The Ilumnos Series

Chapter 3- Time Stands Still

PART 1 – THE REALMS

Having retrieved the missing power cell (or “fire sphere” as it has been called) the group is now ready to power up the second level of the Ilumnos Machine and combine the power of the color crystals they possess (blue and red) so that they can travel to another new world. Powering up the machine with this combo produces a brilliant deep purple light that brings them to what will be called the Purple World.

They make their way over to the exit of the room, but as they approach the door a spell trap is triggered! First a hold person type of spell goes off, temporarily paralyzing all members of the group save for Availin and Pavlik. Then suddenly a web spell fills the space around the door, making it very difficult for the two remaining characters to get to their comrades. They manage to pull them out of the web, but in a short amount of time they hear the clanging of armor, as if dozens of fully armored soldiers or guards are marching down a long hall. Next a single figure steps through the door and disspells the web. He introduces himself as Virote, the court Wu-Jen, the most powerful spell caster in the most powerful realm of the land. He is a Moon Elf, a tall (around 6’) slender elf with snow white skin. He wears plain thick white robes with a purple trim. Three long strands of hair, one from the top, the right, and the left of his head, are pulled tightly back into a long golden ring about 6" long, with the remainder flowing out like a pony tail, on an otherwise bald head. His yellow eyes scan the situation and he carries himself with the utmost composure. He explains that they have intruded into the royal palace and for their safety he suggests that they willing give themselves up for questioning to the Batukhan.

Pavlik quickly out-maneuvers Virote and pulls out one of the color crystals, bringing them out of the Purple World, which evens the odds. Virote, confident in his magical prowess, seems not to be bothered by this fact. As a gesture of good faith, he cancels the hold spell on the rest of the group. They discuss what to do next. Virote explains that the palace has been under tight security since there was an assasination attempt on the Batukhan recently. Also, long ago they had this room trapped because they did not know what this machine did, but there exist legends which say that it is a door to other worlds. Virote doesn’t believe that the group is assasins because they obviously are not from his land, which doesn’t have beings like themselves, the closest exception is “Baran”, though he also only knows of legends of other types of elves, and they never mention “Sun Elves”.

The group tells Virote part of their story and only that they wish to enter his world to find a missing piece of their machine so that they can find their way home. A deal is struck, if they come peacefully to the Batukhan for questioning Virote will advise the ruler to let them pursue their quest.

They return to the purple world and are escorted by two dozen heavy guards and Virote down long halls of white marble floor and white stone walls decorated by an occasional long solid purple tapestry of heavy cloth. The tapestries also hang on every door. Through a giant set of doors is the throne room. Gigantic tapestries of the same solid white with purple trim design hang from the ceiling to nearly the floor from pillars lining the left and right sides of the room.

Batukhan Hiraku Chitose, ruler of the realm of Fei-jha, greets them from an enormous ornate throne. He is adorned in purple plate armor and white gauntlets. There is a tatoo of a solid purple mark that begins on the outerside of his eye. just under the brow, and flows around the bottom of his eye along to the rim of his nose. A purple ribbon tie loosely hold his sholder-length hair together. The solid blade of a falchion stares down at them menacingly, reminding them of their warning from Virote of the Batukhan’s heightened paranoia since the attempt on his life. Virote formally announces the ruler to the group, “Our Barukhan, Hikau Chitose; ruler of Fei-jha and four neighboring realms, soon to be five.”

At first the Batukhan is on the offensive, he wants to know who they are and every bit of their story. He speaks only to “Baran”, who was recently chosen as the group’s leader, because they are both elves. After subduing the ruler’s most immediate paranoia, a rather interesting exchange takes place, where the group puts them selves at the marcy of the ruler, explaining that access to this world is their only way home, and where the Batukhan, no longer suspecting enemies of them, confides in them the story of how things got to be the way they are in his kingdom.

He explains that there has been war between his realm and the neighboring realms. Most of his enemies have been crushed, but there remains one last threat, a long time ally of Fei-jha, the Bu of Tao-Fon, Kaida Benjiro. Shortly after his victory over the last realm there was an assasination attempt on the Batukhan’s life. The assasin somehow made it past the castle guards and into the most private chambers of the royalty. A drink, meant for the Batukhan, was poisoned and the Queen who handled the drink before her husband, touched the poison and nearly died. It logically follows, to the Batukhan, that Bu Kaida Benjiro must have tried to take the Batukhan’s life in an attempt to avoid defeat by his mighty army. It comes out that the Queen is not quite dead, but not quite alive. Virote was unable to stop the poison, so in a desperate attempt to buy some time, he used this yellow crystal that he had ound years ago in the strange machine room that the group came from. With the power of the crystal he was able to suspend the Queen in time, keeping the poison from killing her, but keeping her in a state of eternal slumber. Since then everything has been tried, but with no luck. Virote thinks that they could do more if they could recognize the poison, but they know nothing of what it is or where it comes from. The Batukhan agrees to let the group search the lands for whatever they may neeed to find their way home, on the understanding that if they discover any information about the poison or the assasin they will pass this information along to the Batukhan.

Hearing the Batukhan mention a yellow crystal, the group asks to see it because it may be what they are looking for. They are brought to a room behind the throne room, adorned with flowers and candles, where the queen lies in bed, watched over by a maid. On her head is the yellow disc-shaped crystal that “Tank” confirms will operate the Ilumnos Machine. Finding themselves in a mutually benificial situation, the group and the Batukhan make a deal, they will cure the Queen and try to bring her assasin to justice and then receive the yellow crystal as reward. The Batukhan suggests that they begin their investigation in Tao-Fon, the realm of his last remaining enemy; he is more than certain of the rulers guilt.

Before leaving the Batukhan’s realm the group decides to do some initial investigating in the town of Bai-jho. The town immediately gives a very strong impression, they find the Moon Elves here to be very unsociable and unwelcoming. They witness many arguments and even a fight. Most elves steer clear of the group and those who do talk seem to be fixated on “How bad a day it is, with our queen so near to death…” or are just incredible rude. They are also constantly the targets/victims of pick pockets.

A local fortune teller ends up providing them with a direction and some clues. She tells them that they will have the most luck if they continue their journey and not stay here in Fei-jha. A trip into the Spirit World may also be in store for them.

They leave for the militarized border between Fei-jha and Tao-Fon, and the road through the bamboo forest, the only way to get from one realm to the other. Thousands of soldiers and dozens of war machines line the area on this side of the road through the bamboo forest. The forest is so thick that it is nearly impossible to walk through, so this path is strategically important to both sides. They pass safely through both ends of the road and make their way, with a military escort, to the Jade Palace.

The Jade Palace closely resembles the Batukhan’s palace, just much smaller and it doesn’t sit atop a giant mountain. The white stone theme has been replaced, obviously, with jade stone. The flag of this realm is nearly identical except for a fancy green border around the sold purple. The Bu is much more approachable and the atmosphere of the palace is much more relaxed (considering that they’re in the middle of a war). Bu Kaida Benjiro is a tall slender figure (as are most all moon elves), wearing the finest green robes with purple trim. He has a young and friendly face and long hair pulled to the top of his head into a round green metal clip which his hairs falls out of like a fountain, with the exception of two bangs in the front.

At first he is surprised and intrigued by their presence. He doesn’t understand why they would be investigating him, when it was clearly the Batukhan who killed his own wife. He explains that long ago he and Aisea, the future queen of the Batukhan, were courting when the Batukhan won the bid for her hand from her parents, they felt he would be a stronger and more powerful leader who would bring their daughter many riches. He promised them that he would be the first ruler to re-unite the six realms since they were originally broken up after the death of the Great Emperor who split up his land for his sons. Before the wedding he and Aisea swore their eternal love and she vowed never to have children with him and he swore to never marry, then he gave her a necklace from his land to remember him by. The Batukhan was always an agressive ruler but over time he began to wage campaigns against the naighboring realms, but Fei-jha and Tao-Fon were always allies, due to the facts that the Batukhan felt he had already conquored the Bu in a way, by taking Aisea from him, and the Queen kept pressure for peace between the nations. With the fall of the only other realm realized The Batukhan needed a motive for war. Bu believes he tried to kill his own wife, possibly after discovering of her love for him, as a way to dissolve the last of the alliance between the realms. It was ater the “assasination” that the war began, which was started by the Batukhan.

The party expresses their varied opinions about the Batukhan, and even his Wu-Jen Virote. Some feel that Virote seemed untrustworthy and may be behind it, or that he may have helped the Batukhan. There is definately a level of distrust of the Batukhan, stemming in part from their experience in Bai-jho. They felt as if the population may be under an enchantment, due to their attitude and out-look and pre-occupation with the Queen. The one thing that seems definate is that the Batukhan whould be the primary target of their investigation.

Just then a little yellow bird with a brown belly and a hooked beak flutters onto the window ledge of a window in the throne room and begins to whistle. The apparent symbolic significance of this is lost to the group, who are not familiar with the cultural and spiritual traditions and sybols of the Moon Elves, but causes the Bu to call an immediate recess. He returns a short while later, after having met with his Wu-jen. the little brown-bellied bird is a messenger for Ahio, the good air spirit of the realm, explains the Bu. Ahio represents truth, and is the best source to seek out in the matter of the investigation. The bird’s appearance shows that Ahio knows of the group and wishes to guide them to the truth. There must be something very important that they have missed, otherwise Ahio would have let them continue on their path.

The PC’s inquire as to how they could possibly meet Ahio, keeping in mind that the fortune teller had told them they would be traveling to the spirit realm. The Bu explains that there is an ancient practice, nearly completely lost now, which was used to bring people to the spirit realm. The group seems to him to be the best candidates for the journey because of their experience in traveling through worlds in the Ilumnos Machine. He directs them to a man in the nearby town of Ann-Chi who is the most knowledgeable of the ancient “Spirit Walkers”.

The town of Ann-Chi is much more pleasant than anything they experienced in Fei-jha. The easily find the Spirit Shaman. He is an old Moon Elf with an eccentric appearance and a long beard wearing tattered robes of many bright colors. He explains the nature of the Spirit World to them:

Our world is mirrored by another world which is immaterial but connected to ours through good and evil and the four elements (air, water, earth, fire). Each element is manifested in the Spirit World by a spirit or many spirits of an alignment of good or evil. So there are both good and evil air spirits, good and evil earth spirits, good and evil water spirits, and good and evil fire spirits. There are also spirits that aren’t elemental, they are connected more to humanity and nature. They are the hengeyoki (good) and the hebi-no-onna (evil). The non-elemental spirits will sometimes interact with our lives by taking animal form (such as the brown-bellied bird) because they are concerned with how our actions impact the constant struggle between good and evil and between the elements in their world. Our actions may tip the balance in the favor of one spirit over the others. The hengeyoki will always try to help the causes of the good elemental spirits while the hebi-no-onna do the same for the evil elemental spirits.

Small potions are prepared for the party to drink. The potions are a combination of certain magical ingredients and poisons which, at the wrong dosage, could easily kill the drinker. After imbibing their potions the party watches as the world slips into an empty silence and still blackness.


PART 2 – THE SPIRIT WORLD

As if opening their eyes, the world before them opens up, revealing a beauty of pastels and watercolors. The spirit shaman stands there, just a sillhoutte unaware of their watchful eyes. Looking down at their shadowy limp bodies across the room an eerieness creeps over them, a realization that they know exist in two seperate forms in two different worlds. The group steps out into the streets of the spirit town of Ann-Chi. Dozens of shadowy Moon Elves are the focal point of the spirit life. Heavily robed women and animals follow the sillhouttes around, providing their subjects with either good or bad luck.

A litle blue bird flies down from a rooftop and onto a fruit cart. the bird waits until the vendor is distracted and then knocks a piece of fruit into the hands of a shadowy little poor girl who is staring hungrily at the fruit. She quickly takes off and devours the fruit.

An old woman in baggy dark robes pokes a shadowy man in the back with her walking stick. the man turns and has an exchange of words with another shadowy man behind him. They turn away from each other angrily and then she pokes the other man. He turns abruptly back and a fight erupts. She stands there breathing in heavily, almost as if she is feeding off their violence.

A tall beautiful crane notices the party watching the town from the doorway and cautiously makes it’s way over to them. He introduces himself as Takatsu and warns them that they had best get out of sight, prefereably out of town because the hebi-no-onna will attack them on sight! The party agrees to leave town and he starts to guide them out through the least noticable path. However they are spotted and a hebi-no-onna gives chase, her sleeves pulled back to reveal dozens of long biting snakes for arms! They are chased down alleys and main roads until finally Takatsu leads them to a hiding place where they remain until their pursuer loses them. They quickly make their way out of town and Takatsu brings them to the edge of Lake Bien.

He tells them that to get to Ahio they should make their way up the river that spills into the lake, for the source of the river lies in the mountains where Ahio lives. He gives Tank a small sea shell which when held up to your ear will make a strong windy sound when facing the direction of the air spirit. He bids them good luck and leaves.

They find an abandoned raft which they use to make their way across the lake. At first the lake appears to sway, as if it were the tides of the ocean, but geting further out they see that it is an optical illusion created by thousands upon thousands of brown bullhead fish swimming in a synchronized dance that makes the lake look and feel alive. Huge lilypads haphazardly line the way between them and the mouth of the river. Dozens of monstrously humanoid giant toads sit atop the lilypads looking into the water, occasionally one jumps in. When the toad reaches the fish it opens its mouth, revealing multiple rows of sharp teeth, much like a shark. The toads take in mouthfulls of the fish and then swim back up the surface.

Sensing that the fish and the toads are probably the good and evil water spirits (respectively) they steer clear of any lilypads occupied by the ravenous denizens. Traveling up the river toward the mountains their raft is suddenly tipped over by a couple of giant toads. Some of the group plunges into the water and even gets pulled deeper by the toads. They fight the toads off as those still on the raft help pull them up to safety.

Some time later, still on the river, they are met with a breath-takingly horrific view. From their elevated place they can see across the realm and to the spirit land of the Batukhan. The earth is scorched and spits out fires like a geyser. These massive fires burn with such force that the smoke fills the sky and rises like an impenetrable black wall.

Finally, their raft can travel no further because they are at the base of a mountain in the midst of a massive range. They get out and use the shell given to them by Takatsu to determine which mountain they will need to climb. In front of them lies a thick bamboo forest which blocks the way to Ahio. They do the only thing they can do, take out their blades and hack away like jungle explorers.

The bamboo clears at a newly made path that look sas if it were made by large creatures who are so big and heavy that they can just crush the bamboo like blades of grass. At first they are reluctant to follow down the path, even though it would make travel quicker, just in case whatever made the path isn’t friendly. The forest seems to not want them to go any other way though and whichever direction they pick the stalks of bamboo cometogether, forming a stronger bond and making it nearly impossible to cut through in any timely manner. In addition, the stalks seems to be swaying, though there is no wind, in one of the directions down the path, making it seems like the forest is beckoning them.

The party reluctantly follows down the path until the path ends with a sudden wall of bamboo stalks that appear to have grown together in a way that resembles a weaved basket. Pavlik climbs up the huge stalks and sees that not only has the bamboo grown together to form a wall, but the tops have come down and intertwined so that a dome has been formed! This makes no sense since the huge footprints continue in the direction of the wall and don’t veer off.

They notice that the bamboo wall makes an opening for them when approached, as if permitting their passage. Inside the dome a huge humanoid horse (mezu-oni) has been tied down and is surrounded by two dozen or so smaller, but still giant, Yak-folk (humanoid yaks). Some of the yak-folk are using their massive Bolas (or falchions) to try to hack through the walls the forest has erected, trapping them inside. Upon their entrance the yak-folk charge them and the party frees the horse while taking down the yaks. Freed and healed by the party the giant horse arises and silently thanks them. With a motion of his hands they feel their spirits strengthened and the way out of the forest and toward Ahio is cleared. Then the horse walks away into the forest and just vanishes. The party suspects he must have been the good earth spirit.

Later, the party stands at the base of the mountain that they must climb to find Ahio. The sky above them has darkened, but the sun has not gone down. Instead, like the watercolor appearance of this world would suggest, the darker colors in the sky have begun to bleed into the lighter colors. First orange, then red, then dark blue and black become more and more dominant. They hastily make their way up to the top. Suddenly, thousands upon thousands of all kinds of birds fly overhead in a paniced fashion, coming from the other side of the mountain. Their assumptions about it being a bad sign about Ahio are confirmed by a small bird named Shione who tells them that Ahio is in trouble. He is being hunted and needs their help!

They run full speed until they reach nearly the top, where they find a humanoid crow laying on the ground, injured badly. To be safe “Tank” checks the shell, and it points toward the bird-man. He says that he is Ahio and that they are not safe here, he needs them to help him back down the mountain. They strap the bird-man in such a way that he is riding Tank piggy-back style and head back down the mountain as quickly as possible. A few minutes later though they hear the flutter of more birds and look u pto the sky to see an enormous chinese dragon flying over the mountain top, being chased by hundreds of the humanoid crows like the one strapped to Tank’s back! Realizing their mistake, and understanding his cover has been blown a struggle between the crow (Tengu) and the party ensues.

“Tank” runs backwards, slamming him into the side of the mountain while others try to slash at him with their blades. He breaks free of the straps and flys up into the air and goes invisible. The wounds had been illusory. It had been a trap set up to trick them out of helping Ahio, or at least buy more time for his enemies. Ahio is evading his persuers for now by flying is defensive maneuvers, but looks to have already been hurt, and certainly can’t keep this up much longer. The party races back to the top of the mountain. “Baran” casts a few offensive spells at the Tengu but they seem to do nothing. “Tank” takes out the shell and is confused for a moment when it seems to point up to Ahio as well as at a few points around them at the top of the mountain. The party also notices that at least some of the Tengu chasing Ahio don’t really appear to be there.

They put the clues together and realize that it’s another trick! Ahio isn’t really being chased, though he thinks he is. The real enemies are few in number and are atop the mountain casting spells at him invisibly! Using the shell to point them in the right direction they kill all the Tengu in a matter of rounds. Ahio flies down and thanks them. He tells them that he knows much of what has happened but not everything, for his powers have gotten weaker as his enemies have gotten stronger. The queen has been poisoned by the poison of a Tsuno, an evil earth spirit creature of the Batukhan’s realm, wheich they cannot get to from here. They will have to return to their world and travel to the Batukhan’s realm and then spirit walk again. The blood of the Tengu will counteract the effects of the poison, but must be administered in the spirit world since time has been stopped for her in the real world. Ahio unfortunately doesn’t know anything about who poisoned her or how. The sun behind them is almost nothing as dark blue and black colors have almost completely bled into it. Ahio tells them that they must be going, for if they stay here after the sunset they will never be able to return to their own world. They hop on his back and he flies them back to town where they find their shadowy bodies still laying there peacefully. All they must do is touch their body and their spirit returns; awakening them in the material world.

A couple days of travel later the party is in the town just outside the Batukhan’s palace. They go to the fortune teller they met during their first visit and tell her what has happened so far and that they came here to ingest the poition given to them by the spirit shaman. the fortune teller agress to watch over their bodies and tells them to be very cautious, that this realm will be overrun with evil spirits.


PART 3 – THE CURE

In the mountains that the Batukhan’s palace calls home, the party has made their way into this scorced wasteland in search for a Tsuno. They waunder the area looking for tracks or some kind of clue. As they make their way between two huge slabs of rock that violently jut from the surface the face of the stone begins to meld into something else. A beast with the face and mane of a lion and huge protruding bull horns, the body of an ogre and the legs of a bull steps out of the stone. Not letting the tsuno get the drop on them the party charges it, but it unleashes a roar that causes some of the party to flee as if effected by a fear spell. Those remaining however use everything they have and hit it as hard as they can with their weapons and spells. The tsuno only has enough time to bite Availin before they take it down. They are too late however, the poison has made its way into Availin’s body. Quickly, “Tank” and “Baran” drag him over to the dead beast and make him swallow some of its blood. He is revived, but is aware that he came closer to death than he has ever before.

Blood from the tsuno is placed in an empty glass bottle and the party mkaes their way to the Batukhan’s palace. Two shadowy guards stand vigilent at the main doors. There is soemthing strange about them. A strange slug-like abboration the size of a small cat looks to have attached itself to the chests of the guards, right over their hearts. The things pulsate, possibly ehoing their beating hearts in the other world. When approached, the guards are unable to notice them (being in the material world) but the things on their chest sproat small tendrils which spin and expand in their direction- reaching out to grab them. They rush through the doorway and into the palace, leaving the gruesome parasites behind… for now. Making their way through a heavily fortified palace full of guards with these sluglike parasites on them is much harder than just rushing through the door way. They do all they can do avoid guards at all costs, ducking into halls and rooms as well as back tracking. At one point they duck into a room to avoiding two sets of guards patrolling the hall, one from each direction. In this room someone is sitting reading a book, with a slug on their chest. they try to get it but it drops off the person and hides behind the bookshelf. They are forced to knock down the shelf and Availin impales it with his halberd.

Finally they reach the Batukhan’s throne room. The Batukhan is sitting in his throne, and seems to be fully in this world, unlike everyone else they have come across. In the center of this room is a wide pit of fire burning fiercely. The Batukhan steps down from his throne and begins to transform. His body becomes scaley and his legs fuse together and grow longer, becoming the body and tail of a giant snake. They meet the Batukhan’s falchion blade with their own. “Baran” unleashes his most powerful spells and Availin, Glycon, and Pavlik charge with their blades, while “Tank” lets off a folly of bolts from his crossbow. The Batukhan, in snake form, is taken down in just a few rounds, his body collapsing into the fiery pit in the ceneter of the room.

Behind the throne is the door to the chamber where the queen’s body rests. Inside the queen just appears to be sleeping, though she too isn’t just a shadow. “Baran” goes over to her with the vial of blood which will cure her. Pavlik notices that the fire has begun to engulf and destroy the body of the Batukhan. The body is almost completely consumed by flame when he notices is begin to move, not the body per se, because there is none, but the a column of fire that outines where the body was. He alerts the party just as the snake, now just purely fire arises from the pit!

Again they meet the Batukhan in battle. This time he is much more firece, casting nasty fireball spells and causing massive damage, some of the party remains in the queens chambers, taking cover and shooting at him from safety while a few meet him in melee. During the chaos “Baran” pours the anitdote into the queens mouth and she opens her eyes for a second and looks at him, then she fades way into a shadow. It takes nearly all they have to take him down a second time, leaving the party in rough shape. Finally as the last blow is struck the fiery snake collapses and tranforms back into the Batukhan, however now he is just a shadow.

……

Some time later the group is back in the palace in the material world. They are greeted as heroes, possibly the greatest ever. The queen is resting, for she is weak from the ordeal, but she will be fine, according to Virote. The party tells of their tales, leaving out the part about having to fight the Batukhan, just saying that they took care of the one responsible, while “Baran” asks to speak to the queen. He is granted this request. The queen recognizes him immediately as the one who saved her. He tries to explain the story of what has happened to her. He says that it appears as if the evil fire spirit took hold of her husband and poisoned her. The queen looks at “Baran” suprisingly and then says that that was impossible because she was the only one in the room at the time of the poisoning. “Baran” explains about the spirit world, but the queen interrupts. She tells him how she made a commitment to Kaida Benjiro decades ago and watched uneasily as her husband cause death and destruction to all the other neighboring realms, but when he was threatening her true love and wouldn’t listen to reason she decided that she would have to act for peace. She was trying to poison him, but mishandled it and was almost killed by the mistake.

The Batukhan gives the party the yellow crystal and tells them to get some rest and return the next day for some gifts before they go back to the Ilumnos Machine. They are given magical weapons and items to help them on their journey and are told that songs will be sung about them for hundreds of years to come for their heroic deeds.

Comments

DM, this was an enjoyable read. The Spirit World reminds me of the movie Spirited Away, especially the bit about black parasitic slugs and the scene where the Chinese Dragon Ahio is being chased by a myriad tiny bird-like creatures. I love the imagery of the good and evil elemental spirits taking on the form of animals and odd looking humanoids.

But the lingering question now is, what’s to become of the 6 divided territories now that the Queen has been saved? Will Batukhan continue his warmongering as before and conquer the Jade Palace? Or will there be peace now that it is known that The Bu is innocent of the Queen’s poisoning? And wouldn’t the Bathukhan be a bit put off by the fact that his wife tried to poison him? Hmm, sounds like there’s room here for more adventuring.

Cheers,
-Arsheesh

Chapter 3- Time Stands Still
DarkMagus

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