Mortimus, just outside the Great Graveyard, exact location unknown, presumed February 10th, AE 420
The party follows Briggs back to Mortimus, leaving the Boneyard by a small makeshift gate. Briggs gives Jalea some pointeres on where to go and who to talk to, and he and Reana take off to gather up some info on Sharat and the Loraxites location. The others go with Briggs to a tavern to wait, and buy Briggs dinner in thanks for his help.
Mortimus is a town of several thousand people, of various apparent ethnicities, with the occasional strange standout amongst them. The chief business of the town appears to be alchemy; specifically the growing, distilling, and packaging of anything related to the dead. Briggs explains that many wizards find that there are certain items that can only be gotten in a place like Mortimus, where the entire economy is based off of their one main resource: dead bodies. Briggs doesn’t like this much; apparently dismembering bodies for parts in this way allows their spirits to escape, and they become insubstantial undead of varying types.
“Can’t very well bury a ghost or a shadow,” he says.
Jalea and Reana return after a couple of hours, and inform the others that they have a reasonably good idea where Sharat’s lair is. It’s probably a good day’s travel through the Boneyard. Briggs wants no part of leading them that far into the land of the dead, and the party thanks him again for his help, and return to the vast cemetary.
They proceed with caution. They pass endless mausoleums and countless gravesites, occasionally seeing, and for the most part avoiding, packs of ghouls and the occasional zombie or skeleton. After long travel they locate what appears to be the place described to Jalea and Reana. It’s a huge structure, of a strange, foreign design. It measures perhaps three hundred feet on a side, and is three stories tall, with towers that reach higher in places. It is covered with carvings and decorations, almost entirely of frowning and scowling faces, some as large as twenty feet tall. It is surrounded by a wide stone plaza, and has entrances in each of its four sides.
“Let’s try the roof,” Jalea says, and they sneak up closer to the building.
As they approach near the building Reana spots something moving on the roof, and alerts the group. She, Jalea, and Gavin all fire on the silhouetted form, and all three connect, some multiple times. The thing slumps and stops moving. Jalea climbs up the wall, and lowers a rope for the others. Once they get up to the top, they see that their target was another ghoul. They also can see the layout of the builidng much better; it consists of an immense central building, three hundred feet long and one hundred feet wide, with two courtyards on each side of the central building. The courtyards are surrounded by balconies. There are a multitude of ways into the place from here.
“I say we just start with the center, and work our way out if we need to,” Gavin says, and the others agree. They lower themselves onto a balcony off the main structure…
Time has been difficult for Aris to judge over the past day (or has it been more than that?). The Shadow Dragon has deposited the proud bladesinger (minus arms and armor, and spell components, of course) in a large gilded birdcage that hangs by a chain from the ceiling of an immense Hall. Dimly lit lanterns illuminate this Hall, which Aris guesses to be a hundred yard or more in length, lined with tall pillars, and a balcony that stretches all around the second floor. The lanterns seem set in place not to provide illumination so much as to accentuate the shadows in this place. He’s endured some taunting from the warrior-Loraxite, whose name he has found out is Nagron. Sharat slinks around the place as well, occasionally coming by to examine his captive, and then slithering down a great, twenty foot wide hole in the center of the floor to some unknown place where he seems to spend his time.
He hasn’t seen Batista since they arrived here.
The cage is strong, and Aris is not a physically powerful elf. He has tried to force the cage, but had little luck. For the time being, he has resigned himself to being a hostage, to be traded for the Egg.
“I hope they’re smart enough to know not to do that…” he thinks to himself.
Aris looks around for the source of the noise, and suddenly looks up to see Jalea, hanging from the chain connecting the cage to the ceiling.
“Jalea!” Aris whispers back excitedly. “I have never been so glad to see you in my life!”
“Fine then,” Jalea says. “Maybe I’ll just leave you there, if that’s how you feel!”
“Don’t be silly! Get me out of here! Have you seen my stuff?”
“One miracle at a time, sheesh! We just got here. Where’s Batista?”
“I don’t know… We were seperated.”
Jalea swiftly picks the lock on the cage, releasing Aris, and they use Jalea’s rope to let themselves down to the floor, thirty feet below. Brennen, Jovah, Gavin, and Reana are waiting there. Gavin tosses Aris a javelin.
“A javelin? I don’t think I even know how to throw one of these…”
“Don’t worry,” Gavin says. “They’re cool.”
Jovah signals for quiet. “There’s something magic over towards that hole over there, coming this way.. oh hell.”
The telltale blur of the Loraxite’s invisibility alerts them to Nagron’s presence just before he lays into Brennen with multiple sword strokes. They return blows, and the Loraxite retreats after taking several hits. Aris chucks his javelin at the Loraxite, and connects, discharging a massive bolt of electricity into the vampire’s body.
“See? I told you” Gavin says.
“Be careful!” Aris replies, “Sharat is around here, and he’s practically invisible in all these shadows!”
But its too late. The Dragon appears out of practically nowhere, unseen and unheard, and a cloud of black chilling smoke issues forth from his maw. Everyone feels their strength ebbing, although Gavin is far enough back to avoid being in the blast.
2e Shadow Dragons have a breath weapon that drains levels, even on a made save. Everyone saved, but they were still weakened.
Batista is stirred from fitful sleep by the sounds of a fight somewhere nearby. He’s been locked up in a cell with about thirty other folk for the past day or two. He lightly touches the two bite marks on his neck, and shudders.
“They’ve finally come to save me!” he thinks, and rushes to the cell door. He’s in a large chamber that stretches out for as far as he can see. Heavy pillars hold up the ceiling, spaced about fifteen feet apart. There are a few lanterns here and there, but they don’t give much light.
Batista rattles the cage door. He has the strength in him for maybe one try at busting it, and he wants to make sure it’s a good try. He looks around for anything to help him, and his eyes rest on of his fellow captives.
“Hey, you! Come here!”
The prisoner looks up, and slowly shuffles over to the half-elf. Batista suddenly grabs him by the collar and drives his head into the cage door! The cage breaks open, and the prisoner falls to the floor, blood gushing from where his skull hit the lock.
“Sorry about that!” Batista yells, not very sincerely, as he runs out into the low-ceilinged room.
Back upstairs, Brennen and Reana have engaged the Dragon. Gavin tosses his javelin of lightning at Nagron, and the Loraxite goes down. With the Dragon at hand though, no one has the chance to stake him.
Gavin fumbles through his backpack, and pulls out a small bottle of greenish liquid.
“I’ve been saving this,” he says, and drinks it down, suddenly growing in size to about sixteen feet tall. He turns and charges the Dragon, getting a swipe in on the creature. Sharat does not think much of these odds, and turns and dives into the hole in the floor, slinking quickly away into the shadows.
Brennen, Jalea, and Reana jump down into the hole. Gavin looks in, and realizes the ceilings down there are only about nine feet tall.
“Aaargghhh!” he yells.
Aris and Jovah leap down into the hole, leaving Gavin upstairs, too large to fit effectively into the downstairs area.
Meanwhile, Batista is making his way around the edges of this huge chamber. He stops when he hears the sounds of something clinking underfoot. He grabs a lantern off a nearby pillar, and turns it on the area so he can see. Gold pieces litter the ground, and a number of very valuable items – pearl necklaces, gems, and so on – are also arranged in an area in the corner of the chamber. His and Aris’ weapons are here as well.
“Wow…” he says.
Then he hears the sound of something breathing, just behind him. He turns and finds himself face-to-face with Sharat, the Shadow Dragon. The Dragon smiles, wickedly, and whispers a swift incantation. Batista find himself unable to look away from the creature’s eyes, it’s hypnotizing, mesmerizing eyes…
Back at the opening into the basement chamber, the party has spread out so that they can’t all get caught in another lifeforce-draining blast from Sharat. Aris sees light moving, coming his way. As it gets closer, he sees that it is Batista. He is running towards the party, and he has Aris’ flameblade in his hand, lit. He bears one of his own scimitars in the other hand
“Batista! Thanks god you’re okay!” Aris exclaims, “Uh, Batista?”
Batista makes no signs of stopping. He readies the flameblade as he charges directly towards Aris.
“Yaaaaahhhh!” the Ranger screams.
Aris has no time to react. He is still badly injured from the fight at the Song-Ling Monastery, and he is unarmored and weaponless. He reacts with the only spell he has that doesn’t require his still unlocated component bag, burning hands.
Batista goes down in a heap. Aris runs over to his side, and checks his pulse.
There is none.
“Oh no,” the elf wails. Just then, Sharat returns, with a quick hit and run attack on Brennen, on the other side of the area just under the entry hole. He hits, and retreats into the darkness. Reana, Brennen, and Jovah move over to join Aris to face off against the beast, staying spread wide enough to avoid his debilitating breath. Aris recovers his flameblade, and hears the Dragon mockingly whispering another incantation.
“He’s casting a … oh no…” The Bladesinger’s heart sinks.
“…Aris,” an emotionless voice intones from behind them. Aris turns, as Batista pulls himself up to his feet. He is badly burned, and he shuffles towards his old protector, scimitar in hand. Aris’ flameblade burns brighter, like it only does when the Bladesinger is facing the undead.
“I’m sorry, Batista,” the elf says, as he strikes down his friend yet again.
Just then, the Dragon charges with a deafening roar. He starts from the opposite side of the area under the entry hole, and barrels forward towards the weakened party. Jalea looses an arrow, and Reana and Sir Brennen prepare to face its attack.
Just as it crosses beneath the entry hole, they hear a cry from above them. Gavin has been waiting for seemingly forever to see what is going on below, and when the Dragon charges under the hole, he takes his sword, holds the point down, and leaps into the hole, and right onto Sharat’s back, plunging his twelve foot long sword into the Dragon’s sinewy neck, pinning it to the floor like a hundred foot long butterfly.
Sharat twitches once, then twice, and then dies.