Death of the Lion: An Eberron Adaptation

Here’s a short story told in the form of a legend, meant to adapt the Ghostlord’s story into the Eberron setting.

Raat shi anaa. The story continues.

The empire of Dhakaan. The epitome of bloodstained glory.

The Dar, known to Khorvaire’s humans as the goblinoids, ruled the continent for several millennia. Its people were strong-willed, skilled in steel, spell, and the blending of both. Its succession of emperors thought their lineage would last forever, but as we all know, empires always fall in the end.

The madness came. It came pouring into Eberron from the mad plane of Xoriat. Twisted flesh and minds, known to sages as the aberrations, filled the Material Plane with their unnatural might and magic. At the van of this tide of insanity came the Daelkyr.

The Daelkyr were beings so unnatural and warped that their mere presence corrupted reality. The land was polluted, and so were its people. Those Dar who had been captured by the Daelkyr were made into playthings by the mighty lords of madness. Those that survived saw their flesh and minds twisted at the whims of the Daelkyr.

One of the provinces that was badly hit was Rhestilaar. A gate to Xoriat opened in the dark chasms below the land, and legions of unnatural creatures invaded the surface. The Daelkyr who led them was known to the Dar as Marvesklurhan, the Lord of Writhing Coils. It established Rhest as its throne as it began sending forth its minions to meet with the Daelkyr who were invading the western reaches of Khorvaire.

But the proud Dar refused to be broken. They fought back, and with them came the orcs of the Gatekeepers. With swords of the twilight metal byeshk and mighty spells meant to restore the balance of Eberron, the unlikely allies fought back the waves of madness. As the war raged on, many of the hobgoblins were impressed by the power of the Gatekeepers’ natural magic, and sought to augment their martial might with it.

Very few of the Dar who tried to join the Gatekeepers’ ranks impressed the orc hierophants, but those who did proved to be mighty and wise indeed. One of these was a hobgoblin named Uriikel Zaarl.

Zaarl led a mighty pride of lions into the corrupted capital city of Rhest, and tore into the ranks of the Illithids who served as Marvesklurhan’s elite guard. He wielded a mighty byeshk blade he called the Devourer of Twilight, and fought fiercely all the way to the threshold of Marvesklurhan’s alien throne.

Zaarl struck swiftly, smiting the Daelkyr with his blade, but the blow was not enough. The Daelkyr’s mighty tentacles flung the druid away, and the Lord of Writhing Coils escaped deep into the caverns beneath Rhest along with its entourage.

Shocked by the maddening touch of the Daelkyr, Zaarl summoned all his brethren to pursue the alien lord to the portal at the bottom of the subterranean chasm. The Illithids, wielding swords forged of pure mindstuff, fought a retreating battle to cover the flight of their wounded lord, but Zaarl caught up with  Marvesklurhan as it was about to flee. The hero’s pride of lions fought with all their might, crushing the twisted Illithids and filling the room with carnage as the druid confronted the Daelkyr.

“Here you die, corruptor of flesh,” proclaimed the druid champion.

“Ah, flesh—what is flesh but something to be twisted?” answered the Daelkyr, its warped voice echoing in Zaarl’s mind.

Zaarl said nothing and smote the alien lord with his blade. Marvekslurhan’s death throes consumed its own minions as its psychic force clawed violently at life. The backblast shattered the portal, and the fabric of reality fell back into place as the rift’s energies drained away. The day was won, but the damage had been done.

Zaarl’s lions, their forms ravaged by the shockwave of chaos, limped out of the chasm, no longer natural beings. The druid himself emerged a hero. The people of Rhest lauded him as a hero and rebuit the city in his honor. Lion motifs practically covered the city in the months that followed, and the lion was adopted as the province’s emblem.

Zaarl, however, felt betrayed. Nature’s magic could not heal his beloved lions, and none of Rhest’s mages had the ability to restore them. His body began to manifest signs of the Daelkyr’s corrupting influence, and all natural magic was completely ineffective in arresting or reversing the corruption wracking his body. The druid consulted his orc masters, but they too could offer no answers. He felt the damage was irreversible, and that nothing he could do could save Eberron in the end. Flesh, in the end, was simply something to be twisted. Only death could save him and his lions.

Zaarl sought the tomes of necromancers and the power over life and death that they held. He slipped away from the teachings of the Gatekeepers gradually. After a hundred years of study, he decided to take the final step toward conquering the flesh-twisting effects: lichdom.

“I shall save you, my pride,” whispered the undead druid as he struck his beloved lions dead with his newfound magic. At once he began to work on raising the beasts back to unlife.

Rhest itself began to die. Dhakaan never fully recovered from the Daelkyr war, and one by one its provinces began to fall into disrepair. When the last emperor, Dabrak Riis, finally abandoned his throne, Rhest’s neighbors began to invade.

The goblins once more called upon the might of its druid patron, but Zaarl sent a simple reply: “Zaarl is no more. The Ghostlord shall go to Rhest.”

Zaarl marched into Rhest once more, not to save it, but to destroy it. Bitterness and the desire for revenge had been festering in his heart for a century. It was time to exact payment from the weaklings for whom he had suffered.

The ghostly lions rampaged throughout the city, tearing the goblins limb from limb. He descended the ancient steps to the caverns beneath and called upon his magic to dissolve the great earth pillars that braced the city above. Escaping to the surface, Zaarl threw his byeshk blade, the Devourer of Twilight, into the depths of the pit.

That fateful day, nearly five thousand years ago, Rhest died. Water from Lake Rhestin came flooding into the city as the tunnels below caved in. Those that survived fled across Khorvaire, some joining the human civilization that came on the heels of Dhakaan, others remaining proud and independent. The Ghostlord himself raised an enormous temple for himself in the blighted land south of Rhest, and there he brooded for millennia, delving deeper into the arts of necromancy.

It was only recently that the cult of Tiamat led by Azarr Kul came to these lands. By the hand of fate, the traitorous Ghostlord was once drawn back together into dealing with the Dar. A great conflict brews in the lands of Elsir Vale, and the Ghostlord will once more be put to the test. Only the gods know if Zaarl will be finally left to his dark fate as a lich, or if he will be finally freed from the haunting whispers of the Lord of Writhing Coils.

Raat shan gath kal’dor. The story stops, but never ends.

Advertisements

Night Raid

Day 5

The party decides to take it easy for now. Unable to do much, Ashie commissions Morlin Coalhewer (I gave him a human apprentice who does sculpture and pottery) to start making the three homunculi she wants to use: a new Iron Defender, a Furtive Filcher, and an Expeditious Messenger. Even with expert craft skills, none of the homunculi are completed in one week, and they won’t be done until the Red Hand arrives. Wanting to be nice to the players, I tell them that their choice of one homunculus will be completed by the day before the horde arrives. They decide on the Expeditious Messenger.

The party goes to sleep, only to be awakened at midnight by distressed screams coming from the far bank.

Outriders

Jorr accompanies the PCs, but he’s so badly wounded that they tell him to stay back and leave the fighting to them.

The goblin outriders and the dire wolf (for which I swapped out the hell hound) roll high on their initiative, while all the party ends up at the bottom of the stack.

Immediately the dire wolf charges Holden for a lot of damage and knocks him down, while the outriders break out of hiding (they were wearing wolf pelts and use their surprise advantage to score painful skirmish damage on the PCs.

The party is able to quickly subdue the dire wolf, but the outriders just prove too sneaky. Only Kikkeni’s [i]energy cone[/i] is able to deal much damage to them, but the tried and true “use your mount as cover” trick works like a charm, and the outriders roll really high on their reflex saves.

Eventually, the PCs are able to bring one worg down, but its rider makes a beeline for Sterrel’s Provisioning and sets it on fire. However, by this time, Ashie and Kikkeni have HP in the single digits and are only using the dire wolf’s corpse as cover.

(In case you didn’t notice—-they did not heal themselves between their fight with the dragon and now.)

Ashie is able to use her wand of entangle on the grass around the burning warehouse, trapping the goblin who set fire to the building.

Loven manages to use his bag of boulders+sneak attack to seriously injure one worg rider, so they begin to run away.

Second Wave

The two remaining mounted goblins begin running off the grid as quickly as they could; both escape, with the second wave arriving just in time to cover them—two Kulkor Zhul duskblades, two greenspawn snipers, a bladebearer, and a Kulkor Zhul War Adept.

One greenspawn sniper reveals itself, taking shots at Kikkeni from the roof of the other nearby warehouse (Jendar’s Warehouse), and it fails its attack roll and snipe check badly. When Kikkeni’s turn comes around, the greenspawn gets flung to the ground with telekinetic thrust for all his trouble. He survives the huge fall, however, but now that he’s out in the open, he has a hard time with hiding.

The first duskblade nails Holden with [i]ray of enfeeblement[/i], dropping his strength back down to 12.

Ashie thinks she could nail the newcomers with entangle, but the War Adept goes right before her turn and blasts her and Kikkeni with a scintillating sphere.

Both women fail their reflex saves badly. Kikkeni is dropped to the negatives by the explosion, while Ashie dies instantly. The spell deals just enough damage to send her to exactly -10.

The party gets screwed really badly from here on. The Kulkor Zhul War Adept uses its Pillar of Magic ability (see Hobgoblin Warcaster, MMV) to grant SR 14 to its lackeys.

Loven runs to try to heal Kikkeni and finds a potion of cure moderate wounds in her pack, bringing her back up to the single digits.

The party is lucky they’re able to move around so quickly–the hobgoblins have a hard time keeping up with them and the snipers have lousy shots. Readied actions would’ve taken them down easily.

Holden is quickly surrounded by the duskblades and the warblade; one channeled shocking grasp and a critical hit from the warblade later and he’s in the negatives; even his damage pool couldn’t absorb enough.

Seeing Holden go down, the duskblades and the warblade go after Kikkeni and Loven.

Kikkeni is able to breach the SR and flings the warblade away with TKT, while Loven drinks a potion of invisibility to help out his dwarven brother.

In the mean time, Kikkeni flings back one of the duskblades with TKT again (now her favorite power), squishing him. Ouch. The other guy survives and also runs after her.

Loven is able to run as fast as he could towards Holden, and he activates Holden’s healing belt bringing him back up to the positives. Not wanting to attract the nearby War Adept’s attention, Holden continues to play dead.

Kikkeni tries to outmaneuver the warblade, but she decides she’s not willing to risk a TWF full attack on her next turn, so she risks an AOO instead so she can get a safe distance away to cast a spell. Not this player’s lucky day.

The warblade rolls a 20 on his AOO, but fails the confirmation roll. This is still enough to bring Kikkeni down again, so the warblade rejoins the fray as the War Adept casts mirror image. Holden uses up the belt’s charges and gets up, attacking one of the mirror images (giving Kikkeni 2 HP due to Martial Spirit), while Loven pokes at the mirror images as well.

The War Adept is able to nail the now-revived Holden with scorching ray putting him at a dangerously low HP level—once his damage pool hits next turn, he’s going to go down to 0 again. He smashes the warblade with Mountain Hammer.

With Kikkeni back up, she’s able to nuke the mirror images with energy missile, exposing the caster. He barely takes damage from it, but he retaliates with summon swarm. The spiders take Kikkeni down to 0 HP again, though she thankfully saves against the poison.

The remaining duskblade runs off into the woods.

At this point the War Adept tries to escape as well; its buffed AC keeps it safe for the most part. However, as it moves away, it’s unable to maintain the concentration on the swarm spell due to a painful AOO from Holden, and tries to cast haste to bolster his escape.

Holden and Loven stay on his case, but eventually the War Adept is able to cast invisibility from a scroll and escapes with his life.

The party calls Jorr to ask for help with the fires, which thankfully haven’t spread so much. Ben Sterrel’s store is mostly intact.

Postmortem (Literally)

While the party has the staff of life, Loven’s crappy UMD ranks prevent him from emulating the 15 Wis required to cast the spell. They decide to lay Ashie to rest, cutting off a lock of her hair to send back to House Orien, should they decide to have her resurrected.

Now that the party has got a taste of the Red Hand’s competently dangerous side, they’re convinced more than ever that Drellin’s Ferry has to be evacuated. I also tell them that the implications of the outriders, the snipers, the War Adept and the duskblade getting away are very dire: The raid was not a coincidence. The outriders had found Vraath Keep empty and tracked the perpetrators to Drellin’s Ferry, and now that they’ve seen the PCs and gotten away to report to the Horde, there’s a good chance that later attacks will be much, much harder.

Ashie’s player decides to roll a character, and given the dangerous nature of the adventure, Holden and Loven’s player decides to roll an additional character as well.

Ashie’s player wants to tank this time, since she realized that having only one tank makes things kind of difficult. I ask her if she’s willing to give up her party’s utility casting, and she says she prefers survivability. As such, I recommend she roll a cleric instead, to which she agrees.

We recommend that the other player’s additional character (he’s going to be controlling THREE characters now O_O) be a fast, DPS striker, so we recommend a Shifter Barbarian/Swordsage or Warblade. He also decides to make this character female.

Due to Ashie’s death, I’m going to give the PCs a modifier on their Diplomacy checks during the Town Council on day 7—surely the death of a seemingly powerful adventurer would strike fear into the hearts of the people. (I’m using Rich Burlew’s  tweaked Diplomacy rules). However, this could also mean they are just as likely to surrender.

We don’t know when next session will be yet. It will likely include the council meeting, as well as the Chimera attack. I tweaked the beast a bit, giving it a blue dragon head (partially due to Azarr Kul’s and Tyrgarun’s vanity) to give it some range on its breath weapon.

RIP Ashiedae Jiourrn d’Orien

d: 16th Lharvion 998 YK