So when we last left our heroes, they were standing outside of Ralph’s cellar, their feet turning the snow to slush and their breath turning to smoke in the frozen air. Intrigued and concerned by Ralph’s description of a lone figure lurching through the streets, ranting and raving at the stars, the party dispatched Sergei to locate this creature. Garon used one of his new magic item toys to establish a telepathic link with Sergei’s undead mind, and so the two of them were in instantaneous psychic communication as Sergei engaged in the recon operation.
Meanwhile, Atu-Sinda, Paeael, and Garon went off to scour the streets of the town at the base of the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, looking for information that might help in their upcoming excursion to the mountain. They located a visitor’s center-so denoted by the words “Visitor’s Center” arced across a wooden sign above the portico-and proceeded to try the door. But lo! It was locked. As Atu-Sinda tried to bash the door down with his shoulder, Paeael “went to look for a rear entrance,” which really meant that he took a minute to scrawl arcane symbols in the dirt and so open himself up to the eldritch influence of strange and alien creatures that exist beyond space and time-beyond even existence itself. When Paeael returned, Atu-Sinda was still hurling himself at the door to little effect. So Paeael utilized the influence of one of his entities-one which is claustrophobic in the extreme-to try to unlock the door by means of supernatural power. This proved to be beyond the vestige’s ability, so Paeael turned his attention to one of the windows, and managed to get it open even as Atu-Sinda smashed the door down by means of main force.
Inside the visitor’s center were shelves lined with tourist guides and display cases filled with the stuffed carcasses of animals fixed in frightening poses. Searching through the shelves, the heroes found numerous hiking guides and brochures for local hotels and restaurants and breweries (all one-hundred and twenty of them). They also located a scholarly treatise on the nature of the elemental Weirds, and learned that they were creatures tied to the four primal elements of the universe. In listening to the songs sung by the water and the whispers carried on the wind, to the cackling laughter of the flames and to the slow, sad stories told by the stones, the Weirds learned of matters unknown to any mortal mind. They were inclined to reveal their information to supplicants, although the information was not always in a form that the supplicants could appreciate and was often wrapped in cryptic riddles. The party made note of this information, and also of a map detailing the location of the Weirds on the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge. The Earth Weird dwelt within a chamber at the heart of the mountain, connected to the outside world by means of a tunnel. The Fire Weird made her lair in a chamber deep underground, as deep down in the earth as the mountain’s peak reached into the sky. The Water Weird resided at a spring on the mountainside, while the Air Weird claimed the very peaks of the Mountain as her home.
Also inside the Visitor’s Center was a strange machine on one of the counters. The machine was all of two feet wide and about as high, its sides covered in elaborate bronze scrollwork, and its front having a sloped surface from which emerged numerous individual buttons or keys, each key bearing a Dwarven runic symbol. At the top of the machine was a curious little glass window, and at the bottom of the machine were clear incisions surrounding a rectangular panel, suggesting some manner of retractable drawer or tray. The heroes resolved to learn the secrets of this strange device, and were startled at first when the action of pressing a key caused a little flag of colored paper to burst up into the window of the machine. At length, they determined that the keys had some kind of an effect on the drawer, but that the drawer was prevented from opening by means of a mechanical lock. Thus, Paeael again drew upon the powers of the weird beings that he had allowed to share his soul for the day to locate a key to unlock the drawer. The vestiges whispered to him that a key-they nearest key that bore a resemblance to his mental conception of “key”-lay in a house a couple of blocks away. So the party proceeded to the house, Atu-Sinda tucking the machine underneath his arm and carrying it along. The party engaged in a second act of breaking and entering, and once inside found a stone bowl filled with keys on a stand, next to the front door. None of these keys proved to fit the lock in the device, so everything was tossed inside of the bag of holding and the party proceeded onwards, defeated but undeterred.
Atu-Sinda wanted to check the local church of Luxis for survivors, so the heroes went and did so. The entered into the house of Luxis, marking the great bronze bells whose deep voices had once resounded over the nearby plains and made the very mountain shudder, but that now were silent and still within their prison towers. The front doors of the church was unlocked-the doors to the house of Luxis are never locked-and the party proceeded into the chapel. Inside were unlit candles and rows of empty seats. A cracking sound drew the party’s attention upwards, and the heroes saw that the ceiling of the church was composed of a number of glass panels. Once, these panels must have allowed the light of Luxis to come flooding into the church, but now they were smothered in snow and complaining underneath a load of snow that they were never intended to bear. In any case, there were no survivors to be seen. The party forced its way into the rear apartments of the church, and while their explorations yielded such rewards as a mop, cleaning supplies, the church’s fiscal report for the last quarter showing a 12% decline in donations received, and the rather grumpy notes for a sermon on the virtue of generosity, the search did not offer up evidence of any survivors taking refuge in the church.
It was then that Sergei radioed back to mission command to state that target acquisition was successful. The party departed from the church and hustled (at a rate of 20 feet per round, or two miles per hour!) over to Sergei’s location. They followed after the target, which was staggering unevenly on down the street and shouting, as if drunk. As the party drew closer, it became apparent that the target was not ranting so much as it was keeping up a constant monologue, speaking about the inevitability of extinction, the delusion of a brief life in the face of an infinitude of death, the victory of the Mordent as a matter of course. The stranger urged the heroes to give up their meaningless struggle and accept the mercy of Skura, to lay down their arms and lay down their lives and give themselves over to sweetest oblivion. The despairing words stole the wits away from Paeael and Garron, but Atu-Sinda, who had been protected from evil influences, drew his sword and charged the doomsayer. Sergei also opened fire on the creature, but his bullets passed through the creature’s form as though it were water. The doomsayer drifted up into the air out of reach of Atu-Sinda’s sword (and Sergei’s skirmish damage), but it had not anticipated that Atu-Sinda would be packing a potion of Fly. The crusader downed the potion and shot up into the air after the creature, all this while Paeael and Garron struggled against the soul-draining effects of the doomsayer’s words, and were aided in this effort by the palliative aura of Garron’s summoned lantern archon. Atu-Sinda’s sword ultimately found its mark-as did one of Sergei’s bullets-and the creature was shredded into scraps of darkness that went flitting down to the snow below. The party went back to inform Ralph that the streets of town had been made a little safer and offer to bring him and his family with them on their return to Drogue, but he was having none of it.
And so the adventurers went on to the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge. They entered into the broad tunnel that led to the very heart of the mountain and shuffled along the miles-long corridor, bombarded all the while by advertising posters. They passed by the elevator which went down to the demesne of the Fire Weird, but it was unpowered and inactive (as were the lights in the ceiling). At the terminus of the tunnel was a churning pool of mud and liquid metal that threw a strange pattern of light and shadow over the natural rock walls of the cavern. Somebody chucked a rock into the pool, which prompted six hulking, vaguely humanoid figures composed of rotten earth and crumbling rock and corroded crystal to burst up from the floor in a font of dirt and pebbles. The party did battle against the undead earth elementals, dispatching them in due course, and when the last one had fallen the Earth Weird was free to emerge from her pool. She was an entity whose generous form had been molded from raw earth and whose hair curled about her back and shoulders like metal shavings. Her prophecies were dour, to say the least; specializing in foretellings of death and doom and imminent apocalypses (as well as sometimes pointing the way to hidden wealth and treasures), the Earth Weird had a developed something of an obsessive “I told you so” manner, and told the adventurers ad nauseam that they were all going to die. She also gave them the part of the prophecy that she possessed-”Purified in the six essences”-and exhorted the adventurers to seek our her other sisters if they would know more.
Stymied by the inoperational elevator and the inoperational lift, the party rested for nine hours and then proceeded to hike up to the pool of the Water Weird. When they reached it, they found it frozen over. Atu-Sinda struck the ice with his sword, which drew the attention of the guardians of the pool. Six undead water elementals emerged from their hiding places beneath the snow, creatures with skin like the cracked clay of a sun-baked lake bed and bellies swollen with emptiness, whose breath sucked the very moisture from the air around them. The dessicators sought the death of the party by means of extreme dehydration, but it was the dessicators who went down into dark land of death. Freed from the oppression of the evil energies aroused by the Mordent, the Water Weird came out of her pool and counseled the party on matters concerning healing and rebirth. She exhorted Paeael to seek out the Mordent-owned Rodion Laboratories if he would be restored to his former form of a chaos gnome, and she also offered the party her fragment of the prophecy: “To Wound the Darkest Heart.”