Thrones of Dust

10th Session

Briare itself is evacuated, the townsfolk led back to Chateu-sur-Tylmer by the company of the Blazing Sun, who task the heroes with the protection of the shrine in the town until they return in 5 days. Paladin Seline and Brother Sanzo express their strong desire to return and open the Shrine, unaware that the heroes already know the secrets of how to unseal it. The following morning, the Kobold Sage’s book is opened and studied, and proves to be entirely accurate.

The first of the Seals, the seal of Erathis, is the floor itself, which reshapes into stairs leading into the second sealed chamber. The seal of Pelor is undone next, leading further underground. A rune-laden chamber holds the third seal, once again easily overcome, which leads to the lowest chamber. The final seal is a set of massive bronze doors, marked by the symbol of Moradin. Once again the Kobold Sage’s information was entirely accurate, and the grinding doors open into a long sealed cave.

Black sand crunches underfoot. Whispers hiss in the air. Faint glows in the darkness. A cold, numbing feeling that writhes under the skin. Black sand, and bones. Samuel steps on a buried breastplate, levering the ribcage and spinal column still lodged in it out of the sand, the owner’s skull rolling away into the dark. Barely a foot under the black sand is a strata of skeletal remains and battered rusted armor. Hissing, whispers in the dark. “Hold… the line!” Blue glows on the edge of vision. “Don’t… let them… past…”.

The walls and pillars of the cave, covered from floor to ceiling in deeply carved words. Blasphemies, oaths, dark prayers. The vile words promise that the world shall burn, that the rivers run red with the blood of the righteous. Whispers. Whispers in the dark. “No… mercy!” The crunch of black sand and breaking bones under the heroes’ feet. “Drive them… back!”. It’s at this point that the heroes comment that there are a conspicuous lack of instructions concerning the re-sealing of the Sealed Shrine.

Ancient, spectral armor flows out of the darkness to block their path, the spirit of a long dead Paladin of Erathis. The ghostly knight intones a dire warning; the cave is under the combined righteous protection of four gods. Behind him, the desiccated husk of a Cleric of Moradin nods, mute due to his stitched mouth. Flanking the heroes, wreathed in a halo of divine flame, the skeletal remains of an Invoker of Pelor flares into being, revealing the cloaked form of a revenant Avenger of Ioun, whos runic blade springs to life.

The burning skeleton screams and swears vengeance on those who brought the light to this forbidden place, while the shadowy revenant hisses an oath to bring swift and silent death to any who have knowledge of this cave. As one, the four attack, driven by the madness of undeath.

Samuel and the spectral paladin salute each other in proper knightly fashion before engaging in their duel. Jacen is drawn into the middle of the fray and rooted in place by black chains woven by the cleric of Moradin. Flames leap out, launched by the burning skeletal figure that was once an Invoker of Pelor, barely missing Koteth. Sliding along the black sand, striking with impossible quickness, the revenant Avenger darts around Jurak, trying to cut down Reed and Jacen. Blades clash in the dark.

Jacen calls out to Erathis, channelling divine power into a swirling burst of holy energy that drives away and sears the vengeful dead. The spectral Paladin howls and curses, grievously pained by the exposure to the true light of his god. Unable to break free of his ritual duel with Samuel, he unleashes his fury at the retired knight. His ghostly blade glides through armor with ease, causing disturbing amounts of blood to well up under Samuel’s plate-and-chain, yet the ghost knight’s shield solidifies, deflecting Samuel’s ripostes.

Ducking between the rune-carved pillars, Koteth stalks the mummified cleric. It barely has the time to react before being riddled with arrows, which tear through the husk and cause it to crumble back to dust. Heavy hammer and divine spells decimate the Avenger. The burning skeleton is reduced to spiralling cinders, and Sir Samuel’s duel turns, the ghostly knight banished, fading to blue mist, leaving behind his banner and a whisper of frustration and anger.

Beyond the black sand lies a rough stone temple. Pillars covered in jagged, oddly shaped blades, wide holes filled with similar jagged spikes, and a spiral ramp leading down into a deep chasm. A deep, rumbling breath pours from the pit. The voice calls out in the blasphemous tongue of the lower planes. Wide leathery wings, capped with a multitude of spines, stretch out of the pit. With a great beating of its wings, the foul Spined Devil lifts itself out of the chasm.

A short but vicious fight follows, with Samuel and Jurak holding off the demon-spawned brutes that crawled out of the chasm after their master, while Koteth, Reed and Jacen focus their ranged attacks on the flying spined demon itself. The warrior and paladin are battered and shoved around, the huge fleshy brute demons trying to push them into the spiked pit. The spined creature is pinned in a corner, pierced by Koteth’s arrows, seared by the radiance of Erathis and Melora. Seeing the winged devil drop low, Jurak roars and charges it, leaving Samuel to hold off the brutish demons. With his usual Elven grace, Koteth clears the spiked pit in a long jump, covering Samuel’s flank. Reed tries to follow Koteth’s example, but short Halfling legs can’t propel him nearly as far, and he plunges into the pit.

A mighty hammer blow knocks the Spined Devil to the ground. It drops to its knees, groveling before Jurak, babbling rapidly in its foul tongue. There is a moment’s hesitation. The barbaric warrior towers over the creature… then brings the hammer down. But Jurak didn’t put his full force into the blow. The stunned, crushed fiend still begs and pleads with the warriors, while his allies still fight the grotesque flesh demons. Words spill from the Spined Devil, words only Jurak can understand.

There is an intake of breath, dust and sand sliding towards Jurak. His allies look back to see him standing over the prostrate form of the fiend, hammer held high. Black particles lift and swirl around the hammer, carried by dark winds and foul whispers. One by one the brute demons are reduced to disgusting piles of lifeless flesh, the magics that fuelled their existence drawn into the hammer. There is a constant, rising intake of air, an ever mounting tension that crackles against the skin and causes the teeth to rattle. And just when it reaches its peak, just when the inhale could not possibly draw any more… nothing. Silence. The tension is not released. There is no catastrophic release, no crescendo. Just an abiding tension, the uneasy feeling that one’s bones are about to snap from the pressure.

A final visit by the four defenders of these depths. The spectral knight bows and salutes Samuel again. “I hope you know what you are doing” he says. “This is your charge now, we are released”. The Cleric, Invoker and Avenger fade back into the darkness. “My armor lies within the demon’s chasm, amidst the shattered remains of his greater form. Bear it out of this place of darkness.” With that, the knight fades as well, leaving the heroes to contemplate Jurak’s actions.

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Onarampage

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