The Pope of Corruption lies dead, his vile blasphemies finally brought to an end; the Little and the Large pause to reflect upon their achievements. The Shroud of the Raven Queen has been rescued from servants of the Twin God of Death and a terrible blow dealt to the servants of evil. Heedless of further angering the dark diety Pennyworth compounds upon the insult by wresting the black opal eye of Vecna-Nagash from the unholy idol. But though the head has been cut off the snake, and the goal of finding the first phylactery has been achieved, the city of Mausolos remains a stronghold of necrotic powers.
By disguising themselves as temple attendants, members of the party sneak away from the Unholy Shrine only to be immediately confronted by suspicious Temple Attendants. Attempts at dissimulations end poorly and a quick fight ensues. Only by rapidly dispatching the priests do the Little and the Large silence the possibility of a wider alarm being raised. Merely sneaking out the precinct will not do, and careful consideration is clearly required to turn the situation to the party’s advantage…
A stunningly audacious plan emerges. It is known that the Necrocount rules by fear and through his considerable personal power. Under him there are several other factions that chafe against their servitude: if these could be suborned or neutralised, then there is a chance that the very city might be turned against the Necrocount’s rule! The key to success would be further information and aid, but how can it be procured?
From such lore as has already been gathered the Little and the Large know that the most prominent factions number the wights of Mausolos’ catacomb undercity, respectively the three most powerful liches after the Necrocount himself – a hobgoblin from faraway lands, the savage half-orc Butan, and a reclusive elf wizardess -, the Church of Vecna-Nagash, and a council of five necromancers of some repute. Who would be their willing ally? Let the fates decide: Pennyworth casts an augury determine the most suitable outcome. The ritual offers only one solution: the hobgoblin lich. Once again glad in the rainments of the Pope’s attendants, Max sneaks out and imperiously orders the first priest she encounters to convey an urgent word of summons to the hobgoblin. The sheer ambition of the plan has steeled her temperament and she is able to return unmolested.
The wait is not long but all the more anxiety-fuelling. Finally a loud knock heralds the lich’s arrival. Upon opening the chapel doors he is greeted by the shocking sight of the dismembered remains of the pope and his attendants, arranged around the pope’s palanquin upon which Max launges. She greets the lich with a careless wave of her hand and invites him to consider the possibilities of an unexpected alliance.
If a flicker of alarm passes through the lich’s shrivelled soul, it is quickly replaced by a glimmer of understanding and ambition. With a sharp arcane gesture he immobilises the accompanying wight guards and slams the chapel doors shut. A delicate dance of negotiation, of proposal and counter-proposal, ensues. The outcome: the hobgoblin pledges his support in over-throwing the Church of Vecna-Nagash and the tyranny of the Necrocount in Mausolos, but warns that no less than two other factions must either be neutralised or befriended for the plan to have any chance of success. With the inside information that he provides the party decides on their course of action.
First, the wights of the undercity cannot be negotiated with, for their loyalty lies only with the fell powers of the damned. The entrances to their domain are few, however, and if the gate under the temple of Vecna-Nagash could be sealed then their ability to respond rapidly would be stymied. The first order of business is therefore to take care of this threat.
Once again the Little and the Large don the blood-spattered robes of the temple attendants and the guards of the Mother of Ghouls. Avoiding the attention of temple priests and following the guidance of the hobgoblin lich they make their way into the depths of the temple, finally coming upon the gate leading to the undercity. There they confront the wight guards tasked with securing the entrance. Soon the clamour of bright steel against fell iron fills the subterranean passageways. The wights are driven back, and Pennyworth expends of the final flickers of power in its fire crystal to weld shut the locks and hinges of the gate. For now, it shall remain sealed.
Upon returning to the chapel from their perilous expedition the party finds that the hobgoblin has prepared the second stage of their plan: a teleport circle that will lead them to the inner sanctum of the reclusive elven lich. Without hesitation, for sands of time are running low, the party steps through to confront their next foe.
This is will not be a contest of arms or arcane arts, however, but rather one of oratory and persuasion. The elven lich, though suspicious of the intrusion, consents to grant an audience. By cleverly working on her fears of the unpredictability of upheaval and change, and the possibility of final death these bring, the party seeks to convince the lich that her most secure course of action is to adopt a posture of neutrality in the upcoming coup. Still she hesitates; until Max eloquently compares her to a great stone in the river of time, past which all events flow like turbulent water yet which remains unaffected by the surrounding turmoil. The languor of ages overcomes her: she will remain aloof. A second faction is thereby neutralised.
As the party returns through the portal the hobgoblin lich informs them that the time for machinations has run out. The Pope of Corruption is now expected to make a public address to the city from the grand balcony of his temple. The hobgoblin will make himself scarce and wait for the outcome; the die has been cast and it is now up to the Little and the Large to deliver. Steeling themselves to upcoming test the party dons their disguises for the final time and make their way to the balcony.
Below lies the temple square, and on it the teeming populace of Mausolos. The hierarchy of the church walks among the masses, exhorting them to the praise Vecna-Nagash and expectantly glancing up to the balcony. Immense is their shock as the party throws away their disguises and brandishes the severed head of the Pope of Corruption!
The moment is seized and there can be no hesitation. Declaring the former pope unworthy and cast down, Max calls all to acknowledge her the new pontiff by the rights of arms. Moreover, the phylactery of the Necrocount has been seized and – Theorn rips it in half with savage glee – destroyed. All must now submit, or face their doom! The magnitude of these events temporarily silences the chants of the priests; but not the ire of Butan, the half-orc lich. Stepping forward with his retinue he demands immediate redress for the insult of not having been consulted on such schemes. Is he to be taken for a pawn, expected to fall in line along with the mortal peons? Never!
The Little and the Large are taken back by the ferocity of the retort but their response is not long in coming. Of course the great Butan could never be taken for a pawn. Indeed, if he was not consulted it was only out of respect for his martial temperament – for surely he would better respect the results of a demonstrated feat of arms rather than to lower himself to participate in dastardly back-room schemes. Moreover, the Little and the Large would be honoured to have him accept the title of the Grand Marshal of Necrosha’s armies, a honour that was vilely denied of him by the false Necrocount and his cowardly lackeys at the Church of Vecna-Nagash. His honour and martial vigour satisfied, Butan assents not to stand on the party’s way. But they must still demonstrate their ability by convincing the populace of the city…
Indeed, the evil priests are already moving among the masses, exhorting the people to slay the heretics. The bishops of Vecna-Nagash waste no time in crying out for the blood of those of who have so grievously offended the sanctity of their god’s temple! For a moment, the Little and the Large totter at the precipice of total disaster. In the end, they are only four mortals on a balcony, attempting to overturn the rule of an entire city with little more than words. Has their ambition led them to a terrible doom?
But as the clamour from the plaza below reaches new heights Max fearlessly steps forward. Though small in stature, somehow her presence fills the entire square and commands immediate attention. With a raised hand she silences the crowds and gathers all eyes to her. The speech that follows will be engraved upon stone monuments that circle the plaza, for such is its force that the destiny of a nation was changed in a single instant.
Addressing directly the populace of Mausolos she speaks of the depraved oppression of the Necrocount and the false promise of the Church of Vecna-Nagash. Now the people of Necrosha stand at the crossroads of destiny. With her, and only her, lies the promise of a better future where the living will not be mere playthings to the undead, but proud citizens of the land. The Necrocount can only offer tyranny backed by force… but look, even these promises are proven empty! For does his sanctum not lie violated, his phylactery destroyed? Terminal weakness nests in the foundations of the Necrocount’s edifice of power and now it is exposed! And what of the Church of Vecna-Nagash? They claim the favour of their god, but in truth they are as forsaken as the Necrocount. Their pope lies dead, the favour the dark deity withdrawn from him! The eye of Vecna has turned away from Mausolos! Corrupted and bloated has his church grown and now it is time to purge it entirely!
As Max speaks the populace listens first with stunned attention, but soon with increased fervour. Horrified, the priests of Vecna-Nagash witness their parishioners turn against them with words and declamations, then with opprobrium and violence. As Max’s speech reaches its roaring crescendo the seething on the plaza turns into a riot: the priesthood is indeed purged, with only those few who recant and denounce their god spared the executioner’s sword so expertly wielded by Theorn.
[Never was a critical 20 on a skill check more welcome!]
Mausolos is secured, and even the Little and the Large find themselves stunned by the totality of their success. But there is no time to rest on the laurels: the Necrocount still roams free, and his vengeance will surely be terrible. Leaving the city in the hands of their new-found allies, and tasking Butan with collecting an army to lead against the Necrocount’s base at Wiedersburg, the Little and the Large hurry on hippogriff towards that town to join the siege. It is then, upon leaving Mausolos, that they discovered they had not emerged from their great exploit entirely unscathed… for the wrath of Vecna-Nagash is upon them, and his curse chills their souls. Slowly, it will swap away their strength unless a remedy can be found.
Upon arriving at Wiedersburg the party finds the Necrocount secure in the castle and the armies of their allies from Wissen approaching from the west. Moreover, the skeletal form of a gigantic dragolich casts its shadow over the castle. This is one of the Necrocount’s captains, and his protection against aerial assault. The party swoops in for a palaver with the commanders of their allied army: the haughty Ambroce von Strauben and the sinister Viscount von Braun, who has inherited his father’s title upon the latter’s sudden and unexpected demise. The brutish form of Sir Hellstrom hover’s protectively over his new patron.
It is quickly concluded that the Necrocount’s position is difficult to assault. But if the allied forces are not to loose their initiative then action must be taken quickly. A plot is hatched. Next night the allied army will set up cooking fires and tents some distance away from the castle, but retreat in two groups and under the cover the darkness into concealed positions. If the Necrocount can be lured into sending his forces into a rash night-time attack, then all is set up for an effective ambush. Meanwhile, the Little and the Large will enter the emptied castle by hippogriff and attempt to gain access to the sanctum of the Necrocount. Perhaps the threat can be brought down with a single decapitation strike.
The dragolich presents problem, however, for it will be able to forestall any air-born attempt at the castle. Sabina, also present and eager to show her valour, offers her services. She will immediately lead a small expedition of knights to within sight of the castle and dare the dragolich to come to face her. Should it give into its draconic pride and be lured away from its post the Little and the Large will fall upon it. The plan, though hazardous, is approved and carried out. A fierce aerial fight above the blasted heath by Wiedersburg brings down the undead abomination. Brandishing its severed skull in one hand and its rotten heart in the other Theorn faces the walls of the castle and in full view of the Necrocount’s forces dares him to come and face them in battle. In a gesture of final contempt he then consumes the dragolich’s heart. Can the Necrocount fail to respond to such provocation? The lure is now set and it remains to be seen if it is taken…
Character status at end of session:
|Character||Hit Points||Healing Surges||Daily Powers used||Experience Points|
|Hollan||?||? remaining||?||99,000 (17)|
|Max||?||? remaining||?||105,144 (18)|
|Pennyworth||?||? remaining||?||99,150 (18)|
|Pieter||?||? remaining||?||102,799 (18)|
|Théorn||?||? remaining||?||104,466 (18)|