Success, respect, a new mission, and a higher calling?
I feel invigorated! Though the future for my soul looks bleak after I promised it to Nocticula, I can’t help but feel optimistic about what we have left to achieve before the time for my final passing comes.
The three of us performed magnificently today, shutting down the mining operation, killing Hepzamirah, watching Baphomet rended limb from limb by the power of Nocticula, and then ending our day rejoining Queen Galfrey and the remnants of the 5th Crusade.
Oh, and then we met a God!
Iomeddae. In her realm. The three of us.
Unbelievable… Though at this stage in my life, with what horrors and ecstasies all of us have experienced, I guess nothing is truly unbelievable.
And in the blinding righteous white light of the Inheritor’s throne room, when my small footsteps were leaving inky black marks on the floor, I sensed only respect and understanding from the Lady of Valor and her servants. Despite Nocticula’s jagged thorny crown tattoo having burrowed its way to encircle my heart and blacken my thoughts and desires, the great Goddess was showing no judgement or blame towards me for my recent actions. I can only begin to describe the feeling of relief at being part of that acceptance. The crown loosened its grip, and I could feel my old self reasserting its control.
Of course my fate still looks bleak, but for now, I can only but feel and sing the praises of the Inheritor. She recognized Locke’s careful steady devotion and determination by rejoining her connection with him and restoring him to full power. Once more, he can shine as a beacon of goodness and strength with her full blessing. And young Barca was also transformed! Somehow, the abyssal stain on his heritage removed, and like Locke and I, rejuvenated and fortified into better, stronger, more effective versions of ourselves.
And we have a new mission to rescue the Inheritor’s Herald… or avenge his death if necessary from Baphomet’s realm. The minotaur god’s corporeal form was pulverized by Nocticula’s energies, but we understand that he has reformed in his realm and has but 365 days to endure before regaining his immortality. But if we come to face him again and manage to slay him, he will be dead forever! I don’t know if we are up to that task, but if that becomes necessary, I know the three of us will give everything we have to make it so.
After we left the barge, we flew up river intending to surprise the gate guards, kill them quickly, then go up to the cave of the “Fulsome Queen” the Omox demon called the “shit” demon in the writings of Kestoglyr. We waited for the fearsome umbral dragon to pass overhead in search of food, knowing we had a limited time to sneak into the cavern and sneak past or slay the Omox.
The first part of our mission went stunningly well. Invisible, I snuck up to the first tiefling guard and killed him within seconds. Locke had almost killed the second guard, but the fiend almost got away were it not for my quick reflexes and a fast charge. The two Hezrou appeared, and I got nervous for a second. But Barca put a world of hurt on one and we finished it off so quickly that the second Hezrou teleported away in fear.
Knowing that reinforcements could come, we raced up in to the cavern, where we found the Fulsome Queen. Surprisingly, she showed us great admiration and respect — genuine we all believed — for how efficiently we had dispatched our previous foes. Barca, showing once again his diplomatic skills, took the lead in engaging in conversation with the Omox. I followed suit, showering her with respectful titles and reinforcing Barca’s suggestion that the three of us could ally with her to eliminate the demons in the mines interfering with her peace and quiet. She encouraged us to move quickly before the dragon returned and gave us a great deal of useful information on the location of Hepzamirah and her minions. She even promised to back us up in combat, taking care of some of the less powerful opponents so that we could clear the mines quickly.
It worked perfectly. Again invisible, I dispatched the first of a group of Kalavakus demons quickly and easily. Then Locke and Barca emerged and we all began shredding and pincushioning them like lightning. At one point, Hepzamirah’s second in command, a Glaberezu named Kralisq, emerged. After a brief moment where we evaluated the situation and threat, we struck quickly, almost killing him and causing him to teleport away.
We flew down the final corridor towards the room where we knew Hepzamirah would be focused on working methodically to refine a Nahyndrian crystal. We came into a chamber where we found the Imago lens (a 3’ diameter disk of amber contained in demonic jaws) and a well-locked door. I was able to disable the lock and we opened it successfully.
I did not, however, detect the most powerful trap I have ever encountered.
We were hit by the mighty blast of a magical symbol trap. It dropped Locke, practically cut Barca in two, and greatly wounded myself. Knowing that certain death faced all three of us, Barca and I immediately began healing up our little party, while Hepzamirah cast a wall of stone between herself and us. When I had revivified Locke and got Barca and I back to a decent level of health, Barca began to bash through the wall.
It took less time than we had thought it would for him to get through, and we weren’t healed enough before Barca opened up a big enough hole for us to get through.
And then calamity struck. Figuratively and literally.
Hempzamirah moved forward and in one or two mighty swings of the Blancher, an enormous enchanted pick, killed Barca outright.
We were all going to die.
So I did the one thing I knew had to be done and called out for assistance from Our Lady of Shadows — Nocticula herself. I knew the price to pay would be my soul, but I was prepared to pay it. The three of us had decided when we stepped into Shamirrah’s hall that our souls were expendable in order to save the world.
And I was not going to let Barca, nor Locke and I die in vain.
Time froze. Unbelievable. Not just a “regular” time stop, but some sort of epic, even mythic, version. Nocticula gave us 16 HOURS to recuperate and prepare to rejoin the battle with Baphomet’s daughter.
We healed fully, rested, explored Hepzamirah’s chamber, backtracked and scouted the dragon’s hoard to see if there was anything useful, and — most importantly — took Blancher off the ground where Hepzamirah had dropped it in a moment of hubris and bluster and put in our bag of holding.
I moved around Hepzamirah to flank her with Barca, and Locked moved back into her chamber to give himself plenty of room from which to loose a hailstorm of arrows.
In my mind, I gave the signal to Nocticula and time began passing normally. Surprisingly, we did not get the actual drop on Hepzamirah and she was able to act first. It took her a moment to orient herself to this new reality that was so different from what she had just experienced in her consciousness. Barca was alive and preparing to swing with his club; I was behind her with my rapier poised, and Locke’s hand was drawing his bowstring taught. And she didn’t have her terrifying weapon in hand, and it was not even in sight!
Hepzamirah summoned a barrier of whirling, razor-sharp blades around her, but I didn’t care, to be honest. This was our one chance to finish what we had started, and I had already paid the most expensive and terrible price. What was bodily harm going to mean to me? Nothing.
I stepped in and unleashed a maelstrom of piercing strikes into her flesh. And Barca made blow after blow with his mighty club, the wood drinking in her blood. I think we ended her within maybe 12 seconds, perhaps a bit more.
Then shit got weird. From out of her body, her father Baphomet exploded! He cursed us with all manner of expletives and promised that we had earned the attention and anger of another powerful being or beings — I can’t remember now.
Again, we thought we were doomed, for this was a demon lord, but we readied our attacks. Then, the voice of Nocticula rang out. She seemed almost giddy that Baphomet had taken the bait and entered her realm in the flesh. It had been her plan all along to use our efforts (and triumph over Hepzamirah) to lure the great Minotaur into her domain. Using some sort of unseen supernatural power, she obliterated Baphoment in a burst of fur, and blood and horns. It was terrifying… and magnificent. I was proud to be her servant at that moment.
After the rush of battle receded, Locke and Barca decided we should liberate the crusaders who had been tortured and kept as fuel for sacrifices. I thought it was a waste of time, since they seemed pretty close to death and would probably just hinder our escape.
Now, I see that that was the influence of Nocticula on my thoughts, but at the time it seemed reasonable.
Nocticula opened up a portal to Golarion and we took the crusaders and ourselves through it to the Midnight Fain.
I used the Imago lens to contact first the old necromancer we had redeemed and then tried to find Arushalae in Galfrey’s castle, but it had been destroyed. Eventually we made contact with her minions and they were able to teleport to us and take us all to somewhere in Numeria.
There we had a somewhat tense (at least between me and Galfrey’s paladins) reunion where we reported on our success and reunited with Barca’s friends from Promise.
And then we had our mystical, magical, AWESOME, encounter with Iomedae which I still have to discuss with my friends. Something has changed within me, but I don’t yet know what it means. Perhaps my friends will know.
In the meantime, I hope we have time to rest and procure gear for the next foray into the Abyss. We have brought back much treasure from Hepzamirah’s room, but I don’t know if we have time yet to use it.
But we have a new mission, and I feel like I have a new lease on this life for now. Perhaps there is a way to save my soul, perhaps not, but I will use what time and free will I have left as well as I can.