Part I: Upward
Part II: The Final Battle
Part III: The Aftermath
The chase was on.
Renki confirmed that the levels above all had the same feature - all walls in rooms and corridors had ledges 20 feet up containing the strange statues. By her guess there are hundreds of statues. If the gargoyle made it up to those levels there would be a horde of lesser gargoyles to contend with. While there wasn't much habitation within 20 miles of the temple, their wings would carry them the distance easily enough. The eastern dwarven and elven kingdoms were not that far by air and while the gargoyles would be destroyed eventually, mortals would die by the score.
Moving quickly the party tried to guess the route the greater gargoyle would take. Their first try proved successful, a room full of the small gargoyles! Renki quickly cast a Web spell into the room. This blocked most, but the innate magic resistance of some allowed them to fly through the webs like they didn't exist. The combat was brutal as the waves of small gargoyles washed over the party, engaging everyone. As in previous battles, the skill of the party members proved sufficient that there were no serious injuries and gargoyle after gargoyle was dusted. Trilla and Faraz, the least experience party members, held their own until help arrived.
Bisonbit yelled out a warning! Larger gargoyles had circled around in a side corridor and attacked him and Gilden from behind!
Instead of finishing, the battle heated up again. The larger gargoyles were far more dangerous than the small ones, especially to the newest and least experienced members of the group. The outcome of the furious battle was in question until Jake struck a telling blow upon an extra-large gargoyle with his enchanted blade. The sword evoked a flashing hemisphere of white light that was bright but not blinding. The gargoyles within the hemisphere all shrieked as the light burned them. All of the small gargoyles dropped and the battle turned in favor of the mortals. The gargoyles were dusted before they could inflict any serious injuries.
"Wow!" Jake exclaimed. "That is seriously cool!" Note 41
A thrown torch lit Renki's web lit the expected firestorm and the few gargoyles which survived the flames succumbed to the weapons of the party.
Gilden sighed as he completed his final Cure Wounds spell. "We are getting low on spells, all of us. Although we have some healing potions, we need to find the Big Bad Ugly Guy and dust him."
A quick search of that level found no more gargoyles and every ledge was empty of statues. David commented, "Things are not good. Let's head up." Addressing Renki he asked, "We came in through a secret door on this level. How many levels are above us?"
"The level above is mostly storerooms and living quarters. Above that is the main temple, and above that is the top floor where you've been."
Two stairways led upwards, one to the east and the other to the west. "Does it matter which we use?"
"Not really," Renki answered.
Up the eastern stairway they went.
* * *
The stairway opened into a large room.
Fine rock dust coated everything in the room, including the scattered remnants of what the party guessed was five humans. Maybe 6. The gargoyles didn't seem to stop clawing and biting a victim until there was nothing to claw and bite. Accurately counting the remains in the gargoyles' wake proved difficult.
A 20 foot wide door exiting the room was burst outward. Follow the hallway southward, the party quickly entered another room. Here lay giant bodies covered thickly in rock powder. Frost or fire giants? It was impossible to tell.
All the doorways exiting the room were similarly burst outward. All the ledges were bare of statues. More bodies were visible under the rock dust. The only good news was the thickness of the rock dust covering the flat surfaces, indicating just how many of the gargoyles the giants and humans destroyed before dying. The trail of bodies through the level led them to the next stairway up. No gargoyles were encountered, the rock dust was thick, and the fatalities among the mortal creatures had been high.
When Bisonbit commented on this Jake replied, "It could have been worse." At Bisonbit's blank look he added, "It could have been us!" That got a chuckle from everyone, including Renki.
Part way up the stairway to the next level everyone could hear the sounds of combat, including strangled screams of agony from mortal throats. It didn't sound as if things were going well for the clerics of Tharizdun.
At the top they peer around a corner. Across a 40 foot wide hallway was the huge main temple room, identical except in scale to the one they had seen in the first temple they had fought in. It was filled with humans, giants, and gargoyles all locked in combat. Bodies were strewn haphazardly across the floor and rock dust filled the air!
On a natural 20 vs. a creature of Elemental Chaos this Sword of Cieldren emits a 20' radius globe of light. While not blinding it causes 2d4 points of damage to all creatures of Elemental Chaos within its area of influence.
At this time the Chaos Gargoyles are the only creatures of Elemental Chaos I have created. When I came up with this idea it was simply a minor one-time effect designed to be a neat effect for the players. However ... being a creative DM this has spurred some artistic juices so other creatures of Elemental Chaos will crop up from time to time.
I DO NOT intend to make the creatures of Tharizdun regular foes like The Master was during John Pertwee's reign as The Doctor. Having the same enemy show after show was (and still is) tedious. But having something new pop up from time to time should keep this whole idea interesting.
The scene in the worship room was a sight that should have filled Tharizdun's heart with joy. Complete chaos filled the room, masses of gargoyles attacking the fire giants along with the human and frost giant clerics of Tharizdun. Rock dust filled the air, making vision to the other side of the huge worship room unclear. At least half of the mortals had fallen and things looked grim for the survivors.
Gargoyles circling to get to their victims through the crush of their brethren spotted the party. Reacting immediately David cast his last Web spell, completely blocking the hallway. Before the spell completed the party could see their objective, the greater chaos gargoyle locked in combat with a fire giant.
Several gargoyles flew through the webs like they weren't there although most who tried were trapped in the sticky strands. Like all previous combats with these beings of Elemental Chaos, the fighting was brutal and terrifying as these things fought with no sense of self preservation.
Bisonbit exclaimed, "We must get the Big Bad Ugly One! It must be the key!" Renki agreed. "I have a Fireball remaining. Open the webs and I'll use it!" Jake grabbed a torch from a sconce and threw it into the webbing, starting the fire storm that destroyed most of the gargoyles trapped in it. As the web cleared Renki cast her Fireball, the red bead flashing across the distance from her finger tips to the gargoyle, exploding just in front of it.
Humans and frost giants in the area of the magical fire shrieked in agony, and many of the small gargoyles burned to dust. The fire giants shrugged off the fire as did the greater gargoyle.
David invoked Magic Missiles which flashed into the creature. Bisonbit and Gilden completed their spells within seconds of each other, one Flame Strike flashing down to immolate the area followed by the second. Within that area stood only the fire giants and the greater gargoyle, the unnatural beast burned by the second strike.
"CIELDREN!!!" Jake screamed as he threw the sword.
As his spirit combined with Cieldren's and flew instantly across the distance Jake girded himself for the strike. The greater gargoyle turned to him -- it perceived him. But that perception gained it nothing as he swung the hammer into its chest, the best and most powerful strike he had ever made.
The desire to become a dwarf was overwhelming.
Opening eyes he didn't remember closing, Jake realized he was in the enchanted glade with Cieldren.
"Since attaining godhood I have had one champion at a time to fight the battles I cannot win in other ways. Conversing with your patron Demeter made me realize that I don't need to limit myself to just one champion."
"Will you become one of my champions?"
Jake entire body went cold and he felt his eyes widen in shock. He froze in panic. Long seconds passed while he recovered himself and collected his thoughts. "Thank you for the offer, but I cannot accept. I follow Demeter and don't feel I should change that." He waited for the god's response, fearing how that worthy might deal with the rejection.
The god laughed, a real belly laugh. Note 42
"I told you he would decline," Demeter laughed. Jake had not realized she was present but wasn't really surprised. Which surprised him.
"What if he had?"
Placing a familiar hand on Jake's shoulder she answered, "I do not constrain my worshipers. If he wanted to change I would not prevent it." Smiling down at Jake she continued, "Although losing one such as Jake would be painful." Looking at Cieldren she stated, "Free will is one thing that differs us from our foes."
Jake blinked just in time to catch the sword as it flew back to his ready grasp. The greater chaos gargoyle transformed back into a statue and fell to the floor with a crash. All the lesser gargoyles turned back into statues and fell. Rock powder on the floor was tossed into the air. Between the noise and the dust everyone was unable to hear or see for several minutes. Note 43
As the air cleared the party took stock of the situation. Three fire giants remained alive of Tharizdun's forces, all wounded. There were no human or frost giant survivors, all the clerics had been killed by Tharizdun's own gargoyles or by the fire spells of the party.
Grounding the point of his sword the lead fire giant, who David recognized as the magic user he had fought several levels down, spoke in clear Shahrivaran, "There has been too much death. Need this continue?" His two people followed suit and grounded their swords.
Looking at each other and at Renki, who nodded, the party sheathed their weapons. The fire giants followed suit.
Stunned by the combat and it's resolution, never the less the giants started collecting the bodies of the fallen fire giants into a file in the hallway, outside of the worship room. They removed personal effects and then poured oil on the bodies and set them ablaze. "We will not leave our dead here in this evil place." Gilden laughed silently at the idea of fire giants calling anything evil ... but there was evil and there was Evil. Chaos gargoyles fit the second category with no argument.
Their work completed the fire giants collected their belongings and went up the steps, leaving the temple complex.
"What are we going to do with THAT," Faraz asked, pointing to the statue of the greater gargoyle.
Jake drew his sword and hacked at it, breaking off a tiny chip. A minute later the hole filled miraculously and the statue was whole again. Circling the statue the party discovered that non-magical weapons had no effect upon them, and only powerful ones would damage the statue. But the effects healed quickly. Strikes upon the lesser gargoyle statues were different -- they shattered like the stone they were. But there were dozens of them strewn across this level, destroying them all would take days.
"I wonder what would happen if we dropped the statue into the ravine that surrounds this temple?" Jake wondered.
"I don't know, but it can't hurt US," David quipped.
"Might not be enough to damage it," Bisonbit ventured.
"OK." Dropping his pack Jake rummaged through it and extracted a potion. Removing the top he downed it. After a minute he smiled and picked up the statue, which was almost too much even for his great strength and flew down the hallway and up the stairway to the top level of the temple. Note 44
"Get out of the way! Cross the bridge," he called as he flew straight up.
The others cleared the way as Jake flew upward. Flying with the heavy statue was slow and minutes passed as Jake and the statue shrank to a pinpoint in the sky. The pinpoint started growing larger and after a few seconds the watchers perceived the statue falling. It struck the roof of the temple with a tremendous CRASH, collapsing the roof. The greater gargoyle exploded into a cloud of rock dust 40 feet high. For a few moments the cloud formed the outline of the gargoyle and then scattered with the light breeze that blew across the remains of the temple. Checking the ruins the party discovered the top level was flattened, but the stairway down was mostly clear and the collapse had been limited to the top structure. Venturing down the party discovered that things had been shaken but not badly damaged.
However, each lesser gargoyle statue had shattered at the moment the greater one did, filling the level with rock dust. They had to wait an hour before the dust settled enough to venture down.
Utilizing True Sight spells the party searched level by level, hunting for secret compartments and doors. They found none. Note 45
When the party reached the surface after searching they were surprised at the sight of a dozen ogre magi, who were equally surprised to see Renki in the company of humans and a dwarf. The ogre magi moved off while Renki apparently explained the situation to what was obviously her family.
Renki and the leader of the group walked back to the party and he addressed them. "My thanks for freeing and protecting my daughter." Renki nodded curtly to each one and without a further word the ogre magi all flew in a V to the northwest.
"Wow," Faraz commented. "They aren't much for small talk."
The party found a large group of human, dwarven, and elven clerics at their base camp. Cieldren and Demeter told their senior clerics of the victory and ordered them to travel to the temple of Tharizdun. This group, heavily protected by a mixed group of soldiers, walked the remaining distance to the temple and invoked numerous Earthquake spells to completely shatter it. This temple would never be a rallying point for Tharizdun.
The small army traveled back to the human city where the party was feted as heroes.
The look on Patrick's face when Cieldren made the offer of championhood to Jake was satisfying! I caught him completely off guard, although I expected him to decline. What if he accepted?
In the grand scheme of the campaign it wouldn't make that much difference. Jake would have the ability to call upon Cieldren's aid when faced with serious supernatural foes, with an effect similar to downing a Potion of Ultra Heroism (which I should post, since I mentioned it): extra hp & fighting ability. The drawback? Each time Jake would have an increased chance of desiring to be a dwarf so much that he would ask Cieldren to make it so.
This situation did not go as planned. The idea was for the greater gargoyle to escape by flying over their heads. It would travel to a nearby city, animate all statues between 3' and 12' tall, then move to the next city, etc. The party would have to chase it and destroy it.
But it didn't work out that way. Since they weren't squeamish about destroying the giants and humans, the party demonstrated that realism of DMing -- a good party working together will certainly destroy a major BBEG when it's a case of them on it. Patrick & Eric played the scene with skill and destroyed my scenario.
This is ok ... while we were discussing the battle I formulated their next adventure. This adventure had been planned as their last adventure in Shahrivar ... but like great plans should, it got scrapped when a better idea popped into my head.
The greater chaos gargoyle is immune to weapons less than +3, has 50% magic resistance, and when reduced to 0 hp it reverts to a statue. The statue has the same resistances and can only be destroyed if double its normal hp are inflicted within a single round. Any damage less than that heals instantly.
Patrick's idea of dropping the statue from a height is one of the few ways to destroy it. He took it up 5,000 feet, which is a LOT of d6 regardless of how anyone rolls falling damage.
The party searched EVERYWHERE ... except the back of the worship room on level 1 and the staircases. They found only the secret rooms in the maze, in which they found a Broom of Sweeping. It will be interesting if they invent anything useful to do with it.
Back in the human city the party was feted as heroes for a month straight. Enough that the party members were all tired of parties and speeches and such. Intelligence reports rolled into the city after the first week. In the southern half of the continent the alliance created by the clerics of Tharizdun collapsed. The lawful goblinoids, especially the ogre magi, the fire giants, and surprisingly enough the orcs -- all broke ties immediately. Clerics of Tharizdun in their ranks were summarily killed along with any who protested those killings.
Even among the chaotic goblinoids the reaction was severe. Word that Tharizdun destroyed his own followers in the giant temple was spread by the three surviving fire giants and by the ogre magi. Word had it that no clerics of Tharizdun survived in the lower half of the continent.
The few surviving clerics of the normal goblinoid gods came out of hiding, which helped enforce the traditional separation of the goblinoid races. The situation was similar in the north, but one stronghold of Tharizdun remained -- the city/state Bahman, where the original empire of Bahman started. The high cleric of Tharizdun held reign there and provided a nucleus for the faithful to gather upon.
A few days later David asked Jake about his sword. "Cieldren said it would fade away, didn't he?"
Jake had not given it any thought. He drew the bastard sword, hefting it in a few experimental swings. The blade glowed as it had previously. "It feels the same as it did before." Restoring it to its sheath Jake said, "I'll ask Cieldren next time he stops by," he chuckled. David punched him lightly in the shoulder. As intelligent as it is, Jake wasn't one to worry about things he couldn't change.
About 3 weeks after the group arrived at the city, the fete they were at was interrupted by the main doors of the ballroom crashing open. In stalked a wedge of ogre magi, led by Renki's father with her to his right.
A path cleared through the fearful crowd as the ogre magi made straight for the group who were standing in the middle of a gaggle of adoring fans. Apparently the adoration wasn't all that strong as once the ogre magi's target was obvious they all melted away.
The ogre magi spread their V out widely and stopped with the leader about five feet away. He dropped into a kneel with his left knee on the polished hardwood, the others falling in sequence like a wave. when the last had knelt the leader bowed deeply, and the others bowed like a sweeping wave. They held the pose for maybe 10 seconds and then reversed their wave so that all were standing.
In a gravelly voice that made Renki's sound high pitched in comparison, he spoke, "My daughter has explained fully what we owe you. Along with my people's thanks for destroying those vile things, we offer you tokens of our esteem."
An ogre mage came forward holding a cloth-wrapped bundle. Unfolding it to display a finely crafted scimitar in an ornate scabbard, she presented it to Faraz. He hesitantly took the weapon from the cloth, marveling at the workmanship of the pommel and the scabbard. Note 46
At the leader's nod Faraz drew the scimitar, feeling the excellent balance and admiring the flashing blade. It was made from a Mithril/steel alloy and shimmered in the light. It was a princely gift.
At the leader's nod other ogre magi came forwarded to present a similar quality bastard sword to Jake, long sword to David, battle axe to Gilden, spear to Bisonbit, and a silver banded staff of an unidentifiable hardwood to Trilla. All were of identical quality.
"In addition you have MY thanks for protecting my daughter when she was felled and unable to defend herself," he addressed Faraz. Renki came forward and presented to the druid another scimitar. This one wasn't as ornate as the first but was also a Mithril alloy. The first one, while a serviceable weapon, was obviously to be used for special events. This one was a soldier's weapon, obviously very old and designed for use. When the druid drew the weapon from its plain sheath it burst into light. Note 47
The ogre magi repeated their bowing ceremony, and upon standing spun in place. Without another word the leader walked through their midst, the next two following as he passed them, so they reversed themselves and exited from the ballroom. The silence was utter, not even mutterings by the party goers.
"I think you have a girlfriend," David winked to his henchman.
The weapons are of the finest quality, capable of holding enchantments up to +3. These are unenchanted and designed for use as show pieces, but are very serviceable. Each is +1 to-hit/damage due to quality of workmanship, but are not magical and cannot harm creatures requiring magic weapons to hit. Due to their high quality and ornate scabbards, the weapons have a value similar to that of a sword +2.
I would allow these weapons to harm creatures requiring silver weapons to hit, although that is a quirk IMC and not btb AFAIK.
Faraz made it through the adventure without a magic weapon, although in the middle his scimitar was temporarily enchanted to +3. I had planned a magic weapon for him but the party didn't find it. I used his protection of Renki when she was stunned as an opening to grant him a good weapon. While I could have easily waited to the next adventure, Eric got a real kick out of this.
The Rule of Cool (as Frank M terms it) always wins in my campaign!
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas