Conquerors of the Planes
Conquerers of the Planes
Hakaril Silvar summoned several adventurers to his office in the castle by means of flyers or, in Tassi Wells' case, by personal request. The problem was relatively minor: some seriously-displaced monsters cropping up in farm country some distance away.
The origin of the displacement was a portal in the frozen northern areas of Igala. The portal seemed to be sucking astral energy from Gaera to... well, someplace else. Upon closer investigation, the portal led to a facility on the plane of Regulus.
The natives had someone there who could speak a variety of Elvish, and so the party was able to discover to some extent what was going on. The plane suffered from shortages of astral energy due to the activities of a race of azure-skinned elves called Electerians. The Electerians consumed astral energy by breathing, and their technology ran on it, expended it beyond replenishing.
In order to fight a war against a race of religious fanatics known only as the altairians, the Electerians had to seek out other sources of astral energy. They also had an enemy on their other flank: The Shakari. A race of near-human Druids living in the dwindling wilderness, the Shakari hated the Electerians for wasting the mana resources of their plane. They also hated the altairians for being imperialist fanatical madmen.
So the Electerians looked for new resources. Because the only living things they found on Gaera were large giant-eating frost worms roaming the tundra, they assumed it was an uninhabited plane and, as a result, fair game for harvesting.
The party had a choice between starting a war over Gaera's astral plane, or finding the Electerians another solution so that they could quit leeching mana of their own volition. To that end, the party investigated the altairians to see what the other party to the conflict could be like. In the meantime, the Electerians sent a delegation to Gaera to engage in negotiations with Hakaril Silvar. The key point in the negotiations is that the Electerians are not interested in engaging in full-scale war with the Gaerans; if anything, the electerian position is that they are being victimized by destructive Shakari terrorists and Altairian fascists.
The altairians were a race of, at least superficially, Celestials. They had wings at least. What was odd was that they had a number of wings that seemingly related to their status. White wings and hair were slightly superior to black wings and hair, and the more wings an altairian had, the closer they were to God. In essence, "Two Wings Good, Four Wings Better." The number of wings an altairian has are allegedly correlated to its actions in a past life. Merit gained one wings and therefore status in one's next life. Misdeeds meant demotion.
The party's informant was a blackwinged altairian named Mikhail Une. He expressed sadness that they were even further from Altaire than he was, and was the only altairian who would even acknowledge them. The altairians allegedly had a duty from their god to take custody of the plane, taking it under their control. It was why they were created.
He mentions that there is some talk of very powerful artifacts that could be used to turn the tide of the war, ancient relics buried out of reach of the common man. However, he also notes that most of these artifacts would not be associated with Altair, and as a result, that their use would be considered heretical.
There was supposedly a tomb to the northwest that belonged to an Electerian warrior so respected on the battlefield for his strength and courage that even his enemies were unable to slander him. Supposedly, he fought in the pseudo-mythological “Last War of the Tyrants” that took place over a thousand years prior. It had been a battle between Vishmarl, a god of valour, and Desiron, the god of chaos. Makhail-Une heard some altairian soldiers discussing a possible investigation of the tomb, suggesting that the artifacts could be there.
When the party arrived at the tomb of the legendary warrior, they found that it had been disturbed. Worse still, they lost a party member to the hazards of the tomb. Edwyrd was killed in battle, and when Tassi attempted later to resurrect him, her goddess forbade it. Armed with the knowledge that these artifacts existed and may well be in the hands of one of the parties to this conflict, the party returned to the altairian capital.
The party also sought out the Shakari. From them they learned that the plane's plant life was capable of replenishing the mana spent by the Electerians, but their rampant industrialization was destroying this resource and, rather than changing their behavior, the Electerians were apparently expanding to other planes to squander their resources as well. The Shakari were not pleased with anyone at this point.
They discussed using polymorphing magic to infiltrate altairian society and learn more. Meanwhile, back in altairian territory over breakfast, they overheard a discussion of the rumors of “rebellion among the chosen.” Supposedly, an “unauthorized” altairian settlement was slowly growing in the north. Upon locating and visiting this settlement, they were welcomed with the same indifference they met in the city. However, they were met there by Mikhail.
According to this charismatic new leader, Altair has abandoned his children and has turned a blind eye to their devotion. No longer is he interested in protecting and guiding his people. This has attracted mostly the lower members of society, a large number of whom are willing to die for their new leader without further justification. The leader in question is Yavvil Ocht, a powerful being who is apparently a cleric of Altair; he also claims that there are other sources aside from Altair from which power can be drawn and that these sources are less interested in enforcing petty classist structure and more willing to reward devotion. Enter the "prolealtairian revolution."
According to Makhail-Une, Yavvil-Ocht's current mission for him and other altairians is to trek just a bit further north to the Algol Mountains, where Yavvil has seen visions that a great weapon is being stored. As an act of good faith, they offered to retrieve the artifact. Jack trusted Yavvil and wanted to assist, and the others saw it as an opportunity to learn more about this group. At the very least, helping the rebels would eliminate an enemy for the Electerians, and potentially end the war spurring the theft of Gaera's mana.
From the mountains the party recovered some sort of key that had apparently been saturated with the powers of darkness. Good omen, right? Unable to do anything with it themselves, but unwilling to trust Yavvil completely with the artifact of horrifying evil, the party kept a close eye on things as they turned it over.
The party returned to Electerian territory to rendezvous with Ardam Elmine, who had apparently brought an artifact recovered on Gaera that could be one of the legendary weapons. It was the hilt of a sword that had no apparent blade. In a popular Electerian card game tournament, the party won another artifact, a medallion whose effects weren't currently totally clear. They were given to Sen for safekeeping, as he was the only one who used a sword, and was probably the best qualified to protect them anyway.
Yavvil Ocht also finds a way to use that damned key! Apparently there's a huge circle of stones out in the nowhereland, and Yavvil inadvertently used it to call the hordes of Desiron, the ancient god of chaos and destruction. Whoops. Among the hordes were millions of small partly-mechanical goblins and what could only be termed the "cybertarrasque." Aided by the medallion, the sword given to the party flared forth with a blade of light, enabling Sen to wipe out the goblin army with chilling speed. The third artifact was a suit of armor seemingly made from a tarrasque. Immediately after his spectacular performance, the sword disappeared and he was attacked by the Tarrasque, which missed and gave the party an opportunity to run the heck away. Yavvil disappeared.
Now, there are all kinds of legends and myths about this mess. Apparently it's been predicted or foreshadowed on every side of the resource war. Locating Yavvil once more, he mentioned what he calls “the Great Purge,” an altairian legend where terrible creatures would exterminate all life except that loyal to Altair.
The Shakari had some information as well. The Shakari had apparently heard of Desiron, and they spoke of a dark servant that wanders the plane claiming souls for his evil master—- the entropic reaper. The Shakari fear him as an embodiment of chaos, a twisted perversion of the real death, which is orderly and painless.
The entropic reaper supposedly knows all of Desiron's secrets, but is unwilling to reveal them under normal circumstances. It fears nothing, including its own death, as it will ultimately be reborn. However, the reaper does have one weakness (and one fear): purification. It is possible to use holy magic to destroy the creature permanently, also dealing a serious blow to Desiron in the process. The Shakari have a crystal that can be used to trap the reaper, but no one has dared to attack it in an attempt to capture it for purification. Thanks to the party's widespread reputation as neutral parties who only wish to stop the conflict, the Shakari gave them this crystal.
After capturing and interrogating the reaper with the wrath of their stern Baronian white mage, the party moved on to a really really fun task: They had to stop Yavvil from attempting to visit Altair's personal plane and destroy him. Either way, bad deal. Either Yavvil somehow succeeds and likely ends up assisting Desiron by removing one of the dark god's foes, or Yavvil fails and the party loses a friend. Bad bad deal.
They met with Hakaril and he worked with the Electerians to teleport them to Altair's realm. He also offered the Electerians reinforcements. The Electerians are whipping out their massive mana-sucking battlemechs, and Hakaril had recruited old enemies of Sen's from Nekonia, as well as a woman named Ode Sparrowmoon.
Visiting Altaire entailed a teleportation spell that, unfortunately, wasn't round-trip. Fortunately, when they arrived, they met a friendly ball of wings who seemed more than willing to enlighten them about his people. He and Vishmarl had been allies, but Vishmarl had poured so much of his essence into the artifacts that he was too weak to keep Desiron bound. Altaire had intended his people to guard the plane from Desiron, serving as stewards and agents of their god's good intentions.
The party returned, with their new helpful divine patron effortlessly returning them to their proper plane. Meeting up with Yavvil again, they explained to him that they had spoken directly with Altaire, and he was not the enemy. Desiron was the threat, and Yavvil agreed to recruit his people to assist. If the party could aid in their revolt, the now-dominant rebel faction would offer the resources of their whole nation for the battle, and would have no interest in conquering the rest of their plane.
This was amenable to the party, and so they infiltrated a meeting of high-ranking altairians, just plain killing most of them. After this, Holden rallied the altairians behind him and behind Yavvil's cause. That done, and the assistance of the altairians assured, the party moved on to attempt to help the Electerians.
The Electerians were being bombarded by the host of Desiron, and needed assistance badly. The party found their way into what seemed to be a factory producing Desiron's army. In the course of their efforts to destroy this facility, they befrended a bronze dragon named Melchoir.
They returned to the Shakari, somewhat at a loss for what to do. In order to renew the energy of Vishmarl's artifacts the Shakari needed to Yavvil's essence within the sword through a difficult ritual that required some exotic components. The party was required to retrieve some of them from a nearby hazardous swamp, leading to a deep and enduring hatred of swamps burning in Ode's heart. After a somewhat tearful goodbye, the party gave up another ally to the cause. Once Yavvil's essence was in the sword, there was likely to be nothing left of him as an individual.
Holden left to ensure the success and stability of the new altairian government, so the party was left short one ally. The next time they entered the facility, they brought Melchoir with them. Melchoir, having taken a special liking to Rhiannon, confided in the party that the shadow dragon allied with Desiron had murdered his family, and their goals would mean his revenge. He assisted them, and stayed with the party even after his enemies had been killed.
Meanwhile, the influence of Desiron began to spread. The land became blackened and vaguely fleshlike, polluted by the abominable touch of the god of destruction. The entire party, as they slept, had a dream. In the dream, Yavvil, adorned with more wings than can be counted, appeared before the party and beseeched them to be steadfast in their courage, for the rise of the true enemy is nigh.
The party was awakened by the violent crash of thunder; and the party members, peeking outside, were nearly struck by lightning. There was an unholy rumbling in the distance that sounded like no thunder or earthquake anyone in the party had ever heard. The sky was black as pitch despite the fact that it should have been daytime. The clouds were meeting at a horrible vortex over the stone circle where the host of Desiron had originally been summoned.
The assault on the Electerians was getting worse, and it looked like there was little anyone could do. Hakaril contacted them, badly injured in the battle to hold the Electerian capital. The city would fall in a matter of hours. Melchoir was even more disturbed than the party, and eventually he explained why when the sounds of war horns resonated loudly, the sound amplifying until it was coming from six different sources. Terrified, he related the story of an old dragon legend that the apocalypse will be heralded by the blowing of the six horns, one for each species of elemental dragon. Each horn signifies the extinction of one species and the subjugation of a terrible new master.
Hakaril teleported to the party's location, and the reasons for his tactical withdrawal from Electerian territory were clear. When he arrived, he was so badly injured he was unconscious before he hit the ground. The party heard the sound of an enormous army behind them; it was a huge force of altairians, and they were marching toward the stone circle, headed by Yavvil!
Yavvil came as an emissary of Altaire, with an army of altairians behind him ready to die for their true purpose: defending their world. From the portal above the stone circle came what Melchoir called The Worldgorger Dragon, the herald of the end. The end of everything. The humanoids present knew the dragon as Tiamat, but the role of the mindbendingly huge six-headed dragon was the same.
By pooling their life essences together, the Altairians created a new individual out of all of their life force. They created a glowing being of light who tore into Tiamat, weakening her just enough to give the armies of the altairians a chance at destroying her army, and the party a chance to destroy her.
With each head of the dragon a different color and with different abilities, the party had a heavy battle ahead of them. Yavvil's forces and the party both had no reason to believe they would survive, much less be successful. However, due to the ingenuity of a small groups of adventurers and due to the valour and dedication of their allies, the armies of Desiron were defeated.
The party returned to their plane as Regulan heroes, but on Gaera, they were just a few more adventurers who had once again saved the world and who had eaten entirely too much pineapple.