Pathfinder Greycloak Campaign

Episode 31

Episode 31: 9/11/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 6/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/9
Xicar, human cleric/9
Haroldur, human fighter 1/cleric 5/divine knight 3

After a few minutes of interfacing with the Libram control terminal, 31E turns to us. “I have located a… direct route to the Mirror. The Nexus systems should not hinder us further, come, let us waste no more time.” With that the automaton turns and begins walking briskly out of the Libram. His pace quickly increases, until we are nearly sprinting to keep up. Corridor lights brighten at 31E’s approach, doors slide quietly open as he nears them, and nothing seems to oppose us as we follow the tireless construct confidently navigating the featureless corridors. After some time, nearly breathless from the journey, we are finally able to stop running as 31E suddenly halts.

Another double door slides open quietly, “We have reached our destination,” says 31E, “this is the Starry Mirror.” The automaton gestures toward an odd pentagonal mirror set into the far wall of the chamber, from where it casts a dark reflection of the room. The reflection is distorted in an unsettling way, and dotted with shimmering star-like points of white light. A colorful hexagonal diagram is engraved in the floor in front of the mirror.

We ask 31E how it works. He ignores us and steps inside.

Stepping into the mirror after 31E, we find that it is cold, but insubstantial. We have stepped into a pentagonal chamber. Colored light fills the chamber evenly. Each of the five walls features another mirror exactly like the one we’ve just stepped through, save that each is a different color. Every few seconds the light in the chamber flickers and changes hue, the mirrors set into the walls changing at the same time. 31E looks around, apparently puzzled. “This is not normal. We may have been… mistaken in using the Mirror.”

Since the rest of the Nexus has fallen into a state of disrepair, it follows that the Starry Mirror may be malfunctioning as well. Haroldur and Xicar determine that the magical energies within the Mirror are unstable, and that the mirror seems to create a near infinite number of identical temporary pocket planes. These investigations still don’t tell us what’s causing the malfunction or how to fix it, unfortunately. As we’re pretty much out of options, I encourage the party to keep moving through the mirror – maybe we’ll find something that will give us some kind of clue.

We wander around inside the mirror, stepping through numerous mirrors. Growing increasingly desperate, we step into yet another identical pentagonal chamber. Unlike the other chambers, however, there is a stout bronze canister sitting in the middle of the floor. It seems to have seen years of use and abuse, as its corroded sides are pitted, dented and scarred. I pick up the heavy canister and examine it. Then, I shake it experimentally and get horribly nauseated.

It takes us a moment to realize, but the color of this chamber does not seem to be changing like all the rooms we have been in up to this point. According to 31E, this is how the mirror is supposed to work. We suspect it may have something to do with the cylinder.

Intrigued, Nineve tries to pry the cylinder open with her crowbar. A jolt of electricity from the cylinder shocks her and melts her crowbar to slag. She’s upset, but I can’t say I’m sad to see that crowbar go. While we’re expressing our differing opinions on the subject, Haroldur picks up the cylinder and tosses it through the portal and out of our current chamber. The room begins its color-flickering routine, meaning that the mirror is no longer functioning properly, and Haroldur just threw the solution to the problem into a random pocket plane. Genius.

We move through the portals randomly for what feels like forever until we finally come upon the cylinder again. I pick it up and we begin to make progress. As we’re making our way through the mirror’s maze with 31E’s guidance, he stops and says “We shall be within the Terminus shortly. Please surrender the Fragment to me now.” 31E holds out his hand, expectantly. A monumental argument ensues. 31E refuses to go further until we surrender the Rod; Haroldur refuses to relinquish it to a mechanical construct with an obvious screw loose. Things get pretty heated when Haroldur advocates killing 31E or abandoning him here and finding the rest of the way through the mirror ourselves. 31E implies that he will acquire the Rod fragment by force if necessary. Before threats of violence can turn into acts of violence, I remind everyone that we’re ALLIES.

Haroldur makes several excellent points, the most essential of which is that it is irresponsible of us to hand over a powerful artifact to an insane machine. However, I don’t think 31E is insane; I think he’s operating under some very outdated assumptions.

31E firmly believes that the structure we know as Silverspire Palace in Istivin is in fact an Imperium Grand Terminus. Since the Silverspire is indeed a structure which dates back to the Age of the Imperium, it is plausible that it USED TO BE the Grand Terminus. Also, 31E has not yet accepted the annihilation of the Imperium people and culture, something the rest of us know to be an historical fact. His programming REQUIRES that he return the Rod fragment to his Imperium superiors at the Grand Terminus. It is his entire purpose. He refuses to acknowledge that they may not be there anymore. At length, we get him to agree that if his superiors are actually at the Grand Terminus, we will hand the Rod fragment over to him at that time.

After more than an hour of negotiation, we come to an agreement and are finally ready to proceed. However, we’re all pretty tired at this point, so we decide to rest in the relative safety of the mirror before stepping through the last portal into what might be a very tough fight with Palace security.

As we’re settling down to rest, Zollara appears!

The Choosing:

Nineve – The Liar
Ashe – The Marriage
Xicar – The Betrayal
Haroldur – The Unicorn (on the cob)

The Spread:

The Cricket The Queen Mother The Rabbit Prince
The Desert The Empty Throne The Courtesan
The Eclipse The Beating The Unicorn (on the cob)

“The Cricket represents speed and quick passage, a safe journey in other words. The empty waste of The Desert is now behind you, though you will doubtless carry the memory of it with you. The Eclipse is a card of self-doubt and loss of purpose – two trials you have recently overcome.

“The Queen Mother is knowledge personified – though she does not reveal her secrets lightly. The Empty Throne is terrible loss. One of your companions will make a discovery that will cause them to question their very purpose. The Beating aligned as it is warns of an attack from all sides: be ready.

“The Rabbit Prince is a quirky fellow – in this case represents a younger member of royalty. The Courtesan is the card of political intrigue and social grace. Be on your best behavior or the situation may take an unfortunate turn. The Unicorn misaligned warns of a false friend and possible betrayal, although when is not clear.”

We ask Zolara about the cylinder and she tells us it’s called the Ulolok: a legendary item which contains the spawn of a Slaadi and an Inveitable. This somehow leads to a discussion among Xicar and Haroldur about Nineve and me reproducing with 31E to make robot ninja babies. This is followed by a fair bit of lewd commentary, and a great deal of eye-rolling from us ladies. On that note, we go to bed.

After my 4 hour trance, while I’m waiting for the humans to finish hibernating, 31E approaches me and thanks me for diffusing the situation with the Rod fragment earlier. He hands me a collection of metal plates he picked up in the Nexus. It’s some kind of puzzle! Working together, we put it together and end up with a strange dodecahedron. We puzzle over it for a moment and 31E suddenly recognizes it as a Hexametric Folio! Sarek is going to LOVE this!

In the morning, we all feel we have gained from our experiences thus far.

As we follow 31E through the final darkened mirror, we find ourselves standing in a hexagonal chamber, with a faded, but still colorful pattern set into the floor. Dust, rubble and cobwebs litter the room, giving it a run-down and disused feel. Here, unlike within the Nexus, the walls and floor are stone; here and there large cracks mar the stonework. Behind us, the strange pentagonal portal is dull and dusty, a large crack runs diagonally across its surface. 31E explains that important structures in the Imperium were often finished in stone, as it took much longer than metal, and represented more work.

We scarcely have time to notice our surroundings, however, as Haroldur suddenly receives three apparently back-logged sendings from Mossad:

#1: Tamclar returned, brought distressing news. Diamond Lake obliterated. Some refugees survived. I begin to fear the worst the longer I go without word from you.

#2: Marten fears you dead or turned traitor. Now several weeks without report. May the Lady guide you, and keep you, and return you safely.

#3: This will be my last sending if you should not respond. Your fates are in Her hands now. You will be missed. Praise Wee Jas.

Haroldur responds with:
“Rumors of our deaths have been greatly exaggerated. Sorry to make you worry.”

Mossad replies:
“I’m surprised and pleased to hear from you! I await your return, and a thorough explanation. Praise Wee Jas.”

With that taken care of, we look for a way out of our current room. Somewhere in the distance we feel, more than hear, a strange noise like rushing wind or cascading water. It lasts for several moments and is gone with a suddenness that causes us to question hearing it in the first place. The metal double doors leading out of the Mirror chamber do not respond to 31E’s attempts to open them. He suggests they will need to be forced. Nineve and I oblige.

Leaving the Mirror chamber, we enter a familiar Imperium corridor, however, the ceiling panels are dark, and we have to light our own way forward. Fine dust covers the floor, puffing into the air with every step, making our noses and eyes itch. Wispy sheets of cobwebs cling to us as we press forward. Eventually the corridor terminates in another set of the familiar double doors. After a moment of fruitlessly manipulating the controls, 31E suggests that these doors will also need to be forced open.

While Nineve and I are working on that, from beyond the door I hear several loud crashes, and then a cacophonous clatter, as if from a large pile of stuff falling. Curiously, amongst the other noises, I hear a strange croaking, as though from a large toad.

The doors finally slide open with a groan and a reluctant metallic screech. Assorted junk spills into the corridor from the doorway. Cups, battered plates, several rolled tapestries, and various other diverse items clatter to the floor at our feet. There’s so much junk that we have to clear some of it away just to get through the doorway!

After a few minutes, we manage to force a path through the junk. Old chairs, faded paintings, sagging chests and tarnished cutlery make up only a small portion of the assortment. We find ourselves atop a raised platform overlooking a wide chamber. Several dark terminals line the adjacent walls, nearly buried in piles of junk similar to the one we’ve already dug through. Shockingly, the room has several inhabitants: strange stooped creatures, like bipedal toads stare in our direction, croaking to each other. For a moment, even this strange sight is forgotten as our attention is drawn to a swirling vortex in the floor at the far end of the chamber. A roiling soup of the four elements and all their combinations churns inside the vortex in the floor.

Nineve tries to Intimidate the creatures we identify as mud slaadi while Haroldur insults them with random croaking noises. 31E and I skip the pleasantries and just stab them until they stop moving. They die in pretty strange ways, some of them. One turns into a statuette at Xicar’s feet, which he immediately picks up and decides to treasure forever. A few of the slaadi try (and succeed) to call for reinforcements, but we do manage to put them all down. However, there seem to be some chaotic energies which don’t make things easy – at one point, Xicar tries to cast a spell but ends up accidentally creating a blinding rock storm. Eventually we manage to get things under control.

As the last of the strange creatures falls, 31E immediately approaches one of the darkened terminals. After a few moments, he moves to another. This repeats several times, until one of the terminals shows some weak signs of life, lights flickering and clockworks whirring at 31E’s touch. Several silent minutes pass as 31E stands at the terminal.

We decide this would be a good time to check out the portal. Peering in, we see balls of fire, pockets of air, chunks of earth, and waves of water battling for ascendance until they in turn are overcome by yet another chaotic surge. Bits of forest, meadow, ruined castles, and small islands also drift through the chaos, occasionally crashing into each other, or being obliterated by a chaotic blast of the maelstrom on the other side of the portal. It is pretty obvious to us that this is a portal to the Ever Changing Chaos of Limbo. It is where everything and nothing is possible. It is where raw chaos seethes. It is the plane of pure chaos.

Having what appears to be a stable portal to the plane of limbo inside the Imperial Palace of Istivin is probably a very bad thing. It occurs to me that we may not actually be in Istivin – we really have no idea where we are yet. I interrupt 31E long enough to borrow his homing beetle. He hands it to me absent-mindedly and goes back to staring at his terminal. Nineve and I use my ever-handy atlas and the beetle and confirm that we are in fact in Istivin! High-fives are in order. As I go to return the beetle to 31E, he turns to me with a puzzled look.

“I do not understand” he says. “This facility is barely functioning. It is 97.538% non-functional. Power reserves are depleted 98.972%. What records I can access indicate this facility was last accessed 3.78683112 × 10^10 seconds ago. This is the same time as the Nexus at Kadastrey, accounting for an error factor of .127%. I have no choice but to conclude that this Terminus is … abandoned. I do not understand. I … believe I … will remain here. I see no point in … continuing until I can determine the validity of this … data.” If a machine could look bleak and emo, 31E was doing it now.

None of us are shocked by this news – we never expected to find a still-functioning pocket of Imperial overlords in the middle of Istivin. 31E is taking it pretty hard, though. We all try to cheer him up. Haroldur, a.k.a. “Mr. Empathy”, almost blows it by saying “I told you so!”, but the rest of us somehow manage to convince 31E that there’s still a big world out there. I still don’t think he’s completely accepted the disappearance of his creators, but at least he agrees to come with us, if for no other reason than to continue his search for a functioning beacon or portal back to the Imperium.

We’re pretty torn up after the slaad fight, so we heal up before moving on. We also run a few experiments on the Ulolok and determine that it causes some pretty random spell effects in the area around it, but the Rod of Lawsome seems to mitigate this effect.

We press on. The metal doors into the adjoining corridor have been ripped free with great force and lie on the floor several feet away. The dark corridor arches to a height of 40 feet. Delicate stone columns line the wide corridor. Several of the columns have fallen and lie broken on the cracked and dusty stone floor. Wide doorways are set into the walls at regular intervals on either side of the hall. Piles of rubble and debris litter the floor and continue the overall impression of neglect and decay. For a moment, I catch a glimpse of a stooped, hulking shape as it vanishes into one of the doorways.

Out of curiosity, I Sift the ruined doors and witness a blue slaad ripping them down less than half an hour before.

Knowing what we’re in for is always better than being totally surprised. We move deeper into the cathedral-like corridor and are attacked by more mud slaad. Then, a giant blue slaad (Xicar calls them “Battletoads”) lumbers into view. These slaad die in some strange ways, too. As Haroldur Death Knells a mud slaad, it’s skeleton rips out of its skin, takes 3 steps away, and then crumbles to dust quite comically. When I finish off the blue slaad, a rent opens up in the fabric of space and time, sucking the slaad through before vanishing entirely. Nineve kills one that turns into a writhing pile of snakes before evaporating into thin air. Apparently, Nineve really hates snakes.

We heal up and move on. The first thing we notice upon entering the next chamber is the sharp stink of chlorine that fills the air. The room itself has numerous alcoves and doorways leading off in various directions. Directly ahead is an open pit, a noxious green sludge bubbling away at the bottom. At the center of the pit is a raised platform surmounted by a strange silver obelisk. Faintly glowing and shifting runes cover the sides of this bizarre feature at the center of a rather unusual chamber. Dust, debris and cobwebs conspire to give this chamber the feeling of centuries of disuse and negelect. And boy, does it stink!

Standing near the back of the chamber next to the obelisk is a green slaad, which is kind of like a blue slaad but uglier. It immediately tries to fireball us, but Xicar contemptuously counters the spell, negating it entirely with a wave of his hand. Nineve charges forward towards the green slaad as two blue battletoads close in on us. They seem determined to wrest the strange canister from us, repeating the word “Ulolok” over and over. Perhaps fueled by angst at his sudden unfortunate discovery, 31E is a robot ninja whirlwind in this battle. Dog is also epically heroic, taking a blue slaad down just as it makes a charge for the strange canister that we left at the back of the chamber.

Once 31E the Murder Machine has run out of targets, we rifle through the debris. On the green slaad’s body we find a strange key. Consulting with Zolara reveals that it is a portal key, and we can use it to close that stable portal to Limbo. Of course, doing that requires that we throw the key into the portal, losing it forever. Haroldur is reluctant, but we eventually convince him to let it go. We compose an exceptionally rude note, complete with lewd illustrations, which ends in “Wee Jas 4EVA!!!”. We tie the note securely to the key, and toss the bundle through the portal. The portal collapses with a sucking sound.

~Ashe

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Episode 30

Episode 30: 8/28/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 5/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/8
Xicar, human cleric/8
Haroldur, human fighter 1/ cleric 5/ divine knight 2

We pause to heal up before climbing through the hatch into the unknown. In under a minute, we are forced to access the Tome of Knowledge, which contains the Laws of the Universe.

The hatch leads to a cramped corridor that heads off into darkness in two opposite directions. A metal grate provides a level surface on which to crawl over the tangle of pipes, hoses and tubes that cover the floor, walls, and ceiling. Other than the lights we’ve brought with us, the darkness here is complete. We go left.

Unable to stand, we have little choice but to crawl toward the unknown, hoping that we made the right decision. Here and there other, similar corridors join with the passage we are following; it wouldn’t take long to get hopelessly lost in this maze of passages…

After crawling for some time along the narrow passage, we see a light glowing faintly in the distance. As we approach, I determine that it is a hatch, similar to the one we climbed through previously, although this one has a weakly pulsing green light attached to it. Wary, I check the hatch for traps. Sure enough, I find one, and it’s magical. Xicar determines that the spell is from the Abjuration school of magic. Haroldur then dispels the trap, and Nineve and I force the hatch open with her handy crowbar.

Lifting the heavy hatch, the clatter and whir of machinery from below fills the passageway. I stick my head through and report my findings. About ten feet below, a narrow metal catwalk hangs suspended over a large chamber. Dim red lamps and the occasional shower of sparks are all that illuminate the area. A complicated metal apparatus stands at the center of the chamber, covered with levers, flashing lights and glowing gauges. Numerous piles of metallic parts and apparatus litter the chamber, clearly in various states of repair. I also spot some laser turrets and a few mechanical beetles.

We descend onto the catwalk (which is unstable) with varying levels of grace. Nineve drops down first, causing the catwalk to creak and sway in a manner that is not at all inspiring. Xicar follows. I quickly decide the catwalk was never meant to support several adventurers in heavy armor, so I drop down from the hatch and immediately vault gracefully off the catwalk onto the arcane engine below. Turns out I had the right idea – Haroldur cannonballs onto the catwalk and it collapses underneath the men! Xicar reacts quickly and lands well, but Haroldur crashes to the ground in a heap.

Nineve gets things started by blasting the closest laser turret with her pew-pew gauntlet. Mechanical beetles assembled from a coppery metal clank and hiss as they scuttle toward her, a high-pitched whine emanating from somewhere within their blocky metal carapace. Jagged metal saws protrude from beneath their heads, which vibrate threateningly as they swarm her on the catwalk. Fortunately, she dodges to avoid their lightning blasts. A silvery clockwork beetle clatters as it scurries across the room on thick, heavy legs. A tubular apparatus emerges from its carapace as it settles into a stable position, and fires at dart at a weak point in Nineve’s armor… Only Nineve’s armor doesn’t have any weak points! The dart ricochets harmlessly off her bulwark of defense.

Meanwhile, I am attempting to disable or simply break the arcane engine. I scurry over its surface, prying off panels and interfering with delicate mechanisms while the machine tries to blast me with jolts of electricity. It’s fun!

Xicar and Haroldur are on the ground dealing with a second laser turret. Xicar fires a shard of entropy at the turret and heads to my aid, while Haroldur loads his crossbow (from the ground), avoiding enemy darts in the process.

TroubleSuddenly, Nineve swats one of the copper beetles off the catwalk with a mighty blow. This seems to give her an idea. With a maniacal laugh, she overruns the copper beetle in front of her and heroically bullrushes all the remaining beetles off the catwalk!

Unfortunately, all the beetles Nineve punted off the catwalk are now on the ground, menacing Haroldur. He is surrounded and alone and things are not going well. Seeing this, Nineve drops off the catwalk to help him out. Xicar and I continue to fight with the arcane engine, which has been healing the beetles with bolts of electricity. We continue to pound on it, and Xicar manages to finally disable it. We both rush to Haroldur’s aid.

He is immediately threatened by several copper beetles. From across the room, I also spot a golden beetle-like automaton, which darts into the chamber with smooth, precise movements. Arcs of electricity flash across its intricately engraved golden casing, as a circular saw whirrs menacingly beneath its head. I take out two of the copper beetles while my companions manage the rest. Haroldur finishes off the last beetle, and he and Xicar get zapped by a burst of lighting I easily manage to avoid. Undeterred, I rush forward and engage the golden beetle. It wounds me gravely, but the party is right behind me. Xicar heals me and we all beat on it. I land the killing blow and deftly avoid the shower of fire and debris which pelts my companions.

With the clockwork horrors defeated, we rush over to the arcane engine for some kind of clue. A few lights continue to flicker dimly, accompanied by a loud metallic grinding from deep within the apparatus. Soon even those signs of activity cease as the machine gives one final shudder. Silence and darkness descend on the chamber like a thick blanket. Almost immediately, we hear 31E’s voice, although it is distorted and incomprehensible. It seems to be coming from a part of the apparatus, but it is currently damaged to the point of barely functioning.

After fiddling with the remains of the apparatus for some time, 31E’s voice suddenly comes through clearly:

“…abled the Arcane Engine in your sector. Good. I am able to use this connection for communication only; I am unable to perceive anything in your location.

“ROOOF! Your companion animal is… eager for your return. To that end, I will guide you to a less damaged area as quickly as possible.

“After leaving the maintenance facility, follow the illuminated path, it will lead you to a bank of lifts. According to my analysis, one of which should still be functional. One lift has a broken cable about halfway down the shaft, and it is not next to the lift with disabled brakes. The functioning lift is not next to the lift with disabled brakes. One of the lifts has a damaged safety override, and it is next to the fully functional lift. That lift will take you to a lower level; I will attempt to contact you there.”

“It seems you have disabled… ”. The message repeats itself from the beginning.

We all agree that we’re in no condition to explore further at the moment. We loot the room for loot (since we’ve already killed it with HPs), and heal up and rest.

We all have disturbing dreams. In the morning, despite protests from Nineve, Dr. Xicar makes sure we’re all sufficiently healed before we head out.

The door of the maintenance area is locked. Nineve again offers the use of her crowbar, but I Opening doors with crowbarsinsist it’s not necessary. I easily pop open the locked door and we head off into the unknown. As the doors slide open, an intermittent series of lights trails off into the distance down the otherwise featureless corridors we’ve become so familiar with. After following the lights for some time, we cannot help but realize the sheer futility of attempting to navigate these corridors without 31E’s guidance.

A motion amidst the darkness at the far end of the corridor where we entered catches my eye. A huge figure pauses at the edge of the shadows, then swiftly vanishes. We move on quickly.

Eventually we arrive at a circular balcony overlooking a vast atrium. Numerous similar balconies disappear into darkness both above and below. A series of four double doors stand before us, most likely the lifts 31E mentioned earlier.

We spend a few minutes investigating the lifts and trying to figure out which one is functional based on 31E’s enigmatic clues. We narrow it down to 2 possible choices, and then guess. Fortunately, we guess correctly! The lift begins moving smoothly downward as the last of us step aboard. Through the glass walls of the lift we can see the vast interior of the Nexus pass by in its abandoned, silent splendor. After a few minutes the lift comes to a stop, and the doors slide open quietly.

A familiar series of intermittent lights guides us onward for several more minutes as we leave the lifts behind. The lights lead into a wide-open space, and stop.

The air in this massive cathedral-like space is strangely cool. Above us, a series of narrow balconies encircle the chamber, beyond about sixty feet, they disappear into darkness. The chamber walls are carved and polished with exceptional skill to look like cascades of silvery liquid. The eerie effect continues on the floor, giving the impression of walking along the surface of a silvery pool. The floor slopes down into a pool of dark water. A graceful bridge arches out over the pool, ending in a platform and a strange chair with 3 sets of arm-rests. Six similar platforms extend from the balconies on the levels above this one.

Inside the massive chamber, we come to a series of doors leading into a bank of small rooms. We approach the first one. The metal door is covered with a thin rime of frost; a seven-pointed star is carved into the door. Nineve, Xicar and I try the doors to no avail. Suddenly, Nineve remembers seeing the seven-pointed star symbol before – on Haroldur’s Sihedron Medallion! Haroldur walks up to the door and opens it with a touch. I follow him inside while Xicar and Nineve keep watch.

The chamber is empty, save for six faintly glowing, frost-rimed cylinders set into alcoves in the walls. A tangle of cables and hoses is attached to the metal base of each of the cylinders. A vague and unsettling feeling of despair and loss begins to settle upon me, sapping my will to continue. In fact, I feel it might be best to just sit down, forget the horrors I’ve already seen, and the ones I’ve yet to see, and give up. Why continue with this pointless quest? We’re lost here forever, or something will just kill us, picking each of us off, until only one remains, to die forgotten and alone. As I struggle with my thoughts, I absently wipe off one of the frost-rimmed cylinders.

Brushing the frost away reveals the desiccated figure of an elf hanging motionless as if suspended in fluid or encased in glass; hoses, cables, and other unnamable implements pierce the figure’s withered flesh. As I paw at the glass, it jerks violently away, seemingly recoiling from my approach. This unnerves me. I frantically wipe off the other cylinders, looking inside each one with a mounting sense of despair. They are all elves. The next elf’s mouth opens as if in a powerful scream, but I hear nothing. The corpse suddenly pounds violently but silently on the inside of the cylinder. Another desiccated figure begins tugging and tearing at the implements piercing its flesh, but with no apparent effect.

Oh god I’m so emo! I crumple to the floor and begin wailing dirges in Elven, overwhelmed by the suffering of this place and the hopelessness of our situation. The rest of the party engages in a lengthy debate over whether or not the dessicated elves are our problem. Haroldur takes the position that they are not. Xicar and Nineve aren’t sure – shouldn’t these souls be sent to Wee Jas? From the floor, I switch to common momentarily and moan that we don’t even know if they’re alive or dead. This seems to make an impression and Haroldur abruptly smashes one of the tubes, which shatters in a shower of ice and glass. I crouch over the shards and hunt through them; curiously, I find no elf bits. The debate rages while I morbidly examine the frosty remains of the cylinder. Suddenly, I freeze as I hear a sound the humans have missed – the doors to the lift down the hall have opened! I interrupt the debate to announce our doom.

A security detail of Clockwork Horrors has moved in to investigate the activity in this area. Nineve rushes headlong into the fray, with Xicar at her heels. Morosely, I pick up my swords and join the charge. Haroldur rushes in, too, but is attacked by a malevolent noodly appendage which emerges from the murky pool at the center of the room. We fight through wave after wave of clockwork horrors as we struggle to help Haroldur escape the Tentacle. Nineve finishes off the last of the beetles as Haroldur finally breaks free. We decide to move along quickly before something else emerges from the sinister-looking pool.

At the other end of the cathedral-like chamber, we find yet another door. It slides open to reveal a corridor filled with a tangled lattice of icy strands and beams that stretch from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and everywhere in between. I scout ahead, moving acrobatically through the corridor like a ninja through laser beams. Beyond the lattice is an octagonal chamber. The walls are carved with strange and disturbing runes and images that seem to shift and change. At the center of the chamber stands a narrow pillar composed of grey and necrotic flesh. A deathly chill emanates from the pillar, and now and then a tortured visage forms and then fades away on the pillar’s surface with a faint whisper. I relay my findings along with my strong impression that there is something important here.

Nineve clears a path through the ice lattice the only way she knows how – by bashing. Delicate shards of ice tinkle and clatter to the floor as she crashes through the corridor like an elephant in the underbrush. Haroldur and Xicar follow her swath of destruction to join me in the strange octagonal chamber.

We spend some time trying to decipher the shifting runes on the walls, but their meaning always seems just beyond our grasp. After a while, Xicar examines the strange necrotic pillar, but can’t make much of it, either. Experimentally, he casts a healing spell on it – the pillar crumbles to the floor in a pile of fine dust. Nineve and Xicar decide we’re not getting anywhere and are anxious to leave. I’m hesitant to abandon the shifting runes but agree that we’re not making any progress. Haroldur has to be dragged bodily from the room.

The end of the cathedral-like chamber opens into a long, wide corridor. It is overlooked by small balconies for its entire length, and continues on into the distance. Here and there luminous globes suspended from the ceiling cast the same, familiar, even grey light that we have seen throughout the complex. 31E’s voice seems to be coming from that direction.

After a little while we enter a large, and desolate foyer. This appears to have once been a sort of gathering area, several broad corridors intersect here, and banks of “terminals” seem to have been placed for ease of access. Most of the “terminals” are dark, but several show a ghostly green image of 31E’s faceplate. We can make out 31E’s voice clearly, “I am currently attempting to locate you. Please access the nearest terminal so that I may determine your position.” The message repeats itself every few minutes.

We move towards the terminals when Xicar and I freeze suddenly, throwing out our arms to stop Haroldur and Nineve and gesturing for them to be quiet. At first, it seemed like a blacker shadow in the darkness; a massive, terrible shape, the personification of savage grace. Moving with the slow, easy stride of a great cat, the shape vanishes into the gloom. We wait breathlessly for a few moments until we’re sure it’s gone, then we move on to the terminals.

Xicar accesses a terminal and 31E’s voice comes through: “Ah, I had every confidence you would be able to follow my guidance. We are not far from being reunited. There are two lifts in the large chamber north of your current position. The eastern lift should be able to bring you to my position. However, there may be an… obstacle.

“The lift security protocols show a minor malfunction as a result of operating autonomously. It is possible that the lift will not function without the security node for that sector being shut down. You can attempt to access the lift, or I can give you instructions for locating and shutting down the security node.”

We tell him to give us directions, just in case.

“Very well. The shortest route to the node is through Specimen Containment Theta-7-2. Specimen Containment Theta-7-2 shows an 87.573% specimen fatality rate, but otherwise appears to be secure. I expect doors in the Specimen Containment labs will have to be forced. I cannot open them from here, nor can I determine if they are operational at all.” Nineve pats her crowbar.

We ask him if he knows anything about huge shadow cats stalking us from the darkness. He claims to know nothing and dismisses our concerns, however, we’re pretty worried about it. To emphasize our point, I warn 31E that a shadow cat could attack us at any time, when we least expect it… and then feign an attack, flailing dramatically and sinking below the terminal’s screen pretending to gargle blood. Disappointingly, 31E doesn’t fall for it. We decide he’d be a lot more fun if he were more expressive. Haroldur makes a very popular suggestion and we decide to look into macaroni eyebrow upgrades for him when we get back to Istivin.

As we walk over to the lifts (on the wild chance that they actually work), we discuss the 87% specimen fatality rate in Theta 7-2. What does it mean? I suggest that maybe the 87% aren’t dead – maybe they’ve just escaped containment and are prowling the corridors of the Nexus while the system thinks they’re dead. Xicar posits that perhaps all the specimens in Theta 7-2 escaped containment and that millennia of ceaseless combat has molded the surviving 13% into ruthless, unkillable predators. Since the lifts aren’t working (big surprise), it looks like we’ll get to head to Theta 7-2 to see for ourselves.

We follow 31E’s directions and arrive at a locked door labeled “Specimen Containment Theta-7-2”. Standing in front of it, Haroldur contemplates the choices which have led him to this point in his life: about to force open a sealed door behind which almost certainly lurks violent and Opening doors with crowbars2hostile creatures eager to bring about his unspeakable demise. I stop fiddling with the lock long enough to shrug “Such is the life of an adventurer”. While I’m distracted, Nineve “helps” me open the door with her crowbar.

The doors slide open with a loud metallic screech, revealing a large chamber similar to an amphitheater. Rows and rows of dark glass cylinders stand on curved, raised platforms. Here and there one of the cylinders glows faintly in the dim light from the ever-present illuminated ceiling panels. We identify three intact cylinders containing a human female; a gaunt, humanoid figure with rough yellow skin and large pointed ears, serrated in back; and a human male.

A pair of much larger cylinders dominates a raised platform at the far end of the room. One of these is dark, but the other glows faintly and something massive and revolting occasionally shifts within its confines. As we approach, we see it more clearly. Many-jointed legs and squirming tentacles cloak this horror in a haze of hideousness. A thing from darkest nightmares, it is curled upon itself like a titanic shrimp, half-centipede and half-squid. The thing glistens like a scarab’s shell under the harsh light illuminating the cylinder.

I want to smash the smaller containers and free the “specimens” inside. What if they are tormented souls, like the elves from earlier? And if they are being kept alive by unnatural means, surely Wee Jas resents that their souls are kept from her. No one is buying it, though. Haroldur insists that we’ve gotten ourselves into enough trouble by smashing things, and we need to stay focused on our mission. Reluctantly, I lead the way to the autonomous security node.

The far wall of the security node chamber is dominated by a complex control panel. Dozens of flashing lights, dials, switches, knobs and gauges cover the wall. The whir and clatter of the intricate clockworks fill the air. Shutting the controls down will be as much guesswork as anything else. We struggle with the controls and eventually manage to manipulate a final portion of the mechanism. Suddenly everything goes dark. Somewhere nearby we hear the clatter of clockwork mechanisms, the crash of shattering glass, and then silence.

Concerned, we rush back to the specimen containment area. Although it’s been only moments since we left this room, in the brief intervening time it has changed horribly. Sticky heat and the cloying stink of bile and crude oil now fill the chamber. In the darkness we hear something thick and horrible bubble and splatter as it falls on something hard.

As we advance our light glistens repulsively on sagging fleshy growths that now stretch from floor to ceiling, and seem to pulse and quiver of their own accord. Thick streamers of black fluid slowly creep uphill from a pool of the stuff dripping off the raised platform at the far end of the room. The nightmare creature so recently contained, lies free and loathsome in a growing pool of black putrescence.

A single alien, black eye stares fathomlessly from the thing’s octopoid head, as it bathes itself in an endless flow of oily black fluid dribbling from its hideous mouth. It writhes repulsively within an ever-expanding pool of the same black muck, as it slowly turns its cyclopean head in our direction.

The unspeakable squid-thing seems to be somehow creating minions from the specimens inside the intact cylinders. The human female and the strange humanoid creature are gone – from the sticky pods which covered their tanks emerge dripping black sludge monsters. Nineve calls them bearadactyls.

Haroldur quietly suggests we just skirt along the back wall and leave the containment area – maybe it hasn’t seen us. Nineve apparently disagrees with this plan of action, and immediately rushes forward to engage the squiddy. I move to smash the last cylinder before the human male inside is turned into another bearadactyl. Xicar lays down Order’s Wrath. This really draws the ire of the squid-monster, and it blasts him from across the room with a bubbling acid spit. He collapses just as I finish breaking the cylinder. I grab the human’s lifeless form and sprint to Xicar’s aid, reviving him just in time.

While Xicar recovers, I take a moment to examine the human I rescued. He is dead.

Meanwhile, Nineve has attracted the attention of the squid. It looks at her strangely, then grabs her and uses its horrible tentacles to start pulling her apart, almost out of curiosity. Haroldur savagely attacks the thing to force it to release her, while Xicar rushes to keep her alive. The battle swiftly degenerates into a wild melee, with Xicar and Haroldur trying to kill the squid and keep Nineve alive while it is literally ripping her apart in front of us. I hit the monster with a line of lightning and teleport in to melee range, but my will crumbles under the unspeakable terror of the thing, and I am forced to watch helplessly, dazed. In the end, Haroldur lands the killing blow and Xicar sends the thing to Wee Jas with Death Knell.

Nineve is barely alive, lying in a pool of her own blood and partially eviscerated. It’s obvious she can’t go on like this, and we are all exhausted and no longer have the resources to heal her. We have no choice but to rest. We retreat back to the safest place we can think of – the disabled security node room, and rest for the night. Everyone but Xicar has horrible nightmares.

In the morning, we patch up Nineve and head back to the lifts, which are now working. We ride the undamaged lift up to reunite with Dog & 31E. The lift doors part with a hiss, revealing our missing companions. Dog sits patiently at 31E’s side for a moment, then trots forward to greet me, tail wagging furiously and his pink tongue lolling from his mouth. 31E raises his one hand in his odd, but familiar gesture of salutation (which is not at all a Nazi salute), “It is… very good to see all of you again. Come, the Libram is this way.”

31E strides confidently through the metal corridors, still but for the automaton’s metallic footsteps. Soon he comes to a set of doors no different than any of the dozens and dozens of others we’ve seen in the Nexus. However, when the door slides open silently it reveals a chamber unlike any we have ever seen, or will likely see again.

The chamber is vast and vibrantly lit. The click and whir and hum of machinery fills the immense space. Banks of tall, glossy, black equipment awash in flashing red lights are orderly arranged on the transparent yet reflective floor. Through the floor we can see that the chamber is suspended above a deep gulf, congested with tangles of hoses and cables. At the center of it all is a metallic pillar surmounted by a collection of brightly lit terminals. Standing next to one of the terminals is an automaton very similar to 31E, although it shows none of the wear and degradation of our clockwork companion.

31E and the other automaton regard each other briefly. For a few moments they seem to communicate in a rapid-fire series of clicks and beeps. After a pause, 31E turns to us, “It seems we have a significant… problem. You’re curious about our conversation. Our discussion was wide-ranging. W4Nk3R is considerably agitated regarding your presence this deep within the Nexus, as well as your activities leading up to this point. The facility’s stability has been reduced 2.387% since we became separated, primarily due to your actions.

“W4Nk3R is convinced that there is no higher Imperium authority available, and that it is therefore entitled to the Fragment that you carry. I asked for, and was denied, access to the Libram. We also discussed, very briefly, the ambient barometric pressure.

“I am… conflicted. It is imperative that we deliver the Fragment to the Grand Terminus. But, I am an agent of the Imperium, and aiding, even indirectly, in the destruction of another Imperium agent opposes my root directives. However, W4Nk3R is quite mad, and I cannot progress further as long as it remains functional. It seems the only course of action is a direct confrontation.

“I cannot aid you. Were I to participate in the coming conflict I would be subject to an autonomous process which would have, as its aim, your deaths. However, I can keep an eye on your animal companion. Including him in a physical confrontation with W4Nk3R would be profoundly unwise.”

In an unprecedented turn of events, we take a moment to strategize in the entryway. Buffs are cast and a plan is enacted. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men fail when W4Nk3R negates our invisibility with some kind of special lighting effect. From his position on the platform, it seems he can control everything in the Libram: the lights, the floor, even the clockwork beetle defenses which are now marching towards us. It becomes obvious to me that we need to level the playing field.

I lightning bolt up onto his platform and he seems very surprised. I manage to distract him from the controls, but he’s so strong and fast that I can’t seem to do much damage. Haroldur uses his clockwork wings to jump onto the platform and help me out. Meanwhile, Nineve and Xicar battle clockwork beetles on the ground.

Realizing his position on the platform is no longer advantageous, W4Nk3R leaps to the ground with the aim of using his superior agility to defeat us. However, he didn’t count on Nineve’s Bulwark of Defense! The tide of the battle turns in our favor as Haroldur, Nineve and Xicar quickly corner him. I Call Lightning and he collapses to the floor in a smoking pile of twitching clockwork limbs. The Libram is ours!

Almost immediately, 31E strides into the chamber, and kneels next to the remains of his counterpart. Quickly and methodically, he begins disassembling the construct, separating its parts into several orderly piles. “This will take me a few minutes, even with Greycloak Sarek’s aid. Then I shall find a route to the Starry Mirror.”

Macaroni eyebrows For the first time, we see a complete 31E37. His movements are much more fluid now, almost predatory. He extends and retracts his twin arm-blades experimentally, obviously pleased with the new parts. Nineve and I are especially pleased about the expressive new macaroni eyebrow upgrades! “I have gained a great deal of information from W4Nk3R’s memory plates, as well as restoring myself to 99.784% functionality. Come let us find a route to the Mirror and the Terminus.”

~Ashe

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Episode 29

Episode 29: 7/31/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 5/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/8
Sarek, human wizard/8
Haroldur 2.0, human fighter 1 /cleric 5 /divine knight 2

We exit the acid zombie room and reunite with Nineve, who stumbles into the lab unexpectedly. Apparently she’d gotten separated from 31E and wandered the Nexus for a while, finally being guided by 31E to us. After a brief exchange of pleasantries (difficult in such repulsive surroundings), we wade through the muck to another door.

Nineve and I shoulder it open. Littered on shelves and cabinets throughout this room are shattered glass vials and tubes, corroded metal tools rusted beyond repair, spools of dark thread, and other things we cannot identify. Several tables, still upright, contain a number of humanoid bones strapped to their rusting surfaces. Delightful. We pick up a few interesting looking items, several glass ampules in particular, and move on.

Next, we come to a short hallway with several small rooms adjoined to it. We poke around, making our way through the small labs and finding small treasures: mysterious ampules, a bracer, a belt, a metallic sphere, and a torc. As we’re rummaging, we start to hear the damp rustling of zombies! We try to talk him out of it, but Haroldur charges forward and throws open a door to one of the labs at the end of the hallway, which is full of bloated zombie-like things! A rusted cage encloses their withered faces and unnameable implements pierce the their sodden flesh. Their clawed hands reach for us dripping filth and dark fluids

Sarek blows up most of the zombies with a fireball, and Nineve and I hack through the rest. When we’re finished being heroic, we look around and find a few more ampules.

We move to the end of the hallway and up some stairs, and scrabble for several minutes against two seemingly unopenable blast doors. Thwarted, we backtrack a little and make our way down another corridor. It opens into another larger lab. Things are still gross here. Dark, stagnant water laps against a pair of iron vessels against the nearby wall. A large window, overlooking the open lab area dominates the far wall. I am not surprised to find that these large iron vessels also contain acid zombies. I wonder at the significance of that while we prepare for combat.

Sarek drops another fireball from above and I deftly avoid all damage. Nineve activates the mysterious torc in time to gain sufficient SR so as to be entirely immune to the fireball as well. We hack and slash and Sarek throws around lots of magic missiles and a lightning bolt. I powerfully double-slice into my foe, gracefully ducking as it vomits its toxic payload onto Nineve and Haroldur behind me. It collapses into its barrel. Just then, a trio of zombies come crashing through the window. Sarek drops another fireball on them, totally frying me in the process. Aghast, I charge forward and take out all the wounded zombies in one whirling slash of death!

Then, as Nineve is still struggling with her acid zombie, I rush in to assist. I leap heroically up onto the adjacent barrel, but lose my balance as I try to attack. Fortunately, I manage a graceful dismount and even get a hit in while I recover my composure. Nineve decapitates the acid zombie and we heal up and look around for loot – I find two disc-scrolls and a strange metallic belt.

We heal up a little and the decide our only remaining path is through a large observation window 20 feet above the open lab area. We stand underneath it, hurling projectiles in an attempt to smash the glass, when from the depths of the zombie-chum, a “skuz” appears. It is a vaguely monstrous form of noxious green – a kind of semi-putrid congealed jelly with suggestions of translucency. It rises up from the water behind me, seeming to pull the algae and slime from the surface to constitute its form. As something resembling a head forms, it turns toward me, the jellified jaws opening to spill forth a false tongue of ooze and putrid flesh. It smells just as great as it looks, too. The skuz surges forward, grabbing me and attempts to drown me in the horrid slime. Nineve rushes to my aid and with her help, I escape the skuz’s grasp.

Then, grotesque, bloated zombie-like things emerge from the filthy water to join the party. A rusted cage encloses each withered face and unnameable implements pierce the thing’s sodden flesh. Delicious. I move to deal with them.

Meanwhile, Sarek grapples 2 of the zombies and the scum monster with Tentacles of Forced Intrusion. Never play “Gross-Out Chicken” with a wizard.

I slash through 2 more of the cage-face zombie horrors, felling them, but succumbing to their hideous putrescence. I fall beside my foes into the murky depths. I am told Sarek tried to pull me out of the zombie-chum but instead tripped and fell into the ichor himself. Haroldur heals me, and I stand up to find myself threatened by the skuz yet again. Sarek activates the jade falcon, which goes after the remaining bloated cage-face zombies. Then, he magically transforms into an air elemental and blasts the skuz into oblivion. Nineve destroys the last cage-face zombie and we decide it’s time to rest.

We exit the laboratory the way we came in, and clean up (THOROUGHLY) once we find a safe-looking place to camp. Before we go to bed it is obvious that I (and the rest of the party) am suffering from the effects of Slimy Doom. In the morning, my condition has deteriorated, so Haroldur uses the “Rod of Lawsome” to Heal me, and I am completely cured! The rest of the party finishes healing up as well, and we head back into the lab for another crack at the window.

After a few more tries, we smash the glass and use the handy troll-gut rope with grappling hand™ to climb up into yet another ruined lab. Despite the lack of water in this chamber, the bad smell is even worse here. A raised platform dominates the chamber, where a pair of metal tables surmounted by complex machinery, hoses and other apparatus stand. Patches of strange pale lichen grow along the floor and walls, shedding strange, unsettling light. Nineve is immediately sickened by the horrible stench. We explore the chamber further, when suddenly we notice a strange yellow vapor steaming up from the floor. It materializes into a seething, dimly phosphorescent cloud of fungous loathsomeness, from which a charnel house stench seems to emanate in palpable waves. The caricatured likenesses of legions of screaming faces emerge and dissolve, melting like tallow within the vaporous form.

The monstrosity, a Caller-In-Darkness, radiates a palpable menace. Haroldur uses Amsophar’s circlet to Call Lightning. Then, waves of hate emanating from the Caller wash over us. Nineve becomes despondent as Sarek springs into action as a magic missile machine gun. I throw one of the spheres we found, which turns out to be a holy hand grenade of force damage. Unexpectedly, Nineve cleaves herself in the face with her own sword. Haroldur calls down a bolt of lightning and I am dazed as my mind crumbles under the weight of the Caller’s hatred. Sarek continues his magic missile assault, and Nineve comes to her senses momentarily and hurls her blast sphere at the Caller as well.

Unfortunately, seconds later, Nineve and I are overcome with grief and decide, in our highly vulnerable and emotional state, to kill ourselves. Turns out we’re pretty good at self-destruction. Haroldur and Sarek continue to blast the Caller with their magical attacks as emo-Nineve and I cut ourselves. In the end, Haroldur blasts the Caller from existence. As soon as it is gone, Nineve and I recover from our terrible ennui (but not our life-threatening, self-inflicted wounds). We heal up and move on.

Banks of silent machinery clutter the next room. Here and there a light blinks feebly, or a needle flutters on its gauge. The ever-present fungus has also invaded this chamber, coating the machinery and clogging its intricate clockworks. It’s a pretty safe bet that this is the control room 31E spoke of.

We spot the access hatch 31E spoke of in the ceiling. Wet patches of shiny green goo cling to the seams around the hatch, occasionally dripping to the floor below. The hatch is locked – I unlock it without much trouble. Nineve opens the hatch and narrowly avoids getting a face full of slimy green goo! We carefully maneuver around the goo and climb through the hatch.

The hatch leads to a cramped corridor that heads off into darkness in two opposite directions. A metal grate provides a level surface on which to crawl over the tangle of pipes, hoses and tubes that cover the floor, walls, and ceiling. Other than the lights we’ve brought with us, the darkness here is complete. We pick a direction and head into the darkness.

Unable to stand, we have little choice but to crawl toward the unknown, hoping that we made the right decision. Here and there other, similar corridors join with the passage we are following; it wouldn’t take long to get hopelessly lost in this maze of passages…

~Ashe

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Episode 28

Episode 28: 7/17/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 5/rogue/3
Xicar, human cleric/8
Sarek, human wizard/8
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4/mystic theurge 1

We barely have a moment to recuperate before we are attacked by another wave of sand wights and ghasts. We dispatch them and proceed to the top of the stairs leading to the entrance to the ziggurat.

With growing excitement and apprehension we cross the paved landing and enter the structure 31E calls a ‘Nexus’. Sand covers much of the floor, and has collected in drifts in the corners and among piles of debris. Despite the obviously catastrophic damage to this part of the structure, most of the nearby passages seem to have been cleared of debris long ago. On the walls and ceilings we see for the first time some traces of the pictorial art of the ancient race that must have inhabited the ruined city; curious curling streaks of paint that have almost faded or crumbled away; and on some walls a maze of well-fashioned curvilinear carvings are scratched into the silver-grey metal.

As we press forward, following a strangely silent 31E, the passages become more obstructed by fallen debris, but they share the same common features: The walls are smooth grey metal, and meet in an arched ceiling about 15’ above. Panels in the ceiling flicker brightly on occasion, but generally remain dark. The halls are still and quiet, although we can feel, more than hear, a faint humming seemingly coming from far below.

This part of the Nexus is in poor repair; multiple damaged passages lead off in several different directions. The passageways are thick with sand and dust, and often blocked with rubble and debris. 31E seems convinced that there is a way deeper into the Nexus, it’s just a matter of finding one.

We turn down a likely looking hallway and come upon strange glittering strands of ice, which criss-cross the passage like a frozen spider web. We carefully navigate around without touching any of it.

A little while later, we come upon an area of unstable magic. The hallway seems fairly normal, but for some reason we feel uneasy; our skin tingles and our vision seems to blur. As we pass through the area, Sarek and Haroldur experience a temporal distortion: Sarek has the sensation of moving much faster than everyone else, while Haroldur feels slowed. My skin reacts terribly, suddenly becoming dry and brittle, cracking painfully with my every movement. Xicar definitely gets the worst of it, however. He begins bleeding from the nose and feels violently ill. Moments later, he vomits uncontrollably for several minutes.

We move as quickly as possible through the strange area, and after a few minutes of rest, we all recover. Anxious to put that awful experience behind us, we turn down a passage onto another area of unstable magic! This time we don’t risk it – we avoid the area all together. We come upon another ice lattice, which we pass without incident. Pressing on, we come upon a large room. The floor here has collapsed, leaving a ragged hole which we climb down into.

The hole empties into a corridor, which continues on to a large, echoing chamber. It has several exits, as well as a catwalk high above. I attempt to climb onto the catwalk, but without success. We move through another exit and are ambushed by ghasts and wraiths, who nearly kill us all. We drive them off and retreat to a secluded, secure-seeming area to rest and heal.

The next day, we continue our difficult journey deeper into the Nexus. We encounter more collapsed floors and unstable magic fields, as well as a few familiar passages. We wander aimlessly all day, but fail to make any real progress.

The following morning, we try yet again. We avoid an area of unstable magic, but our path is blocked by a damaged double door. Fortunately, we manage to force it open. We wander around a little more, but before long we realize we’ve circled back on ourselves and are retracing our steps. We chose a different route – this time a place where the ceiling has collapsed, littering the passage with debris. Not to be deterred, we vault over the blockage and continue down the corridor.

After hours of wandering the silent metal halls 31E speaks for the first time in a long while. “Up ahead, I believe we have found what I have been looking for.” Further down the hallway is a metal double door. The door shows evidence of being forced open at some time in the past. Next to it is a panel with several blinking colored lights, small levers and switches. 31E manipulates a couple areas on the panel, but nothing happens. After a moment, 31E extends his arm-blade, and deftly pries the panel away from the wall in a small shower of sparks. “Greycloak Ashe, I lack the requisite appendage and dexterity to properly manipulate the clockworks in order to bypass them.” 31E indicates a mass of intricate gears, springs and cogs that were previously concealed by the panel. With 31E’s directions, I deftly bypass the door controls.

With a hiss and whoosh of air, the door opens revealing a chamber in much better repair than what we have seen of the complex thus far. Glowing panels in the ceiling illuminate the chamber in even, grey light. Several metal desks stand across the room from us, covered in blinking lights. Dark green glass panels covered in glowing green symbols are set into the walls. Immediately to the left, a portion of the floor has collapsed, leaving metal supports and floor panels hanging over the darkness below. Occasionally a shower of sparks illuminates part of the wreckage below. A few decrepit piles of humanoid remains litter the chamber here and there.

31E immediately strides toward one of the panels covered in green text. After a few moments of pressing buttons, he turns to us, the blue lights of his eyes flaring brightly.

“This facility has not been accessed in over 3.78683112×10^10 seconds. Strange.” He turns back to the glowing screen and starts pressing buttons very quickly, talking while he does so. “The Antiquarian Thinking Engine responsible for system maintenance is barely functioning. Most areas are operating in autonomous mode, if they are functioning at all. However, the security systems throughout the Nexus which remain functional are on full alert. Also, 91.463% of the containment systems have failed. It would be profoundly unwise to simply wander about.” More rapid button-pressing and something that might pass for a robot scowl… “I can’t access a schematic that will show a route to the Starry Mirror from here; most of the records are damaged or no longer accessible. What schematics I can access report all routes to the Mirror as impassible.” Then, his face lights up, as much as that is possible. He says hopefully, “The Nexus Libram is not far. If a route to the Mirror can be found, there is a high probability I can find it there”.

We’ve been poking around the room while 31E looks at his glowing screens. The humanoid remains have been dead for so long, I can’t Sift anything from them. From the looks of it, though, they had their heads blown off, or crushed … I can’t make sense of the text on the screens, either. Because of the Intuit Pattern ritual, I can read the words, but I don’t understand what they mean.

I ask 31E what this place is for – why was it here, in the middle of such a vast desert? He replies, “This facility was located here to study the ruins of a Storm King settlement known as Kaddastrey.” He presses more buttons. “It appears much has been preserved because fortunately, the local barometric pressure and temperature patterns appear remarkably stable.”

“You mean this big desert has been here a long time?”, I laugh. “I could’ve told you that!”.

31E again turns to one of the glass panels he refers to as a ‘terminal.’ He shows us a complicated glowing diagram that he claims is a map of the Nexus. After a few moments of his explaining what different symbols and patterns on the map mean, it is clear that we will just have to follow him to this Libram of his. However, from what I can glean, it doesn’t seem far at all. 31E again turns to the terminal, and a few seconds later the heavy door nearest him slides open with a metallic screech. Gesturing for us to follow, 31E moves to the doorway. Dog darts past him, with his nose to the floor, tail wagging furiously. Zuko and Nineve cross the doorway directly behind 31E, and suddenly the chamber is full of light and sound.

Red light floods the chamber as a glowing blue field appears, cutting us off from 31E, Zuko, Nineve, and Dog. A blaring siren makes communication nearly impossible as 31E turns to us, looking as surprised as his ceramic faceplate will allow. A trio of ceiling panels retract as three strange contraptions like mechanical crossbows descend from the ceiling and point at us menacingly. A pair of panels on either side of the doorway slide aside to reveal two hulking mechanical monstrosities roughly the size of ogres. Each has an arm ending in a massive pincer, the other in an even more massive hammer. Clanking and clattering, they lurch forward and attack!

Fortunately, one of the big constructs shutters and grinds to a halt with a noise that I imagine sounds like a machine dying. Sarek dives for cover behind one of the metal desks and unleashes a wall of fire on the functioning construct and one of the turrets. We all scramble to break or shut down the hostile machinery, but the loud sirens and flashing red lights make it nearly impossible to communicate. Xicar gets careless and falls through the damaged floor. Twice. We all point and laugh. Eventually, we break the machines enough so they stop attacking us. We still can’t get through the glowing blue field, so we indicate that we’ll try the only other exit – climbing down the hole. Hopefully we can meet up with 31E and the others in another part of the Nexus.

Using my trusty troll gut rope & grappling hand, we carefully make our way down into the darkness. We find ourselves in another area of the Nexus, one that is thankfully less full of ice lattices and unstable magical fields. What it is full of, however, are unmarked, identical grey corridors. As we move through them, I become convinced that there really is no way to distinguish one area from another.

A horrible conclusion has been gradually intruding itself upon our reluctant minds, and is now becoming an awful certainty. We are lost, completely and hopelessly lost in the vast and labyrinthine recess of the Imperium Nexus. A nameless air of desolation hangs around the metallic paneling, flickering light-panels, echoing corridors, and such fragments of battered furniture as still remain. The lack of dust and cobwebs adds a further touch of the fearful and strange.

Without 31E’s guidance, turn as we might, in no direction can we seize on any object capable of serving as a guidepost or landmark. The idea that we should evermore wander these strange silent halls is becoming a fixed conclusion in our minds. Hope has departed. Yet, for a moment, we derive no small measure of satisfaction from our unimpassioned demeanors; for although we have heard of the wild frenzies into which were thrown the victims of similar situations, we experience none of these, but instead, for a moment, stand quietly with our companions, confident that we share similar thoughts.

Xicar says “I think we’re lost”. Haroldur waxes poetic about our unswerving devotion to Wee Jas in the face of such hopelessness. Soon, Xicar catches on and the clerics begin to give impassioned speeches (mostly to each other) about tranquility and the inescapable nature of death. Sarek rolls his eyes at them and takes the opportunity to lean against the wall. I listen for a bit, thinking. Then I drop to my knees and start digging through my backpack. I KNOW it’s in here somewhere…

After a solid 5 or 10 minutes of rummaging, I pull out a piece of chalk! Now, we may not know where we’re going, but at least we’ll know where we’ve been! We get going again, this time marking each intersection with an arrow indicating the direction we chose.

After hours of wandering, I hear, in the distance the metallic voice of 31E echoing from within the alien depths of the complex. We head off in the direction I think the voice is coming from, and after a little while we can all make out 31E’s voice clearly, “I am currently attempting to locate you. Please access the nearest terminal so that I may determine your position.” The message repeats itself every few minutes.

We keep moving and eventually find a terminal. A blurry, glowing green image of 31E’s face plate appears on the screen. 31E’s voice seems to fill the chamber, however it crackles and pops, making him a little difficult to understand, but we manage. “Ah, I have found you. Good, the others are with you as well. I was beginning to believe the Fragment had been lost within the facility. The irony would have been … extreme.”

“The area you are in is 98.252% non-functional. Activating the terminal has extended my awareness within the facility, but that is all, none of the primary systems are functioning. Currently you are above one of the low security laboratories. I will guide you. The laboratories indicate a fluid containment failure, but otherwise appear to be undamaged.

“Once within the laboratories, I will be unable to communicate with you. Within the laboratory control room there is a ceiling hatch that will lead you to a maintenance area. That is your goal. Unfortunately, the maintenance area is quite active. At present I am attempting to take control, but the Arcane Engine in that sector is currently operational. It will probably see you as a security threat. I will try to keep it occupied from here, but I cannot guarantee your safety”.

We shrug and look around for some kind of guidance. Suddenly, green lights along the floor flicker to life, illuminating a path down one of the labyrinthine hallways. We follow the lights, which eventually lead us down a stairwell. The stairs terminate at a short hallway and a heavy double door of the same familiar grey metal. A glowing panel in the arched ceiling flickers intermittently. The door is sealed, but with my experience helping 31E unjam one of these earlier, I manage to pop it open. I wished I hadn’t.

As the door finally opens, our senses are violently assailed. A flood of warm, stagnant water streams through the doorway as our nostrils revolt at the stench which suddenly fills the place. A horrible odor, a gagging, eye-watering smell assaults us. Although we are no strangers to the stench of death, the peculiar potency and abruptness of the assault is nearly overpowering. The reek seems to be coming from the chamber beyond, and from the water, dark and opaque, that now covers the floor of the small chamber to a depth of several feet. The filthy water laps up against us. Here and there are ragged bits of something drift in the water as it settles.

Sarek immediately casts Fly. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. I wrap a handkerchief over my nose and mouth and hope for the best. Haroldur mocks me a little, saying REAL adventurers don’t need such nonsense, but as we wade in, he goes a bit green around the gills and follows my lead.

Faint fungal phosphorescence lights the chamber ahead with a yellowish, penetrating force that hints at things more potent than luminosity. A pale lichen like growth climbs up the walls above the water level (which is still 3 feet deep and just as stagnant). An occasional flicker from a ceiling panel adds to the eerie atmosphere of this large chamber. Here and there we spot a rusted table or cabinet leaning against the wall. If anything the stench is stronger here, assaulting our senses with every breath.

As we’re wading around what must be the main laboratory corridor, Xicar suddenly trips on something unseen and horrible under the surface and falls face-first into the rancid zombie-chum. He gets right up, but I can tell by the look on his face that he will never be the same again. There are some things you can’t un-smell!

Haroldur opens a door and calls for us to follow him. A short flight of steps raises the floor of this new chamber above the level of the rancid water, although the metallic floor is uneven and moist with fungus. Tables here are overturned and broken. Several broken glass cylinders stand against the far wall, and splatters of a strange black fluid stain the wall, floor and ceiling around them. Four large iron vessels leaking a noxious green vapor stand against the opposite walls.

As we enter the room, horrible alchemical waste zombies emerge from the vessels to attack. One more climbs out of one of the vessels, but immediately melts into a stinking pile of goo. Green vapor pours from the open sores covering the flesh of these dead things as they stumble toward us. Their decaying features leer and gibber at us, deformed claws reaching and dripping with toxic fluids… These guys are nasty. They attack Haroldur with their goo-fists! As we soon discover, they also spray a fan of pea-soup green vomit when they drop, and have to be put down twice before they actually stay re-dead. Since we can’t smell any worse, we make a quick search of the room before leaving and come up with some intact ampules and an odd apparatus!

~Ashe

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Episode 27

Episode 27: 6/26/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 5/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/8
Xicar, human cleric/8
Sarek, human wizard/8
Haroldur, human wizard 3/cleric 4/mystic theurge 1

After a moment of falling through thick, inky blackness, we somehow fall sideways onto a rough stone floor. Darkness so total I momentarily wonder if I haven’t been struck blind greets me as I collect myself. Dust tickles my nose, and all is silent, other than the occasional crash and clatter as the rest of my companions emerge from the portal. Once we’ve activated a light source, we find ourselves in a small chamber, clearly of familiar Storm King stonework. The chamber is in poor repair; rubble and fallen columns litter the floor. At the far end of the chamber a passage extends into darkness.

Immediately, we break out my world atlas and 31E’s scarab to get our bearings. According to the GPS (global positioning scarab) beetle, we’re in the Karach desert, famous for being the site of a cataclysmic battle between two great (now defunct) civilizations, and about a million miles from anywhere.

We find that the passage continues for about 20’ before ending in a pile of rubble and sand. It would appear that not only are we in the middle of a vast and remote desert, we are also trapped. Underground. Sarek casts Elemental Body, and becomes an earth elemental temporarily. He scouts out the passage, and returns to tell us that a couple dozen yards of digging separate us from the outside world. We roll up our sleeves and start digging.

We’ve been digging for several hours when suddenly a bright flash and a sound like ripping fabric fills the small chamber. A strange, yet familiar figure stands bewildered near the back of the chamber. His air of authority and menace is nearly palpable, despite his obvious confusion. The winged archon, known to us as Zasalamel, stares at us with naked surprise. “You! How? Where… No matter, the Time Lord is right, you must pay for your crimes!” He readies a gleaming scythe and strides toward us, his purpose abundantly clear.

A sweaty Nineve holds up her hand and asks if she may have a moment to don her armor and prepare for battle. Zasalamel, take a little aback, readily agrees. It seems, despite being crazy, he’d still prefer a fair fight.

Nineve provokes Zasalamel, and I sneak up and attack – from the shadows! Then 31E joins in and the crazy archon is in the middle of a circle of pain. Crazy Zasalamel keeps going on about the “Mammoth of Discord” and the “Titan of Chaos”, shrieking that we’ve released the “Chaos Engine” or some such nonsense, but by now we know there’s no point in trying to reason with him. Zasalamel sweeps with his scythe and trips 31E, Ninene, and Xicar. I deftly leap over his blade and continue my assault. Xicar recovers and summons a shard of entropy which satisfyingly rips smoking holes in Zasalamel’s angelic form. Sarek unleashes a crippling blast of fire on the enemy as Nineve and 31E regain their footing. There is a little more hacking and slashing, but finally Sarek makes Zasalamel do the Magic Missile Dance and he disappears in a cloud of smoke and blood.

We heal up and get back to digging. That evening, while Lazare sleeps off his dinner, Zolara appears.

The Choosing:

Nineve – The Carnival
Sarek – The Eclipse
Ashe – The Owl
Xicar – The Publican
Haroldur – The Queen Mother

The Spread:

The Brass …. Dwarf The …. Publican The Demon’s Lantern The Dance …. The Desert …. The Lost The Juggler …. The Tangled …. Briar …. The Midwife

The Past: “The Brass Dwarf represents invulnerability and strength. Here, it refers to your recent triumphs. The Dance is the rich and delicate framework that rules existence, and whose rules we must all abide by. The Juggler represents those who play with the lives and destinies of others. Misaligned as he is, we see that the Juggler has failed to keep his rhythm, and the tragedy and loss he has caused has been for naught.

The Present: “The Publican represents fellowship, camaraderie, and a companion’s insight. The Desert is a bleak waste, though the journey through it will lead you closer to your goals. The Tangled Briar is a card of Ancient deeds. It indicates an object or person from long ago will have a great influence on your quest to return home, though that influence may hinder rather than help.

The Future: “The Demon’s Lantern warns against losing your way – although I fear you will regardless of my warning. However, misaligned as it is, the Demon’s Lantern tells us that a guide will arrive to show the way. The Midwife warns of a new discovery that will change everything. Something shall soon be borne into the world that will alter the course of your journey. The Lost is emptiness and madness: For a time, the world will make no sense, until the Midwife’s discovery brings a measure of clarity.”

We visit with Zolara for a little, and learn some of the history of the Rod of Seven Parts from her. We also learn a little about the Karach Desert, but nothing that will really do us any good until we dig our way out of our erstwhile tomb.

The next day we’re back at it, and after many hours of digging in the stifling heat of the chamber, we are all weary, dirty, and tired of choking on sand and dust. Our labors have cleared a narrow passage through the rubble, leading to the first real daylight we’ve seen in what seems like weeks. The searing intensity of the light and heat outside gives us pause for a moment, but the urge to see the sky again is nearly overwhelming.

As we emerge from the rubble-strewn opening our eyes slowly adjust to the sudden glare. We realize that we are standing on a windy bluff overlooking the ruins of a great city at the bottom of a wide valley. Dark mountains loom faintly in the distance. If we didn’t know better, we’d swear we have been here before, though it seems like the valley was green and lush then…

The ruins lie within a parched and terrible valley baking under the blazing sun. As far as we can see it protrudes uncannily above the sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-made grave. The nameless city lies before us, crumbling and inarticulate, its low walls nearly hidden by the sands of uncounted ages. Some distance away, near the center of the brooding ruins, a strange structure, not unlike a metallic ziggurat, rises stark through the sand to tower over the buildings near it. 31E indicates the ziggurat with his remaining arm, and says “Strange that we should emerge so close to a Nexus. I shall show you that the Imperium is indeed thriving. Come, we must present the recovery of the Rod fragment to my superiors.”

I agree that the ziggurat is as good a destination as any, but traveling through the desert in the middle of the day strikes me as a bad plan. The party agrees with me, and we begin arguing with a very gung-ho 31E to convince him that we should wait until nightfall before heading out. The commotion suddenly ceases when, behind us, Lazare clears his throat loudly.

“My friends, I am afraid it is time for us to part ways.” He holds up his hands, “Now there’s no use arguing, I have some pressing business elsewhere, and I am already late through bothering with this fool’s errand into the Whispering Cairn. I thank you all for the parts you had to play in my coming this far, you’ve been really good sports.”

We press him with questions that can be summed up as “Huh?” Lazare won’t tell us what his objective was in the Whispering Cairn, only that whatever he was doing doesn’t matter any more because he didn’t find what he was looking for and he’s out of ideas. He tells us that the Rod fragment was a fantastic find and one we’ve rightly earned; it’s just not what he was after. He agrees not to spread the news of its discovery, thankfully. He seems disappointed but in good spirits. At least he’s taking this (whatever it is) in stride? I press him about what he was looking for, arguing that since it doesn’t matter anymore, there’s no harm in telling us. He says he was looking for a metal canister, about the size of a large lantern.

“It was supposed to be well hidden, and I’d thought I’d tracked it down. Ah well, half the fun’s in looking, right?”

“Might I trouble you for the return of my trophy?” He indicates the crystal disc Xicar has been carrying. He hands it over. “Thank you. I doubt we’ll meet again, but then again of course we may meet once more before this is all over. Don’t miss me too terribly; think instead on the treasure you’ve recovered, and your long journey home. You’d best be on your way, or I don’t suppose I, or anyone else, will ever see you again.”

“Good-bye!” He turns to leave, but then turns back to us, as if remembering something. “Before I go, allow me to introduce myself, so that my impending transformation doesn’t unsettle you unduly. In other times, and other guises, I have been known as Kroiphrakil’azzare, the Smiling Gambler, Scourge of the Sphinx Lords, Sage of Diamond Lake, and Chess Master of Brux, at your service!” He bows regally in his soiled and tattered robes, then stands, with arms spread and eyes shut, clearly concentrating for a moment, but nothing seems to be happening.

After a few seconds, he opens his eyes, winks at us slyly, “You are all made of sterner stuff than I had thought. That usually leaves folks a little more, well, awed. Ah well, I should be off.” We look quizzically at this skinny, disheveled man in tattered rags, holding his scrawny arms out majestically, like we should be impressed by this. I think of 31E, Nineve, Zasalamel, and now Lazare, and begin to wonder if I’m going sane in a crazy world. Then Lazare glances down at himself and seems genuinely surprised.

“Oh, bother. It has been a while.” A sudden cloud of smoke or dust conceals Lazare for a moment. When it clears, a massive dragon with gleaming coppery scales and long, flat horns towers above us. Sarek wigs out a little, visibly shaken and muttering “I knew it! I just knew it!” The dragon slyly winks one of its glowing turquoise eyes, and in a surprisingly pleasant voice says, “Fare you well then, you’ve been good sports, and really fare-well!” With that, the magnificent creature springs into the air, flaps its powerful wings, and is soon only a glittering speck in the distant sky.

We stand gaping in awe for a moment. Then, we realize that it’s really, oppressively hot out here and go back inside to wait for sundown.

I suggest we rest for the remainder of the day, although with all these new developments I find it difficult to relax. As evening approaches, we gather ourselves and head out into the wastes.

When we draw nigh the nameless ruined city we somehow feel that it is accursed. Fear seems to speak from the age-worn stones and bids us retreat from antique and sinister secrets that none should know.

In and out amongst the shapeless foundations of forgotten structures we wander, finding never a carving or inscription to tell of these men, if men they were, who built this city and dwelt therein so long ago. The antiquity of the city seems unwholesome; there are certain proportions and dimensions in the ruins which seem inhuman, but somehow familiar. Here and there a small sighing sandstorm will gather behind us, blowing over the ancient stones.

The moon shines high and clear over the antique ruins, lighting a dense cloud of sand that seems blown by a strong wind from some point ahead of our group. Glancing about, we see that nowhere else is the sand disturbed by as much as a light breeze. This astonishing discrepancy is soon explained as the forms of emaciated men seem to step out of, or coalesce from, the blowing clouds of sand and lurch toward us, their desiccated faces contorted with inhuman hunger.

Our foes, wights, ghasts, and wraiths, coalesce from the clouds of sand or erupt from the dunes. Sarek controls the battlefield by creating a Wall of Fire between us and our enemies. My intense hatred for undead floods me and I rush forward, slicing through a wraith and banishing it to re-death. Just then, a trio of sand-ghasts claw their way up from the desert floor. Our enemies conjure stinging clouds of burning sand which choke and blind us, but still we fight on. To my shame, I am paralyzed by a ghast’s foul touch, but it is destroyed before it manages to carry me off. At length, Xicar smokes the last sand-wight with his lightning gauntlets.

We decide that these abandoned ruins aren’t as abandoned as the seem. I cast Pass Without Trace as we continue towards the mysterious ziggurat. Through a group effort of skilled navigation, we manage to avoid further contact with the undead as we move through the ruins.

Dawn breaks as we arrive at the massive ziggurat. The entire thing seems to be built from a strange, silvery-grey metal that we can’t identify, and its metallic surface is covered with strange runes and glyphs. From far away the ziggurat appeared to be completely intact, but from here we can clearly see that nearly half the western side is missing. Twisted metal and support beams jut into the sky around a massive hole in the side of the structure. Far above us is a tall spire, leaning dangerously, appearing ready to fall at any moment. Atop the spire is the remains of a massive crystal, now fractured and broken and glittering in the first rays of sunlight.

Along the base of the structure are the remains of many buildings, apparently built against the ziggurat itself. Many of these ruins are grander and more massive than most of the buildings we have passed this far. There appears to be no entrance to the ziggurat from ground level. Some distance to the west is a towering series of stairs and landings, seemingly leading to the lowest point of the damaged section of the ziggurat. Swirling sand blows along the steps and landings, despite the oppressive stillness of the hot air amidst the timeless ruins.

31E pauses for a moment, as if in thought. “I do not fully understand. The likelihood that these structures would permitted to be built against the sides of the Nexus is very near to zero. Also, I do not understand why this damage was not repaired. Most unsettling.”

31E goes on to say that this “Nexus” should contain a “Starry Mirror”, some kind of magical transportation system. 31E is sure this Starry Mirror will be able to transport us back to the “Grand Terminus”, or what we refer to as Silverspire, the Imperial ruin-turned-palace in Istivin.

We begin to mount the broken stone stairs which lead up to the ziggarat’s entrance. I keep a keen eye out for traps and lead us onward and upward. In the eerie silence, swirling clouds of sand coalesce into sand-wights before our eyes! The battle is joined.

Choking sand whips and swirls around us as we battle the fiends. Nineve is blinded and gropes her way further up the stairs. Haroldur bravely faces one wight single-handedly and destroys it with one touch (of Heal) from the Rod of Seven Parts. The wights alternate between their corporeal forms and the swirling clouds of sand, to their advantage. The struggle is bitter, but in the end, Nineve lands the final blow.

~Ashe

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Episode 26

Episode 26: 5/22/10

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger 4/rogue/3
Nineve, human knight/7
Xicar, human cleric/7
Zuko Quartermain, human sorcerer (fire)/7

As soon as she appears, 31E bows to the creature, and drops to one knee. He says something to her in the same crystalline language that makes the peculiar woman smile gently. “I do not know what role you play in this, automaton, but you are welcome.” she says, “As for your companions, we shall see. Either you have destroyed the Shadow Sphinx, or you are here at her behest. Please explain yourselves.”

31E explains that the creature is a Snow Weird, an elemental oracle. He has heard of their kind, who were old when the Imperium was young. Although the Spell Weavers never consulted with the Oracles, they nevertheless held them in great esteem and respect. This one is called Sionsari.

Immediately, we are faced with the challenge of convincing Sionsari that, contrary to appearances, we are not working for Sivit. Without going into too much detail, we explain that we are just looking for a way out. When Sivit proposed a ceasefire we accepted in the hopes of escaping this place with our lives. We’re not happy the Shadow Sphinx is here, but defeating her and all her shadar-kai minions is not in our power. This seems to make sense to Sionsari. We can sense that she wants something from us, so we gently coax it out of her by suggesting that the solution to our problem and hers may lie on the same path. After expressing our willingness to help her (Say you got a problem, yo, I’ll solve it), she agrees with us. “The Guardian”, aka the 40-foot Statue of Doom, has successfully repelled Sivit’s minions thus far, but Sionsari is convinced that eventually the shadow-force will get through. She pleads that we remove the objects in Amsophar’s tomb to protect them from the shadar-kai. She also discourages us from confronting Sivit directly. Sionsari places her mark on us, which will allow us to pass the Guardian unhindered, in addition to permanently granting us 5 points of cold resistance!

In the course of this conversation we hatch a plan for dealing with Sivit. We heal up and Sionsari offers to let us rest in her chambers. This sounds like a great idea, so we head out to the first (slightly less frigid) chamber for a much-needed nap, only to find 2 orogs and a shadar-kai waiting impatiently for us. They insist we go with them. Naptime will have to wait.

The minions lead us to Sivit. She demands to know about our visit with the Snow Weird. Sivit seems convinced that the oracle has imparted us with some knowledge or supernatural ability to bypass the guardian, and that we can transfer this to her and her shadar-kai. She wants answers, and she wants them RIGHT NOW.

We skillfully manage to convince Sivit that we’ve actually done her one better – we tell her we persuaded Sionsari to deactivate the Guardian entirely. She is skeptical, but we play on her greed. We offer to go in first to prove the statue is disabled, and then she can follow us into the tomb of magic and riches! It works. We go to the Doom Room.

The wide, rectangular chamber is exactly as we last saw it – littered with the crumpled remains of Orogs and Shadar-Kai warriors. Their bent and twisted forms speak of terrible violence. Directly across from us stands The Guardian: a titanic golden statue of an armoured warrior towering far above. Its legs and the gigantic hammer it wields are splattered with dried gore. Along the walls of the chamber are a series of immense metal doors. Several doors show evidence of hasty attempts to force them open, as well as sprays of blood and body parts.

With Sivit and her armed guards pressing us forward, we now have no choice but to go through with our plan and hope Sionsari’s blessing works. We try to appear confident as we are half-shoved past the “safe” point. Suddenly, the colossal golden warrior thunders to life, quickly striding toward us with its hammer at the ready. I experience a moment of embarrassment as I realize my last words are “ShitShitShit!”. With a sweeping blow the massive hammer whistles through the air behind us, sending Orogs and Shadar-Kai sprawling and broken!

Sivit shrieks in inarticulate rage as we “Yes!” and high-five each other in a celebration of relief. Sivit begins casting spells, and the shadar-kai attack. We realize we’re not out of the woods yet, as Sivit blinds Nineve with a dreadful word of power. We move hastily to the true entrance to Amsophar’s tomb – not some gleaming door, but an inconspicuous hole in the ceiling. Xicar AirWalks up with my Trollgut rope/grappling hook, intending to pull us after him. Our planning proves to be unnecessary. Seconds later, the titan meaningfully lowers its weapon, placing the hammer’s head on the stone floor before us.

Sivit continues to sling spells, the Shadar-Kai shoot arrows, but none of it matters. I scamper up that statue like a squirrel with Dog and Zuko hard on my heels. 31E grabs Nineve by the cloak and robot-ninja-backflips up onto the safety of the hammer with his blind cargo. As the last of us climb atop the gore streaked weapon, the colossus smoothly raises us toward the opening in the ceiling. The sounds of battle below resume as an unseen force gently lifts us upwards toward a brightly lit chamber far above. The walls of the circular shaft are intricately carved with more scenes depicting the life and triumphs of Amsophar.

The shaft terminates in a small chamber. The sounds of splorching below fade and it’s Camp Time. While we’re getting situated, Lazare un-ferrets himself for the first time in days. As he babbles excitedly about having made it this far, I realize that he’s eaten anything remotely tasty I had in my backpack. Oh, and there’s poop. Fabulous.

Lazare seems a) completely unconcerned about the mess he left in my gear, and b) very excited about uncovering some item of incredible power. He won’t discuss either issue any further, however. Everyone settles down to sleep and I discover that cleaning up ferret-wizard crap is something I can do while I trance. Hooray for multitasking.

In the morning, Xicar restores Nineve’s sight through the grace of Wee Jas, and we divvy loot before continuing our exploration.

A staircase spirals upward along the chamber’s far wall, climbing nearly out of sight toward a bright light above. Detailed carvings adorn the walls as we climb the spiraling stairs, depicting many grieving figures paying tribute to Amsophar as he is laid to rest. In several scenes important looking figures stoop to drink from a shallow basin at the feet of Amsophar’s sarcophagus.

Finally, after a seemingly endless climb, we reach a small platform far above the floor of the chamber. Floating motionless is a massive block of stone with the likeness of Amsophar lying at rest carved into the top. At the feet of the block of stone is a shallow silver basin, filled with clear, still water.

Strangely, when we look into the basin, we see not ourselves, but the careworn face of Storm Kings, and beyond is clear, blue sky, and clouds, instead of the carved stone ceiling of the chamber.

We shrug and drink the water.

A Vision of the Past:

As we drink the cool water of the basin, we become overwhelmed by a sudden rush of alien, yet strangely familiar memories. The chamber around us swirls away into a vortex of lightning and wind, snow and rain, ending in the utter darkness of the nothingness beyond the stars. For what seems an eternity, we float adrift in silence, the cold perpetuity of the infinite weighing upon us.

Slowly we realize that we are standing on a windy bluff overlooking the ruins of a great city at the bottom of a wide valley. Dark mountains loom faintly in the distance. We begin to hear something else, besides the sighing wind. We start to make out sounds, and then words, as we realize that we stand among a host of Storm Kings, splendid in their war gear. Amsophar, bloodied from recent fighting, reaches the end of a rousing speech.

The demon Queen of Chaos has fallen, and the war is won. However, the day is lost, and he bids all who can hear him to play out their part in the coming battle with valor and bravery.

The statuesque Storm Kings raise their weapons and their voices in salute of their leader, and then split up, moving off toward pre-determined positions. From behind us, Icosiel slaps me on the shoulder and grins. “We have won, my friends! The Queen has been banished beyond the Void!” His face falls, “However, we must retreat. We do not have the strength to face the Wolf-Spider this day. It is fitting that the last battle of this war will be fought so close to the walls of Kaddastrey, is it not? Our only retreat is through those ruins. For all we know, they may be crawling with Obyrinth. Our patrols have not returned, so we shall serve as the vanguard.” Icosiel breaks into a run and shouts over his shoulder, “Come, mayhap we may find a few lost friends, and send a few of Miska’s minions back to the Pit!”

We head off on a scouting mission for Icosiel. The ruins of the once beautiful city are choked with rubble and debris. The few buildings that are not completely collapsed, are little more than hollow shells. Despite the destruction, the graceful architecture and delicate stonework are moving in their splendor. As we approach a domed building, we begin to see signs of violence: a blood splatter, a broken sword, burnt stonework. Then a piercing scream splits the air, coming from the direction of the domed building.

As we reach the top of a pile of rubble, we see a disturbing sight: amidst the bloody remains of several Storm King warriors is a foul and terrible creature, it constantly melts and reforms, apparently drawing each shape from an ever darker nightmare. It chaotically shifts through a dozen monstrous forms, each more horrible than the last as it consumes the remains of the armored warriors, incorporating them into its heaving bulk.

We attack the Lovecraftian horror, but it proves to be quite tenacious. Its friends, including some nasty gene-stealers (obyrinth demons), join the fray. We cut them all down, but it’s a tough fight. Nineve keeps taunting the gene-stealers, but then fails a few saves and has a demon baby. We kill it.

As the last creature falls, quickly dissolving into a pool of smoking goo, we hear the sounds of a pitched battle some distance away. As we make our way toward the sounds of battle, the sky grows dark and cloudy and the wind begins to whistle through the ruins.

Rounding a corner, we catch sight of the battle: Icosiel and several of his warriors are defending themselves from a writhing mass of demonic forms. Directing them is a tall, gaunt, horned demon. Unless we do something, Icosiel’s forces will soon be overwhelmed!

We rush in to help, but we accidentally pull the boss! Somehow the gaunt demon is aware of our approach long before it should be. It turns toward us, darkest evil is seemingly concentrated into this creature’s lean and hungry frame. Oddly jointed limbs extend from its gaunt bipedal form, ending in twitching, clawed digits. Its alien face is warped in a perpetual howl, a starved visage where empty white eyes stare out over a long, writhing tongue protruding from a toothy, fleshless maw. The thing’s face twists into a mockery of a grin, and it begins to stalk towards us, seemingly content to leave Icosiel to his fate.

We are hosed. We whittle the demon down as best we can, but we’re no match for it. Our only hope is to spread out the damage and keep it off Icosiel until he can get in a better position. We actually manage to make some decent progress on the demon, but we can’t keep up with it’s damage output. Things start to look bleak when Xicar runs out of healing. Just then, Icosiel leaps onto the fiend’s back, stabbing through its heart from behind. Then he vaults onto its shoulders and decapitates it with brutal efficiency, pausing a moment to shear the arching, red-tipped horns from the creature’s head.

The heavy rain soon becomes pounding hail, whipped through the ruins by gales of wind. Icosiel shouts over the tempest: “We must hurry! Miska approaches! You’ve fought bravely, but the time for fighting is over, now we run!”

Icosiel sprints through the driving rain, leaping atop piles of rubble and dancing along crumbling ledges. As the hail pounds against the ancient stone and the wind howls, we distinctly hear Icosiel’s joyful laughter as he runs. Momentarily stunned by the fall of the horned demon, the rest of the demonic horde begins to surge toward us. Time to make our exit.

We careen through the ruins with varying levels of grace. Even in our Storm King bodies, we’re all a little winded when we finally catch up with Icosiel in a wide plaza. The young Storm King turns toward us, grinning.

Strangely, time seems to slow. Each hailstone and every raindrop seems to hang suspended in the air as a robed figure appears, as though from nowhere behind and above Icosiel. A globe of compete blackness hovers over a strange metal box in the figure’s clawed hand. Slowly, the globe begins to float toward Icosiel, drawing light, hail, and rain into the void of its nothingness. That’s no moon! I barely have time to scream “Noooo!”.

Icosiel turns, drawing his swords in a single fluid motion. Too late! The sphere strikes him in the chest and he seems to collapse inward, vanishing in an instant. His weapons fall to the pavement, the tip of his longsword brushing the black sphere, as the suspended hail and rain suddenly crashes down once more.

For an instant, we stand in stunned silence. Then, we notice that the sphere is moving towards Xicar. The charismatic people of the party vie for control of the sphere, largely without success. I try to make my way to the robed figure, but striking him is like cutting through cobwebs. The demon horde descends on us and soon we are forced to give up on strategy and focus on survival. Gene-stealers surround and impregnate Zuko. We kill or chase off most of the demon horde, but in the midst of the madness, Xicar gets eaten by the sphere!!! We don’t even have time to react to the loss before a particularly brilliant bolt of lightning momentarily blinds us.

As our vision clears we see Amsophar standing triumphant over the crumpled remains of the robed figure, his swords smoking in his hands. He picks up the strange box, closing it with a snap that we somehow hear clearly over the raging storm. As he does so, the black sphere vanishes as though it had never been.

Amsophar leaps down from his perch, and approaches Icosiel’s remains. He collects his friend’s remaining possessions as the storm suddenly dies down. Amsophar takes a moment to lament Icosiel’s fall, and then turns to our diminished group. “Take these, and guard them forever. They are all that remains of my comrade, and I would not have them lost to the whims of fate.” Suddenly, he seems to realize that the storm has stopped, he looks around, clearly frightened. “Flee! Flee now! Miska is upon us!”

Across the square a monstrous, shadowy form of horror stalks into view. As our vision fades we see Amsophar draw his weapons and advance toward a creature that can only be described as an enormous armored spider with two sleek and terrible wolf heads flanked by four heavily muscled human-like arms. Our vision goes black, we blink, and find ourselves kneeling over the silver basin in Amsophar’s tomb.

Lazare, 31E and Dog are standing over us worriedly. They’re very relieved that we’ve “snapped out of it” and demand to know what happened. Xicar is with us. We’re all human(oid) again. We give them the short version: we went on a vision quest.

After a few moments, our focus shifts from ourselves back to Amsophar’s sarcophagus. It is now open. With new understanding and respect for this being and his belongings, we take a golden box from the tomb. In it we find a fragment of some kind of rod, Amsophar’s Ring, and his Circlet. Oh god it’s naptime.

We rest and level up. Now that we’re refreshed, we can focus on what to do next. The fragment we found is indeed a powerful artifact – it’s obviously a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts! But somehow, Lazare is crestfallen! He sulks around, clearly disappointed. I guess he was expecting something else?

Our first order of business is figuring out how we’ll get out of here. Xicar has the idea to put the crystal disc in the pool of water…which suddenly turns into an inky black hole! I think it looks a lot like the portal we took to get here. I stick my hand in, and it feels like the portal, too. I glance around at my companions, wearing a mischievous half-grin. Before they can argue, I dive in, taking Dog and all of Amsophar’s stuff with me. The party dives in after me.

~Ashe

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Episode 25

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 falling river and find ourselves in a large cavern at the base of a waterfall.

The waterfall crashes in a deafening torrent into a pool of jagged rocks and boulders at the bottom of its descent. The water gurgles as it makes its way further into the earth somewhere in the darkness. The cavern beyond is large, and damp with the waterfall’s spray. Strange glowing fungus clings to the damp stone, illuminating the echoing chamber. The greenish light flickers and glitters off tiny crystals in the ceiling far above, giving the cavern the strange feeling of being open to the night sky.

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 Orogs! 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 (a rare occasion, for us) 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.

~Ashe

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Episode 24

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 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.
~Ashe

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Episode 23

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 offed 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 Tamclar 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 Tamclar 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 Tamclar, 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. Tamclar 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 carved into it

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, Zollara appears before us, with her trusty deck of cards.

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”. It seems like a good idea, so 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 paralytic (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 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 was correct.

Lazare also insists that he didn’t abduct 31E. He simply went to the Cabal and asked the automaton 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 Jarkardos’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 cause Amsophar’s hand to point 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 (since we are all Lawfully aligned). 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, after much discussion and puzzlement we figure out what must be the correct position for the metal plate, so we place it in the empty slot. Nothing happens.

We rotate the statue another click. The floor of this small chamber is 20 feet below the level of the main room. It has what looks like a shaft leading down into darkness. 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) and I’m deafened by thunder, blinded by lightning, and chilled by ice and snow! 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 get it wrong! A blast of deafening thunder nearly kills the lot of us! We try again, and with 31e’s help get it right, 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.

Finally, we make a complete circuit with the statue. There is a little bit of debate, but Nineve’s unnatural fear of elevators wins out and we decide to try the ‘reverse gravity’ alcove. To our surprise the reverse gravity seems to be disabled, and we decide to descend down the shaft 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.

~Ashe

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Episode 20

Episode 20: 9/26/09

The Party:
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/3-3
Nineve, human knight/6
Xicar, human cleric/6
Sarek, human wizard 6

We’re standing over the smoldering remains of Mohrg Ondore, and we notice he has a note pinned to the inside of his jacket, along with a key-

Ondore,
You have served the Circle quite well. A pity you were not more careful. Alas, your carelessness has brought your demise early. We are still in need of you, though now, you shall serve in a much..different capacity. Your return did not go as we had hoped, but you may yet prove more valuable than we had dared dream.
Your antagonists continue to harry you, and are responsible for your current form. If you must dispose of them, do so quickly. It would be unwise to toy with them. That could draw them into the Circle’s business.
When you find your mind cleared after the trauma of your rebirth in His dark Name, and capable of understanding the tasks before you, return to your ancestral manor. There, we shall contact you, no need to trouble the Circle yourself.

-Your mistress, Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms

We collect what remains of his remains and search the cavern. We find his desk area, and it is clear that his transformation into Mohrgdom was unhinging to his mind. We find another note, along with several sketches of each of us, dying horrifically.

Ondore,
Do you recall the working of the ancient runes that I showed you? Of course you do. You were always so very..clever. Father Skinshaw will provide the list of proper victims for you in two days’ time. Commit that list to memory and destroy it before you begin your task. Who can know how your works will shape the future? Each murder inescapably alters the destinies of us all, drawing us inexorably towards His dark designs.
The ones you sacrifice must be marked as they die, otherwise they bring little glory to His Dark Name, and their souls will go to waste. You may do with any others as you please – it matters not to me. I ask only that you mark them properly, and let their deaths serve our Bleak Lord as well as your lust for murder.

-Your mistress, Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms

There’s nothing else to see here, so we climb the stairs back to the mansion basement and make our way out. As we exit the house, we notice that thousands of silent black birds are perched on all available surfaces, watching us. It’s very odd, and we’re uneasy, so we hurry to put some distance between us and this cursed place.

As we leave the mansion behind, the troubled sky clears and the moon illuminates the countryside – the storm seems to have vented all its wrath. Reflecting on our recent trials, we find ourselves cresting the rise overlooking the House of Lillybrook and its grounds. Suddenly there shoots through the air a resounding crack, like thunder, from the direction of that forlorn house. Turning about, we gaze as a fissure rapidly widens across the abutment of land.The antiquated structure, and much of the cliff, wavers and abruptly falls, sliding and tumbling into the churning lake below. There is a long tumultuous crashing and rumbling sound, like the voice of a thousand breaking waves – and then the deep and ominous lake closes sullenly and silently over the fragments of the House of Lillybrook.

We move on and find an abandoned farm to sleep in for the night. In the morning, we find we are all afflicted with Red Death, and Nineve has another case of Ghoul Fever. Fortunately, Xicar is able to cast Remove Disease on all of us, and we feel much better, though we still look like hell. We head back to Istivin and arrive in the afternoon. We spend the evening in the Flask and the Terrasque, a tavern on the outskirts of the city. In the morning, we approach the gates of Dura. As expected, we encounter a unit of town guards at the gate, but we slip past them.

We find ourselves in the Wealthy district. A merchant, mistaking us for common laborers, offers us 2 gp each to help him unload his fragile goods. To avoid drawing attention to ourselves, we help him out. He pays us and offers us a ride through the district. We take him up on it and find ourselves in the market district. A street urchin takes a liking to us, but Xicar puts him off. However, we manage to make our way through the district without attracting undue notice.

We next find ourselves in a poor quarter. We round a corner onto a murder scene surrounded by guards, but we manage to slip away before being noticed by anyone. Unfortunately, we draw undue attention to ourselves while trying to leave the district, and are forced to high-tail it to the neighboring market district.

There, we spot a group of town guards up the street, but we evade their notice and exit the quarter without encountering any problems. In a civic district, we pass a paladin of Heironeous and his retinue, but fortunately he is too full of his own self-importance to notice us. We return at last to the Cabal.

We visit Mossad’s office and find him hanging out with Arrad, reminiscing on old times. We give our full report. They congratulate us, but are disappointed in our lack of clues. Nonetheless, he and Marten have decided to indoctrinate us into the Ritual of the Lady’s Favor, in honor of our service to the Church. That evening, amidst much pomp and ceremony, we undergo the ritual and gain one action point, usable once per day (allowing us to gain an extra action on our turn)! Afterwards, we show those clerics how to party!

Nineve and Sarek undergo additional rituals the next day. The following morning, an acolyte summons us to the Great Library to meet with Mossad & Advocat. They explain they’ve been researching the manifest I brought back. Several other crates of earth have been delivered to multiple locations around the city. Mossad would like us to investigate a warehouse and a papermill, while other agents check out other locations.

We start with the papermill on Cliffside. The Ministry of Justice is still looking for us, so we must tread carefully. We evade guard patrols, get momentarily lost in the maze of the poor quarter, and unlock a neglected door in a market district which leads to the Cogs. With their knowledge of history, Sarek and Xicar lead us through these underground passages to the slums. We slip past the gate guards and make our way to a large papermill clinging precariously to the side of a cliff. The waterwheel running the papermill is powered by a giant waterfall. The wheel itself is a marvel of engineering at 45 feet across!

We open the door, and a mill worker tries really hard to get us to leave, but we eventually convince him to let us speak to his manager. The manager is evasive to all our questions and signals his worker-thug to attack us! The “worker” charges into Xicar, pushing him into the mill machinery! As he slams into Xicar, we recognize him is Kinto Anderhoff, the one that got away. A vision of The Trumpet appears to me. It is clear that this papermill is just a front for a group of Nerullian cultists. The workers and manager (who is a cleric) suddenly don raven masks, but Sarek blasts through them with an unnecessarily massive fireball. Figuring we’ve alerted everyone in the building to our presence after that display, we disable the lift and run up the stairs.

We find an office area with more stairs leading to yet a higher floor. We take a moment to rifle through the desk, but don’t find anything incriminating, so we kick through the double doors leading to the main room on the floor. The Nerullian cultists are ready for us. Sarek throws down another fireball, but to his great disappointment, doesn’t manage to ignite any of the machinery. Suddenly, an armored Nerullian cleric appears behind Sarek and attacks. Sarek blows out the windows with another massive fireball as Nineve falls under the cleric’s curse. More cultists pour in and join the cleric as the battle shifts back into the office area. The tide of battle turns against the Nerullian dogs, and the evil cleric attempts to flee, invisible. Luckily, Sarek pegs him with an old glitterstone he must’ve been carrying around for 5 levels! We follow him up the stairs onto the third floor of the papermill. We finish off the ringleader cleric and most of the cultists, taking some of them prisoner. The cleric, like all the cultists, is wearing a strange raven head dress called a Reaper’s Mask, which we collect for the Cabal. I find a secret passageway deeper into the cliffside, and we secure the prisoners. We regroup and heal up before heading into the natural caverns revealed behind the hidden passage.

The passage descends steeply and Xicar, Nineve, and Sarek all slip and tumble clumsily down the corridor. I manage to dodge them as they crash past me, but when Xicar’s shield pops out of his hand, I jump up on it and surf down the passage like Legolas, BECAUSE I CAN! It’s good to be an elf.

Thus, with varying degrees of grace, we enter a stone chamber containing 2 Filge-special acid zombies and 2 (hiding) alchemical horrors. Just as we’re coming to grips with Filge’s pets, a shadow appears and attacks Xicar. Sarek and Xicar dissolve the shade as Nineve and I wade through the zombies and horrors.

.. to be continued.

~Ashe

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