Traeven immediately moves towards the fountain, which appears to be filled with cool, clear water. It is evident he is being influenced by some mind control power these foul creatures possess. He begins to drink – too late realising the water is filled with worms. I know they will begin to invade his body and brain very quickly.
I feel a brief freezing of my senses, which soon passes. They are attacking all of us. Ezio smashes one, almost breaking it in two, but it leans in beside Traeven to try and drink from the fountain. We know from previous experience that if it can ingest some worms, it will heal to full strength with great speed. Cirian is hit by a blast of flame, and yet again all his possessions disappear – burned away to nothing.
I am just beginning to think that we are in more trouble than we can handle, when suddenly we are all standing together outside the doors. Traeven looks confused, but otherwise healthy, and Cirian is fully garbed and armed. Velen to the rescue, it seems. His ability to reverse time has saved us.
I question Traeven carefully as to how he felt while infested with Kyuss worms – he tells me he had a clear and lucid vision. He describes it to me – and I translate it here, from his rather clumsy prose, into a language more in keeping with an experience such as this:-
“The immediate surroundings waver and fade, replaced by a bird’s-eye view of the city of Kuluth-Mar at its height. The streets are empty, as the thousands of citizens seem to have gathered in a mass in the central plaza surrounding the Spire of Long Shadows. Suddenly, a foul energy wells from the spire at the centre of the city, sweeping outward and felling the living as it passes. For each creature that falls, you feel a silent but potent sense of wrongness, as some indescribable part of the creature, perhaps its soul, is drawn back toward the Spire of Long Shadows to be absorbed by the strange black monolith of stone balanced at its peak.
As the energy builds around the peak, a shimmering image of a colossal humanoid figure, its body com¬posed of a million writhing worms, takes form around the Spire of Long Shadows, its arms raised in triumph. Yet in another moment, that triumphant pose seems to change to one of rage and a soul-wrenching cry of fury tears from the undulant face. The image shrinks, pulled into the stone mono¬lith at the Spire’s peak, imploding with a hor¬rific wet burst.
In an instant, the city is quiet again, yet as the vision fades, the first signs of unlife spread through the thousands of dead bodies strewn around the ziggurat’s base as bodies, now filtering with green worms, rise from death.”
Cirian and I discuss and consider this with great care. We have learned much from our previous readings – and from deep meditation of the several previous visions shown to us. We are in agreement that the wash of energy that was drawn out of the crowd was not only the souls of Kyuss’ minions, but their faith in their king. The Spire drew upon their lives and faith in a way that reverses the channelling of divine power from a deity to his cleric, in effect channelling this faith into a singularity—the monolith at the peak of the Spire. The possibilities of what a powerful creature could do with this much devotional energy are staggering—ascension to godhood is perhaps the most obvious use for such energies. The enormous figure that appeared was Kyuss, yet somehow he was not able to control his apotheosis and became trapped in the monolith.
I recall very clearly the words of Tenser, as he explained his thoughts on The Age of Worms. I reproduce them here that his wisdom will never be lost. And if, by the grace of Blerred, we should thwart this monstrous evil, his role in our success will be acknowledged.
“The Age of Worms is foretold in a prophecy that speaks of a coming apocalypse, an age of death and writhing doom. Normally such rumours should be dismissed—doomsday prophecies are typically the product of nothing more sinister than madness.
This prophecy is different.
It can be traced back, through various incarnations in books, tablets, and carvings on walls, for over two thousand years. It does not change in content during this time—it has not evolved through clumsy attempts of fanatics desperate to reword its predictions to support their agendas. This alone would be enough for it to merit further study. But even more interesting is the fact that in the last few years several of its predictions have actually come true.
In one prophecy, it predicts the “ruin by fire of a city built in a bowl in the spire’s shadow.” Just last year, far to the south, the city of Cauldron—built in the caldera of a dormant volcano only a few miles from Kyuss’ one-time home, the Spire of Long Shadows—was nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption.
Other prophecies speak of the recrudescence of the worm-eaten dead, the recovery of potent artefacts from ancient tombs, the destructive manifestation of an immense demonic tree in a distant city across the sea, the arrival of a ‘Fane of Scales’ amid a storm of wind and fire, and the cleansing of an evil taint from a city besieged in the past by giants, the appearance of a city wreathed in shadows.
These events have all come to pass, and quite recently. In fact, there are only two prophecies remaining to be fulfilled.
The first of these mentions the reunification of a tripartite spirit—I assume this is a nod to the goals of the Ebon Triad.
The second remaining prophecy reads: “And on the eve of the Age of Worms, a hero of the pit shall use his fame to gift a city to the dead.”
I believe this last line may have been speaking of Loris Raknian (certainly a hero from the gladiator’s pit) and his recent attempt to sacrifice thousands at the end of the Champion’s Games. Yes, I’ve heard of this, and I know you played a role in its prevention. It remains to be seen if your actions actually made a difference or not, but it would be foolhardy to assume that those who are trying to fulfil the prophecies will abate their efforts.”
The massive weight of responsibility seems almost too heavy to bear as we prepare our assault a second time. Traeven is aided to resist their attempts to make him drink the water, and we advance into the room again. Traeven moves toward the fountain, but I cast to interrupt their spells, and this time he is able to resist. Now we begin our attacks, and soon they are weakened, and then killed.
We loot the bodies – then discuss our next move.
I am strongly of the opinion that we should go back to the room of Shruggitt, the book-reading naga. I explain my reasoning thus: – His room was very ordered and well arranged. The bodies of the Flan and skeletons were similarly arranged in a tidy, compulsive way. Perhaps Shruggitt was responsible for their deaths? In any case, his room contains many books – and Tenser’s advice to us is to learn as much of the Age of Worms as we can. I suggest returning to Shruggitt’s room and telling him we intend to read and study his collection of works. No deals will be made. He allows us this, or he dies.
Cirian agrees – so we retrace our steps – and enter his lair again. I bluntly tell him of our intentions. I consider our quest too important, our time too valuable, to quibble over social niceties. He is clearly unimpressed, and his actions speak of his intention to fight. I am somewhat bewildered by this response. He has no need to die. To allow one’s temper, one’s ego, to interfere with one’s judgement, and pay with one’s life – is the ultimate stupidity to me. He fights gamely, and is a tough opponent, blatantly targeting only me in his attacks – but he is no match for the combined assault of our party, and is soon dead. How very sad. What a fool.
Cirian rapidly goes through his possessions – reading quickly a mass of information on religion and necromancy. We find one particularly interesting volume which I stash in my pack.
Now what? Back to Tenser with the knowledge gleaned thus far? Or fight the massive worm and continue on? We unanimously agree on fighting the worm and continuing – so now begins the most carefully considered preparation of our entire campaign. This beast is formidable – and probably has some support hidden in the mass of worms. We talk and plan, prepare and cast. And then move once again to the shore of the worm sea.
Ezio moves forward to draw fire – while Cirian kills the last remaining worm caller. The huge worm is brutishly powerful – but we have prepared wisely. It takes a great deal of damage from all our best attacks – eventually ducking under the surface of the worm sea to escape us. Hah! Success!
We can now see a passage leading further into the catacombs, previously hidden from our sight across the vast expanse of worms. And then we spy another passage to our left. Straight on first my friends – let us see what awaits us there. A 10 foot wide passage, 30 feet long, and double doors at the end.
We open them to an opulent chamber. Beautiful carpets and tapestries cover the walls and floor – though their designs show disgusting scenes of torture and carnage. The furniture is oddly placed around the room. Facing us is a strange six armed creature – from its appearance an undead spell weaver lich, possibly the same beast we have seen helping Kyuss in the various visions shown to us during our time here.
In our minds we hear the words “You come to seek knowledge of the Age of Worms? Tell me, thus far, how many of the prophecies have come to pass?”
Cirian, the expert among us in these matters, begins a discourse with this creature. He speaks aloud, but we all hear the lich’s responses in our minds.
“Some prophecies were partly thwarted. The city still stands though a good attempt was made to raze it. Can the Age of Worms still come to pass?”
“Maybe so – prophecies have a way of coming to fruition – the Universe bends to fulfil destiny. I bear you no ill will – you seek knowledge – I have little more to add”.
Ezio asks, “How may we address you?”
Cirian again – “Did you give Kyuss the worms? Did you engineer the visions? Were you there when he ascended?”
“No – though I worked with him for some time”.
“Do you know what foiled his plans?”
“I did not know this had happened”.
“I believe Kyuss is now trapped”.
“I know nothing of this – many centuries have passed since these events occurred”.
“What of the dragon which took him?”
“I do not know of this – it is all too long ago”.
He seems vague and very, very tired.
“What Law do you keep here?”
“I research much – but it is all I can do to keep the madness at bay”.
I ask him gently, “Because you are trapped and cannot leave?”
“Do you know who set up the barrier on the wall?”
“I do not.”
“Thankyou – we will leave you in peace”.
We withdraw quietly. His room is filled with much wealth – very useful to us in our endeavours. But I would be gravely concerned about our prospects in an encounter with this creature. He is clearly very old – and therefore likely very powerful. If he had wondered how our band arrived here, managing passage across vast distances, and the obsidian wall barrier, he might question that we possess the ability to teleport. If he were able to capture and afflict us with his mind control powers, he may be able to escape. Fortunately he seems too befuddled to have considered this. Far better we leave before he begins to think more clearly.
We retrace our steps. Most of the powers we bestowed on ourselves before the fight with the gargantuan worm are still in place. We decide to quickly search the second passage out of the worm sea, before some of our spells powers diminish.
Flying together – we go back across the expanse of Kyuss worms.