Safely back in Loudwater, the Sacred Blades finally relaxed and took care of personal business.
They met with Curuvir, newly-returned from his research trip to Draigdurroch Tower, and discussed his findings. He is now sure that Draigdurroch still lives. Whether free or imprisoned he does not yet know. If free the dwarven warlock could become a major threat, especially if he returns to his old tower…or visits his old students. Curuvir also reported seeing patrols of humans lurking around the Dire Wood near the tower. He also mentioned that Orus, the druid of the High Moor, still wanted to speak with them about problems to the south.
Operious and Rolan created several new magical items for the group, purchasing rare components from Curuvir’s impressive collection. Fibbit was reluctant to rely on his new friends just yet, especially with his wealth of hard-earned gold. Instead he privately went to Curuvir for creation of some minor items. Curuvir was happy to oblige…if the halfling in turn assists with gathering some potion components for him. Curuvir was very specific, requesting the tongue of a giant and dust from a tomb. Technically, the tongue could be from anyone that speaks giant, such as orcs or even a fluent human. As the halfling’s face lit up, Curuvir quickly retracted that, clarifying it had to be a monster tongue. The dust could be from any undisturbed location over a hundred years old. Fibbit wondered where he was going to find such strange items to settle his debt.
Yarnon quietly parted ways at this point. Still haunted by nightmares, she decided to head off on her own, traveling north to the High Forest in search of the family she never knew and the meaning behind her dreams. She had a long and difficult journey ahead of her, but she was now focused on the task at hand. She hoped to one day return to the Blades with increased knowledge and ability. They bid her farewell, assuring her there would always be room for the tiefling.
Operious and Kriv decided to track down an old Benadar manor house on the outskirts of Loudwater. The Benadars were wealthy mages before the Spellplague, before ruin came. Operious’s master Crasous hinted at the place when the Blades were newly-assembled back in Daggerford, saying something in the manor would be of interest to him. Operious had no idea what he would be looking for or where it was. He only hoped to uncover a hint of his family.
After hours of researching the manor’s location in dusty old Loudwater tax records, he found a reference to an “R. Benadar” along with directions to his estate. Most of the names had a profession next to them; ‘wheelwright’, ‘tanner’, ‘farmer’, along with the taxes paid that year; ‘50 silver’, ‘90 copper’, etc. Next to Benadar it simply said ‘wizard’ with a dash through the taxes-collected column, year after year.
The manor was on the border of the goblin-infested Southwood, a quick ten-mile ride south. The roads south were overgrown and dangerous. Empty cottages and fallow fields dotted the countryside. Avoiding the many crumbled pre-Spellplague ruins they soon arrived at their destination. The manor itself was once a two or more story wooden building now nearly rotted down to the foundation. It looked as if it was picked over by scavengers countless times in the last century.
Picking through the ruins neither found anything of value. They prepared to mount up and head home when Operious sensed something faint but magical. Walking back to the ruins, he focused on it and it become stronger. It lead him to the rear of the manor house, under a huge pile of rotted wood and stone which may have once been stairs leading up.
Kriv cleared away the heavy debris and a thick layer of dirt beneath. Clearing it all revealed a large stone seal, 4 foot on each side, a fancy letter ‘B’ carved into the stone, with a large stone handle. Its covered a stair or passageway down, something hidden and undisturbed all these years.
The feel of magic beyond was very strong now. This must be what Crasous knew about. Whatever still lurks in the secret basement of a long-dead wizard cannot be good, family or not. The pair returned to Loudwater and assembled the Blades once again.
Best Left Undisturbed
Returning to the manor in force, the Blades prepared for anything. Operious casually opened the massive stone door, feeling light as a feather to the touch of a Benadar. Wet stairs descended thirty feet to a long musty hallway ending in a stone door. Roots from trees overhead grew through the walls and ceiling, water dripping and collecting in puddles on the floor. As the Blades moved towards the door, something wet and gooey fell on them. The wet feeling quickly became a burning sensation – it was green slime! The mindless slimes tried to dissolve any flesh they came into contact with. They enveloped several Blades; attempts to kill those slimes ran a risk of hitting their victims too. After a scramble to free themselves, the Blades were able to destroy the simple creatures and continue on after patching their burns.
The hallway ended in a stone door with no keyhole or other means of entry. Touching the door caused the roar of a lion to sound. It repeated again when touched again; was it some kind of puzzle or key? After some experimentation, Operious cast a simple Ghost Sound cantrip to replicate the lion’s roar. The door unlocked and swung open.
The room beyond looked like a sculptor’s workshop. Tables, tools and half-complete statues filled the room. The air here was dry and clean, no trace of the musty smell just outside in the hallway. A thick layer of dust covered everything, as if the room had not been disturbed in a very long time. A closed stone door on the opposite side lead onward but it was guarded by two completed statues. Ten-foot warriors armed with greataxes, these statues were a cause for concern amongst the Blades. Fibbit carefully approached to determine if they were ‘alive’ or not. Just as he stepped between the two their stone axes swung at the halfling and the statues came to life.
It took all the Blades’ effort to just stay out of the way as the statues rampaged about the room, dust and broken furniture flying. The statues knocked down anyone nearby, quickly following up with a sweeping blow from their massive axe. Griegor and Kriv penned the constructs in, keeping their attention focused on the warriors. Magical attacks from Operious and Rolan, and carefully placed blows from Fibbit slowly took their toll. After an exhausting battle the statues crumbled into pieces. This was turning out to be one hell of a basement.
What Does It Eat?
Mending their wounds, the Blades opened the next magical door – this one imitating the howl of a wolf. The passage beyond transitioned from man made stone to a natural cavern. Once again the passages were wet and musty, roots hanging from the ceiling – though strangely, no debris or even pebbles cluttered the ground. The caverns stretched on, passageways becoming wider as they traveled deeper underground. The caves doubled back on themselves many times with no signs of life to be found.
After a half hour of wandering, Kriv rounded one bend and saw a strange sight. Hundreds of gold coins seemed to float mid-air. A huge number of bleached-white bones also seemed to magically levitate throughout the entire 15-foot-wide hallway, as did stones and even a wooden chest. Some odd magical effect kept everything aloft. Suddenly the hallway seemed to move, all coins and bones floating within coming a foot closer to the Blades. Griegor shouted a warning; he noticed a shimmer of wetness outlining the room. The party realized it faced an enormous gelatinous cube. It slowly shuffled towards the Blades, hunger driving it onward though it could barely move under its massive weight. There was nothing even down here to eat – how did it get this big?
Kriv charged forward with a prayer to Tempus on his lips. The enormous gelatinous cube absorbed him entirely with a wet ‘slurp’. Lesson learned, the remaining Blades backed away, confidant they could keep their distance from the slow ooze. Kriv struggled to escape while he was slowly digested, soon popping out of the cube in a splash of goo. Spells and thrown weapons flew at the cube and the beast seemingly backed away in pain, though the Blades weren’t sure if it was truly injured. Just as things were looking under control, the sounds of moaning and stomping of dozens of feet could be heard behind them, far down the passage. Something was coming.
The Blades pressed their attack on the ooze, inflicting so much damage that it actually ‘popped’. Gooey slime burst outward and the creature shrank in size. Now only about 9 feet across (a vast improvement), it oozed towards the Blades with haste. They scrambled to get out of the way, running into each other and slipping on the slime. The ooze rolled over Kriv again, then towards Rolan. The bard stood fast with Operious as if to make a stand, but panicked and dived out of the way at the last second – leaving Operious between a stone wall and the enormous cube. He was slurped up instantly and the creature sludged onwards. Fibbit was too slow and was also devoured, leaving Rolan as the only free Blade. The four engulfed Blades tried to fight their way out, attempting to kill the creature from within. Time was ticking – a horde of something was coming down the hallway towards the battle.
Operious escaped first, but had something other than battle on his mind. He moved behind the distracted Rolan and cast a thunderwave, intent on revenge. The bard ducked away again as other Blades struggled free of the odd monstrosity. At last a killing blow was struck and the cube burst in a shower of goo, covering everything in the mucus. The Blades had no time to rest – a mob of strange enemies shambled towards them. Perhaps this is what the cube had been eating?
Devil in the Details
Griegor called it out first: “Lemures!” They were known as the lowliest of devil, the souls of evil creatures died and gone to the Hells. Fleshy and disgusting, facial features barely recognizable beneath rolls of fat, they were now a mindless horde. They should not be here at all, yet they shambled forward and attacked. Though slow they smashed with an unholy strength, making it dangerous to get near. Griegor and Kriv held the line while spells flew overhead, and together the Blades made quick work of the pitiful devils.
After catching their breath, they continued down the passage. It finally ended in a massive, circular natural cavern. Near the entrance, a short stone pillar held up a golden amulet within a glass case. In the room’s center, four massive stone pillars were covered in glowing magical runes. Sitting in the center of the pillars was a blackened, man-sized creature covered in sharp barbs, a long tail and claws.
The Blades quickly became uneasy, Operious recognizing the threat: a barbed devil. He knew that these fiends, or hamatula, were a threat far beyond anything the Blades could defeat. Yet his mentor Crasous would not have sent him here to die, and he trusted there must be a way to overcome the threat. He began to examine the amulet.
Meanwhile, the devil had struck up a conversation, introducing itself as Zathraxa of Phlegethos, 4th layer of Hell. Imprisoned for a century, it became clear the devil was attempting to escape or be released. It was intrigued by the appearance of another Benadar after so many years; perhaps one of the same blood could grant it freedom.
Operious examined the mundane golden amulet and runed pillars, and determined the setup to be a form of soul trapping magical ritual. Powerful stuff, beyond his ability. But with the assistance of Rolan and the runed pillars created by his ancestor, they just might be able to complete this ritual, trapping the devil in the amulet for all time. Surely this is why Crasous sent them.
The devil became agitated; it’s original captor had disappeared before completing the final ritual. It had not expected mortals to complete the ritual after so many years. Yet now Operious and Rolan moved to each pillar, deciphering and completing the runes to the best of their ability. Zathraxa called out dire warnings and offered untold riches to anyone who would stop them.
The devil began weaving a portal, ready to call more lemure swarms into the world. It’s prison had weakened over time and it could at least do this to delay the ritual…but wait…
Operious and Rolan had activated all four pillars and now glowing white light linked them together, surrounding the devil. The Blades moved back to the amulet to finish the ritual. Operious put his hand on the amulet, focusing arcane power through it to the pillars. White light now linked the pillars and amulet; the devil could hardly be seen in the glare. The other Blades stood ready for an attack that never came.
As Operious began the final incantation, the devil stopped its protestations and grinned. The ritual completed – and backfired spectacularly. A blinking flash of light reached out from the amulet, encasing the hamatula, which quickly shrunk into oblivion. The light then flashed back, enveloping Operious. He screamed in agony, then the light and devil were gone.
Operious looked down at his left hand in horror. On the back of the hand was a devilish looking tattoo, burned into the flesh. It moved slightly as if alive before settling down.
The amulet sat on the stone pillar, no trace of magic within.
|They Green Slimed Me!: 875 (level 4 encounter)|
|Benadar Golems: 1200 (level 5 encounter)|
|Cube and Lemures: 1400 (level 6 encounter)|
|Imprison the Demon: 200 (level 5 minor quest)|
|3675xp total, 735xp per person|
|Grand Total XP per character: 6355 (7500 for 6th)|