The fungus folk, myconids, though aloof, proved helpful to the crew of Sea of Stars. They described the route to the fortress of the Shadowlords, but warned the crew they’d have to pass through a realm occupied by creatures not of this world who swam through stone as easily as a fish through water. The myconids also warned the crew of the Shadowlords’ servants of metal and stone.
During their discussion, the crew decided they would stick to their goal of rescuing Queen Garria without confronting the Shadowlords, if possible. (The PCs learned at some point that the Shadowlords were not, in fact, in their fortress at the moment, though I no longer remember where they learned that information and it’s not really important.)
After resting, they set off toward the Shadowlords’ fortress once again. Not long after leaving the mushroom kingdom, they encountered an odd, three-armed, three-legged creature emerging from stone. Straxius, with his breadth of knowledge was able to communicate with the creature and they exchanged metals and gemstones for safe passage and a guide. The creatures, xorn, were eager to help those who offered them such refined food.
The Xorn guided the crew to a massive stone bridge over a river of lava. On the far side was a stone monolith: the fortress of the Shadowlords. Creatures of fire swum in the lava, and across the bridge, the entrance was guarded by two massive winged statues. The crew assumed the statues were, in fact, gargoyles, and decided they would defy all the guardians by striding boldly onto the bridge.
Elementals and lava guardians in the river of fire turned their attention to the bridge, but did not approach. The gargoyles, however, had no such compunctions and challenged the crew. Straxius informed them if they wanted to live, they would let them pass. The gargoyles declined but accepted an alternate challenge: single combat versus Veya.
Veya easily beat the gargoyle who challenged her and the other stepped aside, its desire to live outweighing its loyalty to its masters. They descend into the fortress, making their way through ancient crypts defaced depictions of Brintannia’s deities of Truth, Love, and Courage, and tombs unremembered; mysteries for others to discover.
They found their way to a ritual chamber and were able to eavesdrop on an exchange between the image of a goat-headed demon and one of the Shadowlords’ servants. Orcus congratulated them on capturing his old nemesis and ordered them to kill her and bring her skull to him for his throne. The servant responded they would do so and they would continue to hunt Hrothgar the Penitent no matter where or who he was reincarnated as, until the end of time, if need be. Orcus then ordered them to also bring the heads of the ones behind the servant, those would who “save” Hrothgar.
A pitched battle was fought, but the crew of Sea of Stars was victorious and freed Queen Garria. Straxius made use of the contingency escape he prepared before they entered the Underworld and teleported them back to the Cathedral of Truth. Queen Garria confirmed their suspicions: “It’s true. I am Hrothgar the Penitent. I was reincarnated into this form you see before you. It’s not the first time, and until Orcus is vanquished forever, it won’t be the last. Destroying his wand will sever his connection with this plane for a time and will give me a long enough reprieve to enjoy a lifetime, perhaps even two or three. If only I could find the thing…
“For two-and-half-thousand years I’ve been hounded by his agents. Cut down and killed, whenever I was unable to withstand their assault. I know not how many of my skulls decorate his throne by now.”
She agreed to accompany them to find the rest of the wand and destroy it, but first, she needed to spend a day or two to set her affairs in Brintannia in order. Once she gave her allies the information they needed to vanquish the Shadowlords, she left with the crew and the Sea of Stars once more took to the sky.
I had not intended for Queen Garria to be a damsel in distress in need of rescue, in fact, I was going to have her escape on her own and meet up with the PCs in the Underworld and then they all defeat the Shadowlords togethers. The best laid plans of mice and men…
My players weren’t really biting the hook of defeating the Shadowlords, and honestly, the PCs didn’t have a good reason to stick their noses THAT deep into Brintannia’s problem. Finding the Queen was paramount, and most because they suspected she had ties to their main quest (at least I dropped those hints well enough).
I wasn’t feeling the whole Underworld diversion anyway (and neither were they), so wrapping it up quickly and getting everyone back on the ship was for the best I think. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I failed somewhere in the execution. Frankly, I should just stopped at the tournament and figured out some other way to clue them into the fact that Queen Garria was the reincarnation of Hrothgar the Penitent and they’d need her to actually destroy the Wand of Orcus.
Part of GMing is learning from one’s mistakes. So, these were still valuable sessions for me, but I guess I can’t put off painting those catapult miniatures I bought for the ship any longer.