The Damned II (Session II) - Meliphisus
by, 01-02-2009 at 04:57 AM (1394 Views)
(First some corrections to last week's entry. Snow is actually a full elf, not a half elf, and Tim is more specifically an Eladrin, not just an elf.)
Session Date: December 27th, 2008
The Players: Alucinor (The 'elven' Rogue), SpiffyBananaFoot (Tim the Eladrin Wizard), Corii (Snow the elven Ranger), Aidan (Red the Dragonborn Warlord), JonDOT (Mason, a human fighter)
A Wheel of Iron
The party stands before a curious and sizable circular door made of stone. In the center of the door, there is a wheel of iron that can be turned to secure or open the locking mechanism.
The group takes a moment to gather themselves before they venture further into this mysterious cave. As they rest a moment and recuperate from the bone numbing touch of the the wraiths they just fought, they note that after the release of steam from the massive stone pillars that dominate the room, the sounds of moaning they previously heard has finally subsided to an occasional deep groan echoing up from below the pillars. Red's words of encouragement lift their spirits, until at least they hear the faint sounds of baying hounds echoing from the tunnel ascending to the surface.
Tim gives the strange door a very close look and finds that the iron wheel is smeared with some kind of gelatinous material. The 'elven' rogue--who tires of being referred to as "Hey, you," and has decided to go by Thorn--confirms that this gummy substance is some kind of poison. He tries at first to bypass actually touching the wheel by wedging a sword in it, but cannot get the right leverage to turn it. So, he carefully tries to remove the residue by wiping it clean with some cloth, but the gummy substance seeps through. His limbs go weak, but after some more encouragement from Red, he tries again. He still manages to poison himself again on the vile stuff. Finally it is Snow, the ranger who is completely untrained in matters such as these, that is able to get enough of the residue off to safely turn the wheel.
Baatorian Mines: Staging Area
The doorway gives way to another short tunnel and then opens into a large cavern. Mason's sun sword lights the way, but he keeps the light turned low on the advice of Thorn. Thorn scouts ahead while the rest of the party hangs back. He disappears into the utter darkness of this place, heightening Tim's suspicions of his new companion's origins.
This massive cavern seems to once have been the center of some kind of mining operation. On the cavern floor, there are twin rails that lead from the entrance and all the way across and into a pair of reinforced passages. Remnants of picks, hammers and more shackles litter the floor. A platform and a large cauldron lay in ruins here as well, their purpose unclear.
Tim, who seems to know a lot about this Hell they have ended up in, surmises that this may have once been a Baatorian greensteel mining operation. He explains that of all the things that may could be mined here, Baatorian greensteel is the most valuable, and it stands to reason that is why the operation is entirely underground and is unmarked anywhere on the surface.
On the other side of the cavern, the party finds a disturbing scene. Lining the far wall of a side tunnel is a three to four foot high and two foot wide pile of bones which continues into the darkness of the passage beyond as it curves back towards the direction they came. The bones have obviously been here for a long time, and their arrangement seems to suggest some sort of ghastly decoration. Whatever the case, this collection represents the parts of hundreds if not thousands of mixed humanoids--mostly human in size.
Driven perhaps by a sense of morbid curiosity and ignoring their growing fear that something very untoward lies down this bone lined tunnel, the group follows this side passage. The tunnel leads shortly to a smaller, fenced in cavern. The bars of this 'cage,' are made of sturdy iron and furnished with cruel, downward curved barbed spikes to prevent climbing over them from either side. A stone statue of a gargoyle-esque devil with fire-agates for eyes keeps eternal vigil of what is now a tomb. For inside the group spies more remains. These dessicated and long dead skeletons are scattered here and there throughout the small cavern, some clustered together, others lie curled up on the hard cavern floor. None of their number has been afforded the dignity of even a shred of clothing.
Tim offers that this fenced in cave was likely where the devils kept their slave labor. Life would have been very difficult for these hapless souls, and considering the secrecy surrounding the location of any viable source of greensteel ore, they would never be allowed to leave.
After prying the fire-agate eyes from the gargoyle guardian, Thorn shows his skills by using a shard of bone and his dagger to unlock the iron fence so that they can explore this area more fully. Both Tim and Thorn carefully search the parimeter for any secret tunnels. In a small area that is obscured from the now empty-socketed gaze of the devilish statue, Tim finds a shard of greensteel that has been carefully amongst the rocks. The shard looks large enough to be affixed to a spear or perhaps it could be used to make some kind of shiv.
While the party is searching the area though, a group of kobolds sneaks down the side tunnel. While the group is distracted, the kobolds manage to close the gate (now quite noiseless thanks to a well used prestidigitation spell by Tim) and jam the lock. The kobolds get the drop, pelting nearest target, which happens to be Tim at this point, with nasty pots of special slingshot. Very quickly, Tim is immobilized by sticky glue, doused in a foul smelling substance that makes it difficult to concentrate on his attacks, and--best of all--on fire.
Sadly for the kobolds, their advantage does not last long. With frightening speed and accuracy, Thorn responds first with a barrage of daggers that leaves each of the three kobold attackers wounded and momentarily blinded. The initial surprise volley is the only one these poor kobolds will ever launch. For in the next round, this surprisingly deadly group of adventurers has dispatched all of them.
After Thorn unjams the lock, Tim finally acquires something more than the loin cloth he's been wearing by cutting up the leather armor the kobolds were wearing. It provides more for his modesty than any sort of real protection though. Each of the kobolds also carried a dagger, which happily adds to Thorn's growing arsenal. And although it is not her preferred weapon of choice, Snow now has a sling and a large supply of bullets and a couple rounds each of special shot from the Kobold Slingers. (OOC: Who knew that this common equipment could be such a treasure to 3rd level adventurers?)
Uhh, are you going to eat that?...
After stripping the kobolds of anything usable, Snow cuts off a couple of the kobolds legs after Thorn butchers the attempt on the first one and truly makes a mess of the corpse. Tim freezes the meat by way of spell, and then they continue back to the main staging area and further into the mines. (Hey, they only have a little of the journey bread left at this point, so ... well, let us just imagine that it probably just tastes like chicken.)
Deeper into the Mines
From the main staging area, two parallel tunnels run out of the room. Both have track leading into them and both have wooden doors which were previously closed off. The kobolds left one of the tunnel doors slightly open in their passing, though, and that is the one the group decides to follow.
The kobolds seem to be on the alert though and spring another ambush on the group when they explore one of the excavated caverns. The fight is a difficult one, and Thorn gets himself in a tight spot when he accidentally sneaks himself right into the middle of the ambush. Though he quickly assassinates one of the kobolds, the rest come out of their various hiding spaces behind stone pillars to surround him. As the rest of the party joins the fray, Red berates Thorn for his tactical foolishness. (Oddly, this seems to be just the "inspiration" Thorn needs though.)
Thorn is able to disengage from the kobolds now encircling him by summoning a cloud of darkness around him that only he can see through. Tim has seen this trick once before, and this time Tim knows that Thorn used some sort of innate ability rather than a spell. This confirms what Tim already knew. After the battle, Tim confronts Thorn on his ability to see through the deepest darkness and drop globes of inky blackness by will alone. Thorn thinks nothing of it though and simply replies, "It really isn't all that dark in here."
Unfortunately, at least one of the kobold ambushers was able to escape the last fight, so the party knows that they remain here long, although they are now quite battle weary. So, they press on.
The complex of excavated caverns that branch off form the main tunnel seems extensive and abandoned. The party doesn't immediately encounter any more resistance. As they continue to descend the main tunnel, however, Thorn spots a group of four kobolds lurking ahead with his exceptional night vision. The kobolds who see that they have been spotted when the party stops, draw their swords and approach. They keep their weapons dipped down, however, suggesting a desire to parlay.
The group negotiates safe passage out of the mines, but they are double crossed when the kobolds lead them into yet another ambush. The party knows that they are being led into a trap when their kobold escorts lead them into a small cavern with no visible exit. But, these kobolds seem to be possessed of an unnatural ability to goad their opponents into recklessly attacking them by hurling insults regarding their questionable heritage and far more unsavory taunts.
After successfully drawing all except Red into a the trap, the kobolds drop an iron portcullis to block their escape route. Several kobolds armed with slings and a sorceror of some sort begin pelting the group with bullets and magic from a platform that was cleverly hidden in the wall. The aggravating kobold taunters who lured them in attempt to escape down a small, kobold-sized, tunnel before the kobold warrior types engage, but only one of the little taunters is able to escape before having to turn and engage the party.
When the kobold warriors join the fray, the group despairs, believing these to be overwhelming odds. The kobolds believe it too, and call for the party to throw down their arms so that they might be sacrificed alive to "The Great One." This doesn't prove to be an alluring enough offer, and the group fights a desperate battle.
Despite the apparent poor odds, however, they do win and they capture one of the kobolds alive. The party questions their kobold hostage and convinces him by threat of a very slow and painful death that he should lead them to his colonies food and water source. Although the kobold acquiesces, neither Tim nor Thorn are convinced that he will make good on his promise and not lead them into another trap. Thorn decides to kill the kobold and starts doing so in the most excruciating and slow way he can think of. Snow cannot abide long with the screams though and quickly kills the kobold.
After the party gets the portcullis cranked back up, someone whispers from the darkness to Tim--who had earlier used his Eladrin powers of teleportation to get on the other side of the portcullis. "Bravo! Well done," someone says and claps. Tim looks around but sees no one. He hurries back into the room and calls for the portcullis to be closed. After he tells them of what he heard, the party decides to rest here for a while since it is somewhat defensible and they are quite spent.
While they rest, someone collapses the tunnel that leads into the room. The party tries to flee down the small tunnel one of the kobold taunters used to escape, but that too is collapsed before they can get too far. Once they head back into the ambush area, they find a new portal of utter darkness on one of the walls of the little excavated cavern they were resting in. They venture to stick one of the kobold legs they were carrying through the portal, but when they withdraw it, it is disintegrated down to the nub.
Thorn risks it anyway and sticks his finger through the portal. When he notes that he can still feel his finger, he sticks the rest of his hand through and tries to feel around. While he does this, Snow brazenly pushes him through the portal and then throws herself through as well. Red quickly follows, and then Mason. Tim hesitates, but then decides to plunge through the portal despite his trepidation.
On the other side of the extra-dimensional portal, the party finds themselves in another massive cavern. Only Thorn, who can see in the complete darkness, is able to initially see the horrifying sight that awaits them. He calls out to "The Great One," and approaches. A deep and powerful voice resonates through the entire cavern, "I did not give you permission to approach, Deadite."
By this time, Tim arrives through the portal, and he is greeted with small explosions of fire that set the room aglow so that all may now see. The cavern is filled with massive piles of gold and treasure beyond that of the most powerful kingdoms of man. On the far side of the cavern, an enormous dragon with fiery red scales sits atop his vast horde, watching their horrified expressions. The creature is some three hundred feet long from tip to tail and has fiendish spines that make him even more terrifying to behold.
The creature questions the party as to their origins. He seems dispassionate regarding the deaths of his "followers," the kobolds, but at the same time holds their offense against them. The conversation takes dangerous paths. At times, he seems ready to kill them all, seething and undulating with burning rage. He's quick to recover, however, and in general he speaks with charm, wit, intelligence and cruelty all at the same time.
The dragon demonstrates this cruelty when Snow asks him why he has brought them there. He muses that perhaps he brought them there to entertain him. Turning his attention to Thorn, he then demands, "Entertain me!" Thorn responds by taking out a dagger and stabbing Tim in the ribs. The dragon can hardly control his laughter. "See," he says, "and so you have entertained me." Tim, not so entertained, claps his hands together creating a wave of thunder and sends Thorn flying. This is met with more barely contained laughter.
He challenges them each on the extent to which they would go to in order to entertain him, and his next challenge to Thorn is to cut off the tip of his own finger. Thorn complies and the dragon even provides him a magically sharp dagger from his horde to do it with. Once done, he bids Snow to eat it, but she refuses. When she challenges him again as to why he brought them here, he contains his fury and tells her that he suffers her to live only because he has a purpose for them to fulfill.
The dragon reveals to the party that they are what is known as soul shells. They are those who have died and have been damned to an eternity of torment, or perhaps to be slowly tortured before going on to their final oblivion. He explains that unlike mortals who take a dip in the River Styx and loose their memories, their memories will never return.
He also reveals that the devils who are searching for them are looking for a very special soul. A Legendary Captain who in his mortal life made a bargain with Bel, the Arch Duke of Avernus, to lead his armies. Apparently, however, forces of good--or at least they fancy themselves so--found out about the captain's death and fate and launched an attack on the Shelves of Despond where newly damned souls arrive in an effort to either destroy this captain or reclaim him for their own side. This captain that everyone is apparently looking for is apparently Red--known in life as Donnar Hammerwing. Red, of course, remembers nothing of this.
But what of the rest of them? He doesn't know specifically their history, but "The Great One," goes on to explain that the Damned all arrive in Hell bearing the mark of the House to which they belong--the one the was most responsible for their corruption. Thorn, he claims, is property of the House of Levistus, lord of Stygia. Snow belongs to the greatest House, that of Asmodeus himself. Mason is property of Fierna. Tim belongs to Mephistopheles. And, Red belongs to Bel, the lord of Avernus, as he already explained.
These "forces of good," that are looking for Red are known as the Redeemed. Their ranks are filled by fallen angels, who though cast from the light did not descend into darkness, and other "deadlings," such as themselves who managed to escape their torments somehow and join forces against the legions of Hell. They don't have the numbers to really mount a truly devastating attack, but they have managed to land a lot of painful stings against the forces of Hell in the past many years.
The dragon, which reveals himself to be named Meliphisus, is intensely interested in finding their fortress, which is hidden somewhere in Avernus. The fact that Red is the captain they are looking for, is a perfect way in for the party if they can make contact. Meliphisus wants the party to find this hidden fortress known as "Redemption," for him.
Presented with the likely choice of instant destruction or agreeing to serve Meliphisus as he demands, the party agrees to do as he says.
The party may need to gather information in Dis regarding the Redeemed. Meliphisus outlines a grim and cruel fate for any of them should they be caught and found out for what they are, for soul shells are little more than the currency of the Hells--cattle to be bought or sold, tortured or destroyed. He claims that the only escape from this fate is to be elevated, which is something that he can do if they will serve him. The elevated take on the physical mark (as opposed to the spiritual one they have now) of those to whom they belong. In creating this mark, he can obscure their soul-marks so that they can never be read. Without this mark, he claims, they can travel nowhere in Hell.
All but Red willingly take the mark. Meliphisus transforms into the form of a tiefling and marks Thorn first using the knife he just gave him. He has the others hold Thorn down as he slowly carves intricate and complicated patterns and runes in his flesh. These carvings span from the lower back all the way up and around his check and then up past the neck and just above the jawline. The process is excruciating and lengthy. When he finishes, he repeats this process on each of them.
(After Meliphisus transformed into a tiefling, Tim recognized that he is what's known as a Hellfire Worm. He says nothing at the time though.)
With all the others marked, Meliphisus asks the group to take a vote as to whether he should mark Red or not. If he doesn't, Red may be a liability to them. The party votes unanimously (if you don't count Red's vote) to forcibly mark him, and they knock him out so that Meliphisus can complete the ritual. He didn't stay knocked out for long once the cutting started though...
And this is where the session basically left off... What cruelty will befall them next? We'll find out this weekend!