DARKNESS GATHERING: PART SIX

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PART SIX: “THE FORCES OF HEAVEN AND HELL”

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Our heroes started Part Six facing off against Asmodeus, the Lord of Hell. He was soon joined by the Archangel Metranon. Both claimed to be there to assist the heroes on behalf of Pelor. Metranon used a form of telepathy to impart useful information about Lolth and her quest for complete apotheosis. Asmodeus gave them two interesting items: The Silver Flask of Healing and The Tempus Coin.

Asmodeus said to them: “The Blood War continues while I am here wasting my time with you mortals. However, my Celestial Master believes that you are the deciding factor in destroying the Evil that has dominated this town. You cannot fail for the forces of Heaven and Hell watch over you.” And then both being disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.

Metranon, the Lorekeeper
Metranon, the Lorekeeper

The party discussed the information given to them (trying to make sense of it) while planning their next move. They made a decision to go to the docks through the outskirts of town. However, they found that after reaching the treeline they were met with a thick bank of fog. XE sent his Owl into the fog, and after a few moments lost contact with it which was a very bad sign.

The group decided to head towards the Inn but remained on the outside of town. They arrived at the Inn and were able to rest, eat, gather provisions, and plan out heading down into the Pit at Lucian’s house. XE re-summoned his Owl, discovering that it shifted unwillingly to the Astral Plane and was unable to return. Again, not a good sign.

After their rest, the group headed down into the Pit. CHAK went down first, and scouted out the area. He discovered it was a wet limestone cave with a loosely packed muddy floor. He cleverly chose to use some of the debris and floorboards that had fallen into the Pit to created a platform for his associates.

Once the rest of the group was down in the cave below the Pit, they headed Southeast through a large passage, avoiding the Eastern passage. Before leaving, WALDEMAR noticed a leather-bound book that turned out to be Lucian’s logbook from the Guard Station. Then, WALDEMAR  cried out, pointing to the ceiling above D’ARIEN.

They looked up to see a large black spider with red stripes on its carapice  descending by a thread of web towards D’ARIEN. WALDEMAR acted first, firing an arrow that lodged into the spider’s abdomen and sending it skittering into the mud. Within seconds, the group made quick work of killing the spider. However, they suddenly realized that spiders ranging in size of tiny to large were swarming out of the limestone ceiling and walls. There were hundreds of them, a creeping swarm of black and red.

They ran down the nearby passage, heading Southeast, rather than East. RIPPIN and GREYBEARD created a shield wall together, leading the way towards the next cave that seemed to be about sixty feet ahead. WALDEMAR and CHAK worked together to follow a set of tracks that they guessed belonged to Lucian. XE turned and cast Thunderwave. The spell effectively killed and tossed around the swarm of spiders, however it also dislodged much of the muddy floor that partially blocked both the passage they were in and the Pit entrance. It also created a thunderous bom that echoed through the limestone caves for hundreds of feet. The sound also dazed the group for a few moments.

At the end of the passage they found it partly sealed by rocks, sand, and sand bags. It looked like an excellent place for an ambush so they took precautions. RIPPIN and GREYBEARD remained in the front, holding up their shields for protection. CHAK used his natural Halfling stealthiness to hide in shadows while D’ARIEN prepared his Ray of Frost. XE cast a spell creating the vaugue dark shape of a humanoid, and moved the illusion over the bunker and into the room. When nothing seemed to happen, he sent the Owl in to scout. Although the Owl and Greybeard both senses something was amiss in the room, the group entered to look around.

They found another wet cave. Moss hung from the ceiling, dripping water on to the rough, uneven walls and muddy floor. They found a circular stone dais marked with odd writings in Undercommon, a six pointed star, a two large rubies set in the surface. Silver dust covered the entire surface of the dais.

Dark Altar
Dais

CHAK looked into one of the rubies seeing the visage of a slobbering demon snapping at him from inside the ruby. It pressed its ugle maw against the ruby, trying to get out. D’ARIEN purged the magic from the dais, causing the rubies to disappear back to the Abyss and the dais’s enchantments to seep into the ground. GREYBEARD and RIPPIN started pounding away at the dais with hammers and pitons from the climbing kits, but not before D’arien translated the Undercommon writings as: “Welcome to the Caves of Chaos. We’d love you have you to eat.” While they were busy smashing the dais, four Zombies rose from the mud in the floor to attack the party.

It took only seconds to dispatch the hideous things.

As the group looked around, they found they saw they could head North or South. They chose to continue headind South, following the muddy boot prints. As they departed, none of them noticed the red and black spiders that skittered out of the flesh of the zombies and disappeared into the walls.

The Southern passage was muddy and wet like the others. It led forward was Rippin guessed was one hundred and twenty feet, ending in a reinforced wooden door. CHAK checked the door for traps and found none. However, he did hear groaning coming from the next room. CHAK opened the door, putting himself between it and the wall. RIPPIN moved to stand in the doorway, holding his shield up defensively. He glanced around, announcing to the group that it was an Evil Chapel of some kind.

The floor was checker-boarded in ebony and scarlet. A tapestry on the south wall depicted an eerie landscape and a leering red eye. Four black pillars supported the domed ceiling. In front of the tapestry was a stone altar of red veined rock crusted with dark, dried blood. Four ancient bronze vessels were on the table – a shallow bowl, a pair of goblets, and a vase-like pitcher. All the vessels glow with an ugly purple gleam.  The sound of groaning continued, coming from the Southern side of the room.

XE used a spell to identify the history of the bronze vessels. This revealed them to be Unholy Relics of Evil. The have been used for vile rituals for centuries and have absorbed the evil of their users.

The muddy footprints led up to the altar, stuttered stepped several times, and then walked towards the Eastern wall before disappearing. XE took the bronze vessels using Mage Hand, and WALDEMAR took the tapestry. Meanwhile, RIPPIN found that a section of the stone wall was loose, and pushed the block in to show another small cave. CHAK climbed through the secret passage followed by GREYBEARD and RIPPIN. D’ARIEN held out a sack, allowing XE to place the broze vessels inside.

They found that this hidden cave had probably fifty spider web cocoons suspended from the ceiling. All of them were roughly humanoid sized. The groaning started again, and they moved to the center of the room to find LUCIAN. The was hanging upside down, wrapped in spiderweb but his face remained partially uncovered. GREYBEARD and CHAK worked together to cut the Captain from the ceiling. He fell to the ground, and CHAK cut away the web casing. All three saw that LUCIAN had a withered, clawed arm fused to his left stump. The hand of the withered arm had a closed eye in the palm. Whether they realized it or not, it was the legendary Hand and Eye of Vecna. RIPPIN raised his axe, but CHAK moved faster. He brought the short sword down once … twice … and chopped the evil artifact from Lucian’s stump. There was a flash of light, and the Hand faded back to whatever dread realm into the possession of Vecna. GREYBEARD layed hands on LUCIAN to heal him, although some wounds remained including a vicious looking poisonous bite.

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Symbol of Vecna

LUCIAN explained that Vecna had appeared to him shortly after RIPPIN had come to visit the Guard Station the first time. Vecna promised that by using the Hand and Eye, LUCIAN could seek out and destroy the demon residing below Falstaff. LUCIAN was hopeless and afraid, and took the chance to use Evil against Evil. He had fought his way through the caves, found the altar, but was bitten by a huge spider. He doesn’t remember anything past that.

Looking through the Gateway, they could see a bleak and barren landscape. A steep, narrow precipice stretched out before them forming a narrow bridge that was filled with a seemingly unending mass of demons. Standing at the apex of the bridge with his back to the group stood a fighter in plate mail armor, slashing away at the oncoming demons.

GREYBEARD shook his head glumly. “I know what this is,” he said with an edge of dread in his voice. “That’s the paladin in Hell. We have to help him.”

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