Previously, on Phoenix Rising…
… And so we leave our intrepid band of heroes bruised, battered and wounded sitting in the middle of an old coal mine getting ready to trek back to the now defunct Grey Wolves’ encampment.
After patching themselves up and resting until Asphodel was no longer fatigued, the party packed up Zerak’s body into a bag of holding and made their way back out of the coal mine. Once they got close to the basement door, they could still feel that the burning building could still be too hot for the ones without fire-resistance to travel through. So Asphodel and Blackwell both joined Zerak in the bag for the short jaunt out of the fiery area. Just as they were leaving the basement, Jobi was struck motionless, her eyes glazing over. She was having a vision as the rest of the party made their way into the encampment.
As you come out of the mine tunnel and back into the compound where the mansion is still burning, your vision blurs so everything is black and fuzzy and you have a slight dizzy feeling but it quickly fades and your sight slowly returns, but now you see something entirely unexpected. Before you is the table back at Lord Padraig’s estate where you placed the two heirloom items that Alira Vond had asked you to find and paid for their return to her. She is on the opposite side of the table smiling as she takes hold of the dagger and rod. She looks up at you and she mouths, “Thank you,” all the while having a rictus grin and visage that soon starts to change. She grows small horns on her forehead and her skin turns a ruddy color with wisps of smoke rising from her hair. The two items in her hands begin to glow with a sickly green light and start to drip blood that begins to eat through the table as it splashes down on it like it was some type of acid. She laughs and turns away from you and the scene fades into black…
Your vision once again fades in but still not to where you remember being with your friends. This time it looks like you are in a dimly lit scholar’s work lab or a large run down library. The air is musty with the smell of old parchment and paper mixed with the smell of candles. You again see the two heirloom items – this time they are on an elaborate pedestal next to a wall of bookshelves filled with books.
There are several people here sifting through books while Mordai Vell and Alira Vond are talking to each other. She says, “No luck yet, Mordai, but I feel that we will soon find the names of who the last remaining ancestors to Lord Nasher are. And we’re nearly ready with the sacrificial site so that we’ll be able to ‘donate’ their lives to our cause. Then no one can stop us taking over Neverwinter.”
Mordai, smiling, asks, “How about our corruption efforts? Are we ready to permanently replace the rest of our ‘allies’ with our puppets? I trust that you are not ignoring that aspect of the plan.”
“Of course not lover! We now have more than 60% of the leadership of Neverwinter under our control when we need it. And no one suspects a thing. At this point, even if someone does notice something wrong it is nearly too late for them to do anything about it without us finding out. We just have to get to a few more at this point – captains of the watch, etc. But in the meantime…” Your vision fades as you see Alira’s robes fall to the ground and Mordai widely smiling with lust…
Zola let the Asphodel and Blackwell out of the bag and continued to make her way to the Thayan commander to ask if there was anyone here that could raise Zerak from the dead. He responded that there was not at the current time but he would contact Valindra and someone should be here shortly. In the meantime, they put Zerak’s body on a large table inside one of the Thayan command tents in preparation for raising him.
After a few minutes, the others noticed that Jobi had not followed them all the way and she was sitting on the ground, apparently oblivious to the world around her. When asked what was wrong, she responded that her vision told her they needed to get back to Neverwinter as soon as possible. Blackwell agreed to go but not until the party had gone after the last of the Grey Wolves to the Druid encampment. If there was a chance that the Lycan Spire could heal him he would not pass that opportunity up for anything.
Valindra and her head priest of Sarenrae, Duthar, teleported into the encampment soon after and went straight away caring for Zerak. After some time, the raise dead and restoration spells were cast and Zerak was again among the living. Valindra was very pleased to see that the party had indeed won the day against the Grey Wolves and she reiterated to Blackwell that she was going to leave a detachment of solders to help protect the newly reformed Ghost Wolves tribe and that she would also send messengers to seek out other displaced Ghost Wolves and tell them the news that the Grey Wolves are no more and should come home again. Blackwell thanked her, but also told her what they learned about another strike group going after some group of druids that guarded an artifact called the Lycan Spire and wanted to know if she knew anything about it. Indeed she did, although her knowledge of it was only basic, she did know where those druids were located and would teleport the group there once they were ready. Everyone agreed that they needed to rest for the night and regain their strength and would be ready first thing in the morning to go after the miscreants.
While everyone seemed to be in better spirits the next morning, Asphodel’s mind was like a raging torrent. The inner dragon had wrested control away again and another ally had paid the price for her lack of stability. How many more people were destined to suffer due to her shortcomings? As she began the ritual to call forth her eidolon, something immediately seemed wrong…
Normally, the ritual is fairly straightforward. She spends a minute muttering a chant and concentrating and he draconic eidolon appears and surrounds her small body in its protective embrace. This time, dark tendrils of shadow began to appear around her and the ambient light seemed to darken. As the ritual continued, the tendrils started to wrap tightly around her. As the halfling’s ritual finished, the heavy black mist parted to reveal a very different figure…
The eidolon appeared to be already dead. More than half of its scaly flesh looked like it had been melted or decayed away leaving little more than a tall hunchbacked skeletal figure crouched were the little halfling girl had been. Normally, the eidolon looked mostly translucent with her floating in the middle of it’s chest. Now, it definitely looked more solid. The halfling girl wasn’t visible anymore as the dark tendrils had sealed around her and hardened into what almost looked like a dragon’s egg, however, it seemed to pulsate and glow with an inner purple light.
To make matters even stranger, the eidolon’s personality seemed to have taken an even darker turn. It seemed for now, while embraced in the eidolon-suit, the young halfling girl’s very essence is doomed to be overwhelmed by the feral power of the “Inner Dragon”, or “Id” for short…
Zerak had taken upon himself to do some research into psychology during his precious free time and was very interested in and very concerned about Asphodel’s new choices and told her that if she had ever wanted someone just to talk to he was there. She mumbled something in her new very dead sounding voice and dismissed the exchange.
So with a few quick motions and a couple magical phrases, Valindra teleported the group into the middle of a clearing that was surrounded by dense forest to the south and what looked like a nearly impenetrable barrier of thick foliage. And all around the large clearing were werewolves attacking the barrier and whoever was beyond it. Once our heroes materialized out of nothing, the werewolves stopped for a moment to assess the newly changed dynamics. The party was facing some still odds here – there were at least a dozen that looked like typical fighters, well typcal werewolf fighters at any rate, another four that were obviously spell casters, two more that were heavily outfitted fighter types and then two more Netherese soldiers as well. The fact that there were Netherese here dashed any hopes that Blackwell had of ending this standoff peacefully. And then all at once it turned into a free-for-all killing zone.
Zola strode out and engaged with one of the fighters while Asphodel went the opposite direction to engage some of the other fighters. Before the rest of them had a chance to really do anything, the Grey Wolves spell casters blasted them with multiple fireball spells which did some damage but not enough to incapacitate anyone. Blackwell, Jobi and Zerak all decided to help concentrate on the side that Zola went since Asphodel usually didn’t need too much help, especially at the beginning of a battle. Jobi was using her ranged spells to great effect and Zerak put down a mass of black tentacles that severely hampered the movements of the five enemies he trapped inside it. He also summoned a lillend azata to not only help with attacks but also with healing when needed (and it was definitely needed during this battle).
Everything seemed to be going fairly well for our stalwart band until the rest of the enemies began advancing and engaging in the combat. They were all fairly competent fighters and luck seemed to be on their side for the time being. One got close to Jobi and landed a blow that would sever her left hand (yep – it happened again). Since this is something that one just really doesn’t get used to, Jobi went into shock when her hand flew off her arm and blood started shooting out of the stump that was left behind. Fortunately, the azata was nearby and was able to heal her to the point that she would not bleed out from the wound, but that did nothing for the shock that she was experiencing.
Blackwell in the meantime ended up playing cat and mouse with the enemy, first shooting at them, dodging melee attacks, guns jamming, using his swords to attack, etc… all the while trying to stay alive as these werewolves turned out ot be pretty good at landing blows against him. He had to retreat several times to take potions so he would not fall in the battle.
Zola was holding her own against the troops that were engaging her. She kept herself right next to the black tentacles for a couple reasons – one to keep her from being flanked and the other to keep attacking the enemies while they were entangled in the tentacles.
Asphodel was taking on an entire group of enemies. They lined up just perfectly for her to use her breath weapon so she sacrificed a higher level spell to cause them maximum damage and pain. After a few rounds of melee, ranged, and spell attacks against her however, the enemies had chipped away at her eidolon to the point that they actually had damaged it enough to send it back to whatever plane of existence it had come from. This caused Asphodel to “emerge” just in her true halfling form. But she just backed up from the fight and was able to re-summon her eidolon (at full strength as well) and then used her greater invisibility spell to disappear. Now she was able to move around the battlefield and attack the werewolves with impunity since they could not see where she was attacking from.
Zerak continued to cast spells and summoned up a celestial dire lion to go after the enemy spell casters. It made lunch of one of them fairly quickly and continued to chase another one around for a while before he too fell from both the lion’s attacks and Zerak’s spells. He also cast another black tentacles spell at another group that had a spell caster, a couple soldiers and one of the Netherese. This helped slow them down from entering into melee before they wer ready for them. In addition Zerak cast a wall of fire (ring shaped) and engulfed several other werewolves. Incidentally they also met with the invisible Asphodel and were quickly cut down.
Right about this time, Jobi was able to snap herself out of her shocked state and began furiously casting scorching rays and magic missiles to help bring down the baddies fast approaching her and Zerak as well as the ones ganging up on Zola. She also used her channel energy abilities to help heal her friends in an effort to keep everyone up and fighting. She kept moving out of melee range once one of the Netherese got free of the black tentacles and made his way up to them to melee with Blackwell, Zerak and his azata. But at the point when the battle was nearing its conclusion, with only the Netherese still standing and fighting, she froze again and had another vision…
You find yourself back in that same old library, though this time it feels like you’re underground somewhere. There are three scribes hard at work. It looks like they are copying old texts into similarly old looking parchment s and books. But they are also making subtle changes. Mordai Vell is standing next to one of the scribes, looking over his shoulder and says to the scribe, “Good, now make sure that you replace all references to the Ruunleit family name with Neverember’s family name. Double check everything and let me know when you’re finished. We’ll have to burn the originals once we have verified that they all have been copied and modified to the new version of history.”
“Yes, my lord. We should be done within the week and will contact you as soon as we’re done through the usual means,” stated the scribe.
“Good. There’s a bonus in it for all of you if you do finish this week. A bonus that starts without your deaths.” With that Mordai starts to leave the library and the vision fades. You slowly open your eyes and see and hear that the battle still rages on all around you. Your head is in agonizing pain…
At this point Jobi had her back against the wall of foliage and she just slowly slid down and stared ahead. And just after the last Netherese was cut down Zerak noticed Jobi sitting and staring off into nothing and raced over to her to find out what was wrong. He knelt down beside her as she spoke of her latest vision and how Mordai Vell was going through old texts and replacing the Ruunleit family name with Neverember’s and planned on burning the original texts when they were finished. Zerak’s eyes went wide with horror and confusion as her words sank in. He told her that Ruunleit was his original family name.
They told the group that getting back to Neverwinter was a definite priority now. But even as their words were fading, the massive wall of foliage began to part and soon there was a passageway leading to the other side of the wall and several druids, obviously battle-worn and wounded, walked out to greet our heroes.
“Oh thank nature and the gods that you arrived when you did and defeated those evil werewolves! We would not have lasted much longer and I fear that we all would have been destroyed by them if you hadn’t come along!
Blackwell answered them by stating that they were really there because he needed to use the Lycan Spire to try to heal and regain his natural lycanthropy. The druids listened to him and said that they would be happy to perform the healing ritual with the Lycan Spire although they were not sure if it could actually heal him of this particular ailment – they had never seen a case so severe before. But they invited everyone in to rest and get some healing, even though they were currently limited in what they could offer. As it was they had no magicks strong enough to reattach Jobi’s hand. All the could do is cast a gentle repose on it so it would not begin to decay before she could have it reattached somewhere else. But the food and drink were good and the area was comfortable to rest. The druids spent around an hour preparing for the healing ritual and when ready they brought everyone to the artifact. It looked like a very large stalagmite, some 20 feet in diameter and made out of rock and wood and possibly other types of debris.
The ritual included lashing Blackwell to the spire using long vines which nearly covered him completely, basically only allowing him to breathe. Then the druids performed the ritual for the next hour. After a while the spire started to glow red though no heat was given off. When the last words of the ritual were spoken, the vines disintegrated and Blackwell fell to the ground unconscious. The druids laid him out so he could sleep as the Lycan Spire continued to work its magic on him and 8 hours later he awoke.
The druids told him that they were not sure if it actually worked so he should try out changing his form to see what happens. Blackwell agreed and proceeded to will himself into hybrid form. What used to take only a few moments now took a full round to accomplish. But he was again a werewolf! He then changed into wolf form – again a full round for the transformation but it also worked. He then switched to hybrid form and stayed that way. Unfortunately he found out that he was not completely healed for after only a few more rounds, he automatically reverted back into his human form. Plus he was completely fatigued from the shape-changing and felt that he needed another full night’s rest. And so our heroes stayed the night with the druids.
In the morning, our intrepid band was again ready to travel. Since they weren’t exactly sure where in the Neverwinter Woods, Asphodel and Zerak both had prepared teleport spells. Asphodel was able to take herself and three others with her and Zerak’s spell allowed him to join them. So they debated where would be the best place for them to teleport to. Some of the options were Neverwinter, the new created ghost wolf encampment, and Valindra’s Blackstone Keep. After some debate it was decided that they would travel to the Blackstone keep since it would probably be easier to find someone there with the ability to regenerate Jobi’s hand than it would be in Neverwinter (and possibly even less expensive).
So we leave our heroes just after they had cast the teleport spells and arrived at the front gates of Blackstone Keep (after putting on their pins that Valindra originally gave to them for their first trip here). Stayed tuned for next week’s exciting adventures …