The Rising of the Dark

Characters being played:

Nadjana (escapee from Pan Tang)
Marion (Nihrain Shadowdancer); she carries most of the Runestaff, an artefact of cosmic significance.
Sir Blanque (Filkharian noble)

[The scenario that follows is based upon the old White Dwarf mini-campaign The Rising of the Dark, which I played a very long time ago when it was first published across six issues of the magazine. I took out a membership of Scribd a while ago, and found The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios III on there, which includes the material for Irillian. I ported it across to the current location for our intrepid adventurers.]

The group heads towards the border town of Y'shath, where they will cross the River Shath on the return journey to Valed-Hal. As capital of the Valerian Directorates, Valed-Hal is one of the most powerful cities in the continent of Menastree to the east of the Weeping Wastes; here the rest of the party's expedition is in negotiations over trade routes, led by Duke Avan Astran of Old Hrolmar.

Y'shath nestles at a conjunction between the River Shath and a tributary, meaning it is surrounded on three sides by water, a naturally powerful defensive position. Even though the town is technically part of Okara, a fragmented area of bandit kingdoms, it has used its strategic location to remain aloof from infighting and has in fact improved its wealth. The party has to cross the southern tributary as it moves towards the confluence with the River Shath, and then swing to the west to reach the town itself.

As they do so, they encounter Destiny (Melnibonean, actually a true-blood Menastrai) and Alexia (Eshmirian, former warrior-priest of Chaos), other members of their expedition. The new arrivals explain that they set out for Y'shath when Dandridj started having visions about an immense rising threat from Chaos. Dandridj is a sorcerer from Okara whom they captured earlier, and whose life they spared; he joined them because he has nowhere else to go.

The reunion is interrupted by the sounds of fighting coming from beyond some hills to the immediate east of their current location. As they turn to see where the noises are coming from, they also note a peculiar darkening of the early afternoon sky in that direction. They spur their horses eastwards, and crest a rise looking down into a valley. A trade caravan has arranged itself into a circular defensive formation, minus several carts and wagons; around half of the mounts have been riddled with arrows, and there are many bodies lying on the ground. Half are caravan guards, while the others are misshapen humanoids. The wagon circle is threatened by two groups of strangely twisted men; they seem to be out of arrows now, and are waiting to launch a massed attack. On one side are mostly pig-faced warriors, led by a chieftain of some sort and what looks like a shaman, going by the incantations and noises he is producing. On the opposite side of the circle is a bunch of shorter, stringy men with sharp noses and strangely elongated limbs. It looks as though the two bands of misshapen men ambushed the caravan, whose remnants have pulled in together for a final stand.

The scene is darkened by the gathering unnatural clouds above, but strangely everyone can see perfectly well. "This is no ordinary darkness", observes Destiny. Marion is delighted, and starts to flicker around the place in an abnormal manner, even by her standards [critical Shadowdance roll plus an extra point of permanent Power]. She says that she can discern silver webbing throughout the Dark above; nobody else can see this, so her perceptions must have been sharpened. Alexia frowns, and says that the creatures below are familiar to her from her people's legends: "The Chaos pack! They are servitors of Xiombarg herself, but they belong in the myths of the past."

Destiny is quite pleased by this revelation, and wants to make friends with the Chaotics, but the others decide to charge down the hill to take out the leaders, especially the shaman. His eyes are pools of blackness, from which tendrils are spilling out in all directions, linking with the rest of the pack creatures and seeming to control them. All the attackers have completely black eyes, with no whites to be seen anywhere. Marion uses her enhanced abilities to jump between the shadows, effectively teleporting to behind the shaman. She eviscerates him neatly with her flashing knives, while Sir Blanque and the rest take out the two leading warriors; the creatures were taken completely by surprise. The foot soldiers scatter, and the caravan is saved.

The captain of the caravan guards greets the party with gratitude; looking upwards, however, he says that they are not safe yet. He is right; the darkness above is roiling ceaselessly and seems to be taking over more of the sky; it definitely is not dissipating. Destiny muses that it seems to be a separate phenomenon from the shaman they have just killed. "Whatever it is," says the Captain, "We need to regroup and resume our journey to Y'shath before more of those creatures appear. I don't think we've seen the last of them."

Everyone sets to work, quickly stripping the most valuable items from the now redundant extra wagons, and reducing the size of the caravan to seven wagons. "Our destination is a trading post half a days' ride away from Y'shath; but even with a smaller caravan it will still take us at least a couple of days to reach it." The Captain is grim-faced; he lost good men in that ambush, and knows that the remainder are lucky still to be alive. He has fifteen survivors. The characters agree to join the traders, although it will slow them down. They could strike out on their own for Y'shath, but even with their mounts they would have to brave a night in the preternatural darkness on their own. Not that there is now much difference between night and day, but at least there may be more safety in numbers.

They put a reasonable distance between themselves and the ambush site, but a halt is called for what should be the night; the mules and draught horses need rest, and some of the men are carrying minor wounds from the attack. As the wagons are arranged in the standard defensive formation, the beating of drums and marching of many feet looms out of the darkness, coming inexorably nearer. Everyone stands to arms while the sounds of the Chaos pack intensifies all around the circle; they are taking advantage of the cover of darkness entirely to surround the expedition. The drumbeats intensify, and the whole lot launches a massive direct assault; there must be at least one hundred of them, and this time they aren't even going to bother with missiles. Most of the attackers seem to be a variation on the shorter, stringy fellows they saw the last time, with much larger shapes moving between them in the darkness. They all sport the same weird black eyeballs as the previous lot, only this time each seems to be individually possessed by the power of the Dark.

As the attack begins, however, the entire side of a hill behind the Chaos horde splits open and a great light sweeps across the scene; a troop of 30 Menastrai lancers crashes into the Chaos horde, scattering them in all directions and turning surprise into a massacre. As the cavalry pursues, their leaders ride up to the beleaguered encampment; it's Destiny parents.

"I suppose it's about time we introduced ourselves properly," says Destiny's mother, completely ignoring the sounds of dying Chaos creatures from all around her. "You really should know our names. I am Daoine, and this my consort, Anstruth." [There's a long story behind all of this; I won't recount it here, but there have been some rather surprising revelations in previous sessions. Basically, Destiny is in fact Menastrai, not Melnibonean.] Anstruth grins and waves at the party, then goes off to join his friends. Daoine continues, "Even though we now live on a different plane, we felt the rising of the Dark. In your terms, it is best described as an ancient greater demon, a manifestation of pure Chaos. It has great intelligence and is utterly malevolent. It would seem that more is at work here, though, because it has re-appeared at the same time as Lolth of the Dharzi has begun to stir." Marion says that this would explain the web effect she perceived. "Quite so," replies the Menastrai. "However, if you can defeat the Dark you will deprive Lolth of an ally. She prefers to work through others before revealing her true intentions."

The guard Captain is incredulous, and not a little scared. He was supposed to take a load of trade goods to Y'shath from the mining towns in the eastern mountains, and now he has ended up witnessing the legendary Menastrai themselves, and they seem to be on the best of terms with the strange Westerners who rescued him earlier. "This is way out of my league" he thinks.

Daoine gives Destiny a scroll tube containing a message. "Give this to the Abbess Teral in Y'shath; she leads an order of Lawful monastics, and will be best placed to help you. Besides, she has much influence, and an acquaintance with her can only smooth your way. We must leave now; this intrusion back into your world is costly to maintain, and we will not be able to give you this sort of aid again, although we may be able to communicate further. Call on us when you are in great need, and we will be there for you, one way or another." With that, the cavalry returns and the Menastrai return whence they came, satisfied.

Silence falls, punctuated only by the moans and then death rattles of various mangled Chaotics. The remainder of the 'night' is uneventful, and the expedition resumes its weary way as what passes for morning arrives. At one point Marion spots four really short, skinny dog-faced Chaotic humanoids trying to trail the wagons, but they run off into the surrounding darkness when they realise they have been sighted. Everything is very strange; despite the darkness, vision is very good out to around several hundred feet. "It feels kind of like being in the middle of an eclipse" says Sir Blanque.

The players decide to act as outriders, to clear the way of any further trouble ahead of the much slower caravan. It turns out to be a good choice, because up ahead in an area of rough rocks, Marion sees a misshapen giant waiting. She is able to lead the caravan around the place; this costs more time, but is probably a sensible precaution. Who knows what else might be lurking in there.

Marion's supernaturally enhanced senses come in useful later when the caravan sets up camp. She hears the beating of leathery wings in the sky, and sees five unusually large bats being led in a diving attack by a huge demonic bat thing [critical see roll]. She spots them early enough to shout a warning, which gives Destiny enough time to string her longbow and put an arrow straight through the wing of one of the bats. It crashes to the ground somewhere out of sight in the darkness, and all that can be heard is a splintering, crashing sound followed by crunching and slurping. Something out there is having bat for dinner. The rest of them veer off and fly away, the advantage of surprise now gone.

The next day, the battered remnants of the caravan limp into the fortified trading post. There have been no further attacks, so presumably they have either outdistanced or beaten off any local threats. Marion, however, overhears a suspicious conversation coming from another group of traders that has taken refuge here; she suspects them to be bandits, and makes her presence visible enough that they decide not to make any silly moves. They realise she is obviously watching them.

It takes all of the next day for the caravan to reach the gates of Y'shath. Everything is now permanently dark, and it is impossible to distinguish between day and night. As the bedraggled group wends its way forward, scraping noises can be heard from off to their left. The party moves to intercept whatever is out there while the guards lead the wagons to safety. Marion, as usual, is the first to discern the opposition. There are three shambling zombies, each under some sort of control from three really unusual figures. Although they are wearing cloaks and hoods, Marion is nevertheless able to see into their faces. These guys seem to be composed entirely of black writhing worms, and each of the zombies has a worm protruding from each eye socket. Destiny uses her fire elementals to supplement the players' attack, and the worm things go down; once they are dead, their zombies collapse into inertia. There is a really scary moment as one of the worm creatures 'sprays' an armful of worms in the direction of Alexia; fortunately, she is able to deflect the attack with her shield. This is obviously how the things recruit zombies - she could have become worm-meat.

More horrible noises seem to be converging on the party's position, but the gates to the town are opened and a glowing blue figure emerges. He announces himself in a gravelly voice as "The Chantryman" and brandishes a sparkling blue mace. He has a fiery blue skull where his head should be, and his forehead, armour, mace and shield are all inscribed with the triangle symbol of Law. Whatever else is out there stops in its approach, and the caravan and party are able to slip inside the gates before they are closed. "I most impressed with your capabilities," says The Chantryman in his trademark boring monotone. "Even as a Champion of Law, I would find difficulty in eradicating the Sons of Kyuss." So that's what the worm guys are called.

The rather relieved guards head off to the caravanserai with what is left of their trade goods, while the characters introduce themselves to The Chantryman. Destiny tells him that she has a message for the Abbess, and shows him the scroll tube passed on by her mother. The Chantryman nods gravely, and leads them to the abbey. He thumps on the great doors with his armoured fists, demanding entry in the name of the Lords of Law. One of the nuns appears and the gateway opens; Nadjana is sure that she hears the Sister muttering under her breath, "He always does that. Why can't he just knock politely like everyone else? We're supposed to be on the same side. No good egotistical man-skull..."

The Chantryman ushers the characters inside and they are led to a room and provided with refreshments. The Abbess is called, and appears in a sedate rush. She takes the tube from Destiny and cracks it open. Inside is a scroll sealed with a phrase: The Dark Rises. Unfurling it, she reads out its contents:

Out of the West,
The Dark comes crawling,
Higher and higher,
Till It touches the sky.
While in the East,
The Light, still burning,
Sends the Hero
To the funeral pyre.

She says she must go and meditate on the contents, and leaves the group in the capable hands of the nuns. Fortunately, The Chantryman goes outside to guard the abbey gates. "One can never be too careful" he intones.

Eventually, Teral the Abbess returns. "There is a great evil rising, as you have seen for yourselves. I have prayed, but wisdom is hidden from me. I do believe, however, that the means to defeat this evil lies somewhere with the walls of Y'shath, and I ask your help in searching for it. I cannot leave the abbey, but you have already shown great ability and courage in defying the Dark. It would seem that you are somehow involved in this matter for reasons beyond my comprehension, and you will already be heroes in the eye of the townsfolk after you rescued the traders. However, if it is known that I am myself worried about these events, the townspeople will panic when they should be united against the forces of Chaos. I suggest that you seek Timis the Sage - he will be either at home or, more likely, down the pub."

Alexia explains. "Hidden knowledge is sought by many sages and seers in this part of the world," she says, "and it sounds as though this Timis is one of them. We do not always practise sorcery of the kind that is common in the Young Kingdoms, but we have various methods of our own. The exception, of course, is the cult known as the Warrior Priests of Chaos; I used to be a member, until I met Marion's predecessor and decided to serve the Balance instead." Teral nods in agreement, and provides the group with Timis' address and the location of his favourite drinking den - "A hive of scum and villainy known as The Griffin. We will look after your mounts. Here are passes that you can show the constabulary should they question your doings; they state that you are on my official business."
Map of Irillian. The series of articles contains larger scale maps for the various wards, as well as an overview of the judicial areas of the town. I changed the river details a little to make it fit in with my world's geography.

Off they trot, and head straight for The Griffin. They don't even bother to be subtle about it, just striding straight in and ignoring the rather dodgy looking locals. Nobody bothers them - after all, there are five of them, and they are well tooled up and obviously looking for trouble. Sir Blanque spots a pair of boots sticking out from under a table. "Timis, I presume?" They use a healing draught to wake him up a bit, and then haul him off to his townhouse. They explain their mission, and Timis decides that, in the circumstances, he will waive his normal outrageous consultation fee. "After all," he says, "it could be useful to have Teral in my debt." He tells the characters to help themselves to coffee and goes into his study, closing and locking the door behind him.

A couple of hours later, the bleary-eyed sage re-emerges, clutching a sheaf of notes. He has a worried look on his face, and launches straight into a description without preamble. "The Dark is a unique entity. It has no real corporeal presence, being more a motiveless malignancy in potent form. It feeds upon the collective will to Chaos - some would say evil - and so is a nasty manifestation of the darker side of those forces. It seems to grow by absorption, but it is normally more or less dormant. When it fully rises, though, it can directly affect the world on a much larger scale, and it is not clear how it is able to achieve this level of power. Possibly external interference is required." The players look at one another - Lolth?

Timis then recites the same verse from Daoine's scroll, and says that he knows no more. "However, the direction from which the Dark is said to rise in the poem may provide a clue. I suggest that you visit the astrologer Toth-Azgoth; she is always scanning the heavens, and may be able to help you further." He gives the group the address for their next call.

All this trotting around is becoming repetitive, but off they go. They need as much information as possible. The astrologer opens her door before they even get there - it seems she has been expecting them. A woman of indeterminate middle age, she has an engaging twinkle in her eye, and offers them herbal tea while she busies herself setting up the equipment in what looks like a round greenhouse on the roof of her house. That much glass must have cost a fortune. She slides one of the windows to the side and trains a long tube with glass at both ends through it, initially looking westwards through the device. She scans to the northwest, then stiffens, has a seizure and drops dead, blood oozing from her nostrils, eyeballs, and also from the corners of her mouth. Destiny grabs the tube and looks through it, catching a glimpse of something very large, dark and immaterial flowing to the northwest high in the sky; it is discernible even in the midst of the darkness all around it. She then turns to the body of the astrologer and immediately begins a complex ritual.

The corpse sits up and its dead eyes fix themselves on the Melnibonean. "The mind embraced me. It considered me and then allowed me to pass into its thoughts. Confident power confided; three Khalkedon Ward." The body slumps back, permanently dead this time. Destiny explains, "I know a method of speaking with the newly deceased, but one has to work quickly. Their utterances are often difficult to decipher, and equivocal at best." She muses further. "I wonder. The direction in which the Dark is moving seems familiar. We do know that there is an underground road through the World's Spine, built by my ancestors as their means of entering and conquering these realms. This is also what may have disturbed the Dharzi. Perhaps we need to investigate there at one point?"

The group debates what to do next - the astrologer's final sentence sounded like an address. They leave the poor woman on her rooftop. A sense of urgency is beginning to affect them; it seems as though the Dark is constantly growing in power. They encounter a guard patrol, who ask them for identification. The locals are becoming more and more jumpy. The sergeant takes one look at the passes provided by the Abbess, then steps back and salutes. "We have heard of your valour, strangers" he says. "Please be very careful. The people are in a panic, and the strange darkness is gathering ever more strongly. It now surrounds the town entirely. We are not sure what might happen if someone were to try to leave, so we have closed all exits. We are doing our best to patrol the streets, but we do not really have the staffing to do that and defend the walls should we be attacked." Sir Blanque asks about the address provided by the astrologer, and the sergeant looks at him strangely. "That is a really dodgy part of town, begging your pardon, sir." He does tell them the way though, then gathers up his troop to recommence their watch.

All seems quiet in the slum area, and Marion investigates the house at the address they were given. It seems like an unoccupied, run-down old shop, with living quarters above it. There is a definite dark aura surrounding the place, emanating from within; the witch senses of the various characters are registering a definite sense of Chaos magics. The building itself is rickety and ramshackle, but Marion is unconvinced. She goes round the back, and takes a close look at the rear entrance. "Look," she whispers, "underneath what looks like an old flap is a brand new, well-oiled lock." Destiny takes a look; she has a thing about locks. She is able to see that some sort of wire leads from the lock inside the house - a trip mechanism, possibly leading to a warning device of some kind. She gingerly opens the lock, while using tweezers to keep the wire in place. The group files into the dirty interior.

The wire leads partway across the room and then disappears into a pile of rubble on the floor. However, before they can investigate further, the party hears some rather unpleasant scrabbling noises from the floor above. Destiny leads the way upstairs, and sees some sort of fetish nailed to a hallway door; it seems to be made from the skull and spinal column of a human, presumably the previous owner. The bones have been blackened and enchanted in some manner; this is where the aura of menace is coming from, but it doesn't worry the characters unduly. The scrabbling is coming from a pack of at least a dozen supernaturally large rats that start to chitter their way down the hallway towards Destiny. Marion, however, brandishes the Runestaff, and it manifests an orange wall of force that stops the pack dead in their tracks.

Now that the threat from above has been contained, the group returns to their exploration of the ground floor. Sure enough, the wire leads inside a trapdoor that has been artfully hidden by bits and pieces of rubble and debris. They open it carefully, trying not to disturb the wire from the rear door, and find a set of steps going downwards to a very well constructed and partially lit halfway, with various foods leading from it. Set in the wall at head height is a bell attached to the wire.

They work their way quietly down the stairs, and decide to head straight for a door at the end of the corridor. Marion streaks ahead using her shadow abilities, kicks in the door, and surprises a couple in a rather sumptuously appointed apartment. A woman jumps up and cowers agains the rear wall, while the man, who was obviously asleep, starts awake and gets pummelled with a dagger handle for his trouble. Marion is rather over-zealous in this, and he ends up flying against the wall, completely unconscious [ambush followed by a critical subdual attack]. The man is a Dharzi, and the woman registers serious magic, although she is pretending to be a helpless victim.

Destiny strides in, scares the woman even further, and then says "Okay, you can quit the acting. Show your true form." The 'victim' sighs, and then revels herself to be of demonic origin, with wings, talons and all. "I am Gizherai," she says, "A succubus. This here is my boyfriend, D'Hel. Please don't hurt him, I am rather fond of him. I know you Melniboneans don't like the Dharzi, but he is only doing his job."

"Which is?"

"Watching how everything goes with the Dark, and then reporting on it to Lolth. I'll tell you what; if you spare our lives, I'll teach you how to summon my kind, and we will leave in peace. We won't even mention you to Lolth."

Alexia in particular is intrigued by this offer, and the group accepts. Sir Blanque doesn't like the idea of dealing with entities like this one, but then it's better than simply murdering them, even if they are Chaotic servants of the demonic Beast Lady of the Spiders...

As they are leaving, a rather relieved Gizherai tells them that the Dark is about to manifest within the town itself, as part of 'the next stage.' Her Dharzi boyfriend is still blissfully unconscious. "Don't worry about him," says the Succubus, waving good bye; "He is still out of it; he'll never know about the deal we have just made."

The party emerges onto the darkened streets, and hears panicked shouting. People are streaming towards the town square, so they follow the throng. Almost the entire population is packing itself into the square in front of the cathedral. The Lawful Primate of Y'shath is standing at the top of the main central tower, screaming at the people below. Her pupils are completely black, and tendrils are entering through them, emanating from something located on the tower behind her. "You vermin come scuttling from your holes to hear me. You know me as Aslas, Primate of Y'shath. But I tell you that I have seen the Darkness, and it is good. I have welcomed it, and it has entered me as it shall all of you. We shall be as one."

With that, she walks out onto thin air, at least 150 feet above the ground. She stops, suspended in mid-air, then gestures towards the crowd. "You shall become as these" she intones, and fiery black tentacles reach out from her eyes into the crowd at random. Eight victims rise from the populace to form an octagon of Chaos around the former Lawful priestess, and all of them burst into black flame, writhing and screaming in ecstatic agony. Destiny, meanwhile, has been stringing her longbow, and puts an arrow straight into the torso of the priestess. It should be enough to kill her, but that doesn't stop the force that possess the woman. She bleeds out high above the people, black ichor dripping, writhing and wailing all the while. Even in death her screams continue.

The crowd panics and runs, and sounds of an assault on the walls can also be heard. The players press through the throng towards the cathedral, hoping to get to whatever it is on the tower that is powering the priestess and her unfortunate victims. Alexia is buffeted around the place quite badly, but eventually the group manages to get to the cathedral. Running up the main tower at full tilt, they emerge onto a flat area at the top. On a podium rests a large grimoire that seems to be bound in blackened human skin. Wide open, tendrils of dark force are reaching from its central pages up towards the former priestess of Law, coalescing around her form. The grimoire is of course guarded, by a couple of demonic apparitions. They engage the group, but Destiny ignores them and goes straight for the grimoire.

The Melnibonean slams the book closed, and the two demons vanish. The grisly human octagon remains in mid-air, however, presumably fuelled by enough of the Dark to be a constant reminder of its power.

The party confers. They decide to take the grimoire back to the Abbey to see if they can figure out what to do next with the unpleasant volume, which turns out to have the title The Truth of Necroth embedded on its cover in what looks suspiciously like ink made from human brain fluid. Destiny sighs wistfully; it all reminds her of home.

They force their way through the populace back to the Abbey. The sights that greet them seem like the end of the world: looting, fighting, senseless celebrations and groups of helpless praying peasantry, all combined in a nightmarish scenario of triumphant Chaos. And all the while the Dark roils above, with the screams of the living central octagon echoing through the town.

They see The Chantryman guarding the entrance to the Abbey, while sounds of chaotic finding echo from several parts of the town walls. "The town is doomed," he says, helpfully. "It is only a matter of time before the hordes of Chaos breach the defences. I shall remain here to the last. Go and do you what you must." This guy is really cheerful.

Teral the Abbess appears and gasps in horror at the sight of the book Destiny is carrying. She grabs The Chantryman's Virtuous mace and smashes it against the abomination. Nothing happens, and then there is an anti-climactic 'click'. The end of the mace pops open and a little scroll drops out. Destiny unfurls it: Burn me is all it says. So they do.

Right in front of the abbey's gates a howling wind whips a tall, featureless tower into existence. An arched entrance at the bottom of the tower leads directly into the inside; there isn't even a door. Shrugging, the party proceeds; The Chantryman stays behind to guard the entrance.

The tower is hollow, with a steep spiral stairway winding its way up the interior, at least 100 feet into the air. There seems to be some sort of platform at the top. Up they go, fighting against eldritch winds that seem familiar to those of them who have already travelled between the planes, until they emerge onto a platform in the midst of a howling gale. There is a flash of light and they are transported elsewhere.

"Hi there," says a rather nonchalant voice, "You lot took your time. I am Zotaquaan of the Balance, at your service. I take it I'm here because the Dark is fully manifesting on your world?"

The groups looks around. They are in a featureless room that seems to go as far as the eye can see, eventually fading to mist at the edges of vision. Lounging on a throne is a man dressed in flashing rainbow robes; there is a Lawful being of light to one side, and a corresponding demon to the other. "Greetings, bearers of the Runestaff. I shall meditate upon what needs doing this time."

Zotaquaan closes his eyes as if in slumber, then starts bolt upright. His eyes have turned into the familiar black, and fire writhes from every pore of his body. He collapses. Then he wakes up again; the Dark has gone. "That always happens. Anyway, the best I can do is tell you to go to the public well on Ruby Way. I'll keep the Dark entertained as a diversion so that it doesn't oppose you with all of its power. Off you go now. Oh, and by the way, I think this is yours." He passes Marion the seventh part of the Runestaff, and the party is teleported back to the top of the tower.

In the distance, they can make out a bright, pulsing flicker in the distance. It seems to be coming from one of the main streets, so they try to memorise its location. Gingerly making their way back down to the ground floor, they immediately head off straight towards the point of light. The Chantryman stays put to guard the Abbey; the tower of the wizard Zotaquaan or whatever he is remains in place. The Dark seems to be redoubling its strength here, so the party slips off into the alleyways, heading always towards the last point of hope. They make it to the well on Ruby Way, but things are becoming desperate. The howls of the Chaos pack can be heard from various places within the walls; they have clearly broken through and it is only a matter of time before the town is completely overwhelmed.

Marion looks into the well, and finds a passageway part of the way down that seems to lead to the source of the light; it is far weaker now, but this is their only chance. They rappel down one at a time and run along the narrow tunnel, bursting out into a room that is made of pure light. Strangely enough, the face of their pet sorceror Dramidj is floating in the well of light.

Sir Blanque exclaims, "I've got it! That poem says the Dark rises in the west, which Destiny saw in the astrologer's house; it also says that it can be destroyed by a Hero from the East!" Alexia says, "That should be me, then, since I'm here, but why is the light showing Dramidj?" Destiny comments, "You are from much further east, from Eshmir, but Dramidj comes from Okara. Maybe it has to be someone local?"

At this, a glowing gateway appears in the tunnel behind them. Dramidj is standing there in person; "I feel a powerful calling, but is is Lawful in nature. I regret pledging myself to Chaos, but I cannot give into Law." The group pleads with him, to no avail, but then a silvery voice seems to issue from the Runestaff. It communicates directly with the easterner, and whatever it says has an effect. Dramidj walks through the gateway into the light; he stands there and commands the group to clear the way back to the abbey, to The Truth of Necroth, so that he can destroy it forever. The white pulses ever more powerfully, obviously building up to something.

They rush along the tunnel and climb back up out of the well. They find themselves confronted by elements of the Chaos pack, and a wild chase ensues as the party fights its way through the reeking streets, followed always by the beating light.

The first thing they despatch is a huge, foul misshapen Chaos thing that seems to mutate as it moves, regenerating itself constantly. They simply overwhelm it, and sliced bits go flying in all directions, partly because of Marion's trademark dagger work, and partly because Destiny takes one of its legs off entirely with her axe [critical hit with a Sharpness rune]. It is clearly trying to put itself back together, but this will take time, so they all ignore it and keep going. Next up is a couple of large creatures that have also obviously mutated from humans, but these go down fast. They are tough, but have no special abilities.

The dance of death continues, as the party whirl their blades ever forward toward the abbey. Over a dozen of the nasty little things Marion glimpsed following the caravan appear from all sides, and there is a veritable deluge of limbs and other body parts as the party just wades right through them; at one point a single swirling slice from Marion opens the bellies of three of the little creatures at once [critical attack with a demon dagger that rolls full damage]. Only four of the things survive the initial onslaught, and even possessed by the Dark as they are, they turn and run for their worthless little lives; some sense of self-preservation remains, then. It turns out that this attack by the Chaos pack was supposed to be a diversion as six very large bear-like creatures emerge from the shadows. They were supposed to take the party by surprise, but it doesn't work out like that. Destiny in particular is delighted: "Chaos teddy bears!" she shouts as she disembowels one of them.

There is a temporary lull in the onslaught; up ahead of them in the darkness, Marion sees the misshapen mutated giant who was waiting in ambush for their caravan. It hurls a very large rock, but Sir Blanque takes care of it by punching the rock with his force ring. The stone shatters and bits of shrapnel go everywhere [critical roll!]. The giant then goes down amidst a flurry of blows as one leg gives way under attacks from Sir Blanque and Destiny. They just leave it and keep going; they don't even bother to finish it.

The Abbey and the wizard's tower are now in sight, as is The Chantryman, still grimly guarding the Abbey and the grimoire. Around him are the mashed remains of various undead. He isn't even breathing hard, assuming he really breathes at all. Various Chaos things can be heard closing in from the surrounding streets, so the characters all run for it, straight towards The Truth of Necroth. When they reach it, a roaring white light rushes straight along the street behind them and there is a glorious explosion. Everyone in the town collapses as a shockwave of cold incandescent fire obliterates everything of Chaos; the Dark is no more.

Umpire's Notes
Irillian is really a campaign supplement, with lots of detail including floor plans of major locations, information about the local economy and culture, and so on. It is written to be slightly unfamiliar to most readers, using Old English names and terminology. The scenario is kind of a railroad ride through the town, but the sense of urgency makes for a fun roleplaying experience. Elements of it also fit well into the milieu of the Young Kingdoms, or rather the Unknown Kingdoms to the east, which is where the players have been for quite a while now. I was able to integrate the ideas in the scenario as a way of advancing two of my major developing plot lines, the rise of the Dharzi ruled by Lolth, and the search for the last couple of parts of the Runestaff. I played Irillian well over 25 years ago, and have fond memories of it. One thing I do remember is the GM making a serious error in relation to one of the characters, who it turned out was from this location. He therefore ended up being the one to sacrifice himself in destroying the Dark, because he fulfilled the prophecy. The player wasn't the type to do anything like this voluntarily, and became quite disgruntled, if I remember correctly. I made sure this couldn't happen to my players, hence the intervention from Dramidj. I'd been planning this for a while. Irillian would make a really good base city for a grubby, low magic campaign. Alert readers will have realised that there is a plethora of classic D&D humanoid monsters throughout; I simply converted them to Xiombarg's infamous Chaos pack. I never run a D&D adventure as is; Elric's world is sufficiently different that some converting on the fly is always needed.

Comments

  1. Great read,loving how your revisiting these old scenarios and fitting them into the young kingdom world of Elric, although there was no getting away from combat in this one!
    Best Iain

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    1. Hi Iain, thanks for reading. I’m finding it difficult to make time for posting more often, so I reckon I’ll be producing longer, consolidated pieces like this one on occasion. At least it is some sort of a plan. This campaign’s players are exceptionally good at avoiding combat, but you are right - sometimes it’s necessary...!

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