Episode 7: Rekoning at the Tomb
Ingolf Egilson (Bard 1/Rogue 3) - Keith Martin
Aoelif Snorrisdottir (Ranger 1/Fianna 3) - Jess Hanna
Zaccara (Fighter 4) - Jon Hanna
Martaine (Rogue 1/Templar 3) - Sean Holland
Nicasia Xerecian (Rogue 1/Sorcerer 3) - Laura Holland
Theodorus Commenos Alexius (Noble 1/Wizard 2) - Steve McDonald
Time Elapsed: 4/27 — 4/29/495 A.I.
That same evening, the entire group retired back to the Bad Pony to discuss these events. Numerous theories were put forth as to what, exactly, was going on. It seemed clear to everyone that Zaccara had been possessed at some point by the same spirit or soul that possessed the Cimbri woman Marya, the spirit of one of Balor’s personal bodyguard, the Eagon. Ingolf put forth the theory that this person had been scrying or otherwise observing the group for some time, and Nicasia pointed out that no effort to conceal their true mission had been made. After equal amounts of discussion and wine (and prayer, for the humans) the group elected to retire.
The next morning a message came from the College of Wizardry, directing the party to meet not there but instead at the office of the city Magistrate, at 10:00 AM. During breakfast, the group discussed exactly what to say, and with a good deal of guidance by Nicasia, ultimately decided to tell the magistrate simply that Marya, a Cimbri woman with apparent sorcerous powers, had attacked them in Theodorus’ apartments. When she was driven off, she slew the luminary. The group gave chase, spotted her atop the cathedral, and brought her down, at which point her possession became apparent when the two spirits changed places (the spirit in her body and her “true” spirit in the stone.) At that point, we summoned help from the college of wizardry to deal with such powerful sorceries. No mention of Tavis, Marya’s absent lover, or of the Eagon, or of Svear’s Tomb, was to be made. In the middle of the conversation, Martaine suddenly began discussing utterly mundane matters and announced that he wanted to bathe before presenting himself before the magistrate. He suggested that Zaccara do the same and the group headed off for the bathhouse.
On the way, Martaine revealed the reason for his abrupt behavior – during the conversation he had become aware that someone was scrying the group! Theories as to who it could be abounded – the College of Wizards, perhaps, or maybe the Eagon had possessed someone, or perhaps he was somehow able to observe Zaccara even from its current “container” – the black stone. All were unnerved by this turn of events but it was decided that the less said the better. Finally everyone was assembled and ready to meet the magistrate, and so the party made their way to his offices in the wealthy section of town.
Magistrate Cyrus met the group in the hall and ushered them into his chambers. Theodorus seemed quite familiar with the imperial official, and they were, to all appearances, on very good terms. Also present were Brec, the Baron’s ljosalfar bard, and Father Gennadius, the curate of the cathedral. Sylvain, the wizard’s apprentice that had secured the “possessing stone” the evening before was not present, although there was an empty seat at the table. Cyrus explained that he’d been informed of the events of the evening before by the college, and had changed the time and place of the inquiry as the death of the luminary made it Imperial business. He also wanted to wait for the arrival of Nicodemus, the Dean of the College of Wizardry. Nicodemus had only returned to Tavia from business of his own in the countryside that morning, but Cyrus seemed to think his arcane knowledge would be useful in getting to the bottom of the matter. As he had not yet arrived, however, the Magistrate pressed the group for details of what had happened. He particularly wanted to know what we expected him to tell the widow of the luminary killed the night before.
Martaine did most of the talking. He told of his chance meeting with the others present on the road to Tavia, and how Theodorus had elected to remain behind when everyone else made an extended trip into faerie for the festival of Arleta’s Well. After the travelers’ return, they sought out their former companion and were telling tales of their journey when the Cimbri sorceress, who slew his servant woman, attacked them in his apartments. The company gave battle, driving the woman off, and then pursued her. They heard the scream of the dying luminary and investigated, ultimately spotting the woman atop the cathedral building and bringing her down (breaking seventeen roof tiles in the process, the curate was quick to point out.) At that point, everyone witnessed the exchange of souls or spirits between the woman and the black stone she held, and deduced that she had been possessed. It was then they decided to involve the College.
Cyrus of course asked why the party had been attacked, and Ingolf offered that perhaps the group had made some enemies during their travels in the Cimbri kingdoms. Brec, the Baron’s bard, wanted to know where exactly they’d traveled, and Delenach Mor was mentioned as well as the Dumbrani lands and the Credi King’s hall. Brec seemed unfamiliar with the legend surrounding the stone atop Delenach Mor and so Ingolf enlightened her. Martiane mentioned that the symbol of Balor had been seen on a stone atop the mountain, as well as being inscribed on the “possessing stone” and from there the suggestion was made that perhaps some sort of Cult of Balor was behind the attack. Brec and Ingolf had to explain exactly who Balor was, whereupon the curate blessed himself several times and Cyrus seemed quite displeased.
Just about then, Nicodemus, the Dean of the College of Wizardry, came into Cyrus’ office. He a small leather pouch levitated in front of him carried by an Unseen Servant and the dean bore a pair of heavy gloves, and was still somewhat dusty from his journey. Cyrus gave him an abridged version of what had happened, and asked if he’d examined the stone yet. Nicodemus replied that he had not, but said that he had it with him and was prepared to see what he could learn. “My apprentice Silvain informed me of some of its dangers,” he said, “and warned that it could only be safely handled with proper protection, which he provided.” With that, the human wizard lifted one of the heavy leather gloves, pulled it onto his hand, and immediately gave a horrid, strangled cry!
Nicodemus clutched frantically at his throat as an explosion of blue-black foam erupted from his lips and he fell, convulsing, to the floor. Almost as a man the company reached for a weapon – which of course none of them were carrying, as it is not considered meet to go heavily armed to an interview with Imperial officers. Cyrus leapt from his chair and yelled at the curate to summon aid, but in a minute it was all over – the most powerful Wizard in the entire province of Thessela lay dead at his feet!
Cyrus pulled the glove from the dead Wizard’s hand and turned it inside out to reveal a wicked looking needle, still dripping with some unknown venom. Ingolf inverted the bag onto the table and out fell a Continual Flamed rock and a note, written in Gaelic, which read simply “If my master cannot have it, no one will.” For a moment all stood wondering at the stone, then Martain sagely remarked that the Continual Flamed rock had been placed in the pouch in case a Detect Magic was cast on the bag. The Eagon was certainly in possession of another host - probaby Silvain!
Magistrate Cyrus went bolting out the door at once, after ordering the rest of the group to follow him to the College. Everyone reached the street just in time to see the top two floors of the College of Wizardry explode in flames.†
They ran towards the burning tower only to be met by a flood of humanity rushing out of the flaming structure. To no one’s surprise, several of those fleeing cried that Silvain had “gone crazy.” Several members of the group sprinted toward the entrance, cursing their lack of armament. Zaccara was able to secure a sword from a guard who was unwilling to enter the burning building himself. The first floor, it developed, was actually the shop of a bonded master of the Chandler’s guild, who operated it as something of a “general store” – specializing in items purchased from the alchemists and wizards of the College. Here Ingolf and Aoelif secured a few swords, and followed the sprinting Zaccara up the steps. The top two floors of the building were given over to Nicodemus for his personal apartments. On the steps leading to the penultimate floor, a wounded apprentice or servant was found, and here Martaine stopped to do what he could for the man. Everyone else continued up and found massive damage, more wounded apprentices, and an open window. The Eagon, it seemed, had fled once more. The group did what they could to minimize the damage and managed to salvage Nicodemus’ spellbooks and a few other items. They also took note of a chest, open and obviously looted. Something had been removed from a secret compartment – a Rod of Cancellation, one of the surviving wizards revealed.
Meanwhile, on the street, the civil authorities had responded, and a fire brigade was on the way. Once the survivors were removed and it was determined that the Eagon was not in the immediate area, Cyrus asked the group to return to his office. The magistrate was visibly shaken by the preceding events, and it was Brec, the Baron’s bard, who assumed responsibility for tracking down and eliminating the Eagon once and for all.
Once everyone was back outside, Brec asked Martaine and the others to accompany her. Ingolf suggested they could all use a drink, and so the group went to The Partridge, a rather upscale inn near the Magistrate’s office. There Brec put forth her opinion that the group had been less than completely honest with the magistrate, and asked them – Martaine specifically, if there were any honest reason for their evasion. Martaine dissembled a bit, but did allow that the talk of a cult of Balor was intended to divert the issue from the real facts. Eventually, he confessed that Zaccara had been possessed by the Eagon for a time, and that the group had withheld information in an attempt to protect him. No one, the templar declared, wanted to see the inquisition in Tavia. Brec agreed, but then wondered aloud to Martaine exactly who he thought would come to investigate rumors of a Cult of Balor?
The group realized their mistake in ever bringing up that name at that point. Brec entreated them to either reveal the whole truth to her or else undertake themselves to stop the Eagon as soon as possible and head off any rumors about a Balor cult or anything of that nature. Everyone quickly agreed, to the point of deciding to depart that very night, and Brec volunteered to “run interference” and keep Cyrus from further involving the darker side of the church of Logos.
After the Alfar woman departed, Ingolf explained his theories to the group: the Eagon sought to recover Balor’s Spear from Svear’s barrow. That, Ingolf believed, was the point of the whole exercise. The fact that the Eagon had offered to make a deal with the group concerning the three tresses of hair needed to free Svear’s shade seemed to confirm the idea that he meant to gain entrance to the tomb. The group’s refusal to bargain forced another approach, hence the threat “If my master cannot have it, no one will.” The theft of the Rod of Cancellation was the final confirmation. It was decided that the group would strike out at once for Svear’s tomb, nearly two days ride away, and try to destroy the “possessing stone” and the Eagon along with it.
Preparations were hastily made. Martaine procured some Holy Water from the Cathedral. Aoelif arranged for herself and Ingolf to retain their “borrowed” weapons for a bit longer, as the group was a bit short on enchanted arms. Martaine and Theodorus also were able to secure a few choice scrolls, and so the group left Tavia once more, headed back down the same road on which they’d originally ridden into town, in the hopes of stopping the Eagon and either destroying or otherwise dealing with Svear’s shade.
The journey itself was uneventful, and the travelers saw no one else on the road until they drew close to the sign of the Red Bull Inn. Near the remains of the White Bull, or rather the large open hole in the ground where the White Bull had once stood, Ingolf spied four cimbri spearmen and a woman that he recognized from the festival of Arleta’s Well. It was, in fact, the same Helveti woman who had paid a gold piece for a single lock of Zaccara’s hair (adv. 4)! Everyone had a bellyful of treachery by this point, and it was decided to make a wide detour around the group towards the back side of the barrow hill, where the group had originally emerged back into the daylight after their first foray into Svear’s tomb.
It soon became apparent that they’d been spotted, as the four Cimbri warriors and the female began slowly advancing down the hill, obviously searching for them. Ingolf instructed everyone to hide and take cover as best they were able, and all did so. When the woman was within an easy bowshot, he cried out to her in challenge. She and her warrior retinue all took cover, although only the cimbri woman had any real skill at concealing herself. Ingolf made a small gamble, and asked why she’d been scrying them, and her reply indicated that she was, in fact, at least connected to whoever had been spying on the group.
The woman, who was named Laria, agreed to discuss the issue with Ingolf, and the two met at the halfway point, both acutely aware that they were being carefully watched by the more-or-less hidden members of the other’s group. Laria indicated that she had been sent by the king of the Helveti (a local cimbri kingdom that nominally included the ground they were standing on) to learn what she could of the events at the Inn of the White Bull. She confessed that the court sorcerer had been scrying Zaccara thanks to the lock of his hair she’d secured. She seemed aware of the nature of the barrow, but not the occupant, and related the story of a group of dwarves who’d come to work on the inn but who had vanished after they entered the barrow (seems poor Albacorabraxamas died just about 2 days too soon.)
Ingolf hit on what would prove to be a fateful plan. He proposed to the rest of the group that they enlist the aid of the woman Laria and her men in exchange for a share of whatever loot was recovered from Svear’s tomb. Zaccara balked at first, but Ingolf pointed out that it was either that, or fight all five of them – now or when the group eventually emerged, presumably worse for wear, from the tomb itself. After a bit of negotiation, a deal was struck: Laria would see that Zaccara’s lock of hair was returned or destroyed, and post her men about the entrances of the barrow to stand guard. She herself would join the rest of the group on the foray into the crypt. In return, she would have one share of the treasure for herself, and one for her men to divide. A generous offer, one that amounted to 25% of whatever loot was recovered, although any and all magic items were specifically exempted – her shares were shares of the gold and jewelry only.
Once the deal was made, the group elected to enter the barrow at once. Laria and her men had seen no sign of a human wizard entering the crypt, though everyone realized he might well have done so invisibly. Potions were quaffed and spells were cast, one of which was immediately useful when six skeletons arose to confront the group as soon as the descent into the barrow was complete. Only Martaine was visible to the undead, and he called on the power of Logos to dispatch them on to their eternal rest with spectacularly effective results — shattering the skeletons to flinders! Ingolf scouted ahead carefully and as silently as he could. Just outside the entrance to the tomb proper, he came across a troubling scene: the charred corpses of several of Svear’s ghoulish “wives.” The door to his final resting place remained securely closed and the lock had not been tampered with. The conclusion was an easy one to make:
The Eagon was already inside the barrow, hidden or invisible somewhere in the dark hallways underground...
Ingolf hurriedly whispered his fears to the human wizard Theodorus, who cast a “See Invisible” spell. Not long after, he spotted the invisible Eagon hiding in a side passage, with a hostage from the College of Wizardry. Although the Eagon must surely have spotted Theodorus, the later gave no indication of his ability to see the unseen. The group concocted a quick plan – Ingolf would pick the lock to the tomb, and as a man they would rush inside and close the door behind them. First, however, Nicasia used a charge from he wand of invisibility on Theodorus, who elected to remain behind to keep tabs on the Eagon.
No plan, however well-laid, survives contact with the enemy, and this one was no exception. As soon as the door to the tomb proper was open, the Eagon came down the hallway with his invisible charge in tow. Most of the group quickly dashed into the tomb, but as the Eagon rounded the corner, Theodorus decided to take advantage of his position to once again use his potent (and rapidly discharging) wand of magic missiles. The Eagon roared in pain and rage – and quickly used a Dimension Door to escape from the immediate danger he was in. Everyone dashed into the tomb, whereupon Theodorus shouted out that the Eagon was standing on Svear’s coffin – behind the shade itself. Although the Rod of Cancellation was not in sight, none of the group had any doubts as to his intentions.
The huge Shade of Svear arose and demanded the locks of hair – indeed, he seemed quite surprised as to who was presenting them, apparently expecting not the party of Zaccara, Aoelif et al but rather the Eagon! Zaccara, heeding Theodorus’ warnings, drew steel and moved towards Svear’s shade. Laria, the cimbri agent of the Helveti king, nocked an arrow and prepared to loose it at the first sign of the possessed human wizard. She didn’t have long to wait, for the Eagon appeared a moment later as he began an attack spell, and Laria loosed at once, striking home and spoiling his spell. With that, battle was quickly joined on three fronts. The Eagon roared in rage and commanded Svear’s shade to kill the very people who had come to release him from his curse. The undead servant of Balor seemed fixated only on getting his incorporeal hands on the locks of hair in Ingolf’s purse, and so he hesitated a moment – but only a moment. With a wave of his hand, he released his ghoulish wives from their cells and moved himself to attack. With rather curious results.
In the far corner of the crypt, a pale, wan form arose and took shape before the eyes of all assembled. She was unmistakable to all who’d seen her before – it was the ghost of Anrid, Bodicea’s daughter who’d spent so many long years entombed with her tormentor and the spirit whose bones the party laid to rest. She leveled an icy stare at Svear and proclaimed that Hel had put a single condition on her pleas for revenge – Svear must break faith one last time – which had just done by attacking the very people who’d come to free him. With that, the drew a ghostly blade and lunged at the shade.
The group quickly found itself in the middle of a three way combat. Through the still-open door of the tomb came Svear’s wives, hungry for the blood and flesh of the living. From the dais where his coffin lay the Eagon prepared to unleash another spell, and in the middle of the room Svear and Anrid were engaged in their last conflict. A barrage of missiles, magic and otherwise, were flung from Ingolf, Laria, Nicasia and Theodorus to strike the Eagon, who fell before he was able to teleport away once more (presumably to possess the young apprentice still cowering in the hall outside the tomb.) At the door to the crypt, Martaine held forth the holy symbol of Logos, preparing to summon for th the god’s favor to banish Svear’s wives – but before he was able, one of the ghouls latched her teeth firmly into his arm, and he found himself paralyzed and helpless! With a word, Theodorus put forth his power and trapped all but one of the ghouls in a magical web – but the one that he failed to ensnare quickly dispatched him as well! Nicasia and Laria were able to pull the two paralyzed men out of immediate danger, but in the meantime another of the ghouls extricated itself and moved to the attack.
In the center of the room, the battle raged between Aoelif, Ingolf and Anrid on the one side, and Svear’s shade on the other. Zaccara grabbed Svear’s spear from atop his coffin and rushed to the attack as well, and quickly found himself weakened by the undead touch of the fiend’s shadowy fists. All the combatants quickly discovered that even their enchanted arms could rarely damage the shade, passing harmlessly through his ghostly doby more often than not. Only Anrid’s equally ghostly dagger seemed able to easily damage him. Nicasia and Laria were able to dispatch the free ghouls without too much difficulty, but Svear himself battled on. Ultimately though, the weight of the odds against him proved too much, and Aoelif had the satisfaction of feeling both her attacks strike home. Svear’s shade fragmented into a thousand obsidian slivers which swirled briefly about the room before fleeing together into his coffin.
Anrid spoke briefly to the group. “Place the locks of hair upon his coffin, if you would not be foresworn, and fulfill your part of the bargain. As for myself – Svear granted me my revenge when he turned on you, and I am satisfied. All these grave goods are yours, as he promised – including his mighty spear.” Zaccara hefted the weapon in question and asked what, exactly, it was. “You will find that it’s power reflects the skill of the wielder. It was forged by Balor himself, and it is as Unseelie as he. . .” With that, she faded away.
Only two tasks remained – to load up the rewards, and to dispatch the “possessing stone” – into which the spirit of the Eagon had fled once more, when it’s most recent host body was slain. The first duty was left up to Ingolf, who had become the group’s treasurer of sorts, and he made plans with Laria as to how her share could be selected. As to the second task, Zaccara had already recovered the Rod of Cancellation, and without any ceremony he pressed it to the enchanted stone. There was a dazzling display of magic power as the Rod released it’s sole charge of magic-destroying energy, and then – nothing happened! The damnable stone remained, as black and potent and worrisome as ever.
† I want to thank Mike Schapira for helping with the very meticulous behind-the-scenes plotting that went into the events that transpired at the Wizard's College the previous night. Even though the PCs might never find out exactly what occured, Mike helped me work through the Eagon's plotting and actions and the reactions of the Wizards within the tower. Thanks!
"We're all gonna' die!"
"Hey, we're still alive!"
Cyrus — Magistrate of the Green Ward of Tavia
Nicodemus — the poisoned dean of the College of Wizards, Tavia
Father Gennadius — curate of the Tavian cathedral
Brec — bard and advisor to the baronial court
Anrid — Bodociea's daughter, the wife of Svear and a ghost
Svear — the shade of a once-powerful unseelie fae
Corann, Duff, Kelwin, and Quinn — Helvetii warriors
Laria — Agent of Emrys, King of the Helvetti
The Eagon — one of the bodyguards of Balor