- “Make way for Booger!” – Booger
- “Remember that time I did eagles?” – Krastas
Ashborn subdued, the party gets no rest as the door is engulfed in flame and bursts inward, but with Thantyr’s protection Thaddeus feels not the heat of the flames and holds the door with no pain. He steps aside, letting it swing open once everyone is in position.
Stading before them are four burning skeletons, hostile but confused. Krastas summons an illusion of a hulking seven-skulled skeleton to distract the new foes. Thaddius and Autis lay into the skeletons, crushing some of them, but strengthening others as they integrated the bones of the fallen. Krastus tries to cast some magic missiles but he’s having trouble summoning them. He alternates between fizzling and overcharing the spell, but manages to contain it each time.
Fleeing from the power of Savra emanating from Autis’ holy symbol, the skeletons call reinforcements from the temple’s lower level. Another half dozen burning skeletons flood into the chamber but Savra’s power overwhelms them and they flee Autis and the temple.
Krastas sends his magic missiles in the for of golden eagles to cave the entryway in on the fleeing skeletons. He crushes half of them and traps all but two others outside. Thaddius and Autis confront their fiery undead foes as they scrabble to dig their way out, to escape Savra’s holy presence. Autis breaks an arm off one skeleton, but the other integrates it. With increased strength, the three-armed skeleton shoves Thaddeus and Autis down the stairs.
Below, a mage works dark magic on a jewel-encrusted skull at the flamed-flanked altar before him. He commands four more skeletons to kill Thaddius and Autis.
Meanwhile, Booger has been concocting a plan. Under the protection of the overturned brazier he has made his way over to the trapdoor to the lower level. He sees Thaddius and Autis tumble past and quickly follows, surfing the brazier down the stairs on a carpet of ball bearing he’s thrown before him.
Autis dives out of the way and Thaddius uses his shield to launch the speeding Booger. It works awesomely! He soars gracefully through the air and slams into the unsuspecting mage, knocking him down and pinning him to the floor, daggers at his throat.
Krastas moves to descend the stairs and the two skeletons upstairs cease their digging to attack him. However, he casts invisibility and the fooled skeletons return to their digging.
Booger has the mage at his mercy, and he parleys with him. Booger lets him scurry back after he commands the skeletons to stop attacking. Thaddius strides boldly forward and cleaves three skeletons in half with his longsword. Autis crushes the last one.
Booger jumps back onto the altar and snatches up the skull, dangling it over one of the burning braziers. The mage hesitates and Krastus, still invisible, prepares his magic missiles to strike him down if he moves.
Suddenly, several things happen at once. The mage flicks a wand from his belt, knocking Booger off the altar with a gout of fire to the gut. At the same time, Krastas casts his magic missiles, knocking the mage’s wand away and blinding Booger as he’s flung across the altar.
The skull clatters to the floor and Autis scoops it up. He feels the power inside but resists it. Krastus fires magic missiles at the mage, but in the chaos the spell goes wild and the energies are sucked into the skull in Autis’ arms. Filled with enough magic to complete the ritual, the skull bursts with fire, engulfing the room in flame.
When the flame clears, the skull has made its way into Krastas’ arms. He feels the power of the skull speaking to him. His magic has completely the ritual, transforming it into a place of power, able to fuel his rituals. Booger is in a bad way but has covered himself under the brazier again and sneaked his way over to the mage. He lashes out with daggers, hamstringing the mage before stabbing him in the back.
With his dying breath, the mage hurls one last gout of flame, killing Booger. The halfling’s soul slowly slides out of his body as he sees his murdered family waiting for him in death. He also sees a woman he manipulating into acting as his foster mother. She died for him and that is when he realised there was a line in manipulating people.
Krastas immediately reacts to Booger’s death, drawing on the power of the skull to pull Booger’s soul back into his body. He needs Autis’ help to perform the rites of Savra to make this work. Even then, Booger’s soul will be only loosely connected to his body.
Ash ash escapes from his mace and flows upstairs, Autis summons Savra for guidance. She appears as a giant red lizard and indicates that Booger should be called back. Chillingly, the others realise the bones that began to reform but shuffled across the room fleeing from Savra’s power have now disappeared upstairs entirely. Savra indicates that something up their should really be dealt with, then disappears.
Autis and Krastas work together to draw Booger’s soul back into his body before it fully departs this world. Something goes wrong and the souls of the three involved in the ritual begin to meld and merge. Memories are shared and bonds are formed.
Thaddius intervenes, attempting to separate the souls again, but his own soul is drawn into the triangle, forming a sort of shield around the connected souls. However, he sees one last chance and sacrifices himself to separate the souls and save Booger. In the ghostly haze in front of Death’s Gates, Booger suddenly sees Thaddius’ spirit step in front of him, confronting Death in his place. Thaddius’ will is strong and he lives to fight another day.
Krastus and Autis complete the ritual with Thaddius’ help and Booger breathes again, cradled in Thaddius’ arms. Thaddius tries to heal him, but still partly in the spirit realm, the healing brings the mage back instead.
Calling on the skull’s power again, Krastas creates a vortex right on the mage’s head, sucking him, his wand and the brazier into another dimension. However, the vortex doesn’t close…
Thaddius tries again and heals Booger as a huge rattling sounds from upstairs. Suddenly, the combined bulk of eight burning skeletons moves as one abomination of bone to attack. Autis confronts it and holds it at the steps. He is outmatched by the huge undead monster but the ashborn appear from behind and attack it. They throw themselves at the creature turning its bones to ash, limbs being crushed and slowly reforming from ash.
Krastas sees the vortex slowly growing. He can’t close it without more magic. He uses his magic missiles instead of the skull’s power this time. His golden eagles fly from his hands, enter the vortex and rather than sacrificing the ability to cast this spell entirely, he draws ones back out, the vortex colouring its power. His spell is now changed, somehow.
Krastas, having used the skull a few times now, learns of its history and powers. He sees that it holds memories of a person named Treshaan, a scout related to Gomorgh. He senses living creatures for over half a mile around. He can see through their eyes. He also senses creatures – living or not – that bear him ill intent. He briefly sees through the eye sockets of the creature of bone.
Autis holds the skeletal abomination off long enough for the ashborn to weaken it. He lands the final blow but is impaled with a sharpened rib, nearly doing him in. He backs off from the ashborn, but the do not attack in any case. One holds out its hand to Booger. He understands and tosses back the jewels he stole. He is returned the boon of being able to speak with the ashborn, but retains his normal powers of speech as well.
They say they simply want to rest and return to paradise. Following the ashborn upstairs, just to be sure, Autis and Thaddius see them resting in their sarcophagi. There were five others in the adjacent room who never awakened.
Autis determines that the ashborn are thinly connected to their ashen husks. When they rest, their souls go to the afterlife. If they are disturbed, they are yanked back into their bodies. Autis and Thaddius agree that while the ashborn rest, they are not enemies of either of their faiths.
Booger, having been keeping a tally of both religions victories in the temple, decides that there is a god and it is Thantyr. Thaddius is pleased with this victory for Thantyr, but concerned at the skull. However, prayers to Thantyr show him that the skull is vital to destroying a greater evil. Krastas has sensed other skulls out there. They may be vital too and may hold different powers.
The party finds some valuables and a scroll used to hide from undead or other creatures. Then, weary but victorious, the party heads outside the temple and makes camp, seeking some well deserved rest as Thaddius works on consecrating the temple in Thanty’s name.