Adventurers Present: Nikz (Elf, Fighter/Rogue - 10), Darrak (Dwarf, Monk - 12), Roonil (Human, Rogue - 5),
Riswynn (Dwarf, Druid - 11), Xun Fu (Half-Orc, Monk - 10), Gosef (Wizard - 10), Eli (Dragonborn, Paladin - 12), Surik (High Elf, Wizard - 6).
Party of 8 - Levels 5+
Riswynn and Nikz Wander
While Batale meditates and the others rest, Riswynn and Farideh take one of the adjoining tunnels for a walk. Making their way up this winding tunnel, the pair pause as they hear two massive impacts that shake the earth around them, then crunching (chewing) sounds, followed by more impacts. Continuing up, they come across a medium-sized opening into a very large underground rainforest...and immediately see a gigantic turtle. It roams through this forest, crunching trees under huge feet, only to have them rapidly regrow as it passes over them. The creature gives them little notice, instead opting to munch on the trees nearby.
Farideh, curious as always, zips forward through the opening, gliding over the tree line and settling on the great shell of the creature. She pads and kneads around for a few seconds, then curls up on its back, starting to nap as the creature moves deeper into the forest. Riswynn, frustrated, to no end, pulls as much chocolate as she owns from her back, beckoning the faerie dragon (after some coaxing) back. Farideh finally perks up, sniffing the air, and like a bolt of lightning, returns to Riswynn's shoulder, happily inhaling the chocolate. With a sigh and a pat, Riswynn makes her way back to the group.
Meanwhile, Nikz and Koriasaka make their way down a tunnel on the opposite end...and after only about twenty feet or so, the earth gives way to a set of stone steps and the pair emerge into a barracks. Nikz counts cell doors and rooms, each empty, and comes upon the guard station. A strong table surrounded by chairs, one is turned over; a fine, drawn map sits upon the table, sets of dried quills, parchment, and polyhedral dice cover the table, as well as a sharpened marble wand and a wrapped quarterstaff, resting against the arm of one of the chairs. There are also two ornate treasure chests in the far corner of the room.
Scooping up a set of discarded gauntlets and the wand, Nikz saunters over to the two chests. One trunk, already flipped open, appears to have a barrel within it. The other, further beautified by gold trim and silver braces, appears to be closed and locked. Flipping the barrel up within the trunk, Nikz lifts the lid to reveal that it is filled to the brim with platinum pieces. Before diving headfirst into THAT, Nikz goes to the closed chest and notices that there is a key already stuck in the lock. He turns it and the lid flips open to reveal an ornate set of golden gauntlets, helmet, and belt.
Seeing this, then staring back at the barrel of platinum, Nikz reaches one hand into the barrel to begin counting the riches. As he reaches in, the pile of coins liquifies, instead shifting into a large, writhing pink tongue that wraps around his arm. The edges of the barrel stretch and whine as rows of teeth and bulbous yellow eyes begin to pop open. The adjacent chest also shifts, growing sets of gleaming, sharp teeth, rows of yellow, tumor-like eyes opening with sickening clicks and smacking sounds. A pair of Mimics lurch toward the elf...as he commands Koriasaka to use her breath weapon on them.
Planting her scaled feet, the spectral rears back and unleashes a torrent of freezing breath upon the lurching duo. They are easily frozen solid, then immediately shatter, the illusion melting away to nothing. The corner now empty, the elf spies a small brass plaque tacked to the base of the wall. It reads: "Riches Hinder Wisdom."
Riswynn returns from her happy excursion as Nikz returns from his frustrating one, just as Batale's alarm begins to go off.
They watch as he produces and assembles a strange wind instrument; constructed from hollowed bone and dried organs, it produces a haunting, but harmonized sound, as Batale plays a familiar tune...an ancient lullaby. Riswynn and Xun immediately perk up, recognizing the eerie melody, and the druid feels Eilir begin to resonate along with the tune. Riswynn mentions this and Batale raises an eyebrow. "You know of the lullaby? We use it to usher the dead back to the Nexus. Which reminds me..." as he looks into the eyes of each of the group, "I must still be dreaming. Shall we go?"
The Temple of Seven Wings
Before Riswynn can protest, the group begins to rise. Instead, the druid asks of the turtle she found - Batale refers to it as "another one of his charges," but says nothing more. "This way." Batale knocks twice on the wall between the fourth and fifth tenets, and it folds away, like a carpet being rolled up.
He leads them up and around a complex interwoven system of tunnels, finally emerging into a dense rainforest. Riswynn recognizes the space immediately, and all stand in awe at the gigantic turtle that looms over them. Batale assures them that it is safe, and they weave their way underneath him, the Illithid patting the thing's stomach on the way through, coming to a set of five pools. Batale goes to the fourth one, diving into it and beginning to swim. Many of the party pause here, unsure of what to do.
Eli steps forward and splashes on the surface of the water. After a few moments, the Illithid reappears. "Yes?"
"We can't breathe underwater. We're not ghosts, we can't-
Batale grabs the dragonborn's foot. Eli feels slits appear in his neck and upper head, suddenly aware that he now possesses gills... "Uh, the rest of them will have trouble too..."
"Oh, I know. You go first; you'll sink just fine."
Eli steps into the water. "Oh yes I will..." And promptly sinks to the bottom.
One by one, Batale grants each Owl the ability, and they begin to swim through the underwater tunnels within the island. Sapphire shards, some as big as Xun's forearms, jut out from complex veins in the walls. As they swim, a few even break free from the earth, floating around them... and Eli palms one, followed by Nikz, Roonil, and Darrak.
After about 150 feet, the group emerges into an underwater canyon. They watch Batale swim ahead toward a set of stone steps that lead out of the water, but as they look, their vision slides instead downward to a crumbling, highly detailed temple with seven spires, each designated by a specific stone bust upon its nadir. Each statue seems to depict a specific creature or symbol. One, a massive stone Roc; another, an armored, grinning panther; a tree made of hands, all clasped in one direction around a a sundial whose center appears to be a heavy maul; an armored knight with a hammer and anvil; a crow with a cracked beak; and finally a large, hulking four-armed creature with chains wrapped around its forearms and waist, wielding two grizzly tridents and screaming at something in the distance. This latter-most is particularly detailed, with a beard of sculpted thorns rising into wreathed flames and blowing backward into shards of ice. The seventh appears to missing many chunks, and what remains is shapeless.
Darrak swims close to the panther statue, rubbing its head, while Nikz swims down to the tree, pressing his tattooed palm into it. A moment passes... Then the stone hands rapidly begin moving, each shifting position, until they all face the opposite direction, and the sundial shifts from noon to 1:00. It moves no more.
Now on the surface, Riswynn asks if that temple was to The Seven. Batale nods.
"We may have met some of them."
"Heh. Many do...on their way to de' Nexus."
"Jenora... Anai'Stra... Oof-
At the mention of 'Jenora,' Batale stops moving, Riswynn bumping into him as he whirls on her. "When you see Jenora, let her know. 'I am ready.'" He turns, and continues up the steps.
Darrak chimes in. "We could introduce you to her!"
"I'll meet her soon."
Eli now steps up. "You don't have to be dead to talk to her."
"The gods do not toil with mortals. If they dare to do that, they have corrupted themselves."
Darrak: "Or maybe someone broke a rule somewhere, I don't know..."
"Rules maintain sanity. And order. Peace of mind. ...To break them is to break oneself."
Searching for a retort, the group reaches the top of the steps, entering a domed rocky valley that stretches out before them. A stone bridge passes over a deep ravine about 30 feet into the cavern, and sets a path directly toward a mossy, rusted tower and spiral stairs, all leading up to a glass case at its peak. Copper threads run up the side of the tower and are glowing a radiant gold. Batale stops short upon reaching the top, staring at the tower. "It is on?" he mutters, "Why is it on?" Then he sprints toward it, Riswynn following close behind...
An Eye for a Storm
Eli, Riswynn, Xun, and Darrak all rush forward with Batale, while the rest cross the bridge but stay back, cautious of what is next. Eli notices that the rocks within ten feet of the tower appear to be floating just off the ground, and a subtle electric energy emanates from the structure. Batale does not rush up the stairs, instead rounding to the back of the structure, muttering to himself as he goes.
The first four follow, and watch Batale kneel at a bundle of interwoven roots and branches, all "plugged" into the back of the tower. As they watch, it appears that the roots are breathing. It looks like a gnarled set of four plants: a deep black root, a vibrant amber, a crystalline blue, and a radiant gold. They form a conduit into the tower.
Riswynn: "Why is it not supposed to be on?"
"It... isn't. But it is trying to be." Batale seems just as confused at the party feels.
Xun: "What happens if it is on?"
"The engine ignites and one can control the travel of de' island. ...I don't know what brought us into de' sky - we're supposed to be in the dark..." He continues to stare at the 'engine.'
Xun and Riswynn then feel a slight clinking, like someone tapping on glass, above them. A quick sprint to the top of the tower shows them that the glass case is actually a crystalline barrier filled with white smoke. Peering inside, they see a lovely Aasimar woman clad in deep furs and gleaming bronze armor. Piercing eyes framed by pewter and amethyst hair meet their gaze, and a patient smile warms her face. As the smoke inside begins to clear, they also see a sapphire great sword and ruby pike, each imbedded in the stone of the tower. Deep violet eye shadow accents her icy blue eyes, running rivulets of color down her pale face. She waves...as Xun attacks the crystal, sending cracks across the frame, then shattering it.
As it shatters, they watch her hold up her hand and an arcane shield protects them from the falling bits. Now free of the chamber, her smile broadens and a warm glow emanates from her presence. Reaching down, she grasps the hilts of the weapons, pulling them from the stone as if from water, and sets them upon her back. They have no sheathes...they simply attach to her. Riswynn starts, "Uh, Batale did not tell us your name..."
"He would not, would he? I am Toryana Snowfinch. Pleased to make your acquaintance." She holds out her hand and bows. "I do apologize, I dinna' mean for that to be so...violent. It seems the engine has begun is cycle early."
"Can you explain what the engine being on...means?"
"Aye. It allows us to fly. Although, the stars are confusin'. We went down to the dark to reach the sky...have we landed?"
"Are we moving'?"
The Owls check the subtle rumblings of the island, taking note of the stars they can clearly see through the canyon running through the room. Though the stars appear to have shifted, the island seems to have stopped. Eilir slowly eroding in her pocket, Riswynn takes charge of the conversation. "We came here to investigate this island; what we believed to be a falling star..."
Toryana's celestial features turn with interest to the dwarf. "You came here to investigate, ye say? ...Before you go on, darlin', what be your rank and faction? I'd like to know that first, before I can understand with type of insurgents ye fit into." Her body language shifts slightly, towering over Riswynn. This is an imposing creature; powerful, and very old.
Riswynn steals herself, reaching inside her robes and pulling out a small box. She opens it to reveal the rapidly eroding form of Eilir. At first, Toryana tilts her head in amusement at the action, then her eyes widen with realization. She reaches gently into the box, and pulls up the stone, streams of dust and ash now flowing freely from the form. As Eilir sobs into Riswynn's mind, a pulse of icy blue energy stays the erosion... And another pours stonework into her form. Eilir becomes quiet, but Riswynn can feel her breathing steady. "There, there, little one."
"Are you the Eye?"
Toryana continues to cradle and gently pet the rock, all of her focus upon Eilir. She answers Riswynn almost as an afterthought. "Aye. I am the Eye of the Split Ember. ...Though this one is not from me clan - that's okay. I was feelin' a bit lonely anyway." The Aasimar's eyes suddenly meet Riswynn's. "I can help her." And her focus returns to Eilir. "Don't you worry about a thing. I'll take good care a' you..." She begins to hum a familiar lullaby, just under her breath. It is incomplete, but beautiful and haunting nonetheless as she becomes completely absorbed in comforting the Esper heart. "There's plenty of work to do."
"She...might be the last."
"The last what, darlin'?"
Toryana's grin widens. "No, she ain't the last one, darlin'. I'm still here."
Xun chimes in. "And Batale, he is also an Esper?"
There is a flash of sadness across her face, followed by a measure of pity. "Batale? As much as I love him..." She calls down to the base of the tower. "Hey deary?"
Batale straightens at attention. "Yes, m'lady?"
"Are you an Esper?"
The Illithid bows his head a little, looking off to the side. "No, m'lady."
Pleased with this answer, Toryana returns to her humming for a few moments. "Though he is better than fifty of any soldier who has ever served me... Where did ye' find this heart? She's shakin' like a leaf." They watch as Eilir's form swells to the size of an orange, beating stronger now. Riswynn and Xun begin to talk over each and stammer a reply, so she holds up a hand. A pulse of pink energy moves into Eilir, the same energy mirroring in the painted eyes of the Aasimar. She sighs, as the memories flash before her. "Oh. Oh, I see. No, no... No more need to do such dangerous work. No wonder you lost your Link, ye' poor girl. All you could do was perpetuate your purpose... No more, little one. We shall forge you a new purpose." And with that, they watch Toryana open a fold in her coat, placing Eilir over her heart.
Riswynn, growing concern in her voice, "What will you do with her?"
Toryana pats her heart. "She will tell me the state of world, her dead clan's tactics, and we can surmise our next target, if there is one. ...First I need to commune with Jenora and locate-
"Oh! I know her!"
Just as with Batale, this mention of familiarity with one of The Seven stops Toryana in her tracks, an intense and suspicious gaze enveloping the dwarf. "Darlin', I do not sense a Heart inside you. In fact, I sense no Hearts among your allies, either..."
Meanwhile, down below... No one has heard a thing. They can see a conversation, the exchange, and the perceived fate of Eilir, but can hear none of the words spoken. Darrak calls out from below, "WHAT'S GOING ON!!?" before taking another shot of alcohol, while Eli tries to read body language. Batale watches his lady, his face a mask of neutrality.
Up above, Riswynn sees the animated form of Darrak, his mouth opening and closing, but cannot hear him. Feeling the rising tension up here, she attempts to diffuse the situation, but Toryana interrupts her again, taking a step closer to the dwarf. "Which begs the question, how'd ye' get in? The last ones who came slung spells, and Batale cut them to ribbons in moments..."
"We had a lift."
"A lift, you say? Now that's a new one." Toryana's eyes grow dark, the shadows clinging to her form, pressing in on Riswynn. "See, the last insurgents tried to teleport in... incinerated by wards; the rest used polymorph, but they weren't expecting my Spire."
"I don't think most of us can teleport..."
Toryana suddenly backs off, smiling. "Oh! Then I should call you the Fourth."
"Do they not tell the soldiers where they're goin' anymore?"
"No. No they don't." Riswynn is getting increasingly nervous. Farideh appears on her shoulder, coiling protectively.
"That's a lovely creature you have..." Toryana takes another step toward Riswynn.
Xun Fu moves onto the platform next to her. "And just who do you think we are?"
The Eye's focus flits toward the half-orc with spite. "The last one of you I saw cut down me brother."
"Then it's a good thing I'm not like most half-orcs."
She looks at his vestments. "Aye, that you are not." She addresses the two of them. "So am I to assume you are NOT here to kill me?"
"...No?" Riswynn ventures a reply and Toryana regards her slowly, her face a mask of emotions. The amethyst ends of her hair to shift colors and tones as stares through her, the electricity in the air rising, crackling on the edges of her hearing. There is just a touch of a wicked grin.
And the feeling snaps away. "Then in that case!" And with a clap of her hands, the cone of Silence falls, and Xun and Riswynn are assaulted by the calls of their allies. Toryana holds up a hand to address the crowd of adventurers. "Sorry! Sorry, just had to have a private conversation..."
Darrak offers her beer, Roonil complements her accent, while Nikz waves and yells, "I love your castle!"
Toryana addresses the group with a jovial air, almost effervescent, regardless of what she is saying. She brings up the subject of Jenora, and each Owl shares their experiences with her, one bringing up that she is actually a member of the Tenrook. This word perplexes the Eye, and they explain that they are the Owls' leaders. This peaks her interest. "Your leaders, you say?"
The Eye's voice suddenly turns to one side and addresses no one. "What do ye' think, sister?" Her head then turns the other direction, her voice dropping a little, only a few hertz, seemingly addressing no one. "I think we should listen to them." Now in agreement with herself, her mirthful expression returns.
There is a pause in the group as they take in this display.
"What age do you think it is?" Darrak and Riswynn call out together.
"Well, time is strange when you're fighting for your life..." Similar to Batale, Toryana stares off into the distance. "Ye' see, with how many times we've been lied to, ye' stop counting the days... Maybe a survey corps, a secret order of bird creatures (Darrak stifles a sound), a gaggle of alchemists... It's no longer a sense of when we are, only who's knocking at the door." Her smile betrays the rising tide of anger in her voice. "They often come in saying nice things like, 'We love your castle,' 'we like your turtle,' 'can we keep him?', and then they try to slit poor Batale's throat when I'm not lookin'. He's missing a few tentacles from that." The smile once again returns. "Ye' know, it'd be rude of me to continue addressin' ye' all from me high tower... So I'm gonna' come down, and I'd love to have a conversation with ye' all." And she begins to descend the spiraling stairs.
"But, what year do you think it is?" Riswynn pries on the way down.
"It's not important, darlin'. What matters is the state of the world."
Now on their level, the other Owls take in the sight of the Eye; her pleasant smile, accompanied by an air of authority, while nonetheless commanding immense respect and untapped power. Riswynn, still uncertain, feels the small pulse of something she can't identify...but it keeps her wary of this entity.
The Owls fill her in on the state of the world, with Darrak interjecting with drunkenness. She learns that, for the most part, there is peace on the continent of Erena, and that the Owls were just successful in defeating a dracolich lord named Narizguun, helping to usher in said peace. They gather that Toryana and Batale, at least to some degree, were aware of the Storm of Dragons, but at that time they were still sitting somewhere in the dark of the Aether, seeking a way to the stars.
Nikz mentions that they received help from Jenora and The Many, two of The Seven, and Toryana addresses him directly. "Why would a mortal need help from the gods, and how would they help such a creature?" Eli, Riswynn, Darrak, Xun, Gosef, and Nikz all help to share the tale of the battle, as well as the artifact leading up to it; the Trials in the Barrens, the Seed of Oblivion, and the fact that Nikz passed the sword on to Eli for the battle proper, who then was able to pass it to another. Toryana listens to the story with a mask of bemusement, taking in each detail. Nikz shows her his tattoo, and though she pokes fun at him, she acknowledges the existence of The Many. "Aye, a complete jerk and trickster, but he is useful when he needs to be. Heh, must be hard with only ten hands..."
Nikz is confused. "I thought there were thousands of hands..."
"Why would there be so many? What need would be so great? Heh. Have we corrupted the world so much to require so much help?"
When asked of Jenora (Eli), she smiles again. "She grants peace. Buries the souls of the dead. If one is to return, we seek reincarnation, and she guides as to the form that body will take. Her songs help guide the stars."
Eli explains that Jenora has been more "active" since he has known her, and tells Toryana all he knows of the god. She seems very interested in the fact that although Eli knows that Bahamut is one of Jenora's progeny, he still chooses to align himself with the platinum dragon. He says that he respects Jenora and her guidance, to which Toryana replies, "Respect demands loyalty." But Eli defends his position.
The Eye begins addressing the rest of the room, complimenting Roonil on his lack of contribution to this faith discussion. "I think that flavor of pure faith would do very well in my ranks." Seeing Riswynn's look of horror, she continues, "Oh, don't worry, Eilir won't be doin' that again. Maybe she'll be a Spire!" She then looks at Xun, "Seems she had little trouble punchin' the lights outta' you."
Xun smiles. "Because I was a threat."
"Are you a threat now?"
"Not unless you are."
A wide grin spills across her face. "Aye. I see."
Surik introduces himself and she seems to like his name. "How exotic! Sounds like me old home town. Were you perhaps an Esper in your past life?"
The illusionist does not know how to respond. "How would I know that?"
Her head lowers a little, eyes almost feral. "Would ye' like to?" Another awkward, tense moment passes, nervous chuckles all around, until she smiles again. "Well, you're all quite intriguing. Very interesting. Uh, ye' haven't disappeared yet, so, I'm sorry darlin', I don't think they're ghosts."
Addressing the group again. "Could anyone tell me the state of the Ferusian Wilds?"
It takes the group a moment or two to connect the dots, but Nikz and Darrak explain that the Wilds became a place called The Barrens, but that was destroyed, and now the Wilds might be re-seeding itself.
"Good. Good to know. Batale, darlin'..."
Batale moves to her side, and listens. Strange pops, clicks, and inverted inflection escape Toryana's lips. It is a language none recognize...except for Riswynn, who activates her Circlet of the Apocalypse to cast Comprehend Languages.
...Then sidles over to Eli, whispering in Draconic, "We may want to get out of here."
As Toryana smiles once more. "Now, I hold nothing against you, but if the world has evolved this much. ...It's time for us to evolve too. But maybe you can rise above your station today, too. Cross that bridge and you are free to go...stay, fight, and you can be mine."
The first to move is Batale, who looks down for just a moment, addressing Eli, "I take no pleasure in this, but she is my Eye." before drawing his swords and leaping into the air. His form slams down onto the mid-point in the bridge, and he readies himself for the first Owl to run. Riswynn explains what she heard to the group, this time in common, which was "Keep them busy." The dwarf then casts Moonbeam and holds it, targeting Batale.
Surik casts Slow on Toryana...and it fizzles as she Counterspells it. "Fine." He trudges to the edge of the canyon...then casts Misty Step. Surik's form SLAMS into a sonic wall, seemingly tethered to two invisible rods that flash into existence as he impacts them, tumbling into the chasm. Below him, he feels the cold rush of open night air and grips the rocks, desperately clinging to life.
Gosef approaches the bridge, stopping at its edge, and asks with innocence, "Can I pass?" Batale blinks twice, staring at the wizard. "I do apologize." and Gosef watches one of his blades extend at the hilt on a thin chain and swing toward his face. A Moonbeam shines down upon the Illithid's face and he swings low, instead cleaving into the wizard's chest. The strike spreads cold frost over Gosef's body, slowing his actions, so he downs a new brew to help him with spell attacks in the future (Mortimer's Blessing). Batale looks up at the warm radiance of the Moonbeam, and takes a deep breath, taking it in. Riswynn watches as the radiant light burns an inviting green around him, like smoke, that he breathes in. She ends the spell, convinced that radiant energy heals him.
Nikz attempts to find the best vantage point to shoot Batale... And the arrow impacts just above Surik's head. Nikz then readies a Seeking Arrow, cursing under his breath, pushes through the mental Sanctuary, sinking the arrow into Batale's shoulder. With arrow still sticking out of him, the Illithid's eyes drift to Nikz across the battlefield. "Oh. There you are. Nice shot!"
As Nikz grumbles, the earth next to him erupts in flame, as a large Fire Elemental emerges from the torrent. Toryana looks to the bridge, and a second Fire Elemental rises up next to Gosef, slamming him to the ground with one flaming fist. Roonil laments, "It just got a lot harder to cross that bridge."
The Eye then addresses Eli, beckoning him to her. "Blasphemer. Come here and play with me instead." As she casts Compelled Duel, which Eli resists. She's actually insulted.
Xun is also insulted. "Why are you doing this!?"
"You have corrupted the gods. I shall remind them of their place."
"I am not responsible for others' actions! One is only responsible for themselves."
"And yet you find yourself in this predicament nonetheless. So what're you gonna' do about it?"
"...I'm a threat if you are." Xun rushes forward, his first blow swinging wide, the second connecting, and the last two unable to find purchase. A mental fog keeps him from connecting with her body. With a grin, Toryana summons a small tsunami that rushes over Xun and those around him, soaking and tumbling them toward the canyon...or within the range of a Fire Elemental. Roonil rushes forward, sliding under an elemental, and just can't fight through the mental fog to strike, instead opting to disengage and create some distance.
Eli, now soaking wet, rises to address the Eye. "You're looking for the Hearthstone. Why couldn't you make allies instead of enemies?"
"I have no use for blasphemers too blind to make the clear choice of the Seven. The son is always weaker than their maker."
"You have to understand that times have changed. You're locked in the past."
"Then I shall venture forth, and see for myself this new world. Free from the lies I have learned from the past. Nothing but my own can be trusted."
With a sigh, Eli activates his Ring of Enlargement, growing ten feet tall. He then begins to push her toward the edge. As he does so, the tower begins to vibrate, circles of white growing in intensity upon the top. Riswynn and Eli communicate in draconic about the possibility that the tower is charging up for something, and they bring up the matter of the bundle of roots at the back of it. As Darrak dashes past two elementals, getting smacked on the way, toward Batale, Riswynn begins sneaking (poorly) toward the back of the tower. Darrak flings a grappling hook just above Surik's head, and prepares to grapple Batale if the Illithid attacks him.
Batale is difficult to read, his face a mask of neutrality, but he sticks one blade into the bridge, and reaches down to where Surik has grasped the rope. The illusionist begins to slip, and Batale grabs the grappling hook, pulling it from the earth. For a moment, Surik hangs - suspended over the abyss. ...The Illithid pulls Surik to the bridge and sets him down in front of him, then pulls him around by the throat, pressing a blade up to the wizard. "No. One. Cross."
Riswynn continues to sprint toward the back of the tower, and just before she rounds the back, Toryana's voice sends a chill up her spine. "Now, now...what are you doin' over there?"
"No, you couldn't see me! I was SNEAKING!" Riswynn pleads to the universe, as swirling mass of water and air appears about 20 feet behind her, a Water Elemental undulating toward her.
Surik, still held by the throat, attempts to cast Slow once more on Toryana. No sooner than he begins to speak the words is his throat released and the pommel of the sword crashed into his skull. ...Everyone watches Surik's form go limp and collapse onto the bridge. Gosef disengages from the Fire Elemental and runs.
The group continues to deal with the elementals, steering clear of Batale, whether by choice or mental fog, and it comes back to Toryana and an enlarged Eli squaring off. "Wonder what you'll look like a little smaller..." She points at the dragonborn...and he turns into a little white mouse. Xun, drying off, dashes back to the Eye, attempting to pummel - he is half successful. Roonil does his best not to step on Eli, trying to cut Toryana down to size - slicing wide every time, and disengages. It is a beautifully ineffective flurry of steel. Toryana, drawing her sapphire great sword, waves it over her head in an arc, and five motes of starlight pour out, dropping around the battlefield. They pulse with explosive energy. Eli The Mouse...is still a mouse. And runs around in circles of fear.
Darrak attempts to throw Grumakon's Sleight (a blink-forward dagger), can't seem to target Batale, so he throws past him. The blade travels over the canyon, but Darrak's form blinks forward and slams into the same barrier Surik ran into. Now on the bridge with Batale, the monk attempts to grapple him, fails miserably, then unloads his Wand of Magic Missiles on Toryana, with one bolt sinking into Eli's mouse. There is a horrible squeak of pain, and Eli has reappeared. The monk, now pleased with his contributions, attempts to leave, only to press against the barrier. Still next to the swashbuckler, a cold blade sinks into his side.
Riswynn is staring at a bundle of roots, an undulating mass of water slamming wet wave fists onto her. It is very annoying, so she sends Farideh forward and the little faerie dragon spews her Euphoric Breath upon the creature. Sparkly purple and pink glittering gas enters the liquid form of the elemental, turning it a dense purple. It begins to vibrate strangely, lurching backwards at full speed until splatters, then glides along the wall out of her sight. It is confusing, but entertaining. Now free of distraction, Riswynn begins to decode the four roots...then proceeds to rip them apart, wielding objects and magic to slowly wither each unique root. The black root is easily severed and withered by a blade, and it leaks black ink...then a noxious, purple gas begins to flow out. Riswynn gives is some SPACE.
Surik, not actually unconscious on the bridge, sends a message...to Batale. Gosef tries to create distance for himself, just as the motes of starlight EXPLODE around the battlefield, sending shocks of lightning across many of the travelers. Nikz, devolving into a puddle of cursing at this point, uses his shield to flip one of the elementals onto his back, then slices into it with his Ripping Sword (stealing Dexterity). That same elemental then rises, and slams down one flaming fist on the elf.
Toryana casts Fire Storm to unleash hell, a stream of rolling fire washing over and overlapping some of the party. As the flames die away, Gosef's body lays smoking on the ground... Xun downs a potion, and gets back to work attacking the Eye, feeling the barrier of Sanctuary finally shatter with his first impact, and continues punching her. Roonil also downs a potion, slicing into Toryana's shoulder, then Eli attempts to shove her after hasting himself. Darrak thumps into a wall again, as Batale, after taking a quick look at his Lady, steps past the monk, through the barrier, and picks up the blink dagger. A furious Darrak takes the bait, stepping through the barrier (no problem) to follow him. The monk makes to grapple the Illithid, but as he moves closer, Batale spins the blade and presents the hilt to him. A confused Darrak stops the attack and accepts the blade back.
A small pantomime exchange happens between the two...then Batale backhands the monk. Darrak makes a big show of falling down and staying down. From across the battlefield, Toryana looks over, "Batale, darlin', you appear to be slipping. Too many are still standing. Take care of it, please."
"Of course, my Lady." Batale then draws his blades...and rends Darrak's head from his shoulders. Before panic can set in, Riswynn takes note of the Minor Illusion of the beheading, as Batale meets her gaze and nods ever so slightly. The Spire then meets Eli's gaze, nods, then takes a step forward, and becomes invisible. Riswynn now returns to the root engine; and dons the Gauntlet of Vost, and grabs the bundle of roots.
Lightning courses through the dwarf, but she holds on, the bundle of roots changing to a solid gold block. Several things happen at once. 1) The shaking of the island stops; 2) the engine detaches from the tower; 3) Toryana spins around and stares at the tower; 4) everyone feels a little more weightless...as the island begins to tip and fall. "Now, now, darlin', ye' may want to turn that back on? Do ye' wanna' die?"
"Too late!" Riswynn happily exclaims. "I'm a ghost and I'm stealthed so you can't see me!"
"Well, ye' soon will be." And Toryana teleports right next to the druid, a look of crazed anger on her face, and sinks her glaive and great sword into her. Surik hops back up from his place on the floor, casting Misty Step and running toward the tower...right past Gosef's corpse, as the last puff of air leaves his body. Nikz Misty Steps toward the tower, then turns his bow on the Elementals, damaging one and dropping the other. The one that is still standing...he watches as a cold blade enters its chest from the back and cleaves upward through the face, the whole form freezing over and shattering on the ground.
At this point, the whole island begins to list to the right. Stones, and bodies, tumble toward the open chasm as cracks begin to form in the floor. With this, Toryana jams her glaive into the earth and tries to shift the ground under Darrak's feet and Gosef's body, breaking the wall open on the far right of the room. The tower begins to spin and slide, the roots holding it in place now severed (and gold). Toryana slams her great sword into the side of the tower, trying to hold it in place.
Xun sprints around to her back, and...readies an attack. Riswynn, now face to face with Toryana, feels that tiny emotion again - coupled with sobs. She attunes to the sound, and recognizes it as Eilir. "Something is wrong with her. Spires protect Eyes - Eyes don't act this way. She isn't an Eye!"
Roonil runs onto the top of the tower and leaps onto the False Eye, slicing deep enough to cause her to drop the great sword. It clatters behind her. "Somebody pick that up!" a few start to move toward it, but a hand glides out of the veil and pulls it away... "GHOSTS!"
Eli sprints to Gosef and picks him up, casting Revivify. Light pours from Eli's gauntlet through Gosef's body and he is resurrected. "Don't. Move." Eli instructs him. Darrak uses Step of the Wind to leap over the chasm, as a gust of wind bursts him even higher, and he lands on the tower. The monk tosses a brew to an ally, as the tower cracks, spins, tips, then tumbles over the side, bursting through the wall, and falling into the Aether below. Luckily, Darrak took another leap off.
Toryana attempts to remove Roonil from her space, fails, and requests, "Would you mind gettin' off me, please?"
"Don't think I can do that, lass."
"Fine." And she Misty Steps out of his grip... Right next to Xun, who happily exclaims. "Hey! That counts!" and attacks, pummeling her with blows.
Through all of this, even as the tower falls, and the island begins to tear itself apart, Toryana is still smiling. "Well, this is gonna' be wonderful. We'll fall into the abyss together. Meet all me friends - beholders, demons, raw elemental life. I gotta' tell ye', I've got a load of doppelgängers that'd love to meet you..."
At which point, her own great sword is pressed through her torso, followed by four hot and cold slices into her form from behind, holding her in place, as Batale Thuul shimmers into view. "I knew you were not my Lady. No Lady leaves their Spire to rot in perpetual hell!"
Riswynn looks to the Spire for clarification. He nods. "Take her. Take your Key." The dwarf nods and fishes inside Toryana's robes, pulling out Eilir's beating stone heart, which is continuing to grow.
Toryana's pleasant demeanor and accent are destroyed as a vicious, haggard voice spits venom and vitriol at the dwarf. "How dare you take what is mine from me! I will collect them all! My soldiers - how dare you!"
As she holds it, Eilir's voice emanates from the stone, veins of ruby now forming around the surface. "I belong with them now." Her form continues to swell, raw elemental power flowing from her. "They are my purpose now."
The roof splits apart, revealing the beautiful night sky as it begins to spin, the island now violently breaking apart. The larger side of this room cracks and separates from the rest of the structure, falling past the clouds. A few take note quickly of the bits of trees, rocks, rivers, and a large turtle, falling into the black below. The confused water elemental tips and tumbles and spills over the side. The group gathers toward Riswynn, who transforms into a giant eagle, more cracks giving way in the floor.
"I will crush - I will destroy - I will-
A rogue Surik appears next to her. "Stop. Get help." And curses her. She struggles against the grapple, but Batale grinds his blade into her, keeping her in place. Xun moves up, "I'm done with you." And as she snarls, with one crack of the bow, her spine snaps, and doppelgänger reverts to its ghastly form, the body being beheaded by Batale and kicked over the side.
Everyone thinks "Vixx." Be there in 30. "30 what???" ...Silence.
As the group gathers and prepares for a very uncomfortable free fall, Eli's eyes drift to Batale, standing alone, contemplating the crumbling edge.
Eli rushes over to him and attempts to pick him up, which he easily deflects. "I think you have much more good you can do. This isn't dying in battle!"
Batale instead looks to the eagle, speaking in Auran. "Is she with you?" Riswynn confirms. "Good." And Batale takes two steps off the edge into the clouds. The Owls' hearts sink a bit for his loss, but they have little time to grieve, as the earth shatters at their feet. In mid-air, with giant eagle, rope, and Skybridger potions, the party enters free fall, but slowly.
Powerful winds crash against the group, buffeting hair, clothes, and some trajectory, but they keep each other steady by linking hands. They pass through the gray clouds, and look down to see the ever-expanding blackness of the Aether, looming dark and inviting beneath them.
"WHERE'S VIXX!?" yells Gosef, while the rest take deep breaths. As they watch, flashes of gold and an eerie green light burst in the black, as a giant yellow eye opens. Then another, and another, and another...until hundreds of eyes on hundreds of stalks begin to rise to meet them.
...As it is obscured by the tanned feathers of a massive Roc, as Vixx crashes into view, catching the group, inches from the edge. These black tendrils begin wrap around her as she beats her wings, and the group begins slashing and fire bolting to break free. With a burst of air, Vixx frees her wings and begins to lift upward...but a thorny tentacle lashes around one of her talons, a set of eye stalks rising over the party. And they see another form, gliding like a bolt toward them; it slices through two of the stalks, leaving a trail of fire and ice, and lands on Vixx's right wing. Eli casts Protection from Evil on the Roc - and that burst of light and aura disperses and repels the tendrils, giving Vixx just enough space to lift off proper, and begin her ascent back toward Tidespear.
Batale shakes his head, patting Vixx's back. "You are beautiful creature. Thank you for catching me..." And with a smile, and a look of gratitude to the rest of the group, "So, what is Jenora like?"
Session End: 1:30am
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DM: Adam Summerer
Knight Owls Adventure Archive