DESCENDING INTO THE DARK


“Little Alice fell
d
o
w
n
the hole,
bumped her head
and bruised her soul”

― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

This adventure is based on DDAL07-05 by TRAVIS WOODALL

 

Last time in “Whispers In The Dark” our heroes teleported towards the Forbidden City of Omu and ended up a little off course in a ruined city named Bulobo (pronounced boo-LOW-bow) and met a green Grung calling himself Wadumu (pronounced WAH-doo-moo) before finding a circle of pillars in a city square covered in Yellow Musk Creeper. The pillars turned out to be a puzzle that when solved caused the main central pillar to descend into the ground.  Our heroes decided to cling to the pillar and its base, riding it down into the darkness like an elevator.

DividerFane of the Whispered Fang

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Adabon, Vrae’Ree Everhurden, Grrr-gRoot, Arlan Strangeways, Tessa, and Mizuki rode the pillar down into the darkness getting a glimpse of the wet cave before they saw Wadumu Who-Would-Be-Blue jump down into the cave and run off to the East. Moments later, the group lost consciousness due to being blasted by a wave of psychic energy.

They woke up laying on the cold, wet, sandy cave floor. The smell of falling water, old rot and mildew hung in the air. The pillar was gone, apparently having slid back into place seamlessly among the stalactites overhead. Adabon and Waddumu were missing in action but everyone else was present and accounted for. Looking around they found themselves in a vast cavern about 120′ long and wide. The only exception was a jutting piece of the rock wall to the northeast where a twenty-foot wide curtain of water falls into the room from a huge crevice then pouring down into a large open fissure on the cave floor. Water splashing from the waterfall fills the cave with chilling ankle-deep water.

Grrr-gRoot was able to use his Ranger knowledge to inform the others that the waterfall was likely an underground river that broken through the rock here and slowly formed this cavern.  He noted that the floor and walls of the chamber were unhewn stone—worn down by the passage of time and water.  However, he was certain that there were no rivers or streams near the city of Bulobo which added to the mystery. Some of the party might have noticed that the Ranger was placing seeds as he went, speaking to them and wishing them well.

While the others got their bearings, Vrae’ree discovered that his Staff of Defense stolen from the Cult of the Dragon was broken during his fall into the cavern. He also discovered Adabon’s magic bow recovered from Skyreach Castle broken and discarded in the water. It was then that he realized his Drow blade was missing from its sheath. Drawing on the power of the Weave, Vrae’Ree cast Locate Object to discover that his sword lay somewhere below him about well within 1000 feet.

During this time the group started to here echoing clacking noises. It was not long before a ferocious Hook Horror charged out of the darkness from the East at Tessa. The monstrous hook horror had a head resembling a vulture’s and the torso of an enormous beetle, with an exoskeleton studded by sharp, bony protuberances. It gains its name from its long, powerfully built arms and legs, which end in wickedly curved hooked claws. Mizuki rushed to help the Monster Hunter, and together they killed the monster.

Meanwhile, Grrr-gRoot, Arlan, and Vrae’Ree started to inspect the area near the waterfall. They noticed a small pool of water made by a stacked circle of curious, rough stone. This did not warrant inspection though, and the group moved on.

Arlan tossed a few rocks into the waterfall experimenting with his own curiosities. He noted that using the proper amount of gear and caution, the group could climb into the crevice which seemed to continue down for hundreds of feet. Arlan pointed out a ledge about sixty feet down that seemed to lead into another cavern.

Meanwhile, Vrae’Ree and Grrr-gRoot spotted a strange carving in the rock face behind the waterfall. It was clearly worked, but the surface is rough and uneven—as if it were intentionally worked with a tool to make it as such. The carving was that of a cobra’s head ready to strike. Its mouth was wide open and seemed as if the snake might strike at any second. The sculpture was huge and covered most of the back wall concealed by the waterfall. The serpent had two, huge eyes that appear to be made of sparkling yellow stones. The closer they came to the waterfall, the more uneasy and nauseous they felt.

Vrae’ree called on the Weave again, using Telekinesis to pull the stones from the wall. Both were Yellow Diamonds the size of his fist valued easily at 1,000 gold pieces each.

After some time with no new discoveries, Vrea’Ree urged the group to assist him in finding his sword. The companions decided against climbing down, instead, they decided to have Vrea’Ree use his magic to cast Feather Fall (although Mizuki used her power of Ki to Slow Fall) allowing them to glide down to the ledge Arlan had spotted previously.

From the vantage point of the ledge, the companions saw that this new cavern was much smaller than the previous one opening into a second limestone cavern a full fifty-feet wide and twice again as long. The floor here was not covered by water although it was wet on the ledge from the falling water nearby. Moving into the chamber soon set off some kind of reaction where a number of old, moldering torches (set in sconces along the cave walls) burst into a light—shedding bright light throughout the room save where the maze of large stalagmites cast flickering shadows. In the center of the cavern stood a beautiful sarcophagus perched on a marble slab.

Vrae’Ree indicated to his comrades that his sword was somewhere in the far Southern end of the cave so the group began to walk in that direction. Moving away from the curtain of water made the feeling of nausea subside. As they walked past the ornate sarcophagus, Mizuki pointed out that the brass workings depicted snake symbols resembling the rock face carving of the Cobra in the cavern above them.

The Company saw two men emerge from the back of the cave. Vrae’Ree recognized the first man as a monk, Shensheng Cibie, he had met about five years ago in the city Surkh of shortly after the Winter Solstice. The other was Adabon who was clearly holding two swords, one of which was the fine Drow blade “Ghaunaduar‘s Thorn.” Shensheng stepped forward, raising his hand palm out and shouted: “Stop! I cannot allow you to stay here! You must go, now!” At this point, combat ensured fairly quickly.

Adabon shouted at Vrae’Ree and charged forward. Although it could hardly be heard over the Copper Elf’s battlecry, Shenshang turned to his companion long enough to say, “Wait.”

Mizuki called on his innate powers of Ki, dropping a globe of darkness centered on Adabon. Tessa and Mizuki joined forces again to battle Shensheng, resulting in the monk becoming greatly wounded. The monk leaped past Adabon and Vrae’Ree, landing at the edge of the darkness. Dauntless, Vrae’Ree stood up and pointed a finger at Shenshang. Summoning up the power of the Weave, the Dark Elf uttered a single Word of Power which caused the monk to instantly die.

Grrr-gRoot hit Adabon on the head with the flat of his glaive’s blade as the Elf charged forward. Ghaunaduar’s Thorn sliced into Vrae’Ree’s flesh several times as the Dark Elf dodged away, half-falling over a cluster of stalactites. Another hit from the Ranger’s Glaive sent Adabon’s eyes rolling into the back of his head, almost causing him to lose footing.

At this time, Mizuki dismissed her darkness spell and Adabon looked over to see Shensheng laying dead on the floor. Horrified and all too aware of what was now happening to his companion due to the Soulmonger, tears began to run down his cheeks. He made a movement as if he was going to rush to Shensheng’s side, but somehow he was unable to move, thanks to the blow from Grrr-gRoot. In time, Adabon fell to his knees and slumped to the floor unconscious.

Shensheng’s body began to deteriorate at a surprising rate. Arlan stepped in attempting to cast a Revivify spell. The cleric felt the power of the Tempest wash over him and move through him into the body of the dead monk, but nothing happened. Arlan instead became rigid and his eyes rolled back into his head for a few moments, and then he returned to normal. His face was pale as he recounted the vision he had seen:

“I saw a huge triangular chamber where the floor was hidden by mists of green and purple, above which is suspended an enormous crystal cylinder held in place by three adamantine struts. Wraithlike forms swirl inside the cylinder, and otherworldly screams hang in the air. I watched as the monk’s spirit was sucked into the chamber and then into the cylinder. He screamed out in agony for me to help him as he pressed his ghostly form against the glass, joining in on the Hellish symphony of trapped souls.”

The group watched as Shensheng’s body finally turned to dust, lea ing on his skull remaining. In the forehead of the skull was a fresh marking, a triangle with a skull in the middle: Acererak’s personal glyph.

In time the group decided to make camp and rest while they decided what would be their next move. Adabon was tended to and although he remains unconscious it was clear that he was stable and would recover from his wounds. During this time, Grrr-gRoot investigated the snake-marked sarcophagus to discover it was filled with parchments, scrolls, and books all written at about the same time that Bulobo fell into ruin. It would seem that these are the final words of monks and sages, chronicling the tragic story of the High Priestess of Bulobo. The story goes like this …

“Shasskatar was once a High Priestess of Ubtao, and from within the temple beneath the city,  Shasskatar studied and worshipped—serving the people of Bulobo as an advisor and spiritual guide. Sadly, Bulobo was not spared from the devastation wrought by the Spellplague across Chult, and its High Priestess was helpless to save her people from within the temple.  In anguish, Shasskatar cursed Ubtao’s name; and while Ubtao—being absent from Chult—didn’t hear her cries of anger, one being did. Dendar the Night Serpent began visiting Shasskatar in her dreams— whispering foulness, and promises of dark powers. Initially, Shasskatar resisted, but trapped within the darkness of the undercity, she eventually succumbed to the temptations and transformed into a yuan-ti.”

Vrae’Ree attempted to draw on the Weave to cast Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion however the spell did not work as the Dark Elf wished. Instead, the extradimensional dwelling appeared like a huge banquet hall with red tapestries covering the walls. A feast is spread out on three tables, consisting of roast boar, squash stew, and a tray of iced cakes. Flagons of frothy beer complete the banquet. A gaunt human male in a dusty black suit waved to them from within. They could see that the human’s eyes and lips were sewn closed with a thick black cord. Needless to say, Vrae’Ree dismissed the spell, sending the energy back to the Weave.

Meanwhile, as the Ranger studied the documents, the other party members searched the room in its entirety, finding the following treasures left behind by other adventurers and explorers who had come to explore the fallen temple of Ubtao:

A pouch of 100 copper pieces, two Potions of Greater Healing, a Red Elemental Gem, a Potion of Hill Giant Strength, a Potion of Speed, and a Scimitar of Speed.

It did not take long for the group to begin to put two and two together. They had stumbled into the dungeon constructed by Acererak many centuries ago. They were standing within one of the many entryways to the Tomb of Nine Gods, also known as The Tomb of Annihilation.

And now that they were here … what would they decide to do?

 


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