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Catt’s 4E: The Whispering Cairn continued

August 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into an ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and get help from Dar Gremath in Albridge. They defeated the traps, undead, and insects within the tomb, but a collapse of the tunnels behind them drives them forward in search of a way out.

The Heroes begin this session at Level 2 / 1658 XP

And now…

Beyond the stone face at the end of the hallway the party found a long, dark room. The walls, ceiling and floor 8’ below were covered with decorative arrangements of bones, forming a memorial ossuary. A six inch wide beam of ebony spanned the ossuary chamber, leading straight toward a prominent carving on the opposite wall similar to the stone face behind them. But this one was of an immense skull. Below the beam, countless bones were neatly piled and stacked.

Suspecting a trap, the party spent some time examining the beam and the room. They found that at the far corner, ahead and to their right, the bones were in disarray and sunken. They seemed to have spilled into a fissure or tunnel, the top of which was just visible. From that same location, they heard the muffled rattle of bones moving deep below. Edging out onto the beam, Akhan got the sense that the ebony beam was a dangerous path. He expected it was trapped in some manner, though no mechanical triggers were evident.

From behind Akhan, Finneal launched a magic missile toward the ratting bones. Dau’um and Cedric dropped to the bones below and, sinking about a foot into them, prepared for an assault. The bones surged and scattered in a wave as a large form tunneled toward them. A grick that had been feasting on the bones below erupted from the bone pile. It was quickly followed by a second, burrowing its way from the tunnel in the corner. From above and below, the party rained down pain upon the two monstrosities and prevailed. Searching the bones, they found another skeleton in dried and cracked red leather bearing the familiar eight-point star, a rusty rapier, and 47 gp, 93 sp in coins that was over 200 years old.

Carefully approaching the skull from the bones below, the mouth dropped open revealing a tight alcove. In a guttural whisper, a voice spoke in an ancient tongue. They pieced together a rough translation of the message as “Sacrifice that of greatest value.” Though they tossed various items into the mouth, each was unceremoniously expelled and they heard “sacrifice … unworthy” in the same ancient tongue.

Knowing that their task was urgent and their options few, Akhan grasped the lower teeth of the skull and pulled himself in – not knowing if it would mean his own death. The mouth slowly ground closed, but as it did, a cantilevered stone in the back of the alcove slowly opened providing admittance to a Chamber beyond. The rest of the party followed.

This cavernous chamber consisted of a circular stone walkway around a deep chasm. Bluish light reminiscent of a late summer’s day filtered down from the ceiling about forty feet above. A quiet sighing breeze seemed to continually blow around the chamber. Four wide galleries framed the walkway, their walls covered with enormous bas relief vistas. Like spokes of a wheel, four bridges spanned from the circular walkway to a central pedestal – though two had collapsed with age. Sitting majestically upon the pedestal was an immense sarcophagus half encircled with a final bas relief vista serving as a backdrop.

The heroes found the central pit to be about 60 feet deep, ending in a featureless basin. They found that each of the four perimeter galleries portrayed a different scene. Though the sculpting appeared stylized from a distance, as the heroes approached, the images shifted and distinct impressions of movement became apparent.

The first gallery depicted a peaceful scene featuring several men relaxing in an idyllic country setting. Dozens of perfect circles filled the frame around the men. As the heroes drew closer, twisted shapes seemed to emerge from the sculpture’s edges and coalesced to form monstrous creatures, evil dragons, and demonic figures. As the creatures encroached upon the men in the scene, the circles in the frame seemed to burst one by one. This depiction struck a cord with the party as an ancient legendary theme – the peaceful civilizations of men in conflict with an ever-present threat of outside forces of beasts, evil and chaos.

The second gallery depicted a scene of seven proud noble warriors presenting seven regular fragments of a rod to a council of superiors. The central figure, who was obviously not a warrior, seemed to raise the parts above his head, where they coalesced into a single rod. From the carved glyphs on each of the seven warriors, the party identified them from the myth of the “Wandering Warriors” – men who abandoned the escalating war with Chaos to secure the secrets of a fabled segmented rod.

The third gallery depicted an epic battle between men and demons, Law and Chaos. As the image seemed to shift, the central figure (the mightiest of the Wandering Warriors) used the rod to impale a mighty demon – an entity that looked like a cross between spider, man and wolf. Finally, the Wolf-Spider, Rod, and Warrior vanished into a flaming rift that opened in the ground.

The fourth gallery depicted a lone Wandering Warrior armed with a mighty longsword and heavy shield, descending into the rift in search of the lost mighty warrior. As he entered, the rift seemed to transition into a stylized representation of the gates of hell. Crowds lining the rift were portrayed reaching out to him in various poses of anguish and grief, imploring him not to go.

Up a short step on the central pedestal rested a white marble sarcophagus, much more ornate than the one in the tomb of colored lanterns, complete with a sculpted humanoid figure carved into the lid. On a freestanding curved wall shielding the sarcophagus, a beautifully carved bas relief depicted the same warrior wearing a simple ancient garment, wielding a mighty longsword and heavy shield. At the feet of the warrior were numerous slain dragons. Over the figure’s head was a balanced scale, indicating a champion of justice. To the warrior’s left stood a cloaked demonic figure with two long curved horns tipped in darkest red. On each side of the bas relief, framing the scene stood an armored warrior, shield and sword at ready.

As Finneal stepped onto the central pedestal, the two armored warriors stepped from the bas relief and attacked. They were quite formidable and used knockback attacks to keep the intruders from the sarcophagus. But each time the party retreated, the guardians slowly returned to their places in the bas relief.

Working in concert and retreating when necessary, the party slowly whittled the two down until they decided to make an all out assault on the tomb’s protectors – but as the first of the guardians was bloodied, it blasted the group with an area knockback effect that sent the party flying and sent Aranthis to the edge of the pedestal. Missing a reflex save to catch the edge of the pedestal, she fell to the bottom of the pit, unconscious and at death’s door. Dau’um quickly braced a rope and dropped to the pit floor below to administer aid.

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 2083 XP (425 XP this session)

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Catt’s 4E: The Whispering Cairn

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Previously in Winterhaven…

In their exploration of the ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep, the heroes begin to uncover its mysteries. They find evidence of the living and working spaces of the sculptor and architect who designed it and led its construction. They a find a facsimile of an ancient artifact, the Seven Segment Rod. They trigger mechanisms and magical devices, but so far the way out has eluded them. Worse, one of the ancient mechanisms failed, leading to the collapse of the tunnels that led back to Winterhaven Keep.

The Heroes begin this session at Level 2 / 1442 XP

And now…

With time for a short breather, the heroes faced at least two clear choices. Continue on past the blue lantern to the carved face above – or descend into the ragged chittering opening below the green lantern.

Just then, Akhan emerged from the billowing dust from the collapsed hallway that led back to the keep. He explained that he and Martigen had given up the idea of breaking through the siege line and were returning when the hallway back to the keep began to collapse. He was able to make it through, barely. Since the collapse separated them, he was unsure if Martigen escaped back toward the keep or was trapped. Belhorne encouraged the heroes to push on while he returned to poke through the rubble.

(Explaining the return of Akhan and the disappearance of Belhorne for this session.)

Finneal dropped a light source down the shaft and it fell about 60′ or so before it hit the ground. Though the light was dim, the party could see the skittering of spiders crawling across the floor. They even caught a quick glance of a few insects that appeared to be much larger. After Finneal effectively froze the area below with ice based spells, the party descended by rope down the web strewn shaft.

At the bottom, they found themselves surrounded by dozens of bas-relief figures similar to the one on the sarcophagus lid in the room above. The figures, covered in webs and damaged, seemed to stare disapprovingly from the walls. Many sported crossed arms and stern expressions. Most were damaged and a few were missing heads or hands. Just to the north, the party found an intersection.

To their left was a large chamber. Eight man-sized stone tombs, each about four feet tall were arranged in two rows. The far walls tapered in somewhat around a short stone stage. A red marble statue of a powerfully built warrior wielding a cylinder-headed maul stood precariously on the crumbling stage. The party was able to identify the statue as a representation of the Guardian of the Veil, a mythical figure who stands sentry between the lands of sleep and wakefulness – and death and life. The bones of a long-dead corpse, possibly human, lay sprawled out near the statue by the farthest of these crypts. The corpse man’s skull had been utterly crushed. Tattered remains of red leather armor were found among the bones. What killed him was not known, but the stone maul Guardian and his stone maul sparked the party’s imagination. A thorough search turned up a silver ring worth about 50 sp.

To the right off the main hall was another large chamber. A hardened orange paste filled the room and spilled out from a basin lip across the room. Thousands of tiny spiders skittered and tunneled through webbing so thick that it had coalesced into a chalky substance. A huge webbed mass completely filled the far corner of the room. Judging by the spiders spilling from it, it was an enormous nest. Entering the room, the party was attacked by two Deathjump Spiders, a Doomspinner Spider and numerous spider swarms. As the swarms burrowed their way into the armor of the fighters, Finneal jumped into action – doing more damage to the party than a lucky DM could have hoped for and even managed to miss the angry swarms a time or two. The Doomspinner targeted Akhan and, drawing the hapless ranger in with a web, proceeded to bite and sting him into submission. Despite the lucky breaks, the party wore the insects down and ultimately squashed them. They then searched through three oblong lumps completely covered with orange sludge and webbing to find the skeletonized remains of three long-dead human figures in soiled red leather armor. An eight-pointed star symbol marked the left breast of each moldy suit of armor. Amongst them they found potions of healing and a gem worth about 100 gp. Exhausted and short on healing surges, the party retreated to the room below the shaft and bedded down for an extended rest.

Continuing down the hall, the party found stairs descending to chambers that were completely submerged in water. The still water was clear and the party made out the area below to be some sort of bath house. Finneal elected to search the waters below and tethered himself to the rest of the party with a rope. After a quick review of the drowning rules he entered the water and found hollowed out bones. He was able to escape the ambush of an underwater ghoul through effective use of his staff, which blasted the fiend back and immobilized it. He was able to bait the ghoul out of the water where the party quickly dispatched it. They found that it was garbed in algae covered robes bearing the familiar eight-pointed star symbol. Among the bones below, they found another skeleton corpse garbed in algae-covered leather bearing the star and retrieved a Harmonic Songblade that would be of use to Aranthis.

Having cleared the chambers below, the party returned to the tomb above and ascended the shaft above the blue lantern. Having lit all the lanterns, they found the stone face with eyes closed and lower jaw open – open large enough to permit access to the dark hollow chamber beyond.

The Heroes end this session at Level 2 / 1658 XP (216 XP from this session)

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