Serpents Skull – Part 59

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Sanctum of the Serpent God – Welcome to Hunter’s Maze

Tabansi’s Journal, Part 59

With the two Meladaemons having fled via teleportation, only Urdefhan are left to defend the ledge where the Hunter’s Maze is found. We actually found ourselves defending the ledge from counter-attack, as a couple of Urdefhan came up the ramp from the ruins below, stopping at the barricade.

Athazog was able to charge around the barricade using air walk, delivering a solid blow to one and allowing me to finish it off with some well placed arrows. Ek’Tura’s Movanic Deva confronts the second one, which leaps off the edge of the ramp, using feather fall to land safely below and scurrying into the cover of the ruins.

That left only the Urdefhan over the other side of Derek’s Wall of Fire. We make good use of our air walks to go around or over the flaming walls, and quickly drive the Urdefhan back into the tunnels where they are killed.

This left us standing outside what appeared to be the main entrance to the Maze – a 15′ wide passage flanked by a couple of coiled serpent statues with shining gemstones for eyes. Back from the entrance though was a pen, built out of stone serpentine posts strung with wire. Within, where fifteen Morlocks, all sitting or standing morosely and ignoring everything that was going on. Amongst them was another Urdefhan, well dressed in armour and still carrying a rhoka sword and a bow. Ek’Tura recognised him as the Urdefhan general Belkor, who we had been tasked with killing by the Urdefhan leader Izon.

Much like the Morlocks, Belkor seems to be under some heavy enchantment, since there is little really stopping any of them from leaving. Some magical detection showed that the enchantment effect was on them rather than the area, though Ek’Tura eventually found a Symbol of some kind on the other side of the pen’s gate.

Not sure whether the enchantment will end as soon as we get the general out, we first attempt to rescue a Morlock. Air Walking to above the pen, Derek and Ek’Tura use a rope to haul a Morlock out. Even freed from the pen it seems unresponsive to attempts to communicate, and just sits on the ground quietly.

So we attempt the same with the general, though first we relieve him of his weapons and manacle him to ensure he doesn’t try to kill us. Once rescued he is also apparently mindless.

This potentially left us with a problem, since the Urdefhan leader had promised to aid us against the Serpentfolk if we killed Belkor for him. Eando Kline seemed to think that we needed as much aid as we possibly could get against the Serpentfolk, so it was important for us to keep Izon on our side.

From Ek’Tura’s previous scryings, there seemed to be some complicated politics going on which might make General Belkor more useful to us alive than dead. However, as a team we had never been great at politics, and the only one of us who might have some qualms about simply killing Belkor now we had him as our prisoner was Derek. As far as he was concerned though, Belkor was an evil outsider, and probably nonredeemable ever by the bright light of Sarenae.

So Athazog attempted to remove Belkor’s head, though failed to succeed on the first attempt. I put an arrow into him, but he still didn’t die. Until Athazog’s second strike, Belkor just lay there not really responding, then tried to bite at Athazog’s ankles – getting his teeth in and turning his leg transparent. At this point Athazog starts hacking at Belkor, trying to kill him, and a final shot from my bow causes him to finally die in a burst of negative, life-draining energy.

With Belkor dead, we suddenly realise that Arkin has wandered off to climb up the serpent statues and is trying to pry the gemstone eyes out of the statues. They are too firmly embedded for Arkin to get out though, so Ek’Tura goes to help him. Whilst they are doing this, I notice a quick glimpse of a jackal headed daemon appear in the air above us – I shout out to the others, and it quickly teleports away again.

This leaves us with a decision – whether to go back to return the head of General Belkor to Izon, or to head into the tunnels to try and find the Hunter’s Maze (and presumably the weapon that can be used against the Serpentfolk’s god). We vaguely decide on the latter, leaving the rest of the Morlocks inside the pen for now.

The passage leads deep into the side of the cavern wall, and is decorated with unrecognisable symbols of serpentfolk design. It ends at a short flight of steps up, and a closed set of doors. Arkin bravely opens the door to reveal – more corridor.

So we head down, but after we take a few steps in the doors slam shut behind us, revealing a Symbol carved onto the inner surface of the doors. At this point I drop my bow and flee in terror – as does Ek’Tura. We rush down the corridor until we read another set of closed doors, where Ek’Tura desperately tries to open them, and I cower against them.

Fortunately Derek is there with his magic, and is able to suppress the terror that has gripped us both. He tells us that the suppressing will only last a minute or so. I think that we should wait until we know both Ek’Tura and myself are free of the effects of the Symbol, but Ek’Tura is keen to press on as quickly as possible.

Player’s Note: I start trying to track time at this point, so I know when to put my bow away so I don’t drop it again if the fear suddenly grips me again.

The door in front of us seems to be barred from the other side, and attempts to open it are met with failure. Ek’Tura says that he will Dimension Door us to the other side, but I point out that if there is another Symbol on the other side of the door, it’s just going to hit us all again. So he Disintegrates the door.

Beyond is another corridor, with a flight of steps which leads up to a large room about 45ft across. The floor in the middle of the room is covered with a set of gold inlaid tiles etched with runes, and beyond are two large serpent statues which look like they have been defaced. Other stairs lead down to the left and right.

Within the room is another (or maybe one of the same?) Meladaemon, as well as several Urdefhan. As is usual for us, Athazog charges up the stairs, and Derek calls down a Flamestrike on the creatures.

The daemon hits us with waves of fatigue, and we are forced to fight them from the stairway, which doesn’t give me very many clear shots from the bottom. There is even less room when Ek’Tura summons an earth elemental, and then soon follows it up by calling Black Tentacles to fill the area of the room, grasping at the daemon and Urdefhan.

Player’s Note: We find the Urdefhan are particularly annoying, since there are always quite a few of them, and they are particularly hard to kill. Not only do they have quite decent ACs, they seem to have over 150 hitpoints, and it takes several rounds to kill each one in a slow battle of attrition.

It is then that everything does suddenly black, and we are all left unable to see anything through the darkness created by the daemon. From somewhere in the room a voice suddenly bellows:

“Welcome to the Hunter’s Maze, your task is to survive three hours. At that point the doors will be opened and you will be victorious.”

Not being able to see, I try to put arrows through the place the daemon was, but I don’t think I hit anything. Derek is able to generate a Nimbus of Light, which lights up the stairway and the immediate space at the top of the stairs. There is no sign of the daemon, but the Urdefhan are still struggling within the tentacles.

We gradually wear them down, and Ek’Tura dispels the tentacles so that we can get into the room and finish off the Urdefhan. At least one flees down the stairs at the far end of the room, but the rest are killed.

Just as I am thinking that it may be time to have a good panic, and put my bow away so I don’t drop it, Ek’Tura yells out in fear and starts running for some stairs. Athazog sticks out his foot and trips him up, and I call out for someone to grab me and stop me from fleeing.

Whilst Athazog grabs Ek’Tura, and Derek grabs me just as terror takes over again, Arkin cautiously explores the stairway at the back of the room, and notices an Urdefhan still lurking there. He darts down the stairs to finish him off, and the earth elemental heads that way as well.

Player’s Note: Most of the party is distracted either being filled with terror, or trying to stop those that are from fleeing alone into the Maze. None of us notice that Arkin is fighting the Urdefhan more or less alone, and is getting perilously close to death.

Pinned by Derek, but filled with terror, I try to escape by turning gaseous. Unfortunately at that point Ek’Tura decides that the only way out is by triggering his Getaway spell. Arkin is out of range, so both Athazog and Derek ignore it to try and stay behind to help him, but seeing it as a way out of here, I go along with Ek’Tura, leaving the rest of our comrades behind in the Maze.

Samuel Penn