“Okay let us do this,” Jharad says. “That door, my dear comedian,” he finishes and points to the northwest door.
After looking for traps and detecting magic, Jethrik pulls open the door, hiding behind it all the while.
Taking the track left, they go eastward and see that it does indeed hook back up to the kitchen area. They then reverse and cautiously proceed eastward.
Keng carefully counts his steps; ten steps forward then a 90-degree turn and five more. He sometimes has to use his fingers. After doing this a half dozen times or so he looks back at Jharad and says, “Okay, I think I got this.”
As they turn back to go the other way, Jharad hands the elemental gem he found to Zeyala. “Here, this was with the ogre, I doubt he had any idea what he had. This is an elemental gem. Crushing it will summon an elemental under your command. I think you should carry this.”
“This could definitely come in handy,” says Zeyala while placing the stone in a pouch at her side.
Going westward the cave ends at a 15’ by 15’ chamber. On the eastern side is an intricate iron screen with a wooden door in the middle painted with the image of a tall, beautiful blue-skinned woman sitting on a throne. This is obviously an image of Pharasma the goddess of the cycle of birth, death, and the weavings of fate. Through the patterns of the wrought iron they see another chamber 15’ wide and 35’ long, supported by stone pillars and with deep funerary alcoves to the north and south. The far end of the room seems to have partially collapsed into a large cavern in which faintly glowing motes of light swirl and dance in the air. The door radiates no magic, nor is any evil sensed. The door is also locked and the neither the skeleton key nor the ogre’s key works on it.
“Keng, think you can kick this open for us?” asks Jharad.
Jethrik readies his shield. He whispers, “Careful everyone. Whatever is beyond the gate is going to hear this”
Keng utters snarl/snorts/grunts (an aggressive chuckle sound unique to orcs) as he casually flips his dreadlocks back over his shoulders (a preening gesture of barbarians as if to say look at how strong and virile I am), “Of course. It is easy.” After two kicks the lock breaks and the door swings open.
As they enter they see that the crypt has long since been looted. The four niches to the north and the remnants of the four niches to the south contain nothing but empty, despoiled sarcophagi. The backs of the second and third niches on the south side have crumbled and now open onto a cave tunnel, while the fourth niche has collapsed completely into a large cavern that looks like a starry void thanks to mysterious glowing motes of light.
When Keng reaches the middle of the crypt a woman appears floating in the air at the far western edge of the room with the starry cavern behind her. A nimbus of faint blue light surrounds her. She wears a hooded black gown, but the hood is thrown back to reveal ashen gray skin, eyes that are completely white, and long flowing white hair. She is the living image of Pharasma. She surveys the group and then her eyes rest upon the hilt of the Skane, the ceremonial dagger of the devotees of Pharasma worn by Zeyala. She addresses Zeyala in Varisian (which Jharad and Jethrik also understand). “Sunteți toți binecuvântat, pentru că eu, Pharasma, au ales să manifet la tine. Acest lucru, însă, este un loc sfânt pentru mine. Anularea armele de intrare și apoi să se apropie de mine. Dacă faceți acest lucru, este posibil să primiți fiecare o binefacere de la mine pentru a vă ajuta în realizarea obiectivelor tale.”
“You are all blessed, for I, Pharasma, have chosen to manifest to you. This, however, is a place holy to me. Set aside your weapons by the entrance and then you may approach me. If you do so, you may each receive a boon from me to help you in accomplishing your aims.”
Keng’s bravado is quickly slipping away. He casts a few quick glances back over his shoulder to make sure he is not alone.
Zeyala lies prostrate before the manifestation, saying in Varisian, “We are honored.” As she stands, her eyes remained cast downward, and she leaves her spear on the ground. Since the Skane is ceremonial, she keeps that at her side.
Jethrik casts detect magic.
“Kelda, you have been here before. Did you encounter such a thing or similar when you were here?” asks Jharad.
She shakes her head in the negative and she tightens her grip on her masterwork longsword and takes a step back. The apparition of Pharasma says in Varisian, “Cel puțin unul dintre voi are respectul cuvenit. Puneți deoparte armele! Vino la mine în umilință și a primi binecuvântarea mea!”
“At least one of you has proper respect. Lay aside your weapons! Come to me in humility and receive my blessing!”
Jethrik continues to detect magic and senses one aura of only faint power but does not yet know its exact location.
Keng actually takes one step backwards as he is terrified looking at the specter of a goddess he knows is some freaky-assed ghost-thingy his axe will do naught to stop.
Toshio remains armed and continues his effort to discern the evil he detected. Aloud he says, “Be cautious. Something isn’t right. There is evil here.” Toshio becomes aware that there is one strongly evil aura before him somewhere in the direction of the apparition.
Jharad takes a step back and mutters (trying to keep it quiet from the others), “Sonitum.” From behind the apparition begins the sounds of a crowd of a dozen or more people booing.
Pharasma’s eyes widen in shock and outrage. “Te-ar indrazni! Tu mar bate joc de!” she screams in Varisian. [“You would dare! You would mock me!”]
The apparition of Pharasma disappears, replaced by something whose contours defy human understanding, esp. in the dimness of the far end of the crypt where the light cast by the earring pinned to Toshio’s chest barely reaches. Whatever is there slithers and writhes out of the cavern latching onto the farthest pillar. A voice quite unlike the apparitions but more gargling and heavy says, “Radii ardescit,” and a searing ray of flame stabs out of the darkness and hits Keng in the chest heating his breastplate and leaving him with moderate burns.
Toshio summons the power to smite this… thing. Refusing to consider the odds, he thinks of Iomedae’s tenet of ‘first into battle, last out’ and charges. “Come on, Keng! It’s no ghost! We can take this thing!” Whispered Shrike cuts into the writhing grasping tentacles of the beast, Greenish black ichor sprays all over himself and the floor around him, steaming ominously but so far not causing any harm aside from its foul putrescence.
Inspired by Toshio’s courageous charge, Kelda also charges the creature, her wild ululation echoes throughout the crypt and the caverns beyond. Unfortunately, though she strikes it a blow with her masterwork blade that would easily gravely injure or kill a man it doesn’t seem to harm the creature.
Jharad intones, “Raptum decorum!” and gains feline dexterity.
Jethrik reaches out to Keng, “This should help your appearance.” and Keng gets the benefit of blur.
Keng nervously nods his thanks saying, “Find someplace safe.”
Equally inspired by Toshio’s courage and heartened by his words that this is no ghost, he feels his fears fall away and in its place his rage rises up to grasp him. He bellows his war cry and charges after Toshio and Kelda. Wild and reckless he swings his axe so hard that it not only cuts an end off one of the tentacles wrapped around the end pillar but even creates a shower of sparks and stone chips as it strikes the pillar. The creature howls in pain and fury and the pale and milky eyes set above its fanged jaws glares with hatred at its attackers.
The creature bites at Toshio but misses. Then two hideous lobster-like claws emerge from beneath its maw and snap at Toshio backed by a malevolent power that is the very opposite of the power lent to Toshio by Iomedae. The claws latch onto Toshio and tear away bands from his armor, bruising or perhaps even breaking his ribs. Though still alive, Toshio can barely stand and knows that one more blow will kill him.
Even as it tears into Toshio the creatures tentacles lash at Keng, attempting to grab onto him. Fortunately Keng is agile enough to slip away from them – for the moment.
Toshio swiftly lays a hand upon his wounds to heal himself. It is enough to ease the pain in his ribs so he moves to flank the thing. With all the truth he can summon he calls out, “You are doomed, vile creature! We are here to end you!” His sword, however, fails to cut through the rubbery substance of its hide.
Kelda also ducks past its waving tentacles to flank it on the other side. The creature, however, uses the pillar to as cover and she is unable to get at it.
Jharad breathes magic into his bow, enhancing its performance, and looses one of the moderately magic arrows he found in the desecrated temple. Unfortunately the arrow hits the pillar and not the beast.
“Heal my friends! Send this fiend to be judged!” yells Zeyala as she unleashes a burst of healing energy.
“Holy shit, that looks like something I coughed up once,” exclaims Jethrik as he takes cover in a niche.
Keng slides towards Toshio, eyes blazing red with Rage yelling, “So Gorum e železna pračka umira faul dzverot!” His Great Axe whistles through the air as he brings it down upon the creature but is unable to cut through its hide.
Translation: ”By Gorum’s Iron Rod Die You Foul Beast!”
“So how is his fear supposed to help us?” Jethrik calls out to everyone.
Suddenly a tiny, but fast, ball of sparkling light flies past Jharad, Zeyala, and Jethrik, leaving a rainbow trail in its wake. With astounding agility the ball of light flies through the writhing tentacles to Toshio’s side and briefly alights on his shoulder. It is Spivey. She lays a healing on the paladin’s neck and flies off taking cover behind him. Toshio still feels far from well, but now the worst pain of his wounds subsides and he is able to breathe a little easier.
The creature snaps at Toshio again but misses, then it withdraws to the edge of a 20’ drop into the cavern beyond.
Toshio follows but again is unable to slash through its rubbery hide.
Kelda, however, finally does pierce its hide and slashes it in a sensitive spot right beneath its eyes. It recoils from her and its eyes widen in fear.
Jharad’s next shot pierces one of the creature’s milky white eyes. In the language of the Abyss the creature shrieks into the air, “Father! Help! Faaaatthhhherrrrr! Pazuzu!”
Zeyala rushes towards the melee, her hand radiating with healing energy. Unfortunately, her limited sight causes her to stumble. She makes it Toshio’s side, but some of her power is lost before she makes contact.
Keng finds that he can’t get past Toshio and Kelda to get at the creature on the edge of the cavern.
Spivey summons forth a floating starknife of silvery light that appears in mid-air between her and the creature. It hurtles into the creature ripping a gash in its bulk.
Huge wings unfurl from the beast and it lifts up off the edge of the precipice over the cliff. As it moves away a cold, cloying miasma of greasy darkness radiates out from the creature catching Toshio, Kelda, Keng, and Zeyala, though not Spivey who is behind the cover of the rock wall.
Toshio can feel himself being sickened but with a quick prayer to Iomedae he is able to throw off the worst of it. Still, he feels woozy once more and the pain in his ribs is once more hampering his ability to fight.
Kelda snarls, hurt but not too badly by the unholy blight unleashed by the creature.
Keng and Zeyala, however, feel as though they are choking to death and cannot help gagging and heaving.
Toshio takes cover for the moment. He reaches out to Keng and lets Iomedae’s power heal his friend and cleanse him of the sickness.
“No!” screams Kelda. “You will not get away! My men will be avenged!” She transfers her sword into her shield hand, whips out a javelin and hurls it with the strength of all her rage. The javelin hits the creature in its mouth and its wings begin to falter.
Jharad concentrates, using his arcane powers to pull the ability to focus his shots from memories imprinted in his bow by past users. With this temporary knowledge he lets loose the last arrow of the four arrows found in the despoiled shrine above, which unknown to him was forged for the very purpose of being a bane to creatures such as this. The arrow sinks into the remaining eye of the foul creature before them and its agonized wailing stops as it plummets to the cavern below and where it is pierced through by a stalagmite and dies instantly.
Jethrik cannot contain his joy, “Woo Hoo!”
Keng’s rage slips away, his shoulders slump as he turns and walks dejectedly out of the room with his axe dragging on the ground.
Jethrik follows Keng “We need to find some wine to celebrate this victory. I can’t believe how you chop the tentacle off that thing.” jumping in the air he adds “Boom!”
Keng reaches down and lifts the gnome onto his shoulder and says, “Good idea. I need a drink. You recall where in this dump we find that?”
“Nope, we’ll have to poke around. Didn’t we see a room down here that looked like a kitchen? One can hope!”
Keng’s excellent hearing hears them talking about getting everyone healed. He says to Jethrik, “Let’s get healed and then go play.” He walks them both back into the room.
“Is anyone hurt? Please gather near and let me heal you,” instructs Zeyala. Once Keng, Toshio, and Kelda are gathered she radiates her healing light for them all.
“Spivey,” says Zeyala. “Thanks for the aid, but surely you’ve found us for something more.”
“Yes, it seems I found you just in time. Not that there was too much I could do against, whatever it was… but yes. I flew all through the castle and didn’t find you or anything else, except a giant waterbug and a lizard. I figured you must have come down here and then I heard all the shouting. I was looking for you because your friend Ameiko spoke again. She said, ‘Grandfather waits in the dark, but he knows not who he was.’ That’s all.” Spivey looks around and shivers. “I really don’t like being enclosed like this. Those lights are pretty though,” she points to the tiny motes of light bobbing and drifting in the dank air of the cavern beyond the crypt.
Jharad says, “Spivey, your presence will always be appreciated no matter how little you believe you may lend to the situation.” With this he gives a short but gracious bow. “And now, lets find that disk.” Jharad walks over to the ledge at the end of the crypt and is a little surprised to see that it falls away 20’ to the cavern floor below.
“Keng, we need your rope over here. Tie it off on one of the pillars so we can climb down,” asks Jharad.
Kent gives him a dark look. “Do it yourself,” he snarls, “You’re pretty good at finishing things off.” He takes his rope out and tosses it to the elf.
Jethrik gasps and puts a hand in front of his mouth.
Jharad gives Keng an odd look of surprised disappointment then begins to tie off the rope.
Keng is oblivious lost as he is in his sullenness.
Jharad says over his shoulder as he ties off the rope, “Your head is up your ass again Keng, just thought you may want to know. How about you remove it so we can lower ourselves down this cliff and find that disk. There may even be more things to kill.”
Keng grabs his head quickly a brief look of anxiety flickers across his face. Then says, “My head is on my shoulders. I do not think it would be possible to get it up my ass.” He pauses then adds, “I will lower you down.”
After the rope is tied off they carefully climb down into the large eerie grotto. The walls drip with moisture and bear strange and disturbing cave paintings of towering four-winged humanoid shapes. Most likely the same image as the demon depicted in the despoiled chapel on the second floor of the castle.
Spivey flies around the cavern examining them and then flies back to Jharad and the others with a worried look on her face. “That is the Pazuzu, the King of the Winged Demons.” She shivers. “
“So I think I’ve heard of something that’s like that thing we killed.” Jethrik offers. “They are called decapi. They live in forests and are intelligent but evil. They even kill each other. Much like humans! They don’t have magic powers, wings or claws though.”
“Agreed,” Jharad replies, “this one looks like it was warped in some chaotic fashion probably due to its affiliation with a very evil deity.”
“I’m not sure if this is the case, but it seems like it to me, but I’ve heard that sometimes fiends, devil, demons…well vile creatures from the lower planes mate humans and beasts and aberrations to produce half-fiends, and that might explain some of the anomalies of this creature,” adds Zeyala.
“Ugh!” Jethrik shudders. “Demon lords got some weeeeiiirrrrddd kinks if one of them got funky with his momma.”
“If it bleeds. I can kill it,” says Keng.
Looking around Jharad finds the glimmer of magic coming from the dropped wand of scorching rays (29 charges left you find out later) on the cavern floor. He also finds a silver circlet that had dropped from one of the creature’s tentacles. Upon examination he discerns that it is a circlet of persuasion, a silver headband that will make the wearer more likeable and believable and of course persuasive.
Jharad picks up the wand and tucks in into his belt. He then tosses the silver circlet to Jethrik saying, “Hey, this should help you con even more people into liking your performances. Do not let it go to your head though,” he finishes, laughing at his own joke.
“Groan.” Jethrik deadpans.
Right past the impaled decapus is another 20’ drop into a deeper part of the grotto. Down there caves wind away to the north and south. Going clockwise they come to a dead end at a smaller cave to the south. On the floor or weird leathery scraps still moist and pulsing. They may have be the remnants of some monstrous egg but it is impossible to tell how long ago it may have hatched. It might even be the egg the fiendish decapus came out of. A hoard of treasure lies at the back of the cave. A light steel shield bearing the image of Castle Brinewall and clearly radiating magic, a starknife also radiating magic, a pearl of power (1st level), a ring that radiates the remnants of magic (it may have once been charged with magic but no more), a magic radiating silver compass with gold accents that looks to be a wayfinder, a badge of office of a secret society of tomb robbers called the Pathfinders that will not only act as a compass but at a command word will radiate light and has a slot for an ioun stone. There are also 1,320 gold pieces and probably around 800 gold pieces worth of jewelry and gems.
As Jharad and the other sort through the treasure hoard, Jethrik, still looking for magic himself, finds the other disk. It is made of darkwood-and-silver like the other but this one is decorated with an intricate carving of Brinewall under the midnight moon. The disc also radiates faint transmutation magic. The other item is s stone statuette of Pazuzu depicting the demon lord as a bird-headed, four winged humanoid with his right arm raised. It also radiates magic but Jethrik cannot discern what kind.
“No one touch that statue.” Jethrik warns. “It just can’t be good.”
As she’s scanning the treasure, Zeyala says, “Some very nice things here, but nothing I can use.” “Take what we can use and sell the rest. I’m sure the gods will reward my deeds at some point, but I’ll always take gold.” She looks up at the others and adds with a grin, “What? I never took a vow of poverty.”
After the treasure is sorted through and divvied up for carrying back to the caravan the rest of the caverns are searched. To the north they find a cave that turns out to be a secret escape route to the eastern side of the now barren bluff that the castle sits upon. Returning to the castle dungeon they check out the last door they did not open, the one on the western side of the kitchen. The door is swollen shut but Keng easily kicks it open. Inside is a 15’ by 15’ chamber, foul smelling and dripping with moisture that runs down in rivulets amid thick tangles of nasty-looking fungus. Three washing bins in the walls are completely clogged with heaps of even more repulsive molds and mushrooms, some of which have grown to prodigious size, like the large mound of green mold sprouting dozens of purple-capped mushrooms in the center of the room. Zeyala quickly pulls Keng out of the doorway. She recognizes the mold in the center of the room as a phycomid, a dangerous fungoid creature that shoots pellets of acid. She poins to the purple-capped mushrooms growing out of nasty green sludge that are now shuddering and writhing. Tendrils of rank-smelling smoke began wafting up from them as well, smoke that is actually an acidic vapor. The whole mass begins creeping, in slow yet very disturbing fashion, towards the door. Keng quickly shuts the door on it, though it is likely it will be able to slither beneath the door and continue after them. They decide to move away quickly, as there is nothing to be gained from remaining it its vicinity. It is hoped that once they leave it will lose interest and stay where it is.
“Jethrik, you want a piggy back ride?” Keng asks.
Jethrik laughs, “I’d hate to bounce my head off the ceiling!”
Keng laughs in return, then he playfully retorts with a chuckle, “Then you best had keep up. You owe me a pint.” “If we ever find anything worth drinking in this cesspit,” he mumbles. Keng has clearly moved on and forgotten his lack of battle prowess with the octothingypus.
Jethrik holds up his fist. “To victory! and pillaged wine!”