Monday, September 23, 2013

Recap #31 - Knock Knock. Who's There? Astral Diamonds.

The party decided to fortify themselves inside the old temple they had just relieved from the previous occupants. With their tracks outside covered and an alarm trap on the entrance they proceeded into the night's watches. Braddoc now possessed the newly found Mask of Tears.

Helia found herself on duty as midnight approached. Suddenly a glow began to emit from the walls, roof and floor of the temple. Soon the entire room was awash in pale luminescent runes. Fearing some devilry, Helia triggered the alarm and woke the rest of the party.

Several minutes passed and no immediate threat presented itself so the party set about trying to determine the nature of the runes. The best they could do was deduce that they were a form of ancient supernal and that they described a form of protection from the outside.

While Delian was attempting to transcribe some of the runes onto some paper an apparition of a duergar walked through the entrance and into the room. It did not seem to notice the party at all. It proceeded to move along the brazier in the middle of the room and stop at the first corner. While stopped the party could see it mouthing some words and making some hand gestures. Afterward a rune began to glow on the floor where Braddoc noticed that something had been sitting a long time ago. The tension in the party rose while they observed what they were beginning to believe was some sort of ritual or manipulation of objects. When Cary attempted to speak with the duergar, he turned his head and looked around but didn't seem to see where the sound came from. It was then that they noticed that their dragon marks were glowing just like the runes on the walls.

Feeling emboldened by his glowing dragonmark, Delian plaecd his on the glowing rune on the floor and abruptly became an apparition to the party but "solid" to the duergar. After having some difficulty understanding each other, the duergar seemed to decide that completing his current task was far more important than worrying about the paladin. That was when Delian saw the Mask of Tears in the middle of brazier. It was still invisible to the rest of the party.

After igniting the second rune on the floor at the next brazier corner, Nenia joined Delian in his phased state. She noticed that the Mask of Tears on the brazier was not magical unlike the version that Braddoc wore on his face. After completing the circuit of the four corners of the brazier, the brazier sprung to life in a spout of flame and engulfed the Mask upon it.

Not to be left out in case of some sort of trap, Braddoc and Helia joined Delian and Nenia - even though Helia did not possess a dragon mark like the others and Braddoc's Mask of Tears disappearing as his shifted.

The duergar stood before the brazier chanting. The runes and dragonmarks glowed brighter and brighter and the Mask seemed to draw power into itself. The chanting ended with the duergar's ominously shouting "Zul'bar!" and, with a bright flash, the entire party returned to their normal state. The duergar seemed to pick something off the altar and moved to the secret room where the party had found the mimic early that night. Slowly the glow, duergar, and runes all faded from the room leaving the party to wonder whether the discovery of the Mask of Tears would be a boon or curse when dealing with the devil Zul'bar.


The next morning the party began following the road for towards the gates of the keep known as the Devil's Eye. It was from here that Zul'bar ruled the surrounding lands.

After two days of absolute exposure to the elements and any watching eyes within leagues, the keep was finally visible ahead. It sat atop a mountain that seemed to have had its top sheared off to make room for the structure that were perched there. From where the party sat they could see that the fortress consisted of two main sections. The closest was located in front of a glowing stream of running lava. Beyond lay another structure as formidable as the first. The dull red glow of the river of lava caused the keep to appear as a deep black silhouette against a red background and behind it appeared to be a column of swirling gray flame – an infernal sight, to be sure. The lava appeared to run behind the keep from the left side to the right side before dropping off a precipice and forming a spectacular slow-motion glowing red and yellow waterfall down the side of the mountain. The cry of what might have passed for a hoarse eagle pierced the air.

With diplomacy on their minds and fear of treachery on the part of Zul'bar, the party opted to leave Ethan behind with his Phoenix item and stored Nenia's item in Delian's bag of holding. They proceed to the gates of the keep.

Knocking produced a reply from a battle-hardened duergar. After insulting several of the party members, he opened the gates to a small courtyard and instructed a second duergar to summon someone named Baelzra. The gates were closed behind the party. After nearly 30 minutes had passed a chain-clad female devil appeared. She inquired their business and their names before informing them that Zul'bar was currently away from the castle and would not see them without his invitation anyway. In an effort to get through the interior gate of the courtyard, the party informed her they wished to simply pay any required toll and proceed on toward the City of Brass. Baelzra revealed that the toll was one Astral Diamand per traveller or perhaps arranging some sort of service in lieu.

Without the required funds and being unwilling to agree to other arrangements the party requested to leave the way they came. Baelzra smiled and said she would happily grant their request - after they paid the exit toll of one Astral Diamond per traveller.

It was then that Delian lost his patience and battle ensued.

Things looked very bleak for the party. The duergar guarding the entrance were no strangers to its defence. The heroes worked well together but Baelzra's double chain attacks restrained them and she pulled her victim into the line of fire of many of the ranged attacks that Nenia sent her way. Her two duergar guards were devastating with extra attacks after each successful strike and four other duergar rained range attack from atop the courtyard walls.

After a long battle, the party had spent most of their resources and were faring much worse than the devils. They decided they needed to vacate if they wished to live. Nenia teleported to the upper walkway and knocked one of the duergar over the wall to the outside. Helia was able to use pixie dust on Delian and they both flew up to assist Nenia. This left Braddoc alone with Baelzra and the two duergar guards. They were able to kill one of them and Nenia cast a spell which dazed Baelzra and the remaining duergar and rendered them blind to anywhere outside the her spell zone. This allowed her to drop a rope and tie it off for Braddoc to climb. Meanwhile the battle on the walkway saw two more duergar knocked out of the battle.

Being a dwarf, Braddoc had difficulty climbing the sheer obsidian walls of the courtyard quickly. In an effort to assist Braddoc and save his own skin, Delian cut the rope and leaped over the outside of the wall. His momentum pulled the flailing dwarf passed Nenia astonished eyes and over the wall to safety. Braddoc regained his honour by deftly landing upright on both feet. Helia was waiting below and battling the duergar that had fallen over earlier.

With Nenia the only one remaining and the interior gates nearly open to allow reinforcements to arrive, she turned herself insubstantial and leapt over the side to join her comrades. After a short run to a point where they hope they had a small amount of cover, Nenia produced her magic candle and the party disappeared from the eyes of the devils.

They hope it was enough to gain a safe reprieve.

(Milestone reached)