Feery's Leap

Session 61: Excavation, with complications

Oervind summoned a celestial dire badger to quickly dig down to the apparent level of the “energy line.” While the badger dug, the scholars discussed the situation. Suddenly, the badger broke through to (and fell into) a nest of sorts. Several red four-armed insectoid humanoids rushed out of the hole in a fury, chittering madly and waving claws and swords.

The creatures fought without hesitation, and put up a good fight for the spell-tapped party. At Gâshek’s insistence, they beheaded the creatures after defeating them. The party assumed it was to prevent the beasts from regenerating, but he actually wanted the heads for barter – more specifically, the plane-shifting gland in their brains. He contacted a drifter colleague, and the party split the generous reward.

On later inspection, the party discovered that the savage creatures had carved a burrow out of the earth and stone, though one without tunnels in or out. The chambers clustered around a crushed and tangled mess of rust and crystal-crusted metal, which appeared to be the end of the energy line. Almost-tangible power thrummed about a foot away from the surface of the metal ruin, and a trickle of it cascaded through the nest like sunlight in a thriving forest.

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Session 60: Return to the White Jackal's Tomb

While some of the party members were occupied (or relaxing) in Feery’s Leap, others went off to see the Tomb of the White Jackal (Session 18), to see if there was anything new they could figure out. Oervind teleported Edane and Anatheron to the Desert Lotus outpost, a 10-minute stroll from the tomb site.

In the months since the Windless Ring revealed the tomb, students from Feery’s Leap had combed through the library crystals (the few left after still-unknown assailants stole the most impressive inert construct and most of the crystals). The students had begun the arduous process of deciphering, translating, and cataloging the crystals on parchment, so the Three and their scholarly friends could review in greater detail. Oervind, Edane, and Anatheron reviewed the students’ notes, and consulted the crystals themselves to see what more they could learn.

Several hours into their study, Gâshek ab-Jurash brought in Gux and Feordin. They provided some insight into the original trip to the tomb, and Gux helped the others in their research.

Already known:

The text was largely in the dialect of Classic Orichalan that they’d seen before in the steppes and the wastes, but it was peppered with dense passages of specialized language. There were two people imprinting these crystals: the White Jackal was a sought-out scholar of “mnemotechne”, and the Silver Manacle was an alchemist or artisan. They were longtime companions, possibly adventurers, who lived in a (Tula-like?) city called Faithful Rememberer. The current tomb site was built on the grounds of their “rustic retreat” Laughing Meadows.

There was mention of some remote but demanding conflict that began just as the White Jackal and the Silver Manacle moved permanently to Laughing Meadows. As the conflict wore on, they spoke increasingly of their own mortality. At some point, they crafted the crystal that would “catch the gleam of the White Jackal” and store it until it was safe to retrieve.

Some of the Silver Manacle’s texts remain, filled with schematics and obscure text almost entirely in a long-dead language (believed to be Logii). They appear to be crafting manuals and dissertations, but their subject matter is so exotic as to render them unreadable. The material does not appear to be a secret code – the Silver Manacle is believed to have understood these texts well, and several are mentioned in surviving journal crystals.

The White Jackal also left some reference materials, predominantly in the same language (Logii), but with very different specialized language. Some of the text appears to contain arcane and planar references.

Newly discovered!

Edane, Anatheron, and Oervind reviewed the texts with fresh eyes (and, for two of the three, a top-notched Tulani education). When Gux joined them, his uniquely elemental perspective gave them added insight.

Something called a “folly” happened near a small town with palisades. The White Jackal and the Silver Manacle decided that the time had come, and they enacted their plan. They used the massive crystal, and they waited. The Silver Manacle evidently spent some time annotating texts and drafting schematics afterward, then records stop.

Some of the White Jackal’s texts site much older sources, and include some discussion on immortality and the nature of the soul. There are several passages in an obscure language (Kelnorian) that provide expert opinion on the “unpalatable” limitations of lichdom. There are some still-indecipherable references to webbing, crystals, and wind-screens (?).

The duo destroyed their retirement home, and the Silver Manacle was going to wait out the “difficulties” above while the White Jackal (or its “gleam”) slept. It would awaken its companion once it was safe to do so.

Energy conduits laced the tomb. For the most part they involve the main crystal and the batteries, but other conduits seem to have been connected to a panel on one wall. This faces the “energy lines” that Gux had discovered months ago.

Experimentation

Anatheron spent some time studying the massive main crystal, its double-helix text, and the crystal matrix of floor tiles. They’d already estimated the (massive) amount of energy the crystal seemed designed to take, and they determined that it was meant to pass from the wall batteries through the floor crystals, and into the main crystal. The floor crystals seemed designed to “clean” the energy on its path to the main crystal. Anatheron infused one of the floor crystals with a small amount of energy, and studied the pattern it created as the energy passed along the floor toward the main crystal. With a larger expenditure, they might get an idea of whether the effect of the main crystal was intact – and get a clearer indication of the amount of energy required to do so.

The group gathered most of their energies, and focused them into the batteries. Then they emptied the battery and watched as the power arced across the floor and into the main crystal. The effect (psionic, but with clearly arcane influences) seemed to be intact enough to operate, but would take 4-6 times the amount of energy they’d collected, and the system might not be able to handle the load without some repairs or improvements. And still, nobody knows whether triggering the crystal would be a good idea…

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Session 59: Escape and Homecoming

Escape

Fresh from dropping through the dimensional breach, Gux capped it (and a mass of tentacles) in ice until they could fight off the remaining tentacles and flee. They fled down an underground river for four days, fighting giant silverfish, centipedes, newts, algae, and fungus until the river broke to the surface (following the advice of one of Oervind’s summoned creatures). Two more days’ travel overland brought them back to Oervind’s teleport point.

Homecoming

Oervind got them home, with only a slight delay when a mis-teleport landed him in a wizard’s tower near Tarsh. The Three debriefed them, dedicating special attention to Feordin, Gux, and Gâshek. A small contingent (Edane, Sender, Shegger Gork, Anatheron, and Seth-Durash) set off to take Sefu back to her people to have her memory restored. While her people had contacted her several weeks before, it was only now that the party had the time to spare for the voyage.

Approaching the enclave guided only by dream imagery, the group found a hillock with an exposed stone that Sefu could take them through. This led to a whole brightly-lit underground village bustling with small, insect-featured humanoids. The villagers paid them little mind as they walked toward the crystal-laden fountain at the center of town, almost as if they’d been told to expect guests. Sefu led the party onto a platform on the crystal fountain, and they were teleported.

The teleport landed them deep within a dazzling, frenetic subterranean metropolis unlike anything they had ever seen. Countless residents scurried to and fro against a backdrop of massive vaults and arches, fluted columns, gleaming crystals, fluttering flags and tapestries. Sefu, almost as dazzled as the rest of the party, conveyed her understanding of her largely-forgotten native language, revealing buskers and performance artists of every imaginable medium advertising gourmet potluck dinners, choral ensembles, and poetry slams. On their way through the city they sampled specialty liqueurs, sniffed through inscrutable “scent poems,” and witnessed wild displays of acrobatic prowess. Yet despite the mad diversity of activity, to outside eyes the crowd was an indistinguishable sea of identical carapaced insect-gnomes moving as if by invisible orchestration in some densely choreographed ritual dance.

The party approached a shining hall near the heart of the city, draped with a streaming waterfall and filled with robed meditants. An acolyte met them under an archway, and took them through a maze of galleries and courtyards until they found themselves in a broad, open hall. Rough-hewn benches lined the walls and formed a column near the middle of the room. Incense-blued shafts of light suffused the room with a heavy radiance. Chants echoed in the air, drifting from deep within the building. Six figures sat on the floor in the middle of the room, and the acolyte directed the party to sit on the benches facing the six figures. Aside from the drifting of their antennae, the meditating figures gave no immediate sign that they had noticed the party’s arrival.

“It has returned,” one of the figures said, its eyes still closed. Another continued as if with the same breath, “from a double exile.” A third figure continued, “We carried out our people’s justice and offered it the silence of exile –” Another interrupted, “– which it accepted gladly. And from exile it found itself enmeshed in a new community.”

The figures continued interchangeably, “Sefu Manech fell from the grace of our community, and as penance took unsavory duties in the upper wastes. We allowed it to travel among you to learn the ways of this new breed of wastelanders, and to teach you to respect and appreciate the ways the world must work. You honored those teachings it presented, and abided by our requests. Even the less benevolent mandates of our neighbors you observed, which validates our choice.

“When Sefu fell from this world, it broke from our concordant vigil, and the vigil’s power erased all memory of its past and its nature from its mind and from all those it encountered. This is an old instrument, built to safeguard these people from the trials of persecution and abuse from the upper wastes.

“But Sefu returned from beneath the soul of the world, and found its way back into our view. We decided to summon it back into our confidence, to review its story and consider restoring its memories from the echoing wells.

“We have observed, but must ask as well, to sound the true shape of its soul, and the connections it has forged. You have all traveled with Sefu Manech for months. Though your minds are naturally discordant and divided, you came together under the shelter of its society of mind. You trusted this strange soul, accepted its peculiarities and honored its wishes. You took it into your hearts and claimed it as one of you, even when it cost you. Tell us, each of you, why you chose to accept Sefu Manech into your circle of trust, and into your mind.”

[Plug party responses in here: Edane, Sender, Shegger Gork, Aranethon. They can go before or after Seth-Durrash’s response, below.]

Seth-Durrash cleared his throat, “I was a slave to a mind-wizard.” He pointed at the rest of the party, “These people bought my freedom with his blood. They should have killed me, but they offered me a fresh start instead. I have no path among my kin now. I can earn no songs, no namesakes, no sacrifices. Among their people, I’m a beast, a brute. The others accepted me because their strange honor insisted, but Sefu was different. Another exile. So we stuck together. Sefu is fragile where I am strong, fine where I am coarse, riddling where I am blunt. Dreamspinner drives me crazy sometimes, but she has a heart big enough to love the world. I guess that’s worth something, too. I’ll sing songs of Sefu to my child, and the finest cut of his first kill will be hers.”

After each of the party members responded, the six figures stood. Each speaking in turn they said, “We are not accustomed to dealing with those outside our enclave. Sefu agreed to take the great personal risk of traveling with wastelanders far from our protection. It acted in our interests without hope of reward or credit, and risked deadly dangers to do so. Its actions gave us the opportunity to reflect upon long-entrenched positions, and craft meaningful change.

“Each of you decided, against instinct and against convention, to embrace Sefu Manech and take it into your hearts in as intimate a way as any your people know. Dreaming kin and dreamlost alike, you have shown us that the upper wastes can be a place of honor, of constructive collaboration.

“You have earned back your place in our society, Sefu Manech. We will share with you your memories from the wells of echoes, and your gift will spread to restore the memories of all you have touched.” One of the figures put its hand on hers, “You must stay with us for three days to complete the restoration, and your family-of-wanderers may stay in the enclave as long as you are here. We cannot yet lift your exile, so you must leave again, but you and your fellow travelers will be recognized as a household of our enclave. When we have opened our doors to the sun-tempered lands, you will be welcome to return. Until then, all the boroughs of the enclave will listen for news of your household’s exploits, and how you pave the way for a brighter future for all peoples.”

The acoyte urged the rest of the party to get up, leaving Sefu with the group-speaking figures. While Sefu rediscovered her own story, the others enjoyed several days of rest in an exotic metropolis. Sender and Edane scribed scrolls for trade, Aranethon shared healing lore and magic, Shegger Gork studied nature magic and meditative practices, and Seth-Durrash explored their child-rearing customs. Each member of the party received a special tattoo sigil that marked them as a member of their new “household.” This one-inch black mark, though always visible, can be moved across the skin with just a thought.

When Sefu emerged from “reparative therapy,” it had returned to its natural shape. “I liked my time in human skin,” it said, “but I have to be as true to myself as the vagaries of adventuring life allow. Thank you, friends, for making this journey with me. I am happy to call you my kin now, the conjoined dreams of a shared household. Let’s return to the surface, and see what further challenges present themselves for our consideration!”

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Session 58: Descent Into Madness

The party faced off with a huge earth elemental while the elemental’s summoner flew further down the caverns. Oervind and Sefu worked together to give the party the power of flight, the better to face the elemental. Oervind also summoned an air elemental to harry the earth elemental, and to scout down the hall to see what the summoner was doing.

The flying combatants beat the elemental enough that it fled into the walls, but they lured it out long enough to dispatch it. Then the air elemental came back to report that the summoner (a janni) was a few hundred feet away, summoning a troupe of minions.

The minions turned out to be a mix of earth- and fire-based outsiders, which were much easier to face thanks to Aranethon’s magic circle of protection. Once they defeated the fairly feeble minions, they could finally clearly hear the commotion in the adjoining cavern: someone calling out in Draconic, apparently invoking some dreadful, hungry master. Cue the adventurers…

The group swept into the cavern and killed the janni before he could even attempt an escape, but the damage was done. A painful-to-view point in space erupted in a rumbling, surging presence, and faint shadows oozed around the cavern, dripping masses of razor-mawed tentacles. While the party engaged the horrible tentacles, Edane dodged and weaved her way toward the abominable tear to carry out Gâshek’s instructions. She tossed his latest missive into the distortion and, after a harrowing fumble, managed to recover and feed the missive into the hole.

The group struggled with the toothy tentacles, which were not only elusive and annoyingly transplanar, but magic-resistant as well. They were so busy that they hardly noticed when the tear shuddered, and out dropped Gâshek, Gux, and Feordin!

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Session 57: Deeper and Darker

The party stumbled upon a pair of cloaked women whispering at an altar. The women shushed them.

After a tense few seconds, the party attacked what turned out to be medusae. They narrowly avoided petrifaction. Sender tossed a fireball, which slew the medusae and revealed that the altar contained something of interest: embedded in the stone and mortar of the sacrificial altar, there lay a far older slab of stone, which bore a faint incised inscription. They did a field translation, then hammered at the table until they could carve out the slab. The stela fit snugly in Sender’s haversack.

Once they’d destroyed the sacrificial altar, they realized that the grate beneath it was the cover for a passage, not just a drain. A ladder led down into a pit of giant snakes! Combat ensued, making good use of flying, a summoned fire elemental, and ranged attacks. One snake got away, and Edane led the chase. She lept to grab its tail, only to find herself in a constrictive hold. A somewhat-redundant combination of freedom of movement and grease helped her escape, while the rest of the party made short work of the snake.

Chasing the snake led them into a cavern where an (invisible) figure stood. Sender had the foresight to cast see invisibility, and he arrived just as the man finished a summoning spell. A large earth elemental climbed out of the summoning sigil, ready for mayhem.

The sound of rushing water echoes through the caverns from some point nearby.

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Session 56: Under the Shrine Again

Oervind summoned a lantern archon to create a diversion, and the party slipped into the “back door hovel” without significant incident. Down below, they passed back through the sphincter, and fought a variety of squishy bugs and nasties as they resumed their spellunking.

While they worked their way through the caverns, a missive reached Edane from Gâshek ab-Jurash. It congratulated her on getting close to a usable world-wound, and indicated that he was moving into place. If she could get the missive (embellished with his arcane mark) into the tear, then he could co-opt the tear and bring his charges through.

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Session 55: Home and Back Again

[Back to Feery’s Leap to update the Three. Corresponding with Gâshek, then teleporting with Oervind back to the Shrine, hoping to use the distortion to get Gux and Feordin back. It’s been three days, and there are black-robed priests again, but very little has changed. They make camp, and agree to sneak into the “back door hovel” before dawn.]

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Session 54: Still Under the Shrine

[More nasty critters, a sphincter, a back door leading to a hovel, and a swift trip home! Rode to Kimenta, arrived just in time for the coronation ceremony of the new King (Drumarch). Sailed in the morning for Sittoon, then rode to Feery’s Leap.]

[In Kimenta, Sender got some goddess-nookie, and Edane got a message from Gâshek ab-Jurash, the wicked young man that arranged for their escape from Vertigo – he has found Gux and Feordin, and may have a way to get them back on terra firma. Sefu responded to him via a psychic-powered dream, since Edane does not (yet) know the spell to respond.]

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Session 53: Under the Shrine

[Deeper into the under-shrine. Strange, corrupted, lumpy-cancerous beasts with extra or inappropriate limbs and appendages. Giant spiders, scorpions, wasps, centipedes, and a room full of slimy water and tentacled somethings lurking.

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Session 52: Back into the Village

After escaping the shrine settlement relatively unscathed, the party regrouped and considered their options. Sender turned invisible and flew back to scout out the situation, and he found a familiar (competing) band of adventurers from Feery’s Leap – at least their arcanists. Two wizards and a wall of summoned monsters were decimating the village’s defenses. When Sender sensed the amount of spell energy floating about, he decided to lend a hand. He took a fresh wand, sabotaged it, and dropped it into the enemy fray to be trampled, hoping to spark a mana burst. Unfortunately, the wand did not ignite a burst, but the next spell the arcanists cast did. Both sides were wiped out in the ensuing conflagration, which leveled several hovels.

After the bloodbath, the party came galloping in, commanding the villagers to surrender (which they did). While they were talking with the villagers, they felt the earth tremble and heard a terrible roar, which sent the locals scurrying. A distant speck appeared on the horizon, which Sender identified as a dragon.

With nowhere to hide on the broad open plains, the party headed to the shrine for shelter. They investigated the rooms they’d overlooked before, while Sender watched the dragon approach. The blue dragon landed in the village and began conversing with the residents, demanding to know what had happened.

Then the dragon sensed Sender, and he narrowly made it back to the shrine alive. The group retreated down a flight of stairs, clearly too tight for the dragon to follow (assuming it could even get into the shrine). Aranethon was startled by a mephit there, which they quickly slew. The mephit had been lurking at a small depression in the earthen floor… some kind of private shrine? Aranethon neutralized it, just to be on the safe side. Then they prepared to go deeper, through a doorway that led into caverns. Was it just paranoia, or did it seem as if that doorway were carved – or gnawed – from the cavern side…?

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