As we begin the ascent of the stairway towards the Vault of Wonders we notice a strange mist or smoke billowing down the steps. Unfortunately, the smoke seems imbued with necrotic energy and wasn’t the result of an epic party occurring in the vault, so we proceed with caution. When we reach the door at the top Xxenetaxx open the doors to the vault and the sight beyond freezes all of us seasoned warriors in our tracks. The moon! How? What trickery is this?
It takes a while to take in the enormity of what I am seeing, but as I take a breath and look around I can see what appears to be the ancient stonework of the Vault of Wonders break up into a natural desert like landscape of shrubs and gnarled trees as you move further in from the door. This whole scene is subtly illuminated by the moon shining in through gaps in the ceiling of the vault. Those more attuned to magic without our team recognize that this appears to be a gateway to Shadowfell. After some debate we agree to proceed deeper in to try and recover the artifacts that would help us fight Agoratha. As we move in to the Shadowfell desert Thango leaves a trail to find our way back by marking shrubs with a different color.
A little way in we descend in to a ravine where the mist deepens and we start to hear hobgoblin voices all around us. Xxenetaxx announces himself as their emperor, and 3 mages appear from the mist, but they reject his leadership since he has allowed the rise of Agoratha. Despite this, we are able to convince them that they would be unable to defeat Agoratha themselves, so they reluctantly help us with directions on how to find the Vault of Wonders in this desert. This comes with a warning though, that if we fail Xxenetaxx will no longer be their emperor either in this realm or the realm to come. They let us know that to safely navigate this realm we will need to obtain a higher way of thought with assistance from the flowers of the azethiel cactus. We are able to find some quite quickly and decide that it would be best if a couple of us abstain from the flower in case clearer heads are needed, so Mizr and I skip this little trip.
Shortly after entering the trance from the flower Adrik and Ghesh start coughing painfully, but seem to recover. A little after that Thango and Ghesh start screaming nonsense. And then they get up and begin to move as if going somewhere, so Mizr and I follow along. Trying to keep a vigilant watch as we move Mizr and I notice a set of horns outlined by the moon moments before the necrotic being they belong to and his friend launch their assault on us. They have vicious blows that push us all over the place, but we make quick work of them thanks to their weakness to radiant power and Adrik being able to share his strong radiant affinity with the rest of the party. Despite making quick work of them, we are beaten down so we will need to take a short break to recover before continuing our path toward the vault.