A column of black smoke rises from Oldtown as the lair of the Surgeon of the Shadows burns down. Vatex, Early, and Emeris flee the district and head to the Adventurers’ Square. In the Undercity, they try to sell the strange harness and steaming axe to Rastor. The liontaur believes they are chaositech devices and he does not deal in such things. The group wonders if Shilukar would buy them.
The group runs into Dziga, the missing rogue! The group stops by the Ghostly Minstrel for dinner and drinks and discussion. Dziga first tells of how something in the statuette of the star-headed thing had possessed him had entered his body at the Pythoness House. The entity lingered within much interference for many days, and then finally compelled him yesterday to take the star-headed thing up to the fortress of Goth Gulgamel. Unable to resist, Dziga acquired a potion of flight and ascended to the entrance of the abandoned fortress, about 1300 feet up the Spire. Surprisingly, the main door was unlocked. The entity had Dziga’s body place the star-headed statuette on the floor inside the entrance, and with that the rogue seemed to be free of the possession. Dziga felt great dread within the place, and took flight back to the city.
Jevvica Nor arrives and joins the group, asking about information concerning the Banewarrens. They tell her what they know – she is concerned by the so-called “Pactlords of the Quaan” and also that the Holy Order of Vigoor knows about this. She arranges for their payment and asks them to meet her soon to share what she learns about the Pactlords. If powerful monsters are trying to get inside, she wants to know how they might do that. The group seems not to trust her and the Inverted Pyramid, especially Vatex. He thinks they know more than they say.
Now there is considerable debate – should they explore Goth Gulgamel? It is interesting that someone can simply walk inside unimpeded whereas Jabel Shammar seems utterly impenetrable, but even so Elanian stories about the Skull King’s fortress invariably end in “and they were never heard from again.” They figure they should hold off. Do they investigate the “secret project” of the chaos cultists? They know the “joint project” involves the Society of the Tolling Bell somehow, and Khyron is their leader. Vatex also worries about this “Night of Dissolution” that the cultists are trying to bring about. Everyone in the group wants revenge for their defeat at the Pythoness House. On the other hand, Emeris has to find the 751st page of the Book of Inverted Shadows somewhere inside the Banewarrens, and believes they might find all kinds of other powerful items as well. Early thinks they should keep the Pactlords from plundering the place and releasing more “banes” like Tavan Zith. Emeris additionally cites the Book of Faceless Hate, which had said the Keepers of the Faith would like to get inside the Banewarrens.
They decide to tackle the cultists for now. They gear up and scope out the apartment building on Crossing Street. It shows no outward signs of cultist activity, so they enter through the front door. As Dziga enters, disgusting violet slime falls upon him from the ceiling and drains his strength. There is a dead woman in the first room. They hear metallic banging coming from another room. A large, hatched cocoon of some sort blocks a door, and from it emerges a swarm of red-and-black centipedes. They hit the swarm with spells and powder bombs, which alerts other creatures to their arrival. They are attacked by two monsters that are some twisted amalgam of insect and man. They defeat the monsters, but the their poisonous stingers have drained Early and Dziga’s strength. The rogue has been weakened considerably but they press on.
Dziga avoids another falling slime and they find the source of the banging noise. Two short, fat and disgusting demons are eating garbage and banging pots together. On a table in this room is a huge syringe and several vials of black liquid, and several empty vials. Vatex attacks one of the demons but its demonic traits resist both the cut of the steel and the flames around the blade. The fat demon hits back while its friend belches a nauseating cloud of fog that fills the room. The group retreats quickly back into the hallway, and one demon waddles after them in pursuit. Dziga and Vatex manage to cut it down, while the other resumes banging pots.
They decide to let the dumb creature be for now, and explore the rest of the first floor. They carefully avoid another hatched cocoon, then find another one that seems to have a gestating thing inside. This appears to be the source of the large insect-like monsters that attacked them. They cut through the cocoon and a human falls out in the gush of slime. He wheezes a few times then dies. They figure it is best not to take chances and they remove its head. Otherwise, for all they know, the body might yet become a monster.
They find a hole in the floorboards that goes far below the house into the darkness, then return to kill the fat demon. It tries to use some kind of magic, perhaps to summon another demon? But it fails and the group cuts it down. Behind a locked door they find five prisoners. They free the captives who reveal that they were captured by the cultists for horrible experiments. When the cultists inject something called “Askara” into people, they form a cocoon and then a venom-shaped thrall emerges. He says the cultists have been heard talking about a “Temple of Deep Chaos” which lies somewhere beneath them…
Next time: The companions battle the forces of chaos – is their revenge against Khyron getting close?
Random Elanian Factoid: Goth Gulgamel - “Castle of Darkness.” The name is the corrupt and somewhat awkward combination of an Elvish and a Dwarvish word, but that fact perfectly describes the nature of the place’s original master. Ghul stole what came before him and twisted it to his own ends—first and foremost, he stole the legacy of the Dread One. Some believe that his flagrant, self-proclaimed association with Eslathagos Malekith was his ultimate undoing.