In this episode, the group engage in a little side quest that involves daemons, larvae and a possessed ghost. Enjoy!
04:25 – 11:00 – The group stumble into the rotting chambers beyond the Gauth's mould filled lair, and locate a good place to lick their wounds. They take an extended rest, to get over the worst of the hurt the monster inflicted on them before moving on.
When the group awaken, they are sore, shivering with the cold of the tunnels and dizzy with discomfort after their long rest in Garras'Knar. However, they wearily pick themselves up and after a cold breakfast, move on.
12:00 – Beyond the rotten Dundorin structure lies the vast, stalactite and stalacmite limned tunnels of the ancient railway system, its proud, rune struck structures still evident through many thousands of years of corrosion, crumbling and the steady creep of minerals and mould. The tunnel is alive with all manner of life; cave crickets, midges, large weak flying moths, lacewings, rats, mice, bats and possibly larger things. The constant dripping and pouring of mineral rich waters through the surrounding rocks has lead to the growth of vast forests of stalactites and stalagmites.
Ormid conjures Spectral Steeds, and the group tear along the tunnel, making excellent progress. They stop several times to explore the entrances to collapsed Dundorin strongholds that are seen periodically along the tunnel, but discover that almost all are blocked by long collapsed rubble.
17:40 – The group come to a partial collapse in the tunnel. Mineral rich waters spill in petrified cascades over the mass of debris, and the group have to dismount and find a way through the collapse. This is done easily enough, but takes time, and means the group have to leave their mounts behind.
18:10 – The group emerge from the collapse. Ormid summons more mounts, and the group continues through the waterlogged, vermin filled tunnels.
20:30 – The group make camp, and after foraging (with great help from Ardwaine and her knowledge of the deep places, and what you can and cannot eat) they eat a pleasant meal of cave larvae (taste like prawns), mushrooms and some weird fungus bark that makes a nice stock when boiled.
17/1/50 – (Above Ground; skies clear, killing cold settles over the land as the temperatures plunge).
03:15 – The group have awoken, eaten a small breakfast, and move on.
04:45 – As the group move along, they behold a strange sight; a section of the wall, apparently untouched by the passage of time for long and long, which suddenly warps and shifts like a reflection in a twisting mirror, before briefly vanishing altogether (revealing an appropriately decrepit and stone covered entrance into another Dundorin stronghold), and then reappearing.
The group dismount, and a debate ensues as to whether they should explore this phenomena; clearly some kind of failing illusion. Ormid and Ardwaine are not happy about exploring, whilst Sadran, Smite and Llewellyn are clearly very keen to do so. The Veteran appears happy either way.
04:55 - Sadran and Llewellyn move to the very edge of the illusion with Smite, and peer within the open doorway beyond, looking into a crumbling chamber of dressed stone, riddled with the decay of time and dripping with moisture. Three stout columns of stone still support its ceiling, and on these (as well as on the floor) the group spot faded, crudely daubed symbols that they do not recognise (though they are clearly not Dundorin runes).
A heavy stone door, sealed by centuries of mineralised water passing over it, stands at the very far end of this room.
Ormid closes his eyes and concentrates on the local flows of magical energy, trying to discern the presence of anything of concern. His first experience is a dull throbbing headache – like those that come before a storm – that seems to have its source beyond the immediate area, in the direction the group are travelling. However, he then pushes his thoughts in towards the structure before him, ignoring the flickering, guttering energies of the fading illusion, and feeling for anything else.
At the very edge of his awareness, he senses a flicker of arcane energy; bright and sharp...but that is all...
05:00 - After some good natured daring between Llewellyn and Smite, the warforged monk moves into the chamber, and with an impressive kick, shoves the door inwards. The door falls halfway back, before becoming lodged on the rubble that half chokes the area beyond.
Llewellyn scans the chamber for any nasty, hidden surprises, but finds nothing of concern
05:02 - The rest of the group tentatively move into the chamber, and Ormid, with a clearer view of the daubed simple, is able to identify it as some kind of warding symbol of Draxian origins - a symbol used to contain daemonic entities.
Beyond the door is a partially blocked, structurally dubious spiral staircase. More warding symbols are smeared in blues, purples and dark reds on the stonework here, partially obscured by the accumulated minerals and passage of time.
05:04 - With great trepidation, the group move up the stairs.
The stairs end in a small chamber of dressed stone. More sedimentary rock formations are found here, half concealing a number of humanoid skeletons that lie in scattered disarray on the floor.
Two finely made doors of dark, blood red and black streaked stone lead from this chamber, each apparently sealed shut; a strange circular symbol etched into their mirrored surface. One stands to the left, the other straight ahead.
05:05 – Llewellyn tries to make out as much as he can about the skeletons without actually entering the chamber, whilst the rest of the group wait patiently behind him, cold water dripping on them from above, the stone beneath their feet groaning and shifting ominously.
The Vyrleen can see that the skeletons are “wrong” somehow, though from his current vantage point he cannot see how exactly.
05:06 – Sick of waiting, the rest of the group move into the chamber, and Veteran grabs one of the skeletons' skulls so the group can study it.
05:08 – Having had a look at the skull, the group feel somewhat concerned, as it shows evidence of gross mutation; elongated teeth, a wider, heavier jaw, with correspondingly enhanced muscle connection points, and other growths that would suggest budding horns or talons.
Ardwaine states that such changes are caused by daemonic possession; the effects of a dark spirit trying to craft its hosts body into something more to its liking or needs.
Veteran notices something gleaming coldly inside the bones of the skeleton who's skull he took, revealed by its removal; an amulet.
05:09 – Ormid examines the amulet and deduces it is a talisman inscribed with the seal of a powerful daemon; the kind of thing daemon worshippers use as unholy focuses or symbols for their rituals. He also realises that they are the exact right size to fit within the centre of the strange symbols etched into the doors...doors he has identified as being made from Blood Marble; an ornamental stone found only in Draxia (a land of ancient daemon worship and unending cruelty).
Really wanting to just leave this place, the artificer secretes the symbol in his pocket...
05:10 – Llewellyn however, seeing this, takes the symbol out again, and throws it to Smite, who throws it to the Veteran (much to Ardwaine and Ormid's horror).
05:11 – The Veteran places the symbol within the carved glyph of the door on the right, and senses a connection with something within the door. He senses that he should be able to push against that something, but realises that he lacks the force of will to do so.
The Veteran grabs Llewellyn and lifts him up so he can try...
05:12 – Llewellyn succeeds! His will reaches through the symbol into the complex system of metaphysical locks and tumblers that hold the door shut. With a rumble, the ancient door slides to the side, revealing a more intact chamber of polished Blood Marble beyond...
05:13 – The group stand there for a short while, holding their breaths, expecting something to materialise and devour them. Nothing happens, though they are sure they see a dark, distorted shadow slide within the wall opposite the door, away from the reflection of the light they carry.
05:15 – The group enter the chamber, and discover that it is empty save for dust and dampness. Another door leads further into the stronghold; identical to the one the Vyrleen just opened.
Held aloft by the warforged, the Vyrleen opens this door...and it is almost a relief (though a very short lived one) when horror finally reveals itself.
Raw hatred and psychic malevolence washes over the group, projected by three alien monstrosities in the room beyond; two spine covered humanoid with batwings and blazing, malevolent eyes, and a slender, graceful, ant-like fiend seemingly carved from ice and emanating a soul-numbing aura of unearthly cold.
All three entities exude ancient evil, and their forms bear the slightly billowy appearance of supernatural entities bound to the physical plane by potent rituals.
The group attack!!!!
The Veteran charges but as he reaches the middle of the chamber, a rune set in the ceiling flashes with power, and at once, from a wall behind him, a cloud of what he takes to be steam at first, but which he soon learns is boiling acid, belches forth towards him from hidden nozzles, washing over him, but at this time, not hitting him hard enough to hurt.
Worse, another daemon, invisible until this point attacks; a tiny bat-winged humanoid with black scales, bright white horns and fangs, and a scorpions sting. It stabs Veteran with its tail, but the warforge's innate resistances thwart it.
05:17 - The battle is joined and despite of the “Burns Twice” trap, the group quickly overcome the bound daemons and send them back to their filthy home dimensions. Through the battle Llewellyn balances on the Veteran's shoulders, inhibiting his ability to fight somewhat, but putting him close enough to the control rune that he can try to disable the trap (he doesn't).
05:22 – After a short rest, the group press on, moving through a door behind where the monsters were, and into the flight of polished spiral steps heading up.
05:23 – A doorway leads from the spiral stairs (which continue up), a blasphemous statue depicting some kind of horrible blending of beautiful woman, and daemonic tentacled horror.
05:24 – Against their better judgement, Sadran and Ormid move into the chamber to look more closely at the statue, and find the room to be filled with grotesque, mutated depictions of daemonic possession taken to its extremes.
Both the mongrel aelwyn and human, as they look at the statues (which are made from some kind of glassy, dark stone unfamiliar to them) become aware of dimly shifting shadows within them, moving like some tenebrous embryo within their glassy bellies. Suddenly, each is assaulted by a barrage of psychic visions and prompts, all of which seem geared towards making them attack their allies.
Fortunately, both adventurer's minds are too strong for the evil assault, and dazed, they stagger back to their companions, and away from the dark, blasphemous works of daemonic “art”.
05:26 – The group carefully creep up the stairs, becoming aware of a gathering pressure in their minds, and a thickening sense of evil. A vague sense of confusion and detachment also settles on them as they press forwards, the air seeming to thicken with crushing, oppressive evil..
05:27 – With the Veteran in the lead, the group come to the last arc of the stairs, and the source of all this evil is revealed.
In a vast chamber beyond who's walls are plated with tessellating pentagons of polished Blood Marble, each inscribed with a restraining glyph, floats a spectral horror.
It is a distorted, warped reflection of the once living mage who dwelt here, summoning demons and studying dark magics away from the persecution and misunderstanding of his peers; a shifting, screaming, melting ghost, who's eyes convey endless pain, torment and madness.
However, within the ghosts vaporous form something foul and dark lurks; a thing of flickering, fiery shadows, that extrudes thorned tentacles of lambent shadow through the tormented spectres soul-stuff, viciously torturing it, and driving it onwards.
Around this thing, reality itself seems to become distorted, like an image on a piece of crumpled paper. Distances becomes subjective and shift from moment to moment, and simply being within this area of dimensional disruption proves exhausting and weakening to the group.
From his current position, the Warforged can only see part of the chamber beyond the daemon-possessed spectre. However, what he can see sickens him; a weird flickering light comes from something hidden on the left – a distorted, greenish-brown radiance that speaks of bodily and spiritual corruption – illuminating a number of tiny horrors that waddle forth towards him.
Each of these things is the size of a human toddler, and resembles an erect, spined maggot, like that of a Bot Fly, that stumbles forth of stumpy, malformed and worse, human-like legs. They have lamprey like mouths from which dribbles a noisome froth of mucus and bile, and limp, flapping limbs like boneless arms, that seem to end in clusters of glass needles. They reek of dark magic and emit a gurgling, bubbling muttering almost constantly as they flounder and stagger towards the group.
Combat begins with the ghost/daemon hurling a barbed curse at the warforged, planting a growing vulnerability to certain attacks within him. The group, trapped in the stairs by the undead diabolist's disruptive aura, and unable to get close enough to attack, can only stumble forwards, praying that they get chance to engage it in combat before it is too late.
The undead/daemon, being insubstantial and able to phase, shifts through the stonework of the fortress and appears on the stairs at the back of the group, attacking the Dundorin with psychic powers.
The rest of the group stumble into the dark chamber above, dazed and sickened by the unnatural energies there, the pressure increasing as they enter the foul place.
The reason for this become clear almost at once; a portal, held within the bounds of a pentangular frame, carved with potent runes of dark dimensional magic. Within its glowing frame can be seen a loathsome plane of dank, billowing green and brown energies, which occasionally clear to allow a view of a sick world of putrid swamps, pus filled lakes and bile weeping skies the colour of bruised necrotic wounds.
The group also find, carved into the floor of the chamber, a broken summoning circle, still bearing the scars of whatever happened here so long ago.
The Veteran and Ardwaine hang back on the stairs to engage the undead. The foul thing uses fear and physical force to try and push them away, but finds itself trapped with them by the fighters marks!
The rest of the group engage the foul larvae, and find that although they die easily, they leave a toxic cloud behind that harms anyone within, and when they hit, they hurt; their needle like claws injecting potent acid into the wounds.
Numerous ideas are thrown about as the battle continues, both groups of combatants facing harsh odds – the larvae spilling without end it seems through the portal (until Sadran conjures a wall of fire in front of it), and the warforged and Dundorin having to deal with being weakened by the undead's disorienting aura, and its damage reducing lack of solidity whilst it unleashes ever more unpleasant attacks.
However, ultimately the group prevail. A major turning point is when Llewellyn teleports away from a cluster of larvae (using his boots), blasting them to vapour, and appears behind the daemon/ghost, where he lands two seriously damaging blows.
As the ghost truly dies, its dual screams blast outwards, searing the minds of those closest...then it fades from this world forever...
06:00 – Following the battle, the group uncover a secret door leading from this foul place. They are alarmed when smoke and sparks spit from it as they open it, but are relieved when the ancient traps prove to have lost their bite.
Inside this place they find the ashy skeleton of the wizard; slumped within a hastily scratched protective diagram that never got finished, his skeleton little more than ash.
Although his remains fall into foul dust as soon as touched, a couple of his items retain their power, even after all this time; a horn that be used to banish conjured creatures, an enchanted staff that can ward against elemental attacks, and most precious of all, a unique ring carved by the ancient wizard, that protects its wearer from daemons and devils, and allows them to strip them – albeit temporarily – of their resistances and immunities.
06:10 – After a brief rest, the group prepare to run (for Sadran will have to drop his wall of flames, and the larvae may still be waiting beyond).
06:11 – The wall of fire peters out, but the gate beyond is empty...dead...deactivated by the passing of the undead wizard and his possessor.
06:30 – The group are back on the road to the Eastern Guild...