The Golden Skull (3rd September 2014)
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Johan – Cleric
Maximillian – Thief
Tarquin - Fighter
Theoderic – Fighter
Vox – Magic User
Return to Nulb – Freyasday 26th Hextember (day 87) – late evening
The darkness of the underground warrens pushed down heavily upon the exhausted minds and bodies of the adventurers. Their feelings of foreboding eventually got the better of them and rather than head towards the tower for safety decided that it might be best in their beaten state to return to Nulb and rest up before tackling whatever may have ripped their horses to pieces.
The evening had drawn in but the darkness above ground was less foreboding than the catacombs from which they had just emerged. The overgrown path that returned the party to Nulb was full of many noises in the darkness that made the adventurers nervous but nothing emerged from the undergrowth to waylay their retreat.
The party emerged from the Gnarley and upon entering the village requested board and lodgings from the Thuringian soldiers based in the newly built fortification. They were given the best quarters available and were fed as well as could be on the strength of their badges of office that had been presented to them by the Prince himself.
Whilst the spell casters rapidly made their way to a private space in order to replenish their magical strength, the fighters and thief decided to carouse with the soldiers. In the confusion, Bow slipped out and paid a visit on Mother Screng at her herb shop.
An Audience with Y’Dey and Otis – an hour of Bow’s time
Bow rapped upon the door lintel and was greeted by the wizened old face of Mother Screng. He asked if she would talk to him about the latest developments in their adventure, but the miserable old hag responded that it was far too late at night and that he should return in the morning. Bow realised desperate measures were called for so he showed her the Skull and three amulets that he and the party had already gathered. A brief look of fear and then panic crossed her face as she ushered him straight in to her parlour. She then sent her daughter out to gather another person from the village with whom to share this moment.
Mother Screng placed a kettle of water back on the fire to brew a pot of tea which was ready at just the same time as the burly smith entered. After a few words had passed between the three villagers, the old hag muttered a spell and cast off their magical disguises to reveal the Canoness Y’Dey, Otis the head ranger, and Murfles a goodly spy.
The four of them sat down around the table in the small back room and Y’Dey cast a few protective spells to hide whatever they were going to discuss next from any scrying eyes. Bow then removed the items again from his pack and placed the Skull and the three amulets upon the table to whispers of awe. He then drew the Sword and laid it alongside the other artefacts which drew more sharp intakes of breath. Y’Dey then used her magical abilities to determine which amulet went where upon the Skull and as the amulets were placed into the recesses available for them they moulded themselves seamlessly into their allotted positions.
After the artefacts had been fitted together Y’Dey then told Bow how, when and where to use the completed Skull and Sword to destroy the demoness Zuggtmoy. She then cast many spells upon the Skull which made it shrink and take on the form of an innocuous necklace and trinket to hang around his neck in a small leather pouch, whilst the magical protection would also guard it from all but the most powerful of scrying magics until it was ready to be used again. She then gave Bow the command word to make it large again so he could add the final amulet when it was found.
The three villagers then gave Bow directions on how to get to the Interdicted dungeon level that Zuggtmoy was imprisoned within and also to the third door which they told him the Temple had the final amulet for. If the Temple acted true to form they would blow the door off its hinges at New Moon in a couple of days’ time and then leave the amulet behind thinking it had served its purpose. Bow would then be able to recover the final amulet and advance upon the demoness’ realm in order to banish her.
Finally, after sipping the last dregs of their tea, Otis mentioned that the baron would be leading a force into the dungeon to act as a diversion for when they re-entered the evil Temple. Bow thanked them for all their help and cheekily asked whether the canoness would Heal the wounds he had picked up in the last fight – she agreed to this and fully healed him.
Then, after a quick look to make sure he had not been tailed he slunk back to the party in the Thuringian fortification and fell asleep on his cot without telling his fellow adventurers anything of his side adventure.
A Third Earthquake – Godsday 27th Hextember to Moonday 1st September (days 88-90)
The party returned to Castleford the following day on horses leant to them by the Thuringian soldiers, but they asked that they be returned to the next patrol that would be headed back in their direction.
Upon arrival, the party handed over the horses as requested and returned to their usual lodgings in the Talehangers’ Inn where they set about Identifying and evaluating their treasure. Johan recouped all his spells after a long bout of Healing his companions and then set about making enquiries about where and how he might be able to set up a temple to the Old Faith once his adventuring days were over. After they had spent a couple of days getting this resolved, they then spent a large amount of it carousing. On their daily travels they noticed that military activity had picked up in the town, much like it had done before the raid on Nulb several weeks ago – something big was about to kick off again but only Bow was party to the knowledge.
During their stay in the Talehanger’s Inn, on the night of the New Moon, a third and more powerful earthquake was felt by all the townsfolk. Again, lightning brightened the sky and thunder rebounded off the distant hills. The town’s residents were set to panicking and wondered again what was happening in the world. They reasoned that although it was the stormy season earthquakes were generally unknown in this part of the world, so they passed the night washing away their fears with cups of ale and wine.
A couple of days later, all of the treasure had been identified and evaluated and a variety of equipment had been bought and sold; Bow also collected the Ring of Protection that was ordered a week before from a travelling merchant. The following morning, the party headed back towards the Temple; this time they made the journey on foot.
Return to the Temple – Thunorsday 4th September (Day 91) – mid-morning
The road via Nulb back to the Temple was deserted and the grounds around were pretty much as they had left them. It seemed that the Temple had gone to ground after so many of their number had been slain by the party and the third door-sundering ritual had been completed.
Johan was determined to find the first amulet that he presumed was still hidden amongst the rubble at the main Temple entrance doors, so he cast a Detect Object spell and looked about for traces of the amulet that had once been his. However, because the amulet had been magically disguised by Y’Dey he could not detect it even though it was only a few feet distant on a chain around Bow’s neck; Bow smiled wryly but said nothing to his companion. After he had failed to find anything within the rubble outside the upper Temple building, he called for the party to enter the Temple and search about inside – only Bow and Vox knew that their search would be in vain, but they chose to say nothing.
Bow, his mind full of the details that Y’Dey had given him decided to wander off in search of the third amulet. The rest of the party were split on whether to follow him, much to Johan’s annoyance for wanting things wrapped up neatly. However, he decided to follow the ranger as he could always come back after the third amulet had been found to look again for the first amulet which he still thought was lying around in the rubble close by the main entrance doors.
As Bow reached the main stairwell down to the elemental room of the first dungeon level, he felt an irresistible urge from the disguised Skull to investigate the throne and dais at the end of the nave. He was unsure what the feelings meant but he had become aware that the throne was important somehow. As he walked up the dais the feelings became stronger but he still could not put the feelings into words. He decided to sit upon the throne much to the insistence of his companions that he should not, but he still got no more than the nagging feeling that it was important but he was unsure why.
The Secret is Out – late morning
Bow strode ahead and took the steps downwards two at a time, whilst the rest of the party lit torches and lanterns and struggled to keep up with him. He walked with purpose and retraced his steps back down through the Elemental room, through the left hand curtain and down the side corridor past the rat room that Max had been ambushed within.
They then passed the prison cells and advanced along the long, dark back corridor until it led them down the spiral stairwell. Bow then led them past all of the decaying Temple guard and bugbear bodies to the angled corridor beside the water room within which Tarquin had nearly drowned.
At the next junction the party asked Bow what he was doing because rather than head eastwards, as expected, along the main processional and down the next set of stairs that was guarded by an antipathy ward of some kind, he instead led them off south down a wide corridor that ended with two sets of double valves. He replied he was acting on a hunch, as he still did not want to give away the secrets he had learned from Y’Dey. They decided to believe him and humoured him in the hope that he either achieved the goal of finding the amulet or ran out of steam and returned the search back into Johan’s methodical hands.
At this point, Vox cast a Strength spell upon his warrior companions just in case they blundered into something or someone unexpectedly and fortuitously this also allowed them to push open the huge double doors that were positioned on either side a little more easily. Cormac opened the western set to reveal a south-westerly angled corridor whilst Bow opened the eastern set. However, Cormac was ignored when Bow descended the stairs and shouted that he had found the remnants of the third wrecked door.
The rest of the party filed into the large octagonal room and saw the carnage within. They also spotted the old rag that they had lit and dropped into the hole in the Temple floor eighty or so feet above several days previously. The party then spread out and began to search for the third amulet, which Bow was fortuitous enough to find.
He then led them back to the wide processional corridor towards the warded stairwell. Everyone was able to descend the stairs towards the bound and sealed double valves except for Bow, Max and Theo; the magical dweomer was far too powerful for them to overcome and they could progress no further than a few steps downwards before they had to retreat. Bow tried every which way to descend the stairs but he just could not overcome the nauseating feelings he got when he approached the stairs.
Finally, he pulled out the disguised Skull from its protective pouch around his neck and said the command word to return it to its normal shape and size. He then placed the final amulet in position and watched as it too sealed itself in place. Johan gasped in surprise that he had been hoodwinked by the ranger and felt misgivings alongside a newfound lack of trust in his companion. However, the mission to destroy the demoness in her lair took precedence, so he kept his thoughts to himself.
As soon as the amulet locked in place, Bow was rewarded with the feeling that he now knew how the Skull worked, even down to the point that he also now knew the other way into the Interdicted part of the Temple complex via the throne on the dais in the main Temple building above ground.
He told his friends what he had discovered, and rather than split the party and be without some of their companions when they faced Zuggtmoy, all agreed they would take the same route as him to enter her realm.