10 Transformation 509
Continuing through the Ysarian complex, having just defeated two more duergar possessed by the hideous intellect devourers, Mõrvar searches the bodies of the slain dwarves. He finds a make-shift ivory key on one of them. This is given to Surm. The party decides to backtrack and deal with the duergar in the “portcullis room” they first encountered when they entered the complex.
After a brief battle, the duergar—and the intellect devourers within them—are defeated. After searching the room and finding nothing of interest, the portcullis is wedged open by a pin found on the device and Kortash and Burask are assigned to guard that entryway.
Passing from the portcullis room and into an adjacent empty room, the party carefully makes their way with Savaric searching and Mõrvar casting detect magic. From the empty room, they travel down a corridor ending in a shut door. Savaric opens the door carefully and spies three of the possessed duergar inside a room whose walls is lined with crystal fragments. He quickly shuts the door as the duergar look in his direction.
The party then lines up for an assault on the room. They find that more of the duergar has entered the room from an adjacent room, making seven of the creatures altogether. Also, the light from Rilka’s weapon reflects off of the crystals, attempting to disorient everyone within. In the course of the fight, Surm turns the tide by casting a Wall of Bone to separate the groups of duergar, making them easier to dispatch.
Eventually, the duergar are defeated, as well as the foul devourers that occupied their bodies.
After searching the room, as per usual, the group descends into the room from which the extra duergar came. The room is searched and found to be empty. From there, Rilka searches an arched doorway leading into another room. She sees four, strange, cloaked figures standing in the room. One of them turns toward her and she hears, in his mind, “Turn around and say nothing.”
Savaric immediately goes and notifies the others. When they regroup and enter the room, there are no figures. Savaric searches the room and finds nothing of interest. There is a door leading out of the room, but it is locked.
Surm uses the make-shift key they found and unlocks the door. This leads into a small room with discarded duergar bodies strewn about the room in various states of decay. From here is another locked door, which Surm opens. The door leads into a narrow, but empty room decorated with mosaics of strange angles and designs on the walls.
Savaric checks out one of the doors in the room, finding it to be trap-free and unlocked. This leads into a seemingly empty room. They enter the room and Savaric and Mõrvar search it out. Savaric finds a secret panel in the floor. Inside is a chest.
The chest is locked, but Surm (after a search for traps) unlocks it. Savaric opens the chest, seeing a variety of items, strange coins, gems, and a large red gem. Savaric instantly feels something pulling on his essence, trying to draw him into the red gem, but he manages to fight off the sensation. Surm examines the gem and determines that it is a soul-trapping gem.
Among the objects are strangely designed wands of various crystals, an assortment of vials, and scrolls. Surm identifies the objects as magical and determines their purposes.
From this room is a door to the north and a door to the west. They are searched and determined to be trap-free. Savaric opens the door to the north and peers inside. The next room has a group of duergar surrounding a female duergar in ceremonial robes. They don’t appear have the slack-eyed look of the possessed duergar.
Surm thinks the group should parley with the aware duergar. The party gets ready for attack and they enter after Surm announces in undercommon that he wishes to parley.
The female appears to be in charge. She is a priestess of some sort—she wears a strange symbol attributed to some demonic force.
The duergar have been here for a few weeks. About a week after they occupied the area, a vortex opened in one of the deeper chambers and the intellect devourers and their masters came. They don’t know much about the masters, but they seem to have mental abilities and also devour the brains of their victims.
The duergar and the Cord negotiate an alliance—they will escort this contingent of duergar out of the complex and the Cord will have access to treasures found.
Savaric is sent to look for Kortash and Burask, to make sure they’re alright, now that they know that another danger is wandering about the complex. He makes his way back to the portcullis room and finds that two cloaked figures are leaning over the unconscious forms of the two half-orcs, tentacles emerging from their hoods that are wrapped about the two guards’ heads.
Savaric attacks and quickly dispatches the two cloaked figures. He examines the the half-orcs and finds that they are unconscious and near death. He runs back to the rest of the Cord and reports. They and the duergar make their way back to the portcullis room and they see the prone bodies of Kortash and Burask for themselves. They escort the duergar the rest of the way out of the complex.
Outside the complex, the group sees the infant pyrohydra, fat and sleeping corpse of its parent, apparently having cannibalized the corpse for food. The duergar are escorted to the deeper cavern and part ways with the Cord.
The party returns to Kortash and Burask. They decide that Surm and Rilka will teleport back to the University of Kalimsport with the half-orc guards to get help. They’ll also take the body of one of the strange hooded creatures for identification. They also take one of the strange serrated blades the creatures are carrying. Mõrvar and Savaric will return to the surface to the camp. Surm uses his Agent’s Clasp to contact Alasir and lets him know that there is an additional danger and to watch the entrance with Doranthanel’s help.
Back in Kalimsport
Rilka and Surm, along with the inert bodies of Kortash and Burask, arrive at the University of Kalimsport dorms to get some assistance. Kortash and Burask are placed in bunks, along with the covered body of the strange creature which assaulted them.
Surm tells Rilka, “Go to the temple and speak with the Abbot. Remind him of who we are and of our current crisis. Say something like, ‘after the impressive display by Bishop Lynel Winnarrow at Cranbarrow Keep, we knew Halor would be able to help our friends.’” That should spark his memory of who we are if he didn’t remember already." Rilka leaves for the temple of Halor.
Surm grabs the first person he sees and say, “You must retrieve Mater Kerendal and inform him that Surm Ulrich has just teleported into the dorms with an extra-planar mystery. I need him, the local expert on extra-planar beings, and the Chancellor if possible to come and meet me here immediately. The lives of two men are hanging by a thread.”
Surm waits in dorm room with the two half-orcs and the strange corpse. Soon he is joined by Master Kerendal and a strikingly beautiful woman with pale skin, dark hair, and whose eyes are two different colors—one blue, one green. Kerendal introduces her as Haether Dallen, a Professor of Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Comparative Religions from Yew College within the University.
“Professor Dallen is probably our most experienced lecturer in the matter of extra-planar beings,” Master Kerendal. “She is also immediately available,” he says with a smile.
Professor Dallen nods. “I was given the impression that this was an emergency of some sort?” she asks, her voice resonant.
Meanwhile, at the Temple of Halor, Rilka waits as the Abbot, Eddard Elbrynn, is fetched. Soon, she is led to Abbot’s chambers in the temple. The Abbot greets her, stating that he remembers her as being a member of the Crimson Cord and inquires as to the nature of her current emergency.
Surm says, “Thank you for coming so quickly.” He pulls the blanket off of the strange corpse.
“These were seen squatting over my friends, one on each. Now they won’t wake up and our curative and restorative magics seemed to have no effect. We need to know what they are and what damage they may have done to save my friends. All I know is that they seem to invade your mind, do have magical abilities, and per an on-site witness, arrived through a vortex of probable Ysar origin. Oh, and wield these strange serrated blades. My companion is retrieving a priest of Halor, but if you have any knowledge of these things and their mode of attack on my friends, that would be helpful.”
Professor Dallen goes to the corpse and begins examining it. “I have read of such creatures in some ancient and forgotten texts, but never thought to actually set eyes upon one,” she says. “You have stumbled upon something exceeding rare—and dangerous.”
She points to the creature. “This is, I believe, an Illithid, a creature possibly from another plane, possibly from simply so deep in the underground kingdoms we know not from where they come. They are cerebraphages—brain eaters—as well as being slavers. They serve their own dark purposes, purposes unknown to us.”
“I’m not sure what they may have done to these two. There are no wounds, so I don’t think they tried to devour their brains. They could be under some sort of psychic duress. It is also possible that the Illithids attempted to implant some sort embryo within them. We should probably get them to our Department of Medicine and see if the healers there can make a determination.”
Surm agrees to transferring them to the Department of Medicine.
“Professor Dallen, if you and your colleagues in Medicine can collaborate and help my friends, then the Crimson Cord will officially donate this ‘Illithid’ to you and your department for study.”
“After you have reported off to whom ever is in charge in Medicine, I would appreciate a report from you on everything you know or suspect about these creatures. We’ve slain two, but there are still two unaccounted for and I have a team still on site and at risk of attack. Plus, the vortex through which they reportedly arrived is still active, more could come.”
Surm also tells her about the intellect devourers they’ve encountered. Surm leaves a note for Rilka at the gate telling her where they’ve moved them to.
Professor Dallen says, "We will certainly do everything we can for your friends, regardless of the donation. Though the thought of being able to examine this creature is exciting—let’s get them squared away first. I will prepare a brief on what I know of these creatures—it is not a lot. They are so rarely encountered. But I will give you what information I can.
“The Intellect Devourers are another creature, related to but not entirely the same as, the Illithids. Some say they spawn from the same plane of existence. Others say they are from elsewhere, but have shared interests and abilities and are just natural allies. Regardless—that you have encountered both means that your troupe may be in a very dangerous site indeed.”
Surm uses the clasp to message Alasir. “Alasir, we are in Kalimsport, Kortash and Burask are being assessed at the University. Remember, there is still an open vortex down in the ruins, so, we can’t be sure that only two more Illithids are running around, they could bring friends. Ask Morvar to keep watch all night on that entrance, he needs very little sleep.”
As Surm waits, Professor Dallen brings him the following report: A Report on the Illithids
Meanwhile, at the temple of Halor…
Rilka replies that she is pleased that the Abbott remembers her and the Crimson Cord. She is exceedingly glad he would see her at such short notice.
“The temple has assisted us on many dire-filled occasions. Obviously, the affair with Bishop Winnarrow here in Kalimsport, but also in Aldasar and Jenna. While assisting an expedition in the elven lands, two of our number were attacked by horrific creatures.”
She explains the situation, including what has already been done to aid the brothers.
“If the damage is of a mental nature, what has been done appears to be outside of my abilities. I’ve come to ask for Halor’s help.”
The Abbot says, “I know not what I can do to help, but I will bring Halor’s blessing with me. Take me to the two fallen men and I will see what I can do.” He grabs a cloak and staff and motions toward the door.
When Rilka and Abbot Elbrynn arrive at the University, Surm catches her up on the situation.
Soon thereafter, an Esteemed Sage from the Department of Medicine, Gerens Meary, approaches you all. “I’m afraid I have some grave news,” he says. “It is our belief that something has been implanted into these two men’s brains. According to Professor Dallen, it could be the young of these strange creatures you have brought our attention to.” He sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Our chiurgeons could try and remove the parasites—but there is much risk. Should we fail, the men will be mentally disabled, if they survive at all. Magic may restore their faculties, if they survive. It’s hard to say. We are prepared to try if you give us leave.”
Even with Rilka’s dusky green complexion, her sudden pallor is obvious. “If those abominations have done as you say, I see no option but to remove the parasites.” She turns to the Abbott. “Is there any way you might assist? I realize that there may be little the power of Halor can do to remove the parasites from our friends, but my hope is that any potential damage could be repaired”
The Abbot says, “I will make myself available for the healers. Please, Master Meary, take me to the victims and the chiurgeons and I will provide whatever assistance I am able.”
Master Meary escorts the Abbot to the surgical rooms where Kortash and Burask are lying in state.
Surm and Rilka wait in fretful anticipation for the outcome of the surgery.
The University does what it can to make their wait comfortable, bringing them food and beverages and providing a comfortable room to wait in.
It’s a long wait.
After about 6 hours—which brings them to after sundown that day—the Esteemed Sage, Master Meary, returns with Abbot Elbrynn.
“It was a delicate procedure for both of them, and it was touch-and-go for a bit with Kortash, but we manged to remove the parasites without destroying their brains. Abbot Elbrynn here has performed a Restoration on both them and so there should be no residual damage. They are resting comfortably and should be able to leave in the morning.”
“The creatures in their brain were devouring the matter of the organ. It was—gruesome—to behold. The creatures still live, but are currently being held in an alchemical fluid. They are very—hearty.”
“At any rate, your friends will live and even thrive after the experience. Thank whatever gods you give homage to for that.”
Rilka clasps the hands of both men in turn. “Thank you both. We owe you much.” She turns to Master Meary. “Can they see visitors? Or do they need to rest?”
“It would be best to let them rest. They’ve been through an ordeal,” Master Meary says.
Rilka nods, “I see. Well, then we’ll see them in the morning.” She turns to the Abbott, “May I escort you back to the temple?”
Surm updates Alasir: “Kortash and Burask had to undergo surgery to remove parasitic embryos from their brains presumably implanted by the Illithids. Then receive divine restorations to repair the damage. Their survival was a close call. It’s imperative that you not be taken unaware by these creatures. We can not undo the damage caused in the field and even here it was narrow chances. We got lucky. Keep the entrance lit and covered by range weapons. These creatures attack telepathically. Alert the elf camp too.”
Along the way back to the temple of Halor, Rilka thanks the Abbot again. “We will soon return to the East, but I would like to meet again with you tomorrow. I wish to make a donation to the Temple in recognition of all that has been done.”
“That would be appreciated. I will see you then. May Halor’s light illuminate you all and bring you healing.”
“And may your heart be filled with Bruni’s courage and valor.”
Rilka heads back to the University to talk with Surm about their plans for the morning. Now that it’s just the two of them, she’s clearly unhappy about not getting to see Kortash until tomorrow morning.
They discuss the donation to Halor and the need to purchase more teleport scrolls.
Surm will asks professor Dallen if she has any use for the remains of Intellect Devourers? If yes, does she have a means of preserving them for transport. If so, then then will attempt to collect a body for her, intact if possible.
Professor Dallen says, “We could use a specimen in the department, if possible. However, I do not wish you put any of your team in undue danger to secure one. But, an intact specimen would be quite useful for research in a variety of fields.” She will check with the Department of Magical Artifacts to see if they have something that will help with that and get back with them in the morning.
11 Transformation 509
Rilka gets up very early in the morning and quietly leaves for the infirmary, leaving a note for Surm.
One of the Healers with the Department of Medicine lets Rilka into the infirmary. Both of the half-orcs are awake and having a light breakfast. They are lying in beds but seem to be okay. They smile as she comes in and Kortash and says, “Hey.”
Meanwhile, Surm is approached by Professor Dallen. She hands him a golden rod, etched with arcane runes, with a clear crystal at its tip. “The Department of Magical Artifacts gave me this. They are sometimes used by the Department of Natural Philosophy to collect specimens.”
She gives him the command word for the rod. “It has a range of about 40 feet. It will place the specimen in temporal stasis AND place it within a telekinetic sphere for transport. The bearer of the rod will be able move the sphere with their mind. The specimen will be preserved until the effect is dispelled by our people here at the University.”
“The rod can only be used once. They are very expensive and difficult to fashion, so please be careful with it.”
“Is this to be used on a live specimen?” Surm asks.
“Not necessarily. In fact, a live specimen will probably be too dangerous to bring here. No, the stasis field will keep anything from happening to the dead specimen—deterioration, further damage, that sort of thing. The telekinetic sphere will make it easier to transport.”
Back in the infirmary, Rilka smiles at the brothers in return, then sits down carefully on the edge of Kortash’s bed. “Hey,” she replies, laying a light hand on his arm. “It’s good to see you.” Rilka looks at them both, “You had us worried.”
Burask smiles and points at his brother. “I blame him,” he says, smiling. Kortash makes a face at Burask in return.
“In all seriousness, the Healers described some of what happened to us, but neither of us remember much,” Kortash says. We were guarding the exit to that room, like you asked. Next thing either of remember is a searing headache and someone jumping us. I vaguely remember seeing tentacles, like on the squids we see at the docks of Aldasar. I thought I was dreaming—or having a nightmare. Anyway. Next we’re smothering and more pain. Then, we woke up in here." Kortash shrugs. “Guess we didn’t do a good job guarding.”
Burask says, “I keep telling him to stop beating himself up about it. We weren’t expecting trouble from behind, with you lot clearing it out. And how could we have anticipated THAT happening? We did the best we could, as always.”
Rilka meets Kortash’s gaze, “Guess we didn’t do a good job of clearing it out.” She half-smiles, but her eyes betray the stress and exhaustion of the last 24 hours.
To both brothers, she says “We kept fighting more of those brain creatures and trying to explore the site.” She briefly explains finding the hooded creatures and the duergar priestess. “After talking to the priestess about what she and her people had experienced, Savaric ran back to check on the two of you. He saw two of those abominations standing over you and killed them. None of our healings or restorations seemed to help, so Surm and I brought you to the University where the chiurgeons and the temple of Halor were able to revive you.”
“The plan is to take care of some business here in the city, then teleport back to the site later today.’” Rilka briefly takes Kortash’s hand in hers, then stands. “If either of you feel like walking around Kalimsport this morning, then you’re welcome to come Otherwise, we’ll all meet back at the University when it’s time to leave.”
Both brothers are up for getting up and walking around. They’re rested up and ready to leave.
Surm and Rilka head out to buy the needed scrolls and make a donation of 800 gold to the temple of Halor. While in the Temple District, Rilka checks in on the progress of her shrine. It is coming along…ground has been broke and things are progressing as they should. They head back to the University to pick up Kortash and Burask and teleport back to the campsite in the elven lands.