This adventure involved the band of adventurers led by Shale making their move against a cult dedicated to Hades that had been plaguing both the group -- including killing their friend Illiger and nearly killing other members of the party -- and the city of Agropthos during its Day of Change festival. Several members of the group began the morning of the third day of the festival intending to gather information from the cult's lair, north of the city in the Cardillic Desert.
Before the crawl
While Gilbert Sullivan stayed behind to occupy the party's performance space on the festival grounds, Maialen took on the job of distributing promotional material for the Carrolwood Entertainment District so that Dudex, a Halfling diviner of the party's acquaintance, could accompany the scouting team and cast a scry spell. To that end, the party went to the Eastern Palms Inn to meet with Dudex's superior, Lord Gairevander, with whom the party had worked previously. Gaire provided money for the deposit with which the group procured two flying carpets, one to be driven by Rin and the other by a hired hand named Lufo, and departed the city. They were accompanied by Rusus, who rode her bonded giant footpad lizard.
The party set up behind a sand dune about a mile and a half away from the ruins, erecting a tent so that Dudex could cast the spell. Although he was able to see inside the buildings, everything was dark except for a few faintly glowing objects, and heard only some running water and the sound of a door closing. At one point, Dudex also saw a shadow pass across one of the lights. Blaven noted that he'd heard about shadows who could actually attack people, which raised some eyebrows. Makoto went out to sniff around the area, but she too found little other than a small burrow in the sand.
As the party discussed their next move, Lufo shouted an alarm as a group of bandits came over the dune. As he left on one of the carpets, the party briefly bantered with the thieves, ending with the two sides exchanging missile fire. While most of the bandits charged into melee, one made a beeline for the other carpet. They carried it back behind the dune, but were unable to get it off the ground before Rin wrested it from them with the aid of a grease spell from Bardo. The party decided to retreat back to the city, where Emi and Shale escorted Dudex back to the Eastern Palms while Bardo returned to the School of the Sea to attempt to acquire another scroll from Allagaeira, her mentor. Meanwhile, the others settled in at the Dune Trail Inn.
As the party discussed what to do next, they were joined by Hafsa, an Elven ranger of their acquaintance. She offered to guide them out to the ruins to help them avoid detection. Bardo returned, and after some inquiries decided to ask for a scroll of protection from fiends rather than another scrying spell. The party decided to try once more to gather support, so Klaven and Blaven went back to the temple of Laurent to seek out old friend Al Sha'in; Emi, Makoto and Solidus went to talk with Gaire; Bardo returned once more to her school, with Rin in tow, to research the demon that had been in the warehouse when Illiger had been invited to the cult's ritual; and Shale and Rakeor went to the temple of Nevis.
The Dwarven brothers found Al Sha'in eating dinner, and while she couldn't join them, she did give Klaven a luckstone. Gaire, too was reluctant to join the group, but invited the party to join him the next morning for breakfast. Shale learned a bit about shadows, including the fact that they are indeed undead, and secured another protective amulet. Bardo and Rin spoke with Allagaeira, who identified the demon as a rutterkin. She expressed surprise that the cult summoned a tanar'ri rather than a yugoloth, and gave Bardo a scroll which would protect against any type of fiend. After everyone exchanged information, they called it a night.
When Shale prayed to Perasin the next morning, he told her that the cult was likely attempting to summon an avatar of Hades. Before breakfast, the party purchased a vial of holy water, while Solidus acquired two of holy oil, and Gilbert cast armor on the remaining members who needed it. They all conferred with Gairevander over the meal, and after hearing the whole of their tale -- and after Gilbert volunteered to run Carrolwood's booth -- he agreed to accompany them to the ruins.
Approaching the ruins
While Gaire familiarized himself with the newer members of the group, the party picked up two camels from the temple of Sedric and headed out into the desert. They made their way to the same area where they'd camped the previous day, and Makoto went out to scout along with Emi and Bardo's familiar, Hecate. They discovered a large trash pile on the north side of the wall, and a tentacle snaked out of it toward Emi before they retreated to join the party.
After being filled in, the party decided to split up, leaving their mounts with Hafsa. The main group went around to the east as a distraction while Solidus went in to cast detect enemies with Rusus as a guard. The spell came up empty, and once they regrouped the party set out on their infiltration.
Inside the ruins
Emi went to the main door of the central building to check it for traps and such, with Blaven and Klaven along as guards. Makoto did the same at the side door on the west side while Rusus and Shale poked through a nearby pile of rubble. Bardo and Solidus waited at the corner of the building to keep an eye on both groups. Gairevander, Rakeor and Maialen checked out a smaller shed in the corner of the courtyard. Rin and Siege stayed on the keep wall, with Rin prepared to send up a smokeball at the first sign of trouble.
After Makoto had finished her check, she started to leave, but soon barking could be heard from inside the building. As the commotion increased, Rin signaled the rest of the party, but before anyone could come around the side door opened and a figure released two large, two-headed dogs into the courtyard. Solidus immediately cast sunscorch, and Bardo let loose Melf's acid arrow, seriously injuring one of the dogs. Everyone else soon surrounded the other dogs and they were quickly finished off.
Everyone returned to their previous positions, and the shed was discovered to be filled with barrels of lamp oil. Attempts to see through the window next to the side door uncovered some sort of magical concealment of the area within, along with some kind of magical fear-inducing effect. Once Emi told everyone that the front door was open, the group created a distraction by bringing two barrels of oil to the side door and setting them on fire.
Inside the temple
The party soon entered through the main door, finding themselves in a large foyer. While Hecate went to the far end of the room, Makoto went to the door across from the main entrance, but when she touched the door was blown back by an electrical jolt. Immediately, the floor opened up beneath everyone, sending them plummeting down a chute while the confused familiar watched with curiosity.
At the bottom of the chute, the party found themselves in a room facing what appeared to be a river, with exits to either side. As the party took in their surroundings, Bardo instructed Hecate to return to Hafsa at their campsite and tell her to get help. Next to them was a pole with a horn hanging from it, which put Bardo in mind of the shore of the River Styx. Indeed, when Klaven removed the horn from the pole a boat approached from out of the mists. The boatman turned out not to be Charon but one of his servants, plying a tributary of the Styx. He told the party that on the other side lay a portal, and its other end was dependant upon what he was paid -- although he provided no specifics beyond the fact that the item the party sought -- which he called the Crystal of Ix -- could be found in the labyrinth beyond the two corridors. The party chose not to accompany him at the time, instead choosing to proceed down the right-hand passage.
After walking for a while, the hallway turned left, ending in a door. The room beyond contained naught but rubble, some of which was the remains of a statue depicting a jackal-dog creature. The two doors leading out of the room were forced open by Klaven and Rusus, but before they could choose their path several zombies approached the farthest door. The party dispatched three of them before Solidus turned the remainder.
During the battle, Makoto, Emi and Blaven had explored the other exit, and down a side passage Makoto spotted a floating object with tendrils coming out of its top. Given the description, Bardo feared that it might be a beholder, which she doubted the party could defeat. Makoto experimented, approaching within twenty feet of the thing, but it did nothing, even when a glass vial filled with holy oil was rolled beneath it. The oddity of the situation led to a lengthy discussion of the party's next move, especially once Rin calculated that casting lightning bolt would have a one hundred percent chance of destroying it.
Eventually, the party chose to skirt the creature, but the two rogues were unable to determine what laid down the other passages. The group decided to split up, with one group following the turned zombies and the other continuing beyond the side passage. The latter group came upon a door, to which Klaven took his axe. Behind the door they found a group of troglodytes, which was gearing up for battle. Makoto spooked one into fleeing, while two others were killed by the party. The last one also fled, but Siege chased it down and slew it as well. Klaven discovered a sack of coins, which he immediately glommed onto, beating back a curious Makoto.
The former group found the zombies at the end of the hall and, despite sending Emi back to get help, dispatched them fairly quickly. They waited while Emi returned with the others, except Klaven and Rusus. With none of the party members able to open the door beyond, Makoto kicked at it in frustration, which set off several dogs barking. The kitsune talked with them, learning that they'd seen the glowing device the party sought. However, the party was tired and decided to rest in the troglodyte room -- where there was already food and a fire. Bardo cast invisibility on Blaven, leaving him to watch the hall leading to the room with the dogs.
During the first watch, Rakeor heard a noise from the hallway where the surviving troglodyte fled, but it retreated when he and Shale pursued it. Later, Makoto again tried to poke around in the sack of coins, awakening Klaven. When he emptied the sack, he found a skull amulet and a dagger like the ones carried by the cult members as well as an onyx ring with a Dark Elven rune carved into the stone.
The next morning, Rakeor went to gather Blaven, but couldn't find him. He returned with Klaven and Siege, and they were intercepted by more zombies -- including one that looked like Blaven. Klaven restrained his brother's body while the others dispatched the remaining zombies, and it seemed Blaven was no ordinary zombie, as he could talk and perform tasks beyond normal zombie limits. The three brought him back to the others, where they noted that the crossbow bolts sticking out of him were the same as the one that killed Illiger.
As the group discussed their next move, Hecate communicated to Bardo that she'd returned with help, including Hafsa and Gilbert. The group then went back to the first room of the labyrinth, where after a bit Gilbert was deposited in the room via the trap upstairs. After Solidus healed him, the group decided to go back to the door where they'd heard the dogs. Gilbert mentioned the secret entrance to the east, since Hafsa had brought along Chuck, a priest of Laurent who knew its location.
Leaving a bound Blaven behind, the party set off again, and Makoto told the caged dogs to quiet down. However, when she opened the door, she was struck by a crossbow bolt. The group tried various means to distract the crossbowman to little success, and when Rakeor and Klaven went back to retrieve Blaven he was gone again. Hecate told Bardo the others had reached the secret entrance, but that there was a veritable army of zombies beyond it. Finally, Solidus cast flaming sphere into the room, which caused the crossbowman to flee.
Once inside the room, Klaven tried to chase the fleeing figure, but was nearly skewered by a spear. Bardo cast glitterdust down the hallway, but saw only a change in its direction a good way down, with a door at the far end. The party followed it, but found the door barricaded. Klaven and Rusus were able to force their way in, only to be confronted by the crossbowman and two of his friends in a storage room. Siege made short work of the first while the other warriors tangled with the others. Once a second enemy fell, the third surrendered.
Maialen questioned the prisoner, and learned that the crystal was back up on the main floor. The way back meant either passing through the zombies into the desert, or presenting something -- the prisoner didn't know what -- to the boatman. After leaving the two surviving enemies bound, the group returned once more to the river. After a bit of persuasion by Maialen, he told the party that one of them already had the necessary payment, which turned out to be the purple pendant Klaven had seized from the cult member in the temple of Nevis. The party boarded the boat and the boatman propelled it into the mists.
The ritual room
At the far end, the boat disappeared, depositing the party in a triangular room illuminated by cold, purplish-blue flames. In the center of the room was a skull-shaped dais with a pulsating crystal set in the top. Above the dais hovered a spectator, set to guard the Crystal of Ix. It suggested to Maialen that the group should depart peacefully, and in turn Rusus tried to appeal to its lawful nature. In the end, though, the party decided they would have to dispatch it to gain the crystal.
The group attacked from the edges of the room, not wanting to get close due to the traps they intuited to surround the dais. A few arrows struck the spectator, while it was able to paralyze Shale and teleport Rakeor to some unknown location. Holy oil proved ineffective, but Gilbert's color spray blinded the spectator, causing it to flee.
After the battle, the group attempted to dislodge the crystal to no avail. Finally, Maialen used the lightning bolt scroll the party had received from Cleo Cragganmore to destroy it. Fire erupted from the dais, and the shattered crystal began to emit a purplish-blue mist. Then, the room went pitch black, and the wall behind the party began to glow a faint orangey-yellow. As Emi gathered the pieces of the crystal, Makoto investigated the wall, a hooded head poked through it for a split second.
The party learned that wearing one of the cult's holy symbols would allow them to pass through the wall, but in the process Rin was attacked by archers waiting in the room beyond. The party discussed the situation for quite some time before deciding to throw Greek fire into the room, which would allow Gilbert to cast fog cloud to provide the party cover. Siege and Shale went through, but as they threw their vials they were hit by a fireball. They saw no enemies, however, and the party passed through the fog to the other side of the room. After that, it was a short distance back to the exit, where Hecate, Hafsa, and the other members of the rescue party awaited.
What healing magics were available were cast, while Emi and Makoto found the tracks of a number of people fleeing via the secret entrance. When a brief foray confirmed there were still many zombies within the tunnel, the group set the near end alight before returning to Agropthos.
Cast of characters
This adventure was begun under Shelley Proulx and is now being run by John Proulx. Below is a list of characters who have been involved at one point or another:
- Bardo - run by Syd Howard
- Blaven - NPC
- Dudex - run by John Proulx
- Emi - run by Shelley Proulx
- Gairevander - run by John Proulx
- Gilbert - run by John Proulx
- Hafsa - run by John Proulx
- Klaven - run by Syd Howard
- Maialen - run by Penelope Romero
- Makoto - run by Lou McLeary
- Rakeor - run by Shelley Proulx
- Rin - run by John Proulx
- Rusus - run by Penelope Romero
- Shale - run by Lou McLeary
- Siege - run by Phil Vlasak
- Solidus - run by Phil Vlasak
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