Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess

Part One - Chapter Ten: The Hidden Shrine of Iuz

It was approximately midnight on Sunday, the 16th day of Harvester, in the Common Year of 580, when the Company of the Green Dragon finished searching the first floor of the War Tower. But because it had only been about an hour and a half since they last rested, the band decided to continue on.

Before proceeding into the first of the lower levels however, they wanted to investigate the possibility of exploring the second floor of the tower above them, since that is where the swordwraiths had come from earlier. Because of his familiarity with stonework, they sent Kelgor ahead of the rest to inspect the stairwell leading up, and almost immediately he encountered enough fallen debris on the stairs to make passage to the second floor nearly impossible. On top of that, it soon became Kelgor’s opinion that the second floor was too unstable to safely move around on it. The band then came to the conclusion that the swordwraiths were able to move about the second floor either because they exerted very little if any weight, or because they were very familiar with the second floor, or a combination of the two. Whatever the case, the band agreed that they would not be making any attempt to explore the second floor themselves.

With that decided, the band turned to the stairs leading down, which also descended from the main entrance hall. Using Corvyn’s flaming sword and a light spell to guide the way as usual, the band made their way down the stairwell that zigzagged past a couple of landings until they reached the next level about 25 feet below. Here they came to a room with three doors and in each of the four corners were shelves upon which rested gold ingots on red velvet squares. Now more than ever, the band could not escape the feeling that the gold had been placed there to lure adventurers ever deeper into a trap. A detect poison spell helped to confirm this, as it was discovered that the gold was covered with poison. A quick cantrip however removed the poison and allowed the band to pocket the gold and continue on. The first door to the left, turned out to be a false door that led nowhere. But the second door, straight ahead led to another room.

In this room they found a few bones and the dried up body of a giant ant. On the opposite wall was another door and to the right, a hallway led away into darkness. They chose to go through the door and soon found themselves in an unfinished passageway. A little further on, at a bend in the passageway, they came across another door and decided to go through it. Then, at the end of another unfinished passageway they found a set of double doors, which opened up into a large, rough-hewn, cavern dominated by a huge pile of manure with eight peaks. Moonlight was faintly visible at the far end of the cavern.

The huge pile of manure, as Corvyn correctly pointed out, lay directly below the stables on the first floor, and was the product of all the horses once kept there many decades before. As the band was making their way past it, they were attacked by an otyugh hidden within the pile. Zeke got the worst of it as he was grappled and bitten by the foul monster before the band was able to kill it. To make matters worse, the manure also had rot grubs in it, one of which attached itself to Corvyn and had to be burned off with his flaming sword. After dealing with this the band tried to stay as far away from the manure as possible.

However, on the far side of the pile, Brom found a slab of compressed and hardened manure that turned out to be a concealed door. Realizing this, the band had to investigate further. Beyond the concealed door they found a rough and narrow passageway leading to a hidden shrine dedicated to the evil demi-god Iuz, complete with an altar, incense burners, a ceremonial dagger and bowl, and a statue of Iuz in his demonic form. The place reeked of offal and was filled with black and green sludge.

Despite the awful smell of the place, Tadwin was quite fascinated by the discovery, and ignoring the protests of some of his companions, he was determined to do a thorough examination of the shrine. Knowing that Iuz had been one of the nine powerful beings once captured and held prisoner in the castle by Zagig, until his escape about ten years before, Tadwin was quite puzzled as to why there would be a hidden shrine dedicated to him. Perhaps, unknown even to Zagig, there had been secret worshipers of Iuz among his followers. Or perhaps, there was an explanation even more bizarre and sinister. It did not seem to make much sense that the hidden shrine was built after the departure of Zagig, but this was, nevertheless, another possibility.

After some inspection, Tadwin realized that manure had been burned in both of the incense burners and wondered what might happen if he lit the incense burners. When he did so however, the statue of Iuz suddenly sprang to life and attacked. The band was then forced to chop it to bits.

Soon after this, Brom found another concealed door within the shrine. Opening this door revealed another small room that reeked even worse due to the pool of urine and manure that lay a foot deep on the sunken floor. In the center of the room rested a kiva-like structure with a ladder poking through the top of its opening. This room smelled so bad that at first no one wanted to enter it. Kelgor cast an augury spell and determined that it probably wouldn’t be worth investigating the room. But again, Tadwin could not turn his back on the room and had to examine it. So he held up his cloak and wadded through the horrible smelling liquid until he got to the kiva-like structure. He climbed up on this and then down the ladder into the small chamber within. There he collected a tinder box, some black candles and a black cloth. But by this point, the smell had gotten so bad that his nose started to bleed and he began to feel light-headed. So he got out of the room as quickly as he could.

Unfortunately, from that point on, Tadwin’s boots were permanently scented by the awful smell of the urine and not even a cleaning cantrip could remove the stench. The band, in fact, made Tadwin walk behind them for the remainder of their explorations until he could acquire another set of boots.

After investigating the shrine to Tadwin’s satisfaction, the band then moved on to the end of the man-made cavern and found a wide opening where the moonlight was filtering in. Obviously built originally to allow the manure to be dumped onto the valley floor below, the large passageway was protected by two portcullises, both of which now stood halfway open, and a series of arrow slits off to one side. Sensing a possible trap, the band avoided walking beyond the portcullises and headed towards a set of double doors in the cavern. These doors led to a few passageways, one of which headed back towards the stairs going up, while another headed in the direction of the arrow slits. The band chose to go towards the arrow slits, and just beyond a locked door there, which Brom managed to unlock, they came upon a room with ten skeletal archers. Seeing that they had been correct in their suspicions about a trap they battled the skeletons and destroyed them without much difficulty.

Each of these skeletons carried gold-tipped arrows and spears, and more were found in a nearby guard room. The band collected all the arrowheads and spearheads, and returned to the passageways, where they found a set of stairs leading down and a set of double doors. Not wanting to go down any further just yet, the band opened the double doors and found a room with two wheelbarrows and a few digging tools, including a shovel with a golden blade.

By now, it had become obvious that there was an extraordinary amount of gold items within the War Tower, and many of these items would not ordinarily be made of gold. This led some members of the band to wonder if there was some unusual explanation for all the gold items, perhaps something that would magically transform other materials into gold.

Also within this room were six doors. Behind each of these doors were more quarters and when the band opened the first of these doors they were attacked by a dozen zombies that issued forth from the quarters. After defeating the zombies, the band searched the quarters and Brom located another concealed door.

This one however was much different from the previous ones as it led into a very low tunnel. Brom explored the tunnel for a ways and found that it branched out in several directions. One of the tunnels he followed until it came to a dead-end, so he doubled back. It was only at this point that Brom realized the tunnels had been made by giant ants, and suddenly he found himself scrambling away from three giant ants that were chasing after him. One of the ants grabbed him and very nearly pulled him back into the lair. But Brom managed to escape and eventually made it back to his companions where they killed the three ants that had chased after Brom.

At this point, the band returned to the unfinished passageways, which they had found earlier and had not finished exploring, and continued on with these. Here the band passed through a few more doors leading into more unfinished passages and chambers. One door opened up into a very small, closet-sized room where they found a stash of gems lying under the lid of a crate. But soon after this, the band was attacked by three beings known as slow shadows. Two of these creatures latched on to Corvyn, while the third latched on to Kelgor. Unable to shake the creatures off, Corvyn and Kelgor were gradually drained of heat and became lethargic.

Corvyn, in fact, was very close to dropping unconscious when the band was finally able to kill all three shadows. When at last the battle was over, Zeke had to use the few remaining charges from his wand of healing and by now the band’s spellcasters were very low on spells. So the band decided that, even though it had only been a few hours since their last rest, it was time for them to rest once again.

They considered resting within the tower as they had done before. But it was pointed out by some of the band’s spellcasters that they felt ready to try and learn new spells that were more powerful than any they currently knew, and that it could be of great benefit to spend some time learning a few spells. And since they were not far from the city it made sense for them to return to the city to do their studying. But the band did not want to travel back in the darkness, so they decided to rest for a while just outside the tower, next to the dwarves’ fort.

Before going back outside however, the band took about half of the gold they had acquired so far, and hid it in their handy haversacks. Since the haversacks had extra-dimensional spaces in them, it was hoped that the dwarves would not be able to detect the gold there, and therefore the band would not be taxed for it. When they were ready, the band went to the front doors on the first floor and did their predetermined knocking pattern. It took a while for the dwarves to answer, as it was now in the middle of the night, but eventually six of the dwarves opened up one of the doors. Then, while the rest of the dwarves stood on the opposite side of the pit and before the wooden planks were placed back over the pit, one of the dwarven clerics, Dorogond by name, cast a spell to detect for gold. As hoped by the band only the gold that was not in the haversacks was detected, and it did not amount to a great deal. So the band decided to risk it all by gambling on the game the dwarves referred to as “The Great Risk” where two hammers were tossed into the air and the pattern in which they landed determined the outcome. As it turned out, luck was in the band’s favor at this time and they ended up being taxed only one tenth of their gold instead of one third, and that was only for the gold that the dwarves knew about.

Having met their agreement with the dwarves to the dwarves’ satisfaction, although the dwarves were somewhat disappointed with the outcome, the band spent the remainder of the night either resting, or, as in the case with others such as Kelgor, conversing with the dwarves.

Kelgor, in fact, took the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the dwarves and about the ruins of the castle. By the time the band was ready to move on, Kelgor had become friendly with Stillguar, the leader of the dwarves, and Dorgond and Arthton, the two dwarven clerics, despite the fact that they worshiped different deities.

With the coming of the dawn, the band slowly made their way back across the two narrow bridges and began their short journey back to town. Along the way, they were ambushed once again by a small band of orcs. But despite the fact that the band was low on spells and still suffering from a few injuries, they had no difficulty in defeating the orcs. And a short while later they were back in the city.

After a couple of days, during which the band spent resting, studying and training, Zeke came down with a case of filth fever, no doubt the result of having been bitten by the otyugh. But Kelgor was able to heal him back up to full health within a few more days. Six days then passed uneventfully. But during this time, band was also able to do some trading and resupplying. Tadwin, for example, bought some new boots to replace irreversibly stinky ones, and Zeke and Kelgor both bought two more wands of healing. Corvyn also got his flaming sword repaired.

On the evening of the sixth day, with the band now feeling more capable than ever and ready to resume their explorations of the castle ruins, they decided to pay another visit to the Green Dragon Inn before setting out the following day. Not long after their arrival at the inn however, a boy came running into the inn with a worried look on his face. He spoke briefly with Ricard Damaris, the inn’s proprietor, who in turn looked about and pointed the boy in the band’s direction.

The boy then came over to the band and spoke to them. “Excuse me kind sirs,” the boy said. “I have a message that may be of interest to you.” He then handed them a badly scrawled note that read, “Help, come quickly, Adarian the sage in danger”. Tadwin recognized the name of the sage who specialized in botany and lived in the Garden Quarter, though he had never met the man. When asked who he got the message from, the boy told the band that he had heard a strange voice in his head as he was walking through the Garden Quarter. The voice told him to write down the note and to deliver it to a band of adventurers.

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arkhemedes

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