Post War Natives - 6/09/2010 - Part 2

13:01 – 18:00 – The group set about meeting the important members of the guild. They meet McCloose, a human who serves as the cook for the men, and Vuldir Urmuniir, dundorin weaponsmith and armourer. Razniir Thade, the guild's Trapsmith is greeted with a slight frost by some, his handiwork having inflicted much woe on the party, whilst Imion Drixi – Vyrleen Locksmith – is more warmly welcomed.

Of most immediate use to the group is the human artificer and alchemist Tranker Forester, for he can not only enchant items and break magic devices down into residuum, but can make all kinds of alchemical substances and poisons.

The group discuss the risks of running a criminal cartel whilst simultaneously working for the powers of law and order, though this is quickly forgotten when news reaches them that several bodies have just been discovered in an area of the guild normally off limits to its members.

18:05 – 18:00 - There are three of them, all human. Each lies in a strangely relaxed manner, every inch of their bodies swollen with black bruises. Blood leaks in a tacky pool around them, pouring from every orifice and from their blown out eyes, ears and rectums. A fine brown sheen marks the walls of the previously hidden corridor (located further into the guild than the group travelled in their invading push); the result of a mist of blood settling and drying on them after it was forced from the victims in their final, terrible moments. The smell of blood mixes with the stench of emptied bowels and bladders and the ghastly stink of voided sinuses.

The “relaxed” posture is quickly understood when Varracuda and Grigori examine the bodies, for every bone in their body has been pulped to slime, every organ burst, every blood-vessel ruptured. Their muscles and connective tissues have been reduced to thick liquid and even their skin is compromised, splitting and spilling rancid, bruised filth as soon as it is touched.

“Sonic energy damage.” whispers Grigori, shaking his head, “From a very powerful source”.

The rest of the group have been looking at the possible source, for it seems that the dead rogues had found a secret vault – possibly, Bob suggests, Corvus' own secret stash – the door into it (a massive thing of steel and stone) closed. With the adrenaline of battle gone, Schnecke is feeling quite unwell, the wounds from his battle with the Groth'Ergulg throbbing despite the priests' magic, and he stays back as Jaeger, Varracuda, Seren, Grigori and a smart mouthed enforcer from the guild named Edric, consider the door and the possibility of there being any traps on it that could inflict the damage they have seen on the dead.

The two magic users give their advice, and then retreat to let Edric and Jaeger continue their work. The rogue however insists, before they begin, that he gets a cut of whatever lies beyond if he risks his hide helping them get it, and he is promised this (though Emmiven secretly decides that if worst comes to worst, Edric may have an “accident” in the vault). Then, with payment agreed, the two men set to work locating and then disabling the deadly trap guarding the door.

18:01 – 18:15 – A fiendish trap is found, capable of sending waves of deadly sub-sonic pressures rolling along the corridor, and Jaeger is under no doubts that it was this trap that pulverised the rogues on the floor. It is finely calibrated to trigger if tampered with, or if the door is forced, and the assassin is glad that the barbarian was feeling too light-headed and dizzy to attempt that. Mouth dry with anxiety as he realises how difficult this will be, the assassin gets his thieves tools out and sets to work.

Slowly, but surely, he and Edric dismantle the trap's mechanism, revealing not only its inner working, but that the door frame is actually a portal – meaning that the vault “beyond” almost certainly exists somewhere else entirely. After what feels like a very, very long time, the trap gives a gentle purr as it is dismantled, and both men give out a long held breath in relief.

18:16 – 18:18 – The party gather to force the massive portal, and after several failed attempts are able to push it to the side revealing a small chamber beyond.

18:19 – 18:30 – The room is simple reddish stone, and has no apparent exits. Roughly 40' square, it is lit by an unseen source, its only inhabitant standing silently by the wall opposite the one the group enter through.

It is a clay golem; a powerful construct of elemental magic more than capable of destroying the party if provoked – a towering humanoid mass of enchanted clay, carved with spiralling glyphs of animation and control – as well as some additional glyphs that several party members quickly realise are extraneous to the standard needs of a normal golem.

Eager to analyse these glyphs, Grigori prepares to enter the chamber, only to be stopped by Jaeger who has just noticed something about the floor – namely that most of it isn't really there!

Getting down on his hands and knees, the assassin examines the floor directly beyond the opened door, and quickly realises that it is not solid stone as it first appears, but a thick paper covered in stone dust – a classic topping to a pit trap. Armed with this knowledge, he scans the room, and quickly realises that at least half of the chamber – mostly the half closest to the entrance, is actually an open pit. He also spots two hidden doors – one of each wall to the left and right of the chamber.

Jaeger informs the group about the floor, and Emmiven, a sweaty, groaning Schnecke and Varracuda drag two of the long trestle tables from the main hall to the vault, and place them over the pits; being careful to make them only wide enough for the party to move across, not the golem. As they enter the chamber, Grigori also notices the side doors, though he chooses not to tell the rest of the party.

Initially there are fears that the golem will animate and attack as soon as anyone enters the chamber, but this proves to be unfounded. It merely stands still by the wall, apparently waiting for something.

Now able to see the complex scrawls of runes covering its body properly, the swordmage, sorceress, priest and assassin begin to try and analyse them. Jaeger hasn't a clue what they mean, but Seren and Grigori are able to determine that additional abilities have been woven into the golem – namely the ability to cause solid stone to briefly phase out of the physical world, and the ability to directly manipulate the local dimensional fabric. They also feel there is something else there, but are unable to work out what.

Grigori is tempted to try one of the side doors, but stops when Seren raises an interesting point – that the additional spells woven into the golem's standard animating and control matrices might provide a “back door” into its controlling spells – a means to “hack” it and to force it to obey them. It's a tantalising idea, but Grigori, Varracuda and Seren all realise that it would be a tricky thing to do, and that failure would most likely see the deadly construct default to its base commands of “Kill! Crush! Destroy!”. Schnecke is disappointed when he learns that the kind of hacking that Seren speaks of does not involve axes, and quietly bemoans his aching limbs and head. Emmiven and Edric both look uneasy, and unconsciously grip t heir weapons tighter.

The party decide to risk hacking the golem as they do not see any other way forwards. Pooling their knowledge, they help Varracuda to psychically impress his magic into the construct, and to send his will through the delicate weave of spells that hold the animating spirit – a furious elemental soul – in place, and which grant it the additional powers. The swordmage sweats as he feels his consciousness vibrating within the theoretical webs of magic and energy within the construct, and as he seeks to identify which he needs to awaken and which must stay inactive. It is task that becomes more difficult with each success, as the awoken magics swirl and pulse through the constructs core, seeking to flow through any way they can, but with the magic and lent strength of his allies guiding him, Varracuda successfully activates the construct as if it were attuned to him.

He withdraws at once...

...And the golem's eyes fill with pale green light, a luminous mist spilling from its slit-like mouth. For a moment everyone fears it is about to attack. Instead it raises its ponderous arms, and the group feel it gathering magical energy from the air, the temperature dropping, an eerie feeling of prickling charge racing through their skin. With weighty, deliberate movements, the construct steps to the left a little and turns to face the solid stone wall. At once a pulse of unseen power flashes between it and the surface, and suddenly a corridor is forged – not cut into the rock, but simply made; the stone within it turned insubstantial, a greyish-red mist of ghostly rock. Through the corridor can be seen nothing but leaping flame, a wave of sulphurous air bursting with a shriek towards the group from its fiery depths.

Another pulse of magic then fills the air, and with a rippling flicker, a small space appears in mid-air, a floating cache holding twelve vials of fluid. These are quickly grabbed, and Seren confirms that they are elixirs that grant the user resistance to fire.

A wave of brightness – not light, but a pulse of “less dark” - suddenly bursts from the golem, and Schnecke gives a moan as it seems to burn slowly through him. The pain subsides quickly though, and at once, the barbarian realises that the weakness, headache and dizziness he had been feeling, have gone!

The stone in the corridor begins to waver a little, as if unstable in its currently, immaterial state.

18:31 – The group run along the corridor, glugging a fire resistance elixir (except for Schnecke who has the aurumvorax skin, and Varracuda who is able to ignore most mundane flames) and as Grigori enters the room beyond, the corridor vanishes.

18:31 – 18:41 – A huge bronze door, bearing a conspicuous key hole, dominates the wall opposite the one the group entered through, its surface carved with elaborate, alien bass reliefs. The source of the flames is a huge globe of elemental fire, suspended in a potent field of magic in the chamber's heart, constantly shedding almost transparent sheets of reddish flame into the air, turning the chamber into an oven.

On the floor, set in a circle around the sphere are 10 tiles, each with a number scribed on it; 1 – 0 in the tradespeak alphabet, 6 being between the sphere and the bronze door, 1 being between the sphere and the point at which the group entered the chamber. Peering closely at the fantastic orb, Varracuda notices that a bronze key, covered in carvings identical to those on the door floats slowly within the orbs centre. Grigori considers the sphere, and realises it is an unstable elemental plasma held in place by a field of force. Not only would it take unnatural strength to penetrate the field and remove the key, but the energy within would be powerful enough to strip the elixir's protection away and to reduce the questing appendage to ash in a heartbeat.

The lock on the door is examined, and within it is spotted a tiny catch. Jaeger examines this closely along with Eldric, and concludes it is a secondary fail safe, that if not activated, would see the key, if somehow obtained, teleported to an unknown location – and would possibly activate a defence mechanism.

The catch is flipped, and a cool blue glow emanates from the lock, being mirrored by the symbols on the key.

Seren suggests putting the orbs fires out with an icy spell. The group agree to let her try, and so, she does.

The repercussions are immediate and painful. The spell is negated, and the orb suddenly blazes with a furious light. A shockwave of seething elemental fire explodes from it, scouring the chamber, and striking with enough power to overwhelm the protections the party enjoy. All are burned by it. That was definitely not the way.

Reasoning that the numbers on the floor must serve a purpose, the party try to work out what combination could open the door. Grigori summarises it could be about the position of the numbers rather than the numbers themselves. Moving to the number “6” he steps on the tile. The group flinches, but no blast comes. Instead, the tile shines with a cool blue light. Emmiven, eager to continue the trend steps on the tile bearing the number “1”.

Another shockwave rips through the chamber. More fire. More pain.

Okay, that was also not it!

“Maybe it corresponds to a word?” wonders Schnecke, his eyes clear with rare lucidity. “Maybe...errr...the word 'fire'?”

Everyone looks at the Ulnyrr in shock. Jaeger responds that this could well be right, and the group set about trying to determine how “FIRE” would translate into numbers. Their first attempt fails, and they are doused once more in flame. However, they then enter the numbers that correspond to the letters place in the tradespeak alphabet – 6, 9, 1, 8, 5 – and with a low sigh, the key is revealed, wreathed in a cooling mist.

18:42 – 19:30 – Weary after nearly 13 hours of fighting, wandering and suffering, the group enter the treasury of Corvus, a portal to the golem room gleaming in one wall. Inside stands all kinda of mundane junk, most of it worthless keepsakes from a half a hundred criminal escapades. However, cash and a number of enchanted items are also found. Almost of more interest are a number of documents. Three detail agreements between the Rookery and several nobles; a steady flow of cash and resources in return for certain dark secrets not being revealed. Another holds the pass codes for the guardian constructs of an August Society Depository counting house located in the heart of the plaza district, and another a list of debtors and creditors to the guild.

The group also find a small silver house key, though to where it belongs is not apparent.