Eclavean Expanse

Yolk's on You

Chapter 18

Serpent_Pillar_Cave2.jpgWith the bandit mage, Hejak, now thoroughly frightened, the party gets to questioning him.

While the mage says he has no idea where this ‘Djekir’ person is, Dazzler is not so sure, pointing out that it can’t be a coincidence that his little buddy goes missing right before they meet the guy who’s familiar they killed. Cora asks what in the Nine Hells the mage is even doing here, disguised as a kobold, and he shamefully admits that he was drawn in by tales of “ogres, and trolls, and worse lurking around” the mine, and hoped that he could get back into Bochura’s good graces if he recruited them. Unfortunately for him, it was all just an illusion caused “by that damnable tree!”

While Cora laughs at Hejak’s misfortune, Ka asks about this tree, which he assumes is the one he found in the adjoining chamber. Hejak explains that through his research over the past few weeks, he’s found that the tree is the source of the devious “nightmare miasma” shrouding the area. The mage believes that the tree grew following a strange series of events, in which the green dragon (who Grekas points out is probably the “Andorjiaxx” that the mummies referred to) drove a stake into the heart of the vampire, just as the undead slew the beast itself. Their nigh simultaneous deaths, he says, mixed their latent magical powers together, creating the tree, and it’s strange mist, around their bodies.

Vampire_Tree_Small.jpg Going back into the tree chamber, the party investigates the blackened growth within for themselves. They see that the strange mist does indeed originate from the tree, rising from knots and cracks in it’s bark. Hejak remarks that even he is impressed by the power of the illusions the tree is able to produce. Dazzler, not seeing BoneZone, asks Ka what happened, but the assassin can’t shed much light on where the dog went. Just then, Cora catches Djekir’s scent leading between the roots, down into a shadowy tunnel. Cracking a few sunrods, the party decides to follow.

Navigating the darkened tunnels, they eventually come upon another room of worked stone, filled with a warm, orange light rising from shafts cut into the floor. Fist-sized eggs are neatly placed around these openings, and the party spots three kobolds scurrying between them, making sure they’re just right. Chadwick says that they should steal a few, and raise a “pack mule army”.

Ka goes ahead to try and sneak to one of the tunnels on the far side of the chamber, but halfway through the room, his foot busts through a wooden panel hidden upon the floor, and he trips, knocking a couple of eggs down into one of the shafts. The kobold caretakers turn, glaring at the tiefling.

Before the kobolds can attack, however, the rest of the party leaps from hiding, and Chadwick pushes one of the kobolds into a shaft. The other two flee down different tunnels at full speed. Chadwick and Dazzler decide to pick up the remaining eggs while Cora helps Ka out of the small mantrap he stepped into. Hejak yells at them for being fools and alerting the entire warren, but Chadwick shuts him up by pushing an egg into his mouth. Several egg puns later, Grekas hears yipping coming down the tunnels, and tells the party that they need to move. Now.

Kobold_Cave2.jpg The party moves through the twisting tunnels of the warren, assailed by bolts through murder-holes and the occasional tripwire, always trying to avoid the yips and barks drawing closer and closer. Turning down an inclined tunnel, they hear a grinding noise up ahead, and spot a boulder rolling down towards them. Everyone begins running the opposite direction, except for Cora, who stands her ground and raises a fist as a rage comes over her. With one fell blow, she leaves a nasty crack down the boulder’s side, causing it to crumble apart. Impressed, the party quickly continues on, up the tunnel.

They emerge in a small, circular chamber with a pit in the center. The pit seems to open up into a natural passage within the Underdark, which, when illuminated, is revealed to contain thousands of writhing centipedes. Hearing the kobolds approaching down the other three tunnels into the room, the party decides to make their stand here.

Grekas, reminded of a spell he heard about called ‘Vision of Avarice’ by the nightmare miasma, decides to create an illusion over the pit that will compel the kobolds towards it. The wizard creates what Dazzler calls a “taco truck” (something he says he saw in one of his visions), and Ka summons a shadow image of a female kobold, dancing sensually next to the vehicle.

The kobold warriors pile into the chamber, ready to kill the intruders, but are instantly struck by the magic of the illusion, causing them to run headlong into the pit. All the while, Dazzler plays a tune for Ka’s shadow-kobold to dance to.

Kobold_with_Ale.jpgSeveral dozen kobolds later, a small, robed figure enters the chamber. He shouts, “Fools! It is not true! It is but an illusion!” The magic is stronger than his words, however, and Ka decides to trip the kobold with his kusari-gama. Hejak (who has worked the egg out of his mouth by this point) laughs, remarking that he’s wanted to do that since he first arrived. Then, emerging from the shadows behind the figure, comes Djekir.

His eyes light up at the sight of Dazzler and the others, and he bolts towards them (around the pit), clutching the bard’s leg in an embrace. The robed kobold yells to Djekir to cast off his chains, that he has “been deceived by the tall folk!”

The robed kobold is indignant at his capture, and says that he “will not be taken back in chains” and that he “will not be enslave again”, explaining that “the great dragon” has shown him the truth. The party learns that this kobold led a revolt amongst his people after the other miners started fighting one another (due to the mist produced by the tree), killing all of the tall folk. Cora, realizing that the kobold is as much a victim of the mist as the others, wants to set him free into the woods, but Grekas thinks he should pay for murdering all of those people. Ka agrees with the eladrin, noting that there’s probably a reward in it for them.

The party ascends back to the tree chamber with Djekir, Hejak, and the newly-captured kobold leader in tow. While part of Grekas wants to preserve the tree for it’s academic value and uniqueness, the party decides the best course of action is to destroy it. Before Dazzler sets it alight, however, they force their way into the magically-sealed chamber adjacent to the central hall (afraid the tree may be the holding up part of the roof, and not wanting to lose any potential loot).

Dazzler.jpgWithin, they find a statue of a green dragon raised up within an alcove. Words in Draconic line it’s base:
Greater than Andorjiaxx, long be his reign//
Greener than the Wyrm-lord’s scales, that he might bend in shame//
Held aplenty by the poor, yet rich men it disdains//
If it be thy tribute, then death shall be thy domain.

The party is stumped by the riddle for a time, thinking the answer might be some kind of plant, but Dazzler brings up the fact that, from what he knows of dragons, one would never admit that there was something greater than it. He stands before the statue and says “Nothing”.

Beams of light shoot from the dragon statue’s eyes and pierce through all of those within the room as the door begins to close behind them. Volcanic gas begins to pour from out of the statue’s mouth, filling up the room. Panicked and sure they got the answer wrong, Cora busts down the door and the party piles back out. However, they find that all of those hit by the beams (everyone but Ka, Chad, Hejak, the kobold leader, and Urstrigi the owlbear) do not seem to be affected by the poison in the slightest. They reenter the chamber to find that the dragon statue has moved aside to reveal a room full of treasure.

Claiming the loot within (including a small, jade dragon statue and a pair of finely made katars that Cora takes a liking to), the party decides to destroy the tree. Before doing so, however, Grekas notices the hilt of a sword, emblazoned with a stylized eye, sticking out of the tree’s bark, near the skeletal remains of the vampire. Using his ‘Mage Hand’, he pulls it free to reveal a perfectly-preserved blade decorated in red-gold metal.

As Dazzler is pouring alcohol around the tree, he notices a burl on the side of the tree, out of which sticks a dog’s paw. He raises the blade on his instrument and slices the growth open, finding within, the skeleton of BoneZone. Tucking the skeleton in his bag, Dazzler vengefully puts the tree to the flame.

The party bids a hasty retreat after that, followed by the sound of falling stone, and the human-like wails of the burning plant behind them. Satisfied that they’ve put an end to the threat, the party sets up camp at the mine entrance. While on watch, Dazzler swears he sees a canine shape loping through the dissipating mist.

Vecna.jpgIn the morning, Cora and Ka find that they’re limbs have become numb, and the place where they were touched by the mummies has grown even more withered. Grekas now realizes that they have been afflicted by ‘Mummy Rot’, and is not sure if they can make it to Glimmer Lake in time to save their companions. Chadwick offers an alternative, however, offering to beseech Vecna for aid in exchange for a few secrets. Left with little other choice, Cora and Ka agree. Although their bodies are wracked with pain by the divine power of the Maimed God, the curse is lifted (though scars remain).

After some time to recuperate, the party treks down the mountains to Glimmer Lake.

They find that the village is surrounded by tents and shanties, which they rightfully assume belong to the refugees fleeing from the army marching through the Expanse. As they pass the church of Pelor, they find that the place is surrounded by an angry mob, calling for Tonnai to “bring out the monsters”, threatening to take the orphaned children and burn the place to the ground if he does not. Hiding Djekir and the kobold leader under their cloaks, the party goes inside, except for Dazzler, who stays outside and faces the crowd. He tells them how he was once like them, ready to burn stuff at a moment’s notice ( including, he notes, the house right across the street), but that his friends showed him a better way, and now he only burns things that need to be burned. The mob disperses soon after.

Symbol_of_Korvea.pngThe party asks Tonnai about it, and he explains that they’te not pleased with him for taking in goblin refugees. They weren’t happy to begin with, however, as they say that he has “tainted” their beliefs by mixing them with druidic practices. But Tonnai says that, soon, he is sure they will see the light.

Ka, bored by Tonnai’s religious lecture, goes to check up on Elaitha. She is busy playing with a doll when he peeks in. He tosses a shuriken against the wall next to her, where it clangs to the floor. She picks it up, but when she looks to see who threw it, Ka is already gone.

Tonnai points the party to Commander Agren at the Saltfort if they’re looking for some kind of reward for the kobold leader. Chadwick suggests that he tell the villagers that he got rid of the mist hanging over the coal mine, but Tonnai flatly refuses, thanking them all the same for thinking of his well being. With that, the party sets out.

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