Of Magic and Labor
With the persistent anti-magic field surrounding the treasure vault in the basement of the crypt, it became obvious the team would need to employ some trustworthy individuals with strong backs to haul the rather substantial hoard out of the place. That took some time to arrange – months in fact.
Between the inevitable poor judgment of some and the automatic reset of some traps, several souls were lost in the process…and families need to be compensated for their loss without seeming to be insensitive.
There was some discussion of finding a nearby teleport circle to speed things along, Klang was having no part of that. The Phandelver Mine had no such circle and he discouraged such magical nonsense from being used there. So while Paelius had managed to move his, Quinn’s and Levi’s part of the hoard by way of magic from the entrance to the death trap dungeon to their respective strongholds, Klang’s needed to be transported across land – a dangerous undertaking during the best of times.
Finding a wagon strong enough to haul 1500 pounds of high value currency across the sword coast was no small task, and even then, it would take far more horses than was typical. Unwilling to trust any but his closest companions, Klang refused to have a guard escort. At one point, even Paelius made a mental note to add “Stubborn dwarf!” to his documented collection of profanities.
And so it was that our heroes found themselves trudging through the tall grass of a wide plain of the southern Sword Coast, taking back roads to avoid curious onlookers from identifying them and thieves subsequently targeting them. Paelius was napping in back of the wagon as the hot sun beat down and Levi had taken to walking to stretch his legs. Klang, a trained and experienced land vehicle driver, was at the reigns with Quinn behind and to one side.
Keep Your Friends Close…
Klang and Levi first heard and then saw someone in the distance coming towards them at great speed. “Help, help, help!” was what they heard in an oddly familiar voice that couldn’t quite place at first. The person was short and all they could see above the tall grass was his waving hands. It was the glint off one of the hands that tipped them off…well that and the 20 troops chasing him. It was Rolen!
Klang pulled the 8 horses to a stop and called out, “Levi, keep your wits about ye. Tis a certain mess yon approaches, one by the name Rolen.”
Levi looked back a Klang for a moment with his hand over his eyes to block the sun, squinted in understanding, and again looked at the approaching halfling. Levi also of knew a halfing by the name Rolen. He also spied the metal arm of this approaching fellow, which confirmed it was the same fellow. However, it had been many years since he had seen Rolen, and as his memory of Rolen formed in his mind, he realized the metal arm was on the wrong side.
Perhaps it was his confusion over Rolen’s arm, or the insistent warnings from his alert sense sword, or maybe he was just tired from the long day of travel in this heat, but he was not prepared for what came next.
As Rolen emerged from the tall grass, his speed did not slow. His pursuers were indeed intent on their prey. Klang then called out, “Dem troops…I t’ink dey be Undead!” Levi moved his focus from Rolen to the distant troops, “Tis true Klang, they be mounted on nightmares and are led by two of darker power…I can sense their aura from ‘ere.”
…And Your Enemies Closer
That got Quinn’s attention and he kicked Paelius to make sure he was awake. Paelius had stirred with the wagon’s sudden stop and Rolen’s screams, but it was Levi’s scream that got him fully engaged. As he stood in the wagon, he could see Rolen pulling a rather nasty looking dagger from Levi’s unguarded back and blood gushed forth. Truly a mortal wound if not quickly addressed.
Klang and Quinn were similarly stunned. Rolen had run up to Levi and took what appeared to be a defensive stance behind Levi, he was in fact moving in for a sneak attack. After Rolen’s devastating attack, Levi swung wildly behind him, scoring only a single hit on Rolen as the halfling darted between the horses and under the wagon.
Levi was barely keeping his feet and Klang had a tough decision to make – heal Levi or strike out at the approaching undead horde? He chose to heal Levi…life was more important than destroying undead. But he would need to deal with Rolen – preferably alive – or at least find out what trouble he had brought down on them before they killed him.
Despite the sun shining down, they noticed it was darker somehow, like the cold of some menace before them was reaching out its dark hand for them. These undead were more than they appeared. In fact, the dark clouds that had closed in on the sun had changed its appearance to a pale orb, almost like a moon.
A fireball was closing in on them from one of the undead leaders. Truly no ordinary creature risen from the grave, it delivered fire mixed with necrotic magic delivering a nasty bit of hurt on the whole crew…including a bit for the furry footed Rolen.
While one of the leaders had moved off to one side and into the air astride his nightmare steed, Quinn returned their fire, literally. The firestorm he brought down on them managed to reach them all, including the one aloft. It was a truly impressive sight to see so many wights burn to death in the first moments of the encounter…leaving only the two leaders who seemed mostly unaffected. The smell that came on the wind later was less favorable.
Paelius darted to one side of the battle using misty step, seemingly to directly engage the foe who was aloft. In fact, he was attempting to line up the two remaining foes for a lightning bolt. It was another display of awesome magical power that he caught both in his lightning spell, but much like Quinn’s attack, his spell was less effective than they expected. Perhaps their mounts offered some protection from magical attacks?
They didn’t have time to think about it though as the battle raged on. Levi was momentarily challenged with his returned health and Rolen fully hidden behind cover, he had to think fast. While he couldn’t see the bugger, he knew those sharp halfing ears would hear a dissonant whisper. Singing his magical attack, Levi had Rolen running from his hiding spot. Unfortunately, he was running away into the high grass and would soon be out of sight. Grr!
It was about then that Paelius took a heavy blow from his mounted foe. He didn’t look as bad as Levi had, but he wasn’t going to last long on his own out there.
Klang stood from his vantage point in the wagon and cast silence on the distant leader. That would at least reduce his selection of spells or force him to move. Then he jumped down and positioned himself between Levi and the silenced leader. He needed the undead closer to do any real damage to it and he also wanted Levi’s aura of protection.
Quinn, after dropping his rather potent spell, had moved off the wagon and was moving to offer Paelius some aid. But he just wasn’t as fast as Paelius, only covering about half the distance.
The silenced leader charge ahead on his steed at Klang, but pulled up at the last minute and cast yet another spell before moving to join the other fray. The charge had been a ruse to escape the range of the silence spell. The spell struck and nearly drove Klang to his knees. Levi took some damage as well, but was focused on Rolen and his other comrades.
Klang cast hold person on Rolen, so Levi felt more confident in moving to assist Quinn and Paelius. With their magics seemingly less effective, it was probably the right move. But Levi couldn’t resist throwing his hammer at Rolen, just to ensure he was thoroughly entangled. It also helped that he was a sitting duck for such an attack.
Klang had raced between the wagon and one leader, taking a severe hit along the way. He knew the key was Rolen and didn’t want him to escape, but also knew his friends could use some help. So he case a shield spell on Quinn.
Then the two leaders took down Levi and Quinn in stunning blows. These were no average undead, these were death knights…unholy paladins that could smite with the best of them. It showed.
Paelius was in his fight or flight mode now. Seeing his two powerful companions dropped like flies have him reason for pause. He could teleport out of there. No stubborn dwarf’s treasure was worth his life. Yet he also felt some gratitude to the damn dwarf as well. Getting the dwarf out of harms way would be tricky as he was out of range and he wouldn’t make it in time. Damn!
Paelius switched gears back to attack mode, eyed up the death nights. While they had certainly resisted his magic, they were not immune to it. In fact, they were looking rather lifeless themselves – ha! He had made a funny! Here. In battle. For his life. OK, enough screwing around with indecision. Lightning bolt time as he had the both lined up again. BAM! They both fell from their mounts. One must have died from impact with the ground while he had the other in Bigby’s Grasping Hand, crushing his “lifeless form” to dust. Yeah, that felt good.
He raced forward to force feed healing potions to his fallen comrades. Klang had closed in on Rolen, but he was dead. Not from the hold person spell, but from being undead…or something. Glancing over, he saw Paelius pulling forth potions of healing for the others. Figuring Paelius had everything well in hand, Klang took a few minutes to exam Rolen’s body.
While they worked, the dark clouds had begun to pass, the sun and heat returned. Whatever dark force had sent those ominous clouds had loosened its grasp as the colors of life return.
It was odd. Rolen was dead, but had no wounds. Not fully undead, yet certainly full of life not moments before. There was a mystery here, the answers to which would best be answered by Rolen himself. Casting revivify, Klang found it was ineffective. Clearly Rolen had been dead for some time and had not died on this battlefield. That was both a relief (at least in Klang’s mind) and a concern.
The mystery just became more pressing to solve. If he hadn’t been killed here, where had he died? Was this indeed the Rolen he knew? Checking the body more closely, Klang confirmed the scar they had placed on him was still there. His arm was still indeed metal. All appeared as Klang had remembered it all those years ago when saving the world from Tiamat.
Checking his weapon, it too matched what he had before. Checking further, Klang found a pouch. As one would expect, Rolen had a valuable diamond gem on his person. There was little else that would further confirm this was indeed the Rolen he remembered.
Staring at Rolen and then the gem, Klang found it fortuitous that it was the one spell component he would need to actually resurrect the poor bastard. Would Marthamoor Duin smile or frown on this act of resurrecting an assassin? Klang was a life cleric and saving people is what he did. But assassins took lives, and were in many ways antithetical to him. But by the four winds, he needed to get to the bottom of this mystery of how and why Rolen came to be here, deceiving his old friend and working with death knights…Grr!
Klang spent an hour then, in the hot sun, bringing Rolen back to the living, fully restoring his original arm to its natural state. Levi, now on his feet and wanting to kill the little scoundrel, put the magical dimensional shackles on the him to make sure he didn’t get away.
Quinn also stood nearby, divining with the Raven Queen. He learned and shared that while Rolen had been dead for some 80 years, his soul never reached her domain. Someone or something had entrapped his soul.
Wait, what? 80 years?! It had only been a decade at most since Klang had last worked with Rolen. How could this be? And why would anyone entrap his soul? Surely Rolen had made his share of enemies and had been cursed enough to answer that question. So more to the point, who would have that kind of power? Some minor deity like the thrown down Yemglav perhaps?
It was questioning time, and they had plenty. They were disappointed to find the person they had just brought back from death was not who had just tried to kill Levi. In fact, he claimed to be a merchant with some sneaky traits, but had been traveling between planes to deliver a large quantity of Adamantium, a rare element that was normally only found in trace amounts in Faerûn. That amount would have a value that far exceeded what they had just hauled from the death trap of a crypt for the past month.
They left the battlefield and hot sun behind, staying on the move would be their best defense should whatever foe that sent these powerful minions after them decided to pursue them further. By some turn of luck, the rest of their journey to Phandalin was uneventful despite some small encounters with locals.
Along the way, Klang’s divinations indicated that Rolen would not betray or attack them without good reason (he was now lawful neutral, a curious change for an assassin previously of a more chaotic nature).
Arrival at Phandalin
They agreed they’d watch after Rolen until they learned more, or were at least able to confirm his story. None wanted to keep him in their strongholds, except Klang, who was eager to unravel this mystery.
So Rolen was put up in the Phandelver Mine, and made to clean the All Saints temple daily, and assist those who came to worship. The mine had become a common stop for those on their clerical and acolyte pilgrimage studies. With so many books recovered from the Dragon Cult, it had become a place of study and worship.
In the next month, the heroes reached out to their various information networks, seeking answers to these questions. Paelius learned from his friends at the Library in Phlan that there were indeed some obscure records denoting that 80 years ago, there was a manifest containing the name Rolen aboard a merchant shipment on its way to the plane named Concordant Opposition from the city of Regus (a lawful place). That’s a way fair plane for those merchants unable to afford more direct travel to other the outer planes. So it seems Rolen’s story checked out, mostly.
It was the other bits of information that were a little more disturbing – there was in fact someone killing heroes. Someone named Rolen who was wanted in many large cities for assassinating local heroes. This fellow’s modus operandi was to infiltrate adventuring parties, befriend them, then betray them in ways that ensured they died. This pattern repeated over the past 80 years – same name, race, and description with the same results.
But how could the same halfling have lived that long and still appear so young? Some of the records indicated he was in multiple places at the same time! Something wasn’t adding up here…unless he had been cloned. Hmm…?
Epilog or Prolog?
In a battle scared plain of tall grass, the bony hand of a death knight twitched to un-death once more. Over days and months, the various bones slowly reassembled and the red pinpoints of light once again returned to the helmeted skull. Its rictus grin slowly returned as it regained its legs and feet.
Death knights don’t die so easily, especially at the hands of mere mortals…
The adventure is named, “Attack of the Clones”.
Each character received 17000 experience points.