Adventure 8: The Ebeteen Shackleminds Part One- The Cellars of Radimore
The party headed off to Radimore in Tharia to find Merdoramon whom they had last seen in the ruins of Kor 60,000 years in the future.
Radimore, perhaps the oldest city on Yarth, was the focal point of strange powers. In the heroes' time tales are told of Radimore, that it had been the home of those people who first worshipped the dark god, Pulthoom. It was the birthing place of all magicians, for it had been there in the subterranean cellarways of that city that magic first came into being.
Arriving at the house of Merdoramon they found him missing and his servants worried. Merdoramon had not been seen for eleven days.
Searching his study the adventurers found merdoramon's notes on the Ebeteen Shackleminds, the apocalyptic Cinderwar started long ago by the Biogomorrhans which caused the destruction of one of Yarth's moons andthe worshippers of Pulthoom who inhabit a Black Church in the cellars beneath Radimore.
Fearing the worst they set off into the cellars to find the missing magician.
The heroes made their way into the cellars and located the huge cavern excavated centuries before to hold the Black Church.
The church itself was surrounded by the shanty towns of the many worshippers that flocked here from all over Yarth and guarded by the hooded members of the Cult of Pulthoom.
Desperate to see what was going on inside the church the party explored the surrounding passageways and eventually the two thieves made their way on to the church roof from a hole in a chamber above the cavern.
Horrified they watched the cultists attempt to send pilgrims to their god via a dark flaming portal powered by human sacrifice.
There was no sign of Merdoramon and the heroes decided that if he was alive he would be being held in the crypts beneath the church.
Most of the passages beneath the church had been barricaded or caved in to prevent access. To the east the party found a barricade that they could pull down. They also found a shaft leading to a far older cellar in which was a strangely clothed skeleton mostly buried under a rock fall.
As the heroes brought in torches to better light the room strange ghostly creatures attacked the torch holders and extinguished the lights.
Finally finding a way to communicate with these strange beings the adventurers learned they were travellers from another wold who had been stranded here when the Hyper Light Highway they were using to cross the interstellar distances between stars had been interfered with.
The party learned that the cultists in the church above had been misusing a conduit to the Highway for centuries. The cultists who managed to access the Highway were all driven insane by the experience although some did manage to return to Yarth (often years after they departed) and some of the returnees even managed to bring items or knowledge back with them from wherever it was they ended up.
Another Highway traveller, Pulthoom himself, had brought with him the knowledge of magic to Yarth long ago and the followers of his teachings had started the magical study group that had degenerated into the present day cult.
Promising to help the stranded travellers if they could the party resumed their search for Merdoramon by breaking into the church crypts.
As they neared their destination one of the thieves disappeared in a flash of light, He was gone without a trace.
The heroes correctly surmised that he had inadvertently activated the conduit to the Hyper Light Highway, but how? Maybe the strange suit he had taken from the body under the rockfall had something to do with it?
Worried for their friend but realising they still had a mission to complete the party continued to look for Merdoramon.
They located him along with other captives and set about freeing them and directing them back to the surface.
Merdoramon refused to leave however. He had come here to get the Hood of Pulthoom a holy relic of the cult that hung behind the altar in the church. Merdoramon needed this ancient artefact to aid him in his coming struggle against the Ebeteen Shackleminds.
In for a penny, in for a pound! The heroes, covered by invisibility and silence spells made their way into the church where the sacrifices were continuing.
As the heroes were making their slow way through the packed congregation proceedings were interrupted by the return of a cultist from the Highway. The cultist was followed by a hideous, red, monstrous creature with big claws and lots of tentacles writhing from its mouth.
The creature was holding the bodies of other cultists and the missing thief.
Surveying the room it made a bee line for the invisible adventurers, crushing cultists beneath its huge feet. Despite their best efforts it gathered all the heroes up and began sniffing them and tasting them with its mouth tentacles.
Eventually communication with the creature was established and it informed the party that it could smell the taint of the Izveroni on them. It demanded to know why they were tainted and seemed relieved when it learned they were busy shutting down the time tombs.
The creature struck a bargain with the heroes (did they have a choice?). In return for them delivering an Izveroni Starcophagus it would give them knowledge of powerful magic.
Satisfied with this bargain the creature departed.
Mission accomplished the heroes returned with Merdoramon to the city above to prepare for the journey to the Haunted Lands to confront the Ebeteen Shackleminds.
All except Clank. In the far future when he'd met the party the Hyper light Highways were long gone, destroyed by an alien entity. Here they still existed and Clank could now use them to get home.
He bid a sorrowful farewell to his friends and left on his own quest.
Adventure 8: The Ebeteen Shackleminds Part Two- The Haunted Lands
"The Haunted Lands lie between the Pits of Koforal and the poisonous swamps of Illipat. All men of Yarth hate and fear the Haunted Lands, there are devils and worse in those mists that seep eternally from cracks in the rocks and crevasses in the ground, and that come down from the very clouds to add their moisture to the rest. A wanderer might make only a weak fire in that wilderness of tumbled stone and gravelly ground. It is a dead, barren world, and what little vegetation grows there is sparse and stunted, and oddly distorted.
Past a huge boulder that bears cryptic carvings, put there by a hand that Yarth has long ago forgotten, lie the remains of the Biogomorrhans, instigators and final victims of the Cinderwar.
Somewhere deep within those giant petrified heads that litter the landscape lurk the Ebeteen Shackleminds weaving their wicked plans and hatching their plots that will doom mankind."
-An ancient guidebook to the southern continent of Yarth
Rested, re-stocked and ready to rumble the party piled into Merdoramon's air car and set off on the long journey to the Haunted Lands.
So shunned were the haunted lands that no owl statues were positioned within a hundred miles of them so the final part of the journey was spent flying high over the stinking, insect-ridden swamps of Illpat.
Unfortunately for our heroes the Ebeteen Shackleminds sensed them coming, discerned their intentions and reached out with their minds to pluck the air car from the sky.
Frantic spell casting saw everyone down safely but the air car was lost below the weed covered waters of the swamps. The adventurers found themselves in a cloying, stinking, dangerous environment with a long walk ahead of them.
Merdoramon was alarmed to discover that, although they stood up to their thighs in swamp, they should already be in the much drier Haunted Lands. He surmised correctly that over the years the swamps had encroached into the Haunted Lands bringing with them a mass of new genetic material for the Shackleminds to experiment with. Things were far more serious than he'd feared.
As the party moved forward, gingerly leaping from one patch of dry land to the next they began to be shadowed by strange wisps of vapour with glowing eyes. More and more of these things appeared keeping pace with the heroes but staying out of reach.
Suddenly they moved in, attaching themselves to their victims and wrapping them in their strange bodies that resembled animated spider webs.
As the combat intensified huge spiders began dropping from the trees, attracted by the commotion. Soon the swamp was blazing and ringing with the sound of steel as fireballs incinerated the web wisps and swords cut down the spiders.
Merdoramon declared the web wisps to be manufactured life forms. The Shackleminds were sending their creations to test the mettle of the party. Worse would be in store.
A few hours of exhausting trudging brought the heroes to another feature of the swampy Haunted Lands. A huge pile of dung, swarming with flies and other creatures, some alarmingly large blocked their way.
Some of the heroes were desperate to investigate the giant turd but eventually wiser heads prevailed and the party back tracked and took a longer way around avoiding both the dung, the insects and whatever might have produced such a mammoth pile in the first place.
The spider webs were getting more numerous too.
More trudging along followed. More insects, more heat, more smell. Everybody was engrossed in their own misery when danger struck again.
Some of the adventurers wandered off away from the others, their minds clouded by alien thoughts. Before anyone had noticed the erring heroes were entangled in webs and swarms of pale baby spiders were scurrying all over them.
As their friends moved to help free the stricken heroes they too were swarmed by the hideous masses of crawling horrors and worse, large adult spider started appearing, drawn by the commotion and disturbances to their webs.
The fireballs started flying and the blades started stabbing. Arrows filled the air and still the spiders kept coming. Driven by the alien intelligences of the Ebeteen Shackleminds controlling them the arachnids still swarmed forward even with their bodies on fire and their legs crisping under them.
Things were looking grim. One of the fighters succumbed to the venom of an adult spider and fell, apparently lifeless, to the ground. The priests were having trouble keeping the other fighter and the thieves on their feet with their healing spells and there was still no let up as a second wave of spiders appeared.
But, at the end of the day, our heroes are heroes and they don't give in to despair. Drawing on every ounce of their experience and cunning and plumbing the depths of their strength and endurance they began to turn the tide and slowly, ever so slowly, the number of spiders began to diminish.
Finally it was over. They had won and everyone had survived albeit by the skin of their teeth. The party's luck was literally used up. The poisoned fighter was horribly disfigures, most of his face missing- torn away by the fangs of the spider but at least he was alive.
Stumbling the last few yards the party emerged from the swamps to be confronted by a huge mound of gigantic petrified heads- the lair of the Ebeteen Shackleminds!
What horrors awaited them inside?
Adventure 8: The Ebeteen Shackleminds Part Three- The lair of the Ebeteen Shackleminds
"The Ebeteen Shackleminds stand together but you must find the one who stands apart."
After a careful study of the mound of petrified heads the heroes counted ten possible entrances all covered in thick webs. Picking one at random they cut away the webs and made their cautious way inside.
They found themselves in a vast chamber formed by the ancient skull. Patches of light pierced the gloom from cracks and apertures overhead and the uneven floor was rent in places by upthrusting spires of native rock and vegetation. The air was stale and unpleasant, the reek of spiders permeated everything.
Dotted about the space were some peculiar hexagonal plinths covered with moss and, far off in the gloom, a mass of what looked like eggs could be seen.
Cautiously the adventurers advance further.
Two of the heroes went to investigate the eggs triggering a flood of small, luminous baby spiders whilst one of the thieves took a careful look at the nearest plinth.
The eggs and the baby spiders were instantly incinerated. Their dying screams prompted an adult spider to drop from the shadows above on to the group by the door but this was put to sleep and butchered before it could do any harm.
With the room cleared of living threats the heroes turned their attentions to the plinths. The thief determined they contained hidden machinery and worked out a way to turn one on.
Hungry Joe the fighter was brave enough to volunteer and see what would happen if a plinth was activated. He clambered on top and pressed down where the thief indicated.
Instantly both Joe and his companion who was holding his safety rope disappeared.
They were both teleported to a plinth in another head. This head held more plinths and more spider eggs but, since it only had a single exit and led nowhere, the two quickly made their way back to the others without disturbing anything.
Keeping an all round watch for more spiders from above the party headed for an exit that looked like it led further into the mound of skulls.
The next head contained only a single plinth but there were many, many more spider eggs and a large spider near the centre of the room. As soon as the party appeared the spider launched itself at them in a blindingly fast attack.
As it reached them it seemed to split apart and morph into some hideous, crazy hybrid of spider, man and...something else.
Despite its fearsome appearance it was soon chopped into pieces by the expert sword play of the fighters whilst the wizards ignited the vast carpet of eggs with fireballs.
This prompted hordes of screaming baby spiders to erupt from the eggs fleeing the fire and adult spiders to drop from the roof to aid them.
All of these were stabbed, stamped, and otherwise beaten to death.
Moving onward the next head repeated the pattern but with one difference. There was a hole in the floor leading to another head below. The blocking webs were soon burned away and the party descended.
It was much warmer in the lower area and the air was heavy with the acrid smell of the spiders but there was something else too, a sense of menace permeated the area.
There were many plinths here and many more spiders. The adventures prepared to go into their well rehearsed routine to clear out the arachnid infestation when they were stopped by the plinths beginning to twist.
The plinths spiralled around and out of their tops emerged the great green heads of three Shackleminds.
The Shackleminds regarded the human interlopers with utter disdain and proceeded to launch a barrage of psionic attacks that felled one of the fighters and left two of the three wizards as drooling imbeciles, their mighty intellects stripped from them like unwanted rags.
Only Merdoramon, safe in his helmet of Pulthoom was unaffected and he fought back with a volley of offensive spells.
Meanwhile, as the priests desperately tried to keep the fallen fighter alive and restore the minds of their friends, the two thieves moved silently through the deep shadows to position themselves out of sight behind one of the creatures and the remaining fighter launched a frantic frontal attack at another.
The Shackleminds proved to be physically weak and vulnerable. Caught unawares by the ferocity of the attacks they were suffering they struck out again with their minds but it was too little, too late and one of them had its skull crushed before it could do any more harm.
Returning to consciousness, Hugh waded in to the attack as well and a second Shacklemind was slain.
The third one didn't stand a chance. Within minutes it too was dead and the recovering heroes began to clear the room of spiders.
As they took a short break to regain their breath the heroes discussed their next step. Eventually it was decided that they should try and use one of the plinths to teleport around the mound of heads to avoid unnecessary encounters with more spiders which, whilst easy enough to overcome, were draining the party's resources.
So resolved it wasn't long before they found themselves in another chamber with four Shackleminds (and thankfully no spiders) and battle was joined.
The party had been told to look for the odd Shacklemind that wasn't like the others but they hadn't been able to determine which one this was (can you spot it?) so they attacked all of them even though they were far from certain of victory.
By chance, Hungry Joe's target was the Shackleminds' main brain and, despite it's best efforts, it swiftly fell to his sword.
The instant this Shacklemind was killed the others disappeared and the plinths exploded showering everyone in the room with razor sharp shards.
As the echoes of these explosions were still ringing in the weary heroes' ears a wall was shattered inwards as the huge bulk of the Spidermind erupted into the room.
The Spidermind- the next step in Shacklemind evolution. A genetic melding of Shacklemind, spider and...other things. The first of the unshackled minds, free to move about the world and spread terror in its wake.
It blasted the party with its psionic attacks, it withstood the blows of the fighters and thieves and the spells of the wizards. It crushed those around it with its flailing limbs and vast bulk. Scuttling this way and that it raged and shrieked and the heroes quailed before it like frightened children.
For a short while anyway. Then, buoyed by the favour of their gods, saved from death countless times by the swiftness of their limbs and the strength of their armour, they cut it, they hacked it and burnt it and ruptured its flesh with destructive spells and, finally, it died, wailing its remorse for its unrealised destiny.
Standing amidst the carnage the heroes looked around for their next challenge...
Adventure 8: The Ebeteen Shackleminds Part Four- The third tomb
It was clear that the tunnel confronting our heroes was the entrance to the third Izvoreni tomb. Confident that any threat from the Shackleminds was over the party rested for a time to recover their stamina and resolve and then set off once again to confront their destiny.
Emerging from the tunnel the adventurers were confronted by a nightmare landscape. Mutated plants and creatures existing among the derelict remains of strange technology. The air smelled alien, loaded with spores, toxins and peculiar odours . Breathing was difficult.
Rock spires jutted from the ground in odd places and everything was covered with peculiar mosses and vines. This was the world of Yarth with the Biogomorrhans' plagues let loose upon it.
It wasn't long before the party spotted things moving in their direction.
Giant viruses swarmed over the ground to attack the party. Many were destroyed but it wasn't long before several of the heroes were suffering from horrendous debilitating illnesses and horrific disfigurations.
The viruses were being generated by an even larger and more complex virus. The wizards teleported one of the fighters next to it and the messy work of hacking it to pieces began.
Meanwhile the priests and wizards were kept busy dispatching the virus swarm and curing their comrades of their afflictions.
Once the virus threat was neutralised the party moved forward again. they could see their destination, the cube that contained the doorway to the inner tomb, on a tall promontory overlooking an uninviting lake a long way off. Avoiding further virus hazards they eventually made their way to it.
Inside the heroes were faced with the now familiar guardian head and behind it the entrance to the inner tomb.
The head was a strange humanoid creature that Merdoramon identified as a Biogomorrhan (although much reduced in size).
The doorway was a grizzly affair that moaned and twitched restlessly.
The party rushed the head. The fighters attacked it frontally whilst the thieves moved around the back to try and dismantle the machinery in the plinth.
The guardian fought back, freely blasting its attackers with quick acting plagues and diseases. It summoned more of the giant viruses to aid it. The priests were kept busy counteracting the effects of the many illnesses whilst the wizards blasted away with spells.
Eventually the head was disables and the chest cavity in the wall behind it widened a little to allow passage. Despite its accommodating widening it was still a messy and unpleasant transition for the heroes.
The world of the inner tomb was even more of a nightmare than the outer tomb. It was a jumble of spires and platforms floating or standing in a seething sea of corruption, The party was only offered glimpses of the strange creatures that inhabited this sea but those were enough to warn them that entering it would be fatal.
Keeping to the dry land they pushed on though the dense vegetation towards a pulsating spore thing that was pumping out strange gasses high up on a rocky pinnacle. They correctly assumed this was the starcophagus of the Izvoreni.
Without warning the vegetation around them seized several party members and dragged them into the gaping maws of the nearby 'trees'.
The party reacted violently and the resulting commotion lured swarms of disgusting ticks out of hiding. As the heroes fought to get their friends free of the clutches of the angry plant life the blood sucking insects swarmed all over them adding to their pain and misery.
All the while the spore thing kept pumping out its gasses.
With the tree and the mites finally disposed of the party turned their attention to the problem of reaching the spore.
They decided that since they couldn't easily get to it, it must be brought to them. Consequently the wizards set to turning the rocky support it was perched on into flesh.
Unable to support its own weight, the fleshy spire collapsed into the lake and the spore/starcophagus fell to earth.
The heroes sent one of the wizard's familiars forwards to scout for danger. It hadn't crossed half the distance to the spore before something unseen crushed it to death.
Seconds later two of the party were also struggling for their lives as something began to constrict them, threatening to crush them too.
Realising they were beset by invisible dangers one of the priests put on her Goggles of Seeing the Hidden and gasped in horror at what they revealed. Giant disembodied black hands were scuttling unseen towards the heroes.
Forewarned is forearmed and the wizards set about making their new enemies visible so that the fighters could go about their work unhindered.
The hands were not easy to kill but could be driven off. To their horror the party watched as retreating hands merged into bigger ones and returned to the attack.
Realising their danger the heroes changed tactics and began to immobilise the hands instead. Unable to combine the threat of the hands was finally neutralised and the adventurers turned their attention to the spore.
Realising they had no easy way of opening it the party set about blocking the gas vents. Sure enough the spore began to grow and stretch as the pressures inside built up. The heroes retreated to a safe distance and waited for to to blow.
Blow it did and the Izvoreni emerged. This time it took the form of a giant common cold germ. Undeterred by this the heroes stormed forward knowing they had to defeat the Izvoreni quickly as it got stronger each turn.
The battle was fierce and, as expected, filled with copious amounts of disease and disfiguration. None-the-less it ended in favour of our heroes. The magic sword Frostfire proving particularly efficacious in dispatching entities from the end of time.
With the Izvoreni dead the tomb returned to its neutral 'blank slate' setting. The starcophagus retained enough residual energy to still resemble something the adventurers could identify with however and the wizards set about summoning Pulthoom to claim it in accordance with their earlier agreement.
Pulthoom was very pleased and gave the wizards two more spells never before known on Yarth for their trouble.
Both parties happy, Pulthoom left for wherever his home was taking the Izvoreni starcophagus with him and the heroes returned to Radimore in Tharia for a well-earned rest before their next adventure.