As the adventurers spread out to cover them, Thud, Baragkus, and Anwar clambered up the high steps to discover a series of three 5’ tall stone posts, a pair of braziers filled with a pink, gravel-like substance, and a 10’ diameter iris hatch of the blue-white metal they’ve seen in other parts of the Black Gut. Anwar decided to light the braziers and each began to produce a heavy pink-white smoke that rolled out of the braziers’ dishes. The smoke collected in the center of the platform, settling to rest in the slightly concave surface that housed the iris hatch. Interesting.
Some poking and prodding of the stone posts determined that they could be depressed into the platform’s surface in the order of right to left. The first post caused a loud CHUNK to be heard from beneath the metal iris. The second opened the iris slightly, leaving a 6’’ diameter hole in the center. Anwar carefully climbed out upon the hatch and tried to peer down into the shadowy interior, but his torch was insufficient to determine what lay beneath it. His ears caught the sound of an unsettling slithering and clacking, however.
Returning back to the safety of the platform, Anwar, Thud, and Baragkus called for the rest of the party to join them atop the structure. There, the adventurers fanned out to cover the opening, as it was expected that the last post would open the hatch fully—and it did. Peering over the edge of the now completely dilated metal door, the party saw a 20’ deep shaft. At the bottom lay numerous bones…and four creatures that shared the characteristics of the beasts carved on the exterior of the platform. Tomb Herd!
Three seemed to be incapacitated or slumbering, their inert bodies wreathed by the thick pink-white smoke. A fourth was groggily clawing its way up the side of the shaft, looking determined to escape its captivity. The party’s archers unleashed a volley of arrows at the beast, injuring it and jarring it fully awake. It continued to climb, its featureless face somehow promising violence, but another volley of arrows inflicted more wounds, and it was barely alive as it clambered over the edge of the shaft and stood up to face the party’s fighting men.
These valiant warriors unleashed the flurry of blows and axe, hammer, and sword fell hard upon the creature. As they smote its black-bronze carapace, a thick yellow blood erupted from its wounds and splattered on Morg and Thud. The fighters grimaced as the vitae burned their flesh and armor, but continued their blows. Mars Markus moved quickly to sluice the acidic blood from his compatriots, and the Tomb Herd finally fell under their onslaught. It collapsed to the floor, the weight of its long tail dragging it back into the pit’s maw where it fell in a heap below.
The party discovered that they could close the hatch and spent some time healing the fighters’ wounds and debating their next course of action. The argument to continue their attack on the other, seemingly slumbering Tomb Herd won the day, and the hatch was reopened. A vial of oil was poured on the nearest critter and a torch dropped in after it. The subsequent blaze woke the creature and it writhed in pain at the bottom of the shaft before one of Lyrax’s arrows brought it down. Again, the hatch was sealed and the party debated moving on while their luck held. However, lessons learned in the battle with the fungal dead were quickly forgotten, and the band pressed its luck by opening the hatch a third time.
As they did, they looked down in horror to see that one of the Tomb Herd was now awake and crouched in preparation to launch itself from the pit. As it did so, missiles flew but missed and the fighting men prepared to meet the creature head on. The Tomb Herd’s jump took it up to the top of the shaft, but not out of it, and its clawed hands grasped the edge of the pit. Its barbed tailed lashed out at Morg, but he ducked the strike. The fighting men again swung their weapons but were unable to pry the creature loose. Anwar, sensing disaster, moved to push the post that would seal the creature inside the pit.
Unfortunately, the magic-user moved too slowly and the Tomb Herd launched itself out of the pit before the hatch closed shut. As it just cleared the closing hatch, the end of its tail was sliced off by the iris and it let out an unearthly shriek. It forced itself against the rudimentary shield wall the warriors formed at the pit’s edge, its tail lashing about, sending burning acid blood splattering everywhere (thanks for the idea, Pete!) but not enough to inflict great harm on the adventurers. Again, the fighting men confronted the beast as a solid wall, ducking and blocking its claws and secondary mouth as it snapped at them. But again, a Tomb Herd fell slain.
Choosing to press their luck one last time, the adventurers doused the strange corpse in oil and set it alight before pushing the post that would open the iris. As the hatch expanded, they saw the last Tomb Herd had awoken and was preparing to leap from the shaft…until the flaming corpse of its brethren landed atop it, scorching its hide and knocking it off balance. Missiles rained down upon it and Anwar prepared to slam the iris shut, hoping to recapture lighting in the bottle and bisect the creature as it closed. The beast leapt, sorely wounded, but it easily dodged the closing iris portal. Battle was forged anew and again the party prevailed (This last encounter is the first part of the video).
Their foes finally defeated, Mars Markus dispensed healing to those who had been injured in the melee, while the rest of the band examined the now reopened shaft. Baragkus prepared a rope, but the miasma of acid-scorched bones, lingering smoke, and burned Tomb Herd corpses deterred anyone from climbing down into the pit. No treasure could be seen from above, so it was decided that the party should press on. Leaving the room now referred to as the sacrificial chamber via the room’s other door, the party came upon a second four-way intersection. A chamber opened off to their left and a half-closed sliding door of the now ubiquitous blue-white metal stood to their right.
“When all else is uncertain, head left” being the party motto, they entered the chamber to discover a dilapidated barracks. Rusting iron frames which once held sleeping pallets and the greasy ashen remains of seven humanoid figures was all the room contained. Something seemed to have the power to render entire creatures down to ash. What and where is it? Although no answers were forthcoming, the party was able to confirm that the chamber was indeed connected to the first four-way intersection they had passed, but decided to return back to the half-closed door.
There, Baragkus overheard the sounds of snarling and the ripping of flesh, but could make out nothing in the gloom beyond the door. He attempted to shut the portal, being one to always explore his options, and discovered that it could indeed be closed, albeit with a great deal of noise. With the door now sealed—and the inhabitant(s) of the room now alerted—the party prepared for battle and reopened the door.
From out of the darkness loped a hairless, six-limbed monstrosity the size of a coyote. It’s seemingly sightless eyes took in the party’s presence and it snarled at Baragkus’ attempt to win its favor with softly spoken words. Then, with its jaws gaping wide, it lunged at the party. So fearsome was its aspect that Baragkus turned tail and ran back towards the barracks, leaving the rest of the party (who had all made the saves vs. death to avoid the fear effect) to face off against the hairless beast—hairless and apparently armorless as well, for it fell after a very brief skirmish.
After collecting Baragkus and fortifying Morg’s flagging spirits with bandages and wine, the party set in to exploring the room behind the sliding metal door. Mysterious rusted racks lined the walls, their original purpose unidentifiable. Perhaps they held armor or some other large objects in the dim past? The room smelled particularly foul, with “moldy undergarments” being the closest descriptor. In the northeast corner lay the partially devoured corpse of a Low Man and beside it lay a nest of greasy wool-like material. Amongst the bones and insect parts (some of which were quite large but no one chose to question that…heh heh heh), the party turned up three garnets of decent size. This was good enough for the party, so they left the chamber behind, eschewing the need to search for secret compartments or doors.
Heading further northward at the intersection, the adventurers discovered another just down the hall. To the left, the hallway angled off into darkness and a sealed sliding door stood on the right-hand wall. In the gloom ahead, the corridor ended in an open doorway with small heaps of rubble on the floor before it. Judging the rubble to be worth investigating, the party left the door alone for the moment, with Malbane the Green shuddering for some reason he passed it by.
The open doorway once housed a sliding blue-white metal door, but something had reduced that impervious metal to liquid slag, which had run and hardened on the corridor’s floor. Welded fast the stonework, the party was unable to gain a sample of it, something they’ve been eager to do, without chipping away at the stone itself and making an unholy racket.
The chamber beyond held a sunken floor which was surrounding and bisected by a 5’ high, 5’ wide walkway. Strange brass cartouches hung from the wall, the same three series of characters repeated over and over again. The writing was unidentifiable, but several of the characters resembled those discovered on the sand-scoured masonry out in the desert above. The sunken area of the room held several hexagonal fonts or basins, three of which still retains the hemispheres of smoked glass that had once covered them all, and a thin pink mist that curled around their stone bases. Two ramps ran down into the depressed areas and another sliding door exited the room to the north.
Despite their efforts, the party was unable to pry the cartouches off of the walls, and Morg’s investigations of the basins revealed that each held a strange coral-like material arranged in a bowl fashion. Whatever these things once held, it was long gone. Samples were taken of the material and it proved to be some kind of petrified organic vegetable or fungal material rather than proper coral. The party exited through the northern door, eyes peered and weapons held tight.
A long, dark passageway extended past the door, but the glimpse of a faint purple illumination peeked from around a bend in the hallway ahead. Edging forward, the party could discern three human voices speaking the common trade tongue. They seemed to be engaged in gambling and bemoaning the lack of apples to eat. Judging from their words, they had been down here for some length of time.
Anwar, ever the diplomat, was chosen to enter the room while the rest of the band waited around the corner, ready to jump in to rescue the sorcerer if things went amiss. With his hands empty and a big smile on his face, Anwar tried to get himself in on a game of Giant’s Knuckles, but the three ragged looking fighters seemed less than pleased to see him down in the dungeon. They let him know in no uncertain terms that “The Masters” didn’t want outsiders poking around in the Black Gut. When he was unable to provide the password to go along with his attempt to convince the trio he was supposed to be here, things headed pear-shaped real quick. With one last insult, Anwar fled around the corner, leading the three guards into the party’s trap.
In the subsequent melee, the warriors proved to be less than formidable in battle but unnaturally unwilling to surrender. A certain glazed look upon their determined faces suggested that they might not have been in complete possession of their free will. Despite the party’s desire to take one alive, the guards’ determination to battle resulted in all three being slain.
The party tossed the room and found that there were six bedrolls inside, meaning that another three of these yahoos were out there in the dungeon somewhere. They also discovered a leather scroll tube that held three sheets of paper covered in some form of cipher, but no treasure was to be found. Perhaps if they had checked the pile of firewood I kept mentioning…
With no other exits suggesting themselves, the band returned to the closed metal door back at the intersection and entered into the room beyond it. More of those purposeless iron racks lined the walls, but these had mounds of the same greasy wool-like material at their bases. However, the most interesting feature was the stone platform and console that stood at the far end of the chamber. The party edged into the room, but as they got within ten feet of the console, a low humming noise began to fill the air. When they closed to 5 feet away, a green glow started to emanate from the console and a snap of electricity leaped across its unseen surface. There was much apprehension about approaching closer, but Malbane, still kicking himself for bypassing the Temple of the Goat’s mysterious fruit and its CON increasing properties, stepped boldly forward.
Again, as he closed within 10 feet, a droning hum arose from the console, and at five feet, the green glow and the crackle of electricity returned. As he stepped to within two feet of the mysterious stone object, his hair began to stand on end and the scent of ozone hung heavy in the air. Unimpressed by these developments, he stepped upon the platform…and completed the circuit that sent a blast of electricity through his skinny frame. Three dice of damage, a failed saving throw, and two hit points at the best of times, resulted in the sorcerer—the longest surviving PC currently in the game—becoming a charred corpse that collapsed onto the ground.
Baragkus edged around the platform, carefully keeping his distance, to get a look at the far side of the console. There, he saw numerous small crystals embedded into the console’s face, some of which glowed green, but most of which were smoky brown in color, like those of a blown fuse. A large central crystal oscillated with illumination and its placement seemed to indict it as the culprit that killed Malbane. After the fighter returned to the rest of the party, they were able to lasso Malbane’s charred form and it was decided that a return to the surface was in order…