Session 20 - Xxiphu's Vault

Water Temple by samburley
by samburley

The battle with the adventurer band assembled by Erathis and Hextor is brief and brutal. Only a single member of the opposing party managed to escape – diving into the water pooled at the bottom of the massive chamber.

The chill air is heavy with the salty scent of the sea spiced with the acrid stench of burnt flesh. The steam from Graver’s magical fire refuses to disburse, and instead seems to writhe with a life of its own in the breezes created by the water features of the room and feeding on the clouds of breath escaping from your mouths.

The party picks over the remains of their foolish challengers, and soon sets off in pursuit of the pretender gods…

Venturing behind the massive marble statue of a long-forgotten Samsaran, you see obvious signs that another party has ventured ahead of you. A wide set of bronze double doors, heavily crusted with a brilliant turquoise patina, lay wide open. By all rights, that simple fact should mean that this chamber should be flood with seawater, but it is not.

Beyond the door you see a tunnel bored through the water as if it was solid. An dim, eerie, neon blue light shimmers and reflects of the reflective surface of the water walls and ceiling, rippling as if churned by some unseen force. Totems cascading with energy are the source of light, and presumably the source of the tunnel as well. Through the water walls, you can see the tunnel curves, meandering its way through the broken streets of sunken Xxiphu. The dim and indistinct shapes of dilapidated buildings frame the mystical passage on both sides and nearly 200 feet above the water’s true surface looks similar to a much closer skysea.

Venturing bravely into the water tunnel, the party engaged a cadre of Kapoacinths (water gargoyles) looking for an easy meal. The creatures were cunning and attacked the totems creating the water tunnel when the battle turned against them. Even so, our heroes prevailed and trudged on deeper into the Samasaran/Aboleth ruins.

Gargoyle by canetiskol
by canetiskol

The tunnel of air snaking along the bottom of the sea and through the ruins of Xxiphu terminates just ahead at the threshold of a large domed building. Relief washes over you at the sight – the air of the tunnel has scratched at the necessary moisture of your lungs for too long.

The building’s entrance is framed by a half-closed set of thick adamantine double doors. Carved shapes of strange fish-like creatures in alien vistas seem to tug at your basest animal instincts, urging you to run away and cast aside your sanity. The other door is colored differently – a much darker tarnished black, and is mostly hacked away – leaving only a bit of the door still within the frame. A strange mechanical device sits on the floor next to the door; it’s covered in prongs and needles, and sports a glass bulb with a silvery liquid inside.

The party concluded that the device was an apparatus designed to apply the fluid of a philosopher’s stone to the adamantine door – thus alchemically transmuting it into a softer substance. Beyond the breached door…

Inside, the eerie blue light of the water tunnel gives way to the orange warmth of large fires burning in braziers. The alien chill is less here in a physical sense, though metaphysically no fire could burn away the foreboding you feel starting at the dilapidated building at the center of the dome. You can hear soft chanting within.

Tomb by tituslunter
by tituslunter

In short order, the party is confronted again by the former goddess of civilization – Erathis. True to form, she spends some time in hiding, spouting a petulant monologue about how unworthy they are to possess their deific gifts and how the contents of Xxiphu’s vault will let her take their squandered power from them. At that, she reveals herself, upgraded again by Dumathoin and wreathed in magic. The battle is longer than before, but still she is trounced. To add insult to injury, the party glues her – face down – the the floor of the ancient building with some sovereign glue.

Session 21 - WMDs

Vault of the Exalted by Dylan Pierpont
by Dylan Pierpont

Having defeated the pretender gods at the threshold of the vault, the party brings their key to bear, opens the seals, and descends into the ancient room…

A metallic tang hangs heavy in the misty air of Xxiphu’s vault. What meager light you’ve brought pales in comparison to the powerful glow of potent items gathered in the central dais. That glow is reflected in golden color hundreds of thousands of times throughout the room among scattered piles of gold, jewelry, trinkets and gems.

Wispy forms of tattered cloth hover about the dais as if gazing upon it in desire. The red-clawed creatures have no gaze however, just shattered red skulls resting atop open maws, all of it leaking a milky substance.

The party faced the Dark Choir – a trio of soul eaters bound to the vault as guardians over the terrible weapons gathered within.

The Dark Choir by Dylan Pierpont
by Dylan Pierpont

As before, their enemies fell before the might of the Gods, and the long-forgotten wealth of Xxiphu was theirs. Among a sea of gold and gems filling the dias, they took note of powerful artifacts:

  • The Brahmastra Crystal – Said to have formed from the tears of the holy light, weeping in sadness as he cast the rebellious angels from the heavens.
  • Death Warden’s Scarf – Said to be woven from the stolen breath of widows first learning of the death of their husbands.
  • Spellbreaker Blade – Said to have been forged in the eternal fires left behind by the first fire primordial as it was banished from creation and strippped of magic.
  • The Phoenix Cloak – Rumored to be the immortality of a phoenix, relinquished when it’s Samsaran creator was cursed to become a Rakshasa.
  • Legendsbane – The weapon feared by the gods of the first age, rumored to have been forged with the last vestiges of creation magic left to the dragons and honed to a point with their collective bitterness and rage at their curse from Awareness.
  • Asmodean War Banner, Vashathros – Said to have bound the wounds of the high angel himself, suffered in the final push for Mount Celestia when the demons of the Darkness betrayed their new allies.

In a swirl of brimstone smoke, Dantalion manifests in the vault…

A gravelly voice echoes in the vast chamber over your excited chatter and eager visages, “I wouldn’t touch that dagger if I were you.” Greeting you with a fanged smile, the handsome horned phistophilus Dantalion approaches the dias. His deep red skin and wreath of horns lending even the glittering light of gold a sinister glare.

He carries a word of warning about even touching Legendsbane, but speaks lovingly of Vashathros, “Ah, but this pennant – this is abjectly perfect. As always my dear friend Cyrus, our arrangements are as mutually beneficial as they are pleasant.”

Taking up the pennant, Dantalion attempts to teleport away, but quickly realizes the war banner cannot travel with him in such a manner. After a few attempts, the frustrated philostophilous sighs with resignation and declares that he shall travel with the party, guarding the cloth until they draw near to a path of Addaric – then he will take the artifact back to hell. Waving his hands once more, an orangish-yellow mist surrounds him…

As the infernal mists pull away, a strikingly handsome man stands before you. He’s got a dangerous smile on his lips framed with a devil-may-care dusting of stubble and a dark look in his smokey eyes. He wears a comfortable sleeveless red silk tunic that matches the former tone of his skin and tight black leather breeches polished so as to be reminiscent of the many horns of his true form.

The Devil’s Eyes by Natalie Hijazi
by Natalie Hijazi

Before the party could begin claiming their prizes however, Krossbyr – self-proclaimed king of Bathyal – arrived with a squad of Sahuagin at his back.

“Excellent work adventurers! You’ve done a great service to Bathyal in discovering such a large cache of strategic assets. Yes, all these objects and coinage I think shall be vital to the reclamation of the city. Wouldn’t you agree?”

To which Dantalion interjected and responded, “Like hell it is; there are few things in this shit hole of a world that annoy me more than those who break their word. Let’s see how strategic these assets are when they’re shoved up your ass.”

Battle ensues, and the crew of the Sea Bitch soon makes an appearance – running into the vault shortly after Krossbyr’s army. In a chaotic melee, their enemies again are struck down and the party leaves Bathyal without a king and an empty vault.

Session 22 - Shinael?

With the travails of Bathyal behind them, the party and their swashbuckling companions set off North to Shinael, the isle of the elves.

Hearalded by the call of ‘land ho!’ from the crows nest, the isle of Shinael resolves itself through the cloudy winter day. Thick bitter cold rain droplets soak the deck and your cloak, and all but Prism look eagerly at the isle for respite from the foul tempered sea.

Graced by sweeping emerald green cliffsides and bursting with thriving verdant plant life, it’s hard to resist the sheer feeling of awe that washes over you. Even on a miserable day like this, the isle exudes a feeling of ancient and graceful mystery. Soon the scent of the sea is washed away by the heavy smell of rich earth and deep forest. Ahead, a village of sweeping moss-covered marble arches reaches out invitingly to the sea. The place seems forgotten, and a strange melancholy hovers about it.

The Sea Bitch makes way for the elven port’s docks – through the mist a crew member deduces they’ve come upon the town of Tavrobel. Things are eerily quiet in the town at they approach…

Tiny droplets of moisture swirl about heavily in the air, adding a sleepy quality to the grey wetness that infuses the port town of Tavrobel. Aside from the unusually gentle lapping of the ocean’s waves upon the shore, the town is utterly and eerily silent. Gathered atop the masterpiece of artistry that is the town’s dock carved into a massive soaring eagle, you surround an unconscious elven man. He’s soaked to the bone and chill to the touch, but doesn’t shiver and seems to be sleeping peacefully.

Laurian offers little in the way of insight into what may have caused the elf to slumber. The party has only a bit of luck deducing that the ailment is not inject poison (lack of wounds). Obviously, the sleep came gradually enough to allow the man to control his slump to the ground, but quickly enough that no other villagers could come to help.

In the dock master’s office, the party locates a shipping manifest detailing the location of some expensive emeralds and a cache of alchemical distillation agents. Following the trail of breadcrumbs, the party stumbles upon a band of satyrs taking advantage of the unconscious village…

Passing through the first screen of underbrush, the faint sounds of pan pipes and riotous laughter can be heard from deeper within the forested streets. Though you are not stealthy, the group of boisterous and drunk goat men in the village square seem to take no notice of you as you turn a corner, instead they are focused on picking clean the unconscious elves of their jewellery and gold – pausing in their thieving to inappropriately grope the pretty ones.

Satyr by Yayashin
by Yayashin

Engaging the satyrs, the party drives them off and continues to the alchemical works where the distillation agents were delivered. There they deduce the source of the unnatural slumber – modified spider egg paralysis poison, aerosolized in an experiment to distill the substance into a more potent form. With their expertise, they conclude that the poison must’ve unintentionally mixed with the mist surrounding the town and knocked out everyone within it; additionally the poison, though gone from the air, must’ve somehow become soporific in their bodies – meaning it could be decades before the elves awake (not a death sentence in Shinael).

Before they can process the information they’ve gathered, the party is attacked by a strange creature – an indistinct figure with a nightmarish shape, not quite human or animal or fiend.

Animate Dream by Paizo
by Paizo

The party engages and defeats the creature, identifying it as an animate dream, likely a manifestation of the unnatural sumber of the village residents.

With the mystery of the slumbering village at least somewhat solved, the party expresses their interest in relieving the town of their cache of emeralds while they sleep. Before they set off however, they spot another vessel approaching the town…

Meanwhile, in the waking world…

Nemos, Verthos, Dantalion, Leatha, and Kaetoridax didn’t succumb to the sleeping spell that fell over the Sea Bitch earlier that day. And though they put up a valiant fight, they could not adequately defend the ship from another vessel (the Salty Hag) when it attacked. Holding the unconscious Marsala hostage, the crew that remained awake surrendered.

The whole crew – awake and sleeping, were taken into the hold of the other ship and locked below; the conscious crew were locked in cells. It was obvious that the sleeping crew were trapped in some sort of dream as they could not be roused to help their imprisoned comrades. The rival ship’s crew underestimated Dantalion however, who used his teleportation ability to move into Leatha’s cell and his horns to cut her bindings. The time had come for these unlikely allies to plot their escape…

Session 23 - It was all a dream

The scene opens with Leatha receiving help from Dantalion in her escape from a prison cell below decks of an elven ship…

Sunken Squall by Jonathan Kirtz
by Jonathan Kirtz

The below-decks of the Sunken Squall are just as beautiful as her exterior. The wood, wrapping about you in polished radiant warmth, bears the hallmarks of a master craftsman. The intricate details carved into doorframes and shaped into the lantern frames sing of the patience and artistry of the elven race. Standing in stark contrast to the beautiful craftsmanship, the bars which criss-cross your cell door are crude and look as if they’ve been hastily mounted to the wood – marring it in places where the bolts were driven.

As the smell of brimstone clears, Dantalion bends down, callously cutting the beautiful silken cord which binds your wrists. The devil-in-human-form gazes at you with a sly look from his dangerous eyes – they catch both the daylight streaming from the small port holes and the candlelight streaming from the lanterns in the hallway. Though no words stream forth from his wry smile, you can practically hear his voice in your head, “you owe me one.”

Sighing in exasperation, the Protection deity accepted the devil’s help, allowing Dantalion to teleport her to the other side of the cell’s bars. They then proceeded to the aft of the ship, where they encountered the stolid brothers Nemos and Verthos…

Your silent crewmates Nemos and Verthos convalesce in a cell near the back of the ship. One of the cell bars appears to have been twisted away from its frame, torn in half, and split between the two brothers. They are (somewhat quietly) grinding the metal between their fingers and painting over their scarred skin, leaving shiny streaks behind. As your approach they stand from their cross-legged posture and face you with stolid expressions, ready to follow.

The usually strong but silent brothers made quick work of the cell bars, ripping them from their foundations easily. The now four-person party continued their trek aft-ward, discovering their friends and equipment…

Behind a well-oiled door you find your traveling companions in a common room, each carefully hung in a simple hammocks criss-crossing the room – their familiar snores occasionally harmonizing. Caelynn the Pale Governess, whose horns stretch wide the fabric of the hammock on one end, securing her tightly in place. Graver the Chainbreaker, whose grey skin blends almost seamlessly with the hammock’s fabric. Cyrus the once-angel, whose sheer muscle mass strains the hammock despite its thick fabric. Marsala, halfing captain of the Sea Bitch, whose wild curly locks cascade over the edges of her hammock. Twitch the Paravahlian, who seems nervous even when he’s comatose. Laurian the scholar, whose large eyes glow softly through his closed lids. Prism the Undine, resting like the calm before the storm. And Orrin the fetchling – despite being unarmed you think you see the faint outline of a dagger strapped to his thigh and pressing against the hammock fabric.

Though they had no luck in rousing their sleeping companions, Leatha was able to retrieve her equipment. Dantalion also re-acquired his banner. Shifting course, the party proceeded to the front of the vessel, encountering Graver’s surly companion along the way…

Echoes of higher-pitched draconic curses reverberate from another cell farther down the hall. Peering through the bars you see a metal crate sitting the center of the room – the temperature in the cell is distinctly hotter than the rest of the lower decks. From the one small hole drilled into the top if the crate you see the occasional gout of flame and hear the shouts of a tiny but angry creature.

The magma wyrmling was uninterested in participating in the battle to retake the ship however, and opted instead to remain in his cell. At last, the party reached the final cell before making their way up to the poop deck, encountering something unexpected…

Behind the bars of the final cell on this deck, you are greeted with an unusually-appointed room. Ornately upholstered and oversized pillows litter the room along with a smattering of furniture – for some of which you cannot immediately divine the purpose. Stretched out over a deep purple velvet chaise lounge in the center of the room is a handsome half-dressed tiefling twiddling with an elaborate hookah.

Valifor by Tatiana Kirgetova
by Tatiana Kirgetova

Valifor, as he eventually introduced himself, was a prisoner by choice. Through some convincing, the party managed to acquire his assistance in retaking the ship, but not before the conversation between Dantalion and the fallen devil became a bit heated. Now a party of five, the group make their way to the top deck.

Meanwhile, in the realm of dreams, the unsuspecting remainder of the party has just finished their investigation of the sleeping town of Tavrobel, discovering that they had been tampering with an alchemical sleeping agent. With the mystery solved, the less scrupulous of the bunch resolved to steal a recent shipment of emeralds from the town’s vault, but before they could get underway, they spied a ship in the distance…

The acrid scent of alchemy still lingers in the chill open-air pagoda; it mixes strangely with the heavy smell of rich earth and deep forest that pervades the elven port town Tavrobel. Through the swirling droplets of moisture dancing playfully on your breath, you spy a ship approaching the sweeping, eagle-shaped docks. It makes no noise to break the eerie silence that weighs heavily upon the village.

Making their way quickly to the town’s docks to greet the ship, Caelynn notices something sinister…

Your boots and the boots of your companions strike a staccato beat against the delicately-carved boards of the dock. Like most else in this town, the sound is eerily muffled; even still you feel as if you’re disturbing a grave. Your thoughts drift between the present and past, contemplating the sins of Tavrobel and its wages – the slumber of its citizens; it echoes in your heart with a familiar weight.

With an unexpected speed, your melancholy thoughts seem to take on a presence of their own – you cannot help but feel like you are being watched. The gentle tickle of a light breath brushes your head behind your ear – you feel a deep and abiding malicious intent accompanying it. Glancing down, you spy – just barely visible – a crown of hair floating in the water about 3 feet down.

Trying to help the sinking woman, Caelynn reaches into the water, and the submerged person turns her face upward to meet her gaze! The twisted features of Tera Hawthorne stared back at the death goddess – a specter from her past who was cursed to eternal sleep by Caelynn in a fit of jealousy. Before she can react, the face sinks into the blackness of the water.

Tera by Imagist
by Imagist

With that, it is clear that something is very wrong, and that becomes all the more evident when the party spies ghostly duplicates of their companions (the ones that are awake) moving about on board the ship that has just arrived, timed precisely with the party, Leatha at its head, emerging from below decks in the waking world…

A tempestuous wind tosses your hair as you emerge onto the deck of the Sunken Squall. The bright light of the day is diffused by a high bank of clouds darkening menacingly in the distance. The melodic intonations of elvish carry in snippets on the wind – there is an armored elf, tall and proud, clearly frustrated with another elf – this one scantily clad with blue hair.

Caerdin by Emanuel Mardsjo
by Emanuel Mardsjo

Zizzixtraz by Anndr
by Anndr

“…to live up to your legend,” the party caught the tall elf in mid-sentence, “I would’ve much preferred they all be asleep and unaware that they never visited the isle.”
“You can’t blame me swordmaster,” retorted the blue-haired elf, “it was your choice to intercept them so far from the isle’s enchantment. Were we closer, or if you would allow me my complete form, not even an elf could resist my power.”
“That doesn’t explain the tiefling.”
“He’s pretty; and I enjoy my little rebellions when you take me on field trips.”

With the frown of the warrior growing even deeper, his gaze shifts over to you. His frown deepens into a scowl – a familiar one at that. You look into the eyes of Caerdin, a warrior of the Winter Court. Though no noble, he has earned respect through his skill in battle, training others, and loyalty. Leatha, you were once part of a contingent of students that trained for a week under his tutelage.

As Leatha and Caerdin engage in conversation, it becomes apparent that the sleeping party is witnessing the the events of the waking world, but the witnessing is one-way. Caerdin explains that he, a representative of the Winter Court, was charged to safely and without harm redirect the Sea Bitch and all who travel on her northward past Shinael; the Court feels the pantheon is too dangerous to be on the isle – especially considering the influence Leatha’s family name still wields.

During this conversation (which descends a bit into elven politics), the blue-haired elf splits into two, entering the dream realm to interact with the sleeping party. He introduces himself a Zizzixtraz, a dream dragon, and implores Graver the Chainbreaker to free him from the binding he’s suffered under for hundreds of years.

In short order, he describes how the enchantment that blankets Shinael was originally crafted by Samsarans and is powered by the essence of several bound dragons. When the ancient civilization was destroyed, the elves moved in and kept the dragons bound – Zizzix wants to be free. Graver agrees.

It is at this moment that an attack occurs, both in the waking and dreaming worlds. In the waking world, an air sorceress leaps on deck from the Sea, attacking the party. In the dreaming realm, strange nightmare creatures assault those on deck. Battle ensues, and in the waking world Leatha and Valifor make quick work of the sorceress. In the dreaming realm, the party does the same, but not before Graver’s terrifically destructive magic lays waste to the dream version of the Sunken Squall. They implore Zizzix, who put them to sleep in the first place, to alter the dream and save the ship from succumbing to the flames; but after a brief attempt, horror crosses his face and he exclaims, “I can’t!”

Sessions 24, 25, and 26 - Faded Notes

Much of this portion of the story of the gods has been lost to the fog of time as Laurian, the primary recorder of their deeds up to this point, was incapacitated. What follows is what history has been pieced together.

Working with the bound dream dragon of Shinael Zizzixtraz, the sleeping deities determine that they are trapped in the dream realm he created due to the influence of the dark entity Caelynn called upon to curse her childhood rival Tera Hawthorne into eternal slumber. They hatch a plan to track down a scroll of dream slumber that Zizzix places in each of his dreams which serves as a backup method of escape.

The sleeping gods quickly locate the scroll but find it to be guarded by a strange otherworldly creature, a colour from space. They battle the strange entity and release themselves from the sleeping enchantment.

Meanwhile, back on board the Sunken Squall in the waking world, the rest of the party interrogates the sorceress which attacked them. Compelled by some means to tell the truth, she reveals that her name is Legatin – she is only a commoner, but serves as an aid to a prominent family of the Spring Court, the Falavirs.

Legatin by PrincepsSenatus
by PrincepsSenatus

The Falavirs are rising rapidly in influence in elven politics and decided to take action when they heard that Caerdin was sent to redirect the party away from Shinael. The plan was to stage a false assassination attempt on the party by forces within the Court of Winter. Her masters hoped this would prompt the deities to insist on traveling to the isle and ending the long reign of the Winter Court. They believe that the shift in power and philosophy is vital to the survival of the nation given the return of the gods and the threat of Uruk invasion.

Now reunited, the party is faced with another two challenges – first, the non-deities of the group cannot wake up; whatever is holding them in the dream realm is too powerful for Zizzix’s backup plan. The only solution seems to be unbinding Zizzix from the isle’s enchantment. Second, the group is still captive aboard the Sunken Squall and barred from the isle. To get the ball rolling in addressing the former issue, Leatha addresses the latter issue and challenges Caerdin, captain of the Sunken Squall, to a duel for their freedom. Knowing that his crew is outmatched in facing the entire party of gods, Caerdin accepts the challenge and is defeated.

With their freedom regained, the party returns to the Sea Bitch and sails to the real Tavrobel. Dantalion knows of a nominally unguarded Path of Addaric near the town which will allow him to return home and the party to get to the core of the isle’s enchantment quickly. At Tavrobel the party fights a mysterious conjurer to tries to stop them from docking and escapes once his creatures are defeated.

The genuine town of Tavrobel is largely similar to the Tavrobel presented to you in your dreams by Zizzixtraz, though with a full litany of citizenry lined up in the higher tiers of the town to watch your battle.

Buildings with thin paper walls dot the land, the soft light of candles illuminate some as dusk progresses into night. Outside of a dream, the craftsmanship of the elves truly shines – each item, no matter how mundane, is imbued with artistry, care, and beauty. Decorative elements ebb and flow with the natural setting around you and only the scent of the evening forest and seared onions reaches your nose.

In Tavrobel, the party strikes a deal with the mayor Kaerith to allow the Sea Bitch to stay docked and Prism to stay behind and guard the unconscious party members. They also visit Estelion, the godmother of Leantha’s aunt and master of magical cloth. The next day they set out overland for a bridge that leads to the fey realm Shyrbarad where the Path of Addaric lies unguarded.

Bridge by Hakubaikou
by Hakubaikou

The journey to the bridge is uneventful and upon the bridge the party battles a pair of giants. After crossing the bridge, the party enters Shyrbarad…

Shyrbarad by aJVL
by Aeron


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