Game Session 3/14/2012
We begin this session in the scenic and vacation-worthy Skull Tower. (Sarcasm.) Twink is using her chubby little hands and gentle heart to try and patch up Jari and Jehaine. Sultrani, being Sultrani, immediately begins looking for a way out and disappears from view. As our heroes look around the room, they notice that the stone is interwoven with bone throughout the space. Kain also notices that among the writing and pictures carved into the wall, there are some that seem familiar from Malgoreen culture. There are images of people leaving the wreck of the fifth continent, then landing on the western shore and ending up in Arduin—some move even farther.
Other than a sense of peace, there is nothing else in this room. Kain uses this opportunity for a nap, and Twink starts treating Jehaine for parasites, as his body is being eaten away internally. After Jezzik wakes up, he explains that we're safe in this room because the brothers are distant relatives of the Malgoreen. In order to be safe in some of the rooms, you apparently have to meet some circumstances, depending on the room. He also mentioned they were once seven but the other four had fallen in battle shortly before he'd reached out and called for us to help. Adak, son of Oth the Hammer, Caledie, the Shield of Ctham Bridge; Ergios, a paladin of Megalon, and Nethbok, brother of Indlbek.
Jezzik then tells us that they have traveled to this godforsaken place to find a mage that is valuable to the Talismonde College of Magic. He is a snake by the name of Skahl. (Ah, Skahl, so we meet again!). [GM Note: the group has ran with the 3 brothers several times. Its well known to them that Jezzik is the College of Magik's retrieval specialist and usually drags his brothers into one adventure or another). He goes on to tell the wide-eyed adventurers that if they hear music or screaming unrelated to what's going on, they need to run. Immediately. Same goes if you see a reflection of yourself upside down anywhere—that is a life shorn that will fight you and take over your intellect and decimate it. Because we're in an extremely dangerous area, Jezzik performs a ritual that allows us to pull our comrades' bodies, should they die in battle, into ours and we can hopefully take them out with us that way. In order to release them, we must travel to the Talismonde College of Magic and go to the fountain. He also buffs us with two spells: synchronized defense, which allows us to put all our magic defenses together when attacked, and synchronized mind, which pools our psychic defense in the same way.
To get out the area where we are, we needed to backtrack and then exit through a massive gallery. Its ground zero for a host of undead, hordes of skeletons and worse involved in some mindless, unending battle. No other way out of this area seemed possible. As we hoofed it back to the gallery, Jezzik passed on that they had used a spell to form wedges of energy on the sides of the group previously and just bulled through the mass of the skeletons. Seeing it worked once, we agreed to do it again. The gallery, when we got to the balcony overlooking it, was awe-inspiring - if you don't mind mixing a heady dose of fear in with that! The din from the melee below was deafening and the dead filled the gallery. It would not be easy.
We make a wedge-shape to plow through the undead warriors, and as we steamroll down the hallway, we see a pitch black rider emerge with his horse from the wall. It raises one abysmal finger and points at Kain, then gallops through the opposing wall. All except two of the brothers and the brave, tiny hobbit of sunshine are totally shaken with fear. Jehaine raises a prayer of bravery to Megalon, and soon the others recover. We travel to a huge pair of cathedral-looking doors, and in the room beyond there is a flood of undead battling two lone warriors. One is a dwarf, and the other is a wolfling. The dwarf is wearing armor that glows with runes, and he twirls a massive two-handed axe. We can't see his face due to bright light shining from his helm. The wolfling is using a special type of martial art and his glowing green claws to rake through bone. They are clearly holding their own.
Our heroes jump off the balcony and crush tons of undead below. Then: chaos. We can't hear each other, there is a ton of noise and calamity, and we begin to fight in earnest. We battle our way through the room, one harried step at a time. Behind us, the snow-haired Sultrani sees the dwarven paladin get run through with a fiery spear. A fearsome skeleton made of quartz has begun attacking the dwarf. The wolfling tries valiantly to defend him, but breaks his hand on the wicked skeleton. Sultrani immediately jumps back to help him, putting away her tea cup in mid-leap, making a perfect landing on the spear. She pulls the dwarf off the spear and catches the wolfling's eye. He had attempted to grapple the skeleton and it thrust both bony hands deep into his chest; he is wrenched in two and falls. Sultrani notices that the badass skeleton was definitely once human, is using Amok Gorgas as a fighting style. Around the bones of the ribs is a rippling cap of metal, running from waist to neck. While once part of the flesh, it now only hangs inside the skeleton. She recognizes the metal and the incised marks running along it. Those who undergo the Khodum-Karam, or dance of stones, an Amak Gorgas trial, wear them. She eyes the skeleton with even greater wariness.
Sultrani boots the quartz skeleton away and picks up the pieces of wolfling. He gives the poor dwarf an elixir to keep him from joining Helidore, and then jumps over to our heroic wedge of a group who is now at the door. The dwarf, too heavy to be lifted, picks up his axe and plows his way through. The quartz skeleton, regaining its feet, moved slowly after. It yanked its spear from the floor where it was embedded but they made it to the doors before it could use it.
As they pass through the doors, they notice that the next room is wall to wall mirrors. The doors disappear behind them. A quick check of the area shows its at least neutral. While others watch, Twink treats the dwarf, who anoints Kain and Sultrani with a heroic ritual since they came to his rescue. It is called “Blood of Heroes” and lets you do something heroic with a little extra power. His name is Enid, the saint of Helidore. His broken companion, the wolfling, is named Madhusa. They are retreating to the Five Hammers shrine, and they have a way out of Skull Tower. Enid calls upon Helidore and the sound of hammers smiting an anvil fills the air. Embraced by the echo of the forge, Enid burns faith to return home, bearing the fallen body of his comrade.
Meanwhile, they quickly discover the room holds eight possible exits. We decide to fog up the mirrors to see if we can figure out which of the eight exits we should go through. when that doesn't work, some experimentation (accidental!) leads us to discover that we can see somethings with our eyes closed that we can't see with them open! Finally, after more messing around, with our eyes closed, we can see the only exit. We hold hands and form a line, alternating people with eyes closed and open. We travel the corridor until we hit a trap door—luckily, before we all go tumbling through, so we can go around. We travel through what appears to be a wall and go through to a green hallway full of wires and sputtering light bulbs. As we go up the incline, we see a mass of large reptilian creatures called Carillian—an older race that once lived across Arduin—charging at full tilt down the hallway, moving straight for us.
As the mass of them engage with us, behind the first wave came two pillars of metal, sizzling and burning the air with an arid scent. Shortly after we saw them they began to generate electricity in an arc between them. Additionally, the front lines of the Carillion begin firing arrows in synchronization with each other. Several of them run forward, big nasty brutes, and attack poor Kain, landing two deadly blows and pinning his arms to his sides in the process.
[GM Note: Carillion resemble Ichthyosaurs that grew legs and arms and came on land. Their body is humanoid, but resembles a heavily slumped over being with vestigal fins descending from the waist. The fins hang loosely along the legs, which descend from narrow hips. The legs are heavily bowed and widely splayed, descending into three forward toes and a horned heel. Upper body is very cylindrical, with a vee shaped sternum, two rather thin limbs, ending in a neckless, crocodile like head. Eyes are deeply inset, protected by bony plates, and the nostrils lie at the end of the snout. They augment their native armor with a form of mail made from plates of their own skin.]
Sultrani jumps forward and grounds the electricity from the pillars, breaking the circuit and exploding them in the process. She then gestures for them to hold and attempts to show that she doesn't want to fight, and our foes can have free passage through. The Carillions flush a purplish hue, looking mottled, and become enraged. Clearly she exhibited some sort of social faux pas, and they are insulted.
They focus all their magical energies on her. As she studies the situation throughout the battle, she discovers that they are probably in the middle of some sort of religious rite. There is an ancient leader in the midst of their throng, who stands unphased through Jezzik's spells. Kain, being Kain, absorbs a bubble spell from one of their mages with his black sword and combines his black and white swords, then charges the ancient one. He disintegrates the being, but basically kills himself in the process. For some reason, he considers this a great success. Sultrani battles the ancient one's essence as he tries to possess her, and eventually Kain regenerates and gets back up. [Kain has some wereblood in him somewhere...] He then jabs his black sword into the essence, shouting, “Absorb!” and the essence is sucked into his blade. It is sentient, however, and attempts to control the sword. He hurls the essence to Jehaine, who calls upon Megalon and destroys the essence with his mighty hammer of faith.
We loot the bodies—a new thing for us—and discover that the lizards had some old dwarven coin on them. the bigger Carillion brutes must have also looted some old Khronkule (dwarven) tombs, since they were wearing old stitched together pieces of Khronkule plate armor. They had other Khronkule things too, and we dumped it into a pile to take with us. The marks on the coins were of the Khronkule dwarves too. The dead human they were dragging was named Cam. Seeing we had no way to take him with us or even care to do so, we shrugged and looted him too.
We keep traveling upwards in the spiral hallway until we reach a doorway. On the wall to our left, blood of the fish-lizards has been splattered in a pattern on the wall. Clearly some ritual was performed to make a doorway, and it has since been sealed. Embossed on the door, two dwarves held out crossed weapons. Sultrani takes the dwarven hammer we've looted... I mean, borrowed... and asks for the blessing of Heldore to enter the doors, so we can return the weapon to her people. She then realized the door is a puzzle, and she has to move the dwarves pictured there so they become inverted.
Meanwhile, Jehaine asks Kain to cut through certain marks in the blood so the lizard folk cannot come back through their makeshift doorway. Kain enters through the now-open puzzle door, and walks into a darker green corridor with an arched ceiling. The corridor splits in two ways, and is littered with dwarven skeletons. There are two alcoves that appear to be missing something that was held there. Kain notices that the skeletons are slowly reconstituting. As we all enter, we start to try to figure out what to do, and Kain moves over to the skeletons. They stand up and are joined by more. They are not threatening us but do seem to be massing. Not wishing to set something off, we kept a wary eye on them while trying to figure out the area.
We try to figure out what to put in the alcoves, and discover that one of the alcoves has holes in which a fluid would drain, and the other has a pressure plate. Since Enid's blood was absorbed into Sultrani and Kain earlier when they saved him, Kain pricks his fingers and puts the blood in the alcove with the holes. We hear a click. Pushing the pressure plate does nothing, but perhaps it has something to do with magnetism... We place the hammer we brought with us on the plate, and we hear some more clicks in the distance. A hidden doorway opens up, and stairs appear that head down. There is a mural on the way that tells the story of how the Khronkule came to Arduin. There are pictures of gleaming cities among the mountains, then dwarves battling fae on the prismatic mountains, and greeting (then fighting) with elves. The mural then shows the Khronkule and the Carillion at war. Apparently, also, there are trials that exist here. The pictures are of the dwarves swimming, carrying a heavy stone through an intricate puzzle, carrying heavy burdens, and of dwarves traversing in darkness.
We emerge at the top of the stairs into the room of trial. There are four corridors, obviously for the four trials. Kain decides to go through the engineering and strength trial, down the corridor portraying crossed crescent hammers. This he decides because he wants to be an intelligent warrior—and in choosing this, has changed his path. Sultrani, with her natural affinity to water, decides to attempt the water trial, exiting into the corridor with waters cascading down after she uses meditation to prep herself. Twink, unwilling to be left out, decides to traverse the corridor portraying closed eyes—she wants to be rid of her fear of the dark and help herself trust her instincts more, as well as heighten her other senses as a chef.
Twink passes the Khronkule Trial of Darkness because she's an awesome badass. She gets past traps, pits, and many corpses in the darkness, and falls from one small platform to another, then drops her way down them until she hits the bottom. Broken and terrified, she follows the patterns of flame on the floor with her hands until she smells the scent of a blacksmith's forge. Darkness seems to drip onto her, engulfing her very being, until she yanks open the doors in a kickass hobbit feat of amazing strength. She then dances enthusiastically as she emerges victorious into the trial room... and proceeds to vomit up the Oil of Darkness in a very unladylike manner. She is now stronger and cannot be blinded by any normal means.
Meanwhile, Sultrani enters for her trial and stares at a wall of water. She uses her gravity to disrupt the flow of water and surpasses the currents and tides. She then ends up at the same forge that Twink passed, except the feel of her forge is very liquid as it pours over her skin.
Kain, after dying once and spending much brainpower and strength on his trial, finally makes it through to the forge. Helidore is there, takes the weapons he recovered and had to bear during the trial through all the many traps and puzzles, and reforges them into armor for Kain. The armor is made of a special metal that fixes itself. She hurls the old mithril flake at him, claiming, “This is not mine, but you are an instrument of change and I will use that. Bear this flake to a Khronkule blooded dwarf.” Kain agrees, and she tells him he can have the armor—which forms perfectly to his body—if he can walk out of the door wearing it. She also gives him his pack, which he lost during his first attempt. After struggling mightily to cross the room and get the door open, he hobbles into the trial room where the others are waiting. As he goes through his pack, he notices something extra: a blanket. The name “Talhoud: House of the Wrung Serpent” is embroidered on it.
As the others rest and recover, Kain decides to go through the trial of strength... because apparently one trial just wasn't enough punishment. He finds himself in an endless desert, where he has to use large, heavy blocks of different sizes to climb up to the top of a tower. The desert drains him as he attempts this, but he ends up succeeding and therefore gaining a large amount of strength.
Twink cooks up dinner and our heroes devise a plan. We go back the way we came—as this was a dead end, just full of trials. As we pass the dwarven skeletons, they salute the four of us (Jehaine included) who passed the trials.
We go back the way we came and enter the spiral hallway once again. There are more ancient fish-lizards there to greet us; however, we soon make short work of them, between Sultrani's awesome gravity wave attack shoving them into walls and waiting blades, and Kain's metal man amazingness... that is, until another blood gate opens, a giant troll appears, and a dimension-hopping spider slices through us.
The spider causes Sultrani to live her worst nightmare, and she flies off into a run through one of the lizard's gates of blood, trapped in a blind panic. We travel through the open gate to follow her, and eventually make our way (unintentionally) to a demon (Copper Ringed Sub-demon from the 4th Hell). We then have our first demon battle! (And by we, I mean Sultrani and Kain.) Dull, copper-colored, eyeless, winged, and scaled, it towers over us at over 30 feet tall. It's safe to say that the lizards we slaughtered worship this creature. It has a tail like a giant trident, which weeps some sort of noxious poison.
Sultrani gets down to business and removes her training yoke, and proceeds to kick some hardcore demon ass in a whirlwind of fists and movement—a true artist in motion. Kain, who has struggled some with this foe, proceeds to call upon the Blood of Heroes ritual that the dwarven saint Enid bestowed upon him. With determination shining in his eyes, Kain severs the demon's head as it leans down to swallow Sultrani, who is a storm of furious movement. He brings both of his blades down on the tree trunk of the mighty beast's neck. Sultrani salutes Kain as an equal, and from here on they will be a stronger team, for certain. But covered in the demon's blood, they soon drop from shock. After grabbing some souvenirs in the form of demon parts and loot, our heroes dash off to find a safe haven. We end up exiting the tower on the east side, the skull in the mountain smirking at the weary heroes.