"At the Mountain of Man" - October 20th, 2001
Who will get the XPs for a Game Summary? I guess nobody! I ended up writing it myself....
The party members stood in the hot underground room looking at the last untravelled painting. It was damaged, as Molene the Sage had warned...but the image portrayed there was more than clear. A huge mountain in the shape of a human skull rose up from a chain of normally shaped mountains. Lava flowed from its mouth and nose, and smoke and heat issued forth from a huge hole in the side of the skull. A trail led from the other side of the painting, and wound its way to this fiery mountain. The crack in the painting had prompted the party to enter this one last. After much arguing and discussion as to who would venture into the last painting, Will, Oren, Jeremiah, Eytai, Ganraith, and Zeek entered this last painting, while Kit remained behind with the five Keys they had already collected. Any one of the five keys might be the one key they sought...the one that opens and closes the Storm Gates.
Once through the painting, they turned and realized that there was now two of each of them except Kit, who had not stepped through the damaged painting. Each of them looked down at their hands, their clothes, armor, weapons, and equipment....everything had come through apparently intact...but looking back through the painting into the underground room, it was clear that a version of everything had remained behind! Attempts were made to go back through the painting...but it was impossible. The painting would not yield, and acted as a wall of canvass, allowing nothing through. The versions of the party that remained behind attempted to come through...but they too were held back. Zeek spoke, "It seems that some part of us was able to come through the painting, but is prevented from going back."
Ganraith chimed in, "It is equally clear that the parts of us that remained behind, are not able to come through and join with the parts that made it through."
Eytai's serious face allowed a slight smile to creep across it, "I certainly hope all the best parts made it through the painting...I would hate to be left wanting!"
Oren laughed a hearty laugh. "I only recently was made whole by my former Master, only to be split in two by some malfunctioning magic. Am I cursed to be forever searching for some lost part of myself?"
Jeremiah put a hand on Oren's shoulder. "This is most unnatural...this split. If we assume we are still on our World of Kempin, and that all our efforts to get back through this painting are for naught...then we should gain the sixth Key in the Mountain of Man...and travel the many days and weeks that will bring us to the Azure Keep. Not time, not distance, not magic, nor evil will keep us from bringing Javair the Keys that we seek. Split us in two parts, ten parts, a hundred parts...it matter not. The more ways we are split, the more brave fragments of souls that seek a closing of the Gates!"
There was silence, and much nodding, and then a few quiet affirmations of what Jeremiah has said. He spoke for each of them. Will reached down and quickly checked his weapons one last time. "New friends. Let us not forget that though a version of ourselves remains behind...the deaths of these versions of ourselves must have some real consequence. Some essence of ourselves must exist in both versions, and to lose a version is to lose some portion of that vital essence that sustains us. May we each in our own way understand the risk, and may we now as a group travel to this Mountain of Man and wrestle the last Key from the grasp of this Red Jackal...." Will began walking down the trail towards the smoking mountian, and his new companions followed.
The sky was streaked with smoke and sulpher, and large vents in the ground on either side of the trail issued forth smoke and the red glow of lava beneath. The skull shaped mountain and the large black mountains that kept it company were much larger than the party had originally figured. Will cut the silence. "I have heard of this Red Jackal, he is a dangerous man. His early days were marked with much chaos and warfare. If he happened across a quiet hamlet, he would slap the nearest city guard to begin a fight. If he happened across a peaceful market place, he would let fly with accusation of thievery and cheating, until a small trade war would errupt. And later, if he found two kingdoms at peace, he would advise both kings of great wrongs done by the other, until a large war would break out...and he would fight on both sides! So it is said by the sages of the Empire."
Jeremiah nodded. "The priests of Rosehill speak of the Red Jackal. They say he is the Dark Lord. Meant to raise black armies and someday bring the current age of man to a fiery end."
The party walked in silence for several minutes. Oren began quietly, but then found his voice. "I know that not all I have said...has been completely...dependable, but....A mercenary that I met in the war against Zelagorn, told me of a land called Respite. He said it lies beyond the Valley of Bone, the Devil's Range, and the Sands of the Aerunes...and that all manner of evil-doers travel there to escape the justice and the axe of justice. This mercenary said that the one living creature these evil bastards feared was the Red Jackal. That he had set himself up as a sort of barrier between the world of man, and those that would do great harm. The mercenary joked that no one was sure if the Red Jackal punished the most-evil of the bunch to serve some sort of justice, or whether it was an attempt to wipe out any competition. He said the Jackal's home was in the Devil's Range...so that must be the mountains through which we travel...."
The party had travelled for the better part of a day, and the flaming skull of the Mountain of Man towered above them. Suddenly Kit was among them. They all spun to face her, and Oren drew forth his axe, screaming, "FEDDEN, I WOULD KNOW YOUR FACE ANYWHERE! STAND AND FIGHT!!!"
Kit made no moves to defend herself, or to return the threatened attack. "Oren, how sweet of you. Would you be a dear and hold off your attack on me until I can explain?" Oren nodded slowly. "You had been gone quite some time and not returned, so I handed off the other five keys to those that remained behind, and entered the painting to join you. A part of me remained behind also. It appears our only way back to the Azure Keep is to travel the large distance between here the there, on foot, by horse, or by boat. But the painting will be useless to us."
The party members asked Kit a few questions they felt only Kit would know, and she not only knew the answers, but answered in a manner and with an attitude that only Kit could manage. When she had been accepted, the party continued its travels towards the skull-shaped mountain. As they topped the last small ridge in the valley, they observed that the trail ventured directly into the open mouth of the skull. The path would carry them directly alongside the river of lava flowing from between its lower teeth, and into the towering Mountain of Man...where the sixth Key and the Red Jackal awaited them.....
Zeek clutched his stomach. "The spirits must be angry with me. I have been hurting for a while now, but the pain is becoming horrible."
Oren chuckled. "Perhaps it is nerves...or fear. I feel nothing."
Eytai turned, wiping beads of sweat from his brow. I have no pain, but I am very light-headed...I feel as if I could faint."
Will's face had a serious look of concern on it. "I too feel as if something is wrong with me. My joints pop, and my muscles are aching...."
It was Jeremiah that offered an answer. "We are not our whole selves, but only portions of what we should be. We are shades. Though we feel we are the true Oren...and the true Zeek, and the so on...I fear we are the minority fragment...the smaller pieces. As Will put it so aptly earlier, we have only a tiny portion of that 'vital essence' that sustains us. I feel ill myself, and I fear that without fusion, without wholeness regained...these fragments will pass from the world into the land of shadow."
Oren looked perplexed. "You mean we'll die...I mean this portion of us might die? But I feel fine!"
Kit answered. "You are the toughest among us Oren. You WILL feel it eventually, as will I. I feel nothing now, but I entered the painting hours after you."
Ganraith sunk to one knee. "I take small comfort knowing that if I die, the majority portion of me that Jeremiah refers to may survive. I AM GANRAITH. I refuse to submit. I for one intend to find the sixth key, and return it to Javair. If I die trying, so be it. But minority portion or not, I will not give up."
Will's grimace twisted into a smile. "I think you have spoken for us all elf. All evidence may point to us being shades, but I know who I am. I am William Fitzpierce...and I will not submit."
A chorus of, "I will not submit" and "to the end," went up from the party of shades, and they struggled on towards the Mountain of Man....
After a day of travel, the party observed that the trail they were on entered the mouth of the skull-shaped mountain. Shielding their faces from the heat of the lava stream exiting the "mouth," the party made its way inside the mountain. A huge cavernous room with a bubbling spring of lava dominated the room, but there were doors at the back and lots of tall piles of rocks. The party observed smoke and heat rising from behind one of the rocks, and Kit attempted to scout it out. Three trolls ambushed the party, and a vicious fight broke out. The party made short order of the fire trolls, but some of the more inexperienced members received some injuries. Jeremiah healed their wounds. The trolls kept growing back to life, so the party cut off their heads, chopped out their hearts, stuck a sword through them, and cast a spell of intense cold on the sword...freezing their hearts. Eventually, in frustration, the party through the troll bodies into the flowing stream of lava...though they feared this too would not destroy them.
Kit searched the cavern with a wand of magic detection, and located a secret door, accessible only by walking on a thin piece of land between the opposite wall of the cavern and the huge pool of lava. Oren and Jeremiah gained access to the troll's treasure cavern, and found a special candle, a pearl, and a large fancy book...as well as tons of platinum, gold, silver, and jewelry. The special items were taken after much discussion on the matter, as well as the platinum.
The party turned its attention to the doors at the back of the cavern. They were double doors and were located in a recess in the rock that was 20 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. A huge jumble of knives, blades, and swords appeared to be afixed to the wall around the door frame in a rather random way. Outlining the outer limits of the inset, a red dotted line was marked on the floor, walls, and ceiling. It was either a trap, or a glyph, or someone wanting to make people think there was a trap or glyph. The party investigated it with their knowledge of traps and through magical examination...and by throwing rocks across the line. This last experiment was a bit scary...for half the party was engulfed in a massive fire-ball spell. A party member or two fell to the ground gravely injured, but again, Jeremiah stepped in and healed them. The party backed up a little further and continued to experiment by throwing many more rocks through. Everytime something crossed the threshold, a fireball went off. They quickly discovered that if multiple objects crossed the dotted line at the same time, only one fireball went off. Jeremiah theorized that a dispel magic spell would prevent one fireball from going off, though the trap would then reset itself.
Jeremiah cast the dispel magic spell, and at the count of three they all jumped across the dotted line at once. Immediately the wall of swords and blades began to shift and the horrible sound of metal scraping on metal, only a thousand-fold, pierced the air. The blades fell from the wall around the door, in a systematic fashion, forming itself into a large four-legged creature with a jagged bladed mouth, and daggers for claws. Their first instinct was to step back and set up strategically...but to step back across the dotted line, would mean an explosion immediately deadly to some of them...and greatfully hurtful to the rest. Instead they were forced to attack the creature, or try to get through the double doors. Party members began to make their way through the doors, by running between the creatures legs...and the creature breathed a cone of blades and jagged metal at half the party...delivering horrible cuts to them. Jeremiah possessed the sword ShatterStar..."breaker of blades." He chopped heavily at the creature, snapping its legs, its ribs, and eventually killing it.