1 Sydenstar (Yulisen/Friday) 845 PD (The longest day ever)
Some Helpful Advice
Back to our heroes! While Stubby, Rinn, and Fisch, damaged by a wild magic Fireball trap, continue resting (Stubby and Rinn having nearly died), Tam explores a bit, checking out the hallway to the south. There’s a T junction, and a hallway going to a darker room to the south, and to the east a longer hallway leading to a room with an altar in it. Tam heads back and tells them what she’s seen.
They debate checking on the chest in the water, as they can see it’s empty, but there is illusion magic on it. There could be something there, but they decide to check it out on the way back. Stubby takes a few moments to power up her Detect Magic goggles, and away they go. (Stubby, Rinn, Tam, and Fisch.)
Considering how things have gone, Stubby also activates Aegea and has it start shielding them all. Then they head to the room to the south that looks to be filled with rubble. It’s a larger room in two sections, and the wall to the west is collapsed, whatever doorways might have been there are obliterated. They then notice that the rubble on the floor is actually bones from the catacombs. The eastern section of the room is much larger, with humanoid bones in the walls, and dragon and dragonborn bones on the floor, which is really warm underfoot. In the eastern side of the room are 4 large sarcophagi, and in the empty center of the room there’s the symbol of the Raven Queen on the floor. From where they are, there’s no magic that can be seen (yet), but the wall to the south is nothing but floor to ceiling tombs. Rinn and Stubby head over to the four sarcophagi on the far side, and start checking for names. The names on the ones Stubby checks are old and hard to make out, but she can identify one of them as being a previous Raven Queen champion. The ones Rinn finds are relatively new (still readable) – one of the sarcophagi being a collection of bones and things, including some under armor that used to belong to Vax, given by his sister. He starts calling Stubby over to take a look-
Just when Tam, Stubby, and Fisch all realize that something is in the room with them. Stubby alerts Rinn, just as two creatures that look like a devilish cross between an umbrella and a squid drop down from the ceiling, trailing darkness around them. Dark Mantles.
Squids! Stubby, Tam, Rinn, Fisch
The first one dropping down in front of Rinn and Stubby goes after Stubby, while the other dropping down by Tam and Fisch goes after the bear. Thankfully, both of them miss their targets. Stubby shoves Rinn out of the way so she can get a better line up to try to get both Dark Mantles with a more powerful version of her Acid Spray, Tasha’s Caustic Brew. The one right in front of them manages to dodge, but she gets the second one. Sentri also swoops in for an attack, sonic cawing at the one in front of them and getting it. Tam goes for a flashy attack, inspiring Fisch as she dances towards the one by them, and goes Primal Savage on it. The Inspiration works, but the attack doesn’t, as she’s thrown off her game by finally getting close enough that her Detect Magic spots something in the mausoleum wall to the south! Rinn gets a sneak attack on the Dark Mantle near him and Stubby with a thrown dagger, then maneuvers around past Stubby, getting another thrown dagger in, hitting both times. Fisch swings with his glaive and HITS, knocking that Dark Mantle back with the force of his blow. Both Dark Mantles are looking pretty bad already.
The first one goes after Rinn, manages to hit him for a bite/grab, but doesn’t do much thanks to Aegea’s shielding. The second one moves back towards Fisch and Tam- and engulfs them and that area with magical darkness, making the two of them totally blind (for the first time ever, for Tam). (It is also still taking damage from Tasha’s Caustic Brew, and looking worse.) Stubby decides to use her new dagger, and stabs the one near her and Rinn, and nails it perfectly! The soft blackness from the dagger trails after it like a shadow, meeting and defeating the cold blackness shed by the Dark Mantle, and takes it over. This one is dead. Tam attempts an attack with the short sword, and misses- and thankfully also misses hitting Fisch, since she can’t see anything. Rinn heads over towards the area of inky darkness, and tries to guess where the other Dark Mantle may be, using Lightning Lure to try to get it and pull it away, but he guesses wrong and it doesn’t work. In the darkness they hear Fisch ROAR- the bear does have blind fighting! There’s a splash of black blood that hits Rinn, and the magical darkness fades away, showing that Fisch finished the second Dark Mantle.
They all quickly check the ceiling for more, but things look fine as far as they can tell.
Tam goes over to check on that magic she saw. It’s old, holy magic, behind a cracked memorial plate that says Sartine. The name is pre-Calamity, a given name. Tam recalls it as someone who was blessed by one god or another, and given where they are, it’s a good guess as to which god it was. Stubby remembers Keyleth talking about things that can ‘talk in your head’, (like Grog’s swords), and something about a skull, the ‘Skull of Sartine’. A skull imbued with magic to assist those who work for the Raven Queen, and then it vanishes when it’s work is done. It’s not been seen since the Founding of Whitestone.
Stubby checks the area for traps (with Rinn’s help). None. Rinn borrows Fisch’s crowbar and works carefully to get the cover off, but it still breaks into pieces. Ooops. Stubby reaches in, sees the skull, and pulls it forwards, giving it a greeting and apologizing to it. The bone feels warm, ‘alive’.
“Who has the strength to wield the last remnant of Sartine, handmaiden to the Raven Queen?” Stubby hears in her head, and replies out loud, “I am Lady Victoria Viqul Elaina Vessar De Rolo of Whitestone and the Grey Hunt.”
Now the Skull ‘speaks’ out loud, they all hear it. “You stand in the armor of the Raven Queen, with her knife. Tell me your thoughts on death.” (Rinn puts his hand on Stubby’s shoulder, support/reassurance.)
“Death is natural, it’s inevitable.”
A feeling of acceptance washes over Stubby. “And your friends, those who walk beside you?”
“Very much alive.”
“Do you stand against Orcus?”
“I will aid you. You may wield me.” And then the rest to Stubby only: “Thank you lady, handmaiden. You can call me Sartine.”
Fisch: “Do skulls normally talk?” “This one is special and is going to help us.”
Stubby pulls it out and cradles the skull in her arms. She feels a little safer, as if they were meant to find this. Then, in the back of her head, there is a lore dump of all the people buried here, all the names of the Raven Queen’s Champions. She takes a moment to process, then asks, “Do you know where Kas is, his tomb? His sword? And how to destroy it?” Stubby feels a faint pressure on her thoughts, Sartine requesting permission to look through her memories, and she gives it. A moment, and then Sartine speaks to her.
“You are those who walk two roads. You see that which should be and that which is ill-fated. You know the truth, then.” Then to all of them, “You know the truth that Kas was killed, and that his sword was found by those who call themselves Vox Machina and was sent to another realm. Then you know there is a place where this did not happen. This can be found. The room where the lava runs, past there is Kas.” (Stubby gets the mental impression of the room to the southwest.)
Stubby asks about the room with the large altar. Its where bodies were processed, and it has the blood of generations of champions on it. Not Sartine’s, however. She died elsewhere, but was called here by the Raven Queen, and now she knows why. Stubby also gets the image of a living Sartine, a young woman only a little older than them, but experienced and battle-scarred. (Rode hard.) She’s wearing the Deathwalker’s Ward, and holds her sword to her head in a salute and bows.
Two Faces of Kas
With that, they go to check the other room. There’s a pool (flow) of lava across the last bit of hallway and the door, about 7 foot wide. Stubby gets the brilliant idea to cast Immovable Object on her sleeping roll and set it a few feet above the lava, and all four of them manage to cross it safely (and awesomely). There are no magical lights in this room, but they can all see in the dim light of the lava, as the flow is along the east side of the room, eating away at the wall. There’s some bones on the south side of the room, probably from the walls. There’s also a large statue, holding a (real) sword, flanked by two smaller statues, dogs or griffins, it’s hard to tell, and a large sarcophagus behind it.
And a young man standing there, looking at them. Human, roughly their age as well (late teens), wearing half-plate, holding a shield, with both a long sword and short sword at his waist. He greets them brightly.
“Oh, you found your way! Are you also here for the sword?”
The rest of them don’t even need Rinn’s suspicious nature to find this highly sus. Even though he sounds very sincere and delighted, but most of them have the feeling he’s a bit sketchy, keeping a large secret.
They ask for his name, he’s Kas from Tycheron. He was sent here by his lord Arkan who wants the sword to make something for his god. Sartine confirms to Stubby that yes, this is Kas.
“Have you heard of my lord Arkan? We have plans to save the land from the Empress. I came here to get the sword and get it blessed.” Rinn carefully circles around Kas, though the young man seems focused on Stubby. Tam does the same, following Rinn to the southern part of the room, subtly casting Mage Hand as she seemingly looks over the pile of bones in the south part of the room, even while she’s using that Mage Hand to check the back of the large statue.
Stubby steps forwards and offers her hand, Kas takes it, shaking it. He’s real. She says they weren’t expecting anyone else here, so this is odd. Kas seems confused a bit, he was just back home in Tycheron. She asks if he knows what year it is? This puzzles him further, as he looks down at his hands, wondering why he still has them. The last thing he remembers was fighting, not with Arkan, but with Vecna. How, because he forsook that! But…
It seems that the time-split is affecting who this Kas is and what he remembers. Tam steps over, leaning on one of the dog statues (perfect height for her!), and starts explaining the whole time thing, and what the group is here to do. They need to destroy his sword, which is an anchor keeping him here in the wrong place. It was a good explanation, but Kas still seems confused and draws his sword, saying that they are going to keep him from his mission-
HIs mission to help Vecna. The confusion ends, and they are left with the evil version of Kas. Tam, thinking quickly, uses her Mage Hand to take the sword from the statue- and as she does so, the sarcophagus behind it opens up. An animated suit of armor leaps out of it, (hero landing!), ‘looks’ at Kas, then stands by him looking at the others.
Sartine manages a quick bit of advice to Stubby, that she will need her strength to destroy Kas’ sword, the lava alone will not do it. (And they won’t be able to do it while fighting Kas and the armor!) Stubby calls out to Tam to keep the sword away from these two, but not to toss it into the lava yet-
Stubby, Rinn, Kas, Fisch, Tam, Armor
Stubby tosses a little device onto the wall behind Kas and the armor. It makes a high-pitched wine and then there’s a reverse explosion that catches just those two- Magnified Gravity. They both manage to survive most of the effects but still take some damage from it. Sentri flies in for an attack, but the odd gravity throws the mechanical bird off. Stubby also then puts herself between those two and Rinn and Tam. Which may not have been needed, as Rinn casts a more powerful version of Witch Bolt (2nd level), and with a natural 20 blasts the Animated Armor into smithereens! (Even Kas was impressed for a moment.) Kas goes after Stubby, missing with his first swing but hits with the second, and tries to Frighten her, but fails. Fisch, who had been on all fours after he crossed the Immovable Object ‘bridge’, so had seemed to Kas like a ‘normal’ bear, growls “I don’t like you!”, (“The bear can talk??”) and goes after Kas- unfortunately missing both attacks. Tam sings a quick song, Inspiring Rinn, and circles behind Kas to attack him with the short sword- but Kas is a well-trained fighter (Battle Master), and she misses.
Stubby goes after Kas with the Raven’s Feather Dagger, and hits! She also directs Aegea to refresh the shielding on everyone. Rinn circles around to the north side of the room to get a better angle, and uses Witch Bolt (2nd level again) to blast Kas. He nearly misses, but Tam’s Inspiration comes through and he does manage to hit the false champion. Kas goes after Stubby, but misses both strikes. Fisch quickly asks Rinn if the cracking energy of the Witch Bolt will hurt him- Rinn gives him a quick ‘Nein’, and Fisch goes in, roaring a battle cry for inspiration to the others (+2), and hits Kas. Tam gives a quick recounting of how it may have been arrogant for them to think they could have attacked him, but then rallies with a ‘Children of Vox Machina, fuck shit up!”, giving Inspiration to Stubby, and then attacks as well- and a well aimed strike from her level means Kas will never sit in comfort ever again.
Stubby takes another go with the Raven Feather dagger, and hits! Rinn keeps the Witch Bolt going, doing more damage, and starts drifting up into the air (Tempestuous Magic.) Kas calls on Vecna to help him, and scarily a green glow surrounds him for a moment, healing Kas of some of the damage they’ve inflicted on him. Kas then takes a swing at Tam, but misses the gnome. Fisch growls “Don’t hurt my little friend!” but is too upset to connect his blows. Tam starts singing, casting Hold Person on Kas, and it succeeds!
Stubby does a silent check in with Sartine if there’s anything else she should do, and gets a mental shrug back. Though she feels bad about stabbing at a frozen person, she goes once with the dagger- her reluctance causing her to miss that one- and then goes again. The others can see a black spectral presence guiding Stubby’s hand, to move in perfectly to slight the dagger into the right spot in a gap in Kas’ armor, and straight into his heart.
Kas is now no longer the teenage youngster who had been facing them, but an older man, looking weary, who is missing both of his hands. Bloody and broken. He falls to the floor.
“I renounce Vecna. Destroy the Sword. Win.” He exhales, melts into the ground. Rinn stops the Witch Bolt and slowly drifts to the ground, and there is nothing but silence and the faint burbling of the lava flow.
Into the silence, Fisch asks, “Did we win?”
Tam wonders what they should do now, if the lava won’t be enough to destroy the sword (which her Mage Hand still has, having kept it safe away from the fighting). Sartine answers that they need to take her (the skull) and the sword to the altar in the other room. (One they haven’t yet been to, but saw down a hallway.) As they head over to cross the lava the same way they entered (Immovable Object on the bedroll), Stubby grins at Rinn, complimenting him on his blast against the armor, and holding her hand up for a high five. He’s still staticky from the magic, and a bit unsettled, so he declines, though he bumps her shoulder with his as he moves by. Good enough. (Still a shock.)
They get to the altar room easily enough. This is where corpses were prepared, blood drained, bodies wrapped to be entombed, considered (here) to be the most honorable way to find peace after death. This room is holy, primal and pure.
Stubby places the skull and sword on the altar, doing her best to mimic the posture of the salute she saw Sartine do in flashback image. Her hands still have Kas’ blood on them, and with a bit of a wince, she pleadingly gestures to Tam to Presdigitate the blood off of them. Tam does so- and moves the blood over onto the sword.
Sartine informs them that only true destruction of the sword can come at the hand and eye of Vecna, because the sword was made by him. But she can cut the connection of the wrong timeline from it, so that it can be destroyed in this timeline, and the lava will work. But if she does, they won’t see her again. Tam gracefully accepts this, saying that they will miss Sartine, but if this needs to be done…
Sartine checks with Stubby, who says it’s not so much what she wishes, but what the Raven Queen wishes, which pleases Sartine.
The skull erupts into black dust, surrounding all of them. They cough and wheeze, wiping it from their eyes. The air finally clears, the skull is gone, and they can see the sword no longer has blood on it. It now looks more like how Keyleth described it (which is how Stubby told them and showed them how it should look). It looks and feels more fragile, weaker, with cracks. Stubby carefully takes up the sword, and heads back down the hallway to the nearest pool of lava. She keeps back from the edge, leaning over carefully, (both Rinn and Fisch ready to grab her if needed), and slips the sword into the lava.
Will this work? It floats on top of the lava for a moment, before the burning magma finally seems to reach up and envelop the sword and it sinks from view. Moments pass, and they start to wonder if anything will happen…
There’s an eruption of blinding light, and they all step back. (Stubby falls onto her rear.) The light washes over them, and suddenly they’re back in the altar room. Standing in the hallway is a tall figure, in armor made of feathers and wearing a matching mask. Slowly it reaches up to remove the mask-
They all recognize the face. It looks like a male version of Stubby (though a few years older), and of Stubby’s mom. (This figure looks more like them than the Empress does!) There’s no expression for a moment, then there’s a wry, fey quirk of the lips. “Well done, niece.” (The voice sounds like it’s coming from miles away.) Stubby runs over to give him a hug- this is her uncle, Vax. Champion of the Raven Queen. “So glad to call you family.”
“Your work is not done yet.” Vax motions to all of them. “You know the Empress’ desire. She wishes to kill all who are in Whitestone to make you suffer. But you have allies here, little one. Outside the city you will find those who will help you to foil her plan. But I’m afraid my sister and her family cannot come to aid you. My Raven Mistress cannot tell you what she does not know. She sees the end of all things but not their beginnings. This flaw, this hole in the universe of time was beyond her sight.
“And what happens…” He closes his eyes, dropping his head. “Please do not be mad at your mother. Not the one that cursed you, or the one that waits for you at home. What caused my sister to do these things- she lost our mother, she lost me, then she lost you. For the Vex that caused this, her life ended in regret. I can tell you what became of her if you wish, but the story is a dark one.”
Stubby shakes her head. “I don’t need to know this, because it wasn’t her.”
“Then what you all must know is this. When the Vex of that other time failed in her quest to bring you back, it was her granddaughter that swore to finish the job. But it took more generations to find this moment in time where Vasselheim was destroyed, and to use the power of that moment to come here and do the things the Empress has done. But you have a power she does not, within you is the secret: You can go home and return here.
“Seek the chains of the king and the bindings that failed.”
With that, he stands. Stubby pleads for him not to go.
“I cannot stay here, little niece. I have duties that call me.”
Stubby smiles, a little mischievously. “At least meet my friends. I said I’d introduce you.”
“I know their names. Rinn Shrike of Wildemont. Tāmarai shikomi of Xhorhas. And the one that will interest your mother the most, Fisch. Trinket will be so delighted.” He kisses Stubby’s forehead. “Be brave, and a little crazy.” (Rinn snorts.)
He steps back, and his wings extend and envelop them all. It’s far from scary, both warm and cold at the same time, and comes with the knowledge that eventually their hero’s journey will end, all do, and it’s nothing to fear. They each see a future, all grown, successful in however they wish, mature and with grey hair, but it causes a smile because they’ve achieved what they’ve wanted.
The feathery blackness surrounding them disappears- and they are back in the bottom of the crevasse below the remains of the Raven Queen temple, each with a couple of copper coins in their hand. Each set is etched with a symbol. The ones Rinn holds have Kord’s symbol on them. Stubby has the Raven Queen’s. Fisch has Melora’s. The ones Tam holds have a different symbol on each- Ioun and the Luxon. (One coin of each of those and RQ.)
The sky above them is starting to darken toward evening, and they figure they have enough energy to make their way back to the Gardener’s house in Birth Heart, to rest and recuperate from this very long day.
Notes: At the end of this session, all characters went up a level! To level 5. (Rinn Sorcerer 4/Rogue 1.) Though technically it ‘kicks in’ after they go to sleep that night and wake up the next morning.