Taking advantage of their singular set of circumstances, Rarnok and Azravan sent themselves through the folds of reality into the Bag of Holding housing the mate to Dokari’s Crystal Ball, the item they would need to undo the soul sundering magics of the Aspect of Torment. With this “coveted crystal” exchanged for a free-flowing Decanter of Endless Water, the Circle moved to the outskirts of Ldamven – to the crumbling tower of Argenon Remel… where Torment was waiting for them.
Though explosive and terrifying to behold, the resulting battle ended with the best possible outcome, allowing the victorious Circle to retrieve the black sapphire gem that held the physical form of Dokari Rolendar. The destruction of the sphere and gem enabled her True Resurrection and permitted the Party to safely conduct the ritual to restore Argenon Remel and destroy the Aspect of Torment. His intimate knowledge of the gateway constructed beneath Korem would be vitally important in the days ahead…
Pelsday, Sixteenth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Still located in the meeting chamber of the once-lost temple of Brovadol, the Party paid close attention as Argenon related details of the gateway underneath Korem, and the events that would transpire in the final days before the solstice. Comprised of numerous suspended and descending platforms and chambers, the gateway also served as a conduit for spiritual energy, funneling faith from the Church of Endless Night and The Dark One’s other worshippers to the lowermost platform.
Remel continued that as any theologian could attest, the strength of the gods grew with the number of their worshippers, and as such their churches were crucial in spreading their influence and cultivating followers. In order to weaken Bleslelna to the point where he could overpower her and swallow the sun, Manfred would have to destroy the Assembly of Light, or at least cripple it beyond repair. This was the basis behind the original Time of the Void writings in the Book of Endless Night.
To that end, the last several months had been spent not only on the dual invasion, but also in spurring the many congregations of the Church of Endless Night across Tellene into confrontation with the Order of Light. The actions of the “Dark Lady” Guldella Olmlor back in Bolnven; of Tordal and the hobgoblins in Almven; even the mobs of faithful in the hamlet of Evlden bypassed by the Group as they headed to the Voldorwoods. All had been acting under pressure from religious superiors.
Elsewhere on the world, similar activities had been unfolding as well, with varying degrees of success. The dissemination of this call to action was as a crucible for the faithful, a test of their readiness to serve The Dark One. The weak would fail and be culled from the ranks, while the strong would succeed and further the goals of their god. The Time of the Void was not something worshippers could sit back and wait for, they had to prove themselves worthy by doing their part to bring it about.
Though the countless minor engagements had not destroyed the Assembly of Light thus far, they had provoked the enemy Church into gathering many of their most senior clerics to their faith’s holy seat in Zoa to discuss the situation. This conclave served to place the majority of the Order of Light’s hierarchy in one location – that being in the path of destruction that would be visited upon them by the same beast which had decimated much of Cosdol by way of a massive tidal wave.
Suspected by locals as having been some manner of magical attack, the great wave that had emerged from the Voldor Bay had in fact been caused by a creature; one of immense proportions that had been set into motion by Manfred himself. What was dubbed a “magical attack” had actually been more of a test run of the scope of the monster’s destructive capability. It had also helped to separate Cosdol’s north, containing a large following of the Church of Endless Night; from the south, which was chiefly dominated by other, more good-aligned faiths.
The creature, known only as the Eyes of the Deep originated in the darkest depths of the Brandobian Ocean, in waters uncharted by the humans of Tellene. As god of darkness, Manfred was capable of exerting control over creatures that dwelled in the crushing blackness that existed in the deepest waters of the world. With the leadership of Bleslelna’s faithful collected in Zoa, the Eyes of the Deep would now destroy them in one fell swoop, crippling the Assembly of Light beyond repair.
With his tale completed, Argenon took to creating a blueprint of the gateway while the Circle prepared for a hasty departure. The Assembly of Light had to be warned, and their clerics moved out of harm’s way. They bid Remel be as exact as possible with his drawings and blinked out of the room, using Azravan’s Greater Teleport to arrive in the markets of Zoa, where he had come just days before to procure his golem from the woman Ziliana Abeilua.
The people of Zoa, possessing no knowledge of the intended destruction that was en route to their city, went about their normal activities. Minor comments could be heard here or there regarding the unrest of the Bay’s waters, but all of the speakers remained blind to the significance of their observations. The Group raced through the city streets, entering the Coins District and coming at last to the Circle of the Gods, right on the water’s edge.
As its name implied, the Circle of the Gods was a large plaza containing cathedrals to numerous deities, including the holy seat of the Assembly of Light. A quartet of paladins kept vigil over the cathedral’s entry, wise guardians who quickly sent for a superior when told the reason for the Party’s arrival. Moments later the Group was shown inside, where they offered warning to Miaroo Xookaer, the High Lantern of the Order of Light, and the other ranking clerics in attendance.
While certainly concerned for their own safety and the continuation of their faith in the hearts of men, the assembled clerics sought to avert widespread devastation that – even if unsuccessful in crippling their order – would doubtless cost many thousands of Reanaarian, Elven and Halfling lives. Additionally, even if each and every cleric were to escape, the ruin of their most sacred temple would surely be a detriment to the side of good in the conflict.
Agreeing to make an attempt to turn the beast away, the Circle of Exarchs waited anxiously while the clerics readied a sea-worthy vessel and gathered a crew, which included a number of volunteers from the church who would assist in battling the deadly monster. As the ship exited the harbor, Xookaer and the hierarchy began the evacuation of as many clerics as possible, and sent word to the city’s Council of Elders of the looming threat.
The Reanaaria Bay, already known to be the home of various gargantuan creatures of malicious disposition, grew in turbulence as the distance between the ship and the safety of the ports became larger. Alamir took the time to direct a Sending spell to the druid Nilu. He inquired after any references to the Eyes of the Deep during the recent dealings with the water elemental Tide. Nilu replied moments later with no knowledge of the monster, but offered to converse with the primal elemental of water, Ocean – a counterpart to the likes of Granite and Inferno.
The remainder of the Group listened as the sailors spoke of the Xaaboemio Sea, a frightening body of water that lay beyond The Reanaaria Bay. Better known as the Sea of the Dead, the Xaaboemio was plagued with sudden and random whirlpools a hundred feet or more across and said to be the haunt of ghost ships manned by undead crews. If the Eyes of the Deep could come from a place like the Brandobian Ocean, what terrors lurked beneath cursed waters such as those.
Long hours passed before the Party finally caught sight of their target, or at least, the colossal wave that followed in its wake. Stretching across much of the visible horizon, the wall of water was unlike anything the sailors had seen. A gigantic barb jutted up from the surface, miles in front of the wave. Nearly twice the height of the sixty foot tall cathedral to Bleslelna back in Zoa, the barb gave the Circle its first glimpse at the enormity of their foe.
The surging waters became progressively difficult to navigate, and the rise and fall of the ship alarmed the Group, who knew that soon, falling overboard would likely become a very real possibility. Stoat grabbed a nearby coil of rope, tying one end around his waist and the other to the railing along the ship’s starboard side. At the vessel’s center, Azravan instructed his golem to pin him against the mast and hold on as tightly as it could.
Being nearest to the helm, Maldus took up position next to the wheel and encircled himself and the helmsman in a Wall of Thought. Even if the pair were to be jostled about violently, the Wall would prevent them from leaving the area. For his part, Alamir could only stare in disbelief at both the size of the creature they faced, and at the insanity that was Rarnok – who had perched himself at the forward-most spot on ship’s bow and now gestured to the barb.
The ship rocked heavily then, pushing the helmsman and Maldus against the Wall of Thought, and sending the wheel into a free spin that dashed their prior heading to clear the behemoth’s path. The Exarch of Selandi scrambled back onto his feet, and grasped the wheel with his full might, attempting to correct the ship’s altered course. The monster, as if sensing potential victims, increased its speed and came nearer to the surface, its new elevation sending a second barb up from the water.
Azravan thrust a tiny arm over his construct’s shoulder, launching a Fireball spell against the closer barb. The explosion lit the darkening sky but did little to deter the beast or slow its movement. As Maldus and the helmsman fought to steer the ship off of the collision course it was presently on, the Party made what few attacks it could before the two sides met. Loosing a last arrow, Stoat dove as far as his line allowed from the railing as the first barb caught the starboard front quarter.
The impact shook the boat like an earthquake and threw everyone aboard onto the deck. Momentum carried the closer barb clear through the craft, its forward facing tapered edge acting like a knife. Lines and sailcloth from the ship’s rigging quickly became tangled with smaller spines on the top and rear-facing sides of the barb, rotating the vessel partially and dragging it at an odd angle as the Eyes of the Deep continued in the direction of Zoa.
Recovering swiftly, Maldus used his Dimension Stride Boots, passing through his Wall of Thought and into close proximity of as many of his comrades as he could. He exerted his magic to gift them with Water Walk, catching himself, Stoat and Alamir with the effect. Stoat returned to his feet and lept off of the boat’s ruined side, taking the line of rope with him. Pained shouts from the fast-flooding lower deck caught his ears, and the Halfling Exarch moved toward them.
From the ship’s bow, Rarnok raced toward the barb holding the craft hostage and swung his blade mightily. The thick skin of the beast yielded only slightly, and the Gnome knew he was in for a lengthy battle. Alamir made a move for the barb as well, but was cut short by the emergence of several tendrils bursting up from the planks of the deck. He shielded Maldus and nearby crewmen with his divine gifts and turned The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade onto the newest threat.
Azravan ordered his automaton into the fray and was immediately pleased at the effect of the many runes and wards he had placed upon it days before. As a nearby tendril struck the golem, the wards erupted with damaging magics, even managing to stun the Eyes momentarily. Though still carried onward by inertia, the pace of the approach toward Zoa was slowed. If the Group acted fast, they could use the creature’s size against it.
With only seconds before the stunning effect of the rune wore off, Rarnok placed a debilitating Wall of Shadows atop the far side of the closest barb. As he had done with the mind-controlled storm giant Oralon months before, he would endeavor to drain the creature’s strength to sufficiently decrepit levels so as to render it unable to carry its own mass. The magic was not permanent, and would last a handful of days at best, but with luck, it would be long enough to push the beast’s recovery past the solstice deadline.
Meanwhile, in the lower decks, Stoat had rendered what aid he was able to, and now moved to the barb and the boat’s exterior again. He stopped briefly to peer under the water’s surface, attempting to discern what the Eyes might look like as a whole. Once done he continued onward, joining in to assist Rarnok with additional temporary strength drains. Though no longer stunned by that point, the creature had been drained of much vitality.
The renewed attacks of the tendrils, though lessened, still managed to keep Maldus busy. He used what spare seconds he had to summon Spiritual Weapons against the Eyes and evaded the tendril strikes as best he could. Further from the barb, Azravan closed his eyes and made steady, deliberate movements as he spoke the words of a spell. Despite being of unfathomable size, the Eyes of the Deep was still a creature – with a mind. As was evident by The Dark One’s compulsion, that mind could be commanded… if he could just overcome it’s will.
A silent, underlying battle for mental domination played itself out underneath the sword and spell slinging exterior. The beast was tired, drained of energy and under multiple forms of attack. Azravan impressed on the creature that it didn’t want to continue, it was growing weary. To the south there would be rest, it wanted to go south, it needed to go south. Finally, after several more pregnant moments, he commanded it… “Turn South”.
The broken ship lurched roughly as the Eyes complied with the order, pitching as part of a wide gradual turn. The movement stretched the rigging past its breaking point, rending the sailcloth and snapping lines. As the barb leaned and began to descend, Alamir and Rarnok lept onto it and held themselves fast while hacking and chopping with their blades. Their necklaces of adaptation would prevent them from drowning, and they intended to do as much damage as possible.
No longer tethered to the Eyes, and unable to stay afloat in light of the structural damage and copious amounts of on-taken water, the ship began a graceless and immediate sink. Stoat, Maldus and Azravan used their Water Walk and Flight to collect those sailors who had not perished, and the wizard made Teleportation trips back to Zoa. With the “rescue effort” well in hand, Stoat dove beneath the waves, seeking to join his allies
The trio of Exarchs assaulted the murky form of the Eyes of the Deep for a time as it sank, eventually satisfied that if they did not kill it, which was entirely possible, that at least they had dealt it sufficient injuries to reduce its effectiveness. That combined with the temporary loss of strength would hopefully be enough to put the beast out of commission until the solstice had passed and the Time of the Void had been averted.
As the Eyes of the Deep faded into the blackened depths, Rarnok Teleported them back to the once-lost temple of Brovadol, knowing full well that Azravan would be able to bring himself and Maldus to them. Stoat cursed the loss of his Immovable Rod, it now being located somewhere between The Reanaaria Bay and the Sea of the Dead. Still, it had been a productive day. Tomorrow, they would reunite with their allies, and see what damage the remnant of the tidal wave had caused.