The Ruby Rod

Episode 104

Welcome to the Pyramid of Shadows

Finally reaching the shore and dead tired, the party notices, not too far off, a small watchtower. The party moves there shelter them from the storm. The watchtower is abandoned. Before the party retires for the evening, they hear a mournful roar off in the distance. From the top of the watchtower they see the island they are on, a massive jungle circling around a city, and in the middle of the city stand a monolithic pyramid. Standing beside the pyramid is a colossal creature, the source of the howl. It’s at this time the party realizes their familiars are missing.

The next morning the group has a better chance to see their surroundings. They see that they are inside a massive pyramid, far beyond the island they are on are walls extending skyward. A bright light at the apex bathes the world in red, a beam of light shooting down the walls, slowly making its way around, perhaps reinforcing some barrier or cleaning the walls.

The party attempts a sending spell to contact Tannis. Tannis notifies the party that he has found his way to the pyramid and is holding up near the front entrance. The party makes for the pyramid, traveling through the jungle as best they can. Eventually the party encounters some of the local wildlife, a cute mushroom shaped creature hops along the path the party is on. Unable to identify it, the party moves on, the creature following. Not long after, many more of the little creatures appear, hopping after the party.

One of the party gets the idea to offer the creatures some red residuum found back in the volcano forge. One of the hoppers approaches and sniffs it, and for whatever reason becomes enraged. The heads of the hoppers split open, revealing the hidden toothy maws. The party runs.

After a while the party begins to treat the hoppers as slightly lethal mosquitoes, mostly annoying, but some bad luck might cause one of the buggers to bite in a more vital area. After some time a loud thudding can be heard. A monstrously huge hopper appears, and leaps to attack. Buzart’s recoil shield combined with the creature’s springy composition sends it flying far off into the distance, but it soon returns.

A javelin flies through the air pinning a hopper to a tree as it’s about to latch onto a party members face. A voice suggest fighting back to ward them off. The party easily defeats the big hopper and scatters the smaller ones. The voices owner appears, a very rude Halfling with a javelin almost comically larger than himself. He tells the party that this is his part of the jungle and they should leave. Upon further inquiry the party also learns that he has been there for three years, and that nobody should be trusted in the city.

Moving on, the party finds a large wall surrounding the city, with a long dark hallway leading in. Torches light themselves as the party moves forward through the tunnel, a story in pictures is shown on the wall but the party is distracted by a pair of blue flaming torches. Above one of the torches is a batlike creature with a long tail. The bat speaks, but only Tavar and Daelock can understand. The bat asks the two who they are, and then flies back through the tunnels telling the party to follow, the torches turning blue as the bat passes.

The bat waits by a door in the side of the wall near the entrance of the tunnel, and when the party approaches it flies into the air then morphs into a key and falls on the ground. The group uses the key to open the door and find it empty, but upon closing the door behind themselves the darkness gives way to a shop.

All around the party are piles and shelves of odd knick knacks, small creatures flying about the shop ceiling, and other creatures crawling along the shelves and walls. The party guess that this is some kind of familiar shop. At the back of the room the party finds a counter top, another room behind it filled with shelves, lockers, and a dresser set. On the dresser a green orb linked to a chain hangs, it begins to glow and bob back and forth, one of the dolls on the table stirs, and moves. The doll is 7 inches tall with a black hooded coat, a purple handkerchief covering its face and two large lenses for eyes. Its eyes are a dimly lit blue as it awakes then turn bright yellow when it notices the party.

Wire frame wings extend from its backpack and it flies about the back of the counter pulling down books and placing them in front of the party. The books are ledgers and catalogs for various magical items. The group purchases a couple and sells a few things they’ve found, the whole time the merchant doll communicating through hand gestures, eye colors, and the occasional written note. The group is about to leave when they hear a voice, the green orb tells the party to buy it, that it will help. The party doesn’t have enough money to purchase the orb, to which the voice replies to offer something in trade, that the merchant loves keys.

The party offers the vault key they had forged, the eyes of the merchant lighting up. It pulls out a book and opens to a blank page. The wire frame wings dipping into a ink well, it begins to rapidly begin drawing over several pages in the books. Moments later it finishes and looks back over its work. Suddenly it flies off, plops the green orb down in front of the party, and then returns back with a small chest of coins and gems.

The party accepts. The merchant takes the key which is twice as large as it is, shrinks it down, and then places it in its jacket along with a large number of other keys. The bat then places a different key in front of the party, telling them it will open to the shop wherever the flames glow blue. With that the party leaves.

A disembodied head materializes inside the orb, an Eladrin woman, she introduces herself as Vyrellis, and says she knows a way to escape the pyramid, or at least she knew. Fragments of her being are scattered across the pyramid, with them she’d remember.

The party leaves the shop and returns to the city’s entrance tunnel. There they finally get a chance to look at the paintings on the wall. Walking down the tunnel each side had a matching set of paintings. It tells the story of a man, whos kingdom was being encroached upon by other kingdoms, makes a pact with a devil for power. The man becomes a tiefling and then sets out to conquer the world. The pact allows him to conquer only the material world, and when he moves onto the feywild, is vanquished and imprisoned within the Pyramid of Shadows.

The heroes recognize an eladrin woman in the paintings as Vyrellis. Tempest recognizes the capitol city where the Tiefling ruled is her home town, or at least was in the same place, many years ago.

Near the end of the tunnel, the party notices that Tempest and Tavar have gone missing. Suddenly the walls the floors begin to shake, and a pair of bizarre 3 armed, 3 legged creatures burrow out of the walls of the tunnel, collapsing the ceiling, preventing the party’s progress. Buzart recognizes them as Xorns, earth elemental type creatures who eat gems, and begins to barter with the xorns to pass through when another pair of xorns breaks through the floor and attack the party.

A typhoon of elemental power shoots forth from Varastrix, and through the combined efforts of the remaining party the xorns are quickly overwhelmed and attempt to flee. Only one xorn escapes.

Vyrellis feels the presence of a soul shard, and urges the party to search. Within the xorn’s hides are various gems, hardening their skin. One of the gems is one of Vyrellis’ soul shards. With it she remembers some of her past life. She was the wife of Karavakos, the man depicted in the paintings, and when he was imprisoned, blamed her and cut off her head. She also remembers that Karavakos is split into pieces like her, but whole beings. The party would have to slay them if they had any hope of escaping.

The party begins to dig their way out of the collapsed tunnel, wanting to hurry their search for their missing party members. Exiting the tunnel they see the city, the huge black pyramid laced with gold far off in the distant. A voice begins to speak to the party, it’s owner, a sphinx, lazily draped over the entrance to the tunnel. It calls to its friends, a minotaur and a strange gibbering one eyed creature called a nothic. The trio of monsters challenge the group to answer a number of riddles, if they succeed they will be given information to help them on their way, and if they fail, the monsters will attack them and eat them, as is their custom.

The group quickly answers are all three riddles to the chagrin of the nothic. The sphinx is impressed and imparts some knowledge of the city, mainly concerning major landmarks and recent history. To the north is a frozen castle where a white dragon, aptly named The White, lives, he occasionally flies around proclaiming its greatness. To the north east is a library. To the east is a small army of devils that are recent additions to the pyramid, the party surmising that they are the devils from the volcano. To the west the jungle has overgrown the city and rests a person called Ulgohralkthi although he is usually just called The Tiki Man as he wears a mask. In the middle of the city lays the pyramid, guarded by a monstrous colossus who guards it. The sphinx suggests if they want to learn more, the Tiki Man would be their best bet, as to her knowledge, he’d been inside the pyramid the longest.

As they make their way west, Vyrellis informs the party that she feels the presence of an aspect of Karavakos. Investigating, the party finds a boarded up building, the front door unlocked. Peaking in they find that the inside is very different from the outside. In the middle of this otherwise empty building is a small cottage sitting atop a short grassy hill. A beam of light pours from on hole in the roof onto the cottage, but instead of the oppressing red of the outdoors the light appears as normal sunlight.

Creeping up carefully, the party decides to knock on the door which is answered by an elderly tiefling. The tiefling introduces himself as Vakos and after learning the party is not associated with The White, welcomes them into his home and offers them tea and biscuits. The party is not convinced they have need to kill the kind old man, so after tea they leave.

Vyrellis berates them, and mentions a soul shard on Vakos’ person, explaining she didn’t mention it earlier since the party was suppose to kill him. Daelock goes back to retrieve it, attempting a stealthy approach but failing miserably. Sensing the shard under Vakos’ shirt, Daelock decides to just grab and run. Ripping off Vakos’ necklace, Daelock get a crack on the head from Vakos’ staff, to which Daelock responds by turning invisible and escaping. Vakos is The shard turns out to be inside a locket along with a picture of Vyrellis.

The party leaves Vakos behind alone and without his locket. They press further west, the city streets soon give way to the overgrown jungle. Not long after Buzart senses the presence of ogre who leaps at the party from the trees. Buzart begins to make short work of the ogre when another pair of ogres approach and tell him to stop. They explain that they want to take them to their boss, to which the party agrees, but not before getting one last shot in on the ambusher. During the short journey, Lucif attempts to slink off to try and watch for any future ambushes and ends up walking face first into the sneakiest ogre he had ever known of, and decides to quietly rejoin the party after sheepishly nodding to the ogre.

The ogres take the group to a cavern, the hot humid air turns colder the further in the party goes. A number of ogres patrol the halls. Eventually they reach a chamber where the Tiki Man sits upon a stone throne, a totem staff in hand affixed with a number of Vyrellis’ soul shards. The tall humanoid, as his name suggests, wears a tiki mask, an vaguely mournful face with 4 long feathers poking from the top, bandages covering the rest of his body. After introducing themselves and their intentions, the party bargains for information and the totem staff, agreeing to slay the white and return with its head and heart.

The party sets out for the frozen castle, following a map given to them by The Tiki Man. Along the way, shadows of people can be seen inside the buildings, shutters quickly closing as they pass. Infiltrating the frozen castle is easier than the party would expect, and so is getting into the inner chambers. A maze of frozen mirrors provides some trouble until a number of the party notice something out of place. Vorastrix notices a gap in the cold, the mirror there doesn’t reflect perfectly having a delay. Daelock senses and illusion in said gap, and moves through, not noticing the missing floor on the other side of the illusion, Daelock falls down an icy chute and nearly into the mouth of The White.

Luckily, The White is encased in a block of ice. The rest of the party slides down to investigate. A rumbling voice echoes through the halls and a copper dragon reveals himself. Introducing himself as Astrarian, the copper asks the party what they are doing there. The party explains how they were looking for an item when they were sucked into the pyramid, then describing the bargain with Tiki Man.

Astrarian mentions how he had simply been sleeping on his hoard when he was sucked into the pyramid. He then describes how The White was attempting to become a dracolich, one who could invade people’s dreams as he slept. The nature of the pyramid prevents anyone from needing to eat, this allowing The White to sleep indefinitely, allowing him to project himself from the safety of the castle. The copper took issue with this and sabotaged the ritual, imprisoning The White in his current state.

The copper refuses to allow the party to kill The White, claiming friendship. However Astarian is eager to help the party and suggests bringing Tiki Man to the castle where they could ambush him. The party agrees to this. To help the ruse, the copper removes a bit of The Whites tail, saying that it will heal back. He then helps the party fashion a vial of liquid ice, a substance which would freeze solid when disturbed, to explain The White’s state.

The party returns to the Tiki Man, explaining how the white had somehow frozen itself in battle, offering the tail and vial of liquid ice as evidence. The Tiki Man is suspicious but does not let on. While walking together out of the cavern, The Tiki Man throws his arms over Vorastrix and Lucif in a friendly manner, slipping something into each one’s ear. Tadpoles burrow into the pair’s skulls, the two recoiling from the pain. The tiki man’s bandages loosen, showing purple moist skin underneath, his mask slowly rotates, turning itself upside down, the sad mouth now becoming a brow, the feathers appearing as a beard, or rather, a set of tentacles. The mask shimmers and sinks into the face underneath until it vanishes, showing the face of an Illithid.

The mind flayer explains that he will remove the brain slugs once he is satisfied that the party is not attempting to betray him. Not wanting to attack the illithid while surrounded by his orge thralls, the party quickly proceeds to the frozen castle.

On the way, an orc approaches the group, an agent of the mind flayer. The illithid communicates telepathically with the orc and curses allowed. He doesn’t explain, but the party must hurry. As the group traverses the mirror maze they see figures ahead. They soon run into a pair of familiar faces.

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jackfremont

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