Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #7: Zombie Dogs

Every few decades, that dreaded abomination, the Tarrasque, reawakens from its long slumber. At such a time, the world's greatest heroes must defend the world from its nigh-insatiable appetite. Sometimes these heroes fail, and civilizations fall. And even when they succeed, the lands in the Tarrasque's wake are changed forever.

Previous Sessions: 

The party staked out the Temple of the Sun's cemetery to watch for graverobbers. Jumari, the inquisitor, hid behind a marker near the grave that had been disturbed during the criminals' last visit. The wizard/cleric Fatou and monk Lucretia watched from the shadows around the nearest mausoleum. The bard Edel hid among a small copse of trees just outside the bit of damaged wall that the intruders had used to climb into the grounds. The rogue Jubair and cavalier ZhaZha patrolled just inside the wall. 

Late that night, the moonlight allowed Edel to see a group of figures moving towards the rough spot in the wall. A halfling-sized figure led the way, followed by a half dozen or more human-sized folk. When the gang reached the wall, one of the the larger men boosted the halfling to the top to look over. This small scout didn't see any trouble, so dropped down on the other side and moved to take cover by a gravestone. ZhaZha caught sight of him then--and he noticed both her and Jubair, but not in time to warn his allies before ZhaZha impaled his head upon her pick. 

Edel could hear the sickening thud from his hiding place, so moved closer and cast grease upon the ground under the rear members of the gang, spilling them to the ground. This drew the attention of the gang's leader, a half-orc woman in dark robes, who moved his way but failed to frighten him with the spell she cast. 

ZhaZha easily climbed over the wall and clobbered the nearest human before most of the graverobbers could react. Most of them appeared to be simple human townsfolk equipped for digging and carrying but not for a fight. More fell prey to a second grease spell from Edel, but one was made of sterner stuff: a male half-orc who engaged ZhaZha with a spiked chain. 

Edel managed to trip the leader, and Jubair, who had just crossed the wall, quickly took her out of the fight despite her use of a mirror image spell. 

Lucretia and Fatou arrived on the scene, having run here from the mausoleum. The half-dozen human gang members had started to flee by this point--those who could get out of the greased areas, at least. Lucretia climbed atop the wall and started shooting at the fleeing men. Fatou climbed over and did the same with her force darts. The luckier runners had enough distance by now to make this a bit challenging. Two successfully fled far enough into the city to be lost to sight.

Fatou and Lucretia arrive on the scene (left rear). The gang's leader is down (far right), the other half-orc is surrounded (center), and the minions are fleeing or still trapped by grease (front and left).

Jumari had trouble climbing the wall, but eventually managed to cross and help ZhaZha fight her foe. The chain-wielding half-orc held out long enough to strike Edel when he came to assist his friends, but then fell to ZhaZha's pick. The cavalier and bard started tying up the unconscious half-orcs, while the inquisitor started stabilizing the prisoners (numbering six in total). 

The party stripped the would-be graverobbers of their weapons and other gear, and tied them up the rest of them. The spellcaster bore no obvious holy symbol or spell component pouch, but did carry a small bag around her neck which contained humanoid finger bones. Between this and the contents of a few scrolls on her person, Fatou concluded she must be some kind of adept rather than a cleric or sorcerer. 

Lucretia went ahead to inform the temple guards of their encounter, while the others dragged the prisoners to the temple. (ZhaZha's camel, tethered nearby, proved invaluable for this task.) The monk was told to bring the prisoners to the infirmary, and the castellan, Kasim, would join them there.

At the infirmary, they were met by Lubna, the temple's halfling apothecary, and a lay healer. She directed them to a room apart from the more welcome patients. Kasim arrived on the scene while Lubna started tending to the captives' wounds. He asked for a report, which Edel gave with occasional supporting comments from his companions. He omitted mentioning most of the gear that the party had seized, but did produce the bag of bones as evidence. Kasim concluded that the leader must be some kind of hedge-witch involved in the death cult, which confirmed the PCs' suspicions. 

The castellan asked the party if they wished to be present when he interrogated the prisoners. Jubair asked if he was going to kill them, and Kasim replied calmly, "Not without a trial." Kasim ordered temple guards to replace their rope bindings with manacles, and Lubna healed them enough to rouse them to consciousness. With some help from Jumari's incredibly intimidating presence, the castellan extracted quite a bit of information from the gang's leader, who went by the name "Spooky." (The PCs didn't find her very scary, but her minions clearly did.) She told them that her gang stole bodies to sell to Azul, a human man in town, and she provided the location of the leather goods shop where they delivered the remains. She knew little about Azul himself, but suspects him of belonging to Asmolon's cult. She had worked with him in the hope of learning more of that god's forbidden magic. 

Spooky also revealed that Azul was only in his shop after dark, and would be expecting her gang there sometime tonight. The party decided to pay a visit to Azul's shop that very night, and wrapped up the dead halfling's body in case they needed to bluff their way in. Edel feared that the two escaped graverobbers would have alerted Azul by now, which gave their proposed raid some added urgency.

Leaving Kasim to deal with the prisoners, the party went to Azul's shop, which was a simple rectangular structure with a door at one end. It also had a side door located inside a small fenced lot that contained a wagon. There were no obvious lights or other signs of activity, so Jubair and Jumari went to the side door while the others gathered by the front door. The rogue and inquisitor thought to check the wagon, and Jumari saw marks that looked like old bloodstains. (However, at a leatherworker's shop, such traces were hardly out of place.) Both doors were locked, but Jumari could see a glimmer of light through cracks between boards. When she looked in, she could see a pair of dogs standing within. Jubair unlocked the door--and discovered that the dogs were zombies! These attacked Jumari as Jubair ran to the front door to let their friends in. 

While trying to fend off the dogs, Jumari heard spellcasting from a back room, and warned the others. Edel headed that way to deal with anyone joining the fight from that direction, and heard more spellcasting for himself (a shield spell; the unseen caster was obviously taking time to cast buff spells). The zombie dogs badly mauled Jumari, but Fatou's channeled energy revived her as the others destroyed the undead. 

Edel opened the door to the back room, and saw the caster: a scruffy-looking human in light armor, holding a dagger. The man flung open a window and jumped out, but the bard cast grease on the spot where he landed. This slowed the man down enough for the rest of the party to either rush into this room or run outside in pursuit. ZhaZha tried to attack Azul, but was unable to due to one of his protective spells [sanctuary]. The man stood up, taking a couple hits from PCs who resisted his ward. Cursing, he channeled negative energy at the party. He took a blow from ZhaZha, so attempted to cast ghoul touch on her, but the cavalier resisted. A bleeding touch from Jumari and an arrow from Lucretia dropped him. Fatou then stabilized him before he bled to death. 

While tying him up, ZhaZha and Jumari discovered that Azul's appearance was an illusion--he was actually a halfling! Searching him produced a platinum ring decorated with Javanian iconography (marking it as a wedding band), an ebony ring with one of Asmolon's titles inscribed inside the band (likely a disguised unholy symbol), some onyx gems (suitable for use in animating undead), and a few potions.

After Azul's illusion wore off a few minutes later, Jubair recognized him as Jibral, a local alchemist who operated a popular shop in a nearby neighborhood. 

(Due to time constraints, we had to do the fight's aftermath over email. The players are currently discussing what to do next with Jibral. That will determine where we pick up next session.)

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