Flamerule the 1st – Flamerule the 10th
Following the festival of The Boon of Luminos, Ember and Solaren decided to make their way back to Fallcrest. Taking their time, they arrived in the outskirts after about 8 days. As they had been approaching the weather was quite gloomy and rainy. Not fun traveling weather. As they were riding into town, they began to realize that even accounting for the weather, the outlying farms were rather quiet. Then they came across one that had burned to the ground, and there was no longer any doubt. Something was seriously wrong.
Approaching the next farm house they came across they cautiously approached the door. Knocking, Ember called out to see if anyone was home. After a few minutes they were about to give up when they heard a timid, “Who’s there?” coming from inside the house. Introducing themselves, and warning the man of Solaren’s appearance, they were eventually invited inside. The farmer told them that the farms and surrounding land had been subject to terrible attacks by marauders or bandits. They all seemed to be looking for something, and anyone who happened to get in their way, live in the wrong place, or even just see them were chased down and brutally murdered. His farm had been safe so far, but he thought it was only a matter of time. With a note of defiance, he claimed he wouldn’t be run out of the house that his father built with his own hands, no matter the cost.
Having found out all they could from the farmer, they made their way quickly into the city. They were stopped immediately but a patrol of guards, but after the guards recognized them, they were brought to the barracks, which was serving as the command center for the militia. There they found the familiar Captain Faringray and a rather flamboyant gnome they had never met, but of course had heard of: Panzanzabon. They were coordinating the defense and evacuation of the surrounding farms, but even the trained guard couldn’t do much against the savagery of these marauders.
Faringray had a little more useful information than the farmer however, informing the party that these enemies had the same yellow skulls painted on their faces as the ones from the Storm Tower. And there were a lot of them. They were looking for something, or several somethings buried in the earth. The PCs filled in the missing piece, they must have been looking for the golden skulls. With a score to settle against these guys, not to mention that this was Ember’s only real home, the PCs were more than willing to investigate what they could.
With the captain promising that as soon as a lead was reported he would inform the party, they decided to head for the church to visit Byron. It had been nearly 6 ten days since Ember had seen Byron, and she missed him fiercely. He was grave when she arrived however. “It always seems that we are brought together by unfortunate circumstance.” He brightened just a little however, “At least the circumstance do bring us together.” And they embraced. After hearing Byron’s version of the tale, they received a messenger informing them that a group of bandits had been sighted.
Leaving at once, they headed out to the farm that the bandits were found at. Thanks to the rain and soft ground, they were easily able to follow the trail of the bandits, and it lead to a large cave opening, that seemed to have been uncovered recently. The signs of rockslide were still evident. Wasting no time, the party headed into to cave to see what they could find. The main corridor eventually gave way from natural stone to carved rock, ending in a massive set of double doors, carved with the likeness of 13 skulls. That aforementioned rockslide seemed to have opened a secondary cavern off to the left, so they decided to check that out first.
Heading deeper into the earth, the air began to take on an unearthly chill. That hadn’t made it more than 20 yards before a ghostly hand swept out of the wall and brushed Solaren’s skin. Immediately alert, the party prepared to face… something. Then two apparitions burst out of the wall to attack. Luckily their magic blades struck true, and they were able to defeat the wraiths before their life force was drained from them.
Continuing down the tunnel they couldn’t see any other signs of creatures, so confident that it was safe they headed back to the double doors. Solaren moved to search the doors, see if there was anything hidden on them, but as he brushed the skull-shaped handle, a glyph exploded outwards, knocking him to the floor. Figuring it was now safe to open the door, and not wanting to give whatever was surely alerted on the other side of the door time to prepare, Solaren yanked the door open.
What they saw took their breath away. A massive stone chamber loomed before them, stretching as far as the eye could see. The center of the room was dominated by a massive red summoning circle, and at the far side of the room was a raised stone altar, overlooking the whole chamber. Immediately in front of them however were several hideous creatures intent on killing them, the room could wait. Two troglodytes, two red-skinned humanoid shaped creatures, and a human with a wicked cat-o’-nine-tails moved to intercept them. They could see in the distance, a hulking figure standing before an altar.
Unleashing fire upon the foes, the troglodytes went down immediately, but the others were not so easily killed. The demons, it was apparent now, moved to flank Solaren, hoping to drop him quickly, and the whip-wielder focused on Ember. Burning away the human, they both, along with Solaren’s tiger, turned to focus on the demons. They proved to be very resilient however, and it was slow going on both sides.
Worried about the creature at the back, Ember tried to disrupt it’s chanting by casting Evard’s Black Tenticles, but it proved to strong and focused. All the while, the hulking figure in the back began to chant louder and louder, until the very stone beneath their feet began to tremble. With a loud crack, and burst of dark light, something at the altar exploded into fine dust. Following the boom, an apparition appeared above it, an apparition that Ember recognized to be Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undeath. Along with the apparition, a voice that sounded like the rustling of the wind whispered:
to summon thrall and revenant souls
the harvest moon casts shadows dim
born from the depths of nightmares grim
and conjured forth, rise loathsome things
to seize the night, upon dark wings”
The apparition began to dissipate, until only the burning red eyes remained in the darkness. Finally, those too faded, and turning from the altar, the creature slowly began to wade into battle, slowed down by the writing tentacles. In an attempt to stop ember from casting any more spells, the ogre cast a silence spell in the center of the room, hitting much of it. Appearing very unconcerned, the ogre was content to focus its attention on Isis, the tiger, while it slowly moved towards Solaren. Solaren tried to slow down the creature by throwing summoned animals at it, but it seemed not to care. It seemed pleased with the events unfolding. Just as the ogre reached the center of the room, Isis entered the center of the summoning circle.
Along the ring of the circle a curtain of solid red light exploded towards the ceiling, and they could no longer see the tiger, the ogre or the demons. Panicking, Ember began to hurl fire into the circle, regrettably hitting Isis in the process. Isis was probably doomed already she reasoned, so she figured she would try and kill everything else. Finally they began to deal some damage to the demons along with the ogre, and things were starting to look in their favor.
After the summoning ended, Ember saw the bodies of 5 small demons that had appeared in the circle, as well as burn and scorch marks all over the ogre. Snarling silently, the ogre moved to end this. That distraction was enough though, and they were able to bring down the ogre without suffering one of the deadly blows of its great club.
With death and fire all around them, they could finally stop and take a breath, and process all they just witnessed. Were they too late? Was this what the ogre’s goal was all along? Stay tuned for our next session to find out.