Sunday, June 14, 2015

Session 41 Synopsis

Previously, on Phoenix Rising...
"Hey everyone! They're back!" The other villagers stopped what they were doing, looked in their direction and proceeded to quickly descend on the party, excitedly all talking and pointing towards their town at once. Through the cacophony they could only make out a couple of words - words like "help us please" and "they took our village."

After Asphodel loudly roared to make everyone go quiet for a minute, she pointed to one villager to explain what has happened. The small, meek man spoke, "After we got back to our village, we found a pack of trolls had moved in and we were lucky to escape before they caught many of us. As it is we lost a few to them and haven't been back since. Please can you help us?! We want to go back and gather whatever hasn't been destroyed by the trolls and bury any remaining dead before we move on to somewhere else." They were asked how long the party was gone and found that they were only gone for about three days (which meant that in the portion of the Fey World they were in had time moving about the same as their mortal home).

Most of our heroes were ready to help right away with Apshodel and Blackwell a bit indifferent to the villagers' plight, especially since they had run off when they first all got to the clearing they were now occupying. A couple of comments to do with the fact they didn't have any way to pay for the party's help were quickly met with disapproving remarks by the more "morally good" members, like Jobi and Zola offered her help right away. And the villagers stated that no they couldn't pay right now but were willing to follow the heroes to any settlements they may have built or needed building. They were ready for a better home and felt that the heroes would be very worthy people to follow to a new home.

Our party then relented in full to help the villagers and made their way to the overrun village after resting for the night. It was only a mile or so away and they found the trolls - eight in all. Our stalwart band was able to catch them by surprise and started with fire and acid based attacks right away. The trolls were very surprised that anyone would actually try to attack them and were slow to react. Zerak, Jobi and Zola lambasted them with spells like fireball, burning hands, scorching ray, lightning bolts turned into acid bolts, as well as massive physical damage from Asphodel, Kel and Blackwell. Soon the trolls were reduced to smoking piles of ashes and the party did a quick search of the village and didn't find anything that they thought would be useful or valuable. So they headed back to the refugee camp and informed the villagers that it was safe to go back to the ruined village and search through the remains. They profusely thanked the party and promised to go to their settlements near Neverwinter as soon as they finished reclaiming anything of value to them in their old homes.

So our heroes headed out back to Blackstone Keep via Winterhaven. Each night while on the road Zerak cast a secure shelter spell in order to make a good place for them to rest and sleep in. Each night Zerak used his additional awake time afforded to him by his ring of sustenance to try to study the strange black stone and residual powder they got from the Netherese reclamation team. But all he could figure out is that the powder had not only alchemical properties but also some magical properties and found there was faint necromantic emanations from it. The stone was a complete enigma to him.

When they arrived in Winterhaven late in the afternoon, it didn't take long before they were recognized and greeted as the heroes of the town that they were. People were happy to see them and some of the children started following them around the town. Zerak, Jobi and Kel went to see Valthruun the local sage about the powder and stone to see if they could find out more about them. And Asphodel, Zola and Blackwell went to the tavern to see about visiting Sir Oakley so Asphodel could give him her letter to him and try to convince him to come to her castle and help set up a temple to Bahamut as well as act as her second in command while she is out adventuring. He was quite receptive to the challenge of helping her build up and govern her settlement and agreed to join with her.

Meanwhile Valthruun was telling Zerak and the others that the powder was an ancient Netherese concoction that they created in the Shadowfell using magic and alchemy. After digging through his vast library for what seemed like hours, Valthruun finally came back and started to talk to the three.

"I can't seem to find my books on the subjects. I know they're here somewhere. Oh well. They have used that powder countless times in the past to keep their slave workforce working as long as possible and they have always used it freely. And that indicates that they have no problem making more and keeping a good supply. The black stone also originated in the Shadowfell and was called Darkstone. It is able to hold lots of magical energy and slowing give it off over long periods of time. It is the main building ingredient in their fabled ancient flying cities. And if they are digging the stuff up, they are definitely trying to get one either built or repaired. Very, very disturbing indeed. But that is about all i can tell you. I'm no expert when t comes to these subjects. Your best bet is to try and find someone who had direct descendants involved or was there themselves."

Zerak thanked Valthruun for the information and then asked him if he had any books on the Netherese language and if he had seen the language in a book of his and pulled out the primer book he had received from the Fey. Valthruun quickly (for him that is) looked around and came up with a small book for him. He looked at the Fey book and said it was very similar to ancient elven. With that the three heroes took their leave and went to meet back up with the rest of the party at the inn. There they joined the rest for some drinks and food and then decided to retire to rooms in the inn since the innkeeper offered them for free to the Heroes of Gardmore Abbey. Then slowly the group went to their respective rooms for the night. Asphodel, Zola and Kel shared one room, while Zerak and Jobi went to their own room for some "intimate" time together, which left Blackwell to his own room to curl up in wolf form next to the soothing fire.

The assassin and his crew crept silently towards the heroes rooms. The silence spells cast on small pebbles they carried masked their footsteps and the slow opening of the bedroom doors completely. Zerak and Jobi were sleeping in each other's arms when the archers struck. They were rudely awakened by three arrows shot into each of them at point blank range. Kel, Zola, and Asphodel suffered the same attacks with each one also receiving three arrow shot into them unexpectedly. Only Asphodel was awake when it happened and screamed out the moment the arrows bit into her flesh. And to top it off, all the arrows were poisoned with a powerful sticky black poison. The only thing Asphodel saw where she turned toward the now open door was the archers fleeing down the hall towards the inn's common room downstairs...

She immediately summoned her eidolon and looking back at Kel and Zola to make sure they were still alive, rushed out of the room and looked down the hall. She saw that Zerak and Jobi's door was open as well as Blackwell's. She popped her head into the room and saw that Zerak and Jobi were still alive as well - healing themselves furiously and trying to beat back the poison that had started flowing in all of their bodies - and haphazardly putting on some clothes in the process. next she ran over to Blackwell's open door and looked inside and came to a complete standstill. Blackwell was most definitely dead. he was lying on the ground next to the fireplace, in human form, with a large, bloody hole in his chest where his heart should have been. after a couple seconds she regained enough awareness to yell out that Blackwell was dead and then proceeded to run down the hall screaming and roaring in rage, hoping to run into the assassins so she could rip them from limb to limb. Other guests started coming out of their rooms to see what was going on and ran back inside as they saw Asphodel rampaging down the hall and stairs. But when she got down into the common room, all traces of the assailants' magical trail had vanished - apparently they had teleported or something like that to make good their escape. She screamed and railed and smashed a heavy wooden table to ruin with her bare fists before calming down a bit and going back upstairs to Blackwell's room where she slumped down on the ground next to her friend's body, trying feebly to put him back together again.

Meanwhile the rest of our heroes had finally overcome their poisoned wounds and got dressed enough to be at least mostly covered up and then went to investigate Blackwell. Kel knelt down and saw the massive amount of physical damage and all the black sticky poison that was already rotting the flesh around the horrific wound and stated that there was no way she could help heal him. So she ran downstairs to go to the temple to get Grundelmarr the priest to see if he could fix Blackwell. On her way she ran into the city guard entering the inn and quickly told them what had happened. They immediately began searching the surrounding area and the rest of the town trying to find the assassins but would eventually give up.

Grundelmarr and Kel came rushing back to the inn and when he saw what Blackwell looked like and tried a couple of spells, said that his condition was beyond his abilities. Blackwell would need far greater help to come back from the land of the dead. And he cast gentle repose on the body to keep it fresh for the time being.

In the room, as Zerak was contemplating why Blackwell had turned into human form this time when last time he "died" he had turned into wolf form, he found a crumpled note on the ground and Zerak picked it up and read it:

The target is Raizen Silverclaw, who goes by Blackwell, a werewolf who thinks he’s a gypsy. Kill him. Payment will be what we agreed upon and left at the place we discussed. The others he travels with are dangerous so plan accordingly but there is no extra money for killing them. I don’t care about them. 

The note was definitely dropped by his assassin, named Kara, who was hired by someone else named Besnik. No one in the party had any idea who these people were. Jobi was particularly upset (not as much as Asphodel though) and had indicated that his death looked exactly like his death she had seen in a vision sent to her that was supposedly showing a possible future to come if she had decided to quit adventuring and leave the group behind. But his death happened anyway and that unsettled her since it may be true that some more of her vision may also come to pass.

So Asphodel packed Blackwell's body into one of their bags of holding and the party immediately set out to go to Blackstone Keep and see if Valindra Shadowmantle might be able to help Blackwell. The couple of days travel to Blackstone Keep were uneventful and somber. Even though they stayed within Zerak's secure shelter spell, they all knew that no place can ever be truly safe. Once they reached the outskirts of Blackstone Keep's influence, they all put on the small pins they were originally given and proceeded with haste to the keep proper. They were greeted in the same manner as their last visit, though a little less formally and were escorted into the main audience chamber where many people, including Valindra were waiting for our intrepid band of heroes.

Valindra begins to speak in her very melodic and pleasing voice, “Welcome, friends. I am so glad that you decided to come back and visit us. I take it you've met one of their Recovery Teams. Nasty sorts aren't they. So tell me, what was your impression of what’s going on?”

The party halfheartedly started to explain that they had dealt with a recovery team and about the undead creation from the powder and their slight detour into the Fey Realm, but then Asphodel pulled out Blackwell's corpse and showed him to Valindra and her comrades. She showed her the note they found by his body and asked if she could do anything to help him out. And Jobi explained that she had been making diamond dust out of the large diamond they procured from their time in the Fey realm. Immediately Valindra had her people spring into action with them getting materials required for the necessary spells to be cast.

One of her seconds, Morphus, began casting a raise dead spell on Blackwell when all preparations were ready. Everyone was silent as he finished casting the spell and waited for Blackwell to revive. But he didn't and then Valindra asked, “Did you say he was killed by a real assassin? That explains it. It is always more difficult to bring someone back from the dead when killed by an accomplished assassin. We just need to do this again with a slightly more powerful spell.” With that she nodded to Morphus and he left the chamber.

A short time later he came back with another human male. This one was obviously a high ranking cleric of Saranrae, which completely baffled Jobi, who made comments about how and why a cleric of Saranrae would be here where there are all manners of undead beings. Valindra just turned to her and smiled at her and said, "This is Mandrake. He will perform a slightly more powerful spell on Blackwell - one that should do the trick." While casting his spell the rest of the party noticed that he was casting a resurrection spell! And indeed, it did work and Blackwell soon gasped in a new breath of life. He was angry that he was killed again and was going to change to his hybrid form but he felt something was not right. He could no longer change form! He was not a lycanthrope any more! He was stuck in his human form! He gave a loud cry of frustration, rage, anger, and sorrow. Valindra had heard of legends about such poisons that could take away lycanthropy but didn't know much more than that. But she promised him that she would look into who this Besnik guy was and how it may be possible to reverse what had happened to him. But in the meantime she told him that he would most likely be safe from his enemy since he thought he was dead now, which should free him up to take care of other matters until the time is right for revenge.

Valindra suggested the all get some sleep before talking about other matters dealing with becoming allies against the Netherese. Everyone agreed. Zerak decided that he would like to take a look at Valindra's extensive library before turning in and she agreed to personally escort him. This drew a very emphatic, "Hmmmph!" from Jobi who stormed out of the room and up to her bedchamber.

Zerak was confused and asked Valindra what that was all about. She said, "Dear Zerak, isn't it obvious? Jobi is jealous that you should want to spend any time with me. She is in love with you." "Maybe I better take a rain check on the library tonight, huh?" stated Zerak. And after Valindra nodded, he got up and followed Jobi back to her room and knocked on the door. After a few quiet sentences between the two, Jobi opened the door and let Zerak in. (After that, we only have speculation as to what happened next...)

In the morning when everyone had gathered and finished breakfast, Valindra turned to other matters...

“Are you ready to join us in this fight to save the world as we know it?” (nods from our heroes) “Excellent! Now the first task we have at hand is to land a blow against one of the Netherese allies, and I think this will especially delight Blackwell, for the task is to destroy the Grey Wolves! They have been supplying the Netherese with numerous magical items and bodies for their necromancers. They basically go raiding across the countryside to small villages and kill most everyone and strip everything of value from it then burn it to the ground, leaving nothing but scorched land. They have also been raiding burial sites for bodies and treasure – especially the ancient burial sites that the Netherese tell them about, many of which are sacred to one group or another. I believe that one of the first ones they plundered was the ancestral burial grounds of the Ghost Wolves. We investigated the site and found that the Grey Wolves had taken everything, leaving nothing but empty, desecrated burial mounds!”

“We have scouted them for quite some time and have found their base of operations and times when they are visited by the Netherese for pickups of their latest deliveries. We will strike just after one of those deliveries has been completed. That way we won’t have to deal with the extra Netherese troops, plus they will be at their lowest level of alertness, and their Netherese masters won’t find out about the attack until long after we’re gone. We will give you support by way of staging an attack as a diversionary measure so you can infiltrate the compound and wipe them out from the inside while we keep their attention focused on the outside with our troops, in addition to helping prevent enemies escaping.”

“Still, this attack won’t be easy. Their compound is sizable and the werewolves also have Netherese allies with them. We think that a small strike force going inside is the best; you’re more likely to not draw any attention to yourselves until absolutely necessary. We have a basic map of the compound but not of the interiors of the buildings. Once inside, you should attempt to get at the heart of the compound and take out the leader, Ethrain Marrowslake, and his inner circle. If everything goes as planned, we’ll breach the walls and secure everything but the main building where you will be going room-to-room exterminating these evil creatures. This will allow you to be able to pull back to friendly territory quickly and easily if you find you need to rest before finishing them off. And it will ensure that no one escapes to warn the Netherese of what happened. Hopefully some of the Grey Wolves outside the main building can be convinced to surrender and possibly even to rejoin the original Ghost Wolves, assuming they can be redeemed."

“They do have some living slaves so we all should take care to minimize their casualties. They should be easily recognizable and may even help our cause if the opportunity presents itself to them. Of course, some may be turned to their captors’ cause, so not every one of them may be worth saving. Any questions?”

Blackwell was ready to cause murder and mayhem and the Grey Wolves were just the perfect target for the way he was feeling right now. The rest of the party agreed that this was a good target to go after but they wanted to get some things done beforehand. Valindra was fine with that. Zerak wanted to engage Valindra for some retraining services, and Kel thought she needed a break from the adventuring lifestyle to concentrate on building up her followers and her Abbey on the land she purchased from Neverwinter. She would leave in the morning back to Neverwinter to begin that process, possibly rejoining her friends at a later date. With Zerak needing time for retraining, the others also had some time to think of what they personally wanted to get done so they all contemplated on their next decisions.

And now our heroes are going to take a little time for themselves while Zerak retrains, Asphodel, Blackwell, and Kel focus a little on their settlements before they tackle going after the evil Grey Wolves head on. Tune in next week to see what happens ...

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