GM Note – Due to scheduling restrictions, I had to condense adventures 3-5 into one mega session. What follows are the highlights of each session. I could not pass up the awesome trap room of the All-Mother in session three, or the storyline of Hayot and Saru in session four. I was eager to incorporate the connection to Darkskye and Jont Urner so you will see story elements from there as well. The order of events is a departure from the written adventure.
The heavy iron doors closed behind them, sealing away The Victor’s realm. Patches had decided to stay with the Victor in hopes that the God may help him on his quest for justice. Kendal sighed sadly; he was just getting to like the big brute. As he glanced back, he thought he heard the sounds of battle echoing from beyond the doorway. If there was any place for Patches to find fulfillment, it would be by the Victor’s side at least. The ranger turned to address those of his party that remained, “Come, we keep moving. The Oracle awaits.”
3.6 – Path of Life
The stairways seem to wind up more than a single level. The walls of the stairwell had a variety of different paintings, each depicting different individual at different stages of their life. The adventurers were so concerned with making their way through the Cathedral they did not stop to admire the artwork that surrounded them. When they reached the next door, the adventurers found it constructed of ivory bordered in reddened copper. Braun traced his finger across the smooth surface, finding the faint image of a woman walking toward the horizon on it. The rogue’s fingers twitched at the thought of how much gold such a finely constructed door could fetch. Before the rogue could ponder the thought further Neozama reached forward and pushed the doorway open.
An older comforting voice drifted outward, “Welcome travelers. I am the All-Mother. I guard the way onwards. If your hearts are pure you may proceed with my blessing. Come, walk the path of life with me.” A rush of air and a blinding light engulfed them and the party found themselves in a large octagonal room, dripping with blood. Trained with inner tranquility, Neozama was the first in the party calm enough to study the room. The walls were slowly contracting inward. Gifted with keen eyesight, Kendall was first to spot the door in the distance and alert the others. All three of the adventurers rushed forward, Braun readying his tools should they need it as they ran. As the walls threaten to close completely on them, Braun hastily pulled the door open. Another rush of air and light engulfed them.
The Half-Orc still had his thief’s tools in hand as he took stock of his new surroundings. The party was in another octagonal room, this time with the statue of a stern woman holding her finger admonishingly. The walls of the room each had a collection of figures all in movement marching counter-clockwise around the room, all of which looked anywhere but at the statue. Kendall took a step as he looked around the room and quickly flung his hands against the sides of his head in pain. When Braun went to help her up, he too doubled over in pain. Neozama froze where he stood and looked again at the paintings, “Neither of you move. The figures are all walking counter-clockwise.” Neozama carefully made a step mimicking the painting’s direction and felt nothing. The monk carefully continued until he made a full circle of the room and vanished. Braun and Kendall shook their pain off and did the same, finding themselves transported to a doorway looking in to another octagonal room.
The next octagonal room had a statue in each of the eight corners. Each statue held a variety of items that matched their outfit. A warrior held an axe, a scholar read a book, a farmer wielded a scythe, a regal king bore a crown, a priestess brandished a symbol of the All-Mother, a brigand held a coin in his fingers, an explorer held a map, and a mage gestured a wand in the air. A lone empty pedestal sat in the center of the room, with a gentle light illuminating it. Kendall noticed a plaque reading ‘Find Your Place’. The hunter turned to tell the others what the plaque read, but as she turned she saw Braun trying to snatch the Crown off the king statue’s head. As the greedy rogue touched the crown he was lifted magically off his feet and pulled back toward the center pedestal. The light from above turned dark red and Braun again cried out in pain. Kendall helped the half-orc rogue down, “I think you need to find something that fits with you. And I don’t think you very kingly.” Neozama walked over to the scholar and removed the book from the statue’s hands. The monk was lifted to the center pedestal and vanished. Braun settled on the coin, while Kendall took the map. In a blink they found themselves in the next room.
Kendall sighed, “You would think the architects here would get tired of building Octagonal rooms.” Despite the ranger’s exasperation, he could not help but feel a sense of calm permeating the air. The light was warm and comforting and the scent reminded him of the wilds. Braun carefully did not move or touch anything, instead scanning the room with a trained eye. He noted the multitude of hand-prints covering the walls, but also the tracks of foot prints in the dust on the floor. The foot prints mostly went around the edges of the room, but several seemed to walk into the center of the room and stop in smudges as if they fell down. Carefully, the rogue placed his hands along the walls and inched his way around the circumference of the chamber, finally reaching a previously hidden door on the other side. Kendall and Neozama followed his lead, and together they all three pushed the door open.
Darkness crowded the lone candle in this chamber, stretching shadows against the wall. From what the party could make out, a statue of an angel bore the candle in the air, and numerous collections of tombstones, bones, and mementos of the dead littered the chamber. Braun whispered darkly, “I know you won’t often here a rogue say this, but stay in the light. Trust me.” Carefully, the three made their way across the room. As they passed the candle, the shadows shifted around them and dark spectral claws lashed out at them from the darkness. Kendall and Neozama were wracked with pain but Braun nimbly dodged away and toward the next door. He noticed a small plague on this side of the angel reading ‘Loss is unavoidable, and all paths must end.’
As they pushed their way through the door, they expected to face another series of traps. Instead they were greeted with an entirely empty and well light chamber. A voice filled the empty chamber “You have walked my Path of Life and have not been found wanting. Step into the light and continue your journey.” The floor shimmered with a soft white light, solidifying into a solid platform. The three of them climbed aboard and were lifted up to the ceiling, which faded away in ripples like water. Bright light blinded them and a heavy wind brushed against them. As their sight adjusted, the found themselves looking out into a giant cavity in the Cathedral.
4.2 – Riddles in the Sky
They could see part of the Cathedral below them, connected by four towering spires, the larger part of the Cathedral above. The spire they were next to had a doorway identical to the ivory door they saw earlier. Kendal gazed across at the other spires, and saw that one of them had another door. Floating in the air between them and the other spires were numerous floating islands, mostly made up of bits of Cathedral masonry and rock. Several of them drifted lazily about, and Neozama spotted a few priests and monks meditating on their surface. For a second, he envied them for such a prime meditation spot.
Braun smiled and looked about at the islands. “I’ve handled worst obstacles than this. A few months back, I broke into a lord’s floating estate in Horizon. Easy job.” He looked about then leapt across the gap toward the nearest island. He skillfully managed to leapfrog his way across the gap, closing in on the far off spire. In a short time, he had made his way to the landing.
Neozama took a moment to steady himself and attempted to do the same. He made it several islands across before misjudging a leap and crashing hard against the edge of a rock. The monk on this island cheerfully reached a hand toward Neozama and pulled him back up. Neozama recognized the symbol on the monk’s robes: broken wavy lines like an earthquake. “You’re a priest of Hayot. God of Tests and Trials?” The monk silently nodded then resumed her meditation. As Neozama made to leap to the next island, he heard the woman clear her throat. Neozama looked back and the monk jerked her head in the direction of another island that offered a better route.
In several leaps, Neozama made it to the landing. He made it just in time to hear a loud screech accompanied by the frenzied beating of wings. He turned to see Kendal being born across the gap by a large eagle, gently dropping her down on the landing. When Neozama asked why the ranger did not offer that in the first place, the ranger shrugged. “You both leapt off to your near deaths before I could say a word.” Kendal rubbed the eagle’s beak before feeding it a treat from his pouch. “I knew this helpful fellow was local and willing to aid us. As the royal handler of the High Druid’s beasts, animals often can aid me when in need. We share a special connection.” Kendall ruffled the eagle’s feathers and sent the beast on his way.
As they moved toward the door, they noticed an elderly old man sitting cross legged in front of it. Braun tilted his head to Kendall, “When did he get here? I’m not crazy, he wasn’t there right?” Kendall shrugged. The man opened his eyes and looked at the three pilgrims.
“Guests! Oh how we do miss guests up here. Hayot told me you were on your way.” He offered a wide smile before standing up shakily, “Hayot has given me a vision, you see. You are needed above but need to gather some items for your duties.” The elderly man was walking between the three of them, looking them over. Neozama was just about to ask what he meant when he eagerly stated, “You’ll need a pendant with a crane on it, a token of a hero, a piece of foundation from the Cathedral and a lock of hair from the trickster-god Saru. Just bring those to me and I’ll grant you a boon to help you along your way.” Without another word the man stepped off the side of the landing and onto a rising island. The island lifted upward and shot away, ascending high along the Cathedral face, the man smiling broadly and waving goodbye.
Braun shook his head, “I could do with less crazy people in this cathedral.”
4.3 – Dreams of Death
The doorway led to a winding stairway that took them up the spire onto another level of the Cathedral. Eventually the three found themselves in front of a door that seemed to be made up of a metal with swirling clouds under its surface. Affixed in the center was a crane with his head pointed toward the sky. Opening the door revealed two circular rooms connected to each other, lined with numerous private rooms, and a variety of comfortable couches and pillows scattered about. Several different priests bearing the symbol of the crane sat listening to visitors describe their confusing dreams.
A short rotund dwarf approached the trio, “Welcome to Paceri’s domain, goddess of rest and dreams.” The dwarf gestured to the couches behind him, “Please, stay a while and relax. If you like, we will offer dream interpretation in exchange for a small donation to Paceri.” Braun looked at the bulging coin purse on the dwarf’s belt, thinking they must run a profitable service here. Looking toward a nearby end table, he saw a very elegant pendant with the image of a bronze crane on it. Carefully, he sauntered over and pocketed it. They could stand to give a little to the needy, and Braun thought himself very needy.
Kendall and Neozama were moving through the room, inspecting their surroundings. A rest may be nice, but Neozama would not be seeking interpretation. His dreams of the Great Gold Wyrm should only be shared with the Oracle until he could make any more sense of them. As Kendall made to sit down on a particularly fluffy couch, a crash echoed from the other side of the chamber. A young priest with a symbol of an eight sided die on his chest burst into the chamber. “RUN! The ritual has gone horribly wrong!” Nobody had any time to react before a collection of skeletons and zombies crashed into the chambers.
Braun flung his cloak around him, vanishing into shadows. He would strike when the time was right. As Kendal barked out orders to the frightened visitors, he loosed three arrows towards the undead. Neozama rushed forward and readied his three-section-staff, determined to hold the undead back. The hail of arrows from Kendall managed to destroy several of the skeletons in short order. Two of the larger embalmed dead engaged the monk, attacking with decaying swords. As Neozama began to feel overwhelmed, he saw the glint of Braun’s dagger emerge from one of the zombie’s throats. The monk seized the opportunity to drive a kick into the remaining zombie. Together the monk and rogue made quick work of the undead.
The young priest from before came forward, barely stopping himself from shaking. “I am so sorry. I am a priest of Apmylos and was performing the last rites in the funeral chamber down the hall. My work was interrupted when something large and green crashed through the chamber, sending all my instruments into disarray. Before I knew it, the dead within the chamber were rising around me.” The priest thought a moment, “Apymlos’ teachings tell us to honor the dead and those that safeguard our passage to the beyond. I would be honored if you assist me in the last rites for my charge.”
Kendall had limited experience with the priestess, but he knew that the priests of Apymlos were held in high regard for the service to the dead. To be granted such a high role in a ritual like this was an honor. The ranger pressed his hand to his chest, “We would happily perform this honor. Please lead the way, we will do whatever we can to aid you.” Braun thought first to object, but thought he might find an item or two of interest among the dead.
5.2 – Jont Urner’s Funeral
The funeral chamber was not far down the hallway. Within, there was a single body of a half-orc bearing tattoos all over his body. “His name was Jont Urner. He was famous throughout the Empire, an explorer of sorts.” Braun looked in awe at the passed adventurer. Most Half-Orcs knew of Jont Urner, he had been a paragon of the adventuring spirit. Solemnly, Braun offered to be one of the pall bearers. Surprised at the change of character in the rogue, Neozama and Kendall also offered their services. The priest readily accepted their offers of aid. “His last wish was to be returned to the divine earth, amid the Taramann’s fields above.”
The four of them each took a handle of the carrier for Jont’s body and carried it out into the hall. They were surprised to see a large collection of people waiting to begin the precession. They priests of Hayot, the Victor, Droga, Gorgeth, and more. Numerous adventurers of a variety of age and race lined the hallway, and more than a few public figures attended as well. They all had come to bid one final farewell to Jont Urner and a token of respect to his legacy. Slowly, they carried the hero’s body through the cathedral halls. Several priests opened the doors of their domain to honor the dead as they passed, and gentle songs drifted through the chambers.
5.3 – Glass and Grass
When they ascended the final stairwell, they approached a chamber of equal size to the Victor’s. This was not battlefield however; it was lined with rolling mounds of dirt dotted with an endless variety of grain and grass. The walls of the cathedral had been replaced with large elaborate windows depicting farmers, bakers, families and children all honoring the blessings they were given. The priests of Taramann, god of grass and bountiful fields, all stood in reverence for Jont’s procession as he was brought to rest in a tomb carved into the earth in the center of the chamber. As a priest of Ampylos said the last words to seal the hero’s soul to the beyond, the earth closed in on itself, sealing Jont’s body back to the earth.
As the funeral attendees began to disperse, Kendall moved toward one of the large windows overlooking Santa Cora and beyond. Looking south, she could see the vast untamed Wild Wood and floating above it, the island of Darkskye. Braun moved to join her, eager for some company after such a solemn affair. Kendall looked to her fellow pilgrim, “He’ll be well cared for here. It was an honor to have helped such a great man be put to rest.”
Braun nodded his head and was scanning the horizon, when his eyes went wide. Kendall followed the rogue’s eyes and saw a red winged blue crash into Darkskye. Whatever it was, it was massive if they could see it from this distance. A few seconds later, a brilliant purple light exploded out from the island, sending a shockwave of energy traveling in its wake. The shockwave ripped across the Wild Wood, over the plans and then through Santa Cora. Kendall screamed for everyone to take cover as the shockwave slammed against the Cathedral’s face. The large glass windows shattered inward, huts collapsed, and crystal debris was flung everywhere. What was once a peaceful place descended into chaos.
Neozama had been standing outside a small shed when the shockwave hit. After regaining his feet, he hurriedly began trying to rescue those trapped under the debris. Braun had run to Jont’s burial site and began to rally people together in the clearing. Seeing several farm animals running wild, Kendall quickly went to help. Using her skills learned as the High Druid’s animal keeper, she calmed the beasts into submission. When the purple cloud from the shockwave had settled, the party saw the complete destruction around them. Numerous priests and citizens were all trying to regain themselves after the shockwave hit.
“We have to get these people to safety. The healing pools toward the bottom of the Cathedral will help them.” Neozama was trying to corral the wounded together. “They need to get help and soon.”
“That may be a problem.” Braun gestured to the doorway where they had come through. Large marble stonework from the Cathedral had moved and closed over the doorway. As they watched, masonry continued to move around the now-shattered windows to provide more support. “The Cathedral apparently takes care of itself. In so doing, it hasn’t taken care of us though.”
Kendall grabbed hold of a nearby priest, “Do you know of another way downward in the Cathedral? We need to get these people to safety.”
The priest shakily replied, “That was the only way down I know of.” As the adventurers looked around in despair, the priest quickly added, “If its safety you need, Thorodin’s realm is the best place to go. His is the realm of the builders and safe harbor, one flight up.”
Neozama looked around at those terrified refugees around him. “It is the best chance we have. Braun, Kendall, let’s get everyone moving.” With some doing, they were each able to get the sixty or so refugees together. Instructing them to take only what they needed, the adventurers guided the mob upwards into the Cathedral.
5.5 – Tail of the Scorpion
The journey through the now-shifting and damaged Cathedral walls was not without peril. The dust had collected into bizarre crystalline structures which exploded when refugees came nearby. Several died before they had learned to avoid the crystals. In addition, the cathedral was hastily rearranging itself to bolster its supports. Moving walls, pillars, and doorways slammed into several of the refugees, tragically taking the lives of the wounded. Most of the Gods’ domains they passed had doors sealed shut, barred from entry. One, however, stood open, its door bearing the tail of two scorpions forming a heart. When the cathedral shifted and closed off the hallway, it became clear that the only way to proceed was through the door.
As they entered, they found a room full of shards of shattered glass, cracked statues, and all of it covered in sand. One of the priests nearby fearfully grabbed hold of Kendall’s arm, “This is the realm of Gaaslan, He Who Smites the Wicked.” When Kendall explained that he was not a wicked man, the priest shook his head. “All are wicked in Gaaslan’s eyes. His followers are the most zealous, the most eager to destroy any trace of evil in the hearts of men.” As he finished speaking, several of the nearby refugees screamed out, holding freshly bleeding wounds that had appeared along their bodies as if they were ripped. Drops of their blood fell to the floor and combined with the sand to create wicked looking Scorpions.
Neozama quickly interposed himself between the scorpions and the refugees, trying to hold them back. Nimbly dodging the blows, he returned the attacks with punches and kicks. Braun was readying himself to vanish when a whip lashed out and wrapped around his arm. Looking to one of the statues, a robed figure bearing a whip and sickle smiled gleefully at him, “The wicked must be punished.” The rogue twisted and charged the man, eager to end his life. Kendall quickly took charge of the situation, guiding the refugees through the sand filled chamber toward the next doorway. As he raced along, he fired shot after shot at the scorpions. Once through the doorway, the ranger turned to assess where his companions were.
Neozama had ditched the two scorpions and was aiding Braun in fighting the zealot. The rogue dodged under the zealot’s sickle and sank his blade into his back. The zealot cried out and conjured more scorpions to attack the wicked trespassers. Neozama was happy to see one of Kendall’s arrows bury into a nearby scorpion. Seeing the pilgrims safe across the chamber, the monk and rogue delivered one joint blow the zealot, sending him crashing to the floor. As more scorpions began to rise from the sand, the two bid a hasty retreat out of the chamber into the hallway with the rest of the refugees. Kendal slammed the door shut, grateful they had kept the remaining pilgrims safe.
5.4 – Thorodin’s Bridge
With Gaaslan’s realm behind them, they found the flight of stairs reaching the next floor. A large stonework door opened to reveal a large void within the Cathedral spanned by a long stone bridge. The void was impossibly deep given the cathedral’s size, stretching far below into darkness as if into a chasm to the earth. At the other end of the bridge,a glowing archway stood resolute. Chanting filled the chamber in a dwarven tongue. Neozama had studied the language in the last as a scribe and translated it for his companions “Thorodin, god of stone, builders, and safe harbor, guide the home.”
Braun moved forward on to the bridge, satisfied with its strong construction and could see no threat in the darkness below. “Come on, let’s get these people to safety.” Eagerly, the rogue lead the way across the bridge, followers in tow. As they reached halfway across, a tremor ripped through the Cathedral and pieces of the bridge began to break away and fall into the depths below. It seems the Cathedral’s restructuring of itself had damaged the bridge. “RUN!”
Braun quickly ushered the pilgrims across, making sure to spot the way for them and avoid any weak spots. Kendall and Neozama pulled up the rear, racing across the crumbling bridge. As they neared the end, the bridge gave way under Neozama. As the monk fell into darkness, Kendall thought fast and flung a rope down to him. Neozama barely grabbed hold of the rope and was pulled up to safety. The refugees had all seemed to make it across, and one by one were now walking through the glowing threshold to safety.
As Neozama slumped down on to the floor, a priest of Taramann approached with a small satchel, “I wanted to thank you for seeing us to safety.” She opened the satchel showing a collection of potions and elixirs, “You will need these more than we will Someone needs to see if the Oracle is safe after that shockwave hit us.” Grateful, the monk nodded and took the gift. It would indeed prove useful in their journey. When the last of the refugees walked through the portal, it shrank back and was replaced by a solid stone door. Braun picked up a small piece of stone from the floor, remembering Hayot’s request. The stone must be ancient, it would suffice.
4.6 – Treasured Laughter
The stone door led to a small hallway with a golden door at its end. Braun went to admire the door but when he touched it, he was saddened to see golden paint wipe away on his fingers. As he removed more paint, he found the image of a ripe fruit split open. “What god are we facing now?” Neozama wondered aloud before pushing the door open. Inside, they found an odd collection of statues of large exotic birds and moving paintings of monkeys changing between poses.
The center of the room was raised and as they neared it, they heard a voice yell out, “How DARE YOU profane the temple of Saur on his holy day?!?! Guardians! Attack!” Two of the larger bird statues came to life, spreading their wings threateningly. As the large birds charged forward, the adventurers moved to meet them.
Braun reached for his dagger but found it missing, looking backwards he saw another bird holding its dagger in its beak. “Hey!” When the bird was caught, it dropped the dagger and made a squawking noise akin to laughter. Braun snatched the dagger back ready to defend himself, but the bird kept laughing, now joined by laughter drifting from behind a nearby wall.
Neozama was engaged with the two larger birds, trying to defend himself. After dodging a blow he felt his foot slip on what looked like a banana peel. The monk crashed to the floor but he continued to parry the blows of one of the bird’s vicious pecks. Kendall had seen both bird’s reactions to Neozama and Braun’s ordeals, and tried something unorthodox. Catching the remaining birds attention, the ranger made the most ridiculous face he could at it. The bird stopped attacking and joined its fellows with more squawk-laughter. A very confused Neozama and Braun carefully maneuvered backward.
“HAH!” A door slid open and revealed the same elderly man they had met in Hayot’s realm earlier that day. “Oh boy, did I have you folks fooled.” He placed his hands on his sides, bracing them from laughter, “And then you slipped on the banana peel! Classic!” The man slumped on the floor, obviously overcome with laughter.
Neozama glanced to his companions, unsure what to make of this foolishness.
“I stopped it before you got hurt of course. But it was worth it!” The man was overcome by giggles before finally muttering, “And that face you made! Priceless!
Kendall sheathed his bow, “Saru is a trickster. This was all a joke at our expense.” The ranger had heard some rumors about Saru’s followers. They did whatever they could for a laugh. “Sir, we’ve provided you with your entertainment for the day, but I believe a promise is still a promise. You said you’d help us if we gathered your things.” The ranger displayed all of the items they had collected for the man.
The priest stood back up, wiping his eyes of tears, “Oh yes, certainly. Saru may lie for a laugh, but he’s good on his word at least.” The man gestured toward the other room, “You are welcome to reside here for the night, joke free if you insist. Saru welcomes you to his realm.”