17 Reaping, 592 CY (Continued)
The winding passageway was torchlit as the Silver Phoenixes descended into the temple hidden beneath Shatterhorn. The walls were made of mortared bricks of black volcanic rock covered with painted plaster murals depicting yuan-ti and other serpentine creatures. Most of the murals had faded, and in many areas the plaster had peeled or fallen away, revealing damp black stone underneath. In the dim light of the flickering torches, they saw tiny snakes slithering across the floor, emerging from cracks in the walls, or coiled around sundry objects. A rattling noise echoed through the halls from somewhere in the distance, but they were unsure from which direction.
The spiraling path finally exited into a large, unlit chamber, supported by ten thick pillars. Deep alcoves were recessed into the west and east walls, and a sculpted stone altar rested in the middle of the room, its surfaces stained with dried blood and carved with serpentine motifs. One end of the altar curled up to form the head of a great snake with stony fangs and gems for eyes. Still more snakes slithered across the floor, and the distant rattling noise continued to emanate from the deeper darkness.
As Jarvyk entered the room and Ashton cast a minor cantrip to light the way for himself and Bransen, they were ambushed. A hooded figure hidden behind the altar suddenly stood and conjured the all too familiar black tentacles. This slowed the adventurers for crucial seconds while the attacker followed up his summoning with a brutal lightning bolt. Jarvyk and Bransen broke free of the writhing tentacles and closed with the altar, and getting a closer look at the enemy spellcaster.
The gaunt figure had a serpentine head and scaly skin, but otherwise appeared human. He concealed his features beneath a form-fitting black robe, and around his neck he wore a silver pendant shaped like a tiny cage. A snake was coiled around his left wrist. Furthermore, he was not alone. From one of the niches slinked a nearly skeletal corpse, its rib cage filled with horrid, writhing viscera. Its mouth was possessed of serpentine fangs, but its most noteworthy feature was certainly its tongue – long, cartilaginous, and clawed. It closed with Jarvyk and struck the dwarf with it’s slimy, twitching appendage.
His skin felt numb where the tongue had touched him, but he was far too tough a dwarf to succumb to the paralysis it promised. Greyjek managed to dispel the tentacles, so he and Ashton could get out of Fer Lomarcan’s way. The celestial bearhound had had a hard time navigating the narrow passage and so had taken the rearguard. When he finally broke free, it was to vent his anger and frustration on the snake-man…or so he thought. He was intercepted by the serpentine mohrg, as the freakishly tongued undead creature was known.
Once the adventurers had cleared the hall, the outcome of the fight was only a matter of time. The spellcaster fell without doing much more harm, and his undead protector fell shortly thereafter. They spent a few moments divesting the corpses of everything magical they could while Greyjek focused his energy attempting to dispel and destroy the dark altar, from which the pair had seemed to draw strength and protection. It took him quite a bit of concentration but he finally brought down its magical defenses long enough to disintegrate the now inert stone into a fine powder. Satisfied, he joined the others, who had moved on to the back of the chamber.
The elan noted another four alcoves holding only heaps of dust and bone intermingled with shards of painted ceramic. Jarvyk was examining what appeared to be a stone arm – the remains of a shattered statue perhaps – resting on the floor between four of the thick pillars there. The arm appeared to be human-sized and it had been broken off at the shoulder, and one of its stony fingers bore an iron ring. The paladin leaned down to pick up the arm and as his fingers touched it the four “stone” pillars shattered in a spray of plaster. Standing where the pillars had been were creatures whose scaled faces were crowned with a mass of writhing, hissing snakes instead of hair. Their eyes glowed a deep, feral red, and their hides are scaly and earth-colored. They wore chain shirts, and each held a pair of glittering short swords.
One of them got the drop on the dwarf and dealt him significant injury, but then Bransen uttered a Holy Word and all four of the medusas recoiled, blinded. His spell had accidentally blinded Greyjek as well, but the erudite had manifested touchsight so that he could safely fight the vicious creatures without worrying about their petrifying gaze. The others still had to worry about it, however, and so Ashton moved farther back before opening his eyes and laying waste to the creatures with his magic. Bransen trusted his family’s good fortune and put his longspear to good use while Jarvyk and Fer Lomarcan – eyes closed – engaged the monsters in close quarters. The pair took a few lucky stabs from the medusas before all four were finally put down. Winded, the party retreated a bit to tend to their wounds.