05 January 2024

The Mystery of the Conjurors’ Enclave

 Our heroes:

  • Barehands Brawlsmuch - half-orc monk
  • Dragonspirit - human cleric of Bahamoot
  • Phia the Fighter - human rogue
  • Sorcy Skullfoot - skeletaling sorcerer
Barehands, Dragonspirit and Sorcy were celebrating their escape from the Magus Mif’s Cursed Caverns back at their usual booth at Granny Blinkins’  Inn of the Flower Princess when they were approached by the female rogue Phia the Fighter. She had heard of their growing renown and figured her expertise in dungeon threat mitigation would be much needed. As they were discussing her membership in the company, they were approached by Maertyn, an emissary of the lord-mayor of Wendover. He tasked the company with investigating the strange going ons in the Conjurer's Enclave. Maertyn gave them license to what plunder they recovered as well as a reward from the office of the lord mayor.

The next morn, following a night of revelry at the Inn of the Flower Princess, our brave company entered the Conjurer's Gardens the exotic grounds that houses the enclave. A dense wall of trees, vines and shrubs lay before our heroes, to the northeast the tops of two battered guard houses could be seen while to the south east, looming on the bluff above, lay a mouldering manor of scarred obsidian. The garden gate hung open to a lush, overgrown space filled with flora alien to this world. Fauna unseen but heard rustled and cried in the verdant foliage. In this open space an old campsite lay rotting while to the north sat a locked gate. Barehands, impatient to with the machinations of rogues, broke the gate down revealing a fountain filled with crystalline water standing as regal juxtaposition to the large fungi that guard it. A strong, sweet smell of decay permeated the air. A rickety ladder lay against the far wall. The guard houses lay to the east, behind a gate thickly bound with vines and interwoven trees. While investigating the fountain, our brave company was attacked by four gigantic mutant creatures combining all the worst features of a vampire bat and a mosquito. These they battered with such alacrity that the buzzing aberrant insects fled or died within moments. Turning their attention to the gate, Sorcy investigated the blocked gate only to be assaulted by the living vines and grasping leaf hands of a carnivorous plant. While blade and Sorcy's chill blast had little effect, the power of Bahamoot's flame quickly dispatched the sentient weed. Climbing the wall our party finally encountered the two battered guard houses they had seen in the distance. They stood vigilant next to a broken gate leading to a manmade rise to the bluff above, parallel to the obsidian walls, creating a deep moat to the manor’s gatehouse.

Looming above the  the valiant company, the ruins of a  gate house standing two stories tall with an intact iron drawbridge drawn up. The platform in front of the gate would be the perfect target for defenders of the past to target foes. A shear gap some 8 feet wide and thirty feet deep filled with sharp refuse and detritus yawned before the gatehouse. Behind the gatehouse rose a once magnificent but still impressive manor, its walls scarred by time, war, monsters, and magic. Using the ladder they had recovered earlier, the party made short work of crossing to the gatehouse and lowering the drawbridge.

Before them a broad courtyard with mossy, broken black stone stretched before the manor. Debris of various types and age lay about from crates, barrels and mouldering sacks strewn about the courtyard. In the northeast corner a giant’s skull lay upon the ground. Across the courtyard the entrance of the manor was sealed by a closed portcullis. The party recovered some minor treasure in the courtyard. Sorcy investigated the giants skull, which spoke as he approached:

I don’t have eyes,
But once I did see.
I once had thoughts,
Now white and empty.

To which Dragonspirit answered "a skull". The meaning and purpose of the riddle were not immediately apparent. Phia meanwhile found and disabled the trap on the manor's portcullis allowing Barehands, with some assistance, to lift the heavy iron gate.

Inside the gate lay an ornate great hall  fallen to decay and neglect. Large columns rose twenty feet in the air supporting a darkly stained wood ceiling. On the south wall a large fountain long idle held brackish green water. A large dining table in the middle of the room lay on its side while a second one bore the petrified remains of  a distant repast. Four sconces remained standing, oddly still lit. On the north wall to the right stairs stretch both up and down, while to the left stairs to that tower have collapsed upon themselves. But what drew our doughty quartets immediate attention were the three hideous creatures, appearing as nothing more than lumps of man-sized blobs of molten, stinking flesh, that oozed across the floor towards them. Our brave team engaged in combat Barehands with his flurry of martial blows, Sorcy with his spellcraft, Phia's bow and short blade, and Dragonspirit's divine flame. A hard fought battle injured Barehands and Sorcy but left them victorious.

After the battle, they found some trinkets of treasure but also rudely carven on one of the tables: "Beware the madness beyond the door of the black sapphire! The northwest jail has an answer you will seek.” They explored the once a decorative patio, behind the great hall, overlooking Conjurors’ Park. The patios stones now broken and riddled with moss. They ascended the stairs to a once elegant chamber with a fireplace, beds, and desk. A large mirror leaned against the wall, seemingly out of place with the other furniture of the room. The once lavish study and bedroom had become the roost of a large winged reptile, who snaps irritably in their direction. Again, our party's puissance won out and the great flying lizard fled with grievous wounds. They found another riddle on a scrap of scrollwork:

What has cities, but no houses;
forests, but no trees;
and water, but no fish?

Again answered by Dragonspirit's wisdom as "a map". They also found a conjuror's spell book appropriated by Sorcy and a ring of protection which Barehands donned. They decided to rest in this easily defensible room and explore the lower and likely more lethal levels of the enclave in the morning.

The next day the doughty party followed the stairs curving off to the left, down into the dark. Barrels were stored haphazardly next to the stairs and a corridor of rough hewn stone stretched into the darkness. Using torches they discovered scratches in the floor as if something were dragged to and then up the stairs. The air was stale and dry, this long stone corridor stretched off to the south. About halfway down corridors disappeared into the gloom to the east and west. At this juncture a mirror faced northwest catching the party's startled reflection. At at the end of the long hallway a second corridor opened up to the west.

The adventurers opted to pursue the age old rookie mistake of splitting up with Phia and Dragonspirit exploring to eastern corridor while Barehands and Sorcy proceeded straight ahead. Phia and Dragonspirit found their way seemingly  little used and curved southward before being blocked by crates and barrels. Behind this stacked decree the southward trajectory of the corridor terminated by an old cave in. On the west side a branching tunnel had been walled off. A small area of bedding was tucked into the corner. A mirror standing propped in the corner. A mottled brown, bony, semi-humanoid creature with long tendril-like limbs ending with four fingers, lined on the inside with spines, skulked in the shadows near the ceiling. It’s elongated face ends in a grotesque, snarling, mouth filled with jagged teeth. The commotion from the choker quickly summoned Phia and Dragonspirit back to the other half of the party. With melee and magic they subdued the grotesquerie who bartered information about answers to the riddles they had found for its life. After that they broke down the walled of passage finding a treasure chest. Unfortunately they did not check for traps and sprung a poison gas trap which weakened Sorcy. However they did acquire Bahamoot's Claw a magical long sword, bracers of defense AC 15, and sacks filled with 400 gold suns. The choker fled through cracks in the cave in too small for the party to follow.

The party backtracked from this dead end and headed down the corridor west. This corridor ran a short distance before doubling back to the north. At the corner is a mirror. A little further on the corridor ended  in a closed door to the west. Phia was able to disable the lock and the door creaked open revealing an antechamber. On the west wall a grotesque green monster framed the doorway into an extravagant crypt. A large sarcophagus lay embedded in the floor. After carefully ascertaining that no traps were laying in wait, Barehands used his steel sinews to open the crypt, revealing the dusty skeletal remains of a conjuror. His head was pierced with many arrows as if he were wearing a painful crown. He wore faded but elegant robes. His eyes glowed with a menacing green light as he began to rise from the sarcophagus.

“Who disturbs Xuan Cong?"

Explaining their mission, Xuan Cong requested they help him seal an open portal elsewhere in the dungeon. He was cursed to never die while this extradimensional portal lay open. He was also forbidden from leaving the crypt but if the mystical mirrors between the crypt and the summoning chamber could be aligned correctly he would be able to reflect his magics to them. He noted that the mirror frames could not be turned physically but required a three word pass phrase. He did not realize that some of the mirrors had been removed from their frames, nor could he after centuries recall the pass phrase. Xuan Cong did tell them that his "friend" in the courtyard might know one of the pass phrases.

The party returned to the unexplored southern end of the north-south corridor. A west ward bend ran about half the distance of its parent before terminating in a door.  About midway a mirror was turned toward the near wall opposite a closed door with a black sapphire. Heeding the earlier warning the party proceeded to the end of this corridor. Behind this door they found a damp jail with four cells in varying states of disrepair. A round table served as the desk of the jailer, a seething devil who deftly wielded a vicious, saw-toothed glaive, while below its toothy maw writhed a hideous, twitching beard. The fight with the devil was grim but ultimately victorious. On the wall of the northwest cell they found the final riddle:

What goes through a door but never goes in or comes out?

With much pondering did Phia finally land upon the answer of a "keyhole".

Backtracking once more, the party finally braved the door of the black sapphire. The thick door opened slowly as if hesitant to enter the room beyond. A strange miasma was felt rather than seen as they entered the room. Each step was met with a resistance both from within but also from the strange atmosphere of a world inextricably alien to our own. In the middle of this room lay what can only be described as a round portal to a place that would shatter the minds of mortals. Tentacles as thick as trees waved in the vomitus haze, their tips, cruel with bladed spines and ooze dripping suction cups tested the membrane separating our two worlds.

The party retreated and returned the missing mirrors to their frames before using the key phrases to realign the mirror frames to give Xuan Cong the line of sight he needed to close the portals. The portal collapsed and Xuan Cong disintegrated in relief. Our brave heroes returned to the Inn of the Flower Princess.

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