Before venturing into the caverns beneath the Horn of Abbaddon the party spends some more time talking with Jurak the Elder. He tells them he had tried to impede the Sons of the Pale Horseman for years, but the cult had simply been too strong to attack. When Markadian 1, the Victor, had attacked the spire Jurak had hastened to join the fight, but had arrived too late. Noting how upset he was at this, Markadian had restored his sense of purpose by telling him he had a sacred charge to ensure the spire was protected from once again falling to evil.
In the 80 years since that day it has been a lonely struggle for the treant. He does have one ally, the dryad Calliaste, who he rarely sees as she loves the truly wild places and lives many miles away, but communicates with through the plants at least once a week. As Jurak waxes lyrical about the "dryad" and her band of devoted, artistic, followers, Sam's knowledge of the planes makes her increasingly certain this is actually a Lillend. Sort of like a muse, but scarier.
The party explore the caverns. Was that a flicker of movement in the distance? There's nothing there now.
Encountering a pool of clear water Adelea loses a dagger finding out it's actually acid. Continuing on they come to a narrow squeeze; Grumblejack is extremely unhappy with the idea of not being big any more. He likes being this size! It's a good size. He doesn't want to be little! Bigger would mean he would hit his head on the ceiling so he would much prefer not to change size thank you. Sam agrees for now that he can remain on the same scale, as there are other tunnels that can be explored before they'll need to go through the squeeze.
Our villains are soon ambushed by boggards! Their terrifying croaks scare Adelea and Fitch into running for their lives, with Fitch making it all the way to a mud pool and scalding his wee legs in the boiling mud. The tribe's leader, Kumanda Slays-Nine-Men, had the potential to be quite a dangerous foe, but utterly fails to lay a finger, or more importantly a two handed sword, on the party. However two of the boggards do manage to lay a couple of spears on Sam, who is disconcerted and annoyed as until now she's never been so much as scratched.
With Kumanda in serious trouble another boggard hoves into view, and joins the fight – on our villains' side! He's the tribe's oracle, Zikomo Hears-the-Father, a Dagon-worshipping lunatic, and his dreams have told him it's high time he was in sole charge of the tribe and an end was put to Kumanda's inept leadership. It's time for a bit of light treason.
His show-stopper move, bringing the terrible chill of outer space to Kumanda's body, disappointingly fails to kill him due to his ridiculous fortitude and his barbarian resistance to all magic. However it does serve to persuade the party that Zikomo is the enemy of their enemy and thus worth temporarily not murdering.
Adelea, freshly returned from fleeing from a loud croak like a scared little girl, and perhaps overcompensating, brutally overkills Kumanda with a vicious blow of her greatsword.
Zikomo barks something in the boggard language, and the two remaining boggards of the ambush party prostrate themselves before the party. He says, in serviceable common, that his dreams showed him they would come, to help dedicate the spire to Dagon! (Sam cheerfully agrees that yep, Dagon, absolutely). Zikomo is then helped back to his temple by one of the two boggards, his dream juice having worn off. The other shows the villains around the caverns, using mime and gestures. However Adelea, having killed Kumanda, inherits his hut and his stuff, and his consorts. Luckily the stuff includes a helm that lets the party understand boggard language (and a boggard understand theirs) so they are able to explain to the consorts that boggards aren't really their bag, and that they should go consort with Zikomo now.
Zikomo, in a magical trance, tells them
“The cave of the blue
slime conceals your future. Learn its secret or fail at
ye master’s charge.”
then starts leaping around the room cackling and screaming as his fire changes colour to blue in response to his frenzied prayers.
Our villains are puzzled by the blue slime room. It is a room with a vibrant glowing blue slime mold on the western wall. Quite pretty but not magical or dangerous. They try poking it a bit. Careful checks of the room turn up nothing.
However, extending her senses, Sam detects a magical item past the south wall of the cavern. Further checks, now they know something should be there, find a very narrow tunnel, only passable by something tiny (or gaseous, or incorporeal).
They appear to be stumped. Adelea eats some blue slime to see if it shrinks her. It tastes horrible and does nothing, but at least nothing poisonous. Perhaps they'll need to go back to town for some potions of gaseous form?
Never underestimate the power of brute force solutions. A couple of days' repeated use of Stone Shape gets enough stone to flow out of the way that the tunnel is passable for a small creature, and a quick spell from Sam turns Fitch into a small creature and he makes his way through the tunnel into a small cave.
When the end came for the Sons of the Pale Horseman, it came quickly. Certainly the cultist Rinehart Kappelbrenner was caught unprepared. As his brethren
charged towards the futile fight with the King and his
knights, Rinehart instead ran. He knew the fight could
not be won. He had already seen the daemon prince
Vetra-Kali slain by King Markadian. He knew he was
doomed. But always a clever lad, Rinehart had a plan.
He grabbed two potions of gaseous form, a small pack
containing personal eﬀects, food and water and one of
the emerald eyes of Vetra-Kali. The jewel he obtained
was the Eye of Vigilance and it functions as a crystal ball
that could see anywhere within the confines of the Horn.
His plan was to drink a potion of gaseous form, retreat to
a small chamber in the lower caverns he had discovered
years ago, and there wait out this slaughter. After the invaders were gone then he could escape and unite with other survivors…if there were any. When he returned
the Eye of Vigilance to the priesthood he had no doubt
they would hail him as a hero of the order.
It was a magnificent plan and at first, it seemed to be
working ﬂawlessly. Rinehart escaped to the lower caverns, drank the potion and made it into the concealed
cavern. He reverted to solid form and used the Eye to
survey the destruction wrought upon the Horn. It was
then he noticed a terrible ﬂaw in his plan. One of the potions of gaseous form had been smashed. Its contents had
leaked out and the potion was ruined. He was trapped in
this tiny chamber. He tried slipping through the gap and
even resorted to shouting hoping a comrade would hear
him. After a day of futile eﬀort he knew he was doomed.
He lasted for weeks. Water dripped into the cave and
he had a small store of food. He even had illumination
via the cantrip light. His pack contained a prized holy
book “The Dirges of Apollyon” and ink and quill.
He observed everything that was done by the Victor.
He saw the Seal made and in that moment Rinehart Kappelbrenner had a dreadful epiphany. Some might say a
vision this powerful and this terrible must have come directly from the Pale Horseman himself. Or perhaps it
was simply a moment of genius by one of the most humble servants of this wicked temple. Whatever the reason,
Rinehart knew what must be done to call forth his master
back to the prime material plane.
Te seal was not perfect. There was a way to break it.
And he knew how. On the back pages of the “Dirges” he
recorded his ritual. And then cackling madly to himself
in smug satisfaction, he committed his soul into the arms
of death and took his own life.
Today, a lime encrusted human skeleton leans against
the south wall clutching a heavy leather bound book.
Tis is perhaps the last surviving copy of “Te Dirges
of Apollyon” upon this mortal plane. It details the long
history of the “Sons of the Pale Horseman” and recounts
their eﬀorts to transform this world into a daemon’s playground. This rarest of tomes is made utterly unique by
the last page of text within. Tis book makes plain the
ritual necessary to call Vetra-Kali back to the mortal
realms (the ritual is detailed below). And besides that,
still glittering amongst the muck, is the First Eye of Vetra Kali – The Eye of Vigilance.
At the moment however, despite its description in the book and despite showing up in detect magic with a strong divination aura, the Eye is inert. It's just a great big emerald.
Having solved the secret of the blue slime (or have they?) the party decide it's time for some forestry. They buff up before coming out of the caves carrying Kumanda's head. Having already decided they were allies Jurak suspects nothing until Sam and Creel cast the last couple of buff spells and the villains set about him like a crew of amphetamine-crazed lumberjacks who just heard they lost the tree-murdering world record and are determined to get it back. Jurak falls to a well-placed dagger from Fitch before taking a single action of his own.
Sam plants Father Donnagin's silver amulet of Mithra near the corpse. Never a bad time to frame your enemies…