Theme Song for this Session (listen while you read):
Characters & Setup
After having defeated the swindlespitters and guard drakes of the sauren, the party finds themselves in a dramatic standoff with the Skull-Skull clan – with neither willing to give up their easily defensible positions. A long corridor with a sharp corner is all that separates the combatants.
- Zwaithe, still in his skull-skull disguise, waited with whip in hand to punish anything that turned the sharp corner to the skull-skull room.
- Medrash (the Dray), heaving from the recent use of his icy dragon breath, stood squarely in the center of the entrance.
- Aislun stood a fair ways off since he could still feel the spider’s venom coursing through his veins.
- Jerri was flanked by his kanks guarding the eastern side of the makeshift barricade.
- Très was ready to catch whatever the sauren threw at him in his scorpion claw gauntlets.
- Toan, reeling from the swindlespitter’s blinding attack, was desperately trying to clean the sticky, acidic glue from his eyes.
- Morrah maintained the shapesand barricade as Dahloy rested his hand crossbow between the custom-made arrow slits.
The session began with a few tense moments as the party waited for the sauren to make the first move. When the sauren simply started another game of skull-skull (seemingly out of boredom), the party decided to try to find another way out. Half the party ventured back toward the western room (the Balic Burial Chamber) to investigate the line of salt across the entry-way, while the other half continued to guard the southern corridor.
The Balic Burial Chamber
As they crossed the line of salt, a low hum stirred the wind, “Beware! He that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts, benighted walks under the mid-day sun, for he, himself, is his own dungeon!” And slowly smoke from the dozen or so candles wreathing the shrine in the back of the room coalesced into a roughly humanoid shape. After a few moments of startled hesitation, the assembled investigators took a few steps closer and triggered a pressure plate beneath their feet! One of the standing armors’ visors flicked up to reveal a firing mechanism – an action which was immediately followed by a volley of darts.
Très, Toan, and Medrash dodged the darts while attempting to appraise the threat posed by the spirit. Upon seeing Toan among the group, the spirit raised its ghostly arm in a non-threatening manner. Over the next few minutes, Aislun disabled the Balic Dart Traps while the party learned more about the spirit hovering before them. It called itself the “Initiate,” and had summoned Toan to this place to finally complete the task that was its life’s work. In exchange for aiding it in this task, it would show the party another exit and spare them a certain death at the hands of the dishonored Balic soldiers interned in the chamber.
The party agreed. With some work, Toan was able to draw the seal and bind the spirit to the pact – conferring upon him some small measure of the spirit’s power, but also granting the spirit a vessel through which to experience the world again… and perhaps, achieve its life’s purpose. This time, the Initiate would stop at nothing to attain Supernal Clarity, the greatest weapon ever forged by Kelanen and the greatest symbol of the martial arts styles he mastered (collectively known as the Sublime Way or the Law). He advised Toan that only masters of the Sublime Way could properly wield the sword, and to the uninitiated, it might not even appear as a weapon.
20 darts, 4 psishards (trap targeting components)
Halls of the Blind
As the spirit crept into Toan’s mind, it provided him a glimpse of his means of escape and the threats they all faced, “I can see what you see not. Vision milky as eyes rot. When you turn they will be gone, whispering their hidden song. Then you see what cannot be! Shadows move where light should be! Out of darkness, out of mind, cast down into the Halls of the Blind!” Behind the shrine to King Kalak lay tunnels to the Lighthouse for the Blind’s terrible secret, and it’s exit. The tunnels were guarded by soul-sucking shades which could only be warded off by bright light. Hence the candles. After quickly prying the shrine from the wall, Très activated his natural iridescence to stave off the creatures while all the party members but Aislun and Jerri took shelter in his glow.
With the other party members gone, Aislun attempted to loot the sarcophagi in the Balic Burial Chamber (against Medrash’s and the Initiate’s advice). As he moved one lid, it sparked to life displaying the crashing of a fleet of ships onto the Lighthouse’s unlit shores. One of the very men that failed to defend the beacon of the lighthouse lay motionless in the sarcophagus. Given a new opportunity to avenge his honor, the creature’s bones began to shake as he stirred to undeath. Aislun quickly devised a new plan: lead the shades and the rising undead to attack the sauren in the other room! When he went to check on Jerri and his kanks, they were nowhere to be seen. Confused, Aislun took the shrine’s candles and made a break down the halls of the blind, but not before being snagged by a few of the tenacious shades. It seemed his plan worked as the shades and skeletons seemed to move toward the commotion of the Skull-Skull game. The Initiate’s only comment: “In the back of your mind there’s a whole open wide where the darkness creeps in from the outside. You can light rows of candles to cast the dark out, but it’s always there hiding… in shadows of doubt.”
The Door Before the Law
At the end of the Halls of the Blind was a room clearly much older than the rest of the tor. In it stood a giant circular slab presumably blocking a doorway. Engraved upon the slab was a similar scene as that depicted on the Balic sarcophagi: the lighthouse with a blackened light; its shores wreathed by shipwrecks. The Initiate insisted that Toan roll aside the slab. Once he had revealed the corridor beyond, the two split momentarily as a light flashed from the face of the slab. In the eye of the beacon, the two creatures acted out their ancient roles: Toan as the guard, and the Initiate as the man he once was…
Before the Law, there stands a guard. A man comes from the desert, begging admittance to the Law. The guard does not admit him. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to enter at a later time? “It’s possible,” says the guard, “but not now.” The man tries to peer through the entrance. He had been taught that the Law should be accessible to every man. “Don’t even think about it,” says the guard. “If it tempts you so much, go ahead and try it. But beware: I am very powerful. Yet I am weakest of all the guards. There are many guards before the Law, and each guard is more powerful than the last. I dare not even look upon the third…” By the guard’s permission, the man sits down by the side of the door, and there he waits. For years, he waits. Everything he has, he gives away in the hope of bribing the guard, who never fails to say to him, “I’m taking this only so that you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.” Keeping his watch during the long years, the man has learned to know even the fleas in the guard’s fur. And growing childish in old age, he begs the very fleas to persuade the guard to change his mind and allow him to enter. His sight has dimmed, but in the darkness he perceives a radiance streaming immortally from the door of the law. And now, before he dies, all he’s experienced condenses into one question, a question he’s never asked. He beckons to the guard. Says the guard, “You are insatiable! What is it now?” Says the man, “Every man strives to attain the law. How is it then that in all these years, no one else has ever come here, seeking admittance?” His hearing has failed, so the guard yells into his ear, “No one else but you could ever have obtained admittance! No one else could enter this door! This door was intended only for you! And now, I am going to close it."
As the vision ended, Toan and the Initiate re-bound and regained control of themselves. This time, instead of closing the doorway, the two simply walked through, toward the Law (whatever that really is) and the rest of the party followed…
Royal Chamber of the Law
The next chamber was just as old as the first one, perhaps from the Green Age, with large stone doors to the left and forward. Standing, weapon drawn, in the center of the room was the guardian of the chamber. What was once a masterwork splint-mail armor and Katana were little more than rusting heaps of metal held aloft by the strange warrior. Vines crept from the dirt floor up over the boots of the creature and its glaring orange eyes provided the only illumination in the chamber. Hardly noticing the creature, the party darted for the southern door…
This room was truly the site of a royal burial! A jade and gold encrusted sarcophagus sat prominently on a raised platform at the center of the room. Was it King Kalak’s?! Sure enough, royal embalming pots lined the left and right walls of the chamber, magical glyphs adorned almost every surface, and more gold pieces than the party had ever seen was practically overflowing from a chest in the back of the room.
Just in front of the sarcophagus, a well-adorned pedestal held a pillow aloft. Upon the pillow sat a strange looking chastity belt of masterwork quality. Its buckle depicting the profile of what could best be described as a Zhackal (a psionic athasian jackal) with nine tails that wrapped around the waist before melting into the shape of nine tongues which reconnected with the buckle. Upon closer inspection, the tails/tongues were bladed and appeared to be part of the locking mechanism of the buckle, which doubled as a hilt of some kind, indicating that part of the belt doubled as a weapon of some kind. Strangely, the metallic ribbons appeared to twist and wave slowly with a life of their own, as though the Zhackal were trying to speak but was restrained by its own tail…
Convinced that Toan was the only guardian that really stood between him and the Law, and that the strange blade-belt on the pedestal must be the fabled blade Supernal Clarity, the Initiate urged his vessel to take it and find a way to activate it. As the party looked on, Toan somehow managed to take the legacy item without activating any traps, however the spirit of the Initiate was thrust from his body and proved unable to climb onto the central platform. Dahloy surmised that the largest glyph covering the entire surface of the central platform must be that of an Antimagic Zone coupled with a Magic Circle Against Spirits, which prevented the use of magic and blocked the passage of spirits anywhere within its bounds. As Toan stepped outside the bounds of the zone and unhinged the buckle (it was already unlocked), streams of fire shot out of the mouth of the caricature Zhackal and into the open air. Just as the smoke had coalesced into the Initiate earlier, these smokeless flames began to take on a roughly humanoid form.
In a flash, the creature became solid in the party’s midst. Completely naked, his exotic figure, chiseled features, and copper-toned… assets appeared too perfect to be true, and you suspected illusory magic was at work. “I think he’s an elf,” someone says. Soon after you noticed some tell-tale magical signs: a lock of his otherwise golden-red hair was an ivory white, his eyes were an unnaturally bright shade of blue, and he sported nine Zhackal-like tails. Evidently confused and embarrassed, the creature somehow hid his tail from view before speaking in a language that could only have been the dead language of Ancient Tyrian. With some guesswork, Dahloy was able to learn that the Elf’s name was Aaromal, that the party sounded like slaves to him, and that he wanted the sword and belt back. By this time, someone had identified that the sword was not Supernal Clarity, but instead was the “Tail/Tale Spinner” – a famous hoax sword said to have convinced many seekers of the Law that it was any number of the fabled blades forged by Kelanen. In fact, it was created by an infamous group called the Forsaken. The Initiate was crushed. After some convincing, Toan decided to give the items to the stranger, but not before he promised to help them escape from the tor. Aaromal agreed.
As a first gesture of his new allegiance, Aaromal identified the burial chamber as belonging to his former master the Efreeti Pasha Quor’Ash yn Memnon adh Shoon. He then advised the party that tampering with any other part of the room would almost certainly lead to instant death. This was enough to deter any more experimentation…
The Second Door Before the Law
As the party entered the previous chamber once again, the guardian addressed them:
“Storm-Peace? I am Umata, splinter of the Living Gate, mindful of the Way of the Law, although you may think of me simply as a guardian, a telepath, or a student. I am also these things. However, I am still perplexed by the bounds of this physical realm. I appear to be… stuck? Yes, stuck. I yearn for the taste of these lands, these things, these dreams… will you help me?”
“And what do we gain by helping you?”, the party said, almost in unison.
“For many years, I upheld my oath to guard the second door before the Law. As was my skill, I maintained the traps to ward away those unworthy of admittance. Once I became… stuck… and was unable to physically fulfill my sacred duties, I spent much time in contemplation of the Law. If you show yourself to have the wisdom to pass beyond this door, then I shall disable what traps remain and go forth to seek the Way of the Law in the lands beyond these walls. In doing so, I shall leave you in peace.”
Before the party fully agreed to the deal, Aislun kicked the shin of Umata’s armor, shattering it in one swift motion. Beneath the broken shards laid a writhing mass of desiccated vines, out of which two bulbous orange eyes appeared like eye stalks. “I thank you.”, the plant-like creature said into the minds of those present, as its humbled form began to shamble toward the doorway from which the party had come. Medrash gave Umata a word of warning, “This world ain’t as nice to plants as it used to be…”, but the creature didn’t look back as it crossed the first door before the Law. Confronted now with the second doorway before the Law, the party realized this steel doorway could not be as easily bypassed as the first. Beside the doorway were carved three inscriptions. Each seemed to be a poem… the answer(s) would like be the password to open the magical door. The three riddles were thus:
In the dark night flies a many-hued phantom.
It soars and spreads its wings
above the gloomy human crowd.
The whole world calls to it,
the whole world implores it.
At dawn the phantom vanishes
to be reborn in every heart.
And every night ’t is born anew
and every day it dies!
If you break me
I do not stop working,
If you touch me
I may be snared,
If you lose me
Nothing will matter.
I am a double-edged sword, a fool’s crown:
Raise me up high, and I’ll cut you down.
Push me down low, and mark my word:
The call of the ages will be answered.
After many attempts to guess the correct answer, Aislun began reading the horticulture manual the party found on the alchemists body earlier in the tomb. With a bit of effort and a lot of luck, they stumbled upon the correct answer: “Hope.”
Another flash of light emanated from the door as the beacon of the Lighthouse for the Blind swept across the chamber. This time, another phantom (the Initiate’s father?) played opposite the spirit. The much younger looking Initiate spoke:
“Which way is the right path, as I stand upon
this chaotic crossroad of hate…
How many ways are there to roam
on this dark and damned road of Fate…"
“There are many ways, my son,
to find where the souls of Demons remain…
But it takes only one second of despair and of doubt
until at last, your soul, they will gain…
Inherit these lands, these things, these dreams
that are yours, forever, to adore…
For there is no life, in the depths of Chaos, my son,
for you to explore…"
And with that, the door opened seemingly under its own power.
The Final Door Before the Law
The final room was an expansive cavern. What the party initially mistook for rock formations turned out to be dozens of uncannily detailed humanoid statues of various adventures, treasure hunters, and tomb raiders. Each faced the very center of the cavern where a reinforced steel door blocked access to a solid drake-bone outcropping that likely led deeper into the dungeon. It would be impossible to bypass except by rather explicit means. Carefully, the party made their way down to the center of the room and discovered a simple stone sarcophagus, a long inscription, and three large statues looking down upon them. The Ancient Tyrian inscription read:
Here lies Sahanna Al’Shadar, Master of the Sublime Way, and Final Guardian Before the Law. Challenge her if you dare to attain the greatest Honor a Warrior shall ever have. But heed this: The Law also values intelligence – one should not needlessly take to battle. Show that you are not blind to this truth before the three judges above and you shall have proven your worth in their eyes…
The inscription goes on to describe how one might do this, in summary:
These three animated statues, one made of Limestone, one of Marble, and one of Jade are haunted by the vestiges of the ancient refugees, in no particular order, Kelanan, Rajaat, and Ikxtli. Kelanan always speaks truly, Rajaat always speaks falsely, but whether Ikxtli speaks truly or falsely is a completely random matter. Your test is to determine the identities of the Limestone, Marble, and Jade statues by asking a series of yes-no questions; each question must be put to exactly one statue. The statues understand all languages, but will answer all questions in their own language, in which the words for yes and no are da and ja, in some order. You do not know which word means which.
* It could be that some statue gets asked more than one question (and hence that some statue is not asked any question at all).
* What the second question is, and to which statue it is put, may depend on the answer to the first question. (And of course similarly for the third question.)
* Questions may be as complex as desired, so long as they may be answered with either a yes or a no. If a question cannot be answered with a yes or a no, for any reason, the statue will simply remain silent.
* Whether Ikxtli speaks truly or not should be thought of as depending on the flip of a coin hidden in its brain: if the coin comes down heads, it speaks truly; if tails, falsely.
* The penalty for incorrectly naming the statues is instant petrification of the speaker.
The party is allowed three free questions. Each additional question will require the sacrifice of an eye-ball from a still-living, sentient creature. If fewer than three questions are required to correctly solve the riddle, the remaining questions up to three may instead be wishes as the “Limited Wish” spell granted by the vestiges on behalf of the whole party. If the sarcophagus, other statues, or doorway are disturbed in any way, the guardian will test the party in battle.
After considerable discussion, the party eventually figured out from the Initiate and Aaromal that “Ja” means “Yes” and that “Da” means “No” in Ancient Tyrian. In the alchemist’s/archaeologist’s journal, the party found references to the puzzle. The delver seemed to indicate that the first step was to resolve which statue was Ikxtli. They then resolved to ask the following questions:
Q1: To the Limestone Statue, “Are you Ikxtli if and only if the other two statues would answer ‘ja’ to the first part of this question?”
Q2: To the Marble Statue, “Are you Ikxtli if and only if the other two statues would answer ‘ja’ to the first part of this question?”
Q3: To the Limestone Status, “Are you Ikxtli?”
The party then addressed the three statues:
“The Marble statue is Kelanen, the Limestone status is Rajaat, and the Jade statue is Ikxtli!”
Once again the door flashed with light, but instead of another scene with the Initiate, the party was greeted with a shining corona. It seemed like a living, flowing gateway emblazoned along the edges of the door. As the shape of nine swords were withdrawn from the archway, the millions of points of light were scattered like splinters and the doorway grew painfully dark…
And with that, the final doorway opened and everyone let out a big sigh of relief.
Rolling Thunder of a Shining Shore
Down a long petrified dragon-like maw the party tread. Rib bones lined the walls, providing extra reinforcement for what was likely a well-guarded secret millennia in the making. At the bottom, the party could hear the sound of the silt sea’s winds and the faint clangs of battle. A small cove exposed to the elements (likely below the lighthouse facing the sea of silt), revealed itself. The tragic shipwrecks were now closer than ever just at the mouth of the cave and for some reason the sand seemed to shimmer. A rope and bucket dangled from the ceiling in the a small pool of freshwater streaming in from an underground stream to the south. It must be a well of some kind. In the center of the chamber, just before the shelf descended to the lower entrance to the cove, above a pedestal floated two cylindrical objects about the side of a sword’s hilt.
Then they realized: the entire floor of the cove was covered with Silver Pieces! Just as they were about to start shoveling them all into their pockets, a strange creature flew out of the shadows from behind a stalagmite. Enormous, with bony, spiked chitin covering every gap of its long and slender body, it flew gracefully through the air directly at the party. With a final glimpse before it attacked, they were able to recognize a single large jewel pulsating in its forehead…
I don’t think we really had a chance to distribute character points, and we technically got a little further into the battle, but I’d like to rewind to the start for any newcomers and give you guys some credit now for all the awesome stuff you pulled off above. So Aislun gets 3 CPs, Toan gets 3 CPs, Dahloy gets 2 CPs, Jerri gets 1 CP, Medrash gets 1 CP, and Aaromal gets 2 CPs.
Not much loot in this session, but now everyone’s standing in the room full of silver!