“The fourth holds the great thundering beasts, but the beasts are gone, to give way to a greater thundering beast with death in its eyes. They await at a place of ancient elven evil.” – The Madman’s Prophecy
The party discussed the fourth clue of the madman’s scroll. Between them they decided that Allano’s rothé farm was the place to go, primarily because of the clue of elven evil. Zelda knew from elven lore that there was a fey’ri bolt hole there. Fey’ri, knowing they would be killed if discovered by elves, created many bolt holes – underground areas where they could be safe and perform whatever vile deeds they wished without discovery. As far as the elves knew this one had been abandoned over a century ago. Cundall suggested – half jokingly – that it was time to leave the Moonsea area. The Sword Coast was a nice place to live, he said, his cousin Marjorie had sent him a brochure saying Waterdeep was lovely this time of year, and maybe – now that Phlan and Mulmaster had experienced such devastation – it was now the Hillsfar region’s turn for disaster.
After resting for a day at the Spring of Blessed Life, the party set off for the rothé farm, which was about a day’s travel from the Spring. A rothé was a large beast popular in the area as beasts of burden, a source of meat, and occasionally as mounts. This particular farm was one of the largest rothé-raising establishments in the Hillsfar area.
The unmistakable stench of death assaulted their senses as they approached the Allano rothé farm. In the pastures beyond the barns and farmhouse, large furry lumps lay rotting. Dozens of dead rothé, old and young, littered the fields. A few were missing heads and legs.
A thorough inspection of the farm and surrounding area showed no sign of any of the residents, living or dead. Approximately 20 people must have lived and work on the farm, and there were signs of a struggle but no blood in the living areas or barns.
Just as the party were about to give up on their investigation regarding what happened here because of a lack of evidence, Zelda noticed that the fey’ri bolt hole she was expecting to see was not present. They decided that maybe one of the many barns had been built over the top of it, and so they re-inspected the barns in detail. It was then they noticed a few fresh scuff marks that ended in the middle of the floor in one of the larger barns. The middle of the floor, once inspected closely, had a trap door in it. After Cundall inspected it for traps (“What? I’m the party rogue now?”) they swung it open to reveal a wooden ladder affixed to a shaft leading down into darkness. While the stonework was obviously old, the wooden ladder looked new, perhaps less than a year old. They dropped a torch into the shaft, and it fell several hundred feet. At the bottom it looked like there was a smudge of red around the torch on the floor. Blood? Minimus volunteered to go first and climbed down the ladder. It was a poor carpentry job, and was a little wobbly, but seemed solid enough. At the bottom Minimus saw there was blood spatter and the floor was not exactly a puddle, but was sticky. The blood was perhaps a day or so old, he judged. The halfling picked up the torch and looked at the single passageway. Only one way to go then.
The others followed down the ladder, Cundall taking his time as he was being careful with Chauntea the pig. At the bottom they discussed what to do. Cundall decided he would use his druid shapeshift power to change into an animal and explore further. He was unable (yet) to change into a creature that had darkvision or could fly, but as a weasel he would have enhanced smell and hearing. In weasel form he scurried along the passage, encountering nothing except spiders, cockroaches and rat droppings, until he got to an open area. Cundall the weasel couldn’t detect anything from smell or sound, but he felt there was something. He moved forward and touched the base of a statue. Quickly he scurried backwards, and as he did so, felt with his agile paws that words had been chiseled into the ground in front of this room. Not liking this, Cundall retreated back to the party and resumed human shape. He told the party what he had seen, and they set out together with Marie holding the torch.
Now they could see it with the flickering light from the torch, they could see that the room ahead was decorated in a very strange motif. The bas-relief carvings and other stonework were delicate and finely crafted, seeming elven in nature. However, the scenes depicted were terrible and shocking: “demonic” was the best word to describe it.
“Fey’ri,” said Zelda, her face grim. To the elves in the Cormanthor Forest, the fey’ri were one of the historical enemies of the elves, every bit as much as the drow or orcs. Unlike the drow though, the fey’ri – through their association with demons, the part they played in several elvish civil wars, the difficulty in finding them when they did not wish to be found, and the devastation they brought with them when they did choose to show themselves – had the status of elvish boogeymen. They were so fearful that tales were not even told of them to frighten children. They were even more horrifying and shameful to the fair folk because they had been, and still were, elves.
In this room six massive statues stood with backs to the wall, three on each side, leaving a walkway between them to an exit at the far side of the room. The three statues on the left depicted elves, while the three on the right were carved to represent demons. The two sets of statues faced each other, and each pair shared certain features, indicating the dual nature of the fey’ri. The first pair wielded wicked swords, the second pair highlighted spiders and snakes, and the last pair wielded scourges and arcane wands.
Etched onto the floor in Elven was a phrase that read: “To pass, you must speak the titles of each of the three, divided by three.” Then etched into the floor below it was a long string of letters: TLLHOAERDSDYLVAAEGYNOEONRMY.
Cundall spoke elvish and worked at the problem but couldn’t quite get it, until Zelda suggested that he try using every third letter. He worked out the first title as “THE SLAYER”. He needed Maire’s help to get the other two from the remaining letters, while Minimus, totally bored by puzzles, amused himself by playing with Chauntea the pig. Finally the druid and wizard worked out the other two names – “LORD VENOM” and “LADY AGONY”.
Cundall spoke these out loud and strode forward. As he said each name, the statues bowed slightly. The party were through. The next room around the corner appeared to be another puzzle. This room continued the motif of elf and demon co-mingling. Nine gaping demonic maws adorned the walls of the room, each with a number on them: one through nine. The maws were holes in the walls large enough to climb through, but the gaps were filled with a magical darkness that obscured what was on the other side. Sticking their head in, poking a staff through, throwing a copper piece in did nothing.
The floor and the rest of the walls formed a mosaic that obviously represented the Abyss, the home of the demons. The infinite layers of that horrific place were represented with breathtaking and terrible beauty.
“Art worthy of elves, subject matter worthy of demons,” said Maire, running her hands over the walls. It surely must have taken years to create this artwork.
“There’s something around here they don’t want anyone to see, or at least delay them, maybe while they wait for us,” said Zelda. She was uncomfortable with something so secret and shameful for elves as the fey’ri being seen and spoken about by non-elves. They only reason Zelda knew anything at all about the fey’ri was that elven scouts were told a brief history and as much information as they needed to know to identify them and their works.
“Look carefully,” said Cundell. “Especially around number six there. If it’s going to be any number I think six will be it. Six has been a recurring number we’ve seen lately.”
They studied the area carefully, and found that the gaping demon maw numbered six did indeed have more wear and tear than the others. Minimus volunteered to go through first. He jumped through and disappeared.
“Right, now let’s go home,” said Cundell. “Never liked that little jerk anyway, he never laughed at my jokes.” The others just looked at him. “Just kidding,” said the druid, sighing. “Let’s follow him.”
The others all made it through the portal and landed in a small slice of hell.
The large room they found themselves in was supported by four thick pillars of purple stone. A dead human body was lashed to each with manacles and chains. By the looks each had been tortured and then gutted. Bubbling cauldrons of vile goo cooked over fires in the four corners of the room, with an odd arm or leg sticking out of the cauldrons.
“Guess we know what happened to all the farm folk now,” murmured Minimus.
In the center of the room, resting on a purple stone slab, was a grotesque form. It looked like the head of a rothé had been attached to the body of a human.
Behind the slab was what must be a fey’ri. It resembled an elf, but with horns and large bat wings, and it was bigger and more intimidating than Maire was expecting. Its face and arms were covered in blood, and it cackled madly at the party’s appearance. “Perfect. When my creation rises, you will be its first meal!”
From out of the each of the four columns stepped four vaguely humanoid mounds of flesh. Later they would all know that these creatures were minor demons known as manes. Similarly, baboon-like demons (again, later they would know they were called dretch) leapt from the cauldrons and moved toward the party threateningly.
The battle was ferocious. The dretch clawed and bit, and emitted a strong, noxious cloud that sickened those who breathed too much of it. The manes however did not attack, but ran towards the human/rothé on the purple slab. They threw themselves on it, and in some ritual magic, fused themselves onto the creature with a flash of magic and increased its bulk. New manes appeared from the pillars where the bodies hung and rushed towards the monstrous corpse to do the same thing. Cundall used an entangle spell to snare them, but only slowed them down.
Meanwhile Minimus vaulted onto the purple slab, intending to launch himself at the fey’ri. However he tripped and bounced on the prone abomination on the slab, but through some miracle of luck, bounced off it exactly right, landing on his feet in front of the surprised fey’ri who he skewered several times with his shortsword. The fey’ri staggered backwards, trying to stem the gushing blood from it’s throat and died within a minute. Minimus turned back to help his friends with the dretch, being a little more careful this time, particularly as he was also slowed Cundall’s entangle spell.
Between magic and weapons, they had killed all but one of the dretch, ignoring the manes demons that appeared from the pillars and then threw themselves onto the body on the slab, disappearing into its body with a flash of light, fusing with it, increasing its mass yet further. It was huge now.
As the twelfth manes demon was absorbed into the corpse, a loud explosion rocked the room, sending the party all flying, and destroying the last dretch. Where the terrible corpse had just rested there was now a creature more terrifying than anything the party had ever seen. As tall as a giant but with the head of a bull, it emanated wicked power and burned their eyes; temporarily blinding them. It took the party in with a red-eyed stare, bellowed, took a step towards them and then disappeared. Something horrifying had just been unleashed onto an unsuspecting world.
The party sat where they had fallen, badly shaken. Marie used her arcana sense in a belated attempt to work out what had been going on. Summoning magic was evident, of course, but also a teleportation magic had been woven into the summoning. She mentally berated herself for not trying to disrupt the ritual, even though she had been fighting for her life against the dretch. The bull demon – later they would know it was called a goristro – had been summoned by the fey’ri with this horrible ritual and they had ensured that it would be wherever they wanted it to be, with the teleport. Lucky for the party, not so lucky for the world, perhaps.
“Rest,” groaned Cundall. “I need.” He was injured from being bitten and clawed by dretch, and sore from being flung to the stone floor by the arrival of the goristro. “Are you ok Chauntea?” the druid asked. The pig grunted, having been shielded from the worst of the blast by Cundall’s shield.
“Agreed,” said Maire. “We need rest. But please, not here.” She waved a hand at the corpses.
They moved to the gaping maw they had arrived at and found themselves back in the room with nine gaping maws. Minimus couldn’t help himself and had to satisfy his curiosity and jumped into another maw to see if it took him somewhere else. It did not – it just spat him out again, but gave him some necrotic damage to be going on with.
“Ow,” groaned Minimus. It felt like his very bones were stabbing him. “That hurts.”
“Try another one?” suggested Cundall.
“No thanks,” said the halfling. “I’m not curious any more.”
Over the next day they buried all the bodies (except the fey’ri). Marie took as many notes as she could about the awful ritual and the fey’ri body prior to them burning it.
“You know,” she said to Zelda, “Even though it died pretty quick, I wasn’t expecting a fey’ri to be so.. I don’t know, striking? It had a lot of power but didn’t get a chance to use it thanks to our halfling warrior.”
“That one was not a fey’ri,” said Zelda. “It’s a daemonfey, they are generally more powerful than a normal fey’ri. Fey’ri are the offspring of incubi and succubi and elves, which gives them certain abilities and traits above that of an elf, but a daemonfey is more powerful yet as it has the blood of a demon prince in its veins. They are of the elven noble house ”/wikis/house-dlardrageth" class=“wiki-page-link”> Dlardrageth, one of the few evil elf noble houses. This particular daemonfey was young, so not too powerful, probably an apprentice to a more powerful daemonfey."
“Which means,” thought Marie, “that the master was probably wherever that bull demon teleported to, to contain it maybe, or force it to serve.” They were both quiet for a while.
“Wonder if he’ll come looking for the slayers of his apprentice?” asked Maire.
“Maybe we should hurry up and leave,” said Zelda. “I have a bad feeling about this.” She went and explained to the others what she and Maire had been talking about. They were all packed and gone within the hour, heading back to Elventree, with Cundall telling everyone about the marvels of the Sword Coast.