The antechamber of the Shrine of Votive Jars offers the Starhunters relative safety from the dangers of acidic slime and roving dead out in the swamp. Feeling alone and enclosed, they catch their breath while Leonidas sings an old elven song about hope in dark times. The antechamber is home to a large collection of shoes taken off by shrine visitors who never returned here to reclaim them.
At last they pry open another set of doors and carry forth torch and lantern light into the blackness of the Shrine’s nave. Dozens of large jars with lids chained at their tops stand in rows to either side. More large suits of armor stand in silent guard. Fendrys readies his bow, but when they do no react, he pauses. A’Kelah chucks a lone shoe at one of them which serves only to startle someone or something in the shadows beyond. A child bellows out a scream. Moving ahead they phantom footprints scamper away, leaving imprints in the fine layer of silt and ash that covers nearly everything.
A’Kelah arms herself with a javelin from the sentinel armor and tests the floor. One of the smaller jars has tipped over and Damir rights it, setting it back in place. As they cross the transept, Aelish does an about-face and marches right back to one of a few of the jars without a chained lid and climbs inside.
Fendrys rushes over to try to pull her out, but he is not fast enough. Something then overcomes Fendrys as well and he instead begins to aid her by placing the lid on the jar. Aelish begins to wail and cry for ‘her child.’ Her screams issue from the jar as though it were a cannon, resounding along the vaulted ceiling above. A’Kelah and Damir argue about what is to be done about this strange behavior. Aodh starts to bash at the jar with his dwarven hammer, hoping to break her out like a chick from an egg.
At this, the (clearly) possessed Fendrys becomes truculent and throws punches at Aodh and Leonidas for their disruptions. Leonidas, however, expels the dark spirit from Fendrys with an incantation. Aodh and Damir and A’Kelah all realize in unison they can merely tip the jar over—and they do. Aelish crashes out of it. The glass breaks and Aelish gathers her wits. She finds jewelry amid the ashen glass wreckage of the funeral jar. Hurrying away from this scene, A’Kelah finds another fallen jar closer to the wall. It partially covers a hole in the floor that leads to a bone-filled chamber under the church. They do not investigate.
Beyond the transept they find a trio of altars. Aelish leaves behind the silver jewelry at the pantheist altar. Leonidas uncovers some sheets of music and other writings with a set of pipes. A’Kelah purloins some old vials sitting unused. Inspecting a statue of the Velan Usher, St. Tytus the Veer, Aelish finds a wondrous candle which A’Kelah tells her is a Truth Tallow (those in it’s radiance must tell the truth; the dead are even less honest than the living).
The apse of the shrine is overgrown with the black, oily roots of the Night-twist tree that have wormed their way inside the edifice from outside. A mess of spiderwebs, thick as spun sugar, spans the gaps of the roots. They spy something glinting, caught up in the webs, halfway or more to the roof. In a heartbeat, a cluster of giant spiders descend their webs in the darkness. One of the spiders has horribly mutated, having fed on the (now deceased) Mind Flayer seen a moment ago in the webs. Aodh panics and flees to the choir to hide behind furniture. Leonidas is bitten, then turns invisible and also retreats. Venom stings his muscles, but he stays alert. A’Kelah blasts the arachnids with a pair of ice storms that bash the spindly legs and rip apart webbing though she too falls back. Aelish falls back as well to rally around her fearful allies. Fendrys and Damir hold fast and raise their weapons. The mutant spider blasts them all with high-pitched keen that dazes their minds; Fendrys and A’Kelah are left slobbering during crucial, life-threatening seconds. The spiders spin both of them up in webbing while they slacken. Damir is almost killed when his head disappears inside the mutant spider’s mouth.
Brave Damir extracts his head with the bracing of his shield and slays two of the spiders. Fendrys still manages to propel his arrows with the acumen of a practiced yeoman, even while poisoned and wrapped in gooey webs. Leonidas quaffs a portion of his oriss extract and pushes himself beyond his limits. The added arrows of the halfling and oriss-fueled spells of the bard finish off the spiders.
In the aftermath, A’Kelah is quick to extract rare venom from the mutant spider and gather it in a newly acquired vial. They find the aforementioned dead Mind Flayer. Strange, alien goggles are taken from the creature and given to Fendrys; they will allow their wearer to see in this darkness where even magic light fails. They notice also that the bizarre clothing of the Mind Flayer is of a material and manufacture unknown to this plane. It reminds them all of Aelish’s garments. They discuss burning the creature and even dropping the corpse down the nearby ‘altar (shaft) of Vela’. Instead, rest.
The mystic shelter of Leonidas provides a modicum of warmth, its atmosphere a little less dust choked. They each do their best to tend their wounds and rest. The sights and sounds of the near and present dead, the oppressive darkness, the venom in their veins, the fugue of oriss, and the sheer mental strain of their travails makes rest difficult.
When they are ready, Leonidas urges the group to descend the altar-shaft rather than continue exploring. First, Aelish tries to summon daylight. The malevolent power of the Night-twist tree reaches into the heavens, beyond the lunar curtain and denies Eladriel’s power right there before their eyes,. The massive trunk wrenches and groans, expunging more of its oily black ichor in protestation of the Goddess.
Fendrys ties a knotted rope and they descend the altar-shaft in tandem in search of their destination, the Lawstone of Imris.