Making the Grade

Ashy's picture
Recommended Levels: n/a
Author: Brannon HollingsworthEmail:

Everysod knows that the long trek to the top of the Holy Mount is one that is riddled with failures and triumphs, backslides and achievements. Usually, those bloods who are determined enough and those who feel the call of their Power strongly enough find the strength from within and manage to continue onward, no matter the cost. There are some bashers that cannot, however, and the multiverse seems to simply forget about them… Or does it?

The Adventure

In this adventure, the PCs are called to the Holy Mount, Mt. Celestia, either by a Power that is prominent within the party, or if there is not one available, then one that is close at hand. After it is a Power, right? What sod-headed berk is going to ignore a Power's invitation!? Not likely!. (Unless they are of the Athar...-the editor-)

Once at they have arrived in the resplendent realm of the Power, they are assigned a simple task -they must aid in the testing of a fallen paladin. Seems that this poor sod, Solinis Truesong, a paladin of the Power in question, simply was not able to pass the tests of the paths of Mt. Celestia and slid back. Apparently now, however, he has reformed his wayward behavior and wants a chance to atone for his misdeeds. While a bit leery, the Power happens to be in a forgiving mood that day and has set aside three tests for the paladin to accomplish. If these deeds are completed to the satisfaction of the PCs, who must, at the end of the test, give reasons why Solinis passed or why he did not pass; then the paladin will be given a new chance at the pathways on the Holy Mount. It is made very clear at the onset of this that any dishonest actions on the part of anysod involved will result in fierce penalties at the hands of the Power in question's proxies.

While Solinis has indeed reformed his unhallowed ways, he still has some problems completing the three tests. However, it is up to the PCs to determine if this is because of reasons related to his fall, or merely resulting from it, as shown below.

The Tests Three

The first of the three is intended to test the paladin's sincerity in his path. After all, if Solinis is not sincere about the tests, then there is no need to go any further at all. Solinis and the PCs are led by a glowing sphere of celestial light that is known only as Tester, to a high, barren plateau. (Travel is accomplished by Tester growing in size and luminance until it seems that the entire world is engulfed with bright, searing light. When the light clears, all are simply "in" a new location. True Seeing and similar magics reveal that nothing is amiss, so it would seem that all actually "are" in a new and totally different locale).

Now on the plateau, Tester instructs Solinis to go into the center of the plateau. Once the paladin is but a few feet away from the PCs, it becomes apparent that the PCs are protected from the ravaging wind outside their dome-like area of protection. Solinis must struggle to even reach the center of the plateau, where the winds seem to double in strength and severity and threaten to blow the paladin from its surface to his sure death below. Also, upon the paladin reaching the center of the plateau, two shining, burning rods appear. Their intent is both horrific and plain. If he wishes to remain upon the plateau, he must hold on to these fiery, burning handholds. Solinis hesitates at first, but the winds threaten to literally blow him away. He tries to hold on with only one hand, but the winds increase and he finally must hold on with two. His screams of pain, which he holds within for longer than you think possible, are horrible, but somehow, he manages to hold on. The test ends, and the wind and flaming rods disappear as quickly as they appeared. Solinis is badly burned, and is in need of healing. If the PCs offer, he at first refuses, but will eventually cave in to repeated offerings. If the PCs do not offer healing, Tester merely floats, silent and Solinis finally heals himself.

The second of the three is designed to test the paladin's vigilance along his path. Tester again glows and all are now in a dark tunnel that seems to stretch into infinity. Seasoned planewalkers see many similarities to Pandemonium, but notice right away that there is no wind at all. In fact, there is little but slippery rock, dampness and a stuffy smell that seems saturated with the scents of decomposition. Solinis is told to walk away from the PCs, and within moments all are plunged into absolute darkness as Tester's light seems to blink out. As a matter of fact, Tester seems to be gone altogether and any attempts to reach Solinis either by yelling or physical contact are futile. He does not seem to hear them and the PCs can never quite reach the paladin - he always seems to be just out of reach.

The nature of this test becomes apparent all too quickly. As Solinis makes his way down the pitch-black passageway, dark shapes leap out at him, thirsty for his blood, hungry for his marrow. All of those that he manages to spot before they reach him are instantly dispelled. All of those that manage to reach him before he sees them attack viciously. However, the PCs are not idle observers of this test, as for each creature that attacks Solinis, one also attacks the PCs. No more than twenty such encounters occur, but the test does not end until Solinis manages to spot and dispel seven of the creatures in a row. DMs are encouraged to use creatures similar to shadow monsters that cannot be seen easily in darkness and also have variable hit dice so that they provide a challenge to the PCs no matter their level. Once the test is complete, Tester re-appears and all are engulfed into the light once again.

All re-appear at what appears to be the last gate that stands before the glorious peak of Mt. Celestia. The peak itself, over and beyond the gilded gate and wall is not visible, as it is wreathed and obscured in golden-tinged clouds that appear soft and as white as down. Solinis' eyes light up like he has just seen the most beautiful sight that he has ever beheld and to many sods (possibly including some of the PCs), this would in fact be the most beautiful sight they have ever seen (or hope to see). A deep-seated sense of reverence and awe overcomes all.

Before the gate, however, there stands an obstacle. A large golden dais, seemingly made of the very gilded bricks that lie beneath their feet rises high into the celestial sky. Atop this flat-topped dais stands a large, bear-headed creature wielding a massive axe. At his side is what appears to be a short, black topped block. Tester speaks, the first time that you have heard him "say" anything as the instructions that came before were merely mental instructions.

"This is the third and final test. The test of devotion. Solinis Truesong, thou are to climb the stairs and place thine head upon the block. If thou be faithful, then the axe shall not harm ye. If thou be not faithful and ye flinch, then the axe shall be thine end."

Steeling himself, Solinis slowly climbs the stairs and then turns to face the PCs. Mouthing a silent prayer, he slowly kneels and places his head upon the block. The bear-headed creature raises the massive axe slowly, as if time itself is dragging, giving Solinis all the time in the world to raise his head up and stop the inevitable. The axe begins its final downward arc and strikes with the finality and authority of a lightening bolt. Solinis' head comes tumbling down the stairs and stops at the feet of the PCs. On his face is a peaceful smile. Tester remarks, "So be it". The light again engulfs the PCs.

When the light leaves their eyes, the PCs now stand before the Power again. He asks for their decisions and their reasons. Those PCs that say that the paladin failed the test soon find out that they were wrong. Those PCs that say that he passed are correct. How, when the paladin is now dead? It is simple -Solinis is still alive, as his devotion towards the Power was so great that he would have gladly given his life, or in this case his head, to prove it (thus the simile upon the head that the PCs saw). If he would have flinched, then he would truly be dead and the face on the head would have been altogether different. If the PCs balk and say that they were tricked, the Power simply says that the last test was a test for them all. It was a test for the PCs faith and devotion as well. Do they really think that a power of goodness and law would have let such a thing happen?

In the End

In the end, all is forgiven, and all wounds are healed away completely. Those PCs who said that the paladin passed the test are given a rare gift - a blessing that grants them a +1 to their Wisdom permanently. Those that said that the paladin failed are also given something that they won't soon forget - a celestial lecture on the goodness and forgiveness of the Power involved, all of the way down the long trek to the bottom of Mt. Celestia…

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