Nightfall in Brelindia

63 - The Iron Shrine

Face to face with the Black Gryphon at last.

The slayers take a set of stairs down to what appears to be a former mix of offices and barracks. The rooms are largely full of splinters and rags. One office is kept in repair, but they find no actual writings on the desk.

Looking under the desk, Baden spies a bit of shadow that writhes in an unnatural fashion before seeping through one of the cracks in the floor. They are unable to determine what it might have been, so they return to the hallways to explore further. As they move down one hall, a flickering light approaches them. It turns out to be a lantern, held by a man in servant’s clothes who seems to take their appearance in stride.

The aged, somewhat demented gentleman introduces himself as Kurdoch. He leads them to the kitchen, where they see a mix of dusty and spoiled provender along with fresh food laid out on a counter under a shining mirror. Kurdoch advises them to avoid the master’s meditation chamber, but is unclear on how best to reach the crypts. He ultimately recalls that the south staircase is likely a path downward. He also warns the group to avoid the master’s meditation chamber, though the fellow’s addled mind can’t produce more details.

The group leaves Kurdoch behind and explores further. They find an abandoned study or office, likely an officer’s quarters. The adjoining barracks still house soldiers, though the Black Gryphon’s men are reduced to nothing but animated and aggressive bones. The skeletons in the barracks draw attention long enough for other presences to find the disturbance. A thing of living shadow comes into the fray from one direction, and a wraith emerges from the stairs. Though this complicates the fight, and spreads around some injuries, the living score a decisive victory over the dead.

The slayers withdraw from the barracks and take the stairs down. They emerge in a dungeon level, mostly flooded. The water rises waist-high, and two passages drop slightly to north and south doors almost entirely submerged.

As Baden advances, he suddenly vanishes in a spray of water. Honora does the same shortly afterwards. Both fall through spring-loaded pit traps into small pits with mirrors at the bottom, and the mirrors transport them into small rusted cells through the north door. The water is up to their necks, making it difficult to free themselves, but not impossible. Abbron and Bralta hear the sound of their escape attempts, and soon the group is reunited.

They push past the dungeon into a similarly flooded torture chamber, rusted racks and other devices of torment emerging from the water. Their lights pick out a gallery up above, where a lord may have watched the proceedings from a respectable distance. With no stairs up to the gallery, it seems likely that the way onto the balcony is a possible room on the other side. As they maneuver a torture rack into position to act as a ramp up, though, the corpses of former victims rise from the water.

The waterlogged zombies aren’t a great threat individually, but they have the numbers to be dangerous. The melee gets more complicated, though, when a band of unliving shadows slithers into the fray. It all proves too much for Abbron, who releases a swath of lightning impressive even for him. Electricity plays across the flooded chamber, shredding the shadows and peeling the sodden flesh from the zombie’s bones. When the lightning storm dies down, mopping up is all that’s left.

They scale the torture rack up to the balcony. Behind the curtain stands a double door, adorned with reliefs of two armored, hooded figures. One holds a chain, the other a horn.

Passing through the doors leads to a large room dominated by two huge iron statues — four-armed, armored lords, one brandishing an axe, the other a great mace. In the center of the room stands a large blazing brazier, bolted to the floor in the middle of an unusual groove. And by the brazier, contemplating the fire, is a black-armored figure. He looks up at the slayers as they enter the room, regarding them without fear.

“Are you convinced yet that you’re overmatched?”

“Your housekeeper’s overmatched,” comments Abbron.

The vampire sighs. “I confess when my descendant woke me, I had thought there were no more like you in this age.” He shakes his head. “No matter. You’ll be sustenance.”

They move to strike instantly. The Black Gryphon is ready for them, though, and blocks several of their initial attacks, while enduring the wounds from the others. The group is careful to avoid the space below the statues, dreading any sudden animation. As they move around the brazier, the floor shifts slightly — the brazier appears to be bolted to a divot set in a form-fitting hollow in the floor, able to be tipped but likely self-righting.

The Black Gryphon draws a breath and roars. Darkness pours out of his mouth, with a sound like an angry dragon deep underground. The clinging dark leeches warmth and vitality from the group. The vampire then gestures, and several shadows around the room take on life of their own.

But the shades are frail and quickly eliminated. They pull the Gryphon further into the fray, the radiance pouring from Baden doing something to alleviate the effects of the hungry dark. As fast and strong as the vampire is, he has difficulty keeping up with two whirling axes and a constant stream of thunderbolts. He staggers — and then the shadows around him explode.

The shadows hurl the slayers into a corner of the room. As they recover, the Gryphon kicks the brazier. The divot slides, tipping it in their direction and spilling fire and coals across them before it resets into its original level. The vampire then follows this with another shadowy roar, sapping even more vitality from the group.

Baden connects with one of his invocations, wounding the Black Gryphon and teleporting him into the middle of the burning brazier. The vampire snarls, but manages to extricate himself. He fights against the slayers until they finally beat him down. He chokes, and then dissolves into a swirl of mist. The cloud of mist then directs itself through the cracks around the northernmost door from the shrine.

Baden lunges forward in pursuit. He throws the door open, races up the stairs beyond, and chases the mist down a long corridor stretching to the right. Unfortunately, he doesn’t notice the trap door until he’s already tumbling through it. He falls down a long stone slide that ends once more in the flooded cells.

The others manage to reach Baden and reunite him. Well spent, they decide to retreat to the hidden treasury to rest. It takes careful going, but they retrace their steps and reach the haven without being further attacked.

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