Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

The Belly of the Beast, Part 4

??? (date unknown)

Before they depart into the tunnel, the Shields of the Sorrowfell make a handful of additional preparations. Bezaldooz takes a moment to memorize the teleportation circle sequence, in case they need to some day return. Bosabrieln invokes additional cure wounds on Bezaldooz and Peren to ensure they are ready for whatever comes next. Peren suspects they are close to their quarry, and notes that the createst concentration of slime seems to be “down.” Knowing that it is difficult to move in this medium, Peren gives Bosabrieln his obsidian steed while Torinn gives Bosabrieln his scroll of blindness/deafness, since Bosabrieln is the most likely to be able to get a clear shot at the Peacock Lord. (Bosabrieln speaks the command phrase to summon the nightmare from the obsidian steed, then mounts it, commenting to Peren, “You know there’s a song coming out of this. I’m sorry in advance.”)

With all potential preparations complete, they descend.

It is not long before they are met by a booming voice, echoing up the corridor. It paraphrases, “‘Welcome to my parlor,’ said the spider to the fly.” When the Shields begin chiding the voice, it proclaims that it knew they were going to say that.

The Shields begin to move toward the voice, surmising (correctly) that it is their quarry. They very briefly feel the familiar sensation of all extant magics layered upon them shutting off before the antimagic field suddenly drops, followed by a flash of light almost two hundred feet down the shaft. The flash of light illuminates an enormous face, revealing the eyes and the toothed maw of a beholder of truly mammoth size — a creature that can only be the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord. The flash narrows into a beam, aimed directly at Torinn; before he can flee, it strikes him with full force. His armor deactivates, and he feels the connection to his reality cord sever, and the mind blank dissipates. (His axe Drusilla seems unaffected.) Although he doesn’t know for certain, he suspects these things have deactivated for good.

The Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord is too distant for a clean shot, so the Shields are forced to awkwardly swim in the creature’s direction while he pummels them with eye beams. Torinn narrowly misses another beam that leaves him fatigued and weakened in its wake, while Peren continues unseen toward the target. Bosabrieln keeps being thrown from the nightmare as it enters and exits the Peacock Lord’s antimagic field, prompting it to alternate between figurine form and nightmare form. Bezaldooz centers a meteor swarm where he suspects the creature was, briefly illuminating two of its companions that are reduced to bloody shreds. It is soon just the Shields and the Peacock Lord.

Although the thing launches a flurry of eye beams at them, they manage to survive the onslaught, drawing ever closer to its location. Peren reaches it first, stabbing it and moving away before it can retaliate. (It does attempt to bite at him a few times, but never figures out his location to accurately strike at him.) Although the Peacock Lord manages to hit Torinn with a ray that renders him unconscious, while the creature is dodging Peren and getting in range, that allows Bosabrieln the chance to invoke one of his scrolls of blindness/deafness on the creature. Angered, the creature attempts to bite at Peren — being the only one who gets within range — and flee. Bosabrieln awakens and heals Torinn before continuing to head towards the Peacock Lord. It manages to shake off the blindness quickly, launching eye rays at them as it retreats. As the Shields draw closer to it and it pulls farther away, Bosabrieln attempts one, last desperate maneuver, invoking a hypnotic pattern.

The Peacock Lord is stunned, staring slack-jawed as it floats in the tunnel.

Seizing on the opportunity, the Shields move into position, waiting until everyone is ready to attack the Peacock Lord and break the spell. Bosabrieln starts with a vicious mockery before Bezaldooz joins in with a fire bolt and Peren and Torinn move in with blades. The badly injured Peacock Lord barely has time to react to the onslaught before Peren’s vorpal blade cuts it apart with a savage snicker-snack.

The Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord is no more.

Bezaldooz and Peren descend on the creature, carving off eyes and fangs as trophies. Torinn, too fatigued to respond, ignores his axe when it whispers to him that now is the time to strike at the others, before they become gods. (But he makes note of the request; even though the axe craves gods’ blood, it would just as readily prefer to destroy them before they become gods.) When they are certain they have done all they wish, noting that one of the strange psychic storms of the Far Realm is screaming at them down the corridor, they gather and Bezaldooz plane shifts them to Argent.

Allegedly.

They arrive in some manner of badlands, a series of rocky, craggy hills overlooking a vast desert plain underneath the oppressive heat of an enormous red sun. As the nightmare is still active, Peren uses it to scout, but cannot determine their location, other than his sneaking suspicion that they are not on Khaldun. He does note the approach of a single figure amid the wastes, and when he reports this to the others, they decide to greet this figure. He dismisses the nightmare, returning the obsidian steed to its figurine form, and the Shields begin to walk toward the traveler under the aggressive and oppressive gaze of the merciless red sun.

When the traveler finally catches sight of them, he waves at them and begins jogging closer to them. He is a robed figure, dressed for the desert but perhaps not this desert. When he finally arrives, he is overjoyed, indicating they are the first such travelers he has seen. He asks if they have water, and Bosabrieln throws him his water skin. The traveler unwraps his face, revealing that he is a dark-skinned and handsome elf. His cracked lips betray that he has been here for a surprising amount of time, and he greedily drinks the water before Bosabrieln asks Peren to refill the water skin with his decanter of endless water. As the elf marvels at his good fortune, the parties make introductions. The elf indicates that he is Ansrael Amshar, and when he recognizes that the four before him are the Shields of the Sorrowfell, he is shocked and asks again where they are, as he does not know this place. He reveals that he is from Anhak, and knows the Shields as great heroes from centuries in the past. Bosabrieln seeing where this is going, asks if they mysteriously disappeared, but Ansrael indicates they did not; he is not as familiar with their exploits as some, but they are revered as folk heroes and gods across the sea in the Sorrowfell Plains. He explains that he was investigating a temple in Anhak’s Kharha Desert when he clearly activated something that dragged him to this endless desert. The Shields note that they wish to rest, as they have been through a great battle — Ansrael asks if it was the Battle of Scandshar against the death-goddess, and Bosabrieln explains that it was not — and Ansrael agrees. Peren uncoils his rope and casts rope trick so that they may rest away from the desert heat.

Inside the space, Bosabrieln and Ansrael talk about what he has heard of the Shields, while Bosabrieln plays music and offers what healing he has left to the rest of the Shields. Torinn, investigating his equipment, finds that most of his magic items were deactivated, save for Drusilla and his boots of striding and springing. Bosabrieln also presents Ansrael with the Codex Canalium and the five reality cords (including the one disenchanted one), explaining that they were instructed to give him these gifts.

Before the rope trick ends, Bosabrieln suspects they have achieved what they need of this space, and according to The Archivist, they are to leave this person behind with the objects they gave him. They should be ready to use the Crux of Eternity to return home; Bezaldooz agrees to be the one to invoke the artifact, despite the fatigue it will cause him. Before they abandon Ansrael, Bosabrieln asks Peren to give the elf his decanter of endless water. When he seems confused at the gesture, they tell him farewell and Bezaldooz invokes the power of the Crux of Eternity before he has a chance to respond.

The Shields appear in the teleportation circle in Scandshar’s Market District, apparently around noon on the same day they left. Tired, they make their way through the hustle and bustle of crowds toward The Laughing Maiden to rest. The raven-haired proprietor is behind the bar, as per usual, and as they sit down to drinks, they receive stares from those who can tell they are tired and bloodied from some unknown trial. When they order drinks, Torinn asks the proprietor if he can buy the bar; she responds that it is not for sale, and he says he will ask again tomorrow, prompting laughter from Bosabrieln. With nothing further to be done, and everyone quite strained from the morning’s trials, the Shields largely drink and rest at The Laughing Maiden for the rest of the day. As Torinn wishes to purchase new armor, Bosabrieln and Torinn head back to the Market District to find an armorer, and are able to find a suit of heavy plate on display that looks draconic in its style; Bosabrieln purchases it for Torinn for 150 platinum pieces. Peren, meanwhile, also shops for reagents worth 10gp, as he has a ritual he will soon wish to perform. (While they’re out, they don’t notice any unusual activity in the city, although the Shields suspect it is only a matter of time before they encounter a reaction to what has just transpired.) After their errands are complete, the Shields return to The Laughing Maiden, spending the rest of the day there before retiring to their rooms for the night.

Peren awakens in the early morning from his trance, gathering the components and performing his ritual — a summoning to invoke a fiendish spirit. Introducing itself as Omalim, it takes the form of a dark stygian owl with crimson eyes, and indicates it is here to serve him as his familiar.

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