As the spiral staircase wound downward, far beneath the city above, the masonry of the Twilight Lounge gave way to older stone chiseled by unknown hands. After a descent that took several minutes, the party found themselves in a dark hallway with rooms on either side. The room on the left was sparsely furnished, and contained three hairless and pockmarked men who attacked the investigators aggressively. The rooms on the right, however, appeared to be someone’s private chambers, and were richly appointed with antique furniture and nautical paraphernalia. In addition to some bizarre religious texts and an imposing portrait of a 17th century naval officer, the group also found a mind-shattering wooden box that somehow contained a portal to another place (or time); after some careful experimentation, this item was left behind, though Robbie did take the leather-bound notebook found on top of it.
Further down the hallway, the group passed a stone altar with a bas relief behind it. The relief depicted a creature similar to that which the party faced at the end of their Luxor adventure, though many, many times larger. Above and behind the odious creature’s head was a depiction of some sort of disc, carved with a stylized image of an eagle. Past the altar, in the middle of an impressively large and cavernous vault, the investigators found another staircase that led to an even deeper level of the complex.
Upon stepping from the staircase into another large chamber, the group split; while most went off to find the source of a regular, metallic clanging coming from a far corner of the room, Jo and Mark investigated a faint light coming from a doorway to the right. There, they discovered a ritual chamber of sorts, complete with torture implements, a magical incantation chiseled onto the far wall, and bottles filled with a strange blue-grey powder. While this was going on, the other group discovered that the floor of the large chamber contained an array of iron lids, similar to large manhole covers. Peering into one uncovered hole, Ursula Downs found a disfigured humanoid figure – with the same skin condition as the men that attacked the group earlier – at the bottom of a pit. The creature reacted with fear and alarm to seeing Ursula by moaning and gibbering loudly, and suddenly similar noises erupted from every one of the closed pits in the room. Presumably, each of the fifty-or-so pits in the room contained a similar abomination.
Though the inhuman cries continued, the group reconvened in front of a dungeon cell that contained a weak, malnourished, and mentally disturbed Helen Stromboni – the source of the clanging sound they heard earlier. After Jo released Helen from her shackles, Robbie picked up the barely conscious woman and the group prepared to depart. However, on the way back, they were confronted by a man in a pinstriped suit – the gangster Giovanni Merluzzo himself! Oddly enough, he looked exactly like the man from the portrait upstairs, with the exception of his blotchy, pockmarked skin. Merluzzo attacked – as did his minions, who were lying in wait – and an arcane spell hurled Ursula Downs across the room. In the end, though, Merluzzo’s bag of magical trickery was no match for the players’ superior firepower, and the gangster’s reign of terror was over.
As the party carried Helen back to civilization, several questions still loomed ominously: Who was Giovanni Merluzzo? What was his agenda? And, based on religious texts found in his office, are there others who share his goals? The uncomfortable answers to these questions may be closer than the investigators realize…