Isilme looks towards the door, wondering if Hinagiku would be arriving shortly, or whether there were problems retrieving the slate. "If Hinagiku is not back shortly, we will need to send someone to check on her progress. You may be best suited for doing so, Ehren, although I am unsure how far along on your research you are."
Hinagiku looks at the celestial, her eyes darting from side to side as she is trying to find a solution to their problem. Bowing once more, but in apology this time, she promptly takes out some of the velum she was given and begins writing on one of its corner.
Hinagiku will write what she would have thought (added back in spoiler below) and use the same diplomacy roll I guess?
Celestial-sama, please forgive me for taking time away from you. I am allowed little time here, yet I cannot reach the tablet I am looking for. The currents are too strong. I have come to help a companion of mine who is afflicted by some sort of demonic experiment, and without this text we cannot undo what was done to her. I know it is presumptuous to ask anything of you, but I would be thankful if you could help me in any way.
"Do not worry, Valais," Ehren says with a reassuring smile. "Isilme is right - we can count on Kitarlo to bring his four books. So really, there is only one left to wait on."
The druid frowns internally, slightly worried that Hinagiku has not yet returned. Remembering Akarah's hint regarding The Slates of Klador, he wonders just deep of a dive the search demanded. Given what he has seen so far, he would not be surprised if there is a whole ocean sequestered somewhere in the library.
"I have a list of materials that might help us find our celestial ley line, but I have not yet had the chance to look for them," Ehren replies, shaking his head. He reaches for his belt and withdraws a small sheet of paper. "If someone else is up to the task, I can set out to look for her."
Ary nods slowly, to Annabelle, but her lips are creased rather than being formed into a smile. Her mental gears had... locked. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to one of the largest libraries in all the planes... and... pictures? She didn't really have words to express her disappointment. She idly glances over to Lann's book, and just closes her eyes... unless he'd used a scroll...
She is thankfully pulled from the thought process she was on by being corrected. "At least Five. He still needs his answers." Ary says, correcting the two in turn, as she herself is corrected. She closes her own book, knowing that there would be nothing there for her to gain without use of one of their scrolls. "Yeah, it's strange that Daisy isn't back yet. Maybe hers was more deep or.." she trails off before she looks to Ehren.
"We need to focus our search a bit more, yeah. Will you give them the list of what you were going to look for, Ehren, before you head out?" Ary says, looking to the druid, to take her eyes off of the slow-unfolding tragedy. "If you guys can do this for us, it will be worth a lot to the Crusades. And yeah... I need to hurry over to Iomedae's section, since I'm the only one allowed in. If you need me, send a leaf." Ary says, slipping out of the door and away from perhaps the most frustrating thing she had ever encountered outside of life-or-death situations.
Then she pauses, to turn around completely, dipping back in. It couldn't go uncorrected. "While working on that, maybe think of some big problem that's been on your mind? You could try researching one of those things while you're here. We don't have much time, but... there's no where better to find a solution."
With a resigned bow, Hinagiku leaves the celestials to their own designs and heads toward the exit of the underwater library. Reaching it, she pulls herself out unto dry land where she sits and begins her meditation. With the time she had just lost, she doubted she would be able to reach for her companions for help. However, she could meditate to recall a secret method that would allow her to speak underwater. Adjusting her position, Hinagiku crosses her legs and lays her hand, palms facing up, on her knees. Silently, she begins to empty her mind and pray to the Master of masters.
Fill spell slot with air bubble. I believe it takes 10 minutes, so I will see if Ehren gets there before Hinagiku jumps back in!
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"Oh, of course, Lord-Commander, I'd be glad to help!" says Lann. He stands up, closing his book, and studies the list of texts that Ehren had obtained from the librarian, Akarah. "Annabelle and I can split this up, no problem."
Annabelle Sense Motive: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13
Annabelle doesn't even notice Ary's foul mood, and merely shrugs. She stands up and stretches. "Aight, hear you loud and clear, back to duty!"
You set off in the direction of where you know Hinagiku headed. You save a lot of time flying, but it is still some distance away. You eventually come to a hallway, which leads to a large, circular well cut into the floor, but there is no sign of Hinagiku.
Irori answers Hinagiku's plight, and when she catches back up to the beautiful Celestials, her holy symbol shimmers with light and a pocket of breathable air appears around her head. Now able to hear and understand her plea, the Celestials are moved by the importance of Hinagiku's quest, and agree to help, following her back to where the Restricted Section tunnel was. By the time they return to the access tunnel, however, her pocket of air had vanished.
"Oh... it's Restricted. I don't have access to that area, I'm sorry," says the female archon. She pauses and thinks. "But I think I know someone here who does. Please, follow me," she says. Grasping Hinagiku's hand in hers, she takes off swimming down further into the aquatic library at a speed far faster than the kitsune could have hoped to keep up.
They exit into another large, underwater chamber, at the center of which is an enormous, blue serpentine creature with beautiful, glimmering scales. Hinagiku immediately recognizes it from ink artworks she saw back at home in Tian Xia. This was a kami known as Ryujin, a god of water. It stares down at Hinagiku, who is again unable to speak. But the kami telepathically taps into her mind - "なんでしょう?" - it asks.
Tien: "What do you want?"
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Hinagiku is stricken by awe at the sight of the kami floating before her. Sureptitiously, and unheeded, sweet memories of her childhood surface within her mind. Memories of her dear mother telling her stories about Ryunjins while she is sick and in bed. It takes a few seconds for Hinagiku to recover, making seem like an insolent woman, and she only once the dormant source of her other mother gently nudges her mind. Finally, she lets got of the celestials hand and attempts to bow in a kotow as she floats within the chamber.
お龍神様, あなたの一日を中断することを許してください。 ある種の悪魔の儀式の影響を受けた仲間を助けるためにタブレットを回収するためにここに送られました。 しかし、タブレット、またはクラドルアカラのスレートは、強い電流で満たされた部屋の中にあり、私はそれらに到達することはできません。 頼むのは私にとってうまいことですが、私と仲間を助けるためにできることはありますか？ she says, head still bowed down.
Tien:Great god of water and dragon lord. Please forgive me for interrupting your day. I have been sent here to recover a tablet to help a companion who has been affected by some type of demonic ritual. However, the tablets, or Slates of Klador Akarah’s, are within a room filled with strong currents and I cannot reach them. The kind celestials here have tried to help me, but they are barred from entering this specific part of the library. I know it is presumptuous of me to ask, but is there anything you might be able to do to help me and my companions?
Diplomacy(heroism,surge): 1d20 + 15 + 2 + 1d6 ⇒ (1) + 15 + 2 + (2) = 20
Hinagiku breaths out bubbles as she empties her mind from the shame of her failure. She remains in this weird half floating half bowing position for a few more seconds before nodding to the celestials in thanks and leaving. There was not much she could do anymore. And so, she opts for swimming back to the exit. Her companions were bound to come looking for her, and she would provide them with all the help she could, such as informing them about the path to take and the difficulties ahead.
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With Ary and Ehren heading out, Isilme excuses herself as well. "Külə should be back before our time is up if you need any assistance. I am heading out to see what sort of magic I can research within the restricted sections."
Isilme had little in mind specifically as to what she wished to research, so she decides to let providence determine where she might end up, and from there what she might learn. Stopping briefly to speak with the Archon at the entrance, she gets from them the locations of several restricted areas then heads back out into the library proper.
Jumping off the landing she takes flight in the form of a hawk and soars up into the interior 'sky' of the library. Circling, she looks out over the endless array of shelves shuffling among themselves and the boats carrying patrons weaving between them. Closing her eyes, she dances through the sky, swooping back and forth until she loses her sense of direction and then choosing a random heading. Her decision made, she adjusts her path slightly towards the nearest restricted area along that path.
On the horizon her destination soon becomes clear: A large, squat, gleaming cylinder composed of skymetal. The exterior is emblazoned with runes in a language Isilme was unfamiliar with, but given the likely provenance of the chamber, suspected might be Androffan. The runes themselves seem to shift over time, each one subtly changing from one form to another, pulsing in a soothing yellow light as they do.
As she approaches the seamless exterior, the metal flows away from her, creating an aperture to the interior of the space. Entering, the first thing she notices is the size of the space. The interior of the chamber seems to be inconceivably larger than the exterior, and within glows with the same soft yellow runes she had seen without. Floating in the center is a sleek silver platform roughly 100' in diameter with four daises spaced equally about the outer rim and a single, larger dias in the center. Above each of the daises floats a platonic solid, the four outer ones consisting of tetrahedrons and the center a cube. Though seemingly composed of black marble, the shapes shift and rotate in ways that seem to defy description, even appearing to somehow pass through themselves. Isilme had been assured that this platform was a fertile ground for research, though none understood its workings or true nature.
Landing, she approaches the center dias and reaches out towards the floating cube with her hand. Its form immediately stabilizes as it rotates a face towards her bearing an Androffan rune upon it. It pulses briefly and again defies the laws of space and geometry, continuously rotating new faces towards her, each bearing runes or script from an endless array of alien languages. Eventually a face bearing the celestial rune 'प्रश्न'--meaning question or query--flashes by, and immediately stops, having reacted to the flash of recognition on Isilme's face.
"ماذا يمكنني أن أتعلم من السحر هنا؟" she asks tentatively.
Rather than responding, the cube unfolds and fills the space around her, the platform falling off into the distance in some inscrutable direction. She was immediately aware she was 'within' the cube at this point, though what that meant exactly was beyond her. Perhaps Xanderghul would be able to comment on the experience once she left, she thinks briefly.
Within the cube the walls glowed with a thousand thousand celestial runes, each rich in meaning and intent. This appeared to be an index of sorts, generated in a way she would be able to understand it. Reaching out, she touches one of them and information floods her mind regarding the nature of the magic and its operation.
Whatever the nature of the space she was in, it makes its intent and operation clear. Though time here had little meaning, leaving her free to pore over the contents at her leisure for as long as she needed, the cube itself made it clear that there was a significant cost for leaving with any of the knowledge. That, however, was an issue that she would deal with once she had determined what she wanted. For now there was a world of magic to sort through, and so she quickly loses herself poring over rune after rune.
Con Damage: 3d4 ⇒ (4, 4, 1) = 9
Seemingly moments after Isilme reaches out to the cube, she is overcome by a wave of fatigue so strong she drops to her knees. Initially confused, she quickly realizes what felt like an instant was a significantly longer time. Before her, the black marble cube floats silently, all its runes having faded from view. She stands up slowly and walks towards the edge of the platform to leave. Silver discs materialize before her with each step towards the edge of the interior, and a short while later she finds herself outside again.
The experience had been as the Archon had described. None had ever determined precisely how the stone worked, but those who were able to draw upon its knowledge seemed to lose time and no small few were later found unconscious next to the stone. In all cases none recalled anything more specific than arriving at the stone, but would awaken with their newfound knowledge after a night's rest.
Given how exhausted she was, she was certain she would need that rest too.
Researching spells, TBD when Isilme next rests :p
Ehren glanced about as he flew through the halls of the vast library, hoping that he would run into Hinagiku along the way. When he reaches the section where The Slates of Klador are being kept, however, he realizes that she must still be somewhere underwater. While he doubts that any harm could befall her here, in Heaven of all places, concern compels him to hurry nonetheless. The druid tucks in his wings and dives into the pool beak-first, disappearing with a tiny splash. Beneath the surface, he seamlessly transitions into a more suitable form - a water elemental not unlike his earth elemental body in appearance, but without distinguishable legs. He takes just a moment to adjust to his surroundings before jetting forward in search of Hinagiku.
AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 17 (+1 deflection, +2 Dex, +6 natural)
Feat Power Attack
With all of that settled, Ary nods once... and heads back through the library once more, steadily towards Iomedae's private collection...
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Ehren sets off through the labyrinthe underwater tunnels, jetting along past a multitude of bookshelves and their contents. It is only thanks to Akarah's careful directions that he does not get lost. Eventually he comes to see Hinagiku in the distance, swimming in his direction.
Ary sets off in the direction of Iomedae's section of the library, which is situated at the top of a very tall spiral staircase. Windows cut out into the walls indicate that she is ascending a tower of the library. At the top, two shield archons, giant sized humanoids clad in armor from head to toe, flank either side of the door. They nod and salute Ary as she enters, not even voicing a question as to who she was and why she was there. Passing them by, she comes in an enormous room filled with books. Their subjects vary from religious texts, to historical discussions of heavenly wars, to carefully catalogued information about the weakness and capabilities of evil outsiders and undead. Uniformed Elect flutter throughout the library, representatives from a staggering variety of mortal races, educating themselves with the knowledge held within.
She remembers this place. She came here, when she died. On the other side of the library is an enormous set of double doors, which she know lead back into Swordhome.
What question are you asking?
Xanderghul spends the next 30 minutes attempting to process as many texts as he can on deific apotheosis. He finds that while there are a surprising number accounts of mortal creatures ascending into godhood, there is no widely accepted theory of how this comes to be. Tales vary from citing sheer luck (Cayden Cailean) to otherworldly ascension of mind and body (Irori). It is however generally accepted that a mortal must possess some intangible quality that sets them apart from other mortals to even undertake the path to apotheosis. The exact name for this special quality varies from scholar to scholar - spark, mythos, exemplar to name a few. This quality appears to be in-born to some individuals, while others receive it due to external circumstances, through a sort of catalytic event.
There are additionally a number of texts discussing the difference between demigods and true gods. Demigods outnumber true gods substantially, though they typically are outsiders of some sort, semi-free willed creations of raw planar matter. Empyreal lords, demon lords, devils, spirits, kami, and fae, are all amongst the typical sorts of demigods. Mortal demigods, while rare, are not unheard of, and there is evidence to support that many of the mortals-turned gods likely lived as demigods prior to true ascension. In general, though, like gods, demigods have the ability to loan power out to their followers, their own magical abilities amplified by the sheer faith and belief generated by worship. This allows a demigod to perform feats well beyond what they could do alone, sending their followers, with a fraction of their power out throughout the universes to do their will. Additionally, with enough followers, demigods have an expanded area of influence, as they become aware of events by proxy of their followers at great distances.
Gods appear capable of the same faith-based powers as demigods, so what distinguishes gods from demigods? Gods are certainly capable of greater feats of power than demigods, including the ability to scry across planes that they have influence in, and near omnipotence within the planes that resonate most strongly to their life forces. While demigods can typically only sustain a smaller amount of followers, localized to specific areas or planes in the multiverse, gods can often have followers that worship them from astonishing distances. And of course, gods are capable of miracles, ranging from the creation of Absalom to the births of entirely new races of mortal creatures. But all of this power seems to come at a price. Gods apparently lose the ability to manifest physically at will at great distances from the Outer Planes, and when they do it appears to tax them greatly, as the appearances tend to be very short-lived. Gods also behave rather predictably, coming to embody ideas and concepts, rather than acting as free willed agents of their own design. Some planar scholars theorize that gods are essentially a next step in evolution of the outsider. Outsiders are merely mortal souls, that have become so infused with the extraplanar energies of the outer planes that they have lost all memories and sense of self. Rather than living as autonomous beings, they become simpler creatures in a way, living only to embody the ideals of their birth-planes in exchange for amazing power well beyond that of typical mortal creatures. Gods take to this to an entirely new level, with even more loss of sense of self, in exchange for even more phenomenal power. Some scholars come to refer to the gods, as no longer true individuals in of themselves, but simply sentient manifestations of the planes themselves.... though this line of thinking is considered heretical by many modern Golarion-based theologians.
After swimming through one or two tunnels, Hinagiku finally comes to her senses and realises that she could be climbing through the library rather then slowly swimming through it. Breathing out once more to let go of the sense of failure, she lets herself sink to the floor, grabs onto the stone, and begins to crawl much faster than she had been swimming.
As she makes her way to the surface, she nods in respect to the various celestial she crosses, that is, until one of the watery creature stops by her side and begins speaking to her. As realization dawns, a smile begins to appear on Hinagiku’s vulpine lips. Though it remains gentle, it is wider than usual. After a split second lost her her friend’s eyes, she reaches for the vellum and crayon in her pack and hands them to Ehren. Grabbing onto the druid’s shoulder, she then forces herself to turn around and points in the direction of the chamber where the slates reside.
It would be neat if Ehren is strong enough to drag Hinagiku!
Ary spirals up and up and up, grateful that she had never been afraid of heights, climbing to the top of the tower that somehow fed back into Swordhome, seemingly an impossible distance to have trekked, save that Heaven, if it were sentient, were a kind soul. She salutes the archons in return, waiting for them to drop their salute, before traveling into the more specialized library. She moves through the doors, and pauses to take in the scene once more.
It was as she remembered... warm enough to feel like there were blazing fires set into hearths all around, yet somehow not so warm that one would be burdened with sweat. A low choral hum that seemed to focus the mind on the task at hand, rather than being distracting floated down from the lofty ceilings. To one side, sunlit windows and tables to read, with all manor of colors filtering through stained glass, and far to the other side, cold silvery light filtering through similar windows, darker though in some ways more inviting still. She closes the door quietly behind her as she watches each elect - she hadn't known they were any words more specific than petitioner on her previous visit.
She subconsciously runs her hand through her hair, which she'd allowed to grow back out a bit, before stepping out of the main thoroughfare, looking directly to one of the winged helmets atop the bookcases. She salutes for a moment, catching its attention and causing it to float downwards from its perch. "Could you help me to locate books on the Wardstones of Mendev? Particularly those which have to do with how the Wardstones were made?" she asks as she reaches to the nearby shelf and plucks out a book on a completely different topic - a rather thick tome on the anatomy of greater fiends. She had long ago learned that it was easier to break through a wall in gaining new knowledge by grasping at a subject one was better at. A minor distraction to allow the gears to properly turn and grow unburdened.
Ary's question is 'How can the Wardstones be forged anew?'
|Ary Bishop|Intelligence (Caped Crusader?): 1d20 + 1 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 1 + 4 = 8
Intelligence Rally? (Caped Crusader?): 1d20 + 1 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 1 + 4 = 22
Centered as she is by the calming currents of the library, Ary goes to each location that she's lead by the Cassissian, pulling out books as it indicates for her. With each text added, the task seems to grow more and more daunting... but Ary simply will not allow herself to fail, pushing through the self-doubt.
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The Cassissian flutters along, leading Ary from bookshelf to bookshelf. Once she has amassed all of the books that the angel believes would be sufficient, it flies back up to its perch, while Ary is left to parse through the piles of texts for information as fast as she can.
She finds that the earliest discussions of plotting out the wardstone fields date back to 4630, around the conclusion of the First Crusade. However, at the time the majority of Crusade research was focused on determining a method to seal the Worldwound for good, as it was believed at the time that the war to reclaim Iz would only take around a decade at most.
As the Worldwound began to expand at an alarming rate during the remainder of the 4630s, growing its borders out to where they are today, the top minds of Crusades concluded that they were no closer to determining a way to seal the Worldwound Rift than they were when they began in 4622. They shifted their efforts to devising a way to quarantine the threat. The most promising avenue of research involved encasing the entire blighted land within an enormous forbiddance bubble, forcing the demons to stay within their land and cutting off their ability to teleport directly into military fortifications. The researchers lament at the lack of support they receive from neighboring nations - neither the technomancers of Numeria nor the esteemed arcanists of the many universities of Ustalav seemed interested in donating their best minds to the cause. And why would they? The demons seemed content on focusing their efforts on the Mendevian border. The small skirmishes they had to contend with on their own borders were small in comparison to the never-ending siege that washed over the border cities of Drezen, Kenabres, and Nerosyan.
Forsaken by their fellow men, the Crusades did the only thing they could hope to do. They looked upward and prayed in earnest to Iomedae. The Inheritor answered their pleas, though her message was cryptic (as it tends to be). Seek out the Sarkorian clan lead by a man known as Cole Ferron, and request their counsel. Little was known of Cole at that point, other than his people were a tender of ancient stones known as menhir. Arcanists sent out to these ancient religious sites were able to detect that they stood as beacons of a sort of powerful magic, but attempts to harness it to their own ends ended in failure. Contacts were made to reach out to Clan Ferron for assistance, and there are many transcriptions available of the first recorded conversations made between the ancient druidic clan and the Crusader Queen. The first attempts were not fruitful. Cole was a reserved man, and though he spoke and wrote in Taldane rather well for a Sarkorian, he seemed reluctant to divulge too much information about druidic magic. 'There are grave consequences for those of our order who divulge too much to outsiders. We fight the same enemy, 'tis true, but we are not yet convinced that your men truly fight for the benefit of Sarkoris, and for the good of my people.' he is quoted in one report.
Then, one day, Cole Ferron emerged out of nowhere, alone and without his clan by his side. He had a change of heart, it seemed, as he was now fully willing to aid the Crusades in their work, though he himself admitted that he was unsure why their goddess would point to him. Cole considered himself little more than a preserver of knowledge, the guardian of his people's ways, culture, and beliefs. But through him the Crusades came to learn of the ancient magic of the ley, a living, coursing energy stream that existed within the planet itself. This could provide the magical energy needed to sustain such an enormous field of forbiddance. After looking at their initial drafts, Cole came to agree with their assessment. The ley could provide the energy, but would not be sufficient for the initial casting of the spell. Cole agreed to help maneuever enough stones in place to form a formidable wall of menhir and provide guidance as to how to use them, if the Crusades would work to solve the other piece of the puzzle.
The next series of research focused on determining a way to optimize the rough stones to serve as a conduit for the forbiddance spell specifically. The irregular, hewn stones had to be carved into triangular shapes - a shape of made of man-made sharp lines, a shape of strict unnatural order - to best channel the lawfully aligned magic that they would need to for the spell to even take hold. Next, the stones had to be emblazoned with holy runes upon every square inch of the menhir's surface. Each rune a prayer to a good-aligned god. For many months, renowned clerics of a plethora of religions and cults came to the wardstones, each inscribing a prayer to help infuse the stones with righteous intent. Finally, Iomedae sent her Herald - the Hand of the Inheritor - to invoke a miracle. The goddess herself channeled her righteous power into the stones, infusing it enough pure goodness and order to strike each of the wardstones at once, forming the field, while multitudes of clerics, angels, and archons across the Worldwound border all at once prayed to their gods, each invoking the forbiddance spell through prayer, meditation, and psalm in an enormous ritual. With desperation wavering their voices, they called out to the gods on high, and they answered their pleas at the hour of greatest need. Ary recalls having seen that ritual first hand, thanks to the visions granted by the wardstones a few years ago.
Maintenance had to be conducted at each stone at regular intervals, or the artifacts would buckle under the stress of the powerful magic that coursed through them. This maintenance was given to Cole's clan which they continued to dutifully perform until the wardstone field was destroyed by a group of crusaders and adventurers in Kenabres in 4713. Ary is not too surprised to see her name, and that of her friends, listed in the most recent recordings, though the Celestial scholars do not seem to tarnish their names for doing so. Rather, most Heavenly scholars seem to agree that the wardstone field should have never been expected to last for as long as it did. It was simply too much of a liability to have, an enormous, obvious target for the demons to exploit.
In conclusion, Ary determines that it would be possible to rebuild the wardstone field - if all of the menhir that were destroyed were rebuilt from scratch, and if a suitably powerful lawful good god were to provide divine intervention via a powerful miracle. Such a miracle would be too powerful for a mere mortal to invoke, and would likely require the presence of a powerful outsider, explaining why the goddess sent her own right Hand to perform the final blessing. Interestingly, likely out of respect to allow the druids to keep their own secrets, the exact details of how to work the ley or create menhir are not included in the library.
Ehren sighs with relief when he spots Hinagiku, a gesture only made apparent by the brief stream of bubbles that leave his mouth. As he takes the vellum in his hands, he deduces that something must have prevented her from reaching the Slates, or from otherwise collecting the rubbing. After being pointed in the right direction, he nods his head.
"Come on," the druid says, his voice coming out as a mostly unintelligible gargle. Taking one of Hinagiku's hands in his own, he starts to swim in the direction of the Restricted Section.
Upon arriving at the small room, Ehren realizes right away why she must have had such difficulty reaching the slab. For a few moments he just watches the current, wondering whether he will be able to reach it, even with the advantages of his form. Releasing Hinagiku's hand, he turns to give her a small smile. "I will be right back."
And just like that, Ehren is sucked up by the current, his aqueous body momentarily distorting slightly as he involuntarily picks up speed. It is not until he takes a full spin tumbling around the room that he is able to regain his bearings, finding up and down and more importantly, the location of the Slates. Knowing that his chances of reaching them are slim at this point, he taps into his inner reserves of power; with a sudden surge of competence, Ehren rides the current rather than simply getting pulled around by it, allowing it to bring him right to his destination.
Athletics (Swim Speed, Surge): 1d20 + 10 + 1d6 ⇒ (14) + 10 + (4) = 28
Ary salutes the Cassissian once more as it flutters back up to its perch, before skimming each book's table of contents when it had one, and setting up a plan of attack. Eventually, once she hits a wall, she quickly begins flipping through the book on anatomy and flips through, just glancing at the pictures and reading brief snippets, before rallying back to the topic at hand. There was so much information swimming around in her brain that the familiar pathways would likely help to cement the new information into memory. Finally, she pieces what she can of the puzzle back together. Solution found... or as found as is possible, Ary salutes the Cassissian once more to be lead back to put all of the books back where she'd found them, or as near to them as seemed appropriate. She inclines her head in thanks once more, saluting the creature away before heading back to the study room where the others are located.
On the way back, she flips the puzzle over in her head repeatedly. The cost had been astronomical to create the wardstone field in the first place. Connecting them was considered a mistake by celestial scholars, and Ary couldn't say that she disagreed. It was necessary at the time. In order to contain the threat... but building a wall just meant that those who controlled the wall got to use it. How one would flip the massive energy required for so many castings of forbiddance was beyond Ary, but perhaps they wouldn't need that data. Fitting, that cutting a hole in the fence had destabilized the whole thing.
But the concept was still there. If they didn't try to rebuild the fence, they could likely isolate the power into a massive forbiddance around key locations. Then, guarding each individual stone allowed each individual locale to perhaps push back the flow of abyssal energy from the rift... So, now all they needed was divine intervention.
Ary chuckles as she steps into the research room... and finds the stack of books, along with Kule, Isilme still elsewhere, Ehren still - hopefully - with Daisy, Xanderghul and Valaria apparently still working on research. She checks her mental log and finds that she definitely does not have the time to seriously do this... but she dives in anyway. Hopefully with all of the work done of gathering the ley lines. As before she begins quickly scoping out the books, and forming a plan of action...
With the rubbings of The Slates of Klador in hand, Ehren makes the return trip to the reading room. With this sixth "book" they have done their due diligence for Valais's sake. Now they could only hope that they have enough time to accomplish the goal they came here for in the first place. Fortunately, when Ehren arrives he sees that the books on his list were pulled and that Ary is already in the process of perusing their contents. He wastes no time in pulling up a chair beside her and tackling the nearest item, a tome filled with elaborate diagrams - maps, really - that to the right person could easily pass as high art. Just looking at the thing makes Ehren's head hurt, a problem only exacerbated by Heaven's stifling nature. It makes it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, but with the pieces of the puzzle already in front of them and few extra minds nearby, they might yet find their answer in time.
Ehren will combine his last half hour with Ary's so that he can conduct applied research. Per Discord, I am assuming that Annabelle, Kule, and Lann are aiding and that Ary will Rally beforehand.
The question Ehren is trying to answer is "Where can we find a celestial ley line with which to power the Forge in Drezen?"
Research (Aidedx3, Heaven Sucks): 1d20 + 6 - 2 ⇒ (3) + 6 - 2 = 7
RALLY Research (Aidedx3, Heaven Sucks, Surge): 1d20 + 6 - 2 + 1d6 ⇒ (4) + 6 - 2 + (2) = 10
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Xanderghul had spent much of the last three hundred years of his many millennia in existence consuming as much information as possible about the world around him, about the nature of magic, and himself. To that end the Pathfinder Society was a great boon for him, as the adventuring guild had amassed a good amount of knowledge amongst its many internal factions. He was able to determine that there were other creatures in the multiverse like him, called shabti, though encounters with them were exceedingly rare.
Shabti are exclusively created by the most powerful of spellcasters, who despite having nearly anything a mortal could hope to desire, fear ultimate death. Though the specific methods and rituals of creating such a thing are largely unknown, as such knowledge is jealously kept by their creators, the end result is the same. The spellcaster cleaves off a portion of their immortal soul, as a contingency upon death. That soul takes shape into a simulacrum of themselves, and is swept up into the astral currents towards final judgment. The simulacrum serves as a cosmic whipping boy, so perfect a copy it can even fool Pharasma's watchful gaze, then is shipped off to the Outer Plane the spellcaster would have been sent to to receive eternal punishment. Meanwhile, the larger portion of the spellcaster's soul can simply be moved to a new body, which isn't particularly revolutionary magic in of itself. Perhaps even into a better body! In any case, mortal interactions with shabti seem to be exceedingly rare, because while shabti are a perfect copy superficially, they only have fleeting memories of their creator's lives. They do not share the same resiliency as true Petitioners, and so are likely quickly destroyed soon after what must be a very confusing birth into a new plane.
But Xanderghul already knew this. He had even found a tome describing the exact process some ancient pharaoh used for himself.(It did not seem to be a pleasant process to cast.) Now, having given himself the ability to read books and process information at inhuman speed, he set out to see what he could learn in thirty minutes.
He finds that in the Heavenly library there are far more detailed recordings about shabti than in any mortal one he had encountered. Celestials view shabti as pitiful creatures. Shabti aren't quite real, so upon death, they do not pass through the Boneyard. A shabti, while mortal, can never receive eternal salvation. Instead, when destroyed, they simply cease to exist. Heavenly writers cannot think of anything more horrifying a fate for an innocent mortal soul than that.
As such, the laws of Heaven view the creation of shabti as strictly an evil act. Archons who encounter spellcasters seeking to perform such forbidden magic are advised to react accordingly. The goddess Pharasma seems to be in agreement, as her followers are instructed to protect shabti as needed. Most of the longest lived shabti he reads of escape the evil planes are thanks to celestial rescue. These accounts write of similar attempts answer Xanderghul's question, though he finds no successful results.
Fifteen Minutes Remaining! buzzes the book-shaped token, helpfully. Xanderghul didn't need some other writer to tell him how to accomplish his goals, he could figure out a way himself. So he switches gears. He boils down what he knows about shabti to its core, while seeking out texts to reference obscure equations, or to consult tables and diagrams. Shabti are essentially an incomplete soul, given the form of the bodies of their creators. He knows that it is impossible to create a soul. Xanderghul believes that it is theoretically possible to create a body, then harvest a raw soul from the astral plane, which would create a new life. This is because souls are a very basic, finite metaphysical form of matter.
So if he could not create a new soul, could he regenerate soul-stuff, like a lizard regenerates its tail? Probably not, because even "regenerative" magics like those used to heal spiritual wounds inflicted by nabasu merely stitch it back together before the soul can escape too far away across the aether.
So that leaves one option. He needs his creator’s soul. Many scholars theorize that a shabti simply killing his or her creator could be enough of a catalytic event to stitch both souls back together. Somewhere out there, was the rest of Xanderghul's soul, doing whatever his creator had sent out to do these past thousands of years. But Xanderghul isn't sure what would happen if he killed him and then their souls fused together. Whose consciousness would win out? There was only one way to find out.
But, Xanderghul thinks of a second way. Perhaps it would be able to craft a device, using a similar sort of magic to one of his favorite spells, limp lash. Except this device would send out a sort of pulse into the multiverse, looking for where his soul-twin could be. Once found, he could create a siphon, slowly draining away his essence into a device. Perhaps if he went slow enough, it would take a very long time for his creator to even notice, before it was too late. But he does know that the device would need to be long, sturdy, and thin to work.
To craft such a device, Xanderghul would need the Craft Staff feat, or an equivalent that allows the creation of staves.
Ehren and Hinagiku return to the reading room shortly after Ary does. They find that Kule is not there, having taken a boat out into the library earlier on Isilme’s urging. Isilme had headed out into the library, intent on simply heading in a random direction and seeing where fate took her. Valaria was deeply engrossed in research about the geography of the Abyss. And Xanderghul was off somewhere far, attempting to solve questions he had harbored for millennia about the nature of his own existence. Valais perks up immediately upon seeing Ehren and Hinagiku but soon gives way to pacing in a small circle around the room. Kitarlo had still not returned.
At the table are Annabelle and Lann, pouring over the books retrieved from the list Ehren had given them. Papers and texts are strewn everywhere, and its clear they feel overwhelmed.
”Ehren, I’m glad you’re here!” exclaims Annabelle. ”I can’t even read Celestial, and these diagrams don’t make any sense and-“
Lann, as always, was able to remain calm in the face of chaos. ”It’s hard to tell, but I’ve narrowed it down to three or so atlases that appear to be sort of referencing Mendev?” He interjects. ”Please, take a look.”
And so, there isn’t much time left to socialize, so the Archdruid dives right in. Once he comes to understand that the diagrams are meant to depict three-dimensional space (some of them on the scale of entire star systems) do they begin to make sense. And so he comes to find that there is a stream of Heavenly ley, deep under the earth some fifty miles west of Drezen, at the base of the plateau. It is some five thousand feet deep inside the ground, which is why Ehren did not sense it during his expeditions to the region. Fittingly, he can also see that that particular stream of ley connects directly into Forgeheart, the realm of Torag.
Fifteen Minutes Remaining! remind the golden, book-shaped tokens helpfully. At that moment, Kitarlo emerges through the door. He looks distinctly disheveled. Large purple burrs cover his robes, stuck the fabric, and there is an enormous smile on his brazen face. ”This place is great!” he exclaims, happily, pulling out four books from his satchel. It only takes him a second to register that all ten books are present in the room. ”Thank you so much for helping me find the tomes we needed,” he says sincerely. He closes his eyes. It only takes the raelis a minute to read all ten books. Reopening them, he appears more serious. ”Hmmmm, I understand how to conduct the ritual to purify Valais.” Valais smiles an enormous, but also terrifying, grin, thanks to her babau jaw. Looking to the others, Kitarlo extends his hand. ”I know that you must be in a hurry to leave, but could I make one more demand of your time? The ritual will require at least seven participants, one for each tier of Heaven. It also seems that it must be performed inside Heaven itself to work.”
”But I can wait to provide more detail until we all reconvene at the entrance to the library….no need to repeat myself, then!” he says cheerfully.
As he comes to realize exactly what the diagrams are depicting, Ehren is at first stunned by the sheer scale some of them covered. He always knew that the ley was something truly vast, that its invisible paths stretched far beyond the Green, the planet, the plane, even. To see so much of it mapped out in front of him in such incredible detail was simply amazing; it made his own rudimentary map of the ley lines around Drezen look like a child’s drawing. Still, Ehren is careful not to let the vastness of the scale distract him from what he is looking for. He focuses primarily on the atlases picked out by Lann while relying on Ary to translate any key passages.
After several minutes of cross-referencing diagrams, Ehren sits back and lets out a self-deprecating chuckle. Apparently, his months-long expedition was not as thorough as he thought. "It was right there the whole time, a mile beneath my feet." He shakes his head, more amused than annoyed by the revelation. Thanks to the ley node he found in the region, reaching the exact location of the ley line would not be too difficult. Of course, there was still the matter of directing its flow toward Drezen...
That train of thought is interrupted first by the chime of his token, and then by Kitarlo's sudden return. With time to spare, no less. Ehren watches as the raelis digests all ten books in short order, ever so slightly envious of the talent. If he could sap knowledge from books like he could from menhir, then this whole process would have been considerably less painful.
"In a hurry to leave? What gave you that idea?" Ehren asks with a wry grin, his mental fatigue beginning to show. He shakes his head, finding Kitarlo's request in no way unreasonable. "I would be more than happy to help."
Pushing things along so that Isilme and Valaria have things to respond to.
Once the heroes reconvene outside of the Great Library of Harmonious Scripture, Kitarlo wastes no time in thanking the heroes again for helping him find the books he needed to help Valais. But he says he has one last favor to ask of them before they return to the Material Plane. ”So the ritual we need to perform is known as ’The Ritual of Mortification. “
Mortifications of the flesh are acts by which an individual or group seeks to mortify, or put to death, their sinful nature, as a part of the process of sanctification. More commonly practiced in lawful religions than chaotic, common forms of mortification that are practiced in the Inner Sea include fasting, abstinence, as well as pious kneeling.
”The ritual essentially requires sacrifices from each participant, and we will need at least seven participants to succeed. Furthermore, we have to accomplish it in Heaven to channel enough Heavenly energies to purge the demons from Valais’ body.” Kitarlo then goes on to explain that each form of mortification was derived from the books the heroes retrieved. Each wrote of methods and circumstances in which self-sacrifice ultimately leads to greater personal strength.
The mortifications are as follows:
1. Starvation. Derived from the Luminous Libram, this mortification forces the body to deteriorate as if in a fasting state, as a method to purify the spirit.
2. Faith. Derived from the Slates of Klador, this mortification requires the ritual performer to reflect on times in their life that they were forced to make sacrifices in the name of their faith.
3. Humility. Derived from Asaru’s Grimoire of the Plaines, this mortification tests the vanity of the ritual performer. The hero must enter a trance-like, meditative space in which they abandon all sense of ego and self.
4. Blood. Derived from The Tome of Stars and Moons, this mortification transforms physical pain into holy sacrifice. The hero undertaking it will weep blood, and must maintain consciousness throughout the trial.
5. Weakness. Derived from Elgar’s Forgotten Compendium, this mortification offers the strength of the body as a sacrifice. The hero undertaking it will give up their physical vigor as part of the sacrifice.
6. Charity. Derived from Incunabulum of the Ages, this mortification tests the charity of the spirit. The hero must offer up gold or another valuable as part of the mortification. It will disappear, transported instantly as a gift to some needy soul in the mortal planes.
Each creature participating in the ritual must choose a mortification to perform.
”I am personally ready to perform this immediately, but I understand if you need rest. We azata don’t sleep, you see!” he says, quietly eyeing Isilme, who seemed the most out of it. ”Just let me know. I will need to know what mortifications you want to attempt in order to properly draw the ritual circle.”
K(Religion): 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (8) + 13 = 21
"Could you tell us more about what those sacrifices might entail? Faith seems... a given for me." Ary says, taking a moment to shrug. "I mean, I died because I wouldn't leave an ally behind... along with all the times I nearly died. I'm literally in a never-ending struggle with the abyss because I pledged my life to the Crusades... but at the same time, what have I really given up besides a relatively normal life?" Ary asks with a small shrug. "But what would be an appropriate charity? What, precisely does 'Weakness' entail? There's just... too little to go on to be able to answer your question as to what we are capable of. And failure means that everyone else pays the cost that we failed to pay, to no effect, yeah? So... we have to know as much as we can to go into this prepared."
There is no further information for Kitarlo to divulge about the ritual. He has already said all that he can say.
"Unfortunately, there is no further information on what the mortifications entail beyond their descriptions. But a sacrifice is something freely given, without fear of consequence. To do otherwise implies a transaction, not a sacrifice. If you are unwilling to sacrifice further for Valais' cause, however, I understand. It just will be many decades before I will be able to re-enter Heaven to get a second chance," Kitarlo says, sadly.
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There was much to learn about the world as it was today, but one of the biggest things Xanderghul had ever learned about was the existence and influence of bygone Thassilon. It seemed that the entire world had been under the thumb of that ancient magocratic empire in the past, and its ruins dotted every landscape and informed the existences of nearly every city. Magnimar, for instance, built under the ruins of an unbelievably massive bridge. Absalom, built on an island bearing the artifact which had slain the empire.
Many years ago, Xanderghul had spent a season exploring Thassilonian ruins. Most interested in the realm of Cyrusian, he had once delved into a buried town on the border of the the realm. In between battling the twisted and broken giants that inhabited the ruins and translating Thassilonian carvings for his Pathfinder associates, he had come across a relic that changed everything.
A statue stood in the middle of what was once a grand plaza, its buildings crushed and the cave barely standing height in most places. The statue was chipped and worn, but it unmistakably bore a striking resemblance to Xanderghul himself. It was a statue of the one-time ruler of this city, the Runelord of Pride, Xanderghul. The discovery had prompted a furious study session upon returning to the Grand Lodge in which he had discovered his own identity. A mixture of pride and fear had filled his heart.
A similar feeling flooded Xanderghul now as he read and compiled notes on how to regain a soul. The only way for him to gain a full one of his own would be to somehow take it from his creator. His creator, one of the most powerful and legendary wizards of all time, likely immortal, unheard of in ten thousand years. He wondered how he could even hope to find the Runelord. He felt he needed to, though. The transition into being a god could involve him becoming supercharged with energy, something which converted a soul into a concept. He had no intention of becoming a god of broken things, so he needed to get the Runelord's soul. A problem, to put things lightly.
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The group's excursion into the library finished, Isilme is overcome by weariness. The research had taxed her far beyond her capabilities, and not only was she spent of most of her magic and her reserve of divine energy, but physically she had been severely weakened. Needless to say, when Kitarlo suggests that they move on to the ritual, she is clearly caught off-guard. His explanation of the ritual is concise and helpful however, and by the time he has finished his explanation of the mortifications, her worries have melted away entirely.
She pauses for a moment to look at her companions and then at Valais and Kitarlo. Isilme... No. Lleuad-a'r-Sêr the Raelis would have hesitated to undo what had been done to Valais. Isilme... The Isilme who had been reborn in Li'an's body--who had adventured and battled with the very same companions standing about her now in heaven--had changed, however, and for the better in her opinion.
This ritual then was more than simply a chance to give Valais her life again. It was a fork in the path of her own life, a vision of a different path, one that she had not seen before, and now having seen it, she had no doubts about which path she would take. Looking at Kitarlo she shakes her head, indicating she did not need to rest. "Though I am drained, I do not believe I could find myself more prepared on the morrow than I am at this moment. I shall offer charity earnestly in the hope that we shall see Valais restored," she says with a sincere but tired smile.
Isilme will participate via the mortification of Charity
Also need info on the outcome of Simmyl's search for retraining books and a Loremaster's Tome
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As the group reconvenes on the outside of the library and listens to Kitarlo explain what would need to happen in order to purify Valais. She would be a valuable asset if she could be cured, but it would seem a half-dozen sacrifices would need to be made in order to do that.
Xanderghul was no stranger to sacrifice. He had given up much in service of basic survival. Perhaps it would be a refreshing move to give up something in order to change someone forever. His body was strong - he could handle being stripped of applicable nutrients from food. His ring would provide them back to him shortly anyway.
Xanderghul will participate via the mortification of Starvation.
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Hinagiku’s last 30 minutes at the library are spent helping Ehren, Lann, Valais, and Annabelle pore through tomes and charts to try and map ley lines. And although at first it proves to be an impossible task for her to help with, she prays to the Master of master for guidance. Drawing upon the divine power granted by her patron, the monk is finally able to read the titles of the various charts and order them for her Ehren-kun. With that done, she is able to pass him what he needs and speed up the process.
When Kitarlo finally returns, Hinagiku is hunched over Ehren’s shoulder, busy pointing out how to translate some of the key terms on a chart. As the raelis begins to speak, she looks over her shoulder to be surprised by the disheveled look of the azata, despite being herself still soaked from her search. And, before he leaves, Hinagiku walks up to him and, in a low voice, offers to heal him from hiddent injuries he might have Will use lay on hand if Kitarlo accepts.. And, before they part, she whispers to him: ”Where you successful with your personal mission too?”
As Hinagiku and her companions leave the library to reconvene with Kitarlo, the monk looks over her shoulder at the library one last time. The harmony and order of the place, its vast amount of knowledge, its beauty, so many things that Hinagiku was unlikely to ever witness again. With a gentle smile, she tries to at least commit the sight to memory so that if she did not gain any knowledge for herself, she could at least carry a souvenir of it in her mind.
Once outside the library, Hinagiku listens intently at Kitarlo’s explanation, however, her brow begins to furrow as he explains what mortifications are. Althoug it was true that the Master of master taught that one could learn from abstaining from material things, willingly crippling oneself was inherently wrong. There might be brief legends about some of the god’s follower who had been crippled and learned from the experience, but circumstances had brought them there, they had not chosen to do so. And so it came down to a conflict between her personal code, and desire, to help Valais, and the edicts of the Master of masters. Closing her eyes while no one watched her, Hinagiku tries to medidate on the subject. The Master of master told that one needed to slowly perfect an art before taking on challengeds, and she had been taking on the pain and weight of others suffering for quite some time now. It hadn’t made it easier, waking up everyday with the pain in the chest was always challenging, but at least she knew that she could take on a lot more pain than most, and hopefully would allow the ritual to succeed.
”If it is for you well-being Valais, I am willing to undergo the Blood mortification.” Hinagiku finally says, softly.
Sense Motive v. Kitarlo: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18
"I think the only thing that I could give up and not feel as though I were abandoning my other duties is my strength... I can only hope that such a thing doesn't cost lives. Well... the only thing that I could do that I would even begin to consider a sacrifice worthy of what we're trying to do." Ary says, rolling a shoulder uncomfortably. Something felt off about the whole thing. Kitarlo was an azata... and in particular, a Raelis.
What little Ary knew about the race of outsiders was that they were free will incarnate. Per Isilme, interacting with mortality had never been the norm, instead flitting from life to life hidden in plain sight and watching the mortals, enjoying the stories that were told without their involvement in the outcomes. Then, with the mention of this being the creature's only opportunity to come to Heaven, something else clicks. As she shifts away for a moment, she whispers via Isilme's message spell, "Aren't Raelis capable of Plane Shift... commonly? You mentioned being able to travel between the planes as easily as traveling between towns once, if I recall..."
Ehren quietly reflects on Kitarlo's words, on the meaning of sacrifice. There is much he has given up in the name of his people, his homeland, his faith, but never has he surrendered something he was not willing to lose. So how much was he willing to sacrifice for Valais's sake? He looks to the Pathfinder, reflecting on their past meetings. In a strange, roundabout way, he would never have found Mother Heartwood if it was not for her. The Green, as usual, worked in mysterious ways. But Ehren did not just want to help her because he felt indebted, no.
"I am no stranger to pain - I, too, will spill my life's blood for your cause," he says to Valais in earnest, giving her a small smile.
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Kitarlo chuckles. "Oh, no, I didn't have time to even look!" he murmurs back. "But its okay. I have some leads. Don't worry about me - I have an eternity to search for my answers. Valais does not."
Before leaving, Simmyl was able to obtain 3 books. 2, for Isilme's personal research remaining vague because that is up to you, it is 10k gp in retaining costs, and one Tome of the Loremaster.
Valaria has had 24 hours to respond with a desired mortification. Since not knowing what they truly entail is an important part of choosing a sacrifice, she may not choose once the details have been revealed, as that would be unfair for the rest of the group. Therefore, I am random rolling for her so that we can move on.
Mortification: 1d6 ⇒ 2 Faith. Valaria will have until everyone else posts their mortifications to check in, otherwise, she will be automated.
"Mister Kitarlo and I are exiled from Heaven once you all leave, because we búm arz bishdi arz bukhuzg from that stuffy Celestial," Valais says loudly, giving Ary a cold stare. She was in the message spell, same as she. "It's rude to talk about people when they're standing right there, you know. Húgi rushi nulkushi bok'm kribag gu buh, ai bashi ish bi nom. Master Kitarlo is a very good and noble azata. If you don't want to help me anymore, you can just say so, instead of trying to be lushurakhi about it," she says, becoming more deflated as her tirade goes. "Oh....I understand. You're too busy and important for someone like me."
'snuck and stole and thieved'
'Rude people deserve what's coming to them, a knife in the dark.'
Kitarlo strides over to Valais and places his hand on her shoulder. He ignores the random passersby giving her strange looks for her loud outbursts in Abyssal. "Now, now, Valais. I would not worry. Heaven and its chosen have always been mistrustful of we azata, surely you have come to know this by now. We have been on a very long journey, but I truly believe we are nearing the end. Even if the Crusaders don't want to help us, I will find a way to help you. I swear on it. And then I shall look forward to see what stories you write after!"
Valais smiles up at him, teary eyed. "Thank you, Master Kitarlo."
"Now... if you want to help, please follow me," Kitarlo beckons, striding through the grass barefoot, as raelis are often wont to do. The Great Library of Harmonious Scripture floats on seven towers suspended platforms high up in the air. Long staircases connect from the ground to its many doors, crafted for the benefit of mortal visitors. Below the library is an immaculately kept garden, with carefully trimmed hedges and sculptures, and many fountains in the shape of celestial beings. Kitarlo leads them to a small clearing. At the center is a statue of an old man standing about 11 feet tall. He carries a massive tome in his arms and is dressed in unblemished silk robes covering a heavily brocaded tunic trimmed in gold. Hanging from his shoulders is a tapestry depicting art of countless religious observances traced with silver thread, and he wears a four-pointed golden crown on his head.
"Hmmm! This seems like a large enough spot. Alright, one moment," he says, using his bare hands to dig out clumps of grass from the lawn. Glancing up at the statue, he cheekily grins and says, "You don't mind me digging around in your garden, do you, old chap?" It takes awhile for him to work, but eventually he has dug out an intricate diagram on the ground. As he works, he continues to explain what he is doing. "Alright... Valais needs to sit in the center. Each successful mortification will help lend strength to Valais, and will allow her to expel the demon attached to her. Each failed mortification lends power to the demon. As for what counts as a failed or successful mortification...well... that is up to Heaven, I suppose!"
Once done, he indicates where each participant should stand. Each spot is equidistant from each other, forming a seven-pointed star around Valais. "So... if I understand this right, you need to focus inwards on your chosen mortification. Offer up a holy sacrifice in the name of helping Valais. Then, the magic should take hold."
He closes his eyes and furrows his brow. A stream of blood begins to fall down his cheeks. He winces, caught off guard by the ritual beginning to take hold, but he does not falter.
This mortification will cause Xanderghul to feel true hunger, to the point of being near death. He must stoically bear it to succeed.
Make a DC 14 CON check.
Failure means Xanderghul is overcome by hunger pangs. He will take 9d6 points of nonlethal damage.
Failure by 5 or more will cause Xanderghul to tap out of the ritual completely, failing the mortification, unable to bear the pain of hunger for the entire duration of the ritual.
Success means Xanderghul is able to weather the hunger pangs to no ill-effect.
Success by 10 or more will cause Xanderghul to fail the mortification, as Xanderghul's body would be so accustomed to weathering hunger that he finds he doesn't even experience hunger pangs. This means that feeling hunger is no longer a sacrifice to him.
This mortification requires Valaria to meditate on a time of her life that she made a great personal sacrifice in order to follow her goddess, Desna. By focusing on that feeling of sacrifice and selflessness in the name of her faith, she can channel her goddess' divine power into Valais to help purify her.
Valaria's faith in Desna is true, so she automatically succeeds on her roll to establish her faith. The only way for her to fail this mortification, is to fail to come up with a convincing personal story of sacrifice. Unlike the other mortifications, this is more of a test of the player's creative writing capabilities, than a random dice roll.
This mortification will cause you to undergo great bodily pain, to the point of weeping blood.
Make a DC 22 Will Save.
Failure means your body is wracked by such immense pain that you are unable to truly block it out. Take 8d4 points of damage.
Failure by 5 or more will cause you to pass out from the sheer pain, failing the mortification, and there is a risk of bleeding to death for weaker creatures. Take 16d4 points of damage.
Success means you are able to weather the pain to minimal effect. Take 4d4 points of damage.
Success by 10 or more will cause you to fail the mortification, as your body would be so accustomed to weathering pain that you will find that you cannot even feel the effect of the spell. This means that feeling pain at this level is no longer a sacrifice to you. Take no damage.
This mortification will cause Ary to sacrifice her physical strength, in order to give Valais strength.
Make a DC 22 fort save.
Failure means you are too weak to weather the entirety of Valais' burden. Take 2 points of damage to strength, and you are fatigued until you have a full nights rest.
Failure by 5 or more will cause Ary to tap out of the ritual completely, not strong enough to carry Valais' spiritual load as she expels the demon from her body. This means Ary will fail the mortification. Take 4 points of damage to strength, and you are fatigued until you have a full nights rest.
Success means Ary is strong enough to lend her strength to Valas, for a time. You are fatigued until you have a full nights rest.
Success by 10 or more will cause Ary to fail the mortification, as Ary's body would be so strong that bearing Valais' burdens is no longer taxing to her. Therefore, this mortification is not a sacrifice.
This mortification will test Isilme's charity. A small portal will appear before Isime, and she can feed items, gold, or jewels into it. They will disappear, transported to someone who needs them on the mortal plane.
In order to count, the items should have some sort of value, and not be actively harmful. For instance, a solid gold cursed item would have monetary value, but would harm the recipient. As another example, while a treasured trinket such as a drawing of a loved one would be considered of great personal value, it would be of no value to a stranger.
The catch is, Isilme does not know how much she must give to prove her charitable spirit. If she did, this would be a mere purchase, not a sacrifice. Once enough value* has been deposited, the portal will close, the mortification complete. The other catch is, each item deposited must have an unknown, minimum value. This means that Isilme cannot individually feed individual coppers into the portal until it closes. Doing so will cause the mortification to fail, and the portal will snap shut in response to Isilme's false charity.
*Please note that both actual and personal value are considered. Items that are difficult to give up, due to having personal significance, will be considered much more valuable than something that Isilme wouldn't miss anyway.
Isilme may designate a list of items to deposit, and then state that either she wishes to donate all of them (even if there is more than she actually needed to satisfy the mortification, simply because she likes the idea of helping needy souls) or, rank them by order deposited, and state that she wishes to stop donating once the mortification is satisfied.
Mortifications are considered a full-round-action, but free and swift actions may be taken as normal.
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K(Religion): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29
K(Planes): 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (19) + 18 = 37
"No." Ary says very sternly, and turning around from several feet away. She does a mental headcount and wonders briefly who Isilme had left out of the spell to keep Valais in. "I am, however, used to apparent friends having schemes beyond my ken, and was thus asking for information from the people that I trust." Ary says, recalling Arastrax and Nurah's betrayals, along with Eustoriax's use of Sana and a myriad of other, countless demonic tactics that had been used against them. "Accepting without question a ritual that I know nothing about could lead to extremely horrible things happening to my friends without any benefit to you. Do you not understand how much we have already sacrificed for you, in just this one day?" Ary asks, shaking her head. "We had any number of answers at our fingertips. I could have tried to find out what has become of my sister. My parents. I could have tried to discover more about the roots of my family. I could have looked for lost wonders of Sarkoris for us to recover for the Kellid populations. I could have looked for recipes for Annabelle to be able to enjoy, now that I know that they even exist." Ary says, pausing to slowly regain composure. She hadn't ever been caught trying to gain advice from friends, and then treated as a misbehaving child. It was not a good look.
"But instead of all of those things, we chose to help you. Someone we barely know. Allowing us the single opportunity to not accept magic that could possibly kill us as far as we know without questioning that my friends lives could be in danger is not something that I will apologize for. Pretending that we haven't already done everything in our power to help you multiple times because I questioned the motives of your friend a single time is..." She pauses once more, suddenly aware that she had not regained her composure at all.
"I will shine in her legion." she intones, twisting her ring and falling silent, simply waiting for Kitarlo, clearly annoyed by the completely random-feeling tirade of the woman... but as Kitarlo speaks, she grows to understand. Of course Valais would react that way - the two were in love. Ary slowly inhales and exhales. "I'm sorry, I hadn't even begun to consider..." she says, finding her footing once more, though ashamed that she had reacted in such a way with such limited knowledge of the situation. It would seem that as the time to return home drew near, Ary was growing more and more wired for war and threats.
* * *
Ary rallies just before entering the circle.
Mortification: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
Mortification: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23
Ary follows along and begins to help with the digging, but promptly stops when she sees that he is digging out a symbol and steps out of the way without needing to be told otherwise. She waits and watches quietly, no longer questioning the situation that had brought them there. Once everything was ready, she waits for just a moment, "All at once, yeah? We don't need anyone to suffer any longer than they have to."
Immediately upon entry, she suddenly exhales as a wave of fatigue hits her. Her eyes remain as they are, as she begins to widen them, but the muscles refuse to respond for a moment. She stumbles for a moment under the weight of everything she is carrying, a wave of exhaustion slamming into her.
The feeling took her back to the last time she could remember truly being sick, and with it came a wave of sadness. Sickness had been something easily handled and treated when she was studying to become a paladin, working with the Mendevian people... but prior to that, she had been out on the street. And rain or shine, one needed to eat. She had nipped the leftovers from a table of a man as he excused himself to use the bathroom and absconded away - one of the many things that taught her to be careful from who she stole. She'd spent the night wet and shivering, unable to sleep during a downpour. The rain had at least served to keep the fever down, though it had brought then a misery that she could remember all too clearly. The last time she had gotten sick, her mother had made her a special soup from far in the north, guaranteed to cure whatever ailed you. Hungry, feverish, and with sleep impossible, she had huddled in the darkness until the sickness had passed... that had been around a month before Armasse.
As the fatigue settled down into her bones, she slowly exhaled still more, before closing her eyes, and standing straighter, forcing herself to bear the brunt of the weakness that threatened to overwhelm herself and Valais, guarding her from the dark energies that threatened to pour down upon her from the demon, still so far away. Her breath came out slow and ragged, as if she had ran a mile in her kit, but she stood nonetheless, slightly stooped from exhaustion.
|3 people marked this as a favorite.|CON: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
RALLY: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
Xanderghul stands at the point that was indicated to him, and when Ary gives the go-ahead, he focuses on the feeling of hunger.
Just like that, he is starving, taken back to his last days in the Undersump. For a long time he had subsisted on muddy water and whatever poor mortal captives he could sneak a bite of when he came near a demonic infestation. It had been weeks since he had had a good meal, and he was nearly starved to death, crawling through the sewer system of the Abyss hoping for some castoff meat or vegetable matter so that he could scrape another day's existence. From above, a smattering of gore had fallen as an aperture had opened up in the Undersump's distant roof. Greedily, Xanderghul had devoured it to the bone and then looked above. Somewhere up there, another world that had dispensed meat.
This time, though, there was no rainfall of disappointing minions to sate Xanderghul's hunger. Instead, he merely felt like he was going to drop dead right that second. Foolishly, he had not thought to bring food with him as he had grown accustomed to relying on his ring of sustenance. Xanderghul panics, immediately beginning to strategize about who would be the easiest to knock unconscious to cannibalize...
And his eyes return to Ary, stoically bearing the weight of the entire group's castoff things and the weight of Valais' weakness. And to Ehren, who thoughtlessly gave up his own time to help Hinagiku, who was the first person since Jorsal to be concerned with who he is. Xanderghul realizes that truly, he is safe now. This helps him to refocus on the task at hand, cast aside the terrible feeling of hunger as merely a temporary, illusory distraction, and bear the pain of starvation.
|2 people marked this as a favorite.|Will Save (Heaven): 1d20 + 14 - 2 ⇒ (5) + 14 - 2 = 17
RALLY Will Save (Heaven, Surge): 1d20 + 14 - 2 + 1d6 ⇒ (5) + 14 - 2 + (3) = 20
Damage: 8d4 ⇒ (2, 1, 4, 2, 2, 2, 3, 1) = 17
As he steps into the ritual circle, Ehren reflects on the agonies of his past, and how they have shaped his life into what it is now.
He communed with the wardstone at Fort Portolmaeus and in the process, felt the agony that the Worldwound afflicted on the Green. He had been torn apart and eaten alive by a disgusting hezrou demon, powerless to save himself, let alone his friends. He was wracked by the touch of Mother Heartwood, touched by the corruption Laktharis had seeped into her roots. He met the baleful, withering gaze of Kule and for just an instant, shared in the unicorn's tortured existence.
And now, through his own volition, he would endure whatever it would take to heal Valais of the harm Arastrax inflicted on her.
Indeed, Ehren is no stranger to pain, but he is by no means inured to it, either. The moment the ritual begins, he lets out a shout and drops his rod, every inch of his body suddenly ablaze with pure agony. Just as Kitarlo had described, streams of blood begin to pour out of his eyes, streaking down his face and dripping to the ground. Everything, the simple act of standing, even breathing, only seems to make the sensation worse. Delirious with pain, Ehren's vision starts to blur; he hears Ary's, words but they sound distant, as though she were far, far away.
Gradually slipping out of consciousness, Ehren is vaguely aware that his body is tipping over, like a tree in a windstorm. But just as he is about to come toppling down, he abruptly moves his leg and plants his foot into the ground, regaining his footing. Breathing haggardly, he looks back up, much of his face painted crimson. So often, the pain he felt was that of others. As far as he is concerned, this is no different. He gives Valais - or perhaps himself - a nod of reassurance.
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At Kitarlo’s signal, Hinagiku empties her mind and steps forward into the symbol where she gracefully adopts the lotus position. Once she feels ready, she closes her eyes, and open the gates of her mind to the world around her. Threabare lines appear in her mind’s eye, magical energies she can barely sense linking her to ritual circle, to her friends. Concentrating, the monk stems the flow of sensation and focuses on the center of the magical symbol, on Valais. For an instant, the familiar sensation of knowing one’s true nature comes to her, she can feel that she is touching Valais. Yet, instead of staring through her soul, she funnels the woman’s pain. Mentally, she pictures her hand flowing as if grasping an orb of water, just like she had used against Eustoryax, but this time gathering together a ball of sensation. Pain, stitched together by dark magic, slowly forms a dark ball of tarry liquid. Staring at it for a split second, Hinagiku hesitates before funneling it towards her. Faster than expected, more intense than it should, the black liquid flows toward her and hits her spiritual chest, filling her with pain. But years of meditation have made her strong, decades of pain have forged her. She contains the liquid, contrives it to her will, slowly takes possession of it, until the searing pain flows to her will. As the pain subsides, Hinagiku reaches down further into Valais’ soul, reaches out to her companions, reaches out within herself. If this was a sacrifice, than she could bear more, she could let the pain flow almost to the point of breaking. Test her limit. And, for the first time in decades, tears beging to flow on the kitsune’s face. Tears of red, tears of blood, tears of pain beyond most people’s ken.
Will: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (6) + 16 = 22
damage: 4d4 ⇒ (3, 4, 3, 2) = 12
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Isilme slightly pales at Ary's accusation, and Valais' overhearing of it. When Valais is finished reprimanding Ary, Isilme chimes in. "Apologies, Valais, Kitarlo. You must understand that we have seen people whose good nature was supposed to be unimpeachable turn out to be cultists, demons and spies. Ary has reflexively learned to be observant and question everything, for if not for being wary, our army and our own selves might well have been felled by betrayal. She means no harm, she only wishes to ensure her friends' safety."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 28 - 2 ⇒ (17) + 28 - 2 = 43
As the group gathers around the circle, Isilme sits down, folding her legs beneath her. She places her hands upon her lap and takes a deep breath, looking down at the portion of the ritual circle where she would place her offering. Reaching down to her hip, she unclasps the sheath which held her starknife, Eternal Night. Drawing it forth, she looks at the intricate obsidian blade she had had carved around the hilt of the blade she had rested in for what seemed like an eternity.
The hilt itself was of great importance to her. Firstly because it represented the boundary between the two lives she had lived, one as a Raelis, Elan's lover, and eventually prisoner within the blade, and the other now as a mortal alongside her friends... and alongside Ai'sintar as well. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, she had long since determined that part of her very soul rested within the hilt still. A portion of the whole that she had been as a Raelis.
There was no doubt in her mind that had she discussed this with anyone ahead of time, they might have objected or tried to stop her. After all, this would be a decision that could not be undone, not if it was to mean anything. And yet it was the right choice. She was Lleuad-a'r-Sêr no longer, not in any meaningful sense, nor did she truly wish to be any longer. She would find a way to free herself from Li'an's body, but no longer in an effort to reclaim some lost past.
"Song of Spheres, hearken unto me, your faithful servant, Isilme" she begins, whispering quietly as she places the blade on the ground before her. "Today I give away my past that Valais and some other might have futures. I relinquish all that I was, both in spirit and in name to this blade. Bless it so that it may find someone yearning to be free, give them the strength and wisdom to achieve their freedom, and guide their footsteps as you have always guided my own. May a thousand stories bloom from this humble seed."
As the portal opens up on the ground, Isilme places the blade gently over it, and, after hesitating for the most brief of moments, lets go. Within an instant the ebon star knife falls through the portal, beginning its journey to somewhere where it would be of use.
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Val takes a deep breath as the situation momentarily turns extremely volatile, only for it to settle down almost as quickly. It's almost refreshing to have a conflict resolved with words so easily. Perhaps she's too used to arguments being with people too stubborn to calm down. She shakes her head as they all step forward to the circle. "I don't have a lot to sacrifice, but this is hardly the first time I've given something up for someone else. Let's do this thing."
Despite her bravado, Val can feel her heart racing. Her words are true, but they only get one chance at this. She takes a deep breath as she sits in her place in the circle and settles into a butterfly pose, her hands settled on her knees as she breathes softly. Reflect on a time that she made a sacrifice for her faith. She lets her mind drift into a free floating daydream as she tries to consider her own past. There are plenty of acts in Desna's name, but a true sacrifice was trickier. Then something comes to the front of her mind. The half-trance gives way to memory and she can almost feel the manacles locked around her wrists and the hard, uncomfortable floor of the locked prison wagon. Her fine, close cut clothes vanish in her mind, replaced by the too familiar shapelessness of an off-white prisoner's tunic. "You don't have to do this, a voice whispers to her, a tanned, elderly face of a Varisian man looking through the bars of the locked door. "You didn't do anything."
Val's lips twitch up in a half smile as she remembers the caravan. Of course I do," she replies to the phantom memory. "They're not going to let anyone go if they don't take someone in."
The man curses in his native tongue and spits on the ground. "Cowards, the lot of them. Picking on honest merchants rather than distrusting their own."
Memory Val chuckles. "Get back on the road Tomas. You have your travels ahead of you. I can't watch you throw that away because this lot are convinced all Varisians are thieves and smugglers. You don't deserve this. I'll be out eventually, and I have a lot more life to waste than you do."
The man sighs sadly and his head drops. "T'aves baxtali, Valaria," he whispers. "Find us again on the road and there will always be a spot by the fire for you."
The tiefling refuses to let her cocky grin fade, even as he lips twitch. "I'm holding you to that."
Valais wilts like a flower when Ary wheels on her, reflexively hiding behind of Kitarlo’s robes rather than meet her gaze. Kitarlo smiles awkwardly and looks rather relieved when Isilme steps in to intervene and smooth things out. Scratching the back of his head, he shrugs and smiles at Ary and Isilme. ”Oh, no offense taken,” he says, letting her accusation wash off of him without tarnishing his good mood.
As the heroes offer up their sacrifices, wisps of light begin to surround Valais in a golden cloud. The elven woman sits cross-legged in the center with her eyes closed as a supernatural wind begins to swirl in a circle around the heroes. Her eyes flutter open, and her mouth opens wide as if to scream, but stops - her pain transferred away from her and to Ehren, Hinagiku, and Kitarlo. The wind continues to swirl eventually becoming a howling gale. Through it all, the shadowy form of Valais is dimly visible at the center of an enormous, opaque golden bubble. She gradually levitates, the wind picking up to hold her in mid air. The air around her shimmers and divides into three nebulous bubbles. Two bubbles seem covered with an oily black film, while the third is clear and filled with blue mist. Suddenly, the bubbles shoot away, passing through the walls of the hedgerows and out into Heaven, as Valais collapses in the center.
The wind stops abruptly and Kitarlo is the first to dart to his feet. He sprints to the center of the circle and rolls Valais over, revealing that her body has been fully healed. Her long, auburn hair cascades out of her hood, falling across a perfectly normal face. ”Something has gone wrong…” Kitarlo says through gritted teeth. He presses his head against her chest. ”Her heart is not beating!” he cries out, panic rising in his voice.
The sound of a thunderclap echoes across the gardens and a nine-foot-tall archon manifests next to Kitarlo and Valais. One of the archon’s arms ends with a giant shield that has been carved to resemble an open book. His other arm ends with a pointed spear that is in the shape of an enormous feather quill.
This is a shield archon. Shield archons are the mighty rocks of celestial armies, withstanding waves of demons and devils without complaint. Though more than capable of tearing apart lesser demons and devils, their true strength lies in their ability to shrug off deadly attacks from superior opponents, giving their offense-oriented allies time to flank and overwhelm their mutual foes.
”What foolish thing have you done?!” the archon roars.
Val staggers to her feet as Valais collapses in a heap just as it seems like the ritual was a success. Then another outsider of some sort suddenly decides to coming rushing in. Of course. "Something's gone wrong with a healing ritual! She's not breathing! Is there anyone who can help?"
Knowledge Planes (CHAOS): 1d20 + 18 - 2 ⇒ (3) + 18 - 2 = 19
Diplomacy (CHAOS): 1d20 + 18 - 2 ⇒ (10) + 18 - 2 = 26
The ritual seems to proceed without issue, at least as far as Isilme can tell. The end result, however, is problematic. It seemed a cruel irony to heal her body and lose her life. Before she can even begin to contemplate what to do, however, an Archon appears. Isilme sighs audibly, unable to maintain her composure. If there was any chance to save Valais, it would quickly disappear into the tsunami of red tape that was about to overtake them.
"What we have done is attempt to free a woman from the crime visited upon her by the demon Arastrax," Isilme adds. "Is it more foolish to try and save her or consign her to a lifetime of being stitched together with a demon?" she asks the archon. "If you must act, aid her first or at least do not interfere with us trying to save her. Decide what else must happen after she is safe."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 28 - 2 ⇒ (3) + 28 - 2 = 29
She then turns away from the archon, standing up and begins to focus on the more pressing problem. "Ehren, can you tell what has happened?" she asks the druid, hoping he will be able to discern despite the wounds he had suffered during the ritual.
Annabelle, who had been sitting anxiously on the side, rushes over to Valais’ side opposite of Valaria. ”Oh, no… is there anything anyone can do? Please, she needs help, like, right now!”
The archon’s eyes narrow as he examines each person in turn, carefully scrutinizing their faces and their words to determine if they are speaking the truth. At the same time, his eyes scan across the gardens themselves, pausing to take in the enormous ritual circle that Kitarlo had dug out into the grass. He stares at the azata, holding his quill menacingly as if considering to strike against him, but he suddenly stows it on his back and bows his head.
When he speaks again, his voice is much quieter. ”I see. I am Altha the Scrivener. I serve Winlas, the Empyreal Lord who created the Great Library of Harmonious Scripture. I came here because I was alerted to the presence of great evil that had manifested within The Elder’s domain. Bringing evil into Heaven is a serious crime, and would normally result in your arrest pending due process and trial. However, it is the will of Winlas himself that you be granted a chance to remedy this error and purify the evil that you have inflicted upon Heaven. The mortal girl appears dead because her soul has left her body,” says the Scrivener. ”The Ritual of Mortification produced three rogue souls, two demonic and one elven. The evil souls and their energies are too impure to exist within Heaven, so they have coalesced into spheres of evil and scattered, as soap forms bubbles as it repels water across its surface. As an act of penance, Winlas has decreed that you seek out the two demonic souls and destroy them. We will send our lantern archons out to seek and recover the soul of the mortal girl and restore her in the time being.”
The ritual failed to fully destroy the demonic presence inside of Valais because Kitarlo’s inscription failed to account for the presence of two demonic souls within Valais, as he had assumed that only Ammoch, the babau, was still grafted to her body. Of course, there was no way of knowing for sure, but retrospectively it makes sense. Demons can never be truly destroyed, they simply re-manifest in the Abyss once their essence returns to the Outer Planes. Some lingering essence of Laktharis must have continued on within Valais’ body, so when you killed him at the Temple of Mother Heartwood, rather than re-manifesting in the Abyss his consciousness must have returned to within Valais, where it laid dormant. It is fortuitous that you were able to procure this ritual so quickly, as it would have likely ended poorly for Valais had Laktharis fully re-materialized from inside of her.
Kitarlo looks relieved at the news that Valais is not dead, or at least not truly. ”Oh… thank the gods,” he says, his shoulders sagging. ”Excellent. Two measly demons will be simple to deal with. Let us be off.”
”No,” says the archon firmly. ”You are under arrest, Kitarlo of Elysium. You have already been found guilty of theft and for disturbing the peace within Heaven’s Shore, so this is your second strike. You will be detained and held for trial. The mortals that accompany you, while perhaps reckless in their actions, are not guilty of any other slights against Heaven. They are to make amends. Such is the will of Winlas!”
Ehren does not even think to wipe the blood off his face, anxious as he is about the ritual's result. Though its effect on her physical form is at first promising, his heart grows heavy from the news of her apparent death. But before he can so much as move to confirm Kitarlo's declaration, the imposing archon appears before them. The druid can only shake his head at Isilme's question, absolutely clueless about what they have wrought; fortunately, the newly arrived outsider has the insight they do not.
"Two demonic souls?" Ehren asks with a frown, perplexed by the archon's explanation. He looks to Kitarlo and the others, wondering if they know something he does not. "But we already slew the kalavakus demon who was stitched to Valais's soul - the parts that were taken from him melted away when he died. Only the babau should remain, no?"
Hinagiku lets out a silent gasp as she bends over to let out the final spasm of pain. Once she’s wipped her eyes with the back of her hands, she lifts her head to witness the ritual’s outcome. The sight of Kitarlo rushing to help, and his plea, has the monk quickly on her feet and heading toward the couple. Yet, before she can reach them, the commanding voice of the angel stops her dead in her tracks. She looks up before immediately bowing her head in respect.
Only once he is done speaking, does Hinagiku move and only to fall into a deeper bow. Unlike her friends, her first reaction is to apologize, they did after all release evil upon the very heavens.
”Please forgive us Altha the Scrivener sama, we did not know that our actions would taint heaven." she pauses to let the words sink in " If this means finally curing mrs. Valais and correcting our mistake, I will help finding these demonic souls. But, how can we capture spirits, or destroy them?“
After the archon answers her and the questions of her companions, Hinagiku’s eyes come to rest on Kitarlo. Concerned about his punishment, she looks back toward Altha.
”Altha the Scrivener sama, will the trial be held soon, and if so, could you let us testify for mr. Kitarlo?”
K(Planes): 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (11) + 18 = 29
K(Arcana) Aiding: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
Diplomacy Aiding: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Ary is at first aghast at the failure of the ritual... wondering who among them had failed... but then shaking her head. Something had, of course, gone wrong. And that something was likely that only some 24 hours had been spent in total on all of the research necessary to conduct an experimental ritual. The fact that she had never questioned the outcome, in retrospect, was alarming to say the least.
She stops immediately upon the arrival of the archon, as the others had, though she'd cleared the space between herself and Valais to reach a kneeling position, ready to maneuver her in any way that the others deemed necessary. She purses her lips when everyone seems to immediately launch into hysterics, including making demands. She pauses for a moment, looking to Isilme as everything unfolds. "Perhaps there was another component of the demons that was not as visible. An arm and a jaw are clearly visible, but it would be impossible to know if something internal were different without examination." She pauses for a moment, before continuing, rising.
"Moreso... I would request that we be allowed to take Kitarlo with us, and leave one of our companions in his stead, perhaps. I can't imagine that a Raelis would ever sacrifice the freedom of another in his stead, but if it were short-lived..." she pauses, looking directly to the Archon, "Allowing him to see through the cleansing of his friend's soul is hardly a great request, I don't think. Though... if he would prefer to be by her side when she awakens?" Ary says, turning between the archon and the azata.
"The particulars of this kind of thing have never been my forte," Val says, still kneels down next to Valais, not willing to take her eyes off the collapsed woman just yet. "But if we have to hunt down the demons tormenting her again, then at least we're in a position that I understand just fine. The sooner we get rid of them, the sooner we can get back and Valais can recover from this."
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Xanderghul watches the spirits flee into the sky. It seemed that instead of destroying the demons responsible, the ritual had un-bound them from Valais' soul, which left some insight into Arastrax's methods. The demon, while depraved and cruel and completely misusing his talents, was truly a visionary to be able to use magic to stitch creatures' souls together on a whim.
What happens next shouldn't surprise Xanderghul, but it does. Once again, the Great Holy Powers That Be saddle Xanderghul's squadron with the responsibility of fixing everything wrong in the world. Despite the many fortresses full of angels they had seen throughout the land, his group would be required to destroy the loose demons in Heaven.
He turns to face the archon, arms crossed. His voice flat and condescending, he asks, "And perhaps some free angel wings or teleportation powers so that we don't have to walk an infinite distance to the charming little village where the demon spirits are hiding?"
He shrugs. "Or a God could just annihilate them with a miracle, but I guess using your powers for Good is something only mortals do."
Altha narrows his eyes at Xanderghul. "You should watch your next words very carefully, mortal, for they may be the last words you utter as a free man. Winlas has offered you the chance to do penance for your errors, by giving you an opportunity to clean up after your own mistakes. If you would prefer to disavow yourself of my Lord's mercy and kindness, I can escort you to the prisons where you shall await trial and judgment. Do I need to remind you that you walk Heaven's slopes as a guest, and that your words function as a representative of the Crusader faction?" He turns to Ary. "This man is a Mendevian Crusader, yes? Am I to understand that I should take his insolence on behalf of all the Mendevian Crusades?"
"No," responds a male voice. "Only on behalf of I, Zepha, servant of Andoletta." The old crow-faced Archon slowly approaches the Shield Archon, leaning heavily on his staff, intervening between Xanderghul and Altha. "These mortals have entered Requius on my good name, and so, their actions are my responsibility to bear. If there is punishment to be dealt, then let it come to myself, as I am ultimately responsible for all that has taken place today."
Lann pales from beside of Ehren. "No... no, that is unfair. You have done naught but show us kindness, we can't let you-"
Zepha raises a hand to silence him. "You are my wards, and thus, my weight to bear. I have vouched for you, and so your actions are my actions. Your words, my words."
Diplomacy DCs to deal with Altha the Scrivener have increased by 15, because Xanderghul has offended him.