Juliar 16, 754 YE
Since the Rosegate Company is fighting in the MONSTER MASH round tomorrow, they will not be fighting in the tournament at all today. They learn that some people are disappointed that Auric’s Warband will not be fighting in the big monster round, as it is customary for last tournament’s champions to do so. Could there be some behind-the-scene shenanigans (like Raknian influencing last minute rules changes, trying to get the Rosegate Company eliminated)?
At lunch time, their manager Ekaym visits them. He confesses that he has his own motives for working with Dorzan and the other guilders against Raknian. It is not because he is particularly opposed to Republican politics, but rather he holds a special enmity towards Raknian. He says that his sister EMMALYN was a dancer who worked with one of the dancing companies at the previous Trial of Champions. It seems that she fell completely in love with Raknian and expected to marry him... but she disappeared and was never heard from again. Ekaym lacks evidence, but he is sure that Raknian – known as a hardcore womanizer -- must have murdered her despite Emmalyn’s assurances that their love was real and mutual.
Ekaym requests that since they are supposed to dig up sketchy details about Raknian ANYWAY, it would be great if they could see if they can find out any word about Emmalyn as well. He suspects she is dead, but he wants to know for sure. Divination spells have been no help to him.
At the same time, they instruct Ekaym to find out as much as possible about the froghemoth in tomorrow’s monster fight, so they can learn its weaknesses and get an edge.
The companions start investigating. Vatex and Early ask around for dancers who knew Emmalyn four years ago, and find a big fat exotic dancer from Shapeir named BURGA. She is nasty, and she thinks Early is a total hunk. She remembers Emmalyn and says that she was in love with some old war veteran or something... that’s Raknian! The name rings a bell, and Burga says, “Oh yeah, that guy!” She says he is also a hunk who killed some ghouls or something and now rules the city of Elan, and as far as she knows their relationship was “true love.” Burga tries to seduce Early, who repels her advances by making up a story about his dink being cut off during the Zeltennian War.
Meanwhile, Emeris and Dziga use Extreme Stealth and Shade Invisibility powers to infiltrate past the soldier barracks and into the arena understructure, where they are not supposed to be! If they are discovered, their team will probably get disqualified from the tournament so they must be careful. They go undetected, but the only thing of interest that they find is the top of a huge weird weird... dome or something, made of opaque black, rubbery material, directly under the center of the arena. They assume it must be the “container” used to hold the froghemoth.
Vatex and Early ask around about Raknian and the ghouls. After speaking with a couple of soldiers, they learn that when it came time to clear out the understructure and Coenoby for this year’s tournament, a horde of ghouls was discovered that had emerged from a big cave under the arena called “the Giant’s House”. Supposedly Raknian heroically fought off all the ghouls single-handedly and drove them back into their hole. Soldiers then blocked the cave from which they’d emerged with a giant stone plug. Apparently this whole incident has spawned some rumors among Raknian-haters, such as, “Raknian’s friends are ghouls,” “Raknian used ghouls to help take over Dalengard,” “Raknian has friends in undead cults, who specialize in ghouls,” and “Raknian IS a ghoul.” And stuff like that. Other people just think it’s awesome that he killed like 100 ghouls.
Early and Vatex bribe their way through some crooked guards in the understructure and meet up with Emeris and Dziga. It seems there might be “more than meets the eye” with this whole ghoul story, so they decide to head down to the caverns underneath the arena and find the Giant’s House.
Adjacent to the understructure, one level down, there is a little underground village kinda-thing where some arena and Dalengard staff live. Heading past this down a long tunnel brings the companions to the Giant’s House – whatever structures were once here have been destroyed by a cave-in quite some time ago.
They look around and find the stone plug. It’s too heavy and big to move it, so Vatex pulverizes it to bits with MJOLNIR!, the hammer of the so-called “Hammer God” that he’s been lugging around. If the ghouls get out, oh well.
Beyond is a cave that smells like death and decay. Nine ghouls attack! The Rosegate Company slaughters them in seconds. There are a few connecting passages – Dziga sends his shadow companion down a small, downward sloping passage. The shadow reports that there must be a couple hundred ghouls milling about in the cave at the bottom. The companions really don’t care much about the ghouls, so they explore the passage to the west.
They travel down a narrow, winding cavern that follows an underground stream. After an hour or so, they find that the stream empties in a foul-smelling grotto of slimy, shallow water, in which chunks of garbage floats about. Looking around, they find that there is a hole in the cave’s ceiling, from which garbage and waste seems to get dumped. It’s hard to judge their position relative to the city above... Dziga sends his shadow companion up into the hole to scout.
The shadow goes down the hallway and into a room with three wooden coffins. The incorporeal undead peeks its head into the coffins and sees they contain disgustingly foul rotten corpses ridden with numerous plump, green worms. Down the hallway, the shadow sees a ruby-red light shining through the darkness... which then seems to retreat down a passage to the north. The shadow investigates, and finds a room with an old, broken-down machine inside. Its nature is unclear, but there is no sign of the moving red light.
But then the shadow hears wood being smashed – the worm-ridden corpses are waking up! The shadow retreats back down the corridors, then down the garbage hole into the grotto. Dziga relays the information produces by this scouting mission.
SPAWN OF KYUSS
“Green worms? Undead???” Early ponders this for a moment, his mind drifting back to the fragments of his father’s journal... He’d read about how Jakter had fought a cult called the Black Triad, who was somehow aligned with agents of Kyuss, and was creating worm-ridden undead monsters. There must be a connection! The warblade wants to get a worm specimen for himself.
Early tells the others to wait for him, and uses a grappling hook to climb up the shit hole into the complex above. He encounters the undead and confirms that they are indeed the “spawn of Kyuss” mentioned in Jakter’s journal – well-rotted zombies with green worms writhing in and out of their skull orifices. Cryssaegrym pulses with rage and Early attacks. He executes a Wolf Blitz / Raging Mongoose attack with Cryssaegrym and Sheol and hacks the first two into bloody-wormy chunks. The third spits wiggling worms at him from the other side of the room. As a worm lands on his left arm and begins burrowing into his flesh, he cuts down the last Kyuss spawn.
When he turns his attention to the Kyuss worm, he realizes it has already chewed through his flesh and is burrowing through his arm! It’s heading towards his brain, and if it gets there and devours his brain, Early too will become a spawn of Kyuss – the ultimate irony. He tries to cut the worm out but he cannot get it – so he resorts to a desperate measure...
He pulls off his left armor pauldron, grabs Sheol in his right hand, and HACKS OFF HIS OWN LEFT ARM!!
He drinks a healing potion to stop the bleeding. When the worm emerges from the bloody stump of his dismembered limb, he grabs it and jams it into the empty potion vial.
The others are a little surprised when they see Early return with his severed arm. They’ll need strong clerical magic to reattach the limb, so they will have to head back to town... but first Dziga wants to check out the old machine his shadow had come across. Who knows, might be interesting.
Dziga climbs up the garbage hole with the one-armed Early tagging along to see if his engineering knowledge will be helpful. As they head to the machine, the shadow companion scouts ahead to the east. It finds what seems to be an old training room of some kind, but instead of training people, it contains six undead monsters – 3 morhgs, and 3 more Kyuss spawn. They see the shadow fly around the room and begin to chase it back towards the other companions...
The machine is clearly not operational, and Early doesn’t know what the heck it’s supposed to do. Dziga finds he can actually open up a panel and climb inside. He tries to squeeze into a 2-foot wide pipe that goes up from the interior of the machine into the wall, and finds that the tight passage is blocked by... the same opaque, rubbery material that composed the dome-like thing in the arena understructure. Is this just another part of one huge object? If so, the froghemoth must be enormous!
The shadow returns, warning of approaching undead. Dziga vanishes into shadow and Early some of the big machine pipes as three spawn and a morhg enter the chamber.
Vatex, having put a telepathic link on Dziga earlier, is informed of the undead assault and he begins climbing up the rope to the shit hole above. Emeris teleports to the top, gathering shadow power around his hands as two more morhgs scamper down the hallway towards him. There are gaunt, skeletal creatures, and where their viscera would be, there are instead thick green worms with toothy maws.
The morhg charges and its guts-worms lash out at Emeris – upon their touch, he can feel his nervous system begin to shutdown, but he resists the effect with his shadowy nature. He blasts with umbral energy and Vatex hoists himself up the room through the garbage hole, and tumbles past the shade to flank the morhg. His swords snap free of their scabbards and a blistering array of attacks brings down the nasty undead as the third mohrg charges down the hall.
In the machine room, the undead spot Early’s boot poking out from his hiding spot, and his position is revealed. Before the undead attack, Dziga appears from the shadows and sneak attacks them! His assault destroys one spawn, but before he can finish the other, the mohrg’s paralyzing worm strike leaves him helpless. Early attacks, swinging Cryssaegrym with his one arm, hacking to bits the last two spawn of Kyuss and rushing to Dziga’s aid. The helpless rogue can do nothing as the morhg’s raises a clawed hand and attempts to deliver a coup-de-grace! Dziga survives, barely, with blood exploding from his neck. Early hacks apart the morhg then feeds his friend a potion that cures paralysis.
Vatex and Emeris make short work of the final mohrg, hacking it with Wind Duke swords and blasting it with umbral rays. It seems they have achieved victory... until they see a single red light appear in the darkness of the corridor to the east.
There stands some kind of infernal outsider, known as SAYGRAAM THE FACELESS aka RUBY-EYE. His true nature is a mystery even to hardcore scholars of the lower planes. “You should not have come here,” he says in a deep voice. He is a tall humanoid with long, lanky arms, dressed in a heavy brown cloak. His hands and legs are wrapped thickly in bandages, almost like a mummy. Beneath the cowl of his cloak, they see a plain mask of stone bone-colored stone. Ruby-red light shines from the left eye-slit.
Emeris fires a ray of umbral energy at the outsider but Saygraam raises a hand and blocks it with his spell resistance. Vatex fires his rifle, empowered with lawful magic, and hits the outsider with a sound like grinding metal and breaking glass. Saygraam’s red eye flashes and a volley of red energy bolts slam into Vatex, knocking him back a few steps. Emeris conjures up the Shadowgeist Reaver from his right hand and rushes Saygraam. The incorporeal blade passes right through Saygraam and draws some of his strength into Emeris, proving Ruby-Eye is alive and not a mummy.
Weakened ever so slightly, Saygraam backs up, calling his next attack, “Sodom Sword Maelstrom.”
A circle of gleaming force blades rise from the floor around Emeris, flashing and slashing at him in a dizzying flurry. Emeris dodges most of the attack, but takes a few hits. He is ready to taunt Saygraam with something like, “Is that all you’ve got?” when another circle of force blades appears and slashes around him.... then another! Emeris avoids serious injury, but is covered in a hundred minor slashing wounds. He hears Dziga and Early coming down the hallway to his aid, and Vatex closing in from behind.
Emeris wipes blood from his eyes and gathers shadowy power within until he feels like his body will explode. He metamagics his Killing Shadows with Maximize and Empower and unleashes a cone of destruction upon Saygraam. Deep grooves are blasted into the walls and floor and the hallway fills with choking clouds of dust and debris. He squints into the dust and smoke, trying to see the outcome of his attack... did that do it?
He receives an answer when the red-light of Saygraam's glowing eye becomes visible as the cloud of dust thins a bit. Emeris teleports away to the garbage hole room as Saygraam's next attack would be expected to kill him.
Crazy techno fighting music starts to play and everyone gets totally pumped. Vatex closes in. The graceful, speedy elf lunges towards the strange infernal outsider -- he leads with a slash from the Sword of Aqaa, but Saygraam is not chaotic so it doesn't do extra damage. So Vatex triggers his skirmish vest and swings the Storm Sword which connects with a blast of electricity -- then the elf triggers the twin swords' windstorm effect which hits Ruby-Eye with electricity and sonic damage. Each slash yields a burst of choking dust from Saygraam's wounds. The masked outsider smashes him in the face with a bandaged fist that strikes like a sledgehammer.
Dziga and Early rush down the hall. The Impossibility Cube begins bouncing around in Dziga's pack and empowers Dziga with the power of the VOID. There is hardly any room to fight in the narrow hallway. Dziga pulls out Asura and flips and dives over Vatex and past Saygraam. Saygraam's right arm extends suddenly as he does, knocking the wind out of him... but the rogue acrobatically recovers and rolls under the next attack to flank! Saygraam is baffled by the rogue's agility and caught flat-footed! Dziga drives Asura into Saygraam's back and the enigmatic outsider howls in pain -- at the moment of impact, Dziga activates the chaos cube -- "PSYCHIC DISSOLUTION STRIKE!" Chaotic energy swirls through the piercing dagger and into the infernal outsider, assaulting is mind. Saygraam pushes back Vatex then pivots to face Dziga. The ruby-eyed gaze settled on him... "Ruby Eye Ray!"
A flash of red signals the firing of four scorching red rays that arc towards the rogue at point blank range. Dziga's body is blasted by the impact and he crumples to the floor unconscious... Vatex and Early prepare to dish out some revenge but Ruby-Eye uses his quickened spell-like ability to teleports out of there.
The group quickly tends to Dziga's wounds and gets everyone back in top shape. Saygraam is badly wounded -- they must pursue and finish him quickly!
BATTLE AT THE ALTAR OF BOZAL ZAHOL
Past the former training room and through the north door, they again face Saygraam the Faceless. Even though they saw him only a few minutes ago, he has fully healed already.
Dziga materializes from shadows and fires an arrow from Roguefriend. Emeris blasts another umbral ray. Saygraam laughs and shrugs off these attacks, and unleashes another Ruby Eye Ray attack that hits everyone in the group, then he teleports away again. Curse him!
Ahead are a set of double-doors and the group barges through them into an altar room. There, Saygraam stands in the far corner with arm crossed over his chest. In the middle of the room is a tiefling priest named BOZAL ZAHOL. This fiendish looking dude is quite hideous, but most interestingly he bears a very distinctive symbol on his chest. The symbol depicts a laughing skull erupting with worms.
The sign of Kyuss, the Worm that Walks!
On the altar, there is a big old scroll rolled out. An aura of green energy surrounds the scroll, which generates a writhing beam of green energy that strikes the western double doors.
On the opposite side from Saygraam, there is a big glass-tube filled with swirling gas and sparkly pinpricks of energy. Suspended inside is a floating woman -- seemingly alive, but with a blank look in her eyes. Her appearance seems to match the physical description of Ekaym's sister, Emmalyn.
The priest is not happy to see them. “Raknian has betrayed us, Saygraam!”
“That is impossible,” replies the infernal outsider matter-of-factly.
“But he is one of the only people who know we are here! He MUST have sent them!”
“The contract made with the human called 'Loris Raknian' was sealed with the Pledge Stone. He cannot be responsible for attack.”
“Oh that’s right. Then who the hell are these guys?” Bozal seemingly expects Saygraam to know the answer.
The infernal outsider says nothing in response. Nothing in the outsider's voice or body language suggests the least worry though.
Early breaks up the dialogue, stepping forth and holding up Cryssaegrym in his one arm. “Does this look familiar, wormfags?”
Bozal’s eyes widen with shock. “NO! It’s the Sword With the Wolf-Shaped Hilt – the Silver Blade... Cryssaegrym!”
Saygraam's body goes visibly stiff and the gravity of the encounter finally resonates with him. This... crazy one-armed guy is the wielder of the Silver Wolf's katana? And these are his crazy friends? Crazy techno music starts playing again and everyone gets totally pumped.
Dziga's haste boots flare with energy and he slips into shadow and rushes the cleric. Before he can get close Dziga slams into an invisible wall of force protecting the cleric. Emeris can see Bozal getting ready to cast deadly magic, but the rushes into the room, taking control of Bozal's own shadow. The shadow of the cleric animates and bends to embrace the physical body of the tiefling. Its clasp holds him fast -- totally helpless but still protected in his force field.
Back in the corner, Saygraam speaks: "Gomorrah Vile Burst."
Wicked black energy erupts from the ground between Vatex and Early, blasting them. Vatex advances along the east wall, casting a spell to give him the perfect shot of his rifle. Early moves out of the blast also and attempts to Swooping Dragon Strike the cleric -- but he finds that he too is blocked by the force field. Dziga curses and sends the shadow upon the force field -- will incorporeal undead be blocked? The answer is no -- the shadow starts draining away the paralyzed cleric's strength while Bozal struggles to shake off his own shadow with his willpower. The effect is an anti-life shell -- which tells Dziga that he can SHOOT ARROWS even if he cannot stab him face to face.
Bozal's sudden burst of will returns his shadow to its normal position, and he starts to fall back towards Saygraam. The hasted Dziga uses all his strength to stay within the shadows while he fires a volley of arrows at Bozal from 15-feet away. From that ineffable space between light and shadow, Dziga's precision is flawless. Two shots take off Bozal's left arm and right leg, and a third and fourth nail him in the forehead before the torso hits the ground.
Emeris turns to Saygraam and tries to drain his willpower with shadow magic, but is blocked by spell resistance. Vatex fires several rounds from his rifle at Saygraam but the Saygraam blasts the entire team with his next attack, "Gethsemane Dark Wave."
Black energy engulfs them, and Early and Vatex get stunned by the evil supernatural attack because they are not evil themselves. Dziga and Emeris stand this effect, being evil and all, and continue their assault. Dziga tries to fill Saygraam with arrows, but the outsider's vision is just too good and he defies being sneak attacked. Emeris attacks with another supernatural killing shadows attack, which batters Saygraam but the oustsider strikes back, trying to stop Emeris with his paralyzing slams.
Vatex and Early recover. They fire Tri-Elemental Magnum and rifle rounds. Although the attacks do not bring down the tough opponent, he is clearly hard pressed, and seems to realize it.
"No matter, you cannot stop stop the ritual," Saygraam Ruby-Eye says. "And you have not faced the last of my allies... There is still the Visage of Kyuss" And with another blast of red energy bolts, he teleports away.
THE VISAGE OF KYUSS
They waste no time heading into the western door where the scroll energy is flowing. Beyond they find a chamber that is blocked off by... the strange opaque barrier. If Saygraam went that way, they can't follow, so they check out the north door. This takes them thrugh Bozol's room and into a small room with another chamber that is partly curtained off.
The Rosegate Company doesn't like curtains.
But before they can do much about it, a big ooze-like demon called an alkilith, the so-called "Visage of Kyuss", blasts Early with a cone of cold from behind the curtain.
Everyone takes action. Dziga fires arrows at the ooze while activating his Death Strike Bracers. The alkilith roars in pain and immediately summons a hezrou demon for back-up. The big toad-like demon grapples Early while the one-armed warblade tries to attack him. Vatex rushes the demon-ooze with blades spinning, sonic and electric and lawful energy flaring around him. Acidic blood sprays all over the room. Emeris teleports to flank to the other side of the ooze and slashes with the Reaver. The alkilith is dazed and drained of energy and strength. Dziga's shadow companion attacks the ooze and drains it of even more strength.
Early cannot break free. The unbelievable stench of the the hezrou causes him to start choking on his own puke while he gets squeezed to death. Dziga fires arrows at the hezrou but can't hit a weak spot. The hezrou throws the puking Early to the ground and tries to snap off the rogue's head with his bite. Dziga backpedals and draws the shadows around him, firing more arrows. The hezrou goes down and Dziga fires his last shot at the alkilith.
Saygraam teleports into the battle. He hits Dziga with a blast of energy bolts and then unleashes another Ruby Eye Ray attack at Emeris and Vatex, hoping to take some pressure off of the ooze-demon.
Emeris keeps plunging the Shadowgeist Reaver into the alkilith, stunlocking it and draining its power while Vatex enters his Xerani Dervish Dance. The elf spins and weaves in pursuit of Saygraam, who dashes down the hall. The outsider does a hard karate chop into Vatex's side as he closes in, but the elf is not slowed. He becomes a veritable tempest of slashing fury, the corridor being filled with fierce winds and lightning blasts. Crunchy bits particles burst from the wounds instead of blood. Fetid dust billows from the cuts, choking Vatex but he maintains the ferocity of his dancing attack. Saygraam has met his match and falls back towards the door, trying to teleport to safety and retreat for good -- Vatex tries to take his head off with a final desperate attack, but it is not enough. Saygraam activates his teleport and escapes, cursing them and averring that though he is defeated, they have accomplished nothing.
The party then proceeds to gang-beat the ooze-demon, yielding a shower of slimy chunks and acid blood. Emeris finishes it off with the Shadowgeist Reaver -- the fatal strike causes the demon's soul to be absorbed into the spectral blade. VICTORY!!!!
TIME TO LOOT
They don't find a lot of valuable treasure in hidden shrine, but they do recover a few interesting things in Bozal's chamber -- a journal apparently penned by the tiefling cleric and three stoppered bottles containing green worms in stasis.
Before they leave, they need to consider the scroll of Bozal's altar. Will they take it? Can they touch it without having something terrible happen? Is it connected to the ritual mentioned by Saygraam Ruby-Eye? Then there is the question of the woman who might be Emmalyn -- how can they get her out? How does she fit into this connection between Raknian and the worshippers of Kyuss? And will they get back to the arena in time for the monster mash round without getting disqualified? FIND OUT NEXT TIME!