DND5E: Mice and Men, Part II

Austin Haedicke bio photo By Austin Haedicke Comment
Campaign: Dawn Treaders Quest: Mice and Men, Part II DM: Austin

Before Cas and Alodel set out to explore the recent happenings in Lut Ghoelin, Digoria parted ways with them, stating that she had other business to attend to. She also reported that she’d robbed them in their sleep, but tossed a bag of equipment to them as a parting gift – they’d only weight her down.

After saving the Lut Gholein’s sultan – Jehryn – with the help of Gachev, the party was allowed to view a magical bucket of water from Jehryn’s seeing well. A well that, once per day, can glimpse and reveal potential futures of the world. In one imagery created in the water, Cas and Alodel saw Digoria talking to Zulton Kulle and some other fiendish looking creature – as if making some kind of deal.

Afterwards, at the emploring words of Jehryn, Cas, Alodel, and Gachev borrow a ship from Jehryn to stop the evil forces that have sieged Cladeum. An army, it seems, has gathered there to open the Abyss!

Meanwhile, Digoria set sail on The Entropy Tide with her crew of 20 spies – now empowered by two Fey Rings of Atlantis mounted to the ship’s helm. She returned to Tristram to consult with Zulton Kulle. Eagerly he speaks of their prior arrangement for her to complete a task to gain his favor in return for assistance of her own.

Digoria reveals that the helmet that grants her captainhood of The Entropy Tide is “driving her more madness than usual.” Kulle suspects that the helmet “can’t create something that isn’t there”, but “may be exaggerating what thoughts, fears, feelings, doubts, and demons are already crawling around in her mind.” She further reveals that she has felt “restricted” in some ways since she returned from Charn all those years ago and offers to let Kulle use his magic to search her and her mind for any curses or otherwise magical inhibitions placed upon her.

In return Kulle asks that she make a sacrifice for him. Specifically – thanks to Digoria’s bartering he reveals more information – he is not at his full Lich power until he is “well fed”; and that requires souls to be sacrificed to his phylactery. Digoria agrees to “try” to help him. Suspicious of her wording, Kulle begrudgingly accepts the offer.

As auras flare and the ethers flow, Kulle performs a ritual and is able to confirm that Jadis appears to have indeed blocked some of Digoria’s abilities – likely until their accord is fulfilled (bringing the Entropy Tide to Charn). Digoria immediately asks Kulle to remove the blockage, to which he declines and quickly asserts that he will need “more commitment from her” on their agreement. Kulle wants Digoria to offer him 9 souls. However, she argues for the “quality” or rather “amplitude” of some souls – suggesting that perhaps they want some of the same people dead, “after all bounty hunting is part and parcel with being a pirate.”

Kulle declines the offer, and asserts that 9 souls is the number that must be attained. Next, seeing an opportunity, Digoria attempts to persuade Kulle to give her some insight as to the whereabouts of her nemesis Phage (being the highest on Digoria’s hit list) – however, the persuasion fails. In a more desperate persuasion now, Digoria convinces Kulle to “unblock” her abilities so that she can use them to gather the souls he requires. He agrees, though he is not keen on potentially crossing an interplanar quasi-deity like Jadis.

Kulle summons a pact devil to bind the agreement. However, the devil reveals that Digoria’s soul (the current of contracting demons) is “not available to barter” as it “is already on another contract.” Digoria passes a snide look to a (for once) “put aback and in his place” and confounded Zulton Kulle. “It looks like you’ll be crossing Jadis either way. Now you just have to decide if you want to do so as a half-ass lich or a full powered one.”

Kulle dismisses the pact devil and, there in the catacombs beneath the Tristram Cathedral, begins the ritual to unblock the power barricading curse placed upon Digoria. This requires Kulle to open the mummy tomb, revealing that he has some control over the mummy lord within, and further opening some sort of spectral portal located within the mummy’s heart – as if it were a doorway to a pocket dimension containing a wealth of Kulle’s former power. Possibly, Digoria’s insight tells her the mummy’s body contains an artifact that leads to Kulle’s archives and thereby his precious phylactery.

Once the ritual is completed, Zulton Kulle reveals while in Charn Digoria gained the abilities of the frost-touched. However, it seems that this has cost her some of her other bloodline origin abilities as it is known that inter-dimensional travel can warp, alter, and perhaps even re-write time. The favorment of the cold seems to have also cost Digoria her inherited hellish resistance to fire, but also left much “untapped potential” as a mage as far as her memory to recall spells for innate casting.

With the ritual completed, Digoria prepares to depart the catacombs.

Kulle: Where are you going now?

Digoria: Thanks to you, I’m going to stop an army of ghouls.

Kulle: Your attempts will be in vein…

Digoria: Perhaps. But where’s the adventure in living forever anyway?
Immortality is a coward’s way out. (begins walking out the door, as Kulle grimaces at the cutting words)

Kulle: Why do you protect the fighter and the cleric? Mages like you and I could rule this realm you know?

Digoria: They remind me of a band of comrades that died battling a sea serpent that attacked a ship I was on long ago… a serpent that I had to make the killing blow myself, even as a child.

Kulle: So, there is honor among thieves after all…

Digoria: …and predictability is a weakness.

Kulle: At any rate… We have an accord, yes?

Digoria: We have an accord. (leaving for real now) … Oh, and one more thing Kulle. If you harm the cleric or the fighter in my company… I’ll kill you myself.

Kulle: Very well then…

As Digoria departs, a lanky and shadowy figure steps forth from the shadows. Karasu speaks out to Kulle, “You know she will find a way to betray you….”
Kulle replies, “It will not matter. We can leave this world to be torn in conflict between The Abyss and The Nine Hells. The magic in this world has all but been used up compared to the Fey Wilds. Imagine Karasu… if you fed on fey instead of men? And you, Phage, there would be a comparatively endless world to rampage and ravage through. Now, let us proceed.”

Back on the shores of Caldeum, Digoria docks the Entropy Tide and looks up on the city, swarming with ghouls flooding into it’s gates… It’s an ambush! She curses out loud that “that bloody lunkhead Cas has walked straight into a trap! (with a drow priest in the center and more than 50 ghouls blocking the way out).”

Before stepping of the ship, Digoria looks up at the sky an notices that the sun appears to carry an unusually read tone and appears larger than usual, though perhaps this is an effect of the hazy damp sky sprinkling snow to the group – though that in itself suggest something amiss here in the dessert.

As heavy winds rise Digoria rallies her crewmen to charge into battle and fight her way into Caldeum in pursuit of Cas and Alodel. The first adversaries, two packs of 20 ghouls prove somewhat worthy as the undead crewmen and ghouls exchange baldes. Digoria unleashes a fury of lightning and snow spells to fell the first mob, though the second mob does not fall without taking the first rank of crewmen with them. The second rank of crewmen act quickly to avenge the others and defeating the second mob.

Before anyone can catch their breath, two more mobs stand between Digoria and the city gates. Swords continue to clash and more snow and lighting flash as thunder echoes throughout the city. The second rank of crewmen fall before either the third or fourth mobs can be killed, leaving Digoria to fend for herself. She gives no sympathy to the fallen crewmen as she knows that – per the curse of The Entropy Tide – the crewmen will once again take form upon the ship on sunset next.

Digoria decides to go down swinging and fights until she herself falls against the army of ghouls. When she falls to the ground, neigh unconscious, a final epic and explosive ice storm erupts as she does. The storm, magically enchanted seemingly beyond Digoria’s own capabilities, freezes and pummels the remaining ghouls outside the city walls – protecting Digoria from immediate danger. However, the spell also erupts so thunderously that is breaks a hole in part of the city’s more brittle stonework, revealing it to the harsh elements outside.

At last, Cas, Alodel, and Gachev are left to fend off the remaining ghouls and stop The Abyss from being opened. In short order to follow, the party will surely become aware that they’ve gained the uneasy and glaring attention of some great elemental force of reckoning.

With the help of Gachev and Jehryn’s merchant sailors, Cas and Alodel were able to travel to Caldeum. There they found the once glamorous city, crawling with undead creatures – wreaking of an evil stench. Initially taking the weaker adversaries for granted, they are ambushed from behind by a drow warrior who is unable to remain hidden. The ghouls and drow are defeated with relative ease, but Cas’s memory is sparked and he make an off handed comment to deflect his worry about “there being 99 more ghouls” – a reference to an army of ghouls led by a drow mage that Digoria has mentioned in adventures past.

The party presses on into the city proper and again, they are met with a swarm of ghouls. However, this time they notice that on of the Iron Wolves has been badly beaten and bound in the corner. The mobs of ghouls continue to increase and pile into the room. The first wave of ghouls are conquered and the first Iron Wolf is freed. He reports that his brethren have also been captured. Many of them killed. He states that the Iron Wolves were tricked into coming here and that they too were ambushed by drow warriors.

Similar events repeat themselves as Cas, Gachev, and Alodel continue through the city halls and climbing it’s many levels – built like a fortress. More Iron Wolves are met and freed, but the ghoul ranks remain strong. They are many.

The party is again ambushed by another drow warrior as they did not thoroughly check the wrecked shops at the entrance of town. Foolishly, two of the Iron Wolves press onward without the help of Gachev or Cas who’ve taken to fighting the drow. The mistake costs one Iron Wolf his life before Alodel is able to move in and provide restoration.

With many spells and abilities expended, the party approaches the pinnacle room of the city. Just before entering though, they can hear clamoring footsteps in the halls from which they came. Judging by the lore they’ve heard and stories from other adventures they assume that the’ve again been tricked to enter the depths of the city while the other half (perhaps as many as 50) ghouls fill the city from behind the party; leaving them no option to to fight their way out – if they can.

Inside the large vast dome they see a powerful drow attempting to complete some sort of ritual. There are candles and pentagrams drawn in blood on the floor with carved paths for the blood to flow through. Alas, as Cas enters he’s greeted by a familiar, but haggard voice. It’s Alroin! It seems that Altorin has been captured, tortured, and bound by this drow. His name, Ellion Stryfe, is revealed by Altorin who, even whilst being tortured, continues to smack talk the drow.

Among the insults and crude jokes thrown, Altorin asks Cas where Digoria has gotten off to. When Cas says that she’s found her ship and is off doing “making deals with devils or something”, Altorin rebukes Ellion and claims that Ellion’s look of surprise (upon Cas’s entry) is the “mark of fear” that “(Digoria) doesn’t need (Ellion) and is off getting stronger than even he can become, ritual or not.”

Cas uses the opportunity wisely to intimidate Ellion by lobbying for Digoria and bluffing that “He (Cas) is as strong as (Digoria) is now.” The intimidation is enough to stay Ellion’s hand from murdering Altorin – the assumed final sacrificial piece of the ritual.

As the party moves into position Ellion quickly turns invisible. The party is a bit confused, but closes in to help Altorin. However, their close proximity makes them an easily target for Ellion’s cloudkill spell. Cas is able to hold his breath long enough to land several strong hits to Ellion, but wisely flees the cloudkill’s range.

Alodel also makes a tactical move in trying to pull Altorin out of the cloudkill as he’s been rendered unconscious by the initial poisonous vapors. The Iron Wolves flee the clouds range as well and Gachev follows suite – a decision Cas is not happy about when Gachev could have likely killed the drow off.

Alodel uses some fireball prayer beads to inflict minor wounds on the drow, but he is wise and strong. Ellion unleashes a crackling lighting attack that nearly kills the unconscious Altorin and renders Cas unconscious as well. Alodel, the only ranged warrior in the party, is able to throw another fireball prayer bead that kills Ellion. Alodel cheers that “finally, he got one!” (though it still only counts as one).

Ellion smirks as he falls to the ground, saying that the party has again been deceived and that his death, not Altorin’s, was the final piece of the ritual. As the floor where the pentagram was drawn begins to crack and open towards The Abyss, an ethereal specter appears. It is the presence of Mykrul, Lord of the Dead. Ellion continues to speak praises and believes he is about to be granted eternal life through necromancy. However, the specter speaks that Ellion’s infidelity is to be punished. That is, Ellion’s dual worship of Myrkul and Lolth has not gone unnoticed in by the outer realms.

The long skeletal fingers of the specter wrap round Ellion and, rather than continue to open the portal to The Abyss, the specter casts Ellion down into The Abyss itself leaving him for eternal torment and the portal only partially opened.

Cas, wake from his unconsciousness and considers making a slander towards Gachev regarding “dreaming about his sister (Natalya)”; but thinks better to hold his words when he sees Gachev pulling a greater healing potion out and crouching down next to Cas. Gachev administers the potion to Cas while Alodel tends to Altorin’s wounds.

The party is mobilized none too soon as the energy from the portal, the presence of Myrkul’s specter, and the weather outside begin to shake and crumble the weaker parts of the city’s stone walls. As the party is leaving the pinnacle room, an entire wall of the room breaks off. From high up they can see the shore and notice Digoria’s ship has docked and that she, along with the crewmen appear to be dashing off and charging into the vast army of ghouls that block the city’s exit.

Having no way to immediately help her, Aldoel, Cas, and the others must work their way back through the city halls fighting off a few estranged ghouls and dodging falling debris. Cas insightfully wishes for Alodel to put Cas inside one of the Krampus sacks for protection if the city collapses entirely. Fortunately such a plan is not needed as tactful use of potions and healing allow the party members to exit the city safely.

Entering the open area before the city gates the party finds dozens of dead ghouls. Strangely, none of the bodies of Digoria’s crewmen can be found, however she appears to be lying unconscious in the middle of the battle field. Cas runs over to wake her. She stammers to her feet and asserts that she, in fact, did not fall unconscious, but was “only resting a bit” – though she is barely able to drink a healing potion under her own power.

The weather worsens as the rest of the party joins Cas and Digoria. Alodel inquires about the crewmen and Digoria states that “they’re undead and cursed, though they’ve gained a more corporeal form, they’re still bonded to the ship and respawn every 24 hours at dusk – in about one hour.” Observing the weather, Digoria hastily suggests that the party join her on her ship “especially since the city appears to be collapsing.” They eagerly oblige.

The blizzard-like conditions in the middle of the desert seem most strange. As the ship reaches the safety of the open sea Cas’s divine intuition again stirs and tells him that the changing weather is “a different source of evil” than Myrkul or The Abyss and that this (weather) does not have it’s origins in Caldeum. Caldeum is only “the tip of the iceberg.”

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