Zelcor cast the spell, and a red beam streaked through the corridor. Where it stopped, there was a flash of light, and then a cloud of flame and steam billowing out towards the party.
After they had killed the taiga giant, the party had retreated to the abbey lighthouse to heal, and Casamir had been more than happy to help. Hearing their story, he was concerned by the skulks, for he hadn’t seen them during the initial attack. It made him wonder what else Ardathanatus had brought that he wasn’t aware of.
“Whatever he brought, it’ll be dead soon,” said Milacent, and with that they headed back underground. Roughly twenty minutes later, they were at the ice-encrusted door that Scratchy had found earlier. Forcing the door open, they had been greeted with a blast of cold air, and four icy statues of humans lumbering towards them. Ice golems, Scratchy confirmed with his scarab, and thus the fireball that had just been shot into the room.
“Did I get them?” Zelcor asked.
“One down,” Scratchy confirmed. It was one he had shot with his bow right when the door had opened.
“I’ve got this,” Milacent said, and moved to the door to catch the golems as they emerged. As they advanced towards her, she knocked the first one down, then shattered it with her flail. It exploded in a burst of icy splinters, and Milacent shivered as a wave of cold washed over her.
Next to attack was the ettin, and as it smashed another golem it too was showered with ice splinters. “Ha!” it shouted, “Puny cold creatures cannot hurt me!”
As it did so the last of the ice golems drew up to it, opened its mouth, and let forth a wave of superchilled air. A layer of frost appeared on the ettin’s skin, as well as on the armor of Milacent and Helanda, who were also both caught in the cone of cold.
The two warrior women exchanged glances, then moved forward to finish off the last golem. Yes, they would be caught in its death explosion, but it was nothing that Theodora couldn’t heal afterwards.
Seconds later, the fight was done and Theodora was doing the aforementioned healing. Scratchy bounded into the room, now a little less cold, and searched around for treasure. “Nothing in here but meat,” he complained.
Scratchy’s disappointment was not shared by everyone. The room had clearly been used for meat storage, with the ice golems keeping the temperatures cold enough to prevent spoilage. Now, that once-frozen meat had been scorched, then re-frozen, then lacerated by flying bits of ice. Cooking it in a way to be palatable to humans would be tricky. The giant and the ettin, on the other hand, had no such qualms, and immediately tore into the feast.
Milacent, for her part, took to examining what remained of the golems. “So,” she said, “they were all in here just waiting to attack whoever entered? Must have been hard on the cooks coming to get meat.”
“I think they weren’t originally so hostile,” Theodora answered, “I think that whoever took over this monastery changed their instructions to make them more violent.” Her speculation was bolstered by the fact that nearby they had found some scrolls containing extensive notes on golem crafting, which went into some detail on the means by which said golems could be driven to berserk rages. It made for interesting reading, if you were interested in crafting and controlling the things. Not so much if you were just focused on smashing them.
Having eaten that morning, the giant and ettin did not take too long to eat their fill of scorched/frozen meat, so the party resumed their exploration and found that the rest of the level was relatively mundane. There was the workshop where they had found the golem-crafting notes, there was a lumber storage room, there were now-empty servants’ quarters, and there was 1 x 2 foot hole leading to the cliff face overlooking the beach. This the party plugged up with a mattress from the servants’ quarters.
There were two different stairways leading downward, but before traversing them the party found two oddities. The first was areas with spikes in the floor, apparently the bottom parts of pit traps in the floor above. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t fallen in these pits the previous day. The other oddity was a room with a featureless globe floating above a pedestal. The globe radiated divination magic, and flickered with a faint light. Milacent approached it to see if there were any secret doors or the like its base, and when she did it shimmered and took on the appearance of a moon with a skull-like face leering from its surface.
“Interesting,” said Theodora, “that’s a depiction of the god Groetus,” and she approached it as well. When she got close, the flickering light strengthened, illuminating the room. It was then that Theodora remembered that globes of this sort were often found in temples of Groetus, and served as a way to show respect to visiting clerics of other faiths.
“And there was something else,” Theodora muttered to no one in particular, “I think they were also used by powerful priests to observe the outside world.”
“So a scrying device,” said Scratchy, then observed that Milacent was unable to move it. “Let’s go down the stairs and find some treasure we can actually take,” he suggested, and everyone agreed.
Of the two ways down, they chose the more impressive: a twenty-foot wide staircase that led to a landing with an equally wide set of double doors. Scratchy went to listen at them and heard a low whistling sound behind them: the Windsong. He also smelled something, something that wasn’t giants or humans or redcaps or skulks or any of the common things he’d expect to encounter. Still, it was somewhat familiar. Scratchy had to think for a minute before realizing: it was the smell of qlippoth. He turned to the rest of the party and said, “Get ready for a fight.”
They got into position, and Zelcor flung the door open with magic. Beyond it was indeed a qlippoth, but not like the ones they had seen before. This one was larger, a writhing, floating mass of tentacles surrounding one giant hideous eye and a fanged maw. Scratchy opened the battle by riding atop Fleabait to a flanking position, firing arrows as he went. The ettin too moved forward, striking with its weapons. He got a hit or two in, but if the creature was hurt it was nonetheless unfazed. It moved past the ettin to a place where it had a good view of all the party members, and then suddenly its already hideous appearance somehow became a thousand times worse. Milacent, who was moving to attack it, stopped in her tracks and began vomiting. The ettin, right next to it, recoiled in disgust, and Scratchy almost fell off his mount, unable to move.
“You guys, pull yourselves together!” Helanda exclaimed, and overcame the nausea rising in her stomach to surge forward and slash at the thing. She got in a great hit, stabbing it in its tremendous single eye and causing it to utter an unearthly scream of pain. It lunged at her with its tentacles and then closed its enormous maw upon her hand. She pulled herself free, but instantly felt the strength ebb away from her body. Was it magic? Poison? Magical poison? All she knew was that she had to get out of there. She backed away just as the hill giant came in to strike, and it too was greeted by tentacles and a painful bite. Zelcor, meanwhile, were trying to disable the monster but having little success. A Glitterdust spell had covered it in sparkling motes, but not blinded it as he had hoped. Likewise it had resisted the effects of a Blindness/Deafness spell, and evaded the Black Tentacles that he had caused to spring up beneath it. Scratchy was still unable to move, but fortunately for him Fleabait was able to, and carried him away from the undulating monstrosity. Helanda too was moving away, dragging the vomiting Milacent with her. If they got her far enough away, she hoped, she’d be able to act again.
In the meantime, the giant had landed another prodigious blow upon the qlippoth, but it was nearing death itself. Theodora was casting what heals and buffs she could, but realized that very soon, either the qlippoth or the giant would die. For their sake, it had to be the qlippoth. “Use your magic missiles!” she shouted to Zelcor, “Forget about disabling it, we have to kill it!” and with that a torrent of glowing lights sped toward the monster. Some stopped short, foiled by the creature’s natural resistance to magic, but enough got through to finish what Helanda and the giant had started. There was a loud popping noise as the creature’s eye burst open, and then it fell in wet pieces to the ground, only slightly less disgusting in death as it had been in life.
Helanda, relieved, took some of the antitoxin the party had brought along for just this sort of occasion. She felt the effects of the poison ebbing away, and began to smile. An instant later, she convulsed violently as a yellow fluid burst out of her mouth, and she collapsed to the ground. The fluid fell to the floor, then collected itself and began to move away like a thing alive. Theodora looked on in horror, for once not knowing what to do, and was ultimately thankful when the fluid stopped moving. The giant, too, had to deal with the poison bursting out of its body, but when all the bursting and moving fluids had stopped, Theodora was relieved to see that both Helanda and the hill giant were still alive, just unconscious.
Presently everyone recovered from their various forms of incapacitation and they had a chance to look around the room. On the far side were holes in the wall through which the wind was blowing, contributing to the Windsong. On the southern side was an alcove with a heavily defaced statue of Desna, goddess of dreams, stars, travellers, and luck.
“A wuss god,” Theodora proclaimed.
“But there’s treasure in the base of the statue!” Scratchy replied, and indeed there was. In a lead-lined compartment there was a wand, three scrolls, and a ring. It was a great find, but Theodora’s happiness was tempered somewhat when she turned around and saw the terrible shape the party’s fighters were in.
“Let’s go back to the lighthouse,” she said, “I think we’re done for the day.”