TI4.65: In crystal lies – the Sarnas descent, part five

The characters for this session:

Jotunn, level 6 warrior

Cauleigh, level 4 warrior

Fennec, level 3 wizard

Crompton, level 3 rogue

ably assisted by their NPC allies:

Mizva, level 4 human warrior

Whitey, level 4 half-elf rogue

The party of Restorers plus their two allies have plumbed the depths of the descent, and slain the ghast-god, Sezrekan! But returning to the surface may be just as hard as the decent itself. When we pick up the action they vacillate before a second abyss which offers no easy answers…

Where to now?

Cauleigh is for heading back and checking over the tunnels steps and doors so far unscouted, but half the party wants to check across the chains to what looks like another shaft. Jotunn does the swinging from chain to chain, but swings back and reports:

“Not a shaft – just a pit.”

They’ve all agreed not to head up or down the abyss, so they turn about – Whitey and Mizva are already moving – and retrace their steps, back to the ladder/stair T-junction.

 

The giant doors of no way through

After some debate, they recall that the giant doors not far away are unexplored, and head back Redbeck-ward. They are so large Redbeck could fit through them – if he were able to somehow get into the tunnel.

“I wonder why the goblins aren’t using this…”

Due caution prevails and eventually, Fennec deduces that the doors are actually a sham trap, designed to push people (using the Zingum spell or a variant of it) away down the T-stub and into a wall.

“So my guess is the goblins have tried this door… and then they stopped” – Cauleigh

In a spirit of recklessness Jotunn borrows Crompton’s Anti-magic axe and hits the doors with it, but nothing happens.

“How long does this dispel things  for?” – Jotunn, to an empty passage

 

The hatch of indecisive debate

More debate follows. Since they are so close to the turnoff into the circular stair leading down to Redbeck’s, they next decide to see what lies at the top.

Some three and a half flights up, Crompton finds himself below a large circular trapdoor, opened by means of a very heavy mechanical apparatus. It could be made of bronze. It looks complicated.

Debate follows, suggestions being called up and down the stairwell, such as:

“Does it feel cold, like a body of water is sitting on it?”

“Don’t touch it!”

This investigation – and joking – takes a good half hour. A goblin sticks his head out to ask if they’re coming back to buy more, or if not, that they keep the noise down. The boss is trying to get some kip. Asked about the trapdoor, he points out that none of the goblins are strong enough to open it.

 

Whisper anew

At length, sick of indecision, Crompton and Fennec return back along the now-familiar T-junctions, past the stair and up the ladder. Here a short stub of tunnel leads to a circular stair.

Others drift after them, Jotunn grumbling about how they are just bypassing everything. The pair climb to the junction that leads off to the “tumbler” tunnel and gaze upwards. [Crompton uses IQ+Runebearer] The chimney is rough but climbable. Curiously, the rough rock of the chimney is completely different to the well-shaped granite below.

“You have finally returned” – the whispering voice

 

Rats, and the stage floor again

Tapping around the igneous rock, Crompton hears a slight scrabbling response, detects a hollower-sounding section, hinges open a secret rock door: giant rats pour out, biting the front pair but quickly dealt with. [Cramped-space rules create small penalties for those wielding bulky weapons] The surviving rats retreat across a pool of water beyond the secret opening.

Jotunn squeezes his bulk through the opening and lunges off the rat-nest ledge across the small pool – it’s beyond his depth through part of it. Rope still attached he scouts up a rough cavern enough to find it leads out to the main stage floor. The end of the huge bronze chain is right there. He can pick out the flight of steps down, that Mizva returned from; and dimly, the steps up to Redbeck’s.

 

The chimney of the mysterious switch and trapdoor

All this has taken long enough for Crompton to scale the chimney and find, at least 30′ up, a shallow ledge and not far above it, a trapdoor. On the stone a few spans below the trapdoor is a hand-lever, with an inscribed arc to show it ought to be rotated 90 degrees.

 

Much debate follows.

“It could be worth a crack” – Cauleigh

Fennec hands the torch-cube over to Cauleigh, makes the chimney climb to the shallow ledge, and tries DetM. He senses some magic, but beyond the trapdoor.

 

More debate, but briefer: Crompton will check for traps and try to deduce which way the trapdoor opens. He and Fennec swap over.

 

The creeping fuligin of doom

With the aid of Cauleigh’s light from the shallow ledge Crompton finds no further information about the lever but does deduce that the trapdoor – most likely – slides or pivots sideways. It seems kind of flimsy. Then threads of fuligin ooze down from the trapdoor…

Crompton drops onto Cauleigh, Cauleigh drops off the ledge! Fennec and Jotunn dive out of the way as the pair from above bounce off Jotunn’s tower shield and onto the circular stair.

 

Decisive Pseudopod Combat!

There seems no end to the pseudopods! They drop back [L2 LK, L3 SPD] and attempt magic. Low-level magic is blocked, but by dint of much cutting and chopping the pseudopods are whittled back [minor penalties for cramped fighting apply, depending on SPD]. Initially they are punished, but fight on. Cauleigh and Jotunn bravely form a rearguard as the others drop down the ladder. Fennec throws LF on Cauleigh, but again, cancelled. With more room to fight, the battle swings in their favour! But Whitey is blinded! The pseudopods withdraw!

“After them! This is our chance!”

“We have to help Whitey!”

As they forge their path back up, leaving Fennec and Mizva tending Whitey, the other three see victory within their grasp. The pseudopods retract all the way back up the chimney, and back above the tradpoor.

 

The acid of boobytrap

“We need an acid bomb…” Cauleigh, who has an acid bomb but doesn’t want to burn it

Mizva has some red oil he says should protect Cauleigh from gaseous acid. Cauleigh smears his armour and skin. Jotunn does not.

At length, Cauleigh and Jotunn chimney up to the ledge, use Jotunn’s shield as a makeshift platform – nasty grating as it nearly gives way –  heave the trapdoor sideways [L9 combined STR to shift it] – flip the acid bomb in – slide the trapdoor back!

Melting slime-fluid dissolves through the trapdoor and onto them! Jotunn is immediately acid-burned, Cauleigh less so, though the slime visibly damages gear.

“Yeah I didn’t see that coming” – Crompton, sarcastically, trying not to see Jotunn’s nether bits

Desperate to retreat, the two balance on tippy-toes on one end of the shield and heave the other end up from where it is wedged, and fall down as fast as they can!

 

[I hand some AP to the support crew, since the lead combatants were being asked for many SPD and LK rolls]

 

Redbeck’s, your shopping haven

Well… the source of the pseudopods seems to be extinguished… but they’re a bit of a mess. They pop down to Redbeck’s, which is quiet and lightly attended. Jotunn buys tatty leather, re-straps it as best he can over a polo-barong and sarong he’s rigged up out of rich fabric.

 

Fennec rests up under Redbeck’s liberal neglect until his mana restores itself. He dishes out healing to the team, other than Crompton who is looking to his own needs.

 

It’s time to head back to see what became of the acid. Back they all go.

 

“I need help… are you the one that will free me?” – the whisper

 

Cauleigh and Jotunn lead the climb back. The lever is largely intact. The trapdoor is completely gone, and acid stains mark the stone below, right down to the stairwell. Cauleigh pokes his head up into what appears to be a high natural cavern and finds his head is among heavy mechanical-looking apparatus, somewhat akin to bell-tower or mill-wheel gearing.

 

The locked lake

Much poking and clambering later the six assemble in what must have been the lair of the pseudopods’ super-source… which is disappointingly bare of treasure. It seems to be a natural ledge around the gears of a massive water-wheel, which stands immobile in a lake.

The whispering continues to encourage those without helmets.

White midges play across the surface of the dank water, and the light picks up blind white fish feeding off them. Where the light does not play around the high roof, glow-worms create an enchanting display. Beyond the water wheel and across perhaps fifty feet or so of lake, a miniature donjon sits atop a natural-looking rock crag rising from the lake. Something much larger swells under the surface…

“This must once have been running… but it’s been cut off from the flow long ago” – Cauleigh

The others begin joining the first pair. Fennec theorises this wheel arrangement must be a magical accumulator.

“Water… why does it always have to be…” – Jotunn

As Jotunn leans low [rolls a LK fail] to see what he can see, the huge creature lunges out and takes him down under!

 

To the rescue!

Cauleigh and Crompton shed armour as fast as they can and dive in! Fennec LFs Cauleigh! [Who makes L8 SPD even without that]

Meanwhile Jotunn [L11 CON] manages to resist being drowned or crushed long enough to activate his Dust of Desiccation and with a SHHHLLUUULLLPPP the lake level drops down to thigh-high on the plunging dwarves!

[This is the decisive move that allows Jotunn to live. The monster that nabbed him could kill him several times over, but is now floundering and surprised]

Fennec throws his next spell on Mizva, another LF. The burly warrior leaps down and races across, his longer legs an advantage.

Part-marooned, the ferocious apex predator is no match for the Dwarves plus Mizva, and with Whitey sniping. Fennec tries to get a line of sight, stumbles and falls into the water, but even so, by the time Crompton activates his special Elven shield, the battle is won.

 

Loot!

The party foregathers – Fennec pumps more healing into Jotunn – and they examine the crag, now towering over them. Blind fish, crowded by the sudden disappearance of most of the lake, flip around their legs. As they move to investigate, Cauleigh’s foot strikes something metallic-feeling on the lake-bed…

Desperate for loot, the Dwarves quarter and re-quarter the ground and turn up a canvas-wrapped sword, a spell-tube-shaped tube, and coins. Gold, and mithril.

Happily they thoroughly splash around, foot by foot, and scrape up hundreds of coins, stashing them in Fennec’s capacious sack. Mizva and Whitey recover most of their equanimity. With luck, they may do better than breaking even.

 

“Will you be the knight that releases me from my bed of glass?” – the whisper

 

Cauleigh locates both ingress and egress for the passage of a current. The merest trickle is entering. No watercraft is to be found. The cavern is not out-of-proportion for the depth of the descent: it could even be that there is a hatch in the roof above the donjon.

Armour is retrieved and re-donned.

Fennec identifies the sword as a sword and the tube as a spell-scroll. Using Omni-Eye he finds the latter is a set of five Level 5 spells, and the sword is a semi-intelligent Trollslayer sword, with Vorpal power, but Whammy against trolls.

Crompton is very interested in the sword, and introduces himself to it. Its name is Voi, a simple soul.

 

In the donjon

A very sturdy-looking pipe or perhaps massive bronze column runs out from the side of the little donjon, and down into the stone lake-bed. It offers a simple climb up most of the height, and ornamental crenelations offer a perfect place to loop the rope.

Jotunn, with a few useless scraps of leather armour still girt around his mostly-naked frame, makes the clamber and lowers the doubled rope ends. The others join him as he discards the leather scraps. A simple trapdoor lifts up to show a ladder down to a normal-size donjon chamber and an offset second ladderway, further down. As a matter of routine Fennec follows up the idea that there might be a trapdoor above, as well: there is not.

 

The gear works

Since there seems no rush and everyone wants to dry off, they wait patiently for Fennec to announce he is satisfied with his mana level. Crompton still has a long way to go – the shield cost all of his mana.

They descend. The chamber is dominated by a very heavy system of throwing a massive gear over, using a cammed hand-flywheel. It obviously connects to the bronze column outside. Other than the same sort of symbology as the lever below the chimney trapdoor, there are no instructions. [Fennec makes L6 IQ to explain the specifics] They choose not to activate it.

The whisper explains that something has prevented power from accumulating.

 

Down below, she waits

It’s time to check the ladderway down. It leads deep. Definitely deeper than the rock knoll the donjon stands upon.

Jotunn works his way down some 40 or so feet, light from the cube streaming sharply down over his shoulder. The ladder leads to a broad rock-cut chamber. A faded mural around the chamber is beyond anyone’s reckoning: there is also a dark, practical looking door. And opposite that, a steep stair down.

“At last… at last” – the whisper

The door is, by Jotunn and Cauleigh’s reckoning, quite likely to be the rune-embellished ebon door that stood off the circular stair that was accessed off the stage floor. It appears to be manually unlatchable on this side.

Crompton takes the rogue’s role again, and with WoW eases down to a domed chamber, wherein lies a bed of glass, adorned with intertwined glowing glyphs!

 

Eminrah is charming

Attempting not to be blown up by the glyphs, Crompton surveys the scene, then reports briefly. The others join him, though Whitey hangs well back and Mizva stays with one foot on the steps.

“This could be good or bad… I seem to remember someone saying there’s something bad around here” – Jotunn, correctly half-recalling the goblin advice

“Ahh well if it is the same as the mirror it did apologise, for what that’s worth…” – Fennec

The four Restorers survey the domed chamber. The bed-size crystal seems to contain semi-opaque mist inside, obscuring the female form lying arms crossed upon its breast.

“Somehow, I’ve been left asleep for so long.. there is no power… the power bed is not working… somewhere below there is a bed… I need someone to lie in it” – Eminrah

“Does that person get to stay in the bed forever?” – Cauleigh

“No, that would never happen” – Eminrah

“What would happen to that person?” – Crompton

“They would be transferred to a new experience of life” – Eminrah

“Let’s get someone we really fucking hate, like Neghed, and get him to lie in it!” – Fennec, enthused

The other Dwarves find this amusing. Mizva and Whitey have not met Neghed to speak to, and are puzzled.

“If you do wish someone to experience the wonder of the transformation, I can help” – Eminrah

“How so?” – Fennec

“I can temporarily gift you with a convincing tone” – Eminrah

“So is it in this glass thing here, or further down?” – Jotunn

“From what it said, it’s right here” – Fennec

“What is your name?” – Cauleigh

“Eminrah”

Fennec [makes a fail] lectures the party for 20 minutes on an Eminrah (or possibly Ermintrude) he distinctly recalls reading about…

“I think you may be thinking of someone else” – Eminrah

“So we go down somewhere and…” – Jotunn

“And if someone lies on the bed and restarts the mechanism, what happens?” – Cauleigh

“My gifts, wonderful gifts, will be released” – Eminrah

“What gifts?” – Crompton

“Beauty, warmth, love” – Eminrah

[At  this point I feel the cross-questioning merits CHR SRs from Crompton and Cauleigh, to defend against Eminrah’s massive amount of charm]

“I’m not getting a good vibe from this…” – Fennec

“Hey what? Sounds alright to me!” – Cauleigh, managing merely L3 CHR

“Yeah, I like everything she’s selling” – Crompton, managing L2 CHR

Fennec has changed poles from his initial ‘perfect for Neghed’ position and begins arguing. At this point, Jotunn, who has largely stayed out of the debate, taps Crompton on the shoulder.

“Hey can I just borrow your axe again?” – Jotunn

“Watcha gonna do with it?”

“It’s a surprise”

“Sure what’s the worst that could happen?” 

Jotunn tippy-toes around to where the “convinced” pair aren’t watching, then smacks the axe onto the crystal bed!

 

Enders of Eminrah

The crystal explodes, the glyphs steal Jotunn’s life force [CON drops to 59] and Eminrah explodes into an attack! Vaulting to a fighting stance she wields an iron sceptre, which hums through the air with the menacing heft of something much heavier than it looks. Fennec recalls his lessons from Fingold, casts GY. Cauleigh draws his kukri and leaps behind the necromantess. Jotunn hurls Crompton’s axe and whips his own axe into action. From back at the stair, Whitey looses his low-enchantment arrow. The two combined missiles seem to check Eminrah. Cauleigh, dodging in trying to trip her, hurls himself out of the way: but his manoevre has the effect of keeping the sceptre away from the others as the all-important melee takes place.

Eminrah’s fighting power seems barely checked, but it is enough for the three fighting – Jotunn Mizva and Crompton – to dominate! She barely scratches them – though her power seems to swell again!

Fennec moves back towards Whitey, positioned up the steps.

“Whitey – Dust of Radiance!”

Whitey clutches his head: his aim swings at Fennec! [makes a good IQ roll so does not make the shot]

“Fight it Whitey! You’re being controlled!”

Fennec burns another 4 charges off the Dis-Spell wand [17 remain].

Meanwhile Eminrah whips the sceptre into a forehand smash – and with a well-aimed cut from his kukri, Cauleigh whicks her hand off! They all manage to avoid the spinning bar of iron as the sceptre whirls across the chamber and smashes splinters off the wall.

Before her next spell can affect someone, they slay her.

 

The last chamber

The area is safe now, and there’s no rush. They retrieve Jotunn’s leather armour scraps and lash the sceptre in them, then pop it in the sack. A long period of down-time follows, during which Crompton recovers all mana and Fennec heals those injured.

The ebony door proves to be magically locked. At length, and after an Omni to find the right level, Fennec uses a Level 6 KK on it. As expected, it lets onto the circular stair.

The final and large chamber at the foot of that circular stair holds the “bed” Eminrah referred to. Here, lines of runes cover walls ceiling and floor. A 10′ diameter dais, three steps up, stands at centre. A man-size depression… tiny holes… shackles… a hole above… yes, not something they want to experiment with.

 

The ascent, and out

Satisfied that they are not going to try to brace the living statue trap, they return to the stage floor and ascend chain by chain, ledge by ledge.

Passing the zombie ledge, they note that a small green oak shoot is already sprouting.

They vote not to try the underwater secret door.

The mirror is quiescent. They climb the final steps to the glittering cavern. With perhaps eight hours to go before the 48 hour mark, it is time to place the tower shield over the floor entrance, seat Jotunn on his shield, and rest up.

And in due time with a CRACK and RUUMMBLLE the wall of stone opens!

“Well Ah do declare!” – Daisy

She goes to hug Fennec then gets a look and whiff and backs off with a “why honey, Ah reckon as they’s a nice bath a-waitin’ in the Guild” and they pass through, to the admiring gaze of minor Descent Committee members, and up into fame.

 

We will end season four with a full play-through of Sarnas dealings, next session!

 

 

 

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