Sadly Temple-rary

A Crash of Thunder

As the Thunderhead reaches the edge of the central forest (about 100 miles from their destination), a sudden cloud of shadow-bats erupts from the forests ahead. They’re smaller and faster than many of the demons the PCs have encountered before, but they’re also weaker; when taking significant damage, they explode in a flurry of elemental effects (fire, electricity, sonic, or acid; generally fire or acid). As they’re unleashed, a vast swath of the forest is shredded with sudden rot and decomposition; the result of a devastating necromantic ritual that desecrated square miles of forest in order to send this blight at the adventurers. The demons flood the air; despite the best efforts of the crew, they swiftly realize they won’t be able to take all of them down. As the Thunderhead begins to take damage from the swarm, Darias turns to flee; the party has to abandon the direct line. Thankfully, Salvatrix manages to capture, reverse, and subvert the scrying attempt on the party, convincing the snake-demon lady casting the scrying spells that the Thunderhead had been destroyed and the party badly delayed. This allowed the party to repair the Thunderhead and circle around to the south, delaying their arrival by several days but allowing them to approach by land in a stealthy fashion.

Back to Our Roots

For the first time in a relatively long time, the party is forced to march a significant distance - nearly 40 miles. During the march, the PCs are occasionally beset by illusory challengers. These turn out to be relatively high-level illusions. Fortunatel, Maleos and Thema are immune to the effects of these illusions (due to the Compass), as is Saul (due to his divine nature). All other party members believe they are being ambushed and overwhelmed by monstrously-powerful opponents. With three immune to the illusions, the party sets up a rotation to quickly snap those affected out of their delusions, allowing the party to navigate the forest safely despite some delays.

During the walk, the PCs also hear occasional crunching and rustling sounds around them, but upon inspection, they find nothing. They initially explain this away as merely more distracting illusions.

On, No, You Arachdidn't

When the party finally approaches the Temple itself, they find a cadre of demons working over the wards surrounding the Temple ruins. The demons haven’t managed to breach the protections so far. When Maleos inspects the area using arcane sight, he notices that the demons and the Usurper are constructing a massive antimagical attack ritual that may be able to breach the defenses, but construction of just the initial spike will take hours at a minimum. In the meantime, the hallowed ground of the Temple itself is generally safe from their ravages, as it prevents them from directly entering the grounds and turns back some of their spells.

The party decides to unleash an ambush in an attempt to bring down at least some of the demons. Upon this, the Usurper triggers his second contingent ritual. A flood of purple-black snakes numbering in the thousands burst forth from the forest to swarm towards the party. As soon as this happens, the adventurers hear the crunchy rustling around themselves as well, in a manner that implies that the snakes are going to flood up from the ground right at their feet. When they turn, though, they instead find an army of swarming spiders, including some flickering, pale spiders that stand nearly 6’ off the ground on horrendously-long legs. These spiders swarm around the party, providing a physical barrier between the snakes and the party.

These demons are working with the Usurper in an attempt to take down the temple.

Deòrsa

This lady with the body of a snake looks very much like the statue Maleos saw in Sundtar Agamm. Her humanoid body is not much larger than a human’s, perhaps the same height as a very tall human male. Her snake body, however, is easily 20’ long. She holds a different weapon in each of her four arms – a spear, a mace, a sword, and a forked dagger.

Botros Albaf

This avatar of Bostros is a gemstone shaped like a feminine dharven but significantly larger, nearly 10' tall. Her heart and circulatory system are ruby and are clearly visible through her clear-diamond flesh. She has small star sapphires where her eyes should be and an opal brain.

Koç

This demon appears to be a slim copper skeleton wreathed in iron chains. The chains flit and whirl about its form as it darts about. The party had not heard of this demon before, but he or she appears to be magically weaker than the others, casting few spells and primarily physically attacking.

Grrn

Grrn is a large reptilian, perhaps 15’ tall, with a long, powerful jaw full of sharp tearing teeth. He has no weapons, but his hands are tipped with large, sharp, black claws that gleam with an oily moisture.

Usurper Avatar

This figure wears a heavy cloak and, beneath it, a leather mask and leather gloves. No part of the figure’s body shows from under its heavy clothing. It stands merely 5’ tall but appears heavily built.

Temple, Temple

Once the team has made it to the relative safety of the Temple, the spiders flee and the demons outside redouble their efforts to take down the wards. The PCs have the roam of the Temple for at least a few hours before the wards will begin to fall.

The Veined Altar

This altar sits in front of the statue of Perai Luun in the first room of the temple. It is a simple stone altar shot through with silver veins. Diamonds have been set into the stone in a simple pattern. The altar is tied in to the initial blockades that prevent people from entering the temple without the barest amount of knowledge about Perai Luun. After examining the altar and comparing it to information in the Lost Scrolls, the party pieces together the proper ritual. Performing the ritual deactivates the scintillating rainbow wall that was blocking the only other hallway out of the main room of the temple.

The Statue of Perai Luun

This statue depicts Perai Luun on one knee, looking up at the stars. The statue is molded from a solid block of silver and stands 8’ tall. The statue bears only a short set of runes in a language that Saul cannot read. Casting a read magic spell allows Maleos to translate the runes. The engraving reads “Perai Luun, Brother, Hero, and Martyr. Forever Lighting the Way.” Maleos's arcane sight also reveals that the statue is guarded with a powerful ward that will activate if the statue is touched by anyone. Darias then inspects it carefully, finding a hidden tunnel underneath the kneeling figure. The tunnel is only large enough for a Tiny or smaller creature. If explored carefully, the tunnel leads to a small switch hidden underground that, when activated, releases the latch on a very well-concealed secret door behind the statue.

Perai Sol in Eclipse

Hidden behind the secret panel stands a golden statue of Perai Sol in anguish, head to the heavens, a pained look on his face. The statue is very similar in design to the statue of Perai Luun and is deliberately positioned so that the light from the temple room will never naturally fall upon it. When Darias raises his hammer's glow to the statue, veins of gold swim to the surface of the Veined Altar as the silver veins recede. The altar's offering bowls also rearrange themselves to the form of a new ritual, a ritual of appeasement similar to the Sunbreak ritual (different in its specifics, but similar in concept). Doing so does nothing immediately obvious, but closer inspection of the magical radiances in the room reveal that the ritual has disarmed various other traps hidden throughout the Temple.

When the party and Saul lay eyes on the statue of Perai Sol, the following vision flashes within their minds.

Pelor's Vision of the Battle

Your vision greys, and then a new perspective on the world snaps into place. You find yourself crouching atop a cliff. You’re periodically scanning the middle distance; clearly, you’re on lookout for something, an imminent danger of some sort. A couple hundred yards to your left, you feel the presence of another, but you are not concerned – you know it is your brother on lookout with you.
You crouch patiently, ignoring the nervous tension in your chest and the burning in your legs. You cannot risk movement despite the cloaking magics you can feel wreathing your body. Hours pass, maybe even days, but you do not move.
The moment comes. You see the Farwalker pelting toward you through the forest; before you even see it, you know the void pursues. Unlike him, the Farwalker stumbles, but it turns out to be another example of his damnable luck; just as he does, the void lashes out and just misses tearing his arm off, just slicing into his shoulder instead. He dives, tumbles, and bounds out of the way, somehow picking up a final burst of speed as he approaches the cliff. You feel your brother tense despite the distance between you, and as one, you leap down from the cliff. Your form melts into that of an eagle, and your brother’s into that of an owl. Working together, you grasp with your talons and find the threads of the spell woven in the air before you. Together you beat your wings, hard, as hard as you ever have. Just as you feel you can take no more strain, reality tears below you and a gulf opens in the cliff face. The two of you dive and whip the reality-net behind the void just before it rears back. It crashes into the barrier of raw substance, throwing the two of your to the ground violently; you just manage to tuck, turn back, and roll, recovering your once-again human legs.
Your brother stands faster than you, your heavier frame slowing your recovery. As you are rolling to your feet, you see the void crashing at you, flailing at you. A form collides with your side – your brother – and you tumble again, fighting for your feet. You feel the fire of a cut on your arm but shrug it off and heft your heavy morningstar in front of you, quickly parrying the tendrils that lash out at you. You glance to your side and see your brother with his hooked knifes following suit, but he’s slowed; dark black blood is oozing from a ragged hole in the back of his silvery feather-scaled armor. Your anger flares, taking the pain and the exhaustion from your body as you invoke your morning light and blast the void before you. It retreats into the cave, and you pursue, calling for your brother to fall back; but he ignores you as always, and you feel his presence low beside you, a whirling barrier of blades cutting aside blows meant for you as your magics force the void back, back into the cavern, back toward the trap.
Time blurs forward; vague memories of battle quickly pass through your head. Then, a sudden crash, a trap sprung, and the battle is over. You stand panting as your brother beside you coughs out in a voice raspy with pain and exhaustion, “It is done! Begin the ritual!” The droning voices of the reality-weavers rise as you drop to your knees at your brother’s side. Now, with no battle to focus your attention, you can see the gaping hole under his left side, the poison-frothing wound that is clearly beyond even your ability to mend. He shakes his head before you can apologize, before you can say anything. “Don’t. I made my choice.”
The drone of voices rises in volume, then suddenly falls. More friends rush over to you. You are aware of their presence, but you can’t take your eyes from your brother. “I can’t… it’s…” The Shadowsage and the Oathkeeper are conferring quietly as the Sky and the Sea help you tend to your brother as best you can. Suddenly the Shadowsage is at your side. “Be calm, Lightbringer, and listen to me. You and your brother have done much for us all. Let us speak to your brother alone, just for a moment. You may not be able to save him, but perhaps there is something we can do for him.”
The vision snaps to black and you find yourself woozily still standing, still staring at the statue you have just uncovered. Khalil is still finishing the sentence he’d started when the door first swung open; apparently, no time has passed since the vision began for you.

Braziers

These large braziers are filled with a pile of rubies that emanate a warm, flickering firelight. When the party deactivates the traps throughout the Temple, they also detect that the magic in the braziers was laced with evocation traps that would have triggered if they had crossed the inner threshold without first appeasing the Temple guardians.

Secret Door

Upon close inspection of the south wall of the main room, Darias notices an extremely fine seam in this wall, as fine as the best dharven stonework he's ever seen. There is a small hatch that opens to reveal a complicated locking mechanism, its inner workings concealed from view by an armored shell. There are two keyholes. A careful manipulation of the mechanism allows Darias to slide this second secret door open, revealing a secret corridor.

The Hidden Sage

Hidden behind the secret door is an altar to Bautista (Olidammara). The altar holds an obsidian bowl cupped in Bautista’s hands; faint decorative patterns can be seen in the obsidian, but only from some angles when the light catches it just right. The patterns are completely inside the obsidian, not detectable by running a finger along the bowl or anything similar. The patterns have no verbal meaning but are tied to the Ritual of Secrets. Reluctantly, the party commits to the ritual.
Once the ritual is complete, the hands of Bautista to reach inside the altar (through the stone) and reveal a secret in return.
Performing the ritual properly causes Bautista to bring forth a small, delicately-detailed silver moon. This should have been the end of the ritual, but the party members who have the amulet given to them by Rido feel a slight tingling as Bautista pulls a second silver token out of the altar, this one a token of a book bound with a golden lock. Both radiate dormant magic but appear to have no immediate use.

The Secrets

  1. Thema: "When I was a young girl, I almost always stole away from my duties to spy on the male-only games just so that I could ogle all the nude boys."
  2. Klementyna: "I still have not fully forgiven Thema for Carbry's and Salvatrix's deaths."
  3. Khalil: "I still steal things in almost every town we enter despite promising Thema I would stop. I have tried many times, but I cannot. The best I can do is return most of what I do steal."
  4. Carbry: "I fear I'll never love again after Augustus."
  5. Salvatrix: "I don't think anyone understands me or even knows what I am. I know that I don't."
  6. Yoshirou-Mura: "I only joined with you all at the beginning because I was tasked to spy on you for the Queen."
  7. Finnbarre: I can never be a suitable match for Yoshiou-Mura because my family has been ostracized."
  8. Saul: "I have not told my companions a great deal of the things I have remembered, and based on my knowledge I do not believe we will all get out of this alive."
  9. Aida: "I collect new travelling companions and pets because doing so is easier than trying to build a relationship with my obnoxious older brother."
  10. Darias: "I cannot remember what my father's face looks like."
  11. Maleos: "Thanks to my actions, Thema can assuredly find the Isle, and I cannot stop her short of killing her."

Traps in the Secret Corridor

There are three narrow slits in the wall of the secret corridor. There are both physical and magical traps aimed down the hallway, but they have been disabled.

The World-Anchor

After following a twisting hallway, the party passes by a large golden column covered with runes. The column runs from floor to ceiling and appears to channel a vast torrent of mana through it. The PCs learn that one name for this phenomenon is a World-Anchor. These are essentially very localized mana vortices that dive deep into the planet. They may carry as much energy as something like The Maelstrom but over a much smaller surface area. The temple seems to tap into this World-Anchor to power some of the machinery within.

The Globe in the next room is displaying the locations of mana channels like the World-Anchors, the Doldrums, the Malestrom, and similar when the PCs enter.

The Workroom

The final room in the Temple is a workroom of sorts filled with various mechanical constructs. The largest and most complex is surrounded by a vast control panel covered in hundreds of controls and dozens of slots. The party finds that the Compass will fit snugly into one of these; the book token into another. The moon token, however, does not appear to fit anywhere.

A gemstone-laden globe sits on a nearby plinth. Various indicators on the globe show the locations of powerful mana sources and sinks, some of which the party has seen or even visited, and some that are unknown to them.

With some experimentation, the party realizes that placing the moon in orbit around the globe reveals the location of the Isle an the Bridge that leads to it. Slotting the tome into the control panel then activates a new beacon-light in Brightmill. Finally, by placing both Compasses in the Compass slot and allowing Thema and Maleos to coordinate their intentions, the party builds a ritual arrangement for a ritual similar to the one they saw Iealdith performing but, in essence sort of backwards.

Casting the ritual allows the party to begin to send a message to the Celestial plane, but as they start to do so a vast amount of unexpected power is dumped into the ritual; without the mitigating control of the two Hammers, the Temple surely would have exploded. The party manages to hold things together long enough, though, and the ritual completes successfully, though all of the party members are driven unconscious by manaburn.

Judge Not

The entirety of the Temple seems to explode in a searing white burst of frozen heat, and when the whiteout fades, the three original party members find themselves in a long banquet hall filled with feasting revelers. At the far end sits a black throne and a shining silver scales with a literal heart of gold resting gently in one of the pans.

The Islanders take a few minutes to look around and take in their situation, but they are now alone. Food appears, but they do not eat; momentarily, a particularly lithe kobalai shade approaches them. He seems jovial enough but does not speak, only gesturing for them to follow him quietly. Once they do, he leads them up toward the throne but turns before climbing the dais to skirt around behind it. He then lifts a thin, translucent amulet from around his neck and slides it into a nearly-invisible slot behind the throne. When he does, they hear a soft click and feel a cold breeze as the wall slides open, exposing a long, curved hallway with a bright light at the end. He gestures for them to go ahead through and closes the door behind them when they do, but he refuses to answer any questions or even speak.

Darias and Aida generally follow his direction, but Maleos resists for as long as he can find reasons to. He tries and fails to interact with shades, and he cuts himself on a blade stolen from the table of the banquet hall. He even tries with some limited success to cast a few spells. In the end, though, all of the Islanders pass from the Halls of Judgement and into the Celestial Throne Room.

Interview With the All-Fire

The party finds themselves in a room of indeterminate shape and size. It seems to be at once open and closed, large and small, bright and dark, After a moment of complete disorientation, the room shifts to appear to be a round room something like a hundred yards in diameter. The party is currently standing in the center, and there are 8 large thrones ringing the room in the far, far distance. Upon each throne sits a god, and each god is surrounded by many demons and shades bringing items and messages to and fro. The party notes that each god seems to favor one type of shade primarily:

  1. Boccob: daeva
  2. Ehlonna: aelphin
  3. Erythnul: orcs
  4. Fharlanghn: kobalai
  5. Heironyous: zwallen
  6. Hextor: dharven
  7. Olidammara: small, blue-furred, two-tailed monkey-creatures with odd prehensile feet
  8. Pelor: humans

As a party member turns to look at any given throne, a step seems to take them a mile closer to the throne so that a few steps places them directly at the feet of that god. When not paying attention to the PCs, each god seems to be a superposition of thousands of instances running thousands of activities: sitting, fighting, talking, eating, and so on. The gods are also of indeterminate height, seeming both vastly taller than the party as well as merely a large example of their selected race. When a god focuses on a party member, he or she instantly transforms to appear as the hearth aspect of their representation from the Isle, though that aspect can change depending on the actions of the party member with which that god is interacting.

The first god to acknowledge the party is Pelor, and he thanks them for their service but warns them that they have little time here that will end with a critical decision they must make together. A far calmer-looking Braelyn than the party has yet seen sits beside him, a crown of magma adorning her smoldering head. The gods themselves never directly address a party member, despite the fact that they are clearly paying attention when the PCs talk. Instead, one random shade from the veritable cloud of them surrounding the god will come forward with the answer. The shade moves forward to the PC, acknowledges them, and speaks in first person as if they were the god, answering in the god’s words.

Pelor tells the party that he and the other gods have gathered here to speak with them and that they may ask questions as they desire, but he warns them to choose their questions wisely. “Within a matter of time woefully short even to you mortals” the gods must finish repairing the damage that has been caused, which means they’ll have to decide just what to do with the party members in the process.

I'll Now Take Some Questions From the Audience

With Pelor's short introduction to the situation behind them, the party is allowed to ask a few questions of any of the gods.

"Please explain why it is so important that Thema visit the Isle." (Maleos to Pelor)

"You have the books and the stories, but you didn't read and understand them. The humans made a great sacrifice. They chose to sacrifice their own power, their own selfish interests, in the name of protecting the universe. Humans have been fragmented, separated, and weakened for many thousands of years. Thema's contact with the Isle will allow that wound to heal, allow humans to regain some of the strength they sacrificed to keep us all safe."

"How much ability we'll have to remember that purpose and do something about it? Our allies killed her because they thought she was a Demon because she didn't look like an Isler, therefore didn't look human. And yes, we helped kill her in that fight. But we were children at the time. Rank amateurs, backed up by the Real Army." (Maleos to Pelor)

"We are well aware of the misunderstanding caused by and contributing to the current problems. We do not know how your religious teachings became so corrupted, though we reason that there must be saboteurs among the population that went to the Isle or were turned later. We will provide you with information that, given continued action on your part as we have seen in the past, should allow you to mitigate the situation. Neither you nor we wish to see her die in that way again."

"Will she still be dying from argia poisoning when she arrives? We managed to heal her the last time by using your com… uh… the Librarian. Is there any way for us to help her ourselves if she shows up with that sickness?" (Darias to Pelor)

"Thema was already on the path to heal herself when you came across her. She must reconstruct the Librarian and find the World-Anchor in order to locate Isle. Do not take this lightly, however; your actions surely accelerated her recovery considerably and spared her much agony. And if it will further lighten the weight on your mind, know this: many of the hardships faced by Thema and hers were made all the worse by the… appendages of the Usurper on the scales. With this brought to our attention, we can at least set that right without upsetting causality overmuch."

"When you reset time, will Salvatrix and Carbry still die? Could we still bring them back?" (Darias to Pelor)

"We cannot see the future truly, and so all I can tell you is that each mortal's life is in his or her own hands. All who chose to travel with Thema in support of her quest did so knowing full well that their journey might result in their untimely deaths. Will Salvatrix and Carbry still die? I cannot say for certain. But again, I can tell you that the scales that once tipped against her will be rebalanced in favor of a considerably fairer outcome. Odd though it may be for me to say it of a mortal, I have faith in her determination to keep those around her safe. And to completely answer your question, restoration of a soul in transition to its mortal frame is, obviously, not beyond the abilities of powerful mortal spellcasters, but much depends on the circumstances, especially the soul's desire to return or move on."

"Is My Father Here?" (Darias to Nerull)

Nerull shakes its head and hands Darias a clear glass plate of some sort. As soon as Darias touches the plate, he sees an image as though scrying. A youngish Mieran officer in a survolier is inspecting his men after a battle, giving them a congratulatory speech and praising them for their fine actions. He dismisses them to rest and recuperate, then returns to his duties in caring for his own equipment. Despite the fact that he does not look familiar, Darias recognizes this as a reincarnation of his father. open question - did Aida choose to look at this scene as well?

"Do you mean to say that you have picked through the entire universe and destroyed every single Usurper worm that was infesting it? And that that activity upsets causality less or uses less mana or something… it *costs you less* than just appearing to the High Priests on Isle and telling them to let Thema in?" (Maleos to Pelor)

"No, we haven't destroyed the appendages of the Usurper that have reached out of the prison, nothing so complete. But now that the opened window has been slammed shut again, we can redeploy many of the armies that were busied there to instead fight the Usurper and push it back towards its prison. And, as I said, the prison is specifically designed such that we cannot enter it, so we cannot appear to the High Priests of you Isle. Not without breaking the prison."

"I don't mean physically. I mean, like… okay, my understanding is, Divinations work by basically pulling information From You Guys. So… for example, the next forty or fifty times someone from Isle asks you a question, just do like a Contingency to send a secondary response along the lines of 'You are making a terrible mistake. The Stormwall Must have a Gate. The Humans of Isle must reunite with the Humans Across.' I said it in Isler just now. Send those sounds my mouth and throat just made, verbatim." (Maleos to Pelor)

"Your understanding of divinations is incomplete. It is not a conversation as such. The question is posed, and depending upon how it is asked, the answer comes from various sources. Only very rarely does a divination reach our ears directly, and never from the prison. We are cut off from it, again by design. And even if we were not, the pathway taken by the divination restricts the flow of information in both directions."

(Maleos, response to previous) "For the rest of my time here, read my mind if you're not already. If I think of anything remotely useful, please feel free to extrapolate on it and use it."

*gets out Big Book O' Conspiracy Theories and starts muttering to himself and throwing wild conjectures at himself to see what sticks*

Obviously the bigger spells Saul was using… but the information goes through somehow… indirect… relayed through one or more intermediaries… living agents? helpers? automatons? Probably a combination. Routing definitely feels arbitrary. Probably by design. If you don't know who's asking or who's answering, it becomes harder for one god to cheat the system… But all the Gods are grouped into two classes on this issue. Loyalists and Turncoats. What if all the Loyalists instruct their portion of the Divination network to answer in this fashion? Instead of fifty responses, make it ten per God. That way even if the Turncoats append the exact opposite message, the intended message would be appended more than 50% of the time. But this is expensive, in terms of attention and delegation. Would it be more or less expensive, in terms of Causality Erosion, to have carved this message in stone into Isle itself? Say behind a cliff face that will wear away when the waves hit it just right on such and such a day? I'm a little fuzzy on how they could rework the causality of the Prison without directly influencing the contents of the Prison… could it be that Time is the only thing they can directly control? They did say linear time is a cheat to allow them to build defenses against the Outsiders. Like a minecart rigged up to only roll in one direction. What if 100% of their intra-prison activities are done through Fragments and intermediaries? Hmmm. But wait, why send Thema when you could send a Fragment? Just send Thema and Saul together, that way Saul can Translate… maybe they did that in the first place, that's why the Usurper destroyed Saul's memory… hmmm… but the Tendrils of the Usurper are still there, so that part will definitely still happen…. unlesss… what if a whole army from some kingdom accompanies Saul? But then… that would definitely look like an invasion to the people of Isle… if the Islers' Godshammers are wielded as effective as Aida's, they might bash their way through an entire army, burn all the bodies, and still not hear word one from the Outside… it's complicated by the fact that Comprehend Language and Tongues are unknown spells since the people of Isle all speak one language… the whole concept is foreign to us… and nobody on the outside speaks Isler… possibly Ancient Meirans could get a few words across, but are any currently alive who speak it that way? And if the Usurper could stop Saul, doing the same thing to a regular trade expedition would be trivially easy…" *grunts* *continues until he runs out of time or ideas*

"Divinations aren't… routed arbitrarily, not in the way you're thinking. There are areas of specialization that play in to the routing, sort of. Since your mental model isn't wholly accurate."

"As for causality and completing the loop, we cannot reset that far, and directly manipulating the Prison would defeat it, so modifying the Isle itself is a non-starter. You are, however, partially correct regarding Saul. We couldn't send him to the Isle, but he was to see Thema Across. The Usurper prevented that, but in doing so it made it known that it had effected a partial escape, setting in motion everything that led the three of you (and your cadre) to contact us. I cannot speak to the sufficiency of the Stormwall; since we cannot perceive the Prison directly, I do not know how much knowledge has been lost. The language barrier, it is an issue, but not one that we believe will cause you additional trouble - after all, the three of you are capable of speaking other languages, and should you provide even a modicum of protection for Thema, we trust that she has the intelligence to have prepared spells for the contingency that she needs to communicate with you."

"Thema will remember something even though we won't, right?" (Maleos to Pelor)

"We'll provide her with what guidance we can, just as we will do with you. Limited, of course, by how much we can safely reform things to keep History and Reality relatively intact."

"What's the worst-case scenario if you botch it? Scale of 1 to 10. 1 is some people go 'Hey wait a minute our history books are inaccurate,' 10 is 'Everything Explodes,' 100 is 'The Usurper Gets Out.' " (Maleos to Pelor)

"100+"

Oh and speaking of Turncoats, you guys did something about the Snake Lady, the Ice Queen, the Crystal Construct and soforth, right? You know from our memories that their Fragments were fighting alongside the Usurper.

"Some, like Deorsa and Salena, have retreated or been banished to their own homes; we have not yet dealt with them and have little ability to do so easily unless and until they return to more public grounds. The others are being dealt with as we deal with the Usurper itself; we are redeploying our armies as we speak. As for more direct intervention, it will be done if necessary once the stitches of Reality have set."

"Out of all the gods and demons, devices and constructs, fragments and prophecies, you seemed to answer my strangest questions the most succinctly and directly. Why does Pelor disagree with what your Fragment told me? Whose house is this?" (Maleos to Nerull)

(After Maleos clarified what he's talking about). "No disagreement. From the old house, a new door opened, a new house built in cooperation of a sort. The old still exists in this singular, but this new could not without the plural."

"What happens to us if we die here? I kinda am surprised we have physical bodies here." (Maleos to Pelor)

"Easy. You're not dead. If you were dead, you wouldn't have had physical bodies, but you found a way to contact us without dying. If you were to die here, which we would vastly prefer you didn't, then you would return to the Halls of Judgement as a soul and be judged, unless someone intervened."

"It's so weird that meat and metal appear to work the same way here as they do in our world. I kind of expected the whole… physical… epxerience was an artiface. How can it be Always Better Here if Here uses the same physical laws as back home? Like… what's with that scale, for example? It's like a big complicated metaphysical thing, right, and it just looks like a scale to us. Right? It can't actually literally be a machine to see how much our souls weigh, can it? But if not, how could Dare fix it…?" *still astonished and a little disappointed that Dare apparently didn't cheat when he fixed it* (Maleos to Pelor)

"Oh, it doesn't work the same way. Your senses just can't really understand what you're seeing, so they sort of defensively translate for you. What do you see when you look at us through the corner of your eye? I imagine it's not what you see when you pay attention to us, not entirely at least. There are layers you can't see because you can't understand them. When you can understand them, then you're… well, in your cases, you'd no longer be human."

Short Conversation between Maleos and Pelor

Maleos: *examined the knife he stole from the table, then kinda looks at it out of the corner of his eye*
It's a knife. But it's not made out of any material you're familiar with.
Maleos: "Can I trade you my belt for this knife? I suspect I could fuck up a lot of Usurper Tendrils with a knife like this…"
Pelor: "If only that were so. That knife would be relatively useless against the Usurper. It's nothing overtly magical or anything, not in the way you might think. It's from the dining hall. The merahu and the dhaeve make them to train as weaponsmakers; the edge is extremely fine yet hard enough not to curl easily. Brittle, though; too brittle for weapons. But much cheaper."
Maleos: *disappointment* "Hmmm. But. The point is, I've never seen anything like it before. It's unique. That makes it inherently valuable anyplace people don't already know how to make knives like this."
Pelor: "Valuable? Sure. Just not for weaponry. But you can't keep it, exactly because of what you said. Contamination. If you want it, you'll have to develop it yourselves."

"But then how did Dare fix the scale? Did he do the whole thing watching out of the corner of his eye? How did he understand what he was working on? If the magics of this place were just translating the entire thing into a metaphor he would understand, why couldn't the people who wove that spell have just fixed the scale?" (Maleos to Nerull)

"A metaphor from the old stories presented to a limited mind with a ill-grasped goal. No scale broken, no Hall visited, but a parallel place with a parallel purpose. Not to send along but to return."

"What's your angle?" (Maleos, glancing to Olidammara)

"Obtuse."

Welp, Time to Be Hitting the Old Dusty Trial

After a short time, the Gods present the party with a choice:

  1. We can return you to the Isle. You will be able to continue your lives to a large degree as if they had not been interrupted by your quest. You'll once again be with your family and friends. But we will ask you to help us resolve the original situation that caused much of this mess, including bringing Thema to the Isle safely.
  2. Alternatively, we can essentially promote you. You've already proven your worth to a large degree. If you sign on with us - Aida with Heironyous, Darias with Hextor, and Maleos with Fharlanghn - we will make you full demigods. In return, we ask that you help us put right what the saboteurs have broken in Reality. Also, as an unfortunate side effect, you'll never be able to return home.

Maleos argues, provoking some ire from Pelor. With some discussion, though, the party essentially unanimously decides to return home, see their families again, essentially choosing family and friendship over power. As soon as the decision is made, the gods nod to the PCs and the world once again fades from the PCs' views.


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