Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Story so Far ...

     Having braved the encounter with the guardian Water Elemental the party aboard the seafaring cog The Triton approached the dock below the Tower of the Four Moons.  A contingent of gnomish warriors awaited them.  The gnomes were respectful but curt to the heroes as they led the party along with Captain Malrick of the Triton up the winding path towards the Tower. The leader of the gnomes named Fonkin told them that the sorceress Aness awaited them in the main hall.  The party felt as if they were being treated more as prisoners than guests as the gnomes escorted them with drawn weapons into the Tower.
     The Tower was obviously formed by sorcery.  Made of an unusual red granite the walls of the tower looked smooth as if they flowed into shape.  Over 200' tall with four branching "arms" holding four smaller towers the structure was an impressive sight.  The tops of the towers were crowned with stalagmite-like battlements and the central one had a ghostly magical image of the moon Wyrlos (blood red in color) floating above it.  Svarnos had seen this place before as he had his wizardly schooling here. The heroes were led into the cavernous entrance past a 12' tall statue of  an armored knight.

     The main hall was a large circular pillared room with many arched doorways leading from it.  In the center of the room was a magical fire-pit of ever changing colored flames.  Against the far wall from the entrance were nine chairs carved into the likenesses of seated dragons with half raised wings. The center chair was a step higher than the others and decorated with mithril silver — the throne of the Archmage.  

     Aness and her apprentice Vanen awaited them here and the gnome guards were sent away.  Aness looked much healthier since their last meeting becoming again a vision of elven beauty.  Vanen greeted them as old friends along with his gray cat familiar Mara.  Aness told the group that the reason for their gruff greeting was because the wizards of the Tower had learned that the Archmage was dead.  It was a time of uncertainty and turmoil in the Tower.  Before the party could begin to tell Aness anything she cautioned them to silence as a three dark figures entered the hall.

      A man with pale skin and a tattooed bald head wearing black and red robes entered the hall flanked by two robed and cowled warriors holding falchions.  There was instant tension in the room as the group saw the sneer that this man gave them and the elven sorceress.  The vulturous man demanded to know the reason outsiders were allowed into the Tower in this troubled time. Aness shot back that it was her personal affair and that her friends are no threat.  The man told her she could not do whatever she wanted even though she was acting as sub-Magus (Note: Svarnos knew this title meant main wizard of the Tower in the absence of an Archmage) a title that he would contest before the other wizards.  The man stormed out followed by his robed guards.

    Aness led the party out of the hall and told them the man was the wizard Zalaren the Lord Necromancer of the Tower.  Zalaren thinks that he should be sub-Magus now that it is known that the Archmage is dead.  She expressed fear that the rivalry would come to a head soon.  On their way up the Tower the party came across a rough looking gray bearded old wizard leading two young  fledgling apprentices.  The wizard turned out to be Surtnir Svarnos' old master.  Surtnir  told Svarnos that he should come visit him later so they could catch up. Aness then took the group through the twisting halls to her private chambers.

    Her chambers were in the northeast tower.  They were taken to a study with fine furniture (oak table surrounded by several comfortable chairs, a bookshelf with stained glass doors, brass braziers, couches, rugs) with her stone golem standing in one corner of the room.  The party sat down and told Aness of their adventures in Riveon.  She was overjoyed to hear of the adventurers success in procuring the last Shadow Cylinder and the party handed it over. The elven sorceress removed the Geas spell that she had them under and now they were free to speak of all they knew (She even remembered to remove it from Eldan even though he was not there).  So, Aness told the party that she did not know how the secret of the Archmage Moandor's death was discovered.  She thinks one of them must have used magic.  Some of the wizards were angry that she did not tell them immediately but she did not trust them all and it appeared that she was right not to.  Within days of the secret being discovered news came to her that the Shadow Dragon's minions began to stir in the North.  Moandor was the only power in Malavon capable of thwarting the Shadow Dragon and now that he is gone the evil creature may have decided to finish what it started 100 years ago.  She believes someone in the Tower may be in league with the Dragon.

     Aness then took the party to a room on the lowest level of the northeast tower.  She wished to put the Cylinder in her vault in the Chamber of the Stones.  The two dark 6' high pyramid shaped stones are artifacts from a forgotten age that suppress magic forces.  This is how she was able to protect herself from the evil influence of the other Cylinders.  The party remembered that they saw one of these stones in Riveon and Aness was curious to how it got there and if it would be possible to obtain it.  The stones were set in a sunken room with stairs leading into it.  The room had entrances to some barred cells and vaults lining the walls.  Aness had Galifynakus and Gjord remove all their magic items and she gave them a key to take the Cylinder into her vault.  A spell caster and even magical items would be adversely affected by the power of the stones.  In one of the cells was an alluring woman that pleaded for the pair of warriors to free her.  It was then that they noticed that she had small horns and bat-like wings — a imprisoned succubus!  They decided to ignore her pleas.  In Aness' vault were the other Cylinders and they added the third one to it.  They went back to Aness' chambers and had grand meal of suckling pig, vegetables,  and good wine.

     The sorceress told them that she would need four days to prepare to free the Scroll of Myrthas from the prison of the Shadow Cylinders.  This would be done atop the central tower on a night of the new moon where the greatest arcane powers are focused.  Four the next four days the party was confined to the northeast tower but were allowed outside to get some air with a gnome escort.  Gjord, the dwarven bard Norgrim, and Galifynakus worked on a song about their adventures in Riveon to pass the time.  Fionnula and Martijn wandered outside the Tower and found a beach of reddish sand and monolithic red rocks not too distant from the Tower.  Lono brooded over being stuck in the Tower.  Svarnos was able to visit with his old master Surtnir (The Master Evoker of the Tower).  Surtnir told him he was going through surviving old records and diaries of former masters of the Tower.  Some of these writings were hundreds of years old.   It is known that the Tower holds many secrets one of the most interesting that he read concerned a secretive wizard named Talos that was a tenant of the Tower some 200 years ago.  In Talos' diary there was mention of tunnels and rooms beneath the Tower where he would conduct some of his darker and stranger experiments away from the prying eyes of his colleagues.  It also mentioned that he created a magical teleportation circle that could take him anywhere in the realm!   Surtnir also showed Svarnos a new spell that he created called alter familiar. Surtnir showed his former pupil the results of his spell, his own raucous raven familiar had gained the power of invisibility!   Svarnos spent the days scribing new spells into his spell book (including the new spell alter familiar).  

    On the eve of Redleaf the 15th Aness, Vanen, and our heroes collected the Cylinders from the Chamber of Stones and proceeded up the long winding stair up to the roof of the main tower.  The light of the illusionary Wyrlos glowed with an eerie red light.  The night sky was dark and moonless but it was sprinkled with stars and the air was cool and breezy.  In the center of this top level stood a sturdy wooden table with 9 chairs arranged around it.  Aness placed the Cylinders upon the table and began to read an incantation from the scroll left to her by the Archmage to break the prison of the Cylinders.  The incantation rose in pitch and intensity and the air around the onlookers tingles with energy as Aness uttered the final words, "Armon hakadi aka-deev! Shalizarn hakadi Zoatha!".  The Cylinders suddenly melted into a black viscous liquid which ran off the edge of the table onto the floor.  The revealed fragments of the scrolls looked as if they were made of a shimmering paper thin metal swirling with ebbing colors.  The edges of the fragments began to crackle with power and slowly the pieces moved together to form one scroll the seams sparking and fusing togther.

     It was then that the party noticed that the black liquid of the  three melted cylinders slithering snake-like on the floor behind the sorceress.  As they called a warning the "snakes" rose up into the air becoming three black spheres.  Aness tried to dispel them but they resisted her magic.  The spheres formed a large (10' per side) triangle hanging in the air behind the sorceress.  A grey misty area began to form within the triangle.  Aness reached out to grab the scroll upon the table but the energy coming from the mending scroll gave her a painful shock for her efforts.  Before the onlookers could come to her aid they were aware of a new horror taking shape behind each one of them.  Their own shadows had risen up from the floor with a unnatural life of their own!  The shadows attacked and the party fought with all the might and magic at their disposal.  The touch of the shadows drained the strength of those they attacked and Lono in particular was drained nearly to death.  Aness , who was being assailed by her own shadow, finally got a chance to call upon a powerful spell to banish the otherworldly creatures.  One by one they began to puff out of existence but the party saw with dismay that the spell was too late for one of their number.  The dwarven bard Norgrim was drained unto death, he would sing no more.  Aness snatched the now mended scroll from the table but the party could see behind her a great grey-white reptilian eye peering at her through the grey mist of the triangle.  Before anyone could react a great claw and forearm formed of wispy smoke and shadows shot through the triangle and grasped the elven sorceress! Martijn and Gjord tried to attack the arm but their weapons passed through it as if it were truly shadows and smoke.  The arm began withdraw with the writhing sorceress in its clutches.  But before Aness was pulled through the triangle gate she let out a scream and with a heroic effort freed the arm holding the scroll of Myrthas.  This she threw with her last strength to land at the feet of the heroes.  She was then pulled through the gate which vanished with a deafening thunderclap and a puff of grey smoke.  Aness had been taken by the Shadow Dragon!  Vanen fell to his knees sobbing his mistresses name while the party stood stunned by what had taken place.  Svarnos picked up the odd metallic scroll upon the ground and unrolled it the others gathered around him and they began to read for the scroll was written in the Common tongue.  Each word that they read was etched into their memories so they could recall it effortlessly and this is what it said—

To those who would be free I ask your forgiveness.

Know that a millennia ago, through my ambition and arrogance, I foolishly opened a gateway to the Demi-Plane of Shadow.  With forbidden sorceries I sought to gain the power and knowledge of that dark dominion.  I realized my error instantly as the hungry sentience that dwells there tried to force its way into our world. I thought I had closed the portal in time but it was long enough for a great unseen malevolence to slink through.  This was Zorvoath the Shadow Dragon.  He came through as only a wyrmling but in your age he will be an ancient dragon of terrible power.  He has remained concealed in the secret places of the world for a thousand years biding his time as his strength grew.

The fact that you are able to read this magic scroll means that he is no longer in hiding but he is on the move.  It also means that you are not in league with the Dragon for to his minions this scroll appears void of writing.

Using my gift of foresight this is my attempt to stretch my hand through space and time and offer amends for what I have done.  I would save Malavon from becoming a kingdom of shadows and horror.

I must be cryptic for if you are captured Zorvoath would tear this knowledge from your mind and thwart any hope of stopping him. Before I tell you what must be done I would have you know this.  A millennium is a long time, much may have changed in the world and my vision from the past is dim.  All may not play out as I would desire. Furthermore, if you do not wish to take on this task I would ask you to pass it on to others who will and I would suggest that you flee Malavon.

But, if you do take on this quest and you are successful, I can say only this.  I have foreseen that glory will be yours. Also, consider the peculiar set of circumstances that have placed this scroll within your hands.  This scroll was created by binding strange forces of the multiverse that have a sentience of their own.  Your possession of this artifact may not be a coincidence.

What you need for your quest can be found within my stronghold that lies near the Duskwood.  With this scroll in your hands you will be granted access to my tower.  For all I can see from the past you may be standing within my tower now.  I hope this is so.

First, in the conjuration pentacle located in the underground vaults, all must speak these words,

“Amon Amarth Kalamand”

The stones and inscribed glyphs of this place are a nexus of arcane forces.  If the magic still holds after all this time it will aid you in your endeavors. You are welcome to take any other items you may find useful within the vaults beneath the tower.

Next, seek my staff; it is of ironwood with a sapphire at the pinnacle cut into the sign of Numora, you should find it in the upper reaches of my hold. This is the key to Skolelos and on that isle ancient oaths will be fulfilled and the Shadow Dragon will come to know fear.

That is enough to begin.
May fortune be yours and let the immortals protect you.


     The party did not have long to contemplate this as the door to the top of the tower burst open with a throng of gnome warriors ready for battle pouring through.  Behind them came a tall woman with blond hair with black streaks in it, high cheekbones, and a stern countenance.  She demanded to know what was going on as they had heard the sounds of battle and the loud thunderclap that shook the tower.  The party demanded to know who she was and she proclaimed that she was Nesa the Mistress Conjurer of the Tower and it was her place to ask questions not theirs.  A heated and confused argument ensued.  The party was not sure what they should reveal to this woman.  The adventurers would not answer her questions and told her to fetch Surtnir.  The Conjuror told them to drop their weapons but the heroes refused with Gjord being the most vocal.  It almost came to blows but the Conjuror cast a powerful charm spell upon Gjord that made him drop his weapons and back up like an automaton. The party, already weakened, realized that resistance was futile and dropped their weapons.  The gnomes took their gear and began to march them down the winding stair.

D&D this Saturday March 3rd

We're aiming for 5pm.
We'll be using the soft cover Player's Handbook (the Lulu copy).
I suggest you re-familiarize yourselves with your characters as its been a while.
See you Saturday!

Art by Bill Willingham