After being welcomed into Blackstone Tower by Kuruth and the other guardian gargoyles, the party waits briefly as Othyx flows out of the pedestal of stone in the center of the room, and after coming to understand the group’s situation, gathers the shattered pieces of stone in the chamber, and with an ease that even a mighty Earth Adept does not possess, melds and shapes the chunks into a thin wall of stone in front of the portal wall, effectively blocking access to any physical passage.
With that, Othyx applies his hand to the central pedestal, and in minutes it has reshaped itself into a spiral stone staircase descending into the Tower. The group is lead down through the tower, past a level made into a great library, and other levels with stone doors closeting various chambers. Outside, the group finds that it is somewhat earlier in the day than when they left T’An’Olmek Tower, with the sun higher over a short mountain vale full of short grass, a few copses of trees, and a few ancient stone outbuildings. A long, low wall spans the mouth of the vale, beyond which a thick forest can be seen stretching away and down into the distance.
On the edges of the stone buildings, upon the defensive wall, upon crags in the valley walls, and upon the top of the tower perch many motionless forms – motionless until their heads turn to follow the group as they are escorted out of the tower by Kuruth to a copse of trees next to a pool of spring-fed water, where he suggests they camp.
The forms watch only briefly, some moving slightly closer to others, and low distant rumblings can occasionally be heard – voices of the stone children, as they return to their watchful poses.
The group discusses their situation while setting camp amidst an occasional playful breeze, and Raven after looking for a safe place, brings forth Nightwind from the celestial plains, and mounts up, the two engaging in the rush of riding to clear their heads of the experiences of the past few days. There is some interest from the gargoyles at the appearance of a horse from out of the copse where none entered, but no more than curious glances.
Despite the watchful protectors around the valley, the group decides to set it’s own watch, and passes to sleep. Tuxn and Kang each have strange dreams as they sleep, Kang’s more clear, a voice in the earth, offering wealth, power, and strength for release from wrongful imprisonment. Wakening for their shifts, the revelations are shared. Each eventually has some form of dream of similar vein except Alvaro.
More important to Tuxn is the whispered voice, lighter, more fluid, which speaks to him, identifying Briven and Kang by description as traitors and betrayers who should be dealt with before they turn on him and his companions.
During the morning, Tuxn asks if anyone else heard a voice while awake, to a resounding no. Hoping to speak with Othyx that day about where they were anyway, they decide to bring up the dreams and voices in that conversation. Before that, but after breakfast, they walk down to the wall, and seeing other gargoyles upon the gateway, ask if passage is permitted. They are reminded that they are guests, not prisoners, but should they travel far, they should be careful what follows them back. The woods have been home to darker tribes, and the gargoyles prefer their privacy.
Briven notices some odd trees from the edges of the gate, and makes sure everyone knows he wishes to explore the edges of the forest before they leave. That goal set, they return to the tower, and ask if Othyx is available to speak with. In short order a thinner, quick-footed gargoyle leads them in and up to Othyx’s library. There, the Speaker of Stone greets them, and puts aside the heavy tomes he was perusing, quickly shaping more comfortable seats for his guests from the stone cubes scattered about the room.
Once seated, Othyx gives the group his undivided attention…
Othyx explains that they are south of the great plains of southern Faerun, yet still not quite close to the coast – which Briven’s geographic knowledge had guessed at previously. He also explains that the forest, while safer due to his clan’s presence still boasts many dangerous animals, beasts, and remnants of a greater horde of gnolls and their kin. Though Othyx has no direct insight regarding what they share about the group’s purpose or visions, he does seem intrigued by their descriptions, and does provide insight into where the portals go from Blackstone. On a few occasions they have encountered the Khaasta slavers of the purple sand tower, and eventually followed them to their lair and made it clear that incursions would no longer be tolerated. The Khaasta have not made any appearances at Blackstone since then, though Othyx clarifies that his people’s ability to fly was crucial in easily overwhelming the defenses of the Khaasta’s fortress home.
When the party bring up hearing voices and dream visions during their sleep of the night before, Othyx becomes briefly quiet, and then says, “When we arrived, we knew there was great power in the earth under this tower, but in time I understood that it was not only the power of the earth. Something else was locked below, and those who built this place simply understood that there was power to draw upon, not it’s source or what form it took. That it has reached out to you suggests to me that you are important and should know more. It is not my tale to tell, though I can bring you to him. I believe, if you are willing to follow me into the earth, that you should speak with the Guardian.”
The party is somewhat taken aback by this revelation, but with little resistance, agree. Othyx leads them down the stairs, opens a sheet of shaped stone and down into the basements of the tower, down a hidden path past several hulking gargoyles sitting in a strangely empty room, to what looks like a summoning room of some sort…traced with silver and set with gems, with a dais in the center upon which symbols both magical and elven are inscribed. Othyx bids them stand upon the dais with him, and then begins to concentrate.
While no danger or pain ensues, the descent, as if flowing through stone, unable to breathe, but not needing to, is particularly traumatic for Raven, as the stone claustrophobically surrounds the group.
Shortly, though it doesn’t feel such, the group stands upon another platform within a chamber that is a beautiful crystalline geode of impressive size. Once again, ancient elven symbols cover the dais, as do elegant if disturbing images of war and a precession of winged elves which follows a stone and crystal tunnel spiraling deeper into the earth.
A small oblong foyer is reached, and across from the passage is a great round door of steel, set with gold, mithril, crystal, and glass. Words in an ancient elven script are inscribed upon the door. Othyx extends a greeting, and the various inlays of the door extract themselves, coalescing to form a floating suit of crystal, glass, gold and mithril armor, with great crystalline wings extending from it back. The armor is empty, except for a gentle golden glow, but with a strangely echoing voice it greats Othyx, and asks why it has brought others without asking. Othyx informs him that the group heard the “Voice Below”, and spoke of prophetic visions in which Othyx found imagery that suggested they should speak directly to the guardian. The guardian then reiterates, pointing behind most of the group, “And the invisible beast that follows you?”
Blades are drawn, and Othyx whips around, closing his eyes concentrating – causing the stone of the walls to flow out and block the passage some 20’ behind the group, though the earth here seems to constantly resist him, taking his full concentration. By sibilant words the creature reveals itself and it’s purpose, the capture or death of Kang and Briven, and the reclamation of it’s master’s property – the tea pot stolen by Briven. The invisible assailant is a capable grappler and deadly with it’s hands, but as the group figures out how to sense it’s presence they slowly focus in bringing to bear the full weight of their abilities, finally dissipating the stalking air elemental. In thanks for keeping the creature trapped so that there was no easy escape or chase, Raven offers Othyx one of the bars of jade from the party’s pack.
With the confrontation complete, the Guardian introduces itself as Hynnarian, Remnant of Kasaree, last Guardian of the Black Flame, and Watcher for the Key of Blood. Now having had a chance to see all the party members, and none hidden behind the bulk of others, it addresses Raven, "You bear the mark of the Key of Blood, and thus your blood is ready for the task at hand. Have you come to open the portal and end what was begun?’
“What?? What mark?”
“There, upon your brow, as it must be, as the child of the line. Your blood is the key, and the mark shows that it is ready. Are you?”
“Ready for what?”
“To open the portal and destroy the Destroyer of Kasaree?”
The conversation continues, and it is shortly learned, despite much disbelief upon Raven’s part, that she is the culmination of centuries of work. To take the demon infested blood of the child of the Black Flame and an Avariel, and purify it. While it remains the trapped demon’s key to letting it’s legions of trapped demon children-followers into the world, it is now also the key to destroying the beast. Not merely sending it back to it’s abyssal realm where it may hatch more plans, but to dissipate it utterly. The blood in Raven’s veins is now the key to both endings, not just the demon’s plan. The question, of course, is whether Raven is ready to engage the beast.
Raven is quite sure that she is not, but questions why her people, if they knew as the guardian suggests, would just let her leave if she was this important. To which the Guardian replies, “What more could you have learned among your people that would prepare you for such a confrontation?”
Understanding her fate and purpose, Raven and the group conclude that they are not ready for such a conflict. The Guardian warns that while he is strong, and so too are the wards on the portal, should others learn of the beast’s prison, time may grow short as other’s seek to harness or unleash it’s power. The secret of it’s imprisonment is part of it’s safety. Raven and the party must be wary of who or what discovers their purpose. Once they have gotten all the information they can from Hynnarian (as he has been hidden away in the earth for thousands of years, his knowledge is rather limited outside the scope of his duty and it’s history), they bid him farewell. As he retakes his position in the engraved door, he intones the words of the Avariel script, “We fly not in the dark places, for there does the crushing earth shatter the minds of the soarers. But when things must be trapped, in the earth must they be put, for the earth keeps its secrets.”
Retreating back to the normalcy of the tower, the group discusses their plans, and confers with Othyx. Othyx is able to trade with the group, jade brick in exchange for some shaped armor for Tuxn, and Briven and Othyx plan a location with a valley to place certain items in hiding, and clarify how teleportation to the valley can work (Not directly into the tower or a short space around it, due to a mix of the methods used to construct the tower, and the power of the portals in it’s walls), prepping a small chamber in the valley wall that Briven and Alvaro can memorize for scrying or teleportation.
An outing into the woods commences, wherein Briven restocks several herbs and discovers a fast growing tree not seen in the North in over a thousand years, long since cut to extinction in olden days, and takes a sample of it’s runner-like roots. Some last bits of discussion occur, as they prep where to go next, realizing that the whirlwind of adventures they have already had since entering the first tower portal have only taken a tenday and a half.
Deciding that the portal back to the Thanegioth Archipelago while less than ideal given the hatred of the necro-shugenja there, but the only guaranteed transit based on Othyx’s knowledge of the Blackstone Portals, they take the portal to Thanegioth. Kang’s mind is touched by a sibilant voice, at once impressed by his mental fortitude, but exclaiming hopes that the Rokugani may assist it, having been the first mind it was able to sense for some time in it’s isolation. Kang’s query is guarded, but the creature, still somewhat ecstatic at having made contact explains that it has long been imprisoned in the temple of Camazotz and seeks assistance in breaking free of it’s bondage. Kang replies that they are no longer in the temple, and having finished their agreement with Xipe, are disinclined to return. At the mention of Xipe, the mind voice goes positively apoplectic cursing the ogre mage’s name, and is so distracted Kang is able to eject the touch from his mind, and with that the group jumps through the portal.
The intent is to go to the tilted underground tower, whereby they can swing around, check the Rashemi Tower to see if aid has arrived, and then head back to the tower in the Plains of Purple Dust, and finally move to engage the Lizard Man slavers and perhaps reclaim the Rashemi that were taken.
Prepared this time for the angled arrival, the party ably catches themselves and each other and prevents any catastrophic mishaps. But, as before, the tangled mass of iron that was once a spiral staircase groans and clangs, and the attention of somewhat squeaky voices ensue. Goblins. Clearly set to boring guard duty after Raven’s last sojourn here, they scramble in surprise to readiness. This time, the party instead of hiding, engages the creatures, ensuring all of the guards are cut down or pierced by arrows so that no clear description of the group can be made. While the shouts and sounds of battle echo down the halls, raising some form of alarm, it is clearly too far away to matter before the party can get to the far wall.
Upon returning to reality, the group note that there has been no traffic at the Rashemi tower, and their horses remain untroubled in the small vale. Ready as they can be for tracking the lost Rashemi, they head back up and through the portal to the Plains of Purple Dust. The first thing Kang sees are half a dozen large, reddish scaled lizard men at the far side of the portal room of the Purple Sands tower, engaged in sibilant discussion. They are clearly surprised by the party’s entrance, though they reflexively raise weapons, as the party raises theirs.
End of Summer Session