Lost Souls

In Which We Solve a Puzzle, Make Like Theseus (Sans All that Ball of String Business and Arguably Sans Minotaur As Well), and Come Face-to-Face with Our Prodigal Ex-Leader

(originally played 10/14)

We defeated the guardian drakolich in short order. Finding it to be disappointingly loot-free, we made our way to the spire of the cathedral it was guarding, the most grandiose one we’d seen yet. Though still a ruin, the Shadowfell twisted it into odd shapes—we found parts of the stone to be warped, shrunk or compressed or otherwise twisted out of true. Other than that, we found little of interest and so decided to leave the Shadowfell. Without the dark pall of the Raven Queen’s realm about us we saw that the inside of the cathedral had, despite its harsh conditions, remained well-frescoed and decorated. Roswyn recalled that the cathedral had been considered the exemplar of its kind during the heyday of the tiefling empire—supposedly it was also known for its many bells, which sounded with the howls of thousands of souls ripped from mortal bodies for just that purpose.

From within the cathedral, Ezra told us he heard devils walking about outside, and we stayed cautious and quiet as we searched for another secret chamber, much like the last one we’d found. After some searching, Ezra managed to find the small door well-hidden in the façade of the enormous, elaborate altar that dominated the interior. The door revealed a long tunnel stretching deep beneath the ground, with only a shaky ladder to mark the way down…luckily, we all made it down without incident. Once in the bowels of the earth, we lit our way with a sunglobe and Ezra’s mysterious glowy dagger (named Sting, for it glowed in the presence of evil, i.e. us).

We spent some time walking down the corridor we’d found ourselves in, soon coming to an open room with a gateway that had runes inscribed all along its curved edge. Beyond the gateway all was dark—not even our lights, magical as they were in origin, could penetrate it. Before the arch stood seven spheres and pedestals. We sensed great power coming from the arch and beyond, power connected to the orbs… Despite Roswyn recalling myths of gods able to create such portals, we have no idea what one would be doing down here, in the bowels of the earth beneath the supposedly deserted and devastated capitol of a long defunct empire. With the runes on the arch unintelligible to us and no other way forward, we set about determining the relationship of arch to globe in the only manner left to us: trial and error.

After some time, we managed to figure out the trick to the arch and spheres, and determined the proper order to touch the spheres in order to dispel the darkness beyond the arch. Congratulating ourselves on a job well done and unfortunate deaths well avoided, we proceeded through the arch and down a hallway until it forked. We spent some time traversing the maze, running into traps, freeing ourselves from traps, splitting up, and getting into other such delightful japes. Alas, the shade was forced to continue touching the spheres in order to ensure the darkness remained dispelled. Among our notable discoveries was an enormous vaulted room full of treasure. Ozymandias, claiming his right as the heir to the tiefling empire, claimed the treasure for himself. The rest of us wisely chose to hightail it out of the room as soon as Ozymandias made a move for the treasure. Breathless, we watched as he determined there was no way out of the room besides the doors we’d walked (and subsequently exited) through, and then decided to touch a piece of gold.

The treasure immediately shimmered and vanished as the entrance door slammed shut—a solid slab of stone between us and Ozymandias and the room now beginning to fill with sand. Lots and lots of sand. To no avail did we attempt to break down the door with our trust anvil, and were forced to waste our last charges blowing a hole the door just large enough for Ozymandias to see out of, allowing him to teleport to safety. The sand, meanwhile, faded away as soon as it left the room…we let the disappearing sand be and continued our explorations. Of note was also the room full of mummies in cages, all trying to get out—and indeed, when the darkness briefly swept over us we heard the cage doors rise, until the shade dispelled it once more. Throwing rocks at them predictably did nothing (this discovery brought to you once again by Ozymandias).

Finishing our explorations of the maze, we finally found ourselves in front of yet another arch and seven spheres, the mirror of the one we’d encountered on the other side of the maze. On the other side was simply more hallway, and we found that touching the spheres in order also dispelled the darkness, allowing the shade to finally, and happily, abandoning her post fondling balls and join us on the other side of the maze. Together, we walked the hallway on the other side of the arch, enshrouded in a quite mundane sort of darkness. Eventually we spot a room at the end of the hallway that is lit by torches. Ezra, ever brave, went forward to scout…the sounds of activity grew audible as he neared, but did not increase. Peering into the room, he saw an ornately decorated hall marked only by a throne in the back, upon which was seated a figure reading a book, wearing loose black robes that were embroidered with both purple flames and the symbol of Damokos. Several other robed figures surrounded the throne, one of them helpfully holding an ottoman should it be required by what was obviously their fell master.

Before we could decide on a further plan of action the shade decided for us, noisily running down the hall to join Ezra. Ezra, sensing our recklessness, ran back to join the shade and the rest of us. We entered the hall as one, only to have the reading figure look up and inquire as to why it’d taken us so long to arrive. In close proximity, we saw that his robe was missing a sleeve and that the revealed arm was withered and bony, inscribed with several runes. His face we could not see due to it wearing a mask. It was about this point that some of us began having feelings of unease as to the identity of the masked figure…

The head lich in the flaming robes soon invited us to sit and join him as he conversed with us, remarking on his surprise as seeing how Ezra and the shade had changed since last he’d seen them. The more perceptive of us notice that, just visible through the slits in his mask, were purple eyes. And indeed, though dry and raspy, Edward noted that the voice was nonetheless familiar. …Needless to say, most of us chose to stand rather than join this mysteriously familiar lich in dining, except for Ozymandias. Not even the lich helpfully rejuvenating some dusty desiccated food into complete freshness could change our minds, though Ozymandias certainly had no problems partaking.

During our meal and discussion, the lich removed his skull mask and threw it at one of us, revealing—to no one’s surprise—the dry, shriveled face of our old friend Carkal. Still, not ones for rudeness, we politely inquired as to his well-being and what had happened to him since the last time we’d seen him it was totally dominated and running through a portal to a dire fate. Carkal told us that we’d ended up in an unfamiliar teleportation circle, the domination quickly fading. There, he met a well-dressed person wearing the symbol of Damokos. Sensing incredible power within his grasp, Carkal decided to make a pact with Damokos for warlock powers greater than those he had had before, knowing the pact would also protect him from the wrath of Damokos and his other followers. However, the pact meant that while Damokos couldn’t kill Carkal, so too could Carkal no kill Damokos… (Midway through this, ahem, cut scene we all took a moment to judge Ozymandias for drinking some tiefling wine offered by Carkal. It was literally on fire.).

Small talk finished, the shade snapped and charged, briefly assuming the also mysteriously familiar shape of a half-elf man in plate armor. With that, all politeness was dispensed with and we down with attempting to kill Carkal. Alas, just as Perra cleaved him in two, he flipped us off, displaying the teleportation ring he’d had on him all along, before crumbling completely into dust. Disappointed, we healed and searched the chamber, finding some valuable art pieces and—most intriguingly—a message scrawled inside the skull mask, signed by Carkal. The message told us to go to Ridgeport in search of a specific librarian named Pembernill. We were to bring books.

Despite the fact that Carkal had just tried to kill us in earnest, we decided to take his message—and, I suppose, his creepily amiable new demeanor—at face value and stuffed our bags of holding with ancient tiefling tomes, before making our way back out of the temple.

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