The uneventful voyage from Warwick to the misted coastline of Griffin Island’s Thracian Bay required two weeks. The group took the time getting to know one another and the layout of the ship.
The protagonists today are mission leader and Wizard, Andres Zaris; Adam the Bard; Xanlannan the Rogue; the mysterious Barbara the Barbarian; Eldwin Aladar an Elven Ranger; the Fighter, Harkness the Menacing; Cad the Cleric of Orhan; and Bamard the Beardless Dwarf Fighter. A few other “adventuring types” stayed onboard with Captain B.T. If not, they went ashore to oversee the reconstruction of the wooden base.
The eight heroes made their way to the ruins first light. Apparent in the rainforest were the multitudes of interesting flora and fauna. Following Milo’s map (yeah, he stayed back…) and about halfway to the ruins, they came to an ancient Thracian bridge spanning the sixty foot wide river and appearing quite solid. On the Western side, they see mounds of sickly white feces. The field of dung appears to be a demarcation between the Western forest and the road to Thracia. Eldwin finds numerous giant ape tracks near the piles as well. Not wanting to dither, they cross the bridge and march on to the ruins.
A couple of miles past the bridge they find the lost city nestled between a large swamp and two sheer cliffs. The sedimentary cliffs soar almost 1000 feet above, shading the city until midday. A magnificent torrent of water bursts from the cliff about 300 feet up between the cliff faces. This feeds a beautiful waterfall down to the river and through middle of the ruins. There are narrow treacherous stairs winding to the top of each sheer cliff face. Thracia appears the typical “classic ancient ruin,” with fluted, toppled columns and ornate marble buildings carved with bas-relief images of Greek mythos gods and warriors. The roofs of the buildings are flat or triangular. Many buildings no longer stand and there is little left of them save stone foundations overgrown with thick bushes and clinging vines. Trees are beginning to grow in many places as well, as the rainforest slowly reclaims Thracia.
Eldwin’s pure blood elf ancestry provides the party a tactical advantage visually in the misted afternoon air. A large villa to the south billows smoke. Seen leaving it are men painted as white skeletons... “Deathwalkers…” Andres mutters. They decide not to investigate the villa choosing to cross the nearest bridge to the other side.
Xan takes the lead, sneaking from one ruin to the next. First, a prison-type structure that reeks of the freshly dead. Then a burnt-up warehouse with blackened doorways piled with skeletons. They also spot a nearby arena/amphitheater slopping into the earth some one hundred feet. As a group, they decide to search the warehouse: a place with potential to be a safe house. Cad detects two undead swaying near the top of the stairs. Xan climbs an exterior wall to the second floor and decapitates what turns out to be a wight. The rest take out the other coming from the stairs below. There is no treasure to speak of, but the place does seem safe enough for a rest now that the undead are gone. It appears the bodies near the doorways may have been offerings to the wights. The party rests and takes in the city view from the second story.
They see a couple of long reflecting pools possibly populated by giant crocodiles; some fallen temples, one apparently patrolled by beast-like men; what appears to be a library, a gaping twenty foot diameter dark hole and many other interesting structures all across the city. They decide that the arena is close and might lead to the underground entrance Andres is so interested in finding.
Vines and other vegetation choke the arena. They find no underground entrances, but they do find two 50-foot assassin vines. Barbara epically takes out one of them instantly. The group finishes the other off in a few seconds. There are corpses near their lair and they discover a magical flame tongue short sword. The party decides Xan can make best use of it and he agrees.
Next, the band formulates a sneak attack against the patrolling beastmen. As they approach more closely, the elf sees beneath the foes a dark opening to the depths below. The party ambushes and finds a minotaur amidst them hiding down a twenty-foot wide flight of white marble stairs. The party slaughters the lot without much trouble. They lean two gnoll corpses against the ruin walls so, from a distance, as to appear still at guard.
After some eighty feet down into the blackness, by torchlight they see the stairs turn black with guano. Bats cover the buttressed ceiling and flutter about in the smoke and fresh torchlight. There are three possible ways for the party to take: left, straight, right. They follow the beastmen tracks to the right (which is east). The passage winds north and then west until Eldwin and Barbara trip into a double spear trap nailing them each. They quickly slay a pair of guard gnolls coming around the corner. Then then finish off the room of six gnolls a bit further down the hallway. They do not find much of anything good, so move on.
Eldwin spots a secret door. Xan manages to crack it open after some time. When open, they surprise a room with four lizardmen sleeping in makeshift cots. Piles of muck cover the floor especially each corner, the smell is awful, but does not prevent their quick deaths. The normal door across the room leads to a great hallway, the floor deep in guano and even more bats. Worse, across this open hallway, clusters of giant centipedes make straight for them. Not wanting to fight them standing in slippery dung with hundreds of bats above, they close the door. They are back in the lizardmen lair. They camp for the night taking turns for watch. While Cad slept, he dreamt of a time when Thracian was not in ruins. When the beastmen were slaves. When the real city of Thracia was actually in a great cavern beneath a magically lit sun.
Sneaking back through the secret door, they heard gnolls back in the room where they just slaughtered eight. This time is turns out to be five gnolls and a brutish minotaur comically wearing a man-sized Thracian breastplate. This gaggle did not last long. Finding the breastplate and a cheap ruby necklace on the minotaur, they continue past the secret door. The hallway turns west and slowly begins descending. After over 200 feet, the hallway turns south and then a granite staircase leads down further than anyone can see.
Down they go. After 60 feet down, the passage opens into a large cavern, the floor carpeted with rats. Light came from a lit temple of some Thracian god on the far east side of the cavern. There are gnolls and other beastmen creatures over there. Continuing in front of them is a passage to another room. Xan moves ahead leading the investigation. He finds the room has one door and hears gnolls chattering to themselves behind it. The floor is thick with garbage. Xan calls them over, be quiet, but be quick. The whole group manages their way across the open cavern to this room. Eldwin steps on a rat, but it is of no consequence; no one seems to notice. All in the room, they notice an area where the garbage sinks a bit lower than in the rest of the room. Xan locates a trapdoor beneath the garbage at this spot. After a quick trap check, they open it and, using Xan’s magical rope, lower the Ranger down the sloping chute.
About twenty feet down the forty-foot chute, Eldwin notices the walls covered in archaic and crude paintings. The paintings depict hunting hippopotamus in a river and the god Zeus directing the people to a hidden cave. Within the next ten feet down chute, frost clings to the walls. Near the bottom where the chute flattens into a hallway, the ice is almost two inches thick. Relaying status above, the group decides to take their chances in the chillsome hallway rather than face gnolls and possibly minotaurs from either side. They close the trap doors behind them.
All eight, ready and rested, gather in this frozen hallway, ready to take the next step.