The adventurers returned to the gore-streaked refectory where they had ended their previous expedition into the undercroft of the pyramid. Doors in the southern and eastern walls waited to be breached and, having long ago decided that when all choices seem equal to go left, the party entered the southern door.
Opening this valve unleashed a horrific stench of putrescence, one so foul that Baragkus was overwhelmed by the almost physical odor and vomited his recently-consumed meal of trail rations upon the slimy flagstone floor. The room beyond contained a rotted kitchen—one decorated by rotting mortal remains. In the far corner, a gaunt, fanged creature gnawed upon the maggot-infested arm of a man. It leaped up and streaked towards the party with leonine agility and speed, but was brought down by two well-placed arrows to the throat and head before it could close the gap. A careful search of the horrendous kitchen uncovered a leather bag filled with many electrum shekels concealed in the rancid oven and a small, much-flawed diamond amongst the broken crockery.
Returning to the refectory, the party investigated the chamber beyond the eastern door and found a dusty dormitory. The room had already been tossed, and the pallets and footlockers were empty and much distressed. A door stood in the southern wall of the chamber, its wooden surfaced gouged by skeletal claws and ragged nails, but still intact. A path in the dusty floor led from that door to the one through which the party had entered, but even Kyrinn’s skill at tracking was insufficient to identify the marks. Nevertheless, he was able to ascertain that they were not created by boot-shod feet.
Failing to turn up anything of interest in the chamber, the adventurers moved to that southern portal and Baragkus, with great impetuousness, forced the door open without care. As it swung ajar, the party watched in horror as a small blue-black crystal fell to the stone floor before them. A nearly invisible wire had held it in place between the door and the jam. The crystal shattered on impact and a concussive blast and flash of blinding light swept over the party. The first two ranks of the group took the brunt of the blast and both Kyrinn and brash Baragkus were knocked senseless by the explosion.
The chamber beyond was once the quarters of two of the temple’s priests and contained the normal array of bedsteads, chests, and closets. Rugs were rolled against the wall as if to clear passage to the door that stood in the far wall of the room. The adventurers rightfully deduced that the sound of the concussive blast would have alerted whoever was lurking beyond that door so, after making sure that Kyrinn and Baragkus were still living, the fighting men took position up before the door.
Mars Markus yelled for the inhabitant of the room to come forth less he, she, or it wished to face the “twenty men we have here” in combat. Silence was the only answer.
Having given fair warning, the party moved into action. Finding the door locked, they tried the ring of keys they discovered in the pyramid above and managed to unlock the portal. However, the door was barricaded and it took both Domdull’s and Syl’s combined efforts to break open the door—which unfortunately left them in a vulnerable position against the creature who lay in ambuscade.
The chamber was a workroom of sorts. Tables littered with shards of crystal, odd colored sands, snips of wire, glowing rods, chips of stone, and weird tools occupied much of the room. It was the purple-robed thing that stood in the distant corner which occupied the charging adventurers’ attentions, however.
Its face was a wriggling mass of tentacle-like feelers and milky white, pupil-less eyes glared at the intruders. In its many arms were serrated blades and a small rod-like weapon. As the door opened under Domdull’s and Syl’s attack, the creature’s facial feelers drew an intricate pattern in the air and a blast of cold, raw power swept over the front ranks. Syl was struck motionless and half-blocked the doorway, but the others shrugged off the incantation.
Domdull charged forward into the room while arrows and eldritch bolts flew from the back ranks to strike their weird target. Rynn the dog rushed in on Domdull’s heels to join the fray.
The creature coldly pointed the short rod at Domdull’s chest and a violent explosion threw a glowing bolt at the fighter, but it whistled harmlessly past the fighter’s ear to impact on the wall behind him. As the fighter and hound closed the distance, the creature seemed to weigh his choices before his tentacles twitched again and a glowing 10’ x 10’ portal opened in the air beside him. Through the eldritch doorway, night-shrouded ruins were visible and the party’s strange foe moved to step through the arcane doorway to whatever place lay beyond.
Domdull threw himself at the creature in an attempt to tackle it to the ground, but it sidestepped the fighter on many tentacle-like feet, causing the dim-witted warrior to crash into the worktable and collide with a chest that sat beneath its wooden surface. Rynn the dog snapped at the robe-clad monstrosity without success and a barrage of missiles tried to stop its flight, but all were unsuccessful. The creature vanished and the party watched as the portal silently closed in its wake.
Although this creature inspired many questions, they were insufficient to keep the party from quickly dismantling the room and taking anything and everything which might have some value. A large bath-like basin occupied one section of the room and, although it was too large to haul away, a sample of the silver syrup which filled it was taken. The chest which had been discovered by Domdull’s head was pulled out from underneath the worktable and its surface, crafted from an odd unrecognizable metal, was considered. A simple latch held the lid shut but eight ½” holes were drilled into the lid and had no easily identifiable purposed. Domdull attempted to open it by striking it with his sword, but the blade just bounced off the latch—and left the strange metal unmarred. Tigir stepped up and flicked the latched open—after all, it seemed simple enough—only to feel a sharp pain as the poison pin it concealed slid into his flesh. After ten minutes of convulsions, the sorcerer expired on the cold floor, proving that if the referee takes the time to draw a picture of the chest and indicate its features, it’s most likely trapped and should be approached with caution.
Now disarmed at great cost, the chest was opened to reveal a sizable cache of silver, gold, and platinum. While the gold and platinum were of local minting, the silver coins were each octagonal and bore the regal visage of a tentacle-faced creature of the same ilk as the one which had just departed the chamber by mystical means.
With all the chamber’s secrets unveiled, the party briefly debated the wisdom of submerging Tigir’s lifeless corpse in the vat of silver syrup, but the majority decided against that course of action and his body was slung onto the single mule which had accompanied the party on their underground exploits. The group backtracked to the surface to unload the loot and the dead and grab another mule to pack the library from out of the pyramid’s sublevel.
Unhindered by encounters, the library was easily retrieved and redistributed amongst the six mules in the walled courtyard. With the pyramid soon to be a dim memory, Malbane and Anwar went to take one final look at the odd plant and fruit which grew atop the temple’s altar. They carefully harvested the ten polyp-like globules and stowed them in sacks, but Anwar decided to taste the strange fruit. At first there was no reaction, but he soon began twitching and convulsing as Malbane watched, fascinated. After ten minutes, the convulsions ended and the swarthy sorcerer felt much better. Malbane, however, keep a close watch on his fellow spell-hurler, as he suspected something untoward might have occurred.
Once the sorcerers had rejoined the party, a small group climbed the pyramid to view the surrounding territory and check for any remaining secrets. The structure held but a simple iron bowl where offerings were once burnt, but its great height allowed the adventurers to identify several landmarks in the vicinity. To the north, the land continued to rise until it reached a chain of mountains. The dry riverbed which ran past the temple grew wetter until a small stream or river was visible closer to its undiscovered headwaters. To the west, the land descended into a arid meadow, one punctuated by a table-like plateau topped with small hills. To the east were more dry hills, but to the northeast, a crumbling tower was sighted atop one of those hills. Looking southeast, the party spied the top of an intact tower protruding from a hill-ringed bowl or basin. From its location, this was likely the home of Ch’uk and the other Low Men. The group descended and finally, after many deaths and much treasure, put the Temple of the Goat behind them for good (supposedly).
The trip back to Rhuun was mostly uneventful. The party was shocked to discover that the polyp-like fruit that Malbane and Anwar had harvested rotted just hours after leaving the temple, much to the dismay of Malbane, who had decided to sample the fruit himself once they had returned home. It was at this time that it was revealed to the players that Anwar’s eating of the alien fruit had resulted in a permanent increase of his CON by a single point. The nine other opportunities for others to increase their health were now so much acrid pulp rotting under the desert sun.
After returning to town, the party sold their acquired jewels and gems to their now-regular jeweler, Seno Harka, who was unable to identify the strange metal from which the skeleton’s lozenge and treasure chest were formed. He asked to hold onto it for a few days while he consulted some fellow experts. Syl discovered that his exploits were sufficient enough to seek training at the hands of a weapons-master and embarked on three days of instruction.
A party consisting of Malbane, Habdazar, and Fanta ventured to the tower of Jathal the Hexmaker, as they had many questions regarding the strange creature they fought in the pyramid’s sublevel and wanted to see if the sorcerer could also identify the silver coins and an oddly lightweight stone they had found amongst the workshop table’s implements.
After almost inadvertently insulting the sorcerer with a lack of patience on his doorstep, they were finally granted an audience. They showed Jathal their booty and told their tale. The Hexmaker identified the creature as an ocythoid, a decaying race that dwelled upon the lesser moon of Nihil. An enigmatic species, he could not even guess at what purpose it might have in the temple. He was able to identify the coin and stone as products of Nihil, and hazard to guess that the odd plant they had discovered was as well, judging by the rate of the fruit’s decay once separated from the vine.
The party also learned a trivial fact, but one which may serve them in the future. Magical portals that lead to other worlds are almost always vertical when invoked, hanging in the air like doorways. Portals that lead to another locale on the same world, however, are nearly always horizontal and must be stepped into or pulled over one’s form to work. Judging from the glowing doorway that the ocythoid had conjured, it likely terminated somewhere on the Rotted Moon overhead.
The party regrouped back at their rented home and planning for their next expedition began. Although still in debate, it seems likely that they will soon be headed to the Black Gut, a complex of ancient catacombs to the southeast—the ones which Fanta and Domdull had been exploring before they found themselves transported to the sarcophagus-like cells under the Temple of the Goat…