Friday, 4 October 2019

The domesticated Dungeon (part 3): behind the walls

THE DUNGEON
You remember the dungeon, don't you? it's been a while, so let's sum up:


1- The alcove where the portable hole opens. There is a flight of stairs in the middle that leads up to the roof, but when the hole is closed, it leads nowhere. The room is kind of dark, for there are no lanterns there.
2- The reception hall, with its mana fountain. It’s bare and sad, but well lighted, thanks to the 8 lanterns (one on each side of each passage).
3- The abandoned corridor. It leads nowhere, for both sides have been crumbled on purpose. You can still see the marks on the walls where the explosives where set.
4-5- The kitchen and pantry. There is enough food there to feed 6 people for more or less two years. After that, the enchantment that keeps the food fresh will start to fade, and all will be corrupted in a matter of days.
6- The cells, still holding a goat, a half crazed goblin, a nearly dead nixe, and a bear, starved, but still strong. It wears a collar reading Fred.
7- The private apartments of Welesbur. It can accommodate up to three people, four gets uncomfortable, more is… Well unless you’re into that of course. The secret passage can be open by pressing the deep end of three small holes in the wall at the same time, which is difficult to do without welesbur’s staff.
8- The laboratory, where Welesbur finished his days. Most of his work and books has been burnt, and most of the glassware is broken, but the alembic and chimney are good to go.
9- The pit, with the thing in it. The tentaculous creature seems to be there all the time, and it won’t die, even if not fed. It is not possible to communicate with it, for it is a fierce predator, and already adult.
10- The abandoned room, on the other side of the private apartment’s secret passage. A good part of the ceiling fell, once again, it seems to have been on purpose. Once the glyphs that cover the floor are gone, one can spot marks that can only have been done by a lot of hot sharp metal objects.
11- The faceless statue. The face has been smashed (this is not the work of time for the statue is not that old), and the metal plate on the pedestal rendered unreadable. The hands are clearly not human, and the long robes suggest some kind of priest, or wizard. If you’ve read “Into the woods” (and if not, please do!) You already know the truth.

--------------------FROM THERE, WARNING, SPOILERS--------------------


So the heroes have lived in there for a while, they must have crossed path with most questions about the dungeon, and maybe they want to know what's behind those cave ins on the map.


Rocks in the middle of corridors represent cave-ins, both naturals (in 10) and dwarf made (in 3). They are used as walls to keep the dungeon isolated from its surroundings, which, for the most part, are very hostile. A team of skilled miners can easily dig through it, or even re-build the corridor from scratch; each cave-in is a 2-3 days operation and would cost 200-600 Gold, depending of the negotiation skills (and obviously race if we’re talking dwarves) of the client.
12 – The lost staircase leads to the level under. Or would lead there if it wasn’t half crumbled, and lair to a deep spider and its many spawns. The part of the dungeon right downstairs is mostly empty, for those dwellers who tried to stay were eaten by the spiderlings many moons ago. The beast is happy in its hole, but hunger, and sheer curiosity may well lead it or its spawns to investigate the portable hole.
13 – The Elven corridor; you’ll have to walk for three kilometers in this corridor before you meet anything alive (apart from a strange species of sentient moss, which you’ll probably won’t notice, mistaking them for normal moss); the last kilometer, you’ll see many carvings and decorations on the wall, very fine and sharp, but really old; then you’ll come across a vast cavern, with strange buildings, really narrow and high, and roofs shaped like zigguraths, and black marble ornaments. Of course by now you’ll have realized that you stand in the outskirts of a Deep Elves city, but, to say the least, it is just a bit late…
14 – The invocation room, where Welesbur once summoned Balther the murky, a cruel demi-god from coal hell… and where he kept him afterwards. In fact, the bloody thing is still standing in the middle of the circle, trapped for all time by a particularly complex glyph. Our lord from coal hell is not in the best of shape, after nearly twenty years in the circle, but he still wants out, and he is still pissed, and vexed and angry to be maintained prisoner by a mere mortal. Most of the time he stands unseen, and most people wouldn’t even know he’s in the room; but anybody standing around the circle will feel uneasy, as the power from its hatred radiates outside.
 

 So now we have it all, the complete portable dungeon, with all its secrets revealed... Wait, what? There is gotta be more than that, isn't there?

THE FANTASY WALLS


One of Welesbur’s most subtle work, a fantasy wall is actually not a wall at all, neither is it an illusion of a wall. Actually this is one of the few real results of welesbur’s research in sacred magic- using faith as a source of power – and of course glyph magic.

See, the word and the thing it describes or designate is the same thing for most brains. As such, the word wall is a wall, for knowing the word is visualizing the thing. So if you see or hear the word wall, you “see” a wall, and if the word is charged with power, the wall you see will kind of be there for you to experience. As such, a fantasy wall is real as long as you believe it to be, and there is absolutely no reason for you to doubt the existence of the wall; you can see it, touch it, you can even try to break it, and succeed indeed. From the second you know that there is no wall, it will entirely cease to exist, and all you’ll see is the glyph on the ground.

Magic is of no help to detect the wall: a “detect magic” spell will tell you there is some magic in the wall, but won’t deny its existence. A spell of “true vision” spell will enable you to feel the word better, which will, as a matter of fact, perfect the image your brain is translating it into, and as such, make the wall even more real.

A dwarf, with its natural knowledge of stone and masonry will see there is something wrong, see that the wall cannot be there, but he will be forced to admit that the wall is indeed there.

The better way to “see” the wall for what it really is (nothing really) is to create a paradigm shift between different people. Say you pay a mason to open the wall, and let him work. He will do his thing and create a hole in the wall. You come back to see the progress and you see none, but the mason does. In fact he will probably pass his hand in the hole, to “show you” that he made one. And you’ll see his arm go right through the stones, which will lead you to doubt the wall, and consequently, the wall will cease to exist.

Now, if you ever totally forget the place and its layout, the wall will be back, but if you remember the slightest thing to make you doubt the wall (even something as vague as “I’m sure there was one more room” which will make you doubt more or less every wall), the wall will again cease to exist.

A fantasy wall is not a viable defense line; it is a security measure against strangers. The magic in the word makes it understandable by anybody, whatever the language they speak or whether they know how to read or not. Most of the time it will even work on someone who has seen a map of the premises, for he will think a wall has been added, and will search for a way to knock it down, or a secret passage; he won’t doubt the reality of the wall itself.

How to find the Fantasy Walls?
Well, apart from the obvious, there are three main ways:
- If new imps are created and the schedule isn’t mixed up, one of them will go make the bed in welesbur’s apartment’s second room, every morning;  one of them will also go check the portals locks in the war corridor at midnight.
- If the cages in the pen stay open for more than an hour, Fred the bear or the mad goblin (Yoro he calls himself) will become restless and wander over the wall (the bear is just a beast, and doesn’t concern itself with stupid human things as fake walls, and Yoro is so crazed he sees right through the illusion).
- Welesbur’s ghost will, of course cross them many times a day, for he keeps going on pretty much as before, and of course, doesn’t believe in the walls. He is invisible (because he wants so) but magic users may detect him as easily as any other magic source.
-The passage between the reception hall (2) and the abandoned corridor (3) used to house a fantasy wall, but an incident with the Deep spiders encouraged Welesbur to hire Dwarf workers to condemn the stairs and passage. He removed the wall then, and never got around to rose it again. The floor keeps the marks of the glyph, even if most of it is gone, and any magic user can feel the power that was in the stones. The actual spell, however, is pretty impossible to understand, as it uses sacred and profane magic, most adventurers will believe it to be two different spells.
- In the cauldron lives an old freedom fighter, whose true passion in life is to blow things up. If he ever happened to enter the dungeon, he wouldl not see the walls, and would get right through those without an hesitation. After all, his moto is “I don’t believe in walls”. I must say this one is pretty improbable, even for me…

So... Behind the walls?

1,7 and 6 have a strange marking on their outer wall on the map. This depicts the presence of a fantasy wall (see the sidebar). Crossing the walls leads to:
15 - The other part of Welesbur’s apartments, containing a second bed (for a mistress maybe?) and a lot (and I mean a lot) of clothes, apparently all the same size, and most of those male in fashion. It is the private dressing of Welesbur, and the collection of disguises he used to stay out of reach; celebrity may be a curse when you need to concentrate.
16 – The lizard corridor leads to the new Lizard republic, one kilometer to the east. Those are the former slaves of the deep elves, and they kind of venerate Welesbur, for it is by his manipulations that their revolution happened. They have absolutely no idea that he was living just next door from them for all this time, but learning that he did, and died, won’t make them happy, for sure.
17 – The war corridor is the last line of defense for Welesbur’s vault (see 15); each alcove houses a small elementary portal (two for fire, two for ice, two for thunder, and one for void in the middle). The two western doors are heavily warded against elemental damages, as to protect the archives from the elemental flow, but the eastern way, and as such the dungeon itself, isn’t protected in any way, and as such, would be cauterized by a long exposure (say a minute); all six fire, ice and thunder portals are linked and open at once with a single command, and void is used to clean up when the danger is gone (it actually creates a “hole” that attracts everything around, including the other portal’s “production”). The portals can be opened from the vault (a metal glyph besides the doors: one push opens the first six, a second push closes those and opens void, a third closes void; there also is a pressure plate around the middle of the corridor.
18 – The vault have locked and heavily warded doors (see above). It is nearly impossible to get in without the “keyycode”, which is a series of finger pressures at specific points and timing on the door’s decorative pattern. The keycode was only known to Welesbur, so it seems perfectly impossible for the heroes to get in, but who knows… The vault contains Welesbur’s real library (the books in his laboratory were copies), his ongoing experiments, and his own personal artifact collection.


The central space is overloaded with strange contraption, series of vials with colored liquids, some still bubbling, piles of paper and notes;
 The two most northern rooms are books, one copy for every known magic book in existence, and one copy for every unknown one; in the third room are journals and personal notes inspired by reading the two other rooms’ contents.
The three southern rooms are specific experimental grounds: from left to right, a stasis field, a cold (-30°)room, and a hot (+50°) which can be turned into a crematory.
The last room is for the artifacts; do not imagine a big magic weapon deposit; the things in there are far more esoteric than that. You got your magic compounds, bat shit, crocodile drool, wombat nose hair, savage flower roots powder and the like; then you got your magic parts, enchanted cogs and wheels, magic branches, and knives that have been used to bleed diverse hellions and elementals; and finally you have your curiosities. Keep in mind, a mage of Welesbur’s caliber doesn’t take interest in the effect of the magic item, but in the enchantment placed upon it: there is a hat with a feather, when you put it on your head, you speak backwards; and a metal ring, which is too big for a finger and too small for a wrist, when you blow softly on it, it sings; a frying pan which can never be heated and a drinking glass that teleports any liquid poured in it directly into a kid’s stomach somewhere in the Cauldron. Plainly speaking, nothing even remotely useful. Except maybe a fork and a knife made of vermillion.



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