Skystorm

GOND's last stand

We explained our position to Castiglion to emphasize that the warforged command override circuit must be permanently destroyed, the free willed warforged invited to Vergeance, any further action against the warforged be delayed until further orders are given, those orders should not be sought until we have an opportunity to state the case for the free willed warforged before the court of Erathis. Castiglion agreed to those terms, then GOND interrupted to state that our deal greatly disappointed it and that it had had 700 years to prepare for this eventuality.

GOND triggered some kind of lockdown alert on the facility, then blasted Castiglion and his two immense allies with some kind of overwhelming blast, akin to what it normally used on Warforged. It knocked them all out. Its called upon a huge axe wielding construct, which in some ways resembled Castiglion and his Maruts, to enact its vengence upon us. It was joined by two more of the pillar mounted spidery artillery units.

Terhali sniped at the huge axe golem and it immediately teleported across the chapel to retaliate. She got the worst of that exchange until Noname slammed it back away from her. Kong Meng and I joined him in harrying the instrument of GOND’s vengeance, while the others concentrated on the artillery, and Oli overrode some of GOND’s controls at the terminal. The battle raged on across the chapel when Oli’s sniping of the golem brought it to her. We charged across to hold it back, but it was able to fell Javelin until Oli restored him to service.

Then just as it was starting to lose structural integrity, it focused all of its attention upon Terhali and bisected her with three immense blows of its axe. Oli charged it (rather unwisely in my opinion) in a fit of rage to hit it with her new macelike arm. I cut it down before it had another chance to assault our more fragile allies.

Castiglion roused from his stupor while Kong Meng enacted a ritual to preserve Terhali’s remains against the Maelstrom. Castiglion then worked with me on issuing the commands we had agreed upon to GOND. Though he was somewhat taken aback by the portal address we gave him for Vergence. In the end, the command override capacity in all warforged was permanentrly destroyed, the database was erased and GOND deactivated. Castiglion urged us to depart from the facility rapidly, as he did not expect it would survive long without GOND to sustain it.

He also noted that the anti-Maelstrom reformatting for weapons which GOND had offered could be accomplished by us using the Cog of Erathis. He demonstrated how it could be done and recommended that I keep the Cog. We then salvaged a significant amount of engineering and arcane components and returned to the Folly.

We found it in good shape, though with notably more dead demons around it. We replaced some of the ballast and armored plating with Castiglion’s Maruts and rose out of the Maelstrom to the Stormcrow. As we were docking, Castiglion turned to ask me “Deacon, how long have your people lived in the first level of the Abyss?”

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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In a House in Vergence

In the city of Vergence, a visibly old elf, his fingers permanently stained with the herbs he has worked his entire life and his eyes milked over wth age. He speaks with a young elf woman with a mane of long, fire-colored hair. She wears armor made of large leaves, a cloak of blue cloth and a ring of office. She bears a knarled, carved staff of wood so old it has become black from centuries of fingers holding it. It appears to be a staff of office. Looking closely at it, it appears to writhe under her fingers. An owl is perched on her shoulder. 

His name is Sehane and he was an herbalist. Her name is Lirra and she is the only survivor of the elven druids, the only one to escape the Feydark and the fomorians, and is the last Protector of the elven people. 

"My eldest has fallen far, and now has fallen truly into darkness." He pauses. "I can no longer see in this world but I am close to that place myself. I can see the Queen of Ravens coming for me, and the Queen of Stars waiting too." 

She looks at him with sorrow. "I know you searched so long, for both of them." 

He is on the verge of tears. "She was as her mother… wild… untamed."

His eyes stare off into the distance, over a century ago. "She was the love of my life but left me, and I knew that my daughter would be gone, too. Neither were meant to stay home for long."

He pauses and then continues.  

"I married. I became happy in my village as I had always wanted, and I passed my art down to my children as a man should. But all of that is lost. None of them survived the false eladrin, the fomorians, or those terrible giants who came to burn our sacred trees." 

Lirra looks into the distance. The owl looks directly at him. "What would you have me do?" 

Sehane looks at her imploringly. "Protector, take us home. Take us to the Court of the Seldarine."

"My daughter has done terrible things. I will trade my soul for hers if neessary, to pay for her crimes in her stead." 

Lirra thinks for a time. "The path to the Court has been closed for long, but perhaps there are ways. I will speak to these humans for you."  

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Terhali's Journal: As I Write About My Death

The warforged factory seems to be an abomination. The methods of Erathis—-I do not agree with them, but they are not evil—-have been corrupted by slavers like Torog. Terrible what was done in the days of old, the slavery. 

We've fought several warforged and other contructs, and finally came upon a room with two servants of Erathis locked in a logical conundrum for centuries. And in all such conundrums, eventually a diagonal slash will solve it, and so we fight with GOND

 …

Where am I? What happened? Now I am looking down on my body… I must be dead. I will face judgment. 

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Divine Dilemmas

The tiny maintenance robots rose up from the incubators to swarm over us as the sword guardians struck at us. Fortunately, the others were able to blast them with only minimal collateral damage to the rest of us. Javelin’s use of some kind of splintery exploding ammunition was particularly devastating.

In the aftermath, we discovered that Noname had drained the fluid deliberately. He is convinced that all the warforged are an abomination and that allowing them to live would subject them to a life of slavery as war machines. Apparently Noname is a pacifist. Beyond being convinced of his status as an abomination, he is also convinced that his long life of service as a war machine has put him beyond any kind of redemption. None of us could persuade him to the contrary.

Oli did what she could to preserve the sparks of the incomplete warforged. Then we continued our investigations of the facility to find a completely destroyed library. Gericscht had apparently attempted to leave nothing behind for anyone else. However, Oli’s study of the room indicated that the shattered consoles in it had been designed to access a remote data store, which led us to continue our search.

After coming to a corridor of locked doors, I opened one to reveal an immense shrine to Erathis. Inside I was greeted by three sentient constructs dedicated to Erathis, led by Castiglion. Each had an aura of authority and a perfect adherence to the finest principles of law and order. Beyond them stood an altar and a bank of devices. One of which was a semi-sentient (GOND) data repository which counseled me to not trust Castiglion. The two had been trapped here, arguing, for over 7 centuries.

Castiglion had been sent here on a mission by the bureacracy of Erathis to destroy this facility. He too regarded the process of constructing warforged as a perversion of the natural order of life and death. He had been stymied by the fact that the data storage device is consecrated to Erathis and he lacked the Cog which would allow him to issue the self destruct command. Cagliostro was willing to allow me to access the console to study its interface, but only after I agreed to consult with him before making the choice between destruction and restoration.

Castiglion forbade us to extract any significant information from the database. His orders were to destroy everything, including the information it contained about the warforged. Allowing us to extract some would undermine his mission. To make up for the loss of wisdom, he offered to instruct us in his knowledge of divine matters and the Astral Sea. He also hinted at some flexibility regarding the survival of our free willed warforged.

On further study, we found that the console provided total control over all warforged. Their command override slave circuits could be re-established, their minds reset, and their obedience to the Royal War College reasserted. All of them could be recalled to the facility or specified portal. Kong Meng then found, after he and Oli had struggled with the interface for some time, that additional options could be found. The slave circuit could be permanently disabled. Any arbitrary order could be broadcast, including orders which would turn the warforged against any creature or type of creature. This reinforced our agreement with Cagliostro that the facility was too dangerous.

We took a few minutes to discuss our options and decided that we wanted to issue commands to invite the warforged to the Vergence portal, then destroy their secondary receivers and capacity to restore the command override circuit. Oli advanced the point that the database might contain immensely valuable knowledge about medicine or magic which would be helpful to the Oathsworn cause. So we negotiated with Castiglion, over GOND’s objections, to get an inventory of the non-warforged knowledge available as a basis for negotiating what he could tell us. We weren’t able to get a particularly satisfactory listing of such things without too close a reading of entries containing detailed information about warforged construction.

I intend to pursue discussion regarding working with Castiglion to complete his mission in exchange for his information.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Oli Plus Plus

The oddly feral warforged attacked us with piercing shrieks and sharp talons. As we engaged them, the warforged titan who had fled the previous conflict came around the corner to join their assault. Javelin halted the Titan’s advance while we cut down the feral warforged. Then we dissassembled the Titan.

We continued our explorations to the south and a found yet another advanced facility whose purpose, at first, eluded us. Then Oli tinkered with the console and irised open a hatch. Metal coils rose up from the hatch, grabbed Oli, and yanked her inside. I raced across the room to free her, but the hatch slammed shut in the blink of an eye. The sounds of cutting tools and Oli’s screams echoed from beyond the hatch.

Noname and Kong Meng worked on the console to try to stop it, but found that they couldn’t do so because it had been sabotoged as a trap. The best they could do was to guide the process to do as little damage to Oli as it could while running its course. They all worked in the controls while I prayed for Oli.

When Oli emerged she was much transformed. Looking more Warforged than Eladrin, her arms had been largely replaced by multipurpose manipulators. Her grand arbalest emerged from a compartment in her abdomen. She was quite confused about what had happened, but interacted with Javelin, she even accepted a warforged communication module from him.

Terhali and Noname started exploring an adjacent room and found it to be an incubation chamber for proto sparks. Half of its eight chambers were occupied with sparks that were now starting to mature now that the power had been restored. Noname went to the console and began working on it. He seemed to blunder somehow, for the suspension fluid from the sparks immediately vented on the floor. This triggered some defensive behavior from the tiny maintenance devices and the proto warforged sword guardians who had previously been quiescent.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Ancient War Crimes

Beyond the doors we found a large room dominated by two Warforged Titans embossed with symbols of Erathis and a blinking control panel. Kong Meng and I walked into to investigate, but nothing reacted to our presence. Kong Meng then suggested he try to disable the titans as we had done to the outer guardians. The titans stirred to life as climbed onto one to begin. It demanded the passphrase. Terhali muttered some sort of nonsense response, which it did not accept. Thin red beams played over everything and then speakers screeched “Intruder Alert!” Additional small spiderlike automated defenses came online in the room and assaulted us with electric shocks. Javelin reported further activity in the hallway as two more insectile warforged excavated themselves from the rubble at either end of the entry corridor.

Kong Meng conjured a wall of ice to isolate one of the titan, and we began to deactivate the rest by beating them until they stopped moving. The walled off titan left the room by a door on the other side of the ice, then rammed the door into inoperability from its side.

After we had disabled the warforged, Oli retrieved her lightning weapon as the facility was clearly powered up based on some subterranean reactor. She chipped the ice away from the control panel and determined that she could open up all the interior doors at once much more easily than trying to get the ones we wanted one by one. We agreed that this would keep the defence units from barring us access to various rooms as the fleeing titan had done and so it was done.

Our further explorations revealed an ancient and macabre laboratory with odd religious overtones which reminded me of an Erathis holy place, but felt wrong. It held coffin shaped objects filled with blue crystals, which Oli stated had once been some sort of suspension liquid. It also contained an operating table equipped with restraints. Oli spent considerable time studying it for it seemed to be a medical device with both arcane and engineering components. Oli then said that if I wished to be encased in a metal body, I could lay down on the table to begin that process. I hope she was joking, for the system seemed to be barely operating at all, let alone fully functional.

On further analysis and discussion we deduced that the system had been designed to extract the soul from someone on the table, probably without their consent given the quality of the restraints. Then their soul would be transferred into the crystal lattice in the coffin shaped units, which would be moved by conveyor further into the facility for eventual inclusion into a warforged unit. The exact relationship between these crystal coffins and a warforged spark remained unclear.

Noname did not react well to the news and denied that it could have been used to make modern warforged, perhaps only for some ancient units. Yet there are no modern warforged. None known of any who were constructed after the breaking of the world. Javelin expressed no similar trouble with the notion that warforged had once been built using mortals as their motive spark.

I had no refutation to the idea and did not express my doubts aloud. I found the revelation wholly disturbing. The war must have been desperate indeed for Erathis to have given countenance for such experimentation.

No one wished to tamper with that device further, so we continued our explorations and found a much larger corridor extending back towards the area that the titan had sealed us out of. Continuing down it we found a large alcove with wires spilling out of it. Oddly distorted warforged, with an almost reptilian predatory demeanor, leapt out at us.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Prehistoric Monstrosities

We descended through the Maelstrom into a desolate valley. Captain Keffin stayed with the ship because of his peculiar ability to defend it from within. The rest of us disembarked and traversed the cratered floor of the valley. Oli identified some of the holes in the ground as the result of excavations. We chose a likely looking bore hole which led off into the darkness.

The long tunnel terminated in some natural looking caverns which housed Rageborn demons, shaggy firebreathing things with enormous claws. Nabasu flitted through the walls and attacked us as we engaged the Rageborn. They caused us a small amount of grief before they were all cut down.

Proceeding onward we found a grate which led to a partially collapsed ancient tunnel complex. It had been so sturdily warded against intrusion that even the demons and Maelstrom could not enter. Our further explorations uncovered a room guarded by four tall humanoid proto warforged and a single larger insectile warforged. They were coated in ancient dust and inactive. Labels on the two sets of adamantine doors were translated by Noname as “Garage” and “Assembly Room 3”. Signs on the walls read “Restricted Access. Authorized Personnel Only. Hard Hat Area”.

We investigated the garage first because its door was unlocked. It contained several ground vehicles which had been stripped for parts, and a control console. Noname brought it to life and translated its text as saying “Power Levels Critically Low. Reboot Y/N?” Which the engineers thought would reactivate the complex. We encouraged them to disable the guardians before we powered anything up. It took a while, but they were able to remove the motivators from all of the proto warforged.

I then tried the Cog of Erathis on the receptacle in the locked door, but nothing happened. Assuming that power was required, Oli charged up the console by rigging up a lightning weapon and rebooted it. The formerly silent facility rumbled to life with the sounds and vibration of machinery far below, and squares in the ceiling flickered with light. This time when I applied the Cog to the door, it interfaced with the door and the door unlocked and opened.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Into the Maelstrom

After many interminable meetings between the Oathsworn and the Dwarven Homeguard, we completed the bathysphere using a highly modified dwarven vessel. In a textbook bureaucratic committee manuever, it is currently named the “Fool’s Errand”, much to Oli’s chagrin. It is a tediously spartan affair, all defensive function and no style. Oli’s handiwork has at least made it cleverly designed for its intended purpose.

Borne across the heavens by the Stormcrow, directed by the Cog of Erathis as focus for the Hand of Fate ritual, it took most of a week for us to arrive at our destination. A few peaks of Craggenschwein were occasionally visible above the Maelstrom’s chaos. We copied down the map constructed by the Stormcrow’s navigational equipment, and deployed to the Errand. I ordered its dwarven crew up into the Stormcrow, for our team of myself, Oli Molisdottir, Nameless, Kong Meng, Terhali, Gareth, and Deacon Novius should be more than sufficient.

Our descent was initially marked by our vessel being chased by several flying creatures. When they landed upon the Errand, Oli repelled them using built in electrical blasts from the hull. Then a much larger creature attached itself to the chain and began attacking it. I shifted my consciousness outside to observe it and found it to be some sort of maelstrom corrupted dragon. It took no harm from the electrical defenses, so I commenced assaulting it with the power of my mind while the others prepared to repel it by attacking it from the top of the Errand.

The incredible turbulence of the winds around the creature limited the ability of our team to engage it in melee, so we deployed our ranged combatants, while I reinforced them from within the ship. The storm dragon was soon joined by vrock and nabasu, which caused the team some difficulty. Ultimately we were able to destroy all of the chaos spawn and we resumed our descent.

- Captain Keffin Balnor

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Death of Bloodspire Arena

Disguised as undead drow bearing sacks of loot, we made our way through the devastated outlying neighboorhoods of Promontory Point city. A patrol stopped us, but Gareth deflected them from penetrating our illusion us by allowing an overly curious hill giant to inspect his bag. It was harshly disciplined for its failure to follow orders and interfering with loot which we was for the Thrymspaker. After that close call we made our way into the city proper and found it busy with giants.

I did not get to see much of Bloodspire Arena, but we found a few surviving goblins there maintaining the machinery and organizing loot collection. Gareth was able to explore it while we maintained our cover by hauling ore for fire giant smiths. He reported that the Thrymspaker was at least as impressive as described, a gargantuan giant emanating frost and death commanding an immense hammer which bore the maelstrom within it.

We considered a variety of assault options on the Thrymspaker, but none seemed terribly promising as we had no way to separate him from the multitude of giants who could easily come to his aid. In the end we resolved that the best use of this opportunity would be to collapse the arena upon them. It would delay them with confusion while slaying many of their elites who crowded the stands.

Oli reset our appearance to be that of goblin slaves and we talked our way into the maintenance chambers below the arena. We set demolition charges, suborned the slaves, and even freed a few humans of southern nobility who had fled to Promontory Point. Then we portaled everyone back to Vergeance. By the time we were able to portal back to the goblin factor’s to survey our handiwork, it had already blown Bloodspire Arena to rubble. One tower remained standing. In the distance we spied the Thrymspaker roused himself from the rubble, somewhat worse for the wear. It then called for its colossal mount, a shadow laced undead dragon, to bear it away to its home continent.

The best we could do at the time was to slow them down through sabotage. They remain an immense force, probably numbering greater than the Oathsworn. We must seek further aid against them, even with our reluctant and despised Craggen allies we are almost certainly overmatched in a direct confrontation.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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So There ARE Lady Giants...

But it really doesn't matter. They don't seem any different than regular ones!

I wonder if there are factions among the giants, though? It would be worth considering. We blew a bunch to kingdom come, but we'll be tangling with them again, that's for sure. 

T.

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