As told by Jayden
After the group enjoyed a short rest in the luxurious campsite accommodations provided by Thotham, the party decided to keep forging ahead in the mine to look for the scrolls, headed in the direction provided by the Staff of Knowledge. As the group moved further and further ahead, they entered a cavern with red, clay-like walls, the wounds of dripping and running water echoing around them. The semblance of the cave’s former life as a silver mine was apparent; mining picks and trolleys, although in disrepair, were scattered about as in the other sections of the mine that the party passed through.
As the party passes through a tunnel into what appears to be a larger, open space, Thotham feels as though the shadows on the cave walls are unnatural, and he releases a lightening bolt to attempt to gain a visual sense of what lies up ahead. A large rock plateau lies directly in front of the party. The natural structure is climbable, with slight difficulty, and there is a narrow passage on either side of the rock with a sharp drop into a darkness with depths and depravities unknown hugging the edge of the narrow path. Through the veiled shadows and darkness the party can see an area up ahead that is lit by sunlight coming through an opening in the ceiling of the mine that basks an old slat bridge in light.
The party begins to see durogar appear and disappear in and out of the shadows, narrowly missing some attacks. The party retaliates, attacking what they can see and sometimes what they cannot see. Frappe is hit by poison darts that are propelled from one of the durogar’s beards and the party hears wild cheers of the durogar attackers as Frappe staggers backward, bloodied. The party continues to advance on the durogar as they head towards the light and bridge up ahead, throwing durogar into the dark pits and massacring any that dare get in their way. Erasmus holds up his holy symbol of Iuon and the flash of red fire so frightens 2 of the durogar head that they step backwards in fear, and unable to catch their footing, fall off the cliff into the darkness.
As the party climbs the rocks up ahead to get on the bridge, a smattering of arrows narrowly miss Jayden’s head – they definitely came from across the bridge from the darkness. Erasmus bravely begins to cross the unstable slat bridge and is attacked by crossbows from a group of 5 durogar marksmen on the other side of the bridge. He maintains his composure and position on the bridge as the others begin to cross carefully behind him. Jayden surmises that the pit below them is more than 50 feet down, basing her knowledge on the screams and sounds of the durogar thrown over the pit to their death.
Out of the shadows 2 durograr miners appear and begin to hack at the ropes at the other end of the bridge. Thotham attacks the miners with a lightening attack, missing the miners, but setting the ropes of the bridge on fire with the attack. Erasmus tries to jump the remaining distance across the bridge, is hit by a spell and misses and falls through the slats. He pulls himself back up and unleashed a Divine Glow, killing the 2 miners who were still hacking away at the ropes of the bridge with their hatchets. A mysterious figure continues to reappear up ahead, casting spells to thwart the party as they attempt to cross the bridge. Jayden sings her tune of fire and ice and sends an icy wind to the smoking ropes, extinguishing the fire and pushing Erasmus forward off the bridge safely to the other side.
Halfway across the bridge himself, Rangrim attempts to leap the rest of the way to join Erasumus but instead clumsily gets caught up in the ropes, sending the bridge swinging wildly. Thotham devises an alternate plan for crossing the expanse – sitting down at the edge of the cliff, he grabs the rope and slats from underneath and begins to nimbly cross the bridge, hanging underneath like monkey bars. Erasmus readies an attack at the party of durogar armed with crossbows up ahead with his alchemist’s fire, but rethinks it given the potential to relight the bridge the rest of the party still needs to cross.
The shadowy, disappearing figure reappears and casts a spell on Frappe, breaking his will and forcing him to attack Rangrim. Still reeling from the attack from his fellow party member, Rangrim is attacked by more poisonous darts from the beard of one of the durogar up ahead and begins to feel the effects of the poison seeping into his system. Erasmus commands the cleric to jump off the bridge and he jumps to his death, but not before he throws a rock at the ceiling of the cave. The rest of the party crosses the bridge carefully, with ease, after the cleric and the durogar miners and hunters were dealt with. Wanting to make sure the cleric was dead, the party thows sunrods down into the pit to light the body and they begin shooting bolts from the heavy crossbows into this body until they were reasonably certain that even if the cleric did survive the fall, he would not be back to wreak further havoc on the party as they ventured further into the cave.
The path cleared, the party forges ahead and begins to cross the 2nd bridge. As Rangrim gets onto the bridge, swarms of sturgis begin to attack the party. The group attacks the 3 swarms quickly, Thotham shapeshifting into a swarm of beetles, and the remaining sturgis retreat to whence they came on the cave ceiling, allowing the party to cross the bridge without event.
Making it safely across the bridge, the party takes a short rest and Jayden sings her song of rest to soothe the party and speed their healing. As is often the case, Frappe feels invigorated by her song and is ready to face what lies ahead with renewed fervor. Moving ahead, the party hears sounds of people and horses, and smells the sounds of vegetables cooking in a soup-like broth. The party repels down a slow-grade wall towards a reflecting pool up ahead. Examining the pool, we see that it is rippling at random intervals and we don’t hear dripping from any of the stalagmites up above. Drawing closer to the body of water, the party hears the sounds of an army encampment coming from within the liquid pool itself and notices the cooking smells are coming from within the lake, as well. Sorrow is drawn to it and its arcana properties and tells the group that she thinks the liquid is a reagent for something. Wanting to investigate it further, Sorrow throws some nearby sand into the water – nothing happens – no water ripples. Sorrow gathers up a vial of the liquid and it strangely climbs the sides of the container, against gravity, until she caps it off.
The pool begins to shimmer and Sorrow sees an image of a cloaked figure with only his nose and mouth visible. It whispers something to her that she doesn’t understand (“Jaffasar”) and being afraid to say the word out loud, she tries to draw the letters in the dirt nearby, but they dissolve as she writes them. Hoping Erasmus or Jayden have some knowledge to decipher this, she gets their attention and tries to write the letters in the air, slowly with her finger. As she does, the letters appear as symbols and appear to glow with a purple tinge, mid-air, before they fade away. Erasmus believes that the symbols look like deep speech in forbidden text; something he once read accidentally and quickly stopped. He feels a sudden cold wind at his back as something emerges from a wall – a hand reaching for Erasmus!
Jayden notices Erasmus’ reaction and sees a glimpse of a creature reaching out of the wall before it goes transparent. Suddenly it appears next to Jayden and attacks her. Using her cape of the mountebank, she immediately teleports out of harm’s way and disappears. The party has seen her do this before, but they have always seen her reappear somewhere, which she has yet to do. Jayden herself is now somewhere, watching this scene and seeing her friends being attacked, as if she was sucked through to another plane. She watches Frappe attack the creature and as he stabs it, there is no blood, just a flash of light and a pool of darkness around the dagger. Frappe quickly withdraws the weapon, perplexed.
Thotham attacks with lightening and with a loud clap of thunder, the creature disappears only to reappear moments later with its dark grey skin now turned to a light green hue. Watching this, Jayden ponders if the creature’s vulnerabilities reveal themselves though a change in skin color and hearing the clap of thunder as Thotham’s lightening struck, decides to return to the plane from whence she was transported with her cape. As she teleported, she sees the scene in slow motion, with her party appearing as statues made of sand, with a wind slowly blowing pieces of their bodies away as if in the middle of a violent sandstorm. While watching her friends, she sees the creature only as a beacon of red light. Returning to the cave she gets the feeling that she was shifted to a plane that was adjacent to that of the prime material and is not really sure what to make of all of this.
Thotham’s thunder clap gives Jayden the idea to attack with thunder and she uses her storm walk power to attack the creature. He again disappears and reappears with a black skin color and suddenly spawns another monster that looks strangely like a human tadpole. Mixing up the damage a bit to try to exploit the monster’s vulnerabilities Sorrow attacks with necrotic power and the creature again disappears and reappears with a yellow skin color. Jayden attacks with psychic damage and it again changes its appearance to be now peppered with red streaks. Up to this point the party has surmised that when its skin is a certain color, it is vulnerable to a certain kind of attack: black skin = necrotic; light green = thunder; gray = lightening; yellow = psychic.
The creature tears a hole in mid-air and pushes Sorrow through it, and then spawns another tadpole creature. It claws at Erasmus and leaves some sort of puss pod behind in the claw marks of his armor. Thotham takes a shot with some fire damage and kills the creature, exploiting its last vulnerability. It explodes and knocks everyone prone, including its tadpole spawn. A strange rippling sound is now coming from the water pool and the party focuses their attention to the tadpoles that appear to be trying to infest the party with fish eggs. Rangrim and Jayden stand up and begin attacking the 3 tadpole creatures while Sorrow comes back to the plane where her fellow adventurers are in battle. One of the tadpoles burrows some eggs into Jayden’s arm as she reaches to attack. As she returns she sees the same shadowy, cloaked figure that appeared to her and whispered to her and it appeared disappointed and upset that she left to return to the other plane. As Frappe swings to hit one of the tadpole creatures it becomes insubstantial. Jayden notices this and remembers hearing of creatures like this – it can make itself insubstantial and avoid damage except that psychic damage and in order to maintain invincibility, a condition must be met – it must rob a life force. A tadpole attacks Rangrim and inserts a small fish into his neck. As the last tadpole drops to the ground the party hears a voice from the pool, “I was nearly free – you foiled my plans! Kayak knows who you are and knows where to find your family and friends and will take his revenge.” As the face in the pool fades the lake becomes water once again, such so that you can see through to the bottom, and Sorrow thinks to herself how familiar that face looked to her. Jayden and Rangrim both know that the fish eggs and tadpoles injected in their skin is an infection and over time the fish will grow inside them to eat them from the inside out – a very insidious disease that has now infected Jayden, Rangrim, and Thotham.
“The God of Hellfire”
After another short rest filled with the sounds of Jayden’s Song of Rest, Erasmus asks the Staff of Knowledge which direction to go to locate the scrolls. A hand appears on the map and directs them down the northern passage way on the map and the party forges ahead, temporarily setting aside the fish infection that is afflicting Jayden, Rangrim, and Thotham. The party reaches the end of a long passage way and finds themselves about 40 feet high, looking down out of a hole in the cave into a room where some sort of blood rite ritual appears to be occurring. The party has happened upon the temple to Azmadeus, carved intricately out of the cave itself. A cleric is presiding changing some incantations in under-common, flanked by 2 deacons, and joined by almost 20 supplicants and 2 guards. On the altar behind the cleric the party can see someone bound, gagged, and writing while the cleric holds 2 scrolls and chants.
Sorrow curses the supplicants and immediately kills 16 of them. As they turn to dust where they stood, the party hears a howl off in the distance and Sorrow begins to levitate and hover above the ground, cackling and basking in the glow of pure evil. Chaos immediately erupts down below and the remaining 4 suppliants and guards move into a defensive position, readying their attack. Erasmus, Rangrim, Thotham, Frappe, and Jayden head out of the hole in the cave, which happens to be the mouth of a skull carved out of rock, and head down the stone ramps flanking the opening, attacking the guards and supplicants blocking in their path as they head to the altar to stop the cleric and the blood rite ritual. Sorrow floats down from the mouth of the skull, filled with a dangerous dark fervor, bellowing, “I am the god of hellfire!” Even her fellow adventurers have never seen her do something quite like this. Rangrim, Thotham, Erasmus, and Frappe clear the way for Jayden to get within range of the cleric to cast her wall of thorns between the cleric and his deacons, guards, and supplicants. The wall of thorns breaks line of sight for the cleric and he is no longer able to control and deacons, weakening his effects. Sorrow’s evil fury continues and she steals some of Frappe’s soul to unleash a feverish attack killing the remaining supplicants. The party looks on, frightened, as Sorrow bubbles with glee as blood is siphoned from Frappe’s chest by the force of Sorrow’s terrorizing pull. The cleric moves voluntarily into the wall of thorns so that he can see his deacons and regain line of sight to channel his powers. Jayden takes aim at the cleric’s eyes and hits her mark with expert ease, blinding him and permanently crippling his power by breaking any sight control of his deacons. Erasmus, Rangrim, Thotham, and Frappe finish off the guards and deacons with the final blow being dealt by Sorrow’s sacrifice to Caiphon.
Approaching the cleric, still trapped in Jayden’s wall of thorns, Sorrow confidently lurches forward and grabs the scrolls out of his hands. She questions him about the scrolls and his activities, but he considers it an honor to die for his deity and refuses to tell the party anything other than useless lies. Helplessly trapped in the wall of thorns, Sorrow deals the final blow to the cleric while the others stand by. Standing at the scene of the carnage, the party hears a slow clap from the back of the room and they turn to see the cloaked figure they witnessed in the pond. Sorrow reintroduces the party to her Patron, and the group realizes now that he looks familiar to them, too – he helped them escape from the collapsing plane through a blood ritual just a few weeks ago. He congratulates the group and tells them how pleased at how well his servants performed. To show his appreciation, he is wiling to create a portal directly to Kingsport for them. He knows they are heading there next to obtain the last scroll and is willing to help them – no strings attached, or so he says. Everyone, except Sorrow, is disturbed to hear him talk as though they are colleagues, working in concert, but as disturbing as the reality of it is, they all have to face the facts that they have been contributing to his power and cause, albeit unknowingly, and their slaughter of the helpless cleric certainly swings the pendulum closer to the evil that they so vehemently deny alignment with. Jayden was vocal about her position of not wanting to take the Patron’s help, but she was left wondering if that had anything to do with the fact that the inevitable end of their quest is near. Jayden has her own reasons for not wanting to return to Kingsport, unbeknownst to the group, and perhaps the Patron is providing an easy way to get there and Jayden herself secretly wants an obstacle that would prevent her return to her hometown. Leaving them to their thoughts, the Patron gives Sorrow a crystal that will create a portal to Kingsport when smashed and he disappears. The party knows they have little time to get to Kingsport, and even traveling by horse they may not make it. Quite a quandry.
Erasmus and Jayden head to the altar and untie and ungag the supplicant on the altar to find a frightened durogar. Erasmus tells the durogar that they will not hurt him. Eying Sorrow, he tells the durogar, who introduced himself in common as Wilhelm, to run and not look back. Heading back behind the altar the party enters the sacristy and finds a room laid out both in substance and style similar to the secret room they uncovered in the temple back in town. At the foot of a 4-post bed lies a locked footlocker, which Jayden expertly picks. Having seen this type of trunk back in the temple, they carefully open the trunk avoiding the poison trap. Inside the party finds another black spot that reads “9 days” – this matches the black spot the party has been carrying since they parted ways with Caldwell in the forest. They also find the real scrolls – the cleric was holding fake scrolls and the ritual he was performing was clearly intended to give him power and strength to eventually take hold of the dark, black scrolls. Looking around the sacristy, the party also finds 950 gold pieces worth of good that they pack up to sell.
Thotham spends some time healing Jayden and Rangrim of the tadpole infestation with great success. Saving himself for last, Thotham was too fatigued from healing the others to remove his own affliction and was only able to stabilize his disease for now. Unsure of what to do next, the group decided to take an extended rest in the safety of the sacristy and deal with the tough decision ahead after a much needed rest.