Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Nassan: what of earth?

A very, very late conclusion to this adventure! Sorry about that...

Before moving on, the party search the disintegrating remains of the study. There is little to find here but long-rotted paper and broken furnishings. However, Varis unearths a sealed brass scroll-case whose contents seem to still be intact, protected by the airtight wax from centuries of decay. A crumbling shelf yields two rune-inscribed pottery sticks that Raylin identifies as "very primitive" healing charms.

Passing carefully through another door, they find themselves in a large room with stone furnishings, where crystalline shards set into the walls cast a faint pinkish glow. At a glance, it looks like an antechamber. Bisclavret suggests it may be a preparation room, where devotees of the temple donned ritual garments (or disrobed, of course) or performed preliminary rites. The remnants of alchemical or ritual apparatus still linger on the shelves and tables. Braziers stand unlit in the corners, suggesting no bullywugs have ventured this far; however, the earthen floor is almost swamplike. That the light spells still linger is a testament to the temple's builders, but Myraneth decides the spells themselves are of little interest. A large, imposing stone door is the only route remaining; the mud appears to be gently flowing in from underneath it. The source of the planar disturbance must lie this way.

As Myraneth strides towards the door, hulking shapes stir within the thick mud deeper into the room. The shapes approach rapidly to investigate, flowing through the mud in a disquieting way. As they burst to the surface, the adventurers realise they are not simply muddy beasts, but elementals of living mire. Clearly Tildis has been meddling with the staff, and unleashed some kind of elemental magic. The creatures seem aggressive, probably protecting their territory, and conflict is unavoidable.

Facing off against two of the creatures, poor Myraneth is sucked directly into the elemental's maw, where she flails helplessly and begins to suffocate. It dives back into the swamp and retreats to finish consuming this thrashing prey in peace. Her friends rush in to try and save her, while fending off the other creature.

Meanwhile, further shapes stir into life. Whirling clouds of debris emerge to batter at Raylin as she lingers at the rear, exploding into slicing fragments before reforming. As Bisclavret and Adrik rush after Myraneth's captor, they realise a spindly thing of crystal stilts has been standing unseen like a stick insect. Faint light glows within its body, before refracting sharply into beams of searing brightness. An invocation from Raylin hammers at its alien mind, disrupting the crystals and causing it to realign into a jumbled pile, perfect for a ferocious attack from the raging dwarf.

The party manage to free Myraneth, only for Bisclavret to be seized and carried off by the remaining mire gulper. The crystalline quartz strider regains its footing, never actually moving, merely altering the alignment of its crystals to create a new form. Its energy bursts wreak havoc on the belligerent mortals, nearly killing the weakened Myraneth, as well as annihilating some of the weaker elementals. The battle is long and vicious, and when the adventurers emerge victorious, all but hardy Adrik are badly wounded. They pause to recover their breath before advancing.

Cautiously forcing open the heavy door, they find the ritual chamber, as expected. It is very dark, but an odd flickering light from the far end casts long shadows. Diases and lighting alcoves around the room are obvious signs of formal use, at least to trained eyes. Massive stone pillars hold up the roof, which was once painted brightly. Strangely, stony growths protrude from walls and pillars alike, growing stranger further in. The floor is completely covered by thick, swampy mud that heaves and cracks constantly. Myraneth and Raylin realise that a minor planar rift has been opened to the Elemental Chaos, letting elemental influences and entities alike creep through, while the arcane energies most likely attracted the bullywugs. Even without their guidance, it's obvious to all that the flickering glow is the source of their problems. The further into the room they venture, the more extreme the effects of the planar bleed on the native earth around them.

Advancing carefully towards the rift, the party are alarmed but not entirely surprised when the mire around them erupts dramatically. Writhing rocky tentacles lash out at them and slimy maws gape in the floor. To their dismay, the whole chamber seems to be occupied by a single large and angry elemental: a mud writher. Despite a barrage of cloying mud that weighs them down, the party gradually batter the creature into submission, and it retains the intelligence to ooze its way back through the portal rather than stay to be destroyed.

The party are eager to close the portal as soon as possible, before more creatures can emerge. This far into the chamber, the walls and pillars have sprouted and warped into fantastical organic shapes under the arcane radiation from the rift. They might almost be deep under the sea, or in a vast and ancient cavern. Digging through their packs for useful components, the group combine their efforts to seal the portal. With much eldritch muttering and prayerful chant, and not a little falling over in the never-ceasing flow of mud, they eventually see the wrinkle in reality fold together and vanish. The mud ceases to flow, and arcane senses no longer feel the roar of the Elemental Chaos. In its place, a large staff of solid stone clatters to the floor.

Now lit only by lanterns, the ritual chamber is in surprisingly good shape. It shows signs of recent occupation, not only by elementals, but something more familiar. The highest shelves around the walls house a number of boxes and books that are clearly not as ancient as the other items they have found. The walls themselves are almost totally covered in red chalk writing, except where decorative plaques are set into the wall. The writing is in modern Elvish, and after a few minutes of painful study, Myraneth realises they are erratic notes on a magical theory. Their author was clearly both mentally unstable and entirely wrong.

The books are a mixture of academic works and folklore, mostly touching on geomancy and the natural world. Most of them are marked with the names of various respected libraries, from where they've presumably been stolen. The boxes turn out to contain an array of magical trinkets and paraphernalia, carefully packed away to preserve them. Many are simply gaudy or pseudomagical, but some bear minor enchantments. One of these items is the stick of magical chalk used to etch Tildis' theory. Speaking of which...

Searching the room carefully, and even using some of Myraneth's lesser magics to clean away the mud, they discover a strange coccoon in one corner. Breaching it, they find the comatose and half-starved body of the wayward scholar, clutching a now-depleted protective charm. After a cursory health check and some slightly begrudging treatment, she is bound and gagged to prevent any misbehaviour. Gathering up staff, magical trinkets, Tildis and anything else that looks interesting, the party slowly make their way back to the surface, to rest up before the long journey back.


On returning Tildis and the staff to the Guildhalls, the group are greeting with warm thanks and reminders of the need for discretion. The staff is restored to the hands of the Archivist, who this time makes immediate arrangements for its proper storage and protection. Tildis is quickly taken away for proper treatment, and likely to endure a very long stay in one of the nearby shrines; there is some hope her sanity can be restored. The Archwizards hold a private but luxurious feast to honour their agents, and after much fine dining and speechifying, they are each presented with a silver seal ring, marking them out as honoured friends of the Guildhalls. A trace of arcane power lingers within the ring, a small measure of protection in case of trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment