Crystalline Dreams

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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