Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Most Curious Tower - The Journal of Aisha Yethtai

Ruined Tower by Spaceskeleton
Gwenfys had some relatively strong opinions about the path that we should take across the hills. There was some discussion as to whether we should cut straight across or turn southward once the mountains fell away so that we could reach the town of Kheldell. However, the ranger had noted that the town is terminally dull and that we should probably do whatever we can to avoid it. Considering this is a statement I'd more expect out of Tarnish, I was inclined to agree. As such we ended up cutting straight across with plans to join the Kheldell Path and take that to Red Larch before taking the Long Path northward toward Triboar where our message was to be delivered and our investigations were to begin.

The journey went quite well for the most part, granted that we were keeping a wide berth of the mountains proper and trying to stay double aware of the presence of any more crag cats. Up to now, we had been traveling on established trails and roads, and I had expected this to be something more of a tiresome slog than it turned out to be. I had heard tale of the ability rangers had passing through the wilds, several of Silverymoon's scouts are well known to boast of their abilities to pass through the untamed lands, but I had always taken it to be an exaggeration. Truth be told, Gwenfys's guidance of us through these hills showed every bit of the capability of which I had heard tale of growing up in the region of the famed drow Drizzt Do'Urden.

There was only one point at which the journey hung upon a narrow thread. A storm had kicked up quite swiftly as we travelled along and we had no desire to camp in the driving rain. Gwenfys sought out some shelter but there was little to be had. I had thought to find something, but was quite quickly made aware that the cave I had chosen was likely to be filled with water by the end of the night. We were all quite thoroughly soaked before we happened upon an old tower.

It had, at one point, been part of a greater keep or castle of some sort, but at this point all that was left was the tower. We came inside where the remains of upper floors provided some level of shelter from the rain. There was no way up as the stairs had been made of wood and long ago had rotted away, leaving only a skeletal framework none of us was willing to trust. I started investigating the area, just to be on the safe side. This is Faerun and while I am not quite a student of history, the Sword Coast is littered with the remains of no less than three major empires and countless small kingdoms that had risen and fallen over the turn of years.

My investigation unfortunately bore fruit and a hatchway was uncovered. We cleared it away and lifted the door up to reveal a set of stone stairs heading down into the darkness. Traveling to the end of the stair revealed that they ended roughly fifteen feet over the floor, presumably they had at one time ended in a flight of wooden stairs. Some rope was tossed down and we made our way down into the chamber.

Looking about, it was clearly intended for some sort of ritual use though I could not tell the precise sort at first. There was initially not enough for me to determine whether or not it was intended for arcane or divine purposes but regardless of that, I had spent enough time in the Conclave of Silverymoon back home to know that ritual rooms hidden away underground in this manner were rarely the safest of places to be dithering about. Concealing a room like this generally meant that what was happening was either very dangerous and needed to be set aside, or else was something that most civilized individuals would take to be unacceptable behavior.

There were four passageways from the room though one had collapsed inward untold ages past. Heading toward the north passage first we found a somewhat smaller room in the nature of a chapel of sorts with all the pews arranged toward a skull that glowed with a pale sort of light. I originally took it to be a simple bit of dramatic illusion and was distracted when Filia began to laugh as she recognized the symbolism we were seeing and it amused her that we had somehow found the dead temple of a dead god of death. At which point she named Myrkul and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up straight.

The warlock's chortling seemed to have stirred the presence of something in the room as the sound of a voice whispering the word "death" repetitively filtered through the chamber until the skull began to rise out of its position. Tarnish immediately unleashed a barrage of magic missiles as an aura of building power started to surround the skull. This was focused into a unstable bundle of arcane energies which the skull seemed ready to release upon us until Filia raised a hand and the skull's spell simply fizzled out of existence. Gwenfys then released a shaft which nailed the skull to the wall and seemed to have slain whatever foul essence had been held inside. To be on the safe side, I naturally shattered the skull. Or at least caused it to fall apart, the individual pieces of the skull went unbroken, but the impact of my shield had at least caused the joints to fail.

From this chamber, a dead end in many ways, we moved to the southern chamber and found an almost identicle chamber. The only difference being the presence of a set of knuckle bones on the altar rather than a subtly glowing skull. Gwenfys and Tarnish held back to watch for danger while I stepped up to the altar and Filia looked about the room. It didn't take long for the danger to reveal itself as the shadows took shape around us once I started to pick up the knuckle bones.

I felt my strength draining away as the shadow clutched at my hand and immediately willed the fire in my veins to respond causing my attacker to step back with an eerie silence that betrayed neither pain nor amusement. Behind me Gwenfys released her arrows striking the shadow that I had just burned. Behind me, shadows swarmed about Filia as she tried to back away into safer position. And then the room exploded into a cascade of swirling wind and sleet as Tarnish cast a spell. The best I could do was make my way out of the arcane storm and pull out my longbow to try and track on the shadows besetting the warlock.

We eventually triumphed but Filia had come very close to feeling the chill of death. I hold off from hoping that she might view this as a lesson in belittling the gods of Faerun, even the dead ones. We took an hour to rest, during which time Filia made a remarkable recovery as her strength returned to her swiftly. It is well that such unnatural injuries fade as quickly as they are made. I made sure to retrieve the knucklebones assuming that we could turn them over to be purified at some later point.

Once we had recovered ourselves with a short rest within the primary chamber, eyes alert for more shadows or other tricks, we investigated the last undamaged chamber and came to a great door with a series of indentations in the wall. Following a hunch, I tried to place the knucklebones in some of these indentations and found that they fit. Regretably this resulted in spending the next half an hour or so collecting the pieces of the skull from the first chamber and making use of various items in an attempt to fit the skull back together. We eventually cobbled together something out of alchemical glue, water, and a ray of frost spell from Tarnish to have a temporarily repaired skull which allowed us to fill the final indentation and unlock a door leading to a long corridor.

The walls were covered in an extensive bas-relief on either side depicting a series of stories which I assumed to be Myrkul's equivalent to a morality play. There was something odd about it that made me look a little bit closer.

I have often heard that it is a bit odd to find a warrior who has studied the Arcane Arts without actually becoming a mage. Please realize that my father is a sorcerer descended from silver dragons and one person out of each generation of my mother's bloodline down past unknown ages has been born a tiefling. In this generation it happened to have been my lot. Given these considerations, I find it rather makes sense to know something of magic. Aside from that, I am a Knight in Silver, I am expected to work with mages on a regular basis, so again an understanding is expected.

That tangent aside, my classes in the theory and workings of magic eventually allowed me to see that the bas-reliefs weren't simply a matter of explaining how to properly disembowel a victim to please Myrkul, but were in fact concealing principles of basic necromantic theory and it was growing progressively more complex.

We proceeded onward to another chamber after an uncertain distance had been passed. This one contained a quartet of magical statues which the mages of the party informed us had been enchanted with some sort of divination effect. After some period of caution we continued onward to another corridor and I began to realize that all the carvings on the walls were leading up to a primer on how to become a lich.

I informed my compatriots of this new piece of information and we eventually came to the conclusion that it might be better not to disturb this situation, I did collect the shattered skull, our temporary fix of its shape did not last, and the knuckles stating my plans to turn them over to a temple to Kelemvor at a later time.

We returned back the way we came, traveled back up the rope and again sealed the passage down by closing the hatch and piling rubble back on top of it. Then we passed the rest of the time waiting for the storm to give out. I recommended that we not fall asleep in that place and the party agreed with me so that we left exhausted the next day but were able to find a much more secure campsite to recover soon thereafter.

From there the trip to Triboar was rather uneventful save for Tarnish encountering some tiefling bard at the Swinging Sword and attempting a drinking contest of some sort. Now that we've arrived, we plan to complete a number of the tasks that have so far been laid before us includi...

As I write this I am suddenly aware that the statues in the hidden temple of Myrkul had been enchanted with divination magics and that I had spoken of my intent to alert the temple of Kelemvor while they were standing there. This may prove problematic. At the very least I shall have to relay this to the priests when I speak to them.

That's rather a poor showing for a follower of the Lady of Strategy.

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