Tomb of Abysthor

Session 35
Fun with planar portals

<u>Session 35: Abadius 13, 4718 AR-Abadius 31, 4718 AR</u>

Atish and Mags were not powerful enough to close the rift on their second try. In fact, this second attempt caused four vile predators to emerge from Pandemonium. They had hides as thick and tough as leather, and wicked ebony quills ran from their heads, tails, and backs. When they attacked, they let out wild ululations in an eerie ceaseless howl that spooked caused several of the party members to become shaken. Despite this, you all dispatched the beasts with minimal effort. Atish had to dig out some of the quills from Rex, who had gotten to close to the beasts. You decided that you would come back and close the rift when you became more powerful, or perhaps see if Sister Sarah could enlist powerful aid from the clergy of Iomedae.

The party spent the rest of the 13th exploring the bottom of the Chaos Rift. You had a couple of cursory encounters with some vukodlaks and wyverns. Gambler was happy when he acquired nine doses of wyvern venom after Mags captured two of the wyverns alive and freed them in return for giving up their venom. As the afternoon wore on, you came to a strange sight. Two rock pinnacles soared high from the base of the rift to the level of the lands above—over 1,500 feet in all. Their sides were darkly shadowed or stained as if composed of an entirely different rock than the rest of the rift. At the top, you could make out dark bird-like shapes perched on the edge of the precipice. At the base of both of these rock pillars were massive crystals embedded in them and the surrounding bedrock. As you approached in the deepening gloom, you saw great bolts of energy arc between the two columns with a green glare, originating at the crystals and then climbing the space between the rocks before dissipating at the top. A faint buzz permeated the air and you caught a whiff of ozone in the air. Atish and Mags determined that the shadowy black rock originated from the Abyss, and probably came here as a byproduct of the powerful forces unleashed in the devastation. The rock had a slightly greasy feel to the touch, but otherwise seemed to have all of the qualities of the terrestrial stone of the rift. You all broke off a chunk to take back for Dreb to examine. Belflin spotted two narrow ledges that twined up the outside of the pillars, though he could not detect any recent travel activity on them. Filing this away in the same category as the Pandemonium gate (return later or enlist the aid of the Iomedae clergy) you all set up Mags magical shelter well away from the site.

On the 14th, you all came to a lone spire of rock rising from the top of one of the Chaos Rift’s many plateaus. Unlike many of the others, however, no fissures or trails led to its top. The only access to the top of this plateau and the dual spires sitting upon it was a rickety rope bridge. A trail then started on the edge of the rock spires and rose in a spiral all the way to their peak. Several caves opened off the path. Using magic and athletic ability, you all climbed up the side of the plateau, avoiding the bridge. As you approached the spire you were attacked by a band of dire wolves and bandits. After a brief fight, you now had access to the cave complex at the summit of the spires.

One of the things you noticed was that some of the bandits and wolves were lycanthropes, although luckily no one appeared to be infected. Exploring the caves, you all realized that this was the lair of a fallen knight, Sir Bartileus, a wanted bandit and murderer known as the Butcher of Vieland. You found documentation that there was a 5,000 Gp reward for his return dead or alive to the authorities in the city of Lepistadt.

After looting the treasure, you all rested and Atish used magic to preserve the body and Mags used her magic to have you all travel the border plane between the Shadow realm and this world. This made a normal 6-day journey just a few hours. Once back in Lichbane on the afternoon of the 15th, you all reported the two planar sites to Sister Sarah and then turned Bartileus’s body over to her for transport to Ustalav. All agreed that the funds would be used to finance the continuing improvements to Lichbane. The party then spent the rest of the month training, resting, crafting items, and purchasing equipment for the next phase of exploration.

Session 34
More fun in the Chaos Rift

<u>Session 34: Abadius 1, 4718 AR-Abadius 12, 4718 AR</u>

It was the new year when you all left the comfort of Lichbane. Overall, you were pleased with the way the fortress was shaping up. Drebb was in charge of building the walls, while Sister Sara and the contingent of warriors and priests from Vigil kept law and order. The community was now attracting a higher end scale of merchant.

It took you three days to reach the Chaos Rift. The only encounter you had was six of the accursed Vukodlaks, and you all hustled on by the Crossroads, not wanting to be caught there after nightfall. Your first day of exploration saw combats with a nasty of mutant gargoyles and another pack of Vukodlaks. You all also had to scramble to find shelter from an acid rain storm.

On the 6th of Abadius (third day of exploration), you encountered a dozen undead Shadows as you passed through a shadowed ravine. Because they took you by surprise, this was a tough fight, and Gambler and Atish had much of their strength sapped. Luckily, Atish was able to use his healing skills and Sarenrae’s blessings to restore vitality to those who had been affected by the Shadow attack. This was a foreshadowing of things to come as you descended deeper into the Chaos Rift.

Day four of your exploration brought encounters with a Black Pudding and a Bonestorm. Your relief at escaping the storm through Mags’s magical hut, was short lived as another storm greeted you on the 8th. Luckily Mags had a chance to renew her magic and was able to summon her hut again. As you set up camp that night, you were again ambushed by a band of Shadows with similar results to your first encounter with them.

The 9th saw you dispatch another pack of Vukodlaks back to the void. On the 10th, you fought another nasty of gargoyles, as well as encountering a pack of Shadows. This group of undead, however, was more powerful than those you had encountered earlier, and you all managed to defeat them, although Atish was grievously wounded. He was able to heal himself enough so that when you encountered more of the lesser Shadows on the 11th, he was able to destroy them with a flame strike.

The 12th brought you towards the bottom of the Rift. After riding out two acid rain storms, you all were ambushed by seven Babau demons. These creatures seemed to be adjusting to your standard tactics, as they gave you a tougher fight than usual. Finally, as the day drew to a close, you came upon a small dell shadowed by the overhang of the nearby cliff wall. A carpet of low grass surrounded a pool of water, and a few stunted trees struggled to grow in the rocky soil. A narrow stream left the pool and flowed to the northeast. Strangest of all was the pool’s source. A thin waterfall seemingly emerged from thin air 30 feet above the pool’s center and tumbled in a continuous stream into the basin. There was no visible origin for this waterfall, but it seemed real enough based on the slight mist that reached you from its shower. Atish and Drinna used magical sight to determine that this was not an illusion, and Mags determined that the water was coming through a portal to the plane of Pandemonium. Atish, assisted by Mags, tried to seal the rift with his powerful magic, but failed. You all decided to rest and try again the following day.

Session 33
Ancient Tombs and Oozes

<u>Session 33: Kuthona 22, 4717 AR-Kuthona 31, 4717 AR</u>

The mild weather turned brutally cold as winter officially arrived. The gargoyle lair consisted of several interlinked caverns. Therein you all found a variety of treasures including good from the lost Vigil caravan. In addition, you found the remains of the caravan leader, which Atish collected for a proper burial. At the back of the cave, you found an underground river leading to the lair of what appeared to be an aquatic demon served by five skum. During the course of the fight, Atish detected that the demon was actually an illusion. Once the skum were dispatched and the illusion dispelled, you all caught sight of an aboleth that fled into the depths of the river, sealing a tunnel into the Darklands behind it with an explosion.

After resting the evening, you continued your exploration of the box canyon. The canyon finally ended at the base of a cliff, where a structure of white marble was embedded within the rift wall, partially exposed. A heavy marble slab blocked its doorway. Situated in a semicircle around the structure were a ring of free-standing, fluted marble column, all of which showed signs of cracking and weathering; many were little more than broken stumps of shattered stone. A pall of despair seems to hang over the entire area within ring of columns, and the whole area was suffused by a dim light. The exposed building was flat-roofed and 15 feet high, with the only visible entrance through the marble slab that blocks the doorway. As Belflin approached the ring of stones, five shadow demons surged forward to attack. Their efforts were thwarted when Atish summoned the light of Sarenrae to dispel the unnatural darkness and then created a magic circle against evil beings. After dispatching the demons, you all were now free to explore the tomb.

Rex was able to move the marble slab, allowing entry into the building. The chamber inside was quiet and peaceful. Stucco walls still held cracked murals—images showing the life of a pious man in white robes tending to the sick, giving to the poor, and helping the needy. Stone benches lined the walls with shallow stone dishes resting on the floor between them for offerings of alms. Whatever violence deposited this structure at the base of the rift did not do so without leaving its mark. The floor was slightly canted and great cracks mar the walls and ceiling, though they are otherwise intact. In the center of the 15-foot high room was a small flask made of iron, set with silver runes and stoppered with a brass cork. There were two visible exits from the room.

When Mags picked up the flask to examine it, the stopper popped out, releasing some type of winged evil outsider with a bow, a rope, and a long sword. A fierce fight ensued, but you all got the best of the creature. Rex claimed the magical bow as a prize. moving on to the first exit, you came to another room that appeared to have been warped by its burial in the rift. The walls and ceiling canted away from the door at a 45-degree angle, but the tan stone of the floor remained perfectly level. In the center of the far wall was a cracked basin that once appeared to be part of a fountain, though it had long since gone dry. Atish determined that this room was originally intended to serve as a place of rest and refreshment for visiting pilgrims. You all noticed that the tan floor here was different than the previous floors in of the tomb, which were composed of marble under a tan layer of gritty dirt. The floor then animated and attacked. It appeared to be a variety of black pudding that you al were able to take down without much trouble.

After determining that there was nothing else in the pilgrims’ chamber, you all went to the next exit from the main entry. This room once served as the waiting room between the contemplation chamber and the altar where pilgrims could pay homage to the lost Justicar interred here. It was featureless save for the five inhabitants: 7’ tall, hunched goat-headed humanoids covered in mangy gray hides that only partly cover their gaunt but muscled frame, each wielding halberds. Atish and Mags determined that these were Schir demons placed here as guardians, and they were ultimately no match for the party.

Beyond the Schir chamber was another room whose walls were white stucco, cracked with age and past upheavals of the earth. Murals, now peeling badly, still showed the valorous deeds of a knight clad in shining silver armor and wielding a brilliant sword. As they continue around the room’s perimeter, they showed him defeating all manner of enemies, including rank upon rank of enemy soldiers in some vast conflict of long ago. The murals meet at the center of the back wall where they show the shining knight, mortally wounded, surrounded by many shadowy, evil-looking opponents, the largest of whom bears a massive black spear—the knight’s blood on its tip. Before this final mural stands a great block of the finest marble forming an altar. Blue velvet cushions, faded and dusty with age, rest on the floor directly before the altar. Crouched atop the altar is a hideous, vulture-headed, winged demon glaring at you all. The battle with the Vrock demon was fairly difficult, especially with its annoying use of mirrored images, but you finally killed the foul beast.

Atish confirmed that the altar was dedicated to Aroden, and hidden beneath it was a secret door with an iron ladder leading 30 feet down to another complex of rooms. Rex moved the altar to provide access to the tunnel and you all proceeded downward. A feeling of immense despair filled the vaulting subterranean chamber. White stucco covered the walls and domed ceiling, which unlike elsewhere, showed no signs of cracking or peeling. The murals painted here were still as vivid as if they were done yesterday. All along the walls were painted rows of kneeling robed pilgrims, heads bowed with reverence or despair, all facing the far end of the room. The 20-foot dome above was painted like a cerulean sky with wispy white clouds. Gathered among these clouds were numerous angels and celestial beings, all weeping and likewise facing the room’s far end reverently. Near the room’s far end was a pedestal holding a massive spear point still attached to part of a broken shaft. The point itself was of a dark metal pitted with corrosion and stained with long-dried blood and foul ichors. Next to this wicked-looking weapon on the pedestal was a large blacksmith’s hammer forged of cold iron and heavily scarred with a network of fine cracks in its head. Between these two was a cloven skull. Beyond the pedestal rested a crystal bier. Upon it was the beatific form of a handsome knight—the one depicted in the murals—lying in repose with a peaceful expression as if merely sleeping. Shining plate armor covered the knight from neck to feet, marred only by a large gash in the breastplate. Clasped in his gauntleted hands upon his breast was a bastard sword that glowed with light like a torch.

As you entered to explore the chamber, a ghostly figure of the being on the bier appeared and spoke the following:

“I am Gerrant of the Holy Order of the Justicars of Aroden. Look upon my mortal remains and weep, for I was laid low by betrayal most foul. I swept through the hordes of Orcus beside my boon companion Alaric, and none could stand before us on the field of battle. Demons quailed at our approach. Where united we could not fall, in division the Demon Prince created our undoing. Alaric was called away to defend his home at the holy city of Absalom from barbaric invasion instigated by Orcus. I alone remained of the Justicars to fight for our cause. A captain of the Army of Light, whose name has been stricken from memory by the gods for his betrayal, led his company into an ambush knowing that I would come to help them at their call. I arrived to find it all an elaborate trap. The captain’s company consisted of only the walking dead, previously slain through treachery and raised again to lure me to my peril. The company of undeath turned on me as did their attackers, a swarm of demons. But last came the linchpin in the ambush, a foul cloud giant of demonic blood wielding a spear forged of darkness. I smote the captain and called upon the power of Aroden to rout the demons and undead, but the fiend-giant used my distraction to pierce my chest and lay me low. The weapon he used to slay my body has trapped my spirit here with my body for all these long centuries. Before my allies could figure a way to separate my soul from its mortal coil so that I could travel to the Boneyard for final judgment, Orcus’ foul servants ripped this land apart, burying my tomb in the Chaos Rift and severing the site’s connection to Holy Aroden that had protected me from undeath. This betrayal and my fate weigh heavy on my soul, and I cannot rest easy. The treacherous captain has been dealt with, and the fiend-giant was slain by my vengeful allies, his wicked spear destroyed. Even the hammer that forged the instrument of my demise was claimed from the field of battle. All that remains is the anvil upon which the spear was formed. The existence of that is all that anchors me here to this place. Any who would recover the anvil from the ruins of the city and return with it here would be forever called my friend. I know not where it lies; only that it still exists within the precincts of the temple-city. Despoil not my tomb and return with the item I seek so that I may rest, and I will grant you a boon of inestimable worth.”

With these words, the spirit then disappeared. Upon examination, the corpse was perfectly preserved by a powerful magic. It wore full-plate mail armor that was once magical but has been irreparably damaged by the huge gash in its breastplate that shows signs of acidic corrosion around its edges. The sword clasped in its hands was a holy bastard sword made of brilliant energy. Hidden beneath the suit of armor were an amulet marking Gerrant’s family house and a silver holy symbol of Aroden. The spear on the pedestal was huge-sized and forged of adamantite, pitted and corroded. A palpable feeling of evil hung over it, though its enchantment appeared to have broken when the weapon itself was destroyed. The hammer was cold iron but was so badly damaged in the creation of the giant’s spear that its head will fracture into a thousand pieces if ever struck against anything. The skull was that of a cloud giant, the wound obviously fatal.

After resting in the tomb, you all then left the box canyon and continued deeper into the section of the rift that lay the deepest beneath the ground at almost 2,500 feet. The broken ground rose gradually around it to around 2,000 feet, though even that portion lies in a narrow canyon between two high points so that the bottom here is almost perpetually in shadow. A chill breeze seems to perpetually blow through this portion making a constant susurrus that provoked you all to continually glance over your shoulders as if expecting to find someone standing behind you. This lowest point of the rift held the rift’s most horrible secret. It appeared that tens of thousands of members of the Army of Light were killed when the magic was unleashed that formed the Chaos Rift. The bulk of this heavenly host of angels, archons, and celestials was thus destroyed in one fell blow, thousands of souls of light forever lost to their homes in paradise. Such was the might of the magical devastation that these corpses were buried nearly a half mile under the earth. Yet so hardy was the stuff of their substance that they remained largely intact and soon became exposed again as erosion took its toll on the rift walls. The angelic skeletons extend hundreds of feet back into the bedrock here. Much to your horror, a gargantuan ooze of some sort was feeding on the remnants up the side of the cliffs. When it sensed your presence, it surged down with otherworldly quickness and attacked.

When it became apparent that this creature would overwhelm you all, Mags used her magic to take the party onto the Plane of Shadow, allowing you to quickly escape back to town. Once there, you spent the rest of the month recovering and preparing for another foray back into the Chaos Rift.

Session 32
Lost Caravans and Lots 'O Gargoyles

<u>Session 32: Neth 26, 4717 AR-Kuthona 21, 4717 AR</u>

The five days after leaving the troll hut were spent mapping the fringes of the Chaos Rift. During this time, you encountered 2 groups of gargoyles (one of mutants, one of the spitting type), a Nabasu demon, and a black pudding, all of which you dispatched with relative ease. In addition, you found a spring of fresh water that you marked on your map for future reference.

Kuthona 1 found you back at the remnants of the old main road. From here it was a week’s journey back to the camp. On the second day of the trek, you sent another batch of 10 mutant gargoyles back to their make. Then late that afternoon you encountered something truly bizarre. Seemingly out of nowhere, you found yourselves in the midst of a convoy of zombie pack handlers. They carried tattered rucksacks and litters loaded with cracked and broken chests and baggage, with some holding broken halters that dragged upon the ground as if leading nonexistent pack animals. Adding to the strangeness of this scene were the sounds. The zombies themselves were stone silent, but clearly audible were the clip-clop of many hooves and the creaking of wagon wheels intermixed with the grunts of heavily laden beasts of burden and the occasional shouted command. It sounded as though dozens of travelers were driving by; Atish even recognized the distinct trumpets of a few elephants. This phenomenon detected as both magical and evil. Mags attempted to dispel the magic, but she was overwhelmed by the power of this disturbance, which disappeared after 2 minutes. The packs and luggage of the zombies contained only dust, as if their contents moldered and disintegrated long ago. Gambler recalled hearing about this strange phenomenon from more than one inhabitant of the Camp. There was much speculation as to the origin of this strange caravan and its mysterious invisible members. Some say it is all that remains of a group of priests who attempted to break out of Tsar during the battle and escape long ago. Others say it is the cursed fate of the very first caravan to attempt to cross the haunted Desolation centuries ago after the city had been abandoned. Whatever the reason, it seems to roam the roads around Tsar seemingly randomly always disappearing without providing a clue as to its origin or purpose.

The next day, you came across a grim scene that answered one mystery that had been bothering you since the first day you came to the Camp 4 months earlier. The stench of death and the buzz of flies filled the air on the road ahead. Shattered wagons and the mummified remains of slaughtered draft animals lie strewn like toys. The desiccated corpses of men and ogres were likewise tossed about like rag dolls. The ogres and humans did not appear to have died in battle with one another. Rather by the positioning of their corpses they seem to have fought side-by-side. All bore similar marks of tooth, claw, and acid damage. The 23 men and 8 ogres appeared to have been dead for a few months and had become mummified in the Desolations harsh environment; the bodies had been picked at by scavengers quite a bit. Many pieces of mundane equipment and weapons lay around, but nothing of masterwork or better quality remained, and the wagons’ crates had all been broken open and rifled, with anything of particular value having been removed. A ragged banner flapped in the wind, and the insignia on the remaining armor revealed these to be remains of the Vigil caravan and the mercenaries they hired from the Camp known as the Pounders. It appeared as if they were destroyed by an ambush of gargoyles. Atish performed a mass cremation ceremony for the humans.

The next two days were uneventful aside from some acid rain and a bonestorm, both of which you avoided through Mags’ magic. On Kuthona 6, you came to a wide chasm cutting across the road here. It extended out of sight to the west and expands into a massive canyon to the east where the Chaos Rift began. Here it was about 30 feet wide and had steep rocky sides descending into the depths below. The wooden pylons that once flanked the entrance to a wooden bridge still stood on this edge of the chasm and on the far side, but the bridge itself extended out only a few feet before ending in a jagged, charred, broken edge. The broken remains of the bridge lay shattered and burned at the bottom of the rift. The chasm is 30 feet across and 20 feet deep with a dry, stony floor. As Belflin attempted to jump across on Koeter, a massive five-headed reptilian beast rose up from the depths. Much to your horror, it’s five heads breathed fire upon the party, and it seemed to heal its wounds as fast as you all inflicted them. Finally, Rex began lopping off its heads, and Drinna sealed the stumps with her acid, enabling you to slay the beast.

The last day of your trek along the road was uneventful, and you arrived back in the Camp on the afternoon of Kuthona 7. You then spent a week resting and crafting equipment for your next foray back into the Chaos Rift. Atish was pleased at how the settlement was coming along, and he assigned Drebb and a recently arrived contingent of knights from Vigil to start building a wall. It was decided that this would become a new outpost for Lastwall and in consultation with Sister Sarah, who was leading the knights from Vigil, you all decided to name the settlement Lichbane. Sarah also brought news to Rex that his mother had arrived safely in Qadira. On the 12th, Peter mysteriously disappeared. The only thing out of the ordinary is that a traveler had been passing through town, a female Tien monk. Locals told Gambler that her name was Lin and the she lived on the northern fringes of the Desolation and would visit the Camp twice a year for supplies and gossip. Mags tried to scry on the samurai, but found her efforts blocked. Although you all were uneasy about the disappearance of Peter, there was no evidence to suggest foul play, and you all assumed that he had left for his own reasons.

On the 15th you set out for the Chaos Rift. Now that the roads had been explored, the return journey to the southern edges of the rift only took 3 uneventful days. You descended into the rift on the 18th and after fighting off a pack of Vukodlaks, you found a spring of fresh water, which you marked on your map. The following day, you were surprised by a bout of acid rain, but Mags used her Rope Trick spell to avoid the hazard. On the 20th, you all slew a Chaos Beast with missile fire and magic, as thankfully you spotted it at range and it moved slowly. You all also fought five Wyverns, much to the delight of Gambler, who milked them for venom to make a super potent poison.

As you descended deeper towards the bottom of the rift on the 21st, you found another spring of fresh water. Then that afternoon you came across a box canyon inhabited by the gargoyles that had been plaguing the region. Using Gambler’s stealth and Atish and Mags’ area of effect spells, you all drew out the tribe from its caverns and whittle down their numbers enough for Belflin, Rex, and Drinna to finish the rest off in melee. There were close to 30 of the creatures that lay dead on the canyon floor once the dust settled, while the party took minimal damage. You all decided to rest for the night before entering the caves from which the beasts had come.  

Session 31
Mutant Gargoyles, Demons, Wyverns, and Trolls, oh my!

<u>Session 31: Neth 18, 4717 AR-Neth 25, 4717 AR</u>

You all spent the next week continuing to circle the Chaos Rift. On the 18th you all encountered another mutated variety of gargoyle. This time the beasts could spit acid, but you dispatched the eight that attacked you. The 19th saw another attack by babau demons, but again you drove the demons off with minimal effort. You began to cross terrain that had been broken by the terrible magic unleashed centuries ago, but Belflin was able to safely guide the party through the rough ground.

On the 20th, you fought off attacks of the non-acid spitting mutated gargoyles and a pack of vukodlaks before camping for the night. The 21st was uneventful aside from an attack by four wyverns, which you all easily survived. Again, you encountered some rough terrain, but this was no problem with Belflin in the lead.

As you trudged along on the 22nd, you were assaulted by some of the spitting gargoyles. After taking out these beasts, your journey continued uneventfully until the afternoon. You encountered a lanky fiend whose mouth was filled with sharp fangs, while great bat-like wings stretched from its scaly hide. This was a tough fight, but you prevailed. Mags then informed you all that you had just fought a nabasu demon. These fiends are birthed directly into the Material Plane from the Abyss, where they feed on innocent souls to mature. Only when finally sated can a nabasu return to the Abyss. Rumor holds that even then the nabasu’s lifecycle does not change, and that further developments await them as they continue to grow. These vile demons form from the souls of evil gluttons, particularly from cannibals, blood-drinkers, and those who prefer the tang of undead flesh. The next day, you all had to weather two bonestorms, but this was not a problem thanks to Mag’s magic.

The 24th saw an attack by several more of the standard mutated gargoyles, which you all successfully fought off. Early on the 25th, you encountered one of the most bizarre beasts you had ever seen. Approaching across the blasted heath was a horrid mass of barbed tentacles, glaring eyes, and gnashing teeth, twisting upon itself and reshaping into new forms. Drinna rushed to engage this creature and when she was exposed to its essence, she began to shift and change herself! Through sheer willpower and fortitude she resisted this transmutation, while magic and ranged attacks sent it back to the outer planes of chaos from whence it came.

Later that afternoon, you all were finally approaching the northern rim of Chaos Rift when you came across something to break the monotony. A platform of rough-hewn logs dangled precariously over the edge of the canyon. Heavy support struts sunk into the bedrock secured it in place. Hanging beneath the platform was wooden deck suspended by ropes at its four corners. These ropes came together ten feet above this deck and combined into one heavy rope which ran upward through a pulley on the platform above and finally to a massive winch. It appeared to be some sort of crude lift, though it looked like it would take a lot of brute strength to operate it. Next to the platform on the brink of the cliff was a large log cabin. Dried clay filled the cracks in the walls and the gaps in the ill-fitting shingles of its roof. Beside the front door hung a tarnished bell. Below it was a sign painted in crude black letters that read (in Giant): “KLOSED TIL NITEFALL.”

Scouting the area, you all detected the tracks of two rock trolls. Belflin was all for a direct assault to kill these creatures, but Atish and Drinna convinced him to stand down. Gamble snuck inside and confirmed the presence of the trolls. They were lairing in a cavern that was covered by the shell of the wooden hut. You all set up ambush positions and waited for nightfall. When the trolls emerged, you all took them out quickly. After looting the lair, you all used the shack as you shelter for the night.

Session 30
Will the real Peter please stand up?

<u>Session 30: Neth 10, 4717 AR-Neth 17, 4717 AR</u>

You all set out for the Chaos Rift on 10 Neth. You encountered a Chimera and 15 Vukodlaks the but easily dispatched them. On the 11th, you came to the Crossroads. Recalling the rumors that a spirit granting wishes haunted the Crossroads at midnight, you all set up and waited to see what would appear.

Just the like the Midnight Peddler, a cloaked figure appeared from out of nowhere at the appointed time, although he did not have a cart. Unlike the Peddler, this figure radiated an aura of menace. Peter boldly strode forward and greeted the being. He introduced himself as the Dweller at the Crossroads and asked Peter what his greatest desire was. The bard responded lots of money. Peter and the Dweller instantly disappeared.

Mags determined that powerful wish and teleportation magic had been at work here. The rest of the party rested for the night, allowing Mags to prepare a Scrying spell to determine where Peter was. Her magic revealed that he was in a chamber where guttering torches with blue flames mounted in brackets gave the room a mysterious cyan aura. Set into the far wall was a circle of nine large gems. Four of them gleamed with a brownish luster; the other four were a dull gray. Stacked around the room were chests and bowls overflowing with coins and gems, rolls of fine textiles, and racks holding exquisite weapons, armor and garments. In the center of the room stood an ornate pedestal carved from a single elephant’s tusk. Bands of writing in bas-relief wrap around the podium, and atop it sits some sort of green ornament or model. Standing motionless before the pedestal were Peter and another cloaked figure, both surrounded by a nimbus of amber light. The other figure appeared to be a male half-elf of Drow descent wearing leather armor that seemed to be cloaked in shadow. He was armed with a finely-crafted rapier and a silvered dagger. The bas-relief writing on the pedestal was in Common and read, “Woe to you who would invade Belishan the Bloodmage’s vault. Enjoy my hospitality and ponder awhile upon your folly before I slake my thirst upon your soul.”

Guessing that this was a location somewhere in Tsar, you all decided to return to the Camp and decide what to do about this situation. Aside from some acid rain showers and another band of Vukodlaks, the journey back was uneventful, and you arrived back in the Camp on the afternoon of the 13th. The next morning, Atish used magic to commune with Sarenrae and determined that rescuing Peter was not essential to cleansing Tsar, but that it would not necessarily be a distraction either. The party was split on whether or not to mount an immediate rescue operation, but reluctantly decided against it. You all felt you were not powerful enough for the city and that magic was being used to preserve Peter.

That night a knight bearing a katana, a naginata, and eastern style armor entered the Sip of Blood. He rode a magnificent charger and bore the holy symbol of Iomedae. What amazed you is the resemblance that he bore to your missing bard. He claimed that his name was Peter and that Iomedae had directed him to come join your quest to cleanse the city of Tsar. Naturally, you all were suspicious. Peter the Samurai was adamant that he had no living relatives, although he had a sister who had died when he was young. He claimed to come from the River Kingdoms, where he had trained in the Order of the Blue Rose and served in the recent War of the River Kingdoms. There he had received his visions from Iomedae to join you all in Vigil, but had arrived there after you left and was directed to the Camp by your allies there. After much debate, you accepted his offer.

You all returned to the Crossroads, arriving on the afternoon of the 16th. The journey there was uneventful acid aside from more acid raid storms. The party debated on whether or not to stay at the Crossroads and confront the Dweller, but decided against it. The next day, you all pushed into the Chaos Rift.

The northeastern quadrant of the Desolation is dominated by a huge rift scarring the land. This huge canyon is obviously not a natural formation and is, in fact, the result of a massive expenditure of chaotic magic in order to destroy what was the original encampment of the Army of Light. A half mile deep at some points, the shelter provided by the rift in the otherwise barren Desolation serves as home to a myriad of creatures. For here the inhabitants are protected from the horrible bone storms, and here can be found the Desolation’s most valuable commodity, a few hidden pools of potable water deep in the rift’s shadowy recesses. When the magic was unleashed from the defenders of Tsar that tore the ground asunder, those that survived the cataclysmic devastation relocated their camp to the south into what is now the Ashen Waste. Behind they left many of their dead, no small number entombed within the ground by the massive upheaval that occurred. If the winds of the Ashen Waste howl like the spirits of the dead, the gusts that blow over the Chaos Rift play a funeral dirge as they travel across the lip and through the many fissures that comprise the great crevasse. The surrounding ground is flat and unbroken save for boulder piles (falling debris from the chasm’s creation) until one reaches the edge of the vast, magically created canyon. It is barren, but not nearly as desert-like as the Ashen Waste. The floor of the rift itself is tortured and broken by the powerful forces that bent and ripped reality to create such devastation. Many caves dot the walls of the canyon, and clearly visible on these crumbling cliff faces are the striations of the various layers of earth and stone now exposed to the air, though in many places these layers of stratification are out of order from the natural sequence—such was the chaos and upheaval caused by the catastrophic event.

Your plan was to circle the rift before descending into its depths. The first day of your exploration saw more acid rain, along with attacks by mutated gargoyles and a band of babau demons. Peter the Samurai turned out to be a fine addition as you defeated your foes and weathered the acid rain. You all camped for the night and prepared to resume your exploration the next day.

Session 29
RIP Bartrom!

<u>Session 29: Lamashan 23, 4717 AR-Neth 9, 4717 AR</u>

On the 24th, you came to a region where the rolling hills were strangely devoid of the bony remains you had seen elsewhere in the Dead Fields. Instead a fine white powder coated the terrain, smoothed into an even surface. Around noon, a faint grating rumble came to your ears and began to grow louder. Topping a hill about 50 feet away was a bizarre construct that appeared to be part armored troop carrier, part assault platform, and part troop-smashing battle ram. It flew the flag of the Army of Light, practically unrecognizable after all these years in the wastes. Mags and Atish determined that this was a construct built to disrupt troop formations and leave a swath of destruction in its wake, crushing into powder anything that happened to get in the way. It seemed to be following its last orders to destroy anything that did not bear the symbol of the Army of Light. As it lurched forward, Mags created an illusion to make you all appear to be warriors from that long-ago army, and you all got past the machine without incident.

The monotony of the wastes was broken up on the 28th by an acid storm, which you all avoided when Peter created his own magical tiny hut. He had learned this trick by watching Mags. On the 29th, you all were assaulted by eight babau demons, who displayed extreme cunning and intelligence in their tactics. Rex was outraged and saddened when Bartrom was killed during this attack.

As you camped for the night on the 30th, you were attacked by eight ghasts burrowing up from beneath and five more babau demons. Rex never got a chance to respond as the demons on his sleeping form. He resisted death from the first wounds with a heroic effort of will, before succumbing to a second savage attack. Before his soul could completely flee the material plane, Atish prayed to Sarenrae for a breath of life to restore his fallen comrade. In the meantime, the rest of the party rallied and slew the attackers.

Mags determined that the party was being scried by something or someone that was sending these bands of assassins. You all were also getting very close to Tsar, and rather than risk continued attacks, you all decided to return to town and let Mags, Atish, and Peter come up with defenses against scrying and the hostile elements of the Desolation.

The journey back to the Camp was interrupted by an attack of ghouls and vukodlaks on Neth 1, but you easily dispatched this threat. You arrived back in the Camp on Neth 2 and spent a week recuperating and planning your defenses and next moves.

Session 28
The Dead Fields, Redux

<u>Session 28: Lamashan 7, 4717 AR-Lamashan 22, 4717 AR</u>

After spending a week resting, training, and crafting magic items, the whole group (minus Dreb) set out to continue exploring the Dead Fields. Your 2-day journey up the main road to where you had last been was uneventful aside from an acid rain storm, which you rode out inside Mag’s magical hut.

You entered the Dead Fields on Lamashan 17. That day you encountered 9 skeletons and a berserk clay golem, all of which you dispatched with little trouble. Rex took a wound from the golem, however, which was cursed and would not heal properly. That night, a pack of vukodlaks passed by your campsite, fooled by Mag’s illusionary terrain.

On the 18th, you came across a disturbing sight. A single leathery wing rose high into the air like a malignant sail. Ahead was the ponderous bulk of a massive dragon, lying on its side, its scales a dull, charcoal gray. It lay on the ground completely still. One wing extended skyward, locked into its current position, while its other wing was curled beneath its bulk at an awkward angle. Its skull-like head stared vacantly ahead into eternity. The carrion stench floating on the breeze was horrifying. Mags determined that this was corpse of an old black dragon, dead for six days. Despite its obvious condition, there was no clue as to what killed this magnificent predator other than the trail of dried blood and bile around its lips and on the ground near its maw. Puzzled as to what a black dragon would be doing in a desert, you all approached to investigate, only to have a swarm of rot grubs burst forth and attack the party. They were burned away by Atish and Mags, but not before Rex and Atish were afflicted. Atish used his surgical skills and magic to cure himself and the barbarian. Continuing on, you all camped for the night, where you were attacked by 10 wights and 12 ghouls. This was a fairly easy fight, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

Atish used his magic to lift the curse on Rex, which allowed the barbarian to begin healing from his earlier golem wounds. The 19th saw you all attacked by a trio of the half-fiend worgs that roamed this region. Once again, Belflin was badly wounded, adding to his growing hatred of the beasts.

The 20th saw a major encounter. You came across a savaged pack of half-fiend worgs, with vultures circling above waiting for the one remaining wounded worg to die. Upon closer examination, you all saw that the vultures were actually vrock demons. Belflin put an arrow in the worg, killing it, hoping to lure the vrocks into an ambush. Unfortunately, the demons detected the ruse and teleported into your midst. Mags banished one with her magic, but in the ensuing fight with the other two, Belflin was mortally wounded, only surviving through a heroic force of will. There was a bone storm that night, which you all weathered in the magical hut.

There was another bone storm on the 21st that caused you to use the hut before you camped, and as luck would have it that night you all had to survive an acid rain shower without the benefit of the hut. Fortunately, you all were in the Tusk Mountain foothills and Belflin was able to find suitable shelter. Turning north on the 22nd and continuing to skirt the Tusk Mountains you all encountered a pack of 12 Vukodlaks, which you dispatched with ease. That night, your camp was attacked by 4 wraiths and 24 skeletons, but you all survived unscathed. The next day you would be turning east and headed back into the heart of the Dead Fields.

Session 27
Into the Dead Fields!

<u>Session 27: Rova 22, 4717 AR-Lamashan 6, 4717 AR</u>

Proving that this truly was a cursed land, with the turning of the calendar officially to autumn, the sweltering heat that engulfed the Desolation switched off to a milder temperature. Belflin guessed that the heat would return with the spring equinox, but that gave you 6 months without having to worry about protecting yourselves against the heat. Thankful for this reprieve, you all set out on the 23rd of Rova to start your exploration of the quadrant of the Desolation known as the Dead Fields. Peter and Gambler decided to remain at the camp for this foray.

The Dead Fields once served as the bread basket for the temple-city and its outlying holdings. Great fertile fields of grains stretched for miles across the land. No region of the Desolation, however, saw a deployment of troops in greater numbers or more bloodshed by the conventional means of claw and sword than did the Dead Fields. What were once rolling fields of grain and crops and occasional copses of trees became a hotly contested no-man’s land of the dead. Countless charges and marches crushed the vegetation underfoot. The battle lines shifted and moved back and forth as the fortunes of war changed. The ground was so hotly contested and so perilous that eventually corpses created a virtual carpet for miles. In many places the bodies stacked high, unclaimed by either side in their fervor to continually press the battle. Today the Dead Fields exist as a hardened plain of bare rock, thin soil, and brittle bones. While not as arid as the Ashen Waste, it is still susceptible to the occasional bone storm when the winds are just right. The entire brown expanse is dotted with gleaming white patches where bones and bone fragments protrude from the hard earth, and every step in this region produces a crunch as these remains are reduced to powder and white flakes underfoot. Amidst the many dead are the skeletal remnants of many siege weapons. Rolling towers, covered rams, armored battle wagons, and crude breastworks dot the plains and hills, all in extremely poor repair. The mass of abandoned bodies produced several incidents of plague that swept through both sides of the conflict during the war, and to this day spontaneously generated undead still arise and stumble through the nights with alarming frequency. Despite its name, the Dead Fields are never truly at rest.

The first week was spent trekking across the southernmost boundaries of the Dead Fields all the way to the Tusk Mountains. You survived several attacks of restless skeletons drawn from beneath the thin crust of land to your presence. You also encountered several packs of the accursed Vukodlaks and roving bands of Mobats that seemed to be scouting, fleeing from combat. Among the natural hazards you all endured were an acid rain storm and one of the dreaded bone storms.

On the 30th of Rova, as you swung back in an easterly direction after reaching the base of the Tusk Mountains, a small mound rose from the plain. It appeared to be somewhat fortified at the top, and a stair had been cut in the side on the south face. Just west of the mound was a large excavated pit surrounded by fresh piles of dirt. Between the excavation and mound was what appeared to be a pile of debris. Several dwarves labored in the excavation with pick and shovel, while more stood as sentries atop the mound, crossbows at the ready.

The dwarves all bore bandages and signs of recent injury. Their leader was a ruddy-cheeked dwarf with a blonde beard forked and tucked into his ornate belt, who wore fine but travel-worn apparel. He approached in a friendly manner and introduced himself as Thane Fenris’s. His second-in-command was an older cleric of Torag who wore threadbare mendicant clothing, though his weapons and armor were in excellent condition. Fenris claimed that he was the patriarch of the Brightaxe clan from Five Kings Mountains who had received visions of Torag of where to search for the gear of their king, Kroma. He had participated in the battle of Tsar and been lost, bringing much shame upon the clan. They hoped that by recovering his relics, they could recover clan Brightaxe’s honor.

Atish sensed that Fenris was not telling the whole story, but he let it go for the moment and you all accepted the hospitality of the dwarves. As you all approached the camp, there was a commotion at the dig site and a huge dinosaur skeleton came to life and began thrashing the dwarves in the pit. Drinna and Rex rushed up and finally toppled the creature, but not before the monk was severely wounded. Atish, meanwhile, used his healing magic to save a wounded dwarf.

This act of compassion caused Fenris to open up. He revealed that the dwarven company was actually seeking to recover the body of King Kroma as well as his royal regalia, but they feared that Kroma had become cursed when he died in this blighted land. Their dig site had been plagued by hordes of undead attackers over the past few weeks. Fenris asked if the party could help them, and you all agreed.

A few hours after sunset, the fortified hilltop position was assaulted by two waves of undead, mostly skeletons with some wights, ghasts, and vampire spawn. The ghasts proved especially problematic as so many in a small area made their stench particularly hard to resist. Atish and Gorrack blasted the skeletons with the power of Torag and Sarenrae, while Belflin, Rex, and Drinna took care of the other undead abominations.

During the course of the second wave, Mags spotted movement on the fringes of the horde. She alerted the rest of the party, and you all were horrified to see that whatever fell power was sending the hordes was also animating the bodies of earlier dwarven victims, turning them into zombies. You also discovered more vampire spawn and wights, which you all dispatched along with the zombies.

As this fight wound down, the perpetrator of this vile desecration showed himself. It was none other than Kroma himself, who had been turned into a lich by Orcus! He gave a great magical shout that bursts the ear drums of nearly everyone and left many stunned or paralyzed and also scoured the hilltop with black flames summoned from the Abyss. Drinna managed to overcome the debilitating effects of the Kroma’s magic and pounded the fiend back to the Abyss.

Session 26
The Party Gets Stoned and Slimed!

<u>Session 26: Rova 12, 4717 AR-Rova 21, 4717 AR</u>

The 12th saw you all trudging through the wastes, where you encountered two babau demons, which you dispatched with no problems. On the 13th you all had to deal with the elements, weathering two brief periods of acid rain and a bone storm. The next day, you all entered an area that was filled with treacherous patches of quicksand, but Belflin guided you through. In addition, you all waited out two more acid rain storms before you encountered another of those strange creatures known as a mihstu. That night, Mags’s shelter and masking magic allowed you all to remain hidden as a ghoul pack scampered past.

After dispatching a pack of vukodlaks, you came to the first area of interest remaining on your map late on the afternoon of the 15th. A barren dirt mound rose from the ashen plain here. From patches visible here and there it was evident that it was constructed of the actual brown soil that lies beneath the dust layer of this area. Weathering and erosion have taken their toll on what was once probably a very regular, man-made construction. Now it is pitted and scarred with erosion but still rises to an impressive 40-foot height. Atop this promontory, you saw a few large bats staring down at you with a sense of malevolent intelligence. Visible at the southwest corner of the mound was a recent excavation leading into a 5-foot high tunnel. Belflin recognized the bats as mobats and scattered them with several arrow shots, which caused them to fly off squawking to the northwest. Drinna and Gambler entered the tunnel to scout, but ran into a basilisk. The creature managed to petrify the monk and the halfling before Mags slew it with her illusion magic. Belflin managed to milk enough blood from the slain creature to restore Drinna and Gambler back to their normal state.

Going further into the tunnel, you came to a burial complex. Argos identified this complex as the burial mound of the infamous Kellid warlord Tark who led his barbarian horde to assist in the attack on Tsar. This was not done out of any great loyalty or allegiance to the good deities or even the civilized realms. Rather this merely illustrated that an entity as vile as Orcus attracts enemies of all kinds. Few within the Army of Light were comfortable with the presence of the barbaric and uncouth warriors of Tark, nor even the vicious warlord himself. However, before long all were thankful for the presence of these peerless warriors and their savagery in battle. Mere weeks after the Army of Light had encamped on the plain outside Tsar, when only the beginning skirmishes of the epic battle to come were being fought, it was Tark and his band that turned the fate of battle in favor of the cause of Good. Orcus had long anticipated just such an attack, though he had perhaps underestimated the attackers’ strength and resolve. To prepare for such an event he had allied his disciples with many foul races of the Darklands. These loathsome aberrations and creatures of all kinds had delved a tunnel beneath the plain so that it could arise far from the walls in the very midst of any besiegers should the need arise. When the Army of Light was dug in, these foul allies from the lightless deeps completed their tunnel, opening it in the unsuspecting camp in the darkest watches of a moonless night and pouring out in a braying, gibbering horde of terror. The tunnel opened in the camp of Tark. The Darklands horrors never had a chance. The warriors of Tark, hardened berserkers all, were accustomed to sleeping in their light armor with weapons at hand. Their senses, sharpened through a lifetime of constant battle and feuding, detected the work of the tunnelers just before it opened among them. The barbarians were horribly outnumbered and the bloody battle raged for an hour before the nearby encampments of troops could rally and organize to join in the battle. By the time they had arrived Tark and all of his warriors were dead, lying on heaps of bodies that were once their attackers, but the backbone of the surprise attack had been broken. In the face of fresh troops, the few surviving creatures fled screaming back into the Darklands. Their defeat was so sound that their alliance with the disciples of Orcus was forever broken, divesting the defenders of Tsar of a full quarter of their forces. Realizing the enormity of what had occurred and the disaster that had been so narrowly averted, the generals and war captains of the Army of Light reverently recovered all of the barbarians’ bodies, including that of Tark himself surrounded by the corpses of 2 aboleths, 6 margoyles, a drider, 10 skum, and 28 morlocks. Gathering them together they raised a barrow mound there over the spot where they fell and esteemed it as sanctified ground in honor of the valiant heroes interred therein.

You all, however, sensed a necromantic taint in the tomb and suspected that the power of Orcus had perhaps corrupted the spirits of Tark and his warriors, creating a new force of undead to plague the region. Drinna, Atish, Argos, and Rex were all for exploring the tomb further, along with Gambler and Peter (who were more concerned with the possible treasure of course), while Mags and Belflin were a bit more reluctant. Bolstering your initial suspicions was the presence of two grimslakes, Abyssal scavengers drawn to areas of intense necromantic energy. These creatures were large maggot-like beings with a fanged maw and many pincers at the end of their grubby legs. You took them out without much trouble, but you found an entrance to the Darklands from which they had wandered. Peter wanted to explore this tunnel, but the rest of the group convinced him otherwise.

You all eventually came to a large chamber that had been dug out of the mound here. It appeared to have been enlarged at some point, and large gashes like claw marks still marred the walls. Several complete skeletons in reclining positions were visible in the dirt that comprised the walls of the chamber. A very narrow passage led out through the east wall. You were startled to see that Atish’s nimbus of light projected the shadow of a massive bear on the far wall, poised as if to strike, where there otherwise seemed to be no source for this strange phenomenon. Unsurprisingly, the shadow animated and attacked, but was blasted away by Atish. He confirmed that animals were usually not inflicted with the necromantic taint to become undead shadows.

Proceeding cautiously down the eastern passage, you found it was filled with burial niches and an old slime trail was on the floor. Peter sent a summoned creature to the end of the hall and confirmed that there appeared to be several undead in a room at the end. Belflin, Drinna, and Gambler scouted the hall, but were attacked by a powerful ooze that flowed from the cracks of the wall. Its normal power had been enhanced by the foul necromantic energy that corrupted the whole complex. Belflin almost died, but was saved by the inspiring music of Peter. Unfortunately, Argos was slain and dissolved by the ooze as he rushed in to help Belflin. Once Belflin was pulled from the slime, Mags sealed off the passage with a makeshift wall of stone using her magic.

Belflin was shaken by his near-death experience and refused to re-enter the complex. Atish, Rex, and Argos insisted that you all remove the wall, defeat the ooze, and proceed on to confront the undead in the burial chamber. Once you rested, the party (minus Belflin), returned to the tomb. Once Mags dropped her magical wall, Drinna engaged the ooze and destroyed it, allowing you all to proceed back to the main chamber.

Once there, you confronted Tark, his warriors, and his two favorite hunting hounds, which had been turned into wights. Atish used a flame strike and channeled energy to weaken the opponents, while Rex and Drinna finished them off. You looted the tomb, and once Atish consecrated the complex, you rested for the evening again before resuming your exploration.

On the 17th, you all ran into a pack of ghasts and ghouls, most of which were dispatched by a shadowy fireball from Mags. Late that afternoon, you all reached the final place of interest marked on your crude map of the wastes. Through the haze of dust ahead you spied a lone figure standing on the plain. It appeared to be a warrior in chain mail with no visible weapon. He did not appear to take notice of you and made no moves. Gambler, Drinna, and Rex approached the man, but as they got within 30 feet of the figure a wave of fear swept over them. At the same time, a sand pit dropped out from under Gambler, revealing a large star-fish shaped creature with a tooth-filled maw. Rex and Drinna resisted the fear effect and rushed to help Gambler, quickly taking out the beast. Atish ascertained that the figure was a phantom of someone who had died in so much fear that it left a psychic residue. The beast apparently had been drawn to the phantom and used it as a perfect trap.

After resting, you all then resumed your exploration of the Ashen Wastes. Within two days you all were back at the main road. One quarter of the Desolation has been mapped and explored! You all then made your way back to the Camp, arriving on the afternoon of the 21st.



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