Day 2 of our expedition into the Mandoran stronghold. Kinship with my companions growing each day I adventure with them. Something about this Prime world of Aeon magnifies my emotions a thousandfold. Likely its the distance from the Shadowfell. Missing the cold shadows of Gloomhaven less and less, and finding that I trust my companions more and more. Keep it in check. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something about it is bothering me.
I wonder if Dahlia ever came this way…
Gorgeroth has been invaluable here. The tiefling sage has a connection with Mandor, and his knowledge has proven itself time and time again. The half-demon can actually handle himself in a fight too. Ozzy has been extremely helpful as well, considering all of the encounters with these “Other” beings we’ve had. He almost always has very detailed intel on their abilities.
Whatever befell this stronghold has wrought the most disturbing kind of chaos. It has manifested itself physical and magical ways.
. . .
We have come across several points inside the stronghold where the Prime Material Plane shares a weakened border with the Elemental Chaos and the Astral. We had two encounters so far with the Elemental Chaos… yesterday with the Storm Shard, and again today with a septet of Dust Devils.
Sketch of a Dust Devil
The intersections with the Astral seem more common. We encountered six Fel Taints, a pair of Grell, and a room that was somehow transformed into a giant digestive organ that’s only desire was to devour us. Possible the last was simply transmutation of the walls into living flesh.
Sketch of a Fel Taint
In addition to these weakened planar borders, magical chaos has manifested itself as wild magic zones, and what our Invoker, Zyra, continues to describe as latent magical energies that infuse everything.
The floor and walls are not always stone, wood, or iron. In some places it has undergone some kind of transmutation into diamond hard substances, and other areas it is as brittle and flimsy as chalk. Even the skeletal remains of the inhabitants (Mandoran garrison?) have been mutated in odd ways. Some extremeties have grown elongated and disfigured, and some of their bones have been transmutated in the same ways as the stronghold’s structure: a complete change of their physical properties into alien materials.
. . .
What has caused all of this? The best conclusion we have come to so far is that some extremely explosive/energetic catastrophe occurred in this place. Hundreds of containment cylinders discovered within almost all of the chambers seem to contain demons of various ranks (Glabrezu, Burrowing Angelfish Demons, etc.). From what we’ve seen of the destroyed cylinders is that the insides were lined with some kind of protective devices: runes, magic… something. They were apparently designed to keep the demons imprisoned or contained. Aside from the live demons we encountered yesterday when we were topside, so far all the rest have been found deceased.
What these cylinders do is still a mystery, but we think they might either:
1) syphon demonic energies from the imprisoned demons to fuel some spherical device in the center of the stronghold
2) the spherical device was the method of the demons’ containment, and this was some kind of staging area for armies of war
Either way, there was conduit leading from all of these hundreds of cylinders to the spherical object. More specifically, to a kind of rod/coil device above the sphere, which might be some kind of energy transformer (who knows? even Gorgeroth is stumped). The sphere seems to be at ground zero of all of these physical and magical disturbances however. A giant crack suggests something went wrong and when it failed, some catastrophic release of energy obliterated this place.
Honestly, I’m not sure if we would have found the access panel to the sphere chamber were it not for an oddly coincidental encounter with a Beholder-Kin (a Gauth?) and his goblinoid mercenaries. It wasn’t an Eye Tyrant, thankfully, but its four eyestalks still presented us with a serious challenge. Its mercenaries consisted of a pair of Barghests and a goblin champion. We managed to capture the goblin after the Beholder and Barghests were defeated, and it gave up a good deal of information about their expedition.
Sketch of Barghests, one in wolf-form
The best we can tell, the Beholder and his mercs were doing the same thing we were, hunting for spoils from this Mandoren stronghold. How did they come about the information about this place? That we’ll likely never know. In another failing moment of trust we released the goblin’s bonds and returned its weapon in the hopes it would help us in the battle with the grells. It fled, rather than turning on us thankfully. A lesson you’d think we would have learned with the green dragon under Cloverdale.
Sketch of Beholder-Kin (Gauth: Bottom Right)
I think its time for a nap. Grimlock is on watch now, so managing to fall asleep will be easy under his protection. With only one way in or out of this chamber, we think we should be secure enough to rest here for a while.
One parting thought… the grells I mentioned were actually inside the sphere, which really messed with my head when I took a look inside. Though there were only two of them, the grells were very tough adversaries. Ahh well. We’ll finish our exploration of the last wing in this stronghold after we’re back to full strength.
Sketch of a Grell