The Flame of Time

The Beginning of the End

We find our heroes traversing the Time Sea upon the deck of the Hammerhead with the Time Brothers chronogating the way back to that fateful moment when Tyric fell. That great ceremony that crowned the adventurers as Champions of Time now stood frozen as a testament to their inability to protect the Timestream and the universe as a whole. The dragons of time tore a hole in reality and moored the ship tightly into the 3520th year of the Age of Peace, the year of the Time Champions. The dead ship Naglfar was still poised in the air above Skyheim, the vile spear was still piercing the heart of the great Man-King Tyric; who had fallen to one knee grasping the wound in his chest. Lunaria and Haradon flanked him, both reaching out for him in horror. Every other Time Fixer on Skyheim were there too, frozen in time. All eyes were upon that rotten spear.

“Make haste, for we cannot stop the flow for much longer.” Vilzriquath stated.

“Can you not help us?” Amarella asked.

“I am afraid we cannot, we have interfered enough already. It is not our place.” Another said, and instantly the dragons were gone, and time slowly started to move again. The scene played out in slow-motion, as Tyric fell to the ground. The ceremony scattered. There was motion on the deck of the dead ship.

Malich leaned over the rails of Naglfar and shouted out orders. A small figure, obscured by a dark cloak, bounded high into the air from the ship, landing in the marble-lined courtyard of Skyheim. The figure stood, and peeled back its cowl; revealing the hideous countenance of a dead man — the sunken, expressionless eyes, and rictus grin of a foe long thought vanquished.

“Cole?” Delgen asked, the first to recognize the familiar figure who only smiled and unsheathed a crooked, fiendish sword as he advanced upon the dwarf. Many guests of the ceremony scattered and fled as time came back into full speed, but the heroes were not without allies.

Griff Byron was the first fixer to charge forward, drawing his pistols and shouting orders to the others, “Ready your ships, the lot of ya’! If these bastards want to bring war to our doorstep, they’ll get one!” The blood of a monster-hunter flowing to his extremities, readying him for the ensuing battle.

As the Time Fixers charged forward, furiously tapping K.E.Y.s and firing their gonnes, they were met with cannon-fire and numerous other ghouls leaping from the deck of Naglfar. Through sheer numbers the abominations from the mysterious ship slowed down the Time Fixers, preventing them from reaching the others.

Leomourn and the twins rushed to join Delgen, who still stared in disbelief at the creature before his eyes. As they reached the dwarf they were shocked to see three more figures from their past unexpectedly appear, landing beside Cole Jankins and drawing hideous weapons of their own.

“This isn’t right, we killed them!” Amarella cried, aghast at the foul creatures charging towards them.

“Then we’ll just have to kill them again,” replied Leomourn as he drew one of many pistols he had secreted upon his person, “I call dibs on the big one.”

Some Time Fixers broke through the lines of resistance on foot, while others took to the air with queer technologies of flight that were from unknown times or dimensions, joining the others and charging the figures behind Cole. The three tiefling warriors laughed and fought the advancing fighters expertly, continuing their advance. As they advanced their true nature became more apparent as flesh decayed and fell from their bones in a hideous fashion.

Disgusted by this revolting development, Amarella redoubled her efforts, slicing through the ghouls swarming her with ease, “By the gods, they’re rotting in front of our eyes!”

As her sister effortlessly dodged between the clumsy strikes of the undead assault, Darella’s eyes were drawn to the evil ship floating overhead, a sudden realization coming to her.

“The ship,” Darella shouted to the others, “The further they get from it, the more they decay. It must be the source of their power.”

Slipping through the shadows, Darella transported herself to the deck of the evil ship, materializing behind Malich and driving her shadow-blade towards his heart with expert precision. However, much to her surprise, her dagger met naught but empty air — Malich was nowhere in sight. The evil librarian had somehow maneuvered around the usually unflankable rogue. With a blade now within his hand as if he had summoned it from the aethers, Malich swung for Darella’s neck, eager for long sought revenge.

Swift as the wind, the evil blade was turned aside by the wide sword of Salvatore Dogí. Thrown off balance by the unexpected parry, Malich attempted to regain his footing, only to be knocked backwards by a swift kick from the hound.

“As long as I draw breath, no harm will come to my friends!” Salvatore growled, lifting his broken sword above his head, charging Malich.

Ever more figures bounded from the ship down to the floating structure below. The twisted form of a witch climbed the railing and dove off the ship down to the floating structure below. The corpulent bloated form of Hastur lumbered down the deck and more rolled off the edge of the ship than jumped, leabing a trail of excrement and sin in it’s wake. Darella looked upon the rest of the deck, past the seemingly endless army of shades. Most of the shades were the dead forms of foes that she remembered defeating throughout their many adventures throughout the last few years. Then her eyes fell upon the origin of the thrown spear. The one known as theDark One was standing at the back of the yellow ship, laughing.

In the chaos below Delgen solemnly stared down the spectre of Cole Jankins in front of him. With his ever-present hammer in one hand he drew forth his holy symbol, standing defiantly in front of the advancing hoard.

“Stand down Jankins,” he said as the silver, anvil-shaped pendant began to glow with an intense, unearthly light, “Find peace within the embrace of the All-Father.”

Though several of the undead were reduced to ash in the cleric’s holy light, Cole was undeterred, reaching out and grasping the symbol tightly, cutting into his rotting hand and leaking a foul, black ichor that blotted out its light.

Shaking his head, Delgen sighed, “I guess we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way then,” and with a sickening, wet thud, he slammed his hammer into the revenant’s skull, leaving the (un)earthly remains of Cole Jankins crumpled and twitching on the ground.

Looking up at the ship overhead Delgen hit a switch on his K.E.Y. gauntlet letting out a loud burst of static before a mechanical, yet melodic voice crackled through, “You rang, Commander?”

“Percy, I need a status report on the other Zeitspringers!”

“The majority of them have been docked in preparation for the ceremony today. All available ’Springers are being unmoored and launched as we speak, sir. By my calculations it will be exactly twelve minutes and fourty-four seconds before any of them will be able to join the battle. The only ship ready for immediate combat is the Hammerhead”

“I guess it’s a good thing we were late then. Percy, prepare the ship for Maneuver Q-19!” More revenants filled the courtyard, the burning head of the dead plague keeper charged the dwarf. Her most prized specimen was taken from her in life, so she was to have him in death.

“Might I suggest we employ Maneuver C-93 instead, sir? Maneuver Q-19 always leaves the cargo hold in such a mess.”

“Damn it all, you churlish, crook-pated clack-dish, there’s no time for subtlety here, we’ve lives to save.”

As Delgen continued to bicker with his modron second-in-command, Leomourn and Amarella valiantly battled the undead tieflings. As Leomourn felled the last one with a final shot, Skyheim itself suddenly lurched with unnatural seismic force.

Looking around for the source Amarella sighed, “Leomourn, please tell me that was one of your magic items.”

“Umm, I don’t think so,” he said has he patted himself down, not really sure if one of the innumerable magic items he’d collected was the source or not, “It’s getting so hard to keep track of this stuff.”

As the intensity of the rumbling grew Amarella’s survival instincts kicked in. “We’ve got to get out of here right now,” she yelled, grabbing Leomourn by the nape of his neck and breaking into a sprint, “Something’s coming up from below us — and fast!”

As he was dragged along by the inescapable grip of his girlfriend, Leomourn saw Delgen, too caught up in his argument to notice the danger beneath his own feet. He reached out to the dwarf and called out to his old friend, but his voice was drowned out by the cacophony of the flagstone beneath the dwarf crumbling into powder, replaced by the massive, toothy maw a humongous worm.

Amarella and Leomourn could only watch in horror as Delgen was caught in the worm’s mouth as it burst through the ground beneath his feet, rising improbably high into the sky. The advancing shades halted at the sight of the beast, including the plague keeper. They called out to him in shock and horror, but the only response they could make out was the sound of grinding stone and what may have been the maniacal laughter of a dwarf about to die.

The last thing Delgen remembered before all those teeth was Percy complaining about the latest modifications to the drive core and how they’d thrown off the Hammerhead’s steering. Then there was a great crash which broke Delgen’s concentration, causing him to revert to his stone form, followed by the sudden, sharp pain and an awful grinding sound as the incalculable rows of teeth pulled him deeper into the creature’s gullet.

Though he was ostensibly in mortal danger Delgen could not suppress his laughter. He reached into his pack, pulling out of it a belt of grenades that he’d prepared long ago for just such an occasion. He’d originally obtained them when the party had been transported to the Dry Age, and, anticipating the need for a moment of dramatic and flamboyant self-sacrifice, had rigged them so that their pins could all be pulled simultaneously.

Yanking the pins out, he pushed the belt of grenades below him further into the great worm’s gullet, all the while still laughing.

Just as suddenly as the gigantic wyrm had appeared, it was blown into thousands of pieces, raining down in foul-smelling chunks upon the stunned on-lookers below. It’s blood was acidic, burning through metal and stone with a smoldering hiss. As the shredded remains of the beast slumped to the ground, Amarella and Leomourn saw what appeared to be a shooting star plummeting towards them. Leaping away they narrowly avoided the still-smoldering form smashing into the ground before them.

In shock and covered in worm guts; they ran to the crater where their friend now lay motionless. Peering over the edge Amarella called his name.

“Nobody…swallows…a dwarf…” croaked a familiar voice from deep in the crater.

As the world serpent fought the Hammer-wielder, Darella and Salvatore dealt with their own predicament high in the air atop the deck of Naglfar.

“Jörmungandr has fallen!” Malich called out in the direction of the Dark One, as he was tiredly parrying the precise and endless strength of the hound archon. Darella noticed that Salvatore was attacking fast and hard to tire the librarian, his blows were wide and long. He was playing with the necromancer.

‘’He has served his purpose. After freeing the Naglfar, the beast is expendable.’’ The dark figure in the back of the ship said.

A massive shadow danced on the deck of the ship, Darella noticed this from behind cover. She looked up and the partially frozen, partially rotten form of a dragon slowly crawled from below deck and moved towards the bow, port-side away from Darella and the Archon-Necromancer battle.

“Sarconis!” Leomourn screamed. Darella correctly identified this spectre to be the dragon body Cylarus had inhabited. The frozen dragon stretched it’s icy wings and glided down towards Skyheim.

The Dark One spoke a word of power. The echo of the word caused pain in all those around. All those living clutched at their ears. Darella felt the warmth of blood on her palms as she held the sides of her head. Salvatore let out a yelp and dropped his blade. His ear’s went back and he grabbed them in agony, dropping to the ground in the fetal position. Malich slunk away during this moment of distraction.

The whole titan that was Skyheim cracked at the sound of the word. The ancient structure crumbled and lost altitude. Like the stone, the magic that held the chrononaut adrift was broken as well. The Time Fixers in the courtyard scrambled as the ground beneath their feet began to freefall. Griff expertly ran and jumped from each falling piece of rubble, hopping from the edges of falling stone seemingly effortlessly. He made his way to the dwarf and his two companions.

“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try this one out.” Griff said with a smile, he spun into a squatting position his coat spinning cinematically amongst all the chaos. He dialed and flicked his K.E.Y. a hologram of a weird object was projected from the device on his wrist onto the stone below between Delgen’s outstretched feet.

Griff Byron smiled again as the hologram realized and fell on the stone with a metallic thud. The monster hunter grabbed up the thing, stood and propped the object on one shoulder. He aimed the weapon up at the oncoming Dragon. The sound of cannon fire was heard and the dragon was blasted in two halves, split by the arcane firepower. The force of the blast knocked Griff back into Delgen’s lap and the weapon bounced heavily, a number of yards away; over the edge of a slab of stone falling into the chaos that was the falling edifice.

“What was that?” Leomourn asked, intrigued.

“A prototype.” Griff said.

“Can your wrist-thing do that?” Leomourn looked at Delgen, impressed.

Darella charged the Dark One, she had advanced upon the figure painfully slow through the whole endeavor and was finally ready for her attack. She had her rapier poised to kill, and she danced and spun, her shadow mantle flowing about her. A whirling dervish of darkness.

The Dark One watched as she stormed, he lifted a hand and flicked the rogue with one finger and she was sent off the dead ship like a bug. She was half a league away in the blink of an eye. Salvatore froze his muzzle pointing towards the vile figure he closed his fist about his broken blade and scrambled to his feet. He charged his foe. Like his master, Salvatore was thrown effortlessly from the ship. His blade glinted in the daylight as it fell from his hands high in the sky.

The Hammerhead barreled through the clouds, cannons blazing — the full force of her fury upon the Naglfar. The wretched ship’s hull blew apart under the assault, splintering into stinking chunks and vile excrement. The sound of a thousand damned souls pierced the ears of those on the ground, distracting them from their battle.

All on Skyheim looked up towards their singlular hope, but the Naglfar unleashed thousands of black arcane bolts from its cannons, tearing through the hull of the Hammerhead as no other weapon had done before. The ship’s speed usually enabled it to evade any attack from its foes, but the foul ship’s superior weapons reduced it hull to smoking cinders.

Undeterred the Hammerhead turned itself around for another attack run. Delgen, seeing the burning hull of the ship, furiously called towards his second-in-command.

“Don’t tell me you’re sending the ship through another bombing run!”

“Of course not, Commander. The ship is much too damaged for a continued assault. The only remaining option is Maneuver Omega,” Percy calmly replied.

“Don’t you dare, Perceptor! There’s still time,” Delgen shouted at his second in command, “We can make it out of this together.”

“Negative, sir. I’ve run the calculations, and the only positive outcome is conditional upon your survival. With that in mind, this is the only acceptable course of action.”

“Get the yourselves out of there,” he cried into the screen on his K.E.Y. “You have to survive!”

“Do not grieve, Commander. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and for the many, it is imperative you must survive.”

While the dwarf argued with his second-in-command, the Hammerhead sped past the Naglfar, almost wrenching itself apart in a sharp u-turn. With uncanny accuracy it’s reinforced bow pointed itself towards the stinking death-ship and sped forward with blinding speed.

“Percy,” Delgen said, as he began to cry, “Please don’t do this. There must be another way.”

From the dwarf’s KEY there came only a single reply, “Delgen, I have been, and always shall be, your friend. Live long and prosper.”

With those final words, the great ramming bow of the Hammerhead slammed into the hull of the Naglfar, splintering the damp rotten side of the hull into a thousand pieces. Vile excrement and black viscera fell from the shattered remains of the foul ship. A shrill, eternal sound pierced the air as more filth fell from the gaping hole in the ship. Screams of damned souls echoed through the air, finally released from their torment upon the ship. Countless blackened, rotten bodies of the dead fell from the wound like a dark, vile blood. The force of the impact knocked Malich to his knees.

Just as the three warriors were about to fall into the center of the crumbling structure that was falling in on itself, Time froze once again. Delgen looked up at his companions, they helped him up.

Everything went black.



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