Godsday, 10 Fireseek, CY 596
The party decides that attempting to pursue the Faceless One and his fellows through the portal to the lost library of the Order of the Storm is the priority – it will be dangerous and they may not succeed, but it is imperative that they make every attempt to subvert the prophecies of the Age of Worms and perhaps, improve their future prospects.
After gathering all that they know about efreet and about the Hand of Vecna, their intent seems more folly than ever, but they are undaunted. Riddle is determined to gather every bit of information he can from all sources that are available to him, but finds himself short of the material components necessary to commune with his deity. In the meantime, the party heads out to recover the crystals Tyrrell will need to operate the portal.
Following Riddle’s locate object spell, the party enters a maze and follows it for several hundred feet to an enclosed area. The shattered remains of four marble statues litter the ground. Archie discovers signs of a very recent battle here, possibly just yesterday. “No bodies,” someone notes. Jane inspects the shards of marble and imagines them whole – humanoids and elves in ancient druidic garb. “Stone golems,” Scar-Eater suggests. Beneath the torso of one of these fallen protectors, Riddle spots a swath of shattered green crystals. While not exactly the same as the ones used by the kenku to activate the portal, the party collects a few and then Riddle turns his locate object spell to the blue crystal.
The party follows the spell further on into the maze until they come to a murky pool. In a tangle of wood and water, an immense, sixty-foot-long tentacled plant floats lifelessly, another defender down. Jane enters the water and finds a bed of faintly glowing blue crystals, but also a pair of decomposed, skeletal remains. Among them, some robes, sword, scabbard and slippers seem completely unravaged by time, weather, or water. Jane returns to the surface with the crystals and these items.
From among a group of dead ropers, the party retrieves the third and final crystal.
Before teleporting back to Magepoint, the party indulges Tyrrell in his idea that he might disable the portal and trap those who went through earlier in the other plane. While the library might be lost, the knowledge gained there might not make it back to the Material Plane. Dealing with a major, ancient artifact, however, is, probably predictably, beyond Tyrrell’s level of expertise.
Reporting back to Tenser on what they found, the mage says it is time to wake the kenku captive, still unconscious from Jane’s spell. Agath and Celeste watch as well as the kenku struggles to consciousness. “My friends have some questions for you,” Tenser says. “You will answer them to the best of your ability.”
Krekke, the kenku rogue who lives in Greyhawk, seems to not know much at first, but as the questioning goes on she reveals enough to increase the party’s anxiety about the foes they are about to pursue. She knows that her companions were looking for the library and lost secrets. Her job was to get the portal to work and to stop anyone that tried to follow them through. She names the bearer of the Hand of Vecna as “ Darl”, reveals that the Faceless One shelters a living worm in his own neck and expresses disdain for the Cult of the Ebon Triad. “They must be destroyed because they are a blasphemy to Vecna. We all ‘keep the secret.’” She doesn’t know if or how they plan to return, but tries to scare the party with tales of what she has seen Darl do since obtaining the Hand. “He looked at a man and the man imploded.” Darl is apparently not only able to turn spells but is immune to them. She praises the Faceless One for his ability to summon monsters, sprout wards, open portals, and bring poison gas down faster than one can blink (not to mention the ray of clumsiness spewed by the worm in his neck).
She begins to get a bit mouthy about Vecna and Scar-Eater treats her to a merciless backhand. The only other useful information she has is that there was a repulsion field at the portal. It was alignment-based and immune to undead flesh; they needed Krekke to bypass the repulsion field to allow them through.
With the questioning over, Krekke is knocked unconscious and the party begins to contemplate their next move. To that end, Tenser provides the incense Riddle requires to commune. While Riddle and Jane devise a list of questions to ask, the rest of the group discusses Krekke’s fate: punishment, imprisonment, or some means of keeping her available as source of information for future use. After much debate, and with the issue still unresolved, Long Fist shocks the party by silently stepping forward and snapping the kenku’s neck.
Such an action from many of the others would surprise no one. But the summary execution of a helpless prisoner – regardless of the evil they may have done in the past – is an act strictly forbidden by Heironeous, god of Chivalry, Justice, and Honor. Long Fist winces as awareness of his impetuous deed crashes home and he feels the severing of his sacred connection to his divine patron. The Archpaladin’s judgment is immediate, and Long Fist realizes that he will have to mend that relationship as soon as possible.
The chorus of hollow voices that answer Riddle’s commune are vague on many of their responses and do little to ease the party’s worries about what may come. The Prophecy is being fulfilled, and may not be thwarted, but disrupting the Faceless One’s group could yield some positive future outcome. They do say that it is possible for the party to recover the lost secrets the enemy is seeking before them, but they cannot be clear about the enemy’s activities. Things are different there, they report.
Unsatisfied with the information from the commune spell, Riddle casts a divination, asking, “What can we do to have the best possible chance of success in going to the library and stopping the Faceless One and the Hand of Vecna?”
The rumbling voices reply:
”The race is on. Remain in this world and your opponent shall not return. Follow him and there is a chance you might succeed. Down that path lies the certain agony and possible destruction of your entire party. But down that path lies the possibility of a great victory. If you take the path, fight as though your very lives hang in the balance, for surely they do. Direct confrontation without preparation will bring your doom. Surprise confrontation, if necessary, is your only hope.”
And so it begins.