Tuesday, March 15, 2011

EPISODE XLVII: The Banewarrens, Act IV: The Inner Vaults III - The Corrupted Xorn; The Crucified Angel; The Prison Warden Vallacor; The Silver King

August 11-12

The Rosegate Company takes a 20 minute break after fighting the skeletons. When they are ready to proceed, Vatex the elven urban ranger, Early the warblade, Dziga the rogue, and Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster explore the areas west and northwest of the Dread One’s prison within the Banewarrens’ Inner Vaults.

In one area, they find a large bas-relief depicting the Saint Danar, carrying a book in one hand and a dragon-headed scepter in another. He is accompanied by soaring angels, guarding him with bows drawn. In the picture, Danar is touching the scepter to a Sealed Door. Does the image depict the “sealing rod” mentioned by Geristranomos?

North, they bypass a dangerous, malfunctioning electrical trap that blasts Vatex badly. Beyond is a dusty corridor marked with various bones. It hides another frightening trap, which causes magical green dust to fall from the ceiling, which both paralyzes and causes cellular degeneration when inhaled. This dangerous area must be accessed many times to explore the connecting rooms.

In a large octogon shaped vault, they they encounter the xorn mentioned earlier by the slaadi. It seems the native of the Elemental Plane of Earth came here through the Conflagration, escaped the slaadi, and found its way to a bane vault full of hundreds of evil, cursed gems. It ate all but one of the gems (a particularly awful one that it would not eat), and it now corrupted and full of evil, and trapped in this place (it does not realize it can now leave the Banewarrens, although returning to the Elemental Plane of Earth would be impossible due to Enhasa’s problematic cosmology). When it emerges from the stone floor as easily as a fish jumping out of the water, it insists in its native language that it must be fed gems, between bouts of spewing repulsive quantities of black vomit. No one in the group speaks Terran, of course, but fortunately Vatex has a comprehend languages spell from the Grim One, and uses it to understand the outsider.

Upon hearing the request, Emeris and Vatex debate giving it gems or simply killing it. Emeris thinks feeding it gems from the slaadi cave is a waste, but Vatex feeds the thing a couple of topazes which it chomps down happily. But it wants more! And when the xorn starts getting very aggressive, the groups decides that the corrupted, black-vomit-spewing xorn is not worth their hard-earned gems -- the resulting melee lasts only 15 seconds. Though virtually invisible by wrapping himself in the essence of shadow, Dziga’s sneak attack is thwarted by the xorn’s ability to detect the slightest vibration of anything touching the ground, and his daggers fail to get through the tough hide of the thing. Early channels the Vajra through his mind and his Soaring Raptor Strike and Death From Above maneuvers strike telling blows. Vatex jumps at the monster, reversing the grip on his swords and driving them both deep. In a fluid motion, he pulls the swords free with a gout of blood, and savagely cuts a half dozen other cuts into the xorn before kicking himself away. Emeris finishes the creature, blasting a hole clean through its body with a lance of shadow energy. Vatex cuts through the stinking, putrid guts of the creature trying to find topazes -- when he does, it seems they are mostly dissolved by stomach acid.

Dziga takes the last remaining evil gem from its glass case, the one the xorn did not eat even after all this time. They later learned it was a Gem of Evil Visions, an unpleasant item that helped the possessor resist profound terror, by sending the possessor awful nightmares to desensitize them. They ended up selling it for 1000 gold.

They find another empty vault, and another vault that has been coverted to a prison for a crucified angel -- one of the Dread One’s prisoners. After all these millennia, the angel is actually still alive -- its dessicated corpse instantly rejuvenating when taken down from the inverted iron cross to which it was nailed, and appearing as an astral deva named CALLIN.

Callin thanks them, and heals them of their wounds inflicted by the xorn, but instantly detects evil from Emeris and Dziga, so he does not empower the group with other holy auras to aid them in their exploration. The angel says he cannot return home, but the duties of heaven on earth await him even after 20 thousand years, and with that he disappears -- but before he does, Early quicks asks him if he knows anything about Kyuss. Callin regards the Wormgod as an odd topic, and gives him the name of a location: “Kaluth-Mar.”

The group takes a moment to consider the legend of the Banewarrens, and if it lives up to its lore or if its history has been overhyped by thousands of years of distortions. Is the place’s raison d’etre justified? There is some disagreement, but either way the group does not seem to consider just how little of the Banewarrens they have actually seen -- nor do they seem to realize that they have still only explored what Danar would have originally considered “minimum security areas”, relatively speaking.

East of these vaults, the group enters a torture chamber inhabited by the lich, Vallacor, one of the Dread One’s lieutenants. He has remained here all this time, unliving, undying, bound here by his master’s power. He remains as sadistic as ever, and seems overjoyed by the appearance of the companions, hoping to capture and torture them.

Vallacor assaults the group with spells. Dziga, Early, and Vatex find they seemingly do nothing against the lich with their weapons, so Emeris disappears into the shadows and begins assaulting Vallacor’s mind itself with shadowy power. Dziga resorts to his hacked wand of fireballs, and hits the lich at point blank range with a scorching globe of magic flame as he flips backwards away from the blast. He fires another blast as the lich retreats, and Emeris continues destroying Vallacor’s willpower. Eventually, the lich’s is so damaged it can no longer control its undead body. Emeris takes this chance to blast the lich’s corpse with shadow magic until it is utterly destroyed.

Exploring the room turns up a secret door. Dziga sends his shadow companion to scout, and it telepathically describes a room with what seems to be a...dragon! At least, a dragon trapped in some sort of impenetrable glass-like substance in the floor. After the effort against the lich, the shadowcaster is thoroughly drained and everyone else is low on healing supplies. A possible fight against a dragon is out of the question. They’re not even sure they want to fight a dragon at top condition. A trip back to the surface is in order.

The Banewarrens are silent around them, and they encounter no one else on the way back. On the surface, they head for the Adventurers’ Square. Before they can get down to shopping, they have an odd encounter.

A trio of warriors, a half-elf, a half-orc, and a human, approach group with an angry look. The half-elf accuses Dziga of raping his sister! Dziga nearly chokes at hearing the outlandish claim, for he has never done such a thing. The half-elf will hear nothing of it, and the group attacks.

Huge mistake. The Rosegate Company slaughters them in seconds, creating quite a mess in the middle of the square. There are some questions about the incident by the City Guard but the witnesses back up that the Rosegate Company did not start the fight and only defended themselves, albeit with extreme retaliatory force. (Either that, or they are too afraid to say anything negative about the powerful adventurers...)

Vatex gets his torque of deplacement, special ordered a few weeks ago, and buys an odd fedora that enhances his defenses. He also buys gloves that allow him to modify the energy produced by his flaming sword. Somewhat worried about the iron golem, Early tries to find adamantine weapons for sale, but melee weapons are pretty much no-go. At the urban ranger’s recommendation he visits the Shuul’s smoke shop and does get some adamantine bullets. Dziga tries to get adamantine tipped arrows but the Shuul say they don’t waste time selling ammunition for “primitive technology like bows.” So he orders an adamantine corrosive magic rapier from the Dreaming Apothecary.

The group sleeps back at their mansion, then at midnight returns to the Banewarrens, and goes back to the secret door in the torture chamber. The group figures that the dragon might be SAGGARINTYS, aka “the Silver King,” one of Danar’s allies. If it is a silver dragon, Emeris doesn’t want to get close to it -- he fears it would identify him by his half-shadow-dragon nature and kill him on sight. So the evil members of the Rosegate Company, Dziga and Emeris, stay behind while Early and Vatex check out the room with the glass floor.

They verify the shadow’s observation -- it certainly looks like a dragon in the floor, unmoving and apparently frozen in the smoky, glass-like substance in the floor. Dziga’s incorporeal shadow companion cannot move through the substance, whatever it is.

A large silver throne, apparently sized for an adult dragon to sit on it, floats 30 feet in the air. As there is no sign of the dragon being able to come out, the companions regroup, and then explore a small room to the east of the trapped dragon. They find a wall covered in plates of various materials -- and when they press all the silver plates in the correct order, the glass floor dissolves and they end Saggarintys’ 20,000 year long imprisonment.

The Silver King is not happy. In fact, he seems full of delirious rage. Dziga and Emeris hide in the shadows of the small room (for all the good it will do against a dragon with blindsense) while Early and Vatex go out to attempt to speak with him.

The huge dragon sees them and seems to have no idea how long has passed since he was last free. “Servants of the Dread One, plundering the Banewarrens!” he roars upon seeing the two companions step out. The warblade and elf try to reason with the dragon, saying they at not the Dread One’s servants...but to no avail. The enraged dragon breathes a devastating cone of cold breath upon them.

When the blast of frigid destruction clears, Early and Vatex run back towards the stairs down to the torture chamber. Dziga hurries behind them. Strangely, Emeris stays behind in the small room and simply waits.

Saggarintys storms around the room for some time, pacing, pounding on the ground with his legs and tail, muttering to himself, then at last seems to calm down. At this time, Emeris calls out to him. Saggarintys moves to the small room and peers inside, seeing Emeris plainly despite the power of the Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis. Saggarintys threatens to slaughter Emeris, correctly assuming his shadow dragon bloodline makes him tend towards evil. But Emeris tries to be diplomatic, and allays violence by giving the dragon information.

He explains that the Dread One was already defeated so long ago, and the Banewarrens were opened by evil forces. Emeris he says the Holy Order of Vigoor has learned that the Sword of Truth which was locked away in the Banewarrens by Danar by mistake. He says he and his companions must get the Sword of Lies so it can be restored to its true and good form.

This is true, and Saggarintys can tell as much. But does the silver dragon realize the Emeris is not telling the whole truth -- that the main reason they want to get deeper into the Banewarrens is to get more evil loot so they become more powerful, and especially acquire the 751st page of the Book of Inverted Shadows.

Saggarintys announces he must go to the “warding generators” posthaste and analyze the status of the Banewarrens there. But first he must decide what to do with the half-shadow dragon and his questionable allies.

Next time: Can Emeris convince the Silver King to let them go deeper into the Banewarrens?

Random Elanian Factoid: There was a phase in which the Holy Order of Vigoor was far less tolerant of arcane magic and divergent beliefs than it is now. It released the “Edict of Deviltry,” claiming all arcane spellcasting to be an evil act. The more enlightened modern Holy Order later rescinded the Edict.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

EPISODE XLVI: The Banewarrens, Act IV: The Inner Vaults II - The Conflagration; Fiendish Shades

August 11

Within the sanctuary of the Betrayed, Emeris the shadowcaster, Early the warblade, Vatex the tempest, and Vatex the shadowdancer rest. The creepy, chant-like drone that whispers through the chamber is deeply unsettling, and seems to spawn nightmares shared by the group, in which the Betrayed returns to life and brutally murders them with sharpened holy symbol, raving madly of profanities too awful to be mentioned. The group sleeps under the watch of Dziga’s shadow companion. In the morning, the party explores the chambers to the west.

Past a chamber suffused with the horrible smell of rotting flesh, they find a message written by the Dread One himself. It speaks of how he converted the vaults in the southwest portion of the Inner Vaults into a prison, overseen by the warden, a lich called VALLACOR. They also find an iron box containing 24 brass keys. The companions are a little wary about encountering a lich, if this warden is still around after all this time.

They find most of the so-called prison seems to have been destroyed in some sort of powerful magical incident gone awry. A massive chamber contains a powerful energy field, which Emeris identifies as a tear in the fabric of reality itself. In the center of the chamber is a smoldering pit from which a couple of slaadi, a red and a blue, emerge. They came here hundreds of years ago through the conflagration, and have since eaten anything else that has come through every ten or twenty years, except for a xorn that got away recently. Blasted by random blasts of force as they battle the toad-like monsters within the energy field, the group defeats them and explores their cave near the bottom of the pit, where a superheated liquid morass of disrupted matter churns like boiling oil. Emeris flies down and searches quickly, blasted by force damage, and recovers the bits of treasure the slaadi had collected over the years -- various gems and random valuables.

South of the conflagration, the group passes an exposed vault, its walls destroyed long ago by the energy field and its contents looted. East of this, they safely bypass the traps and mechanisms surrounding another vault, in which they discover a long, narrow room that rises up two levels, connected by staircases that run up the center. The stairs are flanked by iron railings forged with a sword motif, leading up to an altar similarly designed. A skeleton clutching a book is laying on the altar. Various rusty swords are scattered about. As Dziga examines the altar, five ancient demonic shades called Caligrostos pick up the scattered swords. In their hands, the rusted swords transform into magically empowered blades of supernatural sharpness and perfect construction. Each demonic spirit is fiendish and feminine in appearance, with wings, horns, and vicious teeth.

What follows is a battle that taxes the companions greatly. The caligrosto is incorporeal only until it strikes its opponent, at which points it takes on a physical manifestation that looks like a fiendish version of the person it struck, increasing its power against that person and causing wounds meant to kill the shade to manifest upon the victim whose form it has taken.

The Rosegate Company is victorious in the end, but only while suffering tremendous injuries. They leave a pile of empty healing potion vials behind them and check out the book held by the skeleton on the altar. This ancient volume, barely readable from its age, seems to consist of largely fanciful prose pieces about Danar and his friends. One passage in particular is circled inside:

“And thus Danar said to the Knight, Gerantfried, “Go forth and find the Guardian Seraph who holds the Sword of Flame.” To do so, Gerantfried had to travel through strange lands, where he met the Lillend. She sang a beautiful song and introduced her companion, Thrune, the Peaceful One. But the song delayed him, and Regarax the Half-Dragon attacked Parnaith as she collected her lovely jewels. It was Bastion, the Four-Winged Angel of the Morning, who saved them all in the end.”

Someone, in a much cruder hand, had previously scrawled the named “Maleficite,” in the margin and drawn a line to the words “Four-Winged Angel.” They are disappointed when after this tough battle, they are unable to find anything of value in this chamber. They hope the page of circled prose gives a hint for something deeper within the Banewarrens.

On the west side of the conflagration the company explores a vault full of skeletons chained to walls. As they enter, a full-plate clad skeleton warrior wielding a sonic greatsword and wearing a helmut with big over-sized horns emerges from a backroom, and the chained skeletons stand up, firing blasts of energy from their eyes. Emeris and Vatex move among the chained skeletons, dodging blasts of energy and taking them down one by one with shadow magic and steel. Dziga and Early rush the skeleton warrior. The warblade and shadowdancer suffer a few glancing blows but fell the undead fighter quickly, as the elf and the half-dragon continue against the skeletons, which have become quite annoying at this point. It takes several hits against each to smash it sufficiently that it no longer fires bolts of energy..

When the group is finished with the fight, they are quite worn out -- and they have been exploring for less than two hours! Dungeon crawling is hard work, even at this power level. They decide to take a break after taking the skeleton warrior’s valuables, wondering if they have enough resources to continue onwards for at least a little longer...

Next time: The companions are making slow progress, but have they finally taken the lead in the hunt for Banewarrens loot?

Random Elanian Factoid: The Dread One was that rarest of villains who reveled in evil and darkness for its own sake, the way a noble hero might defend goodness for its own sake. Utterly corrupted by darkness, the Dread One was motivated entirely by hatred for the noble soul he had once been. For him, light was darkness and darkness light. He hated life, nature, and all things born of the Creator. Kindness, compassion, love -- these qualities he considered contemptible. Misery, hate, pain spoke to him, and depravity, destruction, and malice became the objects of his lust.