On Monday, April 7, Year 4, three Citadel House adventurers head north, seeking out seemingly missing surveyors who were evaluating land for a new settlement about a day’s walk North toward Gnomish lands. They are:
- Agon (HuS): Level 2 Elf Magic-user (Fear and Stealth)
- Cripis (CoB): Level 2 Halfling Fighter
- Conan (MiM): Level 1 Elf Magic-user (Fire and Wind)
With 5 days of food, they set out, taking the road to Confluence and from there choosing to follow the river where the new settlement will be located. The weather is nice, and despite Cripis’ short legs, they make good time, camping 10 miles up river from Confluence. They assume it can’t be far to the surveyors’ camp and agree to continue two hours (3 miles) further up river in the morning before leaving it to search the surrounding woods for them.
The morning is fair weather again and they make it two more miles up river before spying tents of Vale design in the woods not far from the river. They go to investigate and find it is the surveyors’ camp, apparently unvisited for several days. A map of their progress shows that they have only begun and suggests that if they keep to their pattern they will be in the Northern hills or at least toward them. They search the surrounding terrain and despite no expertise find a pair of departing tracks without returning ones that confirm their assessment of the map.
They set out to follow the trail, but without a tracker among them stumble from sign to sign, taking 4 hours (including a brief lunch) to make a little over 2 miles at it, at which time they see a stout building of black stone ahead. The circle it, finding a door, and surmise that the surveyors must have gone inside.
Using a magical light created by Agon, they enter, Cripis taking the lead. The building is full of mirrors, but nothing else and they are soon confident in exploring it without being threatened. Agon soon learns that while the mirrors reflect most of the time, by looking directly into one he can see through to the other side. He quickly starts to look into each one, expecting to find the surveyors.
Most, he finds empty or if not occupied with the only the bones of the dead. One, at the end of one wing, is filled with a deep darkness that smothers the soft glow shared by the others. As he continues on his way around, he finds another with a living creature in it, an elf in ancient, tattered clothing. They try to speak to it, but it can’t seem to hear them. Agon urges Cripis to touch the mirror and he does so, feeling it immediately begin to pull on him. He struggles for a moment, but is sucked through the mirror, passing out from the trauma of the passage.
The elf inside is startled and curiously turns Cripis over to look at him, thoughtful. After racking his brain for a spell that might teleport him back out, Agon concedes that he doesn’t have the necessary mastery. Meanwhile, Conan attempts to break a different mirror, succeeding only to find that it closes the window off completely. There is only stone behind the mirror.
Agon moves away to investigate the largest mirror at the far end of the building (casting a new light spell), using his Tome of Knowledge to read the dwarvish engraved there: “The prisoners who enter here can never be released except with the keys of Ker Vedno. The inner prison cannot be accessed except by one who would be able to create it.” Investigating near the large mirror he is able to see numbers above each mirror, and looking into one he sees an elf and a human in Vale garb reclined against a wall, talking. On the mirror’s inside is written “Do not touch the mirrors. We have plenty of food.”
Before Agon can pass this warning on to Conan, he touches the mirror to go in and join Cripis. Conan is also knocked unconscious upon being dragged across the barrier. With no idea how to help them, Agon searches the rest of the mirrors, finding all the rest empty but one holding a skeletal figure that stares into the mirror with patient malice.
Upon returning to the mirror through which his companions passed, Agon sees the strange elf crouched close over Cripis. When he comes away, Agon sees blood on his mouth and drenching Cripis’ neck. He leaves Cripis and looks down on Conan for a moment before crouching over him and biting his neck. He leaves Conan after only a short while with much less mess. Agon blinks and the elf has vanished. He sits and watches a little while, watching his two companions grow pale.
Agon resigns himself that he can’t do anything to help his friends at the moment, but not having given up goes out into the surrounding woods to gather firewood and set snares for some animal he can send through the mirror with a message.
Meanwhile, Conan awakes in a room of dark stone lit with dim, magical light. He sees Cripis lying covered in blood beside him and immediately attempts to tend his neck wound, which is no longer bleeding. With no sign of the unusual elf about, Conan puts a little light in each of the corners, finding a bat in one of them that suddenly transforms into the elf when exposed. He eagerly approaches Conan for conversation and Conan gives a false name and occupation. Though the elf is hungry for information, Conan provides very little, though enough to inform him that the prison guards are no more and that he has another friend on the outside who might be able to help them out.
At dinner time, the wall opposite the mirror lowers into the floor and a gaint mass of what looks vaguely like snot presses into the opening, filling it. It deposits a membrane sphere of blood and then withdraws. Conan agrees there may be an opportunity to damage the snot creature the next time it appears and volunteers that he can cast a trap spell on the door to go off when it next opens. Conan refuses to eat the blood when offered by the elf, so the elf stores it away in a corner, assuring him he will be hungry and that his rations will not satisfy. They do not.
In parallel with their plan to overcome the food deliverer, Conan writes a message to Agon on the mirror with the best information he has gathered from the elf, telling him he will need a key of numbers and to find his way to the inner prison, which he interprets as coming through the mirror. Conan sleeps, not seeing any way to avoid sleeping alone with the strange elf.
Agon also sleeps without watch, counting on the building to remain undisturbed as it has apparently been for many years. In the morning, Wednesday, Agon sets out to check his traps and sees smoke from a campfire nearby. He creeps towards it and finds 4 Kobolds eating their breakfast. He determines he would like to talk to them, if able, as directed by Matthias in the hope restoring some kind of relations with them. Agon is not naive and encharges a rock to explode with cold and death energy on impact before approaching their camp. One of the Kobolds speaks elvish and they dialogue a little, with the Kobold avoiding direct answers with respect to their intentions with the Vale. When the lead Kobold grows tired of the exchange, he orders an attack at which time Agon wins initiative and hurls his rock, damaging himself only a little and blowing all of the kobolds to pieces. He searches their camp, finding little besides a few coins. He moves on to his traps, coming up with one rabbit to be used as a messenger.
Meanwhile, in the cell, Conan casts a concussive trap on the hidden door and they wait for the blob to arrive. When it does, the trap is triggered, visibly damaging it but knocking Conan unconscious with its force. Agon arrives to find Conan unconscious and the elf tending to him. He writes a note to attach to it, asking for more information about how to get into the inner prison and warning that if the rabbit is harmed there will be no rescue. He then speaks to the rabbit, convincing it to touch the mirror and it is sucked through. The elf is startled by the animal’s appearance, but soon manages to catch it and read the note, writing a response on the mirror.
Guided by the imprisoned elf’s note, Agon goes back to the large mirror at the back of the building and considers again what was written there. He surmises that the mirrors use some kind of portal magic to transport people to another location. After some attempts to recall his portal lessons from magic school and some failed experiments, he manages to open a portal in the large mirror.
He passes through into a magically (though partially) lit grid of corridors he assumes to be the inner prison. He soon find himself being pursued by the giant snot creature, which expands to fill all passageways, usually floor to ceiling. He manages to throw it off, fleeing to the end of a hall and then teleporting across a corner into a corridor blind to the blob. He then teleports into a cell he believes will be empty where he recovers his spell points and plans his next steps.
Rejuvenated, he ventures out again, using his knowledge of the mirror numbers to first locate the pair of surveyors and then go to join Conan and the unusual elf in their cell, eluding the blob through teleportations into rooms all the way. After a miss or two (but none so bad as entering one of the other two occupied cells), Agon and the surveyors arrive in the cell with Conan and the elf, who has managed to bring Conan back around and convince him to consume the sphere of blood to help recover.
Agon is resolute that they all manage to escape while leaving the unusual elf behind, knowing for certain that it was he who killed Cripis but not daring to fight him. He takes a moment to recover his spell points and comfort the traumatized rabbit and they agree that he (who can make the portal) will go last, right behind the elf, the two of them carrying Cripis’ body out. Agon makes the decision, though, to leave Cripis in order to keep the elf from going with them. He waits until the portal is about to close and then drops the body to leap through ahead of it.
After a little more effort to elude the great blob, Conan, Agon, and the two surveyors escape the inner prison and return to the hall of mirrors through a last portal created by Agon. They return that day, Wednesday, to the surveyors’ camp where they weather a night storm. Lightning strikes and Conan and Agon are saved only by the shield summoned by the tent given to them by the Satyr elder.
On Thursday, they make it back to Citadel with the surveyors and report the events, including the discovery of an ancient prison and the death of Cripis. They learn that Torren escaped custody during the week, presumably taking up a life in the wilderness.
Part of the reason I’m prepared to let players die in unfortunate ways like this is the softening of consequences from death from the nature of Jazz Band adventures, where we all understand PCs may die, but the story isn’t about an individual PC, it’s about their impact on the world as a whole. The death of Cripis isn’t the death of a story line, only of one of the characters. Read more about Jazz Band from Rick Stump!