The Damned II (Session IV) - The Guide
by, 02-17-2009 at 04:24 AM (1054 Views)
Session Date: January 17th, 2009
The Players: Alucinor (The 'elven' Rogue), SpiffyBananaFoot (Tim the Eladrin Wizard), Corii (Snow the elven Ranger), Aidan (Red the Dragonborn Warlord), JonDOT (Mason, a human fighter), Krackmonkey (Jonas, Dragonborn Swordmage)
Having dispatched the kobold chief and relieving him of his head, the party is once again transported via a dark portal back to Meliphisus' immense lair, stocked with treasure rivaling many nations combined. Tim is bold enough to suggest that the group is poorly equipped to take on this mission Meliphisus is sending them on. Feeling uncharacteristically generous perhaps, Meliphisus does not destroy Tim instantly for his insolence, but instead gifts each character with a boon from his hoard.
To Mason, he gives a double-bladed sword that caught his eye. This exquisite weapon was crafted by an artisan of a time long forgotten using techniques that have been lost to the world for centuries hence.
To Red, who has now firmly decided to go by his living name Donnar, he gives a glaive that once belonged to a legate of Hell's armies who was legendary for his incredible martial skill--but who made a poor choice in whom he named an enemy. The blade of the this weapon is etched with sinister, devilish visages and is wickedly sharp despite it's obvious age.
For Snow, he finds a set worn leather braces that once belonged to a archer who was willing to give anything -- everything -- to be the very best in all the land. And indeed, he was for a day. Although he does not tell Snow of the history of these bracers, he does tell her that these will guide her shots, improving her aim with the bow or any ranged weapon she sets her hand to. Perhaps as importantly, he gives a quiver full of sturdy iron arrows specially forged at lower temperatures to retain their effectiveness against demons of all kinds.
Seeing that Tim and Jonas are ambling about in little better than patchwork kobold skins and loincloths, Meliphisus equips them in the hardened leather armor of legionnaire officers that were once the standard before the black enameled plate that is now used.
And lastly, he allows Thorn to keep the magically sharp dagger that Thorn had been previously used to stab Snow, cut off the tip of his own finger, and then was ultimately used in the torturous and long process of ritual scarification inflicted upon all of them -- a process that left a perpetual smear of dull brownish blood along the blade which slowly and inexplicably drips from the tip, never drying.
Traveling in Hell without the appropriate papers absolutely not permitted. To go anywhere requires the proper authorization. Any soulshell or mortal who is found to be in violation of this rule is subject to arrest and worse. However, Meliphisus makes it clear to all of them that they are not to divulge to anyone who their true master is. For this reason, they are to travel to the Fortress of Ash in the Burning Mountains. There they will deliver a sealed message to the Centurion named Decimus. The party is to accompany Decimus' century into the City of Dis. Traveling as one of Decimus' soldiers will allow the group to slip into Dis without the need of presenting their own papers.
To reach the Fortress of Ash, the party will need a guide, however. Meliphisus gives the party an emerald with a soul bound within it. The captured soul knows the way and can guide them to the Burning Mountains. Meliphisus warns that this spirit is an obstinate one, and they will have to impose their will upon it, or otherwise convince it to assist them. When the party reaches the Fortress, they are to give the gem to Decimus as payment. Meliphisus tells the party that this should be more than sufficient, given the trouble the bound soul bound gave Decimus in its living days.
Before releasing the group to their journey, there is one final matter. They will need a way to contact Meliphisus to let them know of their progress. From a tiny leather sack, Meliphisus plucks a small maggot-like creature. He forces each of them to submit to placing one of these maggots in their ear. The maggot wiggles its way into their ear, and makes an excruciating passage into the host's brain. Eventually it settles itself atop the brain towards the back of the skull. This worm will allow Meliphisus to communicate with the group once it "matures." He assures them that it will also prevent them from being forced to betray him by means of torture or magical cohesion.
After the legion of devils searching for Donnar gives up its search and departs, the party emerges from a cave not unlike the one they entered days ago. Tim performs the ritual for summoning their guide from his emerald-prison. The party manages to convince the spirit, known as Leonis, that they have escaped from Meliphisus' lair where they stole this gem. They tell him that they are looking for Redemption, but this is a place that he does not know. They claim that they need to reach the Fortress of Ash to find out more about this place known as Redemption. Through some fast talking, they are able to persuade Leonis to help them despite some obvious flaws in their cover story.
Along their journey, they ask Leonis to tell them of himself and how he became trapped in the gem. He claims that he was once a prominent paladin and that Meliphisus tricked him into performing a ritual that was supposed to return the woman he loved to life after her untimely death, but instead the ritual trapped his soul to this accursed gem. He is not truly dead as they are, but he also doesn't know what has happened to his body since he has been trapped here for at least seven years, by his best guess.
Three days into their journey, the party comes to a old wooden bridge, suspended across a gorge a hundred feet wide and nearly equally as deep. From a distance, it looks like there are daggers sticking out of the wooden beams all along the bridge. Thorn sneaks ahead to check it out and finds these to actually be oddly shaped iron spikes. He plucks one from the bridge and sneaks back to the group.
Snow knows this to be the sign of a manticore attack, and she correctly surmises that one lurks near by and prays on anyone who passes over this bridge. Armed with this knowledge, the group is able to successfully draw the beast out by taking advantage of one of its key weaknesses -- impatience. They simply wait it out at the chasm edge until the beast's growling stomach gets the better of it and it comes in for the attack.
The party fights the thing off, badly wounding it and sending it fleeing.. But certain that it will try attacking them again and wanting blood for their trouble, the party continues their ranged assault as the manticore tries to flee across the gorge and they manage to take it out before it can return to its nest. Unfortunately, during the process Mason rushes across the bridge only to find that time has made it less than stable, and he plummets ninety feet to what would likely have been the death of any mortal man. But, he is not mortal, and although he is badly injured, he survives.
Below the bridge, Mason finds sign of less fortunate travelers, and directly beneath the ledge the manticore nested on, he finds a bow made of an unusually white wood. It is cool to the touch, and later when Snow examines it, she finds that any arrow she cocks with it is instantly crystallized in an icy rime.
Proving to be an exceptional climber, Mason climbs all the way up to the manticore's nest and there he finds among the grisly remains a suit of fine elven hide armor and a few other minor cast off baubles.
Meanwhile the rest of the party carefully crosses the expanse. Tim is the most cautious of all, using his innate Fey ability to teleport short distances to find his way across the bridge.
Once Mason rejoins them and they have a chance to catch their breath, they set out again with haste, eager to avoid a confrontation with a mate, should the manticore have had one. Although the way ahead would prove to be even more dangerous and they do not relish what is to come. For they knew that the dreaded Silt Flats still lay ahead imperiling their way to the Burning Mountains.