The Ashen Crown, the Lords of Madness, and the Queen of Death

Belashyrra and the Arcanic Chaneller Mark III

Ashurta revealed to the party that beneath his tomb there once again lurked aberrations in the service of the Lord of Eyes. Yeraa and the party had disgraced themselves in his opinion: only ones weak and craven would desire to destroy the crown out of fear that their enemy might take it. He proposed fighting these aberrations as a last chance for redemption: a battle to claim the crown from the hands of the enemy.

Yeraa was eager to regain Ashurta’s respect and Aurora was eager to rid the world of these aberrations, so the party agreed. Finding a few leftover eyeball amulets from the cult that was once here, the party held them over the altar, triggering it to open once again.

The party descended into the caverns beneath the tomb. In the crystal chamber they found Dex standing, unharmed, by a strange throne, in which the circlet and and cord had been set.

Aurora recognized the creepy looking man-thing as Belashyrra, but, given his imprisonment in the underworld, inferred that it must either be an avatar or an impostor. Dex tried to convince the party that she had everything under control, but Aurora was certain that no good could come from cooperating with Belashyrra.

Bogs, consulting Bonekeeper using his magical tattoo, was appraised of the possibility, given Ijavik’s presence, that the throne was an explosive device of unknown yield powered by the pieces of the crown. Tinker confirmed this suspicion, noting similarities between the design of the throne and previous bombs designed by Ijavik.

Arasinya attempted to push past Dex to remove the pieces of the crown from the throne, but Dex, a muscular little gnome, easily shoved Arasinya away. Transforming into a panther, Aurora knocked Dex aside and began clawing and biting at the throne’s wires, ripping them free.

With an imperious gesture, Belashyrra commanded the deathgaunts to put a stop to Aurora’s interference. Deathgaunt tentacles wrapped around the panther and gently removed her from the throne.

Yeraa demanded to know what Dex was doing conspiring with an ancient enemy of the goblins. Dex had not realized that Yeraa had followed the party down. Panic stricken, she yelled for Yeraa to get away, afraid of what might happen should Belashyrra obtain all pieces of the crown. Belashyrra came to the same realization and his grin grew improbably wide.

Yeraa refused to flee, too proud to retreat. Arasinya also tried to convince Yeraa to leave, but realizing that wasn’t going to work, snatched the orb from Yeraa, and dashed off down the tunnel. With a shout of rage, Yeraa ran after the sorceress, escaping beyond Belashyrra’s reach.

Taking control of Dex’s mind, Belashyrra forced her to place Zaarani’s Solitaire, the golden gem passed down for ages in the Frumpkin family, into its slot on the throne. Once it had clicked into place, with a gesture, he made his unfortunate puppet back away. Smiling, he commanded two of his deathgaunts to guard the throne to prevent further interference, and a third to activate it.

Pleased, he gloated, “You know, I regret overlooking gnomes. They have potential. Dol… gnomes? Dol-noms? No. Dolzil? Maybe. Ah, I know, doldamoria. That is what I will call them when I remake your race, in your honour.”

“Now that Yeraa has left the room,” Belashyrra continued, “I feel the need to remind you all as to what happens when a resurrection goes wrong. I believe the one you knew as Tikulti, or Yog, or Baron Kessler, was the result of a failed resurrection. A patchwork soul with a fractured sense of self, constantly searching for a new, stronger personality to make it whole. Now called back into life, I think it has finally found that personality. A strong personality that it wants to keep forever.”

“You’re a liar,” Aurora retorted. “We’re not falling for your tricks.”

“I never lie,” Belashyrra replied with a grin.

“Was he talking about Yeraa or himself there?” Tinker wondered aloud.

The throne began to crackle and hum, electricity arcing around it.

“She’s going to kill us! She going to kill us all!” Ijavik wailed. “The Mark III, she’s so beautiful.”

“Shut up or I’ll eat your face,” Aurora growled at the bound madman. “In fact, I should probably do that anyway.”

Ijavik cowered and wept.

Yeraa caught up with Arasinya and tried to grab her, but her grip slipped when Arasinya turned her skin into smooth scales. Arasinya reached the top of the stairs and pressed the eye glyph on the bottom of the altar to open it.

Yeraa caught up again, and made to grab Arasinya once more, but tripped in her haste, and Arasinya fled into the altar room beyond, though not before sharing some choice words about Yeraa’s mother, family, people, and general appearance.

Aurora, Bogs, and Tinker, with spell and bow, succeeded in killing Belashyrra. A magic sphere thrown by Tinker strikes Belashyrra and shatters. Belashyrra fell and as his body hit the ground, his skin turned grey, his hair ashen, and his chitin armour and other features melted away. Aurora, standing close, saw that the corpse was none other than Tikulti.

Muttering words in an unfamiliar language, a deathgaunt that was standing close to the dead changeling gestured to the corpse. The corpse staggered to its feet, speaking as it re-assumed Belashyyra’s form.

“Ah, thank you Quazahrint, my ever faithful necromancer.” He nodded respectfully to the deathgaunt who raised him. The deathgaunt bowed slightly, its tentacles squirming with feigned modesty.

“This body and soul once were Vril the Deceiver, then Baron Wultram Kessler, then Yog of Sharn, then Tikulti of the Kech Volaar. Now, it has finally found its true purpose: to be me,” Belashyrra explained with pride. “With a weak sense of self and amazing telepathic receptivity, it was child’s play to overwrite its mind and personality with mine own.”

With a bit of lead, Arasinya summoned her shroud of darkness, and hid in the shadows. Failing to notice her, Yeraa passed Arasinya, racing up the stairs to the temple proper. Arasinya followed behind, quickly and quietly.

Free for the moment from Belashyrra’s control, Dex charged at the throne, slashing at its guards with her blades. The deathgaunts struck back with their tentacles. Lightning pulsed from the throne, singeing the deathgaunts standing before it. Dex struck again. Another, stronger pulse electrocuted Dex and killed one of the deathgaunts. Seeing her chance, Dex climbed over the smoking corpse and pulled her gem free of the throne. Before Belashyrra could do ought to stop her, Dex fled from the chamber, back down the tunnel.

His deathgaunt servants all but slain and the bearers of the last fragments of the crown fleeing beyond his reach, Belashyrra admitted defeat, returning to sit upon the deadly, flickering throne. His servant, Quazahrint, the last remaining, fled down the tunnel, along with rest of the party. Ijavik, managing to cut his bonds with the shattered fragments of the sphere Tinker had hurled, hurried after the others.

The moment Quazahrint emerged the crypt, it was struck down by a blast of lightning from Arasinya. Suddenly, Yeraa noticed the sorceress behind her, but it was too late. Arasinya swooped through the air and out into the open street.

Ijavik raced out the doors of the temple only to be pounced on by Aurora.

“How big will the explosion be?” Aurora growled.

“Five is enough to destroy the city. The circlet alone is enough to destroy a tower. Two? With the damage you did to it? I don’t know. Just keep running!” Ijavik exclaimed frantically.

“All right. But NEVER build something like this again,” Aurora roared. Ijavik nodded meekly and scrambled to his feet.

And so they ran. The ground shook terribly. Terrified goblins ran out into the streets as many of their rude tenements fell to pieces. Behind the fleeing party, Blackroot Temple collapsed into a heap of rubble.

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