Northeastern Crescent Forest; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 2
Qhorin, eager to win favor with the templar Siyaad, decides to return to Nibenay posthaste in order to prepare for the caravan trip that he will join under her direction. The rest of the team, though, has no desire to head back to the riot-torn metropolis. They decide to spend the night in the forest once more. Qhorin decides that he will leave the next morning.
With Aygval bound, the group thinks that they will have an uneventful night, but in the early evening, Namliia hears a strange chiming sound. Unaware of what she is doing, she stands up and starts to leave the encampment, following the sound. Dhar Graeven, though, does not sleep, and he spots her wandering off. He follows the elf and quickly realizes that she is under the influence of some mental power. Dhar Graeven calls out and awakens the rest of the group, and Qhorin explains that it is probably a belgoi: a dangerous, vicious humanoid that uses a metal bell as a focus to hypnotize people and dominate them into following its telepathic commands. Namliia was almost certainly walking to her doom.
After some quick debate, the group assembles and moves their encampment to the south — but they leave Aygvar behind, as prey for the belgoi. A short time later they hear an anguished shriek that is cut off suddenly, and they hope that Aygvar’s death, if Dregoth becomes aware of it, will simply be chalked up to the belgoi.
The group sleeps a bit uneasily, and they rise with the sun the next morning.
Deciding to strike out across the forests near Nibenay and head toward Salt View without risking a return to the city, the group passes through a large clearing in the northeasterly part of the Crescent Forest. The clearing doesn’t show signs of recent defiling magic, but rather a mile-wide patch of low brush and tall grasses. Some examination shows signs that this was once an ancient battlefield.
Dhar recalls an old Nibenese tale of a battle that took place in the Crescent Forest over an ancient ruin discovered by a minor templar of Nibenay. Headhunters from Gulg attacked the excavators, the templars called in troops to protect them, the templars of the Oba became convinced that the ruins must hold some powerful artifact, and the situation escalated into a massive military conflict. Some examination of the site by Dhar seems to confirm the tale, as the group finds shards and fragments of old weapons and even the occasional bit of humanoid bone.
The team discovers a heavy stone portal affixed in the ground and covered by a thin layer of dirt and weedy plants. Though the portal has carvings of various serpent figures on it, there is no obvious way to open it. Across the field to the southwest, the group notes a standing stone, perhaps four feet high; this stone also has commemorative markings. Buried near the stone, they find a long knife that appears to be made from a single large serpent’s fang.
With some puzzlement, the group eventually decides that the ruins must have some kind of serpent cult associated with them, but they cannot figure out how to enter. Tikka, in a moment of crazed inspiration, jabs the palm of her hand with the serpent fang, and soon experiences strange visual hallucinations and fevers — serpent venom, perhaps, except that a fang that has lain buried for centuries should be empty by now. The strange serpent glyphs on the large stone appear to move and waver, and she presses her palm against them, which causes her blood to flow down the stone etchings and into a tiny aperture. A heavy grinding sound is heard, and the smaller stone marker on the far side of the field falls over.
Excited by the prospect of exploring a lost ruin and perhaps discovering knowledge about a strange cult in the ancient world, the group heads down a sloped ramp and into a complex beneath the ground. The ramp leads to a circular chamber with an empty agafari wood desk and chair, and a small closet, in which Dhar finds a key. The circular room has two exits, one slightly to the left and one slightly to the right, and the group heads to the right. The key unlocks a doorway, and the team notices that the passages in this complex seem devoid of dust or debris.
Down the hallway, the group discovers a triangular chamber that has two more exits, at the points of the triangle away from the point where the hallway enters, and each of these exits has a stairway that goes down. Also in the room is some kind of red glowing serpent of huge size …