(Igby's player absent - Igby not participating)
At about noon, the Ruby Scarabs headed toward Kawab Villa to find Gaunt Cadaver and his followers. As they passed along a walled area, Uto heard sounds like rending flesh and cracking bones and became concerned that someone might be under attack. He levitated to see over the wall. Beyond it he observed a huge mass of flesh and bone that seemed to have been fused or stitched together somehow. Even more disturbing, it appeared that something was burrowing its way through this mass from underneath. That was the source of the noise he had heard. A very large vaguely dog-like creature emerged from the mass of body parts, covered in bits of flesh. At that point Uto decided that this creature, whatever it was, was too dangerous for the Ruby Scarabs to face and they quickly moved on toward their destination.
At Kawab Villa they found another partially ruined large house. Before they could approach it they had to pass through an overgrown outer courtyard with a broken fountain. Suddenly Kaa felt vibration from beneath his taloned feet. Before he could warn his companions, two insectoid creatures as large as horses burst through the earth, one beside him and the other next to Uto. The creature that emerged by Uto instantly grasped him in its pincers. Azzaria recognized the creatures as ankhegs and warned her comrades that they might spit acid.
Sula turned to smash the ankheg that had grabbed Uto with her club, while Kaa and Azzaria attacked the one nearest them. Kaa used his cloak of the crocodile to grow teeth and bite the ankheg when it tried to grapple him. It did not take long for the four companions to slay both creatures. Azzaria dealt both beasts the final blow. Once they were definitively dead Sula attempted to remove their acid sacs at Uto's request, but was unable to cut them free without rupturing them, though she avoided getting any acid on her skin. She also removed some plates of chitin from the carcasses, hoping to have it converted into a shield and armor.
The Scarabs worried briefly that there might be more ankhegs in the area, but Azzaria told them that such creatures ordinarily did not come in swarms like tiny insects and it was unlikely there were any more. Since the bodies hadn't vanished on death, they knew that no one had used magic to summon the ankhegs. They left the remains in the courtyard and approached the front entrance of the villa.
The villa had two doors, both of which were unlocked. Kaa went in first. He found a dank, smelly chamber set up as a dining area, which was littered with rubbish and rotting food. Inside he glimpsed 3 darkfolk near the table, one on each side and the third partly hidden beneath it. Kaa spoke to them in the common tongue, saying, "We come from Unwrapped Harmony," but they didn't respond. When he moved closer to them, the pair on either side of the table called to each other in a language he didn't understand and rushed at him, drawing knives. One of them shouted in common, "Don't let them steal our secrets!"
Uto entered the chamber and put one of the darkfolk to sleep with a spell. Abruptly the entire room fell into impenetrable darkness, leaving everyone but Uto blind. Kaa drew out his ioun stone of continual light, but it was not enough to penetrate the darkness. Azzaria smashed a window, letting weak illumination into the room, though it didn't extend far enough for anyone to see the darkfolk or even each other. Sula and Nyema tried to move up to Kaa's side, and Nyema was able to smell one of the darkfolk nearby but couldn't find him to bite him. One of the darkfolk sliced Kaa and he felt the burning of poison in the wound. The darkfolk Uto had put to sleep awoke again, though Uto was still the only one who could actually observe this.
In the darkness Sula heard Nyema grunt in pain when one of the darkfolk stabbed her twice. A scuffling sound on wood indicated that one of them had jumped onto the table. Sula swept that area with her spear point but couldn't make contact with her target. Nyema also unsuccessfully snapped at the darkfolk. Since Unwrapped Harmony had asked that the other folk besides Gaunt Cadaver be returned safely, Uto attempted to stun one of them with a blow of his fist. He also activated his healing on behalf of his friends. Azzaria managed to land a strike on one of the 3 darkfolk and knocked him unconscious, and Nyema brought another one down.
It was a long struggle to subdue the 3 darkfolk in the pitch black, but when they had all been rendered unconscious and healed so that they would survive, Uto shaped the stone of the wall to hold them while the Scarabs explored the rest of the villa. He gave Azzaria and Kaa each a curative potion to use if they needed it. At that point both Azzaria and Sula suddenly remembered that they were carrying potions that would allow them to see in the dark, much to their embarrassment. Since the effects of the potions would last for some time, they decided to drink them right away in case any more darkfolk used their innate darkness ability in other parts of the villa. This left only Kaa still unable to see in the dark, as he had no potion and no one could cast a spell on him to permit him sight in the darkness.
The Scarabs healed some of their wounds, then searched the chamber they were in. They found some lapis lazuli and gold jewelry amid the rubbish, as well as 4 fine quality crossbow bolts. In a side room beneath a loose stone, Uto discovered 3 potions, 2 of them curatives and the other of designed to cause a person to appear blurry to enemies. He gave one curative potion to Sula and kept the other for himself. The third potion went to Kaa.
As they moved on beyond the first chamber, they were surprised to find the corpses of three darkfolk. All had died of the same wound near the heart, apparently as part of a necromantic ritual that had occurred within the past week.
After finding the darkfolk bodies, they came to a heavy locked door. It had no enchantments or traps on it. Kaa listened and heard the sound of chanting voices coming from beyond it, though he couldn't understand what they chanted. Before he opened the door, Uto blessed everyone with the divine power of the gods, Sula girded herself with a spell that transformed her skin into dense bark, and she also cast a spell on Nyema's teeth and claws.
As soon as they entered the room they all smelled a sour scent. The room appeared to be a kitchen that had been converted into a combination laboratory and surgery. There were other doors leading out of the kitchen. On a table at one end of the kitchen they saw a figure that was in the midst of being operated upon by a small person swathed in dark robes who they suspected was Gaunt Cadaver. Three other darkfolk in the room all appeared to be undead. Gaunt Cadaver screeched, "Intruders! Kill them!" and the 3 darkfolk rushed out toward the Scarabs. Part of the room fell into magical darkness.
Uto had been the first to actually enter the room. He was cut by a poisoned knife wielded by one of the undead darkfolk. There was a second table sitting haphazardly in the middle of the room, and Azzaria jumped onto its top. The three undead were zombies, but they moved much more quickly that ordinary zombies. Azzaria realized that they were a special variety that might explode and release negative energy on being slain.
While the Scarabs fought with the 3 zombies, Gaunt Cadaver cast a spell and a spectral hand appeared. Azzaria recognized that he had cast a spell into the hand that would chill the victim with its touch and would be able to use the hand to deliver the spell to his targets. He called out something, which Uto was able to understand via magic as, "Strike and pull back!" Uto warned his companions that the zombies were being given instructions. Knowing that zombies were usually resistant to anything but slashing weapons, Sula activated the magic of her spear so she could overcome their resistance to other types of damage.
Then Uto channeled positive energy to harm the zombies, and all 3 exploded, sending out a wave of negative energy that affected everyone except Kaa. The subject on the makeshift operating table also died, but when it exploded it caused a flare of brilliant light that left Azzaria dazed. Uto channeled again to heal his comrades, but was unable to exclude Gaunt Cadaver from receiving the benefit of his magic.
When Azzaria recovered from being momentarily dazed, she attacked Gaunt Cadaver. Kaa and Uto joined her. It was Uto's blow that caused him to fall. Azzaria then cut off his head to be sure he was dead. At that point he too exploded in a burst of light, leaving Azzaria, Sula, and Uto blind for a few moments.
Once everyone had recovered their sight, they searched the kitchen. The found 3 daggers, a kukri, a scroll that would allow the caster to speak with the dead, a quality buckler, a healer's kit, surgeon's tools, 3 doses of black smear poison, a bolt of valuable Qadiran silk, 3 pounds of giant bee royal jelly, 20 ivory ushabti figurines, a pair of gold and onyx earrings and a matching necklace, a lapis bracelet, and gold, silver and copper coins equal to 660 gold pieces.
Having assured themselves there was nothing else to find in the kitchen, the Scarabs opened the door to what they assumed was the villa's central atrium. It was locked and Kaa unfastened it. In the atrium he saw a broken fountain still spurting silt and water, but he was immediately confronted by a large clearly undead creature that appeared to be made of parts from many corpses stitched together. Kaa responded by directing a ray of scorching fire at it, which seemed to slow its movements.
Sula then stepped forward and charged her spear with elemental energy to attack it, but she chose to use electricity rather than fire. To her dismay this negated the effect of Kaa's flames and allowed the creature to move much faster. It slammed her with both of its mismatched fists. Uto healed her of some of the damage and drank a potion to recover from the injuries that effort did to him. Sula tried to attack the creature again, but its stench nauseated her so she could only stumble backward a few steps. Nyema refused to approach it. The creature, which was some sort of golem, followed Sula when she moved and struck her again. Kaa scorched it a second time and it slowed down. Sula raised her shield to defend herself, finding herself recovered from the effect of its horrible odor. Azzaria then struck it a massive blow and it fell in a heap.
The Ruby Scarabs returned to the Asatiti estate and showed the stone they had recovered from Gaunt Cadaver's remains to Unwrapped Harmony. They took the three surviving darkfolk captives with them. The stone they had found proved to be magical; Unwrapped Harmony told them it could prevent the bearer from suffering harm when dealt injuries by certain types of precision attacks, but in order to do so the bearer had to swallow it. Since the stone was the size of a small apple, was unusually heavy for its size, and was only usable once, it hardly seemed worth the discomfort of doing so. Unwrapped Harmony had only wanted the stone as proof of Gaunt Cadaver's demise, so she gave it to the Scarabs as part of their reward.
She also informed them that one of Gaunt Cadaver's followers had seen a figure wearing a gold mask with a long chin, who was arguing with something in a brass cage. This person had dropped a tattered star chart, which had been recovered and which Unwrapped Harmony now presented to the adventurers. The chart was too damaged to tell what its original purpose had been, but it showed the night sky of summer over Wati.
After they left Kawab Villa, Uto had detected that the golem had inflicted filth fever on Sula. Kaa also wanted to learn more of the darkfolk language, so the party asked if they could stay overnight at the Asatiti estate. This would allow both Uto and Sula to prepare spells the next day to remove the effects of the disease. Unwrapped Harmony agreed and told them they could stay in one of the outbuildings, if they would explain the purpose of the building to the darkfolk.
lapis lazuli & gold jewelry (500 gold)
4 fine quality crossbow bolts
2 potions of cure moderate wounds
potion of blur
scroll of speak with dead
3 doses of black smear poison
bolt of Qadiran silk (400 gold)
3 lbs giant bee royal jelly (300 gold)
20 ivory ushabti figurines (15 gold each)
gold & onyx earrings (100 gold) & matching necklace (250)
lapis bracelet (50 gold)
240 gold coins
345 silver coins
75 copper piecesgutstone
Next: Part 11