Its means of construction was never revealed, but many years ago the mystic sage and scholar Alstor established the mountain observatory on the remote peak that bears his name. At first he was alone, but over time he assembled a small group of acolytes that shared his thirst for knowledge and quite contemplation. He never sought credit for his discoveries, however, and the rumor is that Alstor and his acolytes would descend from their perch periodically to secretly deposit tomes and scrolls in libraries across the known world, waiting to be unearthed by curious minds.
Alstor himself hasn’t been seen for many years, perhaps hundreds, depending on who you ask. He was old when he was around, but what is age to a master mage? Some say he left this plane seeking knowledge not found within its relatively small confines. Others claim he was killed in a battle with a demon he had summoned to ask questions and it escaped his circle of summoning. At least one curmudgeonly scholar insists that Alstor fell to his death from the back of a hippogriff trying to make the cursed climb to this damp mountain hideaway. The truth is known to only a few.
Areas of Interest
The only physical entry into the observatory complex is the entry ledge on the north face of the mountain. Sheer cliff walls extend above, below, and to either side. About 15 feet deep and 35 feet wide, there’s enough room for maybe two large-sized flying creatures, or perhaps a small group of medium ones, to find purchase safely. The ledge itself is natural in origin, but a small depression on the mountain face leads to a pair of 5-foot-wide, ornate metal doors. The doors are typically unlocked, but are usually closed against the winds and cold. If locked, they can only be opened with the castellan’s key (see area 4), by forcing open with a difficult Strength check, or magical means.
This chamber has high vaulted ceilings, and the space is permeated by the smells of straw, incense, and raw meat. Two 15-foot-deep alcoves extend into the eastern and southern walls, and a larger one extends into the southeastern corner. A single door is in the western wall.
The castellan maintains a stable of 7 hippogriffs to facilitate transportation of visitors and supplies to the observatory. 2 of the creatures are a mating pair (Skyro and Tessyri). They’re currently preoccupied with a litter of 3 juveniles (medium-sized non-combatants; 2 male, 1 female) in the larger alcove. The remaining two alcoves are the nests of a brother (Karyo) and sister (Karysi) that are doing the bulk of the work until their brothers and sister have reached maturity. At any given time during daylight hours, there’s a 50% chance that either (or both) are out hunting.
The hippogriffs will remain docile and unintersted in unaccompanied visitors unless someone attempts to ride them or shows aggression, especially toward the juveniles.
This L-shaped hall is 30-feet long on the eastern side, extending north up stairs to the observatory proper, and 20-feet long on the western side, leading toward the head scholar’s chambers. The door on the south wall leads to the chambers of the assitant scholars and the castellan.
Khorstal Halderstone (NG male dwarf veteran, with Animal Handling instead of Athletics) has been the castellan of Alstor’s Climb for nearly two hundred years. In that time, he has mostly presided over the flock of hippogriffs and basic upkeep to the facilities, such as that entails. If he’s not here in his modest chamber, he can typically be found in the stable or wandering the halls, checking on supplies and the state of repair of the structure itself. Khorstal isn’t a seeker of knowledge, per se, but he is known to casually peruse one of the tomes or scrolls in the library from time to time. If given the opportunity and perhaps the right flagon of ale, the taciturn dwarf may be persuaded to regale visitors with tales of his time in Alstor’s service.
Of those currently residing in the Climb, only Khorstal knows the truth of the apparation of Alstor that is occasionally seen wandering its hallways and chambers (see area 8).
These three rooms and one common area make up the quarters of the visiting and resident scholars (5 mages, priests, or acolytes of various races and alignments). Two beds, two chests, and two small writing desks occupy each room. Several chairs, tables, and storage cabinets are in the larger common area, mostly used as a parlor for resident scholars to share ideas and relax.
Head Scholar’s Chamber
The current head scholar is Vargus of Shining Spire (LE male elf archmage), an abrasive, angry wizard indentured to presiding over Alstor’s Climb and its repository of knowledge against his will. The exact nature of his servitude is unknown—and good luck trying to get him to speak about it—but it’s clear that even though he goes about the duties of his office, he is not enjoying it. Nor is he interested in making it easy for others to coexist. It’s only the rare knowledge and opportunity for discovery available in the Climb that keeps the current scholars from leaving the halls entirely for Vargus to roam on his own.
Within his private chamber, Vargus keeps a personal collection of magic items, tomes, scrolls, and other oddities that he does not wish to share. The normally lavish furnishings have fallen into disrepair, as the reluctant head scholar will allow no one inside to clean up. It would be no surprise if all manner of foul things were tucked into its dim corners.
Head Scholar’s Laboratory/Study
As a mark of his office, the head scholar has access to a private study and laboratory. On occasion, previous head scholars have invited visitors and the lesser scholars into this chamber to access some of the rarer research materials or apparatus. Under Vargus’s watch, this has never happend. Not once. One or more of the resident scholars are interested in accessing what can be found here, but so far have been unsuccessful in persuading Axiogn to allow them entry. Soon it may turn into more open conflict, but for now they are willing to bide their time.
Alstor’s Inner Sanctum
One of the deepest secrets of Alstor’s Climb is that Alstor himself continues to walk its halls and haunt its chambers. But “haunt” isn’t quite the correct word, because Alstor isn’t quite dead yet. Through an ancient and poweful ritual, he has managed to suspend himself in a state between life and true death, though not undeath. He spends most of his time in this circular chamber, neither existing nor ceasing to exist, continuing his search for knowledge. While his quasi-existence preserves his physical form, he cannot leave this room save through projection of a spectral simulacrum that phases in and out of sight. Observers have made the mistake of assuming this is Alstor’s ghost, since he is assumed to have passed on from life, but a few—such as Vargus the head scholar and Khorstal the castellan—know the truth.
Scholars use this chamber and its plain furnishings to page through books and scrolls from the library. Volumes left on the shelves along the walls will, after a period of about ten minutes, be magically returned to their place in the stacks.
Much of the accrued knowledge of Alstor’s Climb and its long history of scholarly pursuits is found on the shelves in this room. Ancient tomes and scrolls, stone tablets, beaded tribal records… All manner of stored information can be found here. If someone is seeking a particular piece of knowledge there is a very good chance it can be found here, or there is a reference directing the seeker to where it lies.
Attmepting to remove any item housed in the library from the confines of the Climb without the correct rituals being perfomed will fail. A resounding gong will echo through the hallways, and the castellan will instantly know where the item is located. Powerful wards also prevent items from being carried if someone tries to teleport or planar travel out of the Climb.
This dimly-lit chamber is filled with a hodge-podge of tables, chairs, lounges, cushions, and other comfortable furnishings. This is where the scholars—both resident and visiting—congregate and share their interests and findings. Meals are usually taken here, and it’s occasionally the venue for more formal presentations.
Meals are prepared here, over a hot stove that seems to be powered by some means other than the typical wood or coal. Fire elemental? Some other magic? The pantry is here, too, although it’s really just a door that opens into an extra-dimensional space not unlike that generated by a rope trick spell or bag of holding. Items placed in the pantry that need to stay cold stay cold, and vice-versa. It’s always well-stocked with whatever ingredients the cook Silkana (NG female kenku) needs for her meals.
There are times when the relatively public space of the Common Room (area 11) is unsuitable for a meeting or conversation between scholars. For this purpose, Alstor saw fit to include a small parlor in his floorplan. It’s furnished with a mismatched assortment of comfortably-upholstered chairs surrounding a round table that radiates magical warmth.
The bottom floor of this round observatory tower contains a multitude of worktables, glassware, and shelves of strange reagents. A narrow staircase curves up the southern wall to the domed observatory proper. There is a telescope mounted out the west window, and there is an armillary sphere levitating in mid-air. The apparatus can be controlled by a collection of switches, dials, and geegaws in a pedestal mounted in the center of the room.
Almost identical to the Wastern Observatory (area 14), except the telescope is facing east. The window on the southeast of the round room has a view overlooking the Entry Ledge (see area 1).
Similar to areas 14 and 15, this central observatory is the largest and highest in Alstor’s Climb. Its armillary sphere is more sophisticated and elaborate than either of its smaller siblings. Operated correctly, it can be reconfigured to show any number of a multitude of celestial arrangements that span the multiverse. Operated incorrectly it can produce effects ranging from absolutely harmless to maybe we should leave this place right now.
Maps & Tales is supported by patrons just like you.
I have been and will continue to release content here—free for personal use—on a regular basis for as long as I possibly can. When you become a patron through Patreon, you'll be helping me sustain this effort. You'll be helping me upgrade my tools and devote more of my personal time to creating high-quality content for your enjoyment. As thanks, I've got a few extra goodies for you, including exclusive content for patrons and custom maps—just for you!.