Upon slaying the last Mind Flayer, three quick bolts of purple lightning shoot from the beast’s head. They connect with the massive black crystal in the center of the plaza. The crystal emits a deep, otherworldly hum, quickly being drowned out by a swelling sound of static.
[Arcana 22]: The crystal was somehow magically connected to the illithids. Their death has triggered some reaction that is overwhelming the crystal. The rise in volume is inexplicable; the magic involved must be massive and this crystal is dangerous.
[Arcana 30]: The crystal’s magical power was somehow being channelled through the Mind Flayers and contained by their life force. Their deaths have unbridled this magic, and its unrestrained power is overcharging the crystal. This crystal is extraplanar in origin, and there’s no telling how much raw energy it has. It may explode at any second.
Just moments before the crackling noise becomes deafening, massive purple bolts of lightning strike forth from the crystal, hitting each of you in the torso.
- Catherine, you are struck in the back as you attempt to flee, blasting you forward dozens of feet. Your impact against the wall knocks you out, but you feel minimal pain from the impact because your body was numbed by the blast.
- Max, you are jolted continuously back and forth (like a pinball) between repeated bolts of electrical bolts. They strike you dozens of times before your body numbs from shock and fatigue, and you feel yourself collapse to the floor, helpless.
- Ben, an arc of purple lightning airs skyward before crashing into you where you stand. The dancing lightning begins to pull you back and forth, swinging you around like a massive tether. Your flight is so intensely fast that dizziness overwhelms you and you black out.
- Jak, you are raised up off the ground like some magnetic force repels you. As you hover 15 feet above the floor, your armor sears with electricity and the energy flows through you like a conductor. The last thing you see is a blinding flash of light as you burst into a shower of sparks.
THE ASTRAL DREAMS
NOTE! This stereotypical dream sequence will have a choice of outcome based upon the moral decisions of each character as they wrestle with their own identities. The characters cannot deviate from the scripted events much. If the players have questions, explain the situation in layers:
1) You are unsure of what happened immediately before you found yourself here.
2) You are in a surrealistic situation, and you have one pivotal choice in front of you.
3) You are trapped in a dream world of your mind’s creation, as triggered by the overwhelming exposure to astral arcane. Your conscience presents you with a choice, and you will come out of this experience changed, as dependant on that choice. That change will be a homebrew feat or power that I have designed to play off of your character’s allegiance to that choice. It should echo your character’s roleplaying moving forward.
4) Your final choice in this dream will net you one of two abilities. Explain abilities.
This dream for Max is physically demanding. If he wants to make a check to help himself, he can instead spend a Second Wind to successfully accomplish his immediate goals.
Max, you open your eyes and see the night sky above you, the dark blanket filled with stars. Sitting up, you recognize one of the poor town squares of Evershade around you. Orange light dances off of the drooping architecture. You hear the faint sound of shouting, of chaos, and you come to your senses. Several buildings are on fire, and panic has taken over the streets. People flee back and forth, unable to evacuate or act with reason.
A woman leans up against a nearby burning building, almost passed out. She will be burned with the building if she is not moved. You try to speak to her, to help her up, but she is out of it. Do you pick her up?
Poor Violet runs up to you and tugs on your leg. “Max!” she cries, “People won’t listen to me! I keep telling them to run away from the fires, but they keep trying to go back to their homes!” You look up and confirm that people are rushing into the narrow streets between burning buildings back into “shacktown,” the residential area in this district. They will likely become trapped between the burning wreckage and the city wall if they stay there. Do you run to the main alleyway and begin to direct the people?
If he tries to put the woman down: You can’t. It’s like your body doesn’t understand what you are telling it to do.
It is difficult to move quickly with the woman on your back, but you are able to get into position and start to turn people away. Before long, others are spreading your message.
Behind you, you hear the wheezing of a teenage boy. He is covered in soot as he staggers up to you, and he collapses onto you before you ask him how he is doing. He is conscious enough to climb onto your other shoulder. Do you carry him?
“Max!” Violet screams. “There’s people back in here! They’re going to get trapped!” She points to some of the back alleys behind the city block on fire. The flames have grown and now climb higher into the sky than any buildings within sight. You can trudge slowly, but the weight of the two people you are carrying slows you down. You are concerned that, if you don’t get down the alley fast enough, you may not be able to save as many people before their lungs fill with smoke and pass out. Do you continue to carry the two individuals?
Play “Fanfare of the Common Man”
You stagger deeper into the slums. The weight is heavy, but your heart helps bear the burden. You shout out commands to people as they crawl through the wreckage. Your voice reverberates off the stone walls and brings them to their senses. As they struggle to their feet and run past you, you hear their voices. “Thank you…” “Is that…?” “Max Stirner”
You come upon a boy, crying alone in an animal pen. He seems okay, but lost and unaware of his immediate danger. “Kipp!” Violet cries, “You have to leave!” He does not respond. “Max, you have to get him out of here.” Violet tears up. “He’s my best friend…” Do you urge the boy to climb onto your back?
“Which do you choose, Max? The boy? Or the people?”
The flames that surround you get brighter and brighter, and before long they are glowing white in every direction. The purple tips of the flames begin to consume your vision. You stagger forward, thinking your last thoughts. What are they?
Ben, you hear, “Hello? Hellooo??” You are lying on the floor of the Waterman, behind the bar in the front lobby. It’s a man’s voice. As you sit up, you realize that this man is a customer and would like assistance.
The man is a little bit annoyed. “Hi, yes, do you have a bottle of the Rayden merlot? I need a gift and I’m kind of in a hurry.”
You walk to the far end of the bar and open the cellar door on the floor. You climb down a ladder into the dark and clap twice, igniting the magical torches. Your eyes are flooded with golden light as an ocean of gold coins, jewels, trinkets, and artwork lay before your eyes. As you clamber over your veritable hoard to the wine cabinet, you think proudly of your accomplishments. It’s taken years to gather this here. Years of saying just the right thing at the right time to the right people. Years of playing the game. Years of using skills that took years themselves to hone. The power and influence represented by this trove would be enough to buy the city’s representatives outright! You’re not half bad, Ben Wistershire.
The wine in tow, you climb back up to the bar. You close the hatch, stand up, and see your wife standing there, terrified, a massive curved blade to her throat, held in the brawny arms of Judeth himself. He glares at you menacingly, a smirk behind his terrifying eyes.
“Fool. Do not think I do not know who you are. Do not pride yourself on your cleverness and vanity. We know of your sister, the girl you left to die in the dark. And we know of your deceit that has bestowed upon you that mighty stockpile of wealth and power.”
“I’ve come here not to try you for your crimes, but to take advantage of your lies,” growls Judeth. “If you do not give me your hoard – that which you stole from the citizens of this city – then I will take your wife.” Your ears get hot with anxiety. “What’s wrong, Wistershire? Having trouble with your decision? Your relationship is built entirely upon lies; that’s true. Perhaps it is harder to part with possessions when all you have in exchange is an empty life.”
“Which do you choose, Abernathy? Your wife? Or your power?”
You hear the entire Waterman creak. Then, nothing….Suddenly, the floor seems to dissolve into the golden sea of riches beneath you. The glow becomes brighter, blinding you with its white light. Your eyes cannot tighten enough as the purple sun engulfs you.
Jak, you awaken to the warm breeze of a summer’s day. You are face-down on a tile floor. Alternating white and gold tiles divided by black lines stretch out for a hundred feet until they meet the ornate carvings of a palace wall. Stone is decorated with murals of clouds and golden paints. You’re in a palace of some kind, and it is vaguely familiar…
You stand to your feet and you see two guards in several yards in front of you, on either side of a magnificent marble staircase that leads up to a golden throne. You remember now. The guards’ shields gave it away – as if the banners, sculptures, fountains, stained glass, and golden architecture didn’t. You are in Kord’s palace, in his very throne room, and at the top of the tall marble stair, perched upon the extravagant golden throne, is the storm god himself.
In your mind’s eye, what does Kord look like?
Instinctively, you kneel (out of honor, not fear). The whole sanctuary seems to glow in his radiance. In a bold, echoing voice, Kord bids you, “Stand, Jak of Evershade.” After a short pause, he beckons, “I am glad that you have come, Jak. I have observed your righteous deeds, and it is fitting that you should come into my court.”
You have no memory of how you got here. Even your weeks in the underdark seem hazy. If you could tell something to your liege, or ask something of him, what would you say?
As you converse, you hear a whip crack to your left. You turn your head slightly and catch a prisoner being given daily lashings off to the side of the throne and stair. You would have paid it little heed had it not been a minotaur. A minotaur in rags. Wearing tribal jewelry. In a deep green kilt made of dyed strips of hide. You can’t take your eyes off of it now. You know those clothes. And you recognize those horns.
Being restrained and whipped, not but 50 feet from you, is… yourself.
Play “Dies Ire”
“Ah, yes,” booms Kord, “I believe you have been on a long journey to arrive here. And now, after turmoil, and pain, and judgment, you have found yourself.”
The two guards step forward from the stair in unison. One presents to you an immaculate shield of gold, emblazoned with Kord’s mighty fist, so shiny it reflects your own face like a mirror. The other holds out a massive blade, its hilt a cross of lightning bolts. The blade is hard to define because it shows the image of swirling storm clouds, darkening, showing what is to come.
“This beast has been prisoner for some time, Jak. And it shall be lashed no more. Take one of these sacred tools and decide its fate. Show me your strength!”
The domed ceiling has changed to a looming storm cloud, swirling above you. You look at the kneeling guards, frozen in service.
“Which do you choose, Jak? Protect the beast? Or strike it down?”
You calmly take the implement in hand. With one faint snort, you push off the ground with your back leg. Each pounding stride you take creates the crack of lightning and the boom of thunder as you charge the minotaur and its keeper.
Sword: Leaping through the air, you let out a guttural roar. Your aim is true as you land upon the beast, sword sinking deep into its core. Surprisingly, it does not struggle. It does not scream. You pounce to the floor and land solidly on your feat, your foe slain. You turn around to see the minotaur as it looks back at you. Its eyes glow white and it looks upon you calmly. You know in that expression that it now knows peace. Although you have looked many times in the mirror, you do not remember ever seeing your own face without anger. And now, face-to-face with your old self, you know that you need not wear your past as a burden any longer. The light from its eyes glow brighter and brighter, and the purple hue consumes you entirely.
Shield: Sprinting with heavy legs and powerful strides, you watch the punisher reel back his whip in seemingly slow motion. With physical perfection, you slide on one knee, shield-arm extended in front. The satisfying clang of impact strikes your shield. You kneel directly between the minotaur and its punisher, and you remain frozen there for one long instant. Swiftly and powerfully, you backspin, wheeling your shield around, and mightily bash the jail keeper with the aegis, knocking him back through the air. You slowly rise and turn to greet your old self face-to-face. Its eyes glow white and it looks upon you calmly. You know in that expression that it now knows peace. Although you have looked many times in the mirror, you do not remember ever seeing your own face without anger. Immediately, intrinsically, you know that you need not wear your past as a burden any longer. The light from its eyes glow brighter and brighter, and the purple hue consumes you entirely.
“General, the men are in position. We await your orders.”
You pick yourself up off the tundra. Up the hill in front of you stand 6 score of troops with their backs to you, perfectly lined up in regiments. Your lieutenant is loyal, trying to give the air of courage that you like to see in your soldiers. You sense his uncertainty, but you know he will not hesitate a moment when you give him the order to charge.
You step past the lieutenant and walk your way up the hill between two units of warriors. Their pikes stand tall. Their armor plating shines on top of thick, padded insulation. They await your very command.
As you crest the hill, the comforting waves of battle cries and clashing swords washes over you. Two massive hordes of armies meet each other in a great valley. Both forces are battered and worn; their equipment was not designed to endure a long campaign in the Kanka plains. Savages claw at their foes with scythes and axes, while uncoordinated men-at-arms attempt to stand their ground with little help from their allies. The whole thing is cacophonous from your vantage point.
“But what of the shrine, my lady?” cries a squire from your tent back below you. You see the young girl’s outstretched arm point to a massive glowing keep on the horizon. Its blue radiance seems to paint the gray clouds overhead.
You know that castle is untouched. You know that lost civilizations have left their secrets inside. But you also know that this is your time to strike. The savages from the east will break here if you rout them this day. The locals will bow down in obedience to you out of obligation; they stand no match for your highly-trained force.
The dark gray sky of swirling clouds begins to brighten with a white light that bathes the hill where your army stands awaiting your call.
“Which do you choose, Catherine? Do you win the glory of your legion? Or do you claim the unknown knowledge of the blue castle?”?
Army: You stand poised, unwavering, and draw your sword. With a single-pitched war cry, you flourish you sword and point to the valley. The quake of legionnaires’ feet like drums, the clashing of blades like cymbals, the yells of strength like horns, your single command like a soprano. So you conduct your symphony of war.
Castle: You stand poised, unwavering, and draw your sword. You spin it above your head in a spiral, and your perfectly trained soldiers about-face and accept your new goal as their own. The quake of legionnaires’ feet like drums, the whipping of banners like strings, the yells of strength like horns, your single command like a soprano. So you conduct your symphony of conquest.
The sky brightens more, a good omen for your mission. The white light of the filtered sun floods your field of vision, and the purple sting of natural light dazzles your mind.