Session 08 – Sanctuary
Sunday, 19th of Gozrun 471 (continued…)
I admit to not only loosing count of our adversaries but of loosing a lot of feeling during the fight. Fatigue greyed my vision as well as my emotions, turning what started as an absolute rage against the besiegers to a form of pity. Why must the orcs rage against us dwarves? How can they marshal themselves so long after receiving what should be fatal wounds. Some part of me wondered about their lack of tactics and strategy; I was grateful for it, but how could they assume they’d be able to kill and then loot immediately after without first making sure the region was secure. Was it just a difference in our training?
The questions marched through my head as my hands and my feet did what they were trained to do: defend Trunau, kill the attackers, move forward. It was endless.
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The surfaces of this place glow with their own internal light. The floor, walls, and ceiling, are all covered in a myriad of crystals with the semblance of giant pieces of quartz; all of which point towards the centre of the space. The room is warm, almost humid. And silent. The endless cacophony of the battle of Trunau falls quickly away. Our boots echo hollowly across the crystalline gravel floor. Our own breathing echoes across the chamber.
There’s a pervasive soft crystalline ringing sound through the air. A chime sounds behind me, and I turn to face it. Seamus is there, trying to take it all in.
Seamus is surprised as I’m still surrounded by the earthen entity, and so when he came in, he saw the entity’s face facing him.
I ask for some help and Seamus helps me figure out how to take my armour off, and put the deceased earth kin down. It would seem the earth kin is merging with my chainmail; where the two touch, the chainmail is becoming veins of iron in the stone. It takes a fair bit of struggling and lifting, but between the two of us, we get the halberk off.
The chime sounds anew and Torva comes in, holding Silverbeard. She puts him down on the quartz gravel. She gazes about with some wonder. Silverbeard’s breathing is ragged and his features are waning.
It’s a good 10 minutes before the chime sounds and Sif comes in. She swears she was just a step behind Torva.
I start tearing out bits of chainmail from beneath the earth kin before it gets absorbed, it’s a rather crude attempt to reduce the weight and make straps witin the stone so that removing it will be a touch easier next time. The stone, the earth kin?, the armour is a piece of art – with solid stone plates interlocking as tightly as any suit plate. But it is incredibly heavy, well over 100 lbs when I took it off, and tight in the wrong places.
Bauxite and Sif both try to identify what ails Silverbeard. He was hit by several flasks, each with their own scent. Sif smells some of the clay shards from one bottle and feels a bit light headed. We assume that it contained some kind of herbal or alchemical mix. Regardless of what hit him, he’s currently suffering from severely sapped vitality as well as being poisoned.
After a long spell of silence, Torva tells us she believes this geode of a room is potentially a druidic holy site; potentially of a group of druids in a mystery cult.
We feed Silverbeard a vial of anti-toxin, and it seems to help. At least he starts trying to wake up.
Bauxite and Seamus wander around, poking at the crystals. He picks a shaft of crystal that comes out of the wall, and gets a glazed look over his face, like he’s reading some kind of long-lost lore. He does something and a woman’s voice speaks in archaic dwarven for two or three minutes while a line of silver goes through the crystal. Various images appear, each in pattern with the speaker. When the woman’s voice stops, the images fade.
My armour is changing. The veins of iron ore are cross-crossing the stone plates. Now, all the sharp edges are crusting over with salt. And growing thicker as it encrusts with quartz crystal.
With Silverbeard awake, Torva starts telling him the tale of how we got here. Silverbeard mimes that he wants her start again. After we tell him our tale, he mourns for the loss of his friend. I tell him what the earthen entity said to me.
Seamus can sort of understand Silverbeard’s finger-speech. Through him we learn this place is known as Remembrance to the Order of the Stone singers, a mystery cult that was wiped out at the fall of Koldukar. Silverbeard is the last surviving member of the Order; his mother (the earth kin that brought us here) saved him from the destruction.
He gets up and wanders about until he finds a specific crystal. He sits down before it and does something with his hands. Images form within the crystal. A kindly dwarven woman, dressed in stone-plate armour. Her hair is dishevelled and she speaks quickly in common Dwarven. She is Asbera of the Stone song. She speaks of a great invasion and the fear of losing the circle. With new-found mastery of the earth itself, they hope to defend the circle from all comers until the dwarves return.
Silverbeard’s mother is the speaker. She sent Silverbeard into Trunau, creating an access from the Esque swamp to Trunau through the standing stones. The only swamp we know of along the Esque river is the Ghostlight swamp.
To enter this place, an earth-kin must sacrifice themselves. Once we leave, we cannot come back until we have an earth-kin’s heart. Asbera left the circle after the orc hoards receded.
Silverbeard goes to one of the big standing stones and brings forth its memory. He identify the stone as the first memory. Inside the crystal is a giant creature with slate gray stone. Its head is faceless except for two glowing eyes. The cavern, like the creature, is dimpled in blue grey crystals. When it speaks, it speaks a strange dialect of Terran. I try to translate, but it’s awkward.
Elements conflict. Surge and recede. … Destruction unending. … Dreams endure. … Earth sacrifice. Here. … Children. … Children teach earth. Children on earth.
One has been chosen to keep the memories alive. But others may choose. One must cherish the sacrifice of the earth. One must remember and one must sing to the stone.
He brings us to another crystal and we see a heavy bald beardless dwarven man with skin that has a stone’s texture. The image shows he stood in this chamber, but the crystals are not as large as they are now. He speaks in an odd mix of Terran and dwarven.
This one has searched. Following cryptic parables to find this place. The heart of earth. This one is the first of the earth’s children to be led here. This one has been shown and now knows that this is the remembrance. As his hands make deft arcane signs, a ringing sound grows. His fingers performed an arcane divine effect; he might have been performing the ritual to encode memories. The pillar he was focusing on seems to be the material component.
Seamus believes he could replay the memory and decipher the process and write it down. This cult seems to have incorporated arcane casters, not just druids. They were a primordial order of skalds!
At one point, Seamus comes across a memory of a dwarven man who is facing off against three orcs atop a crag. He casts an arcane spell. His foot digs into the earth, down to his ankle, and he kicks up rocks which he bats towards his opponents. He does this three times, sending the orcs tumbling back. He elects to learn this spell.
He also finds a cantrip that grants clueless dwarves the stonesense ability, and a spell called Earth slide (slide), and mark of stone. Another one lets him encase his fists in stone and punch the heck out of people.
After some time, my stone plate has become masterwork spiked stone plate. The spikes are blue-white crystals. The excess iron became a vital guard.
Seamus casts the spell, and I record a memory.
In the latter hours of the invasion of Trunau on the 19th of Gozryn, 471, I met Asbera. She took me to Silverbeard and then sacrificed herself so that we could enter into the Remembrance. Here we recovered and we learned some tiny fraction of the lore contained within. With her dying form, Asbera created the armour I now wear. Her face still adorns the helmet, and her memory fills my heart. With her sacrifice, we are able to return to the invasion in the hopes of stopping it. With Silverbeard hale once more, we stand a chance to turn the tide and protect the entrance to the heart of stone. I stand with my companions, Seamus Runemark, Sif Thunderhead, Tiva and Tora Blackhammer. We shall remember this place and some day, the gods willing, we will return.
We depart the safety of the Rememberance afterwards. We have neither slept nor eaten, and are unsure how long we spent within; and yet we are hale, whole, not hungry and rested.
From the blue-white crystal cave, we step out into the night. It is far colder here and much much louder. We are in the circle of standing stones in the druid’s grove. We see soldiers coming through the Dwarf gate, led by Frum. They are trying to decide which way to go.
As we head out, a giant rock bounces into the earth near us from the giant standing in the Hopespring. We scatter and briefly return fire with bows.
The stones are thrown by a giant standing on the other side of the Hopespring. All but Shamus takes to the water and starts wading across. Shamus elects to stay on the shore and taunt the tusked giant; it makes the beast send his missiles at Shamus. Fortunately, Shamus’ magics offer him additional protection. It takes an eternity for us to reach him. Along the way, Shamus’ magics make Torva into a Giant Dwarf!
Beauxite takes to the water like a duck, but takes his time getting around behind the giant. In his free time, Shamus lobs balls of acid at the giant. When we finally close the distance with the Giant, he falls quickly between my Lucern-Hammer, Tova’s Ancester chain, and Sif’s axe. The giant looses his footing and collapses against the cliff behind him.
Standing in the water we watch soldiers come through the gate. One of them rushes forward to light the beacon, and it explodes in a violent burst of green light. The guard is blown back and there’s a sickening thud when he falls back to earth.
We head into the 10’ tunnel that heads down 20 degrees, winding downward deep beneath the hill. It’s a natural cavern. Its quite dank and dark. Bauxite has a soft nimbus of light around him, giving him enough light to keep his footing. The tunnel winds down south some 150’. It’s a naturally-occurring limestone tunnel.
It takes about a minute to get down to the bottom of the tunnel. We keep running into tatters of gossamer cobwebs. The air is dank and humid and cool. A thin sheet of condensation coats the rocky walls.
As the tunnel starts to widen out, there’s a desiccated warg body laid out over the bottom. Rats scurry away from the body. As we approach, we see it has dozens and dozens of little bite marks, each one has blood around it. The flesh of the creature has withdrawn, giving it a mummified look.
We approach and pass around the carcass. There’s something familiar about the rats. More rats come out of the walls and even more out of the warg. Shadowy rats start rising out of the ground beneath us. The shadow rats attack!
The swarm starts darting up and around Stinna, Seamus, and Sif. They bite us all, doing more damage than you’d expect from such tiny teeth. We each move out of the swarm and it flows over towards the rest of the party. Within a few quick seconds of wild hacking, rat bodies are flying everywhere and the swarm collapses. Only a handful of the rats remain, going incorporeal and quickly disappearing to escape the carnage.
With the swarm gone, the sound of running water goes stronger. The passageway splits into three. Tira spots a form sink down into the mud. We shoot arrows at it as Torva uses her chain against it. The monster tries to submerge and flee. While Tira warns us that these creatures can regenerate in water, we pepper the body with so many arrows we believe it will not recover, even submerged.
Torva follows the warg tracks that led us here, across a stone bridge and into another cavern. The rest of us follow shortly.
The cavern has lots of webs torn and tattered down the middle, but more solid along the edges. Tira notices that someone has ripped a hole into it, but otherwise the area is cris-crossed with webs. She stops Tova from breaking the strands!
Seamus sees giant spiders and yells out a warning, but his shouts don’t help the rest of us, so we pass quickly from a large cavern into a smaller corridor. Sif manages to kill two spiders after they drop from the ceiling. One of which she cleaved off my face after it bit me!
Tira moves off into a smaller hallway, and the rest of us follow.
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