Adelea suggests Fitch should be the one who talks to Zikomo (as he will inevitably cause an incident and she will get to straight up murder some frog fools). However wiser heads prevail and Sam's policy of FITCH DOES NOT TALK TO ANYBODY is maintained.
The mad boggard oracle's eyes snap open, and in a strained, high pitched voice ("do the voice! do the voice") he screeches "A shadow of regret and despair awaits! a shadow of death! death in the shadow". Then his eyes snap shut again.
Samra'el shakes him gently and he starts awake "Drylander? how can I help you?" There follows a conversation where both sides are attempting to mislead and then eventually betray the other. Sam's mislead-and-betrayal-fu is much stronger though, and by the end of their little chat:
Zikomo is convinved they are on the same side (hmmm), that our villains are working to dedicate this spire to Dagon (hah!) and that Sam doesn't intend to use the boggards as cannon fodder (hmmm again, although in fairness Adelea probably isn't going to let them fight any cool stuff on their own as she'll want a go). He confirms that as the sole leader of the tribe now that "that idiot failure is dead and not making stupid decisions any more" he will use his influence to get the boggards working to support the party's aims.
Sam on the other hand is fully aware that Zikomo can only be trusted so far, and that his intentions are for the spire to become a centre for Dagon worship with him firmly in charge. It is clear he will work with them for now, but if the place looks like it will end up as a Vetra Kali shrine again he's likely to betray them in the end.
Zikomo can muster 14 bane-wog tribesfrog warriors at this time but states that with Kumanda out of the way he will send runners through the swamps to enlist more. (This is likely to draw 0-2 boggards per week, and the caves would be able to support up to 32 fighters). The party may need to make an example of one or two to make the rest actually do their assigned tasks, however. The boggards are naturally lazy rather than militaristic, and Zikomo spends a lot of the time in drug fueled trances so can't ride herd on them.
It is time to start exploring the Horn proper. A relatively straightforward set of stairs leads to the first level. Adelea charges down the first corridor past the arrow slits with the rest of the party close behind, except for Creel who is looking on sardonically while holding himself in reserve. Nobody shoots them, and Adelea successfully discovers there are no traps by blundering through the areas they might have been in. It's going well!
This level appears to have been abandoned since the cult was brutally suppressed by Markadian 1 eighty years ago. The party explores thoroughly finding room after abandoned room full of smashed and mouldering furnishings and litle else. There are some highlights though:
In a ransacked alchemy lab they find Artephius the alchemical golem, and the instruction manual. He has been thoroughly decommissioned by the knights of Mitra, but is potentially repairable given Fitch's skill at alchemy. They work out that the shattered eye can be repaired with a make whole spell, and find a new reservoir in the ruins of the lab.
1. The Eye – Artephius even if activated would be
blind. Its single glass lens has been shattered.
2. The Brain – Artephius needs a new human,
dwarven, elven, half-orc or half-elven brain. No
other race will do – they are not the right size and
attunement. It need not be from a living person. Someone who died in the last twenty four
hours from natural causes will do. Of course,
murder is always an option. Finding a brain
will likely not be a problem for our band of villains. The difficulty is installing it. A successful
Craf (Alchemy) skill check (DC 20) is required
to install the brain. You get two chances to a
make this roll. If both of them fail, the brain has
died and a new one must be sought.
3. The Heart Cog – Artephius’ mithral heart cog
was stolen long ago, likely by one of the Victor’s retainers. Without this critical component,
Artephius will not activate. A new cog will
have to be made. Fortunately, the exact shape
is described in the schematics. 500 gp worth of
mithral will suffice to make the heart cog. A
smith in Farholde would do the delicate work
for 10% of the mithral’s value (50 gp). Regardless, a Craft (smith) skill check (DC 20) is required.
4. The Reservoir – Artephius needs a new glass
reservoir where the four primal reagents can
mingle and power the golem.
5. The Reagent of Fire – Artephius needs ten doses
of alchemist’s fre.
6. The Reagent of Ice – Artephius needs ten doses
of alchemist’s ice (sometimes also called liquid
7. The Reagent of Acid – Artephius needs ten doses of a potent acid.
8. The Reagent of Electricity – Artephius needs
a large supply of lightning elemental blood.
Once all the components have been assembled and the
golem is repaired, Artephius will come to life by simply
activating his heart pump.
In the remains of the Sons of Abbadon's former trophy room (the trophies themselves long gone) our villains find a delicate ring on the plaque for Iris of Ghastenhall. This unimpressive piece of jewelry, clearly intended for a very small fnger, has a tiny inscription ‘IoG’ beside an ornate rose.
They also, by manipulating the plaque for Ergun Nigma, find a hidden safe. Sam kicks herself for missing the E. Nigma clue, but also curses the deceased Sons for their clunky sense of humour.
An elaborate pillared throne room – Sam: “that can be my room. You've got an alchemy lab, Creel has a torture chamber, Adelea has a house full of frogs. I get a throne.”
They find fountain and decide to come back tomorrow and detect poison at it. Adelea grumps by the door because the party aren't exploring in order. “As soon as something shiny appears they all run off!”
There is about ten minutes of heated discussion as to whether the area with the fountain constitutes a separate room as a corridor runs into it or is part of the same large room they were exploring. (It is clearly the same room).
A densely written journal is found in one of the rooms.
The party encounter a chimney and spend a frankly unconscionable amount of time attempting to climb up it. Fitch takes eight attempts at what is a simple climb. At one point Creel and then Adelea also get into the chimney and also fail to climb it. Eventually Fitch makes it up the chimney and finds a grate leading to the outside that conceivably could be removed. A good climber might be able to enter the spire this way although it would be a relatively long and difficult climb up the Horn.
Sam reads the journal while the Spire of Abbadon Inept Climbing Society Annual General Meeting is underway in the chimney. She discovers three interesting things in the very boring book:
One of the acolytes, Brother Zander Trask, kept a journal. The journal is frankly rather dull and poorly written.
Trask was no great thinker and mostly it is a repetitive
and boring record of the day to day drudgery of being a
lowly acolyte of the temple.
Trask believed there to be something unusual about
the south eastern pillar in the lower temple (room 1-27).
He suspected it was hollow and had a secret door into it.
2. Trask knew by rumor that two powerful daemons
named Hexor and Vexor guarded the upper levels. He
didn’t know precisely where they were stationed, but he
desperately wanted to get a look at them some day.
3. Trask had seen a priest (who thought no one was
present) sit upon the throne and mysteriously vanish. He
didn’t know where the priest went but thought it very interesting.
"“Hmm, maybe 'Yah' teleports you TO the throne and you need another word to go somewhere else. I dont think we can just sit there and shout syllables though"
A room with a faint magical aura appears to have preserved the body of a minotaur, pinned to the floor by a spear, as though it was only recently dead. Adelea surmises this might be a magical room for keeping things fresh. It is decided it would be a good idea to speak with dead with the minotaur, the closest thing to a survivor the party have encountered, but Sam thinks it would be better to explore some more so they know which questions to ask.
After a night's rest Creel casts detect poison. The fountain appears to be safe to drink; Sam tries some water and doesn't immediately die. Creel also casts "make whole" on the golem eye.
This floor now fully explored (or is it) they prepare to explore the second level.
Having had a prophetic warning from an oracle about some sort of deadly shadow the party have cunningly wasted no brainpower in wondering what this vision of the future might have shown the drug-crazed frog man. Taking no special precautions whatsoever they push on into the second floor of the Horn.