The Age of Worms

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…

Session Fifty
In Which Tyrrell Hit Thing Bad with Pokey Thing Good

Sunday, 8 Fireseek, CY 596 (continued)

Investigating the black marble fountain more closely, the party is able to see the water for what it really is – an endless stream of worms magicked to appear as crystal-clear water. So, disaster averted there, at least.

Tyrrell searches the room for traps or secret doors, but finds nothing, and the party decides to investigate another hallway. Leaving the group behind to utilize his ability to see in the dark, Long Fist moves ahead to get an idea of the layout of the area. Straight ahead is another hallway and a couple of corpses just at the edge of his sight. To his left is another hallway, shifting from worked stone to rough existing cavern walls. The rest of the group can hear, coming from that direction, a delicate sloshing sound like an ocean of goo gently lapping against a shore. Long Fist moves ahead to get a better look at the corpse hallway. Within the chamber ahead are the perfectly preserved corpses of 2,000-year-old Kuluth Mar citizens. The worms covering the floor stop at the edge of the room. Long Fist picks up one of the worms on the ground and throws it towards the chamber of the dead. When it hits the edge of the room it turns to mush and splats on the floor.

Obviously the next course of action is that Riddle uses control winds to sweep vast amounts of worms towards the chamber, and the party ends up with a nice huge lake of goo at the edge of the chamber to show for it. After three or four minutes, more worms come creeping around the corner from the un-searched hallway to the left.

The party examines the barrier and Scar-Eater determines there is a modified version of gentle repose on the chamber, which explains the preservation, but not the effect that the spell has on the living green worms. Jane suggests the corpses were being preserved for future necromantic experiments that never happened. Certainly the magic required for a room like this is beyond the party’s grasp at the moment.

Riddle suggests raising one of the dead with the Staff of Life for questioning, but Jane wonders whether it is moral to raise someone who died two thousand years ago just to answer their questions. Tyrrell wonders what they are going to do with this person once raised — are they then responsible for feeding and protecting them and won’t that be a bit of a problem down here? Riddle suggests they ask the questions first and decide what to do with them after, to which Jane strongly objects, arguing they do not have the right to decide whether someone they raise gets to keep living afterward or not. Won’t a simple speak with dead achieve the same purpose?

Riddle decides the question with an awkwardly-phrased divination that tells him that none of these innocent souls have the information about Kyuss that the party seeks.

Beyond this chamber is another exactly like it, except with a hallway leading off to the left. The hallway ends in a door, but before the door is another hall to the left, leading towards the goo-sloshing-sounding room. Tyrrell makes a couple of sloppy checks around the door, and hears some male muttering inside. It is in a language he can’t understand. Riddle moves forward to listen, and hears a voice saying, in the Abyssal tongue, “There must be a way…there must be a way…I must keep looking. There must be a way.”

The party brushes up on their knowledge of demons, who are known to speak Abyssal and prepares for a fight. Beyond the door is a massive nest, curved troughs through mounds of fabric. Within is a giant ten-foot-long segmented worm with a human head, crazy black hair, and an assortment of scrolls and books surrounding him. It makes no move to attack, so Riddle addresses the creature with a “Hello.”

“Welcome,” the thing replies. “Has the war been won?”

“Yes,” Riddle replies, and why not.

“I am still trapped here,” it notes.

Riddle says, “You didn’t finish and fulfill your part of the bargain, did you?”

The thing offers Riddle all of his books for one teleport to anywhere of his choosing that is not harmful to it. Riddle asks for a moment to confer with the rest of the party. They toss around several ideas, including a dismissal and teleporting it into the gentle repose chamber, but decide that Riddle will cast a heal spell into his hand and then touch the creature as if he was going to teleport it. When he tells the creature they will accept the bargain if he answers one question: is this his native plane? The creature replies that it is, but hesitates when Riddle says it must allow him to touch it for the teleport.

The worm blasts Riddle with a ray of negative energy and Riddle touches the creature with the heal spell which, sadly, actually heals it of any damage it might have had. No sooner does the rest of the party join the fight that Tyrrell is devastatingly feebleminded by the very look of the creature. It casts a spell and Archie releases a volley of arrows into it. Riddle touches the creature again in an effort to absorb some knowledge of it before teleporting to safety. Jane sends a column of water into it, pushing it against a wall, and Scar-Eater smashes it with a dispelling touch, causing it to lose the false life spell it placed on itself earlier. Long Fist charges it and deals some more damage to the now-bloodied worm.

Tyrrell, while feeble-minded, still knows stuff about friends and bad guys and flanky-flanks and sneaky-sneaks so he hits the thing he doesn’t like and makes it hurt real bad. The thing, however, is not feeble-minded, and quickly heals itself of all damage. It probably has a moment of smugness before Archie schmacks it back into bloodied territory in, like, less than a second. Riddle nails it with a blade barrier and Jane gives Scar-Eater an extra whap at it with his flail, and he follows that up with a scorching ray that pretty much sets it on fire to death.

Within the creature’s thing the party finds a manual of bodily health and a lot of ancient tomes on the religious and arcane studies of necromancy that are valuable in many ways.

Long Fist, feeling drained of resources, lobbies for another night’s rest, and the group retires to the gentle repose chamber for the night.

Session Forty-Nine
In Which Two Impressive Battles are Fought in Quick Succession

Sunday, 8 Fireseek, CY 596

Rested and revitalized, the party ventures out of the dusty old library to the door opposite. Listening at the door Tyrrell hears what he can describe only as the gentle, unhurried beating of two enormous sets of wings, as well as a terrible faint roar of many tiny things rubbing up against each other that seems to come from the air itself. The party prepares themselves as best they can for whatever they might encounter within, and Tyrrell opens the door.

The walls of the room within writhe and glow green, and an array of instruments of torture populate the space, but there doesn’t immediately appear to be anything at which to fire.

Archie hears the faint beating of wings from the far corners of the room but before he can do anything with that information, a horrible, twisted, but clearly alive elven creature rushes from the corner of the room. Its eyes are tinged with madness, its ears misshapen and bent. It is armored in a fine ancient breastplate and carries an impressive greatsword. It summons a column of flame down on most of the party.

Long Fist sends Hyaeliotrope in to attack the creature but his celestial friend misses, so the half-ogre sweeps in himself and smites the awful creature with his fists. He catches the first glimpse of whatever is lurking near the ceiling – vaguely elven beings with charred, feathery wings and longswords for hands. One of these corrupted angels slams its two sword arms together and charges towards Long Fist as if it intends to actually pass through his body…which is in fact exactly what it does. Long Fist is killed instantly from the shock, and Hyaeliotrope disappears. Riddle is at the ready, however, using his alter fortune spell to give Long Fist another change to survive the attack, which he does. Riddle is staggered and Long Fist is left with a giant bloody hole right through him, but disaster, it seems, has been averted, and Hyaeliotrope is still around. The second corrupted angel immediately attempts the same attack, but misses. Long Fist is able to take a swing at the second offender, but fails to damage the awful creature.

Jane tries tossing a flaming sphere at the eladrin, but they have a resistance to fire and she barely damages it. Scar-Eater knows the creature on the ground was once a ghaele eladrin and they will need good cold iron weapons to overcome its defenses. It is also immune to electricity and has serviceable resistance to cold and fire, along with high spell resistance and other protections from good creatures and spells. The winged creatures were once sword archons which do exactly what the part has just witnessed. Scar-Eater moves into the room and is shaken by the eladrin’s aura of menace. Tyrrell moves in as well to flank the first angel and delivers a sturdy bleeding sneak attack. Riddle attempts to break enchantment on all three, but to no avail.

Archie moves into line of sight on the first angel and hits, but only the acid damage from his bow gets through. The eladrin responds but cutting Riddle, Jane, and Archie off from the others with a wall of stone. Inside, each angels smashes a glass wall, releasing swarms of green worms into the fray. They immediately envelop Long Fist, Hyaeliotrope, and Tyrrell. The worms’ poison drains Long Fist of his wits but Tyrrell manages to resist it.

Jane stone shapes a door into the wall of stone in time to see Scar Eater tumble into a flanking position on the eladrin with Long Fist. Scar-Eater pulls the eladrin to the ground and Long Fist goes to town on it. Tyrrell puts his evil eye on the eladrin as Riddle control winds the worm swarms away from the center of the room, plastering them against the walls.

Archie riddles the eladrin with arrows but it heals itself back to full strength immediately.

Long Fist activates his aura of justice on Tyrrell, Hyaeliotrope and Scar-Eater and attempts to smite the prone eladrin, but both he and his companion miss. The first angel tries to fly through Long Fist again but clumsily misses, while the second succeeds with Scar Eater, who summons all of his strength to survive the passage. Jane summons a stalagmite on the eladrin but it shrugs it off just in time for Scar-Eater to utterly destroy it. Tyrrell uses his smite attack on the first angel and wipes the floor with it. Riddle dismisses the remaining foe, and as soon as it pops out of existence, something happens.

The reality of the room itself wavers and fades, and all share a clear sense of looking through dimensions and through time itself. The room becomes a well-appointed torture chamber, and in the foreground appears k Kyuss himself, along with a six-armed insect-like creature the party identifies as a spellweaver (though this one appears to be of the lich variety). The alien lich presents jeweled gold box to Kyuss. Inside is a single green worm. Kyuss’ expression shifts from confusion to exultation.

Then of course, three vile, bloated worms with human heads slither out of the noxious chasm in the big room behind Riddle, Jane, and Archie. Archie hits one with an arrow and Jane flame strikes two of them, but all three blast Archie with negative energy, sapping the ranger of at least half his strength. Riddle summons a blade barrier around the pit. Tyrrell turns invisible and moves…somewhere. Long Fist delivers an awesome charging smite on one and, in addition to dealing a lot of damage, pushes it into Riddle’s blade barrier where it is ripped to pieces. Archie, terribly weakened by the first wave of attacks, moves into the room for safety as Jane unleashes a fire snake on the remaining worms, bloodying both. The worms retaliate, devastating Hyaeliotrope, wounding Jane severely, and blasting Long First with negative energy. Scar-Eater dimension hops one of the remaining worms into the blade barrier and Riddle graces everyone with the blessings of fervor. Tyrrell sneak attacks one of the remaining worms to death as Long Fist dismisses his celestial buddy. Jane transforms into Willow and charges the last worm into oblivion.

The party heals up and stows the eladrin’s +3 breastplate and +4 unholy greatsword into the haversack. They rest for the better part of an hour so Riddle can return to full form. Both Tyrrell and Athena fly up above the chasm to see if there are any alternatives up there, but there doesn’t appear to be. Riddle uses divination to help decide the next move. He is told that “there is more to be learned below, and powerful allies of your enemy to be destroyed.”
Riddle casts conviction on everyone, and everyone flies, one way or another, into the nauseating pit of rancid vapor. The walls are pockmarked with holes. Five hundred feet down, Long Fist stops everyone to warn them that below, the pit narrows into a ten-foot opening, and beneath, there is a perfectly flat surface of writhing green worms. Riddle casts fly on Athena so she can shift to Jane and put a flaming sphere through the opening. She destroys many with the spell but there appears to be no end to them. Riddle ties a rope around himself and gives the other end to Long Fist. He pokes his head through the opening to get an eye for the layout. The whole party passes through the hole, flying above the level of the floor, down a hallway to a door. Tyrrell listens, searches the door, and then opens it.

Beyond lies a chamber lined with the trappings of religious ceremony. There is a fountain of black marble and crystal water flowing into a pool. There are also three wormcallers.

Scar-Eater channels ray of exhaustion into his flail and moves towards the first one. He trips it, but its defenses are strong and he doesn’t do much damage. The wormcaller cannot be exhausted. The worm says to Scar-Eater, “You are thirsty. Drink.” But Scar-Eater does not drink. The second wormcaller says to Tyrrell, “You are thirsty. Drink.” But Tyrrell does not drink. The third wormcaller seriously insists that Tyrrell really is thirsty and he really should drink. But Tyrrell does not drink. The second and third uglies surround Scar-Eater. Tyrrell flanks the third and hits once.

Riddle casts disrupting weapon and moves into the room to release the spell into Scar-Eater’s flail. Long Fist flies in and channels positive energy on all three. Archie, back in full form now, kills the third and then the second in quick succession. Jane moves into the room just in time to see Scar-Eater disrupt the last wormcaller to dust.

Session Forty-Eight
In Which Riddle and Scar-Eater Get All Wrath of Khan on Things

Starday, 7 Fireseek, CY 596 (continued)

The party enters the ziggurat at Kuluth-Mar through the western door at the base. With Tyrrell searching the way path ahead, they move through a long rectangular chamber with walls carved to show the destruction of a city under the direction of Kyuss. Across from the entrance are double doors leading into a vast cavernous chamber, littered with pillars in various states of destruction, and with means of egress through all of the other walls. The floor in this chamber is dark green stone, and in the center of the room is a thirty-foot-wide pit that is the epicenter of devastation in this room. As Tyrrell draws nearer to the pit he feels an oppressive weight or presence of something dark and malevolent settling upon him. He moves away from the pit and that dark discomfort. Tyrrell reports that it looks like something on the floor exploded and ripped a whole downward, and that the pit extends further down than he can see. Across the way from the entrance of this eighty-foot chamber is another short hallway ending in a door, and there are sets of double doors on either side, surrounded by crumbling stairways. Tyrrell scouts out the ceiling, finding the slight indentation from the explosion. The stairs lead up hollow vertical stone shafts, but much higher than he can see.

Tyrrell returns to the ground and investigates the doors to the south. As soon as the party enters this chamber, which appears to have once been a library, they are embroiled in a fight. Five new horrific undead being challenge them, but Tyrrell charges in with a devastating blow against one of the larger skeletons in green-sheened plate mail and carrying a massive greatsword. As expected, it is writhing with worms. This is a Sword of Kyuss. The other creatures, Wormcallers, are stooped, lacking a lower jaw, and have giant wormholes instead of faces. All of them use negative energy as attacks, healing themselves in the process. The Wormcallers try to hold their enemies and the Swords of Kyuss have acid dripping from their blades. It is a tough battle that leaves their resources drained, but eventually the walking dead are put down.

After a long debate, the party decides to barricade themselves sin this library to rest and recharge before moving on.

The library is extremely well-stocked from almost two thousand years ago, mostly with all things related to necromancy. They find one book opened to a diagram showing a rune-covered worm inside a human head, whispering words directly into the brain.

Scar-Eater inspects the room’s most intriguing element, twelve jars filled with rune-covered worms, like in the diagram. After some study he concludes that these worms are literal receptacles on knowledge. If one allowed them to work their way through the ear and directly into the brain – and more importantly, if one survived the process! – one could gain whatever knowledge the worms had to offer. There are three each of four different kinds of worms.

Riddle does not hesitate. Though the process of ingesting the four worms wreaks havoc on his mental prowess, Tyrrell’s wand of restoration sets things right and Riddle is filled with new knowledge of arcana, religion, the planes, and history. Encouraged, Scar-Eater ingests the worms providing knowledge of arcana and the planes.

The group spends the rest of the day researching in the library. All of the information in the library seems to lead up to but not beyond the point where Kyuss transcended to godhood. It seems that in the final months of his mortality, the ongoing ravaging of the population stopped…right up until he organized every living creature into a gathering for some great announcement. The party concludes that it was this mass sacrifice that secured his ascendancy.

The party spends the rest of the day researching the various creatures of Kyuss and preparing to move on.


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