Skystorm

Ruins of the Necropolis

Our attempts to blindly clear the masonry resulted in a few hazardous structural collapses which gave us the impression that a much larger structure lay ruined before us. Guan Yu and Lirra took off their blindfolds to survey the area and described our surroundings as looking like a niche or collapsed entryway into a larger structure. They gradually led us down into a stone structure which was mostly free of rubble.

They attempted to use a spirit as a guide, but it too did not know the way. I eventually tired of wandering into walls and decided that the only viable way to find a new path would require us to risk their offence. A few doors later we found a sarcophagus from which an unearthly wheezing sound arose. A heavily armored knight, all in black raiment, rose from its place of rest to face us.

Gareth tried over and over again to negotiate with it to determine if it was a guardian. It made no answer. I tried to smite it with the light of Erathis, for it seemed to be undead, but it had no effect. Other creatures, armored, but less so than the knight, assaulted me and battle was joined. The knight engaged us with a blast of life sapping energies and other scythe bearing figures teleported in to assault us. None made answer to Gareth’s queries. I drew my sword to slash the foes who had surrounded Oli. Then I brought down the wrath of the gods upon the knight and swatted it to land at Guan Yu’s feet. He took my signal to finish it off. The rest of the battle went relatively smoothly thereafter.

Of all our foes, only the knight seemed to take extra damage from radiant energies. Perhaps he is the sort of thing that the guardians are supposed to guard against. Nonetheless, they all made common cause against us, the living. We recovered some funeral goods from the area, and an impressively enchanted brooch from the knight. I might normally have objected to taking such from tombs, as despoiling graves is not something I look kindly upon. However, in this particular case we are trying to do the spirits of a dead a good turn, and all that lies in this place is doomed to fall into the Abyss. We will offer to return these to the Raven Queen, if it pleases her.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Blindly Walking the Paths of the Dead

We consulted with the Shadar-Kai regarding our plan to make a diplomatic mission to the Raven Queen. They put us in contact with Confessor Ravenecar, a blond woman who might have been beautiful without all the piercings and assorted physical distortions associated with their bizarre practices. She advised that our best course would be to pursue the Paths of the Dead. The usual path for the spirits of the dead starts at a shrine outside of Gloomwrought, a significant city of the Shadowfell. She didn’t have all the details, but recommended that we could consult experts among her people in Castigation.

So we took the Stormcrow into the Shadowfell and found ourselves in an immense storm. Psiren took us up above the incredible winds. There we beheld that the storm system was a large swirling vortex. Curious about its origin, we flew over its center and found it difficult to make out a specific cause. However, we did see that the ocean (a body of water larger than our mote) was draining down through an immense hole. So large that we occasionally spotted vast tentacled monsters falling through. As we had no way to do anything about that, we had Psiren start heading towards Castigation, then portaled ahead.

We found Castigation as it was experiencing a severe emergency. Oli flew up, with Lirra in tow, and spotted an assault of undead kraken on the shore. We rushed out to aid them and found the beasts to be much more easily dispatched than things we had faced recently. Nevertheless, they had presented a significant threat to the Shadar-Kai. The elders of Castigation were happy to help us with more information regarding the Paths of the Dead, and gave us a ring which provided protection against necrotic energies. The elders also informed us that the accelerating doom of our world had begun to catch up with the Shadowfell. Though it is the home of the Raven Queen, no single deity can successfully oppose the Abyss.

They gave us the coordinates for Gloomwrought so we portaled there and found it too experiencing a disaster. In this case it was overrun with the spirits of the dead. We heard shouts from the shoreline, which we took to mean that the living residents of Gloomwrought were experiencing distress due to the ocean receding. As there was nothing we could do about the drainage, we headed northward for the shrine which marks the start of Paths of the Dead.

At the shrine, its custodian confirmed our suspicion that the Paths were blocked, though he did not know why. Scouts had been sent to find out, but they had never returned. We volunteered to seek out the block and remove it. The custodian kindly provided us with blind folds, for it is disrespectful for the living to behold the Paths of the Dead. The guardians of the Path would rise up against us to punish such disrespect. He warned us that we must stay on the road, even once we arrive at the Acropolis. I voiced my suspicions that the guardians themselves may have been perverted by the Abyss, as that was typical of our experience. No evidence was available to us either way.

Somewhat reluctantly, we tied ourselves together using vines provided by Lirra, put on our blindfolds, and began to walk through the spine tingling spirits of the dead upon their Paths. The terrain was agreeably flat, but the time passed slowly. After an interminable time, Lirra halted as we ran into blocks of what felt like masonry spilled across our path.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Going Out With a Bang

We continued our discussions and eventually determined that the only viable path to saving our people was to prepare a cross dimensional loadstone enchantment for a significant chunk of the continent. In all probability this would need to be prepared to trigger at the time of the breaking of the Chain. Cathus estimated that many months of planning, and coordination with the Dwarves and Gnomes, would be necessary.

This determination then provided the answer to the Emperor’s other question: to go after this Thrymspaker, or to let him assault the chain? No scenario was advanced which would meaningfully delay those forces for the necessary time without the destruction, or at least capture, of the current Thrymspaker in the very near future. His forces are unlikely to maintain coherence in the aftermath of his fall, and no secondary commander of sufficient strength to unify those forces is currently known to us. We speculated that capturing the Thrymspaker and the shard within, might delay the rise of another, but the viability of maintaining containment of such an entity is not known.

I followed up on rumours of more psionic people and found a variety of people with various powers that no one knew what to do with. I shall train them while we work against the advance of the northern giants. In the process, I will also catalogue their abilities and determine how their unique capacities may most profitably be applied to the war effort.

The Emperor then declared that we should all attend the 700th Jubilee of the founding of Vigil, and take 24 hours off work. The people welcomed a chance to celebrate and morale seemed greatly improved. Celebrations were kicked off by the christening of the new Imperal Warship, The Justice of Bahamut. The Festivities were slightly marred by an odd rumour campaign, apparently started by Smergway IV, of an impending duel between Guan Yu and Deacon Novius. As neither participant was aware of a challenge, nor had any inclination to fight for sport, no such fight actually occurred. This disappointed many, but no lasting harm occurred thereby once Kong Meng defused the situation. Guan Yu and the Deacon chatted peacably for a while unless Baroness Castica drew the Deacon away for more private celebrations.

Food and drink hold no interest for me. I still mourn the passing of my recent lover, Terhali, so there was little joy for me in the festivities. Work being forbidden to me closed off the usual scholarly studies that take my attention away from our doomed condition. As a distraction, I and several like minded volunteers, who were fortuitously passing by, elected to construct a scale model of Vigil in the town square as a memorial.

Rumour has it that Oli completely shut down Baron Esteban Naverria’s romantic overtures. Then dashed off to an undisclosed location to go drinking with the Heretic. For a person raised by dwarves, she seems remarkably inured to scandalous rumours. The birds have also told me that Lirra’s overtures with Xu Shu were unsuccessful.

- Captain Keffin Balnor

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Where Angels Fear to Tread

We were eventually conducted into the presence of the Angel Quoriel, whom the others had met previously. The very same Quoriel who had been in such a hurry to get Novius out of Hestavar. Quoriel is an imposingly large angel whose office furnishing make no allowances for guests. I summoned a chair for myself so we could have a civil discussion. We provided a summary of the situation we had encountered wrt to the alien incursion in the Eladrin Lab.

In discussing the matter we picked up a few more interesting facts. Guardians would be posted in the lab to monitor the wards we put in place to prevent their degradation. Ancient alarms, which had not sounded in eons, had gone off during our fight. This explained both the scale and timing of their reaction. Additionally, they regarded the Eladrin as being in violation of their lease, and so it had been formally rescinded. Cathus and Altrus were now truly homeless.

Quoriel also disclosed some interesting historical information from personal experience. The conflict generated by the mad god had caused the Dawn War, which reordered (or more correctly, disordered) the universe into its current form. Survivors of the Dawn War, such as Quoriel, had also been transformed in the process. Quoriel did not describe his/her previous form, only noted that it had been different. Quoriel had not been aware that the initial corrupting element which brought down the mad god, and apparently others, had originated in the alien far realms. Nor that that their agenda was to disorder our universe to render it compatible for their intrusion and consumption. All knowledge of such alien ideas was typically suppressed, but Quoriel was disinclined to press that case against us due to the nature of the opposition we faced.

Quoriel agreed that conceptually our trying to recruit the Raven Queen was a worthwhile endeavour, but could not provide salient advice regarding how to go about it.

Quoriel was kind enough to provide us with 50 astral diamonds to assist in the war effort, but denied us immediate access to the libraries and other resources of the Eladrin. Such might be granted in the future, after it had passed through some kind of evaluation and approval process. They had debriefed and inspected Cathus and Altrus, and found no sign of taint. We were asked to undergo similar evaluation, and nothing untoward was found.

However, I was detained for several hours while undergoing multiple rounds of intensive examinations. Apparently they had not encountered my kind before and did not know what to make of me. I was eventually able to persuade them that their lack of comprehension did not amount to a reason to detain me, and I was allowed to go on my way. As the best minds in Hestavar cannot provide further insight, I shall simply have to continue to make my own way as I have been.

Once we were rejoined with Altrus and Cathus, we invited them to come with us to Vergence. On our way to Hestavar’s portal, we spent a few of the astral diamonds on supplies for anti-maelstrom weapons, three seeds from Arvandor, and materials for the construction of a crystal reader. None us had disclosed the fact that we had extracted some data in that form from their library. I dissuaded Cathus from updating his report with that information and we returned to Vergence.

Once in Vergence we were debriefed and discussed a somewhat irregular notion with the Emperor. They had come up with the analysis that letting the Thrymspaker break the chain, rather than the risking the best of our forces to terminate him, might be advantageous. The upshot being that the chain was effectively doomed, if not by this Thrymspaker, then by an as yet unknown future inheritor of that mantle. If our forces could be held in readiness, rather than weakened by struggle, they would be a superior position to help in the aftermath.

We raised several objections to this line of reasoning. First and foremost, if breaking the chain unleashes a mad god upon the universe, one whose prior struggle literally reordered the entire nature of reality in the last war, then the scale of energies released might well exceed anything we could survive. We would simply have fallen into the mad trap of the Thrymspakers and precipitously bring about our own end. Secondly, standing by and doing nothing would put anyone with divine obligations in violation of them, and leave us all in the unenviable position of being regarded as traitors to the divine order. Many other objections were raised, and I examined the Emperor’s entire advisory council, but found no taint of corruption.

Nevertheless, the point about our doom appearing to be inevitable is one which cannot be overlooked. I argued that we should destroy the Thrymspaker to buy more time for preparations. If the original plan of the Eladrin, to transport the continents away from the Abyss, could be enacted, then our people may set be saved. We consulted with Cathus and learned that the loadstone was also dimensionally active. Given enough energy, and ritualists, our entire Mote could be transported through the dimensions. Or chunks of our mote might be transported that way using less energy. A diaspora of our peoples, including the Dwarves, Gnomes, Elves, and even the Craggen, might be effected either before the chain was sundered, or at the time of its sundering. A wildly ambitious project, but not one without precedent. Kong Meng had some radical ideas about using the energies of the Shadowfell and/or Feywild to power such an operation. I confess to being sceptical about his plan as we lack the means to channel such energies.

We left Kong Meng, Xu Shu, and Hibernius to work with Cathus on determining the logistics of such an operation. Meanwhile, Guan Yu was called back from the front lines to accompany our mission the Shadowfell. I proposed that the Deacon go along in my stead, as I was not on good terms with the Raven Queen and would be happy to assist in harrying operations in our front against the Thrymspaker’s forces.

- Captain Keffin Balnor

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Holes in the fabric of spacetime

We read though elder Varis’ tome to learn about the nature of our opposition. Or rather, I read through it, while the others experienced various levels of denial, nausea, trauma, confusion, or weird embarrassment (in Gareth’s case), regarding recent events and the contents of the journal. In all fairness to the team, the contents were quite disturbing, and gleaning any significant comprehension of the more theoretical portions is probably impossible for a sane mind.

Varis’ story was essentially one of a man led astray for the best possible reasons. By the end of the Arcana wars, a group called the Spiral Spire (entirely too similar to the site found beneath Lumeria for coincidence) had striven so hard to extract power from beyond our reality, that it had unleashed the Maelstrom and initiated the consumption of our world by the Abyss. In struggling against it, Varis had secretly begun to study the nature of the the Spiral Spire’s alien inspiration. Studied them altogether too well.

By some means, as yet undetermined, and probably not worth pursuing, Varis’ had made contact with an alien entity of the Far Realms. As he learned from it, it learned him enough to master him. He learned that the creatures of its realm, and realms like it, had consumed everything in their realm of origin. Starved for energy, life, and whatever else they could consume, they sought more from other realms. Including our own cosmos. However, the order of our realm is inimical to them. They cannot truly abide here for any length of time. Knowing this, they sought to shatter our cosmos and bring it down to a more digestible and survivable level of disorder for themselves.

To accomplish their aims, they crafted a shard and passed it into our Cosmos where a god discovered it, and fell from grace into destructive madness. Wielding that shard, the mad god used it to infect the Elemental Chaos, to form the paradox that is the Abyss. Beings spawned thereby became corrupted Primordials, Aberrations, and Demons. All made war upon the gods. War on that scale shattered the previous order of our Cosmos, known then as the Great Wheel, into the more disordered state we experience today. Gods now inhabit realms of the Astral Sea above the Primes which reside above the Elemental Chaos, which lays above/around the Abyss. Apparently even the gods themselves were unable, or unwilling, to destroy the mad god. Instead, they banded together to imprison it in the prime, using the god forged chains. Only one chain remains intact.

Over time, Varis’ alien master forced him to construct a Tesseract. A permanent gateway/portal/rift between its alien realm and our own. Varis was still able to resist it in part, for he constructed wards around it to seal it in. Recently he had an ever greater time resisting the compulsions of his master, and so was no longer able to maintain the wards against its incursions. I could not discern how to unmake the Tesseract, and it appeared that attempts to destroy it through naked force would simply rend it open.

Working with Oli, we were able to reconstruct the process for maintaining the wards. We also found special permanent chalks which could be used to redraw altered wards to restore them. Potent chalks of residuum, the workings drawn by these become permanent. The room of the Tesseract proved to match exactly the area of deeply wrong arcana I had perceived before we fought Varis.

Studying the energies being released from that room, it was hard to predict when it might burst open. Perhaps hours, perhaps days. We decided not to gamble on a longer duration and readied ourselves outside each door. The room was initially unoccupied, however the center of it was clearly a place of wrongness. Five smaller regions were scattered in the room. Each a place where the warding had been broken by the warping of the fabric of reality upon which the wards were drawn. Oli moved in and expertly fixed a broken area of warding. A being made of tentacles and eyes, or perhaps eyes on tentacles, emerged from the central rift and assaulted us with a bewildering variety of rays. It also wrenched open another breach in the wards.

The battle was a long and difficult one. The creature drained us of vitality to heal itself, and continually sought to wrench open new breeches in the warding. After sealing one ward, with great difficulty, I resorted to redisrupting it, over and over, by willing visions of pure order into its mind while the others assaulted it. Oli bravely worked to seal the wardings, until finally Llirra ran in, borrowed the chalk from Oli, and redrew the final ward using some inspiration from her deep understanding of the nature of life itself.

After making certain all the wards were complete and precise, we repaired to Varis’ office to make further plans with Altrus and Cathus. Cathus was interested in returning with us to Vergence, whereas Alrus wished to seek out other survivors of his people. They agreed to work to give them warning regarding the potential dangers of the sarcophagi. No one knew if they had been visited by Varis in the past and possibly been subject to alien incursions. Based on my father’s report of a having found me at a facility under some sort of attack, I worry that they may have all fallen in a fashion similar to this facility. I did not state that concern aloud.

As we were preparing to send warnings and gather materials for departure to warn Hestavar about the threat here, proximity alarms sounded. We went up through the base to find it had been penetrated by a significant portion of the angelic hosts of Hestavar. They imperiously began questioning us. I congratulated them on their good intentions, but informed them that they were approximately a half an hour too late. Fortunately for them, we had already resolved the most immediate and dire aspects of the current situation.

Oli did not react well to their imperious manner, her nerves being frayed from the current situation, and the somewhat rough handling the group had previously experienced at the hands of the authorities of Erathis. She over informed them regarding the nature of the threat and got herself silenced for blasphemy. We were summarily placed under house arrest in quite exquisite accomodations at well secured inn in Hestavar. The angels watched us as we rested. None of my team had come through the ordeal entirely intact. All of them were in various disturbed emotional states. The angels impassively gave no recognition of my counter observation. I meditated upon them, what to do about these monstrous aliens, their infected pet imprisoned god, and the excellent view of the Astral Sea from our window.

-Captain Keffin Balnor

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Old treachery is the best treachery

Considering our next course of investigation, we were faced with multiple choices, one leading to some kind of horrible arcane disturbance, the other a sound of escaping gas accompanied by shouting. We headed towards the shouting and found a shrine to some kind of an elven god, perhaps Sehanine. Cool mist issued from the two sets of large metal doors to our east and south. The screaming was coming from beyond the eastern door. Beyond it was a long room misty room with sarcophagi arranged in alcoves around its perimeter. Most of the oddly mechanical sarcophagi stood open and empty with their former occupants standing nearby. At the end of the room, Flight Engineer Cathus was struggling against several puppeteered Eladrin who were trying to force him into an unoccupied sarcophagus.

The one whom he addressed as Elder Varis appeared to be in charge. He ordered the numerous other Eladrin to attack us. The room itself also had a terrible eldritch quality, as though the walls between our reality and realms of alien horror were especially thin here. As battle began the other door opened and more possessed Eladrin beset us. Another long and difficult battle ensued, however, during the fight Elder Varis retained enough of his own mentality to communicate with us. We were eventually able to extract a sparse tale from him of his having given himself over to this entity long ago. He said that the rift must be closed and that the records in his office should be consulted. Just before he died, in a horrible implosion, he tossed his amulet key to me.

The sarcophagi were empty of anything other than a disturbing ichor. All the Eladrin who had “slept” here had been warped and set against those who had not, along with my team.

Cathus had proved quite useless during the fight, but had at least the sense to stay out of it. He was unaware of other survivors, but was able to lead us to Veris’ office along a path new to us, though generally trending towards the corner of the complex at which we entered. In that office we found Altrus, warily hiding out. He allowed us to study him for infection, but showed no signs. All we were really able to discern about the nature of their beings was they were very very old Eladrin.

After consulting with Altrus and Cathus we had them issue an announcement over their address system for any survivors hold tight and let us come to them. Further discussions indicated that their were probably no more survivors on this level, though a few might remain deeper in the facility. Altrus also arranged to seal the levels off. He said that the sleep chambers had always been troublesome until Veris had special insights.

Varis’ desk held a large metal bound tome which I was able to, cautiously, open using the amulet he had given me. It was large so reading all of it would take considerable time. Furthermore it detailed research connected to exotic realms, realms so unlike everything in our comprehension that they are simply called The Far Realms. Though lumped under a single category in our nomenclature, they do not appear to be uniform in any meaningful way. Their only unifying feature is their incomprehensibility to us. Thats about as much as I want to know about them, nevertheless, I am skimming it to learn just enough about whatever connection has been made to these places to seal it off. There is a disturbing connection here to other matters. A reference to the Elder Elemental Eye.

-Captain Keffin Balnor

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Horrors from beyond the 11th dimension

I studied the Librarian’s robes and found them to be of extraordinary quality in defending against mental attacks. There were also a variety of other enchantments to aid users of Arcane magics. Apparently they hadn’t taken the same lessons away from the Arcana Wars as the Oathsworn. Oli tapped the Librarian’s staff on the door and it slid open.

Beyond it were a dozen Eladrin, or more correctly, former Eladrin, armed in various ways. They did not reply to our greeting, and it become clear that they too had fallen under the sway of extra dimensional puppetry. The battle was long and difficult. One among them was of a wholly different kind. It opened portals into some terrible place of lashing tentacles. Even the Eladrin we felled weren’t wholly gone as tentacles emerged from their corpses to clutch at us.

As we fought it began to seem as though these creatures were controlled by the same thing as the Librarian. It had learned from that fight and worked to destroy my extended consciousness while using its mental assaults against my less well defended allies. In the end we were able to overcome them all, but it was a difficult fight which left Gareth near the end of his rope.

- Captain Keffin Balnor

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More Thoughts on the Puppet Masters

The screaming stopped. I guess we'll never know if we were too late to save some or what the screaming meant. I don't feel good about any of this. Fighting them is extraordinarily difficult and the fact that they leave a surprise behind to attack after being defeated is thoroughly dangerous. I worry if any of the weakened possessed Eladrin escape. 

These "puppet masters" are insidious and could be many other places, not just here among the Eladrin. We don't know how they reproduce either. I very much worry if these get out of this facility and it is imperative that we devise a means to determine if someone is infected. 

L.

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What Has Happened to the Eladrin?

They felt… off. I thought initially that they had been too long separated from the flows of nature and the World, that they had lost touch with what it means to live. Their method of extending their lives past the already long one given to those of us of the fey blood cannot have helped them, but now I wonder if there was more to it than just that? I saw things in the Feydark no one should ever see and heard whispers of worse, of things from elsewhere, places even more terrible than the Feydark itself, that the fomorians themselves feared. Perhaps the Eladrin had commerce with those things as well as the fomorians? 

It is clear we need to get to the bottom of what has happened to them. The survival of both our races depends on a reunification. There are simply not enough of either of us to survive on our own. I hope that that is still possible but fear that they might have been tainted. 

 L. 

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The Bad Librarian

Since the books were resisting us, and the alarming sounds didn’t cease, we decided to head towards the alarming sounds. Pretty much a classic Oathsworn Alpha team mission. Look around for maximum peril and head right at it. I would have shared that with the others, but I have somehow become the only one of the Alpha team deployed on an away mission. I miss those guys. This team is comprised of a Heretic, a dwarf acting cyborg Eladrin, the last elven druid, a standoffish Kodanian, and your humble narrator who has so far proved to be the only one of his kind. Its not often when you’re in a group and the lone Kodanian is the least exotic one.

As we moved up the very long room, the door in the far north opened and several angelic beings floated in. By angelic, I mean that they were similar to Angels. Constructs built to resemble angels. They were followed by a robed Eladrin who ordered them to destroy us. They struck at us with improbably long ranged radiant attacks, and even some mental assaults. It was a long drawn out battle, for they had self repair mechanisms and were extremely well constructed.

Ultimately we damaged the librarian enough to severely wound him, and he was revealed to be some kind of dominated puppet. Dominated by something from beyond our realm which had replaced his spine and used his nervous system to animate his body. This was further clarified when he attempted to overcome my mind with visions of some alien vista and the immense being who somehow was that vista. These alien thoughts were disturbing, but my grip on reality is so tight that reality itself bends before I do. We tried to take it alive, but when Gareth swatted it down, it crumpled and collapsed.

We autopsied the the body and found that the spine had been removed some time ago. Though the body cavity itself still contained some unidentifiable black ichor. Oli was so concerned regarding her people that she tried to rush on through to other rooms before we had time to recover. We eventually persuaded her to wait for us to recover slightly from our exertions.

- Captain Keffin Balnor

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