Adventurers Present: Nikz (Elf, Fighter/Rogue - 10), Darrak (Dwarf, Monk - 12), Roonil (Human, Rogue - 5),
Riswynn (Dwarf, Druid - 11), Xun Fu (Half-Orc, Monk - 10), Gosef (Wizard - 10), Eli (Dragonborn, Paladin - 12), Surik (High Elf, Wizard - 6).
Party of 8 - Levels 5+
Ritual and Conversation
Riswynn asks, "Who is she?"
"Heh. She is the one who torments me. The one who will drag me back to hell when I fall."
"Do you belong in hell?" Eli chimes in.
"The verdict is still out on that one, my friendly apparition."
Riswynn corrects him. "We're not dead."
"The dead visit me every day, and most dead do not know that they are dead."
"But we're NOT dead!"
Batale motions to Riswynn. "You see? This is what happens. But it's alright."
"No, listen, we came here on the back of a giant Roc-
Roonil taps Riswynn on the shoulder. "You're not helping."
Batale gives her a warm and patient smile. "Of course you did, sweetheart." He then looks down and plucks a heavy bolt from his side, offering it to Riswynn. "I believe this belongs to you." Then turns and makes his way over toward Nikz, two tentacles burrowing up from the depths on either side of him. Each clutches a strong arrow, retrieved from the water surrounding them. With a deep bow, he returns Nikz's arrows to him. "I do apologize. I have never had a ghost shoot at me before, or do so ineffectively."
He then looks down toward the small stone disk on the sand floor, as it is blinking rapidly again. "Ah, we'd best move. This will go soon." He fishes inside his coat and produces another stone just like it, lobbing it into the water about 20 feet toward the opening. With a small boom, another dome bubble appears, connecting to this one. He ushers the party through, then goes and retrieves the old on. He repeats this process many times, leading the party closer and closer to the edge of the water line.
As they move, Batale compliments Eli, "You are very effective in combat. I must ask, where did you train and then horribly die?"
Eli is perplexed. "I haven't died yet. Many things tried to kill me, but none have been successful thus far."
Nikz interjects, "Well, there was that one time a devil lord tried to collect your soul..."
"Are you still wounded from our duel?" He hands Eli a vial of red liquid. Eli takes it with apprehension, but it is happy to discover that it is a Supreme Healing Potion. Batale takes the time to check if any others require healing in his "dream," complimenting Roonil on his swordplay technique.
Darrak brings up the elephant in the room. "So what's a Mind Flayer doing here?"
"Sorry. An Illithid."
"Ah. It is a long story... So, instead, if you can imagine a band of adventurers slaughtering the one thing that connected me to all whom I love, like a thousand screams of pain being replaced by the deafening silence of exile...that, coupled with my departure due to my...holy connections, and there you have it."
Gosef is curious. "Holy connections? To who?"
"I have a feeling that you have no idea."
The Owls try to discern how long Batale has been here and he says that he does not know, as time is strange. They discover that he is well aware that the island is flying, but he does not know particularly why. At this point, he leads them to the mouth of the lake, helping each out of the water, then sets to work lighting torches and brazers with precision and practice. No motion is wasted, as if he has done this thousands of times. In a matter of seconds, the chamber is lit and the way ahead, a narrow tunnel, is illuminated.
Batale and Xun chat as they walk, the half-orc catching up to him. "So, you get visited by the dead often? Do you battle all of them?"
"Some. Others just like to talk. Like you."
"At the right moments."
"Well said. And I agree with the sentiment." He looks at the half-orc's vestments. "By your garb, I fear that you are from my past. Did you train in the Desert Wastes of Uzot? Or another orcish settlement?"
"I have not met many orcs in my life. I was raised among humans."
"Ah! An outcast ghost!" He smiles broadly, clapping Xun on the shoulder. "I know what it is like to be an outlier. Perhaps you will offer me wisdom before you pass on." And Batale, pleased with this conversation, continues past a perplexed Xun.
Pushing open a creaky door, Batale and the group emerge into a small subterranean den. A smoldering campfire has been dug into the center of the room, surrounded by eleven makeshift seats and stumps. A fine blanket is laid out near the fire, and five ornate, runic tapestries line the walls. Batale sets to work on the fire, beckoning the group to come in and sit. Within a few short moments, gentle heat fills the room.
It is now that Batale kneels upon the fine blanket, drawing his blades and setting them in a specific formation on the earth. He then produces four small clay saucer-like cups, pulling a fine cask of liquid from under a stump, and pours a little into each cup. One by one, he raises a cup to an empty space around the fire, drinking it down and setting the cup upside down upon the dirt, until one remains. He lifts it his strange lips, muttering a prayer to himself, then drinks it down, setting it as the others. At this point, the ritual complete, he sits up and quietly regards the group, waiting.
Nikz, Riswynn, and Eli become very interested in the tapestries on the wall. What first appeared as runes are actually ancient draconic, and between the three of them, they are only able to translate sections of each: travel, clashing and blades, patience, honesty, and loyalty. Eli expresses that these might be the things he lives by, and could help them. Meanwhile, Xun and Darrak also enter mediative sitting positions - one respectfully, with his bo in front of him; the other sloppily, still drinking. Regardless, Batale gives each a deep and respectful bow, which they return.
Nikz points to the tapestries. "Is this your code?"
"It is the Accord of the Seven."
"Perhaps you are ghosts of the people who have forgotten their gods."
And for the first time during the adventure, Nikz pulls out the Vicious Joke and summons the creature within. A white drak appears on all fours, the spectral dragon named Koriasaka, next to the archer. Batale seems unfazed by the creature, instead giving it a deep nod. "Hello, old one."
Without missing a beat, Koriasaka makes her way to each tapestry, translating for the group the tenets of the Seven.
All who travel are allies until proven in the Eye.
All who clash must draw blades to a close.
All grant respect and patience to the unknown.
All who serve do so honestly.
We are all loyal to the Eye, for she allows us to see and act.
Riswynn asks Eilir if she knows anything of the Illithid or these tenets, and Eilir has trouble remembering at first. She knows that the Seven here are referring to the Seven Wings of Io - to the Forgotten Gods - of which many of the Owls have had direct or indirect contact with.
Darrak begins to inquire on what Age Batale believes it to be. The Illithid says that he cannot trust himself anymore, as time is strange, but he'd love to say Temm (the First Age). The dwarf monk explains that we reside in the age of Io-Shar (the Fourth Age), but Batale does not seem to believe him or the other Owls. He does express that he finds this discourse entertaining, though.
Eilir perks up at the mention of the Eye. She explains that if a Key (her) is but a single heart, an Eye is often multiple hearts. They are the leaders of a clan, and represent the top of the hierarchy, whereas she is much lower. Between them, there are creatures called Spires, protectors of the Eye.
"Are you a Spire?"
"Yes, I am a Spire. Not what you would normally see, no, but I serve my Lady with precision and poise nonetheless."
Eli interjects. "So why does your lady send you ghosts to challenge you?"
"Ah. A different 'she.' The one that would grant me repose for a life spent with honor and dignity. While my Lady sleeps, I am haunted by my past. And I was hoping, perhaps, that you would be the duel that would finally end me. But alas, you were not strong enough."
"Do you want to be ended?" Surik asks.
"I have been alive for an eternity, and I am a warrior. I will die by the sword. My own, or my enemies. But if it is to be the former, I must be certain that there is no more need for me."
"What keeps you here?"
"My Lady is not dead. She only sleeps."
Nikz perks up. "Is she here?"
"Yes. ...Would you like to see her?" The group agrees, and Batale seems to relax even more... Then seems to hear something, looking around the room. "What is beating? There is something beating in this room. It is very loud."
Though the group panics for a moment and tries to hide Eilir from him, he reminds them that they sit in his shrine and should speak honestly. Riswynn says her name, and Batale immediately responds. "I know this name. She is a member of the Cracked Earth." The Owls all feel Eilir gasp at this. "She built us warriors, when are numbers were cut down by the Goliath Herds." Riswynn reveals Eilir's heart, now no bigger than a golf ball. The group explains that she is dying, eroding away rapidly. Batale addresses the small stone heart. "Do not worry, little one. You are not alone. Soon, you shall meet the Eye, and we will forge for you a new path."
Eli's sigh brings the Illithid's attention once more. "Yes, master Paladin? Ye who worships one of the progeny of de' Seven."
"Yes. Do you know of Bahamut?"
"I do, though he was just a pup when I knew him."
"Right. Anyway. So, our understanding is that Eilir is wasting away because she doesn't have a purpose. Are you saying that your Lady will give her a purpose again?"
"The Eyes were granted a piece of the Hearthstone as part of their, well, sign of leadership. It grants them the ability to give life, and to take it away. So, yes, she will be able to reconstitute the heart in a new vessel and give her a new job." Riswynn looks worried, staring at the heart. "I understand. My Lady can only be seen at night, and this is in two hours. We cannot do anything until then. But do not worry, the Key will not be gone in that time; we still have time."
More conversation with Batale as the Owls begin their rest reveals that he does indeed know of The Many. In fact, he speaks of them not like gods, but distant friends. He describes The Many as a powerful trickster, always poking the beast that is Grumakon; he was close friends with the Weavemaster, and was universally hated by The Crow. Many of the Owls share the artifacts and stories tied to these gods, but Batale is not convinced. "The Seven do not get involved. They would never forge weapons in their image for mortals to use."
The Spire begins to douse the torches and darken the room. "If you wish to rest, I understand. I do not sleep in this time, so if you have more important questions to ask, I will answer."
A Tale for the Dead
As the fire grows dim, Eli asks, "Who were your companions?"
Batale takes a deep breath. "They were members of the Kihon." Met with silence, he continues to explain. "Mortals born from the Eye. You see, when the Hearthstone creates life, they create a creature in whatever image they like, but there is excess energy, so they create a Link - an elemental - to follow them. All of my task force, when I was first rescued by my Lady, had lost their Links. They were in a state of mourning, seeking a new purpose. So, after the Third Wave, I gave them one. We traveled to de' Broken Continent and 'ended' a few threats to our borders; finished the fight before it could start. ...I was the only one to return." Batale's eyes glaze over a bit, staring into the flames. He begins speaking again, this time as if telling a bedtime story - something practiced over many years of telling it.
"All Espers were sculpted from the Hearth. Formed in the Nexus, before time calculated.
Kosath Vol - the Eye of the Crashing Wave. Ushered in a new era for his people when he moved inland from the Brink to the Broken Continent (Uzot). He brought with him, as a sign of peace and faith, a single shard of the Hearthstone, the mark of an Eye.
Kekza Yann, the Barbarian King of Uzot, greeted Vol with kindness and respect - as per the Accords of the Seven. Vol was delighted by the lifestyle of these people, he adored their way of life... So much so that he invited all of his clan to take part in it. Kekza held a grand banquet in Vol's honor - he spoke of a new frontier, and they all saw his greed begin to show, but it was too late. The Crashing Wave...were slaughtered. And Kekza Yann lifted the shard from Vol's beating heart, and smiled.
Yann was the first of the invaders. The Split Ember crushed him, but they remember his cruelty. The second was Aleksi Nanten, a naval war chief. The Cracked Earth stopped him. And when the third came, none learned their names. By then, I had found my lady, and I took great pleasure in defending her people. MY people.
Our kindness met with violence, the time had come to retake what was stolen. But by then, the Broken Continent had unified; Erena, they called it, "The Severed Wing." People who had forgotten their gods, cut themselves off from the old ways; and thus the Accord.
When our ships came, they screamed invasion. When they learned what we could do, they said "elemental." And when we passed over them in peace, they shot us down.
In the end, does it really matter anyway? I am a warrior. And I found my place; fighting for what matters.
We went dark when the Tempest Shard fell, sinking into the abyss. The Hive, our grace, kept us ageless, until the Heart could beat again. Time...is strange. I remember storms, roaring storms, fire and death, wings...but it flows along immemorial and in the end who can really say which of these were day dreams or nightmares.
Maybe I am dreaming now...lying in a ditch somewhere, clinging desperately to hope while I slowly bleed out. An arena with my lady sleeping peacefully - forever - until the Aether grants me a duel in my final moments; a gift for a life of Honor and Service."
As Batale's gaze drifts off into the firelight, Surik says into the darkness, "You do seem a bit lonely..."
"That, is the understatement of de' last ten thousand years... But I appreciate it nonetheless." The Illithid returns to his meditation. "An hour remains. Rest while you can, revenants, we will see how much longer this dream lasts..."
Finished in part 3.