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Old August 8, 2019, 07:27 PM   #316
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Ardanon
The path was long, tiring and bland. Twisty tunnels all alike, and roughshod paths mixed with some that had been smoothed over. Muscles ached, tempered simmered and sometimes flared but the common purpose was enough to keep the group on the march. All that was left to consider what would happen when they reached the top....

Faust, leader of thy house

Checking corpses for their contents and useful items twas an unfortunate thing but it was also necessary. The baron had on his body the small blade he had used to fight Da'Nael and a number of unbroken unknown vials in clear glass only possible within few advanced glassblowing businesses in the empire or by alchemical refinement. The liquids within were a mix of colours in the four salveagle vials:

1. A light transparent blue liquid which gave off a faint glow by which the rest could be seen in more detail.
2. A dark liquid that appeared to be thick and possibly a deep red. It very much appeared like vampire blood in previous vials
3. A thick orange liquid that moved like quicksilver
4. A vial of the darkest possible blackness that defied explaination in movements. It appeared to behave something akin to a gas and a liquid refusing to ever entirely settle.

There was also a single key, plain steel by design with an intricate head. It had the hallmarks of Dwarven steel and design from Faust's limited metallurgical knowledge but with no other key referenced at any other point it was very likely to be Providence to find the key there and then.

If Faust were ever possible to be unnerved the Baron's lifeless head lay on its side and appeared to be looking straight at him. The eyes lacked the sharpness they once had in a living body and stared right through Faust to a distant beyond. A point, perhaps in the ceiling, but it was hard to tell.

Then came the search. Even by eliminating the higher floors and towers there were many doors, rooms and chambers and not all of them appeared to be accessible through just walking on the first floor.

Navigating the castle came with options. Though the castle appeared lifeless, every so often the trio's, in particular Ka'ris, ears would hear signs of movement. This excited Ka'ris's blood and caused momentary rises in her paranoia. An unfamiliar desire to hunt and kill had come over her and she wanted to find and eat whatever she found. The most disturbing prospect, perhaps, to Ka'ris in her altered state of mind was that the idea itself did not carry the usual resistance. An intelligent woman as herself knew how she ought to have felt from knowing herself but right now she was not feeling herself. Was it simply the blood? Or was it more? There were seeds of doubt that fed into her paranoia and unnecessary fears that gave her pause from revealing any of this to the two trusted family members she was travelling with. No there was a strong desire to keep this change to herself. Still if she wished she could easily lead the trio to where the sounds had been heard to investigate.they had come from the door beyond the main hall they had feasted in. It was the door associated with where the servants had entered with the food.

They had other ways to traverse the ground floor. Ka'ris and Da'nael were already familiar with the servant's space though not its full extent or directions, and they could also use the 2nd floor to find some stairs to get to other areas of the first floor. The castle had not been 100% designed as a fort or a residence. It still had its mysteries and was still a hybrid of architecture. There still remained unanswered questions everywhere surrounding the castle and it's secrets but none appeared at face value to attribute anything useful to saving the people below from orcs.
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Old August 8, 2019, 08:43 PM   #317
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There was something undeniably heart-wrenching about seeing the Baron’s headless body. Faust was well-acquainted with death, and he had lost many friends and family to it over the eras. Still, it was never easy to watch good men die, especially when those men had paid the ultimate price – their lives – so that others might live. Therefore, as gruesome as the scene was, the High Lord of Har’oloth could not help but view it in many ways as a special thing.

Nimble fingers searched through the Baron’s attire, retrieving a number of vials that were utterly foreign to him. After Da’nael explained that the Baron had attempted to use some of them during combat, Faust nodded and passed them over to the big warrior to stow away. He also handed him the Baron’s dagger. It was nothing extraordinary, but it would nevertheless serve as a memento for what had happened here.

At last, though, he found what he was looking for: the key.

Come on,” he urged, glancing one last time to the lifeless eyes of the Baron that stared back at him. He wished that there had been some other way to save the vampire lord, but at the end of the brightening, fate, it seemed, had deemed it time to call the Baron back to the land of the dead forever.

Finding the door that the key accessed proved to be far more difficult than the dark elven prince had hoped. Castle Nocturna was huge, and its ground level was a maze of doors, passageways, and corridors. Faust wore a frown as they continued their search. He was mindful of the noises coming from nearby, but so intent was he on finding the correct door that he was content with allowing Da’nael to primarily serve as the watcher.

Unless . . .

The sounds are coming from over there,” Ka’ris suddenly said, and she pointed in the direction of the clamor that she had somehow registered.

What she had heard exactly, Faust did not know. The dark elf had always prided himself on his senses, but he had been unable to pinpoint the noise. His friend had been relatively quiet thus far. He had assumed that her silence had been due in large part to the great ordeal that she had partaken in earlier in saving Kalannar.

In any case, he slowly nodded and beckoned for Ka’ris to lead them towards the noises. “Perhaps others in the Castle are trying to escape like us. They’d likely know the way.” It was only conjecture, but Faust found it hard to believe that only the Baron knew how to travel from Castle Nocturna to the community without the use of the lifts.

He supposed they would soon find out.

* * * * *

Ardanon was tired. He was weary. But he was determined. When the group seemed like it was ready to falter, he was present to lift everyone up. He led by example, continuing upward and upward as best as he could. Every now and then, he glanced at Kalannar, fearful that he might not see the subtle rise and fall of the brave warrior’s chest.

Hold on, Kalannar. We’re almost there, he thought.

No, he prayed.
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Old August 11, 2019, 04:34 AM   #318
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Escape from Castle Nocturna

With Da'nael safely procuring 4 vials of liquids unknown Ka'ris lead them directly through the area the dining area, to the kitchen and then to another entrance to the servants' access tunnels.

Once in she lead them down a path until finally the sight of a beautifully wrapped upright living pound of flesh and blood presented itself before Ka'ris, helpless and gift-wrapped in a silk nightgown. The temptation to hunt and eat this creature before them threatened to overtake her senses but the presence of family kept these primal desires from bubbling to the surface. Never the less her belly let out a protest of hunger loud enough for Faust to hear.

The silk gown wearing sack of meat was none other than the matriarch of the castle that had greater them initially. She appeared to be trying to make her way through a door that was locked. Could it be the same door that key was to open?

The lady had been focussed enough that their entrance and subsequent instinctually stealthy arrival had not been heard.

Ka'ris and the rest could not detect any other sounds bar those of their noisy would-be lockpicker. Where had everyone -else- gone if the ways down were few and far between? What did this old unfallen elf know that no one else did? Her demeanour was that of a woman panic stricken and terrified that might well be ready to jump at shadows. The trio were vyssticci who had no trouble seeing in the dark but this elf had but a small candle to see the lock by. Hardly an ideal set up. How would the Sylrosian blooded elf react to seeing the trio? Many things had transpired tonight and it was difficult to know how anyone would react with the baron dead.

Escape To Castle Nocturna
Perhaps sometime in the future everyone could laugh at the absurdity of people on opposite ends of the mission trying to accomplish the opposite outcome. For now this party hastened to get into Castle Nocturna where help may be available to save a dying commander while good will deteriorated as quickly as the temperature

With each breath steam escaped into the cold and dark air of the mountains. The vyssticci scout, however, was the first to notice a faint movement of air. With such a unilateral path the only way for a breeze to be felt would be to near a source of atmospheric differential.

"Feel that breeze?" the scout remarked in a low tone "the must be an exit nearby. Or a fissure. We will know soon enough as it cannot be more than half a candlemark's travel at our pace"

How far had they travelled? There was a certain disorientation to these tunnels. Maybe it was by design or a natural side effect of a lengthy hastened climb? Even the Har'olothian scouts reported to Ardanon a certain displacement and confusion. The dwarf even noted that some of his instruments designed to tell direction had misbehaved. None of these things necessarily meant anything. Then again it could easily be something... The group were tired and no longer at peak concentration. None of them offered any ideas to Ardanon as they pushed on other tan they appeared to be close to an exit or fissure.
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Old August 11, 2019, 01:48 PM   #319
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Faust shot a sidelong glance at Ka’ris at the sound of her rumbling stomach. The noise would not ordinarily have alarmed him, but the voracious gleam in her eyes was almost otherworldly as she peered at the unaware elf ahead of them. The Vysstichi Lord stole a furtive look at Da’nael, who nodded slightly to indicate that he, too, sensed the irregularity about their companion. Whatever had happened to her, Faust supposed that he would hear all of the details later, but for now, he was concerned.

Alinnor,” the Vysstichi Lord said, recalling the name of the elven woman, who had greeted them upon their arrival to Castle Nocturna. Alinnor of House Xali’athor. Stepping from the shadows, he glanced the woman up and down, noting the terror that was written across her face.

Did she know what had happened to the Baron and the Everqueen?

Where is everyone?” he wondered. Another thought suddenly occurred to him, and he asked, “Where are you going?

Castle Nocturna had been filled with guards when they had first arrived, yet none of them appeared anywhere. It was possible that many of them had been relocated to the community to assist in its defense, but where were they now?

He glanced to the locked door that she was trying to bypass, and he could not help but wonder . . .

* * * * *

The wizard nodded grimly to the scout. With any bit of luck, the man would be right and a half of a candlemark later they would be entering the halls of Castle Nocturna. Ardanon was weary much like the others, but he forced himself to believe that they were drawing close to their destination, and ultimately, Kalannar’s salvation.

Keep your eyes open, everyone,” he said, encouraging them as best as he could as he moved ahead. The old wizard was careful to follow his own advice, trusting on his senses now rather than anything else. An opening. A secret pathway. Anything that would confirm that they were on the right path up the mountain.
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Old August 11, 2019, 07:28 PM   #320
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Alinnor jumped nearly out of her skin from the quiet intrusion. She appeared very aware that nothing was right in the castle and it took a moment to regain her composure having been interrupted. When she did, however, she took on the mannerisms and superior gaze typical of nobility. Despite being caught in the act it was the kind of composure that could make one doubt what they saw only moments before.

To Ka'ris the display was more along the lines of a demonstration of meat but she still had enough self control to maintain her own composure.

Alinnor responded to Faust in a calm voice to his questions

"Everyone" she announced "Is hiding. With rebellious vampires about none of the servants want to be out in the open. The guards must have responded to the threat"

Alinnor didn't know everything

As she then responded to what she was doing there wasn't any hesitation or guilt you would normally associate getting caught trying to pick a lock

"This is the baron's quarters" Alinnor said letting only a momentary pause escape silently between the words "but this door's 2nd lock is locked. Normally I have free access to these rooms"

With Alinnor's hand removed another lockspace was revealed. Two locks. Alinnor had a key but not the other. The keyhole matched the type that the Dwarven key may unlock and it was the first lock they had come across which was currently locked... Unless of course they didn't actually need the keybat all to escape and one of the various unlocked doors lead somewhere secret that had been overlooked. Alinnor didn't appear willing to reveal what was on her mind that the 2nd lock was locked but her pre-aware demeanor did all the talking.

Ardanon

As they travelled the group was silent. As silent as they could be. The scouts were no more noisy than a mouse. The dwarf no more noisy than an alehouse filled with drunk patrons singing loudly. The dwarf was no scout and his equipment made plenty of noise. Had Ardanon been hoping for a stealthy approach to their exit it was not going to happen. Further the lack of stealthiness was aggravating the party as several very angry and tired looks were shared with the alert dwarf. He appeared to be quite oblivious to their ire as he moved to keep up with the party apparently quite happy and alert.

The breeze reached the point even Ardanon could feel it and smell the air. Stale, cold air and getting stronger. The surrounds were also getting more and more noisy as icicles began to show on the sealing. They were small right now and water dripped from them but as they climbed the tunnel ahead opened up into a small cavern. It wasn't roomy but it appeared to be a natural space that had been exploited to open the tunnel up ahead.

Large icicles hung from the top of this cavern, undisturbed for an unknown length of time. Looking heavily over the heads of the group as sounds begun to echo out of the tunnel from the dwarf overhead into the cavern.
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Old August 11, 2019, 08:26 PM   #321
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An anxious servant or an eager opportunist? Faust had yet to decide which Alinnor was, although her guarded demeanor warranted a level of suspicion. Now that the Baron was dead, he wondered if those who had been loyal to him had returned to their former selves – that is, if they were prone to the sins and whims of their pasts. The fact that she knew about the vampires and the fact that she was in the Baron’s quarters indicated that she remembered some things, but it remained uncertain where her loyalties were now.

Beside the dark elven lord, Ka’ris struggled to contain herself but managed nevertheless. Faust was grateful that the mystic had not succumbed to her eerie appetite, but who knew how long that would last. He had confidence in the High Priestess, but even she was not perfect. Fortunately, Alinnor provided a likely prey if she proved to be untrustworthy. Hopefully, she would also be of help.

It’s not safe in the castle,” Faust said, sweeping towards the elven woman and joining her near the locked door. “There was fighting and heavy casualties already.” The dark elf did not disclose House Kitrye’veresi’s own role in the suppression or the fact that they had personally put an end to both the Baron and the Everqueen. Some things were better left unsaid under the circumstances.

After Alinnor’s explanation, the High Lord produced the second key from the pocket of his cloak. He held it for the elven woman to see, then proceeded to slide it into the lock that she had been attempting to pick earlier. Her honestly and information had earned her the benefit of the doubt, if only for the moment.

Where does this lead?” he asked as he motioned with his head towards the other lock, which he waited for Alinnor to tend to. Her response, of course, would gauge whether or not she could be trusted. Not that he felt threatened by her. Indeed, with the Baron dead, Castle Nocturna’s occupants had a variety of options at their disposal: they could return to their old ways, remain in the Castle and try to build their lives anew, or they could find other avenues of service.

With Da’nael watching his back and Ka’ris close by, he readied to move into the next chamber and see what it was that the Baron’s key unlocked.

* * * * *

A small cavern mouth opened . . .

Ardanon held his breath as he continued alongside the scouts, mimicking their stealth as best as he could. By nature, most of his people were silent as shadows in the dark. Used to hunting in the lightless subterranean, none of them had any choice if they wanted to live for very long.

The same could not be said for the dwarf, unfortunately.

The wizard turned over his shoulder and pressed his finger to his lips, emphasizing the need for caution as he subsequently pointed towards the icicles that loomed overhead. They appeared frozen and stable from where they hung, but there was no telling if too much noise would cause them to vibrate and fall.

That was not a chance that he wanted to take.

Up ahead, he eventually attuned to the sound of some commotion. Orcs? Unlikely. He could not imagine that they had found a way to operate the lift as when he had last seen it, it had been mostly destroyed.

Denizens of Castle Nocturna?

He did not know, but he clutched on to his staff and held it in front of him readily.
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Old August 12, 2019, 10:56 PM   #322
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The key went into the latch, of the same still as the lock that Faust put the key into, but it wouldn't turn. It didn't even feel close to turning. This was not the lock this key belonged to yet this was the place Alinnor was trying to get into.

"Where did you get that key?" Alinnor asked with a voice that could not contain the hint of suspicion on it "This is the baron's quarters and the only other person with keys to this door would be the baron himself.... "

Alinnor's face wore the look of someone putting 2 and 2 together "So he is truly dead.."

It came as a whisper and sounded of all things the sound of a person truly mournful over that fact.

"I felt him pass." She said quietly no longer trying urgently to open the door "The flurry of emotions, the anger and resentment. The last was of all things a calmness. I refused to believe what I felt being truem the nothingness after being bonded for so long..."

Alinnor didn't reveal much more before she started quietly sobbing over the loss for a few moments.

"You?" Alinnor asked of Faust unaware that it was another of his party that bore responsibility "You are responsible for his passing? He would not want me to harm or hinder you. He said this was the risk of inviting the outside world into the castle. How you seek a way out? The only other way out that you can rely upon without a climb is beyond this door. His quarters contain a few rooms. One of those is an exit. There were others but none that that key would help you with"

alinnor remained said her elderly frame appeared to have suddenly bore the full weight of her age all in a moment. She looked 80 eras older in barely a moment such was the effect of the news.

Ardanon

As the group came to a halt and quietened down the noise disappeared. It was apparent very quickly that this chamber and its icy contents created an echo chamber. Their noises could and would amplify further making it risky for the group to continue. Especially a dwarf whose equipment did not readily allow for stealth yet .. his equipment was ideal for traps and man made impediments that may lie ahead.

Ardanon needed to choose a solution. The cavern in all directions was filled with icicles, some very large and heavy, so that no one path eliminated the risk of their falling. The ground was similarly rough and filled with stalagmites. There was no clear path that would allow them to move easily making stealth a difficult thing to rely upon for those not as well trained as the scouts of the group.

The path was also partly filled with an icy lake. It would be the easiest to navigate with minimal noise givent he sparcity of stalagmites there but the water promised to be icy cold. The type of cold that could kill if not properly addressed.

Options. Ardanon was now looked upon for some quiet direction as leader as the scouts reported these findings to him.
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Old August 13, 2019, 09:42 AM   #323
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The Vysstichi Prince’s silver brows rose. He had been sure that the Baron’s key would access the door that now stood between them and the passageway beyond. When it did not, he made no effort to disguise his frown with anything other than disappointment. With the uncertainty of the battle below still weighing heavily on his mind, the dark elf was mindful of the fact that every second counted.

The Baron sacrificed himself for all of us,” the Vysstichi Lord firmly answered, his tone reverent in nature. “We were beset by some of the rebellious vampires that you mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, my companions and I were not enough to defeat them. The Baron gave his life for us.” It was a lie, but it was one that he gladly wove on behalf of the Baron’s legacy. It was the least that he could do to repay the vampire lord for his sacrifice.

Da’nael stood silently nearby, his gaze lowered.

It saddened Faust to see Alinnor sob. Her heartache was genuine. For how long she had served the Baron, he did not know, but he could easily imagine that it had not been for a short duration.

He sighed and rested a callused hand on her shoulder to comfort her. “Look, we don’t know what remains of those fighting the orcs below, but if there’s a chance that they can be saved, we must save them. The Baron would have wanted that.” He glanced towards the blocked passageway.

It occurred to him after Alinnor mentioned that she had felt the Baron’s passing that the Everqueen’s demise might have elicited a similar effect on the orcs, but he needed to be sure.

Help me save his people. Come with us,” Faust asked, then turned towards the locked door.

A thought occurred to him.

With the Dread Ring still encircling his right hand, he strode towards the door and gripped the handle firmly. Using the enchanted strength that coursed through his body now, he tried to break through the door with his shoulder leading the way.

* * * * *

Stop,” Ardanon suddenly said, pausing and pointing overhead to the sea of icicles that loomed over them. He did not like the look of those, nor the fact that some members of his group were significantly louder than others.

The dwarf, for instance . . .

Can you four scout ahead?” he asked the Vysstichi members of the group. “You’ll have an easier time passing through without us. Perhaps there’s an easier way through that we have yet to find.

He then turned towards the rune-covered man, who had been generally quiet thus far. “Is there anything that you can do?” It was worth the inquiry. Hopefully the human was not simply a piece of exquisite artwork to look at.

Next, he shifted towards the dwarf. “What about you? Do you have an equipment that might assist us?
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Old August 13, 2019, 07:19 PM   #324
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The door was sturdy. The lock was sturdy. An ordinary strong man would only hurt their shoulder. Faust hurt his shoulder and broke the door in the process. It wasn't a serious injury. The bruising was enough to remind Faust that Super strength did not imply immunity to injury. It was indeed possible to wound oneself with their own strength in the right circumstances. Still the enhanced muscle offered a fair amount of protection from self inflicted wounds; just not complete protection.

So it came to pass that they entered a lounge and waiting room of sorts. This area was slightly warmer as a recently dead fire still embered away as a testament to how short a time ago the vampire may have been here. The room was comfortable with all the trappings of the baron's antiquated tastes. Portraits, a smaller selection of books and poems, a small foot table near the lounge for drinks and to be placed. There was even a cup of something on the table along with a pot. Very likely tea. It had gone cold, of course, just not icy cold. It was unlikely to offer any of the party a pleasant experience if they decided it were time to break for tea.

The room had 3 doors. 3 adjoining rooms. Alinnor was the first to explain.

"The master Baron had his master bedroom behind that door" Alinnor announcer "His, ahem, pantry and liquor cabinets was behind the door to the left and the door on the left hand side led down to his laboratory"

Faust could note that each door could be double locked much like the first each door's locks looked fresh be Dwarven in design much like his key. Alinnor took out a key of her own and further mad slight of the situation.

"This key opens the locks on a of these doors." Alinnor said sounding a little perplexed by the fact they had to break their way in "he never locked the other locks. Something terrible must have started for him to do that. If it wasn't to protect himself there must have been something he didn't want others to get to...*

She may have been dealing with the loss of the baron but the realisation that even she was being kept out appeared to be gravely concerning for the elderly elven lady.

Alinnor started to look over the room slowly. Her eyes were looking but it didn't take a mystic to know she wasn't fully registering anything she saw and was unlikely focussed enough to be of any assistance in a search.

Still they each had had some experience with this castle and its peculiarities. Walls, doors, floors, items. What secrets could a simple waiting room reveal?

Ardanon
The runed men looked at the room ahead and nodded to Ardanon and asked of the dwarf his shield. The shield was large and heavy but Ardanon doubted it's value in protecting against a weighted icicle.

Then something peculiar happened as the runed man started to 'apply' his tattoos in sudden violent motions. First the shield appeared to become much easier for the man to wield as it visibility lifted as his muscles relaxed. Secondly it grew, and grew and grew. The man had put it above himself and applied a third rune that had no discernable effect but appeared to give that man confidence.

"it's now large enough to let 3 of us cross safely without fear of being hit" the runed man said sounding very confident "it should last long enough for the whole party to cross"

On closer inspection of the man 3 of his tattoos had grown faint. They were clearly still there but had no longer the same rigorous contrast and brilliant colouring they had had previously. Those same runes now appeared on the shield. As much as the reassurances were made by the man it still looked like a very thin and flimsy piece of metal between them and the icicles. the only thing which led to his credibility was how readily the natives appeared to accept his words even as they wearily kept their distance from him. He was treated differently than other humans which were usually universally distrusted by all races but not hated. He appeared to be disliked most highly among humans.
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Old August 13, 2019, 09:41 PM   #325
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He barreled through the door in a most dwarven-like fashion. Extraordinary physical strength was not something that the Vysstichi Lord had ever possessed in his life, so needless to say, he was genuinely surprised when his shoulder actually broke through. Of course, he was left with a stinging sensation to said shoulder, which cautioned him about replicating such antics in the future. Even with the Dread Ring, he was not immune to pain.

Upon finding himself in the waiting room, the Vysstichi Prince scanned the premises, noting the antiquated furniture and luxuries that the Baron had enjoyed shortly before his demise. It was strange preparing to rummage through a dead lord’s private chambers, but unfortunately, they had been left with little choice. With the Baron no longer around, there was no one to guide them through the Castle or to regain any semblance of organization on the grounds once again.

Unlock the door,” he softly instructed Alinnor, motioning towards the key that she clutched in her hand. With is own key, he tried the other two doors. If they were already unlocked, then it would mean that the Baron’s key unlocked something else.

Naturally, it was difficult to enter the mind of the Baron and know what secrets he might have hidden here, but Faust, owning several castles himself, knew better than anyone that most people kept their important things in their personal chambers.

But what were they looking for?

See if you can find anything in the waiting room. Be sure to check behind the portraits and the bookshelves,” he bade Da’nael and Ka’ris, remembering the castle library, then proceeded to investigate himself. He started with the Baron’s room if it was accessible as that seemed like the most logical place to start looking.

* * * * *

Ardanon could not stop staring as the rune-covered man expanded the dwarf’s shield until it was many times its original dimensions. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said, and his voice was nothing short of impressed. He was educated enough in the art of arcana to know that the runes were Ikosian. Still, those practitioners were few and far between. It was a strange magic that was not practiced very widely throughout the Empire.

Still, it dazzled.

We’ll go across three at a time beneath the shield,” the wizard explained. “Once across, have one person bring it back, and so forth, until all of us are on the other side.” He spoke in a soft whisper. Although they had the shield, he did not want to take any chances with the icicles.

Once everyone was ready, the wizard waited for his turn and for the others to begin their crossing before he, too, found his place underneath the shield at the appropriate time.
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Old August 14, 2019, 07:29 PM   #326
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Faust
Faust was right as a general rule. In fact every man's home was his castle and it held true in many occasions that if you want to find something important it usually would be in a person's personal chambers.

The only problem was what was important to the baron may hold absolutely no relevance at all to a dark elf lord pilfering through his stuff looking for a way to stop an orcish horde. That was true of many various items they each found

Letters and correspondence over now long past periods to presumably long dead pen pals, jewellery that ranged from mundane to quite valuable, a medal of honour commemorating service, a fresh supply of blood that was kept in a lockbox, a lock of hair that was a shiny golden blonde that looked suspiciously similar to Alinnor's now white hair and a children's hairbrush.

These were found in various places in this room, the bookshelf, a armoire next to a display liquor cabinet, various lock boxes of ornate description. None of these really offered any assistance to the job at hand.

Faust also found that the rooms were each unlocked and could be searched as well. All bar the one Alinnor had indicated led to the laboratory. The key still did not work on this door but clearly was a similar key to the lock the door had. Alinnor's key, however, worked and they would also be able to explore the laboratory.

There were other things too. They had found the trappings of a human life with only a hint of vampirism but as they searched a little further behind there was evidence of a more paranoid mind. They found mechanisms attached to a grandfather clock and the bookshelf but they had been disabled or disarmed. Da'nael would notice behind the bookcase was a particular nasty looked barbed spear sitting poised and ready but the trigger had been disconnected. Ka'ris noticed that one if the stones near the door was a very delicate and we'll concealed touchplate that only her enhanced senses could detect. Remarkably they had all stepped on that stone but it had not triggered anything discernable. Even though she noticed the apparent trap her senses remained peeled around her to the living bodies nearby that she could tear apart. With two being family her hunger for carnage largely focussed on Alinnor and her mind, despite herself, constantly sought an excuse to tear the elf to pieces and revel on the blood. There was no sign that this feeling would wear away soon as she had consumed far more blood than Da'nael had done. The paranoia remained and was something that bade her powerfully to keep her personal demons to herself.

"The baron trusted me implicitly." Alinnor explained as she prepared to step downstairs "it's a good sign this door was locked. He was an accomplished alchemist. His alchemical vampiric blood experiments was why the Everqueen had sought him out in the first place"

Alinnor didn't think anything of her comment. She had not previously revealed much in their first meeting and there was no telling exactly what she would know or what they would find downstairs inside the alchemical lab of an immortal being with plenty of time to experiment and the relative safety from harm.

Ardanon

The first 3 made their way slowly and nervously. Despite reassurances no one wanted to test the strength of the rune enhanced shield. The progress was slow but one person returned and the second group left.

It was here that someone stumbled on the ground. It was slippery quite slippery and although the scout caught themselves the echo enhanced the sound. The group stopped in its tracks and made not a single movement as the echo eventually died down. No icicles fell. The 2nd group passed without any issue as did the third.

The fourth and final group was the rune covered man, Ardanon and the dwarf. The group travelled with their hands holding the enlarged shield upright. Everyone would have thought the dwarf would have made the noise but apparently when he focussed the dwarf could hold his equipment tightly and we'll packed. We'll packed enough that it barely made a sound. In the end it was someone who could not catch their sneeze across the opposite end that made a loud voice that sent a cacophony of sound throughout the cavern.

It started with a sound of a loud crack followed by another with each sound adding to the risk and danger. Then an icicle fell...

It hit the shield above them with a thundering crack and echo that started a rain of ice across the cavern. The shield withheld the strike but the man and elf holding the shield felt the accelerated weight of the icicle as it shattered and slid off around them. They may be safe from being crushed by an icicle but could they bear the weight of consistent strikes? Ardanon already felt the sudden shock and strain from the first. The end was in sight they need only get a few paces but the icicles were falling all around without much of a pattern to discerning a split second decision.

As before they had a choice of going by the water that was relatively clear of obstacles but icy cold or by the ground which was rough and covered with icicles and other stalagmites.
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Old August 14, 2019, 08:30 PM   #327
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He searched through the Baron’s belongings with due haste. Most of what he uncovered was useless for all practical purposes. Under other circumstances he might have enjoyed pondering the histories behind some of the documents and items that he found, but unfortunately, he did not have the luxury of time on his side. For all he knew, the Everqueen’s demise had not resulted in the scattering of the orcish army.

His companions, it seemed, had had similar luck. After he returned to the waiting room, he fielded Da’nael and Ka’ris’ reports, neither of them remotely helpful. It seemed that the Baron enjoyed his share of spring-loaded traps, but luckily, the ones that his brethren located had not been triggered. Faust sighed. He supposed that he should have expected as much from their search. Why would the Baron hide an exit from Castle Nocturna to the base of the mountain inside his personal chamber, which potential enemies could use to strike at him while he was unaware.

Ka’ris was fortunate not to have inadvertently harmed herself when she had stepped on the trigger plate, one that had been deftly concealed from all of them. As she showed Faust where it was, he noted the constant twitch that flickered across her face. She was struggling, he knew. When in Aeternia would that damned blood wear off? He masked his concern for the moment. All he could do was hope that its effects would run their course like they had in Da’nael.

Still, he was mindful to keep an eye on her, knowing that at any moment she could possibly lose control of herself and succumb to her vampiric urges.

When it was time to explore the laboratory, Faust joined Alinnor and proceeded downstairs. “What sort of experiments was he last working on?” he asked the Syl’rosyan elf. Perhaps that information would tell him a lot about how the Everqueen had manipulated the orcs through the blood, or even more interestingly, the Baron. Of course, Faust knew firsthand now that the Everqueen had been a powerful mystic, but that still did not explain how she had controlled him for so many years.

The Baron was a powerful man. Surely her magic could not have ruled him for so long?

Do you know what types of concoctions the Everqueen had sought from him?” he next inquired. Faust hoped that Alinnor knew more about alchemy than the rest of them did. If the orcs were indeed still set on their course, perhaps there would be a way to undo the effects of the Everqueen’s hold on them.

* * * * *

It had been a sound plan, a very sound plan – that is, until everything went to hell.

Feth.

Run!” Ardanon sharply said, his eyes widening frantically as the first icicle fell and triggered a chain reaction of other falling ones. The time for stealth had ended. If they dallied any longer, they would likely be crushed or impaled where they stood.

Only a few paces to go . . .

Beneath the shield, Ardanon urged his comrades onward. There was a pool of water nearby, yes, but their bodies would probably freeze as soon as they leapt into it.

In any case, they were close. As a precautionary measure, the wizard reached into his reservoir of vis and prepared to draft a simple, overhead Force Shield above the group as they ran if he could.

If not, he would simply focus on reaching the end.
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Old August 15, 2019, 07:31 PM   #328
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Faust

As the small party went down into the laboratory a small rumble started. Somewhere beneath them something shifted. Something loud and probably destructive. It was no more than a tremor and it caused glass vials to move and clank and lasted barely a moment but it was enough to indicate some form of calamity nearby beneath them somewhere.

The laboratory itself had the familiar trappings of the alchemy trade wherever one would look. Candles, alembics, filters, mortar and pestle, ingredients, herbs and stored vials of unknown origin and effect. There was a whole stock of them in a wooden storage unit and each was labelled. Some appeared very much alike those that Da'nael had been given from the baron earlier.

Unfortunately though labelled the names did not necessarily reveal the intended use. Many unknowns remained.

The black ichor that moved like a liquid and a fog in constant flux was named Thunderstruck

The dark red ichor was more sensibly named link amplifier apparently not following the same naming convention as the rest.

The light Blue bottle was named Flash lightening

The thick orange quicksilver like substance was named Binding Agent Orange

It would be up to the party to guess what they had already taken in alchemical potions. Other items in storage included Greenskin tonic, Blessings of Na'Molech, Jalat's embrace, Empathy of love

There was also one other door, Dwarven by design but built as if to withstand powerful attacks. A very strong door that appeared made of stone rather than would. A few stains indicated that something had been applied to it after it had been installed. With vyssticci sight in the dark it wasn't entirely clear the details of what they were seeing back in the background Alinnor was lighting up the lamps that brought everything into more detail.

The stains were apparently purplish in origin and matches none of the existing stock of potions they had seen. The door, however, had a familiar looking lock attached to a much grander mechanism than the other doors.

On another table, of immediate scrutiny of Da'nael who still felt the attractive pull of vampire blood, and Ka'ris who really could not think of anything else with any clarity, was a large bottle with the seal removed, that was clearly vampire blood. It was set near the alchemical equipment as if to be used in making a new alchemical mix. The pull for Ka'ris was many times stronger than her brother and she felt herself drawn to it, wanting to drown her insides in the sweet nectar of blood of which vampiric was just among one of the delicacies she currently craved. Seeing blood out in the open like that was pure and excurciating torment to resist the urge to drown herself in it. Giving in however... That was a promise of ecstatic bliss

Breaking the moment of silence between actions Alinnor answered Faust's earlier question

"he had been perfecting a way to make vampiric blood a means for the community to community directly." Alinnor explained "Using the causal link between the vampire and recipient, he had explained to me once, it might be possible to allow minds to telepathically connect. He had limited success. You may have noticed that people tended toward knowing their role and the needs of others? That was the blood. Some attuned to it better than others and they served as the logisticians of the community. The benefit added was that everyone appeared to have a greater appreciation and understanding of one another. If the baron is truly gone it may be that the blood just cannot function as it once did. Maybe some could salvage the link? Maybe not. Maybe a new benevolent vampire is needed to keep the peace?"

Alinnor looked listless and despairing even as she further explained the work

"Raw vampiric blood will normally turn users into monsters seeking only more blood over time." Alinnor said casually looking at Ka'ris and the rest "or risk their turning to vampires when a would-be death may have occurred. The exact time and cause of vampirism was not quite known even when deliberately trying to turn a person."


Ardanon

Aeternia fell upon the remaining group as icicles fell but it was only a small moment of time. The noise was overwhelming and confusing and although he tried to put together a force shield the remaining power.he had in his untested body could not muster the spell. What remained was the impetus to move quickly out of harm's way.

So the group moved as quickly as they could manage in close proximity with the icicles bearing down and sending jarring pains down the arms of those who could actually reach the shield. At one point it forced them to their knees but the group quickly managed to get back up again with the help of the dwarf's strength lifting the weight of the shield back up out of his reach.

Kalannar had already been safely transported across. Perhaps a small blessing? The danger in the end did not come from above but from the sides as they maneuvered around the stalagmites. What could be described as shrapnel of rock, mineral and ice ricocheted over the group reflecting off of armour and occasionally hitting exposed skin. Tiny cutes and abrasions followed but ultimately they made it across in mostly one piece. Behind them the roof was now mostly baron of icicles and in their places was broken icy stubs that would overtime form again into a dangerous obstacle for other would be interlopers. A natural defense to a pathway that promised access to the castle. Something that was not lost on the dwarf when they made it across

"I couldn't have made a more dangerous trap if I tried" the dwarf commented as he checked over the minor wounds across his body "I doubt most people would come prepared with an ikonomancer or mage ready to counter that field of icicles. We must be on the right track"

The path beyond appeared clear and lead toward what looked like a very strong reinforced door. It was no grand entrance or the like but it promised to lead somewhere fortified by design. Not lost on Ardanon was the fact that kalannar's familiar family mark had been etched into the stone next to the door. Another blessing seemed to be that overcoming the icicle field had quietened down tensions in the group. They now waited on Ardanon's instruction on what to do next.
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Old August 15, 2019, 08:39 PM   #329
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The sudden rumble beneath them had the Vysstichi Lord crouching low in a defensive stance, his feet wide apart and his hands already latched on to the hilts of his blades. Another attack? An earthquake? He half-expected another vampire to break through the stone floor and suddenly assail them. However, the moment gradually passed, and with it any suspicions that the four of them in the room were in peril. “What was that?” he asked, more to himself than those around him as they were equally as unlikely to know the answer given their current situation.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t sound good,” Da’nael replied. The huge warrior grimaced and glanced at Ka’ris, whose struggle continued in a way that he could only partially imagine. Having imbibed the vampire blood himself and experienced its effects, he knew that the High Priestess’ challenge was not an easy one, especially because she had drank far more than a single vial.

When they reached the laboratory, Da’nael rested his large hands on Ka’ris shoulders to soothe her and to support her. The sight of the blood on one of the tables nearby had him gently turning the mystic away from it and towards the heavy door that stood near the back of the room. It was far sturdier than any of the other ones that they had passed thus far.

It must have taken him eras to create all of this,” Faust said after Alinnor explained what the Baron had been doing in the laboratory. The silver-haired swordsman meandered around the room, careful not to touch anything except with his eyes. He did not recognize any of the concoctions, nor was he familiar with those that were labeled. Some of them, like “Greenskin tonic,” suggested what they were useful for, but without any explanation whatsoever of their purpose, it was like learning a new language.

Or maybe without the link, the blood will run its course and everyone will return to normal,” Faust speculated when Alinnor suggested that a benevolent vampire might be able to restore the connection. He supposed that such was possible, but was that what the community wanted? Was that what they needed? To be controlled by an overlord? Indeed, that subjugation was exactly what Kalannar had opposed in regards to the Everqueen. In any case, it was not Faust’s prerogative to say.

What sort of blood was in the infirmary?” Da’nael suddenly asked Alinnor, and the way that his gaze slid to Faust conveyed the reason for his question.

Faust nodded slightly, then moved towards the heavy door. Once again he reached into his pocket and retrieved the Baron’s key. He tried to insert it into the keyhole and turn it to unlock it. In the meantime, he studied the purple stain up close, wondering what it was and why it had marred the door.

The stain did not match any of the vials in the room, which led Faust to wonder whether or not the Baron had hurled the substance at the doors out of frustration or for another reason. Regardless, once again mindful that time was not on their side, he hoped that they could proceed onward without dallying too much longer. So long as they were without an alchemist, it would be absolutely foolish to try using any of the Baron’s creations for anything.

Besides, judging from the way that Ka’ris was struggling, Faust wanted to get her away from the blood on the tables as soon as possible.

* * * * *

Ardanon could barely breathe by the time they reached the other side of the icicle-covered cavern. A few cuts and lacerations covered his arms and legs where he had bumped into the stalagmites along the way. The others, too, seemed to be in similar conditions.

That was close,” he said, pausing to regain his breath and to rest some. When the dwarf spoke, he turned towards the short man and nodded in agreement. “Luckily, the icicles won’t have formed again if we have to return this way."

Or so he hoped.

It was then that his gaze landed upon what appeared to be a heavy door, and more importantly, a familiar etching beside it. His spirit lifted.

Kalannar’s mark.

We made it . . .” the wizard could barely believe it. Nodding to his companions, he motioned with his chin towards the door to direct their attention towards it. Kalannar’s sign could only mean one thing: they had reached their destination.

He could only hope now that it was not locked when they tried to get through it.
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Old August 18, 2019, 07:14 PM   #330
Argon Shatterskin
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Wanderer
Posts: 846
Wealth Tier: Sterling
Argon Shatterskin is a famous HeroArgon Shatterskin is a famous Hero
Ka'ris could hear it. Behind that sturdy and silent door was the sound of activity just barely audible through the very very solid material.

As Faust turned the lock Ardanon and his group were taken by surprise as the mechanisms beyond their sight began to clink and release as if by magically detecting their presence.

As the door opened the party had no time to hide from the occupants and Ka'ris no time to warn Faust or the others and so the two parties stood face to face on opposing sides of the door each with their mission to get to the other side.

Kalannar lay just beyond sight for Faust but there was no mistaking the fact there was a stretcher and Kalannar would soon be revealed to the High lord as he moved around.

Whether or not the community would he relieved to see Faust was not immediately obvious as the initial confusion of their greeting appeared to have left them half on guard still. No one expecting to find an alchemical lab on the other side in Ardanon's group either....

Now each had their story to tell that could lift the veil of smoke and reveal the missing pieces.but as seemed to always be the case one life, and many other lives, hung in the balance of the decisions.
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Ikonomancer, axeman, wall painter in rouge. A 'hero'
Known runes: Brittle, Long, Sharp - each of these are tattoed upon the right oversized arm
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