09:07 – The group move to open the door...
No sooner has the door opened, than everyone (except Veteran) are shaking their heads, their eyes stinging in the wave of acrid fumes that spill forth. Beyond is a laboratory, its air a haze of noxious fumes created by the numerous small alchemical fires that burn with unnatural gusto around the place. Benches line a small raised platform, their surfaces covered in shattered equipment, body parts, blood and spilled chemicals. Working on a headless torso, his arms and chest covered in gore, is a collegiate artificer, his hair greasy with sweat and other fluids, his eyes masked by the thick greenish lenses of a set of heavy goggles. It is this man who's insane song trills through the air, apparently singing to a captive audience - for towering above him like terrible guardian angels are two of the largest Iron Golems the group have ever seen. Each is a masterpiece of the artificer's craft; a looming juggernaut of spell-bound metal, more than capable of routing a substantial force. However, the group are something far beyond such mundane troops, and without a moment's hesitation, they launch themselves into the chamber.
09:08 – 09:14 – Veteran charges the artificer, whilst to his side Llewellyn flits and leaps – both physically and using his various trinkets, magically – striking here and there with his thrumming adamantine mace. Shaedvia stands back in the corridor leading to the chamber, her bow singing a low song of death and inescapable pain, its arrows thudding with deadly force into the howling, gibbering artificer, and the massive constructs. Ormid also stays back, his magic dancing forth to enhance the attacks of the warforged (who is soon slogging away at the massive constructs, his axe biting into their armoured knees with unnatural potency).
The enemy artificer is hit by an arrow that wreathes him in a psychic miasma, the air around him becoming leaden and warped. Within this, the golem's own magic malfunctions, and they become somewhat confused; attacking haltingly, and juddering with noisy shudders. Seeing his chance to end the Xixian quickly, Veteran charges, his flaming axe describing a blazing arc as it sweeps down towards the man's head. However, quicker than he thought possible, the artificer leaps to the side, hissing a word of magic. At once a loud bang resonates from the warforged's weapon, and its flames go out! At the same time, the weapon become heavy and unwieldy, and with shock, the Veteran realises that its magic has been stolen. Grinning, the Xixian artificer points at the 9' long blade gripped by one of the golem's, and at once, it bursts into raging arcane fire – the stolen enchantment now blessing its own weapon.
Cackling with glee, the artificer moves to strike at the Veteran. However, his smile is swept from his skull as the warforged tugs the flamebrand weapon from his back, and awakens its magic, his hands tingling with its power. Roaring like a wounded dracani, the weapon explodes into jetting, ghostly blue flames, and almost throws itself forth as if eager to strike out. It hits hard, ending its first blow lodged in the artificer's spine, it blade screaming as steam jets from the fatal wound. Behind the Veteran, Llewellyn leaps and cartwheels around the massive boots of one of the golems, flipping back just before a coruscating ball of shrieking elemental energy hits it in its barrel chest, and sends it crashing, twitching, to the ground with a painfully loud crash, smashing a bench to pieces, and sending clouds of acrid alchemical smoke into the air.
“Dah! Now that is de way to do it!” Cackles Vladislav, his hands pouring with glassy, boiling energies.
With the artificer slain, the group move to neutralise the deadly constructs. This is far from easy, though a combination of the warforged's deadly strikes, the vyrleen's precision attacks, Shadevia's pin-point shots, Ormids restorative support and enhancement of his allies abilities, and the Helldazzlers' volcanic battle magics, makes relatively short work of them, the air of the workshop seething with their toxic internal gasses as they are smashed into scrap. Everyone is panting and pained; the golem's having spat boiling payloads of corrosive poisons at them, their breathing ragged where the fumes have stung their lungs. All of them are bleeding, bruised and weary, and so are more than just disappointed when a search of the lab reveals nothing that can help them end the madness.
09:15 – 09:18 – despite their growing pains and weariness, the group move on. They were aware earlier of some horrible sobbing coming from the right hand corridor that lead from the labs' doors. By the time they emerge from their battle, this has grown much weaker and wetter, and it is decided to go an see who is causing it.
Moving cautiously along the corridor, the group try to block out the voices that howl and gibber in their minds, and fight to remain focused. They pass several more Imbuer's; dead and mutilated, and up ahead can see the corridor terminates in a large room illuminated by flickering, electrical light. Slowing as they smell bowel contents and ozone, the group finally see who is sobbing, and more to the point why.
At the end of the corridor once stood a sturdy door. However, it has been smashed inwards, allowing access to the chamber beyond. It is a large place, dominated by four rune-carved pillars, and between them, in the middle of the room, a rune circle. All recognise the circle as the kind used as an anchor for the portal spells they often use, though Vladislav and Ormid spy the differences that show it also capable of holding otherworldly entities in this dimension. Stood in the middle of this is a humanoid construct holding a two-handed sword that flickers with frost, flame, gonging shimmering shockwaves and crackling sparks of electricity. Forged it seems from a suit of beautifully crafted full plate, it gleams with a reddish light, cast it seems from a second, spectral rune circle that hovers over the first.
Flanking the rune circle, are two massive scorpion shaped constructs, made from shimmering Aerthryll. Their claws are razor-sharp and scythe-like, whilst their stings are the source of the flickering spark-light, each one crowned with a dancing corona of pent up electrical magic.
“Scaladar and a Helmed Horror.” Breathes Ormid as he spots them. “Impressive”
Finally, between the doorway and the circle, there is the Collegiate mage - cut almost in two, only the fat of his right “love handles” keeping his upper and lower half together. He has managed to crawl a few feet from where he fell, his entrails spilling thickly from within him, their stench heavy in the air, and he has bled profusely. To the group's horror, amongst the gory hand prints and drag marks are words, and they realise that this man has spent his last moments on the physical, drenched in unimaginable agony, writing something in his own gore. None can read it.
“So, now what?” Asks Llewellyn.
“I surmise that the constructs are activated by crossing over the threshold, which is, I guess, what this fellow did.” Ormid points towards the now silent mage.
“I could send a shot in and see what happens?” Offers the shadeling.
“Or I could leap in and out and give one of the Scallywags a tap with my mace?” Adds the rogue.
“Vot is dat over the circle?” Wonders Vladislav out loud, taking off his mask, “Looks like some kind of capping spell no?”
Ormid nods. “Makes me wonder if we should be messing with the circle at all.”
Everyone stares at the constructs and the quietly glowing circle.
“Right then.” Chirps Llewellyn, and before anyone can stop him, he leaps into the chamber, darts to the left, and smashes a huge dent in the silvery armour of the Scaladar there. At once the air becomes electric with awakened magic, as the Helmed Horror becomes covered in shimmering runes of various colours, which glow from just below the surface of its armour. The Scaladar also both rattle to life, their bodies suddenly effulgent with electrical fire, their massive pincers snipping dangerously.
The rogue hammers home the advantage of his unexpected attack, and lands another massive blow against the scorpion like construct.
“You bloody fool!” Screeches Ormid, “Go and rescue that stupid idiot, Veteran! Go on, go get him!”
09:19 – 09:22 – Fearsome though the constructs are, they are no match for the group, and within moments all of them lie in sparking piles. Llewellyn bears several deep wounds, which stink of cooked blood where the electrified stings of the Scaladar tore into his flesh. The Veteran also bears several new wounds, courtesy of the Horror, which he kept focused on him, and stood toe to toe with; his axe singing a ringing song against its finely wrought body.
09:23 – 09:40 – With the immediate threat gone, the group enter the chamber. A search of the slain mage reveals that, like his peers, he carries a potent item of magic (a powerfully enchanted wand), as well as a rare form of opal (which Llewellyn quickly lifts before even Shadevia's incredible eyes can spot him).
The body is shoved from the room, and Ormid, deciding that this room would make a good place to rest for a while (though the air still crawls with the psychic foetor of the intrusion, and each adventurer is still plagued by the chorus of screaming, haranguing, criticising voices in their minds), enacts a ritual that magically restores the sundered door leading into it. The group break out their provisions, and soon all are snoring, their dreams vivid, disturbing and bizarre in the extreme...
20:00 – 20:30 – The exhausted adventurer's awaken feeling worse than before, as if their dreams have drained them of some vital essence. The voices seem to have grown stronger in proportion to this drain, and each one struggles to concentrate through the miasma of screams, shrieks, insults, threats and deadly advice they howl and gibber into their minds. Their mental distress is only compounded by the usual physical pains; bruises and wounds aching and leaking, bones throbbing. Grimly, each eats a small breakfast, if only to give themselves the energy to go on, before Ormid and Vladislav set about exploring the rooms unseen geography.
It takes them a while, but both come out of their trances in a state of barely restrained sickness, their stomach's heaving with violent, pulling retches, their skin pale and glistening with cold sweat.
“B-Below us.” Gasps Ormid, leaning with one hand against the wall, head down, as he fight to control his stomach.
“Foul beyond de words to express.” Gasps the Helldazzler, removing his mask and taking deep, sucking breaths.
“It seems,” continues the artificer, “that we must indeed open this portal, for Vladislav and I believe it links to the place where the very heart of this madness lies. I have to confess, I am less than enthusiastic about entering whatever place lies beyond it, but, enter it we must.”
It takes the two arcanists a moment to gather their wits. Then, with deep steadying breaths, they turn their gazes towards the flickering mantle capping the rune circle before them, and with arms outstretched and eyes glazed, they carefully begin to tease apart the powerful magics placed there.
To the other three adventurers, the only sign that they are doing anything is shown in the cap, as its red glow flickers and begins to fade, shimmering as it is buffeted by the two's powerful control of its substance. Moments pass, the voices in their heads growing quiet as they too sense that something major is happening, their whispers malevolent and full of terrible promise. Then, with a rattling sound like grit being poured onto glass, the cap vanishes in a burst of crimson light and smoke, the runes in the circle beneath suddenly glowing with a pale glow as their magic returns.
Ormid and Vladislav sway slightly as their minds are yanked with force from the arcane plane, and both sit heavily down, their faces pale and drawn.
20:40 - …
With the portal open, the air seethes with madness. The voices now crow and bellow with particular glee, and each adventurer fights to ignore them and concentrate, whilst the rooms swims with phantasmal images; people from their past, other worlds, impossible things that have no name or reason. Mouths dry, bowels writhing with anxiety, the group prepare themselves and step onto the rune circle, its magic reaching up to envelop them like the tentacles of an anemone...