1/8/1472 – 21:45 – 3/8/1472 – 01:30
The lava pit is easily crossed by Shnecke, who threads ropes along the burning stone walls to allow his allies to skip over to the tunnel from which issue the desperate cries. Thatari almost comes to a grisly end when he slips, and the rope holding him catches fire in the scorching air, but he is dragged over the edge, howling, before he can plummet to his doom.
Moving along the tunnel, who's walls bear the same grotesquely clashing swirls and spikes of colour as those before, the stench of sulphur and burning air is quickly replaced with the base stench of caged humanity. The air grows cloying with the reek of faeces and fear, and soon the group find themselves looking down into a shit smeared pit, 25' deep and 20' across, who's upper lip is spiked with downward set megalodon teeth.
Within this pit, squirming with dread and hope, are eight Aurymites; five men and three women. All are almost naked, and covered in their own filth. Several bear recent amputations, the wounds swollen and dripping with infection and inflammation, and all are lousy with lice. Several corpses, badly bloated with decomposition, and leaking putrid fluids from their swollen lips and eyes, their inflated arms raised as if ready to give a hug, lie in the chamber – prisoners for whom the pit was too much.
A rope is thrown to them, as the group decide to only rescue those able to leave the pit. This is explained in tradespeak, and at once a horrible scramble ensues as the desperate but weakened prisoners try to climb the rope. Only four make it, and the effort almost kills them.
One of those to make it out the pit is an amputee, his left leg missing from midway below his calf. Seeing it bloated with infection, Grigori moves to apply a poultice, and notices at once that the damage has been inflicted by human teeth.
“They've been eating each other.” He exclaims in horror.
The man confirms that this is true, weeping openly and shaking, stating that the monster never gave them anything to eat, and non of them could bring themselves to feed on the rotting corpses already in the pit. Sobbing, he begs the group for forgiveness, before devolving into a mass of weeping and babbling in his native auric.
The survivors are told that they may accompany the group, but that they will have to make their way around the lava pit's walls by themselves, as the party have no way to apport them over. This leads to an argument in the party, as several members state that the prisoners will be nothing but a hindrance to them, and so, should be simply given rope and allowed to make their own way out. The rest of the party (lead by a vociferous Varracuda) argue that they have a duty to the prisoners to see them safely back home.
In the end, the first plan is the one that gets used, and the weeping survivors are left, shaking and wretched, with 100' of rope and instructions on how to find the Ravager.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party turn their attention to the chamber that lies directly across the lava pit from the gas spore room – bare apart from the garish decorations and a large, Xareth'Chelde sized hole in the ground, which shimmers and glows with shifting lights of various colours. Thatari invokes a dark power to become less than real, and slides like a shadow through the stone between the corridor and that far room. Emerging from the wall, he is joined moments later by the assassin, who teleports across in a burst of coiling darkness. Ropes are once again secured to the rocky walls of the lava pit, and the rest of the group carefully crawl across, trying to ignore the seething pond of molten rock several hundred feet below.
Jaeger gives the hole (the entrance to another vertical shaft) a close inspection for any mechanical traps, whilst Thatari and Varracuda scan for any dangerous dweomers or spell triggers. None are found, and soon the group are peering into the shaft.
It drops down about 35', before exiting into a cavern roughly 20' deep. Bright points of coloured light lance up from an unseen source (reflected by numerous polished pieces of metal and pyrites) creating brilliant patterns on the stony walls, their paths picked out by the clouds of opaque mist that belch from some unseen source, filling the lower half of the chamber. Jaeger sniffs the air, and states that he feels the mist to actually be some kind of spore, whilst Grigori surmises that the lights could be the product of certain unusual crystals reacting to local radiations, citing a number of uses for said crystals, should the group obtain them.
Shnecke (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to be lowered down the shaft, into the spore choked chamber, and soon the rest of the group are grunting as they slowly hoist him downwards. Within the room, the undead Ulnyrr spies a number of unusual objects.
Firstly, set into one wall, are a number of small wands of prismy crystal, each of which blazes with clear, coloured light, throwing out the straight beams that paint the walls with their shifting, delicate patterns. The “smoke” is indeed some kind of spore, belched continually from the pores of a huge, sack-like fungus that pulses wetly at one end of the chamber, its upper skin scarred and marked by constant abrasion (the group soon realise that it served Shumeth as a bed, and Jaeger identifies the fungus as a “Deep Cushion”, a species that is usually harmless, though varieties with soporific spores do exist in some corners of the deep earth).
As with the rest of the lower complex, the walls are covered in horribly clashing colours and sharply angled designs, all apparently painted to appeal to the deceased aberrations' alien tastes. However, the group (who, having been told by Shnecke that the room is safe, quickly join him), struggle at first to determine what the purpose of the dozen holes, bored directly down into the floor - 1' in diameter and about 15' deep - are for, at least, until Grigori shines his lamp's light down them, and reveals that each holds a treasure.
“This must be where he stored his treasures.” Muses the priest, “Using his telekinesis eye to remove them.”
Shnecke grunts and gasps as he tries to reach into one of the tiny holes, having spotted a potent looking hammer far below.
“How the hell are we going to get them out?” Wonders Lia aloud.
“We could smash 'em out.” Growls the Ulnyrr, rubbing his bruised shoulder, his attempts to reach the treasure forgotten.
Everyone laughs, but Shnecke refuses to join in, instead leaping up and towering over Grigori. Eye teeth briefly flash as the barbarian grabs out, his meaty paws fastening around the handle of an enchanted pick Grigori retrieved from the hands of a dead enemy back in their early travels.
Ripping it free, he turns round, and begins to swing it at the stony floor, the room immediately resonating with the painful clang and ding of its enchanted head biting into the rock...
“You see?” He snarls, “We dig, and eventually, we get the treasures. I didn't come all this way to go home empty handed!”
...All in all, it takes just over 24-hours for the items to be rescued from the tubes, though the entire party feel the efforts worth it when they are examined, and their incredible power realised. Grigori uses ritual magic to make the crew of the Ravager aware that they are alive and well, but will not be back in the allotted time, and asks them to make the ship ready for immediate launch on their return. He also harvests the glowing crystals, giving Lia five, and keeping five for himself, recognising them as able to boost powers that utilise radiant energy.
The hammer is a thing of Dwaerdorin manufacture; forged from some kind of less than real metal, and imbued with the energy of death. First to be recovered, it's energies are transferred by the priest into a spare rapier carried by the assassin, and Jaeger becomes the proud owner of a rare Trueshadow weapon.
An amulet that bolsters its bearer against poisons is brought up next, followed by an ancient bastard sword, who's heavy metal blade bears a killing edge, undulled by its clearly great age. A fabled Ring of Protection is brought up next, and given to the genasai, its potent protective powers felt to be of benefit to him, whilst a tiny shard of pink, luminous crystal – a planar ioune stone, attuned to physical health and stamina – is brought up next. Rare beyond words, and far more potent than those sometimes found or awoken, it is soon orbiting the head of the Ulnyrr, granting him a great boon to his constitution as it resonates with his lifeforce (or unlife force in his case).
The last item to be brought forth is also an item of legend, though all – save Thatari – are a little nervous of it. Seemingly a thick, stoppered bottle of iron, its top carved with runes of binding, its stopper secured by drizzles of platinum and lead, it is identified as a prison of sorts, which can, in conjunction with the right ritual, be used to trap and hold an extradimensional being for eternity. Almost certainly pre-dating the start of the Second Age, it is a thing of terrible power, which the warlock muses, may hold a dread entity right now. More than a few feel a shudder run down their backs, as they reflect on how much it resembles the vial that held the soul shard of dread Jantherak...
It is retained by the priest, who states that the group may one day seek out the ritual needed to open and activate it.
3/8/1472 – 01:30 – 04:00: Having rested, and entirely unaware of the time on the surface, the group take their leave of the foul chambers that lie beyond the Cheldean altar, and make their way slowly back to the vast cavern, within which lies the black metal finger, and the way back out.
Before leaving, they decide to examine the finger a little more closely, and Varracuda quickly discerns that there is a hidden compartment within the nail of the massive digit. Whilst Shnecke strains to open this up, the swordmage does some quick calculations, and comes to the conclusion that if the statue that bears the finger is of human proportions, it must stand roughly 500' or more tall...a truly incredible construct.
With a grunt, the nail of the finger folds in half, a cloud of glittering green dust billowing out to coat the sputtering barbarian. Everyone rushes forth to peer within the hoary objects interior, and are disappointed to see it holds nothing more than several crusty piles of the dust.
However, worked into the underside of the folded nail are a series of strange, utterly alien sigils, which correspond to no language known that anyone can call to mind. Their curved, conjoined lines suggest an exotic and strange source, and with excitement, Grigori sets to work enacting a translation ritual...
...It is not a good idea.
The meaning of the words is burned with terrible force into his mind, his sanity snapping in an instant as the gravity of their portent slams into his psyche. Reeling, he tries to clutch at the images which flash like sputtering lightning across the screen of his mind, desperate to take something solid from their meaning. He fails, and drops to the floor in a fit, twitching and convulsing as the potent words arc through his mind.
When he comes round, he knows one thing – a series of coordinates which can be used in a Linked Portal ritual, which lead to...he has no idea.