Adventuring party: Fiona, a motherly powerful sorceress, once the guardian of a Illanëan temple; Zeril, a Silver Dragon Disciple and Mindbender, once a social outcast but now one of Freiburg’s most respected experts on magical and planar lore; and A’ne, a rougue/duelist, weilding a rapier of mythic origins, who runs a rogue’s school in Ketan and a “procurement” company out of Arasha.
Three of the most powerful individuals in all of Firseid have arrived in Freiburg, the largest city in Letania, at a serendipitous moment. The Lord Mayor summoned them to his palace (a sumptuous marble palace with manicured gardens) to request their help investigating an incident at Cinder Mountaintop, a Ketani monastery in the mountains to the south, which was recently attacked by something called an “etherial demon.” The monastery serves an important peacekeeping function in the mountains as well as guarding a rift to the etherial plane. Two hundred years ago, a war with these same monsters destroyed the City of Wildflowers in the mountains, and the blight ravaged by the war left magical scars all over the mountain.
The Lord Mayor confesses his ignorance of the nature of the creatures attacking, but impresses the importance of their success on the party—their homelands all touch on the mountain range, and an invasion could bring destruction to any of their nations.
The monastery is connected to the palace by the Gate Stones, small discs about one foot in diameter. The court mage explains: “It is paired with its brother at the monastery. An extravagant gift from the monastery for our nation’s help in the war. It can only transport about 100 pounds each day, but that’s usually enough. You just lay a object on the stone, speak the command word, and whatever’s on one of the stones will be teleported to the brother stone. We sent aid to them in the form of a powerful scroll to control the weather during a particularly brutal blizzard a few years ago. Even taxes have passed through this. If there’s anything Friburg can send to you, we can provide it, though only if it is to be found readily in the city, of course. The command word is Toliver—that’s me.”
The party’s first step, uncertain of the danger ahead, was to find some help. They consulted with Royal Armorer and were referred to three powerful locals: the captain of the guard, Rayf, a mighty fighter; the former captain of the Freiburg guard (and now an important diplomat), Eldum, a powerful paladin; and Firseid’s most famous living bard, Henri, whose puns are legendary. Rayf was off “somewhere to the northwest” according to the deputy captain, Nystal, at the palace. After a bit of discussion, the party decided to track down Eldum at the capital.
To save time, the party decided to teleport to the palace at Woodlake, the capital, where Eldum was on an important diplomatic mission negotiating with the Northmen Tribes.
Trouble was, they’d never been to the palace capital. A bit of further inquiry at the mayoral palace led them to the royal cartographer. They arrived at the cartographer’s shop (filled with piles and piles of parchment, and run by a deaf and dumb gnome of astounding artistic talent) and purchased a painting of the royal palace after scaring the crap out of the poor gnome.
Fiona teleported the group northward, much to the shock of the palace guard, who was rather shocked to see three people appear directly in front of him. Eldum greeted them and was rather quickly persuaded over a nice duck dinner by Fiona, with whom he was considerably smitten.
Eldum has some considerable historical knowledge as well as a family connection to the Mondastery (an ancestor having been the protector of the City of Wildflowers) and he related the history of the monastery:
An outlying Ketani monastery, the Cinder Mountaintop has guarded an etherial rift for two hundred years ago. The demon Ka’nacht led an invasion of the material plane that left in ruins the City of Wildflowers, a proud outpost of the Ketani civilization. Only the monastery survives, having been rebuilt in its original location with the Etherial Plane rift directly in the center of the monastery complex behind a great cold iron gate.
He also tells them that the recent attack indicates that something must have happened to the head of the monastery, who is always a wizard of great power. The monastery’s leader is one who has completely given up his personal power to maintain a single great spell, the World Seal. The greater ritual is cast once each month during the full moon, with incremental upkeep spells cast every week.
The party teleported south and passed the night in Freiburg, then made their way to the tiny Ketani church in the Ketani neighborhood of Freiburg, where the monk there described, in a monotonous and dreamy voice, Cinder Mountaintop so they could teleport to the adventure location.
The arrived at their location and note the following:
The monastery is a large stone enclosure on a mountaintop. It is quite cold at this altitude. A path snakes down the mountainside through the ruined City of Wildflowers. Except when they near the monastery, there is little vegetation. Some smaller buildings inside form a complex that taken together looks like a single very large building.
The monastery is in a highly defensible position from the outside, but its more peculiar aspect is that it appears, upon entry, to be designed much like a prison. The inner and outer doors are both reinforced iron, which is fairly unusual.
This unique position came about because the monastery is meant to keep something in as well as out. A great wall surrounding the monastery encloses a courtyard where anyone crossing would be destroyed by ranged weapons in short order. There is nowhere to hide inside the walls.
The fortress shows evidence of gnomish handiwork.
A close inspection of the ramparts reveals cannons that can be fired either outward or inward.
They are greeted at the doors of the monastery by Yanchka, the interim head of the monastery, who tells them what has happened in the same monotonous, dreamy voice as the monk the met in Freiburg. “One morning, when Master Huda did not attend the morning prayers, his assistants found him still asleep in his room. His body lay perfectly at rest, still breathing, but they were unable to rouse him. They knew he was not dead, however, because his spirit would have chosen a successor, as has happened countless times in generations past.
“Two mornings ago, a creature from the void entered the monastery through the rift. It banged on the iron doors, and two monks were slain by the creature when the monks opened the doors. A collective effort brought the creature down. This is but a harbinger of the greater danger that awaits us. The legions of another reality might be more numerous than our forces could handle.”
The party made their way directly to the portal chamber, where they observed the blood stained stones where the two monks were killed, and observed the strange glowing (but apparently closed) portal in the center of the room.
Fiona noticed a mild gravitational pull toward the portal, and she warned the party not to get closer to the rift, but A’ne’s curiosity got the better of her, and she moved closer to investigate the pedestal. Just then the room filled with light as the portal expanded to a large opening. Wind whipped through the chamber, and there was an ear-splitting whine that slides down the scale to a deep, bowel-shaking rumble. A claw reached out and grasped the edges of reality, then pulled a hideous shadowy head through. An Etherial Demon Lieutenant emerged, followed closely by a second.
The “demons” are huge, eight and seven and a half feet tall, respectively, and dressed in shadowy armor. Their outlines are difficult to pin down. The larger lieutenant brought his sword down on A’ne, wounding her considerably. He then raised his sword in the air and screamed something that might have been a battle cry, and the room filled with ear-splitting Greater Shout, deafening the party and rattling their bones. The second seemed to cast a silence spell, but it had no effect on the party. During the battle, Eldum got too close to the portal, which seemed to knock him off his feet with its pull.
With a concentrated effort with their spells and swords, the party brought the creatures low and drove them back into the portal, but not without taking significant damage on their own. Just before retreating, the Greater Lieutenant cast a Sonic Wall right on top of the paladin. Zeril moved him out of danger with telepathy, and the party took a moment to breathe and ponder their options.