The Ruby Rod

Episode 107

The Escape

Returning to the Tiki Man’s cave, the party rests and plans their next move. Astrarian is there waiting, beaten and bruised from whatever errand he had been on. Lucif still lies unconscious. The party updates Astrarian, who offers his help in vanquishing the colossus. The party returns to the merchants shop to purchase items to help them in the battle with the colossus and hopefully find a way to repair the twin knight’s sword.

The merchant recognizes the sword and gives the party some potions and a ritual that will transfer it’s enchantment to the party’s weapons and implements. Over the next couple of days Daelock studies the ritual while the other prepare. Tempest practices flying around on Astrarian’s back, planning to utilize the dragon’s speed to lure the colossus to an ambush point and then, as the sigils are destroyed, fly around and distract.

They party decides to use the ruins of the hanging gardens to trap the colossus. They plan to have the colossus collapse a tunnel below the ruins to trap it’s leg in place, and then go from there. They are able to lure the kruthik and the shadow hulk into helping carve the area out beneath where they plan to have the colossus step.

They day arrives. Keeping out of the colossus’ anti flight aura, Astarian is able to hurl a large bell at the giant’s head to get its attention. The colossus follows, when it arrives at the ruins it seems pause, possibly remembering its last fall here. It stomps forward and tries to step on a party member, only to find that it’s an illusion and that Daelock has set a magic trap their, simultaneously destroying the sigil on the colossus’ foot while collapsing the tunnel catching it’s leg.

With their empowered weapons, the party is able to have a much easier time with the fight than the original knights. Tavar rides Surly about, now equipped with anklets allowing the rage drake flight, distracting the colossus from the party members climbing it. After most of the sigils are destroyed, Astrarian is caught in the colossus’ grasp, much like The White had been in the Knights attempt. Tempest attempts to leap from the collosus’ hand onto its forhead, but doesn’t make the distance. She falls over a hundred feat, skidding along and smacking into the colossus’ chest and leg in her descent until she finally impacts with the ground, unconscious and barley clinging to life.

Tavar is able to quickly revive her in time for the final sigil to be destroyed and the onslaught of angels to come. Vorastrix and Buzart enter into the colossus to activate the final sigil as the others defend from the outside.

Astrarian is able to pull himself free from the colossus’ grip at this point and engages the mass of angels while others break off to deal with the party on the ground.

Upon entering the colossus, Buzart and Vorastrix trigger it’s inner defenses. All memory of their adventuring lives are stripped from them, and the pair live their lives as if they had never begun adventuring. Buzart lives a life where he is the captain of the guard in his home town, honored for single handedly holding off the final defenses against a Drow invasion. Vorastrix becomes a powerful mage and a prominent member in the aristocracy of his hometown.

A cloaked figure appears to each of them after roughly 30 years in the dream, imploring them that they must leave, that others were counting on them. The cloaked figures must return several times over the course of several weeks before they are able to convince the pair to take action.

Each in turn attempts to visit a place they’ve never heard of, eventually disovering that the world only contains things that they know, the rest being filled with generic endless paths through forests and plains. They learn they must do something drastic to shake themselves from the dream. Buzart returns to his town and destroys the bridge he selflessly defended all his life. Vorastix commits suicide. The pair awakes, mere minutes after they entered, 30 years of false memories still with them. They wordlessly move further in and destroy the final sigil.

The colossus defeated, something very different happens from what was told in Oak’s book. The world around the party begins to collapse, starting from the outside of the city moving inward, towards the black pyramid. Astraian scoops up the party and flies them towards the pyramid gates. As the party crosses the threshold of the dooway, they clatter to the ground in a dark entrance room. Astrarian is nowhere to be seen.

The party is able to push through a barred door into a barricaded room. They surmise that this is where Tannis must have been at one point. A doorway is left open, the party can tell it was not forced open, decide that Tannis must have went this way and move further in. The find a series of corridors, everburning torches adorning the walls between doors to empty prison cells.

The party moves to the next floor, which is much like the one below, except the torches flicker from time to time, the corridors seeming to be as well kept as the one below. The next floor is the same. They party surmises that they may be going in through the same halls and each floor is a different era in time.

In one hall the torches flicker off. A terrifying scream echoes through the halls, seemingly moving past the party and the torches relight. The party begins to find zombie like corpses in the prison cells, head severed or pierced with what may have been a crossbow bolt. The party sees a figure up ahead, from the silohuete they can tell it’s the angry halfling they encountered in the jungle; he’s holding his javelin awkwardly though. When they move closer they find that his javelin has been forced through his mouth out the back of his head, his corpse propped up here in the middle of the hall for some unknown purpose.

In another room the finds the corpses of the sphinx, it’s wings ripped off, along with a rack covered in torsos, various torture devices lining the room, the corpse of the nothic lying among them, its eye missing. Movement down a hall is heard, something dragging something. The party sees the shadow of something large being drug around a corner. Daelock’s spider is sent to scout, it too scared upon it’s return to give a full report. Around the corner is the corpse of the minotaur, or at least the lower half of it. A dripping sound causes the party to look up. Hanging from a grate in the ceiling is the top half of the minotaur.

A laughing voice is heard. However it’s only heard by Vorastrix, and when he looks to the party they’ve vanished. He cautiously follows the laughter to a cell, and finds the corpse of a dragonborn inside. Vorastrix’ armor begins to giggle in response to the laughter in the cell. Vorastrix recognizes that his armor is called “Laughing Death” armor and enters the cell and gingerly takes the armor from the corpse, who is adorned very similarly to Vorastrix himself. Leaving the cell he finds himself reunited with the party.

A hissing sound is heard, the party investigates and finds a tiny black sphere, a hole in existence slowly sucking air into it. As the party progresses they find more of these and decide that whatever ate away the world on the outside of pyramid must be making it’s way in here.

More movement is seen, something flying through the air past an intersection. Rounding the corner the party finds the split jawed flying bone naga they saw leaving Nebnensoel from before. They converse for a while, Splitjaw explaining how he saw the volcano vault doors open and went to investigate and was trapped here, months ago. To the party, they’ve only been there a couple weeks.

Splitjaw explains how he knows a way to enter the tower apex where they might escape but needs help. The party agrees to help and follows. They naga leads them up a few flights of stairs into a massive chamber, bridges stairs and platforms for several stories up, everything bathed in a eerie purple glow. Devils can be seen crossing platforms, fighting back some sort of ooze. Splitjaw flies upward, telling the party he’ll meet them up top.

Things would have gone smoothly had a large tenticle not decended from a platform grabbing Surly. Tavar held onto the beast and was forced to watch him being pulled into a portal to the far realm.

The party begins their ascent, picking the best of an near infinite combination of stairways and bridges. Tavar enraged by his friend’s grim fate, leads the charge, blasting back any black ooze they encounter. They party travseres ooze ridden coridoors, leaps over pits being created by opening black holes, and does their best to avoid any more tentacle portals.

At one point the party spies the shadow hulk fighting a group of devils, who in turn are fighting back the blackness. They are able to blind the hulk and steer him into clearing a path. Eventually the party finds themselves in a hallway lined with portals, tentacles blindly reaching back and forth. Unable to move back due to another black hole opening, the party moves attempts to make their way through.

Tavar is caught and pulled through, the cries of Surly can be heard and the cleric is tossed from one portal to the next until he finally escapes, his power drained from the trip. A couple others are likewise pulled through but escaped, also sapped of their energy.

After a long stairway they party reunites with Splitjaw, who directs the party to move a large obelisk onto a platform. Obelisk in place the platform begins to ride through a diagonal hallway. Silently the party rides the lift, watching the various openings in the walls, waiting for something to pop through and attack. Five tense minutes but combat free minutes later they reach top. There they move the obelisk into another slot, opening a large set of double doors leading to a large room barren of anything save for a pair of large lit braziers on the far back.

“Freedom!” Splitjaw screams as he darts to the back of the room, arcs of fire shooting up from the ground as he passes between the braziers and vanishes. A split second later a figure appears from the gateway. The party recognizes the figure as the hell knight that was fighting Astrarian back in the frozen castle. The hell knight draws his weapons, spins them in his hands, takes few steps forward, and then turns to the side and kneels. The party braces themselves for whatever will come through next.

A hellforged titan stomps through the gateway, riding atop is a tiefling, the younger and now whole Karavakos. A short dialogue ensues where, when asked to identify himself, Karavkos replies, “Names are for friends, so I don’t need one”.

A tense battle commences. Many forms of darkness are used, combatants are tossed about left and right through teleportation, chain swords, and other things, fire shards fly about the room raining flaming death on the party, and all kinds of hilarity and chaos ensues. At one point Tavar is pulled into a poisonous opaque cloud and begins to choke to death unseen by the rest of the party. A voice calls to Tempest telling her of Tavar’s fate and she rushes in to rescue him.

Through a series teleportation spells, Karvakos and Tempest swap places, Tempest now riding the hellforged titan. Karavkos shrugs off the swap and teleports back onto the titan only to be surprised to find Tempest there. The rogue then snatches and powerful looking amulet off Karavakos’ neck and hops off.

An illusionary cage, aptly named, “The Box” is placed around the titan, however the cage is just small enough to allow Karavakos to Stand through the top of it and continue his attack. The one way visible wall allows the party to fight the titan who blindly flails through the illusions walls. Eventually the Titan is brought down and Karavakos is dropped into the cage where he is slain.

The room begins to be eaten away by the black void when a white light appears in the ceiling shining on a large disk set into the ground. A voiced urges the party to quickly step onto the circle. The group ascends through the ceiling into a brightly lit room. The party can tell they are in the apex of the pyramid. The room is breathtakingly beautiful, white and black marble inlaid with gold adorn the rooms walls and floor, a giant window peers out into a star filled void.

At one side of the room is a long table, at the end an, an elderly Karavakos sits, seemingly exhausted. The body of Tannis sits in the chair next to him, his throat slit.

Karavakos explains how when he was reunited with the portion of his soul from the library he gained the knowledge on how to speak with the stars, and due to his own self loathing, cast the pyramid into the maw of Acarmar, a corpse star that eats anything in it’s path. However when he was reunited with Vakos, he did all in his power to slow the process he had started, until the party could arrive and escape.

He goes onto explain how Tannis had helped him prepare, and had gone ahead to the other side. The chalice that Tannis sought held the key to escape, its magics allowing them create an elixir that, while killing themselves in this world, would return them to the real world. The problem was that if the wrong amount was taken, it was cause such pain to possibly cause insanity. Tannis bravely tested the drink first, and when he began to violently convulse, Karavakos was forced to slit his throat, too weak to even cast a spell or plunge the dagger through the half elf’s chest.

The old tiefling goes onto explain some the reasoning behind his actions in life, how he had gone into the pact with the best intentions, but now he sees that he was wrong and after and untold time in the pyramid, just wishes to finally be allowed to die. The party accepts his explanation and sits with Karavakos. Daelock presents the head of Vyrellis to Karavakos, who teary eyed apologizes to the gem.

The party asks about the Ruby Rod. Karavakos replies that he doesn’t know anything about its whereabouts. The party checks Tannis’ person and finds it. Relieved that their search is finally over they accept to drink with Karavakos and go home.

Karavakos pours each member of the party a certain amount of elixir, forced to use his mage hand spell due to his own hands being to unsteady. He jokes about how his last spell ever will be for something so trivial. He gives Buzart extra due to his dwarven constitution, and very little to Daelock. Karavakos warns that Daelock has the biggest risk of going insane due to his small size and that he should water it down further.

Karavakos then pours for himself four times as much of the elixir than what he gave to anyone else, apologizes to Vyrellis a final time, then drinks. Daelocks hides the gem from sight to keep Vyrellis from having to watch as Karavakos begins to convulse and froth at the mouth.

Painfully long minutes pass as Karavakos continues to shake until finally he passes on. The party looks to each other and drink. The feel the pain that Karavakos warned about, but it is nothing like what the old tiefling forced himself to endure, and eventually they fade into unconciousness, and finally death.

They were deceived.

Daelock continues to live, paralyzed and unable to move or talk, but still aware of his surroundings. Clapping is heard accompanied by calls of bravo. A young and wild eyed Karavakos appears and claps the older Karavakos on the shoulder who stirs, coughing up blood and other fluids claiming how hard that was.

Three other entities of Karavakos appear, a shadowy one, one who’s entire face is marked by Gibbeth’s madness, and a stoic one appearing in his thirties. The older Karavakos hands the wild eyed one a knife, directing him to cut out Daelock’s heart so that, “he would know how it feels”. The wild eyed tiefling gleefully sets to work, the older one watching with a bitter hatred in his eyes.

Unknown to anyone else, Buzart is also still alive, the poison taking a longer time with him. The dwarf is paralyzed much like Daelock, and is forced to watch the grisly act before he finally fades.

Tavar hears a voice urging him to wake. He opens his eyes to see Vyrellis, full bodied, standing over him. Tavar looks around and finds himself on a chunk of the pyramid floating in space. Vyrellis touches his head and restores his memories and tells him about what Karavakos had done. Vyrellis then takes Tavar’s hand and leads him through the void, near weightlessly hopping from one chunk of derbis to the next until the reach the pyramid apex still floating in space. There Tavar finds the bodies of his comrades, minus Tannis.

The Ruby Rod is gone.

Tavar sees the teleportation circle where Karavakos escaped. One by one he drags the corpses of his friends onto the circle, then activates it. Flashes of color and light fly by as he and Vyrellis travel through space and time. Vyrellis, a spirit now, begins to apologize to Tavar and is stopped in confusion when she sees something behind Tavar. Tavar turns around to see the corporeal Vyrellis reach around and plunge a knife into his back. The physical Vyrellis’ face shifts to the of the Rakshasa, saying that he “will meet you on the other side, old friend” then disappears is a flash of light.

Tavar falls to the ground. Pulling the knife from his back he finds himself alone in the volcano vault. Looking to the corpses of his allies, he immediately begins his grizzly work of resurrecting them all.

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