This is a recap of things that have happened. I haven’t had time to blog lately, but the campaign has continued.
To maintain and strengthen the ritual hiding the grove from the sorcerer kings, the Avangion Ulynin asks the party to journey to Kalidnay to retrieve an item, an obsidian orb. Using it, she hopes to continue to hide her grove and strengthen herself toward her final transformation. Dryder continues to avoid her, worrying that he will be unable to stop himself from attacking her if he sees her.
After a few days, the party departs for Kalidnay. The desert trek is dangerous, but they eventually arrive. With the full knowledge of Ulynin’s warning to them (Do not enter the city at night…those who enter at night never leave), they move in, quickly working their way to the central ziggurat.
The journey through the ziggurat was dangerous. Once they sensed the presence of warm life, undead began moving forward to attack the party. Eventually, the group makes their way to the top, where they are attacked by Kalid-Ma’s High Templar, Thakok-An (now a lich) and her retainers.
After a fierce battle, the group was able to retrieve the obsidian orb and quickly left Kalidnay. As they journeyed across the desert to return to Sanctuary, Kratas had a vision of a man lying on a stone bier. He saw the High Templar in life, and watched as Thakok-An performed a great ritual. As blackness descended on the vision, he hears a pain-filled voice whisper into his mind, “Help me!”
Upon their arrival at Sanctuary, the party hands the orb over to Ulynin. Kratas notices a look of greed cross her face when she touches the orb, but the look is gone almost as soon as it’s noticed. Mela, as a reward, receives a blessing from Ulynin (an alternative reward that allows her to heal her companions). The party rests for a few days while Ulynin prepares the ritual.
During the next several days, the party mingles with the inhabitants and pilgrims of Sanctuary. They begin to noticed oddities about the people; most look tired and worn out. Some are listless and unresponsive. They also notice several areas of the grove that have been defiled. The group begins to grow suspicious.
Searching around the base of the ziggurat, the party discovers a secret entrance. Moving in, they discover an underground lair. Obsidian orbs line the ceiling, and fell creatures inhabit its depths. Eventually, the find a room where several people are bound, seemingly drained of their life and energy. It is here that they finally find Allkirk. He’s completely insane and nearly incapable of a coherent thought. As dryder pulls his sword to put Allkirk out of his misery, Allkirk suddenly focuses on the weapon, muttering, “You’ve come! You must stop her!”
Keeping him safe in the prison cell, the party moves deeper into the bowels of the ziggurat, eventually discovering a hidden chamber. On one wall is the portrait of a dragon; not the fearsome Dragon of Tyr, but a different one – a more feminine one. They also discover a ritual that would allow for the creation of a forest grove. Finally, they discover a ritual that would allow a powerful defiler to drain the life from a large group of people and use that energy to hasten their transformation into the final stage of the Dragon metamorphosis.
Dryder takes the Dragon Transformation ritual and swiftly destroys it, while Katrie grabs the Forest ritual.
Realizing what’s happening, the group quickly works their way to the surface while Tor Val smashes each of the obsidian orbs they find.
Bursting onto the surface, the group sees the inhabitants and pilgrims of Sanctuary gathered around the central ziggurat. Hundreds are gathered, and all of them stare rapturously at the top of the pyramid.
There, Ulynin stands in all of her glory…except that she has dropped the illusion of being an Avangion. She begins the ritual and, unknown to the party, Mela pulls out her bow, ready to attack the group.
The guise of the Great One falls away, revealing a tall, regal, evil-looking woman in ornate robes.
“Who am I? “the woman calls out. “Sing my name before you give me your lives!”
The pilgrims sway in time to some unheard song. Then, slowly at first, they start a chant that gains volume and power as it builds.
“Abalach-Re! Abalach-Re!” the crowd sings.
The Sorcerer Queen of Raam!
Immediately, Dryder’s blade bursts into reddish flames. The rage nearly overwhelms him, but now he realizes that the rage has a purpose; the blade was meant to kill Abalach-Re. This is why he felt the anger whenever he was in the presence of the false Avangion. Pushing and shoving his way through the crowd, he springs up the steps of the ziggurat to attack the vile creature.
Abalach-Re sees Dryder and Tor Val charging up the ziggurat and calls to the people out in the plaza. Immediately, they all turn and begin attacking the party. Now fighting on several fronts, Tor Val and Gundrek hold of the enemies, while Dryder continues to make his way up the steps. Katrie and Kratas move to a position where they can support the rest of the party. It is at this point that Mela attacks Gundrek. It is also then that the first debilitating effects of the ritual hit; a crippling wave of weakness that drains the energy of everyone in the plaza. On the pyramid top, Abalach-Re screams in triumph as her body begins to transform.
Her scream quickly changes to one of fury, however, when Dryder strikes her with his burning blade. Her scream is echoed in hundreds of voices as his strike frees them from their domination. Mela immediately realizes what she’s doing, breaking free of the spell that the sorcerer queen had laid on her when she received the “blessing.” Also, several of the more powerful members of the crowd in the plaza immediately turn on Abalach-Re, assisting the party in attacking her.
The battle is fierce. The Queen kills a large number of the crowd trying to escape, but between the party consistently knocking her down and the assistance of several powerful members of the Veiled Alliance, she is eventually brought low.
(DM’s Note: This was a fight that the party should not have won. As soon as the Queen was struck, I intended for her to escape. But poor rolls on my part, and excellent rolls on the party’s, caused her escape attempts to fail several times. So, to play up the epic feel of the encounter, I allowed it to continue, but threw in the group of Veiled Alliance to assist (all on the fly). The result was a battle that the party still talks about. Very epic, very intense. But the party made one fatal mistake…one that is currently coming back to haunt them.
They didn’t do anything with the body.)
Flush with their victory, the party spends several days recovering and going over their plans. With the help of several of the Veiled Alliance people, they are able to resupply and prepare for their journey back to Tyr, leaving the still debilitated Allkirk in the care of the people of Sanctuary (despite Dryder’s wishes…he really dislikes Allkirk).
However, they day before their departure, the party receives a frightening message. They feel it before they see him…a debilitating wave of weakness. Around them, trees wilt and wither as a large form lands gently atop the ziggurat.
The Dragon of Tyr bellows that he wishes to speak to the slayers of Ulyness, and that he will kill every living thing in this forest if they do not show themselves. As the party moves forward and cowers before the Dragon, he leaves them with a warning.
1000 slaves are to be brought to the Dragon’s Crown by this time next year, or he would lay waste to everything in the forest.
He flies off and the party begins their journey to Tyr, but without their companion, Tor Val. The barbarian wished to find the half-giant Ela and work on finding a way to defeat the Dragon.
(The player playing Tor Val was unable to continue gaming with us, so I allowed Tor Val to fade into the background).
Coming soon…part two of the recap.