Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Death is a Dish Best Served Cold!" Chapter 12 of the Xanthus River Campaign


Our party consists of:

Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 2 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 2 Elf)
Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
Babu (Level 1 Thief)
Jilani (Level 1 Cleric)
Knott (Level 1 Warrior)
Wheezy (Level 1 Halfling)

The party had been invited to attend a luncheon party to be held in their honor at the keep of the Archon of Wince. Archon Hadrus gave a toast to their wealth. Almost immediately afterwards, Sausage, Absalom, and Wheezy keeled over unconscious, the rest staggered disoriented, all except Valerius who abstained.
We are betrayed! To arms!
The Archon's personal guard were immediately called in to surround the party. Those still awake drew arms and prepared to defend themselves. Tapestries behind the Archon were pulled aside, revealing the shadowy presence and hissing voice of the Queen of Serpents and Avatar of Set, "Foolish humans! No mortal blade can kill Explictica Defilus!"
"Foolish humans! No mortal blade can kill Explictica Defilus!"
A battle ensued. Many of the Archon's guards were killed, revealing them to be nothing more than empty husks with muscles made of serpents! Gwen and Valerius were both charmed by the naga. Jilani prayed to her god Amun-Ra and Sausage was miraculously cured of the poison that afflicted him, only to be taken down with everyone else by a fiery explosion belched forth by the evil naga. The entire party fell to the fire ball, killing Sausage, Wheezy, and Cake instantly.
BOOM!

Darkness.

Eventually, the surviving members of the party awoke in cages located in a muddy subterranean chamber supported by crude timbers. Everyone was wounded, burned, and tired. Valerius, still charmed, stood guard at the doorway. 



"Where are we?"

Absalom and Jilani tried to distract Valerius while Gwen called upon the strength and assistance of the King of Elfland. Valerius was undeterred and rushed to strike Gwen with the butt of his blade. In doing so, Gwen discharged her sleep spell, sending Valerius into unconsciousness. Meanwhile, Knott was able to force his cage open, retrieve the keys from Valerius, kick Valerius in the face, and free the surviving members of the party. In addition, other cells were occupied by some captured merchants, Helise, the ten-year-old sister of the Archon, and Archon Hadrus himself, emaciated, tortured, and wearing nothing but a loincloth. All were freed. Prayers were made and everyone was miraculously healed of their injuries. When Valerius was revived, he was free of the charm and ready to slay the naga.

When Gwen was revived, she was overcome with the loss of her familiar, Cake. Distraught with mourning, she descended into depression and madness. She was designated to watch over Helise. For the rest of the night, Gwen stroked Helise's hair and held her protectively, calling her "Cake". 

Leaving the prison cells, Valerius scouted ahead. The corridor beyond the only exit led to another corridor to the left and a door to the right. Valerius opened the door and saw a gaunt hideous figure of death standing near a pillar. Having roused it from its slumber, Valerius closed the door and admonished everyone to not open it.

Heading left, the found a laboratory filled with alchemical apparatuses, books written in an ancient unknown script, several cages filled with venomous snakes, and the flayed and disemboweled corpse of Sausage.

While Absalom gave last rites to Sausage the party located a locked wardrobe filled with their equipment. Suitably re-equipped, the party exited the room through the opposite door. A short corridor and doorway opened into an altar room. There they found a bald ashen-faced priest wearing black robes conducting a vile ceremony with the corpse of Wheezy, the same priest that conducted the human sacrifice in the root cellar weeks ago, the very ceremony that returned Explictica Defilus to the living world!

The altar was a stone sacrificial table on a raised dais. Before the table was a plinth with a jade statue of the naga. The priest was accompanied by a hunched bestial figure of deathly pallor. Four robed acolytes chanted dark hymns in the corners of the rooms. 

As soon as Valerius entered, the priest challenged, "Valerius! You were told to guard the prisoners! Why do you disturb the sacred rite of feasting?" 

Valerius replied that needed the assistance of the priest. The priest's eyes narrowed as he examined the stout defender of justice, then shouted, "The fool has broken his enchantment! Vile perfidy! Kill them!" and battle was enjoined!

"Vile perfidy!"
Valerius rushed into the room. The priest pulled the green statue and retreated behind the safety of his bestial companion. Valerius soon found that his sword stabbed and cut the creature but the cuts drew no blood and caused no pain. The acolytes blocked the entrance. While Valerius fought against the supernatural foe on the dais and one of the acolytes, the others battled against the three remaining acolytes to gain entry into the room.  Gwen held Helise to the rear, protecting her, whispering, "No, Cake, this is not your fight!" Despite this, Helise took a sling and let fly several bullets into the acolytes.

"I could use a cleric right about now!"
The wall opened up behind the priest. The priest fled with the wall closing behind him. Eventually, the acolytes blocking the entrance were killed allowing the party entrance. The supernatural foe was surrounded by the survivors of the captured merchant caravan. Many of the brave prisoners were killed by the hideous beast before Absalom was able to cow the creature before the holy power of Justica! Babu killed the beast as it clawed the corner of the room in fear.

The remaining acolyte gave himself up, throwing his scimitar onto the floor and bowing in acquiescence. While the rest of the party tended to wounds and explored the wall for the secret door, the acolyte tried to quietly crawl away. Knott walked over to the wretched fool, filled with wide-eyed vengeance. The acolyte begged for mercy but was executed in righteous fury by the deadly might of Knott's pitiless battle-axe.

Babu eventually pulled the jade statue and opened the secret door. A short passage led to another, poorly disguised, secret door. Beyond lay the cave of the naga!

They were on the muddy bank where the naga had stored her treasure. They found the priest on his knees in the mud, begging his mistress for forgiveness. He stood and made ready as the party rushed into the flooded cavernous chamber, charging the priest and the naga.

Charge! Charge now!
 Battle was joined! The naga charmed Valerius and ordered him away. Babu and one of the survivors of the merchant caravan took on the priest whiel the rest fought against the naga. The naga, blinded and paralyzed, ordered Valerius to fight in her defense. Valerius rushed forth and killed Knott with a single blow. Valerius was then paralyzed by Jilani. 

The priest began muttering an evil prayer,sting still and taking the blows that rained down upon him. The final blow that would have killed the priest instead transformed him into a mass of wriggling snakes, escaping in all directions!

Soon afterwards, a killing blow was struck the naga, causing the creature to explode in a fiery flash, knocking everyone into the mud. A vile hissing voice echoed against the walls of the cavern, "Foolish humans! No mortal blade can slay EXPLICTICA DEFILUS! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!" The echoing laughter faded into the darkness. 

The party regrouped. Valerius was no longer under the charm. They retrieved the boat from the opposite side of the lake and began their journey out of the caves. 

On their way out, on the first level of the dungeon, a boa constrictor fell onto Valerius. Entangled, Valerius felt the life being crushed out of him. He stabbed with his dagger until the serpent was dead. The rest of the journey back to Wince was uneventful.

Upon their return, the swollen sun fell behind the horizon to the west. While in sight of the village, not trusting their chances at an inn, the party decided to seek rest at one of the many farming compounds found outside the village walls. 

TO BE CONTINUED...