This way a dark madness lies.

Aerandir acts as translator for Vanwa as the party question her on what she knows of this place. However, she is as ignorant as they are. She tells them she has never been beyond the magical circle and knows no more of the sorcerer who dwelt here than that he desired her for a wife. During the exchanges, Fulton, entirely understandably, casts amorous glances at the beautiful elf princess and later entreats Aerandir to teach him elvish so that he can also converse with Vanwa. Reluctantly, Aerandir agrees that on the ship he will teach Fulton some elvish (but neglects to tell him which tongue it will be).

With little more to be gained from questioning Vanwa, the adventurers press on with further explorations, Denig taking a cautious lead in searching for traps after the loss of Pick. A store room of reagents is discovered behind the last door off the entrance room. Although Denig shows some interest in the shelves he decides to leave and closer inspection to a later time.

From the storeroom, a corridor leads past the one where Pick met his demise. Denig successfully disarms a trap he discovers but this turns out to be a ruse and a second more cunning trap springs a small poisoned blade at the back of his unprotected calf. Luckily, his stone skin protects him from harm.

The corridor ends abruptly at a stone wall. The party reason that a dead end would not be protected so heavily with traps and set to searching for a secret entrance and are rewarded quickly with entry to a large room. The ceiling and floor and marked with black scorches and there is a sulphurous tang in the air. Spending over an hour to ensure that the room really is safe, Denig finally lets the party into explore its contents.

Abandoned in one corner is a chainmail shirt with links fused by heat and some tallow like substance congealed inside. Denig is immediately drawn to trying to determine what has happened. Meanwhile, Aerandir searches one of the two work benches and finds a secret compartment with a transparent gem that is shot with glimmers of gold. This immediately becomes the focus of the adventurer’s attention. Denig and Fulton spend some time sizing up its magical properties before Fulton eventually puts it in his pack for the group. There is also a big sack stuffed with a range of dirty and scorched clothes and rigid leather breast plate. The latter is assigned to Fulton as future armour.

Magical lab – Visual novel Background by Gianop

On the other workbench, they discover a small wooden box with an ancient coin and a stone beaker. Praying for divine insight into the nature of the objects discovered, Denig becomes aware of evil curses on both the breastplate and the transparent gem. However, it is too late for Fulton who loses his connection to the Song of Arda and his magical abilities.

Having explored as far as they can from the entrance hall, the party return to hall of portraits that was left unexplored on the previous day. With great care, they enter. The portraits, all of dark skinned men win sable hood robes each holding a curved silver knife with a drop of blood at its tip, appear to watch the slow search for traps. Down a corridor a locked door briefly prevents further progress before yielding to Fulton’s skills.

The room beyond is lined with statues of robed men in various scholarly and worshipful poses. Denig cautiously inches past each one before the rest of the party enter. Aerandir at the rear, hovers protectively next to Vanwa whilst covering the party with his bow.

An ebony-black door, similar to the one into the room, bars entry to the room beyond. Fulton’s lock picking skills are tested to full and are found wanting. A faint puff of air from the key hole leaves the sailor writhing on the floor in agony from poison. With alacrity, Denig calls on Cloch for aid, taking on his stone body the agony of Fulton and being granted healing for his sacrifice.

With a little more care and time, Fulton releases the lock and the door beyond opens out into a room of black marble. A dais with an altar toped by silver utensils sits within a circle of silver arcane symbols. Those near the room are assailed by voices that swell and fade. Denig and Dagaard are sorely pressed by the voices calling for a blood sacrifice and hover near the door torn between entering and a more rational caution. From the entrance to the statue room Aerandir continues to guard Vanwa and watch over the party with bow drawn.

Fulton alone enters the room and carefully explores the surrounding. Finding nothing suspicious he mounts the dais and examines the altar pieces. A silver tripod stands over a copper bowl: beside it are a small silver knife tipped in dried black blood and a silver bowl containing congealed blood. The silver items Fulton recovers and returns to those waiting in the room beyond. It is then that Denig decides to inspect the altar more closely and enters the room. The voices swell to a crescendo and drawing sword he rushes to obey the compulsion for a blood sacrifice on the only target he can see the half-elven Aerandir. At the sight of the onrushing Dunlending (sword drawn), Aerandir shuts the door and draws Vanwa back to safety. Fortunately, Cloch intervenes and the compulsion his withdrawn as the stone god’s grace flows back into Denig.

Closing the door on the unholy sanctuary, the party vow never to return and turn instead to the remaining unopened doors. The first, off the menagerie room, is quickly picked by Fulton and reveals a corridor and stairs leading upwards. The adventurers leave exploration for a later time. Instead they turn their attention to the doors in the room with the balance lock. It is clear that the doors are secured against entry by their failure with the unusual lock mechanism. After some discussion, they decide, much to Dagaard’s regret at not using Denig, to use a stone statue as a battering ram and eventually break down one of the two doors.

Beyond the door is a small office with a desk and a few writing implements but nothing more of interest. However, leading off from this and connecting back to the other door is a small library magically lit with small motes of light that bob and swirl as the heroes enter. They spend some time looking for a secret entrance behind a curtain before exploring the library shelves where they net a number of tomes from spell books to legends.

Another day has nearly passed and the party decide to retire to the ledge again for the night. There is some discussion about the next course of action. They all want to explore the final passageway but Aerandir points out that the party have been away for two days on a small island and the Captain may fear that they are lost. At this point, they have forgotten about the injured crewman (Chad) waiting by the ruins in the Valley of Diamonds. Denig thinks that they need to transport the Roc chick to the ship to avoid spoilage if it is to feed the crew. He is also keen to see Shadim to inform him that the Roc is dead and wishes to set off immediately. Fulton suggests that he stays with Vanwa on the ledge until the rest have seen the captain; as he thinks an attractive scantily clad elf might be too much of a distraction for the crew. That is until Aerandir points out that he is the only one who can communicate with her and it should be him that stays.

A fire lit Denig, Dagaard and Fulton begin to drag the large, heavy, unbutchered chick to the mountain path down to the valley. It soon becomes clear that they will not complete the journey even with dwarven night vision or supernatural aid before the night is out and so return to Aerandir and Vanwa.

2 thoughts on “This way a dark madness lies.

  1. Gabe Dybing

    So many questions!

    First, I’m curious about how you are going to “game” the teaching and learning of languages in M-e. Are you going to require development points, as usual, and the fact that a fellow PC is teaching as just “flavor?” Or will you award a savings on that language acquisition?

    Second, I may already have asked this, but what aids (if any) do you use to generate your “dungeons?” What is your process? The quality of this one is so cool.

    Like

    1. Hi Gabe
      1. RaW would say you use your DP to develop skills you say you are learning. The party are levelling up relatively quickly so this would work.
      Alternatively, I may use this as the push towards levelless development. As you know I already have a framework for out play development and a method of tracking skill use in play.

      2. Dungeon development – pen paper and some serious thought about the why and wherefore. Occasionally, I read through some books for treasure and trap ideas. A Grimtooth trap snuck into this one.
      The layout was a random dungeon off of Watabou as time was short in the adventure creation. I’ve gone from once every three months to every week and that really ups the production deadlines. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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