(This session was run in January 2018. In terms of campaign time, this adventure took place the morning after Session 18: The Tomb of Lord DeLacrane. For a description of the Thulaen Lands and a list of the player characters see The World Map).
After the adventurers had returned to the abandoned farm house next to the field where they had fought skeletons and scarecrows, the wedding caravan commenced their journey. Stopping for the night, the caravan made camp. Thankfully, given the encounters experienced on the road so far, the night passed uneventfully. In the morning as the group was breaking camp, a strange thing occurred.
Tanin, Velnius, Xerbo, Xrax, and Belladore found themselves straddling some alternate dimension of time. As they looked around, only each other appeared to be fully corporeal. Everything else appeared faded, almost dream-like. They could see their companions moving and talking, getting the caravan ready for the day’s journey, but the images appeared as if through gossamer and the sounds were muffled. Amazingly, they saw themselves in this tableau, working with the others to get ready for the departure. They looked at each other in disbelief, but before they could come to grips with this eerie experience, the space around them transformed.
They found themselves on a grassy plain. The sky was dark, an absolute blackness, neither star nor moon piercing the veil. Strangely, all could see normally, as if there was some sort of dim illumination radiating everywhere but located nowhere. The air bore an autumn chill, strikingly different from the midsummer heat they had just been transported from. A dull hum resonated from within Xrax’s pack. Digging through his pack until finding the source of the droning, Xrax uncovered the black and gray stone pyramid, a lodestone, that he liberated from Lord Sketch’s hideout in Session 13: Lord Sketch of the Sewers of Cyr.
Before the party could consider what to do next, they noticed a number of dark forms moving in their direction. They varied in size, but the biggest looked to be about the size of a large dog. As they got closer, the adventurers could see these were gargantuan rats. But their size wasn’t the only thing unusual about them. Their eyes glowed a demonic red and they were missing pieces of fur and skin here and there, exposing bone beneath. Gelatinous slaver dripped from their mouths.
Having fought many a giant rat, even giant zombie rats before, the adventurers brandished their weapons in eager anticipation of the melee. But as these rats appeared to be more formidable than any they had fought in the past and that more appeared on the edge of the dark woods to the left and right of the clearing they found themselves in, the adventurers started to consider their options other than fighting it out.
Belladore attempted to cast faerie fire on the rats but the spell fizzled out doing nothing. Realizing that magic would be undependable in this domain, Belladore noticed a house behind them as if it just appeared out of nowhere. A low stone wall surrounded the house. Belladore ran for the gate of the wall. It was unlocked. Moving cautiously within the gate, Belladore turned to throw a dagger at one of the gargantuan rats. A voice cried out from the doorway of the house, “Don’t attack from within the gate! You’ll dispel the wards!”
Belladore spied an old woman at the door. Taking her at her word, Belladore sheathed her dagger and called to the rest of her companions to flee to the wall.
Xrax held off the rats as Velnius, Xerbo, and Tanin ran to the gate. Finally, he too broke off before being overwhelmed by the rats and made it to the gate. Belladore slammed the gate shut behind Xrax as the rats scampered after him. The adventurers held weapons ready–the wall was only three feet tall. If the old woman lied about the wards, the rats would easily scale the walls. But the wall held, or rather, the wards held off the rats. The adventurers looked with alarm as a teeming horde of rats emerged from the dark woods to crawl back and forth along the wall, yet never touching it. The old woman invited the adventurers into her house.
The adventurers hesitatingly sheathed their weapons, somewhat in disbelief that the low wall could hold off the horde of rats. But looking at the house bedecked with charms aplenty from every nook and cranny, the adventurers finally accepted the magic which held the beasts at bay. Tanin looked up and noticed at the peak of the roof hung the remains of a long dead cat. The party members exchanged a look of concern at that sight but resignedly entered the house.
The house was warm. Candles burned everywhere illuminating the recesses of the house. In the flickering light, the party could see numerous jars containing various substances and bundles of herbs drying from rafters. A pungent odor filled the house emanating from the kitchen of the old woman.
“I am Maggris. Welcome to my home.”
Tanin asked, “Where are we?”
Maggris replied, “Some type of pocket dimension, I believe. I don’t remember how I got here or how long I’ve been here.”
“Is there a way out? And what are those rats that attacked us in the field?”
“Sit. I will explain all that I know of this place. Would you like a bowl of stew and a cup of tea?”
Maggris invited the party members to have a seat at her dining table. The adventurers declined her offer of food and drink. Maggris poured herself a cup of tea and explained that the rats come from the woods on either side of the field. Some time ago they were easily handled, but as time has passed, they have become more rabid and fierce. Her wards keep her home protected, although she worried how long she could keep them out. Her days are spent creating new wards and tending the small garden within the stone wall surrounding her house. She occasionally ventures beyond the stone wall to club one of the smaller rats.
Tanin asked, “Is that what’s in the stew?” Maggris smiled a mischievous grin and nodded. Tanin noticed that the old woman regularly seemed to get lost in thought, her words trailing off. He wondered if that was the cause of this place, the woman’s age, the unwholesome rats, or any combination of them.
Maggris explained that she believed the only possible way to escape this place lies within a stone hut, but a half hour’s journey from her home. The field, the woods, her house, and the hut were the only locations of this pocket dimension. She tried to explore the hut once, but the rats also go there, so she turned around.
“Given your numbers and strength, you have a chance,” she said.
Tanin suspected Maggris knew more about this place than she was letting on.
“I believe this also is key to escaping this place,” Maggris said, pulling a small gray and black stone from within her robe. “I offer it to you in the hope you can get all of us out of here.”
“You can spend the night in my home. The rats sleep much of what passes for daytime here. It’s your best chance to make it to the hut without them swarming you.”
The band of adventurers spent the night in Maggris’s house, their rest undisturbed except for terrible nightmares of plunging through a never-ending black void, purplish-black tentacles wrapped around their limbs, pulling them down, down, down . . .
The group left in the morning with Maggris watching their departure. She clutched a staff in one hand, leaning her weight against its support. The adventurers found her watchful gaze uncomfortable and she seemed to be mumbling something as they made their way out of the gate.
The rats were gone. Icy frost covered the ground, but was melting as the day began to warm up. The place was unsettling, however, because no discernible sun could be seen in the sky nor the source of diffuse light that illuminated the land.
Maggris was right. The rats were nowhere to be seen. The party moved cautiously in the direction of the hut, on guard for gargantuan rats or any other dangers, but none emerged. Instead, the adventurers walked an eerily quiet path in a foreign land missing the normal sounds of nature. The stone hut was located where Maggris said it would. Velnius pointed out to the party the numerous tracks going to and fro from the hut. One didn’t need to be a ranger to tell these were the tracks of the rats.
The double doors of the hut hung wide open. A spiral staircase descended within. Belladore and Xrax lit a torch as a the party climbed the stairs down to a roughly triangular room with a door facing them directly across about 30 feet. The door appeared to have a large mouth, lips slightly parted, across its surface. To the north the room opened to a 10 foot hallway that continued into the darkness beyond. Xrax took the lead. But as Velnius stepped off the staircase to Xrax’s left, he triggered some type of trap. Waves of chaos assaulted Velnius’s psyche! He clutched his head in agony. As he looked around, all of his companions appeared to be lost loved ones beckoning him to the brink, recounting old memories in soothing voices and inviting him to join them in the afterlife. The experience left Velnius distraught, but otherwise unharmed.
Recognizing the arcane nature of the trap, Tanin cast Detect Magic to identify whether there were more traps present on the floor. The spell worked normally. Much of the floor in the triangular room glowed, but there were small gaps that could be traversed very carefully. Belladore crept up to the hallway to the north. The hallway continued for as far as the light of her torch would carry, but she could see at the end of the hallway what appeared to be a collection of brush pushed against the corner. She also heard rustling and scratching coming from the room at the end of the hallway and could see evidence of many footprints of rats in the dust down the hallway as well as droppings.
Belladore informed the party about the rat nest. Tanin weaved between the glowing circles on the floor to the door. The mouth spoke when he got closer, “If you have me, you want to share me. If you share me, you no longer have me.” Tanin immediately uttered, “secret” and the door opened. The party quickly made their way through the door before the rats could gain their scent.
Once through the door, they found themselves in a new conundrum. The hallway continued for 20 feet and then abruptly stopped. Belladore inspected the floor and found a loose stone. She called over to Xrax to put his boot on the stone. When he did so, the floor in front of them swung away, revealing a spiral staircase.
The stairs descended to a 20′ × 30′ library with shelves lining the west wall. A large oval table filled the center of the room with four matching chairs placed around it. The table was covered with candlesticks, the candles having burned down to stumps. Wax pooled on the table. Numerous books sat in stacks on the table along with a few others open to a particular page and piled on top of each other. Many more books filled the shelves along the wall. The northeast corner opened onto a 10-foot wide hallway.
Tanin inspected the books on the table first, his curiosity prodding him on. But the books were in such a poor state that the first book he opened crumbled to pieces. The same was true for the remaining books on the table. Time and humidity had taken its toll. The books on the shelves looked to be in a slightly better shape. Tanin moved to the nearest book shelf and attempted to remove a book from the shelf. But as he pulled on the top most part of the spine, he was engulfed in an explosion of spores from a mold that covered the books. Tanin felt a sharp pain in his head as he breathed in the spores, but he resisted the apparent attack on his mind. He moved away from the shelves. His companions inquired about his well-being. Despite a lingering burning in his sinuses and a slight headache, Tanin felt fine.
Belladore looked at one of the books open on the table, reading the displayed pages without disturbing the old book. From what she could gather, the book appeared to be a treatise on growing plants in water with added nutrients but no soil.
Finding nothing of interest in the library, the adventurers continued on down the hall that opened to the northeast of the room. The hallway continued for about 40′. Two doors on the left, one on the right, and one directly at the end of the hallway could be discerned, as well as a branching hallway about 10′ to the right. The party moved to the T-intersection of the branching hallway and peered down its length. Regardless of whether they had darkvision or not, all that any in the party could tell was that the hallway opened up to a larger room. The adventurers decided to explore the doors down the current hallway first.
The first door on their left opened to a privy. The wood of the bench of the toilet looked to be severely decrepit, covered in moss with shiny slugs moving across its surface. None in the party decided to make use of the toilet. Moving to the next door, Belladore listened intently for any sign of life within. Hearing nothing she tried the handle and found the door unlocked. Opening it softly, Belladore’s attempt at stealth failed as the door groaned loudly on rusted hinges.
The room contained a large bed at the far wall, a decaying oval rug that filled the center of the room, and tattered tapestries that hung from the walls. The rug and tapestries were woven into complex, geometric shapes in what once were likely vibrant colors, but given the ravages of time, had become muted. Xrax noticed some movement underneath the blankets of the bed–a writhing lump. He passed his torch over to Tanin, rested his maul over his shoulders, and grabbed the corner of the bedspread. With a quick tug, Xrax yanked the blanket off the bed, revealing a swarm of centipedes beneath. They immediately reacted by swarming Xrax! The adventurers quickly crushed, burned, stabbed, and smashed the nasty bugs, but the centipedes many writhing forms left a feeling of disgust in all the party and they felt as if bugs were crawling on them at the slightest tickle of their skin.
Tanin felt certain that something of value must be hidden somewhere in this room that at one time was so well adorned. Checking under the bed, he found a small chest. Interestingly, the chest had a black marble where the lock normally would be. Tanin’s deep knowledge of arcana let him surmise the marble was a magical lock. He placed the chest in his backpack telling the others that they would worry about that later.
The party moved on to the door at the end of the hallway, despite noticing light spilling out from the bottom and sides of the door directly opposite the large bedroom. But being deliberate in examining every room, they moved to every door in a clockwise fashion. The door at the end of the hallway was unlocked. Opening the door, they discovered only an empty guest bedroom also in a state of decay from years of disuse.
Returning to the door with light spilling out from it, the party readied themselves for an attack. Belladore listened once again for any signs of movement or commotion within the room. Not hearing anything, Xrax opened the door, and immediately shielded his eyes. The party moved in to the room marveling at the sight before them. Numerous stone beds filled with overflowing vegetation filled the floor space of the room. The source of the bright light came from overhead. A series of metal poles chained to the ceiling emitted magical light. The party could not tell where the source of water was for the plants but the room was very humid. A door faced them on the opposite wall.
The party walked up and down the plant beds making sure nothing of value was overlooked and no rats may be hiding among the vegetation. Tanin spied some deadly nightshade and picked some and put in his pack to be dried later. Belladore asked Xrax to help her remove one of the poles emitting light. They were able to do it with little difficulty. Belladore placed the pole in the party’s bag of holding, giving them a permanent source of light for their adventures.
The party moved on to the door on the opposite wall. Peering through cautiously, although spilling significant light into the room, Xrax recognized the room to be a laboratory of sorts. Along the near wall, Xrax could see a number of workbenches and tables holding numerous vials, jars, alembics, retorts, and mortar and pestle. Dominating the far wall sat a large well.
The party slowly filled the room, sensing danger from the unusual well. Velnius, looking behind him noticed the hallway they had looked down before so that both the hallway and the room with the indoor garden opened onto this room. Similar alchemical tools sat on additional tables and workbenches along the other wall, but the party ignored them for now, focusing on the well. As Xrax moved closer he seemed to noticed movement from the well. In fact, he saw before his very eyes what appeared to be liquid shadow spill over the edge of the well and form into several humanoid shapes. As Xrax moved up to engage one of the shadows, tentacles emerged from the well.
As the party began to attack the shadows, more emerged from the well and moved forward to threaten the other party members.
Velnius noticed along the base of the well a small niche in the shape of the stone pyramid they had obtained during their assault of Lord Sketch’s sewer lair underneath Cyr and the one that Maggris gave them. He yelled out to Tanin and Belladore who were both busy fighting shadows, pointing to the recess on the base of the well.
Belladore yelled for help in fighting the shadow with which she was currently engaged. Velnius charged up to the shadow brandishing the Fang of Kahbis. Belladore disengaged from the shadow and called for Tanin to give her the stone pyramid from Maggris.
The battle raged for another round.
Hoping that her spell worked, Belladore cast Mage Hand, creating a spectral hand that grabbed the pyramid from Tanin who just fished it from a pouch on his belt. The spectral hand weaved between the shadows, whose incorporeal forms turned to watch it pass. The spectral hand placed the pyramid in the recess on the well just before one of the tentacles would have swatted it away.
The tentacles retracted back into the well and the shadows disappeared as two thick, lead-lined iron doors lifted back in to position to shut off the well. The adventurers stood blinking unbelieving for a few moments. Once they realized the danger had passed, they moved about the room examining the workbenches and tables on the sides of the room.
Among the tools of alchemy, the party discovered a number of intact potions including ones for healing and climbing. But the most important discovery was the dried husk of a wizard, still wrapped in a fine, blue cloak. The state of the robe compared to the other textiles in this hold suggested a magical nature to protect against the ravages of time. Velnius tried to carefully remove the robe, but the bones and skin of the long-dead wizard merely crumbled into dust.
The adventurers doubled-back the way they came, avoiding the rats, out of the stone hut, and returned to Maggris’s house. They found her on the porch. She reacted with a start at the sight of the blue cloak from the wizard’s laboratory. “Fosfeld?” her memory connecting back across the gulf of time spent in the chaos void. When Velnius pulled back the hood of the cloak, Maggris knew what had become of her beloved. The adventurers reacted in horror seeing that Maggris, in a fit of insanity, had chewed her ring finger down to a bloody nub. The adventurers came to realize the stone pyramid had protected her sanity in this dimension.
Tanin suggested they give Maggris the remaining lodestone. Xrax fished it out and held it in his hand. “How do we get back,” he wondered as the party stared at the stone. The stone started droning, transfixing the party members who crowded around it. Time shifted as they heard Maggris mourning, “Fosfeld! My beloved Fosfeld!”
As their senses returned, Xrax, Tanin, Belladore, Velnius and Xerbo found themselves back exactly where they had left the wedding caravan, breaking camp. They blinked their eyes and looked at one another, wondering if what they had experienced actually happened. The blue cloak around Velnius’s shoulders seemed to confirm it did.
Belladore advanced to 6th-level. Xrax advanced to 5th-level
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“Into the Chaos Void” was based on The Witch’s Trial part of the Lands of Lunacy Setting Guide by Fail Squad Games. The Lands of Lunacy can be obtained as either a PDF or a Softcover. The Lands of Lunacy Setting Guide provides an alternate dimension to transport your players on side adventures. The setting is especially useful when only some of your players can show up for a session, affecting the continuity of your campaign.
Forest Battle Mat: Paizo’s Pathfinder Basic Terrain Multi-Pack Flip-Mat
Low Stone Walls: Dave Graffam Models
Tiles for the Wizard’s Laboratory: Dark Crypts Map-Tiles by Black Scrolls Games
Shadows Plastic Minis: Custom Order from Litko Game Accessories
Chaos Tentacles: Shadow Tentacles by Reaper Bones
Original illustration of the Magic Mouth/Door by Jody Monochrome