Sarenith 2nd, 4711
Right under their nose the whole time!
Following the tremendous battle in the inner heart of Cathedral of Blades, Haza, Torquemada, and Ramirez limped their way out of the smoky, blood-stained room, desperately weak and in dire need of rest.
As they backtracked through the underground catacombs, their worst fear was running into another significant force of Whispering Way minions, but their roundabout path remained clear and safe.
As they climbed up from the tomb from which they entered the underground, Torquemada suggested that they hole up in the vestry room above, instead of leaving the abbey grounds altogether.
They used some of the vestry’s furniture to barricade the door as well as cover the iron grate that led to the catacombs below, and settled in for an extended rest.
To their surprise, they were unmolested over the next several hours. Whether it was because their intrusion had gone unnoticed, or because none of the Whispering Way thought to look for the intruders in their own vestry, the time passed uneventfully.
Sarenith 2nd, 4711
Early the next morning, the party prepared to venture back into the catacombs. Retracing their steps, the adventurers were once again taken aback by the lack of resistance to their exploration.
Had they destroyed the core members of the Whispering Way? Was the cult of necromancers vanquished?
As they moved back into the Urgathoan fly room, the answer became clear.
It was a trap!
Standing at the head of the altar, the lich alchemist seemed shocked at the sudden appearance of the adventurers who had tasked the Whispering Way for so long, but he was quick to recover and direct his followers to attack.
Embalming golems threw acid bombs while undead cenobites called down unholy flame strikes and slung death beams at the group as they hurriedly moved to defend themselves. The lich took to the air and shot green beams of acid breath from his mouth, catching Haza and Torquemada with it. The golems continued to press their attack, but were met by an enlarged Ramirez.
The battle was touch-and-go for the adventurers for a while, as with a double acid bomb attack, Haza was killed. Ramirez and Torque rallied behind their fallen comrade, and soon the moldering bones of the lich were cast down and he was destroyed, at least temporarily.
As they searched through the undead’s belongings, a strange ring caught Torque’s eye. Finely crafted and clearly highly magical, the silver ring featured a single flawless ruby set in the center.
Could it be?
Torquemada had heard of such rare magics, but never hoped to see it in his lifetime. If this indeed was a magical ring of wishes, Haza’s sacrifice would not have been in vain.
As Torquemada intoned the words of his wish, a powerful hum filled the air. Suddenly, standing beside Torquemada, whole and hale and ready for battle, was Haza of Sarenrae!
And somewhere in the dark, the lich Nalthezzar screamed out in impotent rage…
At full strength again, the party ventured into the rear of the chamber and through a set of heavy iron doors. The winding staircase behind led further downward, ending at another iron portal. The room beyond featured rotting gray ichor dripping from murder holes in the ceiling overhead and filling a massive pit with a vile, roiling soup of millions of maggots. A third set of iron doors beckoned beyond the pit, and a narrow stone walkway allowed egress around the pool of vile vermin.
The squirming pool was certainly an unnerving sight, but not as unnerving as the creature that rose silently from it’s depths and attacked the party!
It’s body is a writhing mass of squirming, slippery worms, the creature gestured at the party and in a clash of brilliant colors a prismatic spray cascaded over the trio. Torquemada was driven insane while burning acid and electricity tore at Ramirez and Haza resisted being turned into stone. As they turned to face this threat, the Worm That Walks lashed out with another prismatic spray.
Realizing they were outclassed, Haza told the others to retreat through the next set of doors, and as Haza followed them into the next room, he sealed off the tunnel with a series of_ stone shaped_ walls.
Satisfied that would give them at least some breathing room, Haza turned to see what waiting in this new area.
Black flames licked the walls of this huge ceremonial chamber. Three giant statues of Urgathoa loomed threateningly over stone pews and a processional leading to a black altar atop a raised natural outcropping. A dark pit boiling over with foul necrotic energy gaped at the far end of the room, and a writhing humanoid form hangs stretched over the well, stout chains tethered to each of its limbs.
A shrunken figure stood at an altar, it’s hands raised and singing the praises of the dark power of Urgathoa.
As he noticed the party, the chanting figures that filled the pews turned to face the adventurers. The gray, pallid countenance of Count Galdana stared back at the group from every face!
The battle was on.
Ramirez rushed the undead priest, but the Gray Friar was protected by an antilife shell, and Ramirez could not get close enough to engage in melee with the creature. Haza’s channel energies tore into the ranks of the undead Counts, and it was Torquemada who noticed that one of the undead chanters was seemingly unaffected by those positive energy bursts. He quickly surmised that this forlorn figure was likely the real Count Galdana, he maneuvered him out of the battle.
The party turned their attention to the Gray Friar, who moved forward to strike down Ramirez. But Torquemada countered by dispelling his antilife shell, allowing the fighter to get close enough to engage. Three gigantic blows from Giant Ramirez (who had enlarged himself again), cut into the priest, the final blow cleanly severing his skull from his body. The undead monster collapsed in a heap as the fires of unlife dimmed in it’s detached skull.
The Count had been saved!
But, unfortunately, the war did was not over.
As Haza and Torquemada tending to the magical wounds of the Count, he came to his senses and began to tell the party what he knew about the plans of the Whispering Way.
Count Galanda knew the noble, Adivion Adrissant well. Born to a life of privilege in Ustalav’s former capital city of Ardis, Adivion Adrissant seemed destined for greatness. His family spared no expense on his education, enrolling him in Caliphas’s highly prestigious academy at the Quarterfaux Archives. Handsome, cunning, and cultured, Adivion hungered for knowledge, but soon found himself bored in his studies, which left him dispirited and melancholy. The young scholar should have wanted for nothing, but by the age of 20 had dismissed structured academia as unchallenging, romance as little more than a distraction, and religion as a fool’s errand. Inspired by the nihilistic poetry of Krait, Perry, and Vhaags, the young man left Ustalav to explore the cultures of Golarion in hopes of staving off his malaise, only to return to his family’s holdings years later as disappointed as when he first left.
The Count had crossed paths with the man a number of times in Caliphas, but was shocked to find himself face-to-face with the man who was his kidnapper. The arrogant man took great pleasure in explaining his actions to the Count, and recounted what had transpired to bring the two men to this point in time.
Growing ever more morbid in his fascinations, Adivion began explorations into the hereafter; spending years acquiring dusty relics from forgotten museum collections, communing with spirits in secret seances, and delved into the study of necromancy, focusing his admiration on Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant. In researching the life and undeath of Golarion’s most wretched conqueror, Adivion felt kinship for a genius burdened by the weight of a worthless world, and whose supreme intellect and ambition allowed him to defy even death in the pursuit of reshaping Golarion into an existence worth experiencing. Soon, Adivion’s tireless research consumed him, and his acquisition of relics of the lich’s rule drained his family’s coffers. Well aware of previous futile attempts to physically liberate Tar-Baphon from his prison, Adivion sought some alternate path that might allow the Whispering Tyrant to return to the waking world.
Through his obsessive research, Adivion soon found that Tar-Baphon had sired at least one child while alive, and most importantly, that the Tyrant’s increasingly thin bloodline reached all the way through the millennia to modern Ustalav—and in fact, Count Lucinean Galdana of Amaans was a direct, living heir of the Whispering Tyrant.
It was on the return trip to Ardis that the seeds of inspiration—or madness—took root in Adivion’s mind. Witnessing a rite of metaphorical rebirth—the Procession of Unforgotten Souls—outside Kavapesta’s Cryptgate Cathedral, he struck upon the idea for a grand experiment. History had already shown that, when exposed to certain ideas, events, settings, and magics, Tar-Baphon had possessed the potential toreshape the world. What then would occur if a modern inheritor of the lich-king’s blood was subjected to the exact same ideas, events, and magics? Would it not follow that the heir would produce the same result as the ancestor? What if Adivion himself could recreate the Whispering Tyrant, and in so doing gaze into the mind of a force that rivaled even the gods? With such a dark muse—one indebted to him for its very existence—could he not emulate that same path to world-shaping might? Over the next several years Adivion launched fully into his experiment, courting the Whispering Way and seducing its leaders with the promise of the resurrection of their most famed alumnus. At the same time, Adivion delved into the blasphemous secrets of lichdom, taking the diff icult and unheard of path of researching not his own individual path to undeath, but another’s. After years of investigation, his delving, both scholarly and arcane, bore strange fruit: whispers from beyond death, a verse spoken from the spaces between death and the afterworld that formed the formula to an undying apotheosis, which Adivion dubbed the Carrion Crown.
With this knowledge, the proper components, and grim allies in the Whispering Way to assist him, Adivion Adrissant set his plan in motion—a plot to transform one of the lords of Ustalav, an heir to a profane legacy, into a resurrection of the Whispering Tyrant himself — and through the arch-lich reborn, to recreate Golarion into a world worth having a place in.