The party sits at their now famous table at The Horse and Toad discussing weather or not they should accompany The Azure Guard on a mission to re-seal Tal Ziel. The invitation from Garr Harada made it clear that there would be NO payment or compensation of any kind; this is strictly a matter of duty.
Brother Amaar: “Of course we should go. The vault is dangerous!”
Falco: “Not only do we not get paid, we can’t even loot the place! What’s in it for us?”
Melamber: “Any chance to fall into the good graces of The Azure Guard should be taken! I say we go!”
Essoq: “There will be more beasties to bash, I’m sure. I too say we go!”
Falco: “Guys, I got a very favorable lead on an actual payday! I say we go to Noyo with Baragon.”
Baragon: “No. Tomorrow I go to help re-seal the vaults. You can join me or don’t, I care not which.”
Everyone else: “???”
The party asks the Northman why the change of heart, why the search for his son that was so important mere moments ago should suddenly be put on hold, but he only offers a very Baragon answer.
“My reasons are my own!” and he gets up with his drink and sets upstairs.
“I guess tomorrow we ride we ride on Tal Ziel,” says Falco.
The following morning the party sets out on the road to Dyfeld, the settlement with the closest proximity to the Tel Ziel vaults. Melamber drives a pony-drawn cart with Essoq riding (sleeping) in the back with the gear. Everyone else is mounted well enough, but Falco is riding a piebald stallion of exceptional speed and breeding; clearly the finest mount available in all of Oakmaul.
“Favors offered, favors earned,” is all Falco says when Amaar presses him on his acquisition of the animal.
During the journey Magistrate Haldorian questions the party on details of the vault’s interior, its basic layout and known dangers. As they travel through the leagues of grasslands, orchards and farmlands she shares with the party the history and purpose of the vaults.
Long ago when Byrnaer was still the Oligarchy of Thorold, there was a network of intersecting lay lines in the surrounding countryside that had been resourced as arcane coteries and conservatories. Among them was Tel Ziel, then a tower of white stone built within the ring of ancient monoliths that have marked the site since time unmemorable.
When Thorold fell 200 years ago, the tower was pulled down and the underground workshops of the various schools of magic were repurposed into the vaults that stand there today, now known as The Forbidden Archives of Tel Ziel.
It is dusk when the party arrives near the edge of the bluff that is home to that now familiar ancient crown of stones which guard the vaults.
Haldorian is greeted by Tian, one of her agents. He is the mystery man that politely arrested Melamber and Brother Amaar at the Horse and Toad the day of the trial as detailed in The Voice at Eon’s Edge: Enter the Azure Guard Part 1.
Apparently the detachment of Pyrwell regulars left to guard the vaults was attacked in the night. Only it wasn’t some nameless horror from the vaults, it was from the outer grounds; three assassins and another individual who was well versed in the black arts! Three men were killed outright. The remaining six were captured. One of these survivors was then singled out and tortured to death right in front of the rest of the men. Once his mutilated body was cast into the mound hollow an interrogation of the five remaining men began. They wanted details on who raided the mound earlier and who was involved in arresting the man known as Thom Dranik. After the questioning was done, the assassins and the dark magician disappeared into the night. They never even went down the spiral stairs of the mound!
But it gets worse! Once they managed to free themselves the five survivors collected their gear and set up defensive positions as best they could, only to be attacked later by the animated corpses of their fallen comrades, including the hellishly mutilated torture victim! Now only three remain.
Haldorian praises the survivors and sends them away to Pyrwell to get reinforcements. As the hour is late efforts are made to set up camp. Baragon insists on taking the first watch over the barrow entrance. But almost the instant everyone settles in he disappears!
After some metagaming about how tired everyone REALY is (ahem), the rest of the party convinces Haldorian that it would be a mistake to wait for the sun to rise before they attempt a rescue.
Falco points out the sign of Baragon’s booted feet in the dust entering the vault of necromancy. The party enters with Haldorian and Tian reinforcing their ranks. Almost at once they are attacked by ghoulish figures, armed and armored and bent on death!
After defeating the outer defenses of undead (and wondering how Baragon could have gotten past them) the party begins to explore the inner chambers. There is some treasure found here and there, but Haldorian forbids its removal (Tian always seems to be watching Falco with a knowing smile on his face).
Eventually a side chamber is discovered. Falco and Tian confirm that the stone door that seals it 1) needs a special key to open and 2) Has been opened very recently.
Haldorian casts Dimension Door (“Ooo! She is at least 7th level!” Melamber metagames) to slip past the seal, taking Tian with her to open it from the inside. After a few anxious moments the stone door falls slowly into the floor and the rest of the party enters.
Melamber advises the group to pile stone slabs on top of the door to prevent it from rising again, and chooses to remain outside but within sight of the rest of the party.
Inside is an antechamber lined with sarcophagi that adjoins a vast and vaulted hall. Suspended from the unseen ceiling, bound in wicked, spiked chains is a mummified figure whose head is bound in iron bands that cover its eyes, ears and crown, but not its mouth… and that mouth speaks!
“Yes! This one will serve! I will take her!”
Everyone attacks immediately! Magic Missiles, arrows, bolts and throwing axes fly at the thing. It shrieks in pain, but then it begins to laugh. Then out of nowhere Baragon appears. Everyone seems happy to see him until he stabs Haldorian between the shoulders… with the Dark Blade !
Haldorian collapses to the stone floor as her soul begins to spill out of her eyes and mouth and up into the still cackling maw of the mummified thing hanging above!
The party tries to intervene but Baragon fights them! Worse yet, his eyes and skin have changed hue to mark him as undead!
There is a terrible fight after that as the sarcophagi behind the party at the exit begin to pop open and undead begin to fill the hall. Of course the door begins to rise but Melamber’s precautions pay off and she is able to attack this grim force from behind while keeping the room from being sealed. In the end the party is forced to kill Baragon along with this gray-skinned hoard. Haldorian lies dead on the floor, and Essoq and Falco are only saved by a combination of healing potions from Tiam and spells from Brother Amaar.
“Yes! Malhun is pleased! A boon I will offer you!” says the mummy in chains.
As it turns out, this monster known as Malhun has the power to see the location of any named creature anywhere, living or dead. Furthermore, it can mentally communicate with whoever holds the Dark Blade. Baragon had it long enough to strike a deal with the mummy. Malhun would tell Baragon the location of his son, Garamon if in exchange he were fed a powerful soul.
“The bargain is kept! Seek him in the Mines of Telmyr, where he toils as a beast of burden. And take up my Dark Blade! So that I might guide you in your journeys!”
In the end the party leaves the Dark Blade on the stone floor, takes the bodies of Haldorian and Baragon with them, and remain at Tel Ziel long enough to help Tian reseal the vaults without further exploration.
Baragon’s body is taken to the shores of the east where he is committed to the seas in the tradition of his northern kin.
Everyone is sad.
Game Session Ends