Trials & Trails

Episode 19: Swamp Things (part 2)

Cyphers and Crones -- the Backfiring

After a brush with an icky plant thing, some fondling and breaking of a Terrocotta elephant (wherein strange “beacon stones” are found), the absolutely bitch-slapping of 4 trolls, the party splits up for a time. The two halflings make use of Tiskus shadow-stepping to return to Grantham, while the remainder heal up and head to the Leaning Tower of Adventure (or whatever it was Tresh described.

With Shadow taking his leave, and returning to Grantham with Tresh to look into the rough looking halflings, Altamono and Kurado, the terrific trio of Tiskus, Vicic and Telvas (aka, "The Many-Voweled Adventuring Company), forges ahead toward a leaning tower described by Tresh, a day and a half away, as the Wyvern skips (or flies—depends on the Wyvern). Their journey is, thankfully, uneventful, and they arrive to find an overgrown courtyard, and, indeed, a leaning tower, located behind an old stone fence with a broken, iron gate. Looks like pretty standard “old, abandoned building” stuff, save for the light spilling out of the vine-floored doorway.

Indeed, there are vines everywhere. When they inspect the first floor from the relative safety of the unhinged-door doorway, they see a great, big, magical chandelier hovering over a vine-strewn floor. A dead adventurer, impaled by springing a steel lance trap the hard way, sits against the far wall. A grinning gargoyle looms on a shelf overhead, while rage tapestries hang from the rear wall, and a staircase ascends. Carved into the wall, about a quarter way up the stairs, on the left, is a puzzling piece featuring a Rook, weird words written in common, and the name “Sere Kassin” (which gets them to thinking maybe his "sere-kaf-ogus is somewhere nearby [yark, yark, yark}).

First floor, is of course, rife with trappage, as the Gem of Headaches and Curses reveals when they look through it. There are unsprung, illusion-obscured lance traps, as well as illusion-covered nodules, primed to explode, flanking the walls going up the stairs. Thankfully, the Rook with the weird works emblazoned around it provides a clue for going up the stairs (“Straight and true — the way he lived”), which allows Telvas to go right up the center of the staircase (did I mentioned the stairs were set up in a checkerboard fashion? well, they were, man).

At the top, our elf finds a locked door, a gargoyle with a nice, golden knocker (just one) in its jaws, and another cypher reading “Three is a magic number.” Knocking three times, however, causes a primal scream to echo through the building, and something heavy and metallic to grind behind the door. The party opts for caution.

Long story short: after dealing with Bitzafi’s arm getting stuck while retrieving a key from the gargoyle’s mouth (and nearly severed, forcing them to rest while it heals), and after causing the party to deal the chandelier dropping to the ground, exploding everywhere, the party rests, only to discover that all the traps reset during the night. Not to worry. This time they know where they are and what to do! The get the key (which has returned to the spot from whence it came, overnight), they set off the exploding nodules on the staircase using a well-thrown rock at the door, the party finally enters level 2.

Level 2 turns out to be some sort of dining room. The windows feature stained glass telling the story of a brave knight and an adoring lady (Zaryapesha, by name). A magical larder keeps fresh food available, all to be prepare by an attentive bronze golem, about halfling size. A BEAUTIFUL dining table with fine dinner ware, expensive candelebras and an ornate rug beneath is featured in the center of the room.

Of course, it takes awhile to notice this, because the guardian bronze minotaur immediately attacks the party with its nasty axe. Damaging it? Not a thing. Problem—it spews out hot lava when its armor is pierced. The party DOES take it down, but it crashes and burns right on the dining table. As it cools, members of the party prompt the golem manservant to prep them some grub, and they feats near the bull’s smoking remains.

From here, no stairs, but the group does locate a secret “elevator” located in the floor that, when the command word is uttered, ascends to floor 3, a library. Stuff there: books, a tome to make golems, magical lamps, a crystal ball, and a skeleton half-covered in papery flesh. Looks like someone was missing a component. Nearby vials and decanters are full of preparations to finish, they think, including a clear, glass container containing a shining light. After some q&a and fiddling about, they determine that the decanter is filled with souls (plural), so they figure, "Open this? I don’t think so.: Meanwhile, books, lots of them, and some of them on creating tessellated, magical dome protectors, like the one in Mageswell. The key component? Dragon’s blood.

Clues come together: a dragon-slaying sword found on level 2 with Kassin’s armor. The stain glass depicting Kassin’s death at the hands of M’Nenieth (who evidently was delivered a deep blow by Kassin, before the Knight expired), and they figure the Knight blooded the dragon for the wizard, one Yarzu, to create the protective barrier. Of course, they end up with a chance to ask the woman herself, when they locate Yarzu in stasis, on level 4.

Yarzu’s parley is a simple one: “I have the map to a Mud Sorcerer tomb” (which she figured Kassin’s knight brothers, an order dedicated to slaying them would want, and come to her to get, given the clues she left behind). “I will need a vessel, however.” (for what, they’re not sure, but they figure it has to do with Sere Kassin). Her golem work never cut it, and seeing as she was soon to die, she put herself in stasis and let the vessel come to her. (what can I say? it’s A plan, though not the best one—she’s been sleeping away for a looong time, as it turns out).

Well, this doesn’t go like the parlay with the dragon. Yarzu gets impatient. The party ain’t no way gonna hand over a body as a vessel (unless they can find a good dead one, which they consider doing, as they DO have a dead retainer not far off). But Yarz is IMPATIENT. So, she seals the room, conjures up some old world mojo, and off they go.

Things get momentarily dicey, when Tiskus funds he cannot dispell OW magic from this partifular source. Worse, Yarzu levitates and casts, taking he out of range of Telvas’ badass blade work. She starts hurling magic missiles and launches disintegration beams at various subjects. EVEN WORSE: the orbs that keep her in stasis, when broken, awaken her guardians. FOUR bronze statues of giants.

Things look a bit poopy when Yarzu turns to deliver a searing beam at Telvas. But…BACKFIRE! BACKFIREBACKFIREBACKFIRE (thank you snake eyes). Her OW magic gets out of control, drawing all the magic into her (integrating, rather than disintegrating). It’s too much for ol’ Yarzu and she implodes, absorbing Sere Kassin’s soul from the abyss, where it has been going made for, oh, some time.).

In the end, Yarz is dead, the mud sorcerer map is located, a trove of spells falls into Tiskus’ lap, and the party gets away with some neat stuff.

Now to FINALLY find Csonka? Who the hell knows…

NOTES:
-Yarzu’s spell failure was rolled by Telvas’ player. And MAN was it timely. Since it was disintegration, I had the spell integrate into her and cause her to go boom.

-Based on this battle, I’ve decided that the REAL danger to OW magic is that it CANNOT BE DISPELLED. That’s why most folks don’t mess with it.

-Shadow was out the two sessions it took to play through Yarzu’s tower. The party will return to Grantham to find out what HE found out investigating the halfling toughs.

Time elapsed:
I THINK it was 14 days, all told, with travel and resting and stuff. So, we’ll just say 10, and the next adventure likely to take place in Grantham. That puts us at:

JUL 23rd. They missed the festival. (frowny face)

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