As they explored the Vault of Graves, the shadow demons the party had driven off earlier returned for a rematch, bringing along two coloxus fly demons as backup. The demons started by raining down blows on Wase because Tane was still preventing demonic possessions. His armor and shield fended off their assault. The few attacks that got through were negated by Tane’s Stoneskin spell. One particularly careless coloxus took some nasty dinosaur bites for its trouble. Gith opened up with his bow and blew away a shadow while wounding a coloxus. The fly demons were surprisingly tough, but after a tremendous beating they both expired. The shadows didn’t last long without them.
The party then explored more side rooms. They found a shrine to Nocticula and more books. Gith scanned the books for any potential information that he might need if the party eventually had to fight her. The books told of her history of subterfuge and assassination, but no critical weaknesses.
After that was a pair of ominous double doors. The party marched through and found themselves in a large chamber with a balcony above them. Nocticula herself emerged and stood before them. The entire party struggled to keep their minds on their task in the face of her wicked beauty. The party told her, as they had intended, that they were there to convince her to refuse an alliance with Deskari and Baphomet, the leaders of the Worldwound demons. They also told her about the Worldwound’s forces stealing Nahyndrian crystals from her realm. Nocticula seemed a bit apathetic about the situation. Nocticula said she already knew about the crystal thefts. In exchange for the party destroying the mine for her, she would agree to abstain from an alliance with the Worldwound. She also offered gifts, if the party would accept them. They could choose from a single truthful answer to a question, a supercharged version of Arueshalae’s anarchic gift, or a magic item worth up to 15,000 gold.
Gith stepped forward. He wanted to know who killed his parents and how he could defeat them. With a smirk, Nocticula informed him that it was Xanthir Vang and Gith had already slain him. Gith had some trouble recalling who Xanthir was. Bendak reminded him that Xanthir was the Worm that Walks from some time ago. Nocticula apologized for the anticlimax, but she had promised the truth. In hindsight, Xanthir would probably have given this information himself had Poonisher not shot at him immediately.
Nocticula opened a dark portal in a swirling pool of unholy water that occupied the top level of the chamber. This, she said, would lead the party to the island where the Nahyndrian crystal mine was operating. With some reluctance, the party gathered around and ventured forth.
Their first impression of the new location was one of stinging pain and confusion. They had appeared underneath a poisonous waterfall. The portal closed to the sound of Nocticula’s laughter at her prank. The party quickly extricated themselves from the waterfall and looked around. They were on a fetid jungle island. Flocks of vrocks swirled under the massive and perpertual moon of the Midnight Isles as a dark and filthy river crisscrossed through twisted trees and the sound of beasts echoed through it all. A large obelisk with runic inscriptions was nearby. The party approached the obelisk. When they neared it, tentacles emerged to attack them. The dinosaurs were snared. Quick retaliation by the party started to sever tentacles. Whatever monster the appendages were attached to decided the fight was no longer worth the trouble and withdrew the tentacles through small portals in the stone.
Gith touched the stone for a psychic reading. After a moment, he vomited from the revelation. It was a quippoth runestone, a fragment of the ancient Abyss as it was before demons and mortal sin. It was heavily connected to the life of a fallen demon lord slain by Nocticula. Now it served as the demon lord’s tombstone. Gith wanted to take it with the party, but it was too heavy. Instead, Gith inscribed images of his face all around it so he could look at it at will.
Bendak turned into a plesiosaurus and tried swimming in the river, but it was digusting and likely poisonous. He got out before anything bad happened and switched to quetzalcoatlus form. The rest of the party used fly spells and traversed above the water but below the treeline so that the vrock flocks wouldn’t attack.
As the party flew along the river, a headless corpse with tattered wings and a sword swooped down and attacked Wase. The headless creature battered through arrow shots, a summoned T.rex bite and an attempt to knock him out of the air. It grabbed Wase and began dragging the paladin up to be torn apart by vrocks. Just before the creature could get above the trees, Wase slew the creature with a sword through the heart. Wase flew back to the party as the defeated undead fell into the lake. Bendak looked closely as it sank and guessed it was a fallen angel. Tane dredged the remains back up with summoned creatures and Gith confirmed the thing’s celestial origins. Wase said a mournful prayer over his third angelic kill.
The party continued. They spotted a river barge stranded on a bank. At a distance, the crew could be seen milling about on deck. Wase flew up to speak to them and attempt to bargain for passage. When he drew nearer, Wase saw that the crew was actually a pack of undead bodaks,
The bodaks had a deadly gaze and a fallen paladin to lead them. What they did not have was long-distance weapons. Gith picked them all off with his bow as they shrieked helplessly. The party took over and looted the barge. They saw that the barge had once been pulled by a captive water orm,
At some point, a river creature had killed it, so now the remains just hung uselessly from the side of the barge. After some discussion, Gith reanimated the orm skeleton to tow the barge and similarly skeletonized the crew to pilot the ship. With that taken care of, the party rested below deck.
Later on, they were briefly disturbed when a massive and shadowy dragon flew over the river. It didn’t attack this time, thankfully.
Another disruption occurred when the barge had to pass through a gate and was challenged by the guards. Thankfully, Gith quickly thought to puppet the skeleton captain’s mouth and Bendak reminded him that the fallen paladin’s futile dying curses had been in Common. The party narrowly made it through the gate without incident.
At the end of the river was a waterfall. A telepathic voice reached out to Wase and requested aid with much flattery. The voice said she was in a cave at the top of the waterfall. It seemed like an obvious trap, but the party still wanted to know what was going on. Tane cast Protection from Evil on everyone and then they flew up to the cave. Inside was a demon resembling a succubus made of raw sewage.
She called herself the Fulsome Queen and said that she needed brave and glorious heroes (especially Wase, glorious knight, wielder of Radiance itself, incorruptible in soul) to kill the miners who had forced her out of the caves in which she used to dwell. (Perhaps their bones would be of some small use to you, Gith, commander of dead legions, you who even the gods cannot judge?) She went on to say that the party would need to kill Melazmera, that umbral dragon they had seen earlier. (But that would be no trouble to the great archmage Tane, to whom reality is but a plaything.) She could help by sharing her observation of the dragon’s movements and powers. Gith touched the Fulsome Queen’s amorphous body to scan her to see if she was dangerous, and saw her sitting by the river watching filth flow by for eons. (Perhaps Bendak could understand, he who is one with ancient might?) The party was already planning on clearing the mines, so they agreed.