D&D: The Eighth One – Session 3

Written by: GM           Played on: 05 Feb 2011
PREVIOUS: The Eighth One – Session 2
NEXT: The Eighth One – Session 4

General Thokas took only a few steps past the party before his legs gave out and he fell to his knees. “Divine Hualpa… we have failed you… all is truly lost…”

“Fear not, General. It is not yet the end.” Invoker Friegga’s voice seemed soft and whimsical given the carnage around them as she appeared nearly to float through the blood splattered men to the General’s side. “This is but the Avatar of Hualpa, not the Goddess herself. The avatar can be resurrected and this tide of evil stopped. The Divine foresaw this possibility and already has preparations in place. We must travel to the temple at Haven, there the Seal of the Feathered Dragon is secured against the forces of chaos.”

Some of the color seemed to return to the General’s face at the news. He climbed back to his feet and squared his shoulders at the Deva’s touch on his shoulder. “Then we must retrieve the seal. What then?”

“She will know when she holds it. She was the one who placed it there a thousand years ago.” Invoker Friegga turned towards Inara, holding her gaze. Though Inara had no memory of the events the Invoker spoke of, she had no doubt that she was right. The memories of the past lives of the Devas came and went, often triggered by seemingly innocuous circumstances.

“Then we will get her to the seal. Commanders, ready your men. We will carve our way out of this city and make for Haven.” Bharash and the other commanders turned to their men, ordering them into position and heading back out of the temple the way they had come.

Outside, the city seemed to have decayed in the last hour. Smoke rose from across the city and creatures continued to pour from the portal overhead. Making for the north gates, the company of Divine Guard made quick work of the sporadic forces they encountered. As they arrived in the plaza outside the closed gates, they encountered the first stiff resistance since leaving the citadel. Packs of creatures roved the plaza and the gatehouse.

The General pointed at Bharash, “Commander, secure the gatehouse and open the gates. We will hold the plaza until we can move out of the city.” Bharash nodded and ordered his unit forward, led by Rock and Margoloth. The two warriors cleaved into the twisted creatures near the gatehouse while the others let out a barrage of fire that tore through the remaining creatures blocking their access to the gatehouse.

Scith entered the guard house with Sir Henry and began cranking open the gates while the others provided security, keeping the tide of creatures at bay. Finally the great gates creaked open to allow passage out of the city. Bharash ordered his men forward to secure the gates for the rest of the Divine Guard. Turning back to signal the General, the dragonborn’s heart sank.

Back in the plaza, the steady stream of creatures outnumbered the Divine Guard three to one and their numbers were growing fast. The General commanded his men to circle around to protect their flank, but they were quickly being overrun. Bharash’s eyes locked with Laba’s, terror filling her face as she stood by Invoker Friegga’s side. The Invoker herself was lost in concentration, summoning powerful magic. Over the din, Bharash could just hear the General’s orders, telling him to take his unit to Haven.

Torn between his duty and his love, Bharash stood at the edge of the city gates as the company of Divine Guard soldiers were slowly being overrun. As the front line folded, the Invoker finished her incantation. Suddenly, the plaza was filled with fire, a blazing inferno that obscured Bharash’s view of both the creatures and the Divine Guard. As the flames cleared, the burned bodies of the creatures and the defenders were all that was left.

His breath catching in his throat, Bharash turned and ordered his men out of the city. Behind them, Aurucania burned and smoldered while they headed north to Haven.

By nightfall, the party reached the edge of the Forest of Bylgia. The forest, it was said, was one of the few wilder parts of the Southern Kingdom. Knowing that his soldiers needed rest and time to look after their wounds, Bharash made camp on the forests edge. While the others tried to sleep, the dragonborn wandered into the forest edge. Kneeling amongst the trunks and shrubs, he removed the necklace he wore, a gift from his wife. With a prayer to Hualpa, he dug a small hole and placed the necklace in the ground and covered it before returning to camp.

That night, no one found rest. Terrible nightmares of dark creatures and the massacre from the day before plagued them. At first light, Bharash roused his men and marched into the forest. The road showed signs of heavy travel in the last day. A short ways in, they found another camp, with several bed rolls but only a single body. Checking him over, they found a journal.

The man appeared to be an herbalist, his journal mentioned that he was seeking a rare herb, the Spectral Dragon Weed, in the forest. His two apprentices, apparently, disagreed on where to find it and had headed off in opposite directions in search of it. One believed it would be safer and easier to find the weed in the deep forests to the west and the other felt it would be more plentiful along the rivers. The herbalist appeared to have been alone when whatever creatures had found him tore him apart.

Tossing the journal aside, Bharash ordered his men to continue down the main road. The man’s fate was unfortunate, but they couldn’t allow it or his lost apprentices to distract them. The main road offered the fastest method of travel to Haven.

The herbalist and the Spectral Dragon Weed was a side quest offerred to the party. They basically had three options going forward, following the road would skip the side quest and get them to Haven the fastest. Otherwise, they could choose to explore the deep forest on the way to Haven which would allow them to discover a small amount of Spectral Dragon Weed with the least amount of danger. Exploring the river would have netted them a greater amount of the weed but they would have had to deal with a larger and deadlier group of creatures to secure it.

Gathering the weed was purely optional, but could have been a powerful aid to have. The weed, when consumed, would have granted them a Healing Surge and returned an Encounter power or could be taken without the Healing Surge and instead returned the use of a Daily Power. Ultimately, the party wasn’t interested in pursuing it and headed straight for Haven.

Traveling through the day, they had nearly reached a bridge crossing a small stream when an arrow whizzed by Margoloth’s head. “Ambush!” Bharash cried out. Immediately the party scattered to the sides of the road, using the trees as cover for their advance. Rock led one group up the left side of the road while Margoloth took point on the right.

Dog like creature with slick black hair and acidic saliva charged through the trees at them while their handlers in the back could be heard shouting orders. Arrows continued to tear through the leaves but were soon joined by charged bolts of magical energy. Cael scampered up a tree for a better vantage point and began laying down a stream of arrows. While Rock and Margoloth met with the creatures head on, Aunwynne disappeared into the brush, reappearing a minute later behind the rear guard. Her blades flashed and cut through their exposed flanks.

Scith’s magic conjured a storm of electrical energy, blasts struck out at the handlers in the back, burning their flesh and scattering them. Sir Henry and Inara both kept up a steady stream of magical fire, burning the creatures arrayed before them. Pushing through the ambush, the unit was soon on the move again, wary for a second ambush along the road.

Fortunately, none came. Another hour of travel and the walls of Haven became visible through the woods. The sight of the walls did nothing to bring them hope, however. The thick wooden gates of the walls were clearly blasted inwards by powerful magic. The bestial sounds of creatures within the walls could be clearly heard howling over the sounds of combat.

Forming his squad up, Bharash ordered them through the gates. Inside the walls of Haven, a detachment of the creatures they had fought before in the woods were firing arrows up at a tower and attempting to break through the door at ground level. A large, muscled beast picked up chunks of rock the size of small men and hurled them at the tower. Just inside the windows, Bharash could make out several Divine Guard firing arrows down into the courtyard.

As they charged into the courtyard, one of the archers turned and let out a warning cry to the others. They began to wheel around from the tower towards the party as Rock, Margoloth, Bharash and Scith crashed into their archers. Sir Henry, Inara and Cael began firing arrows into the melee attackers before they could reach their compatriots, focusing fire to drop the attackers one by one.

Aunwynne suddenly found herself facing down the large, muscle bound creature. It turned on her with a large stone still clutched in its hands. She dodged away as it smashed the stone into the ground where she had stood a moment before. Moving quickly, her blades dove for the tendons and ligaments in its legs, trying to find a weak spot. Though they cut deep, the creature seemed not to notice as it continued swinging for her with its massive, clawed hands.

As with every enemy in this campaign, they were all re-skinned versions of the standard 4th Ed D&D bestiary. Being that the creatures were from another plane that didn’t need to fit the internal logic of the Southern Kingdom, it was easy to take a diverse grouping of monsters to create interesting encounters. Descriptions of the powers or abilities they were using were easy to adapt to be consistent across the creatures. 

Seeing the scout in danger, Rock dove for the large beasts back, burying his blade into its exposed flank and drawing its attention away from Aunwynne. As its support dropped off one by one, the large creature continued to smash, claw and bite at any who drew close to it. Finally, it was Cael who launched an arrow that drilled through the creatures throat, coming nearly out the back of its neck. The creature clutched and gasped, still swinging out around itself wildly in its death throws, before collapsing to the ground and eventually lying still.

As the dust settled, they heard the tower door unbar and swing open. An old elf, along with only a handful of battered and injured Divien guard, stepped out. Cael immediately recognized Elder Solarin who seemed shaken, but unhurt. “Thank you, thank you, commander. We owe you our lives, however, I am afraid to say that we are the last surviving defenders of Haven. These creatures have beaten you here and are already inside the temple…”

Elder Solarin was an elf Cael knew growing up and now a member of the Clergy overseeing Haven.

PREVIOUS: The Eighth One – Session 2
NEXT: The Eighth One – Session 4

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