Friday, 2 August 2013

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 3, Chapter 8)

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust.  The group is currently in Tyr, trying to stop the invading Urik army's siege.

"Come with me,", Liet had said, "Come, help me find my contact, aid me now, and together, we will win back Tyr!"  It had sounded so easy then, but that was perhaps the adrenaline from the last few hours of fighting back Urik's forces.  That had been yesterday, before the group slipped out of Tyr, crept out with the smugglers and other deserters, left the city before it was fully besieged.  Had they been caught - even by their own troops - their future would not look good.

But fortune was with them (just whose fortune, it was unclear), and the templar, along with his small group of keen heroes, made it to the base of the Ringing Mountains unhindered.  They were nine in number, now - all of Beren's companions had come along, even Garidias, who had been busy on other tasks for the past few months.  They all saw that this was possibly the last chance of winning back Tyr, and also realised that if it failed, being outside the city was far better than being within it.

Liet had never met his contact face to face - it had been through notes and secret messages that they had communicated, that promises of aid had been made, and vague descriptions of payment agreed to.  The templar had made such agreements - the rest of them had only now come into this knowledge.  But Liet was meant to meet with the contact the other night, within Tyr.  They never showed, and another meeting was scheduled, when both parties realised that the messenger had vanished.  This cave, guarded by two intimidating Braxats, was the location. 

Within, a cloaked, hooded, and overly mysterious figure greeted them.  He spoke with an accent that none recognised, nor could place, and asked them of their aid, before giving his own.  A hero of his people had been captured and imprisoned by the Urik army in a moment of weakness, and he asked them to free the hero, returning them so that they could fight the army once more.  With a plan and an icon of the lost hero, they ventured out once more; this time, into the dark desert, to hunt a fire drake. 

It perhaps wasn't the smartest of plans, but with only a short time before the sun rose, capturing a drake to let loose within the Urik army camp was definitely effective.  The blazing beast almost took down the party, with Tak-tha and Beren especially feeling it's burning claws more than once.  But after subduing it (and taking a moment to see to their own wounds), they dragged the creature back to the Urik camp, and smiled as it started its ferocious run through tents and personnel, setting ablaze stock and drawing the majority of the local troops away from the party's goal.

The tents were deserted, the tables left scattered with plates and cards, and the treasure unguarded...almost.  As Kuoroar! moved closer, three beast giants were spotted, their ill-shaped heads looming over the shorter tents.  One had the face of a viper, whilst the second was some sort of vicious-cat-thing.  The third looked to be a bird, but with sharp, jagged teeth.  All three were ferocious, and were (hopefully) the only beast giants that Urik had managed to convince to join with them. 

The battle was short, but to those participating, it raged back and forth - the danger only increased when they realised that every attack against the giants was stored as psychic energy, only to be thrown back at the party in a moment of weakness.  Unfortunately, their loud cries of pain alerted the army, and one captain brought his squad of pikemen to bear on the invaders; assailing them with arrows from a distance, before moving in close and finishing the job personally, the soldiers would have wiped out the party, had the drake not distracted them so long.  As it was, only a few of the heroes fell; and even the thri-kreen, who was almost lost yet again, was able to be saved by Paelias' healing skill.

With the troops distracted or defeated, Liet and Kuoroar! only had moments to ransack the three main tents, searching for the mysterious captive.  The first tent showed up many weapons, one bearing the hero's insignia; Kuoroar! picked up the heavy blade, and felt dark powers eating at his hand.  Looking down, he saw that his right arm had been scarred, his skin now a light grey, almost white, where a lightning-like pattern stretched up from his wrist.  Still, he carried the blade with him, and it seemed to have no further effect on him.

The second tent was completely fruitless - it held bedding, clothes, uniforms, flags, spare tents...nothing of value, and certainly no captives.  Strangely, the third tent likewise held no captives - just some finely crafted furniture, and a few sturdy chests.  One of the chests had a symbol on it that matched the icon Liet carried, and the sword that Kuoroar held.  And that chest was bound with chains.  Metallic chains.

There were other symbols engraved onto the locks holding the chains fast, but even without them, the magical presence was clear.  It was a strange magic, unlike most that Liet had dealt with, but Paelias confirmed - the magic was not defiling; it was preserving.  And it needed to be broken, should the box be opened.

Breaking it was easy, it was the decision as to whether they should break it that would have been the hard part.  At least, if enough of the party was conscious and in a fit state to discuss such a decision.  Liet held the icon to the chest, and the power held within both was multiplied, breaking the chains and the binding magic, and opening the chest.  Inside were bones - humanoid bones - and a great darkness.  The darkness flowed quickly from the chest, swirling and spreading until it covered all the ground within a hundred feet.  And then it began to feed.  The dark, necrotic energy sucked at any and every living thing it touched, draining off its life, and fuelling the shadowy entity slowly rising from the chest.  It happened quickly, and with enough power that they all knew they could not defeat it; then as quickly as it started, the dark presence withdrew, forming flesh about the bone, giving armour and cloth to the scaled form before them, and gradually revealing the undead dray standing before them.  "I am Alyshialynn..." the raspy, powerful, but clearly feminine voice announced, as the dray's throat was reformed.  "And, I thank you for freeing me.  Shall we depart?"

As the sun started to threaten to rise, the group had made it back to the hooded figure's cave - Valentin, his name was revealed to be - and settled in for a rest.  Valentin had not exactly lied, but he had left a lot of truth out of his information, "so as not to confuse", he claimed.  Alyshialynn was his mate, they were both undead, and what's more, Alyshialynn's weakness was that she was with child.  An undead child, of course.  The exact nature of the being growing within her was not clear - in the centuries since their creation, none had ever heard of the undead dray bearing young.

But the promise of help was still true - Alyshialynn could lead, and with her, bring countless more undead dray soldiers to tear down the Urik army.  However, for a better (and quicker) chance of victory, she suggests the group aid her in freeing two other dray heroes: Sadhbh, the Storm's Wrath; and Rhyleighi, the Chosen.  Together, these three champions could destroy the Urik army, and save Tyr from the invasion.  If only the three could be reunited...

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