WORK IN PROGRESS…
After defending themselves against the slow-crawling danger of a grey ooze, the company from Greyhawk continue their journey through the underground passages beneath the abandoned village of Melgas.
They come upon a room locked by yet another stone door barred by one yet another complex lock. It’s a lock so complex that it proves to be too intricate for both of the party’s thieves (Grum and Grunt) to disarm.
“Do you have something like a knock spell memorized,” Grum asked his brother.
Thom sighed and shrugged his shoulder. “Lyssa, how about you?”
Lyssa rifled through her spellbook and thumbed quickly back and forth between the pages, muttering under her breath about the unstable torchlight. As she struggled to find an appropriate spell and the others gathered behind her, Abigail approached the door. A soft metal tick echoed gently through the chamber followed by the creek of the hinges of the stone door moving open.
“Now, is that what you were trying to do,” Abigail asked, looking back at Lyssa smugly.
Lyssa clapped her book shut and fired back, “I reserve my power for less vulgar displays…”
“Hmph. That took no display of power.”
“Thank you!” Vetnik interjected, looking to diffuse the catty banter.
“It’s no trouble. Good to know my talents are appreciated. I find it in my best interest not to play all my cards at once.”
“Smart of you not to,” Vetnik compliments.
“Nevertheless, the obstruction has been removed, do we wish to proceed,” Abigail asks.
“Um, yes. Scouts, take point!” Thom directs, curious as to how their Kellaghaian companion was able to dismantle the lock herself.
Grum and Grunt take their points and enter into through the door that empties into a 15ft. hallway. Along the way, Grum just barely catches sight of a small trigger in the floor. He reaches out his arm and blocks his ward from stepping on it and crouches to the ground to disarm it. It is a trigger for a gas trap that would have filled the hall with some unknown noxious gas.
They continue ahead and reach a fork. They continue onwards 30ft before coming across another fork. The scouts venture back to the main room and meet with the others, reporting back their findings. As Grum reports their findings, Abigail softly closes her eyes and slips into a state of deep concentration. Her breathing controlled, she stays silent for a moment. The others turn and watch, baited by the trance.
“West.” She whispers.
“Which West,” Thom begins to ask, “West North? West South?”
Abigail exhales with a sigh, opening her eyes again and shaking her head unknowingly.
The scouts turn to each other and discuss which direction to take for a moment, before settling on taking the SW path. They continue down it before coming upon another sturdy wooden door, unlocked. After Grum examines the door and finds no traps, Thom places his pointed ear against the door and holds it there for a couple beats. Nothing, at first, but just as he begins to pull his ear away, something catches him off guard. He presses his ear against the door again, this time at a different point closer to the ground. He can hear the sound of something shambling across the stone floor. A slow and labored shuffle. He raises his hand and signals that there is noise behind the door. He gently tugs at the door and realizes its swollen and stuck. He steps away and motions to Vetnik and Moira, pointing at the door. The pair nod and step to the front. Abigail, anticipating a fight, steps up to the front beside the warriors. Moira and Abigail give each other a look of support before each of the women draws their glass blades. Vetnik grips the handle of the door and with a single push, shoulders the door open.
The room beyond is large and rectangular, its floors decorated with alternating black and white painted stones (like that of a chess board.) Vetnik looks up from the floor just in time to see a pair of ragged corpses step out of the shadows into the radius of his torchlight. The ghouls are different from the ones encountered in the past. Their bodies appear preserved, their skin dried and tanned like leather. They look up to reveal thinly stretched skin receding from a horrid grimace. Their emaciated bodies are bound and draped in old linen wraps, each row of them painted with innumerable arcane symbols. Their dry, throaty hissing barely echoes throughout the chamber as they jerk towards the party, reaching out their death-black hands to grab. Jarred, Vetnik quickly stepped back and drew out his glass blade.
“MOVE,” Lyssa cried out to those on the frontlines! The three warriors turned back and saw Lyssa’s outstretched hand and the familiar red glow of magic in her blackened eyes. The party split down the middle, they watched as a small orb of swirling fire materializes in the palm of her hand and zips past them, exploding with an intense radius as it passes the party and enters the room. The mummies recoil at the burst of flame, but when the fire is absorbed back into the space, they remain, standing at the party.
“SSSSSSSAAAAAAA,” the mummies hiss in retaliation, their eyes and mouth burning with a flash of eerie green energy! While the fireball was potent, their undead resolve proves stronger than expected. Suddenly, the party hears the panicked shuffling of boots against the ground, fleeing from the scene. They turn and see Grunt running, Hank in hand, from the battle.
“FUCK THIS!” Grunt howls, turning tail.
Moira returns her attention to the undead before her and calls out to her patron. “In Cortox’s name, I turn thee!” The mummies howl once more, screeching with even more anger. With her prayer unanswered, she goes into direct action, swinging her glass blade twice. The creatures jerk their bodies at the waist away from the paladin’s sword, their loosely wrapped bodies betraying an unnatural agility. Thom continues to lurk in the back of the party, drumming for support. The noise only seems to drive the creatures into more of a frenzied state, as they rush the party head on. One attempts to grab at Grum but quickly steps back, evading its touch. Abigail is less fortunate, however. The second mummy grips her right knee and with all of its supernatural might, crushes in its hand, shattering the bones beneath.
Abigail retches herself from its grip, and falls to the ground gritting her teeth and cradling her leg. She quickly retrieves a wooden dagger from her artillery and places it between her teeth as she skids out of the room, back into the hall. Grum slinks past Abigail and enters into the room, ducking into the side shadows. Drawing his electric daggers, he angles himself behind them and goes in for the backstab with Lyn drawn. He sticks it the blade into the back of the mummy, in and out with quickness. While the others fend off the pair of undead, Trisoll races to the aid of the injured mage hunter.
“Please, let me—“
“Get your fucking head back in the fight,” Abigail barks at the cleric, spitting out her dagger while quickly digging into her pouches. He scrambles back into action, shaken by her tone, and shuts his eyes. He holds his holy symbol with shaky hands up to his chest and mutters a chant, blessing the party.
As Trisoll bestows the blessing, Abigail removes her hand from her wounded knee and finds the skin covered in black, oozing rot inching its way up her thigh. She retrieves a small jar filled with a thick, herb-green paste from her pouch. She tears away the blooded fabric surrounding her knee and scoops a hefty dollop onto the wound, frantically massaging it up and down the blackened area of infection.
Back in the room, Vetnik takes up arms and swipes his blade at the bodies of the mummies, cutting through their sigil-marked rags and tearing through the thin yet tough flesh of their bellies, shedding murky black sludge. From the hallway, Abigail notices the sound of drumming sounding near her suddenly stops. She looks up and sees a fiery hand begin to materialize above her, beginning with. As the hand releases a jet of flame, the glow from the jet illuminates the rematerialized body of Thom (much to her surprise.) The flame jet completely engulfs one of the mummies and they watch as its body collapses onto the ground. Flames from the burning hand whips at the second mummy, causing it to recoil. As it tries to save itself from the flames, Grum takes Lyn and Slå and sticks the thing in its belly before ending it’s un-life with a blade up through its jaw, severing whatever remains of a spinal cord.
Abigail calls out to Trisoll with a shivering command, “you, cleric!”
Trisoll quickly rushes to her side and begins to look over the salve-coated rot covering her knee. She nods at him, granting him the permission to lay hands on her. He does as he’s asked, and in his intimate way, wrapping his arms around her. His embrace his healing, and almost immediately she can feel the searing infection retreat. “Thank you for thinking of me, boy,” Abigail begins to whisper, “but in the heat of battle, do not take your eyes off of the enemy.”
“Oh, ok. I won’t,” Trisoll promises before releasing her from his healing hug. They look down and inspect the wound together. Both the bleeding and the rot have seemed to stop, but her bones remain broken. “We need to set your leg. Vetnik!”
While the others sack the room, Vetnik (accompanied by Moira) help tend to the wounded magehunter.
Trisoll kneels beside Vetnik and guides him through the geography of the wound. He shows the barbarian prince where and how best to use his strength to realign the bones.
Vetnik looks to Abigail and quips, “you may want that dagger again,” nodding to the wooden dagger beside her.
She quickly takes it up off the ground and grits it between her teeth once more as he places his hands around her leg. Abigail watches as Vetnik quickly jams the bones back into place as best he can. She seethes with tension as he does so, biting down harder into the dagger than she had been. A muffled popping sound signifies his success. Moira quickly hands over what bandages she can and Trisoll quickly wraps the area taught.
“Try to go easy on it from here on out,” Trisoll warmly suggests.
“Do you wish me to carry you?” Vetnik asks.
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Abigail says, rebuffing his offer. “We should continue.”
“Don’t worry about her, I’ve got this.” Trisoll says, helping Abigail back to her feet.
In the corner of the room, Thom spies a sarcophagus, open and large enough for the two bodies to share. Its exterior is carved in deathly images and inlaid with runes matching the ones decorating the dressings of the mummies. A brass plaque is inlaid at the head of the coffin, upon which a relief is carved.
“Do you still feel evil in here,” Thom asks Moira.
Moira nods as they move towards the coffin together.
Grum searches the door of the sarcophagus for traps and finds none. Thom points out that there appears to be a small panel inside against the back. Grum examines it and it takes little time for him to deduce a trigger. Before Grum reaches in closer to disarm, the hurried footsteps of another enter the room. All turn to see Grunt standing in the threshold, his hood covering most of what must be an embarrassed expression across his face, as well as Hank down at his side.
“So pleased you could join us,” Grum says mockingly.
“Let’s never speak of what happened tonight.” Grunt replies.
Grum looks at the trapped panel and back at his ward. “Well, now that you’ve returned, how’s about you give this trap a try?”
Grunt sheaths his bow and complies without a word. He rushes up to the sarcophagus, he lifts his hood just enough to allow for better vision. He moves in and skillfully removes it. Removing a trigger pin, the panel opens to reveal a hidden compartment. He finds first a series of viles, each containing what appear to be thousands upon thousands of dully-colored spores. A diabolical trap that, had it not been so easily disarmed, would’ve released the spores onto any poor soul nearby, spreading its bacterial ruin. Beyond them, he finds tucked away a deck of handmade cards, a small metal flask, and a strange orb inlayed with foreign symbols. Thom looks them over in the torchlight while Lyssa rejoins the party, waving her hand across the objects. She alerts the party that all objects radiate magic.
“I’m not sure what the orb could be,” Thom begins, passing the orb to his brother. Opening the flask, a slight and clean scent escapes. Thom quickly takes a whif and reports, “but this flask appears to be a Philter of Feather Fall. And these cards are not merely playing cards, but a Deck of Chance.” Lyssa’s curiosity is visibly piqued, as she reaches out and grabs at the deck to examine more closely.
“You be careful with those things,” warns the bard. “From what I can recall from the Book of Marvelous Magic, those can do you just as much harm as they can good.”
“Just as long as they can’t do us harm, let her have the bloody things.” Vetnik chimes in.
Lyssa rolls her eyes at the barbarian and saunters over to the mummies’ bodies while Thom bestows the pfilter to Grunt and the mysterious orb to his brother. Lyssa severs and takes a mummy’s hand but finds nothing else on them beyond burned, rune covered rags. She pilfers through them trying to discern a meaning, but the symbols are foreign to her – no doubt some kind of necromantic spell to animate the dead. She tears a strip for later research.
WARNER’S COVENANT KILLED 17 GOBLINS HERE is scrawled across the eastern-most wall. There are four more exits in the room – three doors and an archway. Recalling Abigail’s earlier advisement, they continue through to door heading West. Neither noise nor trap is detected on this door. They find the wooden door just as swollen as the last door opened, if not moreso. Vetnik repeats and pushes his way through. Waiting for them is a short hallway with several archways lining the walls and a dead end, as well as a single door. Vetnik motions for Grum, who leads them down to check the halls.
The brothers examine the door according to protocol and hear nothing, nor are any traps found. The simple wooden door is swollen. Tiring of the warped doors, Vetnik takes the opportunity to take out his aggravation by kicking the door all the way in this time. The door falls to the ground and reveals unlit living quarters. Torchlight reveals furniture and chests smashed to pieces; bed linens and clothing litter the ground, shredded. Desks are opened, emptied, and overturned. Grum notices that the razing of the room appears to be recent, as no film of dust seems to cover the refuse. Bodies (and blood) are visibly absent. Across the room is a door and receded into the wall is another portcullis.
“Do these robes look familiar to you at all, Abigail,” Thom asks, poking at the ruins with the tip of his scabbard.
“Yes. These cloaks belonged to the cultists from the Circle. They’ve been torn to shreds, but I don’t see any blood.”
Grum takes a cue from Abigail and lifts his gem of seeing from out under his own tunic and begins to examine the room. He finds no sign of blood in the room either.
Thom and Vetnik move past portcullis and to the door. Thom barely places his ear against it before hearing the sound of something strange gurgling and grunting behind it. As Thom listens, his brother is quick to find a trap on the door. Grum disarms the trigger (that of another gas trap) and just as quickly unlocks the door. The pair back away and turn to each other and then the party.
“Warriors first, or do we try to get the ambush?” Thom asks.
“Moira and I will take the lead. Abigail, you ought to stay back.”
“I’ll be fine,” Abigail replies, attempting to steady herself against Trisoll. Realizing that her injury may prove a liability, she silently agrees to fall back behind the warriors and thieves, but is adamant about keeping in front of the spellcasters.
Just as Moira and Vetnik burst through the door, they enter to find… silence. As the party enters the room, the robed body of a young woman comes into sight. The torchlight flickers against the pool of blood congealing beneath her, ebbing from an almost-freshly sliced throat. Her eyes stare up towards the ceiling blankly while her arm lies lifeless over her head. A wooden mace lays just inches away from her hand. Abigail pushes past the thieves and warriors and surveys the body. The robe is identical to the shredded ones found on the floor of the living quarters they just arrived from. Beyond illuminated area, the twins notice something in the distance. Grum puts his gem of seeing back to his eye and it reveals a mound of gem chips piled up against the wall. As he passes the gem across the room, he sees three strange hulking forms pressed against the wall. Their bodies seem to camouflage against the stone brick of the room. He notes that these beings appear almost headless, their torsos coming to a slight point and decorated with three eyes surrounding the headless neck. Pressed against the wall, he notices their long, sinewy arms and the talons ending each finger. The strange forms of the creatures rest on three stout legs, thick, not unlike that of an elephant’s. Grum lets out a soft whistle and begins to back away towards the door, causing the others to slowly do the same while peering ignorantly into the dark perimeter.
“2 o’clock, 8 o’clock, and 10 o’clock.” Grum mentions, before backing out of the room.
“What is it?” Abigail asks as she begins to slide her blade from out of its scabbard.
“Against the wall, strange creatures. Headless with three arms and three legs.”
“I’ve heard stories about these creatures. Xorn they’re called. Neither fire nor frost are said to do harm their stonelike bodies.”
“That knocks out two of my elemental contributions” Lyssa moans.
“Wait, what if we smoke them out with fog. Send out blind fighters in to cut whatever these xorn are while they’re still in hiding and—“
Before Thom can finish, Trisoll interjects. “Wait. I’ve got it! When I say strike, I need you all to do so quickly and heavily.”
Thom looked at Trisoll, curious and intrigued by his confidence. The party steps aside and makes way for the cleric.
Trisoll enters the dark chamber, his heart racing. He takes a deep breath, clenching his holy symbol in hand. His eyes flooding with a soft white glow, he shuts them and releases a radius of faint white light that coats the walls of the room and the things that cling to the shadows. “NOW!” Trisoll cries out, and the party rushes in on his command. They enter and watch as the hard stone of the wall and the creatures begins to soften and drip, slowly transforming into dense mud.
Grunt rushes in with Hank drawn and rapidly fires off two energy bolts into the positions outlined previously by Grum. The first bolt strikes, causing one of the xorn to screech and step out of the shadows. The second arrow zips into the left arm of the thing, exploding in a burst of mud-flesh and crackling energy. Trisoll continues to concentrate his power on the walls of the room and begins to harden the mud back to large, jagged rocks of stone. The stone spikes pierce the backs of the remaining pair of xorn, forcing them off against the wall and towards the center of the room. Before they can swarm Trisoll, Vetnik rushes in with blade drawn, hacking at each of the beasts and keeping them at bay. From the doorway, Abigail retrieves a small orb from one of her pouches and tosses it to the far end of the room. Upon colliding with the floor, the orb busts open and unleashes a spray of small, metal shrapnel pieces, which fly and pierce the flesh of the lumbering xorn. Lyssa steps forward, revealing the thin wand of Lightning to unleash a forked lightning bolt from its metal-plated tip. The bolt surges through the body of one of the xorn and she watches as the top of its torso opens up to reveal a gaping maw rimmed with rows of jagged teeth and a large, bulbous tongue whipping wildly back and forth. With a bellowing cry, the strange earthen creature slumps to the ground with a great thud as the smell of charred earth fills the room. A second, thinner bolt surges forth from the wand and connects with a second nearby xorn, though its intensity paled to that of the first bolt. Grum quickly follows up with a pair of arrows from his longbow, firing both into the freshly electrocuted xorn. The first zips across the room and sticks firmly into the torso of the thing. The xorn reaches out with its trio of hands but fails to retch the arrow from out of its body. Before it can get a firm grasp, Grum lets loose a second arrow, pinning its hand to its own torso and slaying the beast. With one xorn standing, Thom leaps in with his longsword drawn and chops at the creature. The xorn manages to grab at Thom’s arm as he strikes and bites into it. Before it can dig its teeth too deep, Thom yanks his arm and sword away and regains his footing.
Trisoll opens his eyes and stumbles back, unable to keep the transmute spell. The melting hide of the xorn returns to its original, hardened form. Grunt takes aim at the last xorn standing and fires another pair of arrows. The creature howls as the first arrows collides into its belly with a show of sparks, while the second fizzles against the wall behind it. Moira dives in, cutting at the beast twice before it can seize her weapon. Abigail limps further into the room, raising her glass blade. She brings the blade down into its mouth and jams it deep into its throat. The xorn attempts to shut its mouth, but chokes on the blade before it can do so.
The party searches the body of the cultist under the supervision of Abigail, but find nothing on her. Lyssa examines the dead xorn and salvages a dead eye from one of the corpses. After collecting the horde of gem chips, they continue west until they come upon another fork with two archways. The scouts lead the party up the second, heading NE.
“Watch your step!” Grunt says sternly back to the others. He notices on the ground a fine wire stretched just inches above the floor, reaching from one wall to the other at the end of the hall. He follows the string up to the roof, where peaking out from the slits in the stone ceiling, he sees the faint glint of large metal blades meant to cleave any unfortunate soul who happens upon this hall into pieces. Grunt continues down the hall to find… nothing, a dead end. He motions tags his mentor and the pair return to join the party.
The scouts lead the party down the southern archway, which twists north and forks into a door and a second passageway. They approach the door first, checking for traps and noise. Neither is found, and the lock appears unused. Opening the door, the faint smell of extinguished flames waft from a nearby fireplace across the room at the east wall beside another door. The walls are smooth stone, undecorated except for the few torches fixed to the wall – one of the few chambers that the party has found to be illuminated. The floor is a spiral of black, polished marble tiles and in the center of the vortex. Grum enters and heads east to inspect the fireplace. Upon inspection, his senses are arrested by the foul stench of scorched meat. He takes a closer look, poking at a large blackened lump with his dagger. Turning the lump over, the sight and smell jar him.
“I found something.”
The rest of the party enters the silent room and sees Grum hunched around the fireplace, poking at it and visibily disgusted by something within.
“What is it?” Vetnik asks as he approaches.
“Looks to be a heart. Human sized,” he answers, reluctantly continuing to poke at the burned refuse. After knocking it away, he sees a mound of ash piled up deeper inside. He clears the mound of ash and reveals a medium sized chest set into the floor of the fireplace. Grum clears the lock of ashen remains and examines it for any possible traps. Finding none, he successfully picks the chest open. Inside it, he finds the following gems loose inside:
1 Black pearl
2 Deep blue spinels
1 Deep green spinel
1 Golden yellow topaz
1 Pink pearl
1 Rich purple corundum
1 Star rose quartz
1 White pearl
While Grum scoops the contents into his bag of holding, Thom presses ahead with Grunt, and the pair examines the door nearest to the fireplace. After hearing no sound and finding neither trap nor lock barring them from entering, Grunt opens the door to reveal a most macabre chamber. On the eastern wall is a gargantuan stone relief of a human skull; on the opposite side of the room, the wall is inlayed with a series of runes like those seen decorating the dressings of the mummies. They cast an eerie glow that tints the chamber blood red. In the southern corner are strange mounds of what appear at first glance to be freshly melted wax, the shine of which reflects in the crimson glow of the chamber. Opposite the blobs stands a tree, its roots reaching out over the tiled ground but not embedded into the floor. It’s bark is pristine save for a series of small yet numerous gashes across the trunk and limbs. High in the trunk of the tree, the scouts are able to make out what appears to be a hole, bored deep past the bark and leaking a dark fluid. Grum places his gloved fingertips to the liquid and inspects it in the red light. It’s dark and thinner than any sap he’s seen. Putting it to his nose, he takes one whiff and recognizes it.
“It’s blood,” he exclaims, “this tree is… bleeding!”
As he reaches for his gem of seeing to inspect the tree, Abigail cries out, frantically limping past the others towards the tree. “Maja?” she cries out, collapsing against the trunk. She begins to slap and swat at the bark, calling out the name of her missing lover. “Maja? Maja, I’m here! You’re safe now! Maja!”
The party watches as the branches and the leaves begin to shiver. The leaves flutter off the branches and as they descend, swirl around the tree. The bark quickly begins to peel itself back away from the body of the tree and absorb into itself, reveal at first the lithe arms of a woman. The unwrapping bark descends down to the roots, revealing more and more features of the woman. Her fair skin is seen marred by dirt, bruises and small, bloodied cuts; the leaves flutter down and change from green to red, crowning the woman with a head of fiery auburn hair. The wounded bark tears away to reveal a face, and where the wound is revealed as the woman’s eye socket. The bark and roots disappear and the woman collapses into Abigail’s waiting arms.
“What have they done to you,” Abigail asks the woman resting against her chest. She takes off her cloak and quickly drapes it over the woman’s body.
Abigail pleads with the healers of the party, the first show of vulnerability from the otherwise stern magehunter. “Trisoll, please! Please, help her!”
Trisoll and Moira both rush to the wounded druid, each pressing themselves against her shivering, cloaked body while chanting in the names of their patrons. As the pair prays for healing, Maja pleads with her lover. “Do not look upon me,” she whimpers, reaching to cover her still bleeding eye socket.
“I would love you if they had taken half of your face, now tell me who did this so I may exact my vengeance.”
“Her name is Malia, she was the leader of the Circle. She had taken my eye as punishment after a follower remarked a resemblance her and I, then took out of the eye of the follower and used both in some kind of ritual. She… she kept me here, bled with me knives and leeches, using my blood for whatever rites the Circle were carrying out.”
“What else happened here? We found one of the cultists with her throat cut open.”
“Malia, she—“ Maja continues, choking up as she recalls the memory, “she went on a rampage through the lair. After communing with a man, a night elf with an accent I’ve never heard before, Malia went mad and released the monsters they had been keeping down here to experiment upon. She unleashed them upon her followers. Those that weren’t slain by them she cut them down herself! ”
“So the creatures down here weren’t natives. They were prisoners?” Vetnik asks.
“Yes, just as I was. After Malia slew the first of her followers here she fled and in her absence I quickly changed myself into a tree in hopes that I could heal myself somehow and avoid any wandering monsters.”
Vetnik’s ears perk at the beginning of her description of the aforementioned night elf. Moira opens her eyes and lets Trisoll take over the healing. The pair of warriors look to each other, a sinking feeling of dread begins to weigh heavily down in their gut.
“Please, continue,” Moira beseeches the druid, taking Vetnik’s hand into hers.
“He was not here physically, but a projection of him. In it, he wore a suit of armor crafted from metal, black and decorated in strange runes. He was like no other night elf I’ve seen before. His eyes burned with a hatred when he spoke to Malia, but not hatred for her, but for something else. I’m not certain, I could not make out what they were discussing.”
Moira speaks up, asking Maja to confirm details of the night elf’s face. She begins to describe a face in particular: the slope of its brow, the part of its long, white hair, the hook of his nose and his devious grin. “Yes, yes that was him,” Maja confirms.
“You know this night elf,” Abigail asks, turning to Moira. Vetnik moves forward and whispers a name into her ear. “I do not know this name.”
“If it’s who I think Vetnik thinks it is, then we’re dealing with a very unpleasant character,” Thom chimes in.
“Explain,” Abigail barks, pressing Maja closer to herself.
“Where we come from, this night elf is called a Drow. He’s also known to be quite an arse.”
“He’s also very powerful.” Vetnik interjects.
“Well if he is aligned with Malia, he will die too.”
“They’ll all die, this I can assure you,” Vetnik says grimly.
“He was an agent for some nefarious deities long ago. We thought he no longer posed a threat until recently, but it appears he’s back up to his old tricks again.”
“Deities,” Abigail asks, shocked that Malia could be able to commune with an avatar.
“Who does the Circle worship?”
“Death. The Circle of Bones worships only that which destroys. They’re magi, necromancers who believe that through death they can gain power over the realm. I do not know who this Kr’zzt is or what his connection would be to them, but if he is in congress with Malia and the Circle, death may only be the beginning of what they have planned.”
“If it’s death he wants, it’s death he’ll get.” Vetnik snarls.
“Well, before that, perhaps we should inspect the rest of the lair, see if there aren’t any other clues or something as to what Kr’zzt may be up to.” Thom reasons.
“Is it not obvious? He’s trying to get back into Lolth’s favor!” Vetnik says aloud, announcing a name that foreign to Abigail and Maja .
“Sure, but she cast him out in a big way. Not to mention, I’m sure there are other death gods here,” Thom counters.
“Maybe he’s trying to get in higher graces with one of them? Who knows, maybe he’s looking to supplant Lolth by making allies of the dark forces here in Kellagha,” says Moira. “He is certainly brazen enough to try!”
“Hm. No doubt, the dark forces on our side of the Flanaess are wary to cross Lolth, maybe he thinks he can find allies here.” Thom continues to reason.
“Flanaess? Lolth? What in blazes are you going on about,” Abigail cries out.
“Oh, Flanaess? It’s regional, just what we call the planet.” Thom informs.
Vetnik wanders away from the group, frustrated by the seeming lack of urgency the party has, and attempts to cool his temper by searching through the remnants in the room. He comes across the strange, waxy blobs littering the floor. He jabs at one of them with the tip of his blade and as it he cuts through it, the blob oozes out a semi-clear viscous fluid. He kneels down for a closer look and finds that the strange slime is laced with pieces of hair. Using his sword, he cuts deeper into the mound and releases more of the ooze, thicker and murkier than that which ebbed before. A deathly scent shots up from the hole made, and before Vetnik cuts any deeper, he watches as small teeth lace the stream of slime, followed by a human eye. He realizes that these mounds are not mere wax, but jellied human remains. He chokes slightly on the scent and returns to the others.
“These… these things were once men? What kind of magic reduces a man to a mound?”
“Malia did this with a spell she received from this Drow you speak of.”
“It’s good craftsmanship, this spell,” Lyssa remarks coldly, kneeling down over the oozing mound, scooping up a portion of it into an empty flask. “Perhaps when we get somewhere more civilized, I can break down what kind of magic was able to do this.”
The party collectively shivers at the morbid sight before continuing to question Maja.
“Do you know where this Malia’s chambers are?”
Maja outstretches out her arm and points to the relief of the skull carved into the wall. “There.”
The scouts move to the skull and enter its mouth where they find a door. Though Grum fails, it is Grunt who manages to unlock the door. The door is odd in its make: with a lock at the base securing it to the floor, Grunt and Grum work together to slide the door up into the roof of the skull’s mouth. Behind it lays a 40ft hallway leading to a second, more traditional wooden door. The scouts call upon Vetnik to shoulder the door down, who obliges. They enter into what appears to be a magician’s laboratory. Every visible piece of equipment smashed and shattered on the ground. Tomes of magical texts shredded, burned, and doused with water. A pair of cultists lay dead on the ground covered in debris, their tunics marked by stab wounds and covered in blood. Thom finds a pile of scraps from a scroll, the runes of a foreign language still semi-visible, and pockets them for later inspection. They exit the room and return back to the main chamber.
“Out of duty, I will remain down here with you all as you wish, but I must get Maja out of here,” Abigail implores.
“Well, we can either clear out one of these rooms and set up a safe camp, or—“
Thom stops and begins to watch as Abigail retrieves a pair of identical stones from her belted pouches. Putting one to her ear and the other to her lips, she begins to speak. “We are beneath Melgas,” she begins, apparently holding a one-sided conversation. “We found Maja… yes, the Circle of Bones. All except Malia are slain. I need you to take her to safety. Meet us here, and make haste!”
“What about you,” Maja whimpers as Abigail lowers the stones from her face.
“You need not worry over me. I owe these people an incredible debt of gratitude. They helped me find you. If not for them, I— the woman who did this to you who must pay.”
“It was not just I, my love. Mandrake, he—“ Maja struggles to explain before breaking down into tears once more. “He too came here to rescue me, but… but Malia, he—“
“He taught me everything I know,” Abigail says, mourning the loss of her mentor. Snapping back to the present, she urges, “you must go with Perdal and Roiman. They will be here soon! They will keep you safe.”
Abigail lifts Maja up and adjusts the cloak draping her injured lover, making sure to secure her decency. While doing so, the sight of Maja’s injuries once again puts Abigail in an angered state. “Now, you all tell me everything you know about this Kr’zzt!”
“We will in due time. For now, we should look and see if there are any other clues to his whereabouts. I promise you’ll get your vengeance on the Circle. “
“You keep your word then, and I promise I will do whatever in my power to help you take down this Kr’zzt. Vengeance is my only recourse here, he and Malia’s blood will be shed.”
“Fair enough,” Thom begins, “but our quest is more than just mere vengeance.”
Abigail offers Lyssa the use of her communication stones in exchange for her debt to her being paid. Lyssa laughs the offer off, citing her own telepathic magic abilities. Angered, she gives them to Thom instead.
Thom reveals to Abigail the truth about their quest: that they come from Greyhawk and are on the hunt for Kr’zzt, with whom they have a history. Vetnik is displeased by this, and feeling slighted, backs out of the discussion. Lyssa continues to goad Abigail, telling her that while her vengeance may feel justified, it pales in comparison to the importance of their own quest for justice against Kr’zzt. Fed up, Trisoll silences the party. Lyssa teleports the party out of the chamber and returns them to the surface, where Abigail’s compatriots are waiting to take Maja. Abigail gives Maja her magic dampening amulet and releases her into the care of her friends. As the two lovers say their goodbyes, the party address the power struggles within the group. Vetnik lets the party know that if he wants them to be led by them, they ought to abide by his leadership. Thom agrees but argues that most of the party is made up of people who have issues with authority or aren’t disciplined in hierarchical structures the same way Vetnik is. They calm themselves down and Thom and Lyssa return to the lair to investigate more, but find little else beyond smashed equipment.