Our “heroes”, accompanied by the Blessed Afflictor, the Exalted Interrogator, and the Slaughterer headed for the shrine of the Sacred Parasite, discussing how they might destroy the thing and what might happen after. They learned that, while the Blessed Afflictor could count on the animated remains of his army joining them, and likely the various Noga who were sacrificed on the mountain, but that the Noga faithful to Duvan’ku would likely oppose them once their spirits were restored to their bodies. Realizing that “the faithful” meant most of the bodies buried in the compound, they decided to delay the assault on the Parasite until they were better prepared to deal with the fallout.
The Interrogator informed them of a “back door” out of the compound—a vertical shaft from his room up to the surface. Mel scaled the shaft, fixing a rope in place for the others, and they went back around to the main entrance. The Interrogator lead them to the “Chamber of Pedagogy”, where they collected a few choice pieces of furniture—two 15-ft. diameter stone disks, a portable forge for melting metals, The Resplendent Calendar, and the (filled with a millennium of research into fascinating new forms of unnecessary misery).
Their first order of business was keeping the dead from acting too quickly. Grimnir systematically un-mounted the corpses in the Crypt of the Children. Then they sealed all of the vault doors on the crypts, locking them, spiking them with pitons, and waxing over the frames and joints to slow the entry of any errant souls. Finally, Ash magically shrank the giant stone disks and rolled out to block the doors to the warriors’ and priests’ crypts, then further warded the doors with lesser signs of sealing.
Grimnir, meanwhile, collected all the candles and loose skulls he could find and set up the mobile forge as an altar at the intersection between the corridor to the shrine and the Crypt of the Children, just beside the fountains of offering. Here, with some help from their undead “friends” and a monacle that the slaughterer gifted to the party, he began setting up the rituals they had collected from around the compound, preparing to trap the errant souls freed by the Parasite in “liquid time”.
Once these preparations were in place, Mel sat down at the organ in the chapel, ready to play, and the others threw open the door to the shrine.
Ash acted quickly, striking the Parasite with Yarash’s Spoon. With a hideous scream, the bloated mass of the Parasite shrank and twisted, reforming into an ancient-looking elf, and dropping the millions of spheres contained in its body into the abyss in the center of the shrine. Grimnir immediately lashed out at the elf with a pair of repelling blasts, lifting it into the air with one, then knocking it into the pit with the second, sending the writhing, screaming ex-Parasite hurtling into the depths along with the soul-containing spheres.
Many seconds later the screams were cut short and they heard the sound of the spheres shattering as they struck whatever was at the bottom of the thousand-foot-deep hole.
A moment after that vast swarms of millions of released souls poured out of the pit, like a swarm of strange, glowing, flying slugs and flew off in every direction. Traithe set himself at the edge of the pit, holding The Sword of Halfrek in their path and swinging it wildly. Dozens of the things vanished as they encountered the soul-consuming weapon, discharging fully intact corpses back into the pit as one soul after another was absorbed by the blade.
The swarm of souls surged down the corridor. A mass veered towards the Crypt of the Children only to be stopped by the magical seals that Ash had placed over the door. Seeing them briefly trapped, Dame unleashed a thunder wave, crushing thousands of the soul-slugs against the sealed portal. The wave of sound and force seemed to instantly freeze and then shatter the loosed souls. Grimnir quickly entoned the final words of his ritual, capturing the near-destroyed child souls in a small vial of liquid, which he quickly pocketed.
As the rest of the party held their ground against the wave of souls, Mel set his fingers to the keys of the organ and began playing Wish You Were Here, perfectly. Immediately the ground began to shake worse than on any previous occasion. Rubble rained from the ceiling and two large, writhing columns shot up through the ground by Grimnir’s makeshift altar, upending the forge and reducing the door to the crypt to rubble.
Remembering their oath to not allow the party to come to harm, the three undead grabbed Dame, Kevorkian, and Ash and began running for the exit at top speed, millions more souls—hopefully those of the Blessed Afflictor’s army—flying along with them. Traithe called on the powers of the most recent soul trapped in his sword and ran after them with a sudden burst of unbelievable speed.
Another squirming column burst up, crushing the organ. Mel pulled a small glass orb from his pocket and ran for the Water Clock, turning it forward and vanishing. Grimnir, taking some shortcuts via misty step, arrived at the clock just as the others streamed by heading for the ladder out. He grabbed the hands and turned them back, freezing his friends and the disembodied souls, though their undead companions and, more importantly, the earthquake did not seem impeded by the resulting time-warp.
He waved the Blessed Afflictor on and the three undead levitated up the shaft with his time-stopped companions. Grimnir then ran back through the compound as fast as he could, scooping up hundreds of thousands of soul-slugs with a tenser’s floating disk and shoving them outside in hopes that they would find purchase in one of the sacrificial victims burried in the mass grave above, and blasting major supports to ensure that the entire complex would come down behind him. He then ran back to the clock and blasted it…
Causing Mel to reappear. The gypsy-boy grinned as he smashed the globe he was holding onto the ground…
The party found themselves suddenly outside, halfway down the crumbling mountain peak, and running for their lives. The Afflictor, Interrogator, and Slaughterer ran with them and thousands of undead shambled along beside, dodging falling rubble and boulders that rained down around them. Every heave of the ground sent another jumble of corpses hurling out of the earth down the slope—many were crushed, but more joined the fleeing undead army.
Behind them the top quarter of the mountain was gone—reduced to a pile of slag. A single massive forearm, nearly two-hundred feet from elbow to wrist, stuck up from the crumbling crest of the mountain thrashing slowly, as of a half-sleeping man trying to swat away an annoying insect. The dissolving remains of the temple complex was clenched tightly in the massive hand attached to it.
They skidded to a stop near the edge of the ancient city on the ridge, coming up against another horde of undead, twice again as large as the one following them. Standing at the head of this group was a ice-crusted silt-ghoul wearing a crown of emeralds and holding a sword which glowed blue in the frosty winter air.
The Blessed Afflictor asked for permission to engage. Traithe handed the undead general his oversized greatsword and Grimnir nodded his assent. The two undead armies charged into each other with abandon. The Slaughterer and the Interrogator peeled out to either side of the army to lead the flanks as the Blessed Afflictor and the party charged the undead king.
The king raised a hand and the warring undead armies suddenly gave the combatants very wide berth. Traithe let out a ebullient cry and charged, frothing at the mouth, drawing on the power of a trapped soul to begin raging. Traithe, Mel, and the Blessed Afflictor engaged the king in melee as Ash called in a trio of mephits to rain lightning down on the monarch and Kevorkian summoned a pair of floating spiritual hammers.
Blow after blow struck the king—magical swords, lightning, hammers—but he shrugged off all of them and quickly healed the worst, all the while slashing savagely with his sword which glowed alternately pure white and cold blue.
Melastasya leaped on the king’s back, clinging to him like a monkey and pummeled him with the wicked sisters—the only weapons which seemed to do any good. Grimnir took a different tack, using his repelling blasts to hurl the king, the girl still hanging on, into the wall of a ruined building, then dropping a massive stone column on him. Mel dived away, rolled and dashed back to grab the king again as he rose, battered from the rubble, deftly avoiding the blows of his sword. She took a single punch, but seemed unfazed by the necrotic energies engulfing the undead fiends hands.
The others rushed in and resumed their bombardment, attacking like a pack of wolves and whittling away at the king blow by blow. The Blessed Afflictor extended his hand and the icy sword disappeared from the king’s grasp, reappearing in the general’s hand.
Mel once again scurried onto the enemy’s back. Enraged, the king’s hand glowed brilliant white and he struck her, burning her with radiant energy and hurling her away with a clap of thunder. Traithe, though, was right behind, stepping in and felling the undead monarch with one last strike of Halfrek’s Sword. The king vanished, body and soul trapped in the blade, and his crown, jewelry, and armor dropped to the ground.
The Blessed Afflictor took the crown and placed it on his head, causing the two fighting undead hordes to immediately cease hostilities, before removing it and handing it to Grimnir.
Grimnir commanded the undead to build palanquins for the party and prepare to depart the mountain. He then asked for a unit of fifty of the strongest undead to remain behind in the ancient city, under the command of the Slaughterer, with orders that, should a group of buxom warrior-maidens appear, they should be battered, but not killed, painted blue, and carried unconcious back to Kryptgarten with a message that they should stay there and defend their new keep. The other party members, meanwhile, set to looting, raiding the king’s treasury and burial mounds.
Month of Alturiak
Riding in their palanquins and borne by the combined force of the two undead armies, as well as many stragglers who wandered into the city from their mountain graves while the party was looting (nearly two hundred thousand in total), the party made their way triumphantly down the north side of the mountain. As they descended they could see people fleeing on horseback into the plains to the north. At the foot of the mountain they found the Eraka town of Verdigris completely abandoned.
They noticed that, at some point, apparently, the Blessed Afflictor had gained some skin and now looked very much like the Eraka woman whom they had seen fighting the manticores in the city a few days before.
They took a long, winding route, north through The Ride, past lake Longreach, then down into the Glumpen Swamp and through the Vanishing Hills. They moved at the slow, steady, shambling pace of the zombie hordes, and met no resistance. Really they met no living creatures at all during the weeks of their travel, as nothing sentient or not, was willing to get within spitting distance of a marching army of two-hundred thousand of the living dead. Thus, they passed a leisurely month, learning new skills from their undead patrons and plotting how they might destroy both the Aboleth beneath Sorcerer’s Island for its attempts to enslave them and also bring ruin to the Phlan Council.
Eventually they came to the Quivering Forest on the edge of the Twilight Swamp, well to the east of Kryptgarten, but close enough to Phlan to find a small settlement. Grimnir used the staff given him by the Aboleth to enslave the farmers, and all of their livestock, hoping to “burn out” the Aboleth’s ability to dominate creatures, of which the staff was an extension. From there the army struck into the forest, cutting back north and west towards Sorcerer’s Island. Grimnir commanded the zombies to carve enigmatic messages and warnings into the trees for any who might be pursuing them, but such actions awakened the fey who ruled the wood.
It quickly came to blows and threatened to destroy both their army and the forest, but the druidess, Dame, made contact with the fey and brokered a peace, allowing their zombie horde passage if they refrained from harming any of the flora or fauna.
As the last snows of winter melted away towards spring, the party found themselves once again on the shores of Lake Kuto, having decided that killing the Aboleth and ending the river’s pollution was their first concern. The Blessed Afflictor, armed with the Noga king’s freezing sword, led the bulk of their force down into the water to engage the Sahuagin city they believed to be down there.
Meanwhile the party, along with the Interrogator and a “select” squad of some thousand ghouls floated their palanquins across to the Sorcerer’s Island and followed the maze of teleporters to reach Yarash’s chambers. When they informed Yarash that they had come to kill the Aboleth, the old wizard lashed out, only to be gunned down by a barrage of lightning bolts from Ash and his mephits.
Once they had secured the pumping chambers, the party psyched themselves up to confront the Aboleth and, joining hands with their undead helpers, stepped into the teleportal.
To be continued