For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Following their harrowing delve into the Tomb of the Sleeping Knight and the revival of Argos the aasimar champion, the group—battered, wearied, and drained of much of their constitution—took weary stock of Meryk’s stony remnants and plotted a hazardous course back to the Camp. Already mid-afternoon following their ordeals within the tomb, in the interests of not becoming mired by any roving threats of the wastes the party planned to press a hasty path back the way they’d came—but with an arsenal of new-found weaponry now at hand and the heavy statue that was Meryk, Emma’s incredible strength would be hard-pressed to haul such burdens with any alacrity.
Parting ways with the Poisoned Lodge adventurers, the party gathered up their share of the gear and goods before marshaling their strength and setting off across the Ashen Waste as swiftly as they could. With their numbers thinned and strength strained, the going proved slow and arduous—daylight among the gloom burning swiftly as the group traversed that treacherous stretch; as nightfall descended across the Desolation, the adventurers were yet several hours from the Camp—and soon enough their avoidance of trouble throughout the day came to a terrifying end.
Catching the party completely unawares, a horrifying dread wraith descended from the night sky to wreak havoc upon them—targeting Pandora first with a fierce assault as it bore down out of the dark, a nightmare made manifest. Perhaps the entity had been drawn to the drow from her spiting of Tar-Baphon’s heralds—or perhaps it had simply been a matter of misfortune—but after a chilling drain of the woman’s very life force, the horror ascended again, so beginning a most terrible and ill-timed battle.
Quickly the party drew together to cloister about their light, weathering sweeping attacks from the powerful wraith as their resolve was whittled and willowed; the party poised to act whenever the creature came near, attempting to loose divine bursts of positive energy, strikes of flame and magic missiles against their incorporeal foe. Emma in the midst of her rage proved quite able to engage the enemy, a veritable ghost hunter with her mien—but vision of the flying adversary proved the most quarrelsome aspect of the fight, as the wraith was difficult to track in the skies above.
Utilizing her bloodline, Cassandra managed to keep tabs enough on the wraith that she was able to light it up with magic—allowing her companions to loose fresh volleys of attack at range against it; swiftly the dread wraith descended beneath the surface of the Ashen Waste, leaving the party poised and waiting for several long seconds as they awaited its return—tending to spells and repositioning, breaths held and adrenaline coursing. After nearly a minute, Brother Vang was attacked from beneath his very feet as the wraith grasped at his vitality, startling the cleric immensely.
Thinking quickly, young Anselme wasted little time—and with a hastened effort, wrought a magical excavation of the ground beneath Brother Vang to reveal the dread wraith quite suddenly and allow his friends to attack it. Much to the wraith’s surprise at this turn, the party quickly leveled numerous blows before it descended once more out of sight—but not before wreaking further havoc on the bodies of the adventurers. Again the party waited—yet the next assault came not from below, but from above, catching Emma by surprise before the entity slipped underground and out of reach again.
Now faced with waiting for another assault from their undead adversary, after quick discussion the party opted to make a run for it—hastened by magic, they hoped to out-pace the creature’s lifesense—or at the very least draw it into open combat once more. With a fervent pace as the party ran, sure enough the wraith descended from the sky behind them again—and quickly the group doubled back, lighting their foe with magic before raining a desperate counter-attack against it; after another sweeping pass, the wraith ascended sharply and suddenly—missed by parting shots from Emma before it trailed off into the night sky. To the relief of all present, this time the wraith did not return.
Wasting little time the party resumed their quick clip to solace, making their way to the road and then forcing a swift march towards the Camp. Thoroughly exhausted, drained and weary, the party arrived at the verge of that ramshackle community with Meryk’s petrified form en tow, little stirring in the encampment—though much to their relief, signs of activity could be seen from the Chapel of the Dying Light across the commons. As the party dragged themselves along, tired and trodden, Anselme observed a peculiarity: the hanged man was missing from the tree at the center of the camp.
No sooner had this observance been remarked than the very same man had emerged from behind the Usurer’s workshop—lashing out with his long noose to encircle Cassandra’s neck! Swiftly the party sprang into action as fresh adrenaline poured through their systems—but the incensed sorceress unleashed her pent-up fury and decimated her assailant in a torrent of arcane energy, her fellows looking on in surprise as she rendered it unto little more than ash and dust.
While contemplating their Katapeshi companion, the group proceeded into the Chapel of the Dying Light toting their statuesque friend; within, the black-garbed figure of Father Death was already active at the late hour, a broadly built hobgoblin whose face had been painted as if a skull’s leering visage. ‘Father Death’ proved eerily friendly on the matters of the deceased and beleaguered, offering fond musings on the myriad forms of death the Desolation had to offer while the party bartered for Meryk’s restoration with a portion of the arsenal they’d recovered from the Tomb of the Sleeping Knight.
At long last the party retired to their own camp that they might recover and lick their wounds; a day of rest was set aside to allow for the treatment of lingering damage and debilitation and the scribing of additional scrolls in preparation for their next venture. Sights were set next on the vicinity they’d discerned contained Tark’s Mound—the burial site of the legendary barbarian king in the aftermath of a massive battle with the under-dwellers centuries ago. A course was charted, utilizing the road and crossroads for expediency before cutting off into the Ashen Wastes once more—the group hopeful of avoiding trouble before their arrival that they might delve the mound at full strength. As before, the party was visited again by the midnight peddler—this time offering a bag of sand for his demanded price—and as before, he imparted cryptic words of wisdom to the group:
“Deep in shades of twilight, behind guards and wards of demonic might lies hope chained in darkest night. Free hope for the sake of Light. Gain boon by setting all aright.”
On the following morning, rested and roused, the party set out northward—though once more Zantric remained behind to tend to affairs at the Camp. A brisk pace brought the group to the crossroads by mid-morning, discovering an eerie scaffolding from which numerous cages were suspended and the remains of skeletons were strewn about. Pandora committed to re-visiting the site at the stroke of midnight on a future occasion, that she might see to the mysterious occurrences there that she’d heard of in the Camp.
Forging a path off into the Ashen Wastes, the party departed from the crossroads—and after a few short hours of searching, came upon the sizable site of a burial mound as their leads had indicated before. Atop the forty-foot high mound sat a large flock of what Anselme recognized to be dread ravens; the gathering observed the approaching group with a malignant gleam in their collective eyes—but did not move to harangue them. Set into the side of the mound was an excavated niche some twenty feet deep—before a smaller, narrower passageway was spied leading off to the side, itself dug recently it seemed.
Pandora crept forward, peering around the corner to see what lay ahead—before swiftly drawing backward upon recognizing a greater basilisk at the end of the passage. Swiftly the party took up positions inside the outer excavation, preparing to advance on the creature; Emma took point, stepping around the corner—and then immediately turning to stone. Meryk then took up a firing position as Anselme loosed a rolling sphere of fire down the passageway—before the inquisitor was also turned to stone. Beginning to panic, the party recalled that during their encounter with just such a basilisk in the City of Golden Death, they’d been able to utilize its blood to restore petrified flesh—and a charge began to slay the beast as quickly as they could.
Anselme’s fire had sufficed to drive the basilisk back into its burrow momentarily, allowing time for Pandora, Brother Vang, Anselme and Cassandra to begin making their way down after it; closing her eyes, Pandora rushed into the burrow itself, somehow managing to avoid the brunt of the angered basilisk’s flailing—while Brother Vang began a slow and arduous advance after stowing his tower shield, cramped along the corridor. The basilisk returned to the end of the passageway, engaging Anselme. Cassandra responded by loosing a fireball into the burrow of the basilisk which Pandora avoided in time—before the sorceress herself was turned to stone.
Driven back once more by magic, the basilisk was assailed by Pandora in the cramped confines—before Brother Vang managed to emerge into its lair to engage the beast as well; leveling a brutal assault against the drow, the basilisk tore into the adventurers—shedding much blood before the cleric strode forth. Much to everyone’s surprise, Brother Vang delivered a pair of swift and decisive blows—critically wounding the basilisk and felling it beneath his blade. Swiftly, blood was collected from the basilisk—and much to the relief of all, there was enough that the three who had been petrified could be restored to flesh again. With this new nightmare averted, the party gathered inside of the basilisk’s newly dug lair—though much to Pandora’s disappointment, its poison glands had been destroyed by Brother Vang’s decisive strikes.
A weak point in the wall at the rear of the burrow was identified, and through it—once the party had recuperated—strode Emma. With a dark passage beyond, Pandora once more took the lead—but not fifteen feet ahead of the party was suddenly seized by a huge barrow worm and hauled bodily through the wall kicking and screaming. While the creature began to gnash and grind away at the clutched drow, the others moved to discern a way to engage it—only to discover a second barrow worm which swiftly snatched up Cassandra after receiving the brunt of her magical wrath.
With allies being ground bloodily and brutally within the walls, Emma, Anselme and Meryk sought to slay their terrible captors; Emma was imbued with a magical freedom of movement so that she could squeeze after Pandora and attempt to retrieve her—while Meryk fired repeatedly against the opposite worm while Cassandra struggled to loose magic but failed. Both she and Pandora were gruesomely injured and left dying before the worm over the sorceress was slain in its recess—leaving the one over Pandora remaining.
From the plane of earth Anselme summoned a quartet of elementals which engaged the worm from all sides, beating against its body; with Pandora dropped, Emma moved to engage the worm—its attempts to seize her thwarted by the magic which freed her—before the combined assault drove the monstrosity away as it struggled to retreat into the earth. However, the barrow worm proved too large to withdraw in time and was killed in its attempt, leaving the elementals to swiftly clear its corpse and retrieve treasures wedged into a crevasse beneath it.
After deliberation, the party decided to advance into the new chamber—a broader cavern from amidst the ancient burials, bits of skeletons visible protruding from the surroundings from the countless barbarians interred within. As before, Pandora took the lead—with Meryk and Emma right behind her—yet before the group had halfway emerged, Meryk was taken by surprise as the shadow of a dire bear assailed him, quickly winnowing the inquisitor’s strength. A swift melee was engaged with the monstrous shadow, Pandora and Emma moving to flank the beast while magic was loosed from within the passageway; numerous blows were loosed as the bear wreaked havoc on Emma’s strength in kind—but soon enough the shadow had been dispatched nearly as swiftly as the battle had begun.
Now weak, battered and exhausted from the battles they’d engaged, there was discussion about the risks of proceeding any further—and ultimately, the group commiserated on the decision to rest for the remainder of the day. Shoring up stones to re-close the passageway to the basilisk’s burrow, the party deployed the folding cart Emma had purchased at the Celestial Emporium—using it in an effort to block off the passage deeper into the barrow. Settling in for the evening, watches were meted—and soon many slipped to slumber to be embraced by troubling dreams.
Anselme was jarred awake rather suddenly as a blackened ooze engulfed the cart in which he slept—a jumble of skeletons protruding from its morass as it gurgled free from the narrow passageway; Meryk was quick to rouse the rest of the party—before a sharp bout of magic soon discorporated the undead ooze and left Anselme covered in its detritus. Once cleaned and cleared, the group resumed their rest and morning was soon upon them.
Faced with the final stretch of the burial mound, the party would need to ply their way through an extremely narrow and winding passageway—a gap of two and a half feet all they had to work with; squeezing single file, Leone was left to watch their egress as the group advanced towards the last burial chamber—hidden from undead with a quick prayer by Meryk. Once the chamber beyond came into view, Pandora and Emma were first to round the bend and discover what lay within: five barrow wights, two death dogs and seated upon a throne of bones, Tark the Barbarian King—now a towering barrow wight lord!
Both Pandora and Emma found themselves gripped within insanity upon meeting the gazes of the collective wights—and while the rest of the party struggled with maneuvering the restrictive confines of the passageway, the barrow wights moved quickly to engage the pair in the vanguard. Each blow struck began to infuse the adventurers with the very essence of death, weakening and diminishing them—and while Emma began to hew her way through death dogs and wights alike, Brother Vang strode forth to wade directly into the center of the unhallowed chamber to channel positive energy.
Yet the wights proved resilient, emboldened by the presence of their former barbarian lord and empowered by the very substance of their burial site; Tark imbued his minions with magic to hasten them, leaving both sides moving and striking rapidly in tandem. With further positioning troubles, Cassandra managed to join Anselme nearer to the exit of the passageway, both loosing powerful magic on the masses as fireball and flame-strike alike were brought to bear; several of the wights were wiped out while Brother Vang ducked to safety behind his tower shield.
Cassandra entered into the chamber and made her way aside as she continued to loose her magics—only to be engaged by two of the wights upon Tark’s direction; Pandora was reduced to babbling incoherently and bludgeoning herself by the madness which gripped her, while Emma and Tark met at the center of the chamber. Both Emma and Brother Vang had great difficulty landing blows against the barrow wight lord as they engaged him, with Meryk maneuvering for a clear shot and Anselme raining magic against him; with a trio of devastating blows, Tark felled Emma—then turned and sent Brother Vang sprawling in kind, the battle quickly beginning to tilt against the party as their presence slipped.
With Pandora still plagued by confusion, Cassandra managed to rid herself of the wights which mired her so—at last able to turn her attentions on Tark and those who yet remained; Tark dealt a final stroke to both Brother Vang and Emma in kind before striding furiously after Meryk after another barrage of holy arrows—felling the Inquisitor in turn. At long last, Tark turned on the trio left standing—before the raging barbarian lord was finally destroyed and reduced to dust. All was not well, however for in Tark’s wake, his death stroke had sent Emma’s spirit from the world—only to have the young barbarian rouse once more as an undead wight herself.
Kipping up immediately to her feet, a now thoroughly evil Emma turned upon her former comrades—felling both Anselme and Cassandra immediately with her immense blade after both had scrambled to deliver healing unto Brother Vang’s prone form. Meryk called out for Emma to engage him before dimensional-hopping to the adjoining chamber—hoping to lead her away from his brethren, that he might buy them time to recover. As Emma turned towards Pandora next, the two engaged one another—the barbarian finding more difficulty landing blows against the nimble drow—yet the delay had proven respite enough that slowly, painfully, Brother Vang worked his way back to his feet.
Digging deep into his reserves, Brother Vang—bearer of relics and inheritor crusader—called out to Iomedae and beseeched his goddess for strength in his time of need and an opportunity to stave off the encroach of evil once more; issuing forth a burst of positive energy in an effort to save his fallen friends, Brother Vang became infused with an immense surge of divine power and strode to engage the evil that Emma had become. As fiercely powerful as she had been in life, Emma turned upon Brother Vang with furious blows which threatened to shatter the man to his very core—yet Brother Vang managed to hold on and persevere, struggling to match her incredible strength.
Having weathered Emma’s assault, but only barely—Brother Vang struck out and delivered a critical blow which severed the barbarian’s left hand. Furious at this development and no longer able to properly wield the immense two-handed blade still locked to her right gauntlet, Emma slammed into Brother Vang with terrible blows—sending the cleric to kneel once more to the brink of death as she stood among the ruin she had laid.
By now, Cassandra and Anselme both desperately struck out against Emma along with Pandora—each on the cusp of death’s doorstep, and each whittling away at her seeming inexhaustible reserves of endurance—before Meryk returned from the passageway to loose a final volley at the woman. Turning to face Brother Vang, Emma favored her friend with a strange look and uttered: “See you soon.” Before a holy arrow reduced her to dust.
Deep within the burial mound of the Barbarian King Tark, those who yet remained moved to stabilize their companions—to take stock of the situation, and to begin ruminating upon both what had transpired and that which lay before them…
See what Emma thought about this session here!