Well, it has been… a time.
We made our way east along the cobbled road. All of us felt some sort of presence just out of sight; Vall and the soldiers scouted but found nothing.
After several hours we made it to the ruins of the old city walls, now collapsed and badly overgrown, and here we encountered another curiosity. A little way past the (ex-) gate, the state of the cobblestones abruptly changed from “ancient ruin” to excellent condition, as if they were brand new. Attempting to detect magic, I found nothing – but as I approached, I discovered that my spell’s range cut off abruptly at the point where the cobblestones changed.
Zakaroth walked across the threshold, then Vall, and then myself. As I had suspected, once past the boundary my range returned to normal, but when I turned to face back the way we had came it cut off at the boundary again.
It felt strange on the other side; the air was thicker, humid. (Quite odd – we were a long way from the sea.) On a hunch I experimented with a small fire, and found the smoke did not cross the barrier. Then we noticed something more: a complete absence of life past the threshold, except for us humanoids. No plants, no birds, no insects, nothing.
I ventured back out, caught a small beetle, and brought it back towards the barrier. As I came near it started to panic, and fled. When I caught another and carried it in a box, it began to struggle near the barrier, and did not stop once past the barrier; when I opened the box it scuttled out and flew back to the west.
Zakaroth’s horse was extremely nervous at crossing the boundary, but followed orders. Chrysta’s pony Quicksilver point-blank refused. We decided to leave four of Bastian’s troops behind with Quicksilver, to set up a supply depot outside the city, and then the rest of us proceeded in.
As we walked into the city we confirmed a complete lack of living things, or indeed recently-living. Flowerbeds were empty, stables had no straw in them. Old wooden objects remained – carriages and so forth – but no trees. Indeed, there were some holes in the ground where trees might once have stood. The river that ran through the city was crystal clear, devoid of fish, plants, and scum. At this point I checked my food and was relieved to find it still there and edible.
We made for the temple district, which is arranged according to the alignments of the deities; Nethys, being neutral, was in the middle, with a temple that opened in all four directions. It was very ornate and finely built (note to self: get Chrysta to write an appendix about the architecture) and as I walked in, I felt very comfortable. As if I was where I belonged.
There was a great altar at the middle of the temple. I walked up to it – more than a little nervous – and spoke: “Nethys, I call on you!”
The light did… strange things. A brightness, phasing in, and a form in the light.
Who looked nothing like what I expected of Nethys. Female, armoured, wielding a sword.
Digression: can the gods read what I write here? I cannot assume so – given some other curious gaps in their knowledge, more on that shortly. But I cannot assume not. On the other hand, if they can read my journal, perhaps they can read my mind anyway, in case it doesn’t matter.
So I’ll just say it. I was of course very impressed to meet an actual god, and I don’t mean any insult by this, she seems like a very nice and worthwhile deity, but she wasn’t the God I was hoping for. She was, in fact, Iomedae.
“Nethys cannot answer your call.”
Well, with apologies to any gods eavesdropping: goddamnit.
She told us: “When the Destroyer [Rovagug] was released, Nethys sacrificed himself to destroy it. He put himself on the other side of the divide, from which he cannot return.” Apparently she has attempted to take over his portfolio.
She added: “Nobody has travelled the stones to us in a thousand years.” Apparently the gods weren’t aware that the stones haven’t worked in a thousand years!
She explained that they don’t venture outside the city, because if they were to do so it would risk breaking the foundations of the world; the city is some sort of special reinforced zone. We filled her in on what the world was like from our side, and then she vanished, to go confer with the other gods.
Next stop: temple of Pharasma. Chrysta was also in for something of a shock: the goddess who appeared was not Pharasma but a chimeric god-being named Pharas-Calis’Ir. Apparently Pharasma, Calistria, and Irori had all been badly injured in the war, and merged to form a trinity. Again, it seems very odd that they hadn’t taken more notice of the fact that nobody had come to visit them in a thousand years; apparently they can only hear their worshippers very faintly.
Next stop: the temple of Cayden Cailean, which should have been a cheery place but stank of alcohol, blood, and gangrene. Faye called on him, and he made his appearance, looking worse than I’ve ever seen Faye, even after that time she went on an absinthe bender. He was badly injured, and looked to have been crying hard for a long time. The source of his grief: losing his friend Nethys. Apparently this grief is also why his wounds won’t heal.
Zakaroth mentioned something interesting: the spark of heroism that affects us (but not him) resonates with Cayden’s essence. It seems Cayden has been sleeping for decades at a time, in his grief; our theory is that the outbreaks of heroism coincide with his waking.
Cayden confirmed that Nethys sacrificed himself for “that thing”, and also clarified that the divide isn’t death. So… Nethys is still out there, somewhere? He also told us that the other gods were keeping “that bitch” Lamashtu in check.
Vall tried to touch Cayden to comfort him, and fell unconscious; when he woke, he told us he’d been overwhelmed by the god’s grief.
Then we went on to the temple of Torag, to resolve Chrysta’s increasing worries about her status as a dwarf. The temple was decorated with depictions of dwarves, and I have to say, none of them looked very much like Chrysta.
When Chrysta called at the altar, another hybrid god appeared: Tora-Saren, a female figure carrying a sword and hammer, looking very confused about it. She apologised to Chrysta and explained that both she and Torag had been badly injured, and this had destroyed the bodies of the dwarves; when Torag and Sarenrae merged, they put the souls of the dwarves into construct bodies made from the rock.
To my great relief, Chrysta was delighted by this news. She didn’t care about her body, now that she knew she had a dwarvish soul. Poor thing, she had been so distressed by her doubts of the last few weeks, it’s good to see her happy again.
(Though we still have to solve the bit where she’s likely to explode in a hundred years or so.)
Then Zakaroth made for the temple of Asmodeus, and some of us followed him. (Val went off to attend to business at the temple of Calistria, and since he clearly wanted his privacy, we respected that and left him alone. An excellent example for any gods or Fayes who might be thinking of reading my journal.)
Chrysta was unable to enter; I felt a very intimidating presence, but managed to step inside the temple nevertheless. I kept very quiet as Zakaroth spoke with Asmodeus, who I will not attempt to describe.
Asmodeus appeared very displeased with the state of affairs (by now we’d written down a FAQ to save having to explain the same things to gods every time) and told Zakaroth: “Your charge is to fix this. Without magic, we can’t operate. Do not trust Lamashtu or Urgathoa.”
In passing, we noticed that what must have been the temple of Rovagug now lay in ruins, and another (Gorum, lord of Battle) was boarded up. Curious.
Since we had split up, some of our group sent two of our guards with a message to regroup. The message was not delivered; when we went looking for the missing guards we found their trail led to a gazebo, and in the gazebo the two of them lay viciously disembowelled (I’m not sure if there’s any other way?) with one missing many important body parts altogether. There was a lot of blood, but the splatter went up to a certain point in the gazebo and then abruptly stopped.
(A dimensional portal? Some sort of object blocking its spread? Something else?)
Shiny points: 15 carried over, +1 for summary = 16.