Desnus 17 – Sarenith 5th, 4719
(This log covers 3 or 4 gaming sessions).
The group begins their journey to find the Nomen centaurs, exploring as they go. They discover (and avoid) a herd of mammoth near the bleached bones of a gigantic linnorn. They also come across a malevolent pair of will-o-wisps on the hunt (which are quickly dispatched).
One night the group is attacked by a slithering black horror with two palid arms known as a Soul Eater. After a challenging battle the creature is destroyed, leaving the group to wonder why it had attacked and where it came from.
The party eventually meets a Nomen Warband. The warrior centaur women charge forward, whooping and shrieking and putting on a display of strength. The group stands their ground while making it obvious they are not there for a fight. After a short discussion the group shows this warband Skybolt, the bow found among the Spriggan’s loot. It is requested the group return with the warband to speak with the chieftain, they agree.
After a few days journey they are lead to the camp of the Nomen. As they approach: “The camp itself sits in a low hillock surrounded by a sea of grass. A large bonfire dominates the center of the camp, around which more of the horsewomen dance in a primal rhythm long lost to the civilized soul. A scattering of opensided hide huts numbering no more than five score are ranged around the hollow, inside which other members of this tribe congregate, eat, or sleep. Everywhere, the heavily armed and armored centaurs sharpen weapons, tend to gear, or walk patrols, all with a feral economy of movement and sound. These are the true inheritors of an age long gone when the steppes rang to the thunder of their herds and the fury of their war cries, while the first inklings of civilization clung to shorelines and riverbanks like children to their mothers’ skirts—afraid of the dark wilderness and its wild masters.”
The first thing immediately obvious is that it is a society made up primarily of females. The men are protected and treasured (many of the men are still warriors, though generally archers). The group is lead to the chieftain as she is readying for the Centaur nightly ritual to their god the Moon Mother (an aspect of Desna). The entire camp (of hundreds) are already gathered here. There is no mistaking the hostility directed the group’s way. The chieftain, one Aecora Silverfire, listens to the groups story and questions. She gratefully accepts Skybolt (the fact it was missing is obviously a sore point among the centaurs) then asks the Duke to speak with her alone.
The two walk to a small quiet hill that overlooks the bustling encampment. In the gloam of twilight they talk honestly; ruler to ruler, warrior to warrior, parent to parent (you get the idea). Caelan learns that Vordakai is not a centaur god but a “slumbering warlord from the times of the mother tribes”. His name is spoken fearfully among the Nomen, his name associated with something ancient and powerful. There is a place Aecora knows of associated with that name, a place the Nomen are forbidden to go. It is called Olah-Kakenket, the Valley of the Dead. It is among the Nomen traditions to watch over this valley (from afar) for signs of disturbance or activity. Aecora believes the valley is some sort of graveyard and that the trail at the end of the valley leads to Vordakai’s tomb. As they talk it seems Aecora is avoiding something. Caelan finally pries out that a young headstrong Nomen has entered the valley (despite the taboo) and has not been heard from since. Ashamed, but knowing a fellow parent and ruler would understand, Aecora admits the young Nomen is her own daughter Xamanthe. She asks Caelan to find her daughter since the group is heading to Olah-Kakenket anyways. Caelan agrees. Due to the disruption two legged folk cause among her people she regrets to tell Caelan that the group must leave the camp that night. He understands. They head back.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, Quinn performs as Scotia does her best to simultaneously dub the performance into Sylvan, all the while Iola does an interpretive dance. The audience stands in stunned confusion. One of the few friendly centaurs asks Wan-Fu what it’s all about…he shrugs. A few in the crowd do enjoy the virtuosity of the music itself. Caelan returns and the group is off.
They make good time to the Valley of the Dead. Along the way a flash of insight strikes Quinn. He suddenly realizes that a particular crow (it has a slightly distinctive beak) has been following the group since at least Varnhold. Thinking back he realizes it has been hiding in plain sight for weeks! The group figure out a scheme by which they can kill the creature quickly without tipping it off that they know it is a spy. The plan is successful and Vordakai’s familiar is destroyed.
The group enters the valley, passing the Nomen’s warning wall of bone totems. The valley itself looks much like the surrounding land, though a strange feeling of oppression begins to grow and the normal sounds of wind in grass seems oddly muted. A mile in they come across the first of the gravestones, 6-10’ high steles which are badly weathered. The group searches for a while, but there is nothing here to find except for the illegible etchings of ancient cyclops on the weathered stones.
They eventually make their way to the path mentioned by Aecora heading up into the mountains, it is a great stairway made for creatures much larger than humans. In the shadow of the path they see a lumbering figure. Out of the shadows steps a cyclops zombie, guts hanging out and dragging a huge axe. Despite being a zombie, a slight glimmer of intelligence is evident in it’s behavior. The group dispatches the creature in short order. They climb the miles long stairway (camping in the middle) and finally find themselves coming out at the shores of a small lake. Cliffs all around, a waterfall the the right, and a towering natural column of rock jutting out from the middle (smoke or steam can be seen escaping through cracks in the rock face.
As Scotia flies around to scout the area a family of Wyverns take notice and the fight is on. Scotia nearly perishes, but the group prevails. Wondering if there is anything in the deep waters of the lake Iola throws a flank of wyvern into the lake attached to a rope, after many minutes the answer is affirmative as something very strong yanks the rope from her hands.
A small landing can just be seen from shore, the group (with their foldable boat) makes their way there. The landing leads into a hallway leading deep into the pillar of stone. And thus begins the extended dungeon crawl that is Vordakai’s Tomb. They quickly figure out that someone at Varnhold had been here before, breaking the magical (invisible) seal. The bracelet supposedly found by a river was actually found here…and is not actually a bracelet but a cyclops sized ring. Horse tracks, obviously Xamanthe’s, lead in deeper.
The group faces and discovers (deep breath): a group of cyclops zombies, an aquatic dinosaur (in it’s lair, an area that leads out to the river, this is the creature that ate the Wyvern flank), a room of pottery, an elaborate trap room with more guardian zombies (Iola’s spidey sense picks up the trap thankfully), a stranger room of obvious religious significance depicting Charon and with altars, a tomb with two soul eaters that kill Adal (they order the Queen to send Deoryr with the Queen’s raise dead supplies, regroup in the pottery room, raises Adal, and leaves Deoryr there), return to the altar room and go through the special bronze doors (they don’t figure out the “riddle” and set off the trap of Stygian Fire), fight a guardian Piscodaemon (very difficult, Iola almost dies), find Xamanthe seemingly dead (though really paralyzed, she isn’t able to tell the group too much, they leave her with Deoryr and order Deoryr to teleport away at the first sign of trouble or in 12 hours), find some secret doors in the tomb room, find a weird room obviously highly magical and with an eye motif, come to a room with a huge pool of tar and whose air is noxious (they fight an undead wizard here and defeat him), continue across the tar to the next part of the dungeon, find a huge room with a horrific scene of the council and significant members of the Varnhold sitting around a table with their heads cracked open and their brains scooped out…and more zombies (very difficult fight in the hallway, Iola almost dies, saved by Adal), another tomb area with the body of another Varnhold council member and it’s spectre (defeated), the group returns to dining hall and climb stairs to the balconey, find secret door, enter to discover a large pool of sulfurous water…and a massive evil water elemental (very difficult fight, Scotia almost dies, saved by Wan-Fu). (Whew!)
As the group is recovering from their fight against the elemental the large double doors to the next room slowly open, deep laughter can be heard within. At the door is another cyclops zombie, this one with plates of iron grafted to it. In the darkness behind a voice echoes. “Welcome little Duke, I give you one chance to lay Innisfree at my feet.” The fight is on.
The group makes short work of the guardian and prepares for their assault against Vordakai. Scotia makes the first move, strategically moving to an alcove, allowing straight access for the warrior types. Unfortunately Vordakai throws up a wall of force to isolate Scotia from the rest. Caelan goes nuts and begins attacking the wall. She tries to hide but to no avail. He blinds her then attempts to paralyze her (knowing she stands no chance, especially blind, one on one she mocks paralyzation until the wall of force comes down…yeah, that’s it). The whole time Vordakai stares at the duke, relishing Caelan’s rage. He takes Scotia to another room as Wan-Fu begins bashing through the stone walls. Vordakai patiently waits, studying his next victims through the wall of force.
What follows is the worst few minutes of Caelan MacCallan’s life (and probably everyone else’s as well). The fickle fates turn on our heroes, their attacks hit nothing but air, their considerable abilities seem useless, their incredible power negated by the turning of cosmic fortune. Vordakai slowly and systematically dismantles the Heroes of Innisfree. In his cruelty he purposely leaves the Duke till last. Before finally finishing the fight he looks at Caelan and says “You’ve lost your council little Duke.” Caelan attacks with wild abandon… but sadly falls like the rest. The entire group paralyzed the dread warlord Vordakai begins to strip the bodies, first magically then physically. Too late Caelan realizes what is happening. The last thing heard by Duchess Torri MacCallan from her husband through their telepathic bond is “I love you!”.
The Heroes of Innisfree are defeated…