The Relic of Tur’dar, Part Sixteen: The Steamed Breath

The Relic of Tur’dar, Part Sixteen: The Steamed Breath

Deep beneath the city of Cyopolda,the foul creatures who dwell within the fortress have left the party frightened, injured, and uncertain, and they claimed the life of the noble Ens’ye’s brother, Rioldny. After regaining their footing, the adventurers gather their thoughts to try to make sense of the ancient machinations within the keep. They will press on to discover the function of the altar crystal and finally begin to learn the answers to the secrets surrounding the Relic of Tur’dar.

The following player characters reanimated the ancient fortress tomb:

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

Among the rest of the adventuring party, Kishsahat attended to Houndriil, Ens’ye’s injured assistant, and Bruten Vaarg helped bind Bubby’s wounds while Zinnar, Smystello, Usthon, and Enbelle stood watch. It was eerily quiet among the dead here, as if the dark energy of the cave-dwelling cannibals had been snuffed out like an evening candle. The remainder of the adventurers pressed on into the northernmost room that contained the descending staircase. Diatia had a heightened sense of boldness after their harrowing battle with the troglodytes, which she demonstrated by walking down the stairs in the center of the room with no hesitation.

The stairwell descended roughly forty feet before arriving at a crude pit. Below Diatia saw an immense chamber that was immediately recognizable from the lava flow that surrounded a grand, blackstone altar. The pit was barely large enough for a human to fit through; it seemed like the stairs had originally wound down to the altar, but centuries of heat and underground water ways had weathered the inner part of the altar chamber into an immense lava bubble. The distance between the pit to the altar appeared to be over one hundred feet down. The mysterious bodyguard relayed what she saw to the adventurers in the northern room, and they devised a plan to use a rope and lower Diatia down to the altar.

Before long, Diatia was standing amid the heat of the lava. The rushing of the water was nearly deafening, but at least it cooled the air enough to keep the bodyguard from baking like a loaf of bread in an oven. The blackstone of the altar was oddly cool, which seemed strange to Diatia. Wasting little time, she stepped toward the center of the altar and approached the strange crystal. It rested gently in a wrought iron stand, and seemed to hum as if it were alive. Several others from the group took a chance to climb down the rope and join the bodyguard at the altar to see the crystal first hand. For many in the group it seemed clear that this crystal was the key to this strange fortress, and it was what they needed to bring into the room that contained the strange circular symbols on the floor and ceiling. Diatia retrieved the crystal half expecting to set off some trap, but pulling it from its display and placing it in a small sack was uneventful. The group ascended their rope back into the northern room and made their preparations to return to the room with the symbols.

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Along their path back to the central part of the main fortress floor, they made a strange discovery. The altar’s crystal seemed to have its own influence on the mechanism of the doors in this place. Each threshold that the crystal approached responded to the crystal by completely opening the granite door. The stone immediately receded into the wall and remained open even after the crystal passed by the threshold. This was true of each door they approached. When the adventurers entered the corridor toward the strange room of symbols, the doors pressed widely open there as well, including the door on the northern wall that was previously closed to them. The strange humming sounds they heard faintly their last time in this room now echoed from the darkness beyond the threshold. The sounds began to make some in the group feel as if they were going mad.

The adventurers attempted to search the room with the symbols more closely now, despite the strange, unnerving sounds coming from beyond the northern threshold. Hodjai used his water skin to pour liquid onto the cracks in the floor. The water trickled down revealing that these lines descended into the floor far beneath them. They saw nothing else in this room, however. The symbols lining the floor and mirrored on the ceiling took up nearly all of the space here. Sookta could feel that the strange crystal was growing warm and lightly pulsated from within the sack where he carried it. He began to feel as if he was supposed to remove the crystal and place it in the floor. Tension and uncertainty rose among the group, and the surreal humming sounds continued to persist.

Finally, the adventurers moved into the northern room to investigate the source of the noise. There they were overcome by a strange, immense cloud that seemed to give off an audible and visible blue glow. The strange figure was somewhat humanoid, but with a large, nebulous aura surrounding it. It seemed unable to visually recognize where the adventurers were, but as they pushed into the room it followed the sounds that they made.

Nysteld and Smystello immediately recognized this wisp as the source of the humming. Thinking that the crystal might be exactly what this creature was after, she told Sookta to retreat into the room of symbols while the rest of the party tried to deal with this menace. It moved in a most unnatural way, and with each step closer toward any adventurer it seemed to scream into their soul with a maddening corruption. With a cry, Bruten Vaarg threw his tomahawk at the center of the mist, and the weapon sounded as if it made contact with something corporeal, but none of the adventurers could see beyond the mist. Smystello screamed “Don’t let it touch you!” but Kishsahat was already diving headlong toward it with her club. As she passed beyond the mist, Kishsahat appeared to fade in and out of existence, but the group could clearly hear the sound of her club striking its target. One by one, the group surrounded the horrifying creature and mounted their attacks. Ens’ye looked on in horror, hiding behind Sookta as the fight continued.

The adventurers engaged in a lengthy battle with the wisp. It was relentless and made no sounds other than the menacing humming that seemed to be felt more than heard. Each time its mist came close to an adventurer, they struggled at the brink of insanity. The wounds it dealt seemed soul-crushing and extreme. Each time the adventurers managed to land a hit in the center of the mist, the nebulous clouds seemed to grow even wider and brighter. But they persevered, each of them fighting harder than they ever had. Diatia shouted profanities at the wisp as she was knocked back, wounded and bleeding badly. Several in the group were unable to continue attacking after a time as they were brought to the floor by the humming corruption, suffering in pain and confusion. Usthon cried out and rushed toward the wisp with her axe. Her weapon met its mark, causing the blue glowing mist to dim. As she pulled back from her attack the wisp lashed out thrusting her to the floor as it pulsed in a frighteningly unstable manner. Usthon was injured and overcome, she lost her helm and weapon on the floor behind her and she began to shake and seize violently. The mist was pulsing dangerously large now, its light glowing and dimming and pulsing rapidly.

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Out of options, Smystello stepped forward and grabbed Usthon’s helmet, throwing it with all her might at the center of the wisp. The helm parted the mist like the prow of a ship gliding the fogged waters of the morning sea before it collided with an echoed shatter. With this the adventurers heard the creature make its first and only sound: a cry of anguish and fear that seemed to echo throughout the chamber. The blue mists burst forth as if they were finally free of their prison, leaving the group alone with a commonly dressed human who collapsed to the floor. The man was clearly the corporeal form beneath the wisp itself, and besides the wounds it suffered during the battle, its eyes were hollow openings that appeared to have burned out due to some rapid chemical reaction. Smystello, still panting from her amazing helm-throwing feat, hypothesized that this common man must be what was left of a craftsman’s experiment gone wrong.

The group took an hour to gather their wits while Jamia Copperdrum bound the wounds of the injured. Ens’ye wondered aloud how long that man had been trapped down here in the form of a wisp. But Diatia could only ask, “Can we get the fuck out of here now?” The group investigated the space and discovered another door on the eastern wall of this ancient craftsman’s laboratory. The door was unlike the others in this fortress; it was made of wood with iron lashings and it was locked. The adventurers worked to open the door, but in the end Kishsahat had to physically force the door open, nearly breaking it from its hinges. Inside the group found a storage hold containing many of the resources that the craftsman must have use to conduct his experiments. The group looted the antechamber and discussed what they would do next. Among the various equipment and supplies found in this storage area were twelve small black crystals.

Their thoughts returned to the strange collection of twelve tomb chests, and the adventurers thought they should search that area more thoroughly. Meanwhile, Sookta could feel that the strange crystal was glowing and pulsing even more now, as if it was crying out to be set into its place in the room of symbols. Still, the rest of the party wanted to return to the twelve tomb chests. As Sookta carried the crystal beyond the threshold of doors, they slammed shut each in turn, returning to their previously stagnant positions. The adventurers navigated back to the southern room where the twelve chests sat, and opened each chest to investigate. The only items of interest they seemed to find was a medallion bearing a proto-Alldedan symbol. Hodjai seemed particularly drawn to the artifact, but there were no clues drawing any connection between the twelve crystals and this entombed noble. Smystello hypothesized that perhaps the cultural significance of the number 12 was the only connection. With that the adventurers returned to the room of symbols.

It was the moment they had anticipated since first discovering the ancient machinations beneath Cyopolda. Each threshold wrenched its stone door open as the crystal made its way back toward the main chamber. Hodjai cautioned that if they were to place the crystal in the center of the room, they should remain back behind the circles because there was no knowing how the moving parts of the floor might react with people standing on them. Sookta removed the strange crystal, and slowly reached it out toward the center of the floor. Without warning, the crystal pulled the Djenndan blacksmith toward the center with it, like a magnet toward a sword. There was an instant rumble and an explosion as the room began to twist, floor toward ceiling and ceiling toward floor.

The exploding motion spat lava and fire up through the cracks in the floor, knocking back the closest adventurers with a fiery blast. The entire fortress began to rumble more fervently, and the concentric circles of the floor and ceiling twisted like a gear further and further upward, taking the strange crystal out of reach. The adventurers realized there was little else they could do now that they had started this chain reaction beneath the city. The quaking of the fortress was beginning to destabilize the chamber. Rocks cracked out of the walls and ceiling and began to line the floor with scattering debris. Diatia screamed, “Now can we leave?” It was what the rest of the group was thinking. They rushed out of the room of symbols and, grabbing Rioldny’s body, hobbled their way to the entrance tunnel of this underground fortress.

The earthquake grew in violent intensity and persisted the entire time the adventurers navigated their tunnel back to the surface. When they emerged, it was just after dawn. They looked south toward Cyopolda as the earth continued to shake, and saw something unbelievable. A grand tower of jewel and blackstone stood several stories high at the center of the city amid smoke, fire, and commotion. Small pools of lava were beginning to cool into stone as fires began to claim several of the larger wooden structures in the city. Several moments after they emerged as they stood watching the chaos to the south, the shaking stopped. The machinations of the fortress had caused this tower to be born from deep within the earth. It pressed upward, destroying much of what was in its path. Now the gentle winds carried the sounds of screaming and shouting from the city. The adventurers started moving again.

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They needed to see to their wounded, but the tower was too great a mystery to avoid. The party traveled directly to the grand structure. The tower had emerged on the site of the old Swuskwah temple, but was several times larger in diameter than the old blackstone slab that served as the temple’s main floor. The new structure had doors on the north and south points of the structure, and the main level was ornately decorated with krasolyte and other rare gems. Dyrakos was already in the square appraising the structure when the rest of the party arrived.

After inspecting the doors to the structure, the adventurers realized that they worked similarly to the doors they had found beneath the city. They limped inside, with Dyrakos in tow. There they discovered a strange site. The ceiling of the tower was far above them; the walls decorated with bright gems and white marble. The purple crystal they had found on the altar below hovered between two points near the top of the tower’s peak, humming gently. In each cardinal direction there seemed to be a shimmering image along a crystal threshold, each depicting a different scene. “Perhaps this is the beacon,” Ens’ye said in a hushed tone. “The original city buried deep beneath the earth. I wonder where these lead.” But before Ens’ye was interested in any further investigation, she wanted to honor her brother’s memory and lay his body to rest. The rest of the adventurers, too, were injured and broken and in deep need of rest.

The aftermath of the tower’s emergence in Cyopolda required guidance in rebuilding after the destruction of the quake and the subsequent fires. Dyrakos, who was able to begin removing gems from the outer walls of the tower, was a pivotal figure in working with the local nobility to set up sites to treat any injured citizens and use the resource wealth they gained to rebuild better, more expansive structures for those who lost their homes. Word of the tower’s emergence echoed across the Empire and beyond to the Ancient Kingdom of Scorth, attracting traveling scholars, nobles, and delegates who wanted to see the tower first hand. The adventurers spent months recovering and settling in Cyopolda as travelers, merchants, and servicemen began to flock to the city. Within a year, the population has changed dramatically and the city has started to become a beacon of its own.

Scholars must continue to study the tower and its connections to other parts of the world. They believe that it is more than a beacon–a passageway into realms unknown. But much study has yet to take place in order to understand how that supposed passageway might work. For now, travelers come to Cyopolda to live in the tower’s shadow or to make pilgrimage.

Dyrakos has built an empire of wealth around the tower’s emergence. And the adventurers who discovered the tower have made an incalculable fortune in fame, lands, and gold. But someday their adventures will resume, and take them from Cyopolda into other parts of the Empire–perhaps even into other realms. Until that time, Ens’ye and the nobles of the Protectorate will record their names as the brave souls who survived the halfhollows to find the beacon that will one day lead civilization to Tur’dar.

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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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