I’m just going to paste in the narration because I actually wrote it out for this one:
“After your rest, you set off again. Your trip from the mysterious desert temple to uneventful, and you approach Gravil in the evening. As the town comes into view, you see billowing smoke and volleys of flaming coals from catapults, the mark of a hobgoblin siege. At the sight, Wolfswift’s typically calm disposition quickly fades to panic. ‘The hobs are at Gravil!?! They just took Sherul a few months ago! We need to get there, now, before the library burns!’”
The party concurs, and sets off:
“You dash across the last stretches of salt plain as they fade to sparse fields of grass. The wind picks up, and the full moon shines down on the wandering sands. There is no guard tower at the southern entrance to the town, only a ruined stone archway with ‘Gravil’ carved into its face. As you enter the burgh, you see that the siege comes from the West, and that shocked townsfolk flee eastward. Wolfswift leads you to follow suit before cutting off to a side road and knocking on the door of an unassuming building. A small slit slides back, revealing a concerned, wrinkled face. ‘Grafire? Are you here with Gravak? Did he bring an army? How large is it? Oh, don’t tell me he’s too arrogant to…’ ‘Unfortunately, I am here with only a party of adventurers, Richorn.’ interrupts Wolfswift. The old elf stares blankly, his concern settling into fear. ‘I see.’ he says solemnly. ‘Well, come in.’ You walk into a parlour whose walls are lined with bookshelves. Various other aging elves stand around, looking just as concerned as the one who answered the door, who now speaks. ‘So, introductions. I’m Richorn Taletreader, the leader of this historian’s guild, or as the townsfolk call us, the “Rock-Speakers”. And you all are?’”
The party introduces themselves, recounting the story of the Seven while adding in the elaborate “prophets of Pelor” lie.
“Richorn stares, at you, his mouth agape. The surprise quickly rises to excitement. ‘You’re the new Seven?!? I… I read about the Seven in the ruins. I read about Zunquar, a clockwork golem and a Seven from this plane. I read about the succession process… but, but I never thought I’d see it happen!’ He massages his temples, grimacing and closing his eyes. ‘And now the hobs are at our gates, two months before we thought they’d be ready. (intensely, bang fist on table) Soon we’ll have been claimed for Bane! Like… (quiet, reflective) Sherul…’ Suddenly, Richorn drifts off, thinking intensely. He regains his energy just as quickly. ‘You did say that the gods stole the Seven’s powers, so they’re fighting you, yes?’
The party says “yes”. (DM Aside: Awkward-in-writing pauses like this show how narration and summary are very different forms of writing.)
“‘Then that’s it! That’s why they’re here so early! Bane, your enemy and their patron, is sending them not for Gravil, but for the Caves of Lunus!’ Richorn slowly realizes that you have no idea what that is. ‘Oh! Let me explain. According to the legends I’ve deciphered, Zunquar was quite the architect. He built small temples throughout this plane and filled them with traps, monsters, and secrets. When it came to find a permanent seat of power, Zunquar thought it only appropriate that he build his most challenging gauntlet as a test for those who sought audience with him. He chose the towering Mount Lunus, and the winding caves that occupy it, as the location for his fortress. But after many died foolishly steading his dungeon, Zunquar sealed it, only opening it on the last full moon of the year. The first group of adventurers to enter would be locked in; could they not clear the dungeon and seek Zunquar within three hours, they would be doomed to dye of hunger and thirst within its halls. Zunquar would restore each adventurer to life but once to aid the adventuring parties in their completion of the quest. Now, as you probably noticed, it is early winter, and a full moon. I believe Bane seeks to lead his hobgoblins through Gravil and due north to Mount Lunus, where the best of the hobs will be sent to defeat Zunquar with the help of the gods so they may add yet another power object to their collection.’ Richorn takes a well-deserved pause. ‘Oh dear, I’ve gone on too much again. Anyway, it is in our mutual interests to keep this from happening. Grafire, I propose that you and this new Seven go into the caves before the hobs arrive and tell Zunquar of the invasion. Fortunately, I am prepared. I sent an exploration team into Mount Lunus when I first discovered information about the caves and had a teleportation circle set up next to the dungeon’s entrance, meaning I can get you there in a jiffy. I also have two different accounts of past exploration of the dungeon, one reliable and one unreliable, that may use give you some hints as to the dungeon’s perils and how to survive them.’”
At this point, the party is told the following rumors:
Reliable: “Fortune awaits in a secret chamber connected to the Great Hub.”
Reliable: “The three-headed purple worm’s young are poisonous to it.”
Reliable: “A stone tablet with a clue to the Puzzle of Faces is hidden in one of the hallways.”
Unreliable: “Touching the fire ruby will melt one’s hand off.”
Unreliable: “An orb with the power to slay powerful dragons is hidden in the dungeon.”
“Richorn ponders what he has said, then turns to another scholar in the room. ‘It is time,’ he says. ‘Go and find the Wand of Time Displacement.’ He thinks on the situation more, and finally turns back to you. ‘And finally, I will establish a mental link to all of you. If I sense that you all have perished, I will perform a ritual to roll time back to around now. I am performing this ritual through a powerful wand, but I do not know how many times i may use it; For this reason, I have been saving it until a time of need.’ A wizard from the peanut gallery calls out , ‘What about that one time yer wife caught’ya bonin’ that night elf? You used yer wand then!’ ‘Time of need! It, it was a time… of need!’ Richord retorts to his laughing colleagues. ‘Anyway, point is, don’t think you can screw around in there just because I can reset everything when you all die. Alright. Off you go.’ And with a few elaborate hand motions, Richorn teleports you away.”
Now then, to the dungeon crawl:
“You find yourself teleported to a dark, damp area. Suddenly, you hear a heavy metal door heave open, along with the sound of light falling rubble. Light shines out on you from the open doorway, revealing a narrow hallway. The doorway itself is made of heavy cast iron; a polished iron skull, its keystone. Magic torches next to the door light themselves, revealing your surroundings.”
- The party proceeds through the door into the hall.
Eight portals of different colors line its sides. Each portal has a hook above it, from which a golden key hangs (except for the one above the green portal). The hallway ends at a pair of stone doors with no visible handles. A gold-lined keyhole, however, is set into one of the doors.
- Jonn uses his Mage Hand to try a putting a key in the keyhole from across the room. The key is shot out of the keyhole, along with a burst of lightning. Fortunately, the entire party was on the other side of the hall and thus unaffected. Jonn tries all of the other keys in the hall, including one found clenched in the fist of a skeleton, but they all yield the same result.
- Looking for another solution, Sancta walks through one of the portals. He finds himself transported into a dismal cell roughly 10 feet to a side that reeks of offal. The bones of countless dead humanoids litter the floor, many suspended in puddles of black ooze that begin to creep toward him. There is no exit, and he would either be killed by the black pudding or die of thirst, so he was ruled as dead. Wolfswift’s wolf entered another portal and suffered the same fate. Charmeleon put its head through yet another portal and could not remove it.
- The players have spent a half-hour of real time and gotten nowhere. Suddenly, Kreb makes a Thievery check and identifies the keys as fool’s gold and the keyhole as real gold. More frustrated out-of-game discussion follows. Suddenly, Gernezit gets the idea to go look at the skull keystone. He pulls open the jaw, which is on a hinge, and out pops another key, made of real gold. The keyhole takes this one, and the door opens.
Through the door is a large hall with golem statues, large iron braziers, and a large archway, set into the back wall. Tapestries depicting Zunquar line the back wall. Three bone-white pedestals lie under a beam of white light in the hall’s center. Four sets of stairways, two on each side of the room, each lead up to a large door.
- After investigating the tapestries, Kreb stumbles upon a secret passageway that leads into a small, dank room.
The low ceiling of this dry, musty chamber is comprised of ascending tiers, as if the room were itself a miniature ziggurat. A skeleton wearing a tattered ochre cloak and a crimson blindfold reclines in a simple wooden throne adorned with iron plating. A warped and splintered wooden table stands before the skeleton. Two eight-sided bone dice are neatly arranged atop it.
- After the party enters the room, the skeleton motions to the dice. Several party members’ History training allows them to passively recall the following:
”The two dice are a set of reaper’s dice, an artifact said to have been given to the first human king by a succubus named Vivika. They have no faces and are powerless when rolled separately. However, if both of the reaper’s dice are rolled at once, one of many powerful effects occur – some beneficial, and some baleful.”
- Jonn rolls the dice with his Mage Hand, and his mind becomes filled with visions of snakes winding around his legs. These dissipate quickly, but Jonn is slowed for the rest of the adventure. The dice and the skeleton then disappear in a puff of noxious red smoke.
- “The party returns to the Great Hub and, after much deliberation, enter the top-right room.
“Sand and mud cover the floor of this impossibly large chamber.The air is heavy and moist. The ceiling is obscured by low, dark clouds. Half of an steep, grass-covered hill looms against the east wall. Its highest point reaches nearly 50 feet. A procession towering basalt obelisks stand in the center of the area. Rows of high rainforest trees line the north and south walls.
- As the party nears the center of the room, a huge, three-headed purple worm erupts out of the hilltop. She and the party exchange blows, with her biting, and occasionally, swallowing adventurers. After a few rounds, she pulls herself out of the ground with four stubby legs, and eight light-green larvae fall from an orifice at her rear. The fear of her own young that the worm expressed during this process confirms the rumor the party received, and they move to dispatch the larvae and throw them into their mother’s mouth.
- While the mother retreats to the hilltop, her brood attack the party with their poisonous bites; ultimately, however, their frailty allows the party to make short work of them. Diviir grabs a larvae corpse and throws into one of the worm’s three maws. The worm lets out a thunderous roar, then collapses. A piece of the west wall crumbles open to reveal a narrow entryway. The party proceeds through it.
“You enter a small chamber, lit only by a few torches. A simple clay altar stands in the center of the chamber. Upon it is a clay tablet with a green leaf imprint on it. It glows faintly and releases a sweet scent.”
- The party picks up the emerald. A portal to the Great Hub then appears.,and the party goes through it. Upon returning, they put the tablet on one of the pedestals. The sweet scent emanating from the tablet then intensifies, relaxing the party and restoring two healing surges to each adventurer.
- Play stops for the day with about an hour on the clock.
To be continued…