Black Spire III: A Twisted King

Arradin and Ballineth
Two siblings reunite

Arradin was sitting in the mess hall, poking listlessly at his food. It would have been delicious were it still warm, but after serving the entire garrison (as well as some people he was sure had no business hanging around in the barracks) his own share was not even lukewarm and he couldn’t be bothered heating it up again. So instead he was sitting in solitude, contemplating his new and unfamiliar life situation.

He heard someone approaching. Heavy footsteps (from the weight of a massive armour), used to marching on paved roads and meticulously set cobble – Wyriehl. He didn’t even bother looking up.

“Hello little brother!”

He froze and dropped his fork. Hearing the voice of his sister after so many years sent a shock through his body. She was not supposed to be here. Especially not now. Then boundless joy, the feeling of being whole again. He wanted to rush to her and embrace her, but there was a distance between them – so much time had passed… and the moment was gone. He asked Wyriehl to bring the others to Vishka’s for dinner, and then grabbed Ballineth by the arm and walked out the door.

Massive pain rushed through his body – he could feel his ribs cracking and several internal organs being crushed. Not good. All he could do was to crawl to the side and puke (mostly blood). He saw Ballineth rushing towards him but waved to her, indicating that Min’Ahlia was in more dire need of her aid. When the last orc fell Ballineth was at his side in an instant, and he felt life rushing back to him. Ribs corrected, being able to breathe properly again. The pain subsiding to a more normal level, like falling off a horse or low cliff.

He looked at her and felt the distance disappearing, once again as close as they once were, as it should be. They slept in an embrace for the rest of the night. Come morning they went their separate ways. Alone, once again. His only company a suicidal and depressed woman, an insane and nearly mute ranger and a paladin whose mere presence made him uneasy.

Arradin's downtime in Zilahani

Once he got back to the safety of civilization (or what passes for it in these parts) Arradin picked up his magic studies right where he left off one year ago when he left his teacher Baranor. Now that his magical powers had finally been unleashed he quickly mastered a whole range of spells that he had been studying for the past few decades, but never really figured out. It was like solving a mathematical problem after having struggled to figure out the correct formula, once it’s there everything falls into place and it all just makes sense. In a matter of weeks he grasped magical powers that would normally take years of training to master in practice. He often sought out the company of Min’Ahlia to discuss the minute details of crafting a Shield spell to the theory behind Transmutation magic and the limitations of his abilities, learning much in the process. (one week)

When he wasn’t busy searching for and learning more about spells and magic in general, he researched the mysterious Black Dragon. It was time consuming work, not because he was a slow reader or the texts where hard to understand – the books always had an owner and the owner almost invariably asked for a “small favor” in return. Occasionally he was able to simply pay for the benefit of borrowing a book, but most often he had to run an errand of some sort. He also tried to find out more about the Hag Fens – wildlife, dangerous beasts, locations etc. (2 weeks)

Finally he decided to take pity on the barricades. At first he offered his help where it was most sorely needed – in the mess hall. A soldier’s fare is rarely more than plain filling and often very one sided. With a little creativity and some easy to find local ingredients Arradin was able to brighten up the everyday toll of the soldiers working the ramparts. (one week) After a while he turned his attention to the structural integrity of the walls themselves – without them Zilahani would certainly be doomed. With unusual determination and outspokenness he took charge over the carpenters and masons working at repairing the barricades and used his engineering skills to design some fortifications, strengthening the walls. He also drew up plans and had the carpenters build a simple yet effective ballista and left the locals with instructions on how to produce more of them. (two weeks)

At Dragon's Neck

Alice, Alishia, Red, Calin and Ironcrow traveled alongside the Crimson Sands tribe. Having healed their bodies and souls at the magical spring, they enjoyed a few weeks of leisure as they journeyed north, meeting with other tribes and spreading the words of Narackamus’ betrayal of the human race. Eventually, they reached the borders of settled lands, at the great Long Dragon River. Here, a fortress was established at Dragon’s Neck, guarding a stone bridge that was once the entry point into the human Empire of Alkerath. Disturbingly, the fortress now flew the flag of the Bonelord.

The Crimson Sands told the heroes that the northern tribe named the Iron Seeds, who forge lifelong bonds with their swords, must have occupied the city. Indeed, it seemed they now lived within, a small garrison of the forces of the Iron Seeds general, dubbed “Alexa the Gauntlet”. They could not possibly have fought the templars guarding the city, though, and must have somehow allied with them.

Escorted into the city by a few of the Crimson Sands tribe, the heroes soon met Cuthbert, the barkeep of the Bannered Mare. Here they learned the state of the city. After a long illness, the High Cleric had soon recovered, but his personality seemed changed. He’d accused an elven druid, Korinra, of heresy, and imprisoned her in the Steward’s castle. As for the Steward, he religiously followed everything the High Cleric told him. The High Cleric, apparently, had endorsed the religion of the Bonelord, and the crusade to retake the capital. The Iron Seeds were only waiting for the templars to mobilize, then they would all march together on the North.

Suspicious of this, the heroes decided to split up. Alice and Alishia went to look for information on their homeland, Tilak, while Red and Calin intended to learn more about the Steward. They were dragged aside, however, by a human named Brennan, who showed them an elven sign of distress. Brennan took them to a group of half-elf thieves, led by a man named Melwyn. They were planning to rescue Korinra, who had shown them nothing but kindness since coming to Dragon’s Neck. Sadly, they were woefully underfunded and short of skills. The templars guarded the Steward’s castle, and was all but impenetrable. Red and Calin set to work on helping them, based on what little clues Melwyn and his men had gathered. One of these clues was a book on demonology, supposedly sold on the black market by someone in the castle. It seemed to have been penned by Ofec, the lich’s former apprentice.

Meanwhile, Alice met a man from the Iron Seeds tribe, named Ramath. She soon revealed herself to be an outsider, and Ramath ordered her to surrender her weapon. When she refused, a fight broke out, and Alice slew two war-dancers, sacred storytellers among the Iron Seeds. Ramath escaped, bringing a retinue of warriors. Fortunately, a friendly dwarf named Kogan whisked Alice away to a hidey-hole, and faking having been attacked, later smuggled her out to the old wine-smuggling tunnels that the dwarves built beneath the city. Kogan promised to aid the heroes, and in his skill as a goldsmith, provided them with five magical tokens.

Red surveyed the Steward’s castle, swimming in through the sewer that ran beneath it. He found that Korinra wasn’t held in the dungeon, but her apprentice – Salawi – was there, in a heavy wooden collar to keep her from working magic. Red promised to rescue her, and learned from Salawi that Korinra was kept in the room next to the Steward’s. He climbed the tower and sent her a message, relayed by knocking, that help was coming. Furthermore, a strange magical light drew his attention – and in a tower window, he spied a man wearing a collar with some kind of magic-suppression amulet. He seemed to have just had sex, but when he dressed, he put on the robes of a cleric.

Calin, meanwhile, talked to a young apprentice named Evelyn and a blind old nun named Alva, both of whom served to sweep and clean the Steward’s castle. From this she learned that at the same time as the High Cleric fell ill, the old chronicler had died, and been replaced with a historian named Hastha. Hastha had a mysterious companion, a dark-voiced, seductive man whom nobody else at the castle seemed to know about – he only came out at night. Sister Alva suspected he might be somehow tied to the High Cleric – there was a similar tone of lust in their voices. Hastha had locked the library, restricting access to herself, her companion, and a single blind maid, that role being served by Alva. Alva suspected that there was something strange about the books, since nobody was allowed to look at them.

The group gathered again at the Bannered Mare, sharing what they had learned. Alice was now wanted for murder, and would need to lie low. Alishia and Ironcrow also contributed, with news of Tilak being besieged and its nobility rounded up for execution. Ironcrow told of black magic trinkets, some of which had belonged to Ofec, on the black market. When told Hastha’s name, Ironcrow recognized her as Ofec’s senior student and a former apprentice of Narackamus. She’s a dangerous summoner, with a demon permanently bound to her side and several other demons, which she kept as lovers. Calin guessed that an incubus had its claws on the High Cleric, one way or another. Perhaps it was this man Red had seen through the window.

It was resolved to free Korinra, who had been jailed for heresy and likely knew more. A plan was devised, in which Calin and Red climbed the Steward’s tower and entered just beneath it, through the nearest unbarred window. Meanwhile, Alice and Alishia would free the prisoners in the dungeons, causing a ruckus and a distraction.

The plan went off without a hitch. Alice, Alishia and Melwyn snuck into the dungeons and released the prisoners. As the alarm was raised, Alice and Alishia bare-handed fought off five heavily armed men, managing to avoid any casualties except for a guard dog, that Alice threw with full force at its handler. Escaping with the prisoners, mostly drunks but also the apprentice Salawi, they caused enough of a stir to alert the Steward.

As the most senior Templar ran to alert the Steward in his chambers, Red jammed the lock of the door behind them, leaving them trapped. Calin distracted the second templar using one of Kogan’s trinkets, a token of ghost sound. This won Red enough time to pick the lock of Korinra’s door. The old druid was almost naked, and clapped in cold iron to prevent her from spellcasting or shapeshifting. Red readily freed her, and she transformed into a bird, fleeing through the window. Red and Calin escaped into the river, but not before throwing down a magical token before the Steward’s door, causing a giant oak to spring from the ground, sealing him in until the tree could be cut down.

They all fled through Kogan’s dwarven smuggling tunnels. Ironcrow was waiting at the exit, as was Korinra, given directions there by Red. As Korinra and Salawi were once more united, they thanked the heroes for their help, but were in dire need of rest and recovery. Korinra informed them that the High Cleric had been slain by Hastha, and replaced by some sort of shapeshifter. She had revealed this at the Steward’s ball, but the plan had backfired and an angry mob threw them in jail to be executed. The creature impersonating the High Cleric must have great sway over men’s minds, to cause such an event.

As the druids descended into the river to regain their strength and commune with nature, the heroes began working on a plan to slay the shapeshifter and reveal to the people of Dragon’s Neck how they had been deceived…

A plan was made overnight. Alice and Alishia insisted on going to Tilak, to save their family, as soon as the summoner was dealt with. Red objected; doing so would only draw the necromancer’s army. For the moment, he didn’t know Tilak was in any way important. It was decided that Alishia and Ironcrow, along with a retinue of dwarves, would try to enter the village by stealth, helping the besieged locals hold out. Red, Alice and Calin would go downstream, to the town of Redfield, to locate aid either from the Pathfinders or the wood elves.

Having decided this, it was resolved to deal with the summoner. Korinra scried on her and divined she was in her chamber, preparing some kind of demonic ritual, intending to pin the blame on Korinra. The heroes decided to act immediately. They delved into the dwarven tunnels, Korinra saying her blessings over them, before she departed to lead Melwyn and the other elves to safety. Just then, a warning rang out – demon in the dwarven quarters!

Red, Calin, Alishia and Alice broke off, headed for the commotion. As they emerged from the tunnels, they saw an enormous toad-like creature, belching Korinra’s name, pretending loyalty to her. A way of discrediting the druid, the demon was also a trap – men of the Iron Seeds Tribe were lying in wait with poisoned arrows. The heroes waded into combat, and though they suffered many arrows and injury from the blasphemous magic and noxious slime of the demon, it was soon laid low by Calin’s arrows. Healing their injuries as best they could, they pondered their next course of action.

The Crimson Sand tribe

After Calin had introduced herself and her pet wolf, hidden as they were in the cave, the heroes decided to go west toward the plains, where human barbarians wander. Red directed them to a well-hidden flight of dwarven stairs, carved into the mountainside. Two dwarven corpses stirred there, old explorers, but they were swiftly struck down. No other trouble befell them as they made their way down the ancient stairs, possibly the only way into the mountains from this side.

The plains were vast, windswept, and bordering the desert. As they went to rest, a monotonous drum rhythm rolled up from a group of horse-people barbarians. They were engaging in some mysterious ritual.

The next day, the ritual became clear. The barbarians were summoning a Sand Worm, doing battle with it for glory and honor and to take its skin as a trophy. Out of sixteen warriors, eight survived. The heroes witnessed the battle from afar, deciding to travel further north and meet the warriors there.

The ridden warriors introduced themselves the Crimson Sand tribe, a member of the Al-Kharth riders. Two heroes were among them, who had done most of the damage to the worm: Skarsh the Ranger and Shurgath the Barbarian. Shurgath was a follower of some new religion worshiping a coming god called the Bonelord, whose prophets name was Arackus.

Shurgath was most suspicious of elves, as the religion of the Bonelord preaches the destruction of mankind’s ancient enemy. Nonetheless, the heroes came to the camp of the Crimson Sands to celebrate the victory against the Sand Worm with them. They were impressed with Alice’s name, as among their people, only leaders were permitted to be named after Emperor Alister.

Apparently, the necromancer Narackamus had posed as the prophet Arackus to preach of the coming of a lich – the Bonelord – who would lead the Al-Kharth riders to glory and restoration of the Alkerathi Empire, the ancient Empire of Man. Narackamus, now lich, had abandoned his prophet persona and gone to lead the northern tribes to the capital.

In the Crimson Sands’ camp, the heroes met Alessa, the leader, and Orgoth, the wise-man. Calin spoke to Orgoth, and learned that he was a druid who in his youth had known the wood elves as friends. Over the last generation, though, the religion of the Bonelord had spread, preaching the resurrection of human Empire, and another war against the elves. Young Al-Kharth tribesmen, especially the northern ones, now considered elves their mortal enemy. Calin also learned that Alessa’s greatest goal in life was to win honor and an immortal name.

Alice, Red, and Alishia spoke to Alessa. Alice learned that her homeland was likely already invaded by the northern tribes, who worship the Bonelord fervently. The Crimson Sands tribe was yet unsure whether to join the Bonelord or not. For now, they fought dangerous beasts to prove their strength to the other tribes, to keep from being taken as slaves by the Bonelord worshipers. Shurgath had married into the tribe and come as an ambassador from the northern tribes.

Red and Alice warned Alessa of Narackamus’ plans.

After a bath, and after Calin had helped heal two of the injured warriors from the mighty hunt, a celebration was thrown in honor of Skarsh, Shurgath, and their companions. During this celebration, many contests were held for the honor of participating in next years’ monster hunting party. Alice participated and won the climbing contest.

Alessa seemed troubled by Alice’s prowess, unwilling to lose face and jealous of this mighty warrior with a royal name.

The next contest was one of archery. Red and Calin both participated and Calin won. The Bonelord worshipers were disgruntled that an elf – the ancient enemy – had won. Shurgath grumbled, and Alice called him out on it.

An enraged Shurgath challenged Alice to wrestling. He threatened Alessa into permitting it, making Alessa lose face before her people and the Bonelord worshipers get riled up. Alice kindly asked Alessa’s permission, showing submission before the leader and gaining some of Alessa’s approval.

The wrestling match was brutal. Shurgath sustained heavy injuries but eventually won. Having challenged Alessas’ authority, he now held a position of power and respect, and had won much honor for those who worship the Bonelord. Alessa, meanwhile, was shaken and with a damaged reputation, having caved to Shurgath’s demands, but with a greater respect for Alice, who was both strong and honorable.

Red spoke carefully with Skarsh, and spied upon Shurgath in the night. He convinced Skarsh to support them if they should seem like winners; Skarsh did not like to gamble. He learned that Narackamus’ minions communicated with his worshipers by using the corpses of their departed as mouthpieces, impersonating dead loved ones. Apparently Shurgath had been duped into believing the honored dead would rise again and be fully restored to true life once the new Emperor sat on the throne. The heroes hatched a plan to oppose authority with authority – the heroes would claim Alice had Imperial lineage, countering this false Emperor.

The morning thereafter, they begun to move. Shurgath was still waiting on advice from the “honored dead”, who seemed to have recognized Alice’s name, and during the ride, he and his men dawdled to pay their respects at a cairn and speak to another corpse. Narackamus’ minion told them that an assassin had been sent after Alice. Just as he was finished, Alice and the leader Alessa rode up to question him.

Alice brazenly stated that his religion was a false one that would only lead to death and destruction. Shurgath, outraged, threw a punch at her. Calin interfered, shooting him before the blow had time to connect. Shurgath shouted for the men to attack, Alessa shouted for them to hold, and Alishia shouted that Alice was the true Empress.

Chaos ensued, in which most tribesmen were unsure how to act. Six men tried to kill Calin and her wolf, but she teleported away before they succeeded. Shurgath drew his axe ready to kill the elf, but Alice attacked him first and killed him, very nearly getting slain in retaliation though, especially as Shurgath’s life-bane axe hit her.

In the aftermath of the fight, Skarsh rode in and shot the stragglers, calming down the situation. He asked Alice whether or not she was the Empress; Alice proudly stated “My sister knows my family lineage better than me.” This was interpreted as a humble way to confirm Skarsh’s question, and the tribe became convinced a new Empress was risen, one who would oppose the Bonelord.

With that, the Red Sands tribe began to ride north, fearful of the dread assassin that would come for their new Empress. After burying Shurgath and the other fallen men, Skarsh told the heroes of a sacred spring, where they could camp out and prepare for the assassins, away from the children and horses of the tribe. Alice agreed, and with a small retinue of Red, Calin and Alishia, she set out to the spring.

Four dread assassins, horrific undead creatures forged at Narackamus’ torture rack, came for them. Thankfully, the ambush failed due to a trap laid down by Red. The sacred water of the spring burned the hideous creatures, and with the help of the magical spring, they were readily defeated… but at a dread cost, for the souls of all four heroes had been scarred.

The Necromancer's Castle

Urgor sho-Grobor, the orc chieftain, took the party in to the Sword Tribe’s camp on the western side of the mountain. Ace, having promised him the political backing of a dragon, managed to persuade him to help them enter the Black Fortress, an old dwarven hold which the Necromancer had converted to his keep. The orcs, it seemed, had come here in pursuit of the Chief-Stone, that had been held by their tribes for generations.

Eventually, it was decided that Ace, Alice, Alicia and Ironcrow would go see the Club Tribe, who had recently excavated some old dwarven tunnels with the aid of their pet ogres. Meanwhile, Red would investigate the front door to the fortress, sealed by old Dwarven mechanisms that the orcs had failed to open.

Red approached the fortress by stealth, bypassing the re-animated corpses of disgraced dwarves, buried outside the fortress proper. Sneaking past the Axe Tribe orcs guarding the door, he investigated the mechanism and learned how to open it, but decided to leave the door shut for now. He then made to join with the others.

Alice and Ace spoke with the Club Tribe shaman. He gave them the blessing to use the old tunnels, saying they were mentioned in a prophecy that also spoke of great destruction. The Club Tribe served this prophecy, making sure it would come to pass. Evidently they saw Alice in particular as instrumental to it, and the blind old shaman blessed her and healed her wounds.

The “blessing” was unfortunately a double-edged sword, infusing her with extra rage. As Alice accidentally provoked one of the ogre slaves, both her and the ogre lost control of their anger. Alice managed to frighten the ogres away, but started an ogre slave riot in the process, and the liberated ogres charged for the Axe Tribe camp, inciting trouble. In the chaos that ensued, Red joined up with the others, and they all hastily sneaked inside the tunnel, made invisible by Ace.

Through long, winding tunnels in the long-abandoned dwarf fortress, they eventually reached a dining hall. Sudden disaster had befallen the dwarves in a distant past, it seemed. A portcullis blocked the way, and as they opened it, they alerted a flesh golem and three spectres, bound to its constituent parts.

The golem was handily dispatched, after having been slowed by Ace’s fire spells. As it died, though, the group heard a familiar voice – Ofec, the necromancer’s apprentice, slain in Stonehaven. Ofec’s soul had been bound as a guardian, and he begged for them to kill him. He promised to help as best he could in return.

The group progressed up a flight of stairs, fighting off disgraced dwarven wights in the process. Soon they arrived at the necromancer’s lair, at the top of the old fort. Alishia had been badly energy drained in the process, and Alice, too, was suffering the burdens of negative energy.

Ofec manifested again, possessing a crypt guardian outside the door. He warned the heroes of the experimental zombies, sleeping in vats inside the lab. He also kept the crypt thing still, until the heroes could kill it before it had time to unleash its dread teleportation attack.

They crept inside, into a hideous lab full of corpses. Red observed that they were all dwarven and elven, barely any human bodies were there. The zombies did not stir from their vats full of pungent chemicals, however. Soon they progressed to a museum of artifacts from the old human Alkerathi Empire, and the nature of the necromancer became clear to them all – a human supremacist, bent on reuniting Man under one banner again.

Alicia claimed a pair of magical bracers that had once belonged to a human hero. Red laid his hands on a razor-sharp sword, and they also considered taking a gem with the power to control fire elementals, but as it was trapped with a summoning trap, they left it alone.

Ofec was just through the next door. Unfortunately, it was protected by Pretur Ar Nuade – a powerful dragon spell that would teleport any intruder, naked and unarmed, into a tomb full of horrors. Ace tried to dispel it, but couldn’t overcome its strength. They decided to search upstairs, in the necromancer’s private library, for a way to bypass it.

The library was protected by a special failsafe, a magic mouth spell informed them. Kill the library guardian, and the whole place would be set ablaze. The guardian was a stone golem, a terrifying foe in itself. Fortunately, Red deduced how to disarm the failsafe, by removing six torch sconces in a certain order – thereby safely disarming the room-immolating trap. While Alice and Ace lured the golem out the door, Red began to work on stopping the trap.

As the golem left the library, its loud steps woke the zombies in the vats. A chaotic battle ensued, in which the golem was also lured into triggering the summoning trap on the fire gem, drawing down a Shadow Demon. The chaotic free-for-all ended after Alice threw the golem into the Pretur Ar Nuade spell, teleporting it into a tomb, while Ace deep-froze the zombies and Red returned just in time to bisect the demon. Alice, hideously injured, was restored to health only by using almost all the healing resources at their disposal.

They went into the library to research. A number of treasures were found, both there and in the necromancer’s private bedroom (adjoining the library) but the most precious find was a stone containing the memories of a dragon – Razethar, the Red Dragon of Man.

Here, they finally learned the true plot of the necromancer – to bring back Razethar from the dead. The dragon had failed to make a pact with Man three hundred years ago, but after he was slain he left behind instructions on his resurrection. The scattered human kingdoms of today would be unable to resist a would-be emperor with an undead dragon at his command…

They rested in the library, finally learning the true name of the necromancer: Narackamous.

In the morning, they awoke to the sound of orcs, finally making their move on the castle. It seemed they’d sent a team of their own into the tunnels. Ace argued that they should just leave, but Red said he’d made a promise to kill Ofec… and he was going to make good on it.

With this in mind, they headed for the chamber where Ofec was kept. The Pretur Ar Nuade spell triggered by the golem, they could bypass the door and enter a chamber where Ofec’s soul was kept suspended in a giant iron ring serving as a gateway between worlds. Ace deduced that as soon as Ofec was slain, a Devourer would eat his soul and come through the gateway – as Ofec went in, the Devourer would come out.

Offering to deal with this, Ace stayed behind while Red, Alice, Alishia and Ironcrow withdrew by means of Ace’s flying spells. The death of Ofec might cause a dimensional cataclysm, and it’d be foolish and dangerous to stay in the room. Ace heroically dispelled the bindings on Ofec, watched him sucked into the vortex and attempted to teleport away…

…but failed, getting caught in the planar vortex. The castle collapsed, and a wave of negative energy killed many of the Axe Tribe orcs, including their leader.

The Devourer escaped its prison and went after Red and Alice. Just as it was about to charge, a new hero emerged from a hiding place among the rocks: ELFNAME ELF-FACE, the MYSTERIOUS ELF. Armed with a bow and with powerful healing magic, she helped Red and Alice engage the Devourer while Ironcrow and Alicia got the attention of the orcs.

The devourer slain, they withdrew to the cave where ELFNAME had been hiding, watching the orcs from afar as they united under Urgor sho-Grobor’s banner of the Sword.

An Immortal Enemy: To the Black Peak
A summary of the journey toward the Black Peak

After three months of research, the Dwarven cartographers concluded that the fortress Ironcrow recalled from his memories of the Necromancer must reside in the Black Peak, to the south of the Silver Kingdom.

Ace, Alice, Alishia, Culgalath, and Ironcrow formed an adventuring party of five and traveled alongside an underground caravan to the southern outpost of the Eyrie, with new dwarven-forged armor and equipment. The journey took three days.

The Eyrie is an outpost famed for its trained crows and high location atop a mountain. Here, they encountered the innkeep Tosid, and the prospector Ahab, who swore he’d found gold in the southern mountains. The dwarves never ventured there, for fear of the giants and giant animals that dwell along with them. Culgalath persuaded Ahab to join the group as a guide.

After spending the night in Tosid’s inn, they ventured down the precarious mountainside and soon discovered a dead giant, tainted with undeath. Carefully venturing on, they stopped for a meal in a small patch of trees, only to be ambushed by a giant mountain lion that nearly bit Ace in two. They slew it and spent some time debating what to do with the hide, but eventually decided to leave it – it was too big and bulky.

Continuing south, eventually night approached. They split into three parties to search for a suitable place to sleep; Alice and Ace discovered a rocky overhang, but upon investigating it, found that it was a makeshift grave for three hill giants. These giants rose from the dead as Ace approached, and the group destroyed them – only to discover some mysterious necromantic ash, that spread from the bodies as they were hacked open. The ash would cause sickness in any giant who inhaled it, and it would rise as a zombie upon death, explaining why the giants had dumped the bodies rather than eat them (as is their custom) or destroy them (to prevent more uprisings).

The six travelers made camp on a hill near the slopes of the eastern Twin Peak. There, they saw signal fires and warning systems prepared by the giants, who seemed to have banded together against the external undead threat. At night, Alice witnessed some of them be overrun by the undead, and flee towards the pass between the peaks.

The following morning, they continued through the giant rock fields (where the giants throw boulders for sport) toward the mountain pass. To Ahab’s great surprise, the tribes had banded together into one massive fortified village, keeping their zombie brethren at bay with walls of mammoth tusks and rocks. They decided to negotiate with the giants for passage, rather than attempt to sneak past.

Ace approached, and by using Enlarge Person to appear larger drew the giants’ attention, and then managed to amuse them by shrinking back to halfling size so much that their aggression was defused. The leader of the giants, a white-haired elderly Plains Tribe chieftain, invited them to the village. When they explained they would kill the lich who had no doubt caused the zombie plague, they allowed passage for Culgalath (for his wisdom) and Ace (for his magic), but took an interest in Alice, who was big and well-built enough to either take as a wife or serve as emergency rations. Alice had to prove that she was instrumental in the destruction of the lich.

An impromptu wrestling match was arranged; if Alice could prove herself stronger than a giant, she would be proven strong enough to kill the lich. Otherwise they would keep her. Alice chose the largest and most powerful giant as her opponent, and through a heroic feat, slammed his face into the ground in an instant.

The three were allowed to pass, and to bring their two companions Alishia and Ironcrow, who were proven to be magical enough to surpass the giants’ knowledge. Culgalath managed to scoop up some golden ore from the giants’ water supply, and brought it back to Ahab as payment – finally giving him proof that these mountains held ore of the precious metal. A grateful Ahab returned toward the Eyrie.

They entered a grey, misty and cold marsh, now without a guide. Not even Ahab knew anything of the lands beyond. The marsh was full of aimless undead giants, but thanks to a Hide from Undead wand (and the fact that the giants were easy enough to avoid) no confrontation occurred. After a while, a great lake full of bodies, surrounded by stolen trinkets hanging from the trees, revealed to Ace that this marsh was home to Chuul, horrific crustaceans who love to take trophies and trinkets form their victims. They bypassed a precious magical necklace in a tree, to not draw the creatures’ attention, and continued south.

As night fell, willowisps appeared. These evil creatures drew the attention of the chuul, as they feed on terror, and hoped the chuul would paralyze the heroes and devour them alive. The evil crustaceans were defeated, however – but the night had only begun.

Sometime later, the wisps returned with three hill giant zombies in tow. With the help of Culgalath’s Hide from Undead wand, the heroes outmaneuvered the zombies and confused the wisps. They hastily gathered their camp and wandered south in the dark, away from the zombies. The invisible wisps followed, trying to lead them into a trap, but Ace could hear what they were planning. He advised Red to seek another path. The wisps, infuriated, attacked, and one was slain, causing the others to flee.

The group pressed on until they came to the edge of the bog, by a group of rocky sulfurous hot springs that fed into the swamp. Some were so hot as to boil. Here they collapsed and rested for a while, then as the sun rose, cleaned themselves in a moderately warm spring. Ironcrow kept watch, unwilling to relax and bathe so near the fortress, while Red took a quick dip before scouting. He discovered that the necromancers had bound steam mephits to do his bidding, boiling the flesh from a still-living orc in a spring not too far from the camp. They seemed to be building something.

He warned his friends, who got dressed and moved on. Soon they found out what the mephits were doing – a horrid bone abomination rose from a spring and spewed boiling hot water over Alice. It was defeated, largely thanks to Ace and his lightning bolts, but it made an awful noise, sending the nearby mephits into a craze. Alice tried to draw the attention of the mephits, who used their ability to boil the air, fleeing after two of them were shot out of the sky.

Continuing, the party found a petrified forest on the other side of the springs. This eerie place had no animal life whatsoever, and seemed to have a slowly petrifying effect on anything organic, including the boots and clothes of the travelers. Red found a petrified orc, mid-movement, near a camp further ahead – and discovered that it had fallen victim to an undead medusa.

The heroes attempted to spring a trap for the medusa and rescue the orc, to interrogate him. It went wrong when a group of orcs bumbled into the camp, and a fight broke out, ending in the medusa’s destruction and the death of the hostile orcs.

Ace rescued the first petrified orc, who helped them slay the intruders. This orc was Urgor sho-Grobor, leader of the Sword Tribe of orcs. The Axe tribe had followed him into the woods in an attempt to assassinate him, but he’d run afoul of the medusa first. He soon struck a deal with Ace…

Black Spire Rising: A Summary
A summary of the events of the Black Spire

Alice, Ace and Culgalath were clearing out some goblins on behalf of the Pathfinder Society of Stonehaven, when a horrible noise split the day, and an enormous pitch-black spire shot out of the ground in the midst of the city.

They hastily made their way towards their home, stopping at Elon’s Rest to meet some refugees and learn more of the situation. Creatures from the Underdark had traveled inside the spire, and a black cloud poured from the earth, darkening the sky. Within days, Stonehaven would be draped in eternal night. A few paladins were protecting more refugees to the east.

They met the paladin Sir Tristan, who died fighting back some blind cave ogres that were pursuing the refugees. Killing the ogres, they saved his two apprentices and continued east, being ambushed in the night by a drow noble. Using the release of an enslaved earth elemental to cause chaos among a group of duergar slavers, they infiltrated the city and reached the Pathfinder Society headquarters. They learned by interrogating a duergar that a demon of some sort was behind the invasion and that a wizard named Ofec had somehow summoned it. The Mages’ Guild might know more. Unfortunately, the mages had established a protective barrier around their guild, allowing nothing to enter or leave.

Reaching the Mages’ Guild, they fought off a bulette led by a drow beastmistress. Saving some refugees from a gargoyle, they ran into a mysterious necromancer who offered his aid in lowering the barrier. The necromancer was seeking his apprentice, who had stolen a precious stone and cast a curse on him that made him rot alive.

Agreeing to help him for now, the necromancer lowered the barrier and they entered the guild. They learned that Ofec had come there pretending to be a weak and incompetent wizard, and that he had brought an apprentice of his own: Ironcrow, the mongrel sorcerer. Questioning Ironcrow, they learned that Ofec had stolen the Chief-Stone, a powerful diamond with the blood of some abominable beast contained within. The necromancer was midway through using this stone as a phylactery. They convinced the Guild to release Ironcrow, because he claimed to be able to sense the stone’s presence.

Thereafter, they ventured to a small church that had survived the destruction caused by the Spire. The church had been taken over by an Erinyes, a fallen angel, who was busy torturing two paladins inside. Rina, the last remaining paladin, was adamant about rescuing them. The party agreed to help her. They attacked the fallen angel and killed it, rescuing the paladins and returning to the Pathfinder headquarters. Ironcrow had, meanwhile, discerned the location of the stone – inside the Thieves’ Guild.

Holing up in the headquarter overnight, they were attacked three times – first by blind cave ogres, their cave elephant, and a hideous daemon, then by shadows, and then by a drider and some drow. They ventured out to the Thieves Guild in the morning, and learned that Ofec had taken over and made himself boss, by killing one of three leaders and kidnapping the brother of a prominent thug, blackmailing him to obey. By conspiring with King Rat, the leader of the halfling rogues, they distracted the thug and attacked Ofec, killing him.

Taking the stone, they returned to the surface. In the process of searching through the Guild, Culgalath put on a cursed belt that would transform him into an ogre. With no way to break the curse, they offered the stone to the necromancer in return for his aid. He broke the curse and disappeared, but not before they had learned his plan: To become a lich. In truth, he hadn’t been “cursed” with rotting – he was halfway through the ritual of lichdom, and his body had already died and begun decomposing.

With time running out, they made an assault on the tower. Climbing and sneaking through it, they eventually reached the top – to learn that Guzurath, the demon, had already betrayed the drow and all but killed their high priestess. A brutal battle ensued in which Alice was possessed by the demon’s decoy bodyguard, but they slew the bodyguard, confronted Guzurath, and defeated him using a scroll with the demon’s True Name that Ofec had carried. With the demon banished to the Abyss, the Spire collapsed, as did the tunnels beneath it, crushing the invading Drow armies and everyone unfortunate enough to remain in the city. The heroes barely escaped with their lives, running into Alice’s sister Alishia just outside.

The demon stopped and the invaders defeated, they proceeded to return to the Mountainhome, reporting their victory.


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