The party began exploring one of the demolished homes in Carrion Hill’s Slipper Market, trying to determine who – or what – might have left such a trail of destruction. One wall of the home had been blown outward; inside were the mangled body parts of four humans, strangely drained of blood. All around was a foul slime, left behind by something that appeared to have come up a set of stairs in a back room. Skrelnik became quite convinced it was a carrion crawler. On the wall was the eye of Vecna painted in blood.
We spoke with a cobbler whose shop was across the street. He said that the house belonged to a man named Marshan; he had lived there about one year, but before that the house was abandoned. He said Marshan kept mostly to himself, but the cobbler didn’t seem to care much for him. That morning, the cobbler had seen the wall of the house blow outward; a body part came flying out, then was sucked back inside. The cobbler then ran for help, and saw nothing more.
On a desk in Marshan’s house, we found a startling letter, clearly penned by a cultist of Vecna. However, the letter indicated that these cultists are rivals of Quill (our nemesis in the cult), and planned to summon a vessel for Vecna’s return that would compete with the vessel Quill was preparing.
We followed the slime trail back downstairs, quickly discovering that this was no ordinary basement. We found an ancient burial chamber housing six sarcophagi dating back hundreds of years, one recently disturbed. After bursting through two locked and barricaded doors, we encountered four Dark Ones, denizens of the Shadowfell, who attacked us on sight. Three fled and were pursued by Lumpskin, who applied his patented “Lumpstrike” technique (patent pending) and ultimately felled two of them. The fourth stayed behind and seemed prepared to fight to the death until Skrelnik intimidated him and took him as a prisoner.
After some “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., Fane cutting off his hand and Friday blasting him in the eye with a Lance of Faith), the prisoner talked. He said he and his Dark One buddies had been summoned here by a group of five humans in cloaks, who instructed the Dark Ones to clear this underground complex of rubble as they set about summoning some kind of creature in a spot called the Sunless Grove. After the creature was summoned, the Dark Ones fled for their lives and barricaded themselves in a cavern. They never saw the monster. Skrelnik persuaded Fane and Friday to let the prisoner live, and we left him bound and gagged, his wounds stablized.
We followed the stairs some 800 feet down to a large chamber with many pillars supporting a ceiling 100 feet above. In an adjoining chamber was a large mound, topped by an altar emblazoned with the eye of Vecna. Around the altar were three leafless trees. As we entered the chamber we were jumped by a number of ghouls that we ultimately defeated. We got the impression these ghouls had been recently created; perhaps they were what became of the five cloaked figures who summoned the monster?
Upon inspection of the trees, we determined that they grew through necromancy and increased evil powers. In one tree we found a crushed robed figure, a hunchback, who possessed some magical items and had eyes of Vecna carved in his hands and all over his body.
We proceeded through an adjoining tunnel to an encampment, clearly inhabited at some point by five humanoids. At the encampment’s door we found an obviously magical tome, the “Pnakotic Manuscript,” which had been clawed at by ghouls. In the encampment we also found books about Vecna, a book about Avandra separatist cults (a recent book, written in Eladrin, and well-thumbed), and many notes in Deep Speech. The books indicated that the Pnakotic Manuscript is used to summon a vessel for Vecna. We also found a key to the Manuscript.
We learned that Vecna needs a vessel to return to the material plane from his prison plane, and that either the Hand or Eye of Vecna is necessary to complete the summoning ritual. Vecna needs a powerful vessel, and from the notes we surmised that these cultists were planning to summon Vecna’s previous vessel (last defeated here in Carrion Hill, 400 years ago) rather than trying to create a new one.
We followed the trial of the stench ghoul we had defeated to a pool surrounded by stones. The stones were marked with arcane runes that we determined are used to gather the powers of multiple spellcasters. We paused, trying to decide where to proceed next…