Session 23: Breaking and Entering Someone’s Obvious Secret Lair: A How-To Guide
As the PCs float closer to the cliffside, they can see the Synodan ship has a huge gash in it, as if something had pried it open; they had previously seen similar destruction while walking to the signal, Synodans and their ships ripped open by some large monster. Fallen Synodan bodies litter the area, and many appear to be greatly damaged. On Adriana’s scanner, the readings become increasingly erratic the closer they get to the cliffside, with signal points jumping around and flickering, though it’s clear that the source is above them. The ice hits the cliff and comes to a rest, and the PCs can instantly tell that something is off; despite the noise from the surf and the wind, as well as flickering from the Synodan ship—which still has flashing lights—the area feels off-putting. Before they can mention their unease, Pip flickers above Sarah’s shoulder and laughs, saying tht he feels a little dizzy. Concerned, the PCs push him for answers, but he only pauses and then elaborates that he hasn’t had that feeling before, and he is not aware of the cause.
The PCs decide to scale the cliffside to reach the cavern, located about 30 feet up from the ground; another 30 feet above that is the Synodan ship, crashed into the glacier. Adriana uses her magic to make what is essentially a low difficulty climbing wall up the cliff face to the cavern; as she climbs, she makes perfect rock shapes with ice, spaced ideally apart so that Joel and Sarah can easily follow her. When she gets about 10 feet up off the ground, she pauses, winded from climbing, so Joel uses his own magic to give her the ability to climb up the sheer face. Because she merely walks up the glacier, while Joel and Sarah climb—essentially racing each other to the cavern—she reaches the opening first, and immediately is surrounded by dead Synodan bodies. As with Synodans they had seen before, many are humanoid and some have distinct animal-like shapes, and they cover the ground. Before the cavern is an outcropping of rock, which is covered by the Synodan bodies, but inside the cavern is a pile of Synodans. Adriana walks around, investigating the area with Finn, and notices that while those outside were brutally attacked—some have large gashes in them, some are ripped to shreds, while others are frozen solid on the walls and floor—the pile appears to be merely de-activate and undamaged Synodans. Orange Synodan blood and sinew litter the area, as well. As she approaches the pile, Finn comments that the Synodans had fought, as there’s an acrid burning smell in the air, which Adriana can smell through their psychic link. When she reaches the pile, she nearly falls, and her connection to magic is suddenly muted, though it’s still present behind a disquieting muffle in her head. Steadying herself, she walks further over the pile of bodies, and once she reaches the crest she can see past the long cavern and through a large archway into a room, which contains a floating orb, slowing spinning on its axis. Shaking her head, she turns to go back and wait for Sarah and Joel. But as she passes back over edge of the pile, her magic rushes back to her; the sensation is similar to what she felt when they were first abducted from earth, as the magic in her system is suddenly accessible. Immediately, she bends over and vomits from the sensation. Her body begins to mist, disassociating into the air, before she regains control of herself and keeps her form. Finn flies out to see the other PCs, clearly worried but not calling for help, as Adriana seems to have regained normal, corporeal form; his sudden appearance distracts Sarah, who notices him first, and Joel tries to take advantage to beat her.
Joel and Sarah finally reach the cavern, with Sarah beating Joel by a hair despite her distraction. They immediately take in the brutalized Synodan bodies around them, and then they see Adriana, hunched over and vomiting with a single finger up, indicating that they should wait before speaking. When she rights herself, she tells them about the null magic sphere, as she’s come to recognize what it was from her studies on Loki’s ship. Scoffing, Sarah and Joel walk towards it, and they pass through with only the slightest of headaches. As Joel continues to walk over the bodies and towards the room, with Adriana shouting about a floating orb after him, Sarah notices a flicker of light beside her head. She turns to see a sphere, about the size of a softball, falling from shoulder height, and she catches it just as a Pip-colored light is absorbed into it. The ball is covered in glowing runes—the same color as Pip—and an orange sinew, suspiciously Synodan-like. The runes begin to fade in intensity and, panicking, Sarah runs back over the pile, tripping but managing to get the sphere out of the null magic zone before the runes fade completely. As soon as the sphere is out, the runes stop fading, but they remain dim. Sarah immediately shouts for Adriana, telling her that the Synodan sphere appears to have “eaten” Pip, like the Synodans on the tidally-locked planet ate elementals. Adriana inspects the runes, noting that they are runes for absorbing life forms, though they have been tampered with somewhat. Sarah stands and begins to walk out of the null magic zone, but as soon as she does, she begins to vomit. After a moment, the vomit turns from bile to sand, and her skin begins to dehydrate into a clay, crumbling away in pieces. Adriana immediately drops down and uses her magic to keep Sarah’s form, using water to stop the process and keep her from turning into sand.
Meanwhile, Joel, oblivious, continues to walk towards the room, which has a faint blue lighting to it. He immediately sees a bloody footprint of what appears to be a large, clawed creature. It is followed by a small bloody footprint, one that is human-like, leading towards a fountain in the middle of the room. At the edge of the fountain is another footprint, and dipping slightly into the reddened water is a bloody handprint. An orb floating above the fountain spins slowly on its axis, and it appears to be a perfect replica of earth, with all of the continents laid out. Before he can move closer and inspect it, Joel hears a faint chirping noise, and he looks up to see seven yellow canaries flying above him. They all immediately fly to the back of the room, where an opened door leads to a ladder going down a shaft. The last canary pauses before flying down, and chirps brightly at Joel, and then it follows the others. Shaken, Joel turns around and walks back to the others. He arrives to see Adriana using water magic to put Sarah back together, and he immediately runs out of the null magic zone without suffering any ill effects to reach them, demanding to know what was going on.
Coughing, Sarah explains the situation, and then re-iterates what she believes happened to Pip, holding up the clearly Synodan sphere and motioning to the dim runes. Joel explains what he saw, causing the other two to joke that he was hallucinating, though Adriana notes that she did notice the orb from afar. The PCs decided that they can’t take the Synodan sphere with them, as Pip might die in the process. They also decide that they can’t leave it in the room, as any negating of the null magic zone would result in the deactivated Synodans restarting and possibly destroying Pip themselves. They realize that they can’t destroy all of the hundreds of Synodans, so Adriana places the sphere with Pip in an ice container on the cliff-face, away from the Synodans so they won’t be able to notice it. Meanwhile, Sarah goes to a fallen Synodan and takes its sword, ripping off a chest-plate to use as her shield, while Joel inspects the dead bodies. The PCs return to the fountain room in the null magic zone, and walking into the zone causes only slight discomfort. Sarah notes that the real danger lies in leaving the null magic sphere, as even the slightest hesitation in regaining control over their innate magic will result in their death; she tells the others that the feeling must have been what Borris felt when he transcended. Adriana tests her magic, holding a chunk of ice floating over her hand as she walks into the null magic zone, and it floats for a bit before she loses control of the magic. The PCs realize that magic can be used in the zone, as it’s not completely null magic (like the terra solar system), but it merely suppresses their magic, as their innate magic feels muted rather than completely gone. Even so, Adriana points out that it will dangerous to use magic too much.
They reach the room, only to see that the door leading to the shaft is closed, and the floating orb is blank and golden. Joel notices that the blood has been washed out from the fountain, as the water is no longer tinged with red and the blood handprint is too high to be reached by its motion. Sarah decides to cut a finger and bleed into the fountain, to see if the orb will change. As soon as her blood touches the water, the orb immediately turns into a perfect image of earth. Unlike the replica Joel saw earlier, this earth is brightly lit from city lights, as the current earth would be like during night. The PCs reason that perhaps the creature is from earth, but from a far earlier time, and that the blood is imprinted to show earth as it exists for each being. Based on the larger footprint disappearing into a smaller one, the PCs decide that the creature either turned into a humanoid being (and thus might be a human from the time when the Gaia enslaved humans) or the humanoid being used a summoned creature, and lost control of the summoning magic after some time in the null magic zone. Then notice that the door to the shaft had opened as soon as Sarah bled into the fountain. She squeezes more blood from her finger, smearing some on the side to ensure that it remains open, and then the PCs go past the door and to the ladder.
Right before the shaft, the PCs notice a button, and that the ladder leads down into water. They press the button after a moment, and the door closes behind them, as the water level goes down. They climb down the ladder, eventually reaching an empty room with a drain in the center and another ladder going up on the other side. After a second of looking around, and finding nothing, the PCs go up the other ladder. Partway up, they see a serpentine statue feature coming out of the wall, dripping with water. A cog and chain slowly tick in the room, as the chain lowers a weight, and Adriana immediately sticks her knife in it to stop the water from rising again. Further up the ladder, they reach a damp room with a bench and another door, framed by two dragon statues. The PCs go through the door and out onto a balcony, finding themselves in a cylindrical cavern. Across, about thirty feet, is another balcony, with more dragon statues and a glowing door. The balcony pair is mimicked above them, right below a rocky stalactite ceiling, and it’s mimicked below them, right above murky water. Adriana briefly returns down to ladder to retrieve her knife and hopefully raise the water level, but the murky pool doesn’t rise. The PCs can faintly hear a sloshing noise from the water, as if something is moving around in the depths.
Sarah pulls rope from her pack, and Adriana ties a knot and gives the rope to Finn so he can fly across to the other statues and tie it securely on them. She ties the other end to a statue on their side, so they can cross securely. As Sarah easily crosses the rope over to the other side, Adriana struggles and barely stays on the rope for a second before falling off. Joel meanwhile returns to the previous room, sitting on the bench for a moment. A canary flies from the cavern, past an oblivious Adriana, to sit by Joel. It cocks its head to the side and chirps. Hesitant, Joel reaches out his hand to the bird, and the canary jumps on while chirping loudly. It leaves behind a single feather, before flying back into the cavern. Joel follows, stopping for a moment to help Adriana, but she waves him off and uses her magic to teleport to the other side. Joel follows them across, but they are stopped from passing; each time they try to walk through the glowing, opaque door, they are pushed back. Joel recognizes the magic as a one-way portal, and they are unfortunately on the wrong side.
The canaries suddenly burst through the portal, flying past the PCs and into the center of the cavern, before diving down to the water. They brush against the surface lightly, flying towards the door directly below the PCs, before immediately going back up, clearly scared of what’s in the water. After a few more chirps, they fly into the door above the PCs. Frustrated, Sarah goes back over the rope to the original balcony, to untie the knot, and tosses it back to Adriana and Joel so they can use it to climb down safety. She climbs down the rocks on her own, reaching the bottom door without a problem. Joel starts to climb down using the rope, but his arms tire halfway down and he falls into the water. Adriana quickly climbs down, reaching the water and leaning over the balcony to find Joel, but she can’t see him through the water. Under the surface, Joel sees a single pair of glowing eyes narrow when they spot him, and he freezes. A moment later, nine more pairs of eyes open, all glowing and all focused on him. He immediately swims to the surface, climbing out beside Adriana and shouting about a monster, as Sarah shouts for more information from her side of the cavern. Ten heads burst out of the water, screeching and sending spray everywhere, and the PCs realize with horror that they have awakened a hydra.