(This adventure was run in July 2017. In terms of campaign time, the adventure took place the day after Session 13: Lord Sketch of the Sewers of Cyr. For a map of the campaign world and a list of characters see The World Map).
After Session 11: The Jackdaws, the Raven, and the Rat, Tanin inquired with the Jackdaws if any of the guild members had interest in the obsidian Orcus statue acquired back when some of the adventurers raided the barrow tomb in Session 4: The Barrow Tomb of the Karpath Brothers. His inquiries initially fell on deaf ears–none of the members seemed interested in starting a cult of Orcus. But eventually, the potboy of the Weary Traveler delivered a message to Tanin from a member of the Jackdaws showing some interest in learning more. The note was signed by a guild member named Korvis.
Korvis sent another note to Tanin after the party returned from their recent excursion in the sewers of the city, asking for him and his companions to meet up at a dockside tavern the next day. The wedding caravan of Master Makryannis was due to depart that day and the Heroes of Edgewood had already agreed to serve as guards. Fortunately, Okkar Ironeyes stopped by the Golden Tankard (where the adventurers were staying more often now since they owned a stake in the establishment), relaying news that the wedding caravan was delayed another day since Makryannis’s daughter had gotten cold feet. Okkar believed that she would be comforted enough to depart on the morrow. This gave the party a day to pursue any mission the Jackdaws put before them.
Tanin, Kulo, Pabelle, Belladore, and Bao gathered at the dockside tavern as requested. There, they met an agent of the Jackdaws, an assistant of Korvis, but not Korvis himself. A man named Merik. His closely cropped hair and well-maintained beard gave him an almost regal bearing, yet his pronunciation of certain words gave away his likely upbringing in the slums. It appeared that his affiliation with the Jackdaws increased his station in life. He told the party the story of Pallon the Pirate, a figure of some ill repute with the merchant vessels that plied the waters of the Endless Sea to bring trade goods to and fro from Cyr. The story goes that Pallon and his crew discovered a ghost ship floating in the waters of Blue Crab Bay. Fog had filled the bay, and the ship was not spied until it was right next to Pallon’s cog. Seeing no crew, Pallon’s men boarded the vessel. As soon as their feet touched the deck, skeleton warriors seemingly bubbled from the planking. Pallon’s men soon found themselves overwhelmed. As soon as they felled one skeleton or knocked one overboard, two new ones materialized before their eyes. Pallon, himself, seemed enthralled by some strong greed emanating from the vessel. Despite being outnumbered by the skeleton hoard, Pallon barked orders to his men to fight their way to the ship’s hold. He seemed to believe some important treasure lie within the ship.
Merik paused and drank from his leathern jack. He continued with the story of Pallon and the ghost ship. Pallon and what remained of his crew managed to fight their way to the hold. There, Pallon discovered some important artifact, almost as if it had called to him to find it. He and his crew fought their way back off the ghost ship and back to their vessel. Once they had separated from the ghost ship it quickly disappeared in the fog. The rest of the lore holds that the artifact drove Pallon mad. He returned to the vault he had built in a cove in Blue Crab Bay, slaughtered what was left of his men, and was never seen or heard from again.
Merik explained to the adventurers that the Jackdaws knew where the vault was located. They wanted the adventurers to gain entry to Pallon’s Vault and discover what lie within, to discover the artifact Pallon had found on the ghost ship.
The adventurers found a seaman and crew willing to bring them to Pallon’s Vault. The lore about Pallon was actually well-known among the sailors of Blue Crab Bay. The captain of the ship, Ralf, even knew of the cove reported to hold Pallon’s Vault. But he tried to dissuade the party from undertaking this mission. He had heard of some foolhardy sailors who tried to break into the vault to steal Pallon’s riches. Those sailors were never seen again. Nonetheless, the captain’s reservations were set aside at the sight of gold. Tanin haggled a little, but the captain’s price was still high and he wanted payment up-front. He clearly didn’t believe he would be returning with any of adventurers back to Cyr.
They reached the cove by mid-day. Anchoring away from the rocks of the bay, Ralf told the adventurers he would wait six hours before considering them lost. Escorting them in a rowboat to the cove, Ralf suggested that should they need him to come sooner, they could light a bonfire to signal the ship.
The cove was an irregularly shaped half-circle about 35′ × 55′. Near the far wall, sand gave way to stone and a door was set in the wall. The adventurers searched the cove finding a partially buried and dilapidated rowboat, as well as a chest and crate. The crate crumbled into splinters as the party attempted to reveal its contents. Nothing of value was found within–the remains of rotten foodstuffs. The chest was in better condition but was found to be empty once the rusted locks were forced open. The barrels on the other side of the cove were likewise in disrepair and where reasonably sound, only seemed to contain foul-smelling water.
As the party approached the door, noticing for the first time something inscribed on its surface, a pile of bones suddenly cohered and rose into the form of three skeleton sailors. Wielding rusty swords and scimitars, they attacked! The skeletons were easy enough for the party to handle, but as soon as they returned one to a pile of bones, another two would reform in its place. The adventurers soon realized that they needed to get through the door–otherwise, the skeletons would continue to materialize.
Pabelle read the inscription on the door: “Give to receive.” She noticed a metal cup in the center of the door. Pabelle conveyed what the inscription said to her companions who were busy fighting off the skeletons. She took her water flask and poured a little water in the cup. Nothing happened. She yelled, “I think it needs blood!”
Bao replied as his quarterstaff smashed into the skull of one of the skeletons, “Don’t skimp. Make it a good cut!”
Pabelle hesitated, but on seeing another skeleton vanquished only to be replaced by three more emerging from the sand, grabbed her dagger and made a deep cut in her hand. Squeezing the blood into the cup, she heard the grating of stone against stone and the door began to open. She turned to her companions, hoping they could disengage from their battle to duck into the doorway. To her relief, the skeleton pirates had crumbled back into piles of bone the moment the door began to open.
The party entered a long hallway that ran 40′ before opening into a larger chamber. Kulo lit a torch, noticing a body lying on the ground about 30′ ahead. The party moved cautiously down the hallway, their senses on edge after battling skeletons that sprang from piles of bones. They paused at the body–a human who had been dead for some time, his skin desiccated into a leathery shell, his face contorted into a rictus of pain. Was he an adventurer who tried and failed at securing the treasure said to lie within? Or was he one of Pallon’s sailors who met his end at the madness Pallon discovered on the ghost ship? Investigating the body revealed little of worth, but a clue to the labyrinth within was revealed–Kulo’s torch flickered as he stooped to search the body. A current of air seemed to pass through the wall on the right. Kulo nodded to the flickering torch, and Belladore replied, “Secret door?”
Just then, seemingly out of nowhere, yet all around them just the same, a wave of terror-filled energy spread throughout the dungeon. Some of the party members withstood this invisible force with no effect. Yet others, Belladore and Bao, suddenly felt themselves succumbed to an uncanny level of exhaustion.
Movement in the chamber ahead caught the party members’ attention. Kulo took a few steps forward and as his torch illuminated the room, he could see the forms of several monstrous rats moving along the walls, sticking to the shadows. The stink of rot permeated the room, although the labyrinth had a strong musty smell from the moment they entered. A monstrous rat to Kulo’s left revealed the source of the rot–flesh and fur hung torn from open, festering wounds. The rat turned its head revealing much of its skull beneath before lunging forward and attacking!
Kulo had enough time to yell to his companions before unsheathing his rapier. The party rushed forward to assist. Three more monstrous zombie rats bared vicious teeth made all the more menacing through gaping holes of necrotic flesh.
Steel met decaying flesh. Teeth pierced through armor to open bleeding wounds in the heroes’ bodies. The din of a quick battle filled the small chamber, but soon the adventurers returned the zombie rats to the death from which they rose. The companions shared a brief smile of relief over their victory, catching their breath in the interlude. But suddenly, another wave of horrid-energy swept through the dungeon! Once again, Belladore succumbed to the effect, feeling doubly exhausted as a result.
The adventurers returned to the body in the hall from whence the air current was detected. Kulo inspected the wall, finding a loose stone. Pushing the stone inward triggered a mechanism! The sound of stone grating on stone filled the hallway. The secret door opened to reveal a long winding hallway that curved to the left before curving back the right. What lie beyond was not discernible.
The adventurers moved along single-file, following the hallway left and then right where it opened onto a larger chamber with four bodies lying on the floor. Again, a wave of foul-energy struck the adventurers and yet again, Belladore found herself the victim of a deep energy drain. Her level of exhaustion now approached alarm and she cried out to her companions that she was going to flee Pallon’s Vault!
But before she could finish uttering her despair, the four bodies on the floor sprung-up in a corrupt mimicry of human movement. The jerky, spasmodic bodies with arms outstretched and eyes vacant of life shuffled towards the party. Blades whirred through the air cutting the walking corpses asunder, but not before their skeletal hands had ravaged the living flesh of the companions.
Wiping their blades clean of the vile ichor of the zombies, the party members searched the room. An altar and throne filled one niche. Broken pottery littered the opposite wall, although one jug remained intact. Tanin searched the altar and throne. The altar appeared to be solid rock, stained a deep rust color from countless sacrifices. The throne next to it was no less disturbing, made from the bones of men–a skull capped the back, resting right above where a man would sit. Tanin inspected the throne carefully, sure that it must have riches hidden within. Eventually his greedy curiosity was rewarded. In a compartment under the seat, a small, polished agate was secreted.
Bao and Belladore inspected the intact jug. It contained a pleasant-smelling liquid, strangely untainted by the ghastly surroundings. Bao sipped from the jug, finding his energy restored by a small degree. He drank deeply and found his exhaustion relieved. He passed the jug over to Belladore who also quaffed deeply. To her absolute delight, her exhaustion disappeared! With her vitality restored, she turned to her companions and said, “Let’s go rouse this pirate!”
The party retraced their steps back into the chamber where they had fought the monstrous zombie rats. A narrow hallway snaked off from a far corner curving to the right before curving back to the left and ending at a doorway. The stone door with a sculpted skull above the entryway looked much like the one in the cove except there was no metal cup in the door. Bao tried the door. With a little pressure, the stone opened inward easily. Bao agreed to inspect the room before anyone else entered. Lighting his own torch, he entered the room cautiously. Unlike the rough-hewn rock of the rest of the labyrinth, this circular room was well-made of polished tiles and stonework. In the center of the room, as well as all four quadrants, metal levers were affixed. Bao noticed an identical door like the one he entered directly opposite. This one did not budge when pressure was applied.
Bao relayed back what he had learned to the party members waiting in the hallway. As they discussed what to do, the wave of terror-energy reverberated through the hallway. This time the energy washed over them, leaving each and everyone unaffected. The adventurers concocted a plan to pull all the levers at once since there were five party members and five levers. They filed into the room, took their positions, looked nervously at each other before implementing their plan, and then on a count of three, pulled all the levers at the same time.
There was a blinding flash! In the brief moment while the circular room was brightly illuminated by the radiant energy unleashed by the pulling of the levers, the party members saw through squinting eyes, the appearance of shadowy humanoid forms standing next to each of the levers. The glimpse was fleeting, for as the light subsided, so did the shadowy forms.
The door opposite slid open with the sound of stone passing across stone. But so did the door they had entered, sliding closed, and locking them into whatever fate had in store for them. Kulo convinced the party members to wait in the circular room for him to return. He would stealth ahead to see what they faced. A hallway branched to the left from the open doorway. Kulo crept quietly up ahead until he spied a larger chamber. The light of his torch revealed some alien form in the shadows of an alcove. Kulo dropped his torch and shot at the shape with his crossbow before turning to return back to the circular stone room.
As Kulo fled, he felt the very essence of death emanating from the creature as he reached the doorway. His body suffered the effects of this necrosis, but there was a part of his mind that reeled in absolute horror at the alien shape that followed on his heels. Kulo entered the room. His companions barely held back their missile fire as he warned them of what approached. But what he said was incomprehensible. Yet Kulo’s stammering nonsense told of some eldritch abomination approaching from the hall!
Bao leaped into action, hesitating momentarily near the center lever as if asking do I pull it? But before he could get confirmation from his companions, he threw the switch, hoping it might close the door on the vile desecration about to enter the room. A flash of radiant energy filled the room. Next to each lever stood a shadowy form!
The adventurers’ circumstances went from bad to worse in an instant! The door to the corruption remained open, while the shadows attacked and drained the very strength from the companions. The party members moved to each of the levers once again. Holding their actions until all were set, the companions pulled the levers in unison once again. The radiant burst of energy filled the room like before, and when the adventurers opened their eyes, they saw the shadows no more.
But the door to the horrid thing remained open! In the blink of an eye, the tainted form of the creature, a bodak, the revered of Orcus, crossed the threshold into the room!
As the bodak entered the room, the annihilating aura of necrotic corruption that emanated from its essence struck all of the companions. Each party member felt as if their body moved a step closer to the grave. They in turn, hammered and slashed the abomination, the very question of their souls’ eternal damnation at stake. The necrosis again wreaked havoc on their bodies, but the numbers were on their side, and despite the reduced effect for those without magical weapons, the bodak was ultimately felled before one of the companions succumbed to the necrotic drain of their life-force. They all sighed a breath of relief after the battle, exclamations of victory seemingly unfit for their current state of near-death.
Searching the final room, Pallon’s Vault, revealed the secret that Pallon discovered on the ghost ship–a chest in an alcove at the back of the room contained a humanoid vertebra like the one discovered in Session 10: Caverns of Calamity Part III. Tanin held it up against the vertebra he carried. Immediately, they locked together in a magical coupling. Tanin soon discovered the magical property of the combined vertebra changed its effect: once per day he could now cast Magic Circle.
The door that had previously locked them in the circular room opened. The party returned to the cove and started a bonfire to alert Ralf of their return. The bards of Cyr would soon have a new song to sing of the Heroes of Edgewood!
Kulo advanced to 5th-level. Pabelle and Bao advanced to 3rd-level.
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Adventure based on The Vault of Pallon the Pious by Jon Sawatsky: Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition by Kobold Press
Skeleton Pirates Paper Minis: Kev’s Lounge Skeleton Skallywags
Monstrous Zombie Rats Paper Minis: Printable Heroes
Zombie Paper Minis: Brave Adventures Undead Warband
Shadows Plastic Minis: Custom Order from Litko Game Accessories
Plastic Levers: Litko Game Accessories
Bodak 3-D Paper Mini: Eddnic’s Paper Models
Crafted Torch: DM’s Craft