Previously, on Phoenix Rising…
… Blackwell, Jobi and Kell concentrated their attacks against these two new foes while Asphodel and Zola continued to beat upon the obelisk, slowly chipping away at its dense black rock. Those floating balls were extremely hard to hit and resilient to just about all magic attacks but when Asphodel struck the final shattering blow on the obelisk, those balls of electricity also winked out of existence and the entire clearing was now still and quiet except for the normal small forest animal sounds all around. With everyone’s magical abilities completely or nearly completely exhausted, our party decided to clean an area in this clearing and take a rest…
Our heroes’ rest was thankfully uneventful and soon everyone was back to full strength, ready to continue exploring this strange place hoping that the way home was just around the corner. upon first glance this clearing seemed to be a dead end, but after some careful searching, the party found a small path winding through the dense forest, no more than five feet in width at its widest and sometimes less than three feet wide which made most of our heroes have to walk sideways at times. Blackwell changed into his wolf form and scouted out in front of the rest of the party, but only by a dozen feet or so. It was difficult to traverse this winding path and it took a long time before it finally opened out into another clearing. This new clearing wasn’t nearly as large as the previous two they had encountered but it was also significantly different. It forked in two directions: to the west the clearing ended in about fifty feet with a ten foot wide smooth black stone pillar rising out of the ground and going higher than their vision in this dim and hazy area allowed – at least eighty feet tall. To the east the clearing ended in a very swiftly moving river with a sheer cliff face on the opposite shore. The river was only fifteen feet across but the water was very clean and cold and looked very deep. Zerak estimated that the river was probably flowing somewhere neat sixty feet every second. To the north they could just see a violent waterfall crashing down to the surface of the river. But the strangest feature here was another smooth black pillar, again about ten feet in diameter, sunk into the river bed and also rising up into the air just as far as the other one – but this one also had smooth black stones jutting out of its sides, making a stairway spiraling up the entire height of the pillar. It seemed that the only way forward was to climb the stairs. Asphodel took out a rope and said that they should all tie off together so that the less adept at climbing would have some extra protection against falling off the stairs – since there was no handrail or anything else that would prevent one from just slipping off the edge and plummeting into the river below. The first step of the stairway was right at the shore and they would be ascending over the raging river nearly every step they climbed.
They decided on the order they would ascend the stairs and slowly made their way up. Around thirty feet up, they began to feel the cold mist from the waterfall and saw that the stairs were coated in a fine mist of water which made them very slippery. Almost at the time of this realization that they needed to be very careful, Jobi and Kel both slipped and nearly fell off. Fortunately Zerak and Zola were able to hold onto to them and keep their foot as they helped their friends climb back onto the stairs. Unfortunately this was not to be the only mishap. Jobi again, and Zerak both slipped when they were around sixty feet up. This time Asphodel and Kel were able to stabilize the two and get them back on their feet. After this second potential disaster, Jobi hugged the pillar the rest of the way up. At ninety feet the stairs entered a large, strangely shaped room made out of some strange grey stone (partially limestone and lava rock possibly). The room had a ten foot ceiling and only two arched exits out – one to the west and one to the north. The western archway led to a wood and rope bridge that led to a small platform (which appeared to be on top of the other smooth stone pillar from the clearing below) and that had another bridge leading north to the top of the sheer cliff edge. They could see some other strangely shaped buildings over there but not very well for it was still dim and hazy up here as well. The north archway led to another wood and rope bridge that spanned around thirty feet (and only five feet wide) and attached to the other side of the sheer cliff here. The other side had another building close to the edge also made of the same strange grey stone.
Inside this room the walls were covered in strange and unintelligible runes – at least not one of our heroes could translate the runes so they made any sense at all. Also there was a large stone table that had a diorama on it. It looked to be the area that they were exploring, They could recognize the building they were in on the miniature landscape as well as the bridges, paths, and the closer buildings on the other sides of the bridges, but that was about it. So they decided that they would continue to the closest building, the one to the north. And again to cross the bridge, they used a combination of flying over the chasm (for those that could), tying ropes to each other to walk across the bridge, and carrying others who had difficulty staying up on both feet. Once across they saw that the river flowed right next to this building and could see that it was traveling just as fast here before the falls as it was down below after the falls.
Blackwell examined the archway entrance closest to the party and determined that everything looked safe so far. So Asphodel, Zerak and Zola slowly advanced into the building with care – Asphodel exploring the empty room on the right side and Zerak and Zola checking the room to the left. In there they saw a low stone pool at the north end of the room that had water overflowing from it into narrow rivulets flowing slowly across the floor. It seemed that this must have been going on for a long time for there were grooves etched into the stone floor by the running water. Zerak slowly went up to the pool, avoiding stepping on any of the rivulets and saw that a pale colored key was at the bottom of the pool. So Zola came in with Zerak coming out of the room so she could try to get the key using her mage hand spell. But as soon as she had cast it and started to move the key, the water rose up and formed a serpent like appendage that slapped across Zola. She then instantly disappeared fro sight and Zerak yelled out that Zola was gone. Asphodel came running over to see what was going on and took a look at the pool herself, seing the large key at the bottom. Meanwhile Zola found herself in the middle of the river being swept towards the falls. So she readied her wings and just when she went over the falls, spread her wings and took off flying back to the archway they had entered the building from.
Now knowing of the protection against trying to grab the key out of the pool, Asphodel braced herself and quickly reached for the key. Just as she grabbed it, she felt a funny dizzy feeling come over her and found herself in the river just like Zola had. She too, prepared herself and flew out of harm’s way as she went over the falls. With key in hand she flew back to the building and once Zerak got a good look at it he declared that the key appeared to be made from solid platinum!
So our heroes started their way further into the building and into the second room. Here, some of them could hear a very low sounding moan. Carefully they advanced into the room and saw:
The walls, ceiling, and floor of this structure are covered in strange runes whose twisting shapes poke unpleasantly at your mind.
In addition, the chamber’s inner walls curve at odd angles and end in columns. They serve no apparent architectural purpose, but appear to be part of the runic pattern itself. To the north beyond these walls, a dim light flickers and sways, as though something is moving before an open flame. There they saw a flaming bronze brazier hanging on a chain from the ceiling. Propelled by unseen magic, the brazier slowly revolved around a large stone sundial, casting a shadow that moved steadily from one hour to the next. The brazier’s revolution remained constant, causing the shadow to shift from one number to the next at intervals of one minute; at that pace, a full “day” passes every 24 minutes. Plus around the corner they saw a beautiful elven woman beaten and chained to the wall – apparently a prisoner of someone or something.
When Zola came into view and the dirty, bleeding woman looked up, surprise and hope seemed to show across her face as she exclaimed, “Oh, gods! Strangers, you must help me! They’ve already sacrificed my family, and I’m to be next! Oh, please, help me …”
Immediately Zola and Zerak both thought something was amiss and got ready for anything, or so they thought. For upon sensing that her story wasn’t being believed, the elven woman’s shape began to change and grow and soon she was now a lamia noble – complete with two wicked looking scimitars! At the same time joining her was four swarms of bright red spiders that came rushing out of the cracks between the walls and floor and ceiling! The lamia proved to be a formidable foe that was able not only to strike hard enough to stun Zola but also could drain Wisdom points as she did as well! In addition to the swarms with their very painful and poisonous bites, three large black widow spiders joined the fray as well and put pressure on everyone to try to avoid the poisonous bites of these nasty arachnids.
Jobi’s fireball spells and Zerak’s burning hands spells were the only thing really effective against the swarms so they concentrated on those first while Kel, Blackwell, and Asphodel started in on the spiders and lamia. Jobi needed to retreat at one point, not only because of spider bite damage but because Asphodel ended up going into her rage again and she didn’t want to be the next target of her uncontrolled attacks. Blackwell took some serious damage from the spiders and the lamia, so much so that he ended up playing dead in the northern corner near the sundial hoping that he would remain unbothered while he tried to stealthily heal himself. Zerak unleashed a lightning bolt upon the lamia, and once that was the only enemy left standing, he took ran out of sight of the now crazed Asphodel. Kel also did significant damage to the spiders and damaged the lamia as well, but also ran for cover from the little halfling in the eidolon suit.
Once the lamia was put down by Asphodel’s last attacks, both Zola and Jobi moved in to help calm the halfling to help her regain control of herself. They were successful and Asphodel dropped out of her eidolon and slumped to the floor exhausted. Zerak sat by her to help ease her nerves while the rest of the party took care of some healing and recuperation for the next hour or so. They took the scimitars that the lamia was using since they were magical and would bring a decent amount of coin when they got back to the normal mortal world. During this time several of our heroes looked at and studied the sundial and the poem and tried to make some sense of it. Zerak even resorted to pulling out Priscilla and his mask of a thousand tomes to try to decipher the meaning of everything, but little came to light for the group. Maybe they would find some more clues to its use further into this crazy realm.
After their brief rest, our stalwart band then traveled to the other side of the river to where the path split north and south and followed it north to the next closest building. Like the others so far, there was only an archway with no door and all the strange runes inscribed onto the walls, but this building’s interior was different…
This chamber is adorned with about a dozen tapestries. One has an image of fey dancing in a ring of toadstools as thunderclouds gather overhead, and another shows a young man weeping over the corpse of a murdered maiden in a glade. One tapestry against the western wall shows an almost life-sized double door, bounded in iron and silver and covered in arcane runes. A figure clad in black is being hurled back from the door by a bolt of lightning, with obvious lock picks flying from his fingers. His companion, who is dressed in chainmail, is leaning forward as though to stop him. The second figure is holding a key in his open hand. It’s the only tapestry that shows an indoor scene. The key in this tapestry looks just like the platinum key they found in the stone pool of water. And the large tapestry to the southeast doesn’t stand in front of a wall, but rather hangs before the entrance to another chamber. Pushing past the tapestry, you find yourself in a chamber of strange curves and bizarre shapes. In the rough center of the room stands a tall staff with a flame burning atop it, like a torch. On the curved, southeast wall is a line of numbers, 1 through 12, repeated twice. The first series is inlaid in brightly polished brass, and the second series is inlaid in black wrought iron.
Now the heroes believed that this area had something to do with the sundial they found across the river, but what exactly they weren’t sure. So after some debate, Blackwell moved in between the burning staff and the numbers on the wall and let his shadow be cast upon the brass twelve. As he stood still, they noticed that black shadowy tendrills came pouring out of the walls and coalesced into wraiths! Eight in all, they attacked the party as soon as they could…
Stay tuned for next week’s exciting adventures…