Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Recap: The Fall of Salothzar

Zovira is ready to finish this!
Another week, another campaign ending! One of my players pointed out that it's been almost exactly a year since Dragonborn Quest began. Maybe there's something about spring that makes me want to wrap up my stuff and start something new?

Hopefully not, since I still have Campaign of Chaos to complete...

This story is part 10 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Previous Campaign | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 |

Dragonborn Quest: The Fall of Salothzar

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Will: Daardendrian Kreev, Red Dragonborn Bard, former prince, back to set things right
Megan: Daardendrian Zovira, Red Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's aunt, champion of the clan
Bria: Druuga Faelynn, Silver Dragonborn Bard, avenged her sister, now to fix the isle...
Michelle: Nerithya Finzerwin, Half-Drow Rogue, ex-cultist looking for a new purpose to her life
Matt: Myastan Faerbor, White Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's friend and owner of the legendary Axe of the Elders, planning to destroy it
NPC: Oddmund, Nerithya's Shield Guardian, has a smiling face painted on his head

When we last left our heroes, they were halfway through storming the castle of their sworn enemies, clan Z'ildroth. They had fought through several elites and remained fairly stealthy all the while, though it seemed some sort of alarm had been sounded and the castle was now engaged in some sort of defensive measures. Fortunately, the group avoided them, and found a mirror leading to the Nine Hells. They killed a devil which had made contracts with some of clan Z'ildroth's members, hoping that would be enough to put an end to the Death Knight Favnir that had been plaguing them.

After knocking out the traitorous clan leader Turnuroth Zofrixis, the group cautiously explored the room below his, the War Room. A large map hung on the wall, an extremely complete map of the island that Kreev remembered his father had told him never to touch. He went to touch it, and was immediately blasted back by a magical ward placed on the map.

The rest of the group explored the room, finding maps and blueprints of the castle, old military campaigns, and the island itself. Kreev realized that the large map might have something behind it that the trap was protecting, and had Nerithya remove the map with her Mage Hand. As she did, the bar holding the map up fell to the ground with a clatter, drawing a pair of Blackwing guards into the room.

The party temporarily abandoned the prospect of treasure behind the map and engaged the Blackwings in combat. Even after fighting through several Blackwings and a Devil, the group was easily able to overpower the intruders and return to their investigation.

Behind the map was a small safe, which Nerithya easily opened. Inside was a collection of things left by Kreev's father, Rhoyax. There were some highly classified scrolls, a spell scroll of Mind Blank, and a Manual of Gainful Exercise. There was also a map of a military campaign, one that Zovira had participated in. It was the campaign of genocide against the Gold Dragonborn clans. Faelynn, who had found the map, tucked it away.

Faerbor doesn't have time for this crap
The group returned to the castle's Western Hall, and decided to head down to the basement. Not only was it likely that Kreev's captive mother Shreeva would be down there, but there was a horde of Kobolds attacking the castle from below, thanks to Kreev's Half-Sister Dalyassa. They made their way downstairs, finding that several of the clan's quarters had been converted into dungeons, slaves' quarters, and and overseer's office.

They went to the dungeon first. Most of the prisoners were unruly Kobolds, but they noticed three Daardendrians in chains. One of them, Kreev recognized as his half-brother Kraxos, though the prisoner was missing a forearm and both his feet. Kraxos had always been a brooding rebel, and Kreev guessed he had opposed Z'ildroth. Nerithya picked the lock and they entered the room.

The Kobolds immediately began to pull at their chains and try to attack Kreev, but Faelynn gave them a look that immediately shut them down. Nerithya, using her new boots of Spider Climbing, just walked across the ceiling and unlocked the captive red dragonborn's chains. Kraxos seemed relieved to be free, and Zovira helped him out of the room.

They decided to free the unruly Kobolds and have them cause a little chaos until they found a better place to keep their injured friends. Kreev suggested they check the Overseer's Office, since it would probably have a lock and be nicer than a dungeon. The group moved quietly across the hall while the newly-freed Kobolds went on a rampage in the Z'ildroth clan quarters.

They burst into the Overseer's office, surprising him and leaping forward to attack. The black Dragonborn barely had time to react before they had pinned him to the ground. The office was indeed nice, though he had a rather tacky portrait of himself hanging behind his desk. While Zovira and Faerbor held their captive, Kreev used Detect Thoughts to get more information on where Shreeva might be.

The overseer revealed that Shreeva was currently working in the mines, the same place the Kobold attack was happening. But as Kreev dug deeper, he found something more disturbing. The Overseer had been approached by the Blackwing Ravager Zraghull, who had offered him a deal with Tor'Galluth the Pit Fiend. The group was still uncertain if the infernal contract had ended, but they now knew that Zraghull had also taken it up. They also learned that the Dragon Queen Tiamat was behind this deal, and she was trying to use her undead Knights to dethrone Salothzar.

Kreev finished off the overseer, but not before commenting on his bad choice in interior decoration. The group quickly moved Kraxos and the two young Daardendrians to the Overseer's Office, then headed towards the mine entrance connected to the basement. They could hear the sounds of Kobolds battling Blackwings as they descended down, passing Red Dragonborn miners who had retreated from the conflict.

Murdering Dragonborn, with your host Nerithya
They reached the back lines of the Blackwings, who were completely engrossed in the battle with the Kobolds. Not a group to let such a chance slide, they attacked the Z'ildroth soldiers from behind, finishing them off in their own unique ways. Nerithya and Kreev went one by one, stabbing them through with their swords. Zovira went down the line cutting off heads, and Oddmund just punched all of the ones he could see. Faerbor, no longer able to use the magic of his axe, switched to a magical glaive to attack, and Faelynn provided bagpipe accompaniment.

They broke through the line of Blackwings, and the Kobolds regarded them cautiously. The party decided to simply allow the Kobolds to carry on with their attack, and a horde of red-scaled raiders swept past them. Meanwhile, Kreev lead the group towards where he had seen Shreeva was being kept.

They arrived not a moment too late. Dalyassa was holding a crumpled Shreeva in her arms, and turned to Kreev as he approached. Shreeva was barely hanging on to life, and Kreev reached out and touched her with his bardic magic. A low hum filled the air, and his mother relaxed from the pain. She looked up and smiled at her son, before falling gently asleep. She would be safe, for now.

Dalyassa was injured herself, but the waves of Kobolds had prevented the Blackwings from harming her too badly. The heroes decided to bring Shreeva and Dalyassa to the Overseer's Office, where her brother Kraxos was already staying.

After dropping off those who couldn't fight, the group went back up into the halls of the castle, intent of confronting Salothzar and ending this mess. They found the halls oddly deserted, aside from a chef and some Kobold servants. Even the throne room was emptied. Faerbor took a moment to magical seal the other exit to the castle.

They made their way to Salothzar's chambers, but came across an extremely unusual sight: the grand, opulent chamber had been looted, with only furniture and wall hangings in tatters remaining. Kreev also noticed the room had a feature he didn't remember: a large hole in the wall, large enough for a giant-sized creature to pass through. The group feared Salothzar had tried to make his escape, however, a monstrous roar from the tunnel complicated that theory.

Standing guard outside the tunnel were four Blackwings, one of them the Ravager Zraghull. He started to approach the party to talk, but Faelynn simply responded with a Fireball. Nerithya cast a Hypnotic Pattern to confound the enemies, and a combat broke out.

Punching things and absorbing damage, all day every day
Fortunately, thanks to Nerithya's spell, the group was able to pick off their foes one by one. She even added a rubber duck balloon Crown of Madness to Zraghull so he would attack his own allies. The Blackwings quickly fell, and soon only Zraghull remained.

Zovira made a move to run him through, and with his last breath he smiled and asked Tor'Galluth to bring him back from death. The group remembered what had happened when they killed Favnir: a massive explosion, which transformed him into his Death Knight form. Sure enough, the room was rocked with a huge Hellfire explosion, knocking the group back. But when the fire cleared, all that remained was a burnt, skeletal corpse. The deal with the devil had ended.

The group took a moment to recover the damage they had taken from the blast. The tunnel in the wall looked to be of recent construction, and the blueprints they found in the War Room seemed to confirm this was a new addition to the castle. The group finished up their healing and pressed forward towards whatever awaited them in the cavern.

They rounded a set of stairs and found themselves looking upon an awesome and terrible sight. Atop a gigantic mountain of gold and precious objects lay the corpse of a Black Dragon, slain through the heart with a Vorpal Sword. Standing atop that was Salothzar himself, wings unfurled, holding the Sun Amulet up in the air and praying, apparently in praise of himself. Around him, a half-dozen Blackwing Elites were frozen in place, seemingly stopped in their efforts to reach him.

As they approached, they entered a wave of energy surrounding Salothzar, and found themselves frozen in place as well - at least, those Dragonborn among them. Nerithya and Oddmund were able to move still, and proceeded to immediately pocket the Vorpal Sword. Faerbor, through great effort, was also able to shake off the stunning effect. While their companions struggled to break free, they decided to move forward and attack Salothzar to try and end the spell he was casting.

Salothzar kept praying, ignoring their accusations. He even shot a ray of acid from his mouth at Faerbor in between verses of his prayer. It seemed that only a direct assault would break him from speaking. However, at that moment, an unexpected ally appeared.

Cheskapen, the Couatl that had stolen their ward Torrin from them, appeared, unaffected by the power of Salothzar's stun spell. He reached out and touched Faelynn, ending the spell on her, and asked her to use her Bardic magic to help her allies. He then strode towards Salothzar, transforming back into his true winged-snake form.

Back off, buddy!
Faelynn got to work, while Faerbor and Nerithya began lobbing projectiles at Salothzar to break his hold on their allies. Finally, he relented, and Zovira and Kreev were released from the effect. The Blackwings were also released, and began to rush forward to attack their leader, likely due to his recent slaying of a Black Dragon.

However, Salothzar's abandonment of his prayer only meant he could devote his full attention to fighting. With a wave of his claw, he released a black spot which expanded into a huge field, draining the energy from those within it and blinding the group.

Now struggling in the dark, Zovira pulled out a pair of potions to restore her own sight and Faerbor's. The Blackwings kept attacking, though they had little success. Between their blindness and Salothzar's supernaturally thick hide, their blades did little damage. Kreev and Faelynn did their best to heal and inspire their allies, while Nerithya used her acute elven senses to move and attack despite her blindness.

Though they were fighting well against the blinding blackness, Salothzar had barely been scratched, and was still blasting them with rays of acid and Vitriolic Spheres. Cheskapen had bitten Salothzar, but to little effect. Salothzar simply brushed hum off with a huge maul, causing him to fly against the cavern wall and begin to discorporate.

Things were looking grim, and Faelynn decided to pull out her final trump card. Long ago, she had devoted a massive amount of gold and time to creating a bag of beans marked with Explosive Runes. Throughout her adventure, she had used them to get out of sticky situations, and though each of them individually had little power, she still had 5 dozen remaining.

Salothzar shouted at the group that they weren't enemies, that there was more at play here than they knew. The Gods were conspiring against them. But the group wasn't going to take any chances on his words, and Nerithya ignited Faelynn's beans in Salothzar's chest with her Mage Hand, while Faelynn used a Wall of Force to protect the party.

Lots of small magic, applied all at once, courtesy of Faelynn
The bag of beans, ignited all at once, bathed the chamber in light and fire. Directed by the ring of invisible force around Salothzar, the fire seared upwards and scorched the ceiling of the cavern, creating a concentrated point of flame that burned into the eyes of those who dared look upon it. When the smoke cleared, Salothzar remained, charred but still on his feet.

He looked down at his attackers, lifted the Sun Amulet above his head, and... threw it at Kreev's feet. "If you believe you can do better than I, then it is in your hands now." With that, he teleported away in a flash of magical energy. The group stood in confusion and frustration for a moment, but quickly realized their work was far from finished.

With Salothzar gone, the Blackwings turned to the nearest threat they perceived, that being Faerbor. They attacked him, but Kreev quickly stepped in and calmed the situation. The Blackwings revealed that Salothzar had indeed slain the Black Dragon, which they hadn't even known was below the castle. They were attacking him, but the stunning effect had kept them from doing so while he was praying. They had no idea what he had been planning or why he was praying.

Narithya began inspecting the hoard of gold and items laid out before her while the others bandaged up their wounds. Kreev brokered a temporary truce with the Blackwings, hoping to figure out what was actually going on and put an end to this before they had to fight again.

As they spoke, another figure burst into the room: Tofras the Smiter, a cleric of Bahamut who had assisted Cheskapen in his quest. Zovira was quite angry with him, and demanded to know where Torrin was. Tofras was quite compliant, telling her that Torrin was safe at the Church of Bahamut in Dovuaka. He had followed Cheskapen because the Couatl was a literal messenger from his deity, but now that the plan had failed, Tofras was more than willing to reconsider his involvement with Bahamut.

Kreev asked further about that, remembering that Salothzar had said the Gods were conspiring against them. Tofras confirmed that Cheskapen was trying to "cleanse" the Dragonborn using the Sun Amulet and Torrin. However, it became clear during their travels that Cheskapen meant to eliminate the Dragonborn. The group was appalled, but Tofras said that the Dragonborn were considered abominations among the true Dragons. Bahamut was acting in the interests of his followers.

The group left the treasure in place for now (aside from the gold Nerithya stuffed in her Bag of Holding) and went back up to the Throne Room. At this point, Kobolds had spread over the entire castle, unable to leave since Faerbor had magically sealed the main exits. The group retrieved Dalyassa, and she harnessed the Kobolds and told them to head back into the mines. With a shout of "Guks!", they retreated.

As the Kobolds dispersed, a roar was heard outside the castle, and a massive form burst in through the large stained-glass windows of the chamber: the Silver Dragon Chevnyl, here to join the fight! Unfortunately, the fight had already ended. Chevnyl reverted to her Silver Dragonborn monk form, and explained her appearance.

So majestic
She had been told by Cheskapen about the plan to eliminate the Dragonborn, as a kind of courtesy since the history of the Dragonborn was her most valued treasure. She had thought about leaving and giving up on the island, but in the end she simply couldn't. She had flown down to the castle to kill Cheskapen or die trying. She had expected this to be her final stand.

The group reassured her, and after some tears she agreed that Kreev holding on to the Sun Amulet was for the best. Kreev vowed to try to destroy it, hoping that such a fate would never befall the Dragonborn clans.

With that, Kreev gathered his allies and went to unseal the front gates of the castle. Faerbor released his spell on the door, and it burst open as Blackwing soldiers rushed inwards. Kreev stopped them by holding up Salothzar's Sun Amulet, and gave an impassioned plea: the fighting was over. Salothzar, Favnir, and Zraghull were gone. There was no longer any need to kill or enslave other clans.

As he spoke, another Blackwing Ravager, Z'ildroth Otiroth, stepped forward. He was young, and interested in what Kreev had to say. They took an uneasy peace there upon the front steps of the castle, both sides promising to step back and re-evaluate the situation with the information Kreev would provide.

The next few days involved Kreev and the party conveying everything that had happened on their journey, from fighting a devil-powered Favnir in Dovuaka to discovering a plot by Bahamut to undo the entire race of the Dragonborn. Otiroth listened intently. He was younger than the other Ravagers, and seemed to be more open to making reparations.

Shreeva joined her son at the negotiations, more to lend credence as the clan matriarch than anything. However, she seemed very proud of her son and his skill in diplomacy. A plan was quickly laid out to unite the Dragonborn, in order to stave off the potentially disastrous fate they would face by turning away from the Dragon Gods.

Nerithya was put in charge of counting the treasure hoard Salothzar had amassed, and even after she skimmed some off the top it came out to nearly ten million gold. Many of the powerful magic items in the collection were actually clan artifacts, meaning they would need to be returned to their respective owners. However, the massive amount of gold gave clan Daardendrian and Z'ildroth a pool of resources for their plan to unite the clans.

A diplomatic tour of the island was put in place, and the group began to assign roles. Kreev, Otiroth, and Faelynn would be in charge of the main negotiations, travelling to major cities around the island with a core of diplomats to handle the smaller burgs and villages. Zovira would be in charge of reforming the Blackwings and providing military guidance for a new, multi-clan fighting force.

Nerithya debated for a while on if she would stay with the clans, but eventually realized that she had finally found a group of people that she could trust. She decided to stay, though she did demand a warship and personal crew to play with.

Faerbor hung around for a few days after negotiations were complete, but soon disappeared. He was intent of finding a way to destroy the Axe of the Elders, which had cursed his family for generations.

Chevnyl also disappeared, going back to her mountaintop to continue recording the history of the Dragonborn. Faelynn occasionally went up the mountain to visit her, getting to know the ancient dragon better than anyone else on the island.

And Torrin, the young Gold Dragonborn, came back to the castle, where he was formally adopted by Zovira and granted his clan's name, Ziadoa.

Though they had lots of work ahead of them, the heroes of the Dragonborn had completed their task, and saved their island. Kreev was crowned the new King of the Dragonborn, and began his work of uniting the clans. As to how that turns out, we'll have to wait and see.

You're a king, Kreev! "A what?"
And that's the game! It took 10 session and about a year of playing to finish the story, and that feels about right. I feel that each session was memorable and we had a lot of epic and hilarious moments as a group.

Eventually, these heroes might have to come out of retirement to fight the forces of Chaos, but for now, I'm happy to say their adventure is complete.

Thanks for reading!

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