Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Helpful Librarian (03/21/2014)

The heroes had fought themselves into the depths of Jorgenfist and had killed Mokmurian, the evil minion of Lord Karzoug himself. With Conna the Wise looking over them they were able to get some rest, but now after having fought their way in will they be able to fight their way back out?

When the party awoke the next morning Conna was gone. They were able to spend time inspecting the contents of Mokmurian’s Lair. There was a tremendous amount of various magical components (worth approximately 1,500 GP) as well as Mokmurian’s thick sets of spell books. The party also found1,100 PP, 12,000 GP, an amber and sapphire necklace worth 4,000 GP, a set of ivory runestones worth 1,400 GP, and a scroll of Contact Other Plane in Mokmurian's lair. While this was indeed a valuable treasure trove, the party did not get the feel that this was the ancient library they were looking for. There were other parts of this underground lair left to inspect though.
The party decided to re-inspect the large shiny metal door they had come across yesterday. They existed Momurian’s lair and started back up the hallway towards the door. This long hallway had a looming ceiling forty feet above and was decorated with an intricate display of stone supports and beams. The walls were carved in long swaths of densely scribed runes - the seven-pointed star was repeated often. To the east, the hallway has caved in entirely - a battered door protruded from the rubble, but the hall beyond was completely filled with detritus. To the west the hall ended at an immense bronze double door that bore a huge mirror-like silver inlay of the ubiquitous seven pointed star. This set of doors had no obvious hinges, handles, or locks, save for a single tiny star-shaped indention at the center of the larger mirrored star.
The party locked the door over and could detect no traps or locks, but is truly was like nothing they had ever seen before. The Sihedron Rune that Mokmurian had worn was of a slightly different size then the party had seen previously, but it slipped perfectly into the indentation in the door. After a few seconds the door's surface became suffused with a dull gray glow. The glow rapidly brightens to a near-blinding intensity, and then a strange figure floated out of the door's surface. It seems humanoid, but it was hard to tell since the entire thing shed a harsh, blinding light. The creature began  screaming, not stopping even to catch its breath as it drifts forward to attack.

Shining Child
The light was so intense that Stike, Reynard, and Kheo were all instantly blinded, leaving only Selinor with his sight intact. The creature reached out and touched Stike - twice - and dealt him fire damage. Stike swung at it, but the creature drifted unaffected down the hallway to continue its attack. Kheo was next and he took a severe hit. Stike then learned that the attack had an ongoing effect and continued to take damage. Selinor managed to use a spell to inflict some damage, but then it was Reynard’s turn to get hit.
At this point it seemed like fleeing might be a better option. Reynard grabbed Selinor and the two teleported to back to Mokmurian's Lair, Kheo ducked down a side hallway, and Stike began to beat on the door with his sword. Seeing no more targets the creature moved back up the hallway and struck Stike again, knocking the big fighter unconscious.
The Shining Child then disappeared back into the large metal doors from whence it had come. Stike was revived, and the party paused to consider its options. It was determined that besides the Sihedron Rune key there must be another required component to get the door to open. There were no hints of what that might be in Mokmurian's belongings, so it seemed likely the answer may lay elsewhere. Perhaps Conna, if she was still around, could provide an answer.
The party began to retrace it steps out of the dungeons below Jorgenfist. They inspected the Forgefiends lair first. This twenty-foot-square room was shaped almost like a silo - its ceiling arches up to a vaulted height of one hundred feet. Seeing nothing more of interest here the party moved back into the room of the Headless Lord and made a note to collect the seven suits of armor on display here. Four were masterwork half-plate, while the remaining three were masterwork full plate.

They continued out of the library level and up to the passage back to where they had fought the trolls. They moved north into a part of the cavern where they had not been previously. The remains of incense smoke hung heavy in the air of this cavern, thick enough to give the cave a gauzy, almost dreamlike feel and scented the place with a vaguely metallic tang. The cavern's walls were painted on all sides in spiraling patterns of vivid blue and purple, while here and there the angular symbol of a three-eyed, jackal-like visage leered out of these dark colors in vivid reds. Elsewhere, depictions of snarling hyenas with mouths full of bones and horned rats with long tails glowered from the walls. A large block of stone sat against one wall as an altar, its top and sides slick with fresh blood.
Conna had sneeringly mentioned that Mokmurian had brought in several Lamia priestesses. They had obviously turned this cavern into a cathedral dedicated to the Mother of Monsters, Lamashtu. Further, the images of fanged bats and horned snakes were identified as the symbols of Daclau-Sar and Murnath, nascent demon lords that serve Lamashtu in her Abyssal realm.
It was also obvious that the Lamia's had left, and likely left quickly. There was no obvious treasure remaining in the cavern itself, but underneath the altar the heroes found a small hollow, within which sit several vile books full of descriptions on how to disembowel, decapitate, drown, and otherwise slaughter all major types of giants and humanoids, especially in ritual killings and sacrifices. Many of these horrific sacrifices involved the opening of a victim's belly, inserting a small but ravenous creature like a rat, and then magically healing the belly wound shut so that the creature was forced to gnaw its way to freedom in a mock birth. While horrific, these scrolls were lavishly illustrated by a talented (but demented) artist, and were worth 500 GP in all. A Scroll of Remove Curse was also found stuck in the pages.
The next passageway widened here into a cylindrical cavern, the walls blackened with soot and scorch marks. A young red dragon lay dead on the floor, a Sihedron Rune branded on to the back of its head. The party inspected the room and found two beds of straw, but nothing of value was to be found. Was there a second young red dragon still around?
A separate passageway led in a direction away from the entrance. When asked earlier Conna had simply said "Do not go that way." The party decided to continue to follow Conna the Wise's advice and moved towards the entrance of the underground caverns.
As the heroes waked out of the underground depths of Jorgenfist they viewed the inner contents of the great fortress. The fortress had a solid stone gate - two doors that tower 20 feet high and 10 feet wide apiece. It fit neatly into the wall between two of the 70-foot-high towers, and looked very difficult to open. Atop the gates a pair of harpies cawed at the heroes as they sat perched in their precarious nest.
The walls that surrounded the fortress were made of enormous blocks of stone sealed together via countless stone shape spells. They were 30 feet wide at the base and not entirely vertical; they slope inward slightly and become about 15 feet wide on the battlements, which were 50 feet high. The guard four towers were 45 feet square and 70 feet tall, with at least one wide rock-throwing slot on each side. The tops were conical, and the interiors had stairs going from ground level to a single interior floor 40 feet up.
A large area of hard-packed earth fills the southwestern quadrant of Jorgenfist - a courtyard used by those giants who are allowed to dwell within the compound for public gatherings. There were three other buildings on the grounds inside the fortress – what appeared to be a stable, a feast hall, and a barracks.
Beyond these buildings was a stone spire. White streaks covered the sides of this stone spire and the surrounding ground, thick as paint. Among these immense bird droppings were splintered elk bones and scraps of hide. The spire rose to a needle point one hundred and fifty feet above, but at a height of fifty feet an opening in the northern face allowed access to a round chamber within which has been built an enormous nest.
The tall central spike monolith of the castle is not the most important structure, but at 150 feet high, it towered over the walls and watchtowers. The spike was an ancient Thassilonian watch post that has become the preferred nesting site for two partly tamed rocs. They nested in the 25-foot-diameter chamber partway up the spire's height. The rocs served the stone giants as messengers, mounts, and guardians, but they were still violent and ill-tempered.
In the middle of the courtyard stood Conna, an unknown young stone giant by her side, and a group of about 25-30 stone giants and runeslave hill giants arrayed behind them. Three of the stone giants rode astride three giant mammoths, and another stone giant whispered comforting words to an immense ancient looking dire bear.
Greetings my friends,” Conna began. With a wide sweep of her arm Conna continued. “This is the tribe of Kavarvatti. Mokmurian used to be our chief, but now that he has died this honor has passed to Drogart,” as she pointed to the stone giant standing beside her. “The rest of the tribes have left the Valley of the Black Tower. When Mokmurian died most sensed their opportunity for glory had died with him.”
A voice from the pack said “and the others had to be convinced.” This drew a rough round of laughter from the assembled giants, leaving little doubt to the party as to what had been happening around Jorgenfist while they had rested.
Drogart continued, a sneer still wrapped around his voice. “We are leaving this cursed place. We suggest you do the same. Conna has convinced us to serve as your protectors until now, but once we leave you will be on your own. We have spoken to the Harpies and to the Roc’s – they too will let you leave.
Reynard inquired as to the library below, but Conna simply shrugged and pointed to the other building in the walls of Jorgenfist - the Black Tower. "Perhaps your answer lies there," she said.
This tower was not like the others that composed the Fort - its architectural style was far more intricate and ancient in appearance, bearing similarities to many of the other ancient monuments that dotted the Varisian landscape. Made of black stone and decorated with gargoyles, the tower's walls are streaked with thick lichens and moss. It soared twice as high as the other towers, its facade effectively dominating the view.
The Black Tower had one entrance, a large stone door that swung open easily at a touch on the northwest facade. The tower interior seemed much colder than it should be, even so high in the mountains. The stone walls and floor glittered with a thin coat of frost, making movement in the largely empty chamber treacherous
Once inside there were no obvious doors, but a quick check revealed that a trap door set in the floor in the middle of the room, its face coated with ice as well. Like the entrance doors, the trap door swung open easily with the slightest tug to reveal a 5-foot-wide circular shaft that dropped straight down into the darkness below. This shaft was 50 feet deep and opened into a circular crypt with a domed, 20-foot-high ceiling below. The floor here was icy as well, and the air cold enough to qualify as severe cold.
The party tied a rope to the trap door and began to slide down into the darkness, Kheo being the first. As he reached the ground in the crypt below Kheo heard something mumbling in a language he wasn't familiar with. As he lit his torch Kheo was hit with a blast of Tomb Gas from a flying mummy and immediately lost 4 levels.
The Black Monk
The mummy then struck Kheo with multiple blows and drove him backwards. By now the other members of the party had begun to make it down the rope. Selinor cast a Turn Undead and drove the creature back just long enough for the party to all engage. The mummy use his breathe weapon to belch out another blast of Tomb Gas (Kheo lost two more levels), but the fight did not last much longer as multiple spells and Stike's sword finally put the Black Monk down for good.
A quick inspection of the Black Monk revealed a Belt of Giant Strength +4 and a Ring of the Ram (45 charges). Further inspection of the room revealed an ornate scroll case. The scrolls the Black Monk guarded were an incredible treasure. Even the monk himself didn't actually know what the tube contained - only that he had been commanded to guard the container and what lay hidden within with both his life and undeath. The scroll tube was made of adamantine and was cleverly locked by a series of interconnected spinning discs that functioned almost like a combination lock.
Both Kheo and Reynard took turns to try and align the discs, but failed on several attempts to keep the movable disks aligned properly. They finally combined their skills and managed to unlock the scroll case. The scrolls kept inside were known, collectively, as the Emerald Codex of the Therassic Order, a compilation of spells and enlightened rituals related to the worship of the Peacock Spirit, a once-powerful faith of the Thassilonian Empire. The codex consists of 18 large scrolls prepared on wyvern hide - they had to be handled with extreme care to avoid fragmentation.
All 18 scrolls were written in Thassilonian, which Reynard was able to decipher. The first nine comprised a minor artifact called the Anathema Archive. The next eight scrolls contained one divine spell each: Greater Restoration, Heroes' Feast, Order's Wrath, Regenerate, Resurrection, Scrying, Symbol of Stunning, and True Resurrection (all at CL 17th).
The final scroll described the entrance to the library and even provided the password required to bypass the guardian bound to the entrance.
The 18th Scroll

With their new found knowledge to the heroes returned to the library entrance, uttered the password and slid in the Sihedron Rune key in to the slot in the door. After a moment’s pause the door disappeared and revealed the long lost Library of Thassilon
Numerous glowing crystal lanterns hung on fine chains from the domed ceiling sixty feet above, filling this circular room with bright light. The walls of the room were carved with more runes and sigils, while overstuffed wood-and-leather chairs and polished oak tables surrounded a thirty-foot wide shaft that rose out of the floor.
This room contained the collected lore of the Therassic wizard-monks, one of Thassilon's greatest and most respected orders of scholars. The wizard-monks went to great effort to protect the monastery above this chamber and the rooms that surround it, but the bulk of these preservation efforts were focused on this chamber. In this room, the passage of time has no effect upon inanimate objects. Living creatures still age, but paper, leather, wood, stone, and even dead bodies do not decay - they remain forever pristine and new. The same effects constantly recycle and purify the air and sustain creatures without the need for food or drink. These effects apply only as long as those objects remain in this chamber, though - if they were to be brought out the delay of time would catch up with them immediately. Bodies would corrupt and skeletons would crumble to dust, wood turned brittle and rotted, books flaked away and disintegrated into powder, and even stones would grow weathered and aged, all in the course of a few heartbeats.
The central shaft contained the library's holdings. The walls of the shaft, 30 feet wide and so feet deep, contain shelf after shelf of books, scrolls, tablets, and other means of storing information. All of these books were written in Thassilonian, and thanks to the chamber's preservative effects, all were in excellent condition. The subjects covered all facets of Thassilonian life this chamber represents perhaps the single greatest repository of lore from this nearly forgotten age on all of Golarion, and as such, if its existence were made public it would become a magnet for all manner of scholars, arcanists, and thieves from around the world. There were no ladders or stairs provided for those who wish to peruse the stacks - the wizard-monks used flight and levitation to sort the holdings and saw no need to make their collection easier for lesser folk to examine.

The Clockwork Librarian
One remnant from Thassilon remained "alive" in this chamber - a curious clockwork creature built by the wizard-monks to serve as a caretaker, sorter, and assistant for those who wished to use the library. Unfortunately, while the clockwork librarian did not age, as an animate creature it was not subject to the preservative nature of the magic in this chamber. Over the 10,000 years it spent here alone, it became relatively adept at repairing itself, but with each bout of self-repair it has grown a little more unhinged and confused. Today, parts of it constantly smoke, its limbs creak and whir, and it has grown increasingly paranoid about losing the key that winds it up.
The clockwork librarian clattered and smoked to life when it noticed the newcomers enter the room and hobbled over to greet the party in an ungainly lurch (one of its three legs doesn't quite work right any more). It addressed the newcomers in Thassilonian, asking, "Which volume of lore would you like me to retrieve for you? There are currently 24,491 volumes, scrolls, pamphlets, and unbound manuscripts available. Please indicate your wish by author, title, subject, or date of acquisition by the Therassic Monastery." The librarian waited patiently for requests - if no one addressed it in Thassilonian, it wordlessly followed the visitors around, waiting for requests and hoped that no one tried to damage any of the books.

Until this point, very few in Varisia knew much about Thassilon apart from the fact that the mysterious monuments that dotted the land came from this ancient empire, and that the rulers of the land were despots and tyrants of the worst possible order. With the discovery of the Thassilonian Library, the heroes had a window into the ancient times of Thassilon, and with this window were able learn much of this time.

Among the titles the Clockwork Librarian was able to provide were:
  • An Accounting of the Holding of Greater Shalast
  • A Sculptor's Guide to the Fleshpots of Xin-Shalast
  • Lord of Wealth: Karzoug's Trade and Conquests
  • Tributes of Vadan, with Accountings and Predictions
  • Whispers from Leng: A Guide to the Beyond
  • Spires of Gold - The Rise of Xin-Shalast
  • Karzoug: Lord of Lords and Master of All
  • The Face above Xin-Shalast - A Lord in Primal Stone
  • A Traveler upon the Golden Road
  • The Golden Legion: A History of Auric Flesh works
  • Life's Price: Speculations on Interplanar Soul Trade
There was a staggering amount of information awaiting discovery in this library, so Reynard concentrated on the two things they he thought would be most valuable - knowledge of Runelord Karzoug and Xin-Shalast. It took several hours, but with the help of the Clockwork Librarian the following items were learned about Xin-Shalast:
  • Xin-Shalast was a legendary lost city, rumored to be hidden somewhere in the Kadar Mountains. Stories hold that Xin-Shalast had gold streets and gemstone buildings, and sat under the gaze of a mountain that could see.
  • Xin-Shalast was the capital city of an empire called Shalast, one of seven that composed the ancient empire of Thassilon. Legend holds that Xin-Shalast lay at the headwaters of the sacred River Avah - which Varisian folklore says lead to an earthly paradise sacred to Desna. Unfortunately, no record of where this river may have once flowed existed today, and most scholars believe the river itself to have been destroyed during Earthfall.
  • In the final centuries before Earthfall ended Thassilon, Xin-Shalast was ruled by Runelord Karzoug, one of the lords of the Thassilonian Empire. The primary architects of the immense city were tribes of giants, themselves ruled by powerful beings known as rune giants.
  • The Spires of Xin-Shalast stand upon the mythical mountain of Mhar Massif. This mountain of legendary proportions pierced the skies above the Kodars, and is said to be the highest peak in the entire range of stupendously inhospitable mountains.
  • Mhar Massif is said to serve as a bridge to strange realms beyond Golarion - notably, to the nightmare dimension of Leng. The connections with the nightmare realm of Leng were said to have infused the region around the peak of Mhar Massif with dangerous eldritch and otherworldly energies.
The following things were learned about Runelord Karzoug:
  • Karzoug was the Runelord of Greed. While he was, himself, an Azlanti human, he was a powerful man indeed said to be the most gifted manipulator of Transmutation magic in all of Thassilon, and to have lived for hundreds of years. He ruled a region called Shalast, part of the ancient empire of Thassilon, over 10,000 years ago.
  • Karzoug's armies were composed primarily of giants who followed his every command-the giants were ruled by towering monsters known as rune giants, who were themselves runelord pawns. Karzoug counted other powerful creatures as his allies as well, such as blue dragons, eerie denizens from the nightmare realm of Leng, blood-drinking outsiders known as scarlet walkers, and immense lamia harridans who towered over most giants.
  • Karzoug focused his magic on the school of transmutation, magic associated in Thassilonian times with the virtue of wealth. Under his reign, though, this virtue of rule became more associated with the sin of greed. Among the runelords, his mastery of greed magic was uncontested, yet in the schools of illusion and enchantment (related to the sins of pride and lust), his skills had atrophied greatly.
  • Many believed that weapons infused with illusion and enchantment magic, known as "dominant weapons," would be particularly potent against Karzoug, yet no record of someone attacking the runelord with such a weapon exists within the library.
  • Karzoug warred with his neighbors, but none more so than Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath and ruler of Bakrakhan. Between their nations, along a ridge known as the Rasp, Karzoug built immense sentinel statues to watch over Bakrakhan, while Alaznist built towers called Hellfire Flumes to prevent Karzoug's armies from invading. Citizens of both nations worried that the war between Karzoug and Alaznist would soon escalate to the point where they could bring about the end of the world.
  • As Karzoug and Alaznist's war intensified, and as wars between other runelords threatened more than just their armies, the runelords devised methods in which they could escape the world and enter a state of suspended animation, so they could ride out cataclysms. In theory, their surviving minions would then waken them to reclaim their empires once the cataclysms had ended.

Mokmurian's Notes
The party has a lot to ponder at this point. This library obviously has a tremendous value. To whom should they tell of its existence, and it's secrets?That, plus the second red dragon had been spotted, off in the mountains that surrounded Jorgenfist. Would the party chose to pay a visit, or perhaps just mark that down for future reference?

The next step for the party is to follow-up with the handwritten note the party had found in Mokmurian's lair. Who is the traitor Aliasa, and what exactly is the key to the runeforge?

For tonight’s efforts the party earned 51,600 XP, giving them (348,400 + 51,600) 400,000 XP earned so far, with 445,000 XP required to reach Level 14 (Level 15: 635,000 XP). Yes, I applied some rounding.

DM Notes: This concludes Section 4, "Fortress of the Stone Giants," of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. We will be starting Section 5, "Sins of the Saviors" when we meet next.

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