Codex VIII-Chapter 7

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After a morning of grabbing last minute supplies, they took off, lifting away from the city. It had been an eventful few weeks—discovering the truth about Thakillestra the Gold, the assassination attempt, the further research, Aestus’ initiation as a Knight, and then discovering the ruse behind the ward at the chapterhouse. And there was one more exciting moment. As they sailed, Aestus approached Khaska and asked if he would contact Olwenna.

He did so. “Greetings Olwenna. Aestus asks after you. Are you … well?”

“I am. I carry his child. His son will bring great strength to our clan, and I hope that he will come see him when …” The spell cut off at that point, but it was no problem to re-cast Sending to get more details.

The Domnent clan had moved away from the Dragon's Graveyard, resuming their nomadic journeys around Sudloc. She expected their child would be born in November. The party was always welcome, especially Aestus, and she was glad to have heard from him, and wished them all well in their journeys. There was one slightly lewd comment that Khaska was embarrassed to pass along, but he did so diligently, blushing all the while.

It was a week of sailing against the wind, but despite that they landed amidst the woods and rocky foothills where they expected to find the voidgate. They arrived in the evening and had to wait until morning, and even then it took a few hours to find the gate, Sanjin quipping the entire time that Rynn’s assistance would have been most helpful.

After making sure they were alone, and hiding the Randale as low as possible in a clearing, they used the control rod to open the voidgate. To satiate Greygook’s curiousity, they first went to the unusual voidgate far above the ocean, carrying a small one-man skiff through the voidgate. Greygook, with Xaci, was able to jerry-rig it to be a small skyship, though with little way to steer with merely a makeshift sail, all after Aestus and Orensland complained about having to carry the boat all the way from the Randale to the gate, and then from the gate to the platform in the pocket dimension, and from there to the appropriate gate. The two of them were still covered in sweat after he was done modifying the rowboat to be a skyship skiff.

The coldness of the Death Side struck them, and it was night on this part of Jenoa. Sanjin had come prepared with torches, and they were able to assess the location better than before, when they had just tried to discern its location.

The room they entered into hadn’t changed, to Orensland’s recollection. Still dusty and decrepit. The next area was a large place where there was the balcony Orensland had found previously. They brought the skyship skiff though and Greygook and Xaci took it out, making sure they were anchored with a long rope in case their makeshift sails failed.

They floated out past the balcony, being bucked here and there by the wind, but with Greygook’s handiwork holding up just enough they maintained some control. They moved further and further away, glancing up, and pointing and talking to each other for several minutes before the indicated for the party to pull them back.

“We’re on a floating island!” Greygook shouted as he got within earshot. “It’s … it’s huge. Looks artificial, too. Designed this way. It’s like a two-sided metal spike sort of thing, one pointing up, the other pointing down. The middle part is all earthy and multicolored, like one giant skyship crystal.”

He took them out on the skiff one at a time so they could see it. Even Khaska’s general nausea for sky sailing was not enough to keep him from venturing out to see it more fully. And it was indeed a glorious sight.

Orensland immediately recognized the architecture style. It matched that of the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance, the large building he had seen there matching this floating building almost as if a kind of architectural question and answer designed to fit together. A puzzle, maybe. He mentioned as much to the party, and Greygook, who was the only other person to have seen the Fortress, agreed with his assessment.

Sanjin had taken to exploring just a few rooms, and it was clear that there were many hallways and rooms. In fact, the next room over seemed to house a skyship dock, though any wood long since rotted away. This floating architectural wonder had much to explore.

“But is it abandoned,” asked Aestus. “We have more pressing items than this mystery, floating here for who knows how long.”

“I’ve never even heard of something like this,” Sanjin said. “And I would have. An ancient floating building! Most scholars who explore the Deadlands would love to get their hands on something like this!”

It was just then that Orensland noticed something moving. He hissed to bring everybody’s attention and then vanished, ghosting over, using his darkvision to see what was making the noise.

Just a rat.

Just a rat with its brain visible. It moved around, looking for food and otherwise acting like a normal rat, then turned and left, continuing its search. Orensland moved back to the others. “Um, just a rat, but a weird one. I could see its brain.”

“It was injured?” asked Aestus.

“Didn’t seem to be. Just … just had a transparent skull.”

“Hrm,” said Sanjin. “That’s unusual.”

“Anybody ever heard of rats like that?” asked Xaci, her voice wavering. “Maybe we should get out of here.”

“Worth exploring later on, maybe,” Greygook said, “now that we know more about it and can be more prepared.”

“Nonsense, my gnomish friends,” Aestus said. “It’s just a rat, even if a mutant one.”

Eryx (DM)
First, a metagame point:

I promise to never "spring" anything on you that came from a "mistake" you made. Like Thev's point about being circumspect concerning who they would have told they were going to Twilight. I assume in general that you are taking precautions and such. You're not going to find Twilight competely destroyed because I wrote your characters as more loose-lipped than they would have been. That doesn't mean there aren't any more surprises left in the campaign, of course, but I'm not out to get you. I decided that you would have access to a teleportation circle because you would have, given the political situation around your assassination attempt, and so you did. If you all want to go marching into the Tlerian Imperial palace to kill the emperor … that's on you. If I decide to teleport you across the world to save some time, and because it's realistic that you would have access to such magic, that's on me. I'm not going to punish you for things that I decided to have your characters do. I recognize this is a weird way of playing D&D, and that your characters are all written up by me, but I take that into account as DM when figuring out how the world around the party reacts to their decisions. I hope that all made sense.

The wizard didn’t know anything, but he and Sir Perone will work together in your absence to try to unravel things a bit more and do more research. It’s good that Sir Perone has an arcane expert to assist him in this investigation.

Aestus is going to be a daddy. Congratulations!

You are all currently on the floating island/building at D5 on the main map, having used Thev’s great idea to do some exploring without having to spend months flying over there. It seems to be derelict, having floated here on its own, but is not devoid of life. Orensland has discovered a single rat so far, one whose brain is visible.

I drew up a basic picture so you can get an idea of the architectural layout from the outside, which seems to match that of the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance. Forgive the crudity of the model; I didn’t have time to create it to scale. You’re halfway down the bottom “spike.”

I thought this a good decision point to stop at. What would you all like to do next? Stay and explore this ancient floating island/building? Come back later? Move on to the upper platform and begin exploring what you think might be Arkenos?

I'm a little confused - why did we have to drag a flying ship around? Couldn't we have flown it in?

Orensland is overcome with curiosity about this floating island - What kinds of records or treasures have the ancients left behind?? However, he is very suspicious about the rats. Even without the metagaming advantage of knowing this was probably thrown in as more than flavorful decor… brain rats seem scary. And where there's one, there's likely going to be more.

Orensland would understand if the others want to move on, but he would want to explore the place first. He'd do so as sneakily as possible to try to avoid detection by rats or other creatures, though he'd be looking to see if the rats notice him anyways. If they're brainy enough to read minds, shadowdancing would do squat. I'll let you make that perception/investigation check, Eryx, since I may not recognize that they notice me. However, given my research, it looks like mind reading is more of a spell you cast on a specific somebody (like detect thoughts) rather than reading minds generally, so it's possible the paranoia is unfounded.

Our most knowledgeable character should probably roll to see if they know about the rats, most likely Sanjin. Do they get advantage since we're brainstorming? He'd also recommend we message a few knowledgeable folks, such as our dragon friends, if they know about rats with visible brains.

For sneaking around and getting a lay of the layout (especially for items of value!), presuming the party is ok with it:

Investigation: 27 (rolled 16 + 11 mod)
Stealth: 33 ([with advantage] rolled nat 20 +13 mod)

Man, with that roll even Orensland's thoughts would be sneaky! :)

Oh, is one of us going to fall to the ground, prone, and live an entire life on another world while all the onlookers see them briefly comatose?? That would be a plot twist!

Kidding aside, thank you for the assurances, Eryx! I appreciate it. My concerns were the fruit of a bit of narrative paranoia coming out.

And wow, this building is much weirder and larger than Khaska anticipated, and a rat with a transparent skull is plain unnerving. Even a normal rat would be strange: what would they be eating out here, who knows how many years (centuries? millennia? enough time for wood to rot into oblivion, apparently!) since the building's abandonment?

What's more, the fact that the architectural style matches the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance suggests that either the builders of the Fortress knew about the voidgate network or, perhaps more likely, the Fortress was built by the Pressen Empire — which would make it stunningly old. Anything we find here, especially any potential texts, could give us valuable information about the history of both moons.

With that thought in mind, Khaska would be interested in further exploring the floating island while the party's here. He's not the stealthiest of the bunch, though, so he'd be happy to support Orensland's explorations in any way he can.

(Though, hmm. It looks like Khaska only has Tongues, which applies to spoken languages — probably not all that helpful here, unless there are ghosts or magical, audible manifestations. Does Sanjin have Comprehend Languages.)

Sanjin wouldn't mind weaking up to find he now can play the flute :P
Sanjin would be more intrested in how such a large area floats then about the rats. He wants to move on.
Sanjin's knowledge is more History and Acana then zoology, but maybe he read something in passing about rats with see-through skulls…

  • Knowledge Nature: 7

Sanjin does, in fact know Comprehend Languages and is likely to have it already prepared.

Yeah, I'd love to see somebody play the flute!

As a player, this one was hard for me to roleplay. I'm SO intrigued by this island and the freaky rats, but from my last post, I think the anxiety of thinking about possible devil guerillas would be so at the forefront of Aestus' mind, that he would still be prioritizing a brief foray to Arkenos (if possible) to see what sort of resources we could utilize to our advantage before the looming attack; as well as to see if it would be possible to ascertain anything about any devil presence on Pressen. FYI to the party: Aestus could be swayed to prioritize an investigation of this island simply by reminding him that it's possible that any entity here, rats or otherwise, might have been alerted to their arrival, and if they leave, it gives them time to prepare for their return.

About the rats: Aestus would ask the intellectuals if they think the transparent skulls would be the result of magic, or a strange adaptation for this unique environment?

About the island: are we inside the structure, or on its surface? If inside, how did we get inside? If on the surface, what's keeping us from falling? Sorry, having a hard time visualizing this thing, even with the drawing of the island.
Aestus asks the magickers, "How does something like this stay in the air?" Then he'd remark… and ask, "It doesn't seem to have any anchors… could it be moved? Somehow towed through the air to another location?"

Also, Daddy Aestus is overjoyed but also very apprehensive about the news that he's sired a child. Come November, he'll make a journey back to Olwenna.

Eryx (DM)
Requested rolls from Crosis.

Perception: Rolled 16 + 5 = 21 total.
Thieves' Tools: Rolled 5 + 9 = 14 total.

“Is it just a mutant one?” asked Khaska. “Who knows how long this building has been here. Has it been floating for centuries? Millenia? What has the rat been feeding on?”

They talked amongst themselves and decided against major exploration, although Orensland wanted to do some quick and basic reconnaissance—nothing too far, but just to get a sense of the building. They agreed to give him a few minutes, and with that he vanished into the darkness to explore.

He was looking for texts, maybe. Something to show what the purpose of the building was. He made himself a promise that he would just explore this floor before moving on to others. There were some stairs moving up and down, but he kept moving. This area seemed to connect to a larger series of rooms. Storage rooms, by the looks of them. He was able to tell that there used to be foodstuffs and the like around. Seemed that food for the building residents might be brought in via the voidgate and stored around here. He kept exploring. There didn’t seem to be any footprints. The entire building seemed abandoned aside from the occasional rat (and he did see several others, also with transparent skulls, but none acting different that he could tell from a normal rat). He kept exploring. Found what looked like some servant’s quarters, the bedding long since rotted and molding. And kept exploring. Discovered what looked like a large kitchen, with multiple firepits, ovens, and entire sets of very fine dining implements. And kept exploring.

It was after about ten minutes of exploring just this one level of the building that he realized something. He was almost certain that this floor was bigger than it seemed from the outside. It seemed to keep going and going and going. To confirm his suspicions, he continued on straight, not bothering to try to unlock doors or peer into rooms, just to keep going. After a few more minutes he was certain.

This building was bigger on the inside.

He made his way back to the others, retracing his footsteps, and reported his findings.

“So we have no way of knowing how large this building actually is on the inside,” Khaska said, looking at Sanjin.

“If the entire building is like a bag of holding, it represents magic of a type that we understand, but at a quantity that we could replicate,” the wizard said. He looked around. “An ancient building with many different floors and mysteries and things to discover.” His face lit up. “Such a thing would be called a megadungeon by those like me who seek to learn the secrets of the past.”

“A megadungeon?” Aestus said. “We don’t have the time to explore something that large. I suggest we press on to Arkenos. The Dark Times are coming, and scouting things out there are more important than exploring this derelict floating building. How is it even staying in the air?”

“Ah,” said Greygook, “I did note that portions of it seemed to be similar to our skyship crystals. It could be that it operates on the same magical principles, even if we don’t quite understand those.”

“Could it be towed somewhere?” asked Aestus.

“Ah, maybe, over time,” Greygook said. “It would depend on if there is some kind of mechanism for moving it or if it were anchored somewhere. But we saw no such anchors or even a place for such anchors. Though, obviously, there is more exploring to do here.” He thought for a moment. “If it is derelict, then I would say yes, it could be towed. But who would we even tell about this?”

“A good question we should ponder on,” Khaska said. “But I am inclined to agree with Aestus. This mystery will have to wait. The Dark Times and scouting Arkenos take priority.”

That was good enough for the rest of the party, and they opened the voidgate and went through. They went to the upper platform.

“Where to now?” Sanjin asked. “All we know is that the labels for the different voidgates seem to indicate proper names. Nothing on the lower platform was helpful in determining where the gates opened. The one to the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance was labeled ‘inferioribus civitatem’ and one of the gates on the top was labeled ‘superius civitatem.’ In draconic, that means ‘lower city’ and ‘upper city.’”

“And we have no interest in joining you in exploring the Dark Moon,” Greygook said. “It might be that the voidgates lead to new places on our moon, so we will stick around, but back a bit to see what happens to you all. I have no desire to fight any devils today.”

“Reasonable,” Khaska said. “We do not want to stay long, though.”

“If these do lead to Arkenos, once we go through,” Sanjin said, “we will be cut off magically from communication, as our friends have indicated that magic communication between the moons has been cut off.”

“A quick scouting expedition, then?” asked Orensland.

“Hopefully. How much can you learn about a world, though, by just exploring by the voidgates,” said Khaska.

“Not much,” Aestus replied. “Depending on where the gates are, of course. Many of the ones here were in abandoned wilderness places. If that was the case there, we may have to journey for many days to even find something worth observing.”

“How long do you want us to wait for you?” asked Xaci.

Eryx (DM)
This seems as good a place as any to stop. You’ve discovered that the floating building is basically a TARDIS, for those who are Dr. Who fans. Magically enhanced on the inside to take up more space than the outside should allow. Sanjin calls it a megadungeon, first instance of one on Jenoa to be confirmed, though there are always rumors of such things on the Death Side.

So, two questions:

1. Which voidgate on the upper platform do you want to open? You have an educated guess that the “superius civitatem” one might take you to the major city that passed over the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance, according to Thakillestra.
2. How long should Greygook and Xaci wait for you all once you go through? (Also, do Greygook and Xaci know about the dragons? I couldn’t remember when writing up the dialogue and so had Sanjin say something more anodyne about the magical communication being cut off between the moons than “Thakillestra told us this.”)

I'm good to explore as much as we can. It may be wise to try the superius civitatem gate first. Orensland would offer to scout first, shadowdancing his way around the initial entrance. This would be similar to how we did it before, where Orensland does not take a key with him, but the others open the voidgate at a predetermined time. Though this time we have the crystal ball, so the others could follow Orensland and open the gate before if he comes back early.

Presuming the coast is clear, we could come through with a larger group. If the city is remotely civilized, it seems the best place to find something like a library. Finding a history volume or a map of Arkenos would greatly instruct us on how we should proceed, not to mention being among the most valuable literature possible for inhabitants of our moon.

If we had a map of Arkenos, could Greygook/Xaci help us determine where each voidgate location is with their mapping instruments (angle of the sun, etc.)?

As for how long to wait, I think that depends on the initial scouting bit. If the area is hostile, we probably shouldn't spend too much time exploring that particular area.

I don't know that we ever told Greygook and Xaci about the dragons, but Orensland would be down with sharing that knowledge with them. We probably shouldn't give addresses, names, or descriptions, but the general knowledge seems fine to share.

Eryx (DM)
Point of order, the crystal ball does not work between planes. The voidgate network is a pocket dimension. Once you pass through the gate, it is as if you are on another plane.

It would be very difficult to persuade the gnomes to come to Arkenos even for a short time. In fact, you would have to roll a persuasion check to get them to agree, even though they are your allies. Although it would be harder to determine locations than with Jenoa (Arkenos is not tidally locked), it wouldn't be impossible. As far as you know, there aren't really maps of Arkenos available. (You did meet an elven astronomer back in Codex V-Chapter 2, Redhier Magus Kilsheron who was there to use his instruments to map the dark moon as much as possible. So good detail maps exist, but you can't just buy them on random street corners.)

Khaska does agree that it would probably be advisable to try the "Superius Civitatem" gate first, especially given that it's the most sure bet we know of of locating allies on the other moon. He does think it best that Orensland do his stealthy scouting first — for maybe something like ten minutes, then perhaps another of an hour or two; if the coast seems reasonably clear, more people might be able to pass through.

If we didn't want to leave the time to chance, lest Orensland need to return earlier or later, here's one idea: we could wait a night and Khaska could prepare Meld into Stone. He and Orensland could pass through and Khaska, with a pre-loaded key, could meld with a nearby stone, waiting for Orensland to knock when he's ready to pass back through.

It does strike Khaska that, if there truly is a relatively normal city outside the gate, it could be very difficult for the party not to draw attention: we don't even know what languages they'd speak, what species might be there, what clothing they wear… After Orensland's scouting mission, we'd have more information, and Khaska could use his Hat of Disguise.

That said, Khaska would cast Tongues on Orensland before he passes through. No use sending a scout if everything turns out incomprehensible!

We might also want to check the spaces immediately outside the voidgate(s) for magic before we send people traipsing through. No use inadvertently tripping any wards that could alert who-knows-what to our presence! Khaska can cast Detect Magic before we step through any gate, just to be sure. He could also prepare Dispel Magic to try to dismiss any spells encountered.

As for how long Greygook and Xaci should wait, my guess is that we might want to do brief reconnaissance with each Arkenos gate while we're at it — at least a glance through each, to get some idea of what's outside each one — before we do more intensive scouting outside a particular one. With that knowledge, we'd have a better idea of what we might want to explore more and what dangers might await.

Khaska also wants to prepare Divination and inquire: "Where, in relation to which voidgate on Arkenos, can we find sincere allies and friends of the metallic dragons?"

Sanjin agrees with trying the Superius Civitatem gate. He would want to error on the side of caution -as such he recomends that Orensland does a short scout first, then if there is not immediate danger, he can scout for longer.

Eryx (DM)
Upon casting the spell and awaiting an answer, Khaska hears the reply "Superius Civitatem is the least dangerous, and where what you seek is the closest."

Well, that works! Superius Civitatem it is, then, though that second clause could just indicate that Jenoa is closest to that location, haha.

Aestus would see the wisdom is sending the Shadowdancer first, but he would be very anxious to hurry things along. After all, they might discover other knights and maybe even metallic dragons!

They discussed their options and decided that they would first have Orensland scout out the Superius Civitatem gate. Since it would just be him, he could easily return quickly.

Khaska pointed the control rod, fully charged, at the voidgate. “Good luck,” he said. Then he opened the gate.

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter (and the codex).

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