Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Shadow Rift

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

The party pushes through the ironwork doors and find themselves in a large, high-ceilinged chamber of much better craftsmanship than they found in the rest of the lower levels, despite the relative disrepair. After their eyes adjust to the lighting provided by glowing crystalline pillars in the center of the room, they can see that crimson streams of blood trail across the floor into a set of grates surrounding a square hole in the middle of the cathedral (which Lythanis notes also supports a number of chains, descending below). The blood is coming from a dais at the far end of the room, where a man in a red robe with a tattoo of a human skull chants madly and holds a knife high in the air.

The six begin to advance, thinking this to be the ritual they were sent to stop. Two crazed men approach them from either side of the old cathedral and block their progress directly forward into the room, and begin swinging their axes around crazily.

The group engages them for a time, and the priest (who identifies himself as a member of the Blood of Vol) advances to support the berserkers. Meanwhile, the party is flanked by feral vampire spawn - humanoids that are like incomplete vampires. Also, a creature resembling a warped halfling dressed in dark clothing approaches and begins focusing on Lythanis.

The adventurers fight back the vampire spawn, and eventually cut through the berserkers. Lythanis is felled by the halfling-like creature, but Lucan is able to save him from further assault and helps him back to his feet. Together, they advance on the priest and end his life. They congratulate each other on a job well done, until Valthrun enters the room (following the assurance that it is now safe).

He seems nervous and skittish, and yells in panic about having to stop the ritual. The party seems confused at first, until Valthrun notes the light and sounds of chanting emanating from the hole in the ground. He says that the rift to the plane of Mabar, the Endless Night, is situated below them.

The party descends by the chains into the chamber below, and arrives in a nightmare. The blood from above pours down in horrible falls, creating a pool of blood in the depressed center of the chamber. On the north wall is a huge portal, scribed with ruins and pitch black within. In front of it are more runes, which appear quite sinister. Opposite, a large statue of a demon stands. To the east is a set of steps with smaller statues of the same demon, and an extravagantly-dressed undead human. To the west is another set of stairs, leading to altar fashioned of bone. In front of it is a human wearing heavy armor and a cape, and carrying a large mace. Beside him, another human stands, dressed identically to the priest that had been in the room above them. The heavily armored one is chanting.

As the party descends, the priest calls out to Kalarel, the senior member of the Blood of Vol who is conducting the ritual. The party has never seen him to this point, but has seen his name referenced a number of times in letters, notes, and the like. He interrupts his chanting and turns to laugh at them.

"You fools!" he gloats. "You think to interrupt the ritual now? You cannot stop me - I already have all that I need! With the last component, the Third Sinister Rib, I can complete my task here and open the rift to Mabar! You are far too late!" He laughs out loud. The party turns to Valthrun, who they believed was still in possession of the rib.

Valthrun just stares at Kalarel, who extracts an amulet from beneath his armor and uses its enchantment to warp Valthrun to his side. Valthrun refers to Kalarel as his master, and Kalarel assures him that for his service he will have a position of some importance in the Blood of Vol. Then, Kalarel swears to eliminate the party.

Two dolgaunts appear, warped goblins that Garmeth recognizes clearly. Garmeth is sickened by their forms and charges towards them, but is soon overwhelmed by them. The rest of the party engages the dolgaunts (and now, the priest) as well, except for Lythanis, who stays behind to deal with the undead caster on the stairs behind them. Meanwhile, Kalarel and Valthrun (who has been deceitful this whole time and is actually a rather accomplished caster) support the dolgaunts with spells.

Eventually, the group breaks through the dolgaunts, and Eshunu kills the Blood of Vol priest. The adventurers approach Kalarel and Valthrun, though battered by the attacks of the dolgaunts and the spells. Lythanis finishes off the wight who had been attacking him, and moves up with the rest of his companions. As they draw closer to Kalarel, he uses his amulet once again to move himself and Valthrun to the circle of runes in front of the portal. They appear to be empowered by the runes in the ground.

Garmeth is too wounded to fight now, but the remaining five proceed to assault them. Meanwhile, the seal on the rift grows weaker, and the wretched thing in the portal, a being apparently made entirely of darkness, slips into the world a little more with each passing moment.

Valthrun and Kalarel are then supported by the thing in the portal, and a large fight ensues. The thing in the portal lashes its tendrils over and over. Eventually, Lythanis is able to disrupt the arcane runes supporting Kalarel and Valthrun after a while of concentrated efforts, and the exposed Valthrun is quickly cut down. All the while, the rift grows stronger - reality feels less solid, and the room gets darker until all the torches are extinguished, leaving only the light of the runes on the portal.

At this point, the four statues of the platinum dragon acquired in the crypts on the first floor shatter and burst with light, revealing their true forms: holy symbols of Dol Dorn. The holy power illuminates the room for a moment and heals all who oppose Kalarel and the thing in the portal, allowing Garmeth to rise to his feet. Additionally, to Dol Dorn's loyal follower Zil'dejin, a protective boost in durability is also conferred.

Now renewed, the six concentrate their efforts on Kalarel, who they overwhelm and finally fell, with Garmeth delivering a powerful series of blows as the finale to drive Kalarel to the ground. Nearly dead but completely deranged, Kalarel tries once more to stand to his feet where most would just succumb to death, but his broken body is grasped by the tendrils of the thing in the portal, and he is dragged screaming into the darkness. At this point, the blackness in the portal fades, and the light is restored to the room. Reality feels solid once more.

The party yells a victory cry, and examines the area for anything of use. They find some gold in the altar, and a magic dagger used as part of the ritual. They then return to Winterhaven.

Once there, they do not find any sort of hero's welcome. Indeed, the people of Winterhaven seem quite predisposed to strongly dislike or even hate the party. They first move to Valthrun's tower with the intention of taking any magical items he owned, and try to pick the lock. They are stopped by the town guard, who takes them to Lord Padraig. He has little interest in their business in the keep when the party sees him, and he sends them on their way. They are met by Eilian the Old, their one remaining friend in Winterhaven (though he recognizes only Zil'dejin and to a lesser degree, Lythanis, of the six) who congratulates them for their work on behalf of King Kaius III and gives them a reward of some money. He is then asked why the people of Winterhaven hate them, and he replies with the obvious answer.

"You've threatened townspeople, tried to break into numerous buildings, destroyed longtime resident Thair Coalstriker's forge and sent him to prison, and everyone is quite certain you've just murdered Valthrun. You're really only tolerated now for your efforts in the graveyard." He continues on to express his gratitude and friendship, and finally he concludes by saying Tam'elanath has already left with his own reward back to Lakeside.

The party stays here for a time, and exchange their magical dagger for a potion and a magic horned helmet (carried now by Zil'dejin). But as they find no respite at Wrafton's Inn, they finally decide to depart back for Lakeside, their job here now finished.

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