Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thunderspire VIII: The Well of Demons (part 2)

Sul, Barrakas 15, 998 YK (Day 29).

The party returns to the Proving Grounds, which acts as a crossroads between the four different trials set down by Baphomet. To the north, where they were told to find the mask, they here chanting and rituals, and the voice of the angel of valor "killed" earlier in the Horned Hold. From the west, they heard screeching sounds, and soldiers yelling for reinforcements. They decide that the best course of action now is to split up, separating into "Lunar" and "Solar" groups. The Lunar Eclipse consists of Lucan, Garmeth, Tam'elanath and Stahlstrauss, and they head north. Meanwhile, the Solar Eclipse, containing Zil'dejin, Cecil and the recently-returned Eshunu heads west.


The Lunar Eclipse arrives at a jet-black curtain that blocks their path. Tam'elanath pulls it aside in what he believes is a stealthy manner, but the room's inhabitants notice him: it is the angel of valor again, with his entourage of troglodytes. In addition, the room is filled with mirrors, giving the room its name: the Hall of Enforced Introspection.

A battle ensues. Very early on, Tam'elanath catches a glimpse of himself in one of the mirrors, and is instantly transported into a small room: the Oubliette of the Empty Mind. A hunger-crazed gnoll is here, and attacks him, but Tam'elanath is able to fight him off. Before long, Lucan is caught by the same mirror, and both end up in the Oubliette. Together, Lucan and Tam'elanath search for a way out, and eventually they discover an illusory wall, behind which is a mirror that transports them back to the Hall of Enforced Introspection.

Tam'elanath fires an arrow that appears at first to be a miss, but miraculously manages to hit the angel through a series of unlikely ricochets. The angel shrieks in rage, a horrible pulsing sound that destroys several nearby mirrors and drives everyone who hears it to the ground. After this, the party is able to fight against the angel and eventually terminate him again, causing the troglodytes to flee. Battling the effects of the remaining mirrors, they approach the end of the Hall, which contains yet another black curtain. They pull it back.

Behind this curtain is another altar, on which rests a mask carved of black wood: the face of Baphomet. It is guarded by two skeletons, who attack as soon as the curtain is moved aside.

The four fight back against the skeletons, and quickly learn the unfortunate truth of them: they are "boneshard skeletons," appropriately named for their tendency to explode with bone fragments periodically. Garmeth and Lucan are both taken down by these bursts, and Garmeth, who was wounded from holding back the troglodytes and the angel earlier, bleeds out into death. The remaining three are enraged, and take out the skeleton. They then begin pulling funds together to pay for his revival before it is too late to do so. They also find that somehow, before his death, he acquired a pair of dwarven greaves, which are clutched in his now-cooling hands.


At the same time, the Solar Eclipse arrives in a room with two large pools of blood, seperated by a small walkway and broken by two large statues of minotaurs holding bladed whips. At the end of this large room, across both pools, are the hilt and blade of a dagger. This is the bloodhorn blade, the artifact they came here to retrieve from the Hall of Crimson Whips. Azkalak and Katal also accompany them, but are reluctant to wade into the blood. They stand back.

Zil'dejin, Cecil and Eshunu enter the blood, which they immediately learn is corrupted by demonic magic. It is poisonous to the flesh, and probably diseased. They combat these ill effects while wading, and as they move learn that the room harbors another dark secret: the statues are more than just decoration. As the three attempt to pass, the statues rotate and whirl their scourges, assaulting the three and pushing them back through the blood. As this begins to happen, evistros (carnage demons) emerge from the blood to attack as well.

Cecil charges forward, leaving Zil'dejin and Eshunu to fight the demons while he maks a break for the bloodhorn blade. But he, too, is set upon by carnage demons, and is nearly killed. He manages to break free, though just narrowly, and retrieves the blade, though he too is under attack by the statue.

Zil'dejin and Eshunu finish the demons they are fighting and break apart the statue on their side, then advance to help Cecil. Zil'dejin calls out inspiring words to keep Cecil on his feet and ignoring the pain, insisting he fights on just a while longer. They are eventually able to defeat the last of the demons and destroy the last statue (which jams, due only to chance, such that Cecil is spared a blow which may have killed him). The three then prepare to return across the poison blood. Cecil is severely injured, and won't make it if he has contact with the blood at all, so the group leaps across the platforms and manages to reach the other side safely. After a brief rest, they go to meet up with the others, now holding the bloodhorn blade.

Once the group is united, they hide the artifacts (which cannot be brought out of the hall) and rush Garmeth's body back to the Seven-Pillared Hall. To ensure that it is safe, it is carried jointly by Stahlstrauss and Zil'dejin. They place the body in the capable hands of the drow priestess there, and pay the fee with a series of gems, and then go to the Halfmoon Inn to rest while the ritual is taking place. The sleep is unsatisfying as the group wonders whether the items will have returned to their original locations, or if they will be where they left them.

Mol, Barrakas 16, 998 YK (Day 30).

After this, Garmeth is back to life, though somewhat disoriented. The group moves quickly back to the Well of Demons, retrieves the artifacts, and goes to the proving grounds, where they were instructed by the spirits to place the items simultaneously. They do so, split by pairs: Lucan and Tam'elanath in one room, Stahlstrauss and Garmeth in another, Eshunu and Zil'dejin in another still and Cecil by himself. They place the items on the runes in these rooms, and the items vanish while all the doors in the area fly open. There is a massive roar from somewhere towards the center of the complex, and traps emerge: skeletons grasp for Lucan and Tam'elanath, a liquid vortex assails Stahlstrauss and Garmeth, Eshunu and Zil'dejin are attacked by crossbow turrets, and Cecil's ears are attacked by screaming idols. Also, a massive sphere of magical energy rolls around the inner track of the area.

Cecil is the first to encounter the Guardian. While struggling to remember a ritual to disable the idols that he read in the Tome of Wrath Unveiled, a young green dragon approaches him from behind, and begins attacking. Cecil is injured, but fights back enough for him to flee; the dragon, however, is not bothered by this, and follows him out into the inner track and cuts him down.

Slowly, the rest of the party congregates in the center of the Proving Grounds to combat the dragon. The dragon's influence pulls Eshunu down the pit from which it emerged, causing him to plummet fifty feet downwards. The Eclipse Collective is frequently plagued by the dragon's poison breath and his constant flying, accompanied by clawing and biting. Over time, though, the party wears it down, despite close brushes to death on the part of Lucan and Garmeth. Stahlstrauss finishes it off by smashing its skull with his warhammer and then breaking its neck as it falls.

Tam'elanath uses the dragon's poisonous blood to coat a few of his arrows, and then Cecil lights the damnable beast on fire while Stahlstrauss and Zil'dejin push it back down into the pit (making sure, of course, that Eshunu has escaped beforehand). The door to the Inner Sanctum is now open, but the way is shrouded in mist - what waits on the other side?

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