Chapter 13: The Shadow of Death
What Has Come Before
The heroes of Riddleport have ventured to Devil’s Elbow, an island off the coast of Varisia and the site of a recent meteorite impact. That “skyfall” was result of foul drow magic that drew an asteroid down from space and smashed it into the planet.
Several expeditions set forth from the city seeking to secure the skymetal that crashed into the Devil’s Elbow. Most met with disaster. Two groups reached the island within a day of one another: one backed by a crimelord named Avery Slyeg, the other commissioned by the overlord and led by the legendary dwarven explorer Goldhammer. Both were slaughtered by bizarre tentacle-maned lion creatures and transformed into equally strange zombies. An expedition sent by the Cypherguild – which the heroes joined – nearly met a similar end. While the heroes investigated the crater on the eastern shore of the island, the mage contingent headed to the abandoned town of Witchlight.
The heroes spent several hours exploring the crater. They found far less skymetal than expected, but they also discovered a possible reason: there were boot prints through the crater of a size and shape the strongly implied they were left by elves. Or, more likely, dark elves. After the investigation the heroes decided to rest for the night, finding an excellent (if impromptu) lean-to formed by trees blown sideways by the meteor’s impact. That night they were attacked by the lion creatures. Most escaped the fight no worse for wear, but the dwarven rogue Tholyr suffered a particularly nasty bite and later became ill.
Meanwhile at Witchlight the wizards ran into the lion-creatures as well, losing nearly half their number in the attack. Their fallen returned as zombies, and it was only the intervention of the heroes – who had seen the eruption of a pyrotechnic spell from Witchlight’s namesake lighthouse – that saved the survivors.
The next day, the expedition belonging to Clegg Zincher arrived. As the heroes watched from Witchlight, the crimelord’s crew unloaded much of their gear … and then saw their ship torn to pieces by an enraged dragon turtle. They fled the beast, heading to the self-same crater the heroes had investigated.
The heroes rendezvoused with them, and convinced Clegg to take his people to Witchlight. Meanwhile, Clegg asked that they try and capture the “lion” creatures they’d described, saying that they would make excellent additions to his menagerie in Riddleport. As the gangster headed to Witchlight, the heroes traveled to the easternmost lighthouse. They found the building remarkably intact, and discovered signs that the drow had been investigate the complex.
They found much more than that though. The dwarf Jorm, exploring the cliffside next to the eastern lighthouse, lost his footing and plunged to the rocky beach below, inadvertently recreating the death of the island’s founder.
Amazingly Jorm survived the fall. He explored some caves at the base of the cliffs, and discovered a decayed corpse at the back of one. The skeleton was grasping a cold iron sword in its right hand.
The blade spoke to the dwarf telepathically when he picked it up, revealing its name to be Winter. It spoke in what sounded like quotations from some ancient text, always extolling the supremacy of cold, snow and the North over all things. Jorm soon found a use for the blade: a wraith, the undead spirit of the founder of the island, attacked him. Jorm aided by his companions, was able to slay the spectre.
In the tower the heroes discovered a journal left behind by the wraith describing the settlement of Devil’s Elbow, and the founder’s forbidden love of a siren who lived in caves along the southern coast. The siren met a terrible end, slain by the villagers that the founder had brought to the island. It was that event that led to his suicide.
Armed with a description of the cliffside caves, the heroes decided to investigate …and soon wished they hadn’t. It turned out that the drow had taken up residence in the self-same cave … and that they had summoned a shadow demon to protect the entrance.
In the pitched fight that followed it was only the presence of the cold iron blade Winter that allowed the heroes to escape with their lives. Other weapons proved not nearly as effective against the demon, and even spells seemed to slip off its shadowy hide. The heroes managed to kill two drow, but in the end the demon’s malevolent presence, and the fear it radiated, caused most of the group to flee.
Jheru was one of the few who didn’t succumb to his fear. He snatched the iron blade from Jorm, and used it to fend off the demon while the others fleed. It quickly became apparent that he would not be able to do this forever, and he ultimately chose discretion as well.
The heroes retreated back up the cliffs and back to Witchlight. There they found that Clegg’s crew had just repelled another attack by the tentacle-maned creatures. Several of the defenders – including Clegg himself – were bitten during the attack, and a half-dozen more were killed outright.
Things were certainly going from bad to worse.
After retreating from the drow cave, the heroes rested in Witchlight with Clegg's men and the survivors of the Cypherguild expedition. Unfortunately their rest was short-lived; the shadow demon pursued them there and attacked, killing one of Clegg's men outright with its shadow claws, then striking one of the heroes with a purple lightning bolt.
A deadly game of cat and mouse followed as the shadow demon slaughtered Clegg's men with impunity. Meanwhile goblinoid zombies attacked the town as well. Half were killed when they pursued Jheru in to a crumbling building, and the monk brought it down on their heads. Meanwhile, the rest of the zombies moved into the town's old inn, tearing down its windows and stepping inside. This allowed the shadow demon in as well, and the creature slaughtered the three guards it found there. Tholyr, inspired by Jheru, leapt from the lighthouse onto the inn. He knocked down the building's walls, setting off a domino effect that collapse the building on the zombies and the shadow demon alike.
The zombies were crushed, but the demon arose from the ruins unharmed. The creature continued to taunt its prey, raining more purple lightning down on them. The heroes countered with iron arrows and crossbow bolts that hurt the demon. It prepared to withdraw, satisfied that it had terrorized its enemy sufficiently. As it did so, it declared that "My mistress will bring doom upon the entire world!" It choked on those words though, as Tholyr sent an iron crossbow bolt through its shadowy heart.
The next day, the heroes headed down to the beach and the drow complex. There they discovered a cave that had been walled off by a rune-engraved wooden wall. The wall radiated a magical silence; destroying the wall ended the silence and granted them access to the chamber beyond. There they encountered the ghost of the siren Virashi. Surprisingly the ghost was pleased to see them; she explained that since they had ended the suffering of the vengeful wraith of her lover Yaris, they had freed her as well. She disappeared in a flash of light, blessing them as she did so.
Elsewhere in the complex Skender and Korlandril found a chamber containing a stone slab. Upon the slab was the corpse of one of the tentacle-maned lion creatures they'd faced several times before, as well as several half-consumed vials of chemicals.
They also found an improvised barracks, but instead of drow, they encountered two goat-headed demons. They slew these creatures, and then explored the complex. They discovered that the drow were long gone, having taken most of the gear and valueables with them.
Not all of it though. They found a cache of construction equipment, a small collection of potions labelled in UnderCommon, and several books.
The first of these is Tsalkaean’s Bestiary, a book written in Undercommon that grants a +2 circumstance bonus on Knowledge (dungeoneering) checks to identify aberrations and oozes and is worth 200 gp. The second is a well-read book called Thoughts on Varisian Customs.
The third book is actually a journal. It was clearly the draft journal of a perfectionist, one in which a drow woman named Shindiira wrote out her initial thoughts before committing them to her final journal.
Reading the journal reveals Shindiira’s excitement at being accepted into House Azrinae, apparently a drow house of some power and note. She then details her frustration and finally hatred for Depora, the female drow the heroes encountered previously. She seems to regard the woman as a sister, first greatly loved, then equally hated. The reason is a shared affection for Nolveniss, a drow male who apparently leads the house's contingent in the ruined elven city of Celwynvian in the Mierani Forest in northern Varisia. The city was once the seat of elven power, though it was abandoned when the elves left Golarion prior to the Earthfall.
Shindiira is quite explicit in the ways in which she plans to use him as her consort once she returns to him in with a large amount of noqual and the tentacle-maned lion creatures (she calls these "akatas") to show him her power.
The last dozen entries display a dramatic shift in tone, becoming an almost scientific list of observations of the strange meteorological effects that preceded the falling star, the impact itself, and developments afterward. More importantly, the journal mentions several times an ominously titled event or object called an "Armageddon Echo".
- Jheru: 2000
- Skender: 2000
- Korlandril: 2000
- Phil: 2000
- Tholyr: 2000
- Jorm: 2000
- Emeryon Star-seeker: 2000
- Maturin: 1000
As a result of this, Jheru, Skender, and Jorm hit 5th level.
Of the corpse of Depora Arinae:
- +1 hand crossbow with masterwork bayonet blade (1d4+1 damage)
- drow poison (5 vials)
- +1 mithral chainmail
- masterwork buckler
- +1 hand crossbow with 20 bolts
- masterwork short sword
- ring of feather falling
- slippers of spider climbing
In the sea caves:
- two block and tackles
- 10 square yards of canvas
- 50 feet of chain
- five crowbars
- three fishing nets
- six grappling hooks
- four hammers
- six hooded lanterns
- a set of masterwork shipwright’s tools
- a set of masterwork carpenter’s tools
- a set of masterwork tailor’s tools
- a merchant’s scale
- seven miner’s picks
- 14 pitons
- two 10-foot poles
- a portable ram
- 200 feet of silk rope
- 17 empty sacks
- two sledges
Mixed in with all this mundane gear is a crate containing four bottles of 4663-vintage wine from the Terverius Wineries of southern Cheliax. Each bottle is worth 300 gp.
A small, unlocked box contained:
- two potions of lesser restoration
- three potions of remove paralysis
- five potions of cure moderate wounds
- a potion of neutralize poison.
All are labeled in Undercommon.