Saturday, 17 July 2010

Session 37: the End of Time

The war to end all wars has come at last to the world of the City of Kings. Time ends, the Membin stone rises and every race and people must fight for their survival. Chaos runs rampant under the new sun and our heroes now face their greatest challenge yet, the Warlord Reptos who once ruled the whole world and slew Gods and Primordials alike.

Scene 1: Death is on the cards!

They meet in the ruins of an ancient keep clinging to an outcropping of rock attached to the land by a thin stone bridge. It was built by Reptos himself thousands of years ago when humans first came to this world and the heads of those he has slain are spiked to the walls. It is fitting that he meets his fate here.

Our three heroes are outnumbered. Reptos is aided by his Herald (and also Artemis’s mother), his consort Vinga goddess of revenge and his Taken, powerful magi raised from the dead to serve him. Reptos offers the group a choice, kneel before him and accept his dominion or face him and the terrible blade he wields, a weapon capable of permanently slaying immortals.

The group decline, they have their own destinies to fulfil. Vinga acts first and, mounted on a vicious nightmare, she is able to strike and dance away. The Taken also bring their powers to bear, unleashing hellfire to engulf the group. Emerging from the flames Morn moves to engage Reptos. The two exchange blows Morns shield deflecting the blade while Azhanti takes to the air to destroy the Taken.

Left free to move Artemis puts his deadly skills to use, skills honed in the blood of many gods. He sends bolt after bolt striking into the Warlord with unerring accuracy. Reptos cannot withstand the barrage and collapses to one knee. He bellows to the sky and the sky answers. His skin splits, horns sprout from his head as he assumes his full Primordial aspect.

He transforms Azhanti into stone and turning with terrible ferocity he strikes down Morn and his blade rips our heroes soul from his body, trapping it within the blade.

Blackness descends on the hero of mankind as he falls. His soul screams in pain and darkness descends. As he opens his eyes he finds himself chained to a huge wheeled altar. All around him are the souls of those taken by the blade, dragging behind them the altar and the bloated demon from which the blade was forged. Swelling with strength Morn shatters the chains holding him and rallies the souls of the damned. He descends on the demon of the blade, his eyes flash blue as he roars at the beast, shredding its form and banishing it back to chaos.

Back in the keep Morn reforms and the blade goes silent. Azhanti shatters the stone holding him and Artemis leads Vinga on a fruitless dance. Reptos rises up to his full height, even without his blade he remains a serious threat, but Morn holds him at bay, just. His end finally comes at the business end of the Hammer of Morn (and a critical hit with Lion of Battle).

Scene 2: Destiny

Their last foe slain the way is open for our heroes to meet their destiny.

They quickly travel to the Membin stone, a pillar of white rock veined with golden runes a mile high and risen out of the ocean. There they are met by Utu Kamla, the first archmage and guardian of the stone. The group recognise him, he was the master of the Library of the Ages, the crazy Shaman Udun and others from their past. He welcomes them and explains that what they create today will persist forever, this will be the last cycle of this world.

But first they must face their final adversary, alone.

As the stone cracks open the light of creation spills forth and each finds themselves elsewhere.

Morn stands in a shieldwall holding the gate to Frostholm while also finding himself on a broken northern plateau, covered in snow and the bodies of fallen giants, demons and elementals. Before him is the crack in the skydome, a breach to chaos where the last of the giant warriors protects the world. Beyond the breach The Beast can be seen emerging from the mists of Chaos. The giant struggles to rise but he is spent. Taking his place Morn bellows his defiance at his nemesis. It roars in answer and surges forward tearing open the rift. Beast and man clash but there can be only one outcome. Morn has prepared for this confrontation for years, his tattoo’s flare and the Hammer brings The Beast low. Morn seals the rift but pays a price in doing so, he will not know peace for he will be called upon again.

Azhanti finds himself stood on the battlements of his capital, legionnaires manning the walls but also stood on a mountain track as a young novice just recently called to service. Above him sits the Temple of Vulcan and within he can sense the presence of the Primordial. Entering the Temple Vulcan welcomes him, Azhanti is to become his new vessel, to complete his resurrection. Azhanti disagrees, the old ways are over. Vulcan binds him within a tornado and begins to tear the flesh from his body but Azhanti shatters it with ease. Taking to the sky the two of them contend, thunder and lightning roll and Azhanti, in dragon shape, hurls Vulcan from the sky to crash into his temple.

Artemis finds himself in the Shrouded Oasis holding off K’Shatta the renegade High Priestess of Ashura and her skeletal legions but also stood on a beach below the City of Kings. Humanity fills the city and the sounds of celebration drift down to him. The sea is flat and dark and as Artemis watches the water begins to bubble and froth. Mael, the last of the Primoridals emerges from the surf striding onto the beach. He comes for revenge against the man who slew his siblings but also to shape the next world, he plans to wash away all life and begin again. Mael surges forward crashing into Artemis and trying to drown him. Artemis slips away through the aether but Mael is there as well and catches him a solid blow. Artemis crashes to the ground but as he does so he rolls bringing his bow up and sending a stream of fiery bolts against Mael. Each strikes with greater force than the last and Mael is swiftly reduced to a fine mist which slowly fades away (thats a combination of Manticores Volley and action point into Five Missile Dance with every attack hitting taking him out in 1 round).

Scene 3: Creation

Our three heroes each victorious over their adversary find themselves returned to the stone. They are filled with the light of creation and must determine the shape and form of the next version of reality. They decide on a world shaped much as this one, but a gentler and a greener world. It will also be a world free from the influence of gods and demons. The people of the world will be left to make their own decisions, their successes and mistakes their own. The Primordials are banished and their divine children forbidden from direct interference.

Our heroes stand as the Guardians of that Compact. Morn travels the earth as an itinerant warrior, Azhanti guards the borders with chaos in draconic form and Artemis stands in the Underworld save when he slips away to wander the roots and branches of the world tree.

At this point I gave each player the chance to set three facts of the new world.

Morn reforged the prison of man and charged its jailor to establish a force of warriors dedicated to defend humanity; he redeemed Danku Sinesh the doomed man who died at peace and he made slavery a taboo throughout the world.

Artemis returned the lush forests of the Kireshi destroyed by Reptos long ago; he resurrected Akaran Trakar, the tiefling noble he slew in the early days and he established civilisation in the new world with monsters pushed to its edges (very much like Birthright, there are few monsters but they are very dangerous).

Azhanti broke the former Emeprors intermingling of the clans and scattered his people across the world in their respective clans; he restored the Kireshi from the Underworld and he reached back in time elevating his former Clan leaders as his draconic exarchs.

Naturally the Universe also has a hand in things and sometimes it preserves things which might better be left to die. I added the following.

The dwarves were saved, preserved by ancient giant devices. Within their society grows a new Cult, the former cultists of Morn who accepted the curse of flesh to follow him but who he then abandoned. The Cult seeks to build a machine to imprison all Gods and rid the world of their influence forever.

The Tieflings also survive into the new world but there can be no peace between them and the dragonborn. The hatred held by the last Emperor of Arkhosia will ensure that these two races can never live in peace.

Finally a dark shape slithered its way into the new world, a darkness which has lurked within the City of Kings for millennia. It is old and patient and now that both gods and primordials are banished it sees its chance. Hu’Maa, vampire lord and former High Priest of Sopias will fill the night with fangs.

With that the curtain falls and our story ends. As the credits begin to roll each character received an epilogue.

Artemis stands on the roots on the world tree with his sacred band of Pashtun warriors fighting an enormous serpent. He is an Odysseus like figure fighting the monsters that would threaten his world but always burdened by the weight of the Key to the Gates of Hell which pulls him back to his underworld throne.

Azhanti sails through the winds of chaos. Behind him spreads a flight of dragons and before him are cracks in the walls of the Universe. He is called to defend that which he has made.

Morn watches a new Champion rise in the gladiatorial arena of the City of Kings, a contest of free men not slaves. The Champion roars a challenge at the crowd and Morn turns to the camera, “one more time” he says as he leaps down...


*directors special edition post credit cut scene*

Utu Kamla, the first and the last Archmage steps up to the gates of the Library of Ages which swing open at his approach. Crossing to the control panel he smiles, “Hello old friend, I think it’s time for a new adventure, something perhaps in the far future.” With a strange whirring noise and a flash of blue light the Library vanishes.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Session 36: Land of the Dead

We played again tonight, the penultimate session of the campaign. Our heroes have died and their souls pass into the underworld.

Scene 1: The Barge of Souls

They wake, Morn and Azhanti chained to the oars of the barge of the dead. Artemis is free, death has no claim on his soul but to pass back into the land of the living he must leave his friends behind. He chooses to remain and the group is delivered to a bleak and barren shore with many more of the dead.

Wraiths descend on the newly arrived souls but shy away from our heroes, sensing their strength. They are greeted by the soul of Nabonidus who tells them that he has been sent by the Seneschal of the House of the Dead to be their guide. He offers to lead them wherever they wish to go.

The group decide to visit his master and look for a way back to the land of the living. Their trek through the wasteland of the underworld is fairly uneventful. They scavenge weapons and armour from an ancient battlefield and learn some of how the world works.

The ghosts who inhabit this grey world all have something they hold on to. Those who lose who or what they are find themselves drawn into the sea of souls, lost forever. The group don’t ask what is holding Nabonidus here.

Scene 2: Ambush!

The group approaches the City of Gloom, its tall spires and large slum regions reminiscent of the City of Kings. As they pick their way through the rubble they are set upon, the shade of the wizard Paldemar has conjured Hounds of Death to consume them, his final chance at revenge for the many humiliations they have heaped upon him.

Without their signature weapons or armour things initially look dire, the hounds tear great wounds in the bodies of the dead. However, Paldemar makes his first and last mistake, he descends into the group possessing Azhanti. Azhanti is unamused, he has been possessed by a Dragon God and no mere Wizard can hold him for long.

Expelling the possessing spirit the group descend on him with terrible fury. His chance for revenge gone he has nothing left to hold him here and his shade collapses to flow down to the sea.

Scene 3: Old friends, or is that enemies.

The group head into the City, they pass the great clock tower which marks the ages of the world, skirt the pit in the centre of the city where the catacombs of dead gods are interred and finally reach the Grey Palace.

Nabonidus heads inside to announce them and returns some time later. They are denied admittance and told to be gone, beggars and ruffians are not welcome in the Palace of the King of the Underworld.

They decide against pressing the issue and are quickly spotted by an enterprising soul with an eye for profit. He offers to introduce the group to city’s foremost broker of souls, information and power who he is sure can provide them with what they want. All he asks is a small price, a few of Morns grave goods (such articles being currency and a way of influencing the mortal realm). Morn is not having any of it and bullies the minor shade into helping them.

They are taken to The Pit, a hive of scum and villainy in which all sorts of perversions are practiced. Necromancy, soul stealing, blood oaths and more are the lifeblood of this place and the master of it all is the bloated shade of The Grub. He was an occasional ally and enemy of the group from their earliest days whose life they ended but he does not seem to hold any grudges. His palace is opulent and he has collected the markers for many powerful people.

Morn asks to speak to him in private. He offers the Grub a deal. Help them get into the Palace and Morn will release him from the Underworld in the next era. The Grub is tempted but demands a mark of good faith taking the golden chain forged from the sacrifices made by his Northmen on their funeral pyres. Even if Morn fails to free him he will now exert significant influence over parts of his growing cult, feeding them with an overwhelming desire for wealth regardless of how it is obtained.

The Grub tells Morn there are only three ways into the Palace. Over the walls, through the Labyrinth beneath or with the agreement of the Seneschal, Lord Dust (a Lich they have slain twice before).

Scene 4: An Interlude

Before they tackle the Palace there are a couple of detours. Azhanti visits the Temple of Vulcan on the isle of the mad, only fools and lunatics are said to travel there. On the island he finds a ruined Temple and the shade of his old mentor Nihlil, his eyes burned out because he lost his faith. Vulcan has left the Underworld and returned to the land of the living. Azhanti raises up his old friend, heals his wounds and instils a new faith in him, he claims Nihlil as his first Exarch.

Meanwhile Morn and Artemis visit the crumbling villa of the Trak’ar family. Once it was a grand edifice, its ancestors well honoured until Morn and his friends destroyed them in the City of Kings. Now only two sad figures reside there, the shades of Kyia (Morns one time mistress and lover) and her father Akaran. Both were killed by the group and Kyias shade has been driven quite mad.

Akaran tries to consume Morn with his sorcery but it is utterly ineffective. Akaran rages against the two of them but they learn that the Seneschal greatly desires Kyia and if they were to gift her to him then they could certainly ensure their admittance. Morn decides that they will take her (and maybe steal her back later) and as they leave the shade of Akaran collapses, protecting his daughter being the only thing keeping him here.

Scene 5: You must know who we are by now!

Their bargaining tool in hand the group head to the Palace. Lord Dust cheerfully admits them taking the girl and preparing to marry her so he can access her gifts of prophecy.

The group head into the Palace seeking to find the soul of the Blazing Sun so they can bring back a new sun god with them and to reach the Lord of the Underworld to bargain for passage through the Gates of Hell. They are however opposed.

Chaos has sent an Emissary to whisper in the Kings ear and his guards are out in force. Artemis leads the group quickly through the Palace to the Garden of Remorse where they find the Blazing Sun sat by a dark pool staring at a reflection of his lover the Moon. The group try to convince him to come with them but he will not. He explains that passage through the Gates is not without a price and the only thing he has left is his love of the Moon. Morn counters that true love will out, the Gates may take his memories but that will mean he will have the chance to love her anew. Convinced the young sun god agrees to come with them.

Next however they need to convince the Lord of the Underworld to let them out. That will be difficult as Blazing Sun explains that the Lord is his father, Ashura, one time Primordial of life who the group slew.

Before that they need to get to him and chaos has set its behemoths in the way. The group break through but it takes time and guards begin to swarm them. Artemis leads them deep into the Labyrinth where they lose them but the return trek takes a wrong turn and the chase is on again. Morn and Azhanti try to hold them off as Artemis heads off to rescue Kyia from her marriage to Lord Dust. As Artemis slays Lord Dust Azhanti and Morn are captured by a horde of screaming demonic warriors.

Azhanti wakes in a cell, it’s bare and cold and damp with little room to move. In the darkness it would be easy to forget who you are but he refuses. Unveiling his full power he transforms himself, assuming his draconic aspect and shattering the cell door.

Morn finds himself chained to a pillar, tormented by demons and facing once more The Unfettered God. They tear chunks of flesh from him and cruel barbs twist in his innards. His nemesis simply looks on smiling, ignoring him until Morn remembers who he is. His tattoos flare, his wounds heal and he shatters the pillar he is chained to.

The Unfettered God flees and two enraged demigods begin tearing through the Palace. The disruption is more than enough to allow Artemis to slip through an unguarded door into the Throne Room.

Ashura is waiting for him, dressed all in grey and the room is haunted with the shadows of the Kireshi, bound to their creator in death as in life. The two talk for a little while, Ashura will open the Gates if Artemis will return and assume the Throne when his tasks are done. Reluctantly he agrees and order is quickly restored to the Palace.

Ashura passes Artemis the keys to the Gates of Hell and the group make haste. Outside the Clock of Ages begins to sound the ending of the world. The Gates of Hell open, flames fill them, flames which purify any who try and pass through. However, stay too long and they will take all of who and what you are. As the group enters the flames The Unfettered God makes his last play for Morn, grabbing him and trapping him in the fire.

They struggle and Artemis and Azhanti come to his aid, their souls on fire. The four titans battle in the flames and Morn calls for his friends to flee before they are destroyed. They relent and Morn and his old sponsor contest directly with each other. Tattoo magic clashes with demonic might and with a heave Morn slams the gates shut, utterly consuming the Chaos Lord in the fire and escaping, but not without a cost.

As the party erupt back into the living world they see the Blazing Sun rising into the sky in his father’s chariot, a ball of fire encompassing him. Far away bells begin to sound, the end of the world is nigh and the Membin Stone calls all of those who would claim rights to this world to present themselves before it.

*cut scene*

The sun rises for the first time in many weeks and the world grows brighter, a little hope restored. Many of the undead which plagued it are destroyed by its healing light but many survive. In the closed realm of the Shrouded Oasis armies of skeletal warriors battle against the Pashtun desert people; beneath the mountains of the south the dwarves fight pitched battles against beastmen and ghouls; in the hidden world of Frosthome a renegade tiefling priestess enslaved by Reptos raises zombie hordes while outside an army of slaves assaults their mountain city and in the Labyrinth beneath the City of Kings vampires prowl under the command of Hu’Maa, last High Priest of Sopias. Chaos beasts and demons plague all the lands and the world itself seems to be in revolt. Vast armies clash in the final battles of this world. Soon each of them will be tested and only the strong will survive.

What did they give up?

Each member of the group had to give up something important to them in passing through the Gates. This had to be something with a bit of dramatic weight. Morn had to give up two things as he remained in the flames longer.

Artemis gave up his hope of rescuing his mother from the clutches of Reptos.
Azhanti gave up his dream of transforming the Dragonborn into True Dragons.
Morn gave up his connection to the Dwarves becoming a purely human God along with Kyia who was lost to the flames.

At the end of the session the group hit level 30 and the next session is our last. It is also on Friday which is giving me palpitations as it is the culimation of two years of gaming.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Session 35: Dead Rising

We played again last Sunday. It has been a week since the game so my recollection may be a little fuzzy. If I miss anything out I am sure one of the players will remind me.

In our last session the group had corrected the fallout from one of their previous actions, the release of Amaan, by locking him back up and entombing a chunk of his undead army in his Fortress. However, the world is still plagued by vast hordes of undead, the sun has gone out and existence itself teeters on the edge of a precipice. The Void is hungry and Amaan tore a hole in the world through which it might feed.

Tonight the group try to fix that small problem.

Scene 1: A brief pause

First however Artemis is visited by his sister, Kallista, as they make preparations in the Library of Ages. She is concerned about Morn, he has been paying her a lot more attention recently. She doesn’t like it, after all he once loved then murdered her sister. Also he is a God, or very nearly so, and she fears that he will take her if she refuses him. She asks Artemis to protect her if he tries and he agrees.

Before heading off Morn takes a brief detour to the Prison of Man, where failed champions were consigned. He tries to convince the jailor that his task is done but he is unrelenting. There is still one champion who might yet fail and when he does the jailor shall be waiting.

Azhanti busies himself with aiding his people. As the newly risen God of the Dragonborn he invokes a ritual to empower his priesthood, sending each of his temples a Holy Symbol to enhance his priest’s abilities to protect the people against the undead.

Scene 2: Dark Days

Preparations made the group head to the rift. The Library deposits them in the desert on the edge of an enormous chasm, the land seems to have simply collapsed leaving a dismal rift into which the wind howls ceaselessly. The darkness within the rift almost seems to breathe, some malignant intelligence lives within. Undeterred our heroes make their way down.

Morn takes the lead easily picking a way down the rough walls while Azhanti maintains a rumbling chant, invoking the protection of the divine against whatever lives in the darkness. Unfortunately this seems to attract their enemies rather than drive them away and a swarm of wraiths descends screaming into them tearing at their souls before they howl back in to the rift. Artemis looks to follow them hurling himself into the darkness only to crash into the side of the cliff wall. Morn leaps down to protect him as a swarm of wraiths descend on the vulnerable ranger and bellows into the night, revealing himself as a power not to be crossed lightly. The night however is unimpressed and his challenge is absorbed soundlessly by the void leaving Morn chilled to the bone. Stumbling the three demi-gods flee into the caves at the bottom of the chasm and away from the darkness.

Scene 3: The Labyrinth

The group has visited these caves before long ago but they have changed significantly. The stone walls have run like candle wax and strange shapes press through, almost as if monsters were trapped within the rock. As they make their way through the labyrinth they become aware of stone statues in nooks and crannies all around them. Many different races and cultures are represented, each one from a civilisation which has gone extinct. Voices can be heard at the edge of perception whispering the secrets of cultures long since dead. The strongest comes through to Morn “the only way to defeat it is death...” What it might mean is anyone’s guess, at least for now.

As they explore the area Artemis finds himself separated from the others. A tall robed figure beckons him away. As he pursues he finds himself emerging out of a tunnel into an alley in the City of Kings. The sun is shining but the streets are empty, silent! As he explores he finds a few people but their bodies are ash and dust. At the centre of the city stands a Temple, all spires and cobwebs. Inside he finds five altars of the Primordial’s, each adorned with a trophy of their death and at the centre of the temple a new altar to the God of Death, or possibly the Death of Gods. It is his Temple and his world, a world with no gods at all.

With a start Artemis finds himself back with his friends. They continue to explore, heeding deeper into the caves and presently reaching the sprawling fungus fields of the Myconids. The once great mushroom forest has been warped, twisted and overgrown by an alien mould which is consuming what was left of the Myconids after our groups visit. Half absorbed in a wall the group finds Alias Windstorm, one time ally and friend of Artemis. He tells him that to close the rift they must enter it but that to do so is to invite death. He gives him a swift death to ease his pain.

Morn is the next to find himself separated from him companions and he too finds himself in the City of Kings. This version however is clean, orderly and well maintained. Merchants sell their wares safe from thievery and under the protection of well armed watch patrols. A great palace is being built at the centre of the City, built on the backs of thousands of slaves. Outside two statues have been raised, one of himself and the other of his Queen Kallista. Entering the palace he meets himself, or at least a possible future version of himself. Future Morn argues with him that what is done is necessary. They have rescued humanity on multiple occasions and what reward have they received. Nothing! Humanity is weak, foolish and stupid, everyone from the incompetent leaders of the rebellion, the squabbling Pashtun clan chiefs and the nobles of Arkhosia willing to sacrifice their own people to an army of ghouls. It is better that a strong leader take control and give the people what they need, stability, order and peace.

Morn finds himself back in the caves, the words of future Morn still ringing in his ears. The group press on, heading to the Pool of Radiance where once they fought a beholder. Around the pool they find many of the remaining Myconids being hungrily absorbed by the alien fungus. They decide they need to rescue these people and thereby save their racial memory. As they work Azhanti finds himself drawn away.

He too emerges into the City of Kings, but this time it is a mass of rubble and wreckage. A storm rages in the far distance and a great pillar of blood stained white rock rises from the centre of the city. Heading closer he finds the Menbin Stone, the Spike of Law, on which his old mentor Nihlil has been crucified. Nihlil warns him that there is little left in the world, the Storm Lord battles his nemesis and their war has ripped the earth itself asunder. Volcanoes and earthquakes have torn the land apart and the battles between their children, Dragons and Dragonborn have devastated what little was left. Azhanti, the Storm Lord, battles against the old ways of Vulcan but it seems the victor will be left with little but ashes.

Scene 4: Herald of the Void

Returning to the pool Azhanti joins the others. Together they enter the pool and find themselves transported deep beneath the earth into a large cave. A crack runs through the cave out of which void energy is spilling and the figure from their visions sits on a throne of black stone. She leans forward, her cowl shifting to reveal Althea, a sorceress of the Cabal slain long ago by the group. She had sold her soul to several different demons and Amaan rescued it to learn more about those who freed him. Now she is bound as the Herald of the Void and guardian of the rift. “Turn back now, turn back or be slain.”

The group demur and choose violence instead. As they move to attack the enormous bulk of the granddaddy of all beholders emerges from the shadows. A pair of void wraths, all claws and mandibles and sharp pointy bits also make themselves known. Finally Althea also enters the fray, her very presence poisonous to creatures of this world.

Things look desperate, the damage heaped on the group is severe. Then they get worse as Morn collapses under the punishment he is receiving. The wraiths tear terrible wounds in creatures of the physical world and the Beholders great eye chills the soul and leaves its enemies weakened and feeble.

Artemis scrambles to put some distance between himself and his enemies while Azhanti now takes the brunt of the battle. Their foes however underestimate their abilities. Morns tattoos begin to glow as the Champion of Man rises once more and the words of the statues come back to him “the only way to defeat it is death...” He charges Althea and the Wraiths, a Wraith collapsing at his attack. The Beholder seems utterly oblivious to him (We agreed that if a PC went unconscious the Beholder would be unable to attack them unless it was first attacked by that person. It fit the secret of the statue rather nicely) and Althea, pressed on all sides flees, teleporting into the rift.

The group waste no time in following her. They plunge into the life ending cold on the rift and fall far far down onto a stone platform hanging in the Void. Ancient arcane machinery lies scattered all over the rune carved slab channelling the energy of the Void into keeping the rift open. In desperation Althea swears to overload the rift, closing it but sucking the entire desert region down into oblivion (including the Shrouded Oasis). Unhappy with this plan the group summarily murder her, again. As she dies she spits out her last curse, calling on her masters to give her vengeance. From the depths of the Void nameless horrors reach out to the stone slab and begin to tear it apart. Azhanti takes on dragon form and snatches the others in his claws and beats a hasty retreat out of the Void. Unfortunately it is too far and his wounds are too many, his strength giving out all three of our heroes fall back into the Void, their bodies shrivel, their souls burn and darkness falls. Our heroes are dead.

*cut scene*

Hanging low over the eastern sky the Hidden Moon watches the fall of our heroes. With them goes the hope of all living things (or so say some). Fearing for the end of all things she turns her face from world putting out the last of its lights. So begins the Greater Darkness, the last days before the ending of the World. In the distance bells begin to toll and the stars go out as the Membin Stone begins to rise.

*cut scene*

In the capital of the Arkhosian Empire funeral pyres burn and sacrifices are made so that their God might live well in the underworld. The Priests of Azhanti mourn the loss of their God, the priests of Vulcan mourn the loss of the Son of Vulcan and the people of the empire mourn the death of their greatest protector. All across the Empire grim faced legionnaires take to the walls of their cities for the last time. Beyond the few remaining points of light terrible monsters of chaos roam freely and soon they will turn their attention to the few remaining survivors.

*cut scene*

A circle of stones stands on a low hill rising out of the cold tundra of Iceholm. There the devotees of Morn gather to bid farewell to their God. An effigy is burned in his place on the ancient stones and songs are sung of bravery and courage. Drink flows freely and each man sacrifices something precious to him, a gift to the God in the Underworld. In the shadows of their fire a young Tiefling woman watches the ceremonies. In the small town several miles away rest a small force of her people, all she could save from the influence of Reptos. Together they will stand against his army when they come against the Hold tomorrow.

*cut scene*

The hidden paths to the Shrouded Oasis have been exposed. K’Shatta, once High Priestess of Ashura, has raised warriors of a lost civilisation from the sands of the desert. Now she seeks to reclaim her homeland from those who have stolen it and have her revenge on the man who murdered her God.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Session 34: The Earthshaker Wakes

We played yesterday after a month long break due to scheduling conflicts. In the last session the players tried to stop Amaan, undead monster and former Emperor of the Giants, from getting hold of the Void Star, a weapon of mass destruction created by the Ancients. Now they must try and stop him before he can use the device which was created to destroy the Primordials.
Scene 1: The Return
First however there is the small matter of Artemis whose head was separated from his body at the end of the session. As Azhanti and Morn flee to the safety of the Library Artemis wakes in the ash covered plains of the Underworld. Plains of jagged obsidian shards surround him and the sky above swells the colour of old bruises. However, he is the God Slayer and Master of the Hunt, bound to the World Tree whose roots reach into every part of the Cosmos. Slowly he begins his journey back to the land of the living passing the frozen and tormented souls of the damned trapped forever in this dismal place.
Back in the land of the living Azhanti and Morn return to a message from Finnest, their dwarven ally, astrologer and warlock. He predicts that they will shortly move against Amaan. Finnest tells them that Amaan cannot be killed, the giants of the past were only able to imprison him. They then ordered the dwarven astrologers to conceal all knowledge of him from the world which they did by moving a small moon to block his star. The only records of how he was imprisoned are hidden in the archives which Finnest intends to search. He asks the group to move quickly lest he fall under the mental influence of the Emperor along with the rest of his race.
Scene 2: Who are you again?
With Artemis returned the group make their plans. They decide to adopt the direct approach. They have access to the gate keys for every linked portal in the world and employ them to penetrate Amaans citadel. Overpowering the guards with ease they find themselves at the base of his capital in the heart of the southern mountains.
They start off employing stealth, moving quietly through the lower levels which comprise slave quarters and prison cells. The area is heavily patrolled by beast-men, the twisted results of Amaan’s attempts to create life. There they also find Ryllandarus, the first shapechanger and one of Amaans hated foes. They decide to create some confusion and swiftly slay the shapeshifters guards and release many of the dwarven prisoners, those who refused to submit to the Emperors command. The Rebellion has begun!
Scene 3: The Lifebringer Speaks!
The next stop is the middle city, a sprawl of living quarters, food production and most importantly the forges and foundries. Here Amaan has his dwarven subjects forging terrible new weapons of death and war, all watched over by demonic overseers. Amaan controls the dwarves through his connection to the Imperial Throne but the Hammer of Maran Gor is also a symbol of rulership for them and Morn carries that.
The group decide to put the Hammer to use and try to throw off Amaans yoke and free more of the dwarves. Sneaking into place Artemis sets up the distraction, sending masses of chains and vats of molten metal crashing from the ceiling. Azhanti tries to bend the bound elementals of the forge to attack the overseers but instead enrages them and they break their bonds and begin to destroy everything in their path. Morn takes up his position at the heart of the forge where rivers of molten metal flow together.
He plunges the hammer deep into the very substance of the dwarves being (dwarves being cast out of one of three metals, Iron, Silver or Gold) and channels the hammers power. Molten metal flows over the channels and sweeps towards the dwarves in the forge, infusing their bodies with a fragment of his power. They cast off their chains and, eyes glowing blue, charge their captors. In the throne room above Amaan roars in fury and sends his undead forces against those who dare to defy him.
The combined demonic and undead forces begin to overwhelm the dwarves when Morn steps forward once more. “Arise” he commands and the metals of the forge flow around the fallen dwarves, are absorbed by them and they rise up again to throw back the enemy into disarray. Leaving the dwarves to battle the group quickly head further up the mountain.
Scene 4: The Children of Fate
In the upper levels they reach the Eerie, a tall wide shaft with many balconies leading from it. Here lair the Furies, angelic beings attracted to those with powerful destinies. They were the first of the children of the Primoridals but were cast aside as they could not bear children. Amaan rescued them and they in turn have served them. The group decide on the direct approach, to impress on them that their destiny is the stronger.
The Furies are utterly unconvinced, they have accomplished great things it is true but much of what they have done has simply fuelled Amaans likely victory. They do learn that Amaan serves the forces of Oblivion, the powers of the Void beyond the circles of Law and Chaos, and that all of the world might yet be sucked into the Void.
Scene 5: Captured! Or not...
Undeterred they make their way to the highest level of the citadel where Amaan keeps his throne room. Unfortunately for them a series of blunders and missteps leaves them captured by his forces, trapped in a necrotic web and brought before him in chains.
They trade insults for a while. Amaan taunts them with his, to him, inevitable victory, a victory only they have made possible. The group released him from imprisonment, they have slain Primordials, the very pillars of creation and they put out the sun allowing his undead army to expand massively. He has also now activated the Void Star and soon it will burrow into the earth and slay his mother Maran Gor and with her death throes the continent of Arkhosia will also be destroyed. With their help he has tipped the balance of the world in favour of Oblivion and now, with the opening of the Well of Udur, it will slide into nothingness ripping a tear in the fabric of the Universe itself.
The group are having none of it. With a snarl Azhanti shatters their bonds and Morn calls upon the spirits of the fallen champions of humanity. The sound of chains breaking rings in the room and a host of ghostly warriors flows into existence surrounding the throne and holding Amaans forces at bay. He has been cut off from most of his allies, there is only him, a pair of fire burned angels, a Pit Fiend general, a swarm of dread wraiths and a company of Abyssal Ghouls.
It should have been enough. It should but it was not. Morn moves swiftly to pin down the Pit Fiend while Amaan tries to pin down the group. He draws the fragmented spirits of his tormented victims from the onyx floor but they can find no purchase on the souls of our heroes. Azhanti bolsters the group and blocks one of the angels while Artemis unleashes hell on earth. The God Slayer lives up to his name and ghouls and wraiths fall before him like leaves before the storm (oh Hail of Arrows how I hate thee!). The angels prove similarly vulnerable to both Artemis and Azhanti and soon Amaan stands alone.
The nine members of the dwarven leadership caste stand watch around the throne, bound here by Amaans will when one throws off his mask. It is Finnest who calls to Morn that he must use the Hammer to bind Amaan in the throne. Amaan, seeing the possibility of eternal imprisonment seeks escape and his spirit tries to flee its body but the flaming arrows of Ashura’s bow drive him back while Azhanti incants and Morn hammers him into place. As Amaan is taken Morn invokes the Hammers power once more and the earth rises up to engulf his undead and demonic forces.
As silence descends Azhanti becomes aware of panicked voices calling his name. His people cry out in fear and alarm, the Void Star has begun to tear apart Arkhosia!
Scene 6: The Earthsaker Wakes
Drawing on the power of the Library the group quickly transport themselves to the plains of central Arkhosia where a vast pit has been dug into the ground. Azhanti summons local dragons to carry them down into the depths where they find a huge cavern. Within stands Maran Gor, the earth titan. She dominates the caves her body composed of living rock but she is surrounded by the Void Star, its crystalline form carving chunks from her and primordial blood flows freely into the ground.
She watches them come for her, the God Killers who have slain her brothers. What will they do? The group have committed themselves to removing the Primordials from their world but they have seen what happens when they die. The death of Ashura put out the sun. Maran Gor has turned away from the world leaving it to the younger races but she is saddened by their choices. She berates them for their actions which have brought the world to the brink of extinction. If they want to prevent the slide into oblivion then they must close the Well of Udur and restore the balance between the living and the undead.
Ultimately the group decide to stop the Void Star. The risk of further deterioration should another Primodial die is too great. As Maran Gor slips once more into her slumber the group are faced with a new task, to oppose the Lords of Entropy lest all of their destines come to a sudden end.
*cut scene*
In the Halls of the Grey King, deep within the Underworld, the spirit of the Wizard Paldemar bends over an ancient scrying device. Within the orb he watches Artemis Antarion trudge across the Plains of Remorse and begins to plan. If his most hated enemies ever return to the Underworld then he will be ready for them.
*cut scene*
In the City of Kings a dozen golden barges rise above the skyline. Reptos, Warlord of the World, moves his armies to confront his greatest foe. Soon he will face Ouroborous, the Ebon Dragon of Endings and decide once and for all which power will dominate at the end of time, Law or Chaos. His vision for a perfect unchanging world is clear in his mind, he will let nothing stand in his way now.
*cut scene*
In the deepest caves of the dwarven mountains, in the most unused and least travelled tunnels, a small group of dwarves meets in secret to carve a statue. It is their new God, one who has saved them from enslavement, torture and death. They know that their actions are utterly heretical and that if found they will be cast out, forced to endure the curse of flesh but their hearts are sure. In the light from their glowing blue eyes they carve the image of their new deity into living rock, Morn, the Bringer of Life.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Session 33: Rise of the Machines

We played again tonight. The first section was a bit of a scene setting for the PC’s to cover some of the stuff which happened at the end of the last session. Azhanti spent time putting the Empire into order and unleashing the Dragons to give his people a fighting chance. Morn meanwhile headed home to stop the slave army of Reptos, neatly collapsing a mountain pass to protect them for a while. This also continued to cement his legend as a God to his people, something which annoys him no end.
When the message from the Belmondo the Artificer arrives the group decides to decamp post haste to the southern continent to recover the weapon of mass destruction.
Scene 1: They're digging in the wrong place!
Their arrival is not without incident. Ancient wards send them crashing into the side of a mountain but they quickly recover and head into the ruins of the City of the Ancient Race (essentially elves which are otherwise not present in the setting). They were a race which arose at the beginning of time and they built many mighty works, the vast city being but one of them. Somewhere within its ruins is the Void Star, a God built by that race to destroy the Primordials.
Belmondo greats them warmly, initially appearing to be a loyal mind controlled servant of the Empire. He tries to dissuade the PC’s from hanging around, stressing that the work goes slowly and that they surely have better things to do. They demur and Azhanti quickly discerns that Belmondo has slipped imperial control. As realisation dawns Belmondo strikes, animating several huge battle golems and a set of assassin droids.
The battle is fierce, the droids prove remarkably agile and keep trying to chase down Artemis but the Golems cannot manage to land a solid blow on Morn. Belmondo directs his golems ably but they are not enough. Artemis breaks free from his pursuers and lands a series of devastating blows on the magician. With his death passes the last of the Cabal magi of the City of Kings.
With the wizards death the Golem army ceases its excavation of the City. The group begin their own delving, eventually finding their way to the upper levels. There they find a map of the lower levels with several interesting sections marked on the map which the group decide to explore before heading to the central power core.
Scene 2: Dark Dungeons
The Resurrection Chamber is their first destination. Here they find hundreds of members of the ancient race lying in suspended animation, the system designed to wake them having failed. The group head off quickly when trying to remove the strange technology proves extremely difficult. They head to the Dawn Forge where their weapons were forged in ancient times. Trying to reactivate the forges to empower their weapons they instead flood the forge with chaos and are forced to flee. Their explorations lead them to the Star Drive where the secrets of creating flying cities which can travel between worlds are there for the taking. The group pass on and find themselves in the Navigation section. Here they unlock the hidden codes to the portal system, portals initially built by the ancients. Now they can control Gates across the world, changing, diverting, opening or closing them as required. They press on.
Time is running out as they are not the only ones here. Danku Sinesh, the doomed man and agent of the giant Emperor Amaan is also here looking for the weapon.
Scene 3: Throw him in the pit!
Breaking into the power chamber they find him already there with his dwarven allies. A gold dwarf astrologer works at a console trying to take control of the Void Star, a mass of crystal and dark radiance spinning within a huge pit. Sinesh lounges arrogantly against the railing. He and Morn trade insults and then the battle is on.
Their enemies strike quickly, Sinesh moves with lightning speed and in a flash Artemis is unconscious on the floor and bleeding out. Azhanti manages to drag him back from near death and tries to descend on the dwarves but is quickly intercepted. Morn pins down the doomed man but reaching the astrologer proves difficult in the face of his iron dwarf allies.
Artemis manages to recover and tries to teleport away from Sinesh. Unfortunately the crumbling wards send him off target and he reappears over the pit falling once again to his demise.
The Thunder Brothers block Azhanti’s approach while Morn remains pinned down with Sinesh. Artemis up again struggles to get into position and the group are running out of time. In desperation they look for alternative options and decide to target the power generators.
Unfortunately Artemis cannot help as Sinesh slips from Morns grasp and strikes him down. Standing over his unconscious form he separates his head from his body. As the dwarven ritual reaches its climax the group are saved by battlecat who destroys the last of the generators.
As their enemies fade away the Void Star loses power and the city begins to collapse. Amaan claims his prize but it’s a pyrrhic victory unless he can find a new power source to activate his weapon.
*cut scene*
In the Throne Room of Reptos, Tyrant of the World, his courtiers, princes and slaves cower in terror. The Tyrant rages at the closing of the portals. No longer can he use them to send his slave armies to every corner of the world. Now he sets his Taken to crafting new battle barges, huge floating platforms which will allow him to cross the oceans and spread his tyranny.
*cut scene*
In the southern province of the Empire of Arkhosia chaos giants rampage at will. Now finally the dragons have been unleashed and the two powers battle each other in a conflict which tears the earth apart.
*cut scene*
In the depths of the mountains, in the ancient capital of the Giants Amaan, newly installed Emperor slowly melts down the minions who failed him, returning them to the forges from which they were cast. Their screams echo through the ancient hallways while Danku Sinesh watches. Amaan regards the doomed man with a calculating eye. “I would have sealed you in a block of lead for all eternity for having failed me human but return to me the power source you spoke of and I shall forgive your incompetence...”

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Session 32: Rise of a Dragon God Part 2

We played again this Sunday and the session built on the events of the last one. Azhanti has established himself as a power within the Empire and now he seeks to use that to fuel a power play against the Emperor himself.

Scene 1: Search your feelings!

Of course nothing can ever be quite that simple. First the capital city is currently under siege from the flying city ships of the Lokarnos. Second the Imperial Palace is perhaps the most heavily guarded place in the world, virtually impregnable (unfortunately for them the city around it isn’t and is in line to be flattened by the Lokarnos). Third Azhanti made a deal a while back with the High Priestess of Panath, Goddess of Serpents, Treachery and Deceit to make her his Queen. Azhanti decides to tackle the Panath issue head on. Panath has subverted the worship of a large section of one of the Dragonborn Clans and Azanti wants them back. He plans to unite the entire Dragonborn nation under his leadership so the group decamp to the City of the Serpent to hash things out.

Their entrance into the Temple is uncontested and Tamus is capable of providing no real opposition to them. Azhanti’s presence however does draw out Panath and the Queen of Serpents is drawn into her temple statue and speaks to them through a dozen insensate priests.The two exchange insults for a while. Azhanti demands that Panath give up her hold over the dragonborn and she refuses. She threatens to wipe out his nascent Cult and claims that she, and the Emperor, are clutch brothers. None of them are dragonborn, instead they were unborn true dragons pushed into dragonborn form when the Primordials stole the last of the dragon eggs to use to build the world. Azhanti is dubious but there is nothing to be done. Panath refuses the direct confrontation and the group must look elsewhere for a way past the defences of the Imperial Palace.

Scene 2: Take out the Lightning Shield!

That route is provided by the Lokarnos. Six huge city ships are taking up position to bombard the capital and some quick negotiations give the group access to one to ram into the Emperors lightning shield and force an entry. The daughters of Mael who lead the Lokarnos want the Emperor dead and plan on taking out much of the city and surrounding countryside as well so the group need to hurry if Azhanti is to save his city and his people.

Smashing their way into the Palace they force an entrance but are swiftly confronted by the Twin Star Sisters, demigoddesses in service to the Empire and the Emperors personal bodyguards. They wield powers of fire and ice, complementing each other and are backed up by the Praetorian Guard. Unfortunately they are unprepared for the onslaught and one sister falls quickly leaving the other vulnerable. She is swiftly dispatched.

As they fall Panath chooses that moment to attack. She strikes silently from the shadows and then tries to fade away. Unfortunately she cannot quite contend with Morns ability to demolish large areas of scenery and is quickly exposed. In open play she loses the advantage and cannot reclaim it. She is quickly dispatched and Azhanti takes her children as his own as Azhanti-Panath!

Scene 3: Once upon a time in Arkhosia

However, the groups entrance has triggered every alarm in the Palace, and time is now of the essence. As they rush through lush gardens and private courtyards their advance is halted by a figure stood framed against the moon. “Artemis Antarion, you and I have unfinished business.” It is Kallista, Artemis’s tiefling half sister and agent of the Emperor. Sending the others ahead Artemis stays to deal with his family issues.

Morn and Azhanti breach the inner palace and find themselves on the edge of a huge parade ground, the Emperors personal palace at its centre. As they rush across more of the Praetorian Guard begin swarming in. Hundreds of spear wielding warriors fill the courtyard and archers begin to covers the walls. Morn turns to face them, holding them off to allow Azhanti time to confront the Emperor.

Scene 4: Unfinished Business

Artemis faces his sister. The two have not seen each other for some time. She hates him for killing her father, the only parent she ever knew as Artemis rescued her mother from their estate not long after she was born. For his part his is unrepentant. Her father kidnapped and raped his mother and the tieflings have persecuted his people for hundreds of years. He deserved to die.

Kallista charges knives drawn. The battle is a fast and furious one, both possessed of unnatural levels of speed and strength. Kallista presses him again and again trying to close while Artemis dances away into the shadows trying to convince her that he only did what he had to do. She seems unwilling to listen so reluctantly he opens fire trying to wear her down. The two engage in a dance of death, leaping from rooftop to tree branch, each seeking advantage over the other but it is Artemis who strikes the telling blow.

Kallista staggers, her eyes cloud and she pauses. As she does Artemis spots a small green serpent, invisible until now, wrapped around her throat. Kallista hesitates and it sinks its fangs into her neck and she shudders, turning to try and kill him again. As she charges Artemis leaps over her, twisting in mid air to slip the snake from around her neck and crushing it beneath his boot. Kallista collapses, looking up at him her eyes are filled with sadness, regret and a haunted look she may never lose. She throws herself into his arms, free at last from the Emperors influence. In the distance bells begin to ring.

Scene 5: Hold the Line

Morn stands before the entrance to the Palace, an entire battalion of troops before him. As one they charge, desperate to protect the Emperor and Morn charges back. There is a bone crunching impact and dozens of warriors are hurled away from the terrible hammer blows. They fall back and regroup. Shields are locked, spears levelled and as one the phalanx moves forward. Dozens of warriors pile onto Morn seeking to drag him down through sheer weight of numbers. Beneath the pile a dim blue glow can be seen as, with a roar, Morn hurls them off him scattering their formation.

Any normal force faced with such an enemy would have broken and ran by now but these are no mere mortal soldiers. They are the Emperors elite, his personal guards and they have faced more than one enraged demigod in their time. They circle Morn and, spears extended, seek to trap him within a cordon of steel. He is having none of it and with a series of hammer blows he shatters the battalion. As they scatter a trumpet blows and the archers take position. A flight of arrows fills the night sky but Morn remains undiminished, shield raised he weathers the storm. As they crash to the ground all around him bells begin to ring.

Scene 6: Your arrogance is your weakness

Azhanti enters the throne room, a huge columned hall filled with elegant silk hangings displaying the banners of every nation brought under the Emperor’s dominion. At the far end is the ruby throne, the seat of power carved from a single huge gemstone. Sat in it is the shrunken figure of Khitai, Emperor of Arkhosia. He looks terrible and he cradles a crystal orb in his arms. The two exchange words briefly, the Emperor asserts that Azhanti has compromised his soul, he has been tricked by Amaan, the last ruler of the Giants (and an undead one at that who the group freed). He offers him the Orb of Draconus, a dragonborn artefact which records the lives of every dragonborn who has ever lived through each of their incarnations (dragonborn reincarnate as adults from their original egg, there are no dragonborn children).

There can be only one outcome of this confrontation. Azhanti seeks the position of Emperor, Khitai will not relinquish it to someone who may be a pawn of Amaan. Azhanti issues a formal challenge and it is accepted. The Palace bells begin to ring, summoning the Court to witness the battle.

Azhanti has a little time to reflect on his upcoming battle and he uses it to explore the Orb. He discovers some of the secrets of Panath and then turns its attention to himself. In it he sees Amaan send his furies to influence his dreams, showing him what he wanted to see and driving him towards this point. Amaan seeks vengeance against the dragons and their children who usurped the rule of the giants and the splintering of the Empire is merely his first step. As Azhanti delves deeper into the Orb he finds his mind being drawn away, it shows him the Empire on the brink of collapse, it shows the forces arrayed against them as vast and unstoppable and in the background is the mocking laughter of Amaan. These are the images he has shown Khitai which have left him paralysed with indecision and doubt, left the Empire vulnerable and so close to complete collapse.

Scene 7: Fight!

The Court has gathered at the place of challenge. The chancellor calls for order and the challenger Azhanti is brought forward. Beyond the precincts of the Palace the Lokarnos city ships can be seen. They have begun their bombardment and soon there won’t be anything left to save. Both challenger and challenged may choose to fight alone or with their clutch brothers. Azhanti chooses Morn and Artemis. Khitai chooses to fight alone, unable or unwilling to show weakness. It will prove to be a mistake. The Emperor strikes first, he is fast, dangerous and resilient and Azhanit quickly finds himself in trouble. However, Morn proves himself the more capable defender keeping the Emperor pinned down but not before Azhanti is driven to his knees. However, he is not the Avatar of Storm for nothing, lightning flares searing Khitai as he surges back to the attack.

Outnumbered Khitai finds himself pressed. He tries time and again to disengage from Morn to reach his target but cannot. All the while Artemis and Azhanti unleash terrible punishment on him. Khitai looks like he will fall when something within him snaps. His eyes fill with flame and he seems to come to life. He casts off the pall which has fallen over him and rises to his full height. His wings unfurl and fire kindles all through the arena. The Emperor enraged unleashes his full fury on Morn who staggers but does not fall. Morns resilience has become legendary and not even an enraged Dragon Emperor can daunt him now. Khitai, first and last Son of Vulcan and Emperor of Arkhosia falls and for his arrogance Azhanti imprisons his soul in the very statue Khitai had prepared to trap the soul of Venemus. As one the Court kneels, “All hail Azhanti, God Emperor of Arkhosia.”

In the distance much of the capital and the surrounding countryside is smoking rubble and the Lokarnos bombardment continues. Azhanti ascends into the sky and as he does so he calls on Fulmenus, the Blue Dragon to aid him. He moves to confront the Lokarnos City Ships and the seven daughters of Mael. They are an arrogant bunch, more so now given they are united for the first time in a thousand years. They seem inclined to continue to seek their revenge until Azhanti reminds them of just what he and his allies have accomplished. They decide that the death of Khitai and demolishing of his capital is enough to sate their vengeance and the ships begin to slowly move away.

Calling on the power of Fulemnus Azhanti sends a burst of lightning throughout the City, deep into the earth and the caves below where the Imperial Dragon Host sleeps. As one the dream dragons awake and their riders rush to prepare. Their Emperor has finally called upon them.

*cut scene*

Sometime later a Minister brings Azhanti a message received while Khitai was still Emperor. It is from the Wizard Belmondo, an old enemy and member of the Cabal and now an Imperial Agent. “My Lord, we have discovered it, the City of the Ancients. I have sent you the co-ordinates but I am convinced that the weapon must be buried somewhere beneath the ruins. Soon you will have access to the Void Star, the death of worlds, and none of your enemies will be able to stand against you!”

*cut scene*

Deep beneath the earth lies the Well of Life. It is an ancient place, sacred once to the children of Ashura. It was corrupted by the Entropic Lord Shraal who was killed by the group some time ago. Now the Giant Emperor Amaan has come to take possession of it. He has filled it with the blood of a thousand angels and performed blasphemous rites carved onto the hides of bound demons in his service. Now his ritual comes to fruition as he closes the Well. The tide of life giving energy falters, stops and finally reverses.

On long forgotten battlefields armies of skeletons rise to march on Empires long since fallen to dust; from mass graves hordes of zombies emerge to feed on terror and flesh and in ancient necopoli and mausoleums mummies and spectres seek to usurp their descendants. However, perhaps most horrific of all, unborn life the world over dies and mothers to be are slain by their own undead offspring, cannibalistic ghouls devouring them from within.

*cut scene*

With the rise of the undead menace the remaining human Kingdoms flock to the banner of Reptos and his slave army swells. Now he begins to exert his power and the long dormant portals of his Empire flare back into life. In the deserts of the south his armies lay siege to the Shrouded Oasis, seeking to find its hidden gateways. In the mountains of the North the people of Frosthome retreat to their sacred mountain in the face of his advance. Reptos demands dominion over all of humanity.

However, the bulk of his forces move directly against the Wyrm Ouroborous. Chaos is the enemy of Order and Reptos seeks to make himself the one true Lord of Order, the ultimate and eternal Tyrant.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Session 31: Rise of a Dragon God Part 1

Scene 1: Old Friends

Having dealt with Ashura the group now turn to deal with Khitai, the Dragonborn Emperor of Arkhosia. They have clashed with his forces in the past, disabling his fleet as it attacked the City of Kings, escaping or killing his assassins on several occasions and ramming one of his skyships. In that time Azhanti has grown in influence within the Empire. He has formed an alliance with the Cult of Panath, assumed the mantle of the Avatar of the Storm and caused deep divisions within the Church of Vulcan. Now he prepares to make his final move but first he must show that he is willing to protect the Empire.

First on the agenda are the lost legion, a force of Imperial Sardukar abandoned in the North when the alliance with the Lokarnos collapsed. They have been captured by the forces of Reptos and he prepares to crucify them all. The group make a stealthy entrance into the City of Sarind. Only a little moonlight lights their way and in the air above the Taken patrol the city. Artemis leads them through the ancient and crumbling sewers and they quickly reach the slave pens where the Dragonborn wait for their execution. The night air is filled with their death dirge.

Artemis makes quick work of the locks and Azhanti implores his people to seek hope, a new saviour has come (him obviously) and they have a chance to redeem themselves. A portal is swiftly opened to the Library but as the evacuation begins they are discovered, the golden clad Herald of Reptos appears to deny them their escape. Artemis is startled to discover that it is his mother, Taken by Reptos and now his slave but he doesn’t allow sentiment to stand in his way. The group attacks, Morn crashing into the Herald but her claim that “no weapon may harm her” proves to be true and he finds himself stunned by his own blow.

With a brief look of regret the Herald does the only thing she can and summons her master. Reptos emerges from the shadows and draws a blade from thin air. “You recognise this I think, I took it from a hag of your acquaintance.” It is Soulstealer, the weapon wielded by Zirithian the Vampire which can kill even Immortals. Reptos strikes and his blows deal terrible wounds to Morn who staggers in the face of the onslaught. The Dragonborn continue to flee and the group only have to hold him off for a little while for them to escape. Artemis even hurls himself bodily at the Warlord, dragging him to the ground but he finds himself flung away. Morn is struck down but as he does so his tattoos flare and his strength returns. As the last of the Dragonborn flees through the Portal the group run, Reptos will have to wait for another time. Once they are safe Azhanti promptly anoints a number of the rescued warriors as Paladins in his service.

Scene 2: The First Gate

With a large force of Dragonborn warriors the group decide to tackle the second problem, the siege of the Nightwyrm fortress by an army of vampires and cannibalistic ghouls. Their arrival comes at a fortuitous moment, the many tiered citadel is under attack yet again and the group moves quickly to help defend the walls.

What they find is a vision of horror, hundreds of thousands of ghouls assault the citadel, vast necromantic war machines move up behind them and flowing through the army are hundreds of swirling spectral vampires. The air reeks with the stench of death and decay and both Morn and Azhanti can feel the fear emanating from both human and Dragonborn refugees.

Azhanti takes the lead descending to the wall with his newly inaugurated Paladins and on mass they Turn Undead. Thousands of ghouls explode at their arrival and the host is thrown back. Artemis takes the opportunity to lead a sortie against the enemy but they recover quickly and push back. The postern gate is taken and the wall threatens to fall. Morn tries to block the entrance by toppling an enormous statue across the breach but in his clumsiness only widens it. The defenders are forced to fall back and all looks lost. As the army routs across the connecting bridges the doors to two large buildings swing open and hundreds of terrified, sickly or old slaves pour out into the courtyard. The ghouls, sensing an easy meal descend on them buying the troops time to reach the next level and destroy the bridges. Only two more levels remain.

The group are not pleased. Although feeding the slaves to the ghouls saved those still able to fight it strikes against something deep within each of them. Various underlings are punched in the face until Morn manages to speak to the General who ordered the plan. He is unapologetic, his duty is to hold the citadel and protect the millions who live in the eastern province and besides they were slaves provided to them by the humans. Azhanti orders him not to repeat the tactic while Morn and Artemis head off to confront the person responsible. They find him living in a luxuriously appointed palace, filled with slaves and functionaries with incense and perfumes to hide the stench from outside. Morn is unimpressed with the minor prince who has found himself de facto ruler of the mass of humanity here. Words are exchanged following which Morn throws him off a wall to be eaten by ghouls.

Meanwhile Azhanti has paid a visit to the Temple of Vulcan. There he finds one of his High Priestesses. She has taken in many of the sick and the wounded and her initiates tend to their wounds while she prepares a ritual to dedicate the entirety of the summit of the Citadel to Vulcan and thereby sanctify the ground against the undead. The two clash, each testing the others faith but neither are moved.

Scene 3: The Second Gate

Alarm bells ring, the next wall is under attack. Out of the smoke and fire a monstrous creature can be seen emerging. If some mad wizard were to conjure an earth elemental from a graveyard then this might be the result. Its body is a mixture of earth, rock, bones and gravestones, its fingers are huge slabs of stone which dig into the walls as it hauls itself up. What’s worse are the dozens of chains attached to its massive body, chains the ghouls are using to scale the walls.

The group hurry to confront the abomination. If they cannot kill it quickly then the walls will be overcome but it is amazingly resilient and many ghouls also swarm into the battle. Azhanti is pulled down and falls but as he does so lightning surges all around him. He rises into the air and all across the wall ghouls are reduced to ash. Despite the creatures resilience it cannot stand up to our heroes and as it crashes to the earth below they stand proud on the walls, power flaring all around them as they challenge the armies leader, the Lich Lord Dust, to meet them face to face.

He declines.

Our group have a plan. The city is sealed from teleportation effects by Dusts necromantic siege engines. If they can destroy them and open a portal to the Shrouded Oasis then they can bring real sunlight into the battle if only for a little while. The Vampires would be destroyed, the army dismayed and perhaps Lord Dust exposed.

Scene 4: The Third Gate

Azhanti chooses to call upon the Dragons, four more favours he has from them and so he calls upon Incendus, the Fire Dragon. The city shakes and from the mountains behind them a vast shape emerges. Its wings blot out the sky as the mile long Dragon God descends upon the host. A gout of flame engulfs the entire rear section of the invading army obliterating its war machines in the blink of an eye. As it does so the group open the Gate, sunlight pours through bathing the city in its purifying presence. Hundreds of Vampires explode into dust and the ghouls recoil in horror. Only one spot remains unaffected, a bubble of darkness too deep for any light to penetrate.

Lord Dust is exposed and the group strike. Azhanti transforms himself into a dragon and descends carrying Morn and Artemis into the heart of darkness. There the group once again fight the ancient Lich. The battle is a strange affair, vampires and ghouls flow around the battlefield while Dust proves to be extremely tricky to pin down. However, his evasiveness cannot last forever and as his minions fall to claw and hammer and bow his finds himself outnumbered and outgunned. He calls for parley and Morn crushes his skull with his mace and jumps up and down on his bones.

As Dust falls Azhanti receives a sending, something terrible is happening at the temple of Vulcan, he must come at once. He quickly takes to the air, the battle still rages below, even bereft of their leader the vast army of ghouls presents a serious threat. Morn and Artemis take to the walls and implore the Dragonborn to believe, in both themselves and Azhanti. Azhanti lands on the upper level and shifts to his humanoid form, the Temple is dark and nothing stirs.

As he enters the smell of blood is fresh in the air. In the main sanctum the bodies of the refugees lie, their blood pooling on the floor. The High Priestess stands at the altar, tears running down her scaled cheeks. “What have you done” he asks. “You have left me no choice. You are an abomination, a power hungry and self aggrandising fool. You will destroy us all. If you succeed here then your name will resound throughout the Empire. I cannot allow that. I have opened a gateway to the army below. The ghouls will pour through this place and slaughter our troops from behind. This battle will be the single greatest failure in the history of the Empire and the blame for that will fall on you. With this stain on your soul you will not be able to challenge the Emperor.”

Azhanti’s axe flies from his hand burying itself in her chest as the ritual completes and the pool of blood shimmers and changes. The portal has opened and the ghoul army scents fresh blood. Weaponless, Azhanti steps into the Gate to face the onrushing ghouls. Lightning flares all around him incinerating the first wave. As he drinks in the power creating the gate storm winds blow all around him driving back the second wave. Finally with an eruption of divine power the final wave is shattered and the Gate collapses. With its fading energy Azhanti once again announces his presence to his people. All across the Empire in the Temples of Vulcan the statues of the old God explode leaving behind a new symbol, the crossed lightning bolts of Azhanti, Avatar of the Storm. The God Emperor is coming and he wants everyone to know it.

The matter of the ghoul army still remains to be dealt with. Azhanti once again calls on the Dragon Gods, this time on Acerbus, the Green Dragon. The ground beyond the Citadel begins to heave and buckle and acid boils up out of the depths. As the enormous dragon emerges from the ground the ghouls try to flee but none escape, all are dissolved. As he emerges from the Temple Azhanti brings with him a cleansing storm to wash away the blood, the bodies and the fear. Behind him a tall slender Dragonborn with shining green scales watches him leave. “Soon my brother, very soon.”

*cut scene*

Outriders from the army of Reptos scour the plains and the deserts of the south at the command of their master. In the skies above the Taken search for any sign of the Pashtun people. Their great stone mesas are broken into but they are empty. In his Palace Reptos rages at a people who have escaped him. The Pashtun have fled into the Shrouded Oasis to escape his dominion.

*cut scene*

In the onetime Temple of Sopias the Princess Menandore of Dream plays host to Danku Sinesh, the doomed man. “You have what I require woman, now give me the Key or I will take it from you.” She stands, imperious and confidant in her strength, “It is not for you or any mortal to possess.” He smiles drawing a long thin blade and advancing on her, “Foolish woman,I have not been mortal for a very long time...”

*cut scene*

At The Wall in the far south of the Empire of Arkhosia the Twin Star Sisters, Dragonborn demigoddesses stand ready to face the warriors of chaos. In the distance giant figures emerge from the surf mounted on great sea beasts. Long spears rest easy in their hands and lightning flickers all around them. As they close the Sisters receive a call, the Avatar of Storm challenges the Empire itself and their master needs them. With regret they rise into the sky and fly quickly northwards. Behind them the Chaos Giants sweep across those who defend the Wall sending it crumbling into the sea below. Ouroborous has landed his first forces on Arkhosian soil, how fitting it is that they are the self same giants who set out to destroy him when he crashed to the world so long ago.