Daily Archives: August 10, 2015

Intersession #18.5 – Through the Leygate (Fiction)

Stepping through the leygate was an exercise in willpower, the crackling, eldritch energies raced through one’s body and it was easy to believe that instead of translocating space your body was ripped apart and reassembled within the span of a flash of lightning. But the memory of that awful moment of being in two places at once thundered through the body for long moments as each member of the party stumblingly caught their breath, trying to make way for the next with limbs that moved numbly and awkwardly.

Rhys had been the first through, now he stood on the edge of the barren and ancient road the leygate had taken the party to. Eyes alert on the surroundings, his cloak already pulled up around his face to keep out the black and grey dust that was whipped up by the low wind that moaned across the ground and through the surrounding hills, Rhys absently scratched Lockheed’s head as the dragonet wrapped itself across his shoulders, staying close in the unfamiliar and alien terrain.

He’d been the first to investigate the low stone terrace that they all rested upon now, where the leygate had opened to. There were a pair of ancient stone plinths standing in the terrace, deeply graven with runes and sigils, the site of the leygate terminus. They were now cold and silent rather than alive with arcane energies. The leygate had closed scant minutes after the company had arrived, removing the only way to return to Kingshom that the party knew of – the first sign of things going horribly, horribly wrong. Rhys had also discovered the body lying in road in his sweep of the area, a human dressed in violet robes, filled with arrows and bitten about the face and shoulders by snakes. The twin sacks turned out beside the body had been similar to the ones the tomb-robbers had carried and had the remains of grave dirt and tomb dust, but the note in the corpse’s hand had been in no language he’d ever seen before.

After that had gone Dhagri. The young Khazan’s eyes had been big and bright as he passed through the leygate, uncomfortable with the unfamiliar and arcane nature of the travel. He paced around sniffing the bitter tang to air that was cool with the wind. Like Rhys, his eyes focused outwards at the bleak rocky hills, watching for danger, looking for a clue as to what to do next. As he unconsciously played with the wrappings of the hilt of his axe, his eyes drifted off to the distance where it seemed darker, like the coming of night, but it came no closer, grew no darker as Dhagri watched. Instead it seemed as if the Darkness waited, and watched him in turn, patient and silent and hungry as a grave.

Fonkin sat on a small rock, shivering in the shadowy twilight they had found themselves in. Gnomes were creatures of the surface world for all that they burrowed in the earth for its treasures, and too much time away from the fresh air and warming rays of the sun brought with a malaise for the Little People. One hand on the body of his cousin Wren that lay wrapped at his feet, Fonkin rocked gently and prayed quietly that they could revive him rather than leave him in such a desolate place. Reaching out to his Patron, the link felt hollow and weak, and he shuddered to think of himself left alone in the darkness here, still and lifeless, with no-one to remember him. The light of Faerie seemed very distant, fading the same as hope threatened to.

Even the knowledge that his Patron was pleased with him barely cheered him, for while the contents of the note had been revealed to him, the turned out bags beside the corpse meant that another task lay before them…

Fadheela,

I have been delayed. My servant carries the king’s bones and all the items of his champions that I could find. Merthúvial I cannot locate. I shall spend a bit more time it, but I am sending these on so our rendezvous is not compromised. Please give the Vanguard my regards. I shall be along shortly.

                                                                                                                -Xeron

Ilda’s eyes flickered over the party in turn, then to each of the corpses in turn, as well as toward the same Darkness as Dhagri’s eyes did – consciously or unconsciously everyone cast a glance in that direction regularly. Having pulled out the dulcimer from its’ storage place, the dwarf was calmed by checking to make sure that it had survived the recent combats unscathed. This place was like nothing the dwarf had ever encountered before, and the lays and lore tumbled through Ilda’s head trying to figure out where they were. Like all of the party, the dwarf was tired – the miraculous blessing of the Celestial seemed days distant rather than hours.

Lost in a numb reverie, Ta’sara sat next to Rhys, unconsciously looking to family for comfort. Coughing at the dust, all she could hear was the wind blowing across the stones. Not a bird, not an insect, not any animal that she could identify. She hoped that this place would not be the death of them all, the same that the tomb had been for Wren and their distant kin Leera. The wrapped body of the young bard lay where it had fallen as Ta’sara had stumbled through the leygate – the incredible and essential wrongness of the place like an ache in her joints, a weakness in her bones, a queasy feeling that settled in guts like spoiled meat. The quiet, the dust and incredible dryness, the lack of vegetation made her think it was desert of some sort – but this matched no description of any desert she had ever read about. Beyond that, even the light of the distant stars was wrong and cold. There were none of the natural rhythms and currants that she was used to or even expected – only dust, shadows, and a distant lurking Darkness.

The tracks that had surrounded the purple-robed corpse had walked in the direction of the road and then stopped in mid-stride. Whomever had slain Xeron’s servant had teleported away in midstride and there was no way to know where they had gone. The Forgotten King’s remains and the equipment of his champions was nowhere to be seen and Ta’sara had no clue as to where to look next, no idea how to solve the problem in front of them, let alone the looming issue of the Vanguard and whatever their mission was in the threatened coming of the Age of Worms.

Face illuminated by the endless flame he held cupped in his hands, Jarvic listened to the song of the Great Dragon in the wind that swept across the land. It was a harsher, darker song, one that he had never heard before and it matched the ache in his muscles and the tiredness he felt in his very soul after the travails of the Barrow. Here, in this wide open space with nothing but rock and wind and dust Jarvic could hear the Great Dragon like never before, not just one Great Voice, but a multitude of lesser voices that sang in harmony and melody. It was so strong, these combined voices that made up the Great Dragon, the Great Dragon was so strong, that it felt like Jarvic was all but lifted off the ground, like the wind would carry him. The breeze eddied around him, filling his lungs so full that they would never empty, a constant presence and reminder that the Great Dragon was near, was present even here, was with him even with the Darkness so close.

The Darkness, Jarvic looked towards it. It weighed heavily on his mind, its presence almost adding a physical weight to his shoulders, adding to his weariness, holding him down where the Great Dragon would raise him up. The flame in his hand seemed dimmer here, less warm, colder, like the distant stars that could be seen through the twilight gloom of the sky. Stars that were in no configuration that he had ever seen nor any that he had read of. Their pattern reminded him of the writing that the Necromancer had stolen from his mind, not that it should be possible, but he felt weak and uneasy when he thought to deeply on the matter and his thoughts fled from half-remembered dreams of terrible things and worse possibilities.

While Fonkin had been able to read the missive from the tomb-robber Xeron, it was due to some arcane trick. Jarvic had recognized the script, even if he wasn’t skilled enough to read it. It was elaborate glyphs of the Ithian language – the language of the slavers that his family had escaped from when he was nothing but a child. An ancient and cruel people, of inhuman lusts and infamous plots, who dwelt far to south in a jungle empire built on the ruins of races and empires far worse than they. This rocky, desolate wasteland was not the jungle of Ith, so where had this Vanguard led them?

Shivering slightly as the wind picked up, Devon stared at the gleaming sword lying on the ground on a ripped and tattered cloak before him. The adamantine blade glowed faintly in the darkness the black and grey dust refusing to settle upon it. It sat there where he had placed it, almost dropped actually because gazing upon his companions he had been overwhelmed by the cacophony and hopelessness of their thoughts, their confusion, pain, and their fear. It had not happened again, but Devon was wary of that flood of information again. It made the young nobles own fear worse, that he would never see his wife again, that he would fail not just his family, but the Light itself by allowing the bones of Forgotten King whose sword this had been to be used in whatever fell ritual they were intended. The weight of that responsibility was crushing, weighing him down despite already being exhausted by the fight with the Betrayer and his companions.

Devon glanced in the direction of the Darkness and shuddered, it was as if he was living the tales and parables of the Enchiridion. It was hard, he knew he needed to be an inspiration even when he doubted himself. There is no Light greater than that found within the soul of the Faithful. It shines through the longest nights, in the deepest Darkness, and provides a beacon for those in the greatest need – was the quote and he remembered Frater Simeon reciting it as he learned Aleph in temple. Devon just wished that he was as strong as the blade in front of him, he knew he was unworthy, knew that he was merely weak flesh rather than celestial steel.

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Startled by the almost simultaneous low whistle by Rhys and soft coughing bark by Dhagri, the company came to their feet, grasping at weapons and looking in all directions. Appearing out the shadows, gliding silently down the road, a small landbarge – more of wagon actually – had appeared. Rarely seen, no one in the company had ever seen such a small one before. It floated silently down the center of the well-worn cobblestones of the ancient road, and as it drew closer they were all able to see who helmed it.

Sitting there, holding the wheel, was a broad shouldered dwarf, but not like one that any of them had ever seen before. Dressed in a long black skirt, the dwarf also wore a heavy, dark leather greatcoat over a tight fitting shirt the same shade as his skirt. While this was odd enough it was the rest of his appearance that drew the most attention – the ashen-colored skin and glittering black eyes with no whites and no iris were like nothing any of them had ever seen.

Pulling up a short way off from the party, the dwarf nodded and smiled, calling out in a deep baritone in Dwarrune, the private language of the dwarves. Ilda stepped forward and responded as the dwarf climbed down from the helm of the landbarge and smiling as nodding as he did so.

“Well met travelers, and unless I miss my mark from the Heartlands of Avalon too. Harsh winds this span, but you have travelled far to get here and I am called Heart of Coal, a humble merchant of the Shadowlands. Perhaps you would like to see my wares?”

The words were harshly accented, but clear and unmistakably Westron, surprisingly welcome after the long silence that the party had not even realized had settled upon them as they had sat with their thoughts. But the words themselves held within in them the terrifying answer of where they were.

The Great Realm of the Shadowlands.

Ruled by the Witch-King and his Ebon Council, who had alternately plagued and saved the Heartlands since time immemorial, and bordering the Great Realm of the Dead, the Shadowlands were the home of daemons, succubae, and deadly beasts that were the stuff of both legend and legend in the Mortal Realms.

It wasn’t the Pit of Hell, but tales said there was a road from the palace of the Witch-King that led straight to the throne of the First of the Fallen.

By the Light, the Great Dragons, and the Old Powers – what exactly was this Vanguard and why had their minions fled here of all places?

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Session #18 – The Forgotten King

This party began the session with Ta’sara tending to the wounds of the unconscious half-elf that they had discovered bound last session, the rest of the party was beginning to work at making the room more defensible while they had the opportunity to rest up. The young woman, Leera Scornbul, woke quickly and her story was not what the party expected – though it would be hard to say what exactly that would have been based on the current circumstances.

A sage who had studied at the University of Navarre, Leera had been hired by the group before realizing just who and what they were – which even somewhat obscure to her as well. But the presence of the khazan and the goblins, as well as the repellant nature of the sorcerer Xeron spoke volumes even if their exact motives – beyond the contents of tomb of the Forgotten King – were unknown. Her information was enough to let the party know that the tomb-robbers had been in conflict with themselves, that they had faced most of them already, and that it was the leader, Xeron, and his main lieutenant, a khazan warrior named Jerog, that were left for the party to deal with. Leera was also able to give the party more information on the history of the Forgotten King himself, his rise, and his betrayal and fall.

While the Ta’sara was gathering this information, Devon was moving rubble and reached down to pick up a small Argentos he found there – and the party was granted a winged, celestial Visitation!

“Fear not! You must make haste, evil has come to the this place and seeks to work more evil still. Beware the Age of Worms and move quickly lest you lose your chance.” Drawing His sword, the light of the angel’s word was like the dawn of new day, renewing the party as if they had been fully refreshed – full of life and energy. He stared at the group, then at Devon in particular “In this war as all others, you must choose a side, so go forth and vanquish the evil ahead of you or perish and fall, with the world, into darkness.”

With a bright flash, the angel was gone with a clap of it’s wings.

Emboldened, the party girded their loins and pressed on into the next room. It was eerie, the air was damper then elsewhere, and the room was draped and wrapped in webs. The party moved in to investigate a statue (much as the tracks suggested the tomb-robbers had done) only to be attacked by hordes of large, fist-sized black-and-red spiders that swarmed over the group – as well as a web-wrapped body of some sort that spilled forth another swarm of spiders when it was attacked. As the party struggled to vanquish the venomous arachnids a giant horse-sized spider attacked the group as well. The cold chill that passed over those bitten pained them deeply, with Leera being overcome almost instantly, and Wren being struck down by the giant spider before the party slew it. Much to the Ta’sara’s dismay attempts to revive the two met with not only failure, but seemed to provoke another round of poisoning that damaged them further. Unsure of what to do but knowing that they needed to press forward, Jarvic cast Gentle Repose upon both of them in the hopes that they could come back and recover the bodies to revive later with more puissant magic.

Sobered by the loss of their new companion and Fonkin’s cousin, the party continued to onward to the next room – which seemed to be the final resting place of the Forgotten King. It was a large, square room, with fountains that poured out of each cardinal direction, the water running through carved channels in the floor to empty into a large well in the center of the room. Across from entrance, a figure sat on a throne, flanked by the bodies of warriors along the wall – with another figure sitting at the it’s feet.

There was no sign of the tomb-robbers, nor any sign of another exit.

Carefully, the party made it’s way across the chamber skirting the wall and focused on the figure on the throne – though some could faintly hear the sound of picks or stone breaking emanating from the well. Upon drawing close to the throne, the figure spoke, inquiring as to if it was time for the Forgotten King to return? If the Age of Worms was upon the world? The beautiful woman at the figure’s feet nodded along, smiling at the party. Confused, but curious and not wishing to give offense, the party tried to understand where the tomb-robbers had gone, while the figure on the throne continued to inquire as to why the party was there.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jarvic struck out – sensing that something was wrong – much to horror of the rest of the party. Roaring up in rage, the figure revealed itself to be hideous, fused to it’s armor, with crazed and lidless eyes gleaming forth from beneath it’s helm. The beautiful woman became a bloated, stumbling corpse, and the bodyguards were equally repulsive, eyes burning with hate and resentment. As one, they advanced upon and engaged the party in combat.

The fight was short, brutal, and devastating – though no more members of the party were slain. The Betrayer was able to turn Dhagri against the party for much of the fight, Fonkin and Ta’sara found much of their magic was useless against the undead, the hideous consort exploded causing much damage, and Devon and Rhys were barely able to take down the Betrayer at the very last. Drained by the fight, wary of the magic of the tomb after such a battle, Rhys used a hoarded piece of magic and dropped a globe from a Necklace of Missiles down the well to take of what they were certain was the tomb-robbers rather than try to figure out how to get the party down without being picked off one by one.

When no more noise was forthcoming, the party eventually investigated – finding the charred bodies of a human and a khazan, a series of broken sarcophagi, and a still-active leygate in the corner. As they decided what to do, knowing that they needed to decide soon if they chose to go through the leygate (because they did not know how long it would last), Devon was granted yet another spiritual visitation!

The spirit of the Forgotten King rose up, explained that the tomb-robbers had taken not only the equipment of his companions and champions, but his own bones well! Charging Devon with returning his bones and stopping the Vangard the king reached down into the stone underneath his tomb and drew forth an adamant longsword scribed in Aleph with the name Merthuvial, or “Kingmaker” and handed it to the surprised noble.

With this, as well as the realization that they didn’t know how to return the way that they had come, the party gathered up what loot they could, the bodies of their companions, and passed through the leygate – hoping that it wasn’t leading to a murder room in the fortress of the Vanguard…

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  • So, this marked the end of the Barrow of the Forgotten King. It was a decent enough module, through it was far too linear and tried much to hard to be clever. This last session was almost entirely rewritten though I kept the monsters from the module I staged them differently and come up with an entirely new map.
  • My apologies for taking so long to post this, it’s been a busy few weeks – in all I think it has given me a better pace of prepping for the next stage of the campaign. I’m still running the group through the Age of Worms, but I’m tweaking it significantly to fit my campaign world as well as the 5E engine.
  • The angel replaced an utterly and ridiculously out of place fossergrim from the module, though it’s spring was kept “in spirit” with the fountain and wells in the Betrayer’s chamber. It was used to what I think was much better practical and dramatic effect. It certainly worked better for my game at least and fits the narrative about a million times better.
  • From here I’m proceeding to The Sinister Spire, though I’m changing it significantly to better fit my campaign setting. One of the things I like about is that it seems much more role-playing and much less combat oriented. This module turned into a bit of a slog because of the linear nature of the single-path tomb-complex.
  • This module trio was written, to the best of my understanding, to introduce Legacy weapons to 3.5E. I certainly like the idea of magical items that get better as the character levels up, but the feat investment is way out of place in 5E. I’ll write up my version of Merthuvial in a couple of days, and it is pretty much spot on. It also included a single piece of a magic item set, the Vestments of Divinity, I’ll include my 5E interpretation of that as well.

TTFN!

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