The Bloody Path to Apotheosis

End of the Path
The time has come to confront Meldarious before he ascends to godhood

Machupicchu

After taking down Baldor and the Cult of the Dragon, the party had one job left – track down the man who began all of this trouble with the cult, who provided them with a new dracolich, and who slew their friend Davrin. Meldarius del Ascei, is seemed, was the cambion Eisuzoun spoke of, and all of this was in his attempt to transcend this world.

The trail brought the party to a long lost city where Meldarius had planned to use the artifacts he had the Cult of the Dragon acquire for him power his ascension. The orcs had arrived first, and were all but wiped out. Meldarius was atop a platform, floating high above the ground and already started on his ritual. He invited the party to witness his transcendence. They had other plans, and either destroyed or removed the arcane devices that raised the platform, and Meldarius came crashing down.

The platform came crashing down, and as the dust and dirt billowed out, Meldarius did not sound pleased. “You…. amateurs!” The lone surviving orc scrambled onto the platform as Meldarius continued. “Nearly a decade I spent as a mercenary, and I NEVER took anything this personally!”

Meldarius explained how fate took him to this moment. Born in the service of the god Gruumsh, he was never given freedom. He led a rebellion attempting to take some part of his world for himself, and failed. He attempted to live among humans, and could only find a place among them as an instrument of violence. His stature and background did not allow them to trust him unless he paid for the trust in blood.

And when he attempted to retire, the humans he had fought so hard for, now offered him no protection against the revenge of the god Gruumsh, who, having a decade to lick his wounds, now sought revenge for the damage Meldarius had done. His apotheosis was his path to freedom.

But as Meldarius spoke, the orc chanted. Hearing these chants, Meldarius was visibly shaken. He offered the party great rewards for this aid, allow him to complete his ascension, and he would give them whatever was in his power.

The orc, giving his life in service to his god, became the avatar of Gruumsh. The party was given the choice of whom to side with in this battle. In the end, both Meldarius and the one-eyed avatar of Gruumsh were slain.

DM’s Notes: I tried to do a few things in the end here. I tried to wrap up the story enough that the major loose ends were taken care of, but the characters were not at the end of their own stories here. The finale should be big a dramatic, which I thing I did pretty well at. And the players should determine the outcome.

I try to give the PCs choice whenever possible. They asked for an investigator in Stonewynn after the attack, although my plans for that part changed when I decided one of the players could play the investigator when her previous character died. It was the players that decided to re-investigate Yitsall mine, and uncovered the orcs there. They asked Davrin to keep investigating the cult, which eventually led to his death. And in the end, they were the deciding votes in a battle between two forces. Both evil, but with different desires.

One thing I always strive for in my games: your actions have consequences. In this case, the party made a lot of wise choices as they went, and some bumps in the road were taken care of before they happened.

The theme I tried to bring up here was a question of the cost of freedom. Heywall Daysong reported to those beyond his power. Perhaps he saw himself more of a world figure dealing with such greats, or perhaps a lust for gold. Either way, he lived in fear, as a slave.

Baldor was a slave to his greed, and made ill-fated alliances with those who would use him, in his lust for power and wealth.

Meldarius lived his life fighting to be free, at peace with his world, and beyond the reach of a vengeful god. In the end, I guess he was.

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Cessation of the Cult
The heroes at long last are able to bring the fight to their enemy

Temple.of.elemental.evil.resized

On the way back north, after visiting the Calim Desert, and a stopoff at the Friendly Arm, the heroes have a brief visit in the city of Baldur’s Gate. Since their last visit, several people and a message have been awaiting them.

First, a note is waiting, indicating that the writer would like to meet with the party when they return to Waterdeep.

Second, two friendly faces await the party in the town. On, a tiefling paladin named Davrin. The other, a half elf bard named Heywall Daysong.

Davrin had news that a lead against the Cult of the Dragon was taking him east. Heywall, of course, was always glad to hear the party member’s tales of adventure.

After a friendly visit, the party continued on to Waterdeep. Mork, however, seemed stragely missing from his usual meetup. A short investigation led to his corpse. Apparently, he had been murdered in the street several days earlier by a large bladed weapon. He was not robbed. The party tried, unsuccessfully to contact his associates, but with little really known of Mork, there was little they could find.

So, with few other options, the party met with the author of the note they’ve been given, an old man who called himself Eisuzoun. He made an offer to the party that they reluctantly accepted. He wished revenge on the Cult of the Dragon for stealing his dracolich. They would help him get that revenge, and he would help them in their mission.

Eisuzoun told the party that his dragolich was stolen by someone named Grushnak, who had once led a rebellion against the church of Gruumsh among the orcs. He also knew that Grushnak was a cambion. In this case, a mixture of demonic and ogre ancestory.

Once they were sent to Hlath, they found that the orcs there had attacked the Cult in Force. Davrin had arrived as well, and was battling a dracolich already. Together, they slew the beast and headed into the compound.

The Cultist Headquarters was half brainwashing new members, half devoted to profit. The orcs were already making a terrible mess of the place, and the party pushed past further resistance. Davrin went to check the upper floors, and the party explored the lower levels. They they fought through the undead guardians of the head of the cult, and then the cult leader himself.

Baldor met the party, but while a capable wizard, the party overcame him. However, one of the party’s number, Dexter Silverlace, happened to have attached to his weapon a gemstone that Baldor seemed to want. He took the item, affixed it to his weapon, and attempted to use it to end Sammaster, the cult’s founder and true leader.

Sammaster was a lich, and his life force was protected from harm, but with the weapon Dexter brought, his soul would be trapped and thus denied from allowing his body to reform shoudl Baldor slay his physical form and take the cult for himself. His aim was off, however, and Sammaster slew the traitor and destroyed the gem, as a threat to him.

Fortunately for the party, Sammaster took little to no interest in them. They were allowed to leave. Dexter thanked Sammaster before exiting, as the destruction of them gem allowed the release of his father’s soul.

Davrin contacted the party again after their success. He had been able to track down the identity of the cult’s powerful new ally, who turned out to be Meldarius del Ascei. Meldarius, however, had fatally wounded Davrin, who soon succumbed to his wounds. The headquarters of the Cult of the Dragon left burning, the party escaped to chase down Meldarius and the orcs in pursuit of him.

DM’s Notes: This was built around the confrontation between Baldor and Sammaster. I know that doesn’t involve the players, but they basically had Baldor beat when he made his move. And he died anyway. After that, I tried to give Davrin a good end. If he was alive, he would have to go with them after Meldarius, and clearly I don’t want a high level NPC on side with the players at the end – the victory has to be about them and their characters.

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Less Than Friendly Arm Inn
Orcs launch a daring attack upon the Friendly Arm Inn

Orc attack r

During a stay at the Friendly Arm Inn, a few of the adventurers are able to respond to a sudden attack on the Friendly Arm Inn by orcs. Helping the party are fellow guests Meldarius del Ascei and Bax. Together, they managed to repel the attack and drive back the orcs.

DM’s Notes: The orcs were trying to kill Meldarius. Again, I can tell, or I can show. And they get to see him in action before they know they’ll be facing him.

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The Sphynx and the Mummy

Aztec mummy

On their way back north, Mork intercepts the party in Memnon. Seems he has a new job, to recover a long lost holy symbol of an ancient emperor of the Calim Desert.

The party heads south, acquiring camels and crossing the desert for many days. The valley of kings is remove and far from water, but the party does find it.

To gain entrance to the pyramid of the dead emperor, the party must answer a riddle. Pooling their wisdom, the solve this and enter the tomb. Evidence shows that members of the Cult of the Dragon have reached these grounds first.

The pyramid seemed awash in traps and challenges, but none beyond the capabilities of our adventuring party. They pushed past to find the remaining members of the cult in a pitched battle with the mummy, risen and defending his home and treasures.

The party was successful, but as the mummy died, the room sealed and began to fill with carnivorous scarabs. A secret exit was spotted, but as the party attempted to flee with the holy symbol, the giant round rock carved in the shape of the sun began to roll behind them. After a frantic dash for the exit, the party escaped.

DM’s Notes: We can’t not do a desert/pyramid adventure, right? This was the last of the high adventures I ran this game. Cut from the list: underwater adventure, pirate adventure, maze, a crashed flying city, and more.

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The Fang of Merrshaulk

Yuan ti smaller Once again, Mork has work for the party, this time in the jungles of Chult. The artifact this time is the Fang of Merrshaulk, a religious artifact said to have been passed from the yuan-ti God to his faithful. It is believed to have been torn from the mouth of the avatar of Set.

A collector would pay well for the artifact, and at the least it would bee good to see it out of the hands of the followers of the dark god. The journey would take them far from Waterdeep into the far south.

The party traveled by the trade routes. The journey was mostly uneventful, save for an encounter with the Cult of the Dragon in Baldur’s Gate.

In Chult, the party managed to find a guide to take them to a village along the river inland. The village was glad to see outsiders willing to face the yuan-ti, whom have begun to kidnap villagers, breaking an uneasy truce they’ve managed for years.

Traveling upstream was dangerous enough from the piranha filled water, and then the party found themselves attacked by mercenaries. The attackers found themselves at a disadvantage, and were quickly dispatched.

Upon reaching the shored near the temple of Merrshalk (also known as Sseth to his followers), the party found their way with some difficulty through the jungles to the ziggurat that served as the yuan-ti temple. It was a difficult battle, but the heroes prevailed and returned to Memnon, in Calamshan, where Mork had come to meet them.

DM’s Notes: This was my Inca temple/jungle adventure. The piranha filled water just had to be there. It worked well, but I wish I didn’t have to rush these adventures as much as I did. I would have liked to have spent more time establishing setting.

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The Tomb of Price Vongur Bronzecarver

Prince Vongur BronzecarverBack in Waterdeep, the party spoke with a very pleased Mork, who rewarded them well for bringing him the Tear of Ilmater. He promised another job the following day. The party went off to spend their coin and enjoy their time to themselves.

Baern, the party’s dwarven paladin, was approached by an eladrin bard named Anyou who brought him information. He had asked the House of Song, Waterdeep’s Bard School, to look into the location of the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords. A dwarven prince of Melairkyn is buried beneath where Waterdeep now stands, and was a seeker of the axe in his life. Anyou provided Baern with the location of where the prince was buried.

Baern found a pottery shop at that location, and for a share of the treasure and his expenses, Carric the gnomish pottery salesman would allow the party to use the entrance to Undermountain that lay beneath his store.

Down in Undermountain the party faced first wraiths and the famous traps of the dungeon, then an ettin with his cyclops allies. The tomb opened for dwarven hands alone, and required Baern’s knowledge to proceed. In the burial chamber the walls were lined with the knowledge that Prince Bronzecarver had obtained in his life. In the end, Baern ruled that the sarcophagus would not be opened.

DM’s Notes: We were short on people one night, and I threw this together at the last minute. Worked pretty well. And if Baern allowed the tomb to be looted, I totally would have taken away his paladin powers until he atoned.

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The Remorhaz of the Glacier

The party came to the city of Lyrabar to seek out Mork, a half-orc whom was said to have work for them. Mork had been in many battles no doubt, from the obvious scars of his body, and his fractured mind. But he seemed to have work for the party indeed – a journey, a shipwreck, and an artifact.

A dwarf named Balorn would provide them with the details once they got to Waterdeep, but there was an artifact called the Tear of Ilmater that was once lost in the north, and could now be recovered. It was the party’s job to recover it, and return it to Mork, who would meet them in Waterdeep upon their return.

And so, the party traveled to Waterdeep. Common monsters and bandits were not a challenge to a group of capable adventurers such as themselves, and they made their trek without major incident across much of Faerun.

Waterdeep, the city of splendors, proved to be perfect for adventurers. With Undermountain below, resources available for anyone’s need, with the usual markup. And, in the Grinning Lion Tavern, a dwarf named Balorn with details on a job.

Balorn told the party of having been on a ship called the Mystic Pride that was shipping goods back to the south after the defeat of the Tuigan Horde. One of these artifacts was the Tear of Ilmater, a valuable religious artifact. During the trip south, the Mystic Pride became lodged in an ice flow and had to be abandoned. The cargo had been thought lost, until trappers in the far north reported seeing her mast coming from atop a glacier in the Sea of Moving ice. It was now imperative that the party move north, and quickly, to catch the glacier before it drifted out to see. He also said that there was word of a possible Remorhaz, and warned against battling such a beast.

The party traveled further north, over road and trail, and finally dogsled across the tundra, and over the Spine of the World. They arrived in time at last, in Rothkin’s Flow in the far north. There they met Gled, a local who arranged for them a rowboat to reach the glacier.

Once they had, they found tunnels interconnecting throughout the interior and began to explore. Inside they spoke with an Ice Troll, who seemed to confirm the fears that had been given to them by Balorn – there was a Remorhaz in the glacier. They delved further, and found the beast, just as it swallowed some unfortunate who reached the glacier before them. The beast was dangerous, but showed little intelligence. It charged the party, and when it struck the walls of the glacier, the entire structure rolled in the water. Working together, the party managed to get past the monster and make it further into the glacier.

Beyond the Remorhaz was the remains of the Mystic Pride, with Ilmater’s Tear in tact, even if the ship’s hull wasn’t. The party recovered the artifact and escaped the glacier.

Back on shore, the party encountered a few thugs who attempted to ‘relieve’ the party of their treasure. It did not prove to be a wise move on their part.

DM’s Notes: This was the first of the jobs for Mork. They were to be high adventures. Go somewhere, get the Macguffin, head back. Each would have something special about it. In this one, it was the remorhaz and the rolling glacier. I was thinking of marking the inside of a box with all the various walls to use a terrain, but it seem impractical for actual use.

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Figurines of Wondrous People

Medusa r During a night at the Blackened Keg, a woman named Agatha approached the party with a problem. Her brother, Kiran, had gone missing several months ago. Before his disappearance, he’d traveled to Hlammach to join an adventuring party called the Fire of Dawn.

The journey to Hlammach was uneventful, and gave the party time to speak with each other on many topics, including their strategy for finding clues upon their arrival. After their arrival, they managed to learn some important information:

It seems likely that the figures were being moved through the docks by an importer/exporter named Toriell. Dockmaster Rolati seemed to not trust the man, but had no evidence to shut his business down. Unfortunately, while the party did not trust him implicitly, they had no reason to search his inventory.

However, more solid clues could be gleamed from Neddy, the bartender and the Ogre’s Mistake. Neddy is said to have a good memory for names, and when asked of the Fire of Dawn, he recalled that the party had taken an interest in the bugbear issue north of the city.

So on the following morning, the party set out for the location of the bugbears near town. The cavern was located on the edge of the farmlands, just as they turn into the foothills. The caves had long been cleared of bugbears, and only the rotten corpses remained. However, there was an arcane archway in the back, identified as a portal. Further searching found a portal key, conspicuously placed, in another chamber. using it to activate the portal, the adventurers cautiously headed forward.

Beyond was the domain of Calitriss, a medusa wizard with a cruel bent. To help her defend her home, and to make her victims easier to handle, she had a flesh golem built, likely of the corpses of those who died to her magic and poison before she could turn them to stone. The party defeated Calitriss, and recovered more of the stone figures, and shipping receipts from Toriell.

It would seem that Calitriss had set up portals in places where inexperienced adventurers would find them, travel through, and she could slay them with ease. An adept wizard, she would then cast upon the petrified remains a ritual to permanently shrink the body into a figurine. It was more her cruel nature than for profit that she sold these figures, shipping them out from various locations to Sembia, from where they would be traded and sold throughout the realms.

Toriell, when confronted with evidence of him crime, claimed to have no knowledge of the contents of his shipments. When all of his attempts to escape punishment failed, he surrendered.

From this event, the party were venerated as heroes. Hundreds of lives could be saved, including Kiran, whom Baern had returned to proper form personally. A minotaur joined into the party as well, and brought word of a half-orc in Lyrabar with work for the party.

Kiran and the party traveled back to Stonewynne to return him to Agatha. There, they encountered Davrin at long last. He spoke with the party about the problems they’d suffered, and provided gifts to help the party with their endeavors.

After speaking with Davrin, the party was off to Lyrabar to speak with a new contact about work for them beyond the sleepy village of Stonewynne.

DM’s Notes: I came up with the figurines idea before this game even got going, so players had been finding them since session one. Although players suspected something from early on, they accepted the figurines as simple art objects. I love how this adventure went down, though. Lots of RP, players seemed to all have something they wanted to do. And a nice fight at the end. This became a model I tried to move towards in subsequent adventures.

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Study Group

Old library Past the Duergar lay the library of old Cormill. This building was different from those they encountered before. The library was covered in arcane markings, guarded by powerful constructs, and infested with deadly spiders.

Beneath the main library was the vault, locked, trapped, and warded. Through their teamwork and skills, the party managed to overcome its defenses and removed a few valuable items. They also retrieved a wardstone, which would open the path to the current owner of the library, a wizard named Zoldathra.

Zoldathra was not pleased to have had her home and her study intruded upon. But after some careful discussion, the party agreed to leave her domain.

DM’s Notes: I made this the shortest of the building the party went through, and they didn’t even check out the whole place before the owner asked them to leave. I was prepared for the fight with Zoldathra, but am all the happier for not having to play it out. It provided some good role playing, though, when the party, acting like a usual party, kicks open a door and finds a pissed-off wizard wondering why her home was invaded.

There was also a potential side quest here. She was studying a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts, which would have been a decent magic item, but would also have caused various very powerful groups to hunt the party member who possessed it.

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The Fall of the Shieldmaiden
Stonewynne is attacked. Loh is murdered.

Lmc fire rIn the middle of the night, shouting in the streets wake the heroes from their slumber. From between the shutters of their rooms at Dovak Dreambox. Looking out, the city was ablaze. As the heroes made it to the street, they found people were attacking the town. Sheriff Boisley and one of his deputies were fighting against the unknown attackers. As the adventurers make it into battle, the deputy is slain, but thanks to the intervention of the players, Tal is saved.

The adventurers cut down many of the attackers without much trouble, but man clad in black plate strides out from Loh house and moved for the exit to town. Oddly, though that house was in the centre of the attack, it seemed to have been lit afire last, and was only beginning to burn as the man strode out of it.

A perceptive adventurer noticed that the attackers wore the same symbols as the members of the Cult of the Dragon that were encountered back in Yitsall. The heroes found the armour clad figure difficult to land a blow upon, but when they had his attention, he turned to reveal his face was devoid of flesh. A burning red light flicked in the eye sockets of his skull, and his blade glowed with a ghostly light. His attack upon the party was devastating, but he showed no interest in their lives. The figure left the city and closed the gate behind him.

After, the party helped the city put out the fire and clean up after, as best they could. Loh’s corpse was found, and she died of a blade before she burnt. Sheriff Boisley also informed the party that many houses were burnt, as well as Stonewynne Imports and Local goods. Several citizens were killed in the fire as well, including Thomas.

The attack left the party with many questions. Why was Loh a target? What were the Cultists doing? And, being that The Cult of the Dragon is known to be nihilistic, why did they show no interest is the town’s church?

They decided to investigate Yitsall once more. They found that orcs had moved into the old mine. Among their number was a caster who had one eye and a symbol of Gruumsh. They had come after the adventurers it would seem. The bodies of the cultists had been defiled and set upon spikes in Thaesk chamber.

Among the dead was the burnt remains of a journal of Valithan the Watchful, who had been sent to investigate the fate of the cultists there. A few clues could be found in those charred pages, but more questions seemed to be raised as well.

DM’s Notes: When developing a plot, I will usually sit down with my notes from time to time and try to figure out what the bad guys are up to. What have the players done, what was the plan, what happens next, all that crap. In this case, the Cult of the Dragon had taken a hit, and blamed local adventurers. Fortunately for the party, they didn’t suspect the party. Unfortunately for Loh and Davrin, they were active around that time in the area, and seemed likely suspects.

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