Synopsis: In which the party frees and chats with the power source of the ship, and faces down the leader of the Xill ether pirates.
Starday, 19 Neth 4707, night, aboard the aether ship
The party stood in what was apparently the control room of the aether ship Emperpr Xin. McGregor continued to examine the strange sigils on the mysterious rotating brass cube, while the rest of the party checked out the rest of the room. Two sliding doors led aft. Zandu didn’t see any obvious traps, so he opened them. Zandu, Larissa, Charrone, and Halfred followed, while Durrok and Declan remained with McGregor in the control room.
One door led to a small featureless chamber, which itself led to another larger room. The larger room contained no furnishings save recesses in the walls, including one that would easily hold a reclining human. “Is this a bed?” asked Charrone. Zandu examined that recess, and found a secret panel in the wall. It took him a few moments to figure out how to open it, but he managed. Inside were two objects: a very large sapphire, and a strange egg-shaped object. The object was about the size of a goose egg, but weighed several pounds, as if it were made of solid lead. Etched onto its surface were indecipherable Thassilonian runes. Larissa cast a spell, but didn’t say anything. When asked, she said, “Oh, yeah, it’s magical. Can I take a look?” Zandu handed it to her.
At that moment, they heard McGregor’s voice from the control room. “Hey, guys, I think I’ve figured some of this out!” They exited through the other door in this room, which led back to the control room. McGregor pointed to one of the schematic diagrams. “These here seem to indicate the ship’s energy source. I don’t think I can turn it off, but I’m pretty sure that I can access it. And these symbols,” he pointed to another set, “seem to open a set of security doors in this room. I think I can open that too. Nothing else seems to make much sense, though.”
Zandu suggested that he access the energy source first. McGregor took a deep breath, and slid several of the sigil-marked plates around the face of the cube. He then sat in the throne facing the cube. The wizard felt a questioning presence around him, as if it were seeking confirmation of something. He then cleared his mind, and mentally confirmed the order.
The cube quickly stopped rotating, and then reversed its direction. The blue crackling energy across its surface turned red, and McGregor felt a strong objection. Several bolts of the red energy arced at the seated wizard, and he felt a painful electric shock. He stood up, and the cube returned to its slow counterclockwise rotation. “Well, it really didn’t like that, but I think it’s because it didn’t accept me as its commander. Maybe I can try again.” He sat down and felt the same questioning presence, and again confirmed his command. The cube sped up its clockwise rotation, and more blue energy crackled across its surface.
A golden glow began to emanate from the plinth below the cube, and the faint golden outline of a humanoid began to appear next to the plinth. Swirling golden motes of light formed within the humanoid outline, which also emitted a high-pitched whining noise. The humanoid form gained substantiality, and as the glow ebbed, a tall, dark-haired woman stood there. She was naked, and had large black-feathered wings like a bird of prey. She regarded the party warily, and took a staggering step forward, then collapsed to her hands and knees, as if she were physically exhausted. At the same time, a simple grey dress appeared on her body. McGregor recognized it as a simple glammer.
“Free at last,” she said in the guttural language of Infernal. She then struggled to her feet again, and again regarded the party warily.
Charrone instantly recognized the type of creature this was, as she had studied them extensively during her training as a Hellknight. “Be wary,” she whispered to her companions, “this is an erinyes devil. But she looks severely weakened, so the advantage is ours. She’ll want to negotiate, not fight. We can probably hold her to her word.”
“You are not xill,” stated the devil in perfectly-accented Thassilonian. She turned to McGregor, “You freed me. For that, I thank you. I don’t know how long I’ve been trapped in this vessel. This is Golarion, is it not?" The wizard nodded. “Tell me,” she asked, "in what year of Emperor Xin’s rule is it?”
“I fear that you have been trapped here a long time. It has been at least five millennia since ancient Thassilon fell.”
If that news surprised her, she didn’t show it. McGregor asked, “How did you come to be aboard this ship?”
“I was conducting some business on the Ethereal Plane. I saw this ship in the distance, and, having never seen anything quite like it, I investigated. However, as I approached, I was attacked. One of the crew was a Thassilonian binder, and I was captured, and placed in a cell. I was trapped in that cell for a long time, but could not tell how long. About two years ago, I was suddenly transported into a space below that cube. it was… unpleasant, but I was able to learn more about the ship. For one thing, I had a sense of time again. The Thassilonians were gone, and the crew is now xill. They are using this ship to lure treasure seekers aboard to capture as slaves.”
“And what are the xill doing with these slaves?”
“I don’t know— whatever xill do with slaves. They had been attacking travelers on the Ethereal Plane for a long time, but they got bolder once they figured out how to shift this ship back to the Material. This is their fifth jaunt to the Material Plane.”
“So, they aren’t fully in control of the ship?”
“Not exactly. They use some kind of psychic plant to communicate with the ship’s magical intelligence.”
“How is it that you didn’t escape? Can’t you travel extradimensionally?”
“The holding cell and the… torture chamber, for lack of a better word, both have binding magic in place. It’s inescapable, as far as I could tell. And believe me, I tried.”
“Are there any others of your kind aboard?”
“As far as I could tell, there are at least four others in the holding cells: a night hag, an efreeti, a hydrodaemon, and a vrock. Even if I knew how to free them, I’d recommend against it. Even if they offered you a boon.”
“Yes. For freeing them. Normally, one asks for it first, but I shall offer you one in appreciation for freeing me.” She took several strands of her long hair, and quickly tied them into a tight braid. “May I ask for a dagger?” McGregor handed one to her, which she used to cut off the braid, and then tied it to the hilt. She handed it back to the wizard. “Untie the braid, unravel it, toss the strands in the air and call for me. I will come, and will serve you for one day. However, I need some time to regain my power, and will not come if you try to summon me before 60 days have elapsed.”
“And what name should I call?”
“You can call me… Sakarja. McGregor noted that ‘Sakarja’ meant “She who has been freed” in Infernal. “And again, I thank you.” At that, she disappeared. “That was a greater teleport effect,” said McGregor.
MgGregor returned to the rotating brass cube and manipulated the sigil-plates again. “I think this will open an accessway to the lower hold.” He at in the chair, and felt the same questioning presence again, and confirmed the command. The cube spun faster, and a large image appeared on the fore-facing wall. The image showed the top deck of the ship, looking out across the harbor. Two Magnimar naval vessels could be seen in the bright moonlight, as could the two crystal obelisks that the party destroyed. “Hmm, that’s not what I wanted it to do…” muttered the wizard. He changed a few of the sigil plates, confirmed the command, and a door slid open, revealing a narrow set of stairs leading down.
Charrone led the way, followed by Zandu, leaving Halfred and Larissa to bring up the rear. At the bottom of the stairs was another sliding crystal door. Zandu didn’t notice any obvious traps, but suddenly remembered the metallic egg-shaped object. “Hey, Larissa, send that egg thing back down. I think we need it here.”
Larissa appeared not to hear, as she continued to study the brass cube. “Hey, Larissa,” said Halfred, “why don’t you hand me that egg.”
“Sure, I… hey, do you hear that?” Halfred then heard the sound of several clomping boots on the stairs that led to the teleportation chamber they’d used to get into the control room. “I think the xill are coming back!” As Halfred turned to look, Larissa dashed toward the same exit! Halfred tried to grab her, but she unexpectedly dropped to the floor, tucked into a roll, and somersaulted away. As Halfred tried to grab her again, she did a handspring, and bounded into the teleporter.
Simultaneously, the door in front of Charrone slid open of its own accord. Beyond was a large chamber that smelled strongly of damp vegetation. Filling the room were coils of vines, large leaves, and small oddly-shaped purple flowers. The vines and leaves were all off-white in color, and the tendrils appeared to grow directly into the walls of the chamber. At the far end of the chamber was a gallery of sorts that was raised ten feet from the floor, accessed by a wide stair. Atop the stair was the apparent trunk of the plantlife that filled the room— eight thick branches extended from the trunk, two of which were at least two feet in diameter. In the center of the trunk was a large, toothy maw. Sitting atop the trunk was a xill.
The party entered the chamber, and were immediately attacked by more xill. These didn’t try to grapple: they all used deadly force. The xill sitting on the trunk revealed itself to be a divine spellcaster, and seemed to be able to direct the plant to grasp enemies. It managed to grab hold of Charrone and drag her toward the , but she managed to keep her sword in hand, and stabbed the cleric before it could attack her. Two of the xill were each armed with a weapon that could fire bolts of electricity.
It was a tough battle, but the party was victorious, and slew all of the xill that showed themselves. With its rider down, the plant stopped attacking as well. After the battle was over, the party found that this room had several of the shelves or sleeping berths cut into the walls, and that many of them held clothing and adventuring gear, much of which appeared Tian in manufacture and style. Durrok recognized one pile of gear that belonged to the gnome.
Examining the gallery section, they found that the plant had nine roughly human-sized lumps inside tendrils behind the maw. Using a dagger, Halfred cut one open and found a living but unconscious human of Tian ancestry. Cutting open the other lumps found seven more Tians… and Wadincoast. All had been stripped of their equipment.
Within about a minute of extraction, all of them woke up. None of the TIans spoke Taldan, but several spoke Draconic and/or Celestial, and were able to tell their stories: five were from the city of Akafuto, in the Minkai Empire on the continent of Tian Xia; three were from the city of Zetang, in the nation of Tianjing, also on Tian Xia. These two groups apparently did not speak the same native language. Both groups told a familiar tale: a strange crystal ship appeared at night in their cities’ harbors. They were part of a team sent to investigate the ship, but were captured by the xill who manned the ship. When shown the recovered gear, each claimed what was theirs, but several pieces were unclaimed.
At that, a loud alarm sounded throughout the ship, and a loud female voice spoke in Thassilonian: “Navigation override disengaged. Programmed course laid in. Helmsman to the bridge. Ethereal shift in three minutes.” McGregor quickly translated, and added, “I think we’d better go, now.” The voice repeated it warning every thirty seconds, with each repeat the time remaining dropped by half a minute. The party, the gnome, and the eight Tian refugees made it to the Harbor Patrol boats with seconds to spare.
From the deck of the patrol boats, the party watched the ship: The runes that covered the exterior of the ship all glowed with a pale blue light, as did the huge blue crystal prism at the bow. Crackling bolts of arcane energy arced across the surface, and the whole ship began to glow. The glow became brighter, as the lines of the ship became less distinct, and as the glow faded, so did the ship. In less then ten seconds, the Emperor Xin was gone.