After a trying battle my shieldbrothers and I rested. Waking replenished we carried forward with temerity. We were presented with a choice, travel further down the into the depths of this dark and foreboding dungeon or horrors, or continue to explore the level we currently resided upon, before journeying further down into the depths of this dark and foreboding dungeon of horrors.
Hakkan put forth the excellent opinion that we should finish our explorations of the current level to ensure no fiend, undead, devil, or aberration could come upon our backs whilst we were engaged with other forces of evil. So, we unanimously decided to complete our explorations of the current level. Our exploration was brief… We came upon large cylindrical room filled with not one, but two extra planar storms. One above and one below. There was an extremely complicated contraption with gears and chains that hinted the possibility of passage across resided within the realm of credulity. And, shadowbrother Hakkan was tempted to find a way to cross, because surely something so dangerous, must bar the way to something valuable. Which, is exactly what Acerak and the dead sycophant Withers would want us to think. And my shieldbrothers, for the first time were unanimous that it was a dastardly trap and we wanted none of it. So, we turned around and exited back into the hallway to descend.
As Stump would say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Acerak".
Oh, I nearly forgot. I am a goat-man. Upon much reflection and prayer to Torm, I concluded that I had not been using all of the tools at my disposal in an effective and efficient manner. Namely, I had spurned the cursed Staff of Striking because… well – it's cursed. Nevertheless, it is a tool of immense value, and we are in a fight for the fate of all the planes. If I am willing to sacrifice my life to stop Acerak's plans, then I must also be willing to sacrifice whatever toll this curse takes upon me. If I am lucky, it will only be my appearance, and not my wits. Yet, if one priest must lose his wits to stop all the worlds from ending, than the world has negotiated a highly esteemed bargain.
The stone steps descended further than any other stairwell we had encountered thus far, a metaphor to be sure was intended by the twisted minds of the architects of this infernal edifice. We came upon a room filled with a green smoke. As fitting his role, Hakkan stealthily scouted ahead, while the rest of us awaited by the door, primed for battle. We heard a small voice moving towards us crying "Go back, run away, you cannot defeat the Sewn Sisters, they will slay you!" The sewn sisters, you will recall, were mentioned in the journal we took from Withers, after we vanquished him. We had never heard of them prior, nor since. Though, they have provide some function for the rearing of this nascent death god Acerak means to unleash upon the planes.
Someone, I believe Shageyume placed a lid upon the Sister's cauldron, and the green smoke thinned and vanished. We behold a room, with a gallery all around. Five doors, each with a design corresponding to one of the skeleton keys, and a Jade door at the far end of the room, containing all five designs, though each design was locked by a metal plate.
More diabolical puzzles. If I leave this dungeon alive, I never want to see a puzzle for as long as I draw breath. On the ground in front of us were three disturbing and … simply creepy creatures. Constructs, imbued with souls, most likely the souls of children. They pleaded with us to leave, for the feared we were no match for the Sisters, who were Night Hags, it seems. Apparently, they can teleport into the room at any point, and were privy to all there was to know of us, because as disturbing as the poor constructs trapped souls were, they were no were near as disturbing as the "Looky-like". A malformed, malnourished clone of Shageyume, which had been tortured for information pertaining to us for the totality of it's dreadful existence. Given that the Sisters had promised this poor creature, that I have dubbed Gumey, that they would eat it upon their return, he promised to aid us in our struggle against the Night Hags. As did the three constructs. I will admit to some trepidation, this place has instilled an unhealthy sense of paranoia in me. Yet, I sensed no treachery from either of them. So, Hakkan freed Gumey and Stump carried two of the Doll-constructs – or dollstructs, as I shall now refer to them, -, and Shageyume the third – Jojo the monkey, I believe.
It is with some shame that I must admit that I did not volunteer to carry one of the poor lost souls trapped in these dollstructs. I was afeared some sort of conditioning or Geas was placed upon them by the Hags and would trigger at a most dangerous juncture. As I mentioned before, paranoia.
My fears were misplaced, not only did the dollstructs not betray us, but they imbued their holder with useful charms. Stump gained the ability to become ethereal and go supernatural periods of time with neither food, water, or air. Shageyume gained the ability to comprehend all languages. Quite remarkable.
We waited for a time for the Hags to arrive. When they did not, we set about completing the trials of the door. They transpired as follows:
Each of the five rooms was made of stone with roughly similar dimensions, I will only describe the relevant details.
The first door had a crystal cylinder filled with light, inside the light was a lever. A tedious debate transpired here that I wish not to relive by jotting down. Suffice it to say, Unkkh is proving quite vexing residing in my little shieldbrother. Still, no where near as vexing as Nyang Nyang. Nor as dangerous. For some reason we tried a fishing pole to switch the lever, which did not work, then mage hand, which was not strong enough, then finally Shageyume cast telekinesis. The level flipped, and the metal plate moved off of the corresponding symbol on the Jade door. One trial completed, four extremely dangerous puzzles to go.
The next room had scattered papers all around and an ethereal lever. Telekinesis would not be enough, as the lever was on the ethereal plane. Apparently the papers were spells, a great boon to a mage, but when the third spell was picked off the floor, all of the papers wilted and crumbled to dust than resolved into a dust mephit. Hakkan grabbed Shageyume and ran from the room, I prepared to cast Sacred Flame, but before I had a chance, the elemental slammed itself into a wall and burst into nothingness. Quite odd. Stump used his new ability to become ethereal, switched the lever, and revealed another key slot.
The third room contained a large table filled with wondrous looking food, roast boar, stew, ice cakes, and beer, if I recall. A gaunt, well dressed man beckoned us enter, and gestured us to eat. I rarely trust any being we meet in this dungeon, let alone one offering us wondrous food and that eerily lacks the ability to speak. I knew Gumey was ravenously affected by hunger, and to my further shame, I allowed him into the room. I did caution him that the food was likely poisoned but, alas, he no longer cared. He ate much of the food, with no obvious afflictions – though we were still wary. After much exploration,we noticed one of the tapestries on the walls was decorated with one of the devil faces this dungeon is rife with. After some trial and error and botched attempts at feeding the face, we reached inside the space it held and pulled the lever. Upon exiting the room, those of us who had not partook of the magical feast (Hakkan, Shageyume, and myself) felt crippling, debilitating hunger. Hunger so rapacious, it could not be sated by any food or Lesser Restoration. It took a Greater Restoration spell to alleviate. Unfortunately, Greater Restoration is a spell I can only cast twice, and doing so consumes all of the 5th level magic Torm grants me access to, leaving us somewhat vulnerable. Shageyume rather unselfishly, agreed I should cast Greater Restoration on Hakkan, which I did. Though I promised to cast it upon him upon completion of our next long rest. At this point, Gumey seemed to suffer no ill-effects from the banquet he ingested. Point of fact, he actually looked much improved.
The fourth room contained a lectern with a book, the book contained eight pages, with a sort of limerick written in infernal. Given his new found ability to comprehend languages, Shageyume entered the room. He did not translate all of the rhyme aloud for us, but it had something to do with spiders, and spinning, and going backwards. Shageyume requested stump enter the room and hold a compartment within the lectern closed, I gather he afeared a spiderous monstrosity would emerge from the chamber. A fear that, was wholly warranted in this foul nightmare of lair, but did not transpire. Shageyume cast fly upon himself and read the poem, the room flipped upside down and the ceiling crumbled – revealing a spinning eight bladed fan spanning the entire ceiling. Stump held on to the lectern for dear life, no thanks to me trying to pull him free of the room via a rope we had affixed to his waistline prior. Eventually, the spinning stopped and the room righted itself. The compartment Stump attempted to hold closed actually contained our next lever. We flipped it and revealed the fourth key compartment.
The final room contained a cracked hexagonal mirror. Below the mirror, a shelf containing 5 tallow candles with bizarre ebony occult sigils. Above the mirror, written in blood, were the words, "Piggy, piggy, piggy." Examination revealed the sixth candle underneath the shelf. Shageyume placed the candle on the shelf with the others and lit them all with a firebolt. Hakkan entered the room and recited the litany, "Piggy, piggy, piggy". Gazing into his reflection, he could view the lever upon his right. Though, it did not exist in our world. Using the mirror for guidance, he moved to the wall and flipped the lever. The final key slot revealed itself.
Gathered in the main room, I was about to prevail upon my shieldbrothers we partake in a long rest, thus I could replenish my spells and cure Shageyume of his rapacious hunger. At that moment, the Night Hags materialized in the room, causing poor Gumey to explode as one materialized inside of him. Given his weakened state and lack of arcane magic, I do not believe the Sisters chose to target Gumey first because he was far from the largest threat in the room, rather it might have been a condition of their magic that breathed life into him, or a side effect of the banquet that the rest of us declined. We will likely never know.
The Night Hags leapt into action, taking us slightly unaware – yet cackling about eating our teeth and feasting on our marrow. Given that we knew not their names, I shall refer to them as West, North, and East- an indication of where each Night Hag originally materialized within our burgeoning battlefield.. West cast a spell I know not of, transforming her eyes to an inky black void. She attempted some affect on Shageyume's mind, or so he tells me. He shook it off. Gnomes are hardy like that. East cast a ray at Stump but missed. Finally, North pummeled me with a spell I have seen Shageyume use to much advantage, Magic Missile.
Now, our turn. Hakkan unleashed an arrow. Stump brought down his flaming sword, not once, not twice, three times, knocking the Hag prone and severing her arm. East was down, when Razz cast a spell on his arrow I have never witnessed before and perforated both North and East – ending the threat of East for all time.
I called upon Torm and charged at West. There are times when a cleric truly feels his God with him, and in that moment, striking down these foul creatures, I felt Torm in my staff arm, guiding my swing as I brought the Staff of Striking down upon her vile head – and I knew I would strike true. I know that humility is a trait to be strived for, yet – in that moment, bashing that vile monster with enough force to throw her back ten feet brought a smile to my goat-like visage.
The battle raged on. West stepped onto the ethereal plane and cast magic missile at Shageyume. North electrified myself, Stump and Hakkan with a lightning bolt. Hakkan was able to dodge clear in it's entirety. Truly, Torm must have been with me, for I managed to dodge the lions share of the levinbolt. Sadly, Stump took the lightning full in the chest. His hair was still standing on end the next morning…
Shageyume returned West's magic Missile, Razz used his Hunter's mark and stuck North with more arrows. Stump let loose with might cuts from his flaming sword. I sallied to the center of the room and called forth Spirit Guardians, then I missed with my spiritual sword.
West, still upon the ethereal plane, moved to the far southwest corner of the room, and Hakkan moved to threaten her with his short sword. She returned to the material plane and blasted Stump with a ray of some foul necromancy. Stump told me later, that it made him feel weaker for a short time. But that was all the opportunity Hakkan needed and he savaged her with his short sword. Fearing Stump's flaming sword, and Razz's arrows, North fled to the ethereal plane.
Shageyume, in a moment of tactical genius, cast a force wall in a circle, enclosing North with Stump, who now has the power to follow her into the ethereal plane. He walked up to her, said "Boo" and called upon Moa to become invisible.
I did not waste the opportunity West had given me by returning to the material plane, and cast Guiding Bolt, but with 3rd level magic, and called upon Torm so that I might strike true. She was obliterated.
At this point, North spoke to us. "You have slain my sisters, I will barter for my life with important information."
Shagambi and I were in agreement. We would not grant this foul creature mercy so she could spread her evil in the world.
"We do not negotiate with killers of children" I stated. I knew Stump would understand my intent – and I knew he would agree. His flaming sword ruptured out of the front of her chest and she fell to the floor dead.
And the world was safer for it.
After a brief discussion, we decided for a Long Rest. In the morning, I restored Shageyume's hunger to normal levels – then we journeyed beyond the jade door.
What we saw was difficult to describe. We stood on a wide balcony, overlooking a lake of lava. Adamantine struts held aloft a crystalline structure with floating, circling dark figures within. I can only guess this is the Soul Monger, floating next to it is a darkened, misshapen fetus – the unborn death god. I know this – because Shagambi has commanded that I slay it immediately. It bore a twisted umbilical cord that disappeared into nothingness.
So. How does one kill a death god?