Adventure 2 – Clerestory
The Library of the Oracle was a welcome respite for Patches. His upbringing among his clan of barbaric humans rarely offered such comforts as he found within the cathedral walls. Sadly, his time among his people was long past. Ever since he had found his village burned to the ground and his family murdered, he had done whatever he needed to survive the harsh wilderness. When he reached more civilized lands, he turned to the Prince of Shadows for employment and assistance in finding his family’s murderers. When word had reached him that the Oracle may know their identity, he knew that he would have to investigate. After completing his trials, he had spent a night resting in the library before he would ascend the cathedral more. Perhaps he could find some willing companions that would climb the cathedral steps with him….
Braun had been spending his time in the library pocketing some of the records he found. Sure, the book about his fate would prove directly useful, but the other tomes could offer insight into notable figures. He secured another booklet in his coat when he felt a tap on his shoulder. A large barrel chested man with a greatsword slung behind his back towered over him. “Are you heading toward the Oracle? Ellindria told me I might find you capable travel companions.”
The half-orc rogue glanced around him again to make sure nobody was watching. “Yes, a few of us are making our way up the Cathedral.” A quick assessment of the large man showed he was a capable warrior. “We might need someone of your… talents. We were about to leave once Neozama finishes his meditation.” The rogue pointed to the human sitting cross legged with his eyes closed. “Says it helps him center himself. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
Kendal moved back to Neozama, her fate book in hand. “Neozama, we are ready to ascend the Cathedral.” She looked over to Braun and the battle-hardened following him. “It appears Braun has found us a friend.”
Neozama’s eyes flittered open, his dream of the Golden Wyrm fading from his mind. The man following Braun had an aura of strength and purpose to him. He would be useful in their pilgrimage, Neozama thought. Before Braun could open his mouth, the monk raised a polite hand to silence him. “Welcome pilgrim, we are ascending the cathedral steps. Some of our party is staying here in the library, but we look to push on. We would be honored to have you with us.”
Patches nodded happily, “The honor shall be mine. I seek the Oracle, but I think some of these trials may be better accomplished among many.” Kendal smiled and gestured toward the front door. Together, all four of them left the library to the floor above. Kendal closed her eyes momentarily, eagerly imagining what trials they would face.
The ranger would not have to wait long. As they reached the next floor they found themselves in front of two very large golden doors with shadows creeping in around its edges. The center of the door showed an image of an armored woman with bright yellow hair, holding a mace glowering like the sun above her. “Pelnora, Darkness’ Bane and bringer of the light.” Braun muttered unhappily. Pelnora’s followers tended to dislike individuals who operated in the shadows as he did. Patches pushed the doors open to a large marble room bathed with intense sunlight. At the other end of the chamber, a miniature sun pulsed brightly.
A small man walked toward them in pearly white robes. His fellow priests were all lining the walls of the chamber chanting softly. “Welcome to Pelnora’s illuminary. Please excuse my brothers, they are praying to Pelnora for guidance.”
Braun noticed that the monks were here aplenty but could not see any of the famous Pelnoran paladins who had so happily attempted to smite him in the past. “Where are your paladins? I only assumed they would be here.”
The man bowed his head, “They have gone to the domain of the Victor for aid. Pelnora has sent a message. Shadows infiltrate the cathedral; we must be on our guard.” He hesitated for a second, “As a matter of fact, I cannot let you go further without Pelnora judging you herself. Please understand.” The priest glanced around nervously, obviously afraid of causing any trouble.
Patches pushed his way through his companions, proudly stating “I have nothing to hide. Let us be judged.” When the priest gestured toward the miniature sun at the other end of the chamber, the Barbarian eagerly strode forward with his new companions in tow. “Pelnora, you will find my purpose true. I seek justice for the slain members of my clan.” The Barbarian smiled confidently at his companions before a searing pain tore through his head.
A voice ripped through their minds, “They consort with shadows! They must be destroyed! Guardians, purge their souls of darkness!” The cracking of stone sounded from behind them. Turning, Neozama saw three large marble statues of saints coming alive and disengaging themselves from the walls. Picking up large blades bathed in sunlight, the marbled saints moved to attack. Kendal fired off an arrow as Neozama quickly assumed an opening combat stance to greet his foes. Patches let loose a terrible battle cry and launched himself at a marble saint in a frenzy. Braun twisted his cloak and disappeared in a twirl of inky shadows. “The shadow has entered the chamber! Destroy them!” The rogue, as usual, was getting them into trouble.
The marbled saints moved forward with frozen faces, swinging their sun-touched blades at the adventurers. Neozama deftly danced between his attacker’s swings and retaliated with fist and staff. As the monk built towards a finishing blow, the sun behind him pulsed brightly searing at his back. Everyone not hidden in shadows behind the pillars was scorched. Braun reappeared behind a marble statues and struck true with his knife, severing an arm of one of the statues. As the marbled saint turned to engage the rogue, it was intercepted by Patches fury. The barbarian hacked away at the towering marble figure with all of his unspent rage. Another pulse of the sun and the marble figure regained its composure, pressing its attack.
As the sunlight bathed their marble bodies, the statues seemed emboldened and begun to attack faster. Kendal ducked behind one of the pillars with Neozama, finding solace in the shadows. As the sun pulsed again, Kendal and Neozama felt a rush of calming energy as the shadows seemed to soothe and comfort their stay. The ranger stood his ground in the shadows, gracefully launching a barrage of arrows at the nearest statue, shattering it to pieces on the floor. Patches fed off the thrill of fallen foes and with a victorious cry, crashed his sword through another statue’s head.
The two remaining statues tried to continue their assault, but the numerous damages they had suffered took their toll. Kendal noticed that their successful swings seem to only occur when the were in direct sunlight, and relayed it to his comrades. Working together, they were all able to harry the marbled saints together into a group. Once the marbled saints had been backed into a pillar Neozama and Patches delivered fatal blows to the constructs. Braun watched with delight as their remains made a ruined heap on the floor.
The small priest from before peeked around the pillar he had hidden behind. “Please, we wish you no more harm. The saints of Pelnora are zealous in their pursuit of justice.” Braun sneered at the priest. His opinion of Pelnora’s followers didn’t improve at all by this encounter. Kendal spotted the exit and gestured her companions to follow. Outside the chamber of Pelnora they found a curiously rustic section of the cathedral. Dirt and grass were spread out where marble should have been. As they moved onward they saw more marble ripped up and small gardens planted in the dirt.
As they turned a corner, they found a very peculiar image before them. A small hut had been built of discarded marble flooring, cathedral pews, and spare bits of masonry. Running around the hut was a flustered looking dwarf and anxious halfling, both of them swinging large nets at what looked like Flying Lobsters? The halfling spared a glance at the adventures and yelled, “Don’t just stand there! Get them back in the crates!” Kendal was excited to see a new creature and happily picked up a net and went to help. Neozama climbed the nearest tree and tried to catch the beasts that flew by. Patches knew his strengths and tried to intimidate the beasts into tighter circles that were easier to catch.
Together they were able to round up the remaining flying lobsters into the crates. The dwarf breathed a sigh of relief and leaned against the locked crate. “Oiy, thank ye kindly. Someone traipsed through here and smashed the crates.” He wiped his brow and picked up a mug of mead, “My name is Father Rumelowe, leader of this chapter to Bejam. This here is brother Gamage, my assistant.”
Kendal was examining the lobsters through the crates, “I’ve never seen this before. Where did you find these beasts?” One snapped at her fingers and she quickly ducked back.
Brother Garnage smiled, “We got them from Darkskye the last time it flew by the Cathedral. We trade them the mead made by the monks of Cathol and they provide us with those lobsters. It is our trade which provides enough food for the attendants on this floor.” Rumelowe and Dolcis invited the lot to sit and relax a while. They were excited to hear the tales of the pilgrims and happy to share their knowledge of the cathedral. From the two of them they learned that the paladins of Cathol had joined the paladins of Pelnora in seeking aid from The Victor. Apparently something had put them on high alert lately. After a few more traded stories, they merrily set the adventurers back on their path.
The ground continued to be composed of raw earth and grass instead of marble across the rest of the floor. They eventually found themselves in front of an iron gate with a white shield and cross dripping with golden honey dominated the face of the door. Neozama breathed a sigh, “The priests of Cathol. They are a humorless lot, very straight to business types.” Pushing the door open they found themselves looking on a large collection of pine trees all with small beehives hanging from their branches. A bloodied body of a gnome leaning against a nearby tree caught Neozama’s attention – He recognized him as one of her neighbors in Santa Cora. “Friend! What happened?! Who attacked you?”
The gnome was shaken but look relieved to see Neozama. “My sister and I came to purchase some mead like we always do. But this time, the monks went wild and attacked us.” He winced and clutched at his side, “Their paladins are gone. Apparently they partook in the mead and their god has punished them by turning them to bears. Please, find my sister in the trees – I can’t leave her behind.” Neozama nodded then looked to his companions. The monk silently directed his allies to spread out and move in to the woods. They couldn’t afford to leave an innocent in danger.
The woods were eerily quiet and it didn’t take long to find the gnome woman crying for help up one of the trees. As Patches went to help her down, a rampaging bear burst through the underbrush nearby. Three more joined him and as a pack they fell down upon the pilgrims. Neozama and Kendal made short work of the first one, scoring several lucky blows. Braun once again twisted in to shadows before reappearing behind the bear attacking Patches. The barbarian wrestled down two of the bears while the half-orc snuck cut after cut at the bear monks. In short time, the four bear monks were all unconscious and reverting back to their normal forms.
“We don’t want to be here when they get up,” Braun said darkly. “Let’s get the girl to safety and move on. We need to get to the Oracle soon.” Patches successfully helped the gnome girl down and gave them some food to see them out of the cathedral safely. With the gnome siblings rescued, they made their way up another flight of stairs.
The door before them was hard wrought iron trimmed with bronze. A statue of a warrior holding two axes above his head stood triumphant over countless foes. Patches smiled, “I know this one. This god is The Victor, God of Valor, Glory, and War. My clan paid him respect and honor frequently.” The memory of his fallen kin wiped the smile off his face. They needed to get to the Oracle sooner. Grabbing hold of the door frame, the Barbarian pushed the doors open. Kendal gasped.
This entire floor of the Cathedral seemed to house The Victor’s realm alone. A massive battlefield stretched before the party as far as the eye could see. Numerous paladins stood fighting wave after wave of demons and orcs. Arrows flew across the field into charging troops. A voice boomed over the din of battle, “All must prove their valor. Show your respect for the warriors of old!” Neozama looked at the battle before them and a vision flashed through his mind.
“This is the Battle of the Abyss. The last effort by the Golden Order to push the Demons back before the Great Gold Wyrm sealed the Abyss himself.” Neozama looked over at the crowd of Orcs attacking a group of Paladins. “Although I don’t remember anything about orcs in this battle. It was only Demons that the Golden Order faced.” The monk didn’t have time to ponder the situation further before a pair of orcs charged at them.
Patches found himself in his perfect environment and ran to his attackers eagerly. His misses over made him fly into a deeper frenzy as his blood boiled and his rage built. Kendal scampered up the nearby ridge to get a better view of the battle. A nearby rise held a dozen Golden Order archers firing down on their foes. Neozama engaged the orcs fighting Rob, starting his fighting form maneuvers. Braun made to disappear into the shadows and felt himself pulled down to the floor as if by an invisible fist. The voice of The Victor boomed out again, “Stand and fight honorably!” The rogue cursed and tumbled away from more charging orcs.
Kendal saw it before the Golden Order did – A large demon flying through the sky to their position. It crashed down among the Golden Order, swinging its four axes and horns at the surprised archers. Two of the golden archers perished, bursting into golden smoke as they died. The ranger decided to help the archers and fired a volley at the large demon, enraging it further. Below the ridge, Neozama found him attacked from behind as a winged demon descended on him with sharp talons. The monk twisted around and beat the demon back. As the demon died, it burst into black smoke and a cheer from the Victor boomed across the battlefield.
With a strong swing, Patches sliced through the two orcs in front of him, watching their bodies tumble to the floor below him. Kendall noticed that the orcs didn’t dissipate like the demons and paladins. The ranger gasped, “Those aren’t part of the battle! Those orcs are real!” Braun heard the ranger’s warning and didn’t want to risk going toe to toe with an orc. However, he was pretty certain he could trick the large demon. With another swirl of shadow, the rogue twisted away confident he would succeed. The Victor did not stop him this time, apparently satisfied with the rogue’s courage.
Neozama and Patches pushed forward, coming under heavy attack from the numerous orcs charging their way. Kendal continued to plug arrow after arrow into the large demon, adding to the considerable volley the Golden Order was already putting into the monstrosity. The demon raised his four axes ready to finish off the remaining order when Braun appeared above the creatures head, driving his long knife into the demon’s skull. Thrashing wildly, the demon finally collapsed defeated. As the demon dissipated into black smoke, the entire battlefield around them shifted and faded away leaving behind a large marble room. The Golden Order and demons all dissipated.
Braun glanced around the empty battlefield, “We’ve got a few stragglers.” The rogue pointed to the remaining bodies of several orcs. One of the orcs was coughing up blood, on the brink of death. “They aren’t creations of The Victor. That’s real blood.”
Kendal moved to the savage creature. Carefully, he examined the dying warrior. “He’s real alright. Why are orcs in the Cathedral?” She looked to the other bodies as if hoping an answer would present itself.
Neozama nudged the orc and held out a healing potion in front of his gaze. “Listen, brute. If you want to live, you’re going to answer some questions.” The warrior carefully nodded, his eyes not leaving the bottle held before him. “Right. Why are you in the Cathedral? Where are you going?”
The orc coughed up another glob of blood, “The captain brought us here, said we had a job from the Lord himself to do.” He winced against the pain and reached for the potion. When Neozama pulled the potion back, the warrior grimaced. “I do as I am commanded. We were going up. Only the captain knew.” He pointed to the orc slain by Patches. “The potion. Please”
Neozama carefully handed the potion to the orc. He would stay true to his word. Besides, the orc would still need to find a way out of here on his own. If the gods saw fit to let him go, he deserved his freedom. “Come friends. It appears we’re not the only ones ascending the cathedral. We must make haste for the Oracle.”
GM Note –
Due to holiday scheduling craziness, I had to edit the sequence of events and gods visited in the adventures. For the Pelnora chamber, I thought it would be fun to highlight the god’s hatred of shadows. So I used Braun and Patches’ history with the Prince of Shadows as reason for the goddess to send her followers after them. The sun pulsing and shadow safety seemed like a neat mechanic in combat so I went with it. Instead of using Ceith in section 2.5, I borrowed the domain of war from adventure 3 and created a god to match a new player’s character. Patches’ had a history of worshipping the god of war and glory, whom I named The Victor. In order to better match other characters icon relationships for the setting, I placed the Victor’s realm as being a large Battle of the Abyss. This highlighted Neozama’s relationship with the Great Gold Wyrm. I also included the orcs showing up as I wanted players to have an ongoing element to investigate and be wary of beyond the threat of the Gods. I was very happy with how flexible the adventure and game was to all of these changes.
Also, please forgive all the unpainted minis. Spending time with our lovely family and friends this holiday season ate up all the free time we normally dedicate to painting figures for our players and our games. The players all picked brand new miniatures so, alas, the party will be only primed white in all photos.