The party loots the goblins they killed and distributes the wealth. Grog and Tsannis investigate the bottom of the pit. Grog recognizes the dead human as Talgen Hucrele. They also find among the vegetation numerous older dead bodies with crushing wounds and self inflicted scratches. They loot the bodies (aside from Talgen’s, from which Tsannis only takes a ring to return to Madame Hucrele) and climb back up.
Grog is more forthcoming about the previous party now that he has fought with the group. He speaks of how they were trying to find out why the goblins were not sending their shipments out that their contact was trading with them for cheap weaponry. Most of the rest of the story is the same. But now that the goblins are out of the way, he greatly desires to find his two lost companions, Phaerus and Sharwyn.
Meepo is insistent on going back to his tribe. After convincing Grog to wait a bit because going back and helping the kobolds may help them free Phaerus and Sharwyn, they start back for the kobold throne room. They get there and flourish Meepo and Kalcrix for the kobolds. Ygdrissil is pleased at the return and shows the party three “pretties” that they can claim as prize. There is an idol, a magical mace, and the key retrieved from above the throne. After some pleasing words and a promise to help each other if either is in need, she says that they may take two of the pretties. The PCs take the key and the mace.
The party then goes back to the dragon door. The key fits into the lock in the dragon’s mouth and the door opens wide. Behind the door they find a room with an altar and another door, this one surrounded by five dragons with one eye missing each. In the altar, the party finds five stones. Above the altar, there is a Draconic scrawl. Rolena translates it to mean they should say the word “open”. After attempting to place the gems in the different dragon eyes and having one of the dragons shoot fire at the group, Rolena says “open” in Draconic, and the dragons move and speak a riddle. The PCs solve the riddle, place the stones in the appropriate eyes (Rolena uses prestidigitation to place the eyes, just in case there is an incorrect placement), and the door opens wide.
There is another room behind the door which has dust on the floor, as well as eight smooth white rods. At the other side of the room is a carving of a man emerging from a stone wall, and the carving is covered in ice. The party pick up the rods and Rolena melts the ice with Burning Hands. The carving then moves and speaks. After explaining who they are, the party hears the stone man’s story.
The man, Kureich was a priest for a dragon god, placed in the stone in front of the dragon’s greatest treasures. The citadel was originally raised as Munhei, for the dragon Ashardalon. He guarded the treasures for years, comforted by his love in life, Suuna. She began to tell him of a priest rising quickly in the temple, Sithis. After some weeks, she related rumors of priests in the temple were acting very strange and irreverent. Then one day she brought tidings of evil. The man Sithis was truly a vampire in the service of the death god Nerull, and there was open battle in the temple between the two faiths. As she spoke, a group of Ashardalon clerics came into the room and urged Kursich to open the door and give them weapons they could arm themselves with, including the high cleric of the faith. He did so, and then the high priest took the dragon egg lying within and slaughtered the rest of the clerics with tooth and nail. He bit Suuna on the neck and left her to become a vampire. She closed the doors outside and begged Kursich to kill her. He did so. There was a great shock that ran through the temple and some rumblings everywhere, and then silence for some indeterminable amount of time, though it was enough for the bodies of his friends to rot to the dust and leg bones (the white rods – never officially stated, only partially implied) that were left when the party arrived.
After relating his story, Kursich would not be soothed. Nor would he allow talk of freeing him from the stone. He simply opened at the party’s request. Inside, the party finds numerous magic items, including a red potion, five blue potions, scrolls and armor, and they distribute them, then leave to return back to the pit, taking the key with them. Grog wants to go on then, but the party decides to rest first to recover strength. Then they descend into the pit and into a tunnel downward from which they hear rushing water.
Deciding stealth would be beneficial, Grog and Tsannis sneak ahead. They happen upon a room with a cart in it. Hanging on the ceiling are several tree blights. The blights hear them and drop down to attack. The rest of the party rushes in and they defeat the blights handily. Further down the tunnel the party hears sounds of pain. They look into the cart and find many dozens of the apples they encountered before. Quarrion and Grog pick up several to put in their bags.
Tsannis takes one and bites out of it. Tendrils then spring out of the apple and into her mouth, pulling her close. Quarrion grabs the apple and rips it out of her mouth, scarring the insides of her cheeks. The apple lands and then turns onto the tendrils, using them as legs to attempt to flee. Grog smashes it to pieces with his battleaxe. Black goo flies everywhere. Grog dives out of the way, but Tsannis is struck on the neck. She screams as it burns into her. Grog makes a cut at the neck to suck out the poison and Calderious does what he can to heal her, but a black ring remains even after the magical healing.
After they recover, the party continues down the tunnel and comes to a large opening. In the room they find a large tree with black leaves from which hangs the apples they saw before though not so ripe. Around the tree is a circle of rushing liquid, somewhat silvery in look. Three large roots of the tree implant by the stream. In front of the tree is a tall bald man and another humanoid covered in what looks to be bark. There is a woman with her leg stuck up to her thigh in the side of the tree, and it is from her that the sounds of pain are coming. Grog recognizes the bark covered man as Phaerus and the stuck woman as Sharwyn.
Upon sight of the party, the bald man greets them happily, saying how glad he is that they’ve finally arrived to replace him. He later identifies himself as Belak. Between his obvious delusion and Tsannis’ skill with lying, a.k.a. wonderful charisma and magnetism (seems a bit biased; who was writing this log?), they are able to wring his story out of him and convince him that in fact Keller did send them to replace him. He is confused why Keller didn’t give them more information, but believes them.
He apparently had been growing “the Great Mother” in service of Nerull for years, down in the grove. He tells the party that there was a vampire that staked himself to this spot with dragon blood thousands of years ago. His blood and the blood of the dragon infused in the soil and allowed the miracle of the Great Mother to bud. Belak heard the calling a few decades ago and came to comfort her and make her bloom. He speaks of a deal with Keller and repeatedly mentions his desire to “spread her seed”. His intentions were to wait for Keller to send his replacement and then “embrace the Mother” and go on to spread her seed.
During the conversation he takes Tsannis for the leader of the party and her companions to be her slaves and minions. Upon sight of the mark on her neck he praises her faith and asks why she didn’t “fully imbibe the seed”. She replies about how others (the goblins) wouldn’t let her fully reach out to the Great Mother, and pulled her back before she could embrace her. Tsannis and Grog leap across the stream to join Belak (feeling a great evil over them as they pass the stream) while the other PCs circle the tree investigating. Belak goes to make food for them before he embraces the Mother. While he is occupied, Tsannis looks at Sharwyn. She is unresponsive and looks to be in great pain, and her leg where it touches the tree is covered in bark and is extremely stiff to the touch. Grog looks at Phaerus and finds him completely unresponsive, not even breathing.
Belak brings back his candied mice and Grog keeps him occupied while Tsannis, Rolena, and Quarrion discuss what they should do in Elven.