The party looked up at the statue of Alaznist, then the once-secret door, then the other exit from the cavern, opposite from the way they came in.
“Secret doors often hide bad things,” Scratchy theorized, “so let’s check out the other way first.”
It was sound enough reasoning, so the party followed Scratchy out the other exit. Here they found the remains of an ancient kitchen. Scratchy decided to look in the long-unused ovens for anything that might be valuable, and was rewarded with a swarm of centipedes flowing out of the various cracks and crevices around him.
“Step back,” cried Milacent, and she swung her sword into the writhing mass, which merely flowed around it and onto her, biting her all over.
Scratchy, who had also been caught up in the swarm, managed to flee out of it, the wretched in a corner as the dozens of poisonous bites he’d suffered. “Get clear!” he shouted to Milacent, and as she did he pulled a flask of lamp oil out of his pack. The moment Milacent was out of the swarm, he poured it over what centipedes he could reach, and lit it on fire. The smell of burning arthropods filled the room, and it worsened and Milacent threw her own flask of oil onto the conflagration. Still, the swarm moved. It caught Milacent again, then she heard Zelcor intoning a spell. She leapt out of the way just as a spray of acid descended onto the centipedes, and what few survived scattered away from the sizzling, popping remains of their comrades.
“You could’ve warned me,” Milacent scolded Zelcor.
“I aimed away from you. You were fine,” Zelcor stated, with far more certainty than anyone else in the party could muster.
The centipedes, alas, had no treasure. When the party went back to explore the secret door, they found it led to a storeroom. The servants who had once worked there were now living skeletons; the party quickly put them out of their misery, but again found no treasure. Still, the room they were in had a door that could be closed, and they needed rest. Theodore and Zelcor were out of spells, and Milacent and Scratchy were still hurting from the centipedes. They closed the doors, set up a watch schedule, and tried to get as much rest as could be expected when you’re in an ancient ruin with several shattered skeletons lying next to you.
They had no idea when morning came around again, but when they felt they had recovered sufficiently the party gathered their things and continued their explorations. Presently they found a stairway leading down to an ancient stone door. Scratchy went to listen at it, and heard a wet, squelching noise on the other side. “There is no way that’s something friendly,” he opined, and the others were inclined to agree. They set themselves up in battle order and pushed the door open.
Inside, they saw another statue of Alaznist, and beside it what could only be described as a giant demonic maggot. “Watch out, it’ll spray maggots at you,” Theodore joked, and almost on cue the creature let out a roar and shot a stream of maggots out toward Scratchy. The goblin ducked, and the wall behind him quickly acquired a slimy coating of larvae. “I hate it when I’m right,” sighed Theodore.
Scratchy didn’t have time to respond as we was readying his horsechopper for the creature’s charge. It did charge, but not at him – it lunged for Milacent. Luckily, its mouth got caught on her shield, and she and Scratchy managed to get some good hits in. It lunged again, this time grabbing hold of Milacent’s shield in its mouth and pulling it, along with its holder, into the room with it. There was a furious thrashing, and slime and maggot guts flying everywhere. Then suddenly it was over. Theodore, Scratchy, and Zelcor inched forward to see who was still alive, and were greeted by Milacent emerging, slimy but intact, from the pile of giant maggot entrails. “Milacent!” she shouted, holding up her triumphantly.
With the maggot-killing done, the party took to examining the statue of Alaznist. This one was different from the others in that the ranseur it held was an actual weapon, not a part of the statue. Even better, it was made of cold iron, and radiated magic. After getting Theodore’s assurance that the statue itself didn’t emanate enough magic to animate and attack her, Milacent broke the statue’s hand and claimed the weapon for her own.
She soon had opportunity to use it, for in the next room were several gaunt humanoids, skeletal but not skeletons, that let out a hoarse bellow and charged her with spears. The party dispatched them easily, then puzzled over what they were. As they did, Theodore decided it was time to call on Nethys a little more than he’d been doing up to then. He closed his eyes, touched a corpse, and when he opened them again said, “Nupperibo.”
“What?” asked Scratchy.
“They’re nupperibos, the weakest and most pathetic form of devil; even the lemures look down on them. They’re immune to fire, poison and mind-affecting magic, but vulnerable to being stabbed with extremely large weapons.” He looked around at his companions. “See? There are advantages to serving Nethys, the All-Seeing Eye.” And they could help but agree.
In the next room they found more nupperibos, which they quickly defeated. Beyond was a door, apparently blocked from the other side. “Watch this,” said Milacent, “there are advantages to being strong,” and with that she proceeded to bash the door open.
On the other side was not more nupperibos, but a lemure, a devil which resembled little more than a roiling lump of cancerous flesh. Milacent raised her newly-acquired ranseur to strike it, but it wasn’t in a fighting stance; it was huddled in the corner, wailing pitifully in the infernal tongue. A casting of Comprehend Languages revealed that everything out of its mouth was some variant of “Don’t hurt me, don’t kill me, leave me alone.” Looking it over, Theodore realized it was a devil and should be destroyed, but it was too pathetic. They searched the room, found some gem stones that apparently had been the lemure’s treasure, and left the thing to weep and wail by itself.
Exploring to the south of where the wailing lemure a spiral staircase leading to what looked like an observation chamber; three transparent walls of force served as windows, providing a view of the murky waters of the Varisian Gulf. Scratchy poked at one of the windows to see if it would hold, prompting Theodore to exclaim, “Stop it! Why would you even do that?” And indeed, Scratchy had no answer. He did notice that there was a shipwreck about a hundred yards away on the seabed, and theorizing that shipwrecks often have some sort of treasure, resolved to investigate it sometime. There was indeed another set of stairs leading down into the water, but no one in the party was particularly adept at water-breathing, or swimming for that matter; the shipwreck would have to wait.
Leaving the observation area, they came to a room with two pillars. On one was carved the now-familiar form of Alaznist with her ranseur, on the other seven robed figures, each holding a piece of the seven-pointed star. On the floor were runes in ancient Thassilonian, which fortunately Theodore had been practicing. Looking over them he read out loud, “Does true power lie within the or the many?”
“Hm. Another puzzle,” said Scratchy, but he also had an idea. “Do these pillars radiate magic?”
Theodore took a moment to scan them then replied, “Well yes, they do.”
“Since Alaznist appears to have controlled this area, she’s going to say true power lies with her.” He went up and touched the pillar with her image. The carving of Alaznist glowed briefly, and Scratchy stepped back. He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not, but his sight seemed clearer, the world more vibrant and colorful than it had been just seconds ago.
“Whatever,” said Milacent. “I’m not touching it.”
Continuing on, they found a statue of Alaznist that shot fireballs at people passing through a corridor, but now sputtered and smoked for several seconds before it did so, giving them sufficient time to run past it. They found the remains of an ancient laboratory, littered with crumpled tables, broken stone urns, rusted cauldrons, and ancient fragments of broken glass. On the north wall of this room was a mural depicting a vast army of hideously deformed monsters and demons gathered beneath a woman’s face that had been carved into a mountaintop, just above a massive stone bridge. And underneath the mountain, past a network of caverns, there was a large vault containing some ancient monstrosity of tentacles surrounding a central fanged mouth, and within the mouth a single angry eye.
Everyone looked to Theodore for an interpretation. “Um, out in the gulf there’s a place called Hollow Mountain. I’ve never been there but I hear there’s a giant face carved into the mountainside. And all that other stuff? I have no idea.” They searched the lab for anything salvageable, but if there had been anything it had been taken long ago.
The lack of treasure was upsetting, but the lack of creatures to menace the party was odd. Welcome, but odd. They had a chance to rectify that when they found another door with Thassilonian runes on it. Theodore read them out: “Do not leave cages open.” They looked at each other, said “No!” and continued on. They found another door, this one made of iron instead of stone, and again decided to pass it. Down another passage they found a natural cavern. Apparently the part of the Crow they were now in was underground, and water was seeping in from above, forming pools on the floor.
“Oh good,” said Scratchy, “A proper cave,” and the cave goblin proceeded inside. He had traveled about twenty feet when one of the patches of mud on the floor started moving towards him. “Ahhh! Ooze!” he shouted, and fired an arrow into it as he backpedaled toward his comrades. The ooze quivered, but more disturbingly the tip and shaft of the arrow dissolved in the dull grayish liquid the ooze was covered in.
“Well I’m not going to use my ranseur on that,” said Milacent.
“My acid spray’s not going to be very useful either,” added Zelcor.
“Don’t worry,” said Theodore, “I’ve got this.” It wasn’t just false bravado, either. As an aasimar, he was naturally resistant to acid. Not totally immune, but he would suffer a great deal less than the others. And of course if he touched it, he could use the power of Nethys to determine what the ooze was vulnerable to.
He reached out and touched the ooze, and felt the tiniest sting of the acid on his skin. “It’s immune to cold and fire, but not weapons. We can just stand back and shoot it and, OW!” The ooze, apparently not willing to just sit there and be examined, had shot out a pseudopod that had wrapped itself around Theodores’s torso. He was resistant to the acid, but the constricting hurt. A lot.
“Kill it, kill it, kill it,” he screamed in an increasingly distressed-sounding voice. The party pumped arrows into the ooze, while he called on Nethys to heal his wounds. When the thing finally died, he lay on the ground, exhausted.
“Well, now you know all about it,” said Milacent.
“Yes, I know it hurts,” said Theodore. “Praise Nethys.”