Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world.
4th of Wee Jas, 560 QC
The party (Ra Quel, Horros Moonshadow, and Adanna Fionn) was joined by Grakar Foechuckle and a new adventurer, Maya Foxtail. She had heard of the party’s exploits in Lan’Gess, and had travelled far to join them. Shortly after Maya and Grakar flew in, a harried halfling villager burst out of some nearby ruins with three flying seaweed cloakers in close pursuit. After a pitched battle, the cloakers were defeated, and the villager was saved. It turns out that she was Sara, the captain’s wife that they had been searching for. When Maya flew her back to Blackcove, she was able to speak to her with Gervus acting as translator. Sara had quite a bit of valuable information that pointed the party towards the large crystal dome on the northern end of the island. After resting for the afternoon, the party visited the dome. It turned out to be a fiendishly complicated astrological device manifesting strange magical powers. Before they could discover more, they were set upon by three ethereal spiders. A number of party members were felled in the ensuing battle, but the beasts were eventually slain. Afterwards, the adventurers, using the collected arcano-mechanical knowledge of the group, quieted the mechanism long enough to examine it. They discovered a bit more about the form and function of the massive orrery, but only managed to deepen the mystery of the island itself.
After a long and arduous journey I finally found the renowned party from Lan’Gess on the island of Nal-Kashel. My introduction was cut short by three ginormous flying seaweed monsters. How hard was it to kill monsters made of seaweed? Much harder than you would think. I’m not exaggerating when I say they were ginormous. And they could fly. And they expelled some kind of fear/terror spell. Enough said. After that I was welcomed into the fold without much fuss. Fighting for your life is a bonding experience. Those of you who have survived such a battle know what I’m talking about.
On a side note, it’s rather disconcerting to find yourself conversing with someone whose eyes are constantly bleeding black goo. Hopefully a cure will be found for Ra Quel quickly. You heard me right, bleeding black goo from her eyeballs. Don’t believe me? Check out her self-portrait.
The Halfling we saved from a grim seaweed death turned out to be Sara, the woman the party had come to the island to rescue. Her grasp of Common was slight and none of us spoke Halfling. To say we did not get much information out of her is putting it mildly. It was agreed that the party would rest on the island while I ferried Sara back to Blackcove with what remained of my flying potion.
The Halflings we’re effusively grateful for her return. With Gervus acting as a translator I found out that the prisoners on the island are being forced to excavate a section of it. They are either resigned to doing this or mentally coerced. On top of that the prisoners are somehow being transformed physically. Halflings are unusual looking to start off with, but the whole gills-coming-out-of-the-neck thing is disturbing. Sara was a bit fuzzy on the details of how she escaped. She did mention that she saw the sorcerer Gurlock freely going about the island. He didn’t appear to be a prisoner like the others. The Skum & seaweed monsters left him alone. Each time he visited the crystal dome, the island was beset by one of those terrible storms. It didn’t take a genius to figure out who was behind the nefarious goings-on in Blackcove & Nal-Kashel. I needed to get back to the island and give my report to the rest of the party.
Upon my return, Horros was all for leaving the island. Rescuing Sara had completed the job we were hired for, but there was no way I was leaving that island until all of the prisoners were free. Adanna & Ra Quel were eager to stay as well so Horros & Grakar grudgingly agreed. We rested long enough for everyone to recharge before exploring the crystal dome.
The dome was filled with all manner of orbs & books circling around the room above our heads. Ra Quel is a fierce warrior and an asset to our group, but her “shoot first, ask questions later” outlook on life is problematic. When we walked in Ra Quel immediately shot at one of the orbs. It let out some type of gaseous defense mechanism, we left in a hurry.
The entire dome was one big booby trap. Grakar, Horros & I sneaked back in to defuse the trap, but out of nowhere we were beset upon by giant poisonous plane-hopping spiders. No, we don’t need your run of the mill monsters. We only want colossal, hard to kill, teleporting monsters. And why not make them poisonous, just for fun? In case it wasn’t apparent, those last few sentences were laced with sarcasm. Did I say laced? I meant doused, thrown in a river & submerged beneath mountainous falls.
I almost died in the ensuing battle. Luckily Adanna was able to bring me back from the brink of death. We are fortunate to have such a capable healer in our group. We all took a pretty hard beating. Some in the party started transforming physically & Ra Quel was no longer alone in emanating black goo from various orifices. It was a rough day for everyone.
After barely defeating the spiders we managed to briefly disable the trap device. We took the three most interesting books & got out. According to them you need a special amulet to control the orrery. Of course you do. Pausing to catch our breath, we began discussing what our next step should be.
I’m glad I was able to join up with the party, but two difficult battles in one day? If this is any indication of what it’s like to be allies with this group, I’m not sure how long I’ll survive. My will is strong, but I’m not quite as hardy as some. I’m sure the group got suspicious when I vanished from sight the minute the seaweed monsters appeared, but my attacks work best in stealth mode. I may need to adapt Grakar’s strategy of hiding behind Ra Quel whenever danger is near…
Ra quell will live, for now. Her transformation is only cosmetic in nature, so does not seem to need immediate attention (information she responded to rather well, actually…). Oh Ra quel, she can tackle a sea-weed creature like nobody’s business, but magic just isn’t her thing. Or reading.
But who am I to talk? I am still recovering from the shock of being completely incapacitated by that Cloaker. Thank Pelor for my brave companions – a group that now includes a stealthy little woman named Maya Foxtail. We do not know her well yet, but she seems earnest to help, and Pelor tells me to trust. I am grateful my friends kept their wits about them and saved our lives, and the life of Sara.
Adler’s wife was the Halfling we saw running from the cloakers. Though communication with her directly was not great, Maya was able to gather more information through Gervis’ translation when she flew Sara to Blackcove. Apparently there is a dominating force over the captive Halflings, the effects of which make them more Aslante. For some reason that Sara cannot explain, she was able to resist this force; most others were not. Furthermore, she has seen Gerlac, unaffected by the dominating spell, going into the Crystal Dome with purpose on numerous occasions.
Some of the party wished to leave the island immediately, without finding Gerlac or rescuing the captive townspeople. But it would go against my faith in Pelor and all that is good to abandon these Halflings; and I will not leave until Gerlac, if he is responsible, is brought to judgment. Sara alluded to the Crystal Dome as somehow being responsible for Ra quel’s bleeding eyes – that convinced everyone in the party to investigate the Crystal Dome and continue our mission here.
The crystal dome is an Orrery, with crystal spheres and copper books orbiting the room, open to a clear night sky. It is beautiful, but it is a trap. According to the astrology textbook we found earlier in the library, Sigil and Glyph, the orrery is an astronomical artifact with many different properties, including weather control. To be able to use the Orrery, you need a very high spell craft level, and something called an “Armillary Amulet” would be very useful (implying Gerlac has either or both).
If you fail to use the Orrery properly, you may suffer ill side effects, as Ra Quel discovered when she recklessly shot at an orbiting sphere and became extra-planar-like. Luckily, the effect was temporary and she was able to help us fend off the phase spiders that attacked while we tried to disable the device. These creatures were extra-planar and deadly – all my companions were in need of healing and lesser restoration spells after the attack.
The device could be disabled only for a short while before it would reactivate, giving us time for just a quick search – which yielded three informational books: 1) A warning that reminds students not to use the orrery without their amulets, 2) Very precise instructions of how to operate the orrery, 3) Instruction on how to identify malfunctioning parts and if found, to consult your professor.
After reading these, I could potentially be able to operate the Orrery. But that would take a significant amount of time – time we don’t have in a booby trapped room. My comprehend language spell enabled me to read these books, and it will enable me to discern those lectures. My instincts tell me to go back to the silver pools…