Log 5: The Stairs are in Use Once Again
After giving Daraj what they wanted, the party all met inside his tavern. Ryder was furiously writing notes in his notebook, before looking up, looking to his left and right, and then disappearing into his bracelet. Kir vanished into a puff of black particles, which floated away into nothingness. Tiddles and Rusticus took a look around inside and outside the tavern, finding a few of Daraj's old belongings, and things dropped by the bandits who wanted to throw the duel. Picking up those items, they decided it was time to rest inside the tavern. They knew the area was dangerous, so Rusticus attempted to block the doors with rubble, but rapidly tired himself out. Successfully blocking one door, he tried to block the other, but was too tired and dropped a rock on his foot. Opal exasperatedly said "Why dont y'all just take turns on watch tonight? I'll take first watch". After a restful 6 hours of sleep, the party awoke and got everything in order. The plan was to head to the nearest landmark on Jaxton's map, the area marked CRAZY PEOPLE CANT REACH STAIRS The party began the long 6 hour trek to reach the corner of the floor. They walked over slight rolling hills made of red sandstone, containing outcroppings of black rock, with piles of grey dust dotting the landscape. Above them was a huge gear, slowly turning in place. Piercing the center of the gear was a massive stone tower, reaching from the floor to ceiling. Light was glowing at the base of the tower, but they were unable to see what it was. Opal and Tiddles heard some rapid mechanical footsteps way far off in the distance, which they judged to be many hours away. Unsure of what it meant, they mentioned that there might be company in a few hours. Naro saw an amazing fist sized rock, which he pointed out as "a really nice boulder." Ignoring Naro's comment, the party continued walking, as the ground underneath their feet began to get a bit softer, due to the brown moss growing underneath their feet. The closer they got to the tower, the greener the moss became. Eventually the 4 of them reached the base of the tower, where they could see torchlight flickering, and hear rhythmic chanting. From their point of view, most of the base of the tower was blocked by small rocky outcroppings, raised above what they could see. However they could see some stone archways, and a couple wooden huts. Tiddles creeped closer to get a better view, and was able to see a small group of people standing around an altar, chanting. He referred to his infinite knowledge, and recalled that they were known as the Cult of Ascension -- willing to take in new members, but unforgiving of those who did not wish to join. He quietly referred this information to the party, much to their unease. Unsure of how much closer they wanted to get, they decided to stealth around. Tiddles looked back, and noticed the six-armed Naro looking around. "Psst! hey! you seem stealthy, why dont you take a look around?" Naro looked blankly at Tiddles before commenting "...Markus says okay." Opal marked Naro with a scar hex, to better serve him with beneficial hexes and spells while he snuck around. Tiddles, Naro, and Rusticus all began to creep forward, with Naro heading around the west side, while Tiddles and Rusticus stayed near the middle. Opal followed up behind Tiddles and Rusticus. Suddenly, the chanting stopped, as the cult leader looked straight at Naro. Naro looked straight back, and froze. The cult leader smiled, and said "Look, brothers and sisters! A hopeful!" "We dont see many newcomers around here, how did you get here?" Naro began to float, as Opal Hexed him with a float spell. "Oh, you know" he said "Walking around, killing things, the usual" The cult leader smiled again "Most people know that we are up here, and know not to visit us, unless they wish to join. So I take it you wish to join?: Naro summoned his will, and attempted to lie. "y-YEEA--sssSSs?" he squeaked out, dropping down to the ground as Opal ended her spell. Rusticus, knowing the jig was up, came out from hiding to stand beside Naro. "Two hopefuls!" Said the cult leader "Or rather, one hopeful, and one liar. Who are you?" While he was busy looking at Naro and Rusticus, Opal decided it was time to come out of hiding as well. Tiddles wanted to remain being sneaky, but he got caught up in his own two feet, and tripped out of hiding. The cult leader smiled again, as his followers slowly moved around behind the party, blocking off exits. "Now there are four of you. What is it you want?" Tiddles and Opal began to converse with the cult leader, wishing to get as much information out of him as possible, whilst avoiding combat. "You do wish to join?" Asked the cult leader. "It's simple! In purgatory, to truly ascend, you must void yourself of all previous morals and beliefs. In our faith, one is one, and one requires two. The ritual of joining requires you to kill two that trust you. There's 4 of you here now, at least one of you may join." "Welllll whatta bout if we just head on down to one of them cities, and collect a few people that wanna die, and bring em up here? would that work for y'all?" asked Opal "What about Goblins ? we could kill goblins!" mentioned Rusticus The cult leader smiled warmly at the party. "I'm afraid you arent allowed to leave. If you arent willing to shed your morals, we always need more harvested souls" Rusticus was not happy with this, and he began to stalk towards the cult leader, entering a rage. The cult leader saw this, and yelled "So be it!" He raised his arms, and as his robes dropped away, a crystal bracelet was revealed. Glowing light came from his palms, and a small glowing circle appeared next to him. Rising out of that circle was a horrific ball of flesh and metal, with protruding metal spikes and metal chains wrapping it. Rusticus immediately began hammering the disgusting ball of metal and flesh, while Tiddles blasted the cult leader with an auditory burst from his shield. Naro looked around at the surrounding cult members before making eye contact with one in particular. He raised one of his 6 arms and gave him a wave, before turning to a closer cultist, and taking a swing at him. He punched the nearest cultist in the face, knocking his teeth out. Opal positioned herself with a stone arch to her back for safety, then looked at the monstrosity that Rusticus was fighting. She moved her hands quickly, and created a cloud of sonic energy on top of it, damaging and stunning it. One of the cult members noticed her, and began to move closer. The cult leader laughed, and once again raised his hands, causing darkness to pour out of them. He created a massive cloud of damp darkness around all 4 party members, damaging their very essence, and sickening two of them. Tiddles did not like this, so he jumped up on the altar and yelled at the cult leader "YOU DESERVE PUNISHMENT", casting a spell of sorrow and despair upon him. The cult leader attempted to resist, but he was unable to hold back the tears, as he began sobbing. "I'm so sorry" he cried "OH GODS IM SORRY" he sobbed Tiddles grimly tied the sobbing man up with his magic rope. Rusticus smiled as he noted that the cult leader had broken down into a slobbering mess, and re-doubled his efforts against the beast in front of him, smashing his hammer down again and again. However, his foe shook off the stunning effect from before, and began to pulse with energy as it drew in chains off the tower wall behind. It began to whip and whirl the chains about it, smashing them at Rusticus, beating at his kidneys. Meanwhile, the cultists had finished surrounding everyone, and began casting spells. They targeted Rusticus, Opal, and Naro, but found that the party had stronger wills than most other visitors, as most of their spells simply failed. Naro however managed to become afflicted by fear. He took one look at the cultist near him, now healed by it's friend, and ran away. While afraid, he was still angry -- thus he ran to the next nearest cultist, and threw a wild haymaker, missing entirely. The cultist laughed, swung his sickle, and missed as well. Opal looked to her right, as a cultist ran up and swung at her. The cultist missed, but Opal panicked and decided to fry him with a lightning bolt. She placed her hands on his chest, but the cultist swung his weapon down and broke her concentration. The spell critically failed and exploded out of her hands, vaporizing the cultist, and electrocuting Opal. She wiped the soot from her face and said "Well now that's not what I wanted to happen" Opal moved her sonic energy cloud back ontop of Rusticus' foe, hoping to double team the monstrosity as it traded blows with Rusticus. The dwarf and the monstrosity kept smashing each other with great blows from hammers and chains alike. However the ball of flesh was looking pretty hurt as Rusticus hit it again and again, and the cloud shook it to it's very core. Eventually, after one last quad lash of it's chains, the enemy succumbed to it's injuries, and dissolved into a pile of metal and flesh in a heap at Rusticus' feet. Tiddles took the opportunity to yell at the cult leader. "TELL ME EVERYTHING" The cult leader sobbed through his tears "OHGODIMSOSORRY-- sob-- North Eastern Stair requires Soul Coins ! it's the stairs to the next level! -sob- It's 15 soul coins per entry! please just kill me I've done so many horrible things! You can take all my stuff! it's in the shack behind the tower! im so sorry!" Tiddles nodded firmly at the crying man, and left him there tied up. Naro, still back at the bottom of the slope, found himself surrounded by 4 cultists. The cultists, hearing and seeing that their leader was incapacitated, and one of their friends had died, went into a frenzy. They began applying liquids to their weapons, and started a group attack on Naro, who ducked and dodged their blows and darts. He turned and began unleashing a flurry of blows against all those near him, breaking bones and ending lives. Rusticus, having dealt with his foe, turned and charged in to help his friend, cracking a cultist across the face with his hammer, while Opal fired a snowball into the melee Between the three of them, Rusticus, Naro and Opal quickly dispatched the remaining cultists. The 4 of them took a breath. Rusticus, nearly dead, very angrily asked "IM ABOUT TO FUCKIN DIE, I NEED HELP". Opal had already spent all of her healing spells on herself, fixing the damage dealt via lightning and dark clouds. Tiddles however reached into his pack and brought out his wand from Daraj's tavern, and spent some charges healing himself and Rusticus. Tiddles went to look inside the cult leaders shack, finding a bag of 15 soul coins, and some sort of ancient schematic. He took the coins, and copied down the schematic he saw. Opal and Rusticus untied the sobbing cult leader, who grovelled at Rusticus' feet. They took everything of worth off of the wretch, and left him there as the man cried "please please please take me with you, or just kill me" They ignored his cries, and split the soul coins among themselves, allowing all to enter the stairs. They walked up the stairs, looking about. Tiddles became fascinated with the curls of Rusticus' beard, while the rest of them saw the hastily scratched message on the wall reading "The Clockwork were WRONG" They uneasily resumed climbing the stairs, reaching a door at the top that read "Level 1-i". Opening the door with his hidden strength, Tiddles lead the way into the tiny room beyond. Inside they found themselves in a small metal room, full of mechanical hum, and a deep far away ticking. A glowing sign in the room said "Level 1 interstitial. Clockwork on standby". Deciding this was the safest place they had been so far, the party sat down and began to rest, and time around them slowed to a stop.