Apotheosis

Sanity's Edge

Something very wrong is happening to the people of Absalom. What started as simple nightmares plaguing the fringes of the city has quickly escalated into something far more… otherworldly. As various organisations scramble for answers about their unknowable assailant, the citizens of the city desperately turn to the Champions of Absalom to defend them. But can the legendary heroes defeat a force they cannot hope, or want, to understand?

Following their swift departure from the Astral Plane via Sigil, the Champions return to Absalom to discover the Primarch’s workforce planning the excavation of a passage way beneath the Blakros museum. Glad of a chance to rest, the heroes part ways with the intention of taking a well deserved break. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is amiss in their home city when they learn of strange nightmares plaguing the Copperwood district just outside the metropolis walls. Malias is the first to get involved in the investigation, taking command of the assigned agents of the Varlokkur in an attempt to find out what the source of the malady is. Meanwhile, Albert uses a combination of divination and research to learn more of the recovered ‘Fedifensor’, growing concerned that such a weapon for good has been so brutally destroyed.

Despite being tasked by the church with looking into the nightmares, Behnam first carries out further searches for his wife, using his increasing magical aptitude to locate her again. Rather than locating his bride in the usual cell, the cleric instead finds her being escorted through a horror realm that he soon learns is Cania, one of the levels of Hell. Enraged and frustrated he approaches Albert to launch an expedition into Hell. Despite being eager to help his friend, Albert attempts to suggestion caution, but the group are soon pulled along in Behnams wake as he approaches the head of the church of Asmodeus to retrieve the focus needed to travel to Cania. While the ‘Shining Light’s’ request is granted at no additional cost, he is advised it will take several days for the required items to be retrieved.

As the days pass the group begin to learn more about the affliction that plagues Copperwood. Firstly, it is quickly apparent that the condition is spreading further into the city with each passing night. Secondly, Albert notices that the Imrizade is displaying some odd behaviour, staring out towards Copperwood in a trance like state during her resting hours. As the Champions come under more pressure to resolve the nightmares from external sources, they make the decision to enter Copperwood and experience the nightmares themselves. Taking up residence in a local inn, Malias, Albert and Behnam allow themselves to experience the nightmare multiple times, seeing themselves flying limbless through a howling, maddening void, screaming as the hurtle deeper into it. Shaken by the experience the group decide to regroup and look for any solutions, but before they leave they are advised by a Varlokkur agent that a group of Pathfinder have struck out into the Cairnlands to try to locate the source of the nightmares. Learning that their ally, Balenar Forsend, now a veteran of the recent Worldwound crusades is leading the expedition, they quickly teleport themselves after the group in the hope of preventing anything from happening to them. Unfortunately, they are too late. By the time they locate the Pathfinders they are already fleeing back to Absalom after Balenar encountered some sort of twisted rift. The bard now gibbers manically as his flesh writhes from some unknown infection. The Pathfinders urge the heroes to turn back, advising they found nothing but a warped box they discovered on Balenar. Albert commands the remaining Pathfinder to escort Balenar back to their Grand Lodge while the Champions explore further, which the agents quickly do.

Despite searching the area further, the adventurers find nothing specific, but all comment on a strange ‘wrongness’ and something unnatural that seems to lurk out the corner of their eyes. Admitting defeat for the moment, the heroes return to Absalom and recall A’hymhu from his archery academy in Diobel. Albert calls a conclave of his peers at the Arcanimirium, including Lady Darchana, Archdean of the Arcanimirium and Second Spell Lord, suggesting that the best way to learn more of the nightmare would be for he and his fellow Champions to physically enter it through the ‘Dimension of Dreams’. While Lady Darchana is reluctant to support such a risky idea, she does confess that some fringe magic would allow such an journey, but that only a few secretive individuals have such power. Albert and the Champions accept the risk and follow the Lady’s recommendation to an unimposing home in Westgate to meet Corvias Neorin. While Corvias appears to be little more than a venerable halfling stage magician, the group soon learn that he was once a powerful mesmerist and occultist. Despite some trepidation, the halfling eventually agrees to transport the Champions into the nightmare, but advises that he will need to go with them, and they will need a willing subject. That night the group are able to break into the box they discovers on Balenar with set overcoming a powerful magical trap upon it, within they discover a strange, slick glove that appears to have grown from human flesh.

The following day the Champions, Corvias and a willing Varlokkor agent travel to Copperwood to enter the dream. It is clear on the heroes arrival that thing are getting worse in Copperwood and the communal fear and panic is only increasing. Within the inn Corvias conducts the ritual and all present are cast into the nightmare and find themselves floating in the maddening void. The screaming twilight abyss immediately attacks the groups sanity and only their well tessed mental reserves and divine mythic potential allows them to stave it off. As they survey the churning void of nothingness that engulfs them and try to ignore the primal instability they quickly realise that this dream is representative of what madman have referred to as the ‘Dark Tapestry’ or the ‘Farplane’. As strange, twisting and warped shapes begin to loom towards them, Albert commands Corvia to get them out, and mercifully the halfling is able to hold his composure long enough to do so.

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Upon their return to the material plane and the inn in Copperwood the group begin to theorise about what is happening. Eventually they come to the conclusion that the nightmares are likely a symptom of some sort of planar merging between that of Golarion and the Dark Tapestry. Albert posits that such an act would require an almost ineffable amount of power to set in motion, but that the more contact the material plane has with the Tapestry the more the Tapestry will consume them all. Given theories about the illithids relation with the Farplane, the group begin to suspect that Rael T’dobel may play a part in what is happening. Unable to reach a final conclusion, Behnam calls upon his powers to beseech the divine for answers. While several questions go unanswered, he is able to learn that Rael does indeed have his hand in what is happening, but that his goals are not as clear as they may appear.

Shortly after their return, the group are summoned by the Primarch to discuss their findings. Following a candid discussion Lord Gyr warns that his forward scouts have noticed more and more twisted horrors appearing in and warping the Cairnlands and beginning to move towards Absalom. Believing the Cairnlands to be the source of the merging, Albert suggests the group strike out into it and call Rael out. While Behnam initially disagrees, he eventually relents as he see’s no other choice.

After a nights rest, the group prepare for their journey out into the Cairnlands, taking every precaution they can think of. Albert conjures them a team of phantom horses and the group ride out of the city. Over the course of the day the heroes ride deeper and deeper into the Cairnlands, observing a gradual change in the landscape and more. The natural terrain twists and warps into a nightmare realm the further the Champions travel, with the ground shifting into fleshless maws, the rocks and trees adopting twitching eyes and fleshy textures and the sky itself plunging into a sunless, pitch void. Additionally, mindless, pseudo-natural creatures begin to dot the sides of the road, shifting and moaning aimlessly. What starts as only a dozen soon grows into several hundreds as the group move on with only their light sources to guide them in the sanity blasting void.

Despite being conflicted about pressing further into the planar merging, the heroes travel for the better part of the day before being greeted by the voice of Rael in their mind. The ullitharid taunts the Champions and encourages them to turn back, but ignoring him they progress onwards, periodically questioning the illithid about his motives. Rael gladly answers their questions, stating that he has a vested interest in some of the group and admitting that he tore open the rift between his realm and Golarion using the power from the artifacts he has been draining to both bolster his own strength and create the rift. As the interrogation continues the group learn that Rael is from both the future and the past, joining his race when they cast themselves back in time, but that he originally encountered the Champions in what will be their future. The heroes grow more frustrated and confused as they question Rael as his answers become more cryptic and foreboding.

Malias drifts in and out of the conversation, focusing instead on the Champions safety as they push on, but as he does he suddenly realises from the information that Rael is alluding to that the ullitharid’s name is an anagram of Albert Doel. As the inquisitor mentions his suddenly understanding Rael steps from the darkness in a form not unlike Albert, gloating that while the archmage will achieve great things, he will eventually fall to the illithid empire and become Rael. Albert refuses to accept the revelation, insisting that he would never commit the atrocities that Rael has, but the mind flayer points out that the young lord has already deceived, manipulated and kept secrets from those closest to him. Enraged and unsure the group engage Rael with Albert frantically assuming that by stealing their foes version of Izryen’s Hourglass and killing Albert in the present that they will be able to stop the ullitharids existence. The desperate combat doesn’t last long as the group struggle desperately in the nightmarish realm against a much more prepared and powerful foe. Albert is able to grap Rael’s hourglass, but loses his own to the ullitharid in the process. Lamenting that this isn’t the right time for this battle, Rael escapes, but as he does so the hordes of mindless horrors surrounding the group begin to move on Absalom.

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