SC11.03: Enter Ebondeath

The level 11 Silvers for this session

Richlen Ilineiros, high elf paladin/Glory;
Vernon von Longsington, human wizard/Conjuration;
Dain Frostbeard, hill dwarf bard/Lore;
Garth Ironhewn, mountain dwarf fighter/Battle Master

Ably guided by Murcomb, half-orc ranger/Hunter

The Silvers begin 136xp below level 12 and end on 100

The story so far

A vision of the shadow of Ebondeath over Leilon, and a ritual, seen at Bahamut’s altar, sees the Silvers venture into Kryptgarden forest to seek the lair of Claugiyliamatar, the ancient green. Guided by ranger Murcomb, they travel through jungle festering with green dragon regional effects, and ambushing undead, to the foothills of the Sword Mountains. Dain’s powerful Spirit Guardians are enough to drive back deadly assassin vines blocking the caves in which a druidic order known as the Gnawbones lurks in the dragon’s service. And now they confront five mysteriously glimmering giant spiders, and two druids beyond.

Dain’s bardic hat-trick

Vern and Garth are to the fore, but manage not to provoke the druids, both female, and already clad in Barkskin. Dain eases forward.

Miraculously (and despite Garth now actively undermining the tone) Dain convinces the pair, Sajia Hurwi and Zuri Kimyak, that allowing the Silvers peaceable negotiation with their chief is the right move.

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Garth looks around at the rest of his scowling party: “What?”

Permitted to walk south to the great central cavern, the Silvers discover that a hallucinogenic spore flourishes all over the remains of invading undead. Rich stumbles and breathes the spores, and begins dancing erratically. A vast chamber of green slime lies just west, and the elf manages to pull himself back from the brink of dancing right into it!

Garth looks disappointed.

Meanwhile Dain makes his case to Agina, head druidess, and again, manages the difficult job of conveying the party’s sincerity. They have common cause, and wish a temporary alliance.

“COME TO ME” – Claw

Agina and her sidekick Delis Venomcauldron (we’re not an order, we’re an anarcho-feminist collective!) cause two vine-bridges to be raised, allowing access. The supplicants must needs crawl across!

“Not for me,” Rich decides and with a running jump leaps far across, ricochets off a cave wall, and scrambles up the last few feet of the opposite lip, above the slime. Garth chuckles as he finishes crawling.

Vast in the dim green gloom – a natural phosphorescence common in these types of stone caverns – Claugiyliamatar broods over four great crystal balls, set high in metal pedestals.

Dain approaches to a respectful distance and for the third time succeeds in conveying their intent.

Claw wants news – but in fact, craves gossip. She sees the great sweep of events, but knows little of the personalities of the moment.

“And then we met Lord Dagult, incognito if you can believe that…”

Time passes, but such is the overwhelming presence of the ancient green, that not one of the rest of the party manages to rest.

Vern is currently at about 1/3 health and Rich has been knocked about a bit too, and a Short Rest would be a big strategic advantage, should things go south. There’s no Frightful Presence here (Claw wants to talk), but equally, the inner cavern has a DRAGON and the outer caverns are full of hostile or petulant menaces. CHR SV all round (excl Dain) to be able to relax: rolls are poor.

DM
Realistic dragon, Dragon drawing, Dragon sketch

A further mission

“VERY WELL. KNOW O SILVERS THAT THE DEATH CULT CONTINUALLY SENDS UNDEAD AGAINST THIS MY LAIR. I CANNOT SCRY WHO THESE ATTACKS ARE DIRECTED BY, BUT I KNOW THEY ARE FROM SOMEWHERE IN THIS FOREST. SEEK OUT THE NECROMANCER AND BRING THEM OR THEIR REMAINS TO ME. THEN WE DO HAVE COMMON ACCORD AND I SHALL HELP THEE.”

It kind of goes without saying, but all of the Silvers agree. And they are permitted to head back out to the (relative) clean air of the fetid bone-filled battlefield beneath the cliff, by way of the druid home cavern.

Dain begins getting his breath back – he is thoroughly tired from such an epic effort, maintained over hours.

SHORT REST! Rich and Vern return to full or near full health, Vern regains the one(?) slot he spent.

While they rest, the Silvers debate how best to track the trackless.

“Hey Rich, can you sense this necromancer? Or undead?”

Rich concentrates for a minute or so then shakes his head: “Too many results, and those really thick thickets are blocking a lot of the images I’m getting. That’s not going to work.”

“Simple, we wander round and each time we bump into undead we back-trail them” – Garth

“I think I summed that up when I said ‘triangulate'” – Dain

“But,” Vern, thinking of slogging through the deadly verdant wilderness for an eternity, “what about the horses?”

After a brief discussion and vote, the Silvers march back to where Murcomb is camped nearby and put it to him. Yes, he can help work the trail, if the party is content to lead their horses – in these thickets, riding them is a very bad idea.

An old friend decides not to stay

It is the next day: Murcomb’s help has been invaluable. The Silvers have avoided pointless confrontation with wandering gangs of undead, or cleaved through them when easiest. The mid-morning sun gleams here and there, through the canopy.

Murcomb gestures to an uphill path out of the ravine the undead have most recently been using.

As the Silvers work their way up a winding clay track, Dain, who has keen senses and does not wear a heavy helm, hears:

“Ah! Friends are arriving! Keep working, Viantha! They’ll be glad to see you!”

With hand-signals, they creep closer, to where the bald top of a clay knoll can be glimpsed. The enemy known to Vern Rich and Garth, Ularan Mortus alias The Slippery, is supervising a weird undead female who is gesturing with a bone wand as she conducts a ritual.

“A pleasure to see you again my friends! And my thanks for working so hard on my behalf! Why the cult of Talos has been badly mauled – though if you believe its high priestess to be no more, you may be mistaken… but come! I know you are busy, and Viantha here is busy, so I must leave you for now!”

So saying the dark elf begins floating casually skyward.

Inits: Dain, Rich, the bad guys and specters, Vern, Garth

Dain scrambles to get line of sight, calling on Lightning clouds to form. Rich bounds up to the next line of track and zips off a Fire Bolt. It misses. Ularan replies with a wave tat-ta and a concealed giggle. Viantha swivels to stare with menacing red eyes at the intruders and gestures: five specters ghost up around her. Vern too moves to get line of sight and a red bead forms in his hand: but a Counterspell from above foils it. Garth scrambles up the steep clay bank, seizing roots to get purchase. He gains his feet and rushes up: specters begin mobbing him.

Dain scrambles up to where Rich got to, remains on hands and knees: calls lightning down on Ularan, who takes the damage with a disappointed look on his handsome face, and keeps drifting away. Rich runs to get Garth’s back, moving his shield forward and slicing into the specter with a powerful Smite that destroys the thing entire! The four specters remaining hammer at Garth, but they are unable to rob him of life. Viantha keeps chanting… something nasty is about to happen! Vern cracks off a Fire Bolt at a specter, sizzling with a disgusting smell: Garth barges right through them and, with a surge, powers into Viantha!

She takes the blows, staggers, then focuses her gaze on the dwarf: an iron crown appears over his brow, and he turns to look at his comrades:

“Grrraaarrrrggghhhh!!” – Garth

As Dain drops lighting on the specters to finish the last two, Rich maneuvers past Garth to finish Viantha: a powerful Smite is a fit end to such a monster! Garth’s enchantment falls away as she crumbles before Rich’s smite, but her bone wand tumbles intact to the ground.

It’s all in the timing

With fragments of Viantha, and the bone wand, the Silvers make the trek back to Claw’s lair. A more direct route, since they only need avoid any pointless battles with undead mobs. Murcomb has them back by nightfall.

Now knowing the best way about things, they appeal for a vine up, and the druids raise them into the home cavern, and from there it’s an easy walk around to once again hold council with Claw.

She is once more contemplating her crystal balls.

“APPROACH”

But as Dain brings the wand within her presence, Claw is seized by SOMETHING and begins gasping and writhing about in pain! The wand crumbles, its job done.

How to Run Green Dragons – "Knowledge found then lost, then found again…"

Inits: Garth, Dain, Rich, Claw and druids, Vern, Undead minions

Garth holds ground, defensive as the great dragon sweeps her wings across the crystal balls in her agony. They roll about the cavern, some close to where Dain and Garth stand.

“This will make a great tale – though I may not live to tell it myself” Dain yells, hauling out the jawbone tiara that protects the wearer from Ebondeath’s possession. He Dimension Doors atop Claw…

“WHAT is he doing??” – Garth

…and grabs ahold of one of its horns, jamming the tiara down!

Sword Wraith Commander

Then is thrown cracking into the cavern wall, falling to the ground. As Rich advances on Garth, the battle-trained pair become aware that Agina is running for help, and three armored, weapon-bearing undead have risen from out of the green slime pool that is supposed to defend Claw’s inner cavern!

Noxious deadly gas spills across the three nearest Claw as she spills to her feet and begins beating her wings to gain flight towards the exit.

Not great rolls… thanks to Dwarven Resilience Garth is moderately OK, Dain is still alive, but Rich does not share that protection and is nearly dead!

Vern, warned of the incoming undead, raises Surtr’s Scathe and cracks off a Fire Bolt. Alas for Agina, she is caught by a sword wraith warrior and smothered in the green slime. The other druids have no idea what is going on. The commander of the wraith wields a longbow, sending two missiles at Rich: they bounce off the paladin’s plate armor. The third begins moving swiftly to cut Vern off from the other three!

Dain pats himself all over, finds he is still alive, and gets shakily to his feet. He pulls back towards Garth, who signals to Rich to close up, and stands his ground. Rich brings up Aura of Vitality and backs off towards a higher level of the cavern. Claw, or more accurately, Ebondeath, sweeps right out of the cavern complex. Vern hurls a full-fledged Fireball at the wraith commander which, dropping its now-useless bow, races to cut Dain off from Garth! Both the wraith warriors begin angling to keep Vern penned in.

Garth is in action immediately, whirling the Ungart Hammer and crashing it into the commander’s defenses. The thing is tough and parries one blow off. Dain Disengages and hides behind Garth. Rich keeps heading for high ground, making it with a casual boot-impelled Spring, then sending a Guiding Bolt accurately back: the commander knocks it away with his sword. Garth takes a heavy cut, as the commander levels several deadly blows at him. The other two wraith warriors keep herding Vern back and away from the others: Vern trades ground but does not flee outright: he sends back a poorly-aimed Fire Bolt. A low-hanging vine dangling from the upper ledge catches his eye…

Garth keeps bashing away at the commander with similar results. Dain drops a little healing into his fighter meat-shield. He fishes for the Deck of Illusions but recalls that undead don’t care about non-living decoys. Rich decides to support Garth: with a mighty floating leap he appears next to Dain, and casts Compelled Duel on the commander! Then cracks a Fire Bolt off – it misses.

Now it is the elf’s turn to feel the expert sword-blows of the wraith commander: but Garth is able to fend a blow off and Rich’s armor takes another. His Aura keeps feeding a much-needed health back. Meanwhile Vern has decided to get distance, putting his head down and running then clambering up the vine. Which as it turns out, is not a deadly trap!

The wraith commander falls in the next flurry from Garth, then the pair of front-liners advance with Dain’s Spirit Guardians once more gamboling about them: the rest of the battle is soon concluded.

Left alone in the vast cavern, they look about blankly. They really were suckered! A crystal ball catches Dain’s eye:

In the Mere of Dead Men

Ebondeath speeds over the last ramparts of the Sword Mountains and down. Circles over SOMETHING in the depths of the morass. Below, an army of undead work tirelessly at clearing the mud from an ancient edifice… perhaps a temple or tomb?

“That’s an outcrop… and there, that’s an old tower! You think that will be enough for Taba to know where that place is?”

“We can only try…”

And with that vow they turn to organize the long journey back.

“Any way we can contact the bronze dragon to give us a lift?” Vern asks hopefully.

ArtStation - Royal Griffin Knight, David Simons | Fantasy concept art, Dark  fantasy art, Fantasy character design
“Soon you will be mine…” – Richlen

DM Notes

I added Ularan Mortus into the jungle set-piece, since it’s great to keep dangling the recurring villain in front of the party, and made Viantha-as-stooge feel more believable to me. When they finally wipe that smirk off his face they can really celebrate!

For prospective DMs I recommend reading/viewing advice on options for the Ebondeath possession plot and deciding well in advance which you want to plan towards. Bob World Builder suggests two main options:

  1. Use Cryovain’s carcass – this involves keeping the PCs up to date with cult activity along the north foothills of the Swords, and keeping them intrigued by Phandalin. Cryovain’s second rising marks a full circle, a fitting end to a campaign about Icespire. This is a great option for groups that get into the Phandalin rebuild or become personally invested/involved with Phandalin NPCs. As it happens that is not how my group vibed, so not a great option.
  2. Use Lhammaruntosz. As written this makes a whole lot more sense. She is already wiggy, “due to a attack by a disguised demon” and “characters can reach the shrine without incident” – in fact her lair is well-known to be abut 40 miles (of the old Essentials Kit geography) north. From the Jobs Board: “This location looks like a bronze dragon carved into the side of a cliff overlooking the sea.”
    This way, it’s the wily green Claugiyliamatar, who has the crystal balls and knows the factions at play, that twists the situation to her advantage, perhaps dealing through a stooge.

While I admired that second option, I decided to stick with the book option, making Lhammaruntosz’ lair much less accessible (though close to Saltmarsh) and defended against/blocked off by the hag/Talos alliance. The Myrkul/dragon-cult alliance has no chance of getting to Lhammaruntosz as long as the PCs do well at sea. Who having cleared the Talos forces off, duly receive a blessing from Bahamut in the form of a vision of Claw becoming Ebondeath (which becomes self-fulfilling as they intervene) and devastating Leilon. It is this calamity that the remainder of the adventure focuses on.

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