Cauldron: The Shackled City

Adventure #6
July 6th, 1370

When the PCs enter Cauldron, they head straight to the temple of Helm to get a status update from Jenya. She tells them that their news of Alek’s death was able to stop Skellerang from laying siege to Redgorge. Outside of that though, there is very little good news to report. Citizens are leaving the city by the dozens, with nearly 500 people total already gone, and more making preparations to follow suit. The Lord Mayor is not around to address any of the cities issues because he is either requesting aid from a neighboring land or dead (depending on which rumor you believe). Either way, the city is currently being held together by Lord Vhalantru.

A few days after returning to the city, and assassination attempt is made … on them! Two figures rush in through the door of the Laughing Horse and charge the PCs, all without making a sound. In fact, even the patrons nearest them are completely silent, even though they seem to be yelling and screaming. As party engages their attackers (a half-orc with a greatsword and a human woman with a rapier), the townsfolk rush out through doors at the front and back of the Inn.

Flavian and Kursk take on the half-orc while Scrump gives the woman a hug grapples the woman. The half-orc lands one solid blow, but is slain without much difficulty. Meanwhile, Scrump rescues the woman to the ground. While he’s fighting to try and restrain her, the entire common room is blasted with extreme cold. A couple of the PCs notice that the spell originated from the front door, and rush there to engage its caster. Their assailant remains unseen until Jerim cast a spell to reveal him. Just as he is discovered, the enemy caster launches a lightning bolt through the doorway, then takes off at a sprint down the street, surrounded by a half dozen images of himself. In a desperate attempt to keep the assassin from escaping, Jerim targets him with a holding spell. Surprisingly, the spell works, and the fleeing man crashes to the street.

They grab the paralyzed man and return to the Inn. Scrump has finally gotten the woman into manacles, and he dumps her behind the bar while the decide what to do. As they are discussing their options they hear a loud thumping coming from behind the bar. They see the woman smashing her face against the floor, then fall unconscious in a pool of her own blood. Confused and concerned, they turn their attention to the still-immobile spellcaster. They make sure he is is tied up well before the spell ends, then wait until he can talk. They try to question him, but he refuses to give them anything solid. When they threaten to turn him in, he says that he’d just escape. Then they threaten to kill him, he tells them that he doesn’t fear death. Death is unavoidable, and not irreversible. Deciding that this interrogation is pointless, they give him what he wants… death.

As the PCs search the bodies, they find something of interest (apart from a few magical items). The woman is wearing a holy symbol around her neck that depicts a grinning skull surrounded by drops of blood; the symbol of Bhaal. The sorcerer has the same symbol tattoo on his upper arm. With two signs pointing them toward Bhaal, the party decides to head to the temple of Kelemvor, which was a temple of Bhaal until his death 12 years ago.

View
The Test of the Smoking Eye
22nd May, 1370

This adventure starts just moments after the previous adventure ends, so make sure to read that one here if you haven’t already!

The PCs drag the demon’s body into a corner as they decide what to do next. They only have a couple of minutes to rest, however, before they are thrust back into battle again. Three creatures run in from the desert outside and immediately attack the party.

Babau.jpg A few seconds later, another figure rushes in and begins casting feeble spells at the creatures in an effort to aid the PCs. When the battle is over, they finally get a good look at the newcomer. He appears to be human, wearing a tunic upon which is emblazoned the symbol of an eye with smoke issuing from it. The man introduces himself as Kaurophon, and explains that we was sent by the power of the Smoking Eye to guide the party to Occipitus.

(At this point there were a lot of questions and answers which I will sum up below as a simple Q&A)

Q: What’s Occipitus?
A: Occipitus is another plane, once part of Celestia but now corrupted and consumed by evil. I’ve traveled its lands for years, and I’ve uncovered the secret of controlling the plane and cleansing it.

Q: Who lives there?
A: Few creatures do. Even demons regard it as haunted, because the light of good still shines there. Yet the evil is so strong that the angels of Celestia count it as lost forever. Unfortunately, some demons and other creatures have moved there, trying to pass the Test of the Smoking Eye and expunge what good remains there.

Q: Where is it?
A: It is part of the Abyss right now. But if the right person passes the Test of the Smoking Eye, he could separate it from the Lower Planes. Perhaps it would become a demiplane, or perhaps it would again become part of Celestia.

Q: Who are you?
A: I’m a traveler, and I’ve wandered the planes for hundreds of years. Because I was born of an illicit dalliance between fiend and human, I’m welcome nowhere. Perhaps my heritage is the reason I want to help someone pass the Test of the Smoking Eye and purify Occipitus. But I’m not one for introspection.

Q: What is the Test of the Smoking Eye?
A: It’s a test created by the former ruler of the plane, who disappeared years ago. Whoever passes the Test of the Smoking Eye becomes the new rightful ruler of Occipitus. I know the test has three parts, each hidden somewhere on Occipitus. Passing the first part of the test reveals the location of the second part, and so on. I stumbled upon the location of the first test, but I’m not powerful enough to pass it. The prophet’s (he’s referring to Alek) final words give me hope that you have sufficient power.

Q: What’s the first part of the test?
A: You must enter a hidden chamber within a ruined Celestial cathedral. There you must choose one of two doors: one with a bebilith demon behind it and one with an avoral guardinal.

Q: How’d you get here?
A: Much to my surprise, I found myself here just moments after I heard the prophet’s words inside my head. I suppose that I’m the “sign of the Smoking Eye” he talked about.

Q: You’re evil! (I know, it’s not a question. Flavian sensed that he was evil)
A: You’re detecting my unfortunate heritage—the fiendish blood that flows through my veins. Just as I’m trying to purify my own soul, so too am I trying to end the battle between good and evil on Occipitus. I hope that someday my aura will be as pure as yours. In any event, the evil that taints my soul is a pale shadow to those who have risen against you in Cauldron.

Q: You’re using an illusion! (Again, I know it’s not a question. Jerim cast detect magic and saw that Kaurophon was disguising himself)
A: My true form isn’t as pleasant as this one, and I wanted to make sure you’d hear my plea without mistaking me for an enemy.

Kaurophon also impresses upon the party the need for haste. He states that there are others who seek to rule Occipitus for themselves; others who would mold it into a true abyssal state. Unsure of how to proceed, Jerim contacts the Pope via a sending and asks what they should do. She says that she will inform Terseon that Alek has repealed the challenge (and died). She encourages the PCs to follow whatever course of action they believe will be best for Cauldron.

After deciding that Alek would want his holy longsword to fulfill the purpose of its creation, the party move Alek’s body and the rest of his possessions back down to the mirror room and close the door to keep it safe from scavengers. When they ask if they can rest before heading to Occipitus, Kaurophon again reminds them that they are in a hurry, and says that there will be time to rest later. When they agree to leave Kaurophon pulls out a scroll and begins to read. A few moments later the room in the desert disappears, replaced by the strangest sight they’ve ever seen.

The sky seems to be made of flame, bathing everything in a reddish glow. Off in the distance looms a massive skull: a white monolith the size of a small mountain. Clouds of flame stream from the skull’s single exposed eye socket and up into the sky. About a half-mile ahead stands a cluster of gently curving white pillars, almost as if giant rib bones had been stuck in the ground. In the distance looms a steep mountain ridge whose top seems to touch the fiery sky. It stretches around the entire horizon—as if you were standing inside a vast bowl with a fiery lid. The ground is spongy and wrinkled. It’s more like skin than dirt.

Map of Occipitus

Kaurophon grumbles about the inaccuracy of the plane shift and tells the party that they are about 100 miles away from their destination. This means a journey of 4-5 days across the 507th layer of the Abyss. While they still have a few days’ worth of trail rations, they have very little in the way of protein. Their guide tells them that herds of (fiendish) bison can be found wandering the more open areas of Occipitus, and it shouldn’t be too hard to track them down. This turns out to be true, and within a couple of hours they have enough meat to last about a week.

While two of the PCs are keeping watch in the middle of the “night” (the fire in the sky makes night and day seem the same), they become aware of three large creatures moving to surround the camp. The watchers rouse the sleepers just in time to face an attack from three red-eyed lions. The only difficult part of the battle is having to listen to Scrump complain about not having his armor. The rest of the evening passes uneventfully, as well as most of the next day. Just as they start thinking about finding a place to sleep, a huge frog-like demon attacks. With the party’s full compliment of spells and abilities available, the demon never stood a chance.

Hezrou.jpg

The following day passes without incident, but the day after provides them with enemies and choices. More lions attack, but their size and lack of defenses again lead to a quick demise. A short while later, Kaurophon presents the PCs with two options: continuing onward through a “forest” of bone-like protrusions that curve skyward, or taking a route that would lead them around it, but would add a day to their journey. The party decides to continue on through the forest, and quickly learn why their guide may have wanted to avoid it. As they try to escape the forest prior to camping for the night, they are attacked by more of the same creatures that attacked them just before traveling to Occipitus. As with the demon two days before, this battle is made much easier because of a nearly full array of abilities still available for the day.

After dealing with the demons, the party exits the forest and makes camp. Kaurophon tells them that they are now only a few hours away from the “Cathedral of Feathers”, the location of the first test. When pressed about the details of the test, Kaurophon says that the PCs will be presented with a choice to fight either a Bebelith Demon or an Avoral Guardinal.

smoking_eye_test_1.png

He says that he correctly chose the bebelith, but was not strong enough to beat it. They will only learn how to find the second test after completing the first. Kaurophon reminds them that others seek to pass the test as well, so they may encounter some resistance from rivals when they arrive at the Cathedral. The party gets their necessary rest, then heads out.

Just a couple of hours later, they arrive at their destination. The Cathedral stands alone on a hill, a remnant of Celestia that seems very out of place in this strange demonic landscape. It has clearly been ravaged by the evils of the plane; the windows are all broken, gaping holes dot the roof, and sections of wall seem ready to collapse. The land all about is quiet and empty as they party approaches the huge front doors. Even with the four strongest PCs straining against the doors, it takes nearly a minute for the heavy stone portal to grind open.

10 feet past the doors is a 20×20 pit in floor. As Kursk and Scrump move around the pit, a huge web is launched at the group still near the door, trapping Jerim in its thick strands. At the same time, Scrump feels a wave of weakness come over him. The party quickly identifies the threat; two driders hanging near the high ceiling. Spells, arrows, and a flying spear force the driders to abandon their exposed positions and close with their attackers. This only makes their situation worse as it allows that half-orcs to participate fully in the battle.

When combat ends, the heroes take in their surroundings. The first thing of interest is the Cathedral itself. Every minute or so, the Cathedral seems to revert to its former glory; all of the damage is repaired, bright sunlight shines all around, and beautiful verdant meadows can be seen through the windows and doors. After a few seconds the vision ends and the Cathedral stands once again in its current dilapidated state. While the novelty of the change is interesting, it doesn’t seem to have any effect apart from possibly being a distraction during battle.

The other item of note in the narthex is the pit in the floor. Darkness shrouds the bottom, so it is impossible to judge its depth. Scrump decides to push one of the dead driders into the hole. After pushing for what seemed to be about 10 feet further than was needed, he looked down to discover that he was standing on top of the pit. Stuck somewhere between shame at being duped by the illusion, and disappointment at not getting to see the drider plummet into the darkness, the PCs turn their attention to the double-doors that lead to the Cathedral’s vast central chamber.

Cathedral_of_Feathers.jpg

Scrump says that he wants to check all corners of the Sanctuary before investigating the two side chambers. As they pass by the far corner of the north room, a winged woman swoops down in front of Kursk and presses her mouth firmly against his. The half-orc clearly didn’t enjoy his first kiss, and let his axe show his displeasure. Flavian joins in punishment as well, but more out of jealousy that anything else.

While this is going on, huge sheet of flame materializes, separating these two from the rest of the party. Flavian stabs the succubus while she charms Kursk. Flavian then stabs her again before Kursk has time to do anything other than hesitate. Meanwhile, the rest of the group gets pounded by a fireball. Scrump lets out a primal scream and charges the source of the fire, a flaming, spiny, snake-man.

Salamander.jpg The salamander can’t withstand the half-orc’s frenzy and/or rage, and he dies quickly. With both enemies defeated, the party takes a moment to take a look around. A huge statue of Orcus stands on this end of the cathedral. Behind the statue they find a stairway descending into the bowels of the cathedral. Before heading down, the PCs decide to explore the two rooms they passed earlier. One contains nothing of interest, but the other proves to be both interesting and dangerous. The door opens to reveal a library, with about 200 books “flying” in a circle near the center of the room . As Scrump enters, 9 books break out of their orbit to dive-bomb the intruder. They strike the half-orc and explode in a burst of holy light, causing enough pain to send him running from the room.

Kaurophon urges the PCs to stop wasting time and get on with the first test. They agree and head to the stairs at the back of the cathedral. When Kaurophon doesn’t go down with them, the party asks him to come, but he is unable to pass through the open portal, seemingly blocked by some invisible force. When asked for an explanation he says that it might be because he has already attempted the test. Whatever the reason, he cannot enter and tells the party that he will wait for them outside. When they reach the bottom, they find a mummy sitting behind a desk. The mummy rises and addresses the party:

Adimarchus, Most Potent Ruler of Occipitus, bids you welcome to the Test of the Smoking Eye. If you are here, then Occipitus lies fallow, without a strong hand to guide its development. Know then that you are a pretender to Adimarchus’s throne. If you are worthy, step forward and undertake the Test of Judgment. Behind the north door lies Thathnak the bebilith. Behind the south door lies Halalia the avoral guardinal. Choose one door, slay the occupant behind it, then pass through the door on the other side. I will meet you there.

Remembering what Kaurophon said about the demon being the correct choice, and deciding that fighting an angel probably wasn’t the best idea, the PCs open the north door to face the bebilith. The party enters the room to find themselves on a ledge overlooking a huge pit. A series of 5×5 wooden planks attached to each other by some sort of webbing connect the ledge they are standing on to a similar ledge on the far side of the enormous room. Near that ledge is their target, a huge red-eyed spider demon who charges as soon as the PCs set foot on the wooden bridge. The barbarians face the demon head on, and Scrump pays the price. The demon rushes and slams into him, forcing him off the platforms and down onto the spikes on the pit floor below.

Back up on the platforms, the battle is fierce, but nothing else truly noteworthy happens before the demon is slain. After rescuing Scrump from the spiked floor, the PCs head out through the far door of the chamber. Here they again find the mummy. It hands them a lantern attached to a four-foot-long pole by a short chain. Corym takes the lantern as the mummy speaks:

You have passed the Test of Judgment. Attend to the wisdom of Adimarchus! Always deal with rivals first, and enemies second. This lantern shall guide you to the second test: the Test of Resolve.

There’s a flash of light, and the mummy is gone. Corym tells the party that the lantern is directing him out of the cathedral, so they all head back upstairs and outside. They rejoin with Kaurophon then follow the lantern’s guidance away from the cathedral in a different direction than the one they approached from. The PCs ask Kaurophon where they could be headed, and he says that the only place of interest in that direction is a place he calls the Plain of Cysts. When pressed for more information he says that it was the site of the final battle between the demons and angels.

They travel for four days before reaching their destination. On the way, they encountered more lions (easy) and more babau demons (not so easy). The latter proved to be difficult for a number of reasons: There were ten of them, so they were easily able to surround certain PCs. Nerull the Bear charged out to meet them, and was surrounded much faster than anyone else. Flavian got surrounded as well, but without the same magical protections as Nerull, he was soon in need of major healing. It quickly became apparent that no one’s attacks seemed to really be hurting the demons much, so Jerim fixed this with a spell. Kursk then gets surrounded, but rather than suffering the same fate as Flavian, he was fortunate enough to be surrounded by the most combat-inept demons in the Abyss. As the demons finally begin to fall, Flavian again nearly dies. The babaus’ surrounding him are whittled down just in time to save him. After the battle, they all take a much needed rest.

When the party wakes up, Kaurophon tells them that if the Plain of Cysts is indeed their destination, they should reach it that day. Sure enough, after a couple hours of walking they reach the top of a ridge and look down upon a field of semi-translucent “lumps” of varying sizes; most about 5 feet high, but some reaching almost 10 feet high and nearly 15 feet across. Kaurophon explains that in each of theses “cysts” lies a fallen warrior from that centuries-old battle. Occipitus is gradually trying to absorb these bodies into itself. From this distance it is hard to tell, but there seems to be some movement at various places throughout the Plain. Corym tells the party that the lantern is pointing them straight into the heart of the Cysts. They all decide that Jerim should carry the lantern so Corym would be free to fight if necessary.

The party descends the ridge and begin walking through the cysts in the direction indicated by the lantern. Now that they are closer, they can see dark shapes inside each fleshy cocoon. Scump sees one with something glowing inside and decides to experiment with it by poking at it. As they all watch to see what will happen, there is a flash of light and they find themselves standing back on the ridge again. Dissatisfied with the experiment, they try again, with a weapon this time. Before teleporting again, they see the cysts leaking something that looks like blood. Guessing that disturbing the cysts causes them to teleport, they decide to not touch them again.

When they reenter the Plain, they continue following the lantern without stopping. It leads them on a winding path through the cysts, not seeming to lead anywhere in particular or make any progress through the field. At one point when the lantern leads them close to an edge of the Plain, they see and hear something big up ahead. Nerull considers yelling out to it to draw its attention, but after his three brains argue it out for a while, he decides against it. Instead they all stop to watch whether the creature would approach. A few seconds after stopping, the party is again returned to the ridge where they began.

Flavian points out that the mummy called this the Test of Resolve, and maybe they need to just continue forward, following the lantern no matter what. The party sets out once again, deciding to stick to Flavian’s plan. When they reach the place where they last stopped, they continue at half speed, moving as quietly as they can with two guys in full-plate. They pass by the creature without incident, and without getting a really clear view of what it was. A couple of minutes later, they pass by a cyst that catches their attention. Inside they can see what appears to be brightly colored feathers… and they are twitching. Scrump decides to stop and try to free this colorful creature, because “anything with feathers is good” (obviously forgetting where Corym got his bow). The others continue slowly down the lantern’s path while Scrump cuts an opening big enough to remove the creature inside… which turns out to be a 12-foot-long snake with wings. Scump is able to get it to drink a healing potion (though not without it questioning the half-orc’s intelligence). They have a very brief and strange telepathic conversation, then the couatl plane shift’s away.

While Scrump was freeing the snake-thing, the rest of the party followed the lantern until they saw another large creature ahead of them. When they take too long trying to decide what they would do if the path took them closer to it, they are teleported back to the ridge again. Knowing that his brother will be looking for them, Kursk makes everyone go along the lantern’s path quickly. When they reach the spot where they passed the first large creature, they are forced to stop because it has moved directly in the path. They are again teleported back to the ridge. The PCs are forced to repeat this process a few times until the creature (an abnormally large basilisk) had moved far enough off the past that they could pass undetected.

They hurry along the path and eventually come to the place where Scrump rescued the couatl. They find nothing but a deflated cyst and a spreading puddle of blood-like goo. Continuing on, they come back to the place where they approached the second large creature. This time they keep walking normally, hoping the path will take them around the creature rather than continuing toward it. The lantern leads them away just in time to avoid detection. They continue along the path, passing near the far end of the Plain from where they entered. Still having seen no sign of Scrump, Kursk begins calling out for his brother.

Meanwhile, Scrump is stranded and alone, unable to see the party. He tries to head in the direction they were walking, hoping they didn’t take too many turns along the way. He comes to a place where he sees a large creature ahead, and decides to go around it. Eventually he reaches the far edge of the Plain. Here he decides that something must have happened to his friends. He walks back into the Plain until he finds one of the larger cysts, then climbs up on top, hoping to see the rest of the party from a higher vantage point. He regrets this decision immediately, however, as the cyst is unable to support his weight and he falls through. Covered over his head, he fights to push through the goopy innards of the cyst to reach the edge. After fighting for nearly a minute, he is able to reach the edge and slice out with his sword.

A few minutes later, covered in smelly goo, Scrump hears his brother calling him. Frustratingly, the voice comes from back toward the far edge of the plain, which means if he had just waited a while, he would have met up with the party without almost drowning in Abyssal puss. He reaches the area where he thought Kursk was calling from only to find that the party had kept moving and he had to run to catch up. Just as the party is reunited, they come across a group of four “grave” robbers who are trying to harvest the cysts for treasure. The four ready themselves for to attack, then see the filthy half-orc run up, and they hesitate. While the other PCs keep walking, Scrump tells the evil quartet that he has had a rough day and that he won’t kill them if they don’t bother him. He then turns and catches up to the party while the scavengers stare after him in stunned disbelief (and a bit of fear).

After the lantern leads them through a few more seemingly random turns, there is again a flash of light, but instead of appearing back on the ridge, the PCs find themselves standing in a “clearing”, surrounded by tall fibrous strands that remind them of hair. Standing before them is another mummy. Like the previous mummy, this one addresses the party:

You have passed the Test of Resolve. Attend to the wisdom of Adimarchus! Let neither riches nor weaponry, neither allies nor enemies, tempt you from your course. Instead, spread such distractions before your rivals. The lantern shall guide you to the final test: the Test of Sacrifice. Your ascension to the throne draws nigh!

The mummy disappears in a flash of light, and Jerim points in the direction that the lantern indicates. Before moving on however, they notice that all of the nearest “hairs” have bent down and seem to almost be reaching for the party. Kaurophon tells them that if they just move quickly, and don’t stop, the fibers won’t be able to catch anyone. Following his instructions, the party moves out at a brisk pace. A couple of hours later, exhausted from not being able to slacken their pace, they finally emerge from the “forest”.

From here, they have an unobstructed view of the giant skull in the center of Occipitus, and the stream of plasma bubbles flowing upward from its single exposed eye socket. With a journey of about three days ahead of them, the party takes some time to rest, and try to figure out a way to get Scrump clean without wasting what precious little drinking water they have left. The walk to the skull is uneventful. Kaurophon explains that most of Occipitus’s denizens avoid the skull and the area around it.

When they are about a mile away from the skull, they starting noticing small pools of red liquid, almost like open wounds upon the spongy “flesh” that is Occipitus’s. Kaurophon calls this place the Plain of Ulcers, and it seems to all to be a fitting name. These “ulcers” grow larger and closer together the nearer they are to the skull. As the PCs make the final approach, a black dragon swoops down toward them, unleashing a torrent of acid. Fortunately for them, black dragons are amongst the weaker dragons, and most of the group escapes with little to no damage. After a moment of stunned silence when Scrump says he doesn’t need to harvest a scale or tooth from the dragon because he “already has one”, they resume the final 1/4 mile of their trek to the face of the skull.

When they are less that 100 feet from the skull, they find a black-winged angel whose wings are pinned to the ground by a number of iron spikes. Jerim says that the lantern is guiding them down to the center of a large ulcer nearby, where a dark circle can be seen at its bottom. The party decides to help the angel before continuing, and they get to work removing the spikes. As they work, they notice scars and welts covering almost every inch of the angel’s skin. Once the wings are free, Jerim provides some healing, and the angel regains enough strength to stand. He thanks the PCs, acknowledges Kaurophon by name, then turns to walk away.

The party calls after him, and they all begin asking questions. (As with Kaurophon’s Q&A section at the top of the page, many questions were asked, so I’ll sum it up here the same way I did there)

Q: Who did this to you?
A: The spikes, you mean? A rakshasa and his pet giant. They’re on their way inside the skull. Presumably they’re trying to pass the Test, too.

Q: What are you?
A: I was once an astral deva. But when this part of Celestia fell into the Abyss, I fell along with it. Now I don’t know what I am.

Q: What’s with the scars?
A: The former ruler of this layer, a fallen planetar named Adimarchus, found it amusing to keep me around as his prisoner. He found me a kindred spirit, I suppose—where else are you going to find an angel around here? Adimarchus also thought it would be amusing to torture me repeatedly.

Q: What happened to Adimarchus?
A: He disappeared on the eve of a great and pointless battle between his horde and that of Graz’zt, a particularly vicious demon lord. Some say Graz’zt had him kidnapped and assassinated. Others say the battle was just a ruse for some other plan of Adimarchus’s.

Q: What do you know about the Test of the Smoking Eye?
A: Well, I helped Adimarchus create it—is that good enough for you? He confided in me throughout its construction; after all, I was exactly the kind of successor he wanted. I was able to introduce a flaw into the test, because Adimarchus wasn’t always thinking clearly. Ruling a layer of the Abyss will do that to you.

Q: What is the flaw?
A: Well, you don’t need to complete all three parts of the test—just the last part. The first two parts simply point you in the direction of the final part, the part that really matters. The proctors—those mummies that Adimarchus created—can’t tell who’s passed previous parts of the test and who hasn’t. I suspect that’s what the rakshasa is doing. The flaw is a little subterfuge on my part, from back when I dreamed of rescue. I dreamed a celestial being would come and rescue me, and together we’d come here and perform the third part of the test before Adimarchus knew what was going on. Then all of Occipitus would be borne anew, lifted right out of the Abyss and reconnected to its rightful place in Celestia. I’m no longer so naive."

Q: What’s the third test?
A: I’m not telling—and before you start with the threats, I’ve had centuries of practice resisting torture from someone more ruthless and cruel than you. The rakshasa tried to force the same information from me. He failed.

Q: Why keep the test a secret?
A: I’ll say this—knowing in advance what the test is won’t help you prepare in any meaningful way. You could succeed. You could fail. You could turn your back on the whole idea. I’m not going to meddle in your fate. My own fate is trouble enough.

Q: What happens if we pass the test?
A: The very fabric of Occipitus’s reality is yours to command—you do know how to control an entire layer of the Abyss, don’t you? No? Well, I’d humbly suggest a line of academic inquiry, then. Like every other part of the Abyss, Occipitus responds to power, and the more powerful you are, the more Occipitus will bend to your will.

Q: What were you doing here when the rakshasa caught you?
A: I was waiting for you, frankly. After all these years, I had a mild curiosity about the people who were going to pass the Test of the Smoking Eye. Now that curiosity is satisfied.

Q: How do you know Kaurophon?
A: We met about a year ago at the Cathedral of Feathers. He was wondering why he couldn’t enter the antechamber for the first test.

Before ignoring further questions and flying off, Saureya (the angel) gives one final piece of advice: “I’d catch that rakshasa, unless you want to grow whiskers when he recreates Occipitus in his image.” With that, he flies away. The PCs turn their attention to the nearby ulcer that the lantern indicates. Scrump wades in to inspect the dark patch further. He sticks a sword down toward the blackness, but it just keeps descending, not stopping where the bottom should be. While he contemplates what this could mean, Kursk comes up behind him and gives his brother a friendly push. Scrump disappears into the blood-like fluids of the ulcer … and lands hard in a tunnel below. Above his head he can see a hole in the ceiling filled with the red fluid, but somehow holding it back so the tunnel remains dry.

Scrump steps aside just in time to avoid getting crushed by his brother. After Kursk, the whole rest of the party comes through one at a time, including Kaurophon. They set out along the 15-foot-wide tunnel, following it as it descends briefly, then climbs in a large spiral, ascending up into the skull. While in the tunnel, they find a giant, armed and ready to fight. Behind him is a tiger-man who begins murmuring and moving his hands. Even with the rakshasa going invisible, combat is once again disappointingly short … and the enemies are disappointingly short on usable treasure. The party grabs the only item of note (a scroll of plane shift), then continues onward and upward.

The tunnel empties into a large circular room with a black, broken throne at its center. A hulking figure that seems to be made of clay lumbers toward them. Nerull unleashes a powerful spell at the creature, only to see it dissipate before striking its target. Disappointed, he watches the two half-orcs bring down this huge construct in just a few seconds. After the battle, Kursk realizes that the wounds he sustained from the golem are not healing like they normally do. Jerim tries to heal him with a spell, but to no avail. The damage is not too bad, so they decide to figure it out later.

They climb a spiral staircase at the back of the room and enter a large chamber with nearly two dozen small tunnels leading off in every direction. In the center of this chamber is a huge bonfire of glossy black flames. As they approach, an earth elemental appears directly in front of the fire. While the brothers engage it, Nerull runs around the side to get a better look at the flames. Upon further inspection he sees a figure standing within the fire, skeletal arms outstretched as it begins another summoning. Leaving the elemental to the half-orcs, the rest of the party circles around to deal with the lich. The lich’s magical defenses fail him, and he falls along with his elemental.

Scrump and Kursk reach toward the flames to pull the body out and check it for loot, but Flavian stops them, ominously proclaiming that the flames themselves radiate evil. Thinking quickly, they ask Kaurophon if his “fiendish blood” might protect him from the evil fire. Kaurophon agrees to try, and slowly reaches his hand toward the sickly black flames. When his hands enter the fire, his eyes widen suddenly. He flinches back slightly, then quickly thrusts his arms back into the flames, grabs hold of the corpse inside, and pulls with all his puny might. Kursk and Scrump grab ahold of him from behind and pull him and the lich free of the flames. While the PCs pillage the undead summoner’s remains, Kaurophon, still seeming a bit in shock, warns the party to not touch the flames. Heeding his council, they let the lantern guide them from the room without giving the fire a second thought. (And it’s a good thing too! If any of them had touched the flames, they would have suffered 2d4 negative levels!)

A short tunnel leads them to another spiral staircase. This one takes them up into the skull’s enormous eye socket. At the center of the “room”, a gusher of blinding red light rushes outward and upward, eventually spreading to fill the sky with the fiery clouds above. The origin of the stream isn’t visible—it’s as if the plasma is being vented from a rip in the fabric of the plane itself. Near this phenomenon stands another mummy, who addresses them like his predecessors:

“Adimarchus, Most Potent Ruler of Occipitus, bids you welcome to the Final Test of the Smoking Eye. A worthy successor to the throne of Adimarchus must complete only one more task. To rule Occipitus—to grasp its power and use it for good or ill—means to sacrifice everything you hold dear. The final test is this: sacrifice an ally to the plasma, and Occipitus is yours!”

With an incredulous “That’s it?”, Kaurophon’s true colors are revealed. He sets his gaze on Kursk and begins casting a spell. Spells and arrows strike him quickly, but he completes his spell before either half-orc has a chance to react. Kursk feels himself being pushed backward, but his sheer force of will keeps him grounded. Recovering, he charges his badly bloodied foe and finishes him off with a single swing of his axe. In the moments following Kaurophon’s death, it occurs to Kursk just how close he had come to dying, and how grateful he was to still be alive.

With Kaurophon dead, a new problem presents itself: Now who could they sacrifice to the flaming geyser? Nerull and Kursk start forming a list of potential “allies” that they felt comfortable sacrificing. Meanwhile, Corym and Scrump try to think of alternatives to condemning some poor soul to a fiery death. Flavian and Jerim, however, each quickly come to the same conclusion: the only way out of this was for one of them to sacrifice themselves.

Flavian was lead to this decision by his conscience, unable to even contemplate sacrificing someone, no matter how just the reasons may seem. Besides, the other five had all been friends for years. If a member of their party had to be sacrificed, he couldn’t ask them to sacrifice a friend in place of someone they just met a week ago.

Jerim’s motivations were more rooted in his religious teachings and his devotion to his friends. As a servant of Helm, he was sworn to be a protector. Here, he could protect someone from a horrible death, protect his friends from a questionable decision they would surely regret, and hopefully save his city in the process.

As Flavian takes a step toward the plasma stream, he sees that Jerim is already standing next to it. The cleric tells his friends to stay strong and do whatever is need to save Cauldron, then turns and steps into the gusher. His friends have only a moment to deal with the shock of Jerim’s decision, when they see him slowly emerge again, as if pushed out by some unseen force. Jerim looks around in confusion, unsure of why he is still alive. To the rest of the party, the answer is clearly seen in the cleric’s left eye. Where his eye had been, a weak flame can be seen. Wisps of bitter smoke escape from between his open eye lids. By sacrificing himself, he passed the Test of Sacrifice.

The PCs quickly learn from the mummy proctor that nothing stops others from passing the tests. The half-orcs start thinking about sacrificing themselves in order to get a cool-looking eye as well, but Jerim tells them that his survival was the result of divine intervention, and if any of them, including himself, were to enter the plasma stream, they would die instantly. Concerned that someone else to perhaps gain control of Occipitus, but unwilling to remain here much longer, the party heads out of the skull to find the angel they spoke with before entering.

They find him almost immediately upon exiting. He had remained close by to see if the heroes would be successful. When they explained to him how they had passed the test, he was surprised, and told him that it wasn’t supposed to work that way. Apparently some powerful being or beings wanted Occipitus to have a good-aligned ruler, even if that person were incapable of acting in that capacity right away.

The PCs ask the angel (Saureya) if he would be willing to keep watch over the final test and deter any others who would try to pass it. He admitted to being intrigued by them, but not enough so to risk his life for their sake. The party then asked if he would at least be willing to let them know if anyone was attempting to pass the tests, and he said that he would. Hoping that the angel would be true to his word, the party returns to Cauldron.

Map of Occipitus

Continue to the Next Adventure

View
The Demonskar Legacy
16th May, 1370

After prolonged debate over how to spend their most recent paycheck, the PCs settle back into a bit of a routine. Jerim continues to serve in the temple of Helm, though with additional duties now due to his rapid increase in knowledge and experience over the past few months. Nerull kicked his rottweiler to the curb, then set off into the jungle to spend some bonding time with a monkey. Corym now spends part of most days “hanging out” with Shensen. And Kursk and Scrump try their hardest to deplete their former boss’s liquid inventory while telling countless tales of their heroic deeds.

The past two months have not been uneventful however:

  • Taxes were raised twice, (in late March and just a couple of days ago in mid May), making this 3 times in less than 4 months, and 4 times in the past year. (Please read here for more details)
  • Half-orc mercenaries have been hired to bolster the numbers of the town guard, and now make up nearly two thirds of their ranks. This has had the unfortunate side effect of slightly shifting the attitude of the people toward Kursk and Scrump. They aren’t thought of with the same disdain as the mercenaries, but they aren’t greeted as warmly on the streets as they used to be.

Today, just two days after the most recent tax increase, the PCs are sharing a drink at the Laughing Horse just after dinner when Shensen arrives with a friend (a male friend, inciting jealousy in Corym). She heads to Corym’s side (jealousy fading slightly) and introduces the man as Flavian. Shensen explains that the two of them, along with three others in Cauldron, are a part of an organization called the Striders (please read this too). She gives a brief history lesson, then invites them to meet with their leader. The party agrees and heads over to the Drunken Morkoth Inn.

They are taken into a private meeting room where they find a waiting dwarf… who transforms into a half-elf as soon as the door is closed. He introduces himself as Meerthan Eliothlorn. He explains that the Striders have been in Cauldron following leads about an evil organization called the Cagewrights (yep, read this too please). The Striders have been watching the PCs and would like to have them as allies when the Cagewrights try to move forward with their plans in earnest.

He also takes some time to explain the Cagewrights’ tactics when they were in Lundeth about 30 years ago. They started by promoting chaos in the city; supporting the local thieves guild, stirring up old rivalries, etc. They also had a couple of inside men within the local government who could influence policy. In order to fund their plans, they manipulated the city’s leaders into raising taxes multiple times over a very short period (much like what is happening in Cauldron), then started siphoning the money away for their own uses. This served not only to fund their cause, but to further incite unrest. It was at the height of these tensions that they made their move. Having already put all of the painstaking work into preparing the required pieces of their summoning ritual, they began invoking the magic that would open the gate from Carceri. It was in the midst of this invocation that the Striders found them.

Meerthan believes that the Cagewrights are following the same pattern here in Cauldron, and the city’s inhabitants may be close to making an attempt at revolution if something is not done. There will be a demonstration the next morning in front of City Hall, organized by a man named Maavu, one of Cauldron’s most charismatic merchants. Meerthan would like the PCs to be there to keep an eye out, and step in if things get out of hand. They agree and head back to their homes.

The following day, they arrive at the protest rally early enough to take up position near the makeshift podium that has been set up for Maavu to address the crowd. By the time the merchant steps up to speak, well over a thousand people pack the streets near City Hall. Maavu raises his hands, and after a few moments his audience falls silent. As he speaks, it becomes obvious to the PCs why Maavu is a successful merchant; He is handsome, charming, has an aire of unshakable confidence about him, and his words strike right to the hearts of the people. Each declaration is met with boisterous agreement from the crowd.

Two days ago, the Lord Mayor received a letter of challenge, in which the noble Alek Tercival, paladin of Helm, challenges the captain of the town guard, Terseon Skellerang, to prove his valor in a duel according to the old Law of Peers. This challenge has not been publicized by the City Council, which is itself illegal by the laws of the city and proof of the ill will the Lord Mayor’s advisors bear the citizens.

(About this time, a human watch sergeant named Skylar Krewis begins pushing his way through the crowd from City Hall, escorted by a half-dozen mercenaries.)

Taxes have now been raised three times in 11 weeks. (10 days in a week, 3 weeks in a month) This is not only unheard of, it is intolerable! How can any of us do more than scrape by with the incredible tax burden that has been placed upon us by those who are supposed to be watching over us?

And what’s worse, Skellerang is feeding a band of filthy half-orc thugs a large share of our bread!

By now Sgt. Krewis has reached shouting distance from the podium, and cuts off anything further the merchant may have to say. “Maavu, in the name of Terseon Skellerang, Captain of the Town Guard, I must arrest you!” Suddenly, from within the crowd, a teenage boy raises a dagger above his head and yells out, “Let’s kill these half-orc scum!” Maavu screams out a horrified “NO!”, but it’s too late. The boy buries his knife in the closest half-orc mercenary, and the mob erupts into a full-fledged riot.

Kursk immediately tries to calm those nearest to him by scaring the crap out of them. This has a moderate degree of success, but may have been more effective if the crowd didn’t want to kill every half-orc in sight at that moment. Nerull takes flight above the crowd in order to get to Sgt. Krewis in time to protect him. He is successful long enough that Scrump is able to reach the area and attempt to stop the attack on Krewis using the same method as his brother. This too has limited success, but enough so that they are able to get Sgt. Krewis to safety.

At the same time, arrows start flying at Maavu from the direction of City Hall. The PCs nearest him try to get him safely inside the nearest building. Before they can reach the door, an invisible attacker assaults the merchant. Maavu conjures up a cloud of glittering dust that settles over everything. The assailant is outlined perfectly, and pummeling commences. The small group pushes their way through the last few feet of rioters and makes it safely inside.

Maavu tells the party that he believes there is some great evil at work in Cauldron, and asks if the PCs would be willing to help. He asks them to meet him in Redgorge at dusk the next day where they can discuss things further with other “like-minded citizens”. When the party agrees, Maavu tells them to go to the Redhead Miner’s Inn when they arrive in Redgorge. As he turns to leave, he tells them that “the answer is mortar”, then ducks out the door. Realizing then that they can’t make it down the mountain in time on foot, the party heads out to buy horses. While they are out and about that day preparing for their trip, criers are sent throughout the town late telling the people that the riots have been stopped, and peace has been restored.

Before they head off to sleep that night, the party (minus Jerim) is at the Laughing Horse talking about the day’s events when the town’s fire bell starts to ring. The PCs rush outside to see a fire down by Crater Lake. The building that is on fire, Minuta’s Board, was where all of the half-orc mercenaries that didn’t fit in the barracks were being housed. The party runs as fast as they can across the city.

Kursk and Scrump arrive first and survey the scene. The Inn is engulfed in flames. Mercenaries are busy chopping down the sheds and outbuildings that surround the Inn in order to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings. Minuta himself is in the street, arguing with one of the mercenary sergeants. The half-orc says that there are fire demons inside the building, then shows the innkeeper his scimitar which has been slightly warped. Kursk and Scrump are about to go help with the bucket brigade trying to put out the fire when the Corym, Flavian, and Nerull arrive… and the front of the Inn explodes outward.

Two huge figures, seemingly made out of pure fire, emerge from the building and begin indiscriminately attacking nearby mercenaries and citizens alike. The party rushes in to engage this new threat. Combat is long, and seems at first to be going poorly. If mercenaries had not rushed to their aid (acting as meat shields in the process), the party would have struggled greatly to avoid suffering loses. After a few blows are exchanged, Jerim finally arrives. He is able to provide his friends with some protection from fire, then joins in the fight. Throughout the battle, Scrump grumbles incessantly that he would have fared much better if he’d had his armor while fighting the “giant fiery ball of fire”.

The elementals are finally brought to bear, but not before they killed dozens of mercenaries and a handful of commoners. The party is now convinced that someone is summoning powerful creatures into Cauldron with malicious intent. First the umberhulk in the streets two months ago, then the creature of air that attacked Maavu, and now these fire elementals. They are now even more interested to hear what Maavu has to say in Redgorge.

They set off down the mountain after breakfast, but not before criers again make another announcement on behalf of the Lord Mayor. No taxes will be levied for the next three months, and the half-orc mercenaries will be transferred to an encampment outside the city walls. The Lord Mayor also pardons and releases everyone that was arrested during the riots, except for “the evil merchant Maavu” who is sentenced to death in absentia. The challenge issued by Alek Tercival is also publicized, however they cite “reliable sources” that Alek is possessed by demons, and therefore the challenge is declared null and void.

The party’s trip to Redgorge is uneventful, and they arrive less than an hour before dusk. They locate the Redhead Miner’s Inn and are surprised by what they see inside. The inn’s proprietor, Makimax, who does indeed have red hair, is giving away free snacks at the bar. Nothing fancy mind you, but free is free. As the PCs approach the bar, they catch the attention of a musician in the corner nearby. He welcomes them to Redgorge, then asks “What can bind with water, sand, and lime?” Flavian responds that the answer is mortar, and the bard puts down his lute and approaches the party.

He introduces himself as Honest Minstrel, and invites them to a meeting that will begin at dusk. A short time later, he leads them to a private room down in the basement. A series of paintings on the walls depict the history of Redgorge (see the Redgorge page for details). Seated at the head of the large table is a balding, middle-aged man. He introduces himself as The Foreman, then asks the PCs if they have any questions while they wait for the others to arrive. They ask what group these men are a part of, and who the “others” are that they are waiting for. These men are all members of an organization called The Chisel, a collection of craftsmen and artisans who work together for the good of the region and its inhabitants. The men they are waiting for are the innkeeper from up stairs Makimax, Maavu, and Alek Tercival, though the Foreman doesn’t believe Alek will show since he hasn’t been seen in Redgorge in over a month.

Once everyone has entered and been seated, the meeting officially begins. The Foreman starts by saying that many members of the Chisel seem to be placing their own interests over those of the people they have vowed to serve and protect. He acknowledges that most of the violators are cauldronites, but urges that something must be done. Like Maavu, the Foreman believes that there is some great evil afoot in Cauldron. Divinations on the subject tell of some great disaster on the horizon, but they have been unable to get anything more specific on the subject.

The Foreman then directs his attention to Maavu, and practically scolds him for his actions in Cauldron. Maavu tries to explain that he never intended to incite violence, and states that “some villain stirred up the riot to discredit any opposition.” Bickering ensues between Maavu and Honest Minstrel until Makimax tells them to shut up. Regardless of intentions, Cauldron is worse off for Maavu’s actions. In fact, someone within Cauldron’s government seems to have learned of the Chisel, and Terseon Skellerang is preparing an invasion force that will strike at Redgorge. The Foreman believes that the town would be able to survive an assault, but too many innocent lives would be lost. They all agree that Skellerang needs to be persuaded to abandon his plan. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to have Alek renounce his challenge, but the paladin is nowhere to be found.

The Foreman urges the PCs to find Alek and bring him safely back to Redgorge. He suggests that Jenya may have an idea of where to find him because they were childhood friends. Disheartened that they now have to make the trek back up to Cauldron, they sleep in Redgorge for the night, then set off up the mountain before first light.

By the time they make it up to Cauldron, night has fallen. They head over to the temple of Helm and find Jenya still awake and very concerned about Alek. Jenya hasn’t seen him in two months. She tells gives them a bit of background on Alek (which isn’t very helpful), then gives them some worthwhile information. Jenya mentions that Alek adventured and explored all over the region (and still does on occasion). He frequently sells some of the non-magical objects that he finds to Tygot, a halfling that owns an antiquities store in town. Jenya suggests that the items sold to Tygot may be able to give the PCs some clue to where he is, or at least where he has been. Thin as this lead is, it’s the only one they have, so they set off at once.

When they arrive at Tygot’s Old Things, the party finds the shop closed. They decide to throw rocks at the windows of the old man’s apartment above the store in an effort to disturb and agitate the poor halfling. He comes to the window and tells them to come back in the morning. He is about ready to shut them out and ignore them for the rest of the night when Corym mentions Alek. Desperately wanting some peace and quiet, but unable to push aside the feeling that this is important, Tygot grudgingly agrees to speak with them. He descends to his shop and opens the door for the party.

The PCs ask to see the most recent items that Alek had brought to the shop. Most of the items are of no help, but a silver tablet generates some interest, not because of the item itself, but because of the crude map scratched onto its back.

Hegemonic_Plate_1.jpg

When asked about the locations on the map, Tygot doesn’t recognize any of the places, though he has heard rumors that some gnolls have been seen in the area just south of Redgorge. He suggests that someone there may be able to give further insight into the “gnoll path” and the other landmarks. The PCs are thrilled (not!) to be heading back to Redgorge so soon, but they decide to make the trek down the mountain in the morning anyway.

As the party leaves Cauldron just before dawn, they see the half-orc mercenaries building siege equipment in preparation for the invasion of Redgorge. Without any setbacks, it appears that they will be able to complete construction and transport everything down the mountain within 5 days. The PCs make their way down the mountain more quickly than the previous trip, motivated to find Alek as quickly as possible to help prevent unnecessary bloodshed.

They ride straight for the Redhead Miner’s Inn when they arrive. Maximax and Honest Minstrel take them into the basement meeting room once again. When the PCs ask if they can tell them anything about the silver tablet and its meaning, they immediately notice the map on the reverse side. They confirm that there is a crude statue of a demon that was sculpted by gnolls, and which has since lost its head. They also mention that Alek used to take trips down the river in that direction quite often.

Frustrated that no one had mentioned that last bit sooner, the party leaves the town heading south along the river, trying to make good use of the final few hours of light. As the sun nears the horizon, they spot what might be the headless demon statue. They are also spotted by three gnoll archers who start shooting at them from about 100 yards away. None of the arrows strike home at that distance, but they force the party to dismount and approach on foot. The gnolls’ aim doesn’t seem to improve as their targets draw closer, and they are slain almost immediately.

The party confirms that what they had seen was indeed the demon statue (whose head they find nearby). They follow a faint path that leads away from the river into the jungle. Shortly after dark they come to a cave which they assume is the one marked “Home” on their map. Flavian heads in alone to investigate, and is chased out moments later by a sloth the size of a grizzly bear. The un-slothful sloth ferociously attacks the party, beginning with the half-orcs that charge at it. The sloth inflicted some damage to the brothers, but in the end the poor sloth died before he could get the awful taste of orc out of his mouth.

The party camps for the night in the cave, then heads out the next morning in search of the “Round Cave”. Their horses move slowly over through the dense growth, and night falls without any sign of their destination. As they relax around a small fire before going to sleep, the PCs hear someone approaching through the trees. A woman approaches, holding a flaming sword over her head for light. She has milky-white skin, long silver hair, and large white feathered wings. As she approaches she seems to mutter something under her breath, then look intently at each member of the group. Apparently pleased by whatever she saw, she smiles slightly before addressing the party:

Thank you. You have done much good, for Cauldron and this entire region, in such a short time. Powerful forces of chaos and evil are afoot. I dare not remain here long lest my presence attract the attention of those forces. Yet I could not sit by and watch you march into danger without warning you. The Lord of the Demonskar knows of your approach, and even now his minions prepare for your arrival. They shall use deceit and treachery against you, just as they have done with Alek Tercival before you. You must remain resolute; Alek Tercival must be saved. I have no aid to offer you but knowledge. In ages past, I provided to Surabar Spellmason a powerful weapon to assist him in his conflict with the Lord of the Demonskar. This was Alakast, a quarterstaff infused with an undying hatred of the fiends of the outer rifts. Unfortunately, Alakast was stolen centuries ago, ripped from Spellmason’s tomb by a grave robber. Yet do not despair, for it is fated that Alakast should be wielded again against the Lord of the Demonskar. It has found its way to you, and all that needs be done is for you to claim it. Seek Alakast in the lair of my false sisters, beyond the watchful eyes of the north. That is all I am at liberty to say… I wish you well in your travails, heroes, and never lose sight of your goals.

With that she disappears, leaving the party to contemplate her vague words. They set off again in the morning, and don’t have to travel far before reaching their destination. (We interrupt this adventure log to read a shaded text box) The hunting trail ends abruptly and the trees thin out considerably, granting a clear view of the sky. Ahead, roiling yellow and brown clouds boil above a jagged, barren horizon. The jagged line of the Demonskar’s rim broods at the base of these clouds. The ground itself between here and the rim is strewn with razor-sharp ridges of volcanic glass and jagged stone. Ruined strips of what can only be the metal framework of ancient structures protrude from the ground like broken fingers from a shallow grave. One particularly large structure juts from the ground only twenty feet from the end of the trail. The ruin appears like nothing more than a massive pipe protruding from the ground, its twenty-foot-wide, two-foot-thick frame sloping down into the tortured ground at a gentle slope. (We now return you to your regularly scheduled adventure log)

Using the map etched into the back of the tablet as a guide, the PCs travel about 5 miles through the tunnels before reaching their end (the end of the tunnels, not the end of the PCs). They exit the pipes inside a deep, narrow canyon within the Demonskar. They stand on a rocky ledge overlooking a 150-foot-diameter pit. On the far side of this chasm, two other pipes protrude straight up from the ground and extend 50 feet or so into the air. As a gust of wind comes through the canyon, the pipes make an ominous groaning sound, leading the party to believe (correctly) that this is the place marked as Vaprak’s Voice on their map.

They see a narrow ramp leading to the bottom of the pit, and begin to descend carefully to the bottom. Nerull turns into a bird and flies up to see what there is to see. He doesn’t see much, so he heads back down. As they all reach the floor of the pit, they see (and smell) a noxious pool of bubbling liquid, as well as a tunnel of sorts leading into the side of the canyon with a portcullis blocking their way. About the same time they notice the gate, a small, impish-looking creature with bat-like wings emerges from the pool and flies quickly through a small hole above the portcullis. Nerull, still in bird form, flies after the creature. It is a tight fit for him, but he makes it through the opening to find a giant waiting for him on the other side.

Scrump uses his girly dainty fancy(?) anklet to transport himself to the other side of the portcullis, then walks forward a ways. The ceiling just past the gate is about 20 feet high, but not for long. After a short distance the ceiling gives way to a much higher natural ceiling, and Scrump sees that he was passing under a balcony of sorts… one that happened to be holding a hill giant that was ready to throw giant rocks down on his head.

(Alright guys, I’m fuzzy on some of the details here. I remember that Scrump got smashed in the head, and that the giant was ultimately defeated, and that his three buddies came running up and were also defeated, I just don’t really remember how it all happened. Anyway, one way or another everyone got in, and we all headed in the direction that the three hill giants came from.)

The party enters a room/cave that is obviously the giants’ room. Four piles of filthy animal skins mark their “beds”, and piles of small throwing-size rocks are placed all round. Amongst all of this, a surprising amount of coins were found before the PCs headed out of the room’s opposite end. The next small cavern they come to has five piles of animal skins on the floor, even more filthy that the previous room. Whatever sleeps here obviously didn’t have the same fondness for money as the giants because no treasure is found here. Passing through to the room’s far side, another tunnel leads further into Vaprak’s Voice.

The architecture of the complex changes suddenly as the party emerges into a magically lit hallway with smooth floors, ceilings and walls that stand out in stark contrast to the roughly hewn rock of the previous “rooms”. They enter the 200-foot-long hallway near one end, and a set of huge double doors stand just 20 feet away. There may be other doors off the hall near its far end, but from this far away it is hard to tell. Scrump approaches the double doors and is amazed when they open on their own. (As a side note, had the rest of the party understood how the doors worked, they may have been surprised that the doors opened as well. They are supposed to open when an “intelligent” creature approaches, and since Scrump is a half-orc … <ahem> … Moving on!)

The doors open to reveal a large circular room with five creatures inside that appear to be two-headed ogres. The ensuing battle isn’t that tough (though due to the late gaming hour it took much longer than it should have). Shortly after the last enemy falls, three angels appear, one of them bearing a golden chalice. They praise the PCs on their heroism, then offer them the “nectar of the gods” as a reward. As the angel extends the cup to Scrump, Flavian senses that these “angels” are in fact evil, and knocks the cup out of Scrump’s hands. The three women act astonished and offended, then disappear when they realize they’re about to be attacked. The party decides that these must be the “false sisters” the angel in the jungle was talking about.

Nerull heads back to patrol the perimeter (aka Nader wasn’t available), while the other PCs continue into the next room rather than going back down the long hallway. Four white pillars support a twenty-foot-tall ceiling in this room. A three-foot-diameter crystal globe is embedded ten feet up on each pillar. These hollow globes are half-filled with bubbling, transparent liquid that seems to replenish itself as quickly as it drains out of a hole in each globe’s base. At the base of each pillar, a silver spigot allows this liquid to drain out of the pillar and down a narrow gutter to collect in a basin in the floor in the room’s center. There, the liquid turns a deep purple color and evaporates as quickly as it is filled. Thinking this must be something pretty awesome, Scrump takes a drink. It tastes good, and doesn’t appear to have any side effects, so Kursk and Flavian each have a drink as well.

No one is dying or acting strangely (yet), so they decide to continue onward. There are two other hallways leading out of this room. They decide to take the shorter of the two and head toward the door at its end. As they approach the door, Flavian catches a hint of something foul in the air, but they all continue on nonetheless. The instant the door starts to open, fire explodes out from the opening, engulfing the closest PCs in pungent flames. After taking a couple of minutes to recover, Flavian looks for the source of the explosion. Past the door the hallway stops abruptly. A small fissure in the rock seems to be leaking some sort of noxious gas. The closed door had trapped the gas, allowing it to compress and ignite when exposed to fresh air.

The party returns to the fountain room, then heads down the hallway they should have taken in the first place. When the door opens, they are confronted by the three false angels in their true, very un-angelic forms. They look similar to most hags out of children’s fairy tales, but sport hairy cricket legs and a pair of sickly-brown moth-like wings on their backs. Standing with them is something that looks like a man made out of living mirror and holding what appears to be a dagger-shaped shard of mirror. The far side of the room where the hags and their guest are standing is raised 7 feet higher than where the PCs enter. Stairs to their right grant them easy access to the raised platform.

As the party rushes in, Corym quickly fires two arrows into the mirror man and it collapses to the floor. Great start… but that’s when everything goes crazy. One of the hags disappears, while the other two turn their attention to the intruders. (No words can do justice to what comes next, but I suppose I have to try…) Kursk charges up the stairs to close with the hags while Scrump takes a running leap at the platform, awkwardly slams himself into it, and drops back to the floor. Flavian reaches the bottom of the stairs, then abruptly turns around and goes running out of the room at top speed. Jerim shouts something about shapeshifters and starts attacking Corym.

The half-orcs close with the hags and bring them down surprisingly fast. The first hag transforms into an angel as she falls to the ground, then begs for mercy until Scrump kills her. When the other hag is dropped she starts crawling toward a nearby door. Scrump chases her down and finishes her off as well. (While all this was going on, Flavian ran back into the room, started babbling incoherently, then ran out again.)

Back by the door Flavian keeps running in and out of, Jerim continues to pummel Corym, landing blow after blow while the ranger pleads for his friend to stop. Scrump rushes to Corym’s rescue, grabbing hold of Jerim and trying to talk some sense into him. Jerim halts his attacks, but adamantly insists that Corym is in fact a hag in disguise. Scrump tries to grapple Corym, just in case he really is under some sort of spell (and to protect him from Jerim). Corym wants nothing to do with that however and just slips free. Jerim begins to get more agitated, so Scrump tries to calm him down. Just as Scrump is beginning to convince the cleric that the third hag may have gotten away instead of transforming into Corym, Flavian sprints back into the room, then stops at the bottom of the stairs to once again babble nonsense. Jerim finally agrees to explore through the doors at the top of the platform, where a hag could be escaping. He rushes to the stairs… and gets stabbed viciously in the back by Flavian.

Convinced that somehow the hags have managed to corrupt Flavian, or perhaps that the hag that went invisible killed Flavian out in the hallway and took his guise, Jerim starts screaming insanely and puts his mace to work once again (and with surprising effectiveness I might add). Scrump hurries over and tackles Flavian (again, as much for the rogue’s protection as anyone else’s). Flavian immediately starts demanding to be told what is going on. After much discussion, Flavian, back in full control of himself again, allows himself to be tied up while Jerim checks that the two hags up on the platform are actually dead. Once he’s convinced, Jerim returns to Scrump and Flavian. They discuss things further, and Jerim believes that Flavian was under the effects of the hags’ magic, but is now free of it.

Good news: Flavian can get untied. Bad news: Jerim is now even more convinced that Corym is “one of them”. He charges the elf, and chases him down the hall all the way to the fountain room. Corym jumps into the fountain, and Jerim pulls out his crossbow and fits a bolt into place. Scrump reaches the room just in time, and this time grabs ahold of Jerim. Scrump and Kursk know for certain now (if they didn’t already before) that Jerim is under some sort of spell. Their whole lives, Jerim has always been the most reasonable and level-headed of the three orphans, and the role reversal is troubling (though very amusing).

After more debate, Jerim agrees to be shackled in order to “prove” that he is not being affected by anyone or anything. The party returns to the room where they battled the hags, and into the hallways beyond, with Jerim’s watchful eyes not leaving Corym for a second. The first hallway they head down is short. A door at it’s opposite end opens into a fairly large room with three beds. Baboon masks hang along the north wall, staring at the heroes with empty eyes. As they enter, four tall, six-armed skeletons move to greet them. While they look cool, these skeletons pose very little threat to the PCs, and they are dealt with quickly. Wanting to thoroughly search the room, but afraid of letting the third hag (who is definitely not Corym) get away, the party quickly returns the way they came.

Heading out the final exit from the platform room, they find a long hallway with an open doorway on the left-hand side. As they turn down the short hallway beyond the open door, Flavian’s spidey-senses start tingling. There is an evil creature somewhere ahead. Another open door at the end of the hallway reveals a 30 by 30 room with a large, throne-like chair at its center. The chair is facing the far wall of the room, so it is impossible to tell who may be sitting in it, but whatever evil being is in the room is definitely seated there.

The PCs enter the room cautiously (while the shuffling, manacled cleric can be heard from down the hall, almost swearing in indignation at being left behind in the bedroom). As they move to the far side of the room, they see someone who could be Alek Tercival (Jerim would know, but he’s still shuffling down the hall) asleep in the throne. He looks pale and worn, as though he hasn’t eaten in days. When the party calls to him, he wakes up in a bit of a haze, not fully aware of his surroundings. He slowly registers their presence and asks to know what is going on. The conversation is awkward, especially since Flavian is now positive that Alek (or whoever they are talking to) is evil. This truth is confirmed to everyone else when Alek (not Alek) drops a mirror-shard dagger to the floor and four mirror men appear behind the party. The five mirror men (including the one disguised as Alek) all die quickly.

It is only then that the PCs have time to inspect the portal by which their attackers came. A large six-sided mirror occupies the space on the wall directly in front of the large chair. The surface ripples slightly when touched, almost like the surface of a pond. Scrump sticks his hand into the center of the mirror and it passes straight through the surface into whatever lies beyond. While everyone else looks around the room and discusses what they should do next, Flavian takes the opportunity to inspect the mirror further. When he looks very carefully into the mirror, five other hexagonal shapes can be seen, as if in the distance. Four of these are filled with a white light, but the fifth shows a man in a dimly lit room, slumped against a wall near a large iron door. He points the image out to Jerim (who has finally arrived) and the cleric declares that the man in the mirror is Alek Tercival (not Michael Jackson).

Before experimenting further with the mirror, the party decides to return to the hags’ bedroom to poke around a bit while they still have the opportunity. The masks lining the north wall again catch attention, and words from recent memory come to mind: “Seek Alakast in the lair of my false sisters, beyond the watchful eyes of the north.” Behind one of the masks they find a secret compartment that slides out like a long drawer. Resting inside is Spellmason’s staff, just as they expected. Armed with the not-as-powerful-as-the-angel-made-it-out-to-seem weapon, the party returns to the mirror room.

Mirror_Room.jpg

Using the design on the floor and the image on the silver tablet as guides, the PCs start trying to figure out how to “unlock” the mirror. After stepping on the different colored circles on the floor in multiple variations of the 3-4-5-1-2-3 pattern depicted on the tablet, they decide that the pattern apparently has no significance on this side of the mirror. The first to venture into the mirror is Scrump. He ties one end of their magical rope around the throned and the other around his waist, then steps into the mirror. After a few moments, the rest of the party sees the rope go slack. Knowing that they really have no choice but to follow him, they grab what’s left of their now-mundane rope, finally unchain Jerim, and enter into the mirror. (Fortunately, Nerull returns to the party just in time to avoid being left behind)

Each of the PCs stand in a pentagonal room that is slightly tinted to one of the six colors of the rainbow. On each of the five walls is a pentagonal mirror, each tinted to one of the other six colors of the rainbow. While each member of the party finds themselves alone in their respective rooms, they can hear each other if they talk loud enough, like they’re talking to someone on the other side of a high wall. They begin experimenting with the mirrors. If someone is standing in a red room and passes through a blue portal, they appear in a blue room. As before, many different combinations of the 3-4-5-1-2-3 pattern are tried, but nothing seems to work. It’s only when frustration starts to set in that Corym finally cracks the code. After choosing to start in the red room, he counts 3 colors further along the progression depicted on the floor of the throne room (Orange-Yellow-GREEN) and passes through the green mirror into a green room. From there, he counts 4 colors further (Blue-Purple-Red-ORANGE) then enters the orange mirror. He continues this pattern until he steps through a mirror and into a dimly lit room where Alek Tercival sits slumped against a wall. Within a few moments, the rest of the party joins him.

They turn to the mirror they exit to see if they would be able to use it to return to the Demonskar, but the surface is solid; apparently this was a one-way trip. The only light in the room comes from Alek’s sword, which glows with a holy radiance. The paladin looks haggard and worn, but surprisingly healthy. He sits on the ground staring blankly ahead of him, muttering something under his breath. As Jerim draws near he hears Alek repeating the same thing over and over again: “When the final cage is shackled the burning doom shall rise.”

Thinking that Alek may have lost his mind, Jerim gently tries to rouse the paladin from his stupor. After a few moments, Alek starts to acknowledge the party. With some encouragement he explains how he ended up here. He says that he was sent on a holy quest into the mirror by trumpet archons. He wandered for days, perhaps weeks, through the mirror chambers until by chance he emerged into this room. He knows that he has failed in his quest, and the strength bestowed upon him by the angels has faded. He explains further that he’s spent days in this room, but has been unable to break open the door.

The PCs gently explain to Alek about the true nature of the “angels”, which makes him ashamed and angry. They also update him about the goings-on in Cauldron, and Alek agrees that recanting the challenge is the best course of action. With pleasantries out of the way, Scrump and Kursk get to the business of opening the door. Battering ram in hand, they take one vicious swing at the door, and it breaks open. Amidst the brothers’ boasting of their supreme manliness, a blast of hot air floods the room with an uncomfortable warmth.

A set of stairs lead up beyond the broken door, and sunlight can be seen at it’s top. They wrangle Alek and ascend the stairs to find a 25 × 25 room with a partially collapsed archway across from the stairs. Sunlight and hot, dry air stream in through the opening. Before they can wonder where they are, they are confronted by none other than a wolf-crabasaurus-rex. The Lord of the Demonskar appears out of thin air with a roar. “You shall not save your friend, mortals! This time of peace is at an end!” While the battle that ensues doesn’t seem too incredibly difficult for the heroes, the demon’s words prove true nonetheless. The demon unleashes the full fury of his attacks upon the paladin, virtually ignoring the rest of the group.

Though he remained upright and fighting throughout the entire battle, Alek drops to the ground with a cry as the demon falls. Jerim rushes to his side to heal his wounds, but nothing works. Alek murmurs his strange prophecy a few more times, then grabs his fellow Helmite by the arm and pulls him close. He grows suddenly calm and an aura of peace falls over the room. When he speaks, the voice is distant, and clearly not Alek’s. “There is nothing left for you in Cauldron, heroes! To return is to enter your own graves and to bring doom upon all you love! Trust the sign of the Smoking Eye if you wish to save them all!” With that, Alek closes his eyes and his body goes limp.

The next adventure starts just moments after this, so continue to the next adventure immediately!

View
Zenith Trajectory
21st March, 1370

The weeks following their adventures during the flood season are fairly uneventful, though a few things are worth noting:

  • The PCs were confronted by the Stormblades, a group of egotistical young nobles playing at being adventures. All parties walked away with no one harmed, but this feud is likely not over.
  • Alenia decided that “adventurer” was more of a hobby than a career, and returned to her job as a detective for the city watch.
  • Shensen keeps “coincidentally” running into Corym around town, and the two have been having progressively longer conversations.
  • Another shopping spree took place as well, increasing the overall equipment value of the party.

As they travel along Magma Avenue one afternoon, they see a small crowd gathered in front of Garlock’s Auction House and decide to see what is up for sale. When they are still about 20 feet from their destination, a small rumble is both felt and heard by a couple of the PCs. Seconds later, the front of a warehouse on the far side of the auction crowd splinters apart. A huge creature that looks like a strange cross between an ape and an insect lumbers out into the street amidst terrified screams.

Umberhulk.jpg As the crowds begin to scatter, Corym looses an arrow at the monster, while a stranger emerges from a nearby building and launches a ball of energy at the beast. Angered by the attack, the hulking creature turns to face his aggressors. By the time it closes to melee with the party, the majority of the crowd has fled to safety. Most of the PCs attack their enemy normally, but one falls victim to the monster’s confusing gaze and begins to run away. As combat continues, the creature’s gaze affects some of the nearby citizens as well. As the battle draws to a close, the traveler who has been fighting at the party’s side notices just in time that a woman one floor above unknowingly placed her baby on the windowsill. Fortunately, the infant is caught safely as it fell, and returned to its mother unharmed.

When the dust settles and the city’s Investigators have taken their statements, the PCs speak to the stranger that had fought with them. He says his name is Phillip Gunderson. He tells them that he is from Redgorge and he is looking for adventure (well, that’s more or less what he said).

That night at the Tipped Tankard, as the PCs accepted drinks from many grateful townsfolk, a woman enters the tavern and approaches the party. She is dressed far too richly for a place like this, and seems somewhat afraid to touch anything. Before she reaches their table, Kursk and Scrump rise to greet her. She introduces herself as Celeste, and presents the half-orcs with an invitation for the following evening to the Cusp of Sunrise; a fancy, members-only establishment up on Obsidian Ave. She tells them that her friend has a business proposition for them, and reminds them to dress appropriately. The PCs have more questions, but choose not to push for too many details because Celeste is clearly uncomfortable being surrounded by dirty commoners.

The next morning the party sets off for the tailor to purchase “appropriate” attire for that evening. They pay a hefty price for the finery, plus a little extra to rush the alterations for later that day. They spend the rest of the day trying to learn proper etiquette for such a high-class establishment. …which they seem to forget entirely when they arrive that evening. They are greeted at the door by a portly fellow who compliments them on their clothing. They are given brief instructions as to where they are permitted to wander, and tells them that Celeste will be with them shortly.

As they walk through the Cusp’s large central room, they take note of a dice game being played at a couple of tables. They head over to the “gold” table and sit down to learn about the game. After picking up on the simple rules, Corym, Scrump, and Phillip sit down to play while Kursk and Nerull take naps and Jerim peruses the library. After two rounds of play, Garrett Kursk wakes up to help his friends take rich people’s money. As the 3rd game draws to a close, Celeste appears, and beckons them into a small sitting room.

Seated in the room when they arrive is the most decrepit looking dwarf they have ever seen. The old man (Davked) and Celeste take turns telling the PCs a story about his curse-inflicted condition, and his son, Zenith Splintershield. Zenith led a force into the Underdark about 10 years ago on a righteous crusade to rid the endless caves and caverns of evil. Through divination magic, Davked knows that his son still lives, and is in a Koa-toan enclave called Bhal-Hamatugn. He asks … (please don’t make me say it) … Jungle Trouble … (we really need a new name) … if they will seek out his son and bring him home. Once a hefty reward is promised, the PCs accept greedily.

They are told that the Underdark entrance nearest to Bhal-Hamatugn is about a day and a half’s ride to the east. They are given directions to a man named “Crazy Jared” who lives near their destination and can give the party more detailed directions to the entrance. The party spends the next day making preparations before setting out.

Near dusk on their 2nd day out of Cauldron, they reach a small hut with a low, crude wall around it. A strange thumping sound can be heard nearby, just as an old man comes running out of the hut toward the PCs. The thumping sound turns out to be the flapping wings of a red dragon, who crests a ridge and flies straight at the party. The battle is disappointingly uneventful, except for the almost incoherent encouragements from the old man.

After the battle, the man introduces himself as Jared, King of Anduria. He creates an illusion over the barren mountain landscape, transforming it temporarily into a verdant land filled with gently rolling hills. When asked about an entrance to the Underdark, Jared says the place is called the Pit of the Seven Jaws, and he had just sent “500 of Anduria’s finest” to guard it. When asked about Zenith Splintershield, Jared says he remembers him from 10 years ago, and that he sent “500 of Anduria’s finest” to accompany him. Jared shows them the Pit on a map of the area, then encourages them to rest for the night in his hut that gives other huts a bad name castle. Scrump is the only one who agrees, and the other all camp outside.

They head off for the Pit of the Seven Jaws early the next morning. Jared’s directions prove to be accurate, and they find it with no problem. Before they reach the bottom of the stairs descending into the Pit, they learn how it got its name. A seven-headed hydra greets them with a blast of cold from each of the heads. The battle is long and difficult, and made no easier by Scrump, who decides to chop off a head of the beast only to see two more return in its place moments later. When the creature is finally brought down, the party notices a crevice in the rock wall that grants access to a tunnel.

They follow the tunnel for about 10 miles before it finally opens into a large cavern with an underground lake. A few yards out from the shore is a boat with a strange-looking frogman inside staring at them. When the party and the koa-toan finally find a common language, he asks them where they are trying to go. When they tell him they want to go to Bhal-Hamatugn, he lets them into the boat, then asks them a whole bunch of questions on the ride across the lake. In the end, it seemed he didn’t care why the PCs were there or honestly believed they weren’t going to hurt anyone, because he left them on the doorstep of his home where he knew they wouldn’t be able to enter peacefully.

Bhal-Hamatugn.jpg

As the party starts up the steps, they are confronted by eight Kuo-toans who demand to know why they have come. The PCs try to explain that they have only come to speak with Zenith Splintershield, but the frogmen refuse to allow the surface-dwellers to enter. After determining that these creatures are evil (and therefore it would be ok to kill them), the party charges up the stairs to attack.

Kuo-toa.jpg

Four kuo-toans meet the party at the top of the stairs, while four more shoot arrows at them from inside the empty eyes of the giant stone fish head. Kursk, Scrump and Nerull handle the melee opponents while Phillip and Corym take on the archers (and Jerim stands around feeling useless). When the battle is over, the PCs take a look at the inside of Bhal-Hamatugn for the first time. They choose to head toward what looks like a prison off to their right.

They find two prisoners here, each in their own cell. One is a dirty, squinting human; the other is a halfling in dingy robes. The human says he was caught three weeks ago trying to steal from the Kuo-toans. He claims that the halfling can use magic and is in league with the frogmen. The halfling says he’s from Cauldron and was caught trying to find Zenith. He claims that the human talks to rats, who deliver messages to other denizens of the Underdark. The PCs immediately believe the halfling and ignore the human.

They learn that the halfling’s name is Cherrit. He says he was looking for Zenith because they fought together years ago and had become friends. When the party asks him about Bhal-Hamatugn, he says that all he has seen is the entrance and this cell. They try to convince Cherrit to accompany them as they search for Zenith, but he refuses, saying that he has no way to defend himself. They ask about his supposed arcane abilities and he says he’d be happy to help, but he doesn’t have any material components for his spells, so he’d better just leave. Phillip offers to give the halfling the components he needs, but he still adamantly refuses. The party finally convinces Cherrit to come along by telling him that they will lock him back up until they are ready to leave if he doesn’t help them.

They head to back of the cell block where they find a tunnel that slopes slightly downward. Following the tunnel, they come to a room submerged in waist-deep water (which would be above the head of the halfling who protests at needing to be carried across). As they get about halfway through the room, a mummified kuo-toan attacks. Fortunately, all avoid mummy rot, and they exit the encounter with only minor wounds. The tunnel makes a couple of turns, then ends at a well hidden door. When they open the door, an invisible barrier holds back everyone but Nerull and Jerim. These two (who are obviously cooler than everyone else) look around the large room beyond the doorway. The floor slopes gradually up to double doors on the far side of the room, and a large statue that looks like a giant, naked lobster-woman rises 70 feet into the air.

They don’t have much time to take in the view though, since they get attacked almost immediately by a handful of frogmen. The two PCs flee back to their friends (wishing now that they too were unable to enter the room in spite of their awesomeness). The party is chased back down the tunnel by two of the kuo-toans. They don’t pose much of a threat, but still prove to be an annoyance. They are able to deal with their pursuers and take a moment to rest near the prison. Seeing no other alternative, the party chooses a different route out of Bhal-Hamatugn’s main enterance.

Heading through a curtain, they find a large room that is obviously used as a barracks of sorts. There is nothing of interest in this room, but a stairway leads up to the area high inside the stone fish’s head where the archers were attacking from earlier. They collect some arrows and a throwing axe from the bodies that they struck. Another door up in this area grants access to the koa-toan armory, which holds basic items like wooden shields and shortspears.

Returning back to the main entry, they decide to go through the last possible set of doors. They enter to find themselves in the large room with statue of the lobster-lady. About a dozen kuo-toans stand ready for battle, along with a frighteningly beautiful woman with pale skin, red hair, red eyes, red feathered wings, and a fiery bow.

Erinyes.jpg Everyone enters the room, but Corym and Phillip are unable to pass more than 10 feet in. They run around a balcony on this level to attack their enemies from the sides, while their party members charge down the sloping floor to engage their foes down below. The devil woman flies up and begins to rain arrows down on the group, while a small group of kuo-toans collectively send a powerful lightning bolt through their midst. The rest of the enemy warriors engage in melee. The battle that ensues is bloody, with serious damage dealt by both sides. The nightmarish angel turns her attention the the men on the balcony, and every few seconds a lightning bolt tears through the melee combatants. Phillip and Corym each fall to a hail of arrows, and Scrump drops unconscious from his many wounds. Just as all seems lost, the flying woman lets out an angry scream before vanishing into thin air. The kuo-toans’ strength falters and the tide turns quickly.

Phillip, Corym, and Scrump are stabilized just in time, and miraculously the party avoids any casualties. However, the entire group is bloodied and exhausted, and rest is necessary. Deciding that traveling 10 miles back to the surface isn’t an option, and making camp in an Underdark passage would be unwise, it is decided that they should find a place within Bhal-Hamatugn to sleep. They decide that the armory in the upper level above the entrance would be the quietest and most easily defensible place to recuperate. As they make their way back to the doors, they realize the Cherrit is nowhere to be found.

The night passes uneventfully, and the PCs awake rested and ready to go. They decide to return to the large room where they got the snot beat out of them to see if they missed anything. As it turns out, they did. They find a door set beneath the ramp they charged down the previous day, as well as another door upstairs on the highest level. Their poking around does not go unnoticed however, as their friendly neighborhood scary-archer-chick reappears. The battle is still fairly tough, but nowhere near as difficult as the day before when the room was full of frogs. Corym claims the devil’s bow, then the party proceeds through the door on the upper level.

They come to an intersection with a short hallway leading to doors on the left and right. Kursk and Corym decide to take the door on the right, while Scrump, Philip and Nerull head to the door on the left. The right door opens into a room filled with purple mushrooms. The elf and half-orc get about halfway into the room before they are attacked by four of the largest fungi in the room. Poison tentacles reach out from underneath the large umbrella-like head and swipe at the intruders. No fungus is a match for two adventurers however, and they are quickly defeated. There are no other doors leading from this chamber.

The room to the left proves to be (only slightly) more interesting. A kuo-toa monk-assassin lies in wait for the party. He attempts to hide in a shadowy corner of the room, but the three heroes’ darkvision reveals him clearly. The frogman only gets one chance to attack before he is slain. Double doors can be seen at the back of this room.

Entering the room behind the double doors they find a horrifying sight. Hanging upside-down from the high ceiling of this large room are dozens of kuo-toan corpses, each missing the top of their empty skull. What makes the scene more unnerving is the occasional muttering and twitching of the bodies as they hang suspended above the party. Sitting on a throne atop a slightly raised dais is a tired-looking dwarf, armed and armored. Between the dwarf and the PCs is a 5’ diameter circle on the floor that glows slightly.

As the party draws closer to the dais, the dwarf rises to his feet, and in a harsh voice whispers, “I prophesy your doom!” The adventurers seem to take this as a threat and attack the dwarf they correctly identified as Zenith Splintershield. Surviving blow after blow in a way that only a Dwarven Defender can, Zenith extends the battle much longer than expected. Throughout the fight, he continues to spout “prophecies” of death and destruction, each confirming further the extent dwarf’s insanity.

At the end of the battle, wounds are healed, the dwarf is stripped and looted, … and Scrump steps into the glowing circle on the floor. Instantly he vanishes, and his brother starts to worry. Just when Kursk can no longer be convinced to not jump in himself, Scrump come running in the door, shouting almost incoherently about a lobster, then disappears into the circle again. Kursk doesn’t hesitate at all this time and charges after his brother. After a minute or so, both barbarians run back into the room, heading straight for the circle. Scrump runs right in again, despite the protest of his companions, but Kursk stops to explain what is happening. When they step into the circle they are teleported to the large central chamber, directly in front of the giant lobster-goddess statue.

Convinced that it is safe, the rest of the party follows Kursk into the circle, and arrive just where they were told they would. However, instead of heading back upstairs to try again (as the half-orcs insisted they should), they head to the doors beneath the large ramp on the other side of the room. After passing through the doors they come to a 4-way intersection. They all choose to go to the left… except for Nerull who goes right. He finds a room with a lot of murky water, which turns out to be a great place for a kuo-toa to hid. Two of them shoot at Nerull then duck underwater. Nerull runs back to the room that the rest of the party went to.

Half of this room is divided into small, curtained off areas. Pulling back the first curtain reveals a small armorer’s workshop. The second is a painter’s workshop. Exploration of the third section is interrupted by a short spear flying in their direction from the back end of the room. The throw misses, but when the spear hits the wall it flies straight back to the large (for a kuo-toan) frogman that threw it. Determined to take the spear for himself, Kursk charges into melee with Scrump right behind him. The spearman is no match for the greedy rage of two barbarians, and he is slain quickly. At the same time, the two kuo-toans from the other room catch up with Nerull, and meet the same quick end.

The three remaining areas in this room are as boring as the first two, and the party returns to the room Nerull fled (after grabbing the spear for Kursk, of course). Murky water covers about 2/3 of the floor of this room. To their left as they enter is a closed portcullis with strong netting intertwined in the partially submerged bottom half, and a set of stairs leads up into the far right-hand corner with the bottom steps hidden in the water. Unsure of how to proceed, Scrump takes a cautious step into the water and waits to see what happens. Dozens of dragon-tadpoles (you read that correctly) swarm his leg and start chewing away. Scrump tries to take a swing at the ravenous swarm, but can’t make solid contact with anything. Nerull blasts the whole group of them (and Scrump’s leg along with them) in an attempt to force them back into the water. Even though it doesn’t have the desired effect, Scrump is still able to extricate himself and retreat to safety.

Thinking that perhaps the room through the portcullis is the key to bypassing these nasty little creatures, the PCs inspect it further. Now that they know what is in the water, the netting at the bottom makes more sense. They see no other way into the room, so they retrace their steps to the 4-way intersection where they first entered the area three paragraphs ago. The only option they haven’t explored is the set of double-doors that was directly in front of them when they arrived here initially. The doors open into a large room with an altar on the far side. Scrump is erroneously convinced that the room is not trapped and he steps forward.

The 10-foot section of floor immediately beyond the doors falls out from under the barbarian and he plummets 40 feet down to the waiting spikes below. As Scrump gingerly pulls himself off of the spikes and the party calls down to him encouragingly, a spectre emerges from the pit wall to attack the isolated half-orc. Phillip and Nerull push their way forward and begin hurling magic at their ghostly enemy. Feeling incredibly fortunate to be wearing his spider-climbing shoes, Scrump climbs away from his attacker as quickly as possible. The spectre rises to engage the magic-users and begins leaching the life out of Phillip. Jerim finally remembers that he can turn undead and trades places with the weakened warlock. Brandishing his holy symbol, Jerim destroys the spectre completely.

Avoiding the large pit near the entrance, the party enters the room to find a strange and gruesome sight. Kuo-toan corpses are staked to the wall; 6 on the left and 6 on the right. The bodies on the left all have spears and shields, as well as nasty looking wounds that were clearly fatal. Each body on the right has a large gaping hole in its stomach, as though their stomach was ripped open …or something tore its way out from inside. At the far end of the room is an altar to Blibdoolpoolp, but no path to another room as they had hoped. With no options left to them, the PCs return to the flooded room where Scrump got his leg eaten.

They toss one of the kuo-toans they killed earlier into the water, just to see what would happen. The dragon-tadpoles devour the body within a matter of seconds, then return near the edge of the water, waiting for another snack. They toss the other two bodies in, and they are devoured just as quickly. As they debate how they can get across to the stairs without turning into a meal, they realize that they don’t have to continue. They have what they came for; the unconscious, barely breathing dwarf draped over Kursk’s shoulder. The only things driving them on at this point are curiosity and greed (remember that as you read on).

Eventually they decide that they can use Scrump’s spider-climbing shoes to walk high on the wall, out of jumping range of the creatures in the water. As each person reaches the safety of the stairs, they remove the slippers and throw them back across the water to their waiting companions. Then the next person puts on the shoes and repeats the process. When everyone is finally across, the party climbs to the door at the top of the stairs. Scrump opens the door without checking for traps and immediately regrets it.

A bolt of lightning flashes down the stairwell, catching the entire party in its path. The powerful bolt leaves a faint crackling in the air, and the smell of burnt flesh is overwhelming. Still very weakened from his encounter with the spectre, Phillip is not strong enough to survive the shock (pun intended) and falls lifelessly down the stairs into the waiting jaws of the… Ok, fine! He just falls dead ON the stairs. They haven’t know this man for long, but they still mourn his passing as they rescue his possessions. Kursk realizes that instead of an “unconscious, barely breathing dwarf”, he now holds an extra crispy dwarf whose beard is smoldering.

The PCs enter the small room beyond the door… and set off yet another trap. This one is lame compared to the previous two, and the spears that fly out of the wall miss their marks completely. Another door leads out of this room and into the next. Here they find the father of the evil little tadpoles; a black dragon. Bolstered by the fact that experience for this battle will be split 5 ways instead of 6, the PCs charge in and make quick work of the dragon. Gathering up its small hoard, and the charred remains of Phillip and Zenith, the party leaves Bhal-Hamatugn and makes the trek back to Cauldron.

Zenith’s father is grieved at his son’s death, but holds to his agreement to pay the party nonetheless. Celeste handles the details of making sure the payment is received (in coin or dwarven-worked arms and armor), then tells them that she’ll “keep in touch”. With no other pressing matters to attend to, the PCs head to the Laughing Horse to tell tales of their adventures amidst copious of alcohol.

Continue to the Next Adventure

View
Flood Season
3rd February, 1370

In the days following the PCs’ adventure below Cauldron, word of their heroics spreads throughout the town. Corym, Nerull, Kursk, and Scrump, having just collected a few years’ salary in two days, all quit their jobs. Alenia and Jerim each return to work. Throughout that next week, the PCs notice that four different people have been staring at them at various times and places throughout the city. One day, the party is together when they notice one of the four watching them; a young redheaded woman with a rapier at her side. They confront her and she says that she has no idea what they are talking about, and gets very angry when they won’t move out of her way. Not wanting to cause a scene, they finally let her go. They later learn that the girl is Cora Lathenmire, daughter of powerful nobles that own and operate 4 of the 5 smithies in town. She and some other noble youths dealt with a pesky tribe of kobolds that had infested some of the catacombs below the southern section of the city.

Putting this strange encounter behind them, the PCs head to Skie’s Treasuries, the only shop in town whose business is buying and selling magical items. Skie is a gnome sorceress and former adventurer. She asks the party about their excursion below the city, and commends them on their bravery and teamwork. She buys a few items from them and sells them what they need. She tells them that they can come by anytime for a chat (and a look at the store’s new goods).

Just before dawn the next morning, Jerim finds Alenia and their four unemployed friends and summons them to the temple of Helm. In the main hall they find Jenya Urikas pacing nervously, while a few other clerics and acolytes look on anxiously from a distance. When Jenya sees the party, she quickly ushers them into a side room and shuts the door. She tells them that she just received a disturbing sending from Sarcem Delasharn, the High Priest of Helm in Cauldron. Jenya hands them a scrap of parchment with Sarcem’s sending and her response scribbled on it.

At Lucky Monkey. Have eight wands. Tavern’s been attacked. Bandits led by barbaric apeman. Mortally wounded. Retreated to basement. They know we’re here. Send help.
_________________________________________________________________________________
Sarcem? Is that you? Hang On! Conserve your resources. I’ll send out aid immediately. Send me another message when you can, but until then have…

Jenya explains that she was trying to tell Sarcem to have faith, but the sending ended before she could utter the last word. She asks the PCs if they would ride out immediately to rescue Sarcem. She tells them that she will give them 1,000gp each if they can rescue Sarcem or recover the wands. When the PCs ask what the wands are for, she gives them a brief history of the annual Flood Festival, and tells them that it was wands (created by the churches of Cauldron) that kept the waters at bay. The other churches, however, now feel that the wands are unnecessary since there hasn’t been enough rain for any flooding in over a decade. When they refused to help craft the wands, Sarcem set out for Tashluta in order to purchase as many wands as he could because the church of Helm in Cauldron lacked the resources to craft enough wands on their own.

Jenya finds mounts for the party to use for the trip down to the jungle, and wishes them luck. The PCs collect their things and head out within the hour. It is nearly dusk when they arrive at the Lucky Monkey. They stable their horses, then approach the side door of the inn. After breaking down the door, the party explores a few empty rooms before entering the large common room. When they see a handful of people drinking amidst the wreckage of the room, they start attacking without asking questions. The battle is over quickly and little damage is sustained.

As they continue to investigate the building, they find the kitchen occupied by 3 large hill baboons and a “barbaric apeman”. The baboons die easily (one of them becoming Kylie’s first kill), but the werebaboon puts up a tough fight. When they finally bring him down, many of the PCs are wounded and in need of healing. They see the door to the basement where Sarcem said he was making his last stand. They decide there is no need to rush down to his aid when they find his head grotesquely mounted on the kitchen wall, but they head down anyway.

They find the large cellar in a horrible mess, with blood and spilled ale and wine everywhere. Five more bandits are in the room arguing when the PCs enter, but abruptly stop bickering in order to attack the intruders. This battle also ends quickly, and the party begins to explore the basement.

After exploring a room that was obviously used for cold storage, they find a door at the end of the hall that is covered in a strange brown substance and emanating cold. After retrieving Scrump’s most prized possession from the bag of holding, the two brothers use the portable ram to break open the door, then rush inside before they succumb to the extreme cold. Inside they find a woman huddled in the corner, shivering and barely conscious. Her hair is nearly white, and her skin is dark and dusky, hinting to an ancestry that the PCs are unfamiliar with. They call Jerim in, and he heals the woman enough that she comes to her senses a bit more. They wrap her up in a blanket, then carry her from the room. After giving her an opportunity to eat a small bit of food and drink some water, they ask her who she is and what happened.

She says that her name is Shensen Tesseril, and that she has tended to the small shrine to Shandakul at the Lucky Monkey for the past few months. When the inn was attacked, she fought at Sarcem’s side. She says that Sarcem seemed to be their enemy’s target from the beginning. The party asks her if the apeman was leading the bandits, and she says that he was not. A beautiful redheaded woman wearing full plate was leading them, but left after Sarcem was slain. The woman had a symbol emblazoned on her armor that Shensen didn’t recognize; a clenched fist with rays of light squeezing out from within.

Shensen states that she needs to head back to Cauldron to report on what happened her, and asks the party if they will accompany her. They tell her that they will, but they don’t want to make a 12 hour trip up the mountain in the dark, and they want to make sure no bandits remain in the building. She agrees to stay with them while they explore the upper level. The party discovers (and dispatches) a few more bandits upstairs, but not much else. With the entire building clear, they rest for the night.

Hard rains fall throughout the night and all the following day, accompanied by driving winds. The party recovers Sarcem’s body and possessions (noting with disappointment that there were no wands with him), then set out from the inn. The trip back up to Cauldron is miserable, but uneventful, though Corym notices that Shensen rides almost the entire trip at his side making polite conversation. They arrive after nightfall and head directly to the temple of Helm. Jenya tears up for moment when she hears of Sarcem’s fate, then becomes serious and stoic as she realizes that she is now the High Priestess of Helm in Cauldron. She listens intently as Shensen and the PCs give their accounts. Shensen then asks if she can be excused in order to meet with others who need to know of the Lucky Monkey’s fate. After she departs, Jenya tells the PCs to rest, then take up the hunt for the wands in the morning.

The PCs spend the whole next day and part of the next trying to track down any information about the red-haired woman that stole the wands. Rain continues to fall off and on during their search, damping the mood of Cauldron’s inhabitants. The PCs finally return to Jenya to see if there is any divine assistance that she can offer. She retreats to her personal quarters in order to cast a divination spell. She returns with a message that leads them to the Tipped Tankard Inn. They speak to the barkeep and the bouncer, but neither of them has any good information. Their trip wasn’t a waste of time, however, as it caught the attention of the person they need to speak with.

As the party walks the streets that afternoon, a child slips Corym a small piece of paper, then runs away. The note reads as follows:

I know you’re looking for the wands. I can help, for a price. If you’re interested, come alone to the Lakeside Pavilion tonight at midnight. Bring 500 gold and you’ll walk away with the location of the wands. Bring backup, and you’ll never find them.

They party discusses their options, and decides to use Corym as bait take a chance that the note-writer can be trusted. The man is waiting alone at the Lakeside Pavilion, and provides the information as promised. The armored, red-headed woman who killed Sarcem and stole the wands is Triel Eldurast. Outside of Cauldron there is a hidden entrance to a lava tube that leads down to a secret base of operations for Triel and her associates.

The party heads out early the next morning to begin their descent beneath the city. When they reach the end of the tunnel they find themselves standing on a ledge overlooking an underground lake 100 feet below. To one side is a manmade wall with a locked door. They bust down the door and kill the two mercenaries that were playing cards. After Scrump steals the playing cards the party inspects what the mercenaries were guarding, the PCs inspect the device that will carry them to the far side of the lake. A large cage, big enough for 2-3 people hangs suspended from a thick cable that runs all the way down to a small building at the far side of the lake below.

Scrump and Jerim get in, figuring that if it can support the weight of the 2 guys in full plate, it’s probably safe. It takes a couple of minutes to get them to the bottom, but they descend without incident. As the cage makes its way back up to pick up more passengers, Scrump decides to investigate the small building on the beach. As soon as he enters, a huge section of the wall collapses and lands directly on top of him. Jerim helps him from the rubble and together they wait for the rest of the party before continuing further.

When the party is all together again, they take a moment to look around. 50 feet or so from the lake they see a fortress built into the cavern wall. Certain that this is Triel’s secret base, they head to one of the 5 doors that they see in the stronghold’s exterior. As soon as they enter the first door, the floor gives way causing Scrump to get his feet shredded by the metal protrusions hidden below. As they try to figure out a way to get across the room without touching the floor, four archers begin shooting at them from a balcony above. Deciding that this may not have been the best entrance to use, they retreat to the beach, closing the door behind them.

They enter the next doorway they come to and find no resistance. After exploring a half-dozen smaller rooms, they find a larger room with ten mercenaries standing at-the-ready. At the back of the group they see Triel standing in front of a hot tub. She tries to talk them into joining her, but the PCs don’t even let her finish before they attack. The battle is disappointingly short as the mercenaries pose almost no challenge. Triel puts up a good fight, but when her lackies fall the priestess of Bane is too outnumbered to stand a chance.

After looting the bodies, the party continues deeper into the fortress. Near the back they find some natural caves inhabited by dinosaur skeletons and zombie spiders. The series of small caverns ends in a confrontation with the leader of the undead creatures; a gnoll cleric of Bhaal who has become undead himself. This battle is also short, but painful; so painful that Scrump and Kursk are blinded by pain. The PCs decide to make camp in enemy territory in order to recover rather than running around with two blind barbarians.. They return to the beach, jam all of the doors that lead to areas of the fortress they have already explored, then settle down for a nap.

While they are resting, a few archers sneak out of the one door the party didn’t barricade. After the PCs deal with the intruders, the rest of their siesta passes uneventfully. With spells prepared once again, everyone can be healed to full strength … and vision. The party heads into the one part of the complex they haven’t entered. After exploring for a while they come across tunnels and caves covered in spiderwebs. They fight their way through some monstrous spiders (not undead this time) before coming across the 3rd and final cultist. This one is a halfling sorcerer that worships Myrkul. Alongside him is a huge, demonic looking spider that launches his huge fangs at the party like harpoons.

The spider ends up putting up a better fight than the sorcerer, but the party still avoids suffering any fatalities. They loot the halfling, then return to the surface. Amongst the treasures they collected from their exploits are the eight wands of control water that had been stolen from Sarcem.

They party returns to the storm raging above just in time to save all but the buildings closest to Crater Lake from flooding. Jeyna and Jerim gather enough clerics to use the wands through the next few days, including help from the previously unhelpful churches of Tempus and Kelemvor. Cauldron is saved, rewards are collected, and loot is sold and bartered. Jungle Trouble lives to fight another day.

Continue to the Next Adventure

View
Life's Bazaar
24th January, 1370

It’s a rainy Winter day in Cauldron. Alenia, Corym, and Nerull are relaxing in the Laughing Horse Inn, while their friends Kursk and Scrump, the Inn’s bouncers, stand at the entrance. As dusk approaches, Kursk hears a faint cry for help and sees three men force a fourth man into an alley. Kursk rushes off to stop what appears to be a mugging. Noticing Kursk’s sudden disappearance, Alenia, Corym, and Nerull rush out into the rain after the half-orc. As Kursk closes on the alleyway, a man with his face painted half black and half white tells him and his friends to “bugger off”. When they continue to approach, the man backs into the alley, speaking over his shoulder to his partners-in-crime.

As Kursk gets his first look into the alley, he sees someone dragged up off the ground and slammed into a wall. The two men holding him warn him to stay away from the orphanage, then throw him to the ground in the direction of Kursk and the others who have now arrived. As he lifts his head toward his would-be rescuers, the PCs see that the man who was accosted is their friend Jerim, a cleric of Helm. As Jerim climbs to his feet, his attackers flee down a series of alleyways, away from any confrontation. Kursk chases after them down the alleys while Alenia runs along the street, keeping an eye on any possible exits. When it becomes apparent that they won’t catch their quarry, Kursk and Alenia break off the pursuit and return to their battered friend.

When they regroup in the alley where Jerim was assaulted, the PCs hear a woman’s voice call to them. They look up to see a small, slender woman clinging to the wall of a building next to the alley, staying dry just under the eaves. “Well done,” she says, “but the cleric lives because we wish it so, not because of your misplaced bravado.” Then she points at Jerim and says, “Take these words back to your temple, priest! The children are lost and no longer Helm’s concern.” After delivering her message, she jumps up onto the roof and flees, silent and unseen.

Jerim insists on returning to the church of Helm immediately to report what has happened, and asks if his friends will join him. They stop quickly at the Laughing Horse to pick up Scrump and get permission from Master Goodfellow, then head down the street to the church. There they meet with Jenya Urikas, and the story of the past few weeks unfolds:

There have been a string of kidnappings over the past 3 months. There is nothing that seems to tie any of the victims together. None of the kidnapped victims have yet been found, and the town guard investigators, including Alenia, still have no idea who or what is behind the disappearances.

The most recent incident, the disappearance of four children from the Lantern Street Orphanage three nights ago, has the church of Helm particularly concerned. Jenya tells the PCs that she used an item in the church’s possession to contact Helm about the missing children. This was his cryptic response:

The locks are key to finding them.
Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron,
But beware the doors with teeth.
Descend into the malachite ’hold
Where precious life is bought with gold.
Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.

Jenya offers the PCs 500gp each if they will investigate the children’s disappearance and bring them home safely. Due to Helm’s hint that the locks are important, Jenya recommends that they go first to the Lantern Street Orphanage to start their investigation. The PCs accept Jenya’s offer.

With the promise of a few years’ salary fresh in their minds, Kursk and Scrump quickly stop by the Laughing Horse Inn to tell Master Goodfellow that they are taking the night (and possibly the next few days) off in order to “help take care of a friend”. The group then heads down to the orphanage where they speak with Mama Gretchyn. When she learns why her former charges are there, she tells them that she has told everything she knows twice already: once to Cauldron’s chief investigator, and once to the two half-elves sent by the mayor. Gretchyn explains that the doors to the children’s rooms are locked from the outside each night. There is no sign of forced entry on any door or window in the orphanage.

When the PCs learn of a half-orc janitor who has been working there for about a year, they decided to talk to him. After a fairly long conversation, Patch tells them that he was recruited and paid by a member of the Last Laugh thieves’ guild to watch over one of the children, Terem Kharatys. Unfortunately, Terem was one of the children taken three nights ago. Patch has no idea who did it, or how they did it.

After speaking with Gretchyn again, the PCs learn that the locks to the orphanage (as well as “any lock in Cauldron worth having”) were made by Keygan Ghelve. They say good-bye to their old caretaker, then head across town to Ghelve’s Locks. They arrive to find the shop closed, but knock loudly nonetheless. An old gnome opens a 2nd-story window and tells the PCs that it’s late, and the shop is closed. They insist that they are there on urgent business, and Keygan agrees to speak with them. After the gnome lets them in, Scrump and Kursk see a curtain along one of the walls of the shop. Remembering the line from Jenya’s divination telling them to “look beyond the curtain”, they walk straight to the curtain and push it aside.

They survey the little room, while Keygan Ghelve protests loudly to the intrusion. As the rest of the PCs follow the indignant gnome into the storeroom, Corym notices a strange irregularity in the wall beneath the stairs leading to the 2nd floor. He gives the wall a little push, and it swings open to reveal a set of stairs leading down into the darkness below. Almost immediately a gray-skinned humanoid leaps down from the top of the stairs and attacks the PCs. They deal with the threat quickly, then look around and find Ghelve cowering in a corner. With the cat out of the bag, the gnome explains everything:

There was a gnome enclave below Cauldron called Jzadirune, name after its founder. It became a haven for gnome artisans and magic item creators. 75 years ago, the gnomes of Jzadirune fell prey to a magical plague called the Vanishing. The origin of the plague remains a mystery. Unable to eradicate the disease, the gnomes destroyed all the contaminated magic items they could find, and abandoned Jzadirune. A few have managed to continued plying their trade on the surface without further misfortune.

About three months ago, some dark creatures, including ones that look like the dead creature on the floor of his storeroom, entered Keygan’s shop from below and surprised him and his rat familiar. Taking the rat hostage, the “tall ones” and “short ones” blackmailed the gnome into telling them everything he knew about Cauldron. When they learned that he made the locks for most of the city, they forced him to give them his skeleton keys, granting them access to virtually any building in town. Keygan is not proud of what he has done, but he refuses to act against the kidnappers while they still have his familiar captive.

When it becomes apparent that the PCs plan to enter Jzadirune to find the missing children, Keygan runs upstairs to retrieve something. He returns with a tattered piece of coarse leather, upon which is scrawled a map of the gnome enclave. He tells them to be careful; The gnomes were very protective of their little community, and many traps may still remain to deter intruders. Lighting torches, the would-be heroes descend into the darkness.

As they reach the bottom of the stairs, the PCs can hear giggling. The large room at the bottom of the stairs is lined with smiling copper masks. As they pass near one of the masks opposite the stairs, a voice rings out with a welcome and a warning:

Welcome to Jzadirune—behold the wonder!
But beware, ye who seek to plunder.
Traps abound and guardians peer
Beyond every portal, behind every gear.

The doors throughout the gnome enclave are circular, and each is marked with a gnome inscription indicating one of the nine letters of the word Jzadirune. What these letters mean remain a mystery to the PCs.

Jzadirune_Doors.jpg

As strong as the half-orc brothers are, even they cannot force any of the doors open. After trying their luck on the two doors in this room, they all head off deeper into the complex. They find a long corridor with many other closed doors and trap in the floor that resulted in a very lucky fall by Scrump. Scrump and Kursk leap across the pit and find an illusionary wall hiding a map room.

Heading to the other end of the hall, Corym finds a secret door. In the room beyond, they are attacked by rags. … Yes, rags. The rags wrap themselves around Scrump, who then begins attacking his friends. Fortunately, the raggamoffyn (that’s really what it’s called) is killed before Scrump, and everyone is friendly again. As they look around the room, it appears to have once been an alchemist’s lab. They find a few alchemical items in the wreckage that still seem to be usable, as well as a five-inch long steel rod with the gnome letter “U” on one end. One of the walls has a 4’ high tunnel carved into it that heads into the darkness.

The PCs explore this tunnel along with others, and find very little of note until they find a strange looking drilling machine. The machine activates when they inspect it, and takes a huge amount of damage before it is disabled. Bleeding, they continue onward. Exploring further, they come to what appears to be a makeshift wall that blocks their way. They decided this was as good a time as any to quit, so they returned to the surface to rest.

After resting in Ghelve’s shop, the PCs return to Jzadirune. Before heading back to the makeshift wall they encountered the night before, they search the doors they have encountered so far to see if any of them have the gnome rune for “U” on it. They find one door near the eastern end of the complex that they can open with their key. Beyond the door they find a throne room, with an illusion of the former gnome king on the throne. The illusory king speaks of the tragedy that befell his people then becomes silent. The PCs explore the room and find that the throne has a hollow armrest. Looking inside they find some gold, as well as two more keys, these ones marked with letters “N” and “E”.

At this point they choose to return to the makeshift wall. They break it down and find a large room beyond. As they explore the room, they locate a secret door near the northeast corner of the room. As they prepare to open it, a giant, floating brain with a beak and tentacles descends on the the party from above. After paralyzing Alenia, it attempts to take on the rest of the group. The manage to free their friend by severing the tentacle that was wrapped around her, but she remained unable to move for a minute or so. Eventually the beast is brought down by a few powerful axe strikes from the Bash Brothers.

Beyond the secret door is a short hallway that connects to another hallway to the north. As the two half-orcs enter the side hall, spears spring from the walls and catch them unawares. Feeling over confident after jumping over a 10’ hole the previous day, Scrump decides to try to jump the whole length of the 20’ hallway to reach the room they can see beyond. He is successful in his jump, but extremely disappointed when he finds the room empty.

After another leap back to the party, Scrump and the rest of the PCs continue to the next room. Here they find an abandoned forge. Next to each forge is a barrel of filthy water. Corym reaches in one of the barrels to see if there is anything other than water in them. When he can’t determine what, if anything, is at the bottom, he convinces Scrump to tip the barrels over. As the last barrel of mucky water is emptied onto the floor, a slim steel rod marked with the gnome letter “I” rolls out. With their 4th key in hand, the party leaves the forge.

They exit into a long hallway that ends at the room where they killed the giant brain-thing. Straight across the hall from where they stand is another room. Nerull’s dog starts growling into the dark room, clearly sensing something unpleasant. They enter the room slowly and ready for a fight, but find all is quiet and still. There is a huge mess strewn about, a table shoved against one wall, and another 4’ tunnel bored into the rock. They bring Chompers into the room, and his growls direct them to the table against the wall. Scrump walks over and places his hands on the side of the table, preparing to fling it aside. Just as he does, his friends watch him collapse to the floor.

A hooded, hooved creature the size of a gnome leaps out from under the table brandishing a bloody short sword. While Jerim rushes to stabilize Scrump, the rest of the party attacks their cloaked assailant. It quickly becomes apparent that their shorter foe is outmatched, and he throws his weapon to the ground, pleading for mercy in numerous languages (including gnome which is the only one that anyone in the party understands). Jerim quickly stops his friends and translates for them, telling them that he is willing to help them get “below” to find the missing people from “above”, as long as they are willing to help him. He reveals that he has contracted the Vanishing, and is beginning to fade away. If they promise to find a cure for him, he will tell them how to get down to “Kazmojen’s fortress”. The PCs promise to help and listen carefully to the instructions on how to get down below Jzadirune.

After waking Scrump (“I hate those spear traps!”), they party follows the strange creature’s instructions and find a large elevator guarded by two hobgoblins. The PCs negotiate with the hobgoblins and tell them that they are there to speak with Kazmojen on behalf of their master. The hobgoblins allow the party to enter the elevator, then push a lever down that starts the descent. When they reach the bottom, the hobgoblins lead them down a wide hallway, through a large room, then down another wide hallway, picking up four more hobgoblins as they travel. Now surrounded by six guards, they reach large double doors. After a short exchange between of the their escorts and one of the guards at the door, the PCs are permitted into the room beyond.

On the far side of the room is a raised platform, upon which three children are chained to a post. On the steps to the platform is a 5-foot-tall, well muscled, somewhat-dwarven-looking figure with a slight greenish tint to its skin. It wears black plate armor and holds the end of a chain that attaches to a collar around another child’s neck. The armored figure is haggling with what appears to be a gray-skinned dwarf with pointed ears, yellow eyes, and an odd looking beard. When figure on the stairs notices the party, he asks them to wait while he finishes his deal. In the meantime, the children recognize three of the new arrivals, and their demeanor changes from deathly afraid to quietly hopeful.

Knowing that they have to act quickly, the PCs ask the slave master if they might buy the children. He explains that the man in front of him has already purchased the three chained to the post, but that they can bid for the boy whose chain he holds. A deal is struck, but before the boy can be handed over, a huge beholder (that’s right, you heard me) appears in the middle of the room. The beholder addresses Kazmojen (the armored “dwarf”) and tells him that it is there to take Terrem Kharatys (the boy the party just bought) and return him to Cauldron. From the side of the beholder, a bag of platinum coins is flung toward Kazmojen and lands near the stairs. The creature then calls Terrem to come to its side, promising him safety. He glances briefly at the PCs, and after getting a nod that it would be alright, walked down to stand next to the monster. The beholder and the child then disappear, leaving the party alone with Kazmojen’s client, the three children that now belong to him, and Kazmojen himself.

Indecision paralyzes the party as they watch Kazmojen hand the children’s chains to the gray-skinned customer. The children’s new owner leads them past the PCs and out the double doors before the PCs act. They tell Kazmojen that they won’t do business with him after all, and they slowly walk out into the hallway, once again encircle them by hobgoblins. They see the children and their master turn a corner, then the fun begins. Scrump and Nerull charge after the children while the rest of the party attacks their surrounding enemies.

Scrump and Nerull round the corner to find the children and their purchaser in a guestroom. Looking like anything but 1st level characters, the two heroes (and a dog) survive round after round with their half-duergar, half-fiend enemy. Finally, after nearly being bearded to death, they are successful in bringing down their foe. After telling the children to stay put, Scrump and Nerull return to the hallway to see how their friends have fared in their absence…

…Not too well apparently. A pit trap is open in the middle of the hall. Kursk and Corym are on the far side, fighting to protect Alenia who is unconscious and bleeding badly. After a moment they notice that the reason Jerim is not fighting with them across the pit is because he is in the pit. Nerull tells his dog to jump over the pit and fight there while he and Scrump fight the hobgoblins on this side. They quickly realize this might not be the best time for them to be fighting alone. An ogre enters the hall with two more hobgoblins, yelling something unintelligible as he approaches.

Across the pit, Kursk, Corym, and Chompers finish off the last of the hobgoblins on their side. Nerull calls his dog back to him and Corym pulls out his bow. Kursk dumps dead hobgoblins into the pit so that Jerim can try to climb out. The ogre and his sidekicks engage Scrump and Nerull who are now fighting desperately to stay alive. Kursk helps Jerim out of the pit, then closes the pit so he can run over and help his brother. Jerim reaches Alenia just in time to save her from bleeding out. Kursk, Scrump, and Nerull deal with the “ogre” quickly, then look around and find no more enemies to attack.

After reviving Alenia, the PCs agree that they have to act quickly to stop Kazmojen and end his evil dealings for ever. With only limited healing available and three terrified kids to worry about, the party decides to split up. Alenia and Corym escort the kids to the surface while the rest of the group tracks down the half-troll. Heading in the direction that the slaver fled, they come to intersection with a door at the end of three different hallways. Kursk heads to the left fork while Scrump goes straight and Nerull goes right. Nerull sees dead hobgoblins with arrows stuck in their chest. Scrump opens his door to find a hallway ending in a T-intersection. Meanwhile, Kursk finds himself face to face with Kazmojen and three hobgoblins, two of which are dragging a half-conscious woman.

Kursk shouts for help and everyone comes running… except for his brother. Scrump charges through his door and down the hallway, hoping to circle around behind their enemies. Unfortunately, he rounds the corner to find a large block of slide to a stop in front of him, closing off any other exit. Wheeling around quickly, Scrump heads back the way he came to help Kursk. The two hobgoblins holding the woman toss her back into a small room and join the fray. The battle is fierce and Kazmojen deals some serious damage to the party, making them reconsider going after him without rest and healing. Just when all seems lost, help comes from two unexpected sources.

Managing to rise to her feet using the walls as support, the tortured woman sends a magic missile at the half-troll. A moment later, two half-elves enter from behind the party and begin shooting arrows into the hobgoblins. The tide turns quickly and the battle is won. The woman collapses to the floor, conscious, but clearly weak. One of the half-elves offers some minor healing to help stabilize the party. When questioned about their presence, the half-elves said that a friend of theirs had been kidnapped and they were trying to track him down.

Scrump and Kursk recognize the woman as Coryston Pike, a regular at the Laughing Horse Inn. After receiving minor healing she shows the party where the other prisoners are being kept. After freeing the four that were locked away in the cells, they learn that three more prisoners are working in the hobgoblins’ forge and need to be rescued. The battle in the forge is over almost before it begins, and the last prisoners are freed.

The PCs reach the surface and escort the rescued townsfolk to their homes. When they take the children back to the orphanage, they discover that Terrem has already been returned safe-and-sound. With children safe the party heads back to the temple of Helm to collect their reward.

Continue to the Next Adventure

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.