Chaos In The Aftermath

Descent Through Darkness

Ciphers and Vampires in the Shadows

The party resumes their delve into the depths of the Spellgard Catacombs. Once again the group proceeds carefully checking for traps and hidden dangers. They proceed through several empty rooms, finding the ancient resting place of Spellgard warriors past. In a nearby room, the group uncovers an alabaster pillar that appears to be one of the pillars being searched for by Thoran’s minions. The pillar proves too large and heavy for the party to move so they decide to cover it with rubble from the room in the hopes of delaying its location.

Continuing on, the party heads south and comes to a large room crossed by several deep canals. As the party steps into the room, a burst of arcane energy shoots forth, the door behind them slamming shut and the sound of running water emanating from the edges of the room. Water soon begins pooling around the group’s feet as they search for a way out. In the center of the room they find a well preserved marble column with inscriptions around the cap. The group feels a slight trace of arcane energy emanating from the pillar and surmises that the column may have originated the arcane surge and that the inscriptions could be key to their escape. The group works feverishly to decipher the message while the water in the room continues to rise. As the water reaches their chests, the group completes their work, “If you wish to live, find the key where the dead repose and use it where they wish to go.” With the water still rising, the group begins checking burial nooks along the walls for some sort of key. By the blessing of the gods, the group stumbles upon a possible key in their second alcove, a stone worked in the shape of a skull with three square holes for the mouth and nose. Baldur has a hunch that the dead wish to go to heaven and the group begins checking the ceiling. They quickly find a cobweb covered hole directly above the marble column.

Meriele quickly mounts the column but still can not reach the recess. Ujaii soon joins her and attempts to boost her up. They both fall hard from the pillar and splash into the water. They come up gasping for air and quickly remount the pillar to try again. The party worries for Baldur whose heavy plate is causing him difficulty in keeping his head above the rapidly rising waters. On their second attempt, Ujaii is able to boost Meriele up to reach the hole in which she finds three square pegs matching those of the key. Sliding the key into the hole, she is unsure of the direction to turn the key, would one hold their savior and the other their demise? Ujaii promptly suggests turning right, as left is more probably the direction of evil. Upon turning the key, a dull grinding begins to echo from the ceiling, followed by a series of clicks and then silence, only the sound of still running water can be heard as the group waits. Suddenly, the door begins to rise and the the water level begins to drop. The group sighs with relief and revels in their survival.

In order to reach the room’s southern door, the group needs to leap across the final canal crossing the room. The group uses their rope as a safety device, tying themselves off with one another. Being worried for Baldur’s ability to leap across decked in heavy plate, Meriele and Ujaii opt to go first. Meriele misses her jump but manages to catch the edge by her finger tips. Initially slipping and losing a handhold, Meriele manages to recover and hoist herself onto the far slab. Ujaii follows also jumping just short but catching on by her fingertips. With two of the group now across, Baldur starts his run, the sound of his plate clanging and echoing loudly in the chamber, and leaps across…. He lands cleanly on the far side. After some friendly chiding about the ease of the jump, Baldur and the others continue on their way.

Coming to another fork in their path the group decides to head east. Upon reaching the end of the tunnel, they find a large chamber which appears to have once served as Spellgard’s mortuary. The group can see several stone tables carved with blood groves and columns holding up the high vaulted ceiling; however, they cannot see the full extent of the room. As they begin to head in, a dry cackle sounds from the far end of the chamber.

After several seconds, soft footfalls begin to slowly grow closer. A deep but clear voice echoes from the darkness, “There was once a time when I had to leave these catacombs to find my food, but alas no longer, it seems to come to me. And such good timing on your parts. The remains of my last meal sit in that urn before you and then just as I thought I needed to venture out for a snack, in you delectable treats wander. While rats, halflings, and creepers make for a hearty meal, they really aren’t that tasty, oh but you will be a dish well worth the effort… oh come now don’t look so…. so frightened, just relax and Barthus will make your end quick for the glory of Bane. Struggling will only delay the inevitable.”

A pale bearded figure in blackened leather armor strolls calmly from the shadows. A holy symbol of Bane hangs around his neck, and a vicious-looking longsword is clutched in his hand. He stops in front of the party, effusing icy calm; his black eyes watching the group coldly. His body stiffens and then moves gracefully into a relaxed fighting stance as he raises the sword; a malicious smile spreads across his face as he laughs once again… the battle begins.

After Barthus misses his initial attack, Baldur counters with a vicious blow. Guessing correctly that Barthus will be a formidable adversary. He makes an additional attack and causes heavy damage which Barthus calmly ignores. The group has a chance to gain the advantage early in the fight as Barthus misses several key attacks. As the party pushes forward into the room, they notice a large wooden chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. Baldur charges Barthus and manages to push him back under the chandelier and Meriele follows with a Magic Missile to break the chandelier free from its support; the chandelier comes crashing down directly on Barthus knocking him prone. After some early, disheartening missed attacks, Ujaii regains her aim and begins dealing heavy damage to the surprised Barthus . The vile vampire recovers and retreats further into the room, and then eerily scales a nearby wall, putting himself out of reach of Baldur’s punishing radiant attacks. Barthus realizes that he may have underestimated his quarry. He finally connects with a dominating gaze and begins to attack the party more forcefully. Barthus also manages to stun Baldur following up with a vicious bite to his unarmored neck, reviving a large portion of his vitality. The fight wears on for some time as the group slowly wears down the vampire priest. Finally, a crushing blow is landed by Ujaii and Barthus staggers back. After catching his balance, Barthus begins to knowingly cackle but the cackle quickly degenerates into a bloody cough. He hobbles back another step or two and turns to mist; the mist moves quickly for the rear of the room but suddenly Barthus is corporeal again and collapses prone on the ground, gasping for air. “I may have underestimated the will of my meal for tonight… just a bit further to safety.” Seeing the helpless enemy, Baldur charges forward and moves to strike off the vampire’s head, but drained and bloody he misses badly, sending his sword sparking off the stone floor. Ujaii quickly follows up with a blast of dark eldritch energy to finish off Barthus before he can make an escape. She then prompts Baldur decapitate the disciple of Bane, just to be sure. The group leans wearily on their swords and staffs; nearly spent from the long battle the group decides to rest for the night, before venturing further into the black depths of the catacombs.

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