Cauldron: The Shackled City

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!

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