The Alexandrian

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

SESSION 9C: JADE

October 21st, 2007
The 27th Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty

RANTHIR REVEALS THE COMPASS

On the way back to the Ghostly Minstrel, Ranthir finally had a chance to discuss the appearance of the Iron Mage and the compass he had given to him. Ranthir had checked the compass at several intervals throughout the day, and found it pointing in different directions depending on when he looked at it. His first inclination had been to suspect that the compass was pointing towards some specific location… but this was quickly dashed when he realized it had been pointing north when he had been given the compass in Oldtown and, later, pointing south when he had been almost directly east in Midtown.

The others had little insight to give on the compass itself, but Elestra and Tee were both aware of the Iron Mage. He was something of a legendary figure in Ptolus. He would appear at random – just as he had for Ranthir – give seemingly nonsensical instructions and then disappear again. The purpose behind some of these random actions would become clear days or weeks or even years later, but others were without any true explanation. What his true goals and aims were no one could say for certain, but those who helped him were usually rewarded.

ELESTRA AND THE DREAMING APOTHECARY, PART 3

That night, Elestra placed the purple token of the Dreaming Apothecary under her pillow.

In the middle of the night she was awakened to discover a woman with long blond hair floating in the middle of her room. She was sitting in the lotus position and surrounded by a softly glowing halo of light.

In the brief conversation that followed, the woman explained to Elestra that the Dreaming Apothecary could provide her with any magic item she might desire… for the right price. Elestra discussed the enchantment she wanted placed upon her sword, but it became clear that – at least for the moment – it was beyond Elestra’s ability to afford.

The woman smiled, and assured Elestra that – when she had the money – she had only to place the token beneath her pillow again and the Dreaming Apothecary would fulfill her needs. Then she slowly faded from sight, and Elestra found herself slipping back into a deep slumber…

RETURN TO GREYSON HOUSE

(08/28/790)

The next morning, with no pressing crises to distract them, the group resolved to return to the passageways beneath Greyson House.

It had been nearly a week since they were last at the house. The boards on the door had been replaced, but Agnarr simply ripped them loose again. Reaching the pit of chaos was a walk of nearly twenty minutes, and the subterranean passages seemed as empty and deserted as they had before.

Beyond the pit of chaos they moved carefully back into the complex of rooms in which they had been assaulted by the strange creatures they were now referring to as bloodwights.

Moving through the large entry chamber, they carefully moved into the warren of small rooms that they had been attempting to explore before being overcome. There didn’t appear to be any creatures left in the open, so Tee and Agnarr moved methodically from one door to the next, slamming them open and instantly attacking anything that lay within.

A handful of the desiccated corpses were quickly eradicated in this way, with Agnarr’s flaming greatsword reducing them to dust before they had a chance to shed their cocoons of dead skin.

With the complex of small rooms secured, the rest of the party kept watch in the outer chamber while Tee spent more than an hour scouring the area for anything of interest. She quickly discovered, mired in the dusty remnants of one of the rooms, a small hexagonal emblem of jade. A strange rune was carved into one side of the emblem, but none of them recognized it (at least, not immediately).

Tee also discovered a small cache hidden under a false flagstone. It contained a diamond ring, a few random coins, and a small portrait of a black-haired girl badly worn with age.

Once Tee was satisfied, the group moved across the outer chamber to the opposite door. After doing a cursory check for traps and other dangers, Tee prudently waited on the opposite side of the room while Agnarr opened the door and revealed a short hallway ending in another door.

Beyond this door lay a room filled with a massive contraption of brass, copper, and worm-eaten wood. Great hoops of metal were suspended about a central sphere, with various lumps, pulleys, cranks, and levers protruding here and there in an apparently chaotic and incomprehensible jumble.

As soon as the door was open, however, Agnarr was overcome with the sick, nauseating feeling that the group had come to associate with the bloodsheen of the bloodwights. But a quick scouting of the room did not reveal the creature. Was it somehow hidden? Or behind one of the walls? Or was it possible that the contraption itself was the source of this nausea?

Ranthir came down to the room to inspect the mechanism. He was quickly overcome by the bloodsheen and forced to leave again, but not before he identified the device as an orrery. It was badly damaged and apparently inoperable, but Ranthir was loathe to damage it – believing that it might be repaired and restored to working condition.

By this point blood had begun to bead even on Agnarr’s proud forehead. Unable to find the source of the malady, and with no way to stop it, the party decided to shut the door to this room and retreat back into the outer chamber.

NESTS

Moving down the hallway and deeper into the complex, the party entered another large chamber, almost identical to the one they had just left, with an iron door to both the left and the right. One of the doors had been sealed shut through the simple expediency of pounding half a dozen pitons into the floor before it. More disturbingly, they saw that here and there throughout the chamber refuse and debris had been piled into seven large, nest-like mounds.

Tee walked up to the nearest mound, poked at it for a few moments, and then kicked it over – strewing an assortment of trash, broken glass, twisted metal, and matted paper across the floor. Picking through the mess, she found several items of interest – the title page from a book entitled A Treatise on Chaos, a small crystal ball – but nothing of value.

Following Tee’s example, the rest of the party moved into the room and began knocking over the mounds. At one point a cascade of glowmoss spilled out, casting a pale blue light through the chamber. In another mound a thick layer of crimson-colored ash was discovered.

After the mounds were knocked over, several minutes of picking through the debris field uncovered other items of interest: A human skull. An empty scroll case. A bottle of apparently unopened and unspoilt wine. A silver candelabra. More disturbingly, a child’s poppet with a third eye sewed into its forehead.

As the discoveries became less frequent and less interesting, Agnarr became bored. He wandered over to the door that had been pitoned shut and tried yanking one of the pitons out of the floor. He discovered that they had been pounded in quite firmly, and he couldn’t make them budge.

Elestra looked up: “Is that really the way we want to go?”

Tee pulled out her crowbar. “Sure.”

“It’s just… it looks like somebody didn’t want us going that way.”

With a screech of tortured metal, the first of the pitons came loose. Within less than a minute, the other pitons had been removed, Tee had searched the door to make sure it hadn’t been trapped as well as sealed, and the entire party had moved to the center of the room while Agnarr opened the door… revealing another warren of small rooms and iron doors.

Perhaps it had been the noise they had made kicking over the mounds. Or perhaps the noise of the pitons being removed. But whatever the case may have been, the bloodwights beyond the door were ready. Three of them – their pink, pulsating skin slick and glistening with blood – bounded forward.

But Dominic stepped forward, brandishing the holy symbol of Athor before him, and drove two of them back through his divine will. Agnarr tried to block the third, but it slammed into him and drove him back into the outer chamber.

Ranthir, Tee, and Elestra – overcome by the bloodsheen – stumbled back towards the entrance, but Tor stepped forward and helped Agnarr to dispatch the snarling, pulsing mass of blood-hungry flesh.

With that done, Tee came forward and threw her dragon pistol to Agnarr. “Here. Finish them off.”

Agnarr grabbed the dragon pistol out of the air and grinned. He went down the hall to where the other two bloodwights were pressed back against the wall, hissing with fangs bared. Lowering the dragon pistol he blasted away at them with bolts of pure force.

Down several side passages Agnarr found the huddled masses of a dozen or so desiccated bloodwights held at bay by Dominic’s faith. Calmly walking up to them, he pulverized their dry flesh to gray dust with blasts from the dragon pistol. Then, amused by the dragon pistol’s power, he wandered back towards the outer chamber, blasting idly at the walls and ceiling.

“Give me that,” Tee said, scowling.

Agnarr grinned and relinquished the pistol. “That should take care of them.”

Tee nodded and headed into the area. There were several more nests scattered throughout it, containing the same mix of ancient detritus – broken alchemical equipment, a blood-stained dress, a pair of manacles, a small pouch of elven runetones, and so forth. Perhaps the most interesting of these discoveries was a darkwood sapling growing in the compost-like filth of a nest (this Tee carefully wrapped and stored in her bag of holding).

Beyond the nests there was little of interest in these chambers. Indeed, it seemed as if the chambers had been swept clean in order to build the nests. Tee did find a ruined tapestry depicting a city enshrouded in purple clouds (which Elestra was able to repair and clean with her magic) wedged behind a rusted iron door,but other than that… nothing.

The party headed to the door on the opposite side of the outer chamber. Beyond it another short hallway ended in a room with three low shelves of stone. The shelves were completely empty, but the floor was strewn with dozens of ruined and muddied books… and suddenly the significance of the torn, mangled, and matted paper that made up a large portion of the nests they had found became clear.

Ranthir was almost reduced to tears at the sight, but he picked carefully through the remains. Most of the ruined books were, in fact, nothing more than empty covers – their pages rendered into little more than confetti. Even most of the covers were largely illegible through defacement, neglect, and abuse, but Ranthir was able to make out a few titles:

The Shards of Nephiroth
Fractured Mirrors and Planar Divisions
A Primer of the Scrying Arts
A Treatise on Chaos
Aspects of the Chaotic Mind
Artifacts of Necrotic Energy
Planar Energy and the Broken Arrow
Properties of Living and Unliving Tissue
Contact Precipices and Astral Existence
Cartographical Features of Shandrala
The Journal of Jade
Journeys Across the Eighth Dimension
The Eleventh School of Magick
Obersvations Upon Eighty Herbs and Their Properties
Ethereal and Astral Interactions
Five Chakra

These titles jostled at Ranthir’s memory and he asked to see the jade emblem that Tee had discovered. It confirmed what he had now suspected: This was the symbol of the Sons of Jade, a group of scholars, loremasters, and magi who had sought to unlock the secrets of the ancient and powerful lore of the Jade Magi of the Lost City of Shandrala. If the Sons of Jade had been here, then this complex had been abandoned for centuries.

BEYOND THE BROKEN WALL

Moving further down the central hallway of the complex, they found that it had once dead-ended in a wall of plain stone. However, this wall had been recently broken through from the opposite side – rubble lay strewn around a gaping hole.

Upon a closer inspection, Ranthir determined that the wall had, in fact, been created through the use of a wall of stone spell.

Beyond this former barrier they found another large chamber much like the last two they had passed through. But instead of a hallway continuing out the other side of the chamber, they were confronted by a large door crafted from a bluish-tinged steel.

Elestra had become familiar with these doors from talking with other delvers in the city above: Known as bluesteel doors, they were found throughout Ghul’s Labyrinth (thus confirming that they were, in fact, somewhere within that ancient catacomb). They were nearly impervious to physical harm and could only be opened if one knew the password to unlock them.

Leaving the bluesteel door for now, the group turned their attention to the rest of the room: In addition to the other two doors, there was also a large pile of rubbish in one corner. Poking through it, they discovered that much of the pile consisted of alchemical equipment (such as might be found in a large alchemy laboratory).  Curiously, among this equipment, Tee discovered a featureless cube of grayish metal three feet to the side. It didn’t register as magical to Ranthir’s investigations but it was most unusual. Digging deeper they discovered the corpses of six dead goblins and three dead bloodwights, they had obviously lain there for several weeks and were now badly decomposed.

Moving away from the pile, they turned to the door to the left. Given their previous experience, they were not surprised to see another warren of narrow corridors and iron doors – but where they had perhaps expected another rush of undead horrors they instead found a hallway choked with thick, rope-like webs. The webs nearest to the door had been hacked apart, hanging forlornly from the wall in tattered wisps. About fifteen feet down the hall, where the hacking of the webs came to an end, they could see the corpse of a large spider – a spider nearly the size of a large cow – lying belly-up on the floor.

After a moment, the spider’s corpse began spasmodically jerking. Tee instinctively drew her bow and fired an arrow into the corpse. The instant it struck, the corpse seemed to explode – more than a half dozen smaller spiders, each as big around as Agnarr’s chest, came scurrying down the hallway.

Agnarr immediately threw the door shut and leaned up against it. The spiders pounded on it from the other wise, and Agnarr was barely able to keep it closed against their rush.

“I’ve got oil!” Agnarr shouted. “Anyone got a fire?”

Everyone paused for a moment. “Uh… We’ve got your sword.”

“Oh. Right.” Agnarr tossed the flask of oil to Tee and then drew his greatsword. “For the glory!”

Agnarr yanked the door open, Tee threw the oil, and the flaming greatsword swept through the air – shattering the flask as it flew and sending a cascade of burning oil over the bustling mass of spiders just inside the door.

Not only did the oil burn, but the thick, dry webs burst into flame. The spiders, on fire themselves, came bursting out of the hallway.

Agnarr backed away from the door and Tor stepped forward, forming a defensive front. One of the spiders managed to bury its fangs into Agnarr’s thick biceps, leaving them in their wounds as its head snapped to one side in the burning throes of death. But the two warriors made quick work of the few survivors. The thick, green ichor of the spiders’ blood boiled and hissed in the flames.

After a few minutes, the fire in the corridors beyond the door had burned itself out. Tee moved in and quickly found a second spider corpse horrendously crisped by the fire. She also found a cache of large eggs — each the size of a tea kettle with a thick, scaly, grayish-white shell – at the end of one of the hallways, untouched by the spread of the fire. She and Tor looked at each other, looked at the eggs, looked at each other again… and then smashed them to bits. Half-formed spider-young writhed in the wreckage.

The rooms in this section were largely undisturbed, although they were decaying from age and many of the rooms with open doors had been slightly scorched by the rapidly burning webs.

In one of the relatively undamaged rooms, Tee found a chest with a false bottom. Within the false bottom she found two items: First, a packet of badly faded love letters written by a woman named Athaya and addressed to a man named Oliss. Second, a small and perfectly preserved box of cherry wood with a mosaic design of inlaid jade.

She carried these items back out into the outer chamber. Opening the box of cherry wood they found a manuscript entitled Observations of Alchemical Reductions and the Deductions Thereof by Master Alchemist Tirnet Kal. The book seemed untouched by age, and Ranthir was immediately enthralled – this had once been a well-known alchemical text, but the last copy of it was thought to have been lost several centuries ago. He also had his suspicions about the box itself – and the perfectly preserved condition of its contents – but was unable to confirm them with the magical resources he had at his command.

Pondering the bluesteel door, Ranthir also had a thought: After trying several obvious (and, ultimately, incorrect) possibilities for the password, he took the dusty love letters from Tee and began reading them out loud. It was a long shot, but perhaps the password was recorded somewhere within the letters.

While Ranthir worked on that, the rest of the group tried the last door in the chamber. Another short hallway ended in a small chamber. In the center of the chamber a simple stone well had been driven into the earth. Near it the broken remains of a bucket – rotten slats of wood and rusted hoops of metal – lay in a long-forgotten heap. Three dusty stone shelves were built out from the walls of the room. They were covered in an assortment of vials, cartons, and the like – all of them filled with dust and the thick, black sludge of long-decayed garbage.

The obvious neglect of the chamber didn’t stop Tee from poking around in the muck. And she was rewarded for her effort, discovering ten large hunks of amber lying in a half-decayed sack; five fine-cut aquamarines; and two white emeralds. She also discovered a glass jar smeared with grime, but filled with a silver-grey liquid… which Ranthir later identified as a valuable solution of diamond dust in liquid mithril.

Then, just as she was getting ready to go back and check on Ranthir’s progress, Tee had a final thought: She dropped down into the dusty well and poked around. Buried in the dirt, with its point just sticking above the surface, was a small cube. Digging it out, Tee found the cube – which was perhaps four inches to the side – to be made of a black, shiny stone. When looking directly into the stone, it seemed as if there was a harsh white light burning in its depth.

Going back to the outer chamber, the party discovered Ranthir still reading: “I am sorry I have not written to you sooner, but the old taskmaster has been working us again. Athvor Krassek may think himself to be…”

But Ranthir trailed off, for at the name of “Athvor Krassek” the bluesteel door had swung open…

Ptolus - Bluesteel Door

NEXT CAMPAIGN JOURNAL

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