Desnus 30th, 4711
The Death Ray
Returning to the haunted church, Torquemada, Haza, and Ramirez were once again greeted by cold silence and the feeling of watchful, but unseen eyes following their path as they headed through the ruined walls to the cathedral proper.
As they entered through the large iron doors, the faintest of whispers could be heard, as Torquemada was caught in a telekinetic grip and used as a weapon against his friends. The party was able to catch him and move quickly out of the foyer and the apparent reach of whatever haunted that room.
Cautiously, the adventurers moved through the desecrated nave, but nothing stirred as they proceeded past the tainted altar and stood outside the asphyxiating hallway once more. This time, the haunt was resisted, and the party pushed onto into another room, where they were greeted with an unexpected sight.
Compared to the decayed filth of the nave, this vestry was almost welcoming. Abused finery crowds the room, and heavy curtains, plush embroidered settees, rich rugs, and high-backed chairs basked in the warm light of a tabletop lantern. A large iron grate was set in the floor, a cool draft wafting up from below.
The barely visible phantom appeared as a severely dressed noble with a tall, lanky frame, dead eyes, limp gray hair, and gaunt features. He greeted the party as they entered the chamber, introducing himself as The Chamberlain as he held forth his palms in a gesture of peace and warned the party against further trespass in the home of the Whispering Way.
Unfortunately, his words did nothing to sway the party, and they moved to attack. Three other spectres rose up from the floor and joined the battle. Natisha cast a fireball into the fray, targeting Haza, but the priest of Sarenrae laughed off the attack, his faith protecting him from the flames.
The spectres got in a few hits, their negative energy hampering the humans, but not enough to turn the tide of battle. As Torquemada cut down the Chamberlain, Ramirez’s blade cut deeply into the vampire, and she fell apart into mist and flowed out of the door – doomed to die before reaching her coffin back in Caliphas.
The party examined the iron grating in the floor, but decided to continue exploring the ground floor before proceeding further.
Moving out of the vestry, the party found another door leading behind the choir, and as Haza bent an ear to listen at the door, heard a long, low moan of pain coming from someone inside the room.
Ramirez kicked in the door, and the trio rushed into the room. A sliver of jet-black crystal pulsating with necrotic energy jutted from the stone floor here. A dirty glass lens set in an intricate but tarnished brass mount two feet in diameter slowly orbited the rock from several feet away, focusing the dark energies of the crystal toward four nearby chairs that seem more like torture devices than comfortable seats. In one of those chairs sat a slight man, skin sallow and dusky, who continued to moan as the necrotic beam flowed over his body again like a wave of vile darkness. Five robed figures stood nearby, overseeing the procedure.
The novices turned at the sound of the party’s entrance, but were unprepared for the strength of their assault. One of the novices attempted to turn the necrotic beam on Torquemada, but his death ward protected him, and the novices were quickly overwhelmed.
Torquemada freed the man from his bondage, and questioned him about his appearance here. He introduced himself as Cleves Drollac, a treasure hunter from Caliphas who had been captured and was being tortured by the Whispering Way. Something in his story did not sit well with the inquisitor, who after attempting to get a clearer answer, decided the man’s fate by cutting off his head as he sat helpless before him.
The group continued onward, entering the next room. Dozens of moldering relics littered this room, some haphazardly crammed into gilded display cases, others arranged with care and placed on tarnished stands. The group quickly searched the place. Torquemada discovered a bejeweled ceremonial headset that he took with him, but the group did not linger long and moved to the next room.
Ancient sarcophagi leaned haphazardly along the walls here. Stained teacups and cracked saucers were set on a low table, next to a matching teapot sitting atop a silver warmer. The gruesome remains of a desiccated human forearm lay on a small chopping block among powdered remnants of a bitumen soaked shroud.
Past this room, a small landing held a winding iron stair that led downward.
At this point, the party decided to return to the vestry to further investigate the iron grate they had seen earlier, hoping that it offered an alternative entrance to the catacombs below.
Having moved the heavy grate out of the way, the group stood huddled around the dark hole leading down. It appeared to drop about 15’ and opened up into a larger, stone-floored room. Ramirez went down first, and the others quickly followed.
A single candle illuminated a large marble tomb beneath an iron grate overhead. The chiseled effigy of a simple foot soldier, rather than an armored knight, adorned the lid of the sarcophagus, and a gigantic sword, rusted and notched, hung from hooks over the tomb.
Wihtout warning, the bloody mutilated body of a slight-framed foot soldier manifested, his body impaled by several dozen broken, black-fletched arrows and wielding a massive rusted sword twice his size that matched the greatsword hanging near the tomb. The haunt screamed a silent war cry and attacked the intruders. The party quickly realized that their attacks were having no effects, and Ramirez made to grab the sword hung over the sarcophagus. He turned as the haunt attacked him, and was gratified to feel this new blade strike home, sending the soldier’s body back as it staggered in pain. Ramirez pressed his advantage, and as the soldier sunk to his knees, clutching his side, the figure suddenly disappeared and the air felt clear.
There was little else in the now-empty room, except for a small set of stairs leading out of the room. The temperature dropped to a cavernous chill as the rough-hewn stairs gave way to cramped catacombs. The smell of old decay emanated from dozens of alcoves containing broken skeletal remains, their eyeless skulls staring forward into emptiness with dead, vacuous gazes.
As the party tried to find their way in the many, twisting catacombs, they stumbled into a larger room. Torquemada noticed a faint sound of rushing water, when torrents of gray water littered with bones, dead flesh, and worms suddenly gushed out of the catacombs’ alcoves, creating an inescapable wave of water that quickly flooded the catacombs. There was a sensation of drowning in the churning waters, but the party resisted the haunt’s evil embrace. And just as quickly as the water appeared, it receded.
The group continued on, finding a wider passageway that led to a set of stone doors. They heard nothing, so cautiously opened them revealing a large room.
Irregular pools of fetid water marred the floor of this chamber like the exposed marrow of sawed bone, and a harsh acidic vapor burned the nostrils. Funerary urns sealed with thick red wax lined the perimeter of the chamber, and several more rested on a small island in the room’s center.
The adventurers moved into the open room, but nothing seemed to react to their presence. They began to move towards the two doors they had espied on the other side of the room when the attack came.
Two funerary urns flew up into the air over the fetid pools, smashing into each other and releasing two strange clouds of mists. Mists which appeared to be alive.
The evil elementals moved to attack as another pair of urns released even more Mihstus. As the battle was joined, another creature attacked as it rose dripping from a slimy pool. An Omox demon!
The party was hard pressed by the demon’s assault, as an acid fog filled the room, burning and choking the humans and the extra-planar monsters continued their attacks. Then Haza destroyed the demon with a destruction spell, and the Mihstus were quickly dispatched.
However, the group discovered that their original entrance had closed and was apparently sealed shut as were the other two doors. The acid fog still continued to eat away at them as they looked around for a way out.
The Christmas Room
Torquemada spotted the anomaly first. A small passageway beckoned from the side of the room. He was sure it had not been there a moment ago, but there were no other options at this point, so he led the party to the archway, revealing a wood-walled and floored passageway leading onward. The passageway was lit by the flickering light of torches or some other fire source ahead, and the faint smell of wood smoke, as well as hints of other scents, wafted on the warm air.
The passageway opened up into a square room, perhaps 20’ on a side.
The wooden floor was covered with lavishly decorated plush throw rugs, each depicting a winter scene – a group of figures ice skating on a pond, a festive bonfire scene on a pine-studded hilltop, and a rotund old man driving a sleigh pulled by northern deer.
In the middle of the wall to the right, a large fireplace stood, a cheerful fire burning in it’s depths. A small pot of gently simmering liquid (which turned out to be hot cocoa) was perched nearby, and an ample supply of firewood was stocked on either side.
The hearth itself was merrily decorated with pine cones, holly leaves, and sprigs of mistletoe. Three stockings hung off the side, bursting at their seams with oranges, apples, and other fruits.
Next to the fireplace, a round table and three chairs sat. The table was stacked with food – a baked pheasant, roasted prime rib, ripe round cheeses, fresh loaves of bread, and bottle of wines awaited.
To the left, three overstuffed couches covered with red and green pillows, blankets, and quilts sat next to a large wooden tub, obviously filled with hot steaming water, fragrant with mint and pine.
Against the far wall, a small wooden table stood next to the wall beneath a large portrait of the same rotund man featured in the rug. He was holding a large sack of toys in one hand, while the other was pointing to the table below. An engraving on the painting showed the title – “Father Christmas.”
On the table a small card read “Please take one. Have a Merry Christmas!”
Next to it sat a deck of cards.
Torquemada explained that Father Christmas was a demigod of Winter in an alternate Prime Material Plane – a place known as Earth (though unrelated to the Elemental Plane of Earth).
There was little left to do but relax and recuperate in this apparent safe haven.
Except to maybe take a card…