Friday, January 2, 2015

Hall of the The Shimmering Veils (11/29/2014)

Our last meeting as the party had drawn the attention of the defenders of the Hall of the Shimmering Veils. All seven of the defenders were identical: an immaculately dressed human man with shoulder-length blond hair. They spoke with one sonorous voice in Thassilonian: "The master is in study - he is not to be disturbed. Please keep your screaming to a minimum while you are punished for daring to venture this close to his magnificence." As they raced into the room they all went Invisible and began to surround the party as they cast their spells.

The first thing the party noticed was that Improved Invisibility allowed the magic users to remain invisible even as their offensive spells hit their targets. Stike was able cast his See Invisible just in time – he and Reynard were both hit with an Enfeeblement spell which effectively removed their ability to cast any spells at all. Stike began to whittle through the identical looking magic users all the while providing directions for Kheo’s arrows and Selinor’s area of effect spells.

The party had gotten off to a slow start but soon all seven of the well-dressed defenders were dead. The biggest surprise was that Delvahine was found among of the dead. The party surmised that she had used a Dimension Door to escape the party’s clutches and then had come here to seek assistance, and hoped the ensuing battle will be too much for the party to handle. Between the six defenders and Delvahine the party found quite a bit of magic:

Gear (six of each): Masterwork dagger, Ring of Protection +1, Cloak of Resistance +2, Headband of Vast Intelligence +2, noble's outfit worth 200 GP, and a spellbook (contained only spells prepared).

Delvahine’s Gear: +2 Glamered Mithral Chain Shirt, Sadist's Lash, +1 Dagger, Belt of Physical Might +4 (Dex, Con).

The party took a few moments to gather themselves, Selinor was able to overcome the Enfeeblement that had been cast on Stike and Reynard, and the party then moved on to find what was beyond the secret door. In a room they found that bookcases full of tomes and scrolls lined this cozy chamber's walls and a reading table with several matching chairs sat atop a thick rug in its center. A peacock made of gold sat upon the table, holding a single stick of incense cleverly positioned in its tail feathers. A heavy wooden door exited the room through one of the side walls. A figure, identical to the six defenders the party had just fought, lay slumped in the chair in the far corner - the body of a man wearing rich robes and a cloak made of peacock feathers. An elegant mirror was clutched in his hand, and a book and quill sat on the table before him.

This room was filled with religious essays on the subject of the Peacock Spirit, one of the more popular faiths during Thassilon's height. Unfortunately, the books kept here were maddeningly vague and coy in revealing actual details about the Peacock Spirit, made all the worse by the large volume of material at hand. Very little here could be found to make use in bringing to light more facts about this maddeningly obscure ancient cult.

The body in the chair had been dead for well over two years, yet it looked as if it had only died a moment ago. These were the remains of Vraxeris himself, magically preserved by Runeforge. The book in his lap was an extensive journal written in Thassilonian. The bulk of the journal catalogs Vraxeris's studies and the development of an improved version of clone that effectively granted him immortality. The drawback was that each time he switched bodies, he lost a portion of his own knowledge and experience, which in turn forced him to relearn much with each incarnation. At several points in the book, he also spoke of how with each new clone, the debilitating dementia that lurked at the end of his life manifested itself a little sooner - with each new body, his effective lifespan shrank. It seemed obvious that the dementia finally struck soon enough to prevent him from creating a new clone, and thus finally, death claimed him. Reynard espoused that a wizard could use the journal to rebuild Vraxeris's version of Improved Clone, but the research for creating this powerful 9th-level spell would be particularly onerous and would itself consume most of a lifetime. Nevertheless, the journal was worth 15,000 GP for this information alone, and if word of its contents were to spread, all manner of unscrupulous wizards would doubtless do much to claim it by more violent means.
Of more immediate interest to the heroes were the journal's notes on more recent events:
The runeforge pool awoke! I first took this as a sign that Runelord Xanderghul had risen. When I arrived at the pool to investigate it seemed that the others had come to the same conclusion. The foolish Wardens of Envy thought to disrupt the recrudescence, and with the aid of Azavan, Ordikon, Athroxis, and that lovely creature Delvahine we were able to defeat them utterly. Their Abjurant Halls lie in ruins. Our treaty was short-lived though. Azavan absconded with the bodies and that treacherous wench Athroxis nearly burned me to death before I returned here.
I was mistaken. Runelord Xanderghul still slumbers. It is that monster Karzoug who quickens and nears rebirth. Damnation! He must not be allowed to precede Xanderghul into the world, for he would rebuild Thassilon in his own inferior image, a testament to his own greed rather than one of pride in the work. He must be delayed or defeated.

I have managed to escape this place, to a certain extent. By astral projection I can explore what the world outside has become. It is a brutish place, yet it pleases me to see Thassilon’s mark endures in the shape of our monuments. Still, the wilderness of the world vexes me. Gone is the empire I knew. Karzoug’s city of Xin-Shalast is now hidden high in the mountains, and when I finally discovered it, I found the spires where his body is hidden to be inaccessible, warded against astral travellers by the occlusion field around the peak of Mhar-Massif. As long as his runewell is active, I fear even a physical approach would be impossibly deadly. I must determine a way to pierce these wardings, and to send an agent in my place. No need to risk my own life before my clone is ready.

I have taken steps towards an alliance with Delvahine. She may be able to escape this place, for she was not of the original blood. At the least, she can call upon agents from outside, and perhaps through them we can secure servants in the outer world. She seems uninterested in Sorshen’s return; all the better for Xanderghul, that.

The runeforge pool is the key. As I suspected the occlusion field around Karzoug’s fortress in Xin-Shalast has a flaw. His lack of knowledge of the intricacies of Sorshen’s and my own lord Xanderghul’s powers have left an opening. My agents must use components infused with our own lord’s virtues, extract the latent magic with these components, and then anoint their chosen weapons with this raw power. The runeforged pool seems to have enough reserves to enhance no more than half a dozen or so runeforged weapons but those enhanced with enchantment and illusion will be the most potent against Karzoug’s defenses. They may even be pivotal in his defeat. For my own part, fragments of any of the mirrors in the Peacocks Hall should suffice for a component. Delvahine’s ... equipment ... should suffice for enchantment, although one might be wise to cleanse them before they are handled.

The search for an agent goes poorly. Delvahine seems more interested in her own lusts than aiding me. Worse, the lapses and fevers are increasing. I fear that I will be forced to see to Karzoug myself, in which event I will need to use the master circle I build into the Halls of Wrath to escape this place. Yet first, I must set aside my work delaying Karzoug’s return and turn back to the final development of my 205th clone. I only hope I have time to finish before the dementia takes hold ...

The golden peacock was worth 800 GP. The books weighed just over 200 pounds, but as a collection were worth 1,500 GP to a scholar of Thassilonian lore. Vraxeris's spellbooks sat on the shelves to the north, and contained a wealth of spells between their covers. The combined spell books contained all 1st through 7th level spells from all schools except Conjuration and Transmutation. They also contained two 8th level Illusion spells: Scintillating Pattern and Screen, and two 9th level Illusion spells: Shapes and Weird. The gear that remainied on Vraxeris's body was worth a small fortune. He wore an evil Robe of the Archmage, a Headband of Vast Intelligence +6, a Ring of Wizardry II, and a Cape of the Mountebank.

The door on the side wall led to a small library. Once a fine library, the books held in this large Chamber - along with the bookshelves that once held them - had recently been destroyed by fire and force. To the north, a sizable alcove extended front the room into what may have once been a large reading area, but this too has been ruined.

As Vraxeris neared his end, he experienced a short moment of dreadful lucidity - a half-hour only in which he realized he had allowed his dementia to slip too far and would soon be dead forever. Struck with rage and despair he had destroyed the once-priceless contents of this room before lapsing back into madness, retreating to his meditation room where he finally died. Within the rubble the party found a Tome of Leadership and Influence +2.

Another room revealed a grisly heap of identical-looking dead bodies stacked in a well-organized heap. This immense pile of bodies were the remains of Vraxeris's previous clones - all elderly versions of the body found in the meditation room, magically preserved by Runeforge. Just over 200 dead clones were present - Vraxeris was too full of pride and too stubborn to simply dispose of the bodies.

The last room contained only three plain items of furniture - a large bed strewn with silk ropes, a writing desk, and a freestanding armoire. Ever frugal, Vraxeris's bedroom was appointed with relatively mundane furnishings that the wizard often changed the appearance of with his illusions. Since his death, these illusions have faded, leaving behind the plain, miserly truth for anyone to see.

While Vraxeris was fond of the succubus Delvahine, he wasn't always fond of her demanding personality. She rarely visited him in this wing, and never visited his bedroom, so she never learned that the wizard had created six simulacra of her to keep in his bedroom for his pleasure. If she were to somehow learn of this somewhat disturbing fact, she would have made her way into this room as soon as possible to destroy them.

The six false Delvahines in this room were relatively vacant in personality, yet Vraxeris left one final command for them - they were to shriek and howl if intruders entered the room and to attack on sight unless the intruders were accompanied by the true Delvahine. This fight was brutal and brief, but soon the six Delvahine simulacra were destroyed as well.

With the secrets of the Hall of the Shimmering Veils now revealed the party decided a quick rest was in order and afterwards they immediately set out for the final remaining unexplored hall in Runeforge - the Halls of Wrath. As they entered this hall they saw a wide corridor of polished marble opened into a brightly lit and extremely tall chamber. The upper portion of the far wall was entirely covered in a mural of an armored woman with crimson hair holding a burning ranseur and riding on the back of a massive red dragon. A square outcropping of smooth marble jutted out from the far wall, rising from the floor to a height of thirty feet. An opening in the wall directly behind the flat top of the stone column led deeper into this section of the vault. A twelve-foot-tall iron statue stood on this platform, an enormous iron bow gripped in its metal fists and a strange rune that looks almost like a pair of fangs decorated its chest.

And we will pick it up from there next time. For tonight’s effort the party earned 27,200 XP, giving them (613,950 + 27,200) 641,150 XP earned so far, more than enough to reach level 15, with 890,000 XP required to reach Level 16.

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