S1 E46: Into the Fires
In which the Scale Squad takes on some spicy cultists and (finally) finds a name for themselves.
- Sabian is convinced (by some good persuasion rolls) to donate 12 of his scouts to help in the effort of getting the Pearl of Wisdom to the Sun's Root tree, and the party splits into a commando group and a decoy group. The commandos go stealthily along and make their way from the west through flaming ruins, where they see an upper class of cultists brutally driving a lower class with whips and abuse.
- These underclass cultists - possibly slaves, though they all have the same tattoos and elaborate clothing - to restock coal wedged into various points of stone to keep the fires burning even in the stone foundations. The wildly flickering light, burning rubble and mazelike corridors make travel difficult, but also help keep them well hidden through a couple of close calls.
- Meanwhile the decoy group rides up to the compound through the more visible southern route, getting pot-shots from one of the guard towers after exceeding their limited patience and refusing to leave. The scouts aren't great fighters but realistically, neither are the guards in the towers, and they serve the purpose of drawing fire and attention away from the smaller team, More guards and eventually priests are called over, and for a while the fight stalemates into cultists hitting and fading with flaming arrows from the ruins while Blizzard and Zalock ride down any cultists caught out in the open.
- The cult archers can't effectively hit the nimble steed or wolf, or their well armored riders, and the steed and wolf can't reach the cultists in the rooftops; none of the relatively low-grade guard fighters are individually worth wasting a fly spell on. The darkness works in their favor against the two Dragonborn, allowing the cultists to hide more effectively and move from collapsed building to a different roof to change their attack, but in the end it's just the scouts running around in the open courtyard who get whittled down to 3 survivors; the cultists lose more, at least a dozen in the effort, though it's hard to keep an accurate count.
- The commandoes reach the temple and scale the walls, finding an internal fire moat producing thick smoke that rises through the broken-out stained glass windows and through a small opening in the roof with a circlet of gold flashing. Initially Mae tries to simply climb the burning tree trunk, but the thick coating, a sort of gluey napalm oil, is incredibly slick and she keeps sliding down, burning all the while.
- Switching tactics, she takes flight as an eagle, initially planning to swoop down and drop the pearl into the small opening at the top of the golden trunk - but she realizes this would expose her to more fire, damaging the eagle form to the point of losing it, at which point she'd go sailing through the air as a Satyr and possibly landing head-first in the flaming moat. So she tries to 3-point-shot the golfball sized pearl into the golf-cup sized hole, while in flight, from a height of 5 feet - and by Nylea she gets very close. But instead of landing there, it bounces 40 feet off in a random direction.
- The cultists have issues detecting anyone in the temple or seeing this as a threat, but they do become aware of the attack in the south part of their compound within a few minutes of it starting, and they do see the pearl go bouncing around. With the aid of mage hand, they can snag it fairly easily, but when the fighting breaks out it changes hands a few times, on the high bounce;
- The cultists are far more confused than they are openly hostile, and Xi Shi seizes the opportunity to push their easily-manipulated minds a little and assert that they are here as a judgement from Aot, their sun god, and that she is in fact an avatar of Aot; this only confuses them further. "That seems - really unlikely. why has your return been delayed?" They brush away her answer, as she had assumed they meant something apocalyptic, a triumphal return in the end times, but they were being entirely pragmatic. "No, your return from the Temple of Borem's Heart - we expected you back three days ago."
- Aha, she says, and with a truly monumental persuasion/intimidation attempt and their spectacular failure of the contested roll, the leader agrees to take the clan north to meet Aot Solorex there - meaning that they know full well where the temple of Borem's Heart is - somewhere further north. And also that their god, or demigod, or whatever it is that they're actually worshipping - went there already, and was supposed to have returned already, so it was delayed by something, for some reason, unless it was all a big hallucination.
- At last, The Pearl can be dropped into the trunk. And this time, no moonbeam, or light through the staff of bat swarm are needed; this anchor is different in several respects from the others. As the trunk lowers into the ground, the earth beneath them begins to thrum at a low frequency they feel in their chests more than hear, and a blinding purple beam of light shoots up from the hole in the end of the trunk, burning through the stone and soil that backfills the hole and perfectly threading the gold-clabbered opening in the ceiling, blazing up and up and up; as they go outside to see it, it seems to disappear into space; but from directly below it's very hard to tell.
- Cind, however, is pretty sure that the moon will cross directly overhead tonight around 3AM. as a nocturnal creature, he's more in tune with the moon than the locatoin of the sun, most of the time. Further discussion about other things they have in common leads to the acknowledgement that all of them have some ties to reptiles, other than Mae, and one of Mae's favored shapes is a giant Monitor lizard; Zalock proposes the title "The Scale Squad" and just like that - a legend is named.
- Gained a Level
- Salvation in Fire
- The Sun's Root