The adventurers (Annonciade, Søren and his henchman Kurzol, Kestrel, Valdis, and Calendel) were aboard the Wave Wolf when Gansel, the pterodactyl wizard, sighted land. The crew was excited, and they pressed on. Rather than stopping at the Stonegod Isles, they sailed between them to the mainland of Kalmatta, to get wood to repair the ship properly, and resupply. Repairs could be underway while the “scholars” did their “research.”
Using Captain Brun’s spyglass, Calendel’s elf eyes scanned the shoreline. The ship sailed along a bit, past hills and crags, to a lowland jungle area with a broad beach. The adventurers formed an advance party to make sure the site was relatively safe, then half the crew came ashore to start cutting down trees. The adventurers found water, then sent a note back via owl to the captain, that they were going to take a look at the tallest peak around, probably an extinct volcano.
Femur, Calendel’s bat, was delirious with the thrill of hunting exotic jungle bugs. Ohmsa, Valdis’s lizard, gleefully shocked the underbrush in pursuit of exciting new snacks. Swiftfell observed, aloof and generally indifferent to the change in scenery.
Søren sensed magic simmering in this place, and Annonciade’s hypnotoad Zhadum was alert (deeply unusual) because he sensed something primordial here. They continued on, overnighting in the jungle, undisturbed by any real threat. Annonciade foraged for food among the plentiful fruits and berries, using her knowledge of monsters and their habits to identify some food that was unlikely to be toxic.
On the second day they found the edge of the jungle where it met some grasslands at the base of the volcano. They also discovered an old road marker indicating this was the way to the “Shrine of Dreams.” They followed the markers, relying on Calendel’s sharp elven senses to pick out the overgrown markers.
The Shrine of Dreams
They found the shrine, a simple single-room building with a stylized statue of a slizardian and the outline of a circular gate. The palm of the statue had a shape that fit the head of the Rod of the Crescent, and the statue hummed slightly. When Annonciade put the rod to the peg and turned it, the gate filled with a watery energy. They also discovered the gate lasted only a handful of seconds after the rod was removed from the peg, closing on its own. They opened the gate again. Kestrel and Annonciade went through to scout.
They both had the sense that some safety mechanism kicked in and protected them from experiencing the transit, so it was as though they stepped through a door. However, the hypnotoad was energetic and squealing with too much energy; using the glove, Annonciade got the sense that he touched the foundation of the world and was overflowing from the discharge, and if he touched that power again he would burst (he was almost bursting now.)
The shrine with a gate where they were now had a statue of a woman with bat wings and fangs, and from the doorway they saw they were on a different mountain with a different view, and a couple settlements about ten miles away. Carvings indicated this was the Shrine of Secrets. Kestrel went back through to get the others.
The Second Step
This time when Kestrel entered the gate the safety did not kick on, and he experienced the journey. He felt his flesh and consciousness leave reality, intermixing with something ambiguous in a sea of energy, sucked through an impossible state; it was a salmon cannon for the consciousness. When he re-formed and exited, he was struggling with his perceptions.
The magic that transformed him from a bird to a human many years ago during the war also locked away his previous experience because his consciousness could not expand to hold the experience of being housed in a bird’s brain and body, and also in a human brain and body. Having been pushed outside reality and reshaped in another way, the old patterns were unlocked, and experienced birdform memory simultaneous with his current capacities and senses; it threw him for a loop.
Kurzol stayed behind to guard him, and the others used the gate to join Annonciade on the other side. Concerned about safety, power consumption, and monster attraction, Kurzol decided to close the gate behind them.
The Shrine of Secrets
Now that Calendel’s elf senses and spyglass were with them, they could see that to the south was a ramshackle village with a sloop and a galleon at anchor in a small bay. To the northwest, an isthmus with a palisade and more primitive but sturdier buildings.
They also found a waymarker like they followed to the other shrine, but it was more elaborate, indicating this was the “Path of Mourning” (or “morning”, the translation wasn’t obvious.)
Ohmsa, the lizard, was going rigid and sleepy and warm. The scholars consulted, and realized that cosmic energy roused these lizards from dormancy, and it must be Templar glyph energy that disarmed them and returned them to their stone egg state as they were in the Lightning Vault. Annonciade communicated that abstract idea to Zhadum, who clumsily crawled onto the senseless lizard and unloaded the excess discharge from the gate travel, from outside the filtration of the gate. Ohmsa immediately showed signs of returning to consciousness and mobility.
The adventurers planned to wait out the night and see if Kestrel would rejoin them in the morning. Annonciade studied in her book, for she had seen symbols like the ones on the marker there. She discovered that when the immortal First Templar, Saint Bastion, Father of Code, withdrew from civilization, he labored to design a glyph-focused channel so the cosmic spark could flow free of the influence of the gods. A “term of art” in this experimentation–Zadabad, the “Well of Worlds.” Could the treasure vault be a test site for the reality-bending dimensional connection the Father of Code used to isolate Thesmalian Prime? Did the immortal come here and compel the local populace to assist in this cosmic experiment five centuries ago?
Disturbed by all this energy, Søren meditated to understand it better, and touched on the idea that the knob the rod turned could also be receptive to his spell energy; it was a transformer, adjusting from one kind of energy to another, connected to a network of–something much bigger, a cosmic machine of some kind. The implications were enormous, and unsettling.
A Blur in the Night
Kurzol was not keen on going through the gate, expecting a bonus for that unreasonable risk. He figured Kestrel was going through something weird, and took care of him while guarding the shrine. Deep in the night, the jungle noises stopped, and there was a high-pitched whine or buzz. An indistinct feline monster approached. Rather than face it, Kurzol activated the gate, but he could not muster the nerve to enter on his own. Kestrel inspired him and offered courage, and they went through together.
They entered the Shrine of Secrets facing off with the rest of the adventurers, who were ready to fight whatever came through. Most were relieved it was the rest of the party, except Valdis, who demanded to know who closed the gate. Kurzol did, so she punched him hard, then Søren told Kurzol not to fight (which seemed to Kurzol a delayed sentiment.) Kestrel also wanted to be punched, as his body was weird and recalibrating, and Valdis was happy to oblige.
The Path of Mourning
The adventurers followed the “Path of Mourning” up, curving along the flank of the volcano, until they came to a bridge that had fallen through. Calendel fired a rope arrow across, and Kestrel strolled over to secure multiple ropes so others could safely cross. As Søren was crossing, a swarm of albino bats with roughly 4-5 foot wingspans swarmed up, and as Valdis reached the other side the bats were swirling all around. Somehow, the bats extracted threads of blood from those they surrounded, feeding from them and making them unsteady. Søren blasted them with magic, Calendel downed some with arrows, and Valdis encouraged her lizard to a mighty burst of electrical discharge that stunned some and drove the rest away.
Calendel and Kurzol were the last two on the far side, and Kurzol’s nerves were shot staring down the chasm. Calendel managed to bully him into crossing, but Kurzol stammered something about deserving a bonus for taking that risk.
The adventurers reached the end of the trail, a massive doorway carved into the mountain near the top. In the strange script of the locals, the entry was marked “Path of the Dead.” Apparently it was real. If the rest of the legend was also true, beyond they would find the Obsidian Guardian, and entry to the Sacred Valley, where the Zadabad Treasure Vault awaited.