“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” – Edgar Allen Poe
DEATH FROM ABOVE
The adventuring party known as “Siege Engine” rested within the shrine of Kubazan the Froghemoth. Their rest was disturbed by the sound of a person shouting for help outside of the shrine. Jäger von Grauemhügel (Human Ranger) and Dahr Dracklestone (Dwarf Warlock) went outside to discover the mangled bodies of an Elf and Half-Orc. While investigating, Dahr was nearly hit by the beheaded corpse of a Flaming Fist soldier being dropped by some kind of large winged beast. The creature swooped around high above the tree canopy and flew away to the East. With a little more searching, they discovered the corpse of a Dwarf who had been charred to nothing more than a skeleton within his plate armor. Dahr cleverly used his magic to create the illusion of a large frog hoping it might deter or distract the large flying monster. Apparently, the scheme worked because Dahr and Jäger saw the winged beast fly by way overhead again, and then it turned away again to the East. With that situation done, the two returned to the shrine and settled down for a good long rest.
INTO THE SNAIL SHRINE
In the morning, Durcrath Urrhishtaajuc (Dragonborn Monk) acted strangely for the first hour. He talked openly to nobody and everybody at once, airing his fears, worries, and concerns about trying to recover any of the other puzzle boxes. Everyone save Dahr seemed to ignore this behavior. Dahr voiced his own concerns about the Red Wizards betraying them once the puzzle boxes were turned over.
The rest of the morning was quiet and uneventful as the group traveled about 900 feet to the next shrine. After carefully checking the exterior for alternate entrances and traps, they entered the Shrine of Unkh. Knowing that each shrine was built as a harrowing test of worthiness for aspiring priests of the individual gods, the party used caution throughout the shrine. Annie Oaklee (Half-Elf Fighter) remained towards the rear of the party, diligently watching for enemies.
The first room was what seemed to be a destroyed workshop. The ceiling had fallen in layering the floor with rubble. Vines, large plume-like weeds, and a moss grew up from the rubble as if the jungle were trying to reclaim the shrine brick by brick. The edges of the room had been cleared away and would have made for easier travel but Tydohr Slowhammer (Half-Orc Barbarian) along with Dahr and Jäger noticed that the rubble was marked with Kobold’s footprints. The footprints seemed to reveal that the Kobolds remains in a single file line while crossing the rubble and then entered the next room through the door across the room. Although the contents of the room were either smashed beyond recognition by the fallen stone or covered in a layer of thick vegetation, the group did notice pegboard with nine iron keys hanging from hooks on the wall. About half were bent and broken, while others looked serviceable. However, all of them were rusted beyond repair.
Dahr took all the keys, even the broken ones, and then focused on assisting Tydohr and Jäger in tracking the Kobolds. The party made their way to the door and after Dahr checked it for traps then Durcrath used his great strength to shove open the large heavy stone doors. But as soon as the door was opened they heard a monstrous choir of growls as a pack of Ghouls rushed out of the darkness into the room with them!
With their razor-sharp teeth and jagged claws, ghouls roam the night in packs, driven by an insatiable hunger for humanoid flesh. And these monsters were no exception! Siege Engine were caught by surprise but recovered quickly. Although the ghouls were ravenous with hunger their blood rage was not satiated. Annie’s Gnomish pistols blazed to life, blasting holes into the monsters. Dahr’s staff stung true and his spells sapped the ghouls of their strength. Durcrath pummeled them with his martial arts strikes and flayed their flesh with his firey breath. Jäger and Tydohr hacked and slashed viciously. In the end, the ghouls lay in pieces among the rubble of the shrine their black brackish blood spreading out along the dusty floor.
THE IDOL AND PUZZLE BOX ROOMS
Moving deeper into the Shrine, the party discovered an idol room likely used for worship. A statue of a giant snail loomed before them. In place of antennae, it had five pseudopods ending in rocky clubs. It was obviously a rendition of the Trickster god Unkh in the form of a flail snail. Along the walls, six iron keys hang in small niches above stone plinths. Behind the statue, a carved pedestal in a wide alcove had a keyhole set into its base.
At this point, the group decided to push on right away and look at the next room. Durcrath shoved open the doors to the next room, revealing it. The next room was essentially a large pit surrounded by five feet of crumbling masonry on each side. At the bottom of the thirty-foot deep pit was row after row of sharp punji sticks. On the other side of the pit stood a dimly lit alcove with a puzzle box sitting on a shelf.
Although Dahr was very interested in the pedestal, he turned his attention to the puzzle box in the next room. He used his Mage Hand to grab the puzzle box and move it to his hand. As soon as the box was removed from the shelf, the party heard a loud grinding noise and then a loud “CLANK” followed by hissing as green gas began to pour into the room through small holes in the walls. At that point, a narrow-barred portcullis slammed down from the interiors of both stone doors, trapping Siege Engine within the Idol room.
Annie watched while Durcrath and Tydohr worked together trying to lift the portcullis up so that Dahr grab get the puzzle box. Meanwhile, Jäger turned his attention to the other portcullis behind them in hopes of finding a way out. He noticed right away that the portcullis had a keyhole. He shouted out to the others prompting Duhr to search through his set of rusted keys until he found the right one to open the portcullis. The rusty gate slid upwards back into place within the doorframe, and Dahr grabbed the puzzle box. With a touch, he was aware that the box contained the primal spirit of Unkh.
At this point, Siege Engine decided it was time to flee the shrine. After a moment of trying the rusty keys again, Dahr found the right one to open the other portcullis which also returned to his hiding spot within the stone door frame. With that, they made a run for it because the rooms were beginning to fill with the thick bitter tasting green gas.
Dahr handed the puzzle box to Tydohr (who stashed it in his Bag of Holding) and waited as everyone else left the shrine. With a small grin, he turned his attention to the pedestal.
DAHR AND THE PEDESTAL
Dahr waited for the others to run out of the room before he decided to solve the pedestal’s puzzle. He realized that the keyhole was too wide for any of the rusted or iron keys he had collected in the shrine. However, he realized that if he laid each of the six iron keys on top of one another they formed one large, thick key. He inserted this key into the pedestal and it fit. Turning it slowly clockwise, another puzzle cube emerged from a concealed hatch: a duplicate of the other Unkh box.
Touching this box was not the same, Dahr didn’t feel any power or energy within this box. However, he stashed the cube in his backpack and turned to leave when he saw the pedestal begin to glimmering with a golden light. An image of a flail snail formed above the pedestal and flared with an intense golden glow.
Dahr senses this was a bad sign and turned to run out of the shrine to join his comrades. As he ran, he knew it was too late. The gleaming image of Unkh blasted him with a radiant beam, searing his flesh. He fell to the ground and felt Tydohr grab him and pull him out of the shrine. With a loud “thud” Durcrath slammed the stone door shut.
With Unkh’s puzzle box recovered, the group decided to find a relatively safe place to rest and recover. Nearby they discovered an outbuilding that had been used as a campsite previously.
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