The Relic of Tur’dar, Part Fourteen: The Warm Hallways

The Relic of Tur’dar, Part Fourteen: The Warm Hallways

Having investigated the strange clues about the Relic of Tur’dar that led them to Cyopolda, the adventurers meet their new acquaintance, Ens’ye Yontal, at the entrance of the Smoking Caverns just north of the Warm City. With their unusually large group ready for the trek into the dark, they find sure footing and venture into the caverns. But when they discover a strange system of hallways and peculiar doors, their curiosity will shift to uncertainty. And as they meet some of the underground fortress’s inhabitants their Relic-hunting excitement will turn to horror. The cynics of the group begin to curse their venture and rattle with fear, while others hope their lantern oil holds out long enough to follow the clues they need to uncover to find the Relic.

The following player characters braved the deep caverns beneath the Warm City:

  • Sookta, the Djenndan blacksmith, played by @xsubnuke
  • Hodjai, the Djenndan warrior, played by @evan
  • Bubby, the human survivalist, played by @Terri
  • Nysteld, the human seer, played by @saelbrin
  • Jamia Copperdrum, the Pulnagá mercenary, played by @katherinehunter77

The dim light that foreshadowed the dawn was enough for Dyrakos and his recently-hired squire, Crak, to load their pack full of supplies out in front of the Boar’s Breath. Crak was a tall and muscular Djenndan with gnarly hair along his outer arms and a dark, wet nose. In the cool morning air, his nose was even wetter than usual. Droplets of his condensed breath fell from his nose and beaded off the dark oiled leathers of the pack as Dyrakos crammed several candles inside atop the extra rope and lantern oil. Next was the salted pork, wrapped in a light cloth, and several jars of pickles, followed by various other adventuring supplies, grains and beans, and waterskins. Dyrakos did not seem to consider the extra weight he was putting in; he was instead only intent on making sure he thought of everything they needed to go with them into the caverns. Luckily when Crak hoisted the stuffed pack onto his shoulder he did so with ease and without complaint. He only moaned a little when Dyrakos made him kneel back down so he could fit one more item in the top of the pack. Kishsahat smirked wryly as she watched their preparations from the Boar’s Breath balcony through focused eyes. More droplets of moisture from Crak’s nose fell as he bobbed his head back to chew a piece of the salted pork that Dyrakos had given him.

Sookta approached the front of tavern to meet the pair; his new arm buckler steamed in the cool air. Prior to the morning meeting, the blacksmith had met with an odd Uskelian merchant on the other side of the city and had the man craft him an enchanted shield. It warmed the air around it in a pleasant manner. Sookta greeted Crak and Dyrakos, as well as Kishsahat who had come downstairs to walk with everyone toward the north of the city. Soon the rest of their party began to gather. Dyrakos disappeared into the tavern briefly while the other adventurers arrived. Jamia greeted everyone, then spoke with her two new associates, Zinnar Renn and Ennbell Fourde. Everyone saw Nysteld approach from the distance; she was followed by three associates: Smystello, Bikim, and Bruten Vaarg. Newcomer Bubby arrived, then Hodjai. The group was ready to head out. Several moments later Dyrakos emerged from the Boar’s Breath, followed by an agile, cloaked bodyguard who Dyrakos introduced as Diatia Agaban. She war dark-oiled hardened hide armor with special knife sheathes all along each rib guard. The twelve knives housed in the armor were of dark silver. Her face was almost entirely cloaked and she said nothing as she shadowed Dyrakos. With the party collected, they walked north of town toward the Smoking Caverns to meet Ens’ye’s group.

Epic_fractal_by_blake_drake

The noble ais’lun Ens’ye arrived at the caverns just as the adventurers approached. She was accompanied by her squire, Houndriil, as well as two guards: her brother, Rioldny Yontal, and a grisly looking fighter with a scar across her cheek named Usthon. Both were gilded in stone banded armor and carrying the distinctive great axe of the Scorth Guard. Ens’ye greeted the group and everyone made their introductions. The sun peeked above the horizon and began to warm the dew in the grasses outside the Smoking Caverns. The adventure party took a final look at the clear skies and then stepped into the largest cavern entrance, heading north.

Just several feet into the cavern, the air felt hot and wet like the space above a boiling pot of water. Crak and Diatia led the group as the earthen walkway narrowed to fifteen feet. In the cramped space Crak’s pack seemed a lumbering obstacle, but his lantern and Hodjai’s offered the only light to view down the dark tunnel, so the bulky pack at the head of the group was a comforting sight for many. The tunnel descended at a continuous slope and the ground left behind soil and roots for a dark, familiar, jagged stone of the same quality found in many of the large ruins and debris scattered around Cyopolda–only here, it was raw and unfashioned. The adventurers could almost hear the steam in the hot air as it made the echoes of their footsteps thick. And after several hundred feet of northward descent, the path gradually wound itself around–to the west, it seemed, then south–and all the while the air grew denser and muggier.

The adventurers continued to follow the cavern tunnel downward, but they barely spoke a word to one another. Nearly twenty minutes passed before Houndriil finally remarked from the rear of the group that if this part of the cavern tunnel lead due south, as they expected, then they must be passing beneath Cyopolda by now. Not long after Houndriil spoke, the singular tunnel of the cave opened up into a broad expanse.

The adventurers fanned out into the opening, holding their lanterns and torches high. The tunnel had brought them to the inside of what appeared to be a massive geode. The walls were spikes of grey-purple crystals, some of which protruded nearly two feet from the wall itself. From the narrow cavern where they emerged, the geode extended out thirty feet in any direction with the exception of the floor, which was made of smoothed blackstone. Sounds in this opening echoed strangely along the crystal points. And directly across cave opening stood a strange door which appeared to be constructed of a large stone slab that sat within a grooved track. It appeared as if the door opened by retracting into the wall somehow. Ens’ye remarked that the architecture was almost distinctly ais’lun in origin, yet the door was large enough for any Djenndan to walk through without compromising their height. Additionally, the track around the threshold of the door was lined with many runic symbols, some of which appeared like the text noted in Ens’ye’s scrolls and on Sookta’s parchment fragment. The blacksmith looked at the small paper and found that the illegible word appeared several times in places around the door.

The door itself, a large, smooth piece of stone, stood slightly retracted, leaving a one and one-half inch gap between the door’s edge and the right wall of the threshold. The adventurers did not know what to make of the door, and spent a great deal of time contemplating what it might mean. They checked the area for traps, but found nothing that would serve as deterrent, so Sookta touched the smooth slab to try to push it inward. As soon as he pressed his palms to the door it slammed shut with a startling thud. And when he removed his hands from the face of the door, it opened just a crack again, perplexing the adventurers.

Nysteld placed her staff at the center of the door, tapping around. Noticing that nothing was happening, she hesitantly edged her staff toward the crack but then stopped short. The last thing she wanted was to have her enchanted staff–for her, a symbol of new-found strength–crushed and ruined in the doorway. The seer leaned her staff to the side and removed a metal stake from her pack, hammering it into the crack of the door. The group watched as the stone door gave way until the gap between wall and door equaled the stake’s girth. Now there was a three-inch gap between the stone slab and the threshold, but the adventurers still hesitated to push the door directly. Hodjai asked if someone would be able to pronounce the word from Sookta’s fragment allowed, wondering if the door needed to receive the spoken word in order to open. Houndriil did his best to speak the word aloud, but the door in its position remained.

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Sookta wondered if the crystals along the wall of this geode might somehow open the door, so he gently tapped one of the longer crystal points with a workman’s mallet until it broke off. He raised it to the door to touch the stone slab near the crack, but as soon as crystal met stone, the door slammed shut again. When Sookta removed the crystal, the door opened to an inch and a half once more. Following Nysteld’s lead with the stake, Jamia and Bubby situated a grappling hook in the crack of the door, and in an awkward angle pulled the door into its open position. It seemed that as long as they did not touch the door or the threshold with flesh or crystal, the door operated normally on its sliding mechanism and remained in the position it was last left.

Ensuring they did not touch the stone of the threshold, the group moved past the door and into a warm, fifteen-foot wide corridor of smooth, stone slabs. After a short, descending stairwell, the corridor turned right and led down a long hallway, then turned left again and stopped at another large, stone door. The dense humidity paired eerily with the echoes of distant chambers. The adventurers imagined that the sounds echoed in such a way past doors through the small cracked openings, another of which could be seen at the stone slab now before them.

After a bit of deliberation the adventurers approached the door with their previous technique of shoving the grappling hook through the crack and pulling on a rope to ease open the giant stone slab. Stepping across this threshold revealed a large, open room wherein dust and debris lined the outer walls like remnants of once great tapestries and trinkets that have long since decomposed. The central part of the smooth floor was caked with the evidence of crawling insects and creeping things, but the space was expansive and seemed as if it might have been used as some entrance or presentation hall once upon a time. There were three other doors or hallways leading out of the room. The group guardedly moved toward each of the new entrances to listen for sounds while they formulated plans for how to proceed. One of the stone doors was completely open, while the other two were an inch and a half shy of being fully closed, much like the first two doors they had crossed. From beyond the western door, the adventurers heard strange sounds they could not identify. Jamia and Bubby used the grappling hook to pry the door open, and as Diatia edged past the threshold the strange sounds erupted into foul hisses and moans of hunger.

The group had barely stepped inside the room when Crak’s lantern light illuminated four thinly and frantic humanoid creatures charging forth. The beasts were awkward and horrific with putrid, greyish, thin hair that danced across their translucent skin and cloudy eyes. The paleness of their skin made their dark purple veins seem like thin vines reaching out from cursed earth. Their fangs were bared and dripping with the remnants of carrion crawlers and other insects as they lunged toward the adventure party. Diatia reacted in a flash of poise and instinct; crossing her arms to either side, she drew two throwing daggers from their rib holsters and flung them at the troglodytes. Both daggers met their marks, striking the two closest creatures each in the eye socket. The blades came to a halt with an innocent sound, but it caused a yellowed, infected-looking goo to burst from each wound before the two monsters fell to the ground twitching.

Perhaps even grislier was the reaction of the other two monsters. They seemed to smell their comrades’ injuries more than see them; the freshly spilled blood drove them into a hungered frenzy. Howling and gnashing they dove on the dead troglodytes, sinking in their teeth and beginning to feast on the new fallen flesh. Horrified, Diatia shoved Crak behind her and the group retreated into the entrance hall, with no need for a second nudge. From within the bloodied room the sounds of tearing flesh, popping joints, and beast-like mastication filled the shaken adventurers with disgust and dread. Bubby placed his hand on the large stone door separating the adventurers from the cannibalistic beasts, allowing the door to close and the party to recover in quietude.

A_Fractal_Eukaryote_by_perkwunos

A sense of paranoia loomed. Nysteld and several others returned to the entrance door to be sure that no one was attempting to follow the party. Houndriil lost his handle on the growing dread and fright within him and his repeated vocalizations of his worries and fears started to take their toll on the group. Meanwhile Bubby noticed that the door grew warmer and warmer the longer his hand remained there keeping it closed. When the stone door grew unbearably hot, the survivalist recoiled his hand, and the door returned to its resting position, cracked open just by an inch and a half. The sounds of the creatures devouring their comrades poured into the space again, and Houndriil began shaking and cursing uncontrollably. Nysteld tried to ground Houndriil, to help him find a balance, but nothing worked. Houndriil had simply lost his ability to stay focused; the fear and dread consumed his state of being.

The adventurers listened at the west-most of the two doors on the south wall, the one that was cracked open in the typical fashion they had grown accustomed to in these cursed, humid halls. Beyond this door they heard large echoes and an ominous rushing sound. They pried open the door slightly, but could only see a twisting corridor beyond accompanied by many echoes that sounded as if there might be other creatures or beings in the distance. Suddenly they were interrupted by a loud banging sound. The cave dwellers on the other side of the nearby door had apparently finished devouring their dead companions and were now at the doorway trying to move past. They must have been repeatedly touching and releasing the door in attempts to open it, because the entrance hall echoed with the loud thuds of stone crashing on stone over and over again.

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

As the heinous banging persisted Houndriil was all but screaming from the fear that consumed him, and the rest of the adventurers desperately wanted to get away from the sounds of the crashing door and the ominous echoes. They opted to investigate beyond the open doorway.

Crak and Diatia began to lead the group through the doorway without a second thought, but Crak’s footing triggered a trap. Diatia managed to jump and roll out of the way and Crak took the brunt of a spike trap that emerged from the floor and impaled him through the arm and shoulder. He howled in pain and the rest of the adventurers struggled to lift him from the spikes. When they removed the squire, the spikes receded into the floor and the adventurers fell back once again into the entrance hall. Jamia bound the poor squire’s wounds while Nysteld searched around for the trap release. She quickly found a pressure plate under some dust and mold on the ground and disabled it. Rioldny muttered something about the heat under his stone banded armor as the group continued into the corridor beyond the spikes.

Crak’s wounds were bound but he looked awful. The spikes had pierced his chest, shoulder, and right arm, one of them completely entering and exiting part of his skin. It became difficult for him to hold his lantern out, and so Diatia grabbed hold of it as they walked ahead. A familiar-looking door faced them after a few twists in their path, and to the left of the door another hallway traveled east for sixty feet before turning to the south. They listened at the doorway and heard no sounds, so they navigated the rest of the corridor which seemed to stretch around the outside of a room and stop at another doorway. Thankfully, the banging sounds behind them finally ceased–or at least they could no longer be heard–and the overwhelming sense of fear began to ease its grip. Using their grappling hook once again, the adventurers entered the next room.

The lantern and torchlight revealed a strange, foreign space. The room itself was nearly a square, though its east-to-west length was slightly greater than the north to south distance. The outer east and west walls were lined with broken debris that at one time must have been supply boxes or barrels of some kind. On the squared central floor was a large pattern of swirling, non-intersecting lines of abstract trajectories that all seemed to converge at the center of the floor. There at the convergence in the floor was a depression, about the size of a melon, a dark divot that seemed to be the seat of a large decoration or device. There were doors that mirrored one another on the north and south walls. Nysteld and Bubby listened at the southern door and heard a strange, mechanical humming sound. The source of the sound was unclear, but soon after hearing it, both the seer and the survivalist noticed a feeling of drowsiness set in.

Hodjai thought to look toward the ceiling in this strange room and the sight was as if a pristine mirror were projecting the image of the floor back at the group. Carved into the blackstone of the ceiling were the same meandering lines, all leading to a central spot in which a melon-sized divot marked the center. The ceiling and the floor displayed lines in the exact same pattern. The meaning of this room was unclear, but the adventurers knew that this room bore a significance as compared to the two other rooms they had so far encountered in this strange, underground hall. Crak’s wounds seemed to be causing him even more pain. The adventurers retreated back toward the entrance hall to discuss what they would do next.

In our next session our adventurers will continue to explore these strange depths. What will they do? Where will their decisions lead? Will they find the Relic, and what will it be? Only time will tell as we continue to explore the warm hallways in our next session. Join us then!

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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