Okay so spiders scream now, that’s cool. Luckily, Bingo speaks spider, apparently, and calls back to the it. We joke around about Bingo hooking up with a spider, which distracts us long enough for Bingo to get snatched by something and disappear. Then two (more?) giant spiders skitter silently down the walls towards us. Initiative! Right out the gate, Herm gets snared in some webbing and Crea dodges a similar fate. Issana hits the spider holding Herm with an arrow. Bingo wiggles around and breaks out of his spider’s grasp. Luckily, he casts FeatherFall and lands somewhat gracefully. Crea hates spiders quite a lot and would rather not deal with Krom The Web if she can help it, so she rages! And discovers that her axe now gets really shiny and does more damage than previous. That’s neat. Cael hits the spider with some lot of business that gives her extra attacks. That’s also neat. A spider-dude-person-looking-thing drops from the ceiling and tries to enter the fight by attacking Issana. Issana remains un-attacked, rapiering spider guy for his temerity. One of the spiders hits Crea and she lets out a Barbaric Yawp of rage, Frightening one of the spiders and the spider guy. She then swings her axe and damn near cleaves the one spider’s head in half. Sadly, this doesn’t kill it. Herm gets a good hit in on the spider guy as he tries to flee the fight. Issana arrows the remaining spider in of it’s too many eyeballs, killing it messily. As spider guy flees up the wall, Crea flings a javelin, hitting it for a bunch of shiny damage. Bingo and Herm attack as well, Bingo hits the dude and Herm sets the webbing along the wall on fire. The spider dude tries to book it away, but Issana does some arrow magic freakin’ move that finally kills it. As its dying, we hear it’s death wails. Above us, we see the fire webs incinerate an egg sack. Ugh. Gross.
Crea sacrifices a bit of one of the spiders to Krom The Web And All That She Weaves and also, y’know, Krom The Fluffy Puppy can wag his tail in our direction aaaaaaaaany time now.
Herm, during all this, has realized that he recognizes this place, particularly one corner which he proceeds to inspect. He warns us that arcane shit is about to go down and then….hits the wall with a stick. Crea calls bullshit. He tries again, then explains that magic is mysterious and hard to comprehend and moves on. Investigating the rest of the room, Talhier finds a chained up giant crocodile in an alcove. We discuss what to do, with Talhier in favor of ignoring it but the rest of us concerned about animal cruelty. We promise to come back and handle it once we deal with the rest of this situation.
Further down, we find another underground lake. Still water, a boat on the shore. On Issana’s suggestion, Crea and Issana chuck the spider guy’s carcass into the water to see what happens. Crea thinks everything’s cool, but Issana notices that the body is jerked a bit, then a bit more, then she shines a torch and sees a large school of small, slightly bioluminescent fish nibbling at the body. We pile into the boat. Crea shoves off and hops in. It’s super creepy quiet in this cave. All we hear is water noises—slapping against the boat, the splash of the oars. Until…we all hear a raspy, dry voice echoing off the cavern walls. Something is laughing. Something that is not particularly good at laughing.
Herm stands up on the boat, holds up his ring, casts an illusion of a snake coming out of the ring, and announces that he’s bringing forth the ornament of the snake goddess. As we drift into the center of the lake, we see an island sand bar with a black slab and some people around it. There’s a dude wearing armor off to the side, a bunch of peasants (15-20) with hands joined around the altar, a humanoid in the back with a snake head. They're holding a crossbow. Also, there’s an armored dwarf. In a shadowy bit, there’s a pile something that resolves itself into a giant snake with an elaborate headdress on a human head. This giant snake says to Herm, “Your offering pleassssssssessssss me. Bring it here.”
Herm recognizes PersonFace SnakeThing, and it is the source of all his terrors. He feels an overwhelming urge to worship. Crea says that now would be a good time for a fireball, which was maybe not a wise thing to say, but Crea’s gonna Crea. Herm tries to save the situation (“Yes! A fiery balloon in tribute to your greatness!”) Issana notes that the dwarf is Ayla’s husband, and the rest of the peasants are drugged. The torches are burning the hypnotic candle business and the peasants are acting drugged. The other armored guy and the other snake-person seem in control of their faculties.
PFST says, “In all the vassssst yearsssss, I’ve never been able to work out—perhapsssss you can help me—isssss it foolisssshhhh bravery or hubrissssss that bringssss you here? You are not the firsssssst, you likely won’t be the lassssst. But often enough, thessssse bugsssss, thessssse inssssectssss come to my door in sssssome comical attempt at a challenge. If I’m honessssst, I don’t even mind. Asssss you can ssssee, I have a great many children here who mussssssst eat.” And she draws her head back and lightening crackles across her mouth. Roll for initiative!
PFST shoots a line of lightening down the side of the boat, knocking out Teagan, Bingo, and Nila entirely. Herm tries sending a message with his illusion, telling armor dude that he comes with the true goddess and this imposter must be defeated. Armor Dude recognizes Herm and sasses him about it, so that went well. Herm ducks behind a stalagmite. The altar pulses and shoots electric current up over the peasants, who all collapse. Issana jumps out of the boat and misses an attempt to shoot at the snake goddess. The dwarf hucks a spear at Herm and it is unpleasant. The snake-faced guy comes after Talhier who manages to deflect a crossbow bolt to the midsection. Crea rages, and does some damage on the snake goddess, but probably not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Nila manages to make a death save and so is not dead. Issana gets some kind of whammy, but shakes it off only to realize that she had started to aim at Crea. Talhier gets a solid hit in.
Herm’s ring protects him against mental attacks! That’s great. Except now he’s got voices? In his head? And it’s Misha, who starts ranting in a language he doesn’t understand. Which is annoying, I’m sure. Herm flees towards Issana and the snake goddess.
The black altar pulses again, and five of the peasants stand up and move to crowd around the snake goddess to protect her. Issana takes a shot at the snake goddess and one of the peasants dives in the way to block the arrow. The snake-faced guy hops up, takes a shot, then hides again, less well than he hid before. Cael is hit, but Kolt grabs one of the dice on the party sheet to do a cool thing—so Herm calls out a warning that allows Cael to twist out of the way and take less damage. One of the minions sneaks up the snake goddess and heals some of her wounds. Luckily, Crea is there to reopen them. Having been healed by Nesse, Nila drops some healing on Bingo, lifting him off death’s doorstep. She also drops into a wild shape of a strangely naked bear.
Bingo pulls himself together and tries his hand at hitting the snake goddess as well. It works! He’s doing great for having been mostly dead for a few seconds there. He also plays a little snake-charmer song to inspire Talhier. Nesse heals Teagan, who calls her his hairy angel. Bingo falls asleep (it’s a spell, he’s not lazy), and Herm firmly but gently kicks him in the side to wake him up. This round, the black altar pulses again and this time the minions go feral and try attacking the party with their bare hands which, you know, happens. They try, bless their hearts. Issana does arrow things and then disengages to move around towards the snake goddess. Cael gets hit again, and she’s in a bad way. Crea moves around the snake goddess to flank her, but misses on her attack swing while she’s moving. Hits the fancy headdress and makes a mess of that, though. So there.
Nila The Nakee Bear goes in on the armored dwarf, who Issana has neglected to tell us is her friend. Bingo gets up again and goes after snake goddess again. Herm tries to learn something about the altar and seems to grok that the pulses are building towards some kind of dramatic climax. We’re pretty much all in on the giant snake at this point. There’s, like, peasants in the way and whatever. It looks like we’re getting somewhere are the snake goddess is bloodied and snarling. The healer dude moves in closer to her and lays on hands again, healing her a bit. Bastard.
Snakeface takes a shot at Cael, who sees him coming—and also notices that he’s wearing a pendant. She recognizes it! It looks like very fancy coffee cup stains! Their eyes meet! They have a moment! He recognizes her! Swelling music! Actually, he seems afraid! Because he drops his crossbow a bit after he fires! DRAMATIC MOMENT.
The minions…it’s a great effort. They are really trying hard, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on here. Tegan enters the fray, eyeing the priest. He’s new at good-guying, he’s not ready to face the big bad yet. Crea swings at the cleric, but misses so dramatically that she hits the snake goddess instead! Krom the Fortunate rains blessings upon the chosen. Nila flanks the snake goddess and gets to do more damage because flanking is a good idea. Now the snake goddess has to deal with a naked bear attacking her. She’s still up, but she’s wavering and clearly beginning to panic. Nesse heals Bingo a bit more. Teagan goes after the priest, but priest is armored. We’re still proud of Tegan, though, he’s come a long way. The snake goddess bites at Crea, who spent a lot of time chasing and being bitten by snakes back on the Green Sea, and so is immune to her particular business. Talhier facepalms a peasant out of the way, distracts the snake goddess with his shield and stabs under it up through the lower jaw and through the top of her skull.
A horrifying scream echoes off the walls as all the peasants collapse. The entire body of the snake goddess writhes and twists, spraying blood everywhere. She lands on the altar, then goes still. The black altar pulses again, even brighter. The cleric freaks the hell out. Issana yells that we should stabilize the dwarf and she’ll explain later. The priest throws his body, weeping, across the corpse of the snake goddess, casting healing spells wildly (they don’t do anything).
Snakeface starts to turn into an actual snake and dives down a bolthole in the back of the room. Crea throws the weeping cleric off the corpse of the snake goddess and chops her head off to sacrifice to Krom The Jealous Who Will Not Tolerate The Hubris Of Pretenders. Herm warns us to get away from the altar, Issana tries to interrogate the priest. Bingo tries to trick him into sharing these secrets with us (“there’s lots of snake cults out there! you can start your own!”) which actually works. The priest then does some magic business and the altar flares and then goes dim. After some quick discussion (Crea: “We didn’t kill Teagan and look how that turned out!”) Issana ties him and gags him just in time for Bingo’s friendship spell to wear off.
Turns out the snake goddess was napping on a giant pile of treasure that will be described in detail later. Herm studies the altar and discovers that it’s covered in a loooooot of dried blood. Best guess, it looks like something to do with mental control, amplifying mental control, etc. The headdress seems fancy, but not necessarily magical. We wake the peasants, get them into the boat, and ferry everyone back to the other side of the lake. Aelric the Dwarf is stable but unconscious. We again argue over what to do with the crocodile thing. Crea’s in favor of putting it out his misery, Bingo assures everyone that we aren’t going to feed peasants to the crocodile (Issana: “What the fuck, Bingo? No one suggested that.”).
Treasure includes a bearded axe, which is disappointingly not an axe with an actual beard, but Crea is making heart-eyes at it anyway. Bingo finds a book near the altar and starts reading it…and the cave fades away into the scene he is reading. Issana suggests he reads about Orlane and transport us back to town. Crea thinks reading is stupid. Bingo starts saying “We put the townsfolk in the boat and row across…” and we see that happen just as we did it “…and then several days later we pulled into Orlane…” and a bubble pops and we are standing at the edge of town.
It’s twilight, and as we are standing around confused and amazed…we see someone come out the door of the Slumbering Serpent. The person screams with joy and people start streaming out of the inn and local houses and swarm the villagers we’ve saved. It seems as if four days have passed since we left the swamp. The alderman is hugging people, it’s all very happy. We hand the priest over for justice. Some people are reunited with lost loved ones (Ailla gets her husband back), but some have their worst fears confirmed. Belba the innkeeper gives great hugs! And tells Bingo that Petunia left town, leaving behind a letter for him.
Housekeeping notes: Treasure will be described and doled out by James before next week. We’ll do one or possibly a couple wrap-up sessions as we describe what our characters get up to over the next few presumably peaceful months. If you took some sort of luck-related feat or spell or whatnot, you will need to explain and justify your luck at work each time you use it, not just say, “Bah! But I am lucky so I reroll!”