Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Episode XXXII -- Night of Dissolution, Act IV: The Mrathrach Machine III

Juliar 27

Early urgently leaps towards the fallen Emeris, and snatches a potion from the shadowcaster’s bag. He pours the vial’s contents down Emeris’ throat and immediately the magic takes effect. Emeris eyes open and crawls away from the advancing rhodintors, searching for more potions in his bag.

Dziga fires another arrow at the second rhodintor while advances, preparing to cast magic. The arrow deflects off its protective layer of magic force, the spell is completed easily. An arc of lightning blasts through Early and Vatex. Early falls to one knee, the rises weakly and limps away, digging for his own potions. The third rhodintor enters the room and casts magic at the Dziga. Green magic specks of light swirl around him, and suddenly everything around him seems to speed up dramatically. In reality, it is Dziga who is affected and to everyone else in the room, his movements seem absurdly sluggish. Vatex and Dziga fire back at the demons, and but only the elf hits true.

Emeris and Early drink potions as the third rhodintor traps Vatex in an enchantment that leaves him paralysed. The second rhodintor raises its flaming staff and charges the sluggish Dziga. The flaming end of the staff bludgeons him, but his magic armor suppresses the flames as they come in contact with him. Vatex shoulders his rifle and his swords flash from their scabbards, cutting deep into the demon. Though slow, Dziga cuts at its back and legs with Asura while Vatex’s swords score a dozen other wounds. It goes down. Emeris and Early, healed just enough to continue fighting, bring down the last earthbound demon with shadow magic and steel.

Nothing turns up upon searching the three rhodintor nests, so they continue to the south end of the passage where there is a pair of doors. Behind one of them, Vatex hears voices so Dziga picks the lock and pushes it open. He disappears into the shadows and advances, with Vatex quietly moving behind him. Inside, down a dark hall, is a huge room with strange machine parts and tools scattered all over – on the wooden-frame bed, on the dressing table, and even on the two chairs. Only the desk in the back of the room is free of this clutter – it holds only three books and a few scattered paper and scrolls, as well as ink and pens.

The two occupants of the room are CALDOR, a dwarf carrying a chaositech emitter weapon with a wire attached to his temple and wearing a chaositech harness, which connects him to four-multiple jointed legs, each about ten feet long, which he uses to stand (his real legs just dangle); and LEGEIRE, a human wearing a massive suit of armor that largely resembles plate armor, but it is clearly chaositech – it is covered with moving iron bars, some gearlike apparatuses, and even tough, resilient tubing. In one hand he wields a vicious looking chaositech spear that consists of two blades affixed to each other by some hinged mechanism. The two of them seem aware that someone had entered the room, because the heard the locked get picked, but with Dziga concealed by shadows they cannot see him, and Vatex moves silently in the shadows near the dark hallway, out of sight. Dziga uses Roguefriend to determine which of the two is strongest, and the weapon seems indecisive, suggesting roughly equal danger. Dziga emerges from the shadows to the surprise of his enemies, firing an arrow at Caldor. At that instant, Caldor’s defensive magic is activated and his skin becomes like stone. Dziga’s perfect shot should have killed the dwarf, or at least mortally wounded him, but magic arrow barely penetrates the outer shell of rock. Legeire shouts in surprise at the sudden attack, when Vatex fires a round at Caldor which yields a burst of rock fragments and merely a drop of blood.

Using his spider harness, Caldor walks vertically up the far wall and up to the ceiling as he casts a spell at Dziga, meant to leave him confused and leave him equally dangerous to friend and foe. Fortunately, Dziga resists the affect as Early and Emeris rush into the chamber. The four companions aggressively charge Legeire in unision. Early leaps over the table and Cryssaegrym cuts right through the thick metal plates and draws a gout of blood. Legeire twists off the weapon as Vatex joins, stabbing precisely at any vulernable point exposed, which is difficult due to the eerily meticulous way the metal pieces of the armor fit together. Dziga does as somersault and comes to his feet inside the reach of the stabbing chaositech spear, its hinged blades snapping like a deadly maw. Emeris carefully enters the melee, managing to drive his sword into one of the joints and being rewarded by his blade sinking into flesh and grinding against the bone in Legeire’s elbow.

Blood seeping from the cuts in his armor, fighting off the skilled attacks of four adventurers, Legeire screams up to Caldor on the ceiling, “This is not worth it! Do you really want to die because of Khyron?” But the dwarf seems fanatically devoted to the cause of defeating the Mrathrach Machine’s enemies, saying he will fight to the death. With that, the dwarf moves over to the north wall, lining up the line of attackers against Legeire. He mumbles an incantation and lightning bursts from his fingers, blasting the warblade, shadowcaster, and tempest with arcane electricity. Legeire strikes back at Early, who had scored the most painful attack against him. Early skilfully parries the first thrust of the spear, but is surprised how quickly the man in the huge metal suit can recover. The tip of the spear stabs Early above the collarbone, which hurts terrible, but when Legeire activates the switche which causes the two blades to snap apart, a thick chunk of flesh is torn away and the warblade roars in pain.

Dziga tries to maneuver around Legeire to cut him through the back, but having rebuffed the fierce assault slightly, the man in chaositech armor reacts quickly again, stabbing into Dziga painfully. Despite the pain as the hinged blade tears the wound more severely, he rolls with the attack and steps in closer. He steps onto Legeire’s extended leg, jumping off of it. He rises above Legeire’s head, and when his momentum reverses, he drives Asura into the eye slit of the helmet. The cultist falls dead to the ground.

With that, everyone turns their attention to Caldor, who fires a green blast of energy from his emitter. It catches Emeris who accepts the hit with a grunt. The half-dragon uses the work table as a platform to jump into the air, spreading his wings to fly forward, hands that swirl with shadowy power reaching for the machine mage.

Caldor moves quickly aside and Emeris crashes into the north wall, his spell fizzling out harmlessly. Vatex fires, reloads quickly, then fires again, seeing that bit by bit the stoneskin enchantment of the dwarf seems to be wearing off which each attack against which it protects. Early draws his pistols and begins firing, sending bits of stone richocheting off Caldor throughout the chamber.

Emeris powers up his magic again, and kicks off the north wall. Caldor moves back along the ceiling to get away from his pursuer, when suddenly one of Dziga’s arrows catches him in the foot from below. He realizes Emeris forced him immediately above the others, as the shadowcaster attacks him with magic. Caldor is jolted by as shadow magic ravages his system, and Early easily jumps all the way up to the ceiling level and completes a vajra maneuver at the apex of his jump. Stone flesh gives way to the soft matter beneath, and blood spurts from the injury. More arrows and bullets and bullets chip away at his rock shell, and he fires a burst of his emitter which sends Emeris back to the ground to heal.

Free of any immediate melee, Caldor looks up to where the others are standing on the ground. He unleashes a quick spell which sends purple bolts of energy speeding into Early, who is thus stopped from making another jumping attack. More arrows and bullets strike him, and he tries to stop constant projectiles by charming Early and forcing him to attack his friends. The attempt fails as the warblade resists the attack. Early slips into a brief trance to regain his Vajra connection, and Vatex hits Caldor with a bullet which seems to terminate the stoneskin effect. Caldor fires back with the emitter, and knocks the elf back. Early once again leaps upwards, shifting Vajra energy behind his blade to slice deep into the machine mage’s chest – a fatal blow. Caldor falls dead to the ground.

The group takes all the chaositech items, although it proves time-consuming to extract Legeire from his suit. A search of Caldor’s desk reveals a rare manual on the theory of electricity, and two spellbooks. Among scattered notes, they find mostly indecipherable formulas and theoretical jargon about chaositech. But one note is different, and it says:

“The Final Ritual can now begin. Khyron invested with the power of the Ancients after feeding on Galchutt flesh and bathing in Galchutt blood. Through the power of our Masters he has died and been reborn as a Chosen of the Lords of Chaos. EREPODI knows the location of the Apocalyptic Sanctuary. The demon GISSZAGGAT guards the entrance. The return of the moon will herald the time of the Night of Dissolution. Then, at last, the Galchutt will awaken, and they will flood the world with the rapture of Chaos.”

Finally, a lead on Khyron! They had learned from the acolytes at the Temple of Deep Chaos that Khyron would be found at the Apocalyptic Sanctuary, and now they have a possible means of finding it. For now, the group makes haste back to the surface, to spend the rest of the day getting much needed rest

They stop by the Temple of Ashe for healing then return to their homes. The city is abuzz with trepidation over the barbarian army, which has set up camp just a few kilometres north of the city. City guards are everywhere to suppress discord and the occasional riot or protest. The north wall is lined with cannons and soldiers and Inverted Pyramid wizards.

Later that afternoon, feeling nicely rejuvenated, the group decides to visit Shilukar to see if he will buy their chaositech loot, since they lack the requisite connections to the criminal underword to find alternative buyers. They are pleased at Castle Shard when Shilukar writes them a cheque for 10,000 gold coins, on his “Shaelukar Darkfingers” account. Shilukar says he expects the barbarians to launch their attack that night, and he was going to sit on the roof of Castle Shard with a bottle of wine and watch the action. He invites the companions to join him. Although the dark elf’s gesture seems weird, they accept – contingent on them getting back from the Mratchrach Machine on time… or at all.

That business done, they cash their cheque at the money changer and divvy up their big haul. Most of the shops are closed, so they head back to the apartment house in Oldtown that sits over the Temple of Deep Chaos and the long passage to the Mrathrach Machine. There, the men-at-arms guarding the place inform the group that a Knight of the Pale named ARNGRIM, a friend of Zophas, wanted to speak with Early and Dziga at the Pale Tower. They are curious as to what that may be about, but for now they continue far below the city streets, back to the Mrathrach Machine’s unexplored passages.

They finally reach the unexplored door past the rhodintor nests. Dziga notes that the lock is far more sophisticated than the one for Caldor’s chamber. Nonethless, he picks it easily enough and they move beyond into a chamber empty but for a ten-foot wide pool of murky, oily liquid. Two black cloaks appear to be floating in the pool. Emeris approaches and pokes the cloaks with his sword, and his surprised when they come alive and attack him! But they are not cloaks at all, they are cloakers – monsters known to lurk in dark places far beneath the surface. They attack relentlessly with tail and teeth, and emit unsettling moans that greatly unnerve the companions. The monsters are killed and groups progresses up a set of stairs to the east.

The stairs go up a long ways, switching back many times, sometimes even going up and down. The construction begins to change, from a style consistent with Ghul’s labyrinth to a cleaner style, with carefully cut white stone blocks. After some time they come to an apparent deadend, but they quickly find a secret door that allows progress upwards.

The group sends Dziga past the secret door, hidden in the shadows, to scout. He enters at one end of a long chamber, filled with ten wights apparently left to stand guard. He extends a hand from the shadows and signals to the others. Emeris rushes into the room and unleashes a blast of destructive shadows from his eyes. Five wights go down immediately. Dziga looses an arrow and Vatex fires his rifle. Another wight falls. Early rushes into the room next, spitting death from his twin double pistols, and another goes down. Emeris, having immediately begun summoning more shadow magic the moment his previous spell was complete, conjures black fire around two more wights. One of them freezes solid while moving towards the shadowcaster, and Emeris taps it with his sword and it shatters. The two wights at the rear flee into an adjacent passage, while the last one futilely attacks Emeris desperately. Steel shadows deflect the striking fist.

Dziga and Vatex step past Emeris and make quick work of the last wight, while Early pursues the other two down the corridor. He sees them at the end of a room by a closed door, and he rushes in to attack. As he does, he suddenly feels one of the stones beneath his feet sink with his weight, and a web of electricity courses up from the ground around him. He stops dead in his tracks as he is violently electrocuted. The two wights charge back at him. Early recovers quickly enough to avoid one attack, but another fist clips his head and he feels his very life essence become drained. The door behind the wights begins to open, and he can see eight more of the awful undead looking to join the fight.

The others come running behind, but Early warns them about the electricity trap. Dziga kneels down to check the stone, and finds the trap deactivated. A massive brawl breaks out in the room as more wights flood into the chamber and the four companions fight desperately to keep their energy from being drained. Before the last wight falls, Early suffers another hit and Vatex one of his own, and their life force depletes further.

The others are concerned for Early, but he assures them he can continue. The chamber from which the wights emerged is completely empty, so they explore beyond the door beside it. There is a two chambers connected by a long hallway. Emeris’ exceptional darkvision can see two bull-like monsters, gorgons, guarding at the end of the passage. They cannot yet see the companions, but the way they stamp at the ground and snort green gas from their nostrils intimates the gorgons anticipate battle. Dziga vanishes into the shadows and sneaks up into the chamber with the gorgons, readying his bow undetected.

Vatex fires a round from his rifle that hits a gorgon in its beefy shoulder. Enraged, the monster charges down the hallway – through a wall of black fire which Emeris conjures up rapidly as defense. The freezing shadow flames do not slow the beast, and it drives its horns into Vatex and he throws drops his rifle and draws his swords. The second gorgon charges forward and hits Emeris, taking a hit from Dziga as it goes by. The half-dragon scrambles back and Early takes his place. Cryssaegrym slashes and the double-pistol fires a round. Then, in the hallway connecting the two corridors, the companions can hear something big moving on the otherside of the left wall. A large secret door slides open, and there appears a 10-foot two-headed skeleton, wielding two massive morning stars.

The ettin skeleton charges Dziga, who pushes his agility to the limit to avoid the spiked heads of the crushing morning stars. He tumbles past the skeleton and starts running back to join his friends, expecting certain death if he tries to go toe-to-toe with the undead giant. The skeleton scores a lucky hit which clips Dziga across the head, knocking him to the ground.

The aggressive gorgon fighting Early steps back suddenly and breathes a thick cloud of green gas over him, Emeris, and Vatex. The shadowcaster and the elf manage to avoid breathing it in, but Early takes a lot into his lungs. Instantly, he is turned to stone.

The situation has suddenly become unexpectedly dire. The other gorgon simply charges forward again, attempting to trample Emeris and Vatex. Emeris is bodychecked into the wall and Vatex’s leg is caught under a trampling hoof. Down the corridor, Dziga quickly gets to his feet and scrambles out of the way of another giant attack, which smashes the stone where he lay only a split second before.

Emeris and Vatex focus their attacks on the gorgon that petrified Early, and their combined assault takes it down as Dziga and the ettin skeleton come charging down the corridor. The other gorgon turns around and unleashes its own breath attack – again Vatex resists but this time Emeris is petrified as well! Their numbers cut in half, Dziga and Vatex fight for their lives.

Twin elven swords slash at the gorgon, spilling blood and weakening its substantially to allow Dziga to strike a fatal wound. They turn to face the ettin skeleton. Vatex feels his ribs crack as one of the morning stars crashes into his chest. Dziga breaks three fingers when his hands is smashed against the wall by another attack. Asura’s magic smashes apart bone with every strike, but it is Vatex whose desperate, furious assault finally destroys the thing.

Now what? It seems the only option is for someone to return to the surface and acquire some means of restoring Emeris and Early. The other person will have to stay behind, alone, and protect the statues. It is decided that Vatex will return to the surface, and Dziga will wait behind.

The elf departs and Dziga hopes Vatex returns soon, but he knows it will take several hours at least. The shadowdancing rogue wonders anxiously if his stealth will be enough to keep him safe while he waits here alone…

Next time: Will Vatex make it back to find Dziga and the others in one piece? Will the barbarian army attack Elan that night? And most important of all – will the companions finally face-off against Khyron, now a Chosen of the Galchutt with whatever power that entails?

Random Elanian Factoid: The high-ranking members of the Rogue Moon Trading Company, a merchant company based in Tairon but with a significant presence in Elan, have angered the Imperial government. Commissar has recently received orders to seize all Rogue Moon assets in the city, but the barbarian invasion has postponed any such action.