Friday, November 12, 2010

EPISODE XXXIX: The Banewarrens, Act II - The Outer Vaults III - Enter Navanna Vladaam; The Dread Osyluths

Augustar 1-3

Maurice the gnome fighter and Kazinor the elven cleric express wonder and amazement as they accompany the Rosegate Company past the Sealed Door and into the Outer Vaults of the Banewarrens.

The group moves up to where they encountered the Pactlords Erzak and Derimach. The dire ape’s corpse remains where it fell, but a bloody smear runs up the stairs to the south, indicating the other bodies were removed. The group quietly follows the bloody trail to a square room at the top of the stairs, containing a broken pit trap. Peering into the pit, they see it drops fifty feet to a bed of deadly spikes, and the Pactlord bodies were dropped therein.

The group checks out the double-doors east of the pit, on which is painted a pastoral scene with a soaring pegasus. Dziga unlocks the door and the group investigates the strange, 60-foot round room beyond. Within, an iron pillar rises from floor to ceiling. There are four levers on the pillar, one turned right and the others turned left. A metal track set into the stone runs all around the circumference of the room. A flat iron plate, like a pie-shaped wedge equal to about a quarter the room’s area, covers the northwest portion of the floor; the plate is attached to the pillar in the center and to the track. A set of iron stairs 5 feet wide runs up to a 5-foot-square hole in the ceiling.

The ceiling appears to have a similiar track to the one on the floor. It is also fitted with an iron plate attached to the pillar. This plate covers about three quarters of the ceiling’s surface -- everything but a pie-shaped wedge directly over the floor plate, which exposes the hole in the ceiling.

Emeris investigates the pillar while Dziga heads up the stairs into a hole, where he finds himself in a 10x10 room. It is empty but for a lever on the wall, turned to the left. He checks carefully for traps, finds none, and turns the lever to the right. He did not notice in his search that the lever activated a sonic wave mechanism, and he is blasted by it. The second component of the trap activates, and it tries to teleport him elsewhere. Dziga resists the effect with tremendous strength of mind. The lever moves back to the left with a clank.

Wary of possible traps, Emeris tests the level on the pillar that it moved to the right, realigning it with the other three levers on the left. There is no sonic blast, only loud noises of gears or mechanisms moving above and below the round chamber. Emeris deduces that the iron plates must rotate to expose other rooms, but it could be very dangerous to experiment by randomly pulling different levers. They figure the dungeon might somewhere contain information on the operation of this device.

They exit the chamber and go through a door to the south, where they find an apparent dead end containing a slender, fit woman of demonic heritage. She is human-looking, but with black skin and hair, four small horns along her hairline, and pointy yellow teeth. She only says, “I should have known I’d be running into you soon.”

Emeris demands to know who she is, saying he doesn’t want to have to watch his back. She refuses to answer, just seeming mildly amused. Vatex looks upon her with the lenses of assessment, and sees her aura puts her at about 20% stronger than himself. Between the five of them, they clearly have the advantage and boast this to her. Guns and arrows are leveled at her. She asks, “Do you really wish to fight me? Go ahead and try.” Her confidence is somewhat unsettling. Vatex eyes the room carefully, looking for any sign of trickery. He sees none, but does notice that a twenty-foot section of the south wall has a tight but visible seam from floor to ceiling. A secret door of some kind?

Maurice charges the woman, sword drawn. She makes no motion to draw her sword and defend herself. She simply watches as Maurice is stopped dead in his tracks as he crashes into an invisible wall of force bisecting the chamber. Vatex fires a rifle shot, which bounces off the force wall also. The woman cannot help but laugh, and her smugness is really rubbing the companions the wrong way. To taunt them further, she reaches into her bag and pulls out a mummified hand -- the Banewarrens key! Their suspicions are confirmed that this is Navanna Vladaam.

They need to find a way to get at her, so they can get the key. They decide to backtrack to the room of stairs and head down the southwest passage. Their path is blocked by a trapped floor that freezes Maurice solid. The group pulls him off the trapped tile and waits for him to thaw, which does not happen. The only way to get him back to normal, they find, is to burn the ice away with fire, which burns the gnome as well. After he warms himself and is healed by Kazinor, the group decides not to test their luck with the frozen floor trap. They backtrack again and head up one of the westbound stairs.

They pass a pit trap that has thankfully been disarmed already. Beyond is metal door marked with runes and sealed with that silvery substance they’d seen earlier. Dziga picks the lock and gets the door open. Beyond are two more doors. Since the north door has no discerable way of being opened, Dziga unlocks the west door. When he enters the corridor beyond, he fails to notice the mechanism which was triggered by the door’s hinges. Six arrows fire from holes in the far wall, and Dziga does an evasive flip in a split second response. Two of the arrows catch him, but his wounds are not severe. A moment after the arrows fire, a portcullis drops down, blocking off the western half of the corridor.

Emeris assumes it is an incomplete trap serving no purpose, but Kazinor suggests that the portcullis is meant to keep people from getting to the other side of the room, despite it appearances of being an empty deadend. Vatex’s tremendous strength, enhanced by his belt of giant’s strength, allows him to lift the portcullis a few inches, enough that the mechanism resets and it rises back into the ceiling. They search the west wall, finding a hidden compartment in the stone. Again Dziga fails to notice a dangerous trap, and when he attempts to open the compartment he is jolted and his nervous system is damaged. He drops to the ground, completely paralyzed. Fortunately, Maurice happens to have a potion which alleviates the shadowdancer’s condition. The gnome tells Dziga “you owe me one.”

Within the secret compartment is a switch that opens the door in the north wall of the previous room. Within they find eight brown, wooly cocoons hanging from the sealings. Whatever is inside begins to stir within four of the pods when the companions enter. From them emerge the “dread osyluths,” unique devils rightly necessitating imprisonment in the Banewarrens thousands of years ago by Danar. Despite its formidable resistance to Emeris’ shadow magic, the first one goes down quickly, but upon its death, it is replaced by two more identical creatures. They had a bad feeling about the situation, but they continue the battle suspecting the devils’ capacity to reproduce must be limited. When the spawned duplicate is defeated two more replace it. They realize with great distress that this is a hopeless battle.

Kazinor and Maurice flee the chamber, heading back to the switch that should close the door. The gnome shouts desperately for the cleric to hit the switch even though the others are still inside. Fortunately for the company, Kazinor refuses to do it, insisting that the others must escape. Fighting desperately, Emeris and Vatex pull back, almost reaching the door when Dziga is grappled by one of the osyluths as it drops from its broken pod on the ceiling. The twists and fights but cannot break free, and he feels consciousness fading as the large devil crushes him in a bear hug. Emeris tries to trackle the osyluth to free Dziga, but its size and strength foil him. Vatex rushes in to help, his empowered strength making him even stronger than the devil that towers over him. He delivers a crushing bodycheck which causes the monster to drop Dziga, who scrambles away.

Maurice is still screaming at Kazinor to close the door. Emeris, Dziga, and Vatex fight their way out of the chamber. As the osyluths pursue, Emeris unleashes his breath attack. The blasting cold seriously injures a few of the devils, and they fall back for a moment. Kazinor pulls the switch and the door closes. They are all safe.

An argument breaks out over Maurice’s desire to save himself by sacrificing the others. He retorts saying that they would do the same if given the chance. If the traps they’d encountered so far did not convince Maurice and Kazinor that randomly poking around the Banewarrens was a bad idea, then the dread osyluths sure did. The gnome and the cleric question their continued presence in this place. The Rosegate Company uses their reputation as the heroes who saved Elan from the barbarian horde to convince them to stay, “for the adventure.” But there is still tension between the group and it is obvious they will not be able to work together much longer.

Saharasahla contacts Emeris at that moment, and tells him that he has learned that Navanna is possibly a member of the Keepers of the Faith, the mysterious organization to which Khyron and Andross had belonged. He says if that is true, then her objective is probably to reach Jabel Shammar, for if the legends are true, the Banewarrens are somehow connected to the dark fortress at the top of the Spire. They had learned some time ago in the Book of Faceless Hate, that the Keepers of the Faith were enigmatic seekers of the darkest secrets of the Ancients.

Back in the stair room, the companions take the other stairs going up to the west. This leads through the passages comprising the north and west portions of the outer vaults. Dziga disarms a complex trap involving a 100-foot pit that already seems to have claimed a victim -- dropping down a torch, they can see the body of what seems to be an orc broken amidst shattered stone.

Down a long chamber going east they find find a large, two-level chamber containing a large device like the one outside the Sealed Door. This one, however, looks to be fully built. That said, it shows no visible or audible sign of functioning. Based on knowledge of the arcane runes on the device, Emeris presumes that it is related to the magic powering the Sealed Door.

Continuing on, they pass through a series of chambers. In one, Dziga is badly battered by a trap which fires bolts of force from the wall. He scrambles down the passage. It seems too dangerous to disarm, but the others bypass it as the rate of fire allows it to hit only Vatex as the others rush past. In the chamber to the south, they find a putrid stench coming from a ghastly flesh golem made of animal parts, its head being that of a bear. The golem carries many vicious wounds, and it seems that someone passed through recently and killed it.

Past this, they find a door that reconnects to the round room with the iron pillar and the many levers. They unlock another door connected to this room and find a vault of weapons featuring dreadful appearances. Within steel, glass-fronted display cases are swords, axes, and maces, with such things as bat wings for hilts, snakes as hilts or handles, demonic faces leering from pommels or heads, and various symbols of evil etched into blades and other surfaces.

Protecting the vault is a giant scorpion construct, and four miniature scorpion constructs. The mini-scorpions uses sonic wave projectors to slow down their foes, which the large scorpion blasts out a cloud of purple gas that fills the corridor. The Rosegate Company resists its effects, but Maurice and Kazinor are instantly petrified. The scorpions are defeated with a combination of blades and shadow magic, and the group overcomes the magical protections surrounding the evil weapons, which blasts holy energy at anyone not philosophically aligned with Danar himself. Gathering up the armory’s contents and leaving the statues of Kazinor and Maurice where they stand, the Rosegate Company leaves the Banewarrens and heads back to the city.

The next morning they sell most of their loot at the Adventurers’ Square, but the evil-looking weapons are difficult to liquidate with legitimate merchants, because non-evil users are negatively affected by them. They eventually get a contact with a illegal weapons dealer from the Docks named RAMONE. Over the next day, they work out a deal where they get paid eight platinum bars in exchange for nine of the evil weapons. Dziga hangs on to one of the evil-looking daggers, thinking it might be useful. The group also keeps Tche’deng’s cloak, which grants the wearer more physical resistance; Tche’deng’s headband, which can apparently attaches an intellect to a skeleton; and a wand of fireballs that still carries many charges.

By Augustar 3, well stocked and well rested, the companions are ready to return to the Banewarrens.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

EPISODE XXXVIII: The Banewarrens, Act II - The Outer Vaults II - Aelrich's Return

Juliar 31 - Augustar 1

While Vatex and Emeris await Early's resurrection and load up a wagon to move to the Rosegate House, Dziga the shadowcaster, charged for double murder, finalizes his deal has worked out a deal with Judge Rahl to avoid jail or capital punishment. By turning over documents that implicate the leader of the Republican movement, Helmut Itlstein, in treasonous plot to attack the Holy Palace. His lawyer, Luigi Nono, tells him that he and his friends will be required to testify against Itlstein, and Dziga will be marked as a criminal but otherwise not punished or imprisoned.

Dziga gets out of jail with horrible X's burned into both cheeks. He meets the rest of the Rosegate Company just as they are loading up the last wagon of their stuff to move to their new house in the Nobles District. Seanus the servant is commanded to take the wagon and unpack their stuff, for they must return to the Banewarrens posthaste. Emeris notes that Early's hands shake when he carries even light objects, and the warblade retreats to the ally every so often to vomit fiercely. The shadowcaster convinces him to stay behind when they return to the Banewarrens and recover from his experience with death.

As Dziga the shadowdancer, Vatex the tempest, and Emeris the shadowcaster make their way back to the abandoned manor house in Oldtown, Dziga is brought up to speed on the current situation.

Saharasahla contacts Emeris through the thoughtstone and chastises him for delaying so long, and letting other factions get into the Banewarrens first. He says the Holy Order, the Inverted Pyramid, the Pactlords of the Quaan, and House Vladaam were now obstacles. Additionally, the old shadowcaster suspected that House Sadar knew of the Sealed Door as well. He tells Emeris that he would seek the missing page of the Book of Inverted Shadows himself but for the fact that he cannot leave his library. He calls Emeris his “avatar of shadow” on a quest to recover the lost secrets of history’s greatest shadowcaster. By working together, they will share the glory. He is building a new tool to give the half-dragon when it is ready as well. Finally, he says that they will probably need to eventually get the Banewarrens key to progress through the different levels of the Banewarrens. Saharasahla believes there are three levels beyond the sealed door -- the outer vaults, the inner vaults, and “Tremoc Korin” aka the Baneheart. It is likely that the 751st page is in the inner vaults or the Heart of Banes.

When they enter the old manor they find by the umber hulk’s tunnel MAURICE, a gnome fighter with big hands, and KAZINOR the elven cleric of Maduin, a god of magic and secrets. They are faily impressed when they learn these are the folks who stopped the barbarian invasion and saved the city. Emeris lies and says they came here because they heard a halfling at the Ghostly Minstrel talking about this mysterious tunnel. Coincidentally, Maurice and Kazinor are hunting a group that is accompanied by a fiendish halfilng named GUMMERS. Kazinor reveals that for the past month or so, the followers of the demon god Vazdah, have been converging on the city of Elan seeking out a “favored soul” of their dark master. They pursued a group of these Vazdah followers, including one believed to be the favored soul himself, into this house. They are unaware that the tunnel leads to the Banewarrens.

Finally, he warns Emeris about the banes trapped in the Banewarrens. He worries that Emeris’ dark soul will cause him to be tempted, which could be dangerous if even someone of Danar’s power could be utterly corrupted.

The followers of Vazdah only have a 20 minute headstart on the group. Joining forces, the Rosegate Company, the gnome, and the cleric head down the tunnel. Emeris has a sneaking suspicion that the “favored soul” is their missing friend, Aelrich, who they have not seen since the fight against the chaos beast beneath Derby and Anamethe’s house.

In the broken seal area, the companions encounter the followers of Vazdah. There indeed is Aelrich, covered in evil looking full plate mail that is fused to his flesh. He is accompanied by an orc ranger named KULGORI, who wields a battle axe in each hand. There is also TCHE’DENG, an extremely frail humanoid in robes and wrapped in rags. Finally, there is Gummers, the fiendish halfling assassin.

Tche’deng orders Aelrich to kill these enemies, but the favored soul of Vazdah pauses when he recognizes his former friends. Aelrich explains that after the battle with the chaos beast, he sought to remove the curse Vazdah had placed on him. One night, however, Vazdah sent Aelrich a vision, and he learned it was his destiny to find the “Sword of Lies”. The next day, he met Tche’deng and many other members of the Church of Vazda,. who convinced him that he was not cursed but blessed. He says he awoke last night after receiving another vision from Vazdah, which told him the Sword of Lies was in the Banewarrens, which were now open, and that anyone in their way must die.

Maurice and Kazinor are confused as to how Dziga, Emeris, and Aelrich know each other. Emeris tries to convince Aelrich that they should work together, but it seems the favored soul has been essentially brainwashed, convinced that battle is the only option. Dziga and Vatex cut down the Gummers, while Tche’deng casts a haste spell on Kulgori, who charges the others like a whirlwind of blades. Aelrich powers himself up with dark magic. Kazinor is badly wounded but Kulgori eventually dies when Maurice puts the tip of his sword through his heart. Tche’deng a spell on the area and causes Maurice, Vatex, and Kazinor to move as if mired in molasses. Aelrich and Tche’deng unleash various spells at their enemies but they are resisted.

Dziga strikes a blow that should have cut vital organs, only to learn that Tche’deng is only a skeleton under those robes. Tche’deng is taken down by Vatex’s flaming sword, and the group converges on Aelrich, who fights despite hopeless odds. Emeris tells him to yield, but the favored soul of Vazdah will not. Dziga finally kills him, stabbing him twice in the back, then running his blade across Aelrich’s throat as he goes down.

Kazinor casts healing magic upon those wounded in the fight. Emeris lets slip that they are going “back to the Banewarrens”, which exposes the lie they’d told to Kazinor and Maurice. Although trust is very strained, the group patches things up enough explore further. Kazinor and Maurice wonder if that was the last of the followers of Vazdah.

Before returning to the outer vaults, the group decides to investigate the unexplored areas surrounding the sealed door. In one room, the evil of the Banewarrens has animated dead insects into humanoid shapes, creating two wight-like creatures that attack them. Kazinor’s holy turning power causes the undead to cower against the wall. Maurice, Vatex, and Dziga fire guns and arrows, and Emeris casts black fire. The monsters are dispatched without difficulty.

They find signs that mark someone else’s passage. One room contains four ghoul-like creatures that appear to have been hacked violently apart. They also find a hallway full of doors, three of which are open. One opened room is extremely cold, and the floor is covered in water as if ice recently melted. In another room, they find a glass box fixed with straps, meant to hold a roughly man-sized humanoid. Was this the ‘eternal’ cell of ancient dark elf, Tavan Zith? All the other chambers are completely empty, perhaps having been intended for something at one time but unfinished by Danar before the legendary priest was utterly consumed by evil.

Elsewhere, they find a deep empty pit fitted with big chains and manacles, but fortunately holding no monster (which appears to have been the intent). Another room contains a pile of stone that appears to be the result of a large statue of a warrior being shattered. In the room where Kalerecent had hidden for several days while being hunted by one of the Pactlord lamias, they find a bunch of strange tools and brass plates, apparently meant to complete the partially constructed-device of mysterious nature that sits outside the sealed door to the outer vaults.

In another room, behind a door marked with unrecognizably ancient runes, they are attacked by a fierce reddish-purple wraith. It is defeated easily enough. The group moves through various archways connecting different sections of the chamber, and finds an altar holding a massive jewel roughly the same color as the wraith. Dziga disables the traps meant to protect the jewel, and takes it. The group makes their way back to the sealed door, and is attacked by three more wraiths, each appearing a few minutes after the destruction of the one before it. It is deduced that the stone itself is generating the wraiths, so they decide to get rid of it. Dziga runs off and tosses it in the big pit. Regrouping at the sealed door, they step through and back into the outer vaults.