Synopsis: After defeating the ship’s defenses, the party encounters its crew.
Starday, 19 Neth 4707, evening. Aboard the aether ship
After defeating the second crystal golem in the galley below the main deck, the remaining marines gathered up the dead and wounded. Charrone ordered them back to the harbor patrol boats, and cwarned them to stay away from any obelisks on deck. They did so.
The room appeared completely barren, with perfectly smooth, seamless walls of the same translucent milky-white crystal that comprised the rest of the ship. The only feature was a flat panel on the fore side of the room, which was obviously a doorway of some kind, but the door did not seem to have any handle or mechanism to open it.
On the floor, near the ruined remains of the golem, was an axe. The haft appeared to be extremely solid wood, carved with images of sea life. The head of the axe was of a strange dark, lustrous metal, and it seemed just a bit heavier than it should. McGregor examined the blade and said, “Well, I’ve never actually seen any before, but I think that this axe is made of adamantine.” Durrok claimed the axe.
Zandu approached the door, and it began to shimmer, as if he were looking at the door through a pool of rippling water. Seeing no obvious traps, he reached out his hand. The door seemed only partially there: it gave some resistance to pressure, but did not seem completely substantial. Zandu thought that he felt strong points and weak points, and finessed his way through the weak points, and found himself on the other side of the door.
Halfred touched the door, and physically forced his way through. [[:declan|Declan] touched the door, and instinctively saw how to pass. McGregor used logic to find his way through. Charrone used her panache to will her way through. Durrok, Larissa, and Wadincoast each finessed their way through.
The next room appeared to be another featureless chamber, but this one also featured a large number of rectangular recesses in the walls, of various sizes. Their purpose remained a mystery. Zandu attempted to open the door they’d entered through, but the door did not respond from this side. Charrone used the Sight of the Inheritor, and saw that the door itself was evil. She then attempted to channel the power of Iomedae against the evil in the door, and a ghost manifested out of it! The ghost was humanoid but had small horns growing from its forehead. It was otherwise dressed as an Ulfen warrior, and struck at Charrone with a ghostly warhammer with a shimmering head. Surprisingly, the hammer struck solidly enough! After being surprised by a ghost with a physical attack, the party combined forces against it, and dispelled the ghost for the rest of the day.
The party pressed into the next room, and was unprepared for what they saw: growing into, out of, and through the solid walls of the ship’s bulkhead were thousands of translucent white vines. Some appeared more substantial than others; some vines would pass right through a character, while others were solid. As the party explored the room, eight strange creatures suddenly materialized and attacked! The creatures were vaguely humanoid, but with four arms each. Their red skin was hard and chitinous, and they had insect-like compound eyes and ant-like mandibles. Each had a strange serrated light shield, and three strange serrated blades the size of shortswords. They attacked immediately.
McGregor shouted, “They’re called Xill! They are from the Ethereal Plane, and tend to raid whatever they can find. Don’t let them capture you— they take slaves and use them for breeding stock.”
Charrone slashed at one with her sword. “Breeding stock?” she asked, “I don’t think I want to ask how that works.” The xill reached out to grab her, but missed.
McGregor blasted one with several magic missiles. “I read that they implant eggs in a host, and then the larvae eat their way out. It sounded pretty unpleasant.”
A xill grappled with Declan, and tried to pin him. Declan coudn’t break the hold, but managed not to get pinned. Larissa stabbed the one on Declan, as Halfred skewered one in the chest. Zandu also got grappled, and Durrok and Wadincoast both fired their crossbows at the one on him. Unfortunately, two more materialized next to the gnome, grappled him, and one bit him. The gnome cried out in pain, then went limp! The xill slowly started to fade away, taking Wadincoast with them.
The one on Declan managed to pin the cleric, and the two of them started to fade away. Thinking quickly, Zandu activated his Cape of the Mountebank, and attempted to teleport directly onto the same space as the xill. There was a bright flash, a puff of smoke, a loud “POOF!”, and Zandu and the xill both disappeared! At that, the tide turned, and the Sandpoint Heroes gained the upper hand. The remaining xill were either captured or slain.
Meanwhile, Zandu found himself suddenly underwater. Seeing the light of the moon above him, he swam for the surface, and found himself to be about thirty feet off the port side of the Emperor Xin, and about fifty feet from a Harbor Patrol boat. “Huh. I didn’t think that would actually work,” he pondered, but his reverie was short-lived, as the xill surfaced next to him, trying to grapple. “Hey! A little help her!” shouted Zandu to the marines aboard the patrol boat, and several of them opened fire at the xill with crossbows. A few hit, and Zandu swam for the boat. “I want to capture that creature alive,” said Zandu as he climbed aboard. The crew responded, and rowed to the now-unconscious xill, and pulled it aboard. Zandu then took his prisoner back aboard the crystal ship for interrogation.
Back aboard the ship, the party tied up the other two unconscious xill, and interrogated all three. While they didn’t seem to speak Taldan, the xill spoke Infernal, which both McGregor and Charrone also spoke. so communication was possible. The xill revealed that they had encountered the crystal ship about four years ago, and had been using it to raid the Material Plane ever since they figured out how to pilot it. The strange plant life had something to do with their means of accessing the ship’s controls. The plant, called a “xenophage creeper,” has a rudimentary intelligence and can be used to establish psychic contact between creatures. When asked about the gnome, they said that he was now their slave, as will all of the party shortly. Charrone ordered the xill to retrieve the gnome, and they agreed, fading into nonexistance. Howver, after about five minutes, it became apparent that the now-free xill had no intention of returning.
Meanwhile, Larissa and Zandu explored the rest of the cabin, and found a secret door that led to a strange trapezoidal chamber. The bow-side walls of the room angled toward the bow, converging into a point. Converging were etched into these facet-like walls, which also converged at the same point. Zandu touched the walls near the converging lines, and felt himself being teleported… to an almost identical chamber. This chamber had a set of crystal stairs going up, instead of the door. He touched it again, and returned to the previous room. The rest of the part used this teleporter to further their exploration.
The stairs led to a large, irregularly-shaped room. This room had a palpable sense of arcane power coursing through it. In the center of the room stood a cubic plinth of the same material as the ship. Slowly rotating counterclockwise atop this plinth was a large brass cube, balanced on one point, the axis pointing perfectly vertical. The cube was covered with runes, sigils, and symbols of many different types: many of these runes were in familiar alphabets, but others were not. Some seemed to be diagrams rather than runes. Closer examination of the cube revealed that they were on small brass plates that could be slid across the faces of the cube, changing its configuration. Occasional bolts of blue arcane energy crackled across the face of the cube.
Facing the cube was a crystal throne. Carved into the crystal of the back of the throne, and on each of the five visible faces of the crystal plinth was a familiar Thassilonian symbol: the Sihedron Rune! McGregor noticed that these runes were a bit different from the ones that had been encountered earleir: these were more curved and not as spiky. “Hey, these are postitive-aspect runes! These correspond to the original seven virtues of Emperor Xin, not the sins of the later empire,” explained McGregor.
Examining the plinth revealed another disturbing feature: there seemed to be the shadow of a vaguely-female humanoid trapped within the plinth. The shadow seemed to move, as if whatever was casting it was still alive!
[To be continued…]