For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Loaded for bear with the spoils from their battle with Old Death, the group, once rested, rallied together and ascended the cliffs of the Chaos Rift once more. From the shattered lands surrounding the great chasms and pitfalls, the party made their way on a brisk trek southward to the location of Otis & Lortis’ lift, seeking to make good on their promises to the rock troll duo in rebuilding the site of their services with stonework.
However, since the group’s arrival came well before nightfall, the need to await the emergence of the brothers was clear; settling in, a tentative watch was laid while a further dividing and tallying of treasures was underwent–seeing to a squaring of accounts among their recent windfall of wealth. Late in the day on the very cusp of evening, as the sun began to set and paint crimson hues across the sky–the silhouette of an immense figure was sighted upon a rocky outcrop before a bellowing pronouncement was issued forth.
The being named itself Karnash, a morekareth–and declared it would fight the heroes, slay them and consume their power. Cassandra was able to only vaguely identify the creature, but recalled well enough that the morekareth were the veritable antithesis or heroic individuals–born of the fall of adventurers and their ilk; Karnash struck a hulking stature of frightful strength, looking somewhere a cross between a minotaur and silver-back gorilla.
Though several among the party were swift to announce their intent to decline the creature’s challenge, Cassandra immediately began to conjure a spell against the beast–and with this, the battle was on. No sooner had the ‘arrangement’ been struck than Karnash moved with startling speed from its position, smashing into the morningstar Emma had readied in her locked gauntlet and very nearly destroying the ancient weapon outright–before returning to its prior perch.
Panicking, Emma and Meryk began to beat a withdraw to flee from facing the beast and were joined in part by Anselme and Leone; Pandora and Cassandra strove to face Karnash, however, and were backed in turn by Brother Vang, Gurg, Azla and Zantric–the latter-most of whom had come to the site to rendezvous at long last and assist the party with their construction of the new lift facility. With the party widely split, combat unfolded fast with brutal abandon.
The morekareth proved a startling foe, a vast area in the beast’s vicinity suppressing and negating nearly all manner of healing magics; the beast was staggeringly strong and durable with a distinct disdain for the wielding of weapons–while its slamming blows struck with such awesome power that foes were stunned and laid prone where they stood. Most frightful, however, was an ability which shocked all who were present–for the morekareth proved able to summon its foes from a great distance, teleporting them into its reach!
After the initial disarray, it soon became evident that escape from the challenging creature was not an option; once she had freed her grip from her damaged weapon, Emma began to make a return to engage the beast while the others gathered around in an effort to flank and overwhelm it. However, Karnash seemed to heal swiftly–and the more which stood against it, the faster this appeared the case! Summoned earth elementals proved unable to leave lasting damage, and soon enough were dismissed–while slowly but surely, the battering onslaught began to take its toll on the party while the beast seemed undeterred by their retaliations.
One by one, the adventurers began to fall beneath their frightful adversary’s assault; Azla stood fast against the beast, but soon enough was sent away from the material plane. Gurg was laid flat, Leone as well–and the battle began to topple alarmingly against the party despite their significant advantage in numbers. The ‘Hero’s Bastard’ morekareth had been all too keen on challenging even such odds and had proven to have the might to back up its declarations.
Brother Vang’s already present difficulty in healing due to the aura of the beast was made more so as Karnash made a point to bury the cleric deep into the verge of death–and as an act of final desperation, Meryk utilized a potent piece of ammunition gleaned from the gargoyles’ aerie: a crossbow bolt which teleported Karnash away in a random direction over a great many miles. Though the fight was ended this way, the party new with dreadful certainty that it would not be the last they’d seen of the monstrous morekareth.
Not long after the battle had ended, Otis and Lortis emerged to greet the returned adventurers–who were quick to request usage of their cabin to rest after their ordeal. In the days to follow, the party concluded their arrangement with the rock trolls in what was a period thankfully bereft of further encounters–and with this business settled, they struck out to make their way back southwestward to return to the Camp at long last.
In the group’s absence during their prolonged foray, their arrival at their own encampment was met with several messenger birds which had accumulated. Each carried with it a progressively more desperate request for aid from the west–wherein the expedition of dwarves which Zantric’s clan had mentioned spoke of facing growing difficulty in the Dead Fields. Wasting little time, the party gathered up fresh resources and set out from the Camp in a hastened march to meet and support the waylaid Thane.
This expedition marked the group’s first encounter with the Dead Fields of the Desolation and the source of its moniker brooked more dread than had been expected; the whole of the region served as a collective burial grounds for countless bodies, and all too often carpets of bone and the protrusion of half-exhumed skeletons littered the landscape.
Yet while they had been on guard for an attack by undead at any moment throughout their march, the party was taken by surprise by the sudden emergence of a pair of powerful clay golems; the battle was swift, but severe–with many among the group plagued by cursed wounds which proved quite difficult to heal. By the time Brother Vang had finished, the cleric had wholly exhausted the positive energy he could channel from Iomedae–an ill omen as the party would find all too soon with what lay ahead.
At last the group arrived at the excavation in progress and found nine dwarves hard at work fortifying an entrenched hilltop. Thane Fenris strode to meet the new arrivals, bringing them quickly up to speed: for three weeks the dwarves had been working to recover the remains of King Kroma, lost long ago when he was slain fighting the forces of evil alongside other heroes of the Army of Light. Throughout those weeks, however, they had met continual resistance from the undead–a dozen or so visiting them in sorties near to every night. Along the way, there had been casualties–and of the original expedition of thirty dwarves, only these nine remained.
Thane Fenris was a considerable warrior in his own right and was accompanied by Old Gorrak the cleric and seven dwarven warriors: Glommi, Bruitt, Kargesh, Romni, Ragnar, Thulbine and Bereg. Zantric was swift to begin exchanging bawdy boasts with the dwarves, with the lot relieved at the reinforcements the party offered to their cause; Thane Fenris was confident that his men were close to recovering King Kroma’s remains–suggesting that the mounted resistance from the undead only served to further his conviction of such. With the seven adventurers at their side, the spirits of the dwarves were raised in tandem with frothy steins–and all shared drinks together in celebration of this turn for the better.
Festivities were soon found to be short-lived, however, as a thick fog bank rolled in to surround the excavation site in the night. Braziers were lit and torches spiked all around the mound, with the dwarves taking to defensive positions while the party fanned out to cover each approach to their core. Expecting a dozen undead to emerge from the mists, the group soon gaped as more than fifty skeletons, armed and equipped, began to march into sight–with the vague silhouettes of fifty more behind them and counting!
Shouts rang out over the air as orders were dolled, adventurers and dwarves alike bolstering for the oncoming assault–and as the undead ranks began to pick up speed when nearing the mound from all fronts, all eyes were turned towards the west where a great pit of bone had laid–for out from the fog lumbered the skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex!
With a rousing cry Zantric charged the towering skeletal monster with Astarathia in hand, a great golden glow encapsulating the fighter as he engaged in battle; Anselme and Leone moved swiftly to reinforce the western flank in kind, while Emma positioned herself to the north, Cassandra to the east and Brother Vang to the south. Meryk took up a firing position from the high ground of the mound and Pandora struck out from her hidden position away from the encampment, beginning to stealthily begin a round of reconnaissance of whatever lurked in the mists beyond.
Carnage swept the dead fields, a great and cacophonous clatter of smashed, shattered, broken and blasted bone ringing out across the twilight; Emma carved a swath through the ranks of the encroaching skeletons, Cassandra loosed fireballs obliterating broad groups while Brother Vang channeled positive energy to lay near to two dozen of the reanimated soldiers to rest again. Meryk continued to provide support from on high–while to the west, Zantric was seized up by the jaws of the tyrannosaurus, savaged through his thick armor as he battled the monstrosity with Anselme and Leone became mired.
Creeping through the fog, Pandora spied several immense forms beginning to emerge from further in the mists–sighting an unquiet giant bearing more than a dozen sizable boulders lumbering towards the battlements; maneuvering further the drow came upon the site of the bone pit where she spied several skeletal champions rousing additional skeletons into rank and file formation before sending them in waves towards the embattled dwarves. As the skeletal t-rex was dispatched, Leone and Anselme moved in kind towards the voices at the bone pit–engaging in a brief sortie with the skeletons there as Pandora moved a broad sweep to flank behind them.
Just as Brother Vang and Cassandra had begun to thin the ranks of the onslaught on their fronts and Emma had locked down the north, all present looked on with dismay as four huge undead giants emerged from the fog surrounding the battle. Three rot giants closed from the perimeters, matched by a hulking unquiet giant–the lot recognized for being extremely resilient to missile weaponry and capable of dealing devastating damage from afar with hurled boulders. With the sudden arrival of more powerful foes and nearly fifty fresh skeletons emerging from the fog alongside them, frantic shouts were raised for the party to regroup and rebolster the hilltop between them.
Even with as many undead foes as Emma, Cassandra, and Brother Vang had laid out, more had managed to slip by the trio on their fronts–bearing and battering against the first dwarvern defenders, hard pressed to rebuke them from the heart of the mound. As well, several wights had joined the ranks of the skeletal onslaught–and slowly but surely the defenses of the dwarves were becoming overwhelmed. Anselme and Leone withdrew from their engagement with the skeletal champions at the bone pit in order to reinforce the hilltop, with Anselme taking to bearing a magical assault on those yet approaching while Leone moved to reinforce the north as the first dwarf there had fallen.
By now, three dwarves had fallen in battle–the outermost defenders of the southern, northern and western fronts, felled by the undead which had managed to slip by the party’s defenses. As Brother Vang strode to rally the southern front, Cassandra became overwhelmed by the skeletons to the east and beat a hasty retreat up and into the mound–but not before receiving numerous injuries along the way. Once among the dwarves, Cassandra took up a position alongside Meryk to resume her arcane assaults.
To the west, by now Zantric had moved to engage the rot giant there–finding him to be a staggeringly powerful foe. Met in turn by the unquiet giant, Zantric was quickly becoming outmatched and called for Emma and others to join him on the battlefront; the barbarian had become mired in the great number of undead attempting to breach the northern front however, delaying her efforts to join her comrade now that Leone and Anselme had managed to retake the position in her wake.
At the bone pits, Pandora engaged the ranks of undead from the rear and loosed her boulderhead mace–sending a rolling boulder crashing through the skeletons, crushing near to a dozen along with several of the skeletal champions along the way. With this, the drow quickly made her way back towards the mound as scorching rays and fireballs lit up the air along with countless arrows rained against the lumbering undead giants. Enraged, the immense foes retaliated with hurled boulders which soon laid the sorceress out while delivering considerable damage to the entrenched dwarves in kind.
Old Gorrak managed to gain some breathing room for the dwarves through several bursts of positive energy sent rippling through their ranks; the remaining dwarves had withdrawn deeper into the fortified position, locking shields and shoulders together as they readied for the worst. Pandora, Emma and Zantric had managed together to fell the first of the rot giants on the west, while Meryk and Brother Vang dispatched several of the wights. Zantric withdrew into the trenches of the hill to crash against the undead mired there, offering relief to the besieged dwarves as he tore through the rear ranks to meet them in the middle.
By now, the undead tide continued to surge up and over the hilltop–beleaguering the besieged party further. Brother Vang had been laid out unconscious by a boulder to the south, outside the reach of his fellows–and as Anselme managed to rouse Cassandra back from the brink herself, nearly twenty skeletons, joined by wights and skeletal champions, began to crest the western and northern fronts. Soon, the defenders would be wholly overrun–only to find a great shadow sweeping over their ranks as a surge of acid rained down along the skeletal line, wreaking great destruction with the pass of a green dragoness overhead. Aurakraul had joined the battle!
With sweeping attacks the dragoness began to assail the largest of the giants, providing a brief reprieve for others to regroup and reposition; two of the giants had begun to encroach upon the southern and western embankments, hard pressing the dwarves and Leone to repel them. Moving together with their opening, Emma and Pandora then dealt what had seemed to be a combined final blow to the unquiet giant–critical wounds tearing against the decaying monstrosity.
Yet, the behemoth would not go easily–and bellowing fiercely, began to pummel the party despite by all counts having taken enough punishment to be destroyed; in these death throes, Pandora was delivered savage blows which would have proven mortal if not for Anselme’s swift support. Bracing for the worst, Zantric and the others prepared to meet the seemingly unstoppable giant–but a collective sigh of relief was had when the juggernaut finally collapsed once his frenzied assault had ended.
Boulders were hurled by the remaining giants in an effort to drive off the newly aerial arrival–and in the distraction, Emma, Anselme, Zantric and Pandora engaged the remaining giants and undead as Cassandra was once more able to loose an arcane barrage in tandem with Meryk’s own assault; together, the party was able to route the remaining undead and take stock of the casualties they’d suffered. More than one hundred and fifty had stormed the mound alongside powerful support; three dwarves had been lost in the battle and many reserves had been spent throughout.
Disturbing sounds carried from among the mists while the dwarves and adventurers began seeing to their wounded–and slowly, a terrible realization began to dawn: this had only been the first wave!
(And thus, the Embattled Dwarves was to be continued in Session 17!)