With suspicious guards pounding on the stone doors, Lachlan immediately set to stalling for time, telling them that the ritual was in progress and that the Duchess and co were not to be disturbed. The guards, having not seen anyone come by with the ritual component they needed were understandably confused and inquired further, asking to hear from the Duchess herself. Despite Lachlan’s best efforts, Lachlan was unable to come up with a plausible lie, so while Aladraian set about beginning the ritual, Zasahl and Knostril attempted to barricade the door shut. This turned out to be a wise move as the guards began attempting to force their way in almost immediately, and the Dwarf and Dragonborn were left with only their body weights keeping the door closed. As they held the door shut, Lachlan spoke the incantation, and though he might have had his doubts, his hope that the colony would be reborn was enough to break the seal – the Guardian’s heart bursting like a water balloon and dissolving the seal away.
With no reason to stay longer, the party immediately made for the secret passage, with Aladraian barely escaping unseen in the nick of time, as the guards forced their way through the now open doors, and were met with a scene that included an unconscious Duchess, a dead imp, and several bleeding, but mostly stable guards, lying in front of a bubbling spring where the seal used to be. Leaving the passage they found Yorick who bemoaned his foolishness in trusting their noble intentions and despite Zasahl’s assurances that the party “did what they had to do” he sounded the alarm. As the guards rushed towards the room, Zasahl implored him to reconsider. Trusting that Bahamut’s representative had truly done the right thing, he did so, telling the troops to ignore the party and make for the seal room. The party fled in the confusion, summoning Phillipe and making their escape as soon as they got into the open.
As they soared above the colony in search of the island where they would be able to speak to the Primordial they saw the colony once more in its entirety. The Primordial-shaped mesa that had risen beneath it when the Earth Seal was destroyed began to crumble, revealing the beast itself within. The colony was distributed across its back – the metal tree having become a skeleton for a beast several times larger than the mountain the colony was originally built on. As they flew closer to the shore, taking the opportunity to heal up for the confrontation ahead, the group spotted the small island right in front of the Antediluvian’s head and began their descent.
Phillipe attempted to keep its distance from the Primordial, only daring to land on the other side of the tiny island, before fleeing into the sky. As the party descended they noticed a confrontation was already taking place between an Avatar of the Fae Queen, and the one claiming to be Tuatha, their forces locked in deadly skirmishes along the path up to the Antediluvian’s Plateau. More strikingly though was the fact the island was covered in a thin layer of grass and small flowers – life was slowly returning to Ferrosa as the Antediluvian awoke. As they ascended from the beach they came across a surly fairy soldier who had been wounded, apparently because of one of his so called allies. He was only too happy to help the party out when they both healed him and agreed to pay his ex-comrade back. Crias immediately decided to alert them with his dog whistle, which apparently caused them no small amount of irritation, as they immediately attacked. They were not however highly trained, and the party easily swatted away the first couple, before opting to simply scare the remainder off. The wounded fairy took the opportunity to try and stab Zasahl in the back, but its poison barb glanced harmlessly off his armour, and it paid for its treachery not long after.
As the group ascended, they convinced several of Tuatha’s minions to stand aside – they were untrained militia and unlike the fairies, they didn’t dare take their chances with the party. Dealing with some fairies that were harassing the final group of militia they were allowed safe passage to the top of the island, where Tuatha stood attempting to renegotiate his deal with Oona. Presuming Duchess Kath to be dead, he wanted some better assurance that he would be compensated and protected for his services, or he would simply take the Primordial for himself. Oona meanwhile took exception to this, and was offering several less pleasant alternatives, such as being trapped forever in a nightmare to slowly waste away in Queen’s dungeons on Feywilde. As the party listened in, they observed that almost everyone involved was cloaked in illusion magic, including Tuatha. Although his glamour was apparently fading as Lachlan noticed a forked tail poking out from beneath his robe. Despite this, they were certain it was the same Ceylon Tuatha they had been talking to throughout their stay here. The original was in fact, never present.
At this point, Crias again decided to give up any element of surprise the party might have via his dog whistle, loudly announcing the party’s presence to the sensitive ears of the fey before them. As they walked up to their ex-employer, they announced their intent to stop him, and requested Oona’s aid in doing so. Although Tuatha (who called himself ‘Rasa’ and claimed to be the World Builder’s body double) proposed a counter offer, She gleefully accepted the party’s terms, and her bodyguards began attacking the imposter immediately. As the party entered the fray, Rasa and his men found themselves overwhelmed, and the ones that the party didn’t kill were coup de graced by the fairies instead. Throughout the fight, Oona’s avatar found herself consistently unable to fight, experiencing some sort of unexpected psionic backlash, suggesting to the party that whatever being hid beneath its flowery visage was not entirely willing to be her puppet.
With Rasa and his men dead, The Fey Queen offered the party the same deal he had been given: Allow her to take control of the Primordial and be allowed to live like kings (or in Julie’s case, Queens) on Feywilde. The party was sorely tempted, and although they considered it among themselves, they could not bring themselves to trust the Queen of Petals. After making some small talk about if the Avatar’s host was happy (It claimed to be simply dreaming) Crias elected to simplyshock punch her in the fake petally face and the fight began anew. The fey bodyguards turned out to have been holding back – perhaps Oona expected betrayal, but regardless, their stings did a number on Crias, but they were ultimately outnumbered and outclassed. Zasahl proceeded to light the Avatar on fire, while Crias put out what was left of her smouldering form with his chilling aura. The wounded fey vanished and retreated, not to be seen again, and Crias attempted to wake the being who lay under the petals. Rummaging around in the mass of seared plant matter, he pulled out the sleeping form of a young girl dressed in tattered rags and covered in soot. Sickened by the Fey Queen’s cruelty the party removed her from the embers and turned to the now awakened Primordial who watched them with interest.
Aladraian immediately set about focusing on the pendant he carried, temporarily taking the True Name into his mind without destroying the stone, and commanded the Primordial to put the colony back to the way it was. It complied – its tendrils scooping up the village and reassembled the mountain a short distance away from its original location, where the Primordial itself stood. To his surprise, it asked him why he felt the need to command it, when it had been the guardian of that place for so long. The question was unspoken – a telepathic projection of emotions and imagery illustrating feelings of confusion and persecution. Even so, Aladraian decided he should waste no time in putting the being back to sleep. Before he could speak the words, Crias stopped him, suggesting that perhaps they should ask the Primordial what it would prefer.
The group then began a conversation with the beast, asking about its history, its intents and its hopes for the future, which it responded to as before – thorough visions and emotions representing things that once were, things that are and things that had not yet come to pass. The Antediluvian recalled its history, falling from the sky in a blaze of fire, and its guilt at the cataclysm its landing caused. It showed them visions of life rising from the ashes it caused, and they experienced its regret and pride as life began to thrive on Migdol. Upon asking what it would do given freedom they saw the wastes verdant and lively, no longer dominated by sand and lightning. Flora and fauna would thrive, and though it may not happen tomorrow, or next week or even ten years from now, it believed the world could once again live as it once did millenia ago.
Finally, the party asked it how it could be sure that no others would come and try to use its power as Oona had. In response they received a vision of the pendant containing the name buried in the earth beneath their feet, at the centre of the symbol imprinted into the ground they were standing on. Aladraian telekinetically buried the pendant while the others cleared the area, and when he stepped back, the Antedilluvian reached forward, pressing its titanic claw into the ground between them. When it was removed they saw a small, silver sapling that had each leaf engraved with the Primordial’s symbol. Using ancient primal magic to overcome almost fundamental divine magic, this would allow it to grow hundreds, if not thousands of new seals, each one insulating it against domination, such that even the gods might not command it. As it left, the party was filled with one parting feeling – the hope of a world born anew.
As they turned away from the departing behemoth, they saw the awestruck faces of the surviving militia, who had seen them save the colony, if not the planet from not one but two of the Icons. They called Phillipe down to ferry them back to the village and as everyone piled on, taking the evidence of their fight with them, they saw that he had changed colour to reflect the blues and greens of the Primordial. It seemed that not only had new life began to grow, but all life on the planet would be affected by what they had done there that night. As they flew back, they knew they’d have a lot of explaining to do and the icons they had defeated almost certainly wouldn’t take their victory lying down, but for now they were heroes.
The final Session log will be up tomorrow. Here’s a quick preview:
This was actually the map I used for the last area. Obviously it’s a lot bigger than that in its original form.
I wanted the Antediluvian to have a different art style to everything else – it’s a gargantuan spirit of creation, it doesn’t look like things that are alive, but it should resemble them. As such it’s a lot more cartoony or even sketchy in order to suggest a kind of abstractness. There’ll be more on the Primordial next time, but I want to note that of all the ideas I had for this campaign, it was pretty much the most constistant, with its function staying the same throughout every draft. And while that sounds pretty obvious, I need to emphasize just how little this campaign resembles my original plan.
Originally the plan was that Ferrosa was the setup for a murder mystery and the party would only spend a session or two on it. The assassins were the main bad guys, Ceylon Tuatha was a kindly questgiving type and the overarching icon drama was to do with the Matrairch Wyrm trying to destroy the Psiontist’s political standing while he was away, starting with his apprentices. At this point Ceylon would have tried to play both sides for profit, and the party would essentially be lead on a quest chain culminating in a meeting with the Huntsman, who knew where Faraday had gone and was interested in preserving the delicate balance of power between the Icons.
Speaking of which, the Huntsman is really one of my favourite icons to write, because he’s a being entirely of mysteries. His capabilities and motives are never known, he mainly exists to do implausible and unsettling things that make people question the security of their belongings and induces paranoia without ever really having a central role in the story. Something I truly regret about not going with the original plan is the fact that he would’ve gotten more screen time. Instead he was very much sidelined, and I never had much opportunity to let him shine. In keeping with his total irrelevance my plan was to drop hint after hint that he was involved and up to something sinister, then at the end there would be a reveal that one of the characters they had met was the Huntsman in disguise and he was basically just messing with everyone. He’d leave immediately after and never be seen again. Pacing basically killed that idea, but you’re free to guess which one of the characters he was.
I’m not likely to confirm the actual identity reveal though, because I’ll probably still use it somewhere down the line.
Here is a hint: A Huntsman is a type of spider – a codename rather than a job title. It doesn’t necessarily indicate he’s a ranger or a rogue or anything.
Note: The following couple of paragraphs occur between sessions based on what the party had planned, but did not have time to set up. I’ll let you know when the session itself begins.
As the party left the Water Temple the air was no longer the unnatural calm Ferrosa was used to but a wild wind – not a hurricane, but something significantly more vigorous than usual, even by Knostril and Julie’s experienced standards. They gazed up to the colony above them, watching the giant metallic tree begin to shift and rearrange itself, while pores opened on its branches, out of which whistled powerful gusts. Though fearful for anyone caught on the vines, the party was unable to help them, instead dedicating their efforts to finding a defensible hiding spot.
The advantage of being in a city when one is on the run is that its easy to lose yourself in, and the party managed to find a civic building with unusually heavy fortifications and a working lock mechanism. There in the dusty remains of what appeared to be a military headquarters they established camp. They were able to rest a while, before Julie noticed Keily, the ranger assassin wandering the streets outside. The party greeted her after some deliberation and they briefed one another on the situation: The assassins had little luck slowing Tuatha, having been given a run around by the various demonic impostors they had tried to track. Within short order, they managed to organize some simple supply lines with their allies.
Note: Session begins here.
The Earth seal broke shortly before the party began dinner, causing a powerful rumbling and a feeling like they two had been uprooted from the land beneath them. The party did not know it but beneath the city, the earth was beginning to take she shape of the sleeping primordial, and both the city and the colony now rested on its immense back. Meeting with their comrades in arms, the party was supplied with some enchanted gear to aid in their quest, and began planning their next move. They also noticed that the dormant Temple Guardian they had retrieved had grown a muddy skin around its metallic skeleton, but decided to leave it behind.
The military building they were in had a number of tablets engraved with reports from the front lines, research performed on the Fey Queen and her minions, maps of the city and more interestingly, a series of divinely mandated rules that the icons must follow, signed with a stylized heart that nobody recognized, but those with a relationship with the Huntsman felt a connection to. The text explained that an ancient Icon known as the Prince of Shadows had provided unexpected aid to the people of the Caverns, providing them vital information that kept them alive through the near annihilation of their people. The rules were as follows, with some of the party’s conclusions included:
- The thirteen are tools of the Goddess of Change, but their will is their own. (Avandra picks the icons for her own purposes)
- The roles that the thirteen can take are set but some roles occur more often than others. (There are more than 13 titles, that have been used by icons past and present)
- The thirteen are godlike within their sanctuaries. Outside they are mortal. (If Ceylon is outside the Tuathan Forest on Nasca he’s quite killable, assuming you’re tough enough)
- The Thirteen only ever operate on a grand scale. Should they fail, the consequences would be severe. (Something powerful prevents the icons from intervening directly in societal affairs)
- The thirteen may become corrupt, but changing roles is not considered to be failure. (Ceylon would incur no penalty from abandoning his role as the World Builder)
- Only one of the thirteen may survive the end of an age. (Oona is the only icon who has ever done this)
- The Prince of Shadows is exempt to every rule. (Including the one where he’s named “The Prince of Shadows”)
The notes ended by suggesting that the Prince had somehow smuggled Ceylon (aka Oona’s “Little General”) onto a small island in the lake where he had been able to invoke the Primordial’s name to seal it away. Knowing that Ceylon would be vulnerable here, the party set off with renewed confidence, though only after Crias managed to obtain a whistle to summon Phillipe from Druid Bob in exchange for two ancient gold pieces. Aladraian and Julie decided that they would be better off securing some more concrete help and resolved to join them later.
Upon arriving at the Temple they saw two militia men posted outside, evidently recruited from the colony or its visitors. Knostril, decked out in Dwarven guard captain armor was easily able to pull rank on them, getting the party in peacefully. In the lobby they encountered some Dwarves who, though they did not say it out loud, were allies recruited by Jimi and Blein, and allowed the party access to the secret tunnels while loudly telling them to move along. Knostril and Zasahl decided rather than sneaking through the tunnels as suggested, they would indeed move along, and ran straight into Yorick, who was fighting fit, and giving a speech to several new recruits, one of who was limping as a result of a bear trap that Lachlan had placed in the temple earlier.
Yorick managed to recognize the pair, and while thankful for their compassion in his time of need, pointed out they had an arrest warrant outstanding, and all evidence suggested they were saboteurs, so he was inclined to take them straight to the Duchess. Luckily, Zasahl’s convincing reasoning and silver tongue managed to defuse the situation, getting him to admit that indeed something was going on here. Yorick proceeded to lead the pair to a second set of secret tunnels under the pretense of an arrest, just in time to hear the results of Crias walking into the next room and intentionally alerting every single guard in the vicinity. Yorick barely managed to save his hide, but the secret tunnels they were all using were discovered, barring any chance of an easy escape.
While in the tunnels adjacent to the seal room, Lachlan listened up at the door, hearing the Duchess conversing with Ceylon. It appeared the Duchess had been conspiring with him this whole time, and the two were plotting how best to deal with the Party’s interference. In addition, it appeared Ceylon’s policy of replacing high ranking individuals with demonic doppelgangers extended further than the party had anticipated – the one they thought was The World Builder was in fact one of his servants, who had been freed from his geas of servitude by the magic of the Fey Queen. The two planned to play both the Queen and the Builder, taking advantage of the resources afforded to them, before assuming control of the Primordial themselves. In fact, it seemed that while Tuatha’s plan was unchanged, he had never been present to carry it out – electing to remain untouchable within his sanctuary instead. He had however failed to account for the magic of the Queen of Petals, or the ambition of his servants.
Having heard enough, Lachlan jumped out of the tunnels, and before anyone could react, he plunges his dagger straight into the throat of one of Tuatha’s elite guards, felling him in a single stab. The rest of the party charged out to join the Fray, but the demon who wore Tuatha’s visage used one of his old Master’s scrolls to teleport away rather than face the party. The group made short work of the guards, taking care to stabilize most of them rather than kill them outright, while Crias set his sights on the Duchess. He charged his fist with lightning and punched her out for later interrogation, before doing the same to an imp. Miraculously, for an untrained and unarmored civilian, the duchess was not immediately killed by such a powerful hit, but she could not be interrogated because as soon as the commotion died down there was a knock at the door, asking if the Duchess and her men were all right.
The Arcanauts didn’t have the same kind of aerial view of the colony the night after it was shattered. But if they did, it might have looked something like this.
Mainly, I thought it looked better without the dust cloud hazing things up.
This takes place a few sessions ago, while they were setting up camp. I’ll have a picture of the following night later. With two additional seals broken, it looks quite a bit different.
TheSpecktre, who plays Knostril asked:
So a Primordial’s true name is like Entish? Telling the story of that individual?
That’s an interesting question and it’s not far off the mark actually. The Truth is that True Names are far, far more complicated than that – they form part of the fundamental base code of the universe, and are heavily linked to Divine Magic.
First off, a True Name isn’t a story per se, and it’s not just Primordials who have them – practically everyone alive, dead or otherwise does. Often, a True Name is referred to as a “Soul Name” because it’s something living, conscious beings tend to have, but the label is inaccurate. True names have been at least established as existing for entire species, important locations, philosophical concepts and even, Gods – none of which have singular souls, and some of which aren’t technically “alive” by any practical definition. In addition, it doesn’t just describe their history, but their future as well.
A True name is more like a series of definitions describing the thing in totality than a story. It’s called a “True Name” because it indicates a thing so specifically it only describes them and nothing else in the universe. It’s not just comprised of words, because words carry intent and broad implications that can change within a culture over time. It’s more specific than that, including its own ideas and concepts to provide an objective specific context that gives the words meaning. In fact, a true Name often contains more information than could ever be practical. So usually what you perceive as one is an abbreviated, simplified version of the real thing, interpreted by complex magics to apply your will to the real thing. This limits your ability to use it, but you have to in order for it to have any practical applicability. The thing that makes True Names useful and powerful instead of obscure bits of arcana nobody can interact with is the spells used to access it essentially define it as a mathematical variable, which you can alter by including it in an equation.
The way this works is heavily abstracted, but most scholars agree that True Names are, or are the result of a very pure, very powerful form of divine magic. Most beliefs are vague or conflicted or uncertain enough that they create very little impact on reality unless you have a lot of people believing in concert, but a True Name so completely encapsulates the idea of a thing that all ambiguity or uncertainty is by definition lost. When you gain such a transcendent understanding of some facet of reality, you wield almost surgical power over how it is expressed in the universe. Some say this is how the Gods function, others suspect it might be something beyond even them.
What is less ambiguous is that having a True Name doesn’t just command things, it can change them fundamentally. Major changes tend to be difficult in that they require rewriting and re-contextualizing a huge amount of information, and generally a mortal brain just doesn’t have the processing power to do that even with magical interpretation, but straightforward changes in behavior, high level functions and attitudes are often “simple” enough to be practical. Where by simple I mean complicated as all hell but not so complicated that powerful mages can’t find a way to use them.
That’s why True Names are often used just to influence powerful beings, rather than to reshape oneself into a God; that and there are really good reasons to limit what you do with them. Firstly, you’d have to have nearly the mental capacity of a God to attempt it, second, if you did you wouldn’t be stupid enough to try fundamentally rewriting yourself because you’d understand the extraordinary risks involved. Risks including defining yourself out of existence by including a contradictory term. Or screwing up the way you interact with the universe in the exact wrong way that you tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime. Or even just altering the way you think, damaging your interpretation of your own name, causing an infinite feedback loop twisting you into a self-contradictory fractal abomination that cannot and should not exist. Among other things.
To be the kind of person who could use a true name to a significant fraction of it’s potential you’d have to be either a God or something more than a mere mortal – even the magically powered icons would have difficulty doing something really drastic without external aid. That’s not to say they can’t get said aid or collaborate with one another, but they rarely, if ever do. To do it yourself you’d have to not only be supernaturally intelligent (an ancient dragon lord perhaps), able to harness the power of multiple minds working in parallel (say, if you took control of the Collective Unconscious on Wyrmweb and forced its users to think for you) and have an incredibly strong will (the kind it takes to rule a galaxy). And that’s a rather low estimate for a minimum baseline on my part. Luckily, people like that are pretty few and far between.
To give you one last idea of why this is a good thing, imagine a God and a Primordial who know one another’s True Names having a duel. Now Imagine every atom in a universe exploding at the speed of light, while the speed of light itself deteriorates into nothing as all sensibility and reality breaks down into pure, literal chaos. There is potentially no difference between those two scenarios. For that reason, a lot of people praise Ioun, god of Knowledge for making it really hard for people to use True Names.
With Crias’ attempts failing to bear fruit, the party left through the only remaining door. Through it was a long, grand hallway leading to another carving room and a large locked door bearing depictions of the seal and a message of both warning and forbiddance, stating that “Infinite sadness” lay beyond. It also denied any responsibility on the part of the management for harm incurred therein, in both Deep Speech and Primordial.
Meanwhile, in the carving room they found a much more elaborate tale depicting the War the constructs had referred to. Aladraian recognized the woman’s insignia, indicating her to be Oona, the mysterious Queen of the Fae, who had arrived millenia ago seeking the power of the Antediluvian. The lady of petals had torn a swathe through the peaceful aliens (known as the Tung), demanding the power of the Primordial. When the Tung refused to stand down, she killed them without a second thought. Eventually, the child she had brought with her sought an end to the bloodshed, producing an ornate pendant, which he then used to put the Primordial to sleep. The final pictograms depicted the woman leaving in a rage, unable to claim the Primordial’s power.
Upon closer examination, the pendant bore distinctive markings that the party had seen before – including the ancestral family crest of Tuatha. Upon examining the pendant in their possession (the one containing the Antediluvian’s true name) the party was able to verify they were one and the same. Somehow, the Huntsman had stolen the very pendant the child had used from Ceylon. Remembering that the Namer Demon specified that he had given the Primordial’s name to Ceylon* but did not say when, Lachlan realized that the child depicted in the carving must be none other than the World Builder himself, making him impossibly old, even by elven standards.
The Huntsman’s gifts were not entirely spent however, as none other than Julie Greenleaf arrived bearing news of the goings on outside. Apparently Tuatha’s men had already made their way into the city in pursuit of the air seal, and while the assassins were attempting to waylay them they were met with limited success. Julie also came bearing a key made of sand fitted to the lock that on the door leading to the seal. Indeed, it opened the door flawlessly, despite its seeming fragility. Pondering the implications that the Huntsman himself might have gotten to the door before them in order to mold the key for their use, the party took a moment to be disturbed at his apparent omniscience/omnipresence before continuing on.
The door lead to a staircase framed on both sides by waterfalls, which the more superstitious Tung had once thrown gold coins into, possibly as part of a prayer ritual. At Crias’ insistence, the party stopped to examine them, and Aladraian used his awesome psionic powers to levitate a coin out as a memento. Disappointed at Zasahl’s reluctance to go treasure diving, the group opened the final door at the bottom of the stairs into a vast chamber containing the Primodial Water Seal and its guardians. Attempts at diplomacy with the Seal Guardian were largely unsuccessful, the party having opted to try to bluff it into helping them, or telling it the war had ended rather than claiming allegiance with a known ally of the time.
A loud rumbling followed by a rush of wind saw the guardians spontaneously grow wings, indicating Ceylon’s men had broken the air seal.
Aladraian quickly tried to turn it to his advantage, claiming the Fae Queen’s minions were attacking, prompting the constructs to enter an alert state. Upon noticing the Eladrin in their midst, they attacked. What followed was the toughest challenge the party had faced yet, with Knostril and Crias each staring death square in the eyes, and each coming back from the brink to fight on. Lachlan demonstrated his combat expertise, tearing chunks off the guardians even as he nimbly danced around them. Julie meanwhile sent the constructs scattering with well placed sling shots, demonstrating to the party the advantage of the deep pools nearby, which they could knock the guardians into, momentarily putting them out of commission. Zasahl spat waves of flame, keeping his friends healthy and his enemies charred, while Aladraian tossed guardians around like ragdolls. Despite an unfortunate friendly fire incident, the party eventually prevailed, felling the massive Gaurdian, while Crias put one of his subordinates into a dormant state for his own future purposes.
Pulling the watery heart from the Guardian’s corpse, the party was faced with a choice – they could arouse suspicion and danger in their fatigued state by completing the ritual or they could take an extended rest and risk ambush, but be better prepared to deal with it. What they soon realized was, the final seal could not be opened without the heart, meaning they could retreat to a safe place, rest there and come back when they were fully revitalized, dealing with whoever Ceylon had sent on their terms. They could safely allow Ceylon’s men to open the Earth Seal for them knowing they lacked the capability to finish the job. At that point, they need only eliminate Ceylon’s forces, perform the ritual, and decide whether to put the heart to sleep permanently (which would put the colony back to it’s previous state) or set it free and prevent anyone else from controlling it, (allowing life on Migdol to flourish once more).
As they began to leave, they considered the kinds of traps they could set and the favours the could call in to make their upcoming assault easier.
*A true name is far too long and complex for any mere mortal to remember, consisting of not just letters but ideas and concepts – because of this it cannot simply be written down, but must use a crystalline focus to project it into a mind until used.
Having buried the preserved demon corpse in the sand, under a cairn of debris (despite Crias requests to resurrect it for interrogation), the party made their way into the city. It quickly became obvious that they were in the district corresponding to the water seal due to the prevalence of canals to the side of the stone pathways. While there they noticed the city had almost been built over by newer architecture – roughly hewn braces, walls and arches adorned smooth stone, with rusted gates hanging from their hinges across empty streets. The group came across a fountain with a variety of directions on them, as well as sculptures of Those Who Came Before, each one apparently corresponding to a specific seal. Those Who Came Before were roughly humanoid, with blunt beaks, pointed almost elven ears and notable head crests instead of hair. Much like their spirits, they appeared to be augmented by metallic limbs, with no discernible pattern. Lachlan was able to reactivate the fading enchantment on the fountain, and it was discerned this place had been abandoned for millennia.
Following the directions on the fountain, the party made their way to the water temple – a building seemingly untouched by the renovations that pervaded the rest of the city. Upon entering they found it the lobby to be edged by clear water pools, in which were built statues much like those on the fountain. Opposite them were four metal constructs holding spears, twitching and creaking, apparently not noticing the intruders. Aladraian noticed the statues (not the constructs) were holding glowing glass orbs, and attempted to remove one, only to be sternly told in deep speech by the constructs to “look but do not touch”. As the statues spoke, the carvings of various runes and other characters began to glow, subtitling their speech for the hard of hearing.
Aladraian began to interrogate them on the history of the temple and was informed that it was “The Temple of Sadness”, built to contain a being they referred to as “The Antediluvian” – their name for the primordial. They stated that it could not be unsealed until the Great War concluded, but were unable to provide further information, recommending the party seek a cleric for more up to date advice. As this was happening, Zasahl and Lachlan were exploring a nearby corridor. Lachlan spotted some larger guards in an adjacent room built around a lovely waterfall, as well as a variety of metallic spiders doing something to a metal root that had grown through a doorway.
Unable to resist the urge to investigate, and having not heard the statue’s request, he poked one with a stick causing them to immediately stop what they were doing and mob him. The others rushed to his aid, Crias noticing and exploiting a secret passage in the wall to arrive sooner, while Zasahl used the benevolent powers of Bahamut to heal Lachlan’s wounds. The party had to contend with all the temple guardians in the room, though curiously the ones in the lobby did not become hostile. Lachlan was easily able to out-maneuver the larger ones, slicing gaping wounds in the gaps between their metal plating. Meanwhile, the brutes lashed out with liquid metal spears which became electrified whips, splattering Zasahl and Knostril with high-voltage goo. Eventually, the party crushed the resistance, watching the brutes melt away until humanoid skeletons remained. The final spider to be killed knocked one of the glass orbs off a statue near the waterfall revealing a metallic base and a lack of enchantment.
With some time to explore, the party split to investigate the secret passage, and the adjacent rooms. Both adjacent rooms were empty, but the walls were covered in carved murals. The first one was uncovered by Aladraian, and contained depictions of a massive, hexapodal Ankylosaurus-like beast with pipes growing from it’s back. It was surrounded by devoted worshippers, and was labelled “The Antediluvian”. The second was examined by Knostril who saw depictions of Those Who Came Before living on the mountain back when it was a lush and fertile, if alien landscape. The area seemed to be cris-crossed with a lattice of pipes, some of which spouted air or steam, others of which spilled water, which the villagers were able to use for survival and agriculture. Some others were dressed as shamans, barbarians or other tribal positions, each going about their lives. To the side however was someone new – a feminine figure, wreathed in flowers, with butterfly wings looking sternly toward the scene of prosperity, while a small elven child hid behind her legs looking fearful.
While all this was happening, Zasahl, Lachlan and Crias had explored the passageway, uncovering an exit to an empty hallway, which they opened. The hall had two doors, one of which Zasahl carefully opened, revealing a series of guards much like they had spoken to and fought earlier (though they merely stood there twitching). Crias meanwhile decided rather than open it, he would kick it down, knocking the thing off it’s ancient hinges to reveal a library of bronze tablets and rather irritated looking spiderbots. Fortunately for everyone, the spiders could not leave the room, and their terrible AI was easily circumvented by Aladraian walking up and telling them he came in peace, seeking information. Apparently the spiders were programmed to understand Primordial. In fact, many of the carvings around the area included primordial translations.
Aladraian then managed to find the ritual the party was looking for – an official looking document stating that it must only be used once the war was over. It detailed an incantation the party must speak while spilling the blood of the Seal Guardian and hoping for the rebirth of a new world.
Let the Water God weep once more, so that our hope may be born of its despair.
At this point, Crias decided the best way to continue would be by claiming to be a Primordial Avatar*. His bluff was unsuccessful, and the guardians in the nearby room informed him the Seal must only be broken at the end of the Great War, and to please not touch anything. Undeterred he informed them the war had been over for millenia, which they claimed could not possibly be the case as “She” still lives. Exactly who “she” is is unknown though the party suspected the Astrosage (perhaps one of her preincarnations?), The Matriarch Wyrm or even another Primordial.
Although, if you’ve been paying attention to the descriptions, you might have some idea already.
*Fun Fact: Whether or not Primordials even have avatars is a fact neither Crias nor the temple guardians actually know. They don’t.