Episode 46: the Heist, Part 2
The Party met with Sabetha at midday as scheduled, and the mysterious tiefling led them through the back streets of Uman’s Westfalls 4th neighbourhoods. They followed a circuitous route until, at the base of the mountain wall at the westernmost edge of the tier they reached a narrow arched passageway that led inside the mountain itself. Sabetha paused here, suddenly uncertain of the practicality of the deal she had struck with the party. She asked the party if they knew anything of the Pashtum family’s reputation, and when they indicated their ignorance explained to them that rumour held the Pashtum’s primacy amongst the noble houses was due less to their business acumen or aptitude for leadership, and more to do with bargains struck with mysterious hidden forces.
Rumour held one such bargain involved a colony of mountain dwarves said to be the original architects of Uman, carving the Redfall mountainside into 7 walled tiers as part of a pact with the denizens of Telisar to leave them in peace, while they burrowed ever deeper into the stone. The riches of the mountain would belong to the dwarves; the mines and natural resources of the surrounding lands would belong to the city.
Sabetha explained that the tunnels through which she was currently leading the party were assumed to be remnants of that first, centuries-long architectural effort to build the city, as was the Pashtum Bank itself – which accounted for its subterranean location on the 2nd Tier, its advanced security measures and the fact that in five hundred years nobody had ever successfully robbed it.
The party offered their new ally little in the way of assurances, but lacking any alternative, she resumed leading them through the tunnels, progressing generally northward and up a long incline. At last the tunnel veered sharply to the left, ending in a small cavern. Sabetha stopped here, and pointed to a side passage leading up and out of the cavern. She said this cavern marked the start of “Fools Pass,” a rumour of the Umani underground that claimed anyone able to scale the two thousand feet of sheer cliff above the chamber would find ventilation shafts carved by those same dwarves bringing fresh air – and enterprising thieves – down into the interior of the Pashtum Bank.
Sabetha bade the party farewell and left then, her telepathic muttering of incredulity echoing in their minds.
The party followed the passageway and emerged in the afternoon sun on a small bluff in the centre of a curved half-pipe of cliff that rose into the clouds above, and descended into mists below. The tunnels had brought them to a cliff secluded from city views, allowing them to operate freely as they began the dangerous ascent.
The party distributed the stolen harnesses and climbing potions and settled on a climbing order with Keen at the top and Magnus at the bottom. Yuna decided against a harness, thinking that if catastrophe struck her angelic form would permit her a minute of flight to react, a reaction that would be complicated by a rope harness.
Their initial ascent went well, and the party made good time. The air was crisp and cold, but fortunately any strange, supernatural weather seemed absent for the moment. For hours they climbed, but as they passed through the last third of their ascent still without any summit in sight, the physical exertion took its toll as party members slipped, lost footing, and found the angle of rock more and more difficult to traverse.
As they approached what they estimated to be two thousand feet of vertical distance, Keen suddenly shouted a warning to the party as a Chimera plummeted out of the sky towards the group, its three heads snarling and shrieking. It attacked, goring, biting and slashing in turn and Keen, Ara and Sirlius all took vicious wounds. The party unleashed a fury of spells, and the fearsome creature, believing at first it had found easy prey began a frenzied fight for survival, unleashing a torrent of fire from the dragon’s head.
The ferocity of the attack overwhelmed Yuna, who blacked out, let go of the rope, and without a harness began to plummet the thousands of feet to certain death. At the last moment she was saved by Sirlius, who, showing surprisingly quick reflexes reached out and grabbed the back of Yuna’s armor. As Magnus and Sirlius worked to secure Yuna from falling, Keen attacked the bloodied, enraged Chimera with his dancing rapier until Ara dealt it a death blow in a spectacular show of martial prowress suspended from a rope harness tied to an immovable rod. As the Chimera breathed its last, Ara summoned the power of the Akiiri Fist of the North Wind and sent it falling into the abyss with a blast of gale-force wind. The Chimera dealt with, Ara quickly cast a healing spell on Yuna, reviving her, and together the exhausted and shaken party climbed the last hundred feet to a rocky promontory.
Faint, bloodied and burned, the party rested in the small cave they found on the promontory in which the Chimera had been nesting. As they rested, Magnus let out a cry of surprise as with a sudden flash of insight he formulated the alchemical process necessary to process residium into a refined syrum to enact a binding such as the party shared, and further realized how to use a sample of an existing binding as a catalyst for new serum. He quickly began recording his discovery by chiselling it into his arcane orb.
Meanwhile, Keen noticed a crack in the wall at the back of the cave through which a slight breeze of fresh air could be felt. Using Ara’s Ring of Reduction he attempted to squeeze through the opening, only to get stuck halfway. Sirlius helped free him, and the party realized that since the air was flowing out of the crack there must be another way in to the space behind it. Magnus went back outside and climbed up past the cave entrance, and found a wide, perfectly cylindrical shaft leading down into the cliffside, cleverly disguised as a rock formation invisible from below.
The party joined Magnus and together they descended the shaft to alight in the cavernous space behind the crack. There they discovered a network of shafts, some large, some small, all disappearing into the darkness of the mountain interior: the ventilation system. This junction also contained the skeleton of some long-dead halfling adventurer. Their story forever unknowable, the adventurer had scratched a message into the stone floor encoded in thieves cant glyphs:
DEATH, DANGER, LEFT
VERY RICH MAN, DANGER, RIGHT
Keen deciphered the glyphs and the party regarded the two shafts large enough to traverse. Following the posthumous warning the party descended the right shaft. They followed it sharply downward for a time until it ended at a sharp drop. Using some of their climbing gear the party continued down the vertical shaft to arrive at a three-way junction. Sirlius sent his raven familiar, a quill illuminated by Yuna’s light spell held in its beak, down the center passage, where it abruptly disappeared, severing Sirlius’s telepathic bond. The danger unclear but obvious, Ara considered the two remaining shafts. He asked his guardian ancestor Aleh Xa to tell him how far away he stood from Pashtum Bank, and discovered the right-most shaft was a few feet closer. The party followed it, and resumed a careful, sharply-downward traversal through complete darkness.
After long, tense minutes in silence, the close-hewn ceiling suddenly rose, and the party found themselves at the base of a deep well of darkness. At first they elected to continue on, but Sirlius, thinking back to Sabetha’s instructions, convinced the party to backtrack and investigate. They did so, and Magnus cast a light cantrip to illuminate the space. The ceiling was lost to darkness but at the very edge of the penumbra they could see more naturalistic formations of stone high above, stalactites poking down out of the gloom. Unsure what to make of this, they resumed their descent, but it was only moments before Magnus felt a thick, ropey tentacle wrap around his neck and with vicious strength he was dragged back, away from the party and into the darkness.
Planning and Preparation Level: Surprisingly Effective
Near-Death Experiences: 1
Encounters avoided: 1⁄3
RP Rating: Awesome!