Beyond the Door
Eilir pushes the adamantine door open and Owls feel a rush of dank air. No sconces or brazers light, and they watch Eilir scamper and disappear into the darkness. Those with darkvision peer into the room; they can see only about 20 feet in, but beyond this it is shrouded in a dense darkness.
After a few moments, they hear the patter of Eilir's bare feet and she emerges back into the light. "C'mon, what's take you all...Oh! Sorry. They like to keep it dark... I'll just go light the torches." And she disappears into the room again. It is deathly quiet; so much so that all the Owls hear are the tiny footsteps of Eilir, they assume running around a very large room lighting torches. A few moments pass, and the darkness evaporates, like a cloud of steam.
The Owls enter a massive domed room of thick marble and gray stonework. The floors are fine and smooth, buffed to a shine. Four enormous, imposing statues stand silent in each corner of the room; each is different - one wields a warhammer in detailed plate mail, a thick mane of hair rolling down its shoulders; another wields a great sword in bones and leathers, a swooping horned helm upon its head; a third similar in armor, wielding a glaive; and the fourth, shorter than the others, with a long, grizzly halberd. In the center of the room, there is a raised bronze platform, like a plate, with something resting on a pedestal at its center.
Eilir stands just a few feet from the bronze disc, pointing at sconces in the corners of the ceiling, making sure they are all lit. "Ah, well, here they are!" As she points to each of the statues.
Alvus quietly draws an arrow from his quiver, loading his hand crossbow behind his back. "And how are they sick?
"Oh, well, they have...cravings. For...friends." And Eilir twitches her head slightly to the side, as if confused, then brightens with a smile. "That's right! I know what to do. I know what to do now! Don't worry, it'll all be clear in a second." She claps her hands...and the door swings shut, locking the Owls inside.
"Now, let me explain. Everything is going to be fine. You don't know what's coming. We have to be ready. Now that the sky is clear, they'll come again. We lost everyone, we need to rebuild. Rebuild the army...so we can go home." Eilir takes a step toward the bronze plate. "So don't worry. We'll all be together. And you'll just help us, help me, go home." She takes another step, and-
THWACK! Eilir staggers and looks down at a crossbow bolt stuck in her chest. She sniffles, a small sob leaving her, and says again, "Don't worry. Everything is going to be fine."
Fighting the Key
Surik unleashes a Hypnotic Pattern upon Eilir, who just stares at the spellcaster. While Alvus hides, Jimmy nods to Brewdo and waits.
"Don't worry. You'll be just like me. All like me, survive." Eilir steps upon the bronze plate as it begins to hover about a foot off the floor. She begins to sing. The melody, an old lullaby from a time long lost, begins to resonate with the plate, dozens of harmonies and overtones washing over the Owls and bouncing off of the walls. The harmonies begin to echo one another, creating a beautiful, eerie canon of sound that fills the gigantic domed room.
As the beautiful tones penetrate the group, they feel their muscles tense, and many experience a thin coat of stone begin to form over their bodies. Most are able to shake it off, but Jimmy feels his body slow as he stares down at his right hand as the skin turns gray and stiff. He recognizes the beginning stages of petrification.
Adding the sonic spell bouncing around the room, the group hears shifting stone and falling rocks as they glance up toward the four statues. They have begun to move, shaking to life, their eyes alight with red arcane energy.
Riswynn summons a Moonbeam right above Eilir, the sparkling ray of moonlight burning down like a spotlight and stops inches from the crest of her head, cascading over an invisible barrier. She continues to sing, her fingers thumbing through, pinching and moving, the empty space cradled in her hands. Alvus activates his goggles and spies a glowing book made of metal plates in her hands. "She's got a magic book!"
Riswynn calls to Eilir as she continues to sing. "Do you want us to stay and be your friends like moving and talking, or like decoration? Because you could just ask us instead of doing what you're doing!"
Eilir stops singing, but her harmonies continue through the disk. "You don't understand. I am the Key." And she returns to singing.
Xun rushes toward the girl as crackling sonic energy begins to pulse out from beneath the disk. The half-orc travels twenty feet before he hits a sonic wall and feels his muscles begin to lock up. Another wave hits, the sound growing more intense the closer he gets to the girl, and but a foot from her, he is driven to his knees as his speed and dexterity are sapped from him. Summoning the last of his strength he steps onto the plate as another wave of sonic force blasts him, and tries to grapple the child. With impossible speed, her one arm deflects his movements and pushes him off the plate.
Steef casts Slow upon Eilir, slowing her movements and song, while Mama casts Silence upon her as well. Eilir looks confused at first as the spell takes effect, then the disc below her vibrates violently, kicking the spell back toward Mama's form, who resists it, instead summoning a Spiritual Weapon...a beautiful radiant skillet...and it smacks against the bubble surrounding the girl.
Brewdo is confused and marches forward, asking the girl what she is doing. She confuses him more, asking him to come sing with her, and he feels his movements grind to a halt within ten feet of the disk. Frustrated, he rages and uses his long arms to strike at the bronze plate. As the plate wavers back and forth from the impact, it accelerates and sends the force back into Brewdo, pushing him back another ten feet, the petrification spreading.
Slow, rumbling rock and stone flows through the room as the giants speak as one. "SISTER." And each dash to converge upon the assailants at the center of the room, nearly crushing Xun on the way. Ameera, frustrated at the changing events, casts Dispel Magic upon Eilir's barrier, shattering the shield above her. As searing moonlight spills onto her form, all also notice a platinum book in her hands that appears to be singing from.
Surik attempts a second Hypnotic Pattern burst and dazzles the shorter giant with pretty colors. The moonbeam continues to burn Eilir with no barrier to protect her. Alvus pops out of the shadows, takes one look at the battlefield, and...rushes over to the door and pulls out his Chime of Opening, striking it upon the door, which unlocks and opens a little. Alvus then hides again. Jimmy uses his Command Strike to allow Mama another swing of her spiritual skillet, to no effect, so Jimmy sprints closer to the beacon...and feels his legs stiffen and harden.
Another ray from the moonbeam slams down upon Eilir, and Riswynn, with her Circlet of the Apocalypse activates Truesight and sees through the girl. Most of her is flesh and blood, but her heart is beating stone. Seeing this, the Druid spends a charge from the circlet to unleash a psychic attack upon the girl, slamming into her psyche with such force that Riswynn hears, as if in her own mind, a choked sob, as a fresh stream of blood flows from Eilir's nose. The singing stops for a moment, though the echoes continue.
Xun, Jimmy, and Brewdo feel some of their movement return, as the book falls and magnetically seals to the bronze. Eilir, clutching her head, falls to her knees...and screams. An ear-splitting sound of grinding metal and screaming dissonance blasts into the group. Xun and Mama take massive psychic damage, but manage to stay upright...barely.
As Xun raises his head toward the bronze plate, it is surrounded by waves of sonic dissonance and heat. Pushing through, Xun finally grapples the child, pressing one big hand over the screaming Eilir. The vibrations slow throughout the room... As his form is eclipsed by three giant weapons coming down upon him. "SISTER. NOOO!" The sword cleaves into the stone around them, as two war hammers slam into Xun and Eilir. Xun maintains the grapple by tapping into his Orcish Resilience, but it's not looking good.
Steef, taking note that these giants are elementals, attempts to slow them while Mama heals herself and silences Eilir's space. Brewdo leaps onto the plate and swings into the girl, still held in place by the monk, whacking into something hard with each impact. Pleased with himself, Brewdo moves to the fallen book, driving his heel into it. For a moment, nothing happens.
All watch as Brewdo's form convulses violently as the knowledge of the ages rockets through his body, burning as it goes. Blood pours from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and his body is now smoking. Three more strikes from the giants can't hit the monk, but one connects with Brewdo, knocking him unconscious onto the book, which attacks him psychically...again.
Ameera exclaims, "It's unicorn time!" and summons her large, purple, spectral unicorn through her Circle of the Shepard and heals Mama. Surik sends a burst of Shatter to two of the elementals, cracking and splitting some of their form. They turn their massive heads toward the caster...who waves. Alvus, again emerges from the shadows to fire his crossbow, sinking another bolt deep into her form. Jimmy sprints up to Brewdo, grabbing him by the legs, and pulls him off the book. Then, using some leather straps, attempts to pick up the book...but finds that it is magnetically attached to the plate, shocks of white lightning darting out in random directions from it. He tries to grab it, to wrench it free from the plate, but it shocks him more violently and a word flashes into his mind, like an old memory.
And the flash is gone.
Using his Action Surge, Jimmy finally wrenches the book free of the plate, taking another shock as he does so, and shoves it into his pack. Feeling movement above him, he dives to the side as a giant warhammer slams onto the plate and he...does not riposte and turns to run toward the door, another warhammer slamming down behind him. Eilir, her eyes red with rage, breaks the grapple, punching Xun square in the chest, and he falls unconscious. She hops on top of him and sends a leopard's paw strike to his heart (putting him on death's door). She then turns her sights to Brewdo's body, closing the distance easily. Reaching down, she hoists the bugbear up with one arm, reaches back with the other and forms a fist.
The assembled Owls hear nothing in the cone of silence. They only watch as a shockwave of physical force slams through Brewdo's chest and life leaves his body. Eilir tosses him aside, but before she can take a step, Mama uses her Resurrection Wheel (Asset), in the form of her skillet of justice, and brings Brewdo back, spitting up gunk and blood as he does so.
Riswynn, sensing this is "the time", conjures four giant eagles to harass the giants and pull the injured away from Eilir. Brewdo gets picked up, but the other eagle could not reach Xun. The other two begin slicing into the elementals with their talons and beaks. Xun continues to bleed out, so Steef attempts to web the elementals, Mama moves to the center of the group and casts Beacon of Hope (Silence ends), and sends a supercharged Healing Word to Xun, bringing him back from the brink. But as Silence ends, Eilir's scream pierces through, slamming the group with force damage. Brewdo falls again, and everyone looks pretty ragged, as the elementals charge up, boxing them in around the door, and two take swings at Xun...he engages his Instant Transmission (Asset) to poof to the other side of the room in safety.
"Ya' ready for some craziness? I'm ready for some craziness!" Ameera summons not one, not two, but EIGHT GIANT EAGLES. Two more upon the elementals to dig new slashes into their face, and six to surround Eilir...
It is over in an instant. The six sets of talons and vicious beaks eviscerate the girl. It is not a pretty sight. But out of the mess claws and feathers, something heavy and solid rolls free.
The Stone Heart
Rolling in front of Riswynn is an anatomically correct stone heart, and it is breathing.
Surik uses Run Like Hell (Asset) to sprint past the elementals and hop onto the bronze plate. As his feet impact the disc, it vibrates in response, and he feels a surge of arcane resonance. Turning to the elementals, he calls out, "It's time to go back. Go back to being dormant!"
One by one, the elementals turn to Surik and stare. Their mouths move together, filling the room with a deep bass voice in Elvish, "HAS THE WAR COME? IS IT TIME TO FIGHT?"
"IS IT THEN, TIME TO REST?"
"GOODNIGHT." And one by one, each elemental moves slowly back to their post, strikes a pose, and goes inert, their heads bowing and eyes growing dark.
With the tension in the room falling and the echoes finally fading, each Owl becomes aware of a deep pounding; powerful and rhythmic, like are heartbeat, and all eyes move to the stone heart in front of Riswynn. Mama hands Alvus his skillet and the rogue takes a swing at the heart. Immediately, a voice enters his mind, pleading:
Please don't kill me. I don't know if I'm the last one.
CLANG! The skillet swings wide, slamming into the floor next to the heart.
Riswynn reaches out and touches the heart. She feels sudden and immense sadness; the kind of sadness derived from loss and abandonment. Please don't kill me. I don't know if I'm the last one.
"The last what?" Riswynn asks.
...I don't know if I'm the last Esper.
Mama recalls, from the three thousand years of memories she holds, that an Esper refers to a creature whose soul is born of raw elemental energy. This soul, or heart, is stored in a humanoid vessel and that vessel takes on the properties of that element. She knows that they are extremely rare, and their existence has only been recorded at the end of the First Age. The event that began the Second Age was a massive war between the creatures of Erena and the Esper clans' airships attempting to invade the continent.
Riswynn hands the heart to Xun, who takes the time to watch it beat slowly. With each pulse, the frame of it cracks and stresses, then reforms. "We don't plan on killing you."
I am the Remains. I need to stay. The war is about to happen, they are going to call on us. The ships will need us.
"What makes you so sure that the war is going to happen?"
This is the Age of Champions, is it not?
"We are currently in the Fourth Age."
...I don't believe you. Don't talk to me anymore. You're a liar.
"Fine. Ask the others." Xun hands the heart back to Riswynn. Immediately she hears Eilir's voice.
What is the year?
"01 of Io-Shar."
That year does not exist.
Riswynn continues to listen, and hears only crying. She holds up the heart to the group, "She's sad now."
Can you just take me home?
"Where is your home?"
Alvus asks what it is she was going to use them for, and Eilir explains that her role as the Key is to lure powerful entities to the bastion citadel and then complete a ritual that will turn them into elemental soldiers for use in retaking the Wilds.
Steef, upon hearing this, says, "So should we end this, so she can rejoin her family? MAGIC MISSILE!"
Three bolts of force slam into the heart and a large crack forms across its shape. "Let her go home!" Steef announces, as he conjures another barrage. In each mind of the group, all they hear are quiet, choked sobs of pain.
Jimmy grabs him by the shoulder, interrupting the spell. "I don't feel right doing this. I know she tried to take us over and all...but she's misguided right now. And if she's the last of her kind, I don't feel right just killing her outright. ...Especially when she's in a form where she's not a danger right now."
Mama reaches out to the heart and heals it, the crack smoothing out. "May I have the heart please?" Riswynn hands it over to the big warforged. They whisper to it, "So sorry for your loss, but your people are gone. The only thing I can offer you is a place to stay." And Mama opens up their chest plate, and next to their own heart, places Eilir. "I've raised more than one daughter, and the thing that always broke my heart was when I couldn't help them. So I am part stone and metal and...things, so she can stay with me."
Are you sure my people are gone? Will you help me find them?
"We will look together." Mama reassures her, patting their chest plate, and feels a wave of calm wash over them.
The Owls heal where they can and begin their way back. All of the doors are open, unlocked. Nothing crumbles as they leave with the heart and the book. It is immaculate.
The Bastion remains.
And as they exit onto the terrace, the blizzard has faded, bright moonlight spills onto the party, eclipsed only by the dark shadow of a Roc coming to get them...
Session concluded at: 1:15am