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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 32: Farming Cultists for Fun and Profit

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Weird fact: this is actually how the Wicked Witch of the West bathes . . .
When Smuckers attacks!

Welcome Back. When we last left off, the Cupcakes had just found a massive underground Ziggurat buried deep underground, in an equally sized cavern. A cavern of such size that it had it's own weather, they realized as they noted the clouds at the top that were currently threatening rain. Thor had happened to notice something else as he gazed at those clouds; a long thin shape, like that of a snake, twisting and flitting through them. He'd passed this information along to the group who unanimously voted to leave said flying snake be.

The group had then flown to the temple at the top of the Ziggurat, finding what one usually finds when they discover a cultist temple: chanting, and rivers of blood. For a cultist, those things go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Having the highest stealth score by far (which wasn't hard, considering that Thor being constitutionally opposed to such behavior, and Steve, he who clanks when he walks) Frank was elected to explore inside the temple. He found a large open room filled with rows of pillars. In the center he found a straight stairwell that headed downward for twenty five feet.

Once he'd cleared that floor, he motioned the others inside, then headed down the stair. At the bottom he found a circular room. The floor had a circle carved into it filling all but the last five feet to the curved walls, a carving of a Couatl filling the center of the circle. The ceiling had another circle mirroring the first, minus the Couatl.

Standing around the perimeter of the circle were seven cultists, each wearing red robes, and a white mask. Each had a staff that they picked up and slammed down on the ground in unison. In the middle was a far more ornately adorned figure, with a staff that appeared to have been made of fists stacked on top of one another. As he raised his staff, the cultists around the perimeter would slam theirs down. As he slammed his into the ground, they would raise theirs.

They chanted in unison, in a language beyond Frank's comprehension. A mystical, and twisted sounding incantation. So involved with it were they that they had either not noticed Frank's stealthy approach, or were too consumed with their work to pay him any attention.

Frank retreated back up the stairs and explained what he'd seen. Thor, with his Helm of Comprehend Languages, was able to expand upon this with translations. Based on what they'd heard, and Frank had seen, it seemed as if the devotees were attempting to keep something from entering this plane. Considering the blood, and the leader's staff, the group quickly decided that anything they were trying to keep out, was probably something the group should let in.

Frank then told them to prepare for his signal and disappeared back down the stair, amidst hissed demands for more specificity with regards to his signal.

Once at the bottom, he took aim, not at any cultists, but at the leader's staff . . . and rolled a nat 20.

{Player's Note: While according to the rules, objects cannot be crit, not five minutes before, the DM had expounded upon how stupid he felt that rule was. 'An object can still have flaws, weaknesses in design or structure. Why can't a crit just find one of these areas?' he'd asked. He'd even gone so far as to say that, for his campaigns, items could be crit. A point we quickly reminded him of . . .}

The critical hit tore right through the staff, severing it into two oversized wands. Frank immediately turned and walked back up the stairs, making it almost to where Steve had set to block any pursuit. Thor then advanced down past Steve, and readied to hit the first person to take the bait.

Which turned out to be the leader; he dropped his half-staff and charged after Frank, right into Thor's hammer. The blow was of such force that it knocked his mask clean off his face, revealing the Black Skeleton the group had let slip through their fingers twice before. He recognized them in the same instant, yelling "Why can't you leave me alone?" A question that was answered by more gunshots and a critical hammer blow from Thor.

As the skeleton crumbled into dust, the bag they'd been given by the lich in the graveyard began squirming. Thor opened it, pointing its aperture towards the crumbling skeleton. The dust was then vacuumed up. Every last bit.

{Player's Note: We're pretty sure the bag said Hoover on the side.}

When no other pursuit materialized, the three men charged back down into the ritual area. Hazel stayed above to keep watch, ensuring that their ambush did not become the enemy's ambush.

The six cultists were still right where Frank had left them. The only difference: their chanting had increased in tempo. The group set about dismantling this ritual, one devotee at a time. As each was attacked it would do its best to defend itself. As each besieged cultist fell out of concert with the others, the remaining cultists would increase their tempo further.

Once they were down to three cultists, the remainders abandoned their ritual, diving to the sides of the room. A moment later, a portal opened in both circles. The body of a massive couatl streamed through from the ceiling into the base circle, pulling all but one cultist with it.

Above, Hazel witnessed the same thing, as a pair of circles they'd missed in the dim light opened next to her.

Eventually a tail appeared and disappeared the same way the body had gone, and the portals all closed. Steve immediately moved to restrain the remaining cultist, tying her hands and legs with a rope. He removed her mask, revealing the face of one of the nobles of the city. A face Frank immediately pointed his pistol at.

Before he could pull the trigger, the rest of the group objected, albeit for different reasons. Steve objected on principle. The moment they'd tied her up she became under their care, and he was somewhat adverse to executing captives. Thor very much wanted to interrogate her before any summary execution.

Neither was interested in hearing Frank's counter-protests that the rich always find a way to weasel out of the consequences of their actions. Any further arguments were preempted as the entire ziggurat began to shake. The cultist fainted as they began hearing screams coming from below.

They ran outside to see that the ziggurat was sinking into the ground. Cultists were streaming from the lower levels out of the ziggurat and down the tunnel the Cupcakes had used to get here. The light in the clouds (as well as the thing that had been flying around in them) were also gone.

The group was just considering making like a cultist and fleeing when the flow down the tunnel suddenly reversed. Even more panicked cultists began fleeing back into the cavern, pursued closely by a bloated ooze. The one the group had left in the pit at the other end of the tunnel.

As they watched, it split into two. One stayed near the exit, while the other began working its way through the crowd of panicked acolytes.

One cultist, just emerging from two stories below the Cupcakes, took one look at the situation and yelled "To the portal!" before diving back inside. Once again, the tide of cultists reversed, as they began streaming up the sinking Ziggurat towards the required level.

Thinking this course a possible escape for more than just cultists, Thor flew down to intercept one, demanding where this portal went. The cultist attempted to reply, before melting into a puddle of goo. Seeing this as a win/win, Thor then stationed himself in the path of the flood, demanding to know where the portal went. Any cultist who tried to tell him melted before their very eyes.

He tried to change how he asked the question, but the only thing he was able to learn was that it would not be a good place for non-cultists. Every time he grabbed a cultist others would stream by him, right up until the moment when that level had sunk below ground.

Thor flew up to the top of the ziggurat again, as the oozes (up to three in number now) finished off the remaining cultist. As the top level approached the ground, and a particularly grisly death, the group again paired off into flier and rider, taking to the sky.

The oozes then recombined into one massive ooze. Thor and Frank peppered it with ranged attacks until it succumbed.

{Player's Note: This, much to the chagrin of the DM; the xp we garnered from letting our ooze become a badass goliath was, well, just shy of going from level 8 to 9. Though he did give it DR 10, which sucked up way more of Frank's ammo than expected.}

The group then made their way back to the surface, and into the lich's graveyard without incident.

They'd been told by Grave Keeper to return the remains of the escaped necromancer to him, and that, as a reward, he may just help them with their other problems.

Once they arrived at the lich's residence Frank stopped, taking up a position to stand watch. While he understood the necessity of dealing with it, Liches were all evil in his book; an entirely racist attitude, really. But he would not interact with it.

The others stepped up to the large mansion, hesitantly using the door knocker. A large creature opened the door, admitting them. Once they'd explained their purpose, it told them to follow the carpet it indicated. It also warned them not to deviate from the path on pain of undescribed unpleasantness.

The carpet snaked through hallways of various dimension, down stairs, up stairs, until the group was good and lost. Despite their discombobulation, they were not tempted in the slightest to leave the path. Eventually the carpet led to a massive door.

On the other side was a massive throne, supporting a cloaked figure. The group presented the bag-o-naughty-necromancer to him, and asked for help with the undead amalgamation they'd allowed to escape. After describing it, the lich stated that it reminded him of something he'd created some time ago.

A book then flew from the shelves surrounding the room into the lich's grasp. Pages turned, seemingly of their own accord until reaching the one the lich was looking for. It then tore the page from the book, handing it to Hazel. Once she'd taken it, the massive throne rotated away from the party. Taking that not so subtle cue, the group retraced their steps through the mansion and back outside.

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