After a few days’ rest, Kade’s wounds were healed and the Circle was ready to travel through the Zenith and Night gates and then, with all four gate keys in hand, they prepared themselves for whatever may lie beyond the essence-vortex of the Eclipse Gate. During their rest period, Morning Breeze occupied himself with cleaning up the main chamber of the Tomb of 5 Corners, where he discovered a journal of letters written by one of the brigands. Aside from the promises to his family of sending home mounds of gold and loot, he also wrote of the return of the ghost of Barrow Black and the Bandit Lord’s new Lady, the Mistress of Pacts Sealed in Blood. The letters mentioned that the two of them had traveled several times through the Eclipse gate, but had never been able to work any of the other Gates of Auspicious Passage. Rinan and Kade hypothesized that this Mistress could be their lost Eclipse Caste member, corrupted by the powers of the Deathlords and made into an Abyssal Exalted.
Their preparations made, the Circle went through the Zenith Gate, which took them to the side of the Imperial Mountain, in the ruined city of Meru, at the center of Creation. Seeing such horrible destruction for the first time came as a shock to these four, as they were not around during the Usurpation. Up a set of stairs and around the back of the gate, they found what was left of a statue of the Unconquered Sun: two golden feet straddling a shrine and standing six feet tall at the ankles. Morning Breeze recognized that even though this shrine had been ruined, there was still some power left in this place. He led a prayer for guidance and each Solar felt renewed and refreshed…it also opened a passage, revealing a set of stairs leading down. The stairs were guarded by arcing blasts of pure essence. Morning Breeze steeled himself and took a step downward, allowing himself to be struck by the bolt. Using his Durability of Oak Meditation, he was able to ignore the damage, and Naria being extremely observant noted, “Looks like the rest of them got weaker when that one hit. Maybe four more of those and it’ll be out of juice.” She was right. After four more steps and four more hits of essence, the energy of the trap was fully dispelled. Within the tomb below were the ashes of Morning Breeze’s former incarnation along with a simple, white robe, an alms bowl, and his Serpent-Sting Staff, an orichalcum chain-staff which called to him and brought back First Age memories of wielding it in fierce battle against the minions of Hell, itself.
Through the Night Gate, the Circle found themselves atop 20-foot-high (6-foot-wide) pillars of gray stone rising from the Endless Ocean below. At the base of these pillars was a colony inhabited by gilled frog-men who immediately attacked the intruders, bounding up the pillars and bringing their short spears to bear on the Solars. Morning Breeze flung his newly-acquired Serpent-Sting staff around, leaping from pillar to pillar and felling many foes. Kade similarly hopped about and knocked several frog-men back into the sea. Naria protected Rinan long enough for him to bring to bear Death of Obsidian Butterflies, which severely wounded many of the remaining beasts, who promptly fled back to their colony to regroup. The Circle continued on slowly (because of Kade) toward the 20-yard-wide pillar they had spotted about 100 yards in the distance. Atop this pillar was a smaller, raised section bearing a stone coffin. From a pillar next to the edge of the larger platform, Naria noticed that it was trapped to anyone setting foot upon it. Instead, she leaped easily to the center raised section and opened the coffin. Inside lay her former incarnation, grasping a golden bow to his chest and the gate key around his neck. She gently pried the bow from his hands, took the gate key, and bounded back to the rest of the group. They made their way back to the Gate without further hindrance from the frog-men, although the Circle was watched very closely.
With all four other gate keys now in-hand, they were able to make it through the fifth gate, the Eclipse Gate. They were greeted with an horrifying landscape of frozen blood and blinding snow, littered with the bones of thousands of men and beasts who died on this field of battle a millennium ago. From these bones rose the skeletons of three saber-toothed giant cats and a Tyrant Lizard. These skeletal guardians were easily defeated by the Circle who has fought so many times before. Their strengths reflecting off of each other and bringing their full force to bear. Once inside the massive Tomb of the Eclipse, they began to hear wailing and taunting from a somewhat familiar (but distorted) voice accusing them of abandoning her and tempting them with power if they joined her and her master, the Mask of Winters, in ruling the world. This word-sparring ended in a call to battle from both Naria and Kade, which she answered gladly.
and so ended the session.
to be continued…