Circle Quest: Winter of 2007
You float in darkness under a great weight; Your senses are crushed by titanic pressure. A deep chanting pierces through your ears to echo within the hollows of your skull. These words are burned into your memory:
And long have I sought;
A vigil soon ended
By the geas I have wrought.
By this spell I you summon,
Bind, compel, and do send
To recover a treasure;
So long loss may amend.
A stone of great beauty;
The stone that is light;
A stone that was stolen
By a thief in the night.
Now Glitterstore's travels
Draw him to my demesne.
Find the stone he has stolen
For your freedom to gain.
'til midnight I'll abide;
Bring my stone to the pool.
Drop it under the waters,
Or face a vengeance grown cruel.
For long have I waited,
And long have I sought.
Now my vigil's soon ended:
By this geas you are caught.
As the chanting fades, you become aware of a ruddy, flickering glow above you. You feel the viscous fluid, in which you float, draining away. And yourself draining away with it. And then.... You are lying on a cold stone floor, in a room lit dimly by torches.
You all awaken in a stone chamber in confusion. You remember nothing: Not how you got here, where here may be, or even who you are. You are an elven woman in travelers clothes (Elysa), a cleric in saffron robes (Claude), a young nobleman (Tony), a gentleman with a snake headed cane (Roque), and a half-orc barbarian inebriated to the point of insensibility.
Looking around, you spot a strange diagram on the floor, drawn in chalk. After some discussion and further searching, you then find a small pouch nearby. Something is moving in the pouch: The pouch is filled with wooden tiles engraved with strange symbols, and one of these tiles vibrates on its own.
When the special tile is held and studied, it bursts into cold blue flame and crumbles to dust. A wave of enchantment flashes outward, and you feel different -- perhaps a little less muddled and paranoid than before.
Through a doorway is a store room. Large cuts of meat hang in one corner, in a region of magical chill. Down a curving passage there is a door. Elysa unlocks the door with a word and a gesture. Beyond the door is a cellar filled with large casks and racks of bottles -- there is ale in the bottles. Up a rickety staircase is another door.
Tony leads the way into the taproom of a pub. There you meet Tom'O, the bartender of the Last Stop Bar. He is overawed by Tony's noble presence. While Tony talks to Tom'O, Elysa listens to the story of a one armed veteran at the bar, and Roque and Claude exit to the street for a look around. The half-orc who follows you sits at a table and feigns sleep.
Little information is gained -- here is what you learn: the building where you awoke is a museum; night approaches, the sun has recently set; and enchantment prevents you from traveling too far down the street -- you are trapped.
Forcing the barman to the front, Tony leads you back to under the museum and up another flight of stairs, leaving the half-orc behind. At the top of the stairs, a door opens into a huge, darkly lit kitchen. No one is visible, but after a time you notice dishes and utensils seem to move of their own accord. Tom'O tries to escape out a door on the far side of the room.
Catching up with Tom'O, you look into the next room: It is an open chamber at the bottom of a great square tower. Many strange statues are placed within the chamber; They seem to change position when not carefully observed. Tom'O offers to find someone else to answer your questions, and walks out into the tower chamber. But after standing near some statues there, he looks to the right and starts to back away in horror.
Through a wide arch to your right, two fierce, wolf headed men enter. They notice you and start to come near. One seems to recognize Tony -- "Ithany? Is that you? Come back to the party, so we can eat you."
In the mean time, Roque, who delayed in the kitchen to prevent the half-orc
from following, notices a spectral woman's figure by the cook fire. The figure
sees Roque, seems angry, and starts to drift his way.
Roque turns to face down the angry specter, but his power and will are ineffective. With the ghostly woman hard at his heals, he runs to rejoin his companions. As Roque and the ghost come into view, Claude calls upon the power of god to turn the spirit. Claude is successful where Roque failed, and the ghostly apparition retreats and disappears back into the darkened kitchen.
In the mean time, Tony and the other companions face a pair of wolf headed men, in a hall filled with semi-animate statues. Tony challenges the leading wolf-man. The monster seems to recognize Tony, but is upset by Tony's hostility and sends the other wolf-man -- his squire -- to fetch help.
Battle ensues: Roque, who has just rushed into the chamber, is attacked. So Claude attacks with his cane and Tony attacks with his rapier, but neither weapon damages the monster.
More were-creatures enter the room. Their leader -- a were-tiger -- commands the party to leave, but the companions are in no hurry to flee. Tony tries to talk with the monsters, to avoid a fight, but Roque releases a magical scimitar against the creatures.
The creatures attack. The party flees back into the kitchen. Tony is wounded as he guards the retreat. The only weapon to damage the creatures is the magical blade summoned by Roque. The were-creatures do not follow once the party has fled the room.
The kitchen is as is was before; The angry specter is nowhere to be seen. While Tony looks for any silver weapon, Roque and then Elysa climb a wooden stair to the floor above. They find a cluttered room used for restoring the museum's works of art. Through a window Elysa sees a vast cityscape, with a great floating castle above it.
The rest of the party climbs to the second floor, and they all begin searching the many nearby rooms. Time is spent, but little other than a couple nice artworks are found. After many minutes of fruitless searching, the party decides to climb the inside of the museum's grand tower.
Long balconies, with stairs at the tower's corners, circles up the inside of the tower. But after the first couple tunings, it becomes obvious that some enchantment is distorting space: The floor seems further away, the ceiling is hidden too far above in shadow. The climb lasts longer that makes logical sense, since the tower was not this tall.
Eventually, the companions reach the top, where a catwalk and final short stair leads to a door. Frustrated with the party's seeming lack of progress on their assigned quest, Claude kicks open the door...
Outside, atop the tall tower, it is very windy. The party moves out onto
the roof, and Elysa feels movement in the bag of wooden tiles. As she pulls
four vibrating tiles from the bag, wind slams the door shut. Then a large,
fanciful, winged creature flies into sight and attacks.
The flying creature charges Claude, and drives him over the edge of the tower. In the instant before Claude can fall to his death, Elysa catches him in a web of energy and he drifts slowly down. The creature is undaunted, and turns instantly to grab Tony in its beak.
While the companions try desperately to flee or fight off the creature, it caries Tony over the edge of the tower and drops him. Elysa casts forth another web of forces to slow Tony's decent. The attacks against the creature are largely ineffective, while Elysa and Roque each hide behind their own shrouds of invisibility.
Invisible Elysa jumps from the tower to drift slowly down, hidden Roque tries unsuccessfully of open the door back into the tower, and Claude returns on the back of a large celestial owl. The owl flies off to catch Tony, leaving Claude atop the tower again.
The creature grabs Claude and carries him over the edge again, while Tony and the owl attack. When Claude is dropped, the owl races to catch him, and they descend to the fog shrouded roof top far below. Elysa is waiting for them on the roof.
Over the coarse of this battle, Tony has caused significant damage to the creature; But the creature seems unconcerned with defending itself, and has left itself open to many additional attack opportunities. Now Tony is the only visible opponent left, and he is again grabbed in the creature's beak. He is then carried over the edge and dropped. There is no one left to save him from this deadly fall.
Waiting on the roof, Elysa remembers the four tiles that were shaking in the leather pouch. Thinking back, she remembers that they stopped vibrating when shy jumped over the edge. But there is little time for reflection, as the owl disappears just after landing with Claude on the roof nearby.
Claude is ill prepared for the slippery tile roof and starts to slide. Elysa tries to catch Claude and they dragged over the edge together. With one more invocation of her falling spell, Elysa slows their decent and they both land safely in an alley.
Roque is all alone after the creature disappears into the sky. He finally forces the roof door open, and descends through the tower's spatial distortion. Sometime during his descent his spell of invisibility fades. He finds a door to outside the museum in a corner of the kitchen on the first floor and exits.
Tony's broken body is sprawled on the cobblestone street in front of the museum. A winged female figure drifts through the enshrouding fog toward him; She seems little more than a solid manifestation of the mist itself. She bends down to kiss Tony, and when she rises again he is alive.
Coming out of the alley, Claude and Elysa see the misty apparition bending over Tony's body. They come forward warily, to find out what she wants. Her few words are: "You come close, but then diverge from the proper path. Find the Servant of the Stone, he will help you." Then she fades back into the fog and vanishes.
Elysa and Claude walk across the wide cobblestone street to the edge of the district's central pool. Dropping to the edge of the pool, Elysa looks into the water: A faint glow appears beneath its surface and there is a faint vibration from the bag of tiles. Before Elysa can open the bag, two elemental serpents strike out from the water.
Elysa turns herself invisible and with help from Claude climbs up from the pool's edge. The snakes do not follow. Elysa and Claude rejoin Tony, to help him search for the rapier that he lost when he fell. It is easier now that the fog is dispersing under a light rain.
Just outside the museum, Roque sees a strange animal. It is a large muddy hedgehog, and it is trying to get his attention. The hedgehog momentarily stands on its hind legs and gestures to the side. Looking in that direction, Roque sees the rest of his companions.
With the party reunited, the muddy hedgehog walks off in the direction of the clock tower. It wants the party to follow, and leads the way to the entrance of the building below the clock. It then steps down, passing like magic through the solid cobblestone street until hidden from view.
The building is a Scriptorium, and Claude assaults the old caretaker who answers the door. When the door is opened, Roque goes a step further and whacks the old man with his cane. The man tries to flee but is too hurt: he falls unconscious half way across the room.
After some healing, the old man is revived and convinced to talk. At first
it seems there is little he can tell. But he reacts to a mention of the
hedgehog, and names it Naubeal. He remembers nothing else, but says he may
find out more from the writings in the library, located on the floor above.
Disturbed by his companion's ignoble behavior gaining entry to the Scriptorium, Tony goes his own way. A short walk away is a temple to Ademis: a comforting sight for this noble knight. Tony walks there, and after a brief search for an opening, he simply pounds on the temple's intricately carved front door.
The door is opened by a priest, who grudgingly lets Tony enter. Inside is a long hall of rich design. After the priest leads Tony to a nearby cell, Tony asks for some healing and a suit of armor. After a time the priest returns with a chain shirt and another acolyte, who cures some of his injuries. The priest also hands Tony a wooden shield emblazoned with the grey circles and chain symbol of Ademis.
After a little time Tony leaves to find his fellow questers. The temple could heal and equip him, but had little new information to help on his quest.
Back at the Scriptorium...
After some discussion, Kieran -- the caretaker -- offers to find information about Naubeal, the muddy hedgehog. He leads the way to a library on the second floor, housing thousands of books. After several minutes searching he finds an illustrated children's book:
Long ago the people lived around a pure lake. The lake's purity was maintained by it's protector: a witch born to each generation, who's power was linked to the waters. The last witch was a young woman, named Albunea, and she was especially zealous and powerful.
Albunea fell in love with a young man. But one day she was betrayed: She found her man with an outlaw band, dumping pollutants into the lake. In her rage, she overreacted and slaughtered them all with her occult gifts. The people condemned her for these murders.
Albunea then fled on a short adventure, where she met some strange characters, and received their council. There was Naubeal a wise animal spirit in the form of a muddy hedgehog. And Beaulna, a compassionate spirit in the form of a winged woman hiding in the mist.
But in the end Albunea was caught. She was executed by a mob. They tied her to a large stone and dropped her into the lake. Her last words were an affirmation of her will to protect the waters, and a curse on her killers and all who would hinder her.
The party leaves the Scriptorium, intending to return to the chamber, where this adventure began. Along the way Roque throws some trash into the pool to pique the spirit that lives there. In response, he hears a voice on the wind drawing him closer to the shore. Only the intervention of his companions saves Roque from falling to this compulsion.
Tony rejoins the party outside the museum, and they all sneak back down to the half flooded column chamber in the cellar.
The chamber is much like they left it. Some investigation reveals the slumbering form of a half-orc barbarian under a tarp. In a half flooded storage room nearby are several minute fire elementals that flee from contact.
Calude calls for divine aide to allow everyone to search under the water that conceals the room's lowest exit. The party goes under the murky water, pushing off walls and ceiling to descend a short stair into flooded catacombs. There they find a gruesome chamber dedicated to torture, and a crypt with unholy symbols decorating the stone sarcophagi.
As the others leave the catacombs, Roque stays behind long enough to open a sarcophagi. He is attacked by the evil undead that was contained within. But Roque unleashes an unholy power of his own, and bends the creature to his will. It follows him back toward the surface. But when Calude sees it, he destroys the monster with the holy power of Ademis.
Tony and Elysa investigate a half flooded hall. At its end they see Naubeal, before he turns and flees through a large hole. Through the hole, Tony and Elysa find an entrance into the sewers. Naubeal is seen again, running away down the sewer tunnel. Tony and Elysa follow.
Claude and Roque eventually catch up and enter the sewer as well. But just
a few tens of feet away they see a shimmering gelatinous wall that fills the
tunnel from floor to ceiling, advancing towards them. Further down the sewer
tunnel, the way is blocked by a bars. Beyond the bars, there is a chamber, and
possibly other exits, if only the bars can be passed.
With the path forward blocked by bars, everyone rushes back out of the sewer. In an act of courage and chivalry, Claude waits to help Tony, but he pays the price: As the glistening wall sweeps down the tunnel, a pseudo-pod lashes out. Wisely, Claude erected a divine barrier against the creature's acid, but the poisons ichor paralyzes his muscles and he drops to the ground.
The monster fills the sewer tunnel, with no end in sight. As its pseudo-pod draws Calude into its body the other party members attack. They only succeed in angering the creature, and drawing it after them, out of the sewer. With Claude suspended helplessly several feet within the wall, the others stab with weapons and burn with spells. It is uncertain how damaged the creature really is, but it retreats back into the sewer, drawing Calude with it.
Tony follows the retreating monster. With little regard for his own safety, Tony reaches into the gelatinous body and grabs Claude before he is carried out of reach. As the acid eats his flesh, Tony struggles to pull his friend to safety, but succumbs to the paralyzing ichor and is engulfed.
Elysa and Roque follow the monster after several seconds -- it takes that long for this huge monster to pass. They hope that Tony and Claude will be pulled out of the monster as it passes the bars at the end of the tunnel, but instead the creature stops to digest its meal. So they attack, and though they do little damage, it is enough to defeat the already weakened monster. As its poisonous bulk melts down, Claude and Tony are finally freed.
With a little exploration, a way out of the sewer and into the cleaner, water drainage tunnels is found. Naubeal soon reappears to leads the party through more tunnels and low ceilinged chambers. But the elemental hedgehog remains elusive, and evades Claude's attempt to get closer.
Naubeal leads the party out of the tunnels and into a long abandoned bathing chamber. Here the muddy hedgehog waits and allows the party to approach. It doesn't talk, but seems to understand when spoken to. After some queries, it appears that Naubeal wants the party to go up.
Leaving the bath chamber and Naubeal behind, it is soon apparent that the party has been led back to the Scriptorium and Clock Tower. Following Naubeal's instructions, they climb stairs to the tower, and more stairs up to the top.
The tower's stairs seem enchanted, expanded, just like the tower stairs in the museum. All during the long climb, a squawking voice taunts the party -- it is a talking parrot that flies from stair to stair, staying out of reach. Near the top is a complex mechanism, with many moving parts and glowing bits -- the clock. Leaving this curiosity for the moment, the party climbs through a trap door onto the roof.
A gale is blowing, slender flags on tall poles are held straight out, and the bag of magic tiles begins to hum and buzz again. Elysa draws four tiles from the bag -- the same four tiles that were active in the wind atop the museum tower before.
Elysa, Roque, Claude and Tony each take one of the tiles. They separate atop the roof, but are unsure what to do next. Elysa is the first to try something: She lifts the tile to her forehead. This is enough: the tile bursts into blue flame and crumbles to dust. The wind stops blowing, the tower no longer seems unnaturally tall, and a wave of power spreads outward from Elysa.
Everyone atop the tower feels refreshed, like after a night's rest. Wounds show signs of healing, and the mystic energies that permit spell casting are restored. Although they all feel stronger somehow, no new insights are reveled to aid the companions in their quest.