Session VIII: The Journey Stone (part 1)

Another two days and nights passed without incident. The moors descended into lower turf, more heath than moor. The party passed a few crosspaths, and broken signposts that offered no real direction. Occasionally they could see figures working in the distance, but never anything that looked like a village. Lucinda explained that most of the Heath People live solitary lives, preferring to keep to themselves, and for others to do the same. Very little is known about them.

The sixth night was unusually humid, and the party was glad when on the seventh day the humidity burned off and left the air cool and clear. After lunch the party ascended from a dip in the heath and saw a giant piece of stone jutting into the distant sky. “The Journey Stone would be an excellent place to make camp for the night,” Lucinda said.

After a full day’s hike the companions reached the Journey Stone shortly before nightfall. Atop a grassy hillock overlooking the otherwise featureless heath stood a 25′ tall slab of roughly hewn rock, 15′ square at the base and slightly tapered at the top. Near the top of it was carved a crude glyph that resembled an eye: <o>. Weeds grew around the base of it, and a fire pit ringed with stones contained ash, as well as an old boot and a pair of socks. The hillock commanded a fine view of the surrounding heath.

As Stark noticed that the hillside was pocked with small holes, Lucinda explained that due its height and defensibility the Journey Stone was a favorite campsite for weary adventurers; and that due to its air of mystery and the rumors surrounding it, the site was also a favorite destination for adventurers. In addition to tales of lost barrows of hidden treasure, some claimed that lycanthropes gathered at its base on full moons, or that it was haunted by the ghost of a barbarian princess who carried off unlucky travelers in the night. And some chose to interpret the glyph as indicating the hidden eye of a lost god.

Regardless, it seemed like a good place to camp, and so they did, with Eiluned taking first watch. (Before bed, Spiderssen cast Embiggen on himself, but was disappointed to find he had only grown about a foot and a half). After several hours, the weary druid awoke with a start. Though the stars shone down clearly, the half-moon was hidden by clouds, and the entire hillock was enveloped in an eerie mist. Moreover, the formidable stone menhir seemed to be somehow intangible, and within it could be seen a wide stone staircase leading into the darkness below.

Eiluned investigated the situation alone before waking her companions, verifying that while not completely illusory the menhir was to a certain degree intangible, and that she was able to set foot in the stairwell, and that doing so felt like walking from a cool room into a humid day. One by one she woke the team and all investigated. Lucinda and Aline had never heard of this happening in any of the legends, and thought the team should investigate, but preferred to stand guard.

Upon entering the menhir, each person felt a quick vibration run throughout their bodies. As Koringa brought up the rear, he turned to look back and found that the walls were once again solid stone. And so the PCs descended into the ethereal dark stairwell.

About 100′ down, the broad stone stairs brought them to a low-ceilinged chamber, with stone walls painted in huge whorls of red and ochre, and pictographs faded to the point of incomprehensibility. Narrow corridors led north, south, and west. Heading south, the party found themselves in a small room containing several stone biers and jars of various sizes. Several niches in the wall held tools and artifacts that suggested the preservation of dead bodies. In the jars were ancient powders and herbs that alternately smelled sweet and rank. There was a staircase leading down in the western wall, and after following it the party found themselves in an empty room that was very cold, with damp walls. It seemed to be a kind of cold storage.

Returning to the Entrance Hall, the party chose to investigate the western corridor. Shortly they came to a junction, with a room to the northwest and the corridor continuing to the southwest. The room began with a short set of stairs, but further investigation was limited because of an invisible force that prevented anyone from passing through. Spiderssen licked the invisible force and proclaimed that it tasted unlike anything he had ever tasted. After several fruitless attempts to penetrate it, the party continued down the corridor, where it widened into a small room with two banks of niches set into each wall. Each niche contained what seemed to be two corpses, the bones of which were arranged with each skull laying in the crossed hands of its body. Based on the extremely tattered raiments, some of the corpses had been some kind of holy man, and some had been primitive warriors.

Continuing southward, the party found a room dominated by a pool of unnaturally clear water. More pictographs adorned these walls; two were somewhat visible. The artwork was rather primitive but one set of images seemed to be a series of five portraits, the subjects of which each wielding a different weapon: a sword, a dagger, an axe, a spear, and an oddly-shaped blob that might have been a poor rendition of a club. The other consisted of a series of wavy lines next to an open door.

Attempting to gauge the depths of the unnaturally clear pool, Stark dipped his unstrung longbow into the water; as his arm broke the surface, he felt a pleasant tingling. In the spirit of scientific inquiry, Spiderssen dipped one of his preserved fish into the clear waters; it got wet. Licking it, he tasted… fish. Stark then decided to immerse himself in the pool, so he stripped naked (lest wet underclothes cause chafing when he redonned his armor) and slid in. Immediately he felt cleansed and strong, more capable in his physical endeavors. Contemplating the images on the wall, the party decided that the water was somehow a prerequisite to accessing the room they had not been able to enter. Everyone stripped down, got wet, and felt good. Eiluned swam around the edges of the pool, but found nothing of any interest.

After donning clothing and armor, the adventurers went back up the hall to the western passage, and found that it was now coolly inviting. Stark took his torch down the stairs to investigate, and as he slowly descended, he felt an increasingly strong compulsion to continue down the stairs and around the corner at the bottom. He was able to resist, and returned to report this to the group. Tying a rope around his waist, he returned, and this time followed his compulsion around the corner, where he stopped, transfixed. On the other end of the rope, Koringa felt an insistent pull as Stark apparently attempted to keep going, yet failed to answer the group’s calls. Koringa was able to overpower Stark and dragged him back up and through the doorway. Stark was unable to remember anything after rounding the corner. Spiderssen hurled his fish down into the stairwell; it hit the wall and landed with a wet slap, like a dead fish. Spiderssen then tied a rope around his waist and repeated Stark’s experiment. As he descended the stairs he felt a similar compulsion, then rounded the corner and stopped, transfixed, before Koringa once again felt a tug on the rope. After reeling him back in, the party, stymied, decided to explore the northern passage from the entrance chamber.

This narrow, rough-hewn passage featured five large boulders conspicuously placed within recessions in the walls. With their newfound strength, Koringa and Stark were easily able to slide one of the rocks out of the way, revealing a barrow containing a stone bier on which lay a corpse, arranged similarly to the ones found in the ossuary. However, the tattered raiments on this corpse clearly suggested a high degree of significance to the corpse. Leaning against the bier was a crude-looking stone club. Picking it up, Spiderssen noticed that though it looked poorly crafted, it was surprisingly well-balanced and felt like a useful weapon. Knocking it against the stone wall, nothing unusual happened, but Spiderssen took it anyway.

The rest of the boulders concealed similar barrows, each with similar inhabitants, but different stone weapons: a short sword, a wooden shaft with a stone tip, a dagger, and an axe. Each member took a different weapon, and decided to head back to “the forgetful room” to see if possession of the weapons had any effect.

After much deliberation, Bunny and Koringa volunteered to go down together, each with a length of rope around their waist. Koringa decided to be blindfolded, so that his other four senses would be sharpened. The same thing happened to them that happened to Stark and Spiderssen, the only difference being that Koringa returned missing his blindfold. Next, Stark went down – carrying all the weapons. There was no difference.

Frustrated, the party debated trying to find other exits, despite their already thorough search of each room. Stark returned up the staircase they came from, but found it still led to harsh stone. Eventually everyone but Stark came to favor the idea of descending the stairs and turning the corner all at once, figuring that they could hang around the deserted caves in frustration, or all confront the mysterious force together, and if they were to die doing so then at least it would be a spectacular death. For his part, Stark favored variations on a plan wherein he was the only one to descend, but eventually was shouted down.

Without rope, but wielding their newfound stone weapons, the party descended the steps. Each felt a growing compulsion to turn the corner, and when they did so, each stopped, transfixed by what they saw…

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~ by erranttiger on August 10, 2011.

One Response to “Session VIII: The Journey Stone (part 1)”

  1. […] at the temple ruins, the party found an entrance carved out of the hillside. Warily remembering other times they had descended into the ground, they were relieved that nothing horrible happened to them as […]

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