The Reign of Darkness

Entry 32

The preparations were done and the Shadowguard commenced the ceremony for opening the door to the Inner Sanctum. A blaring wail shot throughout the Well of Demons deafening all and the lights dimmed to darkness, leaving Ryn and Thalin blinded. A great roar briefly rose above the din… the Guardian had awoken.

Through heroic efforts and the desperation of men whose lives were on the line, the individuals of the Shadowguard reunited in the sacrificial chamber as they awaited the slow opening of the Inner Sanctum doors. The chains, manacles and hooks of the sacrificial chamber had come to life and were plaguing them. Then the Guardian caught up.

After a failed attack upon Thalin, the Guardian sunk its jaws into Gryff and moved to swallow the dwarf whole. Gryff managed to escape but in a desperate attempt to get out of harm’s way, left himself vulnerable to another attack in which the Guardian constricted itself around him.

Barlgura

At the command of Obakong, Suko attacked the wyrm and sunk its claws and teeth into the Guardian’s throat. Thalin fired a flurry of arrows each making its way towards the monster’s heart until the last did pierce it and, like a coil of dropped rope, the Guardian collapsed around Gryff.

Making their way to the Inner Sanctum, the Shadowguard came face to face with Hianthough and her monstrous bodyguards. Three humans were seen held captive within an arcane ritual circle – their lives being drained to power the profane ceremony the gnoll was conducting. In her foul Abyssal tongue (which Ryn understands), Hianthough screamed:

I can delay with prayers no longer! I must commence the ritual… Barlgura, kill!

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Entry 31

Bell and axe
Exploring the Well of Demons, the Shadowguard discovered the numerous chambers making up the Proving Grounds: a temple to Baphomet, a statuary of demonic creatures, a chamber of colored pools, a sacrificial chamber, and a central chamber with a pit.

They ventured into the blood-filled Chamber of the Crimson Scourge to retrieve the Bloodhorn Axe and then into the Chamber of Howling Pillars with columns of animated severed heads to retrieve the Bell of Fury’s Calling. Now possessing all four ceremonial relics, they set about the task of preparing themselves and the environment around them for the threats that follow the completion of the ritual to open the door to the Inner Sanctum.

As the Shadowguard prepared for the dangers ahead, Thalin spoke aloud the words he had only previously written:

From certain death to possible damnation.

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Character Journal - Thalin #2
Ghost of the past

From certain death to possible damnation. We had defeated the gnolls only to learn of worse threats.

The warnings of fallen heroes grated against my ears like dry leaves across a cold gravestone but my fellows and I believed the words spoken by the dead. The Guardian, an abyssal wyrm from the fiery pits would need to be dealt with and then a foul construct of rolling death – doom sphere golem it is called. These and more would await to sever us from this mortal coil.

All the while time was passing for the captured villagers of Threshold.

We would have to go slower than I would like but go forward I would. Let the hordes of fiendish demon lords come forth, my soul is iron, my aim is true, my blood is vengeance, my arrows… unleashed!

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Entry 30

Cow skull
Having learned that the seat of power for the Well of Demons is a place called the Inner Sanctum – accessible only after completing a specific ritual – the Shadowguard were told the challenges of the Proving Grounds by the spirits of a trio of dead adventurers. Suspecting that Hianthough, leader of the gnolls, holds the Threshold villagers in the Inner Sanctum, they continue to explore the complex with caution, retrieving the four ritual items (a scroll, a mask, a bell and an axe) along the way. They must face specific challenges to retrieve each item and then survive the hazards that follow the ritual (including the dread Guardian – a horrific Abyssal wyrm) if they hope to succeed in their quest.

Discovering the Chamber of Enforced Introspection, they destroyed the soul-draining mirrors to retrieve the Face of Baphomet.

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Entry 29

Scrolls
The confrontation with the gnolls was intense, but once again the Shadowguard was victorious. The Shadowguard broke the Blackfangs tribe, even with the gnoll’s surprise reinforcement by the demonic dire lion Skar and the tiefling brother and sister adventurers Azkelak and Katal.

Taking the time to thoroughly explore this part of the Well of Demons revealed that the Blackfangs are in the process of converting the dark sanctuary from devotion to Baphomet to that of Yeenoghu – having already done so with a small shrine. Thalin’s earlier suspicions were seemingly being confirmed – that the Threshold villagers had been purchased by the gnolls to serve as sacrifice to an as yet incomplete demonic ritual. At the small shrine, the Shadowguard retrieved the Scrolls of Wrath Unveiled.

With the gnoll chieftain known as Hianthough unaccounted for and the Threshold captives yet to be found, the Shadowguard must consider whether to take the remainder of the day to rest and recover or, with so many days having already passed, to press on in a race against time to rescue the innocent.

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Entry 28

Os gabella

Dealing with the Thing in the Well was a simple, yet time-consuming task. Whatever gargantuan beast lay below, it was dissuaded from seeking to make a meal of the Shadowguard when enough of its tentacles were destroyed.

Venturing deeper into the dungeon, the Shadowguard made note of recent simple decorations placed upon the double doors… crude three-headed flails. It was not long before they came into conflict with the gnolls.

The chamber they entered was being used by gnoll huntmasters and a number of hyenas to harass and torture a dire boar. Combat ensued with Thalin and Ryn attacking by bow and crossbow respectively. Silvershadow conjured arcane webbing to ensnare the gnoll archers while Gryffin Farstryder rushed into the room to confront the hyenas.

Obakong produced flame in his hands through the power of nature, set alight the bales of hay that stood between them and the gnolls, and commanded Suko to attack.

The fight was especially one-sided (although Obakong had taken some significant injury from the gnoll huntmasters who seemed especially skilled in fighting humans) and the gnolls were quickly routed. But not before one of them was able to escape and alert the complex.

The Shadowguard became split along a long corridor just as Gryff came face-to-face with the gnoll demonic scourge Os-Gabella and another pack of gnolls and hyenas reached the corridor intersection.

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Character Journal - Thalin #1
The nashing of teeth

DemgnollsA mass of fur, snapping teeth and sadistic fury came at us through the torchlit corridors of the Well of Demons. Their leaders closed in, from all sides they approached smelling an impending kill. Their numbers were great and pure hatred could be seen in their eyes as frothing spittle flew from the gnolls mouths.

But the truth of the matter was, as the Shadowguard pulled itself into a tight group, we were drawing our targets into close range.

I put two arrows to bow string and took a steady breath, Let it be brought the only words escaping my lips as they curved into a wicked smile.

Many gnolls would die this day…

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Entry 27

Arriving in the Seven-Pillared Hall, the Shadowguard set about gathering information regarding the possible whereabouts of the gnolls. Over the course of a couple days, they had reached an impasse. Though they had been asked a favor by the Ordinator Arcanis, spoken to a foul-tempered trapper named Breeg Orlivanch who gave them lore about gnolls they already knew, and received a mysterious letter requesting aid from an unknown entity – they were still without a clue as to where the Threshold captives were. With each day’s passing, they believed the villagers’ survival less and less likely.

The note however, spoke of the duergar and a meeting place. Though only tangentially, the duergar were connected and the Shadowguard followed the only lead they had – though they suspected it was a trap.

Upon arriving at the rendezvous point, they were set upon by deathlocks, wights and a bronze warder. The Shadowguard overcame the forces in short order with some injuries that were quickly tended to. Found upon one of the deathlocks was a satchel that contained two parchments and a sealed scroll.

The first parchment read:

I don’t care how you do it, but deal with these heroes. If they remain in the Labyrinth, they could disrupt my plans. Take the bronze warder and a contingent of undead if you must. Once you’ve dealt with them, deliver their bodies to our gnoll allies along with the scroll. This map will lead you to their lair.

The second parchment was a map of the Labyrinth with directions to a place called the Well of Demons, which was circled and marked with the word “Blackfangs.”

The scroll had a wax seal stamped with an elaborate “P” and read:

Hianthough,
Exalted Chieftain of the Blackfangs and Chosen of Yeenoghu:
Lord Pizentios offers you the corpses of these champions as a gift of our enduring friendship, that our alliance might continue to be mutually beneficial. May you savor their blood.
Your friend and ally,
Lord Pizentios

Well of demons

Taking only a brief moment to collect themselves, the Shadowguard immediately made their way to the Well of Demons. The chamber of the well was large and possessed three columns. Hidden among the columns were a ghoul and two young grick. The well contained a monster completely out of sight whose dozens of tentacles rose from the depths to grasp anything that moved nearby.

After the Shadowguard defeated the ghoul and young grick, Gryffin Farstryder moved into the room only to hear the feral minotaur faces carved into the columns speak – their words heard in each listener’s native tongue:

Greetings, seekers of Baphomet’s glory.
Those who prove unworthy of his attention shall be claimed as his slaves.
Those who prove worthy shall be granted power beyond mortal reckoning.
Mask, bell, axe, and scroll.

Story Hook – Favor for the Mages

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Entry 26

Chwidena

The House Azaer gem mine had opened into another network of caverns. Fully exploring what turned out to be an ancient maze engineered to appear natural, the Shadowguard came upon a large cavern divided in the center by stalactite and stalagmite columns that seemed almost like bars. The columns had been broken recently and apparently from their side.

Venturing through the obscuring darkness, they climbed an incline as the cavern narrowed and led to a smaller passage. They came upon a small cave littered with the bone and cloth remains of animals and humanoids alike. In one corner a dessicated corpse was held upright by webbing. Observing it for a while longer, Silvershadow noticed that the corpse’s dried skin undulated. That’s when a fist sized crimson spider crawled from the corpse’s mouth.

They moved forward cautiously and the dessicated corpse suddenly lurched forward – it was a web mummy. A supernatural aura of despair and fear paralyzed Obakong, Thalin, and Suko. Caseris met the web mummy with his eladrin greatsword, hewing into it devastatingly, but he soon fell to its powerful blows. Gryffin Farstryder channeled positive energy to heal Caseris at which point he flipped to his feet faster than the web mummy could react and with a mighty blow, destroyed it.

At the rear of the party, an even greater threat had arisen. Having stalked the party through the maze, the scion monster tomb spider the Chwidena now chose to attack. It leapt upon the paralyzed Suko and began encasing him in webbing. Obakong shook off his fear with the help of a divine prayer from Gryffin Farstryder and entered the fray.

To the shock of the party, when the web mummy was destroyed, a broodswarm spilled out of it and fell upon many of them. With their weapons useless against the swarm, Gryff targeted it with a divine sound burst, destroying the swarm but dismissing the harm it caused Caseris in the process.

The Chwidena was a greatly evil and horrific monster. Its vision unhindered by the obscuring darkness, its chitinous hide suffused with necrotic energy and its body the size of a wagon, it possessed fangs and mandibles which it used against those it could get close to.

Gryff discovered that the Chwidena was susceptible to positive energy and channeled divine power in the name of Hanseath. To his chagrin however, he discovered that those members of the party poisoned by the beast and its broodswarm had “tomb taint” and were harmed by the divine power as well.

With the remaining party members freed of fear and webbing, the Shadowguard leveled its full force and power upon the Chwidena – arrows rained, summoned animals attacked and blades slashed. Caseris had bore the brunt of the web mummy’s attacks and now the Chwidena’s. The Chwidena sank its fangs deeply into the eladrin and he fell before it near death. A short pause before providing Caseris aid was too long and he died.

The Shadowguard continued their fight with vengeance and soon killed the Chwidena. Further exploration of what was the creature’s lair revealed five cocoons – which contained the missing miners and Tekarian but only two miners survived.

Returning the miners to safety, delivering the remains and concluding their business with Vissarian, the Shadowguard returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall with the corpse of their ally, the powerfully enchanted girdle of the titans and a share of the House Azaer gem mine.

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Entry 25

Mine

Following the path back to the Horned Hold from Moradin’s Foundry en route to the Seven-Pillared Hall the Shadowguard found their way blocked by a strange gas emanating from a natural vent. The billowing gas engulfed them and when it dissipated, they found themselves somewhere else… some place that Silvershadow identified as not being of the natural world.

The nature of the world in which they were found was different. It was a world of darkness, shadow, melancholy and fear. With the path behind them blocked by the billowing gas, they went forward only to find a group of human miners huddled in their quarters in terror.

As it turned out, two of the captives they had saved from the duergar just days ago (Tekarian and Vissarian) were House Azaer mine bosses (who wasted no time returning to their mine upon attaining their freedom), and just in the past three days a number of their workers had gone missing – including the mine boss Tekarian as well. With their only known means of exit blocked by the gasses and something causing the mysterious disappearances of their people, the miners were paralyzed with fear and looked to the Shadowguard for salvation.

Minor Quest – Terror in the Dark

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