Masks of the Great One

The Veiled Garden

The party enters the Veiled Garden. It looks much like it did from above. There are ruins and stone statues overgrown with plants. The party proceeds cautiously, moving from ruin to ruin. They’re ambushed by a single archer, and the party fans out to deal with this threat. The archer is soon revealed to be a medusa who is able to bring to life as allies some of the stone statues she had created. During the fight, Varrokh and Sidium are turned to stone, and Anathra and Capisko are killed.

The party prevails, and the stone statues return to flesh, including Varrokh and Sidium. Most die of old age, but one is alive but unconscious. A spirit rises from the medusa’s body and is drawn toward the temple where the ritual is taking place. Onan, realizing that they’ve done exactly what the cult wants them to do, takes some desperate pot shots at the spirit. Licking their wounds, the party retrieves their dead, leaving the stranger to fend for themself. At the end of the valley, the party finds a familiar spiral staircase down. This is the white marble entrance to the Temple of Masks.

The party enters and takes stock of their situation. They are able to raise Capisko, using the ritual from The Godling Made Flesh with Anathra’s heart in the place of a fiend’s heart. Since Anathra is not fully fiend, Capisko returns as a wight, but seems to be at least mostly himself still. The party packs up Anathra’s now heartless body and heads to Duragzhar, hoping to get him raised there. The weather is turning cold. When they reach the city, they find the annual festival of the Return of the Raiders in full swing.

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The Temple of the Oracle

The characters are locked in a room with guards posted at the door. They are discussing a plan of action when they start to hear chanting from downstairs. Using a potion, Onan spies on a ritual in progress. The ritual seems to be channeling power into the oracle. Redu Kall leads the ritual, with 7 times 7 cultists prepared for sacrifice. Redu Kall snuffs out Onan’s connection, and Onan gets a feeling of great power from him. Vacillating between trying to disrupt the ritual and fleeing from an obviously superior foe, the group hears a noise at the door. The party prepares to ambush whoever comes through the door.

Capisko, obviously shaken by what he’s seen and done, comes into their chamber. Two dead guards lie on the floor of the hall. He convinces the party to escape, knowing a secret way out.

Capisko leads the party down a long set of stairs into a large chamber underneath the temple. Searching this room, they find nothing but statues of various races and reliefs of Desdulana hunting. The party opens the door and enters the Veiled Garden.

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Trial of the Arena

The party awakens in a cell, with seven nearby cells. Only two others are occupied: one with some kobolds and one with some humans. They try to talk to the humans, but don’t manage to learn much. Suddenly, the kobolds scream as the ground under them begins to shake. Their floor starts rising towards the ceiling. At the last moment, the ceiling opens up, and the roar of a crowd, and the roar of something else, can be heard above. After a minute or so, the floor lowers again, empty. A guard comes over and asks what weapons the characters use. The characters try to pump him for information, but learn only the name Redu Kall. It seems to have some religious significance. The players get standard issue weapons, and then their floor rises into an arena. Their opponent is a wyvern ridden by a warlock. The warlock dedicates his kills to Desdulana. The party manages to defeat the pair.

The crowd is pleased, and the characters are given an honor escort to bathe and dress them in ceremonial robes. The characters continue to try to learn what is going on, but learn little. While being led through the city of Chamblas, they see fields of stygia growing and a large temple overlooking a huge rift in the ground. They are escorted to the temple and are overwhelmed by the scent of burning stygia. They are led up to a dais, where Capisko, a female oracle, and a high priest, Redu Kall, greet them. The party's equipment is returned, and they are fed. They learn that this is a cult dedicated to Desdulana, a huntress deity. Redu Kall claims that Bane stole the divine mask of Desdulana, robbing her of her power. Onan inhales some of the oracle’s drug and sees a vision of crystals swirling around a maelstrom. They crash into each other continually. One of these appears to be cracking, and a light begins to escape.

The characters retire to rooms provided them, equip themselves, and decide to investigate the rift outside. At the bottom is a wild, tangled garden with stone statues, indistinct at this distance. It seems primordial and foreboding. The characters don’t know what to make of this cult, but decide whatever they’re up to needs to be stopped.

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The Disappeared

The party returns to Duragzhar to find the city under lock down. After questioning the guards at the gate, they learn that people and objects have been disappearing during the night. Varrokh goes to the Temple of Bane to see if he can get his curse removed, but the priest tells him that he should view his rage as a blessing rather than a curse and refuses to help him. The characters go to Capisko to have him identify the ax that seems to be causing Varrokh to lose control during battle.

Capisko takes notes and draws diagrams of the ax. He tells them to return the next night to go over his research.

When the party returns that night, they find the house dark. They break in, worrying that whatever has been happening in town has happened here. They eventually make their way to the library where they set off a trap which summons a vrock. After killing it, they find Capisko's notes, identifying Varrokh's ax as Hamdoff's Berserker Ax, but find no sign of Capisko. Both he and the book, Masks of the Great One seem to have been taken.

The group goes downstairs to look for more clues and are ambushed by strange teleporting humanoids. One by one, the party is knocked out and captured.

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The Hatchling: Session 4

The party descends into the lower level of Ioth Okarthel Maurg. They find and free a human named Lothar of the hillfolk who was captured to feed to the Hatchling. After fighting a lizardfolk chief, shaman, and warriors, the party enters a magically locked room with a sarcophagus inside. The Draconic inscriptions speak of a powerful and important priest.

When the party opens the tomb, they find an undead human mummy. During the fight, Lothar contracts mummy rot, but the party is victorious. In the sarcophagus, the party finds a wand of web with a symbol of Lolth. This room is a mystery to the group.

The party then finds a room of cleansing. The tub in the room has pipes leading down to it. When the party turns a valve, clean and pure water fills the tub. Lothar bathes in the water and is cured. The mechanism or magic seems to have been broken by this one use.

By this time the party is in bad shape. They decide they can rest in the room with the sarcophagus after resetting the magic lock.

After resting, the party continues exploring. Behind a door blocked by rubble, the party finds the dessicated body of Harka. The party concludes that Old Gretchen had betrayed and killed him.

The party enters a large chamber with broken pillars. The primary Iron Scales shaman and many lizardfolk warriors are there, as is a wyrmling black dragon, the Hatchling. After a tough fight, Old Gretchen flees and the party tries to decide what to do with an unconscious baby dragon. After much debate, the party decides to kill it to sell the scales and other parts.

During multiple fights, Varrokh had flown into an uncontrollable rage, only stopping when the party knocked him out. This is something the group will have to investigate.

The group returns to Keth so that Onan can have the hag's curse removed by the druids, trusting them more than the hobgoblin clerics he would find in Duragzhar.

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The Hatchling: Session 3

When the party returns to Keth, Anathra is able to use a spell to locate the hag's hearthstone. They find it in the chief hut of the Iron Scale clan. However, Harka and most of his clan have left Keth.

The party concludes that Harka's shaman is the hag and decides to pursue them. After a little investigation, they learn the Iron Scales were headed to Ioth Okarthel Maurg, an old ruined temple dedicated to fertility.

The party pursues them. They encounter little resistance as they travel north, until a group of lizardfolk led by a shaman attacks. The party successfully kills them all. Notably, Anathra uses a scroll to trasform into a tricerotops and stomps the shaman into the earth.

When the party arrives at the temple, they find it a crumbling ruin. They spot lizardfolk sentries, but Sidium is able to stealthily kill a few before general combat starts.

After killing the sentries, they find a more intact area of the temple with a staircase leading down.

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The Hatchling: Session 2

The party decides to stay in Keth for another day, hoping to learn what they can of the Iron Scales and the hag that attacked in the night. Sidium continued his study of the Draconic language, Anathra consults the druids, and Onan searches the communal hut and outskirts of Keth for tracks or clues.

The druids tell of children seeing a witch in the night. Anathra is able to find and interview one such child, learning that the hag has been stalking the area for some time. Onan finds some tracks in the communal hut, and is able to find some similar tracks on the outskirts of town, leading into the swamp.

When the group comes back together, Onan brings them to the place with the hag's tracks. Anathra asks a tree what it has seen. The tree seems to be in fear of this woman, and speaks of the blight she brings upon the land. They stay one more night in Keth, hoping to catch this witch in the act. Onan acquires some snare traps, and hides them in the dirt floor of the communal hut.

When the witch visits that night, she is caught in the snare. The group assaults her, but she again disappears. When lizardfolk come asking questions, there is no real evidence of violence. The party is free to go. Having no other leads, they follow the blighted plants. This leads them north, towards the moorlands. When they find a cottage surrounded by blight, the group prepares for a fight.

After Sidium scouts it out, the cottage seems to be empty. They enter and ransack the cottage. Sidium acquires a magically poisoned dagger. Shortly thereafter, a troll bursts through the door, apparently a sentry for the hag. After a short fight, the troll lies dead. The group finds a pseudo-dragon that the hag was attempting to make its familiar, which they free. Onan finds and scribes her scroll of find familiar into his book of shadows. When he casts it later that evening, the pseudo-dragon they freed chooses to become his familiar. The group finds a partial ritual creating a hearthstone, how she disappears at will, and evidence that she was in Keth. Communicating via the sending stone, they have Varrokh find a buyer for the horses and meet back up with him. Reunited, the party decides to return to Keth to continue their investigation, leaving traps behind if the hag should return.

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The Hatchling: Session 1

As the party leaves Carroc Azuul, they see the smoke of many campfires burning to the south, towards the swamps. This causes some curiosity, but they have saffron to sell in Duragzhar, and so head that way. When they reach Duragzhar, the party splits up to gain information. They find out that one of the lizardfolk clans, the Iron Scales, has been expanding their territory and their numbers, putting to the spear any lizardfolk who would not join them. Many lizardfolk are fleeing the swamps. Refugees crowd into the slums of Duragzhar.

Varrokh wants to lay low, and knowing the swamp well, decides to do so there. The party sees this as a profit making opportunity, and buys metal weapons to sell to the lizardfolk.

When the party arrives at Varrokh's smuggler shack, they realize their horses won't make it through the swamps to Keth. They leave Varrokh behind, with a sending stone, to guard the horses, then continue on to Keth. They are ambushed by a group of Iron Scales, but kill them all.

When they arrive, they seek out Slyssk in order to set up a deal to sell their metal weapons. He says it will take time to find a buyer, and to come back the next day. The party stays in a communal hut that night.

The next day, Slyssk has set up a buyer. The buyer is Harka, chieftain of the Iron Scale clan. Among his retinue is a female shaman. While some in the party are uncomfortable selling to these aggressors, a deal is made, and the party leaves with many pearls.

The party splits up to investigate the situation in Keth. Sidium stays with Slyssk in order to start learning to speak Draconic, Anathra goes to talk to the local druid circle, and Onan invisibly scouts out the Iron Scale camp within Keth.

The local druids are very concerned about the aggression of the Iron Scales. It upsets the balance of their people. The Iron Scale shaman is a stranger to them, and will not parley with them.

The Iron Scale camp is already busy affixing metal spear tips to their hafts. Onan finds the tent of the chieftain and overhears the shaman talking about "The Hatchling" being almost ready. Onan sneaks into the tent, but is unable to find any evidence of what The Hatchling might be.

After exchanging the information they learned, the party sleeps the night again in Keth. That night, Onan is wracked by unholy nightmares. Anathra notices a hideous woman straddling Onan in his sleep. When she sees she's been caught, she disappears. When Anathra describes what he's seen, Onan's mind goes back to the death of his grandmother. The day she died, Onan saw a similar creature disappear from her bedside. Onan becomes convinced that this is a chance for revenge.

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Masks: Session 3

After selling what was plundered from the temple and dipping into Anathra's savings, the living PCs are able to get the gem needed for the raising of their companions. They return to the temple and complete the ritual, using their gem and the blood and heart of the dead succubus at the statue of Golathan. When Anathra and Sidium return to life, they've changed. Their eyes are blood red and, though this is yet unknown, they have a fiendish essence.

After discussion and debate, they decide to take their evidence to the dwarven king, but decide to leave out any evidence that shows that Sigrun, their client, unknowingly coupled with a doppelganger and produced its offspring. Anathra and Sidium go to Erasmus the undertaker's home to keep an eye on things while Varrokh and Onan go to Thron Fort to see King Alaric.

No one is at Eramsus's home. Sidium breaks in and discovers a magical scroll and a smooth disc that matches the one found in the succubus's chamber. Finding these valuables gives them hope that he has not given up on this form. They stake out the home, waiting for Erasmus to return.

Meanwhile, Varrokh and Onan convince King Alaric to investigate the doppelganger threat. King Alaric decides to see to it personally. He and one of his clansmen go with Varrokh and Onan to Erasmus's home. Anathra and Sidium explain that he's not home, so the king decides to ask around. This investigation is very short, since when he steps into the nearest tavern, he finds Erasmus and his assistant carousing. Anathra immediately uses a spell to revert the doppelganger to his true form. King Alaric and his clansman arrest this doppelganger. The assistant attempts to sneak out the back, but is pursued and taken down by the PCs. He too is a doppelganger: Bjarne, the young dwarf they've been looking for. Both doppelgangers are bound and taken to Thron Fort. It is announced that the doppelgangers will be burnt at the stake at dusk.

Varrokh doesn't feel right about Bjarne's impending execution. He doesn't seem to have murdered anyone or done anything wrong besides being born a doppelganger. Varrokh is able to stealthily unbind Bjarne, who is then able to make his escape on his own. That night, only one doppelganger is burned. His true form shows him to be the original doppelganger. Bjarne has disappeared.

When the PCs return to The Boot, the saffron they are to deliver to Panash has arrived. They meet with the courier Na Dae Won, who recognizes Varrokh from his time in the east. Won probes Varrokh for information to bring back to the people who want Varrokh dead. Varrokh doesn't give any, but what Won knows about the deal is enough to cause trouble in the future.

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Masks: Session 2

The PCs investigate the temple. They find that it appears to be four secretly connected temples, each with the same layout consisting of a chapel, priestess's cell, and holy of holies devoted to one of four unknown and alien gods. These rooms and temples connect in geometrically impossible ways, causing mental stress on the explorers, except Onan, who has seen this sort of thing before. They find a number of books (Harbingers, Apocrypha of Lesser Gods, The Godling Made Flesh, Dead Heresies), including a magical one called Rites of Phuathos. At first, the temples seem to be deserted, with no sign even of the will-o-wisps that led them here, but after much exploring they find a dwarven woman with her hands shackled, lying on a bed in one of the priestess's cells.

She's scared, and tries to get the PCs to leave the temple with her. When they detect that she is under the effects of a transmutation, they become suspicious. She is eventually persuaded to reveal her true form, a succubus. They get her to explain something of this temple. She worships the Great One, an old god with many forms. The four temples connect to different places in the world, each meant to appeal to the people who once lived there. Worship for the masks of the Great One have declined at the temple over the centuries, leaving her and her deacons luring innocents here one at a time for sacrifice. She was shackled by her deacon and left here. She tries to convince the PCs to help for seek out her deacon so that the magical shackles can be removed.

The PCs cannot trust a succubus. Combat ensues. She tries to escape, but is killed. In her chamber they find a smooth marble disc with an indentation on one side. The PCs continue to explore and find in one of the holy of holies, in front of a statue of Golathan, and 10 foot wide pit full of humanoid bones. Four dwarven skeletons lie on the sides of this pit. As the PCs go to investigate he skeletons, the will-o-wisps attack. During the fight, Anathra and Sidium are killed and one of the will-o-wisps is destroyed. The remaining three will-o-wisps are destroyed by crushing the skulls of the skeletons they seemed to be protecting.

Varrokh and Onan investigate the skeletons and find they recognize two of the individuals. One is Bjarne's father and the other is Erasmus, the undertaker. It seems that when dwarves go missing into the moors, the don't return afterall. They are instead replaced. Investigating the books, they find that Rites of Phuathos is a book of five forms: one for each Mask of the Great One worshiped at this temple, and the base form, called Masks of the Great One. From this base form they discover that the priestess is served by doppelgangers. They collect the distinctive parts of the skeletons as evidence.

In the book, The Godling Made Flesh, Onan discovers a ritual that can be used to revive their fallen comrades, but which requires an expensive gem. They return to town, and find that Lira believes they assaulted her sister. After explaining to her about the doppelgangers and showing her evidence, she decides they might be able to be trusted afterall.

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