Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crypts and Things: The Temple of the Serpent

With Ludaius no longer possessed by the shade of Ikhtanabu Xu, things return to “normal” in the city of Zul-Bazzir.  Motard the northern barbarian and the warrior Ludaius turned to drinking and whoring while Zardoz continued his experiments on the necromancer that had been captured by party on their return trip from the Temple of the Bull God. Zardoz had seen the necromancer slay one of his trusted henchmen Chellick with just a touch.  Removing the necromancer’s hand, Zardoz was determined to use it to create a magical rod or wand that was capable of duplicating the “death touch”.

One day, Zardoz went to down to experiment further on the necromancer only to find that he had died in the night.  Not considering that death would prevent him from learning more from the necromancer, he kept the body.  By the end of the day, the body had re-animated as a zombie with red boils and red patches on his skin.  Still not deterred by this (rather, he was intrigued) Zardoz keep the zombie tied down to slab in his lab for further experiments.

Soon, the party was contacted by the merchant Belcore, a man known to the party as an associate of the group’s occasional patron and ally Aetius, the master Slaver of Zul-Bazzir.  Belcore offered the party a very large sum of gold if they would accompany him on an expedition to the southern deserts in search of a forgotten temple to a god known as Yigthrahotep.  The offer being far too much gold to turn down, the party readily agreed, despite the fact that they had been unable to speak with Aetius regarding Belcore.  According to Thayne Darkblade, Aetius’ captain of the guard and right hand man, Aetius was unavailable and he was uncertain as to when that may change. Motard, Ludaius, Zardoz and his henchmen assembled horses, wagons and supplies and headed south, with a new hire, the “scout” Torvir, who had been recruited by Motard.

Realizing how dangerous the zombie necromancer would be if he were to escape, before leaving, Zardoz placed wards over his laboratory and left a number of heavily armed guards back in the House of the Dragon with strict instructions not to enter the laboratory under any circumstances.  Nor were they to allow anyone to enter the laboratory either.

After traveling south for some time, the group arrived at a water well and oasis.  While there, they party also broke bread with nomads from the Eagle Claw clan.  While they were eating with the nomads, the group was attacked by a number of giant scorpions.  The party and nomads fought off the scorpions but not before Zardoz’s henchmen Seth was struck down by the poisonous sting of one of the scorpions.  Only the intervention of the nomads saved Seth from dying from the toxins.  Having fought together and shared salt and bread, the party forged a blood alliance with the Eagle Claw clan. The enemies of the party were the enemies of the Eagle Claw and vice versa.  With Seth still disabled by the scorpion poison, the party left him with their new allies and continued south.

Scorpions Attack!

Following Belcore’s map, the party arrived at a cave opening in the side of a cliff.  Motard scouted around and discovered that there were fresh prints leading in and out of the cave entrance.  Judging from the prints, the creatures living in the cave were some kind of large ape.  The party took positions and watched the cave from the bushes.  They waited all night but in the early morning, they watched as a group of large apes left the cave, obviously to hunt.  The characters then setup an ambush in anticipation of the apes return.
The apes returned carrying the corpses of deer and antelope and party sprang their ambush.  Motard charged in with his axe while everyone else unleashed a barrage of arrows and crossbow bolts.  (Ranged attacks are not Motard’s style.)  The Apes were dispatched with relative ease and the party entered the cave.

On the first level, the party discovered that the cave was indeed an ancient temple.  The walls of the temple had pictures that depicted hordes of apes and primitive humans bowing down to images of serpents and humanoid serpent beings.  There were stairs leading down on the far end of the temple and in the center of the main room, there were vines hanging down that lead into a chamber above.  A group of apes jumped out from the vines and attacked.  After a brief fight, the apes were dispatched.

Motard and Talos climbed up the vines and could hear that there were indeed more apes in the chamber above and quietly climbed back down.  Deciding not to climb the vines, party took the stairs, descending further into the temple.

Deeper in to the temple, the motif of serpent worship continued.  Zardoz noticed that many of the pictures of the humanoid serpents showed the serpent men as wearing crowns.  He remembered that he had seen a crown like that before….on the head of Aetius, slave master of Zul-Bazzir….

Using hammers, the character broke through a wall into a burial chamber that was guarded by a number of animated human skeletons. These were also easily defeated and the party found itself in a altar room filled with gold artifacts.  As the party ran down to gather the massive amount of treasure, Belcore went to the altar, turned to party with his hands held up high and spoke.   “Oh, great Yigthrahotep, I have come to awaken you from your slumber and release you from centuries of imprisonment! I now offer you these humans as a celebration of your freedom!” From the altar rose giant serpent with dazzling eyes and humanoid arms with a scimitar in each hand.

Yigthrahotep Rises!

Never truly trusting Belcore, Zardoz had his men immediately open fire on the Belcore while Motard and Ludaius attacked Belcore’s flank.  Before Belcore could unleash his fowl magic upon the party he was slain and his true form reveled.  Belcore was a serpent man!  The party then turned its attention to the newly risen Yigthrahotep.  Yigthrahotep was nearly defeated when he unleashed his hypnotic gaze at the party.  Although Zardoz, Motard and Ludaius resisted the gaze, Torvir and all of the henchmen did not and they immediately turned on the characters.

Belcore assumes his true form in death

His spells exhausted and after being stuck by a number of arrows, Zardoz fled the temple, leaving Motard and Ludaius to their fates.   Yigthrahotep slew Ludaius but the badly wounded Motard managed to kill Yigthrahotep, breaking the hypnotic spell that had taken over Torvir and the henchmen.  The survivors gathered up their much deserved gold and left the temple.

Zardoz did not wait around to see what happened to his companions and fled with all the horses that he could.  Eventually, he allowed the rest of the group to catch up.  They had the treasure after all.  Fully believing that they had been betrayed by Aetius, Zardoz vowed vengeance.

Upon arriving at the Eagle Claw camp, Zardoz immediately began recruiting as many of the nomads to return to the city of Zul-Bazzir to raid the home of the slaver Aetius.  One hundred and fifty of them eventually agreed.  Now with a small army on their side, the party headed back to Zul-Bazzir with vengeance on their minds.

However, upon arriving back at Zul-Bazzir, all was not well with the city.  From a distance, smoke and even fire could be seen coming from the city and a number of refugees had fled the city.  The characters approached what appeared to be a makeshift fort occupied by all manner of city dwellers.  The fort was guarded by a mix of city guards, merchants, artisans, beggars, prostitutes and even slaves.  Zardoz demanded to know what had happened.  One of the guardsmen told them of the Red Plague.  A disease that turned all it killed into the walking dead.  The Red Plague spread by both claw and bite.  The Shrine of the Keepers had been infected and the zombie horde spread from there but there were demons and hordes of flesh eating insects infecting the city as well.  He also told them that the epicenter of all of this was not the Shrine of the Keepers.  The true outbreak started from the House of the Dragon, the mansion that the characters called home...

Next time, Red Plague Part One.