Silanya

Expedition 31(a) - The Window is Closed (David Island II)

In Which We Uncovered More of the Secrets of the Island Known as the Window

June 10, 2017

Adventurers: Rock (barbarian/fighter, 3), Marc Cooperson (dragon sorcerer, 2), Linna (rogue, 1), Jean-Lee “Gucci” Challenges-Debicourt de Ia Terre des Romances aux Rivalieux-Quandamouzieres Sur Vantera-aux Alpes Maritimes (war cleric, 1), Beauregard-Pierre d’Henri au Amélie-sur-Mer de Monsieur le Boulanger-François le Quatrième Tremblay-Claudette du-Rochefort René le Maurice (ranger, 2)

Major Character Changes:
Linna has leveled to 2.
Marc has leveled to 3, and has formed a bond with an aberrant symbiote/parasite [+1 to max HP, future effects to be discovered].

Map:
[link]

Experience:
XP: 440 each (380 [base] + 20 [log bonus] + 10% [update bonus])

Earnings:
Rock: 113.5 gp and 150 debt from Linna
Marc: 94.5 gp and 150 debt from Linna
Beau: 94.5 gp and 150 debt from Linna
Jean-Lee: 44.5 gp and 150 debt from Linna and dancing shoes
Linna: 94.5 gp and cloak of alacrity, owes 600 gp to party members
LMF: + 76 gp, – 2 healing potions

Expenses:

  • 6 healing potions [300 gp]
  • 6 gp [6 gp]
  • 2 grappling hooks & ropes [6 gp]
  • 4 ritual components [20 gp]
  • 21 rations (10 consumed, 10 thrown, 1 lost) [10.5 gp]
    Total: 342.5 gp, of which LMF pays 100 (for the two healing potions drunk)

Treasure:

  • 750 gp – cloak of alacrity: + prof on initiative rolls, 1 charge pass without trace (bought by Linna)
  • 200 gp – silver shard: 1 use spell attack, makes an incorporeal creature corporeal (bought by Raevori)
  • 200gp – books about aberrations
  • 150 gp – sachet of poison purging: there is a small amount of powder in this sachet which destroys any airborne poison it comes into contact with
  • 150 gp – Notes of Elspeth van Horne: the notes describe her time on the island and depict her descent into madness, backs of each note contain pieces of a complex glyph (given to the LMF for safe-keeping)
  • 60 gp – Rock’s parasite corpse: interesting specimen
  • 50 gp – dancing shoes: the attuned wearer gains expertise in perform (dance) (bought by Jean-Lee)
  • 50 gp – dark reflector: looking in this hand mirror shows you the worst version of yourself (bought by Melora)
  • 15 gp – crystal power coupling: this connects the mountain’s defences to an unknown power source belowground, can be used to turn them back on (given to the LMF for safe-keeping)

Summary

There are seven Stations spaced out in a circle around the Island. Each contained a page of Ms. Van Horne’s notes and some sort of test designed to test the capacity of any who attempted it, in a variety of ways. There is a Gate near each station — a shimmering portal which allows for one-way travel between Stations upon being activated with a key particular to that Gate. The Mountain (or the ‘Key’) in the centre of the Island was protected by seven defenses, each related to one of the stations. I have provided here a brief summary of some of the information useful for traversing the Island.

Gates:
1 to 2: your name
2 to 3: stone from the island
3 to 4: hair
4 to 5: heated metal
5 to 6: cantrip
6 to 7: fruit
7 to 1: whistling
1 to 8: human blood

Stations:
1: Faith (Moloch) – pit (magic flute)
2: Hope (Levistus) – plant creature village (recorder)
3: Charity (Mammon) – amphitheatre (divination orb)
4: Fortitude (Barbas) – hedge maze (anti-poison sachet)
5: Justice (Belial) – chess board (mirror)
6: Prudence (Baalzebul) – plinth with dancing figures (dancing shoes)
7: Temperance (Adramalech) – cube (key)
8: Key – the mountain

Mountain’s Defences:
1: Faith hounds (pacified by flute)
2: Hypnotic pattern (cast after ‘Sophia,’ so can be avoided)
3: Floating orbs (throw items through the cloud to draw some of their fire – not a perfect solution)
4. Poisonous gas (sachet protects)
5. Ophidian (recognized Marc as a replacement for Mr. Harding, and will let him and his companions through)
6. Platform with glyphs (follow very precise pattern to avoid stepping on the glyphs – can use staffs to help balance)
7. Cottage (closed the door)

Expedition Log

The following is an accounting of the events of Expedition 31A, the second expedition to the island known as the Window, located at the intersection of Hexes 4.11, 5.10, and 4.10. I have recorded the details of the expedition as faithfully as possible, although some of what we saw is very difficult to explain, or to believe.

We set out from Sila in fine weather and relatively high spirits, bolstered despite our fears by the knowledge that we were performing an important investigatory mission commissioned by Commander Fior herself. Jean-Pierre prepared us for the mission ahead by casting Aid on each expedition member and blessing Rock’s halberd, which we greatly appreciated.

As we travelled towards the island, Jean-Lee heard tramping footsteps coming our way and Rock quickly ordered us to retreat. I spotted a gully and we all ran for it, with Rock assisting Linna and myself. Peering out of our hiding place, we saw a procession of twelve hobgoblins, four of whom were carrying an elaborate sarcophagus. One of the hobgoblins had a noticeably superior sword and better armour. We decided not to risk an engagement, as they looked quite formidable and we wanted to reserve our resources for the dangers of the Window.

We reached the shore and set off in our canoes, which Marc, Bennu, and Syathir had crafted. I do not think I can explain how strange and unsettling that area is to anyone who has not been there, and of course anyone who has would scarcely be able to forget. The water was dark and completely opaque — which was especially unnerving, as the last time we had been here we had seen a monster in the waters — and everything was unnaturally quiet. The water made no splashing noise as we paddled through its eery stillness, beneath a sky which had turned the same purple as a bruise.

We avoided the beach, where we had last seen the monster, and instead made for the spot on the cliffs where we had left ropes on our previous expedition. When we arrived, we saw that our ropes had been destroyed – in fact, that all of the vegetation and tree cover had been stripped away, and that huge furrows had been dug into the top of the cliff. We returned to the beach, and landed safely despite our fears.

By the beach, there was a new, brackish river outlet emptying into a tidepool which we carefully avoided. Upon inspection it appeared to have been clawed out, and quite recently. The rowboat which we had found on the last expedition had been propped upright on several logs and cleaned meticulously, although it had not been repaired at all and was still not seaworthy.

We headed north towards the amphitheater (Station 3: Charity) and the shimmering square that we had seen last time but not been able to investigate. The amphitheatre looked as it had when we first encountered it, with the plinth gone and the stones wheeling about in their whirlwind. Jean-Lee cast Detect Magic as a ritual, using some sort of drug that I was unfamiliar with as a component. Whatever it was, it worked very well and he immediately spotted the four magical stones in the whirlwind – enchantment, divination, abjuration, and evocation.

Jean-Lee used his axe to knock the divination and abjuration orbs out, after we tested to make sure that there was no danger of losing the axe. Marc very bravely stuck his hand into the whirlwind and reported that he did not feel any inward pull.

Rock carried the abjuration stone away from the amphitheatre and a spherical forcefield popped up around her, which disappeared when she rolled back to the amphitheatre. Through experimentation we discovered that the ball of force, including Rock inside it, weighed only about 5 pounds and could be sent rolling away very dramatically by being struck by a weapon. When Marc tried to cast a cantrip within the sphere nothing appeared, but he could cast dancing lights, so long as they were outside of the sphere.

We returned the abjuration sphere to the amphitheatre and moved on to investigate the shimmer, which we would later learn was one of a number of portals joining up the various Stations around the island. These Gates work by evocation and conjuration magic. When they are not activated, you can toss inorganic things through them but they block all organic material from passing through. It is important to be careful – organic material can pass through from the other side of an unactivated portal, but will then be bisected if you try to pull it back.

Without enough information to understand what the shimmer was, we left it and explored along the river. We came to the fork where the new river had been dug out of it — it appeared to have been burrowed and hacked out by something incredibly strong, which had dug its way from the river to the beach and then back again. A little further on, Linna spotted a disturbance in the current and found a place to cross the river where pillars had been built to form a line of stepping stones just under the surface of the water. Rock and I threw grappling hooks across the river and we crossed mostly without incident, holding onto the ropes to balance. Jean-Lee walked across very boldly, despite falling twice and losing a day’s rations – his poise put me in mind of the participants of those wonderful shows of Monsieur Saint Laurent that I was lucky enough to see sometimes when visiting Louboutin-sous-Bois. Linna was equally impressed, although Rock did not look as pleased while she helped him to dry off.

After walking for a little while, we suddenly we heard a hoarse voice from the trees ask – “WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

We looked around frantically, and Jean-Lee and I managed to spot a dark, cloaked figure crouched in one of the trees, which we later determined to be Mr. Harding, or what remained of him. Jean-Lee noticed that his clothes had once been very fine but were quite ripped – both through long use and through the distortion and mutation of his body.

We tried to talk to him but he would only repeat his demand that we leave, interspersed with other ominous warnings – “You will drown on dry land and she will laugh.” We told him that we couldn’t safely cross the river where we were but he told us that he did not care. Marc asked him what he did care about and received no response.

We threw our grappling hooks back over the river and crossed, balancing on one of the ropes while holding onto the other. Marc fell into the river but calmly swam to the other side despite the waters being extremely cold. When we made to retrieve our grappling hooks, Mr. Harding told us to leave them – as he knew that they helped us cross the river. He melted them where they lay, and repeated, “Leave the island. If I see you, I will kill you.”

As we walked away, we caught sight of him traversing the forest shockingly quickly – one of his arms would stretch and extend, grab onto a tree some distance away, and pull him forward.

Linna and Jean-Lee and I immediately thought of returning to Sila – after all, what could we do against a threat like that? We knew that he was fast and stealthy and used magic, and could only speculate what other powers he might possess. However, having left his deeply unsettling presence, we recalled from Ms. Van Horne’s notes that he only guards the territory inside the river. We decided to lay our hopes in that and continue exploring on the outside of the river.

We continued along, staying a little ways away from the river to try to escape Mr. Harding’s notice. We came next to a gate with a large numeral 1 on it (Station 1: Faith). There was a shimmer in the air to each side of the gate, one of which we would soon identify as a portal to Station 2, and a large pit on the other side of it (50 feet across and too deep to see the bottom of). In the centre of the pit was a box floating over the nothingness, and just inside the gate there was a plinth with a silver flute hanging from it. Marc stepped forward and picked up the flute and we heard a voice say “FAITH.”

Jean-Lee cast another ritual Detect Magic and watched as Marc began to play the flute, which showed conjuration and enchantment magics and created a magical aura around the player. The pit itself contained some sort of untyped magic.

With ‘faith’ as our guide, Marc volunteered to try simply walking out across the pit to reach the box. We tied a rope around him and he stepped out over the pit with no hesitation. He walked about halfway across but then faltered and immediately fell. We pulled him back without harm and he determined to try again. He suggested that he close his eyes and let us disorient him, then walk forward – so that he would not know when he was on solid ground or not, and might not falter. We did so, and he made it almost all of way to the box but wavered at the last minute and fell again.

At this point Jean-Lee stepped forward and told us that he would do it, as he believed that his natural commitment to poise would carry him through – and it did. We tied a rope around him, he set his shoulders in a certain stylish jaunt, and he sauntered straight out to the box. The second he reached the box, he suddenly appeared beside us again, holding his prize which he proffered with a little spin and a flip of his hair as his sunglasses glinted even in the muted, off-tone light of the island. The box contained more notes, which we quickly read through and consolidated with those found previously.

The notes mentioned Ms. Van Horne having difficulty passing through the Gate at Station 1, as she had forgotten her name. We tried saying her name, to no effect. Then I said my name and the shimmer hummed as it activated. I hesitated, and while I was vacillating, Rock said her name and quickly stepped through the portal and disappeared. We waited and when she did not return, Marc said his name and followed her.

They later reported that they found themselves in a fractal hallway, whose walls had the disturbing texture of raw meat, and that they could see and hear us but could not pass back through the gate.

I stuck my axe through the shimmer and Rock grabbed onto the end of it, wrote ‘OK’ on it, and released it. I asked her if we should follow and she wrote back that they would try to find their way back to us, and that we should wait two hours and then leave.

Rock and Marc walked down the hallway, discovering a small teleporting effect – when you walk along the hallway towards the exit, you get jolted forward in place and end up much further along (although the effect does not happen going back towards the entrance, as these Gates allow one-way travel only – once you enter, you must leave through the exit, which disappears behind you). They came to the end of the tunnel and, looking out, saw that it had led them to the plant creature village (Station 2: Hope).

Rock and Marc stepped out and immediately drummed the ‘friend’ pattern. The plant creatures recognized them and were not too disturbed by their presence; they were at first wary of Marc and drummed ‘fire,’ but settled again when he offered to perform the ritual of giving a piece of himself. The plant creatures were gathered around a large corpse and were peeling thick fungus off it while baby plant creatures crawled out of it — likely part of the same process we had witnessed last time, when we had seen them rubbing some sort of sap over an aberration corpse. Rock and Marc left the creatures to their work and made their way back to us by foot, to our great relief.

We continued northwards and found the terrain increasingly swampy with an increasingly terrible smell – like nothing I had ever experienced before. From ahead of us, we heard a shuffling noise and the sound of something huge chewing, and we ran. We gradually gained distance from it and, looking back, saw a long, low-slung shambling creature – vaguely bovine but with a disturbingly human-like face and a long, serpentine neck. There was an ornate spear sticking out of its side, which had clearly been there a long time and did not seem to bother the creature at all. Once we were certain we had escaped the creature, we continued on our way and made a point to avoid it (which we could do quite easily due to its powerful stench).

We came next to a large, jet black stone cube which was completely smooth and featureless except for a door labelled ‘7’ on the north face (Station 7: Temperance). Marc pushed the door open and cast dancing lights inside, illuminating murals covering the walls. He entered the room while Rock and I braced ourselves against the door in case it tried to close behind him. Marc saw a huge, immobile shadowy form and threw a pebble at it; it immediately opened glowing red eyes and pulled out a giant sabre, while something silver shone in its chest. We heard Marc calmly apologize for disturbing something and Rock and I rushed in to help. The creature swung at Marc and hit him, and the three of us found ourselves transported — undamaged — back to just outside of the cube.

We reentered the room and saw the creature back in its original position and motionless again. The walls were covered with murals of battle and hunting. However, when the creature had been active Rock had seen a keyhole painting behind where the creature had been standing and a painting of the creature itself of the opposite wall, which were not there any more.

Through various experimentation, we discovered that when the creature was awake and the image of it appeared on the wall, touching the image would cause the creature to orient itself towards you and approach you. A ritual Detect Magic from Jean-Lee showed that the room contained a mixture of conjuration and illusion magic, and that the silver glow inside of the creature was strongly abjuration. Linna attempted to see through any illusions present, without success. Next Rock tried to stick her hand into the creature’s chest to push the silver inside of it back towards the keyhole painting; she managed this, but to no effect. Touching the keyhole painting caused a voice to say “TEMPERANCE.” We tried removing all of our weapons before awakening the creature, with no effect.

We awoke the creature and Rock went to where its image appeared on the wall and touched it and waited while it approached her. As it did, the image that she was touching grew larger. When it reached the middle of the room, the image suddenly appeared on the opposite wall, shrinking as the creature walked away from it. Marc touched that image and the creature turned towards him, so we discovered that two people could trap the creature that way (holding it between them, unable to advance towards either person) although we were not sure how to use that.

We read through the notes and saw that this station was named for Adramalech – on saying that name, the creature intoned: “KEEPER OF THE DOOR.”

Eventually, after many attempts, we realized that we had to cause the creature to walk so that its image would appear over the keyhole picture. When we touched the image like that, the creature stopped dead and we heard a click behind the open door. We closed it and saw that on the back of the door was a real keyhole. Rock put her hand through the image on the door and her hand appeared in the creature’s chest. She grabbed the key and opened a panel on the back of the door, retrieving more notes.

I was greatly relieved that we had finally solved the puzzle of Station 7, as it had taken us a very long time, and each failed attempt caused the silent, shadowy, menacing creature to swing its sabre at one of us – which teleported us outside instead of hurting us, but was no less frightening for that.

We returned to Station 3 (Charity) for the night to sleep under the protection of its forcefield and passed the night uneventfully.

The next morning, we walked to Station 1 (Faith) and took the Gate to Station 8 (The Key). We popped out in front of the gateway with the metal dogs, which looked just as threatening as they had on Expedition 28(a). Jean-Lee began to play the magical flute and strode directly forward through the creatures. They snarled and gnashed their teeth at first but calmed down quickly and watched Jean-Lee adoringly (although he had to play continually in order to keep them pacified). We walked through the gateway, where we had so nearly died on the previous expedition, and proceeded up the narrowing, winding way.

The first obstacle we came to was a vibrating pillar in our path which emitted a constant stream of eerie deep speech. Although none of us understood it, we heard the name Sophia repeated throughout and a Detect Magic showed enchantment that spiked after each repetition of her name. When we tried to walk past the pillar, it created a bright flash of swirling colours [hypnotic pattern] that captured all of us within its sway. I remember faintly hearing it begin to emit a barking noise and the clatter of the approaching metal dogs as they came to attack us, although none of that felt important at the time. They bit Jean-Lee, who broke free from the spell, and Linna, who collapsed. Jean-Lee healed himself and Linna and began to play the flute again, while Linna shook the rest of us out of our trance.

Looking down, we saw something moving swiftly through the trees towards the base of the mountain and recognized Mr. Harding. As he approached the gates, the dogs ran to swarm him. Mr. Harding seemed to be holding his own, mainly, but struggling against so many attackers. Seeing an opportunity to stop him, we ran back down towards the battle. Mr. Harding was formidable, with a fearsome bone spur protruding from one arm, but he could not stand against both us and the dogs. Badly injured, he tried to run and Marc chased after him and we brought him down.

As he lay at our feet, he started to speak in a terrible, rasping voice. “Pulled me into the faith hounds…knew my trigger…would have been a good Raven…live, die, live again…please kill me….maybe with the flame, I’ll stay dead…don’t go up there…more like me northwest, ambush predators…she’s always up there…don’t take the orbs, or if you do run…why are you here?” We told him that we were trying to make sure that the Window is not open, to which he replied, “I’m still here…it’s still feeding me.” It was horrible to watch him like that – still monstrous, but with a dreadful pathos. In the light, it almost looked like he could once have been handsome.

Jean-Lee cast a sacred flame and Mr. Harding died, crumbling into ashes. Jean-Lee paused for a moment and intoned a very solemn ‘babe,’ and it was over. Having read through Ms. Van Horne’s notes, Mr. Harding’s death is especially poignant – their story is terrifying, of course, but also very moving and intensely sad.

We decided to turn away from the mountain for the time being, as we worried it would be too dangerous without further information.

As we approached the earthen mound beside the river, we heard shuffling movement and saw the tracks of the creature which had dug out the new river. We fled as quickly as we could. We heard the creature crashing along after us but it had difficulty forcing its way through the thick foliage. That is likely the only thing that saved us, as it was very quick and seemed to be an excellent tracker. As we pulled ahead of it, we heard a deafening roar and saw it slip into the river behind us. We continued running.

At the edge of the forest we came to a hedge maze (Station 4: Fortitude), covered with beautiful flowers dripping sap. Inside were many corpses of aberrations and pollen hanging thickly in the air. Thankfully we could navigate the maze without trouble, as Ms. Van Horne’s notes contained a map. In the centre of the maze, we found a pedestal with a bag on it and more pages of notes. Upon picking up the sachet, we heard a voice say “FORTITUDE.” As we traced our path back out of the maze, the pollen in the air around us dissipated harmlessly when it came within a radius of the sachet.

We proceeded until we came upon a board of black and white patterned tiles with a metal rectangle in the middle (Station 5: Justice). Rock walked to the centre of the board and picked up the rectangle — a mirror — and a voice proclaimed: “JUSTICE.” The mirror, when looked into directly, shows you the worst version of yoursel, but when tilted showed that the seemingly empty board was set up with a chess game that was half-way played already. Rock used the mirror to map out the pieces and then moved them according to Linna’s directions. Trying to demonstrate ‘justice,’ we chose to play white, which had a weaker position. We did not know what would happen if we chose the wrong side, or if we lost. Jean-Lee, Marc, and I waited tensely while Linna played and – amazingly, given the circumstances – won. All of the black squares flashed white for a moment and then the enemy king unravelled and revealed a slipcase the size of the mirror containing more of Ms. Van Horne’s notes.

In the vicinity of Station 5, more rivers had been clawed out by the beast: a sombre reminded after our victory of the dangers that surrounded us.

Our next objective was Station 6, which we expected to be north of us. Wary of the ambush predators that Mr. Harding had spoken of, we used the Gate instead of approaching by foot. When we reached the exit there were four creatures waiting outside of the portal. They were horrifying to see – they looked half-human and half-animal, like twisted versions of each that had been mutated and combined to form monsterously misshapen bipeds, with stretched-out limbs and deeply unsettling proportions. Each resembled a different animal – a wolf, a bear, a crocodile, and a boar. I have never seen anything so skin-crawlingly gruesome. When we tossed a pebble out of the Gate, all four turned to focus completely on it.

The wolf-creature approached and said, in a grating, stilted voice, “Hello. I am diplomat. Come out and fight and die or come out and talk.”

Rock motioned for us to stay put and stepped alone out of the Gate. Diplomat said: “You are diplomat,” and she confirmed that she was. It said that it had sensed more of us, and she confirmed that as well. Linna bravely exited the portal to join Rock.

Diplomat said that it was a “one-and-one” and asked how we had killed Mr. Harding, ‘the hunter.’ It explained that the one-and-one are created by combining organisms and asked if we wanted to take a part of them and make it part of us – not to become a one-and-one, but to use their flesh. Rock agreed, as refusal seemed likely to provoke violence. She extended her arm and Diplomat beckoned over another of the one-and-one and ripped its tongue out, revealing a tiny, squirming creature. It scored down Rock’s arm and shoved the creature inside. She steeled herself and managed to stop the creature from continuing up her arm [con save], and it settled where it was. A mouth opened up in her hand and she sprouted long, frightful claws [primal savagery cantrip].

Diplomat asked if anyone else wanted to receive such and Marc stepped out of the portal to accept its offer. The bear-creature approached and ripped out Diplomat’s tongue. Diplomat collapsed, and the bear-creature shoved the parasite into a wound on the back of Marc’s neck – where apparently, the augmentation will produce a stronger effect. Marc collapsed [failed wis save] and took an injury, though thankfully only a temporary one.

The remaining two one-and-ones left, moving the same way that Mr. Harding had – by extending their arms grotesquely and grabbing trees, then pulling themselves away very quickly.

We shook off the shock of what we had just witnessed and approached Station 6 – a 40 foot wide plinth with a series of pale, ghostly figures on it and a pair of shoes at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the platform. Rock touched the shoes and they instantly appeared on her feet as a voice said “PRUDENCE.”

Rock climbed up to the platform and studied the figures as they began to whirl around in an intricate dance. She collided with the figures at first [taking psychic damage] but with Linna’s helpful observations soon managed to join the dance with her usual confident grace. As she danced, she became increasingly ethereal [con saves] and the shoes began to erode, almost wearing away entirely by the time she reached the centre. Upon reaching the centre, the figures sunk into the plinth and a pillar rose up, with notes on it and a pair of white, patent leather shoes which Jean-Lee approved of immensely.

Having collected the notes from each Station, we returned to Station 3 via the Gates to obtain the divination orb. After some experimentation we determined that we could leave the amphitheatre with the divination orb if we left four healing potions and several gold pieces in the basket as our ‘charity.’ Outside of the amphitheatre, the divination orb reacted to the three words from the notes: for ‘key,’ an arrow appeared that pointed to the mountain; for ‘power,’ the arrow pointed into the ground; and for ‘entity,’ the arrow tracked the monster. We returned to the amphitheatre to sleep for the night, intending to climb the mountain on the next day, as we had gathered the notes and items from each station – with the exception of the recorder retrieved from Station 2 during the last expedition, which we had left behind in Sila.

In the morning we went directly to the mountain and made it past the first two obstacles easily, as we had learned their tricks. Above the second switchback was a cloud of floating orbs with strong evocation magic. The notes had said that velocity confuses them, so Linna experimentally fired an arrow through the cloud, and the orbs shot beams of energy that destroyed it. Rock ran through while the rest of us fired arrows and threw javelins to distract some of the orbs. However, when Rock threw items into the cloud from the other side they did not draw any fire. We experimented with various speeds and determined that we would slow-lob items into the cloud and then run through as fast as we could as a group – so that, hopefully, at least some of the orbs would not fire at us and no one person would be targeted too much. We tossed rations into the cloud and ran. Linna and I were hit by energy beams but managed to make it though.

As we caught our breath, we looked down the mountain and saw the entity coming up the path below us — chasing the divination orb, as Mr. Harding and the notes had warned us it would. We hurried forward as much as we could although there was little we could do in that regard given the obstacles in our way. It felt like a nightmare to know that a monster was chasing us and to be unable to run.

We came next to a cloud of poisonous gas which we passed safely with the sachet received from Station 4.

After that, we came upon a snake mask floating in midair: the gatekeeper Ophidian, whose serpentine body could be seen reflected in the mirror from Station 5. She said, “I beg your pardon, the doctor is not taking visitors at this time,” and upon being told that we had urgent business, said — politely but intractably — that she would pass on any messages we had but could not let us pass. Eventually, Marc convinced her that we were authorized, as he was the replacement for Mr. Harding. She looked us over and determined that Rock did not have enough of the one-and-one in her, but that Marc did, as he had accepted the parasite into his neck and given it a stronger influence on him. Ophidian took to calling him Inferior-Harding, which did not seem very polite, but I think that she was quite saddened to hear of Mr. Harding’s death — as she had known him before his ruination, and they were the only two relative survivors of so many.

Above us a ring of the mountain had been removed such that the only way forward was a ladder which led up to a white platform. The clouds above moved in a strange, complicated pattern; Linna studied it, then put on the magical shoes and danced her way across the platform. Upon making it to the other side, she saw yellow and purple glyphs covering the platform. The rest of us crossed after her, which was a very delicate operation as we had to put our feet in precisely the right places to avoid the glyphs (although we found that walking sticks did not set off the glyphs and so could be used for balance). I almost misstepped and caught myself at the last moment. I shudder to think of what could have happened; on our way down the mountain later, we saw the marks of a violent explosion that the entity had triggered.

At last we reached the seventh and final test: the cottage at the top of the mountain. We opened the door to reveal a large pile of mangled aberration corpses with a sheet of paper lying on top of it. The back wall of the cottage was black with a glowing red glyph before it. A crystal box hovered in the air in the middle of a pillar that extended from the ceiling above it and the floor beneath it. When we checked the divination orb, the ‘key’ arrow rotated – as we were standing right in the middle of it – and ‘power’ pointed straight down. We were particularly cautious, even given our haste to escape the entity which drew ever nearer, as there were very many corpses inside the room and we remembered the ominous words of the note: that always, temperance is where they fail. We tossed various items into the room which disappeared as soon as they entered it with a spike of conjuration magic (presumably some sort of teleportation effect).

We tried to think of an action which would show temperance. Then we remembered the solution to Station 7 and simply closed the door and were instantly transported inside the cottage. We retrieved from its gruesome resting place the final page of Ms. Van Horne’s notes, which read in an unhinged babble that we had completed the glyph. On holding all of the pages together, the writing on them twisted and extended onto the backs of the pages to reveal the glyph itself.

Rock took the crystal box, which is a connector to the power source below — when it was removed from its place, the defences along the mountain path deactivated and the divination orb could not find ‘power.’ We have given the box to the Leshana Memorial Fund for safe-keeping, along with Ms. Van Horne’s notes and the glyph that they contain.

The entity was still proceeding inexorably up the mountain towards us, although it had been somewhat slowed by the defences. Rock hurled the divination orb off of the mountain and the creature chased after it – we got a terrifying glimpse of a tentacled, lobster-like beast as it passed. On our way down the mountain, Ophidian told us that she had tried to stop the beast but it was too strong for her and had hurt her gravely. We tried to convince Ophidian to allow any member of the Guild to pass but she agreed only to let Marc back in and anyone that he brought with him, which seemed to be as much as could be hoped for — she has an admirably bureaucratic mind and is very stubborn. At the foot of the mountain, we looked back and saw the entity forcing its way through the door of the cottage. We did not believe it could damage anything, without the glyph or the crystal box, and we could not have stopped it at any rate, so we simply hurried away before we encountered any further danger.

We returned to the beach and retrieved our canoes. As we left the island, the aberrant parasites in Rock and Marc demanded to be fed. It is very difficult for them to leave the Island, and they required sustenance to give them the strength to do so. Rock refused, and the parasite in her arm died. Marc chose to feed the parasite in him and was very brave about it. He reports that it has already made him slightly tougher [+1 HP], and we expect future changes as well.

We paddled for home through the dark waters, a little comforted by the knowledge that the entity at least was accounted for, although we did not know what else still lurked beneath the opaque surface. We reached the shore safely and quickly made our way back home without further incident. We at last regained the Wall, battered and tired but alive.

And so we reached an end to the Expedition, having learned more about the Island and having born witness to the remnants of the tragic story of pride and loss which played out there.

Comments

James_Elcombe ShonaDeahl

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