Episode Thirty Eight - Escape from the Abyssal Throne
Episode Thirty Eight – Escape from the Abyssal Throne (Level 14)
*Still in the Abyssal throne, Vash, Carmenith, Lyda, and Snowball head for the hills, looking for shelter, and pass by an empty thorn tree, younger than the one Ichtaca saw, but still large. Seeing the burrow-veins growing around it symbiotically, Vash stopps to harvest some. Both tree and vines attack him, and Lyda and Carmenith rush in to help. He and Lyda get skewered on the tree, infested with burrow-veins and infected their fever. Carmenith deftly dodges the vines, but the great thorns piercing t heir hearts are killing them, and she is struggling to get them down before they die. Furthermore, the fight has drawn the attention of several huge demons, who lazily circle above. In the nearest of the caves the party hoped to reach for shelter, they hear the growling of wild packs of the same mole demons they fought not long ago.
*Ichtaca, well-rested and healed from his ordeal, returns to the Abyssal Throne with the goddess Iala, who is determined to be helpful despite the smothering strictures placed on her by various gods interested in her safety. She is the most powerful of the gods in raw ability, but the least experienced, and the Jharric court disapproves of her personal presence on a remote battlefront. She was injured the week before, and both her husband (Sadhai Thibault) and best friend (Lord Rhuyem, the Shadow-Lord) sent her to recover on the ship. Ichtaca is grateful to have her help, but he realizes that if she is caught helping him, she (and possibly he) will be in personal trouble with two of the legendary godslayers, one of whom is a god. Worse, he intuits, their protectiveness indicates that she can be killed, and he is beginning to think that if she were to be killed, the sun might go out. As he muses over this, he and Iala arrive at the sunken cube platform in the abyssal throne, and see the circling demons with concern. Ichtaca contacts Vash, and is not surprised to find his friends are in the thick of the trouble. He and the goddess rush off to help.
*Meanwhile, back in the last long hallway of the ruined university beneath Khuharibifu, Tobias coaches Viln on how best to handle the daemon statues, and Viln demands safe passage for himself and his cohort. The daemons reluctantly agree to let them use the arches below, then all lights flicker, and they vanish from sight. There is a sense of temporary reprieve, that this permission is time-limited.
*Tobias and the Chorom reach the caverns holding the sacred daemothite site,where they are attacked by the demon moles who didn’t make it through the gate before it closed, when the pack was pursuing Carmenith. They are still riled up into a blood frenzy. Viln and Tobias are both injured, Tobias taking deep bites to the thigh and hip. Tobias refuses healing from Viln, unwilling to allow the taint of Daemoth or Maruma’e’s magic to corrupt his body. Infection and fever sets in rapidly, causing delirium and poor decision making.
*The two study the room. The huge gold and ebony font, it seems, is the source of the immense energy radiating from the room. Ancient, sacred Zhoroch rituals above each arch seem meant to open them as doors to specific locations. Three more around the font deal with changing it into a portable size, giving life to a dead creature, and giving life to a created body, although Tobias suspects that the cup may be able to do some of these things in a lesser way without the full ritual.
*It takes Tobias 8 hours to learn the ritual needed to open the gate through which h is friends tracks lead. While he does this, he’s convinced Viln to study and learn another ritual, one of three sacred spells inscribed around the great font set into the floor. Viln does so, although he needs Tobias’s help with the ancient Zhoroch. Tobias also transcribes all three rituals into his notes for future study.
*The fever now has Tobias in its full grip, and he is fixated on the font, forgetting that his beloved Lyda and h is friends need him. Feeling that he has plenty of time, he convinces Viln to cast the divine ritual over the font, telling him it would activate the font and show it’s true power, but which Tobias knew would shrink it into a large goblet. Tobias creates a psionic distraction as Viln finishes, and then snatches the cup out of the air with what seems like an explosion of noise and sensation. He tricks Viln into thinking he’s botched the ritual and either destroyed the sacred cup, or lost it forever into some magical void. The Chorrom is devastated, horrified beyond expression at being personally responsible for both the loss of the most sacred relic of his god that he’s ever encountered, and what he saw as perhaps the chance to restore his rightful god and rid himself of the maddening secret that plagues him, Maruma’e and Wroth as the source of his faith’s power, a corruption he can neither reveal nor stand.
*Tobias opens the portal, and as Viln goes through, the delirious psion taunts and makes obscene gestures towards the weeping daemon statues, flaunting his stolen cup. He feels their fury and revels in it, laughing giddily as he steps into the Abyssal Throne.
*Tobias and Viln arrive too late to find their friends at the sunken cube platform. They find it deserted, but Tobias immediately feels Lyda’s agony from the ridges to the north-east, as the thorn tree spears her through the heart and lifts her up off the ground. He and Chorrom Viln argue, as Viln refuses to follow him, determined to pass through the torture fields and search for a domain of glory like the one he has been promised. Tobias fails to persuade him, so he once again impersonates Daemoth and intimidates the weak-minded man into coming with him. “Daemoth” berates Viln and commands him to protect Tobias, who is somehow important to his plans. Chastened for his catastrophic failure with the sacred cup, Viln is cowed and obeys.
*Meanwhile, Iala and Ichtaca reach the thorn tree. The sun is setting, and the circling demons above draw lazily closer, seeming content to watch, and absolutely certain that their prey has no chance of escape with them above, and wild packs of demon-moles about to erupt from the nearby caves with the setting sun. Ichaca takes out his great axe and begins chopping the thorn tree, while Iala raises a hand and holds back the burrow-veins and the spiritual attacks of the tree with a nimbus of holy light. She can’t use her full power lest she draw more enemies to them. Enough powerful exarchs could slay her, and the mortal heroes. Even with the full spirit energy of his tattoo engaged, Ichtaca finds it slow work chopping that tree. Vash wriggles free of his thorn and tries to help, but Lyda is drained dangerously, coming very close to death before they can get her down.
*Tobias, staggering now with his fever, crests the hill, sees Vash and Ichata chopping the tree and getting Lyda down, then calls out something incoherent and falls over, unconscious. Iala is healing Lyda when Viln comes gasping up the hill behind him. Viln, meanwhile, recognizes Iala and attacks her immediately. She absorbs his attacks with no problem, but Vash creeps around behind the Chorrom and knocks him out. As Iala heals Tobias, Vash and Ichtaca head into the closest cave, clearing it of Demon-moles just as the last light of the setting sun fades. The giant demons above descend, rallying forces to attack the heroes, who are now trapped.
*Iala offers to take them all back to the Bone Dragon, where they will be safe, but she warns them that with the worldfire and the battle raging over Morvugol, her husband may not be able to return them to Vinramar for weeks or even months if they do. He may not be able to return them at all, she tells them h onestly. The worldfire grows stronger every day, exponentially so.
*Vash prays to the Shadow Lord, feeling his prayer connect far more easily now, unblocked by the interference of the world-fire. He senses Olumarsilein listening, and he begs for assistance. Getting the sense that he and his friends are expected to fend for themselves, he reveals that Iala is here, having come here to help them, and is in danger. Immediately Olumarsilein’s presence fades, replaced by Lord Rhuyem himself.
*The God of Shadows rips open a shadow-gate, stepping out of Iala’s shadow and into the cave. He’s cloaked in shadows that actively soak up light nearby, and when he pulls back his hood, he seems made of the essence of absolute darkness, with intense eyes and stern features. He’s carrying a great sword in his hand, and it’s obvious from his appearance and demeanor that he’s been pulled from the midst of a dangerous battle. He looks furious. He strides past Vash with an unreadable glance, hauls Iala aside by the arm, and the two engage in what seems to be a family quarrel in Cluthe.
*Vash dares to interrupt. He can tell that although the Shadow Lord is interested in him, he does not plan to interfere in his choices or fate directly, at least not for now. When Vash tries to question him, Rhuyem firmly cuts him off, reminding him that his servant (Olumarsilein) has set a vassal (Catzin) to watch him. Since said vassal has revealed her presence and given her loyalty to Vash, the god notes drily, he should direct all questions to her.
*Tobias jumps in and addresses Lord Rhuyem politely, mentioning the foes outside and asking if the two gods could delay their discussion, if “we” can leave now. (He means as a group.) Rhuyem coldly replies, “You’re welcome to go whenever you see fit,” and resumes his heated exchange with Iala.
*Unable to understand the words, the heroes still pick up the gist of the discussion through what they already know, and through tone and body language. (Vash especially, who is increasingly gifted in reading others.) Rhuyem seems to feel both angry both because Iala has disobeyed him, and even more so because losing her frightens him and he doesn’t like to admit it, for multiple reasons. He lectures her much like a protective elder brother, whose beloved but constantly frustrating younger sister has ignored his council, and put herself into danger yet again. Iala seems both defiant and genuinely sorry at once, but more that she’s upset him than for what she’s done or risked. Vash intuits that although Iala loves and respects this mysterious god, her desire to do what she sees as good is just as strong as her desire to please him. She seems the embodiment of pure sincerity and charm, pleading with him about something, seeming to win him over in a way that turns his fury into tolerant amusement and masked affection. When the two turn back to the others, however, all such expressions are gone, leaving the austere face of a hardened battle-commander used to instant obedience and absolute loyalty. Lord Rhuyem informs the heroes that he and Iala will distract and hold off the enemies converging on the cave, so the mortals can escape back to Vinramar through the portal.
*Iala embraces each of them with warm affection, and then draws her swrod and runs out into the small army gathering around several huge exarch-demons, her dress changing into gleaming plate as her wings and true glory unfold in blinding light. They swarm over her in eager frenzy, and Lord Rhuyem steps into nothingness, flickering in and out of the bare edge of visibility as he takes down foe after foe who never know what has slain them. They fight in perfect coordination, long used to each other’s tactics. The battle with the exarchs draws the moles and demons as well, allowing the heroes to haul Viln with them and make a run for the platform and stand guard over Lyda as she opens the portal.
*Tobias’ theft and delirious taunting has enraged the three stone daemons. They are lying in wait, and desperate stop-motion fight ensues the moment the heroes step back into the chamber beneath Khuharibifu. The heroes can’t win in a straight fight, but they flood the room with light and stand back to back, staring, trying not to blink. The weeping statues can make the lights flicker, so it’s a tense, deadly game, with the daemons indestructable in statue form and deadly when unseen. The heroes manage to toss the daemon Hasubet through the portal and seal it quickly behind her while she is trapped in statue form by their gaze. Using magic to fight off the flickering of the lights, the group retreat up and out the way Vash, Lyda, and Carmenith came in. As they leave the caves, Ambha and his other wife, Ezhembal have nearly caught up to them, but the two seem unable to cross the cavern’s threshold. The party has escaped.
*Back at the Avan enclave, Tobias talks with Abbess Dhambizao about supplies and equipment for the improved muffling shroud Jennish promises he can make for the drinking blade. She agrees to help. Pashi greets Ichtaca warmly, bidding him farewell as she and Kademi are heading off with a party of operatives to retreive the rescued slaves from the jungle island north of Dulunum.
*As the others remain with the Avans, Vash, Tobias and Ichaca head into the jungle with a goliath herbalist from the enclave, looking for another of the herbs on their list for a cure; the carnivorous Tangleberry vine. On the way there, they encounter a diamond mine being worked and guarded by local etholchans. They sneak in and steal several raw diamonds. After a dangerous two days spend in the ever-encroaching jungle, the four find the tangleberry vine and collect their sample for Chamanaltia’s growing cache of live herbs.
*They regroup and return to Dulunum, 4 days after they left. Snowball and Vash go the long way around, and swim. The Carnival of the Sea Twins is now in full swing. At the boat, they find that Professor Jennish has been arrested, and the port authority is searching the ship again. Apparently, the day after they left, Ambassador Sansochin Vitali approched the ship and spoke with the Professor. Whatever he demanded offended Jennish, and Jennish chucked him bodily overboard. Vitali did not attack him, but rather filed a complaint with the governor, and authorities were sent to arrest the Professor. The constabulary arrived just in time to witness a magical portal pop open next to Jennish, through which arrived the jharethil women and servants whom Vash and Carmenith had just rescued and sent magically to the professor. The constabulary witnessed him “summoning dancing girls with foul sorcery.” A witch-hunter came to collect the professor, and Catzin refused to allow his arrest. They were both overwhelmed, and taken off in chains, with Catzin’s true form revealed. The witch-hunter declared her to be the professor’s sorcerous apprentice, and consorting with and harboring of a “jhareth” was added to his list of crimes. Everyone on the ship is now gone, taken in as material witnesses.
*Catzin has left behind a note written in Cluthe, which no local can read, but Tobias, with his glasses, can. It explained that after the diplomatic incident with Vitali, she was getting the ship ready for another search. She informed Ober Ordindel to pack, as he was about to be moved, and rejected his useful idea that instead of moving the clockwork engine sphere, she could just lure in an otyugh and render the bilge unsearchable due to a “problem they were trying to deal with.” She rejected his plan, which would require damaging the hull, and, with more of the professor’s magic, removed the clockwork engine sphere from the hold, leaving it, and the meteor fragments, with Chamanaltia. When she returned, Ober had escaped from his room,executed his plan, and fled. She wrote this note in a hurry, and was going to the professor, either to follow his arrestors and break him out of prison, or to prevent his arrest, as she deemed necessary. It’s obvious now that whatever happened, she was forced to do the
*Tobias convinces the official on-board to authorize release the crew and “dancing girls”, since the guards are all too understaffed and busy with the carnival to properly interrogate prisoners right now anyway. He reluctantly agrees to a temporary release, but tells them not to leave town, and he doesn’t know where the witch-hunter has taken the professor and Catzin, or even if they were processed with the others at the local constabulary before being taken elsewhere by the witch-hunter. The heroes’s must find them before they can rescue them.
*While Ichtaca was with the goddess on the Bone Dragon, she slipped something into his pouch while he was sleeping. It’s the herbs they need from Morvugol. She’s personally collected them, and has written him a nice note in glowing ink. A note he trickily has Tobias read for him, of course, since he still thinks he’s got everyone fooled about his ability to read.
*Each party member stole several raw diamonds: Ichtaca 4, Tobias 3, and Vash 5, including one the size of a golf ball. Tobias also collected a few without touching them, enough to grind into dust for the muffling shroud. Abbess Dhambizao is having them ground into dust without the touch of sentient hands, and is also having the magical bowl he needs made.