It took them a week to get there and they arrived on October 3rd. Although back home, it might have been autumn, here the climate was a pleasant Mediterranean one, with blue skies, sunshine and warm waters.
Lydia headed straight for the headquarters of her order, suggesting that Alagon accompany her as this was a matter that concerned paladins and all warriors of virtue. On the way, Alagon had the strange experience of hearing a voice inside his head, urging him to attack and destroy anything evil. He realised that it was his sword, the Holy Avenger, talking to him telepathically. The sword identified itself as Whitefyre and told Alagon how much it was looking forward to smiting evil.
At the paladins’ HQ, Lydia vouched for Alagon as a fellow holy warrior, and they managed to get the others admitted. The senior paladin was surprised by Lydia’s appearance; he realised that she had encountered some serious undead and promised that if she survived the forthcoming mission, he would see if they could find some rejuvenating magic for her. This came as good news for Alagon; he had been forming a close relationship with Lydia but now had to come to terms with the fact that she was old enough to be his mother.
The senior paladin explained that nearly a thousand years ago, a powerful magic user had embarked on a process that would eventually lead to his becoming immortal and acquiring the powers of a devil. This process involved a chrysalis which would complete his transformation over a period of nine hundred years, a period that was now almost up. The party’s mission, if they chose to accept it, was to find the chrysalis, believed to be on an island in the Southern Ocean and destroy it. Lydia, of course, accepted immediately and Alagon was keen to join her quest. The rest of the party decided to go along for the ride.
Before they left, the senior paladin told them that the order had attempted a divination to find out more about the location of the chrysalis. It had not been particularly successful, but he gave them the short verse that had resulted from the spell. It read:
Ancient guardian lies in wait
Mongst the weeds, hard by the gate
Snapping mouth and vap’rous breath
Bring a searing, grisly death
Mighty Shassar is its name
Known by men as Sailor’s Bane
They made their way down to the docks to hire a boat and crew. On the way, they bumped into Ferros, who they had not seen since entering the city. He explained that he had not been allowed to bring his zombies and skeletons into Vergez and had eventually decided to leave them outside. Once he was in the city, he was contacted by a representative of the church of Foik, who informed him that he had been selected to set up a new temple nearby. He would therefore be leaving the party forthwith and would not be accompanying the party on their latest mission.
(DG note – this arrangement had to be made because Ferros’ player had chosen not to rejoin the campaign after the exams break. Along with Garry the Gnome’s player, they now had other commitments; we wished them well and thought it best not to NPC their characters, since they might want to come back at some point).
The party managed to find a ship for hire and a crew to go with it. After some argument about whether to pay a crew or steer it themselves (quickly abandoned when nobody had the right skills to do so), they set off on the journey into the Southern Ocean.
A week later, the lookout in the crow’s nest sighted land on the horizon; not a very large piece of land but land nonetheless. As they got closer, it became clear that it was a rocky island and waves were breaking some way from its shores. Alurax sent Eristar off to see what she could discover and send the results back to him. He reported that the island was surrounded by a coral reef, apart from one narrow entrance. There was also a small area of beach on one part of the island which suggested the party’s landing point.
Elysia was keen to use her Fly spells to ferry the party across the reef-enclosed lagoon but Alurax took the initiative and ordered the captain to sail through the gap in the coral and head for the beach. The ship slipped into the lagoon and as it made its way towards the beach, Alurax’s Trident of Warning started to pulse an alert. The fighter concentrated on what it was sending and soon realised that a huge dragon turtle was heading straight for the ship.
|Awesome Mini or what?|
Elysia and Alurax clambered up onto the side of the ship as the dragon turtle headed towards them for a third attack. This time, it reared up its head and blasted Elysia and the sailors with scalding steam; because of the damage that it had already taken, this was not as bad as it could have been. The sailors leapt into the water, as did Elysia. Alurax ran along the hull of the ship and leapt onto the dragon turtle’s head, trying to stab at it with his trident. He missed. Meanwhile, Elysia used a Polymorph Self spell to turn into a smaller dragon turtle so that she could communicate with the monster. She pleaded with it to allow them to pass because they were trying to destroy an ancient and evil magic user. The dragon turtle declared that it was loyal to Maldred, who had given it the lagoon for its own and refused to aid the party. As it prepared to blast Elysia in the water, Alurax stabbed at it again with his trident and this time, he was successful. The dragon turtle sank down into the waters of the lagoon, taking the doughty fighter with it as he struggled to pull his weapon out.
Regular readers will recall that during the adventure in the Tomb of the Holy Avenger, the party had managed to gain several handy new powers, one of which was water breathing. This stood Alurax in excellent stead as he managed to pull his trident out and return to the surface.
Meanwhile, Gullhar and Alagon had managed to use the longboat to rescue Elysia and Lydia and as many of the sailors as they could fit in. They rowed the longboat to the beach and returned to pick up the rest of the crew. As they rowed in, they spotted, about forty feet beneath the clear waters of the lagoon, the wreck of an older ship that had clearly not been so lucky when it came to the attentions of the dragon turtle. Whilst the crew, Elysia, Gullhar and Lydia dried out on the beach, Alagon and Alurax decided to go down and see if they could bring up whatever it was that the ship had been carrying. They had a profitable time, with some precious metal ingots, jewellery, gems and magic items recovered.
Further up the beach, there was a cave entrance in the cliff. The party decided to investigate. Beyond the cave was a passage into the interior of the island. At the far end of the corridor, Alagon found a heavy iron door but beside that, there was an eerie obelisk made of a sickly green stone with sinister runes carved into it. He sensed it was evil but as soon as he approached, he found his strength leaching away and he could barely stand up in his armour. The party dragged him back and he found himself recovering, albeit slowly.
Nobody wanted to pass the obelisk after seeing what it had done to the paladin and Gullhar even tried to lasso it and pull it over, hoping that by doing this he could drag it down the beach and into the sea. However, it was firmly fixed to the floor and refused to budge, despite Gullhar giving it his best shot.
Lydia then suggested that if the loss of strength was all that happened if they approached the obelisk, perhaps they should just crawl past it and out of its influence on the far side. This is exactly what the party did, with Alurax going first, followed by the others. They found themselves in a large room faced with glassy black stone.
|Probably the wrong Obsidian Chamber picture.|
Gullhar, in a flash of inspiration deduced that the bridge was an illusion beyond five feet and that this was clearly what had happened to the two adventurers whose bodies had been seen. Elysia flew the party across and they regrouped on the far side.
Unfortunately for them, the far side was already occupied by a pack of hungry shadows, eighteen in total who came swooping out of the darkness, eager for battle. Alagon and Lydia stepped forward and tried to use their ability as paladins to turn the undead. Alagon succeeded in turning six of them, but Lydia was less successful. Elysia used her Wand of Illumination’s Sunburst facility to reduce four more of the shadows to virtual impotence; they fled back into the darkness.
|"Ooh look lads, they've got no cleric!"|
The other eight attacked, but stiff resistance by the party and another Sunburst managed to wipe them out and the party took stock; only Lydia had been hit and had some of her strength drained but she soon started to recover again. Whilst Alurax climbed down on a rope to investigate (and loot) the bodies in the chasm, the rest of the party waited at the head of a long passageway lined with glassy black stone, sloping downwards into the dark.
Once Alurax had finished, he led the way down the passage, choosing to slide all the way down on the glassy stone. The rest of the party were a bit more circumspect and as such found a skeleton in the passage about thirty feet down. They checked it out and found some more magical items and money on it. Alurax, in the meantime had discovered that at the end of the passage were two large bronze doors, which did not seem to open when he pushed at them. He decided to wait for the rest of the party so that they could try and get the doors open together. What was beyond them? There was only one way to find out.