And Then There Were Three
Having cleansed the vile undead lich, his alter, and minions from Toril, the heroes decided a long rest was in order. Nothing else seemed to be interested in them, nor did they expect any intrusion. So they picked their areas of hard stone, laid out their well worn sleeping mats, and let sleep take them…leaving Tavian to stand watch with Valin.
The crypt was a quiet place. No living thing seemed to move, no ordinary skittering of rats or dripping water here. Just the ominous silence, which made it an uneasy place for those more accustomed to the outdoors, like Valin and Orik.
Quinn was the first to wake. He those on guard were gone, as were most of the others, leaving only Klang and Levi. “What foul magic is this? It seems the lich may have left something behind that took those of lesser religious piety!”
Quickly rousing Klang and Levi, the three took in their situation. Klang was berating himself for not setting some wards or a guarding of faith to watch over them in this place. “Grr! What now?!”, he growled, “May’hap a divinat’n to learn’d der wher’bouts?”
Quinn had cast a light spell and was closely examining the ground for any signs of struggle or clues to what happened. He waved away Klang’s suggestion. Lacking the subtle arts of tracking, he was struggling to find any clues. It’s almost as if they simply vanished or were teleported away. Then he saw it, a secret door at the back of the room. There were no tracks towards it, so he motioned Klang to it.
Avoiding Levi, who was brandishing his sword about looking for any foes waiting to pounce, Quinn and Klang moved to the wall and found the secret door latch and opened it. It revealed a stairway leading down. “Oy! Der’s more unpleasantness to be ‘ad. If’n a lich twas da greet’n staff, wh’t do ya suppose is down dar?” Klang mumbled some unintelligible words, probably dwarven curses and then stood pondering. Then looked to Quinn and Levi.
Quinn, having finally interpreted the dwarf’s words, was contemplating whether to continue with only three…or turn back. They had 2 of the 5 shards, and they were certainly capable of dealing with undead. But what if there was something worse than undead down there?
Levi watched the two clerics talking and resulting indecision. He was not one for inaction, but he was no fool either. This was serious business and he nearly died in that last fight. It was time for prayer and meditation. The three took several minutes to pray for the return of their divine powers, then decided they could not leave the this unholy place intact. They spent a few minutes doing what they could to ensure the room was free of any remaining wards or foulness, then set off down the stairs.
Birds, Fish, and Frogs – Oh My!
Walking down the stairs set off no obvious traps or alarms, and they ended in a 20-foot corridor that ended in a door. The door was engraved with a large bird’s head and Quinn momentarily mistook it for a sign of his deity, the Raven Queen. He stopped short of touching the door when he realized he was wrong. This was not a symbol of his god, but of an older, fouler deity – Malotoch to be precise, god of cannibalism!
When Quinn relayed this to his comrades, Klang set about searching for secret doors or levers that might avoid using the obvious door. Finding nothing, he shrugged. Levi set about casting mage hand and attempted to use it to open the door. The magical wards on the door emitted a loud “Caaw!”, which would have frightened less beings. But these were no ordinary folk standing before the door, these were heavily armored and experienced adventurers, who all took damage from the darts that also came from the raven-decorated door.
Not ones to give up so easily, they tried the mage hand again. They got the caw, but no darts. This was not working. So Quinn gave the door another look and noticed the beak and tongue appeared to movable. Levi gave the beak a yank with the mage hand to no avail, then the tongue, which moved. The beak to either side snapped shut on the mage hand, and the door opened. Quinn was still rubbing his wrist as he stared at the door when Klang and Levi looked in to room beyond.
They knew better than to step into this 60 foot square room. The ceiling and floor were perforated with what looked like murder holes. There was a low walled well or cistern in the middle with 3 doors on each of the four walls. The well was about 10 feet in diameter. There were four columns, one in each corner that appeared slick, as if greased. Levi tossed a javelin into the room and it clattered to the floor, setting off no traps.
Their recent issue with spinning rooms and traps, they decided to remove the raven door from its hinges, but they resisted. Klang magically shaped the stone around hinges, literally removed both the hinges and stone that held them fast from the wall. They laid it several feet away and crowded around the entrance wonder what to do next.
After some debate, Quinn flew into the room and looked around. He tossed a small lighted stone into the low walled cistern and saw water with small fish in it. The surface of the water was about 20 feet down and extended down another 30 feet. He also noticed that it wasn’t a shaft going down, but rather a square pool much larger than the circular well…it was big enough for the whole room! Water trap for sure.
Despite his better judgment, Levi and Klang convinced him to try a door right next to the one they entered. A soon as he touched the door, they all snapped locked and the whole room started to descent into the water below. Quinn is not a small or slender man, but he made good time flying out of the shrinking exit as the ceiling and floor descended. It seems the entire room was a cage that descended into a pool of piranha. Quinn lost a bit of his cloak, but was grateful to escape that watery grave.
Looking back into the now empty space that was the room, there was one passage way on each wall. The one to the right had a magical glow emanating from it and they decided that’s the way to go. The issue now is that there’s no floor. It’s either swim with the fish, fly like a bird, or practice dwarf throwing. Quinn flew across and Levi used misty step to get himself and Klang to the passageway.
The hallway led off at an angle and, after a bit of walking, ended in a door. They all felt it, a sudden and growing sense of unholiness from what was beyond the door. It grew stronger as they approached, a torture chamber of a devil lich. It was not visible, nor physical thing…more like magic. Perhaps a spell on the place to set those brought here in the desired state of mind?
In any case, Quinn bestowed a blessing on the team and Levi provided some bardic inspiration, buffing the them a bit more. Then they opened the door and entered. There was no one present. The room was circular and full of cages bolted to the wall 3-feet off the floor, some small tables, and racks along with a range of bizarre torture devices. A fire place to one side was unlit and cold. A spider-like torture device rested on a table, chains were dangling from the ceiling and walls, and a chest in the shape of a maligned toad sat at the base of one wall.
The only thing that seemed of any interest was the toad chest. Paelius cast identify only to confirm it was a locked iron chest. He did notice some text or glyphs at the base of the chest. Levi used his helm of comprehend languages to interpret it, which required that he touch the chest. It was infernal and as he translated it, realized his error in touching it. It roughly translated to “touch this and you must guard it forever”. Two devils magically appeared to either side of Levi as he was kneeling in front of the chest. Not good.
The bone devil laid into Levi with a painful blow. The chain devil began enchanting chains in the room. Klang dispelled the chain devil with divine word, then swung his mace and missed the bone devil. Levi took advantage of the distracted bone devil and smite him in two.
A somewhat quiet “pop” sound and then some shuffling of shoes was heard from outside the door. Turning with weapons drawn, they were stunned to find Paelius coming through the doorway. At first, they were nearly certain it had to be a foe in disguise or an illusion to catch them off guard. But no, after some back and forth (and displays of magic), they eventually were convinced this was in fact Paelius.
Paelius explained that several of those in the room had been teleported away before he too was zapped away. As best as he could tell, the residual dark magic of the altar was still dissipating and took some of them with it.
He had been taken to a darker corner of the astral plane and was able to retrace his way back to this location on the material plane…mostly by focusing on Klang’s whereabouts…or more precisely, his talisman of pure good. There aren’t many of those around, making it an easy to find in a dark place like this.
They finally turned their attention back to the chest and kicked it open. It held another shard of the sword of true death and a pair of shackles. While Levi was inspecting the shackles and Quinn was storing the shard away, Klang mulled over the timing of Paelius’ return – just after they had felled some devils and ware about to open a chest – and somewhat shady story. Suspicious. “Ne’er met a wizard ye can trust.”, he mumbled to himself in dwarvish. Then he set about searching the place.
When the three figured out the true nature and value of the shackles, there was a certain shared glee in how they could be used to restrain some powerful creatures. Now they had a chance at getting some answers. Klang shared in the glee, only his was due to his find of some ceramic vials hidden in the fireplace. One had some slippery reside on the outside, but was otherwise empty. The other was still full of some universal solvent (aka powerful acid).
Finding no other exits, they returned to the water trap room and tried using ropes to cross. It only took one near fall by Levi before Klang broke out the spider staff and cast spider climb on those that needed it. They headed to the passageway on the opposite side (to the left of their original entrance). It was dark, so Klang lit his mace. The way ended in a 30-foot square room with a 20 foot high ceiling. Spikes spaced out on the ceiling and floor were covered in dried gore. On the far wall was a lever that was positioned to move up and down, but was currently in the neutral position.
Levi offered to send in his mage hand again, but the others wanted a closer look. Paelius sent his familiar flying over to the lever and looked through it’s eyes. It was an ordinary lever except for some text on the shaft of the lever. He could not read more than a little bit at a time as the text cork-screwed around the lever’s shaft, so this took some time.
Once transcribed, they realized it was a riddle. Something like “Up is up and down is down, follow this text to reveal the truth, assume nothing and push on.” Klang got it on the second reading. Turn the lever’s shaft in the direction the text was written. Levi used his mage hand and, following instructions, had the wall slid away to reveal a large steel wall with rivets. In the center of this wall was a circular handle that seemingly needed to be turned.
Like the crank that seals the doors on a ship or submarine.
They walked across the room to this new and unusual device. Paelius knew better than to turn the circular handle. He cast detect magic and confirmed some powerful magic lay beyond, but it was not clear what type. He glanced at the riddle again and decided to push instead. The door opened and he was hit with some poison darts. You win some, you lose some. Inside was another shard.
Again, they searched around further and found nothing else of value, nor did they find any secret doors. It seems each passageway from the water room ends in one room that contains one shard. As they made their way back to the water room and the last remaining passageway, Klang let his mind wander.
Klang’s Silent Suspicions
This repetitive search and find business tickled something in the back of Klang’s paranoid mercenary mind. It’s almost as if these shards were here to be found. They are certainly well protected by undead and various traps, but why? It’s certainly not how goodly people protect their wares. In fact, it seems the whole place was crafted by some dark hand. So why would they keep the sword in shards? He certainly had never previously heard of this Sword of True Death.
Then it hit him, there were too many unexplained things about this adventure: Who was murdering heroes across the land? Who killed the monks? Who left the book there to be found and lead them to this place? Why were there so many undead here? Why are we assembling this sword of true death again? Where are his trusted allies Valin, Raven, and Orik? Why were the clues so clear at this point in time that another adventuring party found them at the same time? Why devise so many clever traps and pay to have them installed? Could the Reavers be trusted?
Klang’s intuition was tingling now. He suddenly had a sense that someone had led them here to find and recover these sword shards, possibly for some other dastardly deed. Klang didn’t like being manipulated, but he still didn’t have enough clues to put it together or convince the others of his suspicions. So he kept his thoughts to himself, keeping a keen eye for more definitive clues of manipulation.
Now in the last passageway, they walked a ways to a door. Taking a deep breath, they opened it an stepped into the room. It was hall some 55 feet long. Black liquid appeared to boil with mists rising from it. There were columns spread throughout the room, rising out of the dark liquid. Two ledges with doors were up several dozen feet on either side of the hall with a rainbow between them. The columns did not go all the way to the ceiling and radiated various rainbow-like colors.
Paelius was the again quick on the draw. The rainbow hues, in order, were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. So they had Quinn traverse the tops of the columns with his fly spell in the order of rainbow hues.
Once Quinn reached the final column, a secret door appeared in the far corner of the room. With the room having revealed it’s secret, they all made their way across to the secret door.
Opening the secret door, they followed a hallway down to a seemingly pristine chapel, except for the dead drow warrior laying up on the dais. He lay in front of a metallic alter and a large cobra statue. He had a stake driven into his chest.
A liquid was dripping from the statue’s fangs and were being collected into a silver basin. Several gems were in the base of the statue.
Various tapestries hung from the walls. A rag stained with blood lay next to the drow body.
Quick witted Levi, itching to use the magical shackles they had found and knowing this place was full of traps, he quickly made is way to the drow and shackled his hands. You know…just in case. While bending down, he noticed a word written in blood, “Khetira”. Pulling back, he mentioned this to the clerics who remembered the name being ascribed to a drow sorceress who allied with Chalychia and, as all drow do, eventually turned on her former ally. Khetira disappeared from history after that, so most assume she is dead.
Suddenly, the stake was yanked free and floating in midair. The heroes were suddenly all very puzzled. The next several rounds were a blur of motion. Paelius launched a fireball to engulf the snake statue, dead drow, and whatever was holding that stake in the air. Levi stumbled back. A female emerged from the coffin.
Then they focused their fire on her, starting with area of effect spells to hit her and the drow…you know…just in case. A little chain lightning, a touch of pure good, some divine blasts, and she sunk to the floor and disintegrated – probably not her true form. Levi retrieved the stake that had fallen to the floor and drove it back into the drow’s chest, beheaded him, and poured holy water on the remains.
Paelius reported that he noticed a form, probably invisible, caught in his initial fireball’s blast. Whatever it was, there was only ash remains of it now. Quinn, Levi and Klang looked around to make sure nothing else was going to surprise them. Then it was time to search the place.
Then they found a secret door in the back corner – a common design of this dungeon. Behind it was the female vampire’s chamber, including her coffin containing her true body. They found a poison needle on the coffin, from a purple worm. That’s not exactly common. Quinn, retrieving the stake, repeated the vampire disposal procedure on the female vampire’s body as it’s the only sure way to make sure vampires stay dead.
Also in the coffin was the fifth and final shard. The dead drow had a long sword of pure black metal. Levi picked it up and was introduced to his first sentient sword. It was unnerving at first as the entire conversation happened in his head. However, once he got the hang of it, he realized the sword was insulting him, his faith, and adherence to law and order.
This wasn’t the first time Levi, a paladin well versed in bardic ways, needed to deal with a bully. And he tore into the sword’s reasoning, leaving it weeping and whimpering. The clerics were just standing there, looking at him. Levi realized the conversation had taken mere seconds and his eyes had glassed over in that short time. Snapping back to the present, he sheathed the sword and informed them of the sword’s unpleasant nature.
There was disagreement about what to do with the sword between Paelius and Quinn. Quinn wanted to destroy it or cast it where it would not be found. Klang was inclined to agree with Quinn. Paelius was more interested in what it might fetch in a large city, his merchant’s zeal coming to the fore. After some back and forth, Paelius simply took the sword from Levi and strapped it to his back. Paelius could not wield it, so Quinn and Klang gave up the argument.
A set of stairs behind the snake statue led ever downward and there was no time like the present to smite evil at its darkest. At the bottom of the stairs, there were three avenues to pick from. As an experienced, we went left. No traps were triggered and no surprises were encountered in the passageway. Up ahead, they could see a lot of light and approached cautiously…well, as cautious as clerics and paladins get. Yeah, they just entered the room.
Inside the room was a large anvil, a furnace and a trough of water…along with 3 Efreeti. You know, from the plane of fire. And that’s what they decided our heroes needed – fire. They set the whole entrance area of the room on fire. Levi chucked a hammer at one and then ran into the room and out of the fire. Klang cast a guardian of faith smack in the middle, dealing each a swath of damage before immediately dissipating. Quinn summoned a banshee, who promptly screamed. Paelius gave Quinn a dirty look before send a necrotic fireball into the room.
The Efreeti came on with their scimitars, but were largely ineffective. Levi hit again with his hammer. Klang again cast guardian of faith, but only hit two this time. Quinn’s banshee attacked doing some damage while he himself made a Forrest Gump Dodge action (trips out of the way) to avoid Paelius’ chain lightning attack.
At this point, the last remaining Efreei surrenders and Levi quickly puts the shackles on him. There’s some discussion about having him reforge the Sword of True Death, but that would involve removing the shackles, and then he’s likely to escape. So instead, we decided a long rest was in order. Paelius cast Leomund’s tiny hut and they all entered, closing out the nutty dungeon for a brief respite from the evil to which they had been exposed.
2 vampires 15000
3 Efreeti 21,600
Bone devil 5000
Chain Devil 3900
Invisible stalker 2300
Puzzles and traps 12700
Total for party 60500
Total per player 15125