Starday, 27 Fireseek, CY 596
The party looks down into the ruins of Kuluth-Mar, nestled in an immense bowl-shaped valley. Some of the buildings are only overgrown foundations. Some structures are more in tact, but everything is dwarfed by a giant ring of obsidian circling the heart of the city, thirty feet high. Within the ring, an ancient stone ziggurat climbs to a tall armed spire, broken at the apex.
Most disturbing is the air itself, which feels thin, and seems to waver between this and another reality. It is very disorienting, like looking through a veil into some other time, with traces of people moving through the streets. “It’s strongest at the peak,” Riddle notes, nodding towards the broken apex of the spire. He can almost see what was once there…a huge black, trapezoidal shape.
Jane transforms into the eagle Athena and soars over the city. The obsidian ring in the heart of the city is complete, and blazes with fiery runes on top that she cannot decipher. The interior is a large unbroken field to the ziggurat. Off in the distance to the east, yuan-ti have made themselves a home, and trolls to the west. The northern chunk of the city has sunk into water and various swamp creatures inhabit it. Everything living in the ruin, however, steers well clear of the heart of the them.
Riddle casts his scroll of wind wall on the party and they move closer to the obsidian ring. Scar-Eater reads the runes atop the wall:
KYUSS FOREVER BOUND
He detects an aura of overwhelming abjuration magic on the ring the party conjectures that the artifact was once used to imprison Kyuss in whatever was atop the spire at the time of his apotheosis. Scar-Eater assures them that it’s containment function won’t prevent them from passing over the ring, so that is what they do. There is a jarring moment as if they are passing from one perception of reality to another, a twisted vision of two times occupying the same time, past and present co-existing. The past is suffused with an oily taint and in it, a dark man in black sits upon a green stone throne, marked with the symbol of a skull and scythe for Nerull. Crowds chant his name over and over in a strange accent, “Kyuss! Kyuss! Kyuss!” The chants surge through and threaten to tear the very jungle apart, and the party glimpses they top of the spire, a fifty-foot trapezoidal monolith that seems to suck all light from the air around it.
As the double vision ends there is a ripple across the parade ground surrounding the ziggurat followed by a rumble and an otherworldly scream as a skeletal zombie with toothy worm maws in its hollow eye sockets emerges from an open doorway at the top of the ziggurat. Everyone lands on the ground except Jane, who prefers the strategic advantage on top of the obsidian ring. The skeletal zombie shouts a few more buffs and starts running down the stairs of the ziggurat as three godawful huge bloated beetle carcasses erupt from the ground beneath the party’s feet, a ground that they now see writhes with the familiar sluggish greens worms of Kyuss.
Jane blasts the closest beetles with an arc of lightning as Archie dashes out of the fray and focuses his bow on the running knight of Kyuss. Scar-Eater bashes a beetle with flail charged with shocking grasp, and the entire party is overcome by their chittering, hypnotic drone for a moment. Scar-Eater and Tyrrell succumb to the horrific sound and begin clawing their faces in agony. One of the beetles step up to Long Fist and ravages him with one nasty blow, and another chases after the archer to do the same. The others watch in shock as the two warriors survive attacks that seem more likely to have killed them outright. The third beetle misses the clawing Scar-Eater altogether. Long Fist summons his Celestial companion as Riddle channels a heal spell into his hand and moves towards one of the beetles, who manages to avoid him.
Jane sends a column of divine flame at the same two beetles she attacked before, hoping to finish at least one of them off and perhaps lessen their maddening cacophony. They are too hardy for her, however. Archie tries different kinds of arrows hoping to find one that manages to really hurt them, and his diligence pays off when he nails his attacker with a silver arrow. He is still cornered, however, and hurt, and a third of the party is reeling from the beetles’ drone. Scar-Eater manages to shrug off the effect but then Jane succumbs to it, and poor Tyrrell remains a clawing mess. After the beetles nearly kill Hyaeliotrope in one blow, Long Fist dismisses him and lays hands on himself, as well as casting another spell that allows him to move through battlefield towards the descending skeleton without drawing the attacks of the beetles. Riddle gets his healing hand on one of the beetles and it explodes.
The Kyuss Knight finally reaches the ground as Jane claws at her face and Archie finishes off the last two beetles with his silver arrows. Scar-Eater blasts the skeleton with an enfeebling ray and Tyrrell draws the lightning sword. Long Fist charges up to the skeleton with everything he can muster but his swing falls short and he misses. Riddle throws a ring of blades around the lone enemy, who steps through it anyway. It swings its black blade at Long Fist and cuts him down in a flash of pure evil, continuing to hack at the body even after it’s down. Riddle closes Long Fist’s wounds, but the skeleton sends one of the worms out of its eye sockets to plunge into the half-ogre’s skull and eat part of his brain.
Jane calls upon an enormous column of water towards the skeleton in an effort to push it back from her allies but it is too strong. Archie pelts it with arrow after arrow and Scar-Eater, forgetting that it had cast a protection from fire spell upon itself earlier, strikes it with three scorching rays that have zero effect. Riddle barrels towards Long Fist and the skeleton takes the opportunity to attack him with another eye-worm for some damage and brain-devouring, but Riddle does manage to cast breath of life on Long Fist before the Knight attacks him again. Jane summons a sudden stalagmite to hold the Knight to the ground where Archie can finish him off with a few more shots.
Tyrrell’s wand of restoration heals Long Fist and Riddle of the intelligence-draining wounds of the eye-worms, and between Riddle and Jane the party gets back up to full strength. Long Fist reports that these Eviscerator Beetles are the least of the rumored Hounds of Kyuss, a group that also include 35-foot-long “Earth Cancer” centipedes that exude an aura that makes the earth erupt around them, proving that indeed, stone shape can be used as a weapon in certain circumstances.
The party debates over how to enter the monastery so Riddle casts divination and asks, “What is the best way to enter the ziggurat to gain information (and live) about what Balakarde discovered?”
The Vaati chorus replies, “Visit the spire, but enter from below.”
When they follow the advice and climb the ziggurat stairs they see the doorway there is packed with rubble, making an entrance this way impossible. However, as they approach the base of the spire, reality twists again and they are subject to the vision of an enormous red dragon swooping down and snatching the obsidian trapezoid from the top of the spire and flying off with it to the northeast…in the direction of the Great Rift Canyon. Before flying however, however, they catch a glimpse of the writhing figure inside, a face, made of five-foot-thich worms, a terrible, terrible face. “ Dragotha,” Scar-Eater says, referring to the dragon, not the face. It is clear to all who belongs to that face.
Before heading into the ziggurat from below the party indentifies the Kyuss Knight’s +1 unholy bastard sword, +2 heavy steel shield, and +2 full plate armor. Scar-Eater claims the shield and Long Fist puts everything else into the Handy Haversack.