Friday, 22 February 2019

THE CRYSTAL SEAS... Episode 2: The 'Wizard's' (ahem) 'Tower' (ahem)


Ahhh... ummm... awkward.... guess we weren't quick enough, huh? Yes, that's right, this week a friendly NPC died. Not the pistachio nut salesman, you may be pleased to hear. If you have more than two working brain cells the above image may have tipped you off... if not, then... well, we'll get to that won't we? For now, let's pick up where we left off...

Previously on "Crystal Seas"....

As the party caught their breath, Burzum shot a (n almost) respectful glance at his non-human colleagues. The green woman, scrambling to her feet, received a look of disdain. Unfazed, the green woman stared blankly at the dead giant falcon for a moment or two, pluck a few of its flight feathers and placed them in her backpack, before stating confidently:

"Right. Shall we get back on track then?"   

Our hero, Horace, unimpressed by the green woman's apparent cowardice, suggested that she put a feather in her hair to celebrate a great victory. She was, as ever, confused by Horace's facetiousness, but nonetheless complied, leading to a discussion about Analicia's age, which she did her best to avoid.

The winner of the chicken battle.
Burzum erected an impromptu tent to shelter the party from the noon sun while they attempted a short rest. It had been more than a grazing encounter with the giant falcon: Analicia had almost died, and perhaps would have done so were it not for Horace's timely (and divine intervention). The rest gave them a chance to lick their wounds, but it set them back somewhat, and night fell before they were anywhere close to the ruins of the red mage's tower.

Fortunately, a tiny village of fewer than one hundred souls - Kuth - was situated at the junction of the coastal path and the trail to the Tower of the Red Mage. The locals were friendly and welcoming, but utterly unintelligible. They presented a sumptuous feast of stewed meats and bread, of which neither Analicia nor the woman in green partook. They both seemed bothered by the locals apparent lack of interest in the feast, instead they seemed content to merely watch. Burzum seemed to chow down heartily, which persauded Horace to follow suit. Mutton, goat... maybe camel... it was fine but maybe a little spicier than his dwarven palate would usually enjoy.

Horace felt differently in the morning, but for a few hours at least the part were able to enjoy some festivities with the hospitable villagers and spent the night in the barn.

4th Sositi :(Sositi is the third month of the local calendar)

Horace slept badly, the peculiar local food having wrought havoc with his usually strong stomach. Not needing sleep and not having indulged in the previous evening's food, Analicia is feeling refreshed and revitalised and ready for breakfast. She catches sight of the woman in green reading through a particularly thick, leather-bound book... and then notices yet another costume change, as the woman in green becomes the woman in turquoise...

Wait, didn't she have a feather in her hair yesterday?

Fixed it! Meanwhile, in her hunt for a decent breakfast, Analicia was caught up in an exchange with a pair of locals who seemed to accurately interpret her need for breakfast, and provided her with a boiled lizard's egg (without any salt or pepper). Refreshed and recharged, and after Horace muttered his daily prayers, the party continued their journey to the Tower of the Red Mage.

The trail continued out of the village of Kuth and into the desert. As the woman in turquoise had predicted, a large man-made hill soon loomed in the distance across the dunes, although as they drew closer, it appeared not to be the grand tower she had anticipated. Burzum allowed himself a laugh, which as they drew closer and saw a mule cart and a few young local boys busying themselves with work, turned into a guffaw. The turquoise lady failed to see the funny sun, especially when she saw the sign hanging from the unassuming, recently constructed stone building on the site of her "tower".

They don't do possessive apostrophes in these parts.
The party found themselves on the first floor of the Wizard's Tower brewery, attempting to discuss just why the proprietor (a middle-aged Kyran man, unable to speak the common tongue) seems to have been expecting them. Burzum was able to understand one word: exterminator.

With the woman in yellow green turquoise anxious to inspect the tower, the party allowed themselves to be led down to the cellars of the brewery... with Burzum leading, followed by Analicia, then the woman in turquoise... the wooden stairs creaked as they descended into the cool, dry air of the cellar , which was infused with the smell of beer and damp fur . Somewhere in the darkness they heard the scrabbling sound of claws on floorboards and a faint squeaking noise.

They soon realised they were surrounded by at least eight giant rats. With not a moment to spare, Burzum leaps into action, charging at a cluster of three rats, dropped his flaming torch to the ground and swung his great, two-handed sword into one of the rats. The sword cut deep into its flesh, but the creature seemed undeterred in its desire to feed on his flesh. Horace muttered some incantations before opening his mouth and releasing a bellowing cry akin to an enormous house cat. Shocked by the terrifying sound, two of the rats immediately scuttled through a dark hole at the far side of the room.

Almost immediately, the turquoise woman charged forward, raised a curious object from her pocket, muttered some curious words and pointed her finger at one of the rats between her and Burzum, before launching a mote of fire towards, it engulfing it in flame, but again, not killing it. Two of the rats ran towards her and attacked, not harming her but inflicting a wound on Analicia in the process. Burzum found himself subject to the gnashing teeth and scratching claws of not one, not two, but three one metre long rats, and was wounded by their filthy teeth. Not to be outdone by the turquoise woman's surprise, Analicia launched a fire bolt of her own hurtling through the air, though it did not strike its intended target.

A peculiar malady befell Burzum, who seemed to be consumed by an incredible rage. His eyes reddened, even in the flickering torchlight, and he struck out at his foes with renewed vigour. His greatsword cleaved his primary assailant in twain, and the arcing sword even tore into the neighbouring rat. Turquoise woman, surrounded now by rats, attempted to parry their strikes as she withdrew to the far corner of the room, cowering. Horace placed his hands on the shoulder of his wounded elven colleague, and Analicia's wounds were magically healed.   

After a series of hits and misses (including some wild swings from Horace's warhammer), the party had dispatched five of the giant rats. Analicia had dealt the killing blow to two, and Burzum had slain three. Lots of questions were raised. It appeared that the turquoise woman had some magical ability... and so too did the elven maiden, Analicia...

Turquoise Lady: You can do what I do... how? Can all elves do that?

Analicia: Uhhh... I wouldn't know... I just... practised!

Turquoise Lady: Hmm... what do you do when you die?

Analicia: Excuse me?

Turquoise: I mean, when your... uh... parents die. What do you do with the bodies? Bury them? Burn them?

Analicia: Uhhh...

Burzum led the party through the gap in the far wall through which the rats had escaped, coming into a passage that was blocked at one end. The other end contained a curious mosaic, and a riddle:

"Dawn breaks with stirring air , As sun shines down on new day fair
"Midday blaze bakes earth and grass, The farmer waits for heat to pass
"Evening cool brings water , wine, Drink and laughter passing time
"Night sees shining, roaring f ire, as wood and coals burn on the pyre"

The riddle, in elvish, was crudely translated by the Turquoise Lady, with corrections by Analicia... yet the party were none the wiser. They were aware that this was some kind of trap, as there were three dead rats lying prone over the tiles, each one bisected by by a blade, their entrails splayed across the decorative tiles. Unable to decipher the riddle, Burzum was big and strong enough to make a standing jump across the trap. Horace, after casting a light spell to make sure everything was clear, caught the attention of Turquoise Lady, who noticed for the first time that Horace was able to use magic, too....

Turquoise Lady: How did you do that? Can all dwarves do that?

Horace: Uhhh

Turquoise Lady: Hmm... what do you do when you die?

Horace: Excuse me?

Turquoise: I mean, when your... uh... parents die. What do you do with the bodies? Dwarf bodies?Bury them? Burn them?

Despite this, Horace continued undeterred. first, he attempted trial and error, receiving a blade to the foot, causing grievous harm. Nonetheless, he tries again, this time placing his foot on the area of the tiles representing the sky. Gingerly, he took a diagonal step on to the next tile, then across from there to the deep blue tiles on the third panel... then on to the fire glyph on the fourth tile... 

With Analicia following in his footsteps, Horace made it across, much to the amusement and disbelief of Burzum, who was waiting for the trap to trigger at any moment. For the duration of this incident, the Turquoise Lady had never looked up from the engravings on the wall. Only when everyone had safely made it across did she triumphantly announce that she had solved the riddle...

The party were now confronted by two doors at the end of the corridor: one on the wall on the left, the other at passageway's terminus. The group elected to take the door on the left, revealing...

...the burned remnants of some kind of alchemical laboratory. But just as they began to investigate the area, a scuttling sound was heard... this time, however, it wasn't a giant rat... it was...

...a giant spider! Oh my god! Wait, did I mention it was on fire?

The flaming spider caught everyone by surprise, launching a stream of burning webbing around Burzum. Screaming with agony, Burzum fell to the floor. Analicia responded with her bow, piercing the spider's abdomen, but it was not felled. It scuttled over the charred, prone body of Burzum towards its nearest opponent, Horace, and dealt him a deadly blow with its hideous jaws. Burning pain seared through the dwarven cleric's chest as he fell to the floor, unconscious. Muttering an incantation, the turquoise woman summoned three white-coloured lights, which shot forth and pummelled the huge spider, though still it remained intact.

Seeing Horace collapse from his wounds, Analicia rushed to his side and attempted to stabilise the mortally wounded dwarf. The creature scuttled forward, over the body of Horace now, and bit the Analicia, wounding her. The Turquoise Lady responded with another barage of magic missiles, yet still the creature was determined to slaughter its prey. This time taking a swipe with her shortsword, Analicia once again wounded the beast, but it was undeterred, and closed its ugly, flaming mandibles upon the elf's shoulder. Owing to the loss of blood and incredible pain, she fell to the floor, also unconscious.

Things were not looking good for the Turquoise Lady. Not only had all her muscle now been floored, but she had used her most powerful magic. The flaming spider bearing down on her would easily withstand anything she could do with the tiny dagger by her side... what else could she do? She launched a bolt of flame, knowing full well it would probably do very little, but her options were running out... it missed, regardless, the flame spluttering out harmlessly in some dark corner of the burned-out lab. There was a pause, before the spider charged at her. She turned and ran.

The woman almost stumbled directly into the trap, and it was only at that exact moment that she remembered the correct sequence in which to step. She silently thanked Horace for casting his light spell earlier, as she had not the time to light the torch. Skipping across the mosaic, she heard a shrieking sound, the spider was almost upon her. Thence came the noise of melt scraping against stone, followed by a brief, ear-piercing shriek. Then, there was silence. 

After catching her breath, the woman in turquoise turned around, slowly. The spider lay in several pieces across the mosaic, the flames that had engulfed it slowly spluttering out.

Analicia came to with a gasp, her wounds apparently magically healed. She was lying on the floor of the burned-out laboratory, beside her Horace was stirring. They had survived the ordeal, somehow. Well, not all of them... Analicia heard the sounds of a woman weeping.

A woman in turquoise, cradling the charred remains of the warrior Burzum....


NB. This installment of the Crystal Seas features an adaptation of the adventure A Most Potent Brew, available from the Dungeon Masters' Guild

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