DM When last we left our heroes, they had come across a crypt that told them to pass not the portals. Then they sneakily checked out some of the other crypts when we weren’t watching. Let’s see what those had in store, shall we, loyal readers?
DM "Sir Klutz Tripalotsky: He fell on his own sword "
DM In the center of this crypt, atop a marble slab, human bones lie amid the empty shell of a suit of rusty plate armor. Plunged through the armor’s breastplate is a longsword.
DM “King Dostron the Hellborn”
DM Resting in the center of this crypt is a seven-foot-long gilded sarcophagus, its lid painted with the likeness of a screaming king wearing a crown of horns. Looming behind the sarcophagus is a stuffed owlbear frozen in a roar, with claws outstretched.
DM “Sir Jarnwald the Trickster: The joke was on him”
DM A charnel stench fills this empty and silent crypt.
DM Claw marks obliterate the name on the next crypt’s door.
DM A skeleton draped in rags lies atop a marble slab in the center of the crypt.
DM “Gralmore Nimblenobs – Wizard Ordinaire”
DM Lying on a marble slab in the center of this crypt is the corpse of a man with a long white beard. His skin clings tightly to his skull and bones, and he wears dusty red robes. Clutched to his chest is a wooden staff that has a brass knob on one end and a marble knob on the other.
DM "General Kroval “Mad Dog” Grislek (Master of the Hunt): A leader of hounds and men"
DM “Beucephalus, the Wonder Horse: May the flowers grow ever brighter where he trods”
DM On the far northern end of the catacombs, the party finds a closed portcullis in the archway, with marble steps descending into the fog.
DM On the far southern end of the catacombs, the party finds a closed portcullis in the archway, with marble steps descending into the fog.
DM The steps in the north appear to be white marble, those in the south black.
DM And the final crypt…“Tatsaul Eris – Last of the Line”
Shael Shael chews happily on his cold-mold snack, eyeing the final three crypts and glancing at Julian curiously.
Shael Shael looks at the last three crypts, he shrugs. “If you think that is best.” he agrees.
Julian “That’s where I think to find one last tool.”
Julian Julian approaches the northern crypt.
Shael “Yeah, that’s what we need.” he says.
DM The closed portcullis to the north keeps them from seeing further down the steps. The mist is thick here.
Shael Shael follows along merrily snacking.
Julian Julian investigates whether there is a mechanism to raise the portcullis or whether it will need to be forced.
DM It does not appear that there is any mechanism for raising the portcullis within the catacombs. If such exists, it is on the other side.
Shael “We should go to the other side to find the mechanism for raising the portcullis.” Shael contributes helpfully.
Julian “After you.”
Shael Shael leads the way casually walking along to find out what’s on the other side.
Shael Magic gathers unseen and Shael walks through the portcullis.
DM He vanishes from sight. In the realm of the Ethereal, he sees legions of dark, crawling entities, all straining to find a crack, a hole to wriggle through into the land of the living. A vast cohort of dark spirits, driven on by sahkil slavemasters.
DM It is but a moment to the others, but to Shael, it feels like hours trapped in that gray murky realm.
DM He appears beyond the portcullis. Heading down the white marble stairs, he vanishes to the rest of the party’s sight once again, obscured this time by the thick mist.
Shael His cloak shimmers and hides him from sight.
DM White marble steps descend to a tomb that has a vaulted ceiling thirty feet overhead. An iron lever protrudes from the south wall, west of the tomb’s entrance. A stillness-a calm amid the storm-is felt here. In the center of the tomb, a white marble slab supports an intricately inlaid coffin. Chiseled into the slab is a name: Gaheris Kaviss. To the north, behind the coffin, are three alcoves. A beautifully carved statue stands in each alcove-a stunning young man flanked by two angels-looking as polished and new as the day each was placed there. Three adventures stand around the coffin, considering how to open it. One is a rugged looking half-orc, the other a human man with multiple belts wrapped around him, and the third is Lidda Took, halfling thief extraordinaire. She is checking the coffin carefully for traps.
Shael Shael shimmers into view with a wide smile, “Lidda.” he says, obviously quite pleased. He is standing near the lever and leans towards it, pursing his lips thoughtfully.
DM “Ah, Shael, is that you?” Lidda squints through the mist, trying to see him.
Shael “Yes!” He stands up and twists to look back at her, “I’m going to pull this lever so the rest can join us, yes?”
DM “Check it for traps first! These tombs are filled with them.”
DM “And who else is with you?”
DM “Lidda, don’t be so trusting. It might be another illusion,” the human’s voice sounds like musical water.
Shael “Mrrrr.” Shael complains, but complies with Lidda’s entirely reasonable request. “Julian, Kryss, and the cute one… Kly’s squire.” he replies absently as he pokes, prods, etc. at the lever.
DM The half orc moves protectively between Lidda and Shael.
Shael “It’s true, I could be – but, in a strange sort of sense, we all might be.” He twists around again to say, “You know? It’s like, what is all this anyways?” he waves his hand in the mist, “It’s all quite odd.” he concludes before returning to looking for traps.
Shael He murmurs a charm for Serra’s luck.
DM Something feels off about the adventurers. How are they in the tomb if the portcullis wasn’t raised? And how are they able to see?
DM Shael feels that he’d better pull the lever quick and damn the consequences.
DM “I think you’re right, Shael. Why don’t you join us?”
Shael He suddenly vanishes from sight, the lever moves as it is depressed – what did Shael say to it to bum it out so much?!
DM Lidda and Hennet vanish at the same time he does.
DM The gate rumbles up.
Julian “Looks like he found it. Come on.”
Julian The party starts down the stairs.
Shael Shael frowns and observes the half-orc threatening him. He sighs deeply and calls out, “There are enemies here!” to his companions before stealthily creeping away from the same.
Shael The golem, Echo, stomps into the room and moves out of the entryway – it hovers menacingly.
Julian The mist brightens as Julian draws near.
Julian He speaks a prayer to Tal to guide their arms and bolster their hearts.
DM Krusk roars with rage. Axes come flying out of the mist towards Julian and Echo.
Julian “What are they?” This from the paladin, who does not see his attacker.
Shael Though Julian can’t see it, Shael’s glance at him is scathing – there is literally no chance he’s going to reveal his location to the rogue, poison is consistently a painful reminder that Shael loses against her in the game of rogue, fighter, wizard.
Shael Instead, he points and is obviously quite pleased with his solution.
Julian Alhandra and Kryss move up to join Julian, scanning the mist for these invisible enemies.
DM Daggers come out of the mist.
DM Followed by fireballs.
DM The daggers are poisoned, of course. The fireballs…smallish. One might even call them fire bolts.
Julian Julian raises his sword and plunges down the stairs in the direction of the axes.
Shael Once all the daggers are in the air, Shael is emboldened – “Those fire balls looks more like fire bolts…” he also clarifies for Julian, “…there in the back, where the daggers, axes, and baby fire are coming from.”
DM He hears a sizzle off to his west, but mainly from the hulking half orc barbarian before him, whose flesh begins to burn. But, he notes with some ire, not quite as fast as the legends would have suggested.
Julian Julian slides closer to the sizzle after bringing Lightbringer down on the dead half-orc, aiming to bring the other foe more fully into the light.
DM Krusk hisses in pain as the radiant blade cuts through his undead flesh.
Shael Shael moves through the room looking for the other two foes, but he doesn’t see them. So, instead, he does what he can to help put down the obvious threat – invisible blades scythe through the air towards the foe.
DM The swords find their mark in the undead raging hulk.
Shael Echo then advances on the orc and swings its mighty fists as well.
DM The machina’s attempt to clobber the half orc on his jaw ends poorly.
DM Krusk snarls and draws his massive axe.
DM His two handed strikes lack the precision of the lords of Dragonfyre, but they make up for it with raw, enraged power.
DM His wounds begin to heal as well, though not completely.
Julian Kryss comes barreling into the fight.
Julian He comes flying off the third-to-last stair and Shatterspike is arcing out towards the half-orc’s throat before his feet even touch Kaviss’s tomb.
DM The barbarian shrugs off the blow that would have cut a living orc in twain, still healing from the assault.
DM A lightning bolt rips through two metal clad combatants, and catches Shael presumably by accident.
DM More daggers fly out of the mist.
Shael Echo’s targeting has been calibrated – two massive fists swing through the mist at the orcish barbarian.
Julian Alhandra is blasted out of the fight by the combination.
DM The orc’s jaw breaks this time, although it begins knitting together almost immediately.
Shael Since the bulk of the group has brought themselves to bare against the orcish foe, Shael takes his time searching for the other two enemies.
DM He locates them. Lidda is concealing herself within the mist, and the sorcerer is utilizing invisibility.
Shael He keeps quiet; it won’t help if they evade him again.
Julian Julian presses the attack against the one visible foe.
DM The blade of light pierces Krusk’s throat and he dissolves into mist.
Julian He raises his brightening weapon and stalks around the room towards the far side, searching the shadows where he guesses the others must have fled.
DM He spots Lidda, who seems partially made of the mist herself, so carefully is she hidden.
DM Only the slightest of mistakes has rendered her visible to him at all.
Julian Unlike Shael Julian has neither need nor desire to conceal that he has found her. “Lidda? By God, Sengir, I’ll see you burn for this.”
Julian “She’s here, Kryss.”
Julian Kryss appears on cue.
DM “He’ll get you too, Julian. I’m sorry, about this, about Dara, but I cannot resist his power.”
Julian “Where is Dara?” Kryss demands.
DM “The creature…it comes from so far away…it killed the dragon, it crushed us…and then we woke in the dungeons. He drained us slowly. He drained her too, Kryss, I’m so sorry.”
Julian “WHERE IS SHE NOW?!”
DM “I don’t know, Kryss. She’s somewhere down here, in his catacombs. Maybe in his tomb? She’s his wife now.”
Julian Kryss seems to deflate. “…”
Julian “Truly you cannot resist?” This from Julian.
Julian “Then put her down, Kryss, and pray God we can find a way to mend this.”
Julian The dragon warrior silently complies.
DM “My mind would be my own if you killed him!” She dodges Kryss’s attacks as best she can.
Julian Alhandra mends her wounds.
DM Lidda dives between Kryss’s legs and vanishes into the mist.
DM The sorcerer drops his invisibility and calls to the marble shards upon the floor to attack Kryss and Julian.
Shael Shael’s magic subtly threads through the room to unweave the hostile spell.
DM The attack is countered before he can complete his spell…and he draws on sorcerous power to simply cast it again, faster this time. The shards batter Kryss and Julian, barring their forward progress.
DM The sorcerer fades back into the mist.
DM “He went up the stairs,” Alhandra points.
Shael Shael darts after him, hustling to catch up.
Shael Echo pounds after him to assist and the two begin swinging at the fellah.
DM He defends himself with incredible agility and the same mystic shield Shael himself enjoys employing.
DM The lightning does not harm him in the slightest. He laughs.
DM “The storms gave birth to me, they will not do me harm.”
DM “But draw near, and taste my thunder.”
Julian “God take these shadows from my eyes.” Julian prays, anointing his eyes.
Julian Alhandra joins the prayer with her own, beseeching Tal to break the sorcerer’s spell.
DM The army of darkness lurking at the edge of reality becomes visible to Julian. He sees Krusk’s spirit, being dragged out of the tomb by sahkil slavers.
DM They drown out Alhandra’s cries to Tal.
Julian Kryss begins dispelling the sorcerer’s spell after his own fashion.
Julian The giant warrior fights his way out of the cloud and begins pursuing the sorcerer who created it.
DM Hennet continues backing away, a wave of his hand resulting in multiple images of his person surrounding him.
DM His marble shards converge and attack.
DM Poison daggers fly out of the mist to aid him.
Shael Shael and Echo pursue; the golem’s internal gears grind and sigils form around it as the spell stored within in layered on Shael’s aegis. The wizard slices through the air with his twin katana to assault the sorcerer.
DM Twice the blades snake out to sever the head of an illusory sorcerer.
Julian As the spell proves beyond Alhandra’s power, Julian reaches out to sever it himself.
DM The shards crumble to the ground.
Julian He stalks forward as the shards fall and shatter. “I’m sorry too, Lidda.”
DM She does not respond, if she is there at all. Most of the sahkils are driving south, and he spots a dark presence within each of the statues in the ethereal version of the chamber.
DM Nothing revealing Lidda however…she must be more carefully hidden this time.
Julian Kryss goes to help Shael.
DM Hennet’s shield activates, sparing him a murderous flurry.
Julian Alhandra raises her shield against the mist.
DM Still, one axe blow catches him in the back, and he is less able than Krusk to shrug these off.
DM His healing is rapidly making up for the difference however.
Shael Shael lashes out with his own magic to intervene against the sorcerer’s protection – “You face a Mox Knight – you’ll have to do better.”
DM Kryss hacks through the last of Hennet’s protections, and the sorcerer lands on his back.
DM Daggers fly out from the north, confirming Lidda’s presence in the room, if not her position.
DM Hennet dissolves into mist, which then vanishes from sight.
DM The group lashes at the mist as he flees.
Shael Thoomp the bead of fire chases down the mist after Shael levels Eldingar in its direction. Fwoom it explodes.
DM The flames ignite, and it is hard to see if Shael successfully blew the escaping mist apart. Partly because there is mist, and partly because it’s dark, and partly because thousands of angry bats, scorched by the flames and heat, form into swarms and dive for blood.
Julian Julian raises his blade and circles the room, sending sunlight into every corner.
DM Disturbingly, the lithe halfling vampire is nowhere to be seen.
Julian Kryss disgorges a violent burst of flames into the oncoming bat swarm, then retreats before it.
Julian Julian, meanwhile, failing to find his opponent, takes up a position in the middle of the room where Seure can burn Lidda wherever she may hide.
Julian “For what is to come even more than for what’s past.”
Julian Seure has become blindingly bright, even to living eyes.
DM The vampire, if she is still here, is intelligent enough not to reveal her position.
Shael As Shael returns to the room, he shimmers back into visibility and says – “C’mon, get back inside – bloody bats.” he grumbles and prepares to pull the lever to close the portcullis once everyone is inside.
DM The swarm drives towards them with what appears to be malevolent intelligence.
Shael Shael waves Eldingar dismissively and casually disregards the bats milling outside the room, slamming against an invisible wall. “Okay, let’s get to business figuring out what’s here, eh?” he claps his hand then waves vaguely at the room.
Julian “We are baffled every way we turn.” Julian mutters, but he scours the room. Just before Shael sealed the entry, there were daggers coming from within…
DM Aside from the evil spirits in the statues (Krusk’s soul being dragged off in to the mists of the ethereal long ago), Julian’s truesight does not reveal anything within the room that he ought to be concerned about.
DM As the bats continue to beat on the wall, furiously attempting to gain access, the rest of the lords search the tomb of Gaheris Kaviss.
DM Kryss strains his muscles against the coffin, but the slightest touch from Shael and Alhandra slide the lid back, revealing the face of a shining youth. His body has been magically preserved for centuries, for it looks like death has yet to touch him. His face shines with angelic peace.
Shael “This is a Tallite?” Shael asks after helping Alhandra move the lid back, “Is there any deference we should offer?” he looks to Julian and Alhandra for guidance.
DM He is armored in mithril plate mail, with golden gauntlets, pauldrons and greaves.
Julian Julian does not answer at first. As it became increasingly clear that the vampires got away cleanly, his mood has become increasingly black.
Julian After a long moment though he summons up his equanimity and replies.
Shael The wizard clears his throat and murmurs, “Well, let’s just get some answers for now.” he reaches out to gently touch the hand of the dead man.
DM “What questions do you have of me, necromancer?” the voice of Gulthias’ dead brother resonates across the tomb.
Shael Shael grouses, “It’s a divination granted by Serra, I…” he shakes his head and waves the matter aside and glances at the others to indicate they are welcome to offer their input.
Shael “We are trying to defeat your brother, Gulthias Sengir – there is supposed to be an implement that will aid us here, how can we find it?”
DM “You have found it, the holy symbol I bear.”
Shael “Are there any consequences to us taking it now?”
DM “You will possess a relic of great power that will set you at odds with my brother.”
Shael Shael purses his lips and nods, “Fair.” he agrees that is likely the best answer to the question. “What activates the golems in the wall back there?”
DM “My brother.”
Shael Shael frowns at the golems and mentions to Julian, “Might be worth trying to take control of them – it’s almost certain we’ll be unable to, but perhaps worth a try.”
Shael Turning back to the corpse he asks, “Is there anything else you know about that could help us with our crusade?”
DM “My brother’s undead father, Tzmir Sengir, is far more powerful than he. Opposing him has spelled death for many heroes.”
Shael “Huh…” he glances at Julian, “…that’s new, I think.”
Julian Julian nods.
Shael “Well, we have some time —” Shael motions towards the wall, “— let me take a look at these and see if there is anything we can do.” he moves towards the golems and starts examining them to see if there is anything he can do.
Shael “What is the story with the god of ravenkind?”
DM “An ancient god, even in my day. From the time of mighty Azlantis, the ravens have served most holy Apollo, best loved king and lord. His light and wisdom illuminated an entire era, and shines forth yet today. I can feel His power in you two there in the shadows, anointed knights, and that of his elder sister flows through you, necromancer.”
Shael Shael purses his lips and glances at the others. With a nod he bows towards the deceased, “Thank you for your answers, rest again, in peace.”
DM The warrior prince lays his head down once more, and settles back into his ageless sleep.
Julian “I did not come to rob the dead. The sign alone I will take, that this might not be a complete failure.”
Julian Julian does so.
Julian “Shael… Kryss… Alhandra.”
Julian “We are not so badly beaten as last time. We might defend ourselves well if attacked.”
Julian “But I doubt now that we have the strength to force in on the vampire in his seat of power.”
Julian “I think… we should rejoin the others.”
Shael “Wait till I steal the golems (maybe)!” he warns Julian as he reaches for the holy symbol.
Julian “Be quick then.”
DM The golems are a lost cause, tampering with them might unleash them as foes immediately upon them, at best, but their ancient magic seems unwilling to yield even in that tragic manner from Gulthias’ grip.
DM Grasping the symbol of the god of Ravenkind feels like grabbing an uncooled rod from the smith’s anvil. A blast of sunlight rolls forth from Julian’s hand, and from him to Shael, to Alhandra and to Kryss. A rumble goes forth from the tomb, and sigils trace eldritch lines across the walls and ceiling. The entire castle seems to shake, and both Shael Julian sense it passing from this world into another.
DM At the same time, they view the fierce battle which their companions fight. Hengist, horrifically scarred by flames, rends the Heart asunder with his bare hands, as his brother screams his name. His brother has no time to mourn however, because they are locked in battle with both the ancient mummy who confronted the heroes before and another Sengir vampire who they had not met. Ghosts and undead warriors lie in broken piles along the staircase, which pitches and shakes trying to fling them off. Ambrose lies in the midst of one such pile, barely breathing if at all. Sir Haelward hews about, sending the undying back to the grave.
DM The lower castle may be adrift in the darkest regions of the ethereal plane, but one thing is certain. The Heart of Ashardalon is destroyed. Gulthias will never be as weak as he is right now. Dara, Lidda, and more of their friends may have perished in vain if they do not seize this opportunity.
DM They have the Symbol of Ravenkind. They possess the weapon of pure light, and have shattered that bond which made Gulthias immune to the sun’s touch. And they have destroyed his most powerful allies in Oggunon and Redbone.
DM Moreover, they have the Staff of Kazan, along with other treasures seized from Sengir’s fortress. Will our heroes turn from this moment? Will they perish in a refusal to turn? Or will they win the night, and bring back the light of day to this beleaguered valley? Find out in two weeks!