Tuesday, 18 March 2014

WB2, Session 16-17: Hic Sunt Dracones

Session 16-17: "Hic Sunt Dracones"
Sunday 18th, April 1001 AC
(destiny token 1)


  • Urist, dwarven cleric of Kagyar (level 3)
  • Rurik, dwarven fighter (level 3)
  • Zao-rin, human monk (level 3)
  • Danik, human scholar mage (level 3)
  • Serrin, human bounty hunter (level 3)
Lost companions
  • Grom, half-orc druid, went missing during dragon attack.
  • Adran, gnome bard, fell to his death after being dropped by a Drahie.

And so the companions were camping in the tall grassland after the fight against the Shrillers. During the long rest, Serrin, who was feeling better and had managed to track them down, arrived and joined them.

The next day, the party pushed North-East for a time, around the swamp and it's dense fog. Following the cliffs marking the border of this region, they found the rubble left by the black dragon's efforts to try and destroy the rock ceiling (see session 14). The entire area was hills of fallen rock and debris, most melted by the acid breath of the beast. Above, the ceiling was like an inverted crater, massive in scope and depth, as if this was not the dragon's first attempt at the task.

Logic dictating that a black dragon would sooner find a lair in the swamp itself then on rocks, the companions then headed South East, down into the deep fog surrounding the bog for miles. There, moving from earth patch to earth patch, avoiding stepping into the murky waters, everything seemed dead or decaying. Nothing grew but lichen and moss, husks of mushroom trees dotting the waters. 

Hours later, they arrived at what appeared to be a large body of water at the foot of the cliff walls. Going around it, they soon reached a massive structure that seemed to be mostly buried into the cliff itself, only the entrance visible. Made of white granite stone, with the now common veins of black and crudely worked, the archway and the stairs leading further in sat oddly in the open, as if misaligned with the ground.

Hall in the buried ruins, unknown author
Carefully entering the structure, they stepped into a colossal hall, completely in ruin, buried by thousands of tons of rocks, the ground clogged by infiltrating waters and covered by a thick layer of moss, with every step making a "plosh" sound. Exploring the hall, they found steps leading to a massive silver statue of a reptilian humanoid standing in the middle of a large alcove with the walls covered by carvings.

Pushing the exploration further, Serrin spotted one of the glyphs on the walls leading to silver doors and the party soon found out that they behaved quite like the ones from the Dragon-Bone Temple ruins (see session 10). As soon as the glyph activated, an ear-splitting noise exploded in the buried ruins, awakening a pack of Dire Stirges that was nesting atop the mushroom trees of the large hall.

Fighting the Dire Stirges
As Serrin destroyed the glyphs, making them explode, combat erupted against half a dozen young Dire Stirges and two large adult ones. The fight was bloody, with Urist and Danik being grabbed and thrown around, but in the end the companions prevailed and Zao-rin managed to chase down the last hiding young Dire Stirges. Near their nest, he found a hole carved out in the mushroom itself, filled with some kind of bloody substance and quickly left as he realized that odd emanations were coming from it.
Finally, they decided to rest for a short time in a room they had discovered:
  • Rurik found two Sun Jaws silver pendants, each about palm-size and depicting a reptile jaw around a black sun, like the one Urist had found back in the Dragon-Bone ruins.
  • Danik grabbed a couple of Silvery lidquid in flasks.
  • A ruined bone box like the one Serrin had found, most of the leathery pages inside destroyed by time. Danik however managed to link some of the symbols to the other pages and determined that this was actually a Spell-Book of some kind, with a kind of magic he never heard of!
Later on, they resumed the exploration and the ruins and Serrin found a secret panel at the base of the Silver Statue, leading to stairs and further inside the structure. Going carefully from room to room, trying to find a path and some details about the nature of the ruins, they found:
  • Rooms with large stone Sarcophagi carved with the same Sun Jaws symbol as well as other drawings on them. Opening one, Zao-Rin found a mummified body of a reptilian humanoid inside and a strange weapon, worn by it as a belt. Later, Danik deciphered the name of the weapon carved onto it in Old Draconic: Long Claw of Hratun-Kur
Urist, while keeping watch in the rear, noticed that some of the carvings here were in much better conditions and after some time studying them, isolated two ceremonies being depicted:
  • Pyramid Ceremony: Atop a pyramid, stick figures with bat-like wings and all wearing a Jaw around a Black Sun symbol are gathered around a black oblong object that is almost as big as themselves and seem to be performing some kind of ceremony or ritual. Above the pyramid is a large flying reptilian, all black.
  • Submission Ceremony: A group of stick figures with various symbols on their chest are gathered around a larger one with a Jaw around a Black Sun symbol and some kind of large helmet with filaments coming out of it. In front of him is a large reptilian creature, painted in paler colors, that seems to be submissive. In the background are more of the reptilian creatures.
Deeper, they reached an area were even the walls were coated by some kind of silver painting, mostly ruined and in very poor condition due to the massive water infiltration. 

As Serrin moved to investigate various doors there, Spectral creatures, shaped by black filaments immediately attacked him. During the battle, the ghosts kept howling at the companions in Old Draconic but despite their incorporeal nature and weak attack by a nest of Giant Centipedes thinking they had found good preys, the party prevailed. Afterwards, Danik revealed that the Specters kept calling Urist and Rurik "traitors", calling others "blasphemers" and "infidels". A link with the Sun Jaw Pendants some of the companions had was then made since only Urist and Rurik had one. 

The Sun Jaw Specters

In the various Sarcophagi of the Spectral apparitions, they found them filled up with the same silvery liquid that Danik was collecting in various flasks and he ditched some of his oil to grab some more, hoping it'd come useful at some point.

Pushing further and following an acidic smell into the underground tunnels carved by the infiltrating waters, they left the ruins themselves, only to reach, some time later, a massive cave system. The smell of acid there was almost unbearable, each breath burning mouth, nose and lungs.

Meeting Ziphozonke, the Black Dragon

There, near a large body of water in the cave, they met the Black Dragon, Ziphozonke himself, as he emerged from the water when Danik called him out. Serrin, his draco-phobia hitting once again in full, was nearly catatonic when Urist dragged him out of sight. Meanwhile, Danik and Zao-rin worked out a plan to try and dupe the Dragon into revealing more than it should and while Ziphozonke saw right through the illusion of Danik in an instant:
  • The beast behavior was odd, sometimes apparently talking to himself, or something else.
  • Zao-Rin noticed many injuries and scars on it's wings, scales and neck. Some recent, some very old and healed over many times. The dragon also seemed to have trouble breathing his acid, at one point trying, when Danik annoyed him, but soon stopping.
  • The beast seemed to accept Zao-Rin and Danik's submission and while at first laughing at their offer of help, he finally mentioned a artifact, a Helm, that would allow him to fight the "old enemies" once he had "broken out the skies". He hinted at a "Pyramid" he knew a long time ago, and that the Simphiwe should know about it.
As Danik and Zao-rin were finally dismissed by the dragon, they found Urist, with Rurik and Serrin, in a foul mood, weapons at the ready. After some time explaining that it was all a ruse to have the dragon reveal information, the companions finally decided to fall back to the village of the Simphiwe as soon as possible.

A day and a half later, they finally reached the village and, spending the "night" resting, now find themselves around breakfast, in Manelesi's now familiar hut, discussing what comes next...

Post Session Notes:
  • Way too crazy and busy last week to keep things updated so this should encompass both weeks sessions.
  • Dire Stirges were pretty fun to play with. I was not 100% sure on how to balance them but the encounter was interesting, not overwhelming and yet dangerous enough. All in all, they can be a nightmare (especially as flying creatures), or just a fun little encounter.
  • How to handle insanely big and powerful beings properly? Not sure. Usually I just lay down basic behavior, knowledge, experience and goals, then go with that, hoping I'll keep things coherent. I was a bit limited by the fact that English is not my first language but overall, think that encounter went decently enough.
  • The spell-book is actually related to a new school of magic I've been working called School of Entropy. It's based on manipulating life-force mainly. As Danik researches it, I'll post details here as well.
  • I'll post details about the Long Claw of Hratun-Kur (an exotic, martial, silver urumi) later on this week.

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