As Proust goes to command the astral elemental to take us to the Astral plane, he discovers an unexpected resistance.
You are not who found me, you are not who released me, you are not who re-bound me. Why should I serve you?
Proust commands the astral elemental to take the ship into the Astral plane. The elemental explains that in order to do so, there will be a price to pay. Proust responds that we were on a little bit of a time limitation, so he would pay the price.
The silvery, vaporous elemental silently explodes outward from the binding rings, rippling and expanding, forming a shimmering bubble that surrounds the ship. The ship shudders and vanishes from the dry docks of Kintam Coluun, pulling Proust’s lifeforce and mental ability to hold together during the transition.
As the ship manifests into the astral, there is a commotion heard from below decks, and a voice calls out, “My Lady, by the Nine and Six and One, what are you doing? This ship isn’t ready for regular travel yet, let alone travel between the planes of existence. This ship is still untested! It could break apart! The elemental bindings still haven’t been fully secured and tested! The strut configurations still need to be tuned! The crystal sheathings are merely in the prototype stage! This is a highly dangerous act that could set us back months of work!!!” The voice gets stronger as the individual it belongs to gets closer to the main deck. In a few moments, out pops a middle-aged male gnome wearing artificer’s gear. He looks as if he’s going to go on another rant, then realizes that he’s no longer speaking with Vial’vithkari.
“Umm… who are you and what are you doing with The Manifest Dream?...”
Proust, still reeling from the mental damage inflicted by the elemental, glances at the gnome, then looks over at Shemhazai. “Can you do something about locking down the ship and getting in touch with Drakeus?” he drawls.
She shrugs. “Sure, once this spell wears off.” She glances over at the sputtering gnome. “We’re the new owners.”
“Who are you?” Proust asks.
“I am Ciddalskordin Runewright, the Chief Engineer assigned to this prototype vessal by The Triumvirate in Zilargo. Most humans call me Cid.”
RaE detects a false note in Cid’s explanation of why he was on board the ship, and mentions that he was leaving something out. Proust and RaE both push Cid, who offers to tell them anything they want to know about the ship. He babbles on incessantly about the magical and technological marvels of the ship until Proust tells him to shut up, and that a party member would be joining the group shortly who would be more than happy to hear all about it.
As the antimagic field wears off Shem, she manifests divert teleport on the ship and prepares to contact Drakeus.
Meanwhile, Drakeus is pulled through the rift, spinning and tumbling through a chaotic mess of colors and shapes. He concentrates, managing to steady himself and create a bubble of breathable air. Getting his bearings, he thinks he is in Kythri. Thinking back, he thinks he had seen an out of place flash of silver as he was pulled through the rift; glancing around, there is a large silver sphere hovering behind him. He thinks that it is an Aoa, a creature normally from the Ethereal or Astral Plane that absorbs and eats magic. Not wanting to cast planeshift with it there, and knowing that they often follow and hang around spellcasters, he instead concentrates and forms a rock bubble around himself to close himself off from the Aoa. The Aoa tries to squeeze in, but Drakeus manages to hedge it out.
Once completely enclosed by rock, he planeshifts back to the Prime Material, then teleports to the Thronegate Ruins. Shemhazai’s correspond reaches him there; Proust (via Shem) asks Drakeus to get another scroll of teleport, then join us on the ship, as it needs to be locked down. Drakeus tracks down Vaslo and gets another scroll, then joins the party on the ship.
As Drakeus is getting ready to dimension lock the ship, Shem asks just how long they were planning on staying in the astral… wouldn’t it make more sense for us to return to the prime? Proust points out that someone else would have to command the elemental, as the effort would probably kill him. The party discusses what actually can be done; apparently, according to Cid, the ship should not have survived the trip to the astral. The “elemental” that is bound to the first ring actually is not an “elemental” as such; no one knows exactly what it is. The Inspired found it bound beneath Kintam Coluun and apparently elected to bind it to the ship. The damage it did Proust was apparently the only way it could shift without ripping the ship apart.
Cid says that it will take a week, a week and a half to finish the binding ring to the point where we could safely use it. Unfortunately, hanging around the astral for a week and a half isn’t something that the party really wants to do.
Shemhazai sighs. “The most expedient thing to do would be to just have one of us suck up the damage and shift back to the prime. Drakeus can heal us afterward.”
Proust looks at her. “Well, I guess that would be you, then.” He glances at where he has a death grip on the wheel. “While we are waiting for the gnomes to work on the ship, why don’t you remove the dominate on the elementals so I can let go?”
Shemhazai, Cid and the gnome engineers go belowdecks to the crystals and remove the dominates on the elementals (Shem fails badly, and the gnomes take over). Shem manifests dominate on the fire and air elementals, but the astral beast makes the save.
Proust gives Shemhazai a brief overview of how to command the elemental of an airship (“Speak firmly! Don’t Bargain!”), and she takes the wheel.
Ah, someone new… You are not who found me, you are not who released me, you are not who re-bound me. Why should I serve you?
Shem commands the astral beast to take the ship back to the prime material, to a location over the ocean near Xen’drik. It says that the ship is too fragile… it will be damaged by the transfer, unless it takes life force to protect the ship. Shem asks if it will be comparable to what it took from Proust; the astral beast says that it should be… depending upon her capabilities.
At that point, Quori Shemhazai speaks up mentally to Shem. We can bind it… force it to our will.
How about we try that when we aren’t stuck in the astral, and when we won’t run the risk of being stranded here? Unless you have another way of getting the ship back to Eberron? If I’m going to be taking the damage in order to protect the ship either way, I would prefer not to experiment just yet. We can try that later.
Quori Shemhazai reluctantly agrees to wait until later, and Shem commands the astral beast to take the ship back to Eberron, accepting the damage. The ship shudders, and transports back to the ocean, “landing” above the ocean with a small jolt.
Shem lets go of the wheel and takes stock of herself physically and mentally, discovering that her mental abilities are undamaged. “Well. That wasn’t as bad as expected.” Mentally, she hears, That… was unpleasant. She pauses, and then says out loud, “Hmm. Unexpected benefit.”
She touches the wheel again. “That wasn’t as bad as what you took from Proust.” The astral beast replies after a moment. You… are not alone. Shem shrugs. “Unfortunately.” Letting go of the wheel, she asks Drakeus to cast restoration on her for the damage to her endurance and constitution; Quori Shemhazai, she figures, can take care of himself.
It turns out that the party has landed several days away from their target – unsurprisingly. During the several day trip, the gnome corps of engineers work on the ship, and the party relaxes for a time.
Proust decides to find out a little more about the astral beast. He starts with a legend lore, but doesn’t get much information… so he takes the direct route and asks it. He discovers:
- The creature is an astral dragon.
- He was bound beneath Kintum Coluun by the humans of the area around 2,000 years ago; at that time, all the nations in that area were at war.
- He is one of the last of his kind.
- Although he is not entirely happy about being bound to the airship, he considers it at least better than being bound beneath Kintum Coluun.
- There is something – a binding from when he was originally bound – that is preventing him from being truly free.
While Proust chats with the dragon, Shem takes a little time to ask Shira about the “familiar presence” that she had sensed in the dry docks are. Shira says that she wasn’t sure which of the three, of the mage and the two psiforged, had it, but one of them had a docket component that contained a presence that she knew. It was the quori who created the docket program. She said that he was the greatest scientific and psionic mind of their time. It was thought that he would have entered the program, but it would have been after her time. Shem asked if it would be possible for a host to force the quori in the docket to act against their will; Shira said that it was possible, either if the host was strong-willed enough or through magical means. She mentioned that it was rather disturbing to think that he might be working – willingly or unwillingly – for the Inspired.
As we get closer to Xen’drik, we sight the coast (and Stormreach), and curve to keep our distance and avoid the city. However, the astral dragon mentions that there is a giant watching us from the shore. It appears to be an eldritch giant, and is wearing a holy symbol of the Sovereign Host. He also appears to be waiting for the ship… or something, at least.
Proust stops the ship so Drakeus can take his Ironwyrm Golem in to talk to him. Once Drakeus gets to within roughly 50’, the giant hails him.
“Greetings. I have been waiting for you.”
Drakeus halts the golem and hovers. “Greetings. Waiting for us? Rather surprising, actually.”
The giant inclines his head. “The gods have been sending me visions. I am known as Kaldore.”
Kaldore stated that he had been waiting for the party, and the ship with three rings. He thought that it was best that he tell the party some lore of his people that they might find useful in the days ahead.
“Once there was a man whose love for life was so great, he took two wives. His wives bore him a great many children, thirteen in number. Now both wives were beautiful in their own fashion, but the second wife was terribly jealous of the first and often argued and fought with her, causing the husband to come between them. This caused the children much distress, but none so much as the thirteenth, who could not bear to see her parents fight.”
“And so, the thirteenth child ran away from home, to seek solace from the conflict that she despised so much. Alone and confused she wandered for many years, her emotions always ruling her. In time, she grew wild and feral, truly a nightmare to behold. One day she happened upon a hunter traveling through the area she claimed as her own. Without any regard as to why he might be there, she savagely attacked him and beat him back. As she was about to land the killing blow, the hunter called out to her and asked if she was the thirteenth child of two wives that had gone missing many years ago. If so, her father had sent him to let her know that he was dying. He loved his family so much that he could not go on if even one of its members was missing. She hesitated, unsure of what to do. Would she kill him and go on her way as she had been, or would she return to her family and its life of conflict?”
There is discussion about the giant’s parable, and possible meanings behind the number 13 in the parable and who the hunter might be.
Proust asks if there was any other reason for the meeting besides a little storytelling session. Kaldore mentions that he had heard of an unusual giant named Prokres. He warns us to be wary of him; he is very powerful, and has varied allies as well as bound lower-planar creatures. Prokres is reputedly assembling a very powerful artifact. Proust casually asks, “Yes, I had heard of that. Do you happen to know how far along he is on that?” Kaldore says that he does not, but if he happened to meet us again, and had the information, he would be willing to pass it along at that time. “Purely academic interest, you see,” Proust shrugs with a winning smile. “Purely academic, is it?” Kaldore glances at Proust. “I see”.
There is a bit more verbal sparring, with Proust carefully not admitting that we were after the item ourselves. Drakeus sighs, and outright says that we, the party, were planning to do something about Prokres. Kaldore says that he and Prokres differ in opinion, and Kaldore would be willing to provide us with any information that might help, should he run across it.
Proust asks Kaldore if he had ever heard of the Destiny Arms; they might be needed soon for their original use. Kaldore replies that one of his fellow clerics of Balinor had recently passed away; he knew she had died violently, as he had received a very unsettling dream in which her spirit cried out to him. Eskelia was the last known keeper of one of the Destiny Arms, the one known as the Maul of the Glacial Heights. She lived in the EverIce, and led a tribe of peaceful frost giants. The Maul was a sacred trust, and was used only on ceremonial occasions. Kaldore had been in contact with her from time to time, and could provide directions to her village. (Proust does get directions.)
“Take this.” Kaldore gives Drakeus his holy symbol. “When you have dealt with Prokres and found out what happened to Eskelia, please return it.”
Proust takes his leave and ports back to the ship. Kaldore turns to Drakeus. “If you can take care of this for me, I would appreciate it.” Drakeus agrees. After a short prayer and pleasantries, Drakeus flies his Ironwyrm Golem back to the ship and the party continues on to Thronehold.
As soon we fly the ship into Thronehold, we start getting an audience from fascinated artificers that we have to shoo away from the ship. We decide to take a short layover here, and repaint the name to be “The Stolen Destiny”, and to spend some time making the private sanctum to disguise the ship. We also discover that the ship has crystal chambers that Cid mentions were created as “chambers for planar guests”.
Proust also brings up the idea of raising Vial and convincing her to join our cause. He proposes bringing her around – ‘redeeming’ her – and hopefully finding out what she knows. It would require a resurrection, then immediately dropping an antimagic field on her, knock her unconscious, curse her, and geas her – basically, rendering her defenseless. The plan is for Proust to change her viewpoint and outlook on life to align more closely with the party’s (actually, his, but the party doesn’t necessarily know that), and hopefully gain her cooperation. She was a high-ranking member of the Dreaming Dark, and would have a lot of information that would be useful to the party. The party discusses, and Proust gets everyone’s agreement, provided we can take reasonable precautions to prevent her from being re-possessed by Quori Vial.
A plan is devised wherein the party will commandeer a room in Thronehold and prepare. The plan of action is that Drakeus will create a scroll of antimagic field, which he will give to Proust. Drakeus will cast resurrect on Vial’vithkari, with Proust standing by to cast antimagic field the second she regains consciousness. RaE will prepare to grapple and subdue her, while Shem and Inq standby to take action as needed.