Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11
We returned to the Valley of the Dead to find the uncanny presence removed and wildlife returned. The whole place feels healthier somehow. We made our way back to the tower without incident and found it much as we had left it.
The sulphurous cavern lay beyond the room where we first encountered Vordekai. Brief exploration revealed a broken bridge over a large pit filled with tar that was the source of the stench. The tar, in turn, was filled with grasping black hands, which tried to pull me in. I don't think those naturally occur in tar pits, but whatever. Gelros decided the best course of action was to light the tar on fire to burn out whatever undead horror lurked within. In his defense, this did get rid of the hands. It also turned the tar into a raging, impassable inferno. Good times.
It took a little over 12 hours for the flames to die down. We had a meal and rested, and when we awoke it was at least possible to walk in the cavern. Narzeth cast a fly spell on me, which allowed me to scout an alternate path back to the river. He transported all of us across the tar pit and further into the complex using some short-range teleportation spell. "Dimension Door" I think he called it. How alliterative.
Beyond, up the hallway, we found a massive space that can only be described as a feasting chamber. Here, we found the final destination of many of the inhabitants of Varynhold. Lord Maegar Varyn himself, surrounded by senior officials and a high ranking cleric, sat arrayed around a large stone table. Now normally, they would be doing the feasting. Instead, in this case, it was those seated who were being feasted upon: every one of them was dead, with cranium split and brain missing. Jaric, in his expert medical opinion, declared them deceased from lack of brains. (In a slightly more useful observation, he and Gelros also recalled that liches like Vordekai can gain knowledge from brain consumption, which was perhaps the motivation here?)
I should also mention that the grotesque chamber was originally inhabited by shuffling cyclopean zombies, which we methodically dispatched. Everyone, even Everiel and Gelros, got at least one kill. It was cathartic, in a way.
The latter chambers were of greater interest. Up one level, we traversed a disconcerting octagonal chamber with a crystal dome, shaped like an inverted eye. The walls were covered with ancient cyclopean carvings, which appear carved over something even older which we couldn't quite make out. Whatever it was is decidedly evil (as Jaric told us, after we revived him, after he fainted from examining it) and overwhelmingly magical. (Conjuration? Divination? These are words; Gelros used them. I like "magical." Easier to follow.)
Whatever the purpose of the chamber, the water elemental guardians beyond soon distracted us. Everiel straight out dismissed one (it winked into nonexistence!) and we beat another into submission the old-fashioned way. Beyond the elementals lay a throne room, library, and storage: clearly Vordekai's former lair.
We started in the library. Among the religious texts proclaiming the glory of the Four Horsemen and mildly appalling instruction manuals on how to architect major disasters, Gelros found the journal of Vordekai himself. He was able to glean (so he tells us, and none of us can read cyclopean) that Vordekai was in some sort of statis and awoke recently, after 10,000 years of slumber, to find his abilities severely atrophied. Still, it seems he was powerful enough to craft many "soul jars" and enslave the populace of Varynhold in them. And store them. For food. Like a larder. Ugh. There were also some notes on the "Eye of Aabbaddon and its uses." Gelros was rather vague on this point, probably because Narzeth looked far too interested.
We later found another body elsewhere in the dungeon, with a journal. It turned out to be Wiless Gunderson. He recorded in his journal that he accidentally awoke the evil undead lich thing (ok, I'm paraphrasing) by trespassing in this tower. He paid not only with his life (while trying to escape he succumbed to his wounds) but the entire town of Varynhold paid too.
So the journals solved the mystery, but the reward was the treasure. So much treasure! The contents of Vordekai's chambers must be worth 100,000 gold pieces, at minimum! We also found some 200 of these "soul jars", and a strange relic that Gelros and Shella recognized as a "portable hole." Apparently it's a giant extradimensional pocket useful for transporting, oh, I don't know, 200 ensnared human souls in jars, or pantloads of treasure.
We liberated the remaining citizens of Varynhold (mostly commoners) earlier today, upon arriving back in Varynhold. Shella took immense joy in smashing all the jars. Among the prisoners was Maestro Ervil Pendrod, so that solves that mystery as well. Leaderless and grateful, the citizens of Varynhold (with a tiny bit of coaxing from Gelros) agreed to join the Kingdom of Arboria if we will restore their town's goods that had been looted, I mean, ah, commandeered.
So that is where we are. With the centaurs placated and the mystery of Varynhold solved, the eastern border is secure. Tomorrow we depart for Bandit's Rest and what we hope to be an extended period of development.
- 14,400 XP for clearing the feast hall
- 9,600 XP for killing two elementals
- 4,800 XP for "overcoming" the ghost of Wiless Gunderson, who was angry (by defeating Vordekai so he didn't need to be angry anymore)
- Portable hole
- 1710 pp, 19500 gp, and 154500 sp
- Various art objects altogether worth an additional 29250 gp
- Ring of friend shield (the match to the one found in the village)
- Ring of protection +2
- Cloak of resistance +1
- Gloves of swimming and climbing
- Pouch holding three packets of dust of dryness
- +1 cold iron magical beast bane flail
- All Tools Vest (1,800 gp)
- Ki Mat (10,000 gp)
- Sheath of Bladestealth (5,000 gp)
- Belt of mighty constitution +4
- Lyre of building
- 4th level wizard scroll
- Vordekai's spellbook
- Another set of spellbooks, from when Vordekai was a 20th level caster