For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Gazing up at the colossal terror that was the citadel of Orcus, the party gathered themselves, steeled their resolves and approached–broaching beyond the deep shadows which hung beneath it. Between the massive legs of the monolith to Orcus, the party passed suspicious statues in the likeness of the demon prince himself and other entities before nearing to a huge black double door fully fifty feet high. After checking for traps, the adventurers were surprised to find the entrance to open readily–a quiet hush surrounding the cloisters at the feet of the citadel, beckoning them to the ominous expanse within.
Striding past the sizable entrance, the party was faced with a vast, dark chamber–its coffered ceiling supported by great pillars of black marble with wide bronze bowls flickering with tall purple flames. Dark statues adorned the corners, with sections of the chamber cordoned off with curtains–while dominating the center of the space stood an immense tower of once-white marble stained with blood and filth. The floor of the chamber showed the remnants of a long forgotten combat–skeletal corpses in armor strewn about, along with the remains of horses as well.
Before the adventurers could venture further, the echoing sound of hooves against stone carried from behind the tower–whence emerged a darkly armored woman astride a unicorn which appeared corrupted; Brother Vang was able to recognize the rider as Dame Valdemir, a famous paladin from among the fifty and one whom had helped to secure the Citadel and Tsar so long ago. Without preamble, the former champion lowered her visor and charged headlong towards the intruders!
Pandora, at the fore of the party, stood surprised as she took the brunt of the former paladin’s assault–and with a flash of her scimitar, Dame Valdemir removed the drow’s hand amid a bevy of brutal slashes. Emma and Brother Vang moved quickly alongside Leone to engage their fallen foe and her steed–and after a short but vicious exchange, Dame Valdemir vanished from the chamber–teleported away by her mount, the corrupted unicorn Tasker.
Brother Vang saw to re-attaching Pandora’s hand and endeavored to ease the brief trauma before the party turned their eyes towards the tower–Meryk moving to investigate it from above via flight as the others began to fan out. What was first thought to be a tower instead turned out to be a massive well within which a horrible charnal mixture of corpses, filth and blood seemed to flow and bubble forth ceaselessly, while inscribed across its surface in the abyssal tongue were the words: ‘The Well of St. Harul, Patron of Nothing‘
As Meryk flew, he laid eyes upon a massive statue depicting the ramlike head of Orcus at the rear of the great temple; drawing nearer to investigate further, the ranger was struck deeply to his very core–unseen by his fellows–and soon found within himself a burgeoning devotion to the prince of the undead Orcus himself. Unaware of the occurrence, Pandora had checked beyond a set of curtains only to be assailed by a potent clay golem shaped as Orcus beyond; after Emma quickly destroyed the creation, the party elected to eschew checking the other curtains for the time being.
To either side of the great temple’s span, two walls of shadowy darkness hung within alcoves which seemed to lead deeper into the temple. A hairsbreadth before passing through the darkness to investigate, Pandora spied a message scrawled before such: ‘Speak the name of my home or join me for eternity.’ Written crudely beneath such was the word ‘Thanatos’, which Pandora recognized as the true home of Orcus. Muttering the words, the drow passed through the darkness–discovering it to, in fact, be a wall of annihilation!
Spared utter destruction by such, Pandora quickly conveyed the most important of passwords to her fellows before the party proceeded to investigate the first of the off-shoots from the temple. Leone, unable to speak, waited behind in the main chamber. Down a short hall, the party discovered scattered remnants of an encampment strewn throughout several adjoining chambers–signs, they soon discerned, of what had once been the base camp of the fifty and one during their garrisoning of the Citadel before.
In one chamber, the party discovered documents from the army of light–orders for the garrison detail until reinforcements could return, a list of names for the fifty and one as well as remnants of supplies and lodgings utilized by the crusaders hundreds of years prior. Not long afterward, however, the party began discovering signs of great discord–headless corpses, while in the latrines they discovered a severed head with a strange marking on its forehead and a cryptic note crammed into its mouth:
“Here’s the head of Boros back, you whining catamite. He was the first, but he’ll surely not be the last. My blade eagerly awaits the taste of your blood. — Clarendon.”
Down an adjoining hall, the party spied a scene of carnage–numerous skeletal corpses strewn amid dust and broken equipment leading to a door marked with a symbol for ‘cursed’. When the party set foot into the space, darkness engulfed the hall and a dozen powerful shadows assailed the party–emerging from the floor, walls and ceiling in tandem in a staggering assault. Weathering the brunt of the initial damaging passes of the shadows, the party quickly maneuvered and repositioned before bringing powerful magic to bear in tandem with Emma’s penchant for combating ghostly foes–soon dispatching the dozen and clearing the way beyond.
For a time, the adventurers investigated the remaining rooms, gathering what trinkets, keep-sakes and items of historical significance that they could–endeavoring to preserve as much as possible for later archival purposes back at Vigil and Absalom. Pandora, while investigating a side passage, was assailed by an enormous spider–but the drow quickly dispatched it after a brief scare.
Finishing their investigations and having explored the wing to the best that they could discern, the party returned to the main temple hall to investigate further there (during which time Emma and Cassandra also fell victim to the statue of Orcus’ swaying influence); having found one spying chamber in the first wing, they were able to discover a small hidden alcove in the main temple wherein a journal had been stowed: that of Sir Martimus, the cursed knight of the fifty and one they had subdued in the Ashen Wastes so long ago.
(The recovered writings of Sir Martimus can be read here.)
Ever more emboldened, Brother Vang was all the more determined to bring closure to the chronicles of the fifty and one following his reading of the journal. Gathering together, the party then set out to explore the next wing of the lowest floor of the citadel, proceeding past the wall of annihilation there before being face with a long hall ending with an ominous door covered in carvings of screaming faces.
Quite suspicious of a trap, the party tried numerous methods of springing such between summoned animals, rolled rum kegs and other such maneuvering before Pandora ultimately strode forward and triggered the door loosing a deafening shout as the head of Orcus cackled above it. Perturbed, the party looked to identical side chambers from the hall behind curtains, with fountains visible in each–while one boasted a suspicious sword protruding from the fountain.
Meryk flew through the room to retrieve the sword, only to be abruptly engulfed by a terrifyingly gargantuan gibbering mouther which had camouflaged itself throughout the chamber. Chaos ensued as the party scrambled to combat the massive monstrosity, with Emma hurling herself into its midst as it surged forth to engulf Brother Vang and Pandora, biting and gibbering away and spitting acid into Cassandra’s eyes. In a maddening exchange, the whole of the party was nearly consumed and absorbed utterly by the frightening creature–but managed narrowly to destroy it with nearly everyone on the brink of death and being subsumed.
There was brief confusion when Emma, Meryk and Cassandra did not want to leave the Citadel following the battle; in time, the remainder of the party came to recognize their affliction, as Brother Vang was an expert at identifying–and breaking–the influence of outside forces upon one’s will. Returning to the Camp after their harrowing encounter, the party rested–and was visited by the mysterious midnight peddler that evening. Purveying a pickled grick tentacle, the strange outsider bestowed further cryptic clues to the party:
“The Fifty and One had heard and come when their captains called them. One escaped, one stayed true, but all the rest have fallen.”
“Destroy the Bell to open the Well. But recalling the saint’s virtues also brings forth his adversary of old.”
Returning to the citadel, the party moved past the screaming door and found an immense torture chamber full of unsettling implements. Emma moved in first and was immediately assailed by dozens of animated torture implements which, much to the party’s chagrin, seemed to greatly entertain the barbarian as she set about destroying them and wrecking the room with great abandon.
After putting down the last of the mysteriously animate objects, the party was able to locate several secret doors through Meryk’s communing sigils–finding a strange recreation room with a fountain of blood and a fully stocked teak bar. The liquor bottles proved to be coated with a potent contact poison, but thanks to Brother Vang’s preventative delay magic such was not an issue.
The party then proceeded into the next secret avenue, finding therein a statue of alabaster from within which a faint radiance of good could be detected; the statue animated soon thereafter though, assailing the adventurers while protected by powerful magic. As the party fought the statue, they were attacked from all sides in ambush by numerous ‘deathbringers’–frightfully flexible and enigmatic wicked denizens of the citadel and skillful assassins. When the alabaster statue was destroyed, a spirit of good was released–much to the relief of Brother Vang and the others.
Joined by shadow servitors, the deathbringers fought the whole of the party as Emma and Pandora sought to put down the statue; after a blinding burst of sunlight from Anselme and powerful magic from Cassandra, the remaining deathbringers quickly vanished–while those present slew themselves with their soul-drinking blades rather than risk being interrogated. Deciding not to pursue the deathbringers deeper into the recesses of their sanctum immediately, the party plied another path and found a sight most gruesome therein:
Chairs were arrayed in a semicircle facing the wall where hung a horrible spectacle–a giant man with skin of gleaming white hung slumped, with great feathery wings extending from his shoulders–each pierced by heavy iron spikes pinning them to the cracked plaster of the stone behind. From those anchors the body hung, feathers matted and many missing–while the body itself was scored and slashed with numerous horrid wounds and the cracked brownish stains of long-dried blood colored flawless skin. His abdomen was a gaping wound with a tangled mass of eviscerated bowels and his neck was naught but a jagged stump–head missing altogether; the body had been exsanguinated utterly, embalmed with acidic fluid instead.
Appalled, the party rallied unanimously and took great pains to carefully remove and clean the body; Brother Vang brought to bear his medical expertise, instructing and guiding his fellows as he sought to repair the damage to the figure as much as could be done. Anselme, with alchemy, sought to nullify the acidic compounds and Cassandra and Emma worked in tandem to undo the potent vile magics of the runic spikes which had been used. Together, the party did what could be done to ease the desecration of the body–stowing it carefully that they might give proper closure to the angelic figure when the opportunity arose. Little did they know what machinations the unknown figure had truly been embroiled in…