Dues for the Dead

The Catacombs
After handing the Guild thieves over to Doomguide Glandon, the heroes tramped up the Mount in search of their druid companion. They found him meditating at the peak. After explaining what they are up to, Keo agreed to follow them back down the hill and into the depths of the catacombs.

Continuing on from where they’d left off, the group came to a room where skeletons were entombed in plaster in the ceiling. Several of them animated as the heroes entered, dropping down to attack. Fortunately, they were easily dealt with.

Next the group came to a room full of skulls on shelves. Cassyt explained that one could ask the skulls questions and get some answers, although the answers were usually confusing and contradictory. Mara decided to ask about her ancestor, Skie Sigursdottir, the Storm Maiden of Ruathym. From the jumbled mess of answers, she learned that her ancestor was indeed buried somewhere in the necropolis, and that her tomb may have been constructed to look like an old-style barrow mound.

To one side of the talking skull room was the tomb of Sedrair, who Cassyt explained had been an eccentric, wealthy merchant who’d loved her gold very much. Inside, they found Sedrair’s mummified remains sitting on a throne with a gold crown seemingly hovering above her head. Flint cast detect magic and discovered that the crown was warded with abjuration magic. He warned Erevan not to touch anything.

Next up was a room in which several criminals and their victims had been interred in macabre tableaux, in which the victims were depicted getting revenge on their killers. Cassyt explained that it had been a bizarre burial “fad” some time in the city’s past that had fortunately been short-lived. They hurried through this room and finally arrived at the entrance to the necropolis. Just off to the right was a side passage that Cassyt said led to an empty area, but the group insisted on checking it out just to be sure. No one likes having enemies they’ve missed coming up from behind them, after all.

After Flint turned Erevan invisible, the elf crept down the passage and into a room containing several zombies that were just standing around. At the far end of the room, a single kobold was dozing in a chair partially obscured by a barrel. Sneaking past the kobold and the zombies, the elf rogue discovered that the rooms beyond were far from empty! In one room stood some more zombies, and in the next, yet more zombies, plus some more kobolds, as well as a heavily armored woman with a greatsword, who was talking to a Red Wizard of Thay, of all people!

After sneaking back out to the others, Erevan reported on his findings. Cassyt was sure that the Red Wizard was the one responsible for the undead in the catacombs. The heroes devised a plan that began with Erevan taking out the sleeping kobold with a well-placed arrow.

Unfortunately, the rest of the plan flew out the window when Cassyt, overcome with a righteous rage, charged headlong down the passage, calling on Kelemvor to send the undead abominations back to their graves. Much to her chagrin, Kelemvor seemed unimpressed with his servant’s rash behaviour, and her attempt to turn the undead failed, leaving Cassyt at the mercy of four zombies. She quickly succumbed to their meaty fists, requiring Keo to break off his own attack so he could heal her and drag her to safety.

Flint and Mara held the line while Erevan’s head injury began plaguing him again. Keo came to the rescue by turning into a bear and shoving past Erevan, who took a few feeble swipes at his companion in his confusion. He then started to wander back out of the room, hugging the wall as he went along, before his head finally cleared again.

Once the zombies were dealt with, the heroes moved on to the next room, dispatching the other zombies and kobolds with ease. At the same time, the Red Wizard busily gathered up his things before teleporting away using a magic circle inscribed in blood on the floor. The Thayan knight then reappeared (having been lurking invisibly in the room) and attacked Keo, while a dragonclaw cultist came around the next corner and joined the attack! It would appear that the Red Wizard was in league with the Cult of the Dragon!

The Thayan knight fought valiantly, but she was clearly outnumbered. In an effort to keep the group from taking her alive, she quickly downed a vial of poison that killed her instantly. Shrugging, the heroes set about looting the rooms. They found some valuable goods but little in the way of information that would explain what the Red Wizard had been doing. Flint made sure to disrupt the magic circle before they departed, though.

Skie’s Tomb
After a short rest, the heroes ventured into the necropolis in search of Skie’s tomb. It took them some time but eventually they came across a barrow mound-like tomb with a set of stone doors bearing Mara’s ancestor’s name on the lintel above. The doors had no obvious locks or handles, just a bronze plaque bolted to the left door. Engraved into the plaque was the following inscription:

One tooth to bite,
’tis the forest’s foe
One tooth to fight,
as all Illuskans know

Mara quickly surmised that the answer was “an axe”, and sure enough, as she spoke the word aloud, the doors swung open with a thunderous rumble. Almost immediately, a strong, continuous wind roiled out from within the tomb. Mara hefted her axe and pressed forward, pushing her way down a 60-foot-long corridor lined with stacked stones. The others tried several times to get down the corridor, only to be blown back to the entrance by the force of the wind. It seemed like maybe Mara was meant to go on alone.

At the end of the corridor was a large chamber with three alcoves. In the center squatted a stone sarcophagus. In the alcove directly across from the entrance stood a life-size statue of a human woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mara herself! The statue was posed in such a way that it appeared like it ought to have been holding something in its hands. Upon closer inspection, there was even a slot in the hands into which something could be inserted. Something very much like Mara’s axe, in fact.

In an alcove to the left of the sarcophagus, there stood an altar shaped like a crashing wave, atop which lay an old filleting knife. Mara recognized this as a shrine to Umberlee, the evil goddess of the sea, a deity revered by many in Baldur’s Gate as a sort of mother figure. In opposite alcove stood an altar shaped like a billowing cloud, on top of which lay an old scrimshaw hunting horn. Mara wasn’t sure to whom that shrine was dedicated.

By this time, Keo had managed to force his way up the windy corridor, although the others had given up and remained outside.

Unsure of how to proceed, Mara consulted her father’s notes, which hinted at some tests involving the mind, body, and spirit. She presumed that the riddle on the door had been the test of the mind, while the strong wind in the corridor may have been the test of the body. That meant that the items on the altars must have something to do with the final test – that of the spirit.

As Mara walked over to Umberlee’s altar, a soft voice whispered, “Blood of my blood …” Instinctively, Mara picked up the knife and cut herself with it, letting a drop of her blood fall onto the altar. Nothing appeared to happen, but this did not deter her. Moving over to the cloudy altar, she heard the voice whisper again: “Breath of my breath …” Picking up the horn, she blew into it.

Still nothing happened. But then Mara felt a strange urge to place her axe into the hands of her ancestor’s statue. Unsurprisingly, it fit into the slots as perfectly as if it belonged there. Keo, marveling at the similarity between Mara and her ancestor, asked if she’d ever lived before. Mara drily replied that she didn’t think so.

At that point, a ghostly blue light rose up out of the sarcophagus and blossomed into the outline of a fierce-looking warrior woman. She greeted Mara like an old friend and congratulated her on passing the tests. Identifying herself as Skie Sigursdottir, the spirit informed Mara that she (Mara) had an important role to play in future events and that she (Skie) wished to help her fulfil that destiny. The spirit proceeded to float over to the statue and disappeared into the axe, which then glowed faintly for a moment. Mara could hear her ancestor’s voice instructing her to take the axe back again. When Mara withdrew it from the statue’s hands, a powerful wind swirled around her momentarily. Or at least, it felt like it to her, as Keo didn’t appear to notice anything. Perhaps it was just her imagination?

And thus Stormwind‘s power was renewed*, ready to help fulfil its wielder’s destiny once again!

Epilogue
Back on the surface, Doomguide Glandon paid the heroes 100 gp for their services in clearing out the undead and driving off the Red Wizard. Upon hearing their praise for Cassyt (conveniently not mentioning her little blunder with the zombies), Glandon was impressed enough to induct her into the order as a full priest, for which she was most grateful!

 

*Stormwind is a magical axe that requires attunement by a direct descendant of Skie Sigursdottir. The axe has the Guardian minor property, the Confident quirk, and the Thrown property. It also has 3 charges that the wielder can use to cast thunderous smite. It regains 1d3 spent charges each day at dawn. It also has the capacity to grow in power as its wielder does.

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