”
“Therefore,” Malchor says, “we can delay no longer.” He urges the Marauders to head to Alhaster as soon as possible to foil the cult’s plans.
Malchor continued, “I believe that the Spire of Long Shadows Zeech erected served as a focus for the unholy energies the wormgod feeds upon to fuel his escape from the black monolith that now serves as his prison. Since the monolith sits in plain sight of the whole city, I fear the cult fears no chance of failure.”
Dennis interrupted Malchor, “Will Kyuss use the monolith to enter the city? Or can he emerge from the monolith now?”
Malchor responded that, according to his best guess, and he cautioned the Marauders this is new territory for him, Kyuss can emerge from the monolith now, but only briefly - and when he does emerge he must stay relatively close to the monolith. Within a few days though, once the cult fully frees him, Kyuss will not face these limitations and will grow in power astronomically. Malchor adds, “I believe that 1,500 years ago Kyuss miscalculated and left his monolith prematurely. Had he not miscalculated the Order of the Storm would not have succeeded in driving Kyuss back into the monolith. Unless forced to, Kyuss will not make the same miscalculation again.”
Malchor also urges the Marauders should take heart. If the Marauders act quickly, they can face Kyuss while weak from his imprisonment and only a shadow of his true divine power. He believes that the Marauders, if armed with the right gear and the proper preparations, can pose a genuine threat to Kyuss. He also believes that where the Order of the Storm only succeeded in driving Kyuss back into the monolith, the heroes have a chance to destroy the wormgod once-and-for-all.
To this end, he gave the Marauders three gifts. He returned the Hand of Myrkul, originally liberated from Darl Quethos, to the heroes. He explained that the hand can stun the wormgod for a moment, although the wearer of the hand will die in the process. He also returned the single fragment of the Shattered Scepter of Calim, a useful healing item, which the Marauders had found in the Crater Ridge Mines. Finally, he granted the Marauders three scrolls of wish he had recently scribed.
Shortly after Malchor presented the Marauders with these gifts, two other well-known wizards joined the Marauders and Malchor in the study: Khelben Blackstaff of Waterdeep and Elminster of Shadowdale. Malchor explained that he will travel with these wizards to the ethereal plane to create a powerful dimensional lock over Alhaster. This lock will persist for a week and prevent Kyuss, any undead, and Kyuss’ minions from leaving the city. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, the lock will also make it difficult, but not impossible, for anyone else to exit the city with magic.
Malchor concluded by recommending the Marauders rest and then head to the city without delay. There, the heroes should focus on fighting the despair of Alhaster’s citizens, which currently feeds Kyuss’ power. In addition, Malchor’s agents had observed magical energies currently at work in Alhaster. These energies had built up in the spire, and Malchor believed that severing the conduit of these energies would slow Kyuss. Once the Marauders accomplish these two tasks, or if time grows short before the Marauders can accomplish these tasks, the heroes should then go to the monolith and kill Kyuss.
Dennis asked if destroying the monolith itself represented a promising strategy. Malchor shrugged, but declared that he believed the infusion of divine energy into the monolith will render it completely invulnerable, and the tactic, therefore, not promising.
To speed the Marauders, Malchor also offered the full service of his family in retrieving Dragotha’s treasure. Almost a dozen wizards assisted the Marauders in quickly retrieving the treasure from Wormcrawl Fissure using a series of teleportation spells. Amazingly, the notorious Harpell wizards delivered the treasure safe-and-sound in Waterdeep. The Marauders stocked up on gear, rested, and prepared to head to Alhaster tomorrow.
The Marauders arrived in Alhaster, and naturally chose the Deluxery as their insertion point. There Dutch met with his usual crowd, although only the most crapulous patrons engaged in the gluttony of the Deluxery in these dark times. Of course the Marauders saw a Deluxery fixture: the charismatic Shag Solomon. The heroes asked how things were going, and Shag responded in his thick accent, “They’re going to bloody hell, that’s where they’re going!” He told the Marauders mist choked the city streets, and Prince Zeech had finished his tower. He explained how clouds churned perpetually in the sky making the day little brighter than the night, and undead roamed the city streets. These undead even attacked in daylight, if it could be called broad daylight. The undead even dared to accost the upper class of the Deluxery! Imagine!
The Marauders decided to make their way to the churches, and headed towards the nearest – the Cathedral of Bane. Just after the heroes left the front door of the Deluxery, however, three fireballs smashed into the posh inn’s rear. Dutch whirled around, eager to defend the building that represented everything he stood for. The rest of the heroes also joined the battle against the undead. A single Kyuss knight, a trio of liches of Kyuss, a quartet of Kyuss vampires, and 25 spawn of Kyuss clawed their way into the Deluxery. The Deluxery patrons, not even inured to doing basic tasks for themselves, entered a total panic and fled in every direction, some right into the attacking undead.
Slaughter dropped an electric storm on both sides of the inn, and the efficacious storm destroyed two packs of spawn of Kyuss. Slaughter laid down the electricity with the expertise of a Storm Caster, and the electrons even fried spawn of Kyuss who had already clambered over the windowsills into the inn. Unbeknownst to the warmage, his storm also caused some collateral damage, as he killed some of the inn’s patrons who had huddled inside still within the electricity’s reach.
The four vampires came at the inn from every angle. With tremendous agility the vampires somersaulted through the open windows, or smashed in the glass of those not yet broken. Inside the vampires set to the grim work of killing the people inside the Deluxery, a work they seemed to relish.
The liches responded to Slaughter’s arcane power with arcane power of their own, and fired pairs of disintegrate spells and quickened magic missiles at both the inn’s patrons and the heroes. None of the heroes fell to the liches magic, but many of the citizens of Alhaster died.
Phiery drew his bow and worked methodically. The holy-bow wielding paladin fired arrow after arrow into the liches of Kyuss and a smattering of Kyuss spawn. Over the course of the battle, the phoelarch destroyed all three liches.
Dutch raced into the inn. The monk recognized this battle tactically differed from the norm, and went right to the center of the attacking undead, exposing him on every flank. This served to draw the maximum number of undead against him, which thereby reduced the number of undead available to attack the vulnerable people inside the inn. This gave some of the patrons an opportunity to escape.
Valon slipped in as well. He didn’t draw quite as many attackers, but he focused on cutting down the vampires, one-by-one.
Although a Deluxery patron was dying at the rate of about one per second, Sal assessed the overall threat of this combat as low. He conserved resources, as did his familiar Gustav. Agretha remained thrifty with her resources as well, but did freeze one of the vampires in ice. The cold did not hurt the undead, but it still immobilized it and kept it off the Deluxery’s guests.
Leonidus, Galmorous, and Sharde all entered the inn and did their best to take down the undead attackers quickly. The trio also diverted attackers from the beloved Shag Solomon, which allowed the quaggoth to sustain his inaccurate perception of his own combat prowess.
Near the end of the battle, Valon and Dutch squared off against the Kyuss knight who had led the attack, Rinn Graddah. The pair defeated the Kyuss knight, saving the Deluxery.
However, after defeating the undead, the Marauders took stock of the battle and found the victory hollow. Although Shag had survived, nearly all of the other patrons of the inn had died. All of the Marauders now knew first hand that Shag had not exaggerated the threats Alhaster faced.
The Marauders left the Deluxery, and resumed their original plan: to head to the Cathedral of Bane. Slaughter did not care for Dutch’s choice of church. He would have preferred to head to one more on the up-and-up, particularly Tempus, but Dutch had argued that the Cathedral was closest, and largest. Besides, he knew the city best.
Traveling the streets of Alhaster, the rest of the Marauders further confirmed what Sal, Dutch, and Glamorous had said, the city was in chaos. Riots thronged in the streets where mobs of undead had not already claimed control. The Marauders saw plumes of foul green fog boiling and churning throughout the city – some of these fog patches blocked entire blocks of buildings. Curiously, in the sky above, the Marauders did not see the Blessed Angels; the normally ubiquitous force of eyrinyes who guarded the city seemed to have abandoned it. Despite the tragedies, the most impressive sight remained Zeech’s completed Great Project. In the summer, when the bulk of the Marauders had last visited Alhaster, the project stood as little more than a squat ziggurat. Now, from this ziggurat rose an immense tower that stretched well over 750 feet into the sky. On the tower, dozens of strange pods and balconies lined the edges. Many of the pods lay crumbled and ruined. Above the tower, the clouds spiraled and churned like muddy water around a drain. These clouds caused the light in the city to seem wrong – gray and muted – as if the sun itself loathed to look upon this corner of the world.
The Marauders passed destroyed buildings. Some had burned, while only rubble remained from other buildings. Dutch said immense green worms had burrowed up under the foundation, and the rubble represented the only remnant of the building and people who had been inside at that inopportune moment.
On cue, a nearby building suddenly lurched to the staccato sound of bursting timbers. Plumes of dust sprayed into the air around the house’s foundation, and then again the structure shuddered. The façade no doubt roared as it crumbled away, but the roar from the pair of immense green worms that burrowed up from the building’s core drowned out all other noise. The worms spilled out onto the crowded street.
Valon reacted first – charging the worm with knives drawn. The poor rogue unintentionally ended up as a morsel in the worm’s mouth. Dutch praised Valon’s bravery and inadvertent tactics, as he would no doubt protect the people of the city by resting uncomfortably between the worm’s teeth, and plugging up the creatures mouth.
Dutch, Glamorous, Judel and Slaughter all barked orders to the citizens, ordering them to safety. Unlike the Deluxery patrons, most listened, and sensibly moved away from the big, huge, worms armed with nasty teeth.
Phiery fired arrow after arrow into the worms, while Dutch attacked the worm. Once the townsfolk had reached safety, Dutch freed Valon from the worm. Slaughter finished off the worms, assaulting them with arcane magics, while Sal and Agretha conserved resources.
The Marauders defeated the worms with very few casualties. A few of the bystanders murmured among themselves statements like, “these are the prophesized heroes of Silver,” or, “Dutch has returned. He and his friends will save us.” With hope on the rise, a tremendous storm of lightning erupted from the apex of the spire, and Kyuss’ enraged howl echoed down over the city.
The Marauders continued to the Cathedral of Bane, but the thick green mist choked the most obvious path. To speed them along, Sal magically controlled the wind by creating a strong wind which blew the noisome mists away from the Marauders. Inside the mist Dutch magically amplified his own voice, and called out for any citizens trapped in the mist. He urged the refugees to come join him, for safety.
A few families emerged, and Dutch directed these families to the Deluxery. However, Dutch’s shouting and the windstorm drew a score of skeletons from the mist to the heroes. In addition, a broodfiend flew from the mist to hover over the heroes and attack. The broodfiend attacked with thick, poisonous, acidic breath, and attacked Agretha with a quickened harm spell. Phiery, Slaughter, Sal, and even swordsman Judel killed skeletons. The remainder of the Marauders put the broodfiend down.
Dutch continued calling and rescued more families. The families looked heartened to see the heroes, and by the time the heroes had emerged from the opposite side of the mist they heard Kyuss cry out a second time.
As the Marauders neared their destination, church bells rang out. Valon, with his keen ears, noted that the sound did not come from straight ahead, and pointed slightly to the side. From the direction, Dutch surmised that Lanthis Chax was ringing his bells at the Church of Tempus. By the time the Marauders arrived, a sizable group of citizens had gathered in the large square near the Cathedral of Bane and the Church of Tempus. As Lanthis rang the bells, still more desperate-looking citizens crept into the square and gathered in nervous and hesitant clutches, seeking inferred sanctuary. Phiery and Valon both spotted Lord Malaven Kilraven, who had attended Zeech’s feast, among the crowd.
Once the crowd had swelled to almost fill the square, Lanthis Chax judged he had enough people. He ceased ringing the bells and addressed the crowd.
“My fellow Alhasterites! I know we face an unprecedented evil. I know many of your loved ones have been taken by this evil. Know you who brought this evil down upon us – Prince Zeech! Whether by intent, or a byproduct of his own madness, know that the Prince unleashed this catastrophe upon our city. However, remain calm and we have hope. We must leave the city! The Toilway remains clear of the mist. If we move quickly to the eastern gates we can escape the city.”
It seemed as if the mob would buy into the salvation Lanthis promised, when Vierias Spatlepate, high priest of Bane arrived. Two dozen well-armored guards bolstered the high priest’s presence. Still the bald, stooped man began timidly.
“He…her…heresy. You traitor Lanthis. How dare you question the sacrosanct Zeech, who even now heads to the Cathedral to call upon Bane to deliver Alhaster’s faithful in these dark times. Th… The…. Those… Those who join me in prayer will find salvation in the Cathedral. Those who do not will find doom and wrath for… for… befitting cowards who would flee their home.”
Vierias’ stuttering, and mumbling undercut the impact of the high priest’s otherwise powerful message. Most of the mob seemed unconvinced.
Almerah Kosen, high priest of Kelemovor arrived next, with a retinue of clerics and began her own speech to either resolve, or contribute towards, the indecision. She spoke in a shrill voice that cut like nails on a blackboard, “I know you are not cowards who would run from your homes! I also know you rationally seek sanctuary, but not with the very madman who brought this disaster upon you! Come to the church of Kelemvor, honor him with an offering, and you shall find safety for yourself and your kin.”
None of Almerach’s retinue seemed uncomfortable with her implied offer of selling protection. Dennis Slaughter did. Commander Dennis Slaughter, who led the Ardent Legion, considered the possibilities. He had served on a committee that had planned for a similar disaster during the war between the Silver Marches confederacy and the orcs: what to do if the orcs take Silverymoon. He knew how dangerous any evacuation in the midst of battle could become if the enemy army struck the gathered refugees. Would the army treat the refugees mercifully? Last year, Slaughter had doubted the orcs would show mercy. He suspected even less mercy from the undead. He also had no doubt a large collection of people would serve like a magnet to Kyuss’ minions. Slaughter quickly asked Dutch which religious building offered the best defenses.
Dutch responded, “without question, Bane.”
That clearly implied the refugees should, all else equal, head to the Cathedral. However, Slaughter knew he had heard some obscure mythologies that implied some daedal plan connecting Bane, Bhaal, Myrkul, the Ebon Triad, Kyuss, and Jergal. Would directing people to the Cathedral direct them to a trap? Dennis wished he had paid more attention to the religious mysteries of these events, but the vague and unseen never interested him very much. However, he also seemed to remember that the proper faithful of Bane, and the Alhaster cathedral represented the supreme church of this faith in all of Faerun, did not recognize any connection and viewed the Ebon Triad as heretics. Hadn’t Zeech ordered the execution of anyone in the Ebon Triad? And this was a Bane worshipper, an inherently intolerant faith, who tolerated worshippers of gods like Tyr. What Zeech and Bane might do would remain an unknown for Dennis, but Slaughter surmised that heading to the Cathedral of Bane represented the citizens best bet. Moreover, remaining out here in the square, indecisive, clearly represented the worst choice.
Slaughter spoke eloquently, persuasively, and authoritatively. Over the course of a few minutes he convinced all the refugees to head to the best defended building – the Cathedral of Bane.
As Slaughter spoke, Judel and Dutch had a private audience with Lanthis at one edge of the square. The marshal tried to persuade Lanthis to move to the Cathedral, since this structure offered the best defense and thus made the most tactical sense. The priest of Tempus, god of war, reluctantly agreed, saying he would do it because it made tactical sense. Judel added he only did things that made tactical sense. Judel and Dutch next approached Almerah. Judel stammered, unsure what argument to make to persuade the Kelemvor worshipper to join everyone in Bane’s Cathedral. Dutch jumped to the rescue.
“How much money have you made in offerings?” he asked. She said they had made 400 gp. Dutch said, “I’ll pay you 800 gp to move yourself, your clerics, and your faithful to the Cathedral of Bane.”
Almerah agreed immediately.
Two minutes after the clearing emptied of citizens, and the doors to the Cathedral had closed, a dozen Kyuss knights attacked the Marauders in the square. Slaughter ordered his platoon into a Cormyrean wedge, a tactic he had learned during his time spent on the eastern front in Harrowdale, preparing with his Cormyrean allies to face the puissant githyanki army one day.
Phiery shot at the knights, always finding the most wounded knight and then putting it down. In the course of the battle the phoelarch claimed many kills. Slaughter cast implosion, and pointed to Kyuss knights one after another, each time destroying the Kyuss knight utterly. His kill count nearly matched the phoelarch’s. Glamorous summoned a few bearded devils, which intercepted the Kyuss knights. The devils could not stand up to the knights, but they did slow the knights’ assault on the vulnerable center of the Cormyrean wedge. Sharde held a corner of the wedge against a pair of Kyuss knights, while Dutch intercepted and battled a third knight. Valon also squared off in a difficult toe-to-toe fight with a knight.
The Kyuss knights attacked with swords, but worse the knights eyes extended on worm like stalks and bit the Marauders. Each bite diminished the intellect, and by the end of the fight Valon, Agretha and Phiery had fallen to the ground babbling vegetables.
However, in the end the Marauders won the day. Many of the citizens in the Cathedral of Bane had watched the battle as best as possible through the Cathedrals impressive stained glass windows. When the Marauders defeated the last night, a great cheer arose from the Cathedral. Keen-eyed Valon noted that even Vierias appeared to cheer with the others. With that cheering, lightning once again struck the spire, and Kyuss again cried out in anger. This time some of the balconies even fell from the visibly weakened structure, falling hundreds of feet before presumably smashing to dust on the earth below or dropping into the Sea of Swords. Following this victory, the Marauders noticed a palpable sense of renewed hope in the city.
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 2
The refugees in the Bane Cathedral cheered as the Marauders defeated the last of the Knights of Kyuss. Valon noticed that even Vieras Spatlepate, high priest of Bane, looked relieved by the adventurers’ victory. The Marauders entered the Cathedral and spoke with Spatlepate; Lanthis Chax, priest of Tempus; and Almerah Kosen, priestess of Kelemovor. Commander Dennis Slaughter didn’t bother to make nice with the clerics and instead told the clerics that if they wouldn’t take their thumbs out of their asses and at least start giving the Marauders information Slaughter would unleash a spell to blow their thumbs off - even if that meant obliterating their thumbs’ current protective casing. Slaughter specifically wanted to know about the negative energy in the city, and he suspected the graveyard. Slaughter’s questioning prompted Almerah to offer that the priests had sealed a tomb discovered 10 years ago in the graveyard on top of a hillock under a crab apple tree. The priests had sealed the tomb since divination magic had promised great woe if they entered the tomb. The answer appeased Slaughter and the Marauders headed to the cemetery.
True to Almerhah’s word, the Marauders found the suspect tomb. Agretha Deepseer, who traced her lineage to Queen Tulian Saltheart, entered the earth surrounding the tomb and scouted ahead. She found some remains and some statues and a passage leading deep into the earth. She reported her findings and the Marauders moved forward. The heroes encountered a particularly imposing trap. In a very long, narrow hallway one of the Marauders stepped on a trigger plate and activated a ferocious energy blast that hit everyone in the hallway and persisted. The initial energy nearly killed Slaughter and Marshall Lieutenant Judel Maccabeus. The tougher Marauders, already in front, raced ahead to escape the trap. Slaughter rescued himself and the less physically imposing Marauders, already in the back, by dimension dooring back out of the hallway the way the adventurers had come. Eventually, using magic, everyone reunited in a room filled with strange hatched pods.
The team explored further and came to a room swarming with a dozen liches. Sacred Fist Dutch took charge of the battle with a Lion’s Roar, while the warforged fighter Abel charged forward, sword drawn, looking for the closest target to swing at, and intercept anything headed for his friends, still coming from behind the warforged. Phiery, the phoelarch ranger, advanced more slowly, firing arrows as he creeped forward. Slaughter unleashed one of his famous electric storms, almost filling the large room, and decimating many of the liches. The liches responded by casting a series of disintegrate spells on Abel. The warforged resisted the worst of the spells effects, but nevertheless the cumulative effect of all of the spells battered the fighter. The Marauders continued to push north into the room and succeeded in destroying all of the liches, but not before another group of foes joined the fray. Avolokia ghosts began to pick at the heroes with flamestrikes. Dutch charged ahead – Phiery continued shooting at the new targets – Abel converted his sword to a bow and fired with Phiery.
The magically-inclined Marauders dimension doored as a group to the new ethereal threats. Sal, the gypsy-king, felt his life force leech from him as the team approached a huge machine. The gypsy retreated by casting another dimension door. Phiery and Slaughter pressed closer, but the machine similarly attacked their life force as well. Dutch squared off on one of the machines platforms with an avolokia. The tentacle aberration managed to suck some of Dutch’s intelligence, his talent in shortest supply. Dutch ultimately won the fight. While most of the Marauders focused on defeating the avolokia - ultimately four had emerged - Sal focused on destroying the unholy machine, with disintegrate after disintegrate. Slaughter saw no need to pick targets, and managed to electric storm both the machine and the avolokia simultaneously.
The combined magical assault broke the machine, and gears flew from the contraption, and a black vortex swelled from the machine’s core. The Marauders, in close proximity to the swelling, out-of-control, black heart of negative energy reasoned that in this case distance was their friend. Agretha supplied information (the distance underground), and Sal and Slaughter cast dimension door and brought the team back to the surface. After about a minute, the Marauders, and everyone in the city, felt the negative energy diminish. The heroes assumed success.
With the cloak of negative energy lifted, and the Alhasterites spirits also lifted, the Marauders headed southwest to the Kyuss Spire. The powerful heroes possessed a wide array of possible travel methods, many magical, but after some deliberation the group decided to simply walk up to the 700 foot tower. First spotted by Valon, a squadron of Blessed Angels stood guard around the spire’s base.
Dutch approached the angelic trio, holding out hope that the Angels would stand beside him, and not Kyuss. No luck. Dutch quickly learned he could not diffuse the situation, and he would, regrettably, be forced to fight girls. Battle commenced.
The Marauders killed the angels, but the trio left the heroes impressed with their durability. Dutch entered the guarded room at the base of the spire, and found he had triggered a much larger donnybrook. Nine blessed angels approached the party around the sides or through the spire. A trap summoned two Horned Devils. Six vampire shadow dancers flitted towards the Marauders. Worst of all, a huge silver dragon, which could only be Lashonna, flew towards the Marauders with extra-long fangs barred.
Sal responded to the summoning with a summoning of his own. The gypsy called forth an elemental monolith inside the spire, and proceeded to wall in the devils and two of the vampires with the monolith. “Let them sort it out,” he thought, although the devils escaped the tough situation by teleporting outside.
The Blessed Angels approached from all sides, buzzing around the Marauders and even teleporting right into the midst of the Marauders. To the best of his ability Slaughter dropped an electrical storm on the Angels, while sparing his companions. The spell did a terrific amount of damage to the fiends.
Sal recognized Lashonna likely posed the greatest threat, and decided to at least neutralize the dragon sorceress’ magical powers. He cast dispel magic and anti-magic ray on Lashonna, reducing her to merely her teeth and claws.
Abel moved to the perimeter of the party and took on the nearest Angel with his sword, which bit deep into her flesh.
Lashonna, without magic, flew behind the party to the soft underbelly. Phiery tracked her with arrows, but none of the arrows penetrated the dragon’s tough hide. Phiery ultimately turned his attention to the Angels, always focusing on the weakest to remove the demon from the fight. Meanwhile Lashonna unleashed a bite, claw, tail combination that killed Agretha. The Marauders activated a quick spell though, that returned the druid to life.
Dutch spied Agretha fall from the corner of his eye and fought with renewed vigor. He unleashed a flurry of blows that finished off a Blessed Angel, cleaned the clock of what-had-been a full strength vampire, and started on a second Angel.
The vampires circled around the party but did not pose a major challenge; ultimately they all died to the heroes. The Blessed Angels focused their attacks on Phiery and Agretha, the two targets they had learned they could easily hit – since the pin-cushionesque Sal had stayed far, far away from the eyrines, and mirror images protected Slaughter. Some angels preferred the bow, and some preferred the vorpal sword, although the vorpal effect never triggered.
Ultimately, Lashonna fled by flying up to the top of the spire while the last remnant of her force struggled on. The Marauders let her go, while the heroes finished off the remaining vampires and angels.
Campaign Part 2
Adventure Segment 4
Dawn arrived on December 10. Two days earlier the Marauders had spent a brutal day clearing out a number of Kyuss minions from Alhaster, destroying the unlife vortex, and assaulting the lower levels of Kyuss’ spire. Amidst the languor from that day and the preceding months of battle, on December 9 the Marauders had rested. Salvador Marino, the gypsy king, had petitioned his god for novel spells, and found his god heard. He used a miracle spell to restore life to the Marauders who had died in the battle with Lashonna, which preserved the three precious wish scrolls Malchor Harpell had given to the Marauders. Now, rested and at full strength, the Marauders prepared for their fatidic test against Kyuss.
The group headed from their bedrooms in the Cathedral of Bane to the Spire of Kyuss. However, the group first planned a rendezvous with Dutch, who slept apart from the rest of the Marauders in the Deluxery. The Marauders hoped the sacred fist could give everyone a portion of a heroes’ feast. Unfortunately, although Dutch had cast heroes’ feast that day, he could not share it with the Marauders since Glamorous had already served the feast to the upscale patrons of the Deluxery for brunch and Dutch had prepared only one feast. In addition to heading to the battle against Kyuss with a portentous lack of magical protections normally provided by heroes’ feast, the Marauders were forced to make due with an exiguous meal of stale bread reserved for the Deluxery stable hands.
The adventurers ascended the spire back to the point where they had encountered Lashonna two days earlier. They found the battlefield unchanged. Valon, an ex-gladiator from the Moonsea with a diverse and highly developed skill set, scouted the floors above. The Marauders ascended empty floor after empty floor, each one identical to the rest. At 700 feet up, Valon surmised that on the roof, one floor up, the Marauders would find Kyuss’ monolith. The Marauders completed all short-term magical preparations, including invisibility spells and fire shields, while Sal summoned a phoenix with a powerful magic item, and everyone ascended the last flight of stairs to face their final challenge.
Atop the spire the Marauders found Kyuss’ monolith on the center of the roof, looming 15 feet high. The trapezoid-shaped stone structure rested on a 20 foot wide base. When the Marauders reached the roof, the sky darkened and a green tendril from the whirling clouds above reached down towards the spire, but did not quite reach it. Commander Dennis Slaughter, the world’s preeminent warmage, predicted that once that tendril reached the monolith, Kyuss would emerge. Abel, the mighty warforged fighter, moved right, while Valon moved left, with Valon using his fly spell to hide just under the lip of the ceiling. Despite the thunder of the ever-present storm, the intervening spire, and the great distance, Valon heard spellcasting from the north carried on the wind. He identified the voice of Vermirox, and more importantly Dragotha, casting greater invisibility and haste, respectively, from hundreds of feet away inside Zeech’s palace. Sal began summoning an air elemental monolith.
Next the Kyuss monolith reacted and shot out two columns of Kyuss worms which struck about half of the Marauders. The worm-pelting injured the heroes like shrapnel, although the mass fire shield spell Slaughter had placed on the team killed the worms before they could penetrate anyone’s skin, let alone reach any of the heroes’ brains. Based on Valon’s report of draconic spellcasters inside the palace, Slaughter resorted to his inveterate long-range tactic, and cast a firestorm spell just behind the wall, guessing about the location of the two dragons. Slaughter cast his spell, as always, while silently cursing Malchor Harpell and his quixotic quest that kept Slaughter from the true glory … fighting the githyanki. With the combination of a huge area of effect and a pretty good guess, Slaughter placed his firestorm spell correctly. The spell injured the gargantuan blue dragon Vermirox, but had no effect on the undead red dragon Dragotha. Dragotha launched himself towards the top of the tower, his flight closing some of the distance between the ground floor of Zeech’s palace and the top floor of the spire. Since he had already faced defeat at the Marauders’ hands, Vermirox temporized behind the wall and cast displacement before eventually daring to venture forth as well. Phiery, the phoelarch prince, launched a series of arrows at Dragotha. Although Phiery’s skill was sufficient to hit the dragon even over the tremendous distance, none of the arrows dug into Dragotha’s epic scale armor.
Despite his tremendous flight speed, Dragotha angrily realized that the flight over the abandoned construction area surrounding the spire, and up to the top of the spire, would take a long time. Not eager to suffer long-range magical attacks from the warmage and the other invisible Marauders the entire trip, he instead cast dimension door. From dimension door distance he could not identify the specific location of the Marauders, and made his best guess, arriving just next to the top of the near side of the Spire. His arrival triggered chaos among the Marauders. When the Marauders had last fought the original undead dragon, a combination of heroes’ feast and fragments of Belekarde’s soul had rendered everyone essentially immune to dragon fear. Slaughter still held the soul fragment that granted immunity, protecting himself, but he flew invisibly high above the battlefield, out of range to protect the other Marauders. Since everyone had missed the heroes’ feast, many of the Marauders became fearful upon Dragotha’s arrival. Ultimately the phoenix, with its prodigious spellcasting power, removed fear from everyone.
The Marauders then fearlessly counterattacked. Abel activated the slayer fragment of Belekarde’s soul and charged Dragotha. Ultimately the warforged would do his duty to Malchor Harpell, and stand toe-to-toe with the dragon for almost a half-minute. Judel, marshall cohort of Dennis Slaughter; Gustav, air elemental familiar of Sal; and Leonidus, celestial dire lion animal companion of Agretha, all bravely charged Dragotha as well. Each knew they would likely not survive, but each hoped they could at least distract the dragon long enough for Valon or Abel to hit, or to intercept a blow, sparing Valon or Abel a wound. Dennis Slaughter also focused the bulk of his magical attacks on the dragon, leaving Dragotha wounded. Phiery and Agretha Deepseer, heir to the Saltheart clan, launched arrow and spell at Dragotha, although the heavily armored dragon, with surprisingly good reflexes, avoided most of these attacks. Sal gated a Solar, Vanna, into the battle.
Meanwhile, what had been two columns of worms from the monolith formed into arms, and Kyuss pushed himself from the monolith. The wormgod emerged and immediately cast a widened antimagic field. Vermirox, now fully prepared, flew closer to the top of the spire.
Valon seized upon the opening Judel created and moved into a flanking position. He struck, and hurt, Dragotha. Normally the undead dragon would ignore the highly precise damage Valon dealt, but Valon activated an item and Dragotha took almost all of the damage from Valon. Dragotha countered. The dragon roared and exploded with a combination of bite, claw, wing, and tail attacks while hasted. Correctly expecting puny armor, Dragotha unloaded furiously and killed Judel, Leonidus and Gustav. For good measure, Dragotha also swung his tail at Valon, but his wild swing missed the elf. Valon struck again. Kyuss swung his mace at Sharde, wounding the apocalypse golem that the Marauders had received as a gift in Wormcrawl fissure. Vermirox, still in no hurry to meet the heroes in battle, flew closer.
Dragotha set his sights on Valon. However, seeing an unarmored rogue, the dragon miscalculated and did not focus on striking Valon as much as he focused on ripping Valon to shreds. Because of Dragotha’s sloppiness, most of his attacks missed. Abel and Slaughter had continued to attack Dragotha effectively, so for good measure Dragotha breathed a quickened deathwind breath attack on himself closing the worst of his wounds. Phiery’s arrows and Agretha’s spells continued to have little effect.
Having blocked access to magic for both himself and his direct enemies with his antimagic field, Kyuss took a step forward and swung his mace again at the Marauder he could most easily reach – Sharde. The blows left the extremely durable apocalypse golem wounded, and Sharde backed away. In addition, Kyuss’ step brought Abel into range of the antimagic field. Abel had been hovering a few feet above the spire’s roof, but the field knocked the warforged from the sky, and left him prone and without any magical protections on the rooftop.
Vermirox had covered the horizontal distance to the spire, but the clumsy flier would need to circle the spire a couple of times to ascend to 750 feet. Both the Solar and the air monolith moved to intercept the ascending Vermirox. The duo attacked and wounded the blue dragon. In response Vermirox counterattacked Vanna, driving it back.
Dragotha again attacked Valon. This time the dragon kept his eye on the rogue until each blow struck home, and the vicious combination of bite, bite, claw, claw, wing, wing, and tail from the hasted dragon left Valon on death’s door. Worse, with a clear line between itself and magic-stripped Abel, the wormgod advanced on the prone warforged and engulfed Abel in its worm body! The attack left Abel fairly injured. Worse still, the worms burrowed into Abel’s brain leaving the moderately bright warforged unconscious. Just as bad, many of the Marauders who witnessed the horror of Kyuss engulfing Abel panicked and fled the battle! If only Dutch had spared some of the heroes feast for the heroes! The battle to save the world became desperate!
Sal, unflappable, dismissed his annoyance with Dutch’s decision to share the feast with the fat cats in the Deluxery. Sal brought out one of the wish scrolls Malchor Harpell had given to the adventurers, and used it to remove fear from the panic stricken team.
The Phoenix, part of the Sal Menagerie® with air elemental, air monolith, and solar, flew next to Valon and healed the gashes left by Dragotha. By now, Slaughter, Abel and Valon had left Dragotha heavily wounded, and in retaliation for Dragotha’s earlier attacks, Valon unloaded with his blades into Dragotha. With his great speed he placed many attacks, and with his magic items he made sure that the attacks that hit, hurt. Valon killed Dragotha.
Kyuss saw his general die and stormed towards Valon. As Kyuss expected, the antimagic field brought the low-flying Valon into reach on the rooftop. Kyuss then engulfed Valon, as he had Abel. The worms burrowed into Valon’s brain, but, lucky for Valon, less worms entered his brain than had entered Abel’s. In addition, Valon had a bit more brain capacity. Still, the worms themselves did tremendous damage as they ate through Valon from the inside, damage Valon could not handle as well as Abel. The rogue found himself inside a god, and once again on death’s door. He “swam” through the worms of the wormgod’s body, jumped off the building, fell a bit, and after he escaped the antimagic field and his fly kicked back in he flew straight away. Witnessing the engulfment of Valon, Phiery panicked and flew away. He would not return to the battle.
With Phiery panicked, Abel unconscious, and Valon one step from the grave, Sal did not relish the thought of fighting a god in an antimagic field without the party’s three main warriors. Sal knew the adventurers needed to get the antimagic field off Kyuss. However, he had no reliable way to remove the field. A disjunction spell was a long shot, even if he had memorized it, which he had not. He had another wish scroll, but a wish scroll in Sal’s hands could not duplicate magic as powerful as disjunction. Commander Dennis Slaughter stepped in. He barked at Sal, “Gypsy soldier, get your head out of your ass and use your wish scroll to wish for a scroll of disjunction.” Sal did just that. He cast disjunction from the scroll, and despite the low odds, succeeded in removing the antimagic field! Game on!
Meanwhile, the speedy Solar flew to Valon and used its magic to heal the rogue. Simultaneously, since Kyuss had moved away from Abel’s body, the phoenix moved to Abel and restored the warforged’s intellect and, by extension, his consciousness. Vermirox ignored the air monolith Sal had sent to harry him, and flew higher still, as he circled the spire.
Abel rose to his feet. He did not relish the idea of standing toe-to-toe with Kyuss and instead converted his sword to a bow, and, from where he stood, fired at Kyuss. Thanks to the opening left by Sal’s disjunction, Slaughter began to unload on the wormgod as well, with his powerful magic.
In response to the damage, Kyuss cast timestop. He cast defensive spells on himself, placed a circular blade barrier around Abel, and, worst of all, gated in assistance. The dream larva Pallid Mask, first servant of the demigod Jergal, heard Kyuss’ request and arrived to assist the worm god in his battle for freedom and survival. Pallid Mask’s role as servant of the Seneschal of the Dead would have surprised Kyuss, had he ever learned of Pallid’ Mask’s position. Regardless, when Pallid Mask stepped from the gate Agretha took one look at the dream larva and died. Her corpse, still benefiting from the fly spell, fell slowly to the top of the spire. Vermirox, his confidence renewed with the gated assistance, and weary of trading blows with the air monolith, did what he could have done a full minute ago, and cast dimension door to close the gap and finally reach the main fight atop the spire.
Upon seeing Agretha die, and knowledgeable in creatures from the lower planes, Vanna recognized the immediate and dire threat Pallid Mask posed to the adventurers’ chances. Vanna flew closer to Pallid Mask and cast a miracle, to duplicate a forcecage effect around the dream larva, imprisoning it. Amazingly, the mighty Pallid Mask had no means to magically travel out of the forcecage! Inspired by Vanna’s healing, and inspired by Vanna’s forcecage, Valon moved to Vermirox and finished the dragon with a series of quick precision strikes.
Abel and Slaughter continued their assault on Kyuss. Kyuss considered the significant damage from both the warforged and the warmage, and the Marauders’ faces, which gave Kyuss déjà vu of his showdown with the Order of the Storm 1,500 years ago. The wormgod thought defensively and cast a quickened harm to heal himself and cast a second widened antimagic field to protect himself, primarily from Dennis Slaughter. The field’s edge caught Valon once again, momentarily stopping his fly spell. However, once Valon fell out of range of the field, his fly spell returned.
With Kyuss safely on the opposite end of the rooftop from the warmage, Slaughter flew down and used a wish scroll from Malchor Harpell to resurrect Agretha.
Kyuss advanced on Abel and once again killed the warforged. However, with Pallid Mask forcecaged, and Kyuss under the effects of his own antimagic field, the Marauders took a brief reprieve and partly walled off Kyuss with a pair of walls of force and healed. Kyuss became frustrated with his options, and voluntarily dismissed his own antimagic field and the battle resumed in full. The recently resurrected Agretha dragged Abel’s body away from Kyuss, while Slaughter resumed his assault, and the air monolith and Gustav harried Kyuss. Vanna again assisted the Marauders, and returned Abel to the world of the living. Who knew a Solar would prove so useful?
Free from his own antimagic field, Kyuss used his divine blast to destroy the forcecage imprisoning Pallid Mask. Sal immediately attempted to re-forcecage the dream larva but found himself out of range and his spell fizzled, wasted.
Free from the forcecage Pallid Mask eagerly resumed his attack. He flew to Agretha. This time, the druid resisted the dream larva’s nightmares, so Pallid Mask attacked the druid physically, wounding her. The horrifying dream larva continued its assault by simply flying near Vanna, destroying the Solar and ending Vanna’s ten-thousand year vigil as a servant of Chauntea. Pallid Mask also flew to attack the monolith, putting both Abel and Kyuss himself in range of the nightmares. Kyuss resisted the nightmares but Abel died upon seeing the horrors.
The Marauders now fully appreciated the unbelievable danger posed by Pallid Mask, so Sal once again placed the creature in a forcecage. Before Kyuss could respond, Slaughter struck Kyuss with more magic, while Agretha buried Kyuss under a bombardment spell. While Kyuss hauled his huge frame out of the rocks left by Agretha’s spell, Valon crept into position. The multi-talented elf, ninja, rogue, swashbuckler, wizard, invisible blade, occult slayer completed his hat-trick. After placing the killing blow on Dragotha and Vermirox, Valon unleashed a flurry of knife attacks that completed the Order of the Storm’s mission and destroyed the worm god Kyuss once-and-for-all. Victory!!!
Slaughter, no fan of Alhaster, simply left Pallid Mask inside the forcecage as a problem for another day, or, better yet, another group of adventurers. Ultimately, Khelben Blackstaff would return from the ethereal plane and handle the dream larva. The Marauders won the day, killed the god, and saved the world.
The heroes found the city in ruins, having faced unimaginable horrors. Still, thanks to the Marauders the people seemed to find reason for hope. Prince Zeech rode out from his palace, his armor polished and impeccable as always, in sharp contrast to the blood-splattered, dirt-encrusted, singed cloaks on the backs of the hard-working heroes. Zeech declared that the heroes had brought these horrors down upon the city, although the gathered crowd groaned at these preposterous allegations. Once the crowd hushed, Zeech drew his sword in his smooth delicate hands and continued proudly, challenging any of the Marauders who would accept, to a single combat duel – where the victor would win sole rulership of Alhaster. Valon accepted, and the Marauders renewed his defensive spells while Zeech’s entourage of Bane clerics prepared the Prince.
In the end, the duel proved anticlimactic, and Valon greatly outmatched the aging Zeech. Moreover, Zeech even seemed to intentionally place a missed sword stroke, leaving his neck exposed to a lethal Valon counter strike. Valon stayed his hand, and instead insisted the Prince surrender. Zeech accepted Valon’s offer, and Valon won yet another fight that day, this time winning a country.
December 10-January 11:
Later that day the Marauders met with Malchor Harpell who thanked the Marauders for their bravery. The heroes had been the indispensible piece in the puzzle to stop the Age of Worms. He told the adventurers that all in Faerun owed the heroes their lives.
Without the unifying threat of the Age of Worms, and the shared promise of the Marauders to the deceased Lady Alustriel to fight that threat, the Marauders split into two groups.
Valon’s original homeland, Hillsfar, now lay deep in githyanki occupied territory. Valon remained in his new kingdom, Redhand, and took control of Zeech’s palace, which he rechristened Valon’s Palace. Valon faced great political challenges to secure the kingdom. Many corrupt officials in Redhand did not want to embrace the changes Valon’s rulership might usher in. And those officials had trained the few respectable citizens of Redhand not to challenge authority. It would take time to work off the scars from decades of tyrannical rule under Prince Zeech.
However, King Valon had three great areas of strength to draw upon. First, Valon’s combat prowess went unquestioned in the kingdom. A few kings may have the capacity to hire the best assassins, but Valon was pretty sure he was the only king who may actually be the best assassin. Therefore, none of the nobles or officials dared challenge or disagree with Valon directly. In addition, two of Valon’s powerful friends, Dutch, and Salvador Marino, remained in Alhaster. Salvador provided Valon with world-class magical support. Dutch provided powerful divine magic, and his extensive contacts among the nobility of Alhaster. Finally, in a strange way the continued threat of the githyanki helped solidify Valon’s claim to the throne. Valon and his team had already saved the city a few months ago from a githyanki-led dragon invasion. The threat of the githyanki departing the mainland in Amn and flying or sailing west to Redhand loomed as large as ever. Even the most corrupt official in Redhand recognized that Valon and his friends represented his or her best chance of survival if the githyanki once again struck the already weakened nation.
The island nation of Redhand consisted of four duchies. Among the four, the northeastern duchy, which contained Alhaster, easily commanded the most power and prestige. Valon appointed Dutch Duke of Alhaster. Dutch normally opposed any change among the nobility, and vigorously defended the status quo, but he found Valon’s promotion change he could believe in. Dutch considered that he, as a lifelong Alhasterite, might make a better king than an elf from the distant Moonsea but dismissed the idea. The King would need to make many unpopular decisions, and he didn’t want to be known as the one who made those choices. Instead, Duke Dutch used his skills to smooth over issues for King Valon while maintaining his own popularity. However, Dutch also knew he would find plenty of time for partying, and his dual roles as a war hero and a very high ranking noble would always secure him a crowd of worthy elites at his parties. Dutch’s trophy girlfriend, Glamorous, certainly appreciated Dutch’s promotion.
Salvador Marino, the world-traveler, and self-appointed gypsy king, received a new, and more official, appointment. Valon granted the role of Supreme Alhaster Sorcerer, formerly held by Lashonna, to Salvador. The individual in this role traditionally advised the King on all affairs involving magic, and Valon did not change that aspect of the role. However, he adjusted the title to Supreme Alhaster Omnimagical Advisor, to more accurately reflect Sal’s diverse arcane and divine powers. The role allowed Sal to remain in the city with his old friend Dutch, and his newer friend Valon. Thus all of the Marauders who did not originally hail from the Silver Marches remained in Alhaster.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Marauders returned their collective attention to the imminent threat still facing the Silver Marches Confederacy.
Commander Dennis Slaughter, who had long dismissed the relative importance of the battle against Kyuss compared with the interplanar war of genocide the githyanki had brought to Faerun, slept the night in Alhaster to recover his spells. After that brief reprieve, before dawn the day after he killed a god, he, Judel, and Sharde teleported back to the front line in the githyanki war. He arrived almost simultaneous with the Ardent Legion division of reinforcements he had dispatched a few months ago on a march from Silverymoon to the Dale lands. As he expected, the war had changed for the worse in the intervening months since Slaughter had last visited the Dale lands. The githyanki had plunged across the river into the Dales. The coalition forces, consisting of the forces of the Dales, Cormyr, and the Ardent Legion from the Silver Marches, had taken heavy casualties initially and lost ground to the invaders. However, after the initial river crossing, the battle moved into the woods of Cormanther. This forest terrain favored the coalition forces since the people of the Dales knew the forests better than the githyanki, and the forests limited the tremendous mobility advantage the githyanki possessed.
Slaughter could not describe the current situation as a standstill, since the githyanki still won territory daily, but the enemies’ advance through the forests slowed and the battle at least approached a standstill. Slaughter hoped that with his tactical- and combat-skills, he could eventually stop the advance. He vowed to his troops in the Ardent Legion that the githyanki would only reach Shadowdale over his dead body, and Slaughter made preventing this outcome his near-term focus.
Slaughter and Judel received powerful help in the battle, as Dale native, Elminster of Shadowdale joined the fight, while Storm Silverhand continued to lend a hand with the coalition. Moreover, Malchor Harpell made good on his initial offer to Alustriel to intervene with Waterdeep on behalf of the Confederacy, once the Marauders helped stop the Age of Worms. As part of the bargain he now owed the late Alustriel and the Marauders, he used his leverage in Waterdeep to ensure that the mighty city joined the coalition. Khelben Blackstaff, a widely-suspected Masked Lord of Waterdeep, cast a gate spell and marched an entire division of Waterdeep troops into the Dalelands to join the coalition. Blackstaff himself also stayed to assist in the battle.
The following morning as Slaughter and Judel completed their matutinal tactical planning, and walked together from the map room to the breakfast mess, both Slaughter and Judel saw a lilend flying in to camp. Judel, looking up at the dawn sky, squinted and remarked, a bit surprised, “That’s the lilend, Zulshyn, you met in Wormcrawl Fissure.” Slaughter harrumphed in agreement and kept marching without a break in stride. Judel stopped and added, a bit louder, to Slaughter who was now a few steps ahead of him, “you must have made quite an impression!” When Slaughter didn’t pause, Judel jogged to catch up to his commander and added, almost under his breath, “I didn’t think you were in there that long.”
Ultimately, Zulshyn had looked up Slaughter, sought him out, and joined his team, helping Slaughter in every way she could. Within days of the warmage’s arrival, Slaughter found himself coordinating the combined forces of Waterdeep, the Dales, and Cormyr, along with the Ardent Legion. Plus, Zulshyn, Elminster, Silverhand, and Blackstaff reported to him. Moreover, several powerful Marauders would join Slaughter’s coalition as well.
In addition to serving as an ambassador to Waterdeep on behalf of the Silver Marches Confederacy, Malchor Harpell also supplied his powerful warforged fighter Abel to assist in Slaughter’s war effort, however Slaughter deemed best. Slaughter had come to respect Abel’s able battle tactics and skill. The warmage, a golem expert, also suspected that Malchor did not realize what a wonder Abel had become. When Malchor offered Abel’s assistance, Slaughter kept tight lipped and said nothing but “thank you.”
After the death of Kyuss, Commander Dennis Slaughter gave Lieutenant Phiery two weeks leave to visit his wife Rannyn and newborn daughter Phiona in Silverymoon. Phiery enjoyed the two weeks off, but headed to Dr. Sparnum for a teleport spell to the Dales one day earlier than Slaughter had requested. Phiery did not want to leave his family, but Phiery knew the security of his home and family hinged upon a successful defense in the Dale lands. Phiery certainly did not want the battle there to spill over into the Silver Marches. So he rejoined the fight, and would do what he could to help.
Agretha was the only member of the Marauders to see the quest through from Hommlet, through Imix, to the Spire of Kyuss, and, along with Rannyn, the only original member of the Marauders to survive two years of battle. The druid returned home to Mithral Hall, but the dream dwarf remained a misfit among the dwarves. Agretha began using her adventure-acquired wealth to buy large tracts of real estate to create an earth elemental and earth monolith lyceum right in Mithral Hall.
The dwarves of Mithral Hall honored their official commitment to the Confederacy of the Silver Marches. However, King Bruenor Battlehammer disagreed with the risk involved in sending troops to the distant Dales, while fighting an enemy that could strike almost anywhere at any time. The assassination of Lady Alustriel by the githyanki right in Silverymoon had confirmed, not allayed, his fears. So the dwarves supplied only the minimum number of troops to the Ardent Legion, and chose posts within the Confederacy whenever possible. However, when Bruenor heard the rumor that Agretha planned to set up an elemental lyceum, he approached Agretha about deploying her to the Dale lands. Bruenor mentioned how she could use her druid skills to full effect in the forests to the west and rejoin her companions. Agretha agreed, since her home had never felt like a home. Bruenor looked pleased that Agretha accepted his proposal. If the powerful druid went to the Dales, Bruenor thought he could negotitate to send one less entire company of dwarves to meet quota. So Agretha headed east to the Dales, and rejoined Slaughter, Judel, Sharde, Abel and Phiery once again.
The day Agretha reached Slaughter in the Dale lands, Valon sat atop his throne in Alhaster. Other than removing some symbols of Bane, Valon left the throne room much the same as under Zeech’s rule. Other than two guards stationed at the door, he found himself alone in the large cool stone throne room. One month into his kingship, he had just returned from a celebration where he reopened the gladiator stadium in Alhaster. Right now, the Alhaster stadium could not compare with the one he remembered from Hillsfar, but Valon, a young elf, had all the time in the world to improve it.
At the moment, Valon pondered his favorite question, how he would select his queen, since he knew he needed an heir. He couldn’t decide if he should base the decision one-hundred percent on looks, or only ninety-percent on looks. If he did not base it entirely on looks, should he marry the daughter of an Alhaster noble, so he seemed like less of an outsider to his people? Or should he choose the daughter of a noble outside of Alhaster to strengthen his international relations? He once again lamented Lady Aulstriel’s death. Wedding that cougar would have formalized his already strong connection to the powerful Confederacy of the Silver Marches in the eyes of the world, and would not have required he compromise on the looks side of the equation.
As he considered his dilemma, Valon received a sending, “Blackstaff for Slaughter. Received uncertain proposal from two uncertain individuals; Reason: winning the war. Plan risky, very dangerous. Worth consideration? If agree, teleport to Shadowdale.” Valon forgot about how he would select a queen, and considered the sending only for a moment, before he looked up and said to one of the guards near the door, “Summon the Duke of Alhaster and the Supreme Alhaster Omnimagical Advisor. We’re going to the Dales.”