I’ve managed to get some research done, at least, as far as Sionna’s situation goes… the kobolds have dug deep enough now that I can start setting up the wards, and I might have even figured out a way to simplify them so that they only block things from coming in… less expensive and a little easier.
Also, the priests of Mnemosyne told us that they’ve been having recurrent dreams of a needle, a thread, and a finger bobbin. Whatever that may mean… though they’re not waking up in a panic so it’s probably not related to Grandmother. Probably.
About a day after the excitement involving the new mountain and certain people who had better fucking well stay dead, one of the scouts reported a single golden tree growing from the center of the shattered mountain. I suppose we’d better go check it out and make sure it’s not eating people.
There were giant shards of rock scattered everywhere, looking largely like the mountain had exploded. The tree wasn’t as impressive as I had been expecting, only about as tall as Ceor on his horse, growing in a circular clearing. It didn’t appear to start spewing lightning or acid or
dragons griffins, so we got closer to look at it. Ceor went first, of course, and I followed. As soon as we entered the clearing, we were both very aware of each other… how well we were both armored, how healthy we are, and I probably could have known exactly where Ceor was with my eyes shut.
It was… odd.
The planar structure is a little odd here, too, but it doesn’t seem to be about to fall apart… there’s the potential to open a gateway to another plane or demi-plane, it seems like, but it doesn’t seem to actually be doing anything yet. I don’t think there will be any harm in leaving it as is. Reeshka came to investigate as well, and the same thing happened with her as had happened between Ceor and I… we were very aware of her.
I elected to leave one of my scrying tokens here, just in case.
Reeshka says that it’s the physical manifestation of our awesomeness. I suppose it’s as good an explanation as any. She wants to build a shrine. I’m not entirely sure that’s necessary. She had Keshemet take notes. She was talking about setting up some sort of coffer to transport any valuable objects into the city.
I think I need quite a lot of alcohol now…
A couple days later, I woke up to a tapping sound coming from the egg I found, and about half an hour later, fracture lines started appearing, and tiny little claws appeared. I helped it along a bit, and eventually it split in half.
It was odd, it looked like someone had carved a topaz into the shape of a dragon and filled it with mercury. And I felt a little tickle at the back of my mind, like what I’ve heard happens with a familiar. It was very curious, and also hungry. I don’t know what drakes eat, so I elected to carry it to the kitchen and see what it was inclined to like. Cooked meat seemed to do. Everyone seemed to think it was extremely cute… Reeshka wanted to hold it, and failing that, wanted to pet it. It didn’t mind being petted, but absolutely refused to let go of me, either clinging to my arm or scurrying up to my shoulder.
When they asked me what its name was, I said Quicksilver seemed appropriate, given the way it looks… it seemed to like that; at least, it nodded when I mentioned it.
We have a vague plan to go check out the Goblin Wastes and see what the Order of the Pure is up to… we at least need to know, if not completely wreck their shit.
When Ceor asked if I was taking Quicksilver, I pointed out that it was very likely that Quicksilver wouldn’t let me leave with out it.
After some discussion, we elected to try teleporting to the Goblin Wastes, then searching out the Order of the Pure encampment on foot. I’m most familiar with the ruins of Taltreni, and it’s close enough to the probable area. While the teleport spell is most effective with a place one is familiar with, there was some sort of resistance to it, and the Goblin Wastes being what they are, I was surprised that we arrived dead bang right in front of the castle.
The comet was very visible at this point, hanging over the west, in about the same general area that we think the encampment might be. It’s very violet and very big, and pretty goddamn ominous.
The sun didn’t move, but I could see little licks of fiery energy curling around it… it was disturbing.
We traveled westish, and finally came to a little ruined farmstead near some shattered cliffs and dead trees. The kobolds were getting tired, but Ceor and I thought we heard voices… and birdsong… which, given the area, is possibly the most disturbing thing about it. It sounded almost like a meadowlark. Which is the last thing that should be out here. Even Quicksilver was perturbed, and hissed at it.
Reeshka elected to go scout… I think she just wanted to show off her wings. She didn’t see anything of note, but that bird was still singing. I can’t think of any spell or creature that would produce that sort of thing… there is nothing that I know of that should be making that sound in this place.
Ceor said he heard a cow moo, and there is manifestly no cow there. Keshemet tried to open the door, and knocked the door off the hinges, the place is so decrepit. I wish I knew what was going on, besides this being the Goblin Wastes. Just for fun, I cast See Invisibility, and the air seemed to pick up a grainy texture I’ve never seen before, but I didn’t see anything, invisible or ethereal or otherwise. While Ceor checked the tree the birdsong seemed to be coming from, I heard a cow moo.
Nightfall in the Goblin Wastes is another disturbing experience… the sun just guttered out like someone blowing out a candle, and the stars suddenly came out. And we saw what looked like a fire inside the building.
Yep, not checking that out.
Ceor took the first watch, and woke me up a few hours in because he’d heard something on the cliff to the south, and he wasn’t sure if it was ghosts or something actually there. Here, it could be either way. But since ghosts don’t usually curse when they trip over a rock…
We elected to quietly make our way around the building to see what was going on… or at least, that was the idea until Ceor also tripped over a rock. Which is really only to be expected. The arrow he took in the chest was slightly less so, since it seemed to do a lot of damage for an arrow and was a pure white color with no blood on it, despite the barbs.
Ceor, naturally, charged. He was able to see that there was a sniper up one of the trees, and for the second time, was able to charge a tree. It exploded pretty much everywhere, and sent the archer flying. He was stunned, naturally. I would be too. Naturally, there were more of them. They took a pot shot at Ceor and missed. I was not so lucky. And the second volley hit Ceor as well.
We were willing to find a non-fatal resolution to this… Reeshka ordered them to drop weapons, and Ceor said that if they fired on us, he’d kill the one he’d knocked out of the tree. I was willing to let it go if they were willing to be reasonable. Alas, they were not. And my response was fairly predictable.
Two of them were close enough together that a quick series of fireballs took them out, while Ceor blinked up the cliff to deal with the archers arranged along the cliff. One of them then shouted “Shit, it’s them, fall back!”
I do wonder who they thought it was.
And the house has started to vibrate and light is streaming from the windows. That’s nice. Moving away from it seemed the indicated course… though of course that put me in the line of fire of one or another of these idiots, and I got shot again. Ceor took offense, and charged across the cliff, blinked down, and promptly introduced the fool to his lance. And then Anusk kicked him in the head.
I do get so damn tired of getting shot. Another group had come around from the north, and seemed to delight in shooting at me. Fuck this bullshit. I have an empower metamagic rod and what can rightly be considered mythic fireballs. Three of them dropped on the spot and the fourth fired wildly to no effect.
My horse was utterly unconcerned.
Ceor, meanwhile, was making his displeasure known. Violently. He always takes my getting hurt so personally…
The house was ratting so much now that dust was swirling around it. It seemed to be getting worse, and it seemed to be turning into a cyclone. There were audible voices all laughing and talking over each other, which quickly turned into a wailing.
That seems healthy.
We’d put one of the assholes to sleep early on, and now that all the threats seemed to be taken care of, my next order of business is to see to securing him. I suppose I ought to get some use out of this robe of endless twine… Keshemet helped me, apparently he’d elected to turn invisible and scamper… which was probably wise.
The cyclone is getting worse, and even the light coming from it seemed to be bending into it. It looks like it’s becoming a vortex of energy and physical material, and shows no sign of slowing down. And it’s getting bigger. The wailing’s turning into more of a screaming sound, too.
I’m getting fairly alarmed here.
Ceor got back around to us and we managed to get our prisoner loaded… meanwhile I could see a glowing serpent shape inside the cyclone. It’s probably the accumulated mass of raw spiritual energy of people who lived around here… my educated guess is that it was triggered by people getting hurt and dying here. Feeding it life energy, essentially. It does not look like something we should have contact with. As we rode away, it seemed to head for the heavens.
I have no idea if it will dissipate on its own or not. I’m not sure I want to know.
We headed away, and made camp eventually. Miles away. Our new friend had a blackened iron medallion with the Order of the Pure insignia, and mithril armor that had been alchemically blackened. The bow was a composite darkwood longbow. It’s got a corrosive enhancement and a strength enhancement (+2), and the armor had resistance (10, 2 bonus) to every energy type. He also had a magical pitcher of some sort, though I’m not entirely sure what, and some other assorted small magic trinkets.
He woke up while we were studying his gear, and glared murder at us. Ceor glared murder right back. About ten minutes later, he started going into convulsions, which Reeshka put a stop to. Apparently he had a poison tooth or two.
We did get a little surprise once we got him talking, though. He’s not one of their zealots, he’s just a guy who was once an idealist and wanted to fight evil, and found out too late that their definition of evil was problematically broad. He couldn’t take being tasked with killing families who just had the misfortune of being born with the wrong blood. He’d even turned on one unit that had been given the mission of wiping out an aasimaar family to give them a chance to escape. It’s something I can understand.
He’d managed to get himself a position on a patrol, fighting the abominations of the Goblin Wastes. It wasn’t a position with a long life expectancy, and it was something that people only volunteered for if they couldn’t handle ‘pursuing the Order’s agenda’. He said that they hadn’t been looking for anyone in specific, but that the ruins had been one of their campsites.
It is, I think, fortunate, that he’s likely the only survivor and that there were no bodies due to the cyclone. No one will miss him. If there was a way to get word to other scouts, I suspect we’d find a lot who wanted to desert. We offered him a letter of introduction to get in to Feymott, if he can make his way there.
He said that the rank and file were to follow the orders of their patrol captain, or be executed as traitors. I’d believe it. He also said that when someone was promoted to captain, they were taken inside the Citadel and something changed. They looked darker, and their eyes were always green. It sounds like they went through some sort of binding ritual… and knowing them, it probably isn’t to an angel or a devil or a demon. Which leaves one thing.
Fuck my life.
He also said that the order summoners had entities didn’t look right, and that there were holy symbols carved into the walls in places, that looked like an impossibly huge island all alone in the sea, and that their litany included something to the effect of ‘all gods will be eaten’. Also talk drifting around about the ’Children’s Table’.
Fuck my life.
THEY’RE A FUCKING CULT OF MARA.
I knew that it was a possibility that they had ties to the Outer Dark, but this is somehow worse than I thought.
He gave us as much information as he could about the perimeter defenses in the Citadel, though he’d never been allowed inside. He also told us that the city is covered with wards that are designed to trigger if anyone with at least a quarter outsider blood approaches, and that they travel in patrols of twelve… counting him, we saw eleven. All the patrols are instructed to return to the Citadel and give warning that we’re in the Wastes if they see us, so we can’t assume that they don’t know we’re coming.
If we can identify the patrol captains first when we run into a patrol and take them out first, encounters with scouting parties might not turn into a fight to the death. He gave us all the information about them he could, and then handed over a literal fortune of gems over to Reeshka… apparently, that’s how the Order pays, though it’s functionally worthless because they can’t sell them. Then he promised that he’d contact Jenkins (more likely, Jenkins will find him) and let him know what signs and codes the Order moles are using now, and set off southward.
I hope he makes it.