Monday, 24 May 2010

Post War Group - 23/5/2010

Before the group can even act, Schnecke is hit by a crossbow quarrel, a mask of cloying darkness engulfing his head and blinding him as the dark magics bound within it are released. Simultaneously, almost all the party are surrounded by writhing tendrils of psychic gloom, which burn them with mental anguish and shackle them with semi-solid pools of slimy darkness; and without the group even having a chance to fight back, they find themselves sorely wounded and surrounded by mostly hidden enemies.

During these surprise attacks, Jaeger is able to make out soft chanting from a rooftop nearby, and he pinpoints the direction that the crossbow that hit Schnecke came from, and is able to give the rest of the group direction as the battle gets underway.

Three robed and masked rogues harry the party on the ground, whilst the hidden crossbowmen and spell caster continue to plague them from above. The rogues are quickly brought down (though one fakes death), and two of them are kept alive for questioning. Grigori uses his incredible powers to heal the significant harm his allies have suffered by this time, the darkness of the Roughs streets being thrown back by the radiance of his regenerative magics, which means the difference between life and death for several of the group as the attacks continue.

The spell caster is a serious problem for a while; his shadowy spells infesting the Warlord's psyche with dread visions. However, using the shadows as his portal, the assassin silently teleports to a spot adjacent to him, and with two swift, precise strikes, stops his attacks, the robed and masked cadaver sliding limply from the rooftop to crunch brokenly to the filthy streets below.

With the rogues and illusionist dealt with, the group turn their attention to the shadow wielding crossbowmen. Jaegar warns the party that like him, they can manipulate the very fabric of physical darkness, and they prove him right by stepping through thin air, to teleport away from the group and onto nearby rooftops. The party give chase; Varracuda and Jaegar running across the rickety rooftops, leaping over the streets in pursuit, whilst the wounded, and blinded sorceress calls upon her magic to lift both her and Grigori to the rooftops. Filled with rage, the barbarian hauls himself up like an enraged ape, his axe moaning in the darkness as he charges towards the flitting, shadowy figure.

One of the shadow wielding Rookery footpads makes good his escape, leaping through the darkness and evading the party. The other is not so lucky. Surrounded by foes, he is caught by the assassins shadowy blade, which not only finds a vulnerable spot, and not only carries the additional weight of Jaeger's tenebrous magic, but is also slathered with poison, which bites deep into his ribs, ravaging his body and filling his limbs with burning weakness.

However, it is a very real kind of burning that finishes him, as Varracuda intones a potent incantation, swirling his suddenly blazing sword in increasingly rapid circles in front of him, creating a devastating blast of magical flame which screams into the night, casting chartreuse radiance into the darkness below and engulfing the screaming footpad in consuming fire.

Burning, the footpad smashes into the streets below. Dead. The battle is over.

21:16 – 21:21 – Aware that another wave of enemies could arrive at any moment, the group are eager to get off the streets and to find somewhere quiet where they can interrogate the captured thieves. Jaeger tells the group to keep quiet, and slips into the darkness to seek a place out. He quickly returns, having kicked a drink soaked and flea infested war veteran out of his piss smelling hovel, and bids them follow him.

21:23 – 21:55 - The group bundle the shaking thieves into the stinking darkness of the hovel. The thieves are blindfolded, beaten, and then split up; kept near enough so that their screams can be heard, but far apart enough that what is being said by them cannot.

Seren, with her naturally cruel streak and ability to psychologically break people with her cunning and dark personality, is assigned as the primary tool of information extraction, whilst Emmiven and Schnecke operate as more physical, less complex tools of intimidation. The sorceress revels in this task, using her magics to physically torture her charges, backing this up with her purring promises of release and life if they cooperate, of death and torment of they lie.

The first thief is highly belligerent despite his serious predicament, and the effectiveness of Seren's intimidation. However, he reveals that although the Rookery guild has hideaways across the city, their leader – one Corvus Corvax – lairs beneath a ruined tower at the eastern edges of the Roughs; a former border tower from an older city limit. The rogue warns that Corvus is a canny foe, and that he has a clan of Gorashym mercenaries as his personal guards. He also explains that the front of the tower is watched over by a formidable force of guards, who respond with immediate violence to those that fail to deliver the correct series of coughs before approaching.

This information is confirmed by the second thief; a weeping, gibbering man who begs for his life and tells the group that he will help them however he can.

In order to ensure that the information they have been given is true, both thieves are dragged into the same room and secured. The mouthy thief is then shot in the head by Jaegar, his body slumping forwards, blood pumping in a gentle, pulsing arc from his temple, whilst his horrified companion watches,. Almost incoherent with absolute dread, the second thief confirms that everything he told the party is true. He then begins to blub and shake uncontrollably, begging for mercy.

Two hammer blows from Emmiven silence him...

...And one of the restraining runes on the vial burns off, a sharp icy pain lancing though Grigori's leg where the vial makes contact through the cloth of his robes' pocket.

21:56 – 01:30 (13/4/1472) – Taking a winding route back, the group return to the their Inn, and after a few drinks, discuss what they will do next. They decide that they will wait a few days at least before making a move against the Rookery stronghold, and vow to try and seek an alternative route into it the next day. They also discuss the possibility of hunting down some monsters from the local area and selling them directly to the arena fight organisers, in an attempt to avoid having to deal with the irascible Dundorin who is their official contact.

01:30 – The group retire for the night.

08:00 – 00:00 All but Schnecke awaken feeling drained and achy. All have angry, puss filled lesions around their ankles, and swollen lymph nodes, and they realise that they have picked up an infection from the flea bites they got whilst in the Roughs. However, despite this, Jaegar and Schnecke head out to speak with the assassin's shadowy contacts in order to try and garner information about the subterranean lay of the land beneath the Roughs, whilst the rest of the party stay in bed, hoping to shake off their illness.

The assassin is given the names of several dodgy people within the city who may be able to help him by the Harrakenite priests, though their information does not come free of charge (he agrees to “manage the affairs” of one Darius Valde, a money lender allied with the banking guild, with extensive, fortified holdings in the cities High Hills district, whom the church have deigned needs removing. He agrees a reward of 5,000 gold for the job). He then spends his morning talking to these people, and learns a great deal about the tunnels and decrepit sewer pipes that connect the better maintained network of cellars, tunnels and drains of the rest of the city, and the ancient storm drains and corridors that wind beneath the Roughs.

During the morning, a black scroll bearing Archevult's seal is delivered to the Staff of Wands, and when opened it is found to be orders for the group (payment for their rooms at the inn) – namely the hunting and neutralisation of an “unfettered mage” named Balskus Morvell (though he currently goes under the name Avulus). The scroll warns that he is “very powerful”, and explains that he is “an artificer specialising in the construction of dimensionally reactive devices” who's presence has been detected by tracking certain rare books of interest to him, deliberately planted in local book merchant's stock.

This mission does not sit well with the continually jittery Varracuda, who once more questions why not being a member of the Unified Order is such a crime.

Jaeger and Schnecke return to the inn mid afternoon. The assassin heads out again shortly after to try and gather some information on Darius Valde, whilst the Ulnyrr settles down to some serious drinking in the bar.

By early afternoon, after a morning in bed, both Varracuda and Emmiven have shaken off their illness, and Grigori has killed it off with various foul tasting tinctures and chunks of “medicinal” rock. Seren however has become more unwell, though she still accompanies Grigori to a nearby temple-library of Aeon'Epoch, in order to search through the tomes and plans there, in the hopes of supplementing whatever information the assassin gets with definite, written records.

Their studies are fruitful, and by nightfall they have obtained maps and descriptions of the sewers in the area of the Rookery tower, as well as finding out that some of the tunnels were once, back in the 2nd age, home to a sub-cult of the foul, banished deity, Darkold'Sebbathor. They also realise that a clear, though possibly dangerous path directly into Corvus' underground bunker likely exists.

That evening the group meet back at the Inn. The assassin, having learned that Darius is wealthy enough to have seriously fortified his home, and to have bought both a private army of soldiers and a wide variety of traps and constructs, shares his mission with the group in the hopes of having them help him out. The group respond by describing the mission Archevult has set them, and they discuss some of the problems that tracking down and taking a powerful mage could throw up.

After some food and drink, the group retire for the night, the priest spending time with Seren trying to help her shake off her illness.

14/4/1472 (Light rain in morning, bright and warming later)

The sorceress and sword mage head to the libraries to continue their supplemental study, the formers illness somewhat diminished after a good night's rest. They initially meet with some problems after mistaking fantasy literature (by famed 2nd Age bard, Gringo Blandiblub) as a historical reference, though Seren pays for access to more obscure records, and they finally get a truly clear picture of how to enter the tunnels beneath the roughs, and how they connect to the Rookery subterranean stronghold.

During this day, the assassin tries to find out where Balskus is, though his efforts are for nothing, and Emmiven visits his new mount, now named Diabolos.

Back at the inn Schnecke drinks.

And it is whilst the barbarian drinks that he comes to meet with a curious young man; foppish, handsome, and strangely compelling to talk to. The man, who introduces himself simply as “the Traveller” seems to have heard of Schnecke's obsession with the “Sky Fish”, and seems interested in giving the barbarian a lead in his search. He tells the Ulnyrr (who keeps listening as if compelled, despite his usual response to such situations being rude words and if the hint isn't taken, a punch to the throat) that the fish is actually a kind of Dracani that lairs by a sea of black ice on Aelnaerys, the Lonely Moon. He tells him that if this beast were to be bested, that its hoard is extensive and that a fabulous, unique skyship serves as its lair.

Schnecke does not know why, but he believes every word, and so agrees when the man states that the only price for his words is “that you hire a few of my...err, the God Traveller's clerics for your crew when you fly your ship”.

The man – the avatar of Traveller, God of spacefarer's – then leaves the bar, leaving the barbarian to ponder his words.

That evening when the barbarian describes his meeting, the group are divided; half thinking that he has drunk one Vossk too many, the rest – lead most enthusiastically by Girgori – believing that he has had a genuine one to one meeting with a actual, gold to platinum God.

15/4/1472 (Bright and warm, though increasingly breezy and chilly through the day. Light rain and distant thunder by night).

08:00 – 11:00 – The group discuss what to do, and decide to head into the Roughs to seek out and cleanse the slaughter house described by Salara Cooper on her terrified descriptions of the Death Loved's activities. Grigori visits the local temple of Oerdaine'Maelandra to seek out something to protect the group and he from the diseases of that area, but returns empty handed.

11:00 – 12:30 – The group move through the streets of Irin and once more enter the stinking streets and slumping tenements of the Roughs.

12:30 – 12:32 – The group enter a wide street that is markedly empty of the ubiquitous rats, pigeons and street scum that haunt the rest of the Rough's labyrinthine ways, despite a local old woman grabbing the priest to warn him that “folks up to no good, evil folks and horrible things, are found there.”

12:34 – The group locate the derelict butchers that stands atop the slaughterhouse, and notice at once the sense of stillness and emptiness that seems to hang on the air here. The front windows are shattered, and through them can be seen a dust and cobweb covered counter, piles of rubble and broken glass, the words of gang graffiti scrawled on the walls.

12:35 – The assassin carefully climbs through the broken window, and the rest of the group carefully follow.

12:36 – 12:41 – A search of the this front room reveals nothing, though an open doorway leads to a smaller room at the back.

12:42 – Within this room is a recently installed, metal trap door, which is sealed with a heavy iron bar, and locked with two well crafted locks.

12:43 – 12:45 Grigori examines the bar and discovers, written in some kind of fat, runes of power smeared onto the metal; the words of an Arcane Lock ritual; a potent spell that will make opening the trap door more difficult, and which will alert its caster to the intrusion.

12:45 – 12:50 – Jaegar also discovers that both locks contain tiny vials filled with alchemical components which will, if broken and allowed to mingle, create a cloud of deadly poisonous gas.

12:50 – 13:00 – Jaegar carefully dismantles and neutralises the traps; the lock first, and then each of the poison gas traps. Then Emmiven smashes the trap door open, the sound of the violent action booming into the darkness below.

Beyond, a stone ramp, caked in dried blood, leads into a dark cellar. The air that wafts out smells strongly of blood and decay, and the deep buzzing of large flies can be heard echoing softly ahead, accompanied by a chiming, tinkling sound, and a regular, hard-edged “THUMP”.

13:00 – 13:01 – With all care, the group slowly move down the ramp, each noting the psychic pressure of malevolence that seems to gather and thicken as they descend. Emmiven creeps ahead of the main party, and beholds a large cellar, caked in dried gore and filth. From its ceiling hang rows of rotting pigs carcasses, each speared by a hook attached to a rusted chain. They swing in the darkness as if caressed by a foetid breeze, the sound of their chains being the source of the chiming in the dark.

The source of the thumping also becomes clear a moment later.

13:02 – The warlord moves slowly into the chamber, trying to keep away from the rotting, stinking meat hanging from the ceiling. He suddenly freezes as he spots something squatting in the far corner; a huge ghoul wearing only a decaying butchers' apron and wielding a massive, notched, gore encrusted cleaver. It is squatting with its back to the room, apparently chewing on a fistful of pig gore. However, as Emmiven closes in, it suddenly stops eating, and turns to regard him with mad, burning eyes, before slowly, carefully, standing up (it towers above the warlord, having a bulk even more formidable than the Ulnyrr's). Then, with black ropes of slimy saliva dribbling over its malformed fangs, it begins to stalk towards him.

13:03 – With a battle cry, the warlord charges the horror, landing a crushing blow to its palid, waxen chest, smashing it off its clawed feet, and sending it flailing to the ground. It howls and snarls and tries to stand up...

...Until it is ignited and blasted back ten feet by a sudden blaze of blinding, glassy, fiery energy; cast forth in a cone from the priest's holy symbol. The radiance also vaporises three wraithlike spirits that were trying to possess and animate some of the pig carcasses; the souls of animals sacrificed in this vile place.

And then a short battle ensues – a very short battle indeed, for the Butcher Ghoul, caught completely off guard and surrounded by deadly adventurer's with more than a bit of experience in fighting the undead, is quickly dispatched, though it savagely tears into Emmiven's chest with a claw, and hacks a chunk of the sword mages arm free with its filthy cleaver before it is taken down.

13:04 – 13:06 – With the monster destroyed, the group set about seeking a way forwards, for this place is not the one Salara described.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Post War Session - 4/5/2010

10:30 – 13:30 – The group first visit the Irinite Watch's headquarters, and sign on to hunt down a criminal group that have recently been committing a number of crimes in the wealthier districts of the city, their most recent being the theft of Namaea'Isaalite alms at swords point by the cities southern gate. With very little information to go on (other than they wore black, and wore crows' masks) and realising that they are not the most subtle of troupes, they allow Jaegar to slip into the city to speak with his “contacts” (in truth the priesthood of Harraken'Khelid), whilst the rest of them do some shopping. They arrange to meet that afternoon to see what, if anything, they have to go on.

It is a bright morning, though the strong winds keep the heat off, and the streets are crowded with people going about their daily lives. Hawkers bellow and yell about a wide variety of goods, competing with clerics and servants of various gods, preaching their doctrines and issuing dire warnings to those that ignore them. Heralds announce the local news, and guards – humanoid and warforged – patrol the streets in tight groups; eyes wary for the first signs of trouble.

The first place the group visit is a shop specialising in potions and minor magics, and there they purchase a number of healing potions. Next, they find a horse merchant, where Emmiven finally buys a mount – a black warhorse with white ankles – along with bit and bridal.

Having finished their shopping, the group decide that they should go and register with the arena events, and Varracuda at once begins to express his deep feelings of unease with the idea of parading his arcane skills in front of an arena full of people, and with the Unified Order watching. He seems no happier when the party remind him that at present he is under Archevult's sufferance, and so, is not a target – though Seren, and oddly enough Grigori both put it to him that he really has nothing to lose from officially joining the Order – a point that the swordmage seems unwilling to concede.

It is at this point that a rather surly Shnecke suddenly blurts out “We're already registered!”

Stunned silence and slow, angry looks towards the barbarian.

Shnecke shrugs. “You were all being complete pussies about it, so I went out late last night and registered us under the name 'Scnecke's Wolves'” (There are flinches through the party at that exact moment).

“And I put us in for the full on 'to the death' category too. No point girlying around like a bunch of idiots. Kill or be killed! Manly fighting!”

Grigori turns purple (and Varracuda pale green), but the group let it lie – what's done is done, and the name isn't as bad as it could have been. Then, having got everything they need, the party return to the Staff of Wands where they wait for the assassin to return.

18:00 – 19:00 - Jaeger returns and informs the group that his contacts were only “able” to retrieve a certain amount of information. He has discovered that the guild call themselves “The Rookery”, and that they are a fairly new organisation that is thought to have its base somewhere within the sprawl of The Roughs. In an effort to make finding them in that labyrinthine slum a little less daunting, the assassin has looked into some of the more popular drinking establishments, come places of illicit business, and has retrieved three names' “The Kicked Dog”, “The Garrotte” and “The Dead Man's Dance”. He surmises that they may be able to obtain some information by visiting these sites and subtly questioning the locals.

This plan meets with almost unanimous approval (especially from Shnecke), and the group set about discussing tactics. They quickly discard any plan that involves subtlety, recognising that this is one trait their group lacks. They then discard the notion that they can do their research without the Rookery hearing about them, which means they have to be prepared to face them at any time once they have set things in motion.

Accepting that they are going to force a confrontation sooner or later, and appreciating that the guilds own members are going to be – in theory – the best source of information, it is decided that they should visit one of the pubs, find out as much as they can from the dregs of society within, and by doing this provoke an attack by the guild. Then they shall grab one of their attackers, and persuade them to spill the beans on where the guild is located.

Simple!

It is decided that they shall first visit “The Kicked Dog”, as it is nearest to the edge of the Roughs, and after the Ulnyrr has finished a few “warm up pints”, they head out into the night.

19:00 – 19:45 – The group wend their way to the northwest ward of the city, passing through the wealthier districts, and the clearly delineated Dundorin district (known as the Ten Forges District), before suddenly crossing an invisible line that separates the Roughs from the rest of the city.

This district is not entirely what the group are expecting, for whilst it is mostly dilapidated and crumbling, its people foul and wretched, partaking openly in booze, drugs, violence, and rutting like animals in the shadows of the rat infested alleys and windowless tenements, there are homes that show (beneath their obvious defences) that their owners are proud of their dwellings and are not willing to let the darkness and foulness stain their homes and lives.

19:45 – 20:10 – The group move through the dark and winding streets of the Roughs, careful to avoid drawing too much attention to themselves (though their sharp eyes catch the flitting movements as lookouts cant to their allies their presence), and to not tread on the huge rats that scurry with little fear underfoot, or in the piles of night soil that stink and steam everywhere. The stench of the place is pervasive, and the sounds that drift from within the shattered buildings – mundane and nightmarish at the same time – lend the whole, poorly litten place an eerie, unearthly quality.

Eventually they find themselves in a wretched plaza, surrounded by leaning, broken buildings, but dominated by two that face each other. The largest is the “Kicked Dog”; a tall, well maintained structure that appears to be several properties knocked together. Its sign appears to be an actual dog, mummified with pitch, to which a real human leg – skeletal and also covered in pitch – has been attached, the two pieces joined in such a way as to suggest that the leg is booting the dog up its behind. A knot of well armed bouncers – two burly human males and one scarred and dented warforged – stand on the front door, ready to eject anyone that tries to enter without clearance. The clearance seems to be the say so of a red-headed female Vyrleen, who sits with them, watching everyone else in the plaza with steady, assessing eyes, and gives either a nod or a shake of her head whenever anyone tries to enter the Dog. The group also notice that she uses whirring subtle hand gestures and quiet glottal clicks to communicate with her doormen – some kind of rogues cant no doubt.

The second building was once a temple. Now it is shattered and covered in graffiti. Several fires burn in front of its yawning, shattered doors, casting a pool or light and warmth on the wretched figures that sit within the ruined temple, and upon its stained and cracked steps. A thin, moustachioed man with the complexion of the southerner offers up his wares there, his wares being a wretched line of thin and empty eyes girls and boys, some only children.

20:11 – 20:13 – The group approach the front door, and almost at once Grigori causes problems by insulting the warforged. However, the party are allowed to enter the pub under warning from the Vyrleen.

20:15 – 20:35 – The inside is a vast space, thick with layers of various exotic smokes and tabac fumes, and illuminated by dirty burning candles and fat lamps suspended from chains in the lofty roof. It is packed with hooting, drinking, vomiting, fighting, rutting, screaming, sweating folks, most smelling as if they have not seen water in weeks. It is oppressively hot, and the bar is on the far wall. The group scan the room and see that ladders from the main floor lead to mezzanine balconies that ring the room. The first is packed with more mundane folks, though many of these are engaged in games of chance or risk, or are relieving themselves over the edge and onto the oblivious drinkers below.

The second is much higher, and seems to be considerably less crowded. From the floor it is hard to see much up there, but the presence of armed guards and better lighting, not to mention sharp eyed lookout confirms to the party that only individuals of local power or position get to sit up there.

Shnecke and Emmiven head to the bar, whilst the rest of the party – sans Jaeger who opts to “mingle” with the crowd below - move to the first mezzanine, and manage to intimidate their way onto a cramped table, fairly close to the edge, where they can get a good view of the inn below. Shnecke returns with a large keg of beer, and sets about drinking at once, whilst Grigori announces that he is going to go and talk to Vyrleen because “she definitely knows something”.

20:55 – 21:00 - Grigori, with a greasy pint of beer in hand, approaches the Vyrleen on the door, drawing hostile glares from the bouncers there – the warforged moving to strike him before being called off by the diminutive woman. He attempts to engage the lass in some pleasantries, but discovers that she is far too canny for fall for his awkward attempts at manipulation. So, pausing only to watch as a young couple – both showing the mutations of magical pollution – are turned away and beaten by the bouncers, he gets to the point and asks her about the Rookery guild.

The Vyrleen hides it well, but she clearly knows something and has no desire to speak up. She tells the priest that he needs to go back inside to his friends where he is safe, and gives the bouncers a look that suggests that they should be ready to administer a profound beating at a moments notice. Realising that he will get nothing from her, the priest begins to back off, though he informs her that she has told him more than she knows as he goes.

21:03 – Back inside the heaving embrace of the main taproom, Grigori pushes his way towards the ladder that will take him back to his allies. However, he suddenly notices a hand reaching into his pocket, and turns to come face to face with a glassy eyed woman; young, pale and pissed. She freezes for a moment (quickly withdrawing her hand) and begins to try to pass off her fumbling as a sign of affection, a ghastly grin smearing across her bleary face.

Grigori goes to head-butt her, but at that moment is covered in vomit from someone up above. Blinded, furious and disoriented, he lashes out blindly, and the woman slips away with his purse, leaving him retching and sputtering in fury.

21:04 – 21:06 - As the woman flees, a curly haired man clad in well maintained mail and brandishing a long straight sword lunges towards Grigori. At the same time, several other men in the room smoothly rise to face the battle, one of them, a brute with a huge morningstar, launching a blackened bladed dagger through the throng towards the cleric (the venomous thing misses and buries itself in the ladder leading to the first mezzanine). Who they are is not clear, but they are clearly annoyed at Grigori's actions, and intend to do him some serious harm.

Of course, they clearly don't know he is far from alone and without power...

A brutal fight erupts, the roaring drinkers initially watching it eagerly, only to flee when its deadly nature becomes apparent. Magic burns the air, hammer shatter bones and blades sink into flesh. Jaegar moves like a shadow through the crowd, wearing them like a concealing cloak, his blade finding the spines and throats of many of the would be combatants, and Seren unleashes spells from above, aiding the warriors as they cleave and burn into their foes.

Drawn by the fighting, the warforged from the front door wades towards the group with an eager snarl, brandishing a huge, rune inscribed axe. However it, like the others, is quickly brought down, the assassins shadows dropping him after he has taken repeated blows from the warlord.

Almost too fast to believe, the battle is over, the pub emptied of most of its customers, the bar staff quivering with fear in the cellars.

21:07 – 21:08 – Still seething with rage, wiping the sick from his eyes, Grigori charges the front of the pub seeking out the Vyrleen. However, a cold, emotionless voice from the second mezzanine stops him dead, and the entire party stop to look up towards its source (apart from Jaegar who quickly rips the downed warforged's serial plate from its head).

“You have finished here”, it says. “You will leave. Now.”

Forgotten in the melee, the speaker is one of the potent individuals who were sat at the top of the pub. Power suddenly fills the air, and the group notice with great concern that an oily, slimy mist is billowing unnaturally across the floor – a vampire mist. Realising that the dark, feral figures above are to them as they were to the normal drinkers in this place, and having no desire to add their own gore to the filthy mess on the floor, the group agree to leave, and do so at once.

21:08 – 21:10 – Back outside and the few remaining drinkers there run at sight of the party. The doormen have fled into the maze of rotting alleys, as has the Vyrleen. Realising that they need to be gone from this place, the group head into the slums, hoping to avoid any further trouble.

21:15 – They don't, for whilst moving through a deserted street (which previously was filled with slum folks drinking, talking and cooking vermin over their smoky fires), they are suddenly ambushed by dark cloaked figures wearing crude carved masks. Masks made to look like the heads of crows.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Pre War Session - 3/5/2010

I won't lie to you, this is a biggie. And this game was a scary session, because I truly thought we were looking at a TPK. Those Ael'Shar Portal Guardians are 100% pure nastiness, and although the write up makes it look like they were pretty quick to work things out, the actually reality of the game was that it took the party a while, and those things were wreaking bloody havoc to the characters. Anyway, this is what happens when your GM suddenly realises that the group are heading well and truly off the beaten trail (the Dracani did have the stelae), and realises that he can turn the groups first proper fail into a very interesting change of direction. Enjoy!
*   *   *

23:50 – 23:54 – The party find themselves riding down a silent testament to the awesome magical power of the ancient Ael'Shar, for the tunnel they enter is composed entirely of the flowing magma of the volcano, held open by ancient spells of force; and despite the impossible gulfs of time that have passed between their casting and the present, they hold (though areas of “thickened” air speak of growing flaws within the magics webs of power).

At the end of the corridor, a vast door of cold iron, bronze and obsidian blocks any further progress. It is set in a frame of rune carved obsidian, and the final fifteen foot of floor is also polished volcanic glass rather than sculpted lava.

23:54 – 01:00 (30/1/50); foggy at first, then, as portal is opened, a violent storm erupts from nowhere

Ormid and Llewellyn examine the door and its surroundings and notice a number of interesting features. Firstly, there are four tube like structures that flare from the decorations on the front of the door, each one opening some 15' above a carved rune circle on the floor. Closer examination of the circles shows them to be binding circles, specifically geared towards holding a portal to a fire dimension, and to holding a powerful fire elemental in this universe. The tubes set above seem to be a part of a larger artifice set up to channel fiery energies into the door, almost certainly effecting its opening.

Llewellyn checks the door over for any apparent traps, and whilst he notices complex lines and patterns of Ael'Shar decorations and glyphs running in sweeping, curved lines across the door, nothing directly hazardous is apparent. Ormid and Ardwaine spend some time examining these markings further, and soon realise that they hide a magical formulae – instructions on the ritual needed to activate the magic in the fire binding circles and the door, in order to open it.

Ormid believes that with the help of the Dundorin, he may be able to perform this ritual, though he has three main concerns. Firstly, as far as he is aware (being convinced that he and the others must have slept for six hours, instead of two), their protective ritual is now only an hour away from expiring, and whilst the corridor they are in appears to be habitable, any further exploration of the environs would be impossible (read: fatal) without them. This is made all the more concerning when he realises that the opening ritual will take roughly an hour to work.

His second concern is that the ritual will simply prove too complex for him and the dundorin to correctly work, and that something terrible might transpire if the magics are gathered and then misdirected. He surmises that such a failure may result in the summoning of several particularly potent fire elementals and that they may be uncontrolled, or that the door may have some kind of mechanism built into them that punishes those that fail to open them safely.

Finally, the artificer is concerned that whatever lies beyond is by and of itself dangerous, or that the protective spells that have held in their current location may have failed, and that nothing but a wall of molten rock waits beyond.

Voicing these concerns, the dundorin adds another. She puts it to the group that the Dracani, being a member of a species that compulsively gathers items of power, may have what they are looking for, and that they could be taking a terrible risk only to discover that they have wasted their time. Veteran surmises that they should maybe seek the monster out and try to negotiate with it, pointing out how soundly they beat it before, and the strong line of self preservation that runs through all Dracani.

01:00 – 02:00 - However, after all this has been discussed, it is decided that Ormid and Ardwaine should try and open the doors, with the group agreeing to flee if they fail.

And so, after a quick drink of hot chocolate to settle his nerves, the Artificer begins the ritual, supported by the chanting Dundorin. For an hour they work to awaken the potent magics weaved into the door and the summoning circles before them, and with great skill, effort, understanding and mental fortitude, they are successful.

As the first part of the opening ritual is worked, the air shimmering with power, and runes flare within the substance of the door. The circles blaze with power, and four furious creatures of primal flame are drawn, roaring and shrieking, from their home dimensions and bound within the circles, the carved runes flaring with brutal, gelid light, their rage and hatred, an almost physical force battering against the ancient Ael'Shar power.

By the end of the first part, Ormid is sweating profusely, both from the efforts of the casting and the effects of his illness. His voice is reedy and hoarse, and he is soaked in sweat. However, in order to open the doors, the elementals essence must be channelled into the doors spell matrices, and so, swaying slightly, the dundorin a reassuring and steadying presence, he launches into the second part of the ritual...after some more hot chocolate.

02:00 – 02:28 – Dundorin and human shape the colossal energies of the Ael'Shar artifice, the formers sheer grit steering her through, the latter's vast knowledge of the subtleties of artifice and arcane devices aiding him, and after half and hour, with a boom like thunder and a surge of displaced air, the vast doors swing open, the fire elementals being dragged screaming into the glowing guts of their mechanism. Muscles cramping, exhausted, the artificer barely notices that the protective rituals have not faded as he expected, though Llewellyn does, and the whole party allow themselves to feel at least slightly relieved.

02:28 – 02:30 – On the backs of their shimmering spectral mounts, the group enter the vast, cool chamber beyond the Ael'Shar gate...

This chamber is vast. It is constructed from Ael'Shar crystal, though a huge circle of what appears to be Cold Iron dominates the floor. The air in here tastes of age, but is both cool and breathable. A distant light emanates from a small clump of similar crystals that grow down from the zenith of the domes ceiling directly above the reaching points of the earthbound growths; a huge mass of blade like crystals that rise from a mound of curled pipes and protruding spikes of grey-blue metal, set in the middle of the cold iron circle, and indeed, the entire chamber. Steps of resonant crystal curl around this structure, leading to a point just above the area where the blades meet in a point, some 50' above the floor.

Emanating from the central structure are three rune carved channels of alchemical silver, each of which ends in a smaller circle of silver from which rises a curiously angled column of compact, blade-like crystals. These columns shimmer weirdly in the cool distant light, and seem to hold some kind of depth beyond simple reflection within their facets.

Finally, positioned around the edge of the central structures are three large Ael'Shar statues, similar to those found in the Zargor'Gigorim ruins above, only larger. They thrum, quietly with quiescent power, and the warforged warns the group that he fears they may animate and attack if provoked.

It is impossible to believe that this place exists within the bowels of a volcano, so peaceful and still is it. And yet, it does, and the group, sensing they may be close to finding the stelae, are quick to overcome their awe and to set to finding a way forwards.

At this point they have no way of knowing that is the wrong way, and that soon, this chamber and everything else in the volcano will be destroyed by their hand.

02:31 – 02:35 – The Vyrleen and human fly over to the bladed columns on the backs of their mounts, taking great care not to cross the circle of cold iron set into the floor, and begin to examine them more closely. Both realise that rather than reflections, what they see within are glimpses of other places; alien but beautiful.

And then something goes wrong. In an attempt to get a better look at the staues in the middle of the chamber, the Vyrleen moves over the boundary of the cold iron circle, and at once he and Ormid find themselves falling slowly to the ground as the magic of their mounts is undone (along with their protective spells) by a wave of nullifying magic, which sweeps forth from the four columns as they undergo a fantastic and terrible transformation.

As the group watch, each column flies apart on the wings of some unseen power, the component blades of indigo and gold crystalline blades rearranging themselves into a new, deadly form. Where the columns once stood now tower three towering, humanoid constructs, composed of the shimmering bladed crystals; hunch backed, and long limbed, the spaces where their eyes should be dripping fractals of smoky, shimmering power.

Each moves with incredible grace given their massive bulk and all immediately attack the group.

02:35 - 02:40 – Within moments the group are literally fighting for their lives. The constructs are things of impossibly potent magic, and they simply begin to dismantle the adventurers.

Veteran is the one who fares best, bolstered by the artifice Ormid awakens in his blade, his body continually healed by radiant fire every time he strikes at the reflective, diamond-hard hide of the monsters. However Llewellyn is soon knocked unconscious; horribly wounded by a powerful backlash of magic after hitting one of the Ael'Shar statues, and then blown off the top of the crystalline steps by twinned beams of light fired from the blazing eyes of one construct, whilst Ardwaine also finds herself unconscious and dying, her jugular severed by a downward slash from one of the Ael'Shar Portal Guardians crystal bladed limbs. The monsters exhale clouds of mind dulling mist, teleport across the chamber in bursts of shredding crystals, and step forth from teleportation to inflict grievous wounds on those nearby. They also seem to anticipate each move the heroes make, and strike at them with devastating force before they are able to attack every time they take an action.

In truth, the group are seriously outclassed, and are doomed unless they find a way out of the chamber.

Veteran manages to take one of the monsters down after throwing his best attacks at it, and before he is taken down, the Vyrleen notices that the engraved circles the guardians left are each emblazoned with a single, dull rune – a different rune in each one. He also discovers that each rune corresponds to one carved on the back of one of the statues (this after he is blasted back by the backlash of power).

With this discovery, the group quickly realise that they need to complete the magics in this chamber – that the statues, each a potent battery of arcane energy, need to be placed within the circles in order to activate the mechanism in the chambers heart (and hopefully pacifying the guardians).

However, doing this when the group is scattered across the room, when several are in need of urgent supernatural healing, and when each statue weighs almost a ton, is easier said than done.

But they manage it.

Just.

With Ferrous helping, the group manage to persuade the warforged to help push the weighty statues into their corresponding slots, and despite the continued onslaught of the remaining guardians, the wounded are roused (though poor Ardwaine is taken down one more time before all is done).

As each statue slots into place, so the guardian that once occupied its circle (if not destroyed) vanishes, replaced by a gathering energy and resonant droning from the crystals in the chambers heart, and as the last one is slotted into place, the Ael'Shar artifice flares into sudden life with a burst of silent, stunning power.

02:41 – A bubble of shimmering distortion manifests above the crystal array. At the same time, a terrible boom fills the chamber, and the spells holding the ceiling aloft begin to fail as the disruption of the portal devices activation triggers a volcanic eruption. Huge flaming cracks pierce the smooth crystalline curves of the dome, and the floor bucks and shakes like a raging bull. Moments later, and magma begins to spray in, its killing heat now keenly felt by the unprotected group, and battered and weary as they are, they know that they must take the only escape route open to them...

02:42 - ...and throw themselves headlong through the portal...

... ...

CONTERMINOUS CONSCIOUSNESS ENDS.

ANOTHER LIFE BEGINS.

PAIN.

FEAR.

BLOODSHED.

MAGIC.

POWER.

AGONY.

WAR.

BEAUTY.

HORROR.

He's dying. Cold Iron burns his guts and our souls. Our vicious, beautiful master is dying. They have won. The Sidhe of the Dawn have won. His pain is our pain. Our beautiful, terrible Lord....is.....

PREVIOUS LIFE RESUMES

Date unknown – Location unknown -

Our heroes suddenly snap out of an endless time of battle, enslavement and forced adventure in a burst of psychic agony, and find themselves strangely clad, wielding eldritch powers that are at once unfamiliar and entirely as much a part of them and their way of fighting as their weapons and armour, in the midst of a fantastical battle with shimmering, deformed gigorim, thorn thin fey of some kind, and luminous eyed Gorgryn glad in glowing pelts and wielding spears of pale light. They seem to be defending a brilliantly glowing menhir of shifting, rune carved crystal – a Fae Crosroads (?) - and they know without understanding that the pain signifies that their cruel master is dead, and that they are free for the first time in a long time.

Now they just have to survive long enough to work out what the hell is going on, and how they are going to escape in one piece!