Crystalline Dreams

Recap of Events, both recent and long ago
Oh, yeah...we have a web-thingy, don't we?

Wow. Sooo…a lot’s happened since the last post. Here’s the quick and dirty version:

After freeing Garah and Bodizzorak, the party continued to explore the volcanic demi-plane. After defeating a Primal Fire Elemental and capturing (and then brainwashing) some Kobolds, they stumbled upon a treasure room. The room, like any good dragon’s hoard, had been heavily trapped, and while they were able to wipe the poison off of the gold (and save it for later use), they missed the trap that caused the room to quickly fill with water. After surviving an onslaught by two fast-swimming, spell-slinging dragons, a hole in the floor was opened and after some more exploration, our heroes found themselves in a corridor of portals in the Demonweb Pits. With the help of Garah, the Abyssal Bloodsteel doors lining the corridor were collected, and the party found a portal into the city of Sigil, the crossroads of the planes. The doors were sold for a very tidy sum, and our heroes were able to gear up and relax before finally returning to their home on Xaikatis, having found a way around the teleportation lock that had plagued them before (and also free of the Avatar that had been following them).

Upon returning to the City of Sand, our heroes found that much had changed since their departure. The city had been laid siege to, and all of Khalaan’s followers had either been outright slain or turned into shambling mockeries of what they once were. A great evil lurked somewhere in the shadows, sending waves of powerful enemies to wear down the party. After collecting a Gloom (because the party answer to everything they fight seems to be to capture it and save it for later use), what can only be described as a murder of Infernals circled around our heroes. Before they could act, proud Terelk was snatched and swiftly killed in a brazen act of violence. A frightened Lunara tried to hide in the building below while the rest of the party could only watch in stunned silence. What Lunara stumbled upon, however, was much more disquieting. A one-eyed lich stared back at her. The terrified catwere beat a hasty retreat and warned the rest of the party, who had now been joined by a reptilian warlock who had been tracking the swath of destruction that had ravaged the continent of Zaelu-Kil-Tane. Khalaan, recognizing the description as being that of the terrible god Vecna, quickly moved everyone to the former home of Jaevedra Ollett and the Heavenly Order, where the party began to process what had happened and where to go from there.

Some quick long-distance reconnaissance revealed many things: Jaevedra, once thought to have run off to face certain doom, was alive, leading the fight against the Devastation Beetle plaguing her homeland. The army of undead had landed in Cordell and moved north through the continent before settling in the City of Sand, utterly destroying everything and everyone in its path. Jacoby Thaern and Daneth Valdoun had managed to make it out of Cordell alive, and were heading towards a location in the eastern mountains. Khalaan and Balthezar decided it best to head back to Sigil, where they might be able to do some more research.

Poring over texts that focused on the lore of the Lich-god, they managed to track the last known location of the artifiact known as the Sword of Kas—the Obsidian dragon who had created the volcanic demi-plane that the party had visited. They also narrowed the location that Jacoby and Daneth were traveling to as the home of Madame Uth, one of the foremost experts on the New Gods and their lore. Deciding to first retrieve the sword, they retraced their steps to arrive back on the demi-plane. Once back, the party acquired 2 lava-born krakens and caused the drug-addicted Pit fiends that an Abishai had summoned to turn against him by offering them some high-quality Mordayn vapor before splitting up to try and find the master of the realm. Lunara stumbled upon a Cobalt dragon and gave chase through the water, following her back to her personal lair.

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Draconian Conditions
Of devils and giants.

After observing the battle between the two tribes from a high altitude, and gleaning information from them via psionic and magical means, it was decided that they had waited long enough. Khalaan, using several Wall of Force spells, separated the two sides, while Balthezar gathered the Jaguar tribe members that were still alive into a Telekinetic sphere. Further questioning of the Eagles, and telepathic probing of the Jaguars, ended with the decision to transport the remaining Jaguars back to the Eagle’s settlement for trial and punishment. Terelk did not like seeing the Jaguars imprisoned, but could not deny that they had wrongfully attacked the Eagles.

Soon the party was underway, with Balthezar standing atop Harry the Hut, keeping the Jaguars imprisoned. Meanwhile, Khalaan had retired to study his spells and ponder what their purpose for being sent to Aevquin could be. Terelk found herself pondering the day’s new trials and adventures and considered the possible intentions her god might have for her.

Eventually, their path led them to a giant tree with obvious special properties. Leaving the Jaguar prisoners within Harry, with their cohorts to watch over them, the four ventured inside the tree. It was discovered to be a many floored temple to Touvaun, with vast riches and elaborately decorated rooms. However, finding no one within, and nothing to help them in their journey aside from cryptic messages carved into a wall, the three decided to continue on their way, marking the temple for further exploration later.

Continuing their journey to the settlement of the Eagle’s tribe, the party discovered a dark skinned, bald pated woman walking through the jungle. On Khalaan’s silent command, Harry descended to the ground and the woman was questioned. Terelk quickly knew the woman to be an avatar of Fharlanghn. This avatar, though calm and terse, was eager to accompany and aid the adventurers on their way. She advised them on two paths that would lead them to the Eagle’s settlement, and then to the coast and their way home. It was decided that the quicker path would be best despite the avatar’s warning that the quick path would be more dangerous.

The next day, the party found themselves at a large river that flowed across their path. Deciding that the Jaguars needed to rest and exercise, Harry was lowered to the ground once again, and Balthezar released the Jaguars from their telekinetic prison. As soon as their feet touched the ground, a single Jaguar let out a furious roar and, grabbing up a fallen branch, charged the Psion, the branch held high like a club. Without a word, Balthezar raised his hand, pointing a finger, and the man disappeared in a flash of green light. The rest of the Jaguar, bewildered and frightened, raised no more voice in protest of their imprisonment. They were soon returned to the sphere of force.

Almost immediately, the party was seemingly under attack. With no apparent source, the water of the river rose violently, seeming to aim itself directly at Terelk in an attempt to drown her. But Terelk’s keen eyes and strong will saw the deluge for an illusion and stood her ground. And, as the wave of immaterial water passed through her, she saw within the river a pair of massive orange dragons, almost aligator like in shape, swimming down river toward the party. She knew them to be under attack and shouted a warning to the others. As Balthezar stowed the Jaguars in the safety of Harry’s confines Khalaan and Lunara moved toward the embankment to see what hazard was coming.

Terelk drew her mighty bow and took aim at one of the dragons. With preternatural speed and skill, she rained energy tipped arrows down upon it. It was dead before the last volley pierced it’s scaly hide. Khalaan immediately followed with a flash of magical energy. With arcane powers few mortals posses, he seemingly disappeared from the view of the others. In actuality he had temporarily stopped time for all but himself. Using his time craftily, Khalaan flew into the air to gain a better vantage of the battle. He then raised four successive walls of scintillating prismatic energy in front of the second dragon. As he reentered normal time, Khalaan watched with a smile as the dragon helplessly collided with layer after layer of differing energies and effects. Even with all it’s might and toughness, the dragon was helpless against the onslaught and quickly was no more. With their demise, the dragon’s caves were soon discovered and it was taken upon the group to explore in search of answers and treasure.

The party split into two groups. Terelk and her cohort, Kostael, Lunara, and the avatar of Fharlanghn went into one cave, discovering a mixed clutch of dragon’s eggs and their reptilian caretakers. After dispatching the guardians, Lunara decided to take the eggs for herself and placed them, one after the other, into her Bag of Holding. Balthezar and Khalaan, accompanied by Khalaan’s cohort, Tuilira, entered the other cave and soon encountered an antimagic field, which caused Khalaan’s Bag of Holding to vomit up a mountain of sand. Unable to dispel the field, Khalaan urged that they continue quickly to escape it’s effect. On the other side they came to the edge of an underground chasm, at the bottom of which lay a great whirlpool. Encasing the three in a sphere of telekinetic force, Balthezar lowered them into the water and through the center of the torrent.

Hours later, Khalaan, Tuilira, and Balthezar found themselves in a tunnel of black rock. Using a spell to strip layers of the rock away, Khalaan converted it into sand and refilled his bag. He was quick to mention that they appeared to be within a volcano, given the color and substance of the rock around them. With a Sending spell, Khalaan also alerted the others of their location and urged the first group to join them. Upon wakening the new arrivals and making a quick search of the area, the party found themselves to be within a large structure shaped like a volcano. It was ringed with a spiral stair leading to several immense doors all the way to a gigantic opening at the top.

Emerging from the aperture via a fly spell cast upon the whole party, they were shocked to find three blazing suns shining down upon a vast wasteland of volcanoes, flowing rivers of lava, and massive crystal formations of varying colors. As Balthezar went about gathering samples of the crystals, Lunara’s keen eyes spied a line of draconic looking devils, called Abishai, traveling a small distance away. After discussing matters and questioning the avatar, it was decided that they were likely on a demi-plane created by an Obsidian dragon.

Not wanting to be discovered just yet, the party retreated inside once again. It was at this time that they heard a tremendous cacophony and the very walls shook, dust falling all around them. Curious as the cat she truly was, Lunara flew to the door that seemed the likely source of the disturbance. Looking inside, she saw several more of the devils and a large group of Kobolds of different colors. All of which were gathering in a wide corridor with several doors along the walls. And at the end was a rather large door which shook and rattled with the struggles and roars of some unseen thing. Before she could act, Balthezar used his telekinetic powers to pull her away from the door and open it.

Upon entering, Balthezar promptly targeted the door at the end of the corridor with a blast of psionic power, destroying it and many of the Kobolds with devastating sonic energy. Quickly following, Terelk flew into the corridor and prepared to riddle the remaining occupants with arrows. However, Khalaan, with a wan smile upon his face, noticed two of the devils chanting in unison and two large circles of arcane power emanating from the floor. He asked Terelk to spare the two devils, hoping that they might summon something that might provide a greater challenge. Frowning in disappointment, Terelk complied, aiming for the remaining devils and last few Kobolds. With the same alacrity of a few hours earlier, knocking three arrows at a time, she let fly with another barrage of arrows. Her arrows flew through the air, each one split into two. Every arrow passed through it’s initial target and riddled the one behind. In a matter of a couple seconds, every remaining devil and kobold lay dead, even the second of the two devils that had charged Balthezar, the first having been disintegrated by his own hand. Leaving just the two devils in the midst of summoning.

As the two devils finished their summoning, the party saw a most bizarre creature within the cell behind the shattered remains of the door. It’s height easily reaching ten feet or more, the creature was a mass of rippling muscles under tough purple skin and a thick mane of bristly black hair. It’s head that of a cross between an Ogre and a Minotaur, with great horns jutting forward. It strained against blood red shackles, trying desperately to get loose. Thinking this creature could be no friend of the devils and their company, Khalaan decided to free the monster. Just then the devils finished their summoning and two Pit Fiends appeared in the corridor. Their terrible power and evil aura breaking over the party in waves.

Again freezing time, Khalaan wove magics in quick succession. He first shattered the magical manacles restraining the great purple monster. Then he turned the stone beneath the devil’s feet to sand, and then to molten glass. With his last moments, he let loose a massive flow of magic and wove protections around all his companions. Chief among them was a powerful spell of invisibility. As time returned to it’s normal flow, the devils and Pit Fiends found themselves sinking into the molten glass. Though unharmed by the heat, the lesser devils discovered they could not escape, and soon drowned. The Pit Fiends were too strong for such a thing though and lumbered forward, searching for the enemies they had been called forth to fight. The first was met by Kostael, who charged forward, calling upon the gods to smite the devil, and it fell to his martial ferocity.

It was then that three things occured. First was the shattering of another door at the rear of the corridor, from which emerged a haggard looking human male. The second was the great purple monster who ran forward out of his cell, leaping over the steaming pools of molten glass. Landing on the other side with a great shaking of the floor, it gave a roar and turned to meet the remaining Pit Fiend. The third thing was Tuilira, who had turned herself into a raging whirlwind, approaching the fray.

The second Pit Fiend, having more time than his companion, was able to release a swarm of meteors upon the giant purple creature before him. The great blazing boulders, flowing with lava and wreathed in flame, streaked down from seemingly nowhere. However, unseen, Balthezar had bestowed a protective power upon the giant purple monster to protect him from elemental harm. With this protection, combined with his tremendous might, the creature was able to shrug off most of the terrible onslaught. Roaring with rage, the purple goliath pulled his fist back, ready to strike a mighty blow. But it was never to land as Terelk let loose with another barrage of arrows, this time calling on her god. The arrows, now blessed with holy might, felled the Pit Fiend. Its body fell to the ground looking like some large scaly pincushion.

Things were not quite over though. Tuilira had gone through some sort of metamorphosis into a great tornado of thrashing winds and coronal bolts of electricity. This soon abated, forming itself into the windy form of the godling Isamr√©. Alone, Balthezar knelt before the deity and was given a nod of bemused approval. Terelk and her cohort stood in surprise and some confusion. Khalaan, however, was perturbed at the seeming hijacking of his cohort, and spoke with no small amount of ire. This was all received with good natured amusement by the windy god. He had come among them, but could not stay long. He answered Khalaan’s questions with a lightness only a god could have in such circumstances.

Meanwhile, Balthezar took it upon himself to discover the identities of the two people that they had apparently freed. First, he introduced himself to the human. The human spoke the tribal languages of the Aevquin lands at first, but the two of them soon found that they could communicate in the language of the dragons. The man named himself Bodizzorak, and claimed to hold the power of dragons within his body. Balthezar then went to find the great purple behemoth’s name, if he had one. The giant named himself Garah, and told them all of how he had been sold by his creator to a great glassy black dragon. But he had rebelled and had been sent to the prison, being occasionally used for brute physical labor. With that, Balthezar invited the two former prisoners to travel with the party. At least until such time as they were escaped from the strange demi-plane of devils and dragons. And when all were agreed, Balthezar telekinetically swept the bodies of the Pit Fiends into his Bag of Holding.

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Farewells

After the events in the halfling district of Cordell, the party gathered the bodies of the fallen Ruby Guard members and brought them back to Wee Jas’ temple, seeking both to give them a proper burial and to try and find out why they were being attacked. Though Balthezar could barely contain his anger/frustration, Khalaan and Terelk were much more civil with the Grand Magus of the temple (Lunara chose to stay in her cat form for the visit, which prevented her from communicating freely).

The Grand Magus asked that the bodies be taken to the temple’s mausoleum, where they were then laid out on marble slabs. She then requested that the party leave the room, so that she could both identify and prepare the remains in peace. After ten minutes had passed, she emerged from the room, only able to identify one of the bodies—that of Sara Truesdale, a favored soul who had trained at the temple under the Grand Magus herself. She explained that she had not seen Sara in roughly three years, when she became the cohort of Eva Redding, an enforcer who hailed from Janbreit, in the west. The western sects of the faith, noted the Grand Magus, were rumored to be more militant in nature, and it was likely that the others hailed from there, as well.

Upon leaving the temple, the quartet returned to the guildhouse to tell Daneth what they had learned, then prepared to return to the City of Sand (with a quick stopover in Elysium, as sort of a day trip), via a Gate spell. Unfortunately, outside forces rerouted the spell, which deposited the party in Aevquin, the continent of wood. Further attempts to teleport off of the continent proved fruitless.

Khalaan crafted an animated sandstone hut (affectionately named “Harry”) for the party to rest in and commanded it to burrow towards the western coast as they slept. Upon waking the next morning, he then made a successful attempt to contact Vaastri using several Sending spells. Through the conversation, he learned that she was meeting with allies (though would not say who) and that the group had been placed in Aevquin for their own protection. She also administered a stern warning not to go after Fallon (one of the awakening Crystalline, and the reason the godlings fell in the first place).

After the message had been relayed to the rest of the party, Terelk used her Find the Path spell to determine what the quickest way home would be. The spell indicated that they needed to go to the middle of the continent. Still in Harry, the party traveled there, only to find a battle raging in the jungle.

After some initial questioning as to whether or not they were in the right spot, the party decided to do some investigating. Though the fighters did not speak Zaelu Common, use of Telepathy and Comprehend Languages closed the language gap enough for the party to get some answers. The side wearing eagle regalia fought to keep their land from the “invaders”, and worshipped a deity they called Ehecatl, which did not translate directly to a name of a current god (though the party guessed Ehlonna from the translation). The other side dressed mostly as jaguars, and fought to regain the land that was once theirs. They served a queen called Tzitzimtl, whom Terelk knew to be a priestess (though she was unsure for which deity). Further investigation revealed her to serve Mextli, the Aev name for Kord. Balthezar was able to detect the auras of the Jaguar side as being overwhelmingly chaotic, but aside from a few scattered lawful auras on the Eagle side, did not detect any strong alignment.

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A Brief Interlude
Meanwhile and elsewhere...

The rain fell steadily outside, leaving the unpaved paths running through the town and the surrounding countryside choked with thick mud. In this bleak and dreary picture, it was hard not to notice the paladin riding into town; his hair was red as fire, his armor shone brilliantly, and his steed was white as driven snow.

The young man made his way toward the run-down tavern, and his horse seemed to vanish as soon as he was no longer astride it.

The tavern itself was as dreary inside as it was out, although it was a fair bit warmer. The patrons inside were few, though the occupants of one table stood out just as much as the paladin did—a stern-looking, but beautiful woman with tresses of crimson and a dress of black; a weathered, but defiant old man in a suit of armor and white tabard, bearing a huge mace; and a sinister, gaunt man with scraggly black hair, clothed in faded black robes with rust-colored stains, his hood pulled over his face as far as it would go.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the paladin walked over to their table.

“You’re late,” the woman said, laying a deck of cards out for a game of solitaire, not bothering to look up from the table.

“I had some issues with travel,” the paladin remarked, pulling up a chair. “It’s considerably harder to get around when you’re trying to go unnoticed.”

“And yet the three of us managed to get here on time,” she continued, still focused on the cards. “Your lack of discipline is not surprising. Perhaps if you had more, you and your followers would not have failed as utterly and as spectacularly as they did.”

“Discipline,” the old man interjected sternly, “is not the problem here. It was our arrogance that doomed us to this fate.” He shifted in his chair, turning to face the woman. “We underestimated them, and instead of treating them as the very worthy opponents they have turned out to be, we treated them as mere annoyances. Hopefully the others will not make the same mistake.”

“Our army should’ve crushed them like bugs,” the paladin muttered, half to himself. “Four people versus a highly trained strike force of twenty with divine force flowing through them? Should’ve been no contest.” The old man looked at the paladin and sighed, fully aware that the punk kid was missing his point.

“Well, then,” the woman said quietly, “where do we go from here? Hang back and wait for someone to succeed?” She finally looked up from the table, flashing her piercing emerald eyes at her companions. “Take matters into our own hands?”

The hooded figure sitting next to her smiled wickedly at the suggestion of slaughter, revealing his sickly green teeth and causing the other two men at the table to elicit looks of revulsion. “Now is not the time for us to strike,” the old man said thoughtfully, causing the hooded one to become crestfallen. “We’re at our weakest now, and we must be careful. We had our chances. We dropped the ball. It’s up to the next one now.”

“Who is the next one in line?” the paladin asked half-mindedly.

“It’s the lich’s turn,” hissed the hooded one, “and he should not disappoint. He’s got more to lose than the rest of us. Though the arrogance may yet prove to be a problem for him as it was for us. He’ll use his most powerful allies if he’s smart.”

“Though just as likely,” the woman sighed, “he’ll choose to deal with the matter in person. I can’t see him leaving anything this important up to chance. Not when it comes to keeping secrets this dark, anyway.”

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Our Tale Thus Far
A Quick Recap

Khalaan, a proud wizard from the desert, and Terelk, a champion of Fharlanghn, were contacted by The Society of Ancients, an archaeological guild they had both done work for previously. The two and their respective companions were hired to find a couple of the senior members, Xadryn Kree and Creighton Lourde, who had disappeared during a routine excavation in the mountains to the west.

The missing members were found in the custody of the Heavenly Order, a fringe cult of worshippers of Heironeous and St. Cuthbert, who vehemently opposed any excavation of the site, asserting that the knowledge contained within was “forbidden” and “dangerous”. Khalaan and Terelk successfully rescued the pair, killing most of the cultists and taking their leader, Jaevedra Ollett, captive.

Jaevedra, when questioned, refused to share why the Order considered the site to be a danger, merely repeating what she had already said over and over. She was eventually released by her frustrated captors, and was last seen racing off toward her hometown to defend it from a Devastation Beetle. Meanwhile, Khalaan defended his city from a swarm of Deadborn Vultures, which he was able to trace back to a necromancer who venerated Nerull. Before the necromancer had a chance to react, he found himself turned into a mummy and taken captive by Khalaan (all of which was hidden from Terelk.)

Khalaan and Terelk decided to check out the site for themselves, and found a temple to Vaastri, a demigoddess of magic and learning and one of the original creators of the world, whose very existence had been lost to time. The pair recovered her staff, her spellbook (written on a library of stone tablets), and a scroll. Terelk learned the legend of the Crystalline, the fourteen godlings who shaped the world, through a series of murals and writings, and Khalaan, upon converting to Vaastri’s faith, found a Tome Dragon nestled deep within the temple. The dragon gave a warning not to trust those who weren’t what they seemed, and revealed the location of five of the godlings, who had begun to awaken. Two such godlings were near the city of Cordell, the Society’s headquarters.

Upon their arrival at the guildhouse, the pair ran into Balthezar, a mysterious man in a crystal bird mask. While attempting to find out what his business was, Carlota Alterra, the very ill founder of the Society (who hadn’t been seen up to this point), came out of her room demanding “her staff” and “her spellbook”. Carlota was revealed to be the vessel for Vaastri herself, whose awakening had completely obliterated Carlota’s personality. Carlota’s longtime friends and compatriots, Daneth Valdoun and Jacoby Thaern, were utterly shocked and bewildered.

Khalaan and Terelk returned to the City of Sand, and Balthezar followed, wanting to know more about what he had just seen. As he was being caught up, a strange flying creature was apprehended just outside the city by Khalaan’s followers, who brought it back to him. Initially appearing to be a mere cat, further investigation revealed it to be Lunara, a Tibbit (or cat-were) who had been escaping the Devastation Beetle attack in the north. After some heated discussion concerning shapechangers, the ethics of taking prisoners, and the meaning of “freedom”, Lunara followed Khalaan, Terelk, and Balthezar back to Cordell.

The party arrived at the guildhouse to find it mostly deserted, with the exception of Daneth, still in shock, who told them Carlota/Vaastri had gone missing and Jacoby was with her sister Myra, who had come to visit. He also gave Khalaan a letter, which had come to him from the Temple of Heironeous. It stated that their clerics and paladins seemed to have lost their spellcasting abilities, and asked him to send along word should he meet anyone else with the same problem. The group, upon learning of this, decided to investigate, and found that the same problem was also befalling those that followed St. Cuthbert.

After the investigation had concluded, the party was walking through a halfling district in the city when they were attacked by the Ruby Guard, a strike force of followers of Wee Jas. The Guard were eventually taken down after a lengthy battle, but not before unleashing several Alchemical Ooze grenades and paralyzing Lunara.

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