Summary: After defeating the Wraith Dragon in Lash Embarer, the party, now covered in the aura of the dead, travels along the River Styx led by the Oarsman. Soon they come to the Valley of the Crypt Things where they are greeted by four Wight Kings, a mist hag, and the Retreiver Holocaust, a primordial weapon of ultimate assassination.
After defeating these foes, the party enters and successfully navigates the first two challenges of the Valley where Orcus’s most loyal subjects are tested before they meet the Prince of Undeath.
The chaos left behind you in the city square of Lash Embarer gives you easy passage to the docks at the River Styx. A boat awaits you, ragged and rotted. Frayed black ropes tie the boat to the chocks. A humanoid figure stands at the stern of the boat, when it turns to you, you see strips of flesh hanging from a blackened skull. Eye-sockets full of squirming maggots behold you.
You look of death, and you smell of death, but you are not dead. Why should I take you across the River Styx? What do you have for me?
The oarsman takes the party across the river Styx for one gold piece.
The journey along the river is a nightmare you wish never to remember. The black river is thick with the twisting and writhing bodies of the damned. They reach for you wailing for help. Theirs is an eternity in torment. As the river bends within a large canyon of razor-sharp obsidian, you see demons pouring more nude bodies into the river, stabbing at them with spears and claws, taking bites out of their flanks and letting red blood flow over their demonic bodies.
Within the mass of bodies through which you travel, faces seem familiar. As they call out to you, screaming for help, you find yourself drawn to pulling them from the sludge of the river regardless of the life-stealing nature of the dark waters. Only your own strengths might help you resist such a call.
The rotted wood boat comes to rest at a curve in the river. The oarsman beckons you off and you step foot onto a beach of broken bone. A distance ahead of you, the ominous ragged peaks of the Final Hills splits into a narrow valley. Two massive carvings flank the valley entrance, each nearly nine hundred feet tall, hooded, arms crossed across the chest and twin curved blades in their hands.
For thousands of years, the highest acolytes of Orcus traveled to Thanatos to pay homage to their patron. Many stayed within the city of Lash Embarer, Orcusgate, and Lacrymosa but some dared to travel to Everlost itself. Orcus built a pathway for these travelers through the Lost Hills known as the Valley of the Crypt Things. There, his faithful would be tested by his own fallen servants in a series of trials. Only the strongest of his servants with the blackest hearts would manage to survive the trials of the Valley. It is said that only one out of thirty survived the passage. On the other side, they were changed people. Any innocence they had, any goodness in their hearts, was gone. All they had left was the ruthless patronage of the Prince of Undeath.
As you stare into the valley you imagine those servants of Orcus you had faced that must have passed through here. Arantham, Kalarel, Zirithain. All of them must have come through here. What horrors might they have faced inside these halls? You will soon find out.
The valley is dead quiet as you walk carefully through it. Soon the valley tapers further. Four statues of kings, stone crowns on head and stone swords in hand, flank either side of the rock walls as the valley narrows down and twists further into the rock ahead.
A voice calls out from the cavern ahead “Who dares to face the tests of the Prince of Undeath? Which of you believes you alone can serve our dark master?” An old crowe steps from the shadows surrounded in thick mists. She leans heavily on a large staff. “Let us find out.”
You hear the ground break and four armored humanoids claw their way out of the ground. They are the Wight Kings, the first of the Crypt Things, once loyal servants of Orcus in their own world, their betrayal of the Prince of Undeath leaves them as guardians to his only passageway to Oblivion’s End.
As the battle begins, you hear a terrible roar. Something massive drops in behind you, a huge spider with razor-sharp talons and black rays beaming out from its numerous eyes. It is a retriever, one more deadly than you have ever heard of and as old as the dawn of the Primordials. The dust of five hundred thousand years coats its onyx carapace.
Demonic skulls buried in the hallways above scream out jets of flame in the hallway ahead. Through the hellish flames you see a massive iron portcullis blocking the far end of the hall. Above the door Abyssal script reads “Only by traveling through the fires of hell will thou serve me.”
Ahead of you, the hallway splits into three. Each of the hallways leads to the swirling mists of red, blue, green, yellow, all shifting in colors. Above each of them you see a symbol: Over one is the symbol of a hammer. Over another is the symbol of an eye. Over a third is a symbol of a feather.
The party teleported into the Room of Separation:
You find yourself in a large chamber split in two by a wall from floor to ceiling. Alcoves along the opposite side contain large iron sarcophagi. Ahead two platforms stand above the surface of the ground. A thick oil seeps from the walls beneath them. Directly ahead you see a fountain decorated by a beautiful half-woman half serpent. Her eyes gleam with red rubies. It is with horror that you realize you are separated from your companions.
Two serpentine shapes slither out of the gray mists on the platforms ahead. Pinpoints of red light gleam from the empty eye sockets of the skulls at the top of their serpentine spinal bodies. As you step forward, the sarcophagi open up. Poisonous gas emanates from the torn bodies of two large mummies that lumber out to face you.
For those who appeared on the far platform.
You find yourself above the fountain itself next to a huge stone sarcophagus. Filled with terror, you watch as the lid of the sarcophagi tumbles over and a large four-armed skeletal crypt thing crawls forth brandishing four razor-sharp scimitars. A blood-red line on the edge of each scimitar gives you the impression that the right cut from any of these blades might hew your head clean off.
As you approach the fountain a vision flows into you. You see Arantham along with a dozen other high priests of Orcus. Many are battling the mummies in the rear of the room while two are praying to the Lich Nagas. Blood pours off of the upper platform as the Crypt Thing beheads one of the priests it battles. Arantham grabs another priest by the hair and pushes his head into the fountain. You see Arantham’s muscles tightening as the man struggles. Soon his struggling ends. The lich nagas smile as the room grows quiet, the mummies and Crypt Thing returning to their sarcophagi.