Maintaining the Balance

Session #5 (August 18, 2011)

The PCs were taking a break to recover from their encounter with the ghosts in the entry hall. Suddenly, Ulvein stood up and stared intently at the door in the northern wall. He quickly strode over to it and attempted to open it. Finding it locked, he drew his fullblade and with a ferocity that would rival a barbarian, began cleaving the door apart! Before the rest of the party could stop him, he blasted the door open and strode into the room with measured, determined steps.

He was confronted by another ghost, this one is a somewhat ragged-looking old man dressed in fine ceremonial robes. He and Ulvein quietly conversed, illuminated by the brilliant azure glow of Ulvein’s blade and the more subtle glow of the faded ghost. When the rest of the party arrived on the scene, there was an irrational fire burning in Ulvien’s eyes. Then, another ghost appeared: Vecna! The vibrant image of the Maimed God glided smoothly over to the ragged ghost and said, “Seriously, Zhimor? You escape the Black Bitch’s grasp and THIS is whom you choose to confide your secrets? A renegade drow and his…companions?…such as they are? How sad for you. You’ll never get the help you need this way.”

Ulvien screamed in rage and slashed his huge glowing fullblade down upon Vecna’s unprotected head. Faster than thought, the ghost snapped his hand up and caught the blade easily in one cadaverous hand. Vecna’s eyes flashed dangerously and he hissed, “You DARE attack a GOD, you pathetic fool? See now the error of your impetuous ways!” A sudden burst of violet necrotic power flared from the god’s hand and the sword exploded into a blinding blast of light. When the afterimages faded, nothing could be found of Ulvien save his smoking boots and a dark silhouette on the wall with a large shard of his fullblade embedded within it.

Vecna turned towards the party and said, “See now how pathetic your quest is, children? Corellon’s champion is no more. Without divine aid, you shall never succeed.” With that, he turned and glided away, his form fading along with his amused laugh.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then Castiel walked over to the image burned into the wall. He placed a four-fingered hand gently upon the image, staring beyond the wall. He seemed to be warring with something inside himself. His hand slid down to the embedded blade and his eyes widened in shock and disbelief, then a look of peaceful understanding washed over his carefully forged faceplates. He reached out and grabbed the blade shard with both hands and with a tremendous pull, ripped it free of the wall. The others stared in amazement as he then rammed the blade into his forearm, where it burst into its familiar blue light, then faded.

“I am whole now”, Castiel intoned. Turning to the rest of the group, his face approximated a smile. “I see now the path I must tread. Corellon’s champion is not dead, but is here…now. It took Ulvien’s sacrifice to show me my true path. Corellon’s grace has been infused within me. I am now one of his bladesingers. Let us continue our quest.”

Just then, Zhimor’s ghost reappeared, more haggard-looking than before and trailing wisps of ethereal vapor. With wide, wild eyes, he looked from person to person as he quickly spoke. “Please! You must…unnngggh…you must warn them! They MUST choose a successor before…unnnngnghhhhh…before it’s too late! Hurry please! I can’t…oh no…NOOOOO!” The ghost turned and wailed as Vecna’s image once again appeared. “Zhimor, I grow tired of corralling your pathetic spirit. Some secrets are better left unlearned. Now begone!” and with that, he waved his hand dismissively. In response, Zhimor’s ghost shredded like a cloud in heavy wind. Vecna turned to face the party. “So? Our warlock has had a change of heart, eh? How amusing. Let’s test this group of would-be heroes then! We’ll see how useful you really are!”

He turned to the wall and flew through it. Moments later, a deep bass rumble vibrated the ground. The rumble grew to a growl the likes of which no natural beast could utter. The group looked for an alternate way out of the chamber, but found nothing immediately available other than the doorway in which they stood. Then, a horrid grinding noise like that of stone upon stone screeched a clashing counterpoint to the deep rumbling growl. From around a shadowy corner emerged a huge bulbous mass of decayed flesh. Dissicated eyestalks dotted the top of its bulk and a huge glazed-over eye set in the center of the mass stared sightlessly. The grating noise grew louder as it forced its huge body through the small corridors towards the party.

After a bloody combat, the party managed to pin the undead beholder in a corner room and beat it down until it stopped moving. After some quick exploration, they found another locked door to the north. As Castiel worked to unlock the door, the zombie groaned loudly and levitated back up again behind them. This time, the rheumy center eye was far more clear and three of the previously damage eyes on top seemed far more animated. Beams of energy lanced out at the party from the resurgant beast. They quickly dispatched it for good this time. Vecna’s image floated out of the dead carcass and appraised the party for a moment. He then said, “Well done! It seems you’re not so helpless afterall. Perhaps we’ll meet again in the future. Though for your sakes, I hope not…” And with a malicious laugh, he faded from view.

The now-familiar voice in their minds spoke up again. “Is it gone? Is…HE…gone? Oh dear, I DO hate when he comes! Scares me to death he does! And that beast! Oh MY! Well, now. You’ve proved yourself to that horrid ghost and you’ve lost a friend. Seems like quite a busy day to me. Time for you to go, I think. Yes, that would be best!”

The party (rather discourteously) chose to ignore Pharen‘s requests and proceeded into the library. They rummaged through the ancient texts and maps located in the room while Pharen grew ever more anxious at the ransacking of his beloved books. The PCs were able to determine that while Pharen believed he had only been in the tomb for “several months”, it was clear that he’d been there far, far longer. In addition, they found many references to gods and apparently important people whose names were not familiar to them. Many of the rituals they read about in the tomes were in common practice today, but were either used for different purposes or were attributed to different gods than those used today. Also, many of the maps showed the lands much as they are now, but the political lines were completely different and many cities listed on the maps were either in ruins or non-existent in the current world.

Cayden, apparently looking to push Pharen over the edge, grabbed a waterskin and started carelessly flinging it around on the ancient map which he had been studying. Pharen shrieked in rage and indignation and flew into the room. At the same time, three other entities also entered the room: a mad wraith and two griefmotes. The PCs could feel the rage and anger radiating from the wraith while equally assaulted by grief, loneliness and despair from the motes.

Pharen stayed invisible and psychically abused the party while the wraith and griefmotes attempted to subdue them. The party managed to lock down the wraith with clever use of radiant energy from Castiel and destroyed it in short order. Pharen’s invisibility failed him and left him exposed. When the wraith was destroyed, all animosity seemed to leave Pharen and his continued pleas to stop turned from anger to disappointment and resignation. Soon after, when he was severely injured, his mind seemed to snap altogether and he settled to the floor, babbling incoherently about how he’d failed in his duty and how his mistress had doomed him to a pointless existence. Shirow took pity upon the wretched creature and, while speaking soothingly to him, ended Pharen’s suffering with a single swift stroke of his blade.

With Pharen’s death, all of the emotional stress in the room vanished, leaving the tomb starkly silent save the soft gurgling of fluid slowly draining from Pharen’s damaged jar.

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