Assault on the Sun Spire
After rescuing the Starwhale and learning more about how she got here (and that Torkas had been captured by the Vorandans), our heroes turned their attention to the great palace/cathedral of Voranda Prime – the Sun Spire.
This was the place where the ritual sacrifice of Prince G’Vrain took place and was the centre of the power of Arch Priest Bu’Tross. The Sun Spire itself was an open-topped tower and a vast straight staircase lined with statues, led up to the top.
It was pretty much guaranteed to be protected against teleportations, so to get to it, they would have to get through the city of 5,000 Vampire Spawn!
Using the Rod of Security, Mulan shifted the others into the rod and sneaked through the city [GM: not even bothering to use Invisibility spells!]. There was a 500 yard circle around the palace – a line of charred earth, passing through some newly-destroyed houses. None of the citizens was crossing the line (although people were wandering the streets on both side).
When Mulan sneaked across the line, there was an explosion of fire and the Vampire spawn converged on the spot, hunting for her. She survived the blast and crept on.
The great staircase was almost empty – just one Vorandan general trudging up there. Mulan sneaked after him and saw him show his tattoos to another glyph. She used an illusion of the tattoos to get through and arrived at the top at Noon (under the blood-red sun) – while a ritual was taking place.
The General waited patiently while Bu’Tross and some of his Vampire Priestesses performed their ritual – honouring the Red Sun. Mulan sneaked past and saw that Prince G’Vrain was there too, in heavy armour and apparently stitched together as some sort of zombie/flesh golem.
She pulled the others out of the Rod of Security and battle commenced.
Bu’Tross called down a dozen Vorandan Warshps, three were openly patrolling the city skies, others were concealed in a magical cloud. They floated above the spire, ready to open fire.
Abraham encased one of the Priestesses in a globe of Force and then summoned the fleet of Starwhales. The Star Whale paladin burst from a Gate above the palace and then smashed through the 500-yard sphere of Fire Glyph to join the battle in the spire. The rest of the whales emerged from the gate and destroyed the warships.
The Prince seemed to be obsessed with Mulan (blaming her for his torture and death!) and chased her around. Eventually he and all the vampires were taken down. The Vampires turned to mist and fled down into the palace. Abraham raised the Prince from the dead and the sun turned back from Red to yellow. Across the city many Vampires were caught in the open and perished. In the weeks that followed the majority of the populace reverted back from being vampire spawn with dim memories of the last 18 months.
Our heroes assisted the Prince in taking back control and eradicating the vampires nesting below the Palace (including Bu’Tross).
God of Storms…
They were offered rewards by the grateful Vorandans…
Deckard became Lord of Ember (a city of Dwarves). His adventuring days are over.
Rurick accepted lands and a title, becoming Lord Rurick of the Shard (a huge Earth Mote – a floating island – housing various Temples and a small city). He promised to return and retire to Voranda after finishing his Quest to locate his God.
Abraham accepted a gift of a suit of +1 Plate Mail imbued with Fire Shield spell (once per day) and granting Fire Resistance.
They brought the Hammership to Voranda and it was fully repaired and 18 Vorandans joined the crew.
G’Vrain will re-open the borders of Voranda and resume trade negotiations / reparations with he Rock of Braal, but the war with the Scro will continue to bubble on for years.
- * * * * *
They found out from survivors of the warships that captured Torkas 7 years ago…
Bu’Tross had been hunting Starwhals for many years and had developed the Ship-Cloaking spell (it needs human sacrifice!) but still not been able to catch one. He received a prophetic vision and led three of his best ships to a nebula in the Sea of Chaos.
They were cloaked and witnessed the end of the hunt – an archaic hammership being dragged about by a Starwhal.
They de-cloaked just as the giant viking captain of the hammership (a heavily-muscled man about 8 feet tall) floated across to the exhausted beast with a spear and then turned away from the kill.
With surprise they blasted the hammership with cannon fire, but even so the Viking and his Valkyrie crew – winged warrior women with lightning blasts and spears, managed to destroy one of the three warships before they were overwhelmed. The Valkyries fought to the death but despite his skill and strength, they managed to beat him into unconsciousness and captured the captain alive.
Bu’Tross had plans to tattoo him and make him a servant of the Red Sun, but found that he could not be charmed/dominated. They began to tow the Starwhal back to Voranda but she resisted and Bu’tross ordered her killed (he would ressurrect her when they got her to the Docks)
It took them a month to get out of Chaos and 8 weeks back to Voranda. About 3 weeks from the Vorandan Sphere, a small metal sphere flew onto their ship, un-winding spindly metal spider-like arms. Before they could do anything other than call Bu’Tross onto the deck, it seemed to sweep the ship with a scanning beam, bleeped a few times and they were suddenly boarded by dozens of mechanical creatures who shimmered into existence (plane-shift?) – mostly the same small spheres of iron and copper, but a few larger creatures – all weird geometrical shapes with arms and eye-stalks. Some of the larger ones appeared to have cannons or ballista built into them. Their leader was some kind of Iron Golem with three arms, three legs and three living faces.
All the creatures bore engravings of interlocking cogs.
The leader introduced himself (in Tongues) as “Thaldross the Tertiary” and demanded their prisoner, “Captain Tor Kasse” be handed over to them. They brandished an ancient, rusted iron plaque with strange runes and more cogs on it, claiming it was a warrant for his arrest dating back almost 7,000 years.
When a few of the crew attacked, Thaldross cast a blade barrier, a fireball and a stinking cloud (at the same time!), killing or incapacitating most of the crew in mere moments! Even the mighty Bu’Tross had to admit they were out-classed and reluctantly surrendered the captive.
As they left, a pile of gold and platinum bars shimmered into existence on the deck behind them – approx. 100,000 gp value – all stamped with the cogs symbol.
They also accepted a cargo of Vorandan Wine and took it to the Rock of Braal. They sold the cargo for a massive price (as the Vorandan Borders were closed and the wine was incredibly rare). Immediately after the sale, they delivered the message that the Vorandan Borders were re-opened and that Voranda would pay reparations for the attacks on the Rock of Braal and other systems. The Scro systems continue to make war, but the others accept the reparations.
Months of star travel, following the compass, eventually leads them to empty space, far from the Flows and floating in open space is some kind of triangular (pyramid?), rotating crystal 1,000ft per side. It is mostly transparent, just faintly visible as a ripple, but one side shows a scene of interlocking cogs and machinery – some kind of large floating city of glittering spires and cogs with many twinkling lights flickering about (probably flying creatures similar to those described by the Vorandans).
The compass points to a huge flat, slowly rotating cog with a Pyramid at the centre. There are two squid-ships parked on spokes of the cog outside a central triangular door 30ft high and 20ft wide at the base. There are Neogi crawling around the two ships with many Umberhulk guards. Small metal creatures are clambering about the ship – apparently cleaning, polishing, fixing things.
There is plenty of room on adjoining spokes to park the Hammership.
Clayton has learned something about these creatures and knows they are Modrons, servants of the God Mecchanus, dedicated entirely to LAW. They politely ask a flying sphere where they can park and pay a berthing fee.
The Neogi are apparently here to negotiate a peace treaty between two hostile clans of Neogi.
They ask for an audience with Thaldross the Tertiary and are granted one.
They decide not to try and sneak into the Pyramid through various steam vents.
When the audience time arrives, they are led into the Pyramid by a pair of Iron Golems and brought to a large office to meet the being called Thaldross. He has the body of an Iron Golem, but with three legs, three arms and three living “human” faces. He appears to be three separate personalities in one body.
Clayton is the spokesman and explains they want to visit the prisoner Torkas. It seems they can only visit him if they are either “Next-of-kin” or “His Defence” (possibly meaning his lawyer or acting as his Champions in trial by combat!”.
Clayton claims to be Next of Kin and Thaldross agrees to let them speak with the prisoner.
It seems Thaldross is undecided what to do with Torkas. Captain Tor Kass is sentenced to death for his crimes. 7,000 years ago, he helped four evil gods escape from the wrath of their pantheons. They had done something so wicked that they were sentenced to destruction. Kass had the fastest ship in the galaxy and also had the ability to navigate the Sea of Chaos. He took them into hiding.
Thaldross the Tertiary is only authorised to pass judgement on Mortals and Kass claims to be a God. However, he does not display the powers of a God, but on the other hand, he is telling the truth (so he believes he is a God). The three personalities are divided. One believes Torkas to be a god, one does not and the third is undecided.
The best way out of this quandry would be for them to fight “unbeatable” odds and if Torkas is truly a God, they will win.
They go to discuss this with Torkas himself – held in a mechanical prison, engulfed in an anti-magic field.
The “god” is an eight-foot tall viking, heavily-muscled, apparently aged about 50. He seems confused, with partial memories of his time as a “god”. It seems that while you are a god, you don’t experience the boring parts of life, just existing in the significant moments (like being a player of Skyrim?).
The rest of the time is spent dreaming.
He had always yearned to return to the freedom of the space lanes, leaving his divine nature behind. However, as his powers faded he realises that real life is not so great – the Star Whales he longed to hunt again, turn out to be sentient so he feels guilty. He now wants to return to Jade and take up the mantle of the God of Storms again.
Clayton and Rurick give him a very stirring and inspirational speech to try and kick-start the return of his powers. It doesn’t quite work, but he seems keen to face whatever challenge Thaldross wants them to fight.
Clayton and Rurick are fully-committed to join him in the combat. Mulan and Abraham agree to help their friends.
They are led into a huge natural amphitheatre to face the “unbeatable” foe – a TARRASQUE!
[GM: the Tarrasque is one of the toughest monsters in D&D. I had modified this one slightly, reducing its hitpoints a bit, but had given it some extra abilities to make it even tougher – The Stats are listed in a subsequent post. It should have been a blood-bath for the characters, but Torkas was fighting with them and the two worshippers – Clayton and Rurick – were able to grant him spell-like abilities by sacrificing their own life-force. I had determined that a number of such sacrifices (or a sacrifice that caused the person to actually die!) would trigger his transformation to gain more god-like powers, making it a fairer fight. I didn’t explain this to the players in advance.]
The Tarrasque is a giant lizard (often depicted as a sort of dinosaur). In this version, it looked more like a gian chameleon, with glittering mirrored scales, reflecting the environment, so mostly green. It stood about 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide, towering over the heroes. Its movements were fast slashing the air around it with sharp, spiky scales.
Rurick charged at the monster! Fearless.
Torkas, gritting his teeth and muttering “A fair challenge! What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger!!” And hurled his heavy spear. It struck and drew blood, exploding with lightning as it hit.
Immediately Clayton decided to sacrifice himself completely, agreeing to take 24D8 damage (each sacrifice was 4D8 off the giver’s max hp – he had 112 hp and took 114 damage, killing him). This sacrifice caused Torkas to grow to about 12 feet tall and crackle with lightning sparks. The “demi-god” also gained the use of Legendary Actions, one of which was the ability to raise his slain allies as Valkyrie. Clayton (the player character) was now finished, but his spirit rose as a male Valkyrie (with all Clayton’s abilities and personality, plus Wings, plus lightning resistance, plus all his weapon attacks count as magical).
Mulan hid behind some bushes and then shot with her flintlock pistols. These should have done big damage, but merely bounced off the creatures scales. It cannot be harmed by non-magical damage.
Abraham cast Bless, granting all combat and save bonuses.
Then the creature charged into the space occupied by Torkas and Rurick, they were both damaged and had to struggle to keep their feet [GM: this may have been the critical moment of the fight – both saved STR DC20, and so weren’t prone and grappled/restrained. The monster also bit at Torkas, but rolled a “2” and missed]
Rurick then struck at it again and again [using all his Martial Superiority dice for extra damage, all three attacks and then using his Action Surge to hit another three times – his first attack tripped the monster so all subsequent attacks were at advantage and every attack hit]. He took some damage just from being in the creature’s aura, but only 28hp.
Then Torkas used another spell-like ability, to Haste all his allies, so they get an extra attack, then he struck it three times [GM:actually doing slightly less damage than Rurick’s 6 attacks!].
Mulan tired shooting again, and as a Legendary Action, Torkas granted her missile attacks the “Lightning” property, so this time she did damage.
Abraham then bravely ran in and touched the monster, using the Contagion spell. [GM:this was a brilliant tactical decision! The Tarrasque has lots of immunities and has Legendary Resistance (so can automatically make certain saving throws) but Contagion takes effect without a saving throw and causes the creature to become stunned if it takes any damage.] With his extra action from Haste, Abraham hit it with his magical quarterstaff doing just 2 damage, but enough to trigger the Stunned condition!.
It lay there helpless while our heroes pummelled it again. [GM: it does get to make saving throws to shrug off the effect, but needs three of them, so even though it auto saves, it is helpless for three rounds].
Everybody struck again but it was Abraham who finished it off, burning all 19 charges of his Staff of Power to do 20d6 damage in one hit.
The Tarrasque was dead, proof in the eyes of the Law, that Torkas is indeed a God. Thaldross had to let them go.
They flew back to Jade, with Torkas (faded back to mortality again until they reached the Portal to Jade).
Clayton was now his number one servant and as they passed into Jade, the god and the valkyrie faded from view as the storm clouds gathered overhead.
In accordance with Clayton’s wishes, they delivered Cannons and Gunpowder to Eastport along with the secrets of their manufacture – tipping the balance of power in the war with the Orcs. The remaining red-orc crewmen, led by Magnus Hammerhand and crewman Staines, returned to the Citadel of Shar Gazoth to rally the Red Orcs and throw off the oppressive rule of Lillith’s White Orcs.
Abraham was Excommunicated for his dealings with Dark Gods and Heretics, and forced to flee from Jade, accompanying Lord Rurick of the Shard on the Hammership, back to “retirement” on Voranda Prime where the Hammer of Torkas will join the on-going war against the Scro Empire. The ex-Inquisitor will become a leading diplomat in the service of Voranda, using his mindspeaker abilities to make treaties with the Star Whales.
Back in Jade, Mulan joined the King of the Gnomes in Tangleheart Forest. On their wedding night, they danced all the way from the Forest to the Mountain with flowers growing in their footsteps, re-uniting the Dryads and other female fae with the male fae. The forest quickly spreads to the foothills again and an army of enchanted trees, led by Mulan on her blue dragon steed, drive the white orcs out of the area.