Blades of Light

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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Tal's Journal, Entry 65
In which preparation is vital.

Once we moved to a decent inn, we elected to keep looking for information. I found out that the Oracle of Mavros, supposedly a man, but was always seen in full plate with an intricate storm pattern motif, carrying a sword wreathed in lightning, a spear wreathed in lightning, and riding a storm-colored warhorse. Staying in the temple district, naturally. And the people who’d seen him at the arenas said that those who were hit by him seemed to be hit by lightning. Mostly he seemed to stay put at the temple of Mavros, though he hit the main arena once a week.

Ceor seems to be debating going to at least see one of his bouts, though he has no intention of actually competing. Though judging by what we’ve heard about his fighting prowess, Ceor is pretty sure it’s not Sianna… or if it is, she’s gotten the hell of a lot better at melee combat. Which is a shame, really…

It’s a little harder to pin her down… no one’s seen much of her in our old neighborhood, but I suppose that’s to be expected. We did run into the groundskeeper at the orphanage where Ceor and I grew up, who seemed thrilled to see us. Particularly so, in Ceor’s case. He did, however, make a comment that he always knew a clever lad like me would always make a name for himself.

I suspect he’s gone slightly senile, though he was admittedly one of the better ones.

Upon consideration, it’s more likely that Sianna would be more in the mortuary district… it suits her tastes. She was always the sadistic sort, who enjoyed poking things with scalpels.

I always hated that place.

Ceor managed to run into another orphanage graduate, who’d gotten a job as a mortician. He said he’d seen her in the last month or so, buying cadavers. That’s comforting. He doesn’t know what she wanted them for, and doesn’t want to know. I can’t really blame him. She didn’t seem to have been very picky, so that could be promising. We went to talk to the hauler that had helped her. After a sufficient bribe, he remembered that he’d taken her order to the low end of the Narrows, where all the buildings were falling down and abandoned, by the big Fountain. He wasn’t the prying sort, but said she’d ordered a couple score of corpses, and had a retinue of people in hooded black cloaks and a couple of big guys in black armor.

Fabulous. We probably ought to look to that.

Though it won’t hurt to get some more info and lay some plans before throwing ourselves headlong into gods know what… again…

That area’s a warren of abandoned houses, you could stuff almost anything anywhere, and there’s almost certainly an entrance to the catacombs in the area. This’ll be fun…

We elected to send Miaako in first, as per usual. For once, we showed some sense, and I set the group up with a Message whisper so we could keep in contact. When he reached the fountain area, he found three people in black armor, with someone in a black robe chanting or mumbling. When he got closer, there were more… pretty much at every road leading into the fountain area. Lovely. Also at least one archer on what passed for a balcony, assuming it didn’t cave in.

He promptly stabbed the archer in the back, which will make our lives that much easier. And then the idiot went and blew his signal whistle, so that took care of the stealth advantage we had.

Miaako’s whistle hadn’t stopped the chanting, but we arrived pretty quickly, and Ceor put a stop to one of the chanters, at least. Permanently. And then people were on fire because I’m here and somewhat irritated and why wouldn’t they be on fire? I had no idea where Miaako got off to.

Reeshka then put Airwalk on herself and me, which means this should get entertaining. As I do not care to be where people with violent objects can use said objects on me, I took the opportunity to get some height. I spotted another archer on a roof that had been pegging Ceor, and pegged him with a couple of Scorching Rays and set the roof he was on on fire.

I expect he’s questioning his life choices at this point.

He tried shooting me back to no avail, and three of the thugs in the square braced up, assuming that Ceor was coming for them next. It’s not a bad assumption, but Ceor’s hung around me long enough to know to wheel around and go for one of the casters first. I spotted another one coming in my direction, so I took care of her. That was about the same time another let loose a bone-jarring scream. That was unpleasant.

I dropped a fireball on more, and they promptly threw themselves into the fountain. By this point, some were buggering off, but some hadn’t gotten the memo yet that fighting us was not a good survival strategy. A few more tried to brace for Ceor’s inevitable charge… which bypassed them entirely in favor of a group on the other side of the plaza. I gave them something else to think about. Fireballs are rather good at that. Reeshka had picked one to take alive, and found an inventive way of keeping him in place; she just cast Aboleth’s Lung on him while he was in the fountain.

There was another group that had been chasing Ceor around, and I finally put them out of their misery. He ended up chasing some more into a ruined temple, while I started picking off the remaining idiots outside. Once the dust had settled, we had one live captive trapped in the fountain and a bunch of dead cultists lying around. That was easy.

I expect something to try to eat our faces shortly.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 64
I hate winter.

I hate winter. It’s freaking cold. The weather around Feymott was mild enough, but the further we got into the hills, the colder it got.

I hate winter.

It took us a little longer to get to Sanguine’s fort than it normally does, though he was out. We stopped there for the night, and the resident kobolds were happy to supply us. The next day, we saw a column of smoke in the distance, perhaps a day’s journey to the northwest. The kobolds said that odd human types passed by with a caravan every couple of weeks, starting off about where the smoke was.

It’s not that far out of the way, so we elected to check it out. There was a lot of snow on the path, though it seemed fairly clear for what seemed to be a rarely-used road. Some of the snow seemed to be threatening collapse, though none of it did.

We came through a canyon pass to see what looked like a small monastery on a slight hill, though it had been completely wrecked. The place had been blown up and the doors had been blown in, red and brown stains covered the walls, and it was just generally a mess. The doors had probably been smashed in by something… which I suppose is better than the alternative. We could smell the cooked stone in the air, and Miaako thought he heard someone talking.

Miaako, as per usual, vanished and slipped up to investigate. He found a few people lounging around while a giant… thing… was wrecking the altar. Wisely, he slipped back to tell us so we could formulate a plan. No one around really knows much about the place, they seem to keep to themselves, though Reeshka says it’s probably dedicated to some aspect of Mavros.

Nice.

Of course, our plans always lack a certain… delicacy.

Ceor and Reeshka burst in, brandishing weapons and being generally menacing. Reeshka promptly caused the big creature to explode with holy energy, hurting it… it’s a div, a fiendishly corrupted genie. They’re notorious for being resistant to acid and electricity… I think we’re okay with that. While Reeshka’s entrance had momentarily blinded it, that didn’t last… and he didn’t seem to have a problem seeing the still-invisible Miaako. Of course.

Fortunately, though it’s teeth were big, it managed to miss every single time. Ceor was hit by a set of magic missiles, and promptly educated the man who’d shot them on why that was a bad idea. I don’t think the two people inside really knew what was happening, save that things were about to get ugly. And I fed the div a scorching ray. Miaako started filleting it as well.

Another warrior with a giant warhammer showed up… he will also have a bad day. Reeshka commanded him to go stab one of his allies, so this should be entertaining. A second warrior showed up and actually managed to stab Ceor, much good it will do him. And by this point, we could hear something large crashing around. Since everyone else was in varying states of dead, I elected to take a look… yeah it’s another one of those divs.

Nope.

Miaako vanished again, no surprise there, and Ceor and the second div seemed to flail wildly at each other. Keshemet and Reeshka started to tie up one of the warriors, as we need to as SOMEONE what the hell’s been going on, so I elected to feeding the second div something unpleasant.

And then Reeshka accidentally tried to set Ceor’s horse on fire with holy light.

Well then.

Ceor was annoyed, but let it go, especially since Reeshka healed everyone as the last div went down. As we were exploring, Ceor found a holy symbol that looked like that combined symbol of Mavros and Thor. He took exception, and elected to shove the divs out of the building. We investigated the rest of it, and while there had been workrooms and an alchemy workshop and a kitchen, everything had been completely trashed. The basement had also been completely ransacked, though there was some sort of hole in the wall. The passage collapsed about thirty feet down, and looked recent. There was a blood trail, which ended at the collapse. There was a dark substance in between the stones… looked like someone had been crushed.

We elected to back off and investigate the bell tower. The bell had been surrounded by bloody runes. Reeshka seemed to think that was a symbol of worship to give thinks to the Mother of All.

Yeah that’s getting reduced to rubble before we leave.

Ceor touched the bell with his sword, which caused blue-white cracks to form, with predictable results. The bell exploded.

The prisoner seemed to be saying that the Mother would have us all… we’ll get around to her presently. There wasn’t a chance that he was going to give us anything useful, so Ceor just lopped his head off.

We did get five magic great hammers, five magic mithril chainmail, and a set of medallions that bore a passing resemblance to the symbol of the Order of the Pure with a skull on one side, made of blackened iron. Oh, and all five of the warriors we killed were aasimaar.

This is nice.

We torched the bodies and left.

We swung through Sanguine’s fort again, then headed for Friula. It took us a week to get there, then we realized we didn’t really have a plan. We should probably have one of those. After some discussion (which involved many suggestions from Reeshka that would be better suited to when we actually lay siege to the city), we decided the best course was to disguise ourselves and enter the city as lowly merchants and farmers, and gather information.

We got in without much issue, and found an inn. It looked like a typical winter around here, and while we did pass the wanted posters, we weren’t on them. Which I can totally live with, it’ll probably be best if they don’t know we’re responsible for doing things to one of the ruling council… even if they didn’t like him and his face was on the wanted posters.

We woke up in the middle of the night, hearing something. It sounded like guards. Greeeeeeeeeeat. When we looked outside, a group of guards was tussling with a group in black… one of which yelled ‘The Mother will have your soul!’ according to Miaako. At least the guards were able to put them down handily and drag them off. In the morning, the innkeeper said that sort of thing happened every few nights. Some new cult, that the poor and powerless flocked to. Of course.

We stayed in the shabby inn long enough to get rid of the cart and goods we’d used to get into the city; we donated them to our orphanage. Then moved to an inn that actually has some standards of cleanliness. The hammers we’d picked up proved to be Icy Burst Greathammers (3), and the chainmail was Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire, and Sonic Resistance mithril chainmail (3, 10 resist). At least it’s nothing hideous.

We’ll start trying to gather information in the morning…

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Tal's Journal, Entry 63
In which we sell all the things.

Now that we’re back at town for an appreciable amount of time and nothing is combusting or trying to murder us, we elected to go through and sell some of the many, many things we’d picked up at this point. There was much bargaining, wheedling, embarassing displays, and other general nonsense.

Some of the gear that we’d picked up ended up donated to the city armory: 5 masterwork greatswords, and 4 rings of protection (1). After all the mercantile interests were done, we ended up with 2569 PP 4 GP 5 SP each. So that’s some money that’ll get put back into magic items.

The others wanted me to make some magical items for them; as long as they’re paying for it, I don’t mind. Reeshka wanted a 25 charge wand for Cure Critical Wounds and a pair of Healer’s Gloves. Always good to have in an emergency. Miaako wanted a Handy Haversack. I don’t know all the spells for it, but hell, it’s easy enough to fake. Also made a Headband of Mental Superiority (4) for him. Ceor wanted a couple of ioun stones, a silver thorny and a turquoise sphere, and a whistle of calling.

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