Episode 20 (15 August, 2015)
Back in Kraggodan to pray and prepare for the upcoming invasion of Molthune at Fort Ramgate, Thorgur Lightshammer was blessed with a vision from Torag directing him to the archives beneath the Anvil of Kings. With the help of Astrid Rogarvia, having recently returned from Crystalhurst on a short research trip, Thorgur was able to procure an ancient dwarven text that taught him two critical spells key to defeating the lich, Nochen Valmugen. The spells promised two abilities. The first would allow Thorgur to trap the lich’s soul within its phylactery after its body was destroyed. The second spell would then allow Thorgur to utterly destroy the phylactery, ensuring the lich’s defeat remained permanent.
Thorgur shared this information with Hudson Graves and Orin once the latter had joined the rest in Kraggodan. Orin had only recently learned that the lich may be working with the aboleth and the dragon, Vellath the Green, and that the trio feared something in Lake Encarthan. Believing an enemy of his enemy to be his friend, Orin remained in Tamran after the siege ended to direct his people to search the lake for any indication of what the aboleth may fear. Sadly, these explorations had already revealed that Tamran had still acquired the artillery the party had worked so hard to destroy during the siege and were already using it to great effect against the Molthuni navy. Orin attempted to dissuade the Forest Marshal, Weslen Gavirk, from using these weapons against the civilians of Eranmas, Molthune’s naval headquarters and Tamran’s ultimate goal, but the Forest Marshal appeared obstinate in his desire to punish Molthune for their war.
Orin also revealed that his people would soon begin construction of fortifications of their own in the waters beneath Tamran to ward off possible attack by Molthune or the aboleth’s allies.
Having returned to Crystalhurst after the Siege of Tamran’s victory, Astrid shared with the group her vivid dreams, seemingly granted to her only in the presence of Kelvennan Duskwalker’s mysterious eidolon, Malam. The dreams appeared to foretell the same dire future if Nochen was not stopped: a land of endless undeath.
The party then met with High General Hadtok Ravenguard at the Anvil of Kings, who had been meeting with the Molthuni defector, General Lady Elizabeth Saewe. General Saewe revealed the existence of underground store rooms, built out beyond Ramgate’s walls. With the aid of dwarven stoneshapers, she believed the party, led by her, could bypass the fort’s defenses without alerting the Molthuni army. General Ravenguard supported the plan, hoping the party could bring down the fort’s defenses from the inside, allowing the dwarven army to invade the fort and put its defenders to the sword. To this end, he had Hibok Marbleaxe gift the party adamantite weapons in anticipation of defeating the golems Molthune so far favored in its battle lines.
Thus resolved to end the lich and Molthune’s invasion once and for all, the party made their final preparations and set out with a pair of stoneshapers and General Saewe the next day.
The plan worked as hoped, at least as far as getting the group into the grounds beneath Fort Ramgate. Yet what they discovered there was something terrible: the entire underground complex had been converted into a corpse farm by the lich’s minions. Molthune’s enemies, both living and dead, were being brought to the catacombs, where they were evidently feasted upon by mindless ghoul workers. At the sight of this abomination, Thorgur expressed a desire to completely cleanse the complex. It was here that Hudson revealed the card up his sleeve: a new technology from Hibok, called dynamite, that would allow them to level the structure. The party seemed in agreement that this action would be worthwhile.
The party continued to explore the complex and unravel its atrocities, eventually stumbling upon two crucial finds. First, the party discovered an army, hundreds strong, of dormant undead monsters waiting in the depths of the complex. Beyond it, they confronted something even more disturbing: a gathering of Molthuni cultists, willingly complicit in everything the party had encountered heretofore, and a terrible corpse golem referred to as the Harvester. After a short but grueling battle in which General Saewe was gravely wounded, the party triumphed as Thorgur used a magical potion to double in size and crush the corpse golem with Hibok’s adamantine warhammer.
Their enemies felled, Hudson decided that he could spare one of his explosive weapons to destroy the undead army gathered in the pit of the corpse farm. Hudson came to the edge of the pit, lit the dynamite with his burning cigar, and tossed it into the mass of undeath. One short but very loud boom later, and the undead army that may have threatened victory during the Battle of Fort Ramgate was no more.
And so our heroes gathered their strength to push upwards into the heart of Fort Ramgate itself.
Episode 21 (23 August, 2015)
Having destroyed the Harvester and put the Cultist of Bone to the sword, our heroes gathered to storm into Fort Ramgate proper. Thorgur Lightshammer tended to General Saewe’s wounds just as voices drifted down from above. Guards had heard the noise from the dynamite explosion and were coming to investigate. Here, Saewe intervened, and to her relief, found the soldiers were known associates of hers and sympathizers to her cause. The soldiers offered their uniforms to the group to aid them in getting through the fort with minimal disturbances, and Astrid sent them back down into the corpse farm to tend to the prisoners they had rescued before.
Hudson Graves lent Thorgur his hat of disguise, as the dwarf could not fit into the human-sized uniforms, and Orin used his invisibility and fly spells to make himself mobile and avoid confrontation. Hudson and Astrid donned uniforms, and our heroes headed out, determined to reach the gatehouse and let the allied armies into the city.
The battle had already begun in earnest, siege weapons opening fire on the small fort, dwarves scaling the walls in groups of three or four, and druids making assault runs disguised as birds. It was during one such siege barrage that Orin came under fire from a series of flying boulders. In the process of avoiding them, Orin crashed through a building window. A trio of guards were startled to see the magus appear out of thin air through their window, but Orin dove back out of the building before they could attack. Hudson, noticing the crash, saw the guards come to the window’s edge and took two of them out with his pistols.
The party made it to the gatehouse, which was guarded by a number of Molthuni soldiers, a pair of trolls, and a gatekeeper. Several dwarves, including Bradoc Skyking, were already assaulting the gate. During the fighting, Astrid was gravely wounded by one of the trolls, but Orin managed to get her out of the fighting with a dimension door spell. Hudson took out the gatekeeper with his gunblade then made short work of the soldiers. Meanwhile, Thorgur held the attention of the trolls, killing one while Saewe took down the other. By this time, Orin and Astrid had opened the gatehouse, and Bradoc and the other dwarves entered the fray. The battle ended shortly.
Yet during the aftermath, a drow assassin dropped in on the party and killed Bradoc. The assassin attempted to flee with mechanical wings, but Hudson shot him down. Bradoc was quickly taken to the dwarf encampment to undergo healing, but it was too late. The Archdruid of Crystalhurst, Heltanto, arrived shortly after, grimly informing the dwarves that he only had the power to reincarnate Bradoc, a fate he was not sure the dwarf would accept.
In discussing what to make of this turn of events, as well as the mysterious assassin, our heroes learned of Thorgur’s own place in Kraggodan’s politics and the option to elect someone from his family, someone other than a Greathammer or Skyking, now that Bradoc was gone – though Thorgur declined the option for himself. Finally, our heroes decided to interrogate the assassin personally, but he resisted their attempts at magical coercion and told them little, except for a vague reference to people from the Darklands rising up to the surface world. Angered by his reticence and lack of respect, and ignoring the protests of Hudson to spare the drow’s life for further interrogations, Astrid put an end to the assassin with a single blow.
Afterwards, Orin requested the body be preserved for him to return to his people in the hopes of gleaning something even from the corpse. He placed an arcane mark on the body, and the dwarves removed it from the camp. Finally, our heroes rested.
The next day, General Saewe returned from the fighting, revealing that General Rondulus had escaped, but she had seen to it that his leadership (apparently intelligent ghouls) perished in his absence. As she returned to the camp to rest, our heroes re-entered Fort Ramgate. Amber Wallace was waiting for them, having broken her cover in the fort. She took them to the lich’s laboratory. Meanwhile, the battle continued, the odds squarely in the allied armies’ favor.
Inside the laboratory, our heroes found some of what they expected – alchemy supplies, a golem works, and a dressing room for Nochen Valmugen’s various forms – and something unexpected. Nochen had apparently been conducting experiments, trying to fuse flesh with robotics, and he had dissembled one of the Technic League’s robots in the process and murdered who knows how many. Although Thorgur was able to recovery a legendary artifact, the Stone of the Mountain King, from the lab, he was enraged at the blasphemy and smashed a great deal of the experiment to bits. Hudson was left to ponder the meaning of robotics here – did Nochen work for or with the Technic League, or had he stolen the technology?
Pressing on, our heroes made one final gruesome discovery: a series of canisters holding fully formed bodies, evidently awaiting possession by Nochen’s lich soul, and seemingly powered by his phylactery, or at least a portion of it. While they laid waste to the contraption, they were assaulted by the Wailing Golem, a terrible creature who screamed for death. It was only after Hudson finally put it out of its misery that they learned the truth of the bodies in stasis. The golem itself turned out to be a conglomeration of the murdered souls Nochen left in his wake.
Their journey was not yet over, however. With the phylactery device destroyed and the Wailing Golem released, the way lay open to Nochen’s innermost sanctum: the Necropolis.
Episode 22 (12 September, 2015)
Our heroes stood before Nochen’s sanctum, ready to face the lich at last. Yet they were interrupted by news from Amber Wallace: she was staying behind to cover their attack and to allow Hudson to face Nochen Valmugen without her, as he must.
They made their way down and through the underground before emerging on a hillside east of Fort Ramgate. A farwatcher stood sentinel over an lift leading into the sanctum below. Astrid Rogarvia recognized the device and noted that it was likely being used to gaze at celestial bodies within the solar system.
Down the lift, our heroes came to Nochen’s library, hosted by an unseen servant who was happy to help them find any book they desired. There was little of interest here, however, except for a pile of scrolls and letters written in aboleth that Orin pocketed for later examination. Further below, Orin found another curiosity: a crystal ball of telepathy in the form of a frozen heart known as the Frozen Heart of Orphys. He attempted to spy on Nochen with it, but the wizard resisted. Nevertheless, they pocketed the object and continued their journey.
In fact, they did not have to spy on Nochen much, for he waited for them in what appeared to be an underground garden filled with blooming bushes and trees and a trickling brook.
Nochen called to Astrid, asking her to give up her quest and join him. Astrid did not outright refuse, but instead asked to speak to Nochen face to face. Nochen agreed, and the door to his final sanctum opened up at last. Inside, however, their talk quickly degenerated into battle. As the party scrambled to defeat Nochen and his allies, Thorgur moved to destroy the phylactery – only to find it protected by Agard Habbraxis, risen from the dead.
In the end, Hudson Graves put both Agard and Nochen down, while Orin and Astrid fended off Nochen’s minions, and Thorgur destroyed the phylactery once Nochen fell. The lich’s soul gave itself up and passed from this world – forever. The lich’s strangehold on Molthune had come to an end.
Yet no sooner did Nochen perish than the complex, without the power of Nochen’s phylactery, began to collapse. As our heroes fled, they found one final artifact: an airship, the Titanis. On approach, it asked for identification, and when Hudson spoke to it, the airship opened its chambers to the party. They scrambled aboard as the complex began to fall to pieces around them.
In the cockpit, Titanis encouraged Hudson to pilot the ship, but he did not possess the skills to do so. Upon realizing this, Titanis injected Hudson with some kind of formulae, and just as suddenly as the chemical entered his bloodstream, Hudson appeared to understand both what the ship was and how to pilot it. And as this knowledge filled him, he ascended, becoming a mythic hero.
Hudson piloted the Titanis away from Nochen’s Sanctum and back towards Fort Ramgate. An explosion rocked the city as they observed it, and its origins appeared to be the general’s chamber, where our heroes had originally descended into Nochen’s labs. Orin gave Hudson the Frozen Heart of Orphys long enough for Hudson to make contact with Amber Wallace. The telepathic connection from the artifact showed that she was alive, and she was able to communicate with Hudson and tell him that she was behind the explosion – the laboratory had been destroyed utterly with Hibok’s dynamite. Amber met the party outside the city, where she was astonished to find what Hudson had acquired. Finally, as his friends watched, Amber sealed her approval with a kiss for the gunslinger.
Back in Kraggodan, our heroes found the war had all but ended, and a treaty would soon be signed. While they waited for word of the treaty, Orin finally disposed of the drow assassin’s body in the Darklands, tossing it from the passageways outside Kraggodere into the depths below.
Meanwhile, Thorgur learned of corruption from both the Greathammers and the Skykings, including one startling truth: the Greathammers had established the Hollow Men presence in the Rat’s Next intentionally, in order that they would protect a second Darklands entrance to Sekamina. He presented it to the party, and they began to discuss their options. Their discussion was interrupted by the treaty’s signing, however.
At the signing, the party met Molthune’s Imperial Governor, Markwin Teldas, who revealed the extent of Nochen’s corruption and hold over Molthune. With the necromancer dead, however, Teldas promised to bring sweeping reforms to the militaristic nation. Fort Ramgate would remain in Molthune but be occupied by Kraggodan and Tamran forces, making the city a kind of hostage for the nation.
Thorgur Lightshammer was then annointed with the Blessed Hammer of the Citadel, and his family elevated to high noble status. Meanwhile, the House of Rising Tide, the gillmen refuge Orin had established, was officially recognized by Nirmathas. Yet as soon as the ceremony began, Orin received word from his brother and departed to Tamran.
Back with his people, Orin learned that Shalako’s scouts had discovered a skum fortress surrounding an entrapped triton city. Shalako asked for Orin’s help in defeating the skum and releasing the tritons, so their war on Chevaghol could truly begin.
In Kraggodan, meanwhile, Astrid is later summoned back to the Anvil of Kings, where she meets an unexpected face: Choral Rogarvia, long thought dead, had returned, and was now seeking her help to open the Observatory!