Guidance of the Serpent

DM: Lee
Players: Balnor the Lesser, Jeyya, Hoftar,
Henchmen: Yoden, Cinora
Needfest 3rd to Fireseek 3rd, Second Year In-Game
Destination, Red Hand Rock

GP: 93.7.5/share
XP: 221 XP/share

[Hoftar telling a tale to some adventurers at Rausham’s]

It was the second day of Needfest and we were sitting around some brew at Rausham’s picking our next plot, and we had decided to head to Red Hand Rock on account of Jeyya saying something about some powerful artifacts in the hands of kobolds yadda yadda – I didn’t listen too much since kobolds aren’t much fun to fight, but I was still, since Jeyya’s a friend and all I’m alright to go. Hells take me though if I left in the middle of the darkest week of the year – and besides, I’d promised Yffia that I’d help with the ceremonies – so we waited till the festival was over.

Then, first day of Fireseek, right after the midnight toast to the old year and prayers for the new, we set out on that elvish fisherman’s boat for the Rock. I tell you what – ain’t nothing like soft rocking of a boat, a warm cloak and some booze in your belly to help you sleep, even if it’s cold as the grave out. Wasn’t that bad of a day for winter anyhow, I think that’s a good sign it’ll be a good year ahead.

A full day of travel later, just a couple hours into the morning, and they woke me up to guide the smaller boat to the Rock. I was just a shade prideful that, despite my comparative night-sight deficiencies, I guided that boat right and true to the scaffolding below the Rock using naught but the pale blue of Celene to guide me.

Right as I tied us off and the others were working out a plan of attack, we heard something, like chittering, on the cliff above, and those of us whose eyes could see through the night said they saw something up there. Jeyya tried to cast some sort of spell, but I don’t think it worked since I could see the surprise on her face even through the darkness. Didn’t have much time to think about it though, since a big old log fell on me right after that! Hurt to the hells, but by the time I got my wits about me the sorceress had cast another spell, and now our foe was lit up in this eerie green light. I missed with my bow-shot, but Cinora is a deadeye with that sling of hers and caught it right on the thigh with one of those magic pebbles of hers, throwing it off balance and into the waters next to us.

Cinora later said she smelled the death on the thing as it flew past us, but I didn’t want to waste even a second of deliberation and climbed up the scaffolding before anyone could say otherwise. While I was waiting for the others up there, another one came out of the dark. I could see it then that this thing had been a long time dead – it stunk of the rot that had ripped off its flesh and this long snake tongue on it looked like there would be nothing more please to it than lapping up my blood. Didn’t last long thought, as I cut right through the devil in a single slice of old Cutty. The others got up after that, with me holding a rope from the boat to haul up the scholastic types.

Jeyya sent out some sort of creature to spot the land for us, and said there wasn’t a soul around the top of the Rock and that the bridge had been cut from the other side, which didn’t bode well at all. She spied out the Kobold Cave too, and found only a pair of ghouls inside, but she found some secret storeroom that could be accessed by the waters at the bottom of the Rock. We got back in the boat then, and I stripped down to just my skivvies, the Dwarvern Diving ring, a handaxe and a dagger from Balnor, with some warm spell to stave off the cold as a healing spell to repair the damage from the fallen log both given by the cleric Yoden and some magical light wreathing the dagger. I jumped in with some guidance of where the entrance was from Jeyya, and only had to resurface once to re-up the magical light.

I swam up this tunnel and took a left to get to the storeroom, and, praying there wasn’t any greeting party on the other side, pulled myself up with the dagger in my teeth. It was a hell of a fortuitous find a barrel of lamp oil and, more importantly, a crate of spicy beetles, although I knew the others probably woulnd’t appreciate the bugs as much as I did. I got back to the boat as quick as I could with the loot, and we rowed back to the scaffolding and climbed back up.

This time we decided to go to Kobold Cave, so I held the rope to lower everyone down on, then climbed down the slick handholds myself. Right as I took the lead and started down the steps to this main-room, two of those damn ghouls spied me and charged. I swear those fools were the best dead fighters I’d ever seen, as they lashed out at me six times and I only dodged one. I don’t know what happened next, as I blacked out, but when I came to the ghouls were dead and I was feeling pretty hurt, so Yoden healed me up again. We moved forward then, and knocked through some crates laying around to find some more beetles among other things, and then descended the stairs into the strangest temple I have ever seen.

There were snakes all around with oak leaves too, and a large serpent wrapped around an altar in the middle. It seemed a bit like a temple to the Shalm, but… wrong. Too many snakes, I think. Cinora thought it strange as well, and said it seemed too creepy to be a temple to Obad-Hai, but she looked awful confused about it. She and I stood watch while the others used some magic to haul out loot that had been left behind some trapped doors during the last time Jeyya was here. They came back with four carved candlestick holders and a pile of those candles that I’d heard their friends had been using to help heal broken limbs, which is mighty helpful.

We debated the nature of the place, and whether to take the glowing obsidian from the altar in the temple, but couldn’t come to a conclusion as to whether that would be an insult to Obad-Hai or if the temple itself was an insult due to the twisted nature of its worship for him. Right as were about to leave, though, Cinora takes one of the candlestick holders and place a candle in it, lights it, and kneels before altar to say a prayer:

Most sacred Father of Oak and Cedar, Seeds and Forests, Bounty and Soil. Lend us your wisdom, that we may do your bidding, that we may know your will. The dead walk this place and set foot before an altar to you, while serpents writhe among your leaves. Do you wish this place worshiped, or removed?

And then – Reaper [Hoftar spits] take me if I lie – the serpent pulled its head from the altar without a sound and turned to face that hole left behind where the fountain once stood, and it spit venom at it with the foulest hiss I had ever heard in my life.

I was too shocked to make sense of what had happened, but Cinora walked over to the darkness and shouted “You hear me you rotting bastards? Cinora is coming for you!” and tried to climb down before we calmed her. I’m all up for cleaning that place out, but not before we heal up and come back with fresh spells from the magic folks. And with more priests. A lot more priests.

Before we left, though, we rowed out a bit to the shipwreck and I dived down to explore it. Besides the wood, the only thing left behind was a stone altar to some weather god – Yoden later said it was a Talus. I hacked at the wood around it for an hour or so, and then we hauled it back up to the boat. It was in fine condition, for having been underwater for so long, and fetched a good price from a ship captain here in town.

With the sun coming up and some spicy beetles settling nicely in my belly, it was an awful good morning. We headed back with the morning sun to warm us, and a nice breakfast of those beetles to those who could stomach them. It was a good time to reflect. With a little loot, some good food, a fierce fight and a new mission; this is going to be a good year, I thought – a good year indeed.

Special Note: If any of the characters present on this adventure are also present when the darkness below the temple is removed, they get 150 bonus XP, except Cinora who would get 300 bonus XP instead.