Session 1 of the Crown of the Lich King
El Jefe's Company of Badgers set off with a few horses and a brass cart pulled by four stout Nomad dragan horses driven by Popo.
The first two days of the four day journey were uneventful with light traffic along the Pilgrim road. While the team passed several grim faced and nervous travelers heading passed them, they chose not to inquire about news from Roachdale.
Midway through the third day dark clouds began to dominate the skies and Popo urged his brother, Ulrik, to move the cart off the road. Popo's Great Uncle Lucho lost his life to lightning and the brass cart made the bear more nervous than usual.
The group found a nice clearing just off the road, which looked to be a well used spot for travelers to camp. Not far from it, dense woods and steep hills kept them out of the rain and protected their backs.
Alora sought solace deep within the woods, while Popo, Ulrik, Joshua readied their camp. Meanwhile, Dusk and the Swanshadow sisters began exploring the hills and found an entrance to a deep cave, which they chose to explore.
While Martha was hoping the cave could provide her with shelter from the trauma of the coming storm, a sense of foreboding from the place made her return to camp to let the others know what they had found. However, Dusk, Tiffanie, and Desiray plowed ahead into the squat cave and Dusk was surprised to see what she thought was a drider huddled behind some large rocks.
It took Desiray's fearful scream, as she ran from the cave, mixed with Tiffanie notching her bow for Dusk to realize that the creature, which had now flung itself at her, was no drider.
The stalktopus fully grabbed Dusk in it's tentacles and began to constrict the life from her shocked form. She only avoided succumbing to the beast's poison barbs, because of the ubiquitous use of it in drow society.
Martha and Desiray rallied Dalthorian and a belligerent Alora and the stalktopus quickly fell to their united assault. Tiffanie's interest in beasts of all manner, made her realized that several parts of the dead stalktopus were useful in various ways, so she retrieved them.
While the group remained at the roadside camp, the storm and the encounter with the tentacled monster gave them little rest that night. As they began the final leg of their journey the next day, Martha was unusually quiet and refused to reveal to her sister what vision the storm brought her.
With the settlement in sight, the midday sun flashed off something shiny in the nearby woods, revealing a strange bugle hung on a high branch of an ash tree. The group decided to recover the instrument and soon had Roachdale...or the remains of it in sight.
While travelling, Dalthorian and Joshua both spoke at length of their time in Roachdale. Dalthorian mentioned a quiet, sprawling homestead, on the frontier, with hard working and determined people who simply sought to be free of civilization. Joshua told tales of houses made of amber and stone circles powered by geomancy. The monk also warned of the settlement's fruitless battle against sick bears that would wander into to town to devour small children. This last story caused Popo a great deal of frustration because his tribe had worked for generations to fight their taste for human children. But recidivism was a great concern for him and all the work he had done to overcome the stigma. Notably, Dalthorian was quiet about Joshua's experiences in Roachdale.
Neither of them described a town that had been drown in some terrible deluge, nor the ominous black keep that squatted on a muddy hill in the middle of flooding.
As the team drew closer to the devastation, they began to realize that the settlement hadn't been flooded, but a great swarming mass of insects had engulfed it, with only the rooftops spared from their invasion.
The closer the team got to Roachdale, the louder the the din grew as the bugs carapaces scraped against one another as they moved across each other a million times over.
Tiffanie spied soldiers of some kind patrolling the keep's walls as she stood on the "shore" of the sea of insects. Dalthorian quickly realized that a manned keep had to have a way in and out of this hellish moat the bugs created and began searching it's perimeter with Martha in tow. Desiray began working a ritual to create a way to cross the monstrous insects. Joshua noted that the insects were Black Shadow Scarabs and had been used by the Lich King in the 2nd Age as a punishment for defying one of his many decrees.
As Desiray completed her summoning, Dusk blew the bugle they'd found in the ash tree. At it's sound the scarabs parted like water and at the same moment the space was filled with Desiray's conjured bridge. Tiffanie, Dusk, Joshua, Alora, Desiray, Ulrik and Popo rushed over the bridge. However, the bugle alerted the guards to their presence and a large ballista sent Joshua and Desiray clinging to the side of the bridge, mere inches from the stunned scarabs.
Alora forced open on of the keep's huge double doors with her brutish fury and Dusk clung close by her ally, picking off onrushing guards with her hand crossbow. Ulrik and Popo crashed through the other door and ran deep into the keep's central yard. It was damp with mud and musty lumber was stacked high in several piles. But a strange feeling overtook Ulrik and the skin on his scalp began to crawl, making him decide to retreat back the way he came.
As Alora charged forth into the keep, she felt a similar sensation but her bloodlust was magnified and she easily cut down wave after wave of the keep's guards. Her assault allowed Dusk to slip, unnoticed into the shadow of the keep and began to explore it. By this time all of them noted that the guards wore helms to conceal their faces and had reddish, scaled skin and wreaked of brimstone. The knowledge that the guards were demonic did little to console them.
Ulrik, freed from the stifling keep, helped Joshua and Desiray climb back onto the bridge just before the scarabs fully awoke. By this time, Dalthorian and Martha rejoined them after hearing the bugle and seeing the scarabs go still. Dalthorian rallied the rest of the team and led them into the keep where the last survivor of Kel'Thassar smashed into an invisible wall of malicious force. Stunned, horror ran through him as a ancient voice whispered in his hear, "The Kel'Thassar will finally be wiped from this world tonight, and I will suck the marrow from your bones as tomorrow dawns."
As the rest of her team dealt with renewed waves of demonic guards, Dusk had found a large, black door with numerous glyphs covering it's face. As the clouds shifted, the writing was made clear to her and she could tell it was in some blasphemous hand and caused her nose to bleed and eyes to itch.
Meanwhile in the center of the keep, an ill light began to fill the courtyard and the smoky shape of a