Coldbreak, Second Ten-day
The party was met several miles from the Nomen camp by a centaur warband. Seeing the carcass of the dead manticore carried on the floating disc, the centaurs’ moods seemed greatly improved, though their caution didn’t.
Bringing the proof of the manticores’ demise to Mother Moon, she opens up quite a bit more. She compliments the party on risking life and limb only for the opportunity to gain the centaurs’ trust. She then reveals her name as Accora Silverfire. When confronted with the disappearance of the villagers of Varnhold, she denies any centaur involvement, but explains that one of her warrior maidens recently saw strange and lumbering shapes in “Olah-Kakanet”, or the Valley of the Dead. Perhaps the humans disturbed something best left undisturbed in the valley, as they so often do.
When the party mentions the name Vordekai, found in Maestro Pendrod’s research, Accora grows quiet and explains that the name Vordekai is known in the ancient traditions as a slumbering warlord from the time of the mother tribe, an ancient powerful figure from the distant past. She also explains that Vordekai is associated with a narrow trail leading up into the mountains at the northwestern corner of Olah-Kankanet. With the sun setting, Accora excuses herself to conduct the nightly rituals, but suggests that the answers the party seeks lie somewhere in Olah-Kankanet. She allows the party to set up camp right outside the Nomen grounds and asks one last favor.
It seems that the warrior maiden, a ranger named Xamanthe, who spotted the shapes in the valley has disappeared, possibly to investigate on her own. Though the valley is taboo, she asks the party to keep an eye out for Xamanthe, her daughter.
After a night of undisturbed rest, the party set out south to Olah-Kankanet, the Valley of the Dead. Several hours later, they passed the totems and warning markers designating this place as taboo. Entering the valley was like entering a different world, the valley stretched for about two miles east and west of the narrow northern pass, and about 3 miles south. Littering the flat valley floor were hundreds, if not thousands of large mounds. The air stilled as they went further into the valley, following the north foothills west. As the sun set, the party found a very secluded place to camp and hunkered down. At some point during the night, Zin saw movement in the darkness, seemingly heading west as well. Though his curiosity nearly got the best of him, he realized that he would have to range far away from the party to truly investigate.
As the sun rose, in the pale light of dawn, they spotted movement in a narrow fissure winding up through the foothills to their west. Approaching the fissure, they discovered an ancient set of steps carved out of the foothills leading northwest into the Tors of Leven. About halfway up the wide stairs, they were accosted by the zombie of a cyclops. At first they thought of the simple undead animated by ritual until the zombie bit into one of their skulls and was rejuvenated by the act of feasting on their flesh. Another zombie dropped down behind the party, effectively blocking their escape, suggesting the ability to reason, not just blindly follow orders. Dispatching the two zombies, the party was horrified when the each in turn reanimated and began their attack anew. Dropping the two a second time, they dragged them down the stairs and lit the corpses on fire, creating a makeshift pyre.
Having had time to study the corpses, Torra seemed to think that whatever ritual animated these creatures was much more powerful that the common ritual, yet the residual necrotic energy in the zombies did not seem capable of reanimating them a second time.
At the top of the stairs, the path wound its way to the southern bank of a large basin which wrapped around a pillar of stone sticking out of the black, murky waters. A large stream fed in to the basin from the west, at which point the water churned black in the basin and around the tall island, before eventually plunging over a rocky waterfall in the east. The island, or pillar of rock, was about 500 feet in diameter and was about 600 feet from any shore. Past the island to the north, sheer cliff’s overlooked the basin, and flying above those cliff’s, the party spotted draconic shapes, which they identified as wyverns.
Elias created a floating disc and used it as passage above the blackened water, first taking Zin over and returning for Diego. As Elias and Diego made their way over on the small field of force, they were spotted by one of the wyverns. Once the monster was close enough, Zin gave the creature something else to worry about. firing arrow after deadly arrow into the creatures tough hide. A second wyvern joined the fight, but by then Elias and Diego had crossed the lake. The wyverns flew away, eager to find easier prey.
With the threat gone, it took only a few minutes to usher Torra and Brost across the black lake. Finding a dark opening in the rock, they entered a long hallway with alcoves running its length. In one of the neck-high alcoves a large urn had been broken open and ancient coins littered the high shelf. Digging through the coins they found a jade bracelet, similar to the one described in Pendrod’s notes. Further down, the corridor turned, leading into a diamond-shaped room. An alcove in the southern wall had been broken open and in the alcove lay biers in the wall, three high, most holding the body of a long-dead cyclops, the corpses somehow preserved against the ravages of time. Elias examined the eastern alcove, and dsicovered a secret door. Torra then examined the northern alcove when it suddenly opened and two more of the cyclops zombies engaged the party. Diego managed to hold the two of them in the alcove as the rest of the party rained destruction down on them. The party then waited for them to rise again and repeated the process.
Through the secret door was a large underground lake, diving in, Diego noted stairs at the bottom of the pool, which was well-carved below the surface, before he was attacked by a creature from another time. A behemoth called an elasmosaurus lay waiting in the lake for anyone foolish enough to break the surface. The cagey beast ignored all attempts to get it to surface, instead waiting for its prey to come down to it, and the lantern’s light on the surface of the pool ruined all attempts to see below the water. Eventually seeing no other way, Diego and Zin dove into the water to confront the thing, and soon joined by Brost while Torra and Elias stayed above water to provide aid if needed. It didn’t take long for the water to be stained red with the beast’s blood.
Attaching a long length of rope to himself, Diego swam down the submerged staircase and found that it quickly leveled out then ascended to a room filled with cyclopian pottery. The distance was short enough that all members of the party were able to make the dive. The pottery room had a stairway down, leading to a strange square room with 16 statues and 16 circular reliefs carved into the ceiling. When Elias found and opened a secret door in the room, the circular indents revealed themselves to be stone plugs holding back the waters that began to pour into the room when the plugs dropped a foot each. Iron doors dropped down over the secret door and the doorway back to the pottery room, and a portcullis further sealed off the way back as two side alcoves opened up, releasing the zombie cyclopses inside.
As the party engaged the cyclopse, Elias searched for a way out, examining the circular plugs, the statues and the secret door before finding a panel near the door with the trap mechanism. Zin revealed himself something of a trapsmith as he left the battle and disabled the mechanism that held the iron door shut. Now up to their chest in water, the party chose to finish the cyclopses before making a mad dash – almost swimming – out the secret door and up the stairs beyond.