Free to plan their next move with the “Battle of the Elementals” finally concluded, the Aspect Agents divided their resources to make the most of the time available to them. Rarnok and Maldus returned via magic to the busy city-state of P’Bapar, seeking news of Korak and ever-more powerful items to use against their future adversaries. Meanwhile, Hilg sought to enlist the services of their new elemental allies to shore up the defenses of The Valiant’s temple, while Alamir dedicated himself to unlocking the mysteries of the interlocking sword fragments.
The “next move” however, turned out to be one the Aspects had not planned for, when it was discovered that Guldella Olmlor and the Aspect of Undeath drew near the previously lost temple, evidently intent on unraveling the Party’s symbol of faith before it could be completed. The subsequent revelation that the Aspect of Rage traveled amongst their numerous minions made the confrontation all the more dangerous. Though Guldella and the Aspect of Rage were successfully put down, the battle had also seen the end of Hilg and the reincarnation of Rarnok into a form incapable of using his newly procured equipment…
Fireday, Fourth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Reduced to only three fully combat-ready Aspects, the remaining Party members attempted to press the advantage of numbers whilst the Aspect of Undeath’s minions were still occupied with Hilg’s summoned fire elementals. The spell would expire soon enough and when it did, Undeath would be joined by the lessened, but still numerous, horde of the damned – making the task of successfully battling her vastly more challenging.
Alamir and Maldus charged forth, concocting their plan mid-rush while Stoat gave flight to arrows targeting the undead queen and her nearest minions. Rarnok kept to the rear, scavenging the nearby corpses of Hilg, the Aspect of Rage and his own pre-reincarnated self for usable gear. Cosdrelita, still safely behind a three tier system of Blade Barriers, did her best to maintain her song and be heard over the walls of whirling weaponry.
Back at the front, Maldus and Alamir found that the means by which they could harm the Aspect of Undeath still eluded them. Their best attacks and strongest magics had yet to scratch her, and in the meantime they were forced to endure a continual Unholy Blight beneath their feet. As a counter to the painful terrain, Maldus utilized his Bracers of the Blast Barrier, combining the item’s charge with his potent Heal spell – creating a wall that healed mightily when passed through.
The temporary wall of Heal, while helpful in undoing the blight damage, also gave Alamir an idea. By all accounts, Heal was one of – if not the – most powerful spells in the arsenal of any cleric in terms of damaging undead. Could this wall prove enough to break through whatever currently shielded the Aspect of Undeath? If so, only his raw physical strength would be required. While obviously quite powerful, Undeath was still slighter than he, and presumably not as strong.
Swinging The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade deliberately high, the Aspect of Valor bypassed the lady of Undeath, gaining just enough distance to build up sufficient momentum to carry her with him on his impending charge. He steeled himself and dashed headlong into the dark Aspect, slamming into her and hoisting her off the ground. The movement brought the pair through the wall and out the other side before her feet again touched earth, but still she remained undamaged.
Running low on options and with Hilg’s summons nearing their expiration, Alamir formulated a new plan, one where again his superior strength would favor him. He wrapped his arms around Undeath, pinning her to him in a mighty grapple. The still existent Blade Barriers had been enough to help bring down the Aspect of Rage, perhaps they would also be enough for Undeath. With no momentum, his progress to the first Barrier was slow, but steadily he forced her forward, shifting his grasp to bring a hand over her mouth.
At the far edge of combat, Stoat lowered his bow. For the moment at least, Alamir appeared to have the upper hand, and the slow pace toward the deadly walls would give the rest of the Group a few seconds to survey the battlefield at large. As he turned back toward the direction of the temple, Stoat’s view passed over Rarnok straining to drag the heavy Aspect of Rage clear of the nearby Barrier. If Rage had been there unexpectedly, could the other dark Aspects also have been present? Were Strond and the workmen still safe?
The Halfling raced away from the current fighting, circled around the far end of the trio of Blade Barriers and headed back up the hill toward the temple. He only needed a few hundred feet to view the grounds, and upon seeing them, all appeared to be well. As he made his way back down toward the combat, a thought crossed his mind… what else might they not be seeing? Could other enemies be lurking about the field under cover of invisibility?
Moving around to the edges of the deadly Barriers again, Stoat stopped and carefully maneuvered his way between the nearest two. He kicked up dust from the ground and threw handfuls of dirt and gravel into the whirling blades, slowly creating a dusty haze in the vicinity. If he kept at it, the haze would spread, and any invisible foes would be outlined briefly as the debris struck their form. It was an old trick, but one that might just work if someone were hidden on the field.
Meanwhile, Maldus spoke while Alamir steadily pressed Undeath forward toward the blades. The cleric of Selandi still held out hope that The Dark One’s Aspects could be redeemed, and so long as it were possible to do so, he would try. He called her by her true name Gonjeyla Sarazi and insisted that her present existence was forced upon her. The statements seemed to bring a glimmer of memory to her eyes and upon seeing it, Alamir joined in as well.
As the pair of Aspect clerics worked their new line of strategy against Undeath, the dusty haze being created by Stoat revealed movement low to the ground. Three ‘bumps’ in the particle laden air appeared and were coming straight to the Group’s position. The Aspect of Resolve called out to his companions and Rarnok raced toward the incoming targets, attempting to buy Alamir and Maldus more time. His movement proved a hasty one, as the ‘bumps’ rose with his arrival revealing themselves to be dread wraiths coming to the aid of their mistress.
No longer equipped with the items he had purchased to combat the damned, the Aspect of Time executed a hasty retreat, falling back to regroup with Maldus and Alamir near the Blade Barrier. Stoat brought his bow to bear against the undead, his augment crystals and enchants having been tailored to battle incorporeal enemies on their last visit to P’Bapar. Maldus and Rarnok stepped forth to fight as well, but with no equipment, the Gnome-turned-Elf fell quickly, his second death of the fight.
Alamir continued to press Undeath, finally breaking through the twenty years of her Aspect existence and reaching the disoriented mind of Gonjeyla Sarazi. The transformed cleric was horrified at her present condition, and overwhelmed by memories of her death, but agreed to let the Party help her if they could. She exerted her dwindling energy to cast the wraiths away, sending them fleeing at the command of their Aspect master.
The remaining horde of minions, incoming at last with the expiration of Hilg’s summon spell, collapsed in unison as Gonjeyla Sarazi, the Aspect of Undeath drew forth their animation, rendering them inert. Battered but not broken, the Party of Aspects had scored their first victory against the direct servants of Manfred, saving the temple in the process. Alamir scooped up the collapsed Aspect of Undeath and used a Planeshift spell to transport the Group to the Eternal Palace… save for Stoat who elected to inform Strond and the workmen of the outcome of the battle.
Once more in the halls of the departed, the Party collected the spirit of Rarnok from the lines before the Throne of the Creator. As for Hilg, the druid-spirit informed his comrades that he had chosen to remain with his deity, citing the fury of his inner rage on the battlefield. His transformation into the Aspect of Nature had changed him in ways he had not previously realized, and he had need to come to grips with those changes before he could be of further aid to anyone.
Saddened, but sympathetic to the needs of their friend and ally, the Party said their goodbyes and moved onward, calling on the aid of Alanthiess to gain an audience with Selandi. The Lord of Silver Linings congratulated the Aspects on their work and expressed his belief in their capability to redeem the Aspect of Undeath. When asked by Maldus if the Group could leave Sarazi in his care, the Lord of the Blue Sky declined, insisting that the Party must return with her to the realm of the living – lest she risk being destroyed by enemies of The Dark One.
The Caregiver also stated that her original remains would need to be acquired to break the dark magic binding her, and suggested the Aspects imprison her until they were found. The Group would also need to research necessary components for a separation ritual that would have to be conducted. A suitable ritual was already available on the material plane, and Selandi assured his servant that it could be found with sufficient investigation.
With the meeting thusly adjourned, Alanthiess returned the heroes to the material plane, reincarnating Rarnok in the process. The Gnome-turned-Elf was elated to discover that he was now a Gnome-turned-Elf-turned-Gnome, and recollected the equipment he had worked diligently to acquire. Alamir meanwhile confined the now-prisoner Aspect of Undeath to chain, placing her inside the weapons cache in the inner sanctum and under the guard of the mighty inner sanctum guardians. A condition that would remain until he, and only he, rescinded the order…