Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Session 12 Pillars of Night - The Death of Naarash 24/08/1479 DR L5

On the Outer Steps
Battle with the Temple Guards
The Burning Skeleton

Death of Naarash

S12 24/08: The Temple of Naarash

Shawna Carter, Deva Paladin - Emma
Ashara, Genasi Fire Wizard - Catherine 
Esmerelda, half-elf Bard - James 
Dru, half-elf Uthgardt Druid - Damian 
Lirael, half-elf Ranger - Kimberly 
[Calard, human Knight - Mark - absent]

The Amaunite Deva Paladin Shawna Carter had been held in the prison block of the Temple of Naarash for at least a month. Part of the third and final strike team sent by the 'Light of the Sun' to kill the leaders of the 'Hand of Naarash' Bane-cultists who threatened the borderlands, she was the last survivor, captured on the Black March and brought to the cult headquarters. She had had plenty of time to reflect that perhaps her group leader's refusal of a 'trip up the river on my magic moonboat' by the dwarf Glasur back in Adakmi at the south end of the Black March, might have been unwise. Yesterday a new prisoner was brought in - Lirael Sirocco the half-elven Ranger.  She had been escorting villagers down the Black March towards Adakmi with Dolf Dragonheart and the Cleric Oran, when they were ambushed by an overwhelming force of Hand commandos. Wounded in the leg, Lirael held off the Hand forces to give Dolf & Oran time to get the villagers to safety, before being captured and taken swifty north to the Pillars of Night and the Hand's headquarters.
But then something happened - intruders in the temple have activated the ancient temple's arcane defences, causing a small earthquake in the prison cells. In the confusion Shawna & Lirael were able to overpower the hobgoblin jailor and his two minions, recover their equipment from a store room, and escape the cells into a rune-carved corridor,  just as a second earthquake brought down the ceiling behind them. 
In the giant-plate-armour strewn chamber where the rest of the Burning Hand were catching their breath, the same earthquake dislodged masonry from the ceiling, one chunk struck Calard on the head and knocked him out, but also revealed a hidden door in the west wall, that led into the corridor where Lirael and Shawna were.  Ashara readied to blast anyone coming in - but luckily spotted Lirael in time, and the group was reunited and introduced to Shawna.  Shawna noticed Esme's strong resemblance to Valeris of Orlbar, despite her cut-short hair.
In the rune-scribed corridor, double doors to the south were barred, scribed with both glowing glyphs of warding, and instructions in Goblin and Common: KEEP OUT!!!!! The group planned to go through there, but Lirael also spotted a secret door in the west wall, partly hidden by fresh plasterwork.  Opening that brought them to the foot of giant steps and the inner sanctum of the Temple of Naarash.
The guards struck - hobgoblins and human berserkers - and a fierce battle followed.  Dru reached the top of the steps, only to be attacked by flames flung by a burning skeleton.  Across the temple, beyond a huge giant altar, more steps led up to a raised area where the Stone of Naarash glowed with baleful red light.  Atop the steps a handsome fair-haired man watched the battle with weary intensity - Jaryn!
The Burning Hand fought their way into the temple, eventually dispatching the blazing skeleton, last of the defenders.  Jaryn, founder and former leader of the Light of the Sun greeted them, especially Shawna, to whom he had once been a mentor, and more strangely Esmerelda, who he named the Bane-Child and Sister of Strife.  Jaryn explained that he was now leader of the Hand of Naarash, that Naarash had given him the power to defeat Lakarzh, the former leader, and become Bane's instrument.  He offered Esme a choice - either join him and rule together, or fight him and if victorious replace him as Voice of Naarash, just as he had replaced Lakarzh.  The group tried to convince Jaryn to return to his old faith - he explained that Lathander-Amaunator had perished in the Spellplague, and in this ruined world there was only Bane...

Jaryn offered the group wine, which Shawna angrily dashed from his hand.  Esme ascended the steps towards the Stone of Naarash - having rejected Jaryn's offer, battle commenced.  Jaryn struck hard, but Esme's companions aided her, and the fallen paladin proved no match for the heroes' combined power; Esme's iron defender ripped out Jaryn's throat. 
A moment later a fountain of flame erupted from the stone, scorching the ceiling above, and a great horned ape-demon appeared: Naarash!
"You have slain my champion and shown your worth. Who among you accepts the mantle of Voice of Naarash?"
Deaf to the demon's entreaty, the group attacked.  Naarash proved a terrible foe, swiftly felling Esme and Shawna with mighty blows.  Ashara called down massive fire-magics which massively burned the beast. Lirael's deadly arrow struck its left eye, Naarash's howling making their ears bleed.  Dru healed Shawna with her magic seed, and Shawna healed Esme - but this only angered Naarash.
"This time, you'll stay dead."
Failing in his attempt to crush Shawna, Naarash turned and smashed Esme unconscious to the floor - then grinned, raised a mighty fist, and drove it deep into Esme's chest, smashing her ribs and killing her instantly. Esme's companions attacked with renewed fervour;  and eventually the terrible demon collapsed - the Stone of Naarash pulsed, then exploded in a huge fireball, scorching everyone - but they survived, and Naarash was no more.
In the aftermath the group had time to catch their breath; a treasure-alcove was revealed by the destruction of the altar, and Shawna took Jaryn's fine blade.  With dust falling from the ceiling, Lirael suggested the group vacate by a concealed door, and after recovering Calard, awake but still groggy, they gathered up Esme's body and took a tunnel through the mountainside, soon emerging above the valley. Below in the ruined giants' city, all was confusion - the demon's destruction had been felt by his followers, and now there was chaos as cultists fought each other and fled the area in droves. The Hand of Naarash was no more.
Returning west to the pike-pulled Moon Boat on the Delimbiyr river, they found Glasur the dwarf waiting for them. The return journey downriver was swift, just two days (25/8, 26/8) took them to Adakmi. From there they travelled swiftly west to deTrevani Manor (27/8), where the wise woman Treona had placed Amara deTrevani's body in Gentle Repose.  She did the same for Esmerelda. Pooling resources, with treasure from the Hand of Naarash  Ashara was able to raise enough to buy the necessary sacred oils in Loudwater for the Raising of Esmerelda and Amara (16 hours, 28/8-29/8).  

Esmerelda wakes up with an old lady looking into her eyes, she feels like she's got the worst hangover ever.
~Oh dear god, that must have been one hell of a celebration...~
(Suddenly she remembers the fist of the demon coming towards her, and all that follows)
~Oh dear god, am I, did I,what the...~
<Ashara explains what happened>
"If anyone tells Marsh about my outburst about him being the only man for me, I WILL KILL THEM.
Ok. Is everyone clear on that!"

Then it was time for Ashara the Genasi to return to faraway Akanul and report, for she realised the Stone of Naarash was likely the fire-artifact which she had been sent to find, and now it was destroyed.  Ashara bid a fond farewell to her friends. 

30/8/1479 DR
The knight Sir Calard decided to head east investigate reports of trouble at the Monastery of Torm in the ruins of Spellgard. The rest of the group travelled on to Loudwater, where they met with Sir Dolf Dragonheart. Dolf informed them that he had decided to accept the treaties of the people of Erstlin to become their liege, to protect and continue rebuilding the village. With permission from Queen Valeris of Orlbar, Dolf would become Sir Dragonheart of Erstlin, build a manor there, and in time he and Oran hoped to found a temple-monastery dedicated to both Torm and Bahamut, to train a new generation of heroes against the darkness.
The unnamed Druidess sat, bunched awkwardly with her legs drawn up in front of her, in a high back wooden chair in the Green Tankard. Before her, the wood in the fireplace had burnt down to embers as Marsh droned on behind her. He was telling another of his long-winded tales to one of the other patrons.

She took a sip from her flagon of honey-mead and curled up into her wolf fur cloak, her eyelids feeling heavy. The flames in the fireplace seemed to roar higher for a moment and the Druidess felt the wooden back of the chair softly give way behind her and she was falling. 

She opened her eyes and found herself standing next to a silver pool deep in a forest glade, an ancient oak's twisted boughs shading her. A lone wolf stood at the pool, drinking of the crisp water. The Druidess could somehow taste the water as the wolf locked its eyes upon hers.

The Druidess felt a sudden chill pass over her as a shadow moved at the edge of her vision. She turned quickly to catch a glimpse of the figure, but as she spun about, the ancient oak burst into flame. Within a heartbeat the verdant leaves and cool shade of the glade were a raging inferno. A cloaked figure disappeared into the flames.

"Follow." The voice echoed in her mind and she realised the wolf was beside her. "Fire Heart, follow."

She took a step towards the flames and the wolf matched her step. Gathering courage, she stepped closer, the heat searing her skin. The wolf howled in pain beside her as she plunged into the fire, the pain burning through her flesh and into her bones.

A tiefling stood before her, its skin blackened and cracked but a maniacal grin upon its face. "Sancossug will claim your soul, as he has claimed mine, Fire Heart" he cackled. "We will all burn together in the end." The wolf continued to howl in pain, until suddenly the Druidess realised it was she that howled.

She awoke with a start in front of the fireplace in the Tankard, still wrapped up in her cloak. A word formed on her tongue and without thinking she spoke it aloud. "Fey'Tel'Arael." The Fire of the Heart.

Marsh paused mid sentence and called across the room. "What did you say, druidling?"

"Arael!" she corrected, standing up and striding towards the door. "You may call me Arael."

XP awards
Gaining entrance to the Temple of Naarash: 300
Jaryn's guards (2 berserkers, 2 hobgoblins, burning skeleton): 1000
Defeating Jaryn: 700
Defeating Naarash: 1750
Destruction of the Hand of Naarash cult, 8th level major quest: 1750
Total: 5500 divided by 5 PCs = 1100 XP each to your party XP tally.

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