Age of Worms: The Return

The Three Faces of Evil

A delve into an abandoned mine reveals a lifelong enemy

The heroes return to Diamond Lake laden with treasure and questions from the Whispering Cairn. Inquiries about the glyphs and sigils upon the diadem invariably lead to the single authority on matters arcane in the village, a wizard named Allustan (Doran Stout’s mentor). Allustan must consult his library to decipher the coded runes, a process that will take several days.

Following-up on the story of the vile necromancer Filge leads to the Dourstone Mine, where a secret underground chamber now hosts a covert cell of the Ebon Triad, a wicked cult dedicated to merging Asmodeus, Canarak and Naran into a supremely powerful overgod who will rule over an era of great strife—the so-called Age of Worms.

The arcane lore of the Ebon Triad speaks of a malign entity named Kyuss who emerged in the desolate Rift Canyon centuries ago. An undead colossus, Kyuss towered over the armies of local warlords, his rotting body festering with undulating green worms. The monstrosity created a horde of undead in his own image—the spawn of Kyuss—and set them upon the populace. Sages and holy men for thousands of miles spoke in hushed tones of prophecies fulfilled and the imminent dawn of the Age of Worms. Many began to lose hope. Alas, ancient heroes eventually brought Kyuss low within his cliffside lair in the Wormcrawl Fissure, and the myth of Kyuss faded from all but the most esoteric histories. But the tale forms a major part of the dogma of the Ebon Triad, who seek the advent of the Age of Worms as a precursor to the blasphemous birth of their debased overgod.

Recently, agents of the Ebon Triad discovered signs of unusual undead lurking in the Diamond Lake region, perhaps associated with the local burial cairns in the nearby hills. Rumors spoke of humanoid creatures infested with wriggling green worms—a description that perfectly matches that of the spawn of Kyuss. To investigate these rumors, the Ebon Triad established a cell in an abandoned upper level of a still-active mine near the village of Diamond Lake.

Descending into the Dourstone Mine, the heroes discover that the mine has been split into three distinct sections, one each for the worshipers of Asmodeus, Canarak, and Naran. In the chambers of the leader of the cult of Asmodeus, the heroes discover a series of messages, the most important of which is as follows:

“The secrets of this page are most holy. Know ye heretics who invade them that the eye of Asmodeus is upon you. If you read this, Theldrick, you have either slain me and doomed our cause, or the time is nigh for our final victory. At last the riddle of this place is solved. In ages past, a great being known as Kyuss rose above the petty warlords who fought and struggled for material gain. Mighty Kyuss is the herald of the Overgod. Soon, he will sound the clarion call to the faithful. The three sundered faiths shall be made whole. The undead our agents spotted must be located and captured. If they bear the worms of Kyuss then they perhaps hold the final answer to our research. The Ebon Aspect stirs within the pool, but it is still not ready to emerge. Perhaps a traumatic event – an invasion by heretics, a great battle fought within these halls – could awaken it. But even then it will attain only a minor form. The Way of the Ebon Triad speaks of the danger of awakening the aspect too soon. Our work will be for naught. We must find the worms and the undead hosts that carry them. If they are not here, then we must send agents to the Rift. If Kyuss himself, or his agents, cannot shepherd in the Age of Worms, then we shall do it ourselves so that the Overgod may live. Our course is clear, my dear Theldrick. Smenk is longer useful to us and must die. Kill him, then send agents to the Mistmarsh, across the southern hills. I believe that we will find what we are looking for there, among the lizardfolk. Summon more of your warriors. If the calculations and portents are correct, the time for covert action is at an end. As the Age of Worms begins, we must strike hard and fast to prepare the coming of the Overgod. Of course, dear Theldrick, if you were so rash as to slay my followers and I, then you, soon, shall join me in the afterlife. Doubtless your treachery has already stirred the Overgod. Our mission has failed, and you will die at his hands.”

After defeating the Faceless One and battling the Canarak-worshiping Grallak Kur, the heroes discover that the leader of the Naranite cultists is a cultured man named Theldrick. The heroes strip Theldrick of his weapons (but not his ceremonial armor) and send the cleric back out of the mine, warning him never to return to Diamond Lake. Among Theldrick’s possession are two journal entries of great interest.

However, sending Theldrick away was not the last of the troubles in the Dourstone Mine. A massive creature, alluded to in the Faceless One’s message as the Ebon Aspect, awakens from its slumber and attacks the heroes. Once they defeat the profane creature, the heroes emerge from the mines to discover that Theldrick paid Diamond Lake a visit while they were battling the Ebon Aspect. Balabar Smenk has been murdered messily, leaving his operation leaderless and freeing Zerric Splintershield from his indentured servitude. Additionally, among the items in Smenk’s possession was a piece of the Sentinel’s Raiment, the ancestral armor and weapons of the Splintershield Clan. Zerric reclaims another piece of his heritage, and the heroes have a few clues as to how to proceed—including to an allusion to the lizardfolk of the Mistmarsh.

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Moridin

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