Maya 3-4, 754 YE
KHYRON, WE HARDLY KNEW YE
The Rosegate Company has decided to help Mystina go stop the resurrection of Khyron. They meet her the next day, with her entourage -- three Knights of the Pale men-at-arms named RALDERPON, GANBAR, and ZAGDOK. Early, however, does not join them. He had said he was going to take the Wind Duke Ring to trade it for a special magic weapon he needed. However, he does not show up at the time of their meeting so they go on without him.
They enter the Necropolis in the daytime (to avoid the undead that roam the streets at night) and go to the crypt of a guy named “Bruce Willis”, where intelligence acquired by Mystina reveals that the undead worshipping Forsaken will try to restore life to Khyron. Within the crypt the companions fight against a Forsaken spellcaster and his group of ogre and minotaur zombies. It is an easy fight... too easy.
When they reach the chamber in the undercroft where the ritual is supposedly taking place, they discover the entire ritual is just an elaborate illusion. Mystina breaks open a special spore that releases poison gas that knocks the companions unconscious. Dziga’s shadow flees as the fake Mystina and her cronies haul the sleeping companions away.
When they awaken many hours later, they discover they have been taken to one of the most dreaded places in all the world -- the Cruciform Prison beneath the Dark Reliquary.
CAN WE ESCAPE? THE HORRIBLE CRUCIFORM PRISON!
The kidnapped companions find themselves bound with special antimagic bracers that prevent any of their magic or supernatural powers from operating. There are other high-profile prisoners in the prison as well:
> FALSTEF, one of the original angels to come to Enhasa, captured long before the city of Elan was even created. His wings had been cut off with a special technique from a hellish manuscript to ensure they would never grow back.
> TIRAEG, an orc from the Plains of Panish in Zeltennia, brought here because Keeper Overlord Shiiva believed his tribe possessed special knowledge about the demon lord OCHREMESHYK.
> CARDALIAN, a mysterious halfling lady.
> An albino psychokineticist called PRISONER X, who has no door on his cell because it would be useless. Instead, he seems to be held in place by a ring of salt on the floor around him.
> An unnamed elven male.
> Most interestingly, a silver-haired elf woman named CALISTA. This is the woman Vatex had seen in the mirrors on so many occasions.
Dziga makes a brave attempt to escape by getting out of the bracers then shadow-jumping through his cell’s force door. He is spotted, however, by the guard, a d’stradi “dancing demon”, who teleports away then returns with two more guards, and the mistress of the prison -- the powerful Keeper of the Faith Drusii. Drusii takes on her battle form, a large serpentine six-armed demon, then tail slaps Dziga and grabs him, trying to crush him into unconsciousness. He resists and shadowjumps out of her grasp. In desperation, Dziga rushes Prisoner X and breaks his ring of salt, and the special psion unleashes blasts of force that sends both him and Drusii flying. Drusii knocks out Dziga with another tail slap, then recaptures Prisoner X while he tries to breakdown the black adamantine door at the north end of the prison with telekinetic blasts.
Dziga is taken elsewhere to be “dealt with” for his escape attempt. Emeris speaks with the orc Tiraeg, who seems to have a powerful soul magic spell inscribed on one of his teeth. Tiraeg says someone with a connection to arcane magic should be able to activate that spell and it could be their only chance to break free. But if the attempt fails, then they might be stuck here forever. The orc will not reveal the exact nature of the spell for he says if he does, Emeris might not want to activate it.
THERE’S A THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR - HER FACE IS GETTING CLEARER
Vatex speaks with Calista at last. He is relieved to have found her, and yet she is very sad and speaks of grave matters. She says that both her and Vatex carry “Talismans of Law”, and she asks if he knows who carries the third talisman, but he has no idea what she is talking about. It is revealed that Calista has been here since she was a baby, a subject of great interest to Archanfel and Shiiva. It seems that the Keepers of the Faith’s leaders believe that the Elder Gods themselves encoded important information within Calista’s dreams about their return to Enhasa, and the return of the Vallis Moon. The companions know that the Vallis Moon appeared in the night sky when Khyron attempted his ritual to bring about the Night of Dissolution, but it vanished shortly after its appearance. It seems Archanfel had long ago given up on getting any special information out of Calista, as whatever information was meant to be revealed by her dreams was completely unknowable, since she seemed incapable of dreaming entirely. No magic could force her to dream or reveal information hidden within her mind. But Shiiva remained convinced that her special information was somehow vital if only it could be revealed, and continued to seek a means to discover this information. So far, there had been no success...
Unconscious elsewhere in the Dark Reliquary’s dungeons, Dziga dreams that he is visited by by Brown Jenkins. The night hag’s fiendish familiar tells him that when he gets his chance to break out of the prison, he must “go up to escape, but go down to find freedom.” This enigmatic suggestion becomes more concrete when Keziah appears and guides him ethereally through the corridors of the Dark Reliquary dungeons, down to the second level to a sealed-off well, from which Dziga can sense an overwhelming sense of dread.
Then he awakes. He is laying on the stone floor under the watch of two d’stradi dancers, at the base of a large deciduous tree that grows out of the stone floor, and seems quite healthy despite a complete lack of sunlight. Large ripe fruits grow on the tree. This is the “Temptation Tree”, used by the dungeon keepers to control the minds of unruly prisoners as it puts them into delusional rapture when they eat the fruit. Dziga feels a strange compulsion reach up and grab a fruit and eat it... but he resists the effect, which earns a thorough beating from the dancing demons guarding him. As he slips into unconsciousness, he hears them say that they will have to tell Drusii he resisted the effect of the tree, so she’ll probably take him to someone called KNIFAL, the torturer at the “Hungry Pit”. The demons share a laugh at the prospect. Whatever that is, it doesn’t sound good.
Back in the Cruciform Prison, Vatex and Emeris are relieved to see Dziga returned. Extra precautions are taken to bind him in his cell. Unfortuately the guard duty has increased to a total of three demons, complicating any escape. Even so, Dziga is pissed and not ready to yield. With his superhuman escape artist abilities, he breaks out of his chains and antimagic bracers. He then proceeds to deactivate the forcecage using a trick that only an elite rogue is capable of. Stealthily creeps out of the prison to scout out the area, and hopefully locate where their equipment has been stashed. Out the western door and down the hallway, he finds a guard room with two Keeper guards and a chest marked “CONFISCATED!” He returns to the prison and sneaks back into his cell.
They decide its time to act now, before the situation becomes more complicated. Tiraeg painfully rips out his molar on which a special soul magic spell was long ago inscribed by orc shamans. The orc spits out blood and tosses the tooth to adjacent Emeris’ cell. He reaches through the bars of pure force and takes the bloody tooth in his hand.
The soul magic calls out to him... although he is a shadowcaster, the shade’s connection to arcane power is just enough to give him the mental grit to manipulate the magic and activate the spell. The tooth begins to quiver in his hand, surging with power... Emeris tosses it out onto the prison floor and instinctively takes cover.
DEMON LORD RAMPAGE
An inferno of demonic flame swirls around the tooth and a 20-foot crimson humanoid with massive horns and a sword shaped like fire. It is the demon lord, Ochremeshyk! He is a balor who tried to fight his way to the top of the Abyssal realms. Unfortunately, before he could attain the power of demon princes like Demogorgon or Orcus, Tiraeg’s great-grandfather, an orc shaman of legendary power, used a powerful soul magic spell to summon Ochremeshyk from the Abyss and bind him to Tiraeg’s tooth when he was but a wee orc boy. The original plan was for the Panish orc tribes to summon this demon lord during the prophecied “Wars of Fire” to ensure their ultimate triumph... but unfortunately, demons in the service of Shiiva abducted Tiraeg a few years ago and brought him to the Dark Reliquary, although they were unable to uncover the secret of his tooth.
Now Tiraeg, not caring about the “Wars of Fires” anymore and only for securing his liberty, has relinquished his tooth to the one person with any connection to arcane power to show up in the Cruciform Prison after all this time -- Emeris. The problem is that he was always told that if Ochremeshyk was released before the proper time ordained, the demon lord would attempt to destroy everyone in his path -- even his liberators. A necessary risk, Tiraeg thought.
“FREEDOM AT LAST!” booms the soul-shuddering voice of Ochremeshyk. With a single blow of his massive sword he nearly cleaves the nearest dancing demon in two. Hearing the disturbance, two more demonic guards teleport into the prison and stop dead in their tracks at the sight of the angry balor who is clearly not a member of their faction.
“Someone needs to warn Drusii about this!” shouts one of the dancing demons.
“Drusii? Hell, someone needs to warn Lord Archanfel!” answers another, recognizing the seriousness of the situation.
Two of the demons quickly teleport out of the prison to inform their superiors. The remaining two exchange worried looks as the raging demon lord turns his attention to them. Within second he hacks them to bits, then he storms out the northern door leaving a trail of fiery footprints.
The prison is now empty of living guards. Now is the companions’ chance to escape!
Next time: Time to escape from the Dark Reliquary before an army of demons and Keepers and Forsaken regroup to stop them!