Characters: Ariel, Conscience, Gwenn, Maynard, Tesla, Logan
After leaving the castle, the party travel until nightfall and then made camp off the road. The night passes slowly with memories and nightmares of the prior day's events playing through your minds.
At first light the party continues down the mountain but they do notice gathering clouds have completely shrouded the mountain pass above them. Just after noon, they arrive at the town guard building report and report to Pablo on what they have learned.
After listening to their report, Pablo asks them if they searched the mine. They had not done that yet so he suggests that they do that soon. The party asks Pablo about Tara's background but he does not know a lot about her. He suggests they ask around at the temple. He also assigns them to a mission to guard the weekly ore caravan to Ragnar that leaves the day after tomorrow. He will obtain some weapons for them that were used in the big war in Jasper to see if they are more effective against these undead.
Deciding to wait till tomorrow to check out the mine, the party visits the temple and finds Jenna there. She asks if there is any word about Tara and the party nervously avoids answering her with statements like "We'll let you know as soon as we know something definitive." They ask Jenna about Tara's background. How did she come to be at the temple? Where was she from? Had she shown any changes in behavior lately? What was she doing going outside of town each evening?
Jenna tells the party what she knows about Tara and how she came to be with the temple.
"From what I hear, months ago Horace was a simple priest of Nani doing good work but he did not have a large following. One day he was approached by a traveler named Morag who had overheard Horace preaching and liked what he had heard. Morag was an old Friar of Horace's order and he had success in gaining converts by having tent revivals. He encouraged Horace to do the same so Horace bought a large tent and held his first revival and recruited dozens of new followers for Nani that first evening."
"Weeks later Vicar Horace was again visited by Morag. This time, he had brought along an acolyte for Horace. She was a 16-year-old, temple servant in training named Tara. She had already pledged service to Nani and needed serve a higher-level priest to complete her training. Morag, knowing Horace didn't have an acolyte, chose her for him."
"You have to understand that in our order, it is common for the temples to be mostly manned by young women acolytes. It is believed that we add to the feeling of Love that Nani is goddess over. Even without a physical temple, Morag felt that Horace's tent church should be manned by young women like Tara. She had been trained in all the standard service orders and was excited to be Horace's servant. After her, I think I was either the third or fourth to join Horace's service."
"As for her background, I don't know where she is from. I think she mentioned being from south of here but I don't remember for sure. She was a sweetheart and always went out of her way to help me what I was new here. She had been doing a really good job running the temple while Horace has been away. She has taking control of operations and showing leadership skills that I had not seen before. I really hope she is OK!"
The party thanks Janna for her information and returned to their barracks for the evening to mull over what they have learned.
After breakfast, the party heads out of town to check out the mine. The main entrance had been boarded up but from the evidence of how the barrier was destroyed, it looks like the boards are broken from the inside rather than the outside. They also detect among the numerous human footprints going in and out of the mine, there is one set of heavy boot prints leading out.
Heading down the mine shaft, there are several signs of the heavy bootprints leading out as well. At the bottom of the abandoned shaft, the party finds a huge pile of metal men. It looks like they were stacked in a somewhat regular pattern and that the top third of the pile of men has been disturbed. The party attempts to make an accurate count of the total number of metal men in the mine in hopes that someone has a record of how many were placed here. Looking at the bodies in the metal men, most show damage from weapons but a few look unharmed. All of the bodies examined each had their jewel eyes still in place. At the top of the undisturbed pile of men, there is also a faint trace of the same necrotic taint sensed in other places.
Returning to the surface, the party follows the path from the cave back toward the road and soon comes upon the presumed site of the abduction. The party returns to the remains of the crumpled mental man. Examining the body, they find no signs of weapon damage. A closer examination of the missing eyes shows that it does not appear that they were physically removed because the eye sockets are smaller than the gems seen in the other bodies and the sockets are not damaged. Somehow the gem eyes were either teleported or disintegrated out of the form.
They also notice that the direction to the site of the first orc bodies would lead them directly toward the mountain fortress and onto the orc path. Maynard suddenly gets a flash of inspiration along with a great desire to be wrong. He proposes his theory to the group and they agree that the only way to confirm is to gather two more pieces of information.
The party returns to town and finds Pablo. They ask him if he knows what caused the flashing of magical items last week. Pablo tells the party about the mission to bring down the comet in the ocean and that that flashing was also seen when Luna created the special weapons for the battle. They then ask him to retell the last few minutes of the battle with K'tala and the metal men.
"As the sun sets with fiery red streak across the sky, about 8000 of the metal men have been destroyed at the loss of several hundred defenders. However, each wave is coming sooner than the last and the waves are getting larger. Also, medical supplies and healing spells are beginning to run short. We were already using the fallen metal bodies to construct barriers to slow down the advance of the incoming waves giving more time to the archers. A veritable army of healers were speeding around the battle field making sure that healing came to those who need it most. Everyone feels the strain of the battle."
"Then, about midnight, the event we had all been waiting for and dreading came. K'tala rode forth toward the main battle line. An answer, Priestess Mina and her lieutenants Meth and Gorm rode forth. As they closed on K'tala, he lowered his staff and sent a blast of light which struck Gorm in the chest, knocking him from his horse. Mina raised the dragon sword and swung, breaking K'tala's staff, slicing his chest, and knocking him to the ground. In answer, K'tala sent out a blast from his open palm which struck Mina, throwing her from her horse and sending the dragon sword flying."
"Meth, leapt from her horse, picked up the dragon sword and swung it at K'tala in a single action. The swing was true and sliced K'tala's chest wide open. He fell back knocking over a metal man in the process. As his last act, K'tala sends a ball of fire which detonated around Meth. After the flash, the two of them lay lifeless on the ground."
"Remo leapt over the rubble and dodged the metal warriors to reach Meth and called upon Impol's power to bring Meth back from the brink. The divine power flowed through Remo's shaking hands and Meth opens her eyes."
"Not trusting that the gaping chest wound is enough, Simon severed K'tala's head from his body to make sure he is dead. He then noticed the glowing jewel in his turban. Removing the jewel and finding a large rock, he crushed the stone. At that moment, all the remaining metal men went limp and fell to the ground."
After hearing the story, Maynard exclaims, "At all fits!" He then goes on to explain his theory to Pablo. Maynard thinks that somehow K'tala is still alive. He thinks K'tala must have transferred his essence into the metal man he fell over in the battle. Maybe too week or just biding his time, he let himself be buried in the mine. When the flashing occurred, it somehow woke him up and he found himself half buried in a pile of metal men. Over the next few hours/days, he struggled to move the pile of metal men off of him and then climbed out of the mine. He broke out of the entrance and made his way toward the road. He happened upon a young girl doing her evening prayers and he somehow transferred himself into this new body. As he left, the metal man imploded and was thrown from the area. As this young girl, he made his way toward his fortress encountering orcs along the way. Using the divine powers of this girl, he destroyed all who tried to stop him. Reaching the fortress, he again used divine magic to raise the dead mages to defend the castle.
Pablo is visibly shaken by this revelation. "It does all fit," he says. "However, legends of a great evil go back over a thousand years but we know that K'tala had only been round for less than 75. Maybe this evil has been going from body to body and that K'tala was only one host in a long line that now includes Tara. In any case, we need to deal with the present."
He tells the party to make any final preparations for the escort duty tomorrow and to get a good night rest because they are likely going to need it.
The next morning, the party meets up with the caravan just east of town. They travel all day up the mountains until just before sundown they decide to rest for the evening. As they set camp, they can help but be intimidated by the dark, menacing clouds hanging low over them almost like they were entering a giant cave of vapor. They estimate that just another few minutes of walking and they would be fully in the veil of vapor. As the sun sets, they notice small wisps of fog break off the cloud and drift away only to be eroded by the dry desert air drifting up from the desolation below.
As you continue up the road, you are completely engulfed by the clouds and visibility drops to almost zero. Even an everburning torch can only light the area to about 30 feet before the reflected light on the mist hides any details. The temperature drops to just above freezing and before long all of you are soaked to the bone by the mist.
You notice that the world is completely silent except for your footsteps - no bird or insect noises.
The air is still and your breath comes out as visible vapor before merging with the fog.
You all have the unnerving feeling that you are being watched as you travel up the road.
Roll dice from time to time and send the players notes about perceived movement in the fog off the road.
You guess that it is about noon when you just make out the shape of the fortress emerging from the fog. As you approach the guardhouse, a figure with glowing eyes steps out from the doorway. The figure takes in a rattling breath and hisses, "Hhhhalt! Whhho goesss thhhere?"
Ariel says, "We are merchants traveling to Ragnar."
"You mussst pay the toll."
"How much is the toll?"
"100 gold pieccces," hisses the figure.
Feeling that they have plenty of gold and would rather avoid a problem, Ariel counts out 100GP and places it in a small sack. The figure reaches out a shriveled hand to take the sack from Ariel, hisses "You may passss," and then turns and returns to the guardhouse.
Glad to avoid any problems, the party hurries away down the other side of the mountain hoping to get out of the mist before sunset. After a few hours, they hear the sound of a bird from off the road and stop. Logan realizes that it is not a real bird and they recognize that it is the dwarf call for a gathering.
Just off the road the party finds a single dwarf that Gwenn recognizes as Gar, the dwarf that she helped rescue. After hugs, he asks what the party saw at the peak. He asks if they have seen any dead walkers. He reports seeing dead walkers carrying dead orcs up the hill toward the fortress. They party realizes that Tara is now building her army using dead orcs in addition to the dead mages. He also tells the party that if this fog does not lift soon, his tribe may have to move. The cold weather is causing them problems and wounds don't seem to be healing normally.
After a few minutes of talking, the party continues downhill and manages to emerge from the fog before sunset. They set camp and watches to guard the ore caravan. In the middle of the night, the watches wake the party because they hear the sound of several creatures heading down the road toward them. The quickly realize that the approaching group consists of an undead mage and 5 undead orcs.
The battle rages on with for what seems like an eternity. The undead orcs are particularly hard to hit due to their heavy armor but when the mythral weapons strike they are devastating. The party works hard to keep the undead separated so that if one falls, the others can't bring them back to the fight. They manage to take down the mage first but finishing off the orcs takes its toll on the party. Conscience gets flanked between two orcs and is severely wounded. Eventually the party prevails. They decide to burn the bodies so that Tara can't bring these undead back into her army. After setting fire to the bodies, the party and the ore caravan move down the road away to a new camp site and then take a longer than usual rest so that everyone is fully recovered before the break camp.
As the sinking sun nears the cloudy peaks, the party enters Ragnar and heads straight for N'tan. He asks them about what is going on at the mountain pass since the clouds are clearly visible from town. He visibly pails when K'tala's name is mentioned. He later retells his own personal experience in the dungeon of K'tala.
N'tan agrees that the blue liquid might be very useful in any future contact between the party and the undead or Tara. He also suggests that the party retrieve the machine from the orc cavern so that more of the liquid can be produced. Lastly he suggests that the radiant nature of the liquid might be useful. He has not tired dipping weapons in the liquid but if its power could be infused in a weapon, it might be effective against the undead. The liquid might well drive the evil from Tara and if the party were to consume some of the liquid before the battle, they might be immune to possession as well.
He offers to resupply the party before they leave as well as provide them with a cart and a mule to carry the machine and liquid.
The next morning the party heads up the mountain road the leads to the orc cavern. In the late afternoon, the party reaches the cave and Gwenn leads them to the orc lair. As they enter the large natural cavern near the main lair, the party stumbles upon 7 orcs.
After the battle, the party left the cave slept the night outside with their cart and mule.
The next morning the party reentered the cave complex and made their way to the orc lair. They travel into a part of the lair that have been expanded by somebody fairly recently. As they pass through a large open room, they are ambushed by orc archers from two hidden gangways partway up the side walls of the chamber.
The party quickly defeats the archers. After gathering arrows, Tesla crept along the gangway into the next room and heard orc voices. Returning to the party, they decided to rush the room.
Surprising the guards, who were playing cards around one of the beds, the party managed to deal with the orcs without too much effort.
After dealing with the orcs, the party opens the next door onto a long hallway. Tesla notices the sound of orcs coming from behind the door across the hall from them. The party decides to deal with the orcs on the way in rather than having to deal with them on the way out.
They rush the door and find 5 orcs spread around the room doing various activities. The battle was quite vicious with Maynard being knocked out by one particularly power hit. Concentrating their effort, the party begins dropping orca and before too long, only one remaining orc is left alive. Being desperate, it decides that if he was going to die, he would do his hardest to take Gwenn with him. Gwenn managed to call upon her deity for some well-timed healing or she might have joined him as he fell.
After the battle, the party carefully made their way to the machine room. They uninstalled it, and lugged the heavy machine and a large glass jar with about half a gallon of blue liquid back to their cart. They left the immediate area and camped in a nearby pine grove for the night.
The party takes the road toward the gap of Kalhryn. Not wanting to sleep in the fog, the party makes camp near the road a short distance from where the fog starts planning on making their passage through the fog the next day.
After dark while the first watch was still standing, the sound of approaching orc steps can be heard so the entire party is roused to be ready. Emerging from the fog, the party sees a band of four undead orcs being led by a deathly pale human dressed in what looks like antique funeral robes. At noticing the party, the humanís eyes begin to glow and he hisses out to the orcs, "Get them!"
The orcs charge in while the party concentrated their ranged attacks on the human keeping him from fully engaging the party for most of the battle. The undead orcs dealt weakening attacks but were killed off one by one. After the battle, the party is very weary with Tesla feeling particularly weak. They destroy the bodies and begin their night's rest again so that everyone is at full strength for the next day's journey past the castle.
As the party enters the fog, a glow emanates from the wagon pushing the fog and darkness away. Uncovering one of the containers of blue liquid, the glow from the liquid pulses out and pushes the fog back a good 50' in each direction.
When the party reaches the gap, the same hooded figure steps from the guard house to challenge the party but it recoils from the glow having received burns to its hands and face when it stepped into the light. The figure howls out a cry as the party continues hurriedly past and soon the party is being followed by 20 additional undead. Each time one tries to enter the glow, it howls and back away. After an hour or so, the undead stop following and fade back into the mist. The party also noticed that they did not feel any of the other ill effects of the fog that the experienced last time. Late in the day, the party enters Jasper with their cargo and heads straight for Pablo.
While Pablo is debriefing the party, they wonder how long the blue liquid would provide protection if someone were to drink it. Gwenn volunteers to drink the liquid and Pablo suggests that they should experiment at one of the temples where healing is available.
The party goes to a temple of Dwalin and explains their experiment. The healer suggests taking a potion-sized portion so they can calibrate the effect to a known amount of the liquid. Gwenn drinks the liquid and can feel it filling her body with a strange tingling. The liquid tastes like nothing but both freezes and burns as it goes down. Even her hair feels tingly before the effects wanes and she is left with an odd warm glow kind of like the feeling you have when you enter a very warm room after being outside in the bitter cold.
To test the effect, the priest brings out an evil relic that his order has been unable to destroy but had kept safe to prevent others from getting it. Everyone but Gwenn feels a sudden chill when the box is opened and the evil amulet is exposed. Placing her hand hear the object, there is a luminous interaction between here outstretched hand and the evil object (much like the way the blue liquid pushed the fog back to a very distinct surface.
Checking each hour, they learn that a potion-sized portion of the blue liquid will last for about 12 hours. The priest asks for one flask of the liquid to keep in the same box with the evil amulet - he will sleep better knowing that that liquid is keeping the effect in check.
Returning to Pablo, the party tells of their findings. Pablo tells the party that as the workers were installing the machine, they found a slip of paper inside the machine.
They made me make the machine.
Not knowing who Zeldar is, he suggests asking an old mage in town named Orbis. If Zeldar is a wizard that is capable of building that machine, Orbis may well have heard of him.
Visiting the home of Orbis, the party is welcomed in by an eccentric looking mage. Orbis looks like many of the stereotypic mages, pointed hat an all. His home is a strange mix of hold dusty furniture, piles of books and papers, and odd looking machines and apparatuses scattered about the modest looking house.
Orbis invites the party is asking what he may help them with. When they ask if he has ever heard of Zeldar, his face brightens and he exclaims, "Of course if heard of Zeldar. How hasn't? I've not heard from him in years. What is he up to?"
The party explains about the machine and hands Orbis the note. Orbis looks at the note intently and then without look reaches out to a clutter on the table next to him and pulls up a strange looking magnifying glass as if he knew exactly where it was. Holding the glass close to his eye, the examines the note with the very odd effect of a circular hole appearing wherever he is looking at with only the writing left floating in mid-air. As the lens moves, so does the hole, with the paper returning as the circle moves on to the next part of the note.
After a few seconds, he exclaims, "Oh my!" Holding the paper flat in the palm of his hand, Orbis continues to stare intently at the paper. Without look away from the paper, he sets down the lens on the messy table and reaches out and into a small bag on the same table and returns with a pinch of grey power which he sprinkles on the paper. Producing a wand seemingly from thin air, he taps the side of the paper and it begins to spin around on his outstretched palm. After a second, the paper stop spinning and Orbis looks up with a gleam in his eye. As he moves his palm around, the paper spins to maintain its orientation to the room.
"This will take you to Zeldar," Orbis explains. "Just follow in the direction this small flourish under his name is pointing. It is an old spell but Zeldar was always a bit of an historian. I remember him telling me once about how the some less reputable wizards in his home of Azul used bewitch coins so that the head would always point up or down. Not exactly a fair coin but could be quite useful when the stakes of the bet were high," he finished with a wry smile.
The party fears that someone powerful like Zeldar needs to be rescued before the orcs make him create another machine or the undead army takes him. Returning to Pablo, they explain their concerns. Pablo agrees and assigns the party to rescue Zeldar. Standing outside the guard house, Maynard holds the paper in his palm like Orbis did and spins around. The paper is pointing toward the mountains to the north of Jasper. Zeldar is likely being held by orcs in the mountains. The party gathers supplies for a long journey and plans to head out a first light.