Monday, January 22, 2018

It's All Tricks - Crossroads Campaign Session 2-3

The labyrinth seemed to go on forever and it was quite clear that we weren't the only things that had ended up in the catacombs. Of course not, this is the Lost and we were going to be finding lost things. Lost things from catacombs had a tendency to include a few monsters. We had a close call with something like a floating brain with paralyzing tentacles. It reminded me something like a jellyfish crossed with a squid in that regard. Later it was identified as something called a grell.

I see "we" had a close call, but really it was me. The creature waited to pick off our rear most person and that had happened to be me. I had to be rescued by the others before it flitted off with me to some dark corner to have a snack of my flesh. Well, that teaches one to always look up to ceilings when entering a new room such as this. I had thought I'd learned that lesson already, but I suppose there's always the chance of being lax.

More than just the monsters, though, there were other things flitting about the tunnels. Whispers to be precise. At first it didn't seem to be much more than just a trap to pull in the unwary. Trying to listen to them is a painful strain of the mind, but, if you are able to bear it you might end up finding yourself recognizing bits and pieces of what is said. Sometimes, you might even recognize a person's voice.

My theory is that the whispers are the lost thoughts and concerns of many people. Things that they themselves can't remember thinking or saying. Among them I heard the statements of one of the devas accompanying us in this mission. Not the one leading my particular party, Rhea, but one of the others, by the name of Eastman. The statement I heard was not particularly encouraging. The voice asked "what are we even guarding anymore" with a fear that corruption was everywhere.

In addition to the whispers we uncovered a sort of sketch in a niche in the wall. I'm not entirely sure what it seems to represent. There is an old and leafless tree with a mountain in the distance. There do appear to be things flying about in the skies. Dragons maybe. Or byakhee if you're feeling in a Lovecraftian mood I suppose. Perhaps it will become clear later.

Not long after that we met the object of our search briefly. She was standing in the corner of a room as we came into it, seemingly just waiting for us to come into the door. There was a certain familiarity about her, but I suppose that's to be expected. Everybody deals in secrets now and again, whether rooting them out or keeping them for yourself, so all of us have probably come under her eye at some point or another. She apparently was waiting to have a longer talk with us and left us with the riddle that "straying farther was coming nearer" before turning and vanishing into a tunnel filled with eldritch shapes.

It wasn't long after that that I realized we'd explored the bulk of the section we were part of. Everything else would turn into a massive circle of the same things we'd already seen. So we went to go for another dead end and teleported away to another section of the map. The process disoriented me severely and it was almost an hour before I could identify the part of the labyrinth we had been taken in relation to the map in my head. It wasn't until we came to a room that I was able to place us in the map.

At that point, I suggested that we get close to the center of the map, or at least as close to it as I could get us. I knew it was counter to Istryx's apparent suggestions, but I felt like I wanted to hedge some bets and get a better sense for what was going along. Trying to get us closer to the center led us into two dangerous fights. In one case we found a pack of cultists led by some hideous floating eye creature. I had thought that I'd heard of such things before as being horrifically dangerous but this seemed rather minor in comparison to the tales. Still deadly for the average person however. It was afterward that I was told that this was a lesser version of those beholders I'd heard of. In this case it was called a "spectator."

The ground of the fight was in our favor in this case. They were all ahead of us and bunched up at the door, allowing me to mark the lot of them as easier targets for our warriors. Despite this, the battle was not an easy one and the spectator's eyes were capable of paralyzing or striking with the deadly force of some dark energy. I dread to think of what the greater versions of these beasts are like.

Leading out from that, we were caught in a dangerous position at the end of one of those whispering corridors. An aberration of mucous-like flesh filled with many screaming and whispering mouths threatened us. Until now I had always thought Lovecraft's stories to be works of fiction, but here it seemed there was a shoggoth assaulting us. (Someone later told me it was called a "gibbering mouther" but I persist in my belief that we have faced and defeated a real shoggoth. They're not half as terrible as the stories make them out to be. Then again, the people in the stories have no magic to speak of either.)

It's acidic fluids softened the ground around us as the many whispers bore into our heads and making it hard to think. This alone would have been dangerous and bad enough, but another of those spectators came upon us from the rear and paralyzed Kelmar at our back. With Wyndelly and Rhea caught in the confusion of the whispering creature and the rest of us locked up facing the spectator, it was probably one of the most dangerous parts of the whole labyrinth. And it was made worse by the fact we were stuck in the whispering corridor which was also tearing at our minds.

A shoggoth
Upon surviving that, we sought out a room to rest in. Our spells and other resources were nearly tapped at this point so we continued on my path, hoping for a secret door to the room I had been seeking. Then we found this room occupied as well. Fortunately these were much more friendly, in a manner of speaking, individuals.

The DekOn. The children of Dek and the children of On. Two species that had diverged from a common ancestor some point far in the past. The main point of contention between them was over a matter of gods. They held in their culture two creator gods, Dek and On. Father Sky and Mother Earth, though it escapes me now as to which is which, I shall have to check my notes later. One of the two gods was killed and on of the people's blamed the other god while the others believed that the death was brought by an outsider god.
Errant Ways
In this case, one of these, a fox-like being called Errant Ways, was holding the other, a more humanoid woman calling herself Mikken Roh, in a cage of sorts. After some conversation, if it can be called such, apparently some sort of understanding had been reached as Errant Ways ended up freeing Mikken and we were granted permission to camp in the room with them. The two both speak in curious fashion, rarely saying more than a single word in response to any statement or question and even that felt like they considered it excessive speech.

They were gone the next day. Wyndelly had been on watch and turned had to look at some of her things. She heard them say "found". When she turned to look at them, they were already gone. This story prompted me to explain how it was people escaped the Lost, by finding what they were looking for, after which they would disappear. The odd thing here was that the stuff that they had had with them also vanished. Usually items remain behind, it is how I've been paid a few times, after all.

A little more exploring later and we came to find the remnants of an old coat of arms. I recognized as belonging to a House Anderfels from a realm known as Opali. Of course I'd never been there myself, but lots of knowledge comes to the Lost and this was some of it. At some time in the past, a magical plague had been unleashed that killed most of the larger races, leaving it a world mostly populated by gnomes, halflings, goblins, kobolds, and other such shorter creatures. The taller people like humans, elves, and my own kind remained but were very rare. Anderfels was a house of human nobles from before the disease ravaged the world.

Pushing along we got right up next to the central block of stone that my mind told me was at the middle of the map. Wyndelly and I took our time to investigate the area closely, using both magical and mundane methods. Upon looking at the magic of the place, we found abjuration about the realm as a whole, likely part of what made divination spotty in the place, but the strange light that hung about at all times turned out to be evocation rather than illusion. There was also a bit of conjuration in the dead ends, predictably where the teleportation nodes were set, but most interesting of all was a strand of divination magic that weaved through the halls like a river.

I had not seen anything like this before and with some discussion between myself and Wyndelly, we opted to follow the path of the divination magic, stopping occasionally to once again perform the ritual needed to keep our eyes attuned to the mystic forces. 

Following this is how we came upon a chest of gold stamped with the crest and markings of a realm called Sherran where Rhea had apparently hailed from before she'd become one of these devas I was now working for. Apparently, the devas did a lot of recruiting from this world as it was "probably the most standard world you can think of" which I felt was a bit of an unusual statement. Other than the coins and some potions, we found a selection of magical arrows for Kelmar to make use of.

Unfortunately, the stream of divination magic did lead us to one danger more before we came to its end. Wyndelly was checking out an illusory wall for traps when a massive arm ending in a great hook swept out of the room and took down our young artificer. What followed was a hectic and dangerous battle with a pair of massive, monstrous things like a cross between a vulture, a praying mantis, and the Incredible Hulk. Apparently they are referred to as hook horrors and the name certainly is fitting. Several of us came close to danger and we ended up having to spend much of our resources on dealing with the pair of the creatures sitting on the path we needed to follow.

Fighting in this cramped quarters really doesn't do well for the way I normally try to fight. I cannot often use my faerie fire because it will often catch allies in the effect. Likewise, I am often struggling to find a usable line of sight to the battle in order to at least provide some aid. In this particular case I was relegated to holding back alongside Wyndelly with the two of us both trying to shoot past the illusory wall and judging our shots on the sounds of the battle. Eventually, the first of the horrors was felled allowing Wyndelly and myself were able to move forward into a better site to fight from.

It was good fortune that there were no other beasts to battle past that and we were able to find our way to another dead end though a bit stand out from the others of the labyrinth. It did have the conjuration magic of a teleport, but it was on the outer edge and the divination stream was flowing into it. We believe we have found the way to Istryx. Or at least we've solved her riddle somewhat.

We'll have to see whether this is a good thing or not later.

Character Journal

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