Monday, October 19, 2009

Campaign Notes: DL 1-3

Title: Blackbone's Company
PC Level: 2nd

In the previous adventure of our Dragonlance campaign, the PCs made some knightly friends and were headed east toward the conflict which harried refugees across 150 miles. Sir Jiran's closest knightly ally was Lord Elswater, who maintained a small estate outside Lytburg, the closest town to Thelgaard. After a 5-day trek around the Vingaard Mtns, the PCs arrived as twilight fell on the area (did I mention this was a special "Halloween" adventure?). There was activity from only one building in the farming town--a tavern/inn named Balbo's. Here the party of knights and PCs split. Jiran and his knights pressed on the 3 miles left to get to the Elswater estate north of town while the PCs decided to investigate the local color (along with Sir Plaxus who is on Jiran's shit list for defying him last adventure).

Turns out there wasn't much color in Balbo's. A travelling merchant helped stock Deedra's and Beam's supplies while a husband and wife had a last meal before leaving town for good. Lytburg was a town in crisis, no one venturing outside at night for fear of the legend of Blackbone. Seems the Elswater knights, after much hunting, finally caught a particularly cruel brigand leader named Blackbone 3 months prior. Renowned for his viscious demeanor and the stylized black skeletal armor he and his band wore, Blackbone was tried and executed. But as he was being burned at the stake, the brigand vowed to rise again and take vengeance on the knights. Well, about a month ago, one of the local farmers saw decidedly skeletal looking figures converging toward the Elswater estate one evening and the knights were not seen after that. No one has ben brave enough to investigate for themselves.

Fearing Sir Jiran and his band were walking into great danger, the PCs and Plaxus hot-footed it to Elswater. The night was cold, quiet, and dark (storm clouds blotting out even Solinari's normally bright luminescence). No light or sounds emerged from the estate either. A broken barricade marked the first sign of trouble at the estate's gate. The party moved into the courtyard and spread out. Skeletons were discovered littering the area, one of them possessing the shield of one of the knights who journeyed with the PCs! Gundar moved away from the group and noticed two small pinpricks of eerie yellow light in the corner of the yard. As he approached, the twin lights--a skeletal warrior--descended from something (soon to be seen as a pile of knight corpses) and attacked the cleric. The other 5 skeletons in the yard also "awoke" with yellow lights in their eyesockets and attacked. Even after being put down, seemingly defeated, some of the skeletons rose again (bones magically coming back together)!

The battle was fierce but the PCs prevailed after Gundar used his Kiri-Jolith holy symbol to turn the undead abominations and knock them down permanently. Another skeleton on the keep's southwest turret was destroyed but otherwise the estate proved devoid of activity. The feast hall held slain women and children whose barricade was smashed like the front gate. Sir Jiran's body was not found with that of the other knights' but he was not long after uncovered in the stable. His eyes were glazed over and the man was still alive, as if in a coma. Beam spotted the same yellow glow (albeit very faint) in the knight's eyes as in the skeletons'. There was also an tiny soot-like smudge on Jiran's forehead. After uses his turning power on the knight, Gundar then healed him and Jiran came back to his senses. His story was as expected--the knights were attacked by a multitude of skeletons. He was then grabbed from behind by something with slimy shiny skin before losing consciousness. The unknown assailant did leave behind some odd clawed footprints and a distinctive smell which Deedra cataloged for later.

A last search of the estate revealed a secret door in the lord's bedchamber which led to 3 bags of steel pieces and 4 antique family shields. Jiran insisted on burying the family, his knights, and the skeletons (who were dressed as the lord's servants and relatives) before setting the entire place ablaze. When the group returned to Lytburg, the fires of Elswater could fainty be seen and the townsfolk were out to worriedly wonder what had happened. As the PCs explained to Balbo and nearby folk what they had found, more skeletons moved in on the town. This time, Blackbone himself enters the story with his brigand company.

A raspy voice emitted from the undead bandit lord and demanded the surrender of the cleric in return for Lytburg being spared. Beam advocated a retreat to the inn so he could enact a plan involving thrown lanterns but Gundar bravely marched toward Blackbone. The skeleton ordered the cleric to throw down his weapons, which was done. Blackbone then ordered his minions to slay everyone else at the same instant Gundar channeled his undead turning power. The whole of Blackbone's brigade collapsed save for the leader himself (and the 6 skeletons outside the cleric's area of effect). The melee against the yellow-eyed undead was on!

Beam gathered lanterns from Balbo's and used them to great effect as thrown projectiles at the remaining skeletons. Oddly enough, the wizard was mostly ignored until near the fight's end when two skeletons, wielding heavy crossbows, turned to deliver two bolts of agony, felling the wizard (but not mortally). Blackbone fended off the rest of the party on his own for what seemed an eternity before finally falling to their blows. But while the party turned its attentions to the remaining skeletons, Blackbone rose again (like the skeletons at Elswater)! After knocking him down again, Deedra decided to not only take off the brigand's head but smash it into the ground (where its struggle to reunite with its body ended along with the strange yellow glow in its skull).

Once the undead were defeated, the party found much needed rest at Balbo's before following the skeletons' footprints to their source--Lytburg's graveyard. The skeletons not belonging to Blackbone's company came from here but not all were accounted for; Deedra also continued to smell that strange lizard-y odor she detected back at Elswater. The graveyard was next to an abandoned church of Mishakal, which looked like the next likely place to investigate. Inside, eight skeletons stood along the nave walls while a small object on the altar glowed with a yellow light. The PCs moved in and were attacked by not only the skeletons but a humanoid with a draconic head that could cast spells! Beam fell again (again not fatally), Plaxus and Jiran battled the skeletons, Gundar was caught in a web with another skeleton, and Deedra took the fight directly to the dragon-man. After dispatching the evil creature (whose bones exploded violently when slain), the minotaur took her axe to the yellow-glowing item (a crystalline box with a tiny yellow skull inside) and destroyed it. Once shattered, the skeletons dropped into lifeless bones once again.

Now able to look around, the PCs find a seal embedded into the floor before the altar which the dragon-man and his undead were clearly trying to cut through. The seal depicts the infinity symbol that belongs to Mishakal (goddess of healing) but within the one loop is displayed a small flame-like symbol. Gundar decides to pray over the seal and suddenly the loop with the flame descends into the floor. The cleric and Sir Plaxus ride down 20 feet into a small circular chamber. When they reach the bottom, two torches blaze to life. They flank a dias on which rests a perfectly preserved human female. Below her on the dias lip an inscription in Solamnic reads "Here lies Wishana, last Preserver of Good." At the woman's feet sits an item shaped like the flame symbol seen above. It is made of some sort of pure white stone, measures a kender-head in width, and has two odd extensions protruding from its right and lower right sides. When Gundar picks up the item, the woman's body deteriorates, the torches extinguish, and the seal begins to rise.

The men escape without incident while the rest of the party has been looting the dragon-man. On his person, aside from steel pieces, is a thin notebook on which a small hand mirror is attached by a leather band. Updates were written by the dragon-man as to its mission here and replies were magically received but only then readable by looking at the page's reflection in the mirror. The dragon-man was using the skull box (referred to as the "Lash") to animate Blackbone and his company to distract the town (and slay the Elswater knights) while he tried to access the crypt of the Preserver. Whomever he was communicating with told him to hurry as the "Highlord" was impatient.

Now with more money, a flame-shaped relic, and many more questions, the party plans its next move.

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