Episode Thirty Six - The Ruins of Khuharibifu
Episode Thirty Six – The Ruins of Khuharibifu (Level 14)
DM – Kristy
*At the Avan Enclave, intra-personal drama unfolds as the group are trapped indoors for a day in a tropical storm. Darius leaves the group in a huff, returning to Dulunum. Tobias and Ichtaca trade tense words, but resolve their issues without further splitting the party. Abbess Dhambizao warns them again about the ruins, which are said to be cursed, by “the curse of three.”
*The next morning early, the group depart and head for the ruins of Khuharibifu, where Viln’s entourage of about fifty priests, etholchan scholars, and soldiers, are encamped at an archaeological dig in the heart of the ruins, awaiting Tobias’ arrival. They find the priestly scholars busily involved with and brimming with excitement at their discoveries there, for they have uncovered a far older archeological dig, and the implications are stunning.
*The ruins are in three levels, perhaps evoking the “curse of the three”. A Jharric temple was built on this site, thousands of years ago during the empire of New Ardon. They built the temple on the ruins of a destroyed Maahisite university. The Maahisites built over the caves below, containing an ancient site of power where legend holds that once Daemoth made himself a body, using the cup of the winter, an artifact said to be able to restore life to the dead. The cup is a relic from the days of Maromutalcoth, Daemoth’s first seat of power in Vinramar, from the dawn of Vinramar’s creation, before his exile into the darkplane.
*Tobias approaches openly with Lyda and Ichtaca, while Vash and Carmenith drink doses of Jennish’s experimental invisibility potions and follow stealthily behind. Viln welcomes his friend Tobias, and tells the trio he can see that they’ve broken into a buried section of the old Maahisite university, and uncovered some tantalizing documentation by those ancient runemasters about the sacred Daemothic relics they were studying below. Viln has sent several exploration parties into the buried maze of hallways, but none have returned. He reminds Tobias that the protection of Daemoth is on his band of adventurers, and asks him to accompany him personally on the next expedition into the ruins.
*Tobias accepts, walking into the first chamber with Ichtaca and Viln, as five preists and two goliath slaves assemble to penetrate the ruins. Lyda is happily pouring over a pile of ancient Maahisite texts, just one room over, when a hidden door slams down, separating her from the others and trapping Ichtaca, Tobias, Viln, and the other seven men in the ruins.
*Meanwhile, Vash and Carmenith explore the encampment invisibly, looking for Viln’s servants, specifically his small personal harem, including two Jharethil women who are doomed to sacrifice as soon as Viln’s eitharmos friend returns to collect them. The women have been mutilated, tounges and wings cut off, and they are hopeless and cowed. Vash and Carmenith sneak into the tent, where Carmenith reassures them in the Hallowed Tongue while Vash approaches the three humans servant-girls who also serve Viln. They offer escape and refuge to the women, and Vash uses the final stone he has from Jennish to open a magical portal that will take the refugees straight to Jennish’s ring. The Jharethil and two human women flee through the portal, but one of the humans runs, shouting out about witchcraft. The camp is thrown into alarm.
*Vash and Carmenith quickly find Lyda, and dose her with the second to last dose of the invisibility drought. The trio are determined to find another way to reach Tobias and Ichtaca, who are in danger of suffocation or worse beneath the ruins. Knowing that the huge demon they fought must have nested nearby, and that it came from the ruins, the trio leave the camp and circle around the ancient Jhareth temple, looking for the demon’s nest, and hopefully, another way in.
*Tobias and Ichtaca’s group find themselves in encounter after encounter with three frightening stone statues of angelic-looking weeping daemons. These statues can move when no one is looking at them, and are indestructible stone when observed. They are inhumanly fast, closing huge stretches of hallway in the blink of an eye. They’re intelligent, using the prevalent Maahisite statuary to camouflage their movements and block line of sight. Their malice becomes clear when light sources begin to flicker and one by one, the members of the exploration party disappear. Terrified tension rises, and soon, only Ichtaca, Tobias, and Viln are left, unable to go back, still trying to reach the lower levels of the ruins, and hopefully, a way out. Viln is convinced that Daemoth’s protection is over the remaining three, but Tobias knows it was his own words that promised that protection to the foolish Chorrom. Time and again, Viln tries to reopen that psionic contact, thinking it a meditative form of prayer. The prayers of the Chorrom are distracting Tobias, assaulting the edges his mind and dulling his concentration even when he asks the man to be silent.
*The lights go out again in a cramped stairwell, and Ichtaca finds himself grappling with something in the dark, tumbling down a stairwell and cracking his head on something hard as Tobias fires up the light of his meteor bracer, freezing the attacker back into stone. Icthaca’s throat is being gripped so hard by the daemon statue that he is choking, unable to speak and barely able to get any air. There is no choice but to turn off the lights again, so Ichtaca can breathe. When the lights come back on, the daemons statue is gone, and Ichtaca is too.
*Meanwhile, Vash, Lyda, and Carmenith circle around the ruins, searching the jungle for the demon’s nest. They find it, a stinking hole piled with decaying bodies of the creature’s victims. They descend into the hole, and explore a series of dirt tunnels, dug out by demons that look to be a cross between a hairless rat, a wolf, and a star-nosed mole. The creatures hunt by smell, and dislike bright lights. The three adventurers avoid the demon-moles, pressing deeper into the tunnels. Vash summons fairy lights and cloaks his companions in harmless violet flames so they can see.
*Things are going well, until a mishap and a collapsing section of floor sends them all three tumbling over the edge of another pit and sliding down loose dirt in a steeply descending tunnel. They shoot out into a vast natural chamber, part of a cave system deep below the ruins. It’s the mysterious third level of Khuharibifu, this part of it a vast room holding strange arches covered in zhoroc runes, a circle of standing stones around a fast gold and ebony font set into the floor. From next to the font rises up a huge demon, and the howling squeals of more mole-demons echo from nearby chambers. They are in for a difficult fight.
*Meanwhile, Viln and Tobias escape the weeping daemon in the stairwell, coming out in a long hallway lined with Maahisite statues and stone plaques with ancient writing and cryptic runes on them. Viln summons holy black light, and argues with Tobias over his open use of arcane magic (the bracer’s light), and over the sanctity and intentions of the three exarch-angel-daemons. As they do, the statues creep in on them, approaching again with apparently deadly intent.
*Ichtaca finds himself suffocating under a pile of newly dead bodies; the companions who vanished one by one in the ruins of Khuharibifu. He struggles free, only to find himself at the bottom of a long metal cylinder, with a huge clawed hand reaching in to scoop out its next meal. He manages to position a body so that the hand takes it instead, and clings to the legs, pulled out with the corpse. A huge demon pulls him up out of the pit, a true giant, a creature ten times the size of the demon the heroes defeated outside the ruins. Ichtaca escapes notice for a critical moment as the demon nibbles the unfortunate dead man. He looks around to finds himself on a square metal platform like the top of a cube mostly sunk into the ashy black dirt. He’s in a hellish landscape of black, cracked earth, twisted terrain, and tortured souls on spikes, all under a pressing sky. In an unusual flash of insight, the barbarian realizes that he has arrived in the Abyssal throne.