Friday, July 13, 2012

Session #20 "The circle closes... but is it a noose?"

{Game clock resumes at 10:01am, 03/21/3200}

After taking a personal inventory to discover everything that he has lost; Thingerlun decides to risk the find familiar spell and begins making preparations to cast the ritual while the others are finding other things to keep them busy.  Bob begins an inventory of the stuff left in the town looking for anything useful but doesn’t find anything worth taking and he’s already rich beyond his dreams; hearn continues to minister to the refugees and tend to the temple as well as burying the dead.  Milo cleans up after the vampire and then takes the remains of the clerics of Ormazd up to the ossuary for cremation.  At the crest of the western ridge, he and the folks who are helping him are given their first glimpse of the spectral moon, glaring at them from low on the southern horizon.  It is a red-ish purple-ish smear of evil glaring down at them from the heavens.  Like the moon and everything else that moves through the heavens, there is a slight trail of gossamer streamers behind it, but only for a short distance.  They all shudder at the ill omen and turn to the temple to see to the dead’s last rights, but Milo is denied access to the temple due to the wards placed around the perimeter.  After about a half an hour of meditation; Milo discovers that the ward blocking him is one that blocks the cursed from entering the ossuary.  After more meditation, he vaguely recalls the sound of music and a scene of an empty throne. 

Puzzled, they take the long trek back down to the valley to consult with Hearn… {who promptly rolls a nat 20 on her diagnosing roll}…

“Oh my!   You seem to have contracted lycanthropy… of the were-rat variety.  This isn’t the usual sort that is contracted via a bite or scratch.”  Begins checking the others, though she has to wait for Thingerlun to stop for his evening meal to check him out; but in the end she determines that Thingerlun and herself are OK, but the rest have 3 weeks to find a cleric of 5th level to cast the remove curse spell while washing them down with a tincture of wormwood and holy water.

She continues, “This seems to be from the effects of a bardic song of power that has twisted the fabric of your souls.  I hope we can find a cleric of sufficient strength in time to avert the curse, because if you succumb to the transformation and pass the curse on to someone else the affliction will become permanent.”

Bob gets a funny look in his eye… {character is already thinking about letting himself become a were-rat… he wasn’t even dissuaded by the idea that to maintain ‘at will’ transformations he will need to pass the curse on to at least one other creature during the nights of the full moon.  I did point out that he’d have to surrender himself to the Rat Gods if he wants his equipment to stay with him while in rat form; and, he’d have to find a way to keep all of this secret from Hearn.  Still thinking about it…}

Aerin doesn’t seem to be anywhere around, and no one is particularly concerned, or even remembers that he was a part of their crew and now gone missing.  They agree that they need to wait until the ‘anti-silver curse’ potion is finished so that they can have their portion, but they decide to let the remaining townsfolk deal with clearing the mine.  When Pat returns for the evening meal, Hearn tells her that she too is cursed.  In the morning pat finds a bonanza of wormwood on her daily trek through the wilds of the the valley {another nat 20, this time on the search check} but they are still stuck without a cleric of sufficient level to cast the spell.  They return to their duties, and Milo grants a battlefield funeral for the clerics of Ormazd because he won’t be interred properly at the ossuary due to his affliction.

After discussing things with Archie they discover that while the main line is operational, most of the secondary functions like communication and such are still out.  This means that they won’t need to stop for fuel, only water.  As the word of their departure starts to get around; the refugees begin to think about leaving as well, but are split about the idea.  In the end, half decide to leave with ‘the Saviors of Silverton’.  With only one day left on brewing the cure for the silver curse, a large caravan of Veltoni enter the valley from the north with their characteristic fervor of trumpets and drums.  They begin to trade with the locals that are staying, so at least the refugees won’t starve.  On the last night the adventurers are gathered together for their evening meal when Zollanna walks up to their table within the Silver Tankard and with an imperious gaze she states the following:

“”Now that the day that Silver shows its true mettle, it is time for us to break our silence; now I may share that which was given only for us to know.  We are Veltoni, the ‘Banished ones’ of the Gadjarria who dwell deep in the southern deserts.  We are the cursed of the cursed… our entire race doomed to search all eternity for the key that was lost.  They believed that it would be found within the dry desert sands, but our race also has the gift of prophecy, and the scion of my ancestors believed otherwise.  We believe that the search should be widened to include all the world… for this we were cast out, deemed heretics and persecuted.  But we have been vindicated…”  and she points to Dwight. “You have two destinies, and you must choose wisely.”

She turns and gets a bundle from one of the folds of her skirt and places it upon the table in front of them.  “We would strike a bargain with thee,” she unwraps an ancient looking book, “This is the Tome of Al Hajduk the mad.

Ffwylldyr falls out of his chair backwards in his haste to get away from the book; the elven scribe who had been consulting with them was equally surprise and his face cannot hide his astonishment, but otherwise he is more dignified in his retreat of about 6 inches.  Ffwylldyr cries out, “DON’T touch it, everyone who has ever tried to read it has gone completely mental!”  as he is getting up into his chair again.

Zollanna; “I see you know the work… You are correct everyone who has tried to read it has lost their minds, and we will give you the book,” she pushed it towards them a little.  “But we will trade you the secret of safely reading it… for the key you posses and you will all owe the veltoni a favor.”

Dwight; “I have several… you’ll have to be more specific…”

Zollanna glares at him and the steel in her gaze reminds him that she possesses the Evil Eye. “The one on your chest…”

Dwight; “You mean everyone will be bound by this?”

Zollanna; “Yes.”

Dwight; “What’s the favor?”

Zollanna; “That is unimportant.”

The party discusses it for a while, but eventually they agree to the bargain on the grounds that the sword and its quest align better to their over-arching goals to save the Gods of the Sun and Moon.  Zollanna tells Dwight to take off his shirt and while he is doing this she explains the secret of the tome; “It must be read by the light of the second, cursed moon of Aereth.  Only then will the meanings be made clear and the readers will be safe.”  After this she smacks Dwight on the back of the head and catches the key as it falls from his chest.  The gold and encrustation of gems falls away like cracked plaster to reveal a key of carved ebony that is covered in heirogliphics. “We have a bargain.” And she turns to walk away… “I’ll send word about the favor when the time comes.”

Dwight waits until she and her shadowy retinue have left and then says; “I hope we didn’t just hand over something evil to the wrong folks...”

Pat; “Too late now.”

They divide the rest of the time trying to identify the sword’s purposes and up on the ridge by the ossuary reading the tome of prophesy.  Milo, Ffwylldyr, and Adwyn the elven sage spend a couple of days in the rarified hieghts of the ossuary ridge using the reletivly unfiltered light of the Dread Moon to read the long forgotten words of Deqqem al-Hajduk.  They don’t have the time to ponder all of the tomes words, with much debate by the three of them, they deduce the following:
(The blue text refers to that which the tome helps them to decipher)
In the time of madness, when Dread Moon and Silver burn the mind,
Then our brightest hope shall we find.

Reference to the tainted silver and the second moon of Áereth,
Reference the discovery of the ‘Eye of night’

The suns bright orb along winding course it runs,
Scrabbling through the muck until darkness comes.

This is a reference to the winding journey that the gem has taken through history,
Followed by a reference to the death of Thistle in the muck of the mines of Silverton.

Wilted rose in vile darkness the suns fruit shall bear,
To the ones who for the world still care.
Only then dream of hope, if we dare.

This is the reference to the ‘Eye of Night being handed over to the players,
The reference that tells them they have a chance to stop all of this from happening

If all is lost, and hope doth not the bright future make,

If the heroes fail…

The Great Enemy shall the Rod of Heaven take,
To slay the Great Lovers and the world unmake.
The great rod of the heavens will be remade by some misguided mortal fool and it will be stolen and taken up by the forces of Zhühn the Destroyer.
Love is lost and Void’s rage unbound;

The sun and moon shall be destroyed when Ormazd and Shul are slain as a result of this catastrophe.  The Destroyer will be unbound from its prison.

Darkness covers all, and tears abound,
When Daenthar’s beard is shorn.
The gears will turn ‘round,

This is the tricky part of the cryptogram… everything hinges on the definition of Daenthar’s Beard.  While Deaenthar is the Dwarf Father maker and God of the Dwarven race, but to the humans he is the Lord of elemental Earth and his beard is a reference to the vegetation of Áereth.  This is a reference to the fact that if they fail, there will come a time of darkness where only starlight will be available and all of the plants will die… there will be much suffereing.

As new hope is found,
When the Golden Child is reborn.

Even if all fail in their tasks, there is hope.  The lord Ormazd is known as the Phoenix Lord for a reason…  He will be reborn and the world will bloom again as long dormant seeds germinate, but the Moon Goddess will still be dead.  The fragments of the moon will continue to rain down…
-Al Hajduk the mad, -644DC

Daqqem al-Hajduk was a Cleric of Ormazd, lived in a remote (read as long lost) temple in the heat blasted mountains of the Lost-lands of the southern half of the continent.  It is said that during the great battle between Cadixtat & Telius this maddened monk wrote with such passion and frenzy that when there was no more ink to be had… he began using his own blood.  His frenzy was so profound that none dared to approach and in the end, the monk died from his self-inflicted wounds.  But his book of prophesies was completed.  There is only one copy, as any who have tried to duplicate its words have lost their sanity in the process.

After telling his story and giving them the prophecy, Thistle had said: “Bryllythaxsarym…” and then he died. 

There is some debate among the Elf the bard and the elven sage concerning who or what this is in reference to… They suspect that this is a dragon’s name.  The book of prophesy says that Bryllythaxsarym  was a golden dragon in anient times.  This gargantuan creature of shining gold scales, awesome wingspan, and ferocious fangs and claws was a disciple of Ormazed and the last known creature granted the knowledge of al-Hajduk’s words.  Acting upon the knowledge laid down upon those pages the dragon orcistrated the repopulation of the northern half of the continent.  This dragon then acted as the anchient masters of the Khonsurian Empire had many eons ago; he shaped the destinies of thousands according to the wisdom of al-Hajduk for the one thin hope of success it could manifest.  Milo is haunted by its similarity of the dragon’s name to the name of the head of his order: Bryllyth Axsarym III, the Holy Flame Incarnate for the Church of Ormazd.


When they return to the lowlands, they turn to the new sword that Dwight has retrieved (he has told them who he suspects the sword belongs to based upon the carvings on the wall in the tomb and the knowledge the skeleton imparted to them back in the dungeon, but he has not revealed to them how he came by the knowledge of the sword’s location…  Until now, Dwight has refused to unwrap the sword, as he has figured out that keeping it wrapped up is the equivalent of putting a leather hood onto a falcon to calm it down.  Even still, Dwight is visited by the rather certain sence that the sword has a particular creature in mind, and that the sword will do anything to make sure that this vile creature dies. 

Dwight’s warrior training covered the basics of magic swords and the dangers of using one without knowing its goals and desires first; and he can feel the sword’s aura even while it is not in his hands.  He also notices that his other magic sword seems cowed in the new swords presence; this leads Dwight to beleave that this new sword is a truly powerful weapon.  Dwight unwraps the hilt to view and the bard confirms this by checking it out, “Yes, this is definitely the sword of Arden Brightheart.  I can see the sigils that correspond to his ownership, but it is much older than that.  Acording to the legends, this sword was last used at the end of the wars of Nimorian expantionism.  Lord Brightheart used it to secure the last defencable ford across the Arval river in a last desperate defense of Kothia.  Lord Brightheart slew the dark creature that led the Nimorian troops.  The sword is supposed to remain within the temple as proof against the creature’s return…”

The Sword; “AHA!  At last someone….” The rest is muffled as Dwight wraps it up again.

Ffwylldyr; “It probably knows more about itself than we do, perhapse we should listen to it?”

Dwight just shrugs and goes back to packing his bags for their departure.  In the morning they all report to the station where Archie has hitched up a fuel and baggage car as well as a passenger car for the reffugees that are leaving the valley.  Thingerlun comes along a few minutes later after the culmination of his spell… all the ingredients and the sigils chalked out on the ground burst into gold and purple flames.  Nothing arrived after the smoke and sparks, but he definitely knows that he succeeded… he can feel the distant touch of another mind.  All he can tell is that it can fly… {spell check modified up to a 20, but there is another bonus he isn’t aware of…}

Thingerlun; “With my luck, it’ll be the dung beetle…”

They each get 2 potions of ‘silver cure’ and climb aboard the engine, taking their various stations: Ffwylldyr in the passenger car with the townsfolk, Thingerlun is stationed on top by the spell cannon and reminded that guild law prohibits him from entering the inner workings of the Engine.  The rest of the party space themselves out along the top of the three cars and are aided by a few of the caravan guards that are among the refugees, and they discover that the Daenkelden (male dwarf) named Tavok the Weaponsmith whom they rescued has found his cash of equipment somewhere and he offers his services as caravan guard for a price.  They point out that he’ll get fed and he won’t get left behind… so he agrees to help them guard the caravan.   Tavok heads to the back of the last car and uses the integrated climbing harness in his armor to tie himself to the railing.  He then pulls out twin springbolters and starts to wind their clockwork mechanisms with a key that he keeps on a chain about his neck.

Archie has informed them that while the cars are now under the roads power, they are stuck at about 8mph with the passengers and the winding mountain road.  Still, they only need to stop for 30min out of each day to take on water; and that is only out of necessity for the passangers, minor steam gear, and cooking. The cars can be operated in shifts allowing them to make it to Grenvec in 3 days; he reminds them that this is still much faster than it took them to get to the valley of Silverton.  The last thing he tells them before they start off is: “Keep a sharp watch!  Springtime in the mountains isn’t for the timid, everything out there is hungry… and you’ll find that our maximum speed isn’t quite so impressive when something is trying to run us down.” 

The engine is as massive as it ever was, and is impressive even if the snow plow has been folded back into storage.  The second car is about half the height of the engine (15ft) and its interior space is divided into two large storage area’s; the larger is about 2/3 the size of the car and is half full of coal and the other is full of random equipment and spare parts.  There is a double door on one side of the car, but each compartment only has one side door for access as well as 1 or two roof hatches.  Like the engine and the passenger car, there are 2.5ft tall railings all the way around the top that create an area for bulk cargo, but it is empty for this trip.  The passenger car is 5ft taller than the fuel car and has several interior levels.  The bottom most level is for gear-works and baggage, the next level is for second class seating with several rows of four seats divided by a center isle.  The third deck is for the lounge and galley, while the fourth deck has luxury accomodations that has several rooms which are quite comfortable.  Third class seating is available on the top of the car where folks usually squat down amongst their luggage and hope for the best.  Archie keeps the luxury floor off limits, but everything else is available for use.  There is still no food other than the magic bento box.
Several hours later, after having climbed out of the Silver Vale, they were heading east through the mountains towards the place where their adventure first began.  The last rays of the sun warming them as the Phoenix Lord begins to drop below the mountains; the glare makes spotting the sillouettes of the stone giants hard to make out at first, but Bob gives them all a warning at the last moment.  Fortunately the first volley of 4 boulders flew wide of their marks, and one of the stone giants seemed to do himself harm on the throw.  The crew of the wagon-train manages to cause a bit of damage to the giants on their turn, but Thingerlun missed with the spell cannon and not everyone has a ranged weapon.  It is determined that Milo can operate the cannon, and for the next round Thingerlun will use his spells; but the giants have better aim on their next set of throws.  One of the boulders strikes the fuel and storage car squarely on the side panels, but the doors are on the opposite side and rmain intact.  The force of the impact lurched the mostly empty car sideways and causing the train to bend awkwardly and shudder violently enough to knock Pat over the side.  She tumbles safely to the ground; no one but Bob noticed, so he yelled something about it to the others and lept off the car after her.  The train keeps rolling without slowing. 

Several vollys later sees the defenders reduced by one as one of the refugees acting as caravan guard is carried off by a boulder and the group of stone giants (CCD build; 1 adult and 3 junior stone giants) are rather beaten up from the spell cannon on the engine, and a rather well done magic missile attack from Thingerlun.  The irony however, is that Pat was able to sprint back to safety the very next round and Bob decided that since he was already there… he may as well sneak up on the giants and cause some damage and confusion.  Bob managed to ghost his way up the hill and successfully sneak around behind the stone giants just in time to see all but their leader run away in fear of the superior firepower.   Bob’s successful back-stab managed to do damage to the giant’s tender bits… causing severe pain in the victim; unfortunately for Bob, this didn’t cause the giant to lose consciousness.  It did cause the creature to lose his action for the next round, and when he stood up to scream he became an easy target for Thingerlun.  Bob and Thingerlun both attacked in succession with Bob not aware of the magical volley; but it was Thingerlun who managed to deliver more than double the giant’s remaining hit points in damage from a volley of magic missiles in the form of sperkling arrows.  The giant simply vaporized… and Bob now thinks his dagger is much more dangerous than he previously estimated.

{Game clock suspended around sunset on the first of March, 3200}

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