27 Sydenstar (Whelsen) 845 PD
Stubby and Rinn wake up in the separate room that Stubby got from Nevar the night before- thankfully not hungover thanks to Stubby’s foresight to make an anti-hangover potion. Outside the room was left a ‘Full Whitestone’ breakfast, along with a couple of very specific other potions. The two of them decide to go back to the other rooms, wash up, and take the tray downstairs to join with the others. In the room Rinn was supposed to share with Fisch was a note,
probably left there the night before, as it does look like Fisch actually slept in the room (unlike Rinn).
The two of them go downstairs, and find out what Fisch had been up to last night- he was learning about ‘people’ mating customs at the local brothel!
When they’re just about ready to head out, Nevar comes over to ask where they’re heading to next. They’re still continuing on to Pyrah, so they will be hitting Fort Pyrah next. It’s about one long day’s travel there, though people usually break it up into two days. (There is a convenient camping spot midway.) Thankfully things further west haven’t been that bad- they still have the occasional group of people coming through doing walking tours. Though Nevar has heard rumors of a nearby temple of the Everlight having problems. (Note: Rinn does have a small carved ivory statue of the Everlight they found at the ziggurat the Ettercaps were holed up in.) Rinn pulls out the map they have, and Nevar shows them the location. The temple is off on a detour from their planned route to Fort Pyrah, but shouldn’t be too bad.
They head out of the inn, only to find Kahtia Rapavas out there (in the rain), with stable hands and all of her stock lined up- hoping for a chance to introduce her horses, war cows, pegasus, horned horse, and rhinos to Fisch, to get them used to Ursines. Fisch steps over to do so, and Rinn takes a moment to study the sky, stepping out into the rain to do so.
Moments later, the rain slowly stops, centered on a point on Rinn and spreading outwards. He grins to Stubby, saying “He figured it out”. She laughs, dancing in and out of the rain line- and a few of those ‘walking holiday’ tour groups notice as well- and ask which way might they be heading? Same direction, it turns out. Lucky tourists!
Though as they head out, they get questioned by some of the other people, asking about what they dealt with in the Rapavas stables, and where are they going now? Rinn answers that question (to a 13 year old) “To our certain doom”, and is unfortunately way too deadpan with his answer, causing the kid to cry. Oops.
One of the people on the Walking Holiday is a cleric, retired Adventurer, Father Tann. He asks them if they’re planning on going to Stillmyst, and warns them about the place. He should know- his daughter is there, an Earth Genasi named Garnet. She’s a war hero, and helps train newcomers up there. (Her transformation to an Earth Genasi started at puberty, and it upset other members of the family who blamed Father Tann’s adventuring life as the cause.) But lately Garnet hasn’t seemed to be herself, blaming a lot of things that have been happening at the Post on the commander at Fort Pyrah, named Johiya. Saying that they haven’t been sending supplies or supporting them. Tann doesn’t think this would be true- he thinks something is wrong with his daughter to be thinking and saying such things, rather than something being wrong with the commander. Johiya has also been saying that Garnet has been acting strange lately as well.
If they go to Fort Pyrah, Tann asks them to please tell the commander that he’s worried about Garnet, and thinks someone is influencing his daughter. Some of the reasons why Tann is thinking this is that Garnet has mentioned some of the recent changes at Stillmyst- like more lowland patrols rather than the highlands- which should be opposite, as more dangerous things come from the highlands. Also, Garnet warned her father about coming up there, saying that they aren’t happy to see strangers. (Though what they’d make of Stubby, Rinn, Fisch and Tāmarai, who knows?)
They also talk to the 13 year old that Rinn inadvertently scared (named Yohanne), and find out that he’s an absolute Keyleth fanboy, and wants to be an ashari. They tell him to talk to Father Tann and learn from him (Cleric of the Wildmother), and when he’s older…. He writes a letter for them to give to the Ashari. (Either in Pyrah, or to Keyleth herself!)
One split in the road, and one tour group goes off. (Father Tann and Yohanne). Another hour later, the other group splits off as well. Two more hours, and the rain starts letting up naturally. They soon spot a signpost for the Temple of the Everlight, but carved into is is the word ‘danger’. Stubby sends Sentri (who is now a real familiar!) up ahead for an aerial view. She sees that the trail opens up to a meadow, currently full of a flock of sheep guarded by a human shepard and another Ursine! Continuing on is a small lake, then an old pit mine. Just past that is a temple, looking like it was constructed with the mine tailings. Currently it really looks in disrepair, but is relatively intact- but even from Sentri’s height they can see there is a huge amount of bird droppings on it. On top of it is a large nest- bigger than even an eagle’s.
An arrow comes whizzing by- Stubby casts Shield for Sentri, and the mechanical familiar dashes back to the group.
The group heads up the trail- only to be greeted by the Black Bear Ursine. After a ‘Halt’, he’s happy to meet another Ursine, and Dale and Zobar (the shepard) give them the run down as to what’s been happening around there. There’s been a harpy attacking the sheep (why Zobar hired Dale to help guard them), and they think it’s based at the temple. It’s been a long time since they’ve seen the cleric that lives there, about six weeks. They promise to do what they can, and start further up the trail. Zobar mentions where he lives, in case they need a place to go, and he and Dale start herding the sheep further down hill- away from any happenings.
They pass the lake. Tāmarai investigates a rowboat on its side by the shoreline. Inside is a bundle of rags that used to be a person, the bones picked clean. There’s a pouch under the seat, and inside she finds a potion of healing! (They now have two!)
The temple is just up ahead. Stubby gets Aegea out, and starts shielding. The path up to the temple is pretty open, no cover. There are four groups (swarms) of birds watching them. Stubby talks to one of them, and tosses some bread. She manages to win one flock of birds over- but not the others! One starts calling some sort of alarm, and the group decides to book it to the temple.
(Init: Fisch, Rinn, Flocks, Tam, Stubby.)
Overall it is a race to the temple. Tāmarai is up on Fisch’s shoulder, and they get inside before the flocks can react. Rinn keeps back with Stubby, and uses Warding Wind to keep the attacking flocks away. He and Stubby get up to the temple and inside as well, and they get the door shut.
Inside smells like a slaughterhouse. It’s a small room, with only the door they came in- which seals magically and disappears. There’s a statue on the far side, and Fisch discovers seven bodies in various stages of decomposition shoved behind it. (The top one is freshest, maybe from yesterday.) Rinn and Stubby look for another entrance/exit, while Tāmarai checks out the statue. It is of the Everlight, and some sort of creature (best guess is the harpy) shit on it with precision. Prestidigitation to clean it off! Stubby does find markings on either side of where the door used to be, words in two different languages. She thankfully knows both. In Celestial “Eternal”, and in Infernal “Light”.
There’s more poking around, and then a sound of stone grinding on stone. Two sections of wall (opposite sides of the room) slide back, revealing sets of shelves. There are three gold plated urns, a spear made of silvery metal (though not silver) with a matching buckler. A marble bust of the Everlight, and six little ‘hummel’ figurines of the Everlight. Six goblets, and five little coffers of coins. Tāmarai figures out how to shut the panels again, while Stubby figures out the puzzle of the front door. Saying the words in different languages, mixing it up-
And the door appears again! Since it seems like the only way into the rest of the temple is to go outside and in through another door, they run out, Rinn casting Warding Wind again. Then it’s a mad dash around the building, with the birds trying to make their way through the wind (some succeeding), and everyone else EXCEPT for Rinn having to deal with the difficult terrain it causes. (Oops.)
It’s attacking on all sides, with the group making their way to the other side of the temple, attacking flocks of birds, and flocks of birds occasionally getting through the Warding Wind and attacking them.
When Rinn gets to the corner and sees the doorway, he drops the Warding Wind so people can move faster- especially since it seems like they’ve dealt with most of the flocks of birds. Stubby manages to get inside the temple. Inside is an odd mix of scents- old incense and decay. There are the remains of offerings scattered about (empty wine skins, etc.) And there near the altar is the harpy, feasting on another body- no, this one is still alive! It looks to be the missing cleric, who groans and feebly tries to fight off the harpy. Spotting Stubby, he manages a weak ‘help’. Stubby flips off the harpy and challenges her ‘Come and get me!’ The harpy lets go of the cleric, and- starts singing.
They all hear it, even the people still outside. All manage to resist her song, except Rinn.
It is a peaceful song. Everything is fine. Just ignore the birds, and come here…
Rinn heads into the temple, dodging flocks of birds, and thankfully manages to shake off the effect after he makes his way inside. Fisch and Tāmarai are still dealing with flocks outside, including one that sounds another alarm call (uhoh). Stubby does manage to rush over and stab the harpy (the cleric drags himself over to a corner and ties to hide under a pile of bones), and the harpy works her magic again- snaring Rinn again and Stubby as well! They are paralyzed, and caught up in a perfect dream. The harpy then calls to the birds “Come my children, and attack!”
Fisch comments “That doesn’t sound good!” and keeps up a watch at the door to the Temple. Just in time too, as hundreds of birds (a dozen flocks, at least) show up. Some make it into the main room of the temple, though, and attack Rinn and Stubby. Rinn, bless his cynical heart, realizes the dream is too good to be true and shakes off the effect. He yells at Stubby to wake up. Tāmarai continues fighting birds as well, and tries to inspire Stubby, but the Perfect Dream is still too strong. But she does manage to interrupt part of the harpy’s attack on Stubby with Cutting Words, though the artificer is still getting hurt.
Rinn figures if the harpy is gone, not only will Stubby be freed but the birds should hopefully leave. He aims a Witch Bolt at her- outing himself as a magic user, and thus the harpy directs some of the birds to go after him. “Kill the sparky one!” Tāmarai quickly goes over and tries a Lesser Restoration to free Stubby. It only works on part of the spell, freeing her body from being paralyzed, but her mind is still trapped in the Perfect Dream. More birds also attack the gnome, as well as the harpy- and Tāmarai goes down!
Rinn Thundersteps- disappearing in a clap of thunder from where he was (damaging the flocks of birds around him), and reappearing over by Tāmarai, Stubby and the harpy. He has one healing potion (left over from the supplies they bought to go to Old Vasselheim), and quickly gives it to Tāmarai. She comes to, and casts Lesser Restoration on Stubby again- finally ending the spell on her. Stubby comes to, suitably upset, and stabs at the Harpy again- finally killing the creature! The harpy screams, and many of the flocks of birds fall down dead.
Light at the End of the Battle
Rinn goes to use Gust on one of the last flocks of birds in the temple, but a hand then grabs his arm. There’s an apparition standing there, looking at them. All the other birds fly away, and Fisch steps into the temple as well. The figure standing there is an Avatar of the Everlight. With a wave of her hand she heals them of some of the damage they sustained, then walks over to the body of the harpy.
“Do you want to know her tragic tale? She was my wings. She fought for me. I know many of her kind are evil, but she wished to change. She took the name ‘The Wings of the Everlight’. This was many years ago, before the Calamity, the sundering, the divergence. And back then, she was betrayed by another one of mine.” The Avatar dips her head in shame.
“She was imprisoned in Vasselheim for hundreds of years. Five years ago she was freed by accident, as were many others. Her anger, which is justified, turned her into this- the creature she tried so hard not to be.” She reaches down and caresses the head of the harpy. The face relaxes, looking more at peace than bloodthirsty, and the talons and claws look more like the natural talons of a bird than of a monster. “I forgive you, my wings. In your next life, should you choose this, I would still welcome you.”
The Avatar leans over and kisses the harpy’s forehead, and the body melts into golden dust and drifts away.
She stands, now wearing armor, and looks over to see the priest in the corner. The Avatar heals him and calls him over. “Gaspar. If anyone asks you what happened to the Wings of the Everlight, tell them that she went home to live and to be loved.” She looks back over to the others. “You are remarkably brave, the four of you. And you were not tempted by my treasures.” Reminded, Rinn pulls out the small ivory statue he found in the Ettercaps’ loot, and hands it over.
“Not my best likeness, but nice. Those who make these out of the pureness of their hearts are my cherished children.” She grows in size until she can easily place the little statue in a niche up by the roof, then steps back and is back to ‘normal’ size.
“You are going to Pyrah. Yes, I can see why so many of my fellows are pleased with you. (Fellows? Storm Lord, the Light, Matron of Ravens…)” She holds up a hand, takes a ring off her finger and places it on the ground in front of them. “We gods are eternal. We live because of you. Please accept my thanks for returning to me she who went astray.” She glances at Rinn. “And for staying your hand when asked.”
“She will trouble you no more, nor the birds in this land.” (Friendship with birds- unsure about the mechanics game-wise.) “One of you-” She motions to the ring. “May find this useful. I leave it to you to decide who should have it.” The Avatar motions to the ring and starts to fade away-
Stubby quickly speaks up. “Can I ask one thing of you?” She pulls out a remainder of the pride silk she had made into a couple of hankies- pride silk patterned with the motif of the Everlight. She holds out one to the Avatar, who smiles.
“Hold out your other.” Stubby does so, and she reaches over to touch it, and it shimmers. “Tell Pike Trickfoot that she should be proud of her niece.” The Avatar touches the one Stubby gave her to her forehead and hands it back. “Keep that as a memory. I may never see you again, but remember that you have the thanks of the gods.”
Fisch asks, “ Will the rest of the birds be ok?” “The Wildmother will take care of them. They were controlled, but no longer.”
And with that, the Avatar slowly dissolves away into gold dust.
Gaspar finally looks to the others. “Who sent you?” “No one, we just came here to see what was up.”
Rinn asks if the priest has any shovels. Hah, he has a whole stash of leftover mining equipment, and also lives in one of the old mining huts. Fisch and Rinn grab some shoves and start digging a large, single grave for the bodies (and skulls) of the harpy’s victims. There will be a single gravestone for them, labeled “Lives lost due to the hubris of men.”
(Rinn is planning on writing some letters to everyone he knows in Vasselheim/Volgograd, about how keeping ‘monsters’ imprisoned beneath Vasselheim for study for ages may not have been a good thing- and ended up being cruel no matter what the ‘monsters’ were.)
Stubby checks on the path they are planning to take tomorrow with her ‘spy glass’, and sees a different path to Fort Pyrah that should be shorter than going back the way they came and going by the main road. They also talk to Gaspar about how things have been lately- and find out that the Harpy had been around for a while, but it was six weeks ago that she started attacking more. (And this was when the stable started having its problems, the Hind had been injured, and Father Tann saying his daughter started acting oddly.) Stubby mentions her suspicions of a hag starting trouble around Stillmyst- and Gaspar had been there recently! Garnet is in charge, but she has a new second-in-command named Rust who he doesn’t trust. Rust really started pushing the idea that the Genasi and those at Stillmyst were the only ‘pure’ people on the planet, and might be thinking about moving against those who called them ‘impure’, saying that they were the impure ones. Closest target would be Fort Pyrah. Gaspar tried to warn ‘Hinna’ (Commander Johiya- old childhood friend) this, but the commander didn’t believe him.
He lets them take one of the other old miner’s huts for the night, after asking if they would deliver a letter to Fort Pyrah to be mailed back to Volgograd, to another cleric that’s a friend of his there.
And while digging the grave, Rinn talks to Fisch, and gets more information as to exactly what happened with Fisch at the Brothel last night: Nothing. Fisch went there to ask questions, and the women (and men) there were happy to explain things in an open, upfront manner.