This weekend we continued with Empire of the Ghouls, Chapter 5: Into the Fuligin Realm, as the adventurers headed from the Pit of All Flesh to the caves of the Cult of the Withered Hand.
Here’s the write up which contains spoilers for the campaign.
10th Deep Winter, 92 FY (contd.)
After making a hasty exit from the Pit of All Flesh outpost, the characters, now reunited with The Gears and Herr Biegen, head north for a few miles to put some distance between themselves and the outpost, then have a short rest.
Shortly afterwards, the party enters a series of narrow, twisting caverns – the perfect place for an ambush. Here, four darakhul assassins sent by the priestess of the Hunger God at the Pit of All Flesh surprise the characters. The Gears falls unconscious after being wounded by two of the darakhul and getting caught inside Penumbra’s sickening radiance spell, and Bubbles is paralyzed. Both contract darakhul fever from the foul bites of their opponents, while Louthin and Zygmunt also suffer many serious injuries. It’s a very tough fight, but eventually the darakhul are defeated.
The Gears uses his necklace of prayer beads to cast greater restoration on himself to cure his darakhul fever and the group has another short rest. A note on the darakhul bodies orders the characters’ deaths for killing the Lord of All Flesh, the living embodiment of the Hunger God.
At the junction leading to the Cult of the Withered Hand, the party bluffs their way past a ghoul patrol, with The Gears posing as their kobold slave. Finding a small cave off the main tunnel, the group can take a much-needed long rest and recover from their wounds.
11th Deep Winter
The next morning, The Gears uses his necklace to cure Bubbles’ darakhul fever too. But the shadow fey still doesn’t feel quite right, and after examining her, The Gears concludes that Bubbles is pregnant.
After this happy news, the group breaks camp and continues down the tunnel. Fifteen miles later they reach the entrance to the caves of the Withered Hand where they are greeted by a sign written in blood and shit that reads:
“Welcome, worthy foes. Find the hidden prizes and bring them to Orda to gain her favour. Try not to die.”
The adventurers head cautiously into the cavern, wary of the many mushrooms growing in beds along the walls. Soon, they are confronted by two crazed derro shadowseekers, capable of contorting their bodies in disturbing ways. Their maddening convulsions cause The Gears, Herr Biegen, and Bubbles to become confused, and they spend part of the battle staring vacantly into space.
Once the shadowseekers have been slain, the characters go past a round pool to where they can see two heavily armoured derro antipaladins standing guard. Although Zygmunt’s story convinces them that the party are here to see Orda on legitimate business, they will not budge, nor do they offer much help in explaining what hidden prizes they need to find to gain the Witch Queen’s favour. Eventually, they get annoyed at the characters’ questions and attack. Bubbles casts spike growth which injures the derro as they advance, and The Gears follows up with flame strike. Only one of the antipaladins makes it out of the thorny area to attack in melee; the other is held by The Gears and felled with missile fire and eldritch blasts.
Beyond is another, bigger pool, 20 feet deep, with a shield lying on the bottom. Dozens of fish are swimming in the water. Penumbra, Herr Biegen, and Bubbles succeed on a catching a bloodthirsty quipper each using the fishing poles propped up against the wall.
To distract the quippers, the party throw the two dead derro into the water. As the hungry fish swarm around the bodies, stripping the flesh from their bones, Bubbles casts misty step to teleport herself to the bottom of the pool and grab the shield, then casts it again to get out. But, when she arrives back on dry land, three swarms of quippers fly out of the water and attack the characters, snapping around their heads.
After the flying quippers have been sliced and diced into sushi, the characters examine the shield which is magical and emblazoned with a paw print emblem. Perhaps this is one of the hidden prizes?
Then, Herr Biegen spots a shape on the far side of the pool. On investigation, it turns out to be an unconscious human woman, dressed in rags with a broken shackle around her ankle. When Zygmunt revives her with Lay on Hands, she tells the group her name is Cyrila and she was captured by ghouls as a slave, then managed to escape, only to be captured again by the derro. Her story seems confused, and Penumbra is suspicious. Cyrila claims to be in fear of what the derro might do and begs the adventurers to let her come along with them….
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Main image by Roland Deaconu