Session Forty-Three: Ardathanatus

With both Gein Kafog and Nildus Thilano rescued and safely back in the lighthouse, the party tried to get information about their adversary from his former prisoners. As it happened, they got much less than they’d hoped for. Gein’s mind had been torn asunder by magical torture, and he could do little besides stare off into space and babble. Nildus had not been magically abused, but starvation and beatings had taken a similar toll. He could rasp out a few words, however, and those he did were not encouraging.

“Ardathanatus … Ardathanatus … he is using the door … to bring forth his master … ”

“Who? Who’s his master?” Theodora pressed.

“The plague … he said I would be the first sacrifice to the Polymorph Plague …”

“Polymorph plague?!”  Scratchy exclaimed, “No one checked this guy for disease? Get him away from us!”

“No, no, it’s not a literal plague,” Casamir said, “The Polymorph Plague is another name for Yamasoth.”

“Yamasoth?” Theodora asked in alarm, “The qlippoth lord? That’s not much better.”

Indeed it was not. A being of that much power entering into the material world would cause untold devastation, beginning with the abbey and everyone in it. It would have to be stopped.

“Don’t worry,” said Zelcor, “I’ll have an unseen servant hold the door shut. It can exert 20 pounds of force!”

Helanda just shook her head.

Everyone went to bed that night more than a little worried. Theodora settled into a fitful sleep, which soon became worse when she realized she was having another dream.

She was in the same hallway she had been in before, but this time it was darker, and the walls were aged and damaged like those of a ruin. Theodora walked forward, as she had before, and the mists in the hall parted as before, though this time there was something cold and sinister about them. When she got to the point where she had previously met the man in bandages, a different figure emerged from the mists. This one was an elf, clad head to toe in adamantine plate armor. He was tall for an elf, but also haggard and pale. One of his eyes was missing, with scar marks around it suggesting it had been removed in a sudden act of violence. He was pacing back and forth, muttering something to himself. As Theodora drew closer she recognized the words as incantations of an arcane nature, but not of any spell she could identify. When she got close enough the elf stopped and shot her a look.

“So, you have come!” he snarled, “The master has told me of your presence! You are too late, impostor! Your mission will fail!”

“What mission? What do you think my mission is?” Theodora answered.

“You will not stop me! Tomorrow the door will open, and the master will pass into this world! Your death will be horrific and painful!”

“Wait, what door?”

“The Doomsday Door!”

“Are the doomsday doors the ones with the skull locks? Because we’ve opened a bunch of those already.” Theodora knew that wasn’t the case, but she felt like messing with this guy a bit.

“Fool! Your ignorance predicts your failure!”

Not the most satisfying response, but okay. Theodora decided to try to get one more piece of information out of him. “Hey, do you have a shard?”

The elf stopped and reached into a pouch on his side. From it he drew a shard of shimmering green metal which he held before him for several seconds. Then he flung it at Theodora, impaling it in her chest. She fell backwards, and an instant later she was awake.

Theodora checked her chest to see if there was a shard sticking in it, but alas, things were not that easy. More importantly, she found she that the dream had ruined her chance to rest and regain her wizard spells. She would have to stop the Doomsday Door from opening without them.

When the sun rose everyone else was in a slightly better mood; Scratchy was even joking a bit.

“He said that priest would be the first sacrifice! So if he tries to kill us we’ll just say no, we’re number 41! You should go up to the lighthouse and get that guy first!”

Theodora’s mood, however, was even darker than the night before. She spoke to Casamir about her nightmare, and he confirmed what she suspected: the elf she had seen was Ardathanatus, the cleric who had betrayed the monastery years before, and had led the most recent attack.

“He said the door will open tomorrow?” Casamir asked, with more than a little despair in his voice.

“Yes, tomorrow. Which is now today. And I don’t have my wizard spells back.”

It was a bad situation, but there was no avoiding it. The party set off back into the catacombs.

Their first encounter as they pushed deeper did nothing to improve Theodora’s spirits. They came across an underground pool, smelling of salt water. Six reptilian creatures (sea drakes, they would later determine) rose from the depths to spit arcing balls of lightning at the explorers. Before they were defeated, the hill giant was lying unconscious at the water’s edge and Milacent sat nearby, covered in electrical burns.

“Heal me,” she commanded, “I’m going after the last one.” The party had killed five of the drakes, but one had slipped away, apparently through an underwater passage.

Theodora cast her healing spells, but accompanied them with admonitions, “I don’t think you should go …” she began, but Milacent was already gone.

The sea drake, alas, managed to get away, but following its trail led Milacent to the suspected underwater passage and soon after to the open ocean. She emerged in the surf at the bottom of the cliff that Windsong Abbey was perched upon, and presently the rest of the party joined her on the rocky beach.

“There’s a cave over here,” Scratchy noted, and the party moved to see. The cave in question was a natural one leading into the cliff face, but one wall was suspiciously smooth. Theodora examined it then turned to the rest of the party.

“This is a magically created wall of stone,” she announced, “with Stone Shape spells used to make it seem a little less … unnatural. Someone’s trying to hide something here.”

“Well,” said Zelcor, “I have an Earth Glide spell that’ll let us walk right through. And I can put it in the ring of spell storing so that other people can do the same.”

And thus the party passed through the wall. Actually, it was an entire passage that had been collapsed, with walls of stone applied at either end. That other end was some sort of ceremonial room with numerous niches carved into its walls, all containing vases and urns of various descriptions. At the far end of it was another one of the doors with the skull locks on them, and further inspection revealed additional magical auras upon it.

“This door is definitely trapped,” Theodora informed everyone. “There’s a Glyph of Warding or something on the other side. Um, I can’t disable it. Can any of you guys?”

Everyone looked at each other expectantly. Eventually, Zelcor broke the silence. “Okay, everyone stay far away from the door while I open it with my Mage Hand.”

They opened it with the key as they had the other doors, and as soon as they did a booming sound wave swept out. Fortunately, they were all hiding behind cover in anticipation of just such a possibility, and nobody was harmed. They rushed forward and made it through the door just before it closed again.

The room they found themselves in was empty save for four sarcophagi, and Milacent immediately felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. That feeling was validated as dark shapes began to rise out through the sarcophagus lids, vaguely humanoid shapes that clawed at the new arrivals with sinister intent. One struck Milacent, and she felt a chill as strength drained from her body.

“Kill these things!” she shouted, and the party responded. The creatures were incorporeal, but the party’s magic weapons still hurt them. Not as much as they would hurt solid enemies, but enough. After a brief flurry of violence, the shadows were dissipated, but several party members were hunched over and weakened. Theodora went from person to person healing what she could, but the two encounters, coupled with her lack of wizard spells, left her feeling severely doubtful about the party’s chances.

“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Helanda admonished.

“Actually, I think there is,” Theodora replied.

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