Rappan-Athuk Reborn

Hey, we found the guy holding the sword we need...

Unfortunately, it would take an army to kill him plus our party to make a sizeable dent in his defenses. It seems we are not as powerful or ready as we thought to be. Perhaps that is a humbling statement. Or perhaps it is a thought of foolishness. Seeking fortune and power are worthy goals in a harsh land such as Varisia…but how long will our luck and good tidings last in this pit of evil?

It has become apparent to me…and perhaps the wizard also; that spells and steel alone may not help us in the end…and what about getting back? I abhore the sun…but even I would welcome the pain of that than to spend eternity here. I must keep my sanity if I am to survive.

- Kel’Thae, Sorceror HellKnight of the Citadel
Day 6

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A Really Large Dead Tree...

“Along the road from Magnimar, our intrepid party of do-gooders minus the cave druid, found a mysterious path leading to the largest tree I had ever seen. It’s trunk and branches seemed to stretch to the heavens themselves. But as we approached it, we noticed that at the tree’s base was a pride of Dire Lions that seem to be chasing after a couple of harpies above.

“Two of our members seemed to be mesmerized by the strange cacophony of music coming from the harpies and walked forward to attack the pride itself. And that proved nearly fatal. As the pride immediately turned away from the harpies they were growling at and proceeded to surround us! Thinking we had the upper hand, we started to be tactful and strategize against the coming onslaught. But then our Ninja friend had to go and knock herself out. Luckily, my goddess Sarenrae was there to guide my healing hands as one by one my companions began to fall. There is something to be said for being at the rear of an attack. One lives to fight another day…and heal others!”

From the Journal of Da’Mar, Sun Warrior of Her Holiness, Sarenrae
15th day of Rova, Starday, 4713

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...More Pussies!!!

64 To be exact…

Taking extreme precautions, the unlikely party of dungeon delvers strapped on ropes, torches and sunrods as they made their decent into hell. Overcoming fear seemed relatively easy at first as they emerged through a tight tunnel into a large dark cavern filled with sharp rocky edges and impossibly hard stone throughout. All in all not unusual. But the ceiling was not what it appeared to be.

“It seemed to me that making our point man – err woman, go in front of us to dodge piercers was either highly unchilverous or daringly foolhardy. And running in breastplate is never a strong suit for me, if you will pardon the pun. But Goddess be with me, we made it past the falling devils with little scrapes and bruises. What came next, however, seemed like something out of a bad dream.”

Da’Mar Sunday, the 29th day of Rova, 4713

They seemed to come out of nowhere – except for the rats pouring out of every hole in the cavern walls, before the party was aware of it. Large shimmering cats. Cats the seemed one and many – blurring lines and reality. Difficult to know which was real and which was a mirror.

The fight lasted what seemed hours. Avoiding waiting dire rats and other denizens. The group eventually dispatched the creatures with more muster than flare and then quickly left the area before more vermin decided to take advantage of the lull.

The darkness continues…

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Ashes to Ashes

From the Journal of Da’Mar, Cleric of her Holiness Sarenrae

“So you can have some fun in the dark of this place! We meandered through more tight tunnels, constantly fighting the creep and tension, not to mention the hard sleeping surface. I am not a fan of sleeping underground. In any event, we came upon a room that quite literally rose up against us.

“And they immediately identified themselves as zombies – the very thing I despise. As well as a fellow warrior of Sarenrae that is with us! They quickly surrounded us, and the paladin and I let them close in waiting for the right moment. Then saying a quick oath to her holiness, I presented my gold symbol and burned the walking corpses – some into nothingness.

The rest of my comrades wasted no time firing arrows, cleaving and tearing into these JuJu horrors, eventually a final burst of channeling light from my comrade of Sarenrae destroyed them turning them back into the ash from whence they came.

The battle now over, I celebrated at camp, making a few cups of my favorite tea. Yes, cleansing this place is indeed worthy and not foolhardy!"

The 9th Day of Lashaman, Wealday, 4713

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Zhulkir's Lair

Some days the bear gets you…

It would figure that the end of a long and winding secret tunnel in the dark would dead-end into a nearly invisible secret door that is ferociously trapped. But there it is. The darkness was thick and foreboding. If it were not for the occasional orbs of light from Zorland or from Da’Mar’s sunrods, one might never find their way out.

But again there was a trap there. Three levers. All or one could be trapped. No way to know. Zorland, believing himself to be clever, gave the ninja a potion of gaseous form to better see what we were dealing with. That decision nearly killed her, as a strong anti-magic aura bounced her form back out of the lever holes and into humanoid form again.

Zorland decided on a more simple approach, casting light on a simple stone and tossing it in the lever compartment. Naturally the light winked out. And while the party pondered what to do next, the wizard uncharacteristically dove forward and reached the furthest right lever pulling it… and opening the secret door.

“Sometimes taking the initiative pays off!” he exclaimed, dusting himself off from the cobwebs and dirt that were in the hole.

“Sometimes stupidity kills,” muttered the paladin, rolling her eyes and stepping forward into the pitch black room that was newly revealed.

Spreading out – most of the company move along the smooth obsidian walls of this strangely shaped room. Four large jade statues stood in the center of the room, standing twelve feet tall and spaced out by about twenty feet.

Da’mar noted how quiet it was in this chamber and had taken precautions casting beneficial spells to his companions before entering this odd place.

The wizard, Iroh and others began to exam the statues, looking for writing or some indication as to what they represented. The Ninja made her way to the top of a dais near the back of the room where a lone sarcophagus sat unmoving.

She had no time to really exam that, however, as the door closed shut descending from the ceiling to the floor, blocking the druid from getting in. At the same time, two of the statues moved from their stoic silence and aggressively moved toward Da’Mar and the ninja.

“Golems!” Zorland shouted from across the room. “Iron golems! Try to keep back!”

The remaining group splintered off in different directions as the two golems took aim at everyone. Worse, and a diabolical shadow and laughter seemed to appear and disappear every so often. No doubt the occupant of this room.

No fierce battle was to be had here. As the entire company began to quickly realize, this was a struggle to survive.

Trying to stay ahead of the walking behemoths was no small task. Zorland muttered a few words dropping grease on the ground underneath them, hoping they would fall. Others threw objects, or climbed up upon them and smacked them in the head if nothing but to keep them distracted. Hitting them was simply not realistic.

The laughter and appearances of the shadow continued. Almost immediately, Dravina ceased all emotion and effort about her as a blast of darkness and twinkled light surrounded her vision and then finally draining her. To the rest, she just seemed to lose interest in the fight.

Soon after, looking for a way past the slammed door, Da’mar and the ninja made for the top of dais to try and see if there was a way out from there. Meanwhile Zorland reached into his tattered backpack and pulled out a rose colored stoppered vial. He wasn’t at all sure it would work – but for their sake it had better.

Not wasting time, he made his way around a golem swinging for him and threw the elixir at the stone door. It immediately began to wither and change, turning to large strands of flesh, tissue and blood vessels. Rather gross if you think about it!

Da’mar looked behind him seeing the work. “Brilliant idea, Zorland! We can burn our way out now!”

Naturally, being pawns in this game of the enemy, they needed another challenge to overcome. As the iron golems continued to close in on us, one of which had destroyed Dravina’s body, a wall of fire sprung up right in front of the new opening that was made.

And with no way to get inside the coffin, the only sensible thing to do was try and make it through the opening before the golems blocked the party in…forever.

Keeping everyone alive seemed almost futile as Da’Mar channeled and prayed to Sarenrae over and over, rushing to the door. Zorland managed to quench the wall of fire dispelling it but not before both golems made it there.

With Iroh and Dravina now dead, the only hope for escape now was to somehow make it past the clutches of these giant walking piles of metal and not be caught in the process.

Out of breath and also out of options, Da’Mar grabbed a lock of Dravina’s hair before running to the door, and as he drew close, blocked by a golem, Zorland, jumped up onto the top of the iron menace screaming! Da’mar and the ninja could do nothing but watch as he distracted it by jumping down – drawing its attention – allowing enough time for the ninja to pass through its clutches unnoticed, but at a high price.

Zorland was bludgeoned to death by a pair of iron fists slamming into his frail body utterly splattering him all over the room. It was as if someone took a warhammer to a cantaloupe.

Now in a state of near panic and no time left, Da’mar reached inward. Concentrating, calling out to his goddess. The end was near. If she deemed him worthy she would answer his prayer and if not. He and the survivors would die here. In this cold dark place.

The others that had made it outside looked back to see Da’mar, stammering, his eyes closed. It was hard to make out what he is feeling or what was being said. But their curiosity changed, as an angelic voiced filled the dark tunnel and obsidian room. Time stopped. Nothing could be felt or heard except the voice of a woman, wise beyond the count of wizards and elves and the surviving heartbeats of those that still lived.

“You have come further than most. You have sacrificed much, however it is not yet your time. I shall remove you from this place, that you may return as you once were or you may cross to the beyond. I will light the way. Decide now. And be Free.”

The stillness and the heartbeats seemed to last an eternity. Do you continue on, or if you fall, do you move on? Internal decisions being made by each of the company.

However, decisions were made.

The light that followed was so bright, the eyesight of the party didn’t come back for several minutes.

The stillness was replaced by quiet conversations from a dozen people nearby. The passing of a couple of horse and buggies over cobblestone. The shrill of several seagulls overhead and in the distance the sound of surf breaking against rocks and piers.

The air was fresh and filled with seaspray. Salt was in the air… And after still more minutes, the smells of freshly baked bread and pies, a nearby smelter where the sounds of metal being worked and the smell of smoke tinged the air.

The bright light finally dimmed. And as the party looked about to see the tall monumental arches of Magnimar and an empire long forgotten. They realized they were safe. For now. Da’mar was still standing there with his eyes shut when a friend gently grabbed his arm and guided him with others off of the bustling street.

No one spoke the rest of the way to the tavern and inn a few blocks distant. No one said anything at all…

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Ribbitt...

The encounter with the mysterious stranger and the thugs he was battling was strange and unnerving to all that stopped to watch. He seemed anxious to want to join the party to reed out the famous dungeon’s secrets and destroy evil. Though he looked every bit the part of evil incarnate.

Reluctantly letting the stranger join, the group traveled nearly the entire day before stopping near a small river to camp for the night. Autumn was already here in southern Varisia, as well as cool winds from the north. The firelight seemed to make shadows everywhere, providing some spooky entertainment on an outcropping of nearby rocks, but providing little in the way of warmth.

The night progressed nearly uneventful, with everyone sleeping except the two on watch. Then the silence was breached. A strange stomping in the trees beyond the river. Dravina and the others quickly woke to ready themselves, though Da’Mar had no clue what they were hearing. His own senses have not been his own since the fight against Zhulkar and his minions.

Clearing the brush, a giant walking bipedal frog like creature stumbled forward. Tentacles withered from where his front legs should be, reaching out to ensare one or all of his. His mouth glazed with icy sharp teeth, but it was maw that was fearsome enough.

The Frogamauth made a direct run for the ninja. It ran to her full speed, his tentacles reaching toward her and nearly connecting with a huge force. But Dravina saw this attack coming. Quickly dashing over and in front of her just as the tentacles would have wrapped the ninja up.

Dravina was weakened and bloody from sacrificing her body to stop the creature from possibly killing the ninja.

The battle ensued for nearly twenty minutes, at one point both Dravina and the ninja had been swallowed whole by the bipedal frog giant. But tearing through a hole, they were able to get out along with a well place dimension door spell spun off by Zorland’s voice.

The magic of his spells encircled him as he briefly teleported inside the creature, grabbing his comrade and then blinking back out to safety. Dravina once again dove in front of the creature’s onslaught, this time falling unconscious as she prevented a death blow to Da’Mar diving to catch the tentacles head on.

But Lazarus turned the tide quickly, along with the others, forcibly hurting and finally destroying the monstrosity as it stumbled backwards, falling to the ground with a thud after Zorland pierced it with an assault of magic missles.

Panting and gasping to catch their breath, the party clambered back to the campsite to try to get a few more winks of sleep. Zorland looking still amused, look back over at the ninja. “Told you it was a frog,” he beamed.

She didn’t answer. There were still a couple of hours until dawn. The peace of the wilderness despite the battle, was still wanting to all. How long, once they reach Rappan-Athuk, before they see stars again?

The stranger merely glared upward, cleaning off his weapons before sitting himself once more by the fire. The cold of the night bothering him slightly. Yes, he thought to himself. This rabble may yet indeed be worth working with.

Dawn was coming…and sleep took over.

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In and Out

After many long days and nights crawling and walking down corridors, the ragged group of delvers began encountering on a rather numerous basis, random areas that whisked them away to other unknowns. One turn nearly ended in disaster as a pet rock never returned from a scouting expedition.

Through pure chance – one of the teleportation devices transported the curious adventurers back to Magnimar – where Da’Mar went off to build the foundations for a small temple, Zorland tried his hand in a local tavern, and Pashana reached out to the beyond to make money on fortunes and glory.

Beyond the noise of carts and horses, the occasional magical missive and traders filling the ancient streets, the city of arches held more than respite for everyone. Before once again diving beneath Hell itself and rooting out what lay there…

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Attacking the Impossible

Stairway to Fear

It certainly seemed for the first time that this oppressive dungeon was beginning to open up. The corridors were larger, looking engineered and not grown like some duegar hovel. Most of the company seemed eager to press forward. The corridor was well lit showing well angled lines and seamless stone carved stairs leading up to a large room with two dark pillars.

The air seemed to change, become heavy, an invisible push on everyone’s chest as they reconnoitered the room.

“There isn’t anything here,” Chikako stated matter-of-factly. “Nothing we can see perhaps,” replied Lazarus looking skeptical.

Da’Mar seemed unphased as he rounded the inside of the room, he felt a dark presence. He was too slow to react to it however – as an armored ghost from beyond wielding a longsword jumped at the party out of thin air!

A powerful undead, not one to be underestimated, yet Da’Mar was clearly confident he could handle this. After all slaughtering undead is what he does. Why should this foul creature be any different?

But it was, reaching inside his sleeve, he presented his holy symbol to Sarenrae and ordered the apparition to leave – a brilliant glow encircled Da’Mar’s form before bursting in a radiant sphere slamming the creature with a hot white burning of positive energy. To Da’Mar’s surprise, the creature seemed to rebuffed some of the full effect of his channel.

Backing away, Da’Mar’s companions began slicing and firing magicks into the transparent ghost. But it was marginal at best, as the armored undead began using sneak tactics – and wearing down defenses among everyone.

As the battle grew late, Da’Mar noticed his chances and that of his comrades were beginning to fail – almost out of desperation – he channeled again sensing that he hit the creature beyond his visual perception. Then Da’Mar cried out, dropping his holy symbol, as the ghost flew out of the floor directly where Da’Mar was standing and pushed through his weakened mortal body.

The cleric collapsed to his knees in inexplicable agony before finally perishing from the corruptive touch of the ghost.

Rallying to him, Chikako and Pashana grabbed a hold of his body and started to make a retreat, the Ghost still attacking all the while.

As they began to back away down the stairs and away from the chamber – the shaw around Da’Mar’s breastplate began to fade to dust. His Aegis of Recovery had activated upon sensing his death.

Sitting up he channeled one last time, healing his companions before running for his and their lives out of there.

In the distance, they continued to hear moaning – long after they left the area…

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The True and the Grey

..... The corridors became irregular and narrow as Chikako led the party deeper underground. Light was scarce, and yet the void was not silent. Sounds of squeeks off in the distance could be heard but not ascertained as to where. Occasionally, large webs that seem to have been spun out of thin air appeared right in the path the group was delving down. Having narrowly bested a spider construct horror of some kind the night before, Zorland, Pashana and the others were taking no chances. Nothing here was safe, there was no where to take a respite. A short poll of sorts was taken and a decision to travel north once again was made. The sounds of things running around them in the darkness seem to echo off the walls. The only one who didn’t seem affected was Da’Mar, who seemed content muttering to himself and casting glares past anyone who tried to meet his gaze. He had become distant of late, somewhat cynical. And he wasn’t talking to anyone. Following Zorland’s familiar, the adventurers rounded another narrow passage that came to a door. “Oh look! Civilization!” Exclaimed Pashana.

"How does a door in the middle of the Nine Hells constitute civilization?" retorted Lazarus.
Smirking, Zorland quickly positioned himself and began to chant quickly, finally pointing to near the Drider in the back of the room, and releasing a pin point bright orange-red light that streaked past all of the spiders, finally exploding in a sphere of concussive flame that rocked the walls of the dungeon itself. 
             Carcasses of  dead flamed burnt spiders fell from the ceiling and walls, the flames destroyed tapestries and books that adorned a stone shelf in the southwest corner of the room.
The Drider was not amused, her eyes burned with revenge at the site of her "children" dying all around her - and she began to chant something unintelligible.  A whirlwind of blood and flesh erupted into the room, blinding Da'Mar and Lazarus. 
 Realizing that Da'Mar could no longer attack, Chikako and Pashana made their way deeper into the still burning room to try to confront the horror now climbing up the wall.
Chikako sprang forward up the wall and dug her claws into her, doing some damage but nothing substantial, ripping small hairs and pieces of flesh off the bottom side of the spider part of his freak atrocity of nature.
Pashana managed to get off a defensive spell of a swarm of insects while Lazarus and Da'Mar made their way out of the room still blinded.  
Lazarus, side stepping the torrent of the spell, drew his sword and prepared to strike back, however Pashana wasn't done.  
Maneuvering in between Lazarus and Chikako as the Drider came back to the ground she connected hard with her adamantine unholy axe, cracking the back of the Drider's spine with an unsettling CRACK sound, killing her.  
As she delivered the killing blow, Da'Mar now out of the room but still blinded began muttering to himself, then slowly a current of dark obsidian magic bathed over his body.  A few feet above and to the rear of him, Zorland's owl quietly hovered and watched as Da'Mar called upon his god to release him from this blindness and restore his powers.
The spell of the Drider now over, Zorland took stock of everyone and then quietly walked up to an unsettled Da'Mar, his eyes glowing ruby red and his voice rasp with darkness.  Zorland had seen something he was not yet meant to see.  And here in the middle of Hell itself  he will discover this cleric's secret  or be forced to destroy him...
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