One week after their last outing, the city of Serenity seemed to be getting back to normal. The town wall had been repaired, and Telnik had recovered from his unknown illness. Acting on the good news, Raven Mourner began the day by going to see the dwarf. Upon reaching the town hall, however, he was met by Telnik’s assistant Isabella. She relayed that the councilman was indisposed at present, but he did have a new task for the group.
Isabella wanted the group to continue investigating the strange stone columns. The stones were somehow related to the recent events in town, and their source and purpose needed to be determined. Isabella was aware of the recurring inscription on the stones, and she charged Raven with returning to the thieves’ hideout and getting more of the inscription.
With a new quest at hand, Raven went to round up his companions. He guessed Poly would be bringing food to the mimic at this time of day, and, sure enough, he found her and Fat Tiger doing just that. As the mimic greedily ate the rancid meat that Poly brought, the creature revealed that “smelly lizards” had been coming to the room in recent days. After killing and eating them (“they tasted bad, too”), the creature hid the remains behind the wallboards in the room. Removing the loose boards, the group indeed found reptilian, human-sized skeletons. The mimic didn’t know why the creatures were coming to the room (“they didn’t say much and screamed a lot”). Unfortunately, the elven ranger Thorial was not to be found that morning; he was well-versed about reptilian humanoid creatures and may have been able to identify the picked-clean remains.
With the mimic fed, the group left the room and retraced the winding path that revealed the thieves’ hideout entrance. Inside the upper-level antechamber, the group could hear arguing voices coming from the next room. Seeing an opportunity to investigate ahead, Poly called out to the bickering voices and was asked to approach. Entering from the staircase, Poly walked in on a group of four winged imp-like creatures composed of mud and filth.
The room itself (which originally held the stone column) had changed noticeably since the party’s last visit. Large puddles of sewage covered the floor, a ‘high-water’ stain was evident on the perimeter walls, and the floor of the side alcove had collapsed into a large hole, apparently taking the orange stone with it. The four ooze-creatures were standing by a pair of crates, and began to solicit Poly for some gold pieces; in exchange, they were offering information about the goings-on in these underground chambers. Excusing herself to get some fresh air, Poly returned to Fat Tiger and Raven Mourner to get their help.
Fat Tiger remained behind, but Raven Mourner returned to the ooze-imps with Poly. With a few strong threats, Raven and Poly got the creatures to reveal their knowledge out of fear. Evidently these ‘smelly lizard’ creatures were coming up from the lower caves. Some were then proceeding outside, but these never returned. Others were trading with the ooze-imps; the ooze-imps were salvaging metal panels from the thieves’ hall of traps and were selling them to the lizard-men, who were then making arms and armor from the scrap. With enough information to proceed, Poly called for Fat Tiger to approach, whose appearance caused the ooze-imps to flee.
At the room’s side alcove, the group saw sewage leaking through the ceiling, running down the walls, and into the large hole. It seemed that the filthy water filled up the thieves’ complex, and then partially drained away as the floor collapsed. Fat Tiger could see the floor of a lower cavern about 50 feet down the hole; rock ledges and a rope ladder lined the walls on the way down. Relying on his darkvision, Fat Tiger climbed down first.
The cave at the bottom was roughly circular, with a pile of debris under the collapsed hole from above. The sewage dripping from the room above pooled into foul puddles before seeping into the cracks in the cavern floor. A small ways from the rope ladder, the group found a much smaller pile of stone debris, this time it was of the same red-brown stone as the strange column they were after. It seemed that the large stone broke apart at this location, but all that was left were these small pieces. So the trio chose one of the two passages out of the cave, and began to leave. Before they got far however, a bout of malicious laughter drifted down from the vertical shaft, which was followed by a falling crate that crashed and clanged to the cave floor.
Disturbed by the loud crash, a fleshy blob of animate filth seeped up through the cracks in the floor and lunged at the group. Sensing the need for swiftness, Poly immediately hasted herself and her companions. Fat Tiger used a hammersphere to create a spectral attacker against the creature. Raven Mourner landed a solid blow, and the large mass of filth responded by spraying acid at him and Fat Tiger. Fat Tiger hit the creature with his fists, but got damaged by more acid in the process. As Raven and the spectral hammer continued attacking the creature, Fat Tiger withdrew to heal himself. A well-shot crossbow bolt from Poly finally caused the filth-creature to dissipate.
In need of healing, the trio decided to leave the cave, trounce the traitorous ooze-imps, and get healed at the city temple. At the top of the vertical shaft, the ooze mephits were poised to attack. Raven climbed up and charged the nearest one, nearly killing it in one blow. Fat Tiger climbed up next, but missed with his fists. The mephits responded by filling the room with a stinking cloud, badly nauseating Fat Tiger. Once Poly climbed into the room, she filled the area with a vertigo field and halted the attacks of two of the mephits. Raven dispatched two of the mephits, while Fat Tiger vomited a few times. Poly used her boots of stomping and knocked down the nearest mephit while Fat Tiger recovered. As they dodged being sprayed with the mephits’ acid breath, he and Raven took out the remaining creatures. Fat Tiger found a mask of sweet air in the mephits’ crate, which helped relieve the nausea. Feeling justified in killing the mephits, the trio went straight to the nearby Temple of Pelor.
After donating to the temple in return for magical healing, the group worked their way back through the muck and the smell and returned to the lower cavern. Hearing nothing down the first corridor, they began traveling deeper into the caves. With Fat Tiger in the lead, he triggered a glyph of warding and got hit with a blast of electricity (which also hit Poly behind him). After the blast, a raspy voice addressed the group in Draconic, asking who approached. Only Poly could understand, so she answered in truth. In response, reptilian biped stepped out of the darkness.
He was a troglodyte cleric, and it was he that placed the magical ward. Seeing an opportunity with the strangers, the trog explained his plight. Apparently, he was cast out from his tribe by his fellow troglodytes. A crafty fiend broke out of a strange red-orange stone cylinder that crashed into the lower caves. The fiend claimed to be the troglodytes’ deity, and proceeded to take over the tribe. The troglodyte cleric knew the truth, but was overcome by the fiend’s converts. Now, the tribe worships the fiend as their god, and considers the stone fragments to be sacred. Realizing that the stone fragments are probably the stone they are looking for, Poly, Fat Tiger, and Raven Mourner decided to help, even though the trog cleric seemed to be using the party for his own ends.
The trog cleric escorted the group back to the prior cavern and down the other tunnel. It wasn’t long before the quartet ran into a scouting party of the troglodyte converts. The scouting party consisted of three trogs, each with a visible physical fiendish deformity. The leading trog had a pair of leathery bat-wings and was wearing shiny blue-black plate armor. The second had an extra-long, gangly arm, and the third sported a pair of fiendish tusks. Without remorse or hesitation, the trog cleric brandished his greatclub at his former tribe members, and Poly, Fat Tiger and Raven Mourner followed.
Raven and Fat Tiger struck first at the winged troglodyte, who responded with a burst of evil energy at the two before backing away. The other two lizard-men approached and engaged each of the heavy-hitters. Poly conjured a cloud of spectral warriors around the troglodytes, and the cleric immobilized one of the other trogs with a hold person spell. The winged troglodyte tripped Raven Mourner with his spiked chain, but was attacked with spectral warriors in response. Fat Tiger hit his attacker with his stunning fists, while Poly created a rainbow pattern and mesmerized two of the trogs. Raven dispatched the grunts, but Fat Tiger was nearly killed with a poison spell. The troglodyte cleric brought Fat Tiger back to his feet with a cure spell, and he and Raven finally felled the abomination with wings.
The trog cleric did his best to heal the trio, while Raven claimed the blue-black plate mail. As the group was recovering, Thorial emerged from the tunnel behind them. He had found out the party’s whereabouts after inquiring around the town hall and following their path through the caves. After relaying the recent events and with a fresh ally at hand, the group continued on. Down the tunnel, the quintet came across a pair of side tunnels. The group’s troglodyte escort surmised that one of the tunnels contained the shrine with the stone fragments. Choosing the left tunnel, the group walked in on a disturbing scene: one deformed troglodyte stood above another on a blood-stained table. The floor was littered with severed troglodyte limbs. As the group entered, the two fiendishly-altered trogs turned their attention (and their aberrant limbs) towards them.
Thorial ran into battle, striking the nearest lizardman. The trog cleric moved forward, doubled in size, and smashed his greatclub into the troglodyte standing on the table. As Fat Tiger moved to flank one of the trogs, the severed limbs on the floor assembled into a lumbering undead creature and bit him. Poly fired a well-aimed crossbow bolt at the undead creature as it moved to bite Raven, draining his strength. Fat Tiger and Thorial finished off one of the deformed trogs, and Poly hit the remaining foes with a glitterdust spell, blinding them. Raven felled the other troglodyte, and Fat Tiger knocked the undead creature to the ground before smashing it into lifelessness.
Leaving the grisly abattoir, the group crossed the main tunnel and moved into the chamber on the opposite side. There, they found the mini-shrine: pieces of the missing stone column were piled on an ornate (but stained) rug. After rooting through the fragments, the group found only a few pieces with intact writing. Putting the recovered pieces in a backpack, the party moved back into the main tunnel. Their reptilian escort warned them that the charlatan fiend was just ahead. Sure enough, the tunnel widened into a larger chamber, with the toad-like, winged devil and his three well-armored troglodyte guards all standing at the ready.
Immediately upon entering the chamber, Fat Tiger fired his rod of frost at two of the trog guards. The guard, in turn, approached with their clubs swinging and him and Raven. Poly fired a shot at the toad-devil, which bounced off the creature’s hide. To isolate himself, the devil filled half the chamber with sharp stone spikes. After Raven charged one trog guard and Fat Tiger tripped another, Poly used a crushing despair spell on the bunch. Thorial hit one guard four times in succession, while the devil caused the tunnel behind the group to collapse, damaging Raven in the process. The trog cleric hit the devil with a command spell, and beckoned it to fly across the field of sharp spikes. As Thorial and Fat Tiger were dealing with the guards, Poly succeeded in confusing the devil just before it was about to unleash a series of deadly spells. Raven finished off the devil while Thorial and the trog cleric took care of the guards.
Battered, bruised, and cut-off from their return, the group rested in the cave. While the trog cleric placed a glyph of warning at the opposite cavern exit, the rest of the group tried to decipher the new pieces of the inscription they found. Figuring out a new set of symbols, the group could almost solve the entire message but for the missing sections. However, the message seemed to refer to the, “Great – - ern Wood,” perhaps revealing the Great Southern Forest as the source of the strange stones.
[Note for players- Campaign images have been updated.]