Adventure 6 – The Lich King’s Vault
This is the haunting conclusion of the Crown of the Lich King adventure.
The air in the storage room was thick and rank with the smell of decomposing mushrooms. Crates upon crates of them lined the chamber walls. It was not the most aromatic hiding spot, but it gave the party shelter long enough to patch their wounds and ready themselves. After the near fatal beat down from the Tomb Guards patrolling the halls none of them were eager to be discovered again. When they had collected themselves Ark-Kelli peeked through the doorway – The coast was clear. Silently as he could, he crept out into the hallway, gesturing to his companions to follow.
The band of adventurers had elected to have Xylia and Ark take point. The rogue was effective at sneaking ahead a bit and Xylia’s sharp senses helped alert them to danger. More than once, the duo’s quick thinking saved the party from another patrol or trap. In a large hallway where they would be flanked by two oncoming patrols, they silently ducked into a side room to wait it out. Inside, they were shocked to find a modest sized treasury filled with coin, artifacts, chests, and dark suits of armor. Augustine could tell instantly that the suits of armor belonged to fallen paladins. The Lich King took a certain pleasure in breaking champions of light and enslaving them to his will. Augustine picked up one of their shields emblazoned with the symbol of the Great Gold Wyrm and was relieved to see that no corruption had touched the metal.
While the party stood around admiring the paladin’s new shield, Ark’s eyes glistened greedily at all the treasure that surrounded him. He noticed one of the open treasure chests overflowing with gold pieces. The object that caught his eye however was a large brooch consisting of three intertwined claws. One red, one blue, and one black. As he reached his hand forward to pick up the brooch, he was alarmed when the treasure chest suddenly clamped down around his arm, unseen teeth digging in to his skin. In his greed he never noticed it was a Mimic! Ark’s scream triggered another trap and the suits of armor around the room suddenly sprang to life, drawing swords and advancing on the intruders. The air around them hissed and an eerie voice spoke out, “You have touched the forbidden treasure! Now you will never again see the light of day!” Xylia and Deneveve were able to pry Ark’s arm out of the mimic’s mouth and quickly dispatch it. Augustine, aided by Alleric and Xin-Shan smashed the armor to pieces, hoping that it may give its wearers some measure of peace.
The quick skirmish in the treasury was a sharp reminder of the incredible danger they were in. “We should be more careful. There are far worst dangers in here than snapping treasure chests. Let’s move.” Xin-Shan cracked her knuckles and moved back out into the hall, “Ark, take point again. Let us know what’s ahead. Don’t. Touch. Anything.” Cautiously, the adventurers moved throughout the halls, avoiding any dangers they could come across.
They reached a section of the palace that opened up into a courtyard. Ark carefully peaked around the corner into the open space. The party saw Ark turn back to them, his face paling as the blood drained from it. “Back up! It’s huge! We can’t defeat-“ Any other warning he might have given them was choked out as a chain wrapped around him and yanked him around the corner into the courtyard. Terrified but determined to try and aid their companion, all of the remaining party members charged around the corner to face whatever had grabbed Ark. A hulking monstrosity stitched together from various bits and pieces of animal and humanoid alike stood across the courtyard from them, guarding a door behind him. In one giant meaty fist, the undead abomination held the chain that had tore through Ark. Their rogue companion was hung dangling from the other side of the chain, his lifeless body contorted in odd angles. The creature roughly peeled the halfling’s body off the chain and threw him to the ground, then started winding up the chain again to catch his next victim.
Alleric was quick to react, running forward and ducking behind one of the large tombstones dotting the courtyard before he began gathering power. He had just ducked behind the stone when he was showered with dust from the chain ricocheting off the front of the tombstone. As the creature reeled his chain back in, the rest of the party charged in. Deneveve, Xylia, and Xin-Shan ducked behind the cover of tombstones or pillars. Augustine however, trusting in the protection of the Great Gold Wyrm, charged straight to the undead abomination. The creature saw a tempting target in front of him and slammed his overly large fists down upon Augustine, laughing with satisfaction as the Paladin’s legs buckled under the force.
His arcane energies gathered and seeing the paladin in trouble, Alleric stood up from his covered and sent a charged lightning attack towards the abomination. Something in his magical incantation went awry though which caused the lightning bolt to zig zag through the air before coming straight back at the sorcerer, knocking him prone (critical fail). The hunter’s white tiger Tig roared and leaped into the fray, tearing at the abomination’s skin. As the tiger pulled some of the stitching loose a piece of flesh fell away and several large beetles spilled out onto the floor. The beetles quickly swarmed around Xylia. Disgusted but determined, Deneveve and Xin-Shan flanked the Abomination and pummeled it with mace and fist. Deneveve’s prayers of healing filled Augustine’s ears as he felt his strength restored. Angered that these pests would not simply be stomped under his feet the undead abomination went into a frenzy. As he repeatedly hammered into Augustine and Tig, the abomination’s wounds started to stich themselves back together. His frenzy was healing him, driving him to fight on. The last blow to Tig crushed the tiger into the floor. With a whimpering yelp, the white tiger fell over dead.
Knowing that the tiger was the hunter’s beloved trapped in an animal body, Alleric turned towards Xylia expecting to see the hunter grieving. Instead he was horrified to see the ranger dead on the floor, barely visible under a swarm of beetles. Enraged, Alleric launched several chaos bolts at the beetles, destroying them. Despite the creature’s healing and heavy handed blows, the remaining adventurers pushed on. With a desperate plea to the Great Gold Wyrm, Augustine plunged his sword into the creatures gut, watching as it collapsed on to the floor, separating into its many respective pieces.
Somberly, Deneve gathered Ark and Xylia’s bodies together, side by side, with Tig’s body resting on Xylia’s. The remaining party members had not known them long, but they had come to respect them as companions. Saying the rites of passing, she gently closed their eyes before asking Alleric to burn their bodies. They did not have the time to bury their companions and bodies did not say dead for long in Necropolis. It would be heartbreaking to see their companions come back as the Lich King’s thralls – Burning was the only way she knew how to prevent this. All four of them watched as the bodies burnt away. Xin-Shan quietly said, “The crown had better be worth this. They were good people. Their deaths will be avenged.”
When their dead had been put to rest Alleric moved over to the remains of the abomination. It was clear that the creature had been held together by dark necrotic magic and he was curious if he could learn anything from it. His studies with magic led him to discern that if the creator of the abomination was nearby it would have been much stronger, much more magically imbued. “It appears this creature was weakened. I do not believe the Lich King is here. If he was this creature would have destroyed the lot of us. Small blessing – He must be somewhere other than Necropolis.”
“Then we need to hurry up before he returns,” Augustine confidently strode past the creature’s corpse into the halls of the vault beyond. “Let us not tarry any longer. The crown awaits.”
The Lich King probably never expected for anyone to get beyond the creature. Beyond the courtyard door they discovered a collection of vacant but recently used guest rooms without any guards in sight. In one wardrobe, Xin-Shan was able to find a pair of gloves equipped with long retractable blades. She slipped them on and knew they would come in handy. Deneveve was able to locate a long lest treasure of the Elf Queen’s – A simple circlet of twigs ensconced with several gems representing elvenkind. Humbly, she placed the diadem on her head. Augustine found another set of armor, this one a deep black like the abyss itself. He immediately recognized the symbol as being of house Voth. “He’s here. The Baron is here. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity; we need to recover his phylactery immediately.” Deneveve pocketed a piece of the armor, thinking it may be handy later.
With a renewed sense of urgency, the party was able to navigate their way through the palace before finding themselves on the second floor of a great hall, overlooking a large banquet of sorts below them. Two long tables traveled up the hall with another near the far end of the room. The tables were covered with various samples of decaying food and wine glasses filled with red liquid. Numerous liches, vampires, and other undead horrors stood mingling around the room. This must be the party that Adros, the bartender in the undead tavern, had told them about. The second level that the adventurers were on was a balcony that wrapped around the hall and at the other side was another door. They knew they had to get across without being seen. Discreetly, Alleric waited for a lull in the festivities then launched a chaos bolt at the leg of one of the tables. Food and drink spilled over the floor. The party seized the opportunity and quickly bolted across the upper floor to the door beyond. Xin-Shan noticed that the head table of 5 figures, led by a robed figure wearing dark black armor stood up and exited the door below the one they were entering.
The hallway before them was blank with no traps. Deneveve felt a chill pass through her and she quickly reached out her divine senses. She felt a profound unholy enchantment around her. She paused to consult with Alleric. The sorcerer and the cleric discerned that the vault they were about to enter was warded with magic. It was constructed to keep the undead out. At first this seemed an oddity, but then they realized that it meant only the Lich King and his inner circle could enter here. Putting all the information they had together, Xin-Shan slowly said, “The Lich King doesn’t trust his own subjects. And those that I saw leave the table earlier must be part of his inner circle.”
Carefully, they moved into the vault’s lobby. The adventurers stood at the top of two curved stairways wrapping around a circular marble room. On the floor below them, a barred door blocked a large room glittering with golden treasures. Augustine hushed his companion as he heard footsteps below. They just barely had time to duck back behind cover before seeing five figures moving in to the room below. The robed figure in dark armor was flanked by the two liches and vampires on each side.
“Baron, I must object. The Lich King will flay our hides for this.” A vampire glanced nervously around the room; passing over the adventurer’s hiding places.
The robed figure waived his hand at the vampire. “Silence. I do not trust the King to hold my phylactery any longer. It is mine after all.” His voice was like chains being dragged over a grate. Effortlessly, the Baron walked directly through the bars in front of him, disappearing into the vaults beyond. The two liches and vampires stayed behind. Deneve leaned in to Augustine, and requested that she could get the Cathedral’s stone again. She had an idea, but she would need a distraction and quick. Seizing their chance, Xin-Shan leapt over the banister and barreled down on one of the liches below.
There was no longer any point in hiding so Alleric stood up and gathered whatever arcane energies into himself as he could. Running down the stairs, Augustine swung wide against one of the vampires. The vampire skipped to the side, leaped over the railing and charged toward the Dark Elf Sorcerer. The Liches below flung necrotic bolts at Xin-Shan, shrieking at her the entire time. When she struck the nearest one, the lich baroness erupted, hundreds of souls streaming out and wrapping around her. They raked against Xin-Shan’s skin before she quickly backed away. She would need another target.
Taking her chance, Deneveve ran down the other side of the stairs toward the barred door. Clutching the armor of the Baron she found before and the stone Augustine had lent her, she opened herself to the will of the gods. She prayed for protection and was grateful to see a shimmering gold-white barrier stream out from her hands to encase the doorway. With a little bit of help from the gods, she hoped that the Baron wouldn’t be getting through until they were good and ready for him. The Baron could walk through physical barriers, but a holy one would be another matter.
The vampire above was still after the Dark Elf, and finally struck home. Batting the sorcerer’s staff aside, he sank his teeth into his neck, draining Alleric of his very life. Horrified and furious, Augustine ran back up the stairs and brought his blade down into the Vampire’s back. The creature spun shrieking but was quickly burned away by a bolt from Alleric. Augustine helped his ally up from the floor then turned to see the battle before them. Xin-Shan was sparring with a lich and vampire, nimbly evading their strikes and returning her own. The second lich was pelting Deneve with dark magics, cackling as she did so.
Xin-Shan landed a well-placed strike to the lich she was engaged with, watching with satisfaction as her skin melted away and her bones turned to dust. A small ugly spark of a soul hovered where the lich was for a second then sped off through the walls toward its phylactery. Unleashing a powerful torrent of acid, Alleric used his green dragon’s breath on the remaining lich and vampire. Slowly, they burned away, finally collapsing to the floor or melting away.
They barely had a moment to catch their breath before a blade pierced Deneve’s barrier, slowly pushing through. A voice echoed into Deneve’s mind, one she immediately recognized as the graceful melody of the Elf Queen, “Be strong young one, my power is yours.” Deneveve felt a sudden surge of energy course through her and into the barrier. The sword continued to push through the barrier, followed by the baron’s naked decaying hand, then his torso, then the entire baron stepped through. The barrier had stripped the Baron of his armor save the elaborate garments he wore beneath, but his wrath remained.
Augustine charged forward and with a determined swing he smote the Baron. Xin-Shan sprung forward, pummeling against the Baron’s form in a flurry of blows. A crackle of energy signified Alleric was pulling together his remaining reserves of power for another hard strike. The Baron ignored all of this and turned toward the cleric who dared to lock him in the vaults. How dare she, a simple elf! He war Baron Voth! He sunk his black blade into the cleric’s side and smiled as darkness seeped into her body. The baron whispered a dark incantation and a purple beam linked his soul to hers. All at once, Deneveve experienced a flurry of memories-
A young man thirsting for power. Opening the tome of power before him. The joy of his first kill. Leading armies into combat within the wild wood. Kneeling before the Lich King.
Gasping, Deneveve came back to reality and felt a dark presence stirring in her soul draining her of her life force. With her soul linked to the Baron her healing powers would surely heal him too if she tried healing the gaping hole in her side. She only hoped Augustine would have bastion ready if another attack came her way.
The Baron continued to fight on, bolstered by the healing he siphoned off from the cleric. After parrying a blow from Augustine, he mercilessly attacked Xin-Shan. Another dark incantation and he ensnared Xin-Shan’s soul to his. In a flash, the monk witnessed a torrent of his memories.
The baron retreating his forces from an ancient temple defended by tenacious druids and rangers. Kneeling in shame in front of the Lich King.
A shower of sparks as Alleric’s spell blasted the Baron brought Xin-Shan back to her senses. Deneve brought her mace down on the Baron’s skull, causing him to turn around and scream in the elf cleric’s face. Gracefully, Deneve whipped her mace around and under the Baron’s guard, shattering his rib cage. With an unearthly howl, the Baron’s body was consumed in a blue flame before disintegrating to dust and falling to the floor. The wretched spark of a soul flew back into the treasury toward the Crown, his soul’s phylactery.
One last memory echoed in Xin-Shan and Deneve’s head, just a sound of the voice of the Lich King “You have failed me Voth, and for that you will be punished.”
Bloodied and bruised, the adventurers silently acknowledged their victory. After a quick recovery the adventurers entered into the treasury and found the crown amongst the myriad of priceless treasures. Sitting on a pedestal, its ring of simple dark metal writhed as the Baron’s soul fought to break free of it. “It will take a long while for the Baron to gain his body back. We need to take this to Santa Cora immediately.” Augustine handed the crown to Deneve who placed it in a simple pouch around her waist. Alleric reasoned that stealing the crown and purifying it of its power was a good enough lesson for the Lich King to learn from the Orc Lord. Xin-Shan was satisfied that the terror the Lich King released in the High Druid’s domain was defeated for good. Neither of them made a move to take the Crown from the paladin and cleric. A long adventure had drawn them closer together. Yet it was not over yet.
The journey home was blissfully uneventful. The party navigated out of the palace the same way they had entered, Those undead they did find quickly yielded when they displayed they had retrieved the Lich King’s crown. The ever trusting paladin Augustine managed to strike some deals with the bartender at the Bloody Hart tavern to smuggle them off the island. Granted they delivered a shipment to Santa Cora for him, of course. A few days later the party found themselves at the steps of the magnificent Cathedral in Santa Cora. It had been a long time since Augustine stood at these steps after being exiled for traveling with the Crusader. Received quietly as heroes in the Cathedral, the Priestess herself welcomed the heroes to the inner sanctum. She thanked them for their courageous work, commending them for the bravery they exhibited. Their deeds would forever be remembered, and their names recorded in the Cathedral’s hall of heroes. Augustine’s exile was dropped and the Priestess welcomed her son home.
“A most excellent and satisfying ending to a neat campaign (or at least the first installment of one), including the near death of PCs and some truly daunting baddies.” – Player 4, Xin-Shan
“Agreed. Even included an epic “final battle” scene where I thought we were all going to die. And we nearly all did. :-)” – Player 1, Alleric
Over the course of these six adventures I was delighted to see an engaging an epic tale unfold that embraced the players character. The adventure packet was created to be flexible to player’s whims and GM’s tweaking which I was thoroughly appreciative of. The adventure also offered plenty of entrance and exit opportunities for migrating players (Xylia and Ark couldn’t make it to the last session, hence death). I’m very grateful to the team at Pelgrane Press for assembling a wonderfully exciting story and adventure. I’d also like to thank the amazing players whom I was lucky enough to have at my table. While I won’t be running the next adventure (Sarah’s running the next one), I look forward to GM’ing more Tales of 13th Age in the future.