For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
With Iramine freed from Tar-Baphon’s control and the jewel of everlasting gold returned to its altar, the party was faced even still with the impending flooding of Xin-Grafar which would leave the city their tomb. Steeling themselves for a swift departure, the group doubled back through the tabernacle only to discover the dark naga once more awaiting them in the antechamber—this time poised upon the opposite ledge, hurling lightning bolts to wrack through them as they struggled to meet her in battle. Beneath a hail of arrows and crossbow bolts and bouts of careful maneuvering, Meryk, Anselme, Zantric and Emma were able to slay the creature a second time while Brother Vang kept them standing; with the obstacle once more removed, the party quickly proceeded outside.
Assailed by heat and soaked swiftly with sweat, all eyes turned toward the caverns above to observe the departure of wraiths from the tabernacle’s center—heralds of Tar-Baphon, the servitor spirits of scholar kings and others from ancient ages. Adrenaline surging, the group made haste then across the fiery bridge beneath soaked blankets before beating a harried trail back through the third ring of Xin-Grafar. Upon reaching the twin crumbled spires of Kestrillon’s forlorn fortresses, the party observed one of the heralds interrogating the corpse of the Razmiran cultist left in the prior ambush before crushing its skull and turning the remains to as much dust and cinders. Masked by Meryk’s obfuscation, the party pressed on and returned through the second ring on the approach to the gatehouse adjoining the first.
Once more the intersection was found with treasure stacked high and this time Anselme instructed Tam to ferry a rope to armor atop it via magic; the leather armor was snagged, but seemed to disturb something dwelling beneath the pile—which turned out to be much of the pile, a metallic hoard ooze lumbering forth to engage its potential meal. Quickly dispatching the strange monster, a modicum of coinage and several more articles of magic were recovered from its remains before the group gathered once again and set off through the gatehouse, its portcullis still raised.
Beyond a herald was spied again and the group waited until its attention was diverted before ducking and dodging among the buildings and alleyways; distant screams were heard then, drawing the wraith fully away and allowing an opportunity for the party to hasten their further retreat from the city. Passing through another of the intersections, however, a bulette emerged suddenly from beneath the surface of the gilded stone and pounced viciously upon Meryk. Gnashing and gashing with gleeful abandon, the sizable beast was nevertheless quickly put down before its rampage could claim further casualties—and once Meryk was back on his feet, the exodus resumed.
Halfway around the first ring of Xin-Grafar, a wraith was once again sighted with a Razmiran cultist – though whether or not the man was alive before being rendered unto dust was indeterminate before the herald departed from sight again. Upon reaching the final stretch before the bridge out of the city, the party was at long last confronted by the golden ram they’d strode so long to avoid, soon engaged by the magical monstrosity which rendered Brother Vang unto gold. Trampling, smashing and bleating perilously, the strange experiment was dispatched and left behind its magical prizes and party favors once meant for Tar-Baphon’s esteemed guests. With the ram put down, the party was free to cross the bridge to the outermost ring of the city and reclaim the golden they’d left there for their departure.
Toting their hefty spoils, Emma and the others began their hasty ascent through the final series of tunnels and switchbacks leading out to the surface world beyond; however, not five hundred feet from freedom their way was blocked by a trio of Tar-Baphon’s heralds, one of whom was able to see through Meryk’s obfuscation to engage the party in battle. What followed was a frenzied escape in which Pandora and Anselme struggled to buy their companions precious time; life-draining blows from the wraiths weakened the adventurers greatly as they rushed for the entrance to the city—their only solace the knowledge that with daylight beyond those doors, the wraiths could not pursue them outside.
Emma was forced to abandon a portion of the party’s golden prize in order to carry Brother Vang to safety; in the final stretch of the tunnels with a faint trail of sunlight visible beyond, Pandora remained behind long enough to blast one of the heralds with searing light from her falchion – a reminder of the drow’s presence – before moving quickly to join her comrades outside in the safety beyond the city. At long last, the party had escaped Xin-Grafar and now faced the march back to Fort Landing that they may rendezvous with Kai and her crew and depart from the Isle of Terror.
Beneath driving rain and roiling clouds the party double-timed it back across the Isle of Terror, managing to avoid the twisted flora and fauna throughout the two-day trek; accompanied by Dusan, the group arrived at Fort Landing as the negative energy storm raged ever more fiercely by the hour, recovering their rowboat before starting back towards the Black Sovereign they hoped remained anchored off the shore. Along the way, an immense and terrible vessel was spied alongside the island’s cliffs, three decks of oars and black timbers covered in spikes and other wicked implements, its deck patrolled by undead and worse. A ‘Black Ark’, as it were.
Arriving at the Black Sovereign, it was discovered that a battle was still in progress and that the ship had been boarded by an assault from unknown individuals. Pandora saw to stabilizing the felled Marrowsplitter before proceeding below deck, finding Marra and her mastiff along the way before reaching the lowest level where Captain LeVar and Kai were engaged in a pitched and bloody battle. For an instant, Pandora spied a hulking undead wolfman covered in Thassilonian runes before he’d vanished – seemingly via the stoppage of time. The party boarded, descending quickly to join the melee then, fighting strange and wild cultists and a shadow demon.
Driving off and cutting down the remaining assailants, the group was able to secure the vessel before Kai managed to calm Captain LeVar’s frenzied state; the pair relayed then that their foray to Baphon’s Falls upon the Isle of Terror had turned to tragedy with the apparent betrayal of Mercutsio. In the ambush that ensued, Torn Tusk was said to have bought Kai and LeVar time enough to depart – but in their separation, was taken by the enemy. Captain LeVar expressed that Mercutsio had led him to the island that he might break his were-shark curse – but instead had only discovered some sort of phylactery or other source of powerful magic along with a kidney in a jar.
Pandora proved swift and decisive that Torn Tusk’s rescue from the Ark ought take precedence while the opportunity availed—and that the recovery of information from the Ark could prove priceless. In the discourse that ensued, the party was split of opinion, wearied and drained of life essence from the days prior; for the interim, Pandora and Meryk staged a risky foray to the wicked vessel aboard a skiff in the terrible storm wherein the drow scaled the anchor chain that she may see within the captain’s quarters of the enemy ship. Meryk in the meantime spied the deck’s compliment—thirty skeletons with deadly black skeletons among them, and a trio of beings known only as ‘beyonders’.
From her stealthy perch, Pandora was able to observe the being she’d spied beneath the decks of the Black Sovereign; carefully eavesdropping as best as she could, Pandora found the being’s name to be Lucimar as she spied him speaking into a magical font with a decisively undead fellow on a throne. A conference of sorts ensued wherein Lucimar reported progress upon the isle, now possessing the kidney in the jar among other affects; he noted having spied the party, but was uncertain if they posed any particular threat — seeming to regard Pandora and her companions as freebooters if nothing else.
Discussion turned to other plans – mention made that the Shining Crusade had been engaged and that efforts were being made to prepare for reinforcements from Orcus, that Tar-Baphon might be freed from Gallowspire at long last. Mention was made of a ‘Balishon’ within the city of Tsar, that the Whispering Way’s agents were very active, and that a rendezvous in the mysterious city would soon be underway. No mention was made of Torn Tusk in the discourse, and once concluded Pandora watched for a time as Lucimar began to retrace his Thassilonian runes with strange blood, a seemingly painful affair for the creature as he worked.
Below, Meryk used the power of Desna to peer through the back of the ship’s lowest deck, finding a series of cells guarded by a skinless three-headed hound; the silhouette of an orcish individual was discerned, but their identity could not be gleaned and soon the pair returned to the Black Sovereign to report their findings to the party. Another discussion followed, potential plans to attempt to recover additional information from the Black Ark and to free whomever dwelt within the cells below as well; after a lengthy argument, the party decided to sleep on the matter. Upon the morn, it was ultimately decided that they should depart, that they may return to Tamran and make their full report to the Pathfinder Society with the information discovered in Xin-Grafar.
After braving the negative energy storm once more, the Black Sovereign sailed into port at Tamran and the party was returned to friendly environs; there, the steward of the Pathfinder Society’s decemvirate awaited from Absalom following the message previously delivered via Taes. Meeting in more private quarters, the party conveyed the information they’d attained throughout their perilous journey and were in turn informed of the emergence of a strange and deadly city and surroundings far to the north. The Shining Crusade had engaged a wicked army in the field, but had quickly routed the many cultists, demons and other beings and pursued them into the wilderness beyond.
Now, the Pathfinder Society and a coalition of organizations sought to penetrate the temple-city of Tsar and had already commissioned twelve other adventuring parties to do so. Poised to be the thirteenth, the gathered group was offered financing and further aid from the organization for their expedition north to the Desolation which surrounded the temple-city of Tsar. There, unknown perils awaited alongside plots which spanned centuries; though uncertain as to what lay ahead, the party began their preparations while meeting with friends, representatives and others in Tamran as precursor to the adventures ahead…
See what Emma thought about this session here!