<u>Session 9: Kuthona 13-Kuthona 19, 4716 AR</u>
As you broke camp on the morning of the 13th, you all were approached by a traveler. He was a half-elf of middle age with long white hair and dressed in an explorer’s outfit. He introduced himself as Henri, an archeologist by trade and an explorer of ancient ruins as a hobby. Henri explained that he was on the trail of a mysterious artifact known as the Black Monolith, an artifact that traveled throughout the different planes of existence and served as a portal to different planes. For reasons that scholars had not yet figured out, this artifact was rumored to have landed in Golarion somewhere in the Hungry Mountains. Henri had uncovered clues that the Black Monolith was now in the Valley of the Shrines. He had arrived in Vigil and heard of your exploits and set out to find you. You all were generally open to have another seasoned adventurer on board, especially as Henri claimed to have some prowess at commanding arcane magic.
With your new member in tow, the party arrived on the late afternoon of the 15th at the edge of the Forest of the Faithful, which was rumored to house the Burial Halls of the old shrines to Iomedae and Aroden. After resting for the night, you all searched around and found a path at the eastern edge of the forest flanked by two weathered white marble obelisks bearing the symbols of Iomedae and Aroden, similar to the ones flanking the pass into the valley. As you proceeded along the overgrown and little-used path, you were attacked twice by giant spiders over the first two hours, but you handled these creatures fairly easily. By midday on the 16th, you had arrived at the entrance to the Burial Halls, which were set in the middle of a massive hill that rose majestically from the surrounding forest. You all then decided to rest and prepare spells before entering the Burial Halls the next morning.
The entrance to the burial halls was flanked by what were once two white marble monoliths worked with silver-inlayed glyphs and holy symbols of Aroden and Iomedae. Those monoliths still stood but were desecrated and blackened by fire. The top had been knocked off each of the monoliths, and the inlaid symbols had been rudely chipped away. The entranceway itself was made of white marble had also been defiled and now bore evil symbols connected to Orcus written in charcoal or blood. The archway opens to a small room beyond with a hallway leading north. As you all entered the complex, you triggered a pair of magical runes. Drinna was singed by an explosion, while the whole party had to deal with several demonic snakes summoned by the evil magic. Corian was slightly wounded by the creatures but avoided being poisoned.
After dispatching the beasts, you all found yourselves in a room must have once been an antechamber to the burial halls. A pair of strange stone protrusions, which in ages past must have been basins for holy water, flanked the inside of the archway, but smashed and desecrated. Tattered shreds of ancient tapestries depicting Aroden and Iomedae hung on the walls and more filth and foul symbols of evil covered the walls. Gambler determined that none of them were trapped.
Proceeding north from the antechamber, you all came to a side passage that led yet to another defiled room containing the remnants of a cot and wooden table, filth, and vile runes of evil. Leaving the side passage, Gambler found a secret door in the western wall of the main corridor that was not so well-constructed. Gambler determined that several of the runes on the surface of the door appear to overlap the outline of the secret door and that opening the secret door would most likely violate the integrity of the symbols. He managed to disarm one of the runes, but the other summoned some more fiendish snakes, which you all quickly dispatched. Beyond the secret door was a passage that curved to the north. On the south wall, just inside the door, was a small metal lever set in the “up” position. Gambler discovered a covered pit in floor just beyond the secret door. After some debate you all finally decided to see if pushing the lever down would deactivate the trap, and it did. Proceeding across the disarmed pit, you all came to stairs leading down and decided to explore the rest of this level before descending further.
The main corridor finally opened into a great hall that contained over twenty empty stone sarcophagi. It appeared that this was once the main burial room. The holy symbols within the room were desecrated and defiled, and in the center of the room was an abomination to behold—a fountain of what once was white marble, now stained crimson, filled with blood and bones. A glowing red rune had been rudely carved into the once-pure fountain base. Gouts of blood bubble a spurted grotesquely from the top of the fountain, spattering the floor around the font with red ichor. The pall of evil hung heavily here.
Much to your horror, skeletal hands grabbed the sides and some of the type of bloody skeletons that you all had encountered earlier at the shrines emerged to attack you as you entered. Also, the symbol flared to even greater life. Bathed in the demonic red light of the symbol, Belflin, Corian, Drebb, and Atish were overcome with intense wracking pain. Also, Atish noted a malign influence permeated the room, affecting Belflin, Drebb, and Atish even further and enveloping Gambler as well. Luckily for you all, the skeletons succumbed rather easily to the cleansing power of Sarenrae as channeled by Atish. As Gambler desperately tried to disarm the rune, more skeletons kept clambering out of the fountain. Finally, after a couple of minutes, the fountain stopped disgorging skeletons (after 20 had appeared), allowing Gambler to nullify the rune. Henri impressed the party with his ability to throw fireballs, causing Corian to become jealous.
You all were concerned as the wracking pains did not stop once the symbol was deactivated, but you all decided to push on. There were four rooms up small stairs from the main room to the east and west that each contained four sarcophagi, slightly more elaborate than those in the main burial hall. These sarcophagi were currently empty, their contents apparently pillaged and piled in the Font of Bones.
To the north of the main burial chamber were stairs leading down to two more recessed crypts that were larger than the side crypts to the east and west. Each contained eight sarcophagi, slightly more elaborate than those in the main burial hall. These sarcophagi were currently empty, their contents apparently pillaged and piled in the Font of Bones. There were stairs leading down to the north from each of these greater crypts.
The pain had finally subsided and after much discussion, you all decided that you would explore the steps leading down that you had found beyond the secret door. The stairs descended about 50 feet and open into a small cavern (roughly 30’x30’). A large iron door covered with the evil runes of Orcus was set into the cave wall on the far side of the cavern. Unlike the level above, this level appeared to be natural caverns with minimal man-made working. Aside from the door, there were no runes on the walls. The only other features of the room were some empty torch sconces, and a small pool of dark water that filled the eastern part of the room. Drinna spotted a pair of giant frogs lurking in the pool. Even though they did not appear to be hostile, you all decided not to take any chances and killed them.
At this point, you all decided to retreat and rest overnight before returning for another foray. Belflin managed to cook up some fine frog legs for dinner. Despite the fact that winter had arrived with a vengeance (temperatures plunging into the teens), the night passed uneventfully and you all returned to the lower level the morning of the 18th.
Gambler was able to successfully pick the lock on the door. Beyond was a short passage that ended in a “T” intersection, which was also the base of a large sinkhole that opened up onto the hill about 200’ feet overhead. Proceeding west, the tight passage opened into a much larger cavern (about 60’x60’) with a 30’ high ceiling and passages leading off in several directions. The far southwestern side of the cavern apparently ended in a ledge, leading to darkness. About 30’ to the right of the passage from which you entered was a 10-foot depression containing loose earth, blocking access to a passage beyond. Strangely, the cavern lacked stalactites and stalagmites. As you explored the cavern you discovered two more passages that had been hidden from your entry point view. To the north of the ledge, there was a small boulder blocking a small passage heading west, while to the north of rubble-filled depression was a small passage with chiseled stairs leading down.
You all decided to see what lay to the east of the sinkhole intersection before exploring the western cavern. As you proceeded east, there was a great whistling, and the party is affected by fierce blasts of wind. Belflin and Henri surmised that there was another sinkhole up ahead creating a suction effect. After about 60 feet, the corridor continued south and east or there was a side passage to the north.
Heading north, you all heard the dripping of the water, and after about 50 feet came out into a large, irregularly-shaped cavern about 60 feet long north to south and anywhere from 10 to 50 feet wide in spots. There was a small passage exiting to the north, while the eastern part of the room was dominated by a pool of water. This cavern was crammed with stalagmites and stalactites, and water dripping from the stalactites into the pool was what you had heard earlier. Overall this cavern was very wet, with a thin patina of water covering the whole cavern, and very cramped.
You all decided to return to the whistling corridor and proceed south and east. After about 100 feet, you all came to a large cave divided by a big rock column that split the cave into north and south passages. Each of these passages was further divided by two small rock piles in each (four total) that looked as if they had been deliberately constructed. Proceeding down the southern passage, as you were between the two rock piles, Belflin heard an Ogre trying to swing around and ambush you all. Thanks to Belflin’s keen ears, you all were not surprised, but it was still a tough fight, as you all were not able to tactically position yourselves due to the confined space. You finally dropped the Ogre (which had flown into a rage) through missile fire and magic (Henri dumped a flaming sphere on the beast’s head), but Belflin was seriously wounded.
After Atish healed Belflin, you found that the two corridors converged on the other side of the column into a room that was filled with the stink and garbage of the Ogre. Before exploring his cave, however, you all had found a side passage along the southern corridor and decided to explore that.
Heading southwest about 120 feet, you all came into 60’x30’ cavern that was empty save for four half-burned-out torches lying on the floor and a broken holy water vial near the northern wall. Belflin determined that someone had camped in this room within the past few months. The passage continued out of the room to the east, and soon, you all came to the second sinkhole that you had guessed was around somewhere.
Past the sinkhole, the passage opened into a cave (roughly 80’x30’) that was empty and deathly still. The south wall had obviously been worked and there was a wooden door with iron bands in the center of it. Two discarded long swords lie on the floor, one of which is heavily notched. The door was not locked, but required forcing, as the wood of the door had expanded due to the dampness of the dungeon. Beyond was a worked room of carved stone that contained six stone sarcophagi. As you entered the sarcophagi burst open, revealing six human skeletons in chain mail with a scimitar and light steel shield. Atish quickly blasted the things from existence.
In the southwest corner of the room there was a shadowed passage leading back west. Even strong light provided no more than flickering illumination, effectively negating normal light sources to 10 feet of illumination. As Henri prepared to cast a spell that would bring the light of day to bear upon the situation, there was an evil chuckle and a wave of magical fear emanated from the darkness. Belflin, Corian, and Drebb immediately fled, while Atish, Drinna, Gambler, and Henri were shaken with dread. Emerging from the darkness was a walking corpse, its flesh rotting and putrid, revealing its bones in places. The eyes of this foul being glowed with red light. It wore a breastplate emblazoned with the ram’s head symbol of Orcus and wielded a finely-crafted great sword. In its raspy, icy voice it asked if you were ready to come to the Master. Henri responded with a fireball that damaged the creature somewhat. You all then watched in horror as the thing stepped between Drinna and Gambler and cut deeply into Henri with his sword. Dark energy crackled along the length of the sword as Henri’s life essence flowed into the creature, leaving the mage barely clinging to life and revitalizing the creature. Gambler tried to weaken the creature with a shot to its kidneys, but despite taking heavy damage, the creature shrugged off what should have been a debilitating blow. Atish channeled the power of Sarenrae, but the abomination shrugged off most of this damage. Drinna then walloped it with her fist, augmented by the acid that flowed from her magic sash, but still the creature would not go down. It sidestepped Gambler as the symbol on its breastplate pulsed and sent another wave of fear throughout the room. This time Henri succumbed to the fear and began fleeing at his top speed. The creature then swung its sword at Gambler, who deftly dodged out of the way while punching another small hole in the thing. As the being spun away from gambler, however, he backed right into another haymaker from Drinna, who watched in grim satisfaction as the acid from her blow ate away at the dread life force animating the creature. With a scream of rage, the creature exploded into ash, leaving behind only its breastplate and sword.
About this time, Belflin, Corian, and Drebb came stumbling into the room, having recovered from their fright. Belflin immediately chased down Henri and brought him back to be healed by Atish. The evil darkness had lifted with the death of the creature, which Henri and Atish identified as a Wight. Beyond was a room containing a dais of black stone carved in a demonic likeness Orcus and spattered with blood, along with a stone sarcophagus in which the Wight had rested. Inside the sarcophagus were 21,476 copper pieces, 1,612 silver pieces, 222 gold pieces, 50 platinum pieces, four chrysoberyl gems, three golden statues of Orcus, a magical buckler, and 20 magical arrows. Atish insisted on destroying the breastplate, turning it over to Drebb who went tom work on it with his hammer. There was a heated argument as Atish and Belflin wanted to destroy the statues as well, while Henri, Drebb, and Gambler argued for simply melting them down and keeping the gold. When Corian and Drinna sided with those who wanted to melt them down for the gold, Atish and Belflin grudgingly gave in.
You all then returned to search the Ogre’s lair and found another considerable stash of treasure. All told, there were roughly 1,300 gold pieces worth of coins, a variety of jewelry items, and numerous weapons, armor, and adventuring gear. Gambler found a magical ring that would help his jumping ability, while Belflin took a magical trident that was especially effective against Boggards, a race of evil anthropomorphic frog humanoids. You all then retreated to rest a few days and see if Henri’s life essence would return. Fortunately, Henri turned out to be very hearty indeed, and after some rest was able to shake off the debilitating effects of the Wight attack.