Thursday, 4 December 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 12 -- 30th November 2008

In which the adventurers unleash hell on vile evil-doers, a small winged homonculous causes no small amount of panic, and only one direction remains: down...
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 3
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 3
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 3
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 3
Mord - Dwarven Fighter 3

Squeezing themselves into the slim corridor leading into what they are already calling the "kiln room", Elumai drops a blast of freezing havoc on as many of the automaton-like zombies as she can, just as the whole room comes to life. The bodies hooked on the walls start to twitch and spasm as if being shocked into animation, finally ripping themselves free of the wall and dropping like bags of flesh and bone to the floor. As the dwarves move into position, the blood trickling across the floor suddenly changes direction, surging across the room and grasping at Mord's feet. The vile chill he feels in his legs tells him that he will need to stay on the move to avoid a sticky fate.

One of the more powerful undead surges towards Romtoe and reaches out, grasping the halfling in a deadly embrace and bringing its thick, tombstone-like teeth down to his neck. Blood sprays, and within just a few seconds of the fight, Romtoe is practically out for the count. Behind it, the other zombies shuffle purposefully towards the group, crowding around the entrance and hemming them in, just as a small winged gremlin-like creature squeezes out from a crack near the back of the room, and flaps manically for the other exit. Fearing that it will bring reinforcements, Elumai and Corrash focus their fire on the creature, and they bring it down just before it can get the doors to the next room open. This brings a collective sigh of relief from the rest of the party as they continue to dispatch the remaining undead, ultimately clearing the room without any permanent casualties.

Through the crack from which emerged the homonculous is a squat, square room, probably part of the basement of the keep but whose roof has long-since collapsed. A brief search turns up an excellent find - a Bag of Holding - and within, 2 Potions of Healing, giving the adventurers a much-needed boost.

Deciding to take a risk, the party holes up in the trap room to catch their breath. Eilian finally awakes, demanding explanations for the horrific events upstairs. He tells them of a dreadful vision, in the few seconds when he was struck into unconsciousness by Keegan's blade, of the demon Orcus pulling him inexorably to his side... worse than any of the night-terrors he has suffered with for so long. Despite grudgingly admitting that he has had a dreamless sleep for the first time in as long as he can remember, he demands of the group to be released, refusing point-blank to venture any further into this hell-hole. The party gives him a weapon and food, and sends him on his way, with no choice but to let him go if that's what he wants.

Onward, and the doors to the east lead them to a ruined, underground cathedral. Red walls, bolstered by brick and bone, arch high overhead, and although their viewpoint is obscured from the entrance, the party can see a distant, ram-like altar from which a constant outpouring of blood runs in two dark streams to a black, square well in the center of the room. Thin rivulets of blood from the kiln room behind them snake around their feet and also drip into the pit. Chains, hooked to the grating which surrounds the well, depend into the depths, promising more horrors to come.

A man dressed all in black kneels with his back to them at the altar, whispering entreaties to the Prince of Undead which echo around the room in a harsh whisper. Two shoddily-dressed humans wielding great-axes stand idly by, leaning against glowing crystal pillars, watching the cultist go about his business as if it's the least interesting thing they've ever seen.

Securing at least one flank by wedging a door shut, the adventurers arrange themselves near the door for the inevitable combat to follow, and although they're not the stealthiest bunch of heroes at the best of times, Elumai, at least, manages to get off a magic missile before battle is engaged. The humans -- soon revealed to be wild-eyed berserkers, their faces painted with spittle-flecked madness -- engage the dwarves, while the Underpriest strides towards them all, unleashing powerful curses from his mace, and promising retribution for their blasphemous intrusion into this dark and unholy place.

Soon the party is beset from all sides. To the south, a trio of pale-faced humans with crimson stares clambers over floor, wall, and ceiling to get to Romtoe and Elumai, their expressions alight with blood-lust. To the north, the sealed door successfully holds back more of the creatures -- at least for now -- while Romtoe unleashes the power of Pelor to smite the vampires who have already got through. Suddenly another shape clambers up from the pit and darts out of sight - a dwarfish humanoid, encased in clouds of shadow, cackling with blood-lust.

Shadow-stepping through the melee, it gets itself into position to do serious harm to the more vulnerable members of the group, but manages only a few lacklustre attacks before the combined assault of the party - fearful of the creature's abilities - brings it down. As the shadows clear, it's revealed as nothing more than a short and rather pathetic goblinoid, however the blackness behind its eyes suddenly explodes outwards, blinding several members of the group. From here, the melee gets dangerous, with the battle-fury of the berserkers under the priest's leadership threatening to overwhelm them all. However, well placed area attacks from the rear, and tenacious defending in spite of their blindness from the front lines, brings eventual victory, although the party have had to reach deep into their resources to make it happen.

The cathedral vibrates ominously with the underpriest's death, surely alerting whatever lurks below that something has occured. Now, only the pit of blood remains to be explored...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 11 -- 22nd November 2008

In which a grievous misjudgement is uncovered, an ancient curse is finally lifted, and the gates to the true horror of Shadowfell Keep swing wide.
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 2
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 2
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 2
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 2
Mord - Dwarven Fighter 2

In the aftermath of the scuffle for Valthrun's old equipment, Mord takes a little time to examine the three tomes he recovered from the scene. One of the books is old and of wide girth, but curiously devoid of content; another deals with the legal process involved in the crimes of a human called Erogian Dean, who seemed to be involved in some kind of scandal at a place called Arranea many years earlier; and the third, aside from a sequence of unintelligible equations and diagrams, has an awful lot to say about a wizard called Tenser. Elumai later identifies this as a ritual book, although disappointingly she has already mastered it.

Later that morning, the group accosts Eilian in his fields. After having learned a little about his drinking and night-terrors, they try to persuade him to accompany them to the Keep so that he may pass judgement on Sir Keegan. He is understandably reluctant, but the deft psychoanalytical ministrations of Elumai and Corrash -- along with a well-timed bottle of the good stuff from Mord -- gradually bring him around to their way of thinking... which was probably for the best, with Berend rapidly losing patience in the background. After a tearful goodbye from Eilian's wife, Goodrun, the party sets off for the Keep.

The journey, aside from one sleepwalking episode from Eilian, is uneventful, and the adventurers recover themselves to Sir Keegan's tomb without incident. The dark entities which toyed with the party during their previous visit are once more in attendance, this time patient and still in one corner of the room, silent observers on the proceedings.

The old knight creaks to his feet, and seems to recognise Eilian, calling him 'Vigo' more than once. Eilian musters whatever courage he can in the face of an abomination the likes of which he has never seen, and offers to dispense judgement on Keegan, who accepts, and begins to recount his sorry tale much as he had to the characters a few days beforehand.

Eilian is gradually numbed by what he hears, and has no choice but to deny his forgiveness. Keegan's demeanour changes quickly to one of bitter contempt. He brings his sword up and steps towards Eilian, revealing that it is not judgement he craves, but his soul, and the dreadful truth suddenly sinks in: the party have been used, manipulated by Keegan into delivering the last surviving member of his family so that he may claim the one soul he failed to collect all those years ago.

The company, anticipating trouble, steps in to protect the old farmer, but Keegan is too fast. What would surely have been a killing blow, however, is thwarted by the two black shadows -- now revealed as the damned souls of his two young daughters -- who surge forward and attack the cursed remains of their father. Keegan is diverted for a few precious seconds, allowing the adventurers to drag Eilian -- catatonic with fear -- off to one side, all the while bringing their weapons to bear on the knight. Soon, and with pitiless fury, Keegan destroys what is left of his daughters, damning them, no doubt, to eternal servitude under a demon's wing, and turns his attention back to his only remaining blood relative.

Although he is effectively walled in by the party's defenders, Keegan's fury will not be stopped. He forces his way through the defense to get to his victim, and strikes him down. Eilian collapses to the floor, barely clinging to life, but before the knight can finish the job, he finds himself battered away by well-placed attacks from the adventurers, giving Romtoe the room he needs to pull Eilian away from death's door.

From this point, the fight becomes a carefully choreographed dance where the party uses every trick in the book to keep the fallen knight away from Eilian, all the while pummeling the undead with everything they have. Not for nothing did destiny intertwine their fate with that of the knight's, and they at last succeed in destroying him, leaving Eilian unconscious, but alive.

Keegan's magical longsword, Aecris is retrieved and handed to Elumai for safe-keeping, but the party is disappointed to find little else of value to them, aside from a few pieces of jewelry which they presume to be memento's of the cursed House of Keegan. Fearing that his defeat will only weaken the wards protecting the lower levels for a short while, they have no choice but to scoop up Eilian's unconscious form, and proceed to the gateway.

They find it pale and weakened, and are able to pass through without harm or hindrance. Beyond, an earthen tunnel uncoils deep underground, its walls stained an ever-richer shade of red as they descend. Following it, they pass by a room in which a strange, amorphous threat lurks beneath the surface of a dark pool, but choose not to engage, pushing on into what looks like an underground temple complex. Taking the southern exit from the next room, they enter a square chamber replete with simple traps - metal statues that attack those who come within reach, dragon-headed plinths that belch fire - but the hazards are old and decrepit, easy to destroy or bypass.

The next room, however, is not so simple. A red-bricked, conical chamber, its walls lined with the signs of old burning, stands in their way. Impaled on the walls are several corpses in various states of decomposition, and a ring of ghoulish figures walking in circles in something like a trance near the center of the room. Trickling down the walls and across the floor sre several rivulets of glistening blood; it twists and pulsates with an unnatural life of its own, collecting in small pools before flowing down a stairwell to the east and god-knows where beyond. As the adventurers stand assessing the scene, the zombies gradually come to their senses...