House of the Beast: LoF Session XVII
The cold of night dissipated as the light of a new dawn fell into the sky overhead. Groggily the party awoke from their arduous trek across the plains and mountains. Continuing further toward the Pale Mountain of the Brazen Peaks, the land is cut through by streams of jagged lime rock and piercing slate. Sharp and biting, the mountain is as unforgiving as the desert sun. Higher the land sloped against the white lime of Pale Mountain and destination getting closer. The dizzying altitude and its air thin began wracking the bodies of Ce-tan and the small Glarthoblavott causing sickness and fatigue. What the land takes away it gives back in other forms as Ukar, the traitorous guide, harvests flowers and various herbs to treat the symptoms of the air deprivation of an accelerated climb. Though wary of any poisons or malefactored mischief the Gnoll might have concocted from her swift herbal remedy, Ce-tan and Glarth drank regardless and soon became tolerable of the short air.
Five days march onward. Hot and cold become replaced with a steady crisp heat. The fifth day bears its early hours of light with a breaking rise and rocky terrain. Between the precipice of the Pale Mountain a lingering grayed temple is seen, forgotten and ruined with the gory warnings of desiccated bodies and their black fly counterparts staked bleak to the West.
The hideous and twisted temple boarding maniacal minions, Ukar takes her leave requiring preparations for the coup to destroy the Carrion King. The small Gnoll patrols camouflaged within the dust and rocks, Ce-tan calculates a more prudent route to the temple following the broken jagged stones amidst a path of the crucified graying and decapitated corpses.
Winding through a path of rubble, the temple grounds are barren and deserted. Opening a set of doors to the large chamber, the wide room bears little fixtures and trappings of an inviting space. A spiral staircase wound upward to a tower, its railings carved in the fashion of snakes. Glarth noticing the disrepair of the staircase sends his large snake-like companion, Saurbhan, to scout the detailed monolithic structure as he himself sought answers from mosaics surrounding the chamber. Glarthoblavott discerns the patina of age and sand; mosaics depicted serpents and fire coming to life – roughing a world with destruction and devouring another within its ancient jaws. Saurbhan, reaching the precipice of the tower looks down and casts his vision of the temple and grounds to his master. Still barren and derelict, the outworlder slithers back down to rejoining with his companions. The other smaller chambers attached, similar to the massive chamber, were left with nothing but broken boards and dust.
Opening to the next chamber the brass and gold dome shining above in the open-air temple-like structure. The floor raised to an area for old scripture and sermons to be proclaimed. The walls ordained with mosaics continuing the theme of the world serpent and the floor littered with debris of broken pews, rubble, and large egg shaped brown objects were scattered chaotically about, around the size of men. No sooner than Glarth and Saurbhan move forward examining one of the brown ovoids, the rock-like visage of a rubble mound begins to unfurl into a large snake striking viciously out at the curious Gnome.
Saurbhan lunges outward at his native counterpoint as the large sanddust color reptile lashes out again at Glarth, coiling around him with its immense strength. Ce-tan, without hesitation, extends his hands with blistering heat sending forth an arc of red-black searing pain. Saurbhan, with celerity, follows his attack in suit, avulsing pieces of scale and tendons and muscle forcing a swift death and the release of Glarth. Without duress, Glarth examines the large sand reptile and its fecal mounds to find a gold banded ring with an enchanted red stone somehow gleaming wildly under the dust and blood.
While Ce-tan and Glarth sift through the chapel of various debris, Khatovar steps to the outskirts of the open-air chamber, the pillars holding its massive weight, and gazes into the courtyard. The cover and concealment of the pillars betraying him, Khatovar looks up as an insidious Gnoll darkened with a taint of the fabled Carrion King locks his gaze upon him the field away. The savage Gnoll looses an arrow as it rides toward his prey on a monsterous and feral hyena.
Ducking quickly behind his only cover, Khatovar barely pulls back before the arrow shucked the stone, deflecting away and braking the wooden shaft. Unable to alert his companions fast enough, a sharp alert from a calamitous horn sounds closely. The signal sent, Khatovar and the others huddle behind pillars to stave potential arrows. The main building in sight, Glarth, Ce-tan, and Zahkmed run their way toward the imposing doors, but are met with arrows and appartus that were at the ready.
The Gnolls, concise and deadly. Suarbhan, viciously ambushed by a Gnoll closeby – its sinister mount lacerating the otherworld snake with gnashing teeth as its rider cast a black-skulled bolas, releasing biting and noxious vermin from within its cracks, nauseating Saurbhan. Khatovar speeds with extraplanar alacrity, charging the rider bearing down upon his companion, jumping heavy with a spinning backhand. The damage not enough to unseat the tenacious rider. Ce-tan again extends his arms yet the air does not swell with a heat, but a concussive blast of force is sent careening at the second Gnoll – successfully toppling the beast man from his disastrous hyena and knocking the four legged feral creature to its side.
An arrow is fired in retaliation to Ce-tan. Its head burying deep in flesh and muscle, covered in poison, debilitating the charismatic caster – locking joints. The monstrous mount stands once more, barreling toward Ce-tan and Zahkmed. It’s untoppled compatriot and villainous mount concentrating their efforts, eviscerating the hale Khatovar. Arrows continue to fly felling the first of the savage-tainted Gnolls and with maniacal thought Glarthoblavott shunts a pit beneath the charging hyena, dropping it three stories to an impending landing of broken bones. Saurbhan, lashes fiercely at the hyena still bearing its rider, crumpling the beast and unhinging the savage. Khatovar, with gruesome purpose, charges the last frothing Gnoll with a shocking impact. Unable to down the enemy, the barbarous Gnoll steps hard upon the corpse of his mount and barrages the bloodied fighter with a deft cut, letting loose the remainder of life from Khatovar.
Ce-tan, hindered by the poison paralyzing his movements was helpless to watch his companion being felled by such a diseased creature. Jutting his hand forward, Glarth bombards the bloodcraving Gnoll with a force blast developing into that of a ram’s head. The strength, immense. The footing, terrible. The Gnoll was sent backward into a waiting array of hungry steel and teeth as the stumbling savage on his last legs was cut down viciously by Saurbhan and Zahkmed.
Khatovar’s eyes flutter open as the battle-laden man of Sarenrae kneels before his fallen comrade, restoring what sanguine energies he could. The last hyena, trapped and feeble from its fall receives a fiery alchemical end for all its comforts – scorched and engulfed by flame in its temporary grave. Shortly, the bodies of the venomous scouts were unceremoniously dragged and looted at the chapel where the snake had fed so many times before on various lives. With the poisons and wounds dispersing from the divinity of magic, the chapel’s long sweeping stairs lead to the Southern rust encrusted atrium door. The hinges of the wide and reinforced door full of weather and time snap apart under the applied heavy strength of weight Khatovar and Saurbhan.
The sound of the rusted door pushed to its flat; the echo of metal creaking and wood snapping under its own weight. The room wide with partial walls erected to create psuedo alcoves, but nothing of importance lay in yet another barren room. The room following is wide in an outer ring encompassing the center of the building. The doors at the compass points boarded with broken and splintered boards, covered in beetles – 3 braces barring the inside from coming out. Voices drift into the air and heard through the Western door heading outward… the voices gruff, insecure, and shaken debating to fight the infiltrators or flee with their lives.
Their choice, fated. Resistance, futile. The room littered with unsuspecting Gnolls, untainted by the darkness of the prior savages and monstrous hyenas, broke in silence. The wicked Ce-tan sauntered forward with supernatural grace, breeze at a beckoned call – the opened palm had done what no one had dreamed he possible…
The bead crimson red, swift in efficacy, dotting the plane with a thin blood red thread of afterlight, coalesced the air around it as it exacted in its location for visceral annihilation. Instantaneously the world convulsed in a baleful heat, rupturing the bead of bloodlight into hideous flame. From its center, the burst of immolation spread forth like a sickening sandwave, enveloping everything in its tongued maw; a firewave hurdled forth by sheer force of will. As swiftly as it came to being it dissipated but not without leaving its wake of devastation and carnage. The unsuspecting Gnolls cowered and dissolved in awe as the wicked grin of Ce-tan pierced into their depths of primal fear. Those left alive beneath the reckoning fire broke; bereft of hope and solace.
The majority few that survived were too dazed to react as Glarth followed the concert of flame with his own device of destruction. The pellet grenade bounced from floor to wall to floor again beneath the pawed feet of the stirred. Without remorse a gout of flame shot forth again from Ce-tan in a line issuing death again to a Gnoll warrior. Feeling the urge to fight, the Gnolls took arms too late. The grenade unvieled its own disturbing despair as various bits of shrapnel sped out as heated metal ripped through the majority.
The lone Gnoll, with wits about him, fled. Running away from the onslaught to his perceived salvation, his life however, was cut short as Khatovar with the speed of a Katepeshi leopard chased down his quarry, jumping from stage to sanded soil. The attack was quick, the Gnoll’s reaction poor. As it lay in a battered slumber, Khatovar dragged the body toward the rest of the waiting party up the stairs. In his combat heavy fatigue, Khatovar missed the traps laid upon the stairs as vicious caltrops dotted the stone. With feet somewhat bloodied Khatovar release his grip for better balance. The Gnoll’s last breath left his body as the caltrops tore the remnant life from his lips.
With the last of the Gnolls left to feed the carrion birds, the fighters stand gazing into the compound of the Carrion King’s ready to cleanse the next area of taint.