Mid-Winter, Hadrer 7th (The Month of Protection), 151 AV in Acerak:
Raldinian, due to his mantras and training with the Lord of Dreams, was generally unaffected by the nightmares that assaulted others of the group. He attempted to pull Leon’s mind into the Dreamlands, but was unsuccessful. Thus, Leon awoke the next morning tired, irritable and unable to concentrate or focus on spellcrafting.
The group trys the other door to the North finding it somewhat blocked by sand, though not as much as the southern door. A series of winding passages are found mostly choked with sand. One descends into a natural cavern system and exploration begins in earnest in the cooler caves. However, the entrance seems to be almost fully blocked with sand though small holes near the top of the rock and sandy walls indicate that air and light are communicating with the chamber. Going deeper into the cave tunnels, a water collection pool is found in which some sightless fish swim languidly. Eventually, the system continues deeper until it comes to an underground crossroads of worked and natural passages. Sharp eyed Xaylin spots some gems in the ceiling in a line; Leon detects for magic and finds that when the gems are pointed towards they light up in succession and a magical voice says “This way to Nagpa’s goods.”
Following the winding tunnels towards the goods merchant, the group is curious as to his wares particularly in light of the barren desert above. Several crossroads are came to with similar gems providing directions. Eventually, the winding tunnels bring them to another crossroads, but this one has been the site of a battle and bears a large sign written in Undercommon “Due to poor trading etiquette, Gos’rn Ket and followers are no longer welcome at Nagpa’s. Trespassers will be killed.” Several insect creatures that must have been about man-sized are laying about the intersection dead from vicious slashing wounds. Zhou Pan finds a 1" blue scale, which Raldinian (due to his own draconic knowledge) indicates is from a draconic creature. With a bit of light, the party sees that further down the passage stand two huge bronze minotaur statues each bearing a large great axe.
Proceeding carefully in the shadows of the statues, the group comes into a large natural cavern with several other side passages branching off. Near the far wall, there is a great tent set out and a small fire. Nearby the tent is a section of wall that is worked stone with a solid metal door set in place. Another of the bronze statues stands nearby the tent.
Coming closer to the tent, the group is asked by a voice from the tent if they wish to trade and abide by the rules of peace and hospitality. The group agrees and approaches closer to the tent where they see a small, gray monkey-like creature with wings and mischievous eyes chained by its neck to one of the tent poles. The group gives the hissing creature a wide berth as it tries to reach them and enter the great tent.
Inside the tent is an opulent set of cushions, chests, and rugs. Seated upon a cushion at the head of the tent is a strange creature with the withered body of an elderly man and the head of a vulture. He invites them to sit and offers refreshments, evidently served by an invisible servant. He then asks them what they have to trade and when they display suitable gems and gold, he begins commanding his invisible servants to bring a variety of chests to him and he lays out different goods for the groups perusal. He lays out rare items, magical goods, and other exotica. Several members are interested in the items and inquire as to where they came from, which Nagpa matter of factly explains that some were collected, while others were the product of trade, and others still were made by Nagpa’s master. Nagpa describes his master as a skeletal lich, who before was a human wizard. The lich evidently makes items to secure alliances and aid from desert creatures who serve it and also for trading with other creatures; Nagpa handles the merchanting end. Nagpa refers to his master having his “lower sanctum” behind the door though he admits he has only been in the room a few times to receive new items and no further into the lair of his master. After a brief time and some dealing, the trading completes and the group returns to the ruins of Pazar intent on going through the great double doors, sure that the domed building will lead them down into the lich’s lair.
The group comes through the great double doors by uttering “friend” to the two statues outside. Inside they find multiple passages, two of which require riddles to be answered before party members are nearly cooked or electrocuted. In both cases, Raldinian, Zhou Pan and Zoltan manage to come up with the solutions before dire consequences are reaped. They also find a set of stairs heading down.
The most interesting room on the level, however, is a long chamber that at the far end has a pedestal holding a golden orb. At the end of the hall, surrounding the orb, the group sees several skeletons and corpses lying about the orb. Down the passage itself, great arcs of electricity, walls of ice and fire stand between the orb and the group. Some efforts are made to explore the room, but it is found rather quickly that a wall of force prevents even attempting to run to the other end of the room. In sight of their goal, the group decides to continue down the stairs. There they run into a creature that seems to be corrupted flesh spilled upon the floors and walls. There is a brief battle and the creature is destroyed.
Going down the stairs, the group finds more traps and some guardian golems. Again, the group manages to defeat the threat and continue on. They eventually come to an empty room except for a chest, a black passage, and a great metal door set in the wall. No manner of light seems to penetrate the black passage and dark vision doesn’t seem to work. The group surmises that they are on the other side of Nagpa’s door.
Concerned with sending someone into the blackness, the group ties a rope about Zhou Pan who cautiously advances, with instructions to tug the rope if in danger and they’ll pull him out. Zhou Pan enters the blackness and after several moments is attacked by something that begins grappling him in multiple places almost as if tentacles. He screams only to understand that silence is over the room where he is at; in desperation he attempts to tug the rope twice to alert his companions but the tentacles are holding him fast and ripping into his flesh. He screams silently and concentrates his will; with supreme effort he manages to extricate his arm from the grapple and grab the rope and give it the tug needed. Instantly, Zoltan and others begin pulling him out of the tentacles and a tug of war insues with the monk taking grievous wounds. Eventually, he manages to slip out of the grasp and is launched from the blackness by the force of Zoltan’s mighty strength. The companions are surprised to see the monk bloodied and damaged with blackish ichor dripping from his wounds. Zoltan attends to the monk’s wounds, while Raldinian and Leon attempt a few dispel attempts. However, they’re not successful. Deciding to retreat back to the domed chamber and rest and prepare more spells to defeat the traps, they head back.
At the camp, they start hearing the chittering sounds of scarab swarms approaching. Deciding that it is likely easier to find a quiet place in the caverns below, the group heads down to the cavern that had the air holes and light from above. There they have a good dinner and use some stone shapes to close up one end of the passage to prevent unwanted visitors. Raldinian meditates with Leon and this does manage to pull him into the Dreamlands to rest. However, there is little rest of the rest of the group as it seems the Lich has decided to test their resolve when poisonous, green fumes begin drifting down from the ceiling into the enclosed chamber. Several are poisoned and barely make it out of the death trap; only due to Zoltan breaking through the wall they had formed are they able to escape to cleaner air. Disturbed and unable to get suitable rest, the group frustratedly awaits the return of Raldinian and Leon from the Dreamlands.