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Laori overhears your words and smiles, skipping (literally) off to tell Sial he's in. They break camp quickly and are soon ready to travel.
The rocky volcanic ground here is warm to the touch and studded with volcanic glass that makes walking a cautious affair. As you approach the top of the volcanic caldera the Castle sits in, you can see it's actually a lake, with the castle situated on an island in the center. A ruined barbican, a fortified outpost or gatehouse, sits on this side of the lake, with a crumbling wooden bridge heading across the water toward the Castle. You can see signs of orcs in the barbican, and can't be sure you haven't been spotted.
You have three approaches: the barbican and bridge; swimming through the lake; or using magic to fly to the castle. Which will it be?
Aside from the bloody letters, the hot topic is the departure of Cassandra who left in the night. Kendra reports that she received word of a relation in danger and gave her regrets, including returning the ring she received as inheritance. The discussion is interrupted by a knock at the door. A coachman waits there, along with a man who shows signs of both human and outsider ancestry. Kendra directs the coachman to an empty room, while escorting the man into the parlor.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sonny Wright. I sent Sonny a letter along with the rest of you, but his arrival was delayed. Please, get acquainted while I retrieve something for you, Mister Wright."
As you begin speaking, Kendra returns with a small wooden coffer and hands it to Sonny. "Father wished you to have this, as a remembrance. I kept it back during the reading of will, since I feared you were killed before you could arrive." Inside the coffer is a amulet on a simple leather thong. The amulet is a silver figurine of Saranrae, arms spread wide, with radiance flowing from her. However, it seems as if it was melted in a fire at some point, since it is slightly contorted and flowing. For now the amulet adds +1 healing to any channels you make to heal damage. It may display more powers as time goes by.
Feel free to roleplay out the greetings and bring Sonny up to speed in character.
Sial's face goes from smile to hard in a blink. "Attack my companion and you will see what Zon-Kuthon's favored servant can wreak. Asyra is my companion, sworn to aid and protect me. She has already proven her worth in the Desnan shrine. She will not act without my leave and I vouchsafe for her. If you cannot accept her, then we shall part and explore this castle separately."
Laori runs over to see you, while the Shadowcount walks over at a leisurely pace. The perky elf woman scoops Pai up in a bear hug, squealing with delight. "Oooo! It's soooo good to see you! No, silly! I've been tasked with exploring Scarwall since the beginning. After I reported back in after talking to Salvator, my superiors wanted me to check out this moldy old place! You know it used to be a temple to Xon-Kuthon? Plus, my superiors thought it would be great if I could find people to help me through the castle! And now you're here! Isn't that wonderful!" Laori darts in to hug Pai again, before the gnome can stop her.
"Help us through the castle, elf." The Shadowcount calls out with a tight lipped glare at the elf. "Greetings, again. It would seem our paths were meant to cross. I take it you have met my... colleague then?"
I'm contacting one of the people in the recruitment thread who expressed interest in playing a cleric. If he doesn't respond, I'll take recommendations on replacement players. I've reconsidered, and you do need a cleric/positive channeler and I don't want Xerice to have to compromise her character idea.
Let's put the game on a slow idle until I can get a replacement up and running. This is a good spot for replacements, which will become much harder when you get to Harrowstone.
Of course, I reserve the right to spice up the encounters to reflect your numbers... My spice weasel is a fiendish variety, I admit.
As you move southward, the land becomes increasingly rocky until you break into an area where large mountains jut from the ground. Scarwall is built on once of these, situated in the bowl of an extinct volcano. At the base of the mountain, two tents wait. One is large and grand, the other small and practical. Standing in front of them are three figures: Shadowcount Sial, his succubus companion and the perky leather clad elf Laori. Laori is standing on her tip-toes, waving furiously, while Sial gives her a look of pure and unadulterated loathing.
Divination reveals a small village in the shadow of Scarwall, called Lasthome. It's a village of less than 100 people, mainly half-orcs with some humans. The villagers mostly farm, with some goat-herding, and seem to be shunned by the orcish inhabitants of the Hold of Belkzen. It's not likely to be a very friendly village, but they're also not likely to try to kill or enslave you.
Pai and Ruperta teleport 1d100 ⇒ 60 to Lasthome. They appear in a field near the town and walk into town. They get a few curious looks and curt nods as they pass. There seems to be one inn/tavern in town, not named but known by a sign of a fist holding a mug. If they go inside, they find a clean, if rundown tavern. The bartender is a large woman who looks used to wielding a sword. Her nose was broken a long time ago and never set properly and she looks you hard in the eye as you walk in. She grunts a greeting, then pours you two mugs of strong ale, unasked for.
Nefti and Kafar look at each other and nod. Kafar speaks, "We would be very grateful for that recommendation. I think the Society would be a much better organization to work for!"
You pass the night quietly, as Nefti entertains you with stories and tales far too wild to be true. The next morning Amenopheus returns, looking tired but pleased. "I believe this is the beginning of a very promising moment for the Sages and for the Society. I thank you, my friends, for aiding my cause so aptly. I shall definitely commend you to the Decemvirate."
Amenopheus teleports you back to Eto, only to discover Grandmaster Torch has disappeared.
Thus passes Destiny of the Sands! I shall have chronicle sheets to you soon! Thanks for playing!
The only two prisoners you are able to find mention of in the library are the Piper and the Lopper.
Before he snatched his victims, the Piper taunted his targets with a mournful dirge on his f lute. He preferred to paralyze lone victims by dosing their meals with lich dust and then allowed his pet stirges to drink the victims dry of blood.
When the Lopper stalked prey, he would hide in the most unlikely of places, sometimes for days upon end with only a few supplies to keep him going while he waited for the exact right moment to strike. Once his target was alone, the Lopper would emerge to savagely behead his victim with a handaxe.
Of the Mosswater Marauder and Father Charlatan, you find nothing.
Asking around the village, you soon discover that either the locals know nothing about the specific prisoners or they refuse to speak of them.
Researching and asking around the village takes all of day 3.
Unless you have anything specific to do overnight....
You awaken to even more talking and mumurings of the crowd outside. As you emerge, blinking into the light, you can see that despite being scrubbed away, two letters written in blood now adorn the monument in the center of town:
I'll let you know when you level. It's easier that way.
Amenopheus and Tahonikepsu are silent for a moment. Then Tahonikepsu smiles. "Let us ask the other Sage present." She motions to Amenopheus, who frowns for a moment, then smiles. He brings the topaz from his pocket and places it upon the stone column. It sits there a moment, then a topaz light illuminates Amenopheus. Tahonikepsu nods, then bows her head.
"I submit to the majority. Amenopheus shall lead us."
She and Amenopheus begin to speak quietly, but not before a crimson light shines around each of you, flows to the column and resolves itself into the fragments of the Ruby jewel. You feel yourself lighten, as the mythic power leaves you.
The last item of business is what to do with Kafar and Nefti. They have voiced interest in defecting to the Society. When you go back out, they greet you, sitting around a small cooking fire with a soup bubbling upon it.
Amenopheus begins, "As I have to this point: by researching artifacts and spells that may aid the Crusades and using them after they've been vetted and thoroughly tested. Erratic magic use is what caused the Worldwound in the first place."
Tahonikepsu nods. "I believe the issue of the wardstones is the first matter to be solved. Once we contain the demons once more, then we can focus on the issue of closing the vile portal once and for all. I believe that there must be ancient magics that would apply to the wound. A restored Order would allow us to focus the attentions of the Sages on the issue from multiple angles."
Despite her best efforts Xerice is unable to find out anything more from the townspeople than Zanu unearths. It seems that the townspeople have mostly put the issue of Harrowstone far from their minds.
Ceasare and Cireth's research about the "Splatter Man" reveal a sordid tale:
Professor Feramin was a celebrated scholar of Anthroponomastics (the study of personal names and their origins) at the Quartrefaux Archives in Caliphas. Yet an accidental association with a succubus twisted and warped his study, turning it into an obsession. Feramin became obsessed with the power of a name and how he could use it to terrify and control. Soon enough, his reputation was ruined, he’d lost his tenure, and he’d developed an uncontrollable obsession with an imaginary link between a person’s name and what happens to that name when the person dies. Every few days, he would secretly arrange for his victim to find a letter from her name written in blood, perhaps smeared on a wall or spelled out with carefully arranged entrails. Once he had spelled his victim’s name, he would at last come for her, killing her in a gory mess using a complex trap or series of rigged events meant to look like an accident.
Of the song, you learn nothing from the library. Of the five prisoners, you learn the following: Originally, Harrowstone housed only local criminals, but as the prison’s fame spread, other counties and distant lands began paying to have more dangerous criminals housed within this prison’s walls. At the time of the great Harrowstone Fire, the number of particularly violent or dangerous criminals imprisoned within the dungeons below was at an all-time high. The five most notorious prisoners in Harrowstone at the time of the great fire were Father Charlatan, the Lopper, the Mosswater Marauder, the Piper of Illlmarsh, and the Splatter Man.
Researching this takes nearly all day.
In character, you're not sure what sort of dragon she is. She's not one of the metallic or chromatic ones you're familiar with. Out of character, she's a time dragon, one of the outer dragons.
Rekgar seems to ponder this whole matter, but shakes his head. "I feel I must vote for Amenopheus, as the leader of my faction, though I sympathize with Tahonikepsu."
When asked to swear that they will abide by the decision, both Amenopheus and Tahonikepsu do so swear.
"A good question! I will continue to use my influence to unearth ancient knowledge and responsibly allow it to be used by the Society, after it has been thoroughly vetted, of course. As I have done for years on behalf of the Society and Osirion." says Amenopheus.
"I believe the Society is a perfect partner to us in the pursuit of knowledge. However, I believe knowledge must be shared and shared widely in order that no single group wields too much power. And we must use this knowledge to act. Evil intent must be thwarted while still small, and those who can be redeemed by our order should be redeemed. A single pebble may start an avalanche, and if we can stop that pebble, we can prevent a great of harm." Tahonikepsu says.
Amenopheus steps forward. "I am Amenopheus. I am a formed advise to the Ruby Prince, recently separated from his service. I thus have much time to spare for these pursuits. I have contacts across the land and I have the ear of the Decemvirate, which we shall need as allies in our quest to move forward. I believe that the Sages perished because of outside forces beyond our control and I believe that by staying spread out and without a central location, the Sages can better survive any new troubles. Indeed by being spread out, the Sages can act quickly and decisively in any situation." He pauses and stares at the Diamond Sage. "Furthermore, I have my doubts about you. Possessing a Jewel is not the only thing I have done. Can you provide any bona fides?"
Tahonikepsu looks momentarily annoyed, then smiles. In a flash of light, Tahonikepsu is gone and a dragon the size of a small hut is there. This dragon's cracked scales creak with frightening, patient power. Some of its horns are ancient and brittle, others new and pristine. The dragon regards you with an amused look. "Is this credential enough?" Then shimmers and returns to the attractive sage.
"I believe the time has come for the Sages to stand together and work under leadership to shape the world. We fell in the past because we failed to stand together and we were vulnerable, as we will be again if we spread out and dilute our influence. I have watched the course of history for a thousand years, content to simply observe, but the discovery of the Jewel has given me an opportunity and an obligation to make the world better. I believe we must recruit new sages from the ranks of those in the position to effect change, advisers to kings and pharaohs, men and women of wisdom and concern."
"I disagree," Amenopheus calls out. "We must choose scholars and sages, men and women learned and wise, who will know it is best to intervene less and study more. I wish to recreate the Sages of the past, to use time-honored ways and techniques to create the future."
"Foolishness." Tahonikepsu says, "You will repeat the mistakes of the past and condemn us again by them. I wish to create a new order, to use new methods, to innovate. We cannot rely upon tried and true; we must experiment."
Both Sages eye one another, but it is with respect for the other's wisdom and passion. You sense that no matter the outcome, they will abide by it and support the decision of the leadership.
Now, what say you, oh wise players?
Tahonikepsu smiles. "Welcome, Sir Quinton! And Hagrym and Karos and Rekgar! I have watched your careers with great interest! And welcome Amenopheus! I see you have retrieved the Topaz gem from my agents. Do not judge them too harshly; they are good agents but they have fallen in with a bad crowd."
Waving her hand toward the room, she continues, "This place was once the Hall of Sages. It was here that the Jewel Sages debated matters of importance and helped to shape the future of our land. And it is here that I have brought you for that same reason: The order of the Jewel Sages must be returned to Golarion. And I would like to lead them."
Amemopheus politely clears his throat. "While I am in favor of our Order's return, do you think it necessary to establish leadership while only two of us exist? And if there is to be a leader, I would humbly place myself as a candidate for leadership."
Tahonikepsu nods. "Just so. There are two of us, but four Jewels reside in this room: the Topaz and the Ruby," She sweeps her arm toward Quinton, Karos, Hagrym and Rekgar. "As representatives of the Ruby, they must have a vote. So let us discuss."
At this point, it is up to you guys to decide. Each Sage will make their case, then you must vote. However, you may put your own candidate forward as well, if you believe there to be another worthy candidate. I will write up each of the Sage's cases for themselves as leader shortly.
We're good to go, I think.
The Sun Shaman says that Scarwall was Kazavon's fortress and castle and was constructed in the Hold of Belkzen, many miles away. It will take many weeks of travel by foot, or it will take magic.
He goes to say that Scarwall is a cursed place, and that the dead do not rest easy there. He advises you to be on guard, as his people do not know how cursed the place is, only that it is definitely cursed.
Quinton stares for a long moment at the statues, then back at the crystal. Taking his gut instinct he races to the statue he believes correct and thrusts the last lantern in its hands. There is a moment as the light shoots out, refracts and sends a yellow light into the last gemstone. Suddenly the two statues stop their actions and return to their posts, looking once more inanimate. The crystal prism surrounding Amenopheus dissolves and the crystal door flows back to create a passage through. Amenopheus lets out a long breath. "My. That will teach me to take a moment before I act, will it not?"
He steps through the doorway and motions for you to follow. A broad, simple, flat-topped column of sandstone rises from a deep pit in this circular, domed chamber with a white tiled floor. Though no wind can be felt, particles of sand slowly blow around the pit as if circulated by a lazy breeze, their movement creating a soft, rasping susurrus.
Standing next to the column is a Garundi woman dressed in the Osiriani fashion. She smiles at Amenopheus and the party as you enter.
"Welcome to the Sanctum of the Sages. I am Tahonikepsu, the Diamond Sage. Welcome home."
As you sit down to breakfast, the windows are opened to allow a breeze to air out the stuffy home. You've no sooner began to eat your eggs and bacon than you hear a sing-song voice coming in from outside. It sounds like the cadence of little girls singing a skip-rope song:
"Put her body on the bed.
Hagrym steps up and strikes the statue, causing clay and stone to fly off it in a cloud!
The staggered statue attacks Hagrym! Attack: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (8) + 10 = 18, dealing 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9 damage and causing Hagrym's wounds to bleed for 2 additional damage each turn until they're healed!
The newly animated statue charges Rekgar! Charge!: 1d20 + 10 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 10 + 2 = 30, Possible crit: 1d20 + 10 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 10 + 2 = 30 and dealing 2d6 + 10 ⇒ (5, 4) + 10 = 19 damage and 2 bleed! Rekgar looks pale as the construct hits him, and he flurries defensively, trying to cause it to back off! Flurry: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7 and Flurry: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15, but unfortunately neither of his strikes seem to do any harm to the statue!
Quinton is up! Make another Knowledge Engineering check to see if you can determine which lantern will cause yellow light to shine on the gem. Otherwise, with your speed, I'd say you can blindly try two statues each round. There are 8 statues you haven't tried!