Students of Strixhaven EP 28 – Schools Out Part Five

The story continues with the party deciding to make camp in the outskirts of the dwarven settlement Inkaran. Trix wraps up collecting the carapaces required for trade with the mage Dorqen back in town, and the party find suitable (but a little cramped) accommodation in a nearby house. They decide on how should run camp watch over the night, with Trix taking the last watch.

Overnight, Trix begins to hear what appears to be faint whispering coming from outside. She steps out to investigate, but as she gets closer to what appears the source, finds nothing of interest. She considers if this could be done via magical means, and returns inside. As the party wake up, they discuss the noises, but agree to travel into the interior of Inkaran itself.

They enter through a main set of doors. Cautiously, they check for traps and find a tripwire connecting to a split beam above their heads. They carefully sidestep around it, moving into a large room with a dining table and chairs. They determine that this likely held nobility of some kind, but find nothing of importance move on, next finding a kitchen. The party find that the oven and grill has been used recently, but finding nothing else of importance, move on further to the east. They enter into an armoury, with a large locked door etched into the wall on the south side. They check some of the remaining containers and cabinets and find a collection of older dwarven weapons. Trix decides to ‘dump’ them into the bag of holding. Moving on to inspect the door, Trix determines the door is locked by the use of an Arcane Lock spell, and trying to pick it would be almost impossible.

Moving further east, they find a room with Elvish features and a large set of tiles with interconnecting lines. In each corner, elvish text reads “Life, Death, Transfer/Movement and Stable“. A podium stands in the middle of these tiles, designed to fit some sort of spherical object and rod. At this stage, through further attempts to investigate it, the machinery seems to be inert and doesn’t do anything.

A tile puzzle, all ‘standard’ pieces can be rotated at 90 degree angles.

Meanwhile, the party begin to hear shuffling and movement from a room to the north. Edolkar looks to investigate and sees an open room with a large forge with walkways winding above it. He spots a small Dwarven figure attempting to hid along the walkway. Trix tries to move in closer, working her way into the room. The figure seems to cast something, with the room becoming engulfed in a sphere of light. The figure seems to take this as an opportunity to run, moving westward. Khorvus, Grae and Edolkar enter into the forge trying to track down the figure. Trix tries to shout to the figure to indicate they are peaceful, but he ignores her and continues to flee. Khorvus sprints to try and catch him, with Edolkar coming from the other side. The figure turns into a small room, with the party quickly following behind him.

Entering into the room, they see the figure stands in a room designed to store coke and coal for a furnace. They try to speak with him, finding that he has a serious, hearty cough and appears to be sick in some way. Khorvus asks on what happened, with the figure indicating creatures from beneath the earth began to attack the dwarves, with the intensity increasing over the years. He indicates he wants to ‘die in peace’, and declines their offers of aid when prompted. Khorvus approaches slowly, and casts Lay on Hands which appears to have no effect. The figure continues to insist nothing can be done for him, but does relax somewhat, lowering his forge tools he armed as weapons. Grae indicates her mission, to find information on and retrieve an artefact for Roman Eldrake, but hearing this sends the dwarf into a fury once more. Grae asks how he knows the Eldrake family, with the figure indicating he knows Orson. Trix, recalling her sketches from Rutledge, realises the dwarven figure matches the appearance of Ezan Pathfinder, one of the four heroes that stopped the necrophage hundreds of years ago. Grae expresses some initial confusion, given that Ezan was considered an ‘old man’ at the time of the necrophage event 400 years ago, this would put his age to nearly 800 years, which is considered impossible for a dwarf. They move onto why Grae and the party are here, with Grae indicating they are working for Orson’s great-grandson Roman, who has been afflicted by a sickly condition. Ezan laughs, and indicates he knows the artifact, but will ensure Roman won’t get the artefact any time soon. Given the circumstances, he asks if they can move to another room, and they work their way to the great hall near the entrance.

Ezan prepares some light snacks of foraged berries, and serves them around the large table. Grae asks about the artefact, with Ezan indicating that Roman knows exactly what it is, given he already has one of the two parts, but they are no longer fully functional without being combined again. Grae enquires on what they do exactly, with Ezan explaining some information about Vasarus, an elvish mage who was the cause of the necrophage crisis. He explains that the elf used necrotic magic to raise an undead army. The party of four, including Orson, Ezan, Katria and Peta, used some of this magic against Vasarus to ultimately defeat him.

Grae has a moment of realisation, with Ezan indicating that Roman is Orson, with bothing them still alive since the time of the necrophage. Ezan pulls out his ‘half’, which is a small spherical object. When asked, Ezan indicates that the difficulty they faced when confronting Vasarus was his ability to use necrotic, life-draining magic against anyone who approached. A small team designed an artifact, designed somewhat like a staff, that would be able to drain life from volunteers, which the party could use as a ‘buffer’ against their own lives to get them close enough to Vasarus to kill him. The plan worked, with all involved wanting the artefact destroyed. Orson worked in secret to take it, secretly killing some people that were a part of the project. Ezan, Peta and Katria spent years trying to find an opportunity to steal it, finally finding an opportunity and then fleeing to Katria’s homeland amongst the gnomes. Orson followed with mercenary forces, determined to reclaim it. During the middle of a large battle, magical forces within the forest split the artefact itself into two, a sphere which Ezan was able to flee with, and the rod which Orson retained. Individually, these pieces do not have sufficient energy to harvest more life-draining energy, but they can continue to provide what was already stored to those influenced by it. Ezan explains that Orson’s goal has always been to retrieve the other half, so that he can repair the artefact and can extend his life again.

Ezan has dedicated the rest of his (extended) life to ensuring that doesn’t happen, and now resides in the place of its creation, having tried several times to destroy it. He indicates that while he thinks there is a process to do this, it will involve the use of the great forge, which will draw attention from creatures that now live below the surface. Grae asks about destroying just this half of the artefact, to which Ezan explains that it will mean the end of his life, likely in a few days as his body plays ‘catch up’, but it would prevent Roman from using the magic again. He does express concern that given more time, Orson may be able to find out information on the creation process and could try to create the other half.

They begin to construct a plan, with the priority being to destroy Ezan’s half of the artefact, the sphere which he carries with him. He explains that they will first need to ‘dampen’ the magic, using the same enchantment magic that still resides in one of the rooms. With the magic weakened, the device should be sufficiently capable of being destroyed by regular means through the heat of the forge. Doing this will attract attention from creatures deep beneath the ground, so they consider how they can fortify. They ask Ezan for explosives, and place a few in key locations around the interior, including a tunnel and another large opening near the forge. Trix begins to funnel coal into the bag of holding (having emptied it first), and brings it closer to the top of the forge upstairs in the room.

They move back to the room with the Elvish writing and tiles, and find that Ezan’s sphere fits into the middle of the platform. From what Ezan explained, they know that they have to move the tiles to ensure all four enchantment pieces connect to the control crystal (see above for the image). They spend a bit of time on the puzzle, learning how to rotate each puzzle piece to get all four corners connected, and watch as the necrotic, magical energy in the sphere begins to dampen, and now susceptible to damage. Ezan, very quickly becoming ill, directs them into the forge next door.

Trix begins to prepare the coal at the top of the forge, funnelling it out of the bag of holding. Ezan instructs Trix to also place the dampened magical sphere in when the time is right. Grae casts Firebolt to begin warming the furnace, and uses Control Flames to keep it contained. Edolkar and Khorvus each take a side of the large bellows in the room, and begin to bump warm air into the underbelly of the furnace. It continues to warm, reaching an optimal temperature, and Ezan instructs Trix to place the sphere inside, watching it roll down the mechanical slide. As the sphere begins to crack, a wisp of necrotic energy is released. Ezan goes to a side opening and begins to pull out the raw materials. He instructs the party to make any final preparations necessary, as the noise and heat will soon draw the attention of creatures from below the mountain. Edolkar and Khorvus position themselves in a choke point near a crack in the foundations. Trix and Grae check the explosive charges, also positioning themselves in preparation for combat. They begin to hear the pattering and clattering of noises coming from below…