The PC’s return to the surface and Faun heads to the Defenders of the Mother to turn in her mushrooms. She is granted full membership into their ranks, and has access to all sorts of reagents for her spells. The party rests up and heads out into the city to follow up on some loose threads.
The populace seems to have calmed a large amount of their hysteria, but it appears that is due to many Awakened going into hiding or having been “taken care of” rather than acceptance. As the PCs are walking through town, they notice a shop that seems out of place. No one has seen it before, and with everything that has been going on recently and with Almus’s past, it seems odd that its window is full of magic items. Blatantly shown out in the open, this is much different than what they have come to expect in the city with magic being used only in the shadows and protected by the Guilds. No one seems to being paying it any heed, which is even stranger. Not once glance, not one customer. The party decides to investigate.
They step into the shop and notice is is FULL of magic items. An Erinyes is behind the counter. She smiles as they enter, and welcomes them. She then thanks Anthem by name for coming by. He is surprised by this, because he doesn’t know who she is. She says her name is Astrixix, and she recently opened this shop so she could meet with him. She says that she is here on behest of her master Asmodeus, and he wishes to call his favor due. Everyone looks at Anthem; he has told many grand stories randomly in his adventures with the party of visiting far off locales with deities and demi-gods, but everyone thought they were all just boasts. Apparently he traded in a favor for vast obscure knowledge, and that is how he obtained such a wide array of information on the various cultures and enemies they have faced. (He has a huge bonus to his Knowledge checks through his class, and I felt this was a good way to explain how he got the bonus.) She says that all Anthem needs to do is a simple task.
At this point, the PCs hear a huge crash outside of the building. They look outside and watch as the castle crumbles to the ground. A gargantuan snake monster with 4 arms suddenly appears from the rubble, apparently bursting from the ground. Astrixix doesn’t seem to notice. The snake god-thing then starts leveling the city around it, throwing buildings with its arms, knocking down others with its long tail.
Astrixix says that all Anthem needs to do is go into her basement, exit through the basement door, and go get Asmodeus a crystal from the area past the door. He’ll also need to destroy some snake cult too, but the crystal is the main concern. She says however to not forget about destroying the snake cult.
The enormous snake is closer now, fully obliterating the city in its wake. The party watches as pieces of rubble fly into the street in front of the shop. People scream in terror as they have buildings careen towards them.
Astrixix offers Anthem’s friends a boon if they join him on his quest. The PCs aren’t sure what to do. At this point, the snake god is directly over the shop; the entire block is leveled as the PCs watch in horror. The shop is unharmed; it appears that it is immune to the effects of the snake; that or the PCs think it may be only an illusion. They decide to peek outside and as they do, they hear the screams of the dying and smell smoke, dust, and blood. It doesn’t appear to be an illusion.
The PCs agree to the terms and sign a contract, as they really have no city to go back to at this point. They agree to get the crystal and destroy the snake cult for Elven Chain Shirts for each party member, however Anthem chooses an Ioun Stone for his prize instead. Margit also makes a deal with Astrixix for a map to the soul machine mentioned in the Ulmaeus texts for a favor at a later date. She hopes to find a way to get back to her normal body, or at least figure out more regarding her situation.
Astrixix gives them each a brooch to wear. She warns NOT to take it off, as bad things could happen. When asked what, she says if someone were to take it off, they might disappear, but doesn’t elaborate. The brooches are a pentagram and are obviously the holy symbol of Asmodeus. Everyone hesitates putting it on, but they don’t have much to lose at this point. Dante notices they have some sort of protection magic on them, and besides the holy symbol aren’t infused with much demonic energy; they seem to be a ward of some sort, kind of like an anti-magic field, but not for magic. He and Anthem can’t figure out exactly what it protects the wearer from.
The PCs head into the basement; it is full of old texts, tomes, and vials. It appears to be ancient. It feels odd. Everyone gets a sense that this isn’t just a basement, but they are moving somehow as they traverse through it. It’s very difficult for them to explain. They also notice the sounds of destruction they heard above are completely silent down in the basement; with the destruction of the city, they are unnerved that they should at least hear or feel something as whole buildings are hewn down, but there is nothing but silence.
As they enter the room with the door that the Erinyes mentioned, some creatures appear from the shadows. Anthem notices they are devils, and appear to be they type that serve under Asmodeus. They state they are here to test the party, as Asmodeus just wants to make sure his hirelings can manage the task in front of them before he fully commits to sending them. They attack.
The PCs struggle a bit, but manage to defeat the devils. After the last one is dispatched, Astrixix appears at the bottom of the stairs. She has a strange device in her hands that appears to have a control mechanism and several “arms” that seem to connect around something. She says to put this device on the crystal, and it will help them bring it back. She then directs them towards the door.
They exit the door and blink as they enter a vast, wooded city. Sunlight peeks through the boughs of trees lining city streets. Birds are singing, and there are hundreds of people bustling about in fine robes and armor. The PCs can see some mountains in the distance surrounding this city, the party quickly notices that the mountains are familiar, but seem farther away. The mountains appear to be the ones that surround the city of Almus, however the peaks seem taller. Either the mountains are taller or the city is lower, they can’t tell which. At the top of one of the peaks is a gleaming light.
They stop someone passing by, he answers is what appears to be Old Common (lots of “thee, thy, and thines” were said). He says this is the city of Ulmus. It is ruled by Queen Atarcha. Anthem realizes they appear to be in a past time period of Almus, sometime after the ruined city they found underground, but before the present-day city.
(Part of the city history we developed in the beginning of the campaign stated that the city has been destroyed again and again, but rebuilt again and again. This appears to be one of the various eras.)
Dante and Almaris notice some of the architecture is familiar to them as some ruins in the underground. Everyone agrees that they perhaps have gone back in time to an earlier version of the city. The party notices that there are magic users out in the open, some magical items for sale, and even magic being used in the open for some mundane effects. The person they are speaking with states that magic is foul, and is only tolerated for its benefits. He doesn’t care for the magic-using folk. He states they’re only really good for dealing with the rift monsters.
The party asks what he means by rift monsters, and he gives them the “are you stupid?” look. He asks if they really don’t know what the rifts are, and they say they don’t. He asks if they’re form anywhere around here to which they stumble out a response that they are from Killiam, as it’s the only long-standing nation they know of. The mention of Peacekeepers comes out, and he says Killiam doesn’t have Peacekeepers, but Ulmus does. This is strange as Killiam brought the Peacekeepers with them when they conquered Almus before the campaign started. Their contact says that there are rifts that open and beasts fall out of them. The populace has learned to deal with them, and it’s just a way of life.
The party asks about the deserts that surround the city, and the person says there are no deserts, there are just forests that connect the city to the Everwood, which is ruled by Ixabel, Seneschal of the Everwood. (She is the daughter of the vampire the PCs fought earlier; she started a blood fast with her kin, and those descendants mingled with the elves, eventually leading to Almaris’s line.)
They ask about a crystal, and he says the only crystal he knows of is the one on top of the mountain that some wizards put there ages ago. There is discussion among the populace as to what the crystal does. No one quite knows; some people think is has something to do with the rifts, some people think it brings rain, some people think it does nothing. Opinions are widespread. He doesn’t know about a snake cult.
The party waits for a rift to open, but are out of luck when one appears to have opened a few miles away. Apparently they are not on any schedule or locale, and are fully random. The party watches as eventually the corpse of a purple storm giant is carried by on some carts. They follow it to the ocean where the body is dumped. Almaris turns into a fish and looks the seafloor and sees piles upon piles of bones. She finds a few magic items in the boneyard and brings them back up to the surface. The all appear obscure or alien in origin. One is a bag of holding made of interlocking bones; they are inscribed with runes that even Anthem doesn’t recognize.
The party decides to ask around again in the docks area for information on the snake cult. No one knows anything about a cult, but there is a reference to some unsavory types that are held below the city; people that cause trouble for those above. The PCs are actually a little unnerved by the city, as everyone is smiling and happy for the most part. There’s not a blemish to the city really, and it’s almost too perfect. Hearing there are unsavory types below the city actually brings some normalcy of human life to the PCs.
They wander around a little, and as they are doing so, suddenly a rift appears on a street next to them! Then another, then another! Giant bug creatures fall of of the sky and land on the ground. The party looks inside the rifts and see swirling colors and lands on the other side. People hurry out of the way as both the PCs and armed citizens attack the bugs. A peacekeeper standing on a watch tower also tries to help but the PCs manage to defeat the bugs in time, but not before Doud gets chewed on and his armor ripped off. After the beasts are defeated, the rifts appear to be magically forced shut by some outside force.
106 Resin and 159 Dwarvenite Sets/Packs Owned