After their last adventure, our heroes met again with the esteemed Duchess Ashdrake in Westwall castle at the war table. Knowing that it would take more than words and accusations to get an audience with King Treville, Adeline sagely advised the group that they would need to perform some service to the kingdom to gain credibility (particularly considering their notoriety). She recommended discovering the fate of Lord Castor, who had not been heard from since the southern orc incursions. Though they knew they needed to get in the King’s good graces sooner or later, they also felt that they had procrastinated far too long in regards to the dread necromancer, who even now was commanding the Black Fire mercenaries into doing who-knows-what. They came to the conclusion that it was time to find and end this “Dirren Kas.”
Adeline quite helpfully alerted the group the existence of one of the few remaining veterans of the Chevren war, an understandably venerable gentleman who lived in Falcon Watch. Conveniently, Falcon’s Watch was on the way to the mysterious location where Kas purportedly was. They determined it would be safest to travel incognito, aka as merchants. With their looted wares, it was not difficult to put on a convincing show of it.
On the long road North, the heroes met a real merchant travelling along the road, a Dwarf who moved wares from as far as the Grey Mountains and back. Our fragrant champion Queso Grande took this as an invitation to sprint forth and rub the terrified fellow’s face in his sword-drawing, and it took no small amount of damage control from Hofniel to get the poor Dwarf to stop hiding behind his cart. He turned out to be reasonably helpful, providing further interpretation of their schematic, alluding to something called “godstone iron,” from stones that fell from the heavens (read: meteorites). A wordly fellow, he noted that only a good astrologer would be able to reliably locate such an object. The merchant proved useful in other ways as well, outfitting them (at a price) with various fine dwarven crafts and weaponry before they all waved their goodbyes.
Falcon Watch was a large, bustling, but otherwise unremarkable city with an assortment of amenities. Naturally, the team set off to the tavern for information, chatting up the barkeep. Everyone obtained their favorite beverages (aside from Queso, who was having an increasingly difficult time obtaining fermented goat’s milk outside of Sorpigal). Upon further discussion, the were able to ascertain the location of the only known veteran of the Chevren-Erathian war, along with his favorite potable: a spiced rum made only in Sorpigal. Thankfully, the barkeep noted they could just look into the local markets rather than be forced to travel all the way to Sorpigal proper to find the stuff. They moved on to the marketplace, costumes still in place, and located a trader who specialized in luxury goods from their (least) favorite port town. Queso put in a request for some fine hobbit leaf (read: Wacky Tobaccy), and so Hofniel approached. Sadly for him, it became immediately apparent that the real merchant had recognized Hofniel even through his disguise, forcing some heavy bribing to keep his mouth shut. He purchased both the rum and the weed, moving quickly on to the veteran’s home. Dobby the Druid, who was hooded and cloaked as a very short merchant herself, noted several individuals quietly gathering around the merchants booth, and so the party double-timed it.
When the old-timer was informed that the adventurers had come by on a social call with a large bottle of his favorite rum, he assumed an expression of merriment and dragged the surprised friends into his home. Hofniel at first thought he was going to be able to sit back and allow the man to drunkenly regale them with tales of the war (and hopefully, the mace), but as it turns out, the oldster was quite spry and sociable at heart, inviting the nervous cleric to drink with him- shot for shot. The brave Pelorian kept up, if only barely, his vision becoming foggy and his words slightly slurred as drink after drink went down. In the end this binge session was rewarded with a speech- a speech, the man said, that the king himself delivered at the onset of great battles, upon which his magical mace would light up like a star. He felt that it may have happened about the time the king shouted his name- thankfully, the rest of the group was paying attention to this whilst Hofniel hiccuped and nodded dumbly.
The group traveled further North through the woods to the mysterious location. With every step, the darkness seemed to become more oppressive, until nearly no sunlight broke through the forest canopy to the ground. Finally, they saw in the distance a stone building, and before it, a partial clearing with a few scattered, gnarled old trees. The ground seemed to to shimmer with a fine mist. Rightfully anxious, the resident druid called upon the trees to speak to her, which uttered only these words: “Look to the ground…the dead walk.” This did nothing to ease their jitters, so Belladonna very, very carefully tiptoed around for a closer look, taking mental notes of several patches of loose soil. The entire group decided to follow suit with the tip-toeing bit, lining up and sneaking along the periphery until someone stepped on an obnoxiously loud twig. Instantly, gray, rotten corpses began bursting up from the ground, moaning eerily as they did so. Elora and Dobby scampered up the nearest tree, while Queso leapt into the fray. Hofniel took up defense near his treed comrades, deflecting flailing zombie strikes while utterly failing to inflict any of his own damage in return. At one point, he missed so spectacularly that he smashed his own foot, harming himself more than any of the zombies could. The ladies fired stones and bolts from above, while Queso blasted through the undead with wide, cleaving blows, until every last wretch was given eternal peace. In the meantime, Belladonna had crept closer to the stone structure, getting a better view of what appeared to be a large sepulcher, flanked by stone statues. They appeared to be humanoids, one carrying a large bowl, and the other holding a curved ritual dagger. By the time the rest of the group had made it to her position, she had crawled into the bowl to get a closer look, finding what appeared to be dried blood. Informed of this, Hofniel’s face lit up, as he instantly recognized this for what it was- a door locked with ritual blood magic, something he had conveniently studied and written extensively about in his school days. Withdrawing a small dagger, he offered up some of his own blood into the bowl, charging the magical device and opening a solid rock doorway into the sepulcher.
There was no light inside, and so the enterprising Hofniel cast light upon himself, melting away the darkness in part. Toward the back of the crypt, two figures paced. As they approached, they saw two horrors, stripped of skin down to the muscle as if flayed alive, teeth uncovered by skin, and lidless eyes staring back at them. One was approximately human shaped, clutching a jagged, makeshift sword. The other was more horrible still, a squat, hulking brute with enormous fists wrapped in twisted iron. In the very rear of the sepulcher sat a smiling, hooded fellow, no doubt the necromancer Dirren Kas. He applauded the group for making it to him, noting that those that had come before had not been up to the challenge of testing his creations. Queso and Hofniel charged forward to engage, swallowing their fear. The others began their support roles. Hofniel cast protective magic upon them while the barbarian unleashed powerful strikes. As he cut into the taller humanoid, the brackish black blood spatter sizzled and smoked on the stone floor. Elora lit the monster up with magic missiles, while Queso was able to finish off the human appearing creature with a few powerful strikes. Dirren Kas, content to watch until now, stood and clapped. He didn’t want to make it too easy on them, he stated, immediately launching a spectral hand toward Queso while casting a wall of ice between himself and the adventurers. The hand froze Queso in place with a ghoulish touch spell. Hofniel’s hastily cast sanctuary prevented the monster from harming Queso further for the time being. Dobby called forth a flaming sphere directly over the necromancer, forcing him to dodge to one side while presumably being very distracting. Elora’s next spell sadly fizzled, and the hulking iron fisted monster decided to sidestep the frozen Queso and attack the wizard directly, blasting her with violent force. Meanwhile, Dirren Kas had dispelled the sphere, using his spectral hand to attack once more, this time giving poor Hofniel a terrible case of the shakes (aka, draining his dexterity). Queso was still locked in place, his sanctuary all but worn off, and the necromancer was gearing up for more terrible magic. Realizing they had nothing to lose at this point, Hofniel attempted to unlock the mace. Recalling the tales of their veteran friend, he raised the scepter high and shouted the name of the king, at which point it burst forth with light, empowering all of his friends with it’s warm radiance. With renewed vigor, he struck at the ghost hand, sending it back into the ether, and eliciting a yelp of pain from the astonished necromancer.The team had a second wind, and Belladonna used the opportunity to unleash several swift dagger strikes into the brute, whose swings became erratic and off-balance. Elora took a deep breath and, channeling arcane energy she hitherto did not know she had access to, let forth a lightening bolt that incinerated the wounded hulk, while cutting directly through the fire-sphere weakened ice wall…directly into Kas, who still nursed his injured hand. The bolt seared into his chest and slammed him into the stone wall. He gasped with pain, loudly exclaiming his disbelief that Elora could have mastered such a powerful spell at her level of experience. Before they could accost the diabolical elf, he assumed a gaseous form and wafted through cracks in the stone wall, escaping their wrath. Our adventurers counted themselves victorious however, finding not only a great deal of gold, but various useful items, including magical anklets and a gruesome, intimidating horned helmet with a skull face that Queso took quite a liking to. The final thing they discovered was a set of careful sketches and diagrams. These drawings clearly depicted the creation of the flayed horrors they had recently fought, and thus Elora made it a point to decipher as much as she could from the including margin writings, hoping to be better prepared in case they should encounter more desecrated beings in the future.