sunday special: session & reflection, 200119

session summary:

Having burned down the Church of Prospero, the party is visited in a hazy dream world by the massive, smoky, enigmatic form of Entropus, a rival god pleased with their handiwork. He offers them a task: track down the traitorous priests Kolls and Vladdis, whose pyramidal tomb had recently been uncovered. The mad wraiths lurked inside, deserving execution for their betrayal.
The party agrees. At midnight they’re whisked away by magic to a sea of dunes under a vibrant blue sky. Exposed, eroded onyx stone, and an entrance below the sand. They’re not there a moment before a horrified scream precedes a horrified adventurer fleeing the hole empty-handed. The party inquires why. “Ghouls,” he yells, bolting into the desert. The party hears disembodied screams of terror emanate from the tomb.
Entering, the gang finds a spiked piton with a rope affixed. They climb down into a tetrahedric chamber of worked black stone, to find a massive tourmaline sphere, atop a floor of almandine tiles, and several sandy ghouls, silent as the grave. Having equipped themselves with silvered weapons, the ghouls are easily dispatched, but not before Viktor and Luwang take several festering founds that threaten paralyzation: grains of sand form under their nails, overflowing their fingers as the paralytic calcified their bloodstreams.
When but one quiet creature of the grave remains, it scrabbles at a particular tile in the corner. Gardot slays it with a single blow, and the party finds a nook below the tile, containing a dozen viles of an ichorous substance, three dozen vials of human incisors, and a peculiar case. Within, an anachronistically advanced tattoo kit with a half dozen vials of pigment. Luwang inscribes a poem, “Inviolate,” in violet, and feels an arcance sensation he cannot define.
Following a set of stairs deeper into the crypt, the party enters a torture chamber, furnished with onyx and bloodstone slabs and rusty chains alongside a vertical stretching rack on a winch. Strewn about the room, a clutch of dead adventurers, feasted upon by silent ghouls, who turn their attention to the party. Another grisly combat erupts. Viktor and Luwang suffer close calls with paralyzation, relying on a bitter smelling clutch of flowers to help shrug off the effects. The party falls back to the room above, and Ferris freezes the stairs behind them, leaving the oafish ghouls struggling in their pursuit. During the battle, Luwang conjures the energies of his tattoo, and finds his voice amplified, and projecting a force pulse that disorients his opponents — but he cannot control it perfectly, and finds his eyelids resisting opening, getting gummy, as his eyes mutate and shift from binocular to uniocular. Gardot, shooting true with a bow and silvered arrows, finds it soon imbued with potent magics, and with it he lays waste to many ghouls.
The party presses on. Another set of stairs, another horror. A rectangular chamber built not of onyx stone but humanoid skulls; floor, walls, ceiling. In the eyes of one, a gentle, glowing ember, and from its lipless jaws, a mewling, manic mantra: “the bottomless hunger beyond the unseen halls.” It finally shuts up when the party pours water on it. And of course, yet another ghoul, this one alone — easily dispatched.
After taking a break, and encountering a tall, demonic-looking creature with curled horns emerging from its temples, cheekbones, and chin, and a gaunt body hunched like a question mark, which riddles cryptically and disappears when struck, and burning the ghoul corpses in the top-most chamber, and the gang thus defaces the abyssal sphere, learning its purpose for foul scrying magic, the party presses on.
Ignoring the stairs further down from the skull room, the party follows a corridor west, to find an embellished stone door with a groove cut in the shape of a scarab beetle. The door doesn’t budge. East, a square chamber with humanoid gargoyles cut into the upper corners. They encounter another ghoul, of course, this one alone and easily dispatched — and a clutch of fennec fox pups tearing into a chuckwalla. The foxes dart into a sandy den, fearful of the gang. To make friends, Ferris throws them a ration, which they cautiously accept.
The gang descends a set of stairs to find a burnt and ruined library with a fanciful rug at the centre, a pedestal with a singed but readable tome, small piles of gold and jewels, a silver greatsword hanging upon the wall, and in a corner, a blue-scaled creature the size of a pony, with a long, snake-like neck and reptilian face. She greets them in broken Common, introducing herself as Nethrez, and asking if they’ve come to slay Ujharu. In return, she promises safe passage and treasure — beyond that which the party has already helped themselves to in this burnt library. Viktor, meanwhile, reads tome, which is clearly a necromantic spellbook. The book immediately insists he work together with it to kill the dragon and raise her as a boneslave, as that’ll be a good, fun time. The gang asks why Nethrez wants Ujharu dead, and she tells them that Ujharu is keeping Brielle prisoner, locked in a chamber in the western part of the pyramid. The party tentatively agrees, but departing, Luwang unwittingly steps onto the fancy rug. Its threads burst apart to reveal stringly teeth and an impossibly deep maw, with far more depth than the stone floor around it. Both the party and Nethrez are shocked by the giant mimic, but Viktor is able to help Luwang up with a rope while Gardot and Ferris slay the rug. Shaken, the party elects to rest and prepare for whatever might come next…

15 v) Abia gently traces the door's outline with her fingerti

Abia gently traces the door’s outline with her fingertip. She’s tall enough to reach its entire perimeter: stretching on her toes to cover the top, squatting low to the ground for the bottom. As she does so, her eyes adjust to the darkness, and find it incomplete. A soft yellow light leaks through tiny cracks in the frame where the ancient door was hewn.

The light reveals her companions’ respective joy, cut off from one another, cut off from reality. Though it pains her to interrupt their happiness, reconnecting with the things they love, she knows it must be done. This cave life cannot be sustained, she feels. At the thought, the creaky voice rattles in her head, chuckling. Abia hurries to wake Shyan.

a sprawling place, abia, cang, fassn, fiction, logan bright, works, shyan, writing exercise, dark, riches, cave,

15 iv) Instead of soft silks and beautiful music, Abia finds knowledge

Instead of soft silks and beautiful music, Abia finds knowledge. The darkness is banished behind flat light, less illumination than the absence of dark. There are no gems and jewels, no dead martial arts master, no fine textiles: only the knowledge that all that is a lie, a broken promise, an illusion.

Abia looks about for her companions, finds them. Cang on his knees, scooping rocks and stones into his pockets. Shyan pleading with a gauzy shadow upon the rocky wall. Fassn splayed out in the dust, talking happily to the ceiling. Each unaware of her, unaware of one another. Abia turns to find the stone door they’d come through closed, its outline faintly visible in the cave’s wall.

She wonders how she’ll get through it.

a sprawling place, abia, cang, fassn, fiction, logan bright, works, shyan, writing exercise, dark, riches, cave,