Tl;dr: A group of adventurers attempt and succeed at finding the tabaxi Garden of Stone. One of the goals was information on the location and story of Hortimus. They got the story but was told he was dead. To everyone’s surprise he was just slightly alive in stasis sustained by plants under an Ironstriker building. All adventurers returned but one had to be revived.

Future Adventure Notes:
•Bring some coins along to pay for outpost stays.
•Mentions of a group known as the “Red Elk.”
•Don’t use harmless magic on legendary people.
•Lots of information was received, too much to sum up, go read it.
•There are possibly glowing scrolls around that might teach stone singing, or maybe improve known stone singing. instructions unclear.

Session Title : The Secret Gardens
Session DM : Geokahn
Session Date : 21 Jan 2022 @ 00:00 UTC
Session Risk : 7

•”Trailblazer” Bardy (Cleric 1/Bard 14) with Sisyphus the Pegasus (played by Tootired78)
•Gau (Druid 11) (played by Konopa)
Katla (Fighter 11) (played by Arden)
Nog (Fighter 10) (played by Trulhammeren)
•”Leader” and “Scout” Twee (played by RCB)
Valorean (Paladin 6/Sorcerer 9) with Azure the Griffon (played by Mal)

Recounting a recent adventure,

My friend Twee had recently discovered some information that provided the possible location of one “Garden of Stone”, a tabaxi whose name had come up a few times as a potential source of information. (a very old and dangerous tabaxi, but more on that later.) Twee organized a group to go out in search the area in the mountains, southwest of White Moon Cove a few days journey. It was bitterly cold as we left White Moon Cove, the sounds of construction fading the further we got.

Our travel along the road was uneventful. We spent each night at an outpost, (I had to cover the costs because it seems everyone else forgot to bring any coins.) Gau (using a power I had yet to see from him, how that boy has grown) opened a portal connecting two trees, taking us almost all the way to the mountains. We moved southwesterly from the tree exit.

Seen from a distance, were what seemed to be people, unmoving. As we approached, it became clear they were statues, and despite the life like realism, that had be carved. Each bore a mark of a circle with a W within. (A masterful hand did these.) They were arranged around an ancient tomb door, graven with an image of warrior knight being lauded by common folk.

This door had not been opened for centuries. Opening it released an extremely unpleasant air of stagnation, we later discovered caused disease in Twee and Sisyphus. Valorean used his holy powers to cleanse them.

Inside the tomb, as we cautiously moved in, the walls suddenly shook, and an umber hulk, larger and older than most burst through the walls attacking us. The fight was swift but brutal, the gaze of the umber hulk could incapacitate those near. Amongst the many sarcophagi, deeper inside was a door with the name Sir Sehm’la’doirw written in an ancient form of the common language.

Behind this was an ornate sarcophagus, with painted gold and blue edges. At its base were the words “Sir Sehm’la’doirw, defender of the people and leader of the red elk” writ on a plaque. There was a chest tucked in the back that contained a cloak with a red elk on it. (While I did not feel it was necessary, the others wanted to open the sarcophagus, my aopoligies Sir Sehm’la’doirw.) Inside the sarcophagus were the decayed remains and clothing of a revered warrior. A gold bracelet and necklace each emblazoned with a red elk. (I should research the red elk, as of this writing I have no idea who or what it refers to.)

We left the tomb and found a spot to set up camp by a frozen river. I was told that during the night there were sounds of an animal attack. Also discovered during the night were exposed nodes of copper ore and markings in dwarven saying “Sutter’s Mine.” (looking around in the morning it had clearly been disused for decades if not more.) Across the frozen river were a recent blood trail and track marks akin to Bagheera the panther, but much larger than even he.

There was a few ruined stone structures as well, writ upon the entrance to one in dwarven was “by order of the high ironstriker est XCV.” There was old hay that had an ornate belt buckle underneath. (the hay seems to have been the home of whatever was dragged away by the large cat.)

We set out for the morning, searching the area, movement slow due to the mountainous terrain. (During this someone spotted a most unusual thing. Somehow is this very cold and exposed area, a small patch of flowers grew. It was said that these flowers were quite rare and had been mentioned in a log recently. Gau collected them.) Gau called our group to a halt and asked for time to “commune with nature.” (another new power from him, that boy.)

A minute later he started pointing in various directions. He said there was a powerful person two miles south of us and a building one mile back northeast (we must have missed it due to the various possible paths along the mountains.) Knowing the other tabaxi Garden’s to be quite powerful, we hoped that this person to the south would be Garden of Stone, and ventured that way.

Moving along we saw what at first appeared to be a statue of a female tabaxi, unmoving in the slightest, until we were close enough to see her eyes tracking our approach. When we queried if she was Garden of Stone. She said yes and expressed curiosity as to why we were there. What followed was much dialogue (in this case centuries of isolation seems to have made Garden of Stone rather loquacious.)

Garden of Stone

(I will note here, even at the outset, even before what I will mention later, Garden of Stone‘s presence was unsettling, in a way that mirrors the peaceful presence of Garden of Flowers. She mentioned she could smell her brother and sister’s scent upon some of us, clarified when asked that it was a brotherhood relationship, not sibling.)

Twee had several questions he wanted to ask on various topics. Sometimes another of us would interject a follow up question or ask something else. (While not in linear order, I will sum up the various topics referred to. Also some of Garden of Stone’s shared personal history.)

•As regarding Hornimus the Stone Singer, and a group known as the Burning Elders, (each of the Jub Jub tribe): She was familiar with both, having heard Hornimus‘s tale directly from him centuries ago. How the Burning Elders were once a trusted group of officials and noblemen, supporters of their lord and liege. But eventually their ranks grew weak minded, consumed with jealousy and greed, partnering with malign forces to lay plots against the throne. The Stone Singers remained steadfast in their loyalty to the king and the last to be so, thus the Burning Elders began a campaign of propaganda against them, laying all that ailed the kingdom at their feet. By marking the Stone Singers as traitors, the Burning Elders had a free hand to begin outright killing them, and their families. Hornimus was the only survivor, managing to escape, but losing his family. This occurred three or four centuries ago, and Garden of Stone thinks Hornimus must have died since.

•As regarding the slain regent of the Jub Jub tribe: Garden of Stone said it was likely the Burning Elders who would have been behind it.

•As regarding the tabaxi: Garden of Stone told the stories of how her ancestors came across ocean to the island on wooden boats. How there were three great tribes that dominated all the land, with fierce warriors and none would dare oppose them. How the snakes came and whispered honeyed words to the young tabaxi, twisting their minds. Enticed them to plead service to the snakes. They became the Mhairshaulk. These tabaxi would be the ones to commit the Tabaxi Massacre against the hairless ones, the Lapongo. This mighty empire enjoyed peace, thought they were in paradise, until those they enslaved rose up and fought back.

•As regarding the Altist: She said they were the Lapongo who escaped the yuan-ti empire by moving south. They stood the longest and surpassed the Mhairshaulk. How the Altist hesitated, and did not use the power at their disposal. How White Moon Cove was once an Altist city that fell long ago, and how other groups over the years have tried to civilize the area to eventually fall.

•As regarding the Altist idea of the Blue Light: She told of how Altist, the leader whose name is now that of her people, cherished the Blue Light, their word for their guiding ethos. It was everything the Altist strove for, overthrowing the shackles of slavery, prejudice and the willingness to survive all of the island’s various dangers. It was used metaphorically in much of their dealings, but has an alternate meaning. It can refer to the descendants of Altist herself, and that the bloodline remains on the island.

•As regarding the dragonborn Phimot the Wise: Garden of Stone related how he was the “the one that was split.” He was an Altist archmage and leader, who ascended, chosen by those that govern the island, but the “Heavens are not what they seem”. Phimot was chosen to be split into two opposing forces. One that desired peace, Darien/Darinian. (?) and one that seeks destruction, Nuegebauar.

•As regarding the Veletie Stones: She related the tale of a massive creature imprisoned on the island. Some mortals tampered with its bonds, allowing it to escape. Those up high took deemed intervention was required as great things can not be allowed to run free. The creature exploded, sending fragments of its bonds hundreds of miles. Those fragments, now buried deep, have to be quarried to find and have exceptional magical powers for planar binding.

•As regarding Magelor Quaarus: She knows of him, but was dismissive of his power, saying he was more powerful in his mind and than those around him but there are far more dangerous things on the island. He has an empire to the east, claims ancient heritage using that to galvanize his people. His fortress overlooks the coast.

•As regarding the Obelisks: She demurred, saying they were council business.

•As regarding Morse(?): She knows it’s a familiar, that serves a power.

•As regarding the Ironstrikers: She mentioned they had built four citadels, two on this side of The Way and the other two on the north side. The building Gau detected was of their citadels and was close enough to get before the end of the day.

•As regarding Council Member Larissa: She was aware of a location, possibly a monastery to the south of the burning sands, where they were venerated. Garden of Stone does not know if the place still survives.

•As regarding The Planeskeeper (an interdimensional, out of time, space): She had been there a few times, enjoying peaceful meditation without interruption. She said how powers that rip through the barriers (of the island?) can be caught in their trap. There is a process of determining whether or not you are allowed to travel. She does not know the names, but mentions three immaculate precious metal constructs. (I have seen them myself.)

Throughout this conversation she mentioned most of what she knew was talking to survivors of the Lapongo and the Altist but also alluded to a desire to atone for great sins. She said she was born after those events. She mentioned a bane for every boon. When asked for more information she said to imagine a prison, how some of the inmates are in minimum security and must follow rules or be put into more security. That she can not interfere in events without being seen as a threat. She values her solitude but her freedom most.

We asked if her fellow tabaxi Gardens are also bound such and she said they had more freedom but it was not something she should talk about and best to ask them directly. She related to Gau I would find out later, the story of young girl with a box, whose curiosity compelled her to open it, releasing all the evils of the world. She told of how knowledge itself is dangerous and simply knowing some truths can attract things to you, finished by saying that we not ready to know, not yet.

Here I will recount a monumental error in judgement I made. I learned a while ago a simple trick, that is supposed to be undetectable, that lets me learn benign information sometimes about people. At some point during our extended conversation I attempted to do this. This was a major mistake. Everything around me froze in time except me and her, reality torn asunder. She had a slight grin as she approached me and asked what I was doing.

When I falteringly described it she almost joyfully insisted I try again. Instead of benign information she changed the scope of my trick, showing me scene after scene of her butchering thousands carelessly with her claws. Man, woman, child, elderly, combatant or innocent all struck down with ease and no hesitation. I felt my mind began to recoil but I managed to hold on to sanity. Afterwards, time restarted, no one noticing anything different except my change in demeanor.

Eventually as our questions subsided, Twee invited her company along with us as we travelled to the Ironstriker building Gau had detected. Garden of Stone declined, saying she had to stay where she was. When we away from her, I related my experience to the rest of the party. (This was in conflict with being born after the Tabaxi Massacre where she was a participant, possibly one of the young tabaxi twisted by the yuan-ti words. I do not think she was lying, maybe misleading at the most. Perhaps she considers herself reborn. This might explain the desire for atonement. I wonder if either Garden of Flowers or Garden of Thorns were also such.)

We eventually find an entrance carved into the stone itself and go through. Above the entrance are the words “Elementary One” carved in dwarven. A passageway brought us to a courtyard like opening. The walls of the passage had iconographs that depicted dwarves in happy times, mining, trading and children learning. There was on one side a square tower jutting out of the rock with a large door. On another were three smaller doors.

Beyond the smaller doors were rooms with stone desks arranged in front of a larger stone desk. Each room had bigger desks. The rooms radiated abjuration and enchantment magics. with the enchantment seeming stronger as each room gets bigger. Katla volunteered to enter and explore each of these smaller rooms. She felt the enchantment try to come over her, describing it as something that seemed to try to calm her down. She discovered boards at the back of each room that you could write on with a finger press and erase the same.

We moved to the larger building, radiating abjuration from the walls, but also from the entrance. Katla went through first and a chiming alarm sounded, but nothing responded. We all went in, deciding to spend the night in this larger room. Arranged throughout the room were more stone desks and partial walls to enclose them. Benches lines some of the walls, one of them smaller than the others.

There was a room connected that had a singular large desk and empty bookshelves. Inside the desk was a key with the words “The Key to Education” on it. This let us pass the alarm without it sounding. There was also a small staircase to the second and third floors, that had more classrooms, possibly for adults. (A place for educating all ages, what a marvel.)

The night was uneventful until during the last watch. A small ghost appeared, trying to get our attention. Nog followed it first, the rest of us coming along. It pointed to a small boulder, which Nog shifted easily. Beyond the boulder was a small hole, that lead to a tunnel. We sent Twee with Katla and Gau in, while the rest of us watched our side. Quickly we heard sounds of combat so we all entered.

What started as a small fight versus a singular entity restraining and paralyzing Gau on the ceiling turned into a lethal encounter with masses of wriggling rot grubs, creatures with eyes on stalks shooting rays (but not beholders) more ceiling creatures and some sort of brute. Twee was slain but Valorean managed to revivify him. During the fight, we could hear words spoken in infernal, that seemed to bolster the brute. We heard mention of the ire of the fiery council, and that if we wished we would receive it.

ceiling thing

Exploring the area, we saw the remains of a mining operation. A blue light appeared, beckoning us with urgency, leading us through the complex to a humanoid with crackling skin, encased in goo, surrounded by plants. The figure’s eye opened as we neared, and in a very weak voice, said he was Hortimus, the last of the Stone Singers. (this guy spent over three hundred years like this if I’m not mistaken) He expressed his hope that someone, somehow would find him before he perished as the Fiery Elders had found him and prevented his escape.

Hortimus told us that the Fiery Elders are more dangerous than one would imagine and that there is another power behind them. He did not learn it’s name but there is someone he managed to put on the right path to learn it. An Altist man sought those answers, and to find him to the northwest. Rolannmiton was his name, he is one of the remaining sages.

Hortimus asks us to avenge the Stone Singers, saying they are lost. He confirms Garden of Stone‘s account of how they fell then hoped one of us was worthy. He indicated a small strange basket to his side, inside which was a glowing scroll. Gau tried but could not read it, when I tried, the light went within me and I learned a new trick to enchant gems with light. (Am I a stone singer now?!?) He bade us to seek out the others and then died.

We left his body and returned to our camp, noticing the words along the wall “Cave leech’s are not as afraid of you as you are of them.” (ancient graffiti? or a message of importance? context lost to the ages.) We finished our rest and then return back to White Moon Cove along the way we came.