Adventures in the Astral Shard and the death of Prelate Cephus (2016-10-26)

When last we'd left our heroes, Gent was off on his own in a shard of the Astral plane - resisting the might of the corrupted & selfish wizard, Felix. Serym and Garamond were doing all they could to take on the might of Prelate Cephus' forces of compelled knights and monsters of darkness.

Today's cast:

  • Garamond - the human paladin, unshakable from his faith in Utar
  • Gent - the human wizard, bending reality to his will in a pocket of the astral plane
  • Serym - the human druid, laying at death's door

Gent looked up, and by up he actually looked down at the floor that quickly approached him as he plummeted from his position just below Felix. The spectral monster had missed with its punch, and Gent seized the moment to detonate the summoned fiery phoenix into its form. Felix likewise seized this opportunity to unravel the effects slowing him from arriving at his intended destination at the top of the tower. As Gent fell, he knew that his only chance to end the threats that Felix represented was to take out the power hungry mage. He envisioned himself falling directly at the grinning villain, and as he did so it became reality. Hand cocked back in a fist, Gent tore at the very fabric of this reality and collected some of the crackling white energy to hold lightning in his hand as he streaks toward his foe. The wind whipped over Gent's body as his robes became white with silver embroidery all along the edges.

His flying form made thunderous contact as Gent slammed his fist into Felix's face. The astral energy danced across the mage's body, quickly flashing out from the point of impact. Reality shuddered and flexed as Felix had a moment of realization to prepare for the deadly strike. The two mages crashed into the marble floor of a tower and passed out.

As Serym drifted through the air, time seemed to slow. The boot that had crashed into his side had cracked his rib, and the pain of the disintegrated bones in his arm rang painfully across his dimming consciousness. His battered feline form hit the cobblestones, and vines quickly sprang up out of the earth to reclaim him, pulling his body down into the soil; down into darkness. He found himself on a woodded hill that seemed to extend forever both up and down. The trees were barren, and no life was to be found anywhere. Serym called out to any other being who might be here, only to be greeted by a little old lady. At each blink, Serym found himself walking from the woods into a clearing with a house, then standing at the entry door to this house, and finally sitting in a chair at her very dusty kitchen table.

Death cut straight to the heart of the matter: it knows that Serym still has work to do in the world, and only wants one thing in return. The contract that appeared in front of Serym reads simply "When I see the one who wears the sun as a crown, I will kill him." As Serym considered the ethics of killing a being who might be aligned with nature, Death got impatient and shouted for some refreshment. Serym's adopted brother walked out carrying a plate of tea, his throat obviously slashed open. Death clarified the terms of the deal somewhat, stating that the person it wants killed is most certainly not aligned with nature, and almost certainly be someone Serym is not going to like. Serym picked up the pen and requested to know the fate of his brother as part of the deal. Death contemplated briefly, pricked its finger, and touched its blood to the document altering the deal to include this term. As Serym signed his mark, he felt as if each stoke of the quill was cutting into his arm, pain and heat radiating out from that location.

Garamond watched as Serym's shifted body hit the ground, and immediately started to cut his way through possessed Knights of Utar. Two of them stood between Garamond and his friend's limp form. The paladin engaged them in battle and caught one unprepared, neatly severing its head from its body, while the other was more than prepared. As they crossed steel, Serym's unconscious body twitched and began to revert to his human form.

The quill made its final mark, Death smiled, and Serym found himself standing in the northern village of his tribe of orcish druids. The settlement had been ransacked, and two brutish barbarians stood at the entrance of his adopted father's hut. One of them peered inside, then slashed out with his sword into the darkness. An orcish form bowled the plated figure back toward the communal pyre, and Serym shifted into a polar bear and charged to aid his brother. The barbarian's sword was coated with blood, and it was apparent that he had scored a strong blow across the orc's chest, but as Serym sought to maul the invaders he found that he passed right through them. The downed barbarian called "Brother, strike down this savage beast!" and the other armored brute took advantage of a momentary opening and slashed Serym's brother across the neck. The downed soldier got up, and they made their way into the hut to finish their task of retribution for attacks on their settlement.

Dimness at first slowly returned to a blurry cacophony in the middle of a pitched battle. Serym lay broken and bruised on the cobblestones of the courtyard as Garamond and his adversary circled each other only paces away. The knight struck with uncanny force and determination. Nothing stopped this being, not even the loss of its shield limb as a mighty blow from Garamond severed the limb from his body. All Serym could manage was to inch around behind Garamond and hope to put himself as far away from the possessed being as possible. Garamond noticed his friend stirring, and set up to defend the druid. Hoping that there might still be a bit of fight left in him, Garamond asked the druid to take advantage of an opening he created. Unable to manage that, Serym instead threw a chunk of rubble from the earlier fighting at the knight, embedding it into the stump of his severed arm. As much as nothing else had affected the knight's uncanny resolve, this grit caused it to flinch, and Garamond rose to the occasion and smote his foe.

Cold radiated from the solidness of a white marble floor flooded into Gent's senses, and he rolled over and raised himself up off the floor on shaky arms. He glanced over at Felix to see his foe faring much worse than he: a crater covered half of the dwarf's face where Gent had struck the usurper wizard. Oddly, the floor under Gent was pristine white marble but it faded to a void-like substance underneath Felix. The entity that had earlier menaced Gent stood between the two of them, similarly transitioning from a grayish shadow figure to void with an outline of shadow. When he looked up, Gent saw that he was in a tower that stretched off into infinity superimposed with a sparse star field in the void of nothingness.

Felix started to stir, and Gent knew that he needed help to finally end this conflict. He opened himself up to any who would help him strike down the evil wizard and his schemes to find his success at the cost of the weak, and immediately felt a mental presence pushing against his own trying to make contact. The entity that stood between them offered Gent the power needed, and Gent accepted. Astral energy burned away at Gent's mind and soul, which he utilized to create sphere of emptiness and eject Felix from this realm. As the bubble raced toward Felix, the rogue wizard used his last remaining will to stop it and push it back toward Gent. The two struggled in their match of wills, until Gent pulled on the last of his will and created a shockwave that shook the tenuous reality of this plane. Gent's arm rippled as water, as did the floors, the walls, and the air. When this force struck the sphere it streaked to Felix's location, where both it and he unceremoniously disappeared from this plane.

The corrupted knight's body fell to a ground with a thud, and Garamond turned to his friend quickly. The monstrosities of Ratu were bearing down on their location, but Serym wasn't going anywhere in his present condition. Summoning all of his holy power, Garamond reached out to Utar and channeled divinity into the druid's battered body. Everything went marvelously, but in a moment of broken concentration his connection to Utar faltered and Garamond found himself without any ability to heal. The two decided to follow after the scattered ranks of soldiers fleeing the square before the writhing mass of Dodecapi and animated statues destroys everyone present.

His body twisted and melded into the form of an oversized arctic serpent, and Serym became the perfect escape steed for Garamond. As Serym deftly dodged among the fleeing guards, Garamond called out to Utar to give him aid, and his god delivered. However aid from the gods rarely comes without price, and Garamond's healing reopened many wounds on the recently deceased druid.

A din chased the heroes as the forces of darkness closed in on the fleeing masses, but with quick deft work Garamond was able to buy them some time with his fire mitten. The ground trembled with now-familiar thuds, as several large stone statues lurched out of side-streets to head off the mass of flesh. However, Garamond spied their quarry ahead, and knew that the hour of reckoning for Prelate Cephus was at hand.

The entity watched Gent with a feeling of anticipation without malice. Having never encountered such a creature before, Gent was only able to recall stories about fragments of the Astral Plane which had been separated from the whole for so long that they would develop their own consciousness and manifestation of form within their spaces. Cautiously, Gent asked the being if it took a side in the morality of the mortal races or just simply wished to be left alone. Quickly, perhaps even simultaneously a series of scenarios deluged into the wizard's mind.

Flying far overhead of Redrock, the forces of Ratu led by Prelate Cephus were destroying the city and attacking the innocent. The entity sent a feeling of displeasure.

A woman is getting mugged in a back alley, when she decides to fight back against her assailant. The entity sent a feeling of approval.

As the wizard processed the flood of thought and emotion pouring into his consciousness, he posed to the entity an offer: you seem to be aligned against mortals who would take advantage of the weak, much as I am. If you would allow it, I will take your power out into the world to bring strength to the week and prevent greedy mortals like that wizard from exploiting them.

The entity appraised the wizard, and sent "We'll see." and blasted Gent with magical force.

Serym and Garamond slithered forward, leaving dwarves to die and contend with the stone giants. As they turned the corner on the alley where Prelate Cephus had run to Garamond was blown off the back of his scaly steed as if by a strong gust of wind. Immediately the 6 knights protecting the prelate set about attacking the large snake and trying to turn it into the best mashed snake served up this side of the Material Plane. Serym had just the defence and shifted into a large tortoise. He turned his thick shell toward the knights and looked over at his friend the paladin rushing toward him brandishing a blade glowing with grayish light.

As Garamond got up off the ground, he saw his long-absent friend, Gent, casting spells to help him and the knights of Utar fend off this ferocious purple panther. Garamond felt the call of his deity and lit his blade aflame with holy grayish light. As he charged toward the panther, he could only think about protecting his friend, Gent.

After trying to fend off the relentless paladin, Serym turned to the only tactic he could imagine that wouldn't necessarily hurt Garamond and charged at the concentrating prelate. After knocking man down, he shifted back to human so that he could better assess the situation.

The momentary break in Cephus' concentration allowed Garamond to momentarily see that he was being deceived, and called upon Utar's Divinity to command these wayward knights to their sworn duty and devotions. Two of them ran to defend "Gent" from the monstrous panther. One knight's head exploded, and another collapsed writhing on the ground, and the remaining two knights set upon Garamond. This allowed Garamond to finally, fully escape the alternate reality that the prelate had thrust into his head, and the Paladin struck down the deluded knights with divine authority.

By this point, the prelate had regained his composure and began to threaten the duo once more. Serym rebuked the two knights coming to assist the prelate, who broke resolve and ran away from the encounter. Shifting into a northern yeti, the druid used the creature's empathic powers to make contact with the prelate at a cost of his own mental wellbeing. By flooding the dwarf's senses with happiness and pleasantries he thoroughly distracted the corrupted cleric from his murderous rampage. Serym held strong even as existential dread and armchair nihilism flooded into the yeti's head. With luck, this allowed Garamond time to regain his senses and he raised his fire mitten at the defenseless Prelate.

Garamond spoke fire with his mind, and Prelate Cephus was no more. Fire streaked toward his head, and the gory explosion covered the yeti's fur. In his mind, Serym experienced a brand new but wholly familiar sense of trauma as Prelate Cephus' consciousness died will connected to his own.

Sadly, the heroes had no time to celebrate as several 20-, 30-, and 40-foot stone statues had just arrived on the scene.

The magical force from the astral entity abated, and Gent found himself standing beside a king's throne. Several knights stood aside of a street urchin who claimed he only took what he did so that he could feed his family while the executioner stood at the ready with his gleaming sword. Gent laid his hand on the king's arm to advise leniency for this man, however the king's eyes grew hard with his lust for blood. As he strode down from his throne, he took the sword from the executioner to kill his own subject. Gent walked up behind the murderous king and said "Forgive me" as he pierced a long, pointed dagger through the man's back.

Gent felt his reality shift and found himself at once standing in a cobblestone street made of red rock. Two dwarven fighters clad in armor stood aside him, and a towering 2 story statue raised its fist to crush one of them. The dwarf held his shield at the ready, anticipating his last stand, helpless. As a sense of alarm swept over Gent, he reflexively reached out and created a magical barrier over the frozen fighter. The golem rained down blows on the barrier while it held steadfast.

Out of the shadows, a man-sized statue rocketed toward the other soldier. Unable to break his concentration on the dome of protection, Gent shoved the unaware military-man out of the way. Finding himself menaced by this murder machine he ducked while dropping the force bubble, which allowed him to raise a wall of rock out of the ground itself. This launched the small statue away from the battle and tripped up the larger statue as it prepared to strike the soldier who had been frozen in fear this entire time. As the statue began to tip toward the hapless soldier Gent threw his fragile frame at the soldier and erected a bubble of force around the two of them. Rock crumbled around them shutting out all light, and Gent could feel his barrier beginning to crack.

Suddenly he was standing at the base of the infinitely tall tower once more. The white marble of Gent's manifestation had spread up the entirety of the tower, and the entity had taken on a silvery, metallic appearance. Where its head would have been shone a brilliant star, and in the dual reality that overlaid this one the star field was now bright and colorful.

The astral entity held out an arm offering something, and Gent reached out his hand. The weight of a small black stone pyramid dropped into his hand. It instantly began burning with a now-familiar fire, and Gent closed his hand around the object. The soulfire spread through his entire being, scouring his soul and mind with righteous flame.

When Gent regained the use of his senses, the entity sent him a thought of approval. He could feel the compelling sphere attached to this realm, his realm, and pulled it apart as easy as a simple knot in string. He asked the entity where it felt his help was most needed, and it showed him two scenes: his friends fighting the prelate, and a losing battle between the remnants of his own forces reinforced by the clerics of Nantosvetla versus the remaining arcanists. Gent chose to join the battle in the arcanist's district due to his trust in Garamond's devotion to Utar.

As he faded from the astral plane, Gent's body reformed out of the magical maelstrom that his essence had dispersed into upon climbing the obsidian pyramid. A stream of silver metal whipped up into the air and poured into a shape, which morphed and flexed to become Gent. A fireball streaked past his face, gusts of wind buffeted his body, and general chaos reigned as this protracted battled stretched over the entire plaza. Still feeling the strong effects of his recent transformation, Gent reached out his hands and called forth metal to bind the rogue arcanists. Silver chains burst forth from the earth, wrapping around the hands and bodies of a dozen arcanists and yanking them down to the earth. His voice amplified, Gent ordered "STOP!" and a startled hush fell over the battle.