Khaj-Mari

Cleaning out Zhul-Mar Outpost: Part Three

"It's like a stone house, but underground!"

Salenda Athysh spent a week in Khaj-Mari training, and when she returned to Dul-Garad she found that the clifftop fortress was crawling with humans!

Sersh was kind enough to explain to her (as he was there as the daily message runner from the rest of her platoon still at Zhul-Mar on security detail) that apparently contact had been made with the Kuvoans from the Empire of the Jaguar. Salenda didn’t know much about them, only that they were primitive humans who dwelled in the jungle peninsula to the south of Ulaphia.

Sersh went on to explain that while there had been contact, no alliance had been forged, only a mutual exchange of military divisions, on a trial basis, to act as consultants for their respective kingdoms, to see how things went.

As they landed at Dul-Garad, Salenda found one of the Kuvoans, a tall, dark-skinned man with jet black hair, staring at her as she shook off the dust from her trip.

He introduced himself as YacXolotlan and explained in halting speech (he’d only just learned bits of the common tongue) that he had been assigned to Lieutenant Salenda’s platoon as a part of this exchange, and he wanted to know what their mission was.

Sersh informed YacXolotlan that they were in the process of cleaning out a dungeon not far from here called Zhul-Mar, so that they could occupy it and utilize its renewed strategic significance for some coming battles with the hated Midrythians.

YacXolotlan appeared confused about this concept, so Sersh (whose own intellect is not much more than that of the average goblin) made several attempts to clarify what a “dungeon” was, and finally YacXolotlan got it. “It’s like a stone house… but underground!!!” he finally exclaimed, much to Sersh’s delight.

Salenda learned that YacXolotlan had been in the kingdom for a month and a half, and was eager to learn more of how the Ulaphian military operated, and since he was now under her command, she ordered Sersh to carry their new man back with them to Zhul-Mar.

They arrived later that evening at the site, and apparently all was quiet in Salenda’s week away for training.

Ormech had ordered three to be guarding the door to the south at all times, so as to ensure that the security of the now cleared north half of the dungeon was not compromised.

Salenda selected Veskin, Deless, Rhetif and YacXolotlan to accompany her back down, and this time, armed with knowledge of her undead minion – it is a Thought Ghoul – she decided to have him accompany the party as well, in case there were any more.

They un-barricaded the door and started exploring the southern half of the dungeon. They found the lair of the Thought Ghoul under Salenda’s control, and through his communication to her she had forewarning of this, and they set up an ambush for the Thought Ghoul’s brethren.

She decided to send her minion forth to open the door, and with instructions to return immediately after opening it, hoping that the other three Thought Ghouls there would follow.

They did.

The first one that reached the party met with an obsidian-tipped arrow through its leg as YacXolotlan proved his worth, dropping the creature to the dungeon floor with a single shot. Deless finished it off with a trident strike, and Salenda turned the other two, bringing the number of her undead minions now to three.

Among the split skulls and broken bones of the Thought Ghouls’ past victims they found an old, cracked leather pouch that contained an elaborate brass key, which Salenda held onto for safekeeping.

They then worked out a similar ambush for the other pack of Thought Ghouls in what used be the old administrative office in this dungeon, and slew a Cave Fisher in an old officers’ quarters just across the hall from it (after it chewed up and spat out one of Salenda’s Thought Ghouls first).

Salenda discovered that the bizarre key she had found in a different room opened the vault door they found behind another door and a portcullis in the old administrative office room.

Within, the party met with a shock… a four foot diameter fleshy globe with a large, toothy mouth, a big eye in the center, and four smaller eyes on stalks gazed at them when they opened the vault door! It hovered over a pair of fine chests in this steel vault, its eyes constantly scanning the surroundings.

Not sure what to do, Salenda froze, and the thing began speaking to her.

She conversed with it politely and respectfully, lacking any knowledge of what this creature was or what it could do, and discovered that it had been summoned to guard these chests some 90 years previous, by a powerful mage named “Rancer”.

Salenda politely excused herself, and closed the door behind her, vowing to return later, once she figured out what to do.

The party went back to the surface to rest, and the next day Salenda took a quick trip in to Khaj-Mari to consult Graf T’zaad about what she had found in the vault. Commander Graf wrote a brief missive and sealed it with wax and his personal seal, and instructed her to take it to Vilimar Ironbrow at Kaphmus Tower.

Salenda did so, and Vilimar read the note, and interrogated her about what she had seen. Salenda described it, and Vilimar informed her that she had faced a Spectator, one of the Beholderkin, but nowhere near as deadly as many of the others of its kind. He recommended that if she wished to destroy it that she should blind all of its eyes and it should retreat long enough for her to snatch whatever goods it guarded.

Salenda thanked him and returned to Zhul-Mar with this new knowledge.

They went back down into the dungeon again, but this time YacXolotlan stayed on the surface to assist with the rest of the platoon’s guard duties due to his extensive knowledge of jungle tactics and terrain.

Salenda led her group to the last unexplored corridor in the south half of the dungeon, and found a room filled with another type of ghoul.

Eight Lacedons – Marine Ghouls – occupied one of the southernmost rooms.

Using similar tactics as before, Salenda had one of her Thought Ghouls open the door to this Lacedon lair and run back with the eight Lacedons in hot pursuit. She ordered all of her Thought Ghouls to block the passageway and bar the Lacedons from getting any closer. A brutal melee ensued between Salenda’s Ghouls and the Lacedons, and one of the Lacedons was slain. Salenda, through the power of her deity, was able to command the remaining seven and she added them to her growing mass of Ghoul minions.

The party then returned to the room with the vault. They pondered and plotted and planned, and finally decided what to do.

Salenda had Rhetif and Sulorand kneel down with their crossbows in the passageway straight down the hall from the vault, providing some cover for Salenda herself as she stood peering over them.

She then had her ghouls stationed around the corner, just out of sight of the vault in the administrative room, and had one of the other ghouls open the vault.

The Spectator was still hovering there, but this time Salenda immediately ordered her archers to shoot its center eye out. One bolt pierced it and destroyed the eye, but the other four eyes began to hurl magic at Salenda and her party, even as she then ordered her ghouls to attack it to kill.

She was struck with a Cause Critical Wounds that did 16 points of damage, and a Suggestion that forced her to return to Room 3, and a ray of Paralyzation struck Rhetif, dropping her to the floor for the duration of the battle.

However, the Ghouls did their grisly work, mobbing the Spectator and tearing into its flesh with their razor sharp talons, and draining its intelligence away with their intellect-hungry appetites.

They slew it utterly, and the spell Salenda was under was broken, and she returned to open the chests.

In them was a +2 broadsword, a +2 shield, and some potions and a few scrolls… but most important among the find was the Chainmail of Kythos, and a Deck of Many Things.

Salenda pondered on the Deck, and elected to make two draws from it.

These both went awry; the first was Ruin, which caused all of her money and gems to vanish. The second was worse still: it was the Skull. This meant that Salenda would have to fight a Death Harvester – a creature against which there is no victory, only eventual, permanent death.

Chad understandably wanted none of this, so he played a “Mulligan” coupon (to which I responded with a “you lose 500 experience points” GM coupon, which seemed fair), and redrew.

The new card he drew was better, being the Comet. This meant that Salenda merely needs to singlehandedly defeat the next hostile creature the party encounters and she’ll automatically advance to the halfway point of the next level.

What shall that creature be? Only time will tell.

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