The southern Blackwood Forest – Brevoy
(The 18th Day of Erastus, 4711 AR – mid-morning)
“Get back out of sight,” Albia growls. “Stand ready.”
She stands before the opening in the throne room floor, her naked blade close at hand. The others pull back into the shadows, and ready themselves as well. Akorian crouches beside the now-retracted throne, shadowed in darkness. Talathel hovers at the far corner of the room, armed with his ashwood longbow. Iacobus crouches nearby, his shimmering blackblade unsheathed and held low at his side. And finally Kyras kneels just behind Albia, clasping his shield, his free hand grasping a silver holy symbol of Pharasma.
A low, murmuring growl sounds from the blackness before you. Albia tenses, holding her blade steady, and continues to wait as the slow clatter of heavy boots sounds on the cold stone flags of the staircase. Moments later a pair of red, feral eyes glows in that darkness, calling to you. There is an enraged howl, the quickened clatter of approaching footsteps, and the demonic fiend you faced earlier emerges into the light, snarling, its clawed fingers outstretched and reaching for the flawless white skin at Albia’s throat. Bowstrings snap and razor-keen blades flash as first demon appears – it howls anew, and then throws itself heedlessly towards Albia. Vile black ichor pours from its putrid flesh as your first blows land, and then the fiend that was once your friend Marcus appears, snarling mindlessly as well. Albia stabs the first creature, plunging in her blade to the hilt; it snarls at her again, clawing and spitting. Iacobus rounds on Marcus, slashing him badly, and watches as Kyras sends forth a pulse of white-hot light to sear both undead creatures.
Marcus’ tainted body crumbles to dust at this radiant onslaught, leaving but one creature behind. Iacobus and Kyras press in close as well, thus blocking the archers from getting a clear shot. But now the fiend is clearly outclassed – their blades flicker and dance, and slowly press the wight back, step by step, until it stands precariously at the edge of the steps leading down. One final flash of Albia’s sword sends the demon tumbling back the way it came, bonelessly, and now clearly dead for all eternity.
The group pauses then, and comes to stand over the pile of putrid ash that is all that remains of Marcus. Kyras says a few words, praying for the souls of the departed, and then you move onward, keen to continue your exploration of the tunnels below. Iacobus and Akorian refresh their light charms, thus illuminating the stairs, and the group moves onward, now with Albia leading the way.
You find the body of the now-dead mage at the bottom of the stairs. A quick check of its corporeal remains produces little, save a plain silver ring that the dead man wore on his right index finger. Iacobus takes a moment to examine the object, murmurs a few words of power, and you all see the ring glow brightly for the briefest of moments. It is magic, he determines. With this new artifact in hand you all continue on back the way you came, and soon return to the four-way intersection where you first encountered the wight. No other foes appear to be present, so the group cautiously enters the octagonal entry chamber and takes a moment to examine the area for signs of anything amiss.
After some discussion it is decided to turn north and investigate the pair of chambers you discover there. The first room appears to be dusty and disused – within you find numerous boxes, crates and panniers all filled with an assortment of medical tools, beakers, vials, etc, all of an alchemic or medical nature. The chamber just across the hall is in a very similar state; inside you find a large table fitted with heavy leather restraints, various bins and equipment racks, and large beakers and glass containers holding the desiccated remains of various organs and bodily fluids. Three 2’x7’ cubbies are found at the back of the room, each sealed off by a hinged bronze door. They are kept in a near-frozen state by magic, you decide: one of them still contains the body of a dead human female, perfectly preserved. Otherwise there is nothing of interest here, so you close off the sealed compartment and return to the corridor and head back the way you came.
Next the party takes the easternmost corridor, and again finds a pair of closed doors at the end. The first room is yet another storage chamber, similar to the first one you investigated to the north. Here you search for a bit, but find nothing of interest. The second door leads to another work area filled with the various items needed in the alchemy trade. The various beakers, burners and whatnot are dusty and unused, and any fluids within have long since dried up. A quick search through the various bins and cabinets produces five usable potions, including philters of Good Berry, Bark Skin, Resist Energy (Fire), and two potions of Cure Light Wounds. Also present is a series of notebooks filled with the scribbling of what you take to be arcane alchemical formulae.
Once you have finished searching (and looting) the easternmost series of chambers, you turn to the south, and discover yet another storage room. This chamber holds little to interest you, however. This leaves the last room in the area, a simple wooden door set in the eastern wall of the corridor, bound stoutly with rust-streaked iron. Once strong locks held it in place, but no longer. Akorian examines the portal, and sees that any locks (and magical traps or enchantments) have long since been disabled by someone who obviously knew a great deal about such things.
As soon as Akorian opens the door, however, a horrible stench assails your senses – it is as if a dozen sides of beef had been allowed to turn, you think, gagging slightly at the first hint of that reeking odor. And you are not fools, obviously. This smell cannot possibly herald something good. Blades are readied, and spells prepared. Then Albia throws wide the door and all present see a dusty, tightly confined corridor beyond (10’x5’) that ends in a door identical to the first. Steeling yourselves, you cautiously approach the far door, only to see it crash open in a flurry of splintered wood and sundered iron!
At first you’re not quite sure what sort of beast now opposes you. Your initial impression is of a humanoid creature, freakish, a lurching mash-up of rotting flesh, jagged bone and coarse hair, all jumbled together as if sewn in place from spare parts in some madman’s workshop. You see pieces of human flesh, animal (goat, sheep and horse, to be precise) and other, less identifiable species, all thrown into a disgusting stew of madness and feral desire. Realizing the foolishness of trying to fight such a beast in these close quarters Albia calls for an orderly withdrawal, and thusly you pull back into the hallway with the carrion creature following eagerly, as if hungering for your living flesh.
You decide to make your final stand in the octagonal chamber near the gatehouse itself. The party spreads out with its bladesmen – Albia, Iacobus and Kyras – in front, and Talathel and Akorian to the rear to provide what support they may. Akorian raises his hand, concentrating intently, and suddenly a vivid blue spark erupts from his hand to lance out to strike the creature! He is disappointed to see the magic fizzle, however, as if the demon were somehow protected from it. Instead he takes up his bow, and fits an arrow into place. It is then that the horrid stench of the thing hits you full force. Albia falls to the dusty stone floor, gagging at the stink; Iacobus throws himself before her, holding his blade before him defiantly. The creature falls upon him instead, and the magus screams as sharp talons tear at flesh and fabric both. Then he plunges his sword to the hilt into the demon’s belly, wounding it savagely. Its blood, you see, is thick and black, like fresh tar.
Bowstrings snap, but arrows seem to have little effect on the thing. Albia wipes her hand across her mouth, forcing herself to her feet. Her blade is held low at her side, and then swings upward, catching the creature across its part goat, part-human visage, shattering its jaw and spraying brackish gore far and wide. The beast rounds on her then, and slashes her with its filthy talons as well. It is only then that Kyras steps in, and plunges his antique dueling sword into the monster’s belly, spilling its black, rotting innards to the cold stone floor. It totters, nearly finished, before falling at last into a mangled heap at the very edge of the chamber. For a long moment you all stand, panting and exhausted, before quickly taking stock of the situation. You are alive. It is dead – all is as it should be.
Kyras takes a moment to tend to Iacobus’ grievous wounds. Then the group reforms and heads back to the chamber from which the strange, chimera-like creature had emerged from. You enter the chamber cautiously, and watch as your witch-light falls across a small, low-ceilinged chamber, thick now with the dust of ages. The room contains many tables, cabinets and whatnot, most thoroughly looted. There have been a few items left behind, however. A quick search turns up the following items: a black velvet mask studded with citrines, a silver chalice studded with lapis lazuli, as well as a golden idol of Nethys worth a king’s ransom all by itself! Also in the litter you find a gleaming magic dagger and a cloak sewed from a strange, silvery fabric.
The greatest treasure, however, is found in a small wooden cabinet at the very rear of the chamber. Iacobus pries open the lock to find a number of leather-bound journals, each apparently kept in Tumai’s own hand. Iacobus opens the first book cautiously to see that the tomes document many things, including the mage’s life history, his time here in King’s Mead, his various experiments, and the like. Of note is Volume III, which seems to detail the story of his discovery of the ‘Locket of Tyren’ as a callow adventurer. He had since kept the locket it seems, and hidden it jealously, knowing there were those who would do anything to wrest it from him.
Iacobus’ thoughts, however, are interrupted by Albia’s quiet whisper. “Someone is coming.” The Chelish warrior has been standing at the door to the treasure room this entire time, keeping watch. The others gather, and soon stand at the door, peering into the darkness.
You see the light immediately, glimmering at the far end of the hall, in the direction of the octagonal chamber. Moments later the glow resolves itself into the flicker of a simple torch, borne by a single cloaked figure.
“Hold fast, knave!” Albia cries. She steps into the corridor and draws her blade. “Stand now, and let us see your face.”
The figure pauses, and does as he is told. First he sets his torch on the floor and lowers the hood of his bulky rain cloak. He is an elf, you see, tall, slender, with handsome, angular features, sharply pointed ears and bright green eyes that seem to swirl with flecks of gold within. His hair is pale silver, his skin so pale as to be nearly translucent. His garments are crafted from silvery-green cloth, and cut in an alien style you take to be of elven origin; even his armor is strange, looking at you as if it had been crafted from the living leaves of a mighty oak!
“Wait a moment. I know you!” Akorian steps forward. “You’re Tanis-something, right? From the caravan that brought us here from Chesed?”
“Aye.” The fellow’s voice is lilting and musical, his expression charming. “I am pleased to see you remember me, Lord Sarani. I am Tanis Thistlecrown, former caravan-mate, and current pauper. I’d heard rumors that you’d returned from the mountains bearing treasure and glory, and have been looking to join your band ever since.”
“Really? Do tell.” Albia does not quite lower her sword. “How is it we find you here, Master Elf? Do you expect us to believe this meeting is the result of some happy coincidence?”
“Not at all.” If anything the fellow’s smile grows even wider. “Master Hodar told me you’d be heading out this way. I gather he overheard you speaking about the place with one of the locals. It was a hunter, I believe. I forget his name.”
You remember belatedly that Hodar Blackcrag is the proprietor of the Five Dead Men, a grog shop you and your comrades had spent some time in recently. Staring now at this strange new interloper, you quickly ponder what to do next.