Tuesday, March 1, 2011

EPISODE XLVI: The Banewarrens, Act IV: The Inner Vaults II - The Conflagration; Fiendish Shades

August 11

Within the sanctuary of the Betrayed, Emeris the shadowcaster, Early the warblade, Vatex the tempest, and Vatex the shadowdancer rest. The creepy, chant-like drone that whispers through the chamber is deeply unsettling, and seems to spawn nightmares shared by the group, in which the Betrayed returns to life and brutally murders them with sharpened holy symbol, raving madly of profanities too awful to be mentioned. The group sleeps under the watch of Dziga’s shadow companion. In the morning, the party explores the chambers to the west.

Past a chamber suffused with the horrible smell of rotting flesh, they find a message written by the Dread One himself. It speaks of how he converted the vaults in the southwest portion of the Inner Vaults into a prison, overseen by the warden, a lich called VALLACOR. They also find an iron box containing 24 brass keys. The companions are a little wary about encountering a lich, if this warden is still around after all this time.

They find most of the so-called prison seems to have been destroyed in some sort of powerful magical incident gone awry. A massive chamber contains a powerful energy field, which Emeris identifies as a tear in the fabric of reality itself. In the center of the chamber is a smoldering pit from which a couple of slaadi, a red and a blue, emerge. They came here hundreds of years ago through the conflagration, and have since eaten anything else that has come through every ten or twenty years, except for a xorn that got away recently. Blasted by random blasts of force as they battle the toad-like monsters within the energy field, the group defeats them and explores their cave near the bottom of the pit, where a superheated liquid morass of disrupted matter churns like boiling oil. Emeris flies down and searches quickly, blasted by force damage, and recovers the bits of treasure the slaadi had collected over the years -- various gems and random valuables.

South of the conflagration, the group passes an exposed vault, its walls destroyed long ago by the energy field and its contents looted. East of this, they safely bypass the traps and mechanisms surrounding another vault, in which they discover a long, narrow room that rises up two levels, connected by staircases that run up the center. The stairs are flanked by iron railings forged with a sword motif, leading up to an altar similarly designed. A skeleton clutching a book is laying on the altar. Various rusty swords are scattered about. As Dziga examines the altar, five ancient demonic shades called Caligrostos pick up the scattered swords. In their hands, the rusted swords transform into magically empowered blades of supernatural sharpness and perfect construction. Each demonic spirit is fiendish and feminine in appearance, with wings, horns, and vicious teeth.

What follows is a battle that taxes the companions greatly. The caligrosto is incorporeal only until it strikes its opponent, at which points it takes on a physical manifestation that looks like a fiendish version of the person it struck, increasing its power against that person and causing wounds meant to kill the shade to manifest upon the victim whose form it has taken.

The Rosegate Company is victorious in the end, but only while suffering tremendous injuries. They leave a pile of empty healing potion vials behind them and check out the book held by the skeleton on the altar. This ancient volume, barely readable from its age, seems to consist of largely fanciful prose pieces about Danar and his friends. One passage in particular is circled inside:

“And thus Danar said to the Knight, Gerantfried, “Go forth and find the Guardian Seraph who holds the Sword of Flame.” To do so, Gerantfried had to travel through strange lands, where he met the Lillend. She sang a beautiful song and introduced her companion, Thrune, the Peaceful One. But the song delayed him, and Regarax the Half-Dragon attacked Parnaith as she collected her lovely jewels. It was Bastion, the Four-Winged Angel of the Morning, who saved them all in the end.”

Someone, in a much cruder hand, had previously scrawled the named “Maleficite,” in the margin and drawn a line to the words “Four-Winged Angel.” They are disappointed when after this tough battle, they are unable to find anything of value in this chamber. They hope the page of circled prose gives a hint for something deeper within the Banewarrens.

On the west side of the conflagration the company explores a vault full of skeletons chained to walls. As they enter, a full-plate clad skeleton warrior wielding a sonic greatsword and wearing a helmut with big over-sized horns emerges from a backroom, and the chained skeletons stand up, firing blasts of energy from their eyes. Emeris and Vatex move among the chained skeletons, dodging blasts of energy and taking them down one by one with shadow magic and steel. Dziga and Early rush the skeleton warrior. The warblade and shadowdancer suffer a few glancing blows but fell the undead fighter quickly, as the elf and the half-dragon continue against the skeletons, which have become quite annoying at this point. It takes several hits against each to smash it sufficiently that it no longer fires bolts of energy..

When the group is finished with the fight, they are quite worn out -- and they have been exploring for less than two hours! Dungeon crawling is hard work, even at this power level. They decide to take a break after taking the skeleton warrior’s valuables, wondering if they have enough resources to continue onwards for at least a little longer...

Next time: The companions are making slow progress, but have they finally taken the lead in the hunt for Banewarrens loot?

Random Elanian Factoid: The Dread One was that rarest of villains who reveled in evil and darkness for its own sake, the way a noble hero might defend goodness for its own sake. Utterly corrupted by darkness, the Dread One was motivated entirely by hatred for the noble soul he had once been. For him, light was darkness and darkness light. He hated life, nature, and all things born of the Creator. Kindness, compassion, love -- these qualities he considered contemptible. Misery, hate, pain spoke to him, and depravity, destruction, and malice became the objects of his lust.

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