Return of the Long Night
Volume II – The Land of Xa’ar
|Chapter 5: Of Fire & Ice||6052 Fall, Ordyen 35 – Kyayen 37 (HARP)|
Journey to the Isles of Blue Light
The Isles of Blue Light are volcanic in origin, with a myriad of natural passages and caverns. The waters surrounding the islands are rough and dangerous all year round, often scattered with iceberg chunks and even floating ice islets. Because of this, they are largely uninhabited.
The Isles are connected by a physical bridge between the mainland and the Mur Fostisyr (S. “Land of Blue Light”). Many of these tunnels and bridges are known to the locals, but few have ever explored them for fear of not coming back. Tales abound in Kraxinor of lost explorers and adventures, of monsters both giant and undead, who eat their victims and the screams that sailors believe are these victims dying in eternal torment.
Waters between the isles vary: the western and wider opening of the strait is relatively calm, but the eastern side is treacherous, with rough, swift-flowing waters.
Rumours persisted over the many centuries of caverns, connected deep beneath these islands as well as the sea that spans the distances between them. Tales tell of Yaalc Muul, a god-king, who ruled this region millennia ago and now is remembered in tales, which Valaan provides as a way of background to this region.
Your journey commences in Kraxinor, a non-descript village that offers the basics for travellers and little else. The few folks who are willing to chat tell of tales of horror and death that befall all who explore the isles to the north. Very few have ever actually explored the various isles, and many known someone who knows someone who has died doing so.
A few more wise folks do know a little of the history of the land – Yaalc Muul, the god-king who brought peace (through subjugation) to the area, and whose court was known to be a place of learning, research and great wealth. Tales and rumours persist of special weapons, magical protection and spells beyond anything known by the locals here (some of which you feel familiar with already from your time in Saralis).
Knowing this is hopefully the place where the Salufis Tree grows, you set off to explore the many islands that make up the The Isles of Blue Light. With hints of a lost trail to the east, near the coastline, that connects with the isles above, you set off from Kraxinor in the hope of finding the tree, the cure and some loot….
Your first few days allow you to explore the Ancient Ruins and Shrines up and down the “Green Coast” (Vrak Pryka). There are a number of magnificent structures, none more so than a single, cylindrical obelisk, about twenty feet high and five five feet in diameter, set in the centre of a circular stone platform thirty feet across. The obelisk is covered with runes, which you are unable to decipher.
However, you are certain that this obelisk is magical as you feel “safe” resting here. Its architecture is like nothing you have seen, but it is representative of many of the ancient sites across the Isles of Blue Light, which the locals tell you are ancient (even compared to some of the long lived races). Some believe that these are remnants of an ancient race of builders, the Earthwardens, who were responsible for much of the development in this part of the world.
Exploring this particular obelisk, Moulin does find a strange secret door, and after a few attempts is able to outline where it might open and how. By twisting one of the stone disks (which are stacked to make up the pillar) a certain way, a series of stones in the platform descend in succession to form a large spiral staircase. Underneath is a semicircular chamber, empty except for a small shrine and a large circular door.
This door is difficult to open, but after many attempts, Moulin is successful. Within is an empty chamber, one that exudes peace and tranquillity and is obviously magical. Darkness pervades it, as light (magical or natural) seems dimmer inside, yet its purpose eludes your investigation. However, you do find a strange device – a small flute, almost too small to be played easily, but one that does produce the most beautiful, haunting musical notes when blown.
Its shape is more like an ocarina, and this one is made of coral. Costa is able to attune to it, and realises that it does produce magic – a sort of “opening” magic, and so you carefully put away this “flute key”, awaiting when it may be of value in opening some portal or door.
After resting near the peaceful shrine, you head northwards seeking the supposed tunnel entrance that connects the mainland to Yaan Tanis, what the locals called the “Guarded Roads”, but which was known and described to you by Valann as the entrance to the Coral Road. You eventually find this tunnel entrance about 15 miles east of Kraxinor along the coast, and head down into the tunnels that descend deep beneath the seas and onto your first isle in the Isles of Blue Light.
Exploring Yaalc Aenawg – The “Guardian Circle of Song”,
An Earthwarden Holy Site
As you journey across the isle of Yaan Tannis, you see in the distance what appears to be a burial mound or small temple. Yet as you approach, you note that it is more like an open theatre, with many columns and around a central open floor.
Perched on a hillside, with the seas behind, it seems almost peaceful and serene here, yet as you approach, Costa notes that there is powerful magic emanating from the ruins itself. Two rows of pillars or columns surround a wide circular stone platform. The platform and inner ring are made of the greenish stone and as you cross into the inner circle, you immediately get a sense of peace and safety. Is this some sort of “warding” circle?
The outermost ring is about seventy feet in diameter, the featureless pillars eight feet tall and made of a native granite. These stand on bare ground (or actually stick about four feet into the ground).
These columns are twelve feet tall and two feet across; they form a ring fifty feet in diameter on a low paved platform. The platform averages between six inches and three feet above the uneven ground. As you explore these pillars, you find some strange “holes” that are definitely man made.
At a height of about five feet from the ground, facing towards the centre of the structure, is a small hole. There is a second hole directly above, but it varies with each pillar. The upper hole in the northernmost pillar is about a foot above the lower, the others each a bit higher as one goes around clockwise. Next to each lower hole is a series of small dots, much like those found on the Moon Orrery in Rapata, which reminds of some discernible and recognisable pattern.
You poke and prod these holes, but to no avail. Moulin confirms that there is no mechanism to them, yet they must serve some purpose. Curiously, Ta’kk blows into one of the lower holes and produces a distinct musical note. Suddenly, you consider that perhaps the dots are notes, and after some time, you feel you have the music worked out.
As you blow, simultaneously, the correct notes, the central platform resonates with the sound and a secret staircase slowly forms and descends deep into the site. Descending over 20 feet down, there is a large stone door with a small hexagonal “key” hole. With some incredible skill (or perhaps luck), Moulin actually does an incredible job picking the lock, and the large stone door rolls slowly aside.
Through the door, you come into a tiny vestibule, which opens to the left into a ring-shaped chamber. Strange runes on the outer walls glow with a reddish light. The central core is of black marble tiles. Facing the entrance on the core is the same set of dots as appear on the four columns, but they are very subtle and very hard to notice. Were it not for Trevor’s perceptive eyes, you could have missed them.
However, no matter how much you search, you cannot find any similar “holes” to blow into to form musical notes. Perhaps using another musical instrument will be suffice? Pulling out the small “flute” you found earlier, you try the four notes and suddenly an inner door rumbles and slowly slides open.
The central pillar has a space hollowed out about five feet across, with several niches cut into the inner wall. Set in a tall narrow niche directly across from the doorway is a parcel wrapped in black cloth. It is The Uncold Sword, one of the Absence Blades, an artefact weapon of great power. In other niches is another one of the six Bracers of Uniting, one of the Visors of Sight, and a small box containing a red, a yellow, and a purple crystal.
The sword is examined and once determined, Huan steps forward to grasp his new “toy”. As the sword attunes, he feels a strong “pull” to the north. Another sword – of similar nature and construction – is there and though Huan cannot identify the details, he is sure that it is the counterpart to this Uncold Sword.
In another niche is a metal tube, and inside are a number of scrolls. One is a map of the bridge-caves, naming each but giving no other explanation.
The second is made of an unusual, resilient material written on it in Uscurac, the Mentalist written language which Costa barely translates. At this time, you cannot decipher its meaning or purpose, but Costa realises that it has important magical properties and so places it carefully away. This document has some familiarity to the one found in the Five Moon Orrery, in Saralis, but how they are connected is not obvious to anyone.
Not sure what it might mean, you place it away for now….
Taking a rest, you relax within this ancient site and discuss what you have found so far. Suddenly Huan jumps up and yells “danger” – his new sword is drawn and he waves it about, as if expecting something evil to appear from the shadows.
A large demonic being steps out of the darkness, its pale skin shimmers with mist as if it condenses water from the very air. In its right hand, it holds a sword, similar to the one Huan now grasps – an elongated leaf shape, but there is an oval hole at the widest point where a cold blue light constantly burns. Its left hand is empty, its claws slowly open and close, as if it was seeking to rip your very necks asunder. It roars and seeing Huan, moves to strike him, driving this sword as if to guillotine off Huan’s head.
With spells, cold bolts and balls of frost, freezing sprays and pain, he does immobilize some of the party, but his attention is focused keenly on Huan and he comes back to this prime target, time after time.
The battle that arises is violent, but your survival only arises due to the anger and hatred that betrays him and makes him ignore the other party members till too late. Sensing that the tide of the fight has turned against him, he waves him hand and teleports away – Huan immediately yells “He flees north – I know not where, but I can find him, I am sure….”.
Who or what this was is a mystery, but the tie to that sword he holds is undeniable.
As you continue on your journey and move to circumnavigate Yaan Tanis, following the coastline road (part of the “Guarded Roads”), you eventually reach the north-western prominence where you find a small cave. Hidden in a cleft about two hundred feet above the sheer rock shore, this cave would be easily missed, where it not for the fact that the road you travelled headed straight towards it and that you were aware of the underground connection between isles.
A short ten mile walk (or crawl, as some of the passageway is very low) through an underground passageway finally brings you back up into the fresh air, and you realise that you are now on the isle of Molac Traayig.
This isle is much like the other – probably 25 to 30 miles in length, with rising hills and a rough cliff coastline. Ahead is an old, and not often tracked dirt road, long fallen into disrepair. Knowing that somewhere here is the entrance to the Bridge Caves, you decide that after some rest, you had best follow the track and seek entrance.
After an hour or so, you see ahead what seems to be a fairly simple structure of a pale grey stone, in the triangular shape with convex walls. Unusual in design for other regions, but common in what you have seen here.
The Temple to Yaalc Muul
While it was built with care and skill, it is still several hundred years old, it has begun to deteriorate. The stairs and low wall around the platform are cracked and crumbling in areas. There are some low shrubs huddled around the walls of the platform.
A five-foot high stone platform [#2] about ten feet larger all around than the building and in the same shape. Around the platform is a wall just under a foot thick and two feet high on the inside, seven on the outside. The door [#3] is eight feet tall and three feet wide and made of stone is stone. Once it may have worked by a counterbalance, sliding on rollers to one side, however the mechanism is broken and it took the might of Huan, Trevor and Ta’kk combined to shift it enough to allow you ingress.
Inside, the three walls arch together to form a single point at the centre, but there is a small
opening—about three feet across—to allow light inside. The building itself is about thirty feet across, and high. Engraved in the walls in unreadable text (Kugor you assume) and pictures are tales of Yaalc Muul’s exploits.
A platform, about eight feet across, is raised a foot above the floor, and is made of a finer, white stone. It stands in front of a massive statue of a smaller than life-size, but still an imposing dragon, with its wings spread across the walls and huge head leaning forward right to the edge of the platform. The statue is of a deep blue marble, and the eyes are large glass orbs that seem to have an inner glow (you appraise them as being of little value, however), and the two largest upward pointing fangs are made of some pale grey uncorroded metal.
One line in the text is in a different language that Trevor believes reads as ““For those who seek the Inner Way of the Dragon, give the gift of life with both hands.”. Considering this for a while, you conclude that the answer is “blood”, but the question is what to do with the blood. After some trial and error, it is Huan who suggests that perhaps the blood ought to be given to the dragon, as after all, dragons are an integral part of Yaalc Muul’s reign and history of this land. As such, he reaches inside the mouth, pricks his finder on the protruding metal fang and awaits as his blood rolls into the dragon statue.
… and suddenly the platform you are standing on slowly descends….
The chamber below ground is dim, with the only light coming off from a strange Orb near the north wall. The orb glows and throbs with rainbow lights, which brighten when anyone approaches. Three pillars support the ceiling above, each made of an unknown stone, which is both warm to the touch and strongly magical.
After much debate, Ta’kk finally agrees (is coerced) to touch the orb, and the moment he does, he gets a telepathic message “I am the Mind’s Archive”. He suddenly sees an vision and collapses, exhausted (and requiring a few moments rest to recover. When he does, he tells you of a strange scene that he is certain was real.
A large being, demonic in nature, with pale skin that glistens with mist is seen attacking an ancient tower on an isle in what you assume is the Isles of Blue Light. He and his demonic
minions slay the garrison and drive the remaining inhabitants off the island.
The King of the People and his best knights go to face the demon; only one knight returns, barely alive, to tell of the slaughter. The demon takes up residence in that tower, far to the north where snow and ice reside all around it. From there he ravages the area, taking what he wants, with minions that resemble large snow beasts, he terrorizes all that approach his domain.
You see him approach a stone tower – one you do not recognise – but you sense its purpose. Its pinnacle roof stands out as being of ancient and unusual design. The demon triggers some portal on the roof, and is suddenly in a massive chamber with elemental writing all around, with unusual windows all around. He does something and a throne, of blue stone, descends, and once seated, alcoves open in the area around the throne. Within each are books – powerful spell books.
One burns him badly on touch, four he vandalizes by tearing out the title page using a strange sword of frosted glass. The blade is of an elongated leaf shape, wide at the hilts, but there is an oval hole at the widest point where a cold blue light constantly burns. He takes one of these books with him which seems to soothe him.
Ta’kk also now points at the pillars and says “There’s things inside the pillars”, though he has no idea how he knows this. Initially you feel that Ta’kk has taken one too many hits in the head, as no one can sense or find any compartment in these solid pillars. However, Moulin does not a small crack in the eastern most pillar, and after many minutes, he finds a secret compartment that has broken (perhaps through the shifting of weight over the many years).
Inside this pillar is a small bag, maybe 5 inches in length, round, about the size of an adult forearm, and with the bag is another of the Bracer of Uniting.
However, despite your best efforts you cannot determine how Ta’kk knew this or what the other pillars might hold, if indeed there are items within. Moulin cannot find similar compartments in there. You note that you might wish to return here and examine these pillars further.
After some time, you also discover that the platform descends even further, ending in what could have been a storeroom for a variety of supplies, most of which have disintegrated. There are crates and barrels and boxes of all kinds.. There is a lever mechanism to lower the platform to the bottom level, if required, otherwise it responds to weight.
Searching this basement room, you eventually find two secret doors, that connect into long passageways. Perhaps this is the route into the Bridge Caves and to your goal of survival (well for 3 of your party, at least). Some quick scouting shows you that the southern secret door eventually leads back to the tunnel which brought you from Yaan Tanis, though the connecting tunnel is narrow due to a partial collapse.
The north passage however, winds further in and down, deep into the hillside, and as you descend, your excitement and anticipation rises… The Bridge Caves await….
|Huan Hung Loh||5||Human/Lugrok (Orc)||Monk||Nick|
|Gollum||5||Human (Gnome)/Loar (Elf)||Cleric||Brent|
|Trevor||5||Human/Elf (Loar)||Warrior Mage||Chris|
|Avalon Elthanus||5||Elf/Human (Orc)||Cleric||Brad|
|Special Item Found||Owner||Location Found|
|Coral “Flute key”||Costa – Michael||Ancient Ruin/Shrine|
|The Uncold Sword and scabbard||Huan – Nick||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|Bracer of Uniting||Gollum – Brent||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|Visor of Sight||Moulin – David||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|Title Page – Elemental Book of Water||Costa – Michael||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|red crystal (purpose unknown)||Costa – Michael||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|yellow crystal (purpose unknown)||Costa – Michael||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|purple crystal (purpose unknown)||Costa – Michael||Yaalc Aenawg, Holy Site|
|Bracer of Uniting||Moulin – David||Temple of Yaalc Muul|
|Currency||Party Total||| Each:||Platinum||Gold||Silver||Copper|
|Special NPC Encountered||Race||Status||Notes|
|Raathmaauriig||Demonic, Cold Fire||Escaped||Had a powerful sword|
Next Chapter 5a: Into The Bridge Caves