With the creature in the pool quiescent again, the Crimson Blades descend through the illumacone to the lower level of the complex. They arrive in a wide hallway, with an exit at the far end and a chamber to their right that appears to have been barricaded with an enormous stone plug. While Slim scouts on ahead, the rest of the adventurers set about finding some way to get past the plug, which is far heavier than their combined strength could shift, even with magical enhancement.
They settle upon having Egan seep through the crack in the stone as an Air Elemental to scout. The druid finds a small chamber with five human skeletons and several niches in the wall full of miscellaneous items. Elemental-Egan then uses soften earth and stone to turn the plug into mud and uses his elemental whirlwind ability to keep the mud from sliding into the chamber while Zandu vanishes it one cubic foot at a time with prestidigitation. Once the path is clear, the Blades thoroughly loot the chamber, finding a number of useful magical items.
Meanwhile, Slim has ventured up ahead to find the chamber with the globe. The walls have been painted over with murals depicting a star field interspersed with blue butterflies, both symbols of Desna. After checking for traps, Slim approaches the globe, an enormous stone sphere that floats in the air above three rods. The rogue lays his hand on the sphere, to no effect. He removes his glove from his hand and tries again.
But it is only when he begins to concentrate on the starry mural around him that he feels something happen, as the walls of the room fall away so that he feels as if he is floating—disembodied—in the sky above Golarion. He is then drawn further and further away from Golarion, passing other strange worlds and briefly glimpsing life on their surfaces as he speeds past until he approaches the last planet in the star system.
As he draws near, his psyche is assaulted with strange, impossible visions, shapes, and sensations. Panicked, he tells himself “This isn’t real, this isn’t real” and tries to think of Desna. Concentrating in this fashion, he is swiftly drawn back to his body in the Acropolis on Golarion.
From Zandu’s perspective as he watched from the chamber doorway, Slim placed his hand on the globe and suddenly vanished, only to reappear a minute later. Zandu takes his own cosmic voyage and is able to resist the attack on his mind—which is reminiscent of his experience grasped by the tentacle—and return to Golarion in a controlled fashion. He deduces that the orb was an astronomical device used originally to seek out, contact, and perhaps summon being from other world or even the maddening spaces between the stars.
Zandu tells the other that so long as they concentrate on Golarion before they approach the final planet, the trip will be safe enough. The rest of the Crimson Blades each take a turn, though Remmy needs some coaxing first.
“My dad always told me never to touch strange magic orbs,” she explains.
Irabeth, eager to seek out new worlds and new tests of her mettle, stays in the globe five times longer than anyone else before returning. She is seemingly none the worse for wear, but describes the spaces between the stars as beyond mortal comprehension.
Zandu takes extensive notes on everyone’s experiences, while Slim draws a map of the globe, which depicts Golarion as it was more than 10,000 years ago. Everyone who traveled through the globe now bears a blue tattoo-like holy symbol of Desna on the back of their left palm.
The Count and His Castle
Their task at the Acropolis complete, the party takes the illumacone back upstairs, where the boneslayers tell them that Krojun and his followers left as soon as the emberstorm moved on. The Shoanti are distrustful of the two Kuthites and quickly take their leave of the party, having completed their task of escorting the adventurers to the Acropolis.
Shadowcount Sial then takes this opportunity to suggest a lengthier alliance with the Crimson Blades. He is willing to offer his services as a priest, as well as lodging for the party, if they permit him and Asyra to accompany them for additional observation.
Slim says that if there’s something he needs to know, he could just ask them. Sial says that if it were as simple as that, he would have done it already. Slim then tries to barter information about the party’s quest in return for knowledge of what the Kuthites hope to learn and why, but Sial says he cannot share that information at this time. After another quick pow-wow, the party agrees to Sial’s initial offer, noting that like Laori he has kept his word thus far.
“So, about this lodging?” Arlynn asks.
Outside, Sial produces a palm-sized bone carving of a tower with an enormous skull on top. Upon speaking a command word, the carving expands to life size. Sial orders the doors to open and welcomes the party inside, telling them they can make the first two floors their own. The entire structure has a sinister, unsettling atmosphere to it and lacks much in the way of furnishings. There is not enough space for the party’s horses, so Egan uses wall of stone to fashion a corral for them.
Traveling the Scenic Cinderlands
It takes three days of travel northward through the foothills of the Wyvern Mountains to reach the Lyrune-Quah camp, with the party settling into Sial’s bone house each night. On the first day, each step their horses take kicks up a small puff of ash left in the wake of the emberstorm. The hills have been stripped clean of scrub brush, but here and there a short, hearty lotra tree has weathered the flames unharmed.
Roc-Egan floats high above the mess, scouting ahead for the rest of the Crimson Blades. He spies a trio of strange, man-sized lizards near the party’s path and returns squawking. While Zandu flys off to take a look of his own, Arlynn suggests that the party look into getting a custom saddle for Egan’s bird form that Kyra could ride in so that the halfling could describe any discoveries for them.
Zandu recognizes the lizards as harmless giant geckos, a species sometimes used by smaller races as mounts. The party considers acquiring some in the future for Egan and Kyra.
In the House of the Moon
On the third day, the House of the Moon comes into view, a silvery tower standing atop a low promontory in the foothills. It looks nothing like the Thassilonian ruins they have encountered previously and seems untouched by time, every angle of its architecture infused with Desna’s symbols.
The Crimson blades are swiftly confronted by Tekra’Kai, leader of a band of Moon Maidens, the warrior women of the Lyrune-Quah. Her hostility turns to joy when the party displays their Spherewalker’s Marks, however, as she believes these outlanders have been sent by Desna to help her.
“Here we go again,” the Blades groan in unison.
The House of the Moon is a temple to Desna and a seasonal gathering place for the Lyrune-Quah, but Tekra’Kai explains that in their absence a dangerous red reaver has bonded with the site and won’t be budged. The enormous beast has already killed several of her Moon Maidens and the rest of the clan is expected to arrive tomorrow. She asks for their help in driving the creature away.
Conferring with Tegra’Kai about the layout of the House of the Moon, the party develops a plan based on Egan’s knowledge of the creature’s weaknesses. Noting that red reavers are prone to being distracted by beautiful sights and sounds, the adventurers determine that Zandu will capture the monster’s attention with a display of oratory while everyone else surrounds the beast and attacks together in a pincer.
The first part of the plan works well. Zandu is able to enrapture the enormous brute with tales of the Crimson Blades’ exploits while everyone else begins taking positions. Before the hammer can drop, however, the red reaver catches on and lets out a terrifying bellow that rattles the very stones of the building and drives panic into the hearts of Ashla and Kyra. The halfling drops everything and hides in a corner while Ashla retreats up a ladder to the second floor.
The red reaver then pushes Irabeth out onto the balcony and slaps Zandu off the building—he casts fly as he feather falls to the ground. The creature’s leathery hide proves difficult for event the sharpest sword to pierce, but even so Slim, Remmy, and a super-sized Arlynn are slowly able to cut through it while Egan and Zandu pummel it with spells from afar.
After a devastating strike from Arlynn, the monster lets out another frightful bellow that Slim cuts short, jabbing his rapier up through its chin into its skull. He and Remmy then have to scramble to avoid being crushed as its massive bulk tumbles forward, dead.
The Moon Maidens reclaim their dead from the red reaver’s scrap pile and thank the party for their help. Tekra’Kai invites them to spend the night within the House of the Moon, an offer the Crimson Blades accept but Sial declines. The Moon Maiden leader believes there will be no difficulty convincing Akram, the clan’s Truthspeaker, to witness their quest when he arrives tomorrow night.