Monday, December 21, 2009

Elephant's Graveyard: The Return

In the days that followed, the Armec people used building materials they had brought from their outside village to begin constructing a new village. The druid Kalphistane assisted their efforts to begin tilling the old fields with several spells that would make the plants grow faster and stronger. Cadelaine studied the spellbook taken from the temple to learn new spells. Endefal, Mongo and Nadal destroyed the stone golem guard in the upper temple to help clear it out, letting Brolo take it over as his own. The rest of the time was spent gathering ivory and getting it ready to transport via mule and water buffalo.
After several days, it was decided that after a week of gathering ivory, the party would make it’s way back to Port Maugre with as much tusks as they had, and let the next expedition gather the rest. They really only needed to prove the ivory was there, as well as supply a map, and their duty was done.

Part way through the week the party was joined by a young warrior lad of the Armecs, the chief’s son, who told them his name was Sholo and he was curious about the world outside the Armec village and valley. Although his father did not approve, Sholo had decided to follow the party to Port Maugre. His hero worship of the native warrior and elephant god worshipper Mongo was evident, and he appeared quite fit and athletic, so the party acquiesced to his entreaty and let him join up with them. The reasoned they would need all the help they could get on the way back, and Sholo looked competent with his weapons and eager to help.
One night while guarding the porters gathering the ivory, there was a disturbing encounter. As the party rested, a group of snakemen and their ophidian servants crept close enough to the group to attack, seeking to capture rather than kill party members. They were led by a spear wielding human looking snakemen with slitted eyes and forked tongue, and a halfbreed snakeman with a snake head and a deadly poisonous bite. Half the party was back at the new Armec village, but Cadelaine and Endefal managed to hold off the serpent men long enough for Mongo, Kalphistane and his ape to join the fray. The monsters were quickly killed, except for a couple that managed to escape into the night. Following him, they found a small group of guards at the valley entrance had been overcome and were tied there, awaiting the return of the snakefolk ( to be taken to some unknown fate, probably slavery). From that point forward the party made a point to watch the entrance, and trapped it with glyphs of warding and various traps set by Endefal and Cadelaine, respectively.
Soon, a week passed and 900 lbs of ivory were gathered. Goodbyes were made, including several Armec ladies who had enjoyed the favors of Mongo and were perhaps future mothers of Mongo’s brood. Traveling out of the valley, the party resent the traps to the entrance and the druid Kalphistane cast several spells to cause the vines growing over the outer entrance to extend and grow thicker, further concealing the valley. The party hoped their way back would be quicker and their journey to the valley, as they were worried about the length of time it might take them to arrive back at Port Maugre….perhaps House Tarn or another rival would ambush them along the way, and they were ready.

Several days passed with few incidents. Passing through the area where the cannibal tribe had been found earlier, the party was attacked by almost 50 of the savaged, and a pitched battle followed. Several cannibal leader types were among the attackers, and the battle was very deadly. Half a dozen native porters were killed and dragged off for food, and both Sholo and Kumar were knocked unconscious. The cannibal leader rode a tamed water buffalo, which Kal held, throwing the leader onto the ground and making him a quick kill for Endefal and Mongo. The rest of the cannibals were slowly brought down, until at the end only a half dozen lived to retreat back into the jungle. The battle however had taken it’s toll with several native porters and mules dead, and the party shook up by the violence of the attack. They quickly gathered their surviving animals and porters, as well as the ivory, and headed to the Kumar’s village which was nearby and a good place to rest and recuperate.
The next day they continued their trip, and on the way back to Port Maugre only ran into a few menaces, including a group of trolls, some jungle stirges, and finally a band of half-ogres who attempted to ambush the caravan. Another battle was fought, and a surviving half-ogre mercenary confessed his group had been hired by “someone” to make sure the caravan never reached Port Maugre. More evidence that someone knew much more than they should was evident, but the party could only concern themselves with reaching Port Maugre, as by this time they were only a day away.
Finally, after more than a month away from “home”, the party entered the gates of Port Maugre at the head of the merchant train, causing dozens of villagers and merchants to crowd around and comment on the size and amount of the ivory. A huge group gathered but let the party pass to the gates of the House Valaryan estate, where the tired group reported in to Gam and the priest Vespasian.
After a short rest, the ivory was unloaded, and Gam debriefed the successful group on their journey. His happiness at their quest was quite evident, and after their tale he immediately began making plans for a larger, better equipped group to travel back to the Elephant’s valley and begin the task of gathering all the ivory. The party was given leave to rest after their rough journey. Finally, a well cooked dinner, hot bath, and soft bed to sleep in were the only reward for the triumphant adventurers as they quickly took advantage of their return to indulge themselves.

Monday, December 14, 2009


The Elephant’s Graveyard: Conclusion.

After the epic battle against Honapo and the golem, the party spent the next day in the relative safety of the priest’s tomb, healing and resting. Soon, they begin to finish their explorations of the temple, as there were several locked rooms they had not visited. One in the main hallway had a symbol on the door that Alando had identified as a Symbol of Death, so they avoided it. They went into the room next to it (which appeared to be a priest’s room and tomb) and stone shaped a door out of the wall, entering the large room. It was a mage’s tomb, with only a dozen or so skulls there, and a large book resting on a pedestal in the center. Once again, using the powers of a priest of Vistna, Alando was able to see another symbol upon the pedestal. Not wanting to disturb it, they brainstormed various methods of retrieving the book, and finally stone shaped the floor under the pedestal, causing the book to drop, which Cadelaine expertly caught before it hit the ground. Checking out the book, it appeared to be a large ancient spellbook with dozens of spells, all written in ancient Armec.

Also in the tomb was found a long stone rod. Alando examined it and noticed the runes along the sides were a history of sorts…the history of the Armec people! This would prove invaluable to the priests of Vistna. The top unscrewed, and within the hollow center were five potions. All were tasted and found to be potions of longevity…Alando said this fit the history of the Armecs, which stated mages were rare and might live 100’s of years.
With the spellbook and rod, the group made to exit the tomb. Mongo went back to the resting place of Armec to retrieve the sword. The sword, Sentinel, stated it was a Defender blade that could give other powers (flight and Detect Magic). All it asked is that it’s bearer be the protector of the Armec people, who were in perilous danger of becoming extinct since there were so few of them left. The blade also noted that Armec’s skeleton was wearing powerful studded leather armor, and Mongo should also wear that in his quest against evil. Mongo assented to the terms of the sword, a small price to pay for such a powerful weapon.
Leaving the lower level, the party made their way back up, and brainstormed a way to get the elephant god icon out of the room with the statues. Working a method where Mongo flew in and attached a line to the icon, it was yanked out, and Mongo narrowly avoided one of the stone statues that came to life and tried to crush him (but did not follow him out of the room). The party then decided to leave the building, and begin the long task of summoning their bearers, and gathering the ivory, and telling the Armecs the valley was again clear.
However, danger still awaited them. Upon exiting the temple, a hideous site reached their eyes…as they passed through the gate (noticing the elephant that had earlier attacked the temple peacefully grazing outside), the 20 stone statues surrounding the temple suddenly moved, and came to life! As one, they began striding after the party, death in their eyes. The party scattered, trying to separate the statues, but they kept heading after Endefal…who was carrying the elephant god icon! Endefal immediately went into the lake, and although it slowed the statues down, they doggedly followed Endefal across the lake. Getting an idea, Endefal yelled to Mongo to fly over, take the icon, and throw it in the lake. Doing so, Mongo dropped the jeweled icon in the center part of the small lake. The statues followed, to eventually come to a halt surrounding the sunken icon. Standing thus, the party decided they were no longer a menace and made quite a good monument up to their rocky waists in the lake. Whatever the icon was worth, it was not worth battling the stone guardians over

Again resting and preparing to travel back to the entrance to retrieve their porters, mules and water buffalo, the adventurers were surprised to see a long caravan of people and belongings headed their way, followed by their own merchant train. Soon, the Armecs reached the area by the lake. Brolo the shaman commended the party on task fulfilled, saying he saw their victory in his dreams, as well as the death of Ark and the destruction of Honapo. Saying that now that the valley was cleansed, the Armec people would resettle the valley, and stop the decline of their race. Having spoken thus, Brolo collapsed, as his 90 years appeared to be finally catching up with him. He whispered that he only wished he had been able to train another elephant shaman, as he was the last of his kind. Quickly, Endefal grabbed the rod and poured the contents down the throat of the dying shaman. Immediately, Brolo grew younger, and soon was a heartier 80 years of age, and not in danger of dying! The slightly rejuvenated Brolo thanked them, saying they had given him the gift of another decade to train another Elephant God shaman to protect the tribe. The now victorious group gathered their men, and the Armecs, and had a huge celebratory feast where for the first time in several weeks they allowed themselves to enjoy themselves (and Mongo seeded himself liberally among willing Armec women).

Monday, November 23, 2009


Having dealt with the Pteraman menace, the party rested overnight on the quiet, lush plain filled with scrub grass and elephant bones. Nothing bothered them in the night, and the only sounds were the occasional hyena or jackal cry. The next morning was clear and bright, and the party completed the rest of the hike to the end of the valley. Beside a small (500 yds around), placid lake fed by a waterfall, there stood a large granite wall surrounding a one story stone building. The gate in front was opened, but the adventurers spent some time investigating the lake (finding nothing but fish and fresh water within), and a large cavern nearby (finding nothing but a few wandering carrion crawlers that were quickly dispatched). Finally, the adventurers entered the stone gate and stood before a large granite building, crumbling in places, with 20 statues surrounding it depicting a creature with the body of a human and the head of an elephant. At that time, they heard something from behind them in the valley….going up on the wall, Kal and Mongo saw in the distance a large bull elephant, seemingly uninjured and not near death, traveling at full speed towards the temple! Fearing the elephant had been summoned by Honapo, they shut and locked the gates, and retreated into an inner courtyard. Soon after, they heard the large elephant slamming into the gate, which shook and cracked, but did not give. Kal attempted to speak to the elephant, and even charm it, but a foreign presence in the elephant’s mind prevented him from learning anything useful. Obviously, the same force that had taken over the temple was able to summon and control elephants….they had to forge ahead unless they wanted to battle the giant pachyderm to the death!

After talking with several coconut bearing trees in the courtyard, Kal learned that no one had left the building in almost 100 years, except for a large elephant-headed man who placed the stone statues around the exterior of the building. Cadelaine was able to force open the door to the building, and a grisly sight met their eyes: a pile of skeletal remains on the inside of the door, with their bones cracked and crushed. Searching the first few rooms on the upper level, the party found nothing but barracks and chambers for the Armec warriors, some dead in their rooms, their skeletons showing they tried to defend themselves from some superior force.
Carefully going from room to room, the party found grim evidence that all the inhabitants had been slain at one time or another, probably by Honapo. In one room a skeleton which looks like he was a warrior of some authority (perhaps a captain of the guard), lay crushed and dead. As his sword and armor were not aged, they were gathered up by the party, as well as a beautiful matched pair of daggers in his footlocker. Throughout the temple, the party attempted to not become tomb robbers as they realized the wealth and items within belonged to the Armec people, so often they bypassed items of wealth and worth….their reward would come later, after clearing the temple and getting back to Port Maugre with the ivory!
One room on the ground floor contained a stairway leading to a lower level, but the group continued to search the upper level to cleanse it of evil. A large barracks was found with dozens of skeletal warriors, and a pitched battle was fought as Endefal could only turn a portion of them. After a long battle, and imaginative use of Cadelaine’s web spells, over 30 of the skeletons lay destroyed across the floor. Another room that appeared to be a priest’s room contained a large snake in the ceiling, which dropped on the unsuspecting Mongo and was quickly killed by Kal and Endefal. A hole was found in the ceiling and the snake had obviously entered through, but it looked too unstable to be used to leave from. In the room, and in a high priest’s room next door, the party came across several small, silver plated ivory tusk replicas studded with sapphires…holy symbols of the Elephant Cult. Mongo felt a sudden pull from the symbols and placed one around his neck, feeling a religious fervor he had never before felt in his young life. The next room appeared to be the original room of Honapo, which was richly decorated and contained a larger and much more valuable holy symbol of the type found in the lesser priests’ quarters. It’s presence here was ominous, as it must prove that Honapo no longer followed the will of the Elephant spirit.

Also in Honapo’s old room the party found a large ivory mace, which Endefal took for himself (and named “Tantor”, by runes written on it’s head), a magic scroll of Protection from Fire, and a notebook written in ancient Delosian. Translating it, Alando said it was Honapo’s journal, and the most important entries were the last ones….Honapo stated he and a small group would be soon exploring a nearby Forbidden City, which rested in a valley in the jungle, where it was rumored many buildings still stood and a large ancient library still held many books and scrolls. Honapo told of his eagerness to investigate the ancient writings, and the party speculated finding a cursed or evil tome, or perhaps an intelligent, evil weapon or item, caused Honapo’s insanity.
Another room contained several holes in the walls, and an unusual plant growing in the room that Kal was wary of. He identified it as a yellow musk creeper, a nasty growth that was known to grow into a person’s brain and take over the body. From the doorway, several vials of oil were thrown at the root bulb, and set alight, which killed the plant. Searching the room only turned up a smattering of ancient gold and silver coins that the party gathered up.
The final room on the level seemed to be some sort of a temple. Two elephant statues stood against a wall, with a golden icon of a elephant headed man between them. In front, a jeweled dagger lay on a low pedestal. Thinking trapped, Cadelaine slowly entered and searched the room, discovering a pit trap by the door, and some sort of trap around the icon and on the pedestal. Leaving the icon for now (concerned the elephant statues would come to life if something on the altar was touched!), Cadelaine carefully tied twine around the hilt of the dagger, then exited the room to yank it off. Sure enough, after leaving the pedestal, a sharp pendulum swung down, which would have struck anyone standing in front of the pedestal. The dagger was small and rusted but had a nice sapphire in the hilt, which Cadelaine soon pried out.

Nothing was left but to explore downwards. Taking the staircase, the party came upon a dark and dusty hallway with many doors leading off it. They soon found the lower level contained the tombs of the Armecs, and they had the unusual habit of burning the bodies (as evidenced by a large room with a pit full of burned bones, and several barrels of a clear substance that burned without smoke). In other rooms they found skulls of the dead arranged in shelves along the walls, some wearing jeweled headbands (that the party left alone out of respect for the dead). One room held many zombies that shuffled to the attack as the door was opened, but it was quickly closed. What looked like a “commoner” crypt with thousands of skulls was discovered, and a “warriors” crypt with many skulls was searched and a single large sapphire was found in the brim of a helm (and taken by the party). A crypt with some sort of symbol inscribed on the door (which Alando identified as a Symbol of Death!) was bypassed for the time being; a narrow, small tomb was then found with a single stone slab and an actual skeleton resting upon it. The skeleton wore nice studded leather and held a beautiful long sword and shield. Reading the inscriptions, Alando stated this was the Tomb of Arm, the warrior-hero of the Armecs that had led them to the valley over 1000 years ago. He had been specially honored with this internment, a tomb of his own and his body intact.

The party very carefully stood outside, reluctant to go inside in case of traps. Finally, after Cadelaine gave the all clear after examining the room, Kal, Endefal and Mongo went inside and began searching the small tomb. Curiosity overcame Mongo, and he grabbed and lifted the sword….with amazing results! Immediately, a voice spoke in his mind saying it was the sword, Sentinel, and he was the ultimate weapon of the Armecs. Saying he was a special defender sword with the power to give flight and detect magic, he urged Mongo to head for the door at the end of the hallway straight away to battle Honapo. Suddenly, upon taking the sword, the three in the tomb noticed a small, one inch tall figure that leapt upon the ground from the arch above the doorway…the figure rapidly grew, until it filled the entire doorway, preventing escape! The large, clay monster began attacking, and swinging the newly acquired Sentinel did not harm the golem at all, bouncing off his hide, as the golem pounded the fighter. Endefal swung the mace Tantor, which put a dent in the figure, as Kal quickly cast Stone Shape on the south wall to form a crude passageway into a crypt beyond! The party members quickly squeezed through the opening, which was too small for the golem to follow through. Sticking an arm through got it broken off due to a strike from Endefal and his mace, so the golem retreated back in the tomb and began pounding on the stone door (which had been quickly shut by Cadelaine and Nadal from the hallway!). Thinking quickly, Endefal ran through the door out into the corridor, and used his Stone Shape spell to blend the edges of the stone door with the wall, trapping the golem. The creature, however, continued to pound on the wall, causing dust and grit to settle down from the roof and the wall to slightly shake, but he had little chance of escaping.

Deciding at this point to rest up and regain spells (and cure themselves) before talking the rooms farther down the corridor, the party made to leave the lower level for up above. However, the sword Sentinel would have none of this! His purpose to destroy Honapo overrode everything else, and he took over Mongo’s mind and body. Suddenly, the ranger got a strange look in his eyes, and sprinted down the corridor to kick open the door at the end! Inside, the party could hear a buzzing sound as a strange mist (which obscured the floor) began drifting out.
At the end of the large room stood what was obviously Honapo, a large figure with the head of a elephant and body of a giant man, wielding a large ivory battleaxe. The imposing figure was surrounded by a couple of dozen flying giant wasps, who the priest obviously controlled.
Endefal attempted to stop Mongo/Sentinel’s mad charge with a charm, but all the charm did was completely subsume Mongo’s personality, and with that the sword took over completely. Activating it’s fly power, Sentinel flew across the room to engage Honapo in hand to hand combat! Caught totally by surprise, the rest of the party began the run down the corridor to help Mongo against the evil priest. However, they were stopped at the door by the attacking wasps, and soon they were caught up in battling the flying insects to try and get inside the room.
The giant wasps proved formidable foes, sometimes stinging an adventurer and paralyzing him, only to have one of the priests cast slow or neutralize poison to get him on his feet again. A stalemate of sorts was thus joined at the entrance to the room, as Mongo and Honapo hacked away at each other furiously. Soon, however, the evil priest’s battleaxe was taking his toll, and Mongo was forced back in danger of death. Ark took the initiative, jumping into the room and running to the combat, and getting close enough to Mongo to throw him a pouch filled with Healing potions. Mongo caught the pouch, and backed off enough to drink them quickly as Ark and then Nadal engaged the elephant priest. Nadal, however, triggered a trip (the misty fog prevented anyone from seeing the floor) and a bear trap snapped on his leg, pinning him. At the same moment, several giant wasps swarmed Ark, sending him to the ground, and to the horror of the party members he was stung again and again, and soon lay dead and unmoving under the mist!

Cadelaine then realized she must use the Wand of Frost otherwise Nadal and Mongo would follow Ark into death. Firing her wand in the air inside the room, she killed a dozen or so of the wasps, and was able to clear a path into the room. Entering, both Kumar and Alando triggered another trap, falling into a pit, as Endefal hit the room and Honapo with Dispel Magic. The spell worked well, dispelling the fog, the wasps, and several protection spells on the Elephant priest. Unfortunately, Honapo countered with his own Dispel Magic in the corridor….which had the unfortunate effect of undoing the Stone Shape on the door of the room holding the clay golem!!! Soon, the party faced danger on two fronts as the golem kicked in the door and emerged into the corridor….

Meanwhile, in the room, Mongo was hit by Honapo hard enough to lift him off the room and slam him against the wall, unconscious. Kal, Endefal, Nadal and Gra Gra the ape swarmed the priest, and after a flurry of blows, brought the evil creature down! At that, the party felt a tremor through them and the temple, as the spirit of the Elephant God, trapped inside the form of Honapo the last century, was released to once again tread the world. Immediately, Honapo turned to dust…..but just as immediately, the clay golem leapt into the room over the pit (landing on the dead Ark and crushing him completely to goo) and began flailing at the party! Only blunt magical weapons would injure the golem, so only a few of the party members could even combat him. Alando was helped out of the pit trap by Cadelaine, and he joined Endefal in swinging his mace at the creation, while Kal threw magical sling stones at the monster.
Alando was quickly beaten to unconsciousness, and Nadal picked up his mace to strike the creature, but soon followed him as a mighty fist struck him and took him out. Only Endefal (who had paused many times to cure himself and drink potions) was still standing to battle the monster hand to hand, but the golem had several pieces missing and was unsteady. Kal kept throwing stones that struck the mark, and finally Endefal struck a blow with Tantor that cracked the golem down the center, destroying it.

At the destruction of the golem, it grew silent within the tomb, and the unconscious party members were bandaged and healed. A decision was made at that point, with such serious injuries among the party, to rest in Honapo’s room and pray for healing. The remains of Ark (crushed beyond recognition) were taken into the cremation room, and the priests gave his remains over to the fire after a short ritual. Brolo’s prediction of a party member’s death had come true; luckily, it had been the once evil ranger (who had proven valuable even in death) and not some other. The Helm of Alignment Change the ranger had wore was bent beyond repair, and could no longer be used to convert their foes, so it was tossed into the same fire that was used to dispose of the ranger's body.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


The expedition continued on with clear weather for a change, as Ark took the place of Roho in the scouting party of Mongo and Kal that traveled 100 yards ahead of the main group. The next day, the party came upon a small group of apes that had brought down a beast of the jungle…carnivorous apes! This rare species fed on bloody, red meat as well as the fruits and berries of their brethern. Sensing they could get by this encounter without killing the great beasts (the hairy apes stood 7 feet tall and looked very mean and powerful), the rangers and druid did not attack but instead threw the apes food and did not appear threatening. Kal began speaking with one, and casting Animal Friendship, got the giant beast (who said his name was “Gra-Gra”) to follow him around like a docile puppy…..a docile puppy that enjoyed eating red, bloody meat (as they found when they were attacked by wild boars about an hour later, where Gra-Gra promptly ripped one in half and began noisily feasting!).

As the expedition continued, and hour or so later the scouts were shocked to hear the sounds of battle and shouting up ahead…as well as a loud baritone singing voice which they found strangely familiar. Summoning Nadal and Cadelaine, the small group rushed into the jungle and came upon a grisly scene: a clearing that held the remains of some sort of expedition, surrounded by a horde of cannibal warriors about to overwhelm the party. Bodies of cannibals and members of the expedition, along with dead mules and broken carts, were strewn across the small glade as the remnants of a party, their backs against a stone cliff, were making their last stand shooting crossbows and arrows into the mass of screaming, slavering natives. The party quickly made plans, coming from the rear they were not seen or heard by the natives. Ark and Kal threw Entangle spells, Cadelaine threw two Sleep spells, and a couple more Hold Person spells by Endefal took away fully half the 50 or so warriors.

Mongo rushed into combat and quickly killed a shaman chanting spells before being set upon by bloodthirsty, howling native berserkers. Endefal engaged the leader of the natives, who had been blinded by a spell cast by Kal, and quickly killed him also. The rest of the party, including the ape Gra-Gra, began hand to hand fighting. Cadelaine snuck through the battle invisible and helped the trapped expedition survivors by casting Web at an attacking group, capturing a half dozen of the natives. She then saw the leader of this party was Drake, the intenerant bard of Port Maugre. Meanwhile, the battle was a tough one against the berserking natives and at one point Kumar and Alando had to join the fray for their healing powers, as Ark went down unconscious and several other party members were desperately injured. Gra-Gra was a definite asset, ripping off heads, arms and legs of cannibals and pausing to take a bite or two before getting back to the business of killing. Even Kal’s stores of goodberries came in handy as they were eaten by the handful to keep up strength and soon the natives were all either dead or routed. Pausing for curing, they checked with Drake and the members of his party, also healing and helping the few left of his group.
Drake heartily thanked the party and said he and some other mercenaries were out looking for adventure when they had run afoul of the cannibal horde. He offered the party extra rations and half of the little treasure he and his men had gathered (several ivory tusks) as his only aim now was to make it back to Port Maugre in one piece. He wished the party luck and continued on his way, as the adventurers quickly left the scene of carnage (and half a hundred dead bodies) for fear of predators, and continued moving down the trail.

Finally, early the next day, the end of their trip was in sight as the map showed only a few miles to the village at the mouth of the Elephant’s Graveyard. Pushing ahead wearily, the rangers noted several human footprints criss-crossed with reptilian footprints and tail dragging the ground. Discussing the find briefly, the party (consisting of Ark, Mongo, Endefal, Cadelaine, Kal and his ape) decided to follow the reptilian tracks, as Mongo identified them as Ophidians, servants, scouts and guards of the dreaded snakemen (the Yuan Ti).
They quietly followed the trail to a steep overhang looking over a small village. The village was undoubtedly the one marked on their map, and they saw five of the ophidians observing the villagers go about their daily business. After a short planning session, Cadelaine snuck up invisibly and hit the group with a Web spell…only one got loose, and he was set upon by Ark and Endefal, who quickly killed him. Suddenly, two unseen snake creatures slid out from the rocks and attack the party, with Mongo, Cadelaine and Gra-Gra taking care of them. As they did so, The other members of the party pour oil on the trapped ophidians and lit them on fire, killing them. During combat both Gra-Gra and Kal had been bitten by the creatures, and Mongo told them that per legend, the poison would cause them to become ophidians in a few days time. Quickly, Cure Disease spells were cast by the priests to prevent this awful eventuality.

Having seen and heard the combat, as well as the plume of rising smoke, the villagers were observed running into their small village surrounded by a 10 foot stone wall as the gates were dragged shut behind them, a warning horn being sounded at the first sign of fire so close to the village. The party members soon presented themselves at the gate with several ophidian heads prominently displayed on the ends of their weapons so as to quell any fears the villagers had concerning their intentions. They noticed there were only perhaps a dozen warriors on the walls, indicating a very small tribe. Soon, the chief Hamar and his shaman Brolo were engaged in conversation with Mongo (which, despite drinking a Philter of Persuasiveness, they found very confusing), then Alando and Kal (who could somewhat understand the ancient Delosian dialect of the tribesmen). After telling the villagers they meant no harm and were there to trade food (which the tribesmen, known as the Armecs, were very much in need of), the gates were opened and the small expedition with pack animals was allowed to enter.
Entering the small village, the adventurers noticed the poor health and non-existent wealth of the Armecs. Talking with the chief, with the shaman hovering around, the adventurers were told that the Armecs barely scraped out a living here on the edge of the jungle with their few crops and very small amount of game the hunters brought in. Due to the nearby cannibal tribe, and the threats of predators like the ophidians, the men of the tribe were reluctant to travel very far to hunt or gather. The party immediately sensed the helplessness and sincerity of the chief and his villagers; they were probably on the last generation of the tribe if conditions continued. The adventurers gladly opened up their wares to the grateful villagers, sharing the contents of the large amount of iron rations Drake and his group had given the party for being rescued. This was obviously more food than the Armecs had seen in awhile; immediately, the chief called for a celebration in honor of the visitors as the hungry villagers began eating the bread, meat and cheese.

Soon after, as the small caravan had settled inside the village (which only numbered a dozen or so stone buildings inside the enclosure), and as they shared their rations with the Armecs, the ancient-looking shaman got up to speak. The adventurers had been asking about the “elephant’s graveyard” for awhile, and the chief had talked about it only in passing, to say that the entrance to the valley where the elephants died was only a short distance away. As the shaman faced the characters, they could see the carved ivory elephant token hanging from his neck, identifying him as a shaman of the Elephant cult.
In answer to their questions, and why they had come, he told them in his dreams he had seen his own death not far in the future (from what he said and events in the past he talked about, the party estimated his age at 90 or more). However, he had also seen the arrival of the adventurers, and the fact they would be searching for the elephant’s graveyard. He looked across the fire at the cliffside past them and spoke: “ When I was still a small child, the Armecs lived in the “Valley of the Elephants”, which was abundant in everything we needed….there was a small lake with fish, fields to plant crops, and many edible creatures. A temple was built there in worship of the Elephant God, and many a generation of Armecs lived peacefully in the valley and tended the temple there (the tribe was named for it’s greatest warrior of centuries past, Arm).
Many years ago, a man called Honapo became high priest. One day he came back from a journey outside the valley filled with madness. He entered the temple swinging a great battle axe and struck down many of the Armecs. Only those who quickly ran outside survived. Honapo then locked the doors of the temple with himself inside. Frightened by what had happened, my people left the temple and the valley to make a home for themselves outside the valley, in the edge of the jungle. Any who re-entered the valley since that awful day decades ago never returned, so now it is forbidden to return there and no one living in the village has seen inside the valley except for myself. In the years since, some mystical power is in the valley, possibly caused by the priest Honapo and whatever has befallen his mind…dying elephants began to find their way here from all over the jungle, and they all travel down the tunnel into the valley never to return. Sometimes the gods intercede and one of the great beasts falls dead outside our walls, not making it into the valley, and our god has told us this is for our survival as we are then able to use it’s meat, tusks, bones and skin for our purposes since it is taboo for us to kill any of the great beasts ourselves.”
Brolo paused to stare down, clearly exhausted by his long speech and the memories. “Leaving the valley proved to be the downfall of our tribe, as each successive generation has grown smaller. While in the valley, we were protected from attack, but for the last few decades the beasts of the jungle and eaters of flesh have worn down the tribe to its present state. The only thing standing between us and utter destruction is myself, the last Elephant Cult shaman. When under attack I can summon elephants to battle intruders…Unfortunately, I am very old now and can barely call the power to summon the elephants, and the village will have no shamans or protectors after I die…and I have not very long to live. Please when you enter the valley, cleanse the temple of evil, for in my last days I will be able to re-consecrate the temple then and my people will again have a land they can dwell in and be protected from the outside evils of this land. I can then die with the knowledge my people are safe. ” At this, the shaman sat down and was silent, except for one more thing. “I have seen in my dreams your arrival here, and you will free the valley from it’s curse, but some of you will die. I and my people thank you for your sacrifice…and know the Elephant God looks upon you with favor also.

The next morning, plans were made for the party to investigate the Valley of the Elephants. The chief told them his son, Sholo, would guide them to the entrance (which was in the cliff wall, shielded by hanging vines), but could go no further….from there, it was up to the adventurers. So, Kal and the ape Gra-Gra, Cadelaine, Mongo, Endefal, Nadal, Ark, Alando, and Kumar packed up their supplies and followed the chief’s son to the entrance several hundred yards away. They left Sholo at the large opening and pushed past the hanging vines…there was a tunnel 200 feet long lit by light from the other side, and the tunnel was immense…large enough for the great elephants to pass inside on their journey into the valley.
The trip through the tunnel was short, and soon the party stood at the entrance of a valley, approximately 1 mile wide and five miles long. Around the entrance where they stood, the floor of the valley gradually tilted down to a basin, where shimmered a small lake, and a large stone building. Between them and the structure was several miles of broken plain, and the sun gleamed off the hundreds and hundreds of elephant skeletons laying all across the valley floor! The party surveyed the area; besides right next to the entrance, there was little growth except for scrub bushes and grass, and the sides of the valley looked crumbling and sheer. Several groups of large vultures fed on recent elephant corpses, and the adventurers saw several lone jackals and hyenas running across the plain. Nothing but small animals, scavengers, seemed to inhabit the treeless valley.
As the party made their way from the entrance, suddenly the air filled with pollen. Ark, Alando and Kumar had a glazed look in their eyes, and began walking towards what appeared to be a large, 6 foot tall flytrap…a gigantic “mantrap”! They had been hypnotized by it’s pollen, and began heading toward the open maws of the plant to step inside, but Kal threw up an Entangle to stop them, and then Endefal used several vials of oils to burn the abomination to the ground. After it was on fire, the charmed individuals’ heads cleared, and the group began to head into the valley.

However, attracted by the smoke, several man sized winged creatures began circling the party from a couple of hundred feet up. Coming from what looked like caves on the side of the mountain, these dozen or so creatures began trailing the party from above as the adventurers moved through the valley. Small bones crunched under feet as the party marveled at the sheer amount of elephant skeletons scattered across the plains…estimates of how much ivory could be brought out of the valley by Nadel and Ark took the total over 100,000 gp worth! Walking past and through huge skulls, rib cages, leg bones, and great curving tusks, the party could see nothing alive except for small rats, mice, insects and such. The occasional jackal and hyena kept their distance, as did the great vultures feeding on the corpses. Only the winged beings kept pace with the adventurers, keeping a couple of hundred feet away as they circled overhead and began screaming to each other in a strange guttural language. Ark gave them a grim look and told the party he recognized the creatures…”Pteramen”. They were winged reptilian beings, he said, with no redeeming qualities…as a matter of fact Ark told them, they were cruel and evil and lived in trees and caves attacking creatures weaker than themselves, not just for food, but for sport.
Resolving they needed to find out more about the reptilian flyers, Cadelaine volunteered to climb to their caves. Turning invisible, she made the long climb up over 180 feet to a ledge that connected several cave entrances. The stench of shit and worse hit her nostrils, causing her eyes to water as she gagged, moving invisibly and silently past several of the perching creatures (who resembled, in her mind, winged lizardmen). Walking through a few caves and searching, she found some bodies of past explorers and their packs. Cadelaine was able to gather a wand, a scroll tube, and many gold pieces, until picking up a bulging leather pouch, the rotting thing fell apart dropping dozens of gold coins onto the stone floor with a ringing sound. Immediately, the flying reptiles went silent, only to began screaming and squawking as they rushed through the caves angrily searching for an intruder. Very quietly, Cadelaine slipped out and climbed down the cave, bringing her findings to the party. Identifying the wand would have to wait, but upon opening the bone scroll tube they found a priest’s scroll with several spells.

Suddenly, the air 100 feet above the party was a dozen or so pteramen clutching rocks. They began dropping them on top the heads of the party, causing several injuries! The party responded by firing arrows and sling bullets, as the pteramen returned again and again to drop rocks from on high. A crude shelter was sought by the party members in the carcass of an elephant, as Nadal threw a blanket over a giant skeleton to shield Kumar and himself. The rest of the party returned missile fire but they were not killing any of the creatures. Seeing a storm front blowing in, Kal began concentrating on a spell as Ark, Alando, Endefal, Cadelaine and Mongo returned fire at the pteramen. Suddenly, after concentrating for ten minutes or so, with raindrops hitting his face, Kal gestured dramatically, and lighting bolt ripped down into a small group of the pteramen clustered on the ledge, incinerating them! Three burnt bodies lay crumpled at the edge, and the rest of the pteramen, realizing the gesturing figure was causing the bolts to hit them, retreated in fear into their caves. Kal caused bolt after bolt to hit the area, hopefully scaring the creatures into leaving them alone.

As the small storm blew through, the adventurers huddled underneath the crude shelter in the elephant’s skeleton (supplemented by several more blankets). Ark told them that even if the pteramen were scared now, they had to be dealt with, as they would return to bother the party until they got brave enough to try to snatch individuals up and bring them to their lair for food. A plan was then drawn up, more of necessity than good planning, where Cadelaine and the ape Gra-Gra (with Kal riding on his back) would climb the slope, tying several hundred feet of rope to rocks, hopefully before the pteramen came out of their caves to investigate. The rest of the party (excluding Alando and Kumar) could then climb up, and perhaps they could ambush the pteramen in their lair. Not a great plan, but it was the best the party could think up on short notice, as it appeared no alternative existed to getting pelted with rocks for however long they were in the valley.It was decided that Cadelaine (while invisible) and Gra-Gra, with Kal riding on his back, would take up long ropes (or many ropes tied together); fasten them at the top, and guard/defend the ropes as the rest of the party members used them to slowly climb up to the pteramen’s ledge and lair. Hopefully, they wouldn’t disturb the Pteramen (who had all retreated into the caves), and most of the party would be on the ledge ready for battle by the time the reptilian bird men noticed intruders on the ledge.

Quietly and quickly, Cadelaine and Gra-Gra (with Kal in tow) traversed the rocky slope, and reached the ledge. Cadelaine quickly tied her end of the rope off, but Kal had may problems and could not seem to fasten the rope to any nearby protrusions. As this went on, a scream was heard, and pteramen began pouring out of the cave openeings to battle the party members! Gra-Gra leapt to the attack, battling two of the creatures, as one by one the party members reached the ledge and joined in the battle. It was a long, dirty, bloody combat, as the party members had to be careful of their footing, as well as the claws of the pteramen. One time Cadelaine was grabbed by a pteraman and dropped over the side, but her Ring of Feather Falling made the drop a slow, floating fall to the bottom of the valley.

Ark, Endefal, Kal, Mongo, Nadel, Cadelaine and Gra Gra (both Alando and Kumar were told to stay below to prevent injury) slowly fought through the screaming, slashing creatures as one by one they fell dead at the blows rained upon them. Mongo fought madly at the reptilian enemy he hated most, and soon the party was surrounded by steaming pteraman parts on the blood-slippery outside ledge, all the creatures destroyed. Then, reluctantly searching through the filth of the pteramen’s lair, the party discovered a few additional coins not located earlier by Cadelaine, as well as a potion in a metal vial. With their meager treasure in hand, but secure in the knowledge the winged reptiles would cause no further damage, the party scaled back down the cliff and set up camp for the night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The next day, the expedition (with it’s ranks swelled by an extra 40) started off heading for the nearby lake, and from there, to the village of the ex-slaves. Within a few miles they had hit the western shore of the small lake (perhaps a mile in diameter), and heading north another mile along the shore brought them to the village. When they arrived, several startled natives came out of the their huts…these were fortunate members of the village who were out hunting or fishing the day the Taranthian slavers raided the village, and had been spared capture. They screamed and cried in happiness as they saw their relatives returned to them, and the reunion was quite joyful. Of course, nothing else would do but for the village to hold an impromptu festival, and the trip to the Elephant’s Graveyard was delayed a day as the adventurers and their entourage enjoyed the hospitality of the grateful villagers.
Long into the night, music was played with drum and flute, there was dancing, feasting, and games of skill, and merriment abounded. Most of the party stayed alert and did not drink much of the fermented banana wine, except for Mongo who not only heavily partook of the beverage, but told the party “It is time for Mongo to plant some seeds!” and commenced to dallying with several of the village girls, including one incredibly comely lass at whose hut he spent most of the night.
The next morning, the adventurers made their leave, with the newly minted priest of Attar, Kumar, joining Endefal at his side. Using a broken chain link as his holy symbol, Kumar reluctantly said goodbye to his family as he joined the expedition to spread the word of The Rescuer to others.

The first night there was little problem, except for a poisonous fer-de-lance snake that crawled into the camp and was killed by Endefal before it was able to bite Kumar. The next day, skirting the lake they crossed a swampy, wet area with water up to their ankles, slowing the expedition down. Scouting ahead, Mongo, Roho and Kal ran into a nest of crocodiles with 9 crocs guarding the eggs. As they were attacked, they fought back and a giant specimen slid into few and attacked Mongo. Kal entangled almost all of the reptiles, as Roho and Kal dealt with the two crocs that escaped the vegetation. Soon Cadelaine and Endefal were there to help, and between them all they killed the crocs with Mongo performing fanatically against his chosen foe (downing five of the beasts by himself).
The rest of that day was uneventful, until late in the day. The scouts found signs of a battle that had been fought, with broken weapons, blood, and pieces of bodies. Mongo identified the items as cannibal weapons, and it looked as if someone had run into them. Immediately the group became suspicious because so far they had found no sign of anyone on the trail to the Graveyard except for slavers…they immediately suspected something wrong. Mongo and Cadelaine snuck up ahead but made an abominable mess of noise, alerting the trio they found in a nearby clearing. All three were light-skinned and clearly not Delosian natives. A large man in armor with a large sword, a woodland type of man holding a bow, and a half elven woman in leather stood talking in the clearing. All were wounded and all immediately looked to the bushes as they heard Cadelaine and Mongo thrashing through. The thought crossed the party’s mind that this might be the group of thieves that had stolen the map from the priesthood of Vistna, for why else would this group be alone in the jungle dressed like mercenary warriors, on the exact path as they?
The trio immediately readied their weapons as the ranger-type shouted “Who’s there?” to Cadelaine and Mongo as they remained hidden. Hoping to confuse them into revealing something, Mongo walked out of the bushes with his hand held free of weapons. Meanwhile, Endefal, Nadal, Kal and Roho arrived to back up the hidden duo, leaving Kumar and Alando a few hundred yards back to watch the caravan.
The trio of mercenary types in the clearing were clearly confused by Mongo’s appearance, as he was obviously no cannibal, but was far too well equipped to be a native of the area. From concealment, Endefal cast Hold Person and Kal cast Heat Metal on the large fighter type, but neither seemed to have any effect on him. The trio in the clearing kept shouting questions at Mongo that he did not answer, then finally the large man said “Screw this, let’s just kill the bastard!”
At that, Mongo attacked, and all hell broke loose! Both Nadal and Endefal rushed from concealment to assist him. Suddenly, a wall of flame burst up in front of Kal, Roho and Cadelaine…and the unfortunate Endefal, who had begun charging and took full damage from the fire as he rushed through the wall. A now-visible mage stood about 30 or so yards back behind the party, concentrating on the wall. Obviously, the party was not the only one planning an ambush! Cadelaine quickly dropped her blowgun and darts and began pouring deadly snake venom poison on her arrows; Kal and Roho tried to rush the mage, but suddenly Roho was stabbed by a previously invisible half elven thief type, and they began battling. Kal was left with the mage, who by virtue of being able to cast a Wall of Fire, looked quite capable and deadly!
Back in the clearing, Mongo, Nadal and a now-healed Endefal began mixing it up with the trio, a fighter (Charl), ranger (Ark), and a female half elven thief (Hem), who avoided combat to stand back and fire sling bullet after sling bullet at the party members. Charl was quite experienced and competent, he was struck many times but fought on, delivering nasty blows to the trio with his bastard sword. One blow knocked Nadal unconscious, and only Mongo and Endefal were left to battle him. The ranger Ark took a few blows and retreated to the foliage to leave Endefal and Mongo to Charl, but before leaving cast Entangle on the area! Both Endefal and Mongo were caught up in the grabbing vines and grasses, but so was the enemy fighter Charl, who began swearing threats to Ark for getting him along with the others. From the bushes, Ark and Hem continued to pepper party members with missile weapons.
On the other side of the trees, the battle had taken a desperate tone. Struck by what appeared to be a poisoned blade, Roho gasped, and fell heavily to the ground. At almost the same time, Cadelaine’s poisoned arrows were bouncing off the mage (who appeared to have some sort of Protection spell going) so she shifted to the thief that had attacked Roho, striking him solidly and killing him almost instantly with the poisoned arrow! Meanwhile, Kal had thrown a magical puffball at the mage, who was engulfed in the cloud and began coughing and gagging. After stabbing the nearly helpless mage with his spear a few times, he realized desperate measures must be taken as the mage had reached into his robe and pulled out a wand! So, dumping two vials of oil on the ground and all over the coughing mage, he used his spear to light the mage up, turning him into a flaming bonfire as the oil ignited whatever the mage himself had on his person. The enemy mage was quickly consumed by the flames and the blaze became a funeral pyre for him. The threat ended for now, Kal rushed to Roho, but it was too late. The poisoned blade had taken the life of the native fighter, and Kal grimly decided his death would not be in vain.
Back at the clearing, Alando and Kumar had arrived in response to the shouting and sounds of battle they had heard back from the caravan. Cadelaine at this point was trading missile fire with the hidden Ark and Hem, and Alando crawled into the clearing to minister to the unconscious Nadal with healing spells. Still caught in the entangled shrubbery, Endefal, Mongo and Charl could only watch helplessly. Joined by Kumar, who shouted “For Attar!” as he raised his club high, Nadal rushed the hidden Ark who was still firing arrows into their midst. The party heard a short struggle, then the crack of something striking a skull. After several minutes, Nadal and Kumar emerged from the jungle, dragging an unconscious form…they had taken care of Ark with a well placed blow from the novice cleric!
The mercenary fighter Charl still held by the entangle spell cast by his own comrade, Kal, Alando and Cadelaine used him for target practice with missile weapons as he finally collapsed unconscious, just in time as the spell dissolved. Without wasting time, Mongo and Endefal rushed into the jungle to find the missing thief, who had a several minute head start and had disappeared into the trees. After about a mile, there was an ambush as a now partially healed thief dropped from a tree onto Mongo, backstabbing him with a poisoned blade. Mongo, however, wasted no time in dispatching the thief with several powerful blows, separating her head from her shoulders with the final one. The poison did not seem to have any effect on the native ranger, and so he and Endefal dragged her body back to the clearing.
Finally, the party’s survivors dragged the bodies of their enemies, as well as the still alive but badly beaten Charl and Ark (now tightly tied with rope) to the camp for questioning. Searching the bodies, the party found the original stolen map in Ark’s pack, marking this group of five as the mercenaries who had ambushed the priest of Vistna back in Port Maugre. Under questioning, Charl gave up everything, saying he was just a hired hand and the jig was up, He told them they worked for House Mith, and had been tasked to find the Elephant’s Graveyard before the party, and eliminate any witnesses to the deed. They were the ones who had attacked and stolen the map from the priest of Vistna, on orders of the merchant house (or so Charl said). They had unfortunately been sidetracked on their mission to find the Graveyard when they had been attacked by cannibal headhunters the day before, who had killed their cleric, another mercenary fighter, and scattered the few native porters they had brought along. When the party had come upon them, they had been debating whether to return to Port Maugre empty-handed or go onwards.
At these words, Ark began shouting to Charl that his life was now forfeit, as their employers were not forgiving men and would kill them all rather than be revealed. He was silenced as Endefal placed the cursed Helm of Alignment Change on his head, causing the ranger to revert to an alignment much more aligned to law and good! Ark immediately became sorrowful at the attack that had killed the party member Roho, and asked if he could do anything for them. Charl was quickly executed and searched, along with the rest of the dead mercenaries. As Ark was talked to more and more, it appeared he had definitely changed profoundly, and now could be trusted to not only assist the party, but join them in the rest of their journey! With a written confession from the now-dead mercenary Charl, Kal tasked a bird to carry the papers to Port Maugre and the House of Valaryan.

Searching the mercenaries yielded quite a bit of magic that the party could use, so they divided it up. Cadelaine got one thief’s (Jakk) ring of invisibility, and a wand of frost that had survived the intense burning of the mage’s (Mofti) body. She also got a magical dagger and longsword, and some magical arrows. Mongo was able to get a set of magical hide armor worn by one of the mercenaries, as well as a ring of fire resistance worn by the fighter Charl (the reason the Heal Metal spell had no effect on him). Kal acquired a Ring of Jumping from Ark, but the party was loath to take more from him less his now firm loyalty to them fail. Nadal took the magical bastard sword of the mercenary fighter, and Endefal took a magical sling and ring from the dead female thief.
It was with great sorrow the party then held a ceremony for Roho; as per his native customs, his body was burned to let his ashes rise in the air and his sprit reach paradise. Somberly the party stayed in the clearing for the night, and were attacked by a swarm of large spiders that overran the camp at dusk. With Ark’s help, Cadelaine’s two sleep spells, and Kal’s entangle spell, a couple of dozen spiders were dealt with and destroyed. Ark proved a big help, as he was now firmly on the adventurer’s corner and was quite a good fighter. He also showed his skill the next day as a flock of jungle stirges attacked, unfortunately killing a mule and several native porters before being destroyed. As long as the helm stayed on his head (and part of the enchantment was that Ark nor anyone else could remove it without the assistance of a spell) the now-good ranger could prove to be very useful in the wilds of the jungle on the way to the graveyard.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


After a week of relatively “normal” activities after their return from the expedition to the village of Onnja, the small group of adventurers found themselves one evening summoned to the meeting room of House Valaryan. Inside was the “Patriarch”, Gam, and the head of the Vistnan temple, Vespasian, along with his assistant Alando (both had been met by the party on the night the adventurers had saved them from unknown assassins). Ardu was also there, but no one else. Gam told the adventurers that this meeting was “top secret”, and no word of it must pass beyond the doors of this room. After Vespasian cast several spells around the room and on the adventurers, Gam told Vespasian to tell the adventurers the legend of the “Elephant’s Graveyard”.
Vespasian faced the adventurers and began his tale: “For many years, there has existed a legend of the Elephant’s Graveyard in Delos. Supposedly, deep within the jungle there is a hidden valley surrounded by high cliffs, impossible to locate by the air. There is only one way into this valley, through a secret entrance. The legend says that the spirits of elephants across Delos are attracted to this hidden valley. This mystical attraction causes any pachyderm who is aged, maimed or near death to attempt to travel to this valley. As a result, the valley’s floor is covered with thousands of elephant skeletons…and the mighty tusks of the great beasts. Yes, a fortune in ivory supposedly exists within the walls of this hidden enclave.
I have spent many years researching this legend, with little beyond native tales to go on. I had not thought of the Elephant’s Graveyard in years until an unusual circumstance brought it utmost in my mind. Last week, some native Ashante came into Port Maugre trading for essentials. One of the items they had to trade was a pair of giant ivory elephant tusks, and when asked where they had come upon these they volunteered the information they had traded food, fruit and grains with a primitive tribe within the depths of the jungle for the tusks. They said the tribe had a village at the mouth of a large cavern and their shaman was a Beast cultist of the Elephant. The villagers the Ashante traded with said they guarded the entrance to the Elephant’s Graveyard. The natives who brought the tusks were told to contact your patriarch as he would be willing to pay for the tusks and any further information. “
The Patriarch jumped in at this point, telling the party he had the natives brought to him, and for gold and trade goods had them draw a map of the location on the off chance it might bear fruit. Like Vespasian he had for years heard rumors of this “Elephant’s Graveyard’ but thought it nothing more than tall tales. He added “After they drew the map, I took the precaution of having the natives taken out of town t night by rowboat several miles down the coast so they couldn’t spread the word any further about their find. Plus, I wasn’t taking the chance they would draw the map for anyone else with a bit of gold.” Looking the map over, Gam said that even he was unfamiliar with many of the landmarks, and that’s when Vespasian and the Vistnan’s got involved, as he had to confide in them in exchange for what meager information they might have about the Elephant’s Graveyard.
The crude map in the Patriarch’s hands spurred Vespasian’s interest, and he went to work finding the landmarks on the map through old trade maps of the area. It appeared to be around 45 miles or so deep in the jungle, past a lake and stream not on any of Vespasian’s maps. However, he told the party, he was able to rewrite the map somewhat and sent the original back to Gam for safekeeping.
“It was this original map that was stolen that night you rescued my servants; you almost foiled the attack although the main perpetrator escaped with the map” said Vespasian.
Gam then added: “Someone must have been shadowing House Valaryan and noted our comings and goings, and managed to grab the original of the map that night. The natives either aroused too much interest when they came in and flapped their lips too much, or we have a traitor in House Valaryan or in the Vistnan temple. Either way, we no longer have the original map. However, Vespasian was able to duplicate the map as he said, as well as decipher many of the landmarks and such. So while the “competition” has a copy of the map, it’s not as detailed as the copy we have.”
“We have no idea who now has a copy of the map…it could be House Mith or House Tarn, or the Taranthians, or even some other competitor. Nevertheless, now the clock was ticking to as when we could field an expedition to find out the truth of this Elephant’s graveyard. If true, there could be tens of thousands of gold pieces in ivory there, and I want it” Gam said with a gleam of greed in his eye.
Vepasian said “After the attack you interrupted, there have been other incidents. A Vistnan priest and his bodyguard were attacked by shadowy figures, one a mage who used a Wand of Paralyzation on the priest and then incinerate the bodyguard with a Lightning Bolt. The mage was searched before being left behind. Another incident involved an attack with a poisoned blade on another priest. Obviously the assailants are those who have the map and realize there may be a better copy somewhere.
Undoubtedly many want the horde of ivory, if this valley is indeed the fabled treasure trove. However, for the priesthood of Vistna knowledge is paramount, and the valley may contain ancient temples or libraries that can improve our understanding of the history of Delos. Your patriarch has graciously agreed to give any books, writings or other historical documents discovered, along with any unique magical items, to the priesthood in exchange for assistance in reaching your goal. We fear the loss of knowledge that may occur if some other entity arrives before us and plunders any temple or repository of knowledge that exists within the valley.”
Gam then explained the plan: “We are going to attempt to pull a fast one on the competition. Tomorrow, a large merchant party with Talith and Ardu leading it will take off for a false destination. That leaves you, the newest and youngest members of House Valaryan, who we hope will arouse no suspicioun when you leave for the ACTUAL location on the map. Unfortunately, because of the circumstances we don’t have as much time as I would like to get this expedition equipped. You will leave tomorrow morning with a light train of pack animals and bearers, with a false destination as a cover story. Once in the jungle you will follow the map and hopefully reach the graveyard before the competition. I want you to parlay with the villagers at the entrance to the graveyard, gain entrance and get as much ivory as you can on the pack animals after you secure the area. Clear the area of hostiles, and this means all monsters that may interfere with future ivory expeditions. Explore any structures and bring back any ancient writings, scrolls, whatever you can get. If you can, eliminate the competition and destroy or bring back the other map. Since this expedition is a bit unusual and it looks like it’s going to be a real bitch, you can keep all the magic you find unless it’s something unique or unusual, that goes to our friends in the Vistnan priesthood. I’ll even let you keep all gold over the amount it takes to finance this little adventure. All House Valaryan wants is the ivory and the rights to bring out as much of it from the graveyard as we can carry. “
The party members were both astonished at the plan and their large part in it, given their relative inexperience, yet excited and humbled they had been chosen to follow it through. Vespasian said the priesthood of Vistna was going to assist in all matters and told them Alando would be traveling with them to help translate or cure as the need came about. He also distributed many potions of Healing for the party, and Gam also added in a few items such as a Helm of Comprehending languages to facilitate communication with any native tribes they found. When Gam was asked what kind of creatures lived in the area they would traverse, he smiled and said “Cannibal headhunters, for one!” Despite this the party members were eager to leave on the morrow for their first solo foray into the deep jungle and the unknown.

Early the next morning, with much fanfare, a large, well equipped expedition into the interior left by the main gate. With Talith at it’s head, along with over 100 men and beasts, the scuttlebutt on the streets was that a “major” find of either gems, ivory or ruins had been made and House Valaryan was on it’s way to claim their treasure. Soon after, smaller expeditions from House Mith and House Tarn also left in the larger expedition’s wake, undoubtedly seeing if they could also profit from the “leavings” of the major expedition through either stealth or force. Several smaller groups also left, either to shadow the larger expeditions or try to discover where the expeditions were bound so they could perhaps arrive earlier.
That afternoon, a smaller group including the adventurers (Kal, Cadelaine, Endefal, Nadal, Mongo), along with Roho, Alando, and a native Delosian fighter called Ajada (leading 40 porters, bearers and guards) slipped out of the gates with no fanfare, at the head of 20 mules and 10 water buffalo. Their ostensible “mission” was to make contact with a distant tribe so they could establish trade relations, and they were well loaded down with cowrie shells, glass and metal beads, and gold nuggets to assist the trade. If anyone noticed this minor expedition manned by members of House Valaryan who were still wet around the ears, there was no visible reaction. So far, the Patriarch and Vespasian’s plan had worked….

For the first day, the expedition to the Elephant’s Graveyard stuck on established trails east. At the beginning of the next day, they struck out into the wilderness in accordance to the map they held, chopping through undiscovered territory. The going was very, very slow, as there was no trail at all, and all the animals and men must be accommodated. Several times entire trees had to be cut down as they grew so thick, and would grow thick again if let uncut. Only 4 miles a day was able to be traversed in the thick wild jungle area as the party headed east to a unknown lake on the map, from there to a stream, and from the stream to the mysterious village outside the fabled valley.
For several days there was no trouble except the usual spiders, ants, insects and small mammals that were always encountered in this territory. Traveling ahead were Kal, Mongo and Roho, who acted as scouts for the main body of the force. On the third day, Mongo came upon some reptilian tracks of a large, upright walking being that probably weighed 500 lbs or more. Sneaking up on a clearing, he saw two reptilian creatures known to natives as “Bonesnappers”, stupid reptilian creatures that only cared about eating and breeding, and were quite dangerous. Mongo felt his hatred of all cold-blooded beings rise in him, and as the creatures were alone feasting on the carcass of a giant ape, he signaled Kal and Roho to back him up. Kal cast Entangle on the beasts, which would hold them enough to kill them..except at that moment, another six of the creatures burst through the foliage behind them!
Kal, Mongo and Roho yelled for help as they combated the powerful reptilian beings, who used jaws and tail snaps to quickly injure the trio. Hearing the cries for help, Nadal, Cadelaine, and Endefal rushed to help just in time to see Roho brought down with a powerful swipe of a tail. While Endefal bandaged his wounds, Nadal charged into combat with his two handed sword, and Cadelaine stood back firing arrow after arrow into the man-sized creatures. Mongo brought down three of the creatures himself, including one of the Entangled reptiles as they soon thrashed free of the vines and grasses holding them. Endefal entered the combat after tending to Roho, and between the five of them, soon all eight of the creatures lay dead. After the battle, Roho was strapped to a mule until he healed up and the rest of the group continued on it’s way.
That evening, after a hard slog, the party camped in a small clearing overhung with large trees. During the nigh watches, Alando and Cadelaine managed to find themselves on one shift, and Alando soon began making uncomfortable conversation with the half elven lass. Soon Cadelaine began to slowly realize that the socially inept Alando had been taken with her and having no experience with women (he told of growing up in a monastery) he was making up for lost time by becoming infatuated with her (as she soon realized she was literally the only female he had ever spoken to for any length of time!).
Their awkward conversation was broken by screams of a native bearer who stepped out of his blanket to relieve himself….he stumbled back into the light of the campfire, covered with hand-sized hairy spiders! As he fell dead with half a dozen bites, Cadelaine and Alando quickly rose the rest of the party as well as the native porters and Ajada and found they were surrounded by the giant arachnids! Along with the hairy spiders, several large and even huge varieties began to drop down from the trees and skitter into the camp, searching for prey.
Battle followed, Cadelaine helping with a Sleep spell that took out 7 of the horrors, and Mongo quickly chopping through half a dozen of the monstrosities. A bite on Kal brought his to his knees as the poison took effect, causing the spiders to try to swarm him. Valiantly, Mongo fought them off, as the rest (including spear wielding natives) fought off the poisonous creatures. Even Ajada acquitted himself well, killing two of the huge creatures, and soon 30 or so dead arachnids lay strewn around the site, with several others crawling back into the dark underbrush. Afterwards, Kal recovered from the bite as the poison had only made him dizzy, and a head count found only one other native bearer dead from the beasts’ poison. According to custom, both dead natives were burned, and the party saw their profits fall as they calculated their first wergild for two native porters…..

The slow journey continued the next day, with the party only making 4 miles a day through the thick, untrammeled jungle. Having to cut their own trail was slow going for the small caravan of mules, water buffalo and porters. Towards the end of the day, the trail crossed that of a large group that had passed through earlier; Mongo checked the tracks and found a larger group of natives, probably walking with shackles, with many others around them…slavers with a coffle!
Calling a halt to the caravan, the party decided that although it wasn’t part of the mission, they would follow the trail (which was only an hour or so old) and see who was holding the slaves and whether or not they could be rescued. The entire adventuring party went with Alando reluctantly tagging along, for he seem to now be infatuated with Cadelaine and didn’t wish her to get into any trouble.
About a mile through the trampled down jungle grass, they found their slave train. In a clearing, a large group of 40 or so frightened and wounded natives were sitting, shackled, as around 40 or more piratical types walked around with whips. There are several campfires and tents as obviously the group was camping for the night and the slaves were being watered and fed. Mongo’s sharp eyes spotted a dozen Tzulan warriors who were arrayed on the outside of the camp as lookouts…and in the middle of the camp, a larger tent from which strode a priest of Taranthus, decked out in his holy clothing! At the sight of his enemy Endefal’s blood ran hot, and then there was no doubt that the party would go against the overwhelming odds to rescue the prisoners.
A quick plan was formed. Cadelaine and Alando snuck around the north side of the camp, and she liberally poisoned several blowdarts with deadly snake venom. At the same time, Kal quietly cast a Charm Person on what looked like the lead fighter type of the slavers, causing him to drop what he was doing and head for the hidden adventurers. Mongo made his way to the other side of the camp to try to engage the evil priest, Endefal behind him.
Cadelaine did well at first, killing two Tzulan guards with here poisoned darts, until the third was only partially hit and managed to yell a warning. All hell broke loose as Kal through Entangle, immobilizing 10 of the slavers, and Nadal and Roho attacked the nearest Tzulan lookouts. Kal’s charmed fighter rushed to their defense and began attacking the Tzulan’s also, giving Kal and Roho a chance to try to help Mongo, who was engaged in a battle with two other Tzulans and the high priest across the camp. The priest hit Mongo with a Fist of Faith, then pulled a Taranthian bullwhip and made a magical energy whip appear in his other hand, ready for battle. Soon Mongo was almost overwhelmed….the priest showed great skill with the whip and managed to disarm the ranger with several well placed whip strikes at Mongo’s hands and wrists. Even with Endefal curing and helping him, it looked like a tough battle. The only thing in the adventurer’s favor was that the bulk of the slavers were slow to act, as they didn’t’ seem to understand what was going on, and saw their charmed leader attacking Tzulan warriors on the other side of the camp.
Soon Cadelaine and Alando were running for their lives through the brush as the last Tzulan warrior she had shot with the blowgun began chasing them, the poison not doing it’s full work. Cadelaine and Alando were finally able to set up and pepper the native with missile weapons, killing him. Cadelaine then used two Sleep spells to knock out 8 of the milling slavers and further sow confusion. Kal’s charmed fighter helped immensely as he killed one Tzulan and gravely injured another before being killed. Kal and Roho slowly battled their way through a small group of slavers to reach Mongo and Endefal and their battle with the high priest.
Disarmed, Mongo’s fury got the best of him as he launched himself at the priest, driving him to the ground. The priest dropped his bullwhip but his energy whip continued to swing and crack, hitting both Endefal and Mongo. Mongo got his hands around the priest’s throat and began strangling the life out of him and Endefal applied cures and other protective spells to the ranger while dodging attacks. Soon, a loud crack was heard as the priest’s neck broke, and Mongo wearily rolled off to partake of healing potions.
With the highly deadly and skilled Tzulan warriors dead, the slavers were no match for the infuriated party. Mongo began to slice through them like butter, killing half a dozen that Kal had captured with another Entangle spell, and the rest of the group joined in. Soon, the remaining slavers began surrendering, but to the party’s shock, Endefal answered by bashing in the brains of the nearest surrendering slaver with his giant club! The rest, seeing there was no mercy from the priest of Attar, began fleeing into the jungle, to probably become a predator’s meal in the unforgiving green depths.

In the aftermath, the priest’s tent was searched, a large chest was dragged out, then Endefal lit the structure on fire with the priest’s body inside. He began decapitating the slaver’s bodys and arranged the heads on spikes all around the camp, causing much concern and worry among the other members of the group. They had heard how obsessed and vengeful Attarian priests were, now they were getting a first hand look!!! The rest of the party tended to the slaves, as many were sick, wounded and frightened. Assuring them they were there to help, they found out they had been taken from a village near the very lake they were on their way to find (the first large landmark on their journey), so they vowed to take the natives back to their homes. Leading them back to the caravan, the immediate problem was enough food and water for 40 extra mouths. Using a high level scroll, Alando was able to Create Food and Water in a large enough amount to satisfy everyone, and the stores of the expedition were dipped into so that no one would go hungry. Back at the camp, Endefal had lost some of his fury and tended the native’s bodies with bandages and souls with quiet words of comfort. One native youth with a heavily scarred face stared at Endefal for awhile, then slowly approached him later.
Not speaking a common tongue, Mongo translated from Ashante the native youth’s (Kumar’s) entreaties to Endefal: while being held prisoner the past several days, he had prayed and been touched by the hand of Attar. After talking to the boy, Endefal realized the youth had been chosen and was now a acolyte! Kumar told Endefal he wished to join the group and also spread the word of Attar, and Endefal was happy that such a horrible episode had something good come out of it. The next day, the party would head for the lake and then make a slight detour to drop the villagers off at their home, but Kumar would continue on with the expedition.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


After the events at the Temple of Darkness, it was time for the adventurers to find out what had happened to Talith and the merchant train the week before. Following the now faint trail, the party and Ardu attempted to backtrack to the spot where the merchant train was attacked. Adding to their difficulty was the fact it had rained the night before, but several good trail indicators helped them on their way. They had a minor encounter with a plant known as a “Thorn-Slinger”, which threw sharp wooden thorns in a large radius, but escaped relatively unscathed. Later that day, a tiger was spotted, and it was bleeding from the same or a different thorn slinger, and was hurt. Mongo and Kal used their knowledge of animals and special powers (including Speak with Animal and Animal Friendship) to approach the wild beast, remove the thorns, and place a poultice on the wounds. Their good deed done, the great cat bounded off into the jungle.
After a minor encounter with killer frogs at the stream where Ardu had been attacked by the tiger several days earlier, the trail became easier to follow. Soon, they stumbled upon the skeletons of the small band of Tzulan warriors that had defeated directly after the caravan had been attacked, and after that, the spot on the trail where the attack had happened. Cleanly picked mule and water buffalo bones, along with several native bearer skeletons, spoke of the fury of the attack. It was seen that all the head were missing on the dead native bearers, a fact Ardu attributed to the Tzulan warriors taking trophies to prove their manhood. With no sign of Talith or the others, the decision was made to carefully move onward to the village of Onnja, as it had been six days since the attack perhaps the Tzulans had left the area entirely.
Several hours later, the party halted as voices and movement were spotted ahead. Suddenly, they saw a group of over 100 Ashante warriors, accompanied by Talith, Derk, and a few of the House Valaryan mercenaries! Hailing the group, they were greeted as Talith and Ardu exchanged happy greetings….Talith explained they figured Ardu and the rest had perished. Ardu told a story about holing up in a cave for the past week (leaving out all mention of the Temple of Shadow) as he fought off a dangerous infection. Talith explained that he and a few others were the only survivors of the attack, fleeing until they reached the village of Onnja. They had spent the last few days recovering, and then with the help of the Ashante warriors and a village shaman, had decided to turn the tables on the Tzulan warriors and track them down to extract bloody vengeance. The party joined in with the Ashante war party as they continued to track the Tzulan warriors….hoping they had been delayed and had not already left and gone back to Tzulan territory.
Luck was with them…half a day’s journey later, Ashante spies returned to the main force with news: ahead, at a small lake, the Tzulans were camped! Spying on the encampment, the Ashante had listened carefully and discovered that after leaving the sacked merchant train, the Tzulans (unfamiliar with the territory), had stumbled into the air of a angry giant hippo by a secluded stream and lake. The hippo had attacked and killed the war party leader before it had been slaughtered. The death of the leader had led to arguments about who was then to lead, with the two leading candidates splitting the war party in two. Now, several days later, the two would-be chieftains and each of their followers were each on a side of the stream, waiting an inevitable confrontation to prove who would lead.
The situation would be perfect, Talith and the village shaman agreed. With the war party split, they would be easier to destroy! Making plans, Talith and the shaman decided that the shaman and about 100 of the Ashante warriors would tackle the larger group of Tzulans (perhaps 30 strong) while Talith, the party members, and the remaining mercenaries would take on the smaller force of 20 odd warriors on the other side of the stream. Talith, Kal, Mongo, Cadelaine, Nadal, Endefal and Ardu, joined by natives Roho, Po, Jade and Kira, would wait for the Ashante to attack the main force; then, as the warriors were distracted, Talith and his small force would attack by surprise and hopefully finish off the smaller group.
The plan went off as it should have at first, except for the fact not as many natives were incapacitated by spell as was hoped. Sneaking up on the small force of 22 men, two leader types and one minor chieftain, as the Ashante attacked across the stream in a blood mad rage, the party threw spells to hopefully take a few out of commission. Kal threw an Entangle, Cadelaine a Sleep spell, and Endefal a Hold Person spell but they unfortunately did not stop very many, and the battle was on. The fight was long, bloody and desperate. The Tzulan warriors were skilled and tough, and managed to kill Po and Jade almost immediately. The rest of the force fought on, some more effectively than others, with Talith, Ardu and Mongo taking the brunt of the attack. Cadelaine used her potion of Invisibilty to great effect, sipping it to slip behind the lines, backstab, and then sip it again to disappear. Pouring deadly snake poison on her sword, she invisibly backstabbed the Tzulan leader twice as he battled Talith, killing him the second time as the poison struck him hard. Unfortunately, she was then knocked unconscious with a spear butt to the head as Tzulan’s swarmed her before she could again sip her potion and disappear.
The battle swayed back and forth for awhile. Kal and his self-appointed bodyguard Roho held their own but couldn’t take out the pair they tangled with, despite spells being thrown by the druid, while the spear Talon-Bar urged him on but gave little help when attacking (as Kal was not yet proficient with the weapon). Meanwhile Talith used every potion and magic item in his arsenal to fight off the chieftain (before the chieftain was killed by Cadelaine) and the sub-chiefs, deliberately taking on the tougher fighters to save his men and mercenaries. Mongo and Nadal acquitted themselves well as they killed several of the Tzulan warriors between them. Several times healing potions had to be consumed in the midst of battle, healing spells cast by Endefal, and soon all healing magic and potions were gone as the battle dragged on over 30 minutes! Finally, after a long and bloody battle, the party members stood triumphant with only a handful of loses (a pair of the Delosian mercenaries and the unconscious Cadelaine and Kira) standing against a couple of dozen dead native warriors, several of the Tzulans having broke morale and fled to the unforgiving jungle. On the other side of the stream the Ashante had triumphed after losing a score or so of men, and were loping off the heads of their hereditary enemies. A quick search of the bodies by the party members turned up a beautiful jade ring (that later turned out to be a Ring of Coolness and was given to Nadal) as well as a gold necklace and armbands wore by the chieftain, and a handful of gold and silver. Talith let the surviving party members keep it as a reward for the exceptional fighting ability, and the party regrouped with the Ashante to head back to Onnja for rest, healing, and a victory feast.
After taking a break for a week with the Ashante tribe in Onnja (and, with the recovery of his trade goods, successfully completing his mission), Talith finally called the party together for their trip home. Roho, having seen the fighting “skills” of Kal, told him he would stay with him and be his bodyguard, as he was too ill-equipped to survive on his own….being the first elf any of the Ashante had ever seen, Roho was certain Kal was an emissary of the Forest Gods by his appearance and swore to protect the reluctant Kal in battle. Talith was able to hire enough bearers and porters among the tribesmen to outfit his merchant train for a return trip to Port Maugre. With little incident the party thus returned to the port city, the powers at House Valaryan very worried as the arrival date for the return trip had come and gone and an expedition had been outfitted to search for what remained.
At the conclusion of the trip, the party was told to keep whatever items (gold, equipment or magic) they had come across, so they took to pooling their money and having the House Valaryan mage identify many of the items. A robe they had found turned out to be an evil Robe of Shadows used by the Shadowmasters, and this was donated to the temple of Vistna for research after the priests there evinced an interest in the ancient item. The magical helm found in the Temple turned out to be a Helm of Alignment Change, and they placed that in the Bag of Holding (now theirs) for future use. The party also purchased many healing potions, and turned their small horde of silver into metal and glass beads and cowrie shells, the preferred trade items for tribes in Delos, for anytime they once again braved the jungle wilds. Cadelaine found the only local bakery in town, a small enterprise run by two ex-slaves who only spoke Kongon, and took to hanging out there as the smells brought memories of her home. Surreptitiously, she met with Captain Bohema and convinced him to get a letter to her adopted family in the League without letting them know where she was. Endefal donated the bulk of his treasure to the temple of Attar to support the good work of Jerrod and the church, but also spent time at the Vistnan temple as the mystery of the Shadowmasters and their evil ilk intrigued him; however, even in the temple of knowledge information about the forbidden masters was sketchy and difficult to find. Kal began research on the elvish history book he had found earlier, while Mongo, Nadal and the rest of the party went about their daily duties of escorting merchants, running errands, and taking short trips into the jungle to deliver goods. For a few weeks at least, after their huge adventure, things began to quiet down in the Port city….

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Temple to Darkness, Part Three

Early the next morning, the party's third foray into the temple began. It started out well, but soon became a mess, due to some poor planning. First, the party entered with Endefal in front, and he turned the group of ghouls waiting in the main room (no sign of the ghast, however). The party, satisfied the undead creatures wouldn't be returning for awhile, went to the door in the north wall of the room that they had yet to check or open, having investigated the staircase, east and west corridors. Finding it locked and barred from the other side, Cadelaine was able to pick the lock, but Mongo was then forced to break the door down to enter inside. Upon stepping inside, Mongo saw a large bare room with a large dark pit in the middle against the dark wall. As he stuck in the Continual Light torch, a loud squeaking came from the pit, and a horde of slavering, rabid rats poured over the lip towards the party! Throwing oil, both Mongo and Endefal missed the swarm horribly as the vials broke off target on the ground (one in front of the door), forcing them to retreat into the main room. Soon, the rats were swarming the party, biting and scratching, as the druid Kal attempted to communicate with them but found them maddened by pain, fear, disease and rage.
It was every man for himself as the party members began hacking and bashing at the Giant rats climbing and biting on them. Finally, their numbers were cleared out enough for someone to drop a lit torch on the oil in front of the door, and the flames shot up to burn many of the rats and put up a wall of fire between the party and the other room, temporarily stopping the tide of living, squirming flesh.
Finally, after every rat in the main room had been killed and wounds bound up, the party entered the pit room to see what lived. Out of the pit came a giant, pig-sized rate with huge jaws that seemed to be the leader! Endefal and Mongo attacked, and soon killed the "leader" of the rats with arms and a Dust Devil spell cast by the priest. After the beast was dead, the party began searching the room, only to find the remaining rats had fled into holes at the bottom of the pit. As they made to leave the room Mongo leading, a sudden stench overtook him and a sickly grey arm reached out and scratched him. Falling back into the pit room, paralyzed, he was suddenly followed by the form of the Ghast, slavering and cackling! Endefal attempted to turn him and two ghoul minions, but he failed, Nadal was also quickly struck and paralyzed, and with the two party fighters' down the battle became desperate. Kal faced off against one ghoul while Endefal hammered the Ghast with a fist of faith spell as Cadelaine pegged it with arrows. Luckily, Kal finally killed one of the ghouls, and the Ghast was held off long enough by Endefal for Mongo to shake off the paralysis and rejoin the attack, dropping the killing blow on the undead leader! Kal finally finished off one of the ghouls, and the other was wounded by Cadelaine and Mongo before bolting the room to escape.
Wounded, bleeding, tired and out of spells already, the group decided to go back outside not an hour into the latest exploration. The made a camp under the trees and the spellcasters rested and regained their spells as the fighters took watch. Late that afternoon, the spellcasters again loaded up on healing and other spells, and the party decided to once again brave the halls that day. They went down the east hall to the cells and back down into the ghoul's lair, but the now leaderless abominations scattered before them and would not engage them. Satisfied the ghouls wouldn't bother them any further, the party checked a few rooms off the east hallway. They found a couple of treasure room, guarded by a pit trap, and managed to find Healing potions, many bags of silver coins, a magical set of leather armor and dagger, and a bronze statue of a shadowy figure and a covered mirror (the last two they left behind, but hauled the other chests out and looted them). Further investigation in the hall found a large door with signs of fire and lightning scarring the walls, and several skeletons. Another skeleton of a dead priest type was found, and since his robe was still intact they took it also. Investigating one last room in the east, they found a giant spider as big as a small horse, which Mongo and Nadal took care of, with Cadelaine gathering it's dripping venom in a vial as it lay dead. Deciding to call it a day, the party went outside to rest as the night was upon them. To their surprise, they found Ardu up coherent and somewhat mobile, as the sickness was almost gone. He told them to stop their explorations of the Temple, as only evil resided there, and soon fell back asleep. That evening, they had another dream....

In this dream, they all saw the shadow fiend Sathlos in his dark pit. His red glowing eyes seemed to see everything inside them. He knew their greatest fears, and their greatest shame, and chuckled as he threatened to reveal each of theirs to the other.

The next morning, the party was nervous and suspicious of each other, not knowing if their secret fear or shame had been revealed to another of the party. Nadal especially seemed nervous and anxious to now leave the place instead of search further.
Deciding to again brave the banquet room full of Shadows, the party went and Endefal again attempted to turn no avail! The battle quickly became difficult as Mongo and Nadal, blocking the door, were struck again and again sapping their strength and cause them to weakly continue fighting the undead. Cadelaine and Endefal helped with spells such as Magic Missile and Spiritual Hammer, and Kal got a light spell cast at the doorway that kept half the creatures inside the room. As four of the creatures were finally brought down, Mongo and Nadal rested as the other three fired magic arrows and silver sling bullets into the room to bring down a couple more shadows. Finally, Mongo and Nadal were healed up sufficiently to enter the room and finish up the undead, but everyone was heavily injured. Searching the rooms off the banquet hall found a worship area for Shadow, cold, dark, and very eerie. They left the room alone and investigated another room with looked like a meditation chamber, and their were many hacked up bodies covering the floor and sofas in the room. Cadelaine located a secret passage, and the party realized this passage was in their dream and led to the chamber of "Sathlos", the demon form they had witnessed.
Going back outside, the party once again rested the day as the strength returned to the shadow-injured party members, and the spellcasters recovered their spells. That evening, they once again decided to brave the temple, and perhaps find and put an end to this "Sathlos" once and for all....
Going to the east, the party ended up in front of the large fire and lightning scarred doors they had the day before. After carefully examining them, they pushed them open to face the room they had seen in their dreams. A dark open pit lay before them in the center of the room, with 20 ft above a lantern with a blazing light shining forth, held in place with a silver chain tied off by the door. As they slowly entered, a deep, evil voice from the pit began cajoling them, threatening to reveal their greatest secrets and shame to the others. Nadal was especially anxious and not eager for a confrontation, while Endefal was defiant and shouted out his faith in Attar and the eventual destruction of Sathlos.
Sathlos whispered to each of them, if they freed him from his imprisonment and served him, he would help them with that which they most wanted. To Mongo, Sathlos revealed he knew the location of his enslaved family, including the brother who had went to track them down, who he said was in danger. To Kal, he revealed he knew the exact location of the lost elven city Kal and his group had been searching for. To Cadelaine, he revealed the fact her father never loved her, and wanted her dead, and had sent an assassin disguised as someone she trusted to finish her off. To Endefal, he said he was far older than even his god, Attar, and that instead of being a enslaved man who fought for freedom and justice, Attar had died mewling and pissing himself and begging for release at the hands of his captors. Endefal shouted down his lies (?) and taunts with chants to his god, and at this, suddenly Kal walked stiffly to the chain from which the lantern hung, struck it with his scimitar, breaking it and causing the lantern to plunge into the pit! A shattering sound was heard, and then the room went completely dark.....!

Suddenly, a demonic form 8 ft tall, with wings, horns and red glowing eyes, as fiery as red hot coals, leapt from the pit and landed solidly on Endefal, tearing and biting him! Kal had collapsed to the floor, his body wracked with pain after it had been usurped by the demon's consciousness and used to help release the beast. As the fiend reared up to strike again, Cadelaine read from the scroll she had gotten from the Bag of Holding and hit the demon with a high level magic missile, knocking him off the priest. Nadal screamed and attacked wielding the magic short sword, striking Sathlos for a large amount of damage. The battle began in earnest, as Mongo borrowed Ardu's magic longsword from Cadelaine and began chopping at the beast with that and his magic short sword. Endefal was able to roll free and hit the creature with a Fist of Faith spell. Kal could do little but managed to hit the creature with the Magic Stones given him by Endefal. Badly hurt by the numerous attacks, the creature slashed and bit among them, screaming, taunting and laughing. Grabbing up Nadal, he threw him against a far wall over Cadelaine's head, causing him to slam to the stone and then limply to the ground like a sack of potatoes. He lay bleeding and unconcious as Kal, now recovered, hurried over to bandage him. Cadelaine managed to strike the creature with a few arrows, but Mongo took the brunt of the demon's attention in a long and bloody battle there on the edge of the pit. Seeing Mongo's distress, Endefal taunted Sathlos until the shadow demon again leapt on the priest and began tearing him apart, slashing and ripping with his claws and fanged mouth. While he was distracted (and right before Endefal was torn in half), Mongo was healed by Kal, and then the ranger took advantage of the creatures inattention to strike him a deadly blow! The shadow demon wailed and became a fine black dust that fell softly all over the room.

With Sathlos dead and Nadal stabilized. The party healed their wounds and searched the chamber. At the bottom of the pit, they found the lantern, now broken and destroyed, and a key. Also, they found the skeletal body of the Ashante warrior they had seen in their dream, who had obviously given his life to keep the shadow demon trapped in the pit while the lantern was used to hold him in forever. Beside him lay his great spear, which they knew from their dream held great power. Reverently, the wrapped the warrior's bones up in a blanket, and along with his spear, lifted him gently up out of the pit to bring outside for a proper burial.
Searching the room brought out a few items like a jeweled baton and a ring, along with some scattered gold, which they placed in the Bag of Holding. Leaving the structure, they found the still surviving ghouls huddled in a corner of the complex, looking at them with a mixture of fear and awe. They went outside and were surprised to find Ardu walking about, almost fully recovered!
Long into the night they talked with the old ranger, who told them the warrior must be the long-ago Ashante chief Boshir, who wielded the flaming spear "Talon-Bar" (Burning Spear in Ashante). As they talked, Kal, who had felt weak since Sathlos had usurped his body, began to get sicker and sicker, and soon toppled over sweating and with fever. Ardu said he had been infected with the Shadow virus, a fatal disease that probably infected him when the demon had taken control of his body. After a short period where Kal seemed to fall deeper and deeper into some sort of delirium, Endefal forced his Elixir of Health down Kal's throat, which immediately took down the fever and destroyed the virus. Kal's health, however, would forever be scarred as afterwards he found he was much weaker and not as strong as before, as if some of his strength had been permanently leeched away. the "Mark of Shadow", as Ardu said. Ardu added he was very lucky to be alive, though. As he lay recovering, he reached out and grasped Talon-Bar, and the spear began speaking in ancient Ashante, and then ancient Delosian, saying that the party was "worthy" of bearing him, especially this one......while not a native Delosian, he had battled the power of shadows and was permanently scarred in the attempt, but survived, making him a good wielder of the flaming spear. The spear revealed special powers to Kal, as well as the fact it could speak, and said as long as he was brave in battle it would serve and assist him. Grasping the spear by his side, Kal seemed to sleep easier from then on, and that night the party had no dreams outside the temple.
The next morning, the party re-entered the temple (with Ardu, now fully recoverd, staying outside as he refused to have anything to do with the evil place). The entire atmosphere had was not as dark, as cold, and did not feel as oppressive and evil as it had days earlier. None of the undead, including the shadow hound, seemed to be about. No longer like a temple of gloom, the interior seemed like just another abandoned structure sitting isolated in the jungle...with the destruction of Sathlos, the curse seemed to be lifted on the temple. Entering the upstairs room ready to battle the haunt by the locked and barred door, they were surprised to find it sitting quietly, asking if it could now go. Endefal released it, and it disappeared.
After using the key found at the bottom of the pit to open the locked and barred door, the party came upon an small treasure room. Heaps and chests full of silver, along with a odd jeweled helm on a pedestal, and several other valuable objects, lay within. The party took everything, and later identified many of the items found the last few days as magical...the leather armor, the dagger, the helm, the stone, the robe, the ring. Cadelaine took the ring (which turned out to be a ring of Feather Falling), the leather armor and the dagger, and Mongo gave her the "Silence Stone" to wear about her neck as he translated the trigger word for her; Kal kept the flaming spear, and the robe and the helm were placed inside the Bag of Holding for further investigation before using. Ardu told them now that he was back to health, their job was to find if there were any surviving members of the merchant group, and then warn the village of Onnja there was a war party of Tzulan warriors nearby. It had been six days since the attack, but there still might be Tzulan warriors lurking about, and if they couldn't find survivors or warn the village they must at least make it back to Port Maugre to let the powers that be know of the war party. Ardu said that he and Mongo would attempt to backtrack their trail back to the initial attack site, and from there try to follow the trail of Talith and the rest (if they survived) to help them or at worst recover their bodies. Ardu also cautioned the eager adventurers not to mention their foray into the Temple of Darkness to anyone else......superstitious native types would shun and perhaps even attack them, while telling of the demon itself and Kal's shadow virus would guarantee that no native Delosian would have anything to do with those who had come so close to evil's darkness. "You aquitted yourselves bravely, but some things must not go beyond these stone walls, eh?" The party agreed, and resolved to not speak of the last week to any but themselves, even to House Valaryan authorities. Making their pledge, they party buried the bones of the warrior Boshir in front of the now powerless temple, with Endefal blessing the spot, and then began to make their way back to the site of the attack a week ago....stronger, wiser, better euqipped, and more experienced in the ways of battle and spellcraft!