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TLDunn213

Behind the House of Usher

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The House of Usher is not too far out from Arkem. Just down the lane and around the bend in the road with the big dead tree that's been there forever.

You may have heard of the place. Several paranormal professors at Miskatonic have stayed there over the years. Most of them distant members of the Usher clan, even if the Usher name has mostly died out these days.

 

Around to the back of the House you'll find a small, walled in, patch of woods. Small that is if you measure it around the outside. But if you go in... Well that's where things start getting... Interesting.

 

You may want to take a Crescent of Astare and/or some other protective charms with you.

 

You'll want to set out around sunset as it will be close to dawn when you get where you're going in there.

 

Where are you going ?

 

Well this is the Woodland of Weir.

And if you follow a certain alley of Cyprus

You'll come to the Lake of Auber.

Watch your step it's rather foggy down there.

 

Following the shoreline around will lead you to

The Tomb of Ulalume.

 

There's a Styx Horn hanging on a Rune covered Obelisk

Next to the Lake.

Auber is a sort of oxbow of the Styx close to where the Leth joins it.

Watch out for the cross current.

 

The Runes on the door-arch of the Tomb form a Gate

Leading to a place on the slopes of Mount Yaanek

Not too far from Leng and its fabled Library

 

If you take the Styx route

You will want to sound the Horn

About an hour before dawn

According to the stardial next to the Tomb

And it is best if you pick a season that

Puts the moon in Leo at that hour.

The Lethe crosscurrent isn't as bad then.

Edited by Zatar

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The mist swirl out over Lake Auber.

I glance at the Stardial, soon...

I hate waiting around places like this;

But this time of year that Leth cross current is really nasty.

Yeriko knows what she's doing and all; but still...

 

A flash of Eldritch light out in the fog.

Is it them?

I wait, gathering power.

If it's them I can use the power to help get the boat ashore

If not...

 

A carved dragon's head with glowing green eyes breaks through the mist.

Kabaru  I'd know that boat anywhere. I quickly reach out with the power I've gathered. The dragon's mouth opens and clamps on to my rope of power as soon as I toss it.

I run the other end through the ring of Feromantic Iron set in the side of the obelisk for just this purpose. And then toss the free end out to Targon as soon as I see the big barbarian on deck.

 

With both of us pulling we have Yeriko's long ship up on the shore in no time.

Edited by TLDunn213

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Targon jumps out of the boat and picks me up in a bear hug.

"Tildun ! It is good to see you my friend. it has been far too long." he exclaims as he lifts me off the ground.

thankfully the armor spell on my long coat holds. Thus sparing me from cracked ribs.

I love the big lug like a brother, but he really has no idea how strong he is at times.

 

"Easy Targon. We don't have time to be mending cracked ribs." Kain said as he vaulted to the ground.

 

I was glad to see the WerePanther/Monk even if we never really got along.

Nothing aginst each other; just nothing in common even if we were both spell casters.

Maybe that was it, our ways of doing magic were just different enough to be annoying.

 

"you're slipping if you didn't spot the glow of his protective spell." observed HawkEyeRavenHair.

as always the HalfShull had gone unnoticed until he chose to draw attention to himself.

I was glad to see the pale skinned archer, even if he was unnerving, his skills were always good to have on your side if things got sticky.

 

Targon had just put me down as Yeriko stepped off the boat.

"Lady Yeriko; to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit ?"

I always find myself being semi-formal with her in spite,or maybe because, of her being less than half my age.

it is after all quite a feat to have reached her level of power in so short a time.

Or it could have to do with her being a Lizardfolk Shaman.

Mostly the Lizardfolk part, as they are all that's left of the once mighty Saurians.

 

Eather way, the question of who would win if we were to ever go at it, is one I'm quite willing to leave unanswered.

 

"We seek information. Which Melkior thinks you can acquire for us." she said. before taking the time to shrink her long boat down to a more manageable size and put it in her belt pouch.

"But let us speak of this elsewhere. The full tale of our travels will take time and is best told in comfort and away from places where unfriendly ears could be listening."

 

"Follow me then. I don't have the house as ready as I would like. Unexpected delays getting the keys. But I think I can provide basic comforts."

and so we set off through the misty woods for the house of Usher.

Edited by TLDunn213

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Thankfully the trip out always goes faster than the trip in.

I'd set out close to sunset going in, and the stardial showed close to sunrise by the time I reached the tomb, yet it was still just dawn as we came out of the gate that leads into that "little" patch of strangeness.

 

I opened the door leading into the kitchens at the back of the house and soon had breakfast going with everyone settled around the big oak table.

Inspite of the delays I'd still managed to get the gas, water, and electric turned on and stock up on basic supplies.

Even so feeding a barbarian and a were panther, plus everyone else was going to put a major dent in my larder if they stayed for any length of time.

Thankfully Melkior has always been good about getting funds to people when needed.

 

So once I had breakfast ready enough for everyone to start eating, and grab more as needed, I got down to finding out what my guest needed from me, so I could speed them on their way.

 

"So, you said you need information ?"

 

"Yes, we need maps of certain parts of the Styx. And Melkior seems to think the former Lords of Usher House explored the sections we're interested in."

 

"Well, they knew how to reach the Styx. That's fairly common family lore.

As to how far they explored along the bank, or what records they kept..."

 

"Melkior, thinks there are journals, here and hidden in the restricted stacks at Myskatonic."

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My mind leaped to both what they needed me to do, and the most obvious problems that went with it. Namely what to do with Targon while the rest of us were playing bookworm. Melkior had managed to get the big guy to learn how to read, but it wasn't one of his favorite things to do.

 

I couldn't take him to Miskatonic. There was no way I could hide that Axe of his, not with all the anti-magic runes on it. And asking him to leave it behind...

No not even going to think about how that would go.

 

So, option two,

Leave him here, board...

Well, maybe...

If I could set up some sort of training ground for him.

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Or maybe, if the maps they need are here, and I can find them quickly...

"How long were you traveling the Styx to get here ?" I ask, hoping Yeriko will catch on to what I'm up to. Sleeping isn't something one can do well on the Styx, and Targon is the one who'll have been most effected, But the big lug would never admit to needing more rest than the others.

 

"Two or three days; I think." Hawk said with a yawn. "Hard to keep track out there."

 

"If you've got somewhere we can bed down for a bit, before we start looking ?" Kain added with a hopeful note in his voice.

 

"There are rooms along this hallway. Used to be servant's quarters. But I've never been much for servants." I said opening a door next to the cupboard. "Make yourselves comfortable, I'll take a quick look at the family history to see who's journals are most likely to be useful, and then catch a nap myself."

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"We thank you. We will all be better for a bit of rest. And Latara isn't in immediate danger, just trapped." Yeriko said rising. "Where will you be, if we wake before you ?"

 

"The Reading room is at the far end of this hallway. I'll catch my nap on one of the couches in there once I've got a list made." I said and left the room.

 

So Latara Silvermane had gone exploring along the Stix and ended up trapped. That was a useful hint, as it was likely Skull Island she was stuck on. And I knew which Journals were likely to have stuff about it.

 

Uncle EA had done quite a few ballades about the the battle there that proved to be a turning point in the war. It was even a good bet that Latara had gotten the clues she needed that way; what with her being a Bard as well and SilverFrost being a collector of music.

 

Which made me wonder why the Dragon wasn't flying to his granddaughter's rescue. Especially as her Dracon link to him was the most likely way for her to have called for help in the first place.

 

Oh well, one problem at a time. Find the maps and related notes first.

Mostly the notes. If I remembered right the graveyard just south of town would put us on the banks of the Styx just a short ways from the island. The real question was what was keeping Latara trapped there. A Silver Dracon with Bardic Magic and the ability to fly is not easy to trap after all.

Hopefully Yeriko knew what we'd be facing and had some ideas about how to deal with it.

Now where were Uncle EA's journals...?

Edited by Zatar

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"Beware the Styx Golems that are sometimes found along the banks and upon the islands of this region." I read.

Well, that would explain why Latara was trapped on Skull Island; a spray of water from a Styx Golem would have the same effect as a dip in the Styx itself. And with a spray range of over 60 feet... 

No, there's more to it than that. She could fly above them, Unless...

She's found something. Something important and too heavy or bulky to fly away with.

Well, I might as well get some rest.

Uncle E A had left a stash of all the supplies needed to open the way to the Styx from the graveyard behind the wayside chapel west of Miskatonic. So all that was left was waiting until after sunset. Well after sunset given what some members of our little group look like. And just that many people heading for a graveyard after dark...

Likely to attract a bit of notice. But we are all rather good at skulking about, so, traveling alone should work.

I smothered a yawn and lay down on the couch.

 

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We spent the afternoon going over maps, both of the part of the Styx we expected to be going to and the local area between where we were and the Graveyard we were planing to use as our gateway. 

Which still left us with a few hours to fill before it was late enough to go skulking off. Kain, Targon, and Hawk spent some time sparing while the rest of us selected spells likely to be useful against Styx Golems and whatever else we might run into along the way.

I prepared a couple of Sleep spells just in case we were spotted by any locals. A bit of a risk, as nothing along the Styx would be effected by such spells and they would be just taking up slots once we crossed over, but still...

 

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I stood under an old maple tree across the  road from the graveyard wrapped in my cloak of shadows waiting for the others to arrive. The first I spotted was Targon. He came walking down the road not even trying to hide.  I thought about it for a moment and decided that in his case this mightbe the better option. After all if you are spotted trying to hide you are more likely to be remembered than if you're just walking along out in the open. When I looked back Hawk and  Kain were standing by the graveyard gate and Yerico was stepping out of the trees by the corner of the wall. I pulled back my cowl and stepped forward to join them, thinking that Targon was sharper than I'd given him credit for. By walking openly down the road, not only was he likely to be only lightly remembered but the rest of us were all the more likely to go totally unnoticed.

Hawk and Kain had seen me coming and had a brazier set up on either side of the graveyard gate by the time I reached them. I  took my place in the center and began the Chant as they tossed incense on the glowing coals.

Yerico was doing a lesser fog spell, but by tying it to mine the fog gained the memory clouding effects of the Styx's fog we'd all be dealing with once we finished crossing. A clever move on her part. Not only would this cover our tracks from any locals who might have been around, but it was also an easy way to check that our protective charms were working. 

The Smoke and Mist swirled together over the graveyard gate making strange complex patterns. I spoke the final Word of the spell and the magical smog froze in place overlaying the graveyard gate which swung open with eerie silence. The rest of the Styx's fog we'd created rolled and boiled around us as it flowed tword the banks of the Styx which now lay waiting at the far end of the graveyard. 

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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As we advanced through the graveyard the Styx's fog grew thicker and the grave markers loomed larger. Soon becoming full sized Gargoyles. 

One moved; and I threw a basic Binding Spell over it. A couple of quick spells later and we had a scout flying off into the Fog, as I fell back to the middle of our little group. Seeing through the Gargoyle's eyes would rather limit my ability to keep track of what was going on around me; but the  tradeoff was well worth it. As I was able to take out three other Gargoyles before they even knew were there. There was no way of knowing who or what they were working for; if anyone. I hadn't found any spells on the one I was using.  But still, better not to take chances. 

And then we were there. And right across from the island we were looking for. And there on the bank facing us was a Styx's Gollum. 

I cast a Binding Spell at it through the Gargoyle. Which it blocked with a spray of Styx's Water. Knocking it out of the air and wiping away my spells. But this distracted it enough for Targon to split it in half with that monster axe of his.

So much for stealth. Someone, or at least some thing knew we were there. If we are lucky it is just the automated defenses from back in the day. But even then Some One could be on their way to see what had tripped the alarms. 

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The gargoyle flew away before I could bind it again. As I was watching it fly away I spotted two Styx Gollums taking up position on the other bank.

I put up a shield, for the little good it would likely be. I didn't think they could reach us with their spray at this range, but better not to take chances.

The real question was; how to  cross with them there. The Styx is tricky enough without being shot at while trying to cross it.

Yerico looked like she was getting ready to try it anyway; as she already had Kabaru in the water and was calling for the rest of us to get on board.

"What about the Golems?" I ask as I ran up the gangplank.

"You'll see." She said pointing to a high window in the Fortress, as we shoved off into the current.

It took me a moment, but then I saw her. Just as she let loose with a blast of draconic ice-fire turning one of the Styx's Gollums into an ice sculpture.

I took out the other one with a blasting spell as it was turning around. And Latara launched herself out of the window. A large Tome clutched to her chest. 

Moments later, she was on the deck and we were heading back to shore.

 

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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Once we had Kabaru pulled up onto the beach Latara put the Tome down on an empty rowing bench; and opening to a marked page said "Here, this branch of the Styx will take us in to this swampy reagon; With this spot marked 'Lair' right in the middle of it. There are passages in here that talk about meeting with the Dracolich in her Lair..."

"...and you think this is a map to that Lair?" Yerico cut in.

"Yes"

"And are you thinking we can take out a Dracolich, or are we assuming it was destroyed during the War ?"

"I'm assuming that we're stealthy enough to scout the place and find out, without getting spotted doing it."

Yerico gave Latara a searching look then nodded. "A bold plan; But not a reckless one. Do the rest of you agree?" 

I gave the map another look, tracing pathways through the swampy region, "If  there is a Dracolich in there, it's something we'll have to deal with sooner or later."

Targon ran a finger along the edge of his axe and smiled.

Hawk matched the smile, and gave a short nod, resting his hand on the top of his quiver.

"We'll have to scout carefully and likely make our own map; places like this tend to shift around." Kain said, also tracing pathways on the map.

"There's a spell on the map to keep it up to date; it's a bit degraded, but I think I can get it working again once we get there." Latara said.

"That should help."

"So, we are all agreed then?" *nods and grim smiles all around* "Good. Then let us do this."

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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It took us a couple of hours to get to the side channel we were looking for.

Surprisingly, none of the Styx Gollums from the fortresses followed us. I wondered if I should take it as a good sign or a bad one, but came to no conclusion on that point.

I took the time to swap out the sleep spells for binding ones, and take a look at the rest of the book. 

As expected there wasn't much of use to us just now. But quite a lot that Melkior could use in his research.

After all knowing how a Styx Gollum or Dracolich is made can be quite useful in figuring out its weak points.

Once we reached the point where we were on the map it was a simple matter to repair the spell that keeps it up to date. In fact it took longer for the map to settle down after. It seems that the map has a rewind abilitie; allowing one to check for trends in the way things are moving around.

I took a few minutes playing around with it, but didn't spot any shifts likely to be fast enough to matter to us.

As to paths in and out, There weren't any good ones, But I found a couple that we could deal with well enough.

Edited by TLDunn213

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After almost an hour, of working our way around bogs, that were too thick with mud to sail through, but still too wet to walk on; we reached the central island or islands. Hard to say which as there were streams everywhere with fallen trees bridging most of them.

In any event there was a building in the middle of the whole thing, which we eventually made our way to. 

There were Runes and Glyphs, more than half hidden by moss and vines, above the doorway. We really should have taken the time to study them. But we were all wet and tired, and beyond the archway was a courtyard covered with smooth, dry, solid, flagstones. I don't think words can really convey how good solid ground can look after an hour or so of slogging through knee deep muck, and slipping on moss and slime covered rocks and treetrunks.

So we all rushed through the archway into the courtyard. And as soon as we were all inside, the magic snapped into place. Every one of us knowing that this is the Lair of a Dracolitch. Every one of us well versed in Magic; even Targon. He might not be a spell caster like the rest of us, but he's faced enough magic using foes...And we blunder through a Rune covered archway like amateurs. 

Thankfully our tale doesn't end here, with us becoming the undead servants of a Dracolich. No, our story didn't end here; it just started a new chapter, or maybe a new volume.

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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We felt the spell snap into place, and before any of us could say anything, a skeleton stepped out of one of the doorways and said, "Adventurers, I wish to bargain." 

We all looked at each other for a bit and then Yerico said, "speak."

"Your allies trapped me, and my undead legions, here during the war. But I was already trapped by my undead state. Having had much time to think I have devised a plan by which I can escape both, with your help."

"Why should we help you?" Targon demanded.

"Because, Barbarian, it is the only way you can get out of here. And by aiding me you gain a powerful ally"

"An ' ally ' we have little reason to trust, is not that tempting an offer." Latara observed.

"The resurrection process I have devised will allow you to place a Geais on me. So that I have no choice but to serve your goals, for a time."

"How long a time ?" I ask.

"Until Melkior has fully vanquished Varque, I will do all in my power to aid him in that goal." 

"And you swear this by your honor as a Dragon?" Latara demanded.

"I do. Freely and of my own will; So, long as you honor your part of the bargain."

"Which is what; exactly ?" Kain inquired. 

"To preform the ritual, I will provide, so as to enable me to go forth from this place as a member of your company."

"Restoring one to life often requires a life in exchange. I will not sacrifice any member of our company to free you." Hawk stated flatly.

"Peace, archer. There is a blood price, but not a death price. You will each need to sacrifice some of your blood and life force into the Gollum body I have prepared, so that it will be 'alive' enough for me to use. But no one will need to die for this."

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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"Once, I did not trust Dragons or Spell Casters. Yet, now I am friends with several. Mayhap, the time has come to find that an Undead can have honor and earn my respect."

"Thank You, Barbarian. That is the kindest thing anyone has said to or about me in a very long time."

"Enough Talk. Those who know spells need to see your Ritual Chamber and spells; then we can decide and Act. Lead on skeleton."

And so we followed our boney guide through a maze of twisting passages until we came to the Lair of the Dracolitch. 

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She was huge. It is one thing to know that Dragons are Big, and quite another to be face to face with one. Words truly cannot convey the feeling of being in the same room with a creature who's head alone is taking up more space than your entire party. 

The room itself was also on an epic scale. Even with the Dragon's skull taking up a good fourth of the available floorspace;  there was still plenty of room to walk around the transmutation circle, carved into the middle of the room's floor, and get a good look at the worktables, alters, and so on set up around it.

And walk around it we did.

It was likely the single largest, most complex ritual spell setup any of us had ever seen.

or were ever going to see, even if we lived for another hundred years or more.

And yet, once you got past the  sheer scale of the thing, and the number of spells layered into it; It was elegant. Each spell streamlined and crafted so as to flow smoothly as possible into the next. 

Magic is sometimes called The Art; and this was a Masterpiece. While the whole was complex, each part was as simplified as possible to the point that even an apprentice could have followed the general flow of the whole and told you what each part was supposed to contribute. There was really no way to hide anything in the ritual. It took time to walk through all the steps, but each was simple and flowed easily into the next.

We went over it twice, as much to admire it, as from any other need for understanding or fear of treachery.

The Dracolitch watched us, with glowing points of light, where her eyes had once been. Lights that shifted from  reddish-orange to a mellow contented blue, as we openly admired her handiwork.

There is something satisfying about having your work admired by a fellow craftsman who can fully appreciate it.

 

Edited by TLDunn213

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We looked at each other and nodded.

"We're doing this then; Right. So, where do I fit ? " Targon ask as we all gathered round the work table at the start point.

"First we bleed into the flask here, until it's up to this mark. Then we mix that with the powdered Dragonbone in this bowl. That will link us to each other and the Dracolitch. Then you will take your place in the Guardian's circle over there. Once the lines start glowing you will be able to step out of the small circle and travel freely around the perimeter. You'll have a view as if this were the edge of the island. And your job will be to warn us of anything if anything big enough to break through the spells shows up." I explained as we each took the ritual knife and added our blood to the flask.

I felt a rush of power as my blood dripped into the flask and we became linked. In that moment I gained a deeper understanding of the allure of Blood Magic. 

Then I poured the blood into the bowl of powdered Dragonbone. 

The world went away for a moment, or an eternity, and when I was able to notice details again I was happy to see that none of us had fallen. Although it was clearly a near thing. 

I felt the Dragon's pleased laughter in my/our minds *"Impressive. You are a party worth joining."* she said/Thought.

 

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Targon took his place, and the rest of us followed suit. Once the rest of us were in place Latara began inscribing the Runes from the spell book into the clay figure. There was a flow of Power, growing stronger with each Symbol inscribed. At her signal we began to Chant. The Power flow seemed to double as each of us joined in. Then, finally it leveled off and the memories started to flow.

All our memories were open to each other if we'd had the attention to spare to look. The strongest of course were those of the Dracolitch, Seline Deathshadow, master assassin. Or so she had called herself, before the change. Her entire life, Her entire being was flowing through us from the Dracolitch to the clay figure, soon to become living flesh. Her entire life flowing through us and we had to watch  those memories without getting caught up in them, without missing a word or even a syllable of our appointed part of the Spell.

Born in a brothel, with no clue as to who or what her father was. Thieves Guild. Assassins Guild. I wanted to look closer here, see what lead to this choice, But I couldn't take the risk. Ah there it was, Her mother's death, a desire for revenge, the discovery of a talent for killing.

Then the Major turning point. The discovery of her draconic heritage.

These memories were too strong. I felt my awareness slipping away, then splitting. Part of me was still standing in the Circle, Chanting. But the rest of me was there, with a young Seline, entering a dimly lit back room of the tavern, that was the cover for the Assassins Guild.

 

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