Valdis, Annonciade, Søren and his henchman Kurzol, Kestrel, and Calendel were settled for the night in the barracks under a watch tower on the road to the Fallows Overlook, accompanied by their spellbound victim Banks, a novice of the Order of Plenty.
Valdis quietly approached Annonciade in the night, explaining that she had a possible plan for contacts in the Fallows Overlook–but if she approached with a group, even entering town in that way, she might spook them. She did not want to explain who her contacts might be; apparently it was a sensitive matter. She struck out on her own, getting a head start.
Kestrel woke, groggy, and the adventurers explained what happened. He got some rest to recover, and as he dreamed, he was in a grayscale underwater kind of murk; he saw the woman from his previous dream, dazed or unconscious, tied to the ground but floating. She saw him, and there was fear in her eyes; she began to struggle, and he was at the center of lighting. Looking down, he saw he gripped lightning in his fist–and he woke.
Onward to the Fallows Overlook
Banks robbed the tower kitchen for supplies, unseen. The adventurers headed out on the road, rather than going on the cablecar system suspended above the ground, easing transport of goods and people between the Outlook and the port.
On the road they met a band of suspicious dwarves, and they saw pilgrims. They met Tymm the fey-touched wizard; he had one horn, hooves, a pot belly, he was scrawny. He used a spell to get woodland creatures to build him a hut for the night, and he was full of stories of the fey court and his dalliance with them. Apparently he lost a bet and had to take the court’s tribute to Fallows Overlook, then he’d shed some of the fey markings they inflicted on him as part of the deal (he lost a bet.) He went on about the underwater court and beauty of the neriads, and he had fairies in pouches, he made them arm wrestle as night time entertainment. Calendel and Soren shared his magical hut for the night.
They passed the Granary, a major watch tower, and closed in on the Fallows Overlook a day later. After paying a leg tax of 1 gold per leg, they got into the city and checked in to the Storehouse, a massive circular building with five stories and a central shaft, where visitors were encouraged to secure lodging.
The city bustled, unusually busy; asking around, they discovered the military arm of the temple was mobilizing and sending 1,500 warriors to the port of Fardellan, a port under attack by the Blood Kings. The High Clerist himself was going, and he would conduct a service at 10:00 the following morning before the military loaded up and headed out.
After settling their gear, they checked with Banks to find out where the library was, so they could get some background. (They knew some about the Fallows Overlook, but wanted better information.) At the library, they negotiated with the staff to gain a pass; since the library was open noon to midnight, and it was about dusk, they traded a sack of Calendel’s Mekk-infused crystals from the stone god for six hours of research. They passed the balcony overlooking the library floor, taking the stairs down, and they were met by helpful ghosts prepared to locate information for them to review.
Annonciade focused on the lore of the compound and its history. Soren focused on the lore of the founding of the Order of Plenty.
It was generally known the Fallows Overlook was a massive temple, with an administrative center compound attached, built over a forge and a prison, over a mine. According to her research, Annonciade discovered the site was originally called The Full Moon, a mountain of power. Animistic shapeshifters ran the site, with an underwater convention center kind of hospitality complex off the coast, the Estuary Court.
The Tyrok Clan of dwarves drove the Estuary Court back, and established a mine in the Full Moon mountain, because the massive tree at its peak (the Seashadow) was somehow infused with orichalcum. Orichalcum is a magical metal that is conducive to transmitting thought or motive energy, so it is used extensively in prosthesis and constructs.
The dwarves could not control the powers they sought. In desperation, they turned to the Saints for assistance, and Saint Garisand, Patron of the Harvest, came to their rescue. He led his followers in mighty deeds and they saved the dwarves, who were so grateful they gifted the forge they had set up in the mines that followed the roots of the Seashadow tree to the Saint. Then the dwarves took their rich treasures and departed.
While an attempt was made to put a temple within the Seashadow, there were complications. The whole tree was torn from the mountain and destroyed, and the temple built on the site. All that remained of the tree was a mighty staff, the Scepter of the Root and the Branch.
The King of the Estuary Court was a shapeshifter, and he was the Avatar of Lunestra’s lover. When the Estuary Court attempted to retake the mountain, Saint Garisand defeated them and captured their king, binding him by oath and power. The King of the Estuary Court was then used as bait, luring the avatar into a lethal trap, and she was destroyed.
It seemed clear to the researchers that the Golden Spike that the shifterflesh captive under the Ice Cage requested was the Scepter of the Root and the Branch, foundation of the oaths that sealed him away. Annonciade recognized the Scepter, the Golden Spike, as a cypher object that was used to adjust the flavor and frequency of energy so it could be compatible with a different power set. The Scepter was likely the key that allowed the energy of the echo of the Seashadow tree that suffused this site to be repurposed to the Channel that the Templar enchantments used to power modern clerics.
Kestrel strolled around the library floor taking a look around; Calendel’s body remained at the Storehouse, and his consciousness rode with Illas in Kestrel’s shadow. The library was thick, protected with energy somehow, and traveling independently of someone’s shadow would be difficult in the dimensional space.
They saw a lich with floating skull servitors and a half-corporeal balehound doing research. One area was custom built for dwarves, with short sturdy furniture. They also found a garden with pools, right there in the library, with the water-touched people (corrupted by the element of water and gifted with some control over it) spending time among the books. The library had ghosts, yes, and they were protected from the unbalancing energy surges of time by the strange energy field. There were also death knights in the background, waiting to be summoned; very few living guards were needed for this trove of priceless knowledge.
A Bold Intrusion
They left at midnight. Kestrel was inspired, and used his skill in costuming and design (as well as group treasure) to acquire some higher quality clothing so they could pretend to be pilgrims, and get into the temple to see the High Clerist treasure and locate the Scepter.
That night, the rage that Annonciade simmered in provided a connection through the First Sign. She burned with the Sign of Breaking, and knew what must be done to disconnect the Scepter from the Conduit.
Calendel researched in his book of etiquette, and discovered secret passwords that would indicate they were high-level (discreet) pilgrims accorded special privileges for visiting the Saints’ temples.
In the morning, they bought a mule and loaded up most of their gear and supplies (including Calendel’s bat), tasking Kurzol and Banks with taking them out of the city. The adventurers would catch up–probably at a sprinting pace.
The adventurers timed their arrival at the temple to be right before the High Clerist was supposed to address the people on the mountainside before loading the army onto ships in the narrow sea access at the base of the mountain. When they arrived, the guards informed them the temple was closed. They used the passwords, and were grudgingly allowed in, assigned a guide who had taken a vow of silence. Calendel relentlessly pestered her with questions as they headed in to the Temple space, past the various guards. They had thirty minutes in the chamber.
The High Clerist Throne Room
They were left alone to worship; no living guards accompanied them, but there were many ranks of alcoves with big basalt statues, and joists in the dome overhead were studded with skulls, each one haunted. The dome was shaped, shaded, and decorated to resemble the dappling of tree cover, and strategic skylights let in shafts of sunlight. A balcony with no floor access extended out in a sweep, with the Throne of the High Clerist in the center of the vast space.
Calendel jumped into Illas and let Kestrel and Soren drag his body to the circle of contemplation to pray. Annonciade used her stealth abilities with Illas and Calendel in her shadow, magically climbing the wall and taking her time to circle around to the back of the chamber. They passed the designated seating and magical items and weapons stored behind the throne, approaching the throne itself. Calendel sensed its secrets, and recoiled.
The throne was coppery, shaped into a likeness of Death with crossed scythes seated, the High Clerist in its lap. What Calendel realized was the throne was an ossified fragment of the King of Estuary Court, still dimly aware and suffering, frozen into this shape and connected to the mass under the Ice Cage. Furthermore, there was a secret compartment in the back, with catches to open it that matched where the Saint had gripped him and inflicted this cursed form upon him. Opening the back would reveal the Scepter of the Root and the Branch, and also–a chest that contained the gems ritualistically formed by tearing the life from the godslaves of an obliterated avatar.
Grim, Annonciade opened the compartment, and she knew that there would be a cost to inflicting the Sign of Breaking on this connection. Gritting her teeth, she accepted the cost, and broke the bond. Tearing the staff out of the throne, she triggered the various supernatural defenses of the throne room.
Racing for the edge of the balcony, she hooked the rope under her sash, and twirled over the edge. As she sailed down, Soren slid his staff away, pulling out the sleeve to cover the Scepter, so he entered with a staff and left with one without drawing comment. Calendel snapped back into his body, and the adventurers ran out the doors, chattering about a miracle, demanding that the guards bow down and acknowledge its majesty; they managed the deception, somewhat convincing as the whole chamber reverberated like a rung bell and the statues were stirring, ghosts stirring in the aether.
Ducking out of immediate sight, they broke out to the exterior of the temple. Calendel and Kestrel could run along ridiculously narrow ledges, Annonciade had spider climbing magic, and Soren trusted to their good will and ropes connecting him to the others. They scaled the side of the building as the defenses roused, making good their escape.