- The group did a little more investigating and found that the new goblin runes in the previous hallway actually hid a secret door.
- Ethan stealthily climbed the stairs beyond and discovered a warband waiting in ambush. 2 advanced human beserkers, 1 blazing skeleton, 1 hobgoblin commander, and 1 advanced hobgoblin warcaster all sought to end the journey of the PCs on the floor of the temple.
- A mighty battle ensued during which the group noticed Jaryn waiting patiently at the far end of the temple hall in front of an altar. He seemed to be waiting for the outcome of the battle.
- When the group finished off the warband Jaryn proceeded to inform the group to rest and heal themselves for the trial ahead. He believed he was being tested by Naarash to prove his continued worthiness as leader of the cult.
- During the conversation the Jaryn answered the following (pertinent) questions:
What is this place? “The temple is older than human history. It is a place of great power, and from it, a great power will rise.”
What is the stone on the altar? “The Eye of Naarash is the material embodiment of Bane’s might. It is the source of the strength the god grants us. The giants discovered it, but they were not worthy.”
What is the Rite of the Eye? “The Rite of the Eye binds the faithful to Bane. Those who take the rite bear the talisman that commits their own life force to Naarash and the greater glory of the Hand.”
Why did you let your guards die? What do you mean by a challenge? “The faith of Bane allows no weakness. Only the strongest can lead the Hand. I was made Voice of Naarash by the blood of Larkazh, even as he slew the master before him. You are here by Bane’s will to challenge me. Should you succeed, you are destined to build on what I have built until you are challenged in turn.”
What happened to you to change your faith? “My faith has not changed. It has simply been refocused. The fall of Nerath marked the end of this world, but humanity lingers like the condemned man who cannot accept the end. Pelor is dead. The good, the moral, the light—these things are no more.”
Why have you taken control of the cult? “Humanity’s lot in this new world is struggle and death, but not all are suited to such hardship. Those who are strong will inherit the mantle of humanity. Those who cannot embrace the darkness will suffer. My way ends the torment for them. My way is mercy.”
What of the rest of the items of the Phoenix Regalia? “Ah yes, those items. Together they are very powerful but even they cannot hold back the fury of Naarash if their owner does not serve him. Skamos is an evil creature but even he unwittingly serves Naarash with his culling of the weak. Worry not for the trinkets he seeks. Worry only that you best me this day – else you shall perish here in this hall. The time has come to end this.”
- Jaryn proves to be quite a challenge. His blows devastate the party forcing them to work together to split Jaryn’s focus. In the end they subdue him with non-lethal blows.
- When Jaryn falls to the ground a large red crystal on the altar of the hall bursts with light and a cry rings out. A large demon emerges and its foul voice echoes from the stones as it hisses: “You have slain my champion and have shown your worth. Who among you accepts the mantle of Voice of Naarash?”
- Surprisingly (heh) no one accepts and the demon bursts into an uncontrollable rage as it wades into the group to slay them all. Its double slam attacks and tormenting howl nearly spell the end of Ethan and Nenia. Luckily the party is able to flank the creature and win the war of attrition of blows.
- When the demon dies the crystal on the altar bursts into a million pieces causing massive damage to the entire group – but everyone lives. They notice that Jaryn’s cult necklace has dissipated and yet he still lives. A look of peace lies on his unconscious face.
- When he awakes he thanks the group. He had somehow slowly been possessed by the madness of the demon. As the realization of the atrocities he was responsible for sank in he was barely able to speak. He did however tell the party that they needed to seek Alara in a small town called Lakeview in the southern part of the Eldeen Reaches. He would accompany then there out of duty and thanks.
- The group found some nice loot in the treasure room behind the altar. They also exited the temple to find that the throng of people living there was slowly departing in peace.
- About a month later they arrive in Lakeview and meet with Alara. The information presented there will be in a follow-up post.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
- When leaving the village Glasur tells the group that he thought he saw something behind them along the treeline. He couldn’t tell what it was but he wasn’t concerned since the brush was so dense that no one could follow them on foot.
- Turns out he was wrong. Their pursuer caught up with them two night later – it was Jaryn’s companion Dajani.
- The Tielfing Darkblade turned out to be a tough battle on his own. He teleported frequently and was able to turn invisible. In the end though the party subdued him and tried to get information.
- They hadn’t really gathered much other than defiant rantings about the power of Naarash when the tielfing teleported away and disappeared. (But not before he was relieved of his boots of striding and some monetary rewards.
- Two days later Glasur tells the group that his vessel can not take them any closer. He instructs them that they have 1 day to go on foot. He would wait for them for 1 week.
- The group was able to make it along the path dressed in the garb of their fallen enemies. The next day they reached their long-awaited goal – The Pillars of the Night.
- For being savage, the throng living on the temple grounds was rather trustworthy. With a little bluffing and diplomacy the PCs were able to fit right in. Over the next few days they learned that the people here were being trained in military skills. They were an army in training. They also learned that those whose skills and prowess impressed the “wardens” were sought out for the “Rite of the Eye”. i.e. For recruitment into a deathsquad.
- They also learned the following:
- “I was here when Jaryn was dragged up the Black March in chains. I was
here, too, when he stood atop the Dark Stairs as the Voice of Naarash.”
- “Jaryn and Larkazh met between the river and the Black March. Two dozen
of Bane’s best against the paladin and his tiefling, and in the end, Larkazh was
the only one standing.”
- “Larkazh’s two brothers were cut down by Jaryn’s own hand. He brought
Jaryn and Dajani back alive and to the inner temple, a sacrifice to Bane. Come morning, Jaryn walks out, Dajani one step behind him, and Larkazh’s head is in Jaryn’s hand.”
- “Everything changed under Jaryn. Used to be, the death squads ran the
temple, killed each other as fast as they could. Jaryn got them under control
and made them an army.”
- “The enclave at Adakmi will be the start of it. The eathens will be
nailed to their own walls and their citadel made the staging ground for Bane’s
armies as they move south.”
- “Jaryn might look human, but he’s not. Bane’s blood flows in those
veins. The chosen one, he is.”
- “The fall of Nerath was the first sign. The gods of light have been
broken and have left this world to Bane. The dark god’s hand squeezes shut, and when it opens, only the chosen will remain.”
- “Bane’s voice speaks through Jaryn, and his word welcomes the darkness
of a new age. He is the god arisen, Naarash’s heir. The strong shall inherit
this world, while the weak shall fall before them and be lost."
- “I was here when Jaryn was dragged up the Black March in chains. I was
- 4 days later they were approached by the wardens and informed that they would be taking the Rite of the Eye in the morning.
- As the group was ascending the steps in the morning a cry rang out from behind them. It was the escaped doppelganger on horseback screaming to “Stop the imposters!”. The group quickly ascended the stairs and slammed the temple doors shut, barring them.
- The group had nowhere to go but into the depths of the temple.
- Up the first stairs they came across two doors – Hall of Faith and Hall of Warriors. The Hall of Faith was magically locked so the group entered the door on the left. Inside they encountered animated suits of armour called Steel Keepers. After a hefty battle the group reduced the tin cans into piles of rubbish. They also found a secret door into a hall beyond.
- Going left led to a caved in hall. Going left led them to a door. All along the hall were ancient writings in Giant. One area was recently plastered and written over with goblin runes.
- To the south the group found a door. Ethan unlocked it but set off the Glyph of Warding. Inside the room were 3 zombie hulks. This battle proved to be quite a challenge for the group – especially when the zombie rose again after falling the first time. However in the end the PCs were victorious only to discover that there was no exit in this room either. They seemed to have hit a dead end so to speak.
- The party headed out of town using Shandra’s map as a guide.
- 3 days later they were preparing camp in an abandoned ruin when a paladin came crashing through the brush. His description matched Jaryn’s.
- Turns out it was a group of assassin doppelgangers sent to take you out. Word of your quest has been travelling ahead of you. You bested 2 of the 3 assassins but the 3rd got away.
- True to Shandra’s map, 4 days later you find the beginning of the pass into the mountains known as the Black March. Your guide bids you adieu.
- A few days along the path you are attacked by a group of shadowhounds. Some good tactics help you best these teleporting hunters.
- 2 days later the group finds that the path opens into a large valley. In the distance they see their path go passed a walled citadel. Not knowing what to expect here the group debates for many hours (seemed like it in real life too!) about how to handle it. Eventually Ethan sneaks up under the cover of darkness and discovers that the walls of the citadel are hung with the corpses of Naarash’s followers. They group decides to present themselves to the gates and, after informing the gatekeepers that they are enemies of Naarash, they are quickly let in.
- The citadel is known in the area as Adakmi. There seem to be roughly 2000 people within its walls. After resupplying themselves the group looks for information as to what to expect at the Pillars of the Night. They are told that taking the path there would be suicide. They need to find a moonboat. They also hear rumours of a paladin and his tiefling friend passing north along the path several weeks earlier.
- Unsure of what a moonboat actually is, the group follows some leads and are met by a dwarf named Glasur. He informs the group that he can take them north in his moonboat – which is a boat drawn by two large dire pike strong enough to pull a boat upstream through the mountains.
- Plans are quickly made and the group meets Glasur the next morning. For 6 days they make steady progress (about 20 miles per day). They come across several burnt out villages. On the 6th day they round a corner and see the sky darkening with smoke. Glasur thinks it a Deathsquad attack on a village.
- The group gets closer and disembarks. They do indeed find a village under attack. They manage to fight off the dragonborn soldiers, a mage, and a bugbear strangler. Nenia even manages to somehow get the bugbear to garrot himself while standing in a fire!!!!
- After the battle the surviving villagers thank the group, let them keep the diadem of acuity from the mage, and confirm that they also saw a paladin and his companion pass north seeking to kill the leader of the cult. They said he looked half-mad.