Thursday, June 4, 2020

View of the Vanfrost - Episode 2

by Joey "Ruthade" Chipman

Echoes of Ragnarok: The Vanfrost Paralogues: Svartalheim?
A Report by Ruthade

Commander Cronin, I hope this missive finds you well while you tend to matters around Kenkilit. I apologize for my abrupt absence the other day, but Thoril had been gathering adventurers to join him on a journey through the Vanfrost, a portal which would lead to the various domains connected to Norlund. Intrigued by the prospect of seeing how Norlund was fairing after we… made new gods, I decided to join Thoril on this adventure, as did Elowen. Thoril had also gathered John Baptiste, Tuilli, and Varrmagn to join us. Unfortunately, Varrmagn had far more important matters to attend to, but the “Rainbow Ruffians” could most likely handle whatever the Echoes of Ragnarok could throw at us.

After meeting with Ulric in Rhiassa, he directed us toward the Vanfrost, which we Ruffians crossed. Before we even had a chance to check our surroundings on the other side, we were beset by a squad of six or seven Dark Elves! On the upside, Thoril, Elowen, and Baptiste could rush in to deal with them quickly. Even Tuilli took down at least one of them with a Magic Missile, though I flubbed my shot. However, once battle began, I couldn’t help but feel a bit more restricted than usual. My imagination, perhaps?

With this wave of Drow downed, we finally had a chance to check our surroundings. Stone everywhere, much of it just stone, but with what appeared to be doorways carved directly into the cliffs and several rocks spilling out from the doorways. Traveling a bit ahead, the stone on the ground was also carved into tiling. A legitimate door stood before us, just one, rather than a set. Before we could investigate this door further, though, Baptiste had wandered off to the side, where he provoked an Earth Dragon!

The dragon rushed forward and chomped at Baptiste, knocking him down. Elowen was able to wound this dragon, but it took a double dose of Lightning Bolts between Tuilli and I to burn down that beast! As Tuilli revived Baptiste, Thoril, Elowen, and I serached through a pile of bones this dragon was guarding (Dark Elf and Dwarf, from the looks of them) until we pulled an old key from the pile.
Back at the single door, we investigated more closely to find a keyhole. There was only one door to what should’ve been a set, though, and where the other door was, some of us probably could’ve squeezed by. However, Tuilli did not seem up to doing anything as laborious as climbing through rubble tonight. Besides, as Thoril claimed, “We fought a dragon to get this key; we might as well use it.” One gently curving corridor later, Thoril, Elowen, and Tuilli provoked a smaller band of Dark Elves guarding another set of doors. Baptiste and I lagged a bit behind, but the Rainbow Ruffians managed to fell this group, too.

Walking through the doors these Dark Elves guarded, we entered a large, round, domed room. The center of this room was sealed off by a force field, but there were alcoves around the room, each containing a lever and two blank bronze plates. Another bronze plate was in a corner of the room far from the doors we entered, seemingly torn off the wall but too heavy to move, and there was one final plate near a set of locked doors to the south of the room. I tried to rub down the fallen plate with some paper and a pencil, but nothing appeared. As I investigated this plate, the others stepped into separate alcoves and simultaneously pulled the levers.

Pulling the levers finally made SOMETHING appear on these bronze plates. An S-shaped curve with various vines, fins, and other shapes appeared on the torn-off plate. This plate also had a single white scratch on the bottom. Once the others the pulled the levers, however, a force field appeared in the doorways, trapping the others in their alcoves! I rushed over to the southern hall of the room and looked at the plate there, which bore another shape with a similar structure to the one in the corner but was incomplete. It also showed ten white scratches on the bottom. There was a mysterious stylus accompanying the southern plate, so I picked up the stylus and tried to finish the shape I had seen in the upper corner. This didn’t accomplish anything, though.

Around this time, the other Ruffians started shouting how they were seeing marks on the plates in their alcoves, too. Sketchbook in hand, I rushed around to the others to see what shapes appeared to them and jotted them down. All of the shapes we saw had a similar S-curve to them, but the top and bottom of that curve differed for each, and various shapes and fins appeared at the bends of the S. Each of their plates was labeled with a different number of white scratches at the bottom, and we soon realized our goal. The top, left, right, and bottom of each S cycled through different patterns in Shapes 1 through 9, and we needed to finish the Shape for the 10-scratch plate. After figuring out the patterns, I finally drew the needed Shape, and the others were freed from their alcoves. Coordinated efforts take a while in the Realms, but this was honestly one of the smoothest I’ve dealt with (heh heh heh).

That relief didn’t last, though, for the 10-scratch plate also unlocked the doors near it, and past those doors, we were met with four “Golems” (animated suits of armor, in this case). Elowen made the first strike, but it appeared to do no damage to that Golem. John Baptiste rushed by some Golems and noticed there were runes engraved on them, seemingly powering them. With Baptiste’s descriptions of these runes, I looked them up to find they matched with the common characters for “F”, “A”, “L”, and “N”, though Elowen seemed to recognize them more easily. Elowen had fallen at one point, but Tuilli was able to riase her, while I attempted to strike a Missile at one of the Golems. Still, no blade, no bolt, no tiny bundle of magic could make even a dent in these Golems, and we were trying all we could on all four of them.

Meanwhile, Thoril slipped into the far east corner of the room and found a similar Golem buried face-down under some rubble. After making his way over to Thoril, Baptiste cleared the rubble away and found a button on the back of the fallen Golem’s neck. …which Thoril immediately pressed. …which reawakened this fifth Golem.

Someone condemned this reaction with a now-famous quote: “Goddammit, Thoril”. The condemnation was a bit premature, though, as this Golem also bore its own rune, matching the common character “I”. Elowen finally figured out the five Golems spelled the word “FINAL”, so we begin to dismantle the Golems in order.

Deactivating these Golems opened two more rooms in the back of this one, each bearing a chain. Thoril and I took the west chain, Elowen and Baptiste the east. We try to yank on them, but I honestly couldn’t contribute as much as I hoped. But Elowen and Thoril eventually pulled just the right way, and pulling these chains FINALLY brought down the force field protecting the center of the main domed chamber.

Here, we found four round stonelike plates marked with rings, two in the north, and two in the south. Beside each set of plates was a chest containing clusters of colored orbs attached to each other. Each plate would only accept clusters that looked similar to the colored rings engraved on them; otherwise, they just kind of rolled off these plates. The plates acted much like measuring scales, and with just what was shown on the scales, one side was weighed heavier than the other. While Elowen and I tried to figure out the southern scales, John Baptiste quickly balanced them; we didn’t need all of these clusters, but we did need the same number of each color orb on each side. Baptiste then joined Tuilli and Thoril on the northern scales to figure out how to balance them. I’m impressed Baptiste reasoned this out so quickly.

One other feature about this room I neglected to mention: at the center of the center of the room was a locked fliptop door. It would not budge before, but once both sets of scales were balanced, this fliptop flipped up, and we found…

…an acorn? A giant acorn? Unusual, but after picking up this giant acorn, the Vanfrost opened up once more, and we were able to return home after a surprisingly involved adventure.

I will confess, I am not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of every world affected by Ragnarok. We both know Helheim is the land of the dead, and I’ve heard Niflheim is icy, while Muspellheim is fiery. Where I get hazy is Svartalfheim versus Jotunheim. After consulting with the other Rainbow Ruffians, and judging by the Dwarf bones, endless stone and beautiful stone architecture, it seems like we stumbled into Svartalfheim.

I do have questions about this adventure, though. If this was Svartalfheim, where were the Dwarves? And what significance does this acorn hold? I’ve heard the worlds of Norlund could be held together by a tree, so does THAT have something to do with it? Also, what are we going to do with this acorn?