The Age of Worms

Session Sixty
In Which There is a Jurassic Park Interlude Before the Real Terror Begins

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (AFAIFK, seriously, still.)

With the party at least somewhat restored after the last bit of chaos, Riddle performs some divinations and sendings to Archie in order to gain some information and guidance on their next steps. It is not long before they piece together that every time someone travels to and from this place to the Material Plane, time accelerates on Tilagos. Which means Archie will age exponentially the longer the party remains.

It is currently morning, and once it is determined that the party will continue to try to complete the trials, they need to act fast. Jane casts find the path to the Thorn Vale and they rush off in that direction, knowing they will arrive fatigued, but unwilling to spend one more second longer in this place than necessary.

The island, of course, has other plans.

They are still about two hours from the Vale when they stumbled into a tyrannosaurus hunting ground. They spot the eighty-foot-long dinosaur slightly before it spots them. Jane acts quickly, beginning to cast dominate animal, but it does also, biting Long Fist and snatching him up in its giant maw. Long Fist desperately attempts to heal himself and then punch the tyrannosaur in the face. Tyrrell turns himself invisible and uses his lightning sword to fly up sixty feet in the air. Scar-Eater moves closer, channels scorching ray into his flail and trips the great beast, dodging its attacks and walloping it with acres of damage before turning invisible himself. Riddle does his best to aid Long Fist in escaping the tyrannosaur’s mouth, but with no luck.

Jane completes casting but the spell fizzles worthlessly and she shifts to her Bast tiger form, and misses with her bite as well. Meanwhile the dinosaur swallows Long Fist.

Tyrrell attacks from the sky and the animal begins bleeding profusely. Scar-Eater unloads everything he has, pounding it for hit after hit and scorching ray after ray until it does. They hastily cut Long Fist from the tyrannosaur’s stomach and revive him.

Two hours later they have made their way through the high rugged hills to a horrifyingly steep valley filled with an underbrush of thorns like iron swords. Across the valley, they see a gigantic cave mouth spilling huge plumes of thick black smoke. “More like steam than smoke,” Jane says grimly. “Probably more like an underground body of water heated by…magma. It’s like…ashy steam.” Mmmm!

There is lots of healing and Riddle casts fly on himself, Long Fist, and Scar-Eater, then shunts all of the steam away from them for eighty feet as they approach the lop of the cave. There is a giant gaping pit in the middle of the cave. Tyrrell stealthily scouts ahead and reports back a second pit deeper into the cave. They move ahead very slowly and carefully and aren’t more than sixty feet in when it becomes clear to Jane that there is something enormous moving on the far side of steam. She is about to shift from her Athena eagle form to her Tempest Fire form when an enormous roar from within the cave accompanies a humongous jetting plume of liquid magma, but she and Scar-Eater can’t avoid the brunt of it. Long Fist manages to avoid some but all of them watch in horror as the lava dissolves and warps the stone around them.

The Thorn Vale Terror moves through the air with eerie silence considering it is about one-hundred-and-twenty feet long and has earth and stone tumbling from its hide. It is all talons and trident tails and, well…terror. It bites at Scar-Eater but Jane sacrifices one of her prepared spell to change the fate of the previous moment. Riddle casts a communal protection from fire on everyone, followed by a quickened cold strike, making it very, very angry. Long Fist smites it, missing with one blow but solidly landing a second. Tyrrell turns invisible and tries to move but it becomes painfully obvious it can still see him when it swipes at him and infects him with a hideous flame poison.

Jane reverts to human form, gets out of the way and uses her prayer beads to boost her spellcasting power. Scar-Eater pelts it with a ray of exhaustion, seriously draining its battle prowess. It lashes out at Long Fist and Tyrrell but is too exhausted to aim well. Until of course Riddle flies overhead and tries to attack it with the Blade of Bitter Winds, when it aims perfectly and infects Riddle with the flame poison as well. Riddle hits, but it resists being dazed, which is really just too bad.

Long Fist heals himself and Tyrrell but draws an attack and becomes infected. Tyrrell’s blood fights off more damage, for now, feints and tumbles closer. Jane hits it with an ice storm, and Scar-Eater follows that with an enervation.

It seems to heal itself some before biting Riddle and missing Long First and Tyrrell with other attacks. Riddle responds by shrugging off the effects of the poison entirely and bloodying the Terror with the Blade of Bitter Winds. Long Fist follows suit and pummels it with his fists, and Tyrrell finishes it off with one devastating blow.

The party focusing on helping Tyrrell fight off the poison before looting the dead bodies in the cave and formulating a plan to finish the trials – today.

Session Fifty-Nine
In Which the Party Comes Face to Face with the Hand of Evil, and Meets its Final Encounter with an Old Foe

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (AFAIFK)

No one sooner has Darl teleported away and the party moved on to figuring out their next move, when the horrible jerk returns with an enormous force swarming out against our tired heroes. Darl, the tiefling, and the Faceless One stand before a small army of soldiers and wizards in black. “Leave this place,” Darl says, “or be destroyed.”

At the point the party can only sigh.

“Will you do this?” he presses.

Riddle turns to Jane and asks, “Will we?”

“We didn’t come here to leave this place,” she growls in return.

“Can’t blame a girl for trying,” Darl says with exasperation. “Very well. I have three pieces of information that the six of you would literally kill to have. It’s clear to me you don’t even know what you’re doing here. It’s equally clear that you don’t know anything. I have the upper hand because I know what the question is. ‘What is the Library’, ‘What is the Question we’re seeking to Answer’, and ‘What is the Date on the Material Plane.’ Choose one and I will answer.

Riddle’s brows knit in consternation but he does not believe there is any attempt being made to deceive the party. However it’s clear that both the tiefling and the Faceless One are surprised that Darl is offering any information at all.

And then, as if a spell were wearing off, fifteen archers appear out of nowhere, arrows knocked and ready to fire. One guess which side they are on.

“What is the Question you are seeking to Answer,” Riddle says. The archers are negligible, in fact most of the additional forces are. They are merely an effort to intimidate the party into conceding.

Darl’s face floods with conviction. “I have spent my entire life seeking the most potent and impactful secret that the world does not know. The question is, “Where is the Phylactery of Dragotha located? Whoever control that? Controls perhaps the most powerful being in existence.”

Riddle looks at Jane. Jane nods. The fight begins.

Without hesitation, Archie pelts Darl with four arrows, then says, “Just so you know, I was up for leaving.”

The Faceless One casts a spell and disappears, and then several things appear out of nowhere: huge fire elemental, a slimy demon, and three ants the size of ponies. The elemental pounds on Archie, setting him aflame, while the slimy demon turns on Jane. The ants attack Long Fist and Riddle. There is the sound a more spellcasting above the fray and Riddle disappears. The tiefling moves in a grapples the fiery Archie as the archers loose their arrows, scoring a couple of hits on Scar-Eater but entirely missing everyone else. Long Fist moves in on Darl, pummeling with his fist and landing blow after blow, but in the middle of it all, Darl is instantly healed in a burst of light. All fifteen wizards fire acid arrows on Long Fist, landing more than is strictly comfortable. Darl ignores the half ogre completely and turns his focus on Archie, who, still aflame, is immediately banished back to the Material Plane.

Things ain’t going so well.

Tyrrell moves to flank the slimy demon and leaves him bleeding, weakened, and very confused by the eight Tyrrells that suddenly appear adjacent to him. Jane fires ice spears on the fire elemental and then transforms into a towering fire elemental herself. She slams into the tiefling that was, up until a moment earlier, grappling the lost archer.

Thirty swordsmen swarm into to defend Darl, but all they manage to do is get in the way. Scar-Eater swiftly flies right over them to close with the vile priest. All of the ants try to snipe him but fail. Scar-Eater brings his flail down on his foe’s face, knocking Darl prone, though not managing to land much damage. Scar-Eater is grinning down on the falling priest when an awful black ray shoots down into him from out of nowhere, draining Scar-Eater terribly, and preparing him for a second freezing ray from above, sapping his strength. The fire elemental and the ants all turn their attention on Long Fist and the slimy demon and tiefling flank Jane in her fiery Tempest form. The archers all miss their targets again and Long Fist manages to chug a potion of resist fire and heal himself enough to stay in the fray. The wizards turn their acid arrows on Tyrrell but are mostly thwarted by the alternate Tyrrell images.

In the meantime, Riddle and Archie remain nowhere to be found.

From the ground, Darl attempts to banish Scar-Eater but fails. He heals himself completely, again, but remains on the ground. Tyrrell finishes off the slimy demon and turns invisible. Tempest-Jane slams the monk around a few times, shifts back to human form and sends a mighty fire snake to cut a destructive swath through the swordsmen. The remainders close in around Long Fist and Scar-Eater, valiantly raining down their ineffectual blows. Scar-Eater continues pounding Darl with his blade of blooded flail.

Another blast from above targets Tyrrell this time, but the savvy rogue manages to shrug off whatever was supposed to happen. The ants swing pointlessly at Long Fist and the fire elemental and the monk do their darndest to destroy Jane, but it’s an arrow from one of the archers that bring her down. The wizards pelt Long Fist with more acid arrows. Darl attempts to cast a spell from the ground and ignores the damage of Scar-Eater’s opportunistic attack, loosing Mordenkainen’s Disjunction on Long First, Tyrrell and Jane, threatening every spell affecting them, and every magic item in their possession. Pressing on, Tyrrell attacks the monk and creates eight more dopplegangers of himself. Jane, on the brink of death, summons of swirling sirocco at the place where she believes the Faceless One’s spells have been coming from. A satisfying scream answers her question and she can tell where he lands. She quickly cures herself and Long Fist and returns to her fire Tempest form.

Scar-Eater turns himself invisible and applies a dose of drow poison to his flail, giving Darl the opportunity to touch him with the Hand of Vecna itself. Scar-Eater shudders with cold and can feel the Hand sucking some of his mental acuity into itself and Darl.

Then everything goes green. A roiling bank of poisonous fog fills the battlefield, destroying all of the minions brought by these foes and harming Long Fist, Tyrrell, and, notably, the tiefling monk, who bleeds out a slim moment later. The archers struggle to find targets within the fog, and all fire upon Long Fist when he stumbles out of it to lunge at Darl.

Riddle reappears in the middle of the poisonous fog, and swiftly blasts himself directly upward, though not before breathing in the foul air. He uses control winds to move the cloudkill into the sirocco. The Faceless One cannot resist its poison. Riddle floats gently to the ground and draws a scroll from his bag.

The minion wizards finally manage to bring down Long Fist with a volley of magic missiles, just as Darl raises his unholy symbol to Scar-Eater and attempts to consume him with ¬unholy fire. The towering duskblade succumbs to the spell but a timely alter fortune from Riddle saves him and leaves Riddle staggered. Behind them Tyrrell burst forward in an almost inhuman rush to cast breath of life on Long Fist from a scroll. Jane, in Tempest form as a lumbering earth elemental charges the Faceless One and slams him with a powerful death blow. Scar-Eater brings his poisoned flail down and Darl time and again but can’t seem to make a dent against him. Without their highly effective archer, the rest of the party scrambles to wipe out the minions and maybe land a decent blow on Darl, but the heinous priest plane shifts away before they can.

Tired, annoyed, and more than a little concerned about the missing ranger, the party loots the Faceless One’s corpse and heals and restores themselves the best they can, now uncertain if or when and with how many minions Darl may return.

Session Fifty-Eight
In Which There is Surprise, and Then There is Fire, and Then We Almost Liberate the Hand of Vecna…but Ultimately Fail by That Much, As Usual

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (Maybe. Does it matter anymore?)

The party has no sooner been bestowed with conviction when a tear in reality opens between them and the Night Twist that Scar-Eater so doggedly soldiers towards. From the hole in space steps a crew of nightmares led by Darl, bearer of the Hand of Vecna. He is flanked by the pair of tieflings and an emaciated horned humanoid creature swathed in a sickening, greasy-looking layer of slime. Behind them stands a twenty-foot tall creature made of pure elemental flame. Of the Faceless One there is no sign. On the other side of the tear, splayed over the peak of a towering mountain, the desecrated corpse of what the party can only assume is the Roc King can be seen. Strapped to Darl’s back is a five-foot-long grayish-white feather.

No sooner has the tear closed behind them than Archie drops the icy burst sword he had equipped in anticipation of slashing the arrow-resistant Night Twist and draws Greenfang. While his first arrow finds its mark in Darl’s chest, the priest is unharmed by the attack. Riddle fires a line of ice at the cleric and follows that with a powerful blinding spell. Darl’s eyes film over as he loses his sight (though he appears only slightly affected by the cold), just as Scar-Eater charges forward at him (Darl being in the path between him and the Night Twist, after all). Scar-Eater’s blow deals a small amount of damage and the duskblade disappears from sight. Darl takes a small step backwards and casts heal upon himself, removing what little damage the party has managed to land along with Riddle’s blindness.

The fire elemental turns and charges at the Night Twist, setting it ablaze, as the slimy demon charges the area where Scar-Eater used to appear, scoring a surprising hit. Meanwhile, the tieflings close in on Long Fist and Archie, managing to grapple the archer but not the sentinel.

And originating from somewhere separate from the melee, a fireball explodes upon the Night Twist.

Jane activates her prayer beads and attempts to dispel the magic protecting Darl. She is surprised when her own spell bounces back upon her, stripping her of Riddle’s conviction and blessings of fervor as well as her own longstrider. Tyrrell tumbles towards the monks and stealthily slides his adamantine dagger into a soft spot as Long Fist pummels the same target from the other side. As the tiefling falls, Long Fist releases his aura of justice over himself, Riddle, and Archie.

The tree, awash in flames, turns all of its focus on the fire elemental, smashing down with its burning branches in an unrelenting attack. Archie struggles to free himself from the tiefling but only manages it with magical assistance from Riddle, who then proceeds to blind the remaining tiefling while focusing his smite on the Night Twist. Scar-Eater re-appears to smash at Darl with his cold iron longsword and a dose of enervation but while his attack lands, it deals only minimal damage, and Scar-Eater takes his own negative energy reflected back upon himself. Scar-Eater, undaunted, turns his next swing upon demon. He hits, but the slime covering its body coats Scar-Eater’s longsword in an attempt to destroy it. It manages to maintain its integrity though it is not entirely unaffected by the acid.

And then the moment everyone has been waiting for: Darl takes a step back and raises his unnatural, blackened, filthy rotting hand above his head and sends a pulse of black energy into Scar-Eater, Tyrrell, Long Fist, and Riddle. Jane and Archie watch in horror as their four companions are temporarily paralyzed and a bit of their strength is drained. Another fireball streaks from seemingly nowhere and into the Night Twist, who is only moments from destroying the elemental.

Jane heads for the only paralyzed ally she can reach and bestows freedom of movement upon Riddle. Archie unloads on the remaining tiefling while sidestepping out of reach. Riddle summons his own fire elemental to attack the Night Twist. Darl takes the opportunity while his foes are paralyzed and distracted to heal himself and the tiefling of all damage. Great masses of earth erupt on either side of the Night Twist, battering it even as it blazes, but it continues to stand and lash out whereas any other tree in the Doomshroud would have been buried by the spell. It suddenly clicks together in Jane’s mind that the melee with Darl is merely a distraction, an attempt to keep the party from completing the Trial, and she unleashes her most powerful spell, a firestorm, upon the Night Twist, followed quickly by a flame strike, which destroys the abomination once and for all. She immediately feels the full force of the Night Twist’s curse attempt to overtake her, but by force of will and spirit she refuses to allow it purchase. She shifts into Fury, howling with the pain and power of what she has just destroyed.

Free of the paralyzing blasphemy, Tyrrell turns his lightning fast attacks upon the demon, leaving it bleeding out in his wake, and Long Fist unleashes an overwhelming smite upon the cleric of Vecna, hurling Darl down to the ground. However, upon touching Darl’s flesh, the half-ogre is forced to resist some unholy energy that threatens to tear away at his own soul. Despite the disadvantage of a prone enemy, Archie pelts about six arrows into Darl. Riddle sends his fire elemental to pound on Darl as well, but it isn’t powerful enough to pierce the cleric’s defenses.

Scar-Eater finishes off the slimy demon and turns to get in on the fun against Darl, whose attempt to heal himself is masterfully thwarted by a counterspell from Riddle.

Then without warning, Darl disappears, plane shifting away, according to Scar-Eater. Shortly thereafter another rift in fabric of reality opens and the remaining tiefling runs through. Jane shifts back to her human form and attempts to bury the tiefling in a flame strike but he expertly evades it. Through the gate, the party sees the Great Rift Canyon, with White Plume Mountain towering in the distance. Long Fist howls in rage and fury. The gate winks shut.

In the aftermath of the battle, the companions find themselves a bit stunned, mostly un-hurt, and unclear about whether or not they can possibly complete the Trials of Tilagos without the Living Feather of the Roc King, still strapped to Darl’s back on another plane somewhere. But there is little time for conjecture. Riddle prepares to question the corpse of the fallen tiefling.

“Did your party take the Belt from our hiding place?”


“Did your party bring about the death of the Thorn Vale Terror?”


“What was the plan if something went wrong while you were here?”

Regroup at Dragotha’s Lair.

“Where is that?”

In the Worm Crawl Fissure.

“What did Darl hope to accomplish by gaining access to the Library?”

The secret must be kept, and he will be the keeper.

“What would Darl do if he was prevented from getting those secrets?”

His secrets are not mine.

“What is Darl’s weakness?”



Session Fifty-Seven
In Which a Fallen Friend Rises and the Doomshroud Calls

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596, continued (presumably)

With Tyrrell’s body cooling on the broken stones, the party divides up the titan’s treasure and formulates a plan to move the Belt. Three enormous black pearls and one suit of magical leather armor go into the handy haversack and Archie takes the efreet’s magical longsword, a statue of an elf maiden carved from a mammoth tusk, and one of the gargoyles’ composite longbows. Scar-Eater avails himself of a suit of magical mithril plate mail and a belt of giant strength. The roughly twenty-three-thousand silver pieces and assortment of severed heads is left behind without reservation.

Jane announces to her friends that she has the power to reincarnate Tyrrell but not the materials. She believes she may be able to find the necessary components closer to the edge of the old-growth forest about 10 miles away. Before they can do anything like that, however, they must solve the riddle of what to do with Krathanos’s belt and body. Jane casts a spell to consume the massive corpse in slime and Long Fist shoulders the Belt, intent on dragging it to their next destination.

Archie leads the party cautiously, avoiding tyrannosaurus territory, to the edge of what they think must be the notorious Doomshroud forest around dusk. The totality of its freakishness is evident for the first time – black trees hundreds of feet tall sway against the wind. Black ichor drips, oily and greasy, foul-smelling, sulphurous, from branches and bark. Swooping high above, Athena notices a massive clearing in the middle of the wood. It is time to commune with this twisted nature.

Athena flies high into the canopy of the great old-growth trees. As Bast, she rakes a path through the thick ropy vines and branches, nestling deep into the vegetation, occasionally requiring Fury’s smaller teeth to make her way. Finding a tight crook where two great branches meet, she settles in. As Tempest, she begins a small, focused whirlwind and sets the canopy swaying and rustling in her breeze. Then finally as Willow, she sinks her own roots and vines into those of the tree and merge as one. For ten minutes, she sways there, high in the sky, at one with the vegetation and the wind. Then eventually she starts to hear whispers in the rustle of branch against branch and leaf against vine. Words begin to form. And the first words she hears are words of praise. Words of thanks. Words of blessing. The entire natural world (in this unnaturally created place) is calling out to the Daughter of the Storm.

THANK YOU, it says. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR GIVING US LIFE. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR PROTECTING US. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR ALL WE ARE. WE HONOR YOUR SACRIFICE EVEN AS WE ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR POWER. The trees only know her as a legend passed down through the ages, so it is with the winds and the birds and the other lesser wildlife. But the earth itself remembers her. YOU ARE THE SAME, it says. I HAVE CHANGED – MY ROCKS HAVE SHIFTED, MY CONTOURS HAVE EVOLVED, BUT YOU ARE AS I REMEMBER. YOU ARE AS TEMPORARY AS THE ANT OR THE BUTTERFLY, YET SEEMINGLY AS PERMANENT AS THE OCEAN. Jane senses that the natural world would be happy to bathe her in praise from now until eternity, but then it becomes aware of her pressing interest in plant or mineral oils and the presence of powerful unnatural creatures. Her consciousness passes through her roots and down through the roots of the tree and into the earth. Nearly ten miles away, she senses a pocket, shallow enough to reach, of natural vegetative oils she could access. There is nothing else of note in the plant and mineral categories that she discovers, but the third category of inquiry reveals an unexpected tidbit. Jane senses the expected nearby presence of four other powerful creatures chained to prophecy yet possessed of the power to countermand it, touched by the gods in the past, present, and future. And she also senses the faint, distant presence of a small piece of another such creature. One long dead – over a thousand years dead – yet preserved. Lingering. Waiting. It is flesh, but flesh that is wrong. Flesh that is twisted. Flesh that has been drained. Flesh without soul, yet destined not to remain so. It is very near to the oils. Suspiciously near, in fact. Like, within feet of the pocket. Almost as though it had been placed there deliberately. But who could have done such a thing over a millennium ago?…

Jane returns to the party and shares what she has learned. She knows the oils will be of a kind she can use but would lack the powerful magical blessing they would need to serve as a resource to reincarnate Tyrrell. However, she could use the oil to melt down, and ultimately absorb the power of a magic item dedicated to maintaining life and powering the flesh, such as her ring of sustenance.

But they must camp for the night before they can retrieve the oils, and Archie confirms this seems like as good a place as any.

Starday, 14 Fireseek, CY 596 (as far as anyone knows)

After an uneventful night and long slow slog along the edge of the Doomshroud, the party reaches the general area around mid-afternoon, then takes another couple of hours to locate the precise spot to dig for the oils. After yet another hour of digging, they discover a pocket of amber. Encased within there is a finger, preserved through the ages – a ring finger, to be precise, still clad with a familiar band. Its flesh is ashen gray, its nail is black as is the sliver of bone still jutting from its base. Jane looks from its ring to the ring of sustenance upon her own finger; without question the two are the same. Exactly the same, in fact.

“The Jane in the casket near the portal had all of her fingers,” Jane says aloud, “but she was not wearing this ring.”

Riddle casts divination and asks, ”Should Jane use the finger in the amber for Tyrrell’s reincarnation?”

And on a hush of wind, the voices reply, ”Tyrrell left it here expressly for that purpose.”

Not a lot to argue with there.

Jane brings the unearthed oils to a boil and then adds the found ring of sustenance to the brew along with shards of rock, selected leaves and twigs, and few drops of tree sap. Chanting and praying, Jane draws upon the power of the earth, sky, and water and focuses it into the boiling oils. Soon the ring droops, sags, and then melts into the mixture. Jane carefully pours the oil over the ancient gray finger.

Immediately, the finger twitches. It flexes slightly. Then a few nearby blades of grass bend of their own accord towards the finger. They tear themselves from the earth and fly to the finger like metal to a magnet. Within seconds they are absorbed into the finger and transform into small slivers of gray flesh, extending its length. More shards of grass follow, and then pieces of earth, bits of amber, dribbles of oil and slowly…slowly, a shape begins to form.

Within the hour, an entire body lays upon on the ground. It is Tyrrell, but not Tyrrell – rather like an ancient replica of their friend and ally but composed entirely in shades of gray. The flesh is gray, the hair and nails flat black. The webby network of scars across his face remain but angry red flesh no longer, now they are pale white, except…as the ritual concludes, those scars jump to life with their familiar greenish glow. The erstwhile lump of Tyrrell-shaped earth suddenly draws a great shuddering breath, gasping to life. He sits up and his eyes open, revealing pure white pupils and irises. The others notice uneasily how the nearby shadows of the deepening afternoon seem to bend towards him, not necessarily drawn to him but possibly unaware of his otherness from themselves. He seems to flicker, not-there for half-heartbeats, real but unreal, present but…not right.

“The colors here are blinding,” he says. “Where am I exactly?”

The Isle of Tilagos?” Jane replies.

“We killed the titan yesterday,” Riddle adds, but new-Tyrrell seems unable to wrap his mind around the concept of ‘yesterday’. He speaks of waking in a gray land, with tombstones and a river made of blood, and of lingering there, for a century or more. He speaks more as he allows him to be examined. Apparently he was in Hades, where creatures who lived mortal lives of profound, unrepentant evil go when they die – definitely not a place someone of his particular moral standing would have expected to end up. There he endured one hundred years of torture. Upon arrival he was immediately seized by terrifying insect-like creatures and held captive as black, midnight hags performed unspeakable tortures upon him… all of which he remembers in great detail. “You all look familiar,” Tyrrell says uncertainly. “I remember we were in the midst of something… big. I have a memory of my own actions, almost destroying all of us, but that is all. I remember in the midst of the… work they were doing on me, hearing a voice… a woman’s voice, that seemed vaguely familiar, but not entirely, but I looked to it, and I woke up here.”

In the ensuing silence, some of the party reflects on how time is, it seems, a flat circle.

Jane confirms he is not undead, and while he is human, he seems to adhere to another set of rules. His flesh is human but not indigenous to this place or the Material Plane. He is broken, and thin, and has travelled a great distance. The reincarnation functioned as it was supposed to, with what it had to work with – that finger. Jane is confident that prior to their digging it up it had been buried here for at least twelve hundred years. “But,’ she says, “that doesn’t mean we don’t need to cut off his finger and bury it here before we leave.”

As most of the group theorizes about the possible connection of this plane to Hades or of Hades to Vecna, or what, if anything, short of a miracle could have sent their friend to that place, Long Fist opens his senses to his companions, and finding no evil there, is mollified for the moment.

“Hold your tongues,” Archie says, and points to a shimmer in the air above them. Jane attempts and fails to dispel the scry sensor, but Riddle succeeds and as dusk approaches, the party moves to a place where they can hide the Belt with a permanent image, and not under scrying eyes. They move in a different direction to set up camp, but they have barely settled in for the night when all but Long Fist notice they are surrounded by a quartet of lean, emaciated purple hunting cats on six legs, their bodies carved solely of muscle, bone, and tentacles.

Tyrrell immediately vanishes. Jane sends a sirocco upon the first cat and it is knocked prone in a blast of fire. Archie dons his cloak of the bat and scampers up a tree. Scar-Eater activates his new armor of speed, swiftly turns invisible and moves within ten feet of the prone cat. The cats close in as Riddle bestows his blessings of fervor on the party.

Tyrrell tumbles unseen towards one of the cats but his blade passes through air on his attach. Jane brings down on column of divine fire on two of them, managing to catch one full blast, and moves into a better position. Long Fist moves in on one of the cats, who swipes him as he closes, and lands a sturdy blow. Two of the cats surround Archie’s tree and smack him as he shimmies up, and his one shot flies through thin air as his target is displaced. Scar-Eater closes with the cat that was previously on fire and slams it with a tripping ray of exhaustion. It falls prone, exhausted by the spell. Scar-Eater disappears again, and the cat swipes pointlessly where he was. Long Fist and Riddle absorb two big hits each from cat-tentacles, and Riddle responds with a blast of cold damage on one at the base of Archie’s tree.

Still unseen, Tyrrell delivers a pair of massive strikes on the cold cat, draining it of some of its strength, and Jane winds her way through the battlefield, dodging attacks for the most advantageous position from which to unleash an empowered fire snake on three of them before transforming into a fiery Tempest herself. Long Fist bloodies one but it snatches out of existence before he can land a second blow. Archie skewers one cat to death and fires upon another while Scar-Eater fires three scorching rays into a third before turning invisible again. His deeply wounded target flails at the place he once occupied as his two companions run away. Archie finishes him off in a workmanlike four shots, and the party is able to rest.

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (I mean, maybe, right?)

The party ventures into the Doomshroud, to “silence its mournful song” and they haven’t traversed half a mile before they begin to hear a very distant, very, very, very despair-filled song, sung in a woman’s voice. Within moments, Scar-Eater’s face has gone blank and he has begun shambling towards the source of the song in a way which convinces the others he is being compelled. They try restraining him but it seems to cause him physical pain. They try reasoning with him but he is unable or unwilling to adhere to logic. Riddle’s effort to dispel the effect is pointless. Scar-Eater has his faculties, but only one goal.

The party quickly decides not to abandon Scar-Eater to his fate and to follow him towards the source. After about three hours, they hit the edge of the treeline, the clearing Athena scouted from above the previous day. At the center, a black tree hundreds of feet tall, swaying hypnotically despite the noticeable lack of breeze, emitting this terrible song. Using her eagle eye spell Jane notes nothing else in the clearing besides this thing that should not exist, this terrible tree fouled by dark magic into creatures called Night Twists. She knows that to kill this creature would evoke a terrible curse, but she also knows the only way to free Scar-Eater of its grip, to silences its mournful song, and to fulfill the Trials of Tilagos, is to risk the curse and kill the creature. It can create gale force winds and protection from slashing weapons, but is as vulnerable to fire as any other plant.

Riddle casts conviction on them all, and the party prepares to do battle.

Session Fifty-Six
In Which the One Who Got Them Into This Fight is the First to Check Out of it

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596, continued (presumably)

When last we left our intrepid band, Tyrrell had just taunted the most dangerous foe they’ve encountered into attacking them. At seventy feet tall and backed by six flying gargoyles with composite longbows, the bloodthirsty maniac seems poised to send them all back home the hard way.

Still riding high from his recent very-effective battle contribution, Tyrrell taps himself with his wand to turn invisible and attempts to sneak into a superior tactical position. Archie fires an acid-laden arrow directly into Krathanos’s eye from around the corner of his hiding place, and another one not far behind just before he scrambles up the wall of the keep. The burning arrow in his eye draws the angry titan towards Archie through Scar-Eater, Long Fist and Riddle (whose attacks unfortunately miss despite the titan being enormous and totally vulnerable to them). As the titan swipes his hand, a disembodied spectral hand grabs Archie on the wall. The gargoyles pepper Jane, Riddle, and Long Fist with arrows.

Grasping the prayer beads around her neck, Jane shines with swelled power and summons a column of holy fire down upon the titan and one of the gargoyles before shifting into Wolf form and getting the heck out of dodge. Long Fist steps in to smite evil on Krathanos and prepares to release his powerful aura of justice. Meanwhile, Riddle wracks his brain for any hidden memory that might help him defeat the titan and something, somewhere, clicks. He gives his blessings of fervor to those closest: Scar-Eater, Long Fist, and Tyrrell. Riddle swiftly summons an ice strike but it falls to respond against the enormous enemy’s resistance to magic. Scar-Eater takes a step and channels enervation into his blade, enough for one hit to suck a little life out of this monstrous psychopath.

Tyrrell taps himself with his other wand and moves closer to Long Fist, drawing his sword of subtlety from the scabbard of keen edges. As he does, as if he weren’t even invisible, Krathanos bashes him with the Warhammer on the way towards Scar-Eater. Some wild, titanic gesticulations later, the duskblade…disappears. Archie wrestles against the spectral hand grappling him to no avail.

The gargoyles unleash another volley of arrows and Fury takes one in the flank just before she shifts back to her human shape and drops an empowered flame strike in retaliation on two of them. Long Fist lands two blows on the titan and then swiftly lays hands on himself. Summoning the power of the ring of the wind dukes, Riddle transforms into a sixty-foot line of lightning, plowing through the titan for some damage. He tries again to call an ice strike and fails. Scar-Eater reappears on the battlefield, just where he left it.

Despite his massive wounds, Tyrrell delivers a strong series of blows to the titan, who appears to heal before his eyes as it turns and casually shatters both Tyrrell’s sword and his body. Long Fist pounds the titan in retaliation as Archie frees himself of the crushing hand and scurries up the wall. Long Fist takes two arrows from the gargoyles for his trouble, and Archie and Jane take others. Jane summons a swirl of ice and snow to bloody two of the gargoyles. Long Fist, after laying hands upon himself and boosting his power with divine vigor, drags Tyrrell’s broken corpse out of the fray and potential further desecration. Riddle watches in despair as their fallen comrade is dragged out of even the extended range of his breath of life, and turns his frustration into a powerful spell upon Krathanos. The titan is spectacularly and particularly unprepared for it and is permanently cursed by the mysterious gods whom Riddle serves.

The titan stands helpless as Scar-Eater moves in and unleashes a rolling mass of biting, chewing insects upon his flesh. Archie pelts him with more acid arrows while fending off attacks from a pair gargoyles. The rest of them target Jane and Riddle, who drops to the ground, bleeding out. Jane heals herself, moves closer to the action and throws scouring winds at one of the gargoyles. Long Fist heals himself and Jane before charging the titan full on for a solid blow. Riddle attempts to stabilize himself but can’t quite manage it. Scar-Eater continues his insectile attack on Krathanos and then runs over to force-feed a potion of healing to a grateful Riddle.

Archie delivers a death blow to one of the gargoyles with a focused barrage as Krathanos recovers a bit and watches the battle carry on without his participation. The five remaining gargoyles pummel the party with not-insignificant attacks as they dodge Jane’s sandstorm. She continues moving closer to Long Fist and heals them both. Long Fist delivers blow after blow against the cursed foe and Riddle gives his cold ice strike one more go with no luck. For all his offensive helplessness, the party is having trouble penetrating Krathanos’s defenses.

Archie takes out another gargoyle just as the titan manages to momentarily break the curse’s bonds long enough to crack Scar-Eater and Long Fist with a pair of blows with his Warhammer, but the gargoyles, down two of their number, seem to feel the fight is no longer weighted in their favor. They take to the sky to watch the titan take Jane’s fire snake, Long Fist’s punches, and finally, Riddle’s insanely powerful death blow to the foot with his axiomatic sword. Unwilling to carry on the titan’s fight, the gargoyles take off up the coast and leave our heroes wondering just what in the name of Heironeous they are going to do with the gigantic, 480-pound belt they came here to recover.

Session Fifty-Five
In Which Tyrrell is One Guidance Spell Away From Intimidating a Titan Into Stripping Down

Godsday – Waterday, 10 – 11 Fireseek, CY 596

As is becoming par for the course, no adventure can begin without a good deal of shopping. Many scrolls, diamond dust doses, and other items are purchased and divvied up between the party.

Earthday, 12 Fireseek, CY 596

The party returns to the obsidian portal bearing an additional scroll of greater teleport from Tenser and the necessary recovered crystals to open the door. With everyone standing on the disk (and no one’s moral compass triggering an ill effect), Tyrrell places the crystals in the correct order. With a sudden and shocking shift in the environment, the party finds themselves…elsewhere.

There is a gentle wind, bird songs on the air, the hum of insects and, notably, no rain. In one direction a black forest sprawls across the landscape, periodically emitting a ghostly green glow from the cacophony of its canopy. In the opposite direction, hills blossom into barren mountains. The whole world is vibrant with life.

A being steps from the trunk of a tree to face the heroes. He is tall, gallant, in gossamer armor, haloed by insects and bearing a barbed spear. And then another similarly awesome creature steps from another tree, and then another. Jane steps forward to greet them.

“I am Tylanthros,’ says the stranger, “Guardian of this realm. My brothers and I are the Last Resort. We protect the Isle from all trespassers. You seek the Fountain, though you do not know it yet. It is linked to everything in Last Resort. If you drink it, the Library will be freed.”

All that sounds great but then Tylanthros starts in on the Trials of Tilagos, four feats to conquer before he will answer their questions and show them to the Fountain of Dreams. All they have to do is Claim Krathanos’s Golden Belt, Silence the Doomshroud’s Mournful Song, bring about the Death of the Thorn Vale Terror, and Harvest the Living Feather of the Roc King.

Simple, right?

The party is just sharing what they know of Krathanos, a titan of legend, a murderously insane menace who terrorized the Material Plane until his mysterious disappearance fifteen centuries ago, when a fifty-foot-tall insect breaks the tree line and stares at them, frozen in contemplation. As long as the party does not move, it doesn’t see them. After quite some time, Riddle can no longer handle the tension, and with lightning dancing in the mountains in the backdrop, he beckons the giant mantis with one crooked finger. Archie gets a few arrows off before the thing leaps four hundred feet through the air in order to join the fray. Scar-Eater immediately attempts to cast dimension hop to the creature’s eye level but fails to go anywhere. The spell simply fails.

The ensuing battle goes badly for Jane, who is immediately raked free of her armor and a good deal of flesh in the first few seconds. She valiantly rallies into an earth elemental and charges, only to be rewarded with one blow and a swift death. The rest of the party manages to deal enough damage to it immediately after to drop it while Riddle breathes life back into their fallen druid.

With a bit of a breather in the aftermath, Scar-Eater is able to share what he learned from his failed attempt to teleport into the fight. Apparently there is no connection to the Astral Plane here, so no spell utilizing the Astral Plane will be effective. In the meantime, noises are coming from all over the place – mammalian in one direction, saurian in another. Yes, that’s dinosaurs.

Archie sets about tracking the Faceless One’s party and reports that they seemed to head neither towards the mountains or the forest but towards the plains, and very recently, as in earlier today. But he cautions that it appears that time is different here and he can’t be sure exactly how. Riddle suggests following the other party, assuming they are setting about the same trials the party was assigned. He reasons that if they take on the first trial, the enemy may be weaker in the aftermath and at a disadvantage for the party’s attack.

The groups follows Archie’s lead for about four hours and ten miles when they enter an area with many crushed skeletons of giant animals, almost as if it was something’s lair.

Oh, wait. That’s because it is.

Something has been stalking them from behind a hill. Something with a large white furry head. A gargantuan four-armed gorilla, also known as a girallion behemoth, to be precise.

Riddle throws up a blade barrier while Jane brings a column of flame strike down upon it. Long Fist pierces it with his spear while Scar-Eater moves, drawing a mean swipe, and scorches it through Riddle’s blades. Archie and Tyrrell execute their typical massive damage, but the girallion responds by rending Scar-Eater with two of its four sets of claws. Long Fist punches it in the leg as he moves in to lay hands on Scar-Eater and keep the swordsman in the fight. Rejuvenated, Scar-Eater delivers a tremendous blow full of fire and revenge, bringing the beast crashing to the ground amidst the skeletal remains of its victims.

The party takes some time to heal Scar-Eater and repair Jane’s armor from earlier, entertained by Tyrrell’s announcement that he has “not taken any damage” and has “been useful and effective the entire time.”

The party spends the rest of the day tracking the Faceless One and his allies, moving about twenty miles south to veer around the Doomshroud forest, and making another ten miles before night falls, and they rest.

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596. Presumably.

After surviving their first night on the Island of Last Resort unsullied, the party keep moving along the trail of the Faceless One. By noon, about seven miles further on the trail, the path has become bordered by thousand-foot cliffs dropping into the raging ocean. “They stopped here,” Archie says. “Lingered for a time, but not overnight. I don’t believe they’ve slept at all.” Tyrrell spots a handful of flying things in the air a couple of miles ahead, circling around something.

Riddle prepares a divination and asks for advice on the best way to catch up with Darl and Faceless One. The gods reply:

”If you follow their path, you will always be behind them, If you determine their location perhaps you can meet them on different terms.”

Riddle subsequently asks, “How can we determine the destination of Darl and the Faceless One?”

”Their destinations are four-fold. One is within view. They may be operating under more information than you currently are.”

That is going to be etched on their gravestones.

The group decides to hustle on up towards the flying creatures ahead, which are now moving towards the group. After a spectacularly bad effort to take cover for everyone that isn’t Archie or Tyrrell, the creatures – likely gargoyles – approach and ask, “How may we help you?” How unexpectedly friendly! The quartet might make a find welcome wagon if not for their leather armor and bows.

The party explains that they seek another party who preceded them in this direction. The gargoyles find that interesting and explain that we are in Krathanos’s territory and that they have been dispatched to inquire whether we want to show our obeisance. They also express curiosity as to whether the party has come to free Krathanos, imprisoned for so long by the horrible druids.

On the way to the titan, Long Fist suggests to Riddle that they pretend to show obeisance towards Krathanos. “Are you suggesting we lie?” Riddle asks, confused.

“Anything to get us closer to the Belt,” Long Fist replies.

“Perhaps then you can snap its neck,” Jane says, not quite, but almost under her breath.

As they approach the keep the sounds of wild animals yowling in pain seems to shoot straight to the druid’s heart. The gargoyles swoop down. In front of what remains of the Keep, leaning against a wall, sits a humanoid of truly epic proportions. Seventy-feet tall, carved from legend by the gods themselves. His enormous belt must weigh hundreds of pounds. Mighty Krathanos toys with a thirty-foot Warhammer as the gargoyles bow at his feet. “Have you come to free me?” he rumbles.

“What would you give to be freed?” Riddle asks.

“What would you ask of my majesty?”

Riddle answers, “Two things.” When he inquires further about the other party, the gargoyles claim they were dispatched, but Riddle wants to see their bodies as proof.

“I don’t like…red things,” Krathanos says as he hurls the head of an efreet at the party’s feet.

After an appropriate moment of silence, in which no one is going to pretend they aren’t relieved they won’t have to deal with that thing’s wishes in the final confrontation, Riddle diplomatically asks about the rest of them. “The others ran away with their tails between their legs, without that which they sought. I have been waiting for so long.” Krathanos turns to Long Fist. “Make me a muscle, little one.”

“It could never compare to the mightiness of your arm, but here it is.”

Krathanos feeds the party some pitiful tale of being a humble servant of Kord, unjust imprisonment, a lack of mercy and blah blah blah set me free already.

Riddle says, “We cannot guarantee you will go free if you do, but unless you give us your Belt to take back to the Guardians of Last Resort, you never will.”

Krathanos considers, then points to Jane. “I will give you my Belt for that one.”

“We will give you her belt,” Riddle says, and Krathanos smashes an entire tower with one blow of his warhammer. “If you take one of us, you limit our ability to set you free!”

It certainly seems like this crazy banter could go on for the rest of everyone’s days, until Tyrrell reveals himself from where he was hidden and says, “Look, you can give us the Belt, or you can be destroyed as we have destroyed all those we encountered so far.”

And it certainly seems like maybe that would have worked. Like maybe it was within just about two or three percentage points away from working. Ah well. Next time.

Session Fifty-Four
In Which a Reckless Deed Comes From the Most Unlikely Source, and Other Acts of Inquisition

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.

Session Fifty-Three
In Which it’s Their Party and They Will Scry if They Want To

Godsday, 10 Fireseek, CY 596

Upon arriving at his fortress, the party finds Tenser looking dubious and serious, accompanied by the always-serious Celeste. He wants to hear about the journey to Kuluth-Mar first, and when the party delivers their report he appears intrigued by the visions they all experienced periodically throughout their quest, especially the ones involving prophecy at the end. He notes that the last one was not the one of himself telling them the prophecy would be fulfilled, but the one about the Whispered One’s Hand and the Faceless Mage, implying, the great wizard suggests, that it is prophecy that is being fulfilled right now. The Hand of Vecna has been found.

While the party was in the jungle, Tenser was conducting research on Kyuss, Balakarde’s disappearance, and the Ebon Triad. On this last point he reports the disturbing discovery that this Cult may just be a front for the Cult of Kyuss. In all of his research, the name of Alhaster keeps appearing. Alhaster is the largest and most prosperous city of the Bandit Kingdoms, a collection of warring city-states located in the devastated region on the north side of the Nyr Dyv. It had been a completely lawless place until it was taken over by a fallen paladin named Prince Zeech and his fallen angel cronies, about eighteen years ago, and now it is a shining beacon of order, safety, cleanliness, and oppression. It is also the major port city for a large swath of land, controlling everything that goes in or Bandit Kingdoms. It is under constant attack, but the insane despot Zeech has many powerful allies, including, it is rumored, a black dragon (possibly Illthain).

Alhaster appears to also be the birthplace for the Cult of the Ebon Triad, home to a surprising number of the cult’s leaders. Celeste adds that her own research led her to Balakarde’s favorite Greyhawk libraries, where she found the lone copy of a book called A History of Alhaster, written by a cleric of St. Cuthbert named Rhorsk. It told of a cult of Hextor, believed to be the root of the Cult of the Ebon Triad, known for the use of the writhing dead, that was defeated by an elven noblewoman named Lashonna, one of Alhaster’s most powerful sorcerers. Somehow, the leaders of that cult escaped prosecution.

Celeste further reports that her research uncovered a sort of task list for Balakarde: talk to Lashonna, talk to Rhorsk, research more about Ebon Triad, etc. Tenser advises the party that Alhaster should be their next destination.

Most of the party seems poised to agree when Riddle says, “Hold a moment, please.” He goes on to explain that he feels as though the party is being led and wants to try to circumvent it. He is far more concerned with arresting the efforts of the Faceless One than with Alhaster at the moment. Tenser cannot find the bearer of the Hand of Vecna and suggests that Vecna himself may be shielding the enemy from his eyes. Jane offers to scry the Faceless One, though with little hope for success.

Using the mask from the Faceless One’s simulacrum and finding a convenient pool of water in Tenser’s fortress, the druid casts the spell. An outdoor location appears in the water, filthy, with torn ground strewn with rubble and rocks and faint patches of limp grass. The rain in the vision is nothing like the constant rain the party has lived with since the beginning, but a torrential downpour. Right in front of the vista of the scrying vision, as far as the eye can see in all directions, is an enormous wall of vapor and clouds, as if behind a sheet of glass. On the ground is a 10-foot-wide obsidian disk etched along the rim with druidic runes that Jane translates to read, ”Return my eyes to me and I shall gaze through the storm.” The Faceless One is there, with his green robes, leather mask, and iron studs. Beside him stands a towering humanoid clothed in flowing blue robes decorated with eyes along the trim. His face is protected from the wind and the party’s scry with a cowl. He carries a wicked-looking mace, crackling with frost, in one hand, and the other hand appears to be a twitching, rotting skeletal appendage with visible chunks of black and rotting flesh attached to it. These two fearsome figures stand before the disk, but atop this disk is one of much slighter frame – a purple-robed kenku, and in her hand, three crystals. She appears poised to place the crystals into three stylized eyes with shallow indentations along the circumference of the disk. Two others look on, lithe cloaked figures dressed in tightly wrapped silken scarves of red, with horned heads and fiery eyes identifying them as tieflings. Finally, off to one side, a surly, immense, twelve-foot-tall red-skinned humanoid whose flesh turns the rain to sizzling steam. The falchion on his back dances with flame and he is covered in bronze jewelry. “An efreet,” Scar-Eater whispers.

As the party watches, fascinated, the kenku places first one and then another crystal. Before she places the third, the blue-robed Hand of Vecna raises his mace and the entire groups steps onto the disk. The observing party holds their breath as the kenku cautiously places the third crystal – and there is a sudden blast of violet light! The Hand is blown completely out of the parameters of Jane’s spell and all others are driven back off the obsidian disk. The Faceless one follows the Hand, about eighty feet back where he landed amongst two more collapsed druidic stones. The Hand stands, heals himself, and both eye the kenku with an unspoken question. She shrugs and beckons them back to try again.

The kenku seems to take her time and make her placements with more care on the second effort, but upon final placement there is still a burst of that violet light. However, when it fades, she stands alone on the disk. The others have disappeared, and with their disappearance, Jane’s spell dies.

“They have left the plane,” Scar-Eater explains grimly.

The party engages in serious discussion, culling all they can from the details of the vision. Jane recognizes that obsidian is a material prized by druidic spellcasters throughout the ages for its use in epic-level casting to create massively powerful one-time effects, or milder effects intended to last for eternity. Tenser cannot identify the location but some discussion over the placement and age of the druidic stones keeps bringing Jane, Riddle, and Long Fist back to the legendary Order of the Storm, a name which Scar-Eater recognizes as being associated with a famous battle with Kyuss about fifteen centuries ago. While the Order is believed to have died out, Scar-Eater disagrees with that assessment. Tenser adds that there is a legend of a library connected to the Order, a repository dedicated to its lore, filled with thousands of years of history, memories, dreams, and secrets, and wherever this library was built, the Order supposedly drive some sort of bargain with primal elementary forces to whisk it off the material plane until the time came when it was needed.

Tenser offers the party a scroll of greater teleport, and after a brief period of preparation, the party is off and away in search of the obsidian disk.

Not surprisingly, the party manages to teleport right into an ambush of orcish pirates. Archie fires an opening salvo at the captain, who fires back with a devastating hit. Scar-Eater moves in for some of that action while Long Fist activates his aura of justice. Tyrrell cat’s graces himself up with a wand while Jane blasts the captain with an empowered flame strike. Long Fist and Archie take some damage in the pirates’ counter strike just before Riddle blasts all of them with lightning bolts.

Archie easily drops the captain on his next attack, and turns to focus on another poor orc. Scar-Eater knocks another off its feet and delivers a crushing deathblow while Long Fist and Hyaeliotrope gang up on another for some face-kicking. Jane shifts into her powerful Bast form and charges one while Tyrrell jockeys into a better position. Two of the remaining orcs charge Archie and two attack the big sudden tiger in their midst. Tyrrell manages to avoid being flanked but Long Fist is not so lucky as two crowd in on him and deliver a couple of mighty blows. Riddle sends his spiritual weapon into the fray and directs a few more lightning strikes as well.

Despite being plugged with arrow after arrow from the ranger’s bow, several orcs remain standing and open to the half-ogre attacks. Scar-Eater sends another to the ground with a scorching ray attack, giving several of his allies the chance to tear at the foe just as Tyrrell skewers another with a vicious strike. The great cat transforms into the towering Willow, who slams another orc into oblivion before turning on one of the only two left standing. One is dazed and the other chugs a potion when it has the chance, just before Riddle’s weapon smacks it upside the head, dazing it as well.

As the party looks over each other’s wounds and ties up the two dazed orcs, Riddle is suddenly stabbed by the heretofore unseen kenku! Riddle manages to stave off the poison from the kenku’s blade for the moment but the attack was devastating. As the party gains their footing to resume the battle, five versions of the kenku appear. Archie dispels one of them with a quick arrow, but Jane, quickly shifting back to human form, manages to catch the real thing with an empowered moon bolt, draining the kenku’s slight strength and knocking her unconscious.

No longer necessary to the party, they kill the remaining orc pirates and are free to investigate the site further. They examine the sarcophagus. Inside, wrapped in white robes, is Jane.

The sarcophagus cannot be opened. Scar-Eater notes two spell effects upon it, both wildly beyond his reckoning, one of abjuration, and one of necromancy.

While the rest of the party heals itself and gathers all of the pirates’ magical equipment, Jane transforms into a Athena and flies to the top of the tallest tree she can see. Transforming back, she uses the trees branches and leaves to lash herself amongst the foliage and against the storm, to bathe in the rain and the wind while she communes with nature. She sees the island they are on, in the center of the Nyr Dyv, and she understands that unnatural as the stormclouds are to their eyes, the natural world itself does not identify them that way. But nature can tell her nothing of her twin in the sarcophagus.

Scar-Eater suggests that when an outsider dies, their soul reforms from the material of the plane they are from, but since Jane is human and currently alive, the theory does not seem to apply. He can offer normal options from the arcana perspective as well – notably the most obvious, that someone or something has traveled through time at some point and before them is the evidence of the disturbance.

Jane examines the sarcophagus more closely herself. Even without touching it she can tell that the Jane in the coffin is dead, and perfectly preserved. And without question, her.

There is some discussion about trying to open the sarcophagus or take it with them but Jane objects, strongly, without quite knowing why.

Riddle casts locate object on the crystals from the vision that were used to activate the obsidian portal. He feels a pull towards their location – if the party is to pursue the Hand and the Faceless One to the lost library, the crystals will be key. With everything gathered, the party must decide their next move – return to Magepoint with their captive, or press on to find the crystals!

Session Fifty-Two
In Which Jane and Tyrrell Watch This Awesome Movie Starring All of Their Friends and a Spellweaver Lich

Moonday, 9 Fireseek, CY 596

The surroundings waver and fade. The party sees the empty streets of Kuluth-Mar. Foul energy wells from the spire, sweeping outwards and claiming the living. There is a silent, potent wrongness as souls are drawn from corpses and absorbed into the black stone. A colossal humanoid figure made of worms takes form around the spire in a pose of triumph…that turns to rage as the figure shrinks, pulled into the stone in a horrific wet burst of implosion. All the bodies rise from death as the vision fades.

Once the party is healed up, Riddle dimension doors himself, Long Fist, Scar-Eater and Archie into the room beyond the locked door, with the spellweaver lich. For a moment all are disconcerted by the opulent, utterly alien chamber and the horrific horribleness of the lich himself. In the hallway, Tyrrell attempts to open the door he previously jammed shut to keep the spellweaver out of the previous battle.

In the room, the spellweaver raises its head, silently. It cocks its head at the four who just appeared in its midst. Perhaps judging them no serious threat, it returns to its reading.

Archie launches into combat with a volley of arrows that gets the enemy’s attention. Long Fist gives the party his aura of justice and slams the lich with his fists, bloodying the thing and sending its screams into all of their heads. The enemy lashes out and all struggle to fend off the bowel-loosening fear of its very presence, but that is only its opening gambit. It lashes out with a black ray on Long Fist that drains the half-ogre of his strength. It casts a second spell which Scar-Eater recognizes as a wall of force. Riddle dispels the ray of enfeeblement disabling Long Fist. His spiritual weapons cannot penetrate the wall. Tyrrell and Jane enter the room, just barely staving off the lich’s aura.

Archie, knowing his arrows cannot penetrate the wall, waits for an opportunity to act. Long Fist tries to charge the creature and to channel positive energy, but the wall prevents both. The lich drinks a potion while it’s safe. Scar-Eater takes a moment to gauge the position of the invisible barrier before dimension hopping behind it and turning invisible.

Following Scar-Eater’s clever lead, Riddle dimension hops himself, Long Fist and Archie behind the barrier and it’s only a matter of seconds before Archie, armed with the aura of justice and undead bane arrows, destroys the spellweaver lich.

The party quickly collects anything magical from the corpse and are just beginning to poke around the room when the shaking begins. They all feel a deep, thundering crack in the earth miles below and hear a thunderous roar from above. But for one final vision, it appears to be time to get out. They hear a hundred different voices, in a hundred different languages, whispering of the Age of Worms. They see manifestations of prophecy coming true as if they were gods. There is a horrific green light and the corpse of the spellweaver lich melts.

Riddle teleports the group in two trips to get them all to safety before all of the spire collapses upon them, and Tyrrell gets them all to Magepoint with the scroll of greater teleport.

Godsday, 10 Fireseek, CY 596

After a night’s rest, the party goes shopping and then acts like real grown-ups by storing over a thousand gold in the bank at Magepoint (along with the shards of the Staff of Life.) Then there is little left to do but report back to Tenser with all they have learned.

Session Fifty-One
In Which the Party Learns How the Wormcallers Got Their Name…Kind of Obvious in Hindsight

Moonday, 9 Fireseek, CY 596

During Scar-Eater and Tyrrell’s watch, the party is attacked by three more Knights of Kyuss, who begin their attack by reducing Long Fist to uncontrollable tears. The first Knight manages to walk right into Tyrrell’s silvered sneak attack as it sunders the weeping half-ogre’s weapon. Some members of the party notice that the Knight’s shadow appears to be operating independently of the Knight itself. The second Knight actually becomes shadow when it draws fire from Archie. Archie takes one of the Knights out as Jane flame strikes the other two and pushes back one with a tidal surge. Riddle attacks the third Knight with his Staff of Life and Long Fist pulls himself together to weaken it with positive energy, but the Knight retaliates by sundering the Staff and attacking Riddle with its eye worms, causing serious damage to Riddle’s brain.

Archie takes out the third Knight, and the second manages to stagger Scar-Eater from the ground and eye-worm him for severe brain damage. Riddle surrounds the second Knight with a blade barrier that Long Fist forces it into. Scar-Eater dimension hops it in again to take it out.

Now invisible, Tyrrell investigates the large cavern that remains. It’s full of green worms, and there are two stone platforms with doors. Behind one pulses green light. Wormcallers crouch on either platform. Tyrrell tryies to sneak an invisible peek through the open door, but is struck by some invisible force that he cannot seem to defend against. When he returns to the party, he reeks somewhat of feces. He describes the room and the enemies within: the two wormcallers, the floor full of worms…and a spellweaver lich behind one of the doors. Awesome. The party formulates a plan to dimension door all but Archie and Jane onto the platform with the spellweaver door. Archie and Jane fly in separately. In the moment before the wormcaller is aware of what is happening, Archie pelts it with an arrow, Tyrrell sneak attacks it (twice, with Jane’s snake’s swiftness), Long Fist lays hands on it, and Scar-Eater finishes it off with a tripping scorching ray attack.

The other wormcaller retaliates with its own fiery column and sticks its hand into the water. Then a GIANT FREAKING OVERWORM COMES OUT OF THE WATER AND SWALLOWS JANE.

Archie finishes off the other wormcaller and still has enough shots to turn his attention to the overworm. Tyrrell jams the door keeping the spellweaver lich out of the fray and Jane transforms into Willow in an effort to stave off further damage from inside the worm. She needn’t worry, however, as Riddle manages to cast dimension door at a distance to teleport her out of the worm. The two of them are in a far hallway, though hardly out of danger. Long Fist cannot penetrate the worm’s thick skin with his spear, but Scar-Eater’s double scorching ray wreaks havoc with it, drawing its ire. The overworm bites and swallows Scar-Eater in revenge, but only until Riddle can rescue him as he rescued Jane a few moments earlier. The party relentlessly batters the worm with all they’ve got and soon overpowers it.

But there’s a still a spellweaver lich behind that door to deal with…


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