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Trilogy Part 2: Dawn of the (Un)dead

The party, sent through a portal toward Dantalien encountered a group of refugees and were attacked by undead, tentacled aberrations from the woods. The refugees were fleeing the citadel at Dantalien, and the party decided to rest, feeling like they had nearly exhausted their healing reserves. Thoughts of the slaughter going on at the Citadel overnight only partially disturbed their rest.

In the morning, under an uncharacteristically overcast sky, they went on to the citadel, where they saw it had been completely overrun. The party united the rod and stone, fusing them together (it seemed like the right thing to do at the time….) Armed with information from the refugee Gunder had saved, they sneaked in through the postern gate and made their way to the dungeons, where they quickly freed the prisoners. They decided to sneak into the tower and dispatch or rescue the commander, depending on which side he was on.

They successfully made it to the tower, but were waylaid in one of the lower levels by a group of wights and vampire spawn. After defeating these, they were ready now to continue onward into battle.

Played on March 13, 2011. Mike DM’ed and authored. Paithan, Elisanada, Gunder, Bodin, and Lyr reporting.

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Lyr overslept by an hour. She’d been so deeply asleep when Bodin awoke at dawn, he hadn’t had the heart to wake her. Chuckling to himself at the cause of her exhaustion, the dwarf headed down for a hearty breakfast and some friendly conversation. He barely noticed the circles under Gunder’s eyes, and just nodded agreeably when his shaman friend asked if Lyr was sleeping in…. “again.”

“What? Again?” Bodin’s eyes narrowed. Gunder and Lyr had traveled together for a couple of months while he’d been following the roads to the Dragon Coast.

“Yes. She…. didn’t seem to get much rest when we traveled together. Never up as early as I was.”

“Hmph.” Bodin thought on that for a few minutes, then remembered one of Lyr’s habits. “Aye, she reads at night— that little book o’ hers. Might’ve been up too late, readin’.”

Gunder nodded, clearly unconvinced. “Maybe.” He returned to his breakfast, still troubled.

Later that morning, the party met with Sister Maggie of the temple of Oghma, concerned about several initiates who had been sent north to work an archaeological dig at the northern border near Undumoor. Since they hadn’t been heard from in a few weeks, the temple was willing to send the Trap Finders through a portal to the border on a fact-finding mission. Armed with several Sending scrolls to report back, the party took the mission and headed out.

As they prepared for the portal, Paithan relayed some of the local knowledge about Undumoor, once a beautiful elven city, now degenerated into a Thayan outpost and rumored to have a tunnel leading beneath Dantelien and into the heart of Aglarond. They also discussed the various research they’d done on the rod and stone, Paithan having learned of an old artifact called the Dreaming Gate which could be an effective weapon against undead and outsiders.

It wasn’t long after they arrived that they met trouble on the road, though. They’d come upon a battlefield of elven and human guards, now slaughtered. Lyr insisted on cremating the dead, and they continued until encountering a small group of refugees, farmers from the nearby areas.

The farmers looked road-weary and dirty, and even from a few hundred feet away, Lyr could see the lines of exhaustion on their faces. She glanced over at Bodin, who stoically continued walking up the road, and at Paithan, who glanced towards the woods before deciding to remain visible. Wordlessly, Elisanada and Gunder melted into the woods to either side of the road, finding cover behind nearby trees.

Just as Elisanada alerted them to the sound of something more than the caravan ahead, an enormous tentacle lashed out from the cover of the woods to either side of the road, grabbing one of the farmers and pulling it into the underbrush. As if on a signal, half of the farmers turned, lunging for their companions, wriggling worms sprouting from their bodies and enveloping their victims.

Lyr shouted even as her companions moved quickly to engage the enemies. They quickly took stock of the situation— a group of large, brutal undead beasts, the tentacled monster, a huge mass of rotting flesh, the infected farmers (now gnashing around, biting their former friends and companions), and two flying critters that opened the combat by blasting everyone with a soul-draining assault.

Lyr focused her fire on the flying beasts, edging nervously forward while trying to stay away from the long reach of the tentacled thing and the brutes. She shot fiercely with her longbow, each strike hitting and slowing one of the flyers.

Meanwhile, Bodin and Paithan surged forward, drawing the brutes around them, slashing viciously and effectively at the foes that surrounded them. Behind Lyr, she could hear the familiar twang of Elisanada’s bowstring as the elf fired fast and furiously at the tentacled monster. Gunder’s rat scooted forward, dragging one of the farmers out of the creature’s reach, to safety— in the end, he would be the only civilian survivor of this attack.

Although she could see her friends getting hit, and frequently, by the time Lyr turned to heal them, Gunder had bolstered their defenses and breathed vigor into them. She said a little prayer of thanks, since every time the monsters hit Bodin and Paithan, she could feel them draining the healing weave, her friends’ life essence seeping away. Both the defenders now had twisted worms crawling over them, seeking a way to infect the warriors— Lyr made a mental note to help them resist the infection before the day was out.

And then, the very worst happened. The tentacled beast snatched Bodin, lifting him in the air and dragging him away. Grappled by the heaving block of monstrous flesh, Bodin was unable to strike out at his enemies. With him distracted, the four brutes he’d been fighting turned to lunge towards Lyr and Gunder.

Two lurched up to Gunder, slashing viciously and bringing him down in a few quick strokes. One charged Lyr, knocking her bow aside and dashing her to the ground. Her flesh began to blacken as she felt her very life draining out of her and into her enemy. Helpless to stop it, she heard the din of combat around her fade, the ringing in her ears growing louder and louder until it overwhelmed everything, sight, sound, even breath.

As usual, it was the smell and taste of warm steel that brought her back— the signature taste she’d come to associate with Bodin’s touch in the healing weave. She struggled to her feet and opened herself to the purer power of Moradin to suffuse her friends with the strength and durability of the earth and stone. The divine power radiated out from her like a pulse, invigorating her friends instantly. Lyr didn’t often channel the god’s power so directly, but in dire times, she did not hesitate. She spared a moment to infuse Gunder even more, ensuring that, at least for the moment, those most capable of keeping everyone alive would still be able to act.

The battle turned quickly after that, though one of the flyers and the tentacled monster nearly escaped into the wilderness. Fleet-footed Elisanada dispatched the tentacle beast quickly, and the rest of the party made quick work of the flyer, once Lyr was able to slow it again with her bow.

They caught up with the remaining refugees from the citadel, and listened to their story of an overwhelming force of undead that had invaded. Lyr processed the information in silence, checking over their wounded as well as her friends. If so many undead were already in Aglarond, the chances for Thesk still standing were nearly nill. She hoped Sibbya and her son had made it out of the area, but it seemed unlikely. Another loss to the forces of good.

And they came upon an unusual battlefield— both aberrations like those they’d fought and a slew of undead creatures lay about, broken and clawed, but clearly having locked against each other in their battle.

Exhausted by the necrotic damage and concerned about the refugees, the party chose to establish a camp for the night. Lyr sent a message back to the temple, informing them of the fall of the citadel. Curled in their bedrolls, those who were not on watch slept.

Or most of them did. Even a casual observer could see both Lyr and Gunder slept poorly, both turning fitfully in their bedrolls and lashing out. When she woke, Lyr would sit upright, panting, then lie back down for a long time before attempting sleep again. Her nightmares tonight were more vivid than usual, and she had little doubt that she was seeing the blood, the feasting, the defilement currently going on at the citadel itself.

In the morning, they broke camp quickly, sending the refugees on their way on foot (the horses having been eaten by monsters the day before). Gunder retained his rescued refugee, offering him coin for his work as a manservant.

They came to the citadel and indeed, found it overrun by undead. There were guards on the walls, but they had been turned into twisted, undead things wearing modified badges of Thay.

The party finally paused, off in the woods, to discuss whether the rod and stone they’d uncovered and researched could be a useful tool against these foes. Paithan had shared his research into the Dreaming Gate.

“I think we should put them together,” Lyr said abruptly, as the party was considering the dangerous ramifications of doing so. “I think it’s the right thing to do, and” she nodded towards the citadel. “Probably the right time to do it.”

Gunder’s brow furrowed. He had just been about to suggest the same, but now… “I’m not so sure,” he murmured. But Paithan, holding the rod, and Bodin with the stone joined the two together anyway. There was a decided click and fitting together of the pieces, which fused instantly. Lyr held her hand out for the rod, and Bodin and Paithan turned it over to her.

She closed her eyes for a moment, drawing the healing weave around her, suffusing the rod with her own life force. A moment later, she nodded resolutely. She opened the pocket of interdimensional space that was her bag of holding and slid the rod in, hiding it from all eyes. Bodin and Paithan gaped at her. Gunder’s eyes narrowed.

“It’s safe now,” she said simply, turning back toward the problem at hand and completely ignoring Bodin’s protests. “Now, how should we get into the citadel, with a huge field of empty space between us and it?”

Finally, at the refugee’s suggestion, they went in through the postern gate, sneaking up through a hidden tunnel that, thankfully, the undead invaders had not thought to guard. On the other side, they sneaked further into the dungeons, swiftly dispatching the guards and freeing the imprisoned guards there. Indeed, only half the force remained in the dungeons, the rest having been taken by the undead the previous night. They had not returned.

After a quick discussion with the soldiers, the party went for the armory, armed the guards, and then made for the command tower. This, they knew, was where they would find the commander— either of the undead forces, or of the citadel itself, if he had not been taken yet. They sneaked in, but the guards in the lower level found them as they came in.

A brief but fierce skirmish later, they stood panting in the lower room, surrounded by the bodies of destroyed wights and vampire spawn, who had once been the living guards of the citadel. Lyr spoke a soft, quick prayer over their remains and the party was ready to move on.

mortaine

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