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To speed us along...
You match up the animal to its devilish patron and discover when you brandish them, the runes fade away! The hallways reveals a large, final chamber.
The air in this chamber is strangely humid, and a thin layer of fog clings all across the floor. A staircase descends from the east and another staircase to the west is fully obstructed by rubble. Several statues with serpent motifs stand in the area. To the north, a large, green stained-glass window looms behind a twisted statue of three serpentine men conjoined at the hip. Vines snake across the floor from a central pool filled with luminescent green liquid. In several places, faintly glowing arcane script inscribed on the floor tiles shines through the mist.
Theleb can identify the statue as Geryon: The stinking swamps of Stygia, the fifth layer of Hell, are the dominion of the Serpent—Geryon—source of all great heresies.
It takes a couple tries to hit the corpse properly, but about ten minute's concentration finally has the amulet off the corpse and sliding across the floor. The amulet is in the shape of a snarling rat head, and when it crosses the third set of runes (the ones representing Mammon), they suddenly go dull and seem dormant.
Grompus falters for a moment, clearly confused. "Wait, yer gonna pay me and I'm gonna give you the money and I pretend like you roughed me up fer protection? I... I guess that'd work." He scratches his chin speculatively. Hearing you discuss making a mess, he grunts. "Hell, you wanna throw in a couple extra gold, you can break them racks there. They're old and in need of replacin' anyway. Flour makes a right mess, looks like worse. Ye get used t'cleanin' it up in this line o' work." He peers at you all with a newfound respect and interest. "Ya'll ain't the usual types I see in that cult. Is there somethin' goin' on I might not wanna know about here?"
The baker, Welton Grompus, is a plump man covered in flour. He looks up and his eyes widen for a moment before he sets his jaw and points a thick finger at you. "Now look you here! I tol' that fat one that I wasn't paying no protection racket fer 'insurance against fire'! I tol' him, ye can take yer damnable thugs and their knee breakin' elsewhere. I'm a follower o' Saranrae and I don't hold with yer cult, but I'm not fer persecutin' yer kind so kindly leave me be! I never agreed ta give nothing t'your lot. Now unless you plan t'buy some bread, off wit' ye!"
'Vollensag doesn't rule here anymore, interloper. Dorzhanev supports Silverhide's claim to the throne. We have no need for your pretty words about honor or trickery. Kill them all."
The last bit is aimed at his companions, who grin and raise their crossbows.
Prof Init: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (5) + 11 = 16
Heroes are up!
Krant's voice sounds amused behind the mask. "Aww, poor widdle babies am tired of being inside the nice place where they're learning to get rich and powerful? Poor widdle things... Now get yer complainin' arses in gear and get ready to go! Me and the boys here will watch out while you shake down our errant little lamb."
The bakery, called the Harvest Hearth, is located just three blocks away from the temple and its oven supplies fresh bread and rolls to most of the inns and taverns in the area. Krant escorts you to the temple, along with his pair of thuggish acolytes. Once there, he waits outside, turning away any new customers until the place is empty, aside from Welton. Once this is done, he sends you inside to retrieve 100 gp in missing payments.
In the room with the hellhound statues, you search the corpse and are surprised to find a ring you missed that glows with faint magic: a platinumring adorned with the head of a hound. You also, in the chamber of Dispater, find s strange ivory rod. When you pass through the forge room with it, it begins to tremble slightly. Spellcraft?
You found the dagger in the well. I neglected to copy the description, but it has a raven on the pommel. You also found the bracelet with the goat theme. And there appears to be something on the corpse at the other end of the room across the runes. You may, of course, also have missed a Perception check to find other things...
To reach the corpse, you must cross the strange glowing runes on the ground. Are you okay crossing them?
Garret stops, pointing at the runes. He notices there's some sort of magical effect if you cross the runes without disabling them. However, he can't figure out any way to disable them via the usual magic trap disabling tricks. Perhaps they're cued to something else? They do seem to be giving off the same sort of glow as the random items you've found here in the dungeon, and each is drawn in front of the painting depicting a rat, goat, raven and hound...
That seems a quorum, so I'll move along...
Sleep claims you, eventually, and you rest. You're awoken the next morning by the not so gentle hand of Krant shaking you to wakefulness. You're given the usual breakfast of water and bread with some thin jams, but instead of the usual work in the courtyard, Krant pulls you lot aside.
"You lot! I have a task for you. Get yer robes and masks on and meet me upstairs." You outfit yourselves in Razmiran guise and head upstairs. Krant is wearing his mask and his robe stretches over his amble belly. Standing with him are two other Razmirans, though with the masks you can't tell identities.
"A member of the faithful has shirked his duty and failed to tithe properly. Name's Welton Grompus, a prominent baker. Runs a nice place. If he's not willing to pay, maybe his place gets a little less 'nice' eh? The three of us'll keep watch, but you're to go inside, rough him up and break a few things. He owes 100 gold for his tithin', and I want at least that much damage done in addition to gettin' the money. Break his legs, break his stuff, but show him and anyone in the neighborhood that if you cross Razmir, bad things happen to you." Krant leans in and says a little quieter. "Do well at this and this might just be the trick that gets you out of the basements and into some proper rooms. Really shows your devotion, get me? Fail... Don't fail."
As a gesture of trust, Krant pulls a small chest out. Inside are your original gear, minus any holy symbols that aren't Razmiran.
"Questions, my sons?"
Pinball slips forward and grabs the bracelet, but nothing untoward seems to happen. You move to the north...
On the east end of this dim hallway, two staircases lead to the north and south but the one to the north has collapsed. A painting on the eastern wall depicts four figures guided along a path by a rat, a goat, a raven, and a hound. A rounded tunnel extends to the west, and glowing runes on the floor divide the floor into four areas. Stairs at the far end of the hall descend into a larger room, and a decrepit corpse wearing a silver amulet is splayed precariously across the upper steps.
As near as I can tell, no gear back yet. You haven't quite earned their trust...
1d20 ⇒ 15
Soran is quiet and Mikail is as light a touch as he knows, but no sooner have they begun moving the keys off than Krant lets out a tremendous belch and begins to waken. You slip quickly and quietly out of the room and back to the barracks, but it's no good: Krant is up now and is looking around with a confused, surly look. He clearly knows something woke him up and isn't sure what, but he doesn't look like he's going back to sleep soon. You watch, but he stands and stretches and heads toward the barracks to check on the initiates. You hide yourselves, pretending sleep, but he still begins to pace the hallway, some hidden trouble on his mind.
Another try or off to sleep?
4th—black tentacles, charm monster (DC 18), summon monster IV, acid pit, communal phantom steed
Satisfied that these rooms are bare, you head upwards, climbing the stairs. Broken columns line the perimeter of the flat roof of the low,
"No further, interlopers. No further or you die."'
The statue Theleb can identify as Belial: Desire and adultery are the areas of concern for Belial, ruler of the molten layer of Hell’s fourth circle, Phlegethon. His followers considered goats sacred.
There is a strange, fading magic aura on the forge, as well as a faint abjuration aura on a gold bracelet that has the head of a goat on it on the corpse.
Garret and Pinball bounce from pillar to pillar with nary a kipper scuffed. They look into the new room they've discovered. This hallway has staircases leading down to the north and west. The wide staircase to the west leads to a room illuminated by the warm glow of a small, fuel-less forge next to an eight-foot tall statue. The statue depicts a handsome, winged humanoid, though one side of his body is notably angelic and the other half fiendish. Skeletal remains in a red uniform lie in the middle of the room.
Pinball and Garret are across. What are the rest of you doing? The water does seem to be about 10' deep and has an oily sheen to it...
You slip out of the barracks, hearing Krant snore loudly, sprawled across a table with a wine bottle in his hands. You head down to the door between the staircases, through which you know there are the cells you were put in when you woke up here, but what else, you don't know. However, when you reach it, it's locked.
Down the stairs you go! At the bottom it opens up into a hallway. The echoing, lightless hall has a dark pool that extends most of its length. A walkway runs above the pool, but much of it has collapsed, leaving only the support pillars below. In the south, upon a platform at the end of the hall, stands a seven-foot-tall statue of a horned humanoid with a large, cryptic disc mounted upon its back. The hall turns to the west before the platform.
Theleb can identify the statue as Mammon: Hell’s treasurer and accountant, Mammon lurks in the dark, rat-infested sewers below Dis—a lightless realm called Erebus that is the third layer of Hell.
Krant seems to have imbibed a bit tonight, because he's not paying much attention. The scribe who is copying seems too intent on copying it correctly to notice your attentions. What you see is a list of amounts, grouped together under dates, that seem to show a lot of small amounts being brought in and every seven days or so, a large amount going out. Where it's going, you cannot discern. The scribe flips to the next page and it's about that time that you hear Krant coming closer, loudly berating another acolyte for having spilled ink on his parchment. You hustle back to your desks and resume the appearance of diligent work. After an hour or so, Krant suddenly claps his meaty hands together and announces bed time for you lot.
You march across the hall, back to the barracks where you sleep. Eight wooden double bunks rest in this room, each outfitted with simple straw mattresses and a thin blanket. A communal table sits in the center of the room, flanked by four chairs. Two chests lie open between the bunks, each one loaded up with fresh white robes. Pegs are mounted to the walls above the chests for the acolytes to hang their masks on when they are not wearing them. An everburning torch rests in a cloth-draped frame hanging from the ceiling above the table.
You're free until morning, but you better keep it quiet: Krant's sitting in the dining room across the hall, drinking.
Scrubbing is followed by afternoon prayer, which by now has grown somewhat repetitive to you, as Egarthis lectures on the steps to Razmir's love, and the importance of gaining wealth for the church, so it may continue its work.
Training follows prayer, though today, Krant's paunch is on full display as he begins to teach you of the proper way to 'encourage' charitable giving, even going so far as to teach the proper phrases and wording when speaking to the guardsmen so as to remind them of their obedience to Razmir. He never flat out says that the guard are being bribed, but there's a lot of 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean' to his speech. Finally after several hours of instruction, dinner is served. Dinner is a silent affair, when you are allowed to enjoy the meager beef stew, with its wilted vegetables and fatty inedible meat. You notice that Egarthis does not seem to eat with the others..
Prayers follow, with a final chore of transcription of holy texts for Razmir for several hours.
You notice that a few acolytes, who you've noticed are among the favored of Krant and Egarthis, seem to be copying other documents than the usual prayers to Razmir. They seem to consist of a series of numbers in transaction form, perhaps a ledger of some sort?
As you course the crowd, doing your level best to either impress the rubes or subtly disrupt the petty larceny of the Razmirans, Egarthis's booming voice sounds out.
"Friends! Let me speak to you of a god unlike any other! Of course some gods were once mortal, but they fled this world as soon as they could, spending their time lounging on other planes, content to grow fat from your worship. But one god was unlike all others. One god passed the test and looked upon his faithful and said 'Shall I flee this plane and leave my followers bereft and alone with my guidance? NO!' said Razmir! NO, I shall stay and guide my followers to prosperity! I shall raise them up with my wisdom and together, they shall join me in an earthly paradise here and now!"
Egarthis pauses and you can see some of the crowd begin to nod slowly. "Sure, other gods heal. Other gods grant prayers. They listen, don't they? Mere trickles. The lowest gift they could grant. You may as well give a starving man a candy and demand he be grateful. Razmir does not merely offer prayers and healing, he offers his presence, his divine being to you! He lifts you up, recreating you in his own divine image! And what does he ask? Your faith, dear friends. Nothing more."
Egarthis opens his arms, as if spreading Razmir's divine blessing. "He asks your faith and he asks you to act on that faith! He asks you to help your fellow man, to reach out to them, to help them up as Razmir helps you. And how do you do that, friends? By donating to his church. For alone you may help one or two souls, but together, together we can help all of them! And your donation does not go unrewarded, for does not Razmir say that charity is the investment in the future of us all? And will not wealth flow to him that gives of himself freely?"
He looks around at his masked priests, who hold out their begging cups. "Brothers and sisters. When you die, will your wealth buy you happiness? Will your silver console your soul? Of course not. But the wealth you will discover in Razmir will lift your soul high. The love of Razmir will raise you beyond this mortal life and help you into paradise now and forever! Give generously, my children! Give for the sakes of your souls and those of the ones you love. And let Razmir enter your hearts and make you truly wealthy!" He finishes by stepping down and embracing a nearby fellow who seems to have truly taken the message to heart.
The whole ordeal takes around an hour and at the end Egarthis leads you the party of Razmirans back to the house. Safely behind doors, Krant gathers the acolytes together and nods happily. "Good work my sons. A solid haul for the day. Here, you've earned this." He ladles four gold pieces into each of your hands with a sweaty palm and a greasy grin. "Now, the lot of you are late for cleaning. Get to work ye lazy swine!"
Sure enough you're back scrubbing floors, but Krant seems pleased enough by your take that he isn't paying a great deal of attention to you.
Theleb studies the painting. The paintings portray a battle between the troops and div allies of Ancient Osirion and the artificers and constructs of the Jistka Imperium. These two powerful nations clashed for several hundred years around –3000 ar, and the Jistkans eventually lost the prolonged conflict.
The chains parts like butter, falling to the ground with a clang! The door swings open, its creaking hinges showing it has not been opened recently.
Shadows cast by a blazing brazier behind a metal lattice to the south flitter across the wall paintings here, granting the images the illusion of haunted animation. A seven-foot-tall statue of a hunched, robed figure with three eyes and a mouth ringed with tentacles stands before the lattice.
Theleb knows that the statue depicts Barbatos: The current ruler of Avernus, the first level of Hell, Barbatos holds the keys to the gateways into Hell. He has dominion over birds that feast on the recent dead.
Need a knowledge history check for the painting!
The metal lattice that bars your way is rusted and looks like a solid shove or kick would push it aside. I'm going to assume you're proceeding and include the next antechamber as well!
A fiery brazier at the east end of the chamber makes the air uncomfortably hot and acrid. An eight-foot-tall statue of a devil with large, curved horns stands at the west end. Across from the metal lattice is a collapsed, descending staircase. An ancient skeleton is partially buried under the rubble.
Once again Theleb can identify the statue here as Dispater: The immense, iron-walled city of Dis, the second layer of Hell, is ruled by Dispater, Hell’s greatest politician and jailer. His followers revere hounds.
He has the following on him: potion of cat’s grace, potion of cure moderate wounds, wand of acid arrow (38 charges); Other Gear +1 light crossbow with 10 bolts, masterwork longsword, amulet of natural armor +1, ring of protection +1, master keys to every room in Ascanor Lodge, spell component pouch, spellbook (all prepared spells plus all 0-level spells, acid arrow, dimension door, and four additional spells of levels 1–4), 130 gp. I'll sort out the spells available for scribing tomorrow.
Risbeth also notices a few other things in the room. The surgical tools in the room are all made of solid silver, and the entire collection is worth 3,000 gp. A casual search of the room discovers a locked iron strongbox (Caesare can pop this easily). Stashed inside are a wand of spider climb with 34 charges and three wooden scroll cases decorated with fragile, colorful moth wings, preserved with unguent of timelessness. One scroll case contains pages of faded notes taken from the Desnan priest’s ancient journals, which provide a harrowing account of the priest’s attempts to cure his son of lycanthropy, as described on page 34. The second case holds an ancient scroll containing a communion ritual tat can be performed atop Highthrone (area E8) to activate the Dusk Moth. The third and final scroll case holds a scroll of remove disease (CL 12th).
The Priest's Tale:
For over 800 years, the temple administered to those of Desna’s faithful among the settlers of the Shudderwood, until the Whispering Tyrant came to Ustalav. At that time, the high priest of Desna at the temple had a single son whom he loved dearly. During the wars against the Whispering Tyrant, the priest’s son served as a missionary, but when he returned home some years later he had changed, for at some point he had contracted a particularly virulent strain of lycanthropy.
The priest tried everything he could to save his son. He imprisoned his son in a secret chamber beneath the temple and conducted experiments upon him, desperate to reverse the curse. When his research failed to yield positive results, these experiments turned dark and terrible. The priest developed a serum from his son’s blood that he used to infect his congregation with lycanthropy in order to study the disease’s effects. Over the generations, these afflicted werewolves’ offspring became natural werewolves, and their descendents now hunt the Shudderwood as the Mordrinacht tribe. When the temple fell to the armies of the Whispering Tyrant, consumed in mysterious pillars of white fire, death transformed the cleric’s wretched son into the undead vilkacis. The Stairs of the Moon was soon abandoned, and its memory wiped from the world at large.
Risbeth explodes into the room, her limbs flying. Her fist smashes the amulet around Estovion's neck and in seeming slow motion, she sees the thing fly off into the pit, breaking into dust as it goes. The dust lands upon an ancient skeleton half buried at the bottom and a sudden spectral sigh fills her ears. As if time stops, she sees the form of the vilcakis appear, hovering above the skeleton. It slowly morphs into a young man, his eyes older than they ought to be. He looks down at the skeleton, nods once and dissolves into moondust.
Estovion, still in slow motion, howls as the trinket is destroyed. Risbeth, now back to normal time, smashes him across the jaw as he spits teeths from a now ruined jaw! As he rocks back, a flash of glitter erupts over the wizard-lodge master! Will: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20 Estovion's closed eyes save him from being blinded, but just a second later, the world goes silent all around!
Bereft of spells, Estovion draws a fine looking longsword and awkwardly slashes at Risbeth! Attack!: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5 Risbeth easily dodges the swipe!
Caesare for round 1, then Risbeth, Sonny and the Professor for round 2!
A partition of iron bars divides this chamber. To one side, rows of shelves lined with bottles and beakers filled with strange fluids and jars containing powdered reagents and herbs surround a long stone surgical table. Another shelf holds a selection of tarnished surgical tools. On the far side of the bars, a 10-foot-deep pit sits in the floor of a crudely chiseled cave. Rusted manacles lie scattered about the floor near the edge of the pit.
Crouching in this room, in a state of madness, is Estovion, the Lodge Warden. His clothes are torn and bloodied and he has a wicked bite mark on his forearm. His eyes are wild and he springs up as soon as the door opens!
Prof Init: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26
The Professor, Risbeth and Sonny are up!
Garret examines the two Taldan statues. He frowns suddenly, looking at them closer. He can identify them as military leaders who served in Taldor’s Third Army of Exploration under General Coren. Unfortunately, all four died before the founding of Corentyn, which supposedly served as a launching point for the group that founded this colony. Clearly they're older than the should be, if this were the colony Cheliax claims it is.
Pinball, on the other hand, is drawn to the golden lion statues. She reaches out and picks at a spot that looks odd to her, and a large piece of plaster falls away! It looks as if someone covered the existing statues with plaster and a thin veneer of gold paint to make them look like lions! A few moments of picking reveals what looks like some sort of stern hound underneath the veneer. Knowledge Planes, please!
Having exposed the statues for frauds, Pinball walks over to the statue of Abadar. Something about it looks a little too good to be true, and sure enough when she touches it, the image of Abadar seems to become misty, revealing a set of double doors! The double door behind the illusion is made of metal. A serpent head is etched upon its surface. A chain with a padlock holds the door shut and looks quite aged.
Looking around the room, you see three more items from the list you were given:
If you interact with this..:
I need a Will Save.