||2020-10-03 10:47:31 - Update
Episode #8: The Sunless Sea
The Scourge of the Underdark Campaign
NPCs mentioned in this Episode:
Descending further into the Underdark then almost any before them, the Scourge of the Underdark discovered a vast underground cavern, which was the home to the Sunless Sea and the perpetrators of the evil they had been combating:
Through their adventures in the caves and islands that surrounded the Sunless Sea, the Scourge discovered that the aboleth were constructing a massive Tower of Domination, which would allow the ancient race to dominate all creatures of the Underdark. It was a massive undertaking that had attracted attention from many individuals.
The adventures of the Scourge in the adjoining islands and caves were numerous, but several are particularly noteworthy. The first was the discovery of the island belonging to the enchantress Szandur. While not allied with the aboleth, Szandur was able to piece together how the aboleth were constructing the Tower of Domination, which required the fusing together of several different magicks. Upon her defeat, Caelynn would take possession of these plans, a move that would eventually lead to his downfall.
During this time, the Scourge also encountered a powerful wizard going by the name of Pallistren who also seemed interested in the goings-on of the aboleth city of Great Shaboath. They would be shocked to discover Pallistren's true nature. They soon also discovered a powerful tribe of fire giants and defeated them, earning them the wrath of Surtur, their god.
At one point the Scourge discovered Sunkenhome, a makeshift undersea chamber. In it, were the Necromancers of Skahlehn, a group that would plague the Scourge for years to come. When an attempted parley went awry, Caelynn attacked, causing a grand melee between the Scourge and the Necromancers. The battle ended with one necromancer dead, and Griften slain at the hands of the leader, Pizentios, though he was later revived. Talks resumed as it was obvious they would only again fight to a draw. It was revealed that a renegade necromancer of their group, Eldranna, was working for the aboleth in the Tower of Necromancy. Pizentios suggested they team up to destroy her and the tower, a suggestion the Scourge reluctantly agreed to.
Of perhaps most import, however, would be their adventure on the Isle of Shadows. Unbeknownst to the Scourge, the Isle was the home for a powerful temple to the dread god Tharizdun. Furthermore, they were unaware that one of the ancient Suel priests of He-Whose-Name-Cannot-Be-Spoken was guarding it in the form of a greater mummy. The mummy lured the heroes into battle near a great obsidian altar. After a fantastic battle in which they destroyed an arcanaloth the mummy had gated in, Brother Griften psionically detonated the altar, to discover a crystal globe filled with dark shadows. Suddenly, a member of the Scarlet Brotherhood appeared behind them and telekinetically grabbed the sphere, then teleported to safety. Within moments, a great and thunderous cry of "Freedom!" issued forth from the cavern and the Isle of Shadows sank beneath the waves. As the heroes paddled back to shore, Griften knew he had succeeded in helping loosen the bonds that bind Tharizdun...
When the time came for the attack upon Great Shaboath, the Scourge of the Underdark had to face the fact that they could not handle it alone. Aljayera, leader of The Rockseer Elves, had already begun sending his people off to the surface, and so could not offer his people to help, though Darafeyen, the Rockseer wizard the Scourge had met, suggested finding other allies.
The first group of potential allies came in the form of bizarre amazon-like warrior-women, who claimed they were there to avenge themselves upon Pallistren. Convinced they were on the same side, the Scourge of the Underdark mounted their first guerilla raid upon Pallistren's quarters. Confronting him, Pallistren polymorphed back into his true form of a Pit Fiend, with his entourage likewise reverting to their true devilish form. As is customary with the Scourge, a great battle ensued, with Pallistren's forces being destroyed, and the greater devil himself having to flee for safety. Tragedy was far from over, however. As they looted Pallistren's lair, S'Thiss triggered a trap which changed him into a lemure, and then gated him to the Nine Hells. Stunned at the loss of their companion, the remaining heroes almost overlooked an iron flask that contained Callimar, an astral deva. The Scourge freed the angel, who then quickly retrieved S'Thiss from Baator. Something was obviously wrong with the dark elf, though he refused to speak of it. During the confusion, the warrior-women teleported away, but not before revealing themselves as tanar'ri and thanking the heroes for their cooperation...
The Scourge decided to attack the Tower of Necromancy first, in accordance with their plans with Pizentios. Fighting up through several levels of undead, elementals, and golems, the heroes attacked and killed Eldranna, and cut off the power of the tower to the main Tower of Domination. Pizentios appeared, demanding the body of Eldranna, which the heroes reluctantly agreed to. Both groups then left, fearful of the aboleth's response.
While resting near their Daern's Instant Fortress on the shores of the Sunless Sea, the Scourge were attacked by The Raveners, a mercenary group that had willingly joined the aboleth in their cause. At the end of the battle, the Raveners lay dead except for the half-elf assassin Wode, who escaped into the Sunless Sea's murky waters. The bodies of the Raveners were later snatched up by the Necromancers of Skahlehn, to be used for their own purposes.
The Scourge of the Underdark mounted another successful raid upon Great Shaboath, causing damage to the Tower of Alteration. They were ambushed again, near the teleportational 'flux point' they had been using to get within the aboleth city. The Grand Savant caused summoned monsters to appear in their midst, injuring them gravely. After this episode, the Scourge realized they might need other allies to make their subsequent attacks successful.
Enter the renegade illithids, led by their priest, Ipshizeen. The Scourge encountered these mind flayers after investigating a side cavern they had stumbled upon. The illithids defeated the Scourge, but rather than destroy them, had them agree to a contract to jointly attack Great Shaboath, despite the arguments of Akira.
With their newfound "allies", the Scourge attacked again, destroying the Tower of Summoning. Disaster struck as they attempted their escape, however. Caelynn was destroyed by two Ixzan wizards, while Brother Griften's escape attempt saw him blasted across the Sunless Sea to an unexplored shore on the other side. Aljayera, in his last act of kindness for those that had helped bring his people to the surface, raised Caelynn from the dead using the power of a Wish spell.
Meanwhile, Brother Griften encountered an unusual being of a different sort. A strange man who wielded immense psionic powers and could manipulate the shadows introduced himself only as the "shadow-mage". He greeted the rest of the Scourge who had joined Griften, mentioned that Fandruzsch had been his ally, and then coated the tower that contained the "flux point" the heroes had been using with a veil of non-detection. Encouraging them in their task, he vanished, though would be heard from again.
The attack upon the Tower of Domination by the The Scourge of the Underdark is best summed up by the bard Nirifel Mendarin, in her work, The Final Scourging of the Blood Queen, as recounted to her by Tanamier, Tempus, and Brother Griften:
The heroes stood slackjawed for a few brief moments, shocked at the savagery and bloodlust exhibited by Gorath as he engaged the summoned trolls in berserk fury, hammer in one hand and axe in the other. There would be no withdrawal for the battlerager this day.
Or for any of us, thought Tanamier as he quickly took stock of the situation again.
Caelynn had already fallen at the hands of the iron golems, pulped into something almost unrecognizable. Again Tanamier cursed himself for leaving him and Gorath alone in their battle, but he knew that the Grand Savant was the creature that had to be dealt with. Spell Breaker cloaked the half-elf in a sphere of anti-magic which permitted the Gifted One to strike at the aboleth.
Akira and Tempus stood firm against the onslaught of Ju-Ju zombies that surrounded them. The undead were relentless in their assault and held the heroes back. Akira's blade still cut cleanly through the blue-grey flesh of the zombies while Tempus' mighty Sun Blade burned the creatures whenever it struck them, evening the odds against the overwhelming numbers.
S'thiss, the deadly dark elf, had once again struck out on his own in this battle after creating the initial wall of fire that had decimated the bulk of the aboleth's servants. His blades danced a deadly arc through the zombies who could not appreciate the grace with which their undead lives were being taken away.
Brother Griften, after originally teleporting Tanamier and Gorath to within striking distance of the Grand Savant, found himself in dire straits indeed. Caught between two great walls of fire, he faced down the commandant of the kuo-toa forces within Great Shaboath. The kuo-toa captain wielded a great curved sword with jagged notches in the blade, and he wielded it with great skill. Griften could not afford to allow himself to be distracted in this combat, and so psionically closed certain portions of his mind, allowing his finely honed combat instincts to take over.
Seeing the peril that Gorath was in, and knowing that the berzerker was oblivious to it, Akira dropped back and allowed the zombie to lunge directly at him. When the undead creatures hands were only inches away from ending his life, the jetai-ryu plunged his deadly katana forward, eviscerating the animated corpse. Tumbling to the side, he dodged another zombie and then sprinted down the narrow corridor that existed between the two walls of flame. He somersaulted over the kuo-toa captain and landed amidst the gigantic trolls. The trolls immediately recoiled from Akira, the circle of protection bestowed upon him by Tanamier driving the trolls back.
One less thing for me to deal with, thank the lost gods, thought Tanamier grimly. Now I can deal with this giant fish with a clear conscience! Suddenly, the wall of fire erected by S'thiss' wand disappeared, revealing several more zombies and three magic-resistant derro savants. The blasted thing's dispelled the flames, realized Tanamier. I'll have to teach it not to ignore me when I'm within swordreach!
But Tanamier's blade never cut into the mighty aboleth, for the Grand Savant relocated itself to the far end of the room psionically before Tanamier could strike. Several of the trolls looked Tanamier's way and started to advance upon him, no doubt controlled by the aboleth.
Tanamier cancelled the anti-magic shell surrounding him, which reinstated the previous dweomer that accelerated his actions. Easily outdistancing the trolls, Tanamier fell back and chanted his studied words of magic, enveloping the derro savants within a globe of darkness.
That should buy us a few moments, he thought as he surveyed his companions. The rest of the Scourge were battling valiantly against the odds, but things were turning against them. The kuo-toa captain's lieutenant had joined the fray against Griften, making an opening the captain took advantage of. The giant fish-man's sword plunged deep into Griften's side. The monk immediately began working on controlling the pain, but was being driven back by the kuo-toa duo.
Tempus continued to slash and burn the ju-ju zombies that surrounded him, forming a barrier of undead corpses between him and the Grand Savant. S'thiss threw off the last of the zombies and leaped at the Grand Savant, a wild look in his eyes. His blades whirled around the aboleth, causing sparks to fly every time they struck, whittling away the aboleth's protective magic. Akira voluntarily lowered the circle of protection, his katana having cut into each of the trolls. It was wasted effort, since all it did was commence their fantastic regeneration process, but he could not afford to ignore even one of them, for they would rip him to shreds given the slightest opening. Meanwhile, he had to beware Gorath who was battling so savagely that he could have knocked over Akira with his hammer and not even noticed.
Tanamier was about to once more deal with the derro when he saw one of S'thiss' blades cut into the Grand Savant, causing a gout of acidic liquid to spurt all over the crazed drow.
"It's defenses are down! Concentrate all attacks at the aboleth! I'll call for reinforcements!" shouted Tanamier. With that the half-elf started chanting, 'Come Callimar, for our need is great...'
Responding to the Gifted One's commands, Akira parried the lead troll, then tumbled to the side and to his feet in one motion. The nimble mind-warrior then sprinted across the great hall towards the aboleth.
Brother Griften's robes had been soaked through with his own blood, turning them scarlet. Scarlet... images of the Isle of Shadows started to haunt his mind, throwing his concentration off. The Captain, sensing an opening, lunged forward with his massive blade. But Griften refocused, and sidestepped, catching the blade by the flat under his arm. With one manoeuvre, he kicked the Captain's head back, stunning the giant kuo-toa. He then ducked under the trident of the lieutenant and punched through a link in the fish-man's armour, killing the beast instantly.
Tempus knew he had to aid his companions, so he withdrew, allowing the ju-ju zombies to surround him. Suddenly, a brilliant flash of white light exploded from him as he invoked the power of his armour. The zombies that had all gathered around him burnt to ashes, as once again Tempus seemed to be overwritten by the image of a powerful barbarian warrior.
Gorath, in his berserk state, did not notice that the limbs of the trolls he had severed were still acting of their own accord. Two severed claws grabbed his legs, pulling him down. The rest of the trolls tore into him; the derro armour that had so often protected him now crumpled like paper without its enchantment against the fury and strength of the trolls.
Seeing his companion go down almost broke Tanamier's concentration, but he managed to complete the last chant of summoning. A blue-white gate opened near the aboleth, and through it came Callimar. The bronze-skinned deva flew on feathery wings, and wielded a gigantic mace in both hands. He joined S'thiss in the fray, who had recovered from the acid blast from the aboleth.
The derro, acting upon telepathic commands from their master, dropped back and blasted at Tempus, three powerful bolts of lightning knocking the hero back. Only his armour saved him.
In the meantime, S'thiss and Callimar had driven the aboleth back with their blows, the drow still ignoring the acidic gouts as his blades cut into the creature. Akira had almost reached them, and Griften was not far behind, pausing only long enough to stun the derro. Tempus got up, charred and burned, but he still charged the aboleth. Tanamier cast another spell, confusing the derro by entrapping them in a cloud of noxious fumes.
Suddenly, disaster struck. The aboleth reared back and began casting its terrible Horrid Wilting spell. Recognizing the gravity, Akira launched himself at the Savant, but stumbled over some discarded zombie corpses, his katana skittering from his hands. Tempus had not yet reached them, and S'thiss and Callimar were recovering from acid blasts. Griften ran up to the aboleth and struck twice, but there was no power behind his blows, so weak as he was from his injuries. Uninterrupted in its spellcasting, the aboleth finished its spell! Callimar, Tempus, and Akira collapsed to the ground, the moisture sucked right from their bodies. Both Tempus and Akira lost consciousness, and only S'thiss' innate drow resistance to magic saved his life.
Tanamier started charging forward, grimly knowing he wouldn't reach the aboleth before it cast another spell and that he was therefore throwing his life away, But if I am going to die, I'll lie beside my companions!
Before he could make his sacrifice however, S'thiss woke up and with a maniacal yell plunged his sword deep into the head of the Savant, and ripped his sword right through its skull.
Within the Savant, it looked as though some great maggot were trying to escape from inside as the aboleth went into its death throes. Suddenly, the beast exploded, releasing from within the magic and treasures it had swallowed to make itself powerful. It began to rain jewels, gold, and magic items within the great hall.
Callimar recovered and started reviving the fallen heroes, starting with Caelynn. The others quickly pocketed what they could, and then followed Griften's lead back out the gateway across the dimensional bridge to Darlakanand's laboratory. Once there, they felt the tower shaking.
Akira ran to a window. "It's the entire city! It's chaos and madness out there! Everything is attacking each other!" he yelled.
"The death of the Savant must have shaken the city," said Caelynn, leaning heavily upon Callimar. "The island's must be sinking!"
"Sinking..." repeated Tanamier. Suddenly, he yelled, "The slaves! I have only enough magic for one teleportational jump!"
Griften stepped forward, clutching his bloodied stomach. "I have just enough psionic energy to get us there, but after that it will have to be up to you, my friend."
"That's all I ask, Brother Griften," responded Tanamier.
Tempus was looking around frantically. "Where's S'thiss? We've left him behind!"
"No, we haven't," coughed Gorath. The dwarf's battle-madness had passed, and he was leaning upon his hammer for support. "The bloody drow found a magic ring from within the belly of that giant fish and used it to blink himself away, having a good laugh about it all the time!"
"I knew it!" cried Tempus. "I told you to watch that one, Tanamier! Now, he's..."
"We have no time for this!" shouted Tanamier. "The lost gods willing, Griften and I will meet you back at the flux point in the giants' cavern. Griften!"
Tanamier and Griften appeared in the slave pen with a sudden pop. This part of the city had already given way to the waters of the Sunless Sea, and was flooding quickly.
"Griften! I need you to prop me up above the water so that I can incant the spell!" shouted Tanamier. The monk dived below the water and hoisted the plate-armoured mage on his shoulders. But the gravity of his wounds was great, and he faltered, not keeping his ally above water level.
"Griften! I need you! There are kuo-toa trying to break in and some of these slaves may have already drowned! Damn you! Don't let me down now!"
The monk called upon the last of his psionic energy, focusing on his legs, giving them just enough strength to allow Tanamier to teleport them away. Just enough strength...
With a flash of light and a crash of water, Tanamier, Griften and the freed slaves burst into the fire giant cavern. Several of the slaves had lost consciousness, others were suffering from grave injuries.
"We're spent, Tanamier," said Tempus. "We couldn't possibly even begin to alleviate their suffering now. Most of them will have died by the time we regain our strength. What do you want to do?"
Tanamier grimly took out the black crystal sphere and rod that he had secreted in his collapsible fortress. He walked forward at threw it amidst the slaves, where it broke and the inky blackness that was within seeped out. Everyone it touched turned into blackness itself, until there was a giant black cloud before him. The half-elf then activated the rod, sucking in the black cloud until not a trace of it was left.
"That was the device the shadow mage from the opposite shore gave us," said Caelynn. "I honestly didn't think you'd ever use such magic."
"There was no choice."
"No choice then to trap them in that form? Using dark magic? Is that the human in you talking?"
"No. It's the man in me talking."
Akira broke up the argument. "Look, my friends."
A giant stalactite broke from the cavern ceiling and struck Great Shaboath in the centre. The squeals and cries from the aboleth could be heard from the shore, as well as the sounds of battle as the myriad creatures within all fought each other in a desperate attempt to escape the sinking city. Finally, Great Shaboath sunk beneath the cold, dark waters beneath the Sunless Sea, never to be seen again...
The companions had travelled for several days in the Underdark after the fall of Great Shaboath, making the long trek to the surface. Callimar had long ago wished them well and gone on his way. Their journey was undisturbed, with creatures giving them a wide berth. It was on the fifth day when they spotted their first campfire up ahead.
"The monk and I will investigate this," said Caelynn. "My cloak and boots yet retain their function. We will take them unawares and determine if they are friend or foe."
The pair snuck up and hid behind a large rock outcropping. There were only two men. One was a giant warrior in bronze plate mail bristling with weapons. He had a well-trimmed red beard and used the skull of a dragon as his helm. The other was a smaller, younger man. He was also obviously a warrior, wearing field plate mail and his shield had a golden ankh on it. He had blond hair and penetrating blue eyes.
"Stop your skulking and join us at the fire!" roared the red-haired fighter. "All this sneaking around is bloody impolite!"
Caelynn and Griften revealed themselves, the elflord wielding a keen mithral blade he had acquired at the climax of the struggle with the Grand Savant.
"Put your sword away, or I'll make you swallow it sideways," said the giant.
"We're not here to hurt you," spoke the smaller man softly. "We just wanted to meet you in person. Please get the others."
When the others arrived, Tanamier addressed the pair. "We have a long road ahead of us. If you truly do not mean us harm, then say your piece and allow us to be on our way."
"Hmph. Good choice, brother. I'll bet he's fun at parties too," said the giant to his companion.
The smaller man was just smiling. "Please, sit and join us. We have more than enough food for everyone, and I'm sure you're all hungry." And it was true. Suddenly, the entire Scourge of the Underdark was hungry. They each sat and began gorging themselves. Tanamier would not take his eyes off the smaller man, although the rest of the Scourge had no distrust. Indeed, Tempus and the giant were talking and joking as though they had been old friends.
Caelynn sensed what was going on and addressed the smaller man. "You seem to know us quite well. If I didn't know better, I'd say you've been watching us the entire time. But of course, such is impossible, for that would mean...mean..."
"My name is Parthen the Protector. My brother is Agravelenon the Aggressor. You are correct in your hypothesis, Caelynn Bladesinger."
Caelynn was merely staring slack-jawed at the young warrior in front of him.
"Come, come. I am not one of your Powers, and your behaviour is rather undignified. Please compose yourself."
"Perhaps," stammered Caelynn. "Perhaps you can tell me certain things, things about my own gods..."
Time itself froze as Parthen considered the request. When he had apparently decided, only he and Caelynn could move. "You wonder at the nature of your deities. You wonder why Vecna the Terrible did not even acknowledge them when he attacked the lost gods of this plane. I suppose it was too much of a blow to the elven ego. Very well. I shall tell you.
"After your world was new, the gods created the different races to populate the earth. Humans they made in their own image, but their creativity and imagination resulted in the demihumans, of which elves are a part. While all races initially worshipped them, time passed and racist thought began to emerge. Demihumans would sometimes refuse to worship the `human' gods, and clerics amongst those races lost their calling. It was soon deemed inappropriate by the gods that these races not have Powers of their own. Thus, in their graciousness, the gods elevated certain heroes from each race to become gods themselves. Now, with each race having its own pantheon, order was restored to Oerth. It was for this that Vecna ignored the demihuman Powers; being `artificial' Powers as it were, they were beneath his notuce,though certainly as powerful as their human counterparts after millenia of worship."
Caelynn sat back, shocked, as action resumed around him. The heroes had finished their meal and were getting ready to go. As they stood up to leave, Parthen spoke. "We would like to have a moment alone with Tempus and Tanamier before you depart." Both heroes looked suspicious but stayed behind as the rest of the scourge started up the caverns and waited some distance away.
Suddenly, there was a giant flash of light from where the four were talking. The companions raced back to the campsite to discover Tempus weeping on his knees, and Tanamier on one knee, his eyes also wet. Akira walked forward and put his hand on Tanamier's shoulder. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
Tanamier took a moment to respond. Finally, he said, "I do not wish to cheapen the experience with words, but... I have seen his face, and it is good."
"It is good."
The leaves that were bright green when they had first entered the caverns below had now turned yellow, red and orange, and were already starting to fall away from the trees. A cool, autumn wind greeted them as they emerged from the abandoned keep used by Ranchefus and his slavers. The forest was silent with the exception of their hushed voices.
Caelynn made his goodbyes and then used his magic to teleport back to the court at Celene, anxious to return to his homeland and report on his expedition. No one could fault him for his eagerness to leave; it had been hard on the nature-loving elf to be so long beneath the earth.
Brother Griften was the next to leave, explaining that his order needed to know of the activities of the Scarlet Brotherhood as soon as possible. It was also obvious that this had been his first major excursion away from his monastery and that he needed to regain his bearings.
Akira cited similar reasons when he made his departure. The jetai-ryu felt he had much to atone for, including his semi-alliance with the illithids and his disquieting encounter with Callimar. He set off to find a port city and from there a ship that would take him back to his homeland.
Gorath knew were his responsibilities were; the Pricipality of Ulek was besieged by Turrosh Mak and his army from the Pomarj, and from the few remaining Dark Elves from the overrun Nesselentiss. He needed to return to his people right away.
"Probably win the war all by himself", thought Tanamier as he watched the dwarf stride away. He turned to look at Tempus, who was looking at him expectantly.
"And what of us, Tanamier? What shall we do?" asked Tempus. That they would still be together seemed natural to Tanamier. There was a bond between them now, an awareness they both had that could not be explained.
"Well, there are many places in the world that could use a warrior and his knight-protector,"said Tanamier. "Never mind a warrior who can raise the dead and a knight-protector who is a mage in addition!" Tanamier looked at his friend closely and extended his hand. "More importantly, there are people who need something to believe in again."
Tempus grasped Tanamier's hand firmly. "All right, then. We shall provide it."