On the whole, King Ghartok was a disappointment, to his god, to his minions, and to the relic hunters. What kind of monarch has no treasury? The Gnoll kind. The best thing the Carrion King owned was a particularly nasty whip. Unimpressed, the adventurers surveyed the dingy royal quarters. “Animals,” murmured someone with disdain. Still, there was some hope. After all, the throne room lay just beyond the large doors on the North end of the room.
A distant crash preceded a burst of stale, dusty air from the door to the tower. The adventurers took up strategic positions and waited for whatever it was that was pounding and thumping down the winding stairs. When Toska’s griffin came bounding into the room covered in cobwebs and caked in fine gray dust, the relic hunters couldn’t help but laugh. The delighted Druid quickly cleaned her companion, and thus reinforced with a powerful ally, the adventurers readied themselves to continue the search for the Pit of Screaming Ghosts.
Once more, Quarrell took the lead. Pushing one large door open just enough to peer outside, the soldier was struck not by visual splendor but a staggering stench. He winced and squinted through the wreak to spot a robed dog man pacing impatiently behind the towering structure of bone and rotting skins that supported what he could only assume was the Carrion Throne. There would probably be guards, but from Quarrell’s perspective, it looked like a cake walk. Signaling for the others to follow, he pushed open the doors and strode purposefully along the walkway toward the throne. Toska and Nicto hesitated when struck by the odor, and covered their noses as they walked after the soldier.
The robed Gnoll barked for guards the moment he spotted the relic hunters, and it’s safe to say that answering his call was the worst decision those guards ever made. Then again, the robed dog man rushed toward the trio of humans, and this too was not what those who wish to maintain union between the major portions of their anatomy consider a good idea. The Guards impeded the adventurers just long enough for Zayifid (a name the human’s would never hear) to get within striking distance. Nicto was the first to strike him. Conserving his spells, the sorcerer elected to stab with his rapier. Dismayed, the dog man held his ground and then Quarrell opened him up with a pair of neatly applied gashes. Zayifid who had drawn a scimitar realized that the up close and personal style of combat had become a less attractive option. Also, his Gnoll illusion had vanished.
A tall man with strangely canted ears, a shock of brilliant red hair, coppery skin, and clothes of no culture with which the relic hunters were familiar. As quickly as the party saw Zayifid’s true form, he vanished, appearing in the same instant at the base of the Carrion Throne. Again, there were factors in the equation that Zayifid was unaware of. Toska was airborne. Toska could summon nature’s cruelty. Zayifid found himself subjected to that cruelty. Unfortunately, Zayifid had a very unnatural ally. As Quarrell and Nicto raced around the massive circular pit filled with decaying carcasses that formed the central space of Ghartok’s throne room, Zayifid hastily called forth the Advanced Stegocentipede who lived in the pit.
From the surface of the revolting sea of bodies, the Stegocentipede launched upward, catching Toska’s griffon in its jaws. In short, order Nicto and Quarrell discovered just how poisonous the enormous arthropod happened to be. The monster’s lashing tail and thrashing spines were a dire menace to anyone in the area. With Zayifid out of their reach and the segmented horror practically surrounding them, the soldier and the sorcerer did everything in their power to harm it. Ladling damage upon foes is something those two did particularly well, and the Stegocentipede took notice. Flung from the monster’s mandibles, Toska and the griffin landed near Zayifid. The make-believe Gnoll once more readied his scimitar… then the lightning began to fall. Zayifid exploded. The Stegocentipede fried. An angry Druid is a fearsome enemy.
Battered, bitten, and poisoned, the relic hunters limped to the Carrion Throne. None of the trio were at their best, and their investigative skills must have suffered most. They searched high and low. They walked round and round. They were sure the stairwell to the Pit of Screaming Ghosts was right here. They just couldn’t find it. More Gnolls were sure to show up at any minute, and the adventurers were not exactly in fighting trim at the moment. Clumsiness saved them. Climbing down the wobbly tower of skins stretched over bones, Quarrell’s boot caught on something. He went head first into the mass of rotting meat, but by the time the others pulled him out, the throne had toppled, the cover slid aside, and the stairs leading down lay at their feet.
Steeling themselves againt the unknown, the relic hunters showed real courage in descending those spiraling stairs. Down and down they went. Light fell across the final steps, and through an ornate arched doorway, Quarrell, Toska, and Nicto found a miniature paradise. Softly glowing crystal illuminated a garden complete with a clear stream, a variety of greenery, and a circle of stone benches. Nothing about the place brought “Pit of Screaming Ghosts” to mind. Perhaps someone was just trying to keep unwelcome visitors from their private retreat? Upon entering the serene space, the relic hunters felt the feebleness inflicted by the Stegocentipede’s poison dissipate. An almond tree provided a tasty and fortifying snack. The cool stream was wondrously refreshing. After a mere hour’s rest, the relic hunters felt entirely restored. They began to look around. Nicto found what had once been a portal, but the arcane ring that had surrounded the window to another place, only circled blank stone. Four massive stone heads stood like buried sentinels along the garden’s central path. At the opposite end from the dead portal, a narrow corridor bent to the right and opened into a small room.
In the center of this room stood a bizarre mechanical device. Massive iron arms equipped with clamps for hands were raised over a central circle on the stone floor. The sorcerer discerned that the apparatus was certainly the product of the arcane, and with a little tinkering, he activated it. At the same moment, great gouts of flame spewed from the stone heads, and from the dead portal stepped four fiery Salamanders. With long handled, serpentine bladed weapons, the monsters slithered with shocking speed. They suffered not at all from the belching heads, and the relic hunters were hard pressed to keep themselves from being spitted and roasted. Nicto’s love of scorching and searing left him with a very short list of useful spells. Toska was caught in one of the initial blasts and fought on despite being badly burned. Quarrell and the griffon fought with tremendous ferocity. Little by little the human’s recovered from the surprise assault and turned the tide. Using the terrain to maximum benefit, Toska took shelter in the stream and employed her elemental powers. Nicto applied both his blade and lesser magics to aid his companions. And in the end, the relic hunters finished off their foes and made the most of the garden’s restorative properties.
When at last they returned to the room with the mechanism, the relic hunters discovered that the arms had removed the massive marble wedges that formed the central circle in the floor. Yet again, they were faced with stairs descending into gloom.
Lights cast by Toska, Nicto, and Quarrell’s bardic girlfriend glinted and dance off a sea of treasure. In the vault beneath the garden, lay truly epic wealth, an emperor’s career earnings, the hordes of half a dozen investment banker half-dragons. Naturally, the party member with the highest wisdom score was the first to spoil the moment. The Druid easily saw through the illusion and into the vile murk beneath. Quarrell was quickly persuaded when the trap was pointed out, but Nicto, trusting his companions, more than his own eyes desperately wanted a closer look but refrained. Rather than slog through the shallow lake of insidious goop, the relic hunters were ferried over on by one by Toska’s airborne taxi service.
Safe on spongy, odd smelling subterranean soil, the party faced another unwelcome scene. Hanging from the cavern ceiling, a Sand Kraken hovered suspended in a thin cocoon of translucent mineral. The irksome aberration’s many tentacled form could have crawled straight out of the hideous murals of the Troglodytes; here was a pet of Lamashtu made flesh. Nevertheless, the savvy bard and the suave sorcerer deciphered a plaque beneath the monster that called for a prayer to Rovagug. Together, the alluring pair pieced together a phonetic mash of appropriate syllables that kept The Waiting Beast in his default mode. The catacombs beyond the Sand Kraken ornamented entry way were filled peacefully desicated corpses, and the sarcophagus of Shirak was the centerpiece of the whole affair. After shoving aside the hideous lid, carved into the shape of a nine-legged spider, the relic hunters recovered the Scroll of Kakishon.
Weary and bedraggled, Quarrell, his Bard, Toska, her Griffon, and Nicto found a rear entrance to the catacombs. Following the scent of freshening air, the successful adventurers reached the mountainside and returned to the hidden canyon where Rasmus Rask, Navus Canis, and the ponies waited.