Monday, February 27, 2017

"The Wrath of Baphomet" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 42

Zilna Oakshadow, the only female spy of the Lord's Alliance to accompany the expedition, huddled with her companions along the wall as the demon-lord Baphomet appeared in the chamber of the Maze Engine.  Of the two other spies, Feral was unconscious and bleeding and Hilvius was barely conscious.

The sight of the bestial monstrosity that was Baphomet struck fear into her soul. The beast was over twenty feet tall and covered in reddish black shaggy fur. Its head was like a goat and adorned with a rack of massive metallic growths that could be horns or could be antlers. A brilliant ball of flame magically burned just above the top of its head. Its eyes glowed like embers. Glowing yellow drool hung from its tusks. It carried in its massive clawed hands a mighty glaive. 

Despite her best effots, Zilna could not help but scream in terror at the sight of the hideous demon!

Baphomet turned its head away from the Maze Engine and glared at the three spies. 

Zilna stood over her fallen comrade Feral, shielding his body. Hilvius managed to drag himself to a standing position. Both spies took aim at the demon lord with their crossbows.

Baphomet brought the glaive Heartcleaver down upon Hilvius, killing the bookish spy instantly. Baphomet let go of his glaive with one hand and grabbed Zilna. He picked her up, bit off her head, and threw her body into the lake of fire at the bottom of the cavern.

Feral lay on the ground, his breathing becoming shallower, shallower. With his last ounce of strength, Feral managed to open his eyes. Baphomet glowered at the dying human. With his last breath Feral hissed, "Pass...." 

Feral went limp and died. 

Baphomet turned and charged the Maze Engine. 


Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
all the components save for the tinmask mushrooms
from the footsteps of a demon.

Before that, they must activate 
the Maze Engine, an ancient modron device
before it is found and destroyed
by the Demon-Lord Baphomet

Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet) Gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip. Killed by Vrocks.
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Killed by Baphomet.
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Bookish spy with an off-putting voice and manner. Killed by Baphomet.
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

DM Note - Pain and Cordon were absent this week. 

Willow, Pain, and Ront had taken shelter on the far side of the Maze Engine and watched in horror as Baphomet killed the spies cowering by the entrance. Pain had fainted from fright at the sight of the Baphomet teleporting into the room. Willow asked Ront how he was doing. 

"Ront knows not fear!" was his defiant reply.

Willow grabbed the unconscious Pain by the arm and mounted her magical flying broom. She carried the halfling down towards the side tunnel Slaughtertusk had used to escape located thirty feet below the Maze Engine. The Shield Guardian retreated past the machine and was climbing down the side of the sinkhole in search of the escape tunnel.

Ront started pulling levers and pushing buttons in an attempt to operate the Maze Engine.  Despite his lack of training in the arcane arts, his random actions caused the device to begin to spin. Suddenly, a purple shockwave flashed from the device, buffeting Ront. Ront managed to hold on and nearly collapsed. He fell to one knee and took a deep panting breath.

DM Note - Ront took 10d6+40 force damage! If the damage reduced the character to zero hit points, the character is distegrated. Altough Ront was reduced to zero hit points, being a half-orc barbarian, he was instead reduced to one hit point! 

Willow reached the tunnel and found, to her amazement, Valerius and the mercenaries from the Order of the Gauntlet, "How did you get here?"

"We were trying to follow your clues and got lost. Are we close to the Maze Engine?"

"It's right there," she yelled, pointing up out of the tunnel's exit, "But we've got to go! Baphomet's here! Can you help Ront?"

Valerius moved to the tunnel's exit and saw Ront up above. The paladin of nature disappeared in a puff of silver fog and immediately reappeared next to Ront. He laid his hands upon the orc and reinvorated the barbarian's will to live.

Baphomet charged the Maze Engine, slamming into it and knocking it from its precarious perch at the top of the hour-glass shaped sinkhole that fell away into a lake of lava. The entire device, wedged between both walls, began sliding slowly down towards the fiery lake.

Ront lost his footing on the device and began to fall. Valerius dropped his shield and managed to grab the falling orc but the paladin lost his own footing and the two plummeted into the lake of lava a hundred feet below. 

Baphomet stood on the edge of the sinkhole and watched the device slide slowly down towards the lake of lava. It was out of his reach but he knew its fate was sealed. The Maze Engine would be destroyed soon enough.

The two warriors hit the viscous lava. The pudding-like consistency of the lava cushioned their fall but their lightweight bodies failed to break the surface tension of the lava's skin. Ronts unconscious body began to burn. Valerius screamed in pain as he, too, caught fire. He heroically grabbed his companion and cast a spell of healing. The spell triggered the chaotic faerzress and teleported Valerius and Ront out of the lava. Valerius quickly grabbed Ront and held onto the side of the rock wall, dangling twenty feet over the lava lake. 

Willow flew down on her broom and took Ront from Valerius. The Maze Engine continued its slide down the sinkhole. Valerius prayed for the spirits of nature for aid but to no avail. The faerzress, however, once again teleported him. Valerius found himself standing in the mouth of the escape tunnel waiting for Willow and Ront to join him.

Willow carried Ront into the tunnel and all three watched as the Maze Engine continued its descent, eventually sinking into the lava with a hissing popping mechanical explosion of screws, cogs, gears, pistons, and compressed gases. 

Baphomet released a howl of victory that shook the chamber and echoed for many minutes through the many tunnels of the Labyrinth. 

Baphomet had won. The Maze Engine was destroyed.

Having completed what he came to do, Baphomet beat his chest a few times and left the chamber, returning to the maze of the Labyrinth.

The party waited below in the escape tunnel. Once they were confident the demon-lord had left, Willow hopped on her flying broom and explored what was left of the cavern of the Maze Engine. She retrieved what was left of the bodies of Feral, Hilvius, and Zilna, as well as the remains of the modrons. Their bodies were ceremoniously cremated in the lava below.

Willow retrieved the wand that was summoned forth by the Maze Engine. She later determined it was a Wand of Fear.

Once they were done, the party retreated to the camp where Valerius had left Cordon. He explained that Cordon had come down with crypt cough and needed to rest so he left Cordon and the pack lizards in a safe defensible location.

The party rested. Ront had reached the limit of his physical endurance.

While he rested, Ront received a vision. He was standing in a massive cavern filled with softly glowing moss and fungi. He saw Sovereign Basidia, leader of the myconid renegades that had fled Neverlight Grove. Ront had no body, he was not really there.

Sovereign Basidia had established a long-range rapport with Ront, Kettle, and Angolwen, the only surviving members of the party that helped the renegades escape Neverlight Grove.

Basidia explained that the demon-queen Zuggtmoy had left Neverlight Grove and was making her way to the center of the sleeping kingdon-sized fungal entity known as Auromycos. She was planning to join herself to Auromycos in a demonic "wedding" ritual. If she were to do so, she would be able to turn the entire world into a land of fungus and decay.

Basidia needed their help. The myconid needed them to journey to Auromycos and rapport with the entity themselves before Zuggtmoy did. If they could awaken Auromycos, they might be able to convince it to resist Zuggtmoy.

Ront agreed to help. Kettle and Angolwen would have helped but they were too far away.

Basidia thanked Ront and implanted within the orc's mind the location of their next meeting. Ront had to hurry. Zuggtmoy was already en route.

The journey from the Maze Engine to the heart of Auromycos comprised a distance of about 360 miles. The tablet of Garmin provided some assistance and allowed the party to cover about twelve miles before needing to rest.

A quarter into their journey, they left the straight mine shafts of the Labyrinth and entered the more natural lava tubes, dry riverbeds, caverns, and grottos of the natural Underdark. A short while later they began to notice yellow slime dripping from the walls. Soon after they they could tell that the walls and floors of the passages were carpeted in lichens, molds, and fungi. The surfaces were covered in mushrooms and fungal growths of all sorts. Valerius felt the presence of an immense life form. Every mushroom and fungus they saw was an extension of a single entity - Auromycos!

Soon after entering Auromycos' domain Ront, who was scouting ahead, returned to report that he had seen a quivering mass of air ahead - a gelatinous cube was blocking the passage before them. It was moving away from them.

They followed the cube for several hours. Like most gelatinous cubes, it moved very slowly. They hoped the cube would take an alternate route. To their dismay, they noticed that it was taking the exact same route as they.

Willow rolled her eyes and cast a fireball spell at the transparent mass. It exploded within the creature causing bubbles of hot gases to boil out of it. It turned and advanced on Ront. Ront slashed at the creature but was able to avoid its attacks. Willow threw small attack spells at the creature and it eventually dissolved into goo.

They advanced and found another gelatinous cube behind it. They sighed and proceeded to destroy the second cube. This continued five more times. It was unprecedented to see seven gelatinous cubes in so tight a formation and curious that they all seemed to be traveling towards a common goal - in the same direction as their destination.

Just over halfway to their destination, the expedition's rest was interrupted by the approach of three hook horrors. Each of the hook horrors shambled slowly. Mushrooms sprouted from their brains. Behind them were a contingent of dancing myconids and sprouts. The myconids offered to share the gift of the Lady with the expedition. They politely refused. The myconids continued on their way.

After resting, the expedition came across three black puddings feeding on Auromycos. The cavern was stripped bare, exposing the naked rock. The party carefully avoided disturbing the puddings.

A few rests later, they encountered a myconid camp, this time accompanied by drow spore servants. The party pretended to be spore servants, shambling and swaying to unheard music. Only Ront failed to convince the myconids of his infection. One of the myconids sprayed its spores onto Ront. Ront sputtered but moved on with the others. Ront was relieved to later learn that he had not contracted the myconid brain spores. 

After a long journey over hundreds of miles, the expedition arrived at the location indicated by Basidia. There they found Basidia waiting for them. Next to Basidia stood old friends Stool and Rumpadump.

Basidia reiterated the plan. The myconid said that the heart of Auromycos was near, less than a two leagues away. But Zuggtmoy had arrived also and was preparing her ritual. They would have to hurry. Basidia would spray them with his special rapport spores, allowing them to communicate telepathically with the sleeping Auromycos. They had to wake the entity and warn it of Zuggtmoy's treachery. Basidia warned them, however, that while he slept Auromycos was protected by guardians. They would have to be wary!

Before they could continue, the expedition was suddenly attacked by four black puddings! 

Ront charged left, cleaving a pudding into two smaller puddings. Valerius followed him and cut the second pudding into two. 

The other two puddings converged onto Willow. She cast an attack spell, blasting them with a cone of cold and ice, but with no effect. Once Ront and Valerius finished chopping their puddings into tiny bits, they ran to help Willow. 

Soon all the puddings were destroyed.  Basidia commented on the strangeness of so many puddings so close to Auromycos. Valerius told the myconid sovereign of their earlier encounters. The paladin believed that the same demon-lord that created the Pudding King in Blingdenstone was at work here, perhaps in an effort to disrupt the coming union. 

With no time left to lose, the expedition rushed headlong towards Auromycos. 

They entered into a large cavern, larger than the greatest coliseum or arena. The cavern was filled with mushrooms of all sizes and dominated by a great forest of zurkhwoods ahead of them.

They were in the chamber of Auromycos!

Before they could act, tentacles fungal monsters arose out of the spongy floor. They were the guardians of Auromycos that protected him while he slept.