Friday, 4 October 2013

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 3, Chapter 10)

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 has now returned to Tyr to find it fully under siege - but they have an advantage against the invading Urik army: three Dray champions of old!

With the rising sun, the plans for their attack were made.  The ever-unsleeping Valentin had broken the petrification enchantment upon Rhyleighi, releasing the quite-alive dray from his two and a half centuries of stony sleep.  Kulo, explained what he knew of the situation within Tyr - mainly, that though the city army were ready to attack, they could not open the gates and get outside without being slaughtered, letting the Urik army in, or (most likely) both.  They needed the army to be focused elsewhere.  And that's where the team came in.

With the Urik army spread out between them and Tyr, they were in prime position to attack its unprotected back, close by the command tents.  Alyshialynn was to move along, killing those she could, and raising them as undead soldiers under her command.  Sadhbh would take to the air, delivering strafing runs, and press towards the siege weaponry being built to harass the city.  Kuoriar!, Liet, Beren and Paelias were to attack more directly, whilst Rhyleighi would join the other adventurers - Kulo, Pieter, Kal-kin and Tak-tha - and cause a similar distraction.  With multiple attacks close, but not on top of each other, the Urik army would have little time to collect reinforcements.  After adequate harassment, they could all fall back, and discuss their plans further.

Before departing, the dray handed across small items to each of the heroes.  They would grant them extra energy in battle, but they came with a warning: do not use them too much, lest they wipe them out in the long term.  Interestingly, Rhyleighi (the only non-undead Dray of the four) was the one who gave the warning, and also confided that the other three used their items too often.

That first skirmish worked well - the Urik guards were unprepared and under trained, and all the teams moved through their forces with ease.  One command tent was destroyed - unfortunately, there were no high-ranking officials, but the destruction left only three more tents waiting.  Sadhbh made it far enough across to set one group of siege engines alight, and the undead presence was felt far after Alyshialynn returned to the others.  There were losses, though, with Tak-tha being grievously injured, and contact to Garidias being lost (though Valentin ensured them that the eladrin had merely taken the long way around the enemy army).

By the time they had regrouped, recovered, and discussed their next assault, the Urik army was ready.  More seasoned troops had moved into position, and their training showed, in how they could turn the blows, and in how they approached their enemy.  This fight was looking dire, but thankfully, a few well-timed fly-by attacks from Sadhb, along with two squads of Alyshialynn's undead, turned the battle in their favour.  Indeed, the harassment had caused a decidedly large hole in the Urik army, and they were failing to get reinforcements there quickly enough.  The gates of Tyr opened, their soldiers pouring out to meet many troops who had turned around to face the surprise thread, and now fell in the confusion.

Whilst striking out towards the third command tent, another target came across them.  A solitary figure, walking through the masses of troops, with a whirling sandstorm clearing the path before her.  It looked as if she, too, was headed for the command tent, but Liet only knew that she must have the Orb of Dust...and thus, he must take her down.

Pushing their way through the otherwise-engaged spearmen, Kuoroar! and Beren took on two heavy squads of troops, whilst Liet squeezed his way past, focusing on the figure.  Paelias, as always, supported them from a safe distance.

The figure - who, once she was close enough, was revealed to be Thakok-An, the very same Templar who had stolen the Orb of Dust from before their faces only a few months ago -  seemed uninterested in them, and continued working her way towards the command tent.  Liet was not about to have her get away, not with his Orb, and so raced after her.  Invisible, he walked up behind her, and said "You have my orb."  Sadly, Thakok-An did not agree, instead dominating the lesser Templar, and sending him running wildly back to the others.

But his actions served to catch her attention, and now she, as well as her elemental whirlwind, focused on the group.  This allowed Liet another chance; if simply asking did not work, he now reverted to commanding.  Dominating the Templar in return was a hard task, but he only needed the upper hand for a moment, long enough to get Thakok-An to throw the orb to her.  From that moment, without her artefact, Thakok-An was defeated.  And she would have died, too, were it not for the arrival of two others, each with their own Orbs, and their own bound elementals.

The first to arrive was Rhyleigh, though his possession of an Orb was not apparent until after Liet had obediently handed her newly claimed orb to the dray.  Holding the Orb of Dust in one hand, and the Orb of Flame in the other, the dray touched them together, causing them to merge together and form one swirling, sandy, hot orb.

But the Urik army was not about to let the orbs go without a fight.  Maetan Lubar, along with his high command and a heavy earth elemental, arrived on the scene as Thakok-An was making a hurried retreat.  "You fools!", she cried, "I was fighting the Urik army with you!"  Whilst the titans raged, and the dray and army general battled, those in the middle tried hard to stay on their feet.  Beren went down, as the earth elemental crashed into him on one side, and a momentarily-dominated Kouroar! hit him on the other.  Liet, already weakened from his mental battle against Thakok-An, collapsed from the collateral damage, but not before once more asserting his will upon an opponent - this time, on the earth elemental itself.  For a moment, the creature's control was ripped from the Orb of Stone, and it bent down to stabilise Beren's bleeding form, but with Liet unconscious, the command didn't last. Moments later, ten tons of rock in the rough shape of a foot came crushing down onto the mul's body, and the last drops of life were squashed out of him.

Paelias had managed to rouse Liet, but Maetan had wrestled control of Rhyleigh's fire elemental, and seemed to have gained the upper hand.  Kuoroar was trying to upset the general's advantage, but he had little energy left.  Managing to slip away from the earth elemental, Liet put his all into one final attack, barely managing to throw out the burst of psychic energy before he felt like collapsing from the effort.  But that final blast was all that was needed: Maetan fell screaming, hands clutching at his head.  The orb rolled along the battlefield, stopping at Kuoroar!'s feet, and as the general's cries dropped away to a brainless blubbering, the half-giant picked up the heavy stone sphere.  Behind him, Beren raised himself off the ground, though it was clear to all that he had not miraculously recovered.  The same grizzly wounds were apparent on his body as were on the undead dray, and the same dead eyes now looked out of his head.

"Give it to me," Rhyleigh said softly.  "Give it to me, and let us end this siege here, now."  Not seeing any other option, Kuoroar! handed the orb across, and watched as Rhyleigh melded it with the other.  With the combined powers of the Orbs of Dust, Flame and Stone now at his control, none on the battlefield could stand against him.  Though skirmishes continued on for the better part of the day, the battle had been won.  With their commanded dead, those Urik soldiers that could turned and fled back to their city.  Some made it, others were cut down before the could get far enough from Tyr.  Many more were lost in the desert, left to die without food or water, or picked up by travelling bands of slavers.  Some became food for the various creatures of the desert - a few, food for small tribes of halflings.  Whatever their fate, the siege of Tyr was over, and the Urik army had effectively been decimated; it would be many years before the Sorcerer King Hamanu would be able to gather such a large force - if not centuries.

The dray did not stay long after the battle had been won.  Nor did they leave the three-in-one Orb.  The news of their pressing urgency took it's time to reach Tyr, but as with all news, it eventually found its way there, passed from refugee to merchant to soldier to traveler... the city of Raam had fallen.  Absalom, the so-called "first of the Dray", had torn through it within hours of the hero's adventure there.  He had raised up an army from those he had slain, much like Alyshialyn, and along with ranks of other dray, had set the city ablaze, not intending to allow a single survivor to escape.  The other dray champions had returned to him, to work under him, and root out every last survivor.  Some tales spoke of Abalach-Re escaping the destruction, but just as many claimed she fell when the four champions and their powerful Orb cornered her in her garden palace.

Liet and Kuoroar! slowly recovered from the use of the dray's stones, though it took days.  The dray left the magical devices with them, perhaps because they didn't care, perhaps because they were now attuned to the heroes, or perhaps to serve as a continual temptation.  Liet especially found his thoughts drifting back to it, wondering just how it linked him to his new pact-masters.  Indeed, working out how he drew strength from the dray at all, with them so far removed, was something he would have to think about carefully.

Kuoroar! had an easier time distancing himself from the stone, though he couldn't bring himself to throw it away or destroy it.  Though, every time he looked into Beren's dead eyes, he was reminded of the danger of power.  For the dray had left Beren behind - undead, like them, but slowly acting more like his old self as time went by.  That was, apart from the whole "living" bit.  He had his own free will, and his body even looked normal once he had rested.  But his any that had known him previously, the pale grey eyes now staring out at them were unnerving at best, and down-right freaky at other times.  Unlike the others, Beren had no choice when it came to the dray's stone - it was attached to him, and couldn't be removed.  Liet assumed that if it were removed, he would revert to the "plain old dead" state, so experiments along that line were stopped.

But for now, Tyr was calm, safe, and slowly rebuilding itself.  The outer sand-flats were scattered with dead, too many even for the local inix to feed off. In time, the sand would bury them, or the sand storms would erode them.  They had been quickly picked clean of valuables, and now just lay as a reminder to the other city-states of the folly of attacking Tyr, the free city.

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