Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Sihedron Circle (05/02/2014)

Having defeated The Scribbler and his demonic minions the heroes have finished exploring The Scribbler’s underground dungeon beneath Sandpoint. There they found among the many scribbling’s on the walls and ceilings five seemingly random verses of an otherwise unknown poem. Was this the secret to finding the mysterious Runeforge? What of the other things The Scribbler had said before he finished luring the party further into his little corner of hell?

Reynard had studied the gibberesh on the walls of the Scribbler's lair and determined that amidst the scribbling's were stanza's from a poem and that perhaps these were the secrets to Runeforge he had boasted about. After much discussion the team decided the stanzas should be read in this order:

If Magic bright is your desire,
to old Runeforge you must retire!
For only there does wizards’ art
receive its due and proper start.
(Reasoning: this stanza appeared to be an obvious "start")
On Eastern shores of steaming mirror,
at end of day when dusk is nearer,
Where seven faces silent wait
encircled guards at Runeforge gate.
(Reasoning: this stanza appeared to be the "where")
Each stone the grace of seven lords,
one part of key each ruler hoards;
If offered spells and proper prayer,
take seven keys and climb the stair.
(Reasoning: You need to have the keys before you could do anything with them)
On frozen mountain Xin awaits,
his regal voice the yawning gates
Keys turn twice in Sihedron –
occulted Runeforge waits within.
(Reasoning: Now that you have the keys ... )
And now you’ve come and joined the forge
upon rare lore your mind can gorge –
When you slough the mortal way in Runeforge
long your work shall stay.
(Reasoning: this stanza appeared to be an obvious closure to the rhyme)

The next steps were to collect their reward from the city of Sandpoint and then to do some more study. There were various old maps located in the chapel and Reynard was able to discern a likely location - Lake Stormunder, near Rimeskull Mountain. An ancient visage of the Emporer Xin had been carved into the mountainside that overlooked the eastern shore of the lake, so that seemed like an obvious place to start. Reynard also uncovered several stories relating to a dragon that had once resided there - Arkrhyst - but the white dragon had not been heard from for well over a century.

The heroes also decided that perhaps a trip back to the library at Jorgenfist was in order as well. They still had the door key and the password, and the Clockwork Librarian that resided there was still very helpful. By using their newly gained  knowledge and the efforts of the librarian the party was able to learn more about Runeforge:
  • Runeforge was created as a place where agents of the seven runelords could gather to study magic.
  • The runelords wove wards around Runeforge that barred entrance into the complex to any runelord or his direct agents, in order to keep the research within free from sabotage at the hands of an enemy.
  • Runeforge's magical enhancements sustained those within without the need to eat, drink, or even sleep.
  • The Spires of Xin-Shalast stand upon the mythical mountain of Mhar Massif. This mountain of legendary proportions pierces the skies above the Kodars, and is said to be the highest peak in the entire range of stupendously inhospitable mountains.
  • The final project the runelords set Runeforge on was the development of ways the runelords could escape the imminent fall of their empire. Each faction developed a unique answer for its runelord, based upon the underlying principles of that faction's magical traditions.
If the runelords had truly created a "magic college" as described here it was likely their minions were still there and functioning even after 10,000 years, but to what extent they were functioning was anyone's guess. The heroes then spent several days making preparations. The mountains would be very cold for one thing, plus if there really was a 500 year-old dragon still hanging around they would need to be prepared.

Finally it was time to leave. By using Reynard's Greater Teleport and timing their arrival for dusk the heroes soon found themselves standing on the eastern shore of Lake Stormunder just as the sun began to slide behind the mountains. From the rocky eastern shoreline the ground rose into the craggy snow-dappled roots of Rimeskull, the huge mountain casting its long shadow over this area.

Yet not all of the ground here was rugged and mountainous. Several hundred feet from the lake's edge, the land suddenly leveled off to create a circular hill. Rocks and tenacious shrubs poked through the scattered clumps of snow here, but they were dwarfed by the ring of seven ten-foot-tall stone heads that circled the hill's edge, their faces angled inward at each other, mouths agape. Further to the east the sheer mountainside of Rimeskull rose, icy and wind blasted-two hundred feet above leered a carving of an ancient face, its gaping mouth formed a large cave entrance in the mountainside. A ten-foot-wide stairway of stone descended from this cave to a ledge only fifty feet to the east of the circle of stone faces.

The heroes soon arrived at the plateau and began to inspect the statues, the hints and clues the Scribbler had provided still in their heads. The statue to the north was that of Karzoug - the party had seen other statues of Karzoug previously, so it was likely these seven statues were of the Runelords themselves. But they party still wasn't sure how to offer "prayers and proper spells" or how to collect the promised keys.

The possibility of a dragon was still in their heads, and with that thought in mind Reynard cast a Haste spell on the group near the status of Karzoug, only to see the spell "absorbed" into the statue. The Haste spell had not affected the party, but the statue glowed with energy for a moment and the ground vibrated as a piercing trill emanated from the head. The glow and the sound faded completely after several seconds, at which point a gold key appeared in its mouth.

That seemed to answer a lot of the party's questions. It seemed that all they had to do was identify the magic school of the statue, cast a spell from that school, collect all seven keys and then proceed up the steps to the cave mouth. Based on what they had learned previously and by casting Detect Magic spells on the statues, the party was able to collect this information concerning the seven ancient Runelords:

(North) Runelord Karzoug: The party had seen his statue several times previous. He was depicted as a towering man with gems set in his forehead and hands, dressed in rich robes, and wielded a burning glaive. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Greed and his primary school of magic was Transmutation.

(Northeast) Runelord Krune: A short smiling man with a hooked nose and beady eyes, wearing robes and wielding a spear. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Greed and his primary school of magic was Conjuration.

(East) Runelord Belimarus: A heavyset woman with a sneering visage and an imperious stance, dressed in a flowing dress and wielding a halberd. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Envy and her primary school of magic was Abjuration.

(Southeast) Runelord Sorshen: A voluptuous woman with a seductive look, large eyes, and long flowing hair; this statue is nude and wields a double-headed guisarme. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Lust and her primary school of magic was Enchantment.

(Southwest) Runelord Xanderghul: A strikingly handsome man adorned with a close-cropped beard and a charming expression; his form is dressed in extravagant clothes and wields a lucerne hammer. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Pride and his primary school of magic was Illusion.

(West) Runelord Alaznist: The party had seen her statue once previous. A gothic beauty with wild hair and a somewhat insane expression, this woman wore a long flowing dress and wielded a thorny ranseur. In the circle of the seven deadly sins her domain was Wrath and her primary school of magic was Evocation.

(Northwest) Runelord Zutha: An obese man, his flesh rotten in places so that the bones show through, wearing a ragged robe and wielding a scythe. In the circle of the seven deadly sins his domain was Gluttony and his primary school of magic was Necromancy.

However, collecting this information, and the keys the statues held was not an easy process. As soon as the heroes had collected their first key they moved onto the second statue and as they prepared to cast the appropriate spell ... directly above their heads an invisible Elder White Dragon revealed itself and attacked the party with a mighty breath of freezing cold air. The ancient and mighty Arkrhyst had appeared from lair, alerted to the presence of the party by the shrill alarm from the first statue.

The heroes quickly regrouped and struck back, only to see most of their spells seemingly be useless and their weapon blows bounce off the mighty dragon. Arkrhyst then landed in the middle of the group and seemed to toy with them as his mighty bite, claw, wing, and tail attacks never seem to miss and each inflicted great damage. With only one key collected at this point, and unable to hurt the great beast, Reynard cast a Mage's Magnificent Mansion and the party was able to successfully slip away to another dimension to avoid what appeared to be certain doom.

Having temporarily reached safety (and warmth) the heroes took 30 minutes to reconsider their plan of attack, renewed their spell protections, and after a peak outside revealed that no dragon waiting for them they stepped out of their Mansion with the intent of collecting more keys - and with a fervent hope that maybe the dragon had lost interest in them. One additional key was collected when a rushing of wings were heard and the dragon again dropped to the ground between them. Selinor was narrowly able to avoid being grabbed by the dragon, and this time a renewed Stike and Kheo were able to hit the dragon several times with mighty blows and inflict some damage. Reynard and Selinor were able to collect a few more keys, but soon it was time for the heroes to duck back in the Mansion and escape the wrath of Arkrhyst. The last view the party had of Arkrhyst was the dragon flying off was entering the cave mouth at the top of the stairs.

This time the heroes decided to wait a full eight hours, take their rest, and renew spells. They then crept out of the Mansion, collected the final keys, and with no evidence of the dragon began to creep up the steps to the cave mouth. A massive stairway that looked like it must have been built by giants and taken years, if not decades, to complete is chiseled out of the side of the mountain. A twenty-foot-wide and thirty-foot-tall stone arch framed the first steps, while the final steps led directly up to a carving of an ancient face, its open mouth a cave entrance. The familiar seven-pointed star was etched deeply into its surface, prominently positioned at the highest section of the arch. Bones lay in iced-over heaps along the visible areas of the stairway.

Elder Earth Elemental
Two elder earth elements seemingly stepped out of the mountain wall and did their best to protect the cave entrance, but against a party that was expecting a dragon the two elements didn't stand much of a chance. The huge cave mouth led into a long, long passage into the darkness. At around the 250 foot mark the party came across two twelve-foot-tall statues that flanked the large tunnel. Each held a hand upraised as if to ward away intruders, and clutched a heavy sword with the other. The passageway then slanted downward sharply with a rocky ice-covered passage that led into the darkness below.

And we'll pick it up there next time. For tonight’s effort the party earned 26,375 XP, giving them (418,625 + 26,375) 445,000 XP earned so far, with 445,000 XP required to reach Level 14 (Level 15: 635,000 XP).

DM Note: It may not seem like there was a lot of action tonight, but the party had a lot of information to parse and a lot of preparations to take, so that's just the way it worked out. You'd be surprised how much just the rumor of a dragon can make a group paranoid.

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