Welcome to the first installment of my Price of Courage campaign journal. If you're just joining us, I recommend you check out my journals for our Key of Destiny and Spectre of Sorrows games first. Otherwise, come meet our campaign's Heroes of Destiny and join us as we embark on the Age of Mortals' most epic adventure!
Reichert (CG male satyr fighter 5/mystic ranger 4) The wielder of the legendary Shard of Light, this free-spirited fey warrior reconnected the Dragon's Graveyard to the mortal plane with a song. Played by pirategirl.
Herschel Stanmann II (NG male Solamnic civilized human master 5/rogue 8) This young research assistant from the University of Palanthas slew the Silvanesti mystic Lothian in hand-to-hand combat, releasing the spirit of the last Dragonsinger into the River of Souls. Played by Luthen.
Salinus Wavebreaker (CG male Dargonesti elf barbarian 4/mariner 3/fighter 7) Slain by the elven mystic Lothian in the Dragon's Graveyard, this easy-going warrior was miraculously resurrected and reborn as a furious ally of dragon-kind forevermore. Played by Salinus.
Degamar Thunderarm (NG male Daewar dwarf cleric 10 of Reorx/mighty anvil of Reorx 5) A descendant of the dwarves that originally forged the Shard, this gruff warrior-priest has had his faith tested relentlessly in his quest to re-create his ancestors' accomplishments – and he's grown stronger for it. Played by Arclight.
Thanator “Shroud” Grave-Eyes (NG male afflicted kender nightstalker 9/rogue 6) The bearer of the legendary staff of bones, this solemn kender mystic destroyed the Betrayer with a powerful blast of searing light in the Heroes of Destiny's final battle to purify the Dragon's Graveyard.
Cam (N male camel) This ornery pack animal was trained to fight by Reichert in The Desolation and has survived more adventures then any common pack-animal has any right too. Therefore he gets his own introductory blurb.
Session #1 - Welcome to the Big Leagues
So before we started the next module we did some “house-keeping” in-between games. The Heroes of Destiny spent two “days” re-cooperating on Quinari's Island and at the empty Elder Shrine under the watchful gaze of the spirit dragons. During this time they inventoried and identified the magic items taken from their foes and re-distributed some of the considerable wealth and equipment their overburdened camel was carrying. Honestly, pirategirl did a detailed inventory later that evening after the game (which is when she discovered Cam was 300 lbs. over a heavy load), but this is the time in-game the heroes' would have handled this business. The extra three-hundred pounds of coin was re-distributed amongst the saddle-bags of the party's remaining five Nordmaarian steeds.
Herschel traded his +1 heavy mace (Degamar's old weapon) for Lothian's +1 heavy mace of wounding and claimed his foe's circlet of persuasion. Salinus eagerly grabbed the mystic's cloak of resistance +4 and Reichert took his ring of protection +4. The satyr and the kender split up the healing potions and everything else went onto Cam to sell later. The party also redistributed the Tears to the two divine spellcasters, Degamar and Shroud. They'd be able to make use of the artifacts healing powers in a pinch (although the concluding events of SoS had drained them of charges - they had about 1 apiece at this point). Nobody really wanted to touch the Betrayer's stuff (especially when touching the lich's mace resulted in some temporary negative levels for Herschel).
The heroes also spent some time getting to know Shroud's spirit companion, the wild gnomish woman Wrenthistle. All of the thing's she'd witnessed since she started haunting the kender had her re-considering her course of action. After some extended conversation she agreed to do less haunting and more helping. She had been a well-respected academic lecturer and story-teller while she was alive and promised her expertise and magic (she's a bard) in the future. Parrick was still missing, but at this point it was safe to assume their ghostly friend wasn't coming back for whatever reason.
When the heroes exited the Dragon's Graveyard it was fast approaching evening. As Reichert studied the stars in the sky he realized that at least four months had passed since they'd gone in. It was now late summer, probably sometime towards the end of Summer End. Herschel's theory about how time passed between the planes had been proved correct. The party made their way to the beach and then up the narrow cliff side trails to the grasslands proper as the Portal closed itself behind them.
Waiting for them at the top of the cliffs was the elven death knight Dalgonus Brightwind and his burning, zombified griffon steed. Scattered in the grass around him were the corpses of some heavily armed ogres and some huge wasp-like beasts outfitted with riding saddles. Judging by the smell, they'd been dead for a few weeks. Dalgonus only wasted a few moments promising Herschel his death before he attacked.
Shroud's eyes flashed with necromantic energy as he attempted to cast command undead on the death knight. Impressively the little guy beat the knight's Spell Resistance, but the strong-willed death knight ignored the kender's commands to flee. Reichert, still astride his horse, had been leading the camel. He dropped Cam's reigns, lowered Huma's lance and charged. The dragonlance sparked off the death knight's breastplate in an impressive fashion, but didn't do any damage. Salinus rode forward in a wide, flanking arc and dismounted, much more comfortable fighting on foot.
A quartet of ghouls sprung from their hiding places in the tall grass. Two of them charged Salinus, while the other two piled on Reichert. Degamar, enjoying a solid connection with Reorx's power once more, took this opportunity to drop to drop a flame strike on the death knight (now a safe distance from Reichert) as Herschel missed with his bow. He failed to beat Dalgonus' Spell Resistance. Arclight threw his d20 across the living room for that second time that day.
In an impressive display Shroud pounded the staff of bones against the earth and shouted dire warnings at the ghouls, sufficiently cowing the monsters. Reichert ignored the ghouls and charged the death knight again with Huma's lance. This time he hit, doing 35 points of damage altogether. We also learned that getting attacked by ghouls makes Salinus “...so...ANGRY!” However, activating his barbarian rage apparently also makes him roll badly. His first attack with his trident was a natural 1 (but only a miss), but his second stab with Grave-Eyes killed a ghoul. His next trident attack was another natural 1 (and another miss). His fourth attack hit, but just barely failed to kill his opponent. So he used a Heroic Surge and finished the job.
As the death knight stabbed Reichert a few times with his own lance the other two ghouls charged Salinus and actually scored some hits (basically taking away his extra hit points for rage). Herschel scored a great hit with his bow (10 points) and Degamar activated his new 5th level anvil ability, wrath of creation, and charged. The ability lets the anvil bypass crafted armor like it's not there once per day. Suddenly the death knight's 29 AC was something like a 13. He got hit by the dwarf's earth-breaker – hard!
Shroud's attempt to cast searing light at the death knight failed to beat it's Spell Resistance and Reichert missed his attacks. Salinus managed to disable both of his opponents before he slaughtered one of them. That last ghoul attacked savagely, with no regard for its own safety, missed the sea elf, and took itself out of action. At this point Dalgonus had about 30 hit points left. The death knight decided that perhaps vengeance was best served at the front of a larger force and spurred his unholy mount into the sky to begin his retreat. Herschel meanwhile, fumbled his shot, and very nearly fell off of his horse in the process.
Degamar was not about to let the death knight escape and be allowed to keep harassing them. He cleverly targeted the wounded zombie griffon with a searing light spell and blasted it into nothingness. However, instead of falling the death knight began to gently feather fall to the ground to the boos of the players.
Reichert was there waiting for him with the Shard of Light, but turned over his shoulder to his bloodied and furious looking sea elf friend. “Sally,” he called expectantly. The sea elf barbarian sprinted to the satyr's side. However, as the death knight hit the ground he slammed the tip of his greatsword into the ground detonating an explosion of abyssal fire that hit Reichert and Salinus. Surprisingly, it barely singed the heroes and Salinus was on the death knight like lightning, piercing the seams of his full-plate with his nasty little dagger. The next round, as Reichert prepared to strike, the Shard's crystal blade transformed into a beam of pure light! Slipping through the death knight's armor like it wasn't there the satyr slew Dalgonus Brightwind with two quick hits!
I'd hoped to unlock the Shard's last power in the final battle with the Betrayer, but pirategirl decided to use the Dragonlance of Huma for most of that fight instead. I figured a death knight was just as appropriate battle to reveal the weapon's mystery power. I also explained to pirategirl that this ability doesn't normally affect undead, but I wanted a cool reveal and this seemed appropriate. She was okay with it.
EDIT: Interestingly enough, after reviewing large chunks of my old campaign journals it turns out that Axarandes actually told the party about this ability of the Shard's, but without the players knowing how to do it, I guess we all just forgot about it. Either way, Reichert knows about it now and that's what counts!
As the rest of the party marveled at the Shard's transformation Shroud had dismounted from his horse and was crouched near the dead ogres, casting a spell. Herschel started to interrupt, but decided to watch instead. A ghostly ogre appeared, grabbing everyone's attention, and the party watched as the kender nightstalker conversed quietly with the dead giant. After a few minutes the spirit faded away.
Shroud told his friends that the ogres were part of the Essekar mercenary company. They'd been hired by Gilthanas to kill them! However, while they were waiting around for the heroes to appear the death knight and his undead griffon and swooped in, killing a few of them and their spider-eater mounts, driving the others away. Herschel had heard of the Essekars. They hadn't been operating in Nordmarr long, but they were supposed to based in the ruins of the nearby village of Haant. He also knew that these particular ogres were devoted to Sargonnas. Shroud confirmed this.
The party weighed their options. They had been charged by the spirit dragons in the Graveyard to take the Tears of Mishakal to the temple of the goddess in the city of Kalaman to the west. An overland trip there meant either traversing the foreboding Shadowglades swamp or heading south through the dangerous jungles of Lahue. Travel by sea would be faster and Pentar was the closest port city Herschel knew of. That was somewhere northeast of Haant, he thought, and not to far. The party decided they needed some answers about what Gilthanas was up to first and the ogres were their best lead for now. They elected to ride for Haant and bust some heads for information.
And that's as far as we got! Most of today's session had been devoted to finishing Spectre of Sorrows, but we're going to try to play again at the end of the month if we can swing it. I switched the Essekar ogre encounter in the module for my own re-occurring villain, but I thought opening Price of Courage with a battle with a death knight was a great way to welcome the party to high-level adventuring.