<u>Session 33: Kuthona 22, 4717 AR-Kuthona 31, 4717 AR</u>
The mild weather turned brutally cold as winter officially arrived. The gargoyle lair consisted of several interlinked caverns. Therein you all found a variety of treasures including good from the lost Vigil caravan. In addition, you found the remains of the caravan leader, which Atish collected for a proper burial. At the back of the cave, you found an underground river leading to the lair of what appeared to be an aquatic demon served by five skum. During the course of the fight, Atish detected that the demon was actually an illusion. Once the skum were dispatched and the illusion dispelled, you all caught sight of an aboleth that fled into the depths of the river, sealing a tunnel into the Darklands behind it with an explosion.
After resting the evening, you continued your exploration of the box canyon. The canyon finally ended at the base of a cliff, where a structure of white marble was embedded within the rift wall, partially exposed. A heavy marble slab blocked its doorway. Situated in a semicircle around the structure were a ring of free-standing, fluted marble column, all of which showed signs of cracking and weathering; many were little more than broken stumps of shattered stone. A pall of despair seems to hang over the entire area within ring of columns, and the whole area was suffused by a dim light. The exposed building was flat-roofed and 15 feet high, with the only visible entrance through the marble slab that blocks the doorway. As Belflin approached the ring of stones, five shadow demons surged forward to attack. Their efforts were thwarted when Atish summoned the light of Sarenrae to dispel the unnatural darkness and then created a magic circle against evil beings. After dispatching the demons, you all were now free to explore the tomb.
Rex was able to move the marble slab, allowing entry into the building. The chamber inside was quiet and peaceful. Stucco walls still held cracked murals—images showing the life of a pious man in white robes tending to the sick, giving to the poor, and helping the needy. Stone benches lined the walls with shallow stone dishes resting on the floor between them for offerings of alms. Whatever violence deposited this structure at the base of the rift did not do so without leaving its mark. The floor was slightly canted and great cracks mar the walls and ceiling, though they are otherwise intact. In the center of the 15-foot high room was a small flask made of iron, set with silver runes and stoppered with a brass cork. There were two visible exits from the room.
When Mags picked up the flask to examine it, the stopper popped out, releasing some type of winged evil outsider with a bow, a rope, and a long sword. A fierce fight ensued, but you all got the best of the creature. Rex claimed the magical bow as a prize. moving on to the first exit, you came to another room that appeared to have been warped by its burial in the rift. The walls and ceiling canted away from the door at a 45-degree angle, but the tan stone of the floor remained perfectly level. In the center of the far wall was a cracked basin that once appeared to be part of a fountain, though it had long since gone dry. Atish determined that this room was originally intended to serve as a place of rest and refreshment for visiting pilgrims. You all noticed that the tan floor here was different than the previous floors in of the tomb, which were composed of marble under a tan layer of gritty dirt. The floor then animated and attacked. It appeared to be a variety of black pudding that you al were able to take down without much trouble.
After determining that there was nothing else in the pilgrims’ chamber, you all went to the next exit from the main entry. This room once served as the waiting room between the contemplation chamber and the altar where pilgrims could pay homage to the lost Justicar interred here. It was featureless save for the five inhabitants: 7’ tall, hunched goat-headed humanoids covered in mangy gray hides that only partly cover their gaunt but muscled frame, each wielding halberds. Atish and Mags determined that these were Schir demons placed here as guardians, and they were ultimately no match for the party.
Beyond the Schir chamber was another room whose walls were white stucco, cracked with age and past upheavals of the earth. Murals, now peeling badly, still showed the valorous deeds of a knight clad in shining silver armor and wielding a brilliant sword. As they continue around the room’s perimeter, they showed him defeating all manner of enemies, including rank upon rank of enemy soldiers in some vast conflict of long ago. The murals meet at the center of the back wall where they show the shining knight, mortally wounded, surrounded by many shadowy, evil-looking opponents, the largest of whom bears a massive black spear—the knight’s blood on its tip. Before this final mural stands a great block of the finest marble forming an altar. Blue velvet cushions, faded and dusty with age, rest on the floor directly before the altar. Crouched atop the altar is a hideous, vulture-headed, winged demon glaring at you all. The battle with the Vrock demon was fairly difficult, especially with its annoying use of mirrored images, but you finally killed the foul beast.
Atish confirmed that the altar was dedicated to Aroden, and hidden beneath it was a secret door with an iron ladder leading 30 feet down to another complex of rooms. Rex moved the altar to provide access to the tunnel and you all proceeded downward. A feeling of immense despair filled the vaulting subterranean chamber. White stucco covered the walls and domed ceiling, which unlike elsewhere, showed no signs of cracking or peeling. The murals painted here were still as vivid as if they were done yesterday. All along the walls were painted rows of kneeling robed pilgrims, heads bowed with reverence or despair, all facing the far end of the room. The 20-foot dome above was painted like a cerulean sky with wispy white clouds. Gathered among these clouds were numerous angels and celestial beings, all weeping and likewise facing the room’s far end reverently. Near the room’s far end was a pedestal holding a massive spear point still attached to part of a broken shaft. The point itself was of a dark metal pitted with corrosion and stained with long-dried blood and foul ichors. Next to this wicked-looking weapon on the pedestal was a large blacksmith’s hammer forged of cold iron and heavily scarred with a network of fine cracks in its head. Between these two was a cloven skull. Beyond the pedestal rested a crystal bier. Upon it was the beatific form of a handsome knight—the one depicted in the murals—lying in repose with a peaceful expression as if merely sleeping. Shining plate armor covered the knight from neck to feet, marred only by a large gash in the breastplate. Clasped in his gauntleted hands upon his breast was a bastard sword that glowed with light like a torch.
As you entered to explore the chamber, a ghostly figure of the being on the bier appeared and spoke the following:
“I am Gerrant of the Holy Order of the Justicars of Aroden. Look upon my mortal remains and weep, for I was laid low by betrayal most foul. I swept through the hordes of Orcus beside my boon companion Alaric, and none could stand before us on the field of battle. Demons quailed at our approach. Where united we could not fall, in division the Demon Prince created our undoing. Alaric was called away to defend his home at the holy city of Absalom from barbaric invasion instigated by Orcus. I alone remained of the Justicars to fight for our cause. A captain of the Army of Light, whose name has been stricken from memory by the gods for his betrayal, led his company into an ambush knowing that I would come to help them at their call. I arrived to find it all an elaborate trap. The captain’s company consisted of only the walking dead, previously slain through treachery and raised again to lure me to my peril. The company of undeath turned on me as did their attackers, a swarm of demons. But last came the linchpin in the ambush, a foul cloud giant of demonic blood wielding a spear forged of darkness. I smote the captain and called upon the power of Aroden to rout the demons and undead, but the fiend-giant used my distraction to pierce my chest and lay me low. The weapon he used to slay my body has trapped my spirit here with my body for all these long centuries. Before my allies could figure a way to separate my soul from its mortal coil so that I could travel to the Boneyard for final judgment, Orcus’ foul servants ripped this land apart, burying my tomb in the Chaos Rift and severing the site’s connection to Holy Aroden that had protected me from undeath. This betrayal and my fate weigh heavy on my soul, and I cannot rest easy. The treacherous captain has been dealt with, and the fiend-giant was slain by my vengeful allies, his wicked spear destroyed. Even the hammer that forged the instrument of my demise was claimed from the field of battle. All that remains is the anvil upon which the spear was formed. The existence of that is all that anchors me here to this place. Any who would recover the anvil from the ruins of the city and return with it here would be forever called my friend. I know not where it lies; only that it still exists within the precincts of the temple-city. Despoil not my tomb and return with the item I seek so that I may rest, and I will grant you a boon of inestimable worth.”
With these words, the spirit then disappeared. Upon examination, the corpse was perfectly preserved by a powerful magic. It wore full-plate mail armor that was once magical but has been irreparably damaged by the huge gash in its breastplate that shows signs of acidic corrosion around its edges. The sword clasped in its hands was a holy bastard sword made of brilliant energy. Hidden beneath the suit of armor were an amulet marking Gerrant’s family house and a silver holy symbol of Aroden. The spear on the pedestal was huge-sized and forged of adamantite, pitted and corroded. A palpable feeling of evil hung over it, though its enchantment appeared to have broken when the weapon itself was destroyed. The hammer was cold iron but was so badly damaged in the creation of the giant’s spear that its head will fracture into a thousand pieces if ever struck against anything. The skull was that of a cloud giant, the wound obviously fatal.
After resting in the tomb, you all then left the box canyon and continued deeper into the section of the rift that lay the deepest beneath the ground at almost 2,500 feet. The broken ground rose gradually around it to around 2,000 feet, though even that portion lies in a narrow canyon between two high points so that the bottom here is almost perpetually in shadow. A chill breeze seems to perpetually blow through this portion making a constant susurrus that provoked you all to continually glance over your shoulders as if expecting to find someone standing behind you. This lowest point of the rift held the rift’s most horrible secret. It appeared that tens of thousands of members of the Army of Light were killed when the magic was unleashed that formed the Chaos Rift. The bulk of this heavenly host of angels, archons, and celestials was thus destroyed in one fell blow, thousands of souls of light forever lost to their homes in paradise. Such was the might of the magical devastation that these corpses were buried nearly a half mile under the earth. Yet so hardy was the stuff of their substance that they remained largely intact and soon became exposed again as erosion took its toll on the rift walls. The angelic skeletons extend hundreds of feet back into the bedrock here. Much to your horror, a gargantuan ooze of some sort was feeding on the remnants up the side of the cliffs. When it sensed your presence, it surged down with otherworldly quickness and attacked.
When it became apparent that this creature would overwhelm you all, Mags used her magic to take the party onto the Plane of Shadow, allowing you to quickly escape back to town. Once there, you spent the rest of the month recovering and preparing for another foray back into the Chaos Rift.