As dawn was breaking we set our watch–Ankoma kept the first watch, then Elx, next Bran and finally Sayberion and Nyssa.
During his watch, Ankoma skinned the Owlbear and decorated his outfit with totems taken from the beast.
While Sayberion and Nyssa were keeping watch, Nyssa busied herself with looking about the room at the writings in T’yog’s study. Sayberion noticed that the longer she devoted herself this this persuit the more focused she became, to the point that she seemed to be nearly obsessing over the writings by the time the rest of us completed our rest.
After the rest of the party rose, Sayberion suggested searching upstairs where the trail of blood led, but that investigation was interrupted when we found T’yog’s dog Pepper guarding the 2nd Floor. Pepper wouldn’t be distracted, so we elected not to challenge him and returned to the 1st floor where Nyssa was even more fanatic than before. We realized she hadn’t followed the rest of us upstairs and she had begun sweeping the tabletop, hurling items to the floor. When Sayberion questioned her she turned to face us, her eyes pale and almost dead, and she said,
“It must be here, T’yog is gone, and he has hidden it! He removed his veil and now it is my turn, I cannot exist without him, and yet I cannot die. That is not dead which lies eternal; I will not suffer that any man should look upon me. You, men from the mountain, you who have found your gods, you do not see! Do you not yet comprehend the horror that has occurred? You have scaled the slopes of rock and snow, but to what end? Now you have been seen your gods, but they too are weak, and they do not dance alone. You should not believe your eyes, for they are deceivers and the greater your power is, the weaker you will become. It was not for you to seek them out, to drive the gods to even greater horror; it would have been better had you stayed to the cold wastes and died there.”
We tried to calm Nyssa, to speak with her, and Elx soon realized that Nyssa was not herself; over the course of the night she had been possessed by the freed spirit of Ophelia, and she would not be pacified.
She continued her tirade:
“We were better for having forgotten them. And they were in a place where no man could tread; in their absence we became stronger and them more stern. Men of old displaced them, as they suffered in the poverty of their lacking faith. The old gods, the other god, they were hidden, but she showed you the way to the place where men were forbidden to go, or in going, to depart, but she showed you the way and you were seen and now you have not returned alone. Now it falls to you to seal the gate, T’yog is gone; I am hopeful that he has found his peace, the peace of oblivion if such a thing exists, but who among us can truly say? … I cannot exist without him; it was by his will alone that I am still here.”
Brand interrupted her, “Can’t you just speak plainly, and tell us what you are looking for? Maybe we can help you!”
“I believe Earth’s gods have become homesick; they would not have returned otherwise and I can see them through your eyes,” she said staring at Elx, “Men will weep in fear of them, and the other who have seen you, they are seeking you now, not because of who you are, but for what you now carry within you. And not even this ancient castle will protect you now. It is now as it was written in the time of Sansu, as written of, with fright, in the moldy Pnakotic Manuscripts. You are the reason men fear eclipses; it is your return that has given rise to the desperate prayers of this night. Outside, pale vapors have hidden the moon from sight, and below those mists in distant Hatheg-Kla earth’s gods have convened to rejoin their dance with our world; they dance reminiscently, safe for now, but that will not last; not like when the earth was new, when men not so given to the gathering of forbidden knowledge.”
Nyssa’s reply only heated Brand’s ire more, but then another voice, high-pitched and squeaky, but tinged with the gravel of age, spoke up from somewhere behind Brand. Spinning fast on his heels he turned and saw something very strange; there upon the debris covered dresser stood a bizarre monstrosity, a blasphemy in the form of a diminutive hybrid about the size of a rat, albeit an enormous one; it was standing hunched, hands crossed, tentatively appraising Brand. It glared at Brand through beady, black, baleful eyes, mouth opened wide exposing a mouthful of sharp, needle-like teeth; its cruel eyes reflecting the torchlight adding to the tiny beast’s aura of vindictiveness.
Brown Jenkin’s appearance had taken a form tenfold more hateful than anything Brand had imagined from T’yog’s description; the hideousness of Brown Jenkin’s image gave the ranger pause as the rat-thing addressed him.
“Your friend is of two minds, only one her own, the other of darker inclination; but I could help you.”
Fire erupted from Nyssa’s fingertips blasting a bolt at Brown Jenkin but missing, serving only to singe the dresser’s finish and to send the rat-like creature scurrying from the top of the dresser to beneath it. All at once the party gathered in the general direction of the dresser making the area overly cramped and allowing ample opportunity for Brown Jenkin to run through a chaotic collection of legs and feet until Ankoma slammed him with the side of his hand axe which launched Brown Jenkin skidding beneath the large center table. Ankoma gripped the side of the massive table and hurled it across the room, but Brown Jenkin had recovered sufficiently to leap into the air high enough to land in the open top of the ceramic alchemy jug where he disappeared.
Sayberion grabbed and tipped the alchemy jug spilling fresh beer, Elx’s concoction all over the floor, but Brown Jenkin was there; then back atop the dresser on the far side of the chamber, next to Brand, Brown Jenkin whispers, “There is secret, hidden door within the guest chamber that lies past the Black Door…I can show you.”
Calling a halt to the chaos of the chase Brand gathers up Brown Jenkin and we return to the main house of the keep. Good to his word, Brown Jenkin leads us to the secret door, an extremely well hidden secret trapdoor that hides a narrow spiral staircase that leads to a secret vault hidden deep below the keep.
At the base of the narrow spiral staircase there is a subterranean passageway. We catch the flicker of torchlight from below. A wider passageway waits there, bathed in flickering torchlight, and at the end of this wider passage a stout, iron-bounded, wooden door bars barring further progress. Above the door, a horrible carving of a demon leers down at us and on either side of the door, torches burn brightly. As we step forward a sinister low droning starts up from the leering demon face.
Ignoring the droning, Sayberion and Elx begin examining the door seeking some method of egress. As we do, the demonic droning door begins to reveal the nature of its defense as it breathes out a gout of flame that takes on a form and a life of its own, that of a small fiery elemental. It attacks us and we fight back, but soon we discover that it is resistant to normal weapons, still Brand manages to dispatch it using the magic dagger we had found upstairs in Ophelia’s chambers, but then a second aspect of the trap was revealed as the hypnotic droning began transfixing various members of our party, leaving us blank-eyed and drooling even as more of the small elementals appeared one after another.
Ultimately, Bran was able to resist long enough to save the rest of us and then Elx blew the door apart with his bolter rifle.
In the confusion of those moments Brown Jenkin had disappeared; but with the door destroyed the chamber beyond was revealed. The dusty chamber had a low ceiling – barely eight‐feet high and the floor was littered with coins; there are also four large square niches piercing the left and right the walls of the chamber, each holding a heavy armored statues of black marble, one in each niche, and these statues guarded other treasures. But what drew our attention was the heavy stone burial crypt set in the center of the chamber. Upon it, a sinuous snaky looking skeletal manifestation rose up, a spine topped with a be-fanged human skull. Unnervingly, gracefully it slid from the stone sarcophagus, hideously gliding to the floor.
A massive battle ensued. Sayberion called upon his god to bless us as we steeled ourselves for the battle. Nyssa struck at the creature first, blasting at the blasphemy with a cleansing flame but missing. The monster retaliated with a bolt of frigid blue-white light that streaks back a Nyssa freezing her in her tracks. Ankoma, Elx and Bran launch themselves at the monstrosity and it deftly dodges and responds wrapping the boney spine around the gnoll in a deadly embrace. Elx in wolf form bites down hard on the boney creature only to find that it is immune to normal attacks. The creature uses this momentary lapse to chills Bran’s soul and leaves him paralyzed. We soon discover however that our magical weapons can harm it.
It is an epic fight that leaves the party worn, and eventually working together we prevail and Ophelia’s blasphemy that is her undead body is defeated. As it fails Ophelia speaks her last:
“And so, as you embarking upon your sinister adventure, know that this night and all the nights that follow, I would think such folly incomprehensible if not for your ignorance of the danger, may your gods be merciful, if indeed they be, and may they guard you for I will not. It is death and death only that is the true mercy, from this, there is no return save those few who might imagine that there is something better; from that nethermost chamber of night, there is naught but ruin, and I believe, I hope, you have freed me from such. Mostly though, death is death, and its peace is evermore. Fool that I was to plunge with such unsanctioned frenzy from that peace, but it was never by my choice, but by his. There are mysteries that exist that no man is meant to penetrate; fool or god that T’yog was—he was my brother and my only friend; in the end, the horror of living surpassed his will to live, these same terrors now pass on to you, and his peace on to me.”
We examined Nyssa, and found that she was fine but exhausted, and she didn’t remember anything about her most recent ordeal. It was similar to the drawing of the ward in the great hall, perhaps it wasn’t the first time she’d been possessed, and then we turned our attention to the treasures we’d found in the burial chamber.
Ophelia’s spellbook, an amulet with a golden sun design set with a ruby, a heavy black wooden shield with the image of a wolf, and a shimmery scimitar.
The inscription on the amulet was a dedication to the earth and sun and all living things so it was given to Elx. Similarly, given his recent penchant for transforming into a wolf, and since no one else needed it, Elx took the darkwood shield.
Bran took up the scimitar and found that it moved with a quickness that was sublime.
Nyssa looked over the spellbook and recognized the writings as being necromantic in nature. The tome reeked, reminiscent of decomposing flesh and some even fouler stench, grave mold was still clinging to its worm-eaten, dirt-stained cover, as if the book had been buried and unearthed.
The fight in the burial chamber had tested all of us, and Nyssa in particular was in no condition to travel or to search further, she needed rest, and it was the dead of night, but none of us wanted to stay within the burial chamber so we headed back upstairs towards the main house, but as we arrived in back in the sleep chamber Ankoma heard the rooting of the swine-things reverberating from the outer hall and we gathered ourselves for a charge. Sayberion and Elx led the way; Elx carrying the darkwood shield we recovered, they were followed by Ankoma, and Bran took the rear of line. Exhausted, Nyssa waited below.
We beat our way past the first of the swine-things, fighting our way beyond the confines of the narrow hall the let to the sleeping chamber and met the rest of the swine-things in the entry chamber of the main house. This was another terrific melee against nine more of the swine things. It was a close battle and Elx would have died were it not for the magic of the shield protecting him. Throughout the fight Sayberion’s energy blade, while cleanly slicing through the creatures, kept flickering and one time disappeared completely causing him to missing his foe; and minutes after the battle ended the blade finally ran out of energy. Sayberion placed the spent hilt in his pack ruing our exile from Raven’s Keep. Bran walked over to him and handed him the scimitar, “I believe you will find this of more use now than I will.”