Darella opened her eyes.
She awoke in the temple of Heironeous with all eyes on her.
“We thought we lost you.” Amarella said.
“For the second time.” Leomourn said.
“Glad you’re back, dark one.” Delgen said.
“Sygg…” Darella said after rubbing her eyes with her fists and touching the now dark-brown reddish scar that lined her neck.
“My lady. My heartache is lessened to see you breathing again. I worried that you would be lost once again.” The red hound that was at Darella’s feet said as he raised his head.
“Weird.” Leomourn whispered.
“I am indebted to you my lady twice. Once for your death by my hand and second for not being there to defend your honour and life from the foul demon lord. I shall stay by your side and fight in your honour.” Salvatore said.
“Have you ever thought about how easy it is to bring someone back to life, if you just have the right amount of coin or know the right men of cloth.” Leomourn said.
“It’s because we’re the good guys.” Amarella said, smiling and gently touching her sister’s now warming fingers.
“How do we know that?” Lemourn said.
“Because the world needs heroes, and someone has to step forth.” Delgen said.
“The god’s must favour us.” Amarella said.
“…Sygg…” Darella whispered again.
“Sometimes the bad guys win.” Leomourn said.
After solving the case of the Seven Pointed murder our adventurers found Griff Byron and asked to leave the town and time of Felden. His ship now repaired and ready to set sail once again, he agreed. Griff asked them when they wanted to go, and they asked to return to the year 3518 the day after they had witnessed the Darkeyes parents cast chronomagic under the duress of Pamalyn Cindeowyn.
They leaned over the railing of the ship; as the ship lurched up out of the Prime Plane and swayed hauntingly as she floated adrift the Sea of Time, and watched as the land below the glassy surface change and age as they traveled through time. The wounded land changed form as the drought-stricken earth became moist and verdant once again and soon became covered in snows and hoarfrosts.
Griff ran aground outside of the Frozen Tower and lowered the gangplank.
“Splice the mainbrace!” He shouted with a grin and let them step back onto the frozen surface of the flooded vale. Stepping back into their proper era. They walked to the door of the observatory and looked back. Griff bowed to them and explained that he would be return to them soon and put his hand on the helm, his visage bore a Duchenne smile and the ship was gone with a muted pop. A miasma of many colours both named and unnamed swirled and dissipated where the ship had just been.
They stepped toward the tower with less élan than usual and spoke not a word. They entered the tower, this time not posed with the wizards test of faith. They ventured downwards into the tower. The girls had seemingly escaped successfully and everything was left as it was when they left last. They walked by the seared corpse of the white dragon that Cylarus had embodied and entered the blackened ruins of the room.
The room was time-burnt and existed with a certain taint that only a wound in time could exude. The desecration was one that was felt to the bone and further, to the core of one’s soul. It was worse than the taint left by death as one feels when he walks into a charnel house or the incinerators of yore. It was unnatural and our adventurers could not spend more than a few moments around the mar. The unvoiced questions were answered in one glance…it was impossible for anyone to have survived what happened that fateful day.
“I want to go home.” Amarella said.
Griff appeared within the day and steered his ship to them as they were on their way back to Kraggenmoor. Amarella asked to go back to Dragonsmouth, Darella remained silent conceding to her sister’s wishes. Leomourn too remained silent. Griff sailed southbound and when they were floating high above the Sea of Woes Griff dialed and twisted knobs on his KEY. The Zeitship fell from the sky and bounced gently on the dark inky surface of the brine. Griff once again touched his wrist and with a sound of air and magic the air balloon above was deflated and masts took their places, erecting from the holes in the deck of the ship, and great sails unfolded and became filled with air. The airship now looked nothing more than a sea vessel.
“Quite a trick.” Delgen said.
“That is the least she can do.” Griff said smiling, looking forward.
Our adventurers gathered their possessions, emotions and their resolve as Griff moored the vessel to the quay in Dragonsmouth.
“I haven’t had a right sleep in a while, so lets see if I can get properly drunk before the end of second dogwatch and have my senses go the way of deep six.” Griff said, paying the berthing fee to the dockworker, who then tied the hawsers to the bollard.
“I will leave at high noon in the morrow. If you wish to join me; meet me here, then. Now, where is the best place to drink in this port city?” Griff said as he walked into the great town.
The twins, the archer and the dwarf followed the crazed monster hunter into the port city and followed him into many taverns and drank with him. They had drank their pain and sorrows deep into themselves, numbing them so that they felt nothing but the enjoyment and respect felt when you are truly alive. They reveled in that fact, and shouted into the moist night sky and walked the streets with drinking horns and steins in their grasp. They spoke of the monsters and strange things they had seen. Delgen and Leomourn drunkenly reenacted some of the more physical feats in front of audiences. Embellishing the odds and their performances, as the twins rolled their eyes. Griff’s gaze was adamantly cast upon their performance like a drunken child listening to a story of a hero and a monster.
“There was a castle f…fu…full of demons. They were all in the bottom of the frozen tower.” Delgen said.
“Indeed there were more than six…seven even.” Leomourn said, drinking his elven fire-whiskey.
“Twenty, I dare say!” Delgen corrected looking towards Leomourn, nodding slightly. The women in the alley gasped, one actually seemingly fell faint at the tale.
“Let us check on the old inn.” Amarella said, in a sober tone having not imbibed as much as the dwarf and archer.
“What inn?” Griff asked, not removing his gaze from the pantomime tale of two men’s victory over twenty…now twenty and five demons in a frozen tower of foul nature.
“Our inn.” Darella said and walked from the alley.
The twins walked in and were welcomed by the steward therein. Amarella walked into the kitchen and checked upon it’s status. Darella disappeared down a dark stairwell. Griff walked in in wonder and found his way to the bar.
“A pint of the darkest stuff you have, and what do you have in the way of food? I haven’t eaten in over a century.” Griff said jokingly.
“We’ve got pork scratchings, pickled eggs, salted crisps and peanuts; courtesy of the house. Cockles, whelks, mussels and fried shrimp for a coin per serving. A ploughmans’ lunch for two. A pie and a pint for five. Shrimp in all styles. Chicken in a basket for four. Steak and ale pie, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Syggsdai roast, and pasties; all eightcoin.” The buxom bar maid said while pouring a thick and black ale from a large cask.
“What’s a pasty?” Griff asked then threw back the whole pint, slamming it down and asking for another one.
“It is a flaky pastry with meat and stew within; a hearty meal, one is usually enough even for the most stout of men. You would like it.” She said filling the cup once again, readjusting her clothes to reveal more pale vein ridden breast, like a fine cheese.
“I’ll take two. One beef and one chicken.” Griff said and walked away from the bar.
“And then we both jumped from the ship and fought the giant with our bare hands, I pulled his teeth out and Delgen pulled his ears from his head.” Leomourn said as he kicked the doors open and poured in the tavern, a sea of drunken women flooded in after him. Delgen was strutting into the building with his fists on his hips, two women to either side of him, he nodded in accordance of the tale.
“I kept the ears, but I dare not show them to women of such caliber.” Delgen said, mocking the motion of revealing the imaginary ears within his belt. The women around melted.
“Where is the heart of the giant now?” Griff said as he stepped from the shadows of the tavern.
“Well…” Leomourn stuttered.
“And what of the ship? The one you were on when the beast attacked? What is the state of the ship?” Griff asked, drinking the black ale.
“Well, she is still functional is she not?” Delgen said, glaring.
“And how much did the repairs cost?” Griff asked trying to hold back his grin, slamming his emptied glass upon the ground.
“I see, listen Griff I will cover your debauchery here.” Delgen said, pulling forward his coin purse.
“I care not for your squandering of coin as much as I find discomfort in your subterfuge. And lack of respect for my vessel.” Griff said grabbing the pint from Delgen’s hand and throwing it back.
“Right. Butterflies, remove yourselves from the Archer and I, heroes need our rest, presently.” Delgen said, the women scattered much to their chagrin.
The pale bar wench walked out into the light cast upon the Zeithopper and the Dwarf from the moonlight that flooded the darkened room through the hole in the ceiling and handed Griff a clay platter with two steaming hot brown pastries. Delgen grabbed one and bit deep into it and stared. Leomourn ran up to them and grabbed the other, he bit the steaming thing and huffed loudly a few times exclaiming that it was hot. Griff dropped the patter upon the floor and walked back to the bar.
“Look at these poofs, drinking all my ale and getting on with my women.” A voice said at the bar, to the side of Griff.
“Yeah Torr, who do they think they are?” Another voice answered, in a sniveling style. Griff turned to them.
“Which poofs?” Griff asked then threw back a slug of a hafling-made anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium, together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. He called for a stout afterward.
“The dwarrow and his drunk friend.” The first said leaning back on the bar, exposing his torso in a way that was meant to convey that he was fearless and could fend for himself.
“You two look like the poofs from where I’m standing.” Griff said emphatically, and continued to drink his oyster stout.
“Excuse me?” Exclaimed the first, named Torr.
“I said you two look like you two engage in orthogenital copulation, and sodomy as well as pederasty.” Griff said, smiling.
“Who do you think you are? Do you know who you’re talking to?” The first said after dropping his stein and approaching Griff.
“I do not, in fact. Nor do I care.” Griff said finishing his stout.
“I am Torr and this is my tavern! It would be prudent if a buggering quadroon like you, to mind his business.” Torr said.
“What is a quadroon?” Leomourn asked, as he approached the bar.
“The offspring of a man and a half-elf.” Delgen said calmly, recognizing what was unfolding before him, he closed his eyes and called upon his dwarfen ability to metabolize a portion of the alcohol he had consumed to become more sober.
“You call me that as if it was a bad thing.” Griff said standing straighter.
“Alright I’ve had enough of you three benders, get out of me pub!” Torr said, pulling his waistcoat back to reveal the shine of a dagger on his belt.
“We mean no harm, we just come here to drink.” Delgen said.
“Yes we do.” Griff said.
“Calm, Griff. We don’t want to hurt these jossers, just let them get along so they can go back to their dosshouse and plow each others jackseys.” Leomourn said turning his back to the men with a wink to Griff. Griff smiled.
“I’ve been craving a good barney!” Griff said. Leomourn ducked just then as a fist cut through the air right were his head had been and he spun and kicked the legs out from under Torr. Griff had grabbed the arm of the man and pulled it in the other direction of his flying legs. The man was on the ground.
Four men stood from the card table a little off from the bar and unsheathed various weapons they had concealed and brought.
“Finally this night has grown interesting.” Delgen said, throwing back another pint, kicking a boot to the second man that had been with the one called Torr.
An immense pub brawl unfolded in The Shadow of the Sun. Seemingly everyone joined, it was a maelstrom of fists, blades and bloody bruising of various body parts.
“Enough!” A voice came from behind the bar, it was Amarella’s. A magical darkness entered the whole of the chamber even blocking the moonlight that had so peacefully spilled into the room before, as Darella exited the stairwell that had presumably led to the cellar. Everyone froze in the darkness, not knowing what to do.
“If anyone even looks like they will throw another fist, I will be upon you like a beast.” Amarella said, Bernard ducked into the tavern and looked around feeling the distress that his master had been feeling.
“Release the darkness.” Amarella said to her sister. Darella relaxed her face and as she did so, the darkness crawled back into the corners of the room and behind furniture where shadows usually belonged.
The whole of the pub rubbed their eyes and looked around, stunned. Some got up, some left confused. Torr slowly got up and looked around and was promptly met with a hard strike to the face.
The next morning Griff awoke on the dock beside his ship and looked at the sun, she was not yet directly above him, he sat up. There was half a pasty wrapped in brown parchment in his side pocket, and a mug of cider that had surprisingly not been overturned by his side. He ate this and sat up. He stood after a while and asked for servant to get him some bumbo. He sipped upon the fermented cider and coughed some of it into the dark brine that filled the port, but managed to keep some of it down hoping it would help his headache, as he waited for the bumbo.
He walked across the gangplank and boarded his ship.
Griff looked upon a deck decorated with regurgitated pasty and lagers, on the deck were two figures both laying within their own sick. An archer and a dwarf. He approached them.
“Hey, why are you on my ship?” Griff asked, kicking each in turn.
“Wake up! I am going to leave soon.” Griff said, pulling them up into sitting positions.
‘’Take me to Kraggenmoor.’’ Leomourn said, and was sick upon his chest.
“Okay mate, you got it.” Griff shrugged and said, looking upon the dwarf who got up and put his hands on the railing of the ship and looked deeply into the black waters.
“I don’t belong here.” Delgen said, pungently.
They left in silence and Griff let Leomourn off of his ship at Kraggenmoor and the three men said their silent goodbyes. Griff and the dwarf sailed the time seas, Griff asked the dwarf:
“Where should I drop you?”
“I have no where.” Delgen said.
“Like me.” Griff said.
“Can I join the Time Fixers ?” Delgen asked.
Nine moons had past.
Amarella answered the door, being the first up in the morning. It was little after firstlight and the night cooks were just then falling asleep in there homes and the bartenders were battling the pull of drink and sleep. Amarella was the first up, she checked the status of the kitchen before the morning cooks, she heard the knocking from the back of the Inn. She answered.
“We’ll serve breakfast in two hours. Unless you need a room.” Amarella said.
“We require neither food nor lodging.” The gaunt figure replied.
“Well, then it’s settled.” Amarella said, and turned in the direction of the kitchen.
“Amarella Darkeyes, our business is of great importance and must be hastened. We require information that we have suspicion to believe you can give us, and we shall give you information that will be of value to you.” The svelte figure said.
“Information?” Amarella said, turning around.
“Yes, we would like to gather all of you first.” The figure said.
“All of us?” Amarella said.
“Yes, you, your sister your partner. A one Leomourn Stalkingwolf.” The figure said, impatiently.
“I haven’t seen that fool in over nine months!” Amarella said with a fire in her eye.
“Settle your affairs here and fetch your sister; we know were the wolf-man is, we will take you to him.” The figure said.
“Fine. Come in, would you like a drink? I don’t know why I should trust you.” Amarella said and walked behind the bar, opening the door to the cellar and calling down to her sister. Darella came from the shadow of the stairs shortly after.
“What’s the matter?” Darella asked looking upon the two figures. The thin one was drinking milk, the other had not sat down.
“These men know about us and Leomourn.” Amarella said cleaning a dish.
“We also know of the dwarf and the elf. And all your exploits about this land and of your enemies. Now, I am sorry to hasten you but our mission is one of the most sensitivity.” The figure said.
“We have no reason to trust you. Why would we leave the comfort of our lives here to go out and get mixed up in all that business again.” Amarella said.
“Because you miss it. The trill of adventure. Your hearts rot here in this drab tavern, serving to fools and drunkards, when really it yearns for blood and danger.” The gaunt figure said looking at them and settling his gaze upon Darella.
“It’s true.” Darella said.
“Fine, give us some time to get ready.” Amarella said.
“I’m ready.” Darella said. She grabbed a bag that was hanging in the broom closet that was the entrance to the stairway. She sat beside the figure.
“What are your names?” She asked smiling.
“I am called Zaerith and he is called Wind.” The figure said downing the last of his milk.
The Darkeyes Twins boarded Zaerith’s ship, it differed from Byron’s ship but they learned that it served the same function. The ship lifted into the air and traversed the sea, they were headed back to Rienland.
“What are you?” Darella asked.
“My race you mean? I am Githyanki.” Zaerith answered with his hand on the helm.
“What is a Githyanki.” Darella said.
“We rarely leave the Astral Sea to come to your plane, now no more questions. I shall give you my full story when we find the Wolf-man.” Zaerith said.
They landed outside of the great walled city of Kraggenmoor now covered in a thick blanket of winter white.
“He’s been here all this time?” Amarella asked angrily.
The twins and the two quiet figures walked into town and walked the streets. They found Leomourn on horseback with a posse of other men. They were all wearing similar armament and cloaks. Darella picked up a stone and threw it at the back of Leomourn’s head. The whole of the outfit turned round and encircled the four pedestrians, some had knocked an arrow and had taken aim, others had spearheads pointed.
“Who dares assault the Guard Captain of Kraggenmoor!?” One of the men said
“Captain?” Darella laughed.
“And dares mock him. Men!” The man said.
“Halt! I know these people, er two of them rather. Grant us privacy.” Leomourn said, his men lead their mounts away. Leomourn got off his horse.
“You have been toiling around here for nine months?! Did you not think to even tell me where you were?!” Amarella said slapping Leomourn on the arms.
“We must act quickly. He may not have much longer.” Zaerith said.
“Who? What is he talking about? Who are these people?” Leomourn asked.
“We’ll tell you. First we need to find a quiet place. We are going to leave so gather your things.” Darella said.
“Where are we going? I was just about to go out on a hunt.” Leomourn said thrusting a thumb over his shoulder pointing at his mates.
“Good, then you’re prepared. Let’s go, settle your affairs.” Zaerith said, and walked away.
“Wait! Who is this guy? What’s going on.” Leomourn said.
“Just do as he says.” Amarella said and glared at Leomourn, he obeyed immediately.
“Harold, I am leaving. Until my return you are Alpha. Wulver you are Beta.” Leomourn said, the two addressed men raised fists to their chests.
“And Larry still remains Omega, right sir?” The one called Harold said.
“Of course.” Leomourn said, smiling. As he finished saying this a small man in the throng of men was met with a number of blows as his friends punched him in mockery.
The men rode their mounts out of the city and as they were out of sight, an ovation of howls was heard upon the wind. The melody of the notes gave the illusion of many more voices than there was. These were the howling of the wolf-men that had been traveling with Leomourn, the guards of Kraggenmoor.
“So what is up?” Leomourn asked as they stood near the ship just outside the city gates.
“I am Zaerith, and this is Wind. We are Knights of Madness. We are here to interrogate you.” Zaerith said.
“Whoa! Interrogate! What is this about!? I swear she said she was…” Leomourn exclaimed, and then promptly stopped.
“We are hunting an individual that we know to have made contact with you. We want to know a few things and in exchange we will give you information that will be useful to you.” Zaerith said, his large partner remained silent.
“What information?” Leomourn asked.
“I will not bore you with the history of my people, but I shall tell you that we are the descendants of a race who were enslaved by the Illithids. We have since gained our freedom and have vowed to the destruction of the vile race. I am an eminent hunter of these abominations of august reputation. I have killed countless of these disgusting creatures and have been charged with the extermination of a specific one who has been flagged as a potential threat to the status quo. This creature is known as ”/characters/eldranoth" class=“wiki-content-link”>Eldranoth, and I have knowledge of your interaction with him." Zaerith said.
“Oh, him.” Leomourn said.
“I know that he has pulled you into his evil machinations of tergiversation. We have followed you through the ”/wikis/bellamins-tower" class=“wiki-page-link”> mansion to the imprisonment and all the way to the ice tower and on to the desert city. We have finally found you and wish to ask a few questions." Zaerith said.
“Go on then.” Leomourn said.
“Well firstly where Eldranoth is.” Zaerith said.
“We do not know, we have lost track of him through time and space. Last we know he was visiting a priest in Felden a few centuries ago.” Leomourn said flicking a leaf from his boot.
“Right, well we have found out that he has disenchanted ”/wikis/the-ther" class=“wiki-page-link”> The Æther and has achieved lichdom. An Illithid is a nasty foe to rid the land of but an Alhoon is something far more difficult to destroy, but not impossible. That is why Wind has joined my cause." Zaerith said pointing at his silent partner.
“But we need to know one thing. A lich becomes indestructible by placing his or her soul into a phylactery. This grants him the ability to become physically destroyed but subsist, only needing to find another material body or summoning his old one through the dark art. A lich’s phylactery has to be something that has been within contact with the person long enough to have absorbed enough of his essence to hold his soul. An item must have maintained regular contact for at least ten or twenty years to become in synchronous with the potential lich to receive his soul and contain it. Our question for you is if during your interaction with this beast you have noticed an item that he has kept with him, most of the time the item is very dear to the person. We need to know as soon as possible so that we can find the item before he hides it and becomes an unstoppable force. The fact that Eldranoth can move through time makes this even more difficult.” Zaerith said.
“The locket.” Darella whispered.
“Yes!” Amarella agreed.
“A locket?” Zaerith asked intrigued, Wind straightened.
“Yes, there was a locket that had been taken from him by ”/wikis/to-what-length-part-i" class=“wiki-page-link”> a hag while he slept. He made us retrieve it for him." Darella said.
“It belonged to his sister…er…Langston’s sister." Amarella remembered.
“Are you certain that this is an item that he would have carried on his person for a long while?” Zaerith asked.
“I would assume, he seemed pretty mad to have lost it and told us to get it for him.” Leomourn said.
“Right. Then we need to locate and destroy this locket to rid the world of this monster. As for your payment. We have been watching you and your comrades for a time now. We have lost contact with your elf friend but as for the dvergr, I must tell you that he is in dire need of your aid.” Zaerith said.
“Delgen? Where has he been?” Leomourn asked, trying not to sound apprehensive.
‘He had been traveling as a Chrononaut and was pulled into a portal against his will.’ Zaerith said.
“How do you know that?” Amarella asked
‘As I have said, we have been watching over you and everyone who has had contact with The Adversary for quite some time.’ Zaerith said.
“The Adversary?” Leomourn asked.
“A legendary illithid that takes on the host’s personality and memory, either partially or in its entirety. This “Adversary” would, mind and soul, still be the host, but with all the inherent abilities of an illithid. Most importantly the fact that the soul still exists in a way but is destroyed. The soul exists like an echo in the mind of the Illithid, but will never know the paradise of peace. Given the facts that Eldranoth attacked and killed his brothers and retains memories and nightmares of his host’s life, leads us to believe he may in fact be The Adversary. We do not know what implications this may hold, but nonetheless he is still a threat." Zaerith said, getting heated and visibly excited.
“Okay, back to Delgen.” Leomourn said.
“He was lost to us as well, but we have brought along a portalist who can help you locate him and send you to find him.” Zaerith said and called out, soon a small old man came down from the grounded ship and walked up to them.
“You have ten words to send your friend through this spell, make them count.” The old man said as he opened his palms and a small glowing dove made of pure energy fluttered it’s wings and looked side to side. It pulsated with light as Darella bent down and spoke to the bird.
“Umm. Where are you? Are you okay? Darkeyes Twins.” Darella shrugged. The dove tilted it’s head to one side and nodded.
“Is this sufficient?” The old man asked. Darella nodded with a shrug.
Delgen opened his eyes to a world upside-down. Once he realized he was hanging from his ankles he mentally rearranged the locale to better place his situation. He noticed that his feet were bearing the bulk of his weight as he hung there in a dark and dank room, he also realized that there he was bound with crude but strong leather straps at his knees around the paunch and at his shoulders. He was bound to a table able to tilt, as he was. Delgen was familiar with torture devices, as some human and orc clerics used in their perverted campaigns of truth and conversion.
The cleric of Moradin looked about the room, using his innate dwarven geolocating sense discerned was one story below the local ground level. He noticed tools of beating, searing and cutting tools. More gruesome he found within the reversed view: abacination tools, castrating tools, tools for denailing, choking, crushing, flaggelation, garroting, strappado ropes, and tubs for dunking. Delgen would have lost his breakfast if he had had one. His stomach growled loudly, causing him to worry if any living souls would have heard it but when he looked around he saw half-dead corpses and worse yet dead half-corpses within half of the torturing devices within this charnel (de)basement.
Before Delgen could assume his location or how he could have found himself in such a predicament; a white bird of energy flew to his shoulder and whispered into his ear after pecking at his beard. His face relaxed in a small smile of relief. He turned his head and spoke to the bird.
“Plague-Mort. Gate City. Bring weapons. Trust no one.” The bird nuzzled into the dwarf’s mustache before flying away, straight through a stone wall.
“Plague-what?” Leomourn asked.
“Plague-Mort. A gate-city on the Concordant Domain of the Outlands. Gate-towns are settlements which are built around a permanent portal to a certain Outer Plane on the Great Wheel. Gate-towns are important strategically because they provide a relatively stable way to enter a desired Outer Plane. The gate-towns reflect the plane that they lead to, for example, Xaos is a town where everything changes from one moment to the next. Even the location of the portal to Limbo changes every day – not that there’s any regularity to daybreak and nightfall in Xaos. The character of Xaos mirrors what the plane of Limbo is like. Plague-Mort leading to the Abyss is a diseased realm of squalor and verminous fecundity, choked with razorvine and bizarre alien parasites. People there are so desperate that they have taken to the worship of the Lady of Pain en masse, constructing their makeshift mud hovels with blades atop them in the hopes of placating her. They pass their days agonizingly trying to numb their pain beneath layers of hard vices, slowly mutating into forms less and less recognizable. Elsewhere in the city, in massive cruel fortresses, the rich and powerful parade inhuman wealth and power before the suffering masses.” Zaerith said.
“Sounds horrible.” Amarella said.
“But that is our destination. You said you could get us there right?” Darella said earnestly.
The three warriors and the automaton walked out of a red portal and were met with hundreds of eyes upon them. They looked about and saw a grey macabre city of death and pain. The sky was on fire, but the city was still in shadows. There was razorwire everywhere, on tops of buildings, closing off alleyways, and at times just randomly growing in places hard to see. The hundreds of onlookers stared one or two jumped forward but seemed to change their mind once they sized up the newcomers, everyone went about their own ways acting as if nothing had happened. The interlopers walked down the three stone-hewn steps that divided the dais of the portal of the ground.
“What should we do, now that we are here?” Amarella said.
“I shall call Salvatore.” Darella said, as she pulled a small silver whistle from her belt and blew strongly into the windway. The silver did not make a sound. Darella put the instrument away much to the other’s confusion as they had assumed it had not worked. A few moments past and there was a small pop.
“I am at your service, my Lady.” Salvatore said as he unsheathed his sword and knelt presenting the flat of his blade to Darella with head bowed.
“At ease.” Darella said as she stepped forth to scratch the Archon’s head.
“As you will.” The red hound said, standing.
“We seek your council and perhaps aid.” Darella said.
“The sun and moon for my lady.” Salvatore said, Leomourn rolled his eyes and stepped away.
“We are looking for Delgen, our dwarfen friend.” Darella said.
“I recall the very one. I shall track his location in this foul place. The smell of a dwarf miner shall be a pungent trail to follow even in this formidable land, god’s body I smell naught but sin and fetor.” Salvatore said and promptly he became a full hound and started to sniff the air and ground.
“I can track too…wait! Delgen’s breastplate!” Leomourn said, pointing at a small demon walking through the throng of demons in the main forum.
“After him!” Darella screamed. They grabbed the stout fat demon and pulled him into an alley.
“Away! I did nothing to you!” The fat demon screamed.
“The armour where did you get it?” Darella asked forcefully, noticing that it verily was Deglen’s.
“I bought it fair. I promise.” The fat one said.
“From whom!?” Leomourn snarled, pointing at the demon.
“The Plague-Keeper.” The demon started to whimper.
“Where is this Plague-Keeper?” Amarella asked."
“I don’t know, I met one of her thralls at the Gutted Virgin…this is not fair! I bought this armour! It’s mine!” The fat daemon screamed like a stuck pig.
“How much did you pay for it?” Darella asked.
“Seventy-five mammons! It has a dent.” The demon said.
“I don’t have the local currency, but here is one hundred gold crowns.” Darella said handing over a small coin purse, her comrades all raised an eyebrow.
“M’lady, allow me to debit this payment. I can not allow you to spend even a copper in my sight.” Salvatore said stepping forth with a purse. Darella put up an arm and shooed the archon away.
“These will do just fine.” The demon said pulling the armour off his back, a horrid sound was heard with a few hundred maggots fell from open wounds all over the daemon’s now naked body and writhed on the black-cobble stoned alley.
The small demon walked away and was lost in the crowded streets. Darella opened her hands and they were full of gold, she had cut the purse and while the small demon was taking the armour off she had caught the coins like candy.
They quickly walked in and right back out of the The Gutted Virgin with averted gazes and rapidly gathered information. They made their way to the place where they were told the Plague-Keeper deals in her “experiments.”
After surveying the building they decided upon an attack on two fronts. The twins and Bernard choose to climb through a ventilated window after stopping a slow but sharp bladed fan with an immovable rod. Salvatore and Leomourn were to come in the front door. It was a sound plan…but then…
Leomourn kicked his enchanted horse in the ribs causing it to rear and kick down the door, rotten wood exploded everywhere. In almost the same instant Bernard, with only the finesse borne of an automaton’s tact. There was a clatter of metal on metal and the din of it all seemed to rouse the attention of the hovel’s inhabitant.
“What is all this noise?” A raspy voice said from a room within. Soon a small and twisted form of a hag-like creature with a burning head stepped forward and down the stairs leading to where Darella was helping the metal man back to his feet.
“What is all this noise?! What indeed! All this clutter!” Darella said after mustering her courage and thinking of a way to bluff their way out of this…also after hiding under her dark hood, hoping to seem more menacing and local.
“Excuse me?” The Plague-Keeper said.
“We are here on official business…to retrieve and relocated the detained dwarf you have in your possession.” Darella said spotting and pointing towards the half-dead and hanging body of Delgen.
“Under whose command?” The Plague-Keeper asked tightening her grip on her staff and noticing the two interlopers on the next level. Salvatore had ran in and had his broken sword drawn, held poised to kill in a low stance. Leomourn had ducked into the door with his bow pointing an arrow at the hag, still mounted on his horse that was halfway into the threshold.
“How dare you ask!” Darella said, her voice breaking with fear and awe.
“I have just come from the Arch Lector…I…” The Plague-Keeper started.
“The Arch Lector! He is the voice and we are the hand. Curse you to defy his will.” Darella said with a bellowing voice, stepping towards the hag.
“I know I should not trust you, but I don’t want to defy the Arch Lector.” The Plague-Keeper said after looking at the large woman coming through the window after the Shield Guardian.
As the Plague-Keeper walked past Darella she tore her hood off and looked around in confusion and awe at her comrades. Their visages bore naught but sheer confusion as hers. The rogue shrugged her shoulders and took her knife from her belt and drove it deep into the hag’s back. The blade pierced deeply and found it’s mark…a vital organ not like any a human has or elf, but one that was innately noticed by the trained eye of a rogue after a time of watching the hag’s breathing patterns and movement.
“How did you talk your way out of that one?!” Amarella asked, bent and racked with laughter.
“I don’t know it was a just a bluff!” Darella said, cleaning her blade with the dead hag’s robes.
“That was a critical success!” Salvatore screamed as he jumped down to their level.
“Is the dwarf in there?” Leomourn asked, still on his mount…arrow still nocked.
“Yes…I’m in here. Get me down…I’d bet my face is as red as a firebeet.” Delgen growled from the torture table in the room.
After freeing their friend from the table they all looked around and noticed all the half-dead prisoners and the dead and rotting ones too.
“What can we do for them?” Amarella asked, noticing that most of them were humanoid…not demons.
“Nothing…even if we freed them, they could not flee this place and we can not carry them.” Salvatore said looking around.
“The witch was experimenting all her plagues on us. She was looking for the ultimate malady…to infect the whole city…and then cities on other planes. She worked for the Arch Lector, to keep the city in fear and weak until the Sinking.” Delgen said rubbing his aches and cuts.
“What is the Sinking?” Darella asked.
“Every ninety-nine years Plague-Mort sinks down into the Abyss, making a new layer. The Arch Lector’s duty is to bring in as many souls and keep them until the Sinking, for once they sink they are part of the fighting Abyss. The Arch Lector is promised his freedom to come back and rule over the next Plague-Mort.” Salvatore said.
“That is why non-daemons are brought here, but faulty portals or banished here?” Amarella said looking at the carcasses decorating the chamber like some grotesque museum.
“Maybe that is how I was brought here?!” Delgen said.
“Yeah, why in all the hells are you here.” Leomourn said with a smirk.
“I did not intend to spend my holiday’s on a torture table with a hag, per se. I was actually on a mission to Excelsior…Time Fixer official business. Making sure a colleague was not hurt or dead…or worse had defaulted.” Delgen said.
“Excelsior! I would give my tail to be there now.” Salvatore said wagging his aforementioned tail.
“All I remember was navigating the Time Seas towards The Outlands…the Hammerhead lurched and listed…I fell, I must have hit my head. Then I woke up in this damned place. The cursed witch cut and poisoned me for nine months after that. I angered her because none of her plagues could do me in. It is my stone heart, really pissed her off. I laughed as she threw vials and beat her thralls.” Delgen said smiling.
“Thralls?! That means someone will be checking up on her soon! We need to vanish.” Darella said, looking for alternate routes of escape.
“The plague.” Amarella said.
“What about it?” Delgen said.
“Even though she is dead, her followers may release it.” Amarella said.
“So, everyone is this horrid town is a demon anyway.” Leomourn said
“True, but we are still in the city.” Darella said.
The party walked away from a burning stone building, reunited with their cleric and headed into the darker corners of the city.
“So…now that we have him…how do we get out of the this place?” Leomourn said, after they all ran into an abandoned alleyway and leaned against the every moist black walls that were the skeleton of this haunted city.
“That is where I come in.” A voice said from the darkness. Everyone jumped from the black walls and drew their weapons.
“Delgen?” Leomourn asked.
“My dwarf eyes see what you see…nothing.” Delgen said.
“Be at ease, and pray sheathe your weapons.” The voice said, and then a head appeared, floating in the middle of the alley; a safe distance from the others.
“What is this magic?” Leomourn said.
“I am Jimmy the Mouth.” The head said as his body flicked into existence.
“Nice cloak.” Darella said, noticing the magic of the man’s cloak as he became visible upon pulling the hood back. He responded with a quick smile.
“We can boast our fancies when we are far from this place, now back to the matter at hand.” Jimmy the Mouth said.
“Go on.” Delgen said.
“You all want to leave this place, and by the looks of you all you want to get back to the Prime, no?” Jimmy asked.
“Aye.” Delgen said leaning on his hammer.
“Well it just so happens that I share this yearning.” Jimmy said.
“On with it.” Delgen rolled his eyes.
“Right, I like your directness. Okay, this town is going to be lost to the Abyss in an even called the Sinking-” Jimmy began.
“We know that!” Leomourn said.
“Of course. Well then naturally you know that the Sinking has begun and this whole damned city will be in the Abyss by midnight tonight.” Jimmy said crossing his arms.
“What?” Leomourn dropped his bow, Salvatore’s ears perked.
“Speak Mouth!” Delgen screamed and pointed.
“Okay there is an Orrery under these streets that upon midnight will send this city to hell…or the abyss more accurately. It is a secret to most save for the Arch Lector and I of course.” Jimmy said with a smile.
“On with the prattle.” Delgen said.
“As you will, clear a path to this Orrery and it can be set to send you where ever you desire within the multi-verse.” Jimmy said with a flourish.
“And who will operate this device?” Delgen asked.
“I will follow you under the veil of shadows and if and when you get to the end, I will operate the Orrery.” Jimmy said.
“The shadow is my realm.” Darella said.
“And by what authority are you given to use this Orrery…no doubt it is dwarfen in manufacture.” Delgen said looking stern.
“I am a portalist, I promise you that I can get out of this city.” Jimmy said with a sly smile.
“Exactly…and how can we trust you to get us out safely?” Darella said, sizing the man.
“You can’t, but what other option do you have?” Jimmy said turning away from them.
“Why are you here? You are no demon, at least upon sight.” Leomourn said squinting.
“I was banished here as a punishment, for no cage can hold me on the Prime.” Jimmy said, winking at Darella.
“What was your crime to endure such a bleak and absolute penance?” Delgen asked.
“I was a King’s Portalist, and I tinkered with his destination.” Jimmy the Mouth said, with a smile and a wink.
“Tell me again why we are going to trust this traitor.” Leomourn said as they were crawling beneathe the dark and sinful city of Plague-Mort.
“We are not trusting him, but we have no other choice.” Darella said; leading the procession, navigating their way from a crude map Jimmy gave to them.
“We are but metres under the city, but we are slowly descending.” Delgen said, after his eyes rolled into the back of his face.
“More importantly, we are five hours from the witching hours, therefore we have less than two hours to find this Orrery and hope to the gods that Jimmy fellow is half as good with the device as he is with wordplay and pomposity.” Salvatore said sniffing the dank air.
“What? You can smell time?” Leomourn asked, but was silenced when Darella crouched and threw a clenched fist into the air.
They fought their way through ratmen and undead and choose one of three alternate routes to the final chamber deep beneath the bloody and pussy streets of Plague-Mort. They finally walked through the steel doors and were met with a large chamber filled with barrels and undead walkers.
“There are some feathered demons up there.” Darella said pointing, Leomourn clicked his heels and rose into the air.
“When did he learn to do that?” Delgen asked looking around. The levitating archer roused the attention of all foes within the room but only the undead seemed to take heed. The three bone-white feathered demons continued in a foul and grotesque promenade, some sort of evil cavorting dance.
The warriors fought the undead as Leomourn watched the Demon Dance, in some sort of trance. He could not take his eyes off of their Dance of Ruin. He neither spoke a word nor loosed an arrow. Delgen tried with all his dwarven finesse to silently creep up the stairs to flank an attack upon the demons. Amarella was cleaving undead walker after walker as usual while her twin sister used her Shadowmancing gifts to possess the mindless shambles. Until…
The three Vrocks finished their danse in a flourish and laughed. Delgen was a mere few feet away with his hammer raise high, from this vantage he noticed that the daemons were dancing around the bronze Orrery Jimmy mentioned. All too late for from the bodies of the three demons arched white-hot energy and burned with sin and hatred. The energy arched like white lightening, first through the Dwarf, then high into the archer. It forked and traveled through each undead walker and then into Amarella, Darella and Bernard. It lastly arched high and with a loud pop connected with Salvatore, who had been fighting half a score of undead by himself. Either the arch itself or along with the wounds gained from the undead foes, caused Salvatore to fall to his knees. Darella screamed long and dropped her weapons, running to the archon.
“No.” Darella said, holding Salvatore’s head in her lap.
“I would sooner relinquish my life would that it meant not a drop of your fairest blood was lost from your blessed skin. M’Lady.” The Hound Archon said touching Darella’s cheek gently, rubbing away a tear, before exhaling his last breath.
“Don’t!” Darella said. She touched Salvatore’s face first then slapped it and then struck his chest, but to no avail. Salvatore was dead.
Feathers gently sailed on the dank air as the group stood over the three dead bodies of the dancing demons. They were quickly upon them after Salvatore fell and just as quickly dispatched them in a rage.
“Friend of yours?” Jimmy asked as he appeared a few feet from Darella, and walked past.
“Speak little, Portalist; if you value your namesake.” Delgen said softly.
“Aye. Now let me see.” Jimmy said mounting the stairs and advancing upon the Orrery.
“No, step back. Send us through safely, then you are free to use this device as you will.” Amarella said.
“We have a fallen comrade that needs attention.” Leomourn said, gesturing towards Salvatore.
“Your dog is dead.” Jimmy said, Delgen held Leomourn and Amarella back before they were upon the informant.
“Heed what you say, I have only two hands.” Delgen said, nodding behind Jimmy. Jimmy looked back and Darella was standing her eyes upon the cloaked man.
“Fine! You have done me a great favour in honesty. So, where would you like to go?” Jimmy said, stepping towards the Orrery.
“Where do we want to go?” Leomourn asked, looking at the dwarf.
“The Eye of Providence.” Darella said, a look of confusion came upon her face as if she had not known why she had spoken.
“Speak lass! I remember a thing that I had learned on me travels to Excelsior. I had heard that there was a place…and something about Eldranoth…I can’t. Right! The Time Fixers found evidence that Eldranoth was on his way to the ”/wikis/pons-observatorium" class=“wiki-page-link”> Pons Observatorium to retrieve the Eye of Providence!" Delgen said.
“The bridge of Nightmares.” Jimmy said with out tone or implication.
“Aye.” Delgen said.
“Eye.” Darella said.
“Yeah.” Leomourn said.
“No, the Eye. I had a dream, Sygg told me where his other eye was. It is on a bridge.” Darella said.
“It is settled then. A god leads you to this bridge and I am informed that Eldranoth has a heading to the very same bridge. This Pons Observatorium, send us there Mouth and no funny business.” Delgen said raising his hammer.
“I assure you, I need not make anything funny. If you are heading to the Bridge of Nightmares, you are walking into a fate far worse than any I can bestow upon you.” Jimmy said, pulling on levers and pushing buttons. He pushed a floating silver orb away until it was eclipsing another golden orb.
“Good bye.” Jimmy said, and in that instant a golden light arched from the Orrery and into the chest of each adventurer and the empty chest of Salvatore. Then Jimmy the Mouth was alone in the large dark chamber. He breathed a sigh of relief and laughed.
“One hundred and twelve years in this prison.” Jimmy said, he recalculated the Orrery and then vanished in a golden flash, and the room was once again empty.
Our adventurers found their selves upon an archaic bridge made of stone, but then of light as well. It was dark and brown of hewn stone but in the same instant was translucent reflecting the colours of the rainbow. They looked up and were lost in the exalting view that befell their eyes. Leomourn and Amarella were mesmerized by the sense of insignificance and total loss of ego, Darella choose not to look up. A single tear crept down Delgen’s cheek as he looked up nad then appeared to recover as if nothing had happened. They were not alone upon this bridge. Ahead of them they saw familiar figures, those of Zaerith Vaa’yan and Wind. Past the Knights of Madness was also the form of Eldranoth.
“You have come in time.” Zaerith said.
“What is this?” Eldranoth asked, only a moment ago he was the only one on the bridge.
“Eldranoth, I am Zaerith Vaa’yan Second Ser of the Knights of Madness. I am here to vanquish you for your crimes, do not resist or flee. There are six hundred and thirty two charges against you and you shall answer to them.” The githyanki said drawing his Silver Sword, it glistened and changed shape as Zaerith’s words changed and intoned with emotion and conviction.
“New playmates.” Eldranoth said as he advanced and there was an immense battle between Alhoon, Githyanki and Marut. There was blood and pain and the sound of metal upon metal and flesh before all eyes witnessed something daring and unexpected.
Eldranoth spun and leapt from the bridge and fell down into the dark depths that lead only to the chaotic and nightmarish realms of the Far Realms below.
“Don’t let them get the Eye, Darella!” Eldranoth called out as he fell. Zaerith and Wind had leapt after the Illithid and were both quickly falling into the turbulent and deranged tides of madness and delirium home to the denizens of aberration and deception. The realm of fear and phantasmagoria.
Then they were alone on the bridge, until a loud pop was heard and one side of the bridge appeared the form of the dreaded Fafnir dragging a shape behind him. The giant flew through the expanse effortlessly pulling along the form of a great big dark wolf, attached by a tether like a creance in this space.
“Whoa. This is unexpected.” Delgen said shaking Leomourn from his hypnosis.
“What?” Leomourn rubbed his eyes.
“You have a visitor.” Delgen turned Leomourn by the shoulder until he was facing the oncoming giant.
“Hound! I shall be the Duke!” Fafnir screamed as he tugged at the lesh that held the huge black wolf, hurling it towards the bridge.
“Friends, be awares!” Delgen screamed, pulling his hammer to full length. Amarella took an amulet from her tunic and over her head. She swung the amulet in a large circle about her head, when the amulet was spinning at a certain speed and howled in a certain tone, thirteen shield maidens appeared on the bridge with them awaiting Amarella’s command.
The grey wolf landed on the bridge, gathered itself and began an assault upon all upon the bridge. Darella took this time to climb the height of the bridge, away from the fight and to see what other surprises this bridge held…hopefully the location of the eye.
“Your goddess can not save you here!” Fafnir bellowed. Darella climbed to the top found an odd revelation and then used her pantalones of teleportation to appear upon the giant’s back, sticking to his nape like a briar with the aid of her boots of arachnia.
The battle upon the bridge was growing bloodier and tighter upon the narrow bridge. Leomourn focused most of his shots upon the giant as Amarella and her Valkyries fought the dark beast, Delgen aiding as it was needed.
Darella stabbed into the giant’s back and noted that it did little to slow his attack, but increased his ire. She remembered two things. She teleported back to the bridge and waited for the giant to charge as he usually did with the spear of disruption. She dodged limbs and blows while watching and waiting. Fafnir drew back and finally charged, Leomourn being the target of this mighty attack. Darella drew an item from beneath her cloak and then teleported.
Darella appeared before the giant’s charging face and placed an immovable rod in space and clicked the button. Fafnir’s charge was much to fast to halt or change direction. Fafnir continued, causing the immovable rod to press upon and burst his eye and enter his skull. The giant screamed as his whole body was tossed about as his charge was yielded by a metal rod in his head. The giant pulled back from the rod and even more fluid and blood dripped from the wound. Darella quickly crawled upon his head and grabbed the rod covered in ocular fluid and blood. She then drew two amulets from deep under her tunic and split them stuffing one into the giant’s mouth.
The dark rogue threw the other amulet into the expanse and kicked off the now falling giant. Darella used the amulet of anti-magic to negate the flight of the giant and leapt into space. At the zenith of her leap she pressed the button on the immovable rod and spun around the now stationary rod and pressed it again using the force of her loop to carry her the rest of the way back on to the Bridge of Nightmares.
“Monster! Destroy the Hound, destroy your brother!” Fafnir called in a raspy voice, as he fell towards the Far Realms.
“Brother?” Leomourn said. He dropped his arrows and bow and looked directly into the beast’s eyes. The grey wolf came down upon the archer in a snarling visage of spittle and fang. Leomourn spoke in a guttural and unintelligible language and the black beast halted it’s advance and bowed it’s head to Leomourn.