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The Architects of Betrayal (TAB) 10: If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Yes, by all means, make sure we take the keg.
The paladin just turned his back for a second . . .

. . . Necromancy, Necromancy again? No that's not right.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, our little group of proactive undertakers had figured out that key was the key to use with the key. The door was considerate enough to wait for them to finish glaring at the DM before opening, and revealing a receptionist's room.

And zombies. Of course there would be zombies. Three to be specific; far too small a number to break through the group to the gnome, though lord knows they tried. With this last datum the group speculated that the blue hand print souvenir left from Quagrim's spectral molester might just be some sort of lure. After all, nothing had taken notice of him specifically before that. It was not an hypothesis the gnome enjoyed. There was much complaint and plans for watch lists . . .

Perhaps that's it? If at first you don't succeed bitch, about it? No that's still not right. . .

The bottom floor was cleared fairly easily, all except for one ghost. Tanic succeeded on sneaking up on it, but somehow missed his backstab. Insulted by the attack, the ghost turned and began lecturing him on proper behavior as if talking to a small child. Apparently it thought he was just one of its more disruptive students. Once the group convinced him of his own demise he begged them to end the one who'd caused it. He also warned them that they wouldn't be able to access the third floor without a key. For safety purposes Quagrim waited in the hall.

How about, If at first you don't succeed try diplomacy? Nope, that's still not quite right.

So on to the second floor. The group couldn't help but remark upon the lack of zombies in a school of such size, almost as if the DM were restricting their ability to level before the boss fight. Not that I would ever do such a thing. Instead I pointed out that most of the corpses must have been sent down to attack the clerics already. Not quite believing, me they chose to move on.

On the second floor they located the dean of the school's office . . . and a second splatter man. This one gave a better accounting of itself, but eventually went the way of the other. It also didn't focus it's efforts on Quagrim, as the other hand. And there were no roaming hands this time either. While Quagrim breathed a sigh of relief, Tanic looted the room, finding the dean's master key to the school.

They could have used the elevator lift to get to the third floor, but instead chose to bed down on their enemy's doorstep. Surely he'd never see that coming right? The paladin did take the time to ward the entire room they were in from evil.

That of course didn't stop the terrible nightmares the entire group had that night. They all awoke, exhausted. There was much more grumbling to be had.

Not that a bad night was going to stop our intrepid grave refillers. So, in the morning they used the lift to enter the third floor for the showdown. As the door opened they discovered that they were surrounded by zombies and skeletons, splayed in a semi-circle about the lift. A cleric, radiating a rather necrotic form of evil, was sitting behind a large desk at the opposite end of the room. As would be expected from the term 'library' it was littered liberally with shelves filled with books.

{DM's note: I had this whole dialogue prepared for this moment. The cleric was to going to greet them, perhaps make some inquiry as to the quality of their sleep the previous night. Then he would have asked their business in the town, and even suggested that they might help each other. All they'd have to do was deliver enough hit dice of divine casters to him so he could finish his ritual. This of course being the ritual outlined in the opened book on the desk. And if they refused he'd have said 'You will help me, one way or another' and then the showdown would have started. But Dave rolled a higher initiative than me. As usual.}

He got as far as the greeting before Tanic charged past the wall of undead and attacked the cleric directly, missing badly. Speech aborted, he responded in kind, by setting a firewall to block the two of them from the rest of the combatants. Tanic again tried to hit the cleric, and again he missed. The cleric did not. Disheartened by missing with a roll of 18, Tanic switched tactics. He grabbed the book on the table and jumped to the top of the shelves and slid through the one foot gap between them and the wall. Why the hell couldn't I have just said the shelves went all the way up?

That's it! If at first you don't succeed, steal the fucking spell book. Why didn't I think of that?!

Incensed, the cleric launched a fireball through the flames blindly. The edge of the blast caught Tanic (who uncharacteristically failed his reflex save) and knocked him unconscious. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint) Zornesk was close enough to use a lay on hands to get him back up. Then Vex and Tanic charged back through the flames to flank the cleric.

And that's when Vex managed to succeed with Shamefully Overdressed. Against a cleric. Against a cleric of higher level. Have I mentioned that my dice hate me? This virtually neutralized the cleric as he could no longer use full round actions, and could no longer move. There was also a slight misunderstanding of the rules leading us to believe that each move action spent would cause an AOO. He lasted far less time than his undead minions.

Behind the desk was piled an immense amount of wealth. Apparently the good necromancer had been kind enough to have his zombies gather it all in one place for the party. Unfortunately, before they could get to looting and arguing, the lift opened again revealing the clerics. Whether they were coming to stop any looting of their texts or because they'd worked up enough nerve to help was never decided, but it did stop them in their tracks.

Except for Quagrim who managed to sleight of hand some into his pockets. Of course the clerics were grateful for the party's contributions. They offered them any one magic item in the pile (rolled randomly) or a thousand gold pieces. Quagrim of course took that thousand gold. Zornesk decided that they could keep their money, figuring they'd need it to rebuild their town. Tanic decided to gamble and ended up with a bag of holding type 4 of all things.

Think about that; the gnome raised in that town took the money, and a kobold stranger refused it . . . After that Calith offered to help the clerics with their ritual to lay all undead to rest in Augerhead. This took far longer than it should have as tower 4 kept failing their concentration checks. I may have muttered about taking a butane torch to a die whilst the others watched. Then again, if my dice are anything like me that wouldn't have even scratched their stubborn streak. . .

Afterwards the group perused the library for some time before coming upon a reference to a fable in a book said to be located in the library of Aunaria. As it goes, an arrogant wizard named The Great Victini bet the great dragon deity Asgorath that he could solve any riddle the god could make. The riddle itself and the stakes weren't recorded but it was clear he was looking for the blade piece of Arumdina which was referred to as Asgorath's Ulu.

They also stumbled upon a loose letter that had been jammed into that page. It read:

This shall be my final attestation. I have lived during this year of 1358 among these good gnomes of Leirithymbul with no knowledge of my true self. I am uncertain as why Ao has chosen this for me. Perhaps he felt that while the others of my kind learned to handle their responsibilities I should have a respite from my prison. The prison I will soon be returned to.

Many of my friends here have often wondered about my unique talents; the creation of gunpowder, the perfections of various instruments, the natural abilities I seemed to posses even as I possessed not one clue as to who I was. But I now know where the wild ideas and boundless wit they wonder at came from.

It is something of a curse to know in these final minutes of my furlough who I am and how I came to be here. There isn’t enough time. Not enough to say my goodbyes. Not enough to explain to my pregnant wife the reasons for my departure. Not enough to ensure the information that might lead to my eventual release from my devilish captors.

I know not how exactly this has happened to me, for some memories still seem clouded, but I remember being pinned by a mountain that now is not. I remember Asmodeus, Asgorath, Baphomet, and the vile cutpurse made whole again Kurtlemak performing a ritual that bound me to my axe. To it, but not within it. My last memory was of them fracturing that magnificent weapon, my friend Arumdina, into four pieces including a glass gem that they jestingly called The Worthless Gem, the haft which they called The Joker’s Poker, the blade which they called The Dull Wit, and the handle which was known as The Gripped Protector.

Know this, whoever reads testament, in order to restore us the pieces must be found and rejoined by some magical means, and the devout vitale must be applied. I know, fucking devils and demons, but that is how they work. Know that whomever shall do this shall have my reward, the reward of . . .

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