Asarasa ST

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  1. Combat Outside The Door Neither side is Surprised. Initiative Order Zai - 24 Creatures - 7
  2. Following the route Siwan had deciphered, the Band moved over a street and down another block where it ended against the inner side of the crater. For a moment Siwan feared that the building they was sought was entirely buried, but then she noted the edge of a building protruding from the wall. Siwan pointed and with Kora keeping watch, Siwan, Sigurn, and Zai began working the face of the building free from the side of the crater. Like soft sandstone or dried clay the dirt feel free in sheaves at their prodding, breaking into choking dust when they hit the ground. It took several minutes, but finally they cleared the front of the building, sweat making the dust stick to their flesh. At first, it seemed rather modest, perhaps fifteen feet on a side, though they could not tell how deep into the side of the crater it went. But the raised frame surrounding the pentagonal doorway was elaborately carved with runes and sigils, that glowed with their own faint light. On the upper most point of the doorway, the lintel stone was an abstracted version of the symbol of the Wheel that matched the one of their map. Unfortunately, the doorway did not gape open but instead seemed sealed with a seamless wall of iron. Rapping on it, it returned a dull thunk, appearing to be solid. Zai scowled. There was no lock for her to pick, not as she understood it. Sigurn and Siwan did understand, however. It was a door locked by arcane means. With her innate witchery, they believed Zai would be able to open the door herself, she simply lacked the training. It took arcane skill to open the door, just a minor amount even, if they could apply it in the proper fashion. The formula for access with woven into the intricate carvings surrounding the pentagonal doorway. It would take them some time to solve the eldritch formula and being in a crater, the light was fading fast. But just as they started, Kora gave warning. Everyone could almost feel the ground vibrate as two heaving mounds of dirt rose from the street. A moment later two creatures broke free of the earth and hissed at them. They were foul, twisted creatures, combining aspects of beetle, mantis, maggot, and serpent. They had long, articulated bodies with a chitinous hide and moved like snakes, snakes the size of draft horses and reeked of carrion and blood, they breath holding an acrid taint they could smell from thirty feet away. Aggressive and single-minded, the eyeless titanspawn rushed towards the female flesh they sensed.
  3. Kora leading, the band of women walked out onto the floor of the crater. The ground was gritty and a bit loose, kicking up puffs of dust with each step. The sun filtered down into the crater at an angle, revealing dust hanging in the air. The air was thick, they could taste it on their tongues. Zai wrinkled her nose and tied a scarf over her nose and mouth. The streets seemed to be laid out like the spokes of a wheel. Whatever event that had formed the crater was clearing not natural. Though the structures they passed by - all single story - seemed more or less intact, the ground swallowed them from their bottom third up to well pass half way to the cracked or missing slate roofs. A cursory glance into a few showed them to be largely devoid of anything of interest - if they had once held anything of value, they had been pillaged long since. Looking for tracks, Kora found some belonging to typical wildlife, mostly lizards and snakes here, but a pair stood out. There were a pair of wide furrows that weaved through the streets that reeked of blood and carrior, but she couldn't tell what type of creature the tracks belonged to. It held something of an insect and something of a serpent. Beyond the whistling of the wind across the mouth of the crater, it was eerily silent. They began working their way towards the East side of the crater. The sheer walls broken by the partially buried remains of buildings. Beginning to grow slightly concerned that what they sought, Sigurn and Siwan perused the map once more, trying to decipher exactly where the arcane holding should be while Kora maintained a lookout and Zai desultorily wiped dirt and grime from the lintels of the nearby buildings, seeking some sort of identifying mark resembling one of those on the map.
  4. Zai caught the medallion deftly in her quick hands and strung it on a thong, then tied it snugly around her throat so her hands would be free and it wouldn't impede her or jangle against anything. The slight girl wiped her hands dry on her pants then nodded at Siwan and Sigurn. She could do this. She would do this. Siwan focused her thoughts, then wove together the gestures and syllables of her dispelling magic. The eldritch threads spooled out from her, visible to her eyes only and contracted about the orb and the pedestal it lay upon. They contracted, tightened, and Siwan saw the dweomer grow dormant. She nodded in satisfaction then gestured at Zai. "It is done. Go." Zai went, scampering down the creaking stairs. She tensed at the first step, bracing for an impact, but there was no flash of light or arcane missiles thrown her way. She cased the open room swiftly with the trained glance of an experienced burglar, but her eyes returned to the orb on the pedestal. She grew close, but did not touch them. She blew softly, dust flying free, revealing fine arcane glyphs on the pedestal, swirling to center on the orb. She studied them closely, trying to decipher the pattern so she could disable the eldritch mechanisms. Watching from above, Siwan could feel her suppressive threads straining against the magic of the orb and pedestal. Zai unrolled her leather folder of well crafted thief's tools and selected a fine file of silver. Working meticulously, she began altering the glyphs, changing their meaning so they would work against each other instead of together, so as to negate their function. "Hurry, Zai," Siwan urged, her cancellation of the magic unraveling. "Almost done! Almost done!" she replied tersely. "There - oh!" Siwan's spell fractured. The orb pulsed just as Siwan saw the magic of the pedestal fade away under Zai's manipulations. Three bolts of blue-white light flashed from the orb at Zai and... seemed to flow into the pendant at her neck. Zai took a step back in surprise, but otherwise, appeared to be unhurt. She patted herself down in reassurance then glanced up the stairs and gave Siwan and Sigurn a big smile. "Done!" As the others game down the stairs one at a time - though they seemed solid, the stairs creaked alarmingly at each step - Zai fiddled with the pedestal and orb, finally working the orb free as the other women reached her. Torches kindled, they could see the pedestal was made of bone white marble veined with pale blue. The orb was of a size to fit comfortably in a palm, smooth, its translucency marred by geometric inclusions inside it. Zai presented it proudly to the others - Siwan could see that it's magic was still intact, though no longer entwined with that of the pedestal. The room was open with wide, shallow alcoves around its perimeter. Most gaped open, though two had the remnants steel grating lain out on the floor before them. From the stone racking inside the alcoves, it appeared this floor may once have been an armory, though no weapons or armor remained, and a cursory glance didn't reveal anything else hidden. A desiccated lizard, its hide grey and shrunken on its bones lay near the stairs. These stairs looked to be the most intact. There were toothed gears by the short railing, though the chain linking them was missing. It seemed like this set of stiars may have been able to be raised. Looking down, the base of the stairs, along with the bottom third of the floor appeared to have been swallowed by the ground when the town had had been swallowed by the Perforated Plains. It had clearly not been a natural occurrence. But the bottom floor still looked navigable, though they would have to crouch. They could see the gaping entrance to the tower opening up onto a street of heaved cobblestones.
  5. The cat woman stalked over to the two other women and crouched low. Kora cocked her head and flared her nostrils, listening and smelling for any sign of threat, of what had assailed Sigrun's familiar. After a long moment, she shook her head. She heard nothing and the only thing of note she had scented was the suggestion of something long dead that was barely distinguishable from the dust and dirt sullying the tower. "Nothing that lives. Perhaps something long dead," Kora informed Siwan. Zai peered more closely at the stone sides of the opening for the stairs, even pulling the torch closer for contrast, despite her eyes being able to pierce the deepest darkness. After a while, she made a stifled squeal of excitement, pointing animatedly at the bottom edge of the sides of the opening for the stars, slowly moving the torch. Siwan looked closely, and as Zai moved the torch, she finally noticed the finely incised arcane runes. The eldritch markings were so finely carved, minute and closely packed they were hard to read. Zai bent her head down, getting as close as she could, trying to decipher their purpose. "Trap," she asserted softly, after a moment. "Not the tripwire I think, but limits the range of the activation. It's... it's like the boundaries for the trigger." Her lower lip protruded in a frowning pout. "I can't disable the trap from here. I think it is the pedestal in the center of the room, but maybe I can delay it from triggering from here. For a time at least. Long enough to get the rest of you through. Maybe." The girl looked at Siwan anxiously.
  6. Sigurn held up a hand towards Siwan, stopping her as she collected herself. She took a breath, then straightened her shoulders. "Skirra was struck by some manner of eldritch power, I believe," the Albadian woman informed the band. "She has been sent back to the spirit world until I can evoke the ritual to summon her back to this plane once more." Sigurn showed Siwan the medallion. "It is a symbol of the Empire of the Wheel, each spoke representing one of the major schools of magic. Though I cannot be certain, I believe it may hold some manner of dweomer." By the stairs, the slight girl they had taken in hand stretched out on the floor, trying to get a view into the floor below without crossing the threshold into it, less she trigger an arcane trap, if that was what had assailed Sigurn's familiar. Both she and Siwan had said the Perforated Plains had once belonged to an empire of sorcerers. Presumably there were magical traps all over the place. The domiciles of the wealthy in Shelzar were often protected with magical - as well as mundane - means. Her uncanny eyes not impeded by darkness, Zai looked for what she could, despite the poor angle. From what she could see, the floor below seemed to be largely open, though there was something in the center of the room. "I can see, I don't know, a weird pedestal or table or some such in the center of the room," she said in her faint, accented voice. "There looks to be a smooth round ball embedded into it - it might be able to fit in a hand. It looks to be made of shiny stone, maybe crystal or glass, but I can't tell from here in this light. There's scratchings on the surface of the table or pedestal or whatever it is, maybe its writing, but I can't read it." She glanced back over her shoulder at the other older, more experienced women. "Do you want me to sneak down there and take a look. I'm sneakier than that spooky spider."
  7. Arcana - The Wheel symbol is a somewhat arcane symbol, though old. The eight spokes correlate to the eight major schools of Magic. It was taken by the Empire of the Wheel for use as an Imperial symbol. The pendant itself seems oddly devoid of any weathering or marring of any sort, as if just crafted, even when old or used for some time. That is a common hallmark of items that have been prepared for or have been enchanted. Its inherent warmth could betoken any number of things - an enchantment, a flaw in the enchantment, a reaction to the presence of the eldritch mosaics in the room, some quality of the metal, etc. History - The Wheel was the main heraldic symbol of the Empire of the Wheel, which was established by renegade male sorcerers from Albadia, fleeing prosecution from the Helliann. Pendants of this sort were worn by many of their soldiers and the sorcerers who backed, who were a key component of their success in battle, having large scale, coordinated use of Magic in battle.
  8. Sigurn, in one of the privy alcoves, under the bench seat in a dusty corner, you found an amulet or pendant made of what looks to be polished steel. It's slightly warm to the touch. It looks like the image, without the writing around the rim.
  9. It was only about ten feet to the floor below but the secured rope allowed them to lower themselves without worry of twisting an ankle or suffering some other injury due to the debris of the stair case. It would almost make escalating back up the tower much easier. This floor of the tower was once more an open design, faint light filtering in from the arrow slits. A pair of shallow alcoves opposite each other appeared once to have been privies, judging by the stone benches pierced by circular openings, though there were no signs of basins or chamber-pots. This floor of the tower was unusually warm, but no more than two minutes later, it grew cool, chill even, enough that the breath of the women plumed the air. On the wall between the alcoves was a mosaic of a stylized flame made of what looked to be red glass of various shades, some of the tiles missing. Opposite it was another mosaic, this one of an abstract snowflake made of blue tiles. Approaching the latter, the chill grew even more fierce, while the coolness was absent by the image of the flame. A minute later, the temperature rose once more, enough to threaten sweat. Pooling their arcane knowledge, Siwan and Sigurn guessed it must've been some eldritch device to control the temperature in the tower, though it seemed the enchantment had been damaged. It appeared magic was most prevalent in the Empire of the Wheel, and not only restricted to the hands of the Sorcerer-Kings, though Siwan did not believe this was typical to the Empire. Perhaps it was due to the presence of the Arcane Manufactory. Sigurn's familiar skittered along the wall, pausing above the stairs to stare down at the level below with multifaceted eyes. The stairs here looked to be perfectly intact and secure, only discolored some by rust. Skirra climbed down the stairs. A moment after it was out of sight, the women noticed a brief flicker of light from the opening to the floor below, followed by a thump, and Sigurn felt the destruction of the corporeal form of her familiar, Skirra's spirit fleeing back from whence it came with a mental cry of <Aiee! Arrows of light!>
  10. With Skirra skittering ahead and Kora in the lead, the party navigated to the next floor below, taking special care on the stairs, the old, pitted bolts securing it rattling loudly with each step they took. This level of the tower was divided by stone walls. One half of the floor was an open room, while a hallway leading to the stairs bisected the other half. The large room held high, stone troughs on one side, empty, with several holes at their base, presumably for draining. Next to the troughs was a plain stone block or altar, a different stone from the rest of the tower they have seen, a rust red basalt that looked oddly smooth. The women did not touch the odd stone shelf to determine its actual textual, for its top radiated a palpable heat. Moving down the hall, Kora noted openings into a pair of rooms that accounted for about a quarter of the floor each. One was almost conspicuous in how barren it was. The other had a bent, rusted pieces of metal in the doorway that once may have been a latch. Inside, there were the remains of mildly curved slats of petrified wood, sundered hoops of metals. There was a dark, spreading stain on the floor and the scent of stale mold in the air. Reaching the opening to the floor below, Kora found that here, the stairs had not remained secured. Vision adapted to see in little to no light, she could see the remnants of the iron stairs, twisted and broken, on the floor, about ten feet below them. Faint streaks marred the floor, where the broken stairs had shifted some over time.
  11. Zai tightened her pack against her back then the slight girl leapt across the gap to the tower deftly, her feet sure and soft on the stone flooring. She stood close to the others, then took a step back when Kora gave her an annoyed look. Skirra voicing no sign of threat below, they proceeded down the iron stairs one at a time. The stairs creaked and groaned with each step, rust flaking to the floor below. Siwan looked around the tower as they proceeded, but found it rather utilitarian with few signs of embellishment or interior carving. The top floor of the tower had a circular opening in the ceiling about three feet across and some crystalline slivers on the ground mixed in with the dirt and grit. The circular opening was bordered by a rusted frame with two points that may have served to support something and Siwan guessed may have been able to spin at one time, but held nothing to suggest its purpose. The next floor down was almost as bare as the floor above. There were no large openings in the walls on this floor, only small ones at regular intervals that were clearly arrows slits. At as exposed to the weather, the wooden furnishings radiating in from the walls were not quite as decayed, though they had collapsed under their own weight long ago. Studying them, picking out pieces from the various clusters and noting frayed bits of fabric and rope, Siwan conjectured they were the remnants of beds, likely bunks. Opposite the stairs they had descended from was another set of iron stairs leading down. From a cursory glance, these stairs didn't look as secure as the first set they had navigated, definitely angling more towards the center of the tower. Skirra skittered down the stairs. It wasn't aware of any threat below them, but could tell the room was not open like the two above, divided by stone walls.
  12. Using her own eyes and those of her familiar, Sigurn saw no danger... or much of anything. The circular room was over twenty feet across, with another opening on the far side. From the carved frame around the opening, she suspected it led to a balcony or terrace that encircled the tower, though if so, the balcony had broken off long ago. To the left, about a quarter of the way around the room, was an opening with railess stairs leading down. Though the tower was made of well-fitted stone, the stairs appeared to have been constructed of iron, now rusted and pitted. They creaked and released flakes at Sigurn's prodding, but seemed solid enough. With the listing of the tower, moving about felt slightly unnatural or off kilter. Otherwise, the room was bare, not even any remnants of old furniture laying about, though there were old scuffs and trails through the grit suggesting someone or something had passed through here at one time or another. If this room had once held anything, it had been scavenged or plundered long since.
  13. As the raven flew a spiraling path down into the crater, Zai walked up to the edge with a seeming lack of concern to the height, either due to the sense of immortality that commonly inflicted the young or a familiarity and facility with heights and climbing. She looked down at the side of the crater, noting they were inclined inversely, forming a slight overhang. She studied the wall a bit longer then frowned. The slim girl whispered an arcane word she hardly understood, a hand made a mystic gesture, and as she went to lay down on her front, leaning slightly over the edge of the crater, her longknife slipped from its sheath in the grip of unseen force. The side looked solid enough though pitted and it didn't seem right to her, like poor mud bricks. Zai waggled her fingers and ten feet below the lip of the crater, her longknife swung out then slammed into the side of the crater with the pommel. Once, then twice. There was a grating shiver, then a thin facing on the interior side of the crater sloughed away and broke apart into dust and silt. Zai stood back up and dusted herself off as her knife flew back into the sheath far back on her hip. The girl looked at Kora shaking her head and pointing at the crater. Her meaning was clear. Though not impossible, scaling the inside of the crater wasn't safe. Flying inside the crater, Llygaid was not happy. There was a haze of dust and silt hanging in the air that irritated his eyes and grated on his feathers, perhaps from a faint skirling of wind, and added to by the Titan-tainted girl. He saw what he could then flew back to his perch on his mistress' shoulder, preening as he relayed what he saw. The structures, all no more than a story or two tall, save for the tower were more intact than would have been expected from falling through a sinkhole. That is not to say there were not damaged, most were cracked here or there, often with slate roofs caved in or bare of thatch, many resting uneven from ground that had heaved at some point in the pass. Some of the buildings, bit of corner or one wall, appeared to emerge from the side of the crater as if totally buried. The bottom of the tower was visible, as was the gaping entrance to it, though the entire level was foreshortened by a layer of dirt and and debris, as if partially sunken into the ground. They would have to crouch to pass through the doorway. It gave the small town the appearance of having been buried or swallowed by the ground rather than having fallen into a sinkhole. Perhaps the sinkhole had come later, exposing it to the world above once more. In the constantly shifting and billowing haze of dust and silt, there were not any clear tracks, though there was a muted furrow of something quite large, something with either no legs or too many.
  14. The disposition of the accursed flail settled on for the moment, the band continued on their journey, eating a meal of tack and dried meat in the saddle. If the map was correct, they should reach their goal by noon. With their hunters dispatched, the women rode a bit more at ease, though it did not lessen there wariness. They avoided any danger or engagements, save for one battle with a giant scorpion when they passed too close to where it lay concealed beneath a patch of gravel. They dispatched the immense scorpion readily enough, though not without one of them being caught in its pincers and one of the horses being stung. Its poison was virulent, but the magic of the Albadian Bard and Keltai Druid managed to save it. They spent a few minutes recovering, Siwan using her physician arts to bandage their wounds, then moved on. As the sun approached its zenith, the rode up an incline littered with the crumbled and broken remains of a town or city, the top of a tower just visible on the crown. But when they reached the top of the rise, they found it was a broad, open, old sinkhole, its sides hardened by weather and age. Shadows wreathed the bottom of the deep hole, more ruins visible, if perhaps more intact than those they passed through on the rise. From off center, about a third of the way around the crater, thrust a tower, sixty feet tall or a bit more. It listed somewhat to a side, so a gaping window or balcony lay ten feet away from the lip of the crater. Siwan checked the map again. As best she could determine, thanks to the notations about a tower, this was what they had been looking for.
  15. Zai straightened her slender shoulders at Siwan's praise, a pleased grin on her face. She hadn't panicked this time - it wasn't always the case, especially when out in the wilderness. Her smile faded when her eyes fell upon the bundle the Flail was wrapped in and she quickly glanced away with a shiver. It was a terrible weapon, yet it called to her. The night was uneventful, remarkably quiet in this desolate land. All that was seen while the women each took their watch inside the mystic dome with the unsleeping fey girl was a banded snake and what looked like a rat with quills like a porcupine that they had to shoo away from the horses. Though it had not woken her during the night, Skirra revealed to Sigurn that Zai's luminescent eyes had lingered on the cursed flail more than once during the night. In morning, while the rest of the band cooked a quick meal and picked up camp, Siwan steeled herself against the foul aura of the flail as she passed a pearl over it casting a divinatory ritual to reveal its properties. As suspected, the Flail of Hunger's Demand was indeed infused with Gaurak's power and in fact, it's enchantment was only active in the hands of a dedicated follower of the Titan of Gluttony. In sibilant, tripartite voices, the Flail promised it could consecrate one to Gaurak the Voracious and unlock the full powers of the Flail. The quality of the Flail had been magically enhanced. As well, each head had its own property that it inflicted on those it hit, Madness, Pain, or Paralysis, though it took specialized training to determine with head struck when the Flail was swung. During the ritual, Siwan felt an insatiable hunger and had to eat a second meal after the ritual was complete and the flail was once more wrapped into a blanket. While as long as the Flail was in their possession it would be a concern at least they had ended the threat posed by their hunters. And now, Siwan believed they should reach their destination before mid day, if the map was accurate.