Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Vault of Greed (06/06/2014)

The adventurers have fought (and thought) their way into the mysterious and long lost Halls of Runeforge, the ancient school of magic created by the Runelords some 10,000 years previous. The key to defeating Runelord Karzoug was thought to lay somewhere within these walls, but the party was certain that trouble would await at every turn. They had initially visited the Abjurant Halls of Eager Striving (Envy, Abjuration), only to have found a recent battle of epic proportions had taken place and the inhabitants killed and the once beautiful hall pretty much destroyed. There were six remaining halls to be investigated, plus Arkyhyst, an ancient white dragon, had apparently followed them through the open portal and lay in wait for them - somewhere  .

Fearing that Arkrhyst might still be lurking in the main hall Reynard used a Dimension Door to transport the heroes to the entrance to the Vault of Greed. This was the hall where the greatest transmutationists of their day, hand-picked by Runelord Karzoug himself, had worked together to further the magical skills of their school. Now that 10,000 years had passed the heroes had no idea who might still reside there, or in what condition they might still exist. A beautiful tunnel of polished wood inlaid with silver and gold runes stretched for at least a hundred feet before the heroes came across a large iron door studded with dozens of colorful gemstones that stood in the eastern wall in the middle portion of the corridor.

Although the door appeared to have no latch, a depression in the center contained a keyhole. Kheo attempted to check the door for traps and upon touching the massive door narrowly avoided taking full damage when the “door” sprung out and attempted to crush any trespassers that stood between it and the opposite wall. The “door” was actually a thick iron plate set in the wall. The iron slab was attached to a metal piston in a recessed area behind it. After having been sprung the party could see the piston slowly withdraw, returning the “door” to its previous position.

Beyond the trap the beautiful tunnel stretched for at least another hundred feet before it ended at a wall of greenish mist that sparkled with silver motes of light. Suspecting another trap Reynard did a Detect Magic and found that the mist gave off hint of Teleportation magic attached to it. Kheo decided to walk through the mist, and was unaffected. The others also successfully walked through the mist, although unlike Kheo, all admitted they felt the tug of magic on them as they passed through.

On the other side of the mist sat a large chamber paved with ivory tiles, each one engraved with a silver rune depicting what appeared to be a claw gripping a gemstone. The walls and ceiling were of polished marble. A large silver basin in the center of the room contained an icy sculpture of a whale spraying crystal-clear water from its blowhole. The water cascaded around it to keep the basin full, but never quite overflowing. From in the pool itself a voice rang out, "Oh look! Another group of fleshies come to slobber in our pool!"
Water Mephit
As the party looked in the pool they saw four water mephitis swimming about. The ugly creatures continued to offer various insults at the party, and despite Kheo’s desire to kill them all Stike instead threw a couple of coins into the fountain. The mephitis quickly scooped up the coins and disappeared into little holes around the bottom of the pool, only to be replaced by another set of water mephitis that eagerly awaited for more coins to be thrown in the pool. The party managed to engage them in some conversation and learned that they hated the “mean silver man” that lived in these halls. He “threw spells and them and hurt them”, but beyond that they could not say any more about him.

The party then moved down the hallway to the east and came upon another fountain. This fountain sprayed water toward the ceiling some thirty feet above. The water cascaded back into a pool in which colorful goldfish swam. The fountain featured a nine foot-tall stone statue of a human wizard holding a staff in one hand. The other hand was raised over his head, and it's from this hand's palm that the water issued. No mephitis were found here, but several goldfish swam around the waters that bubbled in the bottom of the fountain.
Stone Golem
As the heroes moved into the room the statue animated and the stone golem began to swing his mighty fists at his nearest opponent. The heroes quickly learned that spells seemed to do it no harm, so they took turn cutting down the golem as best they could. As soon as they killed the first stone golem they saw two more coming, one from each of two different directions. The heroes were able to use their speed advantage to overwhelm and finish off one before the other could attack, thus making the fight with the third golem a bit easier.

Beyond the fountain room was a long hallway with four doors, three on the right and one on the left. A quick inspection revealed that these rooms were all empty, save for piles of raw materials like sheets of cloth, stacks of lumber, blocks of stone, metal bars, and bones. It was determined that these must have been living quarters for some of the apprentices that had resided here at some point. The rooms themselves gave off a strong feel of transmutation magic, as if spells from that school that were cast in this area might be enhanced. There were no magic items to be found in any of these rooms, just the raw materials.

Beyond the work rooms stood another fountain, this one without a statue, as an otherwise empty stand stood in the middle of the fountain with several jets of water spewing forth from it. The party deduced they had now accounted for the location for two of those three stone golems.

Stike then opened the door to the adjoining room. Rows of thick wooden worktables occupied the center of this long chamber. Bookcases lining the walls held hundreds of books and scrolls. Crates next to or pushed under the worktables appeared to be filled with an odd variety of mundane items, such as rope, sticks, sacks, tools, and cookware. A dog on one of the tables looked dead, though its hind end appeared to be made of some kind of metal. A few other animals paced back and forth in small metal cages - a house cat, a few rats, a snake, and a small white-faced monkey.

Ordikon, The Mithral Mage
This is where the Lords of Greed had experimented with their craft. The dog had been used in an experiment in which Ordikon the Mithral Mage, had attempted to create another mithral creature like himself. His experiment had unfortunately killed the animal and transmuted only part of it into iron. At study in his lair Ordikon was quite upset at being disturbed and a fight quickly ensued. Fortunately for the party the DM failed on a crucial saving throw (DM Note: Even with +12 Will), Ordikon was dazed by Selinor and the party quickly hewed him down.

As the party searched the dead mage’s gear they found a Staff of Mithral Might, a Cloak of Resistance +1, a Pearl of Power (2nd level), a Rod of Metal and Mineral Detection, and 500 GP in diamond dust. As they then inspected the room they found research books scattered around this room, worth a total of 10,000 GP. These books detailed various experiments and partial notes on the conundrum of transmuting lead into gold. They provided a +5 circumstance bonus on all Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (religion) checks made regarding transmutation and constructs. A character who would spend several hours reading through these books would discover notes and descriptions of the solution the Lords of Greed hit upon to protect Karzoug from the fall of Thassilon. By building a runewell larger than any before, Karzoug could place himself in stasis between realities, suspended between Golarion and a hostile plane called Leng. Once the dust settled, the plan was for one of Karzoug's apprentices to release him. The details of this process were not recorded in the books - the wizards of runeforge were focused only on aiding in the runewell's construction, not what came after it was completed.

Also present here were Ordikon's spellbooks; As Reynard examined these he found them to be particularly unusual in that many of the notes and formulae within were redundant. Spells generally took up twice as much room as they need to in these books, as if the wizard who recorded them had a habit of repeating himself in various ways without realizing it. The spell books contained all 1st through 7th level spells from all schools except Enchantment and Illusion. The spell books also included two 8th level Transmutation spells: Form of the Dragon III and Giant Form II, and two 9th level Transmutation spells: Shape Change and Time Stop.

A doorway to the north lead to the Hall of Golden Repose. This wide hall was floored in polished wooden planks, its walls covered in colorful jade tiles. The ceiling was made of lustrous stone that reflects the light of three decorative lanterns that brightly illuminate ten gleaming golden statues of men and women in various poses of combat readiness that stand along the walls.

All of the statues in this room were once soldiers and consorts in service to the Lords of Greed. These unfortunate souls were painfully gilt while still alive but paralyzed, then posed in pleasing shapes as the gold coating their bodies hardened. A close examination of the statues revealed looks of surprise, anger, and fear on their faces. Each statue was effectively hollow, containing a leathery, brittle corpse.
Zuzuveg, Nalfeshnee Demon
A nalfeshnee demon named Zuvuzeg guarded this room due to a binding spell placed by one of Izomandakus, Ordikon’s long time mentor. The nalfeshnee knew that Izomandakus was now dead and has fallen into a fit of despair. The wording of the particular binding spell that kept him stuck within this room and serving as a lowly guardian for the powerful magical pool in the room beyond was constructed such that Zuvuzeg would escape the term of his permanent servitude only after he successfully made Izomandakus laugh, cry, shriek, and cheer by using nothing more than the power of nalfeshnee's storytelling ability. Over the years Zuvuzeg had finished three of these tasks with jokes, parables, and tales, but had yet to manage to make the stoic transmuter shriek.

But now that Izomandakus was dead the nalfeshnee realized that it would never be able to escape from its servitude except via death, or by being freed by another. The demon attempted to bargain for his freedom but upon realizing the party could not help him he raged at the party and a long battle ensued (DM Note: no crucially missed saving throws this time). Several party members took some damage in this battle, but eventually the demon lay dead.

After tending to their wounds the heroes moved through the door to the north and eventually reached the room that the demon guarded. Silver beams supported a domed ceiling covered in polished dark wood panels inlaid with spiky glyphs. Most of the chamber's floor rippled in an immense, forty-foot-diameter pool of deep blue liquid. Flashes of lightning and gouts of flame danced along its surface, punctuated by thunderclaps, hisses, and cacophonous shrieks. Vague shapes writhed in the currents below the pool's surface.

This was the pool of elemental arcana, a powerful magical pool created by the Lords of Greed in an attempt to build a second runeforge well that they alone could use, unhappy as they were with sharing the one at Runeforge's center. Their skills, however, could not match what the Runelords themselves had created, and the pool of elemental arcana was a flawed creation. The heroes were able to determine the waters of the pool were infused with raw magic and that they could possibly be used to repair or recharge magic items.

Selinor dipped his expired Wand of Cure Light Wounds into the frothing mix in an attempt to recharge it, but at first there was no affect. A second attempt seemed to try and withdraw any remaining charges from the wand into the pool and did several points of damage to Selinor. The party decided to leave well enough alone for now, but made note that this might be of particular component required when it came to creating the weapon needed to kill Karzoug.

The party then moved through the west side of the Vault of Greed. They found the empty stand in a fountain where the third stone golem had been, and then they found a set of workrooms identical to the ones they had seen on the east side of the hall. Beyond that was a fourth fountain, also with an empty stand. Given that they had only encountered three stone golem guardians so far, none were surprised when the fourth golem lumbered up the hallway toward them. The slow moving creature was no match for the hearty heroes though and it soon lay dead on the floor.

The heroes were able to make their way back to the front entrance to the hall, accepted a few more insults from the water mephitis, although the mephits were glad to hear the “mean silver man” would no longer torment them. The heroes also noticed that wall of mist was now gone as well, likely somehow related to the absence of the four golems. The discussion moved to where to go next. And was Arkrhyst in the main hall still, or had he done some exploring on his own? He was still alive, and likely recovered from the wounds the party had inflicted on him previously, so it was decided to continue to avoid the main hall for now and that the next likely place to explore would be the Ravenous Crypts.

For tonight’s effort the party earned 37,600 XP, giving them (465,000 + 37,600) 502,600 XP earned so far, with 635,000 XP required to reach Level 15.

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