For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Following their hard-won victory over the fortress of Kirash Durgaut, the adventurers returned home with their dead and wounded and saw to six days of respite. During this time, Emma was once more returned to the mortal coil–ever hardened and tempered in her steely resolve by her visit to the afterlife; Gothroc’s remains were delivered to Father Death in kind–but it would take a great deal more effort by the morbid priest to return the fighter to the land of the living, beyond their week of recuperation. Zantric set out to visit his wife back home, intent to secure her from those who yet threatened the adventurers and their own.
With an opportunity to see to their friends and sell off considerable findings, brokering with the Celestial Emporium’s many merchants over the veritable arsenal of magical arms and armament was brought to bear. In the meantime, Brother Vang’s historian Anya continued diligent work at weaving fresh magics among many materials, Pandora working in tandem–for the back order had grown long and resources freshly plentiful to see to such. Cassandra had come to master teleportation over great distances, which proved a considerable boon for visiting Vigil such that the party could restock powerful potions, scrolls and other effects.
Upon the seventh day, those who remained decided to set out once more into Tsar; having fashioned a vault within their own holdings and stowed the statue of the disciple safely away–Emma, Pandora, Anselme, Cassandra, Meryk and Brother Vang returned to Tsar intent on investigating the tunnel entrance they had previously discovered in the lowermost level of the Grunge. With Kirash Durgaut fallen, entry into the temple-city had been made considerably easier–freeing up precious resources for the party’s deeper delving, resources which would soon enough prove most useful.
To reach the tunnel by foot, the adventurers passed through the pentacle plaza as before, casting wary looks to the morbid iron colossus at its center. Much to the surprise of those present, however–a great rending and shrieking of steel began to emanate as the colossus started to lean and topple. With mounting horror, the group realized that the statue was not falling–but beginning to walk, freeing itself from its base; huge plates of black iron began to break and spread, revealing that beneath were the remnants of a dread ghast storm giant!
King Thraestos of the storm giants, taken during the original siege of Tsar, strode forth clad in black iron plates and gazing upon the adventurers with eyes wickedly aglow; scrambling swiftly, the group engaged the towering ghast in half a panic as he delivered a devastating assault to Emma which brought the barbarian’s knees to buckle and jaws to clench. Meryk loosed a potent volley into the brute, quickly claiming his attention–and soon afterward the giant bore down on the bowman, nearly rending him in two with a single destructive blow.
Through emergency healing Brother Vang and Anselme narrowly saved Meryk from a quick demise–and as Cassandra loosed torrents of magic and Leone engaged the giant alongside Emma–soon enough the giant king was at long last laid to rest, his terrible rampage and hunger ended. Reeling from their raucous but brief battle, the adventurers continued on past the plaza once wounds had been mended with healing magics. Mere blocks away, the entrance into the great tunnel was spied ahead and the party was swift to move themselves out of open sight.
Hidden in a recess against the steppes, the tunnel’s entrance bore a set of iron gates which had been blown asunder; the road led to the gaping opening bored into the base of the cliff. Shrouded in darkness, a smooth-floored passage could be glimpsed beyond, trailing deep into the stone. Stepping inside, Emma found a heavy portcullis barring the way while suspicious arrow slits adorned the walls to either side; the rest of the party remained outside as the barbarian began to heave at the weighty barrier–yet suddenly six babau demons appeared surrounding Cassandra, the foul demons attempting to assassinate the sorceress!
Spear thrusts quickly felled Cassandra, leaving her unconscious and bleeding as her fellows sprang to her defense; a babau attempted a coup de grace against the woman, yet through guts and grit she managed to survive the vicious blow long enough for healing to bring her back from the cusp of death. With their attempt failed and several of their number slain, the babau were quick to retreat with teleportation. By now, Emma had managed to gain entry–and with the portcullis raised, the party tread into the darkness beyond.
Pandora paused before an immense stairwell reaching hundreds of feet ahead; a strange sound caught the ear of the drow, muffled by the wall. As the party shored up in the tunnel behind the rogue, awaiting her assessment–the wall to their flank burst abruptly in a shower of stone as an immense whirring cylinder of spikes and blades thrust spinning against them, grinding bloodily through their ranks! The party was split from one another as the gruesome trap rolled over the middle of their marching order–yet as the blades withdrew, while many lay bleeding and unconscious–the damage had not been severe enough to kill any among the adventurers.
Once recovered from their newest of wounds, the party began their ascent–pausing as they approached a landing with a door set off to the side; as Pandora began to check for traps anew, the air in the tunnel seemed to shift–and strangely, Meryk towards the rear of the party glimpsed a sudden acceleration of droplets of moisture from the ceiling nearest the entrance. Without warning, incorporeal men and women began to emerge and attack from the walls–yet while first believed to be wraiths, Brother Vang noted all too soon that these foes were of the temporal variety as their touch began to age each victim!
After one temporal wraith had been dispatched, the others withdrew to the walls and floor only to begin their assault anew from the safety of such; Emma and the others held waiting breathes to lash out at any who sought to attack from unseen positions. The barbarian managed to land powerful blows against several of the wraiths, significant from her powerful superstitions–and before long, the party’s assailants began to withdraw; the battle was not ended, however, before a parting wraith managed a particularly potent touch against Emma–and as the young barbarian’s resilience failed her, she rapidly aged more than a decade.
Nearly as fast as they’d arrived, the temporal wraiths were gone; shaken and disturbed, the party regrouped as Pandora made headway into the door–and once breached, the group hastened into the tunnels beyond. Narrow stairways and halls doubled back towards the entrance of the tunnel, a broad and ruined barracks found down the far end wherein more babau were fought; one attempted to pour acid on Pandora but was rebuked, and soon enough Emma and Meryk began to destroy the demons quickly enough that they teleported away for fear of their lives.
Once the barracks had been cleared, the party backed along the narrow halls–suffering another failed assassination attempted against Cassandra by the determined babau–before discovering a room with a sizable pool of water spraying away. The spray seemed to cool the horrible trap mechanism in the entrance hall, but as the party neared a pair of wicked demonic hezrou appeared and began to tear into Pandora and her fellows with abandon.
Pandora was felled, unconscious, before Meryk managed to knock a hezrou prone with a powerful arrow; as the two lay near to one another, the hezrou attempted to bite the woman’s head off where she lay–the coup de grace failing only by virtue of a surge of heroic spirit saving the drow from certain doom. While Emma saw to sending the hezrou back to the hell from which it came, its counterpart teleported back into the hall behind Brother Vang, attempting to batter the cleric to dust. Meryk and Emma were quick to respond however–and with the crusader’s heavy armor and immense reliquary shield, Brother Vang was spared overmuch harm at the demon’s hands before it too was driven off.
Now that the entrance to the tunnel’s ascent had been fully and thoroughly cleared and secured, the party mended their wounds and began the long climb ahead. More than five hundred feet of sloped steps were tread underfoot, voices and footfalls echoing eerily in the expanse as they made their way higher still. After reaching another rise among the steps, Pandora called for the party to pause–perceptive of an obscured gap in the stone side of the stairs which led off into an unknown cave system.
Disdaining the idea of having to squeeze through such a narrow opening, Cassandra quickly solved the dilemma by disintegrating a large portion of stone into fine dust; Pandora then ventured deeper to investigate the caverns, quickly finding a hidden pit with dangerous barbs at the bottom. Down a twisting passage giving off a faint glow, Pandora discovered and disarmed an alarm tripwire before finding the source of the glow: phosphorescent fungi. Doubling back, Pandora found -another- trip wire alarm down a second passage–yet as she began to disarm it, an argument broke among the remaining party and soon strange and bestial shouts could be heard from deeper in the caves.
The party was quick to stack up a marching order to delve towards the source of the sounds and as they entered into an open chamber with numerous passages leading off into the darkness, the adventurers saw signs of strange humanoids living within the caves. As the group began to file warily into the open space, Pandora was suddenly waylaid from three fronts as grotesque cave-dwellers began to emerge from the dark–morlocks! Battle erupted in the cavern as Brother Vang strode into the front line with his shield held stoutly ahead; Pandora began to ring a bell wildly in an effort to throw the morlocks off-kilter due to their sensitive hearing.
In the pitched melee, the barbarous morlocks proved hearty and strong–but the under-dwellers lacked elaborate tactics and guile while Emma’s strength shook the very ground beneath them with each sweep of her immense sword. As Meryk levied volleys against the chieftain of the cave tribe, a strange gurgle began to emanate from a deeper side passage–and as the chieftain was slain, a gargantuan flow of elder black pudding began to bubble and ooze into the cave! Struck with panic, the party scrambled to deal with the monstrous corrosive creature while Emma maneuvered quickly to place herself in its path, such that her friends might be briefly spared its painful touch.
Several of the remaining morlocks were quickly killed while others fled into the caves, seeking to put distance from the pudding and adventurers alike; the ooze all but engulfed Emma, beginning to constrict and burn the barbarian–but Anselme was quick to provide powerful magical protection from acid to the party, bolstered further by Brother Vang’s own ablative assistance. The last of the morlocks fired upon the black pudding, his arrows splitting the gargantuan ooze thrice before he was soon engulfed and eaten by the quivering mass.
As Emma struggled to disentangle herself from the horrific pudding, Meryk loosed countless blunted arrows and Pandora brought forth a stone club for Emma to utilize; Anselme armed himself with the calcified arm he had recovered back in the Crypt of the Everflame, bludgeoning a rubbery expanse of ooze as the party began to beat it back. First one, then two of the separated puddings were destroyed as magic was leveled against them as well–and as the last quivered under thunderous blows, Emma loosed a wild cry and outright head-butted the ooze–destroying it utterly with messy finality.
Working quickly to clean themselves of the black pudding lest it eat away their belongings once magical protections wore off, the party then set about searching the caves for any treasure or belongings the morlocks might have left behind–such that had not been destroyed by the intervening pudding, at any rate. A variety of peculiarities, baubles and trinkets were recovered along with a few choice magical weapons–and once satisfied that their search had been thorough, the party regrouped once more.
Cassandra, exhausted from the day’s ordeals, had slipped to sleep during the interim–and after a brief but heated debate, a majority of the party elected that the caves would prove a tenable place to rest in Tsar overnight. Curious of the midnight peddler’s warnings against the perils of doing such, the party blocked off the entrance to the caves and prepared a camp within the main cavern. To the sounds of an underground river somewhere in the distance, watches were set and the party slipped to slumber among the dark, dank depths.
Troubling dreams and visions plagued those who lingered within Tsar; those who slept found themselves in hellish landscapes, visited by a ram-horned and bloated behooved demon of terrible proportions who demanded their loyalty with wicked whispers. Those who endeavored to remain awake found visions through blood-shot eyes–and as wills were tested among the party, Emma and Meryk found subtle shifts deep within their hearts–tugged unknowingly nearer to to evil by the sway of the wicked demon prince.
Upon the morning as the party awoke, Meryk and Emma had faintly different demeanors as camp was broken and gathered; a brief discussion was held–but with the adventurers freshly rested from the prior day’s ordeals, it was decided that next they would make way to the Dread Swamp in search of further statues of the disciples…
To see what Emma thought about this session, go here!