Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Story So Far V

7th day, Silvangate the 28th, 1845

Our valiant heroes were still deep in the dungeon past the black iron doors. Having exhausted all their options, it seemed that a further investigation of the room with the painting and the curtain was in order. Svarnos stated that he thought that the painting was some sort of illusion or possibly a portal to some unknown place. The company returned to the room and began to study the statue and the curtain a little more closely. The empty hood of the sculpture seemed to be staring out through its hands as if it once held something in them. The black curtain was ragged and was almost falling off the bar that held it. They decided to pull the curtain open a little to see what would happen. Before this the adventurers took some precautions in case something came through the curtain or if, as some thought, the statue magically came to life. They all got into positions of readiness and Galifynakus opened the right side of the curtain a few feet. Nothing happened but now everyone could see more of the mysterious painting behind the curtain. Feeling more confident they opened the curtain completely revealing the whole image as described to them by Lono before. It was an uncannily realistic painting of a forest at night during the Cycle of the Blood Moon with twisted leafless trees reaching up into the sky and a graveyard on a hill a little in the distance rising above the treetops. A gravel path ran from the base of the painting into the dark forest. Strangely, the moon shone with an actual red illumination through the cloudy sky and the trees swayed slightly. Occasionally, a white unidentifiable shape could be seen flitting between the trees. The party realized, looking at the statue, that the smoky quartz disc that they found earlier would probably fit in its stony hands. Svarnos placed the disc into the hands of the statue and it fit perfectly. Yet nothing seemed to change. Martijn came up to the painting and tried to just step up right into it but his boot just thumped against it as if it were a solid wall. The party searched the painting itself for secret doors and found naught. In a moment of inspiration Gjord took one of the round glowing glands taken from the defeated fire beetles and placed it into the hollow hood of the statue. Aside from this creating an eerie effect with the sculpture the party noticed it had effected the painting as well. The light from the hood emitted forth through the crystal disc and that in turn projected a faint 5’ diameter circle on the surface of the painting. The circle appeared right at the point where the gravel path did in the image. Gjord went forward and tried to touch the painting within the circle and his hands passed through the surface, which rippled like water. They had found the secret! Gjord went through the circle and walked right into the painting and onto the gravel path. The portal from this side looked like a circular window into the room of the statue set into a wall of thick swirling mist. This wall stretched to the left and right as far as he could see and upwards it eventually seemed to fail and the Blood Moon sky could be seen. Gjord tried to touch the mist but his hands met resistance as if the mist repelled him. Gjord poked his head through portal and was relieved that he wasn’t trapped on his side. He asked the group to remove the crystal disc to see what would happen. They did so and the portal on Gjords side disappeared, the party on the other side could see the dwarf however. They replaced the crystal and the portal reappeared. Now that the nature of the portal was determined Gjord was eager to bring the rest of the party through to begin exploring. Fionnula felt that someone should remain behind to guard the portal entrance in case something should come along and disturb it. Gjord thought it an unnecessary precaution and said it was unwise to split the party up. After some argument the party took a vote and Gjord was overruled. Galifynakus was left to guard and the rest of the company (with many grumblings from Gjord) entered into the magic portal.

As Galifynakus amused himself singing old songs the party followed the path into the dark and twisted woods. It was an eerie feeling walking under the boughs of the leafless trees with the blood red moon hanging in the sky above. All of a sudden, on the path ahead, the elusive white shape appeared. The party drew their weapons and Fionnula took out her holy symbol as the shape moved towards them. It began to take shape as it approached and then about 15’ away from the party it took a recognizable form. The image was horrifying, a ghostly young elven woman floated above the ground before them, she was unclothed and a gaping bloody stab wound marred her chest. Her eyes betrayed a deep sadness and as she tried to move her mouth as if to speak blood poured forth from it. The party recognized her almost at once. It was the elf maiden that the acolytes of Adramelech had abducted as was told of in the old diary excerpt that they found. The terrifying spirit hovered before them silently though it continued to try to speak. Feeling pity, Fionnula stepped forward and presented her holy symbol to the spirit and said, “In the name of Varcan, leave this place and find rest.” The cross suddenly glimmered with a purple light known to the brothers and sisters of Varcan as the Violet Fire, a manifestation of their deity’s power. Yet this did not dispel or repel the apparition. Instead it quickly floated up to the cross and held its hands before it as if it were warming itself at a campfire. Without warning it reached out and grasped Fionnula’s shoulders. In shock the cleric could feel the apparition trying to enter her body so she used all her aura to resist this invading force and was successful. Gjord, seeing the cleric being attacked swung his warhammer at the spirit. His hammer passed through it as if it were nothing but smoke. The ghost then grasped the dwarf and he was unable to resist its invasion. The spirit flowed into the dwarfs open mouth and possessed him. Gjord dropped his warhammer and began to speak with a desperate unnerving voice that was not his own, and this is what was said.

“They took me, they took my voice and my life and now I am here… forever lost. Forever lost…I’m so tired… let me rest. I still lie under the sign of that foul demon. I cannot rest with my bones there… give me peace. My father. Where is my father? He never knew what happened to me. Let him know, I will wait for him with Fainarel if only I can find my way to her.”

Here Gjord seemed to gain back some awareness and a groan escaped his throat. Then the entity got full control again and continued to speak.

“Holy ones came here to break the curse of this place. They said they would help me but there was so much evil. They were destroyed… but some rose again. One I think escaped, he would not become one of them, he went into the white tomb but never did I see him again. It was so long ago. “I’m weak, I can no longer hold back the one whose body this is. I am sorry…forgive…I was Casruil and now I am lost!”

After speaking these words the spirit swarmed out of Gjord’s mouth in a swirling ethereal cloud and faded away. Gjord came to himself but had no idea what happened and had to be told of what occurred. The adventurers knew they would have to keep an eye out for the bones of Casruil if they wanted to give her spirit rest.

The party continued onward along the path and came to a place where another path split off to the right from the one on which they were traveling. They took the new path, as it seemed to aim more towards the cemetery that they saw in the distance earlier. They were right, the path began to slope upward and they broke from the trees to find themselves at the bottom of the hill cemetery. The cemetery had been desecrated. Tombs had been broken into, monuments were knocked over, and some graves looked as if they had been dug up. At the very top of the hill (that rose to about 60’) there was a white marble tomb that looked untouched. The party began to ascend the hill when the heard a rattling groan off to the right. Coming from behind a tomb some 50’ away were six humanoid figures slowly stumbling towards them. The company realized that the things were enemies so they prepared for battle. Svarnos took a shot with his crossbow and missed as the things moved closer. They then saw them for what they were – the undead! Walking corpses! Fionnula brought forth her holy symbol to turn the unclean monsters. Her cross glimmered with a violet glow and the creatures suddenly stopped and began to move away from her as if the sight of Varcan’s Cross was unbearable to them. The fighters were about to rush to the attack but Svarnos said why not let him and Lono take care of them with their ranged weapons. This way no one would even have to get close to the foul things. So, Lono and Svarnos took pot shots at the zombies while Fionnula kept driving them back with her holy symbol. They made their way around the hill is this manner slowly taking the zombies down. Eventually, Gjord and Martijn decided it was taking too long and stormed in to take care of the last couple of zombies. The creatures were defeated and nothing of value could be found amongst their rotted bodies. Fionnula noticed that they were wearing ragged clerical vestments. Were these the holy men that Casruil’s spirit spoke of?

The heroes then turned their attention to the white tomb. As they approached it they noticed it was truly untouched and it looked clean and whole. The white marble was veined with purple and it appeared to be a tomb of a follower of Varcan. They approached nearer, but as soon as they got within 30’ of it Martijn, Svarnos, and Lono all stopped short as if they had run into a wall! Fionulla and Gjord had no problem moving on but an invisible barrier blocked the rest of the party! They reasoned that only people of a certain disposition could approach the tomb and whatever it was Gjord and Fionnula had it. They could think no way to overcome this predicament so the cleric and the dwarf decided to take a closer look at the tomb. They could see Varcan’s symbol carved above the marble slab door and on the door itself the following text was engraved in the Common tongue.

Father Volin

Our beloved Patriarch

1671 – 1760

Only the good may enter here

To pay respect to our

Honorable Patriarch

You must answer this to open the tomb.

What does man love more than life, and fears more than death or strife?

What do kings require, and the poor have,and what contented men desire?

What the miser spends and the squanderer saves,and all men carry to their graves?

The adventurers were baffled by this riddle for some time and paced in front of the tomb deep in thought. They shouted out various answers and naught happened. Lono even suggested breaking it open. Suddenly, the answer came to Gjord as he peered at the carven words. “Nothing.” He said, and the door began to shudder than slowly slide out of the way. The party was overjoyed and Gjord was proud of his achievement. The cleric and the dwarf entered the tomb.

Inside the tomb was a marble bier and a man dressed in a white shroud was lying upon it. It was an elderly human with a mane of white hair and a white beard. Placed on his chest was a silver Varcan’s Cross. He was dead and stiff but no decay could be noticed and the air of the tomb was clean. A hanging violet-glass lantern that was burning with a flame that seemed to give off no smoke or heat lighted the tomb. On the floor next to the bier was another body. This appeared to be a cleric of Varcan that was dressed as an adventurer. On closer inspection it was seen that the body had some wounds upon it but was also undecayed. The two adventurers realized that this was the cleric that had escaped the undead by hiding in the white tomb. Gjord thought that they should search the body of the cleric to see if they could find anything useful. Fionnula at first thought that this would be desecration but Gjord said that the cleric would have wanted to help them in ridding this place of evil. This seemed to make sense to the half-elf so they searched the body and found 2 potions of healing, 3 vials of holy water, two scrolls in metal cases, 5 flasks of oil, a lantern, rope and some gold and copper. The also found a finely made mace and both of them wondered if it was enchanted. Around the neck of the cleric they found a black iron key on a leather thong and Gjord was confident this was the key to the iron door in the room with the shadow illusion. After Fionnula said a little prayer over the bodies they departed the tomb and the door slid closed behind them.

They returned to the party and Lono wanted to know what they got. The dwarf and the cleric told the rest what occurred in the tomb and what they found. They then decided to go back to the gravel path and take the way that did not take before. As they left the cemetery they noticed that the monuments and tombstones were what you would see in any graveyard in Malavon or Elnarra (although these had all been marred and desecrated). Maybe this place had once been a fine cemetery where one would have been happy to be put to rest.

They took the other route and it led them deeper in the twisted trees. The path abruptly ended at a large tomb with a broken door, behind which could be seen more of the wall of swirling fog that seemed to surround this place. All of a sudden from the tomb skulked two horrid creatures. They had mottled decayed flesh drawn tightly to their bones that were clearly visible and large carnivorous teeth. Their eyes glowed like burning hot coals. The things looked at the party then snarled and rushed to attack. Fionnula cast Magic Stone on Lono’s sling bullets and then the battle commenced. It was a hard fight as the creatures attacked the lead fighters with a flurry of claws and fangs. Martijn was struck by the claw of one the creatures and was afflicted with a sudden paralysis. He fell to the ground stiff as a statue. Fionnula took up the fight and held her own while Gjord slew the one he was fighting. Lono came around the side and got at an angle where he could get a shot in and blasted a hole through the other monster with an ensorcelled magic sling stone and killed it. They were victorious and as some tried to help Martijn the others searched the tomb. There were bones and shattered coffins littering the floor but amongst the debris Gjord found a silver ring. He showed it to the rest of the group and then put it on and asked if they could see him. They all looked at him like he was mad. He then jumped up and down and ran to and fro but nothing seemed different out of the ordinary. Svarnos took the ring and looked at it and found an inscription on the inside of the band that he could not read. He figured this was in the arcane tongue so he cast Read Magic upon it and found that it read “shield”. Gjord seemed satisfied with this and put the ring back on. During this time Martijn snapped out of his paralysis.

The party decided to see how large this place they were in truly was so they approached the wall of mist behind the tomb. The began to follow it to the left, feeling their way along to see if there was any way through the mist. The twisted trees were at their backs. Eventually, they found that this place was somewhat circular as they came upon the portal that they used to enter this place. Gjord poked his head through and told Galifynakus that they all was well and that they would be out soon. The barbarian huffed, as he was tired of just sitting around. So, the group continued on their circular route following the wall of mist. They passed the hill and the found the tomb that they started from. The place was circular and perhaps several hundred in diameter! They took the path back to the portal and exited this strange and eerie place.

The company was now all together again and Galifynakus was filled in on what happened. They removed the glowing gland from the statues hood and took the crystal disc and the portal disappeared. They went to the iron door in the room with the illusions. At this point the illusion had lost all its menace and realism to them. The key they found on the dead cleric fit perfectly and the door was unlocked and opened. Beyond the door was a dark chamber with a 15’ wide passage opposite the door on the other side of it. At the edge of the twilight vision of the half-elves another chamber could be seen at the end of this passage. Lono was sent as a scout into the room and he was given a glowing fire beetle gland to light his way. Before he left Fionnula cast Invisibility to undead upon him just in case. He stalked a couple paces in and froze, for up ahead a human sized shadow that was darker than the darkness surrounding it was slowly moving towards him. Lono came back and started to tell the others what he could see but then they saw it themselves. The shadow loomed up behind the thief and the party reacted. Fionnula tried to turn the creature but it was undaunted by her attempt. It was then that Svarnos remembered something about invisibility that made him slap his forehead in frustration. Light could not be made invisible, so an undead creature would have noticed Lono with his light source. The party surrounded the shadow thing and attacked. To their dismay they found that only Fionnula’s mace (the one taken from the dead cleric) seemed to harm the thing. The creature was solid to the mace and the cleric struck at it again and again. Gjord got out the holy water vials and Svarnos sent a barrage of Magic Missile spells at the creature. The shadow let out ethereal shrieks of pain as the magic bolts struck. Gjord tried the holy water and missed dousing Svarnos instead as the wizard tried to move around to the back of the shadow with a Shocking Grasp spell. The attacks of the shadow were dreadful; it could reach through your armor and shield and grasp your heart with an icy touch. The touch drained your strength away and both Gjord and Fionnula were affected by this horrible attack. Finally, the thing was destroyed. Fionnula’s attacks had weakened it along with Svarnos’ spells. Svarnos struck it with his Shocking Grasp spell and Gjord’s second vial of holy water was a direct hit. The creature dissipated and vanished as if it never existed. The party, weakened by the shadow, debated on whether they should go on or rest. Gjord felt they were near their goal and urged them to go on, so they did.

The party went on into the passage past the room where they battled the shadow. After some thirty feet they came to another chamber. This was a large 55’ wide by 50’ long room with two 10’ wide passages leading out of it on the wall opposite the entrance. These were draped with black tattered curtains. A large black altar surrounded by three large stone sculptures of bat-winged demons was near the back wall of the room. On the altar was a stone idol an unholy symbol of the face of Adramelech (a skeletal horned demons face) affixed to a two-foot tall plinth. On the altar under the idol was a pile of bones and the party determined that these were the bones of Casruil. The room was covered with dust and cobwebs. Suddenly, as the party approached the altar, the idol burst into flame. All who looked upon it felt an invading dark force enter their minds. Fionnula, Lono, and Galifynakus were able to shrug it off but Gjord, Svarnos, and Martijn fell under its power. They fell to their knees and began to recite a sonorous mantra.

Zodacare od zodameranu! Hoathahe Adramelech!

As the rest of the group were wondering what to do silent shapes began to enter the room from the two curtain shrouded passages. Nine robed and hooded skeletal forms armed with rusty longswords advanced toward the party as the mantra went droning on. Fionulla once again brought forth her holy symbol and called upon Varcan and three of the skeletons turned away and went back behind the curtains. However, six still came nearer. Galifynakus called upon his primordial rage and took the fight to the enemy. Lono moved back with sling ready and looked for an opportunity to strike. Fionnula waded in with her mace and the battle began. The heroes did well and the skeletons were vanquished. Fionnula’s mace smashed through the undead monsters. Galifynakus led the fight, the rage making him more than a match for his adversaries. Even Lono took one down with his sling. After the battle they tried to stop their friends from reciting the dark mantra but they couldn't. The only answer was to destroy the idol. The cleric and the barbarian began to hack and smash away at it and the idol chipped and cracked under their blows. Sparks and flames leapt up from it every time it was struck. Fionnula took the last vial of holy water from the Gjord’s pouch and splashed the idol with it. The flames went out and the stone idol melted like wax. The three who were caught its spell were now free and they looked about them bewildered. The others told them what had happened.

Gjord, after listening what they had to say, told them that it meant there were still three more skeletons behind the curtains. He urged them on but no one was ready to follow him so he rushed behind the curtains to take the creatures on himself. It proved to be a foolhardy thing to do. He entered a room with nine sarcophagi lining the walls. The three skeletons were cowering near the far wall and the dwarf attacked. He fought as well as he could but he was still weakened by the attack of the shadow creature and the skeletons cut him down. Svarnos tried to come to his aid and attacked with his dagger and was almost struck down himself. Then the rest of the group stormed in and dispatched the foul undead monsters. The nine skeletons (that the group knew to be the once cursed clerics of Adramelech) were defeated.

Svarnos fed the unconscious Gjord a potion of healing and the dwarf was magically revived but still weak. Fionnula was irritated with the rash actions of the dwarf and felt that a magic potion was wasted as she could have healed the dwarf with her spells. Gjord blamed Svarnos for wasting the potion as he was knocked out. The party searched the sarcophagi and found gems, jewelry, scrolls, a potion, a fine suit of studded black leather armor and a dagger with an odd wavy black blade.

They felt that the evil of this temple to Adramelech had been conquered and they went back into the other chamber and took the bones of Casruil from the black altar. They were ready to return out of the darkness and back into the sunlit world.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.