Session Sixty-Six: The Risen King

There was the now-familiar flash of magic, and the party teleported again. By the way the arms of the Sihedron were arranged, the next room would be siccatite, the silvery metal than radiated either extreme heat or extreme cold. Sure enough, as soon as they materialized they found themselves smothered in oppressive heat. An orange glow permeated the room, surrounded by a thick, pervasive mist that hung heavy in the air. Then in an instant the air turned bitter cold, and the vapor condensed into a slippery rime that coated every surface. There was little time to complain about the temperature, however, as the room had a guardian as well: a 15-foot tall golem in the shape of Xin himself, with sharpened Sihedron disks instead of hands. The behemoth lurched toward the party as soon as they appeared, and a frantic combat took place amidst the room’s temperature alternating between hot and cold every few seconds. Milacent knocked the golem down, Scratchy filled it full of arrows, and Helanda slashed at it on the ground, but the wild temperature things were taking a toll on everyone. As soon as the construct was destroyed, they took a single sweep around the room to grab what treasure there was, and Theodora touched the last arm of the Sihedron down to the rune on the floor whilst complaining, “I hate …”

“… this room!” But they weren’t in that room anymore. They had teleported to the seventh skymetal chamber, this one devoted to the poisonous blue-green metal abysium. Not only were the walls constructed of the stuff, but jagged metal shards of it tumbled through the air in slow motion, each sliver pulsing with a sickly green light. In addition, clouds of powdered abysium drifted around the room in a lazy churning current, and everybody began to feel the effects of oncoming nausea. While none of this was particularly unexpected, on other thing was a surprise: a door, the first one they had seen in any of the skymetal faults.

But before they could go out the door, there was the guardian to deal with. Theodora needed no magic to recognize this one: it was a Marilith demon, a monstrosity that took the form of a six-armed human woman with the lower body of a massive snake, and of course each arm held a sword. Immediately Zelcor sent the iron golem to fight it, as the construct was the only member of the party that was immune to the poisonous effects abysium, while everyone else rushed through the door to get out of the toxic cloud. They found themselves in a long empty corridor, then looked back to see the marilith making disturbingly large gashes in the the golem’s body. Milacent turned back to help it, followed by Helanda. There was a horrible sound of screeching and clashing of swords, and presently the two fighters ambled back into the corridor, covered in demon’s blood.

“Give me the Sihedron,” Helanda said, “I need some healing.”

They did their healing, and repaired the iron golem with flame spells, then set out to explore the corridor they were in. They found at the other end a door of carved obsidian, and they went through their usual ritual: checking for traps, listening, and sniffing for scents. Once they were convinced everything was clear, they all stood back while Zelcor magically pushed the door open.

What they found beyond must have once been a grand workshop, but now it was a ruin. Gears, levers, cogs, bars, and other various mechanical components lay scattered haphazardly about the floor, some measuring barely larger than an inch, the largest measuring ten feet in diameter. Crystal shelves were littered with thousands of molds and castings of intricately engraved armored plates and humanlike appendages, while heaps of shattered fragments of transparent crystal lay scattered everywhere. Along the walls, runes flowed like thick liquid, casting strange shadows about the debris. As the party picked their way through the layers of junk on the floor, Theodora took some time to study the runes on the wall. “These are crafting equations,” she said, “someone was building constructs in here.”

Zelcor held aloft the Flamma Horacalcum to shine its light upon the runes, and as they became illuminated the runes flowed together to form a strange three-legged, four-armed spiderlike contraption built around a central crystal. A web of piercing rays stretched away from it, connecting to runic plans of clockwork soldiers on nearby walls, and then suddenly the room was no longer a ruin.

The party found themselves standing in the room as it must have appeared thousands of years ago, lit by bright forge fires as the lone figure of King Xin labored away at its center. “Lies,” he hissed, “Deceit. My outcast court spoils and rots with treachery, but not so my new children of metal from the skies!” He put aside his rune-scarred hammer and sat down to wipe his brow. The construct he had finished was a clockwork soldier, much like the many they had seen in the water-filled chamber before. After his short rest, the king took a key and twisted it several times in the soldier’s side, then said, “Rise, my servant. Take your place among your brothers.” The construct stood and cast its lifeless eyes about. Then Xin pointed a crooked finger and a magical portal appeared, revealing a room with a thousand identical creations assembled beyond. The clockwork soldier marched to join its brothers, then the portal closed and Xin took up his hammer to begin again.

Moments later the vision faded, and the workshop was in ruins once again. “See?” Theodora said, “He was building constructs!”

“But why do we need you if we have this?” Zelcor asked, holding aloft the Flamma Horacalcum.

“Well … for context … and … Shut up!”

A door at the back of the workshop led to another room led to what might have once been an antechamber, but whose walls were now shattered and crumbling, scorched black in places while others still smoldered with the glowing embers of a dying fire. A smoky haze hung low to the floor, and red-hot crystal shards popped out and burst from the walls here and there, sending tiny burning slivers in all directions. At one end was a suspiciously clear area, as if something massive had once been there but then removed. “Zelcor,” Milacent said, standing over the clear area, “bring that lamp here.”

Zelcor brought the Flamma Horacalcum and sure enough, once its light shined on the area in question another vision began. Like the others, it began with King Xin, now stooped and bent with age. He was polishing the immense central crystal of a sparkling three-legged, four-armed war machine. Patting a coppery metal panel on the machine’s side, he said, “Anon, I shed my feeble body at last for this new life! One final rest to prepare the final apotheosis, and those seven traitors shall know their invulnerable lord’s displeasure. And Thassilon … my Thassilon … shall be rekindled.” Beside him lay the seven shards of the Sihedron, unlinked, which he gathered up before descending a magical staircase into a lower chamber. With a sigh he began to cross its expanse, but as he did a dark shadow fell over him.

A massive giant, its black flesh pulsing with powerful red runes, suddenly manifested behind the king, heaving a gigantic sword over its head. Xin whirled, and after a flash of recognition snarled, “So this is how my loyalty is repaid – in my own blood, even as I forsake mortality!” The giant responded by bringing its sword down, shattering the weakened palace’s crystal floor as Xin managed to just barely step aside. The king looked up at the monster with a sneer and reached out a bony hand. “You will die,” he hissed, “but I will live again!” He closed his eyes and hurled the seven fragments of the Sihedron at the giant, and a blinding white fire consumed them all.

When the vision faded, they found themselves in the blasted antechamber once again. From what they had seen, the party realized that the clear area was where the giant had been. Looking around, they also saw a circle of runes that they supposed transformed into the magical staircase that had brought Xin here, much as the runic circle in the throne room had transformed into a staircase. The question was: If the giant had died here, where was its body?

“We’ll probably find the answer at the top of those stairs,” Scratchy surmised, and to the rune circle they went. As expected, it telescoped upward into a staircase, and they ascended it to find a room containing another one of the spellwells, this one attuned to necromancy, and yet another obsidian door.

Given the visions, everyone was certain that a great fight lay beyond this door. They set about casting their combat spells: Haste for everybody, Enlarge Person for Milacent and Helanda. Most of them already had Mind Blank cast upon them, and now they added Greater Invisibility, courtesy of the Sihedron. The two spells were particularly powerful in combination, as Greater Invisibility let people remain invisible even after attacking, and  Mind Blank made them immune to divination spells, which virtually all spells for detecting the invisible were. Whatever they were about to fight, it would have to do it without seeing them.

They all took their positions, and the final door slid open. Beyond it was a vast cathedral-like chamber, its ceiling nearly a hundred feet in the air above. Its walls were towering sheets of black crystal, along which danced ripples of strange energies. Crumbled shards of crystal littered the floor, where an immense sihedron rune had been carved into the floor in the center of the chamber. At the heart of the rune the energy rippling on the walls congregated upon a strange crystal the size of a man’s head, embedded in the rune and pulsing as if to the rhythm of an unseen heart.

And standing on top of the rune was the four-armed, three-legged construct they had seen in so many visions and plans leading up to this meeting. The light of the Flamma Horacalcum fell on the bones contained in its central chamber, and the image of King Xin, appeared, his face twisted into a scowl of rage.

“So, you have finally arrived!” the King bellowed, “You will return to me my crown, and you will pay for your treason with your lives!”

The party, of course, had other ideas. Zelcor responded by sending in his pet iron golem to begin the combat. As it did, a great shadow fell over it from the size.

“Yes,” the King sneered, “Now your assassin serves me!”

And indeed it did. The red-and-black giant they had seen in the vision loomed above the iron golem, its flesh now hideously burnt and scarred. Its broken body was held together by clockwork attachments, but there was no mistaking the stench of undeath that hung around it. It brought its sword down against the golem, bright flashes of flame erupting with every blow. The golem staggered backward as pieces of it scattered all about the room. It was supposed to be the party’s most durable combatant, and now it stood teetering on the verge of destruction.

Helanda rushed forward to help the golem. There hadn’t been enough Mind Blank spells for all the party members, so unlike the others, she was detectable by divination magic. The giant did indeed see her, and brought the sword down upon her. A fountain of blood erupted from her side as it cut into her, and she fell backwards from the impact. Behind her, she saw arrows flying through the air. While Scratchy had a Mind Blank cast upon him, Fleabait did not, and anyone familiar with magic would be able to figure out what was going on when arrows flew from the empty space above a running wolf.

And indeed the King’s spirit did. “I see you, barbarian!” it shouted, and the strange construct lifted up into the air. It flew over Helanda’s head into the spellwell where most of the party was gathered, and began to cast a spell.

“Xyxklr …” it began.

“Stop that spell!” Theodora shouted. There was only one spell that began that way: Mage’s Disjunction. One of the most powerful spells a wizard could cast, it would dispel all magic effects and temporarily nullify many, if not all, of the magic items within a forty-foot radius, which included the entire party. Thus the Greater Invisibility spells would be gone, the Haste, the Enlarge, the Mind Blank, and even the enchantments on their weapons would have a chance to disappear for the several minutes that the spell was in effect. The party would go from unstoppable juggernaut to pathetic victim in the blink of an eye. There was one hope to avoid that fate: a spell of such power was complex and difficult to cast, even for a master wizard. If they could strike it hard enough, the spell would fail and the battle could be won.

Theodora drew her weapon and struck at the clockwork monster, but her weapon rebounded harmlessly off its metal skin. Doubtlessly the king had counted on this; he felt confident casting a spell in the middle of the party because he felt they would be unable to strike him. It was a reasonable conjecture, but what he did not know was the full extent of the party that he faced. He had, it turned out, vastly underestimated them. An invisible Milacent lashed out with her now-giant spine flail, and unlike Theodora’s strike this one hit home. Scratchy too got a single arrow out, and the construct was knocked off-kilter. Nevertheless, it held up a single mechanical arm to complete the casting. To finish successfully, each of its fingers had move in just the right way. Theodora watched in horror as the first one completed its motion, then the second, then the third, then the fourth, and then …

The last finger was off by just a fraction of an inch, a consequence of the creature being off-balance. There was a flash of magical energy, and the spell’s power dissipated harmlessly into the ether. The party let out a cry of victory, but Xin was not done. “Blackguards!” he cried, “I’ll kill you all!” and two adamantine spheres atop his clockwork body bloomed like metal flowers to reveal highly refined abysium rods. They pulsed with energy, and everyone immediately felt sickened. Scratchy felt a wave of nausea wash over him and rode Fleabait away from the King’s Clockwork Reliquary. Milacent felt the same wave of nausea, but stayed where she was. If they were to win this fight, the King would have to go down, and quickly.

As if to punctuate that idea, Xin had one more trick to show them. He let out a cry, “Servants! Defend your king!” and the walls of the palace shuddered. Creatures made of crystal rose out of the floor at the same time that energies flowing along the walls descended and coalesced into the beautiful but stern figures of axiomites. Energy crackled about the room as the axiomites cast their spells, and the party members that could be seen, such as Fleabait, winced as magic seared their flesh.

Helanda was out of reach of the King, fighting the rune-covered giant, and not having a good time of it. The giant raised its sword to strike at her again, but instead of striking flesh its weapon rebounded against an invisible wall of force that had just sprung up between them. “Helanda,” shouted Zelcor, who had just cast the spell, “get back here and help us kill this construct … thing.” Helanda was more than happy to get away from the murderous giant, and strode back toward the King as the enraged rune giant banged furiously against the invisible wall. She raised her sword to strike, but as she did the spirit of Xin turned its baleful gaze toward her.

“I think not, mercenary,” it hissed, and reached out a single clawed hand toward her. From its center, pale gray inubrix darts shot out at the former Gray Maiden. She lifted up her shield to protect herself, but they passed through it like mist, and went straight into her flesh-and-blood torso. Instantly blood erupted from every gap in Helanda’s armor, and she collapsed to the ground in a clanging heap, her body irrevocably torn asunder.

Or not. Zelcor still had the the Sihedron, and he remembered one of the visions he’d gained from the Flamma Horacalcum. It had been in the dining hall – they’d seen the King eating, and on at least one occasion he’d collapsed, only for the Sihedron to glow and the King to sit up again. The implication was clear: the Sihedron could raise the dead, possibly to full health. Zelcor willed the Sihedron to transfer to Helanda, and a moment after it appeared above her head, she twitched, then moved her arms, then stood up to her full height again, good as new.

“NOOO!!!!!” the King screamed, “My crown shall not be my undoing!” He stretched an arm toward Helanda again, and the Sihedron flew from above her head into his grasp. Milacent saw this and grimaced. The crystalline monsters were breathing clouds of orange smoke towards her, no doubt meant to have some horrible magical effect, but the many protections they’d acquired over their adventures kept her safe. She pushed through and began lashing at the King with her flail, knocking down the construct and sending bits of metal flying about the room.

Scratchy, for his part, was out of the King’s line of sight, his nausea quickly fading. He had a clear view of the Rune Giant, and saw that it was climbing over the wall of force, soon to rejoin the battle. The axiomites were in their material forms, hoping to block the way back to the King, but there was a gap in their line, and Scratchy pushed Fleabait through it. Moments later, he was past them with a clear view of the King, and he let his arrows fly. They struck as the rest of the party converged on the King, including the fully-resurrected Helanda. The combined effects were too much, and King Xin’s Clockwork Reliquary shattered before them.

The palace began to shake violently, large chunks of obsidian falling from the ceiling and the floor. Theodora looked about and noticed that the wards preventing teleportation were gone. They could Dimension Door out of the palace now, but there were a few loose ends to take care of. She turned to the assembled axiomites and crystal warriors and proclaimed, “The King is dead! You’re all free to leave!” But they would have none of it. “Traitors!” they cried, and surged to attack. Helanda got between them and Theodora as lightning crackled about them. “Are we leaving here?” she demanded to know.

“Yes, but not without the Iron Golem!”

The party linked arms and Helanda reached out her massive hand to grab onto the golem. Zelcor cast the spell, and suddenly they were outside the palace, but not safe yet. The entire island was shaking and collapsing back into the sea. Scratchy turned to Zelcor and demanded “Can you teleport us back to the mainland?”

“Maybe, but I have something better,” Zelcor answered, and reached into his pocket and pulled out another of the swan boat feather tokens they’d used to travel up the river to Guiltspur. He scrambled over the quaking ground to a watery channel, and quickly conjured up a boat. “Everyone get in!” he shouted.

The all piled in, even the iron golem, as the island sank all around them. A great wave pushed them up and away, and soon they were headed safely back to Magnimar. It was then that Theodora remembered something. “Wait a minute,” she cried, “Where’s the Sihedron?”

Milacent sat quietly while everyone looked around frantically, then pulled the seven-pointed star out of her pack and placed it on her head. “And it belongs to me,” she said with a smile.

Posted in Storyline

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