When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death – that is heroism.
Last time on Age of Serpents, our intrepid Castaways had just breached a hidden cathedral to Ydersius, the god of the serpentfolk! Incredibly well-preserved, the subterraneous structure was ages old and would be a momentous archaeological find should its discoverers live to tell of it! Because, as is often the case with ancient edifices of evil, the Shrine of the Serpent Lords was occupied… by the undead!
Knocked Into a Cocked-Hat
Just as ominously as it’s skull rose from the enormous urn at the head of the great hall, the skeletal snake coiled back inside its container and was silent. Meanwhile, the four serpentfolk skeletons continued to hiss and rattle the bars of the portcullises they were trapped behind. The ghoulish monster that was once Captain Kovack stood up from the pile of remains at the back of the cathedral and shuffled toward Kor’lec. “My… hat…” snarled the lacedon through broken teeth. In response, the druid lobbed a spear at him. He’d become accustomed to wearing Kovack’s tricorne, but also had a hard-line against compromising with undead.
“Captain, we’re honoring your orders,” declared Monica, referring to Kovack’s penitent missive, before letting her pistol continue the conversation. Grazed by spearpoint and gunfire, the lacedon frowned sorrowfully before his eyes reddened. He lurched toward his attackers with a gargling groan.
Kishtari figured her friends could handle one dumb ghoul. Curious about the serpentine motifs everywhere, she made her way to the center of the temple. Once the brash psion strayed into the shadow of the urn, the skeletal snake in there suddenly snapped up and slithered down toward her like a rushing stream. In its suddenness, the undead serpent toppled one of the temple’s pillars – and tripped the lever releasing the portcullises. The serpentfolk skeletons were freed and scuffled to surround the intruders. Impossibly, the fleshless prehistoric viper dripped venom from fangs that scored Kishtari’s flesh as she twisted to avoid impalement.
Bad to the Bones
The lacedon formerly known as Captain Kovack fell first, mercilessly clobbered into real death. “Yeah, it’s my hat now,” quipped Kor’leck. Dornas pummeled one of the serpentfolk skeletons with his animate hair, and through it delivered a pulse of necromantic magic. The undead guardian was overcome by terror and fled. But despite the adventurers’ prowess in battle, one of the prehistoric skeletons gouged its clawed hand into Jask’s midsection, sending the old priest, and his innards, to the floor.
Kish was also doing her best to stay conscious despite the relentless attacks of her assailants. After seeing Jask go down, the kalashtar decided she’d had enough of all the biting and scratching, and after saving it up all day, had enough phrenic energy for everyone and everything. Her eyes crackled with electricity, and an elegant wave of her hand turned one of the dead serpentfolk into a galvanized salvo of bones that shattered against the skeletal megaviper.
Likki, babbling in demonic tongues, was at Jask’s side in a blink and managed to magically mend the fallen priest’s nearly fatal wound. Meanwhile, Monica maneuvered behind the skeleton that came within an inch of sending the Garundi cleric to the court of his god. Hoping to give it something to think about other than the critically injured — and very vulnerable — Jask, the archaeologist sucker-punched the undead with fistful of curative magic. The damage barely registered, but the ploy worked. The skeleton slowly turned and hissed at its new target, even as Kai was right on top of it chomping and clawing.
Jask was administered a healing potion that woke him to consciousness, and coughed his throat clear. “I’m getting too old for this sh…” Jask grouched, his sentiment cut off by an explosion of energy as Kish obliterated, well, whatever it was she happened to be looking at that moment. The giant snake fossil crashed into the fallen pillar and crumbled away to smoldering ash. Meanwhile, Kor’lec conjured a badass eagle that screeched, dove, and sank its talons into another undead guardian. The skeleton tried to swat away the bird on its way toward Kish, but a sudden snap of the eagle’s beak severed the ancient reptilian’s spine – along with its tether to unlife. Kish swore she saw the summoned bird wink at her.
Between Monica’s whip and Dornas’s hair, the remaining guardian was having trouble staying on its fleshless feet. Monica uttered a word that echoed like an angelic choir and the unholy creature was consumed by white light that irrupted into gossamer moths and swallows!
Fangs for the Info
Leaving the skeleton who’d fled to cower in a corner to be dispatched by Jask and the animals, the heroes surveyed the cathedral. In front of the looming statue of Ydersius were scorch marks and splattered blood not more than two days old. Also, empty decanters that bore the traces of healing magic suggested Ieana was wounded – severely – by a trap there. Monica disabled the dangerous ward and discovered a tiny slot in the great pedestal of the statue. There was enough evidence to indicate some manner of egress, and Dornas guessed that Kish’s fang-shaped dagger – found in Ieana’s quarters aboard the Jenivere and clearly psionic in nature – was the key.
The kalashtar drew the weapon, which vibrated out of her hand and into the slot of its own accord. The statue pulled itself up and back against the wall as the base split down the middle and parted to either side. The unveiled chamber was vaguely hexagonal in shape. It had an altar inside and likewise fell beneath the predatory gaze of Ydersius, this effigy carved from strange, swirl-patterned stone that projected an eerie green glow.
The walls of the hexangular chamber had eons of grit build-up, save one. Ieana had cleansed it of detritus to reveal the Aklo text and serpentfolk hieroglyphs beneath. Those fluent in the complex tongue deciphered it as an ancient ritual to activate something called the Tide Stone. The party presumed the other walls of this unholy chamber had instructions for the other serpentfolk power stones on Smuggler’s Shiv, whose presence they’d already deduced. When Dornas and Monica used their magic to quickly excavate the remaining walls, their suspicions were confirmed. Together, the inscriptions formed the “missing” Typhonian Proposal – infamous in arcane scholarship and previously known only by its citation in another obscure book of forbidden lore. Though most magicians believed the occult magics of old were best left buried, Monica couldn’t resist recording the crowning discovery of an already amazing assortment of archaeological achievements.
After stuffing the last of the charcoal rubbings in her pack, a sardonic hand-clap echoed from back in the cathedral. Mother Thrunefang herself, the harridan ghoul known as Nylithati, was standing on the broken pillar as her children, lacedons all, prowled toward the party.
“That ain’t living to me, lady,” answered Monica, before making a counteroffer with bullets.