Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 32

This adventure was Friday January 8, 2016. All players except T.R. and G.R. were present.  M.H. and A.B. observed the game.

The coming of night closes the gates of Riddley’s Crown. Unease settles upon the residents; tomorrow is the New Moon.

It is bright and warm in the communal bunk room of the barracks when the party shows up. They are the last to arrive.  Cleric Jere Collado, both Rudic Ungart and Jacob Light-Bringer, Aziz al-Azhar, Xorn, H’ai-ch Q’a, and Joseph McMickelson fill the space left open for them.

Reedna, Cleric of Kord and leader of Valiant Light, presides over the gathering. Her six clerics stand behind her.  Flexor Retinaculum and his five Corinthians are present.  And the Suicide Blondes – leader Winona, plus Alyssa, Drew, Phoebe, and Molly.  Half-Orc siblings Krusch and Bombast nod to Xorn on his arrival.  Elf Fighter Sy Green, and half-Orc Fighter Vola, stand alone in the audience.  Jere Collado notices Wizard-Monk Lanna Riis, Dwarf trader Dredburn, and potionist JG Dumont at the back of the room.  The Monk, two Druids, and all of the Lanil Tribe, are not here.

Reedna calls the room’s attention, first thanking everyone for coming. Assembled here is an impressive collection of adventurers – fighters, rangers, clerics and barbarians.  The Undead are their common enemy, an enemy fought by choice and not by necessity.  Wealth and experience are the motivations; but tonight Reedna proposes a greater purpose.

Everyone is aware of a church many miles east of here, once a house of Pelor but long ago fallen to evil. Rumour has circulated about an artifact hidden there, and many present here tonight have been convinced to quest for it.

Xorn and Jere Collado notice that the Cleric of Kord makes no direct mention of Sister Janus. But there is recognition of truth flashing across many faces in the silent crowd.

Reedna continues : The New Moon is almost nigh; the Undead will rise in force outside this enclave’s walls.  For the two days after tomorrow, there is a lull in the Undead plague.  This will be the opportunity.  Not for small, casual knots of adventurers against a daunting temple of evil, but for a unified coalition – everyone present here tonight, working together.  Shared strength to mitigate the risks, shared reward to validate the effort.

Valiant Light’s diverse ecumenical build and deep knowledge of Undead and occult, the fighting strength of the Corinthians and the Suicide Blondes, the skills and experience of Xorn’s party, the support of individual adventurers…this will be a force to be reckoned with. This is a coalition of parties with a real chance to make a lasting difference in the fight against the Undead.

It is a persuasive speech. Each of the groups agree to join. Assured that they, as other units, will retain autonomy within the alliance that Valiant Light leads, Collado’s party is on board.  With this many allies, certainly Xorn’s party will fare better than on their last foray to the church.

Before questions about what foes they may face, the inevitable demands about treasure stir up debate. How much loot is expected, who gets what, and how and when the spoils will be divided.  Illusions of noble purpose fade before the warm glow of greed.

Evidently this was anticipated; Cleric Reedna states a fair plan that precludes squabbling. As they are recovered, valuable items will be temporarily loaned to anyone who needs their weapons or gear improved.  Lots will be tossed to resolve any contested items.

When the mission is ended, items will be returned to the pool and the haul’s total gold-value determined. The Corinthians, Suicide Blondes, and Collado’s group will each get 20%. Valiant Light will take 30%.  The remaining 10% will divide between the four so-called “Loner” adventurers.  This can pay out in gold from items sold, or as items themselves with their value deducted from that groups’ share.

Agreeable terms. This question resolved, onlookers Riis, Dredburn, and Dumont interrupt for the first time tonight.  Each has a package of useful items to offer up in exchange for a share in the overall take.

JG Dumont, in exchange for 20% off the top, offers :

It is a valuable collection of potions and oils. The Corinthians and Suicide Blondes vote to accept the deal.  Valiant Light and the Loners object.  Xorn’s group is the tie-breaker.  The Barbarian-Ranger and his associates have a quick debate; they vote to decline.

Next is Lanna Riis. For 25% of the total treasure value, she will lend the coalition these items to further their odds of success :

Wizard al-Azhar takes immediate notice of the Rod of Metamagic Empowerment, but on the whole his party votes against the deal, joining Valiant Light and the Corinthians.

Last to offer a deal is Dredburn. The gruff Dwarf has a unique set of items, available for a 10% share :

The Corinthians and Loners favour this one. The Suicide Blondes and Valiant Light do not.  For the third time, H’ai-ch Q’a group is the deciding vote.

Cleric Collado is interested in the Bag of Holding – not recognizing that it and the Portable Hole suggest a “suicide self-destruct” in the event of a worst-case scenario against overwhelming odds. Regardless, his party says no to this deal as well.

Dumont, Dredburn, and Riis find themselves shut out of a potentially lucrative operation. Quickly, they pool their individual offers into one bundle, for 20% of the take.  The coalition counters with 10%.  The enclave residents counter with an absolutely firm 15%.  The adventurers will not budge.  The smith, chemist, and merchant leave empty-handed.

No need for further discussion; the coalition is formed. Reedna recommends everyone take it easy tomorrow, and save their strength for the day after when they will set out early.  Xorn’s party does not stick around after the meeting ends.

In the main hall, they find the strange woman encountered earlier. She is alone at a table, demolishing several plates of food.  Joseph McMickelson discreetly asks Jenny what she knows of her, but the cook has nothing.  The woman hasn’t said more than a few words, but she did pay up-front in gold coin.  The party orders dinner and drinks, and trades stories with Aziz al-Azhar.

The storefront cabin is a full house that night. Aziz and Rudic Ungart have been invited to stay.  Dwarf Ungart ponders joining the party in Valiant Light’s coalition.  Ultimately he decides against it.  Jacob Light-Bringer will come out of his brief retirement for this quest.

*          *          *

Riddley’s Crown feels pent-up and anxious all the next day, the day of the New Moon. Elf archers of the Lanil Tribe launch missiles from the walls, practicing their marksmanship on the zombie crowds shambling aimlessly under a light rain.  The clerics of Valiant Light keep watch, interested in the spectacle.  Aziz al-Azhar is delighted – he expends his entire day’s complement of fire spells, scorching as many zombies as he can shape his magic to hit.  After each spell is cast, he huddles under his cloak and writes notes on his observations.

The residents of the enclave follow their usual customs for lunar days. Dredburn garrisons his armored and barricaded shop.  Jenny is locked inside the main hall, admitting patrons once they are safely vetted.  JG Dumont is thankful he has his bodyguard, even if all she does is scowl and read.  Lanna Riis and Sister Janus attend to their own tasks, with no interest in the outside world.

The Undead do not seriously threaten the enclave this time. The outer wood wall and stakes prove a capable deterrent, and no challenger like zombie Wall-Breaker appears.  When night comes, the guards and adventurers withdraw from the walls and shelter safely indoors until morning.

*          *          *

Valiant Light is exceptionally well-organized the next morning. Cleric of Kord, Reedna, supervises as her clerical associates confirm that each party is prepared for the trip.

Flexor Retinaculum and his fellow Corinthians positively drip in shimmering olive-oil, lavished on their hair, ruddy tanned skin, and rich Corinthian-leather armor. Winona and her Suicide Blondes make final checks on each others’ armor, securing straps and checking bindings and fit.  Krusch and Bombast, the half-Orc Fighter Vola, and elf Sy Green wait in the wings.

Jere Collado, Joseph McMickelson, and Jacob Light-Bringer compare and trade their reserves of spell components, receiving additional material from Cleric of Yondalla, Tim Threefoot, who offers some of his abundant supply. Xorn watches his apparition, Solace, was she inspects the allied fighters and clerics with excitement.  Only he can see her.  The imaginary female half-Orc is wearing a bright purple Traveler’s Outfit.  H’ai-ch Q’a and Aziz al-Azhar’s rat Balthazar puzzle at each other’s shape and purpose.  Aziz himself quietly sizes up this coalition’s chances.

When all adventurers are accounted for, Cleric of Fharlanghan CJ Newcastle gives a brief invocation, asking her god for swift passage. Then, they are under way.  The weather is damp but clear, and there are no Undead anywhere in sight.

To the party’s surprise, Newcastle and the other clerics of Valiant Light keep the ragtag company moving at a steady and efficient pace. In just over two hours, they reach the weedy village surrounding the corrupted church.

Cleric of Wee Jas Seamus MacTavish calls the coalition to a halt, at the edge of the field of bleached grey bones that form a ring around the temple. MacTavish confers with Reedna, gesturing at spots in the tangle.

The Cleric of Kord motions Cleric of Pelor, Amber Renn, and Cleric of St Cuthbert, Alain, up front with her. Together the three priests channel Turns, destroying the Undead skeletons the Cleric of Wee Jas sensed hiding within.

The way is clear. The coalition steps carefully through the grim clutter of humanoid bones.  At the broad wood doors to the church, Reedna calls on Amber Renn’s expertise.  Renn is familiar with this build and era of Pelor church; a standard main-floor area of worship, columns and skylights, with a stairwell in a far corner that will lead down into catacombs.

Xorn and Jere Collado offer their experience from the visit on March 23rd, when here with Wee Jack and their late friends Raygar Brightblade and Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann.  From their description, Seamus MacTavish agrees that Plague Blights are what they will find inside.

MacTavish and Reedna swing open the doors. The interior is exactly as Collado remembers it: church pews piled up, dust and the smell of rot, an Unhallow spell sickening the space beyond the threshold.  Not a thing has changed since his party retreated from here with a comatose Gnome Pann, almost two weeks ago.

Good-aligned Amber Renn pokes her head in to get a better look. What sounds like a woman’s voice weakly calls out for help, from the shadowy far end of the temple.  As Xorn warned the group, this is a Plague Blight ruse.

Unfortunately, despite the half-Orc’s warning, the Corinthians are just the wrong mix of noble, overzealous, and a bit stupid. They believe there is a fair maiden in distress.  Flexor shouts for action and his Corinthians to charge into the shadows to effect a rescue.

Valiant Light is caught off-guard. Reedna fails to reel in the coalition – the Suicide Blondes dash in after the Corinthians.  The Loners follow after the ‘Blondes.

Xorn is dismayed and angry at the idiocy of Flexor and his greaseball minions. The Barbarian-Ranger and his party make a cautious advance, hearing their allies already engaged in combat somewhere past the mounds of wood benches.  The clerics of Valiant Light line the rear wall and provide support- and ranged-attack spells.

Six Plague Blights waited in ambush. Their Gangrenous Touch, hideous smell, and surprising damage resistance balance out the coalition’s advantage in numbers.  Working together and ganging up on the Undead in a halfway-organized fashion, the living are able to bring down the Plague Blights in a swift, gruesome fight.

Unfortunately, haste and uncoordinated tactics cost the coalition three of its members. Corinthians Peroneus Brevis and Lateral Malleus, and half-Orc Fighter Vola, were lost.  The Corinthians and the Loners pull aside their dead as the rest secures the main floor and examine the stairs down to the catacombs.

It is now mid-morning on the 5th day of April, by the local calendar.

 

(end of Part 32)

 

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About d20horizons

D&D player.
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