Previously on Skyfall Basin..
Attempts to make sense of recent events are interrupted when Wyrallin appears on the streets of Ravan wearing the magic blade that holds shut the faerie door in Three Forks..
A meeting with the wylden turns in to an ambush by purple-robed cultists, elementals, and a wraith-like apparition..
The apparition dispersed, the cultists slain, Tim and Hadarai hare off in pursuit of a fleeing cultist and the captured Wyrallin(?) snagged in elemental clutches..
With abyssal howls echoing in their minds, Tim and Hadarai back out of the warehouse they had chased the fleeting cultist into and await the rest of the band. After briefly scouting out the exterior of the building, a typical warehouse backed against the sheer face of the Rock of Ravan, a course of action is decided on: Attack! With Vorlakk and Kat in the lead, they rush into the interior, and moments later disturbing shapes emerge from the dim maze of crates and cargo, abyssal screams rising in the party’s minds as the beasts attack:
Short humanoids that appear at once grossly fat and emaciated, with thick rolls of sickly green skin hanging off of their chest and stomach while their arms and legs are skeletally thin, ribs and backbone visible through the taut skin. Their mouths are gaping black pits filled with rotten spike-like teeth, constantly drooling black ichor. Their eyes are covered by an iron plate that appears to have been nailed into place on their face, and their entire body is covered in angry rashes and pustules. Drudges from the foul pits of the Abyss.
No sooner is battle joined than more enemies reveal themselves: stone-clad skeletons rise from the floor as if it were water and attack those already engaged by the drudges. When their heavy fists strike they drive their victims down into the stone floor, which flows around their feet like mud before hardening again into an irresistible grip. Magic flies, weapons rise and fall, and soon the warehouse is littered with the burning remains of precious cargoes and the corpses of demons dissolving into puddles of acidic foulness.
When the fumes clear, a secret passageway is revealed at the back of the warehouse, boards pulled away to reveal a crack in the rock face crudely widened into a narrow passage. The muddy streak of the fleeing elemental leads within.
A few twists and turns and the party soon finds the passage widening out into a vestry of sorts. Benches are carved into the walls, and above them are thirteen niches filled with purple robes like those worn by the cultists, except four that lie empty. Beyond, the corridor dead-ends in a deep pool, darkness beneath the surface hinting at space beyond.
Vorlakk bravely volunteers (being the only one with any decent amount of swimming ability) to explore the watery tunnel with a guide rope around his waist. He discovers that the passage does indeed continue underwater for a dozen paces before apparently dead-ending. A glimmer of light drew his attention to the left, revealing a further passage rising back towards the surface. Emerging with typical goliath stealth, the splashing and spluttering thankfully went unnoticed by the voices in the cavern beyond.
“I’m not the one you want, I swear! Look!” came Wyrallin’s voice, though as the words came it changed, losing it’s wylden timbre and growing more human, and more feminine.
A chilling laugh answered, and the grave-born voice of the wraith spoke: “Do you think you ever deceived the Lord of Secrets, fool? Of course not. And those who cannot keep their secrets deserve none. But perhaps there is a use for you yet, in that spark the gods seem to find so precious..”
Darting back underwater, Vorlakk quickly summoned the rest of the party, who soon emerged into the corridor leading upwards into a large cathedral-cavern.
A large cavern with a mockery of a chapel at it’s center, a filthy pool surrounded by pews and crumbling columns facing an altar before a fragment of an ancient church wall complete with rose window. The window is covered by a tanned human skin painted with a huge eye, the wall around it painted with an even larger hand wrapped in spiked chains. A strange woman clad in leathers much like Wyrallin’s lay on the altar, invisibly bound, while the wraith loomed over her with a strange spine-shaped dagger, carving ritual symbols on and around his captive. Two huge mud-creatures stood at the edge of the pool between the wraith and the entrance, one holding a robed form beneath the water while the other watches passively.
The party charged in, determined to prevent whatever sacrifice the wraith has planned. Kat’s attempt was foiled when one of the muddy abominations, revealed to be a construct of dead flesh and corrupted earth, slammed her to the ground and pinned her underfoot. Tim moved to save her while Vorlakk charged the other abomination and Jeton and Nala moved to save the drowning cultist and woman and attack the wraith. Hadarai and Halgar flung fire and arrows from the rear, only to be attacked by flaming skeletons rising the braziers set near the door (braziers that the party discussed trying to quench or knock over before the fight but eventually decided to ignore, without closely examining their contents). Hadarai scoffed at the flames, made immune by the Hands of Retribution. The abominations were destroyed, the wraith cornered.. just as a massive earthquake set the entire cavern shaking. Blinded by the wraith’s mind-rot, the party struggled to land the last blow and slay the creature, but it’s insidious whispers managed to corrupt Vorlakk’s mind long enough to briefly convince him that Nalaa would make an excellent meal. The barbarian’s revenge came quickly, though, and the wraith was crushed under his mighty flail just as the earthquake began to subside.
Meanwhile a dark figure had emerged from the passage behind the party and struck down the last of the flaming skeletons, then let out a cry of “Daubrey!” at the sight of the woman, rescued along with the half-drowned cultist by Nala and Jeton’s efforts. The figure was revealed to be the “Cormack” that “Wyrallin” had called out to during the ambush. By the time the band emerged again from the flooded passage the earthquake had subsided, but a new concern presented itself: the passage beyond had begun to flood as well, several inches of water covering the floor. Rushing outside, a grim sight greeted the party: the Carron River had lept it’s banks, flooding the city even while the earth shook. Indeed, on further examination the river seemed to have reversed it’s course. As they watched, though, the flow ebbed and then reversed again, nature resuming it’s proper order, while shouts of alarm began to rise from the city. On the far western horizon, a black pall hangs over the Shatterspine Mountains, hinting at the source of the earthquake. The damage seems to be mostly superficial, however. The city still stands, aside from a few collapsed chimneys or sagging roofs.
Then it was time for interrogations: Who were Cormack and Daubrey, exactly, and what part did they have in the assault on the party. Who was the cultist and was he ready to come clean about his masters now that his life had been saved? The answer to that last proved to be a resounding “No” as the cultist attempted to stab Nala then fled with a flick of his cloak, vanishing and then reappearing far up the flooded street. Not far enough to flee a ranger’s bow, however, and one more body was added to the count. Cormack and Daubrey, though, were much more eager to show their gratitude. Assassins by trade, they had been hired by the black-haired elf just as the wererats were. Their experience had convinced them that they were sorely underpaid, though, and it took little prompting to get them to give up their payment and agree to watch the shadows on behalf of the party and discourage further pursuit.
With the immediate crisis past, a brief expedition was mounted back into the cavern to loot and pillage. And an informative looting session it was: Along with various magical trinkets and valuables taken from the cultist’s bodies or the cult’s stash, a copy of their unholy writings was found, which held disturbing revelations.
The cult, it seemed, worshiped Vecna, the undead god of forbidden lore, whose symbol they wore in the form of a mummified child’s hand, a gemstone set in it’s palm as an eye and wrapped in silver chains. The cult claimed to know the reason for the sudden retreat of the Darkness that allowed pockets of civilization like the cities of the Basin to survive: some force had threatened the Primevals in their prisons, forcing them to withdraw the power they had granted their foul champions in order to defend themselves. This threat came in the form of an artifact of terrible power, the Soul Forge, which had been broken into fragments near the end of the Dawn War. Nameless heroes had retrieved the fragments when the Darkness threatened at the end of the Third Age, and used those fragments to attack the Primevals and drive them deeper into their prisons. Now the cult claims to have found these fragments, and plan to use them to weaken the Primevals bindings, bargaining with them to bring a new age of Darkness.. and then imprison them again once they have united the desperate remnants of civilization under their rule, in the name of Vecna.
And so, with a bag of holding full of plunder and unholy writings and floodwaters receding around them, the party ponders just what to do next..