Sunday, July 20, 2008

Episode 8: 7/19/08

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/2-2
Haroldur, human cleric/4
Nineve Floret, human knight/4
Sarek, human wizard/4

We rest and recuperate somewhat in the fountain room. Everyone but me decides to sample the nutritive orange goo, and in the morning they all seem to be feeling better than expected, although Nineve's ghoul fever seems to be worsening. We go back to the sarcophagus chamber, and Alastor, in a rare moment of clarity, convinces us to explore the ruin more thoroughly before heading back to Diamond Lake. We rotate the sarcophagus towards the indigo hallway, which I discover is not actually another levitating platform to another area - it's just a deadly trap! I disable it and find 2 pouches among the crushed bone fragments containing:

35 pp
a ruby (200 gp)

We rotate the sarcophagus again to the green hallway, and the depression lowered slightly and started glowing. We hear a low rumble and a faint skittering sound. Moments later, a living geyser of beetles erupts from the depression and swarms towards Nineve! Sarek vaporizes the beetle swarm immediately, but just as the smoke clears, 2 copper clockwork horrors climb out of the hole and attack Nineve, followed by the biggest bombardier beetle I've ever seen. Within seconds, an electrum horror also joins the fray! The battle is pitched, and sprays of acid fill the air, but finally, the last beetle goes down. Through the Wanderer, Haroldur finds a wand of invisibility lodged in a beetle's carapace. After checking for traps, we head down the shaft.

The platform glides to a halt and we are in a small antechamber surrounded by disapproving-looking bas-reliefs. Suddenly, we are surrounded by yet more beetles! Haroldur detonates a wave of negative energy, and we quickly prevail against the vermin. Afterwards, Haroldur finds a glitterstone.

We inspect a small chamber to the right and discover the remains of 3 humans among a huge beetle nest, seemingly made of the dried orange goo. On them, we find:

3 CLW potions
a string of stone beads
a ring with a feather motif

Hezzrak is especially interested in the beetles, claiming their diet of nutritive orange goo makes them particularly delectable. He stuffs beetles into his mouth by the fistfull, smacking and crunching as he extols their virtues as a snack food. He pesters me for a sack so that he can take some "to go"... I find an empty pouch and toss it in his direction. He seems disappointed that it's not big enough to hold all the beetles he wants, but I explain that we'll very likely have to come back this way, so he can pick up more on the way out. Within seconds he has stuffed the pouch to overflowing with the writhing beetles, and is messily gorging himself. I try not to watch.

The next chamber contains a powerful-looking statue of a warrior, and several stone slabs. On one of the slabs, a humanoid figure lies in repose under a shroud. A large bombardier beetle appears to be sleeping at the foot of the statue. Upon entering the room, Sarek and Nineve suddenly decide that this is a good place for a quick rest, but Haroldur is immediately suspicious and thinks some sort of magical aura is present in the room. He doesn't like the look of this room and wants us to leave immediately, but I insist we check on the shrouded figure. Closer examination reveals him to have been a seeker, long since dead, who has been carefully laid to rest. We leave him in peace and move on.

We pass some fully looted alcoves, where we stash what's left of Alastor, and continue down some stairs. We come upon a low-ceilinged room filled with ankle-deep water and inactive clockwork horrors. As we pick our way through the room, I notice some of the horrors are starting to show flashing lights. We brace for impact. The horrors spring to life! Electricity arcs dangerously across the room, and Haroldur goes down!

As I look for a path through the constructs to him, I catch a glimpse of a mechanical humanoid pinned under a broken pillar, watching me. I fight my way over to it, and it seems to be beckoning for help. However, it is obviously pinned beneath the several ton weight of the fallen pillar. It starts making noises at me that sound like language, but I don't understand any of it. It clutches at my leg, but I try to explain that I'll try to help free it as soon as we've dealt with the clockwork horror threat. I clamor over the column and pour a healing potion down Haroldur's (now conscious) throat.

Just as I move on to join Nineve's attack, I hear Hezzrak fall. He must've eaten too many beetles right before battle! I rush to his aid, but just as I arrive, Sarek casts Baleful Transposition and Hezzrak suddenly blinks away and appears on the floor in front of the wizard. In his place is a copper clockwork horror (previously menacing Sarek), which I quickly dispatch.

Head-Injury Nineve accidentally brains herself with her own mace, while surrounded by clockwork horrors! Haroldur heals her just in time. The fight is long and brutal, but we eventually prevail. With the Wanderer, Haroldur finds a pair of Goggles of Foe Seeing.

With the immediate danger behind us, Nineve and I work together to free the mechanical construct. He cycles through several strange languages before he finally says "hello" in Elven. I respond and he seems pleased to have discovered that I speak "the slaves' tongue"! We converse briefly and I try to get a handle on who he is and how long he's been here. He tells me his name is 31E37, and he seems to be an Imperium relic, trapped down here for thousands of years! I don't have time to give him a brief history of modern civilization, but I stress to him that elves are NOT a slave race, and if we ever were, it was so long ago that even our sages don't remember it! 31E (as I've taken to calling him) wants to be taken to the nearest Imperium terminus. Sarek (who can speak to him in Draconic) and I explain to him that any Imperium terminus we find will be nothing more than a ruin. Understandably, the idea that the civilization that created him has been utter destroyed millenia ago is slow to sink in. We tell him we may not be able to get him to a terminus, but he should come with us anyway, since it's better than being stuck down here. 31E is badly damaged, and his left arm and leg have been completely crushed and destroyed. Also, important sections of his memory seem to be damaged or missing. As I lift him to a standing position, he grabs a clockwork beetle from his crushed remains and attaches it to his torso. He says he knows it's important, but he can't remember why.

While Sarek and I are chatting up the construct, the rest of the party loots the bodies. They find an orange lantern like the ones in the sarcophagus room among the debris, along with:

an Imperium-era silver chalice with lapis inlay
a potion of Fox's Cunning
a metal coffer containing gold bars worth 700gp
a fragment of a marble relief, obviously similar to the type covering the walls of this ruin
a pair of Brute Gauntlets
a pair of clockwork wings (31E says they're not his)

We retrieve Alastor and go back to the fountain room to rest, with Nineve carrying the charred Seeker, and 31E leaning heavily on me like a crutch. Haroldur grumbles that we're collecting a "circus of cripples". I shoot him a nasty glance, but truthfully, he's right.

We all (except the construct) partake of the nutritious orange goo, and in the morning everyone is feeling surprisingly fresh. Nineve even seems to be recovering from her ghoul fever. Alastor is still delirious with agony, so we elect to leave him in this room near the water and goo paste where he'll be safe while we explore the rest of the cairn. I explain this to him as best I can and leave him a note to the same effect, in case he comes out of his delirium briefly while we're gone and starts to panic.

We head back to the sarcophagus room and try to find a way deeper into the cairn. We determine the only way left to go is up. At Haroldur's suggestion, I put on the ring with the feather motif we found earlier and climb up the chain that suspends the blue lantern. After a grueling 80-foot ascent, I find a narrow corridor leading off into the darkness. I lower my troll gut rope and haul everyone else up. It's a good thing I'm feeling so much stronger these days.

We proceed cautiously down the corridor, which ends in a huge stone face twisted in a terrible scream that blocks the entire passage. A quick glance around reveals deep scratches in the walls leading to the ledge. Haroldur doesn't like the looks of this at all, and we quickly decide the rest of the party should wait at the bottom while I disarm the face.

After everyone is safely down the shaft, I approach the face again, carefully looking for clues to disarm the inevitable trap. I venture slightly deeper and step on a large slab, identical to the others, and hear a "click". The face's eyes glow in a hypnotic pattern, flashing indigo, blue, yellow, and orange, and I am momentarily transfixed as a strong gust of wind starts blowing me backwards towards the ledge. I fervently hope this unidentified ring we found is really a Ring of Featherfall...

Fortunately, it is. I am blown off the ledge and float harmlessly down to the floor. It's actually quite pleasant. After some brief discussion, we decide to light the unlight lanterns, which just happen to be the indigo, blue, yellow, and orange ones. Somewhere in the distance, my keen elven ears detect the faint strains of a "puzzle solved" sound...

After 10 minutes, the gusting trap finally stops. I climb back up the 80 foot chain and this time when I approach the face, it slides quietly into the floor, revealing blackness beyond. I turn around and head back to the ledge to lower the rope, when I just barely catch the faint sound of stealthily running footsteps coming up behind me. I turn around just in time to get a face full of ghoul! As the foul undead slams into me, I jump off the ledge and start to float down. In a moment, I break the grapple and send the ghoul plummeting to its (re?)death. As I finish my descent, Haroldur congratulates me on a ghoul well killed, and uses the Wanderer to discover a Gem of Life-Drinking on its dessicated body.

I tell the party that I think the way is now clear, and I begin what I hope will be my final ascent up the chain. Once at the top, I check for more ghouls and, finding none, haul up my companions. Everyone is pleased that I got them tickets to the gun show.

We continue down the corridor and pass the face without incident, but we leave 31E37 on the other side so he can let us back out if we run into a dead end.

Past the face, the corridor opens to a large, dimly lit chamber. A robed figure appears at the end of the room, seemingly delighted to have found a way out of this prison at last. However, we can all sense he's hiding something from us. Immediately suspicious, Haroldur casts Silence on himself as we are all charged by ghouls. It's an ambush!

The image of the Snakebite appears to Sarek, and he gains the ability to Sneak Attack temporarily! Unfortunately, I don't have time to admire my little protege, as he is immediately attacked and paralyzed by a hidden ghoul! Moments later, Haroldur suffers the same fate.

In a brave and desperate attempt to save them, Nineve activates her Test of Mettle ability, and taunts all the ghouls into attacking her. They swarm her and she fights valiantly, but is soon paralyzed by their blows. I rush in to save her as Haroldur and then Sarek shake off their paralysis, and we narrowly manage to keep her alive as we pick the foul beasts off one by one.

Suddenly, the robed figure reappears, snatching Haroldur's holy symbol from his neck, and declares that he is Ulavant! While he may have once been the revered Seeker known as Ulavant, his features are twisted and pallid - he has clearly become a ghast. Hezzrak Suggests that his "big brother" is coming, so Ulavant had better get a magic circle of protection up, stat! This buys us the time we need to finish off the last of the ghouls before he realizes he's been duped.

Enraged, Ulavant seizes Nineve, paralyzing her easily, and threatens to kill her unless we free him. A look of brave resignation tinged with regret passes over her eyes as his fingers tighten around her throat. Without thinking, I instantly agree to his demands. He says he takes my word as a Keeper (oops) and releases Nineve, dropping her body to the floor. Haroldur immediately charges him. It's an intense couple of seconds, but the rest of the party manages to take him down while I drag Nineve a safe distance from the threat. She recovers just in time to see him go down.

Standing over Ulavant's ghastly corpse, we take a moment to collect ourselves and ponder the significance of our actions here. I think we're going to need more than one Sending to explain this one...


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Episode 7: 5/24/08

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/1-2
Haroldur, human cleric/3
Nineve Floret, human knight/3
Sarek, human wizard/3

Zolara interprets our Harrow reading:

"Ancient secrets influence events that have brought you to this point, but hidden danger threatens as well. Strange runes guide your path. Unshakable loyalty binds inseparable companions. Someone you seek still lives, but is pinned beneath an 8-pointed star, and is held by another will entirely. Fire first and darkness after. A group, once coherent, is now lost in madness and forever waiting in the dark to share their curse."

In Diamond Lake, Brolan and Lazare become research buddies, as both are interested in the Whispering Cairn stuff. Lazare hands over his findings, along with Brolan and Sarek's interpretation of Alastor's notes:

The cairns are reputed to be the final resting places of ancient warriors known as the Storm Kings who ruled a great empire long before the Imperium. The Whispering Cairn itself is and intricate grave that is thousands of years old.

All of the known Cairns share a similar architecture: wide, tall corridors constructed from strange white stone blocks of massive size leading to a central tomb chamber. These cairns have long ago been throughly looted, and whatever defenses were once in place have been defeated. However, local legends persist, insisting that unexplored chambers with undiscovered treasures from a bygone era remain hidden within the cairns, awaiting someone clever or brave enough to claim them.

The Whispering Cairn itself is one of the larger tombs, known locally for the eerie sounds that whisper within the entrance and corridor of the cairn. It has gained a sinister reputation around Diamond Lake, with many claiming that it is haunted or filled with still active, deadly traps. The last recorded expedition to the Whispering Cairn was some 60 years ago, lead by Ulavant.

Alastor had been studying Ulavant's notes for several years during his retirement in Kolbenburg, and learned several things of great interest. Through his research, Ulavant had come to believe that the Storm Kings had gone to great lengths to hide the tombs of their fallen warriors. Most warriors were interred in tombs with several false burial chambers and dead ends to mislead would-be tomb robbers. The truly important tombs of their greatest warriors were concealed so well that none have ever been found. Ulavant believed that some of the more prominent Storm King tombs were linked to these important tombs, providing the only means of access. Ulavant theorized that the true burial chamber within the lesser tomb also contained whatever method the Storm Kings used to link the tombs together, most likely some variety of portal.

Moreover, Ulavant had come to be convinced that the tomb known locally as the Whispering Cairn was one of these lesser tombs linked to a greater burial site. The prospect of locating one of these greater tombs, un-plundered for countless years became an obsession for both Ulavant and Alastor.

Lazare asks us to please pass along any additional information we find on our expedition to the Cairn. I agree to take judicious notes.

Haroldur shops around and acquires a butler's outfit for his new thrall, whom he fusses over and calls "Jeeves". I purchase 3 horses for the party, and food. We make preparations to head out, but Nineve seems to have contracted ghoul fever. Haroldur does what he can for her.

On the way out of town, Hezzrak tells us not to trust Lazare, and that he threatened to eat him! I ask dryly if that was a telepathic threat. Hezzrak says he's surprised I didn't hear Lazare, because he sure did... I tell Hezzrak that I bet he hears a lot of things that I don't.

We hit bad weather on the way, but eventually make it to the Whispering Cairn without incident, even though we are now deep in ogre country. Nineve is clearly ill with ghoul fever, but insists we press on. It's been drizzling all day and we arrive at the Cairn just before nightfall. I find a secluded copse to tether our horses, and we move into the cave-like entrance of the Cairn. Once inside, I realize this is a mistake, as we are clearly in the ogre's lair. With nowhere else to go, we continue into the Cairn, scaling the makeshift barrier of logs and detritus that blocks the passage.

From farther down the corridor we can hear angry, inarticulate roaring. It sounds as if the creature is chained in some way. Since it isn't an immediate threat, I spend a few minutes to look around while the rest of my companions struggle to surmount the pile of logs. I find a green leather quiver and 4 usable arrows among the refuse littering the floor, clearly the work of my people. Just as Nineve makes it over the logs, the wailing creature breaks free and comes barreling around the corner.

A degenerate ogre stands before us, it's milky blind eyes rolling in their sockets as python-thick arms shake with rage. Nineve and I rush in to meet the new threat. The rest of the party joins in as they scramble over the obstacle. At the beginning of combats, the Hidden Truth appears to me, and I am granted extra insight about our foe. The only insight I need, however, is the fact that this particular degenerate ogre is suddenly, inexplicably seized with a fit of allergies, and we beat it down quickly. At the end of combats, Haroldur receives the vision of the Wanderer, and finds value others may have overlooked. This time, he finds a magic buckler.

Soon, a pair of ogres enter the Cairn and lumber into view. Hezzrak suggests the larger ogre is the star of the metropolitan ballet. Thus distracted, we defeat his companion easily. However, the would-be ballerina proves more challenging. Just before he knocks me out, he impales Nineve on his massive bailing hook! Fortunately, we pull through. Just as we're healing up, Haroldur gets shot in the back - it's Zasalamel!

He again begins listing off crimes we don't recognize, except "consorting with devils", which Hezzrak takes exception to. In response, Hezzrak blasts a Scorching Ray into Zasalamel's chest. Jeeves the butler ghoul is utterly destroyed, much to Haroldur's dismay. At length, Sarek exploits a loophole in the fabric of the multiverse and banishes the Justice Archon with a darkbolt, blasting him into the past (or is it the future?). Haroldur carefully retrieves the butler outfit.

We turn our attentions back to the degenerate ogre. We find he was chained to a mysterious stone object. Upon closer inspection, we determine it was part of a transportation apparatus, and is covered with mysterious ancient runes. I take rubbings of the runes to show Lazare, Brolan, and the Cabal later. Sarek is fairly certain the base of the sculpture bears the name "Zosiel".

Moving on, we find ogre-vandalized mosaics and bas-reliefs surrounding a marble dais. Haroldur cleans them off with a Create Water. While Haroldur is washing the walls, I search the disgusting ogre bedchamber opposite the marble dais area. I find:

a marble index finger from a statue
an elven armband
a lantern with violet glass panes
assorted ancient clockwork pieces

Once the mosaic is clean, I make a detailed sketch of it for posterity.

Continuing down the stairs, we enter a large central chamber with several passageways branching off from it radially. The passageways are distinguished by different colored lanterns. In the blue lantern hallway, we find a skeleton. I determine he died from falling damage.

The center of the room contains a sarcophagus. The marble finger i found earlier clearly was at one time attached to the sculpture. It is wearing an ornamented disc around its neck, and I take a rubbing of it. Then, we carefully open the lid of the sarcophagus. A blast of wind knocks us back and coalesces into a whirlwind humanoid shape, which of course attacks us. Nineve lands the killing blow, to Hezzrak's infinite frustration, and the creature dissipates.

Closer inspection of the sarcophagus reveals that it appears to rotate. We rotate it one position (to the yellow passageway), and an elevator appears! We enter it after some ridiculous "safety" debate with Head-Injury Nineve, and take a ride down to a new chamber. More carvings cover the walls. At the end of the hallway, a faint light flickers. As we advance towards the light, we smell the odor of burning flesh. Soon, we notice the source of light - a burning corpse which rises from its resting place and advances on us menacingly.

Nineve receives the vision of the Rakshasa, and feels more resilient and willful. With the distance closed, we notice the foe is actually a smoldering body bearing the 8-pointed star of the Seekers of Wee Jas. The body appears to be being controlled by a flaming effigy. Haroldur separates the effigy from its victim, and Hezzrak finally lands the killing blow, after several misses.

We heal up the charred (but living) body and find that he's Alastor Land! After a brief explanation, we take him with us.

The next room contains a brown mold, which Sarek dispatches. Hezzrak is perched atop one of several clockwork horrors, which appear to be inactive. In the center of the room is a large gray fixture with fountains on either side - one flowing with water and the other an orange sludge, which I determine to be nutritive. I take a vial of it for further analysis. Suddenly, the clockwork horrors spring to life, startling Hezzrak.

They start making high-pitched whirring noises, and then unleash a barrage of electrical attacks! The horrific beetle-like robots attack with deadly accuracy, slinging darts, arcs of electricity, and buzzing circular saws. Ash falls under the weight of a particularly well-placed dart. Hezzrak rains corrosive acid on them from above as the rest of the party hacks away at their tough metal exteriors.

At length, they fall to our might. With the aid of the Wanderer, Haroldur finds a golden amulet and some magical oil. We are all feeling stronger from our experiences and decide to rest in this chamber before continuing on.


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