The morning after the owlbear attack was calm and the party decided to take an extra day to recuperate from their back-to-back battles. Keely and Askia were able to snare a small wild pig for food and everyone had full bellies for the day.
At dawn the next morning, the companions broke camp and traveled on towards Ilya’s home. As they got closer, the forest took on a more idyllic and serene feeling. Birds were chirping and the trees were tall and majestic. Ilya told them that they were very close now.
The rangers scouted the area and found that the Druid Circle had been all but destroyed save for the stone shrine and the gargantuan oak tree that grew in the center of the glade. They found wicked glyphs and runes carved into the oak that Dilbert was able to identify as some crude form of Feindish. The spell was a corruption spell and a gate to the lower hells. The gate was closed from the inside, but the evil energy was slowing destroying the balance of the Druid Glade.
The rest of the party searched the shrine and surrounding area for clues as to what had happened, but in the weeks that had passed between the attack that Ilya described and now, there was little they found.
It was Oliver that discovered a lever below the shrine’s alter that triggered a secret passage. The passage was small so the more diminutive members of the party explored the spiral stair case leading downwards.
2 flights below, they entered a chamber that appeared to be some kind of study, complete with journals and books. The main book on the table turned out to be Shayluna’s own journal. It described her thoughts and concerns about Ilya, an mentioned various other entities in the forest, particularly Granny Withersnap and some one or something called “Mafallion”. Also, on the self sat a large wooden club engraved with vines and leaves. Askia and Keely took both items back up to the rest of the party for inspection.
The room also had a heavily bolted oak door leading away from the staircase but they did not explore it. When they told the rest of the party about the door, Dilbert took interest…
But the group decided to explore the large cave situated behind the shrine. Ilya told them that she had only been a short distance inside because Shayluna had told her that there was nothing down there, but one could become lost…
So of course the party explored the cave. All except Dilbert. He went back to the Shrine, traveled through the spiral staircase and down into the study. Being a dwarf and completely at home in the underground darkness, he opened the oaken door and traveled down the corridor beyond.
Back in the cave, the party explored further and further, until the pathway became so narrow that they could only travel in single file. Just as Keely was deciding to return to the surface, they found a passage way that ended in an abrupt cliff. Thinking that there must be something down there, Oliver and Roth tied off a climbing rope and went down. About 60 feet below, they found the bottom where there was a small ledge to stand. Beyond the landing was a vast underground lake. The rest of the party debated about how to get everyone down and Sir Alekos almost dropped Muffy as he lowered him down.
It was about this time that Dilbert came to another door at the end of the long passageway he had been exploring. The door opened to a vast natural camber that stretched out beyond his vision. He followed the pathway down to the bank of an underground lake that appeared completely black to his darkvision. He set out to circumnavigate the lake, using his staff to probe for any drop-offs or pits. As he rounded the edge of the lake, he saw Oliver and Roth in the distance on a small shelf of dry rock. He told them of the door and the passageway but then continued around the lake to see how big it was.
As he came back around to where he started, he noticed that there was a raised stone ramp just a few inches below the surface of the lake that lead to the center of the chamber. He walked out to explore it, cautiously probing with his quarterstaff.
To the rest of the party that was now down at the bottom, it appeared that Dilbert was walking on water out in the middle of the lake. They quickly rounded the outside of the lake and met up with him in the center.
Once the torch Oliver was carrying was brought near, they could see that in the center of the lake was actually a large square slab of stone with runic symbols carved into them. Dilbert was able to identify the stones as some kind of containment but that it was weakened to the point of destruction.
Askia remembered reading about this in Shayluna’s journal and quickly flipped to read the page in full.
Shayluna described how she had created this chamber to contain a “summoning stone” and that every 1000 years, the spells would need to be reforged to keep its evil from the world. Shayluna talked about how soon it would be Ilya’s turn to become the guardian of the stone and that she and Mafallion were concerned that Ilya wouldn’t be ready in time… So Shayluna crafted a focus for her to use when the time came. A picture of the focus was identical to the wooden club that Keely had taken from the study room below the Shrine.
They handed the club to Ilya and the magic took over. The waters shot away from the platform as if a great wind blew down on them and the runes melted away, their energy drawing up into the club in Ilya’s hands. From the center of the stone square, a bright light shot upwards and from within it, a stone, roughly a foot tall and about 4 inches in diameter was revealed. The stone hovered in the air, it’s purple-black faceted surface etched with fiendish runes of power.
The party decided to get the heck out of the chamber as quickly as possible, and Sir Alekos plucked the stone from the air. Blinding purple energy ripped through him and the stone seemed to flare with maligned energy. The rest of the party was temporarily blinded but Sir Alekos had a vision of Hell.
In his mind’s eye, Alekos saw a giant figure sitting on a throne made of bones. The figure’s face was black and cracked, infernal light pouring out like the surface of lava. Massive ibex horns sprouting from within a large cloak hood atop his head. The figure stood up and Alekos saw that he wore no armor beneath his cloak, the figure’s muscular chest seemed to be made of segments of blasted metal plates fused into his skin.
The vision shifted and now Alekos looked out from behind and above the figure’s shoulder. Beyond him was a vast plain of charred and baked rock. Ash pooled in places where like water. And across the field of cracked stone stood an army of fiends. Hundreds of thousands of devils, all prepared for battle, formed rank upon rank of diabolic forces. At their head, in the center, was another figure, larger than all of the rest. What Alekos at first thought was a man, actually had short devil horns and black goat-slit eyes. He was handsome in a charismatic way, and his armor gleamed with reddish, hellfire light.
The leader of the army shouted in a voice that would split the souls of mortals, and the army surged forwards at a charge. Rank upon rank of devils crested the rise towards the lone figure at the Bone Throne. Chain devils with their fluid movements, Barbed devils like massive spiked canines bounding and snarling, Pit Fiends and more, all rushed forward to attack.
But the figure at the throne seemed unconcerned. And with a wave of his hand, the nearest devils disintegrated into a puff of smoke. With a glance, those slightly behind the first rank melted into liquid and splashed upon the rocks. Yet the devil army didn’t stop… They surged closer and the black cloaded figure at the throne spoke a single word in a voice that could shatter worlds. Thousands of devils were blasted backwards, their torn bodies ripped apart as if a million blades had passed through them.
But the ranks of the diabolic army were still vast. They continued their assault and more were destroyed with each new wave.
And as the Giant figure at the throne became focused on the destruction, he began to smile, and soon he was giggling with sadistic pleasure at the carnage he was creating. So focused on his enjoyment, he did not notice the lone devil climbing up behind him, over the throne made of bones.
Sir Alekos’s vision shifted to see this assassin. He was made of black smoke and dust, but the wicked curved sword he held was as solid as anything. With a single leap, he buried the sword through the cloaked figure’s back, directly into his heart.
Suddenly the leader of the army was standing before the Cloaked Figure with his own sword held high. And with a sly smile, he cleaved the giant’s head from his body. Alekos saw the leader of the army sit down on the throne and begin to command the forces near him to pull the body of the cloaded figure apart. Ripping it into 5 pieces. Then the vision faded to black…
But Sir Aleko’s vision didn’t end there. He was jolted by the sudden wave of heat and light and could see a humanoid figure completely clad in brass armor standing over an anvil near a lake of lava. The brass armored fiend held a huge smith’s hammer and was forging the parts of the cloaded figure into stones. Each stone identical to the summoning stone that Alekos had grabbed in the underground lake chamber…
Then Aleko’s vision shifted again and he saw a human man sitting over a desk, books and papers covered every inch of the room where the man was writing some kind of book. He was middle aged but his eyes held a madness that was obvious. The symbols written into the book matched those Alekos had seen on the stones that the brass armored devil had hammered into them.
The man wrote and wrote until his fingers bled, and then continued using his own blood as ink. And the vision cut again…
Now Alekos was floating over a massive city – he’d never imagined a city so vast. And at the center of the metropolis there stood a ziggurat pyramid towering above the highest buildings. Dark energy swirled around its peak and in the middle of a summoning circle stood the mad scribe. This time he was older but held a younger man’s powerful build. His blue-black robes were whipped back and forth around him as the energy pulsed upwards.
Alekos could see that the 5 stones were now laid out in front of the man. Each was glowing with a different set of runes, but each held the promise of fiendish glory. Alekos’s viewpoint changed and he was now at the top of the pyramid. He could feel the wind tearing at him and hear the jubilant cries of the scribe-turned-summoner shouting in a fiendish language.
And just as the spell seemed to be complete, Alekos saw a beam of white hot radiance strike the summoner in the chest. From within the ziggurat, a party of adventurers climbed the steps and attacked the summoner. There was a warrior dressed in ancient armor, a nimble halfling tossing dagger after dagger, and an elvin mage firing lightning and arcane magics… and finally there was the cleric of Tyr standing firm with a massive warhammer in her hands. The cleric’s voice carried above the sounds of the wind and Alekos recognized the prayer.
Tyr’s justice carries an ultimate sacrifice for those most devout. Only those of purity and justice may pray for such a spell and Alekos knew this cleric had been granted such a spell.
The summoning stones were fully charged, having ripped the soul energy of the city’s inhabitants, and awaited the Summoner’s final incantation – but the Cleric of Tyr finished her prayer first. She ripped the energy from the stones and used it as judgement against the city, against the summoner, against the very stones themselves. Her judgement was glorious and the resulting explosion leveled the city.
The very ground of beneath the city turned to liquid and the towers, houses, temple and all were sucked below the earth.
Alekos’s vision pulled back upwards into the heavens and he saw the rivers and oceans flood inwards to where the city had once been. But as the clouds surrounded his view point, he began to travel. Flying like a bird he crested out of the clouds and a hill top was revealed.
Upon the hill top stood an Elvin woman dressed in hides, similar to what Ilya wore. She held a wooden club exactly like the one that Ilya used to unlock the stone from the underground chamber. The woman’s long blonde hair waved in the breeze as she stared out over the destroyed city, tears falling from her eyes.
She looked down to the stone, one of the summoning stones, in her hand. It’s runes were dark and it’s surface dead. She nodded once and turned away, walking into the forest.
The vision faded from Alekos’s mind but he felt every muscle in his body being electrified. He cried out and the rest of the party helped him to the shore.
But the party wasn’t out of danger… A giant water elemental formed in the lake and floated forwards.
Ilya attempted to communicate with it and was rewarded when it told her that it “Must Guard”. She tried to reason with it, but the rest of the party attacked :)
Oliver fumbled and was enveloped inside the elemental, along with Dilbert. They were whipped out by a thornlash spell mostly unharmed.
The companions were able to defeat the elemental and retreat back up the passageway and into the druid’s study.
Once again back on the surface, they made camp where Alekos told the story of his vision and Dilbert revealed that he knew of such things as the stones and their runes.
Askia spent the better part of the night reading from Shayluna’s journal and discovered that Granny Whithersnap was a forest resident that Shayluna had made a pact with many hundreds of years ago… and who may have more information on the stone.
So the next morning they decided to travel to Granny’s and get as much information as possible…