With the jamming mechanism disabled, the Inevitables wasted little time submitting a report to the City of Axis and soon the party was gathered at the portal, awaiting the inevitable Axiomite. It wasn’t long before a silhouette formed of shimmering, golden dust passed through the portal. No sooner did it stop than the silhouette formed into a flawless, unblemished elf with golden eyes. It greeted itself as an axiomite and the overseer in charge of the Inevitable presence on the floor. Though the party was quick to ask her to contact her godmind about going down, the Axiomite, all business, started walking towards the Protean portal almost immediately, its body dispersing into golden dust with each movement.
The axiomite explained that it was slightly surprised that the party wasn’t immediately tagged as threats to the Inevitables, given their desire to breach the wards to the lower floor. Indeed, had they not rescued the Inevitable from Floor 10 and gotten it to vouch for their assistance, that combined with the willing submission to submit to a Detect Lie spell and a promise not to breach the lower floor without permission, seemed to be all that saved the party from immediate conflict with the Inevitables.
As the Axiomite floated to the Protean portal and used Dispell Chaos, shattering the portal’s wild magics, the party made their case for going to the lower floor. Avaritia bluntly suggested that they should open the door and just let the party kill whatever scary thing was down there so they wouldn’t have to worry about it. Remnus pointed out that the party had defeated a myriad of powerful threats to get to this point, including Nhur Athemon which the Inevitables had been fighting against, and therefore would not be in danger of simply dying from whatever was sealed down there. Invidia diplomatically added that it would as easy for the party to destroy the Inevitables as it was for them to destroy the Proteans should they come to blows.
Unphased, the Axiomite explained that, with what information they could glean from their encounters, the entity is far more dangerous than the party thinks, possessing the ability to disrupt the very nature of the Material Plane for miles upon miles around. In addition, the creature appeared to be immortal and, thankfully in hibernation. While the party may have a shot at besting it in combat, its regenerative properties would likely make it win out in the end and, on top of that, why risk disturbing it when it’s in a hibernating state? The axiomite went on to describe its telepathic waves and its apparent affinity for the earth and its ability to control earth elementals.
Though the party suggested various other reasons they should be let down, Remnus provided the first hint of hope when he remembered a passage in Nhur Athemon’s journal suggesting that Klarkosh’s “clumsy tampering” was having terrible repercussions on the Emerald Spire’s route. While the Axiomite was unmoved by this revelation, Quesh had yet another stroke of memory and pointed out that Klarkosh had a Pech (a tiny earth fey) working for him, one who had mentioned something about “The Great Master in the Deep.” and how it served before.. and was now serving again.
The Axiomite was disturbed by this revelation, suggesting that its hibernation could have been disrupted if what the party said was true. In lieu of sending a contingent of Inevitables down, the party suggested that they could explore the lower levels instead. With this new information and the party willing to throw themselves into great danger with little to no provocation, the Axiomite agreed to let them into the lower level to stop the entity, on the condition that the doors are sealed up behind them. The party agreed, of course and returned to Level 12 to rest in the Oasis and get one last massage and breakfast from the automatons
As they prepared for what could very well be the greatest challenge they’ll face, Remnus hit on the idea of getting Klarkosh’s corpse from Fort Inevitable and ask it about the Great Master in the Deep. With absolutely no one questioning why Remnus was saving the dead body of Klarkosh in his basement, he and Invidia teleported to the fort and popped back to the spire with the corpse in tow so they could Speak with Dead the bastard. Unfortunately, he revealed very little. As it turned out, the pech was serving Klarkosh only because Klarkosh had lied to her about working for her Great Master and the pech cheerfully believed his lie and worked to chip shards off the spire for him. A real disappointment, but the party was prepared to go in mostly blind anyway.
After a hearty breakfast of +10 temp hp, the party returned to the great sealed doors. The Axiomite was already there, overseeing the Inevitables and was ready to open the door for them, briefly remarking on how the key was only supposed to work in the hands of an Axiomite. As it turned out, the keys “teeth” were only supposed to come out of the T-shaped bar if it was held by someone who had permission to unseal the wards. Unfortunately for the Axiomite, the time the key had spent in the Protean’s control had made the object grow tentacles in the exact shape the teeth were supposed to form. It frustrated the Axiomite, though it would have convenient had the party not gone a diplomatic route.
Regardless, the key was turned and the giant brass doors slid slowly into the stone to reveal a 1400 ft deep shaft that the Emerald Spire punched straight through. Not particularly wanting to climb, Avarita cast fly on most of the party and they descended down into the irregular cavern, stopping when the passage narrowed to a small, five foot gap in the ceiling surrounding the spire. It was there that the party peered down into the giant cavern from their vantage point of 50ft above it. The Emerald Spire itself took on several gigantic “roots” that snaked through the floor and punched into the walls, in addition, the cavern collapsed in the south end into a small pool of lava where a lone stalagmite jutted out of an island of rock. Darkvision also came in handy when the party spotted a duo of large, abberant beasts made of pure muscle and mostly having a mouth for a head. Identified as “gugs”, Quest explained that the brutes were native to dark places and could pack quite the punch if they hit. Of course, if the party had let giant beasts stop them before, they wouldn’t have gotten this far and they launched an attack as soon as the dancing lights let them see.
The first gug, withered by Avarita’s spells, missed the far more nimble Invidia pathetically and was cut down to size by her and Chaaz before he could even land a blow. The other gug was stunned by Remnus’ sound burst long enough for Quesh to put it to sleep with her hexes, making him an easy target for a coup de gras. Victory was short lived, however, as the stalagmite on the island suddenly formed a mouth and spoke in undercommon at them, telling them it was impressed by the display. Quesh identified it as a Roper, a type of cavern ambusher with a taste for interesting conversation.. .and flesh who was apparently stuck on the island, given a Roper’s very poor mobility. With the emerald spire exuding an aura on this level akin to a Ring of Sustenance, the roper wasn’t hungry and seemed more eager to converse with the party, rather than eat them. He suggested his favorite pastime: An exchange of information. He asks a question, then the party asks a question. Paranoid but willing to hear it out, the party agreed to the terms.
The roper, named Oorivoon, jumped right into questioning starting with why the party explored dungeons to which the party offered up a genuine answer. As the conversation continued (and boy did it ever) Oorivoon’s questions tended to lean heavily on the side of interesting philosophical conundrums whose answers tended to be more opinion than fact like: “How do YOU think magic is passed through blood with sorcerers?” or “What do you think would push a generally neutral person into being effected by an alignment based spell?”. Nothing particularly interrogating, but they certainly made the party think a little.
In exchange, the party found out some useful tidbits..
-The Emerald Spire was made by a being called a “Vault Keeper” who used some ancient and impressive form of earth magic to form the pillar of crystal in the earth
-The Vault Keeper had asked Oorivoon to watch over this cavern as a sentinel in exchange for answering questions on a periodic basis. The Vault Keeper broke that promise and thus Oorivoon wasn’t taking his duties particularly seriously and was immeasurably bored.
-In his time here, the roper had met a trio of strange, alien scientists that worked out of the room adjacent to the party, the Vault Keeper, the two gugs (who apparently served the scientists out of fear of torture), and a pech who apparently had gone a little nutty the last time they talked.
-The Vault Keeper is a Xiomorn. A race that pre-date the gods: primordial beings, with an affinity to the Earth and its primordial beings as well.
-Witch patrons are a mystery to even the witches that benifit from them. He’d heard tales of them being ancient spirits, angels, demons or even the lingering consciousness of dead gods. It’s up to the patron to reveal itself, if they chose to at all.
-He’s honestly kind of struggling with not eating the party.
The last answer had the unfortunate effect of the roper whipping its 50-foot long tentacles out and grasping the party, injecting the lot of them with a small dose of a numbing agent that drained a bit of their strength. Invidia charged the roper fearlessly but Quesh, once again, proved that anyone who needs sleep is not safe around her and put the creature into a deep slumber, a slumber which Invidia was all too happy to cast her own version of Permanency on.
With the roper SUPER dead, the party fished out a bit of loot from its gullet and moved on to investigate a strange perfectly smooth wall. Avarita scouted behind the peculiar stone dome to spy a lone pech on the other side of the wall, a pech that was hovering on a magical floating disk, oddly enough. Deciding that the wall is clearly the right way to go, the party Stone shaped the wall away and prepared to battle the pech. As soon as it saw the party though, the pech didn’t attack and instead pointed in horror at their feet and started to scream.
Did it see something in the earth the party didn’t? Is the floor becoming lava without the party knowing? Is it horrified by the party’s shoes?
We’ll find out next week.