ACT 3: The Deception of Serpents
Session 15: The Caves of the Mother [Dec 3rd, 2020]
The heroes return to the dark depths of the caverns beneath the lighthouse. The fetid wet caverns still smell just as rank and filled with a vile humidity. They return to the cathedral and explore it in more detail. Lelandra learns that the coiling collection of bones seems like a totem for those that worship snakes. The heroes then gather upon the northern door where they notice a bit of ash and a broken vial nearby. Gor and Flax recognizes the contents of the vial as a healing tonic, while Gor and Lox both recognize the ash as remnant of a magical fire ward. Flax then recognizes that the vial was one carried by Ieana upon the ship.
Hiorvard then kicks in the door and charges into the next chamber. The heroes find a small altar and three scenes depicting powerful rituals performed by the ancient serpentfolk. Gor recognizes the scenes as depicting the island of Smuggler’s Shiv. The final scene shows the serpentfolk lowering the seas through a ritual where they interact with the four monoliths near Red Mountain. There is writing nearby in an unusual script that has been recently cleared of dust. Gor makes a carbon copy of the serpentfolk writing to analyze later.
The heroes then continue their explorations of the caverns, finding another scrawled note in the strange script. Gor copies it also. Lelandra hears something stirring ahead, but loses it in the cavern. The heroes then come to a large cavern leading out to caverns near the sea. They are then accosted by a band of ghouls led by a withered powerful ghast that Flax believes to be Nylithati from the Thrune’s Fang.
The heroes tear down the ghouls one by one. Hiorvard and Flax cut them down with their blades as Lox and Lelandra blast them with spells. Gor throws explosive bombs from the rear. Eventually, the ghouls are slain the the taint of Nylithati is destroyed. Lelandra explores the dark recess of the cavern and finds Nylithati’s nest and a few magical trinkets. The heroes return to the surface.
They identify the items, there is a magical hat for Lox, a protective brooch for Flax, and a dog figurine for Lelandra. As they rest, Gelik is quite interested in their discoveries and he can read the ancient serpentfolk script, calling the language, Aklo. He reads the instructions that were next to the pictograms:
To Command the Very Tides to Rise Up and Eschew What Lies Below:
Empower the Four Sentinel Runes with the Blood of a Thinking
Creature Tempered by the Kiss of a Serpent’s Tongue.
Anoint the Tide Stone with Waters Brought from the Sea in a Vessel of
Invoke the Lord’s Sacred Name to Wrap His Coils around the Sea Itself
that He Might Lay Bare What Lies Below and Cast Down Your Enemies
on the Waves above.
He also reads the small note, All glory to Great Ydersius. Hiorvard recognizes the name Ydersius as an ancient serpentfolk deity of great power. However, stories say a great hero cut off his head and he slivered away into the caverns beneath the earth. He is now known as the Headless King, a symbol of immortality.
The heroes decide to rest and hang around the camp through the evening and rest for the night. Early the morning, the heroes set out across the island towards Red Mountain. Hiorvard carries his helmet filled with sea water, to perform the ritual at the monoliths. However, as the heroes reach the rickety wood bridge heading up to the mountain, they hear a powerful roar. The winged chupacabra flies down from the sky towards Flax, who is half-way across the chasm.
Session 16: The Vampiric Doors [Dec 10th, 2020]
The chupacabra soars towards Flax, its claws and teeth barred out in front of him. Flax scrables back along the rickety bridge to the cliffside and readies his sword. The beast detours and slashes at Hiorvard as Lox and Lelandra pelt it with spells. Gor throws some well-placed bombs as Flax and Hiorvard hack and slash at the beast. The chupacabra grabs Hiorvard and bites upon his neck, draining his blood. But then it takes too many painful blows and attempts to flee. Lox and Lelandra blast it with rays of freezing energy and knock it out of the sky.
The heroes take a break under the trees to tend to their wounds and wait for the afternoon rains to cease. They then proceed towards the monoliths and perform the ritual. As they scream the name of the Headless King, Ydersius, to the sky, a great bolt of lightning leaps to the clouds, tearing through the heroes. They take much pain and burns and are deafened for many minutes after the blast. But the heroes then see that the water in the nearby bay has descended, opening a path to the southern cliffside where a great stone door rumbles open.
The heroes discuss whether to continue or to head back, given their injuries. In the end, they decide to head all the way back to camp, reaching the lighthouse well after the sun had set. They discuss the ruins with the other survivors, convincing Sasha to accompany them to ensure they do not get stuck in the unknown ruins. The others are more concerned with attracting a ship to rescue them. The next morning, the heroes set back out to the monolith, reaching the ruins as the afternoon rains begin. They find the water has recessed and returned to normal. So, they perform the ritual again, this time ensuring they are safely away from the bolt of lightning as the ritual completes.
The heroes then scramble down the cliffside and walk along the sand and rocky shoals, finding many ocean critters uncomfortably pulled out of the water. The heroes explore the remnants of a broken ship, soon finding it occupied by an insane and curious water mephit, named Ekubus, that likely was once a familiar to the ship’s former captain. Ekubus tells the heroes he saw a “funny-looking” person head to the doors the first time the water descended. The person had the head and tail of a snake. The mephit tries to convince the heroes to fight off a few nearby foes, a large sea urchin and a shark, however, the heroes decline and head towards the doors. Sasha heads up to the monolith, prepared to perform the ritual again if the doors close.
The heroes find images of vampires feasting upon unsuspecting maidens carved into the doors. Gor identifies the images as belonging to the ancient Xaya people. Lelandra also knows these images belong to the Cult of Zura, the demon queen of cannibals and vampires. The heroes cautiously enter the darkness, climbing up stairs into the ancient Xaya ruin.
They find a large cathedral-like great hall in the darkness. As soon as they enter, numerous serpentfolk skeletons throw javelins down at them from a high balcony and two more charge in from the corners. The battle is fierce and quick, with the heroes destroying the skeletons. However, one takes off down a side corridor on the upper platform. The heroes look about ready to explore the ruins.
Session 17: The Ancient Xaya Temple of Zura [Jan 7th, 2021]
The heroes step into the wide chamber at the entrance of the temple, examining the numerous carvings and depictions of vampires and cannibals, all devoted to the demon-goddess Zura. After treating their wounds, the heroes search the massive chamber, coming across a trapdoor in the floor. Flax examines it and Gor opens it, finding the rotten door breaks off in his hand. They look down a short 10 foot shaft into a natural cavern filled with a pile of calcified bones. They hear a faint scurrying of something in the darkness and Lox immediately suggests his greatest fear, dolls. But they can see nothing.
The heroes then decide to pursue the upper floors where some of the serpentfolk skeletons had fled. Flax climbs the rough stone of one of the columns to the balcony, 40 feet above the floor. He sees the final serpentfolk skeleton collapse from the continuing burn of alchemist’s fire. He then ties off a rope and the others are able to follow him. The heroes head to the western door into a dark chamber. One of the walls is covered in ancient Xaya prayers. Gor reads the ancient language, finding the prayers all reference the demoness Zura and their devotion to her. However, some of the phrases speak of returning to a city called Sava-Xi to get their revenge. Gor explains to the others that this may be a major archeological find, as the Xaya city of Sava-Xi was believed to be the northern most metropolis of the great Xaya Empire (circa 3000 years ago). However, the city was never found and explorers and scholars have been searching for decades since records first mentioned the city’s existence.
Gor also finds a magical eyepiece that will aid his crafting. The heroes move on to the north into a set of very narrow halls. Alcoves show remnants of wood and paper, likely a great scriptorium where ancient records and scrolls were kept. However, only dust remains of these records. The heroes then find four human-like skeletons arise and strike at them. The battle is difficult in the tight corridors and Hiorvard charges in at them only to be quickly overwhelmed and nearly killed. The others are more cautious and slowly defeat the skeletons with well-placed spells and bombs.
The heroes revive Hiorvard and decide to close the doors and rest for an hour or so to tend to their wounds. During this time, Gor finds a few alchemical elixirs tucked into the dusty cubbies of the scriptorium. The heroes then head back out of the chamber and decide to cross the walkway to the eastern side. They open the double doors and Flax and Hiorvard lead the way down the long corridor beyond it. After twenty feet, both warriors soon find their feet fail beneath them as a massive trap door opens up under them. They fall 20 feet down into a pit filled with barbed spears.
Thankfully Flax and Hiorvard are not killed by the fall and are barely pierced by the spears. However, as they climb off the floor of the pit, they hear the scurrying sound again. Lox then screams as his fears prove real. Two dolls composed of bones appear and strike at the heroes above the pit and one more strikes at Flax and Hiorvard down in the pit.
Gor examines the dolls and learns they are constructs called soulbound dolls, where evil spellcasters imprison the souls of their enemies inside to serve as eternal minions. The dolls leap at them, biting with poisonous fangs and touching them with powerful negative energy. With some good teamwork, the heroes are able to destroy the dolls. Due to the many injuries, the heroes decide to leave the temple and head back to Sasha and the stones outside. They plan to rest for the remainder of the day and return to the temple the next morning.
Session 18: Blood, Blobs, and Blades [Jan 21st, 2021]
The heroes create a small camp outside the stone obelisks and rest for the remainder of the day and though the night. The next morning, they perform the ritual again to lower the waters in the bay and head back down into the ancient Xaya temple of Zura as Sasha stays behind to keep the passage open.
The heroes climb up the rope they had left onto the upper balcony in the main entry-chamber and head east past the pit trap that nearly claimed Hiorvard and Flax’s lives. They come to ‘T’-junction and head north towards a door. Lelandra scouts ahead to check out the door, but another pit trap opens up in front of her. Thankfully, the agile witch was able to pull back before she fell upon the spikes below. She opens the door into the next chamber and finds a large pool of seemingly fresh blood. The tang of iron and copper fill the air. Flax joins her in the chamber and helps to examine the room. Lelandra then summons a dog, using her onyx figurine, to further search the room and the basin of blood.
As this investigation goes on, Gor and Lox are attacked by a massive blob of eyes and mouths that crawls out of the pit. It begins babbling with such an incoherent cacophony of voices that it strikes at the very psyche of the heroes. Flax and Gor seems particularly affected and begin to lash out without seemingly understanding their surroundings. Gor begins striking at the creature, but Flax pulls forth his mighty sword and cuts the onyx dog in half. The poor animal returns to its figurine form.
Lox examines the creature and recognizes it as a gibbering mouther, a strange, alien beast with unknown origins. He recommends they strike it with bludgeoning weapons. However, as he makes this announcement, the mouther moves quickly upon him and devours and engulfs him. Lox screams for help as he disappears under the undulating folds of the fleshy mouths and eyes. The others move quickly as Hiorvard and Flax begin to strike at the beast. Hiorvard summons an axe of pure force, but Flax simple resigns to punching the many faces of the creature. Gor throws some well-placed bombs as Lelandra blasts it with ice and fire.
The beast bites and injures the heroes greatly, but eventually succumbs to their desperate attacks. The creature is cut open and collapses and the unconscious body of Lox rolls out. The heroes revive Lox, finding him barely alive. They treat their wounds as best they can, and continue onward into the room with the bloody basin.
Lox and Gor notice the basin has a magical aura, one that likely keeps the blood within fresh. Lox attempts to dispel that magic, but finds it is beyond his abilities to do so. It is shortly after that moment, that massive bronze plates fall in front of the doors of the room and massive swinging scythe blades swing down from the ceiling. In a hysterical panic, the heroes try to save themselves. Hiorvard and Lox drop to the floor as Lelandra hides behind a pillar. Flax panics and leaps into the basin of blood, desperately trying to find something inside. Another blade cuts down, slicing through Lox and nearly killing him. Gor is able to revive Lox, but he is nearly cut down again shortly after. Hiorvard then cuts his hand, hoping that his blood may activate something, he then runs his bloody hand over the wall and door, and then the pillar. It is then that he accidently trips a tiny, nearly imperceptible button on the pillar that causes the blades to retract and the bronze plates to pull back into hidden compartments.
The heroes embarrassingly compose themselves after their panic and prepare for more exploration…
Session 19: Ieana Revealed [Feb 4th, 2021]
The heroes treat their wounds and overcome their panic after the deadly trap subsided. After some discussion, they decide to return to the outside and rest for some time to recover from their wounds. They spend the rest of the day hanging out in camp. Gor gathers some ingredients and puts together fresh concoctions and elixirs. Lox practices some spellcraft while Lelandra consults with Orin. Flax, Sasha, and Hiorvard spar for a bit trying to keep their fighting skills honed. After a relatively relaxing day, the heroes rest for the night. The next morning, they perform the powerful ritual again to lower the waters in the channel and to open the doors into the ancient Xaya temple of Zura.
The heroes head up the stairs and head across the bridge and over the pit traps back into the blood-basin room. They press the button on the column to ensure that the blade trap does not reactivate as they enter. They then open the northern door into a small vestibule that contains another, far more ornate, door. Gor and Lelandra believe that the next room is likely the temple itself and that worshippers of Zura would have bathed in the blood of the previous room to “cleanse” themselves before entering into the temple.
Hiorvard pushes through the door and reveals a massive cathedral chamber. Decoratively carved columns hold up an elaborate, vaulted ceiling. An altar on an upper dais features two glowing bloodstones that weep blood down into a wide channel that runs down the length of the room and drips out through bars on the eastern end. A great statue of the demon-goddess Zura, a nude woman with bat wings for hands and talons for feet, dominates the back of the upper dais. As the heroes enter, Flax notices a flash of mist near the upper dais and suddenly they see a female zass serpentfolk wearing remnants of Ieana’s garb.
She introduces herself as Yarzoth as she steps forward, walking with such superiority as if she was speaking to mere cattle. She explains how she has been trying to reach this island and this temple for years. That she wouldn’t let all her work go to waste for the likes of mammals. She cries out, “Ydersius will rise again!” as she sends forth skeletal minions to strike at the heroes. She stands back behind the altar and casts powerful psychic spells. First, she sends a fit of paranoia into Hiorvard, who finds he can no longer trust his companions. Then she blinds Flax, cutting off his mind from his eyes.
Hiorvard summons the spectral axe of Hethroth to strike out at the skeletons as Flax swings blindly with his fists. Lelandra summons a globe of fire to strike out and heals her companions. Lox summons a mighty pony to help crush the skeletons, supplementing his summoned minion with targeted spells. Gor throws many well-placed bombs at both the skeletons and Yarzoth. The serpentfolk then charges at Gor and saps her strength with a vampiric spell. Yarzoth then uses her uncanny mind-magic to send Gor off to seek comforts back at camp. Thankfully, the others are able to focus their efforts on the Yarzoth, and Lox finishes her off with a great blast of magical bolts.
With Yarzoth defeated, Lelandra chases after Gor and they return to the others. Flax’s vision eventually returns and Hiorvard overcomes his paranoia. The heroes treat their wounds and decide to explore the cathedral. Gor gathers a number of items from Yarzoth’s belongings, including some coins, two potions, a magic wand, and a strange occult pendant. Lox takes the wand and Lelandra takes the pendant. The heroes then discover that the great evil that Aycenia warned them about seemed to be the altar of Zura itself. Both Hiorvard and Lox recognize the great power of the altar and Lox can see the magical ley-lines of dark energy emanating from the altar stretch out to the rest of the island.
Hiorvard summons the holy power of the Noradrie gods into his hands and slams that fist into the altar. The altar cracks and breaks and a great blast of energy sweeps everyone off their feet as the island itself rumbles. The evil of the altar is defeated and the dangers of Smuggler’s Shiv, including the dangerous waters, the ghostly forms at night, the cannibalistic inclinations, and the overall dread; all immediate dissipate. There is a great sense of relief as the dark feeling at the back of everyone’s mind, present since they had arrived on the island, was suddenly gone.
Lox ensures that the altar no longer possesses a magical aura, but then notices that the statue of Zura radiates some magic. An inscription at its base says in ancient Xaya, “Let me taste of fresh blood.” Hiorvard immediately cuts his hands and touches it to the mouth of the statue. He and his gear all explode into a burst of tiny blood droplets, a red mist in the air, and is sucked into a small hole in the wall. He is gone. The others panic for a moment, but Hiorvard then reappears a short moment later. He explains there is a small room on the other side and a means to return.
Gor and Lelandra decide to join him into the other chamber, touching their hands to the statue and reappearing in a small X-shaped room. Gor notices that the walls of the room are covered with ancient Xaya writings that would take weeks or months to decipher. They find a pile of journals and notes next to a bedroll and some supplies. It seems Yarzoth was copying all these inscriptions and had already begun to decipher the ancient writings. They take her journals and notes, as well as a powerful Xaya staff of healing and leave the room. However, Hiorvard returns to examine a secret compartment. When he opens it, a blast of magical dust transforms and curses him. When the warpriest returns to the others, they find he has an ugly bestial, bat-like form. A final curse from Zura.
The heroes leave the ruins, find Sasha, and head back to the lighthouse and camp…