Friday, July 13, 2012

The Last Words

The adventures of our brave fellowship finally came to and end in the summer 2012. The campaign was a huge success, greatly because the DM with partial aid from Melkors player, planned the main plot all the way back then when the heroes were just 1 level greenhorns. That kept the adventure nicely together without sliding into dumb sidequests or into general mindset of indolence. But what did we get from our four main characters?

Warning! Contains spoilers!

  • Arius was taken to the adventure by sudden and the young boy was soon informed about his magnificent future as the rightful king of Darnon. Sadly much of his efforts were sort of in vain as Melkor revealed his true agendas. Arius felt like a puppet, but because of his honor, he fought for Darnon until the end. In the end he united with his father, Melkor, and looked forward in to ruling the kingdom of Darnon.
    The relationship of Arius and Melkor was one of the key plotlines planned before the campaign even started. It came up good, and for the players the revelation of their true bond was as shocking as the famous scene in Star Wars.
  • Melkor was the mastermind behind all their efforts. He did everything for his own agendas of capturing the Eye of Karsus, a powerful Netherese artifact. Cold, calculating and cruel, he was a quite a character, he even had his own theme music! 
  • Although Melkor had his good side, it was well hidden all the way to the end, when he saved (some say accidentally!) the last darnonese soldiers alongside with his son and friends. At least in the ending he gave up his cold facade and embraced his son for the first real time.
    As said, Melkor the loremaster was essential character for the DM to push the adventure forward. Melkors player received many secret notes depicting the future moves of the wizard, a quite cunning way to emphasize his ?26? intelligent score!! and the knowledge that his prestige class Loremaster gave him.
  • Jared was the cleric that destroyed undeads like thin glass vases. Jared was always bit in a auxiliary role, although he had his moments. When Jared was killed by the giant undead maggot in the battle of Durunmer, his player had great doubts about resurrecting him. We managed to make a deal where Jared actually died and his body and soul was taken by a colossal demon entity known as Gor Marrak (which I had introduced, then forgotten, but which made some "sense" why the cleric was possessed) which avatar/servant manifested in the final battle. Losing Jared saddened the happy ending a bit, but was in line with sacrifices that had to be made in order to save Darnon. A statue was later raised for Jareds memory in Iriaebor, and the brave cleric was heightened as the Patron Saint Jared of Iriaebor.
  • Douglas was the good guy behind it all. Always there, always ready, maybe bit uneffective against undeads and constructs, the rogue did his share of turning people and creatures into "luskanese bagpipes". He was known for his legendary sarcasm and wit, and he was probably the only one that never had any hidden plots behind him. Well he had his personal encounter with the torture chambers of Asbravn. Douglas should have deserved some more personal plotlines, but after all, Melkor hired him to aid rescuing Arius, and the thief stuck with the others in order to gain more wealth. His death and "faceswap" episode made us consider the pros & cons of raising the dead, and for the new campaign we decided to introduce a new system to replace the raise dead-magicks.
But now we are ready to depart from the Kingdom of Darnon, the greatest adventure of our gaming career. Personally as a Dungeon Master, the campaign has been a rewarding one. It sure has been a blessing and a pain, seeing the players actually excited by the adventures and plots, but also the planning processes have been the most demanding yet, almost exhausting. And then is this blog, demanding even more efforts. But the blog collects my thoughts about the late adventure and helps me to plan the new one, so I guess we're slightly on the positive side with this one. I had considered leaving the chair  of Dungeon Master for a while, letting one of the players to game few adventures of something totally different, but as the campaign ended, everybody was so excited in creating a new one, as was i, so I guess no pause for me, the adventure calls! And this time it calls in the north, be my guest and take a peek at the "To the North"-campaign blog!

Now this is the farewell!
Yours truly,
Jakubias the Dungeon Master

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chapter Twenty - The Aftermath ~ Epilogue

Arius woke up. He was lying in a bed, and Cidela Pepperpath was sitting on his side. Suddenly Arius focused as the girl kissed him. "What happened?" He asked. Cidela told him how the demon that once were Jared, struck him down, but at the same moment, the battlefield began to drift in to shadows. Cidela had thought that her own end had come, but then from the shadows, something manifested out of the thick shadows. It was a city and a fortress, that was and was not. And then the ethereal gates of the city of shadows opened, and an army of shades marched towards the battlefield, and in the vanguard, walking alongside the Shade King, was Melkor. The shades fought hard and disbanded not until the last of Alzarseths mercenaries was slain and the demon banished back to the Abyss.

Cidela and the rest of the Darnonese army gathered the wounded and now they are in the grand halls of High Lady Cylyria Dragonbreast. Much of the city of Berdusk was saved as the berduskian wizards managed to create a protective ward to withstand the red orb. Arius was puzzled but glad that they had survived from what was nigh impossible. Then he saw Douglas who was sleeping on a sidecouch, but the rogue woke quickly and welcomed his friend back to the living. Cidela told Arius that this morning, Melkor came back, but the wizard refused to talk to others, conserving his words for Arius. Young King asked Cidela about Jared and the girl explained the little that she had managed to discover.
According to Berduskian sages, Jared suffered some sort a soulcurse where a malign entity took control of his soul and body. It was suspected that Jared changed back in Durunmer where undead maggot killed him. This theory is backed up by his journal, gathered from his belongings. Last note goes like this:

"7th of August, 1372

It truly is a joy to write again. May Lathander bless my new hands! I will write a better recitation as soon as I have more time, as now we are in haste to the village of Durunmer, since a unholy terror has risen from the ruins of Dakhet Mar. But it is to be mentioned that our pagan comrade, Hashim the Kothian was slain in a evil ambush. I will miss him. 
But now I must rush, praised be Lathander, unlike the last few days, today I truly feel that we will be victorious!"

In loving memory of Jared
Saddened by their loss, Cidela helped Arius to get back up, and walked him to the main hall. It had became a makeshift hospital for the injured. Among the tired yet relieved soldiers and civilians they saw Dortherion, badly maimed but still kicking. Lot was there too, petting Hero the dog. General Almatheus Ochrefield was there too, but he had given his fullest during the battle and now he was dying. And to his sickness there was no cure.

And as they reach the other end of the hall, Melkors walks in. The old wizard apologizes for his late actions, and admits that now afterwards he sees several ways to improve his methods. Melkor explains that when he reached for the artifact, he felt a connection to the realm of shades. He summoned the shade armies for their aid, but that costed him the Eye of Karsus, as the Shadeking Hardhune took it from him. After the battle, the Shadeking spoke to him and told that if he ever wishes to study the artifact, he would have to abandon his life among the others and join to shades in their realm at the Plane of Shadow.

As Arius began to understand why Melkor did what he did, and even though he had not fully forgiven him yet, he was touched by Melkors possible leave and asked what did the wizard choose to do? Melkor stared him for a while and said "I bid you farewell Arius..
And he turned and began to walk towards the doorway. Arius couldn't find any words to stop his father from leaving, but at the doorway Melkor stopped. The wizard saw a young berduskian boy with golden hair, fencing a old bookcase with wooden sword and shield. Something changed inside the wizard, who turned and walked back to Arius "I guess I'll watch over you for couple more years, I owe you that, son." Cheers were heard as the wizard and the young king finally hugged (which was Melkors first hug since his beloved Queen Aeliathe, love of his life) as a gesture of remission and newly found relationship.

A message arrived from Uddard Blackcaster who informed that the free people pf Darnon were longing after  their king. Our brave heroes walked into a balcony and gazed beyond the smoking ruins of Berdusk and beyond the green fields of Berdusk, there lied the Kingdom of Darnon, for which they had sacrificed and fought. Cidela asked from Arius:
"The Tyrant is dead, evil wizard has been slain, the kingdom is yours, what are you going to do now?"
"I could be with you.." Arius replied.
Cidela blushed, and couldn't give Arius a coherent answer just yet. The embarrassed couple was saved by Lot who walked in with Hero the Dog, bringing Arius the Crown of Darnon.

And there, standing with his trusted friends, the young boy who just over a year ago had gone for the market to run some casual errands, placed the crown on his head, and look, he was 
King Ariendur the Valiant 
Defeater of Tyranny, Savior of the Free People of Darnon.

And together with his dear friends, they saw many wondrous adventures, but those are different tales that deserve to be told, but not now, since now is the time to bid you and our glorious heroes farewell!

The End

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chapter Nineteen - The Dark Wizard of Netheril

Session was held 30th of June at the Altar of Games

Melkor made Arius very upset. Poor kid.
As the great peril loomed over the Kingdom of Darnon, Arius prepared himself for a speech that was meant to raise the last remaining men for the final battle. Melkor had declared that they would should move with haste towards the city of Berdusk that was currently besieged by the Red Wizard Alzarseth. Melkor pointed out that encountering Alzarseth was crucial if they wished for Darnon's best, as the Red Wizard gathered strength with every passing hour.
But Arius found himself troubled by the late events. Melkor had always been close to him as a mentor and foster father, but now as it had turned out that the Black Wizard actually was his father, he had great problems accepting the truth. Even more so as his legitimacy for the Crown of Darnon had been forever lost. Although he still struggled with his thoughts, Arius heartened the remaining soldiers to join him for the final march. A march that was destined to end in suffering of many without a promise of victory.

The Final March
The preparations for the Last Stand of Justice were made roughly in one day. During their planning meet with the last remaining rebellion leaders they agreed that General Almatheus Ochrefield, Dortherion, Count Anthrop and Constantin Almert would join them for the last march. Uddard Blackcaster was nominated to act as regent while our heroes would be making war elsewhere, and he promised to give his fullest to prevent the conquered cities descending into turmoil. Cidela Pepperpath and Lot were stationed to guard the Cube of Tybor during the march and while Melkor would do his magicks.  During the meet Ochrefield stated they managed to raise around thousand soldiers for the march, many of them ex-Blackhelms who had deserted from King Osanders army.
While planning for the tactics, Blackcaster brought up alarming news. It had turned up that the carcass of Merthoflagrion, the red dragon that was slain few weeks ago in the Battle for Asbravn, had vanished into thin air. Blackcaster assured the rest that there was no reason to worry and that natural explanation for the disappearance of the huge rotting serpent was to be found.

Next morning the small army of tired freedom fighters began it's march towards Berdusk. Captain Ochrefield  calculated that march would take four days to the Great Bulwark, where they could ask Colonel Erebald (well known sympathizer of Free Darnon) and his men to join them. But before that they would have a long forced march ahead of them that would really test the endurance of the men.

Route of the Last March. 
The men marched almost two days in a row with minimum rest, but outside the village of Borhus they finally had a little rest among the village houses and maturing crops. After the nightfall when the camp had been built and most were fast asleep, Melkor was still writing to his notebook.
Zelthaum the Eldritch
Suddenly he noticed how his magical amulet began to hover on his chest, and how inside the tent every other item of magical nature did exactly the same. Arius woke up as his sword Ilbrandir began to float away from him, and soon all of our heroes charged out of the tent to see what was causing this magical anomaly. And as a thunder shook the camp, great giant appeared in front of them.He declared to be Zelthaum the Eldritch, claimant to possess the Cube of Tybor. The gigantic man listened no reasoning and the ownership of the Cube had to be dissolved with arms. Zelthaums gargantuan bastard sword was a force to be reckoned and his magical abilities boosted his power further, but as so many times before, our heroes proved to be triumphant. The giant was soon slain, heroes claim for the Cube restored and soon the camp returned to peaceful slumber.

The One who Returned
At dawn, the camp was dismantled and the march continued. Sun didn't illuminate their path anymore as a dark gloom had fallen over Darnon. The black clouds over Berdusk had grown even thicker, and the dense veil of darkness was spreading over the lands with ever growing speed. It was clear that Alzarseths magic was the cause of this unholy gloaming that hung heavily over the land. The army moved with haste towards the border Bulwark, and two days later they reached Hope's End, a refugee village outside the Morihig border station. The village was empty, sacked by the conquering army of Alzarseth. But death reeked also at the border station. Colonel Erebald, who was expected to join them, hang gutted, upside down with his close officers at the camps gate. Douglas donned his ring of invisibility (freshly acquired from Asbravnian merchant) and went for a quick recon mission. The thief soon returned and informed the others that the border station had been overrun by undead warriors. Jared was encouraged by these news and promised to get rid of the menace with his positive energy bursts granted by his deity Lathander. Talk about being positive, the crazed cleric walked all alone in the middle of the soldiers of unlife. An undead officer in black full-plate ordered them to turn because the border was closed, but the priest launched his positive burst that tore the skeleton army apart, but only partially, as many of the creatures rose again.
Death Knight Irongrave and his zombie-dragon steed.

By releasing the burst, Jared also evoked the high commander of the depot of living dead. Great doors of the wall gatehouse fell, as a gargantuan beast crawled in. And look, the beast was Merthoflagrion, once slain red dragon that had risen again. The zombie dragon had a rider, donned in black full-plate, wearing a cracked helm with huge deer antlers, and the rider was the greatest of the Skull Riders, Captain Irongrave. He was slain in the battle of Treeward, but now the captain was bestowed with unholy powers and risen as a Death Knight. As a response to clerics energy burst, Irongrave grunted "Here only you can die" and launched a volley of unholy fire towards Jared, knocking the priest down. Then the dragon vaulted to the sky and swiped behind our heroes, frying many soldiers with it's fiery breath. Furious battle ensued as the Death Knight dealt punishment from the Beyond. As Jared regained his consciousness and was ready to continue the battle, he unleashed another burst of energy, decimating the weakened Death Knight and his terrible minions. Without these superpowers of our heroic cleric, many of the men would have died in the claws of the skeleton horde, now they could sigh and wait for day or two longer for the Kothian blades to slay them.

The army marched through the border gate and gasped as they saw malevolent powers growing in the berduskian sky. A great red sphere glowed it's death on the doomed city and it was now crystal clear that there was n more time to be wasted. With a forced march our heroes and their army struggled onwards, but soon general Ochrefield had to call for a quick rest. They headed to a farm called "The Verdants" where the men gathered fresh water and crops for fast nourishment. But encounter followed as the main building was already occupied. A great warrior launched forward, killing two soldiers. He told the heroes to back off, but when questioned, the man, called Strong-Dong, revealed that he was serving a master. And the master answered when he was called forth.
Here Strong-Dong and Man-with-a-pointy-hat both marvel
how well the Man shot his arrow into Ebonmars ribs.
A wretched shadow of a man walked out of the building, and soon our heroes recognized that familiar scumbag, he was Lord Lullicius Ebonmar. The fat coward had escaped from Berdusk just before the siege, and was hiding here with few of his menservants. It didn't take long from our fellowship to negotiate Strong-Dong to leave his slavemaster and join for the glorious battle. That obese bastard tried to sneak out of the situation but by heroes command, a man with a pointy hat & feather stopped his escape with a well aimed arrow. The pointy hatted man was complimented for his bravery in action. The owners of the Verdant-farm were found and released from the basement, and they gave their sincerest gratitude for our heroes. During the night the farmer Matteus Verdant finished his issues with Lord Ebonmar who was left to die on the yard. As morning came even more hazily than the others before, resting troops found Ebonmar hanged into nearest tree. Many wondered how that chapped farmer had strenght to lift that fat carcass high up in the air. After this scene the last camp was dismantled and the march for final judgement began.

The Last Strike 
The red glowing orb over Berdusk and it's besiegers.
The Last Army of Free Darnon progressed with rather hasty pace, even though they were marching to their evident deaths. As the last hills and meadows of berduskian farmlands were left behind, the army reached a last little hill before the city, and on the top of that our fellowship finally saw how dire the whole situation actually was. The city was completely surrounded by besieging force. Dark black clouds hung heavily over the city, and in the middle of the clouds a gigantic red orb pulsated, sucking red energy from the city and the besieging forces to itself. And from that red eye, a small line of that same red energy streamed into a small mountaintop, which glowed with bright light. There on that artificial peak (that wasn't there before, foul magic of the red wizard once again) Alzarseth did his magics in order to destroy Berdusk.

Only one unit of enemy troops was not under the same lure that doomed Berdusk. These men guarded the small peak where the archmage was conjuring death and demise for thousands. Our valiant crusaders decided to head straight towards the peak in hope of intercepting the conjuring. The enemy let them proceed quite a distance until three-men sentry rode towards them. Their leader, Shadhum Khozo, the leader of Kothian mercenaries, announced that his master is currently occupied and cannot attend their business whatever it was. But mercenary captains speech was interrupted by the red mage himself telepathically saying "Shadhum, I do have time"
And with this sentence, dust began to move in a circle of hundred feet radius. And from that circle rose half-dozen enormous metal blades that reached the sky, still circling with blinding speed, enclosing our heroes into   deadly cylinder. And inside that cylinder was Alzarseth the Red. As predicted, the mage was wearing deep red robe, his face looked powerful, and his eyes stared under pitch-black brows.
This is the speech Alzarseth held when addressing our heroes:

"We meet at last! The King is dead, long live the King!
Congratulations Ariendur, there's finally a man on the throne who righteously deserves it!

And you must be Douglas of Berdusk. It seems that you've lost your face?
The priest of Lathander, Jared. We shall talk about the matters of faith later when all this is over, for then whe truly have time for it.
Oh but Melkor the Black, Confidant of Queen Aeliathe, The Wise Man of West, Descendant of the Great Ancient Wizards of Netheril. Far have you traveled from your books, and even farther from the havens of rationality are your thoughts, how do you believe that you'll ever reach your goals when even your closest ones do not know about your endeavors?

Melkor, let me explain to your little friends..
Don't you remember? You arrived to Iriaebor long time ago, visions of long gone artifact in your eyes. You had managed to dig up that the arch-wizard of the city could possess an item of tremendous power and you decided to investigate this lead. Yes, the Eye of Karsus was mine back then already, even though I had not yet unleashed it's true powers. 
Melkor and Arius back when everything was well.
You conspired with the beautiful Queen, but did you do it for love, I dare not to know. You managed to discover a lot, but much was yet to be discovered, when something unexpected happened. The Queen succumbed as did her first-born, prince Ariendur. But the people of Darnon didn't know that the boy was actually alive and safe, as the Queen foresaw her own death and gave the baby to you Melkor. Little prince was kept hidden in your servitude until now, as I couldn't suspect you back then when I order the Queen and her bastard to death! Yes, I gave that order as the weakling King Osander could not do it. Power is a cruel game my friend.

See, deaths of the Queen and the prince were good excuses for radical shifts in the power balance of the kingdom, because all these years that you call as grim years of tyranny and fear, were only running in for the terror machinery that will lift me to greater power. The Cult of the Bitter Lord has proven itself as crucial aid for my endeavor and without the Queens death and the national mourning that followed it, I couldn't been able to introduce it for the masses, not to mention spreading it.

But what comes to you Melkor, after receiving the boy, a sinister plan began to grow it's roots in your mind. I am even little envious how cunning your plan was. You raised the boy to obedient young man, and you never told him about his true origins. But when the boy turned eighteen, you betrayed him for the Order of the Black Cliff, who had been searching for him all these years. Then you rescued him from the dungeons and told all these tales and lies how he would be the legitimate king of Darnon and how the young prince would act as the sword of righteousness and release the kingdom from tyranny. And the boy believed and your route for power opened. People of Darnon dismissed the tyrant and welcomed Arius with great cheer as their new rightful King. Your success has been great and you almost managed to mess my own personal schemes. But Melkor, your destination is still ahead of you, but now you have managed to create your own machinery for power, which shield might be more polished than mine, but the insides are as covered in smut as mine. And now that  long forgotten artifact is at your grasp, The Eye of Karsus. You have been pursuing it all this time, heedless of anything else... As I said, power is a cruel game.

But now I must continue my own agendas. Extracting the souls from a whole city and from the army besieging it, in order to raise myself to godhood, is not a task done with ease. I am flattered that you've come to share my day of ultimate triumph. Thank you.

And with these words the wizard vanished and the great metal blades that formed the cylinder descended back to earth. Melkor grinded his teeth in anger, as the others looked at the wizard in disbelief, how could he betray them in this horrible manner. Arius especially was completely blown out. His blank expression was wiped when the earth below them began to tremble. As they backed up, the ground fell into abyssal pit more than hundred foot wide. And from the red depths of the pit rose a terrible many clawed and eyed abomination later identified as Elder Odopi.

And thus began the final battle for Darnon.

Manifestation of Tybor
Arius, Jared and Douglas struck against the bizarre aberration of hell, while Melkor concentrated his energy in awakening Tybor from his Cube. The Odopi trampled over many and struck forcefully with it's crooked claws. It grappled Arius and swallowed him. There Arius remained for almost the rest of the battle, fighting the nightmarish innards for his freedom. The creature struck Jared down, mangling the priest badly, but just then Melkor managed to release Tybor. With great white light, the ancient wizard manifested over his Cube, glazing furiously to the top of the peak where Alzarseth did his spells. Then Tybor released a burst of force that knocked the Red Wizard down, ending his dire spells. By that instant the red glaring orb on the sky of Berdusk began to fall. And just before reaching the rooftops it exploded with great white light. Force of the explosion tore down towers and walls, knocked the besieging army down and when it reached our battling army, reeled many. Soon the battle ensued, and the manifestation of Tybor withered slowly away. For a moment the Red Wizard was gone, but then he returned with terrible wrath.

Arius managed to force himself out of the Elder Odopi, just in time to help Douglas who had been left completely alone as Jared had succumbed to terrible agony. The young prince saw Alzarseth standing on a hill, but the wizards appearance had changed from the previous. The Archwizard was a twisted visage of it's former self, and it was quite apparent that the Red Wizard was a lich, terrible undead spellcaster of tremendous power.

Alzarseth the Red
The maddened Red Wizard began his battle by casting the feared Meteor Swarm upon our heroes. While dodging the terrible blaze, Arius was puzzled by Melkors apparent absence. The Black Wizard had put his eye on the Eye of Karsus, a powerful artifact that he had desired for so long. Now it laid unused on the ground as Alzarseth had thrown it away in his whims as he failed to re-activate it, thanks to Tybors strong dispelling charge. And so, Melkor abandoned his friends and pursued his own goals instead, a move that sealed our fellowships destiny.
As the traitorous loremaster disappeared into a dimensional door, Jared, who had already been struggling, was slain by Alzarseths meteors. None could have seen what happened next. The death of the faithful priest evoked a terrible spirit that had been lurking inside the priest since his first demise in Battle of Durunmer. Now the cleric corpse transformed into a shape of terrible demon that growled:
In some sources Arius is portrayed with a horned helm,
but like true heroes, he fought bareheaded. 
 "I am the Harbinger of Gor-Marrak the Eater of Nations! Alzarseth, your time has come!
And in instant the demon began to slay the men around it, progressing towards the Red Wizard who flew his spells on it. One of the spells was Horrid Wilting that killed brave Constantin Almert. Arius also rushed towards the wizard, as he wanted to deal with him personally. Some said later that his plunge towards the hill was archetype portray of recklessness, as he rushed through prismatic spray-spell to face archmage lich  and a terrible demon of horrific hellish power. But the daredevil hero did it, and for a moment he battled alongside with the demon. Alzarseth could not withstand such an attack for long, and our young king struck his glorious sword through the lich, slaying the Evil that had tormented Darnon for decades! Off-balanced by the shock that followed the Red Wizards destruction, the demon took the advantage, and even though Douglas did his best to support Arius in battle against the creature that once had been their friend, the demon struck Arius down with it's mighty heaves.

Arius fell, and while laying there in the middle of the battlefield, he felt his end coming. He saw how Douglas screamed as he tried to save his friend, but Arius couldn't hear him no more. Memories of wondrous adventures full of joy and friendship, rushed to his mind, but then the shadows began to roll over him. Everything grew darker and darker, and as Arius felt he was succumbing to the eternal darkness he knew that this is it, his end....

And amongst the shadows,
there was MELKOR!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chapter Eighteen - How did this happen, how could this happen, How did the empire fall?

A new chapter had begun in the tale of our bold adventurers. As they fought and conquered the terrible entity known as Vasuthant, the armies of Darnon were at move. The date was 29th of May, 1373 DR when the mercenaries of Darnon began their pillage in the farmlands surrounding Berdusk. At that date, the war began. But our heroes didn't know about the southern events just yet. The village of Triel was devastated from the battle with that unholy entity, so our braves had to ride all night long to Scornubel. There they managed to catch few hours of rest, until the sentry of High Lady Rhessajan Ambermantle woke them up and summoned them to a meeting. There the High Lady, ruler of Scornubel, told our fellowship about the events, and suddenly our freedom fighters realized how compromised their urge for Free Darnon really was.
General Ochrefield
Father of Cidella Pepperpath

Lady Ambermantle calmed our braves and told that the supply wagons that they requested earlier were ready to go, and that the draft for thousand able warrior had been completed. Even Melkor was quite surprised as General Almatheus Ochrefield stepped forth from the shadows and declared that he would lead the troops alongside of our heroes. General Ochrefield had been exiled from Berdusk as a harbinger of ill-omens just days before the city was besieged, even though he only tried to warn the city council from the danger.

Late that afternoon, the battalion was on the move. The troops were also to escort the supplies to Asbravn, and only a quarter having a horses, the journey was going to take a while. While moving through the Reaching Woods, our heroes pondered on the strategics of coming war. General Ochrefield adviced them to collect the troops in Asbravn, and strike to the back of the besieging Darnonese army. Despite their careful plannings, they had to adapt for ill news, as a messenger from Asbravn rode to them. The freshly liberated city was facing new menace as the main force of darnonese Blackhelms had begun their march from Iriaebor, stopping only when Asbravn would be mere cinders. Troubled from the news, our valiant heroes decided to ride to the city as soon as possible, leaving General Ochrefield to advance with the Scornubelian battallion. Trustworthy aid Lot and Hero the dog would also stay with the troops, guarding the supplies and secretly watching over the Cube of Tybor that was hidden into the supplies.

Riding their steeds to death, our heroes of Free Darnon reached Asbravn by dusk, barely getting inside among the last remaining peasants before the gates were closed for good. Dortherion welcomed our adventurers, clearly relieved by seeing them, as they were the only hope Asbravn currently had. At that time the marching Blackhelms were at the horizon, and by nightfall the city was besieged. Dortherion estimated that the enemy numbered four or five thousand, as they only had one and a half - two thousand men. As the night grew darker, and hundreds of torches surrounded the city, a small diplomatic convoy of Blackhelms rode to the gate. There their spokesman, Orbald Vornhel, the mouth of the king, wished to discuss about the terms of Free Darnons surrendering.

King Osander II's terms for the surrendering of the rebels were that every notable person of the rebellion would have to be handed over (except Douglas who was presumed to be dead due his constant changes of appearance) and punished. Also, Prince Saldor was to be released immediately, the King to be nominated as the sole ruler of Darnon and the rebellion to be disolved. Our heroes laughed at these ridiculous claims and kicked the kings mouth back to the dog pack surrounding the city. And this act began the bloodshed.

During the night, the catapults and trebuchets  pounded the city, causing much damage and death. Without Jareds cunning use of summoning magics, the devastation would have been much worse, but his air elementals crippled the throwing machines for several hours.

The bombardment stopped as the new dawn peaked. The enemy forced half a dozen captives (peasants and p.o.w) to step foward, and unless our heroes would free Prince Saldor, the captives would be put to the sword. Even though some empathies for the prisoners were heard among the Asbravnians, freeing the prince was out of question, and to prevent possible torture, Melkor shot a fireball on the prisoners and their captors, killing soldiers and civilians alike. This awakened the beast, as the besieging army began their first true assault on the city.

The magics of Melkor and Jared slayed dozens and the attack was destined to fail. But a small task force of extreme efficiency managed to crawl into the city via ancient catacomb tunnels, and the broke Saldor out of the dungeons. It was really close that the enemy would have succeed in freeing the prince, but Arius and Douglas were conscious of the situation, and together they prevented the escape.

Many died during the first assault that lasted for the day. It was painstakingly obvious that as the enemy would have regroup and launch another one, the city would most likely fall. Fate of Asbravn was in the Scornubels battallion that was on it's way, and in the abilities of our brave heroes, who were the spine of defense. The coming night was restless, the bombardment continued and strange movement was noticed among the enemy ranks. When the morning came, a horrible sight awaited. The enemy had piled the corpses and carcasses of the fallen into two gargantuan piles of grotesque nature. And, worst of all, they had opened the burial mounds that served as the resting place for those who had died during the liberation of Asbravn few weeks ago, and added these heroic dead to the piles. Although intimidated by the corpse piles, Melkor also noticed that the Banners of the King himself had arrived, and even from the distance, a ominous red cloaked figure was seen standing next to King Osander II.

But then all evil broke loose. The piles of bodies began to move, as giant arms and legs were formed from the bones of the dead. Melkor identified the profane monstrosities as necronauts, one of the most sinister creations known to man. The abomination shambled towards the city walls with unnatural speed, and crushed against it like giant battering rams. Terrible was the fury of those greater evils, and as fast as they killed brave men on the wall, they added the fresh corpses to itselves, strengthening the undead vigor. As our heroes fought against one of these necronauts, Dortherion, Cidella, Count Anthrop, Karman Fatta and Dacatrin the sorceress tried to hold back another one.

Even though the creations of unimaginable evil were tough as hell, our heroes managed to destroy the first one. And as they did, they saw a glimpse of hope, as the Scornubelian battalion charged to the flank and rear of the enemy. Arius that his moment had came, and he rushed through the battlefield, his eyes locked to the King Osander II who was having his stand against General Ochrefields troops. Kings bodyguards were some of the finest warriors in the realm, and only with the help of the other heroes, Arius manage to break through and face the king. By this moment, Melkor had noticed that the  red cloaked man next to the King was not Alzarseth the Red, but just a mere look alike cleric that was to secure the king. The false Red was soon struck down and Arius swung his blade, Ilbrandir, towards the king, and look!
The King of Darnon, Osander the Second was struck down.

The defeated King lied on the battlefield with a mortal wound, but before his death, he spoke to his victor, and he said:
"Ariendur, come closer.. Yes, you look much like your mother. And now I see, and now I repent.
I could have kept you as my son... but your mother.. The betrayal was too much..
But betrayal lurked also in the words of the Red Wizard. Slay that apostate.. Save Berdusk..

The King coughed blood and continued:
"Ariendur, now as I see you there.. You are like the son I always wished for..
Your deeds are already like the deeds of a King.. But a right for the crown you have not!
You are just a bastard of a queen bitch! Do you understand! You live in a lie!"

The Kings face distort in pain and terror:
"That man! That face! Queens Mentor
Aeliathe! How could you..."

And with those words, the King of Darnon took his last breath. Arius turned around to see what had struck such a terror to a dying man, and for his horror, he saw Melkor, his mentor. 

Arius cried in shock as he realized that Melkor was his real father!

Eventually the battle ceased. The death of the King had struck a final blow to the moral of the Blackhelms and many fled. The necronauts were destroyed, but only by the sacrifice of Karman Fatta. The bold mercenary will be remembered. Asbravn was safe. At dusk, the heroes gathered around a campfire to discuss about their next move. Melkor insisted that they would have to act against the besieging army outside Berdusk, as the Red Wizard was there. The old schemers was sure that sending the king here was just a diversion planned by Alzarseth to win more time, for what, that Melkor didn't know. The others agreed with Melkor that the rest of the army of Free Darnon had to move quickly towards Berdusk, but one of them said nothing.

Arius stared into nothingness as he began to understand that his claim for the crown was gone. The old wizard was his father and he was just his mothers bastard with no legitimacy. He didn't know how to push onwards as now or never he felt that he was just a young man, whose whole life was a lie, and whose sword was stained with the blood in a unjustified treason.

He was nothing more than a


Monday, March 12, 2012

Chapter Seventeen - Calm Before The Storm

Session was held 28th of January at the Altar of Games

Asbravn's streets were full of grief.
Governing the City
As the new dawn rose over the city of Asbravn, the ones who survived the perilous night were able to witness the full scale of devastation. Bloodstained streets glimmered like rivers of ruby as our heroes wandered around the city. Although terrible price was paid, they were still seen as liberators, and the battle against the Red Dragon  was remembered for generations. Cidela Pepperpath had rode to the city at dawn and joined the heroes company as they were to begin re-organizing the governance in the city. Newly promoted Count Anthrop vowed to assist our heroes in their struggle to stabilize the mangled city and by his initiative they arrived to Asbravn's Chamber of Commerce. The old wooden building had survived the blazes of dragonbreath and swarming undead and while the keep was reconstructed, it would serve as the center of governing. High Merchant Massime Rodour welcomed the new rulers to the Chamber and showed them the great table known as the Scale where they should hold their "court".

As they made themselves comfortable around the Scale, a former captain of the cityguard marched in. He presented himself as Erga son of Ereg, grandson of Egra the Trollslayer. He pledges to form the new cityguard with eighty surviving guardsmen who aren't too loyal for king Osander II. Our newly elected governors didn't oppose this proposition and thus Erga returned to the streets to stabilize the chaos. After enstablishing the city guard, our valiant heroes retired for a lunch and a nap in one of the surviving inns. The Velvet Weight served fine meals and warm beds for our dragonslayers, and they slept a little while Count Anthrop continued on the management tasks.

Later on the afternoon, Count Anthrop dragged our dreamers back to the newly established court. There they had to execute some justice, as Antrhop presented them several crooks from Lord Protector Mornburgs old court to answer for their misbehavings.
Death to traitors!
Our new judges condemned ex-bailiff Fraknar Anderser and his collector Jalivar to be executed, along side with torturer Two-Tongue (who tortured Jared and Arius a year ago) and Stygon, a priest of the Bitter Lord. They were to meet their end at next high noon.
Speaker of Mornburg, Salvard Greybridge, official Nemerd Stonetower and widow Lady Marin Mornburg were condemned to imprisonment until their negative point of view would be drastically changed. Sorceress Dacatrin (who battled against them just a day ago!) convinced Melkor to be better left alive, as her services would be much of use, so she was declared as an ally.

After pronouncing the sentences, Antrhop presented several vacancies to be filled. Our homebrewn lords appointed bloodhound mercenary Huss the Hound to be the new constable. Valiant Ser Albaster Typhion vowed to serve as a non-corrupt bailiff, while Walther Purpletide, familiar sage (the last apprentice of Ulverus the Wise), promised to act as an advisor.
Misha & Sasha
Count Anthrop volunteered to act as the new Speaker and High Merchant Rodeurs lawyer Uddard Blackcaster was elected as the chamberlain/senechal to advise our heroes in legal matters.
 New chamberlain Blackcaster promised to present several legal issues during next morning and advised our court of kings to take a rest. And so they ought to do,but old trader Geodyf Mirnov stormed in to the courtroom with his two dazzling daughters. Fortune in his eyes, the oldtimer tried to pitch his daughters Misha & Sasha to our city-liberators, but only Douglas took the bait.

A whack straight into forehead,
that makes a beheading remarkable!
After a full night of debauchery. our heroes struggled to get up to see yesterdays convicts to be executed. Because the city had no executioner anymore, Arius was forced to deal his own justice, as he was the most capable swordsman around. Beheading's were done without any errors and Mornburgs crooked administration was finally dealt with.

Kingdom Come

After the justifiable public killings, our lawmakers returned to the Chamber of Commerce to pass some laws and edicts. Newly appointed chamberlain Uddard Blackcaster had prepared several important articles. Thus they ordained:
  • The Kingdom of Free Darnon was founded 23rd of May 1373DR. With his legitimate claim to the throne, Arius was humbly crowned as AriendurKing of Free Darnon.
  • Pleas of aid were send to Cormyr, Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate
  • The Church of the Bitter Lord was banished as heresy and all worship of the forsaken god will lead to trial. Old religions like Lathander and Chauntea were restored to their former standings.
  • Mornburgs hidden treasure that was found from the Keep Asbravn will be spend in repairing the keep and the city
  • A messenger was send to Hluthvar calling Dortherion to march the army of Free Darnon down to Asbravn, as recoil of some sort was expected from behalf of King Osander II. 
  • Pardons were promised for the prisoners of war that are willing to join the Free Darnon
  • It was also decided that the surplus wealth from Mornburgs stash would be spend in Scornubel. The heroes would venture there personally to make necessary arrangements with local administration in order to buy weapons, equipment and rations for the citizens of Asbravn.
It wasn't mentioned in the official records that our brilliant posse would also make some personal purchases of magical sort, and also a quick trip to town of Triel in order to meet up with trusty henchman Lot and to dig up the Cube of Tybor that was hidden there months ago. 

Here the artist was somewhat mistaken,
the attempt was made with a dagger, not a spear,
although the two are easy to confuse.
After the lawmaking, High Merchant Rodour took our heroes for a short walk around the city. Despite the city's general turmoil, many wished our heroes well while they paced through the streets. They even met familiar faces such as Brella Cempwood who had bestowed them with Hero, Arius's dog that currently was in Triel with Lot. While on the streets, one of the Mirnov daughters addressed Arius and they broke up from the delegate to have a private conversation. Neither of them knew that an assassin was lurking nearby, and the first attempt for Arius's life was made. The assassin however botched his big moment and our young King sliced the bastard in half with his legacy sword, Ilbrandir. Merry tale for the assassin to tell at the ferry.

The new dawn arrived with dozen hundred soldiers from Hluthvar as Dortherion arrived with haste. They had few units of reinforcements with them, such as a brigade of halfling slingers from Corm Orp. While our heroes prepared to leave for Scornubel, Dortherion and master mercenary Karman Fatta was to stay and organize defenses in Asbravn. Dortherion also told about the intel reports suggesting that King Osander II had only his mercenary armies to move towards Berdusk. All the Blackhelms were still in Iriaebor and thus a serious menace lingered near Asbravn. 

After they had dealt with the last governance issues in Asbravn, our bold adventurers saddled and strode towards the village of Darkshallows. They expected a nostalgic reunion with the villagers that they once saved from peril, but the cruel forces of King Osander had preempt our adventurers, and only death and suffering waited in the village. Our fellowship which was accompanied by Cidella, could only behold with sadness as every single villager hang from a noose in the branches of ancient grey oak. Day later, our travelers arrived to the Crossing of Hastur, and later that evening they stayed the night at Tremeld Sinivihta's Foresthouse Inn at the border of Reaching Woods. The old innkeeper warned our journeymen( and women) from new dangers lurking in the woods. Some being of immense evil wandered around the forest, leaving only trail of dead vegetation, trees and animals behind. Slightly discouraged, our wayfarer slept their night with caution, and after the daybreak they plummeted to the woods.

Return to the Cube
Arius after his upgrade/extreme make over/pimp my knight
As the innkeeprer had warned, the forest indeed possessed an atmosphere of evil. In the midway of the forest trail, our heroes finally found something quite alarming. Two dozen dead men lied scattered around the road, and a trail of dead grey trees diverged from the path. They all seemed like their life force had been sucked out of them, and with great caution our travelers continued towards Scornubel. Even though the signs were there, they arrived safely to Scornubel. Captain Kluskan of the cityguard, the Red Shields, introduced our heroes to the ruler of Scornubel, Lady Rhessajan Ambermantle, who was appointed shortly after the United Murderes - crime syndicate was erased from the city (by our heroes of course!) Lady Ambermantle recognized them as the sole rulers of Free Darnon and agreed with terms of trade with them. While the wagons for supplies were to be organized, our dear merchants marched to the shops to boost local economy with theirs tremendous hoards of gold. Fully upgraded and equipped, they still had time for the supply-wagons to be ready, so they decided to fetch Lot and the Cube of Tybor from Triel.

After full night of sleep at the Jumping Jugs, our heroes rode to Triel. The journey only took half a day. Village of Triel was the same as it used to be, although a strange stone statue had been mounted in the middle of the village. It didn't taka long to our fellows to recognize the statue to be Hashim, their old friend who was killed in Triel. Touched by the memorial, the moment soon turned to joy as Lot run to them. As the reunion took place, many memories where shared and laughter was heard all across the village. The village chief, Elvar the Grainlord soon joined the heroes, only to be terribly insulted as he found out that our braves were not the men they had told him ages ago. As a strong supporter of King Osander II regime, The Grainlord asked for the fake-diplomats to leave.

Artists view of the atrocious look of the Vasuthant
Our political plotters decided to obey Grainlords request (which was completely unheard of, given their eagerness in violence) but they first went to the house where the Cube was stored. Lot was slightly disappointed from the turn of events as he had savored great reverence within the village. Nevertheless, the cube was still buried untouched in the basement of the house, and as they dug it up, Melkor received strange message from the Cube. The old wizard assured the rest that the cube was just happy to see the heroes and downplayed the importance of the message. As they were making their way out of the house, Elvar the Grainlord appeared once more, carrying a amulet associated to Alzarseth, the Red Wizard. The bitter chief insulted the heroes and as he cursed them, great darkness descended from the sky. Terrible undead known as the Vasuthant attacked. Battle was grievous as many innocent villagers died, as the abominations life sucking powers did great damage to anything living around it. And to top this, the thing altered time itself. But don't you worry world, the champions of Light were near as this gargantuan evil erupted, and with amazing expertise of our good guys, the unholy creature released by the evil red wizard was destroyed.

And this my friend, was the first thunderbolt of the storm that would change the face of Darnon forever.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chapter Sixteen - Night When The Kingdom Was Engulfed By Fire

Session was held 4th of January 2012 at the Altar of Games

Constantly warping darkness and void surrounded Melkor. He had been suspended in this state of nothingness for ages, or so it felt. Actually it had been mere seconds ago when the purple worm of Alzarseth died and sucked everyone into the void in it's death throes. But suddenly Melkor heard a sound, a distant voice,calling..

Lord of Vision
Xul-Molor in his alien cell.
Melkor regained his consciousness and found himself trapped in a small cell with the rest of the fellowship. Old and crazed  man stood in front of him. His clothes were tattered, face unkept, but yet he showed marks of exceptionally high intelligence. Man introduced himself as Xul-Molor, a planar walker and astral traveller, magically trapped into this small cell. As the rest of the party slowly woke up, Xul-Molor explained that they had been lost in time and space, but he saved them from that harsh destiny with his astral beacon. Most of his planar magic had been suppressed by his captor, but he was able to uphold the beacon. The old star traveller told how he was trapped into a astral web and later auctioned to his current captor, Kularqoroth the Seer. Now that he had summoned the heroes from the void, he would finally be able to escape. He explained how they would have to find his belongings as they are needed for planar travel, and firstly they would have to knock the alien-like cell door and call for Yig the Jailer. 

Promise of freedom was enough for our heroes, and they soon began executing Xul-Molor's plan. Yig answered the call and as the mighty off-shoot of a demon and a grimlock opened the cell door, soon-to-be-prince Arius plunged on it. They exchanged some blows and eventually the monstrous guard was dead. With Yigs keyring, our brave heroes searched through the rest of the jail-section and witnessed terrible scenes of torture and forced magical mutations. They found only one captive alive and sane, but he charged towards the exit, only to meet his end in the mandibles of terrible UMBER HULK! Our escapees landed their avenging strikes on the huge monstrosity, but it summoned an ally, an another one, precisely as terrible. These creatures gazed confusion into Arius but luck was on our heroes side, once again.  They continued to push onward, and after short leaps over abyssal chasms they reached their goal, the lair of Kularqoroth the Seer.

As they forced themselves to Kularqoroths hidden chamber, they realized that they were facing a beholder! The buoyant aberration proved to be an elusive little bugger as it floated beyond swords reach, firing it's deadly eye rays, targeting everyone.
Even Melkor had to use more advanced tactics with his spells, first running out of the antimagic cone projected by beholders central eye, and then firing his own spells at the monster. Finally the bulb was dead, and Xul-Molor was able to recover his delicate apparatuses of planar travel. But before they could escape from the grande chamber, one urgent case of healing magic had to be applied on Douglas, who had turned to stone by Kularqoroths devilish eye ray.

Douglas, looking like he was meant to look.
 Luck was on their side once again as Xul-Molor proved to be one nifty magician, and he healed Douglas with his amazing spells. This act of gratitude had some intriguing side-effects as our dexterous rogue had his old appearance back, lost almost a year ago in a process of resurrection! No longer did Douglas look like a charismatic Rashemenian swashbuckler, now he was plain old Berduskian scumbag! In an instant they also understood the consequences of this transformation, as they would have a lot's of explanation to do to all their allies and contacts who knew only the old Douglas. The possibilities of anonymity were also acknowledged, as none of their enemies would know the search for him now. Douglas did not reveal whether he was glad to have his old looks back or not, but the others didn't have the time to ask, as Melkor rushed them to travel through the planes once again!

Battle for Asbravn
 How Melkor cleansed the city of Asbravn

Xul-Molor urged everyone to form a circle, and with quick words of arcane meanings he took them to a trip back to Darnon. The strange wizard brought  them to Asbravn, to the chamber where the pair of Soldengraads Rippler had been, where they should have gone upon stepping to the mirror. With swift words of farewell the astral traveller wished luck on their side, and hoped to see them again someday and disappeared, leaving our heroes alone in a closed chamber with half-dozen guards. Well, the guards were nothing that they could not overcome, as within the first seconds of their appearance, Arius launched his sword through the abdomen of one unaware guard sergeant, splitting the poor man in half. As the first blood was drawn, the battle soon escalated into a full scale carnage.

Dacatrin the Sorceress
Lead by Arius and his legendary legacy sword, Ilbrandir,
our liberators slayed their way to the grand hall of the Keep of Asbravn. There they were delayed by volley of arrows, two Asbravnian noblemen Counts Polewright and Gorlund  lead by Brother of the Black Cliff called Anthrop. They were backed by sorceress Dacatrin. Her magicks were almost even with Melkor, as she cast chain lighting and reverse gravity upon our brave party. As the battle ensued and blood was spilled, Lord Protector Gustaf Mornburg, who had been observing the outcome escaped, forcing our heroes after him. The sorceress was eventually defeated by Melkors magic, but she managed to escape. The two poor noblemen serving their lord perished in combat, but brother Anthrop managed to fight off the keen blade of Arius, and proposed an agreement. Thus he was known as Anthrop the Oathbreaker, and he even managed to haggle the title of count for himself by pledging loyalty for his new lords. Well, as the kingdom grows, one needs regents at the time of absence.

Encouraged by their new yet bit shady ally, the freedom fighters began pursuing Lord Protector Mornburg who had escaped to the roofs and walls of the keep. They experienced minor resistance as they purified their way to the rooftop of the keep. There, in the highest watchtower, The Lord Protector of Asbravn, Gustaf Mornburg performed a short obscure ritual with a solid gold pedestal depicting imagery of occult nature. This ritual proved to be a summoning chant, that activated the pedestal (given and instructed to Mornburg by Alzarseth, or so Melkor later reasoned). Flash of light turned the night sky into thunderstorm, and from the maelstrom a huge red dragon descended, puffing it's fiery breath on our heroes. The dragon, Merthoflagrion, began swooping around the keep, performing deadly flyby attacks. Quickly enraged (so quickly that for a blink of an eye he considered the career of barbarian instead of a prince) Arius climbed to the watchtower and slayed Lord Protector Mornburg. Even though  the oppressor of Asbravn was dead, that didn't solve the dragon problem, and the massive creature of immense power had to be vanquished in traditional methods. As even Melkor struggled to do any harm on the glorious archaic being, Arius and Douglas challenged the beast on hand to hand combat.

The red dragon tore horrible open wounds with it's mighty claws, smashed men to ground with it's huge tail, knocked it's opponents down with it's wings. But the bite. The bite almost proved to be too much for Arius. Only by sacrificing his trusty spiked small shield "Pinocchio", he managed to escape his ultimate end in the jaws of Merthoflagrion. The dragon was powerful, but even the strong may fall when they're facing an enemy that is fighting for their freedom. And so did Merthoflagrion, as it tried to escape, a final killing blow was landed, and the dragon plunged down from mid-air, crushing the whole entrance to the keep.

Arius battling Merthoflagrion,
drawn by one of the surviving guardsmen that witnessed the epic battle.
As the soldiers and guards were closing in the keep, Melkor remembered the Standard of the Fallen and ordered Arius to unfold and wield it. So he did, but little did he know what consequences it would have. The power of the banner was even beyond Melkors expectations. It's call was widely heard, and answered, to terror of many. It was so, that as the banner withered into nothingness, the vast armies of the dead answered to it's final call. Summoned by the call of the Fallen King, the occupants of the ancient catacombs under Asbravn, began surfacing, killing and slaying everyone that stood in their way. The living dead didn't attack the one's who cowered in fear, but everyone lifting a weapon against them received a death penalty. Aghast by the terrible mistake they had done, our poor city-conquerors couldn't do anything to prevent the massacre. Jared tried to channel divine energy into the what-was-left of the standard, but his efforts were in vein. Not until the first rays of light reached the streets of the city, the army of the dead was finally put back into the eternal rest. It is said that the cleansing of Asbravn took nearly a fourth of the city's population as casualties, many of them innocent.

Nevertheless, Free Darnon now held two-thirds of the cities of Darnon, although the one that was left, Iriaebor, was nothing like it's two smaller cousins. During the morning as our heroes were inspecting the terrible damages they had done to the city, a messenger arrived with a peculiar note. It had been spotted that the vast mercenary armies camping outside Iriaebor were put on the move, but they weren't coming north towards Asbravn, the armies began their march to west, towards Berdusk. Even Melkor was puzzled by this unexpected turn of events, but more than anything he suspected that the Red Wizard, the One-that-should-not-be-mentioned, Alzarseth, was behind this. 

But before any hasty reasoning's were made, our champions of Free Darnon decided to keep a 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter Fifteen - Out Of the Ruins We Rise Forever, Into the Battle We March Together

Session was held 26th of November at the Alter of Games

Setting the Standards
A week had passed from the battle of Treeward, and the news of Captain Irongrave's demised had reached Iriaebor. The rebels who survived had moved their camp temporarily deeper to the Reaching Woods, where the heroes gathered around a campfire. Since the end of the battle, Melkor who had finally came back from his travesties, had kept his distance to the others. The rumor said that the wise wizard was preparing their next bold adventure, and once again, the rumors weren't exaggerated. Once again, his visions pointed to direction that none of the heroes were able to guess, as the mad wizard told the others that they were going after the Standard of the Fallen, a legendary banner carried to battle by ancient Arakhar, the Fallen King.
One of the rebels drew the meeting around the campfire. He slightly altered
the looks of our heroes to avoid prosecutions if the rebellion would go
awry, as all the meddlers would certainly be executed.
The wizard continued revealing his plan. After they would have recovered the magic banner from the ruins of Dakhet Mar, they would gather the rebels and march to Hluthvar. Melkor ordered Dortherion to spread a word of rebellion, "as hundreds of lights surround the city, rise against your oppressors, join the rebellion!", while they would be plundering Dakher Mar. The enigmatic old man also riddled how he would also claim Asbravn during the same attack. Many were left puzzled how the wizard could perform such a feat of conquest, but after all, Melkors pompous scheme was the last hope of Free Darnon.

Soon after giving instructions to those who were left to the makeshift-camp, the steeds of destiny galloped across  the plains of northern Darnon. They rode with the classic composition. First rode prince Arius then his mentor Melkor the Mighty. Their security advisor, Douglas the Nimble, followed Melkor, and lastly came Jared the Restorer, holy man of Lathander. Two days of aggressive striding trough the lands finally bought them to the cursed ruins of Dakhet Mar. Melkor explained the ruins to be the sole remnant of a ancient kingdom that ruled the Western Heartlands more than millenia ago. The Fallen King, whose tomb they were seeking was a legendary emperor who fought with five thousand men against an eastern horde of unimaginable size. The legend says that the king died, along with most of his warriors, but the horde was unable to topple the Standard of the Fallen King. None has ever discovered the tomb, but as always, Melkor was sure that luck would be at his side.
Ancient ruins of Dakhet Mar in a gloomy light.

Circling the ruins without a clear heading, the adventurous party of heroes came across a group of tents, sheltered among ancient monoliths. One man who was left to guard the tents attacked our heroes, taking Jared as a hostage, but teh brooding situation was soon resolved and the threatener captured. he revealed that rest of his group had gone under the ruins in order to excavate something that he refused to mention. At that time, Melkors spidersenses began to tingle, and our brave explorers descented under the ruins.

Karman Fatta
The journey through narrow shafts and ancient tunnels was at least perilous, but finally they reached the bottom. There were four explorers trying to break through the floor, as our heroes entered. Their leader turned out to be Karman Fatta, a mercenary (and highly successful according to his own words) who had insulted our braves over a year ago. It was only a matter of a little spark, that fueled their meeting into a  open clash, where, of course our heroes triumphed. Fatta was left alive and he swore to aid Free Darnon to enroll and train more soldiers. After dealing with the mercenary king, our heroes were able to delve deeper. Fatta had been able to ventrue to the doorsteps of the tomb of the Fallen King, and soon our heroes found themselves inside the tomb.

It was nothing like an ordinary crypt of the dead, nor catacomb. The tomb was immense set of traps that had been waiting for centuries to taste the blood of foolhardy graverobbers. It was Douglas's time in the limelight, as he cleared trap after another without being pierced, crushed, cut, incinerated, vaporized or disintergrated! They defeated waves of skeletons, horrid construct that bolted a mayhem of blades towards them and finally they were able to penetrate in to the inner sanctum where lied the remains of the Fallen King. And this time literally, as they had to break in through the floor, as the "x marked the spot".

What they witnessed as they descended into the inner crypt, was a huge cylinderical shaft in front of the sarcophagus of King Arakhar. In the middle of the shaft, several feets below the floor-level was the Standard of the Fallen, it's banner carefully bound. Melkor warned that without his order, the banner would not be unbound. But before they were able to claim the standard, the Fallen King released his one last trap, as three Helmed Horrors assaulted them. The ancient constructs were not the ordinary type, as they re-animated again and again, even tough our heroes continued to strike 'em down. It was Melkor who perceived to lift the lid of the sarcophagus, and he managed to pry it open all by himself! And thus they saw the gloomy lights in the eye sockets of the once mighty emperor, and by sundering it's head, they were able to defeat the helmed horrors for good. Without further ado, our heroic plunderers proceed to cash the check, as Douglas was magically transported into the center of the shaft to reclaim the standard. Once again they faced a menacing trap, but by Melkor's astonishing magics, Douglas was released in no time.

The Battle of Two Cities
Our fearless tombdelvers set their course back to the makeshift camp of rebels. Two days later, at nightfall, they reached the remnants of Free Darnon. While they had been away, hundreds of volunteers had joined the ranks of the rebellion, and reinforcements poured in at constant rate. People at the camp were preparing for the march that might turn out to be their last, but they were ready. Rarely has the people united so strongly against their rulers, and as the flame of justice burned in their hearts, our heroes joined the brave people, and began their march for freedom. From Hluthvar to Asbravn, and finally to Iriaebor, they followed prince Ariendur in his quest to take the throne from cruel tyrant Osander II.

As the army of the oppressed reached the walls of Hluthvar, hundreds of torches were lid. by this sign, Hluthvarians knew that they were to stand against the city guard. Weakened by the defeat at the Battle of Treeward, troops garrisoned in the city were smashed quickly, and contrary to their own king, those pledging for their lives were left alive. Melkor led his friends to the Keep of Hluthvar, where they had to wedge their way through the Iron Wall, elite soldiers clad in full plate. But near the hall of the Lord Protector Mornburg, they ran into regiment of soldiers. There a young noble with a shining armor of polished steel stepped forward to address our braves. Turned out that the young noble was prince Saldor, son of Osander II Grivald.
Prince Saldor in one of his promo potraits, quite a champ.
 He urged the heroes to route their troops out of Hluthvar, but before any further diplomacy was introduced, a beast that had broken loose from the dungeons attacked the regiment and our brave champions. Why there was a demon bound into the dungeons, no one knows, but soon that malevolent outsider was banished for good. Prince Saldor was captured and given to the angry mob, and our liberators followed Lord Protector Mornburg, who had escaped during the turmoil.

They found out that in his hall, behind his grand seat, was hidden a room with a surprise. There was only a strange looking mirror in the that tiny little room. Melkor identified the mirror as the rippler of Soldengraad, strange device of teleportation. In stressful situations, one has to make quick callings, and before they knew, Melkor pushed everyone into the mirror. Unlike Melkor has expected (he thought that the rippler was connected to Asbravn), our trans-dimensional travelers found themselves from the middle of a desert. All that they could see was landscape desiccated into scales. There was no sun, but still they felt the heat and light of direct sunlight, nor was there night. Only clear blue sky, scorched landscape and sun. But in the distant horizon they saw a glimpse of light. They took it as a benchmark and began walking towards it. As they finally  were reaching it, it disappeared and emerged directly behind them. Puzzled from the strange dimension that had captured them, they yet again followed the light, and it vanished. Melkor began to suspect that they were somehow trapped inside the mirror. They repeated this journey of theirs many times, until Melkor had enough and summoned Petreskobal, an imp that they were able to bind with it's true name.

Fearful creature advised them to keep on the direction, even tough the light disappeared. The hint proved to be successful as they pushed on and found a small red book, partially buried in sand. As they opened the book, all they saw was deep space. Suddenly the sky began to change, and the same infinite space surrounded them with it's distant suns and immense galaxies. And before them rose a figure of colossal size. The figure belonged to a mage with ultimate power, and as Melkor identified him as Alzarseth, the mage spoke to our little adventurers. "You chose to seek the power I wield, and thus you chose your own destruction" And with these words he changed into a gargantuan purple worm that attacked our  planar-braves. Luckily to our heroes, they had slain worms before, so killing the worm was plausible. The battle was grievous, but once again the ones whom we cheer proved to be victors.

But as the worm died, the surrounding space began to twist, spiraling towards it's toothy yet dead maw. It soon escalated, and our wormkillers struggled against a void that was sucking the whole dimension in it, but at some point, everyone has to bend, and one after another, the void engulfed them..

To Be Continued...