Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 75
Well. That was a thing that happened.

I think I’ve got a plan as far as scrying devices go… I can tie a standard crystal ball into some small, cheap tokens. I’ll pass them out among scouting parties; I don’t want anyone engaging with any more manifestations of Mara without my at least knowing about it. The crystal ball will be the most expensive part, it’s 21000 gold, but the tokens should be cheap enough, say 250. I have enough money saved up that I can make the central crystal ball, and 40 tokens, so we’re not going to run out.

Ceor received a couple of messages from free companies in Trombei and Triolo, wanting to negotiate battles for the campaign season; I can’t bring myself to care, but I suppose it’s only polite. The group from Triolo seems to be made mostly of minotaur infantry, we’ll let the aasimaar’s company of Summer Knights handle them. The company from Triolo is more mixed, magic and infantry. The tieflings can probably handle them.

…The aasimaar leader is entirely too full of himself. I like the tiefling much better. I hope he doesn’t get himself killed.

The fact that Triolo and Trombei got messengers to us first probably means that Friula and Savoyne aren’t taking us at all seriously… I think I’m okay with that. Kammae probably won’t be involved at all this season… something about the ongoing magical apocalypse.

I did get a message from the wizards in Trombei saying that they’d keep an eye out. I don’t think they’re taking me seriously just yet, but a long as they let me know when something inevitably crops up I don’t care.

We also got a message from Valera saying they weren’t going to send a company at us this year… which is probably for the best. Also a message from Goasta Cliffs that while it did not sound incredibly urgent, it did request some priests.

Because of course.

We’ll send the priests, but the last time we sent someone to handle a problem, shit happened. So we’ll go with. We took a handful of assorted priests from the different temples… generally wide-eyed, eager apprentices just thrilled to go on a holy mission. We’ll have Ceor train them in some combat. And by train, we mean demonstrate how much they don’t know. (Granted, the priest of Hecate probably knows to stay away from sharp objects, and the priest of Mavros ought to know what he’s doing too.)

One of the nights that we stopped, I noticed a comet in the sky, tinged a little violet. I know that comets are generally harbringers of war… but it’s the start of the campaign season. Reeshka, however, said that the last (and only other) violet comet seen on Midgard, it was associated with the greatest magical catastrophe that had ever happened. When the elves withdrew and the Mage Kingdoms started to turn on each other.

Fuck my life.

At least we made it to Goasta Cliffs without real incident. Apparently, ever since the incident at the temple of Mavros a few months ago, they’d had trouble keeping priests. And they were building a new temple of Mavros, but it was necessarily a long and expensive process, and while the original one is still standing, it’s an… uncomfortable place. So we probably ought to do something about this.

Between Ceor and myself, we got the general picture. When people go in, it feels like someone is staring at them or breathing down their neck, and generally weird things happen. Lights at night, strange sounds. It’s all very strange. One person even insisted that she heard chains rattling when she passed.

I guess we’re staying the night in the temple. The locals made symbols against the evil eye… which is only to be expected, I suppose.

We cleaned it out last time, so there’s definitely some familiarity. We settled down to camp. At about midnight, we heard some sort of scraping sound, near the altar. I couldn’t see it, though, like the edges of my vision were cloudy. The light on Reeshka’s staff was getting brighter, with a bluish tinge. My staff also started to glow oddly; there are always firey lines on it, but now they seemed like molten metal. It seems to be indicating a strange and abnormal level of power.

Reeshka said that the scraping seemed to be coming from under the altar, and sounded like something digging… she scraped the ground and got a response. She sounded it very unefficient, like they were just scraping the stone rather than properly digging.

It’s a pretty standard layout, so we went down into the crypt to see what we could see. The doors to the crypt were stuck, naturally. Ceor tried brute force, but they were really stuck. So he tried again, this time with feeling… to the same result. He said that touching the handle made his teeth hurt, like he was too close to lightning magic, which stopped as soon as he let go. It was a massive door, and I’m pretty sure that there’s metal in it that prevents me from sensing magic on the other side.

Most temples are built to keep things in the vault if they wake up… I can’t tell if the manifestations are tied to whatever is trapped in there, or if it’s tied to what happened here. Ceor decided that either way, his sword should be out. When he drew it, it was covered in flickering blue and white runes… Ceor said it was a hymn to the god of portals, something about opening all the ways.

I’m pretty sure that I never saw this sword in the tower of Rava… which is even weirder than her having a blind spot for Mara, because everyone seems to recognize this fucking sword.

As we were debating, we heard a moan that sounded very much like a zombie, but Reeshka said it was just over-stressed rock. She said that the sound of rattling chains was also produced by metal-reinforced stone shifting slightly. Natural phenomena… but they should have noticed it before, if that’s all it was, and they’re not the sort of sounds you can hear from outside.

Ceor cautiously applied his sword to the door, and something- odd… happened. I wasn’t sure what. I asked him to do it again, and this time I saw a symbol on the door, and it seemed to try to draw something off Reeshka. I saw something that looked like really old symbols. There’s nothing of much importance that’s supposed to be here now… but in a previous incarnation of the world, it was a place of power, where the gods would meet. It’s sealed with god-like power too…

Naturally, as soon as I explained it, Reeshka channeled more power into it. Brilliant silver runes flared up and the door was covered with silver lines. The door opened. Instead of a crypt, there was a smooth room of worked stone. It wasn’t built, it was carved out of solid stone. As soon as we crossed the threshold, it felt like a tingle went all over all of us, and our weapons returned to normal. It was notable that the ceiling of the room was much higher than it should have been, accounting for the temple above…

Reeshka said that she could see all the way across the room, which I suppose is not the weirdest thing about today.

We could still hear the scraping, so we followed it. About twenty feet into the room, gold and silver runes lit up, illuminating the room well. They weren’t in any language I know which is… impressive. And unsettling. We kept going, and the corridor seemed longer than it should have been. Though eventually we got to an archway, carved with pictures of heroes fighting all kinds of horrible monsters. Reeshka said it smelled like it was carved out of marble, but upon licking it, said it wasn’t.

As soon as Reeshka stepped through the arch, silver lines of power went across the floor in what looked like some sort of array… sealing something in and keeping things out. There was an enormous sarcophagus in the center.

This is probably the most comprehensive magical seal I’ve ever seen. There should be no way that anything should be able to get in or out. At all. This whole room was designed to make sure that absolutely nothing, divine or arcane, should be able to get in or out of this room. This whole room is one giant ward, so powerful that even screwing around with the Fulcrum of Fate might not change it.

Reeshka was able to enter the chamber without an issue, and apparently had no problem with her magic. Though when she tested it, her staff flared brighter. Ceor then entered, again without issue. When I went in, my staff brightened somewhat, but nothing else changed.

Gods were involved in creating this. This is something on the same level of the protections holding Nethus in Kammae, though nothing so crude as humans having to fashion wards and move leylines. This is much simpler.

There are two possibilities I can think of. Either this is the god of portals, whom the gods did something to lock away… or this is something to do with Mara. Which would be about par for the course.

The only way to know is to open the damn thing, of course.

When Ceor got closer, his sword started buzzing in the sheath. He elected to try pushing it first. He pushed it with more force than a human should rightfully be able to produce, revealing that the lid was a solid piece, and a silver mist spilled out a bit. However, he only managed to lift it by half an inch, before it settled again.

He touched it with his sword, and fracture lines spread out through the energy lines of the wards. Reeshka had climbed up on Ceor to see the top, and said that it had a humanoid figure carved on the lid, with chains. His hands were clenched in a pose that suggested that he should be holding something, but he wasn’t, and his hands were solid, with no place to slide anything.

For a lack of any better ideas, I suggested placing the sword on top of it in the proper position. It sank through the stone with a click, and the wards really started to fracture. Most of the runes went out, and the sarcophagus lid scraped as it came loose.

Ceor was able to push it off with no issue, and his sword clattered loose, though he recovered it quickly. The figure was missing from the slab, and when we looked in side, we saw the duplicate in the sarcophagus, apparently asleep. Ceor said it was the duplicate of the old man who’d given him the symbol of Karahome…

Well, I don’t think anything earth-shatteringly bad will happen because of this, except if the gods get pissed at us… and they probably are already anyway.

What the hell.

Because it is us and we never do anything normal, Ceor then proceeded to poke him and try to wake him up. He was still shackled, and had been for a long time… even for a god it looked a little ragged. There were no locks to pick, but Ceor touched his sword to one of them, and it immediately rusted away into a silvery powder.

That did it. The figure opened his eyes and smiled at Ceor. After some general conversation (and a few pastries), he asked how we found him. Reeshka mentioned that we’d heard the scratching, but he just looked puzzled. Then Ceor said he’d caught a glimpse of the glowing dog he’d seen before….

Well, that’s interesting.

And judging by his reaction, he had no idea either. Though it didn’t look like we’d have any trouble getting out… though it took us longer to get out than it did to get in. So far, everything we’ve seen suggest that Ceor’s ‘shiny puppy’ is similar to things from the Outer Dark, in that it doesn’t respect physical reality… though with a different polarity.

Reeshka asked why the other gods had sealed him away, and he said it was because they hadn’t appreciated his part in exiling Mara to the Outer Dark. He opened the way to the Outer Darkness… but when you do that, there’s nothing to close. A handful of gods had cooperated, but other gods thought they could have handled Mara and objected strongly.

But as Karahome said, when something is from the end of time, she already knows everything about those who come before her…

He also said that the sword had wandered up and down time… but that Ceor’s father had made it. I think I’ve gone crosseyed…

He was surprised that Miaako wasn’t with us; apparently, Mnemosyne had predicted that four of us would come.

When we reached the end, he made the comment that when he left this place, all the changes that should have happened to him in the different incarnations would hit all at once. There’s not much way around it, that I could see… but he had other plans.

He shrank down to our size, and then gathered us around him. He touched all of us, and said that he didn’t want to know what would happen if he left, and that considering what else Mnemosyne had said to him, this was as good a way to go out as any. Then he dissolved into mist, which settled on each of us. It felt like a swell of my own power.

I can get behind the idea of going out on one’s own terms.

We remembered him… we also remembered fragments of his existence from his own point of view. When we went out, the massive doors faded away, leaving normal undercroft doors, carved with symbols of Mavros.

Reeshka could still see… which we discovered when she jumped on me, grabbed my collar, and yelled as much, before starting to run around in little circles.

…. Today went considerably better than I had expected.

The temple didn’t feel like something was wrong any more, and it just felt abandoned. It was dawn when we came out, and the junior priest of Mavros was coming up. He was incredibly pleased to see us, and to hear that everything seemed to have been taken care of. I left him one of the scrying tokens, and he stared his work re-consecrating the temple.

Before we left, one of the priests of Mnemosyne found us, and said he had a message from his goddess: “She remembers now.” That was all she said, but that was all she had to say.

I’m glad.

Of course, everything wasn’t sunshine and roses… the comet was still in the sky, and still purple. And incrementally brighter.

Because naturally.

When we got back, there were half a dozen younger people waiting for us… they said they’d dreamed of a god the night before, a great man with a key on his shoulder, who’d said that he was passing his burden on to the three of us… and that he’d picked them to be our disciples.

I…. think we’re possibly demi-gods, or minor gods now. And we have priests. I’m… really not sure how to react to this.

Reeshka threw a celebratory feast and declared it a city holiday… the Day of Eye-Opening.

Because naturally.

The next day, there was a package sitting in the middle of the great hall, addressed to all three of us, in archaic brown paper and addressed in spiky writing. When Reeshka opened it, there was a small wicker basket with some really luscious fruit in it, with a note that essentially said ‘Welcome to divinity, well done.’

It was signed with a picture of a dancing hut.

FUCKMYLIFE.

….it really was delicious fruit, though.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 74
So much fire and so many trees.

The message was delivered by a falcon that nearly dropped from exhausted, someone’s poor familiar. This is clearly an emergency. The poor familiar was nearly half dead from the rush, and once we recovered the message, Reeshka’s staff saw to it that it was taken care of. The message was essentially a request for our immediate assistance.

We teleported over. It was noon when we left Feymott, but it was twilight when we arrived at the ruined cathedral, though the sun was high in the sky. The terrain was a bit different when arrived, and there was no snow and unnaturally verdant life around. Something connected to life is seeping through, and where the cathedral was is an ancient looking tree. There was something like an aurora hanging in the air, though not quite.

There was a tree nearby that looked disturbingly like a human… it even seemed to move. Its… ‘face’ seemed to resemble the wizard whose familiar half killed itself getting the message. It managed to whisper something akin to ‘it crawled out’.

Some sort of abomination must’ve slipped through the planar boundary and is causing all this. And if we’re going to have a hope of returning things to normal, we’ll have to put it down.

Reeshka thought it would be unhealthy to touch the ground on the way, though she might’ve just been looking for an excuse to use mass airwalk.

It was incredibly unnerving. The wildlife here was not normal, disturbing rodents, snakes, bugs… and the closer to the tree we got the more of them there were. They were all huge.

It looked like the tree had erupted out of the cathedral; we could see some of the blocks still caught in the roots and branches. As we approached, Ceor said he could hear something moving in the tree… and we could see a branch as thick around as Anusk shake slightly. I saw blood red scales through the leaves. Then an even bigger branch lower down shook and dipped as if someone had put a lot of weight on it and dipped several inches. It looked draconic.

Great.

Reeshka said there was way too much life energy around, and that it seemed contaminated. Then there was a sound, which was one of the more horrifying things I’ve heard. It could have been draconic… but it sounded almost alien. I’d be a lot less confident about this if Ceor wasn’t here.

Then we saw it, and it was somewhat between a dragon and a snake, and there were several dozen more joints than it should have had. I’ve never seen anything like this.

This isn’t just something from beyond, this is probably something from Mara.

We hadn’t been expecting to see something eighty feet up in the air. It howled again, and there was something about it that made my teeth hurt. It had a breath weapon, which seemed to be made of ice and acid. That’s pleasant.

It hurt like fuck.

I returned the favor, but it got out of the way of my fireball, mostly… and that just seemed to have pissed it off. Ceor charged it, and almost got his head taken off for it. Keshemet seemed to be terrified to the point of nearly soiling himself. Reeshka, on the other hand, seemed inclined to try to parlay. Also, she has wings. Who knew.

The dragonthing was not inclined to parlay.

It promptly tried to eat Ceor. It looked horribly unpleasant. He made the well reasoned counter argument of shoving his lance into its mouth. I then set it on fire again, and Ceor let go of the lance in favor of producing one of his shinier swords. It was remarkably effective.

Reeshka was still trying to negotiate, but she’s keeping Ceor from dying, so I suppose it’ll work itself out. It took a hit hard enough that it should have killed it, but it kept fighting. Its eyes had been a combination of red and flat black, but the eyes turned a sickly green. So I set it on fire again, that usually fixes things.

It finally crashed to the ground, and its eyes and wounds started leaking a black ichor, and the body started deflating, because this is clearly not from this realm. It didn’t change anything, except that the tree seemed even larger, and it was still growing so fast that we could hear the wood cracking. We’ll at the least have to destroy the tree to close the planar rift. Where the dragonthing’s body was, nasty purple mushrooms seemed to be sprouting. We’ll need to burn that too.

I took all of the fire I could muster to it, and managed to burn it down, though it left the stump, which was oozing green ichor. A powerful enough Planar Binding spell should seal it. It’s not a spell I’ve picked up normally, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. It was a slippery thing, and tried to ooze around my spell… fuck that shit. I crushed it as hard as I could.

It had dropped acorns, and Ceor was using his brilliant sword to dig and burn them out… they were technically living matter. Reeshka, meanwhile, was dropping a consecrate on the remains of the stump. Ceor also took his sword to it. Between the two, the stump withered and charred, and so did the fallen tree. The jungle-like terrain suddenly shriveled up, collapsed, and withered into brown dust… though the mushrooms were still there. I still have fire spells available… All of the critters that were running around the jungle left nothing but skeletons, and the aurora effect vanished. The whole mess left nothing but bare earth, but it was normal.

The mushrooms seemed disinclined to burn, but I eventually made my point. It left a kind of oily sheen, but that’s probably just from the residue. Of the dragon there was nothing left.

The rift could reopen at some point, but right now, it’s as safe as its going to be, between my binding and Reeskha’s consecration. It just left the faintest of puckered scars on the fabric of reality, something one could easily miss if they weren’t looking for it.

The wizard was back to human form when we returned, though out cold. It took Reeshka prodding him with a stick for several minutes , but he eventually came around. He said that when they tried to seal the rift, it split open, and something green started pouring out. The rest of the team started trying to burn it with torches and alchemist’s fire, but it didn’t work. He said it ate them. I don’t know if they’d been absorbed into the tree or not. If they were, they probably died when I burned the tree… but I choose to regard it as a mercy.

Sanguine arrived then, from the north, oddly enough. He’d been burning it back, but the rate of growth had been accelerating aggressively, and he thought it had started to develop a resistance to fire. He wanted to know what had happened, but that’s not something I want getting out right now; I’ll tell him later.

We got the wizard back to the city where he can get treated, then we went to talk to Sanguine. He did mention that Sionna had been a model guest, even taking a turn on the walls. She’d even managed to cure a kobold who’d come back infected with spores from the jungle; apparently they wouldn’t root in her.

We told Sanguine what had happened; he did interrupt me once to look at Ceor’s brilliant energy weapon, and remarked that it was ‘that’ sword, and asked that we never take it to, specifically, to the Gates of the Underworld. Because it would destroy the sword and cut the Gates open.

After explaining what had happened to him- altering the fact that it had been a dragonthing to calling it a griffenthing for Reeshka’s sake- we discussed the fact that this probably wouldn’t be the last time. He said he’d keep an eye out for any other thinning planar boundaries, and I need to send word to everyone I can reach. The other cities of the Septime region, sending word to the Mharoti Empire, and I’d expect trouble in the Goblin Wastes soon.

Upon returning to the city, we met with the priest of the temple of Mavros, and gave him the short version. He said he’d pass the word to the rest of his order, and maybe they could pass it along to other temples. Though the point was made that given the trouble we had with it, no one should approach an actual rift unless they were damn sure they could close it.

I went home and fell over. Today has been a stressful day.

I dreamed; I was in a boat with Ceor and Reeshka on a black sea, under a sky that had never seen light. There was a craggy, rocky island ahead, with rocks like jagged teeth. There was an impossibly high rocky spire, with a silver and black flame around it, and a purple and green flame drifting around like an aurora, that seemed somewhat familiar, with an insane cackling echoing around it…

It stuck with me.

Ceor had the same dream, I found out. I don’t know if Reeshka did or not, but I’m assuming that she did. Fabulous.

I have quite a lot of letters to draft, and I need to investigate some sort of scrying magic… we told the troops and free companies to report back if they see something that doesn’t seem right. We’ll get a lot of false positives, and I don’t want to have to spend all of our time and effort to investigate them. Something like a crystal ball, with tokens that can be cheaply made and used to send messages back, so we have some sort of idea what’s going on.

Another free company calling themselves the Steel Lilies showed up; it mostly seems like a group of inexperienced humans, with serviceable gear. Very sincere in their faith and devotion to Mavros, and also interested in the offer of land. We now have a company at every compass point, which is good. They probably need some training, which one of the Mharoti captains offered to send a couple of men to provide. Ceor accepted the offer. From what he said, they’re not bad, but they could use the extra help.

We received another delegation from another principality of the Mharoti empire, making overtures of peace. This one’s ruled by Zalistiel the Umber, apparently. They want to trade metals that they mine for foodstuff they can’t easily grow. I have no problems with coming to another trade agreement, as long as they understand we intend to be strictly neutral in terms of any internal conflicts in the Mharoti empire, and that our trade agreements are not exclusive. They also offered to send a contingent of rangers to help train our archers, to match the soldiers the contingent from Gastrinox sent.

A few days after I started sending letters, I received a response from the ruling council of Triolo, delivered by a rather pissed off air mephit. He said that he’d had some troubling divinations recently, and that this at least gave it some context. If he notices anything in my area, he’ll let me know. I sent a message back saying much the same.

It’s a start.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 73
Fucking Fabulous.

A free company flying the Zobeck colors made up entirely of kobolds showed up. They were interested in us because they’d heard that our ruler was a kobold. They were sort of hoping that we’d end up as a city like Zobeck, run by the free people, but a kobold monarch was almost as good. It was good for the economy, anyway.

We were then notified by one of the kobold housekeepers that stays with Miaako that he seemed to have cleared out; all of his belongings were gone, and there was no sign of him or Rupert. I suppose he decided that the last little bit got a bit too weird for him. I’m not entirely surprised he decided to move on.

And I’m not surprised that he took all the shiny objects in the house with him, though he could have left the brass door fittings.

We had too much administrative work to catch up on to worry about Miaako too much; he’s always been good at looking after himself. Though that didn’t stop Reeshka from hurrying down when a kobold messenger arrived at a run carrying a message from Sanguine.

I can’t wait to find out what this will mean.

Apparently, there was a visitor to the fort that wanted to see us… and he asked that we didn’t burn down the fort.

I make no promises.

He also asked that we didn’t bring any books- save my spellbook- which is entirely doable. There was also a scroll for me, which turned out to be a scroll of Teleport. So I’ll assume that he wants to hurry.

We arrived about half a mile from the fort; despite it being winter, the area surrounding the fort was free of snow. As one would expect with a dragon. A small army of kobolds was busily working on structural improvements; it actually looked like people could live there now. New gates made of reinforced darkwood had been put up, which looked much sturdier than the rotting gates that had been there originally.

Sanguine was in the courtyard, curled up around a campfire. He said that he had a guest, and that she wanted to speak with us… she was, in fact, the one who requested that we did not bring certain books.

I can’t say that the idea of a parlay with Sionna has any appeal, but I suppose it can’t hurt. And a dragon’s presence will doubtless encourage even her to be on her best behavior. She was in the main keep, very obviously with her hands in plain sight, and her mace conspicuously out of reach. Which doesn’t mean much, but it helps.

It was a civil enough discussion, surprisingly. She actually apologized for her and her brother’s behavior towards us. Apparently, certain powers in the Outer Dark wanted champions, and other forces wanted to deny those champions. Ceor and I were originally meant to be in hers and Allain’s place… that’s comforting. That goddamned hellhound fixated on me because it was originally supposed to be mine…

She had been under the sway of the Outer Dark for her entire life, but undeath changes things, apparently, so she was in her right mind finally. She also said that that goddamn book wasn’t Mara’s tool, but was a safety valve, bleeding off her power and keeping her dormant. And when we neutralized it, we destroyed that safety valve.

Fabulous.

So we can look forward to an upswing in monster appearances, at the very least. Mara was meant to be the creator of the next world, after the end of Midgard; she’s not supposed to exist yet. She’s not from the beginning of time, she’s from the end of it. Though this does suggest a valid reason for why Mara seems to exist in a blind spot as far as the history of the universe is concerned…

Sionna went on to explain that as Mara is a creator goddess, albeit a corrupted one, she has little interest in the undead, so paradoxically, they’re safe. She might have actually explained everything to us, had Miaako not stabbed her in the back and things went wrong.

Not that we would have much believed her at the time. I’m not sure I believe her now.

Though she does seem to be as honest as she can be.

She did mention that when the hellhound showed up to attach itself to Allain, it was pretty ragged looking, like it had lost a fight.

Though what she said did make an impression, it did not mean that Reeshka did not immediately accuse her of lying to distract us from an emminent attack during the campaign season. I might have to stuff her in a barrel and launch her from a catapult at some point.

After some arguing, in which I made it clear that while I might not believe her, I’m going to be investigating her claims to my own satisfaction. I don’t trust her. But I can’t take the chance that she’s not lying.

That aside, Ceor had the very valid worry that she’s a vampire, and vampires need certain things. There is a possibility that she could be killed and brought back to life, but we’re not sure that she wouldn’t come back as Mara’s servant, so I’m at least hesitant to take irrevocable steps. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

There’s quite a lot of research I’m going to need to do. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, but if she’s lying, there will be repercussions.

She said that she didn’t need to drain someone completely to get what she needed, and offered to stay here under Sanguine’s supervision if he was amenable. Her coffin had been moved under the brazier that Sanguine slept near, and he said that he wouldn’t mind; if she got out of hand, he would be able to simply destroy it. So that’s fine.

Sanguine also suggested that we should at least take the spirit of what she’d said seriously. In some of his flights, he’d felt the planar barrier stretched thin there, and not in a way that suggested a portal to the underworld. He also asked that we have someone clean up the ruined temple where we destroyed the bell; we didn’t have time to see to it ourselves at the time. He needed more coal as well, apparently the local hills are fairly barren.

So. This is fabulous.

Ceor later brought up an idea that I had been avoiding with some success… we might need to speak to Grandmother on this. I do not want to do this; I don’t want to impose on her good will, I don’t want to attract her notice, I certainly don’t want to be in her debt. I’ll exhaust my other alternatives first.

On the good side, a trade contingent from the Mharoti Empire arrived, along with the promised troops. Reeshka and Ceor were beside themselves with glee.

Things are certainly getting more complicated.

About a week after we sent a squad from the aasimaar free company, along with a detachment of priests to the ruined church to investigate the weakened planar boundary, we received an urgent sending requesting the presence of the most powerful people in Feymott as soon as possible.

Just great.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 72
It never ends well when they wake me up.

I nearly forgot that campaigning season is nearly here. And Savoyne and Friula aren’t going to be ready to cut us much slack. We’ve already got two starts of free companies mustering outside the city walls, one lead by a very smart looking aasimaar and his well-trained footmen and archers, and the other a somewhat less organized group made up of tieflings and other infernal bloodeds. This should prove interesting…

We elected to give them the offer of settling here; giving them a plot of land in exchange for a larger than normal share of their loots. The tieflings, at least, were very pleased by the idea. And it’s still early, as far as mustering goes.

There was also some noise that one of the little thorpes nearby was having some trouble with their cemetary and some goblins… we could send any couple of idiots to handle it. The free companies outside, the aasimaar’s group in particular, probably need something to do. We told them to take care of it.

A few days later, there was just this sense of… unease, all over the city. It was weird. That night, I woke up about midnight, and heard some shouting on the far side of the city. Ceor and I went to go see what it was about, and Reeshka dispatched Keshemet. It was coming from one of the pauper’s cemetaries.

Because of course it was.

We met a soldier on the way; he’d been dispatched by someone, probably Jenkins, to fetch us. The dead were restless. Naturally. We sent him to go get Reeshka and Miaako. Jenkins was already there, neatly decapitating the zombies as they came. This graveyard is administered to by a semi-retired priest of Mavros… hn. We sent Jenkins to go see to the rest of the graveyards… it really wouldn’t do to have this happening everywhere.

Reeshka showed up, consecrated the area, which seemed to handle most of it, save for a large mausoleum in the center. This was originally where the poor were interred, until they ran out of space. After I got tired enough of Reeshka and Miaako’s squabbling, we went inside. Mostly what we expected, graves clawed open from the inside, and things like that. We reached the bottom of the mausoleum, to find a small chapel, with a shrine to Mavros that had been cracked clean in two. That’s nice.

There was also a line of corpses shuffling towards the entrance, which, that was easy enough to deal with. Straight line and everything, a simple Fire Snake could take care of that. I didn’t destroy them, but these were the more mindless sort, and ended up piling onto Ceor’s lance.

Two more at the back had bows, but were no threat. However, we could hear things moving around in nearly ever direction. Great. More mindless undead.

There was a metal plate set into the floor, inscribed with the symbols of the gods. The symbol of Mavros, Hecate, Korz, and a few others, generally the ones with a vested interest in Midgard, who’d be inclined to intervene in any sort of world-ending disaster, were heavily scarred. That’s just fabulous.

All though they’re not so mindless… some of them are casting spells and using wands. This is worrisome. Reeshka, of course, made one explode with positive energy, that didn’t agree with it. Keshemet webbed everything else in that room, so that was fine. I dropped a fireball on another group in a different room.

It’s weird. These are acting like mindless undead, but they’re still using wands… I don’t like it. And I don’t like getting zapped with lightning bolts. It’s almost like some kind of possession. It’s not unheard of, and I don’t see why one couldn’t possess an undead.

Either way, fire solves a lot of problems.

It looks like someone woke up all the corpses in this place… not that it’ll matter that much. Miaako, meanwhile, ended up throwing a tantrum about how dare they wake him up in the middle of the night to get his feathers all dirty. At least Reeshka was able to take out the fucker with the wand, and I reduced more zombies to piles of ash. But apparently, that was not the puppetmaster’s only toy, because another zombie almost shot me with a negative energy ray.

This is tiresome, and I don’t like being waked in the middle of the night.

Fire for everybody.

Miaako then reduced one into its component particles, while Reeshka seemed to be playing with the other horde of zombies. I finally took out the horde to the south, just before they reached me, so now I can go help her. Which means this is going a lot faster. I did notice that one of the coffins was sealed with lead bands which seemed to be melting.

Ceor, being Ceor, charged into the flaming web that now was full of smoldering zombie corpses to attack the one remaining zombie… which was all well and good, except that it put him right next to the coffin and allowed what was in it to grab him. Lots of negative energy being thrown around.

Ooh, a sentient undead! This will be a brief moment.

Reeshka slapped the hand coming out of the coffin with so much positive energy that it just fell apart. The weird sense of unease we’d been feeling lifted as well. We found two more coffins sealed with lead. The custom is to bury corpses you don’t want to rise as undead, or bodies you don’t want scryed on sealed in lead… while there’s no sound of movement, better safe than sorry. It looked like one had been buried with a spellbook, but it was largely rotted away at this point. We just took the precaution of burning them all. The corpse that had been causing the trouble had some magical items- a cloak, bracers, amulet, two different rings, and a total of three wands, including two the other zombies had (we already saw those in action, one’s magic missile and one’s lightning bolt), and he had a inflict critical wounds wand.

This does, of course, beg the question of how the wands outside got into the hands of the zombies outside, why this idiot woke up now, and how a solid granite alter was split in two.

As we left the mausoleum, the guards we’d dispatched returned to say that all was well with the other pauper’s graveyards, but that the old priest who tended the place… a priest of Mavros, was found dead in his rooms… looking like a dessicated corpse that had been there for fifty years.

Seems like we came across a similar circumstance at another temple of Mavros, not too long ago… Hm. This is comforting. Someone’s got a sense of humor….

But for now, I’m going back to bed.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 71
There and Back Again

Of course, Reeshka is full of surprises, and she is an Oracle of Life.

That didn’t mean I didn’t hurt like a motherfucker when I woke up.

And Ceor, being Ceor, was hugging me hard enough that it was a damn good thing I have arcane armor… he’d have dented the real thing.

It was odd, being dead… it was as if I was looking at the multiverse from the outside. Just a formless void, no trace of one afterlife or another.

Being outside of time and space did give me some insight, and plus our trip up the tower and my general knowledge. If we put the book in the pillar of fire, and cast a powerful enough Dispel Magic on it, that’ll neutralize it’s ability to affect our minds, rendering it just a nearly indestructible book… at least half a century, which would give us plenty of time to find the Island of Mara, where destroying it would be as simple as throwing it in a fire.

Handling the book was like having ice cold worms crawling all over my skin, but I kept them on the outside, through sheer force of will. I came this far, I won’t be stopped here. I threw it in the flames, and they turned an ugly greenish-purple. Reeshka and I worked together, and the flames seemed to crystalize around the book, and then shatter.

And it seemed like just a book.

The pillar of fire is the axis of fate, that runs through all creation. With the right tweaking, we could use it to get anywhere we wanted to go within reality. I’m sure I can manage it to deposit us outside of Feymott.

We entered the pillar of fire, and the chamber melted away, leaving us about half a mile outside of Feymott. It hadn’t felt that long, but it was nearly the end of winter now… about three months.

The city still seemed to be in one piece, though there were some people worried that we’d gotten our fool selves killed. Reeshka declared a great feast day, and elected to go visit Sanguine as soon as possible.

The book was put in a heavily warded and trapped chest in one of the vaults beneath the temple of Mavros. It’ll stay there until we find a way to get to the Isle of Mara.

For now, though, we can take a rest.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 70
"A tale told by an idiot, full of storm and fury, signifying nothing."

There was an inscription on the gates, which simultaneously seemed to be in every single language I knew. “Here lies the Fulcrum of Fate in which Fate is forged and undone. Enter only if you have the courage to risk being undone.”

That’s comforting.

Miaako managed to undo the lock on the gate, but just barely. And it looked like the most alien landscape I’ve ever seen, a disc hovering between two layers of stormclouds. As we pushed the doors open, a perfect column of blue-green flame rose out of the center, and it was surrounded by concentric rings of platinum, gold, and silver. There was some sort of enchantment woven into the metal, set to trigger some sort of effect when it was crossed… it’s leagues beyond what I could do. It’s neither arcane nor divine, it’s just… power.

Ceor was the first one to cross the ring, and a bright white light ran along the silver ring until it formed a circle. The clouds promptly stopped churning. Miaako crossed the next, and was rewarded with a yellow light, and the column of fire shot up into the sky. We all crossed the next at the same time, and black light sprung from the ring.

As soon as we did, there was a… sense. We were facing what could have been mirror reflections, on the other side of the disc. The Other Ceor was wearing armor chased by storm motifs, while the Other Reeshka seemed to be wearing armor made of repurposed chains. The Other Miaako looked disturbingly fiendish, with gold armor. I looked the most unchanged… but then, my skills have never been the immediately obvious sort.

We have to fight them, and we all knew intuitively that if we lost, theirs would become the dominant timeline.

The Other Tal stepped forward, and opened with a Magic Missile, which I can ignore. The Other Reeshka scurried forward as well, though didn’t get a chance to do anything. I don’t know how well this group works together… and I don’t want to find out. Fireball. Fireball is generally a good answer to this sort of thing.

I think this is going to end up coming down to how well they work together as a team… because I’m not entirely confident that we could match ourselves. But I know, for instance, that Ceor could crush me easily… as he proved, running the Other Tal down. It must’ve been wrenching for him, but it has to be done.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Miaako darted across the disc and took out the Other Keshemet… who looked like he might’ve been making a living as a baker. This put him next to Other Miaako… who promptly turned invisible and tried to murder him. But of course, Miaako stays invisible as force of habit… He still was nearly perfectly stabbed.

The Other Ceor then charged at our Ceor. Ceor did a good job of blocking, but there’s a lot of lance there… It looked like it hurt.

Fuck this.

The column of fire radiated some sort of energy that healed everyone, or that’s what it looked like, and the Other Reeskha kept coming forward, shooting Reeshka with what looked like negative energy, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

I ran full tilt across the arena and threw as much fire at the Other Ceor as I could. Like hell I’m letting Ceor lose himself to his fate.

Our Ceor is still a little shaken, apparently, he couldn’t manage to hit a damn thing. Miaako was managing himself well enough, so that’s one less thing to worry about. That was about the time that the Other Ceor did some significant damage to our Ceor… but fortunately Reeshka had put a contingency spell in place to keep him on his feet.

I’m ending this now, before it gets out of hand. That Other Ceor is not going to win. I’m not going to let my Ceor become something he never wanted to be.

I had about a second to appreciate that before Ceor turn and charged me. I had seen Reeshka use her Murderous Command on others… I didn’t realize that the Other Reeshka would have it as well. And Ceor, for all his virtues, has never been incredibly strong minded.

I knew when we came in here there was a chance… a good chance we wouldn’t walk out alive… but I’m at least me, with all of the choices that lead me here. It’s not the end I wanted, but it’s mine. And I know that whatever else happens, Ceor is still my Ceor, the one I’ve known all my life, who made the choices that brought him here.

I’ll take it.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 69
Rava's Clock

That book is starting to get on my nerves. Reeshka is still a mess, and Miaako’s not looking much better. We rode without any discernable incidents until we reached a sort of… shimmer… in the air.

It was greatly unsettling.

I didn’t want to go through, and neither did Reeshka, but Ceor and Miaako had no issues. They ended up carrying Reeshka across in a panicky mess, and it took a great effort of will for me to go through. Once we crossed, there was no snow. It felt more like a moderate spring day…

There was also a massive structure we couldn’t see from the other side, about 150 feet high, with two immense gates. I guess we found what we were looking for.

There were also three figures in front of them. Fabulous.

An archon, a devil, and an elf, acting in perfect unison. One door was ever so slightly ajar. Great. And one of them took one look at Miaako, said ‘not you again’, and asked if we were here of our own free will or if he’d bamboozled an adventuring party yet again. She’s seen Miaako before, several times… and he’s never seen her before in his life.

She also knew what the book was, and said that they’d seen it many times.

She told us that we were before the Gates of Dusk and Dawn. If something passed through the Gate of Dawn, it would have its history rewritten, a rebirth of sorts. The Gate of Dusk seemed to throw things to the distant future, and they didn’t know where it would show back up. There was a middle path, that allowed people to rewrite their own destiny.

She told us that people had often come here, to try to rewrite the book so that it never existed… and it never worked. The world had been remade so many times that there’s no telling how old it really is. She and her companions were there to prevent it from happening more often than necessary, though they were bound to permit anyone who could defeat them in a trial to pass.

I don’t want to unmake and remake the world, and it never works anyway. And sending it to the future wouldn’t do much good either; it fucks the future and the guardians said it comes back… there are places that are timeless. The only chance to unmake the book would be to journey down the middle path, fight through to the place where fate resides and cut through web of fate, break the power of fate itself. Then we could journey to the place it was created and destroy it.

And it was created at Mara’s Table…

We simply can’t leave it here, that won’t work. And the guardians want no part of it. I don’t blame them.

Now we have to figure out how to get past them, and what to do if and when we do. It’s starting to look like all of our options are lose-lose…

While the others were trying to decide what sort of trial to do, Ceor and I elected to ask how they knew Miaako. It turns out that every time he dies, he comes back. He might be one of the oldest souls in the known universe. While most souls in a reincarnation cycle have some destiny to fulfill… but Miaako is a unique case. He’s been cheating gods and getting away with it. Everytime he shows up, it causes trouble for the guardians.

As far as trials goes, Reeshka ended up proposing rock-paper-scissors.

Which we won.

The fate of the universe rests on the outcome of pure random choice…

The interior was massive, with mossy stones and the signs of age everywhere. The gates themselves looked untouched. They were made of gold, and we could feel energy thrumming in the air. There’s a lot of Power here. And we could see little afterimages, where we might have done something different… but didn’t.

It was weird.

As Ceor approached the gate, the might-have-beens got thicker around him.

But he kept to the middle, and Reeshka did the same, though there was some intimidation involved. She disappeared in a milky glow. Miaako balked, and couldn’t decide if he wanted to go left, right, or center until I gave his horse some encouragement.

The elf who’d spoken with us watched us go, and commented that she wondered what it was he heard, because he never did go through easily. I doubt he’d tell me, and I doubt we’ll be back here if he did.

I went through myself. On the one hand, I could hear the sounds of a happy childhood… and on the other, everyone who’d ever tormented me getting their just desserts.

It was a dirty trick to play.

But I kept to the middle, and passed through a gray mist. I caught up with the others, and we could hear a clacking, mechanical sound. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard before. I have no idea where we are. All I know is that the clacking is louder up ahead… The fog was so dense that we couldn’t see anything.

We got closer to one of the sources of the noise, to see a gigantic weaver’s shuttle clicking back and forth across an absolutely immense loom. That explains a lot.

The first step is the heart of the place where fate is made…

Reeshka found a very black thread that just… ended.

I’ll get some use out of this robe of twine anyway, so we can find our way back. We rode towards the highest concentration of the clicking. It felt like half an hour, but it’s so easy to lose track of time here. We were riding across a massive copper plate, with a burning sun above and the smell of hot metal. We’d lost the clacking and the loom. Then there was a massive click, and things seemed to shift to the side. The only feature we could see was a spire in the distance. Reeshka cast Life Bubble, to make it a little more bearable, and the copper surface lost its tarnish, and seemed to be clean copper.

The closer we got to the spire, the more tarnished and corroded the copper plate seemed to be, as if it was being eaten away. It was impossible to tell how long we’d been going, but we didn’t get hungry or thirsty or tired. Reeshka’s spell should have worn off at some point, but it didn’t.

We finally reached the spire, where there were several archways around it. There was a woman sitting in one of them, weaving. She looked like she was the same size as us, but was at least a couple miles off… She wasn’t on our direct line of approach, but Ceor being Ceor…

Once we closed the distance, she was more like twice the size of a normal person. Ceor seemed to recognize her, somewhat, though she didn’t particularly seem bothered by our presence. She greeted us pleasantly enough, and said this was called the Plane of Gears, or Rava’s Clock. We explained that we were trying to get rid of something, which she said she sensed. She also said that the three outside are her guardians…

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve met a god.

She said that the place we need to find is the Fulcrum of Fate, at the top of the tower. She put it there because it was possibly the most dangerous place in existence that wasn’t the outer dark. She said that the question that had been asked, if we had the courage to face ourselves, wasn’t an idle one.

I’ve faced myself before, I’m not afraid to do it again. And I expect I’ve got as good a chance as anyone. But it’s far from a certain thing.

She told us that since we’d made it this far, we were beyond her ability to control, that we hadn’t managed to be re-entangled. She said that all of the arches would lead us to the top.

The interior of the spire was was a mass of intricate clockwork, the likes of which could never be replicated by mortal… and possibly deific hands. Gears were slowly making their way to the top, where they tipped over and went back down. Reeshka cast Airwalk on us for safety’s sake, and we started the journey up.

As we ascended, there were images that we could glimpse… an engraved history of the world, the whole of existence. I got a much better idea of the actual history of the world, before it was undone and remade, and I got a much clearer idea of Miaako’s history. He was from the first incarnation of the universe, and had managed to slip away from erasure every time. I gather he’d made a deal with some sort of entity, which was then remade, reused, and repurposed so many times it forgot why it was annoyed at him.

We got to the top, to see the current image was unfinished. There was a massive stone circle, with silver gates and locks of white iron, with symbols of chance and fate engraved around it.

I expect this is where we’re going…

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Tal's Journal, Entry 68
The answer is more fire.

There were more cultists and abominations in a secondary chamber, of course. Ceor got stabbed and didn’t appear to care too much, while Miaako shanked another one, whom I promptly set on fire. Keshemet finished that one off with a wand, though Miaako was still inclined to claim the kill as his.

Not that it matters.

One of the gibbering monstrosities flailed at Miaako ineffectually, which I’m all for ineffectual flailing when we’re not doing it.

Reeshka’s gotten the range worked out on her explosion of holy power so that she doesn’t fry herself with it, though she did frazzle Miaako a bit.

The other gibbering monstrosity then vomited a stream of what seemed to be some sort of black corrosive goo at us. Fortunately, Keshemet and I were standing behind Ceor, who’s quite a big man…

He promptly went over to instruct it on why this was a bad idea.

Which gave me a lovely shot to set it on fucking fire.

So that was one of the qlippoth down, and both cultists, just leaving us with the second abomination. Joy.

Miaako promptly shredded it.

Then Reeshka got clocked in the face with a door.

And half of us were promptly sprayed down with that horrific black goo.

There were two more of those things. Ceor stabbed one, which took the sword through the mouth, oozed up his arm, and bit him before it died.

Also at least one of those assholes at the back had some sort of returning weapon. We might need to look into getting Ceor one of those…

These nightmares are terribly unhygenic, spitting at everyone like that. Fire should help.

Reeshka ended up putting it out of our misery, while Miaako was dealing with the cultists at the end of the hall. Keshemet set a web spell at the back, which made things interesting. One of them threw himself at the ground at Miaako’s feet, smashing several bottles in what appeared to be a botched attempt at a suicide attack.

Another cultist joined the fight from a side corridor, and Miaako found something of interest in the next room. I could hear some chanting in that direction… in a voice that I recognize and that scares the fuck out of me.

Awesome.

Meanwhile, Reeshka keeps getting hit in the face.

As I moved forward, I noticed something in the intersection… looks like something akin to Blade Barrier. We don’t want to step into that…

Reeshka got pegged with another hammer, though at least it missed her nose this time. And somehow Ceor keeps getting shot. I’m getting awfully damn tired of this.

Fireballs for everyone.

That was about the time I saw a cloud of white vapor cross the hall… fabulous. At least Reeshka was able to dispel the barrier.

I dropped a fire snake in the hall, since I’m pretty sure there’s someone lurking, and I don’t need to see them for that. I dropped one of the remaining cultists, and further down the hall, I could hear someone else burning.

And then Sionna was right ithere. Almost right in my fucking face. She cast something that just absolutely poured negative energy everywhere. It was highly unpleasant.

Ceor hit her, and only sparked off her armor. Fuck my life…

The archer showed up, finally… behind us. A rather familiar looking hobgoblin. Who seems to have taken issue with me as well. I’ll worry about him presently .

Right now, we’ll just see how much air a panicked fire elementalist can make combust.

A lot, as it turns out. She disintegrated into vapor. I’ll worry about it if it’s permanent or not later.

And now for the fucking hobgoblin, who keeps shooting us… It really hurts. A lot. There is clearly not enough fire in that room.

Ceor took the hobgoblin out, finally, and Reeshka healed the damage. Then Miaako produced a squeal the likes of which I’ve only heard Ceor’s girlfriends make and found a chest of gold coins.

Reeshka said that she thought Sionne was a vampire, and that when vampires are killed, they turn into mist and return to their coffins. It would have to be within a couple miles, and I can think of a couple of possible locations. If we can destroy her coffin before she regenerates, we can kill her permanently. I’d like to do that… While it could be as little as a day, given the amount of punishment she was able to take, it’s more likely to be weeks or even months. So we’ve got a little bit of time.

I found a journal that didn’t read as magical, and quite a few pages of notes on necromantic pursuits. Ceor found a rack of wine bottles, which were filled with… not wine. There ended up being two chests filled exclusively with obsessively polished gold coins. I think Miaako’s trying to build a nest…

We also collected the gear worth taking. Four masterwork hammers, four masterwork chainmail, one masterwork short sword, one set of magical robes, five magical warhammers, five mithril chain shirts, five mithril heavy shields, five magical amulets, five magical cloaks, five magical rings., and a magical composite longbow.

We also found a coffin, hidden under a concealed trap under a bed. It did in fact contain a vampire. The hobgoblin hunter, which explains a lot and will probably make things easier in the long run, but I could have wished for a different occupant. Reeshka claimed his fangs as some sort of bizarre trophy. And then I burned it. I incinerated the body, the coffin, and even melted some of the stone. And then Reeshka consecrated the area. It’s a fairly safe bet he’s out of the way.

Then Reeshka decided to rig one of the masterwork warhammers to the ceiling in what I expect was Sionna’s study. I gather the idea was that it would trigger when someone opened the door, smashing them in the kneecaps.

I’m not sure if I approve or if Reeshka needs help…

We made our way back out. The breeze flowing out had stopped, which I’m taking as a tentatively good sign. We made it back to the inn, in worse shape than we’ve been in a long time. We arrived back just at sunset, and Ceor and Reeshka seemed to freeze up with a sense of absolute dread. Even Miaako seemed a little uneasy. And we could hear the faintest whispering…. Something about coming to the Mother.

Fuck my life.

As much as I’d like to make finding that bitch’s coffin and destroying it the next priority, Reeshka’s gone fetal and Ceor’s spilling his beer.

We’ve got to get rid of this thing…

I can teleport us to Goasta Cliffs, which would put us about a week out from the likely location of the Gates of Dusk and Dawn. It’s probably our best shot at this point… We hired someone to take our horses and the mule back to Feymott, since I can’t manage them as well as the rest of us.

Teleporting with the book was… an unpleasant sensation. It was only an instant, but it felt a lot longer… At least I managed to put us square at Goasta Cliffs, and we bought three horses to get us out there.

And not one of us was fit to actually navigate.

To keep my mind off certain bullshit, I spent some time identifying items. Reeshka had also picked up a rod and a wand at some point. The rod was another Empower metamagic rod, and the wand was Inflict Critical Wounds (CL12, 20 charges). The bow was a composite longbow (2, 5 str). Five returning, throwing warhammers (1), five Amulets of Natural Armor (2), five Cloaks of Resistance (2), and five Rings of Protection (2).

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Tal's Journal, Entry 67
Reeshka is allergic to holy power. Who knew.

I know I did, but it feels like I haven’t slept at all…

I just want to clear out the catacombs we saw on the map so we can get out of here and do something with that goddamn book. It lead us to a back alley in the mortuary district, where a sewer drain had been wrenched open. Fabulous. Oddly enough, we didn’t run into anyone on the way…

When we got down here, we noticed that there were no spiderwebs or moss, like this has seen an unusual amount of caretaking… fabulous. It turned into a fucking maze after a while, though we managed to stay mostly on track… Miaako managed to find a set of route markers chipped into the corners.

It was still about midday when we came to a set of heavy stone doors, Reeshka thought they were made of granite. Etched with pretty thoroughly blasphemous imagery, primarily of what I take to be Mara.

Miaako had a pair of gloves that allowed him to see through walls, and was able to get enough of an idea of what was on the other side to determine we probably wouldn’t be able to sneak up on whoever was on the other side. Well, we’re good at noisy entrances.

Reeshka suggested having Ceor and Miaako go in invisible in order to get something of a jump on them…

The room was full of cultists, of course.

What else would be in there?

Miaako kicked the door open, vanished entirely, and then knocked the priest in charge (also a tengu) the fuck out. Then Reeshka made an absolutely record breaking entrance. She managed to get most of them pretty confused. I’m not worried about the human fighters. I’m more concerned about the gibbering monstrosities from beyond space and time.

Unfortunately I missed.

One of the fighters who hadn’t fallen for Reeshka’s trick tried to splat her with a giant hammer… only to throw it into the wall. I got smacked in the face with a barbed tentacle.

Rude.

Ceor took offense to this and promptly poked the nightmarish thing with a sharp stick. Miaako reappeared in order to stab a guy almost to death, as per usual. Reeshka knows Holy Smite, which just disagreed terribly with the nightmare in our faces. Since they seem to have it well in hand, I’ll focus on the target-rich environment that Reeshka set up for me.

I’m sure Miaako can dodge a fireball.

He did. None of the rest did, and they did not like it at all. One elected to bugger off, and attempted to shove past Reeshka, only to have Ceor get in the way. Another decided it was healthier to stay away from us and went to hide in a corner. One of the remaining fighters tried to hit Miaako, missed as he jumped out of the way, and hit the priest. Hard.

Reeshka cast Hideous Laughter on the guy cowering in the corner… who is at this point terrified and on fire. He’s just having a bad day. Reeshka then stormed forward and ordered one of the fighters to sit.

He complied.

Since all the hostiles were non threats at the moment, I elected to finish off the nightmare that had attacked me… gods know I don’t want it getting up. The others seemed to think finishing the remaining cultists off was the proper course of action… we haven’t really had the best luck interrogating these people, anyway.

This room taken care of, we boldly elected to proceed to the next room… which was also full of nasties, and there I was, on the wrong side of the area…

And then Reeshka went and blasted herself with her own Holy Smite spell. That was entertaining. I moved forward to get a better view, as Ceor just tore into one of these things. Miaako shanked another cultist, and I set his friend on fire, because what else am I going to do?

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Tal's Journal, Entry 66
Weeeeeeeeeeeeell fuck.

We elected to leave our prisoner in the fountain. He’s not going anywhere for a while; that aboleth’s lung spell lasts for hours and I do want to know where those other guys buggered off to. Also, I’m not terribly optimistic about what he could tell us.

We took a staircase down through a shattered mausoleum into the catacombs. We found the men who’d gotten away before Ceor could shishkabob them, as well as a few uninjured men, some archers, and a figure in black armor. They seemed to have taken pains to make it look creepy. At least, judging by the illusion effect to cast black and violet shadows everywhere.

There was a faint breeze, and one of the archers took a shot at Ceor. I will admit he’s a little hard to miss. This did not stop him from producing his horse from his cloak and mounting up. I expect that helped Reeshka scare the shit out of the melee fighters, though she does know how to make an entrance.

We don’t really have time for this. The six melee fighters were positioned in such a way that it didn’t take much doing to plant a fireball right in the middle of them. They ceased to be a problem, even if Reeshka did look a little put out.

The bastard in armor at the back vanished, but Miaako reappeared up on the dias, and promptly stabbed the ever loving fuck out of one of the archers. Ceor charged the other and started giving him an education. Sensing an emergency, I took steps to cast See Invisibility, which revealed the armored figure. I then shot him with a wand. Which lit him up for a moment, but not long enough to prevent him from doing absolutely horrible things to Ceor.

He was also flying. That’s nice.

Fortunately, Miaako was in position to take out the remaining archer, and Reeshka was in position to put Ceor back together. And then I laid down the most precise set of scorching rays that I had ever done in my life, because I am the only one allowed to fuck with Ceor.

I burned him out of the air, which ended the matter. Reeshka tried to consecrate the area for fun, and noticed that the body seemed to be exuding an unholy aura. I noticed that he seemed to be exuding a nasty black ichor that I’ve seen before.

Leaking out of a certain gnome.

I burned what was left before it could turn into anything even more unpleasant.

The rest of the crypt seemed to be a fairly normal crypt, with nothing interesting going on before the current inhabitants moved in. Miaako found a hidden compartment in the altar and found the most evil fucking book we’d ever laid eyes on inside. I’m sure it was of otherworldly origin, didn’t seem to be involved in arcane magic, and I did not want to fucking touch it. I didn’t even want to set it on fire, for fear of it unleashing something even worse. Rupert didn’t seem to giving any fucks. We prodded it into a bag- notably it wouldn’t go into a bag of holding- because leaving it here seemed like a bad idea.

We did end up finding two belts, two sets of boots, and two capes on the archers, two sets of magical mithril fullplate, and two magical darkwood composite longbows. The armored figure had a magical adamantine earthbreaker. It was the biggest fucking hammer I’ve ever seen. Also a set of magical mithril fullplate.

There were the charred remains of a journal on the armored figure, with what looked like a rough map of the catacombs, with a specific entry marked, and a destination that looked like it was in the mortician’s district marked. Not much else was salvageable, save for a few errant mentions of the Mistress, the Mother, and some other phrases that didn’t make any sense. Also the corpse turned out to be the most horrifying corruption of an aasimaar I’ve ever seen. Tentacled growths, chitinous scabs, the works.

Fabulous.

Reeshka was highly alarmed and disgusted by the idea of taking the book with it, but honestly the idea of leaving it here for those cultists to find is worse. Maybe we can find a volcano or something to toss it into…

We were going to collect our prisoner on the way, but he appeared to have crawled out and airdrowned himself somewhere. Oh well. I’m not really worried about this right now. We got back to the inn without incident, shoved it in the chest in Ceor’s room, and arcane locked it. Just being around it wore on me, and was worse for Ceor. He said he’d started hearing whispers. Reeshka appeared to be trying to build a trap out of mugs.

I’ve just remembered something. Somewhere north of Friula but not quite to Savoyne, there’s something called the Gates of Dusk and Dawn. Freestanding gates that go… somewhere, but nothing that goes through comes back. That’s a thought, we could shove this book through there. There’s a suspicious absence of anything like this book anywhere in my knowledge… I should have heard of something this powerful. Hells, I grew up in Friula, the city of magic. We were discussing what to do about it, whether to take a trip to the Gates and see if we can lose the book now, or to check out the catacombs and then get the fuck out, the name of Mara came up… and Ceor said that the whispers momentarily stopped, with a very reverent silence. I elected to slap an explosive runes on the chest as well, just for safetly’s sake. If the Gates thing doesn’t pan out, we can always hide it at the bottom of the ocean… though I think Nethus would get pissed. There’s also the Twisted Tower in the Goblin Wastes.

I don’t usually drink… I’ve a terrible temper when I’m hungover. Worse than normal. Today I shall make an exception.

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