Devoting a small portion of their limited time to recuperation inside the walls of Cosolen, the Circle made what preparations they could before setting out to tread the catacombs once walked by the evil god they presently opposed. The birthplace of the dark Aspects was a veritable spider’s web of residual unholy magic, wicked strands of shadow that sought to prevent the extraction of the final component for the Exarchs’ ritual… the original remains of the murdered heroes of old.
Following the recovery of the remains of Gonjeyla Sarazi and Argenon Remel, the Group returned to the once lost temple of Brovadol, where the carefully conducted ceremony to destroy the Aspect of Undeath was completed, restoring Gonjeyla to life. The joyous occasion provided new information to the Party, and prompted a series of inquiries that revealed the closest held secret of Dokari, the slain woman whose soul had been used to conceal the aura of Torment’s phylactery…
Diaday, Fifteenth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Speaking quickly, Azravan and Rarnok endeavored to explain their plan in layman terms to Dokari and the rest of the Party. In essence, the situation was as so: the mate to the crystal ball in their possession was kept inside a Bag of Holding being carried by a person they did not know who could be located virtually anywhere in the cosmos. Under normal circumstances, this would make acquisition of that item practically impossible, a likely intent of whomever carried it.
Typically, such spaces required specific means to enter, and thus were incapable of being accessed by anyone other than the bearer of that particular Bag of Holding. However, there was one unique condition in this particular case, that being the fact that Dokari – given her innate connection to the item in question – could see it by way of scrying, normally an impossibility. This permitted them a “windowed view” into the exact extradimensional space that the Bag opened into.
Given this singular set of circumstances, the pair theorized that they could access and even enter the extradimsional space via the Wish spell. Capable of permitting planar movement, Wish, though not specifically designed to transport them to the space possessing the second crystal ball, could take them to a space that they were able to see, or had seen before. In effect, they would be like a ship sailing toward a lighthouse beacon, otherwise blind, but guided by a pinprick of distant light.
With the explanation complete, Rarnok and Azravan made ready to leave. If things went according to plan, they would return moments later, with the crystal ball in their possession and the bearer of the Bag none the wiser, at least initially. As a precautionary measure, Rarnok entrusted the bulk of his equipment to Maldus, in case something went wrong. He then made a small detour before his trip through the ether – to the antiquities shop of Forberon.
A short time passed before Rarnok teleported back to the confines of the temple’s meeting hall, carrying an ordinary-looking flask with a stopper. Being permanently augmented with Arcane Sight, Azravan noted the item’s moderate transmutation aura, and gave the Gnome an inquisitive look before receiving an enthusiastic nod in return. The Halfling contained his mirth as best he could and spoke the words of his Wish spell, offering no explication to the Group. Evidently Rarnok intended to leave a calling card of sorts.
The pair of Exarchs rejoiced as their trip through the twisting folds of reality ended in success, placing them inside the targeted extradimensional space, and adjacent to the prize they had sought. Azravan picked the item up as Rarnok removed the stopper from his flask and laid it on its side. He spoke a lone word, “Fountain” and stepped back to rejoin his companion. As the duo exited the space, a steady stream of water poured forth from the now-abandoned decanter.
Elsewhere, the Party celebrated the return of their allies as Rarnok recounted the story of the Decanter of Endless Water. He told of how once overloaded, the Bag of Holding would be destroyed, leaving the bearer with no method to determine what had happened. Azravan meanwhile, studied the pair of crystal balls carefully, in an effort to identify the magics in place. Once completed, the Halfling Exarch entered the room, and spoke of his findings.
Agreeing with Dokari’s earlier assessment that conducting the ritual would destroy her in the process, the Wizard revealed that the magic used was a combination of the Imprisonment and Soul Bind spells. Instead of “merely” binding her soul or imprisoning her in a temporal stasis, the Aspect of Torment had sundered her life’s force, trapping both it and her physical body in one fell swoop. The magic could be broken if the Group journeyed to the location where the spell was cast.
The Circle collected their things and gathered for teleportation, knowing that the necessary location would have to be Argenon’s tower outside of Ldamven. Precise timing would have been required, affording no opportunity to relocate following Dokari’s death. Stoat and Maldus described the area to Azravan as thoroughly as they could, enabling the wizard to successfully transport the Group despite having never personally been there.
The crumbling tower was found to be exactly as it had been in Declarations some six months before. Wasting no time, Azravan cast his Discern Location spell, and determined that the trapping magics had been cast in the basement level of the structure. As the Group descended the ruined stairs, Rarnok waited topside. The lead position was filled by Azravan, followed in order by Stoat, Maldus and then Alamir. Being a projection only, Dokari moved alongside Stoat.
Coming to roughly a mid point in the trip downward, Azravan was shocked to see his Ioun Stones drop from their orbit. He stopped up short, attempting to catch them, but was in turn taken by surprise from behind. Being loaded past his normal carrying capacity, the loss of effect from Stoat’s Belt of Giant Strength has caused the Halfling to collapse under the weight of his gear, and his forward momentum had sent him crashing into Azravan’s legs, taking them out from under him.
As the pair of halflings tumbled toward the base of the steps, Maldus quickened his pace, reaching through the failing projection of Dokari to grab at them just as her illusion blinked out of existence. Coming up short, the cleric hustled to the bottom of the stairs to assist his fallen friends. En route, Maldus caught movement in his peripheral vision and turned toward the room’s center to discover that they were not alone. The movement had been that of the Aspect of Torment.
Having been lying in wait for them, Torment then stretched out his arm, using his Aspect abilities to cast magic despite the Anti-Magic Field. Dumbfounded, Maldus could do little but stare as the dark Aspect evoked the magic that might well spell his doom. In the interim, Alamir had recognized the effect of the Field in place, and had made his way back up the stairs to alert Rarnok.
From the floor, Azravan threw up his hand, exerting his magic despite the Field’s presence to counter Torment’s Disintigration. As Exarch of Emnon the Riftmaster, Azravan was heavily resistant to Anti-Magic and could still cast in limited ways, such as countering. Stoat took the opportunity to roll from his slumped position on top of Azravan and landed on his back. He slipped his arms out of the straps of his heavy backpack and unfastened the pouch on his belt.
A blur of motion followed as Rarnok traversed the staircase and retreated with the backpack and belt pouch in the blink of an eye. Azravan leapt back to his feet, countering another intended cast from Torment in the process, and ushered his allies back up the stairs. Once outside the range of the Field, Maldus activated his Portal Stone, opening a spherical gateway to the Elemental Plane of Fire. A curious elemental soon emerged, and Maldus called on its assistance against his foe.
Moving downward, the elemental searched the room and found it to be empty, the Aspect of Torment having apparently slipped away before Rarnok could seal the area off with a Dimensional Lock spell. The ground rumbled then, causing stones to fall from the ruinous tower. The magical Earthquake opened wide fissures in the ground, one nearly swallowing Azravan. To the south-west, Stoat noted the presence of a rider. Did Torment have assistance?
In the distance, the rider – a mounted patrol from the city of Ldamven – noted the odd shaking of the “eccentric warlock’s” old tower. Seemingly a localized event, he urged his mount onward and made ready to investigate. His horse reared up then, the sudden result of a massive explosion of hellfire that enveloped the tower and all the land surrounding it. He froze in place, bearing witness to the awe-inspiring after-effects of potent magics in the titanic struggle between divine entities.
Tense moments passed as the patrolman stiffened or shielded his eyes from the bright flashes of magic the likes of which he had never seen, and inwardly hoped to never see again. When his fear finally eclipsed fascination, he turned his horse and fled. He knew not whether the captains back in Ldamven would believe his story or not, but it was one he would likely tell many times again in the days that remained to him. The superstition surrounding the tower was clearly well founded.
Elsewhere, the Circle of Exarchs had gained the upper hand in the fight against the Aspect of Torment. Stoat rushed to reposition himself squarely underneath the mid-air conflict, while Azravan flew to block his opponent’s escape. Alamir drank deeply of a potion permitting him flight, while the temporarily augmented Rarnok soured through the air in a hellacious airborne charge. He overtook Torment’s position and landed a crippling strike. With his enemy staggered, the small Exarch unleashed a torrent of deadly blows, sending the dark Aspect crashing into the ground in a massive explosion of magical energy that signaled the conflict’s end.
With their enemy beaten, the Circle regrouped as Azravan cast the necessary spells to retrieve the gemstone that housed the mortal form of Dokari and shattered both it and the second crystal ball with a Wave of Destruction spell. Gently, Rarnok took position of the maiden’s corpse, and the Circle returned to the temple. On the morrow, they would conduct the ritual to restore both Argenon and Dokari.
Pelsday, Sixteenth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Utilizing a Greater Dispel Magic scroll, Azravan at last liberated the captured soul of Dokari Rolendar, permitting her True Resurrection at the hands of Maldus. The Circle found that their former companion did not recognize them, her soul having been under the effects of a Temporal Stasis due to her imprisonment. The Dokari they had come to know, that of the intelligence from the crystal ball, seemingly lacked the capability of transferring memory to the living girl.
Leaving the ally-turned-stranger behind to reunite with her friend and sister, the Circle gathered their assembly from the previous day, conducting the ritual to enact the destruction of the Aspect of Torment and the resurrection of Argenon Remel. As with Gonjeyla, Remel retained the memories of his days as Torment and agreed to share his information of the constructed gateway beneath Korem.
Regrettably, he informed the Circle that the powering process had already been started, having been ordered after the rescue of Hanadrel Rolendar. The gathering process of energy was as a snowball rolling downhill, growing as it continued. The only options that remained now were slaying the Godspawn – viewed as highly improbable in even the best of circumstances – or damaging the gateway enough to render it inert prior to the coming solstice. This second option was seen as being extremely difficult, but far more likely to be successful…