For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
(Due to the considerable length of this particular session and the amount of content the group covered, I’ve decided to split it into two parts to make it a bit more manageable to read!)
In the morning, the party emerged from their caravan to find Ibi-Sin awaiting them with summons from Asharru back in the Camp; puzzled, they accompanied the Oread back into the midst in time to find Asharru and the Usurer both meeting with Pandora in the boarding house. Following the evening’s events, the Usurer spoke of the boarding house’s necessity for the continued operations of the Camp–that its services could not be interrupted without great displeasure on his part.
Citing when pressed that he did not care about the circumstances of the Bender Brothers’ mutual disappearance, the Usurer suggested cost and operations of the boarding house while insisting that Pandora and her fellows take it upon themselves to ensure that it continued to operate. With these new developments, should things proceed in an amenable fashion the party would be considered full members of the Camp’s community and receive the benefit of a more favorable exchange rate after several weeks had passed.
With affairs at the Camp once more settled, the party rallied and set forth out into the Ashen Wastes–their sights set upon the farthest they had yet to range from the safety of their base of operations. Much to the group’s chagrin, with the distance charted to the lair of the brood mother being exposed after nightfall would be unavoidable on this trip–and as they had learned all too well, the dangers which lurked the Desolation in the dark were considerable.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon the adventurers marched across the dust-choked landscape; mid-afternoon a shape approached from the sky, sighted to be a flying manticore–yet before the beast could assail the party, Meryk loosed a volley of expert shots which slew the creature where it flew and set it to plummet into the earth. Late in the afternoon, Anselme spied the signs of an oncoming acid rain and prepared the party to weather the caustic storm; once such had been meted out, the journey continued on past sunset.
Ibi-Sin’s assessment of the approach suggested the party had drawn quite close to their destination–yet with the arrival of nightfall, all were wary and on their guard. Forming an encampment so deep in the Desolation would be a last resort, so onward still the party pressed ever anxious to avoid foes before they faced the source of the ashborne arachnids. Just two miles from their target, however, the party was attacked–five wraiths emerging from beneath the ashen ground, engaging swiftly with their deathly touch.
From all sides the party was attacked, maneuvering towards one another to better bolster their defenses; Cassandra hastened her companions while Brother Vang attempted to drive away their undead assailants–yet here in the wastes Iomedae’s influence scarcely seemed to affect them. Withering attacks from the wraiths winnowed away at the constitution of the group–yet slowly but surely their foes were discorporated and destroyed by with weapons made holy by divine blessing and torrents of magic unleashed.
Wearily the party worked quickly in an effort to mend their drained reserves–cursing their misfortune at the nature of the attack so near to the lair of the brood mother. Anselme’s herbalism paid of greatly as tulsum mushrooms helped to reduce the draining effects of the wraiths–and having spent much in the way of healing magics, the party rallied and marched at a desperate clip to reach their destination before further foes might materialize.
At long last late into the evening Ibi-Sin directed the group to their goal–and there ahead, almost imperceptible in the gloom, a gaping pit marred the landscape. Roughly twenty feet in diameter, the ashen terrain sank steeply towards the hole that served as entrance to the home of the arachnae brood mother. Scattered about the edge of the pit were the bones and skulls of animals and even humanoids–some seeming rather recent.
With trepidation, Pandora ventured ahead across the treacherous terrain–as it was decided her nimbleness would find the slope manageable; much to everyone’s surprise, she lost her footing and slid tumbling off the edge of the pit and down into the darkness beyond.
Acting quickly, Pandora was able to slow her descent and maneuver to abate much of the drop–but nevertheless found herself sixty feet below the surface of the Ashen Wastes–now surrounded by what appeared to be an immense chamber constructed of hewn stone, with great vaulting pillars and arches. Able to see despite the darkness, the drow observed her surroundings carefully–and deduced that the brood mother had laired in what appeared to be an ancient dwarvern hall!
Skeletal remnants littered the floor of the chamber in which Pandora now stood and from above her companions shouted after her and how she fared; in a lapse, the drow began to shout back the circumstances below–only to reel as an immense creature leaped into the chamber from an adjoining passageway to swiftly seize upon her! A gigantic black-and-red-banded spider with a reddish hourglass shape emblazoned upon her abdomen bore down upon Pandora–her many eyes glittering with an unnerving alien intelligence as she set upon the drow with elongated, serrated talons.
Quickly the remainder of the party scrambled that they might come to Pandora’s aid–yet the difficulty of navigating the slope above meant that firing down upon the brood mother would prove nearly impossible. Anselme set out to deploy Emma’s folding cart that it might be used as an anchor for ropes to descend into the pit–but wasting little time, Brother Vang ran forth to leap into the pit and brave the fall, plummeting painfully before the looming form of the brood mother.
In the meantime, Pandora had utilized a quick spell to levitate in what she hoped would escape the arachnae’s reach while her fellows strove to descend; as a rope trailed down, Ibi-Sin moved to help as well–only to slip and fall beside Brother Vang. Leone leapt down from the brink of the pit above, the sizable feline landing on his feet; Cassandra attempted to descend the rope as well but also lost her grasp, joining the others already prone before the brood mother.
The brood mother began a brutal assault, lashing out with her startling reach to slash at her clustered quarry, battering those who tried to stand and scramble that they may reposition; Brother Vang received a savage bite, poison coursing through the cleric’s system which painfully ate away at his strength with alarming speed. From above, Meryk began to carefully descend the rope while Anselme–hearing the panicked cries of his comrades–took the form of an eagle that he might fly down and provide healing while Brother Vang struggled to gain his bearings.
As the party worked to maneuver themselves into a more advantageous position, the chamber of the hall proved all the more troubling for their efforts; the reach of the brood mother was considerable, her strikes vicious against even the most heavily armored of their number–while she herself proved exceedingly difficult to hit and startlingly resilient to magical attacks. Ibi-Sin, Leone and Pandora worked to attempt to flank their adversary while Cassandra sought to distance herself from the beast–yet unlike many of their prior foes, the brood mother all too eagerly positioned herself deep within their midst, such that she could continue to strike at all of them with equal ease.
All too quickly the battle had begun to go from bad to worse: nearly everyone had sustained injuries in their attempts to join the fight and had swiftly received more from the brood mother herself as the huge arachnid all but herded them about her lair. Brother Vang was scarcely able to provide healing to his fellows before the poison coursing through his system left him unable to move within his heavy armor; the crusader managed to bestow a divine boon upon his comrades after utilizing the magic of his armor to reposition one final time–but soon enough was entirely sapped of strength and to left helplessly watch the desperate battle unfold.
Even with flanked positions and blessings, striking the brood mother with significant blows proved arduous–and through trial and error as Cassandra and Anselme loosed magical attacks, the list of elements to which she was resilient grew. Leone fell victim to the arachnid’s poison, kept standing only by virtue of the magic which infused his collar–while Pandora was left in similar circumstances, her belt keeping her withered but upright. Maneuvering from the air, Anselme provided what healing he was able in lieu of Brother Vang–for the felled knight could not even brandish his holy symbol, that he might channel healing energies for his fellows.
Desperation grew; the party began to draw apart and distance themselves in an effort to split the attention of the brood mother. Meryk had managed after his joining of the fight to land a scant few arrows–but his initial difficulty in properly identifying the origin of the brood mother thwarted his early efforts to imbue them with his power of adversarial bane. Once the inquisitor had managed to better assess the brood mother and after eschewing much in favor of heightened accuracy, a full salvo of potent arrows drew appreciable injury of the beast while Cassandra’s steady onslaught of arcane energies had began to take their toll.
Quickly the brood mother descended upon Meryk, dealing the inquisitor several staggering blows before he as well as treated to her powerful poison; Ibi-Sin was able to deliver a frigid touch to the brood mother and Anselme a critical blow–both of which served to slow the monstrous beast and repeatedly stall her such that the party might better reposition. In this gap, Leone and Pandora moved away from the arachnid to regroup–yet Ibi-Sin soon fell victim to the brood mother’s potent poison as well, further culling their numbers. Calling upon the power of Desna, Meryk performed a dimensional hop to reposition himself behind and away from the terrifying arachnid that he might fire again–for the party’s ability to damage their foe was quickly dwindling!
With Cassandra cornered, however, the brood mother turned and loosed a torrent of webbing to immobilize Meryk and prevent his further harrying until she had dealt with the sorceress–doubtless to allow her poison to wreak ruinous havoc as well. Cassandra was dealt a terrible blow soon afterward, yet miraculously remained standing a hairsbreadth from collapse–while calling upon magic, Meryk burst his bonds to fire again upon the brood mother and deal yet more damage to the beast. Enraged by the assault, the arachnid bore down upon the inquisitor and left the sorceress where she stood–providing a much-needed opening for Anselme.
The next few moments seemed to stretch on perilously–Anselme assumed the form of an immense tiger and pounced, desperately raking and seeking purchase against the brood mother while Cassandra eked out a fireball almost entirely absorbed by the creature’s resistances; a furious assault felled Meryk into a bloody heap beneath vicious talons–while Anselme’s assault drew the brood mother’s attention next.
By now, badly weakened, Leone and Pandora had withdrawn from the fight and began to make their way down the adjoining passageway–hoping that they might find the brood mother’s eggs deeper in her lair to incense her away from their companions. Ibi-Sin lay immobile, Meryk bleeding badly and Brother Vang helpless on the opposite end of the chamber; this left Cassandra standing on death’s door alongside Anselme–and should they fall, Pandora and Leone would doubtless be soon to follow, now deep within the passageway amid a veritable labyrinth of webbing.
Vicious blows were dealt towards Anselme before another burst of magic from Cassandra wracked the brood mother–drawing the furious creature to bear towards her to dispatch the woman once and for all; swiftly, Anselme interceded and leap practically astride the great beast–and beneath a final desperate lashing out, the druid dragged the monstrous spider down and at last ended the long and brutal battle, much to the great relief of all gathered.
Wasting little time, Anselme saw to stabilizing Meryk before the pair moved to assist their fellows strewn about the chamber; Cassandra utilized her wands and other reserves and soon enough the party was back on their feet–but only in the strictest sense, bearing terrible injuries and greatly reduced strength. Deep beyond the passageway, Pandora and Leone at last located the inner sanctum of the brood mother’s lair–and there discovered a vast dearth of sizable eggs, further generations of the ashborne arachnae menace.
Joined by their fellows, the party re-assembled and saw to the utter destruction of the brood mother’s offspring–ensuring that no further spawn would rise to threaten the Camp once more. With great care the group scoured the adjoining surroundings, unearthing the accumulated treasures of the alien arachnid–and much to their satisfaction, said treasures were considerable. Among the accumulated wealth two particular magical articles were discovered–a phase spider cloak, an item of some legend, along with a staff of spiders as well.
Most important, however, was the discovery of the crystal urn which Asharru had so sought–its identification affirmed by Ibi-Sin before the container was retrieved. Pandora briefly attempted to open the sealed urn before advised against such by her fellows; Asharru had insisted its contents not be disturbed, after all, and they could not be certain what to expect otherwise. By overwhelming necessity, the group bunkered down deep within the brood mother’s lair to rest for the remainder of the night; on the morrow, their trek back to the Camp would be as hasty as they could muster.
In the morning, fresh bevies of healing reserves were utilized to further bolster the party back into a better semblance of being fit for fighting; securing their recovered treasures, the group ascended carefully from the pit and loaded up the cart on the surface before beginning their trek back towards the Camp while daylight still offered advantage. Along the way, another manticore was sighted–but seemed to recognize the party for the threat they were and swiftly shied away; as well, Brother Vang spied that same lone ghoul but once more sent it wandering away with a threatening display of his holy symbol.
It was early evening when the party arrived back at the Camp–and much to their collective relief, they had managed to avoid a meaningful encounter along the way. Wasting little time, Asharru was sought and the crystal urn delivered, seemingly to the Raksasha’s satisfaction upon her inspection of such. Tucking the urn away in an extra-dimensional space, Asharru bore true to her word and accompanied the party to the Chapel of the Dying light–and there, finding Father Death and now possessing the necessary reagents for the resurrection ritual, the group gathered to observe as they hoped Emma might be recovered from beyond.
Father Death took a position before his great black altar, red candles flickering to cast an eerie light throughout the chapel’s interior; the diamond dust and Emma’s ashes were strewn in a strange pattern about the altar’s surface before the grim priest began to intone a deep-throated chant and delve his fingertips throughout the mixture. Energy began to crackle upon the air before the collective powder swirled upwards in a surge–the chant growing louder and more fervent.
With a rush, a skeleton began to materialize before the eyes of those assembled–then joined by veins, arteries and capillaries; flesh and blood began to form in kind as the chanting began to boom and echo throughout the chapel–life flooding with a staggering lurch within the body as it formed. A raging cry loosed from lungs yet taking shape as muscle and other tissue began to cling to the form before all who bore witness–and at last, Father Death strode to deliver the strike of a palm as he had ended each of his prior displays–only to be thrown back with a deafening boom, sent sprawling on his back some ten feet from the altar.
A spark erupted from the apparent blow and the form of the barbarian went toppling over backwards behind the altar and out of sight as smoke trailed upward; together, the party watched and waited before Emma slowly rose to her feet, bracing herself as she stood. The barbarian had been returned to them, body whole once more–yet where her hand had been severed, her new appendage had taken a strangely dark gray pigment; as well, Emma’s marking of Gorum had grown larger and more elaborate.
Throughout the chapel flowed a palpable wave of relief as the group loosed held breaths and welcomed Emma back into their midst; Anselme stared at the woman’s form before Cassandra offered her a cloak–and soon the party brought the barbarian up to speed on what had transpired and spirits were raised considerably. Ibi-Sin once more took a place by Asharru’s side and the Raksasha appeared pleased by the proceedings–suggesting that the group rest and recuperate from their ordeal, but that she had other matters they might attend to once they were ready.
Taking their leave of the chapel after giving thanks to Father Death and Asharru alike, the party returned to their caravan to retire for the night. Talk was turned towards plans in the coming days: with the brood mother slain, the boarding house now theirs and a backer among the Camp–their position in the community would doubtless solidify, and so too their footing by which to approach what yet remained in the Desolation. It was decided that some time would be spent among companions, while Anselme had already begun to plan for the raising of more permanent defenses–there was much to address and more yet remained to be seen beyond the Camp in the days to come…
Read about Emma’s journal entry pertaining to this session here!