As we stand in the dining area of the monastery, having just learned from Homes and Boris that Binson impersonated the deceased Administrator with his henchman, faux Stinez, and that we had just given them safe passage to the lightning cave, we are stunned into silence at this revelation. A break in the conversation happens suddenly as each of our personal crystals come alive, work their way out of our control, and levitates in front of our faces. They tell us the Peregrinus has been compromised and boarded by intruders.
Intruder Alert … Intruder Alert … The Peregrinus has been boarded. Crew is unconscious. Harvester engine activated. My defensive systems are offline, engines offline, warning … system are being hacked … Security override in progress …
Without a second thought, Ragani takes off towards the ship. Java and Kiri assist in guiding Star-Blind, and we make our way back down the mountain as quickly as possible. Upon reaching the Peregrinus, she sees the ship’s ramp is lowered, open and unguarded. Athelstan lies on the deck, unconscious and beaten. Bu’Kin and Mardigan check around the outside of the ship while Ragani heads straight inside, followed by Largram. The rest of the group follows, moving slowly in horror and shock, and we find Benaethor crumpled in a corner along with Inara slumped over the pilot’s seat console. Both have been stunned with lightning.
Star-Blind casts Stabilize on Athelstan, and Samsara Channels Energy to heal them. Though conscious, Athelstan’s jaw has been broken. Haltingly, Benaethor tells us that someone who appeared to be Largram came up to the ship, and Athelstan was deceived into opening the ramp.
He says, “Athelstan was fooled by a man dressed like Largram who approached the ship. Ever vigilant, Athelstan saw him coming and opened the hatch, not knowing there were enemies abound.” He relates that he was stunned with a gun that flashed energy at him. He vaguely remembers them talking about Activating the Harvestor. Inara tried to communicate before they stunned her, and that is as much as Benaethor can recall before they hit him too.
Bu’Kin returns from scouting around the ship and reports no one around except for us. The usual lights of the Peregrinus stand dim, flashing, or silent. Flashing on the main viewer is, “Security Lockdown.” He and Star-Blind both take turns at the computer while Ragani investigates the rest of the ship, checking to make sure no one has stowed away on board. The computer is in a state of reboot and will not be able to communicate with us for several more hours. All systems are locked out.
Java slips back down the ramp and finds spiky bootprints of the intruders, leading off into the distance. He gets Samsara’s attention, who has been tending to Benaethor then Inara and finally Athelstan on the ramp, and shows him the prints. They have a quiet conversation about what to do next; Samsara tells Java he is not a fighter and that he should show the prints to Largram and Ragani, as they will know what to do.
We get Athelstan back inside the ship and reconvene for a brief discussion, whereupon it was decided that we must hunt down the intruders and not only find out how they were able to impersonate Largram but also make them pay for tricking us…twice.
We create safe words to use as passwords for each other, and Kiri takes coins from her pouch, brought with her from Octantis. This is foreign money to the people of Balha IV, so she gives us each a coin as a means of identification so that there will not be another imposter.
Benathor and Inara assure us they can look after Athelstan, but Mardigan decides to remain behind to get everything situated. He is a skilled tracker who moves faster alone, so we have faith he will catch up to us.
Largram, Corliss, Bu’Kin, Ragani, Java, Kiri, Star-Blind, and Samsara then follow the spiky tracks, which lead us back to the cave. We inspect the mouth of the opening, which appears to be the same as it was the last time we were here, and then Bu’Kin finds a stone door along the side wall.
It opens into a secret cavern, and as we enter the cave of the Lightning Bear, we see that what the faux Administrator Ramas said about it being a 50ft shallow cave was another lie. The cavern stretches out for over a mile back into the mountain. Light from crystals gives its walls a purple glow, and there is a small lake’s worth of water between landings or stalagmites. Off in the distance we see a small opening of light, and it seems to shimmer with an unearthly aura. There is a light at the back of the cavern, It draws us towards it, and we move forward, walking in about two inches of water.
Moving through the cave we suddenly hear footsteps echoing off the walls that seem to be sloshing through the water. Then we hear three sharp whistles, and three men suddenly appear in front of us, holding strange wands with rods. There are glowing lights emanating from their weapons, and though we don’t know what they are, we don’t think this is good. Ragani rushes the nearest man and throws her dagger squarely at him. As Kiri begins to play her lyre to inspire confidence and Star-Blind begins concentrating on a spell, Largram charges after Ragani, passes her, and decapitates the first guy with his falchion.
Corliss, standing still in the middle of the group, suddenly feels the glow from the weapons rush through her. Her eyes begin to glow like theirs, and then the lights on the weapons dim. They are suddenly distracted by the loss of their weapons and begin to shake them, pulling out a wand and tapping then hitting the weapons they hold. It does no good.
Bu’Kin runs towards the third man standing across the cavern as Samsara casts Bless on the party and Java stays around the outskirts, heading for the decapitated body. Then Ragani charges the third man, yelling to Star-Blind to follow her, and he does. As soon as the enemy is within range, he casts Color Spray, stunning and blinding him and knocking him unconscious.
Kiri darts behind Samsara for cover and continues playing as Largram charges the second guy, folding his head back. Corliss lopes toward the third guy as Java makes it to the first man’s body and loots it, taking the hand wand, a strap wand, two neck daggers, and finds Ragani’s dagger which severed the man’s hand. After examining it momentarily, Java takes the severed hand too.
Standing next to the stunned, blinded, unconscious man, Bu’Kin prepares for a coup de grace as Ragani swings her hammer and bashes his skull. Star-Blind moves to the middle of the cavern while Kiri continues playing her lyre, covered by Samsara. Largram loots the second man’s body, taking his hand and strap wands as well. Largram also takes the belt holsters for the small hand wand.
Corliss continues forward towards the glowing stalagmite as Java crosses the cavern just as Bu’Kin deals the finishing blow to the third man and he mercifully dies. He then also takes the weapons as Java hands Ragani back her dagger. As Kiri lets her song fade and we are taking stock of ourselves, making sure no one is injured, we hear more sloshing behind us. We turn, to find that Mardigan has caught up to us.
We press onward. At the back of the cave, we see a stargate on the cave floor with runes above the arch. On the far cave wall, we see an opening leading out. The air around the arch and the cave wall shimmers. As we move closer to it, the wind begins to whip up and gets degrees colder. Star-Blind takes a step towards the arch, attempting to examine the runes, and Samsara grasps the back of his belt firmly to ensure he doesn’t accidentally lose his balance or fall through this portal to another plane.
After a bit of discussion, Ragani bravely steps through, and we watch as she shoots through the arch up and into the portal and disappears from view. One by one, we follow.
As we step out from the light into the new plane, we feel the temperature raise to brisk but not freezing. The wind whips around us in bursts. Our eyes hurt as we squint to adjust to the pure brightness. We are standing on a platform made of rock that looks like a destroyed ruin.
Huge mountains and sections of land hover in space in front of you. Lakes and streams defy gravity in pools that are feed from these floating masses. These masses move, and after watching them for a few minutes, we can detect different rates of motion. The Balha IV star systems sun still shines overhead. On the floating mass in front of us is the Agon Monastery that we came from. The design is slightly different, and its location is different than we remembered. However it IS the Agon Monastery. It is evident we have traveled to an alternate dimension that represents our own but different.
As we being to explore the outcropping on which we stand, with the portal at our backs and temple ruins all around us, we see 40 plus footprints lead from the portal to the edge of the ruined platform. It seems as if they simply stepped off into thin air towards the direction of this dimension’s Agon Monastery.
From the ruined temple, a strong wind begins to swirl. A dust devil begins to form, and from it, a 10 foot tall, beautiful woman appears. In her eyes is blazing hatred. She says, “Greetings, my name is Sa’ha bint Zuha al-Zi. I am bent to serve your master. I was not expecting you. Our master has two wishes remaining. I was ordered to fulfill any wish ordered by his followers. Do you desire anything?”
We take several moments to debate what to wish for, and Samsara thwarts a couple of attempts by Java to sneak up to the djinn and whisper in her ear. She refuses to answer additional questions for us, and Largram warns us of the hidden dangers of wishes. After hearing everyone, Samsara wishes for us to be able to fly here in this elemental plane of air.
A swirl of clouds begins to form the impossible. We see a flying carpet appear and hover in front of us. Sa’ha says, “This will serve you as per your wish.” As it hovers just at the edge of the platform, Samsara gives Largram one hand and Mardigan the other, carefully feeling with his foot out onto the carpet, testing the resistance. It feels solid, and he gingerly steps onto it, moves to the far edge, and sits cross-legged. One by one, everyone joins him, and he commands the carpet to take us towards this plane’s Agon Monastery.
As we approach the temple, we see the ruins are in just as much disrepair as the platform we just came from. Lush vegetation and pools of clear water stand around us. A stairway is still present that leads to the Monastery entrance, just the same as in our world.
A reflection shines on the temple wall. We call the carpet to a halt and move to the edge of the stairs to find the source. The belt buckle from one of three human males, dressed in the same studded leather as the men we killed in the cave, lies off the side of the stairs away from view. Samsara commands the carpet to hover as Bu’Kin fires his glowing rifle at one of the bodies. It burns but lies motionless. Everyone else watches in awe at the lightning that flew from the ‘large wand’ in Bu’Kin’s hands.
Though the architecture is slightly different than we are used to, the carpet deposits us at the monastery doors, which appear to slide upwards. Samsara commands the carpet to roll up and adjusts it on his back with his bedroll.
We step into the first room, which has a circle on the floor. There is a figure hovering above it, and it flies through the far wall upon our entrance. There are four more bodies of Binson’s monks, wearing the same leather studded armor, that appear to have been crushed from the inside. Upon further examination of the circle, we determine it is a holding circle that has been broken.
Bu’Kin loots the bodies, and Samsara unrolls the carpet again, commanding it to fly behind us and carry the weight of the armor and anything else we find. The next hallway has another sliding door, which Java checks for traps, and then as it slides downward, a small mechanical device in the corner begins to blink. We see a large mechanical gun lying on the ground, its barrel pointed towards us. Java, upon opening the door, ducks behind and trades places with Largram just as the laser shoots, hitting his armor and sizzling. Kiri ducks behind the wall as Star-Blind notices an electronic eye up in the corner of the hallway and Creates Water just above it.
The gun turret goes wild! It shoots up the walls, spinning and flailing every which way until Largram, following Bu’Kin’s previous technique shoots the eye with the laser wand he has, and it short-circuits and dies. The gun stops flailing, and we see two doors, one to the left and one ahead.
We start with the door on the left, where we find another body and another door to the interior room with three more bodies and a chest, which we recognize from seeing the monks carry it down the mountain during the evacuation. Bu’Kin loots all of the bodies we find as Java checks the door ahead of us for traps.
The door to this room slides open freely. Inside we see bodies lying on the floor, all dressed in the same armor we have encountered from Binson’s men. Lying on the ground is a massive dragon skeleton, fresh blood on its face and claws. It is motionless.
A whistle makes us look sharply to our left. We see a slightly familiar man standing behind an ancient older man. The two are guarded by three of Binson’s men.
The familiar man says, “I see we have some guests. I’m glad you came; I’m at a loss. I’m Binson, you are?”
Java tumbles into the room, diving across the doorway next to the skeleton, and before we can answer Binson, the lights in the room flicker and the great dragon comes to life.
It’s voice is firm and wise. “Those that seek the Holicost, must answer the following question or face oblivion.
“I am a child and a simpleton at once.
All are born with me,
But rarely am I possessed at death.
“What am I?”
We are stunned into silence, and Binson says, “It gave my men five minutes before it attacked. If you try to leave the room, its minions will push you back in, and it will forget about giving you time, and just kill you.”
Java, the brave little halfling rogue standing right in front of the skeleton dragon’s maw, looks up at it and says in a clear, confident voice, “Innocence!”
The dragon swirls into an orb of air and flies to the other side of the room, where it disintegrates Binson’s three guards. He reaches around the old man, and they disappear. Then the air orb itself settles, and the room is silent once again. We spread out to search the room, Bu’Kin concentrating on the seven additional bodies we found, while Largram, Corliss, and Kiri investigate the wooden barrels and caskets. Largram finds a hatch in the floor, which opens into this air.
Ragani bashes one of the stone sarcophagi with her hammer, and we find monk bodies almost mummified. However, in and around where the skeleton dragon’s body lay, we found treasure, including coin pieces, potions, and magic items.
We take everything, piling it all onto the magic carpet, and then we go out the hatch back to the portal entrance. As we pass the temple ruins again, we see the old man who was with Binson face to face with the dust devil who gave us the carpet. We pause, watching them embrace, and then they turn towards us. All of the hatred and anger has gone out of her eyes, and they both thank us profusely.
He was the druid who turned into Kani the Lightning Claw, protecting the portal entrance on his side of the world, sacrificing his love and ever seeing her again so that she could protect the Holicost on this side of the portal, forever apart. When we killed Kani, we freed the druid. Binson threatened the djinn, and she then thought we were working for him, which is why she was angry towards us at first.
She reminds us that we still have one final wish, and Kiri uses it to set her free so that they may be together forever. As a token of appreciation, they tell us that Binson has taken the Holicost back to Balha, but unbeknownst to him, it is making that world—and any other world he tries to take it to—unstable and causing it to collapse.
We take the magic items from the carpet, leaving it with them, and go back through the portal to Balha to, once again, find and stop Binson.