Our story begins in Lopul. Lopul is a small, caravan town that mainly serves as a stopping point on The Silken Way into Katheer, the capital of Qadira. The outer fringes of the town are actually caravan tents and this section changes as often as new caravans come and go. The tents are placed around a round core of the town that’s formed of simple, square, brick and clay buildings with a commons and marketplace in the center of the town, allowing caravans and merchants to trade wares with each other on their way in and out of Qadira.
As her first mission in command of a unit as an investigator for the Church of Sarenrae, Rae was called to the small caravan town of Lopul in response of reports made by several local clerics. Apparently there was a man causing a great disturbance within the town, scaring townsfolk with stories of the Apocalypse and The Beast. Originally regarded as a nuisance, he was taken seriously when someone noticed he carried a curved, spiked blade that is normally only used by the Red Mantis Assassins and in his last appearance around town, he’d been followed by small, pale humanoids. Rae and her unit had arrived late in the evening and were currently at one of the largest Inns in the town to bed down and begin their investigation in the morning. Rae was sitting in the pub of the Inn taking in the entertaining performance of The Grand Saltembanco, a bard who was performing utilizing multiple instruments at once. She had sent her unit off to the stables to ensure that their horses were being well cared for.
Coincidentally, Balthazar, an inquisitor of Asmodeus, was also sitting in the very same bar watching the exact same performance. He had been dispatched from The Midnight Temple of Asmodeus located in Egorian, the capital of Cheliax, to hunt down one of the former guards of Queen Abrogail II known only as Gormuz. It had been relayed to him that Gormuz was one of the Queen’s primary bodyguards and had stolen a rare artifact known only as “The Key” from The Midnight Temple’s archives and fled to Lopul. He was noticeable because of the Sawtooth Sabre he carried which he had taken off the body of a Red Mantis Assassin who had attempted to assassinate the Queen years earlier (this event is what had elevated him above other such guards to the rank of Commander). As he was a Tiefling, and quite evidently so, he was currently using his hat of disguise so that he could take the form of his favorite undercover persona, a merchant named Mahdi. As Mahdi, he was carefully asking the bartender questions about the crazy man he had heard wandering around the town.
Saltembanco, himself, was having a great time using all his skills as a bard in order to entertain the crowd. He had arrived in Lopul on his way to a performance in Katheer, only to accidentally knock over this town’s bard and break his arm. The owner of this Inn had been set to have him perform and so had demanded that Saltembanco take the bard’s place at tonight’s performance to make up for it. He simply viewed this as a grand marketing opportunity and a chance to build his fanbase that much more. As he was performing he noticed that the usual cheers and applause had been replaced by a strange silence. He assumed this to be displeasure, so redoubled his performance in order to impress and amaze.
Balthazar and Rae, however, had noticed that everyone in the Inn had stopped moving and was sitting absolutely still staring straight ahead. Knowing that this was easily within a bard’s ability, Rae stepped forward to the stage partially unsheathing her Scimitar and making sure to emphasizing the badge she carried that marked her as a member of the law enforcement of Qadira. Balthazar decided to check outside to make sure there was nothing else going on.
Seeing the strange, blonde, woman stepping forward and preparing a weapon, Saltembanco stopped his performance and enganged her in conversation asking if there was a problem. After levelling her accusation that what was happening was his fault, Balthazar decided to inform her that it wasn’t just in the bar as people in the street and, as far as he could see through other windows, in other houses were acting the same. At this same moment Desdeluna, a cleric of Desna, descended the stairs from her room upstairs in order to obtain a pre-bedtime snack. As she began to inquire as to what was happening, every single person inside the bar began screaming all at once. Once the party exited the building, they discovered that it wasn’t just the people inside, but every citizen of the town that had displayed this behavior. The town had become overtaken by a deafening roar of terrified screaming.
Noticing movement on a nearby rooftop, Rae deftly climbed up to see what was going on. Balthazar, noticing this, imbued an arrow with the ability of Light and fired it up towards the roof in order to light her way. As Rae stood upon the rooftop, the brief flash of light from Balthazar’s arrow served to momentarily illuminate the roof and some of those surrounding it. On the rooftops there were dozens of small, humonoids. Pale of skin and with unsettling large eyes, these could only be Morlocks. However, these were different than others she had seen. They were covered in scars and the unmistakable evidence that each and every one had clawed out their own eyes.
At seeing just a few of them from the ground level, Desdeluna fired a spell towards the rooftop, vaporizing half of the Morlocks on that roof so that only 5 remained on that roof. One of them took off, leaping and jumping from roof to roof towards the center of town whilst the other four began to engage the party. As the fighting continued, suddenly, Balthazar and Rae noticed that the screaming suddenly stopped, an event they would later realize happened at the same time that lone Morlock would’ve reached the center of town. Accompanying this silence, the 2 remaining Morlocks around them suddenly stopped fighting and were overcome with sudden appearance of terror and confusion. Rae let the one she was fighting go and it took off at full speed running towards the edge of town. Looking around, she noticed that the dozens of others were doing the exact same. Down on ground level, Balthazar was cuffing the remaining Morlock and utilizing his abilities in an attempt to question. From it’s simple and worried mind, he could only make out a sense of danger and urgency and the word “beast”. Rae relayed to the others that the other one had taken off towards the center, so they decided to head that way, bringing their prisoner with them.
As they approached closer and closer to the center of town the Morlock became more and more agitated until in a fit, he began trying to chew his own arms off to escape. Seeing this and taking pity on the poor creature, Balthazar released it and they continued on their way. Upon approaching the marketplace, they saw that there was a large stone obelisk in the center of the clearing and that the stone was cracking and falling away to reveal a large blue crystal. As soon as the remaining stone fell away, there was a loud crack of lighting and a tornado formed around it, slowly expanding in size. The party, with the exception of Saltembanco, scrambled to a rooftop to get a better view of what was going on. Saltembanco, dived into a fireworks shop to watch from inside. As the tornado expanded, they could see that it was actually digging into the ground, tearing up the earth from the marketplace and slowly revealing a large, ancient temple that was buried beneath of which the crystal was the highest spire. The storm abated at the edge of the marketplace and had left, in it’s wake, a large deep pit with the temple at it’s center. Looking around, the party noticed that the townspeople, during the storm, had moved towards the center and were gathered at the edge of the pit, standing and waiting.
Saltembanco disguised himself as a townsperson and stood among them attempting to see what was going on from a first person perspective. He was able to not that the people were completely entranced and that there was no way to wake them. He relayed this to the other party members on the rooftop and they climbed down to check on it themselves. Leaning over the pit, Saltembanco felt the unmistakable shock of static energy and felt a tinge in his head. He added that he believed the pit might be surrounded by strong magical forces. Balthazar, meanwhile was examining a villager and gently pushed on his back in an effort to wake him up. This resulted in the villager falling forward into the pit. As Balthazar reached forward to catch him, the villager burst into flames and was ashes a moment later. An unmistakable white whisp left the charred ashes and was absorbed by the blue crystal which began turning a shade of orange. Immediately, every other townsperson immolated in the exact same way, followed by a white whisp heading from each of them and being absorbed by the crystal, slowly changing it from blue to a bright, glowing orange.
Deciding that whatever was causing this must be in the temple, the party carefully descended the pit and made their way to the base of the temple. The temple was white granite, but was adorned with gold inlay artwork of a large angelic figure and a large demonic figure both striking their swords into the ground. A large entrance was on the side with bright lights pouring out of it. The party made their way inside and saw a large 60′ × 60′ cube adorned with the same artwork and chained at it’s sides and corners to the ground. From the top, Desdeluna and the others could make out the fevered laughing and chanting of a voice. Climbing the chain, they saw a man in Red Dragonskin armor, carrying a curved spiked sword on his belt, standing over the center of the stone cube holding a large spike. Balthazar recognized this as Gormuz and assumed the spike was “The Key”. Being a scholar of Ancient Golarian, Balthazar also recognized that Gormuz was speaking an incantation in Thassilonian (an ancient language) that had something to do with release. The party noticed he was holding the spike above a same-sized hole in the center of the cube and that the top of the cube, around the hole, had the design of the Church of Asmodeus. Even stranger, the circle surrounding the pentagram formed a logo of the Sun which was a symbol of the Church of Serenrae. Balthazar strode forth to challenge Gormuz, but as he did Gormuz glanced up and stared right at him. It was evident that he, just like the Morlocks he seemed to command, had clawed out his own eyes at some point. Gormuz opened his mouth and screamed, “You’re too late! The Beast shall rise and this shall all end!”
With that statement he slammed the spike home releasing a flash of light that disintegrated him him into ash. The large stone began to crack and from each crack a bright light was released accompanied by a slowly building roar. Understanding that whatever was happening was horribly dangerous, the party fled the temple and discovered the tunnel that Gormuz had used to reach it in the first place. Shortly after entering the tunnel a shockwave erupted from the temple, destroying it and collapsing the tunnel mouth. Amidst the shaking the party made their way up the tunnel only to arrive at it’s exit and discover that they were on a large hill overlooking the town. They arrived just in time to see the shockwave slowly expanding, collapsing the town around it. At this same time, four bright balls of light, surrounded by several smokey, shadowy trails escaped from the center of the collapse and took off in four different directions.
Choosing to take the witnesses back to Katheer for questioning, Rae began leading them through the desert only to encounter her unit. After a brief conversation, she discovered that they had been in the stables when the screaming started and the horses had fled the town, causing the soldiers to have to chase them down. By the time they had recovered the horses, the town was already collapsing and they had feared Rae caught in the rubble. As a group they all made their way to Katheer. A representative of Satrap Xerbystes II, the current Padishah Emperor of Kelesh, paid for the party to be put up in the nicest Inn in town to await for a meeting the next morning in which they would be questioned and debriefed. At the first chance to sneak away, Balthazar made his way to the local Asmodean Temple and instructed them to send word back to The Midnight Temple about what had happened. Told to await further instruction, Balthazar returned to the Inn and decided to sleep for the night.