Posted on December 25, 2012
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, LXXXIVSo with the weird 1st edition monster dead, some healing was required to get back some of the strength that the Roper had damaged. Nobody drank a potion, just sayin’. Anyway, the Mountain Roper had nothing in the way of treasure, since the party wasn’t able to carry away his backstory, a fascinating tale of quiet solitude and a rich inner life. Beyond the Roper, a rift in space and maybe time opened up and the Denizens of Leng popped out. Again, a clutch of them appeared, but left all the talking up to one of their number. The party went up to meet them. One of the DoL carried the same style of mini-pylon that they had seen carried out of the first rift during their fight with the Rune Giant. As he set it up, Kerplak rushed forward to “help” him. The gnome did what he usually does – fucking something up – although this time he did it (mostly) deliberately. The Man of Leng looked shocked and appalled, but not as shocked and appalled as his buddies looked when everyone else jumped into combat with them. Treachery!
The Men of Leng initially got ready for a fight, with some desultory attempts at attacks. The party was more than a match for them, with a summoned Ankylosaurus helping out probably more than a match for the Men of Leng. But as Arradin struck down one of their number, another fled back into the rift and the others plunged their own claws and daggers into their their eye sockets and necks, killing themselves within a few seconds. As their bodies bubbled and frothed into a green muck, the rift behind them closed and the Ankylosaurus leapt… hurtled… ran… plodded through. What adventures he encountered on the other side of the portal to Leng, we’ll never know. The party had time to check out their surroundings, they were in what appeared to have been a garden sunken in a natural gully of the mountain, between two looming structures. Alabaster fountains and benches had survived the millenia of cold abandonment, but the garden itself had not. A pale marble staircase wound up to the main street level, some 50ft above them. The party sneaked forward, up the staircase and into the Rising District’s upper streets. From here they could see the almost untouched opulence of the Rising District’s fabulous buildings. While the lower city had seen seismic destruction and the encroachment of the ice field, the Rising District was a better reflection of the ancient majesty of Xin-Shalast. Also, crawling with Rune Giants. The search parties evidently continued, but only solitary Rune Giants patrolled the Rising District. One, regrettably, passed by the party as they emerged from the curving staircase. Halvard threw himself against a wall and Dagfinn cast an Invisibility Sphere. The next time this spell gets cast I’m going to impose penalties to hide for everyone who picks that moment to either ask what they can do within this sphere. It was all kind of beside the point for that round because the Giant rumbled Halvard, who was not included in the sphere and created his combo electricity-fire cone across the entire huddled party. Ron did some more Matrix shit to get away from it, but it was otherwise a very effective attack.
The party struck back, frantically trying to do whatever damage they could before that happened again. Tersplink hit the Giant with a wand of Enervation which weakened it considerably. Ron dashed forward to grapple the Giant, which went nowhere really. Arradin stepped in and struck it hard. The Giant snatched up a brass horn and Dagfinn cast Burning Disarm, causing the giant to drop the red hot horn to the ground. Arradin kept up the punishing barrage of big hits and they managed to bring the Rune Giant down before it exploded all over them again. The healing had to wait for the party to drag the giant off the main street and down the curving staircase. At this Halvard turned out to be really good. Having stashed the Giant, they set out through the city, more cautiously than previously. They played a game of hundreds of cats and six mice as they moved through the great towers and temples of the Rising District, timing their scurrying runs across wide, steep boulevards and shadowed lanes as more rune Giants prowled the area.
They made their way towards the Golden Road and the point at which the Golden Road lifted up out of the Rising district and became a sweeping causeway to the higher slopes of the Mhar Massif. At this point, their position was quite precarious, because if they ran out onto the broad Golden Road so close to the city nearly every Giant on the lookout would be able to see them. The light was failing as it was late afternoon and darkness might prove to be of some assistance, but that wouldn’t help them if they were ousted from their hiding place in the meantime. As they kept their eyes peeled for more patrollers, Ron saw a single streak of gold emerge from the Slave district, soar into the sky above and burst in a shower of glittering sparks. A second later, more streaks pierced the sky and the gathering dark was illuminated by scores of golden explosions. Hunting horns sounded from all corners of the city and the party watched in surprise (not the game effect, just the regular kind) as the throngs of Rune Giants in the Rising District turned South and rushed to the Lower City. Someone, somewhere had just bought them a chance at making the ascent without being plasma-coned to death.
They took it. Here’s where the idea of paving anything with gold gets tricky: it is a shit paving surface. And this far up the Golden Road has stayed very golden. Slippery with rime, windblown by the vicious winds that constantly whip the Mhar Massif and steep enough now that it forms a vast stairway, the road led them thousands of feet upwards. Walking into the dark of early evening, they began to pass the point at which air is breathable. Tersplink was able to ameliorate many of his problems with his Bottle of Air and Fly spells for him and his cousin (so they could gambol gnomishly up the staircase). Almost five miles above sea level now or twenty Empire State buildings high, if you want to think of it that way, the pressure just wasn’t sufficient to draw in air. They struggled on, gasping their way up the stairs. At this point, some purple spiders the size of Mastodons popped out from under the road. I can’t believe no-one thought that these might be hallucinations. I guess you get used to weird stuff. Anyway, these spider-like-but-not-spiders-because-none-of-them-had-eight-legs were very large, very purple and holding aloft strands of webbing wrapped around heavy stones. Arradin twigged that these might be bolas, but the spiders made no aggressive moves. Not so Halvard; why talk when you could Flamestrike? Boom! But no counter was forthcoming.
Instead, the Spider spoke to them in Varisian Common, ignoring whatever it was that hilarious looking hu-man had been trying to do with his adorable little magic spell. The foremost spider greeted them and then shared the happy news that the Spiders had decided not to eat them. Instead, they had decided to tell the party to go and kill the Men of Leng. They were the sworn enemies of the “Men” of Leng and wanted them dead. The spiders were evidently incapable of getting through the Occluding field and could the party just murder the Men of Leng, kthxbai. To the apparent amusement of the spiders, Dagfinn asked them what their reward for doing this would be. There wouldn’t be one: just get on with it. The spiders walked away, clearing the last section of the Golden Road and permitting access to the upper slopes. The party slogged on upwards, the mists parting to reveal the stern face of Karzoug carved into the side of the Mhar Massif and the citadel that lay below it. Suddenly they were through the Occluding Field, the air rushing into their lungs as the pressure rapidly returned to close to normal. It was cold too, but not the skin flaying cold they had almost become used to in the Lower city. Before them stood the upper Citadel of Xin-Shalast…