Lost Lore 33: The Second Key
Desperately hoping to subvert the Brans' plans, our heroes go seeking out the second key to the Tomb
Saville and Rycroft had made it plain we did still have a bit of time advantage on them, though if they would change their schedules with our appearance and known association to their grandmother, The Oracle of Frial, we could not control. So Charity, Ospher, Tadlo, Lorgen, Janka, and I made an excuse to leave their presence and seeking lodgings away from their revelry. Thanks to the scoundrel, Winslow, we already knew where the dig-site was in relation to Fountain Head, a quick jaunt by broom to the south and we spotted the dig site amongst the low swampy trees of the forest next to Lake Bask. There was a mass of footprints leading from the North as it was clear that the Brothers had assigned a lot of people to this task in order to accomplish it quickly, and these tracks lead into a marshy frozen spot where the volume of commotion helped guide us exactly to where we wanted. A score of people from Fountain Head were here as work teams excavating the site as best they could despite their skills at fishing, and all gleeful and exuberant to be in service of the 'gods'. They had cut a sloped ramp into the earth and were actively hauling out dirt, big pieces of stone and rock, and even from a distance though they enjoyed the hot Glühwein brought to them, they were working themselves to exhaustion. Though it was only snowing off and on at this point, the wet heavy snow that did fall was impeding much of their work. We could see the very top of the structure, likely having sunk in over the centuries due to the expanding marsh, as everything about the building unearthed indicated it should have been above ground with exterior writings and decorations aplenty. We approached the foreman, asking to take a look and after lying that we're friends of Saville and Rycroft he expressed the same unusual eagerness to please the 'gods', introducing himself as Sanford. He led us down towards the slope, about 15 feet long to the set of very heavy stone doors, adorned with writing in a script we didn't recognize but assumed to be Baradradi and two stone skeletons dressed in a very regal looking sort of armor, holding a scimitar and shield, but caked in mud, earth, and snow that defied the crews best efforts to clean them. In the middle of the door were two small holes, one marked with a sun symbol and the other a moon, proving The Butcher of Becklinburg's information to be true again. While Ospher prepped a Comprehend Languages cast from his spell book en ritual, I contacted Bianca via the Eye of Basul, in order to confirm that we would be entering an actual intact Skyriran tomb, as well as stopping by Trevor's warehouse for a pickup for me. I then asked Trevor for a bag of Manacite, 5 poison types and 1 raspberry in the off-chance I could be subtle with the Brans' sabotage.
"We've found the tomb, if you'll stop by Trevor's and pick something up for me, then hop in the flying machine."With Ospher's spell in effect, he declared that the text on the door identified it as the Tomb of Orimenhet, built after the fall of Skyrir, which he interpreted to mean it was built by people who survived the Cataclysm that destroyed the Empire and what was buried here was already dead, excavated from elsewhere in the Empire and re-interred here. The door also explains that "until the two keys are united, Orimenhet will slumber until the time of her perfect resurrection." Nika and Lorgen were ready to just pick the front locks to break in, but with so many of the digging team about and them being under sway of the brothers, I urged them to remain calm while we sought out more information of what was actually here, like the mentioned undead army.
"Yes, sure all of that, great! I also wanted to let you know the coffee machine works now."
"Glad to hear that."
"It seemed like there was a little bit of concern about resources spent, but like I said, it functions."
"I... didn't hear this conversation?"
"Well, there's two keyholes and you happen to have the best thief in Tairos, so if you want me to just open the door, I will do that free of charge, as a friend."We then elected to look about the exposed structure thus far with the newly recharged Gem of Seeing and observed that the structure was surrounded in the ethereal plane by floating magical symbols, bands of magical energy that are designed to keep out undead and demons with very severe consequences, wrapping about sort of similar to the school's wards. Getting a better vantage point, I could tell the structure itself went about another 40 feet down, and that the topmost area consists of three chambers, one directly beyond the door, and two as sort of wings off to either side, and then a stairwell/chute that goes down into a much larger single chamber. Bearing this in mind, I asked her to turn back around and grab the old Headmaster's books on how to manipulate arcane lattices such as this, something we've always been interested in but never had the time to specifically look into and experiment with. Since we knew it would be a bit before Bianca would arrive, I set about casting Legend Lore near the entrance, while Ospher went walking around the greater area to see if he could tell if there was another way into it and if the geography was consistent. He went off by himself and went pretty far from the worksite and found a small fissure with a lot of growth atop it, he guessed that a tree's roots had cracked it open and with the Gem yet in his possession he saw that this opening wasn't covered by the magical weave. He wanted to clear it out a bit and see if he could shimmy in, so after a brief bit of work with the Phantom's Caress, he heard some slight movement and rustling with much of the debris removed and then saw something crest the edge of the fissure caked in mud, potsherds, and fungus and stumbling towards him. Through the detritus, he could see bone and faded armor with arms reaching out at him threateningly. The thing moved unnaturally fast after him, raising its voice in a hiss and swinging a swipe at him that went wide then gazing at him with some supernatural sort of attack as he felt the claws of fear attempting to contort his brain. Even with the caked mud and dried matter flaking off the thing, Ospher was certain he spotted some Mummy's wraps adorned with symbols, that his Comprehend Languages identified the mummy as a house servant. He distracted the mummy and ran as fast as he could back towards everyone calling out for some help, which the workers seemed to just ignore, but Sanford let our friends know he was calling out. He put a good bit of distance between himself and it and hit the creature with a Ray of Frost slowing it from catching up to him as everyone save Nika left the dug out slope to aid Ospher. Nika then set about to harassing me for the remainder of the invocation time of the spell until I eventually lost my concentration on the spell itself and worked to Overcharge the spell to save it, resulting instead in the creation of a Living Spell. It was overcome with its purpose in this world and didn't see me as any sort of creator thankfully, but it was manifest as a radiantly glowing image of myself that spoke about its duty to protect the knowledge it had.
"Bianca did say that Skyriran traps will a) kill you and b) steal your departing life energies to re-power the trap afterwards, so if we do need to get in like that, let's call this plan B."
"Oh maybe I should wear gloves?"
"Do you know what a wizard is called who specializes in only raising dead horses? A neigh-romancer."
"Greetings...?"Ospher meanwhile was joined in the fray by Charity throwing a Firebolt at the servant, while Janka didn't believe beneath all the mud and earth that it was in fact a mummy and not a skeleton until Charity's spell dried all the fresh snow and mud off of the creature. Ospher's next Ray of Frost, slowed it yet again as he continued his fighting retreat, Tadlo's Scorching Ray further dealt the mummy a blow since it was now dry, it was rendered susceptible to flaming attack, Lorgen's arrow from his Shortbow lodged into it, not injuring it as much as a living creature would normally be hurt by the attack, but with the accumulated damage to its being, the animating magics gave out and it slumped to the ground crackling in flames in the bog. Ospher used a Mage Hand to sift through the remains to learn if anything was unburnt and could be yet read, but he found nothing besides the ancient weathered and worthless armor and the creature's gold jewelry, a necklace and a ring, both with a symbol of a sun and moon half joined together. He surmised this was her house symbol and the ring yet another Signet ring, albeit ancient.
"I am the accumulated knowledge of Eons."
"You were right about the mummy, I apologize."They came back to the door while I was still persuading the Living Spell to work with me, as it seemed to consider itself a guardian of knowledge, while feeling the effects of the rebuke upon the lands here. The key to convincing it in the end was offering it refuge in a piece of Manacite as it then communicated the knowledge to me: Orimenhet was a prominent politician and philosopher from Skyrir, apparently died of disease shortly before the destruction of Skyrir itself, the disease was meant to look like a disease and was actually poisoned though her servants knew it, she was killed by high priest Zarkados, when the servants knew cataclysm was nigh they dug her body up to move her here away from the reaches of the cataclysm and inter her, and when they did such they took what was precious to Zarkados as a final revenge.
"What was that spell?"
"A big one, don't talk to me if I'm casting a long spell!"
"Adjenna just summoned an angel!"
"...and you are worthy of this knowledge?"Knowing now that there may just be one incredibly powerful mummy within, and there was a broken sort of way to get in, we persuaded Sanford that he didn't need to mention anything that happened here since it could reflect poorly on how well their progress has been thus far. He agreed and said he wouldn't mention anything besides us visiting and we set up a little outside of town to discuss what was next in general, but first, we needed an idea of what to do with the moral issue back at the Abbey: the prisoners. Janka set about working on some broth while we sat elsewhere to get into it.
"I wanted to apologize to Ospher in front of everybody for doubting him. It did not look quite like a mummy, it looked like a bog skeleton. I admit when I am wrong and I was wrong."On Nika, we agreed that what we were doing with her presently was fine. Ospher decided she was my pupil and I guess I couldn't disagree with that, the last week had been busy keeping her out of trouble but she was sort of like Love, a little sister, albeit with many bad habits and in the Orphanarium. Charity was fine with the state of things as well as long as we were. Who knows if this will bring us more trouble. For Bailey Peach, Charity was leaning towards cutting her loose and perhaps guiding her towards the 'right people to eat' but Ospher did not think that was wise, it being a slippery slope to further choices and then taking on such responsibility. My hangup with her lay within contradictions of the reports by Captain Rioter and by Conrin explaining that if she had been drawn to a good trek outside of Frial for some competition that could earn her a Unicorn, why did it also involve killing innocent traders, and how was the Unicorn spotted before they had even left the city and told her of it. This 'Swarmlord' Reveks would have had to communicate this as they left Frial itself, as she has no traveling magics. Further, did she eat or merely 'just' kill traders? Assuming we can clear this story up positively, we get a lot of information about who she eats from her and independently verify it, and if there's ever a continuous break in communication with her, we track her down and bring her back but this time, give her to authorities with what we can attest to. We briefly considered keeping her in a sort of 'house arrest' in the Abbey, but Nika's loose lips would make the children legitimately afraid of whom we allow within. For Ebbo Dobb, Charity thought that being a kid doesn't excuse you from punishment for terrible crimes and that if the Savage wants him, we should be a good ally and hand him over. Ospher doesn't feel like giving up on anyone is ever a right call, especially when we can't even reach him to talk sensibly after demonstrating that rage alone won't get him out of a cage. He also didn't think that the Savage's world view was a very forgiving one in general and that ally or no supporting something like that blindly isn't a good call. Neither Charity or I thought we would have a compunction with delivering him to The Savage if for some reason they called the favor in for the Rat King (though what they accomplished there was more of just a set back for his Verminous Majesty), but again Ospher said that just owing someone wouldn't mean that he agrees to shirk his beliefs to comply and wouldn't want this. Ultimately, if we survive this madness here with a Tomb, we agreed that we would try to learn what we could of totemic cult rituals and figure out who is the most rational person within The Savage to learn what we could directly of what the actual needs are to separate him from the Warthog, and hopefully they assent to helping us without tattling to Red Claw.
"We've all learned something today."
"Not the Mummy, she didn't learn anything."
"If we're going to exile him, we may as well throw him through a gate to Frostmere if possible since if the Lion finds out we've set anyone 'free' we'll jeopardize our relationship."
"Is the moon an option? I don't know. I dunno if I meant that, but maybe I meant that."
"Maybe this isn't better but we could pitch him into the anomaly beneath the city and see how he does somewhere else?"
"I don't mean to be the wet blanket every time somebody suggests something but I don't think that's actually better than what's been suggested besides."
"Let's hope there's somebody in that circle with an ounce of sense."We contacted Crisnos to let him know what we had decided and that he would take a lock of Bailey's hair to scry her in case she gets free somehow, and he expressed a lot of indifference to being a Jailer of either of these two, I guess some things just don't change that quickly. We checked the map Winslow gave us and realized the second key was in the center of Lake Bask, we coordinated with Bianca and set out directly to there from where we were waiting otherwise, we didn't want to waste any time and if we could get this second key and just ruin everything by making it impossible to find, we would. Setting out over Lake Bask in an early part of the day, it's very eerie and empty, even from high above the lake, we could hear thunderous cracking of ice and approaching the island, we sized it up to be no larger than 3 miles in length, larger than some of the smaller chunks of land we spotted on the way there. It had a smattering of trees on it, as well as a couple hills, but setting down we saw the remnants of a structure, part of a wall, some pylons, but it was old. We also heard the flying machine's approach, it is faster than a broom due to the Horseshoes of Speed, but the thing really keens as it moves through the air, but hovering is pretty quiet in general. She was taking some notes on the machine itself on some things she wanted to improve on its function, and as we walked up, she handed over the Headmaster's notes and the Manacite delivery from Trevor and I then filled her in on what we knew from the Tomb's notes as well as the Legend Lore. We started searching the area, Bianca declaring the ruined site to just be old timey bullshit, which Charity contradicted and pointed out some ancient faded script on a wall that Janka could read directed us "Descend Below - Key Near Heart" and around the same time Ospher spotted a hidden sort of hatch near one of the old pylons, that opened up to reveal a dark chasm with a ladder built into one side of the walls that seemed stable. From the chasm, a great deal of humid warmth rising up out of the darkness.
"Trevor winked when he handed me this bag, I don't know what that's about?"
"Trevor? I guess he thinks you're attractive?"
"Oh, he said 'Here's your Manacite and then he winked."
"I would still stick with my guess, he's kind of a suave guy."
"I gave up trying to decipher him long ago."
"He's kind of suave right?"
"I guess but I know too much about him, so I wouldn't fall for it. I just have a lot of questions about where he gets things."
"Well, anyway, I dunno. Not my type probably, but uh here's your Manacite." Bianca then winks at Adjenna
"That all sounds very flowery and whatnot to me. Sometimes people just say stuff, you know. I'm sure we could just open the Tomb door if you want, we could probably use the flying machine to do it."We asked Tadlo and Lorgen to stay back and watch the ship, I spotted something shimmering in the water near some of the still patches of ice, so in the worst case of a water monster attack they could determine if they need to fight or flee. That arranged, I went down first on the ladder with a couple of Driftglobes lit to let us see our next steps and discussed with Lorgen leaving the hatch open, so if we saw it was closed we knew something is up. It got much warmer very quickly while descending and another funny thing, the walls almost looked like hard stone bark in texture and color and then the texture fades and changes to moist and slick, slippery, laden with something looking like veins and almost looking like it was pulsing in time with some thumping beat. Sickened and borderline horrified, I called to the others for a reason we should go after this key and not just break into the tomb itself through the fissure Osher found and ruin things for the Brans. There wasn't much of a reply, so annoyed with that, I continued down, descending finally after a couple hundred feet onto a soft slick floor. Certain that what we were inside of was not only huge, but alive, we looked about noticing that there were chambers in different directions. Fully grasping the size of what we were in, I looked back to the "ladder" again and noticed that it appeared to be treated staples of some ancient high quality metal but wasn't actively causing an infection. Down here the walls were rife with veins and pulsing blood, some signs of bones here and there, trying the Eye of Basul while looking up to confirm the hatch was still open above, it would not work to speak with Tadlo or Lorgen, which reinforced the fear from earlier and I reached out to Nisaba and found the connection tenuous. I expended a charge of Manacite to speak with her to boost it and sent her "This is gross. Do you think it is necessary for us to be down here or is this one of those places to avoid consequences?" and she replied "You walk within Dryndir, the rake of continents. Tread carefully so as not to wake it," bringing my fears again to surface.
"Let's call that plan S, for ship."
"Do we want to... just go back out? This is all a little weird."
"Adjenna's calling an audible, do we need to do this?"
"Someone... someone tell me we need to keep going eh?"
"I dunno, are we thinking this is bad?"
"It's just weird, very weird!"
"Well no one talked me into it but we'll keep going."
"Oh are you a big scaredy cat or are you..."
"Alright alright shut up."
""Ospher had heard of a Rake of Continents from a copy of an ancient scroll, something from the time of pre-history and tribes, he assured me. "Dryndir who fled The Sun" he said, a very very obscure reference he claimed. Based on my medical knowledge, I surmised these passageways as designed to carry oxygen, basically connected to every organ, currently above an air bladder, which amphibious creatures tend to use to control how deep they float within water. Spreading out to comb the place with our individual expertises, we found some very very old scar tissue in a path that implied something was dragged along down here in ages past, perhaps wagon's tracks, and knew which way the stomach would be. As Janka wrapped up playing for her Bardic Inspiration, we felt some rumbles, brief bits of shaking movement, and a noise, low and loud resounding throughout everything and not in any semblance of language, and then still and silent once more. Resolving to stay quiet, we set off after the ancient wagon tracks and came closer into a dark chamber with a loud rhythmic beating that the Driftglobes revealed to not be a heart, but a very ancient stone fortress built up around this organ. Walls were built up and around it, including veins and passageways of blood, and while noticing this we spotted some movement around the structure: dressed in very similar versions of the clothes to the Mummy that Ospher slew, a large number of Warrior Mummies walking silently about the area guarding the heart. They moved about in groups of six, and at least three distinct patrols we could make out, in addition to some keeping a lookout on the walls themselves with bows and arrows. Ospher set about casting Telepathic Bond so we could communicate our desires here, I explained Nisaba's warning about this place and there was general concurrence that we should never speak of this place to anyone under the pain of death in some sort of non-beneficial tontine / death pact.
"No more violin?! That's like saying no more... whatever it is that makes your spells work."
"I can cast telepathic bond."
"Oh good, do that."
"But for now, let's just not talk."
"Can I think a question into your brains right now?"Examining where the wagon track went, it didn't seem to go towards the fortress itself, but off to the side and a secondary entrance. Directly in front were a group of the same mummy guards, but it seemed as if the wagons went off that way and there were piles of leftover supplies. We thought this might be one of the best places to try it and activated the Gem of Seeing and observed the room, the barky/fleshy substance couldn't be looked through, but the various mummies had a slight shimmer to them from their empowerment within the Ethereal plane. The fortress didn't appear to have any kind of magical warding around it, which must have been due to sheer amount of mass of Dryndir around the place. I handed the Gem over to Ospher at this point and he pointed out some wispy little balls of energy, darting about, mentioning they would almost approach us and then dart off. He handed the Gem to Janka then and pointed out that some of these shimmering ones invisible to the naked eye were mummies that were capable of jumping in and out of the ethereal plane, akin to a phase spider's ability. The flying wisp-y things flitting about appeared to be trying to siphon off magics from the mummies, some kind of parasite that had actually destroyed a few of the mummies as we looked about the large room and spotted small piles of ancient dust with armor and some fresher one piles of bones moldering. Ospher watched one long enough to see it attempt to leech from a mummy and it turned very rapidly and reached into the Ether to try to attack it back but they were very quick little gremlins.
"You don't need to ask, you just did."
"What do you call a wizard who specializes in pork?" utter silence "A sau-sage."
"They are mummies that can move through the ether to jump scare you."We trekked off to the stomach, and the closer we got, the smell got more and more acidic, searing our nostrils, and while uncomfortable, everyone was ok, save Janka who doubled over, retching immediately searing her eyes with stomach acids. The trip into the Under-Undercity of Frial must have done more of a number on her than her pride would let on to be so vulnerable like this. The 'passageway' didn't have any tracks or anything though we followed it anyway into an opening that overlooked a great roiling and boiling greenish-grey lake. We spotted a number of wrecked hulks of lumber ships, slowly dissolving in the acid, undoubtedly somehow being fed to this unconscious ancient drake. Taking the spectacle in, we heard some shouts in common sort of echoing across the gargantuan stomach, people yelling in common in a sort of coordinated defense. The closest hulks were around 60 feet from the drop off and there were just a couple of ships the yelling could be from, though further away. We took a quick poll to see if we should help, Ospher, Charity, Bianca voting for saving Nika, I voting against and Janka abstaining.
"I desire my liberty." Adjenna turns away from the ledge
"Don't you think we should help though?"
"I'm already taking a pretty big leap today, trusting that already three other people with a secret that could topple the entire continent and trying to rescue people from an acid lake will be something that will be easy to keep quiet."
"I guess I agree with all that but, like remember Donovo? He was a lake pirate, this could have been him."
"It's curious that this was his profession prior to coming to us."
"I mean, you hired him, so I'll take your word on the piracy."
"I think that's what he was getting at, for sure."
"I've never come down on being the deciding factor in anything but a reckless decision that I'm making by myself."Looking out to the masts across the way, we resolved to fly out with the Brooms in order to see where these people could be fighting for their lives. We approached the first boat... Let's make sure that whatever happens here, we don't wake the millenia old dragon that no one left in this world could possibly ever fight or subdue, ok?
Character(s) interacted with
Sanford, the Foreman - He... seems nice?