Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Finnegan's Wake

Barrick’ turn. He got up, walked past the dead body starting to stink, tapped Felsmon on the shoulder, or anyway as high as he could easily reach, and took his turn standing watch over the street. No activity. Nothing would disturb the body this night, they would see to that – and that would be the end of it. He thought back to the evening that spawned this cursed vigil …

As so often, Barrick had been out of his element, trusting his more magical and, frankly, intelligent companions to understand this latest cowpie of a mission. Why should they ride in a carriage with this witch-woman Lorelei to a party, all having swallowed an unrecognition potion? Why should they give up their weapons at the entrance to the soiree? Why should they stay, when they were not greeted with a tankard of ale, or even mead, at the door?

Taking a seat next to an elderly human woman bedecked with jewels, the tough old dwarf stared at the stage. Could have sworn he saw a Beholder up there for a second, but now it was just a calm-looking man announcing a collection for an orphanage, and a young lass whose face he couldn’t see, passing around a metal pot shaped like a hat. He quickly grabbed the last five of the open-faced sandwiches from the table’s platter, while his neighbors stared at him slack-jawed.

Barrick’s companions (Rift, Felsmon, Tira, and Z’alden) were spread around the room, except for Erik, who had remained at the carriage. The music from the corner of the hall wasn’t half bad, but the several jesters attempting to entertain the guests were the worst he had ever seen. No smiles on their faces, no juggling, no pratfalls, no dancing, just a creepy, leering mime act, like they were trapped in a box, or trying to pull on a rope. Awful.

His ears were starting to burn, though. The chatter around him sounded familiar, something about a Mr. Goodright who had died at the hands of some scruffy adventurers – sounded not unlike some trouble they had had once in these parts, though they hadn’t killed anyone by that name, so far as he knew. He had the sneaking suspicion that the potion was wearing off – people were starting to talk behind their hands while looking his way, and at the huge, unforgettable figure of his dragonborn pal, Felsmon, nearby.

Just as Barrick was looking for more sandwiches, the entertainment kicked up a notch. The jesters had apparently just been doing avant-garde comedy, and they now all straightened up and pulled daggers out of their waistbands. Their leader, a convincingly mean-looking brute, announced that his name was Finnegan, and this was a holdup! Wonderful, a real piece of comic performance art. The jesters even grabbed a hostage or two, who looked truly scared! Barrick slapped his thighs with both hands and rocked with laughter.

At that, the nearest jester strode up and stabbed Barrick in the side.

The dwarf had shed his armor at the door, and he felt the blade cut into his belly fat. Did this idiot not know how to use a breakaway knife? Where do they find these guys? But the cruel look on the jester’s face, and Finnegan’s barking of orders, soon cleared his mind. It was on!

Barrick became enraged quicker than he could drain a glass. Finding himself without his usual weapons, he abruptly stopped laughing and, in one practiced motion, stood and swung his chair (about two hammers’ weight, he guessed) atop the knife-wielding jester’s head. His beefy assailant took most of the blow on his shoulders, and did not crumple.

Rift was, as usual, a few steps ahead of the dwarf, having cast a sleep spell on three of the jesters. She now proceeded to tie the hands of one of them – apparently she had spent some time on a ranch in her youth. Tira, thinking to press her unrecognition advantage for a few seconds more, tried a chaos bolt under the table, but it glanced harmlessly off the table leg. She then transported next to the lass who had taken up the collection. This was in fact their old “friend” Elena, who looked relieved to find that there were reinforcements among the guests, and even stabbed one of the sleeping jesters.

Elsewhere the fight proceeded in deadly earnest. Finnegan killed a musician who was trying to escape, as did another jester. One stabbed a peaceful hostage in the neck, but Z’alden, recently returned to the group, healed the guest, and cast a spell so powerful, it reached everyone in the room, doing serious damage to the three sleeping jesters. Felsmon, the largest figure present, struck a nearby jester, then took to the air – yes, he can fly – heading for one of the many suits of armor lining the hall. He janked its axe down onto yet another jester, whose hostage fell in a faint to the floor.

Barrick pulled a dagger from his usual hiding place – his beard, always close at hand and as impervious to quick searching as a Roc’s nest – and stabbed at his foe. This gave him an opening to retreat to a nearby suit of armor, where he grabbed a flail. He missed his trusty axe, but he swung the flail in a continuous circle around his stout frame, as he had been taught decades before. Jester, guests, and companions alike shied away from this dangerous dervish.

The fight might have ended in a few more seconds, the jesters no match for the experienced adventurers, but for Elena and the calm Master of Ceremonies, who turned out to be her uncle. They gave up any remaining pretense of dismay at the holdup, which it was now clear they had planned, and took to fighting alongside the jesters. Meanwhile the guests finally came to their senses and began to flee, scattering randomly towards the exits, which were barred.

It was Felsmon who killed the first foe, coldly murdering the last sleeping jester. In his glee, though, he misfired with his dragon’s breath, and the other two, now awake and free of Rift’s restraints, lit into him in response. Suddenly nothing was going well. Elena’s uncle could deal horrific damage, but was himself hard to hit. Tira attempted to toss him with a hurricane spell, to no avail, though the spell did push Elena out of the way. Finnegan, the leader of the jesters, acted every bit the part of a desperate killer.

Rift, having retreated to a corner, tried not once but twice with an icy-grasp spell, gave up, and set to trying to open the doors so the guests could escape the increasingly murderous situation. Barrick was by now surrounded by jesters, keeping their distance, looking for an opening. Felsmon was hurt badly, and Tira was bloodied.

Luckily Z’alden was once again in the house, and began to work his healing magic. Felsmon found solace in the Z-man’s Consecrated Ground, though the jesters found only pain there. Barrick, who had done so well with battle motivation in recent battles, tried again now, but his rage got the better of him, and he made a hash of the attempt: “I, General Barrick, command you all to fight better!” His companions, grinning or laughing outright, felt better anyway.

The 5 began to rally. Tira and Rift pulled off a pair of beautifully meshing spells. Fire from Rift was placed over ice from Tira, so that Elena’s uncle and some jesters, including their leader Finnegan, repeatedly slipped on the ice and fell into the fire. They only escaped by crawling.

And now the big guns came out; a tempest bomb from Tira, a blast from Rift, a revived Felsmon doing his usual bloodthirsty thing, and Barrick still whirling, with Z’alden watching everyone’s back, his healing spells at the ready. The jesters all took damage from fire, from ice, from Z’alden’s spells, from Barrick’s flail, from Felsmon’s blade. And … they lost their nerve. One tried to flee, but only fled this world.

Just then the doors burst open, scattering the guests, and the witch-woman Lorelei surveyed the scene from the doorway: the frightened guests, the broken, blood-spattered furniture, the dead bodies, the cowering jesters, and the 5 proud warriors. Erik, at her side, said, “S’up, guys”.

Lorelei called out to Craith to call off the fight, but as she watched, Tira took the opportunity to kill the jester leader Finnegan, Elena attacked Rift, Barrick attacked a jester, and Z’alden cast a spell on Craith, banishing him for a few seconds to an astral plane. Felsmon and the others prepared to ambush Craith upon his return.

Elena finally had her fill of the battle, and raced out of the room, leaping atop a winged creature she had left at the ready. A young lass, but not a foolish one. Rift barely hesitated, giving chase on a Pegasus belonging to Lorelei. Swooping and gliding, the duo of dangerous damsels vanished in seconds. Rift was gone!

With Elena out of the scene, Lorelei, the most powerful being in the room, commanded all to cease their fighting. Something in her voice made the command stick – probably a spell or three. Craith now became penitent, and promised to pay reparations: Dwarven chainmail for Barrick, a mace for Z’alden, and several wonderful potions, including a Potion of Unholy Life.

This last gift exposed a problem,in that Craith had carried out experiments with the recipe, and now that all doors were open and the fight ended, a faint moaning could be heard from the basement. Investigating, the group found a figure, chained in a corner, who looked like Mr. Goodright, only grey, sunken, and tattered.

Z’alden knew one thing, if he knew anything: The only good zombie is a dead zombie. He tried immediately to end Goodright’s godforsaken existence, but the battle ultimately required the might of all present (except Tira, exploring, and Barrick, drinking) to put down the monster.

Back upstairs, Craith also offered to pay for the reincarnation of the numerous dead, including Mr Goodright. Felsmon and Barrick looked at each other, then at the dead Finnegan, may his bones crumble to dust. Burned, slashed, bloodied, and broken, Finnegan looked to their eyes like someone who should not be reincarnated. While the hall was being cleared, they stealthily carried his body to an empty lot, where they would keep vigil, that night and more if necessary. Nothing would disturb the body, they would see to that – and that would be the end of it.

Comments

Rift leaps into the saddle of the pegasus. “Funny,” she thinks to herself. “I don’t remember there being a saddle on the pegasus. In fact, I don’t remember that horse having wings.”

She looks down at the saddle, to make sure she has a firm grip, and notices something hanging from the saddle horn. A sack. Her handy haversack, if she isn’t mistaken. And if she guesses correctly, it has all of her weapons and armor in it. That Lorelei, leave it to her to think of everything.

But she has no time to think about trifles. The hunt is on! Elena is now far ahead on her foul winged beast. Rift sees Elena’s face look back, and although it is difficult to tell at this distance, she sees a look of surprise cross Elena’s face. She did not reckon on being pursued.

Rift urges her mount to greater speed, softly speaking encouraging words. The distance to Elena’s winged horror is now less than it was, but Elena must be traveling faster herself, as Rift is no longer gaining. “Where is this foolish girl going?” Rift wonders. “But more importantly, where am I going?”

Far down below, a guard on the Fallcrest wall looks up in surprise as a shadow crosses the moon, followed quickly by another. “Strange time to be out for a ride,” he mutters, and resumes his plodding pace along the battlements.

Finnegan's Wake
 

The half-elven cleric looks at his hands. Even as he flexes them, he knows that the incredible boon of radiant power which the Kengi clerics had given to him in the name of Bahamut had come to an end. As he catches his breath, he is glad to feel that not all of the extraordinary power is gone. He can no longer fill a room with icy blue daggers of punishing light out eight staff lengths in all directions but the ability to summon the sapphire dragonclaw daggers still remains. And, he can feel, they will punish evil mercilessly. The Kengi had enhanced his powers and helped him to extend them beyond undead to elementals. In this way, he would be ready for the arrival of the fire monster Ryolith of his visions.

Z’alden had been surprised that the radiance had stayed with him after the adventurers had departed Kengistan. Now, he knows, the Kengi boon had finally come to an end. He would miss it, but he was glad to have wielded it when it was so desperately.

His itching leg brings him back to the matter at hand. Staring from the corrupted corpse of the former Mr.Goodright to his friends, Z’alden knows what he must do. “Dragon’s breath! we must speak with the corpse. If Goodright was corrupted not too long ago, then by the Claw, these coins might be used to raise him.” Z’alden glares at Craith but says nothing.

A shadow of uncertainty has hung over the cleric since he acted as judge, jury, executioner, and savior of the human merchant Mr. Goodright. Since that day, the half-elf has longed for a way to disprove his feelings and Tira’s quiet supposition that the cleric was turning to evil. Z’alden had condemned Goodright for cheating the party out of the reward for his daughter’s rescue. The cleric’s actions were just and right, he knew, but still some doubt remained in his own mind. He certainly hadn’t expected his prayer of wrathful light to rain down upon Goodright to be answered so fervently that the cleric would slay the merchant those many weeks ago. He had immediately healed Goodright back to health. The Fallcrest guards simply didn’t understand when they had run the party out of town. And, it seemed, neither did his half-elven brethren Tira.

What Z’alden had not expected was that, after the adventurers had left Fallcrest, this thief Craith would come along, further corrupting Elena, and using the weakened Goodright as an experimental subject for undead experiments. The cleric had not anticipated that the merchant would be changed into corrupt, evil undead.

Z’alden would deal with this rogue Craith in the future. Evil such as Craith could not be allowed to stand, but neither Z’alden nor his friends were strong enough to overcome the rogue. And, for the strangest of reasons, their powerful patroness Lorelei was a friend of Craith’s. She defended him! She wasn’t happy with his actions, but her support of the villain would make it difficult or impossible to see justice done to him at this time. Sometimes, the ways of Bahamut require patience. Z’alden could be patient. He would grow in his powers and wait until he was strong enough to confront Craith. He was not surprised to find himself fingering the Tiamat side of his holy symbol. Z’alden knew that his understanding of the gods had deepened from his time with the Kengi. In some aspects, Tiamat is evil, but in the service of justice, vengeance has a role, and Tiamat is the goddess of vengeance.

The day of Craith’s reckoning would have to wait. That time is up to Bahamut. For now, the issue at hand is the corpse of Goodright. Here, the plan is clear. Z’alden could banish any doubts about his intent.

Z’alden takes out of his bag a Shroud of Revival. He doubts it will have any effect, but it serves to cover the corpse.

Next, the cleric needs ritual components. He turns to Lorelei.

“Gentle Lady, have you the components for rituals? I require that which is just a little less than 150 gp. Verily, you could take the cost out of the coins in the far room, if you see fit.”

Finnegan's Wake
 

As Erik sits on top of the carriage looking up at the starry night, he wonders where Rift’s flight will take her. Her quarry, Elena, is on a midnight black steed, with leathery wings and flames shooting from each nostril. A wicked and powerful beast it is. The chaser rides a pegasus of immense strength too, but it had long pulled a heavy carriage. Would it have enough strength? Would it seek return to its master, Lorelei. Then again, perhaps the black beast might toss the young Elena off and return to its master, Craith. Erik would go to bed that night imagining just when he would see Rift again and how she will have changed.

Meanwhile, the rest of the adventurers, Lorelei and Craith surveyed the carnage within the House of Goodright. Six thieves lay dead as do a minstrel and a wealthy patron of Falcrest, none other than Aldrial, the counselor of young Elena and the town’s gossip. It was clear to all, even the master of mayhem, Craith, that things must be set right.

Lorelei’s demeanor changes greatly from that of the time spent in the carriage. No longer is she the seeker of fashion and expensive trinkets. Now she reveals more of the great wizard that she truly is. Her voice is stern and commanding. She raises her arms up, looks at those before her and her voice booms, “The past cannot be undone, yet the past can be changed by way of the future. The balance is maintained!” Craith casts his eyes downward as if he understands her words. Then from her cloak Lorelei draws a large crystal. After speaking a few unintelligible words, Lorelei lets it float up from the palm of her hand. Light radiates from it in all directions and the adventurers feel as though it is scanning them. Lorelei speaks some more words and then a searing beam streaks out from the crystal directly to Craith’s forehead. He stands stone faced still, yet all who witness know that the pain must be immense. Wounds appear on his face, arms, hands and body as though the damage inflicted in the recent combat are being relived upon him. Craith’s eyes look up upon Lorelei as the crystal draws him within it. Then he is gone.

Lorelei pauses for a moment, clearly emotionally hurt by what she had just done. With tears in her eyes, she says, “Yes, well, it is done. For now. The past is not undone but the transferring stone has made our job easier. Come let us see what can be done.”

With that she addresses Z’alden’s desire to raise Mr. Goodright from the dead. She explains that perhaps a more elaborate ritual will be needed to raise the one who had been turned into a wraith. Lorelei suggests that Z’alden use his skills to raise Aldrial and the minstrel. Perhaps to everyone’s surprise, she also expresses the wish to raise the thieves from the dead, stating that everyone should be given a second chance and that perhaps with their gift they could be turned to purposes of good, after some appropriate servitude. She defers to the adventurer’s wishes on that matter. Finally, she asks for Z’aldens help in raising Mr. Goodright in a special ritual that must occur before midnight.

Lorelei: I think you will find all the wealth here that you need for the proper ritual components.

She waves her hand casually in the direction of the room in which the thieves had been stash in their improperly acquired fortune. Within that room, the adventurers find, quite literally, mounds of coins, sacks of gems and everything from silver candlestick holders to fine dragon figurines. All told, the adventurers find 31,415 gold pieces worth of coins and gems. As for magical items, it is very surprising to find some good items that were missed by the thieves: 3 potions of healing, 2 potions of vitality, a pouch of “Dust of Appearance” and a “Ritual Candle” (in one of the silver candlestick holders).

[DM: As a group, the adventurers receive 4900 XP from defeating the seven thieves, 800 XP for foiling Elena, and 4150 XP for effectively defeating Craith (at least spoiling his fun). That is 1970 XP per adventurer. With all six adventures (including Erik), Lorelei and Craith battling the un-good Mr. Goodright, each adventurer receives an additional 175 XP. Everyone should now be at 36,360 XP. Thirteenth level is reached at 39,000. Congratulations on your victory despite being unarmored, poorly armed and outnumbered! Remember, you have some more decisions to make and there will be some more on-line play (the loot, resurrection and other normal fare).]

Finnegan's Wake
 

Z’alden nods his head at Lorelei approvingly, appreciating the emotional turmoil that she has undergone, and the decision that she has made.

“Good lady, however I may assist you in restoring Mr. Goodright, know that my feeble skills and knowledge are available. In my studies, I have not yet learned the ritual for Raise Dead. I had hoped to seek out others of my order here in Fallcrest, that after sunrise they might teach it to me, and I could help Mr. Goodright and the others. I defer to your knowledge that he is beyond the pale of that ritual’s power.”

“Dragon’s Breath. But, I am sore pressed as a poor cleric. I travel with none of the ritual components needed for any of those that I had hoped to use. What do you require for the restoration of the recently slain undead Mr. Goodright? I fear that the local merchants at this late hour may be hard pressed to gather the needed components. But, we could, perhaps, from the magic of some items disenchanted, gather the residuum needed.”

Z’alden eyes the ring on his finger, knowing that it could generate a significant amount of residuum in just one hour.

Finnegan's Wake
 

Z’alden sighs, realizing that he could not extract the residuum from the ring. Its magic is too powerful for him. At least his old crossbow could made to generate enough for speaking with Mr. Goodright. But, the components needed for Lorelei’s ritual could be harder to come by late at night, unless she can disenchant something. He awaits her response about what is needed, as his poor brain tries to think of what can be done before midnight.

Finnegan's Wake
 

OOC: About what time do the adventurers think it is now?

Finnegan's Wake
 

Lorelei thinks for but a moment and then responds to Z’alden, “With the sun set now for nearly an hour, we have but little time. I must leave you now, but will soon return. There is an old hermit I know of… Quick! Prepare the dining hall for the ritual. Prepare the body. Cover the windows for this bright moon must not enter, place guards at the house’s entry points for the villagers will soon be curious and we must not be disturbed. There is little time. I trust you.”

With that, Lorelei races up the stairs from Mr. Goodright’s cellar and runs out the house’s front door. Erik is waiting there by the carriage and Lorelei shouts something at him while she moves. Awakened from his thoughts of Rift and Elena, Erik climbs to the back of the carriage and from one of its trunks removes a large carpet. Without hesitation, Lorelei kneels on all fours upon the carpet. Erik’s eyes grow wide as it silently it lifts off of the ground. Into the night, Lorelei slips away.

Finnegan's Wake
 

[DM: What do the adventurers do with the gold, gems and other items they found? Do they help prepare the dining chamber for the delicate “raise dead” ritual on the dead, undead Mr. Goodright? Do they intend to help raise Aldrial, the minstrel and six thieves? What do they do?]

Finnegan's Wake
 

The sands of time seem to move too fast, but Lorelei eventually returns. As her carpet spirals downward Erik can see that Lorelei has a passenger. Just as it lands an elderly looking, thinly haired half orc, half elf with a long scraggly beard rolls off the carpet and into the dirt. “Dang nabit, I hate those new-fangled flying machines. Next time, Lorelei, put me on that beast of yours! Flying about. At night. Bah.”, grumbles the hermit. As he stands up he glares at Erik and demands, “Who are you?”

Erik doesn’t know how to reply, but Lorelei answers first anyway, “He is Erik, one of the adventurers I told you about. Come quickly, there is no time to lose.”

“Ahrr, whatever”, says the hermit. Lorelei takes him by the hand and rushes him into the House of Goodright. Erik follows them inside and closes the doors behind them.

With the windows blocked out, the adventurers eagerly await the start of the ritual. Mr. Goodright’s body lies stretched out on a short platform with candles surrounding him. The hermit starts to rummage around in his bag, presumably for ritual components. He pulls out a flask and holds hit up, studying it in the light. "Ehh, what’s this, ohh… ", says the hermit as he quickly pockets the flask in his raggedy robe and snickers, “Good times, hehehe.”

Really just looking up for the first time, the hermit notices the full set of adventurers and shouts, “Who are they?!” Lorelei calmly explains, “They are the adventurers I told you about. Z’alden can help you with the ritual. Please do not delay.”

“Bah”, replies the hermit, “Rushing about these days is all people do.” He takes his time looking each adventurer in the eyes. Then, with a sudden outburst he shouts, “All out. Out! Out! Out!” He looks down on the ground, waiting for their obedience.

Lorelei apologetically ushers the adventurers out of the dining hall and into one of the back rooms. The hermit’s head stays downcast, yet his eyes swivel to watch them leave. He grins with this little victory. While the other adventures wait, Tira sneaks a peek through the curtains and sees the hermit futzing about. He dumps his bag of ritual components on the dirty floor, gets down on hands and knees and starts sifting through the pile. Tira can just barely hear him mumble, “Yes, no, hmmm, ahh, good, yes, what I need. Dead is the undead. Hmmm. What was the rule? Halves. Thirds. Never could remember. Yes, yes, I remember now…”

Tira can see Lorelei assisting in the setup of the ritual. In her hands rests a large tome, open near its end pages. Lines are drawn around Mr. Goodright’s body and special bowls of magical fire burn at key points where circles and triangles intersect. The air begins to smell of death and the undead. Minor tremors begin to emanate from the site of the ritual. Something of a tornado begins to form and finally, Tira’s view is obscured by a black sphere that envelops the hermit and Lorelei. Still, over the gail she thinks she can hear the wailing chant of the hermit. He does indeed have powerful magics.

After a seeming eternity, Felsmon looks out a back window of the house. The moon is full and glowing brightly. It must be near midnight. For hours now the ritual has been underway. With its gusts and crackles of lightening, Erik and Barrick had decided to go outside to guard the entrances to the House of Goodright. The neighbors are becoming curious. Some of the wait at the front gait, but Barrick just brushes them off with a “Oh, that was one hell-uva party. We’re just cleaning up now. Nothing to see. Yes, nothing. Go now. Goodbye.” Erik grins and also urges them to go home, back to their warm beds. Luckily, none of the constables have been rousted yet by those who survived the party.

Bolts of lightening flash from the black sphere and enter Mr. Goodright’s body. His body writhes. His chest heaves. He breaths a breath! A deep moan erupts as if he was being reborn from the womb. The clouds clear and as the adventurers rush into the room, they can see the revived Mr. Goodright and an exhausted Lorelei. Her hair is plastered backwards and her fine clothes are quite disheveled. Soot-like marks cover her. She pants, “It is done. Help my friend. Please help Mr. Goodright.” She points to the hermit who is slumped against a wall. He is breathing but is in obvious need of medical attention.

Felsmon and Z’alden carry the once again human Mr. Goodright to his bed chamber on the second floor. Thin and pale, he sleeps but is restless, repeatedly mouthing the name, “Elena?” While Mr. Goodright is tended to, Tira assists Lorelei and Erik and Barrick start to carry the ailing hermit to another second story bed chamber. Lorelei asks them to stop, indicating that the hermit would prefer a simple bed, perhaps in one of the servant chambers or even the hay in a stable. “Ahh, that was but one”, sighs Lorelei, “Aldrial and the minstrel await, but at least the tough one is done.” She smiles.

Finnegan's Wake
 

Z’alden made sure that as much of the gold, items, and gems as could fit in the bag of holding were stored there. The remainder is in some of the 10 empty sacks he happened to have with him. He smiles sheepishly, “Be prepared my father always said.”

After the ritual for Mr. Goodright is finished, Z’alden using his healing powers to restore the hermit to full health.

He then begins the ritual of Disenchant Magic Item to turn his old crossbow into the residuum he needs to make the other dead more restful until they, too, can be raised. The crossbow flashed brightly as it is turned into the stuff of raw magic.

DM: The damaged +1 crossbow should have a value between 500 and 1000 gp, resulting in 1/5 of that in residuum. How much does Z’alden get?

Finnegan's Wake
 

Here ends the Temple of the Serpent. And now, adventure awaits in A Rude Awakening…

Finnegan's Wake
rplayer BergRick

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