Side Story: The Weaver

 

This Vignette Takes Place shortly after the party met the King of Cloudstone

In the palace of the King, there is a weaver.  She is a squat dwarf, her eyes sunken and her face a blur of wrinkles that reveal a lifetime of smiling.  She hums energetically while she waves, her strong delicate hands moving without effort.  Back and forth the shuttle moves, as long thin threads of silk are drawn taut, to be twisted and shaped.

"Delicate work," the King says in a fading voice, "making sure that these fine threads are not broken while weaving a fabric tight enough to hold water."

You look now at the 4 large spools of silk.  Red, Yellow, Blue, and White.

The king continues.  "The caves beneath the Scarred Ridge are the perfect climate for silkworms.  Some think Dwarves are only good for digging, but silks are our largest export outside of iron ore."  

You study the tapestry and you see a very elaborate scene.  A landscape of orange leaves, green grasses, azure blue skies and cold white mountains.  It is real enough to be a window to another world.

"These four colors are enough to make anything your eyes can see, and this thread is fine enough to hide the weave from even the sharpest eyes."

An audible "shuck" as the shuttle reaches the far end of the loom.

"They say the world is built the same way, with threads of fire, water, air, and earth.  These threads are twisted and mingled to form the tangible world we live in."

The lady at the loom hums happily, as inch by inch, the threads are drawn to the tapestry.

"I've lived a long 827 years, and I have thought a lot upon the nature of the world. What we know of as the gods are merely spools of thread in our world's tapestry.  Embra, the fire, the burning, the bright red thread of flame that gives heat and light and passion.  Ekkrak, the feeder, the mountain maker, giving us form and strength strength.  Elerrio, the phantom, who gave us language and intelligence, and the beauty of a sunset.    And, of course, Estra, the mother to all, whose cold blue strands are wet and life-giving.  These gods are well known and their powers are undeniable.  We are all part of the tapestry of the gods."

The shuttle makes its way to the near side as a new microscopic row is laid down.

"But, in my 827 years, this I could not figure: If the gods are the threads, and the world a tapestry, then who, my friends, is the weaver?"

 

 

041. Some Things Can't be Cleaned

The party clean the house thoroughly, looking for clues, artifacts or other useful things.

They do find an ancient map of the world, depicting a landform in the Barbarus Ocean that no longer is on any modern maps.  They also find in one of the hallways, a child's drawing of a giant squid, and embedded in the walls are 4 differently colored rocks on each of the tentacles. 

Toggaf decides to climb the steps to the observatory and take a look around.  He peers through the telescope, and takes a look at the mid-day moon.

What he sees are large cracks running through the surface of the moon, and he thinks he sees flickering lights within the cracks.  What is going on with the Moon?

Richard finds the Deed to a Ship, which should be at Alma Port.  They just need to claim it.  

After a few days of cleaning, when things are looking much better, Toggaf remembers the black crystalline heart that was in the center of Khash the Black.  He carefully dumps it out on the table, careful not to touch it.  It is starting to vibrate and pulse, and he notices motes of dust are attracted to it and begin to stick to it.... a nearby insect is drawn to it and sticks to it, and soon melts into the heart... a fine skin of organic material is forming around the Heart of Khash.

Barlo calls from the back room in a panicked tone... "Gentlemen, we have company!"  Outside, they look and see at least two dozen undead figures clawing up and over the outer walls.

040. Smashing Pumpkins

The pumpkin instills fear in the party, but Barlo is not deterred.  He calls for Embra's assistance and is able to summon a spiritual guardian to help them.  The surreal battle with the pumpkin lasts a few minutes but soon the pumpkin is slain, and it explodes into a thousand shards.  Just then, they each hear a giant cracking sound in the sky, and they find the infinite floor underneath their feet begin to melt.  Just as a fog being lifted, the world they exist in begins to disappear, and they find themselves standing on floating islands of stone in a river of lava.

Surrounding them are four tall, gaunt figures, with tentacled faces.  The tentacle faced Mind Flayers charm and pscychically damage the party, as the ground beneath their feet shifts and causes travel to be difficult.  The fight is challenging.    

One by one, the party members are separated, forced to fight... alone.  Barlo is driven mad as he sees his party disembowled, devoured, eaten and crushed.  Juxmonochrome sees no such illusion, and steadies his arms and fires an arrow at the heart of one of the creatures.  It is slain.

Once they defeated one of the Mind Flayers, the rest seem to fall in due time.  They collapse, exhausted, when the last of the Mind Flayers is defeated ....

... a fog lifts, and they awake in their beds.  Over breakfast they talk to each other and realize they all had the exact same dream...

 

039. Haunted

They decide to all sleep in the master bedroom, but have two people at a time stay in the upstairs hallway on watch.  The first pair on watch duty see it... well, they hear it first.  A child's voice, calling out ...

"Father, they are here again.  I can hear them and see them."  A transparent figure emerges through the door of one of the bedrooms, and his vacant eyes lock on Toggaf's.  A calmer voice calls out from the master bedroom: "It's ok son, they are not real."

"Yes.  They.  Are!  I see them and hear them!  They are in the house daddy!  The ones with the tentacled faces!"

A montage of several conversations between ghostly father and son pass, and they learn that Corvus was haunted by bad dreams and visions throughout his childhood, after his mother passed.  They witness the day that Corvus and his father leave the house for the last time, some 60 years ago.  But the ghosts were living it out as if it were today.

Just then, a giant transparent jack-o-lantern emerges from the walls and travels down the hallway, toward the ghostly Corvus and toward the master bedroom where the party is sleeping.  The Toggaf rushes towards the master bedroom to warn the party, but he passes through the ghost pumpkin and in that instance, the house melts away, and the party and richard stand on an infinite plane, with only the pumpkin.  But this time, the pumpkin is quite real, and attacks.

038. Homecoming

 

The party are intrigued by the prospect of seeing Corvus the Black's childhood home.  Richard and the party climb abord the two sibling mechs and they march to Corvus' House.  The late summer sky is clear, and eerily quiet.  The noon-day moon likes quite out of place, and they wonder just how haunted the world has become since the resurrection of Khash.  They do not encounter any foes except for a lone Owlbear that turns and runs at the sight of the huge walking suits of armor.

They arrive to the East coast of the Cradle, and see the lonely manor upon the cliffs, surrounded by thick walls and iron gates.  Richard unlocks the gate with the key.  He feels like he remembers this place, even though Corvus the Black had not visited this place since well before Richard was even born.

The front door unlocks, and they emerge into a dusty and cobweb-covered foyer.  At the far end, the hallway is flanked by two suits of armor.  The suits of armor come alive as if pulled on invisible strings, and talk with a hollow tin.  They greet the party and Richard.  They apologize for the mess and assure them that Master Corvus will be back shortly, though he has been gone for over 60 years.  They also apologize again profusely for the mess: "our clumsy metal hands cannot clean this place"; they also apologize for the ghosts.

The party explore the downstairs a bit.  They find a library, a kitchen, a dining room, a courtyard.  In the library, they disturb some webs and a large phase spider drops down on them, but they make quick work of killing it.  In fact, they clear the whole downstairs of any spiders or webs before going upstairs.

Upstairs, they find several bedrooms, an office, and an iron ladder leading up to a small tower with a telescope.

037. Khash Attack

They have about 5 minutes to prepare, so they activate Ekrak and split the party into two sets of pilots for the two Mechs.

The fight is brutal, the ground is torn up beneath their feet.  Embra fires huge cones of fire, Ekrak slams down with huge wooden fists, while Ekrak attacks with dark necrotic forces and can conjure rivers of lava on his command.  Ekrak and Embra take significant damage but manage to finally kill the black beast.  It collapses in a heap of ash and cinders, the smell of brimstone filling the air.

Monikrunc approaches the pile and digs around with her hands looking for any “loot.”  She picks up a large, black, crystalline heart with gold and silver veins and arteries. It is throbbing in her hands, and she sees her veins start blackening… her eyes roll back, she turns to the party and yells in a demonic voice,

“I … HAVE … KHASH’S …. POOOOOOOOOOOWER!”  

And in that instance, with great energy, she takes off flying through the air with great speed.

Toggaf, thinking quickly, conjures a prismatic sphere to capture the heart from Moni’s hand.  It is too late to return her to her senses, but the heart falls to the ground at Toggaf’s feet.  

Toggaf casts a hypnotic spell to incapacitate Moni, which seems to work… she falls unconcscious, tumbling through the air, 80 feet above their heads.  Toggaf casts Feather Fall and safely brings her to the ground.  Barlo casts Remove Curse to cleanse Moni’s blood, and it seems to work and bring her back to normal.

At the same time, Richard and a few goblins and ogres approach from the south. Richard explains he saw the whole thing.  He also invites them to Triple Toss Tower.  

Richard says he’s been dreaming vividly of Corvus the Black and even started taking on his personality traits.  It’s unnerving to him but he also unfurls a parchment, indicating that Richard is the sole inheritor of the Corvus Estate west of Breaker, on the coast of Breaker Bay.  It’s just a few days travel East of Triple Toss Tower.  It has been uninhabited for a few decades, but Richard thinks they should go clean it out and see what clues it contains about the Prophecy, the location of the remaining cubes and anything there is to be learned about the God War and how to prevent its return.

036. Brother and Sister United

The party are making their next plans and taking Embra for a spin when they hear a voice through the intercom.  “Hello?  Team Triple Toss?  It’s me, Richard!”  Apparently, the communication links activated when Embra was awoken, and the mechs can communicate with each other and with the pedestals.

Over the intercom, a gravely, familiar voice speaks: “come and get me, sister.  It is lonely in the mountains.”  Ekrak!

The party heads straight to Cloudstone and meet with (newly crowned) King Rillin.  He wears the crown well now and is a calm and thoughtful leader.  He has seen the plague of undead fall upon Parthen, and seen Khash the Black rampaging the countryside, scattering and destorying the queen’s armies.

After a nice night and well deserved rest, the party picks up Ekrak.  They learn that Ekrak and Embra can transform into an alternate form.  Ekrak can transform into the sapling, and Embra can transform into an everburning torch.  They transform Ekrak and all hop into Embra.

They take the 8-10 day journey south to Triple Toss Tower.  When they just see the tower peeking over the horizon, they also see a vague black shape to the West.  The shape gets closer and closer, sprinting with speed and determination.  “Khash the black” is charging them!

035. False Idols

They wake up in a room that is hot and humid but the floor is cold and metallic.  in front of them, sitting on a cloud of hot air, is a scantily clad entity, 20 feet tall, that looks an awful lot like Embra.  She calls the party out as false worshipers, unworthy of the cubes!  The fight ensues, with the entity creating shrouds of fire, lashing out with fiery claws and throwing fireballs.  The party does manage to win the battle.  As the entity evaporates, it reveals a small metallic spider that drops to the ground and skitters off.  Again, the party are consumed in flames….

… and wake up on a floating barge or rock, floating on a river of lava.  They have to dodge fiery jets of hot steam, and navigate passages to find ways to open locked gates.

On the way, they find a phoenix feather, some irridescent squid ink, and a couple of potions of full healing.  Their barge ride ends when they crash into shallow edge at the end of the lava flow, and tumble forward onto a rocky ledge.  They stand up, dusting themselves off, and see a large mechanical suit, painted in metallic blue and red, sitting poised on all four limbs.

There is a narrow staircase leading up and into some other place, but too small for the mech to fit.

“Barlo”, Embra says, “thank you for your faith.  Let us find my brother and sister!”

 

They all climb aboard, and Embra takes them out of the Underdark the only way she can … straight up, through the earth.  As she does so, the lava below roils and rises, and when they find themselves 100 feet above the surface, they see Krshmir Peaks below.

Embra lands gracefully, and they look up to see, at the foothills of the Krhsmir mountains, the old village of Krshmir, a.k.a. “The Undead City”, is being swallowed up by the lava and ash of the eruption.

 

034. Cyber Punk

 

Back in the eerie Underdark, they travel a few days and reach a fork in the road they previously skipped and see another giant mechanical spider.  They kill it and wrench free another crystal eye.

After a couple of days traveling down the narrowing path, they happen on a large, smooth metallic door, with lots of tiny inscriptions.  It reacts to the cube and opens.

Inside, they find smooth metallic walls and floor.  Weird webbing covers the ceiling and corners, and debris and evidence of centuries of decay litter the room.  Among them is a tall smooth piece of furniture with a black glass window facing them.  When they approach, it lights up from within a pale green light, and glyphs of old common appear.  It gives them a series of numbers, and begs a response…

 

They find a set of buttons on another device and enter what they think is the response.  It worked.  A door opens.

On and on for hours they search and find more devices, open more doors, and fight great quadrupedal humanoid mechanisms that shoot fiery beams from their eyes, and giant pink brains with dangling tentacles.  They eventually happen upon a large crystalline dome inset with lots of copper tubes and wires and inscribed upon it says “only the blood of the faithful servant shall provide passage.”  They notice a large black rope attached to the dome, and one end of the rope dangles off a cliff.  Across the gap, they see the other end, frayed and sparking with lightning-like energy.

They manage to find a safe passage to the other side of the gap, and with the use of ropes, ladders, and a bit of luck, they connect the two ends of rope.  The dome of crystal and copper glows.

Barlo opens a vein on his arm, and a drop of blood hits the dome.... they see Barlo consumed in flame, his body turned to ash.

One by one, the rest of the party are consumed.

 

033. Aftermath

 

 

After rest and debriefing for a couple of days, the party rides back to parthen to retrieve the cube from Kazzen and retrieve the phoenix cloak.  They find most of Parthen a smoldering ruin, and all of the villagers are now undead ghouls.

Within the ruins, a single temple remains standing.  Carved of black granite, the Temple of Noctix seems to be unharmed.  They manage to sneak through the undead and avoid contact with the black god on their way to the temple.

They knock on the door and a small priest answers the door and beckons them in.  He quickly closes the door and introduces himself as  Vogar.  He talks about his sacred duty to protect the Key of Lumex in this temple.  

BOOM BOOM!  The abomination is banging on the walls of the temple, but the walls hold.

The party manages to solve the riddles to find the Key of Lumex.  They take Vogar with them as they flee back out of the temple and toward the dungeons that they know lead to the Underdark.

They spend a week traveling back through the Underdark to Cloudstone.  Halfway there, Barlo starts to see visions of an alluring version of Embra, tantalizing and beckoning the party down a side path.  While they are deciding, they happen upon a large, metallic spider.  They manage to kill the spider, and without much else to do for the night, they start prying out its crystal eyes.

They decide not to tempted by the side path and head straight to Cloudstone.

While there, they receive a somber greeting.  King Cloudstone, in his last act of state, ceded power to Queen Parthen.  The journey down the mountain and back was very rough on him, and he lay on his deathbed.  His son, Rillin, sits the throne, the heavy crown laying awkwardly upon his head.

There are rumors of poisoning, and the party requests an audience with the dying king, but it is late and they are denied.  That night, the King dies, but not before he was told of the Party’s deeds.

In the King’s will, the Party are bequeathed the Cube of Embra.  

The party head back down to the underdark, to find the source of the visions Barlo was seeing and to possibly recover the Vessel of Embra’s Power.


 

032. Dark Side of the Moon, Part 2

 

 

The battle rages on outside, while Toggaf wakes up in Kazzen’s Chambers, sore from his ressurection and his neck throbbing in pain.  He stumbles around and finds a secret passage that leads to a long corridor.  He finds a bookshelf, rifling through quickly looking for something, when a whispering voice echoes in his head.  Richard is reaching out to him… Richard knows that Corvus is dead, as Corvus’ last act was to transfer some of his consciousness to him.

The dark energy that Kazzen projects at the moon causes great fissures to appear on the moons surface.  Sparks fly from the staff, and suddenly a great portal opens up in space near the statue of Embra, and out crawls a familiar looking half-elf.  He looks older, more haggard, but it is definitely Toggaf.  Future-Toggaf crawls, gravely wounded, toward Barlo.  He says, in his dying breath, “We were too late.  The cycle will run anew!  We should have forged the Sword of Stars.  Talk to the Elves and tell them what you know, they will help.  Unite the cubes and unlock Chronex’s power.”  Future toggaf dies.

Toggaf looks out a window at the chaos below.  He sees the eastern wall has been breached, and the black god, the abomination, the plague of undead is rampaging through Parthen and moving toward the party!!

Through telepathy, they work together on a plan…

D’understanding’s prayer is answered, and a brilliant bolt of lightning strikes down at Kazzen.  His smoldering body falls down behind the iron walls, with a low thud.  

Kazzen is dead.

Barlo notices the abomination rampaging through the streets, making a ruin of the buildings it encounters … it is coming for them!

 

Toggaf, rifling through a stack of papers, finds a scroll of mass teleport.  He reaches out to Richard for help, and Richard things with their combined mental powers, they can use this spell.  Toggaf closes his eyes, mouths the words on the scroll, and he feels a tug through the fabric of space…

The party, including Richard, find themselves ripped through space and emerge through the other side at Triple Toss Tower.  The spell worked, they are safe.  But, Parthen is not.

 

031. Dark Side of the Moon, Part 1

 

They see that Kazzen has Corvus the Black chained to a pole in the city square.  He is surrounded by several armored knights from the queensguard.  The square itself is surrounded by statues of the 4 gods: Ekrak, Elerio, Embra and Estra.  At its center was the statue of Chronex, but that statue has been toppled and Corvus is in its place.

Mobs of civilians are bickering, some seem to be supporting Kazzen and some seem to be against him.  Kazzen claims that Corvus is reponsible for the abomination that rose from the Sacred Forest.

The party is spotted by Kazzen.  His first action is to magically conjure a walled square of thick iron around him and Corvus.  As they fight off the guards, Toggaf decides to climb on top of the statue of Ekrak to get a view over the iron wall.

As he approaches the top, he can see Corvus, but Kazzen is invisible.  Suddenly, Kazzen appears above Corvus, floating, and he fires a set of magic missiles at Toggaf.  Toggaf stumbles backward, wounded, topples off the statue, and snaps his neck, dying instantly…

.. in another instant, his body and possessions disappear as the Cloak of the Phoenix he was wearing glows with magical fire and flutters silently to the ground.

Kazzen uses his staff, the top of which is affixed a Cube, to conjure black energy tendrils from the moon.  They snake down and turn damage the whole party, and kills the villagers and many of the knights instantly.  

… Toggaf exists in the existential soup between living and dying, and in that instance he sees Corvus.  Corvus opens his mouth to speak but no words come out.  He mouths the words “I’m sorry,” but fades from view as Toggaf is pulled, pulled, pulled back to Earth.

Meanwhile, D’Understanding is looking to the sky, quietly praying for rain… the clouds slowly coalesce ...

 

030. Ascend, part 2

 

They enter, and find a very large pile of sand in the middle of the room, and a tiny column of sand falling from the ceiling, evidence to the hundreds of years that this room stood as an hourglass, slowly filling with sand.  Peaking out from under the sand, they find a treasure chest.  They pop it open, and find a suit of armor, shiny red and depicting the face of a demon.  Toggaf finds out that it is cursed, and they put it in their sack for later.

They camp that night in the sand-filled room, but Juxmonochrome cannot get rest.  He wakes up in a cold sweat and chills.  He is ill.

A door at the far end of the room depicting a riddle:  

The eternal father

He outlives all his children

He will be there when all is left but the void

Speak his name and ye shall enter

They speak the name “Chronex”, and the door opens, revealing a set of spiral steps leading up.

They take the steps for what feels like 10 or 12 floors, and finally find a door.  They open the door, revealing a cave.  Inside the cave are large lizards, and a huge, broken statue.

They fight the lizards, who turn out to be Lightning Lizards that breath lightning.  It is a challenging battle, but they come out on top.  They look at the statue, and find out that it depicts King Parthen I, ruler of Parthen from 500 years ago.  Are they nearing Parthen?

The find a rusty iron ladder leading up through a hole, and notice water dripping from the ceiling.

They take the ladder up, and find themselves emerging in a series of channels carrying water.  The water is murky and full of the smell of piss and shit.  Barlo sticks his mace in the water, and an Electric Eel grabs onto his mace!  They fight the Eel off and manage to kill it before it causes too much trouble.

 

The make their way through the windy passages, trying to avoid water where they can.  They find a room with water and a tempting treasure chest.  They dare to enter the water, and find themselves fighting two more Electric Eels.  After the fight, they open the chest to find treasure.  Monikrunc decides to check the murky, shit-filled water and puts on her ring of underwater breathing, and sticks her head in the water.  She finds nothing, but the shit and piss filled water fills her gills, and when she sticks her head back up out of the water, she can tell, she knows… she will soon be ill.

Soon they find a larger room with two locked gates on either side.  Inside are two skeletons, one of them holding a small metallic object.  They are too large to fit in the door, but D’understanding gets an idea.  He transforms into a rat, and crawls through the bars.  He goes to the skeleton, and then he comes back through the bars, holding a key.  They use the key to open the gate, and they all enter the room.  The room has a large pool of murky water in the middle of it.  The gate on the far end of the room is partially submerged in the water, and Barlo decides to step into the water to open the gate.  As soon as he does, the water itself animates and forms a Water Elemental, attacking the party.  The water elemental proves to be a worthy foe, almost knocking Barlo unconscious with a couple of viscious blows.

Toggaf summons skeletons warriors to help with the fight, but they don’t get to do much before the fight is over.

The party continues, looking for a way up.  They send the skeleton warriors ahead, and one of them enters a watery room and is immediately killed.  They turn toward that room find another a treasure chest on a small ledge on the other side of the water.  Not content to leave a chest alone, Tully hops into the water to open the chest.  Before they find treasure, another Water Elemental attacks the party.

 

After barely killing the Water Elemental, the party opens the chest to find two vials of Cure Serious Wounds potion, and in the nick of time.  They savor the potion while they ponder their next move...

The party finds an iron ladder that leads up through a narrow vertical tunnel.  They feel a warmth and smell the smell of old potatoes when they finally reach... A pantry cellar.

 

They realize they are in a parthen dungeon.  They subdue some guards and explore long enough to find Corvus the Black's protégé, Richard locked in a room with a magic-repelling crystal.

Richard tells them that Corvus is being kept by Kazzen. Also, that some unknown hideous creature is lumbering above.... Boom.  Boom.  Boom.

They deftly work there way through the guards and work their way to the entrance of the dungeon... The door opens, and they are dazzled by the sunlight that floods in.  

Sunlight that they hadn't seen in over a week.

 

029. Ascend, part 1

 

With the spider knights dead, they inspect the room.  They see the statue of Chronex, a fat, happy naked god, sitting astride a turtle, his hand held up as sand pours through his fingers.

They also find a tapestry depicting the family tree of the gods:

The mothers, Lumex and Noctix.

The father, the titan, the eternal: Chronex:

By Lumex, Chronex had 4 children: Embra, Estra, Elerio and Ekrak.  

By Noctix, he had 3 children:  Khash, Zaljir and Exterminis

Soon they found a collapsed doorway, and had to remove the stones one by one to reveal a cave passage.  Inside the cave, they fought undead so horrendously vile that being near them caused them to vomit and nearly pass out from nausea.

During the melee with these undead, Jux takes a bite from one of them.  He feels diseased rotting teeth pierce his flesh, and he feels a warmth flow through his veins….

The soon found a stone room, where the floor had twisting metal channels, silver and gold, forming a braided circle of snakes.  To the north was a steel door with no handle, and to the east and west were doors with a matrix of letters.

On the steel door was a riddle:


The dance of the gold and silver snakes

mixing, mingling, bringing warmth and light.

Without the silver, the gold would die.

Without the gold, the silver would be worthless.

Mix the silver and gold to light the way.

 

On the western door, a grid of letters stamped in gold… by tracing the letters diagonally, up or down, they found words.  “Demon.”  “Water.”  Gold.  Toggaf quickly pressed the letters to spell gold.  A single gold coin fell upon his head, appearing from thin air.  

On the other door, similar words.  “Ogre.  Poison.  Water.”  Silver.  Toggaf tried the same trick with similar results; poof a silver coin fell upon his head.  Undeterred, he punched in Water.  *sploosh* a torrent of water from nowhere fell upon his head, soaking him.

Barlo, studying the letters, noticed that the silver door had the letters for “oil”, and the golden doors had the letters for “fire.”  Could fire and oil by the dancing snakes?

Oil.  *psssssssshtht* The door slides open.

Fire.  *pssssssstht* The door slides open.

 

The enter the room of Oil, and find a statue of a snake, with shiny oil pouring out of its mouth.  They fill a cup.

They enter the room of Fire, and find a statue of a snake that breathes fire when they approach.  They Light a torch with the fire from the snake.

The go back to the center room, pour the oil into the channels in the floor, and light it.

*pssssssssshtht* the door slides open.

 

028. Underdarker, pt. 2: The Darkening

 

The next night, nearing the other side of the large cave, during their next camp, Monikrunc was standing watch, and she heard a metallic scraping of large feet.  She saw teh same, massive metallic spider, burning with dark fires inside its abdomen… this time, the spider was heading south.  Moni woke up the party and they chose to pursue the spider.  It was much faster than them, but after a couple of hours, they found themselves at the edge of a large underground city.  

Silhouetted against the glowing mushrooms dotting the city, they saw the massive spider.  They crept closer, and saw that it was feeding on a screaming goblin, while other goblins prayed at its feet.  A sacrifice?  This was all too evil for the party, so they skirted their way around the city and found their way to a windy passage leading south from the city.

They camped again, then headed further down the path.  The path led up a narrow set of twisty stone steps, and finally stopped at a stone door.  Carved into the door were ancient texts and pictures depicting Ekrak.  A temple?.  The door had no handles, but it had a socket for a cube.  They inserted the cube of Ekrak, and the door opened.

They hoped they were nearer to Parthen than when they started, and hoped this temple would lead them up to Parthen, to Richard, to Corvus the Black…. to Kazzen, and to the Cube of Estra that he stole from them.  That feels like a lifetime ago.

The ancient stones formed twisty halls (shoddy work, and by humans, no doubt), and the dusts and cobwebs and piles of decay and splintered bones hinted at the centuries that this place stood hidden.  

 

In one of the larger rooms, they found 6-legged, 2 armed, shiny-armored sentries, standing silently.  When they approached, one of them awoke, and shot at them with red-hot spears of perfectly straight light.  His light spears shattered the bricks and almost shattered the party.  However, Toggaf was too clever by half, and used a mirror to bounce their light spears back at them.  A taste of their own medicine.


 

 

027. Strange things Underground

 

They emerge and find a sheer cliff leading to what looks like jagged cave floor below.  They look around a bit, and notice the wall the door they came through looks like a missing tooth in a large skull carved into a smooth wall.

Monicrunk crawls up to an eye socket 40 feet above, but slips at the last minute.  She luckily uses slow fall, but still falls on Dundastanding doing a bit of damage.  Dundastanding turns into a Gecko and crawls up to the eye sockets and sees they are meant to be filled with oil and lit.  

Toggaf casts Fly on himself and fills the eyes with oil and lights them.  

A mechanism activats, and a set of narrow stairs leading down to the cave floor emerges…

They find a fork in the path, leading southwest and southeast.  They take the eastern path and walk 40 miles the first day.  They notice pylons every few feet with a glowing crystal atop each one.  Toggaf realizes that his magic is nullified near the pylons.  They try to wrench a crystal free, but cannot.  Toward the end of the day, just before they make camp, they are attacked by a group of Albino Goblins and Arcane Beetles.  The goblins are covered in gold and silver necklaces, bangles, and rings, and the Beetles are very shiny and smooth, and reflect magic.  The fight is difficult, but Team Triple Toss triumphs.

They camp that night in the shadows of the cave passage, hoping for a quiet night, not knowing what other dangers await them in the Underdark.

The party awakes the next morning (though in the underdark, it is hard to tell), Barlo’s head throbbing.  He sees a vision in his nightmares (or is he awake?) of Embra bound in a giant spider web, her entrails bursting free of her abdomen, and thousands of tiny flaming spiders pouring out…

 

That night, as the party slept and Barlo took up his watch, she heard ominous, metallic footsteps.  He saw the silhouette of a massive, metallic spider mech clinking up the highway back the way they came from.  It skittered out of sight.

They continue their march down the underdark highway, and after a couple of days, the road opens up into a massive, dome-shaped cave.  They spread out a bit, finding passages in all directions, but manage to stick to the highway.

 

026. Down, Down Down Below

The next morning, early, they gather in the King’s Throne Room, and the King shows them the hidden passage that appeared when the party neared the castle.  Inside is a narrow vertical channel with an iron ladder leading down into the darkness.  He gives Juxmonochrome and Barlo Potions of Darkvision which will last 2 weeks.  He also gifrst Tully with a Key Hammer.  He says it is an 8 day journey if they book it, and it’s a 10 day round trip from Parthen to Westgate, so if the plan is to succeed, they must not delay.

Descending down the ladder for over an hour, they emerge in an ancient dwarven tomb. The floors have eroded away in places, many of the rooms are covered in spider webs, and many of the doors are covered in spikes with weird symbols and levers.  They learn via trial and error that the doors will impale the person who uses the levers incorrectly.

Moving cautiously, they find their way down to a lower level without much trouble.  The further down they descend, the further back into history they go.  They also find 4 altars to the 4 gods, asking for offerings of water, fire, earth and air.  Giving the wrong offering resulted in a fight with an elemental.  The party found the right offerings without too much difficulty.

Even further down, they found stone faces in the floor, offering an answer to a single question.  They ask one face, “which way to Parthen,” and the face responded, “follow the glow of the green mushrooms.”

 

They find a room with a large keyhole in the floor, and a stone face on the northern wall. In an adjacent room they find a chest with the Hammer of Ekrak.  They take the hammer and in the previous room, Tully decides to insert his key hammer into the floor.  

A mechanism begins to activate.

The face on the wall awakens, and the wall begins to move…

The face is flanked with a crystal on each side.  The party starts taking pot-shots at the crystals and learn that one crystal casts Magic Missile on them, and the other casts Cure Serious Wounds on the wall.  However, Toggaf put a lightning bolt to good use and made the fight short.

The door behind them opens, and hot wet air hits them in the face … for the first time in 1000 years, someone from the surface will descend into the Underdark.

 

025. A Feast Fit for a King

 

They sit down to a feast, the whole party, the boy, the King, The Chancellor, and Grandmaster Sigvar Shatterspear, the head of the Cloudstone armies.  They sit at a long table and eat a formal meal.  Guttorm is talking to the boy and eyeing the servers that are pouring soup.  Toggaf tries to put a server to sleep, and succeeds.  The King thinks it is a riot and starts laughing, while other servers hurry to clean it up.  The main course is served, and Guttorm is still chatting up the prince.  Finally, when Dessert is served, Guttorm urges the prince to have some.  Everyone except Toggaf takes a bite of the dessert, and the desert puts the King, the Grandmaster, The Boy, and D’Understanding to sleep.  At the instant the boy falls asleep, the Chancellor attempts to lunge over the table at the boy, weilding a knife.  Monicrunk is able to leap onto the table and grapple with the Chancellor, disarming him.  Toggaf throws a plate to wake the king and attempts to put the chancellor to sleep, but fails.  The king wakes up and realizes what is happening, and starts calling guards in.  Meanwhile, Juxmonochrome, Barlo, and Monicrunk are exchanging blows at the Chancellor, one of them almost breaking his knee.

Finally the guards rush in and take the Chancellor away in Chains.  The Grandmaster wakes up to see what is going on, and at first assumes it was the Humans’ doing.  But the King assures him that he knew the Chancellor was going to make a move, and knew that he was safe with Team Triple Toss at the table.  The Chancellor will be locked up in a hole for 28 days until his trial, which he will be tried for the murder of the King’s 8 sons and the attempted murder of his 9th.

The King urges them to his study, where he shows them to his Seeing Glass.  It has a magical view of all of the cradle.  Toggaf looks inside and sees the armies of Parthen marching north, and he sees the decaying Sacred Woods, but this time there is a Large, Black Figure laying in the middle of it, with dozens of worshippers praying at it.  Further east, he sees Triple Toss Tower, exposed but seemingly unharmed.

King Cloudstone confesses that he watched the party ascend the mountain and trusts that they are there as part of the prophecy.  

The Party also learns that the Cube of Embra is seated above the king’s throne, though it is used to keep the halls warm and power some of the mechanisms within the cities.

The party knows they must head to Parthen via the Underdark, and rescue Corvus and the Cube of Estra, but they do some investigating first.  That night, the party explores Cloudstone a bit.  Monikrunc finds a couple of like-minded Monks who teach her basic grappling, and tell her of their master who is seeking Enlightenment on Mt. Amethyst.  Barlo worships at the temple and learns more about the Dwarf gods, who are analogous to the Elemental Gods he knows about.

They don't konw what awaits them down below, but they feel prepared to venture into the Underdark...

 

025. Welcome to Cloudstone

 

Tully leads them through Tunnel Town, across the bridge, through the Jade Gate to the Citadel.  All the way they notice the roads lined with hundreds of clay soldiers.  Opting not to stay at an Inn, they head straight to the Golden Gate, which marks the entrance to the Royal Palace.  There they find a guard captain named Rolo.  He is friendly with Tully, and they convince him to give them audience with the king.  Rolo cannot do that, but he does offer them audience with Chancellor Guttorm Giltblade, master of coin and justice.

Juxmonochrome and Toggaf stay behind with the boy while the rest enter the palace.  They walk for 15 minutes, led by Rolo, through windy passages and finally find his office.  Guttorm is not happy to see them.  He asks what is so important that they need to see the king in time of war, but the party holds it close to the vest.  They leave exasperated, while Guttorm swears they will never see the King.  He implies that the King is delusional and that Guttorm should rule in his stead during the war, and they must march on Parthen!  The party (rightly so) gets a very bad vibe from him.  On their way back, Rolo asks Tully if the rumors of the heroes riding on a giant were true, and if this meant the prophecy of the prince of cloudstone returning in a time of war was true.  Tully confirms that this is true, and asks if this means they can get an audience with the King, without Guttorm’s knowledge.  Rolo agrees.

Rolo arranges a noon time audience with the King, when the Chancellor is busy.  They ascend the spiral staircase and enter the gilded halls of the King.  The king is announced as His Majesty, King Olnir Cloudstone, the White Beard, the Will of Stone, the Bear-Rider, and the 9th of his name.

They enter his formal receiving room and find the king, old and short and a blur of wrinkles and beard, eating greasily at some food, spitting and yelling at them to come forward.  He looks at the boy, and confirms it is him, and then asks the Party about their journey up the mountain.

“I saw you in my looking stone, I saw you take the boy from them and with your giant, you came to bring him to me.  I saw you slay the giants.  I know you are here to help.”

They tell the king that they brought the boy in Secret and that the Queen doesn’t necessarily know that they have the boy or are at Cloudstone.  They talk about the impending war, and the King assures them.  “The Queen is expecting word of my surrender.  She has amassed an army outside the gates.  She thinks she has won.  She wants my gold and this mountain.  When I surrender, she will come up and I will go down to sign the treaty.”

“this is wonderful that you are here, for I have already surrendered.  The queen will be on her way to Westgate, and she will be there in a week’s time.”

Confused, the party don’t know what to say, but the King makes up for it.

“What does that mean?  It means that the castle is without its queen, and without most of its guard.  And its army is preoccupied with holding the wall at westgate.  And I know a way into Parthen.  A secret way.  An old way.”

He tells them of a passage that leads to the Underdark and to Parthen.  A passage from the throne room opened up leading to the ancient highway.  It appeared when Ekrak neared the kingdom, and also, the cube above his throne started glowing.

They learn that the King is in possession of the Cube of Embra, and it is powering their city.

He tells them that time is of the essence, and at next dawn they should head down and march into Parthen and kill Kazzen and take the Cube of Estra and secure Parthen.  But, tonight, he assures them, is for feasting!

Map of Cloudstone


 

024. Knocking on the Door

 

They make it to Haven Cave that night, and all of them decide to sleep and sup in the Inn.  Have Cave is a small town build in the side of the mountain, with an Inn, a Pub, and a Temple.  When Barlo enters, he gets accusing looks from the dwarves within.  Tully vouches for the party and buys everyone a round at the bar.

The dwarves sing and laugh while Barlo and company tell the dwarves of their fight with the fearsome Giants.  Everyone raises glasses to the Giant Slayers, and spit on the floor at the mention of the wicked queen from Parthen.  As they bond over ale and tales of daring do, Barlo drunkenly tells Tully that the boy they have brought with them is his future king.  Now, Tully knows the mission that Team Triple Toss is one, and how important they are to the fate of Cloudstone and the Cradle.

Toggaf stairs at the red moon, now 4 days past full.  He hears rumors of undead and other evil creatures such as giants increasing their attacks since the full moon.  He connects this increase in attacks to the ritual thatPresto was performing, and notes that this is the first full moon since that fateful day that they killed Presto, thwarted Kazzen and rescued the sapling.

A dwarf bar maid starts hitting on Barlo, asking him about his gods and offers to show him and Tully the temple.  They eagerly follow, but find out that temple is not a euphemism, but is in fact the temple of theMountain Maker, with symbols of crossed hammers and a statue of a fat and happy god sitting on a golden pyramid.

As they sit and talk about their gods and compare religions, a chill wind blows from the north wall of the temple, and the candles sitting on the marble platform blow out...

Despite the creepy vibe from the temple at Haven Cave, the party heads up the path once more.  They passWater Gate, then finally ascend to the cloud-covered heights of Cloud Gate.  They have to proceed slowly since the visibility is only about 5 feet ahead, but soon they make it to the solitary staircase leading up to the beautiful Jade wall marking the entrance to Cloudstone.    A single door, 3 feet by 6 feet, marks the unassuming entrance to the great kingdom.  Far too small for Ekrak, so the party must go alone.