Basically Fantastic, session 11. Siege of Dolmen Keep

Kestrel, Calendel, Annonciade, and Søren rose early to prepare for the siege. The people in the keep redistributed ammunition, unstintingly supplying the elf with all the longbow arrows, and giving Annonciade a quiver full for her custom bow.

The Strikers led by Cally Griffon, and the hill people led by Serako, kept their distance from each other. Both in the keep and later in the tower and on the wall next to it, they were kept in line by Sir Carnifex’s son Wyatt.

Calendel discovered the tallest tower of the narrow-hipped keep had a massive horn wrapped around a plinth of stone, with “Mister Honk” engraved on its flank. The adventurers also inspected the dozens of “chuckables,” heavy rocks strategically located on the walls to throw down on attackers. Unfortunately the oil reserve for defense had been depleted by keeping the lamps lit, and there wasn’t enough to also use it for defense. The keep only had sufficient food for a week or two; they were not prepared for a siege.

A group of Failcrafters had also arrived, Ganivin and four acolytes. They came to answer the call for adventurers, but they did not socialize much.

The Siege

A tide of tasloi surged up the naked hill; all bushes and trees nearby had been torn to pieces to supply them with sharp sticks for throwing and stabbing. The defenders poured ammunition into the rush, killing piles of tasloi. Survivors that made it to the wall crouched or knelt, and formed a foundation that others climbed upon to also brace themselves; they made a siege ramp out of their bodies and swarmed up the walls flanking the gate.

They were met by Kestrel on one side and Tarf on the other, both supported by lesser warriors and provided with cover fire from Søren’s magical onslaught, Calendel’s tasloi-kebab longbow arrows, and Annonciade’s trip-hammer archery.

Hails of javelins rattled off the tower, stabbing the archers a bit with the occasional lucky shot, and there was quickly work for the swordsmen to do.

Again and again the tasloi morale faltered and their wavering ramps collapsed, again and again they were driven back from the wall in screaming defeat. The gate was damaged, and Greenfellow the troll was on the other side; at one point he jammed his arm through the gate’s gap up to the shoulder, and snatched at tasloi, crushing them with his mighty paw.

The adventurers slew the weedy tasloi by the handful, sometimes killing a number of them in a quick succession of seconds, blurred frenzies of slaughter. Archers coaxed the most possible mortality from their ammunition, killing multiple close-packed foes with each shaft.

Clerics and medics tended the wounded between waves of assault, the gate was reinforced with the last of the keep’s tables, and the tasloi encircled the whole keep. Several waves attempted to climb walls at the rear of the castle, some tasloi getting high enough to be slain by hill steel or Striker blades. Wyatt successfully suppressed some flaring tempers between the hill people and the Strikers. Only at the end did they face enough of an assault that Kestrel rushed to the flank to drive some of the tasloi off, shifting the balance of the rush towards failure.

Hope in the Dark

Exhausted and drenched in blood, the defenders were grateful for the end of day when the tasloi retreated to rest. Sir Carnifex invited them to his table, as they were key in the survival of the keep. They speculated about what ELSE might be drawn to the keep by the blood trails and/or the masses of tasloi.

Sir Carnifex quietly confided in them that he thought their best chance for success lie in consulting with an elfmaid who was half a day’s walk from the keep, Torrian the Slayer. (He also had a mortal crush on the eldritch creature, which never ends well.) He gave them his secret password, “Coriander” in Elven, and they agreed to go through the tasloi crowds outside to consult with her.

After supper, Calendel took Sir Carnifex aside and gave him the Zomokite Book of Power. Sir Carnifex was not aware of Zomok, so Calendel told him if the situation became desperate, Sir Carnifex could write his name in the book and make a wish, though the cost would be dear. Sir Carnifex thanked him for his eldritch gift.

They got a little rest and some food, and dug deep into their reserves for another push. After a hard day of slaughter, they put in a long night, slipping through the drowsing tasloi nests and walking through the darkness.

Torrian the Slayer

As dawn filtered into the sky, they crossed over a stream into the elvenwood of Torrian the Slayer. They were intercepted by a cougar, and when Calendel said the password, the cougar led them along an oblique path to the breathtaking glade where Torrian the Slayer lived.

Søren was getting a contact high from the concentration of elven magic in the site, and Calendel saw the huge war bear and his howdah for an elven shooter to ride into battle, as well as the magnificent stags and the rocky den for a family of robust cougars. Their guide went into the elven abode, and Torrian joined them, giving them moon honey for their breakfast. (Apparently the Elven term for “coriander” was her nickname for Sir Carnifex; humans live so briefly, learning their names is a bother.)

The elfmaid was one of the High Elves, rare nobility of the elven race, and her horns were ethereal and usually only visible by magic; a glorious rack four feet tall and six feet wide, accompanied by a crown of stars that pulsed and flickered with her mood and power shifts. Clad in elegantly simple leathers and armed with bone weapons, she was at ease with the strangers.

She observed that the natural corrective for the tasloi was the waking of the dragon, who held her here in place because of an oath (or something.) She explained that “Acres of Shadow” was the dragon that slumbered in the peak above, and she offered the services of her cougar companion Bimbabanga, a bright green glorious forest predator. They agreed to check on the dragon, and maybe wake him up. The honey drove weariness and pain from them better than a night’s sleep could, and they were prepared to walk into a dragon’s den.

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Basically Fantastic, session 10: Blood Trail

Annonciade and Calendel had set out for Dolmen Keep, but turned back to help travelers in distress who had been attacked by tasloi, escorting them back to Elbow Creek. This put them behind, but they did reach Dolmen Keep in time to hear about the exploits at the haunted mine.

Sir Carnifex announced to the whole keep full of adventurers that his plan was to send them out the next day equipped with frame backpacks loaded with osquip blood, to go out half a day and puncture the bags. Then dribble a blood trail back to the keep. This was the tactic to concentrate all the tasloi on the keep so they could be dealt with in a mass rather than given time to gain experience and develop tactics to plague travel through the woods with unmanageable strength.

Laying a Blood Trail

The various groups of adventurers split up, assigned directions, and they headed out. Kestrel was in charge of the group including Søren, Calendel, and Annonciade, also taking Kurzel as Søren’s henchman bodyguard porter.

Once they were some distance out, the adventurers met Callie Griffon and her Strikers, and after a tense conversation they stayed out of each others’ way as the Strikers headed to the keep and the adventurers continued on their mission.

The adventurers skirmished with tasloi on the way out, and when they reached Pride Rock (where local monstrous tribes used to overhand chuck babies off a cliff) they punctured their blood bag backpack and headed back to Dolmen Keep.

They didn’t get far before the first wave of tasloi attacked. The adventurers cut through them, but it was a running battle as wave after wave gathered and caught up to them.

Calendel was badly injured and only saved from debilitating scarring by Kestrel’s expert healing. The adventurers were battered and low on ammunition as they repulsed the masses of screaming forest critters.

Shot up and exhausted, they staggered into the home stretch to find that others had returned before them, kiting crowds of tasloi with them as intended. They managed a final push, driving past the ring of tasloi to sprint towards the relative safety of the keep as an inexorable mob of tasloi pursued them.

Casualties

Thousands of tasloi were now around the keep. As the wounded got medical attention, the adventurers found that Smatha the swordswoman had fallen to tasloi, as had Scarleaf the elf. Visha, cleric of St. Bolt, had been badly hurt and Kestrel healed her enough for her to revive and use her magic to seal her wounds. Vosko the bear had also been torn up some, but recovered quickly with care. Greenfellow the Troll was too stuffed with tasloi to stand up straight, but a night of digestion returned his form to fighting trim.

Preparation for the Siege

Gimbie, Calendel, and Søren examined the foundation of the keep from inside to make sure there were no openings to the tunnels in the mountain. Also, they examined the magical stitching of enchantment in its foundation; enchantment that held it up more securely than the compromised hill upon which it rested.

Enough blood and study for one day; the dawn would bring a tide of slaughter.

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Basically Fantastic, Session 9: The Haunted Mine

Søren and Kestrel went with Serako, a hill man, and a small pack of others. They traveled to Fort Dolmen, where Sir Carnifex held court. The trip took about a day’s long walk in the rain as the pika lizards continued swarming the countryside and fires smoldered from all the lightning strikes.

Fort Dolmen

Arriving after dark, they wound up the strangely well-lit road to the narrow, tall fort. They stepped through the broken door upon being invited in by the door guards, who knew Sir Carnifex was looking for adventurers. Sir Carnifex liberated this hill from giant centipedes; a 60 foot specimen was stuffed and mounted in the main hall over the throne and around the balcony.

The adventurers met Ronam, the seneschal captain, and observed some other adventurers. Most notable: Greenfellow, the troll with a magic sword; Gimbie; the short but musical wizard; and Smatha, an expert swordswoman and captain from the war.

Søren warmed up Gimbie, finding out some more about the other adventurers and laying the groundwork for possibly swapping spells, and Kestrel chatted up Smatha. Through the course of conversation they discovered that a weird kind of goblinoid called tasloi were normally dormant in the area in cysts, but the lightning strikes had activated them, and their gestation would be complete within the week, overrunning the area. (Apparently Sir Carnifex consulted with an elfmaid named Torrain to find this out.)

Sir Carnifex ended the evening with a soaring hymn to the Saints. After a comfortable enough night, they were ready for work.

To the Mine

Sir Carnifex had three missions; the forest, the mountain, and the swamp. Greenfellow got to choose first, and he picked the mountain. Then Reya of the Nine Towers, a cleric with a polar bear mount; she consulted with Kestrel, who didn’t care, so she picked the forest. Kestrel got the swamp.

A dwarf named Kaz had a small silver mine about an hour’s walk away, and he was having trouble with a haunting. Since Kestrel had a wizard, Sir Carnifex wanted him to sort it out.

Kestrel and Søren took Serako and a handful of other hill people with them. Søren hired one of them, Cordo, to be his henchman. As a party of eight, they followed Sir Carnifex’s directions and a thready path towards the mine.

As they were traveling across the swampy ground, waist deep in water during a difficult crossing, they saw a stunted tree with a dozen tasloi in it. Shrugging off the initial hail of javelins (apparently the beastly humanoids had a keen eye for critical hits) they fought back, Søren torching a couple with his magical bolts and inspiring the rest to flee into the swamp.

Kaz

They had no further trouble reaching the mine, and Kaz challenged them; he wore a rock camo hat, but was friendly enough when they name-dropped Sir Carnifex. Kaz used human miners to work his mine, but it was his project. They were all living on tent platforms outside the mine some distance, as there had been 3 disappearances in the mine and the workers would not go in. The prevalent theory was that the mine was too close to a hidden barrow, and the ghosts woke and pulled miners into their clutches in the earth.

Kaz sent them with a guide to the mine, and they resolved to investigate further. They took Serako and Cordo, and left the other hill folk in the camp.

The Mine

Loose soil and soft rock made the mine stability difficult, and the place was abandoned as the adventurers investigated it by the light of Søren’s magic. They found cave-ins and dead ends, and the occasional smell of vinegar or sense of being watched. As they went deeper, Serako didn’t want to go on, and stood guard in an upper level instead. When they returned, he had vanished, dropping his weapon and light, and the signs around the disappearance made no sense.

Since Cordo was seriously alarmed by this turn of events, they sent him outside to protect their guide, and the two adventurers continued on alone. They found the deepest part of the mine, with a pool, and as they looked in the back area that seemed recently collapsed they found a scrap of leather that was smooth on one side and rough on the other; it reminded Søren of a leathery wyvern egg.

What Haunts the Deep

As they explored the last section of the mine, something collapsed the tunnel, and in the gritty fog of debris, Søren felt something grab his arm. It was an eyeless fleshy-horned little head of a snake thing sticking out of the wall. He blasted it with magic, and the whole wall erupted in snake tentacles!

Kestrel threw himself in harm’s way and fended off the tendrils as Søren blasted with adrenaline-fueled magic. All the tendrils came from a beak-thing, and Kestrel impossibly dragged it back as the thing tried to retreat into the wall, holding it long enough for Søren to destroy its life force with his blaze of magic.

As the interior of the creature gurgled and exploded around them, coating them in orange goo, Kestrel tried to find Serako. Against all odds, the hill man was injured by being swallowed but he was still alive, and they revived him. The deeply traumatized hill man left the mine with them, and they got cleaned up in the stream outside.

All’s Well

They reported back to Kaz, who was surprised that this creature was here; they are normally MUCH deeper. Also, it was clear that the egg was not the thing they killed, as it could not have grown so fast, so there might be further danger. Forewarned, Kaz would be able to take care of his miners and resume work.

In gratitude, he gave each of them a fist-sized nugget of fine silver worth 100 gold, and a strange flat disk with a dwarven rune on it that would be good for a favor in the dwarven culture. They returned to Fort Dolmen victorious.

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Basically Fantastic, Session eight: The Templar’s Tomb

Calendel, (Valdis), Annonciade, Kestrel, and Søren.

Annonciade and Kestrel looked around the treasure room tomb as the impossible mass of pikas continued to wake and gush out of the temple chamber. Valdis headed out to follow Pika, the lightning lizard that seemed to imprint on her. Calendel and Søren pushed through the tide of pikas to get down to the tomb chamber, rejoining the others leaping up the walls as an occasional lightning strike into the lizard mass far up above rolled down through their shared field and fried anything it touched.

Loot

The adventurers could see by the glowing light of the glyphs in the walls that held the lightning strike energy. Treasure chests in the tomb held 24 sets of tough robes (acting as medium armor), long sashes, athames, crystal globes with etching inside, and thin white masks that attached to the face with glyphs.

They examined a chained library of 6 magical books that Annonciade realized chronicled the hunt and defeat of godslaves of one of the gods, at least in this region. She could not read the glyphs or the interior code, but her knowledge of lore allowed her to suss out that much basic information. Calendel realized if you look at the books through one of the crystals, there was an embedded question; if you took on the cause of the templar, the books would become readable. He declined.

They also examined a rack of weapons, including a staff with hidden compartments for a wand and a detachable dagger spike, with glyphs and intended for wizards. A longsword and shortsword set, a cutlass and shield, a whip sword, a retractable spear, and a fancy set of plate. All of it had glyphs.

Calendel saw holes to put the staves in and tilt the bier back, so they moved the corpse off it and tilted it up out of the way. Below was a trove of about 500 glowing rubies, which had the same cut as the diamonds Tolfree gave them to fund their quest. They also had glyphs inside, revealed as they glowed in the lightning strike energy.

The Librarian

Annonciade, Kestrel, and Søren donned the templar masks and garb and went upstairs to talk to the Librarian. Calendel tried, but the glyphs itched at him and the garb was uncomfortable; it was not made for elves. He waited outside as the others went in.

Inside, they met the shade of the Librarian, and found his name used to be Lord Soruth. He welcomed them, observing that if they had that gear they were ready to start the templar cycle again, the gods were returning and catastrophe loomed. They asked questions about the origin and nature of the templar.

Lord Soruth told them that a nameless king long ago lost his love, who was sacrificed to a god. Furious and powerless, the king made a bargain to gain the power to fight back against the gods. Glyph magic was the result, and using it the templar order rose and pushed back the godslaves, scouring the world of worshipers and closing off conduits for divine power. The order ended with its success 200 years ago, the templar surrendering their power to the Clerics of the Saints (also the Saints were by and large templar themselves.)

The rubies in the tomb below were part of a ritual that tore the divine spark from godslaves, locking it into a tiny crystal and killing the slave in the process. Once a critical mass of these sacrifices were acquired, draining rituals on the mass could conduct to other godslaves, slaying them at a distance. The rubies were from godslaves of Faleeshi, the diamonds from Tolfree’s stash were remnants of the divine spark of Lunestra’s godslaves. (The island where Tolfree’s prison was broken open was about two weeks away across the sea.) The crystals were inert, but knowledge of the right ritual could release their energy. (This aligned with teaching Søren received that there were interchangeable properties of gems and ritual magic.)

Lord Soruth explained the lizards; they would sense cosmic energy as the body senses a wound, flocking to the site and channeling energy to destroy it. Their dispersed and interconnected network could sense and address invasion, and had indeed been used to break the power of the Yuan Ti slaver empire that had a ziggarut on the site of the Lightning Vault once. The templar assaulted the site, dismantled the ziggarut, and buried its blocks all around the island as part of the ritual to open the portal to bring the lightning lizards here and weaponize them for the war on the gods. The figure in the tomb below was the yuan ti emperor the templar slew and used as a foundation for their protective swarm ritual.

The templar revered the moon, as they moved in cycles and had no light of their own but what they reflected. Their glyph magic was local to Prime, reshaping its energies, rather than pulling from divine or elemental sources. He declined to tell them more unless they chose to join the templar cause; he was confident when they saw the horrors of the godslaves resurging in the world, they’d be back to find power to fight the alien energy.

Lord Soruth offered them the chance to take on a mark that would allow them to access the library without breaking in, but the wary adventurers declined and left, shaken by what they had learned.

Next Moves

While waiting on the library meeting to end, Calendel chatted with a few of the surviving hill people, and checked outside to note that the pyre where they burned Manfred had been annihilated by the lightning from the pikas.

After the meeting, the adventurers joined the hill people for supper; the wildlife in the surrounding area was likely wiped out by the energy waves, the woods still burned.

The hill people mentioned they were being hunted by Cally Griffon, a woman who was upset with them because Tolfree used them to wipe out her people. With Tolfree out of the picture they’d need protection, and they planned to go to Sir Carnifex, who was creating order in the local countryside from his base at Fort Dolmen.

The adventurers decided to accompany them, taking along the books they stole for Tolfree, to do some more research and figure out what they wanted to do next. They would need a quiet place to do some thinking, and the Order of No was likely to send one or more strike teams to the Lightning Vault. Best not to wait for them to arrive.

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Basically Fantastic session 7: The Lightning Vault Opens

Calendel, Valdis, Annonciade, Kestrel, and Søren.

The Voyage Home

Manfred the Marvellous got hungrier and hungrier on the voyage back to Elbow Creek. First he took up fishing, eating everything he caught. Then he started drinking seawater and suffering no ill effects. Needs gripped everyone aboard, from homesickness to drunkenness and more.

Manfred was keen to look at a spellbook, and Calendel offered him access. When Manfred touched the text of the spells, they stuck to him, and he ingested them; he drew all the magic out of the spellbook and into himself as an instinctive caster. They hid the rest of their magic from him, and Søren copied some spells into his book while Manfred was distracted with fishing.

The adventurers debated whether or not to kill Manfred, but decided they wanted to see this play out. As they closed in on the port, they rode a pink froth as hungry sea creatures were drawn to Manfred’s need, and bigger creatures followed and ate those who arrived earlier, so the sea boiled with death beneath the hull.

Ambush

They reached Elbow Creek, and the ship had been out of food and booze for days, so the sailors dashed into the town to sate whatever needs grew in them on the voyage. (Calendel was drained of his moonlight supply and needed to bask in intense moonglow to regenerate his eldritch reserves.)

As they headed to the Away Anchor for food and companionship, they were ambushed by a mass of twenty monks in white gi uniforms with shaved heads. They were led by a champion with a ring staff, who refused parlay, calling them cultists. The monks attacked with swift and vicious brutality.

Calendel, Annonciade, and Søren were immediately dropped, but Kestrel and Valdis rallied and hacked through the combat monks while the champion looked on. Manfred, who had been a little behind the adventurers, drew in power to fight; the rush of wind woke the fallen adventurers.

Valdis took on three skilled opponents as Kestrel dueled the monk champion on the cables above the market street. Annonciade relocated to sneak attack as needed, while Søren blasted monks with magic and Calendel fired his bow. The monks were combat seasoned and had amazing reflexes, but none of that saved them from the adventurers; the ambush flipped, and the attackers were slain.

Their champion, badly hurt by magical bolts and battle with Kestrel, attempted to flee but faltered in pain. She survived Kestrel’s follow-up only to be pinned to the wall by Valdis, who sneered in her face; she was defiant to the last, and Valdis tore her body in half with her sword.

Calendel and Søren had turned their attention to the fallen monks, interrogating survivors before the battle was over, trying to figure out who these monks were and why they attacked. Søren enchanted one with friendship, overpowering a tattooed magical defense, bewitching Timoth.

Aftermath

Kestrel paid off the town guards, who were sympathetic to adventurers defending themselves from a dirty sneak attack. The adventurers left the corpses and injured in the street, continuing on to the Away Anchor and getting scrubbed in the bathhouse in the back while eating and discussing next moves.

Annonciade monitored Manfred, who did kill someone with supernatural power during the battle (and possibly ate the corpse?) Manfred ordered three pigs, two turkeys, seven chickens, and a hogshead of ale, and then was negotiating for a goat to follow; Annonciade watched this massive meal and kept an eye out for trouble.

Meanwhile Timoth told them their attackers were Failcrafters from the Order of No, followers of Saint Expeditious (patron saint of rapid travel, mobility, and crisis response.) Oracles in the order point them towards cults trying to revive gods or otherwise break the world, and they intervene violently. They didn’t bother with parlay because it generally ends up pointless and cultists who traffic with the old gods have to be put down or they cause mass disruption and suffering.

Timoth also grieved for his fallen friends, especially Eevee, their leader and an experienced troubleshooter for the order.

The adventurers told him about the Lightning Vault, and that piqued his interest, as his order apparently did not know its location. He said the contents of the vault were a treasure, or a weapon; whatever it was, it broke the godslaves of the island and allowed the templar to win the whole region. He agreed they should open the Vault, and decided to travel with them.

As they told him the story, they called Manfred “the Hungry” instead of “the Marvellous” and gave Tolfree the appellation “the Immortal.”

The Lightning Vault

Calendel led the way to the Lightning Vault, and they avoided the strangely hungry forest and hill creatures along the way. Tolfree greeted them warmly. He had prepared two special robes, and the rituals from the books he had researched. One would infuse a prepared key with the cosmic energy, the other would support the insertion of the key and opening of the Lightning Vault.

Rather than try to work out Manfred’s cooperation, they agreed with Tolfree’s plan to kill him and take the sternum of Hamala, demigoddess of need, from his corpse. Even if the death didn’t last, it would get him out of the way long enough for the ritual to complete. He tried to poison Manfred as the adventurers watched, but when the poison had no effect, he impaled Manfred and demanded Arden lop his head off, and she complied.

Warm with generosity and giddy with excitement about his impending death, Tolfree gifted the adventurers with a book containing maps he sketched to where his tomb was; it was in a remote and difficult-to-reach place, and he had returned twice to carry out as much loot as he could, but there was plenty more in the secret place. He also gave Arden his gleaming sword as a gift.

Outside, pressure built, and a storm rolled in as the wind rustled through the creaking forest branches. Inside, they noticed that the shrine to Faleeshi had been restored further, the mural completed and the room cleaned and prepared for worship.

Søren cast the ritual to infuse the key, and the adventurers headed down to the Lightning Vault below. Tolfree hurled himself through the killing field below so they could pass, and he hoped to never revive. Alone, Calendel paced out the ritual to the door, and manipulated the key and the barrier, successfully powering it down so the vault door withdrew into the walls.

All that was inside was a wall of round rocks, about twenty pounds each. Disappointed, they examined the rocks; one seemed to absorb body heat, then it cracked and crumbled a bit, resolving into a shape like a little knee-high scrawny lizard. It seemed to bond with Arden, and demonstrated some electrical sparker power. Arden and Kestrel fed it scraps of dried meat, which it seemed to enjoy.

Back to life and furious at the lack of death upon the opening of the door, Tolfree attacked the pile of stones, hurling them out of the way, trying to get beyond them. Something happened and he exploded with lightning, the energy playing over the pile of rocks, and they all began shifting and cracking. Calendel was dusted with Tolfree’s ashes.

A tide of little lightning monsters yelling “pika! pika!” rushed out of the crumbling wall of stones, scrabbling up the stairs and through the compound to get outside.

A tide of little lightning monsters yelling “pika! pika!” rushed out of the crumbling wall of stones, scrabbling up the stairs and through the compound to get outside. Repeated lightning strikes refined the dusty rock-looking monsters to be more shiny metallic-looking monsters, and the energy coursed down the column as hundreds became thousands, possibly tens of thousands of monsters gushing out of the Lightning Vault into the hills and forests surrounding it.

The Inner Shrine

As most of the adventurers retreated into the guard station by the entry to get out of the way as the energetic crackling killed several hill people who didn’t get out of the way, Kestrel and Annonciade waded against the current of little monsters, leaping out of the way of the energy waves as they raced through, closing in on the vault below.

A large chamber had been filled with the dormant pikas, and in the choking dust and sifting gravel of the transforming creatures, they found an inner shrine to Falleshi. The engraved lightning in the hall leading to the shrine held the energy of the lightning strikes, reviving the hatching critters faster and faster, and there were templar glyphs in the walls of the shrine that also held the energy.

An altar was a stone casket bound with glyphs, and it was broken. Annonciade read the markers on the casket, noting it was warded with templar glyphs and contained a powerful godslave that served as an anchor point for the enchantment that sealed this room away. The enchantment broke, so too did the casket, and the yuan-ti corpse inside was seared to ashes.

Annonciade and Kestrel also discovered a treasure room, and she breached it before the other adventurers upstairs worked their way downstairs to see if there was an end in sight to the tide of thousands of critters. They did note that they could not see Manfred’s corpse, but it could well be lost under the swarm of running monsters.

Inside the treasure room they found a bier with a corpse that matched the shade of the librarian in the room upstairs, possibly a site guardian. There were enchanted books with blue leather bound in a silver metal, there was a rack of weapons and a suit of armor, and a number of treasure chests.

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Basically Fantastic, session 6: The Greatest Wizard of the Age

Calendel, Valdis, Annonciade, Kestrel, and Søren.

Backgrounding Continues

Annonciade found a seedy rogue who used to be quite the acrobat, and he told her about the interior of the Lost Peak and how he had been freed, and how he had been put in the Courtyard of Thoughts and Prayers for 24 hours and when no one claimed him he was thrust down the Eye to Beyond, falling down into the Execution Sluice where masses of effluvium flow from various parts of the fortress to fall into the sea (and apparently there’s a hydra that lives below it.) As an acrobat, he managed to leap up in the frictionless shaft, finding his way through the Dry Passage to a hexagonal shaft called the Gurgling, apparently a religious place for the Wardens. From there he climbed up to the Block District where guards had condos built onto the prison, and he escaped down a wall at the Gliding Cliff, where grick gulls feast on prisoner corpses. He sold her a map of his route.

Søren looked around for a way in, discovering that the Block District had a party for the Hand tribe in Lost Peak, and entertainers were being recruited. Apparently each Warden has a tribe of jailers, and they battle for prisoners and territory within the fortress, to keep the insatiable Wardens fed with prisoners rather than their own numbers. The Hand managed a big win lately, taking over some big common area so other tribes had to pay them tribute, so they were celebrating. The good acts would be rewarded, but just about everyone could go, because the jailers would likely eat the rest. About 2/3 of the applicants appeared to be rogues working an angle and trying to get into the prison, and the jailers expected that.

Søren also found an enchanter who would synch up two stones so they could empathically communicate, so if the adventurers separated into groups they could communicate a basic signal to synchronize their actions. The enchanter put one stone in each empty eye socket and connected them with his mind with a link that would last for several days.

Manfred the Marvellous

Calendel inquired as to how one joins the jailers, finding it was relatively easy; the tower of Great Expectations was where the auditions for entertainers were held, an also where you could get a tattoo to join up, try your luck as a jailer, and every 5 years you could take what treasure you earned and leave to spend it all before coming home.

He also mingled with the auditioning acts, drawn in particular to a stage magician who was discouraged by the lack of work, possessed of a tiny spark of magical potential, but using sleight of hand to jam swords through boxes and do other stupid tricks like making pigs disappear (and/or escape.)

Calendal befriended him and survived the sword-through-a-box trick. He persuaded Manfred the Marvellous that the magician needed assistants for his act, and as a scholar he just wanted to find out some more about the inside of the Lost Peak and wasn’t a scoundrel, honest. Manfred didn’t quite believe him, but liked him enough to take him and his friends on for the act.

The Sea Approach

Annonciade preferred the climbing approach, keen to try her luck on the Execution Sluice uphill. Kestrel and Arden joined her, and together they got climbing gear from the Cob and hired on Eric the Slightly Murderous and his trireme the Murderface. They set sail around the isle to the water approach to the Lost Peak, racing the sunrise. They observed a jellyfish with some aquatic creature traveling inside, observing the surface world from relative safety. Eric the Slightly Murderous did not try to kill or abandon them, but complimented them instead, and demonstrated a pirate dance.

As they sailed towards the fortress, the clouds obscuring the sunrise broke, so they were dumped on a big rock a thousand feet from shore. They had to work their way rock to rock, avoiding predators, working towards the inner layers of the outer defenses.

They had a long and gruelling climb, avoiding predator nests and pest lairs. Arden slipped and almost fell to the far-below pounding surf once, and in struggling to recover tore open a nest of vicious scorpions. The climbers were roped together, and pulled her to safety. Kestrel was in his element, jumping rocks and scrambling up cliffs. Grim, Annonciade was glad she at least had some climbing claws.

They entered the cliff face during low tide through a blowhole in the rock, then ascended a shaft to where a cottage industry in the prison made salt flats. They stealthed in to find a carving of a local map on the wall, seeing there was an area only accessible to Wardens. They slipped past the posted guard and the stone vulture statue that was enchanted to stand guard, closing in on the restricted area.

The Carnival Approach

Søren charmed one of the jailers in charge of recruiting for the carnival, Captain Dancer. She advised them to go earlier rather than later in the lineup; the feast would start by going into performers, then into jailers. Basically, there was going to be a lot of cannibalism.

Meanwhile Calendel continued chatting up Manfred, and offered him the chance to have a wish granted. Manfred, half serious, wished to be the greatest wizard of the age. Then he signed Calendel’s Book of Power, facilitated by the shadow of Algor, shaking hands with the echo of Zomok. Smiling and enjoying his new role as the broker for the God of Crossroads, Calendal congratulated Manfred (who unsurprisingly didn’t feel any different.)

The carnival traveled up the lock mechanisms to the lake all night, loading over onto spiked barges to travel to the prison the next day, arriving shortly before dark. They traveled up a shoddy stone open-air corridor that would make dwarves weep with its lousy craftsmanship, and ended in a courtyard presided over by a massive armored Warden, face hidden behind a helmet.

Before the act performed, Søren boosted Manfred’s morale by enchanting his medallion to glow. However, the act didn’t seem like a good idea as the jailers seemed to grow restless and hungry and bored watching other acts.

The adventurers made their move early, trying to sidle down where the A list performers were feasting (inside the tower, closer to the secret entries) but they attracted the wrong sort of attention and were forcibly escorted to the scullery chamber and told to fetch and carry, but this was pretty clearly a trap that ended with them being killed and eaten.

Søren called the guards away by using ventriloquism to imitate Captain Dancer swearing at them to get out there at once, and the adventurers took advantage of a momentary lack of supervision to wriggle through vent/viewports over an empty dining room below. They made it down more or less gracefully, including Manfred but not Frank, who was caught by the guards and dragged off as the adventurers ducked out of sight and worked their way in deeper before they could be caught.

Manfred seemed to feel a sense of wonder, he instinctively knew the way and felt a fresh confidence as he led them towards something that called to him. The adventurers trusted his strange guidance, and followed him into the guts of the prison.

The Gurgling

The wizards found a service access to the top of a shaft, and looking down the 60′ wide chasm they saw another balcony where the fighters emerged. Joining forces, they climbed down a narrow ladder for what seemed like forever, finding a sort of flesh mound blocking the bottom; it opened like a weird mouth at Manfred’s demand, and they continued climbing down to the very bottom. A lumpy gnawed-rock chamber surrounded a corroded grating over a black metal plate of some kind.

Manfred felt drawn to it, and climbed down through the metal as though it was water. Something yanked him under, and they thought he was lost, but he clawed his way back up. He now held a pitch-black sternum bone that he insisted was his, and they recognized it was likely the divine spark they sought.

The Escape

Somehow Manfred was sure that defenders were closing in on them in this place and they would never make it out, except he could do it with a magic trick. they huddled up and he turned space inside out, depositing them in a secret shrine in a mountain cave for osquip herders, overlooking Steptown, maybe twenty or so miles away from the prison as the crow flies.

As Calendel scouted to establish their new position, Annonciade read the ancient scrawls on the cave surfaces, discovering this hidden holy shrine was where the priests of Hamala, Demigod of Need and daughter of Zomok, came to birth their children. The pool in the room was obliterated by their arrival. Conjecture suggested the bone belonged to Hamala, who was likely the one slain by the templar and buried in what became the Lost Peak prison.

They found their divine spark. Time to return to the Lightning vault. A few furtive hours of back room conversations secured them passage, and they set sail before the prison could block the port.

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Basically Fantastic, session 5: To the Lost Peak

Valdis, Annonciade, Kestrel, and Søren.  Calendel was along, but his player wasn’t, so he was grouchy with his nose stuck in his new book for the whole adventure.

Back to the Lightning Vault

Annonciade spent the voyage back sketching out studies of the lock and thinking through how to beat the defenses on the door to the library in the Lightning Vault. Once back in Elbow Creek, in the driving rain, they looked to recruit Lady and Wooly Bah to lead them back to the Lightning Vault by safe paths. Annonciade found Wooly Bah sheltering a wounded lamb and therefore unwilling to leave town. Kestrel used his healing skills on the lamb, so Wooly Bah guided them to the Lightning Vault by safe paths, avoiding a grazing dewback on the way.

Once near the vault, they ran into a patrol of hill people that included Frank (who apparently had said many things about the pain he would visit upon Søren if he ever showed up again.) Kestrel pointed out he saved Frank’s life, but Frank claimed amnesia while he was enchanted; Søren hit him with another friendship spell and it was like the ex making a bad decision all over again. Frank’s people were 100% eye-rollingly done with him once he was on Team Søren again.

Tolfree welcomed them back to the Lightning Vault and gleefully received their books, noting that they were quality and just what he was after to discover more about his curse, cosmic energy, and the secret to defeating the Lightning Vault’s defenses. Everyone involved agreed their partnership would continue, and Tolfree gave them 5,000 gold coins’ worth of dwarf-cut diamonds that he planned to use to raise an army, and instead they would pursue a cosmic spark to open the vault and unleash Tolfree’s death.

Checking Out the Library

The adventurers went to the spooky glyph-and-acid trapped library door. Søren and Annonciade worked together to eventually defeat the door’s regenerating defenses, and they opened the way.

Kestrel brewed his magical tea that allowed a conversation with the dead, and bravely entered first, encountering the ghost of a librarian whose hands had many silver rings on them, and who bore an iron crown with spikes fused to his skull with skin grown over some of the metal. The ghost was civil enough, a Templar protecting forbidden knowledge that was better destroyed than released into the wrong hands; knowledge torn from slaves of the gods before they were driven out by what lay in the Lightning Vault below, which could not be supressed forever even if it was somehow defeated. The very sign of its defeat would release new victory. The power of the Lightning Vault was connected to the glyph techniques that allowed the Templar to drive the gods from Halemetria.

They inquired as to how they could find a cosmic spark, and he told them to look at the Lost Peak isle, in the Western Seas (currently in Slizardian territory and infested with pirates, an independent fortress the Slizardians used as a prison for pirates and other fringe types.) Annonciade sketched out the map from a book the ghost showed them, then they withdrew as the ghost’s friendliness thinned out.

To the Western Sea and Lost Peak Isle

They departed the next day, taking Frank with them. On the way back to Elbow Creek, they rescued some pilgrims of the Saints who were stranded by flooding; Wooly Bah left the path and led the adventurers to where the pilgrims were praying for aid. The leader of the pilgrims was an aristocrat who went by his title, the Duke; he had suffered a minor stroke a while back so he walked with a rolling gait and had a bit of a sag to one side of his mouth, and slow speech. He looked forward to returning to the Wayne Estates after his pilgrimage, his son Bruce waited there for him.

Then back to Skullport to get a voyage out to the dangerous waters of the Western Sea. Annonciade knew Captain Matté Shellack, of the Sea Turp. He had a rep for running dangerous low-volume expeditions for shady types going to strange and out-of-the-way places as though compelled. Kestrel presented his curse breaking frog, who was turned inside-out in Shellack’s presence; delighted, Shellack agreed to take them on their way at once.

They met the helmsman of the narrow-waisted ship, Pete, who had a floating skull bathed in fire instead of a head. Something about a run-in with a wizard. Pete did not need food or sleep and could steady the helm like a boss.

During the two week voyage, they dumped a hogshead of gin for the Slizardian patrol ship to happen across (so they would not attract bad attention on the way out) and the adventurers heard stories bout how the Slizardians had an uncanny way to locate and destroy pirates who irritated them in these waters.

They arrived in Steptown in the shadow of a massive Slizardian ship at rest taking on supplies. Søren looked for magic and found the Cob, a busted tower partially repaired by the husk of a kraken-squeezed ship, which was part flea market, part lab, part tavern, and part hostel.

They shopped around, and Annonciade got some magically retractable climbing claws out of a bigger mass of climbing gear. Søren looked to purchase Communicate, but the shifty store owner didn’t have it; instead he sold a ring that allowed the wizard to use communication magic. (Turns out it was Ventriloquism, which Søren already had.) The rest of the adventurers shopped around but saved their money.

Backgrounding in Steptown

Annonciade took Arden as a bodyguard, after a good night’s sleep, and used cant to connect with scoundrelly types around town to see what she could find out about maps for the Lost Peak. Apparently there was quite a cottage industry of Lost Peak maps, most complete nonsense or traps.

Søren left Frank looking after Calendel, and went with Kestrel to ask around about defenses at the Lost Peak. Their best lead was a Slizardian who was over 400 years old, slowly dying in a corner in a seedy tavern. They bought his favorite pipeweed, which helped him focus long enough to tell them that the Templar fought an avatar on this site, and 500 of them perished in the conflict, but the avatar was slain as it wiped all life from the island. Reinforcements came and sealed the remains away, but the Templar who stayed to guard it partook of it somehow, and took in a starvation that could not be slaked. They grew huge and monstrous and powerful, transforming into ogres, and their descendants now guarded the Lost Peak as jailers and protectors of the secret below. Then their informant quietly died.

The adventurers began making preparations to putting a plan together for an expedition to the Lost Peak to interrogate its foundations for a cosmic spark.

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