Before breaking camp, inspiration struck Taber regarding the cesspit shaft, and he levitated up to it, and searched the mess. Although he did not find any valuables, he did recover the last few tattered pages of a journal.
Day 20: Lowls has once again left to document the ruins. It amazes me that he can wander this “city” without running afoul of the monsters here. We have now suffered three different attacks in his absence, and the infernal whistling grows stronger every day. Why did he hire bodyguards if we were only going to sit around and sweat? Morale is low, and some are starting to desert. Jalhab left as soon as the count did.
Good luck escaping without enough provisions.
Day 25: Screaming. We found Jalhab bound in bruise-colored fibers, and he kept screaming about the seeds within us all. He eventually passed out and refused food or water. It looks like deprivation and sunstroke.
Day 26: While Peera was checking Jalhab, he grabbed her by the throat and began strangling her. When we pulled them apart, part of Jalhab’s hands were still attached to her neck. There weren’t fingers, just bruise-colored fungus. Jalhab couldn’t stop laughing, even though he didn’t have hands anymore. When we confronted him, he threw himself from the tower and broke his body on the streets below. The corpse was gone less than an hour later, but nobody spotted any scavengers.
Day 30: The whistling’s different. It’s soothing, somehow. Maybe that’s just how death seems a welcome end when suffering grows too terrible. We’ve lost another three: Iavos, Renal, and Peera. We burned Renal’s body, but the smoke just made the others sick. Everyone has a haunted look, but at least two have told me I’ve the same expression. That’s madness. Clearly they’re the ones going mad. I can almost see their sickness as it stirs inside them. So thirsty. Just waiting to hatch.
A little disturbed by this, the group then set out. Cailyn took the lead, and cautiously led the group along the passage that corkscrewed around the outside wall of the tower. The group noticed that, for some reason, while they were on the eastern edge of the tower, looking out, they could see the western end of the city’s vista, recognising the way they had entered the city. As they circled around the tower’s perimeter, the southern edge of the city came into view, rather than the north. No magic was detected to cause this strange phenomena, so it was blamed on the alien geometries at play.
After ascending another hundred feet up, the group arrived at another opening into the tower, and moved in. The short tunnel led to a wider area, which was overgrown and hung with what appeared to be enormous, fibrous, fungal growths of a multitude of colours. The ceiling, 40’ above, was a tangled carpet of the same material, a single wide break being the only opening. Through the break, Taber could make out a violet glow. Associating this with the ‘bruise’ colours mentioned in the journal, he and Cailyn ascended through the break, leaving the others below.
The pair emerged through the break into a larger chamber, the walls and ceiling still covered in a panoply of fungal growths. A set of double doors showed to the east, and near it, a patch of glowing purple fungus. As the two examined their surroundings, both felt a mental attack blast at them. The fungal smudge then moved, revealing itself to be a creature, and it sent a focused blast of mental energy at Taber. Meanwhile, a pair of gigantic plant creatures, hidden amongst the other foliage in the room, now attacked Cailyn, one of them wrapping Cailyn in vine-like tendrils.
As the fighting began, the group down below decided to have Scorcher dimension door them up, but Scorcher was unsure of the layout of the room, and called for a landing spot. Taber, heedless of the request, threw himself at the thing assaulting their minds, trying to tear it apart. Cailyn began tearing at the thing beside her, yelling for magical support, and designating a landing spot for Scorcher. Taking his cue, Scorcher used dimension door to move the rest of the group into the now-cramped spaces.
As the small violet fungus pulsed again with light, Cailyn’s boar suddenly began attacking Scorcher to everyone’s surprise. The fungus’s mental assaults continued, affecting most of the group. Lekovi tried to counter this with a soothing balm, restoring some of the mental decay to his friends. Finding this did not restore the boar to controlled status, Lekovi used a Dominate spell on it. Taber proceeded to destroy the fungus, while Taber and River hacked at the larger plants. After regaining his composure, Scorcher sent a firesnake burning into all of the plants, and found the larger ones were actually vulnerable to burning. Sensing weakness, he sent a quickened scorching ray, and destroyed the far plant. The nearer plant, apparently taking exception to this, wrapped Scorcher up in vines. Having no further opponents, Taber tore the last plant apart. Cailyn then tore the plants up further, ensuring they were all dead.
A search of the chamber revealed the fungus had covered a second exit, leading to a spiral set of stairs up. Not wanting to leave danger behind them, the group moved instead through the doors.
Another disturbing surprise greeted the group. The large open space beyond the doors somehow appeared to be at the foot of the building, despite the group having ascended at least 250 feet up by now. The centre of the open plaza was dominated by a 10 foot diameter sealed stone well. Clustered around the well were several tents. Standing among the tents were 3 more of the zombie-plant creatures the group had encountered at the foot of the tower. All three turned to face the group. One, armed with a longspear, covered the entrance to the area with a magical Wall of Thorns. Taber and Cailyn, followed by the boar, moved through the thorns as though they were not there, Cailyn taking a few small cuts from them. Cailyn and her board engaged the full-plate armed flail wielder, while Taber faced the spellcaster. The third creature moved around behind Cailyn for a strike with a short sword, but missed.
Lekovi then teleported the rest of the group into the open area, and his drugged aura caused all of the creatures to become confused. Despite the heavy armour worn by the warrior, all three were brought down in no time.
The group then healed some damage, and recovered a number of enchanted items from their foes. Searching through the camp also revealed a bag of holding, which proved to contain a number of items that may have belonged to Count Lowls – several sets of noble’s clothing, a number of esoteric reference books, and a set of journals. And lastly, the copy of the Necronomicon the group had searched the Mysterium for. As they began considering the wealth of knowledge here, they were interrupted by the stone lid of the well shattering open, and a Flying Polyp emerging.
The creature proved quite dangerous, dealing significant amounts of damage to River. Taber proved unable to inflict much harm on the beast in the first round, but Scorcher then blasted it with eldritch fire. River slashed at the beast, as did Cailyn, although the boar was unable to harm it. The creature next turned its attention to Scorcher, and easily tore through his magical protections, coming close to killing him. Scorcher, in a panic, then teleported away, flinging a magical blast back at the creature. Lekovi mentally blasted the thing, and Taber and the others then proceded cut the beast down.
Shocked at the suddenness of the assault, the group turned to River to heal their wounds. Again not wanting to stop while unexplored danger stood at their backs, the group ascended the hidden set of stairs inside the tower.
Now over 400 feet up, they found themselves in room at the top of the tower, with narrow windows on all sides giving a vista of the entire city. In the centre of the room stood another disturbing sight…a Star Stelae, very similar to the ones seen in Thrushmoor. As the group began to examine the room, and the Stelae, they all heard the muffled sounds of a voice spellcasting. Unable to determine the source of the noise, they all looked further, Cailyn attempting to disbelieve the wall on the western side of the room. At this point, a ghotly woman, wreathed in blue flames, dressed in Ninshaburian-style robes and wielding a ghostly version ancient bastard sword, dropped through the ceiling, next to Scorcher and River, and thrust her weapon into River’s chest, dealing a large amount of harm. The apparition was screaming wordlessly in rage, and proceeded to do so for the rest of the conflict. Recovering from the surprise appearance, the group repositioned themselves around the star stelae to try and get to the ghostly figure. Lekovi attempted to learn what the ghost’s profession was, and was able to discern the telltale signs of a magus. The creature itself confirmed those capabilities by lopping off River’s head with a ghostly swipe of its blade, while simultaneously bringing forth a Cloudkill effect.
Reacting quickly, Scorcher dispelled the cloud, and Taber moved in, and grappled the ghost, making full use of his Ghost Touch Amulet to disable the ghost, while Seb applied an Ego Whip, stopping her from casting spells. She made one last attempt at harming the group, and was able to cause Cailyn and the boar to flee in panic.
Shortly, the ghost stopped screaming and struggling in Taber’s grasp, dismissed her ghostly blade, and brokenly began to apologise for the harm she had caused. She looked quite stricken at the body of River at her feet. Taber stopped applying pressure, but did not let go. Cailyn and the boar shortly returned, having been saved from flight by Kaklatath’s memory editing.
The remainder of the group spoke briefly with the now-forlorn ghost, and then retreated back to camp, to ponder how best to revive River. While Cailyn considered calling in the Archons, to pass the Necronomicon to them, Lekovi decided to peruse the journals and terrible book first, to ensure they did not miss anything before handing it over.
The review of the journals told much of Lowl’s state of mind over the past half year. The entries after departing Thrushmoor grew increasingly frenetic, and his handwriting more exaggerated. He recorded with excitement his acquisition of the Necronomicon, abandonment of Miacknian Mun, and
initial discoveries while setting forth for the Parchlands. Each morning, he recorded his dreams, expressing waning interest in scholarly discoveries and greater obsession with a being called Xhamen-Dor. According to Lowls, the eldritch terror known as Xhamen-Dor dwelled within
an accursed city in the Parchlands, where it gathered the strength and converts it needed to awaken and consume the world. Rather than expressing dismay, the count conveyed his fanatic delight, writing of his desire to call to the black star and “make our two worlds one under the Yellow Sign.”
Reviewing Lowls’s notes, both in his journal and on pieces of paper he slipped between pages of the Necronomicon, Lekovi and Scorcher together learned -
- Lowls is obsessed with one or more eldritch masters, whom he seeks to serve by completing a number of occult rituals. He has planned to take Xhamen-Dor into his body and journey to Carcosa to offer himself to Hastur so that the King in Yellow can gain enough power to become an Outer God.
- Much like Thrushmoor, the accursed city of Neruzavin holds three Star Stelae that the count awakened in order to perform a ritual he learned from the Necronomicon: the Path to the Black Star occult ritual.
- Upon completing the ritual, Lowls planned to travel to the unholy domain of the King in Yellow, where he hoped to attune its Star Stelae and offer Golarion to his new master.
Kaklatath expressed great dismay and corroborates all of this. It explained that the King in Yellow (not to be confused with the Yellow King from the Dreamlands) is an immensely powerful demigod served by aberrant beasts of all kinds, and Xhamen-Dor was his most powerful weapon: a foul fungus entity that consumed entire worlds and siphoned their essence to grow the Unspeakable One’s realm.
Kaklatath explained her race, the yithians, had fought the Yellow King’s servants throughout time and space since time immemorial, and believed Xhamen-Dor destroyed and its remains obliterated. If the name Xhamen-Dor was known on Golarion, Kaklatath believed it likely that the Great Old One may lie here dormant, yet still dangerous – perhaps even in this very city!
It continued to explain that the Great Race of Yith won a victory on Golarion eons ago, when snakes strode on legs and humanity was young. They destroyed most of the King in Yellow’s servants and sealed others deep beneath the earth. A few of the Great Race remained behind as guardians – among them Kaklatath – slumbering in wait should Golarion come under attack once more. As previously explained, that Kaklatath is unable to return to its natural body suggests something has happened to the slumbering yithians. That leaves the ex-amnesiacs few allies in pursuing Lowls, whose scheme could corrupt the world.
If the group were to intervene and finally exact their vengeance, they would need to follow Lowls by performing the same ritual he did. The count’s notes are sufficient to identify where the three Star Stelae in Neruzavin stand, and he had marked several pages in the Necronomicon that present occult rituals of note. The three Stelae were located in the Haunted Tower, the Snarl, and the Oraculum.
From his notes they also discovered the only way to stop Thrushmoor from being forcibly drawn into Carcosa: they must activate three Thrushmoor Star Stelae in Carcosa and defeat whoever is in control of the reflection of Thrushmoor already forming in that alien city.