Shattered Star #64: Into the Loathsome Dark

At the end of last session, we left our heroes standing before the looming bulk of the City of Strangers.

The Shattered Star

 

Bidding farewell to Abra, they plunged into the city, and were immediately beset by scores of urchins either begging for money or offering their services as a guide. One of the street children almost immediately distinguished himself by calling Narfu by name! This immediately got the party’s attention and after a hurried conversation they commanded the boy—Gav Nahli—to take them to the Scythe & Ankle (the inn recommended to them by Felin Pennythicket the day before).

The inn lay not too far away and soon the party were ensconced in its dingy taproom listening to Gav’s tale. It transpired he was one of many folk retained to keep an eye out for the party. One of Shel Heidmarch’s agents—Eando Kline (who Narfu and Grooble had met briefly at the Heidmarch estate so many months ago)—had passed this way months ago and promised him much gold to aid the party if they should visit the city.

Intense discussions followed as to the state of the city, Gav’s trustworthiness and who should pay him (and how much as the mighty heroes of Ratik seemed intent on getting value for money). Eventually, all was decided and dinner was had. Afterwards, the party asked Gav to lead them to a local landmark—the so-called Pillar of Dreams.

The pillar was actually two huge pillars crafted from solid black adamantine covered in patterns depicting stars and galaxies. Rather concerningly, one patch of the southernmost pillar was absolutely blank and—accordingly to local legend—was expanding almost imperceptibly. For some reasons, this discovered caused some disquiet among the party and even brought to mind ancient legends of He Who Should Not Be Named and his near-eternal prison among the stars from which his deranged followers sought to free him. Karelia carelessly—or perhaps deliberately—accidentally spoke the thing’s name—Tharizdun—out loud and Narfu immediately had the sensation that the blank patch on the pillar slightly expanded. Shuddering at what horrible secrets or doom lay within the pillar, the party retreated to the Scythe and Ankle

Tomorrow, they would visit the Therassic Spire and investigate rumours of its closure.

The next morning, Gav arrived at the inn and after breakfast they set out. It was a long journey and it took several hours to push their way through the city’s teaming, eclectic crowds to the Spire. A mighty structure it was and sure enough the front door was firmly closed—a note pinned to the door simply stating the library was closed until further notice.

Cortana knocked on the door, but received no response. A quick check of the building’s perimeter uncovered no other obvious entrance and a detect magic revealed many protective magics on the various windows in range. Stumped, the party pondered matters. Cortana wandered about the square outside the library and popped into several of the shops therein to quiz the locals. It transpired the library had been shut for several weeks and only one group—which included a naga—had been admitted to the library in all the time. The shopkeeper described how this group had banged furiously on the door before being admitted.

Armed with this new information, Cortana returned to the group and suggested they knock louder. This they did and shortly thereafter, an old women came to the door. She told the party to go away, but when Cortana mentioned “the shards” under his breath, the woman’s entire demeanour changed and she immediately ushered them inside.

The women—Koifa—seemed very interested in what the party knew about the shards of the Shattered Star as they had recently been contacted by a mysterious race of historians—the caulborn—who dwelled deep below Kaer Maga in Xavorax. It transpired the caulborn had approached the librarians for help in recovered a shard of the Shattered Star they believed lay in the depths of an undiscovered portion of the Undercity which was accessible through a secret door hidden deep in the bowels of the library. The librarians had hired a group of adventurers—the Brothers of the Seal—to retrieve the shard, but they had disappeared into the Undercity days ago and not returned.

The librarians now wanted the whole problem to go away. They were worried what might creep out of the loathsome dark and feared what the duskwardens would do if they discovered the librarians had been exploring the Undercity without permission. (This caused some moral angst for Cortana and Thaladan as it seemed exploring the Undercity without permission was illegal in Kaer Maga but eventually they both decided the greater good would be served by their explorations).

Bravely, the party offered to investigate and Koifa—grateful almost beyond words—told them they could keep whatever they found (including the star!) Grooble—ever the opportunist also negotiated a handsome finders’ fee for recovering (or rescuing) the brothers of the Seal and thus the deal was struck.

Without wasting any time, Koifa lead the party down to the lowest level of the library deep underground into a remote storeroom. Here a dozen red-robed librarians stood guard over a secret door beyond which lay the undiscovered dungeon.

Making their final preparations, the party ventured into the darkness and discovered a long winding sloped passageway leading even further downwards. It continued onwards for hundreds of feet before ending in another (open) secret door. Beyond lay a room containing nothing of interest but a dusty wooden chair and a purple blob of fluid hovering in midair. The party suspected danger lurked in the room particularly when Zainnis spotted tracks in the dust and some dried blood indicating a struggle had taken place therein.

Eventually, the party ventured inside and the blob immediately spoke to them in Ancient Flan asking, “Please state your query.” Moments later, it reformed itself into a terrible symbol of power and weakness and necrotic magic swept over the group. Amazingly, though, it seemed everyone had resisted its effects…

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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