Monday, November 8, 2010

Into the Mountain

Zol, Barrakas 10, 998 YK (Day 24).

After an almost endless period of time, the party settles on calling themselves the "Eclipse Collective." They inform Mr. Artauche of this, who is relatively uninterested, and wanted the name only for the sake of bureaucracy. Now that his forms have been filled, he grants them more details. They are to meet with one of his primary agents: a man named Talbot, who has been in the Seven Pillared Hall (the hub of civilization in the Labyrinth, maintained by the Mages of Saruun) for some time. He will have more information on the artifact Mr. Artauche desires, which is called the "Rod of Order." All that he is able to say about the item is that is reputed to have immense magical power, though he is uncertain what this power is.

Thunderspire is about a day north of Vedykar, so the party sets out immediately. Lucan decides he must leave once again, citing only "Medani business," and abandons the party once more.

Wir, Barrakas 11, 998 YK (Day 25).

The Collective arrives at Thunderspire. The mountain is preempted by a large cobblestone pathway leading up one side and gated by an enormous arched doorway, flanked with elaborate minotaur statues. As they arrive, Lythanis stops to admire the craftsmanship of the old minotaur civilization.

They find the door leading into the mountain is closed. Two imposing guards are posted outside, who inform the party that the Mages of Saruun have ordered the place closed to outsiders, for the time being. When asked why, the guards offer little information. The party decides after some not-too-careful deliberation that waiting until the guards must leave to sleep is the best idea. They wait until the sun sets.

At this point, the guards posted out front go inside through a smaller iron door to the right of the main gate... and two different guards emerge, for a changing of the guard. The party groans all at once, with the exception of the mute Eshunu.

Stahlstrauss attempts to intimidate the guards into letting them in by yelling madly at them. The guards care little for what he has to say (yell?), and Lythanis believes a different approach is necessary. He attempts to sneak around the side of the mountain, presumably to look for an alternate way in, while Stahlstrauss provides a distraction by continuing to yell furiously. Lythanis, however, is not stealthy in the slightest, and Stahlstrauss in unable to intimidate the guards, and the plan fails completely.

Fed up with the guards' indifference to their plight, Lythanis launches into a long explanation of some obscure, almost-forgotten magic ritual used once to smite some group of mages' enemies to intimidate the guards. Knowing the power of the Mages of Saruun, the guards are put somewhat at unease. One guard decides to go inside to check with the Mages about the Eclipse Collective's business.

After some time, Zil'dejin grows impatient. He turns to the remaining guard and yells, "WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!" Stahlstrauss chimes in with a (helpful) "REALLY WHAT IS IT." The guard is intimidated by the presence of the two large and menacing individuals, and so turns inside to find out what the holdup is.

With the two posted guards gone, Garmeth hastily picks the lock on the iron door, and the party goes inside. They find themselves in a roughly-made room carved out of the rock and dirt, in which a small guard post is set up. Another guard sits at a table inside. Lythanis lies to him about their motives when questioned, and the guard believes what he is told. However, he still does not let the party further into the mountain.

After some time, growing alarmed by the quickly-coming approach of the two gate guards, Zil'dejin offers a bribe of 500 gold to the guard, who takes it and allows the party to proceed without his attention. As they leave the side chamber, they find themselves in a well-crafted but dimly lit hallway, huge and descending downwards from the minotaur gate. They notice footsteps approaching.

Eshunu uses his knowledge of cave and labyrinth layouts to guide the party to an easily missed side-passage at the side of the long hallway, and the five quickly duck inside. The guards pass by, and the Collective hears a conflict going on in the room at the end of the side-passage. The voices are apparently hobgoblin and halfling. Curious, the party goes inside to investigate.

The hobgoblins, who identify themselves as the "Bloodreavers," are attempting to kidnap a halfling in this room. The Bloodreavers also have a grudge against the Eclipse Collective for interrupting their slave deal with Kalarel at Winterhaven. This deal is revealed to be the reason for the numerous captures there, including that of Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, Garmeth and Lucan, as well as the attempted abduction of Typhus. They are enraged as the party is identified, and are riled up further by Stahlstrauss' taunting, and so they attack immediately, turning their attentions away from the halfling.

The fight proceeds quickly. Zil'dejin is in particularly good form in this battle, and is responsible for the final blow upon every hobgoblin slaver, which is also fueled by his immense hatred for slavery. The warcaster, who leads the small group of hobgoblins, attempts to take the halfling hostage, but is forced to drop him when Lythanis attacks him telekinetically and pulls him away, allowing the rest of the party to eliminate him.When the battle clears, the party speaks with the halfling, who introduces himself as "Rendil Halfmoon," claiming his family owns the only inn in the Seven Pillared Hall. He offers to guide the Collective there through the labyrinth to the Hall, and they accept.

Once at the Hall, they check in with the frequently-apologizing Talbot, a man with sharp features and a love of dark clothing. He tells them a bit more about the Mages of Saruun and their lock-down of the Seven Pillared Hall and the entire labyrinth. His information on the Rod of Order has so far been very limited, and he informs the Collective that their best bet is to speak with the Mages themselves.

After browsing around some shops in the Hall, they are accosted by the guards from earlier, and are brought to a teleportation circle connected to the Mages' tower. Inside, a mage named Orontor offers to forgive their trespass and possibly even allow them to take the Rod of Order from the hall if they can investigate the whereabouts another mage of their order, named Paldemar. As it happens, Paldemar has been missing for a few weeks without contact. The party, seeing no other option, agrees, and Orontor gives them a small metal symbol (an eye with a snake wrapped around it) as proof they are working for the Mages.

They visit the Halfmoon Inn for directions, and with a map drawn by Rendil Halfmoon, set out into the Labyrinth to look in the first place they can come up with for a missing person: in the hands of the Bloodreavers, the hobgoblin slavers in the mountain.

The Golden Claw, Pt. II

Mol, Barrakas 9, 998 YK (Day 23).

During the interval in which they rest before proceeding to the next part of the ruin, the party is rejoined by Garmeth and Lucan. Garmeth's inability to accompany the group in the first place is explained by him as "severe illness, due to eating nothing but rats and insects for so long in Winterhaven." The group decides not to press the matter. Meanwhile, Lucan's return is apparently incidental, and his acquisition of information on the party's whereabouts and current business is mysterious, but is possibly best explained by his connection to House Medani. Tam'elanath, however, remains in Lakeside; he contemplates as he has before if the life of an adventurer is really meant for him.

After the brief reunion concludes, the six open the double doors and proceed into the next chamber, which is mostly empty save for a deep well in the center and a side room splitting off at the side. Here, they are met with another group of gnolls, including one particularly savage-looking one outfitted in human remains and wielding a large flail. They are attacked immediately upon entry, and are forced to defend themselves.

The battle proceeds more or less as expected, until one of the gnolls is pushed into the well by Lythanis' telekinetic abilities. At this point, the party hears some loud crunching and muffled screaming; they pass this off as an ideal success in killing the gnoll.

Some time later, however, a different creature arises from out of the well. They are able to identify it (with some difficulty) as a "Carrion Crawler," a bizarre millipede-like creature that survives off of animal remains. Awakened by the gnoll pushed into its domain of the well, it rises to the surface of the room and joins the fray.

The toxin it emits is, initially, a little daunting for the group, and its paralytic effects prove surprising and somewhat difficult to contend with. Eventually, however, once Stahlstrauss and Eshunu have cleared the rest of the chamber of gnolls, the party is able to kill the creature. The room now safe, the party investigates. In the adjacent side room, they find the Golden Claw atop an old, long-dried fountain, which is handled by Lythanis.

Meanwhile, Stahlstrauss and Garmeth decide to descend into the well from which the carrion crawler emerged, and using lengths of rope supported by Lucan and Eshunu (and to some tiny degree, Lytnanus), move to the bottom of the well. Here, they find nothing but darkness and a tunnel that descends further into the earth. It ends in a blocked off passageway, which they decide to break open.

They see only a larger passageway within, but hear strange sounds. The ensuing dialogue at this point is as follows:

Stalhstrauss: "Should we keep going?"
Garmeth: "I don't know. I'd give it 50/50."
Stahlstrauss: "I hear... millions of tiny claws."
Garmeth: "Our odds aren't good here. I don't even think I could heal you if something happened."

Lengthy pause. The silence is filled by distant skittering.

Stalhstrauss: "Let's get the hell out of here."
Garmeth: "Yes. Let's."

They attempt with some difficulty to escape the well, and the party emerges from the chamber just as more carrion crawlers burst from the well. They shut the door behind them and run from the ruins, leaving them behind.

They return to Vulyar, where after additional confusion as to where to meet the agent, they finally return to him at the Singing Serpent and give him the claw, receiving their reward. The agent also tells them that Mr. Artauche has more work for them, and would like to meet them at his home in Vedykar, if they are so inclined. The party agrees, and works on how to get to Vedykar from Vulyar, as there is no Lightning Rail line between the locations. They eventually locate a small guild of mages in Vulyar which has a sister guild in Vedykar, and for a small fee the knowledgeable dwarf custodian allows them to use their linked teleportation circle.

One disorienting teleportation later, they arrive in Vedykar, and stay the night at the "Horse and Ass" inn, a shabby establishment in which many questionable drinks are had and Garmeth is given a bar of soap. Garmeth and Lythanis have a heated argument about eating rats (as Garmeth did in Winterhaven); Garmeth calls Lythanis uncivilized, who takes great offense at the accusation. Lythanis and Zil'dejin play a card game. Everybody finally goes to rest.

* * *

Zol, Barrakas 10, 998 YK (Day 24).

The party tours various shops around the city, including Davran's Magical Items owned by a snarky halfling, and Dorragan Coalstriker's smithy, where Stahlstrauss learns a bit more about the Coalstriker family and their distribution throughout Karrnath. They also visit a guild of mercenaries, the Bladed Arms, where they are summarily kicked out.

Finally, the six goes to meet Mr. Artauche in his manor on Wealth Street. They are admitted on official business, and meet Mr. Artauche himself, who introduces himself as "Remelius Artauche." He is a tall, slender man with a serious face, clean-cut appearance and extravagant clothes. In his office, which is littered with various devices, he explains he has a contract to adventurers willing to go to the Thunderspire, the tallest of the Ashen Spires to the north where a small group of mages has control over a former minotaur labyrinth. He is looking for an artifact from there, and believes the party has proved themselves capable of retrieving it.

The party considers it, and finally agrees. He has them sign a series of contracts binding them to his business; one for each party member, and one that collectively represents the party. He asks them to sign the name of their adventuring company; the party needs to take a moment to consider what this is.

It takes much longer than expected.