The God in the Dark: Part One
The PCs awaken on a smoldering battlefield, their heads aching, bloody wounds covering their bodies. They groan and pull themselves to their feet, then take stock of the mess.
It was Picts, dozens of them...but this far East? How did they get through the Aquilonian frontier without being beaten back, or at least detected? And when did the Picts get so organized?
Regardless, it happened right here on the Road of Kings itself, barely a day over the Aquilonian border. They took all of the treasure, nearly the entire caravan sent by King Milo of Argos as a tribute for King Conan II of Aquilonia. They took all the horses. Many of the men are dead. And Merhotep's apprentice is missing, also taken as a treasure by the Picts.
As the group works to nurse the few remaining guards who are still alive, the sound of hoof beats reaches their ears, and five cavalry bearing the standard of Poitain, the southern county of Aquilonia and King Conan's greatest supporter, ride into view. These men, members of the personal guard of Count Trocero, have gotten word of a battle on the Road of Kings and come to investigate. The group explain the situation and display several crude weapons laying around as evidence of a Pictish attack. One of the horsemen rides back to town with speed to gather supplies, litters and medics for those still living. Two of the remaining four horsemen accompany the PCs to Trocero's keep, while the last two remain to guard the wounded.
At the Keep, Count Trocero himself takes council with the PCs. He provides them food, rest, and medical care while listening to their tale. The 60-something nobleman cuts an impressive figure: tall and powerfully built, looking even at his age as though he could still swing a sword with authority. He has gotten word from Milo's runners about the treasure for Conan and is convinced that such an alliance with Argos would strengthen the young king's position. So he provides supplies and horses for the PCs to go after the treasure, and sends one of his best bordermen to aid Decimus in tracking.
With the help of Trocero's man Lucius and Merhotep's hounds, Decimus has little trouble by the second day picking up the Pictish trail, even in the rocky mountains. By the end of day two, the heroes are convinced they are gaining on the Picts, but their quarry has at least a full day's head start on them. That night, as the party sleeps, Decimus (on watch) spots a party of Picts sneaking into camp and sounds the alarm. The battle is joined and over within minutes, the Picts handily defeated by the party. Merhotep proceeds to perform a ritual sacrifice upon the one surviving Pict--an act no one moves to stop.
On day three in the late hours of the afternoon, the party comes to a bowl in the mountains, deep and vast. Sitting in the bowl are the ruins of an ancient domed city, built of some kind of green stone. Valder and Merhotep recognize the structure as being of ancient Lemurian construction, but Valder wonders that the Lemurians ever got this far West. Certainly no city of this kind has ever been found this far from the ruins of Lemuria.
Scouting around, the group discovers roads leading into the bowl at each of the four compass points--all but the Eastern road (the one that the group originally followed) are guarded by sentries overlooking the bowl. The group surmises that the sentries for the east road were the hunting party they fought last night.
Carefully, the group picks their way through the treacherous rocks down to the edge of the bowl, avoiding the open road so as not to be seen. As they draw nearer, Merhotep and Valder spot more ruins around the green stone city, these ruins of purple stone built around the green. They surmise that the ancient empire of Acheron must have once built up a structure around the green city, and they warn their companions that it is likely a demon god of some sort rests or resides inside the domed structure.
When they reach the bowl, Merhotep steps forward and in a serpentine language whispers a dark incantation. Tendrils of shadowy black mist-ooze pour forth from his hand and snake their way up the sides of the mountain, where they envelop one of the sentries and he begins to scream and writhe in agony. This "demonic" attack draws the attention of the rest of the sentries briefly, and the characters, one by one, make their way across the bowl to the entrance of the green stone city.
As they enter...we fade to black until next time.