Posted on December 20, 2013
Castaway Diary, day 25
Finally a new day! Oh, what interpersonal conflicts will today bring? /cackle /wigglefingers
Nope, instead of fights between player characters, this session moved the story on a bit. Smuggler’s Shiv’s history was revealed a little bit and while the players never NEED to know about the island to leave it, it should definitely help them survive long enough to get off it in one piece.
On deck for – holy-shit, is this the first underground complex of joined chambers they’ve ever been in? I think it is… – this session’s spelunking:
Orny: back to support spells until something with a functioning ventral lateral preoptic area and median preoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus wanders back into view.
Floki: Kind of good at this rogue business and getting better at the fighting business too. Suspicions were raised as to what temples Rolland had been praying at on his asiatic trips.
Victor: Very much a Warhammer 40k kind of tank – you can’t really hurt him with melee weapons, but at the same time, him waving a sword around this session seemed somewhat superfluous.
Percy: Making the dead live, making the live keep on living, making the undead redead. It’s good to be a cleric.
Uun: Back from Pharasma’s timeless waiting room, yet not quite cured of the ADD&DHD that got him killed in the first place.
With the glorious arrival of Percy’s goddess over the horizon, Percy pulled the very, very expensive scroll out of the very, very expensive scroll tube they had found in the treasure pit that Ishiro led them to. Percy has another couple of levels before Sarenrae sees fit to grant him that particular spell, but whoever wrote this beautifully script had put in the time and expense so that the reader did not have to: scrolls, they’re kind of fucking awesome. So he read the incantation aloud and the words flared on the page and disappeared and as soon as the last syllable was intoned, life returned to Uun’s body. Not quite as much as there had been. But enough and the right kind. Not some sort of unlife or anything. Uun wasn’t quite as robust as he had been and was a little off his top game, but seemed to have adjusted to being alive again.
As the rest of the party woke, meditated and breakfasted on whatever carried food they have left, they chatted about what to do next. Ileana had evidently been here, in a less-victim-role than had previously imagined. That she had fiddled with the lighthouse was of concern to them all, as they still didn’t know quite how it worked, but were sure she wouldn’t be fixing it. And that her destination (according to Capt Kovack’s last testament) was the mountain that had recently been lit up by crazy lightning storms and in the vicinity of extremely unusual tidal activity, worried them even more. But they kept to their initial plan of heading into the caves as a way to kill the two and a half/three days before the rest of the castaways arrived.
After that consenus was reached, several of them left the lighthouse to go take a look at the rest of the camp, just to make sure their rear wouldn’t be compromised when they ventured down. On closer inspection, Uun recognised the oven he had earlier discovered in the men’s hut as a lime kiln, rather than a cooking oven. Built into the original Chelish architecture of the place, this was obviously intended to be part of the long term operation of the lighthouse, presumably as their source of quicklime. There are numerous other alchemical uses for quicklime – Uun only recognised it because he had seen quicklime used for drying cobbler’s leather. We forget, sometimes, Uun’s background as a shoemaker. It doesn’t come up much.
It is tough to find art featuring Tengu and barbarians at the same time. Here’s a picture of a Crow with a guy that cheated death. (Checks notes) No,.. just cheated.
Orny, meanwhile, searched along the path behind the wooden pen in which the skeletons had been kept. Everyone had forgotten the skeletons because Percy had so instantly destroyed them during the cannibal fight. Down that little path they found a small hut hidden in the jungle. Inside they found a stinking bedroom: rank with body odour, bitter chemical smells and the unmistakable stench of monkey. Dirty, dirty monkey. In the adjoining room, there was a little less monkey turd and a little more chemical bitterness. This room lacked the ceiling-hung fetishes, of the first room, but instead contained a makeshift alchemical lab. There they found a small trove of potions, which Orny identified as Antitoxins, Cure Light Wounds and Lesser Restoration potions. Alongside those were a veritable bag of alchemical tricks: a thunderstone, some smoke sticks, some tanglefoot bags. These were divided up accordingly.
By mid-morning they were kitted out, rested and ready to go. They rappelled down into the caves below and followed the path to the point at which they had been forced to retreat by Uun’s death. Actually, before that they got in a tactical discussion about whether or not to do exactly the same thing as before – barge along the passageway past the people trying to stealthily scout the area, while keeping the heavily armoured tank in the middle of the party, then die horribly. They decided against this and went for a lineup that sent Floki first (because he is pretty good at roguish stuff, as a ranger. Then Victor with the unassailable armour, then Uun with the reach weapon, then Percy and Orny. Malicia, as the sharpest set of eyes and ears, had been posted to cover the rear up above, with Nobody who they asked to inform them, in the traditional manner, if a fight started up top.
Light was still an issue down here, but Orny ameliorated this by casting Dancing Lights in places the body of the group was and Darkvision on Floki, who went ahead. Percy readied himself with a Shield of Faith spell, while Uun rolled his eyes and sighed because he wasn’t being allowed to rush to the front, blindly in the darkness and get himself killed again. Floki discovered that the next opening in the rock was a silo-shaped cave around which a narrow spiral of rock led down to a pool at the bottom. The spiralling path led close to a few more passages, although only two were easily accessible from the spiral. On examination, the first passage that they passed, on their left, had been cut to look like a natural passage, but up close obviously wasn’t. It led a short distance before it joined finished walls. Something about the odour – cutting through the stench of corpses that pervaded the caves, was something familiar. They couldn’t quite put their fingers on it or a name to it, but there was some smell that reminded them of the “nest” in the lowest level of the lighthouse. It wasn’t identical, just reminiscent. Floki popped his Darkvision-enhanced head past the corner carefully and into the dark space beyond.
Instead of another natural cave, he stood at the entrance to a vast cathedral-like space of intricate wall carvings and soaring pillars. As impressive as that might be though, the carved stone and design of the place filled him with a sense of dread. Architecture can’t necessarily be “Evil” architecture, but there was certainly something unsettling about the arrangement. Further investigation backed that up as he saw at one end of the pillared hall, a massive carving of a serpent’s head, mouth wide open. At the other end: corpse snake. Not the corpse of a snake, but a coiled snake shape made out of dead bodies. Probably, eyeing it up, hundreds of human remains, or at least parts of them, arranged deliberately. The pillars that ran the center of the room were carved to look like scaled coils too. The walls decorated with high-relief carvings of various ophidi-centric scenes. In them, humanoids with serpentine tails and heads lorded over the naked and brutish humans: they ate them, hunted them, enslaved them, cast spells on them, raised them as undead soldiers, tortured them, used them as servants – litter bearers, footstools, busboys, bellhops, sommeliers, sushi platters, that kind of thing. For as far as Floki could see, the walls of the place were covered in these stylised, yet artful representations of the serpent-men’s domination and superiority over humans. Based on his report, Victor brought up his Detect Evil ability and Orny held Mage Armour on the tip of his tongue, waiting for something scary to happen.
Those new Jimmy Chew-your-face-off shoes are to die for, by Crom.
Victor picked up a couple of faint pings at the edge of his Detect Evil and that prompted Orny to cats Mage Armour and for the witch and Percy to solve the party’s light problem with Dancing Lights and a Light spell. Three Lacedons ran out of the darkness and struck at Victor and Floki. Percy Channeled positive energy at the undead, with unimpressive results and the ghouls landed blows on the front line of men, yet neither succumbed to the paralyzing touch of the ghouls or Ghoul Fever. Victor had trouble hitting the ghouls after he switched to his defensive style, but they similarly had trouble hitting him. Floki didn’t, landing solid blows as Uun ran up behind the two fighting men and reached over Victor with his Spear, killing the one bothering him. Percy channeled again, this time with a bit more oomph and the fight was over in seconds.
The party took quick stock of the room – pillars, little cells off the main hall, corpse snake – before heading to the large carving of the snake’s open maw. Inside the recess of the mouth there was a door. The floor around the door was covered in a thick layer of ash and they spotted several small glass vials on the floor. The vials were empty and slightly chipped around their edge, but unbroken. Malicia examined them and found a stamp on the bottom of each vial; a maker’s mark that looked like a tian symbol. They foutered around with the door for a bit, but eventually opened it, revealing a small, octagonal room beyond. Inside was an altar, carved snakes coiling around its base. But of particular note were the three far walls, each bearing a high-relief scene. On the first, a tapered monolith amidst the jungle crackled with energy, surrounded by snake-people wearing robes; the sky above was laced with lightning and several bolts were shown hitting humans bearing crude weapons. On the second, another tapered monolith attended by snake-people turned human corpses into walking skeletons and zombies; they could be seen marching into the distance, some with spears, others with picks and shovels. But the third scene was slightly different because although the other two hadn’t been touched in millenia, (Orny pin-pointed a lot of the carvings outside as religious works venerating a mostly-forgotten deity named Ydersius, who is thought to have perished long before human civilization flourished), this carving had been recently cleaned. There was also the suggestion that it had been washed clean, perhaps with blood. Actually seems like that would be easy to decide one way or another…
This last carving showed another (they are distinctly different) monolith, also attended by snake-dudes in robes, but this one shows the stone affecting the seas. Triremes are visible among the crashing waters and panicking humans can be seen in the waters and hiding on board the ships. The snake-people, it should be said, look pretty happy about this outcome. Beneath each carving, there was a grid, 5×5, with each square holding a logogram. While Malicia and Percy didn’t recognize any of the logograms and so couldn’t tell what they represented, they had seen this format before – it is a common form of poetry among languages that use a pictographs; the sounds aren’t represented, so the way in which the characters interact with each other, aesthetically, are important. They typically have rules about repetition and Malicia noticed some repetition that suggests that a repeated theme or syntax is used. Complicated stuff, but absolutely fascinating to the language obsessed Tengu.
The octagonal room and the cathedral that housed it were the cause of much supposition, as they posed a great many questions, but answered few. Since they couldn’t be answered any time soon, the party decided to head off. Not before malicia took a rubbing of the logogram poem and not before checking for sure that there were no secret passages and that the corpse snake was as advertised. There weren’t and it was. Progressing back into the spiral-lined pit cave, they moved into the next cave. It was unremarkable save for a passage that led on from the cave and for some more (badly eroded) logograms. Sneaking on from this one Floki discovered two more ghouls in another cave, snapping apart bones to gain access to the delicious, delicious marrow. Mmmm, marrow. One of the ghouls wore the remaining shreds of a durable, well made coat – recognisable to the castaways as the coat of Alizandru Kovack, erstwhile captain of the doomed ship Jenivere. The party dispatched the two Lacedons with little effort – Victor couldn’t hit them to save himself, but he was never in that position because everyone else damaged them, except Orny who just made sure people could see who they were chopping up by casting Light on Floki’s shield. Percy channeled, then Floki and Uun dropped the undead, with a last desperate attack by the Lacedon narrowly failing to paralyze the barbarian.
They followed the passage through the rock downwards, until they reached a sea cave. The tide lapped at the narrow sandy beach which they spent a while searching to no gain. Uun spotted a gap in the ceiling, a hole leading up to another cave and the party climbed up an expertly thrown grappling hook. The cave above was empty with a passage that led back to the spiral/pit in one direction and down into the rock in another direction. They decided to take the unknown passage and were barely a few steps down it before a cacophony of shrieks pierced the air…
I don’t have any pictures of a snake-themed cathedral, but here is a snake set into the wall of a park in the twin cities somewhere. Now I want to find it, because this looks rad.