Episode 24: 12/19/09
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 Orogs 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 Orogs 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.