To The Thornwaste

Day 19: Noon

The PCs arrive in Brindol at noon. They pay the gate tax and enter, and meet a group of clerics of Dol Arrah tending to a whole bunch of sick people by the roadside who are being evacuated into wagons headed for Vathirond in the East. The clerics ask the PCs for help, and they oblige.

They notice Miha, who immediately tells them that she’s something of a fan and would like to join up once her arm gets better. Kikkeni is suspicious as she’s the first to notice the unusual amount of attention she was giving them, but the rest of the PCs don’t really catch on. They think she might either be a spy or a legitimately noble person, but have no reason to absolutely believe either case.

Insert a hilarious exchange between Holden and Lyka. Lyka threatens to write to Holden’s wife back in Thrane about his supposed temptation to have extramarital dalliances with Miha, to which he violently reacts. (“TALL WOMEN DO NOT TURN ME ON!”) He orders her to do pushups and sits on her back. She simply retorts that his wife would not approve of this close contact, to which he orders her to do 50 more pushups.

In any case, the clerics order the wagon to move on ahead and also mention that Cpt. Sorrana was looking for them.

The PCs run into her soon, and she embraces the PCs she’s met before. Lyka and Linny introduce themselves. The cleric does not fail to mention her novels, which she offers to Sorrana. The soldier actually expresses interest, while Lyka warns her that the books deal with forbidden romances between hobgoblins and dwarves. “And the hobgoblins sparkle too,” she adds.
“They sparkle? I thought they just stank.”

She brings the PCs to Brindol Keep, where they meet with Lord Jarmaath and Cpt. Ulverth.

The PCs introduce themselves and tell the two everything they know—the information about Abithriax is news to Jarmaath and Ulverth, but the reports of Koth’s and Saarvith’s deaths help their spirits a lot.

The PCs attempt some discussion regarding siege tactics, but none of this is much help at the moment considering Lady Kaal isn’t around. One interesting idea that Holden floats is un-petrifying the stone wyvern (which I’d described as a Thrane air cavalry unit that had been downed during the Last War and petrified, so they can actually use it as a mount) for them to use as a quick means of transporting them around the battlefield when the attacks reach their climax.

The PCs then mention the phylactery and ask for help regarding information about the Ghostlord and the Thornwaste. Jarmaath directs them to Immerstal THE RED.

They proceed to Immerstal and meet Alandri. She tells the PCs that Immerstal can’t be bothered right now, and then changes into her sphinx form, offering to allow them to bother Immerstal if they can cough up a riddle. Kikkeni makes an Int check and rolls a 26, but the player didn’t have anything on hand so I let her think of one to give it another time.

Immerstal comes down and haggles with them over the price of information that they can get regarding the Thornwaste and the Ghostlord. They refuse to pay the 400 GP it will take for an immediate rush job, so they instead let him hit the books overnight. They also make the very clever move of talking about the phylactery and then ask HIM to pay them 20 GP for the information. He grumpily grants them a 20 GP discount on his research fee.

The PCs then return to the Keep, asking more about Miha along the way. They learn that she was a traveling sorcerer, and Loven believes her story checks out enough to trust her. They also learn that she had blown away a guard who was making inappropriate advances at her (and broke her arm). The PCs can’t agree on whether to recruit her or not, and in the end say it would be a good idea to keep her close in any case.

They talk to Ulverth again about the state of the army. He tells them that while the Lion Guard is capable, the militia is pretty much a collection of maggots. Their equipment is pretty decent, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally, the party convinces Ulverth to loan them mounts.

The PCs go rest (we have lunch).

Day 20-26: To the Thornwaste
Early the next morning, the PCs get their info from Immerstal—apparently Linny’s knowledge was pretty much complete, but it’s Immerstal’s info that points them to the actual location of the Ghostlord’s Lion—12 miles into the Thornwaste.

They also learn that the Thornwaste is home to a the Daelkyr-tainted wildlife that escaped the corruption and subsequent destruction of Rhest. The badlands are home to all sorts of predators—natural, undead, and aberrant.

They then buy provisions for the journey and get a wagon as well. They take their horses and ride off as fast as they can.

The PCs move as quickly as they can, stopping in Prosser, then Dauth. The weather gets pretty nasty, but they continue anyway; their rationale is that the visibility is just as bad for whoever is watching them anyway.

Day 22: The PCs encounter a small band of hobgoblins with a dire wolf marching down the road. (Easy skirmish). The PCs wipe them out easily–Kikkeni opens up with an Energy Ball that incinerates the grunts. They’re surprised the dire wolf and the bladebearer survive, but Holden charges in on his horse anyway. This was a bad move. The wolf overpowers the horse and trips it, sending the dwarf sprawling onto the ground.

Lyka charges the bladebearer with Two-Weapon Pounce, but rolls two natural ones. Pathetic.
Loven and Linny take potshots from the wagon, but it’s Kikkeni’s energy missile that kills the dire wolf. Finally, Lyka finishes off the bladebearer with Death From Above. Easy XP.

Day 26: I swear this is random. I roll a tornado on the random weather table. Instead of blowing them away (almost did, but it didn’t make any sense for a twister to appear out of the blue and blow them away), I have the storm rage on the horizon, with the twister rampaging across the prairie. A sign of things to come.

The Temple of the Rotting Lion

The PCs decide not to stop at the edge of the Thornwaste; I decide to dispense with the random encounters I rolled (it was just a bunch of demonthorn mandrakes anyway; if it had been a Hound of the Gloom or a Pseudonatural Megaraptor I’d have gone with that).

They didn’t want to be caught dead sleeping in the Thornwaste, so they decided to continue pushing towards the Lion. The trip is made much easier by Lyka’s ranks in Survival, so she pulls them through.

They arrive at the Lion at sunset. One by one, the ghostly lion shapes wink into vision around the monolith, and the PCs gape in awe at those for a while. Linny assures them that the vestiges aren’t harmful, and that they might be bound magically to the monolith. Before they enter, a brief debate flares up over what exactly to do with the phylactery. Holden and Lyka want to destroy the Ghostlord; Loven wants to blackmail him; Kikkeni doesn’t want to fight him either way, and finally Linny is neutral. They still don’t know what to do.

The PCs see the mouth and the cavern in the Lion’s chest; they decide that it would be better if all of them enter together as not everyone can make the climb up the monolith’s side.

And they walk straight into Varathian’s lair.

Crushing Coils

The behir had smelled, spotted and heard them way before they even entered the cavern. She is poised to strike, hanging upside-down from the ceiling, 15 feet up.

Everyone forgets to make Spot and Listen checks (which is kind of silly, as Holden and Loven’s player was continuously rolling during the journey). As such, Varanthian gets a surprise round. However, my bad luck and the players’ stellar luck figure heavily in this battle once more—Varanthian rolls a 1 on Initiative.

Immediately she uses her Smite Good with her bite, ripping a huge chunk out of Holden and grabbing him into her coils. The rest of the party decides to run, but Holden curses at Lyka for even thinking of abandoning him.

Using her Whirling Frenzy to boost her strength and squeezing out every last bit of bonus by using an action point, she jumps up and grabs Holden.

And beats Varanthian’s grapple check (she rolls a natural 1).

I did forget to ask for a Jump check (hard to beat that massive Jump DC), but considering how awesome the situation was, I decided to go with Rule of Cool and let her extricate her superior officer.

Kikkeni has nothing that can work well on the behir at the moment, so she decides to go for broke and manifests Death Urge. Varanthian’s SR is breached, and she fails her save (+5 will save on a boss? WTH?!).

The party hightails it out of the cavern while Varanthian attacks herself. She shreds herself real badly, roaring all the time and yelling out threats to the Kalashtar.

Once outside, Kikkeni fires an Energy Ball into the cavern, using Electricity. The behir crashes out of the cavern, unscathed. Lots of PPs gone right there. Loven and Linny’s attempts at hurting the behir with wands simply bounce off her SR; Kikkeni resorts to Energy Missile due to her target being smack dab in the middile of the party, but this bounces off her SR. but the Behir grabs Linny and begins crushing the life out of her (she goes from full HP to 12 in one attack)

Lyka chops down the Behir to 7 HP with Soaring Raptor Strike, and Holden, in a livid rage, uses Divine Surge on the Behir. Varanthian splits apart and explodes in a huge mess out of which Linny emerges, covered in steaming black blood.

The party pushes on into the Lion.

The Lion’s Path

What would’ve been the most flavorful encounters in this chapter get laughed at. The first two ghost brute lions get slaughtered despite their incorporeal miss chance; Holden smashes them into oblivion. The dire lion fares only slightly better by hitting Holden and draining away 1 point of strength; Linny Turns Undead and sends it fleeing. Disappointing.

Guests

Long story short: Fog Cloud is awesome. The line of sight made fighting highly frustrating for everyone. Since Ulwai’s retinue is well-prepared (lots of noise from Varanthian), they’re able to set up a rather effective ambush. The monks (now Monk 2/Swordsage 3) make nuisances out of themselves, although their attempts at grappling with the dragonchains fail repeatedly.
The Kulkor Zhul war adept is able to summon a Fiendish Dire Wolf into the middle of the party, but Kikkeni is able to pull away in time. The wolf is eventually taken down by Loven, but Lyka walks straight into the monks.

Despite their buffs, the Mass Shield of Faith that Linny had cast on the party was working wonders in frustrating their attacks. The Evasion that the Monks had kept them alive longer than the PCs expected, but ultimately they went down thanks to the PCs’ persistence. The War Adept raved about taking down the PCs with him and began casting his final Scintillating Sphere, but he miserably failed his Casting Defensively Concentration check (YES IT CAN FAIL), and tried to run away. Holden cut him down.

However, one critical boo-boo in this fight—Ulwai got away. Casting Haste on her party and drinking a potion of gaseous form, she was able to slip away and get her Phantom Steed going. The monks in the guardroom escaped as well. Things aren’t always in the PCs’ favor, and they’ll have to deal with that.

The episode ends with the PCs going deeper into the Ghostlord’s lair and entering the Chamber of Rebirth.

Thoughts

-I’m surprised at how roleplay-heavy this day was, but the battles that they fought really mattered. Holden/Loven’s player is beginning to say that the encounters really feel like they’re taking a toll; that STR drain really stung him.
-Again, my luck is miserable.
-The ghost brutes were pretty useless. How did you guys run them? They just popped like bubbles here.
-The party still does not know how to deal with the Ghostlord. I hope they choose wisely.

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