The College of the Stars is seeking skilled persons willing to enter the deepest forbidden vaults of the college to retrieve an artefact of potential use in combating the Serradic Threat. Pay will be 30R, plus an additional 15R upon return of the artefact. Applicants to report to the Head Librarian.
Brother Miller and Ragnar Thane arrive at the Librarian’s Office in the College of the Stars. After waiting for an hour during which no one else turns up, they head down into the vaults, armed with two vials of a syrupy potion to get them through the ward to the third level.
They pass through the first two levels, encountering a pair of thieves guided by an impoverished (at least, by noble standards which is to say not at all) student. Having dealt permanently with the thieves, they keep the student as their guide. Exploring the first two levels they find that most of the items down there are junk (a poison ring, a music box, a pair of gloves that don’t come off being just some of the useless things they find). The only useful item is a healing chalice.
Faced with the silvery mirror-like ward to the third level, they head back up to wait for twenty-three hours so as to make best use of the potions (which only last until the following sunrise). Unfortunately, at some point during the night, their captive student manages to escape and flees the city.
The following morning, they pass through the ward to the third level where they meet an elderly woman who claims to be a priest of the gods of Acryn. She shows them a shrine to the founders and within a secret compartment, they discover an engraved tablet baring the fates of the founders.
Ragnar takes a rubbing of the tablet. Meanwhile, the priest tells them that there is a fourth, deeper level sealed by Queen Melinda, First Queen of Acryn. They set about finding the key and a means to reach the fourth level. On the way they learn some important lessons about always opening chests from behind and resisting the temptation of greed. They also find out what happens if you leave the Killing Sphere of Oooberous in a box for four centuries (it loses its desire to kill, the poor thing) and discover that rubbing yourself with blue slime is an incredibly potent method of healing.
Finally, they reach the fourth level and find themselves in an almost exact replica of the College of the Stars, except that it seems to be newly built as it would have stood in the first few decades after the founding of Acryn. They are met by the immaterial figure of Sir Borin, Second Battle-Magister of Acryn, who seems somewhat distressed that they are there and causing time to move. Eventually, Thane and Miller calm him enough to get him to explain that they are inside Borin’s soul which was sealed away for an eternity within a single instant to prevent the spread of the darkness within.
Borin remembers that Krista Salic, Founder of the College of the Stars wrote a letter to be given to these two heroes. Though she lived centuries ago, Krista had the gift of foresight and so she had written a letter, asking that they leave the dangerous artefacts behind and instead return with the knowledge that only a god may kill a god but the gods of Acryn are powerless to act. She tells them to “Become well meaning. Become guardians. Become stanchions. Become a foundation for those who follow you. Become the sort of beings who can defend your city. And know when to move on.”
Thane and Miller quickly decide to ignore the letter and loot the vault for all it’s worth. Reluctantly, Borin takes them to the vaults within the vault. On the first level of this replica vault, they find the Cauldron of Purification, an incredibly powerful artefact of wounding which works by placing an individual or individuals inside and executing them, causing a powerful curse to fall upon the people most similar to them.
On the second level, they find a battlefield of two fake armies fighting; the soldiers are barely real, only appearing to be anything more than shadows when looking directly at them. At the centre of the battlefield, they see the Sword of Unity, a powerful artefact which binds a battle but which, through prolonged use, had opened a channel to the darkness in Borin’s soul, causing it to devour him from the inside.
Rather than fighting, they opt to use the cauldron to kill the entirety of one army (the effect amplified by the victims not being real) and simply walk to the sword where they face the Bane of Batra, the sword’s original wielder.
They defeat him and take the sword but before they can leave, they must drive back the darkness locked in the third level. They pass through the mirror ward, realising that it is the same ward as the one in the real world, sealing both third levels. They fight a manifestation of the darkness and drive it back but that is not enough for Ragnar. He pushes on, deeper into the darkness, assailed by endless shadow monstrosities as he heads ever deeper.
Miller falls and shouts for Thane to go on. To save him, Borin pushes some of his soul energy into him to stop him bleeding out before appearing beside Thane who is now enveloped in the darkness. Borin convinces him that the only way to defeat the darkness is to destroy his soul and so, Thane takes the Sword of Unity and runs him through with it.
Borin’s form is torn apart by green flame and the conduit to the darkness is closed, leaving the pair of adventurers alone in the real world. As Borin’s soul was devoured, Miller felt the part of Borin that was within him torn away, leaving a hole where it had been briefly within him.
Having tended to their wounds, they head upwards, toward the surface and daylight.
The College receives the Cauldron of Purification and the Chalice, both of which (after some study) are passed onto the Council. They are also told of the letter which apparently said only a god can kill a god. Unfortunately, it seems the original letter was “lost” by Ragnar Thane.
The rubbing of the tablet is shown to the Church of the Founders and seems to be of interest to Coulson. The Warrior and Leader Churches are also shown the tablet and whereas the former seems to share Miller’s view that their god is totally awesome, the latter are more cautious and suggest that anyone outside of the inner sanctum should not be made aware of it.
The miraculous healing slime which Miller and Thane managed to get out the vaults by gorging it on their own blood (thereby transferring some of the potion permitting travel through the ward to it) unfortunately underwent some form of metamorphosis. Whether it was catalysed by the human blood or is simply a natural part of its existence is unclear but now the slime periodically shifts in hue; while it is blue, it is docile and has healing properties but when it is green it spits poison while in its yellow form, it has a mesmerising royal beauty. The slime has been donated to the Leader Church who don’t quite know what to do with it. At least one priest has had their eyebrows singed when they got too close while it was red.
Allyssa the Tender was returned to the village of her birth, where a shrine is to be erected upon her burial place.
Darak the Leader was publicly interred in the grounds of the palace, before being secretly moved to a small estate belonging to his daughter Melinda.
Tarkus the Builder, at the behest of his wife Theresa te Rek, was interred at the site of his greatest work: the prison of The Destroyer, to watch over it evermore.
Lynndis the Warrior, as per her request, was burnt and her ashes scattered across Acryn so that she “can choke any bastards who think [she] will take agression against Acryn lying down”. The remaining fragments of bone were placed into the foundation stone of the new city wall being built.
To truly ensure that in death Abraxis enjoys the honour she gained in life, Melinda has ordered the construction of a series of underground channels, built to take the waste of the city and funnel it to her resting place.
Ragnar Thane was paid 60R by the college and was allowed to keep the gloves which he could not remove from his hands. They appear to have some fire-resistant properties but come with the drawback of being permanently stuck on. The College has said that they would be able to remove them but that it would result in the destruction of the gloves.
He was also able to sneak out the Sword of Unity once it had been depleted of mana. It is currently locked away in Ragnar Thane’s School for Gifted Children but should it be charged with mana and wielded by a mage of the appropriate rite, could be used to Bind the Battle on a large scale, proportional to the amount of mana spent. Should anyone use it, there is a significant risk of it causing a conduit to a dragon to be formed within their soul (Arcane Curse).
Brother Miller was similarly paid 60R and allowed to keep the stuffed tiger head which roars when its nose is pressed.
The hole left by the destruction of the part of Borin’s soul plugging his wounds has left his own soul slightly more freedom to move than it previously had. With practice, he may be able to make use of this to his advantage. Brother Miller gains the Burning Soul epic tree.