21 Satna of the year 72
While recuperating from the previous day and preparing for their coming battle, Calissa took the opportunity to inform Akora and Emmerick of Bieito‘s use of necromancy the previous day. Wary of his abilities, and with Calissa hostile towards dark magic, they confronted him about it. He insisted that he was a good person using dark powers, but that he was putting them towards doing good; he managed to convince Emmerick that he didn’t remember where he had picked up the abilities at, and that it was something he had been forced to learn during the months he had no memory of. Ultimately the rest of the party decided to wait to deal with Bieito’s necromancy until after their encounter with the cultists. Meanwhile, Benjamin located elfroot and was able to concoct a high-powered healing potion to help the party restore health, or to have on hand for the coming fight.
Collectively, what the party members knew about the cult was foreboding: they worshiped the somewhat obscure Hoscan god Kurat, the god of death, fear, and tyranny; the worshipers of Kurat were historically known for practicing human sacrifice; legends spoke of a crusade eons before against his worshipers that largely erased them; and that ancient myths spoke of his having been imprisoned by a powerful mage.
As part of their final preparations before setting out, Akora blinged out his coat of plates using the jewelry they had claimed from Mannik, while Emmerick smeared blood as warpaint on his wolf helm. The party rode hard for the ruins as dusk fell and the two moons rose; the greater moon was full, and the lesser moon was new, while the green comet had grown large enough that its tail crossed a quarter of the sky. It appeared as if the moons would bracket the comet sometime after midnight.
They found the ruins Baba Yaga had identified with little trouble, and Benjamin was sent ahead to scout. Virtually invisible and silent, he found the ruins abandoned with the exception of a staircase that had been cleared of rubble and descended into the mountainside. Inside were well-worn carvings of battles, as well as ancient signs of fighting; there appeared to be blackened areas from fires, along with places weapons had struck the walls, gouging and scoring the rock, and a brazier held low-burning coals that put out little light. After descending a second flight of stairs the party found a hallway with two tripwires crossing it; Benjamin and Emmerick believed the floor ahead was unstable as well. Benjamin attempted to disable the first tripwire, but set it off, and narrowly avoided the four foot long, two inch diameter, heavily rusted spikes that shot out of the ceiling into the floor. The spikes did, however, stabilize the floor; it appeared the unstable floor would have dumped someone unfortunate enough to step on it into a pit below. Bieito used is bow to set off the second tripwire, which also fired spikes from the ceiling into the floor, and the party continued on.
After another room and passageway they came to a chamber with doors from it to the left and right; Bieito, sensing powerful necromantic magic, both ancient and current, coupled with a layer of ancient thaumaturgic magic, told the others that where they sought was to the right and below. Benjamin, cocky and brash, unlocked the door to the right, pushed it open, and was hit by several darts from a trap he had failed to check for. He did locate a pressure plate in the hallway ahead, however, and in the next room they found collapsed shelves and moldering books. Down the corridor from the room they found another door; Benjamin accidentally set off a trap on the door and flooded the area with a black poisonous gas. The others were able to back out of the area before they were affected, but he was not as lucky. After the gas dissipated they entered the room, finding an ancient bedroom with decaying furniture and little else, including no secret passages. Emmerick, however, did manage to find 20 silver stashed in what remained of what had been a mattress.
They returned to the room where they had to choose between left and right, and this time went left. Emmerick set off a pit trap, nearly falling in, but managed to get back in time. The gap was small enough to jump and the party continued on. After several more corridors and chambers they found a room with a ledge around it and a doorway; Emmerick climbed up and could see that the passage went straight into another room with a branch off to the left. He climbed back down, and Benjamin unlocked the door, believing he had disabled the trap on it. He was wrong and when the door opened he was hit by a battering ram that swung down and knocked him halfway across the room.
Ahead the party could see another room like the one they were in, and another passage to the right with light reflecting off the wall. Akora took the lead and the party advanced; his shield was hit by two arrows from above as he entered the chamber. A raised stone walkway crossed the room, supported by two pillars, and on it were two cultists armed with bows. There were two others armed with battle axes at ground level, and Akora, Emmerick, and Calissa engaged them. Bieito attempted to drain the health of one of the archers but the spell backfired and he hulked out the cultist while draining his own health. Benjamin took pot shots at the second archer, and Bieito managed to cast an enslavement spell on the archer he had hulked out, forcing him to fire on the other cultists. Akora disarmed one of the cultists, sending his battle axe flying, then knocked him to the ground when the man attempted to tackle him. Benjamin hit the downed man with his hand axe, and Akora then slowly drove the point of his sword through the cultist’s ear and into his skull. Emmerick stabbed the other cultist through the eye, killing him, then climbed up onto the walkway, killing the third cultist with a partial decapitation that cut most of the way through his throat.
Bieito made the enslaved cultist climb down and the party interrogated him; the rest of the cult was ahead, and while the children were still alive, they wouldn’t be for long. Bieito forced him to disable all of the traps along the way, which went well until he reached one on a staircase down further; the cultist accidentally triggered it, which shot out three spears. The first was several feet ahead of him, and the second behind, which narrowly missed Bieito’s knees, but the third went through his throat, leaving him drowning in his own blood as it spurted across the stairs.
The party proceeded down the stairs where they finally encountered the draugar Benjamin had been wondering about all night. Six of them were armed with broadswords and flanked the same lich Akora and Emmerick had encountered the previous day. The lich began laughing upon seeing Emmerick and the party moved in for the fight. Akora flanked to the right, followed by Emmerick; Akora was set upon by one draugr, while two attacked Emmerick. Calissa cast an enchantment of holy light which radiated from her, dealing continuous damage to the draugar and lich, while Bieito and Benjamin shot at it. One of Benjamin’s shots was deflected off a draugr’s sword, piercing Emmerick’s shoulder, while one of Bieito’s shots went wide and hit Akora in the back. Akora cleaved one of the draugr in half, while Emmerick hit another’s body with the flat of his blade and crushed it, then crushed the skull of a third. The lich blasted a cone of fire at Akora and Emmerick, leaving them smoldering and destroying a fourth draugr. The last two attacked Calissa, but she dispatched them easily with a single hammer swing, obliterating their skulls. The party then turned their attention to the lich, and while Benjamin’s shot passed through without damaging it they were able to destroy its body again.
Calissa, drawing her silver knife, drove it down into the gem in the lich’s chestpiece; she had surmised that it was the lich’s horcrux, and the resulting energy blast from its destruction knocked the everyone down, eliciting a scream from Emmerick.
Emmerick had thought the lich and draugar were the end of their fight, but he was proven mistaken; they could hear the crying of children and chanting coming from the stairway beyond. It proceeded further down another 10 meters, and two more passages went up and to the left and right. Bieito proceeded up the right passage while the rest of the party went down the stairs.
They came out into a large, 12 sided chamber 15 meters high and wide. A ledge circled the room, on which were two archers. Carved into the floor was a large pentagram inside a circle, made with channels an inch deep and three inches wide. At the center of the pentagram was a dais; a struggling child was tied to it, and standing above him was Rannveig, an old witch who was chanting in ancient Hoscan and holding a dagger above the child. She was flanked to either side by another necromancer, a female warrior was ready to defend them, and eight more children were chained to the wall behind them. The two archers began firing at Bieito as Akora engaged the warrior and Emmerick charged Rannveig. The fight was brutal; Akora was well matched by the warrior, both dealing deep wounds, and Emmerick managed to stab Rannveig but was wounded as well. Rannveig cast a spell that cursed Akora’s combat skills, then drove the dagger down into the chest of the child while screeching “This I do in Shanha’s memory for thee, Kurat!”
Calissa’s holy light seemed to have little effect on the cultists as she engaged the warrior with Akora, while Benjamin and Bieito focused their fire on Rannveig. Emmerick succumbed to his wounds, barely managing to staunch the bleeding before falling unconscious, while one of the necromancers fired shards of ice at him and then Calissa. Calissa used her coat to block one of the channels of the pentagram that was quickly filling with blood, then returned to fighting the cultist warrior. Rannveig cast a spell that blinded Akora, who likewise succumbed to his wounds and fell unconscious. The cultist’s warrior also fell, bleeding to death. With the two best fighters down, one continuing to bleed out, and the cult’s most powerful members still alive, the situation was dire.
Bieito turned the tide as Benjamin fled from the chamber after seeing Akora fall. His arrow found its mark, hitting Rannveig just above the bridge of her nose, and the shot had enough force to completely exit the back of her skull. With Rannveig dead, her enchantments fell, including the darkness spell she had cast that suppressed the effects of Calissa’s light. One of the necromancers enthralled Benjamin as he attempted to flee, forcing him to return to the chamber, as Bieito’s next arrow found its mark in the left eye of the necromancer firing ice shards at Calissa, who had staunched Akora’s bleeding before he died of exsanguination. Calissa crushed the skull of the last necromancer, freeing Benjamin from the enslavement spell, as the ground began to shake and groan. The two archers collapsed with the death of the last necromancer.
The copious amount of blood was rapidly filling the pentagram, undermining the seals imprisoning the demonic and godlike Kurat, and Benjamin, Bieito, and Calissa set about stopping it from becoming completely covered. Bieito began hacking up bodies to use the parts as dams after wrapping them in cloth, while Benjamin and Calissa sopped up as much as they could using the cultists’ robes, wringing out the excess and repeating the process. After nearly 20 minutes the quaking and groaning from below ceased, and Benjamin took the opportunity to treat Akora and Emmerick while Calissa freed the eight children that were still alive. She directed them to go upstairs to one of the larger rooms; as they began to exit Baba Yaga appeared and said she would be claiming one of the children, catching them at their weakest and telling the party that saving seven was acceptable. It was time for her to feed. Seemingly resigned and over Calissa’s objections he told her to take whichever one she wanted; as she turned he put all of his energy into a swing with his mace, heavily dazing her. Calissa’s holy light was burning her, and she also slammed Baba Yaga with a spell that made her flee; she did not get the chance to, however, as Emmerick drove the length of his greatsword through her chest, lifting her in the air with it. Baba Yaga died with a gout of oily, black blood. Akora decapitated her to provide proof of her death and Calissa incinerated the rest of Baba Yaga’s and the cultists’ remains in a bonfire.
While moving the bodies she found a book bound in human skin on Rannveig’s corpse; although she refused to study it, a cursory glance revealed that Rannveig was the daughter of Shanha, a devotee of Kurat who had lived in Arvim around the time a powerful necromancer named Norec rose to power. Shanha had been killed decades earlier by a sorcerer named Belgarath, but not before Rannveig had set out for Bargas, and the book was called the Cestra Krvi. She tossed it in the fire with the bodies.
Body Count: 10 cultists, 6 draugr, 1 lich
Baller Moment of the Week: The party taking out Baba Yaga despite at their weakest.
Fuckup of the Week: Benjamin getting hit by a battering ram and knocked on his ass after thinking he’d disabled a trap.
Running Body Count: 103 humans, 30 creatures, 49 undead