Friday, October 2, 2009

Chapter 5, Part 4 "The Gate in the Cliff"

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here.

The party rests for a week in Small Dust as they recover from the injuries incurred during their fight with a pack of Cliff Bandits before leaving town on their ornith bird-steeds, heading northwards in the triple-shadows of the steely Iridium Escarpment. Dickie Dee now bears a familiar beneath his red vest, a white nocturnal monkeybat named "Chips."

The Prismatic Salt Wastes is a vast flatland of vividly-coloured salts, occasionally interrupted by craggy garish rock salt formations. The high winds that travel along the vast cliff-face of the Iridium Escarpment drive fine sharp particles of brightly colored salt painfully into the adventurer's eyes and noses and into every crack and fold of their person.

Clouds of brightly coloured steam arise from an oily iridescent boiling lake ahead, it's shores indistinct due to the steam and heat waves, delicate spires of salt formations and the miniature volcanoes of geysers protruding from the heavy garish waters. As they approach the Iridescent Salt Lake they begin to sweat profusely as the heat strikes them and the shoreline emerges from the clouds of steam. It is a thick crust of condensed salt, stretching into the lake like ice on a pond.

Valuable deposits of iridescent salts, useful for diverse industries such as sorcery, medicine, manufacturing, etc., can be found on the salt crust that extends around the Iridescent Salt Lake. It is dangerous to harvest these salts as the Prismatic Salt Wastes are home to all sorts of monsters and raiders and the salt crust itself is treacherous and prone to breaking beneath the weight of a man, plunging him into the boiling oily waters of the lake beneath.

The Iridescent Salt Harvesters, a fraternity of which Kal-Mor's quarry Mohvar is a member, know all sorts of tricks for safely navigating the salt crust and recognizing hazardous crusts, as well as an eye for which sorts of salts are valuable. They are fiercely protective of their salt crust harvesting secrets.

After securing their mounts to a salt formation the party looks along the shoreline for any salt harvesters but the murky clouds of coloured steam limits their vision. Dickie Dee rouses his monkeybat familiar and instructs it to travel counterclockwise around the lake looking for any men.

A couple hours later a white flapping shape emerges from the steam and chitters to Dickie Dee who translates "Chips saw a group of men on the shore!" One of the companions inquires about the quantity of said men.

Dickie Dee chitters to Chips who replies. The Bone Man Sorcerer than disappointingly explains that the simple monkeybat doesn't know how to count, neither can it say what they were doing. But there were men further along the shore.

Around an hour later of traveling northeast along the boiling lake's shore, staying clear of the treacherous salt crust, the party spots a group of nine men shrouded in black and gray robes ahead.

One of the shrouded figures hails the party and approaches with a friendly jaunt. He removes his hood, revealing the violet skin of a Vhaashti Man and introduces himself, Bhorug, head mercenary guard for a salt harvester.

The companions inquire after Mohvar. "Is he here?" "Have you seen him?" "Do you know him?" Bhorug explains that he hasn't seen Bhorug recently as he is a wealthy salt harvester in semi-retirement but that he could be found at his manor several miles clockwise around the shore of the Iridescent Salt Lake. Where the northwestern shores of the lake get close to the Iridium Escarpment there is a green copper gate that provides access to Mohvar's abode. Bhorug also explains that Mohvar is a generous hospitable fellow and if he is not present that the party should make themselves at home and wait for his arrival.

The party thanks the Violet Man and sets off on a hurried pace westwards along the salt crust shore of the steaming lake and soon the Iridium Escarpment is looming above them. In the evening light a set of double doors in the cliff-face, green with verdigris, are visible.

The companions tie their orniths to a salt formation and cautiously approach the gate. The corroded copper doors open with a harsh screech revealing a large tiled passage extending into the cliff, formerly luxurious but now looking somewhat decrepit.

The adventurers proceed down the hallway and come to an large intersection chamber with passages branching left and right. The left hand corridor is chosen and after a couple of minutes the party hears the tinkling of water and sees hazy light ahead through what appears to be a curtain across the corridor.

Buzz sneaks off ahead and peers through a crack in the curtain. He sees another large tiled chamber lavishly furnished with ivory benches, elaborate urns, a silken sleeping platform, perfumed oil lamps and a lavish indoor garden with a running fountain in a small pond. On a raised platform in a throne of worked granite sits a shapely pale woman wearing a filmy gown and veil, she beckons at Buzz and bids him to enter. Buzz clears his throat, dusts off his clothes and enters the chamber. The rest of the party sneak up to the curtain behind him.

Buzz approaches the throne and the woman bids greetings. Buzz replies with flattery and asks about Mohvar. The woman replies that she will inform him of Mohvar's location in exchange for a kiss. Buzz asks that the veil be removed first. She replies that he should close his eyes. He refuses and she grabs a longsword that was lying against the throne and strikes at him.

The veil disintegrates revealing a gleaming ivory skull visage! Not the bones within transparent flesh of the Bone Men, but a skull for a head. A skull which is now screeching and gibbering as she slashes at Buzz, the silken wisps of her gown now a coat of mail.

As Buzz parries and thrusts with the slender, magic two-handed sword of the Shunned Ones the rest of the party tumbles through the curtain and attacks with the exception of Dickie Dee who attempts a spell, which fails to affect the skull headed warrior woman. Dumbfounded he looks about and dashes for a large chest. The greedy sorcerer forces the coffer open releasing flood of tiny black centipedes that engulf his arms which are soon aflame with the stinging venom of thousands of myriapod bites.

The fighting-men strike at her with weapons, but even when her mail coat is rent by their blades the flesh beneath is as hard as marble and unaffected by their blows. Only the magic sword of Buzz Brazelhach wounds her. He takes several wounds but manages to cut down the skull headed demoness who immediately begins dissolving into foul black corruption, the luxurious furnishing, gardens and pond of the chamber following suite as well. The centipede assailing Dickie Dee disappear and the venomous stings fade.

The party searches the room, but only finds stinking heaps of wormy black filthy. After making camp in more hygienic surroundings they rest for the night before retrieving their thirsty and hungry orniths and start riding back to Small Dust.

On the way they are ambushed by a huge metallic-gray scorpion like creature, a Gray Horror. They manage to make short work of the monstrous arthropod and harvest it's stinger and venom gland before continuing their return to Small Dust.

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here.

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