Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Lost City - A Castle full of ghosts

Previously in our story...


Locasta's tower proved to be a treasure trove of magical components and herbal ingredients. The party spent several days going through each room of the place to see what else could be found. Jaeger, Lan, and KelLyn took their pick of the best and most expensive components; and I took several bags worth of the herbal ingredients to add to my own stores.

Shalev managed to somehow take some serious damage at one point in the explorations, and he approached Lan with a request to heal him. They stepped into the circle that was located at the top of the tower, and Lan cast her spell. The air in the tower room crackled with energy, and she looked at him critically for a moment before laying her hands on him and healing him completely. She told him sternly that he had been affected by an intensely powerful negative reaction from touching something that he shouldn't have.

Once she had completed her casting, and they had stepped out and away from the circle, Jaeger looked around for a moment and then he stepped into the circle. He began waving his hands in the now-familiar casting motions, and there was a huge amount of energy that burst out in waves. There were no other tangible or visible effects from whatever he cast though, and after another moment, he also stepped away from the circle.

On principle, Shalev cast his Detect Evil spell and confirmed that an alabaster jar that they had seen in the kitchen was radiating evil. He discussed options with the party, and we all decided that it was best just to leave it alone. He placed a stick across the doorway to the kitchen, as he had seen the curse-causing sticks placed in the dwarven city. I do not know if it will do any good, but it made him feel better to do it.

Fife was still drinking heavily, but did not appear to be cursed any more. We put him in the cart, and the party continued on toward the castle where the ethereal army had come from. It looked like it was about two weeks or so of travel to make it around the lake, and I made note that everything we had encountered thus far was not as it seemed at first, so distances would also likely be suspect. As we traveled, Shalev continued to work with KelLyn on improving his swimming skills, although I wonder if he realizes that he already surpasses most of the other humans I have seen in this regard.

After two weeks, we had not, in fact, reached the castle itself. Instead we came upon a forest made entirely of glass. The trees were magnificent, and definitely alive, as they were warm to my touch. The leaves were translucent and beautiful, and we saw shards and pieces on the ground near the base of the trees where older leaves and branches had fallen and shattered. Shalev attempted to gather some of the pieces, but only managed to cut himself in the process, so left them alone. I cast a general blessing of health on the forest, and then also recast my Whispers of the Way spell. It is my hope that by continuing to listen to the spoken language of the fae here that I might be able to pick up enough of an understanding to allow me to comprehend what is being said. I have started to pick out several words with regards to the party, and hopefully with Lan's help, I can continue to improve.

We continued to travel without incident, and after a time we realized that we were traveling extremely close to the center of the bowl shaped valley. We could see the dragon flying clearly overhead, and were able to get a good look at the enormous creature for the first time. Lan recognized the dragon as the Cardinal Protector of the plant realm in the Fae world, although she said that he was much larger than he was supposed to be. Her description of the dragon, and the knowledge that everything here is trapped inside the circle of mushrooms gave me a pause.

Up to this point we had been going on the information that the dragon was the foe here. I wonder though, more and more, if the dragon is NOT the enemy we should be concerned about. The more I hear about the wizard in the ruins of the emerald city, the more I am convinced that the dragon was sent here to protect the sylvan tree at the heart of the city. Dragons as a whole are not of this world, and I have also come to consider that this dragon might perhaps be willing to speak to us instead of attacking us outright. It is my hope anyway. He has certainly had the opportunity to do so, and judging from the sheer size of  the creature I have seen flying overhead, he could take us out without a second thought and yet we have gone unmolested. This bears more thought, and I find myself wishing that I could speak directly to my god and goddess about the matter. My contact with them is dampened by the confining effects of the mushroom circle, however, and my prayers to them go largely unanswered - though I can still get a general sense of acknowledgement.

Another two weeks of travel passed by without incident, and we found ourselves passing by large open fields that were planted with a variety of plants that I was not familiar with. We saw large buildings in the distance, and we saw men out among the plants harvesting the crops periodically. As we approached, we saw that the largest building was an alchemist's warehouse designed for mass production of potions. There were large ceramic vats, and I noticed again that the herbs and plants grown in the fields were unfamiliar to me. I also noticed, with keen interest, that the workmen that we passed in the fields were singing to the plants. I listened intently to the tune, though I still did not understand enough of the fae language to discern what he was saying.

Shalev asked about the large building, and was told that it was the store. Not wanting to damage the crops or fields, we left the cart, guarded by KelLyn, Fife, and Osmun, at the main road, and we made our way through the fields to the largest central building. The sign above it was written in Fae, and Lan translated it to us saying it read "Apothecary." We walked in and saw a large storefront area where there were bins filled with high quality ceramic and alabaster jars containing a variety of potions and salves. A portly man introduced himself as the store manager, and greeted us warmly. Shalev asked him if he had a list of potions available, and inquired as to what he had for sale as well as information about the area.

The man told us that the store here was in Wenke proper, but that he catered to the entire area, and the road we had left the cart on  went west to Emer. When asked about the price for potions, he informed us that the cost might be work, errands, raw materials, or other things and that it would vary depending on what we had to offer and what we wanted. I cautioned him quietly that we were still dealing with fae, and that he should be wary of any job he agreed to do. Shalev handed the man one of the healing potions that we had purchased from Basil, and asked if it were possible to reverse engineer it. The man's eyes lit up and he quickly took the potion from Shalev's hands to look at it. The man said he could, and without considering the repercussions of the action, Shalev then handed over 5 of the potions. the man offered 20 regular healing potions with a shelf life of three years in return. It was only after the deal had been made, and I warned him that Basil would be extremely angry at having his recipe shared, that Shalev realized the error, but the agreement had been struck and there was nothing to be done about it.

I asked the man if it would be possible to gather some samples of the plants, as they were unfamiliar to me and I was curious about their properties. He expressed doubt that I would be able to keep them alive, and I showed him my personal collection of herbs, seedlings, and plants that I had gathered along our journeys so far. His eyes widened when he saw the ent seeds, and he asked if I would be willing to part with them. I respectfully declined, letting him know that I had been informed that I would know whom to give them to when the time was right. He spoke to one of his workers briefly and said that he had a suspicion about the potions that Shalev had given him. The worker ran off to the back to check on whatever the man had asked.

While we waited for the worker to return, Shalev asked if the store manager would be interested in the green boar skin. The manager said he would be, and Shalev informed him that it was on the cart by the road, as we had not wished to risk harming the plants in the fields. The man said it would not be an issue, and he sent out several workers to accompany Shalev back to the cart. Once there, they began singing again to the plants in the ground in order to move them out of the way to clear a path for the cart to travel. I once more paid close attention to the melodies that they sang, and asked Lan if she would translate what they were saying to me.

The store manager took a look at the verdant hide, and offered a variety of potions in exchange for it. Shalev chose a set of 20 potions that would increase performance in battle. Osman offered one of the short ribs that we had taken from the corpse of the black dragon in his own trade, and he received three healing potions and two alcoholic potions which the manager warned were strong enough to cause delusions. Shalev distributed the healing potions among myself, Lan, KelLyn, Fife, and Tobias, as we did not have any yet; and kept the performance potions with his own gear.

Jaeger also bartered with the store manager, using the head of the green boar and a handful of the spel components that he had taken from Locasta's tower to trade for some very rare and very expensive dwarven alcohol. He and the store manager spoke at length in dwarven, and after the conversation concluded, the store manager turned to his workers and said something. A large band of men gathered together and immediately moved out toward the direction of the now-vacant tower, and I wondered if there would be anything left of the structure once they were finished with whatever they had set out to do.

The worker who had run into the back area returned then and whispered something to the store manager. The manager shot a quick glance at me and said that his suspicion had been confirmed. He turned to me directly then and told me that one of the components in the healing potions that Basil crafted was the blood of an ent. I raised an eyebrow at this bit of information, and recalled the young ents that I had seen in Basil's gardens. Young yet, and not sentient, I did not recall seeing wounds on them when I checked their health, but vowed to myself that I would have a conversation with Basil about them as soon as I returned.

I took the opportunity then to speak to the store manager to inquire about possibly learning how to sing to the plants as they did. He informed me that they way they sang was conditioned to the profession specifically and would not suit me. He did let me know that I should focus on the *meaning* or the desire, and that the songs would come in time. I asked him, if I were ever to find myself in this area again, whom to ask for, and he gave me instruction to ask for the Master of the Land.

I thanked him for the information, and for his time, and the party gathered their supplies and made our way back out to the road. Once we were there, I began making a book containing detailed sketches and descriptions of the plants that grew here. I could not get any samples to take with me, and out of respect to the alchemists here, I did not take any, but it is my hope that the sketches and descriptions will aid me if I ever encounter the plants in a place where I can gather samples. We traveled on and the season changed over to Fall. When we made camp that evening, I spent a long time in ritual. Even though there is still no direct connection to my god and goddess here, I did get a sense of affirmation that let me know that they were still there, and I was still doing the right things.

After a few more days of travel, we reached a ramp leading up to the castle, and I noted that as aggressive as the people here had been toward us so far, it was a wonder and a concern that they had not attacked us yet. We saw no sentries of any kind, and drawbridge was down even though the portcullis was closed. We made our way cautiously up the ramp to the gates, and noted the spikes that lined the pits below the drawbridges. The party was in full view, but still there was no sign of life at all.

There were actually two gates, both closed, and we asked Lan if she would be willing to use her orb to change to a mist to go through the gates and open them from the other side. She agreed, and the portcullises rose easily. The party made its way through and into the courtyard. I checked the area for traps, and noted again how silent this place was. No sound, no life, no one. It was disconcerting, and it immediately put me on a high guard. We began exploring the area inside, discovering armories, barracks, a kitchen, and a stable. Inside the armory, the walls were lined with pole-arms and spears made of an extremely light material that Jaeger called aluminum. Jaeger, Fife, and Shalev gathered up about 30 of the weapons ad put them on the cart.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, aside from the lack of life, or any signs of life, so we made our way through the back door and out into an alleyway. We ventured up the stairs to the walled battlements. The walls here were massively thick, and we saw a gap corresponding to a tower section where there were 3 large catapults and a huge wooden door in the floor which opened up to reveal an array of giant pumpkin artillery and an extremely well maintained wench system to bring them up.

Osman nervously recommended that we close the gates, but the lever to the gates was located between the two, effectively trapping one person inside. We also pointed out that it was the only way out, and we did not want to have to spend time worrying about reopening the gates if we had to make a hasty exit. We continued our explorations, and discovered a second armory that held suits of armor made of that same light material. Jaeger and Tobias took four of the sets of armor, as it is worth a king's ransom even though it is effectively useless as protection.

The next door lead us to a Lawful Holy temple, though there were no symbols or anything visible at all to indicate to whom the temple was dedicated. I warned Shalev not to try praying here, as it was likely not aligned with his goddess, and might be seen as disrespect. I checked the area again for traps, and finding nothing, we continued our explorations of the eerily empty city. When we came to the barracks, we noticed that the beds were actually a type of folding cot. We took several of the cots to use, as they would make a considerable improvement over sleeping on the ground.

Back through the doors, and up the stairs to the central wall there were a number of ballista, again with the wooden doors and wench systems. Tobias took a keen interest in the ballista mechanisms and asked to borrow the broken crossbow that Shalev carried. He spent several moments comparing the weapons, and made some notes on how the pieces fit together. I think he may be trying to find a way to repair the crossbow, and seeing essentially the same weapon in a larger scale gave him ample chance to study.

The next room we discovered was a kitchen and dining area. Everything here is pristine to the point of having obviously never been used. Shalev gathered up the dinnerware and utensils in a serving set for 24 people. Everything here is also made of this aluminum material, and so worth a considerable amount. In the butchers area I found three gorgeous knives and one cleaver, all with damascus blades and layan handles. I claimed these as my own, and KelLyn and Jaeger look at the massive chopping block in contemplation. It was 750 lbs of ebony and mahogany wood, and it took them several moments to figure out how to move it and store it on the cart without causing damage to anything.  On the far wall, I noticed an inset handle which opened up a concealed room that was extremely cold. Inside there were stacks of meats wrapped in paper and labelled in fae. Lan read the labels at Shalev's request and became exceedingly grumpy. Shalev asked her if any of the meat was edible, and she angrily kicked him in the shins before telling him sniffily that the meats were seal, baby seal, walrus, and whale, and then stomping off.

Jaeger studied the glimmering blue stone that was embedded in the far wall, and said that it was what was keeping the room at such a frigid temperature. Both he and KelLyn spent a moment trying to figure out how to remove and store the stone, but decided to leave it as it was for now and come back to it later on.

We made our way out to the gatehouse, and the doors there opened up into a hallway with no lights. He used his night vision to see down the dark hall, and he noticed a black marble square on the floor. KelLyn informed us that the square was  not magical, and Tobias indicated that there was a matching square in the same spot down the opposite hallway. Jaeger went over to the marble square and cast a spell to try to lift it up out of the floor, but was unable to budge it at all. We made our way through the double doors into a large room with a coat of arms in mosaic on the floor. Shalev studied the arms for a moment, but could not tell us anything specific about who they belonged to. The next room revealed itself to be a stable, with space for 40 horses. I pointed out that this was an odd place to have a stable, as normally the stables in the cities I had seen were outside of the main house. Once again, everything here was in pristine never-been-used condition, and there was not even dust on the floors, but there was still no sign of life, or of anything organic at all.

Through the next set of doors, we found a deep metal forge that had also never been used. On the anvil was a damaged sheet of the aluminum material and a deep metal hammer. We took the hammer, thinking that if we ever made our way back to Ishmael he might appreciate such a gift. Tobias placed the hammer inside his box of holding, as it was heavy enough that it would cause damage to the cart if it were not secured in some way.

Noticing the practice dummies against one side of the room, Shalev asked Tobias to throw something at them, but nothing happened. He then said something to Jaeger in dwarfish, and Jaeger turned into a raven and flew out to scout around the castle. After a moment, he returned, and told us where the stairs were that lead to the main area. The mansion was ostentatiously made pf rose colored marble, and the handles of the doors were made of layan. We decided to rest for a moment before venturing inside, as we had no idea what awaited and we wanted to be as prepared as possible.

This whole place has the feeling of being created by someone who had too much wealth and no real knowledge. It is laid out in a strange fashion, and the things that we have seen have been expensive and ornate, but ultimately useless in function other than decoration. There is no sign of life, or that this place ever held life. It's like it was built, and then abandoned. The only thing that indicates anyone is here at all is the lack of dust or clutter of any kind. I have a concern that once the sun goes down in this strange place that we may find ourselves in an entirely different circumstance. We are still within the massive fairy circle, and as always, I fear that nothing here is entirely as it seems.