Kestrel, Calendel, and Annonciade prepared to go wake the dragon named Acres of Shadow. Søren was having a contact high from the eldtritch energies of the glade, and Torrian thought that was sort of adorable; she allowed him to stay, and maybe ride the bear. She also provided Calendel with a quiver full of elven long arrows, and magically shortened some of them for Annonciade to use with her shortbow.
The Foreboding Chasm
They followed the bright green cougar up the slope, and Calendel realized the trail was laced with a single vein of bright mithril that connected the glade and the lair. The great cat stopped short of the desolation surrounding the crevice, and the adventurers continued on, noting the thin plume of dragonsmoke that came up from the scorched rock, and observing the bones scattered around.
They descended into the lair, and after going through some hanging moss, they discovered the entry was theatrics; a magical braizer emitted the “dragonsmoke” and once you got past the set dressing there was a corridor leading back into a compound, with crystals set in the walls that slowly pulsed with a dim light on a 90 second cycle, like very slow breathing.
The Entry Chamber
A round room had steps going down the sides and a podium at the top of the stairs, overlooking a 20 foot across metal plate in the floor designed for people to stand in a circle around it. Annonciade checked the plate, noting it had sigils based in magical code but skewed Draconian, and the picture was a stylized dragon. There were two odd-shaped holes, to put key-staves into to open the counterweighted plate that was made of an alloy of gold, some orialchum, and some other metals. (Orialchum was a magical metal that could not be made without dragonfire, used as a stand-in for a nervous system in constructs and prosthetics.)
The others discovered a make-up and restroom on one side of the chamber, and a room for robes and elven religious ritual supplies on the other. Together they checked the double doors at the back, to find the door was shaped magically (as was the entire chamber, rather than being mined.) The door was wood with iron veins, and when they knocked an eye on the door opened and it grew a mouth.
The door was pretty stupid. They asked to go in and the door tried to call the inhabitants to come open it, but they didn’t show; Calendel bluffed the door by explaining they had been asked by the elfmaid and the elves that lived here to bring a book in, so the door unlocked itself and they pressed on.
The Library of the Scribes of Temarran
They explored the elven library; it was not large, but there were living quarters with square seats for meditating elves, a book-binding facility, rooms full of books, and the Scroll Chamber.
In the Scroll Chamber, the walls loaded with pigeonholes for scrolls of all sizes (like a pipe organ for paper) there was a reading table with a reading stand at the end, and a throne where a desiccated elf corpse leaned over a big book.
The cause of death was unclear, but the body had been there for 10-20 years (probably.) The book was a Book of Power, the “Epochal History of Thesmalean Prime” and it had sweeps and rhythms of interconnected elven runic records interwoven with illustrations and diagrams, over 500 pages (the book was a load, iron-bound with interlocked sigils of Kamu and Thesmael on the cover.) The conclusion of the book noted that they had time. Before that, something about the rest of the order going to investigate a bargain or something.
Annonciade was drawn to the book, and she understood she could accept its burden and become its Bearer, and then she would be able to understand the reading; she agreed, and the ink joined with her veins and grew her ephemeral elf horns visible with magical sight, even as her eyes were shadowed by the ink behind them and her blood flowed into the book. Its pages were written by many scholars, each using a unique ink formulation and commenting on the work that came before while adding to it. She now had a history of the world as recorded by a secretive cabal of elven scholars.
Meanwhile Calendel searched the room for “keys” to the metal plate, and found a scrollcase with a “map of time” and each spoke sticking out the ends went into one side of the plate.
Below the Plate
Taking the book and the scrollcase, they opened the plate to reveal a shaft 20′ across with a 6″ staircase jutting out of the wall, spiraling down into darkness. Mighty wind rushed down into the pit, equalizing pressure. Roping themselves together, they descended, lighting a lantern.
The last 20 feet of the 60 foot drop had no walls, just the 6″ stairs curling around in open space. At the bottom, a mass of motion was difficult to distinguish; it was like hermit crabs, but they were made of paper, bone, wood, and metal, and instead of shells they had scrollcases, scrolls, books, and papers for their strange bodies. Books were animated and crablike, crawling around, drawn to the light and movement.
Taking care not to damage anything, the light-footed adventurers descended the animated mound, and followed a tunnel full of swirling shadow to there the dragon indistinctly reposed on a much bigger mass of animated knowledge.
What Dreams May Come
They could sense the dreaming dragon suffusing the horde of knowledge and story, and they descended out of their reality into the dragon’s dream. They found Her. Calendel had looked under Wyrms in his Book of Etiquette and knew she would like a book as a gift, and fortunately Annonciade had remembered to bring one of the Zomokite books stolen from the Crush Depth temple.
In the surreal and impossible dream, Annonciade bonded with a cheerful kobold-ish animated cookbook. Acres of Shadow licked their book gift, absorbing it instantly. They name-dropped Torrain, who apparently had some sort of relationship with the dragon that amused Her. The dragon was intrigued that Calendel was the bearer of the book of Zomokite contracts, and Calendel freely offered it to her as its bearer; she agreed that was worth waking up for. She told the adventurers they could each take one of her “books” from the dream; two for Annonciade, because she had made friends with the cookbook and that one was extra (the other one was the Epochal History she bonded with.) Calendel accepted a book about Silamos.
Return to Dolmen Keep
The adventurers hustled out of the dragon’s lair, timing their rush with the winds; the dragon breathed in profoundly to wake, and in breathing out provided a push of air that helped them up the shaft. The mithril line was blazing as they headed out into open air, and the freaked-out green cougar escorted them back.
They saw, for one moment, the majesty of Acres of Shadow silhouetted against the sun; wings made of spells, flesh an impossible swirl of ideas and dreams and stories and armor and meat, bones of the world flexing under Her arcane power. The moment passed, but they were dizzy with Her aura.
The elfmaid was overwhelmed with strange stress, emotion, and… hard to know what her deal was, but she was dazed and tense and satisfied all at once, her horns ablaze and her flesh provoking her glade pool to bubble wildly. The adventurers collected their wizard and headed back to Dolmen Keep as the tasloi squealed and scrambled around in the woods, digging to escape the sky. Some of the majesty clung to the adventurers like a fog, and nothing disturbed them on the return trip.
Safe at Last
The riddled hill upon which Dolmen Keep perched was shrouded in a strange mist as they approached. The sun was fading behind an eclipse, and the woods were panicked with tasloi losing their composure. All the keep’s inhabitants had pulled back to the hall, but Sir Carnifex had assured them that this was part of the elven solution to their tasloi problem.
Still, he had a private conference with the adventurers to find out what happened. They went to look at the Book of Power, the Zomokite bargain tome Calendel left in the keep. It was locked in the vault, so Sir Carnifex went down to get it; the vault was filled with strange shadow that behaved in odd ways, and the book was gone. Calendel felt that was fine, as the dragon likely collected it with his permission. He felt a certain empty ache from the loss of the Book, he had surrendered it and was no longer its bearer.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Tensions were mounting upstairs. By the time they wiped the shadow from their hair and clothes, and schooled their shadows into behaving themselves, argument had escalated between the Strikers and the hill folk. With the imminent danger of the tasloi dealt with, the Strikers wanted to kill the hill folk for wiping out their communities when Tollfree was coordinating their violence. Wyatt, Sir Carnifex’s son, was doing his best to keep the peace. Kestrel stepped in to help. He leaned on his relationship with Serako, whose life he saved, asking him to step up and simmer this down. Serako agreed, growing into a leadership role and toning down his people’s urge to provoke or fight back.
After all, Sir Carnifex was trying to bring law and order to the wilderness, and the defenders here were the beginning of a new settlement. They had to learn to live together, or leave, and this was an early challenge of leadership.
The adventurers managed to sleep that night, even with all the weirdness rustling around in them from stress and surreality. They dreamed. In the aftermath of the eclipse, even Greenfellow the Troll put his sword through the meat of his arm and snored all night.
Fortress in the Sky
There was a rumble in the night, and they could not tell exactly what happened until morning. The compromised hill finally gave way and collapsed; it was 40 feet down to the surface of the ground, and 60-70 feet down into the crater below the castle. The fort hung in the air.
Greenfellow the Troll jumped down and helped drag some of the savaged trees around the fort over to build something, and those in the keep knotted ropes together to create a way down. The adventurers helped with the effort, except for Annonciade, who immersed herself in her new history book, her alarm and panic rising as she began to understand it.
The first day’s effort building access to the keep feel into the crater, but the second day got some basic up and down options in place and it was time for the adventurers to move on. They generally decided to head for Skullport, for a variety of reasons.