Monday, August 10, 2020

DnD 5e Interlude: White Plume Mountain 5

We're currently on the far end of the floating river from Sir Bluto Sans Pite, and Jhuni has rejoined us; we have a plan.

Character Recap:
Jhuni Blackfire (she/her) - modestly pyromaniacal Sorcerer/Wizard
Thelmor Irdro (he/him) - Blood Hunter of the Lycan persuasion
Nil (they/them) - badass Cleric
Snow (she/her) - Swashbuckler and Gloomstalker Ranger
Sunrise (she/her) - Lore Bard - and Honey (she/her) her homunculus familiar
Perfect (he/him) - Battlemaster fighter
Grey (he/him) - Assassin/Illusionist

Sunrise, using the Message spell: "Sir Bluto of Greyhawk, I presume?"

Sir Bluto: "Who is this?"

Sunrise: "A friend, I hope. Tell me, who exactly are you lying in wait for?"

Sir Bluto: "I lie in wait for those who foolishly rush forward. How do you know this?"

Sunrise: "I have eyes everywhere. That's very mysterious, though. What of those who come forward cautiously? And then there's your reputation; we all know the stories."

Sir Bluto: "And how do I know that you're not trying to trap the trappers?"

Sunrise: "Wouldn't I have made a move instead of contacting you?"

Sir Bluto: "Contact me is a move."

Sunrise: "True, but knowing the past is hardly a strategic advantage for the present."

Sir Bluto: "What do you want? The price on my head? Or to join me? Or to join something darker?"

Sunrise: "Curiosity. Are you trapped down here?"

Bluto: "My men and I can be very strong swimmers."

Sunrise: "Is there an easier way to have this conversation -- safely, in person?"

Bluto: "How would we avoid the possibility that one of us might just reach out and attack each other?"

Sunrise: "We would have to trust each other."

Bluto: "Arrive in the boat. We will not harm you. The moment any of you strike, we will end you."

Sunrise: "And why are you poised to attack any who foolishly rush in?"

Bluto: "Those are my orders."

Sunrise: "You would disobey those orders for me? I'm touched."

SB: "You don't know the full extent of my orders, but.... know that I am not willing to harm someone who hasn't tried to harm me."

Snow: "That 'join with something darker' but sounded a bit like a confession."

Nil: "He did confess when he was first arrested; but I don't know exactly what that means."

Sunrise: "I think he was feeling me out."

Nil: "If you want to speak with this man, I will go with you. I am a cleric, and it is sometimes considered bad luck to harm the follower of a god."

Thelmor: "I will go to. If my suspicion is correct, and Bluto is serving this wizard, then he should be dealt with."

We ready the canoes, and set illusions in the first one; Sunrise is recast as a beautiful Elf woman, and Jhuni makes Nil look more formidable and orcish, like a suitable guard for her. Honey, Sunrise's familiar, is around in the other tunnel, watching.

The kayak is stopped, and the knights try to talk to the figures in it. Sir Bluto is the one who turns to look at Honey and give  a little wave. The men release the boat, and it begins the journey back around. (Sort of a Disney Splash Mountain arrival...) So, we go: Sunrise & Nil; Jhuni and Grey; Thelmor and Perfect; and Snow in the final boat. As each boat comes in the men stop it and help people out.

So far, so good. The stream is flowing through empty air in the middle of the room. The room is 50' x 70' with some beds along one side. There are eight knights, armed with various weapons and different types of armor, but Sir Bluto is clearly in charge. Sunrise makes eye contact as she goes through, and Sir Bluto immediately turns to her once we've exited the boat.

Sunrise: "A pleasure to meet you face to face."

Bluto: "I am Sir Bluto; these are my eight companions."

Sunrise: "Do you get many visitors here?"

Bluto shrugs. "Some more hostile than others."

Sunrise: "Perhaps we'll be a pleasant surprise. What happened to you after you vanished from the world? Have you been down here this whole time?"

Bluto: "We have. With the law on my heels, you ask me what brought me here?"

Sunrise: "Inside a mountain ruled by an apparently immortal wizard, in a room with a floating river? Interesting choice."

Bluto: "It's not a choice I am proud of, but it is one that I would make again under the circumstances."

Light in this room comes from a set of makeshift sconces, some Light and Continual Flame spells.

Sunrise: "Coming here seemed like a better option than trying to clear your name?"

Bluto: "My name could not easily be cleared, perhaps not at all. My name is tarnished."

Sunrise: "Does that mean that you are guilty?"

Sir Bluto: "That night was a very complicated sequence of events. There are many things that happened, and I do not know if anyone would believe me if I told--"

Sunrise: "One way to find out."

Sir Bluto: "I woke up covered in blood, with the bodies of the children hanging over me. I held the instruments of their destruction in my hands. Surely I must have been guilty, so I confessed; but information came to me that I was framed, so I fled with those who would follow me."

Sunrise: "You have no memory of committing murder?"

Bluto: "I do not believe in committing murder. To kill in battle is one thing; to harm an innocent is something else entirely."

Thelmor: "So what justice do you serve hiding down here and killing those who wander into your trap?"

Bluto: "My... employer... did not give us much of a choice. We came here seeking the murderer, and we found instead his employer hovering over the murderer's dead body. We could join him, or sustain him. He does not just kill; he feeds on the souls of those he kills."

Sunrise: "So your choice was to serve him, or be served to him."

Thelmor: "Tell us of your employer."

Bluto: "He is a wizard, and uses the name of Keraptis; I have no reason to believe that he lies about that. He is a thin man, tall. I have only seen his face once, and I do not wish to ever see it again. His body is long-since dead, but there is something off about it. It wasn't quite there; like your illusions, it didn't quite seem right. It may have been an image."

Sunrise: "That would explain why he would feel safe enough to steal from those rich enough to hire wave after wave of adventurers."

Bluto: "Blackrazor, Wave, and Whelm. It looks as if you've retrieved one of them, at least. You're one of the most successful groups so far."

Nil: "So what is your job here? To wait with nets by the water?"

Bluto: "We sustain our employer with those who come down the stream. It is... not my choice. But I have not killed anyone who has not raised arms against me."

Nil: "So what do you do with those you net?"

Bluto: "We take them to... James? What's that word?"

James: "He calls it The Indoctrination Center, m'lord."

Sunrise: "So the murderer was in service to this wizard..."

Bluto: "The man had a journal on him. I have it still, but it reads like the ravings of a madman, and I do not believe it would clear my name. Plus, the way I obtained it was... not clean. Not honorable."

Sunrise: "And if you were to leave?"

Bluto: "I would be back on the menu. He has spies everywhere, people you wouldn't expect."

Nil: "So you believe he would know where you went, and his spies would move against you."

Grey: "It sounds as if you can only be safe if we kill your employer. And I am including you in that 'we'."

Bluto: "Thank you. I have tried to study his weaknesses, but I know very little. And I am leery of giving out my secrets without protections in place; I dare not tip my hand."

Sunrise: "If we are able to kill him, I cannot promise that we could clear your name. But I think I know some ways that it would be a lot more possible than you believe. At the very least, though, I could offer a much nicer cave with much less murdering."

Bluto: "Were he gone, I could perhaps retire to the countryside, live out the rest of my life in hiding. I have not given it much thought."

Nil: "Is there anything you can tell us?"

Sunrise: "And are there any assurances you need from us?"

Bluto: "I know that he is desperate to avoid having the weapons that he stole taken back. He does not want them together, in the hands of the same force. If you were to leave now, he would pursue, but not so hard as if you left with two, or even three."

Thelmor: "Does it have to do with the history of the weapons? Were they used together against him?"

Bluto, tapping the side of his nose: "I could not say."

Sunrise: "Would he know if you left your post?"

Bluto: "I do so when I have captives, and some other times. I would attempt to aid you if it were safe to do so, but... I cannot say when that would be."

Nil: "May I see this journal, this diary?"

Bluto: "...I suppose. It was the ravings in the journal that brought me here: go to White Plume Mountain. The deaths of the innocent are needed for sacrifice. It was only happy accident -- for him -- that I fell into his clutches. It seems the sacrifices was meant in some way to feed him."

Nil: "The librarian in town said that the wizard instituted a tax of children on his people, and that was what caused them to turn on him and rise up."

Bluto: "The journal is no better in my hands than anyone else's. Be my guest." He crosses to the living area, pulls out a tattered journal -- almost a spellbook, by the looks of it -- and hands it over to Nil. It is covered with scratched and etched arcane marks. Sunrise recognizes as Infernal, but the writing is gibberish.

Sunrise: "I recognize each of those words on their own, but... where did he learn Infernal from? He was terrible at it."

Bluto shrugs. "The previous owner was a human, though he said he was an elf."

Nil looks for the sigil of Keraptis on the book. Nil learns this is an arcane research book (not a spell book). The infernal (which Nil speaks) is gibberish. There are references to Keraptis and his symbol. A ritual involving children is mentioned, intended to "bring Keraptis back" or "wake him up". The language is unclear.

Bluto doesn't object to her reading it, so Nil settles in to read it.

Sunrise: "Is there anything else you'd like us to do?"

Bluto: "Stay alive."

Sunrise: "We'll do our best."

Bluto: "And... you never saw me."

Sunrise: "Who?"

Nil: "The murderer that you tracked here... you don't happen to know where his body is, do you?"

Bluto: "Disintegrated into dust."

Nil: "Do you mind if I hang onto this? We plan to come back to see you, and I'd like to study it."

Bluto: "You might die, but... keep it. For now. If you must leave the mountain, try to return it first."

Nil: "Is there another exit besides the stream?"

Bluto: "...There might be."

Nil: "--'Cause I really don't want to climb back into a canoe."

Bluto: "Find it, and I'll lead the way."

Nil turns and points. "That corner, the secret door."

Bluto: "...Why did you even ask?"

Nil: "I found a secret door out in the hallway; it made sense that it would connect to this room."

Bluto: "Very well, I'll lead you myself."

The wall folds back as he approaches it, revealing a secret tunnel. We follow him along.

Sunrise: "How do we open the other door?"

Bluto: "Every door has a key." He holds out a plain brass key.

Sunrise: "I don't suppose you have a copy of that? What are the chances that we could borrow that?"

Nil: "We don't need it. We could message him again, and he could come out to us."

Bluto: "It is magical. It is the presence of the key itself that opens the door. Though I hear a Knock spell opens many doors."

The passage leads us back out to the hallway, where he leaves us. He bids us farewell, with the hope that we are the last and most successful of the adventuring groups. Nil: "You stay safe as well." They are reading and walking at the same time.

Sunrise hangs back: "Would it be terribly, horribly inappropriate for me to give you a hug?"

He is hesitant, but he accepts it. Sunrise pulls him into an embrace and whispers: "I believe you. I'm going to fix this."

He squeezes and lets her go and she steps back out into the hallway. "Until later, then." He nods and steps back with a small smile, and the wall folds closed behind him.

We discuss the need to use the three weapons to defeat Keraptis, and the fact that it sounds like he's a powerful undead -- possibly a lich -- so we're going to need all three weapons and people who can use them to defeat him.

We make our way back to the gynosphynx, and Sunrise reminds us that the trident was probably north of us and the hammer to the east. We fall back into our cautious movement, tapping the floor as we advance. The water is deeper in a small circular area to the east.  There's a grate and a valve at the bottom of this ten foot pit. We try to open the valve with mage hand, but that's not enough force. Sunrise moves forward, but sees a water-floored room ahead with steps rising out of the far end; she looks around to see if the water here looks normal, and notices that the water seems deeper and darker towards the center of the room.

Discussion ensues; Nil thinks the valve might be a trap to release something horrible; Grey thinks it would probably be helpful to turn the valve and see what happens. Thelmor points out that the wizard is fond of kind of bullshit design choices and it's probably not helpful to try to second-guess him.

We drop a lit ball-bearing into the well; it doesn't show anything new and nothing particularly happens. We advance to the edge of the room, and toss another lit ball bearing into the center of the room where it's deeper. It's about a thirty foot toss, easily done, and the light fades as it sinks into the water. It also flickers a bit, then it moves toward the east and then vanishes.

Grey makes a particularly talkative minor illusion in the room; given the range on that cantrip, he can only get it about halfway across the room. Two things come out of the water, apparently made of plants, surrounding the "paladin". They try to touch, but their hands go through and they tilt their heads.

Nil casts a spell on the first one, and it fails its save; she can read its surface thoughts. (OOC: And the DM is broken, briefly, by this.) Its thoughts are mixture of Common and Sylvan, and it's thinking roughly *It makes noise but it does not harm us, it's not there but it hears us.* Nil tags Grey, who makes the illusion say: "I say, chaps! Are you... water... plant... people...?"

It makes a sort of wet speech: "What are you?"

Illusion: "I am... Sir Didymus of York! I have come to recover the stolen treasures. Would you care for a spot of tea?"

The second one speaks: "We know not this tea, but would you like to come and drink with us?"

They're kelpies, amphibious plants; they're known mostly for their shifting seaweed shape and their drowning hypnosis. They're probably trying to lure our illusion to his doom.

Nil: "We need to back away from this before they notice us."

Sunrise: "Wait, if we can see them, they can drown us?"

Nil: "Yes."

We decide to back away from the room and try the valve before we face off with the Plant Sirens. Grey is running interference with Sir Didymus ("I say, of course, a drink, underwater where nobody can breathe, who wouldn't desire such a thing?") and we manage to slip away unnoticed.

Nil: "They are above-average in physical strength, and could possibly drag us under the water."

Grey: "I could try to terrify them, too."

Nil: "Let's do this."

Nil shucks off her armor and dives down, then tries to turn the valve, and can feel the rusty metal creaking as she turnes it; then she hears something opening up somewhere nearby, and immediately swims back up to the surface. The water is now slowly moving; it's no longer still, and there's a current that seems to be moving towards the room. Better still, it seems to be lowering. It looks like we opened a drain in the pit that Nil was in.

We settle back to rest and wait, and Nil explains what she found in the journal: Bluto was framed, and the wizard whose research journal this was had been having dreams in which he was pursued by three shadowy figures. We have a lot of questions for the authorities who tried him.

The water has drained, and while there's still a bit of water in the well it's pretty low. The rest of us move up to the edge of the Kelpie room, and Snow tries to sneak in. Where the floor was covered in water earlier, we can now see a sort of ledge around the western edge of the room; the center area is deeper, about a fifteen foot pool. We can now see a path around the water, which potentially gives us a way to avoid the Kelpies.

So... caution is king. We tie ropes to Grey, behind his back where he can't easily get to them, and he hands his daggers over to Nil. He starts out stealthily, then makes a running long jump to get across the gap. He sees one of the creatures rise up and look around. It's looking directly at him.

Grey suddenly sees it as a beautiful woman as in a sea-green dress calling to him, but he doesn't feel the mental tug that should be there; it slips off him. Grey is aware of this, and that so many of these effects  can't affect you again for a while. "No thanks, not looking for a relationship. GUYS, THEY WILL NOTICE US AND WILL TRY TO CHARM US." The thing tries to slam him with vine-y tentacles, but misses. Grey races back to the group.

Nil suggests that we combine Water Walking with Beacon of Hope to up our saving throws; Sunrise points out that she can sing a countercharm. Water Walking and Countercharm are the plan; we rope off and walk across with Perfect, Sunrise, and Thelmor blindfolded.

The kelpies both rise out of the water, trying to charm Sunrise and Snow; Sunrise is blindfolded, and Snow is unaffected.

The kelpies decide to attack as we continue moving. Nil uses Command on one of them, saying "Halt." It stops dead in its tracks and looks *very* confused.

Grey drops a Phantasmal Force on the other one, making it believe it's been netted; it takes a bit of psychic damage and dissolves into a pile of seaweed that's trying to escape the net.

We reach the far side of the room and find a passage leading north and a door to the east; Nil taps the door with her staff, then Snow yanks the door open. It's swollen to fit the frame, but she yanks it open. The corridor immediatly begins spinning in a particularly psychedelic pattern. We settle back while Nil tries detect magic, but it's not magic.

Nil, frustrated, casts Arcane Eye and sends the eye down the passage. It moves into the room on the far side, and it sees an arrow slit at the end of the passage with a guard looking out. She sends the eye through the arrow slit; the guard is a human male, alert and staring down the passageway; he has a flaming arrow knocked but not drawn. There's a door to the north just before the arrow slit, and another door out of the room; there's a second guard, apparently a human female, in the room with him. And the woman is reading a spellbook; she's probably a caster.

Nil shares this with the rest of us. She doesn't recognize either of them; they aren't Bluto sort of people.

The door to our north is metal, and closed; we crack it slightly open and send the eye through. There's another door that's just ten feet beyond it. The door we just pushed open has flanged edges, and can only be opened by pushing them open to the north. We use Mage hand to do the next door, and find a similar arrangement. We magehand the next door, and... as the arcane eye moves forward, there's light beyond. The corridor continues out into a boiling lake. The corridor is semi-circular, and the boiling water is held back by a sort of giant magical bubble underneath the boiling lake. The light is coming from above the lake. So if we continued forward, we'd be standing in this balloon under the water of the lake. There's a very small chest in the bubble. The chest is decorated in sea-elf motifs, and resting in the sand is a trident.

We stop in the midst of discussing how best to approach this, since this is almost certainly going to be the "beast in the burning bubble".

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