Friday, 15 May 2015

PotS 1x12 - Layers of Deciept

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. Arising from the depths of the earth, the party discover things not quite as they left them, as news from a dying dwarf lets them know the elves have taken over! 

Taking the Watchtower - Again!
The death of the dwarf, and the mentioning of the elves, only meant one thing - justice was coming, as quickly as their short legs could manage! Though the trek was far, and required them to travel through the forest within which the eladrin had set up their camp, they made good time. Kami pushed her crew hard, and they managed to reach the watchtower within minutes of midday.

Calling on Ogg, they sent the storm-rider to the top of the tower. He was not there long before he began his return descent - a little faster than expected. For in his arms, he carried Cousin Walid.

Hassan rushed to the merchant's side, relieved that he still lived, but concerned for his wellbeing all the same. Once Kami had ensured he wouldn't die, Walid gave a recounting of the attack. As suspected, Berrian had taken his guard and assaulted the tower whilst the crew were within the ruins. They had easily overcome those left behind, Walid's few remaining guards unable to repel the attack. Two more guards had retreated with Walid to the rooftop, but had died from their wounds before Ogg arrived.

Slowly moving up the levels, the group came across much evidence of the battle. The other guards, as well as another two of the Kaapiots and Kwalli, were found, though there were no elves anywhere - dead or alive. Either they took their dead with them, or the tower guardians were really outskilled.

It was too late for most of the guards and dwarves also - only one solitary Kaapior quadruplet was left alive, and though he confirmed Walid's tale, he could do little else but deliver the grave news of the elven target: the Kami Kaze. They had been after the ship!

Quickly, Kami put his team to work on finding their vessel. Each tried to use the tower's scrying, but it was Regdar that located the ship first; out on the sea, and already a few hours from the cove. The only way they could catch them was by teleporting, which meant someone else had to stay behind, spending their energy to send the others. Ogg offered his might, and the others were thrown, somewhat roughly, onto the ship's deck.

Stealing Back The Stolen Ship They Had Stolen Fairly A Fair While Ago
From the safety of the watchtower, they had spied the deck, and made simple preparations. There
were the 'other party' that had so often alluded them, and only rarely come into contact. Arvan, the drow warrior who had complimented Hassan's fighting; Lenna, the elf who seemed to master lightning much like Ogg did; Kurik, the dragonborn paladin they had come across within the ruins; and Galinndan, who seemed to have accepted his allegiance to his friend and kinsman as worth more than to Kami and her crew.

There was another fellow, one they hadn't come across before, but it was the eladrin they decided to surround and take down first. And so, in a flash, Galinndan found himself surrounded by his former team-mates, fighting to bring him down.

Fortunately for him, he was a master of getting out of tricky spots. Even as they struggled to see him overboard or impaled on their weapons, Galinndan led them in a merry dance about the ship, vanishing and reappearing, struggling to stay a step ahead. The others had skills, too - and, they each held cards of the Deck, having unlocked their potential even beyond what the party understood.

But the party were not without their own abilities - when Lenna took to the skies, Regdar sent a giant eagle after her. When a scorrow burst from the cabin, Hassan and Urquilla matched him in pure strength. Even when Arvan and his shadowy copies evaded being swept over the deck, they chased him down and ended him all the same.

Their leader - a vicious dagger fighter called Tam - was revealed to be a wererat, but he and the others were all ultimately defeated. Lenna alone escaped with her life, vanishing into the storm when she saw that the battle was lost. Though he didn't escape, Galinndan did once again save his neck: as Tvennr bore down on him with a killing blow, he offered the promise of the ship's destiny, an elemental that would allow it to finally achieve flight, as trade for not killing him. Tvennr was not so happy with the bargain, but when the surrender was repeated to Kami, she had to give in. Again.

An End to a Patronage
Slowly, they returned to the bay, Redtail (the ship's monkey) eventually being coaxed from the sail
top. The sun was starting to set by the time the laid anchor, but Kami knew the importance of seeing this task to the finish. Confining Galinndan to the hold (alongside what was left of the fourth Kaapiot), the group marched into the woods, and into the eladrin glade.

There, they found Berrian, along with his father and sister. Even the dwarves could tell that there was hostility - Analastra declared that Berrian would have to face the mess he had made, and took her father to the portal, spiriting the two away to Stormreach. With anger in his eyes, and more than a couple eladrin still eager for blood, Berrian turned to face the (mostly) dwarven crew.

The battle that ensued was frantic, but the fury and hatred of the dwarves burnt out the eladrin. Even Regdar and Urquilla, usually the calmer voices amongst the crew, leaped into it wholeheartedly. Regdar's giant gorilla threw archers out of the trees, whilst Hassan erupted from the ground, sending the graceful warriors scattering.

For a moment, Berrian caught control of Tvennr's mind, and turned him against his teammates, but even then, Regdar showed how to properly deliver a compulsion; the eladrin commander was commanded to throw his weapon into the pool, and all but stood there, waiting for Urquilla to finish the job.

Looking to Future Horizons
The eladrin threat was dealt with. Every eladrin that had taken part in the tower assault was dead, as were all who had stolen their ship but for Lenna (who had escaped) and Galinndan (who was now a prisoner). The team now held all the cards to the Deck of Many Things - the last remaining ones being held by Berrian, and distributed amongst the rival adventurers. Carefully, they formed the deck, beheld its power, and then set about planning its destruction. There must be a good volcano nearby...

The ship was theirs again, the surrounding area was now free of the touch of Xoriat, and the troublesome cards collected and ready for disposal. If their captive was telling the truth, they even had an elemental ready for binding to the ship, so that Kami could take her to the skies, and their piracy could reach whole new levels. With a final look back to the bay, the ruins, and the gravestones of those they have left behind, Kami took her crew and her ship out onto the wild waters with great anticipation.

Friday, 10 April 2015

PotS 1x11 - Death to the Daelkyr!

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. With the Watchtower secure, the wounded dragons dealt with, and their repaired (and improved) ship waiting in the harbour, it was time for the party to be thrust once more into the depths of the earth, to explore another hidden dungeon. 

The Long Search
The remnants of the ruins were much of the same - cold, dark, but oddly clean. The reason for this was eventually found out, as the group came across a number of small warforged. These were not built for war, but rather for simpler tasks (perhaps they were needing a different name?). Ignoring the party, they went on with their century-old task of dusting, removing cobwebs, and replacing chairs that had rotted and fallen apart.

An hour or so beyond these workers, the group finally found the heart of the construction: a giant creation forge. Though it still was actively controlling its underlings, it didn't seem to be creating new 'forged. It did offer a strange chair interface, upon which Tvennr sat and tried to understand the ancient technology. He thought that perhaps he could control the soldiers, but apart from a nasty headache, he gained nothing.

A Battle of Minds
yes, Kraang visited EberronWith nothing else left to do, Kami had to admit that they needed to retrace their steps, and delve into the corrupted part of the ruins. Pushing aside their fears, reciting old songs to aid their memory, and generally trying to stand tall and support each other, they moved through rooms filled with strangely coloured bricks, warped structure, and more than a little otherworldly slime. Finally, they broke through a door into a hall filled with foulspawn: almost a dozen dolgrims were camped out, with a seer watching over them, but the real threat was the giant brain encased in a jar, floating on a cloud of psychic energy. It lashed out with tentacles that seemed to be both physical and purely of Xoriat, and threatened to drag those nearby back with it as it retreated through a portal. But Hassan and the others held their ground, and rid the hall of its presence.

The Great Deceiver
But of course I had to work Smaug into the game!The elder brain was not the worst of the entities that had slipped through the realms when the Deck of Many
Things had torn reality apart. That title went to the daelkyr lurking at the temple's heart. At first, it appeared as a gargantuan red dragon; when they had beaten it up (and rescued Tvennr from its jaws - again), the bones rose, and the daelkyr took on the form of a dracolich. Finally, after being severely weakened by Kami's insubstantial allies, its true form was revealed, and taken down. Even then, they were unsure if the creature was truly vanquished, and had to call on Ogg's knowledge to satisfy their fears: removing from its corpse three of the Cards, the sorcerer incinerated the remains, and destroyed the last hook Xoriat had on their lands.

Whilst the others took note of the collected wealth in the temple, Hassan noted the third of his sought-after sacred vessels, and collected the chalice. He was eager to hand it over to Sir Edric the Gauche. With it, the knight should finally be able to repair the damage the land had suffered from its time attached to Xoriat. Smiling, he turned to the others, noting they were all ready for extraction. And they waited.

Alls Well that Ends...
It took perhaps ten minutes for them to start to get fidgety, but they waited almost a full hour before they had to accept that something was wrong. The Kaapiots should have seen them by now, should have used the Watchtower's power to yank them back from underground and deposited them wherever Sir Edric was currently. But the teleportation never came.

It was Urquilla who first voiced what they were all thinking - they needed to find their own way out, rather than risk being trapped here forever. They had already scoured the other half of the ruins, and nothing moved towards any exit there, so they broke apart, ready to search the area more locally, and branch out as needed. A strict routine was created, so that if any should find a way out, the others would know about it soon enough. And then they split apart.

It felt like it was well into the night (but who could really tell the time, stuck underground for this long?) when Regdar reported what he felt was a fresh breeze to the others. If anyone could pick up on a tiny detail like that, it would be him, so eager and with much hope, they set off through tunnels untravelled for decades. Near early morning, they found it - a crack that lead out of the mountainside, and onto a precarious ledge above the sea. They worked carefully, with Ogg and Regdar taking turns to fly ahead and secure ropes, but eventually, they climbed the cliff face and made it back onto safe ground. The ruins where Sir Edric had set up camp were two hours to the north east - a distance they would normally leave until after a good night's rest, but concern over the quadruplets' well being pushed them onwards.

A Faithful Messenger
As the sun rose, they arrived at Sir Edric's camp, to find him awake and already completing his morning prayers. Taking hold of the vessels, he set about finalising his ritual, a new eagerness in him that they had not seen before. They had thought to help him out, but after travelling all through the night, no one had the energy remaining - indeed, most struggled just to stay awake whilst the knight was cleansing the ruins.

There was nothing flashy or impressive as the ritual was finished, and in some ways, they wondered if anything had happened at all. Sir Edric assured them that the place was far better now, and that the prying eyes of Xoriat would not easily find their way back. He was telling Hassan about how he had to return all the vessels to their rightful locations when a tell-tale flash of energy lit up the group. Normally, it signified the Watchtower's retrieval system, but instead of finding themselves in the scrying room, they found another person amongst them. It was Humalassa...or was it Juovaksiss? Almost immediately, the dwarf fell to the ground, clutching his side as blood pooled in the dirt around him. Juopunut (or Paightynyt?) wheezed badly as he reached out to Kami and, coughing, mumbled an apology. "Cap'n... sorry Cap'n....they took it...they have it, now..." Breaking into a bad coughing fit, the dwarf finally recovered enough to explain his words a little more. "Th' blasted elves...they took it all..." He broke down again, coughing and wheezing, and then he was silent.

Kami moved to his side, but there was nothing she, nor her spirit friends, could do. The dwarf (whichever one it was) was dead.

Friday, 13 March 2015

PotS 1x10 - Beyond Stone and Bricks...

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. With the Watchtower secure, the wounded dragons dealt with, and their repaired (and improved) ship waiting in the harbour, it was time for the party to be thrust once more into the depths of the earth, to explore another hidden dungeon. 

Deeper Underground
Moving deeper into the ruined halls was their only choice, though they were all eager to stay away from the areas tainted with the Xoriat presence. These chambers had been kept (or recently returned to?) a relatively neat state, and it felt a lot more settling walking through ancient halls without the dust, webs, and decay of a few centuries clinging to every surface.

Perhaps that is what allowed the group to not notice the battle about them as they entered a particularly large hall.

The Destruction of Property
Crashing through a wall of rubble, a monstrously large warforged titan charged at the group. Leaping (or being knocked) out of the way, they quickly found themselves divided. This was only accented further as another crsosbeam collapsed, depositing piles of stone and rock between Tvennr and Urquilla and the rest of the team. As the dust cleared, the pair called to the others that they would find another way around, and started moving.

There were three more warforged in the battle - another two of the soldiers they had faced before, equipped with the same chaotic 'experimental' weapons; and a new model, encased in crimson armour. This one called fire to the battle, threatening to incinerate what the others couldn't cut or smash.

The other side of this battle was an elf who commanded bolts of lightning; a draconic figure clad in solid metallic plate; and Galinndan. Quickly seeing his old comrades, the eladrin moved to help them, though his new allies had other plans. Holding their own, they instead decided to escape; Lenna drew a portal on the wall, and calling out to Kurik, the pair vanished in a shower of sparks.

Galinndan's own ability with teleportation was a lot more forceful; he threw the towering titan about, allowing Kami to escape its reach, and helping Hassan a better position from which to deliver his carefully weighted cuts. Though Regdar had to sacrifice his wolf, once the 'lesser' warforged were dealt with, the combined effort from the group brought the larger automaton to its knees.

Prisoner Transfer
The party had barely caught their breaths when a magic circle appeared on the other side of the hall. Within it, three figures appeared: two more of the warforged soldiers, with a weary umberhulk being led between them. Apparently, it had failed to affect the mindless constructs, and had given in, allowing itself to be pushed and guided through the halls. Well, Galinndan wasn't about to let that happen - quickly calling Kami to cover them with her protection, he pushed them all into action, and started the battle before the warforged could escape.

Of course, the situation wasn't quite what it appeared to be. As soon as Kami blasted the closest warforged with her storm, it vanished, the metallic form being replaced with a much larger, and more angry, oni. The ogre mage's disguise thrown aside, she leaped into battle, snatching Kami in her electrified chain, and whisking her off to be dealt with alone, whilst the warforged and now freed umberhulk assaulted the others.

Naturally, Hassan wasn't one to let his captain be abducted on his watch. Charging after Kami and the storm-touched oni, Hassan found the creature far too hard to pin down; even when Galinndan joined, the battle felt more like a chase than a fight. Though badly beaten, the oni almost managed to escape; and would have, too, if it weren't for the combined effort and skills from the group.

The umberhulk, too, proved to be a dangerous beast, tearing through another of Regdar's wolves and more than a little of the rubble before finally being cornered and trapped, beyond hope of retreat.

And to all, a good night
The enemy were once more defeated, and this time, they had something to show for their efforts - a strange, amethyst blade carried by the oni. There were other items scattered about the now quite messy hall - silverware, platters, fine metallic goblets, elaborate candlesticks - all would fetch a fair price, should they bother to weigh themselves down and carry it with them.

Aside from that, there were only two directions to go: through the stairs and along the corridors twisting back towards the tainted parts of the underground structure; or through the rubble and into the rooms Tvennr and Urquilla retreated through. There was little choice, really, and so they moved to meet up with their friends.

Friday, 13 February 2015

PotS 1x09 - The Deeper, Older, Ruin

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. With the Watchtower secure, the wounded dragons dealt with, and their repaired (and improved) ship waiting in the harbour, it was time for the party to be thrust once more into the depths of the earth, to explore another hidden dungeon. 

Back Underground
Once Hassan struck a light, the team could make out the arched ceilings and elaborate mosaics marking the chamber they had been teleported into. The size of the chamber spoke of its giant heritage, meaning that most of the mosaics were of said giants - an understanding that caused readjustment of what they depicted. On the whole, the structure was far more ancient than anything they had come across before, suggesting that the knights who settled here had taken over a pre-existing structure, and built upon it.

There were three different paths leading from the initial chamber, and with nothing to guide them, they headed to the nearest one. After passing by what was most likely once a giant-sized toilet, they saw flickering firelight in the next room. By the light, they could see that algae coated many of the walls; it, as well as the dust and webbing, showed this section to be in worse upkeep than that they had already travelled through.

Horrors from Xoriat
Everyone is LEGO, so of course, the Xoriat aberrations are standard minis!
The sound of battle hurried them on, and they burst into the room to see a drow battling against two chuuls; a mind flayer and beholder watched on. Combat was met, and the numerous rays of the beholder almost saw the end of Kami, but they proved their skill and slew the aberrant beasts. But not before the mysterious drow vanished into the darkness, a parting compliment to Hassan lingering on the air.

Not only had the structure been tainted by the Xoriat presence, but now, their minds felt afflicted, too. When he used his card, Regdar had been lost in a vision, dating back to when the paladin order was still in control. He saw one paladin drawing a card from a deck, and then chaos erupted. This action, he knew, wiped out most of the paladins, decimated their order, and tore a hole through to Xoriat. Despite their victory in the Watchtower, this connection to the far realm still lingered somewhere nearby.

The vision stuck with him, causing him to become delusional. The others were also affected - Hassan seemed haunted by things that weren't there; Tvennr was more forgetful than usual; Urquilla couldn't stop yawning all the time; and Kami felt as if her joints were as old as her ship.

Deciding against going deeper into the maddening maze just yet, the party turned around and retraced their steps.

Remnants of Warforged
Warforged + LEGO = LEGO Movie Robo SWAT team!The areas they travelled through were far cleaner than their first choice had been, and after a while, the lack
of dust or spider-webs gave them the strange feeling that the place was still relatively well kept. Aside from the darkness and the general age of everything, it almost felt neat - surely, with a few open windows, some new furnishings, and a spot more light, the place would be quite serviceable! Of course, it would need the warforged removed, too (even if they were the ones who kept the place in such a neat state)!

The first of the scouts shot from their positions, luring Urquilla aside, whilst Regdar and Hassan chased down a group of soldiers. Unlike other warforged that the party had seen since the days of the Last War ending, these acted without any trace of emotion or personality. And, within them, they held unstable weapons, brimming over with arcane enchantments. One knocked out Urquilla just as he was starting to rage; another threw people through space itself; yet another caused Tvennr to vanish and reappear some time later. But despite their tricks (and in some cases, because of them), the warforged were defeated, and the party gathered to discuss their plan for further exploration of the buried ruins.

Friday, 2 January 2015

PotS 1x08b - The Dragon Aftermath

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  After defending the Watchtower from an invading force of dragons, the heroes take a well-deserved rest (whilst us players are on holidays for Christmas).

It took the better part of that first week to notice the changes that had started to come over Cousin Walid. In the heat of battle, as they helped defend the watchtower against the storm of Dragons, Walid's slight shine, the ruby-tint his skin had taken, was not as obvious (and they certainly had more pressing matters to focus on!). But as repairs were made, injuries were bandaged, and fallen allies buried, Kami and her crew couldn't help but notice - their financier had taken on a dull red hue.

There were no more dragons sighted that month, not by the watchtower, anyway. Galinndan had taken Berrian and a number of the other elven soldiers, and hunted down the retreating beasts. They had been gone three nights before they returned in victory; the injured dragons never given a moment to recover, they had each eventually fallen and been finished.

By the time the Kami Kaze arrived, sailed down by more of Cousin Walid's men, one of the Kaapiots had finally discovered the location of the hidden ancient vaults. The four brothers had pulled extra long sifts, a pair of them always manning the watchtower, searching the surrounding areas for buried lairs, so all were overjoyed when it was found. Preparations were made, food and supplies gathered, and messages sent to their other allies. Regdar and Galinndan took the news to Berrian, Analastra, and their father, whilst Ogg and Urquilla made their way back to the ruins to inform Sir Edric. Hassan and Tvennr joined Kami for their brief inspection of their ship, and wonder in the craftsmanship that had gone into her improvements.

Much of the old wood had been replaced by the magically enhanced "soarwood", acquired from the forests of Aerenal over time and at great expense - or, so says Cousin Walid. The few members of Kami's crew who had stayed to look after her claimed it travelled at two or three times its old top speed, and would surely now take flight, if only the right elemental was found and harnessed.

Though her ship was surely a wonder to behold, Kami had to cut her inspection short, so that she would be ready to leave by an hour after dark - the time given for both teams to reach their targets and deliver the news. Then, they would all be meeting again, via the tower's magic, and would be thrust underground once more. Hopefully, with a whole lot less undead waiting for them...

Friday, 5 December 2014

PotS 1x08 - Death by Dragon

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  Now returned from the Catacombs, the crew are called upon to defend the Watchtower from an invading force of dragons! 

Three Seconds of Preparation
As they acclimatised themselves to the inside chamber of the watchtower, Kami and her away team noticed over a dozen figures watching on, hustling about, and bringing in small bits of food and cups of water. The should have only been a handful of people here - Regdar, the Kaapiots, and the remainder of Kami's crew. But now, Zandrian, Analastra, and Berrian were all there, as well as many of the fey knights. Not only that, but there were armoured soldiers, led by none other than Cousin Walid! Before they had time to explain, the call came from higher in the tower: "Dragons sighted!!"

"There's no time to lose - get on your feet, and ready your weapons!" Cousin Walid called, and everyone jumped into action. Most of the eladrin joined the watch at the top of the tower, readying their bows. Berrian, with a few more of the troops, left quickly, wanting to return to their grove in case the dragons attacked there, too. Galinndan left with him.

Cousin Walid and his knights moved with the pirates to stand before the tower and face the oncoming storm.

The First Waves
Two black dragons led the assault, breaking forth from the clouds and carrying with them their own auras of darkness and despair. A dozen scaled hunters - some gifted with working wings, others with nasty teeth or enlarged claws - charged beneath the circling dragons, and they all came together to crash against the tower's defences. Hassan tried to embolden the others, but his speaking skills paled in contrast to his martial skills. Wading into battle, he pulled down each dragon in turn, ensuring that their flights were swift, and their bodies close to the blades of others.

At one point, Kami placed Tvennr atop one of the dragons, allowing the dwarf to stand there momentarily, before he was shaken free and fell back to the earth. Still, the dragons did not last long, and were thoroughly defeated before the storm arrived.

With a shudder, the enormous blizzard dragon landed, finally leaving behind its storm of clouds and
mist. It threatened to freeze those around, whilst two green dragons shot past to harass those behind.

Bravely, Hassan and Tvennr stood in front of the elemental monstrosity, whilst Urquilla raced around to flank it. Ogg dodged between them, throwing blasts here and there, whilst Kami discovered the power of one of his collected cards, and banished an enemy. By the time it had freed itself from the magical prison, its allies had died or fled; the skirmish was over!

The Final Push
The final wave hit hard. Two golden dragons swept in, vomiting fire and summoning a volcanic dragon. Its noxious fumes almost ended the lives of those it engaged with, whilst another enormous dragon - with the magic of the cards radiating from its body - dove in to tear the rest apart.

Kami's Donjon was most effective again, banishing one of the golden dragons, whilst the second one harassed those atop the castle. But the main dragon hit hard, and was relentless with its attack. Only when the battle was clearly against it did it consider retreat an option, and turn, limping, from the battlefield.

They had won the battle - but would the dragons come back again, or had the might of the watchtower's guard proven to be too great a threat?

Friday, 7 November 2014

PotS 1x07 - The Catacombs' True Evil

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  The crew sent a forward party into the Catacombs below the ruins...and found themselves trapped with a variety of unfriendly undead! 

Lost Beneath the Earth
With no connection to the watchtower, Kami and her small crew had to camp overnight in the catacombs. It had not gone well - Hassan's fever continued to rage, and Ogg's illness returned so much that, by morning, he could barely stand.

Fortunately, the Kaapiot Four recovered their strength as the party rested, and as they were packing up their meagre camp, the Kaapiots managed to send one more person in to join them - Urquilla.

The scaled barbarian came with unsettling news - the watchtower's view was clouded when trying to focus on the catacombs, and could not pinpoint those inside (which was necessary to extract them). Indeed, moments after his arrival, Urquilla lost his connection with the dwarven quartet, and realised that he, too, was now trapped.

Desecrating Graves
There was no other decision but to press onwards, so the group forced their way through another stone door, and found themselves in the Dragonslayer's Tomb. In here, special honour was given to those who had fought against the dragons. heavy curtains made with the hides of their foes decorated the chamber - and created large areas of darkness, perfect for creatures to lurk behind.

Hassan made the unfortunate discovery of Onatar's presence - or some residual magic, they couldn't really be sure - as he was struck down with a second curse after disturbing one of the tombs. And then, the ghouls struck.

With his health already shaky, Hassan was hard pressed to fight back the turned paladins, though with Tvennr's aid, they succeeded. The wraiths were more troublesome, as the two dark shadows played with them, using hit-and-run tactics for optimal damage. Urquilla's Winter Fury aided them well, as he locked down the shifty sprites, allowing the others to better battle against the threat. Kami was quick to dismiss the fragments left behind, and in the moments that followed, the group carefully planned their next move - how to best stay alive.

A Bowl, and a Room of Khyber
Putting the ghoulish paladins back to rest seemed to gain some forgiveness for Hassan, his body recovering from both curses whilst the group also found a second Sacred Vessel - Onatar's Bowl. Kami's keen eyes also found a secret alcove they had overlooked earlier. Within was a small room, with two other passageways leading back to previous areas of the catacombs. More interestingly were the rough Khyber shards decorating the walls..and the bodies of three more knights, long dead.

The room promised to give great strength to those who remained within it, but they could tell that there was more - a frantic frenzy, a mindless rage, that could cause those within to attack allies as if they were hated foes. They did not spend long in the room, and left with the only thing of worth - three topazes, infused with a taste of the room's strength (and hopefully not its madness).

The Tainted Pirate
The Final Battle

The next chamber - thankfully, the final chamber of these catacombs - was immense. It seemed to hold the remains of the leaders of the abbey, along with many, many of its other important individuals. Sadly, it was no longer a place of reflection and reverence - Khyber's foul presence had influenced it for the worse. As they gazed about, trying to pierce the darkness before them, a glowing figure moved forward. Hook and peg-leg aside, the figure could only be Hawes, the pirate Kami had been warned of.

With him moved a slippery vampire and her spawn, whilst a dark shadow of a dragon lurched and glided overhead. Ogg, not able to do much else, took on the spawn, allowing Tvennr to rip into the vampire, whilst the others assaulted Hawes and his tamed dragon essence.

The fight was brutal, but Tvennr's axes were worse. The vampire barely had time to scratch him before she was reduced to her corrosive mist, and sent seeping from the chamber. Disposing of the underlings, Ogg carefully moved to track her, following her back to her chamber, and ensuring she did not rise again.

Hawes proved more difficult, and slippery, using the power of three cards he had collected to thwart and confuse the party. More than once he dodged a potentially fatal blow, and even convinced Urquilla to charge headlong at Hassan at a critical point in the battle. The shadow dragon continued to swoop and bite at those below it until the fallen pirate was finally silenced. With his grip on the dragon loosened, it howled in frustration one last time, then glided through the far wall, not to return again.

Visions Come to Pass
The chamber had little else in it, but for the Khyber shard growths that moved to warp everything. Lying discarded in a bunch of rags was a blade, which sung out to Urquilla, and shone with the moon's light as he approached. It could only be the weapon Jillepse the Blind had foretold!

Collecting the cards and disrupting as much of the shards as possible (lest more undead be formed from those resting here), the group moved to track down Ogg. Eventually, they found him outside another hidden room - a tomb holding the remains of knights who had also been seduced by the call of Khyber. Clearly, this was no new threat - the order of old must have had some expectation, or perhaps a defence, against it.

Within the hidden chamber, they found the vampire resting, recovering. The lid of her sarcophagus bore the image of a female eladrin, clad in plate mail. She held a long bastard sword atop her body, her gauntleted hands crossed over its pommel. It was a good likeness, though the Khyber presence had twisted and changed her over the years. The sarcophagus also had her name engraved on the side: Aidelvenne Velfarren.

After doing what was needed, the party settled down and waited for the Khyber presence to fade, for the interference to lessen, and for the Watchtower to retrieve them. Though it took many hours, there was joy and relief as the familiar presence touched their minds, and fresh air swept across their faces.

But the relief did not last long. "Quick! Stand ready!" the cry came. "They will be on us in minutes!"

All around them, people moved in a panic. People they didn't recognise. People wearing uniforms, carrying tools and weapons. People with a familiar insignia.

Before they could get a proper bearing on what was happening, a friendly face finally found them. "Stand, arm yourselves! The dragons will arrive soon!" Cousin Walid shouted at them, fear and concern on his face. "We have no time - we must defend the watchtower!"