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 aftermath once the dust had settled and the Barbarian King had once more been put to rest, the survivors drew together–took stock–and came again to the cost of their victory: Emma was dead.
For all the mayhem which had been wrought in their battle within the burial mound, the hour was yet early in the day–meaning the trek back to the Camp would be at its most tenable. Wary of the more rampant opposition found in the Desolation after dark, the party quickly gathered their goods and stowed the treasure discovered among Tark’s chamber–loading the lot into Emma’s folding cart to be towed by Leone for transport. Once outside from the burial mound, the group made swift progress back across the Ashen Wastes until upon the road for expeditious travel; little time was spared, a hastened pace struck as they marched back to the Camp.
By whatever fortune reigned, the party’s journey to the relative safety of the Camp went unmolested; late in the day the group arrived and made their way quickly to the Chapel of the Dying Light–relieved to find Father Death awake and ready to receive them. Upon delivering what remnants there were of Emma and explaining her plight, Father Death became somber with his reply: the cleric would be able to provide the difficult ritual that the barbarian woman might be restored, but possessed only a fraction of the rare and necessary materials required for its completion.
With so many adventuring troupes now venturing forth from the Camp, the perils had quickly dwindled the chapel’s supplies–leaving diamond dust in rare and high demand. Father Death suggested that the party approach another denizen among the camp who he suspected may possess the remainder of what they required for the resurrection they desired; making their way to the Sip of Blood tavern, the party sought out Asharru–a fox-headed Raksasha who lingered languidly in the cushioned shadows to one end of the establishment.
Asharru was joined by a stout oread magus by the name of Ibi-Sin, an attendant who saw to the strange woman’s purveyance of wine and other substances as she entertained the party’s request; after some consideration, an offer was proposed: Asharru possessed the much-desired diamond dust and would part with it for a fraction of its true value if, in exchange, the group retrieved an object she desired from among the Ashen Wastes.
It was explained that Asharru had an active interest in identifying which of the adventuring groups might best serve her purposes in penetrating the temple-city of Tsar; to this end, she had already had dealings with the Poisoned Lodge and other adventuring companies–apparently to an ends of dissatisfaction. Should the party prove more demonstrably reliable in this exchange, not only would Asharru provide assistance in the restoration of their fallen companion–but she would further see to their ‘sponsorship’ in becoming an established contingent of the Camp’s community, that they might receive a far more amenable exchange rate for the local currency and curry favor with its inhabitants.
The proposition was set forth: the party, accompanied and guided by Ibi-Sin, would trek deep into the reaches of the Ashen Wastes and seek out the lair of the ashborne arachnae brood mother. Within the lair of this creature, Asharru spoke of retrieving a crystal urn to be returned to her–while suggesting that the elimination of the brood mother herself would prove most pleasing to the inhabitants of the Camp as an ancillary bonus incentive. Asharru noted that the party would avail whatever treasure may lay themselves–her sole interest was the urn itself, which she insisted would remained sealed.
Pressed for more information regarding the nature of the urn Asharru sought, the Raksasha took a languid draw of smoke before her casual reply: the ashen remnants of a dead and forgotten god. Taken aback by this revelation, the party nevertheless recognized an opportunity to see to Emma’s restoration–and the avenue for establishment in the Camp itself proved its own appeal as well. The party agreed to the venture, though not before further plying for information from the Raksasha.
Of Asharru’s interest once questioned, the fox-headed woman spoke of further objects she desired which lay within the temple-city itself–and that she sought to identify an adventuring company capable of penetrating its walls, suggesting such a relationship would prove most mutually beneficial; finally, Asharru spoke of having traveled with her attendants from lands far to the south–and upon mention of a great disdain for Geb, Brother Vang’s interest in the woman became most piqued.
After adjourning for the evening to their camp, the party was somewhat surprised when Pandora opted instead to find a room at the Bender Brothers’ boarding house; as well, Meryk had remained in the guise of the Night Ranger long after having returned to camp, though little further mention was made in either individual’s regard. Upon the morning and before the party ventured out into the Ashen Wastes once more, a visit to Mama Grim’s apothecary was made–where the woman herself was discovered to be a rather peculiar hag.
For reasons Brother Vang could not fathom, once more a hag had taken particular interest in the man–providing him a vial of ‘Mama’s kisses’ to serve for whatever ailed the cleric; beyond this, the curious proprietor’s alchemical wares and potions were perused, with some supplies purchased while Anselme questioned after the woman’s interest in any unusual alchemical components. To this end, the young druid was directed to the Boiling Lands which Mama Grim suggested contained a plethora of rare elements of interest; with this noted for later consideration, the party met up with Ibi-Sin and began their journey out into the wastes.
A mere three hours from the Camp, the group began to traverse a stretch of terrain peppered with numerous sizable boulders–and it is in the midst of this that an armored, knightly figure emerged astride a skeletal steed–bearing a shield with the symbols of Aroden and Iomedae while a severed noose draped from about his neck. Immediately the unknown knight couched his lance and charged, barreling down on Brother Vang; Pandora attempted to leap astride the man’s saddle as he passed but missed her mark while Cassandra loosed magic upon his steed–but undeterred, the knight’s lance slammed home through the startled cleric’s chest, felling him in a single blow.
As the knight rounded for another charge, Anselme moved quickly to stabilize and rouse Brother Vang while the rest of the group pursued their foe in swift response to his attack; already badly damaged by Cassandra’s initial magical assault, the stranger’s steed was obliterated by a pounce from Leone–before the knight landed upon his feet and quickly swapped from his lance to a military pick. The group surrounded the unknown knight and after weathering a critical blow from his pick were able to subdue him; struggling and screaming of cowardice and demanding that he be slain, the party bound the felled knight–discovering him to not be undead as they had initially thought.
The knight proved stubborn and recalcitrant to discourse, repeatedly and insistently demanding that he be loosed, armed and fought to the death–a request the group became of mixed opinion on. Emaciated, plagued by the shakes and thoroughly sickened and aged–once removed from his mount, the man made for a sad sight. Puzzled and perplexed, the group continually pressed the unknown knight for information while attempting to discern his identity.
In time, with sufficient prying the party was able to identify the man as Sir Martimus, formerly counted among the fifty-and-one of Lord Bishu’s retinue of champions; they deduced Sir Martimus to be well over three hundred years old in his quest for death–and at long last discovered that he had been cursed to wander the Desolation, unable to die except in battle–while the denizens of the temple-city of Tsar would merely mock and refuse to engage him. A former paladin of Aroden, the centuries had long ravaged Martimus’ spirits–yet Brother Vang became resolved in finding salvation for the knight, concerned that his demise–in Aroden’s absence–would only further serve to condemn him to suffering.
It was with this determination that the party delayed their expedition to the brood mother’s lair, instead returning to the Camp to seek out a solution for Sir Martimus’ quandary; once within camp, Brother Vang and the others began to discuss upon the fallen knight’s fate and faith–yet while this was underway, the Night Ranger took a different avenue of approach.
Since his encounter with the madness-inducing barrow wights within Tark’s burial mound, Meryk had remained in his Night Ranger guise–while seemingly without notice, the man had begun to brandish the symbol of Asmodeus, rather than Desna; now, faced with the faithless Sir Martimus, the Night Ranger deduced it most practical to bring him the structure Asmodeus could provide.
While the party began to argue the potential for saving a man so determined to die, the Meryk visited the Camp’s embassy nearby and sought out Lord Telaxxis, a representative of the Hellknight Order of the Rack–suggesting the indoctrination of Sir Martimus into their service here on the cusp of the temple-city of Tsar. Meryk returned to the party, taking the bound Sir Martimus by his lead and began to make his way towards the embassy–much to the startled surprise of his companions.
A fierce argument erupted in which the party nearly came to blows–adventurers quickly descending upon one another to seize and freeze Sir Martimus’ march; all the while the fallen knight demanded his freedom, a blade, and a foe among them with which to wield it–before Brother Vang delivered an impassioned plea and soon a tenuous peace was drawn once more.
After heavy deliberation of the options aired–some feeling Sir Martimus ought be loosed against the brood mothers, others fielded with a fresh steed unto the Desolation and others still suggesting a duel to the death here within the Camp itself–Brother Vang implored that word be sent back to Vigil, that the Knights of Ozem there might see to so storied a hero from their history. Sir Martimus was sequestered within the embassy by representatives of the Shining Crusade–to be interred there for several days pending the arrival of a procession out of Vigil. With his heart still heavy, Brother Vang returned to his fellows then that the party might once more prepare to venture into the wastes.
During these exchanges, however, Pandora had slipped away from the company of her fellows; while Meryk had been plagued by a divide among his alter-egos, the drow had grown increasingly wary of all whom surrounded her. Brother Vang solely seemed reliable now to the woman, but few others could be trusted any longer; her battle with the maddening barrow wights had left her all too convinced of the treachery which would doubtless come for her at last. Alone in her room at the boarding house, Pandora searched it thoroughly and–much to her dismay–discovered a secret trap door beneath her bed as well as a vantage in the wall by which an occupant might be observed.
Bristling warily, Pandora emerged from her room to eat alone for her dinner, served a sizable meal by the Bender Brothers–of which she subtly utilized magic to assess for poison. Startlingly, Pandora’s burgeoning suspicions proved truthful–and making a subtle shoe of eating her meal while stowing away each portion with expert sleight of hand, Pandora soon retired to her room complaining of an upset stomach. Therein the drow lay, waiting for the hours to tick by and convinced of a foul plot against her life; at long last, late into the evening, she stole free from her room to the outhouse behind the boarding house–still maintaining her charade of discontent following her supper.
There, as Pandora remained poised within the cramped structure and contemplated how best to approach her situation–the drow was suddenly attacked -through- the walls of the outhouse which proved to be illusory! Ready as she was for the blow, however, Pandora avoided a sudden demise–alarmed to discover both Bender Brothers, the gnome proprietors–one of whom seemed to be an assassin! The other quickly revealed his own prowess as a phantasmal killer was loosed upon Pandora–only narrowly managing to disbelieve the terrifying creation before she was stabbed brutally in the eye by her would-be assassin.
Already grievously wounded and half-blind, Pandora bolted and tumbled away from the pair before fleeing across the grounds behind the boarding house with her assailants in close pursuit. With the party situated a mile outside of the Camp, Pandora’s options were few–and out of desperation she began to run for the Sip of Blood Tavern, hoping to find aide from Asharru there. To Pandora’s surprise, the raksasha and Ibi-Sin were both discovered in the commons on their way towards the boarding house; it seemed the fox-headed woman had elected to begin scrying upon the drow following her curious separation from her fellow adventurers, the better to discern her prospective associate’s intentions.
Little time and fewer words were wasted before Ibi-Sin was sent forth with simple words from his mistress to kill the gnomes; as the magus charged with alarming speed to interpose himself between Pandora and her pursuers, the assassin leapt through the air and delivered an immediately critical thrust of his rapier which left Ibi-Sin stunned and helpless. Seeing this alarming turn, Asharru herself joined the fray with frightening alacrity–brandishing khukris as she tore into the would-be assassin. Badly wounded, the assassin threw down smoke to obscure his hopeful ascape–leaving his illusionist brother to fend for himself amidst angry cries.
By now Pandora had turned back on her attackers and with a sharp blow felled the illusionist; as he lay groaning, the drow wasted little time on delivering a coup de grace and ensuring she would be troubled no further. Despite his effort to escape with invisibility, the assassin was soon tracked down by the Raksasha before she convened within the boarding house alongside Ibi-Sin and Pandora. Within, Asharru declared that this turn of events would serve to accelerate the party’s induction into the Camp’s community–once the remains of the murderous Bender Brothers had been attended to.
Throughout the rest of the evening Pandora performed a thorough search of the boarding house, discovering an intricate network of secret passageways by which the proprietors had spied upon and murdered their previous visitors throughout the years; the drow proceeded to lay numerous traps across the building before spending the remainder of the night with her back to the wall and her eyes on the door–convinced further misfortune may yet come…
(Next: Part 2, the Brood Mother’s Lair!)