<u>Session 14: Pharast 10, 4717 AR-Pharast 31, 4717 AR</u>
You resumed your exploration and came to a long cavern that was filled with tell-tale Cave Fisher nodes high up on the walls. There were too many this time to use Henri’s flaming sphere as supplemented by Gambler the exterminator. Figuring that Koetter was too big for the vermin to pull him up into their lairs with their filaments, you all sent the wolf ahead to flush out the Cave Fishers where you all would then kill them with missile fire and magic. This worked to perfection, but the noise of battle drew a young Bulette. Gambler amused the group by diving down off the wall onto the Bulettes and riding it like a bucking bronco as he repeatedly stabbed it in vulnerable areas. When the dust settled, there were 18 dead Cave Fishers, a dead young Bulette, and a cleared passage.
Beyond the long cavern was an immense gallery with two western, one southern, and one eastern exit. This complex was about 200’ across and 60’ at its highest. There were several large columns made of fused stalactites and stalagmites, and in the western portion a pool of water was fed ever so slowly by water dripping from the ceiling. The southern section of the cavern was sectioned off by an immense natural rock formation. The walls and floor of the gallery were covered with fungus of various shapes and sizes, from mold to mushrooms, and there were two sections of churned up earth that indicated possible Bulette activity. At the entrance to the gallery you found two more statues, one of a dwarf with an axe at his feet in the process of shielding his eyes, and the other of a female half-elf dressed in an explorer’s outfit lying on her back with a look of terror on her face trying to scurry backward. Finally, there were several more statues inside the cavern—eight dire rats and a male human holding up a holy symbol of Iomedae and trying to avert his eyes.
Gambler was sent to scout the room, but as he neared the pool, his movement caused six human-sized purple mushrooms emit a piercing sound that lasted for about half a minute. As he retreated back to the party, two young Bulettes erupted from the sections of broken earth and charged the party. The fight was brief but vicious, with Gambler repeating his tactic against the Bulette from earlier, and no one was seriously wounded. The few wounds you all received were healed through the power of Sarenrae.
Taking the southern exit, you came upon another statue, this one of a male elf in wizard’s robes with a raised staff. This passageway branched, with a passageway heading west and a small cave to the east bisected by a natural rock formation. The cave contained two statues—an oytugh and a male human in an explorer’s outfit with a dagger and his back to the wall—and a southern exit.
You all decided to head back west and came to a long gallery where the floor was churned up from Bulette activity. As you sent Gambler to scout the gallery, you heard the sound of claws clicking on stone from behind you. Belflin wheeled around and let out an arrow while Atish uttered a prayer to Sarenrae that bolstered the party while hindering the actions of any enemies. Belflin’s arrow lsammed into an eight-legged reptilian creature whose eyes glowed with baleful green energy, but luckily, he was too far away to be affected by the creature’s gaze. Atish, Belflin, and Drinna were alert enough to retreat towards Gambler, but they watched in horror as a second creature emerged, with the two moving to engage Henri and Drebb, who had been slow to act. Your two companions were both bitten by the creatures, but Drebb swung wildly behind himself with his axe and connected the beast attacking him, cutting the thing in two, while Drinna and Atish took out beast on Henri with missile fire.
You barely had time to catch your breath, before a young Bulette, drawn by the commotion, burst from the earth in the gallery and attacked. Gambler was prepared, however, and leaped onto it with both daggers, where he was assisted by Drinna. Henri identified the reptilian creatures as Basilisks and also informed the party that the beasts’ blood could be used to return some of the petrified victims to their normal state. While Henri and Atish harvested enough blood to restore five petrified creatures, Gambler finished scouting the gallery, where he found only a petrified giant spider. Belflin, Drebb, and Drinna headed back to the Basilisks’ lair, which was just south of the eastern spur cave and collected about 25,000 gold pieces in coinage, gems, and jewelry as well as a magical scroll, belt, and ring. In addition, there were five more statues—a male Halfling in creep mode, with a dagger out and his cloak pulled tight around him, two charging male human warriors with swords and raised shields raised, a male human warrior with a mirror in one hand and a sword in the other, and an elf bowman in firing position.
You all decided to restore the priest of Iomedae first. After recovering from his initial terror and confusion, he revealed himself to be Anders, a priest in the service of the Golden Sword temple in Vigil. He had come to the complex about nine months ago with a band of hired adventurers and mercenaries, hoping to find the tomb of Abysthor and to clean out the complex. There had been no sign of the Orcus cult at that time, and the party had found its way to this level, where they were ambushed and scattered by the Basilisks, who had hunted them down one by one and petrified or eaten them. He made the difficult decision on which four of his comrades to restore with the remaining Basilisks blood you had harvested. He chose to restore Brelar, the elf wizard, caroltta, the half-elf ranger, Dalmar, the human sorcerer, and Eldon, a human fighter. The restored group gave you their thanks and set off to return to Vigil and report in on your progress. They hoped that someone in the city would be powerful enough to restore their remaining comrades.
Proceeding back to the fungi cave, you all headed down the eastern exit, which eventually brought you to a small cave with an iron-bound door installed in its eastern wall, which itself showed signs of being worked by intelligent beings. In front of the door was a statue of a priest of Orcus fleeing in terror. He had apparently made the mistake of looking over his shoulder and been caught in a Basilisk’s petrifying gaze. As Atish and Belflin debated the merits of destroying the statue, and thus permanently killing the priest, Drebb stepped forward and toppled it. Atish was mildly upset because he had wanted to possibly give the man a chance at redemption should he somehow be restored to flesh.
Gambler examined the door and found that there was a thin sheet of lead built into its core, but he failed to find the magical ward on the door, which released a cloud of noxious vapors when Drebb opened the portal after Gambler unlocked it. Atish dispelled the magical gas before it could unduly harm the party. Beyond was what appeared to be a wizard’s workshop, but it had been thoroughly looted in the recent past. Belflin found evidence that the looters had been a human male and an elven female on separate occasions. You all also noticed that this whole room and the exit door to the east were lined with lead.
The exit door was not trapped and beyond a corridor led to raised circular platform that contained a statue of a Vrock. As you all stepped forward to examine, the thing animated and attacked. This time, you all were more prepared for a demon, and after most of the party took out the creature’s dreaded mirror images, Belflin dispatched the foul beast back to the Abyss with consecutive bulls-eye shots from his bow. Koetter was severely wounded, however, in the brief skirmish, and Atish and Belflin tended his wounds.
Returning to the fungi cave, you all decided to check the southernmost western exit. Belflin detected the tracks of some of the psionic Chokers you all had encountered on the other levels, so you proceeded with caution. After about 40 feet, the passageway debouched into a long gallery with churned up earthen floors and northern and western exits. As you cautiously entered the room, three young Bulettes emerged from the disturbed earth and attacked. This was your toughest fight during this exploration yet, but you all triumphed thanks to Henri’s lightning bolts and magic missiles. Drebb and Drinna were nearly killed, but were kept up by Atish’s healing magic. The fight, however, drew eight Chokers from the northern passage, which were dispatched by a well-placed fireball, and five Stirges from the western exit, which were taken down by Belflin and Henri with missile fire, both mundane and magical.
The western exit was dead end with only a petrified Choker there, while the northern passage looped back to the east and connected with the northernmost western passage from the fungi cave. Along this passage, you found a small cave up on the walls that contained the lair of the Chokers. To your surprise, you found about 3,000 gold pieces worth of coinage and gems, along with a magical flaming long sword and a suit of magical full-plate mail.
Weary and frustrated, you all returned to Flail’s tomb to rest and discuss your options. You had thoroughly searched this level and come up with nothing. Belflin asked Henri to cast a spell that would home in on a specific object, in this case the Chalice of Elanir. The wizard’s divination indicated that this artifact was on the level above you. After resting, you all set out to return to level one and seek an entrance to level two, where Henri’s magic indicated you could find the Chalice.
Going back up to level one, you found an exit to level two, but had to defeat another young Bulette before you could pass. Descending about 60 feet into the earth, you came to a large, vaulted cavern that smelled faintly of offal and decay. The ceiling was over 60 feet above the cavern floor. A passage led off to the south, and obvious on the northern wall was a ledge that bisected the room from the northwest to the southeast some 30 feet above the cave floor, with passages leading off from that opening in either direction. As you paused to get your bearings and decided where to go, you were attacked by five giant bats emerging from the southern passage. Henri took them out with a fireball before they could reach you.
Several of you then noticed that the southwestern corner of the wall was covered by an illusionary wall that concealed a narrow passage leading back west. Proceeding down the passage, you came to a bare room that was suffused with holy energy and no apparent exits. Searching revealed another illusory wall, beyond which was an anteroom of worked stone containing four white pillars graven with holy runes of Iomedae and Aroden. In the northeast wall was a silver basin filled with holy water, and archways led to two other chambers to the west and south respectively.
The western room was filled with eight standing stone sarcophagi that contained the corpses of valiant warriors who had fallen in the service of Aroden and Iomedae. Atish and Drinna recognized the names on the plaques as retainers of the great paladin Alaric, one of the last Justicars of Iomedae who had participated in the siege of Tsar. Choosing not to disturb this holy site, you all proceeded towards the southern chamber.
This room, too, was filled with eight standing stone sarcophagi that contained the corpses of eight more of Alaric’s retainers. In addition, at the far end of the tomb on a raised dais was the sarcophagus of Alaric. Behind the dais was a large holy symbol of Iomedae, while to the right and left side of the dais were small altars, both covered with a small silk cloth. On the altar to the left is what appeared to be a broken chunk of carved marble, while a silver chalice sat on the altar to the right. Detection magic revealed these to be the Chalice of Erlanir and a fragment of the Starstone, two of the holy relics you all had been commissioned to recover. Atish wrapped these items up and you all decided to return to Vigil to return these items, check in with Sister Sarah, and plan your next move.
The journey back took a week, and aside from thunderstorms on the day you set off the weather was mild as the spring season rapidly approached. Miraculously, you were not bothered by spiders exiting the woods, but you did have to fight a full-sized Bulette. You were also annoyed by some Stirges as you approached the city, but luckily no one was diseased.
You arrived back on the afternoon of Pharast 20. As you entered the temple complex, it looked no worse for wear from its battle with the demons, although you were sad to note the presence of six funeral pyres in the courtyard. Sister Sarah was delighted with your return of the artifacts and revealed that Brother Anders had been allowed to retain his position among the clergy, although he was on kitchen duty for nine months as punishment for his unauthorized expedition. She promised that once the other statues were recovered from level three that powerful members of the Vigil Wizard’s Academy could restore the stricken to full health.
You had arrived just in time for the Vernal Equinox and Planting Week. The remainder of the month was spent in rest and preparation for a return foray to search for Abysthor’s Tomb and the Black Monolith. You sold enough loot that everyone got over 12,000 gold pieces with which to upgrade your equipment or otherwise spend. Drebb received the magical belt, which boosted his strength, while Gambler received a ring that allowed him freedom of movement from effects that would restrain and slow his movement. Atish was allowed to keep the magical scroll, which contained incantations allowing him to communicate directly with Sarenrae as well a prayer that would help the party in combat and harm your enemies.