Part 44: The Hidden Tower and the Library of KhothThe Hidden Tower and the Library of Khoth
Oh, Erika, before we go, what's up with the passwords that Scimitar wants us to look into?
When you've completed my tasks, then maybe you'll have earned the right to ask me about that. NOW GO.
Row, row, row... You know, even I'm getting tired of that song. Isn't there anything interesting on this lake?
It is quite placid, all things considered. I suppose that can be a sign of boredom. Even this waterfall is very quiet.
I really don't know what's up with this lake, but it is just relaxing to go through. I suppose I'm projecting that onto the PCs.
You know, it would be our luck that that is the tower we're looking for, simply because we can't get into it over the shoals.
And this side passage doesn't lead around the natural barriers.
I can sense magic coming from this side of the island.
Does it count as an Island when the top of it touches the roof?
Yes, as it is still surrounded by water. An island is connected under the surface to the rest of the land in the world; I see no reason to make a distinction here.
Got to agree with Peregrine here. It's an island.
Very well. Although I suppose it would be too much to ask for a specific word to describe that particular geological formation.
Don't walk into it. Really, you don't. Here's what happens:
Instant party death!
I got her! What is that thing?
A memetic kill-hazard. Very powerful. Look carefully, you can see lesser-willed people caught in it.
If you must use base words like that, I suppose it would suffice.
Let's just keep looking. There might be something nearby that we can use.
This isn't exactly a barrier I can dispel, Art.
I know, which is why we're leaving.
Not even stopping to insult us. How drool.
Mages, Priests, Captains, Archers, a Mung Demon. It's a slog-fight, and I just give up triggering these things because they're not worth the experience.
We're lucky to find this.
Luck, my arse. You just couldn't stand the idea of a blank spot on your precious map and hounded us to check everything.
Odd, this pool has similar resonance with the barrier earlier. I can use this to make us emit a similar harmonic to it, allowing us to not trigger its effects.
My your measure, we've got enough glory to more than make up for this.
So, actually, this is on a very tight timer. As in, maybe 15 moves? Anyways you actually have to park on the east side of this island to make it back to the barrier before the blue wears off. You'll know when it happens because a message will show up in the log on the right. Which I may or may not have missed the first time.
Don't say that until we're properly through!
Very much so.
I don't even see a door in.
Hrm, there's a line in the ground here. It goes both ways. Let's follow it.
And NOT touching that.
Yep. Come on over.
A man sits on a stone near a small bonfire, roasting a lizard on a stick. He is wearing tattered chainmail, upon which the insignia of the Empire is still visible. Despite this, he seems friendly.
Hello. I'm Art. These are Ember, Karmas, Rook, Duncan and Peregrine the Fourth. We're the First Exile Escape Committee.
He nods, then nibbles on the lizard. "I'm Gilbert. I guard the tower."
If you're the guard, are you responsible for the barriers we've encountered?
Indeed, I would enjoy a good discourse on the construction of the first one.
Nah, wasn't me. You'd want to talk to the lady of the house. But that's beside the point. Where were we? he pauses "Right. We've been watching you for some time, and you seem OK. That's why you're still alive. You're the first visitors we've had since we were exiled."
You were exiled? You're a long way from the Fort. Did you come up through the Abyss, or around the Giants somehow?
Ain't gonna tell you that. But yes, me and his nibs, Aydin. We're kind of on the defensive. He's in there, and I watch the wards and the door. The defenses are good, so I don't have much to do. I write poetry."
I can appreciate how a long vigil can encourage the poet in a man. Care to share?
The cavern has a set of teeth
A tounge of river, fungus hair
A face to match the sun above
Shining on those who do not
He sighs. "I'm working on it."
So, about the tower? Erika sent us to talk to your boss. How do we get in?
What do you mean, here? There's no door!
"Yes. The door. Around the corner."
What the hell!
Interesting. The door doesn't appear unless a person who knows about it tells you about it. I can image a spell of this type can be easily up-scaled into protecting a full house. It would require an external loci to maintain the spell though, someone who could be trusted to keep the secret of the location.
The connection only occurred to me while I was writing this. Interesting places my mind goes sometime.
Come in, as Gilbert said, we've been expecting you. A middle-aged man is sitting on a throne, staring into a globe of crystal. He looks up at you from it, and you see your image inside it.
ooh, wonder what happens when you try to look at yourself in one of those?
Bad things, I think.
Indeed. The Cydonia incursion was caused by one of those. For all that the Empire has done wrong, their response to that was appropriate.
Can we not talk about that?
I agree. And you must be the master of this tower?
Yes. I am Aydin. Welcome to my home."
What are you doing here? You are quite far from the Abyss.
"We are hiding."
From what? Or whom?
"We - I, my wife, and Gilbert, are exiles, refugees from the Empire. We hide here from the assassins sent after us, waiting for the right visitor to arrive."
We've met some groups of Empire Soldiers in the region. Are they..?
"The Empire has soldiers all over this area, trying to figure out how to get past our defences so they can kill us before we find the right person to give our information to."
Then why hide? If the information you have is of such importance, why not tell Erika? Or Micah?
Many reasons. I was once a high-ranking mage in the Empire. I knew a lot then. Then we fled, and I found out a lot more through my scrying. The three of us have found a new goal, you see."
And what would that be?
"Rebellion. I will not go into the wrongs the Empire has done. You know of many, and there are many more on top of that, things you could not imagine. A powerful mage can rise high, and see many low things. But, this is all besides the point."
"I know a way to strike the Empire a decisive blow. I believe you may be the ones to deal it."
You have my attention. Tell me.
"When Exile became the Empire's dung heap, they sealed off almost all of the exits. But then, they needed a convenient way to get large numbers of people down and up, if necessary. And the best way to do that was through teleportation."
Teleporting? Why not use a more traditional passage?
"Yes. A powerful tool, but limited. We are too far underground, you see. Takes too much power to teleport someone down here, let alone many someones. But, clever as we are, we came up with a solution!"
What would that be?
"It's a teleportation augmenter. It's a runed circle which makes it easier to send people up and down. It's a very powerful thing, and much power was expended creating it. It's well guarded, and even better hidden." He grins, and holds up his orb.
"And I can tell you its location and secrets. And, most importantly, about the towers."
I'm pretty sure it's not my birthday, but I'll accept! Let's start from the top. Location?
"West. Travel south down the river west from here. You will eventually find several ledges, covered with swamp. There is a secret passage off one of them, leading to a long passage, which leads to the goal. The location, however, is only half the secret."
Which leads us to the second present!
"You need a Royal Seal to get to the end. That is very difficult. Royal Seals are very rare. However, one was brought down with the First Expedition. It may still be down here. Also, you will need a special ritual."
Got one of those! She holds up the seal.
Erika was right to trust you, in her own way. You'll want to know about the ritual then?
"We got a dragon to create a magic barrier for us. To get past it, you will need a ritual. I don't know it, but the drake will. Fortunately, they stole one of its scrolls, and earned its rage in the bargain. You may be able to get its help."
"You will need much luck and skill to get through, but the reward will be great."
You mean this scroll? The one that is really just reflective?
If I believed in such things, I would say that the Fates favour you. But I do not.
What about these towers?
"There are two of them, which you must pass through to get to your goal. One of them contained the ward made by the dragon Khoth. He is the one to whom you must return that scroll. The other has a door with a deadly trap."
"I should know. I created it. The lever which opens the door out will fry you unless you press the Royal Seal of the Empire into the tiny depression in the corner of the fresco at the north end of the tower."
Huh. Didn't take you as a softy.
I'm not. But the odds of a person having a Royal Seal on them, and finding the depression without instruction are remote enough that I am not afraid.
So, how are the Empire Soldiers getting down here in the first place, if the path is guarded?
An excellent question. They are still capable of teleporting into Exile, but their accuracy is hampered, as well as the numbers at a time. Using the augmenter, they can send larger numbers faster and to a specified point. By keeping it under lock down, we can prevent the Empire from sending down an army.
Oh. We should get on that, shouldn't we?
Yes, but first, talk to my wife. She will allow you to leave safely.
No wife here.
This note is odd though...
That would be more informative if we hadn't already encountered them.
Still, a spell to remove invisibility would be good.
Oh, hello! A woman in a brightly colored gauzy dress whirls around the tower, sweeping. "Greetings, visitors. I am Josie."
Pardon the intrusion, ma'am. Are you the lady of the house?
She sighs and grimaces. "More like being a housewife, I'm afraid."
There is no shame in that. Such a position is vital for the running of any domicile, from the lowliest hut to the mightiest castle. Take pride in what you do.
Aw, you're sweet. Anyways, since Gilbert, Aydin and I fled, Aydin got to spend time scrying, Gilbert keeps watch, and I got to look over the defenses. Unfortunately, the defenses take the least time, so I also cook. And sweep. Frustrating, really."
"You see, I have talents of my own."
Oh? The talent of magic, I presume?
She opens her palm, and a tiny flame appears. Although its size is small, you can feel its heat from where you stand. She grins. "Maintaining the wards is little work, but making them was a job to remember! Like to see those Empire assassins get in here!" She closes her hand. The flame disappears.
So, about the defences? We would like to get out.
"Yes. Oh, before I forget ..." She casts a brief spell. "You can now pass the blue field safely. We would hate for you to be killed trying to leave."
Now the door is missing again! That's annoying.
What did we really get out of all that?
Information about the general location of the teleporter; as you figured, it is in or near the Abyss. And that there is a non-hostile Dragon nearby. Khoth, the name is.
And information about how to get to the Teleporter to allow Erika to re-purpose it.
I suspect she may be able to focus enough to do that.
Isn't anyone else worried about us going to... you know... find a DRAGON?
I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR PETTY FEARS! IF KILLING DRAGONS AND DEALING WITH ERIKA IS WHAT IT TAKES FOR ME TO GET WITHIN REACH OF HAWTHORNE, I'LL DO IT!
Walk with me.
Yes. You have to.
You have no idea..!
No, I don't. But because of that, I can see the truth.
Don't go there.
Too late. We agreed to this. We're going to see it through to the end. But you have to keep your temper under control. No taking it out on Ember or anyone else. Save it. Save it for Hawthrone.
You're a horrible motivational speaker.
It's not my job. This is. Now, bottle it up, keep it safe, and let it loose on the ones that really deserve your rage.
I hate you, you know that?
I wouldn't be much of a second in command if I wasn't hated by someone now, would I?
Let's just go back.
Back to the boat.
I really don't think we should go up this way.
But we're going to do it anyway.
Welcome to the lizard cavern. There's not much to say about this place as it's full of fixed encounters with Lizards, Drakes and Basilisks.
Wash, rinse, repeat about 10 times. I hate to say this, but this entire section of the map is a slog, and pretty much a space-taker, rather than anything of importance. I'll skip to the end now.
Anyone up for a little desecration?
So, we've robbed a second Dragon. This is getting old-hat.
This next landing seems empty, save for this passage that is very difficult to see from the water.
And it leads up to here. You know, I feel sorry for all these lizards that are coming for us, they don't know when to quit.
Well, this place seems to reject them. I think.
Can we skip the Dragon? Please?
And guarded by living statues.
This is the location of the secret passage according to Magic Map.
Those are oddly human human sized doors.
Maybe we won't have to play with Fire with all these books around? They're flammable!
I... I don't know what's going on here...
This is... inhuman.
Nothing of interest back here.
Oh, this is interesting.
Before we put it back, we should announce ourselves to the Dragon.
A long, sinuous dragons sits coiled here, in contemplation of a huge scroll. When she sees you, she looks up and grimaces. "Sss. I am Khoth. I am no friend to humans."
Forgive us, for we sought to alert you to our actions before performing them. We did not expect to have permission to return it right away.
It is of no consequence. She snorts. Smoke and flame billow forth. "I increase my wisdom, most of the time. The rest, I deal with intruders."
I hope you did not take us for intruders.
I sensed the scroll on you. Otherwise, I am not one to welcome humans. Not anymore."
Humans? You mean the Empire Soldiers?
"They stole one of my set of unique scrolls on the history of dragonkind, and spirited it away. I found one of their lairs nearby and destroyed it, but the scroll was nowhere inside. I don't know where they put it, but maybe there are clues in the ruin."
Ah, so it was you who destroyed that fort. You indeed lay ruin to it.
"The ruin of the human lair I devastated lies several caverns to the southwest, in a swamp. It is no longer well hidden. Search it well, and you may find a way to the scroll. Find it, and I can reward you. I will tell you the secret of the wards I created."
We will do that, then.
THEN DO IT! Prove your worth to me, then we will talk!
You need to talk to Khoth. She won't talk to you until you return the Dragon Scroll, which you need the Orb to get from way back when. Let's go do that.
We will be right back.
We wish to know about the secret to passing by your tower guarding the Empire Teleporter array.
"You are interested? Well, there is a hidden tower near here, across the river. It blocks a passage. To go through, you need to pass several wards of my making. If you don't know the correct ritual, you die."
Then, please, teach us the ritual.
Khoth nods her huge head. "You have done well for me, humans. I am a creature of my word." She teaches you the motions to pass the wards. It is a simple ritual, and you take note of it.
I apologize. This was a hard conversation to convert to a dialogue format for this LP, and it's not up to my usual quality. It doesn't help any that I tried to splice together her pre- and post- return of the Dragon Scroll conversations into one.
You may leave by the back entrance. Feel free to examine my books in the mean time, but take nothing, lest I hunt you down.
Oh, I could spend lifetimes here. But there is a passage to the east, and a hidden room.
Another statue? These things are getting boring.
And I already know both of these.
Let's leave now. I don't want to be near any dragons!