012 - Snakes in a Cave
Overnight at Elbara's Cabin
The party drifts to sleep on the floor of Elbara's hidden cabin, their bedrolls warmed by the embers under the cauldron.
As they sleep, Aaron dreams. He's in a dark, chilly place. His vision reaches only a few feet in front of him. He hears an ominous slithering of scales dragging across the floor and drawing closer. Hissing fills the air as a pair of yellow eyes approaches in the darkness. The creature circles him, lifting its head to his eye level. As it surrounds him it hisses out, "Ssssserve me!" then slithers away.
It's morning. The party feels the aches and pains of a rough sleep on the floor. Wazo has a headache, and a feeling of having forgotten something important. Elbara has made breakfast, a vegetarian soup. Tegan gives her the turmeric, telling her, "We don't need it anymore." Elbara is grateful.
The group chats about their plans for the day. They express an interest in visiting the cave, hoping to make it useless to Tessa. Elbara explains that the cave is up by the cliffs, uphill from the cabin if you follow the brook. She says that since the curse her sister has been crafty and malevolent, driven by the curse to trick travelers.
On the Brook Path
Right after breakfast Wazo does some celebratory flying, delighted to be airborne again. Feeling hungry for some meat, she plans to dive bomb a robin but realizes it is a mother on her eggs. She eats a different bird instead.
Tegan twins mage armor for himself and Aaron, and the group heads uphill, following the brook. They head through heavy forest, eventually approaching a cliff. There's an opening to the right of the path, which gets steeper as it approaches.
Tegan looks for signs of wildlife or people, but doesn't see much besides the path. Wazo flies up to look at the cliff top. It's just grassy, with no openings or features. She circles and gets a good look but doesn't learn any more. She asks a crow up there what's in the cave. The crow, not wanting to be bothered, responds harshly, "Some big hairy bugbear creature." Wazo then asks about anything else around here and he responds, "There's a blueberry patch near the cave entrance."
After she returns the group, everyone quibbles over who will go in first.
Tegan takes the lead, sneaking carefully in. As his eyes adjust he sees an ordinary cave interior. There is a stack of sticks and a pile of leaves, and to the right is a shredded tunic. He waves the others in behind him.
Aaron steps on a crunchy branch on the way in and it snaps loudly, reverberating in the cave. Everyone freezes but nothing happens.
They keep making their way in. Tegan is feeling nervous about the leaves, and pokes them. Nothing happens.
Fight with the Bugbear
Wazo can't see in the darkness so she takes Aaron's shoulder. He keeps the driftglobe handy to provide light in case something happens. Tegan goes ahead a little. As he enters the next area he sees a bugbear, its mouth bloody as it eats some woodland creature. It stands up, alert, and picks up a morningstar. It's wearing a chain shirt.
Hearing this, Aaron lights up the driftglobe. Initiative!
- Wazo runs up and chops at the creature with her glaive. She hits its arm, then chops at it again.
- Tegan uses Chill Touch.
- Aaron hits the bugbear in the chest with one eldritch blast and misses with another. It roars, and swings its morningstar at Wazo. It hits her once, then misses with a second swing.
- A second bugbear runs up to Tegan and hits him with a mace.
- Wazo stabs the first bigbear some more.
- Tegan uses spiritual weapon, hits, and his dagger, which also hits.
- Aaron backs up 20 feet or so and hits the new bugbear with two blasts of force energy. One hits its hide armor and the other hits its arm. It looks badly injured.
- The first bugbear crits on Wazo with its morningstar, but the hit is clumsy. It swings again and misses.
- The second bugbear swings at Tegan and misses.
- Wazo swings twice at the first bugbear but misses.
- Tegan swings with the spiritual weapon and the dagger, missing with both.
- Aaron smashes the second bugbear with two blasts; it's almost dead.
- The first bugbear smashes Wazo twice, doing decent damage.
- The second bugbear misses Tegan again.
- Wazo hits the first bugbear twice, stabbing into it in a rage. She kills it.
- Tegan's spiritual weapon slices into the other bugbear, beheading it.
It's A Trap
The group takes a moment to collect themselves, then Tegan walks ahead a little ways. So far there is no bugbear feces, but there is a horrible smell from deeper in the cave. Tegan steps in some leaves, but it's a trap! The ground gives way and he falls 15 feet into a pit of snakes!
- Snakes bite Tegan. He resists their venom but between that and the fall he is pretty seriously hurt.
- Tegan tries to climb out of the pit, but slips on the walls.
- Aaron sends Flit over and through him, blasts the snakes with eldritch energy. About half of them are killed.
- Wazo throws down a rope.
- Tegan manages to avoid more snake bites.
- He starts killing snakes with his dagger.
- Aaron blasts again through Flit, and demolishes the remaining snakes
In the following stillness, there is a muffled scream from deeper in the cave. Tegan grabs some snakes on the way up the rope. He uses prayer of healing. There is another muffled scream and a muffled female voice speaking.
Wazo takes the lead, but can't see in the darkness. The group catches up to her. In the next area they see a large stone door with intertwined snakes in bas relief. Between their heads is a keyhole. Aaron prepares to send Flit to the other side of the door, but before he does that he feels something begin to vibrate in his pocket. He pulls out a silver key on a leather cord, which glows with yellow energy. He puts the key into the door. The glow moves from the key to the snakes, the snakes animate and crawl away, and the door clicks and grinds open.
The Temple of the Snakes
Torches in alcoves line the room, which has a 40 foot cathedral ceiling, supported by thick pillars. In the center of the room is a large statue of a snake, its mouth open wide towards the ceiling. Floating above the statue is a limp humanoid, rotating slowly in the air, arms and legs hanging motionless. A light blue cloud of energy is drifting from the lifeless person towards an altar at the far end of the room, where Tessa Prymar is standing.
As the door opens her concentration falters, and the person falls down on top of the snake statue's jaws.
She yells, "You have ruined my ritual!!" and speaks some magic phrases. Two giant statues of snakes come to life on either side of her and a spectral door opens behind her. Cackling, she walks through it and out of sight, as the door closes.
One snake is giant, reddish, and otherwise normal looking. The other is giant and skeletal.
- The red snake constricts around Wazo.
- Aaron tries to hit it with eldritch blast but misses.
- The skeletal snake casts charm person on Aaron! He fails the save, and for one hour he will regard the snake as a friendly acquaintance.
- Tegan uses hypnotic pattern. The bone naga fails the save and is incapacitated. Tegan says, "Nobody attack the bone snake!" Aaron says, "Why would anyone want to hurt my friend?"
- Wazo squirms and struggles, but can't get free.
- The constrictor bites at Wazo's head, hitting her.
- Aaron slams the constrictor with two bolts of eldritch energy.
- Tegan hits the constrictor with spiritual weapon and chill touch; it's badly hurt.
- Wazo flails at it with her glaive, and manages to slice its head off.
- Aaron relaxes, like the fight is over.
- Tegan uses spiritual weapon to chop at the snake statue. It takes some of the stone out, but nothing else happens. He holds his action until the bone naga wakes up.
- Wazo does a reckless attack on the bone naga, hits once then misses. She then flies towards the ceiling, dodging the snake's bite as she goes.
- Tegan's Chill Touch hits.
- Aaron pleads with Wazo and Aaron to leave his friend alone. He tells the bone naga, "They didn't mean it!"
- The bone naga hits Tegan with a frost bolt.
- Tegan uses Hypnotic Pattern again. The bone naga and Aaron fail the save.
- Tegan and Wazo flank the naga while Aaron is unconscious.
- They attack together, both hitting it. Wazo hits it a second time.
- Aaron is still incapacitated.
- The bone naga tries to use Hold Person on Tegan but he shakes it off.
- Tegan hits it with his dagger.
- Wazo hits it with her glaive twice, leaving it hurt. She frenzies and hacks at the naga again.
- The bone naga casts lightning bolt at Tegan, who does not manage to dodge it. It lays him flat.
- Tegan passes a death save
- Wazo flips out, slamming her blade into each red eye, and bone shatters as the snake hisses a scream, then falls down dead
Aaron snaps out of his trance. He and Wazo revive Tegan with the potion in his shirt pocket. Tegan sits up and casts a prayer of healing.
Aaron hears a voice saying, "Perform the ritual, unbind me from one of my tethers." He walks up to the statue and starts intoning something in deep speech. The body on the statue starts to twitch and struggle as if in a nightmare. A yellow cloud from around the body begins flowing into a hole in the ceiling, where there is a stone engraving of a serpent with fangs, its mouth around the opening. As the cloud finishes filtering in, there is a loud WHOOSH and the torches in the room are extinguished.
Wazo asks, "What did you do Aaron?"
He explains, "I just did what the voice in my head said to do. And now it's finally quiet!"
Everyone checks out the altar, but the temple starts to quake and collapse. Dodging debris and falling pillars, they make it out as the room collapses.
Wazo and Tegan (mostly Wazo) question Aaron, deeply concerned about his connection to recent events and questioning their trust in him. He explains, "I needed to find a way to get back some family property. It was illegally, forcibly taken. I think it might have been done by the Dawn's March."
Tegan digs out the ledger. Sure enough, the Emerald Enlightenment hired the Dawn's March to take over his family's estate when Aaron was 12.
Aaron says he escaped, and was hoping to find people or power or something to get the land back and get rid of whoever took it over.
Wazo asks, "Where did you get your powers from in the first place?"
Aaron replies, "Some kind of a scary shadow."
Wazo: "Was it a slithery shadow?"
Aaron: "It was all in some weird language, I understood at the time. I was made an offer to start a journey, collecting power to try and reclaim my family's land. It seemed like the only way."
Wazo hugs Aaron with big mom energy.
Looking out of the cave entrance, the group sees that it's evening. They grill up some snakes, but the venom makes them unsuitable as food. They set up camp inside the cave.