Our curious adventurers now know where to go to find more of the Sarpin crystals and learn how they can be employed. Despite concerns about how to get into the goblin city without having to fight the entire population, they proceed through the dark tunnels, following the tracks of goblin wagons as best their feeble lantern allows. The party is:
- Hilbrent Firebrand: Human Magic-user, Level 5
- Don “Juan” Ashe, Human Soldier henchman, Level 2
- Benquil Barrison Del’Armgo: Half-Drow Thief, Level 5
- Mickey Heron, Human Padfoot henchman, Level 2
- Lamila Umdril: Half-Orc, Half-Elf Fighter, Level 5
- Matchitihew: Half-Lizardfolk, Half-Ospryte Cleric, Level 5
Early into their second 8 hour trek, Benquil (using his infrared vision to go ahead of the light) stops at a fork to let them catch him up and it becomes apparent they have entered a higher traffic area. Though both directions show signs of passage and the wagon ruts are not to be seen, they choose the wider path and proceed.
After going only a little farther, Benquil rounds a corner and sees several goblins ahead, apparently a guard post as they lounge about in huts and tents, only a couple of them on watch. The goblins don’t seem to have notice him, so he doubles back and stops the lantern from proceeding.
After a quick discussion, they decide to give Hilbrent’s new-found language a chance. He and Benquil proceed into the dark, Hilbrent greeting the unseen goblins while Benquil guides him. The goblins are leery of the big people, especially when Hilbrent invokes Warqua’s name. Hilbrent quickly recovers, realizing that the goblins’ relationship with Warqua is one of contract, not contact.
He explains that they sought out Warqua and spoke to him on account of a companion who had received a vision from Rukarah, the goblin deity regarding the crystals. Warqua had referred them here. They find the idea of a big person receiving a vision from Rukarah unlikely, but send runners to go bring a priest to hear the story of the vision.
While the priest is retrieved, Benquil goes back to bring Lamila out (the supposed visionary). The goblin priest arrives and Lamila begins explaining to Hilbrent the dream she had, including the parts to leave out. Before Hilbrent can translate, the priest buts in in perfect Vardor. He questions Lamila about the goblin hunting aspect of the vision. After a short exchange, he determines that Lamila should be tested in the eyes of Rukarah by the Sarpin Rite. They lead the party—lantern, lizard, and all—to guest chambers (which look suspiciously like prison cells) before leading Lamila to a central square.
The square is split by two long gorges from which purple light emanates. A massive purple crystal at the intersection of the gorges has been chiseled and cut into a shape that can only be Rukarah: a three-armed, horned, single-winged goblin of grotesque appearance. Workers still swarm scaffolding around it, working away at the statue. The priest explains that for the Sarpin Rite, Lamila must climb down into the chamber cut into the crystal under the statue of Rukarah and stay there until called forth.
Lamila removes her plate mail, leaving the gauntlets on to protect her from the crystals she will have to use as hand holds as she descends into the gorge. She whispers through Hilbrent’s Sensory Extension walky-talky that she is about to climb and if she doesn’t get in contact soon, she is dead and they should come get her body.
The climb down is arduous with her lack of climbing ability, but after getting stuck a couple times, she makes it into the chamber. Lamila informs Hilbrent that she’s fine and Hilbrent recommends concentrating on staying conscious and using Rage to keep it up if she feels herself slipping.
The oppressive aura of the Sarpin crystal structure around her slowly numbs her body and exhausts her mind. She rages, but it fends off the effects only a few seconds. She stands up to pace, but soon succumbs, passing out on the floor of the chamber.
Hilbrent hears the thud and continues trying to get through, but given what he knows of the crystals does not expect her to have died from the aura alone.
Lamila meanwhile enters a dream state. The dream is an interactive replay of the dream she had the night before the battle between the Dark Mind and Broken Bow tribes. Sirin approaches her and, concerned at her disorientation, offers any help she may need.
Before Lamila can make a request, she finds herself following a wagon, a familiar purple glow under the canvas. She approaches the train and its guards, claiming that Rukarah has sent her. They are suspicious, saying she must come with them. She gives up her axe, allowing the goblins to tie her hands and tether her to the wagon.
She blinks and finds herself under bow and spell fire. She throws a rock ineffectually, then charges the enemy. She swings powerfully (but inaccurately) and her swing brings her into a spin that tunnels down into the earth. She finds herself in dark tunnels. Sounds of chisels and picks can be heard ahead down the tunnels. She moves towards it, soon seeing a purple glow ahead. She hears Hilbrent whispering, “Lamila, are you alright?”
She awakes lying on the cold, hard crystal. “I’m fine.” As she stands, almost without feeling, the priest calls for her to come forth. The climb up is much easier, aided by her boots of haste. The priest is surprised to see her alive and announces that she has been embraced by Rukarah and will be allowed to learn the secrets of the Sarpin crystals in the temple.
They carry her, her axe, and her armor back to the guest quarters to rejoin the party. They offer the party guides and translators to show them around the city and inform them that when Lamila has recovered she will be brought to the temple to be initiated as a disciple of Rukarah.
Match and Benquil set off together, looking for a purveyor of dark magics, an herbalist, and a fence. They are led first to a large shop run by the resident necromancer, who is less discreet than they expected. They learn that he rents his undead out for labor and the like. Match wants to buy books on necromancy from him, but frames the request carefully, aware that the necromancer probably doesn’t want competition. The necromancer is willing to part with his basic tome, which he has studied cover to cover many times, for 100 gold coins. Match requests a more advanced tome and the goblin offers one for 150 gold coins. They negotiate a little, Match offering some items in trade and eventually settle on the two tomes for 50 gold coins, 5 karza scales, and Warqua’s armor-enchanted tunic of dubious visual appeal.
The necromancer (Talruk) refers them to the herbalist he uses and they head there, Benquil replenishing his poison supplies and adding three acidic solvents to his inventory: hydrochloric acid, bile drake saliva, and vinegar. The herbalist refuses to sell him Sarpin powder, since its supply is strictly controlled by the city council and the Church of Rukarah.
Hopeful, they proceed to the fence, a skulking goblin named Lurrien, where Benquil negotiates the sale of the goblin captain’s Sarpin infused plate mail, lance, and kite shield along with Warqua’s +2 rapier and 15 karza scales in exchange for a sack of Sarpin powder and some gold.
Hilbrent has meanwhile been perusing the market with Don and Mickey, sensing for magical artifacts. He eventually comes across something, an aura indicative of a microspace able to hold objects while negating their weight. He tracks it to a ring on a table among other rings. Despite attempts to be nonchalant, the shop keeper points out it’s the only thing he’s picked up, asking 250 gold coins.
Hilbrent knows its market value in a developed market for magical items would be a little over 200 gold coins. Confronted with this, the goblin seller argues that if these things were trivial to come by, then the cost of producing them would be a fair price, but this is the only one Hilbrent’s seen around here, and he obviously wants it. Hilbrent shrugs and starts to walk away, saying he knows someone who might be interested and he’ll be back. The goblin keeps calling him back, eventually dropping his price to 205 gold coins with the claim he is taking a loss. Hilbrent borrows money from Don and Mickey to buy the ring, then selling it to Benquil for 215 gold coins and reimbursing Don and Mickey. Benquil gives everyone their share of the loot sales.
Meanwhile at the temple, Lamila suffers the screeching musical worship of the goblins (as does Hilbrent, listening through his magic ear). She is brought before the temple’s central altar and instructed to lie down on the altar to receive the mark of Rukarah. They offer to bind her to prevent reactions to the pain, but she refuses. They then bring out a Sarpin crystal with one end carved like an insignial stamp. Two goblins hold the crystal against her shoulder while a third swings a large hammer with a crystal head. The crystal bites deep into her flesh and her arm and mind go numb.
The goblins quickly bind her wound, explaining that they would heal it by magic, but the mark would not be left. She must heal naturally to keep the scar. They then ask her if she is ready to perform a task to show what she brings to Rukarah. She indicates that she is ready.
A massive machine is brought out with two great arms each holding a crystal. The machine is triggered and the crystals dashed together. A portal opens on a land of clouds, as if in the air.
Lamila leaps through the portal and is carried away by a powerful wind. She struggles with being blown along grabbing at birds but eventually gets enough control to guide herself. Initially, she wants to return to the portal rapidly shrinking into the distance behind her, but then she sees a castle of clouds off ahead. She rides the wild wind currents toward it, having to change often to stay on course, but eventually reaching it.
She crashes down into the cloud foundation of the castle. At the castle gate stand two whirlwind guards, air elementals. She approaches and they use their powerful gusts of wind to drive her back. She charges again, evading gusts of winds and chopping ineffectually through one of the elementals. She quickly realizes her error, fleeing the fight and pushing through the cloud wall.
She finds herself in a massive great hall with cloud pillars and vaulted windows in the cloud walls. On a great, cloudy, bejeweled throne sits a titan elemental. “Why have you disturbed my throne room, corporeal one?” he demands.
Lamila explains that she has come on behalf of the god Rukarah to seek knowledge from the powerful air elementals. The elemental king is pleased with the appeal from a mortal god ponders what knowledge he can share. He eventually settles on sending her back to Rukarah with one of the massive cloud gems from his throne, that Rukarah might study it and learn the shaping of clouds.
Thanking him, Lamila leaves the castle, flying easily on the winds back to the portal. She offers the cloud gem to the goblin priests who celebrate her prize joyously before sacrificing it to Rukarah in a pyre of purple flame on the altar. They then lead her deeper into the temple, teaching her of the uses of Sarpin crystals, Hilbrent listening all along. Her training complete, she is invited to stay, but given the great gift of the cloud gem that she had gained, permit her to leave if she desires. She requests Sarpin crystals to take with her on her way and is given 4 small shards.
Resupplied and their purpose achieved, the party prepares to set out, but to where?