On Friday the Thirteenth of July we resumed the campaign when the heroes listened to the pleas of Baron Gregory and agreed to travel to the temple of Cardinal Koth to see if everything was all right with the church. Those readers who are following the campaign thus far might object that we are playing too many scenarios in Act I (First Blood, Masquerade Ball, Fat Goblin, Castle Daerion, and now the Cardinal's Plight?). This is technically correct, but both the OL and the players thought we weren't ready for the Interlude, which is a huge battle. We were still feeling our way into the game with so many players and heroes stepping in and out.
Present for duty on this occasion were P1 Grisban the dancing dwarf, P6 Tomble the far-shooting gnome, and P5 Ashrian. P2 was also present but he had other duties at the gamestore and could not join us, therefore we had to do without the services of Avric. Fortunately Ashrian was learning her skills as a healer.
When the heroes arrived at the church to see Cardinal Koth, they instead found Lord Merick Farrow busy raising zombies from the hallowed dirt of the graveyard. This was hardly to be tolerated! Before the heroes managed to see him off, Merick raised three zombies who shambled into the church with murder on their minds, or whatever passes for mentation in a zombie's brain.
Inside the church the way was blocked by a shadow dragon, a fearsome creature the heroes had not battled before. Grisban promptly challenged the beast to a duel despite the pleas of his two fellow adventurers who urged him to heed the cries for help coming from Cardinal Koth. Grisban was unmoved. For the next many rounds Grisban and the dragon went at it blow by blow. Meanwhile Tomble and Ashrian slipped past the shadowy beast and rushed to save their religious leader.
At this point something very strange happened. Tomble exhibited a gnomish power never before witnessed (and never again, says the OL after carefully consulting the rulebook). Tomble momentarily disappeared from view and then reappeared inside the room where the Cardinal was being chopped to pieces by those very same zombies recently raised from the graveyard. Somehow the wily thief had bypassed the runic door! Unfortunately, once he got inside, Tomble realized he couldn't open the door to get out again. Thus he found himself making up a party of six with Cardinal Koth, three zombie minions, and one zombie master. He promptly loosed an arrow and killed a minion, reducing the guest list by one. The Cardinal cheered him on.
Meanwhile Ashrian was desperately attempting to find the key that would open the door behind which Tomble had disappeared. But she also had to remain near the healing altar to invoke divine assistance for the wounded Cardinal. Her third task was to yell at the stubborn dwarf to slay the dragon quickly and join the real battle. "Real battle!" cried Grisban. "If you think this dragon is unreal, why don't you come over here and taste his fire-breath?"
Behind the runic door the zombie master had a difficult decision. Should he rush Tomble and slay him or continue to assault the Cardinal? Tomble was obviously going to kill the zombies one by one (including the master), therefore the zombies lurched toward the solitary gnome and gnawed him to death. But now the zombies had an even worse dilemma: no sooner did they turn back to the Cardinal (who in the meantime had been healed by Ashrian at the altar), when Tomble popped up again and strung his bow, taking careful aim. In the end the zombies (who obviously don't have much brain power) shambled back and forth without killing either Tomble or the Cardinal. Eventually they were all dead and Tomble was pounding on the door, yelling for his companions to let him out.
By this time Grisban had finished the dragon, Ashrian had discovered the runic key, and the Cardinal was on his way to the exit. But who should appear, blocking the way, than Lord Merick Ferrow and more zombies! The battle was fierce but the heroes prevailed, thanks mainly to the miraculous feat of the dwarf who managed to invoke the healing altar (which vaguely resembled a birdbath) by sitting in it and pounding it angrily with his axe, thereby healing Cardinal Koth who had suffered a number of additional wounds. When Ashrian later inspected the altar, she noted that it seemed to have been smashed to pieces. Small price to pay for rescuing the Cardinal, who was so grateful to be alive that he gifted Ashrian with his most holy relic the Staff of Light.
The heroes had learned a valuable lesson, namely that some battles are fought not only for glory and gold but also for musty old relics, or more specifically for the purpose of keeping said relics out of the hands of the OL. During the Masquerade Ball (session one) the heroes had acquired a "trinket" (Fortuna's Dice = 1 reroll) that seemed so insignificant to them at the time that they gave it to Syndrael who promptly traveled to a distant land and made his fortune with it, never returning. In the hands of the OL that same trinket would have proven most valuable [card draw +]. Such are the vagaries of fate. Ashrian promised to make much better use of the Staff of Light.
At the end of this session, Grisban finally learned his Whirlwind Skill, Tomble (who did not want to be gnawed upon by zombies ever again) learned how to become Unseen, and Ashrian learned Shared Pain and Drain Spirit.
The heroes had won every encounter so far. They believed they were more than ready to take on a huge battle. But you know what they say about pride going before a fall. A really really long and awful fall.
Loser at the 'Pursuit of Happiness Contest'
I love you cliffhangers ;-)