Friday, May 21, 2010

Episode 25: 5/16/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 4/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4

We begin our decent into the pit. As we move down the hole (through various mundane and magical means), we are attacked by waves of wind warriors! Haroldur makes good use of his long-forgotten crossbow, and at one point I manage to leap heroically onto a Wind Warrior mid-flight and stab it in the air. We fight our way to the bottom of the cavern and find ourselves in a large cavern at the base of a waterfall.

Glowing fungus grows on the walls and ceiling of the cavern, dimly illuminating the area. We proceed with caution and I discover a magical trap! I try to disarm it, but I run into some difficulty. With Xicar's help, we realize that there are in fact three traps. I try to disarm the second one, and meet with success.

We move cautiously past the traps and approach a very incongruous gargoyle statue in the center of the cavern. As I walk up to examine it, it lunges at me with its horrible teeth! Turns out, it is in fact a Nabasu demon! It offers some resistance, and Xicar can't take it's terrible gaze and gains a negative level.
We finish it off just as a few Shadow Mastiffs rush in and charge us. The mastiffs are followed by some Shadows, more shadar-kai, and Shadow Orcs! It's death o'clock!

We fight a very pitched battle. At first, both sides seem to be evenly matched, but we're taking heavy damage and their reinforcements keep coming. In the midst of the chaotic din of combat a strange and compelling creature stalks into the chamber. She has the form of a beautiful horned woman from the waist up, and that of a vicious hunting cat from the waist down. Somehow, the look of abject and merciless cruelty in her eyes is more unsettling than the strange combination of woman and feral cat. She raises her bizarre, long-fingered hands in a commanding gesture and speaks several strange words in a ringing voice. Our opponents slowly lower their weapons, eyeing us warily, while also watching the strange horned woman with expressions of fearful respect.

We soon learn that this strange creature, a Shadow Sphinx, is called Sivit. She speaks Undercommon, Draconic, Infernal, and Abyssal. Most of us can understand at least one of those languages - we translate for those who can't. The situation is tense, but it seems Sivit sees no reason for further unnecessary losses and is willing to negotiate. After a few skillful verbal maneuvers we convince her that we are of the same mind. We reach a truce - she and her shadar-kai will let us proceed unhindered if we will help her with a "situation" they're having. She explains that she has a problem, and she believes the solution to that problem is nearby. However, the entity who can help her refuses to deal with her. Sivit thinks it may deal with us, however (probably because we're not obviously evil giant sphinx-women).

She directs a pair of shadar-kai to show us The Problem. They take us down a corridor which branches off from this main room to a long chamber. In the center of this chamber, completely blocking the way through, is a 40-foot tall Statue of Doom. It looks inactive at the moment, but the area around it is littered with bodies of fallen shadar-kai, and the statue's huge hammer is still glistening with the blood of its foes. By the looks of things, not a single shadar-kai has managed to make it past this obstacle. Our guides indicate to us (through pantomime) that getting any closer to the statue will trigger the "splatting" sequence. Xicar makes a joke about shoving that is not well-received...

We return to Sivit and she escorts us to her potential solution, grumbling to us that this elemental knows the secrets to the chamber but completely refuses to deal with her. It is obviously a sore point. She leads us down another passage and stops suddenly, saying this is as far as she'll go. Sivit stalks back to the rest of her minions as we press on.

The stony passage twists and turns as we climb upward. Shortly the rough passage opens into a small chamber whose walls are carved with intricate reliefs. The chamber is very cold. Crusted ice and frost cake the floor and walls, and our breath smokes in the air. The frost-covered reliefs glitter in the light, and almost seem to move. They show various Storm Kings, Amsophar among them, paying homage to a strange female figure emerging from a pool of ice and snow.

We continue on to the next room, which is even colder than the last. Drifts of snow cover the floor, and caked frost covers everything else. Cold bluish light fills the chamber and causes the ice and snow to sparkle. A rough, snow-covered stairway winds around the side of this chamber towards the light. A waterfall spills in frozen, glittering beauty from a platform above onto the unmoving surface of an icy pool. As though the chamber weren’t already strange enough, snow falls soft and silent, from somewhere far above. For a moment, the marvel of the strange sight fills us with childish wonder and delight. In fact, Haroldur flops onto the ground and makes a snow angel, and we all laugh as we admire his handiwork.

After carefully climbing the rough stairs, we find ourselves atop a platform overlooking the frozen pool below. A pair of frozen waterfalls frame a pool of ice and slush in glistening beauty. As we approach, the icy surface of the pool swirls and churns, forming a column that rises from the turbulent surface. Quickly the column forms into the shape of a beautiful woman composed of glittering snow, her icy blue eyes regarding each of us briefly before she says something in a strange, tinkling language. Oddly enough, we find that we can understand her perfectly, as she bids us welcome to her chambers.


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Episode 24: 12/19/09

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 4/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4
Sarek, human wizard 7

We spend a day or so resting and recuperating before heading down the elevator to wherever it goes (if it goes anywhere).

Amazingly, despite the obvious age of the ruin, the elevator works perfectly. There is a smooth, gentle falling motion and a slight feeling of weightlessness, accompanied by a soft "whoosh" as we are whisked to the bottom of the shaft. The doors open with a slight hiss into a large rectangular chamber.

Immediately, we freeze. 2 large crystalline creatures, which appear to be ice elementals, stand guard at the far end of the room. They aren't attacking us yet, but it's obvious they've seen us. They are holding their hands up in an authoritative gesture that obviously means "Come no further".

Around this time I notice that everyone is fixated on what may be our icy doom except Xicar, who is staring, open-mouthed at a featureless spot in the middle of the ceiling. I nudge him with my elbow - this is hardly the time for daydreaming. He rubs his puny man-arm where I bumped him, then points and says "Look, don't you see it? The hole?"

No, I do not. I see a featureless ceiling and two very large, very aggressive looking crystal monsters about 40 feet away. A quick pow-wow with everyone else reveals that I didn't just fail my spot check (like that EVER happens!), there's really nothing there. Xicar sounds delusional, but he's so adamant about the "hole in the ceiling", I can't just dismiss it. I notice he's still clutching Lazare's crystal artifact... Maybe it's having psychotic effects on him? I get him to hand the disc over.

Suddenly, I see it, too. Or more accurately, I see it and Xicar doesn't anymore. There is indeed a perfectly circular hole in the ceiling, the interior of which appears to be lined with the starry night sky! It's really quite beautiful. We pass the disc around so everyone can have a look. We've gotta go up there.

Unfortunately, we can't get to the hole in the ceiling from where we are. Our attempts to communicate with the ice elementals fail, with us addressing them in every language we know and them responding with tinkly, squeaky, cracking noises. Finally, it occurs to someone to ask 31E if he can translate. He informs us that he is fluent in over six million forms of communication. Fortunately for us, Aquan is one of those forms.

Figuring out HOW to talk to the ice elementals took a lot longer than our actual conversation with them. Essentially, they are the guardians of this chamber, they will be forced to attack us if we come any closer, and no, it doesn't matter that we have Icosiel's stuff or the weird crystal disc that lets us see the hole in the ceiling. Turn back or die, yadda yadda yadda.

We charge forward. Xicar dismisses one of the elementals immediately, which really helps. The remaining elemental spits ice at us and generally makes things difficult as we slip and slide along the iced-over floor. It cuts and slams us with its cold, crystal fists, but we eventually destroy the creature. It explodes into a refreshing, cleansing mist of snow. Behind an alcove at the far end of the chamber, Xicar the Wanderer finds some:

Boots of the Mountain King!

We heal up and go check out the hole in the ceiling. Standing under it and looking up, we are each lifted up through the starry tunnel into a small, wondrous chamber, as if by a magical breeze. The top of this beautiful chamber is covered with stars, much like the passage leading to it. The air is comfortably warm, with the slightest breeze on which wafts a light scent of roses. The chamber is made to look and feel like a strange and beautiful garden at night. Here and there the walls are carved with love poetry and romantic scenes. After a bit of translation, we come to the conclusion that this chamber is a loving monument to Amsophar's courtesan. It's quite touching, but not what we're looking for. We have to move on.

Out of ideas, we retrace our steps back to the arrow-shaped room where we were attacked by the wind warriors. It's still a mess. However, this time I look a little more closely and find a hidden door, which leads to a narrow passageway. We head down the corridor and into a dark, sunken room.

The room is full of ogres and shadar-kai. They appear to have recently emerged from a corroded hole in a large iron plate on the floor of the chamber, and seem pretty surprised to see us. We start to fight, but suddenly, everyone freezes as we all hear a loud click. The passage we came through seals shut, and torrents of freezing water begin pouring into the room. Almost instantly it becomes apparent that death by drowning is a more pressing threat than the ogres and shadar-kai.

The raging waters finally pull us into the swirling vortex at the center of the chamber, dragging us down into cold, wet darkness. The roar of the crashing water fills our ears as we fight the current and the freezing water takes our breath away.

It seems we've been flushed into some kind of magical sewer? I don't have any time to figure it out. The water is still crashing down from above, forcing me under the surface. I swim hard against the churning water and pop up in what appears to be a giant tunnel. The freezing river's current carries me on a wild ride, and I twist and dodge as best I can to avoid being smashed against the rocks and debris. Suddenly, I'm holding my breath and swimming for my life as the water forces me into an airless, black tunnel. After what seems like an eternity, I reach the end of the tunnel. I gasp for air and try once again to avoid being pummeled to bits on the rocks as the rushing current carries me downstream at a breakneck pace. The roar of the water is getting louder, and I realize to my horror that I am being carried towards a waterfall. I brace myself. At once, there is a feeling of weightlessness as the torrent pours over a ledge and into blackness...

Slowly, I become aware of a noise, like distant thunder. It is getting closer, louder and louder until I have to see what it could be. I open my eyes and find myself alone in the darkness, lying atop slick, hard stone. The roar of falling water is deafening, and cold spray stings my exposed skin. Memories of my recent terrifying and disorienting experience with the waterfall rush back to me. After a moment, I manage to regain my feet. Nothing appears to be broken, so far; but where is everybody? More alarmingly, WHERE IS MY STUFF?? I do a quick check and realize I am missing both swords, along with my backpack (and everything in it!). This day just keeps getting better.

I pick myself up and start casting about. My companions (or their remains) must be around here somewhere. My keen senses help me somewhat and I locate Haroldur and my backpack almost immediately. I check my backpack - Lazare is still in there, apparently asleep! At any rate, he's definitely alive. We wander around in the darkness searching for whatever we can find. We come upon a battered-looking shadar-kai here and there, but they assume defensive postures and back away wearily - probably doing the same thing we are.

Eventually, we manage to locate all of our companions and most of our stuff! I'm still missing my short sword, and Haroldur can't find his mace, but we all emerge from that disaster more or less intact. Xicar the Wanderer even manages to find some extra Gloves of Lightning lying about.

Reunited, we make camp and get bit of a rest. After some discussion, we decide to follow the direction of the river and head downstream. As we proceed, we hear voices ahead and become aware of more shadar-kai in the next chamber. We burst in and they attack us immediately. The roguish shadar-kai set a frenetic pace, but we keep up and soon manage to overwhelm them. At one point, an umber hulk appears and joins the fray! I guess it decides this room is too dangerous, because after a few minutes it turns and burrows into the wall. None of us are inclined to go after it.

One or two shadar-kai escape, but we wipe out most of what appears to be a scouting party. They have set up camp around a large gaping hole in the ground. Ropes, pitons and other climbing equipment are set up in and around the hole. The shadar-kai must've just climbed up from there recently. We search the camp, and Xicar the Wanderer finds some Gloves of Repulsion (for Sarek!), but nothing else of use or value.

We stare down into the Pitch Black Hole.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Episode 23:12/5/09

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/4-3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4
Sarek, human wizard 7

With Balabar and his henchmen taken care of, we attempt to formulate a plan. Diamond Lake is a desperate town of refugees, and we just their leader and most of his cronies. Tyrant though he was, Balabar Smenk was maintaining some kind of order, and his death will create a power vacuum that could throw the remaining survivors into anarchy and chaos. And of course, we can't have that.

There is also the minor problem of the dragon. And the fact that we haven't found Lazare (or 31E) yet. However, while we were being poisoned by Balabar, he told us that the cart of offerings to the dragon is always delivered near the Whispering Cairn, and the dragon seems to be hanging out there for some reason. Lazare was also rumored to be at the Whispering Cairn, so it looks like we can kill two birds with one stone here. Yay, us.

After some debate, we decide to leave Tamklar in charge of Diamond Lake while we take the Harkness across the lake to the Whispering Cairn in search of Lazare (and probably the dragon). We also encourage Tamklar to evacuate Diamond Lake as soon as possible. The dragon hasn't been back since the initial attack, and we suspect that it may have been after Lazare, anyway. Even if the dragon does attack them as they evacuate, their only other option at this point is starvation. It's worth the risk to make a break for civilization.

We spend several days getting the survivors in order, fixing the Harkness, and making preparations. A day or so after our showdown with Balabar, we are shocked to see Kullen, wounded but healing, limping into town. Things are tense at first, but he makes it clear that he had no personal grudge against us, nor any special loyalty to Balabar Smenk. Now that Smenk is dead, he has no further beef with us. We accept his apology, and he offers his assistance with the current predicament. We send him to Tamklar, who has taken charge of Diamond Lake and is preparing for the evacuation.

At last our preparations are complete and we are ready to leave for the Whispering Cairn. Tamklar is particularly somber and it's obvious he thinks we're going to die. As we're saying our goodbyes, he suddenly remembers Mossad gave him a package for us before we left the Cabal. It turns out to be a bag of holding (type 1)! On the Harkness, we dump it out and get:

3 scrolls of sending (Keep in touch!)
1 potion of Lesser Restoration (You never know...)
1 scroll of Raise Dead (Just in case.)
1 scroll of Restoration (Hope you won't need this.)
5 potions of Cure Serious Wounds (One for each of you.)

We sail across the lake. In transit, we find Balabar's stash:

zircon ring
800 gp
bronze statuette of a knight
2800 sp
copper horn
adamantine armband w/filigree
2 gold bars worth 200 gp total
copper & silver anklet
onyx sphere w/trees

The trip across goes uneventfully and we disembark into the early December countryside. As we enter the valley containing the Cairn, the air is warmer and misty. We round a bend and see it: a vast red-gold dragon, fast asleep in front of the entrance to the Cairn. A low thrumming comes from its jaws and nostrils, along with wisps of smoke, but its fires are low in slumber. Beneath it, under its limbs and huge coiled tail and all around lay a strange assortment of things; some precious, some little more than trash. This part of the valley is thick with the dragon's scent, and the air is filled with smoke, like fog from the blasted and smoldering hillsides.

We exchange some meaningful glances and silently decide to try to sneak past it without waking it. Unfortunately, as we approach, a thin and piercing ray of red shines from under the dragon's eye. We dive behind a nearby rock. Unhurried, it lifts its massive head and turns its piercing gaze in our direction.

It bids us emerge from our hiding place behind the rock, and since it knows we're there, there's no reason not to. We have a completely unnerving but surprisingly civil conversation with the massive, murderous dragon. The dragon recognizes our scent and claims we meddled in it's affairs in the mountains (Oops.) It seems that Lazare stole something from the dragon while it was out razing Blackwall Keep. The dragon knows Lazare is hiding in the Cairn, and demands in a nonchalant but unquestionable way that we "chase the little worm out of his hole", presumably in exchange for not eating us on the spot. Haroldur brilliantly talks us through, and we enter the Cairn.

It looks like our friend the GRW spent some time blasting and clawing at the entrance. The walls are black with soot and crumbling in places where the rock has been completely baked and shattered. A little inside the destroyed entrance to the Cairn, we find several deceased deranged Imperium cultist bodies, like we've encountered before with 31E in this area. The front end of the tomb is largely like we left it. We advance to the back, the true antechamber to the tomb, and the door that required 31E's key plate to open it. The door is near the end of its closing sequence. We quickly deduce that Lazare and 31E must be in Icosiel's proper tomb, so we go on through, lest we get get sealed out forever!

Inside, things look unchanged, but the previously-docile Wind Warriors impede our progress. We are forced to fight them. This is a very tough fight that nearly claims our lives, but we make it through.

Strangely, the black portal we noticed last time appears to be active. Lazare and 31E must've gone through it. It is labeled "Amsophar". We're badly hurt and we don't know what's on the other side of the portal, so we take a moment to heal up. As we're preparing, Zolara appears.

The Choosing:

Nineve - The Rakshasaa
Haroldur - The Inquisitor
Sarek - The Foreign Trader
Ashe - The Hidden Truth
Xicar - The Wanderer

The Spread:

The Inquisitor The Locksmith The Idiot
The Snakebite The Juggler The Courtesan
The Tyrant The Beating The Eclipse

"Again, the Inquisitor appears, representing you 5 and your unswerving dedication to your purpose. To stand against the Inquisitor is to court disaster. The Snakebite represents recent deception or trickery, perhaps betrayal. The Tyrant, although still a grave threat, is now behind you, although his part may not be fully played out yet.

The Locksmith represents the keys needed to unlock one's destiny or long-hidden secrets. The Juggler here does not represent anything in particular, although I suspect you are soon to meet him in person. The Beating warns of unexpected and overwhelming attack, though not necessarily ambush.

The Idiot represents one who feigns ignorance to disguise one's true gifts. Here, the Courtesan represents two women of power - it would be wisest to be as polite as possible when dealing with them. Aligned as she is, the Courtesan represents a grave danger if the situation is mishandled. The Eclipse is darkness. Beware the dark and those who dwell within it."

Healed up and armed with new knowledge, we step through the portal to Amsophar, or hopefully, his tomb. The blackness is so deep, it is almost viscous. Stepping through it, one gets the dizzying impression of of traversing vast gulfs, a staggering distance, in just a single step. Aside from being a little unnerving, however, we all emerge from the portal unchanged and unharmed.

We step from the inky blackness of the gate into a long, wide stone hallway. Ahead, a pair of brightly lit alcoves illuminates the corridor. A faint breeze brings with it sibilant whispers that sound almost like sighing breath. It is odd, but the effect is almost lifelike. If I didn’t know better, I would think we’d been transported back to the entrance of the Whispering Cairn. Although the effects of vast gulfs of time are evident in the uneven flooring and cracks along the walls, these halls are in far better repair than ruins outside of Diamond Lake. The walls are covered with strange runes and intricate reliefs. Translation of the runes indicates that the reliefs are scenes from Amsophar's life. Farther down the corridor, we encounter an alcove.

A statue of an armored Storm King, left hand resting on a sword, right held up to shield his eyes, stands at the far end of the alcove. The marble statue has sparkling blue gems for eyes and various details made of gold. A beam of bright light shines onto the statue from above, causing the gems to glitter and the stone to glow softly. The walls are carved with delicate reliefs of servants and warriors bowing and saluting. Incorporated into the statue is a removable metal plate, marked with runes that translate as "Wind".

Further down the corridor, we find three more alcoves, almost identical to the first, except for the metal plate. They read "Thunder", "Lightning", and "Ice". We take the plates and move on.

The runes in the next hallway spell out various accolades for Amsophar. However, here and there are phrases that are missing a key word. Immediately after this, the 10 foot wide corridor we've been walking through is crossed by what appears to be another 10 foot wide hallway. My rogue-sense is tingling - this smells like a trap! I insists my companions hang back while I check it out.

As soon as I cross the threshold into the other "hallway" (it's actually just a small room placed perpendicular to the main corridor), a forceful wind blows me clear across the "trap room" and plasters me onto the far wall. There, vents in this side of the room leak a noxious dex-damaging gas! While I'm taking dex damage, I notice our friend Lazare, lying in a heap in the noxious gas. He's obviously been paralyzed by it. After a few seconds, the gust of wind of wind abates and I can move again. I grab Lazare's immobile form, get out my trusty troll-gut rope (with hand grappling hook!), and run back towards my companions, who are still in the safety of the main hallway. I toss the troll hand to my companions and it grabs Nineve. Literally seconds after it stopped, the wind kicks back in. There's no way I would have had time to run back to safety on my own. I can see how Lazare became trapped!

Eventually, my companions manage to pull me and my paralyzed baggage through the gale-force winds and back to safety.

We use a potion of Lesser Restoration on Lazare, who is conscious but very weak. He revives a little and we ask him to explain himself. Why did he abduct 31E? What's he doing in this tomb? What did he steal from the dragon?

Lazare explains that the thing he took from the dragon was a crystal disc. It was the first artifact he found as an adventurer (back in his younger days). He and his companions were set upon by the GRW, and he traded it to the dragon in exchange for their lives. Not surprisingly, the dragon betrayed them and only Lazare escaped. He's been trying to retrieve the artifact ever since. When the dragon finally left his lair (to raze Blackwall Keep), Lazare took advantage of the distraction to reclaim his property.

After years of research, Lazare has deduced that the crystal disc is some sort of key to Amsophar's tomb. He also discovered, partly with our help, that Icosiel's tomb in the Whispering Cairn was linked to Amsophar's tomb. Once he retrieved the artifact, he knew he had to go to the Cairn to see if he is correct.

Lazare also insists that he didn't abduct 31E. He simply went to the Cabal and asked the robot if he'd like to accompany him on his explorations of the Whispering Cairn (and beyond!). As this is part of 31E's programmed directives, he readily agreed. They left the Cabal perhaps without consulting all the proper authorities, as they both deduced that Marten wouldn't be willing to let 31E go.

They made it this far, but Lazare's explorations were cut short by his encounter with the trap. 31E managed to escape somehow, and Lazare doesn't know where he is.

In turn, we tell him about the dragon attack, the fall of Blackwall Keep, and the destruction of Diamond Lake. He seemed genuinely unaware of these activities, and looks more crestfallen with each new bit of terrible news. Nevertheless, it's good to be united with an old friend, and we all agree that it's very lucky for Lazare that we came along when we did!

Lazare must have been stuck in that trap for quite a while - he looks emaciated and very much worse for the wear. We offer him food and drink while we try to figure out the puzzle before us.

After several hours of study, we deduce the missing words in the text and discover these words can be arranged to make the sentence, "Amsophar made war that we might live in peace". Cautiously, I approach the "windy passage", which is still gusting intermittently, and speak what I hope are the key words. Immediately, the wind abates, and we advance unmolested.

As we're celebrating our victory over the trap, 31E emerges from around the next crossing. Apparently he made it past the first trap, only to be claimed by the second. Of course, we're thrilled to see him. We repair him and he attaches the new leg (he was very surprised we managed to find one!).

While 31E is putting himself back together, we mention that we think we know what his mechanical scarab is for. We tell him about the ones we saw in Jakardos's lab back in Blackwall Keep. 31E is skeptical, but we convince him to try it. Fortunately, I was thinking ahead, so I just happen to have an accurate atlas of like, the entire known world! We roll it out and set the scarab on the map. It whirs and clicks and skitters in a straight line for the Whispering Cairn, where it sits, fluttering its mechanical wings intermittently. This seems to ring some bells for 31E, because he makes a strange face (as much as a construct CAN make a face), and says "Of course. The scarab is currently programmed to display my original mission objective." He picks it up and fiddles with it a little, explaining that he can alter the scarab's function to display our current location. He sets it back down and we all gasp as it skitters completely across the map, coming to rest in an unknown mountain range thousands of miles from Caledon.

That's... a bit of a shock. But, there's no sense in worrying about it now; we have a Storm King tomb to explore! At this point, Lazare, who looks really exhausted, apologizes for not being much use to us. He hands the hard-won crystal disc to Xicar, and then quite unexpectedly polymorphs into a ferret and crawls into my backpack. Will wonders never cease? We take the opportunity to rest and regroup a bit before venturing forth.

We descend an elegant staircase and enter a large central room. The octagonal chamber is lit by six floating lanterns that hover around a central statue of some strange metal. The statue depicts Amsophar clad in armor and lounging in a throne. One hand rests lazily on the pommel of a sword, while the other is stretched out languidly along the back of the throne, casually pointing across the chamber, seemingly at nothing in particular. A thick, swirling fog obscures the ceiling far above. A series of 4 intricate reliefs decorate the walls of this magnificent chamber. Numerous small items: coins, jewelry, statuettes, and other small objects litter the statue’s rune-carved pedestal.

As we approach, thick mist swirls upon the reliefs, animating them strangely. I take rubbings of everything:

Relief #1: This relief shows Amsophar at a great battle fighting twisted creatures of chaos against impossible odds.

Relief #2: This relief shows Amsophar avenging the death of Icosiel, striking down a terrible robed figure wielding an orb that seems to destroy anything it touches.

Relief #3: This relief shows Amsophar wielding a long rod or staff against a tremendous form of writhing darkness and horror. Amsophar triumphs, but his staff shatters into 7 pieces, and he collapses to his knees.

Relief #4: This panel shows Amsophar being struck down by a hideous creature with the body of a great spider and the head of a wolf. The creature appears to sneak up behind him and strike while Amsophar is recovering from an earlier battle.

We eventually discover that with a bit of elbow grease, the statue rotates counter-clockwise. Each rotation seems to point the sword at a doorway. We rotate it one click, and the stone panel of the relevant door slides into the ceiling revealing a small chamber beyond. Simultaneously, a booming voice erupts from the statue and Order's Wrath washes harmlessly over the party. Then, the mist on the ceiling coalesces into 4 Belkars that descend on us menacingly...

We brace for impact and Sarek kicks things off with a fireball. With 31E's help, we destroy the Belkars. Xicar the Wanderer checks the rubble and finds:

an emerald worth 1000 gp!

At the back of the small chamber we discovered, we see a serious of identical runes. One is missing. It matches the "Wind" plate we have, so we place it in the empty slot. Nothing happens.

We rotate the statue another click. This the floor of this small chamber is 20 feet below the level of the main room. It has what looks like a small passageway at the bottom, on the far wall. I volunteer to check it for traps. I borrow Nineve's ring of Featherfall and jump down... only to fall UP! Apparently, I've triggered a Reverse Gravity trap! I fall up 80 feet (luckily taking no damage, thanks to Nineve)! Eventually my companions drop a rope up to me and pull me down out of the trap.

We rotate the state again and find another small chamber with a missing rune. We slot in the "Thunder" plate and nothing nasty happens to us.

We rotate the statue another click and reveal a tubular elevator down. We're not quite ready to leave the main chamber yet, so we decide to come back to this one.

The next rotation reveals just an empty room. I step inside to look for a secret door or something, and the panel slams shut! Yelling through the wall, Nineve tells me that as the door closed, the statue rotated forward two clicks! They can't move it back - they'll have to go all the way around again. About this time I realize the ceiling in my little death chamber is getting lower and lower...

Everybody struggles to turn the statue back around in time. A fair bit of fumbling occurs. When the door opens again, I have to roll out into the central chamber - I was flat on my belly with about 5 inches from floor to ceiling! Casting a sardonic gaze over the three puny men, I advise my companions against the "Ceiling Trap of Doom" weight-loss plan.

The next two chambers are more rune puzzles. We slot in the appropriate runes and move on.

The last chamber is a hole. Just a hole straight down. There is a little bit of debate, but Nineve's unnatural fear of elevators wins out and we descend down the pit instead. At the bottom, the pit opens up into a beautiful arrow-shaped room. Elegant marble columns and statuary grace the chamber, along with a bunch of Wind Warriors who promptly try to kill us. We fight our way tooth and nail through the whole mess of them, covering the previously-pristine chamber with blood (ours) and bits of ceramic armor (theirs). Xicar the Wanderer pokes through the debris and finds some Oil of Greater Magic Weapon +5! Then, we use my trusty troll gut grappling hook rope to get the hell outta Dodge.


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Friday, May 14, 2010

Episode 22: 11/14/09

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/4-3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4
Sarek, human wizard 7

We burn Akasha on the cart she rode in on. Mossad takes one last look at her garlic-stuffed, disembodied head before tossing it on the pyre. That evening, Mossad mostly keeps to himself as Arrad pals around with the Legionnaires. We camp for the night in the relative safety of our fortifications.

In the morning, Mossad pokes through the ashes and fishes out a ring, which he tosses to Sarek. He puts the ashes in some urns, and then gives us each one. We scatter Akasha's remains to the four winds while Mossad says a prayer for the departed foe. Afterwards we break camp and head back to the Cabal; a journey of about a week. Along the way, we gain from our experiences and receive some special training from Arrad! As we travel, we finally get around to giving Mossad and Arrad our full report on the Blackwall Keep mission.

We settle in to life at the Cabal, but rumors of trouble in Diamond Lake pique our interest. We soon decide that the time is right for us to go after 31E. We remember that we'll need a Repair spell to attach the new leg to 31E, but those are hard to come by. After a bit of research we learn of a shop, called Stonebones, which might sell such a thing.

We make our way to the Cogs, a bustling foreigner's marketplace that is out of the way and off the radar for most of Istivin's inhabitants. We locate the curio shop and are somewhat surprised to find it is run by Stonebones, a Xorn. He is hesitant to deal with us at first, and things get off to a rocky start when Sarek spots a suspicious-looking amalgam of body parts in the Xorn's workshop. Officially, this is something we should definitely investigate, but it's clear that Stonebones won't deal with us if we give him any trouble. Things get a little heated, but we decide to turn a blind eye here for the sake of rescuing 31E. Stonebones is still uncertain about us, but the "irresistible aroma" of our gems gets the better of him and he agrees to sell us some Repair scrolls. While Stonebones is rummaging around for the scrolls, I spot a disembodied troll hand in a small cage among the jumbled piles of trinkets and treasures. I've been casually looking for just such a thing, in the hopes of combining it with my troll gut rope to make a troll hand grappling hook! I must have it. It costs me a few "delicious" rubies from my personal stash, but I eventually convince Stonebones to let me have it. Thrilled, I attach the hand to the rope and it flips me off immediately. I love it!

That evening, back at the Cabal, we are stunned to be summoned to meet with the Canoness. None of us has met with her since we were inducted as Greycloaks. No one meets with her!

Canoness Embiril Ilustani receives us in her large and richly appointed office. A cheery blaze in the hearth casts dancing shadows about the chamber. Draped in luxuriously embroidered silks and velvets, the elderly Canoness is still more graceful and charming than most women half her age (whatever that may be). Her eyes seem to shift color constantly. She chats with us in a relaxed manner that speaks of her absolute supremacy.

She informs us that since Ironbriar's imprisonment, Marten has been appointed as an Interim Justice for the district. This doesn't surprise me at all, since I've always thought Marten was a power-hungry snake. However, his appointment has elevated the Cabal's status and influence somewhat. Canoness Ilustani goes on to say that due to Marten's new post, the Ruby Temple has a more direct influence over Ironbriar's fate. She asks us to submit a recommendation on this matter. This type of thing is quite a bit above our pay grade, and we're all rather stunned, but of course we agree. After a few more minutes of small talk, she replaces our Greycloaks with Traveling Greycloaks, in recognition of our service to the Cabal. We are deeply honored to be rewarded by the Canoness herself, but we leave her chambers uneasy with the weight of our task to provide a recommendation.

Legally, Ironbriar has earned death as a punishment for his crimes ten times over. However, it seems evident that he was under Akasha's direct control for many months, and was merely carrying out her wishes when he committed his crimes. On the other hand, as Sarek repeatedly points out, it was Ironbriar who actually, physically performed these acts. But if a person is not in control of their own mind, if their will is not their own, can they be held completely and solely responsible for their actions? We weighed the arguments and it was obvious that we were getting nowhere. We decided to seek out help.

We approach Hezzrak and ask him to cast Commune. In the end, though, we decide we can't trust Hezzrak's Commune because we don't know who he's communing with! It doesn't help that when asked, the imp becomes evasive on that point... We ask him to cast Augury for us as well, but both courses of action (leniency and death) return a divination of "Weal and Woe". Those damned Divination spells never clear anything up! Desperate, we consult with Advocat and find there are some precedents for leniency in these types of cases. At length, we turn in our well-written missive to Mossad recommending leniency for Ironbriar based on evidence, the circumstances surrounding this case, and the historical precedents.

As we prepare to leave for Diamond Lake, we find Tamklar ready to depart with us. No caravans have come from the Diamond Lake area in weeks, and he is anxious to see for himself what has happened in his home region. We're happy to have him along.

A day or two into our journey by carriage, Zolara appears and offers us a reading:

The Choosing:

Nineve - The Avalanche
Sarek - The Juggler
Ashe - The Crows
Xicar - The Cricket

The Spread:

The Paladin The Keep The Dance
The Beating The Avalanche The Joke
The Juggler The Tyrant The Tangled Brier

"Regarding the past, The Paladin is strength through adversity - he does not back down under any circumstances, much like you all. The Beating shows an attack from all sides. You may have survived, but something was lost, perhaps trust. Misaligned, The Juggler has faltered in the past, and a great disaster followed.

In the present, The Keep represents all of you, your quiet strength that cannot by shaken by any force. The Avalanche shows me the chaos and suffering that arises from an unthinking crowd, though it may be averted. The Tyrant is a blight on those ruled. In this case, I see a true dragon, though his rule is felt through the actions of another - one you are familiar with, I think.

The Dance represents the rich and delicate framework in which we all exist. Knowing your place and seeing the patterns will allow you to remain in perfect step. The Joke shows us a terror overcome through trickery or wit - not force. The Tangled Brier is a card of past deeds - it tells of a lost object or person who may still influence the present day."

In a few days we arrive at the outskirts of town. We are "greeted" by a gang of thugs in tattered red cloaks who try to extort us for a "toll". Nineve convinces them that they should look elsewhere if it's easy money they're after.

We round a corner and gasp as we catch sight of what used to be Diamond Lake. It's been largely leveled. We interrupt a town gathering of sorts that appears to be some kind of lottery. Officiating it all is Balabar Smenk. Dressed in faded, tatty finery with a tin crown on his head, he is a far cry from the smooth and powerful crime boss he once was. The town is crawling with his lackeys - the thugs in the tattered red cloaks. After some quick inquiries, we find out what happened.

A huge red dragon attacked Diamond Lake. (We deduce that it was probably the same dragon that leveled Blackwall Keep). The dragon still holds the town. In the wake of the destruction, Balabar stepped in to fill the power vacuum, acting as the dragon's envoy. He and his lackeys hang out on the Harkness, and collect what valuables can be had from the scavenging survivors. About once a week Balabar sends an "offering" of goods and people to the dragon, as payment/incentive for not continuing to raze the town. The people who are to be fed to the dragon are selected through a lottery, which is currently in progress.

Some of the citizens of Diamond Lake recognize us, and beg us to save them once again from their cruel fate. However, our presence is enough to distract Balabar for the moment. He focuses on us and leaves the lottery unsettled for the time being. An excited and desperate-sounding Balabar invites us to dine with him that evening. We wearily accept. Balabar rushes off to make preparations, and in the meantime, we make some inquiries. We are looking for Lazare. We determine that he left town a few days before the dragon attack, and may have been heading to the Whispering Cairn...

A few hours later, we meet Balabar for dinner on board the Harkness. Smenk goes on and on about the fine spread he has assembled for this repast, and from the state of the town, it must have been hard to come by indeed. We enjoy the relative delicacies he has prepared and discuss the Diamond Lake situation. Balabar approached the dragon immediately after the attack and proposed their current arrangement. The dragon's demands were that no one may leave Diamond Lake, and offerings of beautiful maidens and precious objects must be made to it at regular intervals to appease its hunger and increase its hoard. Balabar was able to keep the definitions for "beautiful maidens" and "precious objects" vague enough to satisfy these requirements with what is actually left in Diamond Lake - scraggy peasants and twisted scrap metal. Balabar is aware that he can't keep up this arrangement forever - eventually he'll run out of townsfolk - and the strain of this knowledge has taken a toll on his sanity. From atop a makeshift throne surrounded by piles of junk, he chats glibly about living like a king surrounded by finery, all without a hint of sarcasm.

Balabar talks and talks and we realize he is stalling. It soon becomes evident that he has poisoned us. He really must be crazy! We start to feel foggy and drowsy, but we manage to shake off the effects. By this time Balabar has become increasingly nervous. He realizes the poison has failed and jumps up suddenly. Before we can react, he fires a loaded crossbow at Sarek, pinning him to his chair!
Nineve fires back with a blast from her pew-pew gauntlets and the battle is on!

My old friend Kullen, the albino half-orc with a grudge against elves appears from the shadows. He calls me "Pinky" and cuts into me with his axe! Fortunately, I immediately answer with a cut of Searing Light from Captain Lorring's sword. Xicar throws down Order's Wrath, which dazes Balabar (who turns out to be BalaBARD!) Enemies pour in as the dinner party suddenly becomes a pitched battle. Balabard recovers, turns invisible, and flees.

We take a few seconds to heal up and collect ourselves and then give chase. We run around on the lashed-together decks of various boats that serve as a makeshift village on the water, fighting our way through thugs and pirates. Balabar hits me with a spell and I become confused. The rest of the battle is a blur as I alternate between staring off into space singing the Hamster Dance song and accidentally attacking my dog. My companions finish off the thugs and we continue on our chase, which has now progressed to the docks. Xicar gets shoved off the dock and narrowly avoids falling into the gar-infested waters.

We have a very tough slog through Balabar's minions - thugs, pirates and the like, before we finally manage to catch up with him at the end of the dock. He is standing next to a large, violently shaking container, looking smug. As we approach, he says "Oh, now you've made him angry. You won't like him when he's angry!" and unleashes his trained dire ape, ManBearPig, on us!

Nineve and I are on that monkey like a rat on a Cheeto. The men keep Balabard occupied while we hack ManBearPig to pieces before it can become a problem. Without his meat-shield, the mighty Balabar Smenk is easy pickings. Killing him is so easy it almost feels like an accident. Looks like we solved his dragon problem after all...


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