Mulligan goes forward with the scouts to blaze trail and, with the mappers, map and scout new area. They are to go all the way to the next major settlement we already know of, sending a rider back periodically lead us on each leg of the journey. The mounted caravan guards paid for by the smithy guild are sent to guard them, the Proniar's second in command in charge. They will break the trip up into 3 legs, as it is a 9 or 10 day trip probably. Each leg, a scout will stay behind, explore if time, and backtrack to meet us at the beginning of his leg.
Arisaan leaves today as well, riding al the way to the next town. As Loreena Sunfire, she will get the lay of the attitude there prior to our arrival, ingratiating herself to the people she meets there.
Duncan takes Callimachus, Grumpet, the town arcanist we spoke to yesterday, the Proniar and the groups priests.
Archileus leads his hobgoblin holites into the sewer with Bligh, and guides to a catacomb entrance. They will scout it out for us and map what they can.
The scouts find that a light forest follows the river a little over a day out of town, with a marshland to the north of the river. Within the woodland south of river is a village, pop just short of 1000.
Mulligan and the crew stop in and say hello. Friendly, good place to stop for water or something. Nothing else of major importance there.
Not far past is where the first scout stops to meet us.
Continuing on, they pass 2 other settlements off the river, both small farming communities with maybe couple hundred pop. Also, over 20 miles south of the river on the second leg, is a ruin.
2nd scout stays behind.
Mulligan and his last scout then arrive at old Kimiristi, a smaller settlement outside the mts from new Kimiristi. Its 3/4 ruins, raided and sacked many times. It is on a giant mound several miles wide almost like a steppe pyramid of levelled cities.
Less than 1000 pop. The town is surrounded by ruins, wall around the ruins. A quasi road runs tween the 2 settlements.
In Old K, men meant to fight still make up much of the people. Not professional military, but rough and tumble men.
Along this whole trip. we have seen signs of nomads, even small parties riding off in the distant plains. Even a few signs of fighting between the north of the river Tunguskiks and south of river Tsyrgys. Running along the river nearing old K there was not life to be seen at all but small remnant life. Mulligan thinks it was a great hunt, where a clan will encircle an area, and closing in kill everything. Set up skinning/dressing stations, then ride off with all they got.
Mulligan stops in Old K, the scout continues to New K. He will then turn back to take us over the last leg.
Woodland continues to dot the river sides all the way here. On the third leg, before the great hunt area, is a special spot, NE of the ruin we saw not too long before, and close to the river: a collection geoglyphs (like Nazca lines).
Another village lies just NE of Old K. Semi permanent looking just north of the river.
The valley to New K is wooded. About 7000 pop as we were told. Richest live on hillside itself, other classes in valley below. Road goes right into the lower classes, then back up the hill to aristocracy. That area has its own wall around it.
Mulligan hooks up with Arisaan in New K.
The mappers and guards stop with the last scout and backtrack to the start of their leg. A group of Tunguskik comes into sight, watching and tailing us.
Once we stop at our camp, they approach to meet us. About 30 of them, in 4 waves.
The scout has a tough, but not impossible time, speaking with them. They ask what we are doing here; he replies we are advanced scouts of a larger group going far east.
He convinces them we are not a military attack force; offering trade even when our group passes through. We give them the timetable, and they say they will be back here to wait to meet our leader.
The man says the tribe leader will be very interested in meeting us. As we are getting out of our linguistic knowledge, he says we may even be ablet to hire an interpreter to go with us a ways.
When asked about Kimiristi, they say they do not like them, long history of that. They treat the Tsyrgys a little more friendly, who are our rivals. Tsyrgys are also more apt to sign on as mercs for them.
The scout assures them our leader will love to meet them.
Back in Persukar, we take a boat across to the shrine that first morning with 4 of the cav as well. The arcanist guides us to the shrine. Callimachus and Kyros take many notes, drawings and such of all the details. The rest of us search around the general area.
There are little moonstones all over the area, just under the ground. The Proniar and Duncan together find 4. They are probably all over the area. Each gives off the light of a torch when it starts getting dark. Probably worth descent money too.
Couple of the cav notice there was at one point some sort of structure around, a large one, but long gone. There are random small remnants, hidden in the brudh and ground of pieces of wal, floor, even a broken stairway. All of stone.
The shrine of standing stones seem about in the middle of the structure/city. Whether during or before or after, who knows.
Once the sun is down and the moon is up, Baltazar says anyone who wants to attempt the simple ritual of meditation upon the shrine may do so.
Duncan and Callimachus both do so. Nothing happens with Duncan, but for a feeling of confidence.
Callimachus, however, has a different xp altogether. He feels something bad is going to happen in the near future upon him personally.
Grumpet is feeling eminations though he is not taking part, of the arcane amorpha powers of the earth are converging on this point right now. He feels them like a spiritual wind.
The proniar Alexius also takes part: getting a vision of his own death. Luckily, it was no where near here. In a grove of cherry blossom trees he lied in a pool of his own blood as if he were killed w/o expecting it.
The 3 priests: Kalestos begins to actually glow. Shining so bright we can see the light even through our closed eyes. All his body hairs has been removed and skin more pale. He fealt as if infused with magic, has the feeling of godly intunement with magic. His cha dropped.
Deacon Nepos has xp little to nothing, but a desire to be more artistic in the future.
Father Balsamon had a grand vision: the story told back at the ruins by the shadow men, the Malakaz are already free. A spirit told him this. They already walk the earth. Something big is coming soon, schemes and plots by them. Bad things will happen to the east when we get there, apart from all of that. No way for us to avoid it. Each day we go, we get closer to that day.
Grumpet kept trying to feel what is going one once he got the initial unwilling feeling: the shrine is built on a convergence of arcane lay lines; the moonstones on this hill draw magic of the world here; certain ones in here act as arcane magnets that fuel, recharge, disperse magic. The more he thinks on just that, he sees that the hill is completely surrounded by spirits that are zooming all over the place overhead and around the area of the shrine; he feels this spot has random effects unless you come here for a specific purpose. For instance, resurrecting someone! At what cost, he can't tell.
The spirits are either drawn here because of the power nexus, or a result of it as in people who once lived here.
He tries to commucate with the spirits.
Kyros has vanished. About 20 minutes after it all ends, we hear a scream in the distance. We rush to it, certainly Kyros. He's not too far, we find him on the ground, grabbing his face, screaming in horror.
Duncan grabs him and asks what is wrong.
He yells "IT hurts, it burns." He has blood coming from all orifices and is in great pain. Grumpet and Callimachus try to help him, but can not figure out how to stop the bleeding.
Grumpet says get him back to the stones and focus on his healing.
Kyros yells "He's here, and he's coming!" randomly.
We get him to the stones and all get him w/in a circle of us, concentrating on his healing specifically.
The blood turns black, still pooring out. He opens his mouth and vomits thick viscous black icor. He gurgles and chokes! A growling hiss comes from the puddle of spew, almost angry. The spirits all around we all now hear, Grumpet can see, acting in pain The pool of icor begins to congeal, move, bubble.
Kyros passes out, and stops bleeding. A black hand begins to form, then another. Duncan starts throwing alchemist fire on it, 4 vials in succession.
Grumpet "Baltazar, do something!"
Kalestos raises his hand up, beating Baltazar to the punch, trying to dispel the magic summoning this thing here.
The now 2 hands retreat back into the ooze and it stope, now just a puddle.
Baltazar "That was utterly horrifying" he watched as the aura w/in your friend completely morphed from that of a man to something terrible he can not even describe. Utter….Wrongness. With no shape, and its still there in the puddle. Kalestos did not dispel anything.
Just then, it bursts forth into what looks like a slug of congealed blood the size of a man generally.
A pseudopod erupts from it, hitting Grumpet.
Callimachus withdraws quickly. Grumpet wild shapes into a black bear; Duncan cuts it with his war chopper and it divides into 2; Nepos fails to cast something; Balsamon blesses us; Kalestos begins a spell; Alexios attacks it. Baltazar is also working on a spell.
Baltazar yells "Glory to the blood angel!!" He's been corrupted and casts at Grumpet, who begins to bleed like Kyros but to a much lesser extent for 5 con damage. The blood that comes out of him flies into the bloodrot.
Alexios attacks Baltasar.
Duncan now shield bashes the mass as Grumpet bites at them.
Baltazar grabs Grumpets rear giving him 2 con back and the bleed stops.
Nepos fails again; Kalestos now finishes his spell, a stream of fire pouring from his hand onto one of the rots destroying it.
The bloodrot begins to move at full speed toward Kyros' ko'd body. Pieces are tendriling out to grab him.
Baltazar's wrists split open, the blood oozing into his hands forming blood maces, and attacks Alexios.
Duncan charges and takes down the blood rot. Grumpet crit bites Baltazar.
Calimachus checks on Kyros.
Alexios also crits Baltazar.
Duncan joins the fight just as Grumpet drops him. Duncan makes sure.
The central column of the shrine has a red glowing ring at the base of it.
Grumpet says the place is indeed a nexus of arcane energy, but Baltazar perverted it to the blood magic. Probably why every use has a negative with it now.
We start digging under the central pillar, and quickly find a ruby of perfect cut. Baseball size, glowing red.
We take the blood ruby with us.
No one likes holding it, very uncomfortable to our psyches.
Grumpet says that was the cause of the corruption for sure. We will take it far away. Back at town, we'll put it in a small lockbox and take it with us.
Near the ruby are half a dozen large moonstones, about the same size. Duncan has each priest takes one.
Back to town. Kyros wakes up in town later that day.
We plan to get a small lockbox with a high quality lock. Duncan tells the priests that once we do, put any wards and protectins on it you can.
Duncan decides to get a lead box for the crystal. 2 keys, both with Duncan for now. He may give one to Arisaan soon. Balsamon says blood magic resists magical healing, so it will be up to our skilled healers.
Grumpet and the priests continue working on the damage done by the shrine encounter to Kyros especially.
Duncan joins diplomacy alongside the Imperial Ambassador
Research also begins by Callimachus and the priests on the bloodstone.
Continued research, healing, diplomacy.
Callimachus, with the help of Brillstagg the Skull, says the blood gem is an item originating from a group called the Crimson Path, used decades ago. Part of a larger whole called The Heart of the Angel, a revered deity to the Crimson Path. No one has seen one since their plague priests were expunged in the inquisiton. Balsomon, an historian, recalls some too. When the covenant of the Masters was in chaos afte rthe Masters left, and became the Return, the Crimson Path heavily infiltrated them and were causing worse chaos. Scholars thing the reason why there are so many different Return branches is because of heritical doctrine introduced by the Path. They tricked priests into doing Path work which they thought was Return work. The Path masked their blood works within the Return dogma. Very tricky. Major priestly officials would carry a blood amulet. Couple decades or so later, the church had figured out what was happening and finished an inquisition vs the Path. It began in the empire, and sent missionaries across the lands how to weed them out and destroy them.
The inquisition went continent wide. The blood rubies disappeared; what was found by the inquisition were wisked away with no record of what happened. Any Path remnants went underground.
First, Grumpet figures Baltazar got the gem from the underground. Duncan wonders if Baltazar did indeed visit the tower and got it from through the portal.
Our priests say the chance that a cult is here, thanks to the crystal, is too great to leave be. Hopefuly, he only found one and was corrupted by it. Or, the crystal had been here for a long time and corrupted him.
Path: many of their symbols floated around the old city in Master's time, the ancient city below. There seems to be no real cult activity related to this Path. Seems like it was just a lone occurance. At one point in the old city the cult was indeed here.
If anything remains, it would be old city = sewers or fled to the dungeon.
Diplomacy and rest and research.
Bligh has been gathering info on the streets for any rumors of blood cult remnants, just to be on the safe side. He finds no leads thankfully.
On our last day in town, Duncan goes out to explore the sunken tower west of the city. He takes Callimachus, Bligh, Kyros, Archileus and 1 hoblite and 3 hob trainees, Trysta, Toronaga, the Proniar and half the cavalray, and his 3 henchmen.
Callimachus has been searching for mentions of the tower in the papers from the dungeon. He found mention of a First who lived in this area, a favorite of the regional Master. This First was an arancist. During the preWar interMaster conflicts this First named Maylock had his tower and followers swallowed by the earth. Including, presumably, himself. Maylock was an impeccable dresser, taking great pride is his appearance and such gifts like medals from his Master. Was given a dagger as a gift for his status alone. Was very proud of it, but no mention of it being special otherwise.
We get to the tower uneventfully about 10am, and enter through the visible top floor via a window. The cav stay outside.
We split up: Duncan, henchmen, Toro, Kyros, Trysta; Bligh, Callimachus, hobgoblins.
Duncan finds steps, Bligh a ladder under a hidden hatch. Archileus leads the way down the ladder into a room with no visible doors. The floor is littered with bones and debris. Duncan and Bligh start to descend. Toro right behind.
Lots of old rusted equipment on the floor. A glint of metal from the far corner. Duncan investigates. Its the handle of a scepter 2 1/2' long. A gem or something in 4 prongs at the head is missing. We take it.
A gang of 4 Shadows attack us!!! 1 str down from Duncan and 6 from Bligh!!
The boss wrenches the scepter from Duncan's hands during the fight. Bligh's wooden blade can hit it, as can Toro's daisho. Duncan uses his Meelkor Holy Water which utterly destorys the boss Shadow.
Duncan :"Weren't expecting that, were you?" The other 2, Toro has killed one, begin screaming unintelligably. The other 2 now flee. The scepter has fallen to the ground.
We search. Duncan finds that an old door has been bricked up long ago.
Most of the bones are human.
A large symbol of some sort is carved across the whole floor. We sledge the bricked door open to an L shaped room finishing off the floor. In one corner are the bottom of the steps Duncan found upstairs that also continue downward. No Shadows.
We shovel all the bones out into the other room to reveal the symbol to Kyros and Callimachus who copy in great detail.
Once the hobgoblins clear the bones under Archileus supervision, horrible pains of all sorts wrack all but the hoblite.
Callimachus says its a symbol of pain, the men who were once shadows were thrown in here and tortured to death by the symbol.
They're at minus 4 to all d2o rolls for 1 hour. They go upstairs with the Proniar. Archileus is attacked by a Shadow for 6 str! We run for the light of the top floor and outside.
Duncan, his 3 henchmen with Toro continue downstairs with the hoblite.
The walls of the next floor down are partially collapsed exposing support beams. Signs of combat long ago, including human remains. One staircase goes downward but away from the tower's structure. We find the main keep door once to the outide had been burst open from outside.
One body is a knight at the center of the pile of dead, rusted plate, sword run through him broken at the back. Arrow remains in the bones.
Robert and Davius start digging at a hole where the main doors were, that may lead to more open space. Toro watches the steps.
The break into a 20' tall vaulted cavity. Within are some 30 humanoid figures staring at them and the entrance. They toss a torch in about 10', they look skeletal, still in equipment and undead. Behind them stands a black shadow with blazing red eyes, ostensibly in command, in plate armor.
They stand like awaiting the doorway to be open to flood in, like they don;t realize the truth of the matter.
We stop digging at that point and turn back.
Under the knight back in the room, Duncan finds that one of the floor bricks is removable and lifts it out, finding a rotted leather bag:
Black diamond, few inches in diameter. He pockets that
Immediately, from the undead comes an ethereal, evil voice, yell "Servants of Maylock, give us the scepter and the jewel!"
The henchmen fill earth back into the hole.
The undead start to dig on the other side. They have a lot of work to do so we go to the 3rd floor we skipped by taking the ladder rather than the steps.
We find an old arcane lab. Perhaps some usable components still. We collect all of that for Callmachus and Trysta.
Here, we come to the mirror! 6' tall, pure gold frame, almost shadowy or hazy image. Up to 5' the frame is normal, but top 1' is demonic claws meeting atop, holding a demonic skull fanged horned and scowling.
Robert and Davius start to take it off the wall. Davius vanishes!!! We call for Kyros, who is sent down.
Kyros "Ah, not good. This looks like a planar gateway of sorts." Looking at it or contacting it can suck you into another plane, such as shadow, negative, positibe, wherever. Davius has been taken in.
D "How do we get him back?"
"Normally, you need a high powered wizard or you have to go in and find the key to get yourself back through."
"Like the scepter with this diamone?"
"Potentially. Personal I think you should call it a lost cause and keep moving."
We go down to see if the undead have breached yet. They are probably 20 minutes or half hour away.
We bring the Proniar and the cavalry down for a big fight. Brillstagg says the scepter and mirror are most certainly connected. Once heard of a First particularly favored by a Master in these parts obsessed with living/unliving. Vein, haughty, prone to fits of anger toward those who looked better than him. The scepter should act as a key through the mirror, but this mirror seems not to be completely what it seems. Something strange to it, some sort of inversion. Rather than a gate, it made somewhere else here.
Callimachus is sent back to town to fetch our priests and return.
Duncan puts the diamond atop the scepter. Trysta detects magic getting necromancy, enchantment and abjuration.
We go downstairs fast into a natural cavern, eerily cold, to steps down to a complex of worked rooms again.
We bypass what Toro calls Undead Oni Spirits, at his request.
Then into an old temple looking large room. 10 orc skeletons in the room like preparing for action. The leader is big and bad, burning orb in his gut.
Backtrack to the next room across, connecting to the Oni room. Barracks; 2 plate wearing shadowy beings in the room. Shadows.
Now up to the top sector, a series of rooms with little in them but pit traps and a nasty ghoul which paralyzed Duncan temporarily but Toro then slays it.
Next up a winding passage to another series of rooms, coming to a room of zombies.
We hear the signal whistle above so make for the fight but we are stuck, the handle of the door we came through disappears. Then it turns into a stone wall.
We go around the other side. We start to bash it but it turns to stone.
We hear the whistle again.
Back to the other side we haven't gone to. 2 statues of arcane like beings, probably masters. A room ahead, bell shaped.
2 undead orcs in half plate armor, and a skeleton in fancy outfit adorned with medals and ribbons, dagger in his belt. Lying in front of him is a corpse, writhing as a fresh undead perhaps.
Duncan, with the scepter, tails him they are about to bust his gates in.
"The interlopers are of no concern to me, but you will be my followers eternal."
He starts to cast and we attack.
Tapestries completely cover the walls.
Toro and Duncan go right for the big guy, Archileus and Bligh after the ghouls.
What could be Davius stands up and attacks Duncan "You left me in the mirror, aaaaahhh."
Holding the 2 black orbs he conjured in his hands, Maylok goes for Toro but misses. Quickly realizing that every time we strike him a negative glow comes from behind the tapestry behind him, Bligh moves and cuts it down. Behind it is a matching mirror!! Then disappears!
Bligh finds himself in the exact same chamber, but a reverse image. There is a mage next to him, Maylock, Davius in front of him in combat fighting a group of WIghts together! The fight is an opposite image of the one he just left.
Bligh "What the hell is going on in here?"
A fleshy dead comes through the portal on Duncan's side in Bligh's place.
In the fog of the mirror, Duncan sees vaguely what't happening on the other side.
He pulls out the scepter and touches it to the mirror, turning it into a doorway and walks through. No Wights appear in his place though. He sees what's going on.
Maylock on that side is astonished.
He is at a loss. He was working with the mirror and scepter and something warped about it and well, shifted, in some way.
We go back through, but Maylock is unable to do so with us. Our simulacrum's drop dead and shrivel up there, as does Davius' here.
Duncan goes back through and he and Mayock make for his study as Toro and the others continues to fight.
They pass a gang of Wights mingling at the gate, like ours were now, from the attack by the men who are undead on our side. A confused elf stands among them, unnoticed by the wights. He follows us "Wait, I'm coming with you!" A few of the Wights start to follow but we continue on.
We beat the wights to the arcane storage room. Duncan stops to take the closest wight while Mayhlock and the elf continue and begin the furious research.
Duncan continues defending as 4 more ghouls rush up at him.
He finishes them off, and hears commotion downstairs.
Soon, the elf calls him into the room.
They can't find it! They tell him some key words and subjects and phrases to help look for.
He finds it in seconds!
This miror is similar to a mirror of opposition. Instead of opposite, it reflects the negative plain equivalent of this place. The 2nd mirror he made is a copy of the original to experiment. It swapped the tower with the negative version including the surrounding area. He thinks the arcane lines intersecting nearby helped.
The failures tied him to the mirror. In our real world, his undead version can't be destroyed while the mirror exist. The mirror can't be destroyed until the real Maylock here exists.
The tower will remain the neg plain version in the prime material realm though. Likely forever.
Real human Maylock is not a bad guy, so this sucks. His will always be Prime Mat inside the negative plane. If we could find a way to get real Maylock into the neg plane tower in our world then the undead would swap with him. Then we could maybe destroy the mirror.
We try going throught he upper mirror. It lets Duncan through.
The elf is our talking skull!! Once this all began, he suddenly was here with a body.
Maylock can't get through.
He calls through "I think there's someone coming up the stairs!"
Duncan comes back in. Wise guy elf thinks the is other version of Mayock is a Deathlock, like a Lich.
Duncan says "There must be a phylactery for it that is keeping this whole thing fused together."
Duncan says lets bust up the gem and scepter.
Maylock says its possible its the crystal on the dagger. Go back and steal the dagger, bring it back here to be destroyed. That should switch back the neg/pos swap that was done. Then destroy the mirror on our real world side.
4 wights block us, but Brillstagg turns them all.
Duncan comes through into the fight and snatches the dagger from its sheath and runs back through the mirror.
No destroying it. He gives Duncan his dagger to fight the deathlock with.
W/o his dagger in this plane, we kill him fast!!
It is healing though.
We drag the husk through the mirror.
Anyway, mirror broke, planes shifted back. Brillstagg could not travel back in physical form, it was purely a creation of the mirror.
Scepter gem breaks, both mirrors destroyed.
All the undead shift away into nothing.
Maylock the First is here, w/o his own dagger which we left in the deathlock, a man out of his own time.
The tower is now standing again at normal level.
We all get upstairs and meet our men, who made it through the fight with the skeletons.
Maylock will live here near Persukar.
Maylock says he knows of Toro's people. Way to the east we will find them. Its quite a ways, few thousand miles maybe.
Their whole political structurs is based around the infallability of their Masters and even Emperors.
Rest and recoup
We move out for Kimiristi