Friday, May 23, 2008

Episode 6: 5/10/08

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/1-2
Haroldur, human cleric/3
Nineve Floret, human knight/3
Sarek, human wizard/3

Zolara interprets our Harrow reading:

"Expect to find a hidden place of despair in a location you have previously cleansed. A great many have suffered and been lost there. In the near future, there will be a journey, which will go smoothly. At the end of the journey, betrayal and a great test await you."

Tamklar and his family accompany us to Diamond Lake, along with Brolan, of course, and the trip passes uneventfully. The crew isn't happy about Hezzrak's presence, but they don't put up too much of a fuss. We arrive in Diamond Lake in the early morning, and the soldiers crewing for us return to the barracks. We make our way to the Grey Convent, and find it much improved. Yril, Aodra and Tares, the new acolytes, greet us, and we compliment them on their diligent work. Yril tells us that the townsfolk are afraid of body-snatching rumors circulating in the poor quarter (which in Diamond Lake is more like the poor three-quarters). Fearing the worst, they went to the observatory and found it infested with more zombies, but it was much more than they could handle by themselves. I swear that we will stop the zombie apocalypse, and we head off to visit our friend Lazare. Brolan agrees to stay at the Grey Convent for the time being.

On the way to Lazare's, Kullen and some of his thugs approach us and ask our business. We explain we've finished our investigation in Kolbenberg and are merely passing back through Diamond Lake. We promise to mind our own business and be out of Smenk's hair as soon as possible. Thus assured, Kullen and his boys saunter off, but keep a wary eye on us.

We visit Lazare, who greets us warmly, as usual. We tell him of our adventures in Kolbenberg, which takes the better part of midday, and eventually get around to asking him about the Whispering Cairn. He agrees to consult his extensive library and do a bit of research, for the usual fee. We can return tomorrow to find out what he's turned up.

The rest of the day is spent buying and selling. Haroldur barters with the church of Heironeus (the turncoat!) to turn his admittedly cool-looking ancient armor into +1 full plate. I get a cleric (NOT a Heironeus pig-cleric!) to cast Make Whole on Zasolomel's mantle, and it looks much better now (and functions as +1 mithral chain! FTW!).

I have the opportunity to ask Tamklar what he's doing with us. Scratching at his slowly regrowing stubble, he tells me that for weeks he prayed to Moradin for deliverance and his wife's recovery, but his pleas fell upon deaf ears. In his opinion, it was Wee Jas who heard his prayers and answered them, and he's willing to follow her (and subsequently us) from now on. Dwarves can be so single-minded! Why is everything always a life-debt with them?!? I play devil's advocate and present the idea that perhaps Moradin works in mysterious ways (which neither of us is really buying). Ultimately I tell him that neither we nor Wee Jas demand or expect his allegiance - the Lady is never jealous for converts, as all come to know her eventually. That's one of the advantages of being a death Goddess, I suppose. However, if he's made up his mind (and he assures me he has), I offer to make accommodations for him and his family while they travel with us. He seems relieved. I remember that Tamklar is a professional miner, so I introduce him to Lazare. In no time, the two of them are eagerly discussing the progress on Lazare's mine... they seem to be getting along swimmingly. It occurs to me that pairing Tamklar's expertise and dwarven sensibility with Lazare's business sense might create some SERIOUS problems for Balabar Smenk, and I smile inwardly. At any rate, Lazare insists that Tamklar and his family lodge with him and enjoy his hospitality, so I eventually make my exit...

The next day, we head off to the observatory to deal with the undead menace. On the road near the observatory, we find 3 ghouls stuffing a body down a well! Hezzrak shrieks loudly, waring them of our approach (gee, thanks). We exterminate them with extreme prejudice and collapse the well where they came from, since it appears the residents of the nearby farmhouse will no longer be needing it... During the battle, Haroldur acquires a zombie aid to replace One-Eye, who bravely (and mindlessly) sacrificed himself for the greater good in the battle with Snapper, the skeletal dragon. We figure collapsing the well counts as "burial", so we say some rites and move on.

We proceed to the observatory and find it is indeed infested with zombies. As the battle is joined, Nineve receives a vision of the Brass Dwarf, and is immune to paralysis for this encounter! Overconfident, Nineve charges past the zombies and into a ghast ambush! Inexplicably, Sarek runs after her, begging her not to kill it! Soon, the rest of us are surrounded by zombies. Just as we're getting stuck in, a wrackspawn emerges from the top of the observatory, joining the fray. The undead remains of a person who died from torture, their sole aim is to inflict their dying agony upon the living! Fortunately, Sarek manages to gain mental control of the tormented creature. The battle is pitched and Nineve's horse is slain, but we eventually prevail, and an eerie silence falls on the area like a thick fog as we inter the bodies. Nineve insists on burying what's left of her horse... it's not much.

We rally and enter the observatory, where we are suddenly assaulted by a horrible, eldrich stench. Hezzrak scouts ahead for us and returns to inform us that the smell is caused by a bunch of maggots. He then begins extolling the epicurean virtues of maggots... Before we have time to retch at his description, the maggots surge down the hall, swarming over us and eating our sweet, tender flesh! Haroldur reacts quickly, unleashing waves of negative energy and vanquishing the swarm.

We press on and discover another maggot swarm emerging from a trap door. Haroldur again detonates the swarm with waves of negative energy.

The trapdoor leads down to a stone basement. Shelves of recently used, grimy, rusty surgical equipment line the walls. Groans and shrieks emanate from behind barred wooden doors to the wretched cells that line the chamber. Suddenly, a Necrosis Carnax, a hideous amalgam of flesh and iron bands lurches towards us from an operating table as we approach. A vision of the Survivor appears to me at the beginning of the fight, and I feel my fortitude enhanced! The Necrosis Carnax emits a wail of despair, and is joined by zombies from the cells deeper in the basement as we dive into combat. I leap onto a table and lay about with my new +1 shortsword, Anir, Hand of Dusk. Soon, I am surrounded by the zombie horde. Sarek wrests mental control of a zombie just as another wrackspawn erupts from a cell and into the fight. We narrowly prevail, and afterwards, we make the rather uncharacteristic decision to retreat back to town for a wand of healing, as we're all quite worse for the wear.

While we're shopping, Tares runs into us and inquires about our expedition. He chats nervously with us and I glare at him for making small talk while I'm picking up dropped pieces of my liver. At last we acquire the wand, heal up, and head back out to the observatory.

In one of the basement's cells, we find a badly mutilated but still living captive. We heal it a little, but despite our efforts it is still unable to communicate. I ask Hezzrak to telepathically communicate with it to determine who committed such atrocities. However, the captive's mind is completely shattered from the torments. Hezzrak begs us to let him keep it as a pet, and that's enough to convince me - I promptly coup de grace the captive, putting it out of its misery.

Further investigation of the cells reveals a hidden door, thanks to my superior elf senses. We go inside and discover an entirely new horrible, disgusting odor. This day has been an olfactory tour-de-force, it seems. The room is filled with an acidic-smelling, slightly volatile, probably flammable vapor. 3 acid zombies, like the ones Filge the narcissistic necromancer kept as "pets", guard the chamber. As we're taking in the scene, the vaporous form of a hundred shifiting faces coalesces and addresses us - a quell. It seems to have mistaken us for its apprentice. When he realizes that we're not the Wee Jasians he's looking for, insults are exchanged and the battle is swiftly joined.

The quell takes a shine to Sarek, and assaults his mind with dark whisperings, dazing him. Simultaneously, Sarek receives a vision of the Sickness, and feels suddenly stronger and more healthy...

The quell's undying hatred for all things divine severs Haroldur's connection to Wee Jas! The fight is dire, and the quell seems to focus on the cleric. It takes him down and starts eating his brain, but Sarek's wand of magic missiles and Nineve's might finally take it down. Just then, we notice Hezzrak has an evil gleam in his eye, and his finger glowing with a pent-up Scorching Ray.... We leap from the chamber just in time to avoid obliteration as fire is introduced to the volatile vapor with explosive results. The chamber blows up behind us. In the settling dust, we hear the tower creaking unstably, so we beat a hasty retreat outside as the observatory collapses around us.

Just outside the observatory, on what I'd previously dubbed the "Zombie Lawn", Tares the acolyte confronts us, accompanied by 3 warriors. He explains that he can't let us live now that we have destroyed the fountain of knowledge from which he so greedily drank. Steel is drawn, and the battle is joined.

Hezzrak makes a Suggestion to one of the guards that he dance until he can't dance anymore... the deadly cha-cha begins. The bard-guard provides his own accompaniment, singing the greatest dance hits of all time - a strange yet amusing aural backdrop for the present circumstances.

Haroldur receives a vision of the Teamster and feels charged up and ready to go. Just as we're getting our groove on, a rogue emerges from the trees and attacks Nineve! I declare a rogue fight, and run over to show her how it's really done.

This fight is a rollicking good time, and we eventually beat Tares into submission. We capture him and will take him to be prosecuted at the Ruby Temple in the capitol for his illegal, unsanctioned practice of necromancy. (Also: insubordination, assaulting a superior officer of the church, and general sniveling.) The singing, dancing warrior surrenders to us, swearing off fighting forever as he explains that he suddenly feels a calling to be a bard. We let him go - after all, he was pretty good...

We clean up, interring the bodies and saying the rites. Even though we treat the collapsed observatory as a mass grave, the ground is still littered with fresh burial sites when we are finally finished.

Sarek sends an update to the Cabal:

Tares was under control of a quell, practicing unsanctioned necromancy.
We have him captured, a little worse for wear.
Please advise.

They reply:

Will send Legionnaires with your supplies to escort him to the Cabal for trial.
Good Work.

We return to town victorious, and stop in to see what Lazare has turned up. He says it was a bit hard to find, but the Whispering Cairn is the site of a very old burial tomb from before the Age of the Imperium, and it has been thoroughly looted. Always prepared, he provides us with a map before we can even ask. Uncharacteristically, Lazare is unfriendly towards Hezzrak and refuses to play chess with him. Hezzrak gets really irritated, but they seem to have some sort of wizard stare-off, and the imp backs down and leaves in a huff. I'm intrigued and want to ask Lazare what that little scene was all about, but I decide against bringing it up.

We return to the Convent to explain to Yril and Aodra about Tares - they're understandably shocked. Upon examining Tares's things, we dicover the rest of Filge's missing notes, along with Tares's progress in that vein. Apparently, both were "learning" from the quell, with Tares picking up where Filge left off.

3 days later, Diamond Lake is abuzz as the Legionnaires arrive to deliver our goods and take Tares into custody. We also hand over the notes and other evidence we found among Tares's things. We receive:

4 grey and red Cloaks of Protection +1
a Heward's Handy Haversack
2 scrolls of sending
8 potions of CMW
2 new changes of clothes (each)
20 MW crossbow bolts
20 MW arrows

After the Legionnaires depart and things settle down, we prepare to head off to the Whispering Cairn. Zolara again appears and offers us another reading:

The Choosing:
Ashe - The Hidden Truth
Sarek - The Snakebite
Haroldur - The Wanderer
Nineve - The Rakshasa

The Spread:

The Betrayal ------------The Mute Hag ---- -The Queen Mother
The Hidden Truth -------The Bear -----------The Uprising
The Inquisitor-----------The Rakshasa ------The Lost


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