67. A Dark Snowflake

Gildor casts Comprehend Languages and grabs the spells books with the most interest. He scans the area for writings that might identify what the ring is for and then helps Gordon with the writing on any panels to help operate the item he is working on, while the spell is active he works to help as much as he can. He verbalizes in common what he reads, so others know what things are, as well getting as much use out of the spell as possible so they can make the best choices as to what to do next or prevent injury by describing how to use something properly. Gildor says, “I’ll cast comprehend languages, so we can understand our surrounding better. Let me see what this room has to offer.” – getting the drow spell books, checking the ring for marking or operating instructions, then moving to help the others in their room while the spell still functions – “Here Gordon, let me see if I can read how to operate that contraption you have there.” If he has time he looks over any items that might have inscriptions on them, like the wand or other items.”

Gildor can’t read the spells themselves with ‘Comprehend languages’ but the marked reading to go along with them, gives some indication of the nature of the magic. The spells seem to include something to do with languages (almost certainly a comprehend languages spell of some sort), how to detect magic, sleep, knowing someone’s inner mind or personality, flying, mirror image, something to do with spiders and something to do with fire. Skimming through these reference books, gives no indication of the level of the spells involved. A ‘Read magic’ spell would be required to know more.

The elf moves over to the ring but there is no writing on it at all. However, taking a quick look through it into the room beyond, Gildor sees a sign on one wall, which can just be read, it says “Living section deck one – officers and crews rooms”.
Looking into the black globe Gildor sees what looks like a log, with a long list of ring system checks every 16 minutes, with one exception, a description of something going through the ‘tunnel’ detailing its mass and a lot of other information incomprehensible to Gildor.
Gordon indicates the back of the box with the glowing green gem on the front and Gildor proceeds to read out what he finds there. There’s a word which is gibberish, possibly a name, a warning to read the manual before use, a whole list of meaningless numbers and letters, the words ‘made on’ and then another incomprehensible word, probably another name, the dial settings read ‘off’, ‘standard output’ and ‘maximum output’ with a warning about life being limited on this setting, depending on how much something (the word doesn’t translate – possibly food, possibly fire) is drawn.
Then Gordon fumbles in his pack and shows Gildor the wand (he can’t read it as it is magic) and the three small cylinders. The white one with all the text on it uses the same food/fire word quite a lot, along with more incomprehensible combinations of numbers and letters. The two larger grey cylinders have the words “Danger explosive device” marked clearly on them and the one with the spiral symbol has the phrases “Do not use in a calm room” and “Not suitable for nothing use”.

At this point Gildor’s spell expires and the words turn to gibberish again.

Gildor makes sure Saphiria is close by, perched on a dome watching to alert them should she spot anything coming toward them.

Gildor says at the end, “I am sorry my magic was not strong enough to last any longer but I hope that helps us. We are dealing with things we have very little knowledge of my friends. These are drow spell books but I did not have read magic active so I got just basic information.
“I think these rings take you to different parts of the complex. The wall here reads “Living section deck one officer and crew rooms”.
“The rest seems very dangerous and we’d probably want to read the manual before we use the device. Perhaps someone else has the manual to operate this beast. The question is do we need to do that or want to do that. I mean take the time to read the manual so we don’t kill ourselves?”

Gildor says, “I’ll grab the three spell books I am interested in which I can share with Gordon. Gordon if you want any of the others they are yours.”

Gildor stays with the group but should they want to check out the steel ring he looks them over to see if he can figure out how to operate it.

Talo stares at the device, perplexed, confused. He shrugs and holds onto it – careful not to pull the trigger. “I’ll be sure to point this in the right direction for a test,” he says to himself.

As soon as Talo puts his hand around the grip one of the small glass beads on the side of the dark grey sphere flashes amber twice.

The cleric packs the illithid’s note book, the black sphere, and the shiny black tablet into his backpack.

Talo fills the remaining empty space of his pack with his pack. Weighing out in his mind between his crossbow and the books, Talo opts to keep books instead. He leaves the crossbow, bolts, and quiver in favour of as many of the strange manuals as he can heft.

Talo manages to get about another 14 or 15 books into his pack. It weighs a lot (about 30lb) and will slow the dwarf down considerably should he need to run any distance.

Upon hearing about the living quarters, Talo turns to Kradorn and a the others, “There seems to be other rooms where our adversaries lived. I think we can afford stepping into them and having a look. Although, we need to be weary of the hall that is closed and I am not sure which one is the one that is closed.”

Gordon falls the short distance on to his bottom and clutches the sides of his head until the pain and nausea subsides. He tries to explain to Talo and Gildor what just happened and the unfathomable steel ring speed. He then listens to Gildor’s explanation of what he could translate and tries to put 2 and 2 together. “I think that this ring is the tunnel, or leads to the tunnel, which comes out there,” he points at the Living Section Deck, “and these fancy boxes somehow control the tunnel and where it goes. I think. It’s on this maximum power setting which will use up all its food or fire quicker.” After a moment’s pause for thought the gnome continues, “I don’t think we should go through there at this time though, I have a funny feeling about it.”

Gordon then gets out the wand and asks to see the drow spell books Gildor has, he also gets the gnomish ones. Once he has them all together he will cast Read Magic on them, wand first, then spell books and finally gnomish books, he is looking for spell titles and very sketchy info rather than full details (that can wait). If he has any time left Gordon will go and look along the book shelves for anything which might translate magically.

The wand has the word ‘punisher’ inscribed on the side in mindflayer. Gordon flips through the drow spell books and is able to determine the following list of spells contained therein –
comprehend languages, detect magic, magic missile, sleep, know alignment, levitate*, mirror image, web and fireball. The gnomish book has the spells Summon Earth Elemental and dismiss Elemental both fifth level spells. Nothing else in the library seems to be magically encrypted.

Once Read Magic has expired he will take a couple of steps back so that he can make a reasonable sweep of the room and then cast Detect Magic.

Things that gives off a magic vibe are restricted to items carried by the party but the ring and other device give off a different feeling, not magical but weird all the same. Stuff that Gordon detects includes –

Talo’s dark Grey potion, Gildor’s chainmail, one of his rings, his two potions, Zelmar’s armour, Gildor’s spell books and the drow spell books. On Kradorn are the Goblin Longsword (Shadowslayer), his mithril Armour, the orc poleaxe and Zelmar’s Longsword. Then there’s Gordon’s spell book, the mindflayer’s wand, the two healing potions, the spider climb ring and Gorm’s Axe and finally Cynan has his sword and his knife.

The paladin will simply observe to see who are searching and investigating. Cynan knows that all of this is beyond his comprehension and so keeps a guarded eye upon his companions, and in case of any surprises. When Gordon falls he moves to assist him saying “Careful old friend do not rush here we can take these items back if they’re worthwhile.”

“Talo” Kradorn calls out to get his attention. Pointing to Gordon.
Kradorn nods to Talo, “Lets check it out” Kradorn replies moving with Talo towards the entrance.

Talo runs to Gordon’s side. “They call *me* the reckless one! Gordon, lad, you alright?” Talo looks ready to hack the device into smelter’s mint until he hears Gordon’s recitation from the flayer’s manual. “Handy mind filler…” The dwarf says as he gives it a wide berth. Talo casts detect evil and assesses the party’s possessions and the surroundings – looking at books and the portal and casually scanning the party with a little blush as he does so.

Talo casts his spell and while the drow spell books give off a faint evil aura nothing or no one else in the room does.

Gildor takes the levitate, web and fireball drow spell books leaving the others for Gordon should he wish to take them to sell or do otherwise with them.

“Gordon I picked up levitate, web and fireball spells so we could scribe them later on. The others were duplications and I wasn’t going to pack them out of here. Everyone let’s stay together and get a plan for what we are going to do next. We’ve lost one adventurer down here let’s not compound that”, states Gildor.

“We need a weapon that glows when evil is about. That would be something worth having.” Kradorn comments as they… discuss their spell choices.

Actually we’ve lost two comrades on this trip Gildor. Just keep the book in one piece for now, we can sort the spells out when we back up top. If you don’t want to carry the book then I’ll shove it in my backpack for later.” Suggests Gordon.

Cynan, I think we have enough time to shift a load of this stuff in stages, I know these black boxes and some of the other Ithiliad globes and stuff would present some interesting research projects for some of us. You okay with us doing that?”

What are we going to do next then chaps,” asks the gnome? “I suggest we go to the main dome with the white walls and the big chamber I’ve already had a poke about in, that is weird enough but I don’t trust this portal gate thing we have here. What say you all?”

Cynan nods at Gordon, “Yes we have the time, so organise what you want to take back and we can stage it at the portal, perhaps we can get some help to bring it back to the surface. If you are ready I suppose now is a good time to investigate the tower. However let us all stay together no wandering away. Gordon perhaps you wish to lead us in there as you seem more knowledgeable about these devices and whatnot.”

“I’m not going to leave this laying around for someone to just pick up. I will drop it if I have to. But till then.” Kradorn replies to piling the treasure/goods. Kradorn nods to Cynan comments about sticking together. He doubts anything is left down here. That is usually when something comes up and bites your ass.

Gildor gladly accepts Gordon’s offer and lets him take the spell books. Gildor stays with the group and says,”whatever you need me to do just let me know.”
“Come along Saphiria we’re on the move girl.”

Gordon half waits for responses from the others before heading off to the mind flayer dome entrance and, with whoever is with him, cautiously enters, heading towards the right hand corridor as last time. He heads down the corridor this time, keeping to the sides, until he reaches the two archways (one on either side). He looks in to the one on the opposite side before sticking his head around the corner to look into the nearer one.

The white corridor is cool and silent and Gordon encounters nothing strange or unusual on his way to the arches about 300m down the corridor. Through the archway on his left is a huge circular room with a swirling black sphere suspended in its centre just like the one Gordon saw before. Five arched bridges radiate out from the sphere connecting to a suspended floor running around the edge of the room. Above the sphere hangs a huge, black, five pointed fractal shape, like an enormous dark snowflake. Another similar structure sits above it and another above that, repeated all the way up as far as the gnome can see.

This pattern is repeated below the sphere and drops away into infinity.

Occasionally black lightning crackles off the sphere and spreads up or down these fractal layers. There is no sign of life in this room and there is another archway on the far side. Just looking at the black sphere makes the hairs on the back of the gnome’s neck stand on end.

On Gordon’s right, the other archway opens into another huge cylindrical room with a wide suspended floor running around the edge, connected by five short bridges to a 100m wide white disc in the centre. This disc is an identical copy of the transporter disc array that the party have been using to get in and out of the mindflayers lair. Around the disc and built into the suspended flooring running around the edge of the room are five more pairs of transporter discs. Above and below the transporter discs sit more of the giant fractal snowflake shapes, though these are pure white. Lightning occasionally jumps up and down through these layers to finally connect to the crystal columns of the transporters. Again, there is no one in the room and there is another archway in the opposite wall.

“Please do not touch anything here unless we are sure, by the breath of Ringheru there is no telling where we may end up if we do.” The paladin is obviously nervous around all this science and would happily be back on the surface.

Cynan can feel evil radiating from the black sphere like heat from the sun on a summers day.

Kradorn mimics Cynan amazement. “What is this place?” He comments pulling his pole axe away from the wall it almost touched. Looking then stepping a little more to the center of the hallway.
“I don’t think we are in Lands End anymore.” he adds.

“Be wary of that sphere it emits an evil stronger than I have felt in many a day. Let us not assume that this place is safe or even deserted”. The paladin continues to nervously look around as the hairs on the back of his neck tingle.

Talo tries to find a spot where he is comfortable and cannot. Looking around, he appears abnormally paranoid, “Whelp. We have seen, gents. Time to go home. Or back. Or literally anywhere else other than here. I would say knock it down, but I don’t know how to do that.” The dwarf hangs near the back of the group, looking over his shoulder frequently.

Kradorn looks around, “Can we seal it off… the room. To prevent anything from coming in or out?” Kradron comments.

Everyone stands around and looks at the weird stuff while time passes. Eventually everyone looks at each other and then to Cynan.

Cynan looks around the group as they look at him. “I think it is time we left, what we see before us is not of our world and tampering will probably cause more harm than good. Gordon if you are of the same mind as us I think we all would be happier back on the surface, this place has cost us a lot already let us not add to the bill.”

“To be honest Cynan the place gives me the creeps, but I am curious about these other transporter rings, do they go to the same ones we’ve been using? The orc we captured said about one of them leading to ‘the stars’, could that be here I wonder?” The gnomes eyes are wide with wonder and curiosity in this strange place, “P’raps if we just took a little look at one of the rings to see if it has the same symbols on it,” he suggests with a hopeful look on his face. “Then we can head back to the workshop and search those living quarters and the room at the back?”

Talo nods with Gordon’s comments, “Yeah, maybe a portal to other planes, celestial and other.” Once the gnome mentions taking a look at one of the rings Talo recoils, “I’ll stick around to help mend you in case of… whatever harm this thing can dish out. But I will be in the rear. Quietly.”

Once the inspection begins, Talo’s eyes wander as he searches cautiously for triggering mechanisms, traps, runes, or other beings. Careful to watch out for the gnome Talo is distressed over how close Gordon gets to the device and archway. As he finds the experience more benign than expected, Talo casts detect evil and scans the archway and the area around the path.

Cynan nods “Look but do not touch Gordon, in fact nobody touch a thing, a quick look then back out. This is beyond us and we risk more than we can learn here.” Cynan like everyone else is eager to leave this place and his nerves show.

“Okeydokey Paladin.” Gordon scurries off to take a closer look at the transporter circle in the centre of the room on the platform, he is careful not to look down from the bridge and concentrates on the stone circle. Once there he looks carefully for a symbol like the ones they found on the other ones. If he finds one he notes it’s orientation and symbol before returning to the party.

Gildor says, “Here I’ll join you and here take these drow spell books we can share them later on. I’ll cast Comprehend languages again and relay any information I can read to you, and I won’t touch a thing.”

Gildor cast Comprehend Languages and spouts off what he reads to Gordon if anything.

Gordon, Gildor and Talo move into the room cautiously, Gildor looking for something to read, Talo trying to sense something from the odd, snow white copy of the transporter platforms and Gordon rushing rashly over to the central platform to get a good look at it.
The platform is a perfect copy, too perfect in an odd way, the surface has a liquid gloss finish like it is wet but it feels dry and perfectly smooth to the touch. Getting down on his hands and knees, the gnome gives it a really good look and can find no scratch or imperfection on the platforms or the white crystal columns, as if they’ve never been touched, never mind seen regular use.
It is at this point that Gildor who hasn’t seen any sign so far of a glyph, symbol or rune never mind a whole sentence to translate, notices one of the crystal columns light up on the third set of outer platforms (assuming a clockwise formation as the party entered the room). Moments later another of the columns begins to glow and white lightning begins rapidly cascading up and down the stack of giant snowflakes above and beneath the platforms.

Gildor steps back a bit, “I didn’t touch it. I swear to the lady of Summer it isn’t me. Either this is happening on some schedule, or our presence activated it or something invisible is activating it or maybe it can receive too.”
Based on their previous use of the ring Gildor tries to determine where the platform that is lighting up would be linked. Gildor says as he points to it, “Let’s move to the others. We still don’t know what all is down here.”

Like a child on a long shopping trip with grandma, Talo’s head falls back as he makes a moan. Knowing there is no use in fighting the curiosity-drive of the arcanists, he makes good use of himself trying to keep an eye on everyone and a firm grip on his stone globe, Talo watches for any invaders.

The lightning arcs have gathered Talo’s tenuous attention. “Um, gentlemen? I think we need to get out of here awfully quick. I don’t intend to travel via these discs and whatever WOULD travel on them are likely not our kind of folk. Perhaps it has been set to… explode? Seems like they are set to break themselves…” With that Talo heads back the way they came.

Gildor was already backing up toward the others (Cynan, Kradorn) and says, “Agreed, Talo my friend. I think something is activating them and that isn’t good, me thinks.” Gildor picks up his pace but won’t out pace Gordon or Talo and helps them along as they move out. Gildor yells loud enough to Cynan and Kradorn to hear, “We think it’s going to explode we need to get moving out of here. We don’t know if it does explode if it will affect the other rings functionality.”

Kradorn thinks that something is about to come through but will listen to those who have more knowledge of the function of the teleporter then himself.
Moving with Cynan back out. “Well if is blowing or something is coming through. Lets get into a defensive position.” Kradorn comments.

Kradorn watches as the gnome, elf and dwarf all run back towards him and Cynan, across the huge white disc. As the fifth and last of the crystal columns lights up, a huge blast of lightning passes through that platform (13) and races away, up and down the enormous stack of glittering fractal shapes to return a moment later and blast the arrival platform close to where the party were stood (10).
Huge arcs of lightning radiate out, striking the floor and the huge snowflakes above and the three fleeing party members are caught in this maelstrom. All are knocked off their feet and slide a short distance along the smooth white floor. Gordon comes perilously close to the edge of the central disc but stops just before the bridge.
Kradorn noticed as the lightning discharged over the disc (10) that between 15 and 20 figures were visible for a moment, outlined in lightning. It was too bright for Kradorn to make out any features but they all seemed to be carrying poles or spears.
Now the lightning has subsided and returned to its previous level of occasional flashes and sparks, there are no signs of anyone else in the room apart from a slightly smouldering elf, gnome and dwarf.