For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
After regrouping from the long battle to gain headway into the firebase, the group delves into the bunker beyond the outer fortifications–therein discovering a modified iron golem standing sentry of the command room beyond. Making several cursory attempts to circumvent the guardian, the group ultimately split directions–luring the automaton out onto the surface whilst Anselme delved into the command chamber itself to recover the sought remains of the base commander–as well as gleaning a look at a strategy map of the environs surrounding Tsar.
In the course of what had originally been intended as a distraction on the surface, things went unexpectedly foul as the guardian proved more formidable than first considered. Over a harrowing escalation of battle as the divided party struggled to make a staged retreat from the compound, Brother Vang was nearly slain alongside Cassandra–only to have Emma intervene, sacrificing herself that her fellows might escape to continue the battle against Tsar. With this death, enough time was bought beneath the surface for the remainder of the party to conclude their business–with Pandora facing a frightful close encounter with the golem upon its return prior to making her own escape via burrowing magic.
Once Emma’s remains had been recovered, the party returned to the Camp and delivered the commander’s bones to Asharru; satisfied with the completion of that which she had tasked the adventurers, the raksasha once more provided them with a supply of precious diamond dust–spread thin as it was among so many adventuring parties braving the perils of the Desolation and the temple-city of Tsar. The amount rewarded proved sufficient enough a reserve to see to Emma’s restoration to the living again as well as to accommodate an emergency supply should the worse come to pass once more–and with the final obstacle to Tsar looming ahead, the mighty tar dragon Malerix, the group all too concisely concluded that these reserves would not last long.
For ten days the party prepared for their coming confrontation, requesting aid and research from the Pathfinder headquarters in Absalom, investigating the likes of the tar dragons and Malerix himself and seeing to the completion of powerful new magical arms and armament to supplement their own growing capabilities. It was discovered that Malerix would prove a staggeringly durable and daunting adversary, of little surprise to those assembled, and that the fiendish ‘gatekeeper’ of the temple-city had wiped out parties of adventuring predecessors beyond counting. Going to great lengths to investigate any potential edges and angles which they could make use of, the party saw to an elaborate matrix of magics between their many casters in order to attempt to compensate for the challenges ahead.
Loaded for bear and covered in an arcane arsenal, the group at long last set out to track down Malerix within his tar-pitted domain–though bringing the dragon to them would doubtless prove the least of their concerns; more pointedly tracking efforts were made to best capitalize the deployment of spell-based defenses and imbued power of more limited durations. Endeavoring to rendezvous with the terrifying tar dragon hence, Meryk was able to roughly pin-point the great guardian’s location–and thus the clash was soon at hand as martial might and magic were readied.
Tensions raised, the minutes ticked away as the group strode deeper into the midst of the tar pits seeking their sizable quarry–and just as the outermost magical wards began to near their point of faltering, Malerix arrived on the scene–emerging from within a tar pit with an immense roar which shook the field before loosing a vile torrent of tarry breath upon the adventurers before any could rouse to react in time! Having won the initiative and made a devastating first stroke–incapacitating Brother Vang and Cassandra in the process–the fight with the mighty Malerix was on.
Quickly the party scattered in their approach to Malerix, dividing across the battlefield to minimize group exposure to his breath weapon; having learned from research that most armament would become stuck to the beast’s tarry hide when utilized, Emma and Zantric had been emboldened by Anselme’s thoroughly layered druidic magic in order to allow the pair to deliver powerful attacks using only their fists–though now, with considerable gravity and force thanks to their companion’s efforts.
Fearless of these latest feckless adventurers, Malerix leapt immediately into their midst and loosed a grievous single strike which nearly laid Brother Vang out in one blow; taken aback by the raw power of the dragon, the others moved to maneuver and flank around the fiend–but Malerix soon proved marvelously maneuverable despite his seemingly slow mien thanks to the home-field advantage the tar pits provided. Able to delve in and out of the pits with ease and burrow in between them, Malerix became elusive–emerging to deal vicious blows only to withdraw by the time the offensive could be fully re-engaged to him.
For all the tar and tales of lost weapons, Cassandra soon found it exceedingly difficult to make magic stick to Malerix; as well, Anselme and Leone joined Emma and Zantric in the mad dance of positioning while Meryk sought to fire salvos upon the dragon from the obscurity of a cloud of magical mist thanks to his perceptive capabilities. Unfortunately, the inquisitor had not considered the full potential breadth of Malerix’s senses–and was soon singled out away from sight of the others, felled and nearly killed were it not for last minute heroics.
With Meryk recovering from his terrible exchange with the dragon, Malerix was soon upon the others once again–and recognizing Brother Vang’s capability in undoing his destruction after several shows of potent healing, singled out the wayward crusader and sought to send him to a certain grave. For nearly a minute this brutal exchange ensued, with Zantric and Anselme struggling to rescue Brother Vang while Emma interposed herself against the tyrant–and as Malerix continued to utilize the terrain to his advantage, restorative efforts were spread far too thin and Anselme’s companion Leone was slain while defending his unconscious master.
By now, magical protections were beginning to thin–shielding from acid and other elements, bolstered defenses one and all; with several close to unconsciousness after the blows they’d taken and Malerix still on the move, Pandora loosed a green dragon conjured from shadow magic via the rather pricey scroll the party had purveyed in their preparations, buying precious time. This delay proved enough to bring Brother Vang back from death’s door as well as to free Cassandra from her restraints and rouse Anselme from his unconsciousness–while from a great distance, Meryk had found a new firing position and now waited to loose fresh barrages upon Malerix once he re-emerged.
Sure enough, Malerix came again–once more seeking to end Brother Vang such that his enemies would properly perish; Emma and Zantric moved to intercept the great dragon, with Zantric utilizing his new paladinhood to smite the wicked dragon and penetrate some of his considerable defenses. Brother Vang was once more felled deep into unconsciousness–and as Cassandra and Zantric strove to bring the cleric to Anselme to regroup, Emma loosed a challenging yawp and stood fast before Malerix–the pair exchanging devastating blows.
The damage levied against Malerix was daunting for those yet standing to behold–but the gargantuan dragon’s retaliation, roused to anger and bereft of maneuvering and repositioning–bore the full onslaught of tooth, claw, wing and tail and sent even the mighty Emma careening decisively from the mortal coil once more. Now, Malerix turned upon the remaining adventurers nearby, badly taxed and wounded but still bristling with vim and vigor; Zantric stood boldly, ready to be the next to bear the dragon’s wrath to buy his fellows more time–but abandoning subtlety and safety from his vantage afar, Meryk eschewed more careful shots to unleash the full extent of his abilities–near to half a dozen arrows sending Malerix staggering, and all too immediately seizing the behemoth’s attention.
In a heartbeat, Malerix descended upon Meryk after covering more than two hundred feet with ease, landing a blow which nearly blew the inquisitor from his feet–though through clenched teeth Meryk stood; in response, and knowing all too well it would seal his fate, Meryk loosed another salvo of arrows at close range despite the retaliation he incited from such proximity. Still, Malerix stood–and so enraged by the bowman was he that once more Malerix levied the full depths of his might in obliterating the inquisitor where he stood. So fearsome was this assault however that Malerix misjudged the very last of his blows such that he could but stand stunned for a few seconds as the dust began to settle.
Knowing that their fates would soon be decided and that Malerix would waste little time in returning to visit similar devastation upon those who remained, Cassandra rallied and leveled once more her own long-range power–vastly empowered fireballs loosed upon Malerix from afar. As Zantric and Anselme shored up and prepared for the worst alongside Brother Vang, Cassandra let loose a second such fireball–and at long last, to the great and palpable relief of all who still stood, Malerix collapsed where he stood–so ending the terrible gatekeeper of the temple-city of Tsar and opening the way to approach the black gates themselves. Gathering their dead and wounded, the group withdrew from the field and began to plot and prepare: for the Slumbering Tsar awaits.