Sundered Lands 10

The Sundered Lands of Palladium

Session 10
April 12-24, 2016

The Vision and the Vault

Thursday October 26

Vision Upon High

Valinya leaves her friends and climbs to the roof of the Fox and Hound. The temperature is dropping a bit, but the crisp, cool air feels good to Valinya. She sings a quick, breathy song and she becomes one with the air, wispy and without substance. She floats up into the night sky, higher and higher until she can see over the entire city, out past the ruined Teraknian Arch onto the dark ocean, and inland along the mighty river that snakes its way through unfamiliar terrain.
When she reaches a comfortable height, she begins another song. This one is a slow, questioning dirge. While she sings, she thinks about what happens after Lavinia's vault is opened, hoping to gain some foresight on the situation.

As with all looks into the future, things are unclear. Valinya gets a vision of an eel swimming across the ocean. Then she sees a protected cove and sea cave. The water in the cove is on fire. In the sea cave she sees a large black and grey orb. Screaming voices rush in to fill Val’s ears. Crackling fire can be heard too. Her vision zooms in on the orb then zooms back out and the orb has become an eyeball. As the vision continues to zoom out it becomes blurry and watery. Finally the image zooms out far enough to become an unclear reflection of someone in a body of water. The image shifts to show Lavinia leaning over some water, crying. The unclear reflection can still be seen in the water below her. One of her tears falls and lands right into the black orb eyeball of the reflection. The vision again zooms in on this tiny tear splash which turns dark red and seems to explode, filling Valinya’s head with painful red.

The Elf maid shakes her airy head and looks around as she hovers high above the city of Essanos. Slowly she floats back down to the roof of the inn.

Remaining in her body of air form since it feels safe to her, Valinya hovers just above the inn’s roof and ponders the vision gazing out into the city, across to the sea and up at the night sky. Hopefully her companions are safe and with luck perhaps what they find in the vault will help her in understanding the vision.  

Some parts she thought were fairly easy to understand … though she chided herself immediately as sometimes what might seem obvious could be something else entirely.  It was a vision, after all, not written instructions.  But the black and gray orb she - for now - assumed was one of the Shadow Pearls sent to ports as Colwin Dray had told them when they started this mission.  Even now thinking about their potential for destruction caused her to involuntarily shudder, blurring her momentarily.  They knew so little, she reflected, about these Shadow Pearls … what they really were, where they came from and more importantly how they were triggered to cause such terra-forming explosions.  

Regardless.from the vision it seems that there is one presumably nearby.  Again, one can’t make assumptions but their lead was to come here, to find Lavina, so the dots connected.  But one has to begin somewhere and it was logical, as Seeker would say.  Everything is logic or not logic with the man … typical.  But it beat the alternative … Fortis zipped to mind.  Well, he had his own paradigm of logic.  Better logic than Lefty … right?

Shaking her head to chide herself for the distraction, Valinya refocused on the vision.  A sea cove …

Valinya eventually climbs into bed. She decides to wake early and begin researching some things that might help the party in the near future. She wants to look at some coastal maps as well as try to figure out what sort of creatures are listed on the note they found with Lavinia’s ring. She remembers Lavinia talking about a library over in the Noble District, probably somewhere near the Witchwarden’s Tower. Lavinia had told them that it was at a school called the House of the Dragon. She wondered if Silver would be welcome there.

Friday October 27

Where's The Loot

The floor and walls of the chamber beyond are polished green marble. The ceiling is domed and is about 25 feet long and 20 feet wide. The ceiling is about 30 feet high and a pale green light seems to shine down from somewhere above. 15 foot square alcoves to either side of the main domed area stretch to each side, The ceilings are only 10 feet high here and a wide pillar stands in the center of each alcove. They are carved like many intertwining serpents.
Five other similar pillars are embedded into the walls leading up to the domed ceiling. Two on each side, flanking both of the alcoves and one straight ahead on the far wall. They are also carved like snakes intertwined.

A huge 8-pointed star is embedded in the domed ceiling as well as on the floor directly below it.
There does not appear to be any further exits from the room, nor does there appear to be anything else in this room, though there could be some things hidden in the alcoves behind the pillars there.

Laying on the floor, near the entrance to the right side alcove, is a long, black metal snake. It is unmoving.

The team spreads out and begins to carefully check the vault while Lavinia sits in the western alcove and tries to understand why she is trapped in an underground vault with a bunch of monsters. Seeker diligently stands in the doorway of the vault, keeping an eye on his companions and watching the hall for any signs of trouble as well.

Moonscar decides to focus his search on the pillars themselves and begins examining them closely one at a time. He looks over the details of the serpentine carvings for anything worked in among them that doesn’t match the others, especially something which might represent any of the creatures mentioned in the riddle. He also tries to carefully rotate them slightly to determine whether they can move. Musing aloud, he tells his companions, “This reminds me a lot of the Whispering Cairn and I’m guessing that the floor decoration covers access to a deeper chamber. With five pillars set back into the walls I suspect that the triggering mechanism is most likely tied to them and the riddle creatures refer to them in some manner to indicate how they’re used. I’m not so sure that it tells which way to face them; the directions could instead be referring to which way to turn them - sunrise would probably mean counterclockwise, that is to say, occuring in the past, with sunset clockwise as in looking toward the future. While those pillars were not, I wouldn’t be surprised to find these and/or the trapdoor to be trapped. Hmm, probably why they’re called trap doors. . .”

Sliding his magical goggles down over his wide-set eyes, Moonscar moves to one of the pillars to the right and begins examining it carefully, starting at the bottom, running his hands and delicate finger tips over the many lines and grooves of the carved snakes.

Silver looks at Lavinia again briefly and sighs yet again.  Forgot that humans seem to be more prone to those panic attacks.  Probably better to leave her be for a bit, she seems to need to calm down.  She follows her curiosity to look around at the three pillars in front of them, starting on the one on the right, so as to give Lavinia a bit more space to calm down.  As Silver inspects a pillar, she says to the others “So we’re looking for something in here that would indicate a sunrise or sunset I suppose?”

The young Dragon moves forward to a pillar ahead and to the right, embedded into the wall. She begins looking it up and down, sniffing it, hoping to find some clue or hidden secret there.

Concerned that their connection to the Vanderboren family may be in jeopardy Fortis sits on the ground in front of Lavinya, slowly fanning his wings. “You appear worried. Would you like to discuss something with us?” He peers up at her, attempting to convey patient concern. “We are, as you can see, all different. Not one alike to another. That has caused tension in the past, but also enabled us to accomplish many things a more homogeneous group could not even contemplate.”

Lavinia only barely listens to Fortis’s words as she breathes heavily. Her eyes dart from Fortis to Silver on the other side of the room several times, then to Seeker and Moonscar, then to Arn nearby. She blinks them several times then wipes her hand across her face. “Phew, this is a lot to take in, but I suppose the Dragon isn’t all that frightening or different than the rest of you. So is this a magical form or spell that has allowed Silver to change into a Dragon? Does she do this often?”

Seeker takes a position in the doorway, trying to keep an eye on their flank even as he is drawn to the more interesting puzzle before him. Five lines in the puzzle, five pillars. Maybe a connection? But do we count the other two pillars? They’re free-standing, does that make a difference? And what the heck is a grimbor?

The sunrise/sunset seems to hint at a combination lock. So where is the thing to turn? Without allowing himself to get distracted from guard duty, Seeker calls over his shoulder. “Is there anything in there that could turn? One of the pillars? Any sort of pointer or anything?”

“Miss Lavinia, ma’am, that note was probably intended for you. Any family memories nudged by those words?”

Lavinia looks up at Seeker’s words, “No, that note means nothing to me, other than my father’s good nature and love of riddles.”

Silver absently listens to the various mutterings and conversations in the room as she continues to look at the various details on the pillars.  When she hears Lavinia’s rationalization, she leaves it to Fortis to respond.  Don’t want her to start panicking all over again.  It’s not a bad excuse though.  It is imaginable that a fire mage might like to turn into a fire breathing dragon with a spell.  Will have to remember that one.  She pauses to consider the various reactions she has seen when people have realized she was a dragon.  I haven’t actually met another dragon yet, but judging from the reputation we have, I seem to have a different perspective than the average dragon when it comes to humanoids.  I wonder why that is?... Dangit, this thing really looks like it should do something when I poke it. Hrm.

Seeker feels that there is something nasty coming, although he is not sure what. Just to be sure, he readies one of his throwing axes. I can always throw it and then break out Charnag afterwards.

Fortis adopts a very serious tone. “She changes form as often as she feels the need to. But the details are something you might want to discuss with her directly. She is my friend in whatever form and I know she does not mean to hurt or frighten you. Unless I miss my guess, she is disturbed with herself at upsetting you. When you feel up to it, some sort of gesture of acceptance from you might go a long way to reconciling with someone who is trying to help you.” Fortis spreads his hands and makes soothing motions. “Not everyone is used to being surprised by dragons. Your reaction is natural. That being said, we are in a dangerous business and Silver is a good person to have on your side. To one extent or another I suppose each of us trying to make this enterprise succeed is someone else’s nightmare, and I am probably no exception. To make this work we need to see past unpleasant outer form like Silver’s pointy teeth and Arn’s smelly beard as well as be forgiving of personality flaws like my sarcastic condescension or Seeker’s high-handed bossyness. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough I could point out flaws with Valinya and Moonscar too, but it doesn’t matter. In the long term none of those things matter a whit compared to keeping each other alive through this struggle and succeeding at our goal. Whatever misgivings we have about each other those opposed to us are far worse.” The Ellyl grins, trying to coax a smile out of the frightened heiress. “One of the most wonderful things about friends is our ability to choose them. We are free to form those bonds from genuine affection rather than obligation. This is extremely powerful. Friends, well good friends at least, can help you grow better than most other people in your life because they know you the best. Who do you want to be? Who is going to help you become that person?” Maintaining a soul searching eye contact the tiny lecturer concludes his lesson. “No need to answer me, those questions are for your own clarity of thought, but we do need to unlock the secrets of your family’s vault and, as soon as you feel composed enough to do so, I would suggest you join in. I need to go help now. We can talk more later if you wish.”

With that pronouncement Fortis executes a formal bow and, still hovering, pivots in mid air and goes to inspect the upper portions of the pillars were the others would have difficulty seeing. He pays particular attention to the capitals, tracing the patterns twining the surface with his eyes to derive any meaning from their form or observe any hidden caricatures.

Seeker’s voice carries through the open doorway. “He’s right, ma’am, we are an eclectic bunch. Some of us are friends, some are colleagues, and some of us are passive-aggressive little flying psychopaths. With very tiny penises.”

“But we’re on the same team, one with important goals, so we work together. If that means tearing each other down with sarcastic condescension, well, that’s what friends do to help get the job done.

“Er, wait, that doesn’t sound right, does it? Anyways, we are here to help you, in the hopes that we can help each other. We’re a motley crew, some of us big and scary, some small and manipulative. You are just getting to know us, and friendship and trust are generous gifts. I hope you make wise choices.”

The Kankoran pauses his examination in the midst of his larger brethren’s reply, the white crescent marking above his goggles bent into a wavy line as he arches his eyebrows. He nods in approval as Seeker concludes and responds, “You’ve been practicing Brother. I believe that’s your best yet.” He looks over to Lavinia and explains with a smile, “We also learn vital cross-cultural social skills from each other we could never gain otherwise. I noticed that you’ve already mastered dwarven drinking; I’m sure you’ll have no trouble adjusting.”

Unperturbed by the mediocre insult Fortis grins. “Thank you for that supportive remark, your corroborative insight is invaluable in not only communicating the literal message but also in demonstrating how, the more time we spend together, the more alike we become. Don’t worry about the shrinkage, you’ll get used to it.”

Seeker peeks in the doorway, ”Hey, this is fun. And I don’t know that your hypothesis of growing alike necessarily holds water. While it’s true that spending time with you has taught me how to mistreat people, should I want to, I don’t see any indication that you have learned anything about being a decent person. Your little lecture to Miss Vanderboren, and I’m sorry you had to put up with that, ma’am, was no doubt brought about by your concern that her fear would jeopardize the likelihood of her future social and financial support of our team and not by any real empathy. Trying to leverage her fear as an insult to Silver was a nice touch, as I’ve learned from you, although a real friend of hers would know that she was not offended in the slightest.”

He shakes his head sadly, “And as for ‘shrinkage,’ my opinion of you has already been reduced about as far as possible. It did worry me, but you’re right, I have gotten used to it.”

He watches the little bug fluttering along the ceiling and rolls his eyes. “And again you’re demonstrating your inability to think of anyone but yourself by searching the room like a pixie would. This is a Human vault, moron. There are not going to be any clues or switches where they can’t reach.”

Fortis continues his high level search “Thank you for your encouragement towards thoroughness. Though ‘moron’ is a bit inaccurate, don’t you think? Humans do occasionally conceal things like traps out of sight of their normal eye level, or so I have been lead to believe. Beyond that, do you think it entirely beyond the realm of possibility that a Human attempting to hide a catch trigger might do so where it can only be reached with a staff or the aid of a ladder? Perhaps you might take a page from your own book and fully examine the other possible reasons I might encourage reconciliation and acceptance of alternative viewpoints. As there are many, and your ability to correctly interpret my motivations in the past has led to previous misunderstanding, there are more fruitful ways to approach the apparent discontent than to ascribe a single unflattering motivation. You may not find the argument for diversity compelling, but there are many who do give the theory merit. My explanations to our new friend are accurate and sincere and, since I am least in need of financial incentive, it is a bit misdirected to claim greed as my motivation. I find it hard to credit your claims that I suffer from moronic psychopathy. Firstly, I recall us being fairly evenly matched at chess, pointing towards a not entirely dissimilar mental capacity. Not to be too presumptive, but wouldn’t that also include you in the class ‘moron’? And further, would you really want to claim to have lost to a moron? From a different angle, labeling non-conformity as a mental disorder is also divisive and counterproductive. What fun could it possibly be to join a parochial monoculture and abdicate freedom of perspective? That may work well for people who like to be told what to do, or even better for those who enjoy telling others what to do, but it lacks a certain appeal in my eye. In any case, if you really think those things and hold me in such low regard you should choose better company to keep. Bluster all you like you big softee, but part of the reason you are risking your life with the rest of us is that you think the world is worth saving, even for people like me with whom you do not agree.It is improbable that we have come so far together and you really believe what you claim.“

Seeker sighs, “Blah, blah, blah. Given up on the dazzle them with brilliance and moving right on to the baffle them with bullshit. Right on schedule.

“Yes, you beat me at chess, once. That game I took on a tactic you had proposed the team follow and I lost. Only a moron would have missed the lesson.

“Honestly, I have tried to understand you over the years. You’ve given me example after example of what a shitty person you are. “Maybe he comes from a land where the only way to get ahead was by social sniping and backstabbing? Is that it?  No wonder I have such a hard time understanding you - the Empire is a meritocracy.”
“Or maybe, your insults are really a cry for attention. Being so small, you probably feel like you are easily overlooked or ignored. Or is it your masculinity? I notice you direct most of your needling at Arn and myself. Does being around big, strong warriors make you feel pathetic?”

“And maybe deep down you’re a decent guy. But sometimes a duck is just a duck.

“You go on and on about diversity. Is that your new term for ‘ethics in gaming journalism’? I like diversity just fine, as long as there is also respect. You have never shown any of us any respect, and speaking only for myself, you have squandered mine.

“As for the company I keep, I’m of two minds about that. On the one paw, you are the sort of psychopath who would serve the enemy well, and so I think it important to keep you close. On the other, I feel the team is weaker with you on it. If you really cared about our mission, you would do the decent thing and leave.

“We both know that’s not going to happen, because doing the decent thing is not in your nature.

“So, here’s the deal. You’ve had a free ride up til now because I’m a nice guy. That ends. Now it’s going to be tit for tat. You be nice, I’ll be nice. You be shitty, I’ll be shitty right back. If that escalates, so be it.”

Lavinia shrinks back at bit, watching and listening to this overloud conversation between the 9’ tall Wolfen in the doorway and the tiny Ellyl flitting about the top of the chamber, inspecting the columns. She glances in turn at the other members of the team, including Silver, and notices that none of them are paying any attention to the heated verbal exchange. She shakes her head and then approaches Silver tentatively, looking much less scared but now more in fascination and awe. “I’ve never seen a Dragon before, not up close anyway.” She smiles at Silver.

Silver nods her head in response.  “I would smile back, but it wouldn’t have the intended effect.  Sorry about the surprise.  I don’t go out of my way to hide my nature from those I consider allies, and when I was distracted with this place it didn’t occur to me that you hadn’t been told yet.”  Silver pauses a moment, then adds “You know, I have yet to meet another of my own kind either.  I’d like to think I’m reasonable and tolerant by human standards -- but who knows what others of my kind are like.  Your initial reaction may well be justified.”

A few moments later, Silver refocuses on Lavinia “Wait, you said ‘not up close’...  Have you seen a dragon at a distance before? Where? When?”

Lavinia blushes and smiles, “Well yes, once when I was younger. I don’t really remember the circumstances well, but I remember I was with my father. Visiting a friend if I remember correctly. The dragon was blue and much larger than you. We were on a rocky island, maybe at a library, I’m not sure. But my father’s friend came with this Dragon. He was riding it! As we approached, I saw this person hop down off the Dragon’s back before it flew off. I remember wanting to climb up onto its back so bad! Quite a mystical moment if I remember correctly. The other time I saw one was much more recently. On our journey back from the Western Empire some months ago. It was quite a bit off in the distance. Saw it flying along the horizon, was at least a mile away, flying along the shoreline for a while, then it disappeared. Quite majestic and awe inspiring. How old are you? You must be much younger than those other Dragons I saw.”

Silver listens to Lavinia in rapt attention as she describes the other dragons.  “What color was the second one, that you saw along the shoreline?”  When asked about her age, she blinks a moment.  “How old am I? I hadn’t given that much thought lately.  Those others you saw are definitely much older.  Let’s see, I met these guys perhaps two and a half years ago?” Silver looks around for confirmation, but they seemed busy with other things. She continues on anyways. “I hatched perhaps a week before that.  My memories are somewhat muddled that far back.  I’ve grown a bit bigger since then.”

Arn was too busy in  his searching around the alcoves to comment right away on the exchanges between Fortis and Seeker.    In his head he was amused thinking to himself, ‘Seeker, now you know the shit I have had to deal with in our adventures and in service as a Guardian……just wait until he turns your fur pink….’    

Arn was looking around the alcove to the right first, continuing to see if there were any kind of traps, then would move on to the left alcove.    He’s not the greatest at looking, but best a chance to find one, or set it off, as he could probably survive a trap more so than some of his companions, let alone Lady Lavinia.   Sometimes taking the hit for the team was Arn’s best contribution…..his way of protecting his friends.

Arn was continuing to hear the growing arguments, and now it was pissing him off.    First he called out to the good Lady,  “Lady Lavinia, lass if ye need it, I have more ale to help calm yer nerves.    We are a motley bunch, but we are very effective at solving problems.”

At one point, Arn stops his investigations and looks up at both Fortis and Seeker.  “Alright ye two, that’s enough.   Seeker, I’m about to put a muzzle on you, and Fortis, you are just being spiteful now.    Both of ye have been good allies in our adventures…...let’s keep focused on our mission, your arguing is giving me a headache.”     

Arn then looks around and comments, “Boy where is Valinya when ye need her?.   They way these two are going at it, ye would think that one of them, or both may be under some kind of mind-altering magic….maybe that is the trap…..something that makes people fight each other?    Please take a look with yer magic eye sight or whatever it is ye use to find such things…...we have tasks to accomplish!”

Open For Business

After about a half an hour of searching, the methodical Moonscar lets out a surprised “oooh,” and steps back quickly from the central pillar on the far side of the room. “Think I found something,” he barks quietly as he watches the pillar in front of him begin to move and writhe, as if the carved snakes were alive. Everyone turns and watches, some stepping closer, Lavinia stepping back a few steps. The carved snakes slide away from each other, creating a gap between them, separating into two distinct parts about 10 feet above the floor down to the ground. These two separate, smaller pillars of snakes slide farther and farther apart, seeming to move the stone of the wall back with them until each smaller pillar has intertwined with the two pillars to either side of it. There is now a nearly 15’ wide, 10’ tall archway leading into a faintly lit chamber beyond. The red light in the next chamber has an ominous look and the large, dark column in the center of the room looks more so.

The hovering Ellyl claps his hands delightedly. “Superb job Moonscar! Well done.” Fortis ponders for a moment the notion of recalling Gaston to explore this newly revealed space. “Does anyone require better illumination before proceeding?”

Upon speaking the Kankoran’s Stonerunner tribal name Fortis suddenly finds himself looking first into the depth of the druid’s nostrils followed by the cold fury of his eyes as he slowly removes his goggles, his nose square against the Ellyl’s chest. Moonscar holds him in his gaze silently for a few heartbeats before slowly speaking in Wolfen, his voice barely louder than a whisper yet crystal clear throughout the room and into the hallway, “Cousin Magpie. I do not know what forest you grew up in, but the knowledge of that name is a deep trust given you. Never again speak it in front of anyone you do not know with certainty likewise shares that trust.”

“Well, Congratulations whoever you choose to be then.” Fortis flutters backwards. “What would you prefer to be called?, I mean a public name.”

Relaxing a little the Kankoran replies, “The one you’ve been using is perfectly fine even if a bit embarrassing. Or simply Mr. White will do.”

Silver looks fascinated with the way the pillar shifted apart.  “Ooh what did you do to set that off?  I wonder if the ones in the alcoves do this as well?”  Despite having mentioned the other pillars in the first room, she peers into the second, trying to make out more details within.  “Do you think there’s traps?  There must be traps somewhere.  Probably best to send in the magic puppet first.”

Seeker enters the now outer chamber of the Vanderboren vaults, grinning. “Excellent, brother.” He looks at Fortis. “Thank you, yes, a light would be nice, Fortis. And your servant construct could be useful, too.” Here’s an olive branch. Take it and let’s get back to work. He seems to be holding his breath.
Fortis nods to Seeker relieved and hopeful before calling on the mysteries of Thaumatology to coalesce into a creation as he summons Gaston back from the ether. He then orders him toward the cavern entrance while illuminating the area around the pillar in a cheery glow to assist his friends. The illumination starts very faintly then , over the course of the next four seconds, increases to a comforting level like that of a torchlit hall. “It would be a tremendous help if I could get you to go investigate this room just like you did the last one Gaston; Please tell us what you find in there.”  The creation stomps through the arch in his big black boots and enters the newly revealed chamber as many of the crew watch in anticipation.
“If yet more light is required in a particular spot for increased scrutiny simply request it and I shall be only too happy to supply it.” With that pronouncement he seats himself quietly on top of the iron cobra and rests for a few minutes while waiting for Gaston to investigate and report.

Arn looks around in bewilderment at the now ‘positive’ exchange between Fortis and Seeker.   He stops what he’s doing and sits his back against the wall and pulls out his ale flask.    He takes a good drink.    Comments under his breath, slightly out loud as some ale dribbles into his beard, “yep, my smelly beard…..gotta soak it up like a sponge with my ale so I don’t go thirsty in battle.”     Shaking his head again at Fortis and Seeker, Arn just thinks to himself as he chuckles out loud ‘Nope, it wasn’t any foul magic at all, they are just a pair of assholes….

Arn laughs to himself and thinks, ‘come to think of it, we all are…..’  And with that Arn closes up his flask and prepares to investigate the new chamber.

After about 10 minutes, Gaston comes stomping back into the entry chamber. He finds Fortis lounging on the top of the metal snake, “It’s a good sized room, about 7 paces across. Its got about 8 sides, though there are lots of little angles and such cause of the carved pillars and decorations. But about 8 sides to the room. There's that big dark pillar in the center, it's pretty big, wider than my arm span. Has a lot of carvings and grooves on it. The ceiling is low. I could probably jump up and touch it and it has a star that looks like this,” he indicates the floor of the room. Gaston continues, “On each wall, starting to the, um,” he turns and holds his hands up, looking at each of them then turns so his back is aligned with the archway, “this side, the right, inside to the left, that side” he points to the left side of the archway. “Each wall has a really cool carving on it of monsters. I don’t know what they are though. They have shiny red gems as eyes, though. The first one on that side is a tall tree looking creature with long tentacles, one big eye and a mouth full of teeth. The next one is a huge dragon with its wings spread out like it’s flying. The next one is strange fish like creature with 3 eyes and 4 tentacles. The next wall has, um, hold on.” He runs back to the archway and pokes his head back in then turns and comes back. “It’s a two-headed giant swinging around 2 long clubs and wearing animal skins. The next creature is a bulbous round creature with one huge eye in the center with a moref little eyes on stalks all around. Next is a huge, four armed gorilla with a bunch of eyes all over its face and last is a scary giant spider with its legs all outstretched. I touched all the images, except the spider. I didn’t really see the need. It was scary. I touched the central pillar as well. It’s a little cold to the touch. So were the walls. There didn’t look like anything else in the room. What else can I do to help?” The servant waits patiently for Fortis to give him another task or to be dismissed. Arn looks impatiently at Fortis, “Can we go in yet?” he asks.

Fortis calmly returns Arn’s stare. “Of course Arn. Nothing is keeping you from entering that room any time you wish. If you would prefer not to wait for the report then please do not let its delivery delay your own investigation.”

And the real Fortis is back. Seeker growls and holds his forehead, like a headache is coming on. “He’s asking if your construct has determined it is safe to enter or not, twit. If there is more you can do, say you need more time. If you’re done, then say that. But don’t encourage a team member to take an unnecessary unsafe action. It’s bad for the team and the mission.”

Forcing himself to maintain a calm demeanor Fortis smiles politely and calmly replies. “I don’t recall addressing you Seeker. If you’d like to have a discussion please find a time to do so when you can refrain from insults. To address you point though, I was answering the question that Arn asked to me which was ‘Can we go in yet?’ rather than ‘Has your construct determined if it is safe to enter?’. You may also be interested to note that I neither encouraged him to enter nor discouraged him from doing so, merely pointed out that I would not be offended if he chose not to wait for my investigation to conclude before beginning his own. I am attempting to be polite.Specifically, as he does not work for me nor is he in fealty to me I reminded him that he does not require my permission to act as he sees fit to attempt solving this mutual problem.”

Seeker rolls his eyes.  “No Fortis, you were being a snotty little twit. You’ve lived among us how many years? And you still want to claim that you’re too stupid to understand what Arn was asking? Now, if you agree you are that stupid, then my translations are necessary and will continue until you get smarter.” Seeker grins, baring his teeth. “Tit for tat. You be shitty, I be shitty. See how this works?”

“Now, answer this question. Do you have more checking to do, or has your construct determined it’s safe for us to enter?”

“Since you claim to possess the ability to divine not just my intentions but also Arn’s as well there should be no need for me to answer your rude question. I grant  Arn the courtesy of assuming he is smart enough to ask the question he wants answered. I further assume that since you have recently claimed I am not your friend and you continue to make demands of me you suffer under the impression I owe you something. Perhaps you would care to reconsider that idea.” With that suggestion Fortis waves his hand at Gaston and the creation moves over to stand next to Fortis facing away from the large Wolfen.

Exploring the Inner Vault

Silver continues to ignore the verbal jousting and pokes her nose in the room, and starts looking around, despite the crowding at the entranceway.  “Is that star on the ceiling like a compass rose do you think?  That might give us a reference for sunrise and sunset.”

Seeker grins. “Okay, if that’s your play.” He turns to the rest, “Folks, it looks like we’re going to have to proceed without Fortis’ help. Arn, let’s check this out. Before Silver finds all the good stuff by herself.”

Seeker steps into the room and looks around. The ceiling is less than a foot above his head. He can make out the design of the star that is featured on the floor and ceiling of the entry room of the vault. The large Wolfen takes a few tentative steps in and looks around, seeing the room just as Gaston described. Silver follows him all the way into the room. Other than themselves, the decorations and central pillar, the room is empty.

Arn looks up again, shaking his head at the bickering between Fortis and Seeker.   “I swear to the Mountains that the two of ye are under some sort of mind-magic or something.    So snap out of it or shut the hell up.    And yes, I asked because even though I know we are looking for traps, I am getting antsy and bored.   I don’t like sitting around doing nothing.   I’m trying my best to be patient here.”

Arn than readies his shield, tightens up the straps on his webbing and armor, and proceeds into the new chamber.    Having a thought, he looks back at Fortis.   “Hey there loose lips…...want to watch over me to make sure I don’t do anything too stupid, like set off a trap or something?  And if I do, at least you will have a front row seat to amuse yourself.”

Shifting like his quicksilver nature demands Fortis refocuses himself on a new train of thought. “Why, of course I’ll help you Arn. You’re a friend of mine.” The Ellyl zips toward the sturdy Dwarf taking up station a few yards behind him and bringing Gaston along to drag his companion out if need be. “Lead on oh mighty Tanglebeard!”

Lavinia watches as most of the team enters the inner vault. Moonscar, who is trailing behind a bit sees the nervous look on her face. She catches his eye, “Um, Mr. White? Do you think it's safe? All that time on the run in the Western Empire and I never felt this scared,” she whispers to the Kankoran.

Silver begins to examine the carvings all about the room, starting with the Dragon.  She starts with the eyes, since they’re so nicely highlighted.  Which way is it looking? Is it looking at the pillar, or off to the side?  I wonder if anything is movable on this...

Seeker smiles as he surveys the pillar in the middle of the room. Nice. Fortis teams well with Arn. Add Silver or Moonscar and I’ll have my Team Beta. The chain of command is starting to shape up.

Inspecting the pillar and it’s location, Seeker looks for some sort of pointer or gnomon attached. Fortis’ construct had mentioned grooves and carvings. Seeker looks for two sturdy ones, maybe about 180 degrees apart, and grabs on. He pauses to see if anything happens. Once he is sure that he hasn’t triggered a trap, he lets the team know what he’s going to do. “Hey guys, I think this thing might rotate. Stand ready, if you want to.” Taking a broad stance and bracing his feet solidly, he grabs the pillar and tries to rotate it in place.

 “Watch it there pup”, Arn comments to Seeker..    Remember that note that  was found, turning the creatures towards the sun and away and such nonsense.    It may come into play here.    Be prepared for something to happen.    This reminds me of that stupid ghostly daemon dog we had to hunt down.   I don’t like magical tricks.”

Closing Time

As soon as Seeker grips and moves the central pillar, he is sure that he has found something. Everyone in the room hears the stone pillar turn. It rotates about a foot then clicks, as if a tumbler falling into place. Seeker is sure that it can turn more and looks up to the others.

Silver calls out, “When you turned it, the star design on the ceiling turned too. See, look there, that one point, the red one that was first pointing toward archway is now pointed over here a little bit.” Everyone is sure that the Dragon smiles at her observation of the ceiling.

Moonscar then calls out from the entry room, considerably more urgently, “Um, the archway is closing, everyone. So is the outer door to the vault. What should I do?”

Thinking quickly, Seeker says, “Brother, ma’am, I think you should join up with us in here, quickly.” Best to all be together to face whatever it is. He moves towards the closing portal. “Arn, help ‘em through!”

Fortis eyes the slowly moving stone and turns to Silver. “Do you think Lavinia would mind if I deformed the door so it wouldn’t close?” He calls out over his shoulder. “Lavinia, would you object terribly if I bent this door to keep it from moving? I don’t want to mess up your vault.”

Lavinia stammers and steps back a few steps from the closing archway, watching the stones magically moving and reforming into the wall that was there prior to Moonscar triggering it to open. She glances back at the outer door, also closing slowly behind her. Hearing Seeker call for them to enter the inner vault and Fortis asking her if he can magically mangle her family’s magical vault she stammers, “Um, well, I don’t know. It’s our family vault, it’s been in the family for years. Do you think you can? Would you be able to fix it? Are you sure we should be in there?” She looks at Moonscar, the nearest of the Guardians to her, waiting for him to do something.

Fortis considers the question. “No, I really can’t promise that I can fix it. Even if I put the stone back into the same shape my manipulation might damage the enchantment underlying this transformation. It might be better to try to win through the puzzle with the ring and the clues. I don’t suppose it is possible that a member of the line is required to perform some function to unlock the puzzle… if so we may very well need you in here to make an effective foray against this current obstacle.”

Lavinia hesitates but steps closer to the rapidly shrinking archway opening, looking at Moonscar, who stands just on this side of the portal.

Silver watches the two hesitating outside the closing archway and shakes her head.  “You know, that big metal snake behind you is probably not just some junk lying around.  With the amount of magic this place seems to have, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it wake up at some point.”  Then to Fortis, she says “This setup looks really fancy.  I would guess this has to close before other doors will open.  If it’s like that, then breaking this door might break the other doors too.”

The Ellyl nods. “That is true. I can always break it later if I need to.” The decision made he appears to lose interest in the closing door and turns his attention to the rotated pillar. We really should have looked up what a Grumbold is before we came in here. I’m sure someone up in the Witchwarden tower knows.

Silver hesitates a moment.  “Wait but do we know what all these things are?  Did anyone see a Harpy?” She looks back and forth a couple of times from the various walls to the doorway that is closing.  “Oh but I need to know what happens next!”

The bricks slowly but steadily maneuver back into place, forming a wall and pillar. Moonscar and Lavinia stand alone in the vault entry chamber while Seeker, Arn, Fortis and Silver find themselves standing around the dark central pillar in the inner vault. Silence fills the air as no one seems to want to be the first to speak.

“Well, that didn’t go as I hoped.” Seeker shrugs, “Arn, did you see how Moonscar opened it before? Is there a similar mechanism in here?” He looks at Silver. “Silver, you mentioned a red point that moved?” Seeker inspects the ceiling, not too far from his snout. “Okay, the first line the poem mentioned a dragon beast. Let’s see what happens if I point this red arrow at the dragon. Keep an eye out for anything changing.”

Seeker grabs the pillar and rotates it clockwise until he feels a click as it points at the dragon. “Okay, anyone see anything? The next beast in the poem is a Bogey Man. Got any good candidates amongst this rogues gallery?”

Nothing happens as Seeker lines the red pointer up with the Dragon though he does feel it click into place. Arn starts searching around on the newly formed pillar where the archway once was.

Silver and Fortis examine the images on the wall a bit closer and Fortis notices and announces that each of them has one more red gemstone eye than the one before it. Starting with the Bogey Man with one and ending at that creature with seven red eyes.

“Well that just really got a bit worse didn’t it?”  Arn mutters.    He’s not too happy about being locked in a Vault, but knows that in time, he could dig his way out of they must.   Arn looks back at the original mechanism.   “I’m not sure exactly how it worked, but I think we can keep trying and figure it out again.”     Arn looks at everything around the chamber once again.   He steps back, pulls out his mace and tugs on his shield.   “Keep going with the combination.   Let’s see what indeed happens….”
Seeker nods and tightens his grip again. Bogey Man looks to sunset, right… He slowly turns the pillar counterclockwise until he feels a click as the red arrow points to the scary-looking tree-man.

Seeker feels the column click into place and again, nothing happens.

Silver looks at the goings on for a moment then says “the red part of a compass is north right? If we want the dragon to be looking to sunrise, we’ll want the red thingie pointing this way” Silver points in a direction perpendicular to the dragon. “So that the dragon picture is facing west, right?”

Seeker looks at the dragon, confused. “Um, that makes sense, but I already started doing it where the sunrise/sunset thing was how I turned the pillar. You know, clockwise for ‘looking towards sunrise’, counterclockwise for ‘looking towards sunset.’ I don’t think we should switch in the middle. If this way doesn’t work, we can try your idea, okay?”

He looks around the room. “Now, which would correspond to ‘tusker?’ Arn, I know you’ve fought one of those before. Any of these remind you of a tusker in some way?” The doughty Dwarf looks around the room and shakes his head. Seeker looks around the room. “A tusker is a big pig with huge tusks, right?”

The Dwarf nods, “Somethin’ like that, big and nasty for sure!”

Seeker shrugs. “Unfortunately, that seems to apply to most of these critters.” He steps back from the pillar. “I don’t know. I could use some help figuring out where to go next.”

Cast of Characters: 

+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Ben Zittere plays Fortis, an Ellyl trickster and Mage
+Stephen Kolmetz plays Valinya, an Elven Wildsong Mage
+Mike Biancone plays Arn, a surly Dwarven Warrior
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid
+Daniel White plays Silver, a young and curious Dragon
and +Jason GURPS as the GM

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