Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Session 1 - The Whispering Cairn

Sunday, Readying 9th, 595 CY

It was a cold day in Diamond Lake when the servants of St. Cuthbert laid to rest the remains of Abrand Balimar. As the funeral closed, a quiet note was slipped into the pocket of one of his surviving sons: Ashbourn Balimar. Childhood acquaintance Ardynn Turk was with him when he found the note, as was Bolero Truman, a paladin of Pelor and newcomer in town. The note said simply:

If you want to help your brother, then follow the road north out of town. Walk for about an hour until you come to the abandoned mine house. Bring a friend....or two.

Ashbourn's father had been somewhat of a lecher, always drinking and gambling when not working in the mine. He died owing people money, and those debts had been handed down to Ash's younger brother, Jhero. Unable to pay, Jhero had been forced to take his father's place in the same mine that had killed him. The note obviously referred to the 300 gold hanging over Jhero's head.

Bolero and Ardynn, along with Ardynn’s constant companion Rowdy-a very large and dangerous looking dog-joined Ash in traveling to the mine house. The building was a ruin with most of the second floor collapsed into the first. As they approached the door, it swung open and a dwarf came dashing out screaming "Stirges!" The four of them quickly dispatched the pests and settled in to talk.

The dwarf introduced himself as Snuffy Hammerfist, a friend of Jhero. Snuffy, like Jhero, had inherited an unfair debt and was looking for a way to pay it off and stay out of the mines. Adventurers had recently arrived in Diamond Lake, loudly claiming their intent to explore the ancient tombs and cairns in the nearby hills, specifically the Stirgenest Cairn across the lake. That cairn had been cleaned out ages ago, but their arrival had given Jhero an idea.

He told Snuffy that there might be one cairn that still had something worth claiming. This cairn was hidden near the old mining operation of Ulgo Fant. The mine had dried up some fifty years ago, and Ulgo passed away a few years after leaving the land unclaimed. The broken-down house they were standing in was all that was left. Situated thusly in a sort of no-man’s land, the cairn was all but forgotten, its yawning entrance overgrown with weeds and choked with collapsed debris. Rediscovered by a curious teenager several years back, the cairn had since been a sort of community secret held by Diamond Lake’s youth, who would dare each other to disappear into its cyclopean entrance as a test of mettle. Occasionally, when the wind was just right, haunting, almost magical tones emerged from the depths of the forlorn tomb. Those who knew of its location call the place the Whispering Cairn. Jhero thought that if adventurers from the Free City expected to discover hidden passages and riches within the Stirgenest Cairn, it stood to reason that the Whispering Cairn might also hold a genuine opportunity for profit. If treasure could be found within, maybe there would be enough to clear Snuffy and Jhero of their debts, and more besides.

Snuffy had decided to look into it, but from experience, he knew that traveling into potentially dangerous areas alone was never a good idea. Jhero claimed to not be the adventuring type, but suggested that his brother might be willing to help. Snuffy wrote out a note to Ash, and Jhero slipped the note quietly into his pocket after the funeral service.

The three were reluctant, not wanting to be involved in any sort of "grave-robbing", but finally agreed to at least take a look. Ardynn, who cared little for town living, expressed interest in the old building, but put the thoughts aside for another day as they sought out the entrance.

The Whispering Cairn

The entrance was quickly discovered, a yawning passageway that led down into a nearby gully's hillside. The group heard the whispers as they entered, at first seeming to be a trick on the ears, but becoming clearer as the wind picked up. They spoke in a language none of them had ever heard. The walls of the cairn were carved with repeating geometric patterns. They came to a set of alcoves with little of interest, but the next set of larger alcoves hid two curiosities. The west alcove extended about 40 feet and ended at a small marble platform raised about six inches off the ground. A strange arcane apparatus rested upon the platform, its curved ovular frame giving the appearance of a grand mirror. Only a third of the frame remained. An unusual glyph about the size of a man's head was carved on the base, and runes of enchantment ran along the inside of the oval. Snuffy, a student of history both arcane and mundane, noted that the glyph seemed to resemble something he had seen once in a language known as Vaati, a possible precursor to Auran, and looked more like a heraldic symbol than any actual writing. To the east, the passage had been completely caved in. It would require serious manpower and resources to clear it, so the group moved on.

As they explored, a group of wolves, attracted by the noise, came to investigate and pounced upon Ardynn when she attempted to shoo them away. After a brief battle, they were dispatched. As they made their way to the next pair of alcoves, the group noticed a strange flickering green light coming through a web-choked stairway to the north. Ignoring it for now, they explored the west alcove, in which they discovered a mosaic- another Vaati glyph surrounded by different colored tiles representing every color in the rainbow.

To the east, they found another cave-in, but this one seemed to have a small crawlspace leading to the other side. With reluctance, Ash entered. Inside, he discovered what seemed to be the wolves' lair and after a thorough such uncovered and armband carved with leaves (clearly of elven craftsmanship), an ornate lantern with indigo glass, and a curled stone finger that must have been broken off of some statue.

After clearing out the wolf lair, the group turned to the descending stairway, hacking away the webs to reveal a large chamber. In the center of the room, a large sarcophagus of white marble rested.