21 December 2010

Chapter the Fifth: No Time Like the Past

As the party exited the tunnels of the Lowcitadel of Khavash they came upon a storage area and the voices of a busy harbor. Dock workers speaking in the old S'suman dialect drew closer and the party withdrew back into the tunnels, now strangely lit by torches. The workers spotted the party and ran for the guards who arrived as the group took a fortified position on the beach despite being strangely blinded by the bright yellow sun. The Khavashan harbor guard bore odd spears, more primitive versions of those carried by the Tollmasters. With some deft lies and rapid translation from S'smuliss the party was able to escape eastward toward New Roeblini City along the narrow beach of the Forrest Sea.

Tyrian and Ulmo rapidly realized that the world at the end of the tunnels of the Lowcitadel was not the same as the one they had left behind when they began their escape from Khavash. Given the change in the Southern sun's brightness and the appearance of Godslayers of a different epoch, the two surmised that they had somehow been transported back in time. They carefully made their way along the sandstone cliffs and narrow beach toward New Roeblini City or whatever city they would find at this point in history.

The next day they came upon the wreck of a huge Roeblini Warraider Galley with an unfamiliar clan-faction sigil painted on its four story bow. The broken nose of the ship revealed a huge gash into the galley slaves rowing quarters. Tyrian was pawed at by a rotting hand and quick inspection revealed hundreds of shackled zombies, the galley slaves now sharing an imprisoned undeath just as they had in life. Deciding to avoid the shackled horde, Tyrian threw a hook and line to the deck above and ascended to the deck above. There he was assaulted by a zombie rotter that he quickly dispatched. As he hoisted Ulmo to the deck, S'smuliss engaged with his falchion the next shambling undead. As Ulmo reached the railing he called upon chaotic forces to destroy not only the creature attacking his comrades but the next closest as well. With deliberate precision the party dispatched the remainder of the zombies, lumbering with slow menace.

They made their way to the barred doors of the captain's tower and striking upon the doors they roused the remnant (living) survivors of the Warraider. Behind the doors were five survivors, including a blond stripling who appeared as like to Morgrin as a twin separated by millenia, named Tyrios. They ransacked what little they could and broke down the doors of the captain's quarters. Inside they found an iron chest with many gold imperials and silver fingers as well as eagle eye goggles. The party lit the doomed wreck aflame and fled to the east along the narrow sandy beach.

A few days later they came upon a familiar bay with an unfamiliar city. The S'suman Imperial City lay in grandiose splendor beneath the Griffon Cliffs. Great grey-white walls ringed a city that dwarfed the chancre that would grow on its remains in the future. The architecture was the high art of the peak of the Godslayer Imperium, gray roofs upon white walls. At the gate the party was charged with visas of entry and license to practice magic. With these documents came official escorts, polite but ever present. They directed the group to the docks so that the beleaguered survivors of the Warraider could return to the Mother Enclave. Tyrios asked and received permission to remain with Ulmo and Tyrian. As they walked the streets, trumpets sounded and they were commanded to bow their heads. An eight man litter bearing a masked alien humanoid with a familiar black shako came through the streets. Four paladin guards rode in formation, one strikingly familiar, a living S'smuliss. As the living past locked eyes with the undead future a stark realization occurred and the skeletal warrior evaporated. A shaken S'smuliss dropped a ruby ring into the waiting clutches of Grey. The ring had an ornate glyph for "truth" floating in its center.

Ulmo and Tyrian were escorted to the only inn that served foreign travelers in the Imperial City. The next morning they were met by S'smuliss, who reclaimed his ring, and questioned them regarding his skeletal doppleganger. The two heros related what they knew about his future history and warned him of the ambush by orb worshippers. He invited them as his guests in the city and gave them bands marking them as such. Seeking to know more about the future destruction of the Southern Sun, they sought the temple of Avandra to learn more about the Masters of the Truth, who explained the cult's growing following among the city's elite and their tenants of spurning the gods. They were directed to the makeshift sage and wizard's guild called the Thinker's Corner. There they discussed the theology of killing a god with one S'shadrick. He explained that if the Masters of Truth wished to kill a god they could do it with an arcane, divine, or psychic weapon powerful enough or by diverting most of the deity's followers to another belief. He believed that either method might be used by the Masters if they sought the ultimate goal of their philosophy.

Later Ulmo and Tyrian spoke with S'smuliss regarding the Masters of Truth. He would hear no word against his benefactors, as they had healed both himself and his sister after a terrible riding accident, something that the priests of Pharthas the Southern Sun had refused as part of his destiny, a frivolous injury that did not further the service of their god. Unable to obtain more information regarding the Masters in the city, the heros decided that they needed to learn more about the Masters of Truth and the danger they presented elsewhere. Two avenues presented themselves, with the first they could travel to the front of the war with the Condraconacy, to see if the weapon of the Masters of Truth could be found and stopped. The second was also a long shot, it seemed likely that a god was directing the steps of our heros and as such the most likely one doing that was Drouss, the Northern Sun, the brother and rival of Pharthas.

They travelled north via a small Roeblini trader, along the way becoming fouled in a vile jelly floating on the ocean currents. The band dispatched it with axe and arcane craft. They arrived at the Cathedralisle of Drouss, sailing into port in the vast sea cave at the temple's base. They climbed to the cathedral floor and under the crystal ceiling of the church, Tyrian called upon Drouss for a sign. The god manifested himself in Tyrian's mind's eye as he hovered in the air, searing sunlight emanating from his orifices and steam evaporating from his skin. Drouss, a platinum-haired giant, bearing a solar halberd and a shield cut from the sky, gave audience to the paltry mortal. Ulmo and Tyrian had been chosen by fate as the agents of great change. The gods had long played games with the heroes and kingdoms of the world, but when the Godslayers slew Pharthas, Drouss lost his greatest rival and lost his meaning, starting his slow mortal decline. In order to prevent this he had foreseen that our two heros would fall through a temporal anomaly and go back in time to a moment that would make it possible to stop the Masters of the Truth. The future Drouss left information hidden the crevices of their minds to inform his past self about the fall of Pharthas.

The ordeal of his divine audience bleached Tyrian's hair a platinum hue. Following his recovery, the high priest of Drouss directed them to a scrying pool within a sea cave in order that they might learn what was hidden under the masks of the Masters of Truth. They scryed upon one of these fanatics and witnessed what was under the mask: the horrific tentacled visage of a mind flayer. Armed with this insight into their foe, Ulmo and Tyrian decided that they needed magics for dealing with mind powers of the illithids. The priests of Drouss knew of an abandoned psion monastery some leagues away, that might hold the magics they sought. Tyrian and Ulmo made ready for the next leg of their journey.

09 May 2010

Chapter the Fourth: Escape Through the Lowcitadel of Khavash

The brave party made ready their plans for escaping the city and returning to New Roeblini City with information about the Condraconacy's incursion into Roeblini territory. One-Eye Morgrin provided the doughty companions with the address of a ruined Godslayer Imperium villa, alleged to access the sewers and the Lowcitadel of Khavash, as well as sketches of these tunnels drawn by the eladrin explorer Yslir. The group avoided Condraconacy patrols reaching the broken manse by sunset, as they explored the invaded interior of the villa, they heard the stealthy approach of a large dragonborn patrol, led by the insidious voice of Captain Blackfang.

Ulmo found a set of doors hidden behind the rubble and the party quietly exited the star roofed hall, bracing the doors behind them. They found a twisted corridor in the same antique style of the shattered hall. A single door brought the hallway to stairs leading to dark tunnels below the villa. They explored the narrow corridors coming upon a moonbeam lit well, the guttural voices of the dragonborn echoing from above. As they waited in ambush the dragonborn soldiers were attacked by a hag residing in the pool and the two enemies clashed. The party snuck away in the melee coming to a stout wooden door, but would later return to this pool to find a large clear diamond.

The door had a great iron mask, coarsely painted in red. As they opened the door it spoke, "The key from the Goblin's Gate is three parts greed." These words made little sense until they found a portcullis barricaded gate blocking a bridge stretching to a tower disappearing into the depths. They could not force or open the mystical metal of the bars but looking at the goblin caricature door leading to this chamber they found slots for three gems. The brave band ventured back into the tunnels to find the gems necessary to open the gate. A greater urgency placed upon them after what they had overhead from the dragonborn guards at the well mouth, that more troops would be coming to search the tunnels.

The party backtracked coming upon the villa's familial crypts. In one of the funeral coffers they found a midnight opal. They explored further climbing stairs into the hill next to the razed mansion, finding an ancient temple to the Godslayer's dichotomous practices. The temple was home to a rare demonic shade whose lava-like sinews were only half of its dread arsenal, its shadow too was a fierce assailant. Only the combined mystical and martial of might Ulmo and Tyrian could put down this threat.

The temple's sacrificial altar opened into a pocket dimension caught somewhen between the Planes of Fire and Earth, now used as and Efreeti Rookery. Here they found Izael, an efreet youngling, a child with the undeveloped powers of a god. Floating in one of the miniature volcanos of the Rookery a fiery ruby lay waiting. However Izael was not so willing to relinquish his bauble and only some cajoling with treasure from Tyrian allowed the party to liberate the gem for their purposes.

Tyrian, Ulmo and their companions returned to the Goblin's Gate placing their acquired stones in the gate's receptacles, allowing them passage to the bridge spanning the void to a thin tower stretching into the depths. The tower contained a narrow stairway to an elevated platform, under which a hobgoblin mercenary and his goblin minions waited in ambush. The party engaged the humanoids in melee, only to have the hobgoblin trip a lever bringing the tower down. The collapse buried and slew Mara the Whiteshade while it destroyed the lower half of the undead paladin S'Smuliss. The few remaining goblins scurried down the hall.

The party pursued their escaping foes, catching all but one of them in the twisted tunnels of the Lowcitadel of Khavash. They finally came upon the last goblin clenched in the jaws of the black dragon named Constellation. The dragon told them of its curse, bound here as a guardian until four gems were inserted in its collar. Ulmo noted that one gem already lay clenched in the claws of the dragon, the party travelled back into the depths of the Lowcitadel to find the remainder of the gems necessary to unlock the curse collar. They found them spread through the ruins below the crippled tower as well as having to ascend to the level before the Goblin's Gate.

The gems unlocked Constellation's collar and then they used the chain to scale down to the sea caves below, granting access to the Khavash docks.

16 March 2010

Chapter the Third: An Unexpected Toll and a Less Expected Ambassador

Tyrian and Ulmo wroth at their ill intentioned exile from New Roeblini City rode with their companions along with the lumbering reptiles of the caravan. They climbed the narrow roadway of the Griffon Cliffs to the main thorough fare running to Khavash, carefully winding between the reptile infested jungles and the cliffs overseeing the Forest Sea. The first days travel was uneventful but on the second day an ominous black tower appeared in the distance. The appearance of the tower brought grim mutterings from the animal handlers and caravan drivers, on further questioning the brave companions learned of the legend of the Tollmasters.
To believe the stories told, this mysterious black tower would appear from time to time, its attendants would summon champions to test the towers dark secrets. Sometimes these champions would reappear, sometimes not. In some cases caravans would disappear and the Tollmasters would be thought to blame. Once sighted the tower must be approached, attempts to flee only made it appear closer in the new course. Dravis, the boney caravan master corroborated these tales and then smirked that he was fortunate to have two such champions in his train.
Finally they approached the tower, an alien cigar shape settled inexplicably on a ledge far too thin to support so huge a weight. From it stretched a blood red carpet and awning to an ornate and flimsy toll gate. The gate was guarded by tall inappropriately articulated humanoids wearing coats of the same blood red appointed with black cuffs, caricature masks, and shakos. They bore thin twisted staves which they pointed at a few members of the train causing them to drop dead until Tyrian and Ulmo agreed to the psychic entreaties to enter the tower.
First Level
The doughty pair entered the black tunnel, no so much built as cut from the tower material for it was not stone but some black otherness. About a foot from the floor a sickly light emanated and as the two companions braved the tower they found an intersection, in each direction including the way they came the hallway was mystically obfuscated by haze. Braving this haze in all four directions revealed four rooms each with a separate button: red, blue, green, and white. They pushed the white button located at the end of the hall that had replaced the one they entered from. This opened a trap door in the room above stood five petrified hobgoblins all uniformed in red. Fearing a trap, they returned below and pushed the green button causing six hobgoblins to materialize and attack them, Ulmo and Tyrian dispatched the humanoids.
Second level
They returned to the white room and climbed through the trap door, they slid the five petrified occupants through the trapdoor before investigating the other rooms. The other rooms revealed respectively three, seven, and no petrified hobgoblins. Ulmo and Tyrian chose the room with no hobgoblins and pushed the button in this room, this caused a trap door to open in the ceiling.
Third level
They climbed through the trapdoor to find an empty room with a single lever. The ceiling above was of glass, showing murky water with many predatory shapes. This glass ceiling spread throughout the level and each room as well as the intersection had a single lever. Unable to discern a difference, they pulled the lever at the intersection, revealing a humid, rusty tube with a ladder in the side. The two adventurers scaled the rungs as foul scaly things bumped and wriggled against the outside.
Fourth level
They ascended into the intersection above, here each of the four rooms bore a large button with a red 4, blue 4, green 5, and yellow 6, respectively. When they activated the yellow 6 button a flight of six stirges was released and they fought a retreating action slaying three of them. They faired no better in the green 5 room where more stirges were released. Finally the returned to red 4 room where activating the button produced a small rain of dirt and the trap door opened to the level above.
Fifth level
This room had a floating chalice of earth, and each of the succeeding rooms chalices of wind, water, and fire. At the intersection an empty chalice waited. Ulmo and Tyrian tried placing each element in the central intersections chalice only to arouse belligerent elmentalings which attacked them. In the midst of one such attack two errant stirges found and attacked the Ulmo, nearly costing him his life. Finally the use of earth in the central chalice activated the trapdoor to the level above.
Sixth level
This level had a ceiling of glass with the unpleasant amplified sound of a writhing mass of giant insects scratching on the glass. The four rooms held alternating numbers of skeletons in the double digits, all of them except one holding an odd number. Any interference with the skeletal guardians activated them causing them to attack. Ulmo and Tyrian fled these odds, and when they returned the numbers had reset with one room holding an even number. They selected the lever in this room and climbed the metal tube to the next level, all the time hearing the ravenous clawing of millions of chitinous fangs and appendages.
Seventh level
They entered a tableau that was a horrific mirror image of the level below, a floor of glass barely containing the same hungry writhing mass of giant insects. The four rooms on this have buttons, respectively red 3, blue 5, green 6, and yellow 5. Tyrian selected the yellow 5 and the glass floor vanished sending the brave duo into the ravenous swarm.

Tyrian and Ulmo woke with the same fevered nightmare of being eaten alive by insects. A cursory examination revealed new scars on both the doughty companions and with more careful investigation they found that caravan was a half a days journey further along than anyone expected. When they investigated the Dravis' manifest they found that a full third of the wagons, drovers, and caravan folk had vanished with no recollection amongst any of them that they had ever been there. Dravis swore them to secrecy and presumably doctored the manifest to not reflect the cost of failing the Tollmasters. Tyrian and Ulmo both had a dark premonition that this would not be the last time they would see that tower of trapped terrors.
The remaining three days of travel to Khavash were uneventful, some large dinosauroid herbivores were easily dissuaded and no bandit crew saw the well armed caravan as economically feasible target. They came upon the city as it crawled out of the jungle, a great ivory tower spanning the mighty river Kha before it spilled over the cliffs into the Forest Sea below. The tower base split into four walls that split the city into four quarters. The caravan off-loaded its wares and Dravis paid their wages.
The two heroes went to explore the city as they did they heard deep bellows of "MAKE WAY FOR THE AMBASSADOR, MAKE WAY FOR FLAME OF THE SKY". A thousand strong contingent of dragonborn infantry marched along with a litter for a mature red dragon, bedecked in treasures. The column was cheered by the natives of Khavash, much to the disgust of S'smuliss who had fought in the wars against the Condraconacy centuries ago. Ulmo had the impression they were being watched and shortly after was greeted by an exuberant Fairsal who had traveled to Khavash as a guard for another merchant. His mission had been less than successful as the brainless lizard man was bearing the rotting corpse of his employer around and seemed unclear as to why the merchant had yet to compensate him.
The party went in search of magic items for sale and found Whitemane Alchemy Limited in the Second District. They found the front entrance surrounded by purposefully loitering dragonborn. Their grim mutterings and pointed attachment to their weapons rapidly convinced Tyrian and Ulmo that the Condraconacy envoy had less than peaceful intentions. They decided to seek out the backdoor, which turned out to have a sentient handle which nearly bit off Tyrian's hand at the wrist. The handle's protestations brought the proprietor, Mara the Whitemane, an elderly alchemist with hair turned preternaturally white. She wasted little time in recommending that they all depart the city as quickly as possible. She gathered up her alchemical stock as well as two experimental harnesses and accompanied them to the nearest gate back to New Roeblini City.
At the gate they found the Khavash city guard accompanied by a new contingent of dragonborn officers and troops. A sheepish guard, under the penetrating gaze of a dragonborn soldier, muttered something about internal security and that exit from Khavash was closed for today. The party saw this only as more evidence of the Condraconacy rapidly fastening an iron grip on Khavash. They turned to Mara who mentioned that she had occasional dealings with the Rogue's Collective and believed that her contact worked out of the Last Lizard Man Motel in the Fourth District Fortunately Fairsal had been staying there and new the way exactly.
The Last Lizard Man Motel is the seediest of inns, a glorified flop house that offers boiling mud pits much relished by lizardfolk, it is the most villainous and murderous location in Khavash. At the center of the inn a bar floated gently on the mud pits. Behind the bar stood a familiar figure, that appeared to be Uncle Morgrin only slimmer and wearing an eyepatch. Apparently this was a clone (or the original?) from one of Morgrin's capers when he was younger. He (they?) was caught in a trap which cloned him but due to Morgin's unique opportunism the two did not fall to killing each other but rather working together to try to finish the caper. Morgrin One-eye hinted that there are several more copies out there due to repeated triggering of the trap. He would sell them a map and a guide through the smuggler tunnels beneath Khavash.

19 January 2010

Chapter the Second: An Earthquake, the Swallower, and A New Friend

The two friends had their early morning slumbers disturbed by a ferocious shaking as the very roots of the city shook themselves in a fierce earthquake. When they took their morning repast at the Last Good Time Tavern they noticed many urchins surrounding a large crevice in the firmament of Whores and Harlots Street. Paying this no mind they enjoyed their grog porridge, until their gustatory enjoyment was interrupted by the heartrending wails of a young woman. As they rushed to investigate they were brushed aside by Uncle Morgrin as brought the inconsolable Lucinda into the tavern. Lucinda's grief was soon known, her only son Karlo had fallen down into the crevasse and had not been heard from since. Wasting no time Tyrian and Ulmo retrieved their gear and entered the depths.
They climbed down the craggy edges of the crevasse finding no track of the lad, although Grey picked up his scent as well as the scent of other creatures. As they were about to search in the direction Grey's nose pointed them they were accosted from above by a sharply dressed gentleman in an elegant hat, cravat, and coat bearing a finely polished walking stick. He ordered them out of the tunnels on the authority of City Works. This was the first time but certainly not the last, that Tyrian and Ulmo met Garrus Andova, City Works Maester. Just then the brave duo was assaulted by tusked goblins whom they rapidly dispatched with blade and mage craft.
The party followed the curving caverns into a large cave sitting below the Last Good Time. In the middle of the cavern lay a crack through which Tyrian and Ulmo could see a putrid, dark lake, the center a swirling, ever ravenous whirlpool. From the level below and from an adjacent tunnel, reverberant foul chanting could be heard, praise to some best forgotten dark gods.

Following the chanting of mad priests through the twisting tunnel they came to a branch. At the center was crystalline growth that looked to have etched it way slowly into the rock, forming a depression in the path. It vibrated with sensorium felling frequency so that Grey lost the scent. As Ulmo walked past the crystals they shone with a bright intensity. Compelled by curiosity he touched the stones only to be caught in an explosive backlash, injuring him but charging him with greater arcane power. They party did a cursory examination of the the rightmost branch finding three more branch points without investigating the endpoints fully. They backtracked and instead took the leftmost tunnel coming upon the primed and ready goblin thralls of the Swallower. Soon they were engaged in a fierce melee and the party withdrew down the tunnels due to withering archery fire. Tyrian and Ulmo underestimated the cunning of the goblin tribe as several speargoblins snuck along the less thoroughly investigated tunnels to ambush the party from behind. Tyrian acted as a staunch rearguard, twirling his mighty great axe in vorpal patterns. Meanwhile the oft-underestimated jaws of Grey and the spectacular magecraft of Ulmo kept the goblin numbers thinned on the forefront.
However the sheer numbers that the goblin's overlord was willing to sacrifice to capture the party was enough to wither their numbers, first Grey, then Ulmo, and then Tyrian fell before the goblin spears and their skullcrusher sergeant. They awoke loosely bound at the precipice of the hungry whirlpool, with them was the young boy Karlo. A bizarrely armored humanoid with a broken beholder helm was directing two goblin thralls, who were prodding them with spears toward the Swallower. Tyrian shredded his bonds on a nearby stalagmite and gripped the spear head of one of the goblins. As he made to pummel the tusked facies his opponent, Neverlost appeared in his hand, and he drove the blade home. The orb helmed priest ensorcelled Karlo who began to walk to his summoning and then turned to leave. Meanwhile Ulmo and Tyrian were in mortal combat with the two goblins, while Grey attempted to drag the boy against the summons. The priest used his helm to open the great portcullis protecting the inner temple letting the bars fall shut behind him. He then turned and proceed to use an unknown force to hurl first Tyrian and Ulmo into the waters of the Swallower. Ulmo was able to land a parting shot, nearly the freezing the priest to the bone while Tyrian levered them both back onto the rocky altar edge. When they had regained their bearings, the priest had fled.
They examined the portcullis but were unable to find an opening mechanism, although it appeared to be an amalgam of iron and the crystal that Ulmo had touched earlier. Ulmo suspected that his might be of an opposite polarity to the earlier substance and the party did well not to touch it. Using a spear and a feat of epic might, Tyrian was able to lever the portcullis a small way open, enough for himself, Grey, and Karlo to slip through. Ulmo had of course simply teleported to the other side. Outside the portcullis the party investigated the plaintive calls of an eladrin maiden, named Yslir. They found her in a sealed cell, which they could not open, however the bars seemed to of a similar material as the portcullis. The heroes reasoned that the beholder helm could be used to open this cell. What they could not explain was the door behind the cell: an ancient architecture more advanced than any found in Roeblini.
The party travelled along the twists and turns of the ancient temple of the Godslayers until they found another sacrificial holding cell, this one near a fountain of black water, running in reverse. The holding cell door was shattered and cast open. As Ulmo examined the fountain luminous eyes grew larger and a waterlogged zombi leapt from the waters, fetid water pouring from its mouldering flesh. Simultaneously another undead thing crawled from the maw of the broken cell, stalking directly toward comatose Karlo. Ulmo spat spellfire from his fingers as Tyrian charged forward launching the zombie back into the cell where it fell with a sickening sound. Suddenly Ulmo was launched forward into a plinth of rock by the force of the beholder helm, the fell priest had come upon the adventurers from a side passage. With Tyrian, Ulmo, and Grey's combined might and no where to run, the priest was gravely injured, then felled by the icy bolts of Ulmo's fury.
The party then found the priest's secret lair, a tomb holding a great sarcophagus. They raided the remnants of the treasure, but as Tyrian made a rubbing of sarcophagus it began to open, revealing the 7 foot skeleton of a proud warrior-priest. The skeleton rose, proclaiming itself to S'smuliss. At first not quite realizing that he was reanimate, S'smuliss swore allegiance to Tyrian for freeing him. Using the beholder helm the party freed Yslir and made its way back to the surface.
In the hot persistent twilight of Roeblini, Morgrin the Fat was arguing with Garrus Andova regarding the violation of the covenants protecting New Roeblini City from the Undercity. Fearing reprisals Uncle Morgrin quickly ushered his two liegemen into the Last Good Time Tavern and told them to get out of the city until things quieted down a little bit. Tyrian and Ulmo accompanied by S'smulis and Grey offered themselves guards on the next caravan rolling out of town.

Grey's Picture Album: On Vacation on the Prime Material -- Temple ofthe Swallower