Session 51 – Phaean has never wanted anything as badly as he wants this jeweled skull (MSRP 45,000 gold).

(In which your DM returns from surgery and the holidays, and everyone finally manages to get together again.)

The heroes climb the broken tower, ascending into a hazy gray fog. The tower is sharply slanted, and they eventually find it leans against another structure, breaking through what appears to be a castle wall of some sort. They scramble over into an empty hallway, and spend some time exploring the seemingly abandoned area.

Eventually they descend into what seems to be a subterranean church, with an altar featuring a faceless angel with her arms stretched high, flanked by smaller statues of two rotting crows. Phaean becomes convinced they party needs to remain in this room and figure out their next steps, and begins acting strangely. Suddenly black sludge begins to fill the room, cutting off their exit and pouring from the walls.

After several argumentative minutes, Phaean attacks Ramor, who is trying to pry the bars from a grate that seems to be the only other exit. Shorty after, Phaean shivers and explains that something had possessed him, a presence that wanted to remain in this room at all costs lest its soul be consumed by some evil presence. This spirit proceeds to take control of the various members of the party, driving them to attack each other or obstruct their exit from the rapidly-filling room.

The heroes manage to make it out in time, and leave the presence behind to unknown ends. They take a short rest and proceed down the tunnel a few hundred yards. They emerge into a small featureless room, at the center of which sits a bejeweled skull with a round hole or slot of some type in the top. As Ramor enters, he notices Nightbringer has vanished.

The skull speaks, “Welcome, lost souls, to the end of your journey. Approach, lay your hands upon me, and surrender your lives to Urishtar. Your deaths will be unavoidably long and painful, but so much more enviable than life after she awakens the Sleeper.”

Not ones for outright suicide, the heroes search the room but find nothing. They make several attempts to shoot the skull off its pedestal with arrows, or destroy it with other attacks, but strong magic protects it.

After some thought, they remember that the last time Nightbringer vanished, it was in their bag of holding, so they check there and find it. However, it is no longer in the form of an axe, but rather a small stiletto, seeming to hide from them among the bag’s other contents. The party decides to place Nightbringer in the slot in the skull, and it tells them they are making a mistake. They proceed regardless, and the skull thanks them and invites them to place their hands on itself.

They do so, and as soon as the last person does so, the skull laughs, and the entire floor of the room plummets away beneath the party. They all fall 90 feet into a rubble-strewn chamber below, and have just a second to regain their feet before the ceiling above also detaches and comes crashing down on them. Everyone manages to dodge the full impact, but they all take a severe beating from the falling rock.

When the dust settles, they see an exit to the north leading down a short hall that disappears into gold-tinged mist.