The party took Dacien’s lead as his Locate Object spell pulled him to the north in search of Amella’s tricorn hat. Travelling through the thick mists was different this time, as though travelling with a defined destination broke some aspect of the magic that had snared them in the fog-laden swamp. As the spell wore off, a large rocky outcrop came into view, rising from the waters. Two cave entrances led into the centre of the rock, carved as the gaping maws of two snarling baboon heads – they recognised this as representative of Demogorgon, a dark entropic fiend. Mendel led the rest of the travellers to a safe hiding place as the others started to explore. Peering inside the left entrance set Jardek on edge as he spotted something out-of-place in the stonework. Anthony confirmed that the floor was rigged to collapse and bring the ceiling down with it if anyone stepped foot on the passageway. Taking the right entrance, Zhedd then spotted a bloody gnome-sized handprint on the floor, and a few paces further round the corridor the equipment and personal belongings of Amella and Urol, stripped from their bodies and thrown on the floor. Nearby, they also found the long-dead body of a shackled human, a pick by its side with which it had tried to write a warning of some kind on the wall.
The natural stone tunnels became a worked stone passageway further into the complex, ending in a large set of immovable iron doors carved with many imaged of leering simian demons. Two statues of such creatures stood either side of the doors, with an unintelligible writing at their base. The tongues of the statues were razor sharp, and dripping in blood, which Stephanie later found to be illusionary. After some deliberation, Stephanie resolved to prick both hands on the statures to open the doors, which revealed a dark alter room, stained in decades of blood. A sickly jade altar stood against the far wall, flanked by two mirrors, and stone thrones rested against the north and south walls. Two candles and a goblet sat on the throne – Antony, Dacien and Stephanie tried lighting the candles, which promptly exploded in their faces, only to reform moments later. Antony examined the objects in the room and confirmed that there was some magic present connecting the thrones, mirror and candles. Various combinations were tried, and it was found that lighting the candles with someone sat in the thrones caused blood to pool on the seat, and a flicker to appear in the mirror. Stephanie investigated the mirror, only to find herself trapped within, and replaced by a savage feral version of herself. Quick thinking by Antony to blow out the candle fortunately restored Stephanie to her body. Dacien determined that this was some kind of possession or domination effect that a protection spell could block, and thus armed the party were able to activate the mirrors safely. Both turned into swirling dark vortices, which Stephanie, Krunk and Jardek dove straight through.
They emerged in a large cavern in front of another mirror, but this one was not active. The chamber was lit from above by a red crystal that filtered daylight through. A pool of dark sticky liquid filled the centre of the chamber, and above this, a stone bridge spanned the cave. The chamber stank of wet fur and stale sweat – the source of which Jardek found as he clambered up to the bridge to explore – a pair of the Leaping Demons they encountered earlier. One Clamped a large hand on Jardek’s back and hoisted him on the bridge. A difficult battle ensued, as the two demons tried to separate and confuse the party. Krunk was teleported in to a well filled gnawed bones and putrefying flesh, left to thrash in anger against the locked door that kept him from the battle. After a long battle and many spells to wear down the creatures, the party were victorious, and Antony let a frustrated Krunk out from the well. At the top of the well was an iron grille, and above this the sounds of whooping and screeching could be heard, as several dark figures scampered across the view. A door in the main chamber appeared to lead to this room, but the party left it alone for the time being. A door to the south led to another room – covered in the remains of dozens of humans that had been eaten and discarded here. An undead snake creature with a human face stood at the far end of the room between two fountains. As the party ran into the room, Zhedd and Krunk fell under a charm effect, but Dacien was quick (and lucky) enough to be able to dispel the magic and the creature was swiftly defeated. Jardek found a new warhammer in the chamber, and spent the next few minutes hugging and stroking it whilst the rest of the party searched the chamber. A door to the east led to a small room with another large door that again would not open. Statues of two monkey demons stood either side of the doors, with arms raised as if to salute, but the arms were missing and appeared to have been detached. One of the arms was found hidden in the base of the fountain, but the location of the other was unknown. Low on spells and further healing, the party resigned to their need to rest up and prepare for the remainder of the complex the next day – and so headed back to rejoin Mendal and the others to make camp in a dead end passageway.
That night, Amella appeared whilst Jardek and Stephanie were on watch, standing in front of them and shaking her head sadly. As she departed, Stephanie threw a pebble at her, confirming this was not Amella in corporeal form. When the party readied themselves to continue the dungeon, they found Amella’s corpse lying atop the altar, left for them to find. With grim determination, they activated the mirrors again and sought revenge. Retracing their steps, Dacien cast ‘Knock’ on the locked door, and found a corridor lined with more monkey statues, that began howling as they approached. Pressing on quickly as Jardek cast a silence spell to block the alarm, they emerged into a large central chamber. Flames leapt up from a pit in the middle of the floor, illuminating five large statues of a grotesque reptilian creature with two baboon heads – Demogorgon itself. Above the fire pit, an unconscious Urol dangled on a chain. Dacien cast Fly on Zhedd, who darted into the room to rescue the gnome – but as he entered a winch was released and Urol started descending into the flames. The final Leaping Demon appeared atop one of the statues, and leapt down amidst the party. It leapt from foe to foe, pouncing on each and taking blows as it darted around the room – not minding until Stephanie blessed Krunk’s weapon, which was finally able to then pierce its evil-tempered hide. Zhedd passed Urol to Antony to take him to safety. From is vantage point, Antony examined the statues and spotted that the one to the north was cleaner and more pristine than the others. He called out to attack the statue, as the Leaping Demon had retreated out of reach of the weapons of the party. Krunk and Jardek obliged – causing the statue to spring to life with a terrifying howl and sweep them up in its tentacled limbs. It’s touch drained the life from the two warriors, leaving them on he brink of death. The Leaping Demon, emboldened by the presence of his lord Demogorgon in the statue, dove into the fray to attack, but was killed as Stephanie drove her sword into its black heart. Dacien in desperation reached into his Bag of tricks and fortune was with him as a rhino emerged, which charged the statue and smashed it to pieces. Krunk and Jardek tumbled to the floor, where the others quickly descended with healing.
The party retreated back out of the complex, preparing to leave after a night’s rest, although some still wondered what remained undiscovered in that last chamber...
Pape Jan in the Dreamtime of Man
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