Zeitgeist

The Secret of Pala

Nicodemus' greatest secret lay in the Malice Lands.

Following their unsuccessful attempt at blocking the progress of Borne, the party debated their next move. Things looked bleak, given that Nicodemus and his Ghost Council hardly seemed fazed by the party’s assault. It seemed like the colossus’ next stop was Methia, but there was more than enough time to visit Cherage and follow up on one last lead.

The original workshop of Amielle Latimer was now a themed restaurant, but it was indeed the site of another memory-event, this time involving Kasvarina helping to recruit the services of the tiefling gunsmith for a move that would lay the groundwork for turning Flint into the ideal industrial site for the construction of the colossus’ body.

Amielle had foreseen that the party would visit this place, and so she apparently had a packaged delivered there ahead of time, perhaps immediately after their encounter at sea. Awaiting their perusal was an animated book that spoke out of an origami pop-up version of its author’s face. It had none of her creativity or personality, but contained the sum total of her knowledge on the Obscurati, recorded over long years in meaningless piecemeal fragments, and now combined thanks to Kasvarina freeing her from the geas.

From it, they learned the following:

  • Amielle has no knowledge of Nicodemus’ true nature or body, but knows that he can possess humanoid bodies with far greater duration and ease than any of the ghosts that follow him.
  • She has prepared possible countermeasures to defeat the conspiracy’s mastermind, but they all depend on someone figuring out Nicodemus’ true nature.
  • Nicodemus has been alive for hundreds of years, as evidenced by Amielle’s insider knowledge of the events which led to Skyfall in 195 AOV. As best she can figure, the world’s connection to Avilona was damaged after a failed Obscurati attempt to swap out the plane of air—possibly because they tried to access it through the ziggurat of Avilona, rather than the true ritual site built by the Ancients.
  • There is no evidence of the plane-altering ritual having been conducted more than once. It was likely used by the Ancients to stop the incursion of some outside threat.
  • After hearing of Kida’s vision from the ziggurat of Apet, the book theorized that some Gidim creatures had hidden on Apet before the Ancient’s ritual was completed, and so were able to send an invading force even after the world had been closed off.

At the end of the discussion, the book advised avoiding further confrontation with Borne; if the conspiracy would be dismantled, the best bet was to find a weakness of Nicodemus and exploit it. Given the personal nature of Nic and Kasvarina’s relationship, there had to be something in her memories that would give them a clue.

The group was adamant that returning to the Crypta Hereticarum was not worth the risk—but Talon wisely keyed in to the details of a certain memory where Kasvarina had erroneously called Nicodemus by the name of “William.” With the book’s help, they were able to determine that this was their best shot at learning something more about the conspiracy’s leader, and so they set out for the Malice Lands, following the vague location of Nicodemus’ finger upon the map in Kasvarina’s memory.

Their destination, the Piscine Mountains, proved barren of civilization and easy landmarks, until they chanced upon the Pavel ranch, run by a family of ex-Danoran tieflings. The party’s arrival seemed oddly timed, coinciding with the emergence of a normally reclusive malice beast known by the locals as the Wriggling Dread.

As it crawled toward the ranch, Qiyet heard a voice in her mind, offering to lead her to the ruins of Pala, but only if she hurried. After all, the threat being posed to the world at large far outweighed the lives of a few ranchers… but Qiyet refused, refusing to sacrifice lives even for the noblest of causes. She and her allies readied the ranch for a coming attack, and when the Dread arrived, the Humble Hook was blazing around her neck, having fully accepted Qiyet as its rightful bearer.

Its form was that of a gargantuan spider, but with sallow-skinned tentacles instead of its eight legs. Its head and neck was that of a serpent, but eyeless. The ranchers wouldn’t have stood a chance against its ferocious strength and psionic ability, but the heroes of Risur brought it down with minimal injuries—though it sustained an unholy amount of punishment before it finally died. It also attempted to eat Kida, but the clever mystic had a foulbranch seed on her person for just such an occasion, leaving the beast dazed and open to further attacks as it painfully disgorged its would-be prey.

The ranchers rejoiced, and a ranchhand named Angus Perasmus led the party through the secret passes to the ruins of Pala, where they watched Nicodemus’ identity unveiled in Heretic’s Pyre. After seeing this pivotal memory, Kasvarina suddenly knew of Nicodemus’ true form: he was a ghost, the same as the rest of his Council.

With this knowledge, Amielle’s book could now formulate a plan of attack.

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