Scaled Down Scales

The Second Time Through
...The World Gate...

…to the Well of the Worlds…

…goes better than the first.

“Damn Imps,” Andrea Ravn swore as she woke up from the dream of Korvosa.

She had been determined to beat them this time. She had convinced Jaz and Nox to think about Korvosa as the Chaniri priests performed the ritual that would allow them to all be in the same dream.

But the result was the same: The mad prophet foretold of doom involving a plague and Nox — who appeared as a vengeful friend in this dream — was once again able to heal himself of the madman’s disease; the imps attacked again, drawing the attention of the Korvosan Guard; once again, the guards found the queen’s broach on her and carted them all off to the castle…

…and once again their sleep was less restful than it should have been.

“So we’ll have to go through the World Gate tired and angry,” she told the others.

They took Krasire’s mount, but not their own. Jaz rode it, while Andrea and Nox would try to make it to the door. Even without opening it — “Who knows what’s on the other side?” — they might be able to wedge themselves into the vestibule and avoid the worst effects of the Astral Mist.

Jaz decided against entering the dream as a drug addict. It was what Andrea wanted her to do, but it sounded just a little too dangerous. As they meditated on the mythical city of Korvosa, she imagined herself as the friend of a drug addict who was strung out on Shiver. Gaedren Lamm, her friend’s drug dealer, would still have to pay for his crimes, but she would be just a little more Streetwise. It turned out that meant that Andrea didn’t even recognize her in the dream. And Gaedren Lamm was already dead. On his body Andrea found a broken broach. They took it to a jeweler who refused to fix it. He recognized it as the queen’s stolen broach and he didn’t want to get caught with stolen property.

Jaz awoke from the dream, feeling less than fully refreshed.

But they still had to go through the World Gate — through something called the Sovereign Gate — to the Well of the Worlds.

“The Alliance needs to know what the emperor plans to do with all this extra magickal energy they are pulling from our world,” Bejam told her. The Wizard from Nefelus was convinced the Githyanki would not be increasing their risk of discovery if they were not expecting to use the Material Plane’s magickal energy for something important.

That meant they had to go back to the Well of the Worlds soon, even though Nox and Andrea had been forced back the last time they tried by some kind of Astral Shade. They expected it to be even stronger this time.

“It hadn’t been attacked in thousands of years the last time,” Andrea told her. “This time it may be expecting us.”

The Dreamer found himself once again escorting Andrea through the streets of Korvosa. The riots were still going on all around them, crazies screaming about dooms coming down on the city. Once again, one of them rushed at the Dreamer while shouting about some plague which was coming to the city in the future. Once again, the disease he carried was very real … very much in the present. Once again, the Dreamer shook him off and was infected himself. Once again, he healed himself. Once again, they made their way through the Academae District. Once again, he and Andrea looked at each other — the drug addict’s friend was not paying attention — and he fired at the imps who were attacking them. Once again, he missed and the imps got the broach. Then the Queen’s Guard showed up. Once again, they clubbed the imps, found the broach, and hauled them off to prison for possession of stolen property. The Dreamer awoke, as Nox Rhasgar … once again, rested … but not well rested.

Nox Rhasgar knew what his job was: Blast his way past the Shade and get his back to the door. The vestibule by the door was the only place he could make a stand without getting swept by the Shade into the Astral Mist which surrounded the Sovereign Gate itself.

Jaz was coming through on Krasire’s mount — a hippogryph which could fly out of the mist. Andrea could fly — a bit — using her vestigial wings.

But Nox would have to rely on the others if he should find himself swimming in the stuff. As much as he like casting in the room filled with arcane energies, he didn’t want to find himself adrift in the Astral Mist again.

Getting the Shade out from between him and the door wasn’t as hard as he expected. He hit it with an Elemental Bolt — this time it didn’t turn substantial — it teleported to another location and hit them with an Astral Shockwave.

But he didn’t get his back all the way to the door, and the thing’s next teleport put it right between him and the door.

Eventually he was able to work his way all the way to the door and pour on the damage. Jaz was getting the hang of her Backstabs and Sneak Attacks.

The Shade got Andrea down several times, but her regenerating armor kept bringing her back to her feet. Nox downed his own Potion of Regeneration just in case it was able to knock them both out.

Then the creature started to work on Jaz as well. If it got them all three out simultaneously, it could finish them off, one by one, even with their regeneration going full blast.

They managed to kill it just as Jaz was bloodied for the first time.

“Not a lot of time to spare,” Nox thought to himself as they sent Jaz out to explore the next room.

Andrea Ravn swore she would never again try the streets of Korvosa in her dreams. But she had to admit she had to sleep sometime. And that meant the possibility of dreaming. “What was it that Jerath always said about that?” she asked. “I remember: ‘Aye, there’s the rub’.”

Jaz remembered the trick she and Maggie used to play on their teachers.

At the Black Dragon Society Enclave, they were each taught to impersonate the same people — sort of stereotypes, Maggie liked say, although their teachers called them “archetypes.” One of these archetypes was named Jasmine. They practiced Jasmine with each other so much their Jasmine voices became indistinguishable from each other.

Eventually their physical Jasmine disguises become so close the pictures their teachers gave them that Maggie — who was much better at disguise than Demyse — was able to duplicate her Jasmine disguise.

Perfectly.

So perfectly their teachers often mistook one for the other. This enabled one of them to sneak away for various forms of mischief while the other pretended to be the other … as Jasmine.

She thought about this as she slipped through the door of the domed room where the Sovereign Gate was located.

“Just a curving hall,” she thought as she worked her way around to the right. Then she found a kind of lounge, filled with couches.

Beyond the couches, the dome opened into a window. Out of the window, Jaz could see the Astral Sea. Floating there were other globes. She was able to imagine that the dome she was in looked much like those, if she could view this one from the other globes.

Lounging on some of the couches: Githyanki, Warmongers and Mindlashers; the one who seemed to be the leader was armed only with a silver dagger.

“They don’t seem to be expecting us,” she told herself, noting they had left their weapons — except that silver dagger — piled on their gear nearby. “I better report back to the others.”

They seemed to be gathered around a pool of water in the center of the lounge.

“Might be just the thing that Andrea was hoping to find when she brought that bottle.”

View
Through the Gate
...To the Well of Worlds...

…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.

And missed.

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.

View
The Climactic Showdown
...in the Portal Hall...

…Finally Gets the Order and the Freeriders…

…access to the force sphere at the center of the Fane of Chanhiir.

Andrea Ravn wanted to press on quickly to the next room. She wasn’t sure yet she could trust the mystery woman’s skills as a scout.

“Calls herself ‘Jaz’,” she thought to herself. “Yet she couldn’t sneak up on those torturers.”

She threw open the double doors and found another pair of doors just past a small room.

From beyond the second set of double doors came a sudden shout of alarm and the sounds of combat. Over the clash of swords and the shrieks of dying Githyanki, the familiar voice of Megan Swiftblade rang out.

“You laid claim to Elsir Vale, but our lands still stand free! Our people will not kneel to you, mudskin, nor will the wider world you covet! We will not fall!”

“I’m leading the way,” Andrea yelled as she forced her way through those doors as well. She could hear the others following. Even the Githyanki priests were anxious to get in on the battle to free their fane.

Before the stairs on the far side of the hall, Megan Swiftblade stood with the severed head of a Githyanki captain clutched by the hair. The Freeriders were bloodied but defiant behind her, the Githyanki in the chamber spreading out in preparation for attack.

She could tell the Freeriders were outnumbered — for all of Megan’s bravado. As Jaz charged in to surprise them from behind, Andrea took advantage of the fact the invader Githyanki’s attention was all on Megan to get a little surprise of her own.

The Freeriders and the robed Githyanki who were fighting on their side were soon cutting down the invaders and getting cut down themselves. She made a fateful decision and started healing the Freeriders whenever they fell.

“Probably the best thing I can do to win this battle,” she told herself as she instructed the others to drink the potions of regeneration she had brought for them.

Soon the odds were a little more even.

Storm Johnson told his followers, “We need something which will help us intimidate the Djinn of the City of Brass if we are ever to negotiate with them. I have found references to a powerful artifact: the Crown of Fangs.” He told them it was made from the teeth of the first Blue Dragon. “Khazavon is said to have sprung from the ground where one of the Scales of Io fell. He allied with Tiamat from the beginning and fathered the line which became the Blue Dragon Horde. When he was slain, his parts were deliberately scattered, so they could not be used to bring him back. Khazavon’s teeth were used to make a Major Artifact which could possibly help someone who was sufficiently attuned to it to intimidate the rulers of the City of Brass. I will send a message to Amyria and see if she can contact Nox Rhasgar. Maybe in his travels he can find the crown.”

Relvain Blackaxe knew she was having a dream about the Hill Giants attacking the city of Argent. Behind enemy lines. Inside the fortress they had built outside the city. She was fighting her way out. Swinging her axe in frustration, she missed…

…and awoke to find herself alone in the secret room they had discovered in the Githyanki tunnel complex near Thiradeth, an outpost north of Elsir Vale.

No sign of her companions, except the Minotaur who still snored loudly in the corner. Assuming they had pressed onward, she applied the right-hand rule and found another room full of rotting corpses, then a martial-arts training facility.

“Looks like they’ve been here,” she told herself when she saw two more corpses. Unlike the Githyanki corpses she found in the first room, these were freshly killed. And she heard the sound of fighting from the room beyond.

She found a battle royale there: Githyanki corpses everywhere; Megan and the Freeriders with Andrea healing them.

Her allies had even recruited some of the robe-wearing Githyanki to fight on their side. Unarmed, they were willing to fight against the heavily armored invaders who were wielding their silver swords.

She saw two groups of the sword-wielders who were wearing plate. Andrea was attracting the attention of the closer bunch, so she decided to charge across to the others who were essentially unscathed. Well, the robed ones had the far group surrounded — along with some of the Freeriders — but it was taking shouts of encouragement from Andrea to keep them on their feet.

“I’ll give them something to keep their minds off theses cloth- and leather-wearers,” she told herself. For the Freeriders preferred leather so they could keep their bow arms free.

Once Andrea and the mystery elf finished off the other bunch they came over to help. But she had already bloodied one of them.

Maggie agreed to meet with Garen Bladerun. He was interested in her plan to help in the rebuilding of the city of Overlook. The Paladin had plans of his own: to start a new training academy for Paladins of Bahamat. She knew just the place.

As the battle drew to a close, Jaz remembered how to use her Sneak Attacks along with her Backstabs. She found she could even do Sneak Attacks without stabbing her opponents in the back.

Soon she was doing more damage than the dwarven shieldmaiden who had joined the battle late.

Once they were able to concentrate on the last two Githyanki, Andrea introduced her to the others as an Elf. She could tell the Dwarf didn’t like Elves much.

“At least she doesn’t know I’m a Drow,” she told herself. “Then she’d really hate me.”

She wasn’t so sure about one of the Githyanki priests. While the other clerics wandered off to consecrate their dead, he was eying her suspicious. “I wonder if he suspects my true race?” she asked herself.

As if in answer, the priest winked at her. Then he walked over and told her he wanted to show her something.

He took her over to the body of a Warmonger he had been searching. From under the dead Githyanki’s breastplate he pulled out a hat.

An ordinary hat.

The force sphere in the middle of the room pulsed ominously. Spitting out the occasional tendril of force.

View
The Faithful of Chanhir
...Get an Unexpected Rescue...

…Just As a Torture Session Begins.

When Krasire told Andrea of meditations, the Dragonborn Warlord told her to return to those reveries.

“Get some rest. You still look exhausted. We’ll take care of this ambush you’ve discovered.”

Sure enough, while he meditated, Krasire was able to follow their battle telepathically. The ambushers were attacked, killed. And he got his rest.

He came out of his meditations to find Shadowfox chained in the corner. They both seemed to be refreshed.

He heard the sounds of battle echoing through the halls outside the secret room where they were resting. Reluctantly, he unchained Shadowfox and they hurried toward the crashing and roaring.

The roaring turned out to be Deep Speech and was being produced by two Fomorian Painbringers. Apparently they had been torturing a group of the Githyanki in the saffron robes.

This brought both of them up short. They had run into a fair number of the robes as they worked their way through the complex of the tunnels. The robe-wearers chained to the wall in this room were the first they had seen who were alive.

The ruined martial training hall was lined with shattered weapon racks and filled with what appear to be pillars of yellow-white light extending floor to ceiling. These pillars shifted slowly, drifting across the chamber as they flared and faded. In the haze of light, 10 Githyanki in tattered robes were chained together hand and foot and huddled along one wall.

Two hulking fomorians paced before them, one clubbing the sodden remains of a Githyanki corpse with its flail. The other was already attacking a mystery woman who seemed to have joined their infiltration team.

“Look, I know they act like they are full of themselves,” Megan Swiftblade told the other Freeriders. She knew they needed to take some time to heal. “But Garen told me about his cousin Andrea. He and Samwise were the ones who went after Sarshan when he was assassinating Freeriders. We should at least give these Black Feathers a chance to prove themselves. Notice how the opposition has grown weaker the farther in we go? They may be drawing off the Githyanki. For now, we need to rest. We may be able to get some sleep if the Order of the Black Feather has attracted Githyanki attention.”

Nox Rhasgar was frustrated. At first the weaker of the two Painbringers had put the Evil Eye on Nox himself, despite the difficulty it had overcoming his Will.

Yet the Fomorian switched the Eye to Krasire when it became apparent the Shardmind was doing most of the damage. Nox was not used to being beat out by others in that department.

Then he remembered his Flame Bracers. And almost immediately he started feeling the fire. He didn’t even have to transform into his Burning Transformation alter ego. Andrea told him the enemies had poor reflexes, he switched from Ignition to Elemental Bolts.

Sure enough. They were more successful. While the Giant Fomorians had the Fortitude to just power their way through the Ignition fires, their lumbering forms could not dodge a concentrated Elemental Bolt.

“Have to remember that: Ignition for little things that can dodge; Elemental Bolts for big guys who cannot dodge.”

The Dreamer found it dark and strange in the swamp where she hid to find the Giant Centipede. “Must be the Shadowfell,” she thought. “Good place to find slithering creatures.” No matter how she hid, however, she found no suitable creature for her necromantic experiment. For some reason, she knew she had to craft an undead centipede. She even had a name for it once she created it. “Nightshade.” And Cain woke with start to find herself chained in the secret room of the cave complex.

Andrea Ravn was standing between the two hulking brutes, so she was taking most of the damage. Gulping a Potion of the Regeneration, she was able to stay alive. But, boy, was she glad when they finally went down.

“The potion had drained the last of my resources,” she told them. And she offered Krasire the magical components he needed to perform his Comrade’s Succor ritual. “It’s the only way I’m going to be able to survive the next battle.”

On the bodies of the Fomorians, they found:

  • a dark iron ring;
  • a pair of tattered gray boots (with kind of a haunting aspect to them, which drew Shadowfox’s attention);
  • four amulets; and
  • three gems.

The conversation she started once she unchained the Githyanki and treated their wounds produced some interesting information:

  1. They are known as The Faithful of Chanhir.
  2. They are led by a priestess named Talanee.
  3. Their Fane was attacked by the followers of the new leader of the Githyanki, Zetch’r’r.
View
A Mystery Lady Shows Up
...To Help Andrea and Nox...

…Ambush the Ambushers Waiting…

…for them outside the secret room.

Andrea Ravn woke from a disturbing dream with a start. In the dream, she was arrested for possession of a stolen item — the Queen’s Broach.

Unable to return to sleep, she tried to sketch out the city which figured so prominently in her dreams. As far as she knew, it did not actually exist on the material plane of existence. In the dreams, however, Korvosa did not seem to be part of any of the non-material planes.

Once she sketched out the map she was building in her head from the dreams, she noticed that Krasire seemed to be struggling with his meditations. Interrupting those meditations didn’t seem a good idea at first, but the Shardmind soon focused his eyes on her and spoke.

“I have been struggling with the mental powers around us. First they tried to find our hideout. Then they concluded we had left the caves after suffering the attack of the Shades. I think they believe the Shades drove us out after we killed their Mindlashers.”

Andrea asked her if they were still outside the secret room.

“They stay away from the balcony. Seem to know it is haunted by the Shades. They may be invaders in this complex. Seem to know they can pass through the balcony without being attacked as long as they don’t linger.”

The elements of a plan began to form in Andrea’s mind.

“They have reinforced the guardpost outside. We may be trapped in here. Some of them are waiting to ambush us below the balcony. I’ve been able to penetrate their mental defenses. I need to meditate more to get some rest. And to keep anyone elsewhere in the complex from knowing we are here.”

As Krasire resumed his meditations, Andrea told their new companion — Demyse was the mystery woman’s name — and Nox what her plan entailed.

The Dreamer found himself swimming in the Grand Canal of the City of Brass, having scoured the markets of the city to find the information Storm Johnson was seeking. A Fire Archon, impressed with the Dreamer’s ability to swim in a canal of molten fire, tells him the truth: A Cyclops slave Seer has foretold that only the Crown of Fangs can free the slaves bound to the Efreets who rule the city. It is located in Korvosa, the Jewel of Varisia. Just then, Nox Rhasgar woke to find himself back in the caves.

Demyse Darkstrider liked the plan. She would sneak in and make her way down the stairs and try to backstab the ambushers below.

Then Andrea would grab Nox, run out to the circular opening in the balcony, leap through it, and use her wings to glide to the floor, where Nox would unleash a wave of fire on the ambushers.

Like so many plans, it failed to survive contact with the enemy.

First, as she tried to sneak down the stairs, one of the ambushers waiting at the bottom spotted her.

Second, when Andrea tried to fly down carrying the other Dragonborn, her wings did not support the two as well as the Warlord seemed to think they would.

“I would describe it as more of a controlled fall,” she thought to herself. “I bet Andrea could have managed it fine by herself. The Sorcerer may be even heavier than she is.”

The Sorcerer leapt to his feet and sprayed her enemies with fire, while Demyse herself found a likely corner to hide in.

“Too far from the enemy to backstab from here,” she thought.

Spotting a large number of bedrolls closer to the Githyanki, she realized where she would be spending most of the rest of the battle.

“Hiding under bedrolls; jumping out to stab them in the back.”

The Dreamer found herself once again in the city Korvosa. She was attacked by a sick madman-prophet. Then by imps. The Korvosan Guard captured her and found the Queen’s Broach on her. Andrea Ravn woke to find herself back in the secret room in the caves.

Nox Rhasgar found himself unable to escalate his Elemental Bolts. The Warmonger’s Telekinetic Crush did not hinder him much — he never depended much on mobility anyway — but the Warmonger’s Soulsword burst left him stunned.

The Mindlashers could do the the Telekinetic Crush as well. They had no stunning attacks, so they took down the Warmonger first. The Mindlasher were forced to rely on their Psychic Slams.

“Sure they keep knocking me down,” he thought. “But I just get back up and hit them with escalated bolts.”

The mystery lady was putting out a lot of backstabbing damage as well, hiding in the bedrolls and hitting the Mindlashers when they least expected it.

Soon, the enemies were all dead.

“No loot on them, though, since we already looted these rooms.”

Hearing screams from the room ahead, they sent the mystery woman — she said her name was Demyse Darkstryder — ahead to scout after a short rest.

From the shouts they heard, it sounded like she was spotted.

View
With Andrea Barely Able to Keep
...Shadowfox Alive...

…Cain Finds a Hidey Hole…

…where the remnants of the Order of the Black Feather can recuperate, while hoping their partners — The Freeriders led by Megan Swiftblade — are faring better.

Shade knew she had to be careful. She felt weak. The Dragonborn Warlord had restored her confidence. She was not sure how many times his shouts of encouragement would continue to re-invigorate her. She was able to creep forward to the edge of the balcony. She saw three Githyanki huddled around a firepit below. They were grousing in Deep Speech. She could tell that from their tone. Then three Shades emerged from the broken statues behind her on the balcony, cutting her off from the others making their down from some other room where they had set a fire. “So much for careful.”

The smoke from the fire forced Krasire further into the cave complex. The others were apparently burning the dead Githyanki bodies — which seemed to be everywhere.

The smoke was problematic. It would make it hard to retreat. If they had to retreat.

“I guess we better be sure we don’t have to do any retreating.”

Amyria had given Krasire a Scroll of Sending — a ritual he didn’t know. He was hoping to find some time to scribe it into his Ritual Book.

So far, no time: Amyria convinced Belinda to portal him to Tokk’it’s ship, which was anchored near a remote outpost north of Overlook; Tokk’it directed him to Birkeni, the half-elf captain at the outpost; Birkeni told him about the dead Githyanki his scouts had found, but when he flew Xerxes there the bodies were gone; it was easy to track Andrea’s Trihorn Behemoth to the mouth of a cave where he almost got blown up by an Astral Vent of some kind.

The cave was where he found The Order of the Black Feather burning the Githyanki bodies — “Weren’t they supposed to be investigating Githyanki bodies?” — and fighting Heroic Shades.

Delis Erinthal was taking her assignment seriously. She did know this Krasire fellow at all. He had made his way to the black crag by air, but now he was sneaking up on the other strangers as they fought some shades in the caves. His attack on Shades relieved her somewhat, so she stepped out of hiding and shot the ghost of some Githyanki hero who was assaulting one of the Dragonborn.

Nox Rhasgar was glad to have Delis’s help — and Krasire’s as well. Sure the Assassin could deal out some damage, but Shadowfox had a habit of getting herself into some bad situations…

…like the one she was in right now: surrounded by enemies, cut off from her friends, constantly being cut down, knocked down, and generally abused.

She had that noose attack, which seemed to be able to move her foes away from her. She even used it to drop one of the Shades through the hole in the balcony.

“Then she stopped using it for tactical advantage.” Nox had noticed that Shadowfox seldom seemed to learn from either her successes or her failures. “She just as likely to repeat the things which didn’t work as those which did work. Maybe it’s those multiple personalities of hers. Maybe she has to learn things over again in each mind that she has.”

In the middle of the valley, Roland the Betrayer saw a low rise, more a barren hump than an actual hill. He could just make out the straight edges of defensive walls near the top. Tendrils of smoke rose from what must be chimneys or campfires nearby.

As they searched the rooms where they fought the Githyanki and the Shades of their fallen heroes, Andrea Ravn was worried.

“Trinity Shadowfox is on her last legs,” she told the rest. “I’m not able to heal her now, let alone in another fight.”

Holing up to rest in a cave complex filled with Githyanki and their mind-reading powers posed its own problems. She had an idea about that, too. Her Dragonmark gave her a solution. All she needed was a place to use it.

Which Shadowfox found.

A secret door led to a hidden room. Inside, they found 360 platinum pieces and a Stone of Flame. Andrea kept the stone, even though she knew Nox could use it better than she could.

Shadowfox told them she had seen two more Githyanki who had not joined the fight.

“Gone to get reinforcements,” Andrea said.

She piled all the silver swords she could find into the secret room. Then she told the others to bed down for a long rest. “I’ve got a Mark of Detection. I can use it to cast Eavesdroppers Foil. Some of these Githyanki seem to be invaders of some kind, who killed the ones in robes. Looks like they looted the place. Bet that’s why we found no loot on the balcony.”

She told them she was sure the invaders had not found the secret room. “It wasn’t looted. That means they never found it. Maybe the Shades of their ancient heroes made it hard for them to search the balcony after they destroyed all the statues.”

Krasire volunteered to stay awake and guard the hidey hole mentally. “Eavesdroppers Foil will not protect us from their mental probing.”

“I can rest while I meditate,” Krasire said.

“Good. If they assault us mentally, you can fend off their efforts. They may even think we retreated from the caves entirely. They have to know we were hurt badly.”

Nox pointed out that Shadowfox had bled all over the place.

She told them to sleep and regain their strength. What was it Jerath always said? “To sleep, perchance to dream.”

As she dropped off, Andrea remembered what Grigore told her when Jerath said that:

“Aye, there’s the rub.”

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A Dream in the Past
...Gives Trinity a Clue...

…About the Reaper’s Masque

After her collapse in the library, Cain dreamed: She was still in the manor house of some ancient necromancer, she knew it. But she did not recognize the room. In the ceiling she saw her Reaper’s Masque. She could not reach it. Not without standing on Andrea’s shoulders. Relvain and Nox lifted her there. She reached up and grasped the masque.

And put it on her face. It began to speak to her.

“Hello, Shade,” said the whispery voice in her head when she awoke. Somehow she knew it was the voice of the masque the Raven Queen had given her. “Put me on.”

She put on the masque, and immediately knew that she was beginning to come into concordance with it.

She found herself lying on a bunk in a gently swaying vessel. It didn’t seem to be a vessel floating on water: Although Shade did not remember ever being on a boat, she knew this somehow.

“Perhaps I was on a boat sometime in my previous lifetime.”

The masque told her to investigate, and she did. Telling herself she would have done it without the prompting.

Emerging from her cabin, she found herself on the deck of Tokk’it’s flying ship, heading north. When she asked Andrea where they were going, the Dragonborn explained they were headed toward Thiradith.

Andrea explained this was a Nerathi ruin which had been rebuilt as a watchtower by the Alliance. From the Letter from Amyria, she knew this meant it was near one of the destinations of the portals which Cachlain told them that the Githyanki were using.

Just before sunset, they saw the watchtower in the distance. An upthrust embankment of sheer stone wall atop a white bluff, she could tell the site commanded a sweeping view of the rocky scrubland that spread to all sides.

A gate and drawbridge allowed access across a steep-sided ravine that protected the site on all sides. Sun-faded flags flew high above the ramparts, and the bridge was already down as they approached, landing far enough away to avoid alarming the outpost.

Birkeni, a veteran half-elf fighter, appeared to be the captain here. He met them at the gate, making no effort to hide his relief at seeing them. He told them there were no
stores or services here.

“I offer you free use of the outpost’s amenities and semiprivate accommodation in the barracks hall.” When Nox asked about the amenities he explained that he only meant the weaponsmith, armorer and such.

Once they arrived in the hall, they discovered they weren’t the first to respond to the watchtower’s summons. Megan Freerider greeted Andrea warmly and told her the Freeriders arrived that morning. “Good thing we were on another mission west of here,” she said. “We don’t have a flying ship to get us around so fast.”

Megan goes on to explain the flying ship is how her friend Garen Bladerun got away from Sarshan’s tower when it collapsed in the Elemental Chaos.

“And Andrea is his cousin … or something.”

The Order of the Black Feather and the Freeriders were honored guests at that night’s mess, but the mood was more somber than celebratory.

Over a meal of military rations, heavy bread, and ale, Birkeni spoke.

“I told your compatriots this morning all that I can report beyond what was sent in our missive. A week ago, one of our patrols found three dead Githyanki within a hundred strides of each other on one of the foothill tracks."

Then the Half-Elf betrayed one of his own bigotries by using a racial epithet.

“The Mudskins had been in some sort of fight by the look of them, but as the scouts came back to report, they were shadowed by a half-dozen more Githyanki, very much alive. Followed them to within sight of the watchtower, then fell back into the hills again.”

The patrol trail from the watchtower to the foothills was easy to follow, winding through thin stands of jack pine and patches of scrub grass that slowly disappeared as the rocky ground begins to climb.

The day was overcast as they reached a marker Birkeni spoke of — a great arch of rust-colored stone, beyond which the wall of the mountain began to rise.

It didn’t take long to locate the site where the Githyanki were found — three patches of blood-stained rock on the trail.

Of the bodies, there was no sign.

As soon as Andrea Ravn saw Shadowfox go down — for the first of many times — she knew her plan was unraveling. The two of them had climbed up to the entrance of the cave the Githyanki were guarding. The plan was to lower ropes for Nox and Relvain. But Andrea sent Shadowfox on ahead and she got spotted. Nox was climbing up on his own and had already reached the lower ledge. Relvain was using the ropes Andrea had lowered. Her progress was slow. And Shadowfox was already down, even if she was only faking.

Relvain Blackaxe thought about the missing bodies as she climbed up the cliff.

They found another trail near the bodies and followed to the bluff of black stone which Relvain was climbing. The Assassin scouted it out and found two cave entrances, each guarded by over 10 Githyanki.

Shadowfox told them the Githyanki scouts showed very little aptitude for guarding the cave.

“Although right now they do seem to be doing a good job of beating the pulp out of her,” the Dragonpinner told herself.

With no patrols in sight, the Revenant had clear run of the trails that wrapped around the black stone bluff on both sides, easily spotting two caverns that might be entrances into some sort of complex within. The Freeriders took one and they took the other.

Nox had alreadry reached the top and was clearing out the weaker guards when she got to the top. Andrea was surrounded, guarding the unconscious form of Shadowfox.

“I hope she’s faking it,” she told herself as she waded in. "This looks like a job for a fighter.

The mist around him was virtually impenetrable, but after burying the murder weapon, Roland The Betrayer found it was beginning to clear. Suddenly it parted, and he found himself standing atop a hill. Similar fog-capped hills surrounded a jungle valley that stretched before him. To his left, a massive waterfall fed a river winding a serpentine path across the valley floor.

Nox Rhasgar found some of the weaker guards were pretty easy to kill, so he cleared them out using both his Ignition blasts and his firebreath. Two of them proved to be a little tougher.

One had Shadowfox trapped in an alcove. Shadowfox was garroting him, but let him go without doing much damage.

Nox told her to retreat to the shadows. After finishing off the weaker guards, Relvain did something with her shield that convinced both of the tough ones to rush her. She kept them busy.

“Two with one shot!” he said, as he was able to power two Elemental Bolts to kill both of them at once.

Searching the bodies, they found:

  • 3,500 gold pieces, which Andrea put in her Platinum Pouch;
  • a crystal globe set with adamantine filigree;
  • a Jeweled mithral-mesh dagger scabbard; and
  • three Potions of Vitality.

At the top of some stairs, they found a door. No traps, no lock. Beyond, they found a small landing with a lot of rotting corpses.

Shadowfox was scouting ahead by crawling along the ceiling. Down some more stairs, they came to a turn-off to the right.

Shadowfox heard some voices coming from the turn-off, so the Assassin headed toward them.

Andrea insisted they following her closely. “Remember what happened when she got ahead of us before,” she told them.

When Nox got to the bottom of the stairs, however, he could not help being repulsed by the smell which emanated from the corridor Shadowfox had taken:

“More rotting corpses.”

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Nightshade
A New Shadowfox...

…Makes her Appearance

Andrea Ravn found no further treasures as she ransacked the wizard’s library. History of the Fabled Realm might prove valuable but this did not appear to be where Acererak stored his spellbooks.

They decided to make their way up to the next level of the manor house.

Nox noticed Shadowfox was lagging behind. When they all turned around to see what was wrong, the Assassin staggered back into the library, so they followed.

She grabbed the skull of the fallen naga, and held it next to the masque on her shoulder. She seemed to think the skull — from which the masque was made — looked like the naga’s skull, but the others could not see the resemblance. But Andrea noticed something: Both skull had latent magic on them. And the magic seemed to have the same flavor — at least to Andrea.

Then Shadowfox began to shake, and collapsed unconscious. They tried to heal her, but she remained unconscious. Andrea found a letter in Shadowfox’s clothing.

Reading the letter, Relvain saw it was from Amyria and seemed to be addressing all of them. Andrea wondered why Shadowfox hadn’t mentioned it.

“I guess we were pretty busy fighting the Bone Naga when she caught up with us,” the Warlord thought. “It must have slipped her mind when the fight was over.”

They decide to take Shadowfox down to the landing where they left Andrea’s Trihorn Behemoth. Relvain carried her. And Andrea brooded: “We’ll have to come back here when we leave to take her back to our own time.”

They found traps — of course, they found traps — starting with a spike trap. Andrea got a table from the wizard’s laboratory and used it to bridge the spikes. They found some suspicious holes in the floor ahead, so she used the table again to trigger this trap.

But the spikes or poison gas they were expecting did not emerge. Instead, gouts of flame set the table afire. Andrea had to throw it into the central shaft of the stairwell. They jumped, flew, and strolled — in the case of Nox — past the flames.

Andrea warned the others not to mention Acererak’s future when they tried to convince him to give up the rest of his Sky Metal. “It may help us convince him we are from the future, but he will be less likely to part with the metal if he knows he will need it for his necromancy.”

As they climbed to the top level of the building, she heard Acererak’s voice ring out.

“I offer you one chance to avoid my wrath, you cowardly thieves.”

She saw the robed figure had not turned or even paused in his work. He was turning dials and whispering words of power that Andrea could not really hear — but she felt them within her bones. She was able to hear his demand:

“Throw yourselves from my tower, and I shall allow fate to determine whether you live or die. “Otherwise, prepare to truly understand why I am numbered among the greatest wizards of Bael Turath.”

But Relvain quickly stepped in with some diplomatic flattery, telling Acererak they were from the future and — in the future — he was known all over the world, not just in Bael Turath. Nox followed up with a grand bluff.

Andrea knew they had to convince the wizard they were from the future. She had studied the model for his Tomb of Horrors and knew it varied somewhat from what he had eventually built. The historical record of the tomb’s traps was very extensive. So she pointed out the differences.

“Some of those changes … I was already considering,” Acererak told her. “And the others … I shall now consider. They seem like good ideas. I have to admit, this does suggest you may be from the future.”

They made their way through the slime traps and now faced the wizard across a causeway covered with glowing sigils. He had acknowledged their presence enough to turn and face them directly. He seemed genuinely interested about what they could tell him about the future. And Relvain seized on his interest to Bluff him with a story about his future.

They all turned and saw Shadowfox walk up the stairs, wearing her masque. Acererak greeted her warmly: “Hello, Nightshade.”

Nox Rhasgar did not know why Shadowfox was wearing her masque, but it didn’t seem to be driving her crazy.

The stairs had led them up to an open tower room, the walls alternating between solid stone and open slits that looked out upon the nearby city. The floor of this room ran inside these outer walls, leaving the center as an open shaft which dropped to the bottom of the tower far below.

The floor of the uncovered causeway leading to a second tower. Nox was pretty sure the glowing sigils on the crossing indicated some kind of magic trap.

Against the wall behind Acererak was a massive device of glowing orbs, rotating arms, and crystal tubes, almost filling the eastern wall. He could see the remaining pieces of Sky Metal clearly visible with the device’s internal structure. They only needed two more and they would be able to give Obanar enough Sky Metal to make one of the Implements of Argent for each of them.

“All right. You have convinced me you are from the future. But you are still thieves. They still have thieves in the future, right?”

Andrea admitted there were still thieves in the future. “But we are here on an important mission, important even to wizards as powerful as you are in the future. We are trying to save the city of Argent, which in our time is under assault by forces which seek to return the world to the chaos of the Primordials. The Primordials will have no use for powerful wizards in the future they seek to bring about.”

Then she pointed to one of the pieces of Sky Metal in the device behind the wizard and explained to Acererak how he could replace that piece without using any Sky Metal.

“Very impressive,” the wizard admitted, waving arm an arm. At his gesture, the sigils stopped glowing.

Assuming this meant the traps on the causeway were no longer active, Nox walked across the causeway and examined the device more closely. Using similar logic to Andrea’s, she told the wizard how to eliminate the need for the other piece of the Sky Metal.

“That’s all well and good,” the wizard admitted. “Just because you have proved I could give you the Sky Metal, however, hardly proves that I should give you the Sky Metal!”

Shadowfox — or Nightshade, as Acererak kept calling her — seemed to be be on their side in the argument with Acererak. She called him a fool and tried to intimidate him into giving them the Sky Metal.

That did not seem to work, but Nox noticed that he did seem slightly disturbed by the masque she was wearing.

While he and the others tried to gain some Insight into what could move Acererak to give them the metal, Relvain poured on the Diplomacy to convince him that the future would be good for a great and powerful wizard, but only if it was not controlled by the Primordials.

This was enough to convince the wizard to give them the last two pieces of Sky Metal they needed. He had Nox and Andrea help him fix his device so that it could continue to function without the two pieces and then handed them over.

They went down the stairs to where they left the Trihorn Behemoth and Shadowfox, The Assassin was still there, where they left her, and she was still wearing the masque … on her shoulder, not on her face.

Going back to the portal in the foyer, they used the gem Qwor had given them to return to their own time.

Belinda brought Avenglen and Garen Bladerun with her to Fallcrest. They both volunteered to help her pick up the pieces of her life. Maggie showed up as well, always interested in the aftermath of an assassination. But Maggie didn’t seemed as concerned as the others about Belinda’s own feelings. Her father was dead! Roland was missing and so was Madras Kalgore. Everybody was blaming Roland and his underling, but Belinda was sure he hadn’t done it. But she dared not say so because most people still thought she had a crush on Roland. The only one who wasn’t assuming it was him was Jerath … who was the one who wrote the play about her crushing on Roland!

Relvain Blackaxe listened as Obanar described the Implements of Argent he was going to fashion for them: a ring for Nox, a scythe for Shadowfox, a helm for Andrea, an orb for Krasire…

… and armor for the Dragonpinner. She was really looking forward to that. Obanar said he would look through the Archives of Argents for some designs he remembered. He assured Relvain they were dwarven designs, inspired by their God of the Forge.

They told Obanar they would be back soon to use the implements he was making to break the siege of Argent. They did still need to take care of the errand in the Letter from Amyria before they could tackle the seige. Obanar sent them back to Overlook.

Nox took them back to the secret shop where his friend sold Wondrous Items. They picked up some Restful Bedrolls and Andrea looked at some quills she remembered seeing. It turned out they couldn’t do quite what she wanted. Relvain found a smith who didn’t have exactly what she was looking for. She had to settle for another axe.

Then they were off to check out the outpost which was worrying Amyria.

Turned out to be quite close to one of the secret portals which Cachlain told them were being used by the Githyanki. They weren’t being attacked. Yet they were reporting unusual Githyanki activity in the area.

Perhaps even infighting among the Githyanki.

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The Dragonpinner Teaches
...A Bone Naga...

…How to Read

As soon as Andrea Ravn saw the glowing eyes of the skull on the top shelf of Acererak’s library, she yelled “Charge!” and ran toward it. That might have been why she failed to notice that the pile of bones between two of the bookshelves was undulating in a snakelike motion.

Nox seemed to notice, however, and soon Andrea was caught in the Bone Naga’s aura. The undead creature was able to daze the Warlord with both its rattle and its swaying, hypnotic motions.

Then a Sword Wraith stepped through one of the walls, and she knew they were really in trouble.

“At least they’re all undead,” Andrea told the others, noting the radiant energy she had put on her sword seemed to be working well when she hit them.

But the creatures seemed to be able to keep them all dazed and dictate who she was hitting.

Then they realized the wraith was healing itself. Nox managed to get free of the naga and position himself on the far side of the room and concentrate his fire spells on the wraith — with a little left over for the naga.

“We’re getting our butts kicked,” observed Nox Rhasgar as he tried to get out of the spells of the Bone Naga. The creature’s Death Rattle kept them dazed while Acererak’s Sword Wraith and Flameskull kept hitting them. And even when they got outside its range, the others could still be dazed by the swaying motion of its most powerful attack.

Shade was handicapped by the Death Sway of the Bone Naga more than the others. She had to concentrate all her effort on maintaining her Shadow Form.

The Shadow Form was good at preventing her from getting hurt, but she needed help getting out of the aura of the Death Rattle and the Death Sway.

And she wasn’t getting that help from her teammates. Not that she had helped them much earlier when she forgot to tell them about the Letter from Amyria. She told herself, “It just slipped my mind,” as she remembered how excited she had been to see the laboratory.

She knew that on its tables someone might have fashioned a bone masque much like hers. Or, hidden in this library, might be the answer to all her questions about about the masque and why the Raven Queen gave it to her.

But for now Shade was just frustrated by the naga. Constantly dazed by its rattle and swaying dance, she could do little except pile her shrouds on the creature and concentrate on maintaining her Shadow Form.

Usually, Shade was able to escape from such predicaments by slipping from shadow to shadow. But in this dazed condition she couldn’t manage that without giving up what she thought of as her true form.

Finally, Relvain convinced her to abandon the protection of the Shadow form. Still, even after she slipped away into the shadows, the creature was able to frustrate her. All it had to do was edge toward the shadow where she was hiding and she was dazed again by its Death Sway.

“I’m telling you,” Jerath insisted, “it doesn’t make sense. Roland was a sneaky bastard, and he clearly was taking orders from Tiamat. But he could have killed Markelhay without anybody knowing. He was angling to marry Belinda and take over as Lord Warden one day. Why would he kill her father in a way that made it look like he did it?”

“I wonder if I could use this bookcase as blocking terrain,” thought Relvain Blackaxe as she remembered what she did to the dragon Chillreaver.

Using her shield to trap the naga against the books, she was able to hold it there against all its thrashing efforts to free itself.

“The creature is strong,” she observed. “But it has no training in Athletics. So it cannot use its strength. And it is dextrous. But with no training in Acrobatics, it cannot use its dexterity.”

Relvain was still dazed by the rattling, but all she had to do was hold on and maintain the pressure her shield had on the naga’s neck. The rest were all able to edge out of the influence of the rattles and kill the wraith and then the Flameskull.

The naga never did break the hold. Chillreaver had broken it — but Chillreaver was an Exarch of Tiamat. The two-headed white dragon was able to flee Icehome once Krasire broken its mirrors and destroyed her iceberg.

After they killed the wraith and the skull, Nox and Shadowfox — and even Andrea — were able to pile on enough damage to kill the naga.

They found some old tomes in the library the magic-users insisted would have considerable value if they brought them back to their own time, but Andrea insisted they keep looking.

The Warlord was convinced the bookcases along one wall concealed a hidden door. She seemed to think the blue gem was telling her of a secret room where another piece of Sky Metal might be hidden.

Sure enough, persistent searching found section of bookcase that swung inward and revealed a room filled with statues. And in the middle they saw a piece of the strange metal on a pedestal.

They were nervous about the statues, but they got the Sky Metal out without problem. Then they went back to the stairwell to climb to the next level of Acererak’s manor house.

View
The Workshop of a Wizard
...Turns Out to Have Clues...

…About his Future.

Relvain Blackaxe found herself standing in the entry to a large manor house.

Obanar had told her she needed to get in touch with the rest of the Order of the Black Feather to make it back to her own time. They had a blue gem which could be used to teleport through time.

She searched several wings and came up empty. No secret doors revealed their secrets. When she moved further from the main entry, a trap in the floor shot lightning bolts at her: No damage, but she sure jumped.

Past the trap, she found a door partially blocked by Andrea’s Trihorn Behemoth. She managed to forced the door open without pushing the creature into the pit beyond.

“At least I know I’m on the right path,” she told herself.

And soon she heard sounds of a fight.

Roland pulled the bloodstained dagger from the Lord Warden’s body. The orders from Tiamat were still in his hand. The next thing he knew he found himself standing atop a fog-capped hill. Similar hills surrounded a jungle valley that stretched before him. He buried the dagger where no one could find it. But he could not bury the orders from the Queen of Treachery: They were no longer in his hand when he found himself in this strange domain.

Nox Rhasgar was glad when Relvain showed up.

He first got through the door by teleporting past it. The gargoyles made him nervous, but it turned out they were not alive, just traps. When Andrea broke open the door to rescue him, flames came shooting out of the mouths of the stone statues, but she was able to withstand the flames.

Still, he was surrounded by two Boneclaws before Andrea could get to him. The Warlord was barely able to keep him alive as the Boneclaws attacked with their reach. And the Skeletal Guardians seemed to be able to get their attacks off more often than they should.

Usually on Nox.

They explained their theories on what was triggering the attacks to Relvain when she got there. But then another one appeared and Andrea became convinced they were creating the arcane creatures.

Relvain began beating her shield in a war-like rhythm and they all turned toward her. First one Boneclaw went down and then the other. Then they surrounded the skeletal figures.

“I guess Acererak is already turning to necromancy, judging by the nature of his minions.”

“I know everyone will think I’m that love-struck fool in Roland and Juliette,Belinda Markelhay told her mother. “But I just don’t believe Roland would kill father.”

“I get it,” Andrea Ravn told the others. “We’re not creating them when they pop out of nowhere. They must have been created specially for wizards and sorcerers. Whenever Nox casts an arcane spell, they teleport right next to him.”

Once they finished off the skeletons, they searched the room.

“Obviously a workshop,” Andrea observed. The evidence of necromantic experimentation was all around them, especially in the partially dissected troll on one of the tables.

Andrea found plenty of residuum for her rituals.

“I may not have a lot of them, but this will enable me to do them more often.”

The blue gem glowed brighter whenever they moved it toward the southwest — or what they presumed was the southwest from the position of the late afternoon sun coming through the windows.

And, when they took it into the back room, it just pointed them back toward the stairwell.

Then they found a hallway that led back to the stairwell — at a higher level — and to the wizard’s library. Andrea burst in and saw two piles of bones among the books. But it was a skull with glowing eyes that attracted her attention.

“Attack!” she yelled, rushing the skull and swinging her sword at it.

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