I met a young woman whose body was burning,
Dates: 2nd Hive to 3rd Low, The Pivot
The members of the party are all back in Sigil now, after training and other assorted tasks. Arluth sent messengers to the party members, to tell them of a free dinner that Jaana Tolling of the Tolling Dinner Theatre is hosting for them. Knell is back in her rightful body, and Jesdin is back with the party. Also, "Box's" modron orientation program has found him a bodyguard, named Ten Standard Bearer.
In the middle of dinner, an individual darts in the front door, right near the party. She is a slight humanoid, with multi-colored glittery hair and pearly, opalescent skin. She stands about five feet tall, and her features are sharp and aquiline, her ears pointy and nose thin and sharp. Her brow is furrowed in evident worry. She bumps into the maitre'd and apologizes, and you can hear her ask for Jaana Tolling, the owner of the theater. Jaana emerges from her private booth, where she was entertaining "important investors." You can hear her say, "Jaana, I'm looking for Siobhan. It's urgent." Jaana responds with a shrug and nods her head no, and the girl breaks down in tears. Jaana brings her over to your table (the closest one) to get her a drink and sit her down.
"My name is Emer. I hail from the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Radiance, from a berg called Scintillating. I was sent by my sisters in the Church of Brigit to find help, for we believe our beautiful city of art and light, freedom and creativity, is being subsumed by a dark force. We need help, desperately.
"Our city is an oasis on the plane of Radiance. Built from a huge multi-faceted fragment of Mineral, it focuses the intense light and energy into an obelisk built centuries ago to contain and redirect the energies. Our rulers were the benevolent and intellectually-minded quasi-elementals themselves; they have ruled for as long as any of us can remember. In addition to providing engaging philosophical discussion, they also keep the city safe from criminals and cross-traders, revolutions and invasions.
"Keep. I should say, 'kept.' The quasi-elemental patrols ceased more than a week ago. The annals of the Cathedral of Light, my temple, say that this has never happened before, in the 500-year history of Scintillating. Apart from our guardians of the portal in Scintillating, there is no security for our people, both natives and travelers. That has the sisters of the church very nervous. That's why they sent me out to find our patroness, so she could investigate the problem.
"I was sent to find the founder of our church, a great servant of Brigit named Siobhan the Red. She currently lives in Tir Na Og, and my journey there proved fruitless. I then left the lands of our goddess, and tried the second place that Siobhan can normally be found; the city of Sigil. On my way to the portal to Sigil, I encountered Knell, and told her my story. She said she knew of individuals who could help us of Scintillating.
"Our temple is not rich; we traffic in creations of art and poetry, and all things of the Fire of Brigit's Inspiration. We do, however, have religious relics of great magical power which we could share with you."
The party agrees to travel to Scintillating. After entering a portal to Tir Na Og, the party reaches the small town of Beseral, which is no more than a few farmsteads and a country pub. It is into this pub that Emer dashes when the party arrives at the village center. She comes out with her hands full of what appear to be ordinary nuts. She hands a walnut to everyone in the party, and asks them all to follow her.
The party walks through the village and out again, following a well-traveled dirt road up a short hill. At the top there appears to be a circle of standing stones, and when you reach the circle, Emer says, "See that wicket?" She points to the only two monoliths to have a third stone laid on top of them. "Try to hit it with the walnut."
Emer hits it, and brilliant light erupts from between the two standing stones, and Emer runs toward it with a whoop and leaps into the portal. The party follows her through, and emerge into a gloriously radiant town.
The sky is not a sky, but an enormous dome made of crystal. The intricate and sublime geometry of the crystal dome bends the light from the outside. You can clearly see how it is focused at the top of what must be a 200-foot tall white obelisk of indeterminate material.
That light is then somehow split into six beams of monochromatic light. Yellow and green beams stretch away at angles towards the back of the town. Orange and blue beams shoot off left and right from the obelisk. A lone red beam seems to land in the streets about two blocks left of the party's position and an indigo beam envelops a huge stonework cathedral to the right. A violet beam is directed in a 360 degree angle around the obelisk itself.
The ground appears to be made of the same crystal as the dome surrounding the city, but it is covered in a fine dust, possibly from the march of beings who have trod upon it. The party arrives in what appears to be a town square. The portal is a free-standing archway of smooth white limestone, about as tall as the standing stones were.
Standing a mere ten feet in front of the party are three individuals. One is a female, standing about 5 and a half feet tall, wielding an impressive battleaxe. She has midnight blue hair, cropped short, goat's legs, and a long thin tail darting out from under her black cloak. Behind her stand two identical black-robed individuals; they stand about seven feet tall, and cowls cover their faces completely. It appears they wear heavy armor underneath their robes. They each carry an impresive arsenal of melee weapons, all polearms, crossed on their back.
The female tiefling steps forward and recites the following, as if from memory. "You are new visitors to Scintillating. I am required by law at this point to warn you that I or anyone under my command are empowered by the quasi-elemental rulers of the berg of Scintillating to execute immediate punishment on any crime taking place within city limits."
Emer says, "Daebru, these people are with me. I'm getting them rooms at the Fox's Den. You can relax." Daebru, the tiefling, doesn't relax in the slightest, and says as you walk away, "These are dangerous times, young priestess. You'd be wise to remember that."
The party walks towards the red light beam, down a round street. It seems the streets are laid in concentric circles, intersected by broad avenues radiating from the center of the town, the obelisk. After about four blocks, the party comes to a large wooden structure, with a sign outside painted with the legend "The Fox's Den." The red light beam covers a large metal cube about 5 feet on each side, with a handle and a door on one side.
"Oldest inn in Scintillating," says Emer, as she walks in the front door with the party in tow. The common room of the inn is off the main lobby. Beautiful oak stairs lead up to the second floor of the three-floor structure from the lobby. Off to the left is the restaurant and bar, off to the right is what appears to be a front desk/sales counter. Behind that counter is a stout, balding dwarf. His jet hair is slicked back and he puffs on a pipe. Behind the counter on shelves are bags of flour, buckets of eggs, and the other accoutrements of a village's general store.
Emer saunters towards the long front desk, and introduces the party to the inn-owner. "Oleg, these folks are Sigilians. They'd like rooms indefinitely." Oleg the dwarf puts his pipe in an ashtray and says, "Pleased to meet you. Singles are 3 gp a night, doubles are 5. Lunch is on for another hour or so. Feel free to go on into the dining room if you wish; I'll have one of the girls bring your baggage up to your rooms."
Emer sits down to lunch with the party in the dining room. Paintings adorn the walls, in a multiplicity of different styles. The light coming through the front window throws everything in the dining room into sharp relief. The dining room is empty for but a few couples eating luncheons and a couple of lonely bubbers at the bar.
While seated, Emer tells how the city, usually a haven for artistic expression of all sorts, has not felt the same since the quasi-elemental lords stopped patrolling. Artists have canceled exhibitions at the museum; Portal Square, normally full of performers and merchants, has been desolate but for Daebru and her grim guards.
One of those drunkards at the bar, an old human, turns around, having been clearly eavesdropping on the conversation. "I know where the Dukes are, missy. The other day, I was walking by the Death Flats, and I saw 'em in there, playing devil-may-care. Apparently, they got tired of taking care of us. No one's going to go into Death Flats anyway. No one without a death wish, anyway."
Emer explains that Death Flats is where the green beam is directed. Green is poison energy, and as such, no living being can stay there without being poisoned to death.
"That's nothing," says the other bubber way down at the other end of the bar. "I saw it, two weeks ago. This huge shadowy figure just walked through the wall of force around the obelisk. Bet you anything that's the culprit behind all this."
The first bubber turns to him and says, "Hmm, that may be, you drunken fool. Shadows walking through forcewalls. Hmph. You ask me, that scheming Daebru is behind it. She's been trying to take over this city ever since the Dukes hired her. She's a fiend, you know. Yeah, she's a tiefer... and I'm the son of a deva!"
Emer mutters, "You get those two together and they're like a couple of old ladies. Seriously, though, I think you folks should take a look around the city after we eat. Then come to the cathedral and the High Priestess will give you the job offer."
The party then splits up: Arluth, Box, and Ten go to the town's museum, where Arluth agrees to help raise morale in the city by performing that night. The rest of the party does a circuit of the city, and the whole party meets at the Cathedral of Brigit.
The interior of the stone cathedral is done in great archways, and the walls are covered in stained glass windows, which throw murky images onto the great wide floors. The indigo beam envelops the entire cathedral, so the light from outside is mitigated here. Priests and priestesses and citizens paint, sculpt, and compose on tablets. The high altar, at the back of the cathedral, is enveloped in magical light, which illuminates only the dais brightly. On the dais, aside the altar, is a large reservoir of holy water.
The High Priestess of the Order, Mairie greets the party and explains the situation in a bit more detail to them. They are to investigate the situation in town, taking interviews from individuals who might have seen the quasi-elementals last, and putting together a theory as to what has happened to them.
"Your reward," the high priestess says as she reaches behind the altar and lifts an evidentally heavy reliquary from behind the altar, "will be these potions, scrolls, and other assorted holy items." She opens the reliquary, and inside are about 10 scrolls, about 30 small vials of a light blue transparent liquid, 4 blocks of sharp, sweet incense, a necklace of red and orange beads, and a small translucent pearl set into a ring.
After this, the party attends Arluth's performance (where Knell helps out on the flute). Then, they go back to the Fox's Den to rest overnight (as much as night can be said in a place of eternal light).
The next day, the party continues their investigations. The modrons circumnavigate the town, stopping to talk to the guardians of the portal. "Box" learns Daebru is a Mercykiller. The rest of the party investigates the curious home of the githzerai tinkerer, Dorax. He shoos them away, and after this disappointment, the party reconnoiters at the Cathedral.
After the party arrives there, the cathedral is plunged into darkness. It seems the indigo light from outside has been snuffed, and the stained glass of the windows, designed to focus the indigo light into ambient light, no longer glow softly. Screams come from the front doors of the cathedral, and various citizens scatter as behind them, formless shadow-beings file into the cathedral. Their ectoplasmic outlines flicker with the light coming from outside, as the doors are flung open. They can be seen, clearly, predating upon the ordinary citizens who happened to be standing next to the front doors. One of them catches a female human by the legs, drops her to the ground, and drags her out of the cathedral. The shadow-beings seem intent on capturing and dragging off these innocent bystanders. One older man is touched by one, and completely collapses. The shadow grabs him and makes for the door.
The battle is joined, and as the shadows flee, Arluth and Knell see the shadows allowed through the forcewall and their prisoners dragged into the obelisk. The party now knows where their enemies are lairing. After healing and resting, the party discovers the blue beam is also off, and Dorax has been kidnapped. Invading his home, the party finds all of his electric inventions.
The party calls a town meeting, and discusses several plans for protecting the populace. At this meeting, they meet a warrior named Alaric, who offers his services. After this, the party rests, and is attacked by zombies while resting.
The next day the party assembles a plan for scaling the wall of force, and makes it over. Penetrating the obelisk, through a simple secret door 20 feet up the "south" wall, and it opens up onto a platform, standing 20 feet above a shadowy ground. Catwalks with no railings stretch off to the left and right, leading to similar platforms. These platforms have catwalks which then stretch away into the darkness. The catwalks are solid white marble, and reach all the way to the ground. The ground is barely visible, but it is covered with glass shards which twinkle dimly in the darkness. Suspended from the ceiling on silver chains are six black globes, each about 3 feet in diameter. They are suspended from hooks about 120 feet above the party's heads. These black globes stand out starkly against the intense radiant energy flooding the top third of the obelisk. It all seems directed downward towards an area 20 feet directly down.
Dominating the room, suspended on a cylinder of force about 40 feet off the ground is a huge throne, made to seat a human-sized individual, head to feet. It reclines slightly, so the head of the chair is further back than it would be sitting straight up. Sitting in front of the throne is a colossal shard of mineral, about the size of a large dog. It seems to be collecting and holding the radiant energy from the ceiling. In front of it is a lens fitted with several colored panes of glass, which are in turn attached to a set of handlebars which reach to the hands of a being composed of pure darkness, with an aura of radiant energy around him. Tiny motes of multi-colored light dance around him. A sepulchural voice chuckles, "You have come to be the first to bow down before the new ruler of Scintillating? Very well then, living ones, come bow before me, or my servants will crack your necks for me, saving you the work." "Box" shoots first, destroying the chair/weapon, and the shadows are unleashed on the party. The luminescent being kills Ten with a single touch, and is lured outside to battle Selgar, Arluth and Cianna. When the being is wounded to the point of unconsciousness, the being turns itself to pure energy, which kills Cianna, petrifies Selgar, and knocks Arluth unconscious.
"Box," Alaric, and Knell make work of the shadows inside, and the party discovers the missing quasi-elementals inside the golden globes. They begin rebuilding the lens which focuses the beam energy, and help the party back to the Cathedral.
Ten is restored and resurrected, Cianna resurrected, and Selgar un-stoned at the hands of the mysterious Siobhan the Red, who rewards Arluth with a lyre of charming and the party with free healing. She also says they are eternally welcome in Scintillating.