Wherein the characters follow the Kobolds into the tomb of the ancient stargazers.
The adventures stand tense, eyes flitting between the shadows. The death shadows seem to have been defeated. The light that had coalesced from the faint sunbeams has dispersed. It is once again gloomy, foggy, and quiet.
They are gathered at the the base of a crumbling staircase, next to pair of rune covered menhirs towering around the broken stone entrance to ancient carne. The twisted husks of two kobolds lie crumpled as the entryway. Their skin is blackened, their teeth gone, their eyes hollowed. Horrific grimaces adorn their withered faces.
Broken breaks the silence, “Damn. That was tough.”
Meander looks over, “I guess we have to go inside. What’s over there?” He proceeds to walk over to the entryway.
Broken exclaims excitedly, “Hey! I’ve got a new toy we can use.”
Meander say, “Let me see!”
Broken fumbles around in his pack, and extracts and unwraps some spindly metal creation wrapped in shadows. He carefully places a little metal skeletal figure of a spider that is held together with wisps of jet black smoke onto the ground. The jet black smoke appears to be the same as the animated shadows Broken used against the Zombies. The spider begins to quietly skitter towards the door.
Meander frowns, “What the heck is that! You have a pet spider?”
While Broken and Meander talk about Broken’s new creation, Ember takes a moment to perform some healing on the spiritual wounds caused by the death shadows.
Broken responds, “Ahh. I do.”
“So you’ve made a spider out of shadow?”
“I have. Yes. I have made a spider out of shadow.”
“So what does it do.”
“I can see through it.”
“It’s made of shadow, of course you can see through it.”
“Ok, Oxdriver. Let me explain. I send this into the ruins…”
Ember quips in the back, “And when he says Oxdriver, he means peasant.”
“… and the spider will tell me what and whom is there, so that we can kill them first before they attack us. So to put this in tiny itty bitty Oxdriver terms, this is a scout.”
Meander looks puzzled. “But we already have… well… ok. Did we need a scout?”
“Well, after looking over our previous encounters, we could always use another scout.”
“Ok. Alright, let’s save your spider. I’m going to go in and see what’s going on in there. And then if I get into trouble, you can send your spider in then.”
“The spider can only scout right now. It is smaller than you. It has a better… It is in its natural environment. You stay here.”
Ember says to Meander, “It his new toy, let him play with it.”
“I have not had a chance to use it yet. This is its debut. Oh sorry. This is his time to shine, for you simple Oxdrivers.”
“Well, I still want to look over at the stairs before the spider goes in.” He takes a few steps over the to portals edge and peers into the hallway beyond.
Once the entrance to the burial mound was smooth stone, covered in wards and curses, but now the seal lies in blasted shards. Darkness beacons beyond this cold welcome, and a rasping hollow laughter echos forth from the broken seal.
Meander gestures and mumbles to himself as his eyes fill up with black smoke. Meander peers down the bright passageway down into the mound. The stairs proceed down about 20 steps, ending in a pool of water.
The spider crawls to the edge of the entryway and stops. Broken urges it onward but it begins to curls up like a hurt spider. He can’t determine what is stopping the spider. It doesn’t feel any pain but it can’t pass the edge of the portal.
“Ok fine. Go Meander! Walk through it.”
“Well, I thought you were going to send your spider in?”
“Well apparently it is magically protected. I can’t send magic beings through it just by themselves.”
Meander asks quietly to Broken, “But aren’t we all kindof part magic?”
“Well you definitely aren’t, since you are an Oxdriver. I mean I might not be able to go through.”
Meander shakes his head. “Ok fine. I’ll go through… quietly. Oh! I need to leave my axe here, because it glows. So I’ll set it down.” He sets down the Dwarven battle axe next to the entrance and then creeps through the entryway.
As he passes through entryway, he skin feels strange. It isn’t painful, but it feels like his skin is crawling. Meander turns back to the group and says tentatively, “There is something here that makes me feel really weird.”
Broken exclaims, “That’s it! I’m going to dispel it.”
“Why don’t you use all your smartness stuff and figure out what it is before you get rid of it.”
“No! I’m just going to go ‘Boomya’ and dispel it.”
“Alright. Watch it snap back and slap you in the face.”
Broken takes a moment and inspects the entryway. After some more careful inspection, he notices a few glyphs that were not blasted off with the door. They appear to be intact and some of them may still be active. “Runes still active.”
Meander turns to step out of the mound, then begins to look at the runes. “Which one is active?” He begins to point at the symbols. “Is it that one?”
Broken “So, I’ve got a solution. Hit it really hard. Break the letters.”
“That’s your plan?”
“I can dispel it, or I can hit it.”
ToughBark gesturing at Stone Man said, “Maybe he should go up and do it.”
Broken can tell that the magic should affect anything that crosses the portal.
Meander reiterated, “It is not actually painful. It just makes me feel weird.”
“Well, there is weird like, ‘Oh shit I can’t cast my spell’, and then there is weird like I’m sprouting flowers.”
“Well ok – hang on. Let’s see. We can figure this out. One at a time. Let’s see if I can cast something.”
Broken said, “I think we should just break it. Why can’t we just break it. These were primitive people anyway. Why don’t we just break it?”
Meander begins gesturing for a moment, as lightning crackles over the surface of his skin, causing his muscles to bulge.
“Well, you might be able to go through, but if my Golems can’t go through… I’m breaking it.”
Meander ends the spell and then steps out of the carne.
Broken says, “Well lets see if Stone Man can go through.” Stone Man walks up to the entryway and begin to recoil from the entrance. He can not seem to pass through the entrance. “Ok I’m breaking it!”
“Can you break it?”
“Stone Man can break it.”
Meander moves away from the entrance. “I don’t want to be there when Stone Man smashes the entrance, making a huge sound and alerting everyone in the whole place that we are out here. I’m just saying. I mean, why don’t we get a big drum, and we can play that at the entrance too.”
Ember, ’Let me come up and look before you do something rash."
Meander points back, “The stairs go down and there is still water at the bottom of the steps. A room opens up at the bottom of the steps.”
Broken and Ember begin to inspect the entryway. Ember notices the active runes on the entryway. They are powerful anti-grave robbing runes that will put a nasty curse on anyone passing the entrance. He looks at Meander, “We need to talk.” He turns back to the entrance. He can tell that the runes will stop spells from going through the portal, which is why the golems are unable to pass.
Broken thinks he could cast a dispel and temporarily take down the spell, but that it would come back. The spells seem to cover the entire complex, so if it comes back on, and we are still inside, then we would be cursed. Also, the curse’s effect is cumulative and gets worse over time.
Ember decides that the runes could be removed through the use of a more powerful remove curse spell. Physically destroying the runes could cause the spell to fail, but they have weathered hundreds of years and it would be unlikely to be able to harm the stone.
Meander asks, “Could we subvert the magic like the Kobold’s did? Like with animal parts and stuff? Does anyone know how to do that?”
Ember and Broken glare momentarily at Meander. “No. And we don’t have a Kobold.”
Ember turns to Meander, “This is a hard thing to say to you, but you’ve been cursed.”
Meander stares at him blankly. “Ok… I’ve been cursed before.”
“I’m not sure what this will do, but if anyone goes inside there it will effect them. And the longer you are in there the more it will affect you.” Ember turns to Broken, “Your creatures can’t go in there.”
Meander struggles for a moment and then says, “So you are telling me that if I can run through there really fast…”
Ember replied, “In for a penny, in for a pound. You are already fucked. What’s the difference?”
“But you said it gets worse.”
“I don’t know what the time frames are.”
Ember smiles, “I wouldn’t recommend going back in there unless we can deal with it right now. It is possible that we can maybe… disrupt it for a moment. But they will come back on.”
“So I’m already cursed. Can you tell what it has done to me?”
“Oh, I thought you were a healer with magical abilities like that.”
“I don’t think that anything that is done to you would be obvious yet.”
Ember begins to consider possible options. There are clerical spells that could remove the curse, but he has not been favored with one of these spells from his god. The spell would have to be powerful, because the runes would be protected from removal. To acquire the spell would require a religious quest. This would take time. Normally these quests are performed over the course of days in an appropriate setting. The fastest that he could perform this quest would be just under a half hour.
Meander speaks out to the group, “The lumberjacks have been brought to this place. The tracks lead right up to this entrance. ToughBark, you tracked them to this door, right?” Tough nods solemnly.“So, we don’t need to sit around for a couple of days and figure out a way to subvert it.”
Ember, after a few moments of introspection, says, “I think I might be able to search for a solution, but I need a church. Unfortunately, one doesn’t exist.”
Broken says, “You can use my wagon.”
Meander, “Do you have a church built into your wagon?”
“Why, I have things like it… What is a church, but a science lab for the soul?”
Ember adds, “So actually, he probably has a hearth.” He pauses for a few moments more. “We are going to have to fall back to a defensive position so I can do this.”
Meander says sheepishly, “Ok… So where do we go?”
Tough Bark says, “I don’t know, we are kind of hanging out here in the open.”
Broken also spent time examining and considering his options. He has a disrupt spell that would definitely work for a short time, but he is not sure if the spell will just come back after a short time. He begins to mutter to himself while studying the archway. “if I disrupt it hard enough and it will break.”
Meander says, “No, don’t you have to change it into…”
“I don’t really care about that religious mumbo-jumbo. I do LOGICAL. Logic says, ‘Disrupt it!’ and that’s what I’ll do.”
After some more study, they agree that Ember should attempt to study this new prayer. Ember says to the group, “So where should we go?”
Broken answers, “We should go to the wagon. It is not by the front door, and it is a secure place with a self defense system. Plus it has room… for all of us.”
Meander scratches his head for a moment and then announces, “While that sounds reasonable, I think I want to stay here and guard the door.”
Broken answers somewhat irritated, “Well, then we can split up. People that want to make sure that Ember doesn’t die on his religious quest can go watch him and be safe with a nice hearth and lots of beer. While other people can stay here and watch the door.”
Meander muttered, “I just figured he would burn for a few minutes, he could actually die?”
Embed said defensively, “That only happens if I fuck up.”
Broken added, “… which tends to happen with religion. But that’s just from what I hear.”
“Oh! Big talk from someone who has been healed by me so many times.”
“It’s just what I hear man, nothing personal.”
So the group walks back to the wagon, leaving Meander to stand idly by the door. Once they get to the wagon, Ember sits down near the hearth and begins to chant. His chant slowly builds, becoming more and more feverish in pitch. ToughBark begins to look a bit nervous from a rumble of thunder outside the wagon. Ember continues to chant as his skin turns red as if sunburned and sweat beads up, running down his face. As his chants reach its feverish crescendo, flames erupts all around his body, causing him to scream in agony. The flames flicker all around Ember, engulfing him in holy fire, but appear to leave the wagon and his clothes unharmed. After the flames die down, he looks pained, but triumphant.
As the group reenters the clearing, the foggy dire area has become extremely overcast with dark clouds gathered just beyond the height of the trees. Meander still stands near the entrance fingering a strange medallion at his neck, staring guiltily at a smoking, blackened bush a few paces from him. He awkwardly puts the medallion back and leans innocently back against the mound.
Ember walks up to Meander, who is waiting at the door.Ember raises his symbol and intones a stern chant against curses. A fiery radiance spreads out towards Meander, encompassing him in a warm glow. After the glow fades, Meander pats himself, looks at Ember and says, “I don’t think it worked.”
“I don’t think I was cursed.”
“Well, you certainly aren’t now regardless.”
Ember turns to the door and begins chanting again. Light spreads towards the arch, causing the runes to glow like coals. As he finishes his chant, several of the runes burst apart, spraying the entryway with small rocks. After further inspection, the curse looks broken, ruined for good.
ToughBark chimes in, “So, I’m thinking can’t that spider go in now?”
Ember “Give it a try, it’ll tell you if the curse is really gone or not.”
Broken says with a grin, “So, we are all on board. The spider is now wanted instead of Meander running in.”
Meander looks back, “No! I totally want to run in.”
“Uh .. alright. I’ll try to send the spider in.”
The shadowy mechanical spider creeps through the entryway, blending into the shadows. The spider stops at the bottom of the stairs. Broken can see through the eyes of the spider golem.
The sound of bubbling water echos here and the air is dank and warm. In every corner of the room, a fountain bubbles and smokes with mists of white hot vapor rising from the carved needle filled maws of some strange fishlike creatures. The stone effigies of this strange race are rendered in elegant repose, spouting water from their mouths not basins made by their cradle arms. The fountain in the northwest corner is smashed to bits, rubble now mostly dams the flow of whatever hot spring feeds it, but warm water pools around its base, slowly pooling into the center of the room.
Broken says, “Yeah, it looks like really hot steam that hurts.” He has the spider begin to climb the walls, over onto the ceiling, and then down the far side. At that point, Broken looses sight through the spider. He tells the group, “I can only make it to one room right now. The spider is small and his little senses cannot get to me. So I can go per room. The first room is just a bunch of bolding hot water. I have to get closer for it to get farther.”
Meander looks excited, “Well alright! I’ll go in.” He quietly sneaks down the stairs, stopping at the edge of the water. Meander reaches down to touch the water, which is hot, but doesn’t appear to be hot enough to burn him. Broken and ToughBark follow him down the hallway. Meander quickly slinks across the water, aiming for the dry corner of the room, as watery tendrils come alive from the pools in the four corners. Meander whirls about and begins to cast a spell, forming a crackling glowing bubble around him.
Broken peers knowingly water demons, gathers up a few pebbles, charges them with magic and throws them harmlessly towards tendrils.
Ember calls from the back, “What’s going on?”
Meander calls out, “Water demons are attacking us.”
“Broken, do I need to stay out of the way for Stone Man to come in?”
“Uhhh .. well.. Yeah you should stay out of the way. Well, no. Go ahead and try to do something.”
“I have no targets. I can’t see anything. Try to draw them out.”
Ember tries to move into position to see one of the demons.
ToughBark draws an arrow moves around to aim past Broken, targeting one of the tendrils. The arrow flies through the tendril, causing it to splash and twitch.
The water demon lashed out at Meander, striking his shield with a steamy blast of water, causing Meander some minor pain. The other two demons attack and miss Meander and Broken.
Stone Man pushes past Ember to enter the hallway.
Meander grabs his spear and sweeps out, striking at the two water demons nearby. The spear splashes through the water demons, they seem mildly disrupted, but seem relatively unfazed.
Broken picks up more rocks and throws them at the nearest water demon. They clatter harmlessly around the creature.
Ember begins to cast a spell in the background.
ToughBark draws back hard on the bow, attempting to shoot through two of demos lined up perfectly in front of him. The arrow comes loose just as he releases and clangs harmlessly off the ceiling.
Meander lets the spear drift down and spins the spear around, striking with the butt end of the spear. This seems to do even less damage to the demons than before. Meander seems exasperated, “So maybe one of you super smart guys should figure out how attack them with something other than weapons. Why don’t you freeze them?”
Broken answers, “Freeze! I don’t see any ice cubes or frost around here. I don’t change them, I just bring them to life.”
“Well, they’ve already come to life. Dispel them or something.”
“I’ve been trying! I’ve negatively charged rocks that should dispel them.”
“You could use shadows. "
Broken, frustrated by the creatures, slips back up the stairs behind ToughBark. ToughBark looks about nervously, realizing that he is now on the front lines. One of the tendrils strikes out toward ToughBark, but he easily dodges.
The other two water demons splash about, missing Meander. He swings his spear wildly in return at the nearest watery demon. The tendrils move easily out of the way.
Broken scoops up more pebbles and throws them at the nearest water creature. The pebbles strike the water’s surface and sparkle and zap. The creature recoils from the attack.
Ember finishes his spell and his eyes glow brightly with inner fire. He becomes aware of the creatures.
ToughBark blasted an arrow right through the watery “head” of one of the creatures and then retreats a few steps up the stairwell. It blasts apart and then water boils up to reform the head. It seems most displeased. Its arms stretch out from its side and shoot toward ToughBark. He dodges out of the way.
The other two demons strike at Meander, hitting his arm and hip, but his armor and shield absorb most of the blows. Meander focuses all his effort into animating the shadows. He begins to cast, gesturing to the shadow.
Broken peers at the watery creation. After an analysis of the creature, he can tell that he was very close to dispelling the creature with his last attack. He picks up a few more pebbles and lobs them at the creature. They crackle with energy as they strike the demon. Again the creature visibly shudders at the attack, but stays intact.
Ember’s hands begin to smoke menacingly as he begins a spell. ToughBark looks back at StoneMan and turns back to the demons. He steps up just enough to attack, loosing another arrow, which passes through the creature, and then retreats back a few steps.
Meander finishes his spell. The shadows coalesces in the darkest corner of the room. The shadow launches a black bolt at the water demon. When the bolt strikes the water creature, the water freezes, pinning the creature to the spot.
The creature was reaching out to strike ToughBark with its super long arms, but turns to Broken instead. Broken quickly scoops up yet another handful of pebbles and throws them at it. The charged pebbles strike the water creature, energy pulses over the surface of the water for a brief moment, and then the water cascades to the floor with a huge splash.
Ember finishes his spell, smoke racing from his hangs down the stairs to strike the spirit inside the water. The water flames up for a minute, the spirit twitching and thrashing about.
The water elemental wraps its tendrils around Meander and pull him inside the water. He attempts to break free, and disparately thrashes as he can’t breathe inside the water.
Stone Man charges past ToughBark on the stairs and changes up to one of the elementals.
Meander still struggles to break free of the water demon’s grasp. He manages to struggle out of the water, gasping for breath as he gets free. He had neglected to direct the animated shadows, but fortunately, the shadow attacked one of the elementals, freezing the water around the bolt.
Broken can’t decide what spell would be best in this situation, so he rests against the wall while considering. Ember’s eyes fade as he begins casting another spell and his hands begin smoking again. Tough Bark moves around to get line of sight to the elemental, targeting the one already frozen. The arrow passes through the elemental, shattering all the ice and freeing the elemental. It seems barely effected by the damage caused by the arrow.
Both elementals turn to Meander and lash out with their long spindly arms. He leans away from the first, but is caught by grasp of the other elemental. Meander is pulled back inside the watery body of the elementals. He starts struggling to get free, letting the crackling shield fade from around him and the shadows in the corner quiet. He manages to overcome the currents inside the watery creature, bursting out with a gasp.
Stone Man stands in the steaming water, engaging one of the elementals. He swings his massive sword through the creature, parting the waters into two and sending a spray of water across the room. The top half of the splashes down as more surges up, meeting with the water from above, reforming almost effortlessly.
Broken casts a quick spell, causing another watery creature to rise out up and fight against the others. It lashes out with long tendrils, but the other elemental bends out of the way.
Ember howls in pain as his spell fizzles as flames leap up his arms. Tough Bark continues to fire arrows through the water elementals. He shoots through the creatures middle, arrow passing through and clattering against the wall behind.
Meander grabs his axe and sweeps through the water demon. Water streams off his axe, and the creature reforms without a scratch. Broken directs his water elemental to attack. It narrowly misses the nearest water demon. Ember shakes off the pain from the failed spell.
The water demon next to Stone Man engulfs Stone Man in water. Stone Man begins to move out of the water, but the demon manages to keep him surrounded. Meander attacks the creature near him, striking it with the axe with little apparent effect.
Broken directs the water. A stream of water strikes the water demon, causing it to loose cohesion and fall with a splash. Ember begins another spell, smoke wafting from his hands. Tough Bark continues his onslaught, turning to the last demon and sending and arrow through its wavy form.
Stone Man finally free, turns and immediately strikes the remaining elemental with a downward sweep of his great sword. He cleaved the creature in two, but the two halves rise up and reform.
Meander grips the bug symbol around his neck, mumbling arcane words. He slumps and sighs as nothing seems to happen. Ember points to the elemental, and smoke races around Broken, ToughBark and Stone Man to strike the water demon. Flames burst up around the creature, and the water falls with a splash.
The group takes a moment to look around, but the water creatures appear to have been vanquished. The water is still, as steam rises from the bubbling corners of the room. They take a moment to catch their breath, but cackling laughter from the rooms beyond remind them of their duty to the poor captured lumberjacks held by the undead Kobold king.