Penetrating The Palace’s Defenses
While drifting through the Land of Fire towards the palace, Grizzly and Butterfly noticed a hidden elemental on another chunk of floating rock. It turned out to be a smoke elemental spy Sy’Vah-esh had used for information gathering in the past. He assisted the party in approaching and entering the palace less conspicuously, although he disappeared once they were inside.
The party found themselves in a hallway with no visible windows or doors except for a molten metal barrier at the end. They had difficulty discerning any magical or physical options for opening the door, so Frank decided to create a probe for seeing through to the other side. Unfortunately, his quick invention did not handle the heat well and exploded, injuring a few of the party members and surprising the guards on the other side.
After some quick explaining and pleading, the guards divested the party of their equipment and begrudgingly allowed them to gain audience with the Fire Prince, who was very pleased to see Frank, Grizzly and New Moon again. He described a plan to hunt down the God of War and purge the enemy elemental army out of the Land of Fire, which Fargrim thought all sounded like a great idea. The rest of the party was hesitant to trust the idea of cracking the Obscura in order to vent the elemental army out, since the idea seemed to have come from Sarin, but they decided the energy from the army might be able to heal the Obscura or even briefly energize the Heart to heal the world.
With the head of the Fire Prince’s guard serving as a reluctant guide, the party decided to head to the giant volcano at the center of the Elemental Lands in order to gain access to the Obscura and try to request assistance channeling the energy of the enemy elementals. They realized the ‘Death Crystals’ might be some sort of energy receptacles and could have been used as a conduit for elemental energy in the past, but they still needed help in making sure the energy went to where it was needed.
Along the way, the Fire Prince’s guard assisted them with avoiding the attack of a Fire Elemental beast along the way, but after the usual charismatic comments of certain members of the party, he let them deal with a massive Ash Elemental monster on their own. The great, sweeping paw attacks and burning ash clouds of the creature battered and choked the party, and its partially immaterial body resisted the strikes from their weapons, but after an extended and unwavering onslaught from the party it finally collapsed into harmless ash.
Once they reached the volcano, the blustering of the party finally drove their escort away and the party was faced with figuring out how to get through the Obscura. The volcano used to be the outlet for elemental energy channeled from the Heart to feed the Elemental Lands. They had been told that some elementals had ventured down into the volcano after it had become inactive, but those elementals had never been heard from again. Luckily, the Fire Elemental mage they had met in the Wildlands finally arrived after traversing the long route Frank had directed him to take. The party had learned he was the Fire Prince’s archmage who’d developed a spell for causing rifts in the Obscura. He agreed to help them safely reach the center of the volcano and open a rift to suck them through the Obscura if necessary, although he was unsure who, if anybody, would reclose the rift.
A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
Standing on the invisible surface of the Obscura deep within the volcano, the party signaled the elemental mage to begin his spell. Within seconds cracks spread through the glassy Obscura until it shattered beneath them, pulling them through. They found themselves falling through a massive, crystal encrusted shaft deep into the center of the world. Butterfly and Grizzly tried to call the Guardian of the Underworld to them, but were unsuccessful. The crystal walls opened up around them as they plummeted through a massive chamber so large they could not see any side.
A huge floating crystal appeared below them as it began to glow brighter and brighter as they fell closer and closer. Fargrim summoned their demon and convinced him to fly them away from colliding into the crystal by promising to free him one day. Sy’Vah-esh began floating to slow her fall, but continued to move towards the crystal. Grizzly and New Moon had no way of stopping, however, and fell right into the crystal. They did not seem to impact the side, though, but simply disappeared without emerging on the other side.
Although she could fly, Butterfly decided to follow them into the crystal, and one by one the other party members followed. Inside the giant crystal, they were greeted by a warm, female voice that welcomed them. She introduced herself as the world and answered their questions as best she could, telling them that she had created the gods long ago in response to the desires of the creatures who lived upon her. To use the anatomical metaphor the party was using, she explained that just as the place they had all originally met was like her Heart, since it pumped life throughout her, the party was now it what would be most akin to her Mind. Grizzly’s Spirit Bear, whom she seemed to know, then showed up to explain a few more things.
Bear told Grizzly that he could now speak to him because their bond was much stronger than before. He also clarified that he did not specifically ask Sarin to kill them, but he needed them placed into the crystals to be released when the time had come because he could see disaster approaching and knew they would be needed. Since Bear was unable to just ask, he approached Sarin for help as he has a particularly close tie to the spirit world and didn’t have such boundaries.
Too many of the world’s inhabitants were just taking without replenishing resources, so Bear knew something would have to give. Unfortunately, few listen before things get really bad, so he waited for the heroes’ tombs to be disturbed. And now people needed to make a choice: either bow to the gods (these or new ones) and empower them to provide what is needed; return to a less-controlled system with the Heart active; and/or live off of renewable resources such as the lifeforms living on this world, as Grizzly’s people do.
Bear then told everyone what certain members of the party already knew, that the mechanisms for change were already in place: Butterfly has been on a mission for the Great Stag to prepare insectkind for the ritual to gain intelligence and communication so she could lead them in His ways, bringing Him a large boost in power to allow Him to heal the world. Although they agreed that Caedo also had a place in this world, the party thought that they might still need to stop the Wolf God from doing the same recruiting with his army of violent elementals, which could create another power stalemate between the two brothers. Regardless, Sy’Vah-esh wanted to see the army stopped to save her people and see their energy go to heal the Obscura that supported her lands. As extra insurance, the party also discussed requiring an alliance between the Great Stag and Goddess of the Sea. Finally, they discussed requiring Harmonis (aka The Great Stag) to allow predatorial ways to remain an option to the lifeforms of this world.
The technologically advanced animals had run out of new Life Blood Crystals to both power their inventions and make Earth Flesh, so they had started importing actual animal flesh and lying to say it was still Earth Flesh. Although not without flaw, this plan could potentially continue to sustain the carnivorous animals of the cities, but they could also use Frank‘s guidance and unique insight into their ways in order to find a new energy source. If they continue their mining operations there is a risk of causing damage to the world again, but perhaps Frank might be able to show them another way… that is, if their leaders’ past crimes against him are not too great to overcome (or the leaders are not too powerful to overthrow).
Fargrim faced the most difficult choice. He wanted the Heart started up again as his people also utilized Life Blood Crystals, but Frank had convinced the party that opening the rift to the planes and removing the gods was not the best way to go. And Sy’Vah-esh definitely did not like the idea of draining the energy of the Elemental Lands to repower the Heart. Maybe there was another option. Didn’t Frank say something about Dwarven gods?
Exhausted but comforted by the love and protection of their great mother, Terra Animus, the party lay down to rest and think through the paths that lay before them… and decide the fate of the world.