Previously, on Phoenix Rising…
… The smallest one of the fire creatures appeared to be the most skilled since it was casting fireballs and other spells at the party. But once the party was getting close to it, it disappeared from view. It seemed it had left the battle. But the other three huge fire creatures were not push-overs either. Their blows delivered crushing damage and had the chance of catching their targets on fire as well…
Our heroes were able to keep Kel alive amidst battling the fire elementals. The monsters were quite tough and were slowly whittling away at our heroes defenses. But just after the first elemental was killed, the creature that had disappeared earlier made his presence known. It touched Zerak and he felt a dizzying swirling sensation and his vision started to go black. Then he saw what looked like an entire sea of fire opening up before him. He struggled and fought the sensation of being pulled into it and after what seemed like forever, was finally able to break himself free from the grasp of the spell that had been cast upon him.
He then recovered his wits and cast a spell to help him see invisible things and that’s when he saw that creature standing right next to Jobi. He cried out to her but the creature touched her as well – thankfully its spell had no effect on her. It then started after Blackwell. So Zerak started casting lightning bolts at it and Jobi used her cold spells against it.
Meanwhile, Kel, Asphodel, and Zola had finally beaten down the last two fire elementals and turned their attentions to the last remaining creature. Asphodel was able to break free from her uncontrollable rage and was fatigued, but still went after the last creature and used her breath weapons on it. And soon that creature also fell. After the battle the group did a lot of healing wounds, searching the areas, and also cleaning up the defilement of Aeroden’s temple/shrine. In addition to the mithral dagger, Blackwell had found a large iron key.
Our heroes rested after that and then Kel casted a consecrate spell on the temple altar to help re-purify the area to the now dead god. The whole area seemed brighter and more cheerful afterwards – at least as cheerful as a crematorium can be that is. And after they had gathered themselves up, they consulted with Kel to see where and what they should explore next. Kel decided that the best course of action was to investigate the seven similar small buildings within the complex. Each one, except the one in the middle, had locked black iron gates with large stone doors behind – all facing toward the center of the compound. The central building had its doors facing south. In most of them what they found was the following:
Each internal wall has nine stacked interment vaults, a total of twenty-seven in all. The dates of death on these vaults fall between 3754 and 4050. None bear full names, only first initials (such as P. Adella, A.G. Adella, etc.). The limestone sarcophagus at the center of each crypt bears an epitaph in its surface, but the effects of time have rendered these illegible.
The central mausoleum was a bit different though:
The epitaph on the lid of its central sarcophagus reads: “Marcus Iulius Adella, 3711–3758, Great Patriarch of Our Clan, Died Valiantly at the Battle of Istavala Vale Saving Prince Abelard from the Undead Hordes of the Whispering Tyrant, Earning the King’s Gratitude. Herein Lies Our Claim to Nobility. May Great Woe Befall Any Who Would Violate His Most Sacred Rest.”
The lid was also slightly askew and with a little bit of pushing they moved it far enough to reveal a set of stairs inside instead of a mummified body. They definitely believed that this was important to look into but thought it wise to check out the rest of the buildings in the compound before venturing down to who knew where. So they left this building and took a look into the three larger buildings.
The western mausoleum is crafted of green marble, the entrance carved to mimic the maw of a ravenous lion. The 50 foot diameter medusa head carved into the floor depicts the howling medusa crest of the Sardisi clan – which was the conclusion they came to since a marble block at the north end of the octagonal shaped building had the words Clan Sardisi engraved into it.
The central building is constructed of pale granite and decorated with numerous bas-relief carvings of nautical scenes from the Grand Campaign. the 50 foot medusa head carved into the floor depicts the mocking medusa, its forked tongue extended and was dedicated to the Voxus clan of the Adella family.
The eastern building is of gray basalt, and unlike its sister buildings is plain and functional in design. Chiseled above the entry arch is the phrase, “The Living Make Their Plans; the Dead Watch, Amused.” The 50 foot diameter medusa head carved into the floor depicts the cross-eyed medusa which was for the Daellum clan.
In each of the buildings they noticed that if they stepped onto the medusa heads in the center of each room, they began having similar feelings as they did when they were teleported into the coffins, so they made note not to step on them for any length of time. A detect magic spell did reveal that each area was infused with conjuration magic.
Satisfied that there was nothing else of note on the surface, they decided to head down the stairs inside the coffin to see what lay beneath. After what had to be more than a hundred feet of steep staircase to traverse, they finally found themselves in an ancient chamber:
The walls of this room are brick. The ceiling is twenty-five feet above, and from its center hangs a ghastly chandelier, made entirely of skulls and bones. A pair of tapestries flanks a corridor that exits to the east, so ancient that the fabric retains only hints of the original color and the scenes they depict are insubstantial. Written on the stone above the archway seems to be some sort of phrase, although letters seem to be all strung together. The phrase written above the exit from this room reads: “SOONENOUGHYETOOSHALLSLEEP.” The room’s lone sarcophagus is made of plain limestone and the fitted lid is without mortar and somewhat askew, as though replaced in haste. Carved in its surface is: “Marcus Junius Adella, 3711–3758, Hero of Taldor, Patriarch.” Along the lid’s edge are the words, “While my bones rest peacefully here, the guardians need not protect me.”
The catacombs beyond the archway are composed primarily of narrow, low-ceilinged (8 feet) corridors riddled with burial niches. Some host one or two full skeletons in tattered rags; others are packed with bones stacked in an artful, if grisly, manner—one niche may hold nothing but thigh bones, another jawbones, another an array of vertebrae. Some of the walls feature decorative brickwork, others are adorned with frescoes, and still others have bones and skulls mortared into place as though they were the most convenient and mundane building materials. The air is stale, and all areas are lit as though by flickering torchlight, though no such illumination can be found.
The heroes made their way along the southern branch of the catacombs and explored slowly, making sure they did not run into any traps or missed anything of significance. Blackwell led the way with Asphodel close behind him (but not too close, just in case the accident prone rogue set off an electrical trap which seemed he was apt to do). The western passage ultimately ended in a dead end and they were forced to backtrack and continue eastward. After passing a couple northern passages their searching led them to find a secret door on the southern wall within one of the burial niches. Once opened it revealed the following chamber, much to their surprise:
This room appears to be a beautifully decorated bathhouse, complete with a large pool of crystal-clear water that dominates the center of the room. A pair of stone statues depicting reclining medusas decorate niches to the east and the west, while a large caption along the southern wall reads, in the common tongue, “Have you ever beheld a smiling face and not named it beautiful?” Lounging within the large pool of water at the far end is a strange-looking creature. “She” appears to be, and not to be a medusa. Once the door opened, she looked up as our heroes were beginning to enter her bathhouse and said in a serpentine-like voice, “Oh good! Visitors! Fresh meat.” And then she began advancing through the water towards the invading group.
That’s all we have time for today. Tune in next week when we’ll find out the answer to the question: Can stone statues really swim?