Overcoming the “devilish” ambush set up by the Knights of the Black Pit, the Circle and the allied defenders of Bet Kasel simultaneously made safe the city and ended the threat of the outer planes. For the Kasite people, it was a time for celebration; for their king, a time for plotting; and for the Circle, time to return home. Though the future of Ek’Kasel would likely see more conflict from the expansionist dreams of the Kalamaran Empire, such was outside the purview of the Exarchs.
The Circle’s mission took them westward, back to Cosolen to inform Prince Sevlen of victory over the Krangi in Ek’Kasel before moving on to their next task, a search for the remains of Gonjeyla Sarazi and her companions in the blackened citadel seen on the plane of shadows. If found, the Circle could conduct the ritual given to them in Crandolen more than a month prior, and hopefully rid the former hero of the taint placed upon her by The Dark One…
Homeday, Twelfth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
With the exterior guardians of the fortified structure dispatched, the Party moved cautiously through the large doorway and into the location’s interior. Stoat stayed ahead of the Group, scanning for traps or other avoidable pitfalls. Various lesser undead roamed the innards of the place, but were quickly put to the sword. The entry gave way to an antechamber, which in turn led to a choice between left or forward. The Circle chose the latter, a choice that placed them in a long corridor.
Traveling the corridor’s length carefully, the Party was again faced with a decision of left or forward, as the passage ended at a large door, with a second on the west wall a few steps prior. Uncertain, the Group thought back to their earlier viewing of the building’s exterior. It had been wider than it was deep, with two protrusions, one at the entrance, and a second longer one to the right. The largest portion of the space however, had been to the left.
Assuming no extra-dimensional magic was in place, it seemed most likely for their quarry to be left, and so they abandoned their previous path, moving through the westward door. Their selection proved to be the correct one, but not in the way they had anticipated. Four massive columns decorated the largely empty chamber they encountered. At the far end, an Elven Woman stood prisoner inside a large glass-like cylinder. Her expression was one of dread, but her blank, motionless eyes indicated her sight was elsewhere – gazing upon some personal horror.
Her jailor was an emerald-colored being with glossy, translucent flesh that seemed akin to crystalline glassware. His luminous eyes bore no pupils or irises, but still betrayed an intelligence all the same. Upon spotting the newly arrived Party, the green-skinned being stepped toward the Group and announced that their trespass was a crime punishable by death, and that he Yarkovius the Void Warden would now carry out the sentence.
Thinking the Void Warden a construct, Azravan targeted his area with a powerful Wave of Destruction spell, designed to shatter items and damage automatons. The spell struck as placed, but its effect – if any – was unclear, as the Warden’s body took the shape of a sphere and split into four equal parts. The now divided form of Yarkovius lifted from the ground and shot into the surrounding pillars, wrapping each with green oozing tendrils that were absorbed seconds later.
The chamber shook as the pillars shed away their exterior surface, revealing four gargantuan golems underneath. The constructs were identical in every way, with glowing eyes and a quartet of arcane runes inscribed on their chests. Each of the constructs possessed a glow about one rune, with no two bearing the same lighted symbol. Being capable of reading such markings, Azravan shouted their meanings out to his allies, in essence naming each golem in turn.
The first, and closest to the Party, was “Longevity”, whose activated rune glowed a sickly yellow. Beside “Longevity”, but separated by a distance of some forty feet was “Lightning”, its lighted rune being ghastly blue in color. Behind the first was “Infestation”, which bore a putrid green luminescence about its rune. Finally, the last “Consumption” stood behind “Lightning”, its activated mark blazing a crimson red. In unison the constructs turned their heads to face the Party, and the contest between the Circle and the Void Warden began.
Having been concealed next to the pillar that was nearest the Group’s position, Stoat found himself suddenly beside the towering form of “Longevity”. He rectified the situation with a hasty dive and tumbled into a small alcove along the length of the wall. Maldus willed a Blade Barrier into being, placing the curtain of swords atop “Lightning” and “Consumption”. Despite their enormous size, the constructs moved with unnatural speed, side-stepping the spell’s area and avoiding harm.
Knowing himself to be immune to any poison or plague that it might be capable of, Alamir charged “Infestation”, striking “Longevity” as he passed by, and slashed the green-runed construct so fiercely with The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade that he swept its leg from underneath it and sent the golem crashing to the ground. Rarnok raced to the felled automaton as well, burying the full length of his sword’s edge into the rocky mass of its body.
In the meantime, Azravan had taken flight, reached the room’s ceiling and moved away from the entrance. He too, targeted “Lightning” and “Consumption” with an area spell, hoping that his devastating Disjunction would succeed where Maldus’ Blade Barrier had failed. The magic interrupted the Void Warden’s control over “Lightning”, temporarily powering the golem down and expelling the essence of Yarkovius back into the chamber.
Though initially awe-struck, the Void Warden recovered quickly, reanimating the “Lightning” construct and swatting Azravan so forcefully that the Halfling sorcerer nearly plummeted to the ground. Knowing that another such hit would spell his doom, the Exarch of Emnon shielded himself inside a Prismatic Sphere. Unable to penetrate the potent barrier, “Lightning” directed itself elsewhere, arcing a bolt of its namesake into Alamir and Rarnok.
Stoat meanwhile, circled the room, looking for the best possible use of his unique talents. By this point in the battle, “Infestation” had gotten back to its feet and had been joined in the fight against Alamir and Rarnok by “Consumption”. “Lightning” had driven Azravan into a protective shield, and “Longevity” pressed the attack against Maldus, who had backed into the farthest corner and placed another Blade Barrier around himself in an effort to keep the automaton at bay.
Stoat’s gaze continued around the chamber, soon falling on the imprisoned Elven woman at the far end of the space. If his guess was correct, this was none other than the “Void Mother”, Hanadrel Rolendar; hero of old and archer of legendary status. As he crept over to examine the device encasing the beauty, Stoat wondered as to the Warden’s reaction should his prisoner suddenly and inexplicably be free of her cage.
As Stoat stealthily worked with the mechanism containing Yarkovius’ charge, the remaining Exarchs continued their struggle against the mighty stone menaces. In the far corner, Maldus readied himself as “Longevity” crossed the threshold of his Blade Barrier and entered the corner with him. The Exarch cleric activated his Dimension Stride Boots, blinking past the golem and out into the room proper. The construct would now be forced to pass the damaging wall a second time if it wished to resume it’s attack against him.
Meanwhile, Alamir and Rarnok steeled themselves against the “Infestation” and “Consumption” golems. As anticipated, “Infestation” bore abilities of a poisonous nature, soon expelling a violent spray of viscous fluid that smelled of death and rot. Divinely protected from such, Alamir looked to his friend, and was pleased to see that the Gnome was unhindered by the vile sludge. The pair shared a brief grin and returned to their work, slicing through “Infestation” several times more, bringing it down at long last.
As the immense construct shattered, debris flew out in all directions, catching Alamir by surprise and inflicting deep lacerations . Rarnok on the other hand, had been empowered with the ability to glimpse at future events, and thus survived the detonation completely unscathed, having unerringly dodged each and every rock, chip and stone. The joy of overcoming “Infestation” was short lived however, as the debris coalesced into a raging funnel of rock.
Elsewhere, the unlit “Infestation” markings on the chests of the three surviving golems flared to life, indicating a new and previously unknown aspect of the battle; while the damaging physical attacks of the “Infestation” construct were gone, its presence would still be felt on the field, in both the whirling rock vortex, and the poisonous spray granted to its companions. Almost immediately Alamir felt the sting of the former, as the funnel encircled him.
There was an upside to the destruction of “Infestation” however. The essence of Yarkovius was now permanently expunged from that golem and stood angrily in the room’s center. His already translucent form was nearly imperceptible, as that quarter of his being had been further divided to expand on the abilities of the remaining automatons. It seemed, that as each golem was vanquished, more of the Void Warden would be exposed and vulnerable.
Azravan exited his Prismatic Sphere then, emboldened by the defeat of the first construct. He turned his magic on the essence of Yarkovius, trapping the lingering spirit of the Warden inside a Forcecage. In response the Void Warden exerted his own magic, leaving the cage with a Dimension Door spell. Being present in his own form again, albeit slightly, Yarkovius surveyed the room, spotting Stoat working on the encapsulating cylinder around his prisoner.
In a rage, the Void Warden shouted at the Halfling that his gesture was a useless one. So long as he Yarkovius still lived, Hanadrel Rolendar would never be free, prison or no prison. At that moment, Stoat completed his work, disabling the last locking mechanism and sending Hanadrel’s limp form to the floor. The Warden howled with fury at this insult, and Stoat slipped the woman from sight as Azravan Forcecaged the essence a second time.
The Exarchs turned their focus on the “Lightning” golem next, avoiding gouts of poisonous fluids from “Consumption” and “Longevity”, in addition to their other attacks. “Lightning” struck the heroes once more, sending another arc through the Group before slamming at them with its fists. Having secured Hanadrel safely behind her former cage, Stoat joined the battle at last, training his bow on the “Lightning” golem as well.
The Destruction of the “Lightning” construct resulted in identical effects as the downfall of “Infestation”, but far less successfully the second time around. The Circle was prepared for the automaton’s surprise now, and the flare up of the two “Lightning” runes on “Longevity” and “Consumption” were anticipated and thus planned for. Clever movement and powerful healing spells saw the heroes through, and even the addition of a animated magical sword from the again escaped, and now more fully formed Yarkovius did little to impede the Exarchs’ progress.
Maddened with anger, the Void Warden attempted to recapture the upper hand by way of possession, sending his essence at Stoat. The Halfling shook off the effort without difficulty, being protected from such magic by way of his divine power. In the interim, the rest of the Circle had brought down the “Consumption” construct, spawning more debris, another earthen tornado, and a more physically manifested Yarkovius the Void Warden.
With the final automaton possessing all four abilities, it proved the most difficult of them all, but still manageable in light of the loss of its fellows. Alamir absorbed attacks meant for his allies, while Rarnok occupied the rock funnels and kept them clear of the other Exarchs. Maldus maintained the Party’s well being, leaving Stoat and Azravan to freely damage it. In the end, despite its multiple increases in relative power, the “Longevity” construct fell quickest of all, being focused by the full onslaught of the Circle.
At long last, Yarkovius himself stood fully revealed. Though outnumbered and now without his gargantuan rock shields, the Void Warden was not without powers of his own, and stood ready to battle to the bitter end. From the ether around him, he drew forth a powerful cosmic staff, and used it to conjur a maximized, intensified Meteor Swarm at his enemies. The fiery, potent magic rained throughout the room, causing much destruction.
As the spell faded and the Swarm subsided, Yarkovius was astonished to find the Circle still alive and combat capable. Even that, his strongest magic had failed to overcome them, and he raged in defeat even before the death blow fell. For all the power imbued within him by The Dark One, and all the preparations made to repel such an attack, the prison of the Void Warden had failed, and his captive Hanadrel Rolendar, had been liberated.
Could the Circle now break through the madness that surely griped this tortured woman? and what answers would she possess if they could…?