Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 1)
Azimer (Calmonari 2)
Chaff (Vivimancer 2) with henchman Herb (Swashbuckler 1)
Einer (Fighter 1)
Villius Paticus (Cleric 1)
The two muscled guides lead the party westward a short distance. A few hundred yards beyond the plume they came to a point where the ground sloped down towards the waters edge. Tucked in below the brow of this hill were the ruins. They showed distinct signs of having been forcefully or explosively destroyed, as opposed to simply having fallen to the ravages of time. Descending the hill, the party could see two tall cyclopean pillars were the only extant structures on the surface. These, however, stood just outside of an opening in the side of the hill. There, as the sky began to darken with the setting sun, the glow of firelight was visible. Their guides led them into this room, paying especial attention to Abdul el Abdul and Einer. The rest of the party was permitted to obediently trail along behind. Inside the room were another half dozen of the muscled, shaved and naked men. They were flexing muscles, wrestling, and otherwise showing off feats of strength. Behind them against the east wall was a low stone dais, topped by a series of lit braziers and a three foot tall idol of jade and gold. The idol depicted a naked human form, muscles grotesquely swollen, eye's bulging and teeth set in a grimace. As the other muscled men gathered round, the two guides led Abdul el Abdul and Einer to stand in front of the statue and presented the fighters to their god, Manakata. They insisted that the pair join them in the rituals of Manakata. Questioning what that involved, they were told they must raise the idol above their heads. If successful, Manakata would present to them a vision of a task they must complete to gain the favor of the god. And Manakata's favor would make them more physically powerful than they could imagine!
While this was going on, the rest of the party stayed back and scoped out possible escape routes, including doors in both the north and south walls. Chaff also noted the sand covered floor in front of the dais was stained with blood and scattered bits of human flesh. They were also a little troubled to see some of the muscle men sizing them up and pointing; nothing about the situation made them feel safe.
Abdul el Abdul began questioning the men, trying to pry information about who they were (or rather had been), and what may have happened to the Duke and his entourage. Piecing together bits and hints, it seemed the muscle men were the remnants of the crew from the Dukes ship, and that the Duke and his retinue had chosen not to join them in worship of Manakata. Instead they had fled to some other, unknown place, on the island. The men began now began to get more aggressive with Einer and Abdul el Abdul, pushing them to join the rituals. The two fighters tried to stall, saying they must go away and prepare for the rituals. It took convincing, but the muscle men agreed to let the two go, but the rest of the party would have to stay in the temple as hostages. That wasn't what the party wanted, so Chaff decided to take matters into his own hands. Passing whispered signal to the rest of the party to stand ready, the stubby vivimancer began casting a spell and dropped a spore cloud on their gathered foes. The choking cloud dropped more then half the cultists of Manakata, incapacitated, to the floor. Those unaffected, however, advanced with fists raised and an angry growl. Herb flicked out his rope and tripped and entangled a few, but the party was soon within melee with those who pushed through the obstacles. Herb and Azimer received solid punches to the head, Herb to the point where he fell stunned to the floor. Crawling out from under his henchman, Chaff dropped a second spore cloud to covert the party's retreat. Abdul el Abdul had already taken off, followed closely by Villius Paticus (after his attempt to hold person was a bust). Azimer looped to the north, headed for the comforting embrace of the sea in that direction. That left the unconscious Herb, the stubby Chaff and new guy Einer. The fighter grabbed the tiny vivimancer, and with all his strength tossed Chaff as far as he could, giving him a head start and a chance to escape. Unfortunately, as Einer himself turned to run, he received a couple of solid blows to the back of the head and dropped unconscious next to Herb.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party manged to outdistance their half-hearted pursuers and gathered back near what they now discovered was a steam plume. Chaff sent his familiar, "Dirty Bird", back to the temple to see what had happened to Herb and Einer. By this point, the two had been stripped of all their belongings, trussed up hand and foot, and lay on the ground in front of the idol. Two men stood guard over the prisoners, and other clustered around beating crude drums. A pair of the cultists were on the dais, ready to begin the rituals. The first was not able to lift the idol. But the second, with screams of praise to Manakata, lifted the gold and jade statue above over his head. A look of rapture crossed his face, and he slammed to idol back onto the dais. Pointing at Einer, the favored of Manakata spoke: "The great Manakata has deemed that you must die by my hand!"
Einer was unbound and shoved into a circle of the cultists, where he faced off against the favored of Manakata. The two circled and jabbed at each other, both landing blows. Einer received a hard hit and almost went down, but landed a powerful blow under his opponents jaw, cracking his neck and shattering teeth and bone. The favored of Manakata went down with a thud, and the rest of the cultists of Manakata fell into shocked silence. Einer took advantage of this, and with a shout insisted he was favored of Manakata, and must be allowed to leave to prepare for his turn in the ritual. The cultists recovered quickly however, and with a resounding howl of rage rushed at Einer to pin him down and bind him again. The naked (and therefore unencumbered) fighter leap up on top of the idol, vaulted over the crowd converging on his, and took off into the night, leaving poor Herb behind. He dodged the once more half-hearted pursuit, and rejoined the rest of the party at the steam vent. There, Abdul el Abdul provided him with a dagger and a sack to wear, as the question turned to "What next?" Obviously the Duke was not with the cultists, so they set their eyes on the two towers.
By the light of the rising moon, they trudged to the easternmost tower, the one with an opening near the base. Dirty Bird was sent up on another reconnaissance mission, and through the birds eyes, Chaff could see several more openings further up the tower, as pair of ledges or exposed platforms near the top. One of which led to the bridge connecting with the second tower. Seeing no other easy way in, the party formed up and marched through the opening in the base of the tower. There they found a room full of gulls and the overwhelming (and to Azimer, home-like) smell of fish guts and bird droppings. Amid the screeching and circling birds, the party gave the room a cursory glance before heading through the opening in the west wall. In this narrow room they found a row of four large stone statues, crudely human but with oddly alien features. On the north wall a pair of enormous circular eyes gazed on the party. Chaff went closer and gazed back, which sent a chill down his spine as it felt like his muscles were starting to turn to stone. Wanting to put that hazard behind them, they passed on through another opening in the north-east wall and into a room filled with a tangle of desiccated, thorny vines and a circular stairway going up. Swiftly they climbed the stairs into another room where the north wall glittered in their torchlight. Closer examination showed that that wall was cut through a vein of obsidian, and the stairs (which climbed further) was made of the same material. Apart from the stairs, there was a door to the east and to the south. The east door was of solid, rusted iron. It was either locked or barred from the other side, as even the combined strength of Einer and Abdul el Abdul could budge it. Abdul el Abdul knocked on the door, hoping to find someone on the other side. He was answered by the loud screech that could only have come from a seabird of monstrous proportions. That convinced the party to head for the southern door, which opened easily into a room with no other exit and a fire place. This seemed to finally be a secure place to rest, so Chaff sparked up a fire and the party settled down to rest for the night.
Next morning after spell memorizing and breakfast, the party inspected their surroundings in more detail. The walls they found covered with bas relief carvings of alien scenes; weird swaying tentacled trees, a sky with multiple moons and suns, vaguely humanoid (but-not-quite) inhabitants. Tucked into one scene was a cluster of the weird cabbage vines they found shortly after landing on the island. Otherwise the room was empty except for old straw and trash on the floor. Azimer searched the fireplace for a lever, switch, or other way of opening the bared door in the other room. The calmonari found nothing, so Chaff sent his familiar up the flue. Through the birds eyes, he could see that the fireplace was connected to another one on the other side of the wall, presumably in the room barred behind the iron door. But the hole was much too small for anyone but the bird to squeeze through, so the party packed up and headed up the stairs again.
This they had to do quite carefully, as the brittle volcanic glass flaked away as they climbed. They emerged in a small room with a very high ceiling and niches carved in the wall. On the back wall of the niches were curved glass mirrors, and from the front of each niche stalactites of candle wax hung down towards the floor. Up above, at the edge of their torch light, was a large lens. For no particular reason, Chaff and Einer started lighting candles as the rest of the party checked out a door to the south. This opened onto an exposed ledge, from which descended a stairway carved into the side of the piller. This was placed such as to be almost unobservable to anyone outside the tower, which explained why they'd missed it in the darkness last night. There were also two benches, covered in a scattering of rusty metal bits, glass and weird mechanical pieces, plus a series of wooden panels on the west wall covered in esoteric and unintelligible formulae.
Heading back to pick up Chaff and Einer, the party climbed the spiral staircase again, emerging now into another room, exposed to the elements on the west side. Here they could now see the rope bridge which stretched through the mist and low cloud to the second tower about a 100' away. Of immediate interest, however, was a circular stone pedestal with a large yellow-green gemstone set in the top. This gem glowed with a faint light, and looking up everyone could see it was projecting an image on the ceiling. The scene was of a night sky with brilliant stars, two moons of deep red, and a glowing purple nebula; a sky none of them had ever scene before. After staring a few moments, Azimer tried turning the pedestal, which moved easily. Each time it had traversed 90 degrees, the scene changed, showing in order:
- A jungle canopy with alien plants, similar to the scene seen in bas relief;
- A series of odd pictograms. Everyone spent some time trying to decipher them, but in the end none could make any sense of the weird figures; and
- Dancing lights, in a hypnotic pattern.
On viewing the last scene, Chaff, Einer and Villius all become overcome with fatigue, and dropped to the floor into unconsciousness. This did not last long, though, and the three soon rose, a little fuzzy headed but otherwise no worst for wear.
With nothing else to see through the gem, the party turned their attention to the bridge ...
20 (for Einer)
1 Cultist of Manakata
All of Einer's gear and clothes