Posted on July 6, 2012
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, LXVII
Holy shit, somewhere between me reading the title of the last post and typing the next post’s title my numerals keep reversing on themselves. I think we’re set now… this is the 67th entry.
After the Storval Plateau spanning travel montage that brought us to the foothills of the Kodar Mountains, our intrepid -although by this time, quite tired of seeing sage brush – party has made it to within sight of the valley from which the Kazaron river flows out of the range. The ground rose so steeply that they are going to start getting into serious mountain territory very soon.
Travelling through the foothills for a day, the weather deteriorated, starting with sleet and worsening to a blizzard that didn’t relent for the entire session. Actually it got worse. There is always something comforting about games set in cold climates when it is matador-crotch hot outside. Playing Skyrim at the moment is like standing in the freezer section of a supermarket. Conversely, come winter, all I imagine are tropical locales and swaying palms before a sandy beach.
It was after a night’s rest and a brief discussion of what it means to keep watch (focus, not just consciousness) that everyone decided that Dagfinn should do more drugs. He’d been a bit of a space cadet since his first sip of the Liao drug but people had been keeping an eye out for him.
After sipping a little bit more, the bard attempted to focus his experience. It didn’t seem to help much; he was looking for dwarves, but was catapulted way past the time period that the Vekkers presumably inhabited and into the distant, far, way distant past. So distant that the geography wasn’t even the same. In his vision, the Kazaron river was much lower, flowing out of the river valley between some kind of huge river-spanning gate or arch, with ordered embankments and canals radiating away from some kind of settlement. Distantly he could see people milling around the settlement. He walked over to one of the flowering sage bushes and plucked a few leaves, rolled them between his fingers and smelled the fragrance. With a lurch the landscape returned to the present, the hillside reappearing and the flowering sage leaves disappearing from his fingertips.
So not much help in finding the dwarves, but everyone felt that it meant they were on the right path. So up it they went.
Altitude started to become a difficulty as they entered the high passes. Halvard and the gnomes started having problems with fatigue although Tersplink curtailed it by using Tree Stride to take the place of actual effort. Kerplak had to be carried and everyone had to stop for a long lunch while Halvard used his Ring of Sustenance to rest for 2 hours and then they all got going again. After 6 hours of travel, the light faded and the snowfall continued so they made another camp for the night.
That morning, Halvard cast Heroes Feast to make sure everyone got a good start to the day. The spell creates a magnificent table and chairs, so when everyone woke up, there was a big fancy table sitting in the middle of this frozen pass, amidst the flurries of snow, packed full of breakfast. After an hour of eating, they progressed further into the mountains, thoroughly satiated and buffed by the spell. I’m not sure what happens to the table and chairs. I assume that they disappear, otherwise the landscape would eventually get littered with out of place banquet-ware.
Into the mountains they went, the snowfall worsening as they went. After a few hours, they spotted a looming cliff face upon which some kind of structure had been built. Approaching, they found a sturdy wooden structure, now covered with lichen and seemingly disused. At the base of a cliff a small wooden building sprouted a tower-like shaft that clung to the cliff-face and terminated at the top of the cliff in a cabin that seemed to incorporate the tower and a habitable building. It is difficult to explain, but I drew a wee picture and that seemed to limit confusion, although not completely.
At the base, a small rise supported the building and paths led to doors on one side while on the other side, there was a tailings pile and a very dead pine tree.
Tersplink cast fly on himself and went up the cliff face to see what was up there. What was up there was a well built cabin festooned with antlers. Looking for a main door he found one, but it was stuck in its frame and he was not the person to push it in. As he tried, he became of someone moving quickly in the snow, getting closer. Peering into the worsening blizzard, he saw a dwarf, ragged and covered in injuries scrambling desperately through the snow. “Run, run for your life!” the dwarf bellowed “They’re trying to eat us, they’ll kill us all!” at which he abruptly changed direction and ran off into the blizzard. Tersplink kept the cabin to his back and kept an eye on the direction the dwarf had come, peering into the snowfall. When nothing was forthcoming, he flew back down to the base of the cliff.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party had not been idle. Going to the nearest door, they unlocked it and found that it opened onto some kind of processing workshop. A ramp led up to a platform which then led to a chute. And beside it all, pans and pots and vats and all sorts of stuff that had some unknown purpose. The whole place smelled terrible, but that wasn’t the most noticeable feature of the room. At the base of the ramp, by a mound of coarse dirt crouched a dwarf, noisily shoving handfuls of dirt into his face. He turned to the party, slobbering strings of gold-flecked saliva covering his beard and with a face entirely lacking eyes. “You! You have to try this, it’s delicious!” He offerd a handful of the dirt towards them while shoving another handful into his mouth.
Kerplak couldn’t resist. He tried, I suppose, but that made no difference worth noticing because he dashed forward and started shoving the stuff into his face. Unfortunately, quite a bit of that dirt is arsenic dust and Kerplak became very badly poisoned. As he felt the poison settle into his vital organs he watched the dwarf before him become drawn and emaciated within seconds and then flew apart in a shower of meaty chunks, covering Kerplak in gore as he struggled to get his fingers down his throat. Someone said that maybe they had a potion of neutralize poison, so everyone searched, but Kerplak was able to make himself barf and he thinks got quite a bit of the poison out of his system. Still he felt like crap.
Through the doors of this room, the found entrance to the shaft that led up the cliffside. A solid looking staircase wound around the interior and in the center of the shaft a thick chain dangled down from the gloom, terminating in a large sturdy bucket. They decided to come back to that and went outside to find out where they could get access to the other area of the cliffbase building. While outside they found Tersplink who had just returned from up top.
The other door led to the toolshed. Everything inside was shitty. They closed the door and went back to the staircase.
Up the staircase they went, jockeying for position as they went. It’s kind of funny that they don’t really have a standard marching order, but everyone seems to have their own reason for wanting to be at the front unless it is Tersplink, who stays behind, wisely, unless he flies ahead, foolishly.
At the sight of the bucket, Kerplak wanted to ride it. Obviously. So he was placed in the bucket in preparation for a leisurely ride to the top of the shaft, currently dark and mysterious Dagfinn, I think, had the good sense to cast Feather Fall on the gnome. It was at that point that the chain went crazy. The bucket on the other end of the chain hurtled towards the ground, sending Kerplak’s bucket – and by extension Kerplak – hurtling towards the ceiling. He was slammed into the ceiling and thrown from the bucket. He activated his climbing grapples, which shot out and pinned him into the wall. The chain looped itself around one of his ankles and whacked him against the walls until he lost consciousness. Tersplink raced to his cousin’s defence, flying up the shaft and turning invisible, but mostly just staying out of the way.
Arradin, Halvard, Ron and Dagfinn raced up the staircase, the chain lashing out at them as they went, when suddenly the staircase tilted, threatening to dump them all into the shaft. Only Halvard actually fell, unable to leap to a safe place as the stairs disappeared beneath him. The chain slammed and coiled around Halvard and Ron, who were unable to grapple with it. Dagfinn hacked at it while Arradin looked for a place to tie a rope… I forget why. Chain Rodeo? When she gave up on that, she took off her Greataxe and hacked at the support beams that held the big pulley in place.
Suddenly, the chain relaxed, loosing its grip on Halvard and swinging, inert and harmless.
After healing the dangling Kerplak, who swung back and forth limply like a Spider-Man musical casualty, they moved into the platform area at the top of the shaft. Ron had the good adventuring sense to search the area, which was SUPER FORTUNATE because that’s where the treasure was hidden. A small hidden door concealed a room with several burlap sacks – fine, corinthian burlap – and a small writing desk. A quick check of the sacks revealed that they were full of gold dust and gold nuggets. A hidden coffer contained some uncut gems. Dagfinn was more interested in the book that lay on the desk which again is SUPER FORTUNATE because thats where the plot is. It was a ledger, detailing they payouts of various test shafts that the brothers had sunk. Maps to each site were scribbled in the edges of the pages and detailed assaying and geology notes across the rest of the pages. Interestingly, the last few pages had been removed, torn out leaving no clue as to what they held.
Okay, fascinating, but there were saves to fail in other parts of this here cabin.
Unlike the workshop feel of downstairs, this cabin was made to be lived in, as long as you were fine with hardship, which as we all know dwarves love. Moving into a hallway, the first door they opened led to a bunkroom. There was nothing of particular value in here although the little curtained privy here had a stack of paper squares made out of an old Korvosan Broadsheet. By reading the news presented within the snippets, Dagfinn reckoned they were about 12 years old, which was a little before the Vekkers disappeared. Here Kerplak also discovered a lever that reset and armed the trapped staircase in the shaft. So he reset that.
The next room was a storage closet, full of all sorts of equipment that had aged badly. Betamax cassettes, pagers, that kind of thing. Then the hallway led to the living area, which was in considerable disarray. A portrait of two dwarves and a dead Elk looked down onto a room that was covered in dried blood and broken furniture. As Arradin and Kerplak surveyed the room, they became suddenly and ravenously hungry. Worse yet, they became convinced that only the flesh of their fellow adventurers would truly sate this terrible, terrible hunger. Even worse yet, they knew just how to do it – eyeing up Dagfinn and Tersplink like they were succulent cuts of sizzling meat. They were able to snap out of it, but they aren’t quite able to shake the uncanny feeling that when they see another party member, they are looking at food. The feeling is unnerving in the extreme. Especially since Dagfinn probably would be pretty delicious.
Halvard and Ron hung back, happy apparently, to let the now unhinged members of their party bump into more hauntings. Kerplak opened the door that led from the living area and found a cold storage room. Empty of stored food, it was instead piled high with bones and ragged clothing. They were dwarf bones mostly, but as Kerplak examined them, also one set of gnome bones, with a Ring of Invisibility on one hand and a Ring of Resistance on the other… Kerplak realised to his horror that he was looking at his own bones. The other party members looked on as he began thrashing wildly, struggling against unseen opponents as bite marks began appearing all over his skin, until he was covered in his own blood and his clothing shredded to pieces. Then suddenly the invisible struggle ceased and Kerplak dropped, unconscious, to the ground.
Everyone had had quite enough of this cabin at this point and was eager to leave. Halvard and Ron, bringing up the rear, heard thumping noises from back in the direction of the shaft. Arradin shoved open the stuck front door and the blizzard sent snow whipping into the living room. The front door began opening and closing rapidly, against the wind’s battering and Arradin propped it open with herself to allow the others to leave. Dagfinn hasted everyone and they ran from the haunted cabin like a shower of enormous pussies. Seriously, like, zoicks!
Outside, it wasn’t really any more hospitable – the blizzard had picked up in intensity and visibility was all of 10ft. At this point they heard someone running in the snow and the same phantasm that had appeared to Tersplink appeared to the rest of the party, warning them that they were going to be eaten. Arradin and Dagfinn really took the words to heart and sprinted away in a state of panic, convinced that they were about to be set upon by their “friends” and devoured while still alive.
Dagfinn – hasted, you will recall – sprinted clean off the cliff, plummeting 60ft to the hard rock below. Arradin ran in one big loop but eventually ran out of solid ground as well, hurtling off the cliff, then picking herself up and continuing to run blindly into the blizzard. Dagfinn by that time had snapped out of it and went looking for her, unsuccessfully.
Back up on the cliff, the blizzard suddenly quietened and seemed to lessen for a second, but really the snowflakes were just coalescing into a form some distance from Ron, Halvard, and the Dropwads. For a second they had a brief glimpse of a nightmarish form within the blizzard, but then the snow resumed its ferocious assault and closed in around them.
The cabin, meanwhile was full of noises of its own. The windows poured light out into the snowy valley and the thumping grew more intense until it was joined with frantic screaming and sounds of crashing. A plan was put into place to tie a rope to Kerplak and … actually I never really figured out what that plan was. I’m sure it was going to be great.
As they fannied around with the rope-a-Dropwad plan, the cabin fell silent, the lights dimmed. They spotted a wispy form on the porch of the cabin. It floated towards them, so Halvard cast Searing Light. The apparition continued regardless, its indistinct form suggesting a male dwarf.
“You!” he half-snarled “You do not hunger! But I sensed… no, you seek the city of Greed!” The ghost warned them that they should not go, but he also sense that he could not turn them away from seeking Xin-Shalast. He knew the way, he told them, though it was his doom. He would tell them how to get there if they returned his brothers bones to him so that they could both rest. His brothers bones were located at their last dig site, detailed in the ledger.
But, they replied, the last pages are missing. No, said the dwarf, those pages detailed how to get Xin-Shalast, he removed them, just look at the last dig site in the ledger, he told them (like I just fucking told you to, he didn’t tell them). So, this weather is shitty, right? They said (I’m paraphrasing). The blizzard, it turns out, is the source of all the trouble. It is not really a blizzard but something called the Windwalker, the dwarf told them. Also, look out for the… ooooh. He faded away, the wispy of light that made him, disappearing.
That’s where we stopped it.