This was the session DM'ed by Vanoviel in order to get a few of our lower level characters more up to speed with the rest of the party in preparation for a final conflict.
When last we left our heroes, the dryads were whisking them away from the battle that went decidedly not in their favor. Thaylen found himself in the courtyard of a country manor house surrounded by dryads and the bodies of Fain and Kung. The whereabouts of Van, Ari, and Tupia were unknown. Things didn?t seem to be getting any better as the dryads began to fall died around him as their trees were destroyed by the victorious villains of battle of the grove. Out of the manor strode a tall and imposing man and a woman of slight build, but a certain hiding strength you can see. The man is wearing a clean tunic, but you spot the holy symbol of Gorethar. The woman is dressed much as you are in a set of studded armor, scarred and stained from many battles. Her hands rest easily on the pommels of the twin daggers on her hips. You get the feeling she doesn?t trust you as she scans the courtyard and sees the bodies of the dryads. The woman takes a step forward, but the man places a hand gently on her shoulder. He speaks with a voice that is both commanding and comforting, ?Greetings, my elven brother. Please forgive my wife she has had many battles recently and remains constantly on guard. I sense no ill will in you and by the looks of your arrival you are in search of help and not conflict. My name is Danrick Von Ordean. This is my wife Isabella.? The woman bows slightly in you direction, however you note her hands never move from the daggers and her eyes never leave you.
After a brief conversation with Danrick, Thaylen strikes a bargain that in return for their help battling a growing undead presence in the area Danrick will raise Kung and Fain and later help the heroes reunite with the remainder of the party. As it turns out Danrick?s ancestral castle home has been overrun with an undead army and a new evil presence is in control. He and his lady wife carry on his family?s long tradition as warriors in the battle against the undead. After raising the dead, resting and provisioning the group set off the Castle Van Ordean. Danrick furthered explained during the journey that there was a rumor that his family used to possess a gem capable of controlling the undead. He believed that the resurgence of undead in the area meant that the rumors must be true.
After a three day journey through the wilderness with a few small skirmishes along the way, the party arrived and the burned out remains of the castle. The castle keep had clues to the last family that resided in the castle. Tapestries with portraits of a family with twin boys and a nursery with two cribs, one with a ?D? and the other with an ?R?, yielded clues to the adventurers. After battling their way through the surface layer of the castle, leaving behind the charred and filleted remains of the assorted spiders, undead, gargoyles and other nasties that now inhabited the castle, the champions came to a set of stairs guarded by a ghostly warrior that looks like an older version of the father in the tapestry in the entry hall. Upon seeing Danrick, the ghostly figures visage turned sad, he sheathes his sword and he warned ?Beware of the dangers below Danrick.?, and dissipates.
Upon descending the stairs, the party sees Danrick fall to his knees in obvious pain. He slowly rises and tells the party his connection to Gorethar has been severely weakened. He will have to rely on his mace and his right arm and not the power of his god in dealing with the undead. The party passes through a set of double door and stands face to face with a figure with a patch over his right eye and is wearing a large plumed hat. As he doffs his hat and bows you see a bald pate and distinctly elven ears. ?Well met friends, the master awaits below, but I fear you?ll never meet him.? The figure cast a darkness spell over the room and once Danrick uses his power to dispel the darkness the room is empty save for the party.
The party quickly explores the level with Kung using ?crazy monk speed? to run and listen at the doors and Fain blasting away like a Texas gunslinger with his twin wands of fireball. This strategy works well for dispatching the vile undead, but cost the party quite a bit of treasure that is fused to the floor by the intensive heat of the fireball onslaught.
Also on this level the party encounters the two field generals of the undead army. Kung enters an ?empty room? to explore and upon stepping through the doorway, triggers a deadfall trap. The trap springs and an enormous slab of stone seals the doorway. He turns towards the door and is surprised to see two alcoves flanking the door and populated with a pair of angry looking deathknights. The deathknights release eldritch fire and years of hatred of the living in a vicious onslaught at him. Kung outnumbered and outgunned by the deathknights, screams for help and morphs into an owl and takes flight. This ploy works briefly as the deathknights fire away at him with crossbows and then summon their ghastly steeds. Each knight newly mounted on a nightmare takes to the air and continue to attack Kung. Meanwhile, outside the door, the rest of the party is feverishly working to find the trap mechanism and rush to Kung?s aid. Finally, after many failed attempts the party succeeds in lifting the block a crack. Kung in owl form zips out of the opening looking a little burnt, pretty sliced up and a lot scared out of his wits. Danrick tries to ?heal? one of the deathknights, but the creature shrugs off the attempt at its unlife. The party decides it is best to just drop the door and leave well enough alone.
The explorers ultimately came upon a room containing three large stone sarcophagi and during their search of the room three enraged mummies rose from their ?peaceful? rest to challenge the party. Danrick bashed one with his mace and it fell away to dust. Isabella went medieval on another with her daggers and the third was quickly dispatched by the remainder of the party. A search revealed a secret door and a meticulously cleaned hallway. The hallway also contained a big, old blob of a gelatinous cube. The party hastily slew the foul globule and found another secret door, behind which was a room containing a set of stairs and a familiar figure. He is wearing his hat again and the eye patch is on his left eye. ?Greetings again friends. The master is still below and I am impressed you made it this far, but now you go no further.? In a pitched battle the party slew the elf and took their plunder. The band headed down the stairs, but instead fell into nothing.
The heroes found themselves in a heap in the center of a large square room measuring 40 feet a side. There is a door at the center of each of the walls. No sooner then they untangled themselves when they were set upon by nearly a dozen little winged creatures. After slaying the mephitis the party sees the portal they fell through near the roof and quickly determine it is a one way portal. Exploring the level the party finds the rooms are a mobius strip in two different directions. After defeating all the creatures occupying the rooms the group comes upon a dais above which floats a magic mouth. The mouth burst open and said, ?I am the tenth of ten on this floor. You fell into the first. It is our order that is our key to the depths below. Leave this room and find the hidden nine keys. And remember north is good, but east is better and south is bad but west is worst.? Inspecting the dais they noticed that a circle is etched into the top and it is divided into ten equal sections. Outside of each arc were a number and a corresponding hole, except for ten which has a button. Working back through the rooms the party found the nine hidden keys and returned to the room with the magic mouth where they cleverly solved the riddle and depressed the tenth button to reveal a set of spiral stairs descending further into the depths.
Upon descending the spiral staircase they came to the next level of the dungeon. It appears that the rooms have been carved from the living stone by the tireless hands of the undead. They could actually make out claw marks if you look closely. This level also felt warmer than previous levels, almost bordering on hot. Perhaps it is that this level is closer to the heart of the mountain or perhaps it is to make the occupants feel more at home. The entire level is lit by an eerie red glow coming from the stone.
The party explored and found the level crowded with undead and the denizens of Hades and Tartarus. Many battles lead them to a set of three rooms that looked to contain a lift and its control and counterbalance. The heroes operated the lift and streaked down having failed to correctly balance the lift. They were all slightly injured in the crash, but Danrick healed them and after exploring a connecting series of rooms they found an odd purple glowing gem. This gem didn?t seem to have any control over undead, so the group headed back to the lift room. When they entered that room the western wall has a purple glow that matches the gem and when the party approached the wall a secret door open.
The party entered a room that could only be described as a temple to all things unholy and undead. Incense was burning is braziers. And numerous worshipers were prostrating themselves to an altar. The altar was made of bone and draped in a cloth that looked like flesh. Atop the altar is a large multifaceted gem that looks as if it absorbing light it was so black. In front of the altar stood a large human in imposing black full plate with a large shield with the symbol of Maeliki in his right hand and in his left is a large mace. As they began to approach, he removed his helmet revealing an all too familiar face, Danrick?s.
?Greetings brother. It certainly took you long enough to accept my invitation. I see you brought some playmates for my followers.?
With that the worshippers rose in mass from their chanting and turn to face the heroes with fanatical looks on the faces and murder in their eyes. With a roar they attacked.
Rugan said,?Kill them but leave Danrick for me. Save their bodies they will make excellent additions to my armies. Shall we dance, brother!?
With that the head of his mace began to emit a powerful light. Danrick charged Rugan and with a thunderous crash they began to exchange mace blows and as they clashed a large orb enclosed them. While the rest of the heroes wanted to help them the small army of fanatics drew their immediate attention.
During the course of the battle they looked up and notice the two brothers appear to have changed weapons. While they were sure at the start of the battle each was fighting with a mace they both appear to now have swords. Danrick looks like he has become considerably more board shoulder and brutish, while his brother, Rugan, has become more sinewy and his facial expression has become more sinister. As they watched the brothers seemed to shift back to their normal appearances both again battling with maces. The image shifted again almost as if they were watching through water.
The battle against the followers was going well, while they were dedicated and fanatic they were not very strong fighters. They also noticed that the gem appeared to be fluctuating between utter black and glowing brilliance. It appeared to be changing with the tide of the battle of the brothers. It was at this point, that the battle seemed to slow and stop and a vision appeared before each of the heroes of a man?s head. He had very delicate almost feminine features and the voice that resounded in their heads sounded almost like a mix of all the male and female voices they had every heard. All they heard it say was, ?Destroy the gem. You must destroy the gem.?
As Isabella, Thaylen, and Fain held off the fanatics, Kung struck another blow to the gem; they all noticed energy streaming from a crack that was beginning to form. Again the battle slowed and the head appeared again. The remaining followers stopped their attacks and stared in awe at the crystal. The floating head said ?Get behind the prismatic sphere.?
As the crystal ruptured further a stream of pure black energy and another of glowing white energy streaked forth. The bolt of the black energy penetrated the shield around the brothers and hit Danrick squarely in the chest while a similar bolt of white energy hit Rugan. Both brothers were raised of the ground and held there by the force of the blows. It appeared the opposing forces were drawing energy from the brothers. Again as they watched the brothers? forms seemed to shift again. It was then that they noticed that Danrick?s alternate form resembled Gorethar and Rugan?s Maeliki. As their corporeal bodies were rapidly being absorbed by the crystal, the swirling vortex of black and white within the crystal began to pulse with increasing intensity.
When the crystal finally burst waves upon waves of black and white energy were emitted into the room. The waves struck the fanatics with dramatic effect. The prismatic shield seemed to shield them from the assault. The bodies of the dead fanatics rose again in the familiar forms to the unholy abominations they had been fighting. Skeletons, wraiths, zombies and the like were all around them. Oddly the fanatics that were still alive as the energy waves hit underwent a different transformation. It was clear to them that the fanatics were no longer alive, but they did not appear to be undead in the typical sense. The heroes were confused by the events but it appeared that so were the undead and the other creatures. They wandered off with no further incidents. As they began to sift through the rubble looking for Danrick?s remains, they found the remains of the pesky sorcerer and a secret cache of items.
As they began to contemplate how they would get back out through the dungeon, a large glowing portal appeared and an armored figure stepped out. His face was that from their visions. He said, ?You have done well in destroyed that crystal. Gorethar and Maeliki have been fighting over it for millennia. It is odd what happened to the living that were struck by the positive energy. It appears as if they were healed beyond life in to some sort of neverdeath. Again you have done well in destroying the crystal of control of prime energy planes. And with the creation of the neverdead a balance has been struck. I can sense your uncertainty and your desire to return to your friends, prepare yourselves I will send you to them. And as for you Lady Van Ordean , raise well the twin sons that now grow in your womb. Tell them of the folly of both their father and their uncle, for it is balance and not power, whether it be good or evil, for which they must stride. I see great things in the future for them both.?
And with that and a wave of his hand a gentle energy washed over the heroes.
"Truth has no form."
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