Thursday, September 20, 2012

Session #25: "Out of the frying pan and into the fire..."

{The following is a dramatization of the actual events.  I've tried to remain true to the dialog  and details as best I can remember them.  Any resemblance to the truth; while intentional, remains largely accidental.  In my defense, there was quite a bit of beer flowing that night and the session itself was nearly 8 hours long.}

{Game clock resumes at 2:31pm 04/14/3200}

The ghost drifts forward menacingly; it is dressed in the tattered remains of a cleric of Thormyr.  Before it can invoke any of its dire powers Milo and Hearn step forward waiving their holy symbols; when the ghost sees the symbol for Ormazd and Elyr he seems to relax slightly; “I see the symbols of good and righteous deities why are you here, what purpose have you to be in this forsaken place?”
{In the Deific family tree, Ormazd is Thormyr’s Grandfather and Elyr is one of Thormyr’s many Aunts… hence the favorable reaction.}

Milo; “We seek to restore the Sword of Conviction to its rightful place.  We would slay the Dread Watcher.”

Ghost looking at the sword in Dwight’s hand; “I see the Sword of Conviction, and in truth you do not feel like those who desecrated the temple.”  Looking at Dwight, “Are you truly here to do as he said?  Will you stop at nothing imprison the Dread Watcher once again?”

Dwight; “I’m gonna try not to die.  Not too keen on the whole sacrifice thing, but yes… mostly.”

Ghost; “Well, I think you might be telling the truth, and the Defilers were a band of humans, orcs, and other foul creatures… I confess I am a coward… I ran and hid myself away in this niche with all of the valuable documents I could gather.”

Hearn; “Who are you?  Why, and how did you die here?”

Ghost; “I am, was, Jason Turner… now a disgraced cleric of Thormyr and former keeper of this crypt.  At least until five months ago… at least I think it’s been that long.  It’s so hard to tell in here.  I know it took me at least one month to starve to death.   My faith was insufficient to turn away the lacidons within the pool and for my cowardice; Thormyr would not here my prayers.  All I have to judge the passage of time is my decaying flesh… within which I’m cursed to reside.  The Gods have judged me and found that this is my punishment.”

Thingerlun; “What do you know about the Dread Watcher?  Is there anything you know that might be of use in defeating him?”

Jason; “Well, not really… I was never much of a scholar when I was alive, and I cannot lift or open any of these books now that I’ve got the time.” He reaches idly for one of the large black, leather bound tomes on the shelving unit, but his hand passes through them effortlessly.  He continues; “Brother Michard was the most learned of the caretakers; he wrote it all down in these volumes.”
Bob and Lex begin to move about the cramped space and spot the old dusty architects rendering of the tomb/ temple complex.  Bob dusts it off and they look it over in great detail and then begin to question the Ghost about what each of the rooms was used for…

Bob; “We were in a room where a stiff was spiked to a wall; what’s that all about?”

Jason; “That was the sacred sanctuary where only the most faithful of our order were allowed to pray.”

Dwight; “And the room across the hall from that?”

Jason; “Storage.”

Milo; “What about this next larger room over here?”  Pointing to the next room along the hallway they’d been traveling down earlier.

Jason; “That’s the area set aside for the public to prey to Thormyr and offer respect to Arden Brightheart.  There is a replica of Brightheart’s tomb there at the north end of the room.”

Lex; “And this huge chamber over here at the end of the hall?  What are the side rooms used for?”

Jason; “That’s the Grand Hall.  It is set aside for the upper class to worship and offer their respects.  The larger side chamber is the Tomb of the Faithful.  The smaller chamber off the north side of the Grand Hall is Arden Brightheart’s Tomb.”

Bob; “Are there any traps in here?”  Pointing to the entire map with a circling gesture of his finger.

Jason; “No, this was an active temple open to the public we couldn’t have that sort of thing!  Although Arden’s burial cask is said to be trapped, but I suspect someone started that rumor a few hundred years ago to skive off on the cleaning.”

Dwight; “Thingerlun, you take a look through that book while we try to figure out what is going on here.”

Reluctantly, Thingerlun grabs the volume and then starts turning the pages until Jason says to stop.  After a few moments of reading all that is known or suspected of the ritual summoning that the clerics of this temple have gathered over the last few hundreds of years.  He shouts “Crap!” then quotes the pertinent text for everyone else “… I therefore conclude that the Dread Watcher is a dual-being, both lich and summoned demon within the same vessel.  It is crucial that the location of the lost phylactery is determined.  I regret that the taboo against disturbing the remains of Arden prevents me from further inquiry.”

{Player: “You Asshole!  You didn’t!  We have got to find that Phylactery before we can kill it, or we’ll likely release something horrible into the world!

Storyteller grins; “Meta Gaming… you guys need to make a few rolls first before you can go off making assumptions and plans: Milo and Thing both get the chance to recall any knowledge they have on the subject of ‘lich’” Players both succeed, though not spectacularly.  “OK, most of that outburst now counts as dialog.  And you can discuss the various known weaknesses of a lich and what they are.  The book goes on to describe that what little is known about the Dread Watcher is that it is a demonic creature of the lower Abyss that can only be housed within the body of a powerful lich.”

Thingerlun’s Player; “SOooo… you’re saying they had to make a lich just to anchor this thing to our plane?  We are soo dead… How are we supposed to deal with that?

Storyteller; “Beats me, I’d planned on getting you guys another level and a few more clues along the trip to the temple…<Grins again> but someone decided to skip straight off to the ending… You’ll just have to think your way through this one very carefully.”}

At this point Merol Daryl splashes over to the cell and says; “Um Sir? I think I’ve found a second set of runic wards placed in various locations about the tomb where we’ve been walking.”

Thingerlun and Dwight both; WHAT?!”

Thingerlun; “What kind of runes?”

Merol; “They are mortal runes and seem to provide a silent alarm to the caster as we pass over them; we’ve already tripped several of them so far.”  He bends down and examines the threshold of the cell for a moment, “Yep, here too.”  He points to a nearly invisible tracery of silver chalk, painted on with a fine brush of some kind.

Thingerlun, very annoyed now; “Why would a creature with perfect precognition need to use wards to track our progress through this tomb?!”

Dwight; “And why HAVEN’T they DONE anything yet?!”

{Storyteller; “Very good questions.”}

While everyone was distracted by this, Bob tries to search and seize anything of value.  He spots that there is a wand in a holster at the belt of the dead cleric.  He snatches it, but Hearn spots him and scolds; “Hey, what are you doing?  That’s not right!”

Bob; “What?!  He wasn’t using it anymore and who knows; might be important.”  He examines it closely, and sees that there are divine scriptures of some kind inscribed with a minute golden inlay.  He hands it to her; “This looks like your department, not mine.”  And he wanders off.

Hearn begins to examine it and gets the sense that they are divine prayers of cleansing, but no one thinks to ask the ghost what it is used for; though Hearn asks him: “What are we to do with you?  What is your fate?”

Ghost; “To this place I ran, to this place I remain.  I’m to languish here for eternity… but I would gladly accept the flames or oblivion rather than remain here until the end of time.”

Milo; “Well, that settles it then, this is his sentence and it must be carried out… even if it’s distasteful.”

Hearn; “No.”  Everyone turns and looks to her, “Alive is best, but when you’re dead, you’re supposed to stay dead!”  And she summons a tremendous amount of divine power and obliterates the ghost; who willingly fails the save roll.

They leave the cell and splash back through the cave half expecting all of their troops to be dead; but they find everything is as they left it and they become even more agitated.  After a quick discussion they continue with the division of the troops; leaving those best able to use missile weapons, two of the rangers and steam knights, as well as Erol (1st lvl Wizard) and Ethel (1st lvl Cleric) to guard the entrance and supplies. {16 troops= 23/62 hit dice and 14 mules…}  Everyone else decides that they need to clear every room leading up to the largest in order to keep anything in the temple from getting between the scouting party and the door guard.  Bob, Thingerlun, and Merol manage to figure out that placing dust over one of the runes in the warding’s sequence prevents it from triggering.  Lex nervously crosses each as far from the pile of dust as possible so as not to accidentally disturb it and trigger the warning message.

They listen at the door to the storage room across from the shrine and determine that whatever it is and they toss in a sunrod: the light reveals that the room is occupied by an owlbear… and it’s dead.  Dwight orders the Steam Knight to kick the door down and blast the thing with his steam cannon; Milo is to follow the knight to illuminate the scene and deal with any other undead and/or the big critter if the steam blast doesn’t kill it outright.  As plans go it’s one of their better ones; but it takes a couple of tries for the knight to kick in the door, but their luck holds and they get into the room and blast the undead owlbear without triggering the ward, or destroying the owlbear.  This is the point where Milo realizes that this creature is too powerful for him to turn it aside with divine power.  The battle is short and fierce.  The critter slashes up the knight a bit and kills one of the 1st level warriors, but Milo and the steam knight alternately smash and hack the thing to goo in about 30 seconds.  Hearn gives last rights and turns to the pile of bones and offal in the corner of the room to see that it is the remains of several orcs.  They were so thoroughly scavenged for food that they had not risen after death, but Hearn gives them last rights anyway… just in case.

Lex and Bob go to work and discover that there is nothing here of any real use to them.  The room is the same size as the shrine across the hall and is full of broken shelving units and barrels; there is about 10ft of the room to their right as they enter, and the rest of the rectangular room extends to their left.  There are still shelves of old records, cleaning supplies, spoiled food… and several large, odiferous piles of dung.  From what they can tell, the orcs had planned to use this creature to ambush them from behind as they traveled up the hall.  However, the owlbear must’ve managed to kill its handlers and then proceeded to eat them and everything else it could find.  Eventually the owlbear or the orcs must have knocked or shoved a shelving unit up against, but not completely blocking the door.  It must have starved or died from eating something toxic.  Lex and Bob exit the room declaring it clear, but Hearn pokes around a bit and finds a secret door on the north end of the east wall as far from the entrance as they could get. She then proceeds to activate the door and it slides into the floor to reveal a 5ft wide, natural rock tunnel that turns to the south in the gloom just beyond the light cast by Milo’s aura.  “I found something!”  she shouts back to the rest of them.

Bob shakes his head; “She’s lucky to still be alive…”  And he proceeds to discover that there are no runic wards marking off this passage.

Thingerlun; “Now that proves that this creature doesn’t have perfect fore-knowledge!  If it did, then it would’ve known that this was here and marked it off like the others.”

Lex; “Unless this has been deliberately left un-marked to lead us down this passage…”

Vexed, Thingerlun wanders off muttering to himself.  Milo looks at the map they liberated from the Ghost’s records and sees that the secret door and passage are not on the map.  They conclude that they should at least figure out where this goes, if it is a way to surprise their enemy they couldn’t afford to pass up the chance.  They look to Bob and Lex to see which one of them is least likely to volunteer.  They all see as Lex slowly fades out of sight… confirming that she is something odd;  most folks don’t have a habit of turning invisible when they get nervous. {the player is testing my critters with classes rules from the CCD… but no one gets to know what she is unless she tells them, or they figure out what she is…}

Bob says in a companionable fashion; “Yep, she’s definitely the better qualified to check this out.” 
They hold out another activated sunrod and then it disappears, but the light it generates is still visible.  A disembodied light floats gracefully down the center of the tunnel which is 15ft high, but only 6 or 7ft wide. 

Lex had turned invisible and daintily acquired the glowing sunrod, which she knew from past experience, would disappear as soon as she gained control of it.  She then leapt forward and dove into the air, her body arrow straight and the light in her hands out in front of her as she flew off down the center of the hallway.  She moved at a regular walking pace as the tunnel snaked around to the south for a few dozen feet.  She spent all of her attention avoiding walls and searching for traps.  After about 60ft she looks up in time to narrowly dodge a flying mass of sticky and fluffy webs that had been flung in the direction of the light.  An instant later she sees the distinct form of an arachnid about 4ft in diameter hanging from the ceiling about 25ft in front of her just before the tunnel swings north again.  Rather than retreat for help, she charged down the hall at a good running pace {60ft} and managed to avoid another glob of webbing and make it around the corner without killing herself.  It is her invisibility that saves her… the several other spiders that were waiting in that last section of tunnel could only see a disembodied light moving at a good speed.  Lex manages several of the most spectacular feats of aerobatics that no one will ever see and manages to avoid becoming and arachnid’s dinner; but as she blew passed them like a zephyr in the night, she had barely enough time to stop before slamming into the dead end in front of her.

After a minute goes by the rest of the party starts to get nervous…
Hearn, in a worried voice; “We really need to find out what happened to her, she might be injured and too weak to call for help.”

Dwight, also concerned; “True, but the noise we make getting to her might also cause her problems.”

Lex Anne’s worst nightmare come true… she hoped desperately that there was a secret door somewhere at this end of the tunnel.   She had but a few seconds before she would be surrounded by cave spiders: invisible or not, it would only be a matter of time before they pinned her to the wall with their webs.  Fortunately for her there is in fact a secret door at this end of the tunnel.  She had plenty of light to search with, but it was the draught from the ill-fitting seam along the top of the door that clued her to its presence.  Activating the release lever opens the door on the narrowed eastern end of the tunnel.  It swings ponderously away from her to reveal a tomb.  If her memory was right, this would be the Tomb of the Faithful where Arden’s loyal brigade and many prominent members of the clergy of Thormyr were inhumed.   She could see that they were packed into narrow niches within the walls directly across from her and there seemed to be an impressive number of them extending off to her right.  As her gaze swept on to her left she saw that there was a set of double doors less than 50ft from where she was standing. 

After another minute…
Dwight; “could she have been taken out by a trap?”

Unfortunately for Lex, not all of the bodies in this tomb are kicking back peacefully in the niches provided for them.  A substantial number of them are milling about in the room between her and the tomb’s exit and she got the distinct feeling that they were immune to her power of invisibility.  Then she bounded high into the air like she’d been thrown from a siege engine; taking advantage of the 15ft vaulted ceiling to fly over the undead and land by the short tunnel that led to the doors.  They were unlocked and she pushed them open enough to dive out of the tomb; into the Grand Hall.  She was still invisible, but this room was lit by several magical sconces that filled the room with a soft yellow glow, so she tossed the sunrod back into the Tomb of the Faithful.  She saw that several of the undead had been pinned down by webs and that several of the undead had begun devouring some of the spiders; but that was nothing compared to the sight of what awaited her in the Grand Hall.

Bob; “I doubt there are traps, most of them are fairly loud… and cause a great deal of screaming from their victims.”

Arden Brightheart was sitting upon an intricately carved alabaster throne, itself set upon a dais that ran along the entire 50ft length of the eastern wall to her right and even curved to follow the walls at either end for another 10 or 15ft.  He was in full plate armor and the naked blade of the Sword of Conviction could be seen resting across his thighs, his right hand set lightly upon the hilt.  There were 5 elite warriors standing at attention on the dais to either side of the throne, all dressed with the same steel and brass trimmed full plate and shields as their liege.  Neither Arden nor his troops react to her entry into the hall and she takes a moment to look around in better detail.  The hall is a very large and distorted octagon; the doors and section of wall that she’d entered through were mirrored on the wall opposite her, but were nearly 100ft away.  The western side of the room, to her left, was drawn out by over long diagonal walls lined with statues made in Arden’s likeness only they are 15ft tall.  The short wall between the apex of the funnel created by the diagonal walls was just large enough for a set of grand double doors of white oak and brass fittings.  Each door was 10ft wide and nearly 20ft tall at the doorway’s curved apex.  The ceiling itself is barely lit and at least 50ft away.

At ten minutes…

Milo; “I could take some of the troops straight up the hallway as a distraction while the rest of you search for Lex Anne.”

Dwight; “No, that’s a 20ft wide hallway that curves around out of sight… you could get surrounded or overwhelmed.  Besides, I don’t want to split us up any further than we have already.  OK!  Let’s have you (Ranger), a couple of warriors, and the steam knight lead the way.  Then me, followed by Milo, Thingerlun, Hearn, Bob, and the rest of the troops.”  Sythrixis uses his great strength and scarp claws to scramble along upside down on the ceiling over Thingerlun’s head.  The dragon was invisible; but his mode of travel causes a steady rain of dust, grit, and rocks to fall on Thingerlun.   

They set off in search of Lex. 

Halfway down the tunnel they are surprised by the remaining spiders that have fled from the tomb.  By the time the adventurers could react; two warriors and the steam knight had been plastered to the tunnel walls by webs and the ranger was on the ground twitching and foaming at the mouth… he’d a rather sickly yellow color to his skin.  This left Dwight exposed at the front of the line staring down 4 cave spiders the size of small serving platters. There was one on the ground, one on the ceiling, and one on either wall.  The spiders win the initiative, but they fail to net any new prey.  One of the warriors struggles to his freedom but his attack misses; the other warrior just maneuvers himself until he’s up-side down.  Dwight managed to skewer the one on the floor causing him to be showered with spider goop; but only narrowly dodges being hit by one of the flying webs.  Thingerlun casts a weak magic missile that injures the one on the ceiling, but Sythrixis rushes forward to eat it.  Milo moves passed Dwight saying; “You shouldn’t be in front!  We can’t risk anything happening to you before we find the Dread Watcher, stay behind me.”  He then fails to hit the one of the spiders with a mighty swing of his mace.

The steam knight is much more massive than a normal humanoid because it is a suit of platemail stuffed full of mechanical parts, tubes, boilers and tanks of water and fuel with a gnome sitting in the center of it all throwing levers and turning dials that bring the device to life.  In this situation all of that extra mass means that pulling out of the webs was a simple matter of moving forward and then positioning himself between Dwight and the spiders.  The gnome’s high-pitched, squeaky voice issuing from a mouthpiece after having traversed a narrow pipe; “The cleric’s right sir.  Leave this to me!”  Moving to the front of the column and holding out his shield they all saw gouts of steam rushing out from the center of his shield that seared and blasted away the remaining spiders.

Dwight; “Well done! You stay in front.”

Steam knight; “OK, but be advised that I only have two more shots left.”

Hearn; “I think I can use the spell that brings food to bring enough water to replenish the tanks and 
Milo can cast a blessing on the steam tanks like we did for fighting the demons.”  Her spell succeeded, but was insufficient to fill the tanks with very much, but Milo rolled rather well and his blessing covered the steam knight and turned the water in his tanks into holy water.  They set out again and encountered the still opened secret door at the end of the tunnel along with the mass of undead trying to force their way past each other to get at the fresh meat.  The blast of holy steam melts the ones in front and the rest fall back and regroup within the tomb.  That was their first clue that these weren’t lesser undead like a skeleton or a zombie.  Milo steps out in front and invokes the might of Ormazd to drive away these fouls spirits of darkness.  About half of them run off to the darkest shadows at the unseen southern end of the tomb, but there is a humanoid form at the center of the milling mass of those which remain which has glowing eyes; it casts magic missiles at Sythrixis, Milo, and kills one of the warriors that it can see behind them.
Thingerlun casts magic shield and then in his mind says; “Sythrixis, blast as many as you can with your acidic breath.”  The dragon complies, and most of the remaining undead are reduced to liquid, but the spell casting undead dodges out of the way. 

Milo; “I think these are ghouls.”

Dwight; “What does that mean?”

Milo, swings at one of the few remaining ghouls to reach the little patch of tomb that they have secured, but he misses. “They can think and are quite carnivorous… oh, and don’t let them touch you.  They can paralyze you like the lacidons.”

Dwight; “Wonderful.”

Merol manages to destroy another of the remaining ghouls with a powerful flurry of magic missiles, Dwight invokes the ‘thunder-sword’ ability from the Sword of Conviction and severely damages most of the remaining ghouls and knocks several of them to the ground.  The steam knight blasts the remaining ghouls with holy steam… which has a similar effect as the dragon’s acidic breath.  The ghoul with the glowing eyes takes damage but remains dangerous as it spreads more damage to many of the party and their cohorts with another barrage of magic missiles.  Thingerlun’s single magic missile does enough damage to turn the spell casting undead into a pile of dust.

Lex could see that there were smaller statues on the dais as well, but all was quiet in here… too quiet.  She noticed that the warriors and Arden seemed unreal, not ghostly, but decidedly otherworldly.  Emboldened by the growing sounds of triumphant battle within the tomb behind her, Lex decided to try something.  Still invisible, she floats slowly to the center of the room and assumes a kneeling pose of veneration: then she drops her invisibility.  To Arden she says; “Lord Brightheart, I and others have come to help you cleanse your tomb of its evil taint.”

When there is no response she waits a moment, straining her ears to their limit trying to detect anything else that might be hidden here, but to no avail.  When the spirit of Arden (and she is convinced it is a conjured spirit of some kind) fails to answer her she resumes her invisibility and hides behind a statue to try and figure out what to do next.

Bob finds the sunrod; “She got this far, and the door’s open.  She must have made it out of here into the Grand Hall.”  The Tomb of the Faithful was a long room that was 30ft wide and stretched at least thrice that distance in a southerly direction according to their map.  All of the walls had bier niches stacked one on top of another from floor to ceiling; even the mitered corners of the vaguely octagonal room as well as the secret door that had allowed them entry had been used.  Dwight notices that all of the armor, shields, and weapons that he’d expect to find on these inhumed dead are missing.

Dwight; “Well, I guess we better get too it.  Everyone form up on me.” And they move into the Grand Hall.

{the first order of business was to roll initiative… Thingerlun managed a 22, but then so does Arden thanks to a mediocre roll on my part, Lex was next in line followed by Dwight...}

Thingerlun looks at the shimmering form of Arden and dredges the depths of his knowledge for any spell knowledge he can muster that might help them.  {24; so I let him read the specifics of the spell Eternal Champion and its strength… he also realizes that someone or something made a more powerful, ritualized version that summoned the Dream of Arden as well as several of his finest and most devoted warriors.}  Thingerlun conveys the gist of this to everyone in earshot as Arden charges forward swinging the Sword of Conviction.  He’d have killed Dwight, but for the fact that the steam knight had made a point of standing in front of his commander, and Dwight has no qualms about using the knight as cover.  The knight is severely damaged, but still functional.

Lex having occupied the niche made by the opened tomb door, the wall and one of the statues heard Thingerlun’s remarks on the spell.  He’d mentioned something about how they might be able to shock or convince the spirit that it was unreal which might cause it to vanish or something to that effect.  She becomes visible and steps out where they can see her and to Dwight she says; “Give him the Sword!  Show him that we are here to help and not to defile the place.”

In the split-second eternity of thought, Dwight considers everything that he’s heard and all that he knows.  He makes a decision.  Bending down on one kneeling before the tower of wrath and vengeance that is the spirit of Arden Brightheart defending his temple, Dwight bows his head and offers the sword to the spirit saying; “WE HAVE COME TO SLAY THE DREAD WATCHER AND TO CLEANSE THIS TMPLE OF EVIL!” {Spirit succeeds at its willpower roll against the summoner’s control}

The spirits of the soldiers disappear even as they are launching themselves into the fight when Arden idly waves his hand and says as he is fading away; “I see the Sword of Conviction in the hands of my heir, go with my blessing and rid this place of the filth that has accumulated here that you may stand vigil against the return of the Dread Watcher.” {party gets a +1 bonus on all saves for the rest of the battle as thanks from the spirit of Arden.  This bonus stacks with the +1 that the sword started granting them the moment they entered the temple, and the +1 bonus for anyone who manages to also be within 30ft of Hearn.  This is critically important information considering what happened when the battle moved on to Act 2…}

In the next couple of seconds several things happen all at once:

1. Sythrixis invokes the Strength spell he had stored within the gem given to him by Thingerlun back in the army camp; granting the subjects of the spell a strength of 18 for the next hour.

2. As he finishes casting, Sythrixis says mentally to Thingerlun I smell ogres!

3. The invisibility spell drops.  The spell had been concealing the Dread Watcher; 3 zombie henchmen that are each holding 2 terrified human slaves, Tarkan Khurzog the ogre-magi leader of the Scourge, and 7 ogres with great swords as well as one hideously mutated ogre that seemed to be an odd shade of grey and was devoid of a head.  This didn’t seem to matter much to its over-all health status or its ability to perceive the world.

4. Someone on the opposite side of the room casts a Fireball spell at the heroes… Not everyone was caught within the blast; most notably Hearn and Nanda (one of the junior clerics of Elyr) were too far back in the tomb giving last rights to all the bodies to get caught by the blast.  Bob and Lex die along with most of the troops in the initial blast and Sythrixis fails his save and is seriously wounded.  Dwight, Milo, Khrasus, and Thingerlun are nearly killed as well, but remain standing in the carnage and little fires. {made their saves}

The Dread Watcher’s voice cracked with menace as it reached a rasping, but feverous pitch; “You see Tarkan!  It is all unfolding as I have predicted.  These poor fools have brought the last piece of the Occulum Infernae right into our grasp!  Kill them! Bring me the Eye of Night and Skullshank will grant you ALL Imperial lands as your domain… to play with as you please!

The Dread Watcher then sacrifices one of the slaves to augment his casting and unleashes several powerful magic missiles into the remaining targets; the steam knight takes the brunt of the damage… the blast from the steam knight’s fuel destroys the steam gear and seriously wounds the gnome inside.  Thingerlun, figuring that a quick death is better than being sacrificed, uses a rather powerful casting of Magic Missile to kill the slaves as he retreats into the tomb.

They get their first really good look at Tarkhan Khurzog… It has the size of any ogre, but its skin was a rubbery magenta color and only one of his arms ended with a hand.  Never mind the fact that this hand had 6 fingers and a thumb.  The other arm simply ended in a stump; but what was really odd, was that a goblin with a bucket periodically poured water onto the ogre magi. 

Thingerlun; “Wow, he’s been casting for a while.”

The ogres, so confident in their abilities that they don’t even charge, start to move casually across the room shouting and taunting the smoldering remains of the would-be heroes.  Milo steps back from the fracas into the tomb and communes with Ormazd… It has occurred to him that if he destroys the gem; Skullshank cannot succeed.  So in silent prayer he asks; Will destroying the gem cause more harm to the world than letting Skullshank use it to summon a demon army? Will destroying the gem kill any of us out-right? {and then rolls a modified 19 on a die 20… but has to wait until next round to get the answers}

Everyone else hits their supply of healing potions like pints of ale at a dock-side tavern after the Imperial navy drops anchor.  Hearn is horrified by Thingerlun’s actions, but focuses on what she needs to be doing and she runs forward to pull Lex back into shelter.  She finds that Lex is still somehow clinging to life. {Recovering the body rule: success}  Oddly, Lex is also floating about 18inches off the ground.  Hearn notes this, but is really just happy for the fact that dragging Lex is nearly effortless.  One of the warriors dashes out to drag Bob back to safety and sees that he isn’t dead {just mostly dead thanks to another successful roll for recovering the body}.

Rather than attack the ogres, Dwight grabs the injured gnome and the last thing they note as they close the doors is that the ogre magi casts a second spell that seems to cause multiple images of him to dance and shift in the space around him.  Dwight laments that there is no locking mechanism.  Hearn, and Nanda apply every trick they know and pull Lex back to the land of the living.  Having recovered from death, Lex turns invisible and dashes out into the Grand Hall before the doors can close and hovers near the ceiling at the center of the room drinking another healing potion and get out her bow.  She needed to observe her target… the bounty on Khurzog’s head is rather substantial.  Bob recovers after someone pours a potion down his throat and he orders one of the three remaining warriors to run back to the entrance and get reinforcements.  They are ordered to come to the Tomb of the Faithful via the secret tunnel as it is deemed the most defensible location.  More healing for everyone; and just in time.

The ogres attack and tear the doors from their hinges.  The last two warriors that had entered the room with Dwight and the rest are sliced in half by great swords taller than they were.  Sythrixis avoids getting hit, and uses his last breath weapon attack for the day to liquefy 4 of the ogres as he advances into the Grand Hall and heads to the left.  However, one of the ogres was the headless mutant, and its body doesn’t melt, but simply vanishes and reappears in the center of the mausoleum.
Milo receives the answers to his call for aid: DESTOYING THE GEM WILL PREVENT SKULLSHANK FROM EVER SUCCEEDING IN HIS PLAN TO SUMMON THE DEMONS FROM BEYOND THE SPHERES.  IF YOU CAN SUMMON SUFFICIENT STRENGTH OF WILL, YOU MAY DESTROY THE EYE OF NIGHT.  NO HARM SHALL COME TO THEE FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF THE GEM.  Milo then casts a Command spell; “RETREAT!!” dismissing them with a contemptuous gesture of his hand and sending two of the ogres running in the opposite direction of combat.  He then pulls out the gem as he heads further back into the tomb; preparing to destroy one of the most important relics of his order in the name of safeguarding the world from Skullshank’s evil plans.

On the other side of the doors Lex is aware that the ogres below her are tearing them from their hinges, but she becomes more interested in the fact that something insect-like dives out of the gloom above and tries to sting her.  It fails and she can see that the ‘bug’ has no wings, but seems to be Tarkhan’s missing hand.  Five of its fingers and its thumb have been converted into insect like legs, the stump of wrist and its bones have converted into a mouth with irregular but sharp teeth.  The last finger has elongated and arched backward over the hand to form a scorpion like tail and stinger.  It has no eyes, but seems to be looking right at her; she decides that retreat isn’t an option and dives passed the thing to swoop down upon the ogre magi from above.  She is armed with the most dangerous thing in the multiverse… an idea.

Back in the tomb…

Thingerlun calls out for aid from Aristemis and is rewarded by having his mark of favor empowered.  The arrows that he can summon with it will split into three separate ‘+1 arrows’ for the next half hour.  Additionally there is the after affect that contacting his patron always leaves his mind sharply focused for a few precious moments.  He knows that the next spell he casts within that short time will be greatly enhanced by his this odd clarity of thought.  Bob throws his magic dagger and injures one of the remaining ogre’s, but it seems futile to him so he retreats further into the tomb to ‘inspect the quality of the digging’.  Dwight strikes the ground invoking the thunder sword ability again and even manages to deliver damage to the retreating ogres before the run too far. One of the two ogres that are standing in the shattered doorway falls to the ground, but the remaining ogre slashes him with its sword.  It is not an insignificant wound, but not instantly mortal either.  Hearn and Nanda rush forward to apply healing. 

Milo clears a space on the floor for the Eye of Night.  He tries to muster enough force of will to shatter the crystal, but his first attempt fails and his mace lands weakly to one side of the stone.

As Lex is dodging passed the floaty-hand-thing, and diving into the heart of the enemy ranks, she figures the lich can probably see her anyway, but she is surprised when the ogre magi tilts his head and looks straight at her; especially considering that there are no eyes in the ogres skull sockets.  He casts a spell that causes the room to fill with insane whisperings as two lines of fire streak out at her from his upraised stump of an arm.  She manages to dodge out of the way, but she is forced to retreat somewhat.  That is when she sees that the Dread Watcher’s dead eyes are staring at her.  Lex can see that he is casting something and is powerless to stop him.  A wave of power crashes into her mind as dark threatening shadows claw at her sanity trying to pin an eviction notice to her brain and turn her skull into a new summer vacation home for the lich.  Lex’s mind only just barely wins the contest for possession of her body and she shoots one of her ‘specially made arrows’.  Not at Tarkhan’s shifting menagerie of forms, but at the barrel of water behind him.

The two statues that Sythrixis had been using for cover spring to life and start to attack him.  One of them lashes him with its stone sword.  To the horror of dragon and mage, the dragon’s claws don’t really do that much damage to the statue that he attacks.  Thingerlun casts an epically powerful version of sleep spell and manages to catch four ogres in range of the spell because the two that were retreating became so terrified of their commander that they remembered what they ought to be doing and had charged back into combat.  They pass into an enchanted sleep and Thingerlun says; “May they rest peacefully until someone can catch a trap-door alligator.”  Out of earshot of Hearn he whispers to everyone else; “Kill’em while they’re vulnerable!”  Bob and the gnome rush forward to begin the grisly task, and Hearn steps forward to challenge the headless ogre that is now standing in the doorway.  It has somehow managed to sneak up on them.  She lands a mighty blow, but her mace passes harmlessly through the space where the ogre had been standing.  The thing reappears about 25ft away to his left just beyond the melee between dragon and statues.  Confused, Hearn barely notices Nanda shoving past her to get to the dragon, but with all the commotion she fails to muster enough faith to heal the poor creature.

Milo takes a deep breath and thinks about all of the darkness that will flood into the world if Skullshank succeeds; with a new resolve Milo shatters the Eye of night.  Me then turns and carries his grimm resolve into the fight out in the Grand Hall.  {You can always trust an engineer to find the practical solution…  :D }

The arrow zinged through the air its tip coated with not one, but two poisons painstakingly crafted in secret abord the train as they’ed all traveled to the army base.  One poison was a sleep agent crafted specifically to hide the more lethal poison underneath.  That second poison was distilled from the essence of a sea snail that lived in an ocean far from here.  The former was water based, and as luck would have it… so was the latter.  It struck deep into the water barrel without making enough noise to be noticed by anyone.

The poor, terrified goblin was devoted body, mind, and soul to his master so he was immune to any thought of surrender or urges to run away: but he was desperately frustrated and confused…  His purpose was to keep his Master's skin from drying out.  His Master was amphibious as a result of his devotion to the Great Demon from beyond the Spheres.  But the shifting images prevented him from knowing which one to dowse with water; he closed his eyes and flung his pail of water then died in his sleep from a massive heart attack. {hands came in contact with water while filling up the bucket and failed his poison checks…}  As luck would have it, the little blighter hit the correct version of the ogre magi…  Who promptly fails his save, because amphibians are vulnerable to water born toxins, and he falls to the ground.  All six of his effigies are foaming at the mouth, twitching and puking uncontrollably; he passes out and dies. 

The Dread Watcher casts a magic missile at the dragon and does some damage, but thankfully, the spell seemed under-powered.  The foul creature taps a ring on his hand and his body erupts in uncountable porcupine type quills. 

Lex drops her bow and dives down behind the mutant ogre which seems to be right below her now’ delivering a vicious strike to the back of its knee cap.  This close to the vile thing she sees that her blade has flayed down to the bone; but its’ bones are shiny, grey, and was soft enough to get nicked by her blade. The thing disappears and can be seen to appear 15ft away from her and closer to the room’s main entrance.  This fact saves her life.

Unencumbered by the ogres resting peacefully in front of him, Dwight charges forward and the Sword of Conviction flies from his hands with a mighty two handed throw.  The blade glints and gleams in the light and buries its blade a hand’s length into the stone wall… then fades into sparkles and stardust.

The Dread watcher appears stricken, even though the blade misses and it takes all of the lich's willpower to cast invisibility on itself. {the Dread Watcher’s confusion is the result of about a dozen large creatures destroying the blocking ward that guarded main door and the resultant arcane dissonance.}

Thingerlun manages to successfully invert his casting of the Enlarge spell and casts it upon the remaining animated statue which then promptly shrinks to a more manageable size that the dragon destroys with little effort.  At this point everyone in the Grand Hall hears a great commotion of sound and braying animals and feels the rumble of hooves through the soles of their boots.  The main doors to the Hall are flung back violently as a stampede of mules crashes into the mausoleum.  Two are killed by the impact that opens the doors, but the rest see the mutant ogre in front of them and swerve to either side of it and Lex Anne as she takes advantage of the situation to bolt straight up and turn invisible again.  Unfortunately, two of the mules failed to swerve and dispelled the false image as they blunder though it to die as they impact head first into the real mutant; which was still in front of Lex… and far more substantial than the doors.  The ogre didn’t seem to notice the impact.
The Sword of Conviction reappears in Dwight’s hands as he is jumping clear of the hysterical mules.

{Milo’s player grins mischievously; “Milo drops his shield then snags the mane of one of the passing mules and vaults onto its back!!”

Storyteller; “You’re joking right?”

Player; “Nope!  Milo’s got a luck score of 16, and his bonus applies to mounted attacks!!”

Storyteller; “OK… that’s an agility check against a DC of 18.”

Player rolls 18 and gets a modified 20…

Storyteller; “Roll a personality check against a DC of 15 to control the mule.”

Player gets a modified 16…

Storyteller (impersonating Darth Vader); “Impressive… Most impressive.”}

The mule rears back and kicks its fore-legs as Milo takes control of the terrified animal; the mutant takes advantage of the situation to throw one of the dead mule carcasses at Milo, but the throw is wildly off target.  Both Milo and Dwight are close enough to see from the mutant’s wound that it has shiny metal bones.  Dwight invokes the thunder-sword ability again and nearly destroys the three zombies that have been standing there diligently holding the now reanimated bodies of the dead slaves; the others are suspended above the floor and are immune to the effect.  However, they get up and start to shuffle towards the living targets in front of them.  The Dread Watcher re-appears next to them and sacrifices three of them with one mighty arc of his knife for the casting of his next spell.

It is the dragon’s turn to ward off the dark shadows of nightmares clawing at his mind as the Dread Watcher ties to take possession of the dragon’s body.  Were it not for the bond of wizard and familiar, the dragon wouldn’t have succeeded.  {DW gets 26… dragon gets 27…  Oh well.} Hearn rushes forward to try and help the dragon, but fails to summon any healing magic,  Nanda fails as well.  Dwight misses his next attack against the headless ogre, and Milo fails to summon enough power to turn any of the remaining undead.  Thingerlun and Sythrixis become enraged,  but they keep their cool and realize that the lich is beyond their reach for the moment and they chose to focus their efforts upon eliminating the bothersome mutant.  Sythrixis trots forward, catching the ogre from behind with a Flaming Hands spell.  This seems to be particularly effective and the creature lets out a horridly flatulent scream from the stump of esophagus between its shoulders as its body slumps and deforms slightly. 

Thingerlun snaps his fingers and points at the ogre.  Three arrows appear and zoom off to strike their target.  Lex fires another of her poisoned arrows and hits the thing, but it ignores the poison.  The Dread Watcher casts another spell and two more statues spring to life, all the lights in the room except for Milo’s aura turn a discordant shade of aqua-marine.  The statues charge Milo who stands his ground and calls upon the power of Ormazd to allow him to “Bind this foul servant of the shadows to my will that I might force it to surrender!” The statues both miss the cleric… {3+ and 6+… I think I need new dice…}

{Thingerlun’s player; “This has got ‘Hail Mary’ written all over it…”  Looks at Storyteller; “You’ll succeed on a 2 or better I’ll bet.”

Milo’s player rolls: total of 17…

Storyteller; “4 or better… actually.”

Storyteller then promptly rolls the die in the middle of the table… ‘3’.}

The Dread Watcher is enveloped in golden light that shines like the noon day sun.  The glow fades and the lich stands there obediently awaiting his master’s commands.  Milo says; “Order the statues to attack the mutant!” And then promptly retreats from the grasping arms and swinging swords of the enemy.  Everyone moves back for the few seconds it takes for the statues to terminate the mutant ogre and then stand quietly.

Dwight; “Lex!, Bob! Into that Tomb and find me that damn Phylactery thing…  then he gets momentarily dizzy as the sword prompts him with an old, fuzzy memory… Dwight sees a crudely hand knapped red crystal dagger in his mind.  Thinking to the sword; I thought you didn’t know anything about the Dread Watcher?

Sword; “You can’t stay connected to something for more than a thousand years without learning anything… this is still just a vague recollection.  Almost like a forgotten dream.

Dwight; “Keep your eyes out for a red crystal dagger.  You lot!” pointing in the direction of Nanda and the gnome get these mules calmed down and rounded up!”

Lex is first into the tomb and confirms that there is a trap on the lid of the sarcophagus; but it is no match for their combined ditch digging prowess.  As the lift the lid slowly off and place it to the side they see the dim red sparkles of the dagger in the skeletal hands of Arden Brightheart.  They gingerly lift it out and take it back to Dwight who turns to Milo; “OK now have it stand right over there.” And he points to a section of the wall where the two statues had formerly stood upon the dais.  It did so.
Without warning, fanfare, or final words he strode over and placed the dagger against the things chest held it there and shattered it with one mighty thrust of the Sword of Conviction and pinning the Dread Watcher to the chamber wall.  It crystallizes into pure onyx.  Dwight quickly solidifies into a statue of the purest alabaster and is rendered in minute detail; right down to the spider guts on top of his helmet that he never bothered to clean off.

{Game clock suspended at 3:15pm 04/14/3200}

{I vaguely recall that there were some pictures taken of the game board at various points during the battle, I'll update later after I track them down.  Thanx to everyone for reading along! We meet again on Saturday the 22nd to find out what happens next.}