In the dead of night people have been disappearing from their beds, with no trace left but a strange runic symbol. A sage studying at the temple of Lauto has linked it to a minor demon/deity who was directly involved in the original conflict that shattered the Jade Kingdom of old. The priests, fearing another attack on the Mausoleum or one of the large private crypts maintained by many wealthy nobles in the city, have sent their agents to investigate these disappearances. That was 3 weeks ago, and with the recent events involving Slardazial fresh in the Clergy's mind action must be taken. The last message suggested the investigators had found a lead at the latest victims home, but did not say what the lead was. Your mission will be to find this clue, trace the murders to their source, and ascertain whether or not the original investigators are alive.
This adventure is a continuation of Ukingsken's short vignette The Long Arm of Lauto 2: Broken Wards.
DM: Started by ukingsken, continued by covaithe.
- Grakk - Goliath, Barbarian, (Dimsdale)
- Vrrsk’t - Dragonborn, Paladin (roadtoad)
- Morvannon Rinael - Half Elf, Warlock, (RedBeardJim)
- Vixo - Kobold, Rogue, (Brain)
- Kamotz - Shifter, Cleric, (CaBaNa)
- Magnus Madiron - Dwarf, Wizard, (Oni)
Belingras Erigard, High Priest of Daunton's Temple of Lauto, has requested further aid from the PCs, after their successful recovery of an important magical artifact for him previously. His aide, an officious halfling with a terrible lisp, summons the PCs from the Hanged Man. Belingras explains that there has been a series of murders in recent weeks, with some interesting theological significance, since Lauto's priests were mysteriously unable to assist the deceased on to the afterlife. Belingras has been able to connect the murders to the demon Zal'Ekthees, thanks in part to information recovered by the party in their earlier mission. A team of acolytes, under the direction of a senior priest, had been investigating some of the more theologically interesting aspects of the case, but they have recently disappeared before being able to relate their findings from the most recent murder scene. Belingras requests the aid of the party to solve the murders, and find the missing priests if possible.
Kamotz, ever the opportunist, takes this opportunity to request a promotion from the high priest, along with perhaps a fancy hat. Belingras responds that Kamotz has been chosen as his agent, which is already an honor, and further rewards may be appropriate if things go well with this mission. He ignores the fancy hat comment.
At the party's request, Belingras provides the address of the most recent murder, which is the last location the missing priests were known to be.
The party investigates. There are two interesting things about the house. First, in a large central room are the bodies of five victims, each ritually killed using a precise pattern of ragged, painful cuts. Attempts to perform final rites on the bodies are unsuccessful; as part of their killing their souls were trapped or cut off from the afterlife somehow. Kamotz spots a bit of fine, expensive wool trapped between the teeth of one of the victims, a teenage girl.
The other interesting thing about the house is that it has been thoroughly and destructively searched. Whoever searched did not take obvious items of value, so it wasn't a robbery. Given the thoroughness of the search, the party concludes that whatever was being looked for must be concealed by magic. They search for magic auras, and find a secret passageway concealed by illusion near a fireplace in a hallway. Grakk opens the secret door with his boot, and the party proceeds down a narrow stair.
At the bottom of the stairs is a secret ritual room, where Varonus Morensen, the house's owner, has summoned a powerful demon, but failed to control it. Varonus has been using magic circle rituals, reinforced with his own blood, to contain the demon, but is running out of ritual components and near exhaustion. He explains that those who invaded his home had discovered his hobby of summoning demons, and wanted to forcibly recruit him. He suggests that, though he can't dismiss the demon, with the party's help he might be able to weaken it.
Unfortunately, Grakk has waited long enough, and he chooses that moment to charge. Despite the demon's full strength, the party combine to bring it down, but not before it splatters Varonus Morensen's brains on the walls. Searching the hidden ritual chamber, they find a book of rituals, and some half-burnt, mostly illegible notes, not in Morensen's hand.
They carry Morensen's body to the Temple of Lauto, ruffling some feathers by bringing the still-oozing body in through the front door and getting blood all over. Kamotz asks for a Speak with Dead ritual to be prepared and reports progress to the high priest. Meanwhile, Magnus acquires a Make Whole ritual and uses it to recover the burnt notes from Morensen's ritual room. There are four in all:
- Morensen, we know what you are. We are fellow travelers on that way. Our leader would like to meet you. We await your answer tomorrow at moonrise. Seek us at the north gate of Donnervale House.
- Morensen, we waited for you, but you did not come. We have much to teach you. Our glorious leader insists on meeting you. Come to the north gate of Donnervale House.
- Morensen. We WILL meet you. Come to the House at moonrise, or face the consequences.
- Morensen. Last warning. Independents will not be tolerated. Donnervale House. North Gate. Moonrise.
The location of Donnervale House is common knowledge, and the party make there way there by moonrise. They approach the gate guards, pretending to answer the summons, but the gate guards are not expecting visitors, and, though polite, are not cooperative. Eventually they agree to let Morvannon in alone, but as soon as they open the gate, Grakk charges. They subdue the guards, but not before one of them sounds an alarm, and shortly after the guards fall, a pack of hounds attacks. This fight is much harder, but eventually the dogs are all killed, and the huntmaster, a dwarf leading them, captured and questioned.
The dwarf professes innocence, and is horrified to have fought against agents of Lauto. Under questioning, he reveals that Master Crabhorn, tutor to the Donnervale children, has had a marked change in behavior within the last few months, and that Porphyria Donnervale, a young woman, sometimes sneaks out and performs rituals behind her parents' backs. In fact, the dwarf spotted her this very night, sneaking toward the family mausoleum, a large underground stone complex. As the move towards it, faint screams cause them to hurry, rushing through the mausoleum, and finding a large ritual room hidden deep within it. There, guarded by a dozen animated corpses, is none other than Slardazial Barthifast, the renegade cleric of Lauto, now serving Zal'Ekthees.
Slardazial is in the midst of a complex and powerful ritual, performed on a platform suspended over a pit of ritually befouled water, leading up to the sacrifice of Porphyria Donnervale, who is chained to an altar on the platform. Slardazial orders his minions to keep the party away from him during the ritual, during which he gains power. The party quickly overcome his minions and cut the chains supporting his platform, forcing him to fight. He nearly kills Grakk, but Magnus' intervention brings the barbarian round, and they surround Slardazial and rain damage down on him, until he fails to rise again.
After releasing Porphyria, she rushes to her father, Lord Donnervale, and explains in rambling and over-dramatic fashion that the whole thing was the work of Slardazial and one of his minions, a doppelganger who used its shapeshifting powers to infiltrate Donnervale house. She also reveals that the investigators from Lauto's temple are safe, locked in a room behind the ritual chamber. Lord Donnervale promises to cooperate with the Temple, and requests the party's discretion while the truth is discovered. He backs his words with a healthy sum of cash by way of reward.
- Belingras Erigard, High Priest of the Temple of Lauto. The PCs are working for him.
- Zal'Ekthees, a minor deity or a demon with delusions of grandeur, depending on who you ask. Marks relating to his worship have been found at the sites of several recent murders.
- Varonus Morensen. Textile merchant by day, Morensen dabbles in a little demon summoning at night for kicks. Everything was going fine until the cult of Zal'Ekthees got wind of his activities. When he refused to join them, they invaded his home, ritually murdered his family, and tore the place up looking for his secret summoning chamber.
- The Donnervale family: The Donnervales are a family of some prominence in Daunton. Not one of the Founding Families, but wealthy and well-connected. They have several estates, but the one known as Donnervale House, the ancestral home, is a sprawling mansion on lavish grounds on the east side of the city, north of the river.
- Master Crabhorn, tutor to the Donnervale children
- Porphyria Donnervale, daughter to Lord and Lady Donnervale, and sometime student of the arcane.
- The Temple of Lauto in Daunton.
- Varonus Morensen's house, in one of Daunton's moderately wealthy areas, where the most recent murders in the name of Zal'Ekthees took place.
Main quest: For several weeks now strange murders and kidnappings have been taking place all over the city. All the victims have been marked with a runic symbol that until recently we did not recognize. As he holds up a sheet of parchment with a full page illustration of a rune, you all immediately recognize it as one of the symbols that was drawn on the altar.
It was your revelation about who Slardazial worked for that allowed our sages to make the connection. Zal'Ekthees is a minor deity who deals mostly with the shadowrealm and the undead. His origin is a mystery but his first known historical mention was during the invasion of the Jade Empire. He was driven back to his home plane but his following on our plane has obviously grown.
We had dispatched a team of acolytes and one senior priest to investigate the murders because we were having difficulty performing some of the last rites. A force of some sort was blocking us from assisting the departed into the afterlife. I last heard from the team a few days ago. They thought they had found the key to unraveling this mystery at one of the last murder scenes. However before they could investigate and relay their findings they disappeared and haven't been seen since.
For these reasons I have called on you once again. You all showed dedication to a cause not your own and were honest in your dealings with me. If you can find these killers, and stop them, the church would be most...grateful. Additionally I would ask that you save my priests if they still live, though I have been unable to scry them and fear the worst.
- Grakk has a minor quest to gain vengeance on whoever murdered Varonus' family.
- Kamotz has a minor quest to earn a promotion in the Temple of Lauto
Award 1, given here:
- Grakk 558 xp and 126g
- Vrrsk't, Vixo, Magnus, Morvannon, and Kamotz: 600 xp and 178g
Award 2, given here:
- Grakk, Magnus, and Morvannon: 2854 xp and 835g each
- Vixo: 2976 xp and 1150g
- Kamotz: 1642 xp and 508g
- A ritual book, with magic circle, arcane lock, water walk, secret page, and speak with dead rituals inside, and a +1 Vengeful Hammer. Awarded here
- 400 gold in a locked box, opened here