After checking the hag lair for treasure, the party gathered up before the red metal door in the rough cave they had found. According to Helanda, the area beyond was where she had stayed with several other of the Gray Maidens, all of whom were completely loyal to the other “Sorshen”. Theodora positioned herself so she would be the only person visible once the door was opened; she had a brilliant plan.
Theodora touched her palm to the central frame, and the door swung open. Beyond it, six women in red-trimmed plate armor sat around a long table, gambling. Upon seeing Theodora, they all stood up, bowed slightly, and said, “Greetings, Mistress.”
Theodora couldn’t help but feel smug. “Do you have so much free time that you can sit around and gamble?” she demanded.
The women looked at each other quizically before responding, “But Mistress, you told us to wait here.”
“I did? I mean, yes, I did. Oh, screw it.” she turned to Zelcor and said, “Light ’em up.”
“Right away,” answered Zelcor, who stepped into view and cast a glitterdust spell on the Gray Maidens.
“What was that?” shouted Theodora.
“You said to light them up!”
“I meant with a fireball!”
“Fireballs burn people, not light them up!”
“Everybody understands that ‘Light them up’ means throw a fireball!”
“No they don’t! Did anybody else think he meant to cast a fireball?”
The Gray Maidens were confused, but they could tell they were under attack. They picked up their weapons and moved swiftly toward the person they had thought was their Mistress. As soon as the first one stepped through the door, however, she was greeted by Helanda. “Hello, Deidre,” Helanda sneered, and stabbed her former comrade through the neck.
The rest of the party moved in to join the fight. The Gray Maidens were heavily armored, and courageous fighters, but half of them were blinded by the glitterdust, and none of them had Milacent’s sheer strength. Soon they were all lying dead upon the ground.
Helanda looked over the bodies of the women she had once called sisters, and after a long pause said, “We should bury them.”
Milacent shot her and inquisitive glance.
“Yes, they were bitches and they deserved to die. But we shouldn’t just leave them out here.”
With that, the party took the bodies and buried them in the beach where they had landed the boats. If Helanda felt any emotion, she didn’t show it. As soon as the impromptu funeral was done, everyone got to the important task of searching for treasure.
The room where the Maidens had been sitting was part of a larger suite of rooms, clearly designed to be lived in for an extended period of time. There were bedrooms attached to the main hall, food and camping supplies, and spare armor and weapons which Helanda quickly availed herself of. There was a room with a sinkhole with a green slime at the bottom, which Helanda said they used as a garbage disposal; there was a room stocked with exotic perfumes, protected by a poison gas trap that the party managed to detonate from a distance; and there was a chamber with walls of black marble, hidden behind a secret door, that Theodora identified as a shrine to Nocticula, Demon Queen of Succubi. The ceiling of this room was hidden by a layer of shimmering black fog, but on the altar were a golden cup, a curved dagger, and several other ceremonial items which would undoubtedly fetch a great deal of gold back in Magnimar. The party was debating who would step into the room to retrieve the items when Zelcor reached out and used his mage hand to bring them all to the entrance.
The unholy shrine would have been the most impressive room in the suite if not for the fact that behind another door Milacent found something she had been dreaming of ever since their first day in the swamp: a bath. And no ordinary bath, either, it was a grand, tiled bathing pool, the waters steaming hot and scented with lilac and lavender, and as Helanda could attest, constantly refreshed by magic to remain pure and clean.
“Oh yes,” announced Milacent, stripping off her armor, “You guys go search for secret doors. I’ll be right here for a while.”
“But you should be standing guard in case something comes to attack us!” Scratchy objected.
“Get out of here! I’m about to be naked!” Milacent commanded, and the conversation was over.
Milacent took her time in the bath, but eventually decided she was sufficiently clean and relaxed to step out and see what everyone else was up to. She found them in a gaudily decorated hall with four identical black marble statues set into alcoves in the wall and three great golden plates slightly recessed into the tiled floor. Everyone was examining the statues closely.
“They’re statues of you,” Milacent said to Theodora.
“Well, of Sorshen,” Theodora answered. “Watch this.” She touched the outstretched hand of one of the statues and the three plates began to glow.
Zelcor noted Milacent’s presence and said, “Okay, now that she’s here we can try this.” And with that they touched the hands of the other three statues, each touch causing the plates to grow brighter.
Theodora walked up to the center plate and took a deep breath. “Well, here goes,” she said, and stepped on the plate. In an instant she disappeared, and the plates went dark again. Having witnessed the earlier use of a teleporter, the party touched the statues to make the plates glow again, then took turns stepping on the center plate. Milacent went first, in case Theodora needed combat support, then Scratchy on his wolf, then Helanda, then finally Zelcor, because he was the squishiest.
When the gnome teleported through, he found himself in an alcove with the rest of the party, all of whom were standing very still. At the front of the group was Theodora, her arms spread wide as if motioning everyone not to move. She was looking at something, so despite himself Zelcor moved just enough so he could see what Theodora was staring at. What he saw was horrifying: standing before Theodora were four vaguely humanoid red-skinned creatures carrying guisarmes. They had the torsos of voluptuous human women, but their hands and feet ended in scaly claws and their lower jaws opened sideways to reveal a long, thick tongue wagging beneath what would have been their chins. They weren’t moving, however. They were simply standing and watching, as if they were waiting for something.
It wasn’t long before that something happened. “Bow before me, subjects!” Theodora commanded, and the creatures lowered their heads before her. Cautiously, the party moved forward. There was s stairway leading out of this room and a hallway leading off to the side. The party filed past the creatures into the hallway, careful not to make any sudden movements. When they were safely clear, they all breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m getting the hang of this!” announced Theodora.
“Well congratulations,” said Milacent, “and … Wait. Do you hear music?”