Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 61

Summary:
1. Entering the Death Vault of the Chosen of Nergal the paladin Cobalt meets the gaze of the powerful barrow wight Rendar Serouc, is driven insane and enters a catatonic state.
2. The berserker Gimli encounters barrow ghasts and is paralyzed. Then, after being cured of that barely escapes a poison save vs. death from a trapped chest!

PC’s:
Cobalt, Human Paladin of St. Agathos
Roulf, Half-Orc Drachentoten (Dragonslayer) of Crom
Gimli, Dwarf Berserker of Odin
Cyron, Human Cleric of Charon
Belden, Gnome Bard of Aengus
Ria, Human Pacer of Loki
Noro, Human Warrior Priest of Hyperion
Elfgiva, Elf Archer/Cleric/Wizard of Sehanine
Martin, Human Rogue of Bacchus

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris

Game Diary:
Last time the Army of the Light found the animated left arm of their undead paladin seeking redemption – Dhekeon “the Disgraced.” They asked the arm where the rest of his body was and he pointed toward the Barrowmoor.

This session began with them entering the Barrowmaze. Cobalt asked Dhekeon’s arm where to go next. The left arm, which had tucked its shoulder joint in Cobalt’s belt effectively giving him a third arm, seemed a bit confused and half-heartedly pointed in a few directions before finally pointing north. The players began speculating that perhaps Dhekeon’s body had been further broken up and was now located in multiple directions. They followed the pointing arm and found their way to the entrance to the Death Vault of the Chosen of Nergal. The opening was a giant skull with an open mouth large enough for two people to enter side-by-side.

Entrance to the Death Vault (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

Upon entering the mouth the jaws clamped shut before releasing its victim. The group managed to pile some of the rocky rubble found at the base of the lower jaw into the two points where the upper and lower jaws meet and that prevented the mouth from closing long enough for the entire group to enter.

They entered a chamber with a large statue to Nergal (a skeleton shrouded in robes) with an offering bowl that had been used recently by his followers. In fact, with the Army of the Light destroying the Grand Temple to Nergal, as well as another important worship area, the church of this god of the underworld was running out of places to practice their evil faith! Examining the area they found bricked up walls to the east and west, and a hidden door behind the statue to the north. This hidden passage led to several rooms, one for embalming, one for clerical gear storage, a weapons room, a small altar room, and some crypts. However, since Dhekeon’s arm kept pointing north, they decided to conserve their spells and chose to skip exploring some rooms so as to save their resources for the greater danger they sensed they were heading into.

Continuing to head north they arrived at another hidden door and upon entering found themselves in a 10 foot by 20 foot corridor. To the north was a bricked-up archway, some of which had been sealed for centuries, but another smaller part that had been bricked up only days before and would be large enough for a medium-sized individual bowing down to enter once broken. Observant individuals also noticed a secret door to their left. They choose to go through the secret door to ensure that nothing would attack them from behind when they broke through the bricked wall (where Dhekeon continued to indicate part of his body could be found).

Walking single file down the 5 foot secret corridor to the west, Gimli and Cobalt were surprised by two barrow ghasts just as they entered a crypt. One was especially clumsy (I rolled a couple of 1s and 2s for attacks), the other was much more focused. It got an attack in and when Gimli failed his save, his muscles tightened up and he became paralyzed. While the clumsy barrow ghast continued to try and fight the group as they worked to enter the crypt, the one that paralyzed Gimli took him to its sarcophagus for the purposes of devouring him alive right then and their. Those with polearms lunged forward for attacks, Cobalt swung his Saint’s Mace with the assured confidence of dozens upon dozens of previous battles with undead expecting the impact of the artifact to either blast the undead into dust or turn them. But these ghasts were chosen lieutenants of Nergal. Their holy symbols glowed sinister colors and Cobalt was shocked to realize they wouldn’t get blown to dust or get turned. However, even without being able to use the higher artifact powers of his weapon, he could still hit hard with it, and the ghasts were destroyed the old fashioned way – pounding them down with weapons.

The group found a large amount of treasure (magic weapons, potions, and gems) and with several clerics in the group, Gimli was released from his paralysis. Since he was already in a sarcophagus, he decided to loot the material inside! One chest was already open and filled with gems, another was closed, so he decided he would open it. He immediately felt a prick on his finger. I told him to make a poison save. He passed – by one! I described how a drop of blood fell from his finger and turned black as it fell to the bottom of the sarcophagus where he sat (he learned that if he had rolled just one lower on his saving throw that his blood would’ve turned into a black ichor and he would’ve died). Gimli once again had barely gotten by! They were now ready for the bricked up room.

Rendar Serouc’s Crypt (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

They pounded away at the newly bricked up portion with their sledgehammers and entered. Dhekeon’s hand pointed immediately to the right at an amphora where his right arm had been placed in with the shoulder joint sticking out the top. The right arm, now sensing the left arm began tapping its fingers from inside. While the first few people to enter the room were distracted by Dehekeon’s unattached arms signaling themselves and the party, an undead figure lept to Cobalt and Gimli from the shadows between two statues. The robed figure had white skin pulled tight over its skeletal frame. This barrow wight swung at Gimli but missed, barely. It cursed at him and Cobalt and revealed that it was Rendar Serouc, a Chosen of Nergal, and the person who had been a High Priest of Nergal 250 years before when Dhekeon was still alive and the Barrowmaze was still young. The gaze of his eyes then met that of Cobalt. The paladin felt the powerful presence of this Chosen High Priest of Nergal enter into him. He rolled his saving throw – and failed! Another roll was made to determine what type of insanity he would suffer as the high priest’s mind entered his. The roll resulted in entering a catatonic state. The amount of evil that Cobalt witnessed from the mind of Rendar overwhelmed him, his eyes rolled up into his head, he shuddered, and then collapsed to the ground in a catatonic state unable to function, his mind in shock from the imagery.

The Army of the Light saw that Rendar was a very serious threat! They could also tell that Rendar was some kind of a wight, and new that if he physically struck them that they might have their memories and life experiences stripped from them (i.e. they would lose a level). Polearm wielders jabbed with their reach weapons. Gimli summoned Odin’s Fury and also summoned forth his lycanthropic powers and became a werewolf (a dwarven berserking werewolf is a force to be reckoned with!). The barrage of weapons hitting Rendar pushed him back against the base of his sarcophagus. He got a couple more swings in, but they missed. The mighty weapon blows from the group eventually split open his stomach causing several of his undead organs to spill out onto the ground with a trail of black dust (dried blood? negative energy residue?). The attacks also cracked several vertebra on on his spine and he fell backward at an awkward angle into his sarcophagus.

Gimli left Odin’s Fury and werewolf form and the rest of the group tried to pour a high-powered curative potion into Cobalt’s mouth hoping it could cure him. Upon swallowing it his mind left the horrific, nightmarish world he was inhabiting, to briefly acknowledge his friends, but the potion wasn’t strong enough and he was pulled back into the state of catatonic shock. As some began to ponder what to do with Cobalt, others began to take notice of Rendar’s generous treasure hoard! Looting was about to begin, but then they saw the black dust from Rendar’s organs, as well as from inside his eyes, nose sockets, and mouth, rise up into the air and enter the facial openings of the female and male stone guardians behind his sarcophagus. He voice emerged from both of them as they came to life – “did you think you could defeat me that easily?!” he bellowed.

The barrow guardians came to life and so did Gimli as he summoned Odin’s Fury again along with his werewolf form. Noro swung a recently acquired magical halberd into the male warrior’s left arm – and it got stuck in it – he was disarmed! Cyron stepped forward and swung his mace against it and he lost it as it merged with its left arm! Rendar’s voice chuckled and he then removed the halberd from its left arm and was looking forward to striking down the intruders with it. But I rolled a 1 on the attack and decided that while swinging the halberd it got caught on the handle of the mace in his other arm and the halberd went flying over everyone’s heads – he disarmed himself! He was pissed!

The group lunged forward and attacked with everything they had. The male stone barrow guardian fell to one knee and Rendar’s voice emerged from it as he voiced his frustration, and the female barrow guardian had her head chopped off. It rolled to the feet of Martin and Rendar hissed a final “I curse all of you!”

And that is where we left that session.