Tharaa

Tharaa: The Aethora (Session 4)

The Tomb

ABOUT THE KEY TO THE TOMB

The group is fully rested, and Issan has gone upstairs to drop off some items for safekeeping and check on Kryn and Myra. While they wait for him to return, Mae asks about the key to the king’s tomb.

Nathan believes, based on the ancient scrolls, that the key is a key in name only. In form, it’s probably more like a disk, broken in two pieces. Mae remembers that there’s a raised dais inscribed with incomprehensible symbols, diagrams, etc., in the central chamber. They head back there to examine it. Sure enough, in the center there is a 12”” round, circular depression, 1-2”” deep. Rymie examines it but can’t find any signs of a mechanism, but Mae is convinced this must be the keyhole. It has been several generations since the king was buried, after all.

THE REST OF THE THIRD TIER

The First Half of the Key

Issan rejoins the party, looking tired. The group heads back into the scribes’ room and open a door there to find a narrow passage leading into a long, dark room. With a torch from Rymie, they discover that it’s another sacrificial room. It looks like a large, private prayer space. There are high quality tapestries on the walls, and four small, clean, unused altars in the front part of the room. A decorative wooden screen with a door separates this area from the back of the room, which is dimly lit by two candles. With the torch, the group can make out a fresco of the monster on the far wall, in front of which is a giant, disgusting statue. The area is dominated by a single great altar covered with stains and bones.

When Mae opens the door in the wooden screen, the giant stone statue of Zargon shambles to life. Battle battle, victory. In the pedestal on which the statue was standing there is a small depression with a locked wooden box. Mae is able to open it with the High Priest’s key, and it is holding half of what she presumes to be the key to the king’s tomb. The half disk has little even holes scattered randomly over it and is ragged and cracked along the broken edge. Mae nestles it back in the box and puts the box in her pack.

The Library

The group heads back to the dining room and prepares to enter the door opposite the archway. Mae hears footsteps on the far side, so she readies a zerka and dagger and heads through with the others on her heels.

The group finds themselves in the library. It’s very large room with arched ceilings. Three hanging oil lamps illuminate the space, and long tapestries designed as illuminated documents adorn the walls. There are 12’ high wooden bookshelves running crosswise through the room, creating narrow passages between them.

Mae’s entry startles a monk who is shelving books near the door and she shrieks. Mae moves into the room, threatening but not attacking the librarian monk with her dagger. She asks where the Archivist is in Common, but the monk seems confused. The three adventurers enter the room and engage with three monks and the Archivist in the center of the library. Mae and one monk jump on top of a set of bookshelves to fight there, and from that vantage, Mae finally gets in a heavy damage attack with her zerka on the Archivist, but is hit with a spell in return. It becomes clear that the Archivist is using arcane magic. The battle rages, and the group suffers heavy damage before defeating the monks.

Aside from thousands of books in Bhreen, though, the Library and its Archivist hold no treasures or keys. Rymie greedily grabs several tomes.

Time with the Bhreen

Mae, Rymie, and Issan are near collapse, and so they retreat beyond the sealed door to the second tier and rest for a day and a night to heal up. During this time, Rymie tries to get Nathan to teach him some Bhreen, but despite Nathan’s best efforts, he is not a great teacher. Mae, on the other hand, learns several dice games from the soldiers. Nathan brings to group up to date on what his men have accomplished: They’ve cleared the barracks of monks, and found 14 imprisoned Bhreen. The key Mae took from the Priest Commander turns out to be the cell key, and so she gives it to Nathan to keep in case they discover more. The Bhreen have also found the entrance to the underground city in the main worship chamber (south of the central chamber), but it is sealed with a grate that’s partially made of rare iron.

The Archivist’s Rooms

Well rested, Rymie, Mae, and Issan head back to the library and through an archway into the Archivist’s office. There they find:
  • The other half of the tomb key in his desk: Mae
  • Quills & ink: Rymie
  • Quills & ink: Mae
  • Blank rough parchment, probably made of mushrooms: Mae
  • Scroll document case: short & small & made of athgari with bone caps, probably waterproof: Mae

On the other side of the archivist’s office, there appears to be a lab with some sort of distilling alchemy materials. As the group enters the room, Mae spots a brown cat on the table amongst the materials! Cats are very rare and Mae befriends this one, although Rymie is freaked out by it and Issan wants to eat it. The group spends some time looking around, when suddenly a bottle whizzes off the shelf on the far wall and hurl itself at Mae. Surprised, she drops the cat and uses synesthete to see sound, trying to locate the source of the bottle. She sees a bottle shaking on the shelf, apparently on its own, and suddenly it whizzes over and hits Issan.

Mae tries to convince the others that the bottles are enchanted to move on their own, and ends up getting under the table while the others try to locate a hidden enemy—Rymie by rushing past the shelves whirling his arms ridiculously, and Issan by clambering up the table and reaching out into the air.

Under the table, Mae reaches out to pet the cat again, but it elongates and changes, shifting into a demonic little imp. Another materializes on the shelves, holding a bottle and grinning wickedly. Issan, Rymie, and Mae battle the wily creatures. Issan manages to destroy most of what’s on the table while striding across it and kicking things off.

The group dispatches the imps, and Mae examines one while Rymie marvels at the shelves. It’s not like anything Mae has ever seen before, in fact it seems like something out of a story from her childhood.

Rymie takes:
  • 2 imp barbed tails with venom
  • 1 sealed jar of cauldron liquid

The notes in the lab are all in Bhreen, but Rymie thinks the Archivist may have been trying to do something specific. They call Nathan in, and ask him to read the documents and notes. It looks to him like the Archivist was trying to figure out how to get into King Bre’sun’s tomb. The notes indicate that he needed the following items:

  • blood of an inex
  • claws of harpy
  • dust or flakes of gold
  • root of esper (Mae knows that esper is an herb that’s used to temporarily improve one’s pool of psionic power, but it’s addictive and frowned upon)

There’s also a note that black powder activates the ritual, but Nathan can’t figure out more than that.

The adventurers look around the lab for these items. They manage to find a small flask of what might be dust of gold, along with vials of blood that all appear to be the same. They find some plant material, but nothing that seems to be rootlike. They find several claws, although it isn’t clear that they’re harpy claws.

THE TOMB OF KING BRE’SUN

The Descent and What They Found

Mae, Rymie, and Issan head back to the central chamber and place the pieces of the key in the round depression. Slowly the key sinks down, then spins until there is an audible click. Stone fingers rise up through the holes in the key, and a door in the wall on the east side of the chamber swings open.

Mae invites Nathan to join them, but he declines. The place is too sacred to him and his people for him to profane it with his presence. Rymie grandly excuses his superstitions, and Mae tries to set things right before they pass through the door. It leads to a stairway that descends in a tight spiral.

The stair descends an impossible depth-probably hundreds of feet-and finally stops in a small square chamber with four statues of groveling Bhreen. The stonework is magnificent; the perfectly square and smooth walls with intricately carved columns appear to be carved from a single stone. There’s a low archway that opens into a broad chamber, and the groups sees two faint glowing points in the distance.

The glowing points look eerily like eyes, and the group proceeds with caution through the chamber, lighting the way with a torch. Along its sides in niches are beautiful statues of proud kings. The chamber has high vaulted ceilings covered in breathtaking frescoes. At the end of the hall is a an altar and a fresco of a king. There’s a charred patch on the otherwise pristine surface of the altar, and the glowing points turn out to be two candles burning on either side of the altar. Strangely, the candles appear to have been lit moments before: They are tall and thin, but there is no sign of melted wax on the candles or at their bases from previous candles. Two pristine bowls flank the altar on each side.

Short flights of stairs lead down to beautifully carved wooden doors on either side of the altar, one of which is slightly ajar.

An Encounter with the Gith

Mae asks Rymie to tie his bells on the closed door, and the group heads through the open one to the right side of the altar.

The door leads to a large L-shaped room. There are torches lighting the room, but acrid smoke hovers around the ceiling. There are 15’ statues of noble kings in the corners opposite the door, but there’s a crude barricade across the center of the room sheltering three Gith. On the near side of the barricade are three strange bipedal lizard creatures with no necks, triple mandibles and three eyes apiece. The adventurers back onto the stairs and engage the creatures in battle, taking a prisoner in the process.

Eventually the group heads into a narrow corridor that leads to an adjoining room where several more Gith are holed up. Mae attempts to threaten their prisoner as they enter the room, hoping the Gith will surrender or flee, but they do no such thing and she is forced to kill the helpless Gith, which weighs heavily on her conscience. The battle is rough and Rymie gets knocked unconscious before it ends.

Neither Issan nor Mae have much skill at healing, and they are horrified. Mae darts into an adjoining room to look desperately for a healing salve or potion, but all she finds are some esper roots in a filthy Gith encampment. Finally, between Issan and Mae, Rymie is stabilized. The three of them hole up in the esper root room and rest for a full day and a couple of nights to regain health, psionic powers, and spells. At one point Issan thinks he notices light roots in Mae’s hair, but the by the next day they are gone.

The group finds a large, roughly hollowed out tunnel in the room where the final battle took place, and they speculate that it must have been created by the Gith as a means to access the levels above. They decide against exploring that route, preferring instead to continue their quest for the Aethora.

Unlocking the Door & the Confessional

Mae, Rymie, and Issan head back to the altar room, where they place blood, claws, gold dust, and esper roots into the four bowls. Mae then piles gunpowder on the altar and light it with both candles. Flame spark and rush up from the gunpowder, and also from the bowls as the ingredients are consumed. The door to the left swings open, and Mae is surprised to see that there is no visible mechanism on either side of it.

In the next room are two Bhreen statues with huge horns facing inward, their faces carved as though they are each about to sound the horns. Between them is an arched doorway over which is carved:

The living are dead
Be rid of sin
Speak my name
Confess or be ash

Mae speaks the name of King Bra’sun, and confesses her true name and that she has killed many people in the temple. Nothing happens, and so she speaks a few other names, but finally decides that she must have done it correctly. She walks through the doorway unscathed.

Rymie steps up silently, and is blasted with fire from the horns, but he manages to get through. Issan speaks the king’s name, then confesses that has lain with many women . . . in the temple. Mae and Rymie stare in shock as he also walks through unscathed. He assures them that it was surely a dream, but that the confession must have fooled the magic. Although the others are skeptical, he is very convincing. The group ventures into a wide hall, at the end of which is a doorway. To the left some stairs lead downward.

he Desert Guardian

The group decides to head through the door first. It opens into a gorgeous room frescoed with desert scenes. There is even some painted plaster statuary scattered near the walls to lend realism to the scene.

In the center of the room is a war chariot with a plaster statue of a man holding a whip, driving an ilix. As soon as Mae steps into the room, though, the man comes to life, challenging the adventurers as defilers of the tomb of the king. Another battle ensues, in which the ilix makes good use of its barbed tail, and the man in the chariot throws javelins at Mae. When they are finally defeated, the man and beast turn to dusty sand. After the battle, Mae scavenges six javelins-basically wood with sharpened, but beautifully shaped ends-and fashions a crude case of rope that fastens to her pack strap, putting the javelins in easy over-shoulder reach. Rymie gives lots of advice as she works, but Mae manages to get the javelins arranged to her liking on her own and the group moves on.

The King’s Wives

After a bit of healing, the group proceeds down the stairs, around a corner, and into the next room.

There they find four raised, scalloped platforms. Three along the far wall are shrouded by rotting tapestries, although it appears there are large boxes-perhaps coffins-inside. The fourth and nearest platform is partially covered with wooden screens, as well as a rotting tapestry of its own.

A woman steps out of the closest enclosure and shouts, ””Villains and defilers! You cannot enter the domains of the kings wives. Sisters! Help me to destroy these invaders before they profane the tomb of the king.”” The adventurers are shocked when she casts a spell, entangling Rymie and Issan completely in low, sticky webs. Mae’s reflexes help her avoid the worst of it, although she is reduced to half speed.

Harpies emerge from the other three boudoirs and float above the webs to attack. One sings an unearthly song, to which Issan falls prey. He frees himself from the web only to stand adoringly before her as she attacks him. The group takes heavy damage while Issan is mesmerized, and Mae finally blows her battle horn to drown out the siren song, restoring Issan’s wits. The king’s wife, meanwhile, is attacking with a steel rapier!

Soon after, Rymie gets knocked unconscious, but Mae manages to bring him back with a couple of rounds of desperate first aid. Issan goes down as well, and Mae and Rymie barely manage to defeat the final harpy so that Rymie can stabilize and heal Issan. The evil creatures have all dissolved into dust, including the steel rapier.

The battered group retreats to the desert room and rests and heal for a couple of days until back to full strength.

A Dangerous Hall

Fully rested, Mae, Rymie, and Issan head deeper into the tomb. Beyond the harpies’ boudoir they find a long hall running alongside to a tiered room set up with two levels of battlements. Arched doorways lead from the hall to the strange battle setting, and Mae cautiously sets out down the hall. She fully expects animated warriors to attack from the battlements, but it turns out the hall has dangers of its own.

In the opposite wall of the hall are two doors. Mae opens the first and only barely dodges a javelin that is triggered from a tiny trap room behind it. She then proceeds down the hall and steps on a pressure plate, activating a hole in the ceiling from which a jar of acid drops and shatters. Again, she manages to spring back just in time to avoid being doused. She carefully explores the rest of the hall’s floor, locating and disarming one other pressure plate. The group then examines the other door.

Issan offers to open this one, first engaging a psionic shield. Mae encourages him to crouch down in case of another trap, which he does, but it turns out that the door opens onto a space with another door, which does the same. Through the final door, the group finds a strange scene.

The Eyeless Accountant

In front half of the room rest four large scales. Closely set iron(!) bars form a wall across the center of the room, behind which is a desk surrounded by piles of various chests and boxes. At the desk is seated a man with no eyes, who rises as they enter the room and speaks:

””Past the beast
through the den
soldiers fail now & then
like to my master you soon will be
your eyes for mine and I will see”“

As he speaks, the scales animate and attack the adventurers. From behind the bars, the eyeless accountant throws arcane magic spells, laughing and taunting them. The group manages to defeat both the scales and the eyeless man, partially by throwing javelins and psionic attacks through the bars, but mostly through Rymie’s battering the man with his own chair using his psionic powers.

Mae then searches for a way to open the iron gate, and notices a strange part of the frescoed wall: An urn is painted with deep set, dark eye sockets. She examines the walls for some kind of trap or trigger, poking and prodding the eye sockets, and trying to fill them with a couple of bone dice. She eventually tries washing away part of the paint. Strangely, the plaster behind the eyes is black all the way through. Issan steps up with a sledgehammer and cracks away the plaster urn, which finally causes the iron bars to open. They don’t rise or sink; they simply disappear.

Mystified, the three explore the far side of the room. The chests and boxes all turn out to be empty, and the man has disappeared into a pile of dust. The desk is empty as well, but Mae finds a switch underneath it. She cautions the others to stand in the hall, then flips it. It turns out to open a door behind the strange eyeless urn fresco, and the door opens onto a small room.

In the room are a suit of armor, a desk, a couple of chests, and several large urns. The group finds:
  • a suit of splint mail, which is valuable but too heavy to practically carry along.
  • 22 silver among the trash in the chests
  • an exceptionally well crafted bone & athgariwood scimitar with a crodluhide sheath
  • several diagrams on parchment: extremely compact spring mechanism, engineering diagram with gem & handle
  • a sealed urn containing a wonderful smelling exotic spice

The group rests and heals up in this room before heading out again.

” 4/4/2010

GAME DETAILS
April 3, 2010 at Jake & Katie's house
Characters & Players
Rymie Katie
Mae Stacey
Issan Jake

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