Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones: Session Four

After a brief respite in the House of Altars and a hurried debate about whether to wait for more of their number to arrive from Rhuun or not, the party consisting of Bannath, Syl, Mars Markus, and Azerran returned to the slime- and moss-covered bunker-like building they had briefly reconnoitered, leaving Yodahlla and Gladys back at their newly-pitched camp. Not trusting the squat and slimy pile, Syl cautiously poked at its sandstone walls with his spear. His precaution was rewarded when a gray, viscous creature rose up from amongst the slimy moss and struck out like a desert asp. Its pseudopod was ill-aimed, however, and the party was easily able to enact a fighting withdrawal, peppering the gray ooze with missiles until it was slain.

Entering the building, the party discovered a simple room whose floor sloped slightly downwards towards a 10’ diameter shaft in the floor. A bas-relief carving of one of the temple’s ubiquitous tree-monsters adorned the wall behind the open shaft and a vine grew from out of that channel’s depths to wrap around one of the carving’s protruding tentacles. The party cautiously edged forward and quickly learned that the “vine” was actually a moss-encrusted and rusty chain. At the far end of the chain, 30’ down the shaft, a canvas-wrapped rectangular shape hung. Even in the dim torchlight, the party could discern that this item’s dimensions suggested it was a chest, perhaps one filled with booty!

A torch was dropped into the shaft and it briefly illuminated a ledge which ringed the shaft’s throat some forty or fifty feet down. As the torch flickered past, the party caught a glimpse of something lying atop the ledge, unmoving. After about 100’, the torch flickered out, but whether from hitting bottom, falling into water, or some other cause was unknown.

The party, although anxious to recover the supposed chest, grew uneasy with the setup and decided to take precautions against danger—which would have mixed results. After retrieving Gladys from the House of Altars, the party looped a coil of silk rope around the dangling chain and attached the other end to their trusty mule. Using Gladys as a—well, mule—they slowly started dragging the chain up from below, causing the wrapped chest to bang against the shaft’s unyielding stone sides as it rose. Unfortunately, the wet environment and age had weakened the wooden chest. A sharp crack was heard as the side of the box collided with the wall, followed quickly by the unmistakable sound of coins, lots of them, spilling out of the broken chest and into the void below. Despite their attempts to prevent the loss, the party watched in horror as a fountain of silver coins hemorrhaged from the ancient chest, gasping aloud when a glass bottle tumbled from the split chest and into the shaft as well. By the time the chest was safely in their hands, an estimated half of the chest’s contents had been lost.

Meanwhile, back at Rhuun, Reddannon and Mordakis had finished their duties at the shrine of Uun the Unknowable and returned to Qytuul’s caravanserai. There they encountered a bored Ravener, who was rethinking his decision to remain in town. He had made the acquaintance of an Old Blood warrior named Kliegeles and, as the two swapped tales in the caravanserai’s common room, grew antsy for adventure. After boldly suggesting that the Old Blood fighter accompany them on their expedition to the Temple of the Goat, Ravener, Reddannon, Mordakis, and now Kliegeles left town three hours behind the main group and headed north towards the Temple.

Speaking of the main party, they were determined to make the best of a bad situation and salvage as much wealth as they could. This meant someone had to go down into the shaft to investigate the ledge and what lay atop it. Mars Markus took this opportunity to sample from the effervescent puce-colored liquid that the bottle held and was pleased to discover a shaving nick he had incurred early in the day was suddenly healed. With the newly-found potion in his possession, Syl bravely stepped forward and volunteered to be lowered into the shaft. As Azerran covered him with a crossbow overhead, Syl slowly made his way down to the ledge below. After steadying himself, he discovered that the object they had briefly glimpsed as a rag-clad skeleton. A careful inspection of the corpse revealed an electrum ring of intricate geometric design, which Syl quickly acquired.

As the fighter was looting the dead, however, the air currents that had been whistling through the shaft suddenly increased. Throwing himself against the shaft’s wall to prevent being swept away should this breeze grow gale-like, Syl dropped his torch down into the shaft. As the rest of the party watched, they saw the flickering flames illuminate a writhing mass of albino tentacles rising quickly up the vertical tunnel. The torch suddenly vanished as a large parrot-like beak snapped it in half and consumed the burning morsel. Urged on by Syl’s commands to “get him out of here!”, Gladys and the rest of the party hauled up the warrior just ahead of the rising, alabaster-hued monstrosity. The party fled from the building as the mass of tentacles erupted from the pit, slamming the door behind them.

While the party ran screaming from the building, the smaller group of adventurers arrived at the edge of the foul lake that ringed the temple complex. In the bright moonlight, they could see a group of figures accompanied by a vaguely mule-shaped form exit one of the buildings. Rightfully guessing that this group was their comrades, the smaller party began making their way towards the building by walking the network of raised stone walkways that served as the complex’s “streets.”

Not far into the complex, the party found their way barred by three of the fanged and clawed frogs that had confronted the party previously. In the melee that erupted, Reddannon was almost slain and Mordakis and Kliegeles both took wounds before dispatching the beasts. Even the fortifying effects of wine and the binding of wounds were insufficient to restore the health of the adventurers, so, after rejoining their companions, the party decided to retire until daybreak.

The following day, the now-rested and recouped party decided to attempt to enter the large building they had previously tried to explore but were prevented from doing so by a seemingly-jammed door. Making their way around to the opposite side of the building, they first had to pass through a smaller L-shaped structure. Within that building, they discovered a single room which bore a large statue of a tree-monster and numerous obscene frescoes. Despite their efforts to uncover any of the building’s secrets, none were to be found.

Continuing onwards, they finally entered the largest of the outlying buildings. Inside, they discovered that the building was divided into three chambers. Each room told part of the temple’s history. In one room, they encountered painted bas-relief carvings that depicted the construction of the temple complex. Humans and tree-monsters worked side-by-side to raise massive stone blocks, overseen by a pair of red eyes which hovered in the sky overhead. Another room’s carvings showed the temple at its height of worship. Numerous humans intermixed with larger, less-defined forms knelt in obedience on the central plaza before the pyramid. The last room showed a scene that looked familiar to the party: The complex seemed abandoned, looking very much like it did at this time. Unsettling, however, a writhing mass of black-green tentacles were erupting from the entrance of the pyramid while Nihil, the Rotting Moon, hung in the night sky overhead, its face depicted in a skull-like visage. Grim portents, indeed.

Since nothing of monetary value had been unearthed, the party again debated the wisdom of venturing directly towards the pyramid and leaving the rest of the complex’s building for their anticipated exiting of the temple. Again, the majority argued that leaving unknown enemies at one’s back was ill planning, so the search of the outlying constructions continued.

As the party crossed the raised walkways towards the complex’s western end, they gasped as an enormous toad-like beast rose from the rank water’s near the stone path. Tentacles replaced the creature’s forelimbs and a sticky tongue wiggled in its gaping maw. It could only be a specimen of the legendary Toadhemoth! Despite their initial fears, the party quickly discovered that not all legends are true when a shower of missiles quickly slew the abomination before it got within striking distance (a mere 15 hit points was all the beast had, proving the Fates were again in the players’ favor).

The party pressed on and, despite being surprised by a sucker- and mouth-covered spider with a single baleful crimson eye in one of the complex’s ancillary buildings, they almost completed their survey of the complex. In one building, they discovered a floor that held four concentric rings which slowly turned in opposite directions to one another. Covered in alien sigils, the party could only suppose this device was perhaps a calendar, timer, or combination lock. Whatever it was, the wall carvings surrounding it depicted an otherworldly city being consumed by a thick, monster-filled mist, so the adventurers chose to leave the spinning rings alone for the moment.

At the very end of one section of pathway, the party entered a building whose walls bore images of slavering mouthed tree-monsters in the process of devouring helpless human meals. In the center of the single chamber was a capped well, its mouth covered by a simple stone plug with an iron pull-ring. Being adventurers, the party simply had to uncap it. Mordakis and Syl pulled the plug free and a vile, noxious odor pour out of the black pit below them. A series of hand holds were carved into the side of the well. A dropped torch revealed a bare stone floor some 30’ down and three ancient bones visible in the guttering flames. After tying a rope around himself and securing it to the plug’s iron ring, Mars Markus slowly made his way into the well…

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