OKay: the characters are
Ro'oka (Squirrelfolk Rogue)
Archibald (Rabbitfolk Burning Champion)
Niv (Ravenfolk Cleric)
NPCS: Zark (Half-dragonoid Elephantfolk fighter), and Esau (donkeyfolk wizard- and the Pineapple Punch's teleportation specialist and pilot.
The week before last was a big scene with the Farwalkers at Farwalker Citadel, where the players were warned about Kurana's plans for godhood (harnessing the energy of a disintegrating timeline to become the new god of death), got a lesson in planar time travel, and developed a plan of their own for returning from the doomed stray timeline back into their original timeline- a 60 year jump into the past. They would have to destroy or re-attune the Perilous Sieve so that Kurana would be unable to harness the energy. Or destroy Kurana. And Kurana is hyped as "nearly invincible now- impossible to hurt-and already halfway to Godhood".
Near the end: Kitai, the Ratfolk Farwalker, showed an inordinate amount of interest in the constructs (Matthael and Marcella). M&M are ultra-realistic constructs- almost human looking, thanks to the use of starfire to give them realistic bodies some months ago. Originally, Matthael was merely the animated skull of the lawyer that once worked for Kurana. Marcella was an animated candleholder.
This sesion ended when the players returned to Charm, disguised their airship (the Pineapple Punch II) into a Scarab deathship and flew it directly into the Death Giants Scarab Flagship. The infiltration went ok, but soon the party found themselves fighting a squad of Death Giants aboard the flagship in the docking bay.
The game begins with a running battle through the flagship as squads of death giants try to slow the characters progress to the bridge. We had security doors slamming shut all over the place, squads of death giants are running in, a disintegration cannon is set up in the final hallway...crazy battles.
Just as they were about to reach the bridge, the final blast door lifted slowly to reveal.. Kurana! He was simply hovering there. Everything stopped. Kurana commended the group for their efforts. They chanced a spell at him, but it passed through- it was a projected illusion. Kurana smiled and continued. They were at a standoff. The flagship, meanwhile was flying towards Exile island, back to Kurana's base. Kurana offered to have the players join him, and there was an interesting scene as they exchanged pulp pleasantries (i.e. "I'm not so differnt from you. I'm just an adventurer myself, you know..", "...you'll never get away with this!".)
As a tension breaker, I had Matthael (Kurana's former employee) enter the scene. Other words were exchanged, I decide it was time to seal the deal on Matthael officially changing affiliations away from Kurana (Matthael actually betrayed the group in favor of Kurana last year so there was always the question of whether he would do it again. I wanted to make it clear that he'd changed loyalties for good following the Renewal subplot).
Ok, so THEN: certain facts fall into place. As the flagship looms closer to the Skulltower on Exile Island, Kurana sees Matthael and recognizes some intel from his one remaining contact in the Farwalkers. The final exchange goes like this:
"..well, you fools. It seems I finally have you right where I want you. Azur'raaa--" (Kurana begins casting a spell- which the spellcasters recognize as a wish)
Archibald yells "Esau, get us out of here now!"
We did an initiative race to see whose spell would go off first. Esau won, but Kurana was next, and Matthael was further down the hallway. If they waited until Matthael could touch hands in the teleportation circle, Kuranas spell would go off first. They gritted their teeth and left him behind. They teleported directly to the Hall of Mirrors, deep beneath Skulltower (Kurana's own base). This is the final chamber before where they had assessed the Perilous Sieve would be located. Their plan was to destroy the thing quickly.
(What follows here is they had to get through the hall of mirrors and see the alternate versions of themselves- the versions that never became adventurers, or took up different alignments or whatever- basically a fun dungeon room for prophecies and the like). Then they had to disarm a few final hallway traps. This final room as the one where Kurana (when he was a lich) had kept his Phylactery, so it was bedecked with traps like the Tomb of Horrors.
When they finally reached the door and Ro'oka disarmed the final trap they saw this:
Kurana is already there, hovering before a curtain of pure energy that boils down into the yawning bottomless shaft that used to be where he kept his phylactery. There's a raised platform dais. Also there, wrapped in coils of stasis energy - are Marcella and Matthael. This is a gigantic cavernous dome-shaped room, deep beneath Skulltower, and the players have been here before.
"Glad you could join us". says Kurana. haha. I am such the pulp villian.
"Let them go. they don't have anything you need!" says Niv. The party still has the Emphyrean cup (powerful artifact) and the starfire in their possession. Starfire is needed to either destroy or kick-start the Perilous Sieve, and the players have possession of it.
"Don't they?" asks Kurana. He raises his hand and suddenly both Marcella and Matthael both convulse as their starfire 'blood' that was originally used to animate them-- suddenly streams out of their bodies from a million tiny wounds. The silvery streams of starfire wrap around the Perilous Sieve in a silvery black helix. He raises his other hand, and the starfire is attuned (I used a turn check as in 'channeling energy'). "I want to commend you for your craftsmanship and your efforts. Truly heroic! But alas, futile."
I set a 6-sider on the table. "In six rounds, the timeline ends, and Kurana becomes a god."
Niv tried to counter-channel the energy and made a successful turn check, but I decide the only thing that happened was the counter could be delayed for a round, not reversed or stopped. This was a one-way ride.
Someone says "what do we do? We can't fight him.."
(the propaganda from the Farwalkers may have been a little too strong, I thought.)
There's a moment of silence.
Then Archibald suddenly says "The hell we can't."
He sets down the Emphyrean cup and locks his gauntlets. Zark charges in. Rooka charges in. Archibald charges in. Niv glides towards the Sieve. Esau.. ducks behind a pillar.
Kurana is wearing both a ring of teleportation and a ring of flying so the battle is mostly aerial. And he *can* be hurt but only barely- the steeling he gave himself to survive the harrowing gives him like DR: 20/- and immunity to energy-based damage from fireballs and the like. So they are trying to tackle him and silence him. Meanwhile Niv is trying to figure out how to either destroy or re-attune the sieve. Once it becomes clear it can't be shut off or shut down, he re-attunes the Emphyrean cup and dumps the starfire (attuned for Creation- as Kuranas' was for Destruction) into the Perilous Sieve as well.
So now- destruction-attuned starfire and creation-attuned starfire are both flowing through the Perilous Sieve in an intertwining double-helix. I set up another 6-sider as a countdown. Whichever side counts down first, wins. Either way- the timeline ends.
Niv starts using his powers to channel energy (more powerful than Kuranas, because he's a higher level cleric) to try and slow the counter on the destruction-attuned starfire. He's mostly successful.
Kurana is going to try the same thing but he's basically getting chased from one end of the room to the other by Zark and Rooka and Archibald. He teleports away, and he can mostly shrug off any hit the heroes hit him with. He releases his final trick- the Shadow of the Void, an empowered epic guardian of the Perilous (see the epic book, this was bad ass).
The Shadow of the Void baps Zark with Blightfire. It drains 6 permanent con, and it will continue burning and draining con until a save is made (like a 37 Fort save). Everyone stops for a second. This is going to be bad. Kurana tries to re-channel Nivs energy to slow it down and give his counter the edge again. Zark manages to hold off the Shadow of the Void. Archibald and Ro'oka are chasing Kurana around, grabbing him and losing him as he teleports away. Kurana tries a Wail of the Banshee- a room-clearing death attack-- but everyone saves. At one point, Archibald gets bapped with blightfire as well, and saves after the first round of damage (another 6 con drained).
In the end, when Niv's starfire counter reaches 1, Kurana's counter is still at 3.. Kurana curses, and then teleports out of the room (up to the top of the tower, I decided). He then grabs a few choice items and planeshifts back out of the timestream. He'll be back. Maybe.
Then the world ends. (I love that sentence). By this time, Zark had jumped onto the dais to release Marcella and Matthael - who have now been reduced to spindly tin mannequins as most of their starfire "blood" is gone. The Planar Sieve breaks down and the Perilous is released in a wave of destruction. Saves are made- only Zark misses his, as everyone scrambles to the safety of the rooms archway. He is caught in the vortex just as he releases Marcella. The vortex also re-absorbs the Shadow of the Void.
The vortex was meant to be what Kurana would have been in, to become a god. The Harrowing begins. Basically the room collapses around the vortex, Zark automatically takes epic damage every round for 15 rounds. The group has to avoid being crushed by debris as the world falls apart. Archibald throws his rope and tries to pull Zark out.
DC 30 strength check. No dice. They struggled for two rounds. At the end, Zark lets go of the rope. "Get out of here. It's too late..."
Everyone makes saves just barely. Falling chunks of debris everywhere- Niv throws a polymorphed cage of steel around them and defelects a chunk of the ceiling at the last second. They cast the last of their miracles and heals at Zark to keep him alive for the few remaining rounds. He'll have to roll the rest of the damage alone. The saves to avoid being crushed by falling debris are getting progressively higher. I assure the players that I really will kill them.
They teleport out- first to the Pineapple Punch, and then planeshift out of the timestream and back to Farwalker citadel.
End of adventure.
Coda: Zark eventually survived the Harrowing and ascended to godhood in Kurana's place- and he becomes part of the official Charm pantheon. We did a short scene of that, where he meets Baelith, the Queen of Destruction.
"You aren't ...who I expected.."
I figured it was ok, because he was an npc.
And there's one more story arc left before everyone hits 20th level....