Toric activates his glamered celestial armor and flies down as much as the spell allows.
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Before entering, Azzim wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the caves, so he'd memorized a modified version of his standard spell repertoire with a few empty slots in case they needed to improvise.
Wandering Spirit -> Lore
Wandering Hex -> Arcane Enlightenment: Chains of Light, Slow, Emergency Force Sphere, Overland Flight, Reverse Gravity
Ritual Hex -> Heaven's Leap
1. Heightened Awareness, Obscuring Mist, Protection from Evil, Strands of The Tangled Knot, Tears to Wine, [OPEN]
2. Barkskin, Focused Scrutiny, Fog Cloud, Resist Energy x2, [OPEN]
3. Akashic Communion, Daylight, Dispel Magic, Sand whirlwind, Sleet Storm, [OPEN]
4. Blessing of Fervor, Emergency Force Sphere, Freedom of Movement, Purify Body, [OPEN]
5. Overland flight, Persistent Slow, Unleash Pandemonium, [OPEN]
6. Anti-life shell, Chains of Light, Heal
7. Familiar Blessing of Fervor, [OPEN]
Azzim took one look at the caves and all the climbing that would be involved and thought, 'nope!' and he whispered several powerful words and be began to float.
He's casting Overland Flight which lasts for 13 hours.
Azzim nodded with approval as Leander navigated, saying "I'm glad you've researched this so thoroughly."
He accepted his turn to carry the magically protected box without complaint, hopeful that he would be able to notice and resist any attempts to suborn him.
Terexaltherin doesn't trust the "Duke" and their seeming quiesence, but he makes sure to keep himself--and by extension <Shimmer>--well away from the box regardless.
If anyone's not flying I can help with ropes for sure, Terexaltherin offers when they reach the caves. I just... don't have any appropriately sized rope myself.
He does curiously look down some of the side passages, but makes sure to never break line of sight with the rest of the group.
::"Just so you know the hive mind will now works over any distance on a plane."::
The satyr sighed once again in the hivewmind. ::Great. Uh, GIFT. I want my inclusion in the hivemind turned off when we sleep. I like you guys enough, but as stated before: sometimes my thoughts should be only my thoughts. I hope that's okay with everyone.::
::"I have been doing that after... well best not say, but your safe. No one will know your secret love of fluffy thongs."::
She says jokingly,
Then moves onto the caves below, she sends out some of her crystals.
As the party continues through the cave, a couple of six-legged leopard creatures start following you but are scared off...
Then, after Strandel's fly wears off and the party encounters a steep upward climb, Terex notices something in one of the many deep side-caves off the main - far down in it, there's the reflection of crystal that's reminiscence of a variety of magical crystals he's seen over the year. Hard identify at the distance but the impression is quite strong.
She flicks her hand and one of her crystals flyes off to have a look in the new crystal reflections.
::"You want to go see Terex?"::
Her drones look like small Small bird-sized crystals with an eyeball.
They don't move that fast are easy to spot when moving. She is a little exasperated it's going so slowly and calls it back. She takes it and puts it away. Saying under her breath.
"I preferred you lot! when you were crystal spiders"
She looks over at
::"My Drones are too slow and to easily damaged here. You're better at hiding, faster and tougher, sorry for asking you to go in harm's way. Whatever it is your looking at out there, you are the best one to go see."::
She sends this to Terex.
Don't worry, I'll be careful, Terexaltherin replies. I may be curious, but I've survived my curiosity this long for a reason.
He cautiously flies down the passageway, darting from cover to cover in case there's something watching, and keeping an eye out for danger as he investigates what he'd seen.
Stealth: 1d20 + 36 ⇒ (3) + 36 = 39
Perception: 1d20 + 17 ⇒ (14) + 17 = 31 Darkvision and Blindsense 60'
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Azzim watched the little pseudodragon fly off, he thought about following but decided to wait and see what befell - hoping stealth was the way. Even so he whispered to Laurana, "Be ready in case he needs us, you're faster than I am..."
If it comes to it, Azzim can cast heals through Laurana although I think there's a range limit.
relived that Terex was happy, she waited with the box holding the Duke.
And spent her moments thinking she needed reacess the drone.
Terex flies cautiously down a short tunnel into a large cavern - he can see with a faint but ordinary light it's area is divided into a variety of "lobes", smaller partial globes intersecting to form the large area. Scattered among the areas are various mineral and crystaline deposits whose patterns and colors seem distinctly magical (which do radiate a powerful if confused magical aura on closer inspection). A further feature Terex notices with blind sense also are thin, invisible membranes dividing the cavern into cells and blocking the hive-mind tranmission but easily passed through.
Terex passes from cell to cell, staying away from the areas with strong magic as well as some strange glowing, floating insects but still making a thorough survey of the structure. and returning with the information for the various other magic experts to also analyze.
Knowledge (Arcana): 1d20 + 22 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 22 + (5) = 35
Upon returning and speaking with the others, Terexaltherin is able to put together an idea of what they'd found.
It's some kind of ruined planar engine... it really makes me wonder about the Cucurai. Did they make it? Did they used to use it? Does it have something to do with how unstable this area is in planar terms?
He gazes longingly back at the cavern. It's too bad we can't spend a few weeks or months studying it. There'd be a lot to learn.
The little dragon feels a slight twinge, and realizes that Terecho is suggesting he could stay behind and study it. Terexaltherin replies that it's too dangerous, to which his copy responds with disappointment and understanding.
Then he turns his thoughts to <Shimmer>. Do you pick up anything active here, or is this thing as broken as it seems?
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Intrigued, Azzim said "Well isn't that fascinating. Oh to be a fly on the wall witnessing what went on here! Actually that gives me an idea..."
If our level up has already come into effect, Azzim would have memorized Stone Tell, and he would do the following...
Stepping into the air, Azzim heads towards one of the strange planar membranes Terex had found. Careful not to touch one, he selected a patch of stone, perhaps a stalegtight that had a good view over the area. He floated towards it and gently, almost reverently he touched it, leaning forwarded till his turban was resting on it. He then started a hum in the back of his throat, that was so low pitched it was more vibration than sound.
He spent quite some time that way, conversing with the stone, asking what it had seen over the aeons. He wants to get an idea of who or what built this planar engine and if anyone else has been this way recently.
Azzim flies forward, curious to investigate the ruined planar engine... ah curiosity... there's no way to even enter the complex without penetrating the membranes, they fill the cavern. Fortunately they're harmless save for blocking psychic and other transmissions. Starting with a few intact, conventional stalactites and stalagmites, he finds everything conventional was formed at later date. In a half hour or so, you learn dozens, maybe hundreds of traders have made at least cursory investigation of this complex on their way to and from Cucurai.
But for the formation of the complex, he must go to the fine pieces of stone in the center of maelstrom. Why not? While The Organization's annals list several agents who perished just this way, this particular ruin is indeed quite inactive and main danger is stone whose essence has been in a multitude of ways. Still, after a few hours, Azzima gains an image of the mechanisms builders - a race unknown in the multiverse at large, resembling insects at best only roughly - hands with fingers like worms, two arms, four legs, vestigial wings (unknown in the multiverse but mentioned in Organization records as "Ancients #17" with a very little more information - usually observed with methods such as this). Further, Azzima is able to gain a very sketchy idea of the purpose of machinery - to guide the development of various planes in a fashion these entities considered "harmonious" and a few tidbits on the construction of the originally vast machine (it used "primordial" materials from the Outer planes).
Azzim's intense investigations take four hours but he stops twice to assure the party he's OK. Leander is remarkably patient and calm during this time, settling into meditative pose... Eruander is calm as usual. An occasional drip from one or another part of the dank, hot cave be heard.
Terexaltherin follows Azzim around, taking advantage of the time to look around more thoroughly himself, though he doesn't really expect to see a lot. He does ask <Shimmer> now and then if they pick up anything odd when they're near a particularly interesting part of the ruined planar machinery.
When Azzim mentions that the machine used 'primordial' materials, the little dragon is very interested. Did you get any more information than that from what you saw about them? It might have been something like where <Shimmer> comes from!
With a moment's thought, Terex realizes primordial materials are simply the base constituents of the "outer" divine planes. If they can be transported to a conventional "material" plane, they provide a powerful backing for machines acting on other planes. On the other hand <Shimmer>'s home is no doubt on a material plane of sorts, just in an area where order and chaos in extremely complex fashion (the opposite, in ways, of the purity of the primordial). When it was operational, this machine might been able to reach such planes but now it is essentially moribund (though with more time, much more time, more likely could be learned from it).
Leander looks at the device in detail after rising from his meditation, "A fascinating ruin - how came it here? I suspect the answer may be with our friends the Cucurai. I have spent years of dreams in my efforts to find them and I had hoped, still hope, to regain certain things in my homeland through the trade I offered. But I am thinking the situation may be stranger and more sinister than I imagined. We have a ways to go and I think we should gather more clues as we go. Shall we continue?"
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Azzim shrugged slightly, "I think considerable study would be needed to learn more, and our friend Leander is correct we should get going."
Nodding to the dhampir he replied as he variously walked and flew through the cave complex, "As for Ancients #17, hard to say although that possibility disturbs me. Also I fear what 'harmonious' development of the planes entailed. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the denizens of those planes disagreed that the process was 'harmonious'..."
Gift worked with the others to study the site, her reformed crystal spiders moves over the site feeding info to the others v the hive mind.
When they looked done she called them back and they made her clothing again.
::"ready when you are"::
I wonder more about the Cucurai than the Dark Traders--that was a *very* long time ago. Not that time travel is completely out of the question, as we know, Terexaltherin comments. But I think it is time to move on. Maybe someday we can come back and investigate this properly... but now is not the time.
"Weird", is all the satyr could say until moving on.
So the party makes final preparations, keeping exhaustive notes on the various parts of the ruined dimensional complex and then continuing further, threading their way through the network of caves ... investigating various strange pools of liquid and some odd fungi but finding nothing very notable before emerging in a new above-ground path. Here the area near the path varies from 200' to 1000' wide before apparently still fading to interplanar froth. It's still mostly dense jungle but sometimes fields, meadows, pond and fens appear on one side or other. You occasionally chase off various aberrant beasts but none gives a serious challenge.
And so things continue for another three days, the jungle remaining as hot as ever. One the eleventh day, you expect to arrive at the area of the "Mornette Flowers", where Leander's instructions specify you moving across a series of open fields, including the warning to "keep ten feet away from each flower", though the flower are not otherwise described...
So when you arrive, you are not surprised to see narrow valley, a quarter mile across and between four and five miles long, filled with flower-like plants between five and fifteen feet tall, with wide leaves and stems, long white petals and each with central bulb like a soap bubble, containing something. Follow the directions, you gradually and stealthily approach these flowers. So with the very sharp eyes in the party, at about 250' away, you're able to see a beautiful young humanoid floating within the bubble - with bat-like wings, spurs on his wrists and other "tells" of demon-kind. The second bubble contains a female with less obvious "tells" but with both of them, their demonic nature seems obvious.
Let me know how you want to investigate this...You seem to have caught the "flowers" unaware. Your guess is the creatures can't escape the flowers - assuming the creatures are real and what they seem.
Okay, this is strange even for here... Terexaltherin comments. Do you think these beings are as demonic as they appear? I'm going to look around with detect magic a bit...
He does just as he said, scanning one of the flowers with his magic detection abilities... from maximum range, to be safe.
Rollo continues to float above the ground, as the expedition continues into the valley. Upon viewing the demons habitation of the flowers, the Sage begins to dig through his mental Rollo-dex.
Knowledge Planes (Int): 1d20 + 23 ⇒ (4) + 23 = 27
Investigative Mind Knowledge Planes (Int): 1d20 + 23 ⇒ (15) + 23 = 38
Gift sees if she can make mental contact with the two, scanning their minds from a distance.
Perception: 1d20 + 26 ⇒ (12) + 26 = 38
Of course, Toric sees the hot-looking demon lady in the bubble.
"Oh! Hello. Who knew these flowers came with prizes inside."
The satyr walks forward to engage the trapped tempress.
"Good day, miss. I could help but notice you are in a bubble. Are you stuck? Do you want to get out?"
Diplomacy + Charming: 1d20 + 43 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 43 + 1 = 56
And you know what, to 'seal the deal'..
Toric casts charm monster on the demon girl. Will DC 23 negates
Gift finds the bubbles severely dampen psionic communication - she senses hope, distress and perhaps a bit madness from the flower-bubble but it's as if at a great distance.
Showing sharp, delicate fangs, the beautiful, barely clothed female in the second bubble gives a smile of pleading and distress to Strandel, with a slight wanton edge to it. Her eagle's wings flutter and she touches the edge of bubble with sadness, indicating her trapped state while her goat's tail twitches nervously. Her animated expression fades from hope to despair and back. Her right occasionally forms a tight fist, causing her small claws to cut her skin...
The male in the next bubble looks alert, soulful, sad.
Strandel's spell fails to penetrate the bubble. The bubble feels slippery, flexible yet quite tough...
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Wisdom: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
Azzim blinked with surprise at the demonic figures trapped within the flowers. Over the link he speculated, "::I'm beginning to wonder if the Cucurai get a lot of unwanted guests? Or perhaps this is meant as a warning, think about it, this is a mass prison for outsiders! Quite the statement really, I uh think we should press on lest we overstay our welcome...::"
::Ehh. Give me a moment.:: Toric thinks as he examines the capturing plants, looking for a weakness.
Knowledge (nature): 10 + 24 = 34
While the flower-bubble things are definitely not "natural", Strandel can determine that the flower bubbles form around a single entity and then preserve them indefinitely. Actually breaking the bubbles would be difficult - they might well be as strong as a wall of force... There are a few flowers that haven't form bubbles, yet, and you can guess these probably should be avoided...
One possibility would be to pull the bubbles out of the flowers, they might be transportable in their present form.
Any effort to penetrate the bubble would should include a disable device roll at the minimum.
Toric looks up at the captured demon girl, wracking his brain, until he realizes he does not have the skill or talent to release her.
::These bubble plants aren't natural. Whatever this 'plant' is, it keeps the subject preserved, alive, forever. In torment.::
::You know guys, I don't think I care much for these Cucurai anymore.:: Toric's face began to scowl as he voiced his concerns over the hivemind. ::And I'm beginning to see why these 'seemingly innocent' plant people would work with The Dark Traders.::
Rollo avoids any contact with the plants, as the group discusses any further activities here.
I would reserve judgment upon the Cucurai until further discoveries present further perspective.
The Sage floats onward once the group decides to continue....
Gift, looks at the Demon girl. A pizzle Gift loved pizzles.
::[i]"I think there is a way I can get her out, BUT and this is a big but, I can only do the effect, I will need someone within the hive mind to direct it. To disable this trapping device while I focus. And then others to keep an eye on the flowers. Would you like to try?"[i]::
If they others agree she will use Bend Reality to shift the force bubble. Some one with a disable device would have to direct it, whole someone who had kinetics could pull her out. Others would have to check the flowers so they did not stop this. So a team effort.
|Azzim bin Farouq|
Azzim was puzzled, "::Err granted eternal torment sounds absolutely awful, but are you sure you want to free a demon? It's nature is inimical to ours, it might thank us one moment and try to kill us the next."
::Doesn't matter. My charm monster spell would have culled her. Who knows? Maybe redeemed her? Doesn't matter now. Let's f#cking go.
Toric cursed over the hivemind.
I was about to make the same point, Azzim. I'm usually not one for leaving people imprisoned, but... assuming these beings are as demonic as they appear, I don't think we'd be doing the multiverse a favor by freeing them. Is there anyone here trapped that's *not* demonic? Also, do we know for sure the Cucurai set this up? What if it was already here when they got here?
Terexaltherin takes to the air. Let's have a look around and see if there's a pattern to who's trapped here.
Perception: 1d20 + 17 + 1d6 ⇒ (19) + 17 + (5) = 41
Eruander sends "I agree that releasing possibly demonic creatures seems perhaps unwise. If they are beings of some hell, being imprisoned here may be no more terrible than a return home..." and Leander sends "How strange... I too am feeling doubtful concerning the nature of Cucurai... Are these tests? or is this the remnant of some ancient event, like that ruined dimensional machinery. With so many held captive here, freeing them seems a mammoth effort. We really know nothing as these globes seem to prevent our magical and psychic investigations - these could be just illusion. But just as much, they could well be dangerous but I suspect we could handle one. Still, Strandel, I think changing the basic nature of the demonic being likely takes more than a spell and such creatures resist magic in my understanding, though your personal charm can do much I'm sure... anyway, I think we together could handle one of these creatures and they might well provide us with invaluable information concerning what we'll be facing later..." (You notice Leander is uncharacteristically verbose and repetitive).
As the discussion continues, Terex flies across wide field... the first two you saw were indeed fairly typical. Not every creature appears demonic but most have at least subtle clues and the more clearly demonic seem more easily read. You know these creatures can be, often are, shapeshifters after all.
And it occurs to those of you considering these creatures and the planes that the "best" of those from the Abyss are creatures that might not be "ill-intentioned" but who are insane in a destructive and contagious fashion.
Maybe, but I wouldn't feel right about releasing someone knowing there's a better-than-even chance we'd end up having to kill them, Terexaltherin replies to Leander. It looks like it's more of the same the whole way. I'd vote that we should just make our way through quickly and keep going. Unless we spot any signs of things not being as they appear, I don't think it's worth the risk of trying to release one.
So, after serious debate, the party threads its way through the Mornette Flowers, ignoring the pleading, sorrowful or threatening attitude of those apparently caught within and continues on the path.
The path then continues fairly straight and open for most of the remaining day. Towards the "night" of this realm, however, the path's course shifts and twists through dense jungle. The next day things continue this way for a couple more hours, until the path opens again. Once the path is open, however, you notice the weather becomes extremely variable, switching between very warm (110 degrees) and cold (40-50 degrees) as often as every half hour, with rain coming periodically, every half hour or hour... The situation is a bit exhausting but the party tough enough to shake off any effects.
In the this context, toward the afternoon, you push through a small area of dense jungle to an open area and see ahead, in another area of further dense jungle, several swarms of large, glowing green and black wasps. You've seen these things before individually - they're about 1.5" long, quite aggressive and can by themselves do only small damage 1 pt but now you're looking at hundreds if not thousands nested in the trees ahead of you. Like many of aberrations you've encountered here, they seem unnaturally hostile but not doing anything currently.
|Azzim bin Farouq|
"Oh my..." Azzim wasn't a fan of flying insects at the best of times. He thought about the situation for a moment before saying, "Well I did memorise Antilife Shell. It might work on them. Perhaps we can use haste to bypass them, but uh what if they're aggressive and try to follow a long way?"
He thought on this some more, from various angles considering what he knew of natural wasps swarms and of planar version and even undead ones.
Kn: Nature: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (14) + 20 = 34
Kn: Planes: 1d20 + 21 ⇒ (4) + 21 = 25
Kn: Religion: 1d20 + 21 ⇒ (4) + 21 = 25
As he usually did when the party camped, Terexaltherin asked <Shimmer> to transport him to his library plane, where he met up with Terecho. The two telepathically shared their experiences for the day, then settled in for a bit of reading.
It didn't take long, however, for both of them to look up. Terexaltherin had something on his mind, and given that Terecho was a copy of him, he knew he was thinking about it, too.
You're getting tired of staying in the library, Terexaltherin said to his copy.
Terecho sent back an affirmative. It turns out even *we* can get tired of reading if it's all we ever do, he joked.
I know, it's shocking! Terexaltherin grinned at his double. But I suppose we should have known. There's a reason I'm in the Organization after all.
Right. So you have an idea about this?
Yeah, I was thinking... if <Shimmer> can make another duplicate of me, you could trade off. One of you could go on a mission--probably not with me, given how dangerous the ones I'm on tend to be--and the other one would stay in the library. At the end of each mission you'd trade spots.
Terecho considered the proposal for a moment. We'll need to check with the Organization, of course, but it sounds good to me.
Terexaltherin nodded at his duplicate. Yeah, I'll bring it up once we're done with this mission.
That decided, they got back to reading.
Terexaltherin also considers the wasp-creatures... and their surroundings. Do you think things are getting more aberrant the deeper we get? he asks the others as he also thinks on anything that might help them with the wasps.
Knowledge (Arcana): 1d20 + 22 + 1d6 ⇒ (19) + 22 + (2) = 43
Knowledge (Planes): 1d20 + 22 + 1d6 ⇒ (16) + 22 + (3) = 41
Knowledge (Nature): 1d20 + 22 + 1d6 ⇒ (16) + 22 + (2) = 40
Unless they have a hive-mind of some sort I doubt we'll be able to talk with them, which means we need to either kill them or repel them, the little dragon points out.
Toric shrugs, also trying to identify the annoying insects.
Knowledge (planes): 10 + 13 = 23
Knowledge (arcana): 10 + 17 = 27
Knowledge (nature): 10 + 24 = 34
The party was able to capture one of the creatures earlier so a careful examination is a simple matter. While broadly resembling wasps, they parts from seemingly from a wide variety of entities - jellyfist, hedgehog and so-forth, as well as some actually mechanical parts; their stinger is a spring-loaded device driving a barbed, steel stinger filled with Hallucinatory poison Fort save 20 or confused and -2 wisdom. The creatures seem immune to electrical damage and resistant to fire Resists fire 5 . They seem have enough telepathy for a simple hive-mind but they seem primarily aggressive and not very intelligent (above animal but not much). They can fly nearly as quickly as a human can walk Fly 20'. They have strong scent and hearing but limited vision. They're fairly tough and there are hundreds of them in each of the three swarms.
Leander offers ::A plausible illusion might distract them while we sneak by...
Eruander is silent, you can see these things make him sad...
FYI - anti-life shield would keep everyone out, including other party members...
...the party threads its way through the Mornette Flowers, ignoring the pleading, sorrowful or threatening attitude of those apparently caught within and continues on the path.
Rollo doesn't much pay attention to those trapped inside the flowers. The dhampir stays floating above the ground, avoiding any touching of the foliage.
We could ask the Cucurai once they make their presence known to us. Working for the Organization does have a bit of a numbing affect to one's ability for empathy.
Viewing the several swarms of large, glowing green and black wasps having a union meeting not far from their path, the Sage looks to the others.
Are we going around this one also?
Rollo looks over at Leander .
If they are of a vermin intellect, then any illusion would be futile.
knowledge ?: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13
Plus appropriate knowledge of Knowledge (arcana) (Int)+37, Knowledge Planes (Int)+21, Knowledge Nature (Int)+19
Gift gets interested when she discovers the insect hive mind.
"I was thinking of followers I wonder"
And she lets connects Hexqil to the insect have mind
At 1st she just lissons working out just who complex a hive mind they have and a means to communicate. Be in image, sent, idea etc.
Ok GM GIFT is Smart, ROLLS I can do, she has Hex to help her as needed, she wants to see if she can take them as followers, She can place them in her demi-plane with what ever food they need as a home
Thinking about, Rollo realizes the "wasps" likely have above animal intelligence, well beyond ordinary vermin, meanwhile Gift begins to further investigate the wasps' intellects. Like all the creatures here, they seem to have an intense, constant hunger but they're certainly clever, creative and social... not quite evil but ornery side of neutral. Still, "listening" to the hive mind is going to require some effort. And controlling 1000's of aggressive, willful creatures seems like a serious challenge...
I'm going to say that to passively "listen" to telepathy, you need to do something like a "mental stealth" role once (and only once) you known something about the other group. This is a bluff (or other appropriate skill - "psy-craft"?) role against an opposed perception check...
Gift user her training and Autohypnosis to still her mind, Telepaths of her power could listen to mind communication but doing it with total passive control of will was hard. She had to still her own mind to the point it would not even register.
There is a PSI skill psionic classes get for exactly this purpose, Autohypnosis 1d20 + 28 ⇒ (17) + 28 = 45