Adventure 6 – Sanctuary
Today would be the day. The day that their questions would be answered. Kendall slung his quiver over his shoulder and looked to his traveling companions Braun and Neozama as they prepared their gear. They were an unlikely lot, but together the wood elf ranger, half-orc rogue and human monk had marched, climbed and fought the Cathedral. They had encountered bear-monks, riddles, puzzles, traps, militants, zealots and holy fools to name a few. Now at last they were on the final day of their journey together. Today they would reach the fabled Oracle.
Braun the rogue was weary from travel, but being so close to the Oracle kept his senses sharp. As the party continued onward Braun relied on his trap sense to warn his travel companions of dangers as the Cathedral shifted around them. No matter how the safely the rogue guided them though they always seemed to end up at a dead end. Even the ranger Kendall was stumped when they party’s path was cut off repeatedly just when they thought a path forward was found. After an hour the rogue and hunter took a brief rest while Neozama studied the walls.
“Anyone else get the sense that the Cathedral is alive?”, the monk wondered aloud.
Braun scoffed, “Where do you think we are, Scrimhunt Castle?” He turned to double back only to find a series of stairs heading upward suddenly form behind them.
Kendall stood up and pushed past the rogue. “The tale of Scrimhunt Castle is a myth. A story meant to frighten young children.” A hatch at the end of the small stairs led the party to the outside ledge of the Cathedral that overlooked the Midland Sea. The sun was rising over the east and sunlight spread over the marbled walls of the cathedral. The party could see for miles, all the way out to the storm clouds gathering over Omen. “My gods, I had no idea we were this high. But how do we get up? I don’t see any way back in but the way we came.”
6.2 – Scaling the Cathedral
Neozama joined Kendall on the ledge and studied their surroundings. After a moment he pointed to a ledge that wound up around the outside of the Cathedral walls. “There, we climb up and hope to find a way in.” Braun cracked his knuckles, eager for a challenge. He had spent a good deal of time scaling building faces before to find items of interest, this shouldn’t be any different. Some of his most prosperous heists were from Horizon. Few of the wealthy citizens of Horizon had bothered with locks when their building could float in the air. What fools they had been. With great skill Braun led his fellow pilgrims along the ledge, pointing out handholds and warning of obstacles. Several times the party had to press themselves flat against the Cathedral walls and let a gust of cold air pass. It was rough business and Kendall nearly fell twice, but was saved by a quick grab from Neozama and Braun. Eventually the party rounded a corner into a pocket of calm air where two roof lines meet. There, perched on a wide ledge, was a tent.
A red-robed priest with equally vibrant red hair sat just outside the tent, staring into the Cathedral through a window. Neozama cleared his throat and the Priest turned with a start. “Oh my, guests! I do not see many folks out here except for my brothers. I am Father Flambo, a Brother of the Flame Eternal.” The priest stood and disappeared into his tent, only to reappear a moment later with a pot of simmering stew. “Care to join me for a meal?”
Still thinking the man quite odd, Kendall carefully sat down near the priest. “Err, why are you outside the Cathedral this high up? One misstep out here would be fatal.”
“Oh, certainly.” Father Flambo eagerly dished out stew into four small bowls. “But the study of Cathedromancy is a perilous ordeal after all. I would be a fool not to expect challenges in my pursuit of enlightenment.”
Braun’s face twisted, confused, “Enlightenment found on a ledge 100 leagues in the sky?”
The red-robed priest laughed, “Of a sort, yes. Nobody knows much about how the Cathedral was made, you see. All most people know is that the Archmage and Priestess were involved in building it and the Gods of Light wove their will into the structure as well. My brothers and I believe that by studying every inch of the Cathedral, we may be able to catch a small glimpse of the Divine.” Flambo smiled, obviously proud of his divine mission. “I myself have been charting the upper reaches, careful to observe and not participate as much as possible.”
“Tell me, Father, what have you learned recently?” Neozama hoped the eccentric man may be helpful beyond offering a pot of stew.
“Information beyond measure. Perhaps you have noticed in your travels the Cathedral shifting? A wall or two moving around is not unheard of, but I have observed entire domains restructured recently. The realm of Lenwe, god of illusion, was brought all the way up here from the sixth floor, for reasons unknown. I’d wager the gods know something we do not.”
Kendall set his bowl down, “Sage wisdom. Well, we must be going. We’re seeking the Oracle, you see, and need a way back inside the Cathedral.”
Father Flambo smiled, “Ah, you’ll be looking for the Oraculum Delubrum Scriptor then. Two stories up, just past the realm of Vishmilla. Beware her nuns, they are feisty. I can let you in through the window here.” The trio thanked the man for the stew and help then climbed in through the large window, happy to be indoors again.
6.3 – The Cathedral Shifts
The cathedral continued to rearrange itself as before, and this time clearly leaving one singular path for the pilgrims to follow. They finally came to a room with the figure of two masks on the silver door, one smiling and the other crying. “Oh great, don’t tell me – this is the God of the Theatre, isn’t it?” Braun joked. “Will we have to recite a monologue in order to pass?” Kendall smiled at the thought of this Half Orc trying to enact drama, then pushed the door open.
The room within was oval in structure with several large pillars supporting the large domed ceiling. Hanging along the walls and on several pillars, several masks could be seen. As Neozama took a cautious step within, he heard the rustling of leaves and a large treant shuffled around one of the larger pillars. The groaning of its wooden frame sounded like growling as its limbs reshaped into fists. Wordlessly, it charged the pilgrims, slamming in Neozama with massive force. Braun quickly dashed aside in a twirl of shadows and Kendal fired several bolts into the treant’s form.
As Neozama struggled to ward off the treant’s blows, Braun took a moment to think in the shadows. Thinking there must be something to do with the masks on the walls, he reappeared near one of the masks and quickly put it on. When he looked up, he barely had enough time to duck as a massive gore covered skeleton had appeared in front of him and started attacking with sharpened bony arms. He cried out in pain as the skeleton scored a vicious strike.
Neozama spared a glance toward’s Braun’s cry and saw the rogue bleeding and trying to dodge some unseen foe. The monk quickly broke free from the treant and went to aid his friend. As he did so, a large winged demon stepped out from the farthest pillar and launched a sizzling bolt of flame squarely at the Monk’s chest. ‘What God keeps a treant, a skeleton, and a demon all in the same room?’ he thought as he changed direction to attack the demon.
Kendall saw fired two bolts into the treant, satisfied to see it fall. As it hit the floor however, the ranger was confused to see it shatter into a blood smeared pile of masonry that made up the pillars of the room. Braun continued to fight some unseen enemy, but Kendall noted the rogue was wearing one of the masks. The elf snatched a rogue from the wall and put it on, seeing not one but two figures now attacking the rogue: The skeleton was now joined by a small goblin riding a large spiked turtle. Kendall recalled his clerical training and quickly muttered a prayer of healing for Braun.
As the rogue’s wounds knitted back together, he finally managed to slide his dagger into the skeleton’s skull. The undead creature let out a wail of horror then slammed against the wall. A wave of light and the skeletal form was replaced with a section of wall that was propped up by two broken tracks along the floor. Braun turned just in time to see Neozama strike his fist into the demon, and with a wave of light it turned into a pedestal carrying a nail launcher. “Its all an illusion! This must be Lenwe’s domain!”
The thud of two arrows announced the goblin’s death as it crashed over, turning into another crumbled pillar. The light continued to ripple outward, revealing the room’s contents for what it really was. They could now see the shattered remnants of pillars, walls, and various construction tools that were all on moving tracks along the floor. Throughout the entire room, however, were dead orcs, all victims of Lenwe’s trap. The smear of blood carried out the door and into the hallway beyond – Apparently some orcs had made it through.
“If the orcs are going up as well, the Oracle is in danger,” Neozama realized. “We must hurry, we can’t let the orcish hordes have access to the Oracle’s prophetic visions.” With renewed vigor, the pilgrims rushed forward.
6.4 – Pipes of Maddened Love
The Cathedral’s shifting had slowed for some reason. They did not find a single obstacle in their way until they reached a large bright pink door, the center of which bore two hearts pressed together. Braun thought twice to make another joke about a god and carefully opened the door. Within, they found a large room with fourteen sides and a single stand in the center of the room. Upon the stand and running down into the floor was a collection of pipes.
The three of them saw no way out, so they went to inspect the pipes in the center of the room. Music began to drift out from the center of the room, masking the sound of the door behind them closing and locking. The melody drifted pleasantly throughout the room, and none of them could detect anything sinister about the machine.
A single thought entered Neozama’s mind: Braun won’t ever love you if Kendall is still in the way. The monk instantly knew it to be true and turned to his ranger companion. Kendall stood there, bow drawn, aimed directly at Neozama’s chest. “You aren’t worthy enough of Braun!” Kendall shouted, “You’ll die here today!” He loosed the arrow at Neozama who hastily dodged and charged the elf.
As the monk slammed his staff against Kendall’s skull, Braun realized a stark truth about their world: Not a single person is worthy of your masculine prowess and beauty. The rogue sneered at the two unworthy cretins in the room with him and twisted into shadow. As the monk and ranger continued to trade blow for blow, the rogue took his time to line up his attack. When the time was right, Braun reappeared behind Neozama and drive his dagger into his friend’s back.
The monk turned and looked back at Braun smiling at his masterful strike. He shook his head and realized the music was making them all do this! Neozama quickly dropped into a fluid stance and dodged around Braun and Kendal to reach the machine. Neozama slammed his staff against the pipes, making them produce a wrenching sound in their notes. Kendal and Braun both winced in pain, the rogue blinding charging ahead at Neozama. Kendal shook his head and realized what was going on. Seeing Braun started to recover, the ranger quickly shot two arrows into the pipes, fouling the music it created.
Braun stopped mid stroke from bringing his dagger into Neozama’s gut, the spell broken. Sheepishly, he sheathed his dagger. “Err, sorry about that.” Braun looked to the machinery again, “Gods do I wish to be done with Gods.” Braun twisted a piece of the pipe and was happy to see a hidden door open up on the far side of the room. The three of them quickly exited, eager to leave the treacherous room.
6.5 – The wrestling nuns of Vishmilla
A few hallways later they found themselves in front of a stone door with the picture of a strong woman wrestling a gargantuan ant. As Braun touched the door he felt a small shock of electricity jump out out to his fingers. Kendall saw this and said, “Vishmalla, no doubt. Her priests occasionally travel to the Wild Woods to find large beasts to wrestle. It typically doesn’t end well for them.” Kendall knocked an arrow, “Best be armed, Father Flambo said they were a feisty lot.”
As Neozama opened the door, he found a curious room. The marble floor of the cathedral had been broken apart in the center and carved into a large earthen pit. A large barbarian woman was wrestling a celestial ant the size of a full grown man. The woman twisted and pinned the beast to the floor where it dissipated in a burst of white energy. Another woman approached, “Welcome! The nuns of Vishmilla welcome you to the proving grounds.”
Neozama raised an eyebrow, “Proving Grounds? What do we need to prove?”
The nun placed her fists on her hips and proudly stated, “You need to prove your strength and skill in combat. Any that want to proceed must do honor by Vishmalla in a test of strength. There are three of you and three of us Nuns here. Perfect match.” The two nuns behind her cracked their knuckles and smiled. It seemed they were excited for an opportunity for new contestants.
The pilgrims agreed and moved toward the pit in the center of the chamber. The three nuns took to the opposite end and said a short prayer honoring Vishmilla. When they finished their chant, they charged with a furious cry. The nuns crashed against the pilgrims unleashing a deadly series of kicks and jabs. Neozama was used to training alongside unarmed warriors and felt a thrill at facing an equal opponent. The monk traded blow for blow with two of the nuns, careful to avoid her grapples.
Kendal was not so lucky, quickly succumbing to the Nun’s barrage of attacks. Before he knew it the nun had the ranger in a headlock, twisted him up in the air, then slammed him back on the floor. Dazed, the ranger was saved by the quick intervention of Braun as he reappeared from the shadows to attack the nun. A decisive blow was followed by two arrows and the nun collapsed to the floor, raising her hands in surrender. Braun and Kendal ran to Neozama’s aid.
Neozama had managed to deflect some of the Nun’s attacks, but was suffering from the assault. He landed a solid kick against the larger nun but had left himself open to a grapple from the other. As the two wrestled against each other, Braun finished the first nun off. Kendall quickly fired two arrows at the Nun’s back, who quickly realized her defeat and surrendered. The three nuns all collected themselves then congratulated the pilgrims for their show of strength. “Vishmilla praises your strength and has found you worthy. You may proceed onward. Vishmilla watch over you.”
6.6 – The Oraculum Delubrum Scriptor
The door from Vishmilla’s realm lead immediately to a flight of stairs leading upward. “Father Flambo said it was only two stories up. The Oraculum must be close.” Kendal was getting anxious, he had hoped the Oracle was safe. At the landing atop the stairs they were horrified at the hallway before them. Numerous guards and orc bodies littered the hallway leading up to a once beautiful oaken door. Blood smeared the floors and walls and the door was cracked in on itself. A scream echoed out from within.
Neozama rushed forward with Kendal and Braun hot on his heels. As the trio pushed past the shattered remains of the door, they found a room open to the outside air, a single peninsula of raised stone reaching out into the morning sky. Atop the stone outcropping a portal was being held open flanked by four orc archers. A fierce looking orc warrior near the portal was holding a woman by the arm and barking orders to the rest of the orcs at the landing. The leader saw the pilgrims entered and roared out a command to the rest of the orcs.
Braun winked into the shadows, knowing he had the best chance of rescuing the Oracle. Kendall fired two perfect shots at the first wave of orcs, hitting them right between the eyes. As the two fell, Neozama moved to engage three more. The monk quickly defeated a nasty looking berserker, delivering a sharp kick to the orc’s face. The orcs fought back viciously, concentrating their efforts on holding the pilgrims back. The archers near the portal all raised their bow and let loose a volley at Neozama and Kendall, but missed every shot.
Seeing his front line failing, the leader reached to his bracer and began fiddling with the runes to control the portal. He had no time to react when Braun reappeared behind him and sank his blade into the orc’s back. Furious, the leader threw the woman aside and attacked Braun with full force. The rogue took most of the blow, rolling away before springing back for a second trike. When the orcs nearest the portal noticed their line had been broken two of them retreated through the portal. The two remaining orc archers stood their ground and redirected their shots towards Braun.
Neozama made a sweeping blow with his staff, knocking the warriors around him back. Seeing the orcs caught off balance, Kendal tapped into his limited magical ability and unleashed a bright chain of lightning at the front line. The already wounded orcs were electrocuted instantly, eight of them falling before the unexpected torrent of energy. With only the leader left, Neozama sprinted to the leader. As Braun struck the leader, Neozama joined with a deadly flying kick to the leader’s head.
The orc commander fell to the floor, but not before activating a final set of runes on his bracer. The portal exploded outward in a shockwave of purple energy, knocking everyone to the floor. When the trio stood up, they found no trace of the portal. The woman was lying on the floor, but slowly regained her footing.
“Braun, Kendall, Neozama. I thank you for saving my life.”
Neozama brushed the dirt from his robes, “Of course. You are the Oracle I take it?”
The woman sheepishly lowered her face, “Sadly, no. My name is Serena, a handmaiden to the Oracle. The Oracle was taken, as she knew she would be.” Serena looked to the three adventurers, “She asked that I hide when peril would come and deliver a message to Braun, Kendall, and Neozama.”
Kendall gasped, “She knew?! She knew and did nothing to save herself?”
“Yes. The Oracle is tied closing to the fate of our world. She tries with all her might to resist changing it.” Serena looked out to the horizon. “She asked me to deliver a message to you. She is taken by the Orc Lord and will require rescue before he unleashes horrible destruction across the Empire. You three shall be the ones to rescue her.”
The party paused and looked at each other. Neozama was the one to break the silence, “How? Where will we find her?”
“You must find her yourself. She would not tell me where she was, only that you must find her. Please, for the safety of the Empire, you must bring her back to safety.”
Neozama closed his eyes, “We must do as we must. That much is true, this seems to be our destiny.” The monk looked to his two companions.
Kendall offered a small smile, “Well, if this is a search and rescue mission you will need a ranger.”
Braun considered for a moment. “These days I serve the Emperor. I sought the Oracle to find traitors in his ranks, but instead I found an even greater threat. The Orc Lord must be stopped. I couldn’t think of a better pair of adventurers to accompany me with.”