Upon waking the next morning, the party gathered their wits and decided upon the next course of action: they would travel back to the dark room with the spiraling stair and confront whatever guardians sat in wait. So they descended back into the depths of the catacombs, refreshed, and leading their mule behind them.
As they reached the entry foyer of the catacombs, Varis tried once more to recount the names of those families whose names grace each wing of the catacombs: Rivenroar, Von Jallach and Von Urdstadt. Rivenroar, they knew from their interrogation of the captured hobgoblin Morrik, was the name of the castle that now lay in ruins around the catacombs. Von Jallach, as Varis recalled the previous day, was a family of noteworthy wizards from many, many years ago. Varis thought back through a thousands memorties of his lifetimes and was able to place the name Von Urdstadt – a once prominent clan of the Elsir Vale whose knights rode valiantly into battle.
The party pressed further into the catacombs and reached the spiral stair room. Shrazkil, the sorcerer, stealthily lead up the stairs followed by the others. One by one they curved their way upwards until Shrazkil was able to peek just beyond the upper landing. Sure enough he spotted a room of creatures and let the others below know. With the entire party now silently positioned on the stairs, they were able to get the jump on the hobgoblins.
The adventurers rushed into the room and assaulted the goblins. The soldiers and archers were quickly slain and their bodies layed bloodied upon the flagstone floor.
The party searched around the room and found a few items of note: a dark pit in one corner of the room apparently used for refuse disposal; four sarcophagi that dominated the middle of the floor, their lids smashed and contents looted; a desecrated Vecna altar in another corner that had been “rededicated” to Bane; and walls inscriptions that repeated the same message around the room: “Here lie the Rivenroars until the Day of the Black Sun. If you seek their monument, look at the lands around you.”
More doors lead to the south and efforts to listen beyhond them did not reveal anything of note. The party pushed the doors open and began down the hall to the first turn. Once they turned the corner another surprise awaited them. This room had four stone statues of magical-looking beasts, their eyes casting a glowing amber light into the center of the room. Shrazkil turned behind him and said to the others “displacer beasts”, in reference to the statues. Beyond the statues sat another altar – this one with a woman tied next to it. But before the party was able to check on the woman, the dragonborn paladin Thales held up a fist and said, “Wait, something lurks in the shadows.”
Three dire rats jumped at the party from behind the statues and started to bite at Thales and Shrazkil. One of the disease-riden rodents was able to get a filthy bit past Thales armored defenses. But three rodents were no match for five hardened adventurers and their bodies were being bloodied. Then from the shadows bolts started to fly at the frontliners. Two gnomes had been lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opening to attack. But they, too, were quickly cornered and bloodied. Even their sneaky abilities to evade combat did not help escape their demise.
After the foes were slain the woman was freed and the altar and statues examined. Sertanian recognized the woman immediately as Mirtala, the abducted cook. She was in a horrible state having been repeatedly bitten by the rats, and closer examination by Varis confirmed that she suffered the later stages of Filth Fever, the disease carred by the dire rats. Her mental state was comprimised and she rambled unintelligently. Sven, Shrazkil and Thales attempted to pull her back into reality. Repeated attempts at diplomacy and intimidation seemed to be making progress, but it was a final offering of cake that seemed to pull her from her dream world. She was still in a weakened state, but back on her feet nonetheless.
The party had found Mirtala.
Meanwhile Varis and Thor had explored another hallway from the previous room – a long hall that had two dark pits and ropes that decended into the pits. Varis couldn’t quite make out what awaited at the bottom of the pit, but Sven was able to come to the aid. They concluded the pits lead to a room coated with fungi – phosphorescent fungi that made the room glow in a dim light. Finally, Sven decided to descend the ropes into the room. Varis summoned his spirit companion to the bottom just in case. As Sven descended he surveyed the room ahead – it was a very large room that was littered with all sorts of architectural debris and massive amounts of fungi. Also present in the room were two large, scaley beasts. Sven hurried back up the ropes and said entry via the ropes was a bad idea. Perhaps they could find another entrance to that room through the two doors that he had spotted.
So the party backtracked again to the webbed room and those in the front hid Kartenix’s corpse from Mirtala, thinking that the sight of the rigored corpse would push her over the edge of sanity.
They then proceeded upwards on the stairs – stairs that had carved into the last three steps “Von Adrez”, “Kauthin”, and “Crypt”. When the top of the stairs opened into the room beyond, they saw more hobgoblins ready to pounce. Another battle was at hand!
The fighters moved into the room and slew the hobgoblin guards one by one. Next were two drakes positioned in the back. They were quickly assailed upon by Sven and Thor and bloodied within seconds. But from the shadows of the room, a goblin was able to cast the room in a shadowy cloud that made it difficult for the adventurers to find their foes. The goblin’s actions revealed him to the party and they closed to melee in no time. The goblin and last remaining guardians were slain and the adventurers searched their corpses and the room for clues.
The party found an iron key on the goblin but noting else of interest on the dead bodies. The room also had bas-relief images of humans laden with baskets, bags, and boxes — all depicted walking clockwise around the room. A check of all the doors around the room revealed that the southern door had heavy breathing coming from within. So the party took formation by the doors and busted in. Within the room they found more sarcophagi, half-sunken into the floor, and a woman shackled and chained to the wall.
The party had found Jalissa.
Although these sarcophagi appeared to be ramshacked, one of them had its lid pushed back on. Sven and Thor were able to push the heavy stone lid aside and found among the remains a bag filled with gold and silver coins and black and silver fabric. When they pulled out the fabric they saw it was a robe. The workmanship of the robe is extraordinary – lightweight black fabric hemmed with silver threads and intricate designs. The sleeves of the robe stitched with silvery flames that started at the cuff and travel up through the arms.
Jalissa was estatic to see the party and clung to the person that freed her from the shackles – Varis. Jalissa, Sertanian and the party spoke about the prisoners. Varis commented on why Ioun had steered him upon this path and that Jalissa, an acolyte of Ioun, may have been the reason. Futher discussion brough up Kartenix, the slain captain of the guard, at which point Jalissa exclaimed “Poor Thurann!” She knew the boy would be distraut over his father’s death and suggested they find the boy before anything worse happened to the boy. She knew the boy was close because she had heard his screams through the night. So the party regrouped and it was suggested to head through the northern doors.
Once Thor and Sven busted through the north door the group sped through the hall to a four-way intersection. Their sunrods illuminated each hall and to their delight a group of undead was on patrol in the western hall. The ghouls charged the party with the zombies shambling behind. Thor and Thales stood the ghouls up in the hall, protecting the backlines from their immobilizing claws. Thor took several claws and was immobilized and dazed a few times throughout the battle. The zombies rarely had an opportunity to attack and were picked apart by the ranged attacks from the backlines. Once the formations broke and the zombies came forward, the battle was already over and the last of the ghouls and zombies fell. Thor recovered from his ailments and his health restored.
Beyond the undead was a room with an interesting sunburst mosaic of black tile. The mosaic swelled with darkening energy when the party approach and it seemed to absorb the light of their sunrods. This swallowing affect upon the lighting kept the room dimly lit at all times. The party tried to recall any knowledge about this dark mosaic, but the only thing they could recall was a message inscribed on the walls of a previous room that spoke of a “black sun”.
Further past the sunburst mosaic the room opened into another hallway. This hallway, however, had an a faultline running the length of the hall. The party thought about ways of crossing over the hall safely, and they came to the conclusion that it was probably sturdy enough to allow one person to pass at a time. This posed a minor problem because there was a door at the end of the hall and the party had to split at opposite ends of the hall until the doors were opened. So the fighters went across the hall and opened the door while the casters stayed put.
The doors opened into a brightly lit room that had four heavy square columns in each corner. In the middle of the colums was a foul looking beast, indentified as a Carnage Demon by Sven. Once it spotted the adventurers come through the door it lunged at them but was restrained by some kind of magical barrier that kept it within the perimeter of the columns. It paced and tried to get at Thor, who by that time had approached the demon and started mocking it. The other party members started to come through the doorway one by one when a high-pitched voice from the north hall squeeked out , “I releassse you, Crypt Guardian!”
Thor froze in his tracks as the demon that was safely behind the barrier now lunged savagely at him. The two warriors were locked in battle and Sven soon took a flanking position. Then a rat-like creature charged from the north hall and attacked Sven. The rest of the party had entered the room and the battle continued.
Perhaps the crypt keepers were expecting their guardian to face less adept foes because the lone demon was no match for the party of five adventurers. After the demon fell the ratty creature tried to escape to the north hall. Thales, Sven and Thor took turns swiping at the fleeing creature until it eventually dropped short of another doorway.
However, before it fell it was able to yell out, “Intruuudersss!”