Guest Blog by Max Bryans
Our Cast of Players:
- Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 9.
- Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
- Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
- Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 9.
- Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
- Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 9.
- Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 9.
- Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.
- Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.
- Nogri: Human Warrior, level 2.
- Tal: Human Warrior, level 2.
- Uthilian: Elf Warrior, level 2.
- Vermox: Human Warrior, level 2.
Total XPs awarded from the previous session: 258,440
As Albrecht composes himself, he find he stifles a most inappropriate titter. Clearly the pressure of this place (wherever it is) is getting to him.
“What’s the matter, Albrecht?” asks Kaji.
“It’s this place, it’s them,” he says, gesturing to the statues. “You recognise them too, don’t you?”
“Let’s have a look,” Kaji says, as he commences a more detailed examination of the statues.
“This one,” he points at the one eared Elf, “I seem to have something of. He certainly wasn’t that lucky,” and he indicates the Lucky-Elf-Ear around his neck.
“That one, yup. I killed him in the Inn which took us plane travelling.” He indicates the Mohican toting halfling.
“That’s a priest of Justinian.”
“The female elf in chain? Nope, I got nothing on her. Listen, Albrecht, just keep it together will you? This is just the latest piece of other-worldly weirdness to add to our existing mountain of other-worldly weirdness. Don’t let it get to you.”
Edward, looking for answers, calls upon his gods to indicate whether there is evil in the
vicinity. As well as there being small but noticeable difficulty communicating with them, the answer is clear. This entire chamber is steeped in evil. Absolutely everything is blanketed with it. The only “good” news is that nothing in particular stands out as being more evil than anything else. He decides it isn’t wise to explain the sheer magnitude of this evil to the rest of the already fraught party.
“It’s evil. Enough said. Artan?” He points to the door midway down the long west wall. “Could you do the honours, please?”
As Artan inspect the door for traps, Kaji decides to further explore on a more esoteric plane. He mouths a spell and enables himself to communicate telepathically.
Almost at once, like Edward with his detection of evil, he is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of noise in his head. All around him are vague whisperings, some louder than others, but there are so many, coming from every direction, that he can’t discern and focus on any particular one. He can’t even decipher the language and, after a minute or two, he ends the spell with a sigh of relief. He realises the disconcerting voices the others are hearing are just a small echo of the vast telepathic conversation going on all around them. Also, like Edward, he keeps this information to himself. The fighters are already a bit too twitchy for his liking, and he thinks it best not to worry them further.
“Door clear,” announces Artan, and he opens it with a slight push on a panel.
As the door swings open to reveal the contents, Artan gasps. There is an Ogre Mage mid-cast pointing straight at him!
But the gasp is soon replaced by a sigh of relief. The Ogre Mage is really only another statue. In this room are “only” three ogres, but not like any ogres they have met before. They are wearing flowing scholastic robes and each is studying a book from one of the three large bookcases in this library. The bookcases themselves rise up from the floor and are made from the same impossible material. Artan has the distinct impression they were not carved or put there. They just ARE there.
But library work can wait, there is killing to do! As Aaron casts a Protection from Evil on himself, the main line fighters of Edward, Elfire, Patroclus and Artan pour into the library. It does not take long. Patroclus dodges a hail of massive club blows with ease, Edward out-manoeuvres a crude attempt to flank him and Artan hammers like the master he is. The honour of last blow falls to Kaji. With a contemptuous flick of the wrist he provides the final coup-de-grace with a wand bestowed Magic Missile.
With the area clear, the party mass in the library. Albrecht starts when he sees the Ogre Mage statue, but recovers quickly.
“That’s Chundag,” he explains to those who were not there. “We killed him some months back. I think we still have his spell book, haven’t we, Kaji?” To which Kaji nods assent as Albrecht continues. “We found him down a crystal mine, along with plans and failed efforts to make copies of the Eyes of the Night. Right nasty piece of work. I’m also pretty sure of a couple of other things. Firstly, this library was not so tidy when we sheltered here last year. And that,” he indicates Chundag’s statue, “is very much a new addition.”
“Let’s see what this place is about,” ventures Kaji, and he moves to the bookcases. Before he does he is interrupted by Artan.
“Whoooooo up, check this fellow out,” he indicates the Ogre which tried to outflank Edward. Around his neck is a platinum pendant in the shape of a Dragon’s claw. Albrecht and Pioden recognise it immediately. In their previous visit to this place they had seem similar, admittedly in baser materials, around the necks of the Kobold Dragon Cultists. “And that’s not all,” continues Artan, as he slides the Ogre’s hood from his face. Underneath the Ogre is disfigured. In the centre of his forehead is a lizard’s slot pupiled eye, and his original eyes are seemingly in the process of being covered by a growth of dragon like scales.
“Yes, yes. He’s a Dragon Cultist. Not really a surprise is it, Artan?” scoffs Kaji, and he returns his attention to the bookshelf. The increasingly peevish dwarf seethes from the discourtesy, but manages to keep his temper in check.
When last here, the band of adventurers had struggled to make sense of the contents of these bookshelves. But now, as Albrecht observed, they have been tidied. It does not take long to establish a search pattern. This time around they have Kaji and Pioden’s arcane knowledge, Aaron and Albrecht’s clerical ability, Edward and Rashid’s history knowledge, Rashid’s in depth understanding of language structure and grammar and, to top it all, Elfire’s Helm of Perception enables him to read any language without conscious thought. It just takes an hour of collaborative study for the following facts to be made clear.
This library is a relic. The books, although they might have been transcribed yesterday, contain the knowledge of the ancients. The contents, language, and even concepts are centuries (if not millennia) out of date, and lean towards histories and references on geology, flora and fauna.
One book to strike a chord is “101 Species of New Plants”. An initially harmless tome which only draws further attention since it is accredited to “Nockmort”. Artan recognises this to be the name of the mad Ent they had to kill in an underground forest. In the book are Nockmort’s detailing of the new plants he has bred and engineered, in his quest to rid the world of all animals. The realisation that one day the plants could rise up and kill them all makes Kaji shudder, but he gets over it by brutally biting down on an apple.
The most revealing tome however is “The Shine of the Dragon’s Scales”. The author is someone called Tsathzar Rho, and further reading recounts snippets of his story. Tsathzar was one of the mightiest clerics of his day and, in communing with different planes, had fallen under the thrall of Pyraxus, the greatest of Red Dragons. Becoming more and more obsessed, he started a cult with the aim of channelling and finally resurrecting Pyraxus back to this plane of existence. To this end the Dragon Cult was borne. The book places the cult as starting many centuries before. It would seem they have been operating in the shadows for almost ever and, it is only now, at the height of their ambitions, that they have risked revealing themselves.
Further reading also describes the very nature of the place they are standing in. These chambers of impossible stone are a nexus within the realm of the Outer Gods. It was here that Tsathzar was able to commune with other dimensions, and also here where he presumably became corrupted and utterly insane.
“What does that bit there say, Rashid?” asks Kaji of a particularly troublesome passage.
“Literally… ‘This pocket flows from one place (I think they mean ‘plane’) to the next.’ Not sure what it means though.”
“It means Artan was right, Rashid,” enthuses Kaji, “this is not our plane, but another.”
“But it’s not always joined to ours?” ventures Rashid, “So we might already be trapped here?”
The eye of the Helm of Perception gives a sympathetic blink to Elfire’s gulp, as the realisation that they may be cornered sinks in.
To be continued…