After two years of blood and bravery, the Fifth Mendevian Crusade has struck a terrible blow to the Worldwound’s demons and reclaimed lost territory. The Pathfinder Society, as one of the crusade’s partners in this endeavor, has earned the right to explore and salvage what it can of the lost Sarkorian sites under Mendev’s control, and it has identified one ruin as a priority. In fact, the site seems to actively call to one agent in particular, a scarred survivor of abyssal experiments. Venture-Captain Jorsal of Lauterbury has asked the PCs to accompany this agent into the wasteland, where perhaps she might learn how to control her demonic half—or purge it completely.
Venture-Captain Jorsal of Lauterbury stands on a balcony of Starrise Spire, overlooking Nerosyan. The sounds of saws and hammers echo from the city below. He turns to the tall woman in full-plate armor standing by his side and says, “Ollysta, I believe our Pathfinder agents have arrived.”
Ollysta Zadrian greets Bask and Zarnel, and asks the others to introduce themselves.
Jorsal bows slightly and smiles. “A pleasure. As you can see, Nerosyan is still rebuilding. However, thanks to the timely and decisive actions of the Pathfinder Society, Mendev still has a city to rebuild. I want to personally thank those of you who had a direct hand in helping to contain the threat of the Worldwound. We now look for new sites to establish forward bases of operations.
“Yet, even our victories shine a light on our failures. It seems that while we were able to rebuild Nerosyan and drive out the demonic scourge, we could not rebuild the body and mind of one of our own.”
Ollysta takes over, “For nearly two years the Silver Crusade has worked with the Pathfinder Society to attempt to cure Valais, a Pathfinder sent to investigate former Venture-Captain Thurl. He kidnapped her, then shattered her mind and body, replacing most of her physique with babau and kalavakus flesh.” The paladin splays her hand and holds it up, as if to the rising sun. “Even the light of the Dawnflower cannot banish Thurl’s darkness; usual healing magic has had no effect.”
Jorsal steps forward, “Valais has an idea that she believes could help the Society and herself, but I’ll let her explain it to you. Are there any questions you have about her unique situation before we call her in? I can also answer any questions you have about the crusade against the demons of the Worldwound before we continue.”
Bask's hand moves unconsciously to the golden ankh hanging around his neck at the mention of the Dawnflower.
"Salim and I will be honoured to help Valias in any way we can. You said her body and mind need rebuilding. Is she a danger to herself? To us?"
Bask is a sandkin half-orc and speaks with a heavy Thuvian accent. His silks look more appropriate for the desert than Mendev's climate, but he seems comfortable enough. At his side a large desert lion rests, powerfully built but slightly thinner than more common lions. His eyes sparkle with celestial power and wisdom.
I've not played 1e for a while, go easy on me :)
|Zarnel the Torn|
"Lady Zadrian, Captain Jorsal," Zarnel bows to the paladin and the Venture Captain in turn, though one might notice that the second was not quite as deep a bow as the first.
"I am glad to see that my homeland is recovering. I am sorry I wasn't able to help here more, but ..." he trails off in sadness before lifting his head. "Vildeis called me to Her service elsewhere."
Zarnel's perfect angelic features, flowing blonde hair, and broad shoulders would normally be enough to make him quite attractive, but the golden flecks of color in his skin sparkle in the sunlight and make him a truly eye-catching sight.
Following your gaze to his heavily scarified arms, he comments, "Ah, my Lady Vildeis both blesses and curses me.” With that he makes a small ritual gesture, using his off hand to momentarily cover his eyes then reverently touch his scarred and scratched breastplate while intoning solemnly, "See No Evil, Abide No Evil.”
I have a demon bound within my blood also which I must constantly control it lest it come forth and taint me with its darkness. Is her condition akin to mine, I wonder?
"I, too, wish to help anyone so afflicted," Zarnel follows Bask's pronouncement, his voice catching slightly.
"Valais...that name seems familiar for some reason," remarks a young woman with dirty-blonde hair and pale green eyes. While she has the beginnings of some obvious smile-lines on her face the shadows under her eyes hint at her having not rested well in some time. She's dressed in a shiny breastplate and carries a longspear that seems to be made of cold iron. A solitary chicken ambles near her feet, seemingly content to root out small bugs from the cracks in the floor.
"I feel like she ought to be an Old New Friend instead of just a New Friend...but that's probably just my imagination," Corona continues with a shrug. "Do you know if her plan will take us into the Worldwound? If it does, is there anything specific we should know about the demons in the area?"
As she speaks, she keeps glancing surreptitiously at Zarnel and fidgeting as though she's pleased to see him but too polite to make a scene...at least not yet.
Corona has played some of the Valais mini-arc out of order...and she's also adventured with Zarnel before :)
Jorsal calls for Valais, who enters the room. Her visage is a patchwork of cream, red, and purple skin with asymmetrical horns.
Valais says, “Greetings Pathfinders, My name is Valais. I hope that you do not find my appearance too disturbing AND GROVEL IN FEAR. I need your help investigating a mystery and Jorsal won’t let me go out alone, skulking in the dark, waiting.
“I’ve been having strange dreams lately about stone halls, a terrible beast, and a bleeding tree. Echoing throughout is a single word: ‘Laktharis.’ Our scholars say he is A POWERFUL SARKORIAN GOD. I’ve also felt a compulsion to find something in the Worldwound, dark and hidden.”
Jorsal interjects, “We’d like you to escort her and help her overcome any trials. Keep her safe and watch for anything that could help her condition. While out there, the Crusade asks that we keep an eye out for any abandoned buildings or fortresses we could use and to ensure they are habitable. The crusaders have already sent out a scout, an elf named Shyael. She hasn’t reported in for a week and they’d like an update on her progress. If you don’t run into her, just report your findings about potential sites directly to me.”
In addition to asking questions, you may attempt to remember some useful information.
Knowledge (History or Religion)
Diplomacy or Knowledge (Local)
|Zarnel the Torn|
Zarnel starts in surprise at the soft female voice behind him. "Corona, when did you ... How did I not ..." The brave paladin who's faced down dragons and ventured into the heart of the Gallowspire is completely flustered.
"Umm, ah, Stuffing! Hello, little one," he tries to recover by greeting the chicken. Lamely.
Ignored by the chicken, he scratches the back of his neck and tries once more.
"It is good to see you again, Corona," he says with a genuine and dazzling smile as the golden glints in his skin seem to glow just a bit more than usual. "I hope we'll have time during this mission to catch up," and pick up where we left off... he thinks hopefully, though a bit wistfully. He knows better than most the dangers of the Worldwound, and the lives of Pathfinders rarely lead to "happily ever after."
Diplomacy : 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (19) + 14 = 33
The "mighty" paladin is saved from further embarrassment by the entrance of Valais. He catches himself from performing the ritual blessing of Vildeis at the sight of the warped woman lest he offend. No, my inner demon does not manifest so brutally. I must remind myself once more how fortunate I am. He latches onto one of the words to focus.
"I've heard that many of the original Sarkorians are returning to their old ways, ignoring the gods and Empyreal Lords of Avistan. Is Laktharis one of those? Or is it a demon?"
He (hopefully) allows those more knowledgeable to answer.
"I've also heard of Shyael. She is known to many here as an accomplished holy warrior of Erastil. She does good work in line with the code of her god." Feel free to open all three of the Diplomacy spoilers, rather than have me do all of it in exposition.
As he listens to the others, he too glances surreptitiously once or twice at Corona, and the crinkle in his eyes shows how happy he is to see her again.
Bask raises an eyebrow at Zarnel and Corona's reactions to each other.
The campfire stories should be interesting on this journey it seems!
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
When Valais enters he turns to tell calm Salim, but the hulking lion is completely unpeturbed by her. Embarrassed by his own reaction, he quietly listens to the other's wisdom as he's quite out of his depth here.
"Have your dreams given you an idea of where to go Valais? The worldwound is a challenging environment to range in"
Assuming she does he'll echo Corona's question about demonic activity in the area
“The Worldwound used to be called Sarkoris before the demons slaughtered the weak. The clans of Sarkoris worshiped innumerable gods BECAUSE THEY WERE WRETCHED. Some even had personal gods they could summon to their sides. Known as god callers, they were the most revered members of Sarkorian society.
“I don't know precisely where we are going, but the path feels familiar, like a dance you can only remember when you hear the melody.”
"I hope we can too!" Corona exclaims in reply to Zarnel, more loudly than she'd intended, and flushes slightly with embarrassment. "Um, sorry...it's just nice to see Old New Friends again."
Kn. History: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (10) + 8 = 18
"Uh, anyway...I remember reading a little about Sarkoris but I don't remember all of what I read," Corona murmurs, her expression suddenly vague and dreamy. "But the answers are right there, within reach..."
Her eyes grow clouded as she appears to enter some manner of trance...but then just as quickly her eyes return to normal and she snaps out of it.
You can search through time to recall some bit of forgotten lore or information. You can retry any Knowledge skill check you have made within the past minute, gaining an insight bonus on the check equal to your Charisma modifier. You can use this ability a number times per day equal to your Charisma modifier.
Knowledge of the Ages (Reroll; History): 1d20 + 8 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 8 + 4 = 27
"Oh! That's right! Separate clans ruled the land formally known as Sarkoris. When the Worldwound opened in 4606 AR, the demons destroyed most of the clans - obviously - and the refugees scattered into Mendev, Numeria, Ustalav, and the Realm of the Mammoth Lords," she explains. "As for their gods, Sarkorians worshiped an ever-changing pantheon of gods. Among these were “true” gods, empyreal lords, and demon lords, as well as powerful outsiders. Others were fictitious beings or eidolons summoned by the revered people they referred to as god callers."
And after a slight pause, she adds, "Laktharis was the name of a brutal living god who ruled over the city of Dredarin, a small city in the hills north of Storasta. He demanded total devotion and obedience from his worshipers. So...there's that. Sounds like a great guy." Judging from her expression, that last statement is purely one of sarcasm.
Merisiel was startled as Valais entered, though she kept herself as composed as ever.
"Two goals for our mission, find whatever in the Worldwound and perhaps meet Laktharis. Am I right?" She asks while she prepares herself, making sure every weapon and gear are in proper condition.
Jorsal answers, "Shyael is the name of the agent we are looking for, though determining her fate is secondary to solving Valais' problem. I sincerely hope you do not meet Laktharis, but of course you should be prepared for the possibility that you encounter demons."
As the Pathfinders seem to have no more questions, the venture-captain sends them on their way.
Valais leads you through the many alleys and side streets of Nerosyan. She heads east to Thurl’s old Pathfinder lodge, then northwest, before stopping in front of a small burned down shop near the city’s western walls. She sifts her way through the rubble, uncovering a concealed trap door that leads into a smugglers tunnel that travels beyond the walls of Nerosyan and past the Egelsee River. While traversing the tunnel, the party passes through the protection of the wardstones.
Once they leave the city, Valais leads you out into the Worldwound and toward the demonic city of Storasta, through the scorched hills that used to be the Falling Forest. The journey from Nerosyan to the ruins of Dredarin takes 10 days on foot. You encounter fiendish small animals and wandering dretches, the least of the demonkind, which you can frighten off or dispatch without any difficulty. In the distance, the ground occasionally explodes in geysers of raw elemental energy.
As you approach Dredarin, you see that picks and shovels lay haphazardly around an excavation camp. The spire and roof of a stone building peek out from the dense, ashen mud.
The cliff edge rises 20 feet of rough stone. The roof of the building in only 10 feet up. Over a dozen laborers stand along the edge of the ridge, digging away at the dirt, and three obvious spellcasters are each accompanied by what appears to be a crablike demon. An elven archer stands on the rise, wary.
Valais keeps a hood drawn over her face and stays behind you.
|Zarnel the Torn|
The trip through the blasted and torn countryside is exactly what Zarnel would have expected of this place, except for the pleasure of Corona's company. He spends the time catching up with her about the missions they've both been on since their adventures together with Medda and the Twinhorn clans (Solstice Scar B and D, 2018 & 2019). He discovers that they both fought at the Siege of Gallowspire, though their paths did not cross in the chaos of such an epic undertaking. Either way, her simple presence is a bright spot amidst the hellscape.
But reaching the excavation site, he turns to their guide. "Valais, where are we, and who are these people?" The elven archer catches his notice. "Is that Shyael, the paladin of Erastil?"
Merisiel keeps an eye on the stoney terrains as she travels, noting the covers she may be able to utilize if anything should happen. Hearing Zarnel’s question, she looks at Valais waiting for her answer.
Valais pulls her hood a bit further down. "That does resemble Shyael, though I do not know those she is with. Certainly not Pathfinders, and they look more likely than not to be agents of the enemy. I don't understand what is happening here."
|Zarnel the Torn|
"Remain covered, Valais, until we know more," Zarnel advises the Pathfinder as he continues up the embankment.
"Hail, Shyael," he calls out to the archer. "We are Pathfinders, sent by Jorsal of Lauterbury. I am Zarnel, Paladin of Vildeis, the Cardinal Martyr. What is all this?" he asks in a tone of pleasant curiosity and with a sweep of his empty hand across the dig site. His other hand holds his greatsword, though for now he positions it in a non-threatening manner up upon his shoulder, for one does not tromp across the Worldwound without weapons at the ready.
GM didn't ask for initiative, so maybe we have time to talk to Shyael first.
Corona blinks, looks at Zarnel and then back at Merisiel and Bask before shrugging. "I guess Old Friend Zarnel knows what he's doing!" she whispers cheerfully. Though the previous 10-day trek hadn't been especially glamorous, the company Zarnel and the others (but especially and obviously Zarnel) had done a lot to brighten her mood and diminish the dark shadows under her eyes. So as the aasimar takes the lead, she's not inclined to question his methods.
"Hello New Friends!" Corona waves at the crowd. "What are you digging for? Do you need some help?"
Bask stays low, ready to pounce with Salim if necessary. He hopes there won't be a fight, but the presence of the demons has him expecting the worst.
Merisiel slips behind a natural cover at the cliff's edge. Although her teammates are trying to solve the situation without violence, she draws her rapier and dagger, preparing to attack if these creature turn hostile.
As the Pathfinders approach, Shyael casts a spell.
She then calls out, "Greetings, Pathfinders! It is good to hear from Jorsal. I am currently assisting these settlers in reclaiming their lands."
Spellcraft: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6
Bask stands up straight and joins Zarnel, waving a greeting.
"Forgive my bluntness Shyael, but are these settlers demons?"
His tone conveys his astonishment at finding a paladin in the company of demons, hoping against hope that these are a peaceful crablike people living in the vicinity of the worldwound.
|Zarnel the Torn|
If her spell was
"Demons? I would not work with demons. They are ordinary people like you and I, and though their guardians take a strange shape, they simply seek to make a life on this land."
Knowledge Local: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (11) + 10 = 21
Merisiel has no idea what spell Shyael is casting. However, her action has definitely made Merisiel more in doubt of her seemingly friendly attitude. Thus, Merisiel kept sneaking, with more caution.
Spellcraft (DC 16): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (5) + 7 = 12
Corona isn't sure what manner of magic was just invoked but as the conversation seems to be going well enough, she doesn't worry too much about it.
"Guardians..." Corona muses aloud and something from the briefing several days prior comes to mind. "Oh! Are your new friend god-callers, then? That's amazing!"
She looks around. "It's very nice of you to help them reclaim their home, but the crusaders and Jorsal were worried about you. Maybe send a pigeon or something next time, okay?"
|Zarnel the Torn|
"God-callers, Corona? Like Medda of the Twinhorns and Nelket of the Farheavens? They are both fine and good people." His deep, strong voice trails off as he considers what he thinks Shyael did, the appearance of the guardians, and decides that perhaps he should do the same.
Standard action Paladin's detect evil in a 60 foot cone angled to include at least one of the god-callers, one of the guardians, and Shyael.
"And what is this work they do here, Shyael? Will this structure be a new home?" he asks with a gesture towards the excavation and the spire of the building. Corona asked the same thing earlier.
No evil auras.
"This building was one of their temples long ago. I do not understand their faith, nor do I need to, to protect them as they work. They have been nothing but kind and hard-working for as long as I have traveled with them."
Sense Motive, Corona: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26
Sense Motive, Merisiel: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
Sense Motive, Zarnel: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
This is about where a Bluff or Diplomacy check would come in handy.
"Um...New Friend Shyael seems really convinced that everyone and everything here is on the level, including us," Corona whispers. "But I still feel like there's something strange going on..."
Zarnel's got the best Diplomacy skill but Corona can easily Aid Another if needed.
|Zarnel the Torn|
"I agree with you, Conora. But Videis has shown me that none of them are evil," he whispers back to the oracle with a reassuring smile.
"Shyael, Corona and I have helped Sarkorians before, and Videis has shown me that I can trust you, and them. Can we help here, or must they do this for themselves?"
Diplo, Corona's Auto Aid: 1d20 + 14 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 14 + 2 = 34
"The work is nearly done, and I believe they would feel more fulfilled if they completed it with their own hands. Take a short rest, and I will notify you when they are finished." Indeed, it is barely 10 minutes before the workers have unearthed an entrance to the building. Shyael invites you to enter with them. "And take the lead, if you would. I have notified them that ancient ruins are your specialty." She gives yous two +1 demon-bane arrows and two +1 undead-bane arrows. The workers also grant the party two potions of cure moderate wounds to deal with whatever you may find below.
Valais beckons to the entrance, indicating that the pull of her memories is particularly strong here. She will stick close to the Pathfinders, while the others keep a distance so that they will be safe from anything you discover below.
Bask is visibly relieved when the Sarkorian Gods turn out to not be demons, and Salim relaxes as well. Although awkward during the pleasantries he perks up at the chance to be the first to enter some ruins, and casts some preparatory spells.
Life Bubble on everyone, 2 hours 48 minutes each
Longstrider on himself (7 hours)
Does anyone think they'll make a charisma based skill-check or ability check in the next hour? He can give Touches of Glory out that give a one-time +5 bonus to such a check
When ready he draws his scimitar just-in-case and stands ready to enter alongside the others
|Zarnel the Torn|
Zarnel watches the Sarkorians finish their work, with occasional glances at his teammates and slightly more frequent looks at Corona.
Vildeis' code says "Family is a rare refuge from the evils of the world, but it cannot keep me from my cause. I will not favor my own family over other innocents." He intones the code internally in the same formal voice he would use aloud. Though she's not "family" I must not favor saving her over any other.
He glances back to Corona again. But that will always be so hard.
The troubled paladin's reverie is broken by Shyael's announcement that the work is complete and they are ready to enter the building. He gestures for her to give the arrows to Bask as the only one with a longbow, and the potions to the others also. "Thank you, Shyael. Like their picks and shovels, these are the tools we can best use."
He takes his place at the front and gestures Merisiel forward also, so that she can find and deal with any traps left by the ...
"Shyael, what was this place before? Other than demons, of course, what threats might there be?"
I doubt he'll be using Diplo in here. Maybe if it comes up that we have to talk our way past a monster, hit Zarnel with it then.
Merisiel sighs as she shows herself some distance behind the party, a bit awkward that her instincts were... wrong. Looks like the real threat may still be before us. After she catches up with the party, hoping to conceal her embarassment, she asks, "I guess I should walk first this time?"
"This was once a temple to these pilgrims' faith. Unfortunately, we don't know what we may find below. I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, but be prepared for anything."
You descent into the ruin. The rooms and hallways are constructed of superior masonry with 10-foot-tall ceilings and the doors are made of iron. Many of its rooms have thick glass windows, but these windows are entirely obscured by thick layers of dirt. There are no light sources within.
An earthen tunnel leads to an elaborate door, shaped like an open mouth baring jagged fangs. The surface of the door is smooth except for six dials, each surrounded by spiked runes.
|Zarnel the Torn|
"Those runes are Abyssal," Zarnel declares flatly. He looks back to where Shyael stands with the Sarkorians. "Either these 'pilgrims' worship a demon, or something has desecrated their temple. I hope it is only the second one," he finishes.
To no one in particular, he explains that it is always good to speak the language of one's enemy so they can't use it to hide their intentions in battle.
Yep, Zarnel speaks Abyssal. So what do the runes say or mean?
"Abyssal runes? Then I guess this might be some sort of lock or warding device, New and Old Friends!"
She begins scanning for magic auras on the door; if she's perturbed by the runes being Abyssal in nature, she doesn't show it.
Corona finds no magic auras on the door.
|Zarnel the Torn|
Zarnel stares at the runes for a while and scratches his smooth square jaw in thought. "These are Abyssal letters. But they are not arranged in words. Perhaps it is a puzzle. Or a trap."
He turns to Merisiel first, "Could you check it, please?"
He then immediately turns back to Shyael. "Do your pilgrims know if there was a code or puzzle needed to enter their temple?"
If you're not sure what Zarnel means, then rather than asking IC, just read the spoiler as if you'd asked him.
While Merisial muses Bask speaks to the others.
"If she finds no traps I volunteer to experiment with the dials. Perhaps it will open with just a few touches?"
I notice that each dial shares just one symbol with each of its nearest not-diagonal neighbours, though I'm not sure if that's helpful. We could start by setting the top two dials to their common symbol?
Merisiel approaches the door and starts examining if any trap exists.
Perception: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (20) + 15 = 35
I guess it will be a perception check.
"That makes sense," Corona replies cheerfully to Bask. "There aren't any magic auras on the door so you shouldn't have to worry about taking a nasty spell to the face."
She glances over her shoulder. "New Friends, I think the door is locked. Do you know anything about a password or something like Zarnel asked about? Or is it a mystery for aged sages?"
Should the pilgrims not prove helpful, she turns her attention back to the dials and tries to figure out if there's some sort of pattern to the dials.
Kn. Planes, Maybe?: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (4) + 13 = 17
"No traps on the door, I assure" Merisiel turns to the rest and gestures Bask to try what he has in his mind. "If the door is still locked after we messed up with those dials, maybe I can try..." says Marisiel with a wave of her thieves' tools.
Cautioning everyone else to stand back, Bask will try an experiment with the dials.
I'm not at all sure about this so if anyone else has an idea Bask would happily try that instead. Lacking any good ideas however, he'll do the following: Set A to 1 and B to 5. If nothing happens, he'll continue down setting C to 1, D to 4, E to 4 and F to 3
|Zarnel the Torn|
"Something feels ... wrong about all this," Zarnel mutters under his breath as he steps into the room. Knowing he's not particularly good at puzzles, he hangs back to let Bask and Merisiel take the lead, but keeps his sword in hand and ready. He explains to the others what the individual runes mean, and then for lack of anything else to do, he asks Vildeis to show him if there's anything evil about.
I can't actually explain the meaning of the individual runes, but since he speaks it, that's what he'd do. Like pointing out what a hiragana character sounds like, even though there's no real words to make. And also casts detect evil in a 60 foot cone.
Zarnel has a bad feeling about this, which is justified when the door tries to poke a hole in Bask with one of the "dials" as the half-orc reaches for the door.
Gore: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (10) + 15 = 25
Piercing Damage: 2d6 + 10 ⇒ (4, 6) + 10 = 20
Sorry, the notice DC is FORTY-FOUR at this subtier.
”Zarnel Initiative”: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (17) + 3 = 20
”Corona Initiative”: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
”Mimic Initiative”: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12
”Marisiel Initiative”: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (9) + 11 = 20
Round 1 - bolded may go
Bask (-20 HP)
Not going to pretend this isn't a mimic, but both Duneoneering and Planes could give you more information.
|Zarnel the Torn|
So, just a mimic. Not evil in spite of the abyssal runes? Cause Z will Smite it if so, but won't waste the smite if it didn't detect as evil.