Scaled Down Scales

Shadowfox Returns
...and Learns Much...

…About her Powers

Nox Rhasgar remembered the giant had warned them to go back. Not so much a threat, he thought, as a warning.

Andrea was easily convinced. And, when the Warlord told Relvain she could see magickal shackles on the hands and feet of the Astral Giant, the Dragonpinner decided to go along and concentrate on the Githyanki Shade which had appeared before them. This one looked stronger than the ones they fought back in the fane and was armed with two bastard swords.

But the real problem was the slippery, wet surface of the ivory bridge. Nox was able to climb back up the stairs to where it was dry. He could still hit the ghost from there. No matter where it went.

But the others found it harder. Relvain slipped and fell into the seething vortex of magic. She had a hard time even climbing out.

Andrea had an easier time getting out, but she slipped back in repeatedly.

The Dreamer found herself once again in a swamp looking for a Giant Centipede. She knew she had to kill it to create the Undead Centipede which would one day be known as Nightshade. Even though she was good at stealth, it didn’t seem like there was much to sneak up on in this swamp. She decided to try tracking the creatures. She wasn’t much good at tracking, but it proved easy. “Giant Centipedes leave very distinctive footprints.” When she found one, however, it bit her…

…and she woke as Grim Shadowfox.

“Back in the secret room at the Fane of Chaniir,” she told herself. But this time she was not wrapped in chains. “Lots of noise outside.”

So she sneaked out and found the fane was bustling with activity. The Alliance was moving in. A Wizard from Nefelus named Bejam filled her in. The fane was cleared — even the Chaniiri they had rescued were gone.

Bejam introduced her to a group of Wizards experimenting on the bodies of the Painbringers they had killed. They were able to transfer some of the magic in the Whitefire Marks — strange tatoos that glowed with white radiant light — to her forearm. They told him the tatoos would enable her to go through a powerful gate to join the strike force that was reconning some place of power they Githyanki were using.

When the ritualists in the next room sent her through, she found lots of dead Githyanki.

“I see Nox and the others have been through here. Lots of scorch marks on these corpses.”

She found a pool of magickal water and a room with two dead giants, then a room with nothing but four mirrors and a stairway leading down.

“Ivory stairs, all carved from a single piece of ivory.” Grim was not sure she wanted to meet the creature whose horn produced such a stairway. At least 300 feet long, she realized by the time she heard the sounds of fighting below.

When she got to the bottom, the fight was not going well. She and Nox were able to damage the powerful ghost they were fighting. When she used her Executioner’s Noose to slide the creature into the maelstrom of magic, it simply used its telekinetic powers to leap to one of the pillars in the vortex.

There Relvain and Andrea had a hard time getting to it. So Grim leapt out to the pillars herself like a Ghost on the Rooftops. She was able to pursue it from pillar to pillar, eventually forcing it back to the bridge.

The ghost returned to its pillars as soon as it could, leaving Relvain once more out of the fight.

“You’re doing something that none of the rest of us can do,” the frustrated Dwarf told her. “You’re herding it.”

Then Andrea felling unconscious. and Grim knew they were really in trouble.

Relvain the Dragonpinner was frustrated. She could see they were close to losing the fight. And she could not get to the ghostly Githyanki as long as he stayed out on the pillars. Just when Shadowfox had finally learned to herd it off them, Andrea went down. “Looks like our healer is dying.”

Andrea Ravn regained consciousness to find herself looking up at Nox. The Sorceror had just poured a potion down her throat.

“Not the Potion of Regeneration I gave him,” she thought, tasting it on her lips. “It must have been one of the Potions of Vitality we found.”

She knew their only chance was if she could keep herself alive. So she healed herself and tried a Defensive Rally to pep up the rest of the party.

“Can’t afford to lose our only healer,” she told them.

Then Trinity Shadowfox brought out a power she had never seen her use before: Blood Shadows. Hiding from the bloodied Shade, she was able to teleport to its pillar and attack it with her Talenta Sharash.

Andrea watched as the blood from the attack drained to the ground and spread out across the creature’s very shadow. The Assassin was about to spill more blood all around the top of that pillar when she noticed a devious grin appear on Shadowfox’s face.

Shaking the scythe-like weapon — first on the next pillar, then on the one behind, and finally at the bridge itself — Shadowfox created three more Blood Shadows. Now, wherever it went it would find a shadow made of its own blood granting anyone who attacked it combat advantage.

When the ghost fled those pillars, Trinity followed it and forced it back onto the ivory bridge, where they were all able to combine their attacks and kill it.

“Now, if she could just learn to combine those Blood Shadows with the herding tactics she uses when she uses the Talenta Sharash as an Executioner’s Noose,” Andrea thought. “She could be really effective.”

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Andrea, Nox and Relvain Blow Up
...(or Blow Down) a Barrier...

…and Find a Giant…

…who appears to be imprisoned.

When Andrea identified the Bloodgem Shard, Relvain Dragonpinner decided Nox could use it most.

“He kills the most enemies, he draws the most fire, and his defenses are weaker than ours,” she told Andrea.

But Nox was already working on the wards blocking a stairway he had found in the room he peeked into. She saw he was immediately able to destabilize the wards by exploiting the arcane energies surging around the stairs.

Relvain tried to lift the metal bars blocking their way, but only succeeded in making them harder to stand on. Andrea told her that the Dragonmark she was using to enhance her arcane powers did not seem to be able to help her exploit the energies in the manner Nox had just tried.

“But the Dragonmark does improve my arcane detection capabilities,” Andrea told her. “I can see something is pulsing inside the mirrors.”

Relvain looked around and saw four mirrors on the walls around the circular room. “I’m just a dwarven fighter,” she said. “I don’t see anything.”

She could tell Andrea had further destabilizing the iron bars blocking the stairs, but that did not stop Nox. He was able to balance on the shifting bars well enough that he got out on them and was again able to exploit the energies surging up from the stairs to weaken the wards.

So Relvain decided to try attacking the bars directly with her axe. But her glancing blow only overloaded the wards, destroying the bars and releasing a blast of force which hurt the rest of the group, but left her unharmed.

“It’s only force damage,” she told them. But Nox took further damage when he fell to the stairs below.

It took Roland the Betrayer two days of walking through winding jungle paths to reach the shantytown he had seen from the cliffs. The jungles were full of dangers and he had to fight them, but they were nothing he did not expect. “It’s a jungle, after all,” he told himself.

Andrea Ravn was hardly surprised when four Planestalker Marauders erupted — one after another — from the mirrors after the Stair Gate collapsed.

She was surprised, however, at what happened when they began putting some serious hurt on one of the Planestalkers: First, it partially phased into another plane, making it insubstantial and difficult to damage. Then, it teleported itself and her into that other plane.

She found herself in an extradimensional space 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. She couldn’t see any of the others and she doubted they could see her.

“I guess I’m on my own,” she said, swinging her new sword — the Sword of Bahamat she planned to give to Garen — and connected solidly. Both of them reappeared back near the Stair Gate.

“When they teleport you,” she told the others, “just hit them as hard as you can.”

They finished off the one which had taken her away, then the next one phased, taking Relvain with it.

“When they phase,” she told Nox, “they are about to teleport you to another dimension.”

Then Relvain reappeared, and they killed the Marauder which had taken her.

The next time she was teleported it took two blows to force it back to their plane of existence. “If you could call this place ‘our plane’ of anything.” she thought.

Admiral Kada’ne was still fretting about the reaction to his decision to send a scout to check out the Fane of Chanir. “I know they think I’m a coward. But those fools should have reported back by now. They think that the Sovereign Gate make them invulnerable.”

Nox Rhasgar was hardly surprised when he found himself whisked away to another dimension.

“Andrea and Relvain both warned me.”

He hit the Planestalker with an Elemental Bolt.

“Not as much magic in this place,” he told himself as the arcane energies left his fingers. “But that should be enough to force it to return me do the Stair Gate.”

Sure enough. As soon as he hit it with the bolt, it took so much damage it could no longer hold them in that strange room. They returned to the exact spots they had been teleported from.

After that, it was no problem to finish it off. But it left no bodies to search. The others gave him the Bloodgem. They had figured out what it was. They told him it would improve his defenses whenever he knocked out or killed an enemy.

“Anything that improves my Reflexes,” he told them as he replaced his Amulet of Truth with the blood-red crystal. Even before he had killed anything while wearing it, he could tell it improved his ability to dodge out of the way of an attack. "I can always put the amulet back on if we need to search for hidden doors.

“Or if you want Insight for diplomatic situations,” Andrea reminded him. Andrea had one of her own and she really liked those Amulets of Truth.

Andrea checked out the other door in the Hall of Shards, but it just turned out to be another way to get to the Stair Gate.

“Just as Andrea had predicted,” he told himself.

They decided to go down the stairs.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we just came back to this room?” the Warlord joked as they started downward. “From above?”

But that seemed unlikely to Nox since there were no stairs coming down from the ceiling. Sure, the dimensions were strange here near the Sovereign Gate, but he did not see how that could happen.

The ivory stair led them downward. Nox estimated they were about 300 feet down when they saw a white light seething in a corrosive whirlpool filling a vast chamber below.

The air was hazy above a stone platform extending from the bottom of the stairs across the seething vortex. Pillars of glowing stone rose above the maelstrom, their surfaces crawling with an ever-shifting flow of arcane runes.

The far side of the chamber was taken up with what appeared to be an oversized arcanist’s study. Tall shelves and wide tables were covered with well-worn tomes and tattered scrolls.

He was sure Andrea was going to love this place. She was always looking for more rituals, even though she couldn’t perform them all.

A violet-skinned eldritch giant glanced up in surprise at their approach, the Whitefire Mark burning at his wrist as he held up a hand in warning.

“I am Haryssus. It has been long years since any but the masters of this place breached the Stair Gate, but those who did so lived no longer than will you. I have no quarrel with
you. Flee while you can.”

Nox could tell the words were more a warning than a threat. Andrea confirmed this a few seconds later by telling him and Relvain she could detect faint traces of magickal shackles around the giant’s ankles and wrists.

“I don’t think this giant is the real threat,” Relvain told them, shaking off her race’s natural hatred of giants.

A sudden flare of yellow-white light heralded the appearance of a ghostly Githyanki. Larger than the shades they fought in the fane, this creature was wielding twin bastard swords, a white light burning in its eyes as it attacked.

“That’s the real threat.”

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Andrea Ravn Uses her Dragonmark
...To Protect Nox...

…From a Hazard Both Friendly and Unfriendly

As she watched Nox attack the Astral Giants in the Shard Room, Andrea noticed the room itself seemed to be a hazard.

The floor and ceiling, composed of huge crystal shards, each had pure planar energy surges within their shards, which focused and honed it like lenses into twin pulsing spheres of white light at the bottom and top of the chamber.

When Nox used an arcane power — in this case his Elemental Bolt with an Elemental Escalation — these Astral Nexuses aided his efforts, but the backlash from that aid could hurt him as well.

Then the Astral Nexus in the ceiling began shooting balls of pure astral essence at the Sorceror.

Using her Dragonmark for focus her Perception on things arcane in nature, she saw that she or Nox could calm the local arcane energies. If successful, the area around them would be outside the hazardous region for a short time.

Andrea could tell that if Nox tried to calm the local energies he would not be able to focus on subduing the Astral Giants.

“So I will just spend as much of my concentration on using my Dragonmark to calm astral energies as it takes,” she told the others. “As long as Nox stays close to me, he should be safe.”

The Dreamer found herself back in the dream: the one where Obanar sent her to investigate the camp of the Hill Giants besieging the City of Argent. Only it was more of a cave than an encampment. “Makes sense,” she thought to herself. “Hill giants would find the nearest cave and set up camp there.” Still it seemed a bit more well-appointed than a makeshift bivouac in an empty cave. “Must’ve been planning this for a long time.” Once again, she found herself in a room with a bunch of giants. She noticed a Fire Elemental dancing in the flames of the hearth. Dashing from the Common Room, she found herself in the quarters of the Hill Giant Shaman. She tried to sneak through, but failed. Captured by the giants, she almost forgot who she was under their torture. Then she woke and remembered: She was Relvain Blackaxe the Dragonpinner

Relvain awoke to find the fane bustling with activity.

Troops were being brought in through the Portal, which Bejam was now calling “The World Gate.” Defenses were being set up: around the Gate … and outside as well, according to a Freerider she recognized. Sections of the fane had been walled off and mages she recognized from Nefelus were poring over the books Andrea had found in the libraries here.

One of them recognized her and waved.

“I did save their city from Chillreaver,” she thought as they went back to their books.

Bejam told her about the World Gate and the dangers it posed. When he told her the rest of The Order of the Black Feather had gone ahead to scout some mysterious location to which the Gate connected, she volunteered to go and help them.

“But first you will have to be given a Whitefire Mark,” the Deva Wizard told her. “Only Githyanki and their most trusted servants can pass through the World Gate. The Whitefire Marks are how they identify those servants.”

She knew enough about Githyanki to know that Bejam really meant “slaves” when he said “servants.” Just being polite.

A group of Wizards working on the bodies of the two Fomorian Painbringers were able to help Bejam transfer a Whitefire Mark to Relvain’s forearm.

“You can cover it with your armor,” he told her. “But it will feed upon your own life force to power its effects.”

Thus empowered, she was able to step through the World Gate — with the help of some of the ritual casters studying it — to find herself in a strange room crackling with arcane energies.

“Which makes sense,” she told herself. “Bejam said they were siphoning vast amounts of power from the Material Plane to this location.”

That was why the Order had been sent to clear the place.

She found Nox and Andrea in a lounge area. They were trying to bottle the magic-infused waters of a pool there. They only got two of their bottles filled before the arcane energies of the pool were depleted.

“We’ll have to wait 24 hours for the pool to be back to full strength,” Andrea told her. "We don’t have time for that. We can expect more Githyanki to come through here before it replenishes itself.

Andrea gave her one of the vials. “Drink this to turn a short rest into a more thorough sleep.” The other vial went to Nox.

They told her about another room — accessible from both sides — where two Astral Giants were meditating on what appeared to be Ritual Books. Relvain could tell Andrea could not wait to study the books herself.

They decided to try Diplomacy on the giants. The giants weren’t having any. They started blasting as soon as she opened her mouth.

When Nox returned fire, the Astral Nexus above them blasted him as well. When he was hit, Relvain found herself caught in the secondary burst which centered on Nox.

She was dazed by the blast. She decided to concentrate on defending herself while she tried to shake that off.

Which took her longer than she expected.

“Why are there no reports from the Sovereign Gate?” Admiral Kada’ne shouted. “Send someone to check on them.”

Nox Rhasgar saw that Relvain was having difficulty shaking off the effects of the white burst of astral energies. So he concentrated on shooting Energy Bolts at the Astral Giants. They separated, each heading towards a different door at each end of the platform bridging the room.

Eventually Relvain emerged from her daze to leap across to that bridge and engage the giants directly. By then Nox had knocked one of them out and was concentrating on the one which remained.

The one which Relvain was now forcing to concentrate on her.

Made taking it down that much easier. “Quick fight,” he thought to himself.

After the fight, they searched the bodies and found a Bloodgem Shard and 480 platinum pieces.

But Nox was already ready for the next fight. Peeking through the doors at one end of the bridge, he found another strange room: a round chamber of pale gray stone.

The air inside flared with swirling currents of white light — four circular mirrors were set along the walls, their surfaces rippling like quicksilver. In the center of the chamber, the stone floor was replaced by an uneven grid of black steel bars.

A stone plinth stands at the center of the barred floor, its sides set with glowing keyholes. Beneath the bars, steep ivory stairs could be seen twisting down into a haze of white light.

Using his Arcane powers, Nox was able to determine the ambient astral energy on the other side of the door was harmless. A stronger pulse of arcane power was surging, however, in the four mirrors.

Something was lurking within their silvered surfaces, waiting to be called forth.

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Nox Pulls a Fast One
...On a Githyanki Strike Force...

…Who Let their Guard Down…

…while taking a little R&R.

When Jasmine told him that most of the Githyanki strike force had piled their weapons on their gear, Nox Rhasgar had an idea.

Andrea was more concerned about the pool Jaz said they were gathering around. Her efforts to bottle the Astral Mist were going badly, but she had 13 vials she wanted to fill.

“Maybe I can bottle the water from the pool,” she told Nox. He could tell she thought it might have magickal properties.

Nox was thinking more in the present. They didn’t have access to the pool yet.

He had a plan: He would sneak in and grab their pile of swords. Then he could teleport back into the Portal Chamber and throw the Silver Swords into the Astral Mist.

Even Andrea liked the idea. She asked Nox if she could sneak into the lounge on her Trihorn Behemoth. That didn’t sound like a good idea. Nox was reminded of an old song that Jerath liked to sing:

“…Hey, Halfling, what’s that sound?
Great big footsteps coming down….”
— Giants Don’t Sneak

The Trihorn Behemoth Andrea was riding had feet that were bigger than any giant had, so he suggested the Dragonborn Warlord wait at the mouth of the Portal Chamber until the Githyanki realized their weapons had disappeared.

Only one of the strike force noticed Nox sneaking in. His shouted warning was too late. He ran to the pile of weapons, grabbed them, and teleported back to the Portal Chamber which was sorta located in the middle of the lounge. There he threw the swords into the Astral Mist.

They didn’t quite go as far as he had hoped. The weapons just floated in the mist where he threw them.

“Oh, well, at least they don’t have them.”

Relvain the Dragonpinner found herself once again in the bowels of a Hill Giant fortress. “I must be dreaming again,” she thought. She remembered that in this dream Obanar had sent her to scout the area the Hill Giants were using as a base of operations to attack Argent, the Silver City.

When Andrea Ravn swallowed the Potion of Regeneration, she felt it sap the last of her emotional and physical reserves.

She hoped it would keep her alive long enough for Nox’s plan to work.

She charged around the curve of the wall on the back of her mount. The Behemoth’s heavy footsteps convinced her that sneaking up on the Strike Force was something best left to Nox and Jax.

“Giants don’t sneak,” she reminded herself. “And neither do Trihorns.”

Keeping the Githyanki from getting their weapons back proved harder than they expected. The Mindlashers didn’t seem to need them and the Warmongers were able to get past her using their Telekinetic Leaps. The Astraan — who was the only Githyanki carrying his weapon on his person — even helped by using his telekinetic powers to give the Warmongers extra leaps.

The Astraan’s weapon — a silver dagger — proved less effective.

“He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” Andrea observed as he watched the Astraan try to hit the Trihorn. “Or the backside of my mount.”

Eventually the battle focused around the only chokepoint between the Githyanki and their weapons: the doorway to the Portal Chamber.

By inching her way into position to flank the Mindlashers and give her mount a chance to use her horns, she was able to get to a spot where she could heal Nox.

Who was now beset by the Warmongers who had retrieved their weapons. Beset inside the Portal Chamber.

The Portal Chamber where Nox’s magickal fire seemed incapable of missing. The Warmongers died first, then the Mindlashers. The Astraan surprised them when he ran. Instead of heading for one of the other exits from the lounge, it leapt into the Astral Mist and then to the Portal itself.

Andrea knew the Portal was some kind of Sovereign Gate, capable of sucking magickal energies from other realms, even other Planes of Existence.

Yet it had no runes: the runes that were key to understanding every other gate or portal that she had ever seen.

“How can you find it without the runes to concentrate upon?”

She was so desperate to understand the Sovereign Gate that she used all of the arcane powers her Dragonmark gave her to try and perceive how the Portal — or Gate or whatever it was — functioned.

But all she got was a brief vision of the place where the Astraan fled: some kind of shipyard where an Astral Fleet was assembling.

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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.”

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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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