Monday, July 30, 2018

Adventure: Into the Eye of the Storm

This adventure is designed for use with the Pathfinder roleplaying game; it draws the party into a plot involving a secret elven colony and wicked magic. While it is written for a party of eleventh-level characters, and intended as a sequel to the scenario Beyond the Pale, it can easily be adapted for parties with more experience and/or as a standalone scenario.

Adventure Background
Over the course of the past year, the PCs have discovering hints about a grave threat to the solar system; it seems that a hoard of demons has been working to acquire a relic known as the Godsharp, an artifact that can be used to destroy a planet. Their intention is to obliterate Homeworld, the source of many intrepid heroes who stand against the demons. To that end, one of their servants—a half-orc necromancer named Cyril—has create a ship of the dead, one that he can use his wicked divine magic to repair in the heat of battle. He apparently intends to use that ship to acquire the relic, and then stage a final assault on Homeworld. It's up to the PCs, then, to take the Godsharp from him and destroy it once and for all.

For the Gamemaster
After building his ship of the dead, Cyril set out for the asteroid belt to visit the area in which the Hiveworld once made its orbit. There he used necromantic magic to commune with the spirits still inhabiting that space, and from them learned where the azata concealed the Godsharp—in an extra-dimensional space in the middle of the everlasting storm on the gas giant planet. Luckily for him, his ship of the dead can weather the storm because he can channel negative energy to repair it in flight. Thus prepared, Cyril and his minions have set out for that planet in order to claim their prize, intending to take the relic back to Homeworld and use it to destroy that planet. It's up to the PCs, then, to discover where he's gone and then, hopefully, to foil those efforts. 

Before they depart, the PCs should also take care of any supplies, refitting or other such preparations that they deem necessary.

Part 1: The Floating Graveyard
Once they head into the asteroid belt, the PCs face a number of challenges. First and foremost is the need to find the correct place in the asteroid belt, something they can accomplish with information from the orrery in the troglodytes' ziggurat or a DC 25 Knowledge (geography) or Profession (sailor) check. Failing that, divination spells could provide that information. 

As they approach that location, the PCs face the difficulty of steering an aethership into the tangle of drifting rocks, which requires DC 15 Spellcraft or U.M.D. checks to weave through the first small asteroids, assisted by the crew's DC 15 Profession (sailor) check. Failure means that the vessel suffers a collision, causing it to suffer its base ramming damage—that is, 7d8 for a dhow, 8d8 for a bark, 9d8 for a junk and 10d8 for a merchantman or a galleon. 

The PCs are in for another rude surprise when they learn that one of the asteroids is inhabited by a somalcygot. Becoming aware of the various metals to be found on the party's aethership, it decides to attack.

Somalcygot: Refer to page 234 in Bestiary 5 for details.

Making Contact
A little further into the belt, the PCs find an area that is rich with powerful energy of an unusual sort. The destruction of Hiveworld has left behind a potent spiritual residue, one that retains some of the slain formians' memories but that doesn't manage to manifest in the manner of a ghost. Essentially, it's a huge conglomeration of psychic energy that doesn't have an outlet, and one into which spellcasters can tap by using the right spells. 

In game terms, the PCs can cast spells such as speak with dead or similar magic. While the specific effects of those spells vary, and thus it's up to the GM to adjudicate the exact result of such magic, in the end the PCs should be able to establish a connection with what remains of this hive mind. That, then, brings them to their next obstacle. Cyril and his demonic associates convinced this remnant of the formian consciousness that they intend to punish those who were responsible for destroying the Hiveworld; said claim is essentially true, insofar as the demons are planning to destroy Homeworld, thereby eliminating all of the good beings in the solar system so they can conquer what little remains for their wicked masters—and that includes destroying any good immortals who interfere with the plot. Essentially, the demons will be able to run roughshod over their ancient enemies because the good immortals will no longer have any allies to support them. 

The PCs, however, cannot rightly make any such claim. That is why they must be careful in how they communicate with the remnant. Said spirit asks them why they want to know the location of the Godsharp. Any response other than a desire to punish the azata is met with refusal. The PCs, therefore, need to spin a compelling lie if they want to learn where that relic can be found. This requires a DC 20 Bluff or Diplomacy check, depending on the nature of the argument, with bonuses or penalties assigned as always for good or bad reasoning or roleplaying. For reference, the GM may wish to consult the stat block for a formian queen.

Formian Queen: Refer to page 110 in Bestiary 4 for details.

As long as the PCs succeed, the hive mind tells them where to find the Godsharp—inside an extra-dimensional space in the middle of the great storm on the gas giant planet. Should they fail to obtain that information, the PCs may need to use powerful magic or other means to learn what they need to know.

Knowing that the PCs are not behind Cyril, the demons launch another attack against them. This one takes the form of two kalavakus demons that teleport onto the PCs' aethership and attack. After granting themselves haste, they try to command the pilot into crashing the vessel, and then tear into others with melee attacks. Should they be badly hurt, then they invoke their enslave soul abilities on weaker or more wounded enemies, hoping to rejuvenate themselves.

Kalavakus demons (2): Refer to page 78 in Bestiary 2 for details.

Once they've dealt with this challenge, the PCs can head for Thunar.

Although the PCs won't meet him until the next scenario, the leader of the demons is a nalfeshnee who possesses a crystal ball. As they have become more and more of a threat to his plans, the demon takes time to scry on them and, when possible, to sabotage their efforts. This should

Part 2: The Unending Tempest
The voyage from the asteroid belt to Thunar is, for once, uneventful, and the PCs have time to prepare for the coming confrontation.

Navigational Difficulties
Approaching the great storm on this gas giant world should be an awe-inspiring sight. After all, it is larger than all of Homeworld, and boasts slashing wind and driving rain beyond anything ever seen on the PCs' planet of origin. While the eye of the storm is a little more calm, it's still not pleasant for steering an aethership. In game terms, treat this situation as a windstorm (see page 439 in the Core Rulebook for details). This requires sailing checks with a DC of 20, just as if the vessel were engaged in combat. On a failed effort, the pilot loses control of the aethership and it is blown in the direction of the wind (roll for scatter). The pilot may try again on the following round, but being blown off course could also result in a collision. 

There's also the matter of finding the entrance to the hidden shrine, something that can be handled by casting the appropriate divination spells. The PCs might also guess that Cyril's ship of the dead is already located there, thus aiding in their search.

Here There Be Monsters
The heart of this tempest is home to a banshee, a creature gives vent to her endless rage as part of the raging winds and driving rain. Cyril was able to deal with her using his necromantic magic, in this case using his ability to command undead. While she is thus pacified, he and his minions position their ship so that they can access the extra-dimensional space in which the Godsharp is kept. When he sees the PCs approaching, he sends her to deal with them first.

Banshee: Refer to page 41 of Bestiary 2 for stats.

The banshee is a being overwrought with sadness and anger, the spirit of the azata who created the Godsharp and now regrets having seen it be used to destroy an entire word. For that reason, she guards the entrance to the extra-dimensional place in which it is being kept. Initially, she declares the PCs to be “interlopers” and attacks with all of her fury, trying to prevent them from gaining access to it. During this battle, however, those who consider the situation carefully might recognize how Cyril was able to work around her. That can be accomplished with a DC 25 Knowledge (religion) or (arcane) check. Given that information, the PCs can then try to negotiate with the banshee by convincing her that they wish to destroy the Godsharp rather than let it be used once more against Homeworld. Doing so requires a DC 30 Diplomacy check, with circumstance bonuses or penalties assigned for good or bad roleplaying or reasoning, at the GM's discretion. 

However this conflict is resolved—if the PCs can talk their way past the banshee or if they defeat her in combat—she gives them a final clue regarding how the artifact can be destroyed: “Only in the dark embrace of a black hole can its music be silenced.”

The Enemy Vessel
Cyril's ship of the dead hovers next to the entrance of the extra-dimensional space in which the Godsharp is located. What is more, the necromancer and his minions stand guard while his mother and her fellow demons go inside to claim the artifact. For his part, Cyril opens up by casting his defensive spells, until the PCs' ship arrives and he orders his undead crew to attack. Then he casts offensive spells such as unholy blight, flame strike and various touch spells via his spectral hand.

Captain Edward Morris
CR 7
XP 3600
Male human ranger 8
CN medium humanoid
Init +6; Senses Perception +11
AC 19, touch X, flat-footed X (+2 Dex, +5 armor,
+1 Dodge, +1 Two-Weapon Defense)
hp 57 (7d10+14)
Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +5
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Two scimitars +1, +11/+10/+5 (1d6+5)
Ranged NA
Special Attacks Two-Weapon Fighting
Str 18, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 13, Cha 8
Base Atk +7; CMB +11; CMD 23
Feats Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude,
Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting
Skills Climb +14, Heal +11, Perception +11, Profession (sailor +11), Stealth +12, Survival +11
Languages Common
SQ Favored enemy humanoid (orc) +4, humanoid
(goblin) +2; favored terrain urban; hunter's bond,
woodland stride
Combat Gear Chain shirt +1, masterwork cutlass,
cutlass +1, hat of disguise
Spells per Day: 2/2
Spells Prepared (Caster level 4th): Resist
elements, speak with animal

Edward Morris is something of a rarity among
rangers, one who lacks a moral compass. He is a consummate mercenary, motivated solely by the profit he can make in exchange for his service. Right now, Baron Stephano is his employer, even if the ranger has to turn a blind eye toward some of the activities in which the tiefling necromancer has been involved.
Typical Crew Members
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Shortsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts

Cyril the Necromancer
CR 12
XP 19,200
Male tiefling cleric 3/wizard (necromancer) 3/mystic theurge 7
LE medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +3
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 16 (+4 armor, +2 shield, -1 Dex)
hp 33 (3d8+3d6+6)
Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +13
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Falchion +6/+1 (2d4)
Ranged Light crossbow +6 (1d8)
Special Attacks Channel negative energy
Str 10, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 17, Wis 17, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +6; CMD 16
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Channel, Greater Spell Focus, Greater Spell Penetration, Leadership, Scribe Scroll, Selective Channeling, Spell Focus (necromancy), Spell Penetration
Skills Heal +12, Knowledge (arcane) +12, Knowledge (religion) +12, Linguistics +12, Spellcraft +12
Languages Common, Abyssal, Celestial, Draconic
SQ Orc blood, orc ferocity, weapon familiarity, aura, channel energy 1d6, domains (madness, trickery), orisons, arcane bond, arcane school, cantrips, combined spells (4th)
Combat Gear Mithril chain shirt, falchion, holy symbol, light crossbow
Spells per Day: (Divine) 4/5+1/5+1/4+1/4+1/3+1; (Arcane) 4/5/5/4/3/2
Spells Prepared: (Divine) Bleed, detect magic, guidance, resistance; bane, comprehend languages, doom, entropic shield, lesser confusion, protection from good; augury, bull's endurance, desecrate, invisibility, owl's wisdom, resist energy (usually fire); bestow curse, dispel magic, nondetection, prayer; confusion, divination, freedom of movement, unholy blight; flame strike, nightmare, spell resistance, true seeing; (Arcane) Detect magic, light x2, read magic; identify, mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shield; blindness/deafness, cat's grace, invisibility, spectral hand, whispering wind; dispel magic, fly, vampiric touch x2; enervation, fear, stoneskin; magic jar, teleport

Cyril is a strange individual, the son of a succubus who has delved into the art of necromancy in order to gain power over the undead, both to aid his mother and for his own ends. As such, he is aloof among “mortals,” as he refers to them. Even so, he has gathered about himself a cadre of fellow Lamashtu worshippers. Cyril knows that he plays a vital role in his mother's schemes, and takes pride in that fact. After all, how many new subjects will be available to him after they destroy Homeworld?

Cyril is aided by a gang of wights, which act as his boarding party.

Wights (6): Refer to page 276 in the Bestiary for stats.

In Another Dimension
The entrance to the hidden shrine is a set of marble stairs that seem to hover in the air at the center of the great storm. They have a rippling color similar to that of Thunar's storm, something that would require a DC 25 Perception check to notice them if not for the fact that Cyril's ship is pulled up alongside them. The rest of the building is not visible, since it exists beyond this dimension.

1. Main Hall
Broad steps the color of sandstone lead up to a pair of large doors; they are closed when the PC's arrive. Opening them requires a DC 15 Strength check. Inside the main hall is a long chamber with two rows of five columns that lead to a raised dais. Atop the dais stand two jackal-headed statues that animate an move to attack any newcomers. Left here long ago to guard against intruders, the statues attack ceaselessly as long as someone is present.

Clay golems (2): Refer to page 159 in the Bestiary for stats.

2. Servants' Quarters
Comfortable beds still remain in these sleeping quarters for those who once served in the palace, but otherwise the room is empty.

3. Dining Room
A broad table surrounded by sturdy chairs fills the center of this room, which was obviously used for serving elaborate meals.

4. Kitchen
The far end of this chamber is occupied by a broad hearth filled with ashes long since gone cold. There's also a spit for roasting meat, along with preparation tables surrounded by barrels and urns.

5. Bath
A short set of stairs leads down into this waist-deep pool. It is, however, empty.

6. Bedchamber
A large, sumptuous canopy bed with gauzy curtains fills the center of this room.

7. Shrine to Ptah
This chamber is dominated by an elaborate shrine, one that includes a life-size statue depicting an old man wearing regal clothing, one who has a shaved head and an elaborate beard. A DC 15 Knowledge (religion) check can identify him as Ptah, a god that some consider to be the architect of all creation. The state is flanked by trays for burning incense. A DC 30 Perception check can also reveal a secret panel in the floor at the statue's feet, and a second such effort reveals the mechanism for opening it: pulling on the statue's elaborate beard. Inside the secret compartment is the Godsharp

Before the PCs can claim this relic, however, Mistress Nora makes her move. She is lurking in this chamber using her ethereal jaunt spell-like ability. While thus protected, the succubus tries to use her dominate person ability or, failing that, suggestion, to convince the PC who retrieves the relic to giver it to her. If she is successful in doing so, then Nora uses ethereal jaunt again in order to escape. If that doesn't work, then she resorts to more direct means.

Mistress Nora, the succubus: Refer to page 68 in the Bestiary for stats.

The Godsharp
Aura strong evocation; CL 20th
Slot none; Weight 3 lbs.
This item looks like nothing more remarkable than a small golden harp with fifteen strings. Divination magic can reveal its true power, however. It is attuned to something the immortals call the “music of the spheres,” an inaudible harmony created by movements of the stars, planets and other aetherial bodies. As such, when it is played it can disrupt those movements. In game terms, it can have the effect of an earthquake spell that has the Empower, Enlarge, Extend, Maximize and Widen Spell feats applied to it. Activating this power requires a DC 30 Perform check, and the spell effect can be invoked once per round as long as the performer keeps making successful checks.
The only way to destroy the Godsharp is by dropping it into a black hole.

Part 3: All or Nothing
While the exact location of this final battle can vary depending on previous developments, a few of the more likely possibilities are addressed below.

Attack on Homeworld
If Mistress Nora managed to acquire her prize, then she immediately teleports back to Homeworld, where she has one last ally ready to help her unleash its power. This is a cloud giant named Aeolychus, one who is skilled in music and a fearsome combatant. They target the Holy City first, using the harp to unleash a wave of earthquakes upon it.

Mistress Nora: Refer to page 68 of the Bestiary for stats.

Aeolychus the cloud giant: Refer to page 147 of the Bestiary for stats.

This should make for a dramatic battle, with all manner of hell breaking loose in the city as the PCs try to recover the artifact. Refer to the previous scenario, “Beyond the Pale,” to find maps of those places.

The Lost Arkship
The only known means of reaching a black hole is through an interplanetary portal, one that was towed by an elven arkship out to an unfortunate encounter with a weird alien power. This item functions in the same manner as the one described previously, during the events of Beyond the Pale. The elves have frozen it into a block of ice, however, in order to keep anyone or anything from interacting with it. Rather than leading into open space above the planet Arborea, however, it opens into a stretch of deep space in which a wrecked arkship drifts in front of a black hole and its companion star. 

 The cause of this calamity was an entity known as a colour out of space. It dwells in this location because of the powerful gravitational effect that the black hole exerts upon its companion star, an effect that the colour finds rejuvenating. When the arkship arrived, the colour attacked its crew; the elves were forced to flee in their longboat back through the interstellar portal that they were towing, and then to seal it off from the other side. Since then, the colour has slowly been preying upon the animals aboard the arkship, driving some into a frenzy and draining others until they succumb and acquire the colour-blighted template.

Colour out of Space: Refer to pages 38-9 of Bestiary 4 for stats.

More dangerous than that, however, is the sole creature that has survived from the colour out of space's preying upon the arkship's animals and crew—Brindisi, an adult bronze dragon. It leaps up and out from the arkship's cargo hold right after the colour out of space engages any newcomers.

Brindisi, adult bronze dragon: Refer to pages 104-5 in the Bestiary for stats.

While the dragon presents a daunting challenge, PCs who succeed at a Knowledge (dungeoneering) check of DC 25, or a DC 30 Healing check, can recognize that something is wrong with this normally good dragon. With that in mind, any sort of healing that restores the dragon's drained Charisma lets it break free from the colour blighting. 

The dragon's collected treasure can be found in the cargo hold of the arkship; this includes 3007 gp, 9801 sp and 29,954 cp, along with a scabbard of keen edges and a periapt of wound closure.
Keep in mind, too, that, if Mistress Nora or any of her demon allies have survived previous encounters, then they can also make appearances here.

Destroying the Godsharp
During all of this fighting, the PCs must somehow also throw the Godsharp into the black hole. To do that, they have a variety of options; a few of the more likely ones are detailed below. 

One possibility is that they steer their aethership toward the dark mass, and then throw the instrument overboard when they are on the edge of its event horizon. This requires a series of Use Magic Device or Profession (sailor) checks, with the DC increasing from 15 upward each round as they approach the black hole. The benefit of this is that it also determines the DC for any efforts made to intercept the harp once it is thrown, such as a Fly check or Strength effort. Failure on a check for the pilot, however, means that the aethership begins to fly out of control, and a second check is required before it is pulled over the threshold of gravity and lost forever. 

Magic can provide other means, too. The PCs might use a mage hand to deliver the artifact; teleport spells to move closer and then to escape; a portable hole tied to an arrow or other projectile; or something similar. These strategies are, of course, going to need some adjudication on the part of the GM. 

As long as the PCs do somehow manage the task, then they have won an epic victory.

For a breathless moment, the harp seems to disappear into the shadows that surround the black hole, and nothing happens. Then, visible but silent, ripples of unspeakable power seem to flow through the circle of infinite darkness, radiating out and across the very fabric of space itself. Just as quickly, though, it is gone.

While there may be some more combat left to resolve, it amounts to little more than a mop-up action. After that, the celebrations can begin. The elves who accompanied the PCs out to the interstellar portal fire salutes to honor the heroes, followed by feasting with plenty of complimentary speeches. Bards begin to write stories and songs about this deed, too. While most people in the Sol System don't even know what they've accomplished, the PCs find that they have an endless, warm welcome in all those places in which the scope of their deeds is known.

Setting the Scene
To provide a visual for the black hole and its companion “feeder” star, the NASA website provides an excellent image.

This final battle, then, brings the campaign to its conclusion. By now the PCs, if they succeeded, are major heroes in the solar system. They should be 12th-level characters, if not higher. Even so, here are some possibilities for what they might do in their retirement.
  • An elf character who has proven to be brave and honorable could be recruited to join the Elven Navy. Such an elf would like be given the rank of Captain, along with command of a galleon, and could even rival Admiral Beryl for authority.
  • With Luciano Reda discredited as the governor of Crossroads, a character with a knack for politics might organize the people to hold an election for a new leader. Given the Royal Interplanetary Company's sizable investment in the settlement, however, this would not be without opposition.
  • Considering the nearly limitless possibilities for exploration and discovery throughout the solar system and even beyond it, one or more PCs might want to set up a trading company or go off in search of other stars and worlds. The Church of Ptah is interested in such business, and is happy to recruit capable adventurers for the task.
  • There's also the question of what the PCs do with the troglodyte ziggurat on the cold red desert planet and the shrine hidden in the middle of the gas giant planet's great storm. Either of these structures could make an excellent stronghold, a base of operations for whatever kind of business the character(s) wants to conduct out of them.
  • It's also possible that one or more characters want to go back to Homeworld. This might seem disorienting at first, given that the PCs have become accustomed to life in space, but they might have elements from their background stories that need to be resolved. Indeed, given that the PCs saved Homeworld from total destruction, they should be regarded as great heroes there. With few people having witnessed the battle, however, it's possible that the locals don't believe such outlandish tales.

Determining these details not only helps provide a satisfying conclusion to the campaign, but also helps set up background for the players' next adventures among the stars.

This concludes the Godsharp Saga.

Adventure: Beyond the Pale

This adventure is designed for use with the Pathfinder roleplaying game; it draws the party into a plot involving a secret elven colony and wicked magic. While it is written for a party of ninth-level characters, and intended as a sequel to the scenario Beneath the Sands, it can easily be adapted for parties with more experience and/or as a standalone scenario.

Adventure Background
Recently the PCs undertook a voyage to the cold red desert world, to a ziggurat that the Royal Interplanetary Company had tried but failed to explore. There they learned that the troglodytes have allied themselves with demons, who in turn are researching legends regarding the planet that broke apart to form the asteroid belt. Armed with this information, they should be heading back to Crossroads to deliver the surviving crewmen from the R.I.C. vessel and perhaps report their findings. What they don't know—in addition to why the demons are interested in the destruction of the hiveworld—is that the demons have also gained influence over Luciano Reda, the governor of Crossroads, and that he's poised to move against them.

For the Gamemaster
The architect between the demons' plans of conquest is a succubus named Mistress Nora. She is the mother of Uthoi the skum and confidante of Chira'neeth the troglodyte. What is more, she has been using her ability to alter self in order to infiltrate various organization throughout the solar system and, more importantly, to pose as a romantic interest for certain influential individuals. Such is the case with Luciano Reda, governor of Crossroads, who is entirely smitten with her. That is why, when the PCs return to the asteroid colony, they find Royal Interstellar Company soldiers are on edge when interacting with them. 

The demons' ultimate goal involves a conflict that swept through the solar system centuries ago, when the many different cultures on Homeworld were just starting to become civilized. Back then, the formians dominated their home planet, known to non-formians as Hiveworld. Such was the insect-like creatures' dedication to conquest that certain immortals, especially the azata, began to fear for the future of Homeworld. That is why the azata, led by a lillend whose name translates as Harmony, created a relic known as the Godsharp. This powerful, magical instrument is attuned to something called the “music of the spheres,” a mystical melody created by the planets as they drift through their orbits. Utilizing the Godsharp, the lillend shifted the planet's trajectory; in one tremendous cataclysm, it was torn apart. The drifting rocks of the asteroid belt are a silent testimony to the planet that once existed.

Shocked by the power that she'd unleashed, Harmony decided that the Godsharp should never be used again. For that reason, she arranged for it to be hidden away in an extra-dimensional space that itself was concealed inside a perpetual storm on the system's huge gas giant planet. There, she hoped, it would be safe. She was wrong.

The demons have learned about the existence of relic and hope to acquire it for themselves. After all, while they have had success in leading some mortals from Homeworld into corruption, there are many others from that planet who fight against them. That is why the demons wish to acquire the Godsharp and use it to destroy Homeworld; after that, taking control of the remaining few who've ventured into aetherspace should be easy.

In order to acquire the relic, the demons to prepare a few more aspects of their plot. One is to commune with the spirits of the deceased formians, which they can do by having an aethership travel to the point in space where the planet would be orbiting if it hadn't been destroyed. That information, of course, they acquired from the orrery in the uppermost chamber of the troglodytes' ziggurat.

The other element of their plan is even more terrible. In order to survive the destructive force of the unceasing storm on the gas giant planet, Mistress Nora's other son—a half-orc necromancer named Cyril—is seeking to create a ship of the dead. That vessel, built from reanimated material taken from the bodies of arborlings on the planet Arborea, is one that he and his followers can repair in-flight using channeled negative energy, much as they would heal zombies or other undead minions. To that end, Mistress Nora has used the shadow demon to overcome Captain Corwyn, a respected and influential member of the Elven Navy. The succubus has thus gained access to the insterstellar portal that lets elves visit the arborlings' home planet, and thus to overrun their small settlement, slay their ambassadors, murder scores of the native sentient plantfolk, and use their remains to craft the unholy aethership.

For Homeworld, then, it is only a matter of time. While the PCs have acquired some clues to the true nature of this plot, they also face many enemies; only through quick thinking and fast action can they reveal the conspiracy and save the day.

Part 1: Deception and Revelation
The next part of this adventure begins when the PCs return to Crossroads to deliver the surviving crew members from the Constant whom they rescued from the troglodyte ziggurat. Detailed below are some of the events that might transpire.

The Gnome's Story
One of the better leads that the PCs have is Captain Axelrod's story about why he attacked the PCs' ship (see the events of “Beneath the Sands” for details). All the gnome remembers is going to dinner at the Governor's house on Crossroads; the next thing he knew, the PCs had defeated him, a medusa, and some animated statues. While it's not a lot of information, it should be enough to point the PCs' suspicions squarely at the governor and, given what else they've learned, at Reda's new wife, Nora.

Upon arrival, the PCs can go about their normal business, including such activities as resupplying their ship, selling acquired treasures and purchasing other ones, and the like. If they performed well during the recent Festival of the Comet, then they should enjoy the status of being local heroes. Additionally, if they managed to rescue the R.I.C. sailors from the troglodyte ziggurat, then their reputations are further enhanced. They are treated to free rounds of drinks at the Sign of the Ourobouros, and people even break into three cheers for them.

The Lieutenant's Report
Once he's back at Crossroads, Lieutenant Vanderwald normally reports back to Governor Reda about his business and anything else that occurred. Given the PCs' suspicions, however, they might want to convince him otherwise on this occasion. This can be handled via the Diplomacy skill, with a base DC of 15 (for him being Indifferent, unless the GM deems otherwise); as always, the GM should assign bonuses or penalties for good or bad evidence and argumentation. Success means that they PCs convince the cavalier not to act until they do; failure, on the other hand, might force them to use more drastic measures if they want to keep the lieutenant quiet.

As long as the PCs think to ask, they can confirm an important detail—just one year ago, Governor Reda married a beautiful, raven-haired human woman named Nora. This can be revealed during casual conversation, or via the use of the Diplomacy skill to gather information (DC 15).

However they learn of it, then, the PCs probably want to visit the Governor's House once they have that bit of information. They might seek this of their own volition, barging through any obstacles to do so. Alternately, Nora could instruct her husband to invite them, hoping to dominate one of them and thus disrupt their investigation.

This confrontation can develop in many different ways. At first Governor Reda refuses to believe that his wife is a succubus; treat him as Unfriendly for any use of Diplomacy, creating a DC of 20. He might demand that the PCs leave his home, and even the whole settlement, for slandering his wife. If need be, he can call on the Order of the Lion cavaliers to arrest the PCs—unless Lieutenant Vanderwald countermands the order, that is. For her part, the succubus tries to use her dominate person ability to win over an important ally, possibly the most daunting warrior from among the PCs. Failing that, she can always attempt to flee, flying to a safe distance and then using her ability to teleport so as to report back to her associates. All the while, too, the PCs should remember that the R.I.C. agents are unwitting dupes in this business, and not treat them too brutally.

Crossroads and the Abattoir
This asteroid colony and the orc whaling ship that visit it are detailed in the scenario At a Crossroads. In order to avoid redundancy, that information is not presented here; the GM should refer to it in order to find maps of the settlement and its buildings, along with stats for their inhabitants.

The Stowaway
Some time after the confrontation at the Governor's House, the situation takes another dramatic turn. This comes shortly after the arrival of the orc whaling ship Abattoir—a group with whom the PCs probably tangled during the events of “At a Crossroads.”

Phigalia the Dryad: Refer to page 116 in the Bestiary for details.

Phigalia has fled to the grove of trees located atop Crossroads (area 9 on the map). There she used her tree shape ability to hide among the other trees. For that reason, she is all but undetectable for the rank-and-file soldiers, but the PCs should have other means of finding her. Assuming that they can do so, they then must find a means of communicating with her without attracting unwanted attention. Convincing her of their good intentions requires a DC 25 Diplomacy check, with bonuses or penalties as always for good or bad reasoning or roleplaying. As long as they can win her confidence, the dryad shares what she knows.
  • Phigalia comes from a lovely green planet that is filled with mountains, hills, lakes, rivers and forests; the elves call it Arborea.
  • The elves made contact with her world a few years ago, appearing out of the heavens in one of their aetherships.
  • After making contact, they left behind a structure drifting in orbit of the planet, something that they call an “interstellar portal.”
  • A few months ago, a different ship came through the portal. It was a longboat, but this time it was crewed by a group of orcs—some of the same ones who pursued her here.
  • Although they said they came in peace, these newcomers instead began systematically to murder the arborlings, cutting down a swath of forest on that planet.
  • What is more, Phigalia belives that they were using material from the bodies of the slain to craft some kind of ship.
  • Having witnessed these things, Phigalia sneaked aboard a longboat when it visited the planet, and from there through the interstellar portal and aboard the Abattoir.
Following all of these details, she asks that the PCs help her investigate the matter and thus reveal the truth behind these machinations.

What is more, the orcs can provide more information. They have been making numerous runs of late between three different locations—Crossroads; an island back on Homeworld, the Isle of the Minotaurs; and a location in the rings of the planet Kronos, on which Starfort Station is located. As the PCs have already dealt with that first location, they now have two more from which to choose. If they go to visit that island, then continue in Part 2, below. On the other hand, if they decide to visit Kronos, then proceed with Part 3.

Part 2: The Root of the Problem
Refer to “Among the Stars” to find a map of the Middle Sea in which the Isle of the Minotaurs is located, and to the map below for a layout of the island itself.

The Island of the Minotaurs
Of all the islands on the northeastern end of the Middle Sea, perhaps one is the most distinct, a long and narrow body of land with rocky a coast and forested inland hills. This is the home of the minotaurs, a cunning race of men with humanoid bodies and the heads of bulls. Some say that they are the unfortunate result of a coupling between a human noblewoman and a sacred animal, while others maintain that it was the influence of a demon lord—likely Baphomet or Lamashtu—that led to their rise. Whatever the case, there's no doubting that they are clever and powerful creatures. They have taken over the island, wiping almost all of the other inhabitants.

The Agreement
What most people on Homeworld don't know is that the minotaurs have a working agreement with an agent of the Northern Empire. Once a year, that agent hires a ship to deliver convicted criminals, unrepentant heretics and similar types—the “dregs of humanity”—from the Empire to the Island of the Minotaurs. The condemned are left in the bay of a ruined fishing village, in theory left to fend for themselves. Of course, once the quasits learn of new arrivals, they report quickly back to the minotaurs, who then come to hunt the newcomers as a sick kind of sport. 

When the PCs arrive at the island, the ruins are the only location likely to stand out from what is otherwise barren land. They are likely to attract attention themselves from the prisoners who've been stranded over the years, since newcomers to the island are very rare. These unfortunates are likely to approach, hoping for rescue—and perhaps a chance to steal a ship, if they must. This is a situation that the PCs can handle with Diplomacy; treat the prisoners as Indifferent (DC 15) at the start.

Stranded prisoners: Use the stats for Pickpockets from page 264 of the Game Mastery Guide.

Jonas, their leader: Use the stats for a Burglar from page 265 of the Game Mastery Guide.

For their part, the prisoners can provide information in exchange for assistance. They know where to find the entrance to the minotaurs' labyrinth and, more importantly, where to find Amalthea—the nymph who protects the rest of the island. 

Phigalia's Affliction
While the PCs are en route, Phigalia becomes more and more gaunt, as if she is wasting away. Heal checks and even curative magic can do nothing for her, but a DC 13 Knowledge (nature) check can reveal the cause. As a dryad, her life force is tied to a specific tree; it seems that her must be dead. Checks that succeed at DC 18, however, reveal that there's something different happening, but don't reveal what; with a DC 23 Knowledge (arcane) or (religion) check, the cause is revealed to be some kind of necromancy.

There's nothing that the PCs can do to save her, short of using magic such as a miracle or wish spell (to which the PCs should not have access, barring extraordinary circumstances). After three days of deterioration, Phigalia dies. The truth behind this matter is that Arborling to which she's connected, back on Sylvanus, has been killed and then reanimated as part of Baron Stephano's ship of the dead. This has corrupted the dryad's life force. It is also why, after dying, her spirit returns as an advanced spectre.

Advanced spectre: Refer to page 256 in the Bestiary, and apply the template from page 294.

If it can, the spectre waits to leave the dryad's body until a time aboard the aethership when there are few crew members up and about, hoping to prey on those who are sleeping and thus to use its Create Spawn ability. Failing that—such as if the PCs are going to throw the body overboard—it attacks immediately. Whatever the case, the GM should play up the fact that it looks like a twisted, ghostly version of the once beautiful fey creature.

Because the minotaurs have dealings with demonkind, they permit a flock of quasits to run amok on the island. These little demons act as messengers and spies, and also delight in tormenting any unfortunates whom they encounter.

Quasits: Refer to page 66 of the Bestiary for details.

The island's lone protector is a nymph named Amalthea. She dwells in a cave hidden behind a waterfall high in the island's interior. From there she provides what help she can to those unfortunate others who become trapped on the island.

Amalthea the Nymph: Refer to page 217 in the Bestiary for details.

Reaching Amalthea's cave is not easy task. It requires a DC 20 Climb check (15 due to the rough rocky surface, +5 because it is slippery with water spray). That assumes, too, that the nymph is not actively opposing the one who approaches her; she can use her stunning glance and blinding beauty abilities to repel most intruders, and has an impressive variety of spells, too. 

Inside the cave is a broad central cavern (1) with a natural stone table—a stalagmite with a flat top—where she receives visitors. Branching off from there are two smaller caverns, one (2) that holds an ancient shrine to the Earth Mother, and the other (3) in which Amalthea sleeps. Whatever treasure the nymph possesses can be found there. 

As long as the PCs treat her in a respectful manner—which includes promising to help the stranded prisoners—Amalthea provides what help she can. This takes the form of her inspiration ability and any useful druid spells that she has prepared.

The Labyrinth
The most notable structure on the island is, of course, the minotaurs' labyrinth. While it is hidden beneath the ground, the entrance itself is neither concealed nor guarded; rather, the cruel and cunning bull-men delight in tempting incautious travelers to enter, so that they can savor watching them suffer once they're trapped. There is, however, a mated pair of gorgons that roams around outside it.

Gorgons: Refer to page 165 in the Bestiary for details.

Refer to the maps below for the following area descriptions. For the most part, the labyrinth is a pretty straightforward maze, with walls that form a convoluted rectangular pattern. They are stone of roughly five feet thickness, giving them hardness 8 and 900 hit points. The exception to this is that in eight places (inside dotted circles and marked with letters) the walls can pivot, changing the shape of the maze and thereby confounding those who are trapped in it. The aforementioned quasits revel in using their telepathy ability to coordinate such confusion. 

1. Entry
Perhaps surprisingly, the entrance to the labyrinth is plainly visible at ground level; this is because the cunning and wicked bull-men enjoy letting victims venture into it so that they can be tormented.

2. Passageways
Inside the labyrinth, the ceilings are fifteen feet high and the walls are made of stone five feet thick (hardness 8 and 900 hit points). While most of the labyrinth is a typical underground maze, there is an exception: In eight different places—marked with letters from A to H—the sections of walls can pivot in ninety-degree increments so as to change the flow of the passages. With help from the quasits and their telepathy, the minotaurs use these sections to torment those who venture into the labyrinth.

 3. Stairwell
In the center of the maze, a wide spiral staircase leads down to the lower level, the minotaurs' stronghold. On the lower level, in the stronghold, the stairway is surrounded by a series of metal turnstiles; each of them controls one of the pivoting sections of the labyrinth above.

4. Summoning Room
A huge pentagram fills the floor of this chamber. In the far corner stands a statue of Baphomet, demon lord of the minotaurs. In front of that a portal rests on the floor, one that seems to open into darkness. This device is similar to an interplanetary portal, detailed below, except that it provides a gate to the Abyss itself.

5. Storage
The walls of this room are lined with broad shelves; they contain all manner of goods for the upkeep of the stronghold, such as candles and torches, extra bedding, and tools and materials for maintaining both the inhabited rooms and the labyrinth above.

6. Mistress Nora's Bedchamber
In contrast to the rough nature in the rest of the stronghold, this room is quite comfortably furnished. There is a large, luxurious bed, along with a broad wardrobe and a dressing table and chair. It is, of course, the quarters Mistress Nora, the succubus who acts as a saboteur and spy on behalf of the minotaurs and demons.

Mistress Nora: Refer to page 68 in the Bestiary for details.

In addition to various items of diaphanous clothing and expensive toiletries, one can find Mistress Nora's personal treasure, including a hat of disguise, a feather token (whip), a dose of salve of slipperiness and one elixir of love.

7. Minotaurs' Barracks
Crude sleeping pallets line the walls of these rooms, and a rough wooden table and chairs stand in the middle. This is where the ordinary minotaurs spend their time when not engaged in other activities. Each minotaur possesses a small amount of hoarded wealth, including 1d20 cp, sp and gp.

Minotaurs: Refer to page 206 in the Bestiary for details.

8. Kitchen
Two long tables fill the center of this room; beyond them stands an open hearth with a spit for cooking meat. There are barrels of water and wine, too, along with various cooking implements and baskets of other foodstuffs. At any given time, two of the minotaurs can usually be found here, preparing the next meal for their associates.

9. Pantry
Shelves line the walls of this room, too; they are filled with all manner of food and drink, including casks of ale, bottles of wine, jars of pickled fruits and vegetables, baskets of fresh produce, haunches of cured meat, various containers of spices, and the like.

10. Hezrou's Bedchamber
In contrast to other chambers, this one has a mud floor. It is where the hezrou leader of the minotaurs resides. This demon leaves all of its valuables in the treasury, detailed below.

Hezrou: Refer to page 62 in the Bestiary for details.

11. Treasury
The combined wealth of the minotaurs and their demon lords is assembled here, stored in two large chests and a number of urns. It includes 2781 gold pieces, 3811 silver pieces, 1294 copper pieces, a jar of stone salve, a figurine of wondrous power (serpentine owl), and a lyre of building. There is also a drawing of a temple; refer to Part 3, below, for more information about it.

12. Armory
Racks of weapons and armor line the walls of this room, filled with chain shirts and greataxes, heavy crossbows with quarrels and the like. Additionally, the broad space in the middle is kept clear for when the minotaurs or Cassius feel like sparring with each other.

13. Champions' Quarters
In contrast to the crude barracks provided for the ordinary minotaurs, these chambers are furnished with beds, a long table with two benches, and a washstand. Here is where the fiendish minotaurs—born through the intervention of the succubus—reside.

Half-Fiend Minotaurs: Refer to page 171 in the Bestiary for details.

The minotaur champions also possess some individual wealth, equivalent to 2d20 gold, silver and copper pieces each.

This battle could easily turn into a long, difficult engagement for the PCs. After all, the quasits can inform the minotaurs and other demons about the party's intrusion. Keep in mind the following potential factors.
  • The hezrou can cast blasphemy and holy blight to hurt the PCs from a distance. Should the battle turn against it, the demon can try using gaseous form or teleport to escape.
  • Mistress Nora is here, even if the PCs managed to kill her back on Crossroads; this is because she returned to this plane through the portal in Area 4. She uses her ability to dominate person, as mentioned previously.
  • Both demons try to summon more of their kind if they have time to do so.
  • Finally, the quasits use their telepathy to coordinate the demons' defense, letting the GM taking liberties with their tactics that might not otherwise be possible.

The Portal
The PCs can strike a major blow against this fiendish plot by disabling the portal in Area 4. To do so, they can use spells such as dispel magic or break enchantment. Alternately, they could try inflicting damage on it or sealing it with an effect such as a wall of force. However they do it, the PCs can stop the demons from returning to this plane if they succeed in closing the portal.

Interstellar Portal
Aura strong conjuration; CL 17th
Slot --; Price 400,000 gp; Weight NA
Much like ring gates, these devices are always created in pairs. In fact, they are essentially larger versions of those devices, being 150 feet in diameter. Each is crafted from a single chunk of nickle-iron asteroid, in the shape of a hollow, flat, circular structure. The surface of each is engraved with mystic symbols related to its system of origin. Together they allow aetherships to pass into one and out of the corresponding other.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, gate; Cost 200,000 gp

Part 3: Forbidden Knowledge
As mentioned above, the architectural sketches from the minotaurs' stronghold depict a temple, one that the PCs can identify with DC 12 Knowledge (local), DC 15 (engineering) or DC 18 (religion) checks—the Temple of the Universal Architect, in the Holy City back on Homeworld. Mistress Nora and her allies are targeting the secret vault beneath it in order to learn the whereabouts of the Godsharp. Once again, it's up to the PCs to stop them.

The Holy City
On Homeworld, the largest temple of the Universal Architect is located in a coastal city known fort its strong harbor, daring captains and thriving trade. Known far and wide as the Holy City, it sits on the shore of a massive inland sea. Groundling vessels make their way hence, carrying trade goods, merchants, missionaries and settlers to all parts of the world. What is more, aetherships come and go more frequently there than anywhere else on Homeworld, given the desire of the Universal Architect's followers to explore the solar system.

Refer to the map below for the following area descriptions.

1. Islet
Part of the protection for the city's harbor is formed by this small island, which lies about a quarter of a mile offshore. Much of the natural body has been covered with a small fortress, one that boasts a lighthouse for guiding ships along with siege weapons for defending the area.

2. Mole
Built stone by stone with the force labor of convicted criminals, this artificial spur completes the protection for the city's harbor. A crenelated road runs it length, allowing traffic to and from the fortress on the islet.

3. Harbor
Given the previous two structures, the Holy City's harbor can protect vessels from all but the worst of storms. Usually at least one galley is located here at all times, providing a first line of defense against attack vessels. Additionally, any approaching aetherships are directed to land in the water beyond the mouth of the harbor, with severe penalties for failure to do so. Inside the harbor, along the shoreline, numerous peers jut out into the water, providing places for boats to land and load or unload cargo and passengers.

4. Marketplace
Just up a short road from the harbor is the city's main marketplace. While there are many smaller ones—including some covered marketplaces, or suqs, where illicit goods are more likely to be found—none is as large or as vibrant as this one. Some three hundred feet wide and five hundred in length, it is filled with tents, stalls and other such arrangements for presenting food, equipment and other goods. This place is a hub of activity from before sunrise until after sundown, at which point business and entertainment shifts to indoor locations.

5. City Gates
Five different roads lead out of the city, either along the coastline or into the continent's interior. Each is guarded by a gate, where city officials and their enforcers examine newcomers and assess taxes on the goods that they carry with them.  

6. Temple

The religious heart of the city is this edifice that glorifies the Universal Architect; see below for more details.

7. Captain's Houses
Each of the seven captains who form the ruling council for the Holy City has an impressively lavish home. Once again, see below to find the layout and description of one such domicile.

The Temple of the Universal Architect
Situated atop the hill overlooking the city from its southern side, this temple is the center of faith in the one deity who has planned all things.

1. Entry
Broad double doors, stout wood banded with iron, provide entrance into the temple (hardness 5 and 40 hit points; DC 25 Disable Device check to break). Inside is a twenty-foot-by-twenty-foot chamber barred by a similar set of doors, allowing the priests to seal the building in the event of trouble. 

2. Sanctuary
This broad, circular, open chamber is capped by a dome that rises to fifty feet in height. In the center stands a statue of the deity, facing north—the direction of the darkness that represents ignorance. Around the outside wall are shelves filled with books, scrolls, tablets and other such texts. The rest of the floor is open, providing the space in which the faithful place their prayer rugs.

3. Study Niches
Each of these areas, set off from the main sanctuary, has a table and chairs for those who wish to study. Natural light is provided by tall windows.

Imhotep, the High Priest
CR 12
XP 19,200
Male human cleric 13
LN medium humanoid
Init -1; Senses Perception +6
AC 9, touch 9, flat-footed 9 (-1 Dex)
hp 75 (13d8+13)
Fort +9, Ref +4, Will +15
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Warhammer +9/+4 (1d8)
Special Attacks Spells
Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 23, Cha 10
Base Atk +9/+4; CMB +9; CMD 18
Feats Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (x4)
Skills Craft (writing) +19, Heal +21, Knowledge (history, local, religion) +22, Linguistics +19
Languages Common, Elven, Draconic, Celestial
SQ Aura, channel energy 7d6, orisons, domains (artifice, knowledge)
Combat Gear Warhammer, chain shirt, light steel shield, clothing, holy symbol, books and writing materials, healer's kit, incense of meditation, headband of inspired wisdom +4 (most of this is not carried during normal daily activities)
Spells per Day: 4/5+1/5+1/5+1/5+1/4+1/3+1/1+1
Spells Prepared: Detect magic, guidance, read magic, resistance; comprehend languages, detect evil, detect magic, endure elements, protection from evil, sanctuary; augury, make whole, owl's wisdom, spiritual weapon, wood shape, zone of truth; dispel magic, helping hand, invisibility purge, locate object, magic circle against evil, stone shape; discern lies, divination, minor creation, sending, spell immunity, tongues; break enchantment, commune, fabricate, hallow, true seeing; find the path, greater dispel magic, major creation, mass owl's wisdom; dictum, legend lore

Imhotep, the high priest, is entirely dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. He is a kind and benevolent person who seeks to help others gain enlightenment as much as himself. For that reason he rarely prepares offensive spells, except in dire circumstances when enemies or danger threaten his temple and fellow clergy members. Some say that he is too trusting and perhaps even naive, but Imhotep maintains that “Truth will always prevail over deception of falsehood, given enough time and effort.”

4. Clerics' Quarters
These chambers are furnished with half a dozen beds, beneath each of which is a footlocker for storing personal items. There's also a table and chairs for study or recreation.

5. Minarets
At each corner of the temple, a tall and narrow tower rises sixty feet into the air. A spiral staircase leads upward from ground level, leading to a trapdoor in the floor of the open platform at the top. From these positions, clerics use tripod-mounted telescopes to observe the heavens. A waist-high railing encircles each such platform.

6. Tunnels and Burial Niches
These tunnels are cramped and dark, making for uncomfortable passage. Bodies of deceased clerics that have been properly prepared—through mummification, of course—are place in the niches, which are then covered over with thin stone slabs.

Cleric of Ptah (Initiate)
CR ½
XP 200
Various human cleric 1
LN medium humanoid
Init -1; Senses Perception +3
AC 9, touch 9, flat-footed 9 (-1 Dex)
hp 9 (1d8+1)
Fort +3, Ref -1, Will +7
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Warhammer +0 (1d8)
Special Attacks Spells
Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 10
Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 9
Feats Iron Will, Skill Focus
Skills Craft (writing) +10, Heal +7, Knowledge (any three) +7, Linguistics +7
Languages Common, three more
SQ Aura, channel energy 1d6, orisons, domains (artifice, knowledge)
Combat Gear Warhammer, chain shirt, light steel shield, clothing, holy symbol, books and writing materials, healer's kit (most of this is not carried during normal daily activities)
Spells per Day: 3/2+1
Spells Prepared: Detect magic, guidance, read magic; animate rope, comprehend languages, sanctuary
These clerics lead privileged lives, having been chosen to worship the Universal Architect and study what lore they can obtain from this world as well as others. They are well fed, meaning that they are generally robust, but somewhat awkward when it comes to social situations.

Cleric of Ptah (Patriarch)
CR 6
XP 2400
Various human cleric 7
LN medium humanoid
Init -1; Senses Perception +4
AC 9, touch 9, flat-footed 9 (-1 Dex)
hp 42 (7d8+7)
Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +10
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Warhammer +5 (1d8)
Special Attacks Spells
Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 19, Cha 10
Base Atk +5; CMB +5; CMD 14
Feats Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus
Skills Craft (writing) +16, Heal +14, Knowledge (any three) +13, Linguistics +13
Languages Common, three more
SQ Aura, channel energy 4d6, orisons, domains (artifice, knowledge)
Combat Gear Warhammer, chain shirt, light steel shield, clothing, holy symbol, books and writing materials, healer's kit, headband of inspired wisdom +2 (most of this is not carried during normal daily activities)
Spells per Day: 4/5+1/4+1/3+1/2+1
Spells Prepared: Detect magic, guidance, read magic, resistance; comprehend languages, detect evil, detect magic, endure elements, protection from evil, sanctuary; augury, make whole, owl's wisdom, spiritual weapon, wood shape; dispel magic, invisibility purge, magic circle against evil, stone shape; divination, minor creation, tongues

These clerics are every bit as entitled and coddled as their lower-ranking brethren, only more so. They enjoy extra privileges due to their seniority, including being able to call on initiates for help with their research and other projects.

7. Secret Library
Those texts and artifacts that the high priest deems to be too dangerous for most individuals to study are kept here. One of the burial niches (see map) actually contains a secret door, which requires a DC 25 Perception check to locate, and a similar Disable Device effort to bypass. Just what this collection contains is left to the GM to determine. 

When the PCs arrive, they face the challenge of convincing the clerics that their business is legitimate and, indeed, urgent. Matters quickly come to a head, however, when one of the clerics comes rushing up from the lower level to report an incursion: a pair of bulettes have dug their way into the catacombs beneath the temple (and, though he doesn't say it, are targeting the hidden library).

Nora the Succubus: Refer to page 68 in the Bestiary for details.

Bulettes (2): Refer to page 39 in the Bestiary for details.

Assuming that the PCs head down to investigate the incursion, they find that the bulettes have dug their way through the tunnels and into the hidden library; Mistress Nora has gone inside it, and is flipping through dusty old tomes. Moments later she finds what she seeks, tears that page out of a book, and tries to flee with it, siccing the bulettes on the PCs as she does so.

The Poem
On the page is written a bit of poetry:

Long ago, on that fateful day,
When the fearsome weapon was locked away,
Only one witness remained, unbidden,
To see where the potent device was hidden.
For though her body is burning in the Nine Hells,
On this plane the queen's spirit yet dwells.
The single eye staring from a mottle face,
The giant with dozens caught in its embrace,
The pregnant mother, with swelling womb,
The fallen warrior, in a bloody tomb:
In the place where the gazes of four come together,
Is where her soul still remains tethered.

Written by an old oracle, this poem reveals where the spirit of the formian queen, now a haunt, can be found in the asteroid belt. Dealing with her, then, is the only way to find the cache in which the Godsharp has been locked away. Of course, the PCs probably won't recognize the importance of that information until they've learned more about the history of Hiveworld and the Godsharp—something that will require paying a visit to the Elven Navy at Kronos.

Part 4: Rank and File
When the PCs decide to head for Kronos, to find answers about what the orcs were doing there, the voyage can be quick and uneventful or fraught with peril. To add encounters, refer to the previous adventure, “Beneath the Sands,” for some suggestions.

Arrival and Confrontation
As the PCs approach Kronos, they see a galleon—Captain Corwyn's vessel, the Sylvana—approaching. If they don't try to evade, then she pulls alongside them, orders her crew members to throw grappling hooks, and leads a team of elf musketeers aboard. Then she demands that they throw down their weapons, as they are under arrest for trespassing in Elven territory. That should strike the PCs as odd, since by they've probably had a couple of positive interactions with her. Even so, that accusation presents them with limited options. 

If they fight, then the PCs find themselves facing dangerous foes in the short term, along with the potential for reinforcements. As with the battle at Crossroads, they should keep in mind that the crew members are just following orders, and that some sort of deception is likely taking place.

Elf Musketeers

CR 7
XP 3200
Various elf Fighter 5/Wizard 2/Arcane Archer 1
N medium humanoid
Init +3; Senses Perception +2; Low-light vision
AC 18, touch 13, flat-footed 15 (+5 armor, +3 Dex)
hp 52 (6d10+2d6+8)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +6
Resist Elven immunities
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Longsword +9/+4 (1d8+5)
Ranged Musket +11 (1d12+3)
Special Attacks Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (musket), Weapon Specialization (musket)
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +7/+2; CMB +8; CMD 22
Feats Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload, Scribe Scroll, Weapon Focus (musket), Weapon Specialization (musket)
Skills Climb +8, Craft (gunsmithing) +10, Knowledge (arcane) +9, Profession (sailor) +9, Spellcraft +10
Languages Elven, Common, Draconic
SQ Low-light vision, elven immunities, elven magic, keen senses, weapon familiarity, bravery +1, armor training 1, weapon training 1 (firearms), arcane bond, arcane school (divination), cantrips, forewarned, diviner's fortune, enhance bullets (magic)
Combat Gear Mithral shirt +1, longsword +1, musket, powder and ball for 20 shots, cloak of resistance +1, spellbook, spell component pouch
Spells per Day: 4/3
Spells Known: All 0-level; feather fall, identify, jump, magic missile, shield, true strike

Elf musketeers are the elite of the Elven Navy, and they know it. Sometimes they are assigned singly to vessels, to act as sharpshooters and to lead training in firearms and siege weapons; at other times, full squads are given special assignments, like acting as bodyguards to a dignitary or performing a critical mission during a military engagement. Whatever the case, they do their duty with cool and calculating efficiency, delivering their deadly missiles wherever necessary. Many of them, as a token of their elite status, use their arcane bond ability to form a connection with an exotic familiar animal.

Captain Corwyn: Refer to “Among the Stars” for stats.

Shadow Demon: Refer to page 67 in the Bestiary for stats.

In the event that a fight does break out, the PCs could try to use magic to reveal that the shadow demon has possessed the elf captain, and even to break its hold on her.
On the other hand, the PCs could also make a run for Starfort Station, hoping to confront Admiral Beryl with the information they've learned and thus attain a cessation of hostilities. In addition to adjudicating the chase itself, the GM can treat this as an effort at Diplomacy. The DC for the latter is 20 if the PCs have not caused any lasting harm to the elves, or 30 if they have done so. As always, the GM can assign bonuses or penalties based on good or bad roleplaying and argumentation.

As long as cooler heads (eventually) prevail, Admiral Beryl invites Mr. Lemuel and Mr. Akham to meet them for a debriefing. Together, they can relate the following information.
  • The elves have been a spacefaring race for some time, leading almost all of the others who come from Homeworld.
  • Their long lifespans allow them to undertake projects of whicthat other sentient beings cannot.
  • An example of this is how the elves dispatch a galleon through the depths of space beyond this solar system, one with which they keep in touch through the use of two magic items known as interstellar portals.
  • Each galleon tows a portal, which is connected to its mate back at an established location.
  • In this way, the elves can use aetherial longboats to shuttle officers and crew back and forth between the expeditions and home.
  • One such undertaking discovered the planet the elves call Arborea, the homeworld of the arborlings, about two years ago.
  • In order to protect the pristine nature of that world, the elves decided to keep the portal leading to it as a closely guarded secret; Captain Corwyn was assigned that task.
  • Should the PCs present the poem that they found in the minotaurs' lair, Admiral Beryl vows that he will look into it, but does not known just what it might mean.
If questioned, Captain Corwyn has no recollection of any vessel going to or coming from that portal. She has no memory from when the shadow demon possessed her, however, something that the PCs could recognize from experience, or from making a DC 17 Knowledge (planes) check. Furthermore, records from Starfort Station show that she has, on occasion, requisitioned a a longboat from time to time for her own use—most recently, on a date that lines up with the time that the orcs aboard the Abattoir would have set out for Crossroads, leading to their encounter with the PCs during their pursuit of Phigalia.

Next Steps
Armed with a considerable amount of information, the PCs should have a good idea of where they need to go next. What is more, the elves are willing to help them in this endeavor. For his part, Admiral Beryl will accompany them out to the location in the planet's ring where the interstellar portal that leads to Arborea is located. Taking that a step further, Captain Corwyn—who is feeling repentant after the business with the shadow demon—offers to go through it with them to the planet beyond.

Part 5: Despoiled
The interstellar portal that leads to Arborea is hidden among the chunks of ice and cosmic dust that form the rings of Kronos. As mentioned above, the elves will lead them to that location. As they approach, however, they are attacked by a pair of vrock assassins sent by the nalfeshnee demon behind this plot. They appear aboard the PCs' ship next to the character who holds the orb of control, hoping to kill that individual and cause a crash.

Vrocks: Refer to page 69 in the Bestiary for stats.

This is a desperation maneuver on the part of the demons, especially if the PCs destroyed the portal in the minotaur's lair. Even so, the mastermind behind the plot is willing to sacrifice underlings in order to destroy Homeworld, and so takes the chance.

Although the PCs won't meet him until the next scenario, the leader of the demons is a nalfeshnee who possesses a crystal ball. As they have become more and more of a threat to his plans, the demon takes time to scry on them and, when possible, to sabotage their efforts. This should

Making Landfall
PCs who wish to survey this new planet from orbit should make DC 20 Perception checks; success reveals one area, about a mile in diameter, that stands out like a blot amidst the sea of greenery. It looks like nothing more than a blackened smudge, a place where nothing natural grows anymore. That blot, in fact, is where Cyril and his orc minions committed their wicked deeds, murdering arborlings and then reanimating their bodies for use in construction a ship of the dead. What is more, the evil magic that they used for that shipbuilding has also tainted some of the local plant life and other creatures, leaving voracious monsters in its wake.
Of course, landing an aethership in a forested area that is devoid of lakes presents a problem. While the PCs could board an aetherial longboat and try to put it down in the clearing, a better idea is for them to drop a rope ladder over the side of the vessel and then just climb down to the ground, thereby avoiding such maneuvers entirely.
The PCs, upon landing, encounter some of the aforementioned monsters. First there's a giant flytrap, a local predator that the arborlings generally kept in check but that is now running wild.

Giant Flytrap: Refer to page 134 in the Bestiary for details.

Roughly in the middle of the scar, a dozen posts have been driven into the ground. Around them, bits and pieces of what at first seem to be discarded wood are strewn across the ground. There are even a few odd tools lying about, including hammers and saws. A DC 10 Craft (carpentry) or (shipbuilding) check can confirm that a ship has been constructed on this site. What is more, a DC 20 Knowledge (arcane) or (religion) check confirms the use of powerful necromantic magic. Finally, a DC 13 Knowledge (nature) or a DC 18 Heal check identifies some of the wood scraps as being limbs and other parts from dead arborlings. In fact, those remains have been animated by the powerful ritual conducted here, and attack newcomers as if they were wood golems.

Wood Golems: Refer to page 164 in the Bestiary for details.

Finally, in the aftermath of tht battle, someone else approaches them. This is the lillend known as Harmony, who has come to Arborea after hearing of this massacre. She has an inkling of why this has happened, something that the PCs can confirm by sharing what they've learned.

Harmony, the Lillend: Refer to page 26 in the Bestiary for details.

For her part, Harmony can share the following information. As always, these details can be presented in a conversational manner, or more like a briefing.
  • Harmony is a lillend, one of a race of celestials known as the azata.
  • The azata hail from the plane of Elysium, and are champions of freedom and goodness. They travel throughout the prime material plane promoting those virtues.
  • Harmony herself is partial to visiting this solar system; she has fallen in love with those of its people who embrace such qualities.
  • It is that kind of love that caused the azata long ago to create an item known as the Godsharp.
  • At that time, a race known as the formians were threatening to overrun the solar system, based out of their planet known as the Hiveworld.
  • Those remorseless individuals—much like insects back on Homeworld—cared for nothing more than propagating their own kind and obeying the orders of their Queen.
  • The azata created the Godsharp, then, in order to destroy the Hiveworld and prevent the formians from wiping out all the other races.
  • After that terrible act, the azata hid the Godsharp an a place where none could ever claim it.
  • Cyril and the orcs, however, seems to be bent on doing just that.
  • As part of those efforts, they have built a ship of the dead, an aethership built from reanimated arborling flesh, one that he can thus use his wicked divine magic to heal in battle.
  • If they are in league with the demons, then they can have just one purpose: using the Godsharp to destroy Homeworld, thus eliminating those good people who stand against them.
  • The Godsharp can only be destroyed if it is carried by an immortal being into a black hole.

The Beginning of the End
Armed with this information, the PCs can make preparations for their final showdown against the demons and their allies. Such activities can include a combination of practical outfitting and dramatic roleplaying; here are a few suggestions.
  • Naturally, the PCs should have a chance to purchase any supplies for their aethership, weapons and other equipment for themselves and the crew, magical items and the like to make sure they're ready for the dangers that lie before them.
  • If they've come to control multiple aetherships, then the PCs might need to appoint captains and designate other crew members for each, and then divide weapons, equipment and supplies between them.
  • Characters who have the requisite item creation feats could even help craft of forge magical items, brew potions, scribe scrolls and the like to assist with this outfitting.
  • They may wish to contact potential allies of their own, recruiting more people to help with the upcoming battle. This activity could involve plenty of roleplaying, with the players making rousing speeches, or mechanical efforts, in the form of Diplomacy checks, or—what is more likely—a combination of the two. Whatever the case may be, the final conflict feels more epic if more NPCs become involved.
  • To that end, they could even form their own organization, one that has ranking officers and its own battle flag.
  • In a similar vein, they may want to visit any loved ones they have before the final fight, given that they might not return from it. This could involve settling outstanding personal matters such as designating heirs, performing marriages, and that sort of thing. Here again, this all adds to the overall sense of drama.
Once they've completed this business, the PCs can proceed to the campaign's final chapter, “Into the Eye of the Storm.”