With the list of events plaguing Absalom and The Guild in particular (the heavy life lost when the demonic portal was opened in the Cairnlands, a powerful party lost on a mission in the Mwangi, several deaths on a repeated mission to the Precipice District, unexpected death in the arena games, the weakening of the planar borders and the shadow plane seepage, and most recently the self-inflicted exile of a party guildies turned traitor to the city) things have been tense for The Absalom branch of The Guild. Currently the shadow plane disturbances required constant attention from the more seasoned members not involved in missions and most of the resident clerics to deal with the undead and shadow beasts running amuck. They even received a capable shadow wizard, Phaedra Shadowsil, on loan from the Qadira branch in hopes that her insight might be of use in the current crises. With enemies on the rise and strength on the decline, all remaining members of The Guild were brought to reside at guild headquarters to consolidate strength and keep them capable of responding to requests quickly. Unfortunately, the night grew long and the more seasoned members failed to return in a timely manner. Phaedra, in charge since the other leaders were on missions of their own, using Chad as her assistant, decided to set watches and keep the headquarters on readied alert just in case. Her suspicions proved valid when those resting in their rooms were awakened by intruders standing over them. Theri, Kass, Kaleb, Morti, Purrima, Dirrasha, Shadow, Jerro, Than, Fancy and her rapidly maturing son Damien all received such visits. Most were taken completely off guard as these masked intruders pelted them with strange thunderstones that exploded with sound and a warping darkness. The Guild erupted in a rapid series of sonic booms. Kass, Kaleb, Dirrasha and Jerro managed to resist the assault on the first wave, though Dirrasha was rendered deafened. Kass and Jerro watched as their respective roommates (Theri and Purrima) did not resist and slumped back to the bed with their eyes wide open, unmoving. Kaleb and Dirrasha shared a room and Kaleb managed to stab one of the gray and black garbed intruders. The second round of pelting knocked them both into the wide-eyed and unmoving state. Jerro seemed unaffected by the strange dark thunderstone effects so the two assassins in his room flanked him and proceeded to shred him with their swords. He chose to play dead rather than be destroyed utterly and waited for them to leave. Kass would not be taken so easily. The seasoned veteran dodged and ducked, blocked and parried his attackers efforts. The arrival of a shadow aiding his attackers left him hopelessly outnumbered and severely weakened so he called for help and made a break for safety, tumbling past his assailants and out into the hallway. Meanwhile, a bell alarm had sounded calling all available Guild Members to the central gathering hall. Those left on guard duty heard the bell and the sonic booms then the muffled cries from Kass back towards the barracks. Fursifer, Xythric, Sophie and Valla responded to the sudden burst of activity as best they could. Sophie checked on the gathering hall to find Chad ringing the alert bell signaling an attack. She ignored his instruction to get in there and instead chose to aid the others on duty. They opted to go and save their comrades in the barracks. Back at the barracks Valla was on the scene calling to Kass as he fled his room. Fursifer and Xythric were present too, prepared to stop whatever threatened them. A shadow slipped through a wall and charged, barely missing Fursifer as it attacked. Kass continued to flee and raced past his allies headed for the gathering hall warning that the others were already dead and he was outnumbered. Xythric called out a challenge to the shadow and ordered his allies to stand and fight, but they were less than enthusiastic about their odds against such enemies. Sophie shouted a few jokes to aid the battle but no one but the teifling seemed interested in a fight. When Fursifer tried to retreat Xythric actually blocked his path until the halfling tumbled through his legs. The tiefling magus-slayer unleashed a barrage of magic missiles from his wand and destroyed the shadow before following suite in the retreat, cursing his companions as cowards. They gathered in the central hall with Chad and Phaedra. The shadow mage was conjuring shadowy creatures and releasing them into the halls which brought suspicion at first, but Sophie identified her spells as illusions creating allies. Moments later the door opened and in stumbled a very battered Jerro. The ninja doll told of his similar attack and of the retreat of the gray and black clad assassins through the walls. He informed them that they left the body of Purrima behind in that state of shock. He described a symbol on their clothing which was identified by the group as the Nether Assassins, a band of otherworldly-based killers that hired their blades out for a substantial price. They were also notorious for working with the undead.
Phaedra requested one of these strange stones to examine and possibly understand what they had done to the other members. Fursifer was the first to pipe up and head out on the mission to collect a stone. Kass mentioned a few being thrown in his bedchamber as did Jerro who was strangely unaffected by the weird darkness explosions. Fursifer reached Jerro’s room first and found Purrima still there in her bed untouched with eyes wide. He tried to examine her for signs of life but was hurried and unsure. He did find a few stones and returned with them. While the others huddled together preparing for another assault. Phaedra with the aid of Valla, spent time examining the stones. She came back with answers, none of them good. The stones were some sort of Astral bomb. They used the current weakening of the planar boundaries to basically blow apart their victims, effectively separating them from their souls which were shoved through to the Astral Plane. Their wide-eyed and unmoving allies were basically dead, soulless corpses and would be so permanently unless their souls were collected and returned to them quickly. This explained why Jerro was unaffected. Phaedra warned that they must act quickly, spouting off a variety of dangers and rules that applied to the Astral Plane. Most of the information barely registered to the group. She offered a path to get them there with her magic and told them a few important rules to remember. She bade them seek out Shiva a psychopomp ally that owed her a favor and would likely be tending to souls in the river of souls. She would be able to help them locate the missing ally-souls before they fed into the river that would carry them to their final resting places. The mage warned them to avoid the river at all costs since it would sweep them away to death. She warned them to avoid all portals in the Astral Plane for it connected to every other plane and could dump them anywhere. She warned them of the collectors, namely night hags and daemons that sought out wandering souls to steal them. And she warned them to watch for enemies like the disc riding xenophobic natives and undead, particularly incorporeal undead which would manifest in a physical form on the plane. They all stood around with dumbfounded stares as she called them to gather at her side for the transportation spell. What else could they do? All of their fellow guildies were going to die! Sophie, Xythric, Fursifer and Valla would take up the mission while Chad, Kass and Jerro stayed to help Phaedra defend the headquarters until their return. Just as she was casting the spell to carry them across planar boundaries a horde of shadows poured into the hall. The six incorporeal undead raced at them as they slipped between realities.
The four hung in the air on the Astral Plane, an endless sky of silvery light running in every direction. Their bodies were the same but translucent with a nimbus glow of color that suited their individual soul with a silvery chord that tethered them to the material plane and their real bodies. severing the chord would mean they would be as lost as their allies here drifting toward the river and death. Hanging in the air before them were the six shadows, little more than humanoid shapes of black ectoplasm here. The shadows seemed to move as normal gliding on the Astral air with ease, but the party dared not move for fear of losing control and drifting away. They were also warned about the travel here, an act of will to direct and guide your path. They fought the shadows and were surprised and relieved to learn that they were not draining strength here and actually had a physical form now so everyone could damage them. Their chilling touches still hurt though, well everyone besides Xythric with his fiendish resistances. They also learned that spellcasting was greatly enhanced here affecting spells as if they were quickened. The fight was difficult without being able to move and only Valla tried to do so to offer Fursifer a flanking aid. She managed to succeed. Eventually they destroyed the shadows and then the true fun began. How would they locate Shiva the psychopomp and their allies’ missing souls? But first, how could they move about safely without being quickly separated. Travel here happened so fast and the stopping process was the challenge. They decided to use a rope and tie themselves together. Time had no affect here so they didn’t have to worry about food or tiring, but that also meant they could not rest or heal naturally. For lack of a better option they chose a direction and all willed to go that way at once and off they shot at a speed of 150 which quickly accelerated to 300! It felt less like they were flying and more like the plane was racing through them. It seemed like days of travel before they spotted anything in the silvery nothingness. In the distance something big moved. They tried to shift their direction to soar near it for a better look but found mixed results. Some changed course while others were jerked rapidly in the direction when they failed to will the change into being. The rope kept them tethered but also proved painful. The new course soon brought them closer and they identified it as an Astral Leviathan. Something like a colossal whale with rows of jagged teeth and many eyes. They chose to avoid the 70 foot long monstrosity. It was almost a disaster as they tried to change their course and failed multiple times with the few succeeding being dragged along towards the beast by those that could not redirect themselves. More damage was sustained by the twisting and slinging inside the rope but they barely dodged a collision. They began to wonder if this rope was such a good idea. At least it kept them together.
As they soared by in the new direction, Fursifer caught sight of a lone humanoid figure hanging in the air. They moved so fast it passed them in a blur. He shouted for everyone to stop and again found mixed results and painful jerking rope damage. The halfing had had enough of this swinging and bouncing around so he untied the rope from his body. Unfortunately everyone else managed to stop and he kept going a few hundred more feet before he could gain control of his trajectory. The others discovered what the halfling had spotted, though. The visitor came to greet them. Xythric identified it as a night hag and knew her evil and abilities were considerable. They were instantly on guard. She introduced herself and eyed them all hungrily with a sort of shark-circling its food feel to the conversation. They asked a few questions and declined her offer to take them to a nearby portal for safety. She did not seem to know anything about their missing allies’ souls but was interested in tasting theirs. She began fondling the silver chord of life attached to both Sophie and Xythric. When Fursifer finally managed to reach them again after much effort, he noticed Sophie’s genius ploy. The bard pointed in the distance and shouted a warning, the halfling mimicked her. Together they got the hag to spin about and look for the threat. But – ha ha! – there was no threat. The party used the momentary distraction to jet away, fleeing into the sky as fast as they could, hoping the hag wouldn’t chase them down and eat them.
This time as they stuck together and soared away, Valla also untied herself since she was getting pretty banged up by the rope. Another figure materialized in their path. The few that spotted it shrieked and when Fursifer stopped due to being caught by the figure, they all put on the mental brakes, again with mixed results. Sophie and Xythric eventually came to a halt and darted back to aid the halfling but Valla had trouble controlling her path and took a bit longer to join them. The shaman hurtled away into the sky for hundreds of feet before gaining control again. Luckily for Fursifer he recognized the description of the being that held him. She was very tall, dressed in white with blue-white skin and long blue hair. She wore a mask hiding her features, all but her crystalline impassive eyes. This was Shiva the psychopomp they sought. They began asking her questions and quickly learned that she cared little for their mission other than the favor that was promised to Phaedra to get them to the souls and then let her know when the party were ready to return to the material plane. Seeing as how the party’s navigational efforts were lacking, she was convinced to allow them to all grab ahold of her as she carried them towards the location of the missing souls and the “Thought devourer” she claimed held them captive. She eventually delivered the party to a large mass of earth, similar to an asteroid hanging in the Astral air. A single cavern marked the entrance to the lair where their allies’ souls were being kept. When asked if Shiva would help, she impassively answered no. when asked about the threat of the thought eater, she simply informed them that it already knew they were here and was expecting them. That didn’t sound very good.
The psychopomp waited outside and the party entered the cavern. They were happy to find that their minds acclimated them to the earthy terrain and they could walk as normal here. The winding tunnel carried them straight into the lair where they spotted the souls they sought strewn about the ectoplasm-smeared room attached to the floor or walls by strands of the gummy stuff. The souls seemed listless and drained. They knew time would eventually suck all personality and morality from their allies so they needed to hurry. The coulborn or thought eater was there too. It’s loosely humanoid shape had a brain sack dangling below it and hooded skin over its eyeless head. a long toothy mouth protruded and both its long arms ended in two elongated fingers with claws. The creature spotted Xythiric in the lead and was waiting for them. It reached out with its mind and charmed the tiefling. Soon the others were entering but Xythric had enlarged himself and was directing the others to leave the creature alone, telling them that it was helping their friends. Fursifer joined in the defensive strain when it charmed him next., but the sisters, Valla and Sophie were not so convinced of its intentions. Valla believed it was tricking them so she blasted it with a confusion ability. For a split second it reacted but quickly shook off the confusion. In that moment it’s maw split open in three parts and clamped down on Xythric and its claws ripped into him too. The injured magus was set free of the pull of the charm spell. He began to fight the creature. Fursifer kept his loyalty and interposed himself defending the creature while Sophie told jokes to inspire her friends in battle. Valla threw spells at it and kept healing Xythric so that their only line of defense did not fall. Sophie started working her way around the room, breaking her allies’ captive souls free of the ectoplasmic bonds. They slowly crawled to their feet and shuffled from the cavern. She just prayed they didn’t reach the exit and dart off towards the river of souls that was surely pulling them. The thought devourer was no easy challenge. It used spells and actually began to heal itself of the major wounds Xythric inflicted. All the while Fursifer aided it and Xythric took a serious beating while Valla struggled to keep him on his feet with her healing and his cure wand. Valla moved to help her sister free the souls. The teifling fell and the creature attacked the sisters who were setting its meals free. Fursifer was finally convinced to stop helping the thing by a stern scolding from Sophie followed by a bite from the thought eater. Xythric crawled back to his feet after the sisters both healed him and the halfling flanked with him. They both took a serious beating by the creature and only at the eleventh hour did they barely manage to combine their efforts with a blast of magic missiles from Xythric’s wand that Sophie picked up and managed to activate. They toppled the monster and hacked it to pieces. Valla and Sophie rushed to check on the meandering souls and found Shiva at the entrance collecting and holding them. They searched the lair of the creature and uncovered a few works of art, and a couple of enchanted items which they claimed for sale or distribution. Then they gladly returned to the material plane when the psychopomp alerted Phaedra to their readiness. Once back, the souls returned to their bodies and the guildies were revived from the brink of death. None of them had any memory of what had happened leading up to the night of these events thanks to the thought eater slurping on their thoughts.
Xythric, Valla, Fursifer and Sophie each earned 2175xp
Jerro and Kass each earned 100xp for surviving the attack.