Mulsantir is a large trade town in Rashemen, where The Spice Road (also known in Thesk as The Golden Way) from Rokugan must cross the Lake Mulsantir. Traders use the ferries of Mulsantir to cross the river, and continue their journey either into Thesk proper, or into The Great Dale.
Though only a town, Mulsantir’s walls are utterly smooth, sloped, spirit-lifted stone which protect the city and it’s docks. Crewless witchboats patrol the river and lake against incursions by Thay, unleashing fire and destruction against invaders or unnatural monsters.
Six individuals have spent the better part of a week wandering the Foreigners Quarter, a grandiose name for a walled off section of town full of outlanders and the stink of caravan animals. One by one, they have noticed each other, and have agreed to meet.
In a rented meeting room in the inn and tavern known as The Seared Fish near the ferry docks of the Foreigners Quarter of Mulsantir, six people stare at faces they have seen before, but only in the nightmare of the Black Sleep.
First one, then another re-introduces themselves, each speaking in brief of the past that they remember sharing, of the dreams that have pulled them here, and wondering what their next act should be.
Some ask after another remembered companion, but none have seen the warrior-necromancer, Raka.
With a strong focus, nearly all can bring to mind the image of a white tower hidden in a pine-forested dell in the mountains, and feel the general tug in its direction. Now is the time to choose whether to follow the destiny that impinges on their waking thoughts, or to dismiss it and take another path.
A choice is made to take the path that calls, and Kang goes to find a map of the region, while the others go about various tasks to understand the region, pay debt, or otherwise prepare for the journey to come.
Brevin researches the local herb shops, and the eastern traders, discovering many herbs and extracts for sale, with few local spices, but many local curatives. Others look into steeds for those without, but the Rashemi merchants are not fond of haggling with outsiders, and the prices remain steeper than the funds the group wish to pay, even to Raven’s practiced negotiation.
Kang asks after maps, and is informed curtly that maps are forbidden, maps pave the way for Thayan invaders and spies, maps are not allowed in the hands of outsiders. Outsiders are free to travel in Rashemen along the roads, or across the country, but there is no help unless they hire a local guide.
Directed to a longhouse tavern of ill repute, The Black Bog, Kang finds the experience an even worse example of Western hygiene than his previous exposures, but is directed to Lorn, a grizzled hunter and guide well into his cups. After describing the general location to which they wish to go, Lorn gives a steep but payable price, names the hamlet, Verthval, nearest to their described, but unknown, location, and agrees to lead them in the morning, expecting a trip of 3 or so days, on road and off.
Kang returns to the group with the information, and rooms are gathered for the night.
Morning brings Lorn, modestly cleaner, but stinking of ale, and with no less than 4 more wineskins of such upon his horse. Hearing of the groups number of steeds, he tells them to wait, and to pass him some money. Local connections bring him additional horses for the group at a much reduced price, and in short order the group is on route.
Mounted and prepared, the Travelers head out into Rashemen following the Estmark Road, a part of the fabled Spice Road from Rokugan. Over the next three days, travel is relatively easy, and Lorn proves a capable guide, despite emptying a wineskin a day, and good time is made. In the evenings, the new companions discuss the memories they have, and the dreams that have pulled them together. There are similarities and differences between their real and dream selves, but if their dreams are to be believed, their fates seem intertwined.
On their 4th day out of Mulsantir, already having left the road into the High Country, they spend the morning following a small track among a thick forest. As highsun approaches, Lorn informs them that they are nearly to Verthval, which would be the closest town to their alleged magical tower. Minutes later, Lorn halts them and calls for quiet. Pointing through a break in the woods, the wooden palisade of Verthval can be seen, but the sounds of a village are missing.
A quick scout of the bounds of the village by Lorn and the woodwise among the group confirm that something attacked the village, knocking in it’s gates, the thin twirls of dying fires’ smoke the only movement. Meanwhile, Briven attempts to commune with the natural world, in order to sense life or enemies…and unlike the innate sense he normally receives from his magic, he hears instead rustling, grating voices answering his questions – about the movement of feet from the village, about the use of fire, about the unseen who struck and left.
Lorn asks them to ready for battle, and axes out, he rides into the open by the main gate, shouting curses and taunts…to no response. A quick walk through the village, and he returns, bidding them enter to help him search for clues or survivors.
A search by the group reveals a number of things, there were likely two attacks, one from the Southeast by booted enemies who leapt the walls of the village, and ran, heavily burdened to the Northwest. The attack left a number severely wounded, as the makeshift infirmary in the tavern suggests. Sometime after that, the second attack occurred, this time by creatures from the Northeast, out of the mountains themselves. These attackers battered down the gates, and looted the village of spices, herbs, food, and anything of the least value, and from the looks of the tracks, led the remainder of the villagers away in captivity back the way the attackers came.
Piles of noxious, burned filth in several areas of the commons suggest that the first attackers were Inhumans, and that at the very least, the villagers gave stiff resistance, laying low several in their lightning raid. The second is less clear, the tracks suggest a reptilian foe, though few lizard men would be found so far north. Among the knowledgeable of the group, it might be feasible that the attackers were Khasta, other-planar slavers of reptilian descent, rather than native lizard men, though that would suggest that a rift, gate or portal lay somewhere near at hand.
Lorn considers the tracks, and at least the ones heading Northeast suggest living villagers. He intends to head that way to see what has happened, and if there is anything he can do, before riding back to warn the Wychlaran of the attack. The Travelers, all noting that the pull toward the tower in their dreams leads in the same direction agree to accompany him.
The trail follows one of the hunting tracks out of Verthval for some time, eventually breaking off into rougher woodland, while the hunting trail turns aside before entering the higher mountain foothills and valley. As Lorn explains, between unnatural beasts and the cautionary tales of the Wychlaran, most Rashemi consider the mountains themselves taboo, and the less superstitious still understand the wisdom of staying out of sight of wyvern roosts.
A few hours later, having climbed into dense alpine woods, the slavers’ trail comes to something unexpected: a crystal-paved road. A quick search suggests that the invaders and their captives took to the road and did not stray, and so, the group also take to the new and oddly clean path – hexagonal crystals an arm’s length across, and nary a needle nor pine cone upon the length. Further up between mountain peaks it leads.
A short time later, Semhemket’s falcon, Minkah, cries out and joins his master. Raven gets the impression that there is something else up there, something larger. Looking up, the companions see a great black-winged bird pass silently overhead…with an antler’s rack? Below, some notice the more disturbing passage of a shadow, that of a man running, pass along the ground.
Remembering a similar creature from their original dream encounter with the tower, they also recall it’s nature, a peryton, a sorcerous creation that eats hearts, and consumes souls. Ready this time, they prepare blades and bow, and lure an attack to themselves, in the process killing not one…but TWO perytons that had been attracted by the passage of the falcon.
Continuing upward along the crystal-paved road amidst the tress, the group finds itself, some time later, in a broad semi-circular plaza of the same crystalline-paving. Surrounded by ancient trees, and backed by sheer mountain cliff, a tall alabaster-white tower stands near the back of the plaza, which appears surprisingly clean. A gentle breeze swirls through the empty court, and an archway with a barely visible symbol stands open at the tower’s base.
Quick and quiet approaches by Raven and Kang show them a disheveled, wide entry foyer with broad curved stairs up, an ancient carved stone desk, an open doorway, and the remnants and debris of a crude camp of some sort. Hearing no inhabitants, they duck inside as the rest of the group clumps across the courtyard.
Once inside, a pile of debris and an obviously dead man’s body lie in one corner near the inner doorway, an arm and neck bent at impossible angles. It appears that while killed not more than a month ago, the body has been left where it lay, despite the much more recent debris of the camp which has filled the room, probably until only a day or two previous.
Examining the body, which appears to have been someone prepared for an adventurer’s life, the group discover that the remains belong to Raka, the Thayan Expatriate that adventured with them amidst the nightmare of the Black Sleep. The rest of the group comes in to look around after Briven examines the outer door symbol, making a copy for his notes. Kang moves to examine the side room, finding it full of dry rotted wood furniture, sundries, toss away garbage from more recent occupants, and a flying weasel missile which latches onto his hand. The weasel is likewise familiar, being Nix, Raka’s familiar.
A somewhat pained conversation later, Nix releases Kang’s hand with minimal damage done, and rants about how they were late, but seems terribly mixed up about how late, how long he and Raka were here, or when Raka died. Lorn is confused by the presence of a talking weasel. A quick scout of the tower reveals that no one else, man or beast, is present, though tracks in the dust of the uppermost floor suggest that several people, both human and reptilian walked straight into one of the outer walls.
Lorn admits that this is more than he bargained for, and while he would chance much to save his fellow Rashemi, there is too much magic at work here for him. The Wychlaran must be told, both of the presence of Inhumans in the High Country forests, and of this hidden tower. Nix, still in a huff, petitions the woodsman for a ride to civilization, apparently not keen on accompanying the group, who, in his estimation, were partly to blame for his master’s demise. Lorn is trepidatious, but allows the obviously magical creature to ride with him, in the hopes that it saw something which may be of use to the Witches.
The group find that while Raka’s pack and staff are gone, he remains otherwise untouched. Briven discovers that a silver and iron ring of intertwined skulls and blood droplets is magical in nature. Hoping to utilize it to get a sense of what precisely happened, he removes it and uses it as a focus to divine the events surrounding the tower.
Instead, he gets a strangely cheerful voice in his head…“Well, it’s about time you showed up.”
Briven remarks, “This is a really bad day for my magic…”
In short order, the group is able to confirm that Raka’s spirit now resides in the ring, along with the other trapped necromancers who give it it’s unique ability to trade the wearer’s blood for hidden knowledge. As the most “fresh” of the souls within, he has still retained a strong sense of self and wakefulness, and is able to communicate somewhat more directly and with less cost than his fellow spirits, to a degree.
He is able to share the details of his search for the Tower, which he followed much earlier than the rest, and unfortunately came to his end surprised by the reptilian mercenaries and slavers which arrived through a gateway of some sort within the upper reaches of the tower. The binding of his spirit to the ring granted him the ability to “haunt” the creatures, causing them to leave his body mostly intact, and mostly unlooted.
He is more than willing to assist as much as possible with his knowledge, as well as swaying the spirits of the ring when possible, if someone will wear the ring so as to provide a connection as speaking through Briven’s object reading is “draining”.
Briven has the strongest objection, worried as much about Raka, whom he never really knew, and the concept of a ring full of necromancer’s spirits who drink blood in exchange for information. While the others weigh the pros and cons, aware that several would have to give up an item to which they have made a mystic connection to link themselves to the ring. In the end, Tuxn steps up, with his usual, “What’s the worst that can happen,” attitude, and places the ring on his finger where it quickly sizes itself to a snug but otherwise comfortable fit.
Briven is still pretty sure he has a bad feeling about this.
A more thorough search of the tower shows many rooms on the 7 floors, many once quarters, others storage, but all long since abandoned, looted, smashed, and dry rotted, with some used as additional makeshift camps by more of the reptilian invaders. On the top floor, a breeze constantly swirls despite the lack of windows, and light glows gently from the ceiling. A mix of dust, and sand(?), cover the floor, and tracks and some bloodstains suggest that the lost people were marched straight into the southern wall.
Faded imagery appears to be graven into the stone roughly 8’ up the wall in the cardinal directions. After some discussion, the group is able to make out the details of them, and once more Briven copies the images into his book. Fairly certain that some form or forms of magical portal exist in the room, a discussion exists about what the images mean, and what to do. Meanwhile, Raven has several disturbing moments of hearing a breathy voice encourage her with words about riding, winds, and destiny. Semhemket is able to discern that a vortex of some sort seems to roil in the rooms center, like an invisible, intangible tornado, and that 10’ wide by 7’ high areas of the walls are definitively magical. When he attempts to focus on them with the Mystran Sight, each glows powerfully, though the one to the west seems to waver occasionally. In addition, he seems to get a sensation, like words in his head as he looks at each. North…forlorn, hopelessness, trapped; South…corruption, loss, slavery; East…lost, hidden, hunger; West…betrayal, suffering.
No one is thrilled by the revelations.
But undaunted, and bored with the ensuing discussion, Tuxn walks toward the East wall, and disappears. The rest of the party stands stupefied for a moment, then rushes to find out what happened.
Tuxn meanwhile stands on a modest ledge, all that remains of a shattered floor of another great tower, parts of it’s highest chamber broken and shattered, the roof completely shattered and gone, most of the floors of the tower below are also long crumbled, leaving a sharp and deadly pile of rubble 70’ below. Through the cracks in the walls, Tuxn sees that it is later in the day here, wherever here is, and a broad rocky badland/savannah stretches away from the tower.
That’s when Sem and Raven come through, and barge Tuxn right off the edge. Tuxn, LUCKILY, is able to grab the edge as he tumbles over, while Raven and Sem teeter on the edge. Raven backs through the wall, and with room, Sem is able to help pull Tuxn back up. They return to the first tower, and report what they saw. Sem goes back through the wall carefully, and inspects the broken tower with his sight.
Some floor remains in front of two other sections of gate-wall, though one has great cracks in the wall itself. The third portion of wall is missing at least a third of the stone where the portal wall would have stood. The broken wall gate flares, pulses and fades angrily in his sight, as does the one with cracks in it, though less violently, while the remaining portal wall wavers, much like the west wall in the Rashemi Tower.
On a positive note, Sem notes that the circular stairwell is mostly intact along the outer wall, and with care, should be traversable by the horses and ponies down to what appears to be a rent in the wall near the ground where rubble would allow egress from the tower.
Regrouped, they decide to check the other portals…more carefully.
Raven, stealthier than most of her companions by a long shot, has a rope tied to her, and proceeds through the West wall. The rope, however, goes limp, severed cleanly as soon as she passed fully through the wall. On the other side, Raven finds herself pitching headfirst and sliding down across a sharply canted floor of a round stone chamber toward another wall, a faint etching scratched into the stone roughly 8’ above the “floor.” In the center of the room is a hole in the floor out of which jut several twisted pieces of lightly rusted black iron…the only light a faint fungus on some of the wall and ceiling.
With only a few seconds before she slides through what must be a gate-wall, Raven kicks off of the iron rods as she passes with a metallic clang, and slams into the lower wall off to one side of the gate, untouched by the fungus, and grips desperately at the stone to hold herself still. Breathing heavily for a moment, she hears voices, guttural and surprised, come from the hole in the floor, followed by the occasional tink and spang of metal. Calling on her birthright, she blurs herself, trying to be indistinct, while stretching as far away from the down gate-wall as possible.
In the fungal glow, she is able to make out two goblinoid faces which poke out from amidst the tangle of iron, and luckily, fail to notice her off to the side, hazy thanks to her magic. A short argument occurs, and then the heads retreat.
Once it sounds like they have gone a sufficient distance, Raven slowly and carefully climbs back up the wall and “swings” herself up into the gate-wall, sliding back into the Rashemi tower onto its happily flat and even floor, and stopping the argument among the remaining party members about what they should do, if anything. Reporting her finds, they consider the West wall too difficult to deal with given their current situation. For now.
Attempting to be ready for anything, Raven carefully and slowly steps through the South wall, and finds another tower room, great window slits open in the non-cardinal directions, most filled with thick, clear glass, though most are cracked, and 2 have shattered, allowing warm wind and some purplish sand into the chamber, along with the bright sunlight. Looking outside, she sees a barren, rocky and sandy desert, the color of which seems to darken in the “western” direction, and rocky mesas to the “north”. Bits of dry-rotted wood and tarnished metal complete the litter, and a metal ladder climbs from the center of the room to a trap door in the ceiling. Recent footsteps in the sand lead to the stairs down. There appear to be neither inhabitants, no guards. Heading back, Raven reports what she found.
In an effort to spread the danger and damage out, Kang takes the North gate-wall, and walks face first into the back of a bookshelf with a smacking noise, and the sounds creaking wood. There is a confused “mrow?” from the other side, where warm light must come from several braziers or torches. Kang prepares to depart when a large orange and white tabby cat lands on the top of the bookcase and looks down at him with a disturbingly intelligent gaze. Kang backs through the wall and reappears in the Rashemi Tower, suggesting they make a choice and move quickly. Followed shortly by a surprised cat, which Kang swings at, but the cat jumps instinctively, and barrels back through the wall.
The group gets the horses up to the portal room, while Kang and Sem watch the North gate-wall. Proceeding to shuffle the animals slowly into the East gate, the party is almost through except for Tuxn, when a tiny grey and white mouse skids out of North gate-wall, confused. Tuxn turns to leave as a tall, pale human man in long robes with blonde-white hair steps through the wall with a look of surprise on his face…and catches sight of Tuxn disappearing through the East wall.
As they start the traverse down the stairs, another small mouse flies unceremoniously out of the gate-wall, plummeting to it’s death on the rocks below. A few moments later, the robed man steps through, staff brandished in defense. Weapons are drawn, as he shouts something in a language no one understands, looking for recognition that does not appear. Several members say something back, but the man does not respond…until seeing Tuxn again, he says in a stilted dialect of dwarven, “Who are you who invaded my tower? How did you make these gateways? Where are we?”
Shortly thereafter, a dialogue begins with Tuxn as translator. Informing the man that they are adventurers from many lands of Faerun, that they did not mean to invade his tower, and they are fairly certain that the gateways were made by whoever made the towers originally, likely long, long ago. Bewilderment turns to joy as the man looks up at a sky with warm, dry winds, and shouts triumphantly! He introduces himself as Lacorh Stellawacht, Astronomer, Sage, and Stellar Diviner of Sossal, an ice-locked land north of Rashemen. Frozen mountains, glaciers, and the interdiction of Auril have kept his people locked away from Faerun for an age, unable to successfully navigate any passes, nor use magic to escape their land, or even see the outer world.
Wishing to know more about the group, the world outside, and if they would be willing to come back as proof of egress, Lacorh makes an offer of hospitality. After a quick discussion, the party agrees, and returns to the Rashemi Tower, and after some discussion with Lacorh confirms that it’s feasible to bring the animals through, and does so, being helped by a amazed apprentice, by the name of Belram, who shares the pale skin and hair tones of his master, leading the animals down and out of the tower into a pleasantly comfortable courtyard and across to a set of stables. The weather seems warm enough, but Belram informs them upon being asked that the courtyard is enchanted, making it warmer than the surrounding lands. Looking past the walls, it is obvious that spring has come to the land, but it is a slow and bland growth one would expect from a tundra, while within the courtyard, several small patches of well-tended flowers and herbs are already well ahead in their growth.
Discussion about greater Faerun and Sossal ensues over a variety of beverages and baked goods and vegetable broths. In the end, the party learns that Auril herself seems to have a hand in keeping the Sossrim trapped in their corner of the world, and between a magical barrier which seems to prevent mystic translocation out of the country, and scramble divinations with terrible images of frozen death, and the physical barriers of high mountains, a massive glacier, raiding snow beasts and frost giants, and unknown hazards which have destroyed any ships sent out of sight of the three coastal cities, the people of Sossal are trapped. Not that they would truly abandon their homeland, but access to the outer world for trade and learning would certainly bolster their resistance to the encroachment of the Ice Goddess and her beasts.
With the arrival of the Travelers, Lacorh hopes they will indulge him in two things: 1) They may agree to assist him in recovering a falling star which he has tracked in the heavens and expects to come down this night, and relatively nearby; 2) They will accompany him to Sossegrim, the greatest of the three “Crystal Cities” of the coast, and capitol of Sossal, where, as he is required by law, he must present any evidence he has of a way to breach Auril’s Wall. As Auril blocks normal methods of divination, the Sossrim have become keen observers of portents in the night sky, and a falling star not only may be able to assist in understanding new challenges which will test Sossal, but if it contains starmetal, it will be a great boon to the Knights Adept, the order of Sossrim who roam the country in the name of the High Council, using blade and magic to protect the land and it’s people from the ravages of Auril and other dangers in the wild and frozen land.
When asked how Sossal even exists, Lacorh and Belram explain that the land sits upon natural heat vents, and many hot springs dot the land, and are frequently the center of any towns and villages. In addition, ancient magics of Sossrim adepts long past left a magic that spreads that heat through the land, bringing an earlier spring, and more tolerable temperatures. But the glaciers of the North and West have slowly, over the centuries, pushed against the magic, destroying Sossrim villages, and bringing more fell beasts along with the great ice walls. For now, all that has been possible is to slow the advance, as ruinous winters and the death of many adepts to the minions of Auril have seen the loss of those who would know how to strengthen the great wards.
All the while, Raven continues to hear the windy voice calling on her to take up the challenge…
What challenge remains unclear, but it seems, here in Sossal at least, to be tied to the nature of the wind itself.
Lacorh offers them guest rooms, and invites them to witness the falling star with him. The ancient crenelated rooftop of the tower has had round shed built upon it that houses a large telescope and powerful gear works that can spin the whole housing and telescope, and open a window so that the night sky can be seen. After explaining to his captive audience, the group witness a blazing white and red streak that flies across the night sky, leaving whirls and flicks of flame in its wake. To the northwest it flies, and flashes down into the horizon. Lacorh furiously scribbles notes and says he will be calculating the landing point throughout the evening, and bids the group a good eve.
The group retires to their rooms, and spends a restful night sleeping. In the morning, they are woken and brought to breakfast by Belram. A candid discussion ensues with the apprentice while his masters remains engrossed in calculations. One way or another, the party’s arrival is sure to cause a great upheaval in Sossal, though it is unlikely that some strange mass exodus would try to occur through Lacorh’s tower – the people of Sossal are deeply committed to their homeland, and while many would dearly love to see what lies beyond their borders, abandoning it wholesale is not something that has ever been discussed by the learned, and never considered by the common. Strife? Political upheaval? Power brokering? All these things may likely happen. Will there be some estranged few, or a threat from Aurilites, of that Belram has no doubt. In the end, to his experience, his people seek to restore their homeland, not flee it.
When Lacorh comes down, bleary eyed and triumphant, Tuxn confuses and challenges his surety of calculation in a good natured, are you sure sort of way, and Lacorh finally relents, has breakfast and returns to his study to double check his calculations. The rest of the group eyes Tuxn.
What ensues over the course of the day is a drawn out discussion and debate about what to do next, where does their responsibility lay, with the lost Rashemi, or with this new uncorked bottle of an accessible Sossal? All the while the whispering voice speaks simply to Raven, as the discussion turns to the dream images of Semmemkhet, and talk of the Aurilian threat in Sossal. Added to this, once his calculations are complete, is Lacorh’s hopeful insistance that they will retrieve the fallen star for him to review before he escorts them to Sossegrim, the capital, to speak of the gate to the outside world. Faced with so many consequences, the party try to dissuade him, but at the same time come to terms with the fact that there is an unwarded portal in Lacorh’s tower. What might come through next?
In the end, Lacorh is convinced to remain at the tower to initiate and maintain a ward upon the one unwarded portal. Belram will accompany the party, and lead them to Sossegrim to be presented to the High Council. Lacorh interjects that the town nearest to where the fallen star dropped is en route to Sossegrim, and if they can acquire the star and bring it with them to be presented with his notes, which Belram will carry, that will be a great boon to his people. The party grudgingly agrees, with a unstated agreement between themselves to try and forget about the fallen star during the trip.
Raven meanwhile has thought about the varied words carried to her inside the tower, and her growing understanding of the Sossrim’s war against Auril, and privately rails against the injustice. Sharing some of it with the rest of her companions, they come to the conclusion that if they are to ride, they do in fact need to ride like the wind, and task her with being their vanguard.
Prepping food and supplies, and readying their horses, Briven once again attempts to object read some of the history of the place, touching the compound’s arched gateway, with it’s glowing sun-like light orb. While Briven trances to the images of pale men trading ice-like gems and strange herbs for glowing golden orbs carried by priests of the Wind God, others of the party notice a strange pulsing golden light from the arch, and see a pulsing rivulet of seeming glowing liquid slowly tracing down the arch from the golden orb to where Briven’s hand touches the gate. Before it can touch him, his hand is slapped away by his allies, and they inform him of what they saw. However, as soon as his hand was moved and his power disrupted, the “liquid” snapped back into the orb leaving no trace on the stone.
Looking to the west, ominous thunderheads have begun to gather on the horizon, and distant cracks can be heard…the group mounts up, Belram with them, and with Lacorh waving farewell and wishing them all luck, they spur away, Raven in the lead on the ancient cobbled track as the wind begins to grow…
End of Winter Session 2010