Dungeon Nights: Arakgnash Awakes
We reach the end of a story arc that began back in September. Panic, heroism, and mad scrambles to destroy an overwhelmingly powerful enemy.
Clovis was returning from taking the “demons” back to where they were found, to try finding their way home. As she approached the fork in the road she saw the Elvish army on the move in the distance, and saw the first wave of the army stumble and fall, then her companions hurry through, so she knew something was up. She hurried into the town just behind the second wave of the army, who were hacking their way into the burning barn that the rest of the party had lit up behind them. The elves were not too friendly to a dwarven barbarian trying to get to the front of the action, but some of them recognized Clovis and let her through. They were happy enough to send her down into the pit, presumably filled with hundreds of orcs, but she noticed they didn’t really pause to wait for her to get out of range before bringing up the giant cauldron of oil to pour down the ramp.
Running full tilt down the ramp, shouting “Boiling Oil” to warn her friends, Clovis tripped and rolled the last bit, bouncing off the dead orcs a the base of the ramp, and jamming Bitey 2 into the arch at the end, swinging around the axe to avoid both plunging off the ledge and the stream of hot oil following close behind her. She saw her friends on the other side of the arch, separated now by the steam of oil. Screams from the orcs below as the oil reach them inspired her to work the axe deeper into the arch and try to bring the tunnel down. Clovis was mighty and the turnnel was quick work by orc slaves, so she was able to partially collapse it, but oil continued to flow onto the prisoners below. Clovis redoubled her efforts, collapsing the rest of the tunnel just as flames began to lick their way down the oil. As the tunnel collapsed, so did part of the ledge in front of the tunnel, but she (and her companions on the other side) backed quickly away from the collapsing section.
Following the earlier battle with the orc slave-drivers, one of them had jabbed Talisa with something which has made her sick and weak. As Clovis barrelled out of the mouth of the tunnel, Andrew was tending to her, and tried to carry her away from the collapsing ledge but lost his footing in the rubble. He managed to toss Talisa (as gently as he could) onto a stable part of the ledge and grab hold of the remaining edge to stop his own fall. Enkirash, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by the waves of dark ritual energy and spent her first few minutes in the room fighting waves of nausea. Tsafnur helped Andrew back up onto the ledge as Clovis took a running leap to join them, but missed, scrambling on the rubble and catching herself a short ways down, in a mass of oily rubble, with her precious Bitey 2 tumbling down and out of sight. She gritted her teeth, drew her daggers, and began climbing back up to the ledge by stabbing them into cracks in the wall as she went.
Clovis’ efforts have slowed the oil to a trickle and the screams from below have subsided. The ledge that the reunited party are on seems to spiral around the entire cavern, slowly decending to the floor below. As they begin the descent, getting almost a quarter of the way around, they noticed another tunnel arch, as oil began gushing from it, and the screams from below began again. As they hurried up to try to collapse that tunnel as well, another fountain of boiling oil started from across the cavern. Their light does not illuminate that far, but it appears from the sounds that there are perhaps four tunnels into the cavern, spaced roughly equally around the perimeter. The stream of oil ahead of them also appears to be on fire, and the light in the cavern increases somewhat as the fire spreads below among the helpless orcs.
Tsafnur opened the book to a random page and began singing what he found there. The stump of his missing hand throbbed. A black circle opened in the air in front of him and once again he found himself staring through the worlds into the realm of Death. He closed the book stabbed the soul-sucking dagger into it as hard as he could, then pulled the dagger out and threw the book through the portal. The hole in the air began closing, but before it disappeared, he put it up in the air to the left of the circle and drew it across, reversing the movement that lost him the hand in the first place. Through the closing circle, he saw his arm reattached, but the lower arm and hand were grey and scarred, with cracked and filthy nails. He quickly pulled his arm out before the circle closed completely.
While still feeling nauseous from the ritual energy, Enkirash has pulled herself together by now, and throws an unknown potion into the fire, hoping for a way to douse it. She channels the energy held in the potion and finds a communication channel open up between the worlds. She reaches out with her magical senses and summons out of the void an ice demon, but it is not bound to her will and it will not help unless she gives it a soul. Tsafnur encourages her to make the bargain, hoping to betray the ice demon with his dagger of soul snaring, and she does agree to the demon’s terms. It then puts out the fire, cooling the boiling oil in the process. Tsafnur tries to stab the demon from behind with the dagger, but fails to pierce its hide. The demon tells Enkirash that her soul is the price and he will be back for it and then returns to its own plane.
After the demon departs, the remaining two tunnels still pouring oil out are also set on fire. Enkirash’s discomfort increases abruptly, then subsides, as the screaming below gets both worse, and if anything, angrier. Tsafnur notices the book bound in pale leather pulsing and warm to the touch. Looking over the ledge there is something new in the room, A huge mound of bones and leathery bat wings in the center of the cavern, taking up a substantial portion of it. As they watch the wings begin to spread open and the dracolich Arakgnash expands its skeletal body to rise up and survey the cavern as it has finally been summoned back to this world.
Tsafnur recalled from their earlier near encounter with Arakgnash that the bone fragment they found in the dark summoner’s altar may have been the dracolich’s phylactery, holding its soul. They pulled the bone fragment out of Talisa’s backpack, but no-one was able to break it, it seemed to be harder than iron. Andrew suffered a crisis of faith, but did manage to sanctify the phylactery, which attracted the dragon’s attention.
Clovis took another running jump and leaped off the ledge at the dragon, but it flung up a bony wing and batted her across the cavern into a wall. Stunned and winded, she slid down and feel onto the surviving orcs below, who tried to stop her fall as best they could. She survives all of this, just barely, and the orcs pass her axe Bitey back to her, asking her to free them. She is weak, but begins cutting the chains of the imprisoned orcs as quickly as she can. Each orc freed grabs up a length of chain to use as a weapon and hurries off to fight Arakgnash. Someone presses a flask to her lips and she swallows a harsh, burning liquid, and she feels reinvigorated with a rush of energy, cutting chains faster and faster. Soon the orcs and their chains are beginning to slow down even the mighty Arakgnash.
The adventurers have the dragon’s full attention, and it is attempting to breathe fire on them, but its lungs are dry and dusty, no flame comes out. The room grows slightly brighter as one of the remaining streams of oil begins to burn. Clovis has freed most of the slaves in that area, but Arakgnash whips his head around, leave the company unmolested a little longer. The dracon stretches his neck toward the flames. Soon, a glow is visible behind the bones of his ribcage and as his chest rises and falls the glow becomes a fiery furnace. Arakgnash swings his head back toward our friends and takes in a mighty breath.
While Arakgnash was rekindling his flame, the party struggled to break the bone holding his soul. Finally, Tsafnur took the fragment of bone into his right hand (the one recently returned from the land of the dead). In that hand, the heavy, sturdy bone felt light and frail, like balsa wood. As Arakgnash reached full inhale, the furnace in his chest glowed white with heat, and the dragon brought his head close to the party, opening his mouth wider and wider to end them in flaming death, Tsafnur crushed the bone, freeing Arakgnash’s soul from reanimating its body, and the bones of the dragon collapsed to the floor, the overheated furnace inside it exploded sending flames and splinters of bone across the cavern. All the party were injured, but those on the ledge were not gravely hurt. Clovis, already so badly injured, succumbed to the blast and found herself before the Black Gate, entrance to the land of Death, accompanied by hundreds of orcs who were all singing of her heroism.
To Clovis, the Black Gate appeared to be an imposing stonework, the finest Dwarven craftsmanship, and beyond it she could see old friends and family awaiting her, a ready feast, and glittering jewelry. She proudly hefted Bitey 2 and strode through the gate.
The survivors, and a long line of orcs, many carrying their wounded and dead, head up the nearest tunnel, slick with oil. Enkirash and Talisa, the elves of the party, go first to announce that the dracolich has been defeated, the orcs are not their enemy, and that the whole thing has been a trap to bring the dracolich back. The orcs are carrying the skull of the lich as proof. There is some major confusion, but it is sorted out and many of the most eager proponents of the battle are arrested for conspiracy. The orcs are given shelter and healing and there is talk of a peace treaty. The orcs, and some of the elves, regard Clovis as a hero. They’re pretty happy with Tsafnur and the rest of the party as well. There is general recognition that Genesa was right all along and her political clout rises substantially, which she is leveraging to get help restoring her home.
In the initial confusion, Genesa’s cousin Alberge and his main cronies escaped. Several of the toughest war bands are dispatched to find them.
The party’s wagon is brought to them. Bob and Ralph Jr. are in good health and happy to see them.
Full disclosure: Dracolich image found on Pinterest, it’s from a Magic: The Gathering card by Lucas Graciano.