APoF 03: Enter the Rockwurm
The party rises bright and early the next day, protected through the night thanks to the barricade that Zephyros erected. After briefly checking up on Viper to make sure that she had, similarly, survived the night, the party sets Zeph on the task of clearing the barricade that he had put up in the first place, while Mordollwen helps Viper with dismantling the miniature one that they had put up in the hallway just beyond. After this, the group decides to head out deeper into the city, following the only avenue that they had not yet taken so far, and emerging into the grand promenade of the dwarvenhold that they had elected to visit. It is only really at this point that they realize the true scale of what they committed themselves to, as the dwarvenhold is immense. The very road that they are standing on is broad enough to accommodate a large amount of foot traffic, and with the island of dirt that stretches down the center of the street, it is not difficult to imagine how grand the dwarvenhold must have looked back in its heyday. Though naturally worn by the passage of time, the cobblestones are still smooth and easy on the feet, and the buildings that surround the party are still in relatively pleasant shape, the architecture, despite the age, holding up to, if not surpassing, modern erinindal standards. But the party knows that they cannot spend too much time gawking. The first item on their to-do list is to find a good place to set up shop, hopefully somewhere that is easily fortifiable from which they can carry out their operations. There are a few distractions along the way, of course, with Steve spotting something interesting through the windows of one building on the right side of the road. The party investigates and finds a shop filled with fine porcelain and glass crockery. The shelves holding some of the items appear rather aged, however, and the fragments that litter the floor of the shop indicate that some of the shelves have failed over the years. Knowing the intrinsic value of such well-crafted items, the party decides to carefully retrieve as many as they can before continuing on their way down the promenade, stopping to examine a store on the other side of the street, which appears to have a glass display case out in front. Dr. Roth enters the building and takes a look around for anything that can be salvaged, finding very little that has survived the ravages of time, but spotting a small bolt of what appears to be golden cloth only to find that it is sealed behind the glass display case. Zeph lends him a hand in retrieving it by breaking the case. After this, the group finally spots a place that they can use as a base of operations, an abandoned in that still looks in somewhat good condition, which they determine was once called the Prancing Pellok. The party takes a brief rest in the inn, taking the time to fortify it as well as claim rooms and set down some of the objects that they had found so far. After their short respite, the party continues on in its exploration of the dwarvenhold, eventually making their way to the Shine and Polish, a gold/silversmithy. There, they find thirteen beautiful panelled wood boxes which contain masterfully crafted jewellery that bear not only a maker's mark, but a certificate of authenticity. Realizing how priceless these pieces are, the party stows them away for safekeeping. The group crosses the road and investigates the next building that they see, which Steve determines is called The Halls of the Holy Order of Ryenden, Keeper of the Bloom. Within they find little that is worthwhile, except for a magical longsword that seems to be made of two woven strips of metal. They move on to the next building, the Vestry of Saint Twymbe, where they again find little other than the relic of Saint Twymbe and its rather fancy reliquary. The vestry is adjoined to The Blessed Temple of Iwani, Goddess of the Holy Spring Rose, where Steve finds a silver chalice and nothing else. Upon exiting the temple, however, the party begins to experience strange visions. Broknard, in particular, appears to hallucinate a pair of people sitting on church pews. They pursue the strange sights and sounds that they experience, which leads them onto the promenade and down to the central square of the city, where they bear witness as a gigantic rift into the Shardscape is torn open. The hallucination of people sitting on church pews becomes much more visible and they watch as the high priest of Kassar, Tolws Aviathis delivers a scathing sermon on the dangers that could dwell within the dwarvenholds. They watch, helpless, as Tolws' words push the image of those horrors into the minds of all who are watching him, and they can do little to stop the madness as the swirling eddies of eldritch magic from the rift bring into being those horrors. Just before the image of Tolws and his sermon disappear from the rift, loose rocks and stone from the immediate vicinity are drawn toward the rift, seemingly forming into a pile that the party thinks is harmless at first before enormous arms made of rock burst out from underneath the pavement, and the pile of stones is revealed to simply be the head of an enormous rockwurm brought to life by the Shardscape's eldritch magics. A brief fight ensues, during which time the party attempts to destroy the beast but is ultimately repelled, rescued only by the beast's seeming disinterest in them. The party flees from the scene before any of the other piles of rocks, which are beginning to grow into strange, monstrous shapes, could gain intelligence like the rockwurm that had beset them earlier. They regroup at the Prancing Pellok but are at a loss as to what to do.