While Pavo prepares his extract and Rita works on copying the mural, Basil returns to the fallen cleric and resumes looking through her things for clues. All he finds is a journal, which is light on details but provides context for her presence here in the ruins. She met up with her companions in Kalabuto and was following someone. The journal didn’t identify who this person was, but it compared their relationship to the one between Shelyn and Zon-Kuthon, her brother once lost amongst the stars.
Pavo eventually finishes deciphering the message on the mural, or as much of it that he can. The message is indeed written in Azlanti, and it dedicates this tomb to Zarkus the Slayer, who was the guardian of … something. The last part is unreadable, its having been vandalized recently (in the last few decades, which is recent compared to the apparent age of the tomb itself). No one is really sure whether that means he’s a vampire slayer or a vampire who slays people, but Pavo voices concerns about vampires regardless. Basil notes that it’s peculiar that a follower of Zon-Kuthon should be found in this area given that he’s not commonly worshiped here.
With Pavo’s work done, the party returns to the task of tossing the chambers they’ve explored. Other than the odd bits of adventuring gear, there’s little left that’s interesting. Pavo checks throughly for traps, and while he does that, Rita investigates the mural. She suspects the crack through which the vampire spawn had escaped in gaseous form could lead to another passage, but she is unable to find a way through short of bashing through the wall with mining tools. However, she was right. Pavo finds the mechanism that opens the door—the noses on the vampires in the mural can be pushed. When he does, the wall slides in and to the side, revealing a passage that leads further into the tomb a bit before jogging to the left.
Abandoning plans to pull the lever in the other room and explore the area past the gate, the party decides instead to explore the newly revealed passage. After reaching the bend, they creep forward, the passage narrowing vertically down to a height of approximately four feet. Basil finds it uncomfortable, but that doesn’t deter him. As they get to the apparent end of the passage, he stops and listens. Hearing nothing, he pokes his head out and looks around. The passage is about fifteen feet from the floor of a large chamber. Hanging from the ceiling are numerous bats. The floor is covered with guano in places, but there’s not much of it because the bats mostly hang over a large chasm in the center. Basil worries that these might be some kind of monstrous bats, but Rita assures him that they’re just normal ones. They need to be careful to avoid spooking them or else they might swarm.
After affixing a rope and climbing down into the chamber, the party sees another entrance on the opposite side their own side of the chamber. On the far side, on another platform, is a door with what appears to be a skull on it. Stairs run down and around the perimeter of the chamber. Pavo and Rita move up and look over the edge of the pit to see if they can see the bottom, but all they can make out is a bridge down below, running from an opening on the far side just below the platform with the door to presumably likewise on their side, which they eventually confirm when the party carefully makes its way down the steps and around to the other side.
Basil recognizes the skull on the door as they get closer. It’s not just a skull but a skull with spiked chains coming out of its eyes—a symbol associated with Zon-Kuthon. He speculates that it may have been added recently, which Pavo confirms after studying it. Conveniently, the chains appear to be an actual fixture on the door, which allows it to be opened when someone pulls on them.
While the party investigates the door, Bob looks up at the bats. He’d wanted to explore more, but right now he’s knocking whatever he can into the pit while plotting the inevitable demise of all the bats above. Rita can sense joy coming from Bob. Bob sniffs some of the guano and after getting some of it on his paws, runs around like he’s been possessed. Eventually he settles on just watching the bats, tail twitching back and forth behind him.
Expecting Basil to get blasted off the pit or something equally bad; Pavo and Rita grab a chain on the door, pull, and stand to the side. Instead, Basil sees an apparently desecrated ceremonial chamber. There’s blood and viscera everywhere, an altar, and a mangled corpse sitting upon it. It’s obviously related to Zon-Kuthon. The group convinces Pavo to go inside and check out the altar, but he’s worried about the cracks in the floor that Basil saw earlier. Expecting a pit trap of some sort, he gets a small running start and jumps over into the corner. Using the glaive they recovered from the cleric of Shelyn, he starts tapping around looking for traps. While he’s tapping the walls, the head on the corpse pivots to the side to look at Pavo.
Basil gives a shout and offers his hand to help Pavo back out, but Pavo decides to clobber the zombie instead. After studying it briefly for the right time to strike, he drops the glaive and pulls out his shortsword and then stabs the zombie. Unfortunately, shortswords aren’t the right kind of weapons for fighting zombies, so it’s not very effective. The zombie throws itself at Pavo, slamming into him. Out of concern for the floor ahead, Basil decides to wait before entering. While he does, a streak of frost shoots past him from Rita’s extended finger. Basil asks Pavo to pick up the glaive and hand it to him, which Pavo does, but not before taking one final shot at the zombie, which finishes it off. Disturbed by the sound of combat, the bats start to stir. Bob is very excited by this development.
Not wanting to get caught in a swarm of bats, Basil decides to test his weight on the floor in front of the altar—the floor the party believes to be a trap. It holds. Rita follows and so does Bob eventually. A few taps confirm that the floor is hollow on the other side. Basil decides to search the altar for an activating mechanism. However first, he conjures water to clean off the water and places his hand on it. Basil hopes to see into the altar’s recent history, but instead he sees a vision of dark-skinned, voluptuous woman drinking the blood of a man and he hers. When he describes the scene to the group, Rita recognizes it as an obedience practiced by followers of Zura. Zura is a demon lord known as the Vampire Queen. While her true form is something more akin to a cross between a haggard harpy and a bat, she often chooses to manifest as a voluptuous woman. While interesting, Rita is not really sure how this all relates to Zon-Kuthon even after Basil reminds the group of the tale he read in the cleric’s journal. Basil resumes cleaning the altar and eventually finds a button under the front lip. Everyone stands back, Basil presses it, and the floor drops away on a hinge to reveal a ladder extending down below.
Unsurprisingly, the ladder leads down the the bridge, which leads to a door on the far side of the chasm. There is text on it, which Pavo is able to read thanks to the extract he consumed earlier. The text on the door reads: Here lies Zarkus the Slayer, kept in repose by crystal magic. Basil is excited that the rumors of crystal magic here are true, but he’s concerned that taking the crystals will revive Zarkus. Overall, he’s left with mixed feelings on the issue (but still a determination to have those crystals).
Pavo and Basil check the door for traps and then give it a push. Actually a double door, its sides swing open to reveal a room with four columns and a platform with a sarcophagus at the end. Alcoves containing offerings of gear and armor along with chests are situated along the walls just behind the columns. Rita can just barely make out the shape of a man in the distant dimness. He stands with back to them but turns around and faces the party as they move into the room.
The man cocks his head to the side as he studies Basil, then moves forward suddenly before just stopping in front of him. In each of his hands are sickles, twitching now in anticipation as if daring someone to approach him. Pavo ducks around one of the columns and studies his foe from the safety of his position. After casting a spell to increase the apparent mass of his weapons, Basil readies for the man to attack. Both of them are tensed up, ready to explode at whomever makes the first move. Rita throws an alchemist fire at the man but misses. She decided to change tactics and uses mage hand to grab a crossbow from one of the piles of treasure. The man is the first one to attack. He steps up, and Basil’s readied blow strikes true, but it barely hurts the madman. The man howls and strikes at Basil with fury, hacking away at him with his sickles. After Pavo gets into position to bolster Basil’s attack, Basil returns the man’s blows and puts up a mind barrier, one of his occultist arts, for his own protection. Rita fetches some bolts from the weapon pile, loads her crossbow, fires, and misses the man again. He steps out of the flanking position that Pavo had tried to establish, feints, and digs his sickles deep into Basil. If not for another reactive mind barrier, Basil would be dead. Fortunately for him, Basil’s crystal energy resonates with the crystal power that once kept his opponent in stasis. His next attack strikes true without regard for his opponent’s natural toughness. The man turns to gas and retreats to his coffin to recover. Unfortunately, it’s just a few tens of feet away on the far side of the room. Using one of Rita’s bolts, they stake him and take the corpse outside to burn in the sun. Meanwhile, Basil digs a wand of cure light wounds out of his pack and starts popping off charges and then borrows Pavo’s flask for a swig.
All that remains of the man is the tatters of his clothes and his cloak. Basil examines the cloak with his object reading and determines that it is magical—a cloak of resistance. He also sees a vision of the man hacking him to bits, which he decides is something that he’d have rather not seen.
Session Questions Answered
- Did we learn something new and important about the world? Yes. Not only do the ruins confirm the presence of Azlanti in Garund, but they have a relationship with Zura as well.
- Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy? Yes. Zarkus the Slayer.
- Did we loot a memory treasure? Yes. The party found a cloak of resistance +1. Also, there’s a bunch of treasure back in Zarkus’s resting chamber.