The heroes stepped through the portal and into a vast grey waste that stretched before them. They quickly marked the location of the portal (invisible on this side) with one of Rax’s arcane marks on a half-buried skeleton, so as not to be lost, and set out towards the only feature they could make out in the dim horizon. A huge temple of carefully sculpted white stone stood before them, looking completely out of place in the middle of the wasteland.
As they approached the temple, however, almost a dozen Cerulean Sign warriors emerged from the sands around them and once more told them to stop. Clyde’s ax roaring to flame was all the response they needed to immediately attack, and the battle was joined. At first, it seemed as though the Sign’s numbers and dirty-fighting tactics would overpower the party, and many of the heroes were brought to their knees or even knocked unconscious. But through Eviel’s restorative magics, they were able to stagger back to their feet and keep fighting. Finally, even as the priest began to exhaust his healing, they brought down the last attacker.
Dragging themselves through the blood-soaked sands, the party pulled open the doors of the temple with more Cerulean Sign reinforcements hurrying after them. The great stone doors were shut just as the attackers threw themselves upon them, and there was a struggle to bar them before the entrance was breached. But the door held, and the heroes could finally take a moment to rest.
Even just the hall of the temple was massive, and the structure couldn’t be described as “ruined”. It was stark white and looked untouched by time. They followed the hall for a time, and checked a few large doors leading to various empty rooms, including one that looked like it may have one time housed a row of cells (and at some point, J wandered off). But echoing through the halls, they could hear a strange piping sound, alien music from some sort of flute. While they could discern no pattern to the unnerving melody, it did seem deliberate in its own way.
They discovered the source of the sound as they entered another large set of doors that opened up into a wide church. A pallid yellow carpet led the zig-zag way up to a raised stone dais, upon which sat a humanoid figure robed in silk. His face was hidden behind a silken mask, and his hands were similarly wrapped, but he was clearly the source of the piping of a thin flute that he continued to play without taking much apparent interest in the party until he was addressed.
When he spoke, his language was one of croaks, hisses, and guttural sounds, as well as some sort of sign language, but it seemed as though Lucky could understand his words. He indicated that he was trapped here just as the scholars were locked away in another dimension, but that the party carried a power source that could activate a machine to free them all. In a corner alcove of the church, they were directed to this machine.
After much deliberation, Raphaelusk finally placed the gem that they had recovered from the Driders into the waiting slot of the machine. It instantly roared to life in an almost sickening display of lights and pumps and steam, and the building began to rumble and shake. But this shaking was not that of the earth quaking beneath them, threatening to tear the walls asunder; it was almost as if the building had been lifted from the ground, fully intact, and then shaken violently by some titanic creature.
As the heroes reeled to find their footing, screams of the Cerulean Sign warriors echoed from the doors of the church. The party ran back out to see them instantly slaughtered by a gargantuan bubbling horror of a monster, a lightning-quick flying ooze made up of a hundred malevolent eyes and a thousand gnashing maws. They screamed “SHOGGOTH!” before being torn apart and swallowed up by the unspeakable monstrosity, which was gone out the door almost as soon as it had come. Only Lawrence remained, near death, his body crushed under the weight of the pews broken in the one-sided battle.
Trying to make sense of what had happened, the party looked to the robed figure, which was still playing. It indicated to them (interpreted by Lucky) that they had succeeded, and the scholars had been freed. Indeed, they saw more robed figures moving through the halls as they exited the church, but they were largely ignored by the aloof and ungrateful scholars, who seemed to be going about some predetermined business.
Confused, the party stepped outside of the now fully-furnished temple to see that the sky had turned an ominous shade of red, with black stars of unknown constellations and a moon hanging, dripping, over a misty lake. Impossibly, behind the moon they could see the spires of some distant, alien city that filled them with dread. They shook Lawrence awake and tried to get some information out of him, but he babbled something mad-sounding about a place called Carcosa, and passed out again.
But what was left of his journal told a bit more. A scrap of a page that appeared to be from Ciara’s journal revealed that she had become troubled by the work she was doing in pursuit of the Temple of Hidden Wisdom, and that she had destroyed her own notes, as well as some sort of play. And to spare herself and the rest of the multiverse the waking nightmare of it all, she had used the waters of the River Styx to erase her own memory. Lawrence’s journal entry confirmed that he had been tracking her to end her quest, but in finding her so completely mind-wiped, he took pity and brought her to an out-of-the-way prime world.