Wandering the Winding Tunnels
Having arrived at the very bottom of the Star Tower, Crimson Blades open the heavy stone door and step out into a natural tunnel. The walls of this cave look moist, yet are strangely dry to the touch, covered with a sheen of glittering mineral deposits.
With Earth-Egan in the lead, the adventures slowly walk down the winding cave tunnel, the cool, damp air sticking in their lungs. Ashla checks the ceiling warily for any hazards, but only finds stalactites. The half-elf ranger discovers something of greater interest on the ground, however: faint footprints, the most recent only a week old, of giant-sized humanoids with strange, four-toed feet.
She alerts the party that they might have company soon. Nox suspects the giants are the so-called Children of Rovagug they were warned about.
The party comes to a fork in the twisting path. Ashla suggests they investigate the right-most fork first, sensing that it might dead-end first. The tunnel gradually slopes downward, while Ashla discovers more sets of the four-toed giant footprints, almost all of them going in the opposite direction.
Dead End Drop
The corridor ends at a fifteen-foot-wide shaft that plummets into the darkness. A faint warm breeze flows up from the pit, carrying with it strange mineral scents. What appear to be a series of three-foot-wide handholds run down along the closest side of the shaft.
“Do we investigate further?” Arlynn asks the others.
“I’d want to know how deep it goes, first,” Nox says.
“Cast light on a rock and toss it down,” Ashla suggests.
They throw the lighted stone down the chasm and it falls, falls, falls until the light itself is no more than a pinprick. Ashla can hear a faint clatter as the rock hits the ground, then silence. Curious about what could lie below, Earth-Egan glides down the side of the hole, which drops down into a sizable cavern with half a dozen tunnel exits winding off in different directions.
The party decides to investigate the left fork before venturing deeper into the cave. Ashla notices that most of the strange tracks are heading in that direction. The further down the left corridor they go, the fouler and damper the air gets. Finally, they round a corner to step into an immense cavern.
The Children of Rovagug
The rank odor of decay, filth, and wet fur clings to the cool chamber with a palpable tenacity. A wide rocky shelf sits in the southern portion of the cavern, and upon this shelf are four crude, domed hovels, each nearly twenty feet tall and built from crude stone blocks mortared together with a nasty mix of mud, hair, and other assorted debris. Beyond, a silent lake of black waters stretches into the distance. Far out in the water, a single point of light glows just above the surface, a bright star whose radiance illuminates a few stony islands about seventy feet out in the lake.
The denizens of the stone igloos turn to face the intruders. The five deformed giants are covered with shaggy, black fur matted with filth and debris covers. Their arms split into two forearms at both elbows, each ending in a massive four-fingered claw. They let out terrifying screeches from the vertical, fang-filled maws that split their heads from what would be crown to chin on any normal creature. Their horrid appearance is matched only by their stench, a rancid combination of wet fur and decay.
Nox charges into the fray, knocking one of the creatures back into its stone hut. It crashes into the ill-mortared walls and the whole structure comes tumbling down. Nox avoids the worst of it, while the aberration is knocked to the ground by the cascade of stones.
Arlynn and Ashla are hot on the fighter’s heels, veering left to attack another four-armed abomination by the the tunnel entrance. The creature’s claws scrape against Arlynn’s armor, but in manages to grab hold of the paladin and squeeze. Earth-Egan glides into the wall and attacks the creature with his fists.
Remmy rushes into the chamber to assist Nox, but another of the split-faced horrors steps forward to slap the two fighters to the ground. Irabeth advances into the cave to help Arlynn with her foe, while Kyra hangs back at the tunnel entrance. Zandu steps into the chamber just far enough to haste everyone, then retreats back to Kyra’s position.
Laori steps inside and casts a spell, calling out “Oh great and cuddly ZK, send your adorable servants to aid us!”
A pair of shadows soon materialize to do the elf priestess’ bidding.
Strength of Arms
The prone aberration scrambles to its feet and claws at the sprawled form of Nox, to no avail. Across from him, Remmy is less fortunate, suffering a vicious claw attack. Nox fights back, cutting the nearest creature’s legs out from under it.
Kyra stealthily creeps into the cavern and throws her returning dagger at the abomination grappling Arlynn, but is not able to find a weak spot in its otherworldly anatomy.
Arlynn, meanwhile, punches her captor in its freakish face and then kicks off from it with both feet, knocking the monster backwards and freeing herself from its grasp. With a twirl of her twin blades, Ashla slices the aberration to ribbons, but is bashed against the far wall by its friend. Zandu races out to the shoreline of the black lake to line up a blast of electricity from his draconic breath, striking two of the creatures.
Although the four-armed aberrations batter the Crimson Blades around like bowling pins, the adventurers are able to wear through their defenses and drop them one by one.
As the party begins to converge on the last misshapen giant, the faint white glow from across the subterranean lake is blotted out by an enormous shape rising from the water.
The Abominable Slug-Man
The woken giant is a disgusting creature that is part immense worm and part humanoid, stretching over 80 feet of sickly pale flesh infested with rot and pustules. Dozens of spiky legs twitch along the length of his body, while his upper torso, bloated and pallid, is still vaguely human. The monstrosity blinks and surveys the battle, then takes a deep breath and spews out a terrible gout of acid that splatters across the cavern. All but Kyra and Earth-Egan, safely out of range, are coated in in the foul, stinging muck. Many of the adventurers are stricken with terrible nausea from coming into contact with the rancid bile. With an earth-rattling roar, the foul creature slithers onto shore.
“This must be the great evil that Zandu saw,” Arlynn murmurs, peering up from the cavern floor onto which she had been unceremoniously tossed moments before.
“You think?” Nox says, clapping his armored elbow to his face in a vain effort to staunch the odor.
“Yeb, debinitely him,” Zandu says, pinching his snout with a free hand.
Undaunted by the vomit dripping from her armor and the cave walls alike, Arlynn rises to her feet and retreats back towards the rest of her companions to share the righteous fury of her goddess with her friends through an aura of justice. As she moves, however, the creature reaches out to rake her with his huge clawed hand, crunching through her armor. At its foul touch, a wave of pain starts to well through the paladin’s body, but her holy symbol of Iomedae glows brightly and the agony quickly subsides.
Still repulsed by the foul stench, Nox, Ashla and Remmy climb to their feet. The last of the four-armed aberrations, meanwhile, knocks Irabeth ten feet through the air to crash into Laori and send them both tumbling to the ground. The giant then scuttles behind a clump of stalactites to stay clear of its gargantuan slug of an ally.
As the stomach juices trickle off of him, Zandu retreats to the tunnel to catch his breath beside Kyra.
“You don’t look too good,” the halfling says, gingerly patting an acid-free patch on his leg.
“It’ll wash off,” Zandu shrugs.
In the cavern beyond, the great abomination lets out another roar. Kyra steps half-way out of cover to throw her returning dagger at it’s head, but the leathery hide proves too much for the small blade to pierce.
“Any chance you could magic that thing away?” she asks.
They watch as the monster simply shrugs of a bolt of called lightning from Earth-Egan.
“Probably not,” the sorcerer admits.
Out in the cavern, Arlynn shouts “I think we’re going to need a bigger sword!”
Zandu’s gaze turns towards faint light shining across the lake and starts to grin.
“Be careful,” Kyra says, reading his expression. She gives him a quick slap on the bottom. “I like you in one piece, even if it’s gnoll-shaped.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” the sorcerer says, casting fly on himself and swooping out into the cave.
The great abomination stretches out one terrible clawed hand, reaching across 20 feet to seize hold of Arlynn. As the claws dig into her flesh, a new wave of agony overcomes her, leeching at her strength even as it spills her blood.
Recovering from his initial nausea, Nox charges forward but is attacked by the lone surviving four-armed giant aberration, which grabs hold of him. Ashla closes in to hack at the slug-man’s slimy flank with her swords. After failing to harm the creature with his call lightning, Earth-Egan begins gliding through the cavern wall towards the shining light in the lake.
Remmy follows after Nox and slashes at the four-armed freak, while Laori slides out from beneath the apologetic Irabeth and rises to her feet. She commands her summoned shadows, but they appear reluctant to attack the creature. Arlynn realizes that the monstrosity must be imbued with the power of Zon-Kuthon, which is why the shades don’t wish to harm it. The elf priestess stamps her foot in frustration before sprinting toward the fray with her spiked chain twirling. Irabeth uses her celestial full plate to fly into the air and attack the creature head on. Every now and then, Kyra’s returning dagger zips out from the cavern entrance, but is unable to cut through the creature’s hide.
The monster is undaunted by the adventurers gathering to confront it. While squeezing Arlynn in one massive hand, the vile thing slashes at Ashla and Nox with its free claw, inflicting the same wracking pains in them as well. Arlynn calls upon Iomedae’s grace to heal herself and the others, but the goddess’ blessing cannot keep pace with the harm the gargantuan monster is dispensing with each lacerating touch.
“I know why you have come!” the abomination spits out. “But the sword is mine, and no other’s!”
Arlynn squirms free of the creature’s grip, falling 20 feet to cave floor with a loud clank. The monster responds by raking the paladin with its claws as she lies on the ground.
“Egan!” the paladin cries out as she struggles to her feet, dripping with foul liquids. “I could a healing hand about now!”
The druid turns around and glides back along the wall towards Arlynn. Earth-Egan extends a long, rocky hand out from the wall and slaps Arlynn on her shiny metal bottom to deliver the heal spell.
“Thank you, my friend,” the paladin says as the strength returns to her. The druid offers a thumbs up.
Laori sees that Ashla is likewise badly hurt and suffering from the aberration’s agonizing touch. The elf maiden sidles up to the ranger and provides a healing butt slap of her own.
“Eeeek!” Ashla cries in surprise. “What’d you do that for?”
“Everyone was doing it,” Laori says defensively. “I just wanted to be popular.”
Nox beheads the four-armed abomination grappling him and steps forward to stand side by side with Arlynn.
“Got any more of Iomedae’s wrath to share?” he asks.
“My connection to the goddess is dimming the longer we fight,” Arlynn says. “If we can’t bring this foe down quickly, our quest may be over.”
The Sword and the Gnoll
Zandu steers clear of the melee taking place in the center of the cavern, pausing at the water’s edge only to cast blink on himself for extra protection. As the battle
After casting blink on himself, Zandu floats over the lake towards the rocky outcropping the light is issuing from. As he draws near, the gnoll sorcerer can see that the source of the glow is a resplendent greatsword embedded deep in the stone. He braces himself and then tugs on the hilt. To his surprise, the blade slides easily from the rock. As he hefts it, the sword suddenly ripples in his hand, morphing into an elegant staff.
“Thank you, brave adventurer, for freeing me,” a melodious female voice speaks in the gnoll’s head.
“Do you change into any…‘other’…shapes?” Zandu asks suggestively.
Serithtial ripples a little, the head of the staff taking the form of a comely woman with her arms crossed, scowling at him.
“Just take me to the paladin!” she telepathically reprimands Zandu.
“Which one? The green one, the black one, or the guy that sometimes pretends to be one,” the gnoll zings back.
“Any of them would be better than you,” Seithtial says curtly
The Final Blow
Back on shore, the great monster belches out another gout of acid, dousing the party.
Arlynn, badly wounded, cries out “My strength is failing! May Iomedae protect us in this darkest hour!”
Nox, raising his shield to block a claw, “I’ll be damned if I’m dying here, Paladin! Death will come for me, but not today!”
The air behind Arlynn shimmers and Zandu appears in their midst. He presents the Serithtial-Staff to Arlynn with a flourish.
“Did somebody order a Holy Sword?” the gnoll quips.
From across the cavern, Kyra cries out “What the hell are you doing?! Get out of there!”
Bathed in the warm glow of Serithial, Arlynn drops her greatsword and proclaims “Iomedae’s light! I knew you wouldn’t fail us, Zandu!”
“As if you had a doubt, our sexy leading lady!” Zandu smarmly says.
Arlynn takes the holy weapon from him and turns back toward the creature, raising it aloft as it reshapes into a greatsword once more. “Now you will face the judgement of the Inheritor!!”
“Just stick it with the pointy end already!” Ashla exclaims, blocking claws with her blades.
The paladin takes a single swing with Serithtial as the glow from its blade extends into a great shaft of golden light that bisects the bloated behemoth, splitting him open and causing foul entrails to spill out before sizzling them away a moment later. By the time the cut is finishing only a smoking, bisected husk of the creature remains.
Nox wrinkles his nose. “And we thought it smelled bad on the outside . . .”
“Yes,” says Kyra, elbowing her way past to stand by Zandu. “Yes, we did.”
The mercenary sighs. “C’mon, Short Round, let’s start looting the area.”
“Just who are you calling round?” Kyra says, waving a hand over her slender, curvy physique. “That’s an offensive and pernicious stereotype about halflings.”
“My apologies,” Nox says with a smile. “I suppose next you’ll tell me you don’t have hairy feet?”
“Not a whisker,” Kyra says, slipping off a boot to reveal a delicate and hairless foot. She waggles her toes. “I shave!”
Ashla bursts out laughing.
Tales of Ancient Deeds
After looting the chamber, the party heads back up through the Star Tower. Outside, the moon still hangs high in the night sky. The Crimson Blades make their departure from Scarwall, learning from the gate guards that “King” Mardak already has designs on the orcish city of Urgir. Arlynn reminds them that Mandraivus’ tomb must be left undisturbed in order to prevent the curse from returning. The party makes camp out by the tomb, where Zellara is relieved that they’ve broken the curse and gained the sword
The following morning, Egan begins casting an awakening spell on Barky to make him a perpetual guardian of the tomb. Arlynn enters the tomb to pray and inform Mandraivus that the curse had been put to rest and Serithtial reclaimed. A sense of peace settles over the reliquary.
Arlynn also communes with Serithtial, learning the details of the first battle of Scarwall. Mandraivus and his companions had lured away Kazavon’s main army and then bribed the warlord’s seneschal, Kleestad, to show them a secret way into the fortress through the hidden quay below the rosette ballroom. Mithrodar, Kazavon’s castellan, died in the throne room when Serithtial pierced his liver, but his death bought time for the warlord to retreat into the Star Tower. It was there that Mandraivus and his surviving companions confronted the enemy and learned that he was no mere man but a terrible blue dragon. Arlynn witnesses brief glimpses of the battle through Serithtial’s eyes.
After the dragon was slain, Mandraivus and the others discovered that its essence still clung to its remains. Unable to destroy the dragon’s relics and worried that it might be restored to life, Mandraivus divided up the remains among his companions and had them each take a piece to be hidden for all time. He remained behind in Scarwall, and for a time the power his faith held the darkness rising out of faulty Star Tower at bay. But after Mandraivus was cut down, Rovagug’s foul energy mingled with the psychic wound of so many savage deaths to bring about the curse, which allowed the spirit of Mithrodar to return to power.
But before the curse could take hold, Kleestad emerged from hiding, crawling on broken legs to take Serithtial from Mandraivus’ corpse. Even as the sword burned his flesh, he claimed it as a prize for Zon-Kuthon. This cowardice and treachery angered the Midnight Lord, who struck Kleestad with a curse that sent him fleeing into the earth to live in perpetual agony as a worm. Serithtial was left in his clutches for eight hundred years, awaiting rescue. The sword has felt the stirrings of Kazavon’s soul in the young queen of Korvosa and is eager to be put to use again as a weapon of the righteous against the Kuthites. She bristles at the presence of Laori and the elf priestess keeps a safe distance from the weapon.
Crisis of Faith
Since leaving the Star Tower, Laori has seemed distant and distracted. The morning that Egan completes his awakening ritual, Laori rises to perform her ablutions but becomes more and more frantic in her self-inflicted injury.
When the party questions her, she explains that “I can’t feel Him hurting me anymore. The hurting means He loves me.” She casts a regretful look back at Scarwall in the valley below. “I should have gone with Ildervok.”
“Believe me, you made the right choice in staying,” Arlynn assures her. The paladin can sense that Laori’s evil aura has diminished.
“If ZK’s mad at you, perhaps you could atone?” Nox offers. “I bet getting the Midnight’s Teeth back would go a long way.”
“Yes!” the elf maiden says, a manic gleam in her ebony eyes. “That will make him love me again!”
“Or maybe ZK is just jealous of the friends you’ve chosen,” Arlynn says. “There are other gods who aren’t as fickle.”
“Jealousy is kind of his thing,” Laori acknowledges. “And you guys are super awesome friends. But ZK gets me. He understands how amazing pain is. Are there any other gods who do that?”
“Um . . .” Arlynn says.
“Are there any other Kuthites nearby?” Zandu asks. “Maybe you could consult with them to find out what you need to do.”
“There’s that stupid cult in Korvosa,” Laori says. “And there might be some followers in Kaer Maga. I guess I’ll check in with them when we get back.”
“About that . . .” Ashla says.
News from Korvosa
The night before, Ashla was having one of her usual dreams of wandering through a graveyard when Vencarlo Orisini emerged from behind a tombstone. He explained that he was contacting her via spell from Janderhoff and updated her on the situation in Korvosa. Cressida Kroft has left the Korvosan Guard and gone underground, where she is gathering a group of rebels to oppose the Queen. They are operating out of the Gray District, where Bishop Keppira d’Bear is hiding them. Vencarl and Neolandis Kalepopolis are preparing to join them and Vencarlo asks that the party meet up with them there soon. The time to strike against Ileosa is fast approaching Ashla informs him that they have the sword.
That morning, Ashla relays this information to the rest of the Crimson Blades
Afterwards, Nox pipes up. “Well, even more reason to get back to civilization. We need to stop in Kaer Maga first.”
“And to meet up with the Shoanti,” Arlynn picks up.
“And to get my armor,” Egan adds.
“And our pets and horses!” Ashla adds as well.
“Well great,” Nox says gruffly, “looks like we all have shit to do, so let’s get to it!”
Altering the Deal
Upon arriving back in the Common House, the party makes plans to collect their mounts and materiel from the Sklar-Quah, but before they split up Nox calls them all into his room for a private talk.
He tells them that he needs to ask for the medallion early. In return for delivering it, he will get his family’s title back, which he intends to use to leverage out the Arkonas. That would give the party a base of operations in the city—and, Arlynn notes, strike a blow against slavery given the Arkonas’ connection to the Bekyars.
But Nox warns them that his client is Ambassador Amprei. Irabeth growls that the ambassador kept her chained up below his mansion like a dog. Remmy doesn’t think Slim would have ever parted with the medallion and is loathe to see it handed over to Amprei. Nox assures her that it will only be used for intrigues in Cheliax, but Irabeth says that they know little of Amprei’s true intentions.
However, the rest of the party ultimately decides to accept the revised agreement. Begrudgingly, Remmy agrees to hand the medallion over. She takes the red-fletched arrows out of her quiver and then removes the false bottom to extract the gold disk with the green gem in its center. Nox is flabbergasted.
Ashla gives him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “We’re assholes.”
Kyra gives his thigh a friendly punch. “Welcome to the group, buddy!”
“You mean you had it on you the whole time?” Nox demands.
“A Varisian knows the safest place to keep your treasures is on your person,” Remmy says, handing him the medallion. “Kyra helped me rig up the quiver.”
“If only I could capture the look on your face,” the halfling chuckles.
“Your memory will just have to do,” Nox says, stowing the item. “Now, I have to go make a social call.”