Friday, May 18, 2018

Lark's Landing, Episode 27

Colonial Caerdia: Lark's Landing is a story being told through a 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign I'm running at a local hobby shop called the Devil's Bench. If you aren't familiar with this ongoing story, you can follow this link to Once Upon a Tabletop on YouTube to hear the start of it or read the brief summary I wrote when I switched from video to blog.

You can find the previous episode here.

28th of Waning Summer, 0AL

In the depth of an ancient ruin where out adventurers have been breathing poisoned air for hours, they have stumbled upon an ancient game with a magical ball. Stor hits the ball into play, noticing that is rebounds and bounces off in the opposite direction from what he intended. As he and the others join in, they notice that the ball moves one way when they hit it, and then tries to go the other way on its own. Eventually the whole group joins in, though Extang only attacks the ball in passing as the goes to examine the orange-glowing goal at the fer end of the hall.

Though there are a few mishaps - involving Stor accidentally throwing a dart into Akta's staff, Akta blasting the top of Stor's spear, and Balasar accidentally throwing his hammer into the pit the ball came out of - the adventurers score two goals fairly quickly, after which they hear the sound of triumphant drums and the ball goes inert, falling back into the pit. The goal above the pit stops glowing, but the one down by Extang continues, and the dragonborn sorcerer notices a secret compartment opening at the back of it. Inside he finds a fish skin pouch, which he retrieves - attempting to figure out how the fish skin was preserved.

Balasar carefully retrieves his hammer from the pit, making sure he doesn't touch the ball or any of the jade objects in the pit. Everyone has agreed that, whatever the value of the item, none of them are worth the risk of touching them. He runs to catch up with the others, who are joining Extang as he examines the contents of the pouch - it contains pink pears, a necklace, and a bone whistle that he's pretty sure is magical. However, they don't have time to examine it right now, so they press on, following the hall to the right and going through the door.

The large room beyond is gaudily decorated in a cat motif. The walls are covered in the skins of hunting cats, there are stuffed domesticated cats everywhere, and even a stuffed tiger close to the middle of the room. Also near the middle of the room is a statue of a man with a tiger mask, and on the far side of the room there's a giant stone tiger head sticking out of the wall. Directly to their left is a calendar stone mounted on the wall with an alter in front of it. There are two sets of double doors leading out of the room and another single door.

Balasar notices that the calendar stone is mounted oddly and mentions it to the others. He, Stor, and Extang go over for a closer look, while Kordak goes to examine the closest double doors. As Kordak determines the doors aren't trapped, Extang notices that by pressing in on the sun on the calendar stone a secret door will open. However, his attention is drawn by the fancy ceremonial dagger and the jade cat statue on the alter. He carefully picks them up to examine them, determining that the dagger is magical.

They hear a growl behind them, and see the statue turning into a panther-man. Balasar if first to react, rushing over to score a very minor hit with one of his magical swords. The panther-man ignores him, turning fully into a panther and bounding over to attack Extang, slashing with his claws.

The others charge in to help, casting spells and swinging weapons, though the nimble panther dodges Kordak's first swings, and when Stor hits it with his spear, it doesn't seem to have any impact. Stor hurriedly backs away, warning the others and trying to figure out how to hurt this creature, guessing that some form of magic is needed - as all the attacks from magical weapons and spells seem to be working.

After taking more of a beating, Extang flees, bleeding profusely, but luckily Kordak and Balasar - still in close combat with the panther, are distracting the creature. Kordak, understanding from Stor that magic weapons are required, draws Balasar's warhammer and attacks with that. Akta continues to sap away the panther's life. Stor knocks the panther to the ground and does some damage with a water whip, but he knows he'll need a rest before he can do something like that again. He runs over to Extang, asking for the magical dagger. Extang hands it over, sending three beams of fire into the panther. However, before Stor can use the dagger, Kordak delivers the killing blow.

The panther falls to the ground, reverting to its humanoid statue form and turning back to stone. Kordak takes a few more swings of it, seeing if he can dislodge the head, but the stone seems to hold. When he and Stor fail to remove the metallic tip from the spear, he expresses the concern that the creature might not be permanently dead. However, there's nothing they can do about it, so they decide to move on. They're planning to go through the double doors Kordak examined before, but before they do Extang pulls out his 10-foot pole and pokes in the sun on the calendar stone, causing it to swing open. Behind is a passage sloping down, covered in glyphs, which they are a bit dubious about - as they wish to travel upwards. However, Extang points out that they could really use a rest, and what safer place than in a secret room?

Agreeing, and determining that none of the glyphs are magical, they follow the short passage. It coumes out in a short hall running left-to-right, with a door at wither end, and big double-doors held shut by a golden seal across the hall from them. They're a bit disappointed to not have found a safe resting place, but they decide to explore just a bit more in the hopes of finding a more secure location. The big doors look ominous, and have what Stor determines to be an ancient blood spattered around it, and the door to the right looks like a bear, with a snake pattern around the lintel. So, they choose the brass door to their left, which only had two joined circles inscribed upon it. Finding it to be stuck, Kordak throws his weight into it, only to have the door fly open, causing him to stumble inside and... vanish!

The others stare in horror at what looks like nothing more than a closet. A pointedly empty closet. Stor sticks his head in to look around for Kordak, and he, too, disappears. Those remaining panic, wondering if the others are dead. They decide that if this is some kind of portal, there must be a way back, so they wait. And they wait. And they wait some more.

After close to fifteen minutes, they hear a noisy clattering coming down the passage behind them. They prepare for an attack, but are delighted to find it is Stor and Kordak returning to them! They tell the story of how stepping through the doorway had transported them back to the lower levels of the ruins and how they'd had to retrace their steps to get back to the rest of the party.

They take a short rest to tend their wounds, but they still dare not rest for long in this poisoned environment. During the rest, Stor identifies the properties of the god bracelet found in the stone eagle's beak, learning that it prevents the wearer from being petrified and allows the casting of some stone-based magic. Extang learns the sacrificial knife he picked up has a minor magical enchantment, and he lets Balasar examine the bone whistle - learning, with some excitement, that while someone is blowing the whistle they can fly.

They redistribute the magic weapons and move on to the bear-faced door surrounded by snakes. They don't find any traps on it, so Kordak tries to push his way through. Suddenly, arms that were hidden amongst the snakes reach out and grab him. He tries to force his way out, but to no avail. He begins to wriggle, trying to squeeze his way out. His friends begin to assist and, as they do, a pit slowly begins to slide open below him. Spikes are visible down below. Balasar promptly ties a robe around him, but it proves to be unnecessary as Kordak's renewed efforts allow him to slide out just before the pit is fully open.

Looking down into the pit, Balasar sees nothing other than the spikes - though he does notice, with some curiosity, that the spikes are made of rubber.

They decide it's time to head up to the doors in the cat room, but Akta holds them up. She is really curious about what's behind the doors with the gold seal. The others don't want to risk it, certain from the blood stains that it's trapped, but then Kordak speaks up, pointing out that there were already two doors that were nothing but traps - who would go to the effort of making a secret passage just to hide three trap doors?

So, everyone stands back as Extang uses a magical hand to slit break the seal and push one of the doors open. Two crossbow bolts whirr out, slamming into the wall, and there are three more thuds from the closed door. Looking through the door, Akta can see five heavy crossbows mounted on the ceiling, as well as a room featuring a massive diorama beyond a pillared porch.

Kordak leads the way, but as he passes through the doorway, a wall of fire leaps up between him and the rest of the group. Everyone else immediately starts determining is the fire is real and looking for a way trough. After a minute of burned ropes and minor spells, the fire vanishes on its own, revealing Kordak behind it, unharmed. The half-orc tells them that there aren't ant doors out of the room and that they should press on to find the way out. The others agree, but they're a little worried something fishy is going on.

They head back to the double doors in the cat room originally examined by Kordak. They head through, following a hallway around a corner to the right and opening a door to a room with a floor covered in ash and dust. As they step in, the ash and dust swirl up into the air forming figures - first, a distraught woman who runs off before vanishing, then a pair of warriors who take up guarding positions on either side of the door on the far side of the room.

The group decides to leave these souls to their rest and head back to the other double doors in the cat room. As they move through the doors, Balasar sneaks off - Stor and Fluffy notice him, but nothing is said. They understand from the direction Balasar is going that he is worried about Kordak, who isn't exactly acting strange, but something seems off about him. The main group continue down the hall, through another door, down another hall, and open a door into another room. This room has a pool of oily water in the middle with what looks like a dead, leafless willow tree standing in it.

At this point, they all become aware that Balasar is missing. It doesn't take long for them to guess where he's gone, so they go back to get him - even though Kordak suggests getting out of the ruins first and coming back for Balasar later, which sets off more warning alarms.

Meanwhile, Balasar has returned to the room with the diorama. He looks around a bit, not daring to touch anything. What catches his attention the most is a copper, dragon-shaped boat with a coffin on it, floating on a pond of metallic liquid. After finding out the hard way that the liquid burns to the touch, he uses a rope tied to a rock to eventually fish the boat to shore. While examining the coffin, he finds a decent-sized hole in it. Looking in, he finds a skeleton and, on top of it, an unconscious Kordak.

Shocked, he pulls his friend out and revives him, asking what happened. Kordak groggily tells a story about coming in to the room, the flames leaping up, and then a fight with himself. Balasar explains that there is another Kordak with the rest of the group, and they hurry for the exit, just as the group came in.

Shocked at finding two Kordaks, they set about determining which one is real - a challenge, since both of them bleed and seem to know the same things - they even say the same things at the same time sometimes! Finally, the Kordak who was unconscious in the coffin gets angry and charges at the other Kordak, landing a hefty blow on him. As he's hit, the other Kordak changes shape, becoming a fiery monster of liquid metal.

And that is where this session wrapped up. Check back next week to find out what fiery doom occurs in Episode 28.

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