Uldrus: Ice and Darkness

The Prophecy of the Weirds

When we last left our heroes they had just freed the Water Weird from her icy imprisonment. With two out of four Weirds down, Atu-Sinda, Paeael, Terra, and Sergei set out to free the Air Weird, who made her home on the wind-whipped peak of the mountain. It took the party quite a while to scale the mountain (1/2 movement for snow + 1/2 movement for the incline means that the party was moving at a rate of 10 feet per round).

The Air Weird’s pool was to be found on a plateau at the summit of the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, visible as a vortex of whirling winds and spiraling flakes of snow. As with the other pools, this nexus of elemental power had attracted the attentions of corrupted elementals, who emerged from the mountain itself as clouds of ink-black smoke adorned only with eyes that glowed red with hatred for all living things. While these creatures sucked the oxygen from the very air around them, and while their touch was sufficient to drain the breath from a man’s body, the Voidwraths proved to be no match for our heroes’ arsenal of martial strikes, “small” arms fire, and Paeael’s ability to attack targets with…wind. After the battle, Rhyken appeared out of nowhere, as heroes are wont to do.

The Air Weird turned out to be quite chipper, and was happy to share her prophecies with the party. She showed them the way down to restart the elevator (for a sacrifice of coin), and showed Paeael a vision of Rodion Labs where he might uncreate and recreate his physical form (for a sacrifice of some of Paeael’s motor skills). So the party slogged on back down the mountain to the power plant on the far side of the mount, where they fumbled and futzed around until they had filled a furnace full of burning coal and started up the power generators again. They also came across a Dwarven swimsuit calendar-an artifact of such fell power that to gaze upon it was sufficient to send one’s mind spinning into madness. But they managed to avoid that peril…for now. Wit the elevator and the lights and the lifts operational again, the heroes slogged back to the tunnel leading to the heart of the mountain, until finally they took the lift down to the chamber of the Fire Weird. There, deep below the surface of the Earth, the very air rippled and shimmered with the heat, and the rocks were cracked and sweating magma. However, for the convenience of tourists, the dwarves and gnomes had built an invisible platform of force around the rock walls of the chamber, and AS WE ALL KNOW, THERE IS NO HEAT CONVECTION IN THE D&D UNIVERSE, so as long as nobody touched the rocks directly there wasn’t a problem. The Fire Weird’s pool was a thing of snake-like flames writhing over a glowing caldera of molten metal. As the heroes approached, it belched forth a bevy of undead fire elementals-Cinderspawn. These Cinderspawn were beings covered in guttering blue flames, and though their touch burned with frost rather than with fire, they were no less dangerous for all that. They hungered after the very warmth and life of the party, but their portion was DEATH, with a little bit of ANNIHILATION for dessert.

The Fire Weird emerged after the last of the Cinderspawn were reduced to ashes, and she was able to give hope to the party by means of completing the prophecy. In total, it is:

The Blood of the Sun, the Tears of the Moon, and the Bones of the Earth Purified in the Six Essences Will Become a Weapon To Wound the Darkest Heart

She was also able to inform Rhyken as to where he might find powerful magics to aid him in his fight against the Mordent-in exchange for having three spells burned out of his spellbook. Paeael, too, wanted to know about Binder Lore, and he learned of an ancient convocation of Binders from the Fire Weird-in exchange for having a small fragment of his personality seared away.

And that was pretty much the size of it. Where the party goes next-back to Drogue, to Rodion Labs, or to a locus of ancient and eldritch power that would set arch-wizards, weak as they are these days, to gnashing their teeth and tearing their hair, I cannot say. Frankly, I’m hoping it’s to Rodion Labs, because that’s where I’ve been designing the encounters, but it ain’t up to me.

Oh yeah. And they got some more stupid action figures from Arronax.

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Rescuing the Weirds

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.”

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Journey to the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge

When we last left our heroes, they were wandering around the Dregs of Drogue-also known as the Delta Sector-amidst the great piles of rot and refuse that are the waste products of the thriving city. Terra and Paeael were feeling destitute (in spite of having received large amounts of cash money and spiffy items from their conquest of the mind flayer). So they spent some time mucking about the city, looking for work. Frank told them that there were ample employment opportunities available in the Alpha Sector as medical research subjects, or that he could hook them up with plum positions as Sanitation Engineers or else as Compost Technology Technicians in the Agricultural Sector, but our heroes declined. So they treaded on up to the residence of the drow ambassador to Drogue, Mistress Ambassador Ak’lith Denvirr, thinking (rightly) that she might have some uses for them. They stopped outside of the gates of her manor, where the air itself was thick and acrid with latent magic, but then they lost their nerve and bravely ran away liked scared little girls. Ultimately, they wandered back to the Delta Sector and asked the captain of the guard if there was any kind of work to be had more suited to those of an adventuring ilk. Sure enough, the captain of the guard was strapped for manpower and had no desire to leave his newly-ventilated office and go tromping about in one of those sweaty rebreather suits, so he tasked our heroes with neutralizing some malfunctioning machines. The Delta Sector’s goblinoid inhabitants had been complaining about these machines-apparently they had caused a death or two or forty-compelling the city guard to take action. Or, at least, to pay somebody else to deal with it.

So Terra and Paeael made their way through the Delta Sector to the area where the machines had last been spotted. Peter, their mechanical guide, being a clockwork automaton fashioned to resemble a gnome, seemed quite eager to assist and not at all dismayed that he was helping humanoids to ruthlessly butcher his fellow constructs. Nope, not at all. Peter was the very picture of courtesy and gratitude, even when they stuffed him inside of a bag (ostensibly for his own protection). Along they way, they hooked back up with Sergei. While the living members of the party had been off traipsing around the city, he had remained in the dumps, boiling scrap metal over a trash fire and molding bullets from the molten lead. Thusly reinforced, the party set out to take down the rogue machines.

When they arrived at the designated area, Terra felt it would be a good idea to draw the machines out by banging on the scrap heaps with her sword. Soon enough, she managed to upset a nest of rust monsters in this manner. The party dispatched the dangerous vermin whose very touch is enough to reduce the most beautiful necklace, the most elegant sword, or the sturdiest suit of plate armor to rusted slag, but not before Terra’s sword was destroyed. Again.

They then proceeded onward, further bolstered by the presence of Atu-Sinda, who just happened to appear out of thin air, quite conveniently after the fight with the rust monsters had concluded. Their proximity to the dangerous machines became apparent when a goblin came arcing through the air to land with a sickening splatter near their feet. Sure enough, the next pile of twisted scrap metal proved to be quite animate and quite aggressive. It resolved into a roughly humanoid shape and proceeded to advance upon our heroes, but Sergei shot the thing dead before it could even blink-not that it had eyes. So, since that encounter proved to be rather lackluster-three more gigantic agglomerations of stabby machine parts appeared! Our heroes fought valiantly, and while Atu-Sinda was nearly frappeed to death by the whirling blades of one of the rogue machines, the party triumphed in the end and then went back to collect its reward.

After that, the heroes were determined to set out from Drogue to investigate the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, where they had been told that they might learn how to overcome the dread threat of the Mordent. They were wondering how it was that they might get to the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge when Frank told them, in a frank and matter-of-fact manner, that there was a railway running out to the Mountain from Drogue. So the heroes boarded the train and set out for parts unknown to the accompaniment of steel wheels clacking over the tracks, and with the strong scent of coal smoke in their nostrils. They passed through many miles of monotonous flatland covered over in an unbroken pall of white snow, and passed by many houses where gnomish families had worked and lived and loved, and that were now nothing more than hollow shells. At some point in their journey, the heroes realized that the steel crate in the cargo car of the train hid their undead ally, who had smuggled himself onto the train as cargo.

The train screeched to a stop several days and several hundred miles out of Drogue, and Frank ushered the heroes off. They found themselves standing before a massive train wreck, the cars twisted and strewn over the landscape like the corpse of some impossible snake. The cars themselves had been gutted, and there were no bodies to be found. Under several feet of snow, however, there were the faint, lingering imprints of Mordent boots, leading off to the north. Calling upon their old pal and war profiteer, Arronax, the party bought a war sled and a team of dire reindeer and went off in pursuit of the Mordent. However, nobody in the party was particularly skilled at tracking, and after a day of hauling over mile after mile of indistinct snowbanks, the party lost the trail and turned around in the direction of the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, which rose alone and isolated over the surrounding plains.

Once they had reached the town at the base of the mountain, they found it to be completely deserted. Houses and shops stood empty and unused, as if they were curious artifacts in some sort of surreal museum. They entered into the first hotel that they saw and found it empty, save for the frozen corpse of a dwarf who had died still clutching a hand of Three Dragon Ante cards. A pile of gold coins, their faces white with frost, lay on the table next to him. The dwarf seemed to be quite dead, but when Terra attempted to remove a coin from the pile, the dwarf’s limbs surged with a kind of crude, puppet-like motion, and the dwarf’s frozen fingers locked around Terra’s wrist. A hollow voice, like a cold wind that blows over jagged rocks, intoned from deep within the corpse: “No cheating.”

Leaving the anomalous and eerie dwarfsicle behind, the party searched the inn for signs of life, and found that the storeroom had been recently disturbed. They followed the footprints through the snow to a small cottage located off of the main street through town. The cottage appeared empty enough-at least, when the party exploded the door off of its hinges and ransacked the upper rooms, the adventurers found no sign of life. Paeael, though, had gone around back to find a locked door leading down into a cellar. Atu-Sinda called out to the frightened occupants of the cellar, offering them food and promising that no harm would come to them if they were to come out. After much coaxing, a starving and terrified man clambered out of the cellar, clutching a Mordent firearm in his trembling hands. He told the heroes that a cloud of lethal gas had descended upon the town, leaving everyone and everything dead, and that had been followed by the freezing night that had lasted now for many weeks. He said that the only thing he had seen in weeks of scavenging around town was some strange figure that chanted and shouted and could be heard from blocks away, and as soon as he heard it he always ran in the other direction. After snatching up the offered food, he retreated back into the cellar, and demanded that the heroes leave before they drew the Mordent down upon his house and his family.

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