Fully rested, the party stood at the base of the mural they suspected was a teleporter.
“Well?” asked Scratchy, “How do you activate it?”
“It reads, ‘Prostrate thyself and demonstrate proper devotion, my sweet slave, if you wish to enter my domain’” said Theodora, “Maybe we need to kneel.”
Everyone stared at her for several awkward seconds.
“Okay, well, the other doors opened by touching, so maybe we need to touch it.” And with that she began pressing her hands to various parts of the painting.
Milacent crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.
“Er, um,” stammered Theodora, then she noticed that the paint on the feet of the woman in the mural were more worn than anywhere else. “I wonder …” she said, then knelt down and kissed the image’s feet. There was a flash of light, and she was gone.
The other party members stood around stunned for a second, then there was another flash of light as Theodora reappeared. “Well, come on,” she commanded, “kiss the feet and let’s go!”
The teleporter brought everyone to a stone platform overlooking an enormous watery cavern. This one had no dancing lights to illuminate it, but instead the walls were covered by phosphorescent lichen lending an eerie greenish light to the scene. Moored to the platform were three rowboats tied to stone posts, and the party took two of these for crossing the lake that filled the cavern. They quickly discovered that they were not alone in the lake: dark humanoid shapes flitted just beneath the surface. Arrows and Milacent’s ranseur killed enough of them that if there were any more, they chose to leave the interlopers alone.
Crossing the lake, they found another stone platform, where they disembarked. Where this one met the wall there was an immense red metal plate engraved with numerous scenes depicting a beautiful woman on a throne surrounded by numerous strange monsters bowing before her. Remembering the the red door from before, Theodora began pressing the panels containing each of the scenes. When she pressed the center one, glowing writing appeared spelling out the phrase, “And so do the mighty Architects serve eternal”, and the door swung open.
The room beyond was a long, grand marble hall with a single row of pillars down its center. The ceiling was thirty feet high, vaulted, and painted with lewd frescoes of giants and humans engaged in carnal acts amid pastoral settings. At the far end the hall widened and rose up in a series of steps to a white marble throne. Six large treasure chests sat around the foot of the throne, and upon the throne itself sat an enormous humanoid creature with bestial tusks sticking out of its lower jaw. Scratchy recognized the creature immediately. “Cave giant!” he hissed.
As they watched, two enormous monitor lizards crawled out from behind the chests and headed for the party. Milacent rushed up and stabbed one in its head, and the rest of the party finished off the other before it got close enough to hurt them. They then looked toward the giant and braced for its attack. Much to their surprise, the giant did not attack. Instead it bellowed, “Who dares enter my throne room! Bow, mortals, and tremble before the might of I, Sorshen, Runelord of Lust!”
Scratchy raised his bow to fire but Theodora raised a hand for him to pause. She had a theory about whose body she was inhabiting, and it was time to test it out. Striding forward into the giant’s view she raised her arms and shouted, “What nonsense are you speaking, creature? I am Sorshen!”
The giant’s eyes grew wide and it backed away, retreating to a fetal position on its throne. “Please, please don’t hurt me mistress!” It whimpers.
Theodora’s momentary elation dissipated when she realized she hadn’t planned for her ruse to be quite so successful. “Um, right,” she uttered, “Well, um, I won’t hurt you if you tell me what you know about me.”
“What?” the giant responded, as Theodora realized the oddness of her request. “You are the mistress of these chambers. You torment me! You mock me! You bring me suffering and pain!” As it spoke, the fear in its voice began giving way to bitterness and hatred.
Theodora began to worry. If this creature was controlled solely by fear, it might well become necessary to strike it at some point. If it was controlled by magic, charm spells were keyed to individuals: even if someone looked exactly like the person who had cast the spell, there would be no magical compulsion to obey that person. Sooner or later, the victim would realize they weren’t being controlled, and would lash out. Theodora feared they were reaching that point, and decided to get as much as she could from this giant before things degenerated into a brawl.
“When was the last time I was here?” she demanded.
“A few days ago?” the giant responded, now with puzzlement added to the fear and rage.
“Well, give me the chests.”
“But, but, my treasure!” the thing bleated. It was now very clearly noticing that it wasn’t being compelled to do anything it didn’t want.
Zelcor whispered something to Theodora. The gnome had been watching the whole proceedings with interest, knowing a little something about charm himself, both the natural and magical kinds. He reasoned that if the giant was controlled by fear and violence, perhaps it would respond positively to some measure of kindness. Of course, that thought had also been filtered through his gnomish sense of humor, as reflected by the words he’d suggested. Theodora thought about those words, and figuring there was nothing to lose, spread her arms wide and said, “Come here, give Sorshen a hug.”
“NO! I HATE YOU! YOU ALWAYS HURT ME!” the giant screamed, and it picked up one of the chests and heaved it at the party. When it struck, it burst open to reveal that it was filled with rotting meat and decay which sprayed out all over those who were unfortunate enough to be standing nearby.
Scratchy was one of those unfortunates, but as disgusting as the meat spray was he had dealt with far far worse. He wiped the decaying meat from his eyes to see Milacent striking at the giant viciously. Soon a cloud of glitter appeared around its eyes, blinding it, and it began flailing around at random. Milacent deftly dodged its massive hands as she struck at it again and again, and soon enough its enormous bulk crashed to the ground, dead.
As she stood over the giant Milacent looked over at Theodora and asked, “She said you had been here just a few days ago, but didn’t the runelords live thousands of years ago? What’s going on?”
“Maybe there’s another clone?” Theodora replied, “Maybe it’s someone pretending to be Sorshen? I will slay the impostor!”
“Um, you’re the impostor.”
“The other impostor. You know what I mean.”
The giant did have a few gems stashed among its rotten treasures, so the party took those and returned to the boats. There was a slow current in the lake, and the party let it carry them along into a tunnel leading away from the platforms. This tunnel was thirty feet wide, with alcoves set into the walls. Theodora, in her previous aasimar body, had been able to see quite well in the dark, but now with her human eyes she strained to see what was in the alcoves. When she did make them out, she realized the alcoves contained bodies: humanoid corpses manacled to the wall, all in advanced stages of decomposition. He was about to comment on the unpleasantness of it when Milacent tapped her on the shoulder and pointed up. Theodora looked and she saw two large bats, similarly decomposed but still moving and opening their mouths in silent shrieks. As the party moved beneath them, their dead eyes remained on Theodora, who whispered, “Uh, greetings, my servants?”
After the undead bats the tunnel opened up again, and they were crossing over a large underground lake. On the far side they saw a beach and began to row towards it, watching the water for any foul monstrosity that might jump out and strike at them. As they did so, they began to hear voices. Scratchy heard them first, soft whispers in the goblin tongue. “Join us,” they were saying, “lay down your weapons and join us.”
“Do you hear that?” he said to Zelcor, who was traveling in the same boat.
“Yes. Who would be speaking gnomish here? Do they just want me?”
“They’re not speaking gnomish, they’re speaking common” said Milacent from the other boat, and in that moment they all realized what was happening. Zelcor figured he could stop the spell by drowning out the sound, and with a wave of his hand caused a cacophony of noise to spring up around them, but it was no use; the sound was inside their heads, and continued regardless. Zelcor closed his eyes and shook his head; charm magic was powerful, but it could be shaken off if you focused your will enough. When he opened his eyes he looked around and saw both Scratchy and Milacent standing up in the boats and removing their armor.
“Grab them!” Theodora shouted, and he grabbed Milacent while Zelcor did the same to Scratchy as the boats drifted inexorably toward the beach. The two warriors did not strike back at the people holding them, but they were considerably stronger and supremely difficult to hold down. Thus it was with great relief that Theodora and Zelcor released them when they finally hit land.
Milacent and Scratchy stepped onto the beach and made straight for the cave wall. Once there, they pawed silently at the wall while the spellcasters decided what to do. They were in the middle of deliberations whey they heard a cry of pain and end abruptly.
Looking around, they surveyed the beach they had just landed on. In their exhaustion after restraining the warriors, they hadn’t seen two tunnels in the cave wall leading away, but that was where the sound had come from. Steeling themselves, they decided to investigate one of the tunnels, sans Milacent and Scratchy. They found it curved almost immediately, and as they made their cautious advance they heard splashing and chittering noises from up ahead. Presently they came upon a flooded cave in which three bloated corpses floated naked and facedown. On top of the bodies, two tiny humanoid creatures with dog heads and lobster claws for hands danced about merrily, tossing a rotten eyeball back and forth. Theodora decided that without the warriors there was no point in messing around and tossed a fireball at them, killing both creatures in a flash of fire and steam.
Moving on, the pair found another waterlogged cavern, this one with two more bodies. They were lying on a small beach across from where Theodora and Zelcor entered. They were manacled hand and foot and dressed only in torn undergarments, and it was at this point that Theodora and Zelcor decided that adventuring without the rest of the party was a really bad idea.