6. Standing (around) Stones

Zelmar searched for clues as to where from and where to did the orcish tracks exited. He also searched for signs of a touchdown by a levitating structure like the floating platform that the mindflayer creature used. He was very methodical and focused, clearly agitated by something as well.

The ranger can see orc tracks leading from the tunnel the party descended from the crab lake cavern to the two platforms and coming and going along the forest path. The human and dwarf tracks stop at the platforms and there are no signs of them having climbed the forest path which leads up towards the tower on the distant ridge.

Looking closely at the two crystal discs, Zelmar spots three small, worn patches on both that would seem to correspond to the three stone spheres of the Illithids flying bowl. The crystal discs are smooth and cool to the touch but don’t react to the ranger walking on or touching them.

After reporting his findings to Cynan, he added: “Either a magic device like the floating platform of the tentacled monster, or something else magical happened here. There are no more human or dwarven tracks. They disappeared completely.”

Gildor checks the tracks out and tries to figure out the clues and then listens to Zelmar’s report to see if he got it correct.

It looks like he did use his tracking skills correctly.

He thinks, “Practice practice” as he looked over the tracks.

He says to the group, “Do we know anything about this discs things?” Gildor checks out the area for traps and really looks over the odd 30ft discs. He considers touching them but doesn’t until he’s heard from the group. He tries to see if they are movable, checking for worn patterns on the stone.

There isn’t much more to tell about the discs or the standing stones. If they are trapped in any way Gildor can’t see it.

“Are there any signs of blood? They may have killed them all here and than just transported the bodies or something even worse.” Burgo asks to the more experienced trackers.

Zelmar shakes his head – no blood, just tracks.

“Perhaps this is some kind of portal ” suggests Cynan “and the townsfolk have been transported elsewhere. Zelmar, Gildor do you see tracks or signs that the townsfolk were taken in this way? If that is the case we need solve how the portal operates.”

Gildor looks around for the track Cynan speaks of and tells Zelmar, “Let’s take a look eh?” To Cynan, “We are on it.”

There is no more to learn from the tracks Gildor concludes.
Gildor cast detect magic and checks out the two disks and the immediate area while checking for the tracks.
His detect magic reveals – to no-ones’ surprise – that the discs and standing stones are magical but there seems to be no part that is more or less magical than any other.

Gildor looks around for a mechanism that might be used to move the stones and says, “Do we need to rotate them to line the symbols up possibly? We didn’t find anything in the immediate area that would possibly move the stones. Should we try and see if we can do it by hand? Do you really think this could be a portal of some sort?”

After a close examination of the two crystal discs Gildor can’t see any way that they or the runes move, spin, depress, rise etc. There’s also nothing that looks like a control anywhere near them.

However, while examining the standing stones Gildor touches one and for a moment light flashes and shimmers inside it. The thing also makes a barely perceptible hum. None of the other standing stones react. Looking closely Gildor can see that the veins of silvery metal seem to sparkle and crackle.

Gildor says, “Whoa!” as the stone lights up momentarily. Gildor checks the stones position on the disc in hopes it has further meaning. He calls the others over, “I have found something. This stone lit up for a moment as I touched it. My guess is that perhaps we can control this mentally. We should all stand nearby if we want to try it and line up the discs. If we want to try that. Come to me Saphiria.”

“I’m an idiot”, says Gildor. I think this is a teleportation device. We don’t need to move them. They move us.” Gildor thanks the goddess of summer. We should all get on the platform and we can activate the stones. Of course I could be wrong.”

Gildor tells the others,”We need to be ready for a fight on the other side. We don’t know what will be waiting for us on the other side. Assuming we aren’t disintegrated. Saphiria be ready my dear.”

Cynan looks at the ground perplexed and confused. If the townsfolk came this way even I should see some signs on the ground. They would have been herded not trying to hide their tracks yet I see nothing. Gildor, do not be so hasty jump through that portal, we do not know what is on the other side, for all we we know it could be a fiery pit or a large orc encampment. I do not claim to have the intelligence of some of you yet even I can see that caution is required here. Also, what if we can’t figure a way back we could be anywhere in this world or another. I want proof the townsfolk were taken through this portal, and sadly I do not see the evidence with my own eyes”.

“There is nothing more I can do here. The absence of blood means that the dwarves and humans brought here were mind-controlled by the tentacled creature. The absence of tracks means that they have been magically transported somewhere. The presence of the orcish tracks is something I can deal with. Cynan, I should follow them If we are to find out what has happened to the people of the town.” says Zelmar.

Gildor says, “Ok so I am working on this puzzle of sorts here. He recounts the findings –

“Zelmar can see orc tracks leading from the tunnel the party descended from the crab lake cavern to the two platforms and coming and going along the forest path, while the human and dwarf tracks stop at the platforms and there are no signs of them having climbed the forest path which leads up towards the tower on the distant ridge.”

“Now, looking closely at the two crystal discs, Zelmar has spotted three small, worn patches on both that would seem to correspond to the three stone spheres of the Illithids flying bowl. The crystal discs are smooth and cool to the touch but don’t react to us walking on or touching them.”

“I think the disc with the stones is where the towns folks got on and were transported to some other place. Based on the wear patterns of the Illithids travelling disc that would indicate that one platform takes you to some place and the other platform returns you to here. So if you want to find out where the townsfolk went we all need to get on this platform with the stones or just go back and report that they were sent somewhere magically. Based on the orc prints Zelmar found we know that there are probably a dozen or more down here too and those prints continue on the forest path I think. Cynan you are correct that we have no way of knowing what will happen to us for sure but staying here won’t get us anywhere either. WE can split up if you like and I’d like to see if the stone activates by anyone’s touch or just mine.”

With no one on the platform Gildor asks one of the others to touch the stone. “It may be just activated by magic and if so we would need to make sure if we split up we have one magic user in each group so both groups could activate the stone if needed. Well, what do you think?”

Cynan shakes his head at Gildor’s suggestion. “Whatever we decide we do it as a group the risks are doubled if we split our forces. Once we have all arrived at a way to proceed we go together”.

“I agree Cynan. I merely offered a possible solution since you did not seem keen on using the discs. If we use the disc we should go with weapons drawn”, Gildor says.

“By the gods’ beards, you all look like some loose tongue elves… well some of you are, aren’t you?” Burgo says with a smile under his beard. “I will not enter in no strange magical thing to do whatever it is it does. Why not keep it simple? Follow the tracks, kill all the orcs but two. Force one to talk, if it does not speak we ‘convince’ the other one. Problem solved.”

Then Burgo gets close to the portal

“And I really do not like stone that glow, very unnatural” Burgo then lightly taps his hammer on the crystal to see if anything happens.

Nothing does.

When Gordon, Gildor’s volunteer, touches the standing stone a second time the faint glow and sparkles in the immense crystal instantly fade and it goes silent. Another touch by the gnome brings it back to life again.

Zelmar goes up the path, following the orc tracks, some of which are as recent as yesterday. After about 200 metres he notices a recent side branch with tracks leading through the soft spongy ground of the mushroom forest. They lead to a small hollow filled with clear water, its edge surrounded by elegant, translucent maroon fungi, 2-3′ high. Around these grow numerous other sturdier mushrooms of yellow, orange and violet and these in turn grow under giants, ten or twenty foot across. Looking closely, Zelmar notes that several of the translucent fungi have been cut off at the base. The orc tracks seem to walk towards the pool and then break into a run back towards the path. The ranger can see no sign of violence, only the cut stems of the fungi.

“Well Burgo let’s wait for Zelmar’s report on the orcs and then you guys can decide what to do. As I suspected though it will take an intelligent mind to activate these stones and quite possibly a mystical mind. We are fairly certain the townsfolk got on this disc and went somewhere”, says Gildor, more at Burgo but so the others could hear also.

“Well, I still don’t like it. I’d rather hear the sound of my hammer cracking some goblin’s skulls than all this magical stuff. Yep, let’s wait for Zelmar to come back.”

Gildor nods at Burgo and says, “Ok let’s wait for Zelmar’s report.” In the mean time Gildor takes out his spy glass and looks at the pathway leading up further from where they are and scans the surrounding area slowly trying to see if there is anything he spots.

The spy glass reveals the density and complexity of the mushroom forest covering the valley beyond the crystal discs in a way Gildor has never seen before. No surface forest or wood the elf knows has the quantity and variety of life that he sees here. Zelmar reported a tower further up the valley but from where he stands by the crystal discs it is hidden behind the forest of mushrooms.

Kradorn doesn’t like the idea of disappearing without knowing where his distance would be or if they would arrive alive.
“I prefer the hunting orc idea.” Kradorn replies.

Burgo agrees with Kradorn. “See? Well spoken my friend, nothing better than an orc Hunt to help boost a group’s morale. Let’s go after Scurn, he may already be having some fun.”

Kradorn smiles, the lowlight giving him some sight to see his companions. Kradorn will switch to his bow if he can see well enough to shoot further then 20ft, otherwise he will stick with his sword and shield.

“We did not come here to hunt orcs Burgo and Kradorn, but to rescue the townsfolk. As much as it pains me to say It seems they went through this portal. I realise we do not know what we will face on the other side but it seems this is the route we need take. I, no we made a commitment to find these folk and the orcs will need to wait, I am sure they will be here later if we desire to cleanse this forest.” Cynan looks to Gordon and Gildor. “This portal reeks of magic of some kind, you two are best suited to solve its mystery, once you have then we can proceed”. Cynan grins at the pair, “I suppose this is what is called a leap of faith”.

Kradorn sighs at Cynan’s words. He was hoping the orc’s would at least confirm this magic devices ability of moving folk or items and not simply vaporizing them with dragon’s breath. Kradorn stands ready if they should decide to take the “leap of faith”

Gildor tells Cynan and the others, “I will work with Gordon to try and uncover the mystery of the platforms. There may not be any other information to gain besides what we already know. To that end, it may be necessary to take a leap of faith, if you will, in using the device. We could test the device with a single person but then I would have to find the return activation portal location to transport back to here and there might not be a easy way to get to it if there are guards on the other side of this transport platform and the one needed to get back to here. Once we are ready we should all get onto the platform and stand ready for what might be on the other end.”

Gildor confers with Gordon and also tries to remember his lessons in magic concerning the Lambda symbol. Gildor will pass on any new information they might find or simply tells Cynan we do not know anything more.

Neither Gildor nor Gordon have seen the symbol before.
The party look up the path and wait for Zelmar to appear and for Gildor to investigate the crystal discs.

“Well if we did hunt the orcs, they apparently know how this thing works. By judging on their tracks coming and going.” Kradorn says talking with Cynan.