Players: Lynn, Mike, Daniel, Deric, Cameron
The warp marble worked its insane magic again, leaving them with Mogdar, Shao Tsang, and Natashi. After leaving the Temple of Tharizdun, they walked for awhile to put some distance between "that accursed place" and them. That night, Shao Tsang was attacked by a shadowy winged presence which seemed to be trying to influence his mind in some way. It attacked again the next night, this time going after Natashi (who had opted against sleeping near the fire that night). They chased it away with torches, and in the process found the campsite of a samurai (Takagi Hirata) and a grizzled fighter (August Way). These two had encountered each other in the mountains under mysterious circumstances and decided to travel together, even though Takagi didn't speak common. Fortunately, his homeland was the same as Natashi's, so she was able to translate.
While making introductions, they heard an inhuman scream and a crash from the direction the creature had gone. They found an abandoned shack, where apparenly a corpse had long ago been dashed apart. They found a small laboratory and some moldering books, among which was one usable spell book. Under the floorboards was hidden a black robe like the ones they had worn in the Temple of Tharizdun.
Making their way back to Gnome Vale, the party relaxed and enjoyed the gratitude of the gnomes before moving on. Deciding that previously-spotted mountain might in fact be the "Horn of Iggwilv", Shao Tsang teleported there and found that there was in fact an ominous-looking cave at its base. He ferried the rest of the party there and they started exploring. After talking to some carved faces, a few false starts, and a stirge attack, they selected the passage by the one that said, "I watch the only way."
Pressing through a bat swarm and teleporting past some giant cave eels, they were ambushed by a pair of hideously deformed giants. After a taxing and gruesome battle (during which a carelessly slowed Shao Tsang poured acid in the face of one of the monsters) they rested in the giants' lair. Unfortunately, another accident with the warp marble exchanged August and Takagi for Tellar. They then continued exploring for a while and found an underground river, which led them to a bridge they almost missed, and a monstrous cross between a gorgon and a chimera which petrified Tellar.
While fighting the creature, Shao Tsang used the Cloak of Elder Arachnida and was altered by its evil influence. In addition to becoming colder and harsher, he lost all compunctions about using his spidery abilities. Once the battle was over, he changed to a humanoid spider-form and drained the gorgimera of blood, healing himself. In an attempt to heal his own wounds, Mogdar drank a potion from the Temple of Tharizdun and was de-aged to eleven. In the tunnels behind this creature's room was hidden the stairway to the lower levels.
At the bottom of the 900-step flight they were confronted with several possible routes. While Shao Tsang scouted ahead, the others were ambushed by troglodytes. They routed the troglodyte war party, but morale suffered. More wandering revealed various eerie cave features, including a wall of flowstone which seemed to take the pattern of tortured humanoid faces. They found a room where a demonic statue offered them whatever they wanted from its pile of treasure if they'd leave one of their own magic items in exchange. Then it disappeard. They were so overcome with greed that they didn't even pay attention when they heard its ponderous footsteps moving toward the entrance. Luckily, when the golem tried to block their exit, Shao Tsang was able to teleport them away. Unfortunately, the items they gained were illusions, and the stuff they traded for it was still gone.
They found a pair of riveted iron valves nine feet wide and twenty-one feet tall. On each valve were many leering demon visages in bronze. Weird symbols formed a crabbed tracery around the border of each great iron portal. In the center of each was a plaque with the following runes: "Iggwilv's treasure rests within, her curse on any who disturb it. Seek no further to steal it, nor to free she who is prisoned here, for a fate worse than death is sure to come to those fools who violate this circumscribed place." It took all three of them to pull the doors open. The passage beyond was of red marble, magically lit, with a black carpet. At the end was a black wooden door with silver hinges.
When they opened the black door, they caught a brief glimpse of white light beyond, then had the eerie feeling of being taken apart and altered in some way. When their vision cleared, they were in an artificially carved, squarish room with four perpindicular exits. Crude archways were carved around each of the exits. They continued to explore the caverns from here, starting their map over. After fighting several exotic monsters, finding a few more sets of iron doors like the first one, and being teleported every time to a different square room, Shao Tsang started to put the maps together. He and Mogdar worked out a pattern and began to systematically chart the caverns, trying each iron door in sequence.
In the course of their explorations, they picked up Dineel, a thief who had witnessed her companions being possessed and transformed into fly-demons and been somewhat unhinged by the experience. Shao Tsang was able to fend off the demons with his webs, but his newly acquired penchant for sarcasm and bullying didn't help in dealing with the traumatized adventurer. But despite his disturbing personality change, it was Shao Tsang's meticulous charting that enable them to find their way back to the center from each teleportation point and eventually enter the plane-shifted sphere within.
After opening the door for the seventh time, they stepped onto a ledge of green serpentine. A decorative openwork screen stood at the end of the ledge. They could see five other doors opening onto similar ledges, each with its own screen. The chamber was spherical, and the doors and ledges were symmetrically arranged along the equator. A jewelled lanthorn, suspended by a golden chain, spread warm amber light throughout the sphere. The lanthorn hung above a stone dais, upon which laid a beautiful armored woman, apparently asleep.
The woman sat up and asked if they had come to rescue her. Apparently she was Iggwilv's daughter, Drelnza, and had been suffused with demonic essence and left here as a future host body for the ancient sorceress. With Iggwilv's disappearance, Drelnza was apparently safe. However, while they talked, a familiar shadowy form slid down the curved wall to merge into Drelnza's body. After a moment of disorientation, Drelnza looked up at the adventurers with a red gleam in her eyes. She raised her arms to cast a spell, but it was disrupted by her armor. Dineel attacked and was knocked away. When Natashi attempted to tackle Drelnza, she grabbed the priest, demonstrating superhuman strength, kissed her, and threw her back against the wall. Natashi found that a significant part of her life force had been drained away.
Shao Tsang teleported the lanthorn to himself. Mogdar gritted his teeth and pointed the Wand of the Wyrds at Drelnza. A column of fire roared over her from above. Although heavily damaged, the creature was more angry than injured. With another frustrated glance at her gauntleted hands, Drelnza said, "Thank your gods for this accursed armor, wizardling. Next time I'll give you a taste of my own fire." With that she puffed into a cloud of black smoke and flew away, leaving her armor to clatter to the ground.
Besides Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, which they had been expecting, the party also found an impressive collection of magical tomes, including the Demonomicon of Iggwilv. Satisfied that they had what they came for, they catalogued the more mundane wealth for division, left the sphere, and teleported back to Gnome Vale.
... and that's it for my little DM'ing stint. Mike's taking back the DM's screen for our return to Geoff. We've got the lantern, but Isaac died, Bobo was eaten, Seisha left, Mogdar shrank, Tellar turned to stone, and Shao Tsang became an evil were-spider.