Leaving the council at the Cathedral, Sheriff Hemlock escorts us to the site of the newly formed sinkhole.
Where the secret entrance, to the ruins below once was, there’s a gaping hole some thirty feet across, loose earth tugging at its edges. The site has a cordon of rope and knotted rags, and a single forlorn guard on sentry duty.
Looking inside, fifteen feet down, we can see that the damage has breached the thankfully unoccupied cells below the Garrison.
With no hesitation, Mori and Mhad us their magic to fly down, leaving Athene and I to take a more mundane route through the Garrison. The Roc and Owl try to follow their masters in, but reel back, their feathered forms too large to enter.
Hemlock‘s expression is grim; wishing us well on our mission, but hoping we can find his men… or recover their remains.
We climb down the slope of clotted earth to an exposed stairwell leading into the ruins.
Spells of light cast upon me, the only one among us unable to see in the gloom, I lead us in, Wynter by my side, her sleeker form allowing her to follow where our avian companions can not.
The ruins are strangely dormant
I sense no evil, but not even insects stir, despite the exposed earth nearby.
We are able to share with Mori the sights of a mission past. The Sinspawn Rune well; only a hint of its dark energy remaining but otherwise empty and still. The ritual room, the vargouille roost, glaive wielding statues, sinspawn catacombs, abandoned cells, arrow filled maggoty zombie corpses and a gnarled, mutant goblin now nearly picked clean by scavengers.
But we all know where to go. The tracks of the guardsmen lead us to the bottom of a spiral stair. A corridor, once blocked with rubble and the source of spectral howling, now lays open. We’ve waited a long time to learn the secret of what lays beyond and venture forth, curious but wary…
The corridor beyond is narrow and draped with cobwebs. They appear to be some sort of magical ward. It is trapped too, but only trivially. The corridor leads to a rather conspicuous dead end, where Athene notices a hairline crack that reveals a secret door.
The door swings open to reveal an antechamber, every inch of the floor and walls scrawled with spidery script, in letters small and large. The tall roofed hall has sturdy doors on one side, a narrow fissure on the other and a large, pillar lined corridor beyond, all shrouded in what must be a magical fog.
I sense no evil beyond, but it feels evil nonetheless. A statue of a three eyed, jackal headed female figure stands here too… Lamashtu; Demon Queen of Beats and patron of so many of our enemies.
Just as Mahd proclaims the language Thassilonian, a dismembered voice echoes and shifts from every corner of the room. I don’t understand the words but I’ve heard the dialect before, it too is Thassilonian and unlike me, Thad understands them!
The two engage in a long and animated discourse that leaves the rest of us a little on edge. When Mhad is finally finished she relates her conversation with an ancient Thasilonian who calls himself ‘The Scribbler’. He also described himself as one who played each side against the other in the same conflict between Runelords that is at the centre of our mission.
We realise then that he must be the traitor Xaliasa mentioned in the map we found, and this very likely is the location of a Runeforge key!
Mori uses her magic to dispel the fog… and the mood suddenly changes.
The small fissure reveals only more darkness but the pillared hall in front of us opens into a huge chamber. Lined with more grotesque statues of the pregnant, kukri armed jackal woman Lamashtu, all the way to a wide dias, covered with rubble from the collapsed roof.
And on that dias is a demon- a Glabrezu!
Nearly twenty feet tall, it is a fearsome abomination. Rippling muscles under spiked carapace, a skeletal, horned head, bony reptilian feet, crab like pincers and a second pair of almost comically small, but clawed arms.
Repentance seems to vibrate with anticipation, flames licking the blade as Wynter rumbles with an eager growl.
‘Oathbreakers’ it bellows and the fight is on!
Despite its massive size it is quick and no mindless animal.
Before any of us can move, it casts a spell.
The room turns upside down, no, it is us that has flown upside down! I try to hold onto the narrow pillar in front but it’s no good, my armour weighs me down (or up) and all of us but Mahd (still flying) crash upwards into the roof.
In the time it takes to stand looking with disorientation back down at the floor) he has summoned a second of his kin to aid him!
Mahd summons her own ally, a huge almost equally demonic looking spider, a Bebolith!.
Mahd is screaming something about the Demon, that it shouldn’t be able to use summoning magics and something incoherent about armour.
It matters not though.
I charge, across the roof towards the Demon, hoping I may smite it from above but instead, not half way there, Wynter and I fall back down with a crash, obviously beyond the limits of the spell, stopping us in our tracks.
Arrows are bouncing of its plated hide.
Mori tries to dispel the second demon but to no avail!
The second Demon counters with it’s own spell and our arachnid minion vanishes!
The first Demon casts that spell we hate so much and when it advances, eight not one blurring Demons descend upon me- Mirror Image!
Mahd summons a second Bebolith as Wynter and I flit between the shifting images of the first Demon, to attack the second behind.
By now, surrounded by the leaping, swinging forms of nine Glabrezu and a Bebolith I can barely make out what is happening behind on the roof.
I hear the howl of two Babau but they are not with Mhad, Athene stands between them nearly death and calling for help.
I hear Mori’s bowstring and an image in front of me disappears.
A blast of magic and another is gone.
The Glabrezu howls it’s infuriation!
I say a prayer and the might of Iomadae swells form me and into Wynter and as one, we smite the Summoned Glabrezu! The shining lady does NOT appreciate unwanted Outsiders in her realm!
Both Demons turn on me now.
Attack and lay hands, attack and lay hands…
Wynter tears it’s siney flesh but cannot pull the creature down.
The spider’s massive, clawed feet rip at Demon hide.
More magical images disappear.
A wave of holy energy washes over us, and all the outsiders (including my arachnid ally) shudder and screech in pain.
The Demon wavers and Wynter presses the advantage, leaping in and tearing out the Demon’s innards. It’s fiery eyes flicker then it disappears!
Then from the fissure a cackling, seemingly mad voice- The Scribbler!
From the alcove he lashes out at Athene, then he reappears on the other side of the room.
Mahd summons a Dire Tiger which bounds into the fray and fells the last Babau and Athene is finally able to right herself… Still alive despite her protestations.
One demon remains, The Scribbler too… we have the upper hand, but will we win… or will they just open a door and run away?