Campaign V: Chapter Four, Mission Seventeen

Recap: The early morning marks of 18 Davor saw the party in Gridolin, preparing for their expedition to the Burning Sun monastary. Gunju was to pack up whatever he thought he'd need to live at the Burning Sun with his son, Ithciro. The monastery -- a multideitific institution dedicated to the study and destruction of the undead -- would be the ideal place to raise Itchiro, and protect him from the undead. The monastery would also serve a good stop-off for the party, before moving out to their ambush point.

Their battle-plans called for them to pick a spot somewhere near Mount Grisholm, and lure the vampire-medusa and her cronies to them. The party hoped that, by chosing the battle-field and having access to Xzax's inherited treasury, the undead would not stand a chance. The rod of authority in Aust's possession, coupled with amulet of undead turning, would change everything.

Captain Seamus and Brother Aust blessed the captured pirate brigandine, renaming it from the Grinning Skull to the Dancing Dwarf. Seamus had all the crew transfer over from the Rattler, rationalizing that with the light galleon, they were undermanned, but with the brigandine, the crew would be on par for a vessel of that size. With manpower at a premium since Davin's Plague had swept through Rakore -- and war breaking out all across the mainland -- Captain Seamus figured this to be his only option.

Seamus also managed to hand out several pair of boots that he and Xzax had worked on, together. Seamus' burgeoning power as both a cleric of Habrem and one of her bard's, allowed him to enchant the boots in the elven fashion -- despite his dwarven heritage. (Aust was called in for several consultations on this.)

Angus' armor -- practically destroyed by one of Vapak's troll minions -- was replaced from Xzax's hoard with enchanted plate, of dwarven size.

Prate returned with Xavien, and explained that King Graniteshoulders wanted the Prophecy fulfilled -- Al Mudim must be destroyed. The king apparently theorized that if spheres of annihilation and portable holes weren't worthy enough of prophecy, then Al Mudim would have to be a fearsome weapon, indeed. The king had, however, activated Duke Henrik and all his minions (save those of the prophecy). The rest of the mages from Vridara were pressed into service as battle mages, because the numbers were frightening: 500,000 orcs were assaulting the eastern Warkore mountains -- another 500,000 ograns were hitting Loregard, a fortified citadel near the headwaters of the Galanus River -- and anywhere from 500,000 to a 1,000,000 orcs had crossed over to the Tikranor Plateau, and were likely headed south out of the mountains and into the Rakoran Forests. In essence, a quarter of mainland Rakore was under the control of the Ogre Nations.

No one seemed to know how it had all happened. Everyone had assumed the insect-like Srik would keep the orcs occupied along their northern border, so that the ograns could never pull away enough manpower to assault eithe Rakore or Kur Maeth. Davin's Plague had thinned out Rakore's numbers, but not so much that the ograns would be without a fight. The Stonehelm clan -- Angus' and Seamus' home clans -- were holding off an army over 150 times their number. (Galgiran bless the Dwarven Defenders, and the Hammers and Anvils in his name.)

Angus and Seamus were torn, wanting to go aid their comrades -- but they knew the quest had to come first.

While Gunju packed up what he would need for himself and Itchiro to live in the Burning Sun monastery, the party waited until noon for the rest of their members to rest up from the horrible battle with the troll king, Vapak. Xzax spent the time reading from a strange book that the party had acquired from Vapak's demise -- apparently, a magical book whose text shifted even as the reader watched it, making for a difficult, magical enchantment. Oddly enough, none of the party intervened or investigated this, allowing the book's magic to wash over Xzax every spare minute the half-dragon had.

At noon, they party set out for the Burning Sun Monastery. Gunju would follow, perhaps a day later. Angus drove his mule and a small wagon, while Xzax ran along beside the party, scouting ahead and behind. Jena stayed astride Apple Demon with her son, Itchiro. Aust's enchanted boots allowed him to walk at a snail's pace, and still keep stride with the fast riding horses the rest of the party used to plod alongside their cart.

Four days later, as the party was crossing a ford along the first of the Salem Rivers, something strange happened. A living, walking tree erupted out of the forest, and began conversing with N'Kara. The creature -- a treant -- ignored the rest of the party, save Apple Demon, and spoke with the druidess for some time. Jena, using her circlet of comprehending languages, listened in on the conversation.

Vapak and the rest of the trolls had originally been intended as guardians of Hallis Island. Kalen Hallis, the ranger for whom the island was named, had a number of breeding programs -- trying to recreate the powerful natures of the Karatikan Alliance -- a time of high druidic magics. A cast-out elven king came to Hallis Island, and made the land his home -- easily adapting to the wonders that Kalen Hallis had made. The elf, known as Minamir, found and raised a gnome. Others came looking for the gnome, and a great battle erupted. Using a spell of self-sacrifice (similar to the one Xzax's grandfather had used in the Wuron Swamps), Minamir detonated himself with powerful elven magics, to ensure the gnome escaped. The gnome's hunters were all killed, but the pool of magic released by Minamir's death had become stabilized -- stagnant -- and corrupting. The pool of magic corrupted Vapak into his evil form, something Kalen Hallis could not have foreseen.

The treant, named Wrolkor, went onto explain that other creatures of the island were also slowly being corrupted by the pool of magic. None of the five treants Kalen Hallis had created, dared venture near the pool of stagnant magic. Wrolkor hoped that N'Kara, or the unicorn she travelled with, could undo the damage Minamir's death had caused.

When Jena and N'Kara explained this to the party (after Wrolkor's departure), something Aust had been reading clicked. Brother Aust had been studying Minamir's journal, and it had been vague on some things, and explicit on others. Minamir had left a cache of equipment on the island -- and the treant's information had supplied Aust with the key he needed to find the cache. Though the party had no time, then, to go and hunt for the cache -- they knew where to find it.

Late on the afternoon of the 25th, they arrived at the Burning Sun. Brother Aust eased their way into the monastery, using the ranking accolyte of Xoriah -- a man named Gaston Guiermo. That night, with Gaston's help, they researched the undead in detail -- using the thousands of tomes and scrolls about them, accumulated by the monastary. They discovered that Alliya, the vampire-medusa, was an Al Fahiman woman until the War of the Undead. The dread knight known as Xemitar drafted her into his service, and she was last seen alive on the docks in Aboris'shifa. After that, Alliya's handiwork turned up from time to time during the War of the Undead, until Xemitar was pressed into service as an avatar of Brigain -- the God of Destiny. Brigain kept a tight leach on Xemitar, even though Xemitar fought it with all his might.

The party discovered that Alliya might be acting on Xemitar's orders, where Xemitar could not violate his own orders.

Brother Aust had just managed to convert one of the monastary's guards into worshipping Xoriah, when Xavien called for him. The young sorceror had discovered something odd in monastary, and asked the cleric of Xoriah to help him interpret it. One of the other accolytes to the monastery claimed to be a servant of Lul. The beautiful elven woman, Elhiana Shiveliyehir, explained to Aust that she and others sought to aid them against the vampire medusa. Elhiana gave Aust two spectacles, mirrored on the outside, that would protect whomever wore them from the medusa's gaze (and give a +5 bonus against all gaze attacks).

Early the next morning, Gunju arrived in a cart -- with Maui at his side. Young Maui had dealt with the deaths of his parents, and returned to Rakore to find the party gone. He waited, working, until he heard word of the party's journey to Hallis Island. Maui had used the tales of Vapak's defeat to find Gunju, and then rejoin with the quest as he'd originally intended.

Gunju and Itchiro were safely ensconced in the Burning Sun monastery, protected by a pantheon of gods against the undead. In all the world, perhaps nowhere else was safer from the undead than the Burning Sun -- carved out of rock by a paladin-bonded dragon, and finished by a small army of dwarven clerics, and blessed by Xoriah, Arpelos, Galgiran, Lul, Curiss, and more. With Itchiro safe and sound, and ready to be raised by both his father, and the monks, Jena earned her third brace -- becoming a Protector of Yatindar.

Two days later, the party found itself the perfect ambush point. They set up perhaps thirty miles from the shore, and had Seamus and Xzax remove their kiriath bracelets in order to attract the vampire-medusa and her minions. They hoped to lure her in on their terms, destroy her, and take back the Spinstone they had lost to her so many months previously.

During the two days and three nights of waiting, the party rested -- albeit tensely. Each sunset brought a renewal of protections and wards, and vigilance was high. At one point, Apple Demon returned from his meanderings, apparently having grazed in a patch of four-leaf clovers. Jena quickly distributed them to the entire party, "For luck."

The Freeze -- that time of the month where the gas giant Maroth eclipses the sun -- came and went. The evening of the 1st of Trivor brought them some relief: they felt the prying eyes of the vampire-medusa upon them. They knew that they were being scried upon.

The night-time hours of the 4th brought on the battle. Wave after wave of skeletons marched on the party's camp, augmented by fearsome ormigons -- the animated bones of hill giants, powered by hellfire. N'Kara and Xzax shaped the field of battle with entanglements, while Jena, Gunju, and Apple Demon used their wedding rings to destroy the undead ranks as quickly as possible. When the ormigons layed into the party with their fearsome hellfire -- from ranges as great as five-hundred feet -- the battle nearly became a route.

Withdrawing and regrouping to reestablish their invisibility to the undead (courtesy of their Kiriath bracelets and the wedding rings), they had to form a new battle plan. The vampire-medusa's allip had succeeded in capturing Xavien's mind, and the young sorceror had unleashed a lightning bolt upon the party at point-blank range, before the allip was destroyed and its hold on Xavien released. Seeking a new battle-plan, they decided to advance on the vampire-medusa -- instead of letting her go to them.

Cleo, having returned to the party after a near-disasterous encounter, led the way to the vampire-medusa Alliya. Alliya was surrounded by ormigons, hordes of undead skeletons, a drow priestess, and a human sorceror. The party snuck in through the bushes and the debris of the night, while the skeletal hordes searched uselessly for them.

When they were close enough, Aust unleashed an elemental summoning -- drawing forth a pyro-hydra from within the ranks of the skeletal hordes. The five-headed, fire-breathing wyrm lay waste to half Alliya's defenses, buying time for Aust to rush forward, and hold up the rod of authority and the amulet of undead turning.

The drow priestess was out -- and the remaining sorceror surrendered.

One turning from Xoriah had destroyed Alliya, the ormigons, and the hordes of undead.

There was no sign of the Spinstone.

With the captives cooperating from their bindings in the cart, they party journeyed two more days to the sea, to await the ghost ship known as the Ice Bitch. The vessel came in that night, perhaps to search once again for Alliya -- but Aust destroyed it with Xoriah's aide.

They spent some time on the bottom of the little inlet, combing the sands and surf for the Spinstone -- and never found it. They found only clues that pointed alarmingly in the direction of N'Kara's ancestral home -- Nabrol, home of the God of Slaughter.

There were some treasures that they found, and loaded up on the cart for return to the Burning Sun monastery.

Ice Bitch's Treasure: chrysoprase (bright green gem valued at 648sp), zoiste (blue gem valued at 1,214sp), steel buckler +1, brass mug with jade inlays (valued at 4,242sp), solid gold idol of Dakis -- God of the Undead (valued at 8,592sp), and approximately 1,685 golden coins of various nationalities.

On the evening of the 11th, the party finally made it back to the monastery. They were greeted rather enthusiastically by the accolytes in attendance, including Elhiana Shiveliyehir, Gaston Gueirmo, and Reydus. A small celebration followed, and it was a sort of going-away party, as well -- Gunju had fought his last battle, for some time. From that point on, the samurai's life would be dedicated to raising his son safely within the walls of the Burning Sun. Despite the defeat of Alliya, other undead would no doubt seek to thwart the party's efforts, and Itchiro's destiny would be cut short, were he to ride (and perhaps die) with the party.

Two days later, all of their newly acquired items were identified -- including those from their captives, who were being held in the monastery's dungeons.

Gillian Vomar and Ahelliaherral's Treasures: ebonite bracers of amore +3, ebonite ring of wizardry II, ebonite spiked gauntlet +2, black velvet pouch with 13gp and 15sp, emerald ring valued at 50,000sp, ebonite holy symbol of Dakis, Book of Dakis, ebonite elven chain, web armor (p50, Dragon magazine #298), ebonite +2 marrowcrushing bastard sword, four gold rings with blue-green tourmalines set in them (each valued at 4,000sp).

The evening of the 13th of Trivor brought nearly as many questions as answers, but the party rested -- assured that Alliya the vampire-medusa was defeated for all time.

Back to Campaign V

XP Awarded: 3,200 (total to date is 27,550)

DM's Notes: It was a bitter-sweet session. The first round of combat with the skeletal hordes took three hours in the real world, but only forty-two seconds within the game. The whole evening was like that, with all the emphasis being on the final battle, and not much given over to role-play. When any of the characters tried to role-play (and they did, because they're good players), we had to cut them short in the interests of time. None of us knew when next we'd be able to meet together and play as a whole -- it might be nearly a month, because of scheduling issues.

It was also Adam's last night with us. Gunju and Maui would be retired from this point forward. Gunju would stay at the Burning Sun, along with Maui -- and both would study the undead, and keep in contact with the party by letters. Adam played both characters well, though there were times we wanted to strangle his characters.

Having two kittens of my own has made playing Snowy and Midnight -- adolescent tigers -- much more interesting. Everyone seemed to agree that the distinct personalities of the tigers really came to play during the last few sessions. I've based Snowy off of our female kitten, Titania, and Midnight off of our male, Oberon. I've really enjoyed the cats, and now, I imagine we'll all enjoy seeing them in the tigers.

During the opening scenes of the battle, Prat's wedding presents to Jena and Gunju supremely unbalanced the game. Their rings make them invisible to the undead, as well as destroying undead of up to three Hit Dice within ten feet of them. Powerful rings, indeed -- and far too powerful for Prat to have made them. Story-wise, I think Xzax's grandfather, or perhaps one of the other dragons, must have helped to enchant the rings, for them to be so powerful. Should I remove them from the game, or tone them down? I don't think that's necessary -- after all, not everything they fight will be undead, and the ring only affects undead of up to three Hit Dice. It could make things interesting.

Tom's character, Aust, had just made 6th-level at the end of the last session. He'd tried to use his newly-acquired Leadership feat at the beginning of the night, but because of the role-play shorting, he didn't get the chance. I've editted it out of the recap, and I think I'll leave it all for the next session. Next time we play, I plan on allowing for pure role-play, with few notes on my part.

Brandy's character, Jena, seems particularly in danger. The paladin has attained one of my unique prestige classes, but it seems that the soul of her character is draining away. I think Brandy intended Jena as a short-term character -- and never one to be the heart of a Prophecy. In truth, she could die or bow out at any time, and it wouldn't affect the overall game-play. The rest of the players, however, have looked to her as the leader of the party so often that she feels she's a linch-pin for the entire campaign. That would weigh on any player, and I believe Jena is burning out because of it. I've some wily ideas in mind for beer-and-chips adventures, until next we play, but it may all be for naught if Brandy doesn't relax, and just have some fun.

Oh, yeah -- I guess I should tell them now, what they squared off against: 144 skeletons, 15 ormigons, 1 bodak, 1 allip, 20 dire rats, a 7th-level sorceror, and a 7th-level cleric -- and the vampire-medusa Alliya, of course. In all, only about forty-something skeletons and a dozen ormigons escaped -- probably led away by the calling of another necromancer, somewhere half-way across the world. Gods, it must suck to be the undead.