1 May, 103 CY
Rid of the demon-possessed minotaur and reunited with their fearless leader, the Silver Song Quintet introduced Soveliss to their newest member Thrakath. Once the pleasantries were over and Belgarde had been given a chance to rest after the marathon ritual casting, the heroes ascended the stairs to the second tier of the pyramid once more. The bard was intrigued by the demonic faces in the hall at the top of the steps, and he activated them so that he might converse with them. He discovered that they possessed more knowledge of the immediate area, and for the paltry sum of a few rations – unneeded in the pyramid – they gifted him with a magical necklace and the location of a secret door that would aid them in entering a temple inhabited by denizens of the Far Realm.
The demons explained that the heroes had already passed through the Gate of Ignorance. All that remained were the Gate of Treachery and the Gate of Terror. Past the secret door in the bedchamber previously used by the foulspawn, they came to the first of the two gates. As they approached it, the doors opened and whispered a secret offer into each of their minds – a boon if they withheld the affliction of a secret curse from one of their fellows. In so doing, they were granted access and inadvertently prevented any curse from taking effect. Each of the adventurers kept this offer to themselves and were allowed passage through the gate. Backtracking, they came finally to the Gate of Terror.
Cage was the first to approach the door, and as he drew near the others watched as the devilish figures carved into the doorway transformed into a fanged maw. The great jaws closed over the halfling, snapping shut and grinding him into a bloody pulp. Aghast at this development, the others hesitantly drew near, not believing their eyes. Soveliss was next to step through and the others witnessed him suffering a similar fate as that of the avenger. On a hunch, Feh asked the remaining two to stand firm in the hall, while he circled back to the north. Re-entering the Gate of Treachery, he found Cage and Soveliss unharmed in the antechamber, apparently considering the steel plate on the south wall. Relieved, he returned to the others and assured them it was okay. Thrakath was last to pass through the gate, and they chided him for being a coward.
Once through the third gate, the plate that had blocked the way south was simply not there. They entered the Temple of Madness, taking the hallway that branched off to the east. After a hundred feet or so, they came to a large chamber that looked like a refugee camp. Several small buildings crafted from scrap wood, crumbling stone, blocks, and other debris had been erected there. As they came around the side of the largest such building, they found a statue of a strange, four-armed creature bearing several weapons standing in an open square amidst the makeshift structures. A few people stood around the statue and when they noticed the heroes, they smiled and welcomed them in.
Some of the humans showed signs of leprosy or bizarre mutations – Belgarde theorized that this was an effect of whatever foul energies likely permeated a temple dedicated to Far Realm entities. None of the heroes could identify the multi-limbed creature depicted in the statue, but they recognized the foulspawn manglers lurking in the shadows of one of the nearby buildings. Oddly, the creatures merely nodded in greeting and paid the adventurers no further attention. Drawn into the “chapel” by the teeming throng, they encountered the leader of the congregation, a grotesque foulspawn seer wearing purple robes and a wooden mask carved to look like a handsome male. He introduced himself as Medragal.
The foulspawn and his congregation offered further welcome and even invited the heroes to dwell among them. When Soveliss revealed that they had come to depose Karavakos and in so doing open the pyramid, the humans rejoiced. Belgarde exaggerated on the tale saying that they’d been sent by the Far Realm entity to whom the worshipers had been praying, and he was so convincing that Medragal seemed convinced of its truth. He warned the heroes of a Far Realm abomination to the south – the results of a failed ritual intended to reach out to the mindless forever and gain the ear of a being powerful enough to free the foulspawn from the pyramid’s clutches. Giving lip-service acceptance of the offer to take the foulspawn priest’s own dwelling should they need to rest, the Silver Song Quintet ventured south in search of this abomination.
At the end of a short hallway, they came to another set of double doors. Opening these revealed a fantastic and terrible chamber beyond. Howling winds swept past them, its source apparent – before them, a rushing vortex of energy whirled around the center of the room. Within the vortex, they could barely see the form of a vaguely humanoid figure struggling in place, as if trapped at the center of this strange storm.
As they stepped into the chamber, Karavakos’ ghostly image once more appeared before them and spoke. “Not all of us appear as we once did. One of us,” he said, indicating the trapped creature, “has become an abomination. Kill us three times and win your freedom!” As before, the tiefling’s visage disappeared along with his rasping laughter.
Soveliss and Belgarde examined the the chamber with their trained eyes. The bard noticed that the vortex seemed keyed to the menhirs barely visible in the middle of the room. The psion could detect the ebb and flow of the buffeting tides of the vortex, and knew then that he could traverse them without difficulty. The two friends passed through the vortex first, Thrakath trailing shortly after. Past the magical barrier, they got their first good look at what this shard of Karavakos’ soul had become. It had gray-blue skin, an oversized bulging head, a humanoid upper torso, and a lower body that ended in several long, ropey tentacles. In place of arms, the creature had two long tentacles ending in cruel barbs. It flexed these with an obvious effort and shattered the chains binding it to the two central stones.
In addition to the pain inflicted by the prismatic vortex, the planar instability caused by the botched ritual randomly dragged the heroes (or the abomination) through a small planar gate, depositing them either nearer to or farther from the center. Cage seemed particularly susceptible to this phenomenon, perhaps because of his small stature. The heroes at first split their attacks between the abomination and the nearer menhir. Only Feh seemed able to crack the stone at all, and he did so desperately as the vortex shredded his allies’ flesh and minds. The melee grew desperate, but finally the stone shattered and the adventurers were better able to control the combat. Still, the abomination was no pushover, and taxed their skills and teamwork to its very limits. In the end, they proved the stronger, and as the shard fell, a churning orb of lurid green mist rose from the body and drifted to the north.
The monk picked up a delicate mithral key that he’d noticed hanging from the menhir before he’d smashed it. He handed the key to Soveliss who read the elven letters etched into its surface, “The night is mine.” He put it in the pouch with the first key, and the heroes took a well-deserved rest before proceeding.
As it happened, they came in the back way to the chamber housing an alien artifact and more importantly, its dedicated guardians. Two more foulspawn berserkers supported by a destrachan and a grick alpha fought tooth and nail to prevent the heroes from entering the disturbing halls that were their charge. To the west, they could see that the stone passages merged with a pale gray material that glistened wetly. It was as though the walls, floor, and ceiling ahead were made of flesh. A trail of thick, sludgelike violet slime puddled on the floor, apparently seeping out of the southern corner of the west wall.
In the cramped quarters, the destrachan climbed onto the wall above the the grick to blast the heroes with thunderous pain. Cage suffered most in the encounter, even dropping unconscious for a few moments before Thrakath could rouse him. Still, the doughty heroes managed to lay the aberrations low just as the chambers to the west sealed themselves up with fleshy walls. Disgusted and disturbed, the adventurers retired to the more normal halls to rest once more.