The Blakros Museum rises into the night sky, its single black spire severing the full moon in twain. The black iron gates surrounding the exhibition hall grind in protest against the wind. Beyond, the museum’s large oaken doors stand wide open, a silver-gray mist belching forth from the cavernous darkness within. As a group of Pathfinder Initiates stands before the imposing building and wonder how they ended up here, standing at the precipice of unknown terrors, they instantly see Venture-Captain Adril Hestram’s wide looming face conjured in their minds’ eye. His booming words ring out from memory as clearly as he spoke them only one hour ago:
“The Blakros Museum is cursed. Some darkness has descended upon the place and those who enter are blasted with evil and left raving through its halls, more beast than men. The curator, Nigel Aldain, is an old associate of the Society, though he chose to leave our organization some years back after a disagreement.” Adril had looked sheepish then, as if remembering some distasteful incident from his youth.
“Nigel has long denied the Society access to the Blakros Museum’s considerable collection of relics and scrolls, using his extensive contacts to nab several excellent finds right out from under us . . . he always had a nose for the hunt. Whatever is past between Nigel and the Society, he needs our help now. Perhaps if we can come to his aid, he may think on rejoining the Pathfinder Society, or at least offering to share his discoveries with us.”
“Apparently the trouble at Blakros Museum began this morning, shortly after a wayward Pathfinder named Lugizar Trantos returned to Absalom after months spent in the Mwangi Expanse. Supposedly, instead of coming straight to the Lodge to report in, he went to Blakros, sold his finds to Nigel, and then disappeared with a hefty sum of gold. The few who glimpsed Lugizar claimed he was much changed by his time in the Mwangi . . . gaunt, his eyes yellowed and unfocused, a strange rasping cough that seemed to wrack his now wasted frame. Whatever he brought back with him, we believe it is the cause of the blakros Museum’s ills. Root it out, and your time as initiates will be over, and you will be confirmed as Field Agents of the Pathfinder Society!”
The group of initiates approaches the entrance to the museum cautiously, the half-orc mercenary warrior Grimgor Ironfang taking the lead, wading into the knee-deep mists pouring forth from the darkness within the museum. The group had not had much time to prepare bfore they came, but they did know that much of the Mwangi’s darkest interior is ruled by a demon lord named Angazhan, who is described in an ancient text as a thing of primordial darkness, a foul-breathed demon who grunts prophecies of blood to apes and madmen. The jungle is his beating heart. And it seemed that some of that darkness, blood and madness had found its way here to Absalom, the city at the center of the world.
As they all enter, Grimgor, Jonas Blacktooth, a serene and silent guide from the deserts of Garund, and Tikki, the enigmatic Tengu birthed in infernal Cheliax, they are chilled to the very core by the tendrils of silver gray mist surrounding them. The mist seems to effortlessly pierce the flesh and gently caress the bone in a cold embrace. As they all shiver, they take in the gothic architecture of the antrance and atrium, six great pillars of black stone supporting the vaulted ceiling above. Braziers are mounted on the pillars and cast a white radiance from balls of continual light. The light glimmers eerily in the silvery haze that fills the atrium, giving the impression of something alien watching from the glowing fog.
Grimgor leads the group down the hall opposite the entrance to the museum. He pauses as he hears some noise coming from the door on the south side of the hallway. Above the door, a large placard reads “Hunting the Beasts of Legend” in great block letters. As they carefully open the door, the room does not disappoint. The gigantic chamber is relatively free of mist, and darkness is held at bay by braziers of radiant light. Behemoths occupy these halls, great taxidermy nightmares such as a two-headed bear easily taller than an ogre; a great desiccated beetle, its carapace larger than the face of the grand clocktower of Absalom; a massive specimen of chimera, its jaws open in a mock roar; and an assembled skeleton of a tyrant lizard. The walls here are studded with strange masks, staves, spears, and other iimplements of long forgotten cultures, most likely used in ritual hunts of the beasts preserved here.
As the group slowly entered the mist chilled room, eyeing the ancient nightmares leering at them from the darkness, Tikki looked at a pair of masks on the wall near the entrance that had started to crack and move. The stone of the masks begins to slough off, and Tikki aims her spear and dashes forward to try and skewer one fo the monstrosities coming to life. As she does so, from within the folds of her dark black and crimson robes springs a bird of fantastic appearance, a large beak and multi-colored plumage all that’s clear in the flurry of motion. As the last bits of stone fall to the ground, alerting the rest of the party, all in the room behold the blackened, bat-winged fiend’s heads that are unveiled, tentacles dangling from their chin and scalp, fanged mouth hanging agape. The horror is short-lived as well-trained reflexes take over, and as Tikki skewers one of the vile vargouilles her half-orc companions quickly dispatch the other.
As the otherwordly monsters lay pouring their purple-black lifesblood onto the stone floor, the sound that had originally drawn the initiates in here once again came to their ears, this time more clear and identifiable as the mad cackling and laughing of someone in the privy room adjacent to the exhibit room. Grimgor once again took the lead, nodding to his companions before kicking in the door. The first thing he notices is the stench of sewage assaulting his more acute sense of smell, overpowering even the cold mist numbing his airways, followed by the echoes of mad laughter still ringing off the walls of the cramped stone chamber. Through the haze can be seen smears of blood across the floor, walls and ceiling, as well as the doors of several stalls. Rocking back and forth on the filth strewn floor in the far corner is a man in blood and ink stained robes, clearly the source of the cackling, muttering to himself and apparently oblivious to the group peering in on him. At his feet is a monstrously big snake, apparently come up through the sewers, bloated as if from some large meal and coiled around the head of a poor half-orc, his final moments of terror frozen on his face. The snake sways and writhes to some infernal tempo that none can hear except those driven mad by the mists, and suddenly the serpent and the madman stop their movements as one and look up at the group at the door with intensity and purpose. Both fly at the group with rage and utter disregard for their own safety, something which takes a heavy toll as they are quickly cut down by Grimgor’s massive two-handed blade and the smaller but equally deadly weapons and skills of the Tikki and Jonas.
As Grimgor scanned the aftermath of their frenzied combat with maddened victims of the mists, he recalled a confidential missive he had received from an Andoren aquaintance of his within the Society:
Firebrand of Freedom,
You light the way to a better age with your continued bravery. I can’t express enough how grateful our nation is for your peerless service. We once more have desperate need of your talents. An agent of ours is in peril. His name is Sheg Wraithbane, a half-orc adventurer of note who was keeping tabs on the Blakros Museum for us, posing as a nightwatchman. We fear for his safety. A strange curse has befallen the place and we’ve no word from him.
Find him. If he lives, bring him safely from that accursed place. If he has perished, then you must, bring his collection of keys to me immediately. He wears them on a ring on his belt. I would trust this task to no other. May our sword arm know no equal, may your wits prove thrice as fast as your foes.
Captain Colson Maldris
Looking at what little remained of some poor half-orc and the unnatural bulge in the midsection of the large snake, Grimgor knelt before the snakes corpse and used his dagger to slice it open, confirming his fears. Within the snakes gullet were the badly beaten and partially digested remains of a half-orc nightwatchman, and on his belt was a steel keyring. Grimgor took the keys from Sheg’s belt, and said a short prayer to Caiden Caelen for his fallen brother of freedom. Then he rose, turned, and silently walked back toward the group.
“Let us purge whatever wickedness grips this foul building and get as far from this accursed place as we can.”
The other room adjacent to the Beasts of Legend exhibit was full of stored exhibits, crates, and mist, but contained none of the horrors of the other chambers the had explored. The young group ventured next to the exhibit hall across from the one they were in, this one labeled “The Honored Dead“ in bloodred calligraphy. Withing, are exhibits on the funerary traditions of several civilizations along with preserved corpses arrayed in grim stillness. The mists here congeal into a thick and silvery fog that cools the lungs. A giant warrior looms from the haze, his arms crossed at his chest, his helm solemn and still. Beyond lie sarcophagi of varied designs, and a few glass cases wherein withered dead are held upright by rods and string, grim exhibits of long-dead citizens whose fallen empires were erased an age past.
The group slowly explored the room, staying close togehter as they moved past the grim exhibits. Around them were warriors of ages past; one a withered, mummified thing from beneath Osirion’s sands bearing a jeweled scarab on its chest among its spiced wrppings, recognized by jonas, a native to the harsh deserts of Osirion, as a scarab seer and warrior-priest of an old pharaoic age; another is an armored warrior of a long dead empire,clad in heavy discolored bronze plates and helm; a third is a hulking skeleton, a towering ancestor of the Kellid race who wields a greatclub fashioned from a mammoth’s ivory tusk; the fourth is a shrunken emaciated corpse wrapped in rotten silks and holding a silvered Qadiran scimitar in one bony fist; lastly, there is a Mwangi warrior, his body preserved in hot mud on the far wall of the exhibit hall, in his hands a tightly-clutched bone-handled kukri knife with a jade-carved blade.
As the group moved through the exhibit hall toward a door near the back, the cold mists seemed to flow into the mouth, nostrils and eyes of the mummified warriors of old, their eye sockets lighting up with a throbbing, pulsating purple-red light even as their decrepit remains were animated by whatever evil had gripped the Blakros Museum. All but the Mwangi warrior sprung to un-life, breaking free of their strings and supports. The group was gripped by the chill of the undead horrors before them and the clinging silver-gray mists; all except Jonas Blacktooth.
As a native of the Osiriani deserts, Jonas was well aquainted with the restless dead. All too often, the seasonal khamsin winds of the great deserts of Garund would unveil some ancient tomb or monolith of the ancient Pharaohs, releasing some undead guardians that had slumbered for millenia. As a guardian of the land and guide, he had felt obligated to put down any of these abominations before they came upon some hapless travelers or a village. So it was that he sprung quickly into action, skewering the Kellid warrior on his longspear before it could get close enough to put it’s ivory bludgeon to deadly use. At some unseen signal, there is a yipping and growling as Jonas’ companion Asuulek comes barreling around the corner and springs onto the back of the Scarab Seer, the great hyena a blur of red and black fur, fangs and claws.
Jonas’ quick response snaps Tikki and Grimgor into action; Grimgor brings his two-handed sword down in meteoric arc and shatters the Qadiran swordsman with a blow, while Tikki quickly pulls a handful of fine red powder from a hidden pouch, then blows it toward the ground in front of her while tracing arcane sigils in the air with her other hand. As the powder blows to the floor, it traces a pattern of a pentagram surrounded by arcance, infernal sigils. Tikki claps her hands together, then kneels down and touchs both palms to the pentagram, causing it to shine with bright red light. There is a smell of sulfur, and the cold gray mists of the museum seem driven from within the circle as orange smoke suddenly shoots from the lines and sigils upon the ground. When they stop, they reveal a massive mastiff, its hide red-black, horns and a ridge of spikes going down its spine, it’s mouth overly large and full of large razor sharp teeth. It’s glowing red eyes gaze at Tikki, who seems to concentrate for but a moment, and then the beast locked it’s gaze on the nearest reanimated warrior and moved in to attack.
With the group rallied, they quickly deal with the ancient warriors, taking them down one after the other, until finally the last one, the Scarab Seer who seemingly gained more strength than the others from this foul curse (most likely due to his cultures adeptness at the creation of undead), was laid low. Once the Seer had been felled, Jonas knelt over it and read the ancient hieroglyphs on it’s cartoush. Then he whispered the word Salm, which means “Legacy” in Osirion, an the jeweled cartoush opened. He reaches inside of it and pulls out a small piece of alchemically preserved parchment. The others look at him quizzically, and when he notices he explains, “This is the last will and testament of Taltuma-Matl; its contents are invaluable to the history of Osirion. I am honored to be the one who recovered it.” Grimgor shrugs, and Tikki is inscrutable, as always. “Well, let’s move on then. I think I heard something behind that door in the far corner before those things came to life,” Grimgor almost spits the word things as he says it.
As they approach, they see that the door to the next chamber was once a pane of expensive frosted glass, which now lies in broken shards on the floor. As the group enters they find several desks lie overturned, papers in disarray, and chairs smashed to kindling. A sturdy steel cabinet sits against the back wall, its doors much battered and dented. The mist here roils near the floor and ceiling, creating a strange patch of visibility stretching from knee-height to a few feet overhead. The smoky tendrils flow up and down the walls unnaturally and savage visages swirl to life, fanged mouths agape, before dissolving into mist once more. Once the grooup reaches the middle of the room, their is a pair of shrieks as two dark forms drop from the mist-shrouded rafters above. Unfortunately, they are cut-down as quickly as they descended, and it is only after they are both lying dead on the floor that the group can see that it was two of the clerks from the museum, apparently driven mad by the mists. A third body lies behind one of the over-turned desks, badly beaten and the skull caved in by one of the artifacts they had been cataloguing before the mists took their sanity.
There is no time to explore further though, for from the battered metal cabinet there issues forth the shriek of someone inside of it. It sounds like one of the other scribes, mewling and begging to be left alone and not killed. Grimgor strides over the broken furniture to the cabinet and tears one of the steel doors from its hinges. Within, he finds a blubbery scribe, his obesity the result of too many hours spent at a desk and his fondness for sweet cream pies. His jowls quaver and shake with terror as he recounts his tale. He stutters and stammers out his story, telling Grimgor and the rest how the offices suddenly flooded with a strange mist early this morning, and that the tendrils of it seemed to pour down Kadarnik’s and Yannis’ (he indicates the two recently slain by the group) throats moments before they went stark mad and beat Milgen to a pulp.
“I’m certain that the Tik Taan idols are responsible for this,” said Saldak, “I smelled something wrong with those hideous monkey-faced things as soon as Lugizar brought them out of his pack. I’ve a nose for trouble, I do! No one listens! Here, Lugizar brought something else with the idols, it may help you.” Saldak roots around what must have once been his desk, and after a moment produces scraps of Mwangi cloth inscribed with strange writing. The cloth (made from beaten bark) is quite ancient. Saldak continues, “This is from a Mwangi tribe called the Jambala Jaeg. From what we’ve been able to find out, they are ancient foes of the demon-ape god Angazhan. The writing warns against the idols’ corrupting powers, but it also is a powerful chant that dispels their influence over men according to the few notes Lugizar gave us.. Take it, and take this as well for saving my life, it’s the least I can do.” Saldak hands over both the Jambala Jaeg cloth and a satchel of gold measures in paper rolls; a quick estimate would be around five hundred measures. “The idols should be in the main exhibit hall as part of our Mwnagi display. Destroy them and you may save the museum from their evil.” With that, Saldak hurriedly takes his leave.
The trio now stood before the stairs leading up to the main exhibit hall. Mists pour down the steps like some kind of umbral waterfall and seem to thrum and pulse with some unheard but terrible rhythm; the chills running down all their spines told the young initiates that they stood before the heart of the darkness that had gripped the building. Cautiously, they ascend the steps; as they do, out of the corners of their eyes they see the mists forming grimacing simian faces only to disperse when they look directly into the mists. Finally, with great trepidation they reach the top of the stair.
Mock vines cling to the wall of this grand exhibit hall, and huts of grass are strewn about the open area. At the center of this sprawling chamber, a great stone ziggurat rises out of the mist, almost scraping the 50-foot-high ceiling. At the top of the ziggurat, a rail thin elven gentleman is strapped to an altar his bare chest painted with strange sigils and monkey paw-shaped blots of paint; a band of savage primates are snarling, spitting and cavorting madly about the ziggurat. Nearly 20 apes, baboons, and other monkeys revel here, but upon the arrival of the Pathfinders there is a terrifying howl that shatters the revelry. The primates scatter into the mists as the source of the howl simultaneously emerges from them. Barreling forth is a massive gorilla, his fur dark with streaks of crimson from paint . . . or blood. He stops and stands before the group, pounding his expansive chest as he lets out a howling challenge from his muscualr form. Unfortunately for the crazed ape, Grimgor was only too happy to answer it.
Charging forward towards the great ape, Grimgor lets out his own yell as he leaps into the air brings his greatsword down in a great overhead arc. Da’Tunga, the ape, tries to deflect the balde with one of his sinewey paws; and indeed, had it been a lesser blade swung by a lesser man, that is what would have happened. But Grimgor’s orc-born strength was far greater than any regular man’s, and his sword was taller than many, with a well honed and sharpened edge to it. There is a sick, wet sound of meat being cleaved and bone splitting to pieces, and Grimgor’s blade is lodged deep in Da’Tunga’s abdomen, a swath of destruction carved through the ape’s body behind the blade. The gorilla’s body slumps to the ground in a pool of blood, even as the other simians scream and pound museum objects on the floor and walls of the room in a great circle around Grimgor and his group. But within the swirling chaos of the mists and maddened apes, it is Jonas who cries out as he notices wooden idols moving about within the crowd under the power of their own dark magics.
Jonas is the first to act, closing the distance between himself and the idol he spotted and attempting to pin it on his spear. At the same time, Grimgor spots another of the foul animated idols in the mists springs toward it, swinging his blade at it. Jonas finds that the idols are well protected by their demonic magics against mundane weapons as his spear glances off of it, but even these fooul magics are not enough to protect the other idol from the power of Grimgor’s blows. He quickly makes kindling out of the monkey statue, and then starts to scale the pyramid to free the sacrifice at its apex. Meanwhile, Tikki finds the third and final idol and with a silent command urges both her summoned servitor and bonded companion to attack it. Though well warded, both idols begin to splinter and crack under the barrage of attacks coming from Jonas, Tikki, and their companions. But not without some cost to the iniatiates and their followers, as the idols slam into them with brutal impact, propelled by their dark magics, again and again.
While the others wore down the Tik Taan idols, Grimgor worked on freeing the half-elf atop the ziggurat. Unfortunately, he fast discovers that this was a willing sacrifice, and the man cackles madly as he screams to allow the ritual to be completed and struggles against Grimgor. There’s a sound of splintering wood as one of the idols is destroyed by Jonas and Asuulek. Grimgor realizes that they’ll have to free the half-elf from his madness before they are forced to kill him. With a mighty leap and mightier roar, Grimgor turns and trhows his hulking mass into the air. There is a rush of air that disperses the mist around them for thirty feet and a clang of steel on stone that shakes the floor beneath the groups feet. Grimgor stands panting, lifting his blade from the cleft he cut into the ground as the two halves of the last Tik Taan idol fall to either side of it. Just as quickly as they first came, the mists seem to recede and flee from the museum as quickly as they came. The pulsing tempo that all within had been feeling inside their skulls fades to nothingness, and clarity seems to return to the half-elf sacrifice lying on the steps of the pyramid.
The half-elf picks himself up and slowly makes his way down the pyramid to the group. “Thank you! Thank you! I am Nigel Aldain, the curator here. You have my eternal gratitude. I dread to think what would have happened if you hadn’t arrived when you had. Speaking of which, why were you here?”
It is Grimgor who explains that they were tasked by Adril Hestram to rescue Nigel and rid the museum of the darkness that had consumed it. Nigel is taken aback, and seems to mull this over a bit. “I will have to think on this. I have long held a grudge against the Society because of an . . . incident between Adril and I many years ago. But I may have been mistaken about him. At the very least, the Society does not deserve to have me take it out on them. You may tell him that the Pathfinder Society may once again have access to Blakros museum. Now let us leave this place, so I may rest and cleanse myself. I imagine that Adril awaits your report.” With that they all leave the museum together; no one notices as Tikki takes a piece of one of the Tik Taan idols and secrets it in her robes.
Three days later, Grimgor, Tikki and Jonas stand in the grand promenade of the Grand Lodge, the spires of Skyreach’s marble walls towering behind them. Before them, standing between the twin rows of the red-leafed Phoenix trees on either side, are Adril Hestram and Ambrus Valsin, Adril beaming with pride. Standing to the side are the three Deans of the Grand Lodge, Aram Zey, Marcos Farabellus and Kreighton Shaine. Surrounding them all is a small crowd of initiates and a few Pathfinder field-agents watching the ceremony, many excitedly whispering to each other about the first draft of the trio of heroes’ Chronicle that had been circulating. Ambrus then signals for the others to quiet and begins the ceremony.
“Grimgor Ironfang, Jonas Blacktooth, and Tikki of Cheliax, you have proved yourselves not only capable at overcoming, but well-matched to the challenges one faces as a filed-agent of the Pathfinder Society. You not only freed the Blakros museum from the evil that gripped it, but you opened up access to a wealth of knowledge and artifacts for the Society. After talking with your deans and Adril, it is my honor to name all three of you Field-Agents of the Pathfinder Society. Congratulations! Adril has requested that you initially be assigned to him, and as that seems to have met with quite a bit of success already there seems no reason to object. Adril?”
Adril now stepped forward, in his hands three leatherbound journals, each imprinted with the Glyph of the Open Road. “These are yours now. Use them well, I will not be surprised if more than a few of your exploits eventually make their way into the Chronicles. You have all made me proud,” Adril hands each their journal and grasps each around the wrist before continuing, “Nigel sent over a gift as thanks for freeing him, an ancient Mwangi spear. We all felt that the three of you deserved the reward from this, and so the Society has compensated you all for the value of the spear. Now why don’t you head into the city and use some of that well-earned reward to celebrate!”
The trio of new field-agents shrug and smile at each other, then turn and walk down the 60-foot wide cobbled walkway that leads out the Lodge’s gateway and into the city. As they do, a light breeze picks up, and causes the dry scarlet and orange leaves of the Phoenix trees to burst into radiant flames. Grimgor, Jonas and Tikki find themselves filled with excitement as they blaze a trail out the gates that had housed them for three years and into the rest of Golarion, and the unknown.