…And Quickly back again.
As his companions rested from their battle with the last of the Githyanki invaders, the robed Githyanki told Nox Rhasgar the temple complex was called the Fane of Chaniir. Andrea had already convinced their leader, the priestess known as Talanee, to share some of their secrets.
Now that they had helped them clear their fane of invaders, the Chaniri — which is what they called themselves — were glad to share their story and answer Nox’s questions.
“The only problem,” he told himself, “is I’m not sure what to ask.”
They told him they were planning to leave. After they had consecrated the bodies of their dead and buried them.
“This holy place has lost its sanctity," Talanee told him, "debased as it is by the blood of Zetch’r’r’s traitors. Our fate lies elsewhere now.”
He knew that Zetch’r’r was the new emperor of all the Githyanki. Until now, though, he had no idea that some Githyanki were opposed to his rule, almost loyal to their previous ruler — Queen Vlaakith.
“Zetch’r’r is a dog leading dogs," the Chaniri leader told him. “But those who lash themselves to his leash see not the chains he wears. The false emperor talks of rebuilding the glory of the Githyanki, but he is a pawn of forces he has not the mind to understand nor the will to stand against.”
Talanee continued: “In the long eons since the gods and Primordials fought for control of all creation, Bahamut and Tiamat have undergone a never-ending sibling war. Driven apart yet drawn constantly together by their dichotomous natures, the two gods fight endless battles, both face to face and through their proxies in all the many worlds."
When Andrea woke up, Nox could see she was interested in this part of the story. She asked about it.
“Among all races, long ages of peace follow epochs of tyranny as each deity ekes out a temporary victory over the other,” Talanee told them. “But in the end, always, the battle continues. Until now.”
Nox wanted to know what was different about the War Between the Dragons now. The Githyanki priestess started to answer before he could even ask.
“In this age, a new war looms between these two ancient adversaries. On both sides, armies amass across worlds in preparation for brutal conflict, but Tiamat means to see that this battle with Bahamut is the last. The dragon queen seeks to slay the Platinum Lord, and Zetch’r’r has sworn himself and the Githyanki to the service of this dark goal.”
The Chaniri soon became so busy burying their dead that Nox had time to sleep. He dreamt of a city he had only heard of in dreams. The Fire Archon in his dream about the City of Brass told him the Crown of Fangs could be found in a place called Kosovo.
And now he dreamed of that place.
The streets of Kosovo were already dangerous. People rioting; the king was dead. But the noise of the riots were not the only thing keeping the Dreamer from his goal — the palace — the rioting had wakened monsters in the sewers. The pavement cracked and a horrible creature burst forth. The Dreamer fired an Elemental Bolt at it.
Nox woke to find himself back in the Fane of Chaniir. The Chaniri were still burying their dead.
Well, not burying them in any sense that Nox was used to. They cleaned the bodies, consecrating them for burial. Then they had piled them into the furthest rooms of the fane. Now they were walling up those rooms, using the broken stones the invaders had left everywhere in their path of destruction.
As they worked he asked Talanee why they were being tortured.
“The Chanhiri’s task is to keep watch over the World Gate for the Githyanki," she told him. "In making our opposition known to the plots of the false emperor Zetch’r’r, we were first shunned, then assaulted. However, our craft allowed us to seal the gate in ways that Zetch’r’r’s thralls could not overcome.”
After Andrea woke up, she had some questions of her own. And she began her own research in the library of the fane.
The World Gate was opened by the Chaniri as they prepared to depart through it.
Nox had already used a scroll to send a message to Amyria. He got a response asking for the runes inscribed around the World Gate. When they sent those, help arrived in the form a task force led by Bejam.
Bejam was the Nefalese representative on the Alliance’s Council. Andrea showed him the library and he got to work.
The Nefelese Wizards in the task force wanted to know what the World Gate was. So Bejam asked Talanee and Andrea, who was already studying there.
“The World Gates are the prime portals through which the Githyanki first mastered the connections between planes," Talanee told them. But this answer was not enough for Andrea.
“This World Gate is set within the mortal realm, with others in the Feywild and the Shadowfell. More distant gates in nameless planes are whispered of, but they are beyond my knowledge.”
Nox saw that the Githyanki were preparing to perform some ritual magic at the glowing sphere they called the World Gate. Apparently this gave Andrea ideas.
She showed Krasire’s Ritual Book to the Chaniri ritual casters and asked them if they could cast one of the rituals she could not master: Dream Concordance.
Nox went along with it when she asked him to join her in this concordance: where they could both join each other in a dream about the city of Kosovo. Nox did not share his previous dream about the city.
In the dream, Andrea was trying to take a broach to the queen, but they were arrested instead when the queens guards found the broach on his person. They woke little rested.
Just like before.
The group who came through the Gate had been busy while they dreamed. They were organizing the defense. Apparently they agreed with Nox’s plan to use the Freeriders to patrol the area around the outside of the fane. Inside, they were preparing magickal defenses for the inevitable moment when Emperor Zetch’r’r’s forces realize their strike force had not reported back from the Fane of Chaniir.
Bejam called the Andrea to one of the library chambers in the fane — the one she had shown him. He told Nox, “I do not want the things I have learned to become common knowledge yet.”
He followed Bejam and Andrea there. Bejam had obviously developed some understanding of the operation of the World Gate. He told them of the existence of the Well of Worlds, but Nox could see what he had learned had put him on edge.
“The Githyanki priestess spoke truth regarding the World Gates," he told them. "The circle here siphons the planar energy of the mortal realm, drawing it to a site beyond. This Well of Worlds is spoken of in the lore here, but the fact that the Githyanki have kept the site secret even from Nefelus demonstrates its importance. Indeed, the existence of the Well and its power goes some way toward explaining the advantage the Githyanki have gained in this war.”
Andrea had been more interested in the discovery of the World Gates and how it fit into the history of the Githyanki, but Nox remembered what she said of the The Well of Worlds: “It is a site of powerful planar magic, built by Chanhiir in the lost age of our race and open only to those of Githyanki blood. It is a planar mote existing in no world—fueled by the energy of the Astral Sea but not set within it. The Well of Worlds is the center of the portal network that is the lifeblood of the Githyanki empire. It is the site through which elite Githyanki strike teams travel the planes, including the force charged with seizing the fane.”
“How did they send the Fomorian Painbringers through?” Andrea wanted to know. “They are certainly not Githyanki.”
He already had heard this from Priestess Talanee, but he let the Wizard from Nefelus explain: “The Whitefire Mark is a mystical sigil implanted only in the most trusted servants of the Githyanki — those granted access to the Well of Worlds. The sigils are a permanent magical brand that burns with a white flame powered by the bearer’s own life force.”
But Bejam wanted to tell them more about the Well of the World, even though Nox could tell Andrea was already thinking about how they could use the sigils to infiltrate the Well itself.
“The Well is a place that touches all other places — all planes of existence, all sites in those planes. From the Well of Worlds, the Githyanki have access to anywhere in all of creation.”
But it seemed that even more was happening.
“If the Well of Worlds was merely as this Talanee described it," Bejam said, “a portal for moving the Githyanki’s elite forces — I would wish to know more of it. However, the brief period of my study here has shown that the World Gate is drawing off planar energy greatly in excess of its normal operation.”
“I can see that,” Andrea said. “I have been reading the lore before you got here. According to this library, the planar energy should not be enough to be detectable.”
Bejam agreed, telling them his fellow Wizards were detecting a high rate of power drain from the Mortal Realm. “These books say it is the general policy of the Githyanki to keep drain low. That is probably why the Nefelese never detected it before. They wanted to keep it secret.”
The wizard’s face grew grim. "From what the Chanhiri said, Zetch’r’r had specific purpose in seizing the fane, and I am fearful as to what that purpose might be.”
Andrea asked him how long before reinforcements came through to find out what happened to Emperor Zetch’r’r’s forces who attacked the fane.
“I do not know how long the Githyanki will await the return of their forces from the fane," Bejam told them. "But if they discover us here, their retribution will be swift. We must send a request to the Coalition for reinforcements to hold the fane in the event of another Githyanki assault. For my part, I will convince Nefelus to send more aid of its own. If the worst comes to pass, we can hopefully hold the fane long enough for you to discover what the Well of Worlds is — and what kind of threat it represents.”
“So, you want us to go through this World Gate?” he asked.
Andrea was already ahead of him. “Can your Wizards transfer the Whitefire Marks to us? Otherwise, the World Gate will not let us through. We are not Githyanki.”
Bejam told them he could perform the ritual himself. He and Andrea agreed get the marks.
The ritual by which the Whitefire Mark is bonded to a living creature seemed simple enough, but the exertion that showed in Bejam when he was done showed the potency of the magic that has been imbued.
As the ritual was completed, the sigil flared to life on his wrist, its outline of white flame writhing around the stark lines of a Githyanki blade.
Though the mark could be covered by his sleeve or Andrea’s armor easily
enough, Nox felt its flame still flaring — pulsing in time with the beating of his heart.
While Bejam was completing the ritual, the Chaniri finished opening the World Gate and stepped through. Two Nefelese mages began staring into its murky depth, trying to discern what lay on the other side.
“Beyond the World Gate lies a portal the likes of which we have not seen before. It has no sigil sequence. Rather, its location is fixed by psychic energy and the flow of planar power through it. A force of Githyanki a half-dozen strong arrived there only an hour ago, but we have seen no other traffic before or since.”
So urgent was the need to find out what was happening at the Well of the Worlds that Nox and Andrea rode their mounts through before the others had time to have their Whitefire Marks transferred.
Closer in, Roland the Betrayer saw what looked to him like a thin, tenuous footpath winding its way along the low ridge, just inside the fog line. A wider path headed downhill, into the jungle and in the approximate direction of that hump near the center of the valley. The small hill with defensive walls of some kind near its top. “Not a very high place to build a fortification,” he thought as began to work his way down the footpath.
Andrea Ravn found herself wishing she had not used her Draconic sidestep to escape the Shade’s initial blast.
“It would have proved more useful now,” she told herself. “Or about any other time during this fight.”
It was hard to stay on the platform…
“Although he hasn’t used the Astral Blast as often as I expected.”
While the Shade managed to stay just out of her reach, Andrea used her rudimentary wings to get herself back to the platform — repeatedly. After Nox went into his Dragonborn-fireball form, she had to use her chain to drag him back to the platform, even though he could use his fireballs from anywhere.
She had used her Foe Stone to figure out the thing was vulnerable to Force damage. The thing seemed to be trying to tell her more. It kept vibrating after some of the Shade’s attacks.
“It’s almost as if the Foe Stone is trying to tell me that those attacks have something else to them…”
…Something it just wasn’t able to communicate.
She noticed the creature became substantial after they hit it. Nox was able to set it up with his fire breath and then hit it with his Elemental Bolts. Even Andrea could use her breath weapon to force it to become substantial.
Which gave Nox more chance to hit it with powerful spells. Which seemed to be especially accurate in the magic-infused chamber.
Soon she was wheezing from overusing her breath weapon and they were both taking heavy damage from the Shade. She still could not reach it, so she had no more chance to set up Nox’s bolts. Half of them were passing through, doing some damage, but not enough.
“What we really need is Krasire on his mount.” She knew the Shardmind’s Hippogriff could fly through the Astral Mist with ease. And the Foe Stone said the creature would be vulnerable to his force magic.
Fortunately, she had remembered to memorize the Sigils on the World Gate. They were able to go back through to get reinforcements.