Characters: Ariel, Conscience, Gwenn, Maynard, Tesla, Logan
After gathering any needed supplies, the party headed north following the direction-finding note. After a day walking along the caravan path they reached the first oasis as the sun was about an hour above the vast desert of the Desolation. Maynard and Tesla checked the oasis for lions (having been attacked by them on the trip south to Jasper).
They set up camp but did not light a fire giving the nearly full moon. Setting watches, the party settled down for the night. While Maynard and Conscience were watching, two crocodiles crept from the lake into camp. All of a sudden, Maynard yelled as a crocodile closed its mouth around his leg. Conscience leapt toward Maynard and just missed having her own foot bitten. The noise roused the party and a quick battle ensued. After a quick but savage battle, the two crocodiles were dead and the party searched around to see if there were any others.
Not finding any other threats, the party settled down again and spent the rest of the night in a watchful sleep. They were in no hurry to get an early start wanting to make sure they were fully rested before continuing on.
The party traveled north on the caravan road and saw no troubles along the way. Camping at another oasis, they encountered no trouble.
After another day of travel, they reached the town of Dira late in the day. As they entered the town, Maynard noticed a group of townspeople whisper to each other and give furtive glances at Maynard. When he mentioned this to the party, Tesla confirmed that some had been looking at her as well. At the entrance to the nearest inn, the party was horrified to notice a wanted poster with a good description of the Dira party. The notice was signed Vice Chancellor Roland of the Dorn government.
Suddenly the party decided that it was better if they left the town as soon as possible. The party took the nearest alley and wove their way out of town avoiding all of the main roads. They traveled a good distance from town and set camp.
Shortly after dark, the party hears the sound of approaching humans. Once in sight, Logan yelled out, "Halt! How can we help you?"
"We need no help. You are all under arrest by order of the Dorn government," said the lead thug.
Charging in, the thugs attempted to take the party. The party quickly dealt with the thugs leaving 4 dead when the fight was over. Searching the bodies, they found 120GP which they divided evenly. Not wanting to leave evidence, they party moved the bodies out of their camp and buried them in a shallow grave.
The next morning, the party headed north and camped at the next oasis. The direction-finding note was now pointing due east toward the mountains.
Morning found the party climbing up the winding pathway up the mountain along the stream that fed the lake in the oasis below. Late in the day, the party came upon a well-used path with many signs of orc footprints that eventually lead to the mouth of a cave in the side of the mountain.
Deciding that the entrance is likely guarded and that stealth would be of little use, the party moves into the cave and then engages the 6 orcs scattered around the large cavern. In the center of the cavern is a large natural rock formation at least 15 feet high with a flat top. The sides of the rock are stained reddish-brown which seems to indicate that this outcrop has been used for sacrifices.
The guards consist of 4 flail-wielding soldiers and 2 large orcs wielding stone mauls. The party spreads out to engage the orcs but the lead party members soon find themselves flanked my multiple orcs. One of the orcs tries to attack the wizard and archer while its allies keep the fighter and paladin engaged. Once Ariel begins to heal other, one of the orcs begins to attack her and soon Ariel is knocked out with a orc standing over her.
Maynard harries the orcs his flaming sphere forcing them to break their flanking formation to avoid the fire while Logan's bow-work also damages and disrupts the orcs tactics. In one such moment, Logan darts around an orc but is caught in the back by the orc's stone maul. He manages to keep his feet to get out of range and in a flash of acrobatics lands on his back on the ground but still manages to knock the legs out from under his attacker with a well-aimed arrow.
A one point, Logan rushed to Ariel's aid with healing potions only to have her knocked out a few seconds later. Tesla and Conscience were also knocked senseless more than once by the savage attacks of the orcs. Gwenn and Conscience found themselves double and triple teamed from time to time. Tesla shifted around the battlefield looking for that devastating blow. Slowly the battle turned and the party began to kill the orcs but they did not fall easily. The last death-throws of the final orc knocked Ariel down for a third time requiring another potion to bring her back.
When the final orc was dead and everyone was brought back from death's door, the party did a quick search of the bodies and found 600GP between then. Given their similar dress and armor and coordinated tactics, it is obvious to the party that these troops were part of a will disciplined trained army and not just a party of orcs camping in a cave. This cave complex is obviously a well-guarded base. Deciding that if they left to recover fully from the battle, they would likely find the cave even more heavily guarded, the party decided to continue to look for Zeldar but be ready to beat a quick retreat if they encountered overwhelming forces.
The main corridor leads around several bends before ending in a set of double doors. The party passed no doors or passageways and the direction finder indicates that Zeldar is behind those doors. Tesla and Logan sneak up to the doors and peek in the barred windows on the doors. They determine that the room holds an ogre, five orcs, and one human in robes sitting in the middle of a magic circle. The circle is being watched by one of the orcs who is wearing animal robes and is adorned with bones and feathers. He is holding a blood-red orb and seems to be concentrating on the circle. Two guards are just inside the doors with the remaining orcs and the ogre in one corner of the room talking.
Backing up the party makes plans to cause a distraction and rush into the room concentrating their firepower on the orc maintaining the circle in hopes that Zeldar will help the party if freed. Maynard causes the sound of an orc screaming to come from one end of the room, Tesla cuts the rope holding the doors closed and Logan fires an arrow at the orc wizard before the party rushes in the room taking the guards by surprise.
Maynard hits the orc wizard with a magic missile and Logan hits the orc wizard a second time before it can release the spirit of a wolf that attacks Maynard and Logan but misses both. Conscience, Gwenn, Tesla, and Ariel rush into the room to engage the two guards by the door. Tesla manages a couple devastating attacks on one of the guards before finishing him off with Gwenn's help. Conscience and Ariel gang up on another guard keeping it busy but are soon flanked by one of the other orcs and the ogre leader.
Maynard is grievously wounded by one of the orcs but maintains his fire on the orc wizard and manages to kill him with his next shot. As the orc wizard falls, the red orb rolls from his hand and the magic circle begins to shimmer. Maynard keeps up a steady rain of magic missiles while the others engage in hand-to-hand.
Several of the party members are wounded but Ariel heals and strengthens the party as the battle continues. Maynard decides to see check on Zeldar and moves to join him in the circle. As he crosses the circle, he gets the feeling of ants crawling all over his skin but feels no ill effects. Zeldar appears healthy and is more dazed as to the sudden change of events than anything else.
As the party continues to engage the orcs and ogres, suddenly there is a just of wind and flash of light and the ogre fall over dead. Several party members feel the magical pulse fly by and turn back to see Zeldar pointing directly at where the ogre once stood. There is a sudden burst of morale in the party and they redouble their efforts to deal with the orcs.
One by one the orcs begin to fall by party members or by Zeldar. One fleeing orc is killed by a ricocheting magical dart that follows him out of the room and down the passageway. Soon all of the orcs are dead and they gather by the door to take stock. A little more healing and an exchange of introductions with Zeldar and he suggest that they all leave. In one last show of magic, Zeldar magically collects all of the purses of the dead which he hands to the party as partial repayment for his rescue.
They party leave the complex without any problem and find a secure resting spot a little way down the mountain. They learn that Zeldar has been held captive for several months. He is quite interested in what the orcs were doing with the blue liquid and agrees with the party's assessment of its usefulness against the updead and Tara. They then settle down for the night.
The party heads down the mountain and reaches the oasis as the sun is setting in the west.
As the party nears Dira, Zeldar states that if he could get access to some components, he could teleport them back to Jasper. He has no gold but the party offers him some of the orc plunder to buy what he needs. While Zeldar attempts to find what he needs, the rest of the party members pull up their hoods and attempt to avoid any contact with the locals and wait for south of town.
An hour later Zeldar meets up with the party and leads them off the road to behind some scrub. Taking the material he purchased, Zeldar traces a large circle on the ground and goes through a complicated ritual. He step back and the circle begins to glow and the air above it starts to shimmer. Zeldar explains that this will take the party to Orbis' workshop since that is the only place Zeldar if familiar with in Jasper. He has each party member walk into the circle and after a few minutes, the entire party is back in Jasper.
The party arrives back to Jasper after several days of travel and begins to main plans for their assault on the mountain fortress. Zeldar is sure that he and Orbis can get the party into the fortress via magic but it will be up to the party to deal with Tara.
Zeldar and Orbis begin working on finding a way to get the party inside the castle. Using a flying eye, they spot a top battlement that has enough room to hold the destination circle. However, they also learn that there is a necrotic shield around the castle which may block teleportation. At last they determine that by use of most of the blue liquid at hand, they can reinforce the teleport spell and cut a hole in the shield. It will take the effort of both wizards to keep the circle open so the party has an escape route. The party will have to make the journey alone. Pablo will provide a few guards to protect Zeldar and Orbis in case any of the undead come through the magic circle and attack them.
Orbis suggests that the blue liquid may offer them some protection against the damage inflicted by the undead. He also suggests that if the party can surround Tara, the radiant auras around them might restrain her long enough for the party to force a blue liquid potion down her throat.
They party is given an arrow that is been enchanted to point at the most potent evil power source around. The arrow is suspended from a string and will point in three dimensions the direction they should go. Each party member drinks a potion of the blue liquid and carries another one to try and exorcise the evil from Tara. With a few extra healing potions and all their weapons infused with the blue liquid, they party steps into the circle.
The party members find themselves standing in a magic circle on the top parapet of the castle. The eerie fog surrounds them but seems to be held at bay by a gentle glow emanating from each of them. Then they notice that they are not alone on the battlements as deathly white figures begin to advance.
The party springs into action to attack this guard. While trying to keep the undead, they are also holding back their reserves for meeting Tara, trying to keep any of the undead from stepping into the circle and being transported back to Orbis' workshop, and also trying to keep the undead from reviving each other. The party mostly avoids damage but a few have their stamina impacted by contact with the undead. Once all of the undead are down, they party takes out the pointing arrow and determines that they need to go down and northward along the line of the battlements.
They you climb down the spiral staircase till the reach the bottom. The stairs open onto a long hall running under the battlements. The enchanted arrow points directly along the hallway and downward slightly. The party follows the arrow to the end of the hall by which time the arrow is pointing downward. Climbing down another staircase, they emerge into a large room where they find a number of undead and a pretty young girl sitting in a high throne talking with one of the undead.
The party rushes into the room trying to get to Tara. The other undead move to engage the party but the room is large and their movement is slow. Tara, however, is able to teleport directly to the party and inflicts a grievous attack on Tesla. While Logan and Maynard try and deal with the other undead, the rest of the party attempts to surround Tara.
Ariel sends out radiant attacks while Conscience and Gwenn try and keep Tara occupied. Logan is ambushed by two undead before Maynard kills one of them. Then comes one of those moments where Maynard has to do something completely against his nature - he closes to melee range with Tara to complete the circle around her.
Almost at once he realizes that this selflessness was the right move as his radiant aura merges with the other 3 around Tara and a radiant sphere encircles her. She attempts to teleport away and is frustrated by the radiant circle. In anger she lashes out another vicious hit on Gwenn.
Ignoring the other undead, the 4 allies around Tara one by one attempt to force a potion into Tara. Gwenn fails, Tesla fails, and then Conscience in an extra rally of effort manages to seize Tara's mouth and tosses the potion into her. At once, Tara begins to writhe ignoring those around her. Some inner battle seems to be going on as she screams and flails her limbs. Logan, having joined the circle kills another undead with an arrow as does Maynard. The fighters also hold their ground but switch their efforts on the remaining undead.
Tara suddenly collapses to the ground but standing in her place is a deep violet ghostly image that attempts to break out of the radiant sphere. They party rushes to kill the remaining undead and get bodes out of reach of this figure.
Suddenly there is a wave of radiant power that sweeps through the room causing the undead bodies to flash into ashes and causes the radiant sphere to become blindingly bright. In the aftermath of the wave, the sphere and the ghostly image are gone. The party is unsure exactly what happened but it seems like some massively powerful radiant power has just washed over them and their foe is defeated. They are unsure if it is dead but it is no longer a threat to them or Tara.
Ariel quickly checks on Tara but finds her unharmed but emotionally and mentally shaken. "Where am I," are the first puzzled words from her mouth. Not wanting to stay in the castle too long, Tara is helped to her feet and the party makes their way back to the circle. The encounter no undead and the bodies of the undead they had killed on the top parapet are also ash that is being blown away in the wind. As they look up, the first stars emerge from the now clearing sky. The party helps Tara into the circle and instantly they party is back in Orbis' workshop.
Tara is taken back to her temple and the party and wizards are treated to a hero's banquet. It seems that this new threat has passed. Tara has been rescued, the evil has been defeated, the orcs now longer have Zeldar or the blue liquid, and the pass is back open for trade.
In the late afternoon, a party of travelers enters Jasper from a long journey. Vicar Horace heads directly for his temple to check on how things have gone in his absence. As he enters the tent complex, he is warmly welcomed by the temple workers and novices. When he asks how things are going, each responds with a knowing smile that all is well. Horace finds Tara in the main temple tent. They embrace and he asks what has been going on. It seems like everyone is in on some big joke that he knows nothing about. Tara smiles and says, "Well, it is a long story!"