Picking up with the Other Adventuring Party in the service of the armies of Vecna... Evil!Party is:
- Jenny, human barbarian
- Chuck, human sorcerer turned vampire
- Durest, dwarven cleric with a thing for necromancy
We’ve been called into some sort of conference of war in Wellfort just as it's breaking up. The Hierophant has a special mission for us.
The Hierophant introduces us to a secret Ancient Formorian City, Seshresh, which was a center of research and design. If we can retrieve the thing he wants, we will have earned his trust. There are sphynx-like guardians, and we will have an easier time if we pose as merchants crossing the desert - perhaps we can deceive the guardians.
Durest: “So what d’ye wants us to bring back, Hierophant?”
The Hierophant offers drinks -- probably not a good sign -- and Jenny asks for All The Whiskey, and Durest asks for The Rum.
He wants us to retrieve a horrible, nearly indestructible monster from ancient days, and set it loose along the southern coast to divide the Solari and thin their ranks; if we survive, we can follow the northern route and hunt Solari there. They've sent others to the ruins before us, but they all died.
The Hierophant suggests that merchants crossing the deserts sometimes encounter these sphynx-monsters and are even helped by them. We could pretend to be merchants and perhaps get past them that way.
We do some research: the people of Seshresh were researching ways create an unkillable – but not undead – monster to use as a weapon, and very possibly they succeeded because their historical record kind of cuts off at that point. So this is clearly a good idea and nothing bad will happen to us if we manage to revive the thing.
We then do some planning, and decide that our best bet is to lure the monster over to the gate in the Briar Marsh, and also we’re going to stop by there first and collect 100 Goblins to help with this effort. The goblin chieftain Tiktik reports for duty as their commander. Chuck assures them that the spoils will be theirs for the keeping. Also, they’re going to get fed all the good food now that they’re part of our big, important mission. Tiktik is pleased; he's thrilled to finally be recognized and assigned to an important mission.
We set out. Jenny is bringing her harem, and we have the goblins, and we have a wagon with the gateway. Durest is riding in the ribcage of his skeletal frost giant, Bob. We’ve been traveling for about ten days, and we’re well into the desert, probably another four or five days out. We’re in our camp when some sort of giant ant creature attacks one of Jenny’s harem, and the man starts screaming in terror. He's being attacked by some sort of man-sized ant-creature: a formian, not to be confused with a Formorian.
Durest: “Cool. I’ve never had an exoskeletal skeleton.”
Harem guy: “AHHHHHHHH! I’m going to die!!!”
Then a giant ant burrows up out of the sand behind him and rips his torso off.
Another one comes up behind Chuck and stings him, which isn’t as effective as it could be since Chuck is immune to poison and resistant to damage. Jenny immediately attacks it, and both the giant ants turn to look at her. Then a bunch of smaller ants come up out of the ground around Jenny and attack. Two of them actually hit, doing a little damage and trying to poison her but she ignores the poison and shrugs off the damage.
Chuck casts Lightning Bolt and wipes out a couple of them. Bob the skeleton attacks a small ant and damages it; the first of the large ants scuttles over and attacks Chuck (and misses) and the other one scoots over and attacks Jenny. It damages her with its stinger.
Jenny whips her spiked chain around and wipes out all the little ants and then buries the spike in the big ant; she attacks again, but doesn’t quite manage to get through its armor this time. Bob the frost giant skeleton misses the original giant ant. It moves past Chuck and Bob, and flanks Jenny; they both miss it as it passes.
The giant ants attack Jenny, stinging and biting. Jenny is… actually kind of turned on. She murders the ant in front of her, yanks her chain around, and hits the remaining giant ant. She wraps the chain around its head and wrenches, and its head comes off. Durest hears some rumbling nearby and casts Greater Magic Weapon on Bob’s axe. More ants pop up around us and charge in. Jenny kills one and maims four others on the way in.
Two ants attack Durest but miss; two more attack Bob and hit, for minimal damage because he’s a skeleton and they’re trying to sting him. Two more attack Chuck, but fail to damage him. Bob murders one of them with his temporarily magical axe. Jenny kills another one and drops her chain; she scoops it back up and they attack her but miss. Durest drops a mass Inflict Light Wounds, wiping out the wounded and injuring the unwounded.
The rumbling under the ground is growing louder, and all of a sudden the ants vanish back into the ground.
A moment later a giant worm rears up out of the desert. Chuck casts Ennervate. Bob steps in and chops at it twice with the axe, and Jenny follows up with her chain. She only hits once, but it does a big chunk of damage; Durest follows with Inflict Critical, doing more damage. It attacks Jenny, biting her and then swallowing her; the barbarian is now making discoveries about the appeal of vore. Unfortunately, in this case it involves crushing and acid damage.
It then stings Durest, who takes a bit of damage but doesn’t get poisoned. Chuck decides to hit it with a lightning bolt. Bob hits it with his axe, damaging it a bit more. It starts to attack Chuck, and about that moment Jenny rips it apart from the inside, shrugs its corpse off, and steps out of it.
The formians have vanished.
We continue traveling through the desert, and finally get to the spot where the city is supposed to be… but we can’t find it. Late in the night, almost morning, a winged lion flies down. “Hello there. You appear to be lost. My name is Kaladite.” He looks at Bob. “Um…”
Durest: “Caravan guard. Very reliable.”
“Are you a necromancer?”
Durest: “Well, more of a merchant, but in particular sorts of merchandise.”
“Ah. Are you selling him?”
Durest doesn’t realize that he’s talking about Chuck and says, “Of course. Reliable servants are so hard to find.”
“Ah, well, are you lost? I can guide you to the far side of the desert.”
Durest: “Actually we’re looking for Seshresh. Heard there might be treasure in the ruins.”
Sphynx: “No one knows of Seshresh! You are all evil! This conversation is done.”
Durest: "Wait, was he asking me if I was selling Chuck?"
Chuck turns into a bat and goes to follow the sphynx as he flies off. Chuck takes the line that he’s been cursed and his friends are stupid, and that actually he could use some help. He’s… a lot more convincing than the rest of us.
Kaladite thinks that if Chuck needs help with his condition, her should talk to one of the more senior Lammasu or a celestial unicorn. Kaladite promises to return tomorrow with Demekos the senior Lammasu to see about helping Chuck escape from that evil necromancer, Durest. “Don’t worry, friend. We’ll save you.”
Chuck flies back and looks at Durest. “Hey, necromancer boy. You’re fucked. You may want to come up with a really good excuse for being a necromancer before tomorrow.”
Durest figures his best bet is just to offer to sell Chuck to them in exchange for the location of Seshresh... but quickly changes his mind and decides on a less evil-sounding approach.
So Cassiopeia and Demekos arrive with Kaladite, and another Lammasu shows up: “Necromancer! We have come to rescue your prisoner.”
Durest tries to sell them on the idea that he actually saved Chuck but could only do it by turning him into a vampire, and we’re looking for Seshresh because we’ve learned that there’s a way to restore him to life in Seshresh. They're... more willing to believe this than they probably should be.
They’re not interested in telling us where Seshresh is, though. Their duty is to protect it. They believe Durest well enough, but they’re going to leave us and come back tomorrow. Durest takes this opportunity to commune with Indra, using a spell that allows him ask a bunch of yes-or-no questions. Are we close enough to Seshresh to find it today? Yes. He continues on, narrowing it down, and finally inspires Indra to give him a full answer (gods can break the rules if they really want to!), mainly because Indra is apparently all in on this plan and the absolute chaos it will cause in the mortal world.
...After a bit of Twenty Questions, we head southeast looking for some kind of ruins that are visible on the surface. We approach a large dune, and as we near it, it sort of turns into a sand storm. We continue on, and the sands part and we come upon the ruins; there are Lammasu circling around above the ruins. There are Formorian ballista in the ruins, but no roofs. There is a statue of a scorpion that’s actually a siege engine; it’s called a flame-render scorpion, and it calls down fireballs if someone activates it. We count eight Lammasu, but no golden protectors or celestial unicorns.
Chuck turns invisible and also into mistform, and goes ahead to scout. There’s really only one intact room on the surface, but he finds another set of doors leading down into the sand. As Chuck descends he finds a large room with a bunch of dead things in it – way more than we could have fought past. There’s an old stone door at the back of the room, guarded by four guardian nagas. He flows through that as well, and finds himself in an old lab, mostly smashed up but with a few items intact - a couple of books, a pair of rings, a staff. There’s also a tank in the back of the room. In the tank are chunks of something that’s trying to regenerate but being eaten by the acid at the same time. Dispelling the wall of force would let the acid out and there we’d go…
Chuck resumes solidity and looks around. The rings are Shield Rings; there’s a staff of Illusion, a decanter Endless Water, and an Iron Golem manual. The mundane book is mostly technical gibberish that would probably be lost on modern scholars, but there’s a passage at the end where a scientist SERIOUSLY regrets creating the beast that they did. We’re going to sell the staff, but we’re keeping the golem manual and Jenny really wants the shield rings.
The room doesn’t look like anybody ever comes in here. Chuck takes all the treasure including the book, and then goes to report back. Everybody in the party thinks this is a completely terrible idea, but we also think it will work and this is the party that is absolutely going to do it anyway.
Durest and Jenny, meanwhile, have set up their best attempt at a hidden camp out at the edge of the ruins. And that's where we stop, with the plan to try to teleport directly into the room and dispel the wall of force, freeing the monster and running like hell before it finishes putting itself back together.
What could possibly go wrong?