We began immediately after the slaughter in the pit; the pit just has a lot of strangely yellow mod. We suspect the gold from this mine is all tainted with arsenic, and the sick boggards may be suffering from arsenic poisoning. These chaura-ka were more powerful than the ones we had previously encountered, and the alchemist was a female kobold named Hezel.
At this point, the party made an exhaustive search for loot:
Kobold: a vial of greater antidote; a +1 crossbow with 16 regular crossbow bolts and four bolts smeared with something on the tips; a +1 dagger, which Damien took; two potions of cure moderate, which were given to Baelfir and Damien; five tiny vials in a bandolier, which were not magic but alchemical reagents; a set of +1 leather armor; and a greater staff of fire, which Ink is temporarily carrying until Tasno can make the claim for it.
Under the leather cover outside on the table was a very high quality scale and weights, made of silver; there was also a pouch of about a dozen gold nuggets, each worth about 50 gold pieces and presumably tainted with arsenic. The scale is made of silver, weighs two bulk, and is worth about 100 gold pieces. Ink asked that he be given this to give as a gift for his “wife,” and that his share of the monetary loot be reduced an appropriate amount to accommodate.
Inside the kobold house, it’s actually quite pleasant looking. There is a great deal of glass distillation apparatus, various liquids and a bit of an acrid smell. We find: four more vials of greater antidote; two potions of young white Dragon breath (Baelfir); three lesser elixirs of life; a grim trophy in the shape of a shrunken Elvish head (Ty); a striking stone (Damien); and a travelers any-tool (also Damien). We also found another pouch of gold nuggets, this time 20, and all again presumably poisonous. On a table nearby there are lots of parchments; one stack is a set of skillfully drawn blueprints of the Dragon totem’s, with measurements and instructions and formulae for making one. There is also a very handy crude map of the area, with the locations of the totems listed. On the floor in the corner are a series of crumpled letters in draconic, with instructions for the kobold to set up the mining camp and exhortations to greater production. The letters are from the Cult of Cinders, but it’s clear that the benefits of increased mining production are going to something called the “Scarlet Triad.”
At this point, Damien recalls some information about the Scarlet Triad: he remembers reading a letter from “Laslund” to Tuvas, a return letter where Laslund and was saying the meeting between the two of them was fortuitous; that he was very supportive about the loss of her husband and willing to fund her necromantic research, if she would in turn look for Alsettia’s ring. Laslund advised her to find a ring and report back to him after studying it; if she could manage to activates any of the portals associated with the ring, so much the better. Damien also recalled that the symbol of the Scarlet Triad is a series of three red interlocking triangles.
Evidently, the kobold alchemist’s knowledge of how to manufacture the Dragon totems came from the Scarlet Triad. Even a quick read through of the blueprints would indicate that the ability to construct one, while not impossible, was at least beyond the party’s current capabilities. Damien seemed confident, however, that at some point the party will gain the knowledge necessary to perhaps construct Dragon totems in defense of Citadel Alterain. A review of the map does not seem to indicate that the locations of the Dragon totem’s are in any sort of pattern, but they are definitely designed to be a curse to the Ekujay. Ink does notice that they do seem to have been constructed along various magical leylines, which would funnel magical power to the location of the granite slab. The party had seen matching pillars there, which were providing magical power to a defensive field. Other documents referred to someone called “Belmazog,” who the party believes to likely be the head cultist; he or she seems intent on impressing the Scarlet Triad. Other letters include complaints about short output and the threat to summon a vrock to keep things in order and production high.
Barracks: several sets of hide armor in poor condition; three +1 striking trident’s, one of which is significantly burned from the cook fire. Not much else of value inside the building.
Vrock nest: a real shithole; lots of flies, and the tree itself is fouled with excrement. There are several carcasses but no treasure.
The party decides to rest for the night at this camp, using the kobold alchemist’s hut for shelter. The next day, using the kobold map, the party heads straight for the orange totem. It is a great day and overcast, with light rain beginning towards noon and then much heavier rain near dusk. It seems like we are constantly being battered by rain, and there are minimal birds and insects. The party reached the area, which consisted of lots of mud, and shallow puddles with lots of seepage. Up ahead the sound of bells could be heard, with a quality reminiscent of Irise’s forest. Ink mentions to be on guard for Fey; Damien and Baelfir both affirm they have cold iron, which works against Fey. Ink cast stoneskin and haste on Baelfir, and he knocks over the Dragon totem quickly. Several Fey creatures – small dark Fey with crocodilian faces – come out and attempt to charm several members of the party, but to no avail. Ink is stabbed a couple of times, but Baelfir is able to assist him in killing several of the Fey. There is no treasure on the Fey themselves, but in one place a couple of the local trees seem to be twisted together: we find a strange piece of fruit that works as primeval mistletoe (Ink), and one small bell that asked like a chime of opening (Ty). Ink identifies the Fey as “thelocos,” very evil creatures that in some cases can swallow people whole by unhinging their jaws; they are rare in northern climes, but more common in jungle regions.
We head straight back to Hezel’s cabin, even though it is pitch dark when we arrive. The next day the party is greeted with partly cloudy skies, but the team is very refreshed and we head towards the indigo totem straightaway. We spend a whole day clawing through the jungle, and have to make a camp that night, although it is quite a serviceable camp. The next day the party reaches the indigo totem; there are lots of birds and frogs, but it grows quiet when they arrive. We find the indigo pillar in the middle of the clearing, and use the same plan: stoneskin and haste on Baelfir, who then rushes to the totem while the rest of us provide covering fire against whatever creatures come out to protect it. In this case, the totem is protected by froglike creatures with glowing indigo eyes – grippli, shooting arrows. Ty and Baelfir destroy the totem, in the indigo color falls away from the grippli’s eyes. They seem to come out of whatever domination spell they were under, and they thank us for helping them. The party spent some time with the grippli, and was able to get some information:
· The grippli know of the Cinderclaws, and mentioned that they have grown more powerful recently.
· The grippli are friends to the Ekujay, and appreciate our efforts on their behalf.
· They know certain legends from south of the river, including one in which the Ekujay defeated a great darkness in that region, but that was thousands of years ago and surely not a literal story.
Ty healed the grippli that ink magic missiled, and everyone was generally pleased. “We may call upon you sometime for aid; remember your debt,” Ty told them. In return, the leader of the grippli bestowed upon the party a wooden medallion that he said would give the party safe passage and help from other grippli tribes.
The party then returned to the Ekujay village, where they rested and traded with the elves. After spending a couple of days there, they decided to visit the village of the elephant people. By the time they arrived, the village had been ravaged by fire at least a couple of weeks previously, and upon entering the village the party was attacked by smaller versions of the crocodile Fey. It only takes a few minutes to kill them all, but an investigation of the southern portion of the village uncovers a gruesome sight: hundreds of small skulls, elongated and presumably those of the crocodile Fey, in a pile outside one still intact building. Inside, a human was moaning, and in full view of the party a huge blister formed on his leg, which he sawed off with a filthy knife. Inside the blister was the head of a crocodile Fey. The entire building smelled of filth and pus, and even those inured to blood and gore had to stifle their noses against the smell. “Help me,” the man moaned, and Ink was able to use cure disease from the staff of health to expunge the curse from his body. The party gave him water, and Ty healed him some more, then we asked him what the hell is going on. “I tried to kill them as they formed, but I had to sleep,” said the man “They left me alone, even though I was killing as many of them as I could, because they knew that I would birth dozens while I slept.”
The man went on: a couple of weeks earlier, the cult of cinders came to the village demanding that they trained their elephants to act as beasts of burden. The villagers refused; and the cult burnt the village and the villagers fled. I came back in the lead priest placed a curse on me. My body acted as a portal for these Fey. I’ve gleaned here since then birthing the creatures.
He also told the story that many years before, a tribe of boggards moved in to the north. The Ekujay found and slew many of them, and the survivors came south. They and my village lived in peace, but they always resented their treatment at the hands of the Ekujay. A woman was born in the village named Belmazog, and she was obsessed with revenge against the elves. She is the one that now leads the cult of cinders. She left her people and went on a quest to the East; she returned with some sort of new powers, declared herself the leader and slew everyone who opposed her. The man guessed that she had found some sort of item in the East that gave her these new powers. He also asserted that legend had it the the swamp Belmazog had disappeared into supposedly held the bones left after the Ekujae had slain the manifestation of Dahak thousands of years ago.
The party camped near the river that night then rafted up River towards the final totem location, three days away. A crumbling stone Temple was at the location, with motifs carved in Dragon shapes. A flickering red light came through the crumbling roof of one of the buildings, so that from the ground we could barely see the totem. As soon as we approached, a giant snake creature slithered out to attack, but we dispatched it quickly. Ink said it was a “bida” dragon. The party destroyed the final totem and investigated the dragon’s lair, finding a sizable pile of coins: 310 gold pieces, 2400 silver pieces, 8500 copper pieces, a pair of healers gloves (Damien), a spine to shield, and a wand of widening (also Damien). The party camped there for the night, and prepared for their attack on the granite slab.
We also passed to eighth level, just in time to prepare to enter the Fortress of SORROWS, which we are certain the cult named so in a kind of ironic sense.