All Roads Lead to Styx
In which pets are adopted and an adoptee is found
Characters: Genesa, Obsidia
Notable NPCs: Barbat and Dramyin the Galdulkas, The Shadowwalker
Monsters and creatures: Zombies, Broos, Hellhounds, Gelatinous Cubes
After consulting with the Galdulkas, it was determined that the most likely place for the Mask of Pain to be found is in the hoard of Lord Winkum, an ancient Galdulka of tremendous power who is feared throughout the underworld. He was instrumental in bringing together all the various powers of the underworld into the fractous truce that is the Protectorate, and he rules over the underworld city of Styx from his vast fortress outside Styx. If any of the other powers in the underworld, such as the Sorceress Queen, had the Mask, they would have already used it, so it is probably either lost, or in the labyrinthian depths of Winkum’s treasure halls.
From their current location, there are three major ways to get to Styx. The most obvious and (usually) safe route goes deeper into the territory of the Sorceress Queen, but given that the party has just battled one of her lieutenants (Khuthalious, the dapper orc), that would probably be a Very Bad Idea. Another would take them out of the Protectorate altogether, into the fragments of the Old Drow Empire, and possibly into the influence of the Mad Queen. The players declined that path as well. The third path is through lizard rock, the domain of the Chi Rynn, dragonmen who rule over all the reptile folk (Rynn): lizardmen (atmar), hadri, nagas, harrekki, wyverns, etc. While the Galdulkas know it is possible to get to Styx this way, it is the path they are least familiar with, but they are able (with their minions) to get the party past the orc stronghold (which is now on full alert) and safely to the tunnels leading into Lizard Rock.
Mud stays behind to use the Galdulkas workshop and study their constructs for a bit.
The tunnel is lit poorly and intermittently by phosphorescent fungi, and someone better, if erratically, by the flames Obsidia keeps dancing around her head. Genesa notices something amiss ahead of them, a nearly invisible shimmer in the air as if there were something wet across the entrance to a side tunnel. She throws a couple of rocks at it and then loses sight of it after hearing it glop its way out of the tunnel and move towards them.
Together they battle a gelatinous cube which they can barely see, taking major damage from its acidic ooze. No sooner to they defeat the sloppy creature than they are faced with another behind it. In the dim, jumping light, Genesa manages to stumble too close to the thing and is engulfed. She comes face to face with the Black Gate that guards the realm of Death, then wakes choking on a healing potion that Obsidia forced down her throat, but not before Death itself saw her and beckoned her with a finger, marking that her time is nearly over.
The cubes were in different passages, one going off to the left and fairly level (the main passage slopes down most of the time), with the other passage further down and sloping steeply up to the right. It would be quite a scramble to go that way, but they decide to explore the left passage before going on their way.
Ahead, they hear whimpering and growling, and come upon a passage to the right which is guarded by a huge black mastiff with fiery eyes and mouth, chained to the wall with a black, runed chain. Genesa distracts the beast by talking gently to it while Obsidia melds the end of the chain, separating it from the bracket on the wall. As soon as she holds the chain, the great dog relaxes and becomes friendly to the two of them. On its collar is the name Magog. Beyond Magog in the passage is the door he was guarding, which is ajar.
Inside is a scene of distruction. There are dead zombies, broken furniture, lots of scorch marks, and two dead humans, one a woman fighter, the other a man wizard. It looks like the room has been thoroughly ransacked. Searching carefully, our heroes realize that not all is as it seems. First, there is a portion of the wall where the bricks do not completely match up, a door-sized area that lookes as if the bricks were melded apart like Obsidia can do with metal, then melded back together in a hurry. Also, the wizard is not a human, but camoflaged by an illusion to appear so. Under the illusion he is Nykckeltharpa, the hadri envoy they met at the Galdulkas. A thorough search of the fighter’s body turns up an earring with a ruby the size the end of Genesa’s pinkie, and a carfully hidden scrap of parchment that was tucked into a fold of the woman’s belt. They also look for the ambassador’s harrekki, which they find hiding in the smashed remains of a wardrobe (this room was once outfitted as a small apartment or safe house). Genesa calms it by singing to it, and is suprised by it bonding with her immediately.
They scavenged two more of the chains like the one on Magog from the general chaos of the room, sealed things up as best they could, and rested.
Heading back to the main passage, they travelled uneventfully for a time, then ahead first heard, then as they got closer saw a battle in progress. The largest half-orc they’ve ever seen and a dwarf wearing a hooded cloak and carrying a staff and a curved dagger were fighting off a large number of zombies and goat-headed men (broos, like the chaotic, sadistic, disease-carrying cousins of minotaurs). The hooded figure darted in and out of the battle, seeming to be everywhere at once, stabbing with the dagger and casting nets of shadows to entangle the foes. By the time our party caught up with them, the battle was over. The orc and dwarf turned to face our intrepid heroes, ready to battle again, then the dwarf paused, pulled back her hood to see Genesa more clearly and said, “Mom?”
And thus Genesa was reunited with her adopted daughter Helga, now the Shadowwalker, and her companion Josh, son of Mikas, son of Hurl, son of Darryl, son of Greta, in Lizard Rock, in the depths of the underworld.
Obsidia levelled up! Genesa is marked by Death and will inevitably die soon.