Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Episode 9: 8/2/08

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

While we're standing there, sharing a sombre moment over the incredibly foul-smelling ghoul corpse of Ulavant, we suddenly realize we haven't contacted the Cabal since we captured Tares! We elect to inform them of our progress. Also... we're standing in a room filled with dead Seekers-turned-Ghouls, whose remains, such that they are, need to be returned to the Ruby Temple for proper interment. None of us fancies the idea of riding overland for a week on a cart with the rotting corpses of a Seeker squad. We're going to need a collection team. Sarek sends:

"Found Alastor and Ulavant. Ulavant killed, he was a ghoul.
Alastor gravely wounded, need instructions.
Need your blessing to raise dead to help finish orders."

He is answered:

"Good news about Alastor! I expect to hear your full report regarding Ulavant upon your return. What of Ulavant's Seekers? Did you find their remains?"

Sarek replies:

"Seekers were with Ulavant and were corrupted by dark magic.
All were ghouls and were destroyed. We have bodies.
What are your instructions for bodies?"

The reply:

"Will send legionaires to Diamond Lake for the remains of the Seekers. You know the rules regarding the remains of the deceased. We'll talk later."

Meanwhile, we divide the loot we've accumulated so far.
Afterwards, I investigate the large door at the far end of the chamber, and find it to be impassably locked. There is a plate bearing an ornate rune on the center of the door that looks like it must be key to opening it. I take a rubbing of the plate, as well as the available text on the walls of the chamber. In particular, there is a repeating rune which appears to be a name of some sort. Sarek and I can't quite translate it. I am sure to get a few very good examples of that.

I also find Ulavant's belongings hidden near the door. Of interest is his journal. It is obvious he couldn't translate the runes, either, but glancing through it, his story becomes clear. His team came here, convinced they would find a portal linking to another, more important, and completely undisturbed tomb. However, without a way to open this door, and with no one manning the entrance to this closed chamber, they were trapped. Hunger got to them, and they eventually degenerated into picking off unwary team members in the night and cannibalizing them. However, after a time even this plan gave out, and they gradually starved to death, only to rise as hungry undead as a result of their cannibalism. Through his madness, moments of lucid thought are evident - these pages depict a pious man in anguish over the horror of his situation. I shudder inwardly at his long, grim fate.

Anxious to turn my thoughts elsewhere, I head back to the entrance and, after several minutes of yelling, 31E finally hears me and opens the door. I show him the various rubbings, but he can't read them, either. However, when I show him the rubbing of the plate on the locked door, he says it looks a lot like a metal plate he was sent here with. He produces it, and I compare the plate to the rubbing and determine they're a match. It must be the key!

Back with the party, we decide to rest and formulate a plan. We stack the corpses of the Seekers on the pressure plate, keeping the door to the chamber open. Then, Sarek somehow convinces me to gather bombardier beetle corpses so he can raise them as zombies. This done, we return to the goo room and rest.

In the morning, Sarek and Nineve have clearly contracted ghoul fever. However, with their help, the much-improved Alastor and I finally decipher the name-rune: "Icosiel". Then, we head back to the door. When 31E puts his metal plate on the depression in the door, the portal splits in half and opens into a large, spheroid chamber.

Floating warriors clad in ceramic armor approach us, and after some confusion, they lead us on a tour of the chamber, pausing in front of a series of animated reliefs which show us the story of Icosiel and the history of their race.

The first panel depicts the Storm King race living a peaceful, idyllic existence, until monstrous creatures of darkness and terror begin to encroach upon their perfect world.

In the second panel, Storm Kings clad for war (including Zosiel) are saluting Icosiel, who has become a respected warrior and a hero to his people.

The 3rd panel depicts a major battle, where a great Storm King warrior wields the Rod of Law against the leader of the Army of Chaos. However, this use of the Rod destroys both the Storm King warrior and his opponent, and shatters the Rod into seven pieces.

In the last panel, seven Storm King leaders are each receiving a fragment of the Rod of Law amidst much ceremony. Icosiel and others look on.

Above the inactive portal is another name-rune. I can't read it, but I recognize the symbol from the story - this is the name of one of the Storm Kings who received a part of the Rod. If Ulavant's theory was correct, perhaps this portal, when active, would lead to his tomb! However, it certainly isn't doing anything (or leading anywhere) at the moment. I take a rubbing of the rune in hopes that we can somehow translate it later.

At length, we join the waiting wind-warriors at the center of the spherical room, on a platform. Stepping into the center, we are borne gently upward on a column of wind and light to a smaller chamber above. This is clearly Icosiel's burial chamber. Reliefs depicting the high points of his illustrious life adorn the walls.

As I climb the short flight of stairs to his sarcophagus, Icosiel's statue, depicting him lying in state on the lid, turns to me and instructs in Elven, "Say my name". Baffled, I blurt out, "Icosiel", and a pale blue light washes over the room. When it subsides, a seam has become clearly visible in the sarcophagus. After some discussion, we reverently lift the lid. Inside, we discover:

Icosiel's silver diadem (Circlet of Wisdom +2)
2 curved black horns with red tips (demon horns)
a pewter box inscribed with writhing alien letter forms
Lightning Sword of Icosiel (broken, but repaired somewhat)
a matching +1 shortsword

The pewter box appears to be welded shut, and it's scurrying scrawl makes us somehow uneasy. I ask Hezzrack if he can read it... he takes one look and flies backwards, refusing to look at it anymore. When pressed, the imp says that he can't quite read the writing because "it's so old", but he just knows it's very, very bad. It occurs to me that something that is too much for Hezzrack is probably extremely dangerous. Haroldur wants to leave the box here, but I convince him that since we've breached the tomb, this place is no longer secure. We can't have this thing falling into the wrong hands. We agree to take it back with us to the Ruby Temple. With a pensive glance around at my companions - the impulsive Nineve, headstrong Haroldur, sinister Sarek... I tuck the box in among my belongings for safe-keeping.

We return one last time to the goo chamber, and I take extra samples of it for analysis. We decide to head back to Diamond Lake. It takes some time, but we finally haul everything (including the bodies of Ulavant's team) up to the Cairn entrance. Fortunately, I thought ahead and purchased a cart and 2 mules to help us transport the bodies back to Diamond Lake! On the way to the cart, Hezzrack warns us that people are coming...

A haggard group of wild-eyed humans bursts out of the underbrush! As soon as the "leader" opens his mouth, it's clear they are completely insane. However, they seem to be fixated on 31E...

The battle is joined, but suddenly, some of the attackers morph into aberrations called "faceless stalkers". Spells and swords fly, and during the vicious fight, Haroldur and I fall. Just as things are looking grim, Kullen the half-orc erupts from the bushes and attacks the leader of the lunatic band! He bisects the madman, and a hail of crossbow bolts from the bushes rain down upon the aberrations. With their assistance, the battle is won.

As they are looting the corpses (which happens immediately), Kullen explains that "the boss" wants us watched, but he didn't say anything about watching us die. We thank him and his boys for their assistance. Surveying the mercenary crew, I decide I don't want them to feel I owe them anything. I pay the thugs a platinum piece each - except for one bright soul who proudly insists he won't work for less than 10 gold. I pay him in his preferred coinage. Kullen refuses my offer of payment, nodding to the loot he scavenged off the leader's corpse. As he leaves, he tosses us the madman's necklace, the:

Sihedron amulet

Haroldur and Nineve do the rites and bury the corpses, while I examine the remains of the faceless stalkers - no bodies, just a smoking, greasy black spot on the earth! I kick some dirt and debris over the residue, repulsed by the unnaturalness of it.

Our return trip to Diamond Lake is uneventful. Along the way Hezzrack fashions a crown out of leaves and twigs and proclaims himself "King of the Cart", a title no one contests.

Back in Diamond Lake, the poor quarter has developed into "Little Kolbenberg", and people gossip about us and treat us like celebrities - apparently, we've become local heroes. We make our way to the Grey Convent and lodge there. Also, we advise 31E to lay low, as the townsfolk would certainly find him very conspicuous.

In the morning, Sarek and Nineve visit the church of St. Cuthbert for healing, as they are still suffering badly from their disease. They are pressed into hard labor, and return at sundown. Meanwhile, I visit with Lazare and pick up some new chess skills. Alastor and Brolan are reunited, and set immediately to their notes. At dusk, Haroldur gives a mediocre sermon at the convent, to a small crowd.

The next morning, Sarek and Nineve are late to work at St. Cuthbert's, and no doubt pay for it with their hides. I decide to spend the day working at the Convent, and Haroldur leaves to drum up more people for his evening sermon. In town, a guard captain is erecting a makeshift gallows to execute four hobos he claims were "plotting to kill the mayor"! Haroldur investigates and concludes that the hobos are innocent and the guard captain is under some kind of magical compulsion. He starts bombastically preaching in their favor, sparking a public debate, and word of the commotion spreads through town like wildfire.

The rest of us converge on the source of the disturbance, and suddenly realize we haven't seen Hezzrack in a while... It's not a huge leap of logic to conclude that he must be behind this. Sarek starts provoking the invisible imp by calling him his "familiar", which of course elicits the usual tirade. Before things get too out of hand, I announce to Hezzrack (who is still invisible) that i spent all day yesterday learning new chess moves from Lazare, and I'll meet him back at the convent for a game, if he's interested. After a brief moment of consideration, he says "Deal!", and I lure him back to the convent while Haroldur, Sarek, and Nineve sort out the mess.

Hezzrack plays chess with me and 31E all day. In the evening, the party and I decide we need to have tighter control of Hezzrack's antics. After a heated debate over what to do, we decide to draw up a contract with him. He agrees to all the terms, though I suspect he's just vowing to be more subtle with his mischief. Devils will be devils.

The next day, Sarek and Nineve have recovered and are released from service to the church of St. Cuthbert. We visit Lazare, Alastor and Brolan, who have had time to compare notes. They tell us that they're sure the Rod depicted in the story is in fact none other than the Rod of Law, also known as the Rod of Seven Parts. This artifact is reputed to be so powerful, that throughout history, wars have been fought and kingdoms sacrificed for just a fragment of it. They also confirm my suspicion that the portal we found likely leads to the tomb of a Storm King leader who received a fragment of the Rod... and it's almost certainly completely undisturbed and may even contain the fragment! All this discussion seems to have jogged 31E's memory, and he recalls that he was sent to the Cairn initially to find this fragment or clues leading to it. Of course, the scholars are very excited by all of this.

They also tell us that to repair 31E, we'll probably need to find an artificer, but no one is sure of how we can replace his lost limbs, as he is quite advanced.

Through all of this, I get the impression that Lazare knows more than he's letting on, but I don't press him on it. After all, he's in the business of being in the know, and I imagine he won't share whatever that knowledge is on anyone else's terms.

Later that day, the Legionnaires arrive to collect the bodies of the Seekers and escort us back to Istivin, the capitol. Alastor and Brolan accompany us, along with Tamclar and his family. As we're packing to leave, Zolara appears to us and offers us a reading:

The Choosing:
Ashe - The Twin
Sarek - The Betrayal
Haroldur - The Empty Throne
Nineve - The Tyrant

The Spread:

The Winged Serpent -------The Survivor ---------- The Publican
The Empty Throne -------The Rabbit Prince -------The Crows
The Desert -----------------The Courtesan --------The Sickness


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,