Pyramid of Shadows

Knives don't kill Eladrin
Malakar kills Eladrin

I still don’t quite know how this happened, but somehow we had a lively discussion with a dragon and lived to tell the tale. I’ll try to put it down in words but some of it is still fuzzy with a high that I can only describe as “mushroom-like”.

We came upon a door that was icy cold, but Malakar was able to warm it up enough to open gently. As we entered the room, we spied on the other side a large white dragon, sleeping softly, as well as a giant purple amethist that Vyrilis demanded we procure. We had heard before that if we ever encountered a dragon we should offer it food and gems and perhaps it would let us live, so Malakar deftly butchered one of my long-lost kindred that was laying dead by the doorway. He and Marie then slowly approached the dragon with this meat, which Malakar called “reegrok loin”, and a diamond held out. The dragon greedily ate up the offering and then demanded more.

We bartered with the dragon, and it was agreed that we would bring more of the “reegrok” in exchange for 5 minutes to pick through and take what we wanted from the dragon’s horde. We returned to the hallway where Malakar again showed his skill in cutting up formerly living things, and then retrieved the amethist as well as a <insert>. The dragon was pleased with this transaction and sent us on our way, reminding us of our promise to tell his “helpers” (whom he had just eaten) how to find and prepare “reegrok” (which is what he just ate).

After we left the dragon to it’s lunch we proceeded down a hallway and came what appeared to be a gaping carving of a devil’s head, with giant gnashing teeth. Malakar sent his bird through, then proceded to be EATEN BY THE HEAD. All of my party members went through and were DEVOURED WHOLE, then one came back out, screamed at me, and pulled me in too, whereupon I passed out. After I came to everyone was back to healthy and they explained that it was just an illusion.

The walls were covered in pulsing flesh that oozed a purple slime, and there were a few monsters there that we killed. I was violated by some tentacles and Malakar was secretly jealous. Marie chopped down a wall with her axe and we went through to find the source of all the flesh, which we killed. It turned out to be a mindflayer that did something horrible.

Karavakos appeared then as in a vision and said “Not all of us are what wee seem. One of us is an abomination, kill us three times lolololOLOOLOLLLOL” and then disappeared as suddenly as he came.

The party decided to take Karavakos at his word and went into another room that had a giant swirling vortex. Inside the vortex we could see an abomination tied to two posts. We fought it mightly, even though it had tentacles, and Malakar killed it after I disabled the vortex. We got a mithril key.

All in all it was an exciting day and I look forward to dropping into a nice long dreamless sleep.

—Renleon

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Marie is hearing voices

Marie has been acting strangely – she seemed distant and distracted, and I swear I heard her mumble something about ‘voices.’ It would seem maybe we were too harsh on Renleon – is it possible the Pyramid is taking a toll on our sanity?

Then again, he did kill 34 people.

After Marie came to her senses, she approached one of the large gates – it opened to reveal another chamber with 3 doors and no visible means of opening them. Kobi and I examined the southern gate and felt the power of the Far Realm emanating from behind it. We also learned that each gate requires the entrant to pass a trial before they can exit. Our fearless leader was unable to help as he had been overcome with a case of sinner’s ass ; he gleefully informed us “Back in the city of Brass we used to do this to fertilize the mushrooms.” I can’t say I recall ever doing that, but he and I didn’t always run in the same social circles.

We entered the southern gate to find a room with a large crude inscription in Giant on the wall: “Gruhk wuz hear.” From behind the door we could hear sounds; I’m told it’s the sound of the ocean. Beyond the door we found 3 statues
  • a Tiefling in plate mail, wielding a sword
  • an Orc garbed in robes that identified him as a shaman
  • an Orc in scale armor and holding an axe.

Shadowclaw inspected the statues and reported back that they were eerily lifelike. It was at this point that Gruhk made his entrance – a blind giant with his eyes sewn shut. The reason for this was made clear when a medusa entered the room behind him! After a brief and perilous battle (some of us narrowly escape petrification), I blasted Gruhk’s eyes open. Overjoyed, he turned to look at the medusa, only to scream “YOU’RE NOT MY WIFE” before turning to stone.

Without her oversized protector the medusa was quickly dispatched: Marie lopped off the medusa’s head and a Patronus flew out. At this point, the floor in front of the exist was covered with slithering snakes, which cried out “Welcome to the first trial. Let those who embrace the darkness of ignorance walk forward heedless of all knowledge. The blind and deaf fear no danger, for the keeper of the way shall guide their steps.” I don’t know why the builders of such a magically advanced pyramid would find so much value in ignorance, but the snakes’ advice was true. With eyes closed, we walked over the pit and somehow found ourselves back in the main chamber.

We then set out to the east of the stairs and soon found ourselves in an ice-filled wing. The ice must have been enchanted because it could not be melted by any magical flame I could conjure nor by Marie’s flaming axe. Kobi tried to listen at the door to the next room but couldn’t hear over Shadowclaw’s flapping wings (or so he claims; I’ve never noticed the sound before). Finally we pushed open the door and knocked over the ice knight that was on the other side.

Soon we were locked in combat with several pale icy eladrin, but they were no match for our combined power. After destroying our foes, we slept in a nice-ass bed. Then we saw an icy corridor and were overcome with a desire to explore it.

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In Which We Lose Our Demonic Ally

The party then found themselves looking up at a narrow staircase spiraling up into the great unknown. Malakar sent Shadowclaw up to scout things out. However, the trusty raven met with foul play, and when resurrected, told us there was a harpy waiting in the stairwell for us. Malakar wanted to send Thath’kul ahead, but Kobi advised against it. After all, there is a certain other member of our party who may be more expendable and even less trustworthy, and this certain elf happens to have excellent sneaking skills. And so Renleon was the first to begin the ascension up the stairs.

Once on the stairs, Renleon noticed “seams” that may have indicated that the stairs are capable of moving. He delicately placed one toe on the first step, and the stairs immediately shook under him and tripped him. From his new vantage point on the ground, he could see hinges and seams, indicating that the stairs could move, but were now trapped in the narrow corridor. With this knowledge, he continued up the stairs with extreme caution. The caution was to no avail, however, as when he came to the second level of stairs, they clamped right down on his foot. A harpy suddenly appeared, and the whole party began fighting it as Renleon struggled to release his foot. He was finally able to spot a means to disengage the trap – by sticking a dagger into a certain mechanism. As he freed himself, he daydreamed that he was actually sticking his dagger into a bright-eyed two-year-old child.

By this time, two gargoyles had joined the fray, and the party, oblivious to Renleon’s homicidal fantasies, had beaten them down. Before dying, however, they turned into stone. This reminded Malakar of a childhood game he and Leikos knew of, Reeg Rock, where they would push friends off of precipices. They put those memories to good use, and shoved one stone gargoyle over the edge of the staircase. The two tieflings then Put Their Horns Together In The Ancient Tradition, leaving Kobi to deal with the other gargoyle. He quickly disposed of it by doing an intimidating tap dance, and it crumbled where it stood.

The party ascended the rest of the stairs without incident. At the top, we saw hallways with demon idols on the walls with wide open mouths. Shadowclaw again was sent into a demon mouth as a scout, and again met with demise. Immediately, two berserkers and two manglers emerged from other demon mouths, and stated very eloquently, “We’re gonna kill you”. The demon mouths began biting at the air in front of them and saying, nearly as eloquently, “food, food, feed us now”. From another demon mouth, a grue entered and joined the 4 monsters already threatening to kill us. When standing near these monsters, the party members found themselves feeling slightly out-of-control, as though we may hit anything standing near us. Marie accidentally hit Malakar with her battle axe, but luckily it was in its fiery state and the tiefling took less damage than he otherwise would. Oops. Marie then went on to redeem herself by landing two critical hits on one bad guy, followed by another impressive shot at his companion. After the party had finished doing away with the monsters, and Marie had collected their teeth for her necklace, we fed the corpses to the famished demon mouths. They must have been grateful, as they spit back out a +2 flaming dagger which Renleon is now using (for the time being…)

We put up for the night in a small adjacent room that had two beds and some comfy-looking floor space. Malakar worked his magic and was able to lock the door for the night, but we couldn’t convince Thath’kul to join us. He insisted that he was too claustrophobic and would remain sleeping in the outer chamber through the night. In the morning, however, the demon had vanished! He must have run away from us. We had to break this news to Vyrellis and she was made to understand that we “sent him away” because of her great dislike for him. This pleased the head, and she is now back on good terms with Renleon.

As the party set out for the morning, we discovered a secret door in the Southern wall. On the other side was a large dimly lit room with three gates – one to the West, one to the South, and one to the Northeast.

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In the DM's world all women are liars

Vyrellis took the loss of her body remarkably well – as we entered the next chamber she began exclaiming that there were powerful artifacts just beyond the frozen door. I’ve been getting more comfortable leading when Leïkos is unable to, so I urged Renleon to listen at the door.

Unfortunately he seems to be falling faster into madness. He promptly pulled Vryellis out of his backpack and slammed her against the door while commanding her to listen. Up to this point she has been remarkably patient with Renleon but this really pissed her off and soon there was a scene.

Perhaps it is because I see some of myself in Renleon that his descent troubles me as much as it does. I could have easily wound up like him had I not realized my kind’s lust for power cannot be followed to its conclusion. In Elysium we said someone going down this path was “losing his eye”: tracing the steps of the Maimed God, Vecna, and betraying everyone in his quest for power. He is still barking orders at the space where his allies once stood when the Enforcers put him down like the animal he’s become.

Does Renleon realize what a dark and well-trod path he is following?

To end the unpleasantness between Renleon and Vyrellis (and to get at the artifacts!) I blasted the door with fire, which, surprisingly enough, shattered it. Behind it were several pillars of ice which immediately started thawing, and in each pillar was one of the animate corpses we keep encountering. We quickly set to work dispatching them, as my fiery nature was causing the rest of the room to thaw at an alarming rate. (Someone – it was hard to tell who in the din of battle – dubbed me Malakar “the Space Heater” D’Nossos). Leïkos made great use of his new “Harlequin style” which is very strange but undeniably effective, while Marie was able to bolster our defense with her all-encompassing shield.

As we fought, a shrill mezzodemon came barreling through the room and begging safe passage. We tried to reason with him, as he’s one of the denizens of the Pyramid that hasn’t attacked on site, but Vyrellis wouldn’t SHUT HER FUCKING MOUTH. Eventually it came out that the two knew each other.

Long ago, Thath’kul (the newcomer) was a general in Karavakos’s army and was instrumental in a planned coup. However when the moment of truth came, Thath’kul did not follow through. Shamed by his failure, he snapped and killed 34 civilians which is why Vyrellis hates him so much. She admitted that she made up the story about the artifacts in order to direct us to that room so she could see Thath’kul brought to justice. (I wonder how much she overheard about Renleon’s past??)

We offered Thath’kul a position in our group, figuring an ally is always more valuable than an enemy. He accepted and is journeying with us now, although we fully expect him to bolt or turn on us at any time. This angered Vyrellis greatly and she refused to help us anymore until Thath’kul was dead, but we didn’t feel that we needed any more of her manipulative “help.”

Heading downstairs we found a large area with rope bridges connecting various ends of the room. In the room were a few fragile harpies and several sahuagin who promptly hurled their tridents at us. I think they need better leadership, as this was a pretty grave tactical error. Soon we were picking them off as they swam to retrieve their weapons. They seemed to realize how fucked they were because they quickly lost their spirit – the lifeless corpses upstairs put up more of a fight.

By our reckoning we are very nearly done exploring this insane Pyramid. Soon we will bring justice to all those who have eluded it so long, and our party will emerge richer. Then Shadowclaw and I can pore over this Infernal book and see if it holds the key to my redemption…

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These Spirit Animals Seem Somehow...Familiar
I'm really raven' about the book imp

Our party is growing more populous! Malakar summoned an Infernal from the pits of the Nine Hells. It’s a raven named Shadowclaw. Meanwhile, Kobi hauled a book imp out of a book. Its name is Egbert.

Renleon found a magic shuriken, which he was anxious to try out. On everything. Marie agrees that he’s gone off the deep end, and should probably be done away with soon.

We laid low a small contingent of devilish fiends, backed by a flaming skull with a crystal ball. The crystal ball was nearly priceless—so of course Renleon smashed it to pieces. Man, what is it with that guy? The devils also had an enchanted bed that produced a copper piece every time it was searched. We searched it so many times it caught fire! Man, we’re destroying valuable artifacts left and right.

Eventually, we made our way to a sacred chamber, full of obelisks and a floating body. Veryllis began screeching to be put on the body, so we did, whereupon it attacked us. I think this is a moral here: You should be satisfied by your woman’s mind, not obsessed with her body.

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Don't Fear the Treapers
In which our intrepid adventurers almost die because their healer is in a coma

I think the others suspect me of something, journal. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t know where the lies stop and the truth glimmers through. As we backtracked into the Arborean’s lair once again I caught them glancing at me more then once with their suspicious eyes…

There was little time for glancing when we came across a very large pit filled with shambling mounds and a very persuasive goat-looking fellow. He just wanted to play on his pan pipe, but he ended up dead at the bottom of the pit with the bodies of three shambling mounds. We chased after an Arborean that somehow escaped the previous apocalypse of fire into another large hedge maze that inexplicably contained a very large wild boar. He must have wandered in there and then grown so large he was unable to get out. Curious even further was that I could have sworn it coughed a few times before we killed it…

Throughout the day, Malakar kept approaching Kobi in what I can only describe as some sort of bizarre mating ritual. The words “In the ancient tradition we push our horns together” were oft repeated as we traveled onward towards our next adventure. Soon enough, we bumbled into another pit-like trap, with a slippery ramp and many small rats and a few disgusting creatures at the bottom. Malakar quickly dispatched the foul beasts by poisoning the putrid water they were residing in, while Kobi took care of the rats with a dark spell that cursed all of them at once. After all of the monsters were destroyed I had time to discover a small device hidden in the wall that, when tripped, tipped the floor back to level.

I shall be frank, journal. I do not know if I will be departing this pyramid alive. The lies I told will be the end of me this time, I feel it in my bones.

—Renleon

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Be wary of trees with a taste for blood

After reluctantly prying ourselves from the library, we headed for the demesne of the Arboreans with the seed of life, eagerly anticipating our reward. Upon arriving, we were greeted warmly and invited deeper into the creatures’ domain, where we were to be honored by the priest Camnor. The invitation left us somehow uneasy, and rightfully so, as it turned out. Whether or not they truly thought we would feel honored, they intended to feed their forest with our blood!

Needless to say, we were not amenable to the arrangement, and their decision to pursue the scheme led to fatal results for the Arboreans and their trees. In a bracing fight, we dispatched Camnor, his bear and a monstrous plant creature. Before leaving, Malakar, with considerable zeal, set ablaze each of the trees.

Backtracking through the realm of the Arboreans, we arrived once again at the outer maze, where we were beset by a couple of quicklings and more Arboreans. Though a hindrance, we cut through them and continued on our way.

On a side note, Renleon seems to have calmed down since his recent confusing revelations, but I suspect Malakar has not forgotten. He is not the only one to regard our companion warily. I am concerned about traveling with such a volatile character, whose sense of self-preservation can apparently lead to violent outbursts. While we are trapped in the pyramid and he needs our help, at least, that same self-preservation should keep him in check.

Seeking a treasure of knowledge and knowledge of treasure, KOBI ATRATUS

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In Which We Peek Into Renleon's Dark Past
I sort of killed three . . . dozen people

As the party was poking around at the scene of the werewolf killing, a new Wanted poster was found. On it was a sketch of one John Rahmbeau – Butcher of Bakersfield, who was wanted dead or alive for a reward of no less than 100 platinum pieces! I don’t know whether it was the beady little eyes, debonair mustache, or those familiarly pointy elven ears, but something about that sketch made us look at our companion Renleon a little more closely.

Upon our questioning, Renleon quickly fell apart and began spewing tales from this “dark past” that had until now been so mysterious to us. He began with “I was framed… sort of,” and explained how he was part of an elite assassin squad involved in a coup attempt against the king.

This is the point in Renleon’s story where things got confusing. His first rendition involved himself murdering the king’s two children, after which he supposedly snapped and slaughtered 3 dozen people in the Bakersfield town square. He claimed to have no memory of this event. As the party tried to wrap their heads around this horrific tale, we put forth questions about the royal family that Renleon had torn apart. We thought surely his actions could be justified and explained in some way! But he described the king as an OK guy, and the children were only 1 and 4 years old. The four-year-old had thrown a brick at Renleon, but the one-year-old’s only crime was trying to give him a flower.

As he began to see that the party’s reaction was not a positive one, Renleon then changed his story. Now he claimed that he had seduced the queen, and had not, in fact, murdered anyone. He insisted that they had lied on the Wanted poster about his crimes, just to get him back to punish him for his relationship with the queen. He hadn’t told us about this, he said, because the queen was “really ugly” and he was ashamed.

By this time the adventurers were skeptical of all Renleon’s claims, and quite mistrustful of him in general. Leikos and Malakar had a private conversation over a patch of mushrooms, where they decided to let Renleon live at least until we get out of the Pyramid. He is, after all, the only elf in the party, and Vyrellis would not be very helpful to us without him. After the pyramid adventure, however, it may be another story. Meanwhile, Marie and Kobi came to realize that Renleon has gone crazy and is now making up stories about his past as a cry for attention. The entire party agrees to keep a constant eye on him though, as we carry on the adventure.

During the night, as Malakar is dreaming a familiar violent dream, the scene fades away and he hears a voice. He recognizes this as the voice of Karavakos, and it tells him, “we’re not so different, you and I.” Karavakos’ voice explains that he needs Malakar to help him stop Vyrellis from finding all her life-source shards. In return, he offers to help Malakar to see Saladin once again. Later, over breakfast, Malakar questions Kobi & Leikos about Karavakos. They recall that he was a tiefling who commanded an evil demon army and had a great lust for power. He attacked the feywild in his frenzy for power, and was defeated. Now he is trapped here in this pyramid.

After breakfast, the party headed South, and came up on a large room with a very hot and humid climate. It held what appeared to be a green vine maze and had a dirt floor that in places was very cracked. Tree people that look like grim reapers, also known as Grim Treepers, emerged and asked us our business in the Sacred Grove of Arboreans. We explained that we were seeking Karavakos. They explained that he had stolen a seed of the Tree of Life from their grove, which he wanted for dark rituals, and took it North to the library. After questioning Marie quite intensely about her axe, which appeared to still have sap stains on it, the tree people decided we were trustworthy enough to ask us for our help in retrieving the seed from Karavakos. The party, after getting some sage advice from Kobi, agreed to get the seed.

As we were leaving the tree room, Marie recalled some scary childhood bedtime stories about Treepers. It was said that they killed trespassers and fed their plants with their blood. Marie also recalled that they hate fire. After informing the party about these memories, they planned to still pursue Karavakos. They would retrieve the seed, perhaps find out more about its powers, and then decide whether or not to bring it back to the Arboreans.

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Werewolves Are Scary
They May Also be Lucky. Or Racist.

We saved a succubus from her prison. Yay? She was being held by (wimpy) demons, not angels, so it may be that she was in for such as tax fraud.

We found another gem for Virrillis. A “get head” joke about her finally came out.

Finally, we managed to find Gharosh and take him down! We killed him as he was trying to sic an angry werewolf on us, but not in time to stop the werewolf getting out. The werewolf was incredibly powerful and just about tapped us out.

BUT INSTEAD WE KILLED IT and gained a level!

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Should we talk to them?
Better just kill them instead.

At the outset of this adventuring session, the party decided that it would be a good idea to ask the severed head that had been stuck on a pike in the same room for untold millennia what she thought our best course of action would be. She, not surprisingly, was somewhat ambivalent on the matter. We randomly struck out to the North.

Where we immediately encountered a group of lizard folk. Any other day we would have immediately set upon them and killed them as fast as possible. I mean, they don’t even have names, right? Except this is no ordinary day. No, today is “Attempt to talk to the monsters who like to stab things” day. We debated back and forth for what seemed like literally dozens of minutes, then decided that we should just kill them after all. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

We explored the room a bit and found a storage area where a lone statue stood that had a moonstone embedded in it. Ms V, the talking severed head of a long dead Eladrin, decided that she just had, just HAD to have that moonstone, so I thieved it and presented it to her. She was much pleased.

After a short rest we proceeded up a ramp to find five humans waiting behind a barricade with crossbows drawn and halberds at the ready. I think they and the lizard folk were having some gentlemanly disagreements that turned sour. In any case, they shot at us so there was no chance to even think about talking to them. After much fire, clashing of sword to halberd, shiriken throwing, and (several) prat falls the challengers were defeated. There is an adjunct room that has spouts of some sort lining the floor, walls, and ceiling. I can only imagine what goes on in there, but I believe I felt a gleeful urging from some external force to go explore it.

For the time being we rest on the bodies of our fallen foes.

—Renleon

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