From our vantage point we can see two openings at the base of the steps in the ziggurat. This is useful information. As we descend and approach, our view will be blocked by the black stone wall and we need as much information as we can get before we are too near.
As usual, Cirian is cautious. He suggests we wait and watch. Elves!! Maybe we should have a nap while our world is destroyed around us?? I state firmly that we must move on with all speed.
We walk for a few minutes while still in cover – then group together under an invisibility spell as we reach the base of the obsidian wall. Nothing moves – it seems completely deserted. We make a quick search of some of the ruined outer buildings but find nothing suggesting recent habitation.
But something strange is happening here….the ruins of Kuluth-Mar seem to be suffused with a strange taint that hovers just beyond the edges of reality. Like an oily stain spreading over a pool, a vision wavers in the air. Within the tainted energy is a man seated on a great throne made of green stone. He wears ornate plate armour, and a black circlet rests on his brow. Both the circlet and armour are adorned with silver symbols – an overlapping skull and scythe. He holds an archaic symbol of his allegiance to Nerull – the God of Death.
The vision expands, widening its scope to reveal that the throne is located at the apex of the large ziggurat and in the shadow of the spire. The spire itself gleams with flashes of white light, and at its peak is balanced a fifteen-foot-tall black stone monolith shaped like a trapezoid. Around the ziggurat spreads a thriving city, its streets paved in white stone, its buildings painted and whole.
Thousands of figures have gathered in the large open plaza that surrounds the ziggurat, all facing the figure seated at its centre. Their cries are a rhythmic chant, surging like waves on the monolith’s shore. As these cries rise in volume, threatening to shake the jungle apart, the vision fades and is replaced by the ruined city of today.
The chant seems to remain ringing in the air… “Kyuss, Kyuss, Kyuss”…
We shake off the dread feeling we all experience, and continue on. Walking around the wall we find no opening, so we fly over. As we pass across, Ezio hears a cracking sound coming from his pack, and inspection finds that some of the potions he is carrying have been smashed, and amongst the broken glass and liquid can be seen the dead remains of some of the dreaded green worms.
We consider this carefully. The potions have been in Ezios pack for a long time – we think he has carried them since before the encounter in the swamp when Aramil was lost to the crocodile. Perhaps they became infected at that time?? But if those waters contained worms, why were we not all struck down as we waded around?? But more importantly, the worms were killed as we crossed the black wall. Is this place somehow a fortress which has been protected from the worms, so that none can get in?? Or out??
We can see some runes adorning the walls surface – and Cirian can read the draconic symbols – “Kyuss forever bound”. Is Kyuss himself a prisoner in this place??
The temple rises some 100 feet above us – and the remains of the spire some 120 feet higher than that. We decide to investigate while our ability to fly remains.
Rising up, we find no way to enter – and are about to drop back down to ground level, when a darkness gathers again in the air around us.
The strange dark stain wavers and then grows solid. The peak of the Spire of Long Shadows is restored, and affixed to this peak is a fifteen-foot-tall, three-foot-thick trapezoid-shaped pinnacle of black rock, ten feet wide at the base and five at the peak. The monolith of stone shimmers and vibrates with waves of energy, and something strange and horrible writhes inside its nearly opaque interior.
Suddenly, a brilliant red wall of scales fills the view, and there’s a terrible sound of crumbling stone. In an instant, an enormous red dragon is winging away to the north. The spire’s peak is in ruins, and clutched in the dragon’s talons is the monolith. The vision fades, and the dragon and its prize are gone.
Again I must shake off a feeling of dread – and we quickly descend to enter the ziggurat.
We go in through the western entrance. Climbing a short flight of steps we find ourselves facing a wide chamber with a small passage ending in double doors in front of us. As we descend closer to the ground we can see many green worms writhing in the soil beneath us. This is not looking good. The walls are covered in a fresco depicting the destruction of a town by a ruthless army led by a massive cruel-faced figure.
Suddenly we see a hideous dark human-like creature climbing the stairs behind us – it is clearly undead, green worms crawl through its eye sockets and in and out of its mouth. It is accompanied by two large undead beetles, also covered in worms.
I consider protecting myself by covering myself in my fire. But then again, these are probably mere guardians of the gates, and should present no difficulty to us. Surprisingly however, the fight is quite difficult. We kill them eventually, but not without taking some injuries. I am beginning to be filled with concern for what this day may bring.
We open the doors to a massive chamber some 120 feet square. Double doors are in the centre of all the walls, as well as a set of stairs climbing to unseen heights. Pillars support the roof, many broken, with pieces littering the floor. In the centre of the room is a large hole in the ground as if something has burst up from beneath. Another UIgurstasta?? Green wispy vapours escape from the hole and disappear into the air above. A palpable evil can be felt emanating from here and we dare not approach too closely.
We choose the south doors at random, and enter a 50 foot by 25 foot library. Books are everywhere, as well as a dozen clay jars filled with a grey liquid in which sits a single green worm.
A priest and 3 undead warriors advance towards us – and now begins the most difficult and complex fight of our quest.
These warriors have some terrible powers. I am able to scare one of them away – he cowers in a corner for most of the battle – but the others have a power which enables them to harm us and heal their companions at the same time. We take massive damage from their attacks. Traeven, for once, is the only one of us not to fall. I have no time to stop and heal myself as everywhere I turn one of my friends is in need of my ministrations. Even the mighty Ezio is dropped at one point, and my most powerful healing spell is required to restore him. Cirian falls, but I get to him in time. At one point I am killed, but Velen shows himself a true master of his craft by reversing time so that we can reconsider our actions and find another way to proceed. This time I avoid being hit, but sadly I report that I am unable to return the favour and Velen, our friend and ally in this noble quest, is killed and left helpless on the battleground.
Such is the intensity of the fight, that Cirian becomes agitated and stressed. At one point he has the opportunity to kill one of our opponents, but confuses his spell and causes less damage than he may otherwise have done. On another occasion he actually hits one of the warriors with a spell that restores him and makes him more powerful!!
In spite of this, eventually our opponents’ powers begin to wane and we gain the upper hand, finally killing them all.
Cirian is most distressed by his error, and apologises profusely after the battle is finally won. I keep my concerns to myself, but privately I am worried by Cirian. This is not the first time such strange happenings have occurred. And from one with such formidable intelligence as he. Hmmmm. Perhaps my concerns are no more than the age old animosity between my race and his, which I cannot, even with all my training, completely quell.
We gather up Velens body – I cast my restorative spell upon him – and we retreat to a safe place created by Cirian to rest, heal and prepare to continue our search on the morrow.