Date: Early Dalan, 1333 Avard
Synopsis: The company returns to the ruins of Dulmathriel, and explore a tunnel that leads underground. Acid fumes and a statue to a long dead god attack the party, and they are nearly trapped underground to die.
Evening of Dalan the 13th, 1332 Avard.
After saving Rolf the butcher and Old Man Dardis, the company answered questions and spent the rest of the day recovering. They stayed that night in Teras, and on the morn prepared to return to Chasadan. Greff, however, decided to stay an extra day with his friends at the Orchid's Dew. The rest felt they needed to return to to Chasadan. Murdoch was eager to draw up a contract for Arcanist Hershel, and Roswyn needed to check in with her shoppe to make sure Sorsha and Nadar hadn't melted the placed down.
The 14th of Dalan was spent traveling from Teras to Chasadan, by means of the first merchant vessel they could find heading in that direction. Murdoch spent much of that voyage focusing on Able, trying to make the big snowfell understand teamwork.
The morning of the 15th found Sorsha and Nadar happily learning their crafts and experimenting, and so Roswyn opted to see what work the Ducal Mage might have for the company of Meridian Explorations. Nadar, dragonborn that he was, had found his acid breath to have a purpose beyond killing prey. The acid from one of his sneezes found itself in the quenching water, and the latest steel-work from the dragonborn had been superior in some ways to regular steel. The process was new to Nadar, though Roswyn had heard of similar work from the dwarves, and let the dragonborne experiment and learn on his own.
Roswyn left the store to find an odd sight - one of the rare 'goliaths' from the very distant Risan Mountains, nearly half a world away. The goliaths were nearly as rare in the nation of Rakore as Roswyn.
The goliath was close to eight feet tall, with an enormous two-handed axe slung over his back, and a morning star the size of a battering ram shoved into his belt. In his hand was a crinkled parchment of paper that looked far too tiny – yet was recognized instantly by Roswyn. The goliath was answering one of the many page-adds that Arcanist Hershel had put out for Meridian Explorations.
Roswyn introduced herself, and asked if the goliath needed assistance. The goliath named himself as Kuori, and explained that he was, indeed, looking for the Ducal Mage's tower to see if he could join Meridian Explorations for a time.
At the Ducal Mage's tower, Roswyn and Kuori found Able and an impatient Murdoch, who was preparing to pounce on Hershel with his ship contract. The three waited some time, as Hershel was usually good about knowing when they were there without them having to knock. Murdoch finally knocked for a second time, and the door was unbolted from the inside – by a young woman.
Fria explained that she was Master Hershel's servant, and let them in, knowing who they were by reputation if not explanation. The bottom floor of the tower had been laid out with a spread of foods and drinks, and Murdoch and Roswyn moved in to help themselves. Fria seemed somewhat flustered by their attack on the food she was preparing, and went to get the arcanist.
The ducal mage was busy, but happy to see the company. He asked where Nadar and Sorsha was, and Roswyn let him know they were both busily trying to blow up her shoppe. The ducal mage informed them that Balasyr had been stolen by his brother to do research in the Stamp of Peace monastary, and so the dragonborn sorceror was unavailable, as well.
Introductions were made for the goliath Kuori, and Hershel considered the offer. Arcing great bolts of lightning between his hands, with the smell of ozone thick in the air, Hershel attempted to scare the tall warrior from the Risan Mountains. The goliath, however, was unimpressed by the mage's powers – having killed a young behir with his bare hands. The behir, creatures of lightning themselves, had nothing on the powerful arcanist.
Satisfied with Kuori's temperment and experience, Hershel admitted the goliath into Meridian Explorations.
Hershel then told the three of them of a merchant's tale William had found in the library of the Stamp of Peace. The merchant recounted how he had visited a herder family on the Janis Plains, sometime around 1315 or 1320 Avard. The herder family, like all who lived near ruins, occasionally explored the ruins of Dulmathriel, seeking treasure or lost valuables. One day, they found a way into the understories of the ruins, by moving aside a large stone. A foul and terrible mist assaulted them, even making one of the boys go blind. The smell was terrible, and the family fled in terror. Some time later, they returned, and sealed up the entrance to the understories.
The merchant had asked the herder family where the entrance lay, and they had told him which stones in what section of the city to search for. The merchant's tale included the runes with which the herder family had identified the site, or perhaps the merchant had gone there himself to record the site. In either event, the runes detailing the location of the entrance to the understories was there, and the arcanist wanted them to investigate.
Before they left, however, he had a gift for the company. Hershel sent Fria up for a certain box, while the arcanist explained that the spread and the food and the drink was for a meeting he was to host. That day at noon, the leaders of Chasadan, including Count Torak, would meet with him to discuss Yatindar's Day, to take place two days later on the 17th of Dalan. Yatindar's Day was a high holy day for the Inquisition, but also for the people of the Janis Plains who were close to Yatindar. Yatindar's Day was a day of gift-giving, and a time to right old wrongs, seek absolution for sins, and mete out justice.
Fria returned with the box she had been sent for, and Hershel opened it, laying out six wooden masks. The masks had eye and nose slots, and slots for the wearer to look out, but no bands or straps to hold the masks in place. Hershel explained that he had ensorcelled the masks with several powers; they would conform perfectly to any face, for a snug fit without worry of bands or straps. More importantly, the masks would protect the wearer from poisonous gases and the like. The arcanist hoped the masks would allow the company to go where no one had been able to go before – into the understories of Dulmathriel.
Roswyn turned over one of the masks, studying the arcane marks on the inside of the mask. The workmanship was fast and functional, but not up to her standards of arcane construction. The masks would, however, she felt, be quite functional.
Hershel told them that they could paint the masks in whatever fashion they pleased, but the masks belonged to the company, and all who would use them in Meridian Explorations. He also told them that they needed to get going, and soon, for the council of Chasadan was coming, and Yatindar's Day was the day after that morrow.
The three of them made to leave, before Murdoch finally blurted out that he was ready to purchase a ship. Murdoch wanted Meridian Explorations to put up half the costs of a new runner schooner, and in exchange, Murdoch would pay for the other half, agree to captain and crew the ship, and give up all ship prizes to Meridian Explorations, until the debt had been paid off and Hershel agreed that their contract was ended. Hershel, for his part, surprised Murdoch in agreeing to everything – save the ship prizes. The arcanist insisted that Murdoch take one-quarter of all ship prizes.
Murdoch modified the contract he had to include that, got Hershel's signatures, and a copy, and was quite pleased with himself.
Murdoch, Roswyn, and Kuori agreed to meet at the north gate out of Chasadan, for each would need their respective mounts to make it to Dulmathriel quickly. Murdoch retrieved mighty Lethargo, a warhorse of considerable loyalty and power. Roswyn retrieved her billy goat Moxi from the roof of her shoppe, where he had been happily eating the thatching. And Kuori retrieved his black-scaled ankylosaur named Bruiser.
The ankylosaurs in Rakore were often used as artillery platforms, and were powerful enough and broad enough to carry considerable weight long distances. Kuori had managed to catch and tame one in the swamps and marshes near Teras, and the beast's twin-knobbed tail could bash a large tree into kindling with one swipe. The blackscaled ankylosaur was more suited for life in the swamps, but could make good time on land, as well.
The seven of them – three members of Meridian Explorations, their mounts, and the snowfell Able – headed off at a good pace north and somewhat east. Murdoch alone of the three of them had been there before, but it was easy going over the short-grassed, rolling hills of the prairie.
Not long after noon, they arrived in the ruins, and moved around to the north side. Stone blocks and the remains of walls covered several hundred acres of higher ground, with vines and longer-stalked grasses in amongst them. Roswyn, mounted on Moxi, scaled anything and everything – while Murdoch and Kuori looked a bit closer to the ground for the runes indicating where the entrance might lie.
Roswyn found the runes they were looking for, and a quick investigation turned up the massive, flat, panel-like stone indicated by the merchant's story. Using chains and ropes, they hooked Kuori's mount Bruiser and Murdoch's mount Lethargo up to the stone by way of pitons and climbing tools. Then the two big beasts pulled altogether, heaving in rhythm, yanking the stone clear.
An acrid smell that burned the eyes and burned the nose assaulted them, and the mounts drug the stone far away from the ruins to escape the horrid mist.
Murdoch put one of the Meridian masks on Able – and the mask conformed to the snowfell's face, protecting his nose, eyes, and mouth while allowing him to breath. Roswyn did the same for Moxi. Soon, Murdoch, Kuori, Roswyn, Able, and Moxi were staring into the vaulted stone tunnel that led deep into the earth at a steep angle.
The grasses and vines near the entrance were already turning brown and brittle from the awful mist. Inside the tunnel were the remains of roots from trees long since gone – and the merest touch to the roots turned them into dust. The bottom of the eight foot tall, arched tunnel was strewn with dust, roots, mud, stone, and other debris, making it difficult to walk on.
Roswyn remained mounted on Moxi, while Able followed Murdoch at a discreet distance, Kuoari taking up the rear-guard position and blocking a lot of the light from outside, so that Murdoch's darkness-adjusted eyes could see further in.
The stone blocks that made up the tunnel were in regular sizes, perhaps two feet long and a foot in either other dimension. Some of them were loose, though most were still pressing against one another, holding back the weight of the earth and ruins above them. Along the walls at shoulder height to a man, two of the rows of stones showed half-eaten away glyphs covered in rime and dust.
The glyphs seemed depict people kneeling or praying towards a four-armed figure in the background. Roswyn and Murdoch knew that Dulmathriel had once been a city dedicated to the God of Weaponsmithing, Infierne, who wielded four weapons at once against his foes.
Roswyn, sitting on Moxi and contemplating all she saw by the light of the sunrod stuck in her hair, pondered what she knew of Infierne. In her readings and her studies, she seemed to have read one of the prayers of the God of Weaponsmithing.
Kuori's head brushed the ceiling as he tripped over a stone in the dust, and the stone gave way to the massive goliath's head, whose face was covered by a mask of wood. The tunnel began to collapse, and they pushed deeper into the cave, racing against rain of earth and stone above and behind them.
Dust billowed down the tunnel, and they were all right – though trapped. Murdoch kept to the lead, and they all watched the ceiling a bit more cautiously.
Further ahead, the tunnel seemed to open out into the darkness. They stopped at the threshold of a large, circular room, some eighty feet across, and perhaps forty feet tall. The domed apex of the room was a solid, single plug of stone. Below the plug, in the middle of the room, was a twenty foot tall stone statue of Infierne, four arms outsplayed with a different weapon in each hand. The statue faced away from them, standing on a tall stone pedestal.
Around the statue to Infierne, were six other statues of man-size. Two of the six statues still carried massive glass globes full of some vile yellowish substance, each globe fully five feet across. The other four statues were surrounded by broken glass six inches thick, and the forms were mishapen and melted – as though by a powerful acid. The fumes of the four broken orbs made the deep chamber reek with acid, and their eyes watered a bit despite the Meridian masks they all wore.
Murdoch moved to enter the room, but stopped. Roswyn remembered all of the prayer to Infierne. They bent to their knees, and repeated after Roswyn the prayers to a god long since fallen. There seemed a flash of red light from the front of the statue, the side away from them, and then it was gone. Murdoch would have rubbed his eyes had not the mask protected them.
They moved very cautiously into the room, repeating the prayer to Infierne, hoping against hope that the globes would not shatter and spray them with acid. As they neared one of the two remaining globes, they could see that the glass was chipped, and in one place, at least, there was a fracture that ran along the globe.
There were three other arched tunnels off of the large room, but each had collapsed in. They knew not how they would escape, and could only hope for a secret passage or some other miracle. The statue to Infierne seemed to scowl at some point opposite the room, while the statue held aloft stone weapons of an axe, a sword, a maul, and a flail. Embedded at the base of each of the stone weapons, was the weapon upon which it was modeled – jewel-encrusted, beautiful pieces of masterworked craftsmanship.
The site where the statue stared proved only to be solid rock, and there was no secret passage that they could discern. Approaching cautiously, lest they call down upon them the anger of the fallen god, they examined it closely.
They placed offerings of weapons at the base of the statue, and Murdoch whispered that he hoped the statue would accept his offering, and give him the serrated sword. A boot dagger, an eating dagger, and a sling found themselves on the altar beneath the statue.
Greed getting the best of him, Murdoch climbed the statue, and began to attack the stone around the sword in an effort to free it. The statue turned its head towards Murdoch, and then smote him with two of the stone weapons.
The statue began to stride off of its pedestal, weapons raised to attack, when Moxi and Able attacked, tripping it up. The statue, despite its massive size and weight, toppled like a tree. When it fell, dust and small stones rained down from the ceiling – and one of the globes shattered open, spilling fresh acid and turning the air so foul that even the masks had trouble protecting them.
Kuori's axe, Murdoch's blade, and Roswyn's powers concentrated on the giant statue, even as Moxi and Able continued to butt against its feet. The statue stood, and its giant stone flail sent Kuori's axe sailing through the dust that obscured everything. Even the light of the sunrod proved unable to penetrate the thick dust that was thrown up by the giant's fall.
Murdoch attacked again, even as the statue righted itself, and attacked Murdoch in turn. Roswyn retrieved Kuori's axe, using her arcane powers to teleport in right next to the goliath. Kuori, in turn, called upon the powers of his ancestors, invoking their spirits and the wrath of the mountains in which they lived. The goliath's skin was stone, his stomp brought even more of the ceiling down – and toppled the giant for a second fall.
The second globe of acid shattered, and the poisonous gas began to burn at their eyes and noses, breathing became difficult, and more stones fell around them, sometimes narrowly missing them.
A blast of power from Roswyn sent the statue plowing through the debris on the ground, hurling Infierne's likeness back some five yards or more. With a mighty heave on his axe, Kuori attacked the prone statue, shattering its head and neck and breaking its torso in half.
The ceiling continued to cave in, the plug stone at the apex falling onto the altar and the rest of the ceiling rumbling and shifting.
And then there was silence. The poisonous gas was still thick, choking them and blinding them, but they could see the shaft of sunlight coming in near the top of the dome. Grapples were thrown up, and Roswyn shimmied up the rope quickly to fresh air. There, heaving great lungfuls of sunlit blue sky, she secured a rope around good stones, helping the others up. Murdoch had to hold a fidgeting Able, and Kuori held a fidgeting Moxi.
The jewel-encrusted weapons had not been forgotten. Free from their broken statue, they had all four gone into Roswyn's enchanted bag, given to Meridian Explorations by Arcanist Hershel.
They had been below ground for only a short time, and rested a bit, before mounting back up and heading towards Chasadan.
Later that evening, they arrived at the Tower of the Ducal Mage. Fria greeted them at the door, and they were called in by a host of people. The leaders of the town were still at the tower, talking with a slightly tipsy Hershel, the Count of Chasadan, the abbot of the Stamp of Peace, the priests of the temples, the captain of the guard, and several others, besides.
All were in good spirits, and demanded of Hershel that they hear a tale from Meridian Explorations with their own ears, fresh from the adventurers just returned.
Roswyn, seizing the opportunity to entertain, used her arcane powers to maneuver the food and drink and utensils and tankards still on the table, recreating the story even as Murdoch told the tale. The bit about jewel-encrusted weapons was left out, so that the host would not know of them, but the story was true and entertaining – especially when a knife-wielding chicken made a mighty overhead chop at the cheese cake in the finale.
For their good story and because of the impending holiday, Hershel told the company to take off the next few days, and excused them after they had exchanged small pleasantries with the council.
The next morning around noon, though, the company was back. Roswyn emptied the enchanted weapons out upon the large table, much to the surprise of Hershel and Fria. Murdoch asked for the sword, and Kuori for the axe, if at all possible. Each even offered up their own blades in exchange, blades already enchanted by powers beyond normal men.
Hershel considered their offer, and agreed to it. He would keep the flail and the maul, while Murdoch would get the sword, and Kuori the axe. Herhsel also agreed to put the blades the two had exchanged up upon his wall with a plaque recounting their tale.
To the walls of the Ducal Mage's tower was added a headsman's axe and a swordmage's blade, to hang near the skin of a giant boar and the skin of a dire snowfell.
Murdoch ponied up nearly all of his money to Hershel, in exchange for a letter of writ, on Hershel's signature, to begin construction of a runner schooner. Murdoch bid his goodbyes for the nonce, and headed out immediately to find fast passage to Teras.
Afternoon of Dalan the 16th, 1332 Avard.
The Fourth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is fun to work with, but leaves a few things to be desired. We use the Character Builder from the online site (link below) to make the character sheets and keep track of bonuses to attack or special abilities and the like. The CharGen makes things very easy for the players, but very difficult for me to add unique items, because the CharGen does not allow for the creation of unofficial D&D stuff. I finally figured a way around this, and managed to spend some time making the Meridian masks. I hope the characters paint their masks in a variety of ways.
Character Generator, D&D Online:
Dinner that night was pizza. Bill was out of town, and David will not be playing with us for the foreseeable future, so it was just Sommer, Ross, and Caileb. Caileb did a very good job of playing that night, and even caught us by surprise by reading his sheet and reminding the DM of some of his special abilities at just the right time and in just the right manner.
I was very impressed with how everyone has handled their mounts. We're using a modified concordance of characters and companions, with randomly generated personalities for the companions. The personalities were negative for Able, and so Ross was inclined to let the snowfell go; but, over time, the concordance will rise on its own, and I'm glad Ross opted to have Murdoch keep the huge wolf. Likewise, Sommer used Moxi quite well, and it never occurred to me to fit the Meridian masks over the animals. They likely would have taken Lethargo and Bruiser into the tunnel, had it been larger.
All of this session's characters were 6th-level. Next session, all characters (regardless of whether they played or not), will be 7th-level with 10,000 experience points. Heads up to the players… Beginning at 11th-level, when the paragon classes open up, players will have individual experience – so if they miss a session, they won't be auto-leveling like we are in these earlier phases.