For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Distant shouts and shifting soil sent pangs of panic through the party as injured were tended and wounds were mended in the aftermath of the first assault; several wands were left smoking sticks while Brother Vang was roused and an assessment of the battlefield was made. Briefly, there was discussion about attempting to reposition or even to leave the field–but Thane Fenris and his men had no intention of departing, so swiftly the party began to prepare for another wave. Gathering round, steins and tankards were hoisted high before the group set about the task at hand.
Quaffing potions and scrutinizing scrolls, the group once more took up battle positions about the hilltop perimeter; in the meantime, Meryk moved to begin etching out cruth galdr runes to better bolster the entrenched dwarven defenses. Aurakraul landed among the adventurers and their dwarven friends, setting several to panic at first–but soon enough the party parlayed with the green dragoness anew, gleaning briefly a recount of an effort made to penetrate the pall over the temple-city of Tsar–an unsuccessful endeavor. Committing to aiding once more in aid, the dragoness took to the air again–soon lost in the fog above.
Horns sounded a loud blare from off in the murky mists and soon countless silhouettes began emerging from the fog. The first wave had seen an onslaught of more than one hundred skeletons and their ilk–but here the second attack set hearts to sink as an apt remark was aired among the group: first came the quantity, now came the quality. Skeletal champions marshaled forth long lines from every direction, shouting jeers at the besieged adventurers as further horns were sounded.
There were again a great many skeletons advancing upon the hilltop–but now, the lot were accompanied by a variety of more powerful undead; among the rank and file were unusual skeletal combatants, such as headless hunch-backed skeletal warriors and elven skeletal champions boasting long curved blades. Several minotaur skeletons wielding great axes reared from the western front where Emma now stood vigil, while to the northeast approached the skeleton of a stegosaurus. All eyes turned southward to the most notable shape emerging from the fog, however: a giant mummy, lumbering free from the mist!
With that, the battle was engaged as the second wave came crashing down against the waiting arms of the party; to the north, Anselme and Leone stood together to rebuke the oncoming troops–yet the lion swiftly became entangled in combating the hulk that was the stegosaurus, the pair grappling in an exchange of brutal injuries. To the east, Cassandra and Pandora worked to secure the flank–aided by arcane defenses etched via cruth galdr; on the western front, Emma had scarcely strode to meet the advancing skeletons before the minotaurs and other adversaries charged to bear down on the barbarian.
A pitched melee erupted on three fronts while Meryk loosed careful volleys from the hilltop against an overwhelmingly target rich environment; Zantric stood shoulder to shoulder with his dwarven compatriots against several powerful skeletons–bracing himself for the approach of the towering mummy beyond. Yet as the giant mummy neared, a trio of small figures raced free from about its legs–mummified halflings racing to engage Zantric and his fellows! Two moved frightfully to flank the fighter, while a third stole past and managed to reach Cassandra–paralyzing the sorceress and inflicting her with terrible mummy rot.
On all fronts things had quickly gone from bad to worse, the beleaguered adventurers unable to halt so many attempting to skirt past them; more than dozen skeletons slipped by surrounded defenders, engaged then by the dwarves deeper in the entrenchment as Thane Fenris and Old Gorrak shouted out over the battlefield. Anselme and Leone had been further engaged by one of the minotaur skeletons, while Emma struggled to avoid becoming mired by so many foes–some taking to desperately grabbing at the barbarian where their blows failed to breach her considerable durability and vigor.
Pandora seized up Cassandra’s limp form, withdrawing deeper into the trenches away from the eastern front; the dwarves moved to stand in opposition against the skeletons in her stead to provide her with an opportunity to rouse her recent rescue. On the southern end of the battlements, the giant mummy had arrived just as Zantric managed to cut down several skeletal champions–slamming a terrible blow against the fighter as his shield arm had began to numb from countless attacks.
Seeing the desperate straights, Anselme hatched a clever plan and withdrew from the northern front to begin a summoning ritual. All the while, Brother Vang raced to and fro among the trenches of the hilltop, working to support his fellows and provide healing as he could. Aurakraul appeared from among the foggy skies to loose a cone of scalding acid from behind the giant mummy to the south, sizzling against the back of the behemoth and liquefying many of the skeletons about Zantric while the man himself received injury from the effort.
Anselme’s summoning was then complete, an air elemental emerging suddenly upon the field before immediately becoming a huge tornado of whirling winds! With the roar of howling currents the whirlwind tore swiftly across the battlefield, sweeping up countless skeletons in the blink of an eye as it began to skirt along the badly besieged eastern front–and whisking away the halfling mummy attempting to pursue Pandora still, though not before the drow had also been inflicted with its terrible disease.
Against the giant mummy Meryk loosed a torrent of special rain arrows, costly munitions which could deliver liquid to their target–in this instance, blessed holy water to shower upon the behemoth as the inquisitor cast his judgment against it. Zantric delivered swift, sure strokes about the legs of the titan once the halflings had been dispatched and Cassandra, now recovered from her paralysis, unleashed called lightning against her immense adversary in kind; this combined effort toppled the huge mummy, much to the relief of the defenders, just as Emma had managed to smash the last of the minotaurs on her front surrounded by shattered and splintered bones.
With Anselme’s whirlwind making its rounds about the perimeter of the battlefield and significantly thinning the rank and file, things had begun looking up again; Leone had managed to break down the stegosaurus to the north and most of the skeletal champions and other unusual undead fare had been dispatched. The adventurers had endured considerable injury in the course–and despite the best efforts of the defenders, another of the dwarves had been slain by those which had overrun their outermost defenses; from above, Aurakraul visited another line of acid along the undead attackers, further weaning their numbers–and for a moment, morale began to soar.
It was then that Brother Vang and Meryk both noticed something amiss from above–for from among the mist, several suspicious clouds of gas had begun to descend upon the hilltop. Together, the pair recognized them for what they truly were: vampire spawn, creeping upon their position! With a shout of warning the duo prepared for these new attackers and at once the vampires revealed themselves, beginning to engage the defenders in turn. A sweep of the whirlwind managed to catch two of the spawn as it went, but the adventurers could not react quickly enough–and one managed to position himself over the hilltop and loose an eldritch command.
From underneath the very ground numerous cadavers suddenly erupted, seizing upon dwarves and adventurers alike with alarming alacrity; on the weakened eastern front a zombified bulette tore free from churned soil to descend upon the vulnerable dwarves and tear into their ranks. One of the vampire spawn lingered in the air beyond Brother Vang’s reach, mocking the faithful of Iomedae–before a shadow descended over the crusader’s foe as Aurakraul silenced it decisively. Lightning arced at Cassandra’s command as more volleys of arrows were loosed, the party moving to regroup and rebuke the newly arrived undead with desperate abandon.
Another dwarf had fallen before the group could slay the rotting bulette, seized within the animated land-shark’s jaws beyond Brother Vang’s means of recovery; the cadavers proved resilient, but nevertheless were swiftly dispatched–and seeing the strength of the defenders had not yet faltered, the remaining vampire spawn withdrew from the field into the fog once more while delivering mocking shouts to the adventurers and dwarves below. As Anselme’s tornado finally began to dwindle far afield, the party gathered together at the center of the hilltop to catch their breaths and begin tending to the wounded once more–the second wave seemingly concluded.
After the first assault, the group had just shy of an hour to prepare themselves anew–yet as they now discussed their predicament and exhausted ever more of their healing reserves, mere minutes had passed before shapes began to emerge from the southern front again. Several zombified dwarves shuffled free from the fog, serving as twisted pallbearers for a heavy casket they bore between them; Thane Fenris and the dwarves loosed a sharp cry of outrage at this corruption of their former brethren, immediately charging from the trenches to advance upon their reanimated comrades as the party shouted after them to stop.
Quickly, Meryk loosed a pair of shots which felled the front-most of the dwarven zombies–and with this, the casket toppled forward and opened, revealing an empty interior; warily, the inquisitor loosed several more shots which seemed to strike an invisible occupant–yet now, Pandora utilized magic to seek out any hidden by such means, only to spy a bound and gagged man now bleeding in the coffin.
More worrying than this, however, was what else Pandora saw: for the charging dwarves were now flanked on either side by half a dozen heavily armored wights made invisible by magic, as well as the returned vampire spawn–themselves, now accompanied by two others. One was a vampire clad in spiked plate-mail, later to be recognized as a blood knight–a potent undead fighter who favors cursed accouterments–and the other, a vampire proper, which Pandora recognized from when she’d spied upon Lucimar so long ago as one of the individuals seen through the lich’s censer.
Warnings were shouted, with Emma moving quickly alongside Brother Vang in an effort to defend the dwarven flanks; the wights revealed themselves all at once as they charged to engage the adventurers and defenders anew, joined from the air by vampire spawn as heavy blows were exchanged. Zantric’s heart sank at the sight of his fellows so beleaguered, yet when the fighter went to join his friends he found himself facing the blood knight in a swift and sudden duel. All the while, the vampire remained distant and aloft, seeming to simply observe the battle in progress as if studying the adventurers.
With a staggering fury Emma obliterated two of the armored wights, cleaving through them with marked ease despite their tougher countenance; the pair had managed to deliver several sinister blows beforehand however, leaving the barbarian feeling drained of energy and weakened as she continued on. Brother Vang then enacted a death ward upon Emma to secure her against further effects–and as Thane Fenris waded into the new melee, the wights were swiftly falling.
Zantric’s duel with the blood knight proved the fighter’s prowess–emboldened by the danger faced by his friends, the vampire champion was taken by surprise by the man’s potency–and after the pair fought for only two rounds, the vampire was forced into a gaseous form and send withdrawing to his coffin–trailing unsurprisingly towards the temple-city of Tsar. Again the vampire spawn fled the field–while the hidden vampire left a parting gift, erupting a powerful fireball which felled the dwarves much to the party’s outcry. Brother Vang moved quickly to aid the fallen defenders while all eyes turned towards the north as a new arrival set their hearts to sink again.
Astride the zombified form of an ancient black dragon a crowned dwarven lich arrived, joined by two high priests of Orcus–and with a dreading certainty, those gathered soon recognized the lich as the very King Kroma which the dwarves had sought to recover. Aurakraul landed before the four with a thunderous sound, bellowing before loosing a powerful torrent of acidic breath against them, drawing a rallying shout from the party–yet King Kroma loosed a bellow of his own, a rare and wicked magic recognized to be a doomwail–and to the party’s shock and dismay, all at once the green dragoness was paralyzed and rendered blind and deaf.
Together the group raced northward through the trenches, hastening to engage their final adversary in the assault as King Kroma regarded them with a cold and gleaming glow. By now it seemed that Orcus’ minions had begun to further adapt to the party’s strategies as the high priests erected a wall of wind to shield themselves from Meryk’s attacks–while further magic served to bulwark them against additional ranged assaults. Cassandra found her opening salvo of fireballs and magic missiles falling ineffectual–counter-spelled and absorbed in turn.
Leone tore free ahead of the party to pounce upon one of the high priests in order to interrupt a summoning ritual–only to have King Kroma’s zombified mount turn upon him with a staggering fervor–leaving the sizable feline a bloody ruin beside the lich and his accompaniment. The ritual had been halted however, sparing the party an unknown adversary in the fray with the lion’s sacrifice.
Negative energy surged and arched across the battlefield; Meryk, Pandora and Brother Vang took up positions behind Aurakraul’s immobile form while Zantric and Emma strode ahead and Anselme took to the shape of a giant eagle that their trio might engage the lich and his ‘dragon.’ A torrent of lightning from Cassandra tore through the rotting dragon yet did not affect King Kroma himself–and once more, the high priests reacted to further bulwark their magical defenses, one poising to interrupt the sorceress’ spells–and dispelling her effort to magically quicken her comrades with haste.
By now, Anselme landed before the dragon, seeking to recover Leone’s remains before the high priests could animate them; the dragon turned upon the druid, laying him out with a series of blows which left him bleeding on the dusty battleground. Zantric strode to engage the towering dragon, yet the fighter was battered in kind and sent sailing by a slap of the undead beast’s tail–only surviving by virtue of a surge of heroics and a plea to Torag as he was laid out.
Shoring her fury, Emma strode up to the wall of wind then and with a feat of righteous rage cut -through- the magical barrier–sundering the spell and opening a window for Meryk to act! The barbarian was rewarded by the dragon’s attentions next, a brutal barrage of blows tearing Emma down from her feet–but now, Meryk had begun to loose arrows against the undead dragon as Thane Fenris charged into melee, though not before a pillar of fire had struck against them with a gesture from King Kroma!
Pandora moved to engage the undead dragon in kind as powerful volleys were leveled into its decaying hide; Brother Vang loosed powerful divine healing at odds with the negative energy channeled by Orcus’ priests and King Kroma himself–and when one of the priests was slain by Cassandra, the other reanimated him as a zombie to carry on the fight against the adventurers. Together, Thane Fenris and Pandora flanked the lich’s undead mount–and between the pair and another volley from Meryk, Pandora was able to deal a killing blow once and for all to topple the towering creature.
King Kroma wafted deftly to his feet on the ground and without missing a beat stepped over to Pandora to deliver her great harm; with the drow laid dying, his attention turned to Brother Vang whom had strode up to meet the lich in battle that he might rescue his friend. Arrows sailed, holy water showering down as Meryk hastened to avoid retribution; Brother Vang managed to pull Pandora from death’s door before standing valiant before the lich–yet with a second deathly touch, the inheritor crusader’s life was seized and snuffed out.
Zantric and Emma moved to assail the lich, both near to death themselves–and though a final bout of healing had left the pair on their feet, the duo’s reserves were all but exhausted; after hundreds of foes met afield, the party faced a potential route against their final adversary. Aurakraul, freed from her paralysis yet still blinded and deaf loosed a torrent of acid again, spraying King Kroma and the remaining priest of Orcus while Pandora narrowly avoided damage herself.
With a raucous cry, Thane Fenris, Emma, Zantric and Pandora closed in upon King Kroma in a final advance in tandem with Meryk and Cassandra loosing the last of their respective measures in tandem–and together, the lich was laid out while several collapsed into unconsciousness from their wounds. Old Gorrak and the dwarves reunited with the remnants of the party while Pandora liberated the gleaming eye from King Kroma’s skull, declaring it to be his phylactery before handing it off to Emma to be destroyed.
Once the phylactery had been sundered, King Kroma’s foul remains were wreathed in a white cleansing fire which purified the corrupted corpse of the dwarven lord–leaving behind shining armor and a white gleaming skeleton along with Kroma’s crown. Thane Fenris recovered the remains and crown to be ferried back to his clan, bequeathing Zantric with the dwarven lord’s armor and weapon in thanks.
Sullen, Zantric carefully gathered up Brother Vang’s prone form and was joined by the dwarves as the felled crusader was carried clear from the carnage; a solemn hymn was begun, with the others soon joining in prayer over the selfless servitor of Iomedae. With Brother Vang’s continual sacrifices and fearless dedication to his fellows, a chord had been struck; sent forth from the mortal coil, Brother Vang felt himself surrounded by a familiar, comforting warmth before receiving a touch upon his brow and a reassuring clasp upon his shoulder.
To the awe of all gathered, Brother Vang awoke with a sudden swell of breath within his breast; the inheritor crusader, bearer of relics of Aroden and Iomedae and charge of the last of the Justicars–Brother Vang had been miraculously returned to life a saint.
Rejoicing, the party alongside the remnants of Thane Fenris’ expedition joined together and gathered to set out back towards the camp–their work, for a time, concluded. Thane Fenris spoke that he would return King Kroma’s remains to his clan–but assured that the group could count upon the support of the dwarves in the trials yet to come before the temple-city of Tsar. With such a large assemblage of warriors, the trek back to the camp went unmolested by wandering threats–and by the following morning, the well-wearied party had arrived back at safer environs.
Seeking to recover from their ordeal, the group spent a week within the safety of their walls to re-assess and replace expended resources. Anselme saw to raising Leone from the dead, albeit weakened by the experience–while during the span the Usurer paid a visit to the party in regard to their continued constructions. In exchange for a sum of gold and agreement by the party to extend their walls around the camp itself, the Usurer would allow their continued work–yet Pandora plied a more private inference that the mysterious leader of the camp would not yet be placated wholly by such gestures.
Nevertheless, by the week’s conclusion the party turned an eye eastward towards where the rogue druids were said to be found. Having exchanged information with several of the other parties venturing to and from the camp, the group gleaned the locations of several potential sites among the Desolation–alongside word that two of the thirteen groups of adventurers had been wiped out entirely. The Swords and Staves and Kodar’s Kneecappers were no more–and word had come that the defenses about the perimeter of the temple-city itself were staggeringly treacherous.
Undeterred yet solemn still, the party set out across the Ashen Wastes–their efforts in the precluding weeks having eliminated several of the recurring threats of the environs. Apart from a bout of acid rains, their journey was uneventful–and soon enough the party had arrived before an immense spread of nearly jungle-like vegetation in the middle of the wasteland. Upon the wall of living hedges were fastened the polished skulls of numerous demons–a daunting and foreboding sight.
Approaching the growth, the party was met by a pair of dire tigers; Anselme assumed a similar shape to speak with the felines and was advised that while he and Leone would be allowed to enter the recesses of the growth, the others would need to wait outside. Agreeing to this, Anselme ventured in and found many more sizable protectors of the grove–marking the site as a veritable fortress of nature in the midst of the wastes.
Anselme was met by a trio of individuals who named themselves among the Reclaimers, declaring their intent to transform the whole of the desolation in the face of the forces which sought to corrupt the land. Jeraldus, Scront and Niva were amenable to potential trade with Anselme, provided he and his fellows did not disturb their work in the wastes. When prompted as to whether they intended to combat such forces should they arise again, Anselme was assured that the Reclaimers would go to any means necessary to ensure their efforts continued.
Though the young druid was less versed in histories, Anselme recognized signs of worship of Telophus, an old and long since seemingly forgotten god of crops and the seasons; Anselme was barred passage to the innermost sanctum of the grove, but parted ways on what seemed to be reasonable terms with the rogue druids and returned to his compatriots soon after. Meryk and Pandora were wary of the works of the Reclaimers in the face of the Desolation, but neither could muster sufficient cause to prompt further provocation at the time; resigned to revisiting such later, the party made their way back to the camp that they might prepare for their next venture into the Desolation…