S3 - Episode 3 - Howlers
Yaja - Human / Grave Cleric
Glib - Kenku / Arcane Trickster Rogue
Boljek - Hobgoblin / Samurai Fighter
Torrent - Tiefling / Tempest Cleric
Eld - Half-Elf / Archfey Warlock
Atavan - Human / Mastermind Rogue + Ollie III, IV
Arha - Half-Orc / Oath of Vengeance Paladin
Mittens - Tabaxi / Champion Fighter
Party Level: 5
Braving the scorching heat of the central desert, the group slogs through their third day of travel heading west toward the Howling Mountains, to investigate the strange sounds emanating from the dormant volcano at Haldur's Peak. While driving their tireless ox, Geno, Torrent notices a strange circle of calcified shards of amber dotting the landscape. Eld investigates it and surmises it to be very sharp, but brittle, like a hardened residue. Snapping a few shards free, and setting up camp, the group discovers through some experimentation that the amber is EXTREMELY flammable.
While on watch, Torrent and Arha notice something strange. A quick wind steals their breath from them, and as Torrent reaches out a hand into the darkness...SNAP. Something rushes by, snapping her wrist! The party is awakened with her cries of pain, and Yaja uses her eyes of the grave to notice a shred of undeath just beyond her sight, somewhere in the dunes beyond. Glib is surprised to find the silver thread of his Alarm spell cut, and dispelled... Everyone becomes on edge, ready for a fight, but nothing comes their way.
They continue forward cautiously, taking note of Haldur's Peak. Arha recalls that, according to Dyren, giant clans used to rule these mountains, but none have seen giants for some time. With Yaja pushing her divine senses forward, trying to track the entity, the group finds themselves at last (after 12 hours of travel)...back where they started?
Indeed, a silver thread, making a circle around an encampment lays before them, but something feels...off. They look back toward the mountain, and it is no closer. However, the silver thread...is magical. Crossing it engages the same Alarm spell in Glib's head. Eld experiences an Eldritch Blast from himself, despite the others watching him shoot himself. Weird stuff. Meanwhile, Arha notices something moving in the center of the campground, and reaches out to discover a ghostly horse, that gallops into the dunes... So she mounts her own horse, Raven, and rides toward the peak.
As the others attempt to follow, and the sun begins to set again, Arha finally draws closer to the mountain...and Glib casts Longstrider, sprinting toward, like a road runner, to catch right up to Raven. An eerie plain of sand and bones lay before them, more deposits of amber shards littering the landscape. The ghostly horse drifts behind a stone further away...
Meanwhile, the sand ahead of them, like a wave of knives, erupts toward them, claws slicing out from the sand, before burrowing beneath the earth...sending spikes of amber spearing out; angry, sharp bits of crystalline residue left behind wherever this thing dives. A deadly battle begins.
As the team begins to gain the upper hand with the Wight...another appears near Eld, slicing into him. Atavan, pleased with Ollie's contribution to the fight, investigates behind the rock. There, amidst a cornucopia of amber blades, are three corpses. Two adventurers and a horse, all sucked dry of their life-force, looking like melted wax.
With Eld losing rapidly to the second Wraith, the group dispatches the first, rushing back to him, but not before he is grappled and impaled (GASP) upon an amber spike. And just as things grow dire for him, he is saved by an invisible champion, striking through the veil with flaming swords and carving the Wraith in two. "I'm back, guys! ...Who's that?"
New Allies and Wax Statues
The group is introduced to Mittens, a monster slayer that has been tracking the Wraiths for about three days. Happy to have new friends, the group travels with her and she reveals that the day time in the desert tends to mess with creatures's orientations and memory, threads of errant magic manipulating time and experiences. After a short introduction, summoning Ollie IV, and exchanging names, the group investigates the bodies impaled on the amber, discovering two magical items that were not affected by the wax: A Ring Of The Ram (given to ______), and a Blinkback Sandknife (given to _____). As night draws closer, the sun setting upon the desert, Eld casts Magic Circle to protect the group. While they rest, the group tenses as tendrils of ethereal smoke begin to emanate from the corpses. The tendrils manifest and clarify into a beautiful, ghostly horse, and two riders, one mounting while the other runs alongside. They nod to the group, grateful and free of the Wraith's hold on them, and ride into the night sky.
Midnight strikes in the cold desert, the moon high in the sky, and the party stops abruptly as a loud and low sound rattles through the carriage: a howl. And, as the sound settles, seemingly hundreds of softer howls answer it, all rallying around the shadow of the mountain. As time crests around 3am, the group finds themselves in complete shadow, and approaches the enormous mouth of a cave at the base of Haldur's Peak.
A growl stops them in their tracks, as dozens of yellow eyes bob toward them. A massive winter wolf pads out, shocks of silver rolling down its back in cold shards, like ice. Eld tosses an amber shard toward it, telling his allies to fire upon it (they are very explosive) if the wolves... Nevermind, the big one pads up and takes the shard, bounding into the cave. Meanwhile, four others stalk forward. Convinced this is a fetch quest, Atavan hurls a mushroom...which one wolf eats...and flops over, very happy.
As the others mitigate the wolves approaching Mittens (who has perched on a rock), the group easily pacifies the pack with their remaining mushrooms. Inside the cave, the mouth tapers to three tunnel paths: one slopes up, another down, and another straight. Still injured and tired, they flip the cart and form a barricade of protection as they rest, Mittens taking watch. The wolves return, many lazily moving as they recover from the mushrooms, and disappear down the two side paths. One very large silver-back squeezes past the cart, its eyes glinting as it sees Mittens...but both hear a high whistle, just on the edge of their hearing. Its ears turn, and it dashes down the central path, ignoring the group completely.
Master of the Volcano
Mittens listens down the tunnel intently and hears someone speaking giant, seemingly to the wolf. Then another sound - the padding of paws, this time with a little jingle. With a growl, it deposits a heavy metal chain, then bounds back to its master.
The chain itself is only a few links long, and the edges appear to be melted. With a shrug, Mittens throws it in her pack, while Atavan sends Ollie IV down the tunnel, discovering a dug out forge with live lava flows and a curious minotaur striking away at an anvil. His features are strong, but recently scarred, and Atavan recognizes him as one that he and his fellows fought in the forest ruin. As Ollie returns, the party plans; handle the wolves first? Investigating the side paths illuminates them to the fact that one path leads to a den of 30 wolves... The other to a den of the alphas. They opt to instead block the pack with the cart, as a low howl sends both dens into a frenzy. Glib and Ollie sprint ahead stealthily, and emerge into an empty forge, beckoning the party to follow. Glib heads to the heavy door on the other side, as a set of barks and howls of sonic force rumble through; the thunder damage obliterates Ollie...
The group rushes into the forge, grabs a few javelins, regrets leaving Geno by a pack of wolves, and heads toward the heavy door on the other side. Mittens and Glib listen closely to hear a pleading minotaur, "I'm sorry, they haven't come back yet. It's okay, I can take care of them. ...I can take care of them." A large roar, and the minotaur dissolves into pained anguish and tears as something massive growls nearby. Angry primordial speech emanates through the cavern: "My brother is dead. Long live the new king. If my Other will not respond, then I will take the throne for my own. Step aside, minion, and prepare for my Dominion."
Heading down the corridor, Glib goes invisible and slinks into the base of the volcano to see 1) a gibbering, crying minotaur with a set of golden cleavers on its back and, 2) a gargantuan two-headed wolf with magma fur that grows out from its ruby-studded chest. A tail of pure flame, impossibly long like a volcanic scorpion, looms threateningly overhead. With wolves filling the tunnel behind them, Torrent draws first blood and this enormous primal creature sounds the attack.
The minotaur stomps his foot, engaging Haste, and prepares his chained cleavers...and recognizes little Glib, who killed his brother, overcome by berserker rage. Meanwhile, the primal creature unleashes magma breath up the hallway, laying waste to the hiding party. Arha and Torrent tag team collapsing the back end of the tunnel to make short work of the wolves, and the party does their best to get OUT of magma breath formation. Despite a rough start, Glib outmaneuvers the enraged minotaur, closing the loop. Boljek and Mittens do their best to harry the creature while Eld discovers his true calling: Ray Of Frost. In similar fashion to Ursano, with rubies crashing down, the group deals the final blow to the ancient being, its body turning to ash...and the volcano begins to erupt.
A Little Help From Our Friends
With rising fiery death, Mittens spies an alcove about 15 feet up that exits the volcano base, a stone peninsula jutting out. On the pedestal, a small pack of wolves watch the party; two silver-backed dire wolves, a Hell Hound, and another giant wolf, seemingly covered in plant matter. Judging that they have little choice, they rush to this exit. The silver-backs and hound leave out the opening, but the one made of leaves...changes into a tall, alien form with long, toned limbs and dark, tight skin, the skull of a giant on its head. It points to the exit; the party members say thank you in each their own way, but Eld in particular feels something strange about the creature.
With lava rolling behind them, they sprint out the other side of the volcano, the other wolves also darting free. And as the volcano erupts, the party feels a howl in the distance, far to northeast in the frozen tundra. The wolves listen and run that way into the scorched forest...
Session closed at: 1:05am
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DM: Adam Summerer
Knight Owls Adventure Archive