Ember: Fire and Wind

Osookh's Letters
Letters

To My Loved Ones:

I have traveled to Fort Kysem, beyond the far borders of our home. With its central location, I had hoped this might be a place to hang my blades and look for work, but I found instead fire and death. Something strange has happened here, but I do not know what. I am thankful that I found a caravan in the shadow of this ruin that has seen enough value in me to take me on for a short while. Do not worry for me! I remember all your warnings about outsiders. I know too that to them, I am the outsider here. If I can be of any help to these people, then it is only right that I do what I can for them.

There are a few amongst the group that seem particularly skilled, if not also a bit odd. One is quite furry and constantly moving or talking or both, while another is quite the opposite: a Bhuka of few words with a sturdy boulder creature for a companion. There is one of our people with me as well, though he seems an eccentric the way he scribbles into his journals all the time. Finally, there is a female mystic of some sort. She seems guarded, but her skills can not be denied.

I believe I have gained the trust of the Caravan’s leader, and I believe he would keep me on as part of his guard if I were to ask. However, I am intrigued by these lands, and wish to explore them more thoroughly. I feel that we must part ways when we reach the safety of Abitaan, but perhaps my new companions will feel the same and join me. Odd though they may be, they are not to be underestimated. Together we have already faced many dangers that I may not have escaped without their aid.

I must end this message, or the parchment will be too heavy for the bird I send it with. Know that I am well and in good company! I love you all dearly.

-Osookh

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Osookh's Letters (Part 2)

Greetings Assanah,

I wish I could say that I am safe and sound, Sister, but alas, you know I am not one to stay still for too long. I am writing from an abandoned burial chamber, believe it or not. I am uneasy here. The floor and walls are made of solid stone. There is no quick escape into the sands, and I have already seen my fair share of guardian creatures this afternoon. Though the cleric that sent us here says the dead no longer dwell in these crypts, I can not help but feel a chill in my bones. I worry that something stirs beneath our feet. Now I wish I had asked the cleric why this mound has been abandoned, but I have a feeling we may find out firsthand. For now, my companions sleep while an earth elemental and I watch over them. I can take some small comfort writing this to you while I pass the hour.

My party arrived yesterday in a city called Abitaan. It is quite the spectacle, what with the many temples that seem to dot its landscape. We did not stay long, though. Much happened on the sands after my last letter, and we came into the care of a religious zealot. I am not entirely proud of how this came to be, though I believe we still affected the greater good. This man’s people hunted a majestic beast that I have only heard of in tales. It creates sandstorms in the blink of an eye to protect itself. Despite my failed efforts to soothe the beast, I did manage to defend it. It meant the deaths of the zealot’s companions, but their intentions were dubious at best. I know little of the Gods of these lands, but these Sun Worshipers seem the troublesome type, especially considering how they were armed.

Our captive became quite delirious as we traveled, calling out to his Sun God to deliver him to safety. If you ask me, it was the Sun which sought to take his life (and perhaps ours while it was at it). Thankfully we made it to Abitaan by way of the Mirrored Sea. Delivering the zealot to the temples did not have the reaction that my companions hoped. In the end, the Sun Worshipers are a small group that do not threaten the ways of Abitaan’s people. I feel guilty for the results of that conflict. I have gone back over the encounter many times in my head, but I do not know if the results would have been any different if we had….

[In a more hastily scribbled hand]

I may have been right about this crypt, Sister. Creatures stir from deep down in the depths, and the sounds of their crawling and clicking echo in the halls. I have changed shifts, but it is hard to sleep as the sounds persist and seem to grow louder. I hope that we are near to the item we seek. Should we find it, it holds the power to return our charge to his people with a message that we hope will discourage them from causing further conflict. I can only hope that is penance enough for what happened to his companions. I will leave this letter at the mouth of the crypt in hopes that someone may deliver it to you should the worst happen to me. Send my love to the family, and if I emerge unscathed, expect a letter detailing our triumph!

-Osookh

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Osookh's Letters (Part 3)

Dear Asaanah,

As you can see, I have survived our last adventure unscathed. The crypt held secrets and many questions. It also held animated skeletal remains. To speak of it now, I can hold my quill steady, but I am disappointed to report that at the time I found myself bolting for the light and warmth of the open sands. It was an eerie feeling, like something took hold of me. The creature we faced had but to scream and stare at me, and it was as if it peered into my soul. I lashed out at my fellows in arms before something sent me careening down the dark hallways of the cavernous grave.

The expedition was not without benefit. The mural we sought was entombed near the creature and upon its defeat a piece of it was obtained. What was more interesting was what we did not find. After delivering our report to Sabacus, an official of the Temple of the Old Ways, he believes that a great gem may have been stolen from its hiding place in the tomb. This gem is…. well, to preserve the secrets of the Clerics here, I should not speak too much of its story. It is a powerful relic that, if truly missing, must be tracked down. We may have a lead in the city of Confluence, but the journey is a long one. Sabacus has suggested the use of a traveling mirror, but there are risks involved. Of course, taking the sand and sun route has risks as well, so the speed of the mirror may prove beneficial. He says that by entering the mirror realm, an evil copy of each of us will appear somewhere within and seek to kill us! We have a plan to deal with that problem, should it become an issue, though I do not look forward to battling my own reflection. My next letter will likely be from Confluence. I have heard many rumours of the splendors in that place. I believe that some of our people even reside there! I will be interested to see what sights there are to see and what direction our expedition might take. Until then, give my love to all.

-Osookh

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Osookh's Letters: The Mirror Realm

To my loved ones,

I do not think that I can explain all that transpired in the realm of Mirrors and not sound like a mad fool. We prepared ourselves to enter the mirror path by first trading our possessions. Our theory was that any evil versions of ourselves that came into existence would be less effective without the equipment we are skilled with. A warrior without his sword is hardly a threat, yes? Once on the other side of the mirror, we would trade our belongings back and be unhindered ourselves. It was a smart plan that I believe worked to our benefit…. if not for the mephits that caught us off guard in the lower temple chambers where these priests keep the entrance to the Mirrored Path. I have never fought with a quarter staff before and I can say without doubt that I much prefer my Eagle Claws.

We moved swiftly through the Mirror Realm, turning corner after corner and always expecting to stumble upon our murderous counterparts. And so we did at a cross road; Trapped between my own reflection and that of the human female. By stroke of luck, they were the only two reflections of our party that showed themselves. Unfortunately, they did bring friends. I was uneasy that my companions might confuse my double for me and so gave him a wide berth. In the end, we vanquished our assailants, and they became nothing more than glass dust. A dash further down the indisguishable hallways and we managed to take the correct exit.

Confluence greeted us under the point of blades, for fear that we may have been our our evil doubles. Luckily we convinced Sabacus’s colleague, Tychaeus, that we were in fact the same souls that were sent into the Mirror Realm. This is quite the city, but of course the news Tychaeus has given us suggests that we need to move fast if we are to catch our connection to… The object we are seaching for. I wish I could say more, but I fear who else might be seeking knowledge of our quest. Rest easy! We will be
(cont.)

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Qualith's Journal

So, I seem to have found some companions for my journey, but we have a long way to go before we could become a team. My old friend Tychaeus sent me a message via sending to let me know that some adventurers he has been guiding were headed toward the Mirrored Sea, and I might find some help in my search with them. I discovered one member of the party, a curious asherati called Taen Ziad, studying the walls in the Glyphs in Shard and questioning a water mephling about religion. I observed his interaction until he noticed me, then approached him to introduce myself. He was very curious, but friendly, and we got along well. His companions were in the marketplace buying supplies for the trip. I eventually met them, Osookh, an asherati ranger and sandworm rider; Route, a stealthy warrior of a strange race called Venara; and Veruna, a human channeler and devotee of Isis from another land. Veruna had a hyena with the fanciful name of Sir Gigglenibbles. I spoke to him, and he approved of her character, so I decided to go with this group. I have yet to speak to the ranger’s owl. I had expected another member in their party, but they were cryptic about his absence. Some of them were a bit suspicious of me, but that was soon diminished when I mentioned the cache from Tychaeus.
We went to Oldcity, and searched for an old mill, since the cache was under the millstone. We were investigating some buildings when we were ambushed by some odd earthen creatures. As I went to assist the others, I was attacked by a mass of animated rubble and barely managed to fend off it’s attacks by the edge of Ariketh. While I was occupied with this creature, the others descended into chaos and started attacking one another and wandering off. Route incapacitated the one with some traps, and I tried to help restrain Osookh from pursuing Veruna when I was overwhelmed by the rubble, and only escaped by using my bloodscarf. I was battered, but rushed to defend the others from the final remaining enemy. When it finally fell, we got everyone to calm down and stop fighting and unearthed the cache from under the millstone. We found tokens that will allow us to traverse the mirror realms, as well as some defensive items and bejeweled holy symbol. Veruna took them all, despite having spent nearly the entire fight fleeing and fighting fellow party members, and in spite of my having directed us to the cache. I find myself very suspicious of her, despite the assessment by her hyena. Perhaps there is something more there, or perhaps it is simple human greed. Oh Tychaeus, when you sent me to meet companions, I did not realize you meant for me to forge them into a team! This could be quite a journey, but battles are not won by individuals, and these are the companions with which I find myself. With a little bit of effort, perhaps they will do. Chan, guide me.

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The Story So Far (at the halfway point)...

1. The Ruins of Fort Kysem:

  • The party all converged on their coincidental shared destination: Fort Kysem.
  • The fort was burnt and razed to the ground, with the symbol of Imix melted into the fort grounds/sands.
  • The party fought some fiery/smoky rats, some fire-based creatures, and some hobgoblin raiders (one of whom shattered apart upon defeat).
  • The party secured the small shrine to Elemental Earth, and took the shrine’s topaz with them for safekeeping, and the group did their best to break up the fused glass symbol.

2. Escorting Varuna’s caravan to Abitaan:

  • The party left the fort to continue on to Abitaan, defending Varuna’s caravan along the way.
  • A caravan of sun-worshippers caught up with the party:
    • They worshipped a sun-disc-deity named Aten;
    • Their holy symbol: a solar disc with tentacles/rays ending in hands;
    • They were heading to a local oasis to sacrifice a creature that dwelled there.
  • The party left the caravan, and stopped the worshippers from performing a misguided sacrifice;
    • One worshipper was taken captive;
    • Osookh was gifted an ivory statuette by the oasis fey.
  • The party rejoined the caravan, misdirected them in the desert, fought off some giant antlions, and eventually made it to the city of Abitaan.

3. Abitaan, and the Abitaan crypt:

  • The party met Sabacus, a cleric of the old ways in Abitaan.
  • The captive sun-disc worshipper was turned over to Sabacus, who wanted to put a geas on the fanatic to temporarily prevent him from harming others:
    • The geas needed a special component: a fragment of Bast’s image from a nearby crypt;
    • The party explored the crypt and found: religious murals, a nest of giant termites, an ancient wall map, an angry, undead tomb guardian, and a hidden chamber with a depiction of Bast stabbing out the eye of the fire-serpent, Apophis/Apep.
  • Sabacus cast the geas, and made a request:
    • The churches of the old ways have lost a dangerous magic item, and he requested that the party go and retrieve it. The destination was miles away, and the quickest way to travel was through the mirror realm. He did not go into detail about the item, because…

4. The Mirror realm, Confluence, and the Worm Bridge:

  • Sabacus discussed mirror travel, and the propensity of the realm to create evil doubles;
    • Similarly-constructed mirrors can sometimes lead to a linked mirror realm/plane (a given mirror realm/plane was called a ‘constellation’);
    • Mirror realms create evil doubles of all who enter;
    • Sabacus could not discuss the lost artifact, because the mirror doubles would then know exactly what the party knew;
    • Before entering, the party switched gear to be as ineffective as possible…
    • …But they were attacked by a swarm of mirror mephits in their now-useless gear.
  • The party entered the mirror realm, fought three doubles of themselves, and quickly travelled to the exit mirror-portal.
  • The group met Tychaeus, scholar at the Elemental Air temple:
    • He told them about the “Eye of Apophis” – an ancient, magical, diamond lens that reigns fiery death for miles around. Centuries ago, the lens was broken into three pieces:
      1. One piece is in the care of the clerics of Isis;
      2. The second piece is destroyed;
      3. And the third piece was believed to have been lost, but a written account/description of that piece was just discovered in the Deadlands.
  • The party left the city, travelled to the Worm Bridge, navigated the bridge ‘turnstiles,’ fought off some undead, and rescued a bard named Eamon.

5. The Deadlands, and the return across the Worm Bridge:

  • The party found an abandoned dwelling/complex in the Deadlands;
    • Outside of the complex was a small shrine to a sun-disc-with-tentacles deity;
    • The dwelling formerly housed a sculptor – the party found fragments of his burnt journal discussing, “the master” and the sculptor’s ability to recreate the Eye of Apophis from the remaining lens piece(s);
    • The party discovered (and kept) shards of a large mirror, and learned that the sculptor, the ‘master,’ and the lens piece were last seen passing through the mirror.
  • The party returned across the Worm Bridge, fought off more undead, and returned to Confluence.
  • Tychaeus examined the broken mirror shards:
    • The original mirror must have led to different mirror constellation;
    • The shards look like fire-fused sand from the Mirrored Sea – but Tychaeus remarked that none who have tried to mirror-travel the Mirrored Sea have ever returned;
    • The mirror shards may be able to be entered safely if the mirror is reforged; however, reforging the mirror must be done in the same manner as what originally created it.
    • No one knows what created the Mirrored Sea, save for an oracle that lives there now;
    • The scholars at the Elemental Fire temple know how best to contact the oracle.

6. The Fire Temple, a Mirror Jaunt, and the Crypt of Nephthys:

  • The party visited the Fire Temple during an “open house” event.
  • The group fought in a brief gladiatorial-style combat, and earned an audience with the local scholars, who discussed the ‘rules’ of visiting the oracle:
    • Visitors are only accepted between dawn and midday;
    • Visitors must survive the fiery perils of the Crucible;
    • And querents must have a suitable offering.
  • Tychaeus told the party that the first mirror constellation has a portal near the Mirrored Sea. So the party entered the mirror, fought off the rest of their doubles, and exited into the inner chamber of the Crypt of Nephthys.

7. The Crypt of Nephthys, the Bhuka, and the Fey Oasis:

  • The party slowly worked its way out of the crypt, disabling traps along the way with the aid of a “key” in the form of a pair of golden bricks.
  • Partway out of the crypt, the party met a group of bhuka, apparently intent on infiltrating and destroying/reclaiming the crypt.
    • An arrangement was discussed: the bhuka tentatively agreed not to defile the crypt, but may consider sealing the entrance and/or building a shrine to their own goddess at the entrance.
  • Overnight, the bhuka group had left, and the party discovered that one of their gold key-bricks was missing.
    • The party caught up with the bhuka, and discovered that their resident group member Wahele told the others about the key-bricks, which is why it was stolen in the night. They returned the key-brick to the party.
    • Wahele (who had been carrying the mirror shards) left the party with the other bhuka; they implied that they would return to the crypt in the future…
  • En route to the town of Shard, the party was joined by the elf Qualith (a warrior/scholar of Elemental Air), then encountered an oasis populated by fey nomads and brainwashed asherati:
    • The party defeated the fey, and rescued the asherati, one of whom was Osookh’s sister.

8. Shard: Oldcity and the ancient Bathhouse:

  • The party arrived in Shard, which served as a waypoint en route to the Mirrored Sea.
  • Qualith, on a mission from Tychaeus, directed the party to a hidden magical cache in the older, ruined portion of town.
  • Later, on the edge of town, the party witnessed a portion of the mirrored glass collapse (in fact, it seemed to explode via glowing holy symbols), revealing an ancient, abandoned bathhouse:
    • The bathhouse had a prolific water spring and a ‘chilled’ pool, which were maintained by a few mephits that had been magically-bound there for centuries. They party freed the bound mephits, who agreed not to cause trouble.
    • Some of the rooms were decorated with an upside-down ankh, star and chalice motif.
    • The private wing of the bathhouse was guarded by an enchanted, conversant (but grumpy) door. The door referred to the bathhouse owners as, “The Drinkers of the Source.”
    • Beyond the door (which the group avoided by using the pipe system), the party found magical devices that released volleys of magic missiles upon command.

9. The Mirrored Sea, the Crucible, and “Ice” Shard:

  • The party travelled to the Mirrored Sea, met with the oracle (giving her gifts of the ‘Earth’ topaz and the ivory figurine from Fort Kysem and the first oasis, respectively), and were cryptically told about old deeds, evil heathens, lost history, and new foes:
    • The Mirrored Sea was created by an act of divine fire/destruction by the goddess Hathor, and such a mirror may be reforged by a direct source of Hathor’s divine fire;
    • Such a source can be found back in the Crypt of Nephthys, by, “following your dreams.”
  • Meanwhile, Qualith got separated from the party, and explored the Crucible on his own, looking for a hidden repository of knowledge.
    • He found a resident group of fire creatures (and one ghost) living there;
    • They hesitantly directed him to a ruined subterranean chamber, guarded by another enchanted door. Inside were ancient ledgers and tax records referencing a group known as, “The Drinkers.”
  • Once reunited, the party returned to Shard en route to the Crypt of Nephthys. The city was beset by unusual weather, and a large ice-fortress had appeared just above the bathhouse, just within the past few days:
    • A population of mephits had appeared in town, and their numbers exponentially increased within just a few days.
    • The mephits had constructed the ice-fortress (using the spring, magic, and icy breath-weapons), and had haphazardly started to take over the town.
    • The bulk of the town’s original population had moved to the older city ruins, and Natare the asherati had taken lead of ‘the resistance.’
    • The party and Natare defeated some more-troublesome mephits, and worked out a truce/alliance with those that remained.

10. Return to the Crypt of Nephthys:

  • The party returned to the Crypt of Nephthys, to find it guarded by some bhuka-made constructs and one bhuka scout.
    • The group defeated the constructs, and questioned the scout (who insisted he was about to warn the party); they requested that the scout go and fetch Wahele and the mirror shards.
  • And the Crypt of Nephthys beckons once again…
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The Old Ways laid bare
  • After returning to the Crypt of Nephthys and dealing with the bhuka demolition crew, the group re-explored some of the lower chambers. There, they discovered the entrance to the lower Tomb of Regrets.
  • Following the chamber downwards, the party met Hati and Jo’am, residents of the lower tombs. They directed the group to Sekhmet, who was found to be the source of all of the party’s prophetic dreams.
  • After a travelling within Sekhmet’s dream-memories, the party’s dream-selves were immolated with divine fire and awoke, still on-fire from the dream, and armed with knowledge of the past:

It seems that the goddesses of the Old Ways tried to annihilate the great tower of a powerful, wayward sect known as The Drinkers. In doing so, many more perished than anticipated, and the Mirrored Sea was all that remained. In the years that followed, the clergy of the Old Ways sought to erase this event (and evidence of the blasphemous sect) from history, entombing the remaining fragments of history in the Tomb of Regrets.

  • After transferring the dream/divine fire from themselves to a torch, the party regrouped just in time to be alerted that the upper crypt was under attack.
  • The interred dead in the tomb amassed and again took up arms, and together with the party defended the tomb against an onslaught of digging constructs and summoned creatures, sent by the bhuka.
  • The battle destroyed some of the upper crypt (particularly the inner shrine and the Capistro travelling mirror), but the lower tombs survived unscathed.
  • With the aid of Hati’s divinations, the party traveled Northwest, tracking the bhuka and the broken mirror shards.
  • They found the shards (and some of Wahele’s old equipment) in the possession of a ill-tempered sphinx, who apparently took the goods from Route.
  • After incapacitating the sphinx, the group left, and traveled on to Shard in search of a glass-worker to repair the mirror.
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The Mirror Beckons
  • Upon returning to Shard, Sabor de Soledad displayed his eagerness to investigate his centuries-old foes, the Drinkers: a sect of wizards that turned away from the Old Ways, using Isis’s magic for sustenance and unnatural life.
  • Returning to ongoing priorities, the group repaired the broken shards of the mirror, and stepped through to the Mirror World. After leaving a crisscrossing set of tunnels, the party entered the ‘flip’ side of the Mirrored Sea, with the Great Tower of the Drinkers in the far distance.
  • En route, the group defeated some local mirror-fey creatures (including the sculptor mentioned in prior adventures). Unfortunately, the group killed the sculptor as well, before realizing that he was being dominated a cloud of fey-mirror-glass.
  • The group next stumbled upon an invisible fortress of mirror-people, who seemed to be at war with the Drinkers. After some unsuccessful interactions with the denizens, Ja-orad left the grisly fortress in chaos, while the rest of the group went searching for invisible wizards.
  • The group next was waylaid by a series of illusions (both magical and physical), and was slowed down by a small trapped building. After a brief encounter with a Drinker, a powerful undead creature, and an avatar of the Aten deity (and the mirror-double of Qualith, who must have replaced the original during his overnight watch) the party continued on.
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