Level 14

Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Summary: With the last of the Zulkirs dead, the undead armies of Thay begin their march on the Wizard’s Reach. The heroes slip in ahead of the main assault and recover two important magic items. On the way out, they encounter the infamous necromancer, Szass Tam.
Takes place 11th-13th of Eleint (The Fading) in the year 1478DR (The Year of the Dark Circle)

After the heroes returned from their exodus, the Moon Elves finally succeeded in repairing the Star Sextant. Right away they wanted to use the device’s transportation powers to send the party into the nation of Thay. The elves told them that they were following up on a possible lead to the location of the long-lost heir to the throne of Impiltur. In the meantime they wanted the adventurers to retrieve the Greatsword of Impiltur. The full power of this magical sword could only be unlocked by the heir and the elves thought that it would be useful for establishing his identity. The elves had tracked down the previous owner of the sword to be Samas Kul. Samas Kul had been the Zulkir of Transmutation in Thay who was legendary for his greed. In addition, the elves had also found out that the Horn of Demonfire Tsol needed for his quest of the Winding Way was also supposed to be in the wizard’s private collection of magic items. The rush was that recently Samas Kul and his fellow Zulkirs had inexplicably left their exile from the Wizard’s Reach and gone on a suicidal mission with the Brotherhood of the Griffon into Thay. None of the Zulkirs had survived and the forces of the infamous necromancer, Szass Tam, were finally mobilizing to annex their lands. The heroes only had a short while before the area was completely overrun by undead.

The party arranged for pickup in a few nights and teleported in to the Wizard’s Reach. The area was already crawling with Szass Tam’s advance guard. Most of the population looked like it had already been killed or fled. The party headed for Samas Kul’s mansion. Along the way, they dodged as many undead patrols as they could but ended up having to fight one. The magical defenses surrounding the mansion were strong and as a result it looked mostly unsoiled by the undead. The adventurers were searching for a way in when they were attacked by another patrol. This patrol included a lich who controlled an undead purple worm. The encounter turned out to be somewhat fortuitous as after the adventurers defeated their attackers they discovered the tunnels left by the worm allowed them access to the mansion’s wine cellar.

In the wine cellar they discovered the first of many wards left in place inside the mansion. The cellar door was sealed by powerful magic that the group could not hope to break. Just outside was an enchanted drinking glass and the below spirits. A riddle read:
The heroes chose the correct answer, were transmuted into liquid, and magically transported to the next room in the manor where they re-solidified. (The correct answer is: Chai Cheer Beer. Only Lord DeWinter’s Pale Ale, Dwarf King Stout, and Chai Cheer Beer do not include fruit, cane, or honey. Chai Cheer is the only one located on the right. FYI: Yellow Rose is a callback to the blueberry wine made by the monks at the Monastery of the Yellow Rose)

In the next room the heroes found themselves magically affixed to chairs seated around a large dining table. They were in a large, extravagant banquet hall. The table magically began filling up with delicious-looking food and beverage. The party was attended by Jeeves, the unseen servant. Jeeves had a snobbish accent and the party could just make out the ghostly image of his eyes and a bow-tie. Just then, a group of undead that had somehow made it past the manor’s defenses entered the room. Jeeves stubbornly refused to let the party leave their seats. Some of the heroes politely asked to be excused and Jeeves freed them from their bonds. Others burst forth from the chair which enraged Jeeves. He attacked these “unscrupulous knaves” with their broken pieces of furniture even as they battled the undead. After the heroes defeated the undead and Jeeves they answered the riddle and were transported to the next room.

This time the adventurers found themselves inside a luxuriant theater. This room was also infested with undead. A ghostly beholder and some banshees emerged from behind the curtains on the stage an attacked the party. After they defeated the spirits the party tried to figure out the riddle on this door. There were a number of ornate theatre masks and one of the heroes had to wear the one that best fit Samas Kul’s personality. They choose the wrong mask, the face of good, and as Madrakkar put it on his personality altered to become as virtuous as the noblest paladin ever born. The heroes choose the correct mask next, the face of greed, and were transported to Samas Kul’s inner sanctum.
Inside the sanctum they found the Greatsword of Impiltur and several other powerful items. However the Horn of Demonfire was not present. The adventurers were able to access the mansion’s control systems and pull up an invoice that indicated that the horn had been traded to the Temple of Kossuth. The mansion’s defenses were later alerted to the player’s presence and expelled them from the mansion.

The party made their way back towards the Temple of Kossuth in town square. Along the way they encountered some children in a dark alley that begged the adventurers to help their wounded mommy. The party was skeptical, but Madrakkar, spurred on by his magically induced righteousness, valiantly agreed to help. In the alley they were ambushed by the children, who turned out to be vampire halflings, and their “mommy” who turned out to be a mummy.

The Temple of Kossuth’s defenses had a wall of fire at the entrance that scorched all that tried to enter. The party burned an offering and were able to pass through the wall. Inside the temple’s safeguards were on full alert. The heroes defeated many flame based guardians before they were able to find and retrieve the Horn of Demonfire.

That night the heroes made their way to the rendezvous point for the Star Sextant and were relieved to see that the portal was open. An undead patrol was investigating the magical gateway but the heroes easily dispatched them. They were just about to step through the portal and wrap the mission up when a figure appeared in front of them. He introduced himself as Szass Tam. The party could hardly believe that this was the legendary undead terror they had heard tales of. The man looked human. His face had fine-boned, intellectual features, with dark eyes, and a wispy black beard. He wore a vermilion robe with voluminous sleeves trimmed with gold. He was gaunt and pale, but only his withered hands with a hint of rot hinted at his lichdom. Tsol and the courageously-cursed Madrakkar immediately moved to attack the despot but ghoulish arms that sprung from the ground grabbed and paralyzed them. Szass Tam reasoned that he was the rightful ruler of this land now and all that was in it belonged to him. He offered the group a proposition. In exchange for making off with loot from his lands, each person must submit to a geas, a magically binding oath, to obey one future command from him; or they could challenge him and die. Some of the party agreed to accept the vow. The rest attacked. The first thing Szass Tam did in the combat was cast a powerful Time Stop spell on the adventurers that had accepted his proposition. The remaining heroes launched a furious assault on the lich. He systematically blocked every one of their attacks while his true horrific visage was revealed. His dark magic flayed the flesh from their bones, caused their skin to boil, and ultimately took their lives. When the Time Stop spell wore off the remaining members of the group found their companions standing beside them at attention as undead. Szass Tam dismissed the party to leave. Afterwards, although the experience had left them horribly scarred, those heroes that had been transformed into undead regained some semblance of their old personalities. All attempts to remove Szass Tam’s spells failed and the group conceded they would need to find a wizard or priest equal to power to undo the magic.

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