Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 25

This adventure was Friday October 9, 2015. B.P., E.G., K.D., and C.H. were present.

The smell of licorice-root tea is quite appealing to H’ai-ch Q’a. The Thri-Kreen Fighter will take Sister Janus up on her offer of a cup.  Gnome Barbarian Wee Jack and half-Orc Ranger Xorn leave them to converse.

In the muddy lane outside the healer’s cabin, Wee Jack and Xorn find Jacob Light-Bringer and Joseph McMickelson. The two Clerics of Pelor are reminiscing about their days together in the seminary.  It is a dreadfully dull conversation and Wee Jack considers literally climbing the walls to escape it.  But instead, he suggests the party check out the new apothecary.

The potion shop takes up very little of the large storefront building behind the vacant tavern. A silver bell jingles as the door opens.  The proprietor, showy and charismatic J.G. Dumont, stands behind a row of wooden tables.  Dumont has a full assortment of potions, anything they can name – and many of each in stock.  A vast array of glass vials and ampules await inspection.

The four adventurers return Dumont’s greeting and peruse the wares. They notice a Human woman sitting on a stool behind them, by the wall.  A loaded crossbow rests in her lap.  She reads a spell-book by the daylight of a window.  Dumont’s steely-eyed associate is aware of the customers, but has no reason yet to be interested in them.

Dumont engages the party in friendly banter, directing attention to particular specials. There is a table of “misblended” potions; these provide only half the duration and effect but cost half as much.  On a different table are “overpowered” potions, which provide a maximum effect but cost half as much more.  For the discerning gambler among them, there are factory-second “unidentified” potions – unlabeled concoctions for a flat rate of 75-gp each.  Potentially a huge saving if the draught is a dose of high-level spell.  And a 50%-off “daily special”; today it is Potion of Barkskin +2.

It is Dumont’s lucky day; the party is heavy with gold and they like what they see. They buy two potions of Hide From Undead, two overpowered Cure Moderate Wounds and one Cure Serious Wounds, and eight misblended Cure Light Wounds.  The potionist has just paid his month’s rent off the transaction.  The party is invited to return again, soon.

No sooner is the party out in the chilly March afternoon than one of the half-Orc enclave guards urgently hails them from the walkway above. The two half-Orc hunters, Krusch and Bombast, have engaged a large group of Undead a few hundreds yards east – and it looks like the hunters are in peril.  One has dropped and the other is mobbed with zombies.

Xorn is the first out of the gate. The Ranger is swift on his feet and closes the distance quickly at the best speed he can manage.  The Gnome and the two Clerics of Pelor trail increasingly far behind, not the overland runner their friend is.

The male half-Orc, Bombast, is down. Krusch, the female, fends off at least six Zombies with more coming her way.  There are a dozen or more Undead in this horde, and several others lay slain where the half-Orc hunters scored kills.  Xorn draws his adamantine short-sword and his sickle.  Intuition tells him which four of the zombies are actually Wights blending in.

As Krusch falls back in careful, measured retreat, Xorn advances – slashing his way into the Undead pack. Wee Jack, McMickelson, and Light-Bringer are a half-minute behind, running as fast as their legs can carry them.

Xorn’s attack draws a significant number of enemies off Krusch. In Orckish, she snarls her appreciation, and encourages the Ranger to keep it up.  Likewise Xorn cheers on the huntress, admiring the skill by which she defends, strikes, and moves to keep herself just out of their reach.

Barbarian Wee Jack reaches the melee in time to make a meaningful contribution. He helps Xorn open a path to the huntress.  The half-Orc huntress and her new allies thrash the wights and remaining zombies.  From the rear, the Clerics of Pelor invoke Turning attempts and drive the few surviving Undead to flee the battle.

Free of battle constraints, Krusch rushes to her brother and doses him with foul-looking, minty-smelling home-made healing potions. Xorn runs down and slays the zombies shambling away from the divine power of Pelor.

Bombast is awake but very weak from Negative Level damage. He and Krusch initially thought this pack only zombies; they were surprised and overpowered by wights hidden among the ranks.  The huntress must get her kin to the enclave for healing; Krusch waives claim to any treasure, urgent to get to safe ground.  She pledges a debt to Xorn for his help.

Xorn watches them limp back to Riddley’s Crown, as his associates search the reeking corpses and collect up gold and other valuables. He and Wee Jack were injured in the fight, the Ranger now notices.  Not badly, but they are wounded by wights and the Gnome is already harshly cursing his luck at drawing Negative Level damage again.

The adventurers return to the enclave a half-hour after Krusch and Bombast. As they expect, Sister Janus has expended all her Restoration spells for the day.  But she promises to heal up the group if they will return at mid-morning tomorrow.

Jacob and his friends wander back to their storefront cabin, where they divide up the spoils from today’s fight and relax by a warm fire. They should grab a quick dinner before the main hall gets rowdy again.

On the way there, the party sees that the Corinthians and the Suicide Blondes assembled in the open space near the enclave’s well. The two groups are separately engaged in post-combat ritual: removing, cleaning, inspecting, and oiling their armor and weapons.  The Corinthians do so with methodical military precision; the Suicide Blondes with less formality but equally-attentive care.  The party is surprised by the Blondes’ discipline in this matter.

Dinner is quick and satisfying. They are finished before anyone shows up to start the night’s festivities.  Wee Jack and his friends turn in early, and are asleep at their cabin before the noise in the main hall really gets going.

The morning is cold and damp, making it hard to leave their warm cabin to go get breakfast. Activity at the gate catches the party’s attention.  The gate-guard admits a small army of Elf barbarians: four women, five men, two male Druids, and a stoic barbarian Chief.  The Chief speaks directly with Administrator Lumberg – entirely in Elvish, which none of the party speaks.

They conclude the negotiation. Lumberg returns to his porch-chair without performing his customary speech.  The Elf Chief addresses his tribe, likely enforcing the local customs.  After this, some barbarians disperse into the enclave while others carry gear into the stables to set up camp.

The party fills a table in the vacant main hall. Joseph McMickelson asks Jenny about the Elf barbarians as the cook takes their orders.  Not having seen the newcomers, Jenny assumes by description that they are the LANIL TRIBE – nomadic Wild Elves whose hunting territory sometimes includes these plains.  They sometimes use Riddley’s Crown as a base before moving on elsewhere in the wilderness.

A date to keep – Sister Janus awaits them at her house. She casts Restoration to remove the afflicted adventurers’ Negative Levels before the effect becomes permanent.  The group is appreciative as usual, but today the Cleric chooses to call in favours owed to her.

The New Moon is four days away; as is customary, the Undead will grow numerous and powerful on that day, then recede to their hidden places as two days of exceptional weakness follow. Sister Janus suspects the adventurers intend to challenge the infested church to the east, in the lull after the Moon.

If they do, and if they survive their quest deep under the temple, they might find an unusual artifact. Janus does not know precisely what it is or what it looks like – the party will surely know when they have found it.

The object will be powerful. Many among them will feel compelled to immediately destroy it.  Sister Janus urges the party to resist this impulse; this she has already counseled cleric Jere Collado.  Brought back undamaged, the object might be the key to defeating the Undead plague in this area.  If the artifact is destroyed, however, this opportunity will be lost.

The party thinks this a reasonable request to settle their debt to Sister Janus, and it is not outside their plan to clear out the church and claim its probable treasures.

It is now morning on the 31st day of March, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 25)




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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