As the city of Absalom becomes somewhat quiet (quiet for the largest city in the world that is) the heroes have time to breathe.
Altaire, Lili, and
Sym saw an opportunity to make a profit from the now-empty apothecary, and made the decision to talk to the people at Absalom’s City Planning Bureau. Altaire kindly asked the young lady gnome behind the desk to help them move the paperwork along quickly, so she promised them that if they helped her with the large load of paperwork she was behind on that she could get them ownership of the shop in a week. Altaire and Roko sat down to help her finish her backlog, while Sym took a cat nap in the back.
While Altaire worked, he implored Lilli to find a way to occupy herself on her own. Happy to avoid the monotony of bureaucracy, she took him up on the offer. She leaped across the building tops of Absalom, watching the thousands of people going about their thousands of errands. Through the hustle and bustle of the city, she noticed a familiar carriage, belonging to a familiar noblewoman. Her curiosity and mischief piqued, she decided to “drop in” on her.
The noblewoman was appalled and insulted. She demanded with every breath in her lungs that “this monster” be removed from her carriage and the streets of the city. Before she could call the guards, her husband put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
He assured her that this young lady was more than deserving of some respect for saving his life yesterday. He kindly asked Lilli to dismount from the carriage, and she complied.
Utterly offended, his wife scrambled into the carriage, but the gentleman of a husband thanked her properly for saving his life. He handed her a small pouch of platinum pieces and a letter of summons that could be used to request a favor from his Taldan house of Graetorias. Tilting her head at the gift, it eventually dawned on her that she had received a present. It was just for her. In her glee she ran back to Altaire to show him her first acknowledgment from another person.
Suhaila and Silhren left their new home in the Petal District for the Grand Lodge, where Pathfinders were served cheap meals more breakfast. Spotting Hroth on his own, he was dragged to breakfast by an enthusiastic Suhaila. Sitting down with sweets for Suhaila, breads and cheese for Silhren, and simple soup for Hroth, Suhaila also noticed Treval sitting by himself, and offered him a seat with them. Treval shrugged and joined them.
As they departed, Silhren pointed out to Hroth that he has a package at his door. Grinning widely he left the half-orc to return to his room and find a gift: a cloak of resistance. Hroth couldn’t find any utility Silhren’s generosity, but elected not to shot-put the gift over the walls of the Grand Lodge.
As they walked and Suhaila talked, Treval handed her a box. The box contained a homemade sweet roll that Treval had made himself. Blushing, Treval quickly made himself scarce, leaving Suhaila with a warm smile.
Kot approached Suhaila as Treval exited, and told her that he started to remember that the person who had wronged him was a woman, and he could remember the prayer to Ragathiel that he had rehearsed a thousand times before he had his memory stolen. Suhaila congratulated his progress, and promised that his memory would be found soon.
Sym and Altaire finished the paperwork as Lilli returned with the gifts from the Graetorias family. They quickly sought out Suhaila to consecrate the building, as it had been desecrated by the presence of the Night’s Breath toxins. Meanwhile, Silhren managed to unpack all of the newly delivered furniture into his family’s old estate by himself.
When it seemed like the day would be coming to a close, Ralpor arrived at the heroes’ newly furnished residence with grim news. He pointed to the Kortos Mounts, just north of Absalom, and to a collection of black clouds that were rising into the sky from the Mounts. They were took thick to be smoke, and too unsettling to be natural. He wished that he could send others, but knew that these heroes had the most experience with the cult, who he expected to be the culprits.
The heroes rushed into the Mounts, climbing steep rock and navigating the wild mountains with no path but the columns of smoke. As they climbed, they came across a collection of monstrous humanoids. The tribes of native minotaurs, centaurs, and harpies had gathered around a large bonfire. They seemed to be discussing plans of action to retrieve their respective chiefs from the hands of a dwarf man with masked sorcerers at his side.
The heroes peacefully reached out to the three tribes, claiming that they had a common enemy, and would offer help in exchange for guidance through the mountains to the cultists. The centaurs proved to be most reasonable allies, while the harpies questioned why they shouldn’t just eat the outsiders. The minotaurs complied when the harpies were persuaded.
Several of their fellow tribesmen and women had already been transformed into nightshades by the cultists, but most of the forces were converted back to their original states by Suhaila. Following the tribes’ lead, they guided the heroes to a gaping maw in the mountains that the tribes referred to as the Devil’s Throat. It was a place of sacrifice, where all three of the tribes would bring the frail and weak to be thrown from a bridge that was built across the monstrous canyon.
There, on the bridge, they found the dwarven cultist Kolar, who the heroes had missed when he escaped from the cult base under the Absalom streets. He was boiling large amounts of Night’s Breath, and the toxins were becoming airborne, and blocking most of the light from the sky. Two Proxies stood to bar the path, but the tribes struck first, the centaurs urging the heroes to free the tribesmen while they handled the spellcasters.
On the bridge, Kolar awaited them, with the chiefs of the three tribes at his beck and call, with the dark infestation of the Night’s Breath coating their bodies like a cloak of dark fogs and silks. Kolar seemed strangely cocky in the faces of the capable Pathfinders, as he showed them a peculiar green marble-like gem.
He asked them: what would happen if anyone in the world had the potential to become like gods? What if every tyrant, murderer, and thief on Golarion could be handed limitless power? Likewise, what if every crusader, benevolent ruler, and adventurer could have the same power to oppose them? Kolar promised the heroes that nothing short of bedlam would follow what these little rocks could grant.
He squeezed the gem, and strange magics swirled about his short frame. The gem made his actions quicker than possible, as he tossed explosives and drank powerful extracts with lightning speed. The chiefs also ran to his aid, slamming the heroes with their weapons and rivers of negative energy.
With a combination of skill, luck, and clever tactics, the heroes poured the toxin from the cauldrons into the Devil’s Throat, and the three chiefs were brought back to their senses. Kolar managed to escape with his life, but not with everything he brought…
The tribes were reunited with their chiefs. They had been reduced in numbers, and the minotaur chief could not bear the loss of his children. Suhaila offered another option: peace with the tribes, and the people of the Isle of Kortos. The tribes were hesitant, but as they looked around at the diminished numbers of their members, they saw few better options for survival. Naturally a slaughter of the competitor was proposed, but quickly overruled. The tribes requested time to thin and plan, as this would be a new age for them.
The marble that Kolar dropped was recovered by the heroes, and as their skin touched it, light blasted forth and engulfed them. Everything went bright before it darkened to a canvas of stars. They could see a massive green orb floating in the darkness, and slowly being pulled to a point in the Material Plane. The perfectly spherical, alien object passed stars, dead and living planets, and clouds of thick gas to eventually reach Golarion, where it crashed down into the surface and ripped apart the land, creating the Inner Sea. As it slammed against the surface of the world, pieces were torn off by the force, and the green stone produced smaller green stones of perfect spheres that flew across the land and the sea of the wounded world. And now they waited to be found.
As the vision ended, the heroes caught a glimpse of the pantheon they observed the earth and people of the planet below. Shelyn, Nethys, Erastil, and all the rest caught a glimpse of them too, as they returned to consciousness.
They had been changed, and now understood what kind of danger the world was in.