For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Once having settled the caravan near to the Camp and having secured ‘Gurg’ suitably, the group saw to preparing equipment and supplies while plotting a course on their maps for their first venture into the Desolation. On suggestion from Ekat Kassen, three general areas were under consideration—said to be a resting place for the faithful of Aroden, the burial site of the great barbarian king Tark and a graveyard for the forces of light interred centuries past. With areas spanning miles to search, the party plotted a path out into the Ashen Wastes—deciding upon seeking the tomb first and foremost. Both Zantric and Cassandra elected to stay behind to attend to matters in the Camp, while Meryk would trail behind the party on a broader scouting assignment until arrival at the site—leaving Anselme, Pandora, Emma and Brother Vang to serve as vanguard for this first foray.
Lucky Bjorc had warned of many hazards for those traversing the Ashen Wastes—bone storms and acid rains both significant threats to those making passage, as well as quicksand, sinkholes and other hazards; three miles from the Camp, the first exposure the party incurred was instead part of the local ‘fauna’—as a large pack of ghoul wolves descended upon them from the gloom. Perhaps worrisome of what becoming mired in battle might incur or simply started by the presence of so many warped animals—Anselme opened the fight with devastating strikes of flame which engulfed the wolves while Brother Vang blessed the group with divine fervor; in very short order the wolves were dispatched handily and the journey continued onward.
Several times throughout their march, Brother Vang spied a single ghoul following along in the distance and peering intensely at him; each time, Vang threateningly gestured his holy symbol along with a meaningful look—which seemed sufficient enough to send the undead fellow shying away again. Early in the afternoon some eight miles from the Camp, the group reached the vicinity they had meted out on their maps—and began a more thorough search of the region in pursuit of the indicated tomb; taking to a mile at a time, progress was slow but steady though thankfully unassailed by the environment itself or its inhabitants. After scouting roughly four miles, a sizable structure was spied beyond the gloom—and the band swiftly made their way nearer to investigate.
The edifice rose tall from the midst of the ashen plain, a fortified bulwark fashioned for whomever lay interred within; buttressed about thick stone and further reinforced, the squat structure appeared nigh impregnable to any form of assault or attempted breach—while to each side framing the buttresses large bas-relief statues of an armored knight were observed, with hands crossed at his waist and resting on the pommel of a down-turned sword. Across the exposed stonework and gray walls were the dark stains of centuries of weathering—but at the very peak of the building where an immense stone dome sat, the party observed a large crack that had formed at its apex.
With no visible entrance around the ground level, Anselme made his way up to the dome to investigate the crack—but found it to be too deep and too narrow to make out anything of use beyond the discovery that the stone itself was at least three feet thick or more—daunting to efforts to penetrate in any reasonable amount of time. Thus, the party began a more thorough search of the base of the tomb, making several rounds of it over the course of several hours—until at long last discovering an extraordinarily subtle ingress. A secret door hidden beneath one of the statues, itself thick and heavily reinforced—yet no visible mechanism of opening the door could be discerned from outside, once more leaving the party at something of an impasse.
By now, night had begun to fall and the group had all but exhausted their options for the day; Meryk, upon arrival from his outward scouting, made an effort to peer through the hidden door to see what may lay beyond—but was only able to make out that it was more than a foot thick, heavily reinforced, and that a dark hall stretched on beyond. Settling on the plan of preparing the ability to reshape stone on the morrow, Anselme prepared a shelter made of webbing which he suspended off the ground alongside the tomb and one of its buttresses—before the party went inside, just as an acid rain had begun to fall. Swiftly, Anselm shielded the shelter from the elements—the group waiting out the weather within as they prepared to rest and ruminate for the evening.
In the middle of the night, secure within their shelter off the ground—the party began to hear strange sounds filling the air in their vicinity before the webbing began to shift with the sounds of slavering, biting mouths; from outside, numerous small creatures had begun to eat their way towards gaining entry—and so the party emerged to engage the intrusion, discovering many varghouilles waiting beyond. Quickly the group became swarmed by the insidious flying heads, mired down at the entrance to their shelter as they began cutting a swath through the creatures; several attempted to bite Emma, only to find the barbarian’s skin impervious to their efforts with the breakage of some teeth—and after trying in vain to paralyze any among those present, the pack of disgusting heads were grounded once and for all and the party returned within to finish their rest.
After rousing the following morning rested and with a fresh retinue of magic prepared, the party saw swiftly to removing the obstacle of the door by shifting its very stonework—opening up their means of entry into the tomb beyond; venturing only a short way inside, in a chamber at the end of the hall a swirling vortex of red vapors was spied with strange shapes floating about within it—yet a moment later with a burst of smoky brimstone vapors, five Azer appeared armed, armored and ready to fight, engaging the party immediately. With Emma and Anselme locked down against the protectors of the tomb, one of the Azer withdrew hastily to interact with the vortex—and soon, the battle was joined by four Rhasts from the plane of fire, terrible flying creatures with a penchant for draining prey of their very constitution.
Chaos quickly ensued as Emma became surrounded and—despite her rage—subdued by the latched, draining grasps of several of the Rhasts; Pandora struggled to maneuver in the tight corner corridor as Anselme and Leone bunkered down against their opposition—with Brother Vang attempting to stabilize and retrieve the barbarian from amid their myriad foes. The Azer proved to be difficult opponents due to their heavy armor and tight ranks—shields held strong as they took stout stances, pummeling and bludgeoning the party. Meryk had a difficult time gaining vantage on the enemy to buffet them with arrows from afar—due to the layout of the corridors, assisting his fellows proved an arduous undertaking.
The battle began to slip, looking poorly for the party; in an effort to reclaim some advantage against the enemy that he might bring his companions back to full fighting strength—Brother Vang shrouded the corridor in a thick cloud of fog, an obstacle which Meryk was able to utilize thanks to a rare spell of mist-sight he had attained. Downing a pair of the Rhasts and sending their gorged floating corpses showering the fruits of their bloody feasts throughout the corridor, slowly but surely the group began to reclaim lost ground and stack the odds of the engagement more evenly against the tomb’s protectors. An Azer fell at last, and then another—and a third; the lot beginning to draw back deeper into the corridor to form ranks again now that Emma was at last back on her feet.
Pandora proved too nimble for the assault of the Azer guardians, the dexterous drow ducking and weaving amid their blows—and buying precious seconds for her compatriots to regroup. Once the party had reformed, the melee was renewed—and at long last after a very lengthy, brutal battle—the way into the tomb was cleared and the party had an opportunity to rest and recover once more. They found themselves in a chamber with a pair of maiden statuettes, each seeming to have their heads bowed as they wept; before them, a pair of bronze double doors bore the image of a starburst bisected by a flaming sword, which Brother Vang took to recognize of Argos, a champion of Aroden in the past. That night, Meryk dreamt of a spider’s visage far above before eldritch energies seized he and his companions—rendering all unto stone statues thereafter.
On the morning, the party once more prepared themselves and readied weapons and magic, turning an eye towards the next chamber as Pandora began her thorough examination of the doors for mechanisms and traps; sure enough, the presence of a magical trap was discovered—and with a bout of deft but careful work Pandora was able to successfully disarm it. Unlocking the doors proved a more difficult endeavor for the drow—taking some time before she’d finally managed to open passage to the adjoining chamber and allowing the party to proceed.
Therein the domed chamber sizable chunks of stone had broken free from the overarching ceiling above—rubble and debris strewn about the floor along with broken glass and other detritus. At some point prior a chunk of stone must have tumbled onto a marble table at the center of the chamber—bits of twisted metal crushed there where something had once been present. To either side of the chamber were large standing stone sarcophagi covered in gold leaf and decorated with the image of a knight, eyes closed in death. Once Pandora and Meryk had set foot inside, with the others, however—an ambush was sprung as a killer cloud of deadly vapors unfurled upon the party via magic—an aranea then spied poised clinging to the underside of the dome above!
The areanea sorcerer Kolscillisk declared the tomb was his to plunder, immediately bringing an ice storm to bear against the beleaguered adventurers; coughing against the deadly vapors as their bodies began to deteriorate rapidly, the party started to withdraw from the chamber as the cloud spread—but not before loosing a vicious volley of arrows and spells back towards the aranea in kind while Anselme summoned an air mephit to see to the cloud. To this, Kolscillisk responded with a wave of confusion which gripped Emma and the mephit alike, though not before the first cloud had been dispersed by the latter; a potion of spider climb had been furnished to Leone that the lion might scale the wall and pursue the aranea, but Anselme’s companion was removed from the battle when the aranea activated a bead of force to encapsulate the animal.
Meryk moved to re-engage the aranea, loosing another potent arrow empowered by his judgments—only to have the sorcerer strike him blind with a mere word, sending the inquisitor drawing back again; Brother Vang saw to removing the blindness instilled on the man while Emma, in the throes of confusion, obliterated Anselme’s summoned air mephit. Once Meryk’s vision had been restored, the party made another effort to engage the lofty sorcerer—a second killer cloud unleashed upon them before Meryk’s continued assault from affair drew a pointed and dire wrath; strive as he may to have overcome the magics he could feel encroaching, not even the portent Meryk had dreamed was able to spare him—and much to the dismay of the group, the inquisitor was turned to stone. With a second cloud of death and their main means of damaging the aranea removed, Emma scooped up the statued man and the group beat a hasty retreat, withdrawing fully from the tomb.
Once outside as vapors streamed forth, the wearied, battered and wounded party found themselves faced with unfamiliar faces—another adventuring group, soon discovered to be Pathfinders—the Poisoned Lodge. Wary introductions were made as the Lodge was apprised of the group’s situation and what had transpired within; the Lodge had set out to explore the ‘crypt’ themselves from the Camp, and after a discourse between both groups, a tentative arrangement made; strengths joined, both parties waited until the cloud had cleared before venturing back into the tomb, poised and ready for another round of battle with the aranea.
The domed chamber was found vacant upon their return, however—Kolscillisk having taken his treasures and departed before further battle could be waged; still wary of looming threats, both parties worked together to search the room—finding secret doors fashioned into the face of either sarcophagi. Between the two, Anselme selected first the eastern of the pair—opening it to reveal a musty chamber in which a marble slab was found; resting upon the slab as the shrouded form of a handsome aasimar man—and much to the surprise of all present, he awoke with a sudden breath. Rousing, the figure swiftly began to don an exquisite suit of golden chainmail along with an assortment of other equipment, announcing hurriedly that the time had come to face the forces of Orcus at last.
Upon emergence from the side chamber, the aasimar man looked crestfallen at the sight of the crushed device on the altar—and after introducing himself as the Argos, the same hero of legend Brother Vang had recalled, the terrible circumstances gradually came to light. It seemed then that Argos had been interred along with a retinue of great warriors in a form of stasis, that they may re-emerge at the appointed time to engage with the forces of evil once more; at some point along the line, however, the instrument poised to re-awaken Argos and his troops was crushed—leaving him to slumber well beyond the intended time. His troops, it seemed, were less fortunate: in another hidden chamber, as Argos strove to awaken his comrades, the parties swiftly discovered an army of Ghasts awaited them instead—and soon put to work dispatching the undead soldiers swiftly and decisively.
Argos was devastated at the loss of the men and women who had served with him so dutifully in the past—but to make matters worse, it was revealed to the man that Aroden had long since gone missing—rendering him bereft of the deity he once served beneath. Deeply troubled by these developments, Argos nevertheless gave access to the vast stores of weapons and armor which had been sealed away for his troops—before bequeathing Brother Vang with the legendary Crusader’s Sword, that he might further carry on the battle directly against the forces of Orcus in Aroden, Arazni and Iomedae’s name. Argos spoke of the great many heroes and forces which had rallied together in order to do battle lay siege to Tsar—revealing the creation of the sword Demonbane, forged by the Archduke Baalzebul for the destruction of the hates demon prince Orcus; the group ruminated on these things before preparing to venture out into the Ashen Waste once more—for the day was still young, and they had need to return to the Camp that Meryk might be restored to life once more…
See what Emma thought about this session here!
See what Meryk thought about this session here!