For the thirteenth and final session of D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade at Total Escape Games, seven brave adventurers descended into the caves beneath the abandoned monastery. Seeking to recover the arrow of time and finish the adventure were Arturo (human fighter), Enzio II (human assassin), Jarren (human wizard), Melek (tiefling mage), Norfalcon (dwarf warden), Thoradin (dwarf cleric), and Valkrite (human slayer). Since I let them take an extended rest after last week’s session, everyone started this last encounter with hit points, surges, and powers completely refreshed.
The stairs led down into a rough-hewn natural cave system. The chill of winter gripped the caves that deep in the mountain. Ice clung to the walls and floor, making parts of the area treacherous just to walk through. With each step taken by the adventurers, magical pulses released more of the caverns from the time stasis.
Our heroes eventually came to a massive open chamber. As they started to pass through it, they noticed rocks, pebbles, and vertical lines of dirt hanging motionless in the chill air. They realized that the debris remained suspended in the air because some tremor must have knocked it loose immediately before the Time Trap was triggered. At that point, another pulse of magic triggered by the PCs’ advance undid the Time Trap in that area and the adventurers found themselves in the middle of an ongoing cave-in.
Quite a few members of the party got pretty beat up while making their way through the cave-in. Others did make it through very quickly and relatively unscathed, though, and they immediately began to attack the time-trapped duergar in the next chamber. With things beginning to spin a bit out of control as some of the heroes started to engage the duergar in Actherimos’ chamber, while others were still stuck and getting pounded back in the cave-in, I decided to call a time out. I told everyone that the cave-in was stopping and if they all agreed to retreat back into the ‘cave-in area’ they could take a short rest before moving forward as a group and tackling the duergar and Actherimos. A couple of the youngest players (the same ones who had rashly started the battle with the duergar without waiting for the others) didn’t want to retreat and take the rest, but thankfully older and wiser heads prevailed.
Actherimos & the Arrow of Time
The icy chamber beyond the cave-in held the great earthquake dragon, Actherimos, and some of his duergar toadies, all suspended in time. The magic holding them in time faded quickly as our heroes entered the area. As Actherimos wheeled about and prepared for battle, the adventurers could see the mangled corpse of Salazar Vladistone beside it. And clutched in the corpse’s hand was the arrow of time!
I wanted this fight to be challenging for the players, but not so difficult that their dead bodies would lay scattered around the icy chamber. So I held Actherimos back until the party had dealt with most of the duergar, and only then did I unleash the dragon upon them. Once Actherimos was fully engaged, Thoradin courageously made a mad dash past it and headed for Vladistone’s corpse. When the dwarf grabbed the arrow of time, Salazar Vladistone’s ghost appeared at the entrance to the cave.
Vladistone’s gaze fixed on the arrow in Thoradin’s hands. “I remember now,” he said. “I remember how much I wanted to see my Oldivya. I do not know what you intend to do with the arrow, but I ask you— please do not send me back. I could not bear to return to that time and be without her again.”
When Thoradin hesitated in making his decision, Vladistone said that if the party would give him the arrow, he’d join them in the battle against the dragon and he wouldn’t return to the Ghost Tower until the fight was over. After just a moment’s more thought, Thoradin gave the arrow to Vladistone.
True to his word, Vladistone joined the fight against Actherimos. Only after the dragon was defeated did he return to Inverness with the relic. The tower allowed him to enter it and return the arrow, at which point the Ghost Tower disappeared and allowed the ghost to see his wife once again. When the adventurers returned to Hammerfast and the full story of their victory at the monastery was told, there were celebrations in their honor for days on end.