12/8/1472: 06:30: Thick fogs thread the streets of the Carrion Port as the group make their way to the Meridianese mines. As they near their destination, so Varracuda, Jaeger and Thatari feel a strange pressure in their heads; a painful sensation of shifting and disorientation, which grows stronger the nearer they get.
06:50 – 07:15: The group are escorted to the heavily fortified mine head, where they are met by numerous filth caked miners returning from a shift below. Looking closely, Girigori notes that they all seem to bear some kind of irritation to their filthy skin, and that they have thick bands of cloth woven around their faces, all but a few protecting their eyes with goggles. He also notes that the minor scratches that are so many have from their work, have become inflamed and sore, possibly from the dust that fills them.
The unpleasant sensations that the assassin and arcane casters have been experiencing have become almost unbearable by this point, and they realise that it has something to do with the damage to the local dimensional fabric, and the warping “pressures” of the various realities passing by. Grimly, they realise that they will have to put up with them for now.
No one checks who they are, for all recognise the “Butcher Wolf” and his companions. A diverse group, the miners vary massively in their reactions to their passing; some glare threateningly, whilst others fearfully look away, hoping that they have not drawn any unwelcome attention to themselves.
The group enter the cages, and are soon rumbling into the depths.
07:16 – 07:40: On arriving at the bottom of the shaft, the group find themselves in a low, wide chamber, alive with activity; miners rest briefly between half shifts, or wash in magical showers. Everything is dimly lit by a number of dust covered Everlasting Torches, the edges of the chamber alive with shadows. However, it is immediately clear to the group that a fine dust, the colour of blood, coats everything. Thirteen corridors lead from the chamber, and the group (knowing that they need to seek out shaft V), head towards the fifth.
The tunnel extends away for about thirty feet or so, before suddenly changing in composition and nature completely. Whereas the mine shafts and chamber above are hewn from the dark stone of the island, it suddenly becomes paler, and riddled with thick, root like tubes of stone. These tubes sprawl through the walls, and across the corridor; tangling through each other, forming a thick knots of stony ropes. At regular intervals along the lengths of these growths, their surface splits, allowing large, blobs of red crystal to protrude, like sap oozing from a torn tree root. This, the group realise, is the source of the red dust that coats everything down here, and gives the air a strange taste, not unlike the smell of celery.
This tunnel winds crazily into the depths, ending high up the wall of a vast cavern that echoes with the sounds of picks striking stone, and the rumbling, stony cadence of dundiir singing. Picking their way downwards, the party spend a moment at the threshold of the place, taking in the strange sight before them.
A huge space yawns before them, dimly lit by a multitude of torches, sunrods and dusty glowing orbs. The lower part of the cavern has been cleared of the stony roots, whilst the upper vaults are festooned with them, the red blobs of crystal winking like baleful eyes in the gloom. A red mist of suspended dust colours everything with a bloody hue, and those in the group that breathe can feel their lungs becoming caked with the fine stuff. Suddenly, the heavy wrappings worn by the miners make perfect sense.
About fifty miners work around the cavern, hacking away at the parts of the roots currently trapped within the cavern's walls. Others work above, chipping away at the roots that dominate the ceiling, freeing the red ore from their cores. A number of tunnels lead from this place, none of which are labelled.
“Let's ask the dundiir how to get to the lower levels”, whispers Grigori, pointing towards a team of eight dundorin – the source of the singing that echoes powerfully within the cavern's heart.
The group pick their way towards the squat miners, who labour stripped to the waist, their barrel like bodies smeared in a thick layer of dust and sweat, and are soon standing by them. One of the dundiir is not involved in the mining, and appears to be leading the chanting. He is a silver-haired warrior, who's body bears old scars, and swirling, grey tattoos, and despite the parties insistent calls to him, he ignores them, continuing to sing his thrumming hymn of stone and steel.
“You! Dwarf!” Yells Grigori, his anger finally rising to the surface.
The singing stops, and every dundiir turns to glare at the group, their faces furious. The silver-haired dundorin steps up to the priest, his face a mask of steely hatred. In growling tradespeak, his voice terrible in its cold anger, he addresses Grigori face to face, using the ledge of rock on which he stands to bring him level.
“Say that again manling, and I promise you, you'll be a dwarf too, for I'll sever both your legs at the knees.”
The priest, it is clear, is about to give a caustic reply, but is pulled away by his colleagues, who are aware that more than a few of the other miners, as well as all the dundiir, are seconds away from exploding into violence.
“We'll go this way.” Hisses Jaeger, tugging at Grigori's sleeve, “We have no need of further 'help'.”
The group back off, and head for a shaft that seems to drop straight down.
“I wouldn't go down there.” Snarls the dundiir, “only death awaits you there.”
The group glare, and carry on regardless.
07:41 – 08:10: A wide shaft drops from the floor of the cavern some 60'. The first ten feet or so are the same stone as the cavern. However, beyond that, a completely different reality shimmers in soft golden waves. Varracuda shakes his head as the pain there increases, and even the stoic assassin gives a low growl as nausea and pain briefly blurs his vision.
Looking closer, it seems that the tunnels below are bathed in a luminous golden energy, the very air sparkling with tiny motes of light.
“Positive energy?” Wonders the swordmage aloud. “A manifestation of radiant energy.”
“Eh?” Snarls Shnecke, “Speak clearly mage, what is it?”
“Pure life force. So pure in fact, it can be deadly.”
“Great.” Whispers Jaeger, sensing a greater problem below – an absence of shadow, the source of much of his power - “Life will be the cause of our death then.”
The group climb down the shaft, and as they enter the warm embrace of the golden zone below, so the singing and clattering of the miners stops suddenly, for they are now an infinity away in another realm completely.
The tunnels of this realm are quite beautiful, every inch of them transformed by the energies that suffuse it into glittering crystals. The very air is luminous with warm, golden energy, which feels like the caress of a gentle sun, soaking through their skin and into the very core of their bodies. Tiny crystals, perfect and radiant, drift through the air, apparently responding to gravities that hold no influence on the group, their facets sparkling in the ubiquitous, aureate light, and soft plays of auroral radiance flicker and shift over the angles of the walls.
The group, despite the otherworldy beauty of this place remain alert to any dangers, especially the assassin who feels a frightening distance from the comforting shadows that normally hover around him, lending him their dark power. Slowly, they creep along, blinking in the painful glare of this place, trying not to scratch themselves on the steel-hard facets of the crystals around them.
08:11 – 08:31: It is a perfect sphere of vaguely metallic stone, that tumbles and rolls in a column of dazzling, rainbow hued radiant flames. Around it, a strange, hair-like crystal, brilliantly luminous, and swaying as if in a gentle breeze, forms a carpet, giving the impression of them being exotic algae in some shallow tropical pool. The party gather around the edge of the crystal, and look at the sphere, speculating on what it could be. Their conversation takes a number of routes, and it is felt that the sphere is an Ioun Geode; a super hard mass of quasi-elemental material that could hold a number of valuable Ioun Stones. Such artefacts are valuable prizes, but the risks involved in obtaining, and even opening them, are legendary (Grigori recalls tales of the legendary heroes of the Wondrous, who almost died obtaining, and plundering such a geode, despite their epic power).
The hair like crystals are felt to be bursting with barely contained radiant energy, and it is feared that if they are crushed, the energy will be unleashed in a deadly eruption. So, a plan is formulated to try and dislodge the geode, and capture it without damaging any of the lethal crystals.
08:32 – 08:50: Grigori's Bag of Holding is attached to a number of tent poles, strapped together. A frame of sticks is crafted and used to hold the bag open, and the assassin holds it ready behind and below the geode, whilst Grigori prepares to unleash a blast of radiance at it. Blinking to try and get the growing patches of obscuring luminosity from out their eyes (the effect of continued exposure to the brilliant glow of this place), they prepare to put their plan into action.
Chanting a low prayer, Grigori harnesses the ambient radiant energies of the area and fires a focused bolt of light at the sphere. Even with his understanding of the local conditions, he is shocked at the potent gathering of energy he forges, and when he unleashes it, It strikes with great force, smashing into the geode with a firework like burst of colours and lights. The geode shifts imperceptibly – though enough for the equilibrium of its eternal tumble to be upset. Radiant flames leap wildly, and the sphere spins free, the assassin sweeping the bag towards it.
Everyone holds their breath as the sphere seems to fall in slow motion, each realising that the burst of energies that would occur, were it to fall into the crystals, would erase them in an instant. Jaeger, blinking against the painful glare of the glowing air, sweeps the bag forwards, and almost howls with joy as the sphere nearly drops into it.
As the sphere enters the bag, so a sharp shock runs through the air, and a rumble sounds through the vaults.
A moment of joy as the group realise they have managed to gather a great treasure. However, this joy quickly turns to fear as both Jaeger and Thatari stop suddenly, and announce that they cannot see, their eyes shrouded in luminous blindness. A brief discussion is held, and the party decide to carry on, the assassin and warlock relying on them to be their eyes.
09:40 – 09:50: The group have entered a lower series of relucent tunnels, that swim with dazzling rainbow light. Everyone that can see blinks owlishly, worried that they too may soon see only cloudy masses of bright colours, each only too aware of the risks of being in such a state in such a deadly realm. Despite the light, Grigori saves the party from a surprise attack, when he spots vague movement close to a “crystal” column hanging over a pit.
The pits it appears are fortifications – spike pits – dug by the Meridianese as a ward against intrusion by the Tattered Brotherhood (and oddly, incorporated into this dimensional shift wholesale). The “crystal columns” (for there are two; one by the group, and another some ways ahead) are some weird life form of living crystal and radiant fire, analogous to the Ropers of the deep places. They are bizarre things; a core of shining faceted crystal from which sprout long, glowing, razor edged tendrils. Each bears a wide mouth in its body, which snaps and grinds in anticipation of the meal they will soon have...
...and a meal they very nearly get, for from the outset, the group are outmatched in this battle. With two of them blinded, and the rest simply unlucky, the two Prismatic Ropers make short work of them. Within horrible, pain filled seconds most of the party are either dying (Shnecke is taken down quickly after being dazzled and disoriented by a burst of sparkling, blinding patterns spat by the furthest of the monsters, whilst Varracuda is sliced open by the razored tendrils and chomped by the piercing fangs), disabled (blinded, dazed or reeling from various blinding attacks), or close to death (Grigori lies, barely conscious, his body torn and bloody, his vision fading as death's embrace closes on him).
However, as his brain begins to shut down, the priest recalls his most favourite method of desperate escape. Realising that his actions are rash, given the extreme dimensional instability of this region, he grabs all three of his Bags of Holding. A poisoned tendril rips across his back, exposing his organs, and with a roar he takes them, places one within the other, and with every last ounce of his strength rips them...
09:51: As the Carrion Port wakes to another day, so a catastrophe that will redefine its name occurs. Without warning, half the island simply vanishes in a burst of planar disruption. The Mouldering Hold literally melts in the burst of raw, disruptive power, and the Meridianese Head Quarters burns with a silvery, unnatural lambency, which spreads in a heartbeat to consume everything nearby. Lightning and howling winds tear across the island, ripping buildings apart, and the seas boil with hellish power, themselves alive with unnatural lightning. Thousands die, most never knowing the source of their doom...
19/6/2389 (Second Age; 1 year, 4 months, 12 days since start of Great Guild War); Eastern Reaches of the Eastcloak Forest, Ruins of Myl'Dynnen.
11:00 - The air convulses, and fire, lightning and psychic screams blast outwards as time itself is torn asunder. A column of searing power, blinding and chaotic flashes from the suddenly turbulent skies, and a shockwave – both physical and psychical – levels trees for a mile around. Across Fey, many powerful beings sense this disruption to the laws of nature, and turn their attention to its source....whilst those at the centre of this disruption writhe in their pain, unaware of the madness they have sown, or the change in their fates that now lies in store...