Tomb of Horrors

02 - Planar Peril
Wherein You Never Split the Party

Northwest was our player’s intended path, and they headed back across the bridge – but not before tying a rope off to Norm. Good thing, too – he slipped and fell and nearly splattered across the ground below. Castus held tight to the other end, and the party managed to haul him up.

The building they first came to – nearly flush with the cliff wall – was of bizarre shape and terrifying construction: It was built from the rocks that once comprised the graves of the burial site that the team now walked upon. The door opened easily, revealing nothing but darkness beyond. Everyone stepped forward together, and found themselves … somewhere else.

The party was clearly still inside a building, and one that had the shape of the one that they’d entered, but the nature of the world was drastically different than the Feywild. Evil and darkness permeated the very air, and echoes of distant screams cascaded into a resounding drone of noise until it suddenly stopped. Not quite the Shadowfell, realized the arcane-minded of the party, but perhaps somewhere … darker. The walls were lined of solid marble, clearly worn with many years of age.

Hogar stepped out through the door, and found himself back in the Feywild. Relieved, he went back through the door … and found himself in a third location entirely. Once again, the halls seemed accurate, but now the walls were made of brick and mortar, and seemed leak dried blood. This felt evil, albeit not with the anguish and sorrow of the former location – this was distinctly like the Shadowfell. Even the contents of the halls were different – empty sarcophogai lined the hall, and religious items and personal tokens lay strewn about, as though vandals had come in and crudely knocked everything aside in an effort to steal the corpses within.

The rest of the team investigated their unhallowed environs, finding armored footprints chiseled into the marble beneath their feet. Following them, they found a room with humanoid bones jutting from every space on the wall and ceiling, with dark corners and a mysterious humanoid statue in the center of the room. The statue appeared to be a humanoid noble of some kind, with a cloak and circlet atop his head, and a clutched sword facing down. Its face had been erased – cut off wildly with some sharp tool.

From out of the shadows came an angel, or what might’ve once been an angel. It appeared harried, demented, and it shrieked with an insane howl.

A scythe materialized in its hand and it swooped in to attack. Retreating down the hall to maneuver into a better fighting position, the party found a second one waiting to carve them apart from behind.

(Some help from the party might be useful remembering the exact order of combat here. Norm dropped consecrate, Castus hit people with planets, Crave did a lot of swaming and stinging, and Haldor did a Jedi mind push – and Hogar managed to make it back to the rest of the party and run on the ceiling a couple of times. I can probably elaborate on that a bit later but if someone else wants to, feel free – I’m running out of steam right this second.)

The angels put down, the team inspected the rest of the crypt, finding a couple more statues, but nothing else of note beyond horrible side effects from the bone-pincushioned room – bolts of necrotic power seeped up from the ground, and the room itself incited a malaise, making it difficult for any to escape. Hurriedly deciding they wanted nothing more to do with the place, the team left through another door – emerging back into the Feywild.

A pair of blank obelisks flanked the area where the guys found themselves – adjacent to the river that fed the waterfall. Heading down a walkway that wrapped around yet another grave-built structure, the team changed tacks when they crossed the river and headed into the building across the river. This building was the other option that had laid before them earlier – a building not made of gravestones. However, the interior appeared lined with arcane runes of uncertain origin – across the floor, the walls, and even the ceiling. Beetles darted in and out of the corners of the strangely arranged, twisting hallways.

A female eladrin, seemingly bound in manacles, sobbed and asked the party’s help as they rounded a corner. Castus moved to set her free – when the eladrin darted her hands forward, through the apparently insubstantial cuffs, and attacked.

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01: The Garden Entrance
Bad Poetry; Oh Noetry

With as much conversation as he offered on trip to the Garden, the eladrin vanished into the forest depths, clearly unwilling to step any closer towards the once holy garden.

The party advanced cautiously towards a cave that seemed to serve as the Garden entrance, observing a massive cliff beyond the rocky formations. The forest edge on either side seemed alive with energy and movement, and the party spotted harpy silhouettes beyond the forest line. A careful approach revealed that at least some of them appeared to be decoys, or illusions … or bait? It was unclear.

The team continued onward, stopping only to translate a curious poem found etched in the stone entrance of the cave. Written in High Elven, but rhyming in common, it generated feelings of unease and confusion:

Count you the shadows, watch the sun
The wise know where they stand
While knowing not the time to shun,
The fools must find themselves undone

Like lustful swain or panicked child
Who beg another’s gentle hand,
The fool delves heedless through the wild.
The wise are not so soon beguiled

When darkness falls and dreams portend
The rising of fearsome foe,
The fool, swift-striking, meets his end;
The wise know foe from friend.

Let art and image point the way,
Abandon all you think you know
For common sense leads fool astray.
The key is simply this: Obey.

The wise must never strategize;
They never play, unless to win.
They see the harm in comfort’s lies,
And see to open weary eyes.

You’ve fought your way; you’ve risked demise
To view the ivy heart within.
Now as the soul within you dies,
This knowledge is your only prize:

You’d never have come, were you truly wise.

Onward into the cavern, a natural formation with no lines of verse on the inside. Rather, the path was blocked by a triune statue – three humanoid women, all arranged in a row.

After a moment’s inspection, Castus placed a coin in the youngest-looking-woman’s statue’s outstretched hand. (I think I’m remembering that correctly.) Without a sound, the statue of the crone sprang to life, leaving behind a sheet of stone in her place as she waded into the fray, clawing and striking at the party. The team sprang into action, weathering her attacks with skill, even as her arms split into four separate limbs and tore into the entire team. With time, the statue went down – literally getting reabsorbed into the floor and reappearing in its original place with its original pose.

This time, a coin was placed in the crone’s hand. When the old bag sprang to life this time, it was simply to step out of the way, allowing the team passage through to the other end of the cavern – which opened back up into daylight.

Here, a small clearing sat at the base of the 60 foot tall cliff, with a few curious features. A stone building of uncertain origin stood at the far end, near a cascading waterfall. A giant stone column held rickety bridges leading from the top of the building to the cliff’s top. Lower than the column was a curious obelisk.

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Finally, set near the base of the cliff was a sacked campsite. Tents, logs, and tools lay strewn everywhere.

The team’s inspection of the campsite revealed that it was likely the remains of the last team Thex had sent in. Little did they know, however, that someone had left the remains there as a trap. With killer intent, the logs burst into flame and soared at the team, followed shortly by the calamatous attacks of the tools and the horrible flaps of the tent canvasses. A pitched battle ensued, drawn out further by Norm’s proximity to the obelisk. The arcane, spidery runes on the obelisk flared, and the shardmind experienced something he’d never felt before – sleepiness. Thankfully, the party managed to put down the campsite pieces and rouse their cleric – but shortly drew the ire of a lurking will-’o-the-wisp. With careful maneuvering around the lethargic power of the obelisk, the team put down the vanishing light creature … which turned an unexpected blood red in its final moments. Danger averted, the team took a moment to rest.

A trifold race was proposed to the top of the column, handily won by Hogar’s monkian ability to scale walls with spider-like grace. The team hauled themselves up and crossed the rickety bridge to the top of the adjacent building, stepping carefully on the aged, worn planks. Norm stumbled and fell prone, but managed to avoid completely tumbling the full drop down. A slow, unsteady path brought him to safety.

Atop the building, the team discovered that it was a reception area / visitor’s center for those visiting the Garden of Graves. In fact, a map atop the structure provided a general layout for the cairns and masouleums found in the center. A cursory glance of the clifftop’s buildings, however, revealed that few of the buildings on the map remained intact… or if they did, they’d been warped and arranged in some obscene new configuration. Two paths laid before our heroes, a map-detailed building directly north, and the rest of the garden’s strange new edifices to the northwest.

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00: It Begins
Wherein Thex Issues New Orders

Each player received the following communication to begin the campaign:
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Your service to Maverlos Thex has been brief but brutal. The archmage asks for incredible feats from those who serve him, and you have delivered.

Thex’s latest communication comes to you in the field, almost immediately following your latest mission, unbidden in the night:

My loyal servant:

My dealings with the extraplanar have led me to forge new alliances with entities beyond the veil of our world. Powerful entities. Completely based off of fradulent promises, on both sides, but it suits me to maintain these niceties in order to garner new information of the worlds beyond.

One such entity – a lord of the fae, completely untrustworthy, but quite powerful – has bid me to help him with a trifling issue within his realm. The Garden of Graves, a resting place within his kingdom, has somehow been corrupted by an unknown necrotic energy source. The wilds, the animals, the forest dwellers – they’ve all been corrupted by a force unseen in that world to date, and all of his own investigations have ended in failure. With some convenient primes at his disposal, he asked me to send an investigatory force to find out what’s going on.

I sent one last week, and have not received word back since. I have no reason to think I will ever hear from them again.

Clearly, this incursion into the Feywild is more powerful than was determined at first glance. While the weakening of this fey lord’s power base does not concern me in the slightest, I am terribly curious what could be going on that both his forces and my initial, admittedly trifling, exploratory team were unable to deal with.

That’s where you come in! I’ve decided to change up your modus operandi and team you up with some of my other more capable servants to see what’s going on. Your interaction with the fey lord’s court should be necessarily limited – in fact, I’ve arranged for you to be directed to the Garden of Graves without even needing to enter their forested city. Your task is to head to the gravesite, investigate the source of corruption, and report back to me. You might also keep your eye out for my initial force that went in.

While you’ve acted on your own for much of the duration of your service, I think you’ll enjoy working with the team I’ve assembled. You should be suitably matched to deal with whatever you may find in the tomb. Probably.

(The rest of the message explained to each character how to make their way to the fey crossing that will take you to the Feywild, where they could expect to meet with the rest of the party.)
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Thex’s instructions were, as always, condescendingly precise, and led each member of the party to a specific glade deep in the heart of the forest where they assembled. Brief hostilities aside – even people who work for Thex are disinclined to trust people who announce “I work for Maverlos Thex,” – the party determined a reasonable marching order and plunged into the portal, taking them deep into the Feywild, where thankfully they were met by aservant of the fey lord in whose service they now found themselves.

Without a word, the eladrin retainer led the party through the thick forests of this vibrant dimension to the mysterious site of the corruption – the Garden of Graves.

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