After last session’s events, the victorious adventurers proceeded up the scaffolding and into the cave’s mouth. Searching the mist-choked cavern revealed two items, the first of which was a backpack containing a letter:
The appointed hour draws nigh, when the Undying One will bend to my will, and the mysteries of the unknown world will at last be revealed. We shall not invoke his name for fear of drawing his wrath, or worse, the unity of his age-old foes. Therefore, as in days of yore, he shall remain unnamed.
The Curse — long have I heard it whispered among the degenerate swamp folk, but now I see that it is much more than their foul breeding practices. It is borne by the Spire that imprisons Him, and by those foolish enough to invoke His name. But the Curse also brings power, albeit at obscene cost. But when was it ever not so?
The (burned smudge) is mine now. It is a simple thing of dried clay and mud, easily overlooked and forgotten. To think, herein lies the power of destruction; mastery over the One.
Spider eggs and maggots squirm beneath my skin. It smells of rot, but to my senses it is the perfume of triumph. The time for ascension is upon me, when the planes will align and I shall remake the world according to my will.
He calls, and I must answer.
The party also discovered a strange incense censer. The eerie fog permeating the Great Black Salt Marsh seemed to originate from the metallic device, and something about the cavern’s miasma unnerved the party. I know a secret, teased Tyrant, and now, so does HE! Ket had become accustomed to the symbiont’s psychic rambling, and did his best to ignore it.
Pausing to study the cave itself, Jak discovered a secret door — the counterpart to one that collapsed into rubble long ago on the opposing wall. Opening the concealed passage allowed the omnipresent blue-green mist to spill into the concealed space, where it slowly tumbled down a spiral staircase.
Ket explored the passageway beyond the collapsed door. An eroded set of stone stairs ascended to a short hallway with an exposed spike pit. Ket, however, knew better than to take the trap at face value. He tossed a burning torch to the pit’s opposing side, and its weight slightly tilted the floor, revealing a second, hidden pit beneath a trap door.
By now the fog had started to irritate the throats, lungs and eyes of all but the warforged adventurers. The enclosed, poorly-ventilated cave concentrated the formerly rarified vapors until the party could no longer ignore them. Scrutinizing the mist more closely, they spotted gossamer, writhing fibers coalescing within the haze, which attached themselves to everyone save the group’s constructs.
Disgusted, the affected heroes attempted to shave the fibers from their bodies and stanch the billowing gas. Ruz muffled the device with his bedroll and some rope, but something living inside the censer protested with a piercing shriek. The bone-jarring sound instantly dispelled any lingering curiosity regarding the device’s contents. As the censer rocked back-and-forth beneath the makeshift binding, the party beat a hasty retreat into the depths.
Phosphorescent lichen grew on the stones and walls below, casting a green glow just bright enough to reveal shapes and shadows, but not details. At the stairs’ terminus, a number of options presented themselves. A pair of hammered bronze doors seemed the most obvious avenues to explore. One bore the image of a man clutching at a chest wound as blood poured from his heart. The other displayed the likeness of a splayed, screaming skeleton. Above both hung a metal disc emblazoned with the symbol for Xoriat. The dread glyph suggested neither door led to a pleasing reward. But before the group could make a decision, a nauseating, ochre-colored slime oozed from an overhead chute.
The blob coursed toward the party, determined to ingest them whole in its mindless pursuit of sustenance. Together, the stalwart mercenaries battled the monster until it split into two equally-fearsome copies. Both halves expired in a gush of protoplasm when the warriors struck them down.
With the immediate threat behind them, the party took time to examine their surroundings more closely. Inspecting the chute revealed a discreetly-concealed shelf with two keys: one of blood gold with a ruby set in its bow, and the other of bone with an emerald-set bow. Their search also uncovered one more important discovery: a secret door adjoining the stairs’ landing.
After a protracted discussion, the group opted to explore the landing’s hidden passage. Following it took them to a vast chamber ringed with hammered metal doors, similar to the ones they’d seen in the previous room. Each portal bore the ominous mark of Xoriat. At the far end of the space, a massive frog idol loomed in the lichen’s sickly light. Its deformed features reminded the party of their harrowing encounter at the sunken gatehouse.
With surprising boldness, they cracked open one of the doors. Strands of thick slime stretched between the door’s edge and its frame. Behind the hammered bronze, a veined, red-and-purple membrane pulsated. Its lurid appearance shocked the mercenaries into slack-jawed silence for a moment… until a single, sharp claw sliced the vile skin from top to bottom. Foul ichor gushed from the wound, followed by a ravenous daelkyr insectoid.
An unspoken signal passed between the creature and its slumbering kin. The other insectoids burst from their chambers eagerly and surged at the hapless adventurers. During their initial defense, the party made several alarming discoveries. First, the aberrations moved with surprising speed. Second, striking them in melee combat prompted an immediate response — a retaliatory expulsion of poison. Third, striking at the insectoids in close combat carried the risk of disarmament; if the attacker missed, the monsters quickly used their hook-tipped claws to toss aside the assailant’s weapon.
The team had perhaps become too accustomed to melee combat, and had little ranged power to counter their foes. Without support from a mage, warlock, archer or other specialist, defeat seemed inevitable. But when death loomed near, something strange happened to Jak. He froze in place, and his eyes glowed brightly with a silvery, white light. Astonishingly, the insectoids also halted during this unexpected event, providing the party with a delay sufficient for a retreat.
Grudgingly, the mercenaries withdrew back into the passage through which they entered, leaving Ruz’s boar construct, Bell, to bottleneck their path. When they reached the secret door, Ket attempted to reverse his earlier lockpicking effort and re-lock the passage. Alas, it is often easier to unscramble an egg than to un-pick a lock, and his crude tools damaged the mechanism irreparably.
In a panic, the party ran for the pair of bronze doors they saw earlier. But once they crossed completely into the room, a hidden trap triggered; a thick, stone wall dropped down behind them, and the ceiling started to descend. With little time to spare, the group needed to make a decision between the Door of Blood and the Door of Bone. Hesitantly, they selected the emerald-and-bone key, slotted it into the matching lock and turned it.
Everybody rushed through the door, and an instant later, the ceiling came crashing down behind them. Backtracking wasn’t possible anymore. Worse still, Bell was lost to them, although Ruz could rebuild him with time. Only one option remained: following the hallway to its end.
After a short walk, the group emerged onto a high ledge above a bone-filled pit. Pale, alabaster stalagmites rose from below, but closer scrutiny revealed their true nature: hives, teeming with centipede-like aberrations. The vermin trooped between the bones and the columns, chewing up discarded remains and then depositing a thick, white paste on their colonies. None of the creatures took notice of the party, but the weary explorers suspected that might change if they entered the pit.
A nearly-silent swoosh, followed by a gust of air, shook everybody from their morbid observation of the bone gnawers. When the party studied the dark abyss ahead of them, its more perceptive members spotted bladed pendulums swinging through the air, each spaced carefully between the hive towers. Years of trial and error had likely taught the monstrosities where to build, and so the traps posed little threat to their colonies.
The weary heroes, however, had much to fear about their new predicament….
300 XP total (50 XP per player)
- Rations (one week)
- Wineskin (half empty, filled with weak wine)
- Silver daggers x 2
- Hand axe x 1
- Leather pouch x 1
- 12 GP
- 2 PP
- Small rubies x 2 (worth 15 GP each)
- Bone scroll case
- Letter (see adventure log for text)
- Blood gold key with ruby-set bow (worth 100 GP)
- Bone key with emerald-set bow (worth 50 GP)