Aderian and Jerker, weary from battle and the effort to repair the breach in the wall made by the fleeing gnolls, shuffled through the door of the manor and flopped down on ancient sofas. They smelled of old horse hair and more recent gnoll musk, but the combination of exhaustion and the dwindling daylight made them into the most comfortable beds in which they laid. Soon their snoring echoed through the mostly empty manor house.
In the adjoining dining hall, Ghevont sat attentively, squinting eyes considering the gnoll warrior bound tightly to an oaken chair meant for the master of house. Despite various violent prodding, both verbal and physical, the grim, dog-faced humanoid merely snarled. The cleric wondered whether occasional inscrutable changes in expression meant the beastman understood the common tongue.
Atop the roof, Ferris sat with his back against a chimney and scanned the horizon. Nothing revealed itself to the north and east where the land rose up into grass-clothed hills. The streets of the city directly west likewise were empty and showing no signs of life nor undeath. To the south, though, he spotted tiny forms wandering streets then passing out of view into alleyways. Much more distant, he was sure he could see the regular flash of unnatural green light.
Immediately after the battle, Tienarth found a bedroom, seemingly untouched for centuries where he shook the dust from antique quilts to produce a suitable resting place. He quickly descended into trance, drawing magical energies back to his thin frame. A vision beneath his closed eyes expanded to include a beautiful maiden whose face matched the one on his periapt. She caressed him wordlessly as he felt vigor return.
Some hours later, Jerker climbed out a dormer window to relieve Ferris. As he settled in to watch for approaching threats, he relayed to the rogue of the abundant food stores left by the gnolls. The manor’s kitchen teemed with salted meat in barrels, enough to feed 20 men for a fortnight.
Aderian took a turn watching the gnoll who was no more responsive to the interrogation techniques of a pirate. Ghevont made good use of the sofas after particularly intentional praying to his savior. He expressed hope for the safety of his band, particularly against a potential gnoll army that might visit the city at any moment.
Meanwhile, Tienarth awoke from trance and used his time to peer deeply into the crystal ball. He concentrated on the Jonamor Estate and its parlor in which hung Ghevont’s magic mirror. As the golden rays of dawn reached over the eastern skies of both Tosasth and Saint Orlan, the old elf spied Bottoms, the spritely elf left as caretaker. Tienarth watched him reach out to the knob on the mirror, adjusting its view. In a few moments, he made it clear Tienarth’s visage appeared on the mirror before him, for the unique gesture he produced in the air before him was quickly echoed by Tienarth. The language of the spellcasting’s somatic components was enough to convey simple declarations and instructions.
Just as their long conversation of hand gestures concluded, Tienarth’s head was turned to Aderian’s urgent cry. Even Jerker scrambled down from the roof to investigate, and as they all crowded into the dining room to behold the unmistakable shimmering shape of a disembodied spirit looming over the captured gnoll. Aderian, overly wary of spectres and their ilk had rushed to the far wall, spilling his stool, and now only pointing, mouth agape.
The gnoll, still tightly bound, twisted his neck to peer at the glowing figure over his shoulder. He burst into unintelligible exclamations, “Nem! Nem! Nem Zellem! Nem!” His wide eyes flashed terror never inspired by the threast of Ghevont and Aderian.
Ghevont sleepily retrieved his holy symbol through his loose shirt collar and began a prayer as the spirit drifted closer to the gnoll. It’s cries of “nem” intensified as the spirit seemed to meld with it and suddenly the struggle ceased. Eyelid relaxed and the contorted pose unwound so that the gnoll faced the five adventurers.
“Greetings, Raiders. I am Petfaren,” he nearly coughed out. After a brief throat-clearing, he spoke in a more even tone with a hint of elvish accent, “you may release this horrid form now as it presents no further danger to you.”
Hatching a Plan
It took some effort for haunted gnoll to convince them he was harmless, indeed helpful. He explained he was once an elven lord of Tosasth who was cursed to remain a ghost tied to his crumbling estate. Without a living body to possess, he could not leave the grounds. He displayed disgust in his gnollish host and demonstrated knowledge about the city, confirming much of what they’d learned before from Jonamor and Imra.
He also accessed the thoughts of the gnoll, calling himself Gnar, sharing that an army of 350 gnolls camped three miles away, lead by a wizard called Torance Siltdeath. These gnolls were not aligned with those of to the south that recently conquered the dwarven kingdom of Browendy. They came to learn of Tienarth’s Raiders by way of capturing and torturing a dwarven bounty hunter that could only be the same dwarf met by the party months before. Over the winter, they cleared out the northern quarters of Tosasth with brute force and fire.
Some debate ensued over making an assault on the gnoll army. Petfaren ended the debat himself by declaring that if they would not help him rid the city of evil, he’d return to his original plan of leveraging the gnolls. With this, the party was more assured of his aim. It also gave them little choice but between which of two remaining sources of Haderaxian corruption to destroy first. They chose the home of Celaena Wysaphyra (kuh-LI-nah why-saff-EER-uh) perhaps due to its well-seen green orb which blasted undead-summoning beams at regular intervals.
Quizzed over personal knowledge, Petfaren acknowledged the honor shown in life by Imra, the black knight. He said the house of Penelo Elixidor hid some device that ought to be destroyed. Elixidor had be a most fervent believer in Haderax and would be unlikely to be cooperative. Celaena was a fine warrior maiden with whom Petfaren enjoyed a more intimate relationship. They hoped with his help, they might convince her to allow the destruction of the orb. As a signal of non-aggression, they took down a pennant of Petfaren to carry on a staff in plain view as they approached. They also helped the gnoll dress in Petfaren’s old clothes.
Approaching the Estate
The residence lay on the southern end of Tosasth, making a safe approach easy. They found a compound surrounded by a wall of sandstone blocks, twenty feet high. The tower on which the orb sat rose high over the walls as did a few treetops. Above a barred gate, many skeletons stood motionless, bows in hand.
Ghevont produced the book of poetry about Tosasth. He read a few lines of relevant verse that Aderian took up and began chanting.
Let the trumpet shout Once more, Wysaphyra!
Let the battle-thunders roar, Wysaphyra!
And again by yonder sea,
Let the swords of all the free
Leap forth to fight with thee, Wysaphyra!
Before long, a spectre flew from behind the walls.
“Ophin!” the gnoll croaked, “It is I, Petfaren. I must speak with Calaena.”
The spectre retorted, “she is unable to attend to you, foul one. Begone! This is your only warning.” The spectre retreated behind the wall.
Ghevont mused, “most of these lords of Tosasth have seen their city destroyed and all we can offer them is oblivion. We’re here to rebuild this once-great city. Their corrupted souls must first be cleared away.” He marched himself towards the wall, holding his holy symbol aloft. The skeletons let fly arrows, all aimed at the cleric. A few found their mark, but under the mighty power of the Anointed One, the skeletons turned away and disappeared behind the wall.
Presently, Ferris climbed up a rope secured by Jerker’s grappling hook. He found a gangway circling the inside of the compound. A single story manor filled the front half while an open courtyard held many rows of spear-wielding skeletons. Ghevont joined Ferris on the gangway as the spectre Ophin reappeared.
Ghevont produced a bone of St. Jaludi and hurled it at the spectre. The vision of the saint coalesced to a golden form that struct the undead foe and sent is shooting off towards the horizon. The bone continued its arc, landing on the roof of the manor. Ghevont hopped over the roof to retrieve it.
Next, they walked around the gangway to be near the tower. Jerker affixed a rope to the tower’s top, and Ferris scrambled up. Skeletons crowded around the tower. The demonic form visible inside the orb dissuaded him little. He brought his sword crashing down, shattering the orb and spraying green glass. A vaguely reptilian demon expanded to full hulking size, now released from captivity. Ferris leaped back to the gangway, but a moment later the demon teleport with a puff of noxious smoke into melee. Overcome with fear, Jerker dashed away.
Tienarth began casting magic missiles. Ghevont invoked Strength of the Anointed One as Aderian guzzled a potion of magic growth. Blows rained down the demon and it was banished back to the hell from which is was born. Tienarth made quick work of the horde of skeletons with a well-placed wall of fire. They climbed down to the courtyard, crunching charred bones beneath their boots, and entered the house via the back door.
Petfaren previously described courting the Celaena when they both lived. Could something that happened long ago be the reason she refused to engage them now, they wondered. Raffi asked how it ended with them. Hedging as best he could with the face of gnoll, Petfaren admitted, “alas, I was untrue!” Surely a violent confrontation was unavoidable destiny.
Once inside, Aderian spied a shrine to Molock, the fat, horned god of evil they’d seen venerated elsewhere. He stamped at the offerings and dismantled the statue. A growl came rumbling down the main hallway. They each gritted teeth at the fearsome visage of a sword-carrying vampire beast.
Pallid and gaunt, rags hung over her long limbs. Her hair fell out centuries ago. Fangs jutted prominently from her elongated jaws. A bloodless gash crossed her chest. In her hand, she gripped tightly a sword of bluish crystal. Her eyes glowed red but showed little intelligence.
Raffi, the young dwarven archer, nocked an arrow and let it fly. It dug deep in to the monster’s thigh, spurring it to surge forward. “Celaena!” cried Petfaren in his distorted gnoll voice. “What has become of you?” Perhaps it was the sword he most recognized her by, for she looked nothing like an elf, even one transformed by vampirism.
Foregoing a strike with her gleaming blade, Celaena locked iron jaws on the dwarf’s leg, severing it. Bright blood burst from wound as he collapsed, but in dashing at the dwarf, she stood close to Ghevont who held a holy symbol. Her flesh nearest the symbol bubbled, then burst into flame. She lunged anew at the cleric as the rest converged. In a few brief moments, she was hacked to unmoving pieces.
The sturdy dwarf clung to consciousness but knew his time was at an end. Ghevont bowed his head in prayer, calling on the Anointed One to perform a miracle. The prayer brought no answer. Raffi’s life spilled out over the fine carpet of the ancient manor house. Next, Ghevont pulled St. Antolin’s Staff of Healing from his pack. Over and over, he soothed Raffi’s wound with the golden energy of the cathead rod, but soon after, the blood began to flow again.
Meanwhile, Jerker snatched up the crystalline sword from the vampire’s hand. A faint glow ran down the length. Suddenly he spoke to Raffi, “You seem you’re on the way out. I can release you!”
“No!” cried Raffi, “do not murder me!” Jerker kept his motivation unspoken but assented. An hour passed, then another, and finally Raffi closed his eyes forever.
Furious, Ghevont brought the staff over his thigh, breaking it two. He tossed the pieces aside. He fell to his knees, crying out in anguish. He tossed his holy symbol aside, seemingly discarding his entire faith. “I will take his body home,” he announced, as he wrapped the body in a blanket. Jerker said he’d come along. Ghevont intended to descend into the underdark by way of the hidden door. The two of them walked out the front gate, heading south.
Ferris picked up the discarded holy symbol. “Shouldn’t we loot this place?” he asked Aderian and Tienarth.
“Ghevont once again takes up his role as drama queen. Regina histrionali. We will adhere to the plan,” said Tienarth.
Aderian concurred. “Loot or a dead dwarf? I choose to plunder!”
- Treasure: none!
- 100 Skeletons — 2,500 xp
- Characters – 20,000xp per PC for destroying an orb
- Aderian (Fight) – 22,755 xp
- Ferris (Dexterity) – 22,755 xp
- Ghevont (Tenet, Smite Undead, Healing) – 23,165 xp
- Jerker (Fight) – 22,755 xp
- Raffi – deceased
- Tienarth (Avoid combat) – 20,705 xp
Update: 1500 xp not included for killing the demon in the tower, was added in the next session.