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Episode 5- Return to Nothing

3 weeks have passed since the Kawonia incident. Everyone had been able to recover, Luka included. Portia remains in Rebus, and has been housed in Anahata with the rest of the team.

Alma awakened the team at 4am to alert them of some bad news- a grisly double murder had occurred in the warehouse district of Rebus, during which an unregistered artifact was stolen. Portia, still serving as ambassador, agreed to help out with the investigation. Tyler was selected to go because of his arcane expertise, and Ahriman was sent because of his intimate knowledge of artifacts and magic items. The three of them- along with Disa serving as a bodyguard- went to the warehouse and searched for clues.

The bodies had been lacerated with a strange pattern that Portia recognized as a symbol of Malaraln, an ancient demon of apocalyptic goals. However, the cause of death was heavy necrosis induced by exposure to intense negative energy. The warehouse operators and several of Alma's police force were on the scene, and unable to identify the missing object, which had just been recieved that day in the city port from House Alarando.

Karin was sent for to do an object reading. She uncovered that the stolen object was some sort of bowl shaped object. They also uncovered that while the item had been shipped by the Alarando, it had been ordered by the owner of Lord Warden in the Diamond District. The team went to question the owner of the shop after his store opened that morning. He told them that the object was a one of a kind, but not too terribly valuable. He said it was designed to reduce objects placed within it to their base elements and separate those components. Why it was made was uncertain, but he had hoped to recreate it and perhaps figure out it's purpose in order to then sell it to the right market for a healthy profit. Ahriman found it somewhat puzzling that someone would take the time to infiltrate a heavy guarded area and kill two people to obtain an object with very little street value and no immediately useful powers- especially considering the raw worth of all the ignored items left in the warehouse.

At that time, a mysterious man entered the shop- the same man who the team had encountered while investigating Lord Warden during the Granmiglone incident. He had come to claim his order from that day- two highly polished, high grade elementite staves called stabilizers. Portia was immediately suspicious, particularly after she attempted to detect evil, only to have her divination blocked and her actions loudly criticized by the man. The team questioned the owner of Lord Warden about this man, who he claimed was a wealthy and legitimate customer.

After they left, the man cornered them, and told them not to interfere in his business. An argument erupted, but the man teleported away before weapons could be drawn. Frustrated, the team went back to Karin to see what they could find about Malaraln. After doing some research, they learned that Malaraln was one of the old demons who existed to consume everything at the end of the world. He was killed by the sorcerer Alexander during a time called the War of All Heavens several hundred years ago.

Malaraln was a terrible, mindless demon with five gaping mouths, always eating and devouring everything around him. He was a mad god of all-consuming darkness, and had been the idol of many an apocalypse cult during his day.

While researching, a female Alma Nostra member named Claudia interrupted the team with urgent news- another murder had been discovered in the warehouse district, in a sealed warehouse. An unidentified object had been stolen this time, as well. The team and Claudia rushed to the scene, and found a ghastly sight- the entire warehouse chamber was covered in blood and viscera. Tyler could see that the vicious killing was the work of both swordplay and sorcery, as the victim had first been seared with the power of a warlock's eldritch blast and then hacked to pieces.

As they investigated, they were alerted by a loud cry- another killing was taking place in the next warehouse. Disa had already responded, and was using her body as a shield to come between the attacker and the poor victim. The team ran to her aid, and were then surrounded by a pack of mad cultists devoted to Malaraln. Their leader cast a spell that sucked Disa, Karin, Claudia, and the wounded victim into a pocket dimension, and then they swarmed Ahriman, Portia, and Tyler with the intent to kill.

The battle on both sides was grisly. While Malaraln cult warlocks hammered away at Karin and Disa with eldritch blasts and dark invocations in an alien other space, Malaraln's clerics savagely attacked the team. While Tyler and Portia had their hands full, Ahriman was mortally wounded. Luckily, they managed to get the upper hand, and Portia laid her hands upon Ahriman not a second too soon, using her sacred touch to rekindle the spark of life within the nomad.

In the other space, it looked bleak. Disa was too slow to move out of the range of the warlocks blasts, and Karin was unable to defend herself as she had not come prepared for battle. Only Claudia, a well trained psychic warrior, was able to get through the crossfire, and she tackled and attacked the one cult member who appeared to be concentrating on keeping the pocket dimension intact. By breaking his concentration, she caused the bubble world to burst, and sent her friends back to the material world.

Unfortunately, the cult managed to kidnap Claudia as a result. Portia had obtained the stolen object, one of the crystallized "mouths" of Malaraln, which sealed away his essence. Their plot was clear now- By using the chalice, which they had identified as the Chalice of Returning to Nothing, they would offer a sacrifice to Malaraln, and separate the living sacrifice into it's basest elements. Once the body was reduced to it's purest form, they would "feed" the mouths by bathing them in the elemental properties, and reawaken the spirit of Malaraln, whom Alexander had sealed in his own hunger.

The cult's leader appeared, and told them that he would kill Claudia if they did not return the last stone to them. The team met at Anahata and consulted Alma. Alma did not want to lose anyone, but also was wary of letting them have the stone. She feared that if Malaraln was restored, he would devour not only Rebus, but the entire continent. A plan was formulated- they would leave the stone in the required spot, but they would leave behind a spy in the form of a psicrystal to watch the cultists, and trace the teleport.

This worked out for them, and they found out that the cult hideout was in the sewers beneath Rebus. They found their way into the stronghold, just in the nick of time. The cult was ready to sacrifice Claudia to the chalice. Ahriman teleported to the altar with Tyler, and they freed the girl. Portia challenged the cult leader to a duel, and mortally wounded him. He then threw himself into the cauldron, and offered himself up to Malaraln.

The ritual began, but something interrupted. As the elements began to refine, a portal opened, and three babaus and a retriever spilled forth. Apparently, the device had been trapped so that anyone trying to revive the dead fiend would summon up a retriever specifically ordered to return the mouths to the Abyss and slay anyone present. The cultists, once worked into a suicidal frenzy at the thought of being devoured by their lord, were now terrified at their apparent death sentence. They were promptly slain, and the creatures turned their attention on the team.

While Tyler struggled with the sneaky babau, Ahriman took to the air and offered cover from above, and Portia went after the lumbering retriever. A brutal battle took place, but after some dangerous manuever and a bit of luck, they managed to take down their foes and seal the gate.

Just then, the man from Lord Warden appeared yet again. He told them he was glad they managed to complete their job, even though he knew that Malaraln wouldn't come back to life. He said he had been too careful. He then destroyed the mouths, and stated he didn't want anyone trying to undo his work. Portia deduced that he was actually the Alexander of myth, and he claimed this was true. He explained to them that he had waged a war with the outsiders because he felt that they were too eager to interfere with the lives of mortals. He felt that people should be self reliant, and not dependant on the whims and favors of impartial, outside beings. He said that he and Alma were essentially alike, since they wished to create a world free of reckless power. He told them that magic was a result of fallen outsiders being reborn as mortals.

Then, without saying much more, he disappeared. Later, at Anahata, the events of the day were discussed. No one was sure what to think. Disa became very upset, something atypical for her. She said that Alexander was dangerous. She stormed out. Ahriman went to follow, and Alma dismissed everyone.

Ahriman found Disa, who scolded him for coming so close to death. She told him that he can't expect to keep coming back. Ahriman was puzzled, and she told him she would tell him what she meant, right before stabbing him. Ahriman awoke in another place, and Disa explained to him the nature of their existence. Hundreds of years ago, Alexander lead an attack on all the outer planes. Disa had been a high archon named Zoe Sophia, and Ahriman had been an archon named Maion, who controlled the flow of time. They had been lovers, but when Alexander attacked, Zoe was killed by him. So Maion broke the laws of the heavens and attempted to tear the very essence that composed Zoe from the fabric of heaven and reform her. He was arrested, and stripped of his powers before being put to death. Due to a fluke, or perhaps destiny, part of his soul was cast aside instead of being reabsorbed into the heavens, and he was reborn as Asre Cavananto, a rilkan child. Meanwhile, Maion's ritual had not been a total failure. One of the mortal souls that had evolved into Zoe had managed to be liberated from the plane itself, and it was reborn. It took residence in the synthetic body that Maion had built for Zoe. This soul was named Disa. Disa, considered to be an abomination, was lead out of heaven, and sent to the material world.

There, she sought out Maion, who had only vague and cloudy memories of his past life. The two of them had been together ever since. Then, Ahriman woke up. He begged Disa to tell him more, but it appeared that her moments of clarity were a passing thing- and now, she had reverted to being regular, laconic Disa once more.

Meanwhile, Camui and Tyler shared a moment concerning Camui's trainer and adoptive mother, who was dying of illness, and Karin and Adrian had yet another puzzling exchange- this time about Ahriman. The two psions continue to reveal that they know much more than they seem, but it is still unclear what they are plotting, and who can be trusted.

New Characters-

Claudia Rocklin
Race: Human
Gender: Female
Class: Psychic Warrior
Age: 21
Alignment: Chaotic Good

A member of Alma Nostra's Hawk division. She's a popular law enforcement officer in Rebus who has attracted a very large male following- although she appears to be uninterested. She shoots from the hip at times, but is generally very responsible. She has a tendancy to get overly involved in her cases.


Alexander
Race: Human
Gender: Male
Class: Sorcerer
Age: 900+
Alignment: Unknown

Alexander is a legendary sorcerer who is said to have killed hundreds of outsiders during the War of All Heavens. He dreams of a world where outsiders do not toy with the lives of lesser beings. Recently, he has reappeared in the material world, although his goals are yet unclear. In the past, he killed Zoe Sophia, the archon who was later reborn as Disa. Disa and Ahriman both recall their animosity towards him, and have spent the bulk of their adult lives seeking him out- although until recently, they did not know who he was.
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