Previously: Hot Springs Island: Session 0/1
Cast for this session:
- Ruber Valis, elementalist
- Hootford Jr., guard and associate of Ruber
- Anvil, master artisan
The characters are standing in the entrance hall of the bath-house. Music is playing throughout the area. An elvish waiter has just walked straight through Anvil.
Slowly the party realized that they were looking at some kind of illusion as they moved through the throng of elves. The elves appeared to be waiting for something to begin.
Soon the crowd parted, and another group of elves entered; each dressed in deep blue robes whose colours changed and shifted as they walked. The newly-arrived elves walked down the entrance hall and into the large chamber at the end, and were closely followed by large animated stone statues in the forms of various animals. Each of these statues carried a chest on its back.
The parade moved onwards into the grand chamber and the party followed it. The chamber opened up through all three levels of the bath-house to a large dome at the top, through which a blue sky could be seen. From the topmost level streams of steaming water gushed down channels to the levels below, forming a pool in the base of the chamber. In and around the pool are terraces of white stone seats, the water flowing between them until it circled around a central stage. Through the clouds of steam can be seen flowering plants and vines, growing up the walls to the terraces and walkways above.
The blue-robed elves are greeted by other important-looking elves and begin to make their way to the next level of the bath-house. The party notice two of the group who peel off and walk down a corridor to the left, and the party decide to follow them.
They enter what appears to be a changing room. Elves in various states of undress chat and prepare themselves for bathing. Some elves are opening and shutting lockers, seemingly using long thin objects as keys. The two elves that they are trailing meet a third, wearing only a loincloth, who follows them into a curtained-off nook, and one of the pair draws the curtain shut. The party examines the changing room and realizes that some of the furniture seems to be incorporeal. Hootford suspects the use of magic and lowers the visor of his anti-magic armour — passed down through his family for many years.
With the visor down Hootford is shocked to find that the room they are standing in is in a state of disrepair. He is able to see through the illusion of the elves, and notes that many of the seats have crumbled, which explains why they seem “incorporeal”. At this point the two blue-robed elves depart the curtained room, drawing the curtain closed behind themselves, and make their way back to the grand chamber. The party checks the nook and finds the lifeless body of the third elf sprawled across a chair: he has been strangled!
The party quickly returns to the main chamber. The parade of elves and statues has progressed up the stairs to the next level, where some kind of presentation is being held. At the centre is — as Ruber identifies — some kind of water elemental who is receiving gifts from the blue-robed elves. Each of them takes her hand in turn as they offer her the chests carried on the backs of the animated stone animals. Finally, she is given a beautiful sparkling silver tiara.
The blue-robed elves disperse and make their way back down to the lowest level and begin to choose seats. Some of them direct other important-looking elves to the front rows; clearly some kind of performance is about to start. Other helpers bring large cloth-covered objects down to the lower level and arrange them around the outer perimeter of the seating. The remainder of the seating is taken up by other elves, and many more gather around the rims of the terraces above.
After everything is ready, the water elemental descends from the second floor and takes the centre stage. A blue-robed elf presents her to the audience, and a small ceremony is held where she is presented with two statues crafted in her likeness, which are placed upon the stage alongside her. After this, the lights dim slightly as her performance begins.
The water elemental, now holding an amphora, begins to sing. It is a beautiful, if plain, song, but as she sings, she pours water from the amphora onto the stage. The water splashes and burbles as she pours and it begins to sound like the water is singing along with her. In fact, it definitely is — it sounds like a choir. As she finishes pouring the water, from the pool around her rise many other smaller water elementals, singing and swaying to the music. There must be fifty of them now, standing around the stage and in amongst the seated elves.
As the song draws to a close, the elves clap. The main elemental bows and begins to sing the next song, and as she does so a low noise begins to come from the audience — the elves are singing along. The water elemental smiles and continues to sing but soon has a puzzled look on her face; something is wrong with the way the elves are singing. Hootford (who has a musical past, having sung songs with fellow soldiers for many years) realizes that they are singing the song backwards. Nevertheless, the water elementals continue their song, until it reaches a peak, but at the height of the music the elves standing next to the curtained objects tear off the curtains, revealing empty picture frames.
The nearest elementals are sucked into the frames as the elves continue to sing louder and louder, disappearing one by one until none are left on the stage. The main elemental, furious, screams and raises her hands and a wave of boiling water and scorching steam erupts from the stage, obliterating the front row of elves in a moist explosion. The rest of the elves in the outer seats continue to chant, their faces fixed in grim concentration, until at last, the water elemental appears to be ripped in two with each half sucked into one of the two statues standing on the stage.
Silence and a cloud of mist descend upon the scene, and after a moment the elves begin to grin and clap, turning to each other with excited faces. Whatever they were doing, it has been accomplished.
The party look at each other, confused, until there is a blink, and the lights increase in brightness again. The grand chamber is empty, aside from a few elves walking around the perimeter.
At the entrance to the grand chamber, the party can see some elves talking to each other and laughing, and as they make their way over, they realize that this is the same gathering that they had encountered on their way into the bath-house. They seem to be encountering some kind of loop in the illusion. With no idea what is going on, they decide to leave and come back later, so they descend the staircase to the outside…
…only to find themselves walking back up the staircase into the entrance hall again. They attempt this several more times until they realize that they are unable to leave.
With little else to do they decide to watch the proceedings again. This time they follow the parade as it progresses up to the second floor and notice two blue-robed elves splitting off from the main group as they ascend the staircase. They follow these elves into another room on the second floor which seems to be split into two large sections, containing hot and cold baths. The two elves turn toward the cold end, inviting a nearby elf to come with them. Together they wade toward the end of the pools and then up a narrow corridor from which the coldest water seems to be flowing. The three enter a smaller and colder room, which must be the coldest in the complex; there are no other elves in here at the moment.
After a short and suddenly heated discussion the two blue-robed elves seize the other one and drag them towards a large glowing blue crystal near the water inlet. One of them grabs the victim’s head by the hair and forces their face against the crystal: they let out a scream which is quickly cut off as their face begins to turn blue and icy. The two murderers release the body and the dying elf’s skin turns a frosty white as ice creeps along their limbs.
Hootford checks through his visor; while there is no water in this room there are some shards of the crystal from the vision on the floor. He directs Ruber who collects them into his satchel: perhaps he can study them later and discover what kind of device it is.1It’s an ice elemental core.
Back in the grand chamber, the rest of the performance plays out as before. Once the time loop resets, the characters start to cough and splutter water. Realizing that something is going wrong, they try to find a window to climb out of, only to discover that it looks like the bath-house is deep under water.
Eventually, feeling like they are choking on thin air, they make their way to the very top level of the bath-house where they find a circular chamber. In the centre of the room is a portal with an attached device containing elven symbols, but around the outside of the room are a series of statues depicting various humanoids: people, some large brutish creatures, and lizard-like men, until at the end of the row they find realistic statues of themselves. Crawling on their knees by this point, coughing up salty water, they crawl to the base of their statues, where they collapse, gripping at the stone.
At once the illusion vanishes. Spitting out the last of the water they realize the statues have all disappeared. The portal in the centre of the room remains, but after some examination they decide they are unable to operate it without knowledge of the elven language. They descend the stairs back toward the base of the bath-house, which they can now see is in a decrepit and overgrown state.
As they descend the stairs from the upper levels, they are greeted with a round of applause. Sitting on the stage in the middle are the four people they had seen earlier outside in the city. “We never thought you’d make it out, well done!” says the man in brightly-coloured clothing, who introduces himself as Jack the Jeweller (“Surely you’ve heard of my work? No?”)
The two groups chat and discuss how they came to be on the island; Jack’s group is here because he is looking for a rumoured elven forge, and invited some friends — as well as paid mercenaries — to sign up voluntarily with the Martell company in search of the forge and other riches. When they realize that the Martell name is unfamiliar to the party they invite them to come back with them to The Unbroken anchored in the harbour. It is the ship of Captain Rand, who is in charge of the “adventurers’ guild” around here, and can probably help them out.
Eunice — Jack’s wizard friend — mentions to Ruber that it is unsafe for mages to remain in the city after dark, and suggests that they all make their way to the boat. So, all together they make their way down the central staircase of the city to where Jack’s party’s boat is tied up at the bottom. They row out to meet the ship and find many other people waiting on the boat: these are the members of Rand’s adventurers’ guild.
Captain Rand is a large and intimidating man, but offers the party the use of his services, and Rand’s Retreat — a small outpost established on an island to the south — in return for a cut of anything they remove from the island. He has been given sole dominion of the island, which is now being called Hot Springs Island, after the Martel Company found that their marines were ill-equipped for the exercise of exploring and exploiting the island (not to mention the attrition rates suffered during the Company’s early expeditions). Jack’s party mention that many of the “adventurers” are here under duress, having had their debts on-sold to the Martell company.
The party agree to Rand’s terms and have their first proper meal since being shipwrecked on the island.
Later that evening, Ruber pens a letter:
I do not know when or even if this letter may find you, but I call upon the majesty of our house for its speedy delivery to you.
I find myself once again on a strange boat. We have been delivered to Captain Rand, a merry if somewhat intimidating man. We were escorted here some new acquaintances: Jack, Eunice, Baxter and Audrey. We met these fine fellow adventurers during a thoroughly confusing trip through the island’s bath house. As you know father, I have never frequented a bath house nor even entertained the thought of it. Mother would be horrified for one, but as you know I have yet to outgrow the adolescent shame of one’s body. I know you have brought the rod upon my back numerous times to overcome this shame, yet I fear it still takes hold of me.
Anyway, we found ourselves in a bath house. And not just any bath house but one of the ancient elves. Despite your insistence to say otherwise, my books have indeed come in use. The elves have proven to be the erotic race that my images in my books portray them as. This is not the “fantasies of a confused and feeble libido” as you once yelled at me but is instead historical fact. I pray that you respect the work of scholars more in future.
I write to you however not to change your mind about my disposition but instead to ask you for your input. Having entered this bathhouse, we found ourselves in some sort of historical time loop, viewing an elven festival or practise, as if we were there ourselves. We were able to interact with this loop only in that we could walk about and view, but not physically interact with, different parts of it. Once again, your decision to allow Hootford to travel with me proves a wise one, as he soon discovered he had the power of HelmView. He could easily switch between this historical view and a contemporary one. I have tried to ask him more about how he achieved this, but he seems reluctant or unable to explain.
What we viewed during this loop was somewhat troubling. We saw multiple murders, and it seemed that the highborn were being targeted. This, of course, sent shivers down my spine. Yet the worst was to come, as it seemed that during this ceremony the elves interacted with some elemental creatures only to then trap them in something like a painting.
While viewing this horror, we as a party become physically uncomfortable. This discomfort soon became panic as we all felt that we were drowning, despite not being under water. Eventually, we made our way into some sort of control room. In the centre of this room was what we surmised was a planar portal of some kind, and behind this we’re strange statues of ourselves. We tried to this portal to escape to no avail. Thinking quickly, I groped at my statue…
It was not until we touched our own statues that this “loop” ended, and we found ourselves back in the present day. We were soon faced with that friendly band of fellow adventurers, who have since brought us to this boat. I am still trying to make sense of what has happened to us. Do not fear for I also continue to work on our little colonial project. I will not fail you father, but I must again seek your advice. What do you think this “loop” means? What is the connection between the elves and these elemental creatures? Are the events we saw somehow connected to the apparent abandonment of this city? Most importantly, are you proud and do you love me?