Kingdom of Arboria, Year 6, Erastus 20th
Castle of Knives
Gathering for the final assault on the Castle of Knives took the greater part of a month. We assembled a strike force consisting of Gelros's inner cadre and a century of the Arborian First's finest veterans. We flew to the castle in the vanguard of our airship armada, planning on an aerial strike. What we found was not quite what we expected.
The castle itself was on a high plateau, on a small island, within a deep lake. It's a thing of exquisite beauty, but damaged. The architecture is warped and oddly disjointed, as if the structure can't quite conform to the normalcy of the material plane. Sections are crumbled or missing, exposing courtyards and interior rooms. Nobody answered our hails. In fact, the whole place appeared deserted from the outside, which meant that our shock troops weren't immediately useful.
Given what we'd seen in the First World, Gelros was not keen on committing regulars to combat within the castle. I can't say I blame him, especially as we could tell that this whole place reeks of magic even before we set foot inside. So, we placed a picket around the island (insofar as a sparse ring of airships can be considered a picket) and elected to do things our usual way: with an elite strike force consisting of, well, ourselves.
The front gate was closed, and the broken wall next to it too obvious. For our point of entry, we therefore chose the slit in the observatory, through which we could glimpse the lens of a gold-plated telescope that must weigh nearly 1000 pounds. There were no guards and the room was otherwise spare, but that didn't mean our entry was boring. Oh no. This is Narissa we're talking about; she makes all her assets defy physics and basic logic just for gits and shiggles. For one thing, we could clearly hear ourselves in pitched combat somewhere else in the castle. (Definitely us; Gelros's tongue-in-cheek "Lament for a Brave Kobold Full of Arrows" is unmistakable. The kobold, of course, changes with every rendition; this time it sounded like maybe a wyvern?) For another, Kris found a book labeled simply "Endings" which was a catalog of many possible gruesome ways that our little adventure might end. Literally, our adventure, with us as characters. For instance, there was a particularly compelling illustration of Narzeth being eaten by little red worms.
Narzeth, studying (I assume) the currents of magic in the air, informed the rest of us that "time is flowing strangely" within the castle walls. Evariel, on the other hand, just observed "By Gorum's sweaty sack this place is weird."
It took a moment to open the door. The door itself was unremarkable, apart from the lack of a doorknob or handle of any kind. Pushing outward did nothing; pushing it sideways did nothing. Kris muttered "must be magic." Gelros said "let me look." He looked. The door opened. "What did you do?" "Nothing. I just thought about it opening, and it opened." As he said this, Gelros turned away, and the door closed. From beyond it, I swear I heard in a droning sort of voice, "All the doors in this castle have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done." Nobody else seems to have heard this, though; when I brought it up I got some funny looks.
In our subsequent exploration of the castle/keep/mansion, we encountered a lot of bizarre stuff. There was also quite a bit of combat, but honestly, the architecture and contents of the building were way more interesting. I suppose I should summarize the combat first anyhow.
- In the courtyard at the castle entrance, we encountered and dispatched a well-armed horde of ghosts, a plant-dragon, and a troll. (Of note here: the troll possessed an amulet consisting of a cage of pixies on a chain. Every time the troll would have taken an injury a pixie died instead. Dispatching the troll necessitated first breaking the amulet, then breaking the troll.)
- Further along, we cleared out more ghosts. And then yet more ghosts.
- In the throne room (more on this below), we encountered an extremely strange wizard/sorcerer-type who was invisible but, on being coated in glitter dust, seemed to be made up of… floating worms? We had a brief firefight with him and drove him off. (This could become an issue later, I suppose, but he hasn't shown up here while we're resting. Yet.)
- We also drove off an… angel? It seems it was a hired hand of the worm-wizard's.
- We put down a pair of wyverns on the 2nd level.
In summary, the usual ever-evolving menagerie of highly unusual creatures attacked us (as usual), and we defeated them with, mostly, our usual array of tactics, although it took an unusual amount of effort. After this selection of encounters, we found a dusty, unused section of the castle and have holed up for a rest. (Indeed, I'm writing this from a desk in one of the libraries.)
So, the architecture of the Castle of Knives! This place is fascinating. So far as my untrained mind can discern, it combines the wild nature-magic of the First World with a mildly sadistic design aesthetic wrought in smooth white stone. It also doesn't seem to follow the usual laws of geometry, such that if you view what should be the same location from inside and out it may appear entirely different. Still, I'll try to give a layout.
Along the north wing of the ground floor (to the right from the entrance) is the corridor that leads to the observatory. Other contents of note include a water well that heals you if you can find and touch the one laughing demon statuette on the shelf with dozens of his weeping comrades (I'm not making this up), plus the taxidermied bear gracefully dancing in a cage (not making this up either). In the south wing are kitchens, servants' quarters, a small library, and the long-dead corpse of Jaric. Out front, the key feature of the courtyard is a magnificent tree, previously inhabited by said tree-dragon, which, sadly, I had to put down. Can't have the king being eaten by a tree-dragon. At the west end of the courtyard is a pair of massive oak gates, which swing silently inward to reveal an ornate dining room and the rest of the castle beyond.
The dining room itself was devoid of anything living (or pretending to be), but the table was covered in a ghostly feast. Around us, we could hear the sounds of feasting, and the food itself disappeared slowly as if into the mouths of phantom diners. It looked delicious and the platters magically refilled themselves, but none of us was hungry or stupid enough to try it. Past the dining room was the throne room, where we encountered the worm-wizard. At the north end, on a dias, sits a golden throne. It pulses with strong conjuration magic (at least, according to Narzeth). At the south, a staircase spirals upward. Above, the cathedral ceiling rises a good 50 feet, and a stone bridge spans between two doors. In the course of fighting the wizard, we made it upstairs, where we found a second dining hall, a pair of wyverns, and the long-disused guest rooms were we are now.
I should mention as well that throughout our exploration (and even now), we often heard the sounds of marching feet, calls to arms, or fevered combat from elsewhere in the castle. Often, said combat involved us. Odd things happened too: Kris encountered a surprised alternate version of himself behind a door, who then poofed out of existence. At one point, we heard another Narzeth chanting and moments later a meteor swarm destroyed the ghosts we were fighting. As Evariel said, this place is weird.
Nevertheless, so far, so good. After we rest here, we'll explore the upper levels and dig Narissa out of whatever hole she's hiding in. Nithlara out.
- 102,400 XP for killing the misbegotten troll
- 153,600 XP for slaying the ghostly guards
- 76,800 XP for slaying the zomok (plant-dragon)
- 153,400 XP for saving the pixies
- 115,200 XP for killing more ghosts
- (12) +1 ghost touch rapiers
- (12) +3 ghost touch armor
- 40,000 GP worth of gems for saving 8 pixies
- +4 full plate
- +3 vicious ranseur
- "Necklace of lovelies"
- Poisonous Cloak