1/8/1472 – 00:42 – 01:05: The assassin checks out the solid looking walls of the chamber, and can detect no hidden passages or illusions. From the other side of the chamber he notices that another tunnel exits to the south; a wide tunnel, who's threshold is decorated with sharks teeth. Beyond this toothy portal is a smallish chamber, filled with greasy looking mushrooms that shiver slightly in the gloom, its walls, like those of the corridors and chambers before, daubed with crude depictions of Shadrakuul's symbol, sharks, the sea, and here and there, staring eyes. In the middle of this chamber, a large hole yawns in the ground. Satisfied for now, he and Thatari cautiously check out the altar, looking for any wards or other possibly dangerous protective measures. There are none. Indeed the only thing of real note are the cushions scattered around it – cushions on which worshippers could kneel or place their foreheads.
“Looks like we interrupted a prayer meeting or something?” Mutters the assassin.
“Oooh, look for cake.” Quips the warlock sarcastically.
Whilst doing this, Thatari notices some slight modifications to the symbol of Shadrakuul depicted on the walls and on the altar in this place; fringes of smaller sharks' teeth and slight changes to the general form. These he feels, suggest that this particular cult may either follow a slightly modified version of the cult's credos, or has become corrupted somehow.
“Knowing this world, it's the latter.”
Moving closer to the fanged doorway, the assassin seeks to examine the large teeth set in the stone there. However, when he comes within 5' of it, he almost passes out from shock as an unholy cacophony of whistling, piercing screams suddenly burst forth from the large mushrooms in the chamber beyond.
“Shriekers!” he yells – though over the deafening screams no one can hear him, “We need to shut them up!” The rest of the group claw towards him, hands over their ears, their faces pained, and Jaeger gives out a variety of deadly thrown weapons – flasks of lamp oil, alchemists fire and several of the filth filled shrunken heads they obtained whilst fighting the Death Loved so long ago. These are lofted into the air, and soon the screaming is replaced with the dull roar of flames, and the spitting fizz of rotting mushroom.
Everyone readies themselves for whatever assault the screams have brought down upon them....no one attacks!
Growing bored and hungry, Shnecke, followed cautiously by Grigori, begins to sniff the air coming from the eastern tunnel. He notes that the tunnel slopes away into darkness, and that there are a mix of smells coming from it; unwashed humans, Dundiir, oiled wood, rust, salt water. Joining him, Grigori picks up even more subtle scents – fear, burned flesh.
Varracuda and Lia join them, and shortly afterwards, so too do then others. Scanning ahead, the assassin sees nothing that immediately worries him. However, his sixth sense tingles, and he does a second search, finding a well concealed glyph carved on the floor. Thatari quickly identifies that it is a Drowning Glyph, which causes the victims' lungs to inflate with fluid until they either drown, or their chests erupt.
Shifting his form into a watery manifestation, the swordmage offers to try and disable the trap. He is warned that it is a thing of divine magic, and so, will not be easy to unpick with his wizardly knowledge, and indeed, he accidentally triggers it – though his water-adapted form is able to handle its effects without lasting harm.
01:05 – 01:40 – At the end of the warded tunnel is a large cavern. Its floor is some 50' below the level of the tunnel, filled by shark infested waters to a depth of 25'. Built over this, upon oiled wood stands, are a series of cages of rusting metal and wood. Within these are about 20 humans – mostly Aurymites, though there are a few who have the weathered skin and wiry frames of sailors. None are manacled in any way, though given their precarious position, and the fact that there is no bridge between the cage's only door and the 20' gap to the tunnel in which the group stand, there is little incentive to try and escape. There are however some individuals in the cage who have been secured; three dundiir, chained together on their own. These fellows appear to have put up a good fight at some point, as they each bear healing wounds and vicious bruises. The assassin also realises that they have been positioned on a trap door, which has been linked to their manacles in such a way that any concerted efforts to escape would result in them plunging into the shark pit below – a grim and final fate.
All bear fresh brands – the triangular sigil of Dohr'Khusta's slavers.
When the group first reveal themselves there is some panic, as the prisoners believe them to be members of the cult or (in their eyes) worse, pirates. It takes some serious intervention by the warlock to calm them down, and soon the group are able to learn that the pirates use hooked ladders to form a bridge between the cages and the corridor.
Thinking back, Jaeger suddenly realises that there were ladders hanging on the wall in the shrieker chamber, and soon they have been brought down, and set across the gap. Easily opening the lock, the assassin opens the doors to the cages, and soon the humans are fearfully huddled in the altar room, their faces showing both stark terror and gratitude.
Getting the dundiir out without dropping them into the hungry waters below is a little more tricky. However, with great skill, Jaeger manages to disable the crude drop mechanism, and soon they are rubbing their wrists, and cackling with glee at being set free.
The prisoners are interrogated by Thatari using his telepathy, whilst Grigori enacts a ritual designed to help him worm out any liars. No one lies as they tell the group their stories. Most were snatched off the streets of nearby islands, before being bundled into a vessel and brought here, though the sailors were serving on the Silver Zephyr, a merchantman from Fey, attacked by the Ravager in the Sea of Splinters.
The dundiir readily admit to deserting the supply hauler they had been on, to hunt for Aurymite gold rumoured to be unguarded after the “calamity” - apparently unashamed of admitting to being both deserters and thieves. They also state that they would like a chance to visit some revenge on the pirates, and eagerly accept the chance to join the party (their leader is a clean shaved fellow named Angrun, his beardless face suggesting that he has ties to no clan or family line).
They are questioned about their path to the chambers, and though they were blindfolded, they recollect being forced up ladders, the smell of salt water, an area that chilled their souls with its unnatural presence, and before they were thrown in the cage, the sound of a very heavy stone door opening. They also speak of ascending a tight and steep flight of stairs before entering this area, and the group decide to check out the shaft in the Shrieker room, for it has tight and steep steps cut into its walls...
01:41 – 02:05 – Cautiously the group move down the stairs, the dundiir in front of them (Angrun has borrowed Shnecke's fiery axe – though on the condition that he gives it back). Most of the prisoners have opted to stay in the altar room to await escape, and the group leave Skull with them as a guardian. Only five of them opt to join the party, not including the three dundiir.
As they descend, so the air grows unpleasantly warm and curdled by a terrible stench. After about 20' the stairs end in a small, heavily decorated room; the walls thick with grotesque carvings and paintings depicting more teeth, sharks, staring eyes, and here and there, an ominous robed figure, who's only feature is the wide, toothy mouth that fills the hood.
The stench in this room is almost too much to take; a choking mix of sewage, rotting flesh, garbage and stagnant water. Small flies crawl over everything down here, feeding on the filthy boot prints that track back and forth along the only exit from the room – a sharply sloping tunnel, lined with more filthy art and scummy growths of bacterial colonies and fungi.
From far along the tunnel, something huge roars from multiple mouths.
Very nervous now, the group (sans the five human prisoners, who fearfully retreat to join the others in the altar room on hearing the monstrous roaring) edge along the slick tunnel, trying to ignore the tickling of the flies that mob them. Sweating in the filthy humidity, the group soon come to the shores of a vast lake of liquid putridity, its boiling, oozing surface hidden by a greasy miasma, broken here and there by scabby islands of congealed muck. High in the caverns' roof and to the left, fractured pipes disgorge clotted streams of filth from some private sewer or cesspool above, whilst to the right, cleaner water percolates through the cavern's ceiling, leaving huge, white growths of salt in its wake.
However, most everyone's attention is fixed on the – thing – that wallows and roars in the middle of this foul morass; a hulking abomination that seems to combine the worst aspects of a serpentine hydra and the skulking, disease ridden Groth'Egulg or Otyugh. It has a bloated, filth smeared body of gargantuan proportions, from which sprout six long, muscular necks, each terminating in a crocodilian head, which weep a noxious slime of pus and filth. Two powerful tentacles grow from its body, each ending in a lanceolate, leathery structure, covered in curved, sharp fangs. Again, these are covered in filth. It seems lost in a rage, but within moments of the group arriving at the edge of its pool, the horror turns its heads towards them, and it surges with terrifying speed across the cavern to meet them, sending a wave of fermented rot rolling towards them before it.
The group back off, and after a brief discussion decide – based on the fact that the prisoners heard a heavy stone door, and they had come across no such door – that the monster's lair is not the right way to go.
“The altar!” Shouts Grigori suddenly, “I'll bet that there's a hidden way through the altar!”
02:15 – The altar grinds back on mechanical hinges, revealing a shaft filled with well crafted stone steps, that plunge into darkness. A fresh, salty breeze gusts from below, carrying with it distant sounds of waves.
The group cautiously go down...
02:20 – 02:23 – The steps lead to a small cavern who's air resonates with a cold malevolence. In the distance the floor of this cavern falls away to a lower level, within which rise several crude wooden structures. Beyond that, rising elegantly, its rigging hung about with small lanterns, is a ship, clearly berthed in a subterranean dock. Distant voices shout out in alarm from its hidden decks, alarm sounding clearly even though they speak in the rolling Dohr'Khustan tongue.
However, the group have more immediate worries, for five undead bar their way. They are the crudest of things – merely animated human skeletons, held together by necromancy and their own mummified tendons. Three bear scimitars, and charge to attack, the dundiir running to meet them. The other two raise creaking crossbows, and squeeze the triggers.
A fight ensues, during which one of the dundiir is slain, his head hacked clean from his shoulders by the hissing edge of a skeleton's scimitar. The rest of the group suffer some minor wounds, but soon, the undead are smashed to the floor. However, the battle has taken time and resources, and from beyond this cavern, the voices of the Dohr'Khustan's are much nearer.
The group prepare to face them.