RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- Gloomwrought 7

Our stalwart adventures (now including Bastian, who fell through the portal again, trading places with Brad, bits of tentacle stuck to his armor, and his feytamer still around his neck but apparently disabled) crept through a heavy door and corridor reeking of the undead. Ahead and to the side were more heavy doors, firmly shut, against which were piled many rotting skeletons, with their arms against the door as if trying to escape when they died. DTIS tried to sneak a peek around a corner, made a lot of noise, and found a man staring at him from the middle of a large room. He was a tall human in his late forties, wearing wizard robes, with straight black hair of medium length and a short black beard, both of which were beginning to show flecks of grey. There was something else strange about him, but DTIS could not figure it. The man said, impatiently, “Is my son with you?” It was Malik, and his son Zepher came around the corner anticipating a tearful reunion, what he got was, in a nagging tone, “So you don’t want to use Prismatic Burst? Why not? It’s the perfect spell.” Zepher stuttered and the father shook his head with weary disappointment. He continued, “Fight well and finish off this thing quickly. I need to show her you are capable. That last fight did not go as well as I expected of you, son. Don’t let me down.” With that he receded into the darkness shrouding the back of the room. Into the dim flickering light of the braziers came a new shape. With a cracking of bone and wet slap of feet, a huge zombie hulk waddled into view. Skeletons rose from the piles of bodies behind them. And the battle was joined.

Theren ran into the darkness and into a pillar, and heard something dragging along the ground. That thing emerged from the darkness. At first it looked like a floating white china-doll mask. Then in the gloom they could see that hanging from the mask was a desiccated, thin body. It used to be a female, and its shrivelled nakedness shocked the senses. It looked like nearly all the life and fluid had been sucked out of it. It hung and swayed from the mask like so many sausages that had been left in the sun too long. The mask turned to them and from the leathery chest a black ball of smoke emerged, splatting on the ground. This hurt several heroes with necrotic energy, and revived the zombie. The figure receded into the darkness again. From there she commanded the undead in an unclean language that Zepher recognised as similar to the demon speech many days before—Abyssal. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this connection.}

When Theren realised their foes could see in the dark, he dropped a sunrod to reveal the rest of the room. An altar was in the back wall, in resplendent ancient tiefling style. Pillars, carved like tieflings, held up the tall ceiling. In a corner was a cot and desk with wizard research piled onto it. Malik was there. And moving among the pillars was the hideous creature. Malik later called her Tal Lorvas. The wizard did not fight the heroes, and once when he started to cast a spell that seemed intended to protect Zepher, Tal hissed for him to stop, in a cold, nasty female voice, saying, “Malik! Don’t help him. You’ve told me for years how great and powerful he is. Well now I will see if you were right.” A few moments later, when her wave of dark energy pushed Zepher and the others back into the corner, she commanded Malik to pull a lever on one of the pillars. Wincing, he obeyed, and one of the the braziers in the corner dumped its coals in a wide swath, burning Zepher badly. Apparently she was testing our heroes, and making Malik help, and was mocking in her disappointment: “Your son falls somewhat short of your fawning description, Malik. How pathetic. He can’t do the job.” Malik replied, “He can… my darling. I know he can do it.” As they fought on, Malik said in an aggravated tone, “How many times have I told you, Zepher, use your prismatic burst!” When Zepher angrily replied he did not know that spell, as it was very far advanced, Malik muttered, “I told you to learn it, I knew you would, why didn’t you learn it? We always talked about learning that one together…” Later he chided, “At least your friends are as strong as you are. Son, you need to work WITH them. They act like they don’t trust you, why is that?” Meanwhile Tal Lorvas heaped scorn on all as her skeletons and zombie kept landing blows: “Years I waited for someone to come help me, to take care of me. Then years with you waiting for your son to come. All for nothing. You disgust me.” And then: “You had best hope that your darling Shia is as patient as I am for you to pull up your trousers and be a man for change.”

The combat was hard but the adventurers fought with brilliant tactics. Tal was boxed in and vulnerable. A blow that should have brought her down, however, had a surprising effect: a bright mist was yanked from Malik and streamed into Tal, who revived somewhat. Apparently, Tal was not undead—she was a living human on the verge of death, nearly all life gone from her husk, animated with the help of powerful arcane magic. This transfer left Malik weak and somewhat transparent. They realised that Malik was a ghost. The man had died in the natural world—Zepher saw it happen—and apparently reformed in the Shadowfell, as many unquiet spirits do. Now, Tal drew what little energy he had into her, and if she did it again, it seemed that Malik might disappear entirely. So when DTIS heaved a last blow toward her to cut her apart, Malik pleaded him to spare her. DTIS pulled his swing to leave her on the verge of dissolution, but intact. The zombie and skeletons fell to the ground inert, and the battle was finished.

Tal Lorvas was acidic in her contempt, however. She hissed to stop Malik from embracing his son, and dominated the room with her horrid presence. Malik looked woefully at Zepher and said, “I am sorry, my son. I made my choice long ago. It’s the only way I can find her.” Tal hissed again. Malik cringed but with a flash of defiance said, “I mean your mother, Shia.” Tal screamed, a hideous sound that made everyone’s heads feel like they were going to collapse. Malik crumpled. Tal said, very calmly, “I’m sorry. Of course, my dear Malik. You will find her, I promised you I would make that happen. Restore my power, we will escape from here together, and… all three of us will live together very happily. You, me, and…" (with badly hidden venom) "…her. I am so looking forward to finding her. You obviously love her so much. It is so touching.”

Malik said: “Zepher… Tal Lorvas is right. She will be very powerful and can find… your mother. All you need to do is help Tal Lorvas. I know you can do it. You are… not as powerful as I hoped you’d be by now. I still don’t know why you came to the Shadowfell at this point in your development. And without Prismatic Burst, I just don’t understand that.” Zepher realised that his father was going in circles with this. There was something about him very much lost, like his mind was stuck in a labyrinth. Such is the pain of a ghost. Malik continued: “I have to say, it is disappointing. At least you have some friends. They seem kind of capable. You need to lead them, though, Zepher. Remember what you saw me do with the troupe. We had many odd characters in that bunch…" (he looked at the others, especially DTIS) "…but I managed to keep them all together. I get a little feeling you’re not doing that the way you should, son. It’s not so good.”

Tal Lorvas muttered venomously, “ANYway, back to the important matter of the RING…” Malik hastened to add: “So, Zepher, all of you, here is what you must do. There is a ring here that contains most of the life energy of my dear one," as he patted Tal Lorvas on her withered waist. "From this tomb you can make your way up underneath and into a mansion on the surface. You have seen that mansion… I saw you looking through its gate. That’s how I knew you had finally come to find me. You know the one—the one with the ruined gates, across from the dwarven place—” Theren piped up helpfully, “Fellwroth! Across from the house of Treyvan!” Tal repeated, acidly: “Yes, Treyvan.” Malik cringed and watched Tal warily but with a long hiss, Tal seemed to regain her poise. Malik continued: “In that mansion is the last one from that family. His name is.. is…” He looked at Tal with dread, terrified to say the next word. DTIS helped out by happily suggesting, “Vargas?” Tal, with hatred so thick it felt like the room was filling with black tar, said it again: “Vargassss”. {Give 1 Plot Point each to DTIS and Theren for putting these pieces together.} Malik: “Yes. Yes. Vargas. He is a very, very bad man. He did this to Tal Lorvas… to my dear one here…” He reached out with a shaking hand and caressed the withered, limp, hanging arm. “Made it so when she came to get this ring here in this tomb, it did not give her power… it took it all away. Trapping it. In here.” He reaches under his shirt and pulled out, with trembling fingers, a ring on a chain. It had a dark, dark blue gemstone with a light flickering in it. DTIS’ arcane examination saw in it the screaming face of a beautiful woman, presumably Tal Lorvas. “Bring this ring to the domain of Vargas. There must be a way to dispel the magic trapping her life force here. I could not release it. I failed. But I know you can do it, son. Do what she needs and then… then she can help you and me find your mother.” Tal Lorvas cut in, with a withering contempt that revealed she knew Malik did not mean a word of all the supposed devotion he professed for his captor: “And more importantly, restore me to my former beauty. That’s what you said, remember, Malik? How beautiful I must be? And how wonderful it will be to finally hold me in your arms as this mask falls away and at last you can kiss me like you love me…” Malik was quivering and putting up an almost convincing display of emotion, saying: “Yes, yes my love. I cannot wait to hold you, and kiss you, to show how much I love you…” Tal, bitterly: “If you truly loved me, you’d be a man. You’d have made a son who could do this thing. He is far too weak.” The mask turned to Zepher, and he felt a crushing wave of contempt. He got some sense of what Malik has undergone for years now. But Zepher also sensed that in a way she was right. Somewhere in his gut, Zepher knew he was not ready for this task.

So this was all feeling a bit awkward. With this and more conversation, the heroes determined Tal probably did know enough to find Shia, but were not at all certain of her motives. Bastian remembered to mention Eleka Fellwroth {give 1 Plot Point to Bastian for this connection}, but Tal was withering in her disregard for this minor heir. The historians in the party knew that Tal Lorvas was supposed to inherit the Fellwroth estate, as she was in line long before Vargas. It was thought she died in The Sever, the fight in which Prince Rolan put down Fellwroth’s rebellion. Apparently not.

Our heroes also realised there was no way out of the tomb—the door they came through had slammed shut at the start of combat. Though they could eventually break through, they already felt like their life force was slowly bleeding out of them, feeding into Tal Lorvas. They would not survive long enough to escape. Tal promised to let them out, if Zepher put on the ring. It would bind to him. Zepher could then only get rid of it by dispelling its magic, restoring Tal to full life. They also knew they could instead choose to destroy the ring and its life force instead. But at what cost to Malik when Tal realised their betrayal? Then again, could Tal be counted on to keep her promise? They decided that was foolish. This woman was evil and vengeful to the core and would not find Shia, unless to kill her. But attacking her now would probably destroy Malik, sending his ghost into the great beyond, or elsewhere in the Shadowfell, with even more torment. It was a terrible dilemma.

Zepher heeded his father’s admonition and asked the group to help him decide, as equals. Most of them agreed and the decision was cast: they would attack Tal Lorvas now, even though it probably meant Malik would be lost. Malik was already far gone and dissolution may be a mercy. He would never give up his hope of Tal finding Shia, even though it was plain to them that Tal would do no such thing. They resolved to gain strength, then come back to the Shadowfell to find Malik, and if Malik’s desperate hopes were right, also find Shia.

The grim band caught their breath and readied for a new assault on Tal Lorvas in the hopes they would emerge from this sad tale alive and ready to right the many wrongs they have seen…

{For the battle so far, give 1650XP for the foes and traps, split 5 ways, so 330 XP for each. The next battle will count as a new one, so spend your surges, reset those encounter powers, and add an action points!}

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