When last we left our heroes…
They had decided to strike a blow against their enemies, by taking the fight to Mort. They didn’t anticipate a frost giant ghoul that threw other skeletons, among other hazards. Now they are catching their breath at the top of Mort’s tomb, while he waits for them below…
From outside they hear the giant skeleton pounding on the door, then silence. They’re not sure what’s more disconcerting. A wind blows pretty consistently, but it’s hard to tell if it’s coming from inside or outside. There’s a distinct smell of rot, but also garlic.
On the wall are two inscriptions. The first one, carved into the wall, says
Laid here in the year of the Lamia’s kiss, after
battling the horde of the wastes, defending the
walls of Bloodhand Hold, under the banners of
both men and elves, rests Lord Silviu Rampyr.
May he return to the peace of his wood.
And the second, written in some kind of awful ichor, says
The Hunter’s Moon’s darkest friend
Moves the sleeping earth
The Feasting Moon’s agents fly
To test the humans’ worth
Sacrifice will bring the words
Of babes at naked breast
Desanctifying lands about
And stirring those at rest
The Devoured Moon rises dark
Bringing dead to play
And opens doors to the Shade
Clearing Master’s way
The second door leans ajar
Tinuvial spends a few minutes on some healing rituals while the rest of them catch their breath. While he casts, they discuss the verses. The Year of Lamia’s Kiss was around 700 years ago. Before Waterdeep was “Waterdeep,” it was always called something “Hold.” So Bloodhand was a person who ran the town then, and Rampyr with elves and men defended it.
The noble name Rampyr is either so long gone or so minor that it doesn’t ring a bell. Word on the street is that House Rampyr married into another family and was subsumed, so Rampyr may have connection to a current House.
One relevant point is that before the settlement of Waterdeep, the area was part of the Kingdom of Man (“Man” being a linguistic coincidence, not held by humans), which was held by an alliance of elves, humans, and halflings against the hordes of the North (i.e. orcs).
There was a cycle, the scholars call the Horde Cycle, which they theorize that, when resources grew scarce in the orcs’ mountain holds, they organized under a powerful leader, raided the lowlands, were beaten back, and the cycle began again. This has been happening for at least 2000 years.
The Many Arrows orc nation, far to the north, is a shift in the cycle. They stopped raiding and started trading with the dwarves. This development has unsettled most of the other races. Never trust an orc!When the alliance fell apart, the humans took over the run of the land.
When they are ready, Tinuvial casts Light on Mordith’s shield, which is less useful than it should be. There are so many particulates, bone dust and mold spores and so on, that the light dies off pretty quickly.
They descend into the darkness. Mordith encounters a statue first, of a handsome human, shoulder-length hair, sword in sheath, caped, looking romantically into the distance. He may be Tethyrian or Chondathan. He’s hard to nail down. His (carved) armor seems to be 500-700 years old, but on one shoulder there is a patch of a torch.
They can see two corpses in the perimeter of the light, and bones scattered about.
Mordith gets tired of the analysis paralysis and steps down into the room. The two corpses awaken, and they seem to be…fresh. Recent kills. Their clothes are recent.
Belwrick rushes up and scans the scene, while Mordith strafes left and takes out one of the zombies. Another one looms out of the darkness at him, stabbing him with something that could have been awful. Adalwin disables the other one, but it stays up. Elyas fixes the light while Tinuvial puts a bolt in the undead warrior on Mordith.
In that moment Mordith notices two things: the warrior’s armor is ancient and he seems less shaken than he should be from Tinuvial’s bolt.
Mordith & Adalwin shake off the other attacks. Adalwin manages to snatch one zombie’s meat cleaver.
As Vell prepares his attack, he realizes his opponent is one of the Gravedigger’s Guild. Then he stabs it.
Belwrick leaps up onto a bier and stabs one of the zombies right into his neck. It goes down.
Tinuvial calls a bolt from the heavens, somehow, and Mordith goads the warrior into focusing on him, with mixed results. It works, but he gets stabbed good for it. Vell takes care of it, though, with a bolt to the warrior’s eye.
Mordith takes it out on the last one, though, and the fight is over.
They take stock of the room. It used to be a burial room, filled with biers and ossuaries, with wall sconces for torches. Which Vell lights with a snap of his fingers.
They spend a little more time on the statue. In addition to the torch, he has a tower on his other shoulder. This doesn’t reveal much, but Vell does find an inscription on the base: Rampyr. Someone has placed a wreath of garlic around its neck.
There is some evidence of new digging. One tunnel leads down into darkness, and the other seems to have been started and abandoned fairly quickly.
To the right of the stairs is a mural of someone who looks related to the statue man. He is also labelled Rampyr. Behind him is an early Waterdeep, without the towers. He is standing ahead of a host of men, against an army of trolls. He is holding a torch in his off hand, and Meadow (!) in his right.
Mordith is concerned.Behind him are three constellations, the Sentinel (or swordsman), Maerilzoun the (serpent) and Tassabryl (the Maiden, but that word is used ironically — she is known as vain and spiteful). Most of the stars are painted, but some are jewels. Four, to be precise. One is a fire opal, near the top, then a star sapphire underneath, an aquamarine to the left, and a carnelian on the bottom right.
Written on the bottom, in an old version of Chondathan is
From the Dessarin River -
To the Waterdeep Mount -
He shouted defiance -
And stopped the holocaust -
Sending them back North.
Tinuvial believes these lines do more than memorialize the man; they give directions to opening the wall. He tries a combination, fire sweeps the room, Mordith collapses, and Vell says, “I think that was the wrong order.”
Tinuvial reassesses and tries again, while the rest of them cower up the stairs. The second try works, and the mural opens. The room is opulently decorated (though they put hardwood under grade), with a library, a brazier, lights in the domed ceiling that turn on, and, most interestingly, a shrine.
“This isn’t a tomb,” Tinuvial remarks. “This fucker lived here.” The roof is painted to match the sky and in this case, the stars are in their proper order.
Above the desk is a huge tapestry of the crest of House Talmost, showing a torch and tower on a blue field. They are still around, and still very powerful, but in all their dealings, they have not come up. They are known mostly for textiles and furs, and traditionally for being allied with House Wands.
It’s comfortably warm in the room. Music plays faintly in the background. Adalwin realizes that the song, if they sped it up, would be a drinking song he knows. It’s always about a local hero.
Tinuvial and Belwrick investigate the shrine. It’s seems to to be a shrine to Sune, which is the traditional goddess of Talmost. Of all the jewels that were in the statue of her, though, only the red ones remain. She also seems to have been doused with blood, particularly her face, which is a huge blasphemy. They also gave her horns. Tinuvial believes this is meant to make her a shrine to Asmodeus.
Adalwin realizes that Rampyr (if this is his place) has been burning books and some kind of humanoid in the brazier. They pull some bits of books out of the brazier. Most of them deal with demons and devils, and pacts with same. Vell finds one entirely in Infernal on the rituals and etiquette of dealing with the infernals.
Tinuvial and Adalwin clean up the shrine. When they do, the braziers flare up briefly, then burn steadily.
The bookshelves are largely unremarkable, containing mostly histories, geographies, and romances (no, not those, just unrealistic fiction). As they browse, they realize that Rampyr has been editing (violently) the books he didn’t burn. The place was initially a refuge for him, but became something else.
On the desk they find a letter in a hand they recognize to “My Dearest” and signed “Rampyr Talmost.” It apologizes for what he is about to do to her, her lover, and the whole city.
Tinuvial reads some romances to Sune, but Rampyr has torn out all the relationship bits. He, with Mordith’s help, improvises the rest. Then he asks her for the name of Rampyr’s love. There is a smell of rosewater and a whisper in their ears: Amee.
Through some more reading of the histories, they discover a few interesting tidbits. House Talmost was ennobled for the valor of their actions during the Orcfastings War, the second house to be so ennobled, after House Sunspear, which became House Wands.
There’s no way this was built for Silviu Rampyr — it’s too new, so why does it exist? And why is there a shrine to Sune? And why did Talmost adopt Rampyr’s symbols (the torch and the tower)?
They do some triangulation, and decide that the tomb must have been built by Rampyr Talmost around 1050 – 1100. What incursion of trolls, orcs, or etc would this inspire? What necromancer would he be referring to? Who is Amee?
After recuperating and reading for about eight hours, they emerge and go down the middle passage, Mordith first. The passage is dug straight through the earth, so it’s mostly rock and dirt at a funny angle. Mordith slips his way through and the rest follow with ropes. Ropes they did not tell him about.
The room the emerge in is part of the ancient dwarven home under the city. No one has found this place for hundreds of years. The ceiling has fallen in, so they are mostly walking on rubble. The many pillars are measured in dwarven meter (length, not poetic rhythm).
The pillars are also inscribed in Dwarven, and the walls are decorated in geometric patterns. Elyas begins to cast Comprehend Language, as none of them speak or read Dwarven. It takes about ten minutes, so in the meantime they fan out to search the area.
In and amongst the rubble are dwarf bones — when this cataclysm came, there were dwarves here. Belwrick finds a hand in the rubble with a ring on a finger. He calls the group over, and it is pretty clearly a magic ring. The inscription says, in Dwarven, “The Sea Relents.”
The ritual over, Elyas begins to translate. Unfortunately the rubble covers the bottom of the pillars, so the ends of most stories are lost. Much of the details are about finding food and water, which, for underground dwellers, makes sense. One pillar describes how a dwarf tamed the waters. It shows him pointing a fist at something that looks like snakes.
The group wishes, out loud, that they could tell if it was good or evil. Mordith realizes he can do just that, checks it, sees that it’s consecrated, and pulls it off the finger. They jump, he tosses it to Belwrick, and goes back to guarding the entrance.
While his Divine Sense is on, he can see that the room was once consecrated ground, but there’s a path of neutralized, even desecrated ground, from the hole they came down to the well at the other end.
One story shows a bearded, cloaked human driving back both the drow and the dwarves with fire. The pillar names him as Hallister. They realize that they must be on the edge of Undermountain. Mordith makes a concerted effort to persuade them to fight the undead giant instead. They ignore him
The well is dedicated to a dwarven god, Dumathoin, god of exploration. The god one prays to one goes into an unexplored hole. They say a prayer, then Mordith drops down first.
As soon as he hits the water, the water snakes form. Mordith calls out for the ring, Adalwin grabs it from Belwrick and jumps into the water. Tinuvial says a prayer to Dumothoin to protect them and Vell follows Moridth and Adalwin.
Mordith does the only thing he can; he starts swinging. The snake tries to force its way into his mouth and pull him under. Adalwin swings at it again, and it disappears into the water. The rest of the party follows down the rope.
Vell splashes ahead and discovers two more snakes, so Mordith charges one. Behind him, Elyas grabs the ring from Adalwin and calls out, “Hrun De!” The snakes disappear, though Mordith isn’t convinced.
They hear whimpering from the left, talking from straight ahead. They decide, bravely, to check on the whimpering first.
The well is clearly more dwarven work, the kind of cistern one would create for an underground civilization. They assume the water snakes are guardians of the well.
At the end of the tunnel, Mordith sees a hole above, which seems to have been where the dwarves would have dipped a ladle to get water from the cistern.
Belwrick tries to climb up, but it’s slippery. He takes a couple of tries, but makes it up. He immediately regrets his success. There are people hooked to the walls, some of whom are dead, some are not. It is the ghouls’ larder. Tinuvial comes up just behind him. He ends the one who won’t make it, and saves as many of the rest as he can.
Mordith helps everyone else up, then climbs up himself. It’s as awful as they described to him — people who have been hoisted on hooks, voided their bowels, and died on the hook. Tinuvial begins to save who he can, but quickly becomes overwhelmed. He begins to pray. Mordith takes over the triage, but he can’t decide whom to put out of their misery. Vell…assists.
Then Belwrick hears some grunting at the door. “Someone’s there,” he says.
Mordith charges the door, Belwrick opens it, and chains shoot out and entangle Mordith. He charges in and thinks, just for a moment, that it’s his father, before the illusion disperses. It’s a creature covered in chains. He swings at it for little effect.
Adalwin comes into the room and seems to see his father. He swings wildly, but is largely incapacitated.
The chains seem to be alive, whipping about the thing as it fights.
Vell finds a way through the chains with his rapier and does some significant damage, before Belwrick zaps it with electricity.
The thing begins to rend Mordith with its hooks while Vell and Elyas take shots at it.
Mordith shakes off the chains and starts swinging. Adalwin shakes off his fear and hacks away. They dispatch the thing in a whirlwind of sulphur, but not before it cries out, “I remember you!”
This thing isn’t really dead, just banished. Vell explains that it’ll be back, with friends.
They arm the survivors, Mordith gives them a quick pep talk, and they go into the next room.
It’s odd, actually, that there’s a slaughterhouse at all. It speaks to Mort’s level of intelligence, which is frightening.
Belwrick cocks an ear to the door, and hears grating voices, cackling, and anguished cries.
Elyas goes into gaseous form and sneaks into the room. It’s a dining room, a huge table at which Mort sits, along with a number of ghouls, and a human guildsman, a pipefitter. The table has holes cut into it so that the human meals can be put into them. The ghouls aren’t yet tearing in, which is odd…
Mort has evolved. He’s dressed to the nines, in finery and a stovepipe hat. Behind him is a stone door to nowhere, but surrounded by sigils in infernal. It’s a portal to…somewhere. It’s not of dwarven make — he’s added it. He seems to be enjoying holding the ghouls at bay.
Elyas signals that he’s ready to go, then casts an illusion of Count Rampyr saying “Do you think your garlic will save you?” He follows that up with a fireball.
That’s the signal. Vell runs in and lobs a crossbow into Sen, the human pipefitter guildsman. He coughs up blood and falls over backwards, dead.
Adalwin pins a ghoul against the table and wipes him out.
Mordith puts a pair of bolts past the illusion, but misses. It’s hard to tell where Mort is looking, though, on account of his all-black eyes and his ripply skin.
They swarm into the room. Elyas takes out most of the table with another fireball, while Tinuvial and Belwrick mop up the remnants. Mort bolts through his portal, holding a seagull feather.
Sen has a seagull feather as well. Mordith grabs it and pulls the group through the portal onto a grassy knoll.