Session theme song (listen while you read):
Named after the countless plateaus that span the region, The Tablelands consist mostly of barren desert, arid badlands, and intermittent patches of baked mud, dried-out scrubs or petrified forests. This desolation is bounded by the Sea of Silt to the east, the Hinterlands to the west, the Endless Sand Dunes to the south, and an Ever-Waring Battlefield to the north. But the Tablelands are much more than wastelands and boundaries. They are the last shroud of hope for survival in the dying shadow of the blistering sun. Huddled around the last few fertile oases, the inheritors of Athas’ terrible legacy live in small, isolated points of shade scattered across this vast, scorching, and dangerous world.
No strangers to hardship, the people here have carved out their own place from the sand and stone, and the landscape is dotted with hallmarks of their effort. Tombs (called Tors) in particular are revered as tributes to the sacrifices of previous generations, and are frequently found in crags near other important sites.
Once a welcome to weary travelers plodding along the trade routes of the Ivory Triangle, the Tor now known as the Lighthouse for the Blind sits beneath a ruined lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the Estuary of the Forked Tongue. Buried within are unknown warriors who died in vain defending the light of the tower, and the shipwrecks wreathing the base of the Tor add grave insult to their grave injuries. Though it is neither the largest nor the most famous of the Tablelands’ Tors, the Lighthouse for the Blind does represent a typical example of this kind of structure.
However its story does not end there. The mysterious cerulean storms that have plagued the area in recent months have been quite severe, and a few weeks ago, a stray lightning bolt broke open the stone seal separating the lighthouse from the tor. A few humanoids have since been seen wandering inside, and superstitious folk talk of the dead rising to defend their ancient charge.
Tonight, yet another terrible storm is sweeping through the wastes, driving all creatures to take shelter where they can find it. The Lighthouse for the Blind looms on the horizon, and its door is no longer blocked. Will you dare to enter its silent halls?
Characters & Setup
- Zwaithe, Dahloy, and Morrah were travelling together in the desert looking for another tomb to raid.
- Aeislun and Jerri (the Kank Herder) were discussing the recent sightings of undead and other foul beasts around the Lighthouse for the Blind.
- Très was wandering the desert alone, looking for a warrior that could challenge his martial skill.
- Toan was in some unknown location, completely unaware of where he was about to go.
- The Dray’s condition and location were unknown.
The sky has been slowly darkening all day, and the stinging smell of acid rain has been thick in the air. Now it has finally begun to fall, accompanied by loud peals of thunder that seem to roll across the landscape. The great red sun is hidden behind massive blue storm clouds, and a blistering wind blows from the Sea of Silt. As bolts of lightning begin to slam from cloud to ground and choking dust devils climb up the dunes, the need for shelter becomes obvious.
Ahead in the distance, the large ruin of a tower rises from the ground, its form illuminated by the occasional lightning bolt. The cliff on which it is perched seems rocky and solid, and though climbing it in this weather would be folly, it might have some outcropping that would provide safety from the storm. The only alternative is to endure the weather.
The massive tor towers above the surrounding desert. A few narrow ledges offer scant protection from the elements, but a closer inspection reveals a massive, arched entryway at least 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide, set into the side of the cliff.
The ground just outside it slopes away from the doorway, directing the falling water out and away. Given this fact and the sturdy nature of the hill, whatever space lies beyond the door should be both dry and safe from lightning and hail. The construction inside seems quite sturdy, so the likelihood of collapse, even in severe conditions such as these, is remote (although the doorway itself seems damaged from prior strikes).
Zwaithe, Dahloy, and Morrah are by chance the first to arrive in the Tor’s entrance. They discover an old bonfire in the center of the chamber, a fresco on the western wall, and a bone gate with a lock beetle on the southern wall.
As the other character enter, Dahloy waves his hands non-threateningly and speaks “Storm-peace” in a few languages – reminding the other characters of a local tradition:
The custom of storm-peace evolved long ago in response to the sudden and severe storms that plague this area. All characters native to the region should already be aware of it.
The basic concept is that an automatic truce exists between all individuals and groups who seek shelter in neutral territory during a lightning storm. Such weather is simply too dangerous for fighting, regardless of people’s feelings toward one other.
Storm-peace is assumed to be in effect unless someone specifically rejects it. Even so, whenever two strangers meet during a lightning storm, they often greet one another by asking “Storm-peace?” simply to ensure that the other knows and respects the tradition.
Storm-peace applies to any thinking humanoid, though not necessarily to other creatures. Many people assume, however, that it applies to any creature able to ask for it, and many legends tell of bards singing songs to giants or other dangerous monsters during a storm-peace. Any character who makes a successful DC 15 Knowledge (Local) or Knowledge (History) check knows and can repeat at least one or two such legends.
In the interim, Aeislun introduces himself as the future king of Tyr while Très rekindles the bonfire. Out of nowhere, Toan appears in front of the bone gateway, utterly confused. Jerri seems depressed at the loss of all his Kanks. The Dray, gravely wounded, seems to be slumped over on one of the Kanks. After a few tense moments, everyone calms down and becomes acquainted.
Deciphering the Fresco
Zwaithe first notices the fresco depicting the Sorcerer-Kings as the gods of the light defeating the evil goddess Rajaat in the time before time. It is a story with which everyone in the tablelands is familiar. On closer inspection, Zwaithe notices that there is actually an older Mosaic behind the peeling fresco. With the help of several other characters and a little bit of fire, the fresco is melted (damaging only one panel of the mosaic). Dahloy is able to translate the ancient tyrian language, though the imagery is plain for everyone to see:
The Mosaic of Kelanen
Long ago, a hero named Kelanen mastered all nine disciplines of the martial art known as the Law to protect against the alien menace of the Far Realm. At the time, the individual schools, philosophies, and traditions of the Law were scattered haphazardly across the world. Adherents of the various disciplines were the fiercest of rivals, each seeking to prove the superiority of his or her own school over all the others. None understood that the divisions they wrought were the true threat.
But having mastered all nine disciplines, Kelanen set out to end this rivalry. He returned to each place where he had studied and took its single most promising student as his own apprentice. Then he led his nine apprentices to the Koschak mountains – where the very edge of Athas grazed against the forbidden secrets of the Far Realm. Here he founded the Temple of Nine Swords to guard the Living Gate that separated beauty from horror, reason from madness. For many years, Kelanen and his Nine Masters sought the path to perfection, walking farther down the road of the Law than anyone had before – or since. Hundreds of students came to them and learned much from their temple.
After a century of study and teaching, Kelanen called his masters together and told them he was leaving to complete his epic quest: to sever the world’s connection with the Far Realm, once and for all. Age had never touched him, other than to whiten his hair and line his face. The masters begged him to stay, but Kelanen refused. Before he left, though, he gave each master a gift – a sword that embodied the principles, skills, and philosophy of the recipient’s first discipline, each forged from a shard of the Living Gate itself. “As long as these swords remain together, the Temple will never fail,” he told the Nine Masters. “Now I go.” And he set off alone through the portal, on foot and unarmed, because he feared nothing in the world. No one ever saw him again.
(this panel was damaged) A lifetime passed, and one by one Kelanen’s original disciples … something shattered the Living Gate … the nine swords were cast … stole Supernal Clarity … dooming them all … Kelanen himself carried the vorpal blade … corruption from within … simply a myth.
Whatever the case, the temple is no more and even its true location has been lost to memory.
The Descent into the Tor
After these revelations, the cerulean storm increased in strength and seemed to be centered on the Tor.
With an almost deafening crack, a staggering bolt of lightning strikes the doorway to the Tor, causing it to collapse abruptly. As the dust settles, you realize that the rubble would take days to clear, although the damage seems confined squarely to the doorway.
There’s no going back.
Morrah was buried and Zwaithe was knocked unconscious by the collapsing entrance. Though Morrah was able to escape the rubble, Zwaithe would remain unconscious for the rest of the session.
Deciding to venture deeper into the Tor, Toan strikes the bone gate with his mighty Minotaur Greathammer – first lodging it in grid of bone before simply ripping the door from the wall. When Jerri, the Kank Herder, tries to make a run for it, Très warns him of the likely dangers ahead. Jerri stops just in time, as Aeislun discovers a trap just inches away. Toan strikes the crumbling ground, revealing a pit lined with sharp bone spikes. With a some more pounding, the giant destroys the spikes entirely. By climbing into the pit and kneeling, he provides a convenient platform for the other characters to move safely across into the next room.
First Encounter with the Sauren
The stone chamber beyond the entrance measures at least ten paces square. Peeling glaze and broken sculpting suggest that it was once decorated with some care, but now only dust remains.
Dominating the center of the room is a long trench filled with a glowing green substance whose smell nearly causes your hair to stand on end. Likewise, the pungent smell of mildew emanates from the wet dungeon walls…
For a moment you consider taking your chances in the storm, but on second thought the room seems safe enough. Three passageways lead deeper into the tor – one each to the left and right, and one directly across from the entrance. The way forward is barred by another bone portcullis.
Once everyone files into the room, a strange-looking sauren opens the bone portcullis with a depressed but curious look on its face. Aeislun takes the first shot.
An action-packed battle ensues when the sauren reinforcements arrive to assist their injured brethren. Several of the player characters are injured, but none gravely. Toan instantly splattered one skirmisher before Aeislun attempted to test the healing qualities of the glowing green substance. Both dying test subjects choked to death under his care. The last sauren was impaled by spears and pulverized by sling stones when he turned the corner beyond the forward passage-way.
The party gains the following items:
Glue Shot Sling Bullets (6), 2 bone daggers, 2 leather armors, 2 leather slings, sling bullets (37), 2 hide armors, and 2 bone spears.
Rest and Revenge
After the battle, the party decides to regroup. Dahloy investigates the next area, where he sees a large spiked, slime-covered skull swinging towards him. Dozens of laughing Sauren in the rest of the room taunt him as he retreats.
Back at the bonfire, Zwaithe and the Dray seem to be slowly stirring awake from the gaging smell of the green substance. Jerri pukes in the corner as he realizes what has become of all his beloved Kanks (their innards are at least one ingredient of the green sludge), and with some nudging by the other characters, vows revenge on the sauren for their terrible deed!
As the party regains their strength, they resolve to push deeper into the Tor to discover a way out of its haunted tombs…
Everyone that showed up decided to award their character points evenly. So Toan, Aeislun, and Très each received 3 CPs, Dahloy earned 2 CPs, and Zwaithe earned 1 CP. Please keep track of how many CPs you’ve invested and how many you’ve earned in total!