The journal writing player missed out this one, so it’s back to me. But next time we’ll be back to that.
After the holiday break, we picked up with the characters sheltering in the ruins of a city destroyed by the Ebon King. They managed to forage for food and water, learning about some of the edible plants in the fungal forest from the gladiators. This session saw us doing a lot of ‘upkeeping’ which, if I had my preference, we would have done as part of its own session or something. Sadly, we are lucky to get together once a week as it is, so I shouldn’t complain.
Two of the gladiators were hired by the PCs, the two Jotuns (I left the players to stat them up). Kaenan-Tal attempted to hire Konros, the local thief/explorer and in order to demonstrate his prowess, he attempted to give Thorcigar his hand back. Not only didn’t it work, but the spiritual reverberations were tremendous. The party realized that the more powerful the divine spell they cast, the ‘louder’ the disturbance they make.
The eagles, all twenty of them, arrived shortly thereafter while the party was packing to flee, afraid that being only ten miles from the Ebon King’s door step he’d be sending people soon. The King of the Eagles spoke with them and after awhile, a bargain was struck and Oaths were exchanged, that the Eagles would help the party find the items they sought, in exchange for the party’s help in escaping this world. Interestingly, not everyone in the party wanted to make that deal, worried what the impact of intelligent giant birds of prey might be to the ecosystem when they got back home.
They had seen a tower a few miles from the ruins and were told by the eagles that it was a portal tower. The party decided to break into the tower so that any pursuers would think that they escaped through the gate, while instead the eagles flew them away.
All they had to do was fight past the tower’s defenders.
The tower was a tall, obsidian structure had a gate with no key or lock, but Alren’s ability to open portals saw it slide smoothly open. The inside of the structure was decorated with dark and horrific carvings, honoring the depredations of the Kings. A large obsidian statue of a dog stood in front of the spiral staircase, and a voice boomed out, “Speak the Word to Pass”.
Someone said ‘dog’ and the statue came to life with a growl. The fight was short, but tough…the statue was extremely powerful and shattered a shield or two but they managed to put it down. The mages are lamenting their lack of single target attack spells…
Up the stairs they went. The next floor was empty as far as they could see, and the one after that was full of stored supplies (food, water, travelling gear, etc) stacked in boxes. And the final floor was unlike the others in that a shifting, crawling script covered the walls. On one side, a gaping ‘wound’ was carved into the stone, somewhat in the shape of an eye socket. Before this stood a plinth covered in shifting script.
Lucian’s read magic spell revealed that the script on the walls was numerous titles, “The Woods of Endless Sorrow”, “The Mount of Dispair”, “The Valley of Shards”, etc. They picked the least offensive sounding locale and Lucian began picking out the symbols on the plinth that matched. After a few moments, the stone appeared to peel back, revealing a swirling vortex of magical energy. In seconds, the vortex opened some distance away, and they could see earth and stone on the otherside, overlooking a desert.
Before they could shut the plinth down, however, the air shimmered around Lucian and a massive, terrible shape slipping into the world. The thing looked like an amorphous blob with numerous tentacles lashing the air.
Appendages grew from the mass, only to be absorbed again. Eyes, maws, and faces swam into view, screaming in agonizing terror before disappearing again. Lucian’s quick reflexes barely saved him as the creature lashed the area around the plinth and attacked the rest of the party.
For the first time in a long time, I saw the party break. There was no ranks or cohesion to their retaliation. The size of the creature and the shape of the room meant it was immediately into melee with several people and further could attack anyone it choose (including the casters, most of which promptly fled back down the stairs). The creature grappled targets it hit, so no one wanted to stay in melee with it, and their attacks were not hurting it that much. So everyone but team Rage Claw and Lairn fled. Dar managed to free Rage Claw from the tentacle that grasped him, but was then grappled in turn. Unfortunately, Lairn had began casting a Fire Burst spell in hopes that Rage Claw would get out of the grasp of the creature (luckily for the mage, it missed him before he could finish the spell).
As the creature drew the screaming Dar into one of its many gaping maws, Lairn threw his ball of elemental flame. The eruption was tremendous (he nearly rolled max damage) and the creature screamed as it burned. Luckily for all concerned, Dar’s screams were mercifully short.
Rage Claw returned, flinging himself at the beast again, but it shimmered and disappeared, sloughing off charred members and ruined flesh.
Dar was already dead, his body charred black by the flames. Lairn, unable to cope with having accidentally killed a companion, surrendered control to Karragos. The party then fled all the way to the bottom of the tower.
Jayna tried to bring Dar back to life, but his wounds were too great and his soul would not return. The clarion bell of her spell made them beg the eagles to take them away from this place. The eagles agreed, though they butchered the camel train (bar 10 camels) for food beforehand. So the session ended with the eagles flying the party away from the Ebon King’s domain as fast as their wings would carry them.
Rage Claw’s player was gutted to lose Dar, whom he had had since the Explorer was 0 level. He said it felt like losing a PC. Lairn’s player was equally sorry for killing Dar, having not expected things to go that badly that quickly. I didn’t expect the shambling horror to give the party that much of a problem, but I hadn’t anticipated the psychological impact of something being able to attack all of them at will.
This session was the one that led me to really think about the LFQW problem in ACKS, thanks to Lucian’s player’s complaint about Precise Shot. So I’ve made some House Rules about that, and we’ll see how they work out.