Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia, and Ben as they behold the warped center of the Garden. This week Hamid talks arcane theory, Cel hears a distant tolling, Azu spots some familiar faces, and Zolf is gonna go check the bulbs.
The party has just come into a clearing full of silver statures of Svalbardian dwarves and American fauna, with three monstrously huge flowering plants in the centre. A prowling hostile presence is still there too. It has been approximately an hour since the party cast their various level-up spells.
Zolf turns to Sumutnyerl to see how they're doing. Sumunyerl is witnessing a blasphemy so profound that her face looks like half outraged revulsion, and half fear that something that is meant to be sacred has been so warped. Hamid suggests that they circle around to see all sides. Azu asks Sumutnyerl if what is here is entirely new or a corruption of something that was already at the centre of the garden. Sumutnyerl is starting to cry, and Azu tries to comfort them. Sumutnyerl keeps repeating that this is wrong, and when Cel asks what should be here, they reply falteringly that it should be the garden's heart, then drop to their knees. they say that the garden is not just a place of communion with spirits, but that the garden is the spirits; the centre should be where one can find spirits waiting for one, and confirms to Cel that the plants should not be there at all, and none of this is right.
Azu recognises a number of the Svalbardian dwarves, by their insigniae and by face. She recognises the majority of the dwarves as nobles (not aristocratic, it's more democratic than that, but with a meritocratic dynasty type hierarchy). She also recognises the dwarf that was the leader of Svalbard, Iofur Iornsson, pre-infection (the surname is an honorary title). It seems that the whole Svalbardian ruling council is there, implying that this may have been deliberate, and that the rout may have occurred during a council meeting. This is unusual because Svalbard is well-known for weathering all kinds of upheaval, and this could even be a deliberate signal. She knows this because the paladin of Aphrodite that came to Azu's village, and who Azu left her village with, was a Svalbardian dwarf named Zhugi Brightheart. Zhugi was later lost at sea, and Azu, while at seminary, did significant research into Svalbard in the hopes of finding Zhugi's family there.
Zolf realises that this isn't just a bleed across from the ethereal plane, this is a proper intrusion, dragging in other symptoms with it. The plants look like they're not of this plane. These giant plants are also not from the ethereal plane. These plants are not ones that one would expect to interact with afterlives, and are reminiscent of outer planes (unlike the healthy garden, which interacts with the celestial plane). The plants could be a planar weapon, a planar hack that went wrong, all kinds of things. Somebody, somewhere, has managed to mix aspects of the material plane, afterlives, and aspects of the outer planes but these results could be deliberate or accidental. This is a mess, and the situation will continue to worsen. If there's a sentient being that could be banished to its rightful plane that would be a good start. Removing the causes of planar disturbances tends to allow the planes to heal on their own.
Hamid is aware that there is wild magic at play here, and that the magic doesn't seem to be intentional. What is going on here couldn't happen outside a wild magic area. To sustain itself, this intrusion consumes wild magic, and may be propping up the problems happening elsewhere, or may be connected to other areas of wild magic. Where Zolf's instinct is that removing the source will lead to the re-equilibration of the planes, Hamid's instinct is that cutting off the wild magic from this planar intrusion (like cutting oxygen off from a fire) might work. Things exposed to wild magic can react differently. Things can get very weird (e.g. the ship coming alive); things can scale up; things can have increasingly important secondary effects (similar to Rome- spells are maximised, or minimised, or go wrong). These plants are feeding on the wild magic to sustain some sort of planar effect, possibly planar travel (similar to the gate spell in Rome). In contrast to teleportation, which just moves you from one place to another, planar travel involves warping space-time so that two places are forced to exist in the same place and time. (Bryn suggests it's like an Einsten-Rosen bridge.) This could be a weird confluence of events, assisted by external forces, that has lead to a naturally-occurring planar gateway. The plants appear to be feeding on the high levels of naturally occurring wild magic to sustain this gateway. Hamid isn't aware of plants being a part of this kind of magic, this level of magic would instead usually be the result of years of focused collaboration from a group of highly-trained wizards.
Alex goes into some detail on the natural magic force present in the world, called The Weave. As a comparison, in a baseline area where magic works normally, The Weave is simply laying flat and casters can reliably draw energy from it. An area of wild magic is a natural phenomena that is like The Weave waving in the wind and a caster can find themselves in a valley or on a peak of magical energy. The magic in Rome is more akin to a corruption of The Weave, as if it has dropped a stitch or was full of holes. This will also cause strange magical effects that may appear similar to the uninitiated but the underlying cause is quite different.
Cel notices that the plants look like grossly oversized versions of plants native ot the Americas. These plants have ritual usage in elven societies, to do with interplanar magical communication, including communing with both the dead and the living. These plants are incredibly rare and difficult to cultivate. Small amounts of flora near the bases of the plants appear to be north American (particularly one of the bulbs) alongside the petrified animals (large cats and so on) from the Americas.
The party shares their insights with one another. Sumutnyerl tells the party that the seed the party has is related to both the trees of the Garden and the giant plants, but their properties are different. Sumutyerl isn't lying; they're re-evaluating everything they know, and their confidence in their knowledge is collapsing. Hamid asks Cel if the plants are separate or all connected to a single source. Cel tells him that people have theorised that because these plants have interplanar properties, they share a root structure no matter where they are (if you care well for one, another will do well elsewhere)... In terms of the material plane, the plants are separate.
Ben wonders (seemingly out of character, although it's implied that the party are discussing this sort of thing) whether something similar would have happened to the party if their seed hadn't been in the plane of Hades when the world went wrong, and perhaps there was a seed inside the council chamber that caused all the problems in Svalbard. Alex tells Ben that there is nothing in Zolf's knowledge base that would disprove this theory.
Cel knows these plants aren't behaving as they should, so is unsure whether that would have happened.
Wilde asks Cel and Hamid if they are aware of a way to block wild magic at scale; the only solutions seem to be either a giant Faraday cage or a giant anti-magic device (e.g. boulder). Skraak suggests burning everything down. Cel agrees but worries about burning down the Garden. Zolf reminds them that even burning the bad things that are here wouldn't stop more bad things coming through the planar intrusion. Azu and Cel hear the tolling of a distant bell from the third plant, which tolls eight times, then stops. The party is cautiously walking around the plants, and notice that the plant that sounded the bell has almost no flora around it. Cel smells soot from it.
The group ascertain that the first plant is Svalbard, the second is somewhere in north America, and the third is some sort of polluted city. The petals are building-sized. The party discusses the pros and cons of burning the plants down. Azu and Zolf go towards the polluted city plant, and Cel flies up to get a better look. Their visibility reduces, like a heat haze. They move too fast and get a hard, nostalgic scent from their past, but manage not to be stunned by it. They fly up further, and cannot see inside the closed buds, but can see that the clearing correlates to the area that would be taken up if the buds opened (possibly at night?). Zolf and Azu approach the city bulb, and feel the mounting pressure of a large crowd, but are not mechanically affected. Zolf chooses to walk in between the closed petals. They can both smell the soot and smoke, but Azu can also smell something like sewage. Zolf suspects it might be the London sewer that the Simulacrum was in.
Hamid casts heroism on Skraak again, and suggests Zolf doesn't stick his head in the flower bud. Hamid realises hes shouted that suggestion in a very non-stealthy way, and notices a cracking sound. Hamid sees movement in the forest, and realises it's the biggest tree moving, and more trees again. The biggest tree is glowing bright blue, and they're all coming for Hamid.
- Sumutnyerl: "This is... wrong. This is wrong."
- Cel: "Can you give us a little more detail? What should be here?"
- Sumutnyerl: "The heart of- the heart of the-"(her legs go weak and she drops)
- ―Cel and Sumutnyerl discuss what is wrong at the centre of the Garden.
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Knowledge (nobility) to understand the scene: Azu (Nat 20)
- Knowledge (nature) to understand the scene: Cel (15)
- Knowledge (arcana) to understand the scene: Hamid (Nat 20: 36)
- Knowledge (planes) to understand the scene: Zolf (22)
- Sense Motive on Sumutnyerl: Azu (22), Cel (15), Hamid (8), Zolf (25)
- Perception check to hear the bell ringing: Zolf (12), Azu (26), Cel (33), Hamid (16), Skraak (18)
- Perception check for Cel to smell the flower: 23
- Reflex save for Cel to withstand the nostalgic scent: 25
- Fly check for Cel: 30
- Will save: Zolf (21), Azu (29)
- Perception check right next to the bud: Zolf (16), Azu (21)
- Hamid casts heroism on Skraak, giving them +2 to attack rolls, saves, and skill checks for 90 minutes.
- Perception check: Hamid (33), Skraak (15), Cel (16)
Ben and Alex forget about the rope tied between Zolf and Wilde during this encounter. Bryn in the Discord said that the best retcon is to assume they untied it offscreen. One could also assume that Zolf and Wilde are now tied together forever though...