Back to Pathfinder.
The dragon dismembered, we continued on our way. The passage was slightly too small for the giant Evander so Alexei stone-shaped a larger route for him. This backfired when the passage opened into a chamber at the bottom of a slope. As Evander started to slide down, we spotted a large beastie – a floating body of tentacles surrounding a large mouth with rows and rows of sharp teeth. The tentacles, we soon discovered, could be pressed into the ground around us to grab us even when we were a distance away. It was not a nice beastie, surviving a vial of Ezekiel’s alchemist’s fire being dropped down its throat by Aaron and many other, smaller attacks from the rest of us. We defeated it eventually, though, and clambered back up the slope to carry on our way.
Entering a large cavern, the paladin made a bee-line for a winch he’d spotted at the centre by a deep pit, wanting to know what it raised. It was hard work – even for him – and I soon got bored watching him work and started to explore. There was a hidden door – locked, so I set about picking it… I’d missed a potent trap, a flame burst that knocked me to the floor, close to death. Fortunately, Aaron spotted me and got Alexei over. Neither of them could see the door and seemed a bit confused when I insisted on continuing to work through it. The flame that nearly singed me convinced them I wasn’t mad, at least.
As I finally got the door open, Paul (Kieran’s player) left to join a birthday meal. We decided the winch may have been cursed and left him raising and lowering the small platform whilst we continued.
The door swung open to reveal a room decorated with maps, with a large heart-shaped purple crystal (nahyndrian, we assumed) on a desk and a minotaur sitting there. She wasn’t best pleased to see us, realising our purpose immediately. Throwing up a blade barrier, she ran through the door at the rear of the room. We chased, using various means to bypass the barrier (hurray for Shadowstep!). The next room had tieflings within, who slowed us down. This continued – with blade barriers and smaller demons to slow us – until I realised we’d come full circle: by turning left, we would be back in the cavern. I could see Kieran still raising and lowering the winch, but patrolling now were several demons.
It felt as though my heart paused before resuming at a hundred times its usual rhythm: they were the same species as the one that killed me just a few months ago. I threw myself back, pressed as close against the wall as I could whilst I tried to calm myself enough to message warn the others. I crept to the right, finding a storeroom. I could see it led round, giving another entrance to the main cavern. Controlling my breathing, I suggested Aaron and I use this to creep round and ambush them from behind whilst Alexei, Evander and Ivan keep them busy. It was a delaying tactic, but fortunately unnecessary: I’d underestimated how powerful Alexei and his brother can be, as the room filled with lightning that left no demon standing.
There was no sign of Baphomet’s minotaur daughter.
There was only one way left to go. The first door we found led to a torture chamber, with a male demon attended by three succubi making use of one of the tables for pleasure. Aaron threw in another vial of Ezekiel’s fire before closing the door tightly behind… But the power of the blast could still have killed us if it wasn’t for Alexei’s contingency spells throwing up a protective wall around us. It’s very powerful stuff. At least the torture chamber was destroyed.
Next room had several tall posts with humanoid slaves chained to them. Flying above were 6 demons. They weren’t very strong and once they’d been defeated we set about freeing the poor slaves. We gently shepherded them back to the main cavern. I set up my tent from the Rod of Splendour and we ushered them inside. The unseen servants were tasked to make sure everyone ate slowly and left Yanielle to watch over them (with a degree of uncertainty but little choice) before continuing to hunt down Baphomet’s daughter.
Heading back down the corridor revealed nothing beyond a few bedchambers and some minotaurs; just not the one we were looking for. We walked back to the main chamber to find (as I’d dreaded) the pavilion torn up and the freed slaves dead. Yanielle was barely alive, but still breathing. We stabilised her but there wasn’t time to mourn the slaves: their fragile bodies had taken too much punishment and all I could hope was that they were with their gods.
Kieran came to from the trance he was in at this point (Paul got back from his meal) and I went back to the door I’d opened when we first arrived: it was locked but rather than spend time picking it again, I jammed it so she wouldn’t be able to escape that way. I was starting to feel sick and the deaths of the slaves had stung – I knew it was a risk but had hoped to save them.
We went around the other way – another blade barrier barred our way, and she’d lit the route so I couldn’t Shadowstep my way past but Ivan got us past and we went after her. The battle was brutal and bloody. As it neared the end, her body started to crack and fracture, a fiery red light spilling out. She screamed out as the air behind her twisted and pulled her through. Baphomet spoke, angry at the loss of his daughter but saying whilst we’d been distracted he’d managed to take the Herald of Iomedae. Unaware of who this was, my mind turned to Queen Galfrey and my stomach lurched again.
Baphomet was pissed off and ready to wink us out of existence – until the visage of Nocticula reminded him this was her realm. He backed off, but we didn’t need her to tell us we’d made a powerful and dangerous enemy.
Nocticula thanked us and left a shimmering image behind for us to step through when we were ready to return to the Fain from whence we’d journeyed to the Abyss. We realised Evander had vanished somewhere along the way – Alexei advised he’d be back soon and vanished, Ivan vanishing with him.
Aaron, Kieran and I stood for a moment, then started taking down and securing the maps from the walls. Aaron tried to take the nahyndrian heart, but it was difficult to hold. Eventually, he managed to kick it towards and down the pit at the centre of the cavern. I was feeling more and more nauseous so cracked the emergency escape device Alexei had made and found myself back in Drezen with the maps.
The city was nearly rebuilt. I quickly pressed Irabeth for information on the Herald of Iomedae and learned who this was and that they’d only just learnt he’d been taken from the heavens and pressed the maps on her before heading to find Brutus so I could meet the others when they returned through Nocticula’s image to the Midnight Fain. He was looking older, so I cornered the nearest person and asked how long we’d been gone.
Still feeling sick from the mines, I don’t know how I kept myself from throwing up.
I raced back to Brutus, wished he would take me back to my husband but knew he wouldn’t. I told him where we would find Kieran and we set off.
They’d come back through before we got there, and Kieran had called for Brutus. I tried to convince them to go straight back to Brevoy, but Alexei hadn’t returned by the time they left so they figured he’d be waiting for us in Drezen and flew me back there.
Queen Galfrey had been summoned and was on her way, but no one seemed to realise.
It’s been a few weeks since I last saw Noleski and he hasn’t seen me for five years. I can’t imagine what he’s going through and all I want right now is to see him and no one is helping me get there.
It’s worth bearing in mind Svetlana is a half-elf and Noleski human, and that there was already about 10 years between them when they got married so she knows she’s going to outlive him by a long way and is dreading losing him. The biggest reason she tries to stay alive is not because she’s afraid to die but because she knows if she does she won’t want to come back again and wants to have as much life with Noleski as she can before that. Five years feels a big chunk to have stolen from that. Also, they hadn’t been together long and part of the reason for their marriage was to stabilise a threatened kingdom, so it feels like very bad news – what if he’s had to marry again? And once she’s dealt with all her Noleski fears, she’ll realise Anya’s daughters aren’t babies any more, and who knows how old Vlad will be, and that all of her friends and family will have aged and missed her and she doesn’t want them to have gone through that pain. She’s pretty heart-broken and afraid, right now.
And this is where we’re leaving the characters for now (I believe, there may be a slight ret-con about exactly where we are for story reasons, but AFAIK it’s five years later and we’re in Drezen rather than Brevoy like Svetlana wants). We’ll be playing through those five years back on Golarion using different characters – level 10, non-mythic people. I shall introduce you in due course. I am going to miss playing Svetlana!